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Was it worth it?

3 years 11 months ago #23487 by Woop
Woop created the topic: Was it worth it?
Story inspired this image: alpharaptor2k6.deviantart.com/art/Migraine-300750716

November 27, 2012

Clank! Clank!


The noise of my labors was nearly deafening, but I couldn't have cared less. It could have been nice out here, on the edge of a pine forest, if it weren't for the miserable weather and the fact that I'm in surrounded by the rust and trash of an abandoned junk yard. But nice surroundings aren't the reason I chose this place to hide, and definitely not the reason I'm hiding in the first place.

Ah, yes. How I got here. That would make for a wonderful story - if you're the type who enjoys reading about the main character getting tortured.

A week ago, I was just a nerdy 15 year old boy, living with his single father in a small town, and minding my own business. Then *something* happened, and I started getting these... ideas. Ideas on how to build things. Change things. Do things. Mostly about technology, but about other things as well sometimes. So, because of family history, I knew what that might mean. I knew I probably manifested as a mutant, like my big sister Angie did before me. Now maybe some people would be ecstatic over a development like this, but I wasn't one of them. You see, my father does not like mutants, and that's an understatement. He's actually an 'important' member of an organization that calls itself Humanity First!, or H1!. If you know anything about those people, then I'm sure you can imagine how well he took my sister manifesting two years ago. I have a different opinion about mutants than he does, if only because I know my big sis isn't the terrible person dad thinks she is, no matter what she did or what kind of accidents happened around her when she was still living here. So naturally I decided that I can't ever tell my father about my manifestation. Luckily I still looked the same as before, not even my eyes changed their color much or anything. I thought I could just pretend nothing happened and only explore what I can do on my own. I had a few plans for a project already, you see. Or maybe I should call them dreams at that point.

Anyway, I didn't keep my status completely secret. I did contact my uncle Marvin, who was the last member on my mother's side of my family that I knew, and talked to him about it. I didn't know the details, but I did I know he helped Angie out when she'd just manifested, so I thought he might be able to do something for me. And he did. It was almost bizarre, having someone just accept you're a mutan without going crazy over it, but he did.

He took me to his doctor friend who lives near him, a woman who apparently specializes in mutants. She had me go over a few powers tests as she called them, which lasted way too many hours if you ask me. Then she excitedly pronounced me a high level devisor and a mid level gadgeteer and energizer. She added number ratings to those words, but honestly, I hadn't yet read about what they mean and I was feeling kind of sick of everything at that point, so I didn't really listen. I did look up what all the info she gave me means on my iPhone on my way back home, and it was sort of impressive apparently, but it also meant there was a higher chance of my being found out.

Funny thing, I thought I'd be in trouble when I got home, but dear old dad didn't even care I was gone for almost an entire day until midnight. I don't think he even noticed through all the beer.

So yeah, I figured I could just keep everything under wraps. Boy was I wrong. You see, there was a little snag in my plan called Diedrick's Syndrome. I knew plenty about Diedrick's, though I never saw someone go through an episode firsthand before. My sister had it, and it was one of my dad's favorite topics to latch onto while ranting about his "mutant freak" daughter. So yeah, an inconvenient thing about going through such an episode yoursel? You aren't exactly discrete about it. My father didn't figure it out the first time, because I didn't have time to build anything that wasn't destroyed during my episode, but the second time, on the third day, he apparently did figure out exactly what was happening. No idea how exactly, though it's not like I was very coherent at the time, so that's not too surprising.

So, what does a loving parent do when he finds out his kid is going through something like that? He gets the shotgun, naturally. By the time I came to, he was unconscious and riddled by what looked like electric burns, and I had a few painful birdshot wounds. Knowing he wasn't likely to be any friendlier once he woke up, I just got some money and a few things together and left. The bastard followed me for two entire days after that, and even brought an entire lynch mob with him. I only barely managed to get away from them. I managed to 'borrow' a two day ride on a freight train. Man, was that trip miserable. It may have been a bit better if it were still summer, but in the late autumn and under the occasional light rain, it was... well, like I said, miserable.

During that long trip I had plenty of things to think about. And I thought about two people. My mom and my sister. When my sis manifested as a mutant, my father gave her basically the same welcoming ceremony he gave me, though he took a bit longer to get the shotgun out for her. She just ran away, much like I did. My mother, seeing what my father did, took her wedding ring off and slugged it right into his eye. He needed a few weeks to get over that one. Then she left too. I tried getting my father or my uncle to tell me what happened to both of them, but my uncle was quiet, and my father told me sis 'dricked out and killed my mother.

A very joyful story, isn't it? And now I'm apparently the main character of the sequel. And no matter what my fucking idiot father says, if he actually had the decency to look the other way at the very least, none of that would have happened. If I *ever see that man again!* I'll-

I shuddered and stopped my thougths cold. I closed my eyes. I just breathed in the cold, damp air for a few minutes.

I can't afford to 'drick out right now.

Honestly, that word, 'drick', always annoyed the hell out of me ever since I learned about it after the fiasco with sis. Now that I'm the one doing the 'dricking, it's... Well, it makes saying what happens faster than "having a Diedrick's episode" every time, if nothing else.

And it would be so much easier to not have another episode if I didn't have so many things to be angry about. That fucking asshole!

But, moving past risky thoughts like that, on the upside I did manage to get almost an entire day's worth of constant travel away from my hometown by the time those railway workers found me. That guy who did all the yelling was completely unreasonable if you ask me. I mean, so what if i hid myself between the logs, its not like anyone else was going to use that space! At any rate, despite their best attempts they were way less scary than my dad and his goons, so I just turned around and ran away again.

So after running away from a bunch of violent assholes *again*, my path through the woods brought me to my current charming location. Okay, it's a rust-ridden abandoned junk yard, half reclaimed by the forest. It looks like crap, but it doesn't smell too bad, and there's a few upsides. Namely, there's no one around to kick me out or bother me, and there's plenty of material for me to tinker with. That last part is basically the best thing about this entire mess I'm in right now as far as I can see. I never had this much stuff to work with back home during the few days between the time I became a devisor and the time I was outed as a mutant. All I needed was a convenient source of food and I'd be set to just stay here indefinitely. Which reminded me that I haven't eaten in three days, and stragely still wasn't really hungry, despite what that doctor said about energizers.

Anyway, events over the past three days have instilled a bit of paranoia in me, so I figured I'd best take some precautions. To wit, I dug a hole. Yeah, that doesn't sound like much, but I actually managed to make an entire large room's worth of space down here pretty easily! I don't know why miners and excavators and people like that whine so much, there wasn't even a hint of a cave-in, and it's not like I was digging into hard bedrock here. All I used was a simple electromagnetic drill I coblled together from scrap in an hour and a half or so, and then used it to melt my way in easy peasy. If I had actual industrial grade materials that weren't riddled with rust and other defects, it would have gone even faster.

So here I am, in my secret lair, about to solve all of my problems and move on with my life. Sure, that doctor woman my uncle took me to told me that it's not easy to do the things I'm attempting here. Back then I said that I already did plenty of unbelievable things in only a few days, but she just told me that that somehow makes it worse. To that I say, blah blah blah, you old hag. Well, I didn't say it to her face, but I definitely was thinking it. It wasn't supposed to be easy to make an underground lair in two minutes either, according to all of you hard science losers, but it was still trivial for me.

Anyway, what are my problems right now, besides securing food, you ask? Simple. The same two reasons my father tried to have me lynched. The second reason, as I already told you, was that I manifested as a mutant. The first one... is even more embarrassing if you ask me, and it seems strange that I'm more embarrassed about it than of becoming a mutant.

Well, it all goes back to my father, unsurprisingly. If there was one thing he held in even more contempt than a "mutant freak", it was a "faggot". I have no idea why he'd be even more afraid of "faggots" than "mutant freaks", but there it is. I'm done thinking about him for now, I thought about the asshole way too much over the past few days.

No, what I really need to focus on is my most important project to date! So, while trolling some devisor forums I found over my phone's internet connection (I think I could have built a PC to make surfing more convenient, but really, not worth the effort right now) I looked up exactly *why* what I'm attempting is supposed to be so dangerous. Apparently most experts believe that attempting to cha-, er, to do the thing that I want to attempt, is insanely dangerous. But there are tons of success stories too! I couldn't believe that many people would make the exact same thing up.

I decided to continue my project. Down the line in the future, looking back on things, I realised one fundamental truth. Devisors are fucking idiots. And I was a prime example back then, when I still was one.

So, yeah, I don't think I can avoid telling you what exactly I'm working on here for much longer, no matter how embarrassing it is. Well, it's two things. And the second of those two things is trying to get rid of my Diedrick's. I already started blowing everything around me up enough times in a single week to know that keeping my 'dricking around wasn't going to end well. So, the simple solution: get rid of it. I had a working theory on how to do that, and unfortunately I had to get an essential success on my first try with this, and do it today. Why? Because I don't think I can get rid of my Diedrick's syndrome without also sacrificing, or at least scrambling, my mutant powers. And if I'm not a devisor anymore, then there's just no way I'll be able to make another attempt. Now, the theory here is that, since it's only been a week or so since I manifested, I *should* be able to still have a direct influence on where my mutation is taking me. But time is of critical essence. If I'm right, I'm already going to catch the wake of my time window, where doing what I want to do will be a lot more difficult than it would've been if I didn't have to waste several days of time running away from a fucking lynch mob.

My fucking father. If I ever see that man again...


Wait. Pink sparks? *Pink*? What the hell. That's just so fucking wrong I can't even-

I winced as the colorful voltage started flaring even more. Oh, right. Diedrick's. Energizer. Bad thoughts.

I closed my eyes again, and thought of nothing, and just *breathed* for a minute or two. I calmed down. Hey, I'm getting a bit better at catching myself before exploding. At least something is looking up, despite the electricity taunting me with its unnatural hues.

And a good thing too. I have absolutely no time to waste on rebuilding my meager workshop right now.

Oh, sorry. I went on a tangent again, didn't I. I've been very scatterbrained ever since I manifested as a devisor. Like all sorts of ideas are pulling at my thoughts from all manner of different directions. Hell, not just ideas, entire realms of ideas, and I can only focus on a few of them at best.

Er, yes. So, the thing that I'm trying to do here. I still didn't get to that, did I.

So, the second thing I'm doing is trying to knock my mutation into some other shape, which should, in theory, also get rid of my Diedrick's.

But the first thing that I'm trying to do, which was also the reason I even got the idea to scramble my mutation, is, well... I'm trying to turn myself into a girl.

Yeah, yeah. Don't say it. I've heard it all from my father already when he saw me wearing a skirt once. Like I said, he used the F word on me a lot, between the beating. And not the F word that ends with a K, but the one that ends with a T. Well, okay, he actually used both. If one good thing came out of this entire fiasco, is that at least I have no reason to pretend I'm normal for that asshole anymore.

So, yeah, I'm engaging in a big spooky mutant biomorphology project, which is apparently like "classic rookie mistake #1" among the people in the know. And I'm just about ready to test it on myself, which is apparently "classic rookie mistake #0", which I find kind of funny. Maybe I'd care more if I had anything to go back to in my life other than my asshole father. But I don't. If I end up blowing myself up or turning into a schnauzer or something, then at least I'll know I gave it my best try when I still had my one and only chance.

So, on to my project itself. How am I going to accomplish my two related goals? Easy. At least if you can think the way a devisor does, I guess. I don't really know enough about the exact terminology I should be using here, so I'll just try to explain what I'm doing in terms that feel natural to me. What I'm doing is, basically, trying to find the cosmic echoes of other people doing the sorts of things I want to do in the past, and to single out the best one for my purposes.

Bang! Clang! Zap!

Couldn't be *simpler*, right?

I had a thought that I could smooth any possible backslash over a bit by including some other more regular echoes of pretty-mutant manifestations. Then, when I have that primary echo, that cosmic identity worked out as a tailored composite of the initial echoes I'll use, I just apply it to myself. My gut tells me I'll probably lose most or all of my devisor ability during the process, and possibly not get any other power in return either. But honestly, getting rid of my dricking and turning myself into a girl like I always wanted is enough reward. But if I'm lucky I could get something else. If the primary echo was of, say, a girl who can shoot lighting, then I had a good chance of being able to do that too, especially since I'm already an energizer right now. Maybe I won't do it exactly the same way she does, we're dealing with echoes here, not copies, after all. But still.

Having some power other than being a 'dricking devisor just *has* to be better than my current hell of a life, right?

And as luck would have it, just as I was done setting up the leads I was 'borrowing' electricity through, and calibrating my projector, and every other last detail, I did find a perfect match for myself before I needed to settle for something lesser. It was the echo of an unattractive girl who somehow went through an induced exemplar event on purpose, after already being a mutant for a while, and even her existent psychic powers were enhanced by the process. I couldn't see what happened exactly, but everything I could see looked very impressive from the readings I had. Psychic powers would be a good replacement for what I have right now, besides. And there was some sort of extra connection between me and the echo, though that was even stranger, but definitely there. Okay, good, but who cares. All an extra connections means is that this is even more likely to work!

And maybe I'll even turn out looking *normal* by the end of this, right?

I flipped the switch. My cobbled together one-shot projector arced its output into me, even as peripheral parts of it started melting down. But that was expected, so so far so good. I kind of wished I thought of building a chair to sit on during this somewhat agonizing phase. And the last thing I thought before blacking out was, with a hint of annoyance, why the hell were the sparks arcing all over the place turning *pink* again?

Like I said, devisors are fucking idiots.

I woke up slowly. Before anything else, I could hear odd voices and feelings in the distance, and a whole bunch of other things nagging at my senses unlike anything I've ever felt before. As to my regular senses, I could smell an oppresive amount of burnt plastic, and I still felt the twinges of recent pain all over my body, though it wasn't too bad. Most of all I just felt very odd in a spread out way I couldn't put my finger on.

Then the weirdness really started. I tried opening my eyes. It didn't work. And when I say it didn't work I don't mean "Oh no, my eyes are stuck shut." For all I could feel, I didn't even *have* eyes, there was nothing to open!

A very unpleasant feeling was making its way through my gut as I thought about my little joke about becoming a schnauzer earlier. I brought up a hand to my face. At leat I still had arms and hands, I thought, and everything felt like it was in the right place. Even though it also felt like my skin was way too hard. Despite that, my finges were just as sensitive as ever (and my nails were suprisingly long), and I felt for the eyes part of my face. I touched my nose on the way there, and it seemed a bit smaller than it used to be, but still like a normal nose, except the skin was too hard on it as well. But above my nose, it was like some sort of helmet covering started. A 'helmet' that was part of my body, and that I could feel through. And, though I wasn't completely sure, it didn't feel like there was anything under it that used to be there. You know, like eyes for example. I traced this bizarre forehead upwards with my hand, and found that it really did cover everything from my eyes and continued back over my entire head. It seemed to be smooth everywhere, but hard, like the other parts of my new skin.

Let me just say, it feels very odd to get that much sensation out of skin with the texture and pliance of hard plastic or chitin or something. God, I hope it isn't really chitin. But it feels like it.

What the hell did I turn myself into?

Now completely broken out of my daze and almost in a panic, I scrambled to feel myself all over. First I stood up, and that worked as normal. So, small blessings, at least I was still humanoid. As I was feeling myself up, I actually felt myself up in the other sense without even meaning to at first. I felt that at least a part of my project was a success, though it didn't cheer me up all that much. I was naked, and despite the chitinous feeling of my skin I could tell that I had all the bits and pieces of a real girl. First I checked my chest, then my groin, and then just all over starting from the swell of my hips. Definitely a girl, a slender and feminine one despite not being too curvy in the chest.

So I succeeded, at least for some measure of success. But at what cost? I wasn't sure if I looked like a complete freak or what, because I couldn't even see anything, damn it!

As I was spiraling into despair over thoughts like that, and made a pathetic attempt to console myself that at least my hearing still worked, those *other* senses nagged at my attention enough for me to examine them.

And that took some work. At least it took my mind off of my predicament for a little bit. First I felt for the distant voices I could hear. Most of them were coming from the same general direction. Listening in on them, they seemed like just... people. People babbling and droning on about various trivial things. The fact that I was hearing them at such a large apparent distance was very interesting, and I remembered that I did have expectations of possibly getting psychic power out of this. But for all that the voices I was hearing were already boring the hell out of me, and the more of them I could clearly make out and focus on, the worse it got. All of the things they were saying were some combination of irrelevant, boring, and embarrassing.

Was I hearing the thoughts of the people in this little logging town I was on the outskirts of? It was a likely explanation, and I was going with it. The only other possible explanation I could think of was that I gained some new mental deformity other than Diedrick's syndrome during my recent 'adventure', and that was both depressing and useless as a thought.

But then the rest of the nagging senses regained my attention. It took me a while to work out what I was feeling, but before long parts of it just sort of snapped into clarity. I realized could see! And not with my eyes, I could just sort of see everything around me in all directions. After a minute or two of experimentation, I realized that I didn't see any color or light. What I saw was like I had direct knowledge of where the matter around me was. Psychic senses? That's pretty cool, I guess. I'd rather have eyes, but at least I'll still be able to function. I was even able to see things in the junkyard above my underground lair, though it was harder to see details through obstacles. Still, seeing through walls and floors? Neat.

Ugh. Listen to me. I'm actually finding positives in this disaster. Was finally being a girl really so much of a relief, that I'd accept being like this in exchange? I wasn't sure, and that surprised me.

Of course, then I realized that, being able to see, I should be able to look at myself. What I saw disturbed me a lot. It was as if someone built, with a few exceptions, an almost flawless copy of a human girl, but for some reason made her out of smoothly interlocking plates of chitin or whatever my skin was made of. The plates on my face were quite delicate, and when I opened my mouth it actually looked right, as long as you didn't have penetrating senses that could tell you that several skin-plates were sliding over each other under the surface. My head was (and yes, I can see my entire head as if I had a vantage point outside of myself - psychic senses apparently have some advantages) covered on the top by the helmet-like thing that I already explored by touch earlier. Another pair of similar coverings went over the sides of my head, from the backs of my cheeks. The three plates flowed together behind my head into a sort of open conical shape that concealed some other bits of my now slightly elongated head, and it all reminded me of a hairdo somehow, if only because of the location. In some places, both on my head and the rest of my body, there were these sort-of openings, and the texture of them was a bit different, though they didn't feel any more or less sensitive. I also had odd protrusions coming out of my spine and a few other places across my body - I'd call them spikes, but they weren't really, they were too shallow for that.

Other than that, I looked surprisingly normal despite the interlocking plates of my skin, I thought. My lower face itself was that of a young woman with a delicate jawline, pretty lips, and a cute button nose. I had to wonder what color it all was.

Paying a bit more attention to my body as I moved, I realized that every part of my skin was actually a set of many thin chitinous plates stacked over each other. Some parts had up to six covering the same area, but those were mostly around the joints. Moving around I also realized that, despite the hardness of my skin plates, they still bent this way and that when necessary, and had a great range of motion while sliding over and under each other. It was a bizarre body, but it still worked in every way it was supposed to.

Ew. I was never one of those weirdos who actually like bugs, even, and now I sort of looked like one. But at least I wasn't crippled, apparently.

A bit later, while still looking at my body internally while moving around, I realized another thing which shocked me even more. I didn't have a skeleton anymore. It was just organs and muscles and other soft stuff I wasn't familiar with. For a bit I wondered how the hell that was even possible and how I was able to stand up, but then the obvious answer came to me. An exoskeleton, I think it's called. God, this was disturbing.

That 'no skeleton' thing was enough revelation for today. I decided to focus on things external to my body again. To wit, there was still more that I was feeling among that odd plethora of new senses I now had. And while I couldn't really put my finger on anything, I did feel something out there in the distance. Someone familiar, looking for me, burning with concern. Was it my uncle? I tried to see if I could psychically project instead of just recieve, but I didn't get anywhere. So, either I wasn't able to do that, or I needed to be closer to whoever it was. They did feel very far away.

One other thing that occurred to me at this point was that I almost completely freaked out few times after waking up like this by now, but I still didn't have even a hint of my old dricking impulses. Another bit of good news. So, both of the goals of my project were successes, I just picked up a nasty side effect that I'd have to live with. I wasn't sure if it was worth it, but it wasn't like I had any way to go back anymore.

So I thought my situation over. I already knew I was in way over my head, but what exactly could I do to move forward now? I couldn't just lie down and starve to death. It's likely that my little lab here in this junkyard is still a secret, or someone would have already found me. Well, probably.


How long was I out for? It wasn't that long, I could still smell the burnt plastic after all. That means that -

I could hear dogs barking in the distance outside. Of course. Leave it to cosmic irony to screw me over yet again. My first impulse was to hide in a corner of my wrecked lab, which wasn't too hard, the place was a complete mess. I wasn't sure exactly how much light there was in here, but I could tell that the three lightbulbs I had to work with earlier were all blown out. So, it was probably workable.

Then I remembered whoever was coming had *dogs* with them. Dogs who could track by *smell*. I facepalmed (with a short set of little chitinous slaps) and started panicking again.

They were now close enough for me to see with my new senses, even through the layer of soil and all the old rusted detritus up there. Two dogs and a bearded guy with a rifle, probably the owner of this dump. They actually had some color to them, I realized, much like the plants did now that I thought about it. But it didn't feel like regular color.

But that could wait. They were almost on top of me! I wished he didn't have those fucking dogs with him. I wished it really hard, half in panic, observing the motions of their animal minds and emotions and on some instinct imagining them stop! And, suddenly, I felt a twinge of something at long range (I have no idea how to explain it better), and the dogs dropped. Their minds were blank, almost all thought and emotion gone. I wasn't sure if they were dead or just knocked unconscious, but what I did realize was that I must have done that with my powers. There was no other explanation.

While the guy with the rifle was seeing to his dogs in confusion, I thought hard. It was now obvious I had options other than hiding. Dangerous options that I didn't know too well and had absolutely no experience in controlling, but still options.

Then I remembered (hey, give me a break, figuring this out on the fly is hard!) that I did actually have a little bit of experience with one thing. Listening in on thoughts.

So I listened in on his thoughts, just as he was deciding that his dogs were mysteriously dead and going through thoughts that amounted to it's probably a mutant freak like last year down at the mill, better get help from the boys, pepperd with flashes of anger and violence. Great, the guy is an H1! goon exactly like my father. Then he rested his rifle on the ground, put thought to action, and started pulling out his phone. I could *not* let him call in another lynch mob on me, the first one was bad enough and I was still able to pass as a regular kid back then! So, for the split second before he started dialing I agonized. Should I use my power on him? What if I kill him? Were the dogs really dead? Can I do whatever I did less forcefully and just knock him out instead? I mean, I just basically indended for the dogs to stop existing or something, and my power made it happen in some way. Can I afford to risk killing him? Can I afford to *not* risk killing him???

I didn't have enough time to think much else (though admittedly, that was still a lot of thought crammed into about half a second - maybe I think faster now too?). I just did it, with the intent of slowing his thoughts down until he fell unconscious or something. I could feel that something was going on there, and see that his arm stalled just before he dialed. Then his thoughts went a lot quieter and he collapsed to the ground. I kept examining him for a few moments, and his dogs too, to see what their state was. From their dim minds but still working bodies, I concluded that they were apparently still alive, just unconscious. I tried examining their thoughts a bit more closely, and I did feel something there now that I could focus, but their minds were too inactive to get anything but a vague sense of their presence.

But I had more important things to worry about than the well-being of someone who would have just shot me even if he'd seen me as a person. The guy was going to wake up sooner or later, so I needed to find a new hiding place. I figured that I might as well help myself to some of his clothes and the cash he had in his wallet. It was for a good cause, even if unwillingly given. And it was kinda funny leaving him half naked out here. I thought about taking his phone too, since my own was trashed, but I knew those things were trackable. Even if that wasn't an issue, I was pretty sure something was wrong with it, since I saw strange blue shapes flash across the device, and the screen was blank. I looked the thing over, thinking I may be able to do something with it here in my lab, but in contrast to the previous week I couldn't think of any special tricks at all. Other than to crush the thing under my foot before leaving, that is.

So my devisor powers were gone. That was another thing I was right about going into the project that transformed me. I was right about everything that occurred to me, really. It wasn't anything I thought of that damned me, it was what I overlooked.

I looked over his rifle, but decided against taking it. It didn't seem practical, and it was disturbingly huge in my little hands. I'd held a few rifles before, and the last time I remember one being this big was when I was about ten years old. How small was I now? The guy seemed like he was very big, but really, he could be average and I just thought he was huge in comparison to me.

And so, leaving what would probably be my last devisor workshop ever behind, I made for the hills in the exact opposite direction of the swarm of people I could sense out there.

December 4, 2012

About a week later, I was still just hiding around in the woods up here in the mountains around whatever-it-was-ville. I tried getting a better hold on my psychic powers, because they were basically the only real tool I had to survive. Finding food wasn't too hard, but the real problem was keeping anyone from finding me and freaking out over seeing the scary monster or something. Even though I was now dressed semi-properly in a set of overlarge pants, shirt, and coat. I still had no shoes, but it didn't bother me even once during my walks through the woods. My skin's texture is good for something, at least.

There was one near miss with a hunter that shot me after seeing my face, though for some reason his bullet didn't hurt anything other than my ill-fitting clothes. I wasn't sure if my carapace skin was just that tough, or if something else was going on. Other than that I managed to hide myself away pretty well, and I started sleeping high up in tree branches instead of on the ground.

So, during all the time I had on my hands, I figured out a few new things about my powers. I was able to pretty accurately sense the presence of people and other thinking animals. The animals were a bit dimmer, but still there, even little ones like birds and squirrels. That was what made getting food easy. It also handily solved my problem with hiding from the eyes of people. I didn't really need to hide as long as I paid telepathic attention to my surroundings. I could sense people within a range of a few miles, actually, which was more than enough.

The senses I used to see the physical world had a few more quirks than I first realized. When I first explored them, almost everything seemed a dull, colorless gray. But that was because I was in a hole in the ground with only rock, metal, and plastic surrounding me. Living things were different. Plants had a faint green quality to them, stronger in some places and weaker in others. Animals had a similar sense to them, but brighter and more colorful, and the few people I'd seen from relatively up close were even more vibrant. I was seeing some sort of life force, I assumed. But it wasn't just life force my senses dealt with, it couldn't be. Because high-voltage power lines aren't alive, and I could see a pristine bright blue color in those as well. So, the sense I was using could pick up a wider variety of things. But there were still wide gaps in it. I honestly wasn't even sure if it was night or day anymore, not being able to sense light.

But that wasn't all. The best thing is I found a completely new ability. I didn't just have telepathy and that diverse psychic sense. I also had telekinesis. I could just feel and pick stuff up at range, and move it around. The discovery of that was a bit of a shock, seeing how I actually lifted myself a good height off the ground before I realized what I was doing. Still, it's really useful if you ask me. I could lift up and wave around a boulder that was many times larger than I was. I kinda wished I knew how much it weighed, it had to be a ton or two at least.

The one thing still giving me the most trouble trying to figure it out was that presence in the distance, the one I felt immediately after waking up like this for the first time. It flared a bit at one point, and I could almost reach out and touch it, but then it turned back down in intensity. Then, later, it started moving vaguely towards me, I was reasonably sure. Whoever or whatever it was, I felt a sense of concern and love for me emanating from it, so I wasn't too worried about hiding from it. Maybe it was my uncle, coming to help me and get me out of this mess. I could only hope. God only knew I didn't have anything else to pin hope on.

December 6, 2012

So I had another encounter with hunters, and they shot at me *again*. What the hell is wrong with these people? I was wearing clothes for fuck's sake! I had to look at least vaguely like a normal person at a distance! I wondered if they they were actually hunting me on purpose, and decided to do a bit of psychic spying in their heads. What I got was troubling. They were, in fact, out hunting game, but they knew I was somewhere out here and weren't against getting me too. I genuinely thought about killing them for a few minutes. If they wanted to do it to me, then why shouldn't I do it to them, right? But I stopped those thoughts. I didn't want to kill anyone, not really.

The only other relatively useful thing I got from them was the image of my own appearance. Apparently, to human eyes, my carapace skin is as black as black gets. That was probably freaky from up close, but it shouldn't be bad enough to start shooting at a distance.

But I had better news to focus on as well. Uncle Marvin, or whoever that presence was, was almost here! Before he was moving around in other directions, but I could tell he was close and coming right towards me in a straight line now. Which is a bit odd in forested mountains, but I didn't care, I just wanted to see a friendly face.

Then it hit me. There was no way he would even recognize me now! What was I going to do? How was I going to explain this?

As the presence approached, maybe a few miles out, I could sense another strange thing. I was pretty sure whatever it was was actually *flying* above the forest. That explained how it was moving in a straight line, but it did open up some questions of its own. Was it a helicopter? I didn't hear anything if it was, but it could still be too far. Damn it, if I had normal eyes I could probably just look in that direction, but it wasn't close enough for my psychic eyes yet. I could sense that there was definitely a person there with my telepathy at least.

Somewhere around a few hundred yards out, the flying person finally entered my viewing range well enough for me to get a clear focus on them. It was a flying girl with long hair and wearing a cape! A superhero! I sort of panicked and hid behind some nearby bushes as she quickly landed nearby and approached.

I could feel hesitation from her as she slowed down and took in her surroundings. Now where is he? He should be here, the magic charm Estelle made me should have led me right to him... Yeah, just hearing people's surface thoughts is usually annoying, but sometimes it can be pretty useful.

"Mark? Are you out here somewhere?" The girl called out, and I recognized her then. My sister, Angie! I hadn't seen her in almost two years. She'd grown up a bit. Oh God, someone really did come to help me! Now all I had to do was somehow convince her that I'm me. I had a feeling this was going to get very awkward before it's over. Oh well, hiding out in these damned woods and playing hide and seek with murderous hunters was getting old anyway, I could use a different sort of awkward for a change.

I stepped out of my hiding spot and tried calling out to her, but the only thing that came from my mouth was a garbled sigh. I held my throat in confusion and tried talking again. Nothing! Apparently much like my eyes, my voice was gone too. I couldn't even whisper properly, my tongue just didn't do it right and my lips were too hard.

As I was figuring all that out, Angie spotted me and grimaced a bit. "Who are you? Where's Mark?" she asked me, a definite menacing edge in her voice, but a note of fear in her emotions. Fear for her brother, and about facing a possibly dangerous situation. Well, she only gave me a grimace instead of completely freaking out like everyone else who'd seen me in my wonderful new form. This was already going better than it could have.

I dropped my hands from my throat and just gesticulated instead. It took a while of waving around and pointing at myself like an idiot until she got what I meant, and I simultaenously saw her eyes go wide and heard her mind work it out. That can't be him. Can it? "Mark? Is that YOU?" she asked me, and looked down at an odd metal disk in her hand and then back up at me, her eyes going even wider. It has to be.

I sighed and nodded. I could feel an almost nauseating whirlwind of emotions and thougths in Angie for a moment, but she soon apparently convinced herself that she's better than to freak out over a GSD case, as she called me in her thoughts. Especially her little brother, she thought very fondly. The emotion that went into that last bit was very touching.

Angie got closer to me and, despite trying not to, couldn't help but stare at me. "Wow, little bro..." She shook her head and steeled herself again. "Are you alright? You can't talk or anything?"

I sighed again, which was apparently the only audible cue I could give anymore, and shook my head.

She walked up to me and held me by the shoulders first, then gave me a big hug, which had a stronger effect on me than I thought it possibly could. Oh man, mom's gonna freak when she sees him like this...

Wait, what? Mom? But isn't mom dead? I tried asking her that, but it was way too complex to do it with random waving around. Then I thought of writing MOM? in the ground with my foot.

She saw that and nodded. "Mom's doing alright. I'm sure you two will have a lot to-" -talk about... "Uh. A lot to go over once you see each other again."

I shook my head and wrote a longer message in the dirt with my hand, YOU SAID SHE'LL FREAK OUT WHEN SHE SEES ME?

Her eyebrows went up at that one. "No, I didn't say it. But I did think it." She winced a bit inwardly over my finding out that particular thought, but it didn't show on her face. "Are you a telepath?" she asked with curiosity.

I nodded at that, and heard her immediate thought after that.

So why isn't he talking to me via telepathy? She opened her mouth to ask that question, but I waved it off and nodded, and she understood that I'd already heard her.

Talking via telepathy? So obivous I didn't even think about it, and it would make this situation immensely easier. But how do I do it? Well, I should probably just try doing it, I guess. Everything else about my powers is more or less instinctive.

Can you hear me? I tried asking.

"ARGH!!!" Angie suddenly screehed in pain, almost falling over, and grabbed her head. "WOAH! Loud! Way too loud!"

I winced at that, both because hurting her was the last thing I wanted, and because I actually felt some of the pain I caused. Am I really that dangerously loud? Okay, at least talking telepathically worked in principle, sort of. A minute or two later, when she gave me the okay, I tried again very carefully, turning it down a few notches. Is this better? I sort of whispered, mentally.

"That's still a bit intense, but better," she nodded. "Wow, that's gonna leave me with real a headache, bro, I can already feel it." And I could tell she was right. Shit.

I knew she wasn't being completely honest, either. I was still far too loud for her. I tried my best to turn my mental voice down even more, though it felt incredibly finicky at this low level, if that makes sense.

And now? I asked.

She nodded, and I could already tell it was alright this time. "Yeah, that's a lot better, thanks," she said anyway.

It might take me a bit of getting used to being so gentle with my thoughts, I guess. But I better do it anyway, or no one will ever want to talk to me again. And I'll probably have trouble getting conversation partners without adding extra deterrents like that on top.

I'm really sorry I hurt you, Angie, I told her, half because I really was sorry, and half because of the novelty of speaking like this.

She just nodded and smiled at me. "It's fine. Hey, you're new at this, you couldn't have known better, right? Remember when I accidentally demolished that entire wall back home? Same thing."

I didn't remember that. Uh, no? I don't remember anything of the sort. Dad just said you went crazy, killed mom, and then disappeared.

I didn't need telepathy to tell that that pissed her off immensely. "Of course. That fucking asshole," she swore, surprising me. Unlike me and dad, she almost never swore. "I bet he told you all kinds of crap about me. Well, no, I didn't go crazy at all, and not for his lack of trying to provoke me either. Me and mom just left and rebuilt our lives in New Hampshire. You're telling me you didn't know?" She asked a bit more quietly, and I could tell there were some feelings of pain and rejection she was touching on now. "Mom told me to stop after the first month, but I kept sending you letters. I kept asking you for your phone number so we could talk. I thought you didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore."

That shocked the hell out of me. No way! I started, but caught myself quickly. She made a massive wince, closed her eyes in an oddly slow way that just made it look even worse, and grated her teeth at hearing my telepathic voice. I guess I was too loud again. Oops.

Sorry. This double-whispering thing is really hard.

She waved me off after a minute. "It's alright. I get it. Just, please, be careful with that."

I nodded, and then remembered where we left off. And, no way Angie, there's just no way I would have given up on you.

I could feel how relieved and happy she was to hear me say it. I didn't really get it, did she really think I'd reject her, even in the pathetic state I'm in right now?

She moved in and gave me another big hug, though I could feel a hiccough in her emotions when she realized what the feeling of my skin is for the first time. I guess she missed it the first time. Still, she didn't back out of it.

She looked me all over again, and shook her head. "Mark, I almost can't believe that's really you. You look like-" -one of the worst GSD cases I've ever seen... "Umm. You got very short." She obviously caught herself before putting her thoughts to word, despite probably realizing I could hear what she thought anyway. I found that I still appreciated her trying.

But then I wondered. I was actually looking (in a manner of speaking) up at her, like I did back when I was a kid. Just how short am I?

She hmmed a bit, and answered, "I think you're at just about five feet. Maybe even less than that. I know you were already almost six feet tall before I left home at, what, thirteen years old? But then a mutation can really change a person."

I felt a bit guilty about that, since I was actually responsible for my current look. Yeah. It sure brought lots of changes to me, I answered.

At least he's finally a girl, like he always wanted, I could hear her think as she looked me over yet again.

I recoiled a bit at hearing her think that, while she figured out that she put her mental foot in it, and felt sheepish about it. But she actually knew and accepted that part of me?

You knew about that? I finally asked, making her wince a bit with another case of pain via too much telepathic volume. I think it wasn't as bad this time, though. Sorry.

"Sure I knew," she said. "You were my bratty little brother, but I still loved you, no matter what stupid pranks you pulled." Like stealing my underwear and skirts... "I kind of learned the hard way that family is one of those things that you don't really appreciate as much as it deserves until it's gone, you know? What with first grandma and then you not talking to me..." That was a pretty somber line of thought, but she perked up soon, with bright affection in her heart. "But now I got my baby *sister* back, and I'm not losing you again!"

Okay. I was glad that she felt that way. But now I was suddenly feeling immensely embarrassed. Uh, thanks Angie, but you don't really-

"But nothing, *sis*," she interrupted me with a grin and hugged me again, this time not reacting to my strange appearance on any level as far as I could tell.

I tried changing the topic. So how did you ever find me out here? I could feel you coming from far away, but I didn't know it was you. And how did you even know I manifested? Did uncle Marvin tell you?

She nodded at my last question. "Yeah, Marvin called me and mom and told us about it. He said you manifested pretty differently though. Oh, and one of my friends made me a magic charm to help find you, as a favor."

You know, funny thing I realized just now, but I knew all of the answers she was going to give me right as she heard my questions one by one. Her actual spoken answers were just time filler that we could have skipped.

I finally asked her a question that was bouncing at the back of my head this entire time, So, you can fly?

She smiled a bit, and I could tell she was proud of her powers. "Yeah, I'm what's called a PK brick. I can use psycho-kinesis to move myself around, and hit anything that I touch with up to about five tons of force if I want. And I can even do this, too!" She suddenly spread her arms out, giddy expectation bubbling in her, but nothing happened.

What are you showing me? I don't see anything, I asked in confusion a few moments later.

She raised her eyebrows for a bit, before thinking it through, Oh, right. She's probably sensing me psychically. Then she added an explanation. "Sorry. I can actually go invisible, and if you were seeing me normally I would have disappeared from view. I guess you don't exactly have regular eyes anymore, huh?"

I just shrugged. Yeah. That really freaked me out when I woke up like this. But at least I can see things in another way.

Our conversation wound down to a halt after that, so I asked the most pertinent thing at the moment. So, do you have any idea on what I should do now? Any way to get me out of here or something?

"Yep. Here, just hold my hand, and I'll invoke the second half of my little magic charm here. It's going to teleport us directly to the entrance of my school. We'll meet up with mom there, and get everything sorted out."

Teleport? From here all the way to New England? Wow. Isn't that, like, almost two thousand miles away? Your friend Estelle must be some mage.

She didn't answer my question, instead she gave me a short lecture. "You know her name and that she made this? Have you been sifting through my memories, sis? You shouldn't do that, it's against all sorts of rules and laws. And pretty rude too, if you wanna know."

I felt a bit bad about that, but it's not like I did it on purpose. Sorry, I didn't mean to. I just heard you thinking about her earlier.

Oh, that's all it was, she thought, nodding gravely, before breaking her mock scowl and smiling. "It's alright then, I think, if you didn't 'go into my head' or anything. I'm not on the psychic track, but I know enough about it to tell you that much. Many psychics just can't help but overhear the thoughts of nearby people."

That was a relief. I was starting to get worried about how exactly I was supposed to function if I was breaking laws basiclly just by existing.

"But yeah, my friend Clover made me this. She's a senior in the same cottage I'm in. She's really good with charms that help you find things. It's really only a charm to help your sister locate you though. The real power for the teleport spell is back at school, the faculty set that up."

Well, may as well find out what teleporting feels like. Okay. Let's get out of here. I hope I never see this forest again.

So I took her hand, her hand that was covered in skin so much softer than my own, and we... Well, we *something*. Don't ask me to explain it. But after that something, we were suddenly standing somewhere completely different, in front of some grand old entrance gate with two big gargoyle statues on the sides. Those things were creeping me out for some reason I couldn't really put my finger on.

Not letting go of my hand, Angie walked up to the gate, hesitated for a moment with anxiety over something I didn't quite catch, and then buzzed a ringer on the gate. There was a short conversation about reporting to security about truancy, and some green flag or something, and we went in.
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3 years 11 months ago - 3 years 11 months ago #23520 by Woop
Woop replied the topic: Was it worth it?
If you missed the opening note the first time: Story inspired this image: alpharaptor2k6.deviantart.com/art/Migraine-300750716

Monday, late morning, December 10, 2012[/b]

So, it's been a few days since I came to school. Whateley Academy, school for mutants. I could still only barely believe that this place exists. Somehow, don't ask me how, my sister managed to finagle them into accepting me as a student on a full scholarship. Really, don't ask me how, I was sure they'd turn me away the moment they saw me.

At first, because of how loud I can be with my telepathy, the faculty was thinking about putting me into a Hawthorne cottage (and why the hell do they call buildings that large *cottages* of all things?), a place for kids with dangerous powers, but it turns out that I'm not projective when I'm asleep, and that I can keep my volume down perfectly well as long as I pay attention. I only made three people bleed from their nose and ears all week! Way better than I or anyone else expected, and I say that without any sarcasm intended from my end.

Okay, so that security guard who had to be taken to the hospital was holding a grudge. I could tell from his emotions. I hope he calms down and nothing comes of it, I really didn't mean to hurt anyone.

Anyway, yeah. They didn't put me into Hawthorne, but into a place called Whitman cottage instead. And things are already looking up, despite what I expected. I didn't think I'd be able to make any friends at a new school, looking the way I do, but a lot of the girls in Whitman are really nice, so I was pleasantly surprised. Even some of the so-called pretties, the normal-looking girls. I give points to them for trying, but some of them are a bit obnoxious in the way they try too hard. Still, it's probably better than the contempt or complete avoidance I get from most of the rest of the kids on campus. But more importantly, I already made a few friends. The thing was that some of the girls here had it almost as bad as I did, and two or three maybe even had it worse, so it was actually a place I could fit in pretty well despite everything.

I mean seriously, I thought I had it bad, but there's this one freshman gadgeteer girl rooming down the hall from me called Cirrus. She's really nice and friendly, but she's, like, tentacles. Literally. A few tentacles for arms. A few more tentacles for legs. A bunch of tentacles for hair. A tongue-tentacle in her mouth. Even more tentacles in other hidden places that you would not believe, places that, besides her doctor and boyfriend, probably only someone with senses like mine would ever learn about. And if she ever does get a boyfriend, she'll probably give him a few surprises that even I can't think of after basically psychically x-raying her. She actually was really pretty, as long as you looked at the few parts of her that still looked human, which was mostly her face and some of her inner body. Sort of like my own head and face, really, except at least I'm still humanoid. Like I said, a few girls here have it even worse than I do.

My roomie, this normal looking girl, with normal baseline looks, and almost non-existent powers... Well, she meant well, I couldn't fault her that much. But I could tell that it was an effort for her, every time she saw me, and it only got worse after the first time I accidentally did my telepath-yell at her. I wish they'd have given me a roomie like Cirrus or Filigree instead, those two were way easier to deal with and relate to. Filigree can even stand a much higher telepathic volume than most people.

Oh yeah, you might be wondering why everone has such strange names. They're actually codenames, almost as if we're all superheroes! I thought Angie was just teasing me when she told me that everyone goes by a codename here, but it's actually true. And many of the GSDs actually prefer using their codename all the time. So that's why I call my new friend Cirrus instead of Bethany. It wasn't hard to get used to, even though I wondered if she *really* wanted that. She felt pretty raw when she asked me not to call her Beth, but I could tell there was more going on there.

I still told her that she can just call me Mary. I didn't have a codename yet anyway.

Yeah, *Mary*. That's the name I chose with mom and sis the other day, and I was already listed by it in the school's system, and soon even more than just in the school. Mary was sort of similar to my old name, so it's good enough if you ask me.

So, it was monday morning, I was a student in a new school, but I still didn't have any classes to go to right now. Apparently I arrived during the late part of a term, and all the the mutant oriented classes required me to go through powers testing again to join at this late date before they could know what they'd do with me. It occurred to me that I already went through powers testing once, but I instantly remembered that I was completely different back then. Yeah, powers testing was a good idea.

Okay, I actually was supposed to take a few familiar classes like math and English, and a few unfamiliar ones like costume shop and introduction to psychic disciplines, but they'd wait until my powers testing was done before I would actually go to any of those classes for the first time. It turns out that no one else is waiting in line to be tested right now, which I guess makes sense.

When I said I have powers testing today, Filigree just told me to have a really big breakfast first and to not worry about being a little late. I didn't know what she meant by all that, and for some reason her thoughts are a lot more blurry to my senses than normal, so I only took the first bit of her advice before heading off to the testing lab I was supposed to somehow find.

And that's what I was busy doing to on this cold monday morning, down in this underground maze. Busy getting lost. Honestly, a tunnel or two for each building could be expected on a campus of this size I guess, but this school was something else. It had a massive warren of tunnels that went I-have-no-idea how deep. I saw some of it during my orientation, and even more of it just walking around, since I use the tunnels for getting everywhere, like Cirrus suggested I should. It was easier this way, the surface was full of snow and pretties, and I couldn't really figure out which of the two was being colder towards me.

And the physical cold didn't really bother me that much ever since I changed into my present form.

Anyway I was wearing my Whateley uniform. Yes, a girl's school uniform, with a skirt and blouse and tie and everything! Most of the girls didn't wear the skirt part of the uniform right now because it was cold, but I didn't mind, so I did. I always liked skirts, they made me feel nice and right, and I needed that in my life these days.

Oh, hey. Looks like I finally found the lab. And I'm not even that many hours late!

Monday evening, December 10, 2012[/b]

They finally let me out of testing and I was *hungry*. I think they were trying to teach me a lesson about being almost three hours late, or something, even though I couldn't hear any thoughts about that. But it was all worth it despite the boredom and skipped lunch. I mean, wow, I thought I was just a psychic GSD case. They really put me through the wringer here, and found out all sorts of new things about me. And it was only the first day, they want me to come back tomorrow!

First of all, I didn't realize that I could lift nearly that much on muscle power alone. I mean, I could tell I was able to jump pretty far and had to slow down a bit while I was running through those woods and climbing trees, so I knew I had to be stronger than normal. But still, seven tons? On my little frame? Maybe not having internal bones is more of an advantage than I first thought. The testing crew sure thought so, but could you believe it that this freaky body of mine wasn't even much a novelty to them? They were just acting as if it was sort of interesting, but mostly business as usual.

If this was normal, then I didn't want to know what it would take to surprise these people.

Anyway, yeah, I already knew I was probably a significant psychic, but PDP - 4/6/4 (package deal psychic - telekinetic 4 / telepath 6 / esper 4, for your information) made it sound like even more than I expected. I mean, fours in telekinesis and esper make me no slouch, and a six in telepathy is almost overkill, as all the poor people I keep accidentally mentally yelling at are painfully learning.

At least I didn't bonk anyone on the head with my three tons of telekinetic force yet. A bonk like that would probably kill them. I did find out that my fine control was supposedly even more remarkable than the full weight of what I could lift. I wasn't too good at splitting my attention between several objects yet, but when I wanted to do something on a fine scale my telekinesis made it a lot easier than doing it with my hands. And it's not like my hands were any clumsier than they used to be, despite appearances. The contrary, really.

Also, get this. I can fly! I should have realized that sooner, but it just sort of didn't connect that time when I was floating above the forest.

And my psychic sense, or my 'esper' trait as they call it here, is even more interesting than I found out about in the forest. They brought all sorts of things for me to examine, and I could see distinct patterns and colors in a lot of them. I already knew I could see electricity and "life force" or whatever, but now I learned that I can also see psychokinesis as a pearlescent sheen (Which I somehow missed with Angie, but I guess I was just too happy to see her to pay enough attention at first, and then failed to notice it later? Or maybe I'm still developing? It's odd, I'll have to try looking at her more closely when I find her.), I can see magic as a bright purple color most of the time (when it didn't take on some other color for some strange reason at least), and I see "certain warper effects" as, well, as strange warping distiortions in the appearance or surroundings of whatever I was looking at, that apparently no one else could see. They told me they'd find even more examples of various exotic objects and energies to go over by tomorrow.

But, okay, I already knew I was psychic. What really surprised me was that I'm somehow an exemplar too. I mean, seriously, I didn't think I could be one at all. Think about it. I look like a human-bug hybrid of some sort, or maybe like a distant cousin of that alien thing from those old Alien movies. Exemplars are supposed to be prettier than normal, not this. But apparently I was one, just with a strange "BIT" that gave me GSD. And not just any exemplar, no, an Exemplar - 6.

I already knew what GSD was, but I'd have to look up what BIT means. From the way they were thinking about it (but not bothering to explain anything to me, no, of course not), I figured it was likely it has something to do with the things I did to myself back when I was a devisor. But the problem is, those memories are all fuzzy and strange now, and I can't really explain what I actually did. I mean, "cosmic echoes"? I thought it made perfect sense then. Now it just sounds dumb.

I wish it didn't. Maybe I could fix my screwed up body if I still had some of those ideas.

The only thing that was giving the testing crew real trouble was when we got to the regeneration part. Supposedly I should have some regen, but they couldn't really pin the exact amount of it down, mostly because my skin is so damn hard and they couldn't find a place to hurt me a little and test it the way they usually do, and busting through would hurt me a LOT instead of a little. And, well, after all the talk about wounding me, I was not about to volunteer any ideas on how they could do it more easily, like taking a scalpel to my tongue or something, I don't care about their stupid tests enough for that. And if all that wasn't bad enough, someone brought up that my carapace probably heals slower than regular skin would given an equal amount of regen, so the benchmarks or whatever wouldn't work anyway. It's a mess, and I have to be a guinea pig while they figure it out and that one guy in the background keeps considering just taking a power drill to me more and more seriously every passing minute.

No, he was only thinking that bit about the drill, nobody actually came out and proposed it. Yet. But I think I'll be doing another demonstration of my leg muscles for them if I see anyone waving power tools around here in the future.

Luckily we were done for the day and I could finally go catch dinner. I could hardly wait to see what torture instruments they bring out for me tomorrow.

Oh, and before I forget. The testers needed a codename for me. I couldn't think of anything good, so I threw out a few ideas. Carapace was already taken, and while obvious I wasn't exactly sad about not getting it. I tried thinking about something psychic-sounding, but there was even less available there, unless I wanted a composite word of some sort. In the end I settled for another obvious reference to my appearance.


Hey, it could be worse.

So while I was eating alone in a remote and safe corner of this oddly shaped dining hall dome, a trio of one Hawthorne and two Twain kids that I sort of knew by appearance from around the tunnels walked and slithered up to me. They were all freaky severe GSD cases like me, and I was learning that there was at least some small amount of cameraderie between all of us freaks, so I wasn't too worried about any trouble.

No, what worried me was that I was alone and they were all boys! And I was a girl now, as I somehow still manage to forget sometimes. And one them was really cute!

Okay, despite how my freakout about being caught alone might sound, I wasn't really worried they'd try to hurt me or anything like that. It was just the first time I was facing a group of boys as a girl, a group of boys who I know aren't going to ignore me or worse, the way most of this school does, and I just felt so awkward and nervous you wouldn't believe it. And to make it all even worse, I though that the snake boy was cute! I never had thoughts like that about boys before. I mean, I imagined having them a bunch of times, I don't think you can want to be a girl without considering such things, but that doesn't mean they happened. But here I was, and the feelings were suddenly happening! And I brought all of my hormones with me and everything!

I tried ignoring my feelings as best I could for now. I had a few moments to take a good look at the approaching trio of fellow GSD cases. The snake boy had a freaky and really long scaled snake tail instead of legs, but he was all athletic and exemplar hot from the waist up despite also being covered in scales there, with pretty-boy features and longish curling hair, and actually brightly shining green eyes that even my strange senses saw as green for some reason, and- And yeah, for some reason I thought he was cute, like I already said several times by now. I don't know why none of the other Whitman girls ever mentioned him, they talk about boys all the time. Maybe he had strange colorations that other people were put off by, but it's not like I could see those. The next guy was, well, basically just imagine a great white shark with muscly human legs and arms. He was tall, had a shark tail trailing behind him, and was generally very strong looking, like a long time body builder or something. His skin was all smooth by appearance from a distance, including on the large fin on his back, though I could tell there were those tiny backwards hooks that sharks have covering it. The impression he gave in his entirety was kind of uncanny, no matter how little room I have to think things like that about other people. I had to wonder how much worse he'd look with his mouth open, since I could see the triangular teeth hiding in there. The last one of the trio, trailing behind the other two with a sense of getting dragged into something by his friends, was even bigger than shark boy, but still shorter. You might be thinking 'dwarf' from that description or something, but no, you should be thinking 'toad'. It was an apt description, though not quite as much of a bullseye as calling the shark boy a shark. Despite the likely strength hiding in his bulk, toad boy unfortunately just looked fat, not even having the rippling muscles that shark boy had going for him, and he was covered in randomly placed warts.

From their surface thoughts and emotions I could tell that they had something they wanted to talk me into. But it didn't feel like it was malicious. If anything they felt like they saw me as one of their own, and wanted to be protective of me if I'd let them. Hmm. I wonder if that's just because I'm a girl.

But before I could examine the surface coverings of their mindscapes too much, they arrived. Toad boy, or Grumble as I learned when I met him in passing once in the tunnels, moved forward with a nudge from shark boy.

"Hi, Mary," Grumble said in his unfortunately appropriately (to both his appearance and his codename) croaking voice, "I heard you picked out a codename today. Chitin. It suits you."

It suits me? I could have been offended by his comment, since it's not like my emotional skin is as thick as my physical one, and some of the assholes around campus were thinking and sometimes saying really nasty things when they saw me. Especially some of the Dickinson girls. But I could feel that Grumble didn't mean what he said in a bad way. In fact, I thought that maybe he was appreciating my chitin a bit more than I would have expected, and I wasn't sure how to feel about that.

You know, it strikes me that I'd have a much harder time with my condition if I had to guess whether people are actually sincere, or if they're secretly repulsed by me. As it is I can pretty easily sort out and avoid the people who can't stand me.

Toad boy then introduced his friends. Shark boy was codenamed Salthound, and was the Thornie of the trio. When I asked why that was, he explained that he apparently sometimes goes rager (think crazy berserker who doesn't even notice who he's hitting) during his sleep, so he needs a single that he can't demolish too easily, and then after that he needs a saltwater tank to calm down in. Which must really suck, I didn't get the feeling he liked hurting people any more than I did. Meanwhile, snake boy had the codename Constrictor, and once I focused on him again I just couldn't stop. He was so... I don't know. I could just get lost in his glowing eyes and athletic body. Those abs were really something.

Good thing I didn't need to turn my face towards him or anything to take a look, or I'd have given myself away already. He never knew I was checking him out, which somehow made it even sweeter in a naughty way.

After introductions, the conversation sort of went in a circle, but I could tell they were still here with a motive of some sort, from hearing their thoughts. Something about spending time together, and fighting in an oddly non-violent way which I didn't really get. I was careful not to pry.

But then a simple pair of words Salthound used gave me a real shock.

*Combat* finals? Are you serious? I asked. It was more of a rhethorical question that I used to get my opinion across, already knowing that he was perfectly serious.

"Oh yeah," he nodded with a slight twitch of his fin from the pain of getting hit by another volume slip from me. "The underclassmen just started them today, but I guess you missed all of that during your powers testing. Hey, if you're lucky they might forget how new you are and put you into a final!"

Was he seriou- Okay, no, I still knew he was serious. I just couldn't believe it. Lucky? How the hell would that make me lucky? I don't wanna fight against the people here! I mean, I saw this one girl who can actually shoot glowing-hot molten metal at you! That's insane!

They looked at each other, with similarly uncertain emotions going through each of them.

Constrictor took over. "So what? You're a high level PDP, and I can tell you're working hard to keep your own powers in check right now. You could run circles around some simple matter manifester."

I wanted to argue about that, but I realized he was probably right. What could that girl do to me, other than maybe a sneak attack? Nothing. I could just disable her or run away before she got into range, whichever I felt like doing more. And even a sneak attack is very unlikely to work unless she can stop me from hearing her thoughts somehow or something.

But how did they know I'm a PDP? Was that just an assumption, or were they prying into my life? I was suddenly tempted to break some of the rules about psychic intrusion and do a bit of my own prying, desite the already four separate lectures I'd gotten on the topic.

The guys could tell I was thinking what Constrictor said over, so they gave me a moment before nodding to each other and changing the topic. From their thoughts I could tell we were now finally getting to their actual reason for being here, something about me joining a team with them.

Grumble took over the conversation. "I need to explain something, Chitin. You're completely new and a frosh so you don't know what this really means, so bear with me for a bit. You see, here at Whateley we have something we call training teams. Most of them are just what they sound like, groups of a few students created so they can train how to work as a team during powered combat and similar situations. Teams like that usually have random and scattershot membership, and you'll likely be a part of one or two over your next few years here at the school. But what we're offering is for you to join a training team that's a bit different. Sometimes a team sticks together longer because they have a stronger theme to bond over, and maybe even become good friends." He spread his hands and pointed out his two buddies, making it obvious he was talking about the trio. As if I hadn't already figured it out. "Monster Squad. That's what we call ourselves. We'd like you to join."

Wow, now that was a name. Do they really need to advertise it that much? On the other hand, it's not like me calling myself Chitin was all that much better.

You know, I actually kind of liked the idea of being invited into a team like this. Maybe it would work out well? They seemed like decent guys.

As they let me think it over in silence, I was actually paying close attention to the thoughts of all three boys individually as best I could, and I got a sense of what they wanted. Salthound was perfectly sincere, he just wanted a new member to prop up his team, and thought I'd be a valuable addition as a PDP. But Grumble and Constrictor worried me a bit more. Grumble was obviously interested in me in a more than just casual sense, and I could see images of my own black-colored self dancing through his mind even now. But I kind of doubted I'd ever return interest like that. The way he looked... I didn't want to admit I was shallow, but there just wasn't hope for anything other than a pity date, and that was a terrible idea no matter what. There was just no spark there with toady boy, not like there was with snake boy. And speaking of snake boy, Constrictor himself was obviously working some sort of angle too, but was staying annoyingly silent about it. I still wasn't going to break psychic ethics to find out what it was. I just hoped that was the right call.

Salthound tried again after a few moments had passed in (physical, at least) silence. "Hey, think of it this way. Even if you join now you can still quit later if it doesn't work out."

Point. Oh what the hell. They didn't feel malicious no matter what extra motives two of them may have. And it would probably be nice to train as a team and make even more friends.

Alright, I guess you're right about that. Okay, sign me up.

They all smiled. Well, to rephrase that, their emotions of all of them were that of a typical happy smile, but the only one who had a normal smile as a physical expression was snake boy. The other two couldn't really get even close to pulling it off.

I did have a question, though. So how exactly do training teams actually train? With powers? It sounds like we could accidentally kill someone really easily.

Salthound, the apparent leader now that I thought about it, answered. "Oh, don't worry about that. The school has all sorts of holographic and virtual simulators for it, with plenty of safety built in. You're Silverbird's little sister, aren't you? -" Salthound kept on talking without stopping, but I noticed Constrictor was pretty shocked by what he just heard him say about sis, though at least he didn't seem to dislike Angie or anything. Still, it felt very personal and involved. Was she his ex or something? Wow, what did I get myself into now? "- She knows all about it, she's a core member of the capes, and she's on team Phoenix too, and she used to be on a few others over the past two and a half years."

Tuesday morning, December 11, 2012[/b]

The next morning, which was the first morning I spent at Whateley not sleeping in to date, I got my first morning shower rush experience. I figured I should try to be on time to powers testing this time around, and hopefully maybe get some free time in the afternoon out of it.

And the Whitman cottage freshman floor shower during the morning rush was... a sight to see, let's say. Okay, so Cirrus was really the worst case here, most of the other GSD girls were far milder than that. Things like wings, and tails, and fur, and only one part of the body in a bizarre shape instead of the entire thing, were all over the place. Honestly, I was pretty sure I was the second worst case after Cirrus, so I felt a bit better than I would have about thinking these things otherwise.

But hygiene is important, no matter what your skin or fur or plates or scales are like, so here we all were.

One of the other GSD girls that I didn't know yet was griping about shaving her legs. And I totally understood why as I looked at her. She had hairier legs and forearms than most people have scalps. I'm not joking, before she got started with the straight razor it was like she was wearing the fur trim of a coat or something on each limb.

After about half a minute, Cirrus started griping back at her, but I felt that it was in a friendly way. "Oh quit whining Peltie, it's not that bad, it's just a little hair." Cirrus gestured with two of her tentacles, waving away Peltie's (?) griping. I could tell she was planning something with the air of a subdued prankster, and lo and behold, she suddenly involved me in the conversation, the sneaky little squid. "Right Mary? Tell her."

I wasn't sure what to do at first. I didn't know 'Peltie' too well, and she could be sensitive about this. But I figured Cirrus was doing all this with a friendly tinge to her emotions, so I thought it would probably be alright.

I nodded theatrically. Yeah, you're totally right, Cirrus. I really don't know what the big deal is.

Cirrus made a perky 'You see?' smile at Peltie and winked at her for good measure.

Peltie just gave each of us a long flat lookover in succession, made a loud snort, and continued her shaving. "Oh, gee. Thanks. The hairless mollusc-girl and the hairless insect-girl are "consoling" *me* about shaving. Really, thanks guys."

I didn't know her, but I felt that she took it in good humor, like I hoped she would. Then it occurred to me that someone else listening in on the conversation could have gotten a very different impression. We were two severe GSD girls talking to one that would probably count as a moderate GSD case at worst, after all. Oh well, it was just good-natured teasing.

And then Filigree came into the bathroom and completely grabbed my attention, just as she did the first time I talked to her. I was glad to see her, in literal terms. After salivating over Constrictor at dinner yesterday the way I did, and maybe a few fantasies I had later that I maybe shouldn't have had, I was wondering if I wasn't into girls anymore now. Mercedes, or Filigree as her codename was, completely put those fears to rest. I mean, just wow. She was the curviest, sexiest, exemplar ever. Okay, there were plenty of other exemplars with bodies like that all over campus, and some of them were even in this bathroom with me right now, but none of them were just so nice and accepting, not even once caring about the way I look. For some reason, ever since I became a psychic, the sense of a person's emotions was playing a huge part in how attractive I thought they were. And I didn't mind those strange golden wires (that even I saw as golden for some reason) that covered Filigree's skin all over one bit, or her strange slitted eyes either. She was HOT. And she was naked right now, too, though that meant a bit less to me these days than it did to most other people. I could tell that maybe two or three of the other girls were checking her out too. Mercedes was a popular girl. And best of all, she really was just nice to even the worst GSD cases, like me and Cirrus. And Cirrus got to room with her, I was so jealous. The most interesting thing about Mercedes, though, was that I didn't know if she even knew about everyone checking her out, and if she liked it if she did, or what. Or almost anything else about her for that matter. I still couldn't really get much off of her telepathically. A mutter or whisper here and there, but not enough to figure anything out. Maybe I could if I started actively prying, but I not only followed the psychic rules, I agreed with them too. So none of that. Empathy was actually a lot easier with the so called dragon-girl (maybe I should ask Filigree why she's called that one of these days), and she really was a great example of telepathy and empathy being separate things.

Anyhow, where was I before my hormonal spazzout? Oh, right, finishing up my morning routine and drying myself off. I was now completely awake and clean, and ready for another full day of mind-numbingly boring powers testing. Joy.

Both starting sooner and knowing where I was going instead of getting lost, I was on time to the lab this morning, but I soon started thinking that maybe I should have just skipped it and locked myself into my room back at Whitman instead. They actually DID bring a power drill with them! I didn't think they'd actually do it, I was just joking yesterday.

I got up and moved away, ready to defend myself. Oh no. No way. You get that thing away from me.

They looked at each other, and I could hear thoughts with the sense of Let's just calm the kid down and get this over with. and the like coming from them.

No. Way.

"Now, Chitin, this is a necessary test. We need to do this to round out your file. It won't hurt too much, and we're already pretty sure you have some regen, so this shouldn't leave any permanent marks.

Okay, that was even worse than I thought. PRETTY SURE? SHOULDN'T??? I asked, getting a bit worked up, and of course forgetting my volume again. Both of them grabbed their heads as the pain spiked through them, the one with the drill dropping it where a piece of it broke off. I would have felt bad about losing control of my power yet again, but under the circumstances I didn't care. And getting the drill broken by accident like that was actually a great result. They couldn't use it on me now. I wasn't even the one who dropped it, and hey, the powers testers of all people should know better than to scare me when I'm having trouble with control, right? So, totally not my fault. It was actually kind of amusing.

After that we spent another whole hour going back and forth, them whining at me about me being uncooperative, but I was adamant. And I genuinely forgot my volume a few more times, too, especially when they brought another drill in, so the headaches I was giving them may have gotten them off my case sooner than they would have given up otherwise. In the end they just slapped a regen - 3 rating on my file as a conservative guess and washed their hands of me. Supposedly they'd forward my testing data to the school files and then after that to the MCO for my MID, which I didn't exactly like the sound of. But whatever, I wasn't going to argue with them when I already got my way earlier.

So, that's how I wound up being free for the entire day, and it was still only morning. Something good did come out of it, at least. I was thinking of celebrating by just walking around the campus a bit while class was in session and there were less people around than usual.

While walking through one tunnel annex, though, I felt something that made my (metaphorical) heckles rise, and after examining it I felt someone that set my teeth on edge, though I didn't have a clear view of them yet through all the rock between us. It was a group, four girls I guessed, who didn't like me, but they didn't feel like ignoring me either from what I could gather. They were actually looking forward to confronting me. What, were they going to try and bully me or something? As if I don't have enough problems. What a bunch of creeps.

They were waiting for me, expecting to surround me when go I past them. They probably didn't know what my powers were, which was lucky for me. I just turned around and went back to Whitman another way before they could even figure out what happened. I might get lost in a tunnel again, but it was better than dealing with whatever those goons were planning. I made sure to remember what they felt like, so I could recognize them in the future.

Tuesday late morning, December 11, 2012[/b]

Wandering around with nothing to do, I actually started paying attention to what the intercom system was transmitting occasionally. They were calling in students to combat finals in pairs. I heard that they allowed student spectators in, and thought that it was probably more interesting than trying to find yet another part of the tunnels to get lost in. The finals were being held in a large holographic arena with plenty of seating around for spectators. I looked around to see if I could find anyone familiar, and I lucked out when I passed through one bend. I found Filigree and a few other girls from Whitman. Cirrus wasn't there, but then I knew she didn't like to be in public spaces other than back in our cottage.

I waved to Filigree and sat nearby as I teased her, Hey Filly, how's it going?

She just rolled her eyes at the nickname that she hated but couldn't seem to get rid of, but then she looked at me with a sense of fondness (that I really didn't know what I did to earn, but I knew a good thing when I saw it) and smiled. "Oh not much going on. Just watching these two losers slap each other into... mild pain or something."

I could tell there was some sort of screen between us and the action, but I could see through it just fine. The scene was that of a city with tall buildings and pedestrians and cars and everything, but the psychic sense of it was all wrong. For one thing, almost none of the people in there were alive, I was pretty sure. So these were probably some of the holographic simulations I was told about. But the actual slap fight happening in there really was pathetic, and I realized that's what was causing all the jeering. It wouldn't have been very impressive even in a junior high full of only baseline kids. There was some contraption zapping around in the background between the two boys, but it was apparently either broken or out of anyone's control, and so forgotten by the two "combatants".

It's not always like this, is it? I asked.

One of the other Whitman girls nearby, a baseline-looking one with an always present bubbly sense of emotion in her, answered. "Oh no, this is pretty rare. Usually there's at least a few explosions,-" I could sense her feeling a sort of amusement aimed at Filigree. "-and sometimes the entire place gets completely leveled." She quirked a little smile at Mercedes, who just rolled her eyes again and felt embarrassed.

Hmm, there had to be a story there, but the only images I was getting from the people around me were more like something from an old kaiju movie or something, so that couldn't have been it.

Then the next match started, and everyone paid more attention to the arena again for a bit. I now saw that the point of these matches wasn't actually just to hit each other with everything, but to steal some sort of box thing and then run back to the start without the other person stopping you. Hmm, that sounded a lot better, if you didn't need to deal with things with direct force you could finesse your way around your opponent instead. Still, most of the students in there seemed to forget about the box, and during the next match there were a few explosions just as predicted, as the two girls lobbed two different types of energy bolt or something at each other, but still nothing too impressive or scary or anything. I did hear from the chatter around me that Monster Squad is apparently in something called the crash.

So what's Monster Squad like? I asked, not aiming it at anyone in particular.

An upperclass girl with heavy GSD who was sitting nearby answered, "They're alright guys as, you know, someone to talk to and hang out with and things like that. But as a team they haven't been doing so well this year. They either flake out or go rager too much and lose most of their matches."

Hmm. So if I said they asked me to join, and I figured I might say yes, what would you think?

Filigree was the one who reacted to that. "You're thinking of joining them, really? They asked me too, yesterday after my final. But I figured I'd be the only girl there, and the team already has two ragers on it without adding me on top already, and things like that."

Two ragers already? I knew about Salthound, he told me about it himself, but I didn't know there was another one. I wonder if it's Grumble. Probably, though it could be Constrictor too I guess. I did read about ragers back when I was researching Deidrick's syndrome a few weeks ago, and it was similar in some ways. But I didn't mind helping someone like that, I was pretty sure I could do something with my telepathy, at least knock them out during an episode if nothing else.

And why would they ask Filly to join them? She looked a bit odd next to a baseline with those golden lines and those odd eyes of hers, sure, but it wasn't that bad. She wasn't monstrous at all.

I admitted, Yeah, they asked me yesterday, and I said yes. Like Salthound said, I can always quit if it doesn't work out. Right?

She sort of bounced her head this way and that about that. "Well, yes, you can, but you know you'll actually be enrolled into training classes with them, right? You can only really quit cleanly at the end of a term."

Oh, good point. Well, whatever. Like most people and my own investigation were saying, those three boys are alright people. And if these finals are anything to go by, then I need to take training classes anyway.

Filigree surprised me then. "You know, if you'll be there, and I won't be the only girl, then I might take them up on their offer too. We could put some girl-monstrousness into their boys' club together, right?"

Really? Well, I didn't mind. But, she didn't fit in with the team theme at all. I'm sorry, Filly, but I don't get it. And don't get me wrong, I'd be happy to be on a team with you, but why did they invite you? Aren't you supposed to be, you know, monstrous to join? That's what they said, that the team is based on that theme.

Two of the girls nearby were a bit amused by my question, and I heard thoughts like Oh, she's the new girl. from them, but even more of the girls and even some boys in the general vicinity actually felt a sense of dread. I got those strange images that could only fit into an old monster movie again, too, and of an entire office building somehow being completely blown over, but I still found it hard to believe that was right.

Filigree, though, was embarrassed again. "Don't worry, there's a good reason they asked, and you'll find out about it sooner or later."

The baseline-looking girl who was teasing her earlier giggled for a moment, and heckled her with a feel of gleeful naughtiness, "Yeah, it's not like everyone around campus isn't talking about it today or anything."

I was really curious by now, but if they thought I'd inevitably find out, then it could wait at least until I said what I was pretty sure Filly wanted to hear. Alright, Mercedes, I'd really like it if you joined Monster Squad too then.

That seemed to please her a lot. It was impossible to not like her when she so easily liked me. I just wished I knew why she did. Well, if we become good friends, then I'll probably find out about that too.

Tuesday afternoon, December 11, 2012[/b]

Not having anything to do all day after the combat finals were over was getting really boring after the first five minutes or so. One of the other little things I learned in powers testing yesterday was that I couldn't see what was on a computer or phone screen anymore. Of course, I should have thought of that sooner, not being able to see light, but it just never came up. But what was worse was that I couldn't see the ink on the pages of a book either. Luckily, the school library had accommodations for people like me. I just spent some time reading books on one of the computers with a screen built for esper viewing in there. Everything was available on the Whateley intranet, actually. I was working my way through the books very quickly too. I already knew I could read really fast from the exemplar tests, but now that I was putting that ability to use for myself instead of for some dumb test it was a lot more interesting. Over four or five hours or so, I managed to read and memorize all of the literature for my curriculum, and about twenty fantasy and sci-fi stories on top of that. Like I said, really fast.

The powers theory was really interesting and explained a few more things I never realized, but history was still as boring as ever. At least I should remember it without needing to study now, with my exemplar mental package.

But enough was enough, and after almost five hours I couldn't stand sitting around and reading any longer. I remembered that Angie should be done with classes for the day by now, so I went and found her in the common room in Dickinson.

Let me tell you, the girls in this cottage are just *not* the friendly sort at all, my sister excluded.

She was happy to spend some time with me when I asked (yeah, I know, as sisters go she's really weird), so we left the common room over there and moved over to Whitman's instead, as I asked her all sorts of stuff. I mentioned the group of girls I though might have been trying to ambush me, and she frowned at that, but I could tell that she believed I was likely right about their intentions. Shit.

I also asked her about Monster Squad, and if she thought it was a good idea that I joined.

That surprised her, but I could tell she approved. "You're already on a training team? Wow, you work fast sis. But yeah, I know those guys. I've been in a few matches against them. They like to scare people into submission, and they're pretty nasty in a pitched fight too. They're alright, you could have found teams much worse than that one." Now I'll have to have a few words with Ollie about how he intends to treat my little sister...

She didn't mean for me to overhear that last snippet of thought, and I don't think she realized I did. It was kind of annoying, but also kind of touching, that she'd do such a thing for me. I could tell she meant Salthound when she said Ollie, too.

Amazed at how great she's being to me these days, I was just fondly looking at her, and I realized that I did indeed see that PK sheen coming from her. I guess I just didn't have a handle on it yet the first time I saw her with my esper sense, or something.

Then I remembered the odd feelings and thoughts that Constrictor had when he heard about Angie, and I asked her about him. What do you think about Constrictor?

I was looking for any strong reaction from her, but there was none. "Oh, the snake guy? I always forget his name for some reason. He's a wizard and a rager, and can still cast spells while raging. That can be pretty nasty, since he gets more juice from what I hear, but then he doesn't really think clearly while having an episode, so it balances out."

That was more telling than having her give me a real answer, actually. It was all technical, and nothing personal, basically like she was getting ready to do a simulated fight agaisnt him or something. It looks like he has a crush on her, and she basically doesn't know he even exists. Poor snake boy. Maybe I could make him feel better, heheh~
Last Edit: 3 years 11 months ago by Woop.
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3 years 11 months ago - 3 years 11 months ago #23554 by Woop
Woop replied the topic: Was it worth it?
Wednesday Morning, December 12, 2012[/b]

The next morning I was in the shower rush again. Unlike yesterday, Cirrus and Filly weren't here yet so there were no silly teasing moments or anything, and before long I saw why that was. Just as I was finishing with my own shower, Filigree and Cirrus came in, and Filly was cajoling, scooting, consoling, and almost even carrying Cirrus every step of the way. Not that Cirrus could take actual steps, the way she was flowing over the floor and her roomie, but you know what I mean. And Cirrus really just felt wretched, it was such a difference to the sense of humor she was feeling yesterday morning. I just wondered what could have happened, but I could wait until later to find out. She was moaning and whining about wanting to sleep in and not going anywhere, but Mercedes was having none of that.

"Come on, Beth, you can't just sleep another whole day away again. And you said it yourself, you almost have a patent from the work you did on your car. Just keep thinking of that and ignore everything else."

Mercedes was really gentle and patient with her, and had a sense about her that could only be called mothering, which was kind of odd. But Cirrus sure seemed to need it, so I didn't say anything, nor did anyone else in the bathroom despite some less than friendly impulses I was sensing from some of the other girls. I suddenly thought that maybe Cirrus needed Filigree as a roomie way more than I did, and felt a bit bad about feeling jealous the other day. And she didn't even react when Mercedes called her Beth, the way she usually did to others. Those two were pretty close I guess.

I didn't get to talk to either of them this morning, since I didn't have too much time to waste and I had no idea how long they'd keep that up, so I just left and had a quick but lonely breakfast.

In the arena I found Mercedes again, and I sat next to her for another session of watching combat finals. Cirrus was absent just like yesterday, but today that worried me more.

So is Cirrus doing alright? Where is she? I asked, and from the way she was feeling in the morning I was hoping the answer wouldn't be something like 'hiding back in our room', or even worse, something like 'in the hospital'.

"Oh, she's down in her workshop, working on her car. It's one of the only real ways to get her out of bed on some of her bad days."

Bad days? I asked.

She nodded. "Yeah, Beth's a sweet girl and does alright most of the time, but sometimes she just completely crashes, like what you saw this morning, and tries to close herself off from the world. It's not easy living with severe GSD, especially on a campus full of beautiful and mean exemplars, like you probably already know. She's on some meds to help her with her moods, but it's still not perfect, so we try to help her out when we can. She'd probably stay in her room for weeks if no one scooted her out from time to time."

So it wasn't as bad as I feared, but if this was some sort of regular thing then that wasn't much better. I wondered who this 'we' she was talking was. She was the only one I ever saw doing anything to help.

But just then, something that completely broke my brooding over my friend's wellbeing happened. My name was called on the intercom! What the hell, didn't they say they don't put new kids into the combat finals!?

I could feel that Filly was confused too. "Looks like you're up, Mary. How did you manage that?"

How should I know? I thought I wasn't on the list for this term! I answered, and even though Filly didn't react, I noticed a few people around us twitched from my too loud voice again. Urgh.

Well, it's not like I could ignore it, but I could complain about it. That in mind, I walked up to the teacher who oversaw the inner arena entrance, and whined at him. Why was I called in? I was told I wouldn't have a final. I don't know anything about fighting yet or anything!

He just shook his head. "Sorry Chitin, but this straight from the finals comittee. There's nothing I can do about it. Just enter through here," and he scooted me through the door, ignoring my protests.

On the other side of the door, in the holographic cityscape that I only saw from outside until now, I met up with Constrictor and Grumble. What the hell? What is this? Why are you guys here? Isn't this supposed to be one on one?

They both just shrugged, though something about that crash thing ran through their minds.

"I already had my final on Monday, too," Grumble said. "I think this is about the crash. Monster Squad is in it this year."

So I'm here because I joined their team? Wow, is whoever's in charge of this fighting pit serious? And if my teammates knew about this, then why couldn't they have invited me a week later instead?

I don't even know what the crash is! How are we supposed to do this, just fight each other or something? I asked, figuring I'd better focus on practical matters first, and leave further whining for later.

Constrictor answered, "Well, it's basically a set-" I didn't know what he was going to say exactly, but I did know the thing about just fighting each other was wrong from his thoughts, and that it was more of a set of special cases finals that they did on the side of the regular finals. He didn't get to explain because before he could get more than a few words in, "And for today's crash finale! They're up against *MONSTER SQUAD!*", a loud voice came from a speaker, interrupting him.

So, it was a team fight. The three of us against two other students. And the box thing we were supposed to steal was still part of the test.

The match began just as I was getting ready to ask what our two opponents, two baseline-looking or maybe exemplar guys could do. All I got from their minds was a sort of smugness-recently-turned-anxiety, and they were being very calculative about how to deal with Grumble and Constrictor. But completely ignoring me. I saw that one of them was already flying and moving to cover the other, and I also noticed that pearlescent PK sheen on him. The other boy was setting up some sort of weapon launcher device as fast as he could.

While I was still wondering what to do, my teammates sprung into action. And when it came to Grumble, that was a completely literal description. That boy could *jump*! He left a large cloud of dust where he was standing just a moment ago, and was already almost half way to the other side of the arena before the arc of his jump started its descent. And from up there, he started making a croaking rumble or something, which I didn't get at first, but then I realized it was like a sonic weapon that was tearing its way across the ground right at the guy with the weapon launcher's position. But our PK opponent flew right up to Grumble and smacked him down before that could work.

Constrictor, though, covered for that. He let fly a purple-and-blue (at least to my vision) bolt of something at the weapon launcher, which smashed it apart. The guy who was setting it up thought a few really nasty thoughts about that while he picked himself up, and then he pulled out an odd electric pistol of some sort that *also* fired some sort of energy bolt. Huh.

So Grumble was fighting PK boy, jumping around the place and trying to nail him with one of those sonic croaks. But was slowly losing ground, trying hard to not fall into punching range, apparently not being as brick-ish as his opponent. Meanwhile Constrictor was in an energy blast stalemate against energy pistol boy. And I still wasn't doing anything other than running towards the box thing, still somehow unnoticed.

I could take a hint, and gave Grumble a hand. I didn't really know how to do much of worth in a fight yet, but I sure knew how to do one thing. I *yelled* at PK boy, who's PK suddenly flared a bit before resettling, just as he grabbed his head in agony and promptly crashed right into the ground. That let Grumbe regain his footing at least. Constrictor and the guy with the pistol were still not getting anywhere, both of them also having shields of some sort up by now, and I thought that was good enough. I continued my run to the box thing that I was supposed to steal to win this ridiculous final.

I was amazed that I was actually being ignored by everyone right up to the point when I touched the box. That was when a really fucking loud alarm of some sort started blaring, and that brought everyone's attention on me! And when I say everyone's attention, I don't mean just our opponents in this fight, but even all the holograms! Nothing like this ever happened in any of the other matches I saw, and I thought it was so completely not fair as I promptly ran away with the box while being shot at with holographic bullets or something. At least my skin could take getting hit by them pretty well, even though they were knocking me around a bit.

So yeah, I thought I could just run away like that and get back to the circle at the start I was supposed to bring this thing to. That means I was ignoring PK boy and devisor boy, which was a bit of a mistake. PK boy made a straight line with his fist forward right at me, obviously pissed off about the way I disabled him earlier. Meanwhile the devisor boy threw some sort of device or grenade or something in front of my path. So get this, Grumble, who was trying to stay out of fist-range of the PK boy earlier, decided to just jump into PK boy with his bulk instead of letting me get clobbered by said PK boy. I thought Grumble was really sweet for doing that for me. I knew he got some real pain out of it as he duked it out with a stronger opponent without either his ranged weapon or his jumping advantage.

Meanwhile, the grenade thing that was still flying towards me? I just bounced that away with my telekinesis. I was feeling smug about actually remembering I could do that for a second, but just as I touched the thing with my TK, it burst and threw out some sort of strange churning goo-like matter all over the place in front of me. The goo was actually grabbing at things nearby as if it were a living creature, especially moving things, as I learned when I tried dodging around.

That's when I remembered I could fly too, and promptly flew over the entire mess. Hey, I was learning things about myself even now. Like learning I could fly for the third time.

Devisor boy tried shooting me down once or twice, but Constrictor made him pay for that by busting his shield with an extra large magic missile or whatever-it-was, and then he had to take cover behind a nearby car instead. I decided to add another aimed telepathic scream to help Grumble with the PK guy, which did help him jsut like the first time, but I sputtered and almost fell out of my flight course by splitting my attention like that. Which was also completely new to me, I didn't know I could lose my grip on my powers like that.

Well, anyway, after that it was smooth flying all the way to the goal, despite holographic pricks still trying to prick me with holographic bullets the whole way. We won!

Constrictor came right up to me to cheer me on when we were done, but Grumble was having a hard time walking. I immediately asked him if he was alright, and he was apparently enough of a regenerator for it to not be a big deal. I carefully hugged him anyway, and thanked him for doing what he did, which completely stunned him. Maybe I should have been more careful.

Soon Salthound and Filigree came in too, and Salthound in particular was really happy with how the fight went, but we didn't have much time to talk or anything because the teachers broke it up and started yelling at everyone, but especially at our opponents, two guys codenamed Dozer (the PK brick) and Plasma-Tech (the devisor, naturally). I mean, I thought I and my team did great, but the teacher who did most of the talking, a really big and really loud old man, was tearing into us like a drill sergeant or something.

But we still got some praise, even though I was the only one who could feel good about it, since Constrictor and Grumble were only "praised" for having me on their team. Yeah, this teacher, Bardue I was pretty sure, was kind of a jerk. Apparently when it was Salthound in the lineup instead of me, and the other two boys had their third team member with them, some exemplar girl with siren powers, Monster Squad lost every time. I had a feeling it was actually the girl's fault that that happened, from the thoughts of everyone present, so it was kind of weird they were trying to teach this lesson by taking her out of the equation. That's what I got from the teacher, anyway, but don't ask me what his real motives were.

Whatever, I was just a student, so it wasn't my problem. And since I wasn't going to be given a regular final, unlike some of the others, I was given a grade for this crash, a B- for doing more or less the right things *after* I remembered to stop standing around looking stupid.

Wednesday Afternoon, December 12, 2012[/b]

After wrapping things up in the arena, I went with Filigree and some other girls to Crystal Hall for lunch. I was still amped up on adrenaline a bit, but was slowly winding down. I was kind of worried about Dozer holding a grudge over the way I disabled him twice during the fight, but at least it was a sullen grudge like he knew he better not do anything about it.

I and Mercedes continued our previous conversation about Cirrus.

So she spends a lot of time in the workshop? I asked.

She nodded, feeling affection for her roomie. "Yep. She's actually a really good gadgeteer when she gets off her butt and puts some work in. She'll probably be very rich in the future as long as she doesn't flake out too much."

That was pretty interesting, and I'll have to keep it in mind. Maybe I could try to cheer her up if I ever see her getting too mopey. But then I got interested about Mercedes instead, since I still didn't know much about her, and all the rumors were driving me crazy.

I tried being subtle about it at first. So what do you plan on doing after you graduate, Mercedes?

"Oh, I actually plan on studying magic full time. Well, right now anyway. We are still only freshmen, maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe I could try on a cape instead, I always kind of thought that being a superhero was a worthy thing, you know?"

A superhero I could see, depending on how strong she actually is, but magic? Really? I didn't know you're a wizard.

She sighed and nodded. "Yeah, I get that a lot, especially now after my combat final. Barely anyone sees me as anything other than a giant wrecking ball half the time."

Okay, all of these hints were finally enough for me. So what actually is your big power? I still don't get it, and it's not like that many people talk to me or anything.

She was uncomfortable about the topic and treated it a bit delicately, but still explained. "Other than being a wizard, I'm also, basically, a shifter who can turn into a giant dragon."

Suddenly all of those images from yesterday made some more sense. A giant dragon? I asked with more fascination than fear. She was too nice to be dangerous. How giant are we talking here, exactly?

She was feeling reluctant now, so I felt kind of bad about prying, but she still flatly answered me a few moments later with the impersonal sense of someone quoting stats from a file. "About two hundred feet in length, and almost the same wingspan, and just under two hundred tons in weight. That's around the same size as a large airliner."

Okay, I had no idea how to respond to that for the longest few seconds. I could tell she was serious from her emotions, but I couldn't actually picture it. If she can shift into something like *that*, then where the hell did all of those tons come from? Oh, wait, powers theory... Yeah, there was something in that book about high level shifters doing things like that. But still, the image was just not adding up in my head. If I still had eyes they'd probably be so embarrassingly wide right now. And that thought reminded me to close my mouth, which was hanging open.

Are you serious? I finally asked, and felt that I slipped in volume again, not that Filly minded. That was just another of the good things about her. I tried to be more careful anyway.

She just nodded, obviously (both by my empathic sense and by plain old body language) uncomfortable about it. As the silence stretched on and I was thinking of maybe changing the topic for her, she continued, "And you know how dragons clasically have breath weapons, right?" I just nodded in response, intuiting where she was going with this, but again having trouble wrapping my mind around it. "Well, mine is like a concussive explosion. I basically blow things up really well. As if I couldn't just crash into them with my weight or something instead."

I could tell she was investing at least a little bit of trust in me, talking about something that obviously made her really uncomfortable. I made a blind swing at consoling her in return, hoping I wouldn't make it worse. Well, you stay human most of the time, right? It's not like anything forces you to shift into a dragon, is there?

She nodded. "Yeah. Most of the time I can stay like this now. But I still have to change sometimes. I need to eat in my other form too, and, well, lets say that can be a chore." I was again having trouble picturing it.

I focused on the first part of what she said. So you had trouble with staying human before?

I sensed that this was yet another sensitive part of the topic, but instead of being embarrassed she felt the echoes of loneliness and fear. She nodded, "Yeah. I spent almost an entire year, mostly diving into the ocean to hide and find enough food, and being chased by navy ships and fighter airplanes. It was terrifying, honestly. I was really lucky that activist ship found me and was willing to actually talk to me long enough to figure out I'm human."

Okay, I'll say it again. Some girls at Whitman had it worse than I did. Even if a lucky few managed to recover.

Then I remembered the conversation we had about her joining Monster Squad, and totally got what she meant. I was so relieved she was on my side right now. And I felt kind of bad about that, I knew the fear she was getting from the students was the main reason she was so uncomfortable about this.

I tried changing the subject to something that she felt more positive about. So, you said you're a wizard too? What kind of magic do you do?

She perked up at that, like I hoped. "Oh, well, the first spell I ever learned was to conjure temporary clothes." Then she felt a twinge of embarrassment again, I assumed because she realized she'd now have to explain why she needed such a spell. "Uh, because, it's not like my real clothes could survive my shifting into a dragon, you know?" Yeah, it was just as I thought. I could have laughed, but I nodded and projected some of my own fondness for her towards her as a sort of mental hug, and it got my point across better than words would have. I'll have to do that more often.

By the time we got to Crystal Hall, Filly remembered that she had to run off and do something to do with one of her magic classes. She didn't explain what, but she did ask me to check up on Cirrus if I see her. I was hoping I'd meet someone familiar at that out of the way table I and Filly and some other girls used yesterday, and I was in luck. Filly wasn't there, obviously, but a few of the other girls were, and most importantly Cirrus was there too! She was still feeling pretty depressed, but it was way better than she was doing this morning in the bathroom.

I put my tray down next to her and tried to think of something to cheer her up. The only thing I could think of was the patent thing that Mercedes said something about this morning, so I asked about that.

She nodded, still dejectedly playing with her food with her tentacles, but she did perk up a bit while she told me about it. "Yeah, I'm really close now, according to Mr. Donner. I'm building a completely integrated mixture of-"

I'll be completely honest with you here, she lost me right around the word 'integrated'. I even saw the images that went through her mind as she was explaining what she was building, images of car parts mostly to do with the undercarriage and suspension somehow all connected right into the engine I think, but I didn't really get any of it. Still, I could feel she enjoyed talking about it a lot, and her mood was rising a bit as she went on, so I just let her explain everything and did my best to try and figure out what she meant.

I didn't really manage to think of any questions to prolong the topic by the time she concluded, "There's still some kinks to work out, but I'll probably get that done before Christmas. Then I'll finally have a real source of income, and help out my family, and maybe I'll even be able to expand to bigger projects."

More images of even harder to understand contraptions passed through her mind, along with a sort of dreamy anticipation, and then she suddenly chowed down on the food that was still waiting on her plate, apparently feeling a bit more hungry now. Actually seeing her eat was interesting, though I could tell most of the other people nearby averted their eyes as much as they could. She didn't use any of the main tentacles, like her arm-surrogate ones, to do it. No, she just grabbed things with a bunch of the hair-surrogate tentacles that came down from the top of her head. They were shorter and thinner, but still just the right length and strength to get the job done, apparently. And I hadn't noticed it before, but her teeth were actually triangular like shark teeth, which made her chewing motions subtly different to someone with baseline teeth.

I really was getting inured to seeing freakiness like that by now. And it was still less than a month since I even thought I might ever be a mutant. Some things can change really fast, I suppose.

When we were mostly done eating, Cirrus suddenly remembered something, and with thoughts of wanting me to come with her to a group meeting of some sort, asked me, "So, are you doing anything tonight?"

I did have some classes in the afternoon, but they weren't that late. No, I'm free. Why?

"Well, there's this group of girls and guys with physical issues like us, called Faction 3, and we have group meetings over in Twain sometimes. I thought you could come with me and maybe meet a few people or something. You'll definitely fit in with us."

How delicately put, but I knew she didn't intend to be mean or anything. I agreed to go with her, and that cheered her up even more, so I guess it was worth it even if the meeting thing is a bust.

After lunch it was time for my first actual class since I came to this school. Costume shop. The proportion of us GSD cases was a bit higher than normal in here, so small blessings, there was less of the stray freaked-out thoughts and nasty comments amed at me than I expected. The teacher, a very elderly looking woman, first took me aside to make sure I could keep up with things since I missed so much class time. She was pleasantly surprised that I'd read and memorized the textbook, so things went well from then on and I just joined the regular class.

As the name of the class suggests, we were working on making our own costumes, and the freakier kids like me mostly used that to hide their freaky features. Now I understood why my advisor thought it was such a great idea for me to be here. With the right costume, assuming it concealed enough, I might even pass as a heavily costumed baseline. I got some good work on the design done, but I was still far behind everyone else. And I didn't have much time left to finish it at all, but I'd still try.

It was a lot better than I expected, all in all.

Wednesday Evening, December 12, 2012[/b]

Since the underclassmen combat finals and the uperclassmen regular finals were eating a lot of the class periods this week, that was it for my classes today, and I just relaxed in the library for a while. Relaxed in a relative sense. Costume shop was giving me homework overload, from the entire term's backlog all the way back to September, but I still thought it was worth doing, and a nice change of pace besides.

I just had to find out how much an epser-viewable computer screen like this would cost me, I could really use one in my room. Maybe the school would even lend me one if I asked? I know they assigned regular laptops to students, but there was still no sign they had one that I could use. Well, even if they don't and the screens cost too much for me to get one anytime soon, the library is good enough for now I suppose.

After a few hours of that it was time to meet up with Cirrus and go to to her meeting thing. She was actually still in a pretty good mood when we met up, so I again decided that accepting her invitation was the right choice.

The room in Twain the meeting was taking place in was almost like the Whitman morning shower rush, except almost everyone attending was at least a moderate GSD case and most of them were severe, instead of the entire rainbow that went from baseline looks, through light and moderate, and all the way very severe GSD like we had going on back in Whitman. Other differences were that a bit over half of the people here were boys, and nobody was naked. That last part was probably for the best, not that it made much difference to my senses or anything. Cirrus said hi to a few people (some but not all of them familiar to me already), and introduced me around. There was a bit of interest about the new girl, but nothing too big. Neither of us were dramatically odd in here, I could tell why she liked coming.

Grumble was here too, and he was pretty happy to see me. But soon I noticed that he was also feeling a bit jealous as I talked to other boys, not that he was going to do anything about it. And I realized why before long. Many of the other boys were a lot more appreciative of the way I look than I would have expected. I just didn't get it.

After making a few acquaintances I decided to rejoin Cirrus, and found her talking with two other girls. One of them was Melissa, a normal baseline-looking girl to my own senses, but from the images of her others (like the boys busy checking her out) were projecting, I soon realized that that was just because I couldn't see color. She had some very strange light shows going on all over her skin, sort of like a chameleon but instead of mimicking her background just going for psychedelic art instead. I never noticed that she was one of us in-your-face GSD cases before, even thought I think I did see her around Whitman a few times. Still, she was probably one of the prettiest girls here, so I could understand why the boys liked her.

That reminded me of the attention I was getting, and I actually brought it up in conversation, which may have been a mistake. It annoyed the other girl, a 'thornie with her entire head formed like a mushroom (and not a cute amanita or anything either, but one of those spore heavy things) with a face on it. She decided to show me the error of my ways, or something, thinking thoughts that amounted to Okay, she's a newbie, so I better explain it to her. But if she keeps whining... "You're kidding, right," was all she flatly said.

I didn't know where she was going with this, so I just shrugged, and looked at the other one, Melissa, who apparently agreed with her friend. Cirrus was staying out of it, but I could tell she didn't disagree either.

They looked at each other, and Melissa gave it a go. "Yeah, okay, you look like a bug, kind of, but you're still kind of a cute little bug anyway." Little? Well, I guess she actually was a lot taller than I was. Not looking at the world around me from a vantage point on my face sort of made me forget about height differences sometimes.

The one with the mushroom head nodded. "Your face is pretty, and that thing on your head just looks like a hat or a sleek hairdo or something, so it's not too bad. Take it from me, it could be worse. And your body is a petite-exemplar little thing, so it's really no surprise you're getting attention. The skin texture shifting around is kind of odd, but it's still not *ugly*, you know? Okay, so you may be unlucky enough to fit in with us here without question, but you're still one of the luckier girls in the room."

Aaand, that was when I realized I was even getting appreciating impulses from girls, not just from boys. I had trouble believing them, but their emotions didn't lie. But still. I had to think about this.

I'll have to think about this... was all I said as I excused myself. The mushroom girl (who's name I still somehow didn't catch) nodded, apparently satisfied, and cirrus gave me a little smile and tentacle wave. And would you believe it, this was the first time I noticed she doesn't have regular circular eyes? Making out the shape of someone's pupils didn't really lend itself to my own senses as much as it did to regular eyesight, but still. Her eyes were those W-shaped things like what cuttlefish have. I kind of suck as a friend for not noticing sooner...
Last Edit: 3 years 11 months ago by Woop.
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3 years 11 months ago #23695 by Woop
Woop replied the topic: Was it worth it?
Thursday Morning, December 13, 2012[/b]

I overslept this morning. I didn't have trouble waking up on time until now without an alarm or anything, but I guess even all those vaunted exemplar mental abilities aren't infallible. My roomie didn't wake me up, of course, she's too busy mostly avoiding admitting that she has a roommate at all.

Luckily there wasn't too much to miss, with finals still blocking most of the earlier periods, so the only thing I really did miss was the chance to eat breakfast with my friends. I took a lazy shower and had a lonely breakfast, before making my way to the arena.

Surprisingly Cirrus was there today, and she was kind of agitated. I soon learned why, she actually had her final just earlier and I missed it! Apparently she didn't have any weapons or anything with her, the way many gadgeteers lug around, but what she did do was create large dark clouds of obscuring ink-mist or something in the air that blocked her opponent's vision. Lucky for her, her opponent wasn't too potent in the powers department either, some low level avatar or something, and they ended up not seriously hurting each other or anything.

Still, she only got a C, and I could tell she wasn't too happy about that. Which was still a lot happier than how she was doing yesterday morning.

I heard from Grumble about a possible team event we'd be having soon, and decided to ask Mercedes if she knew anything about it. Hey Filly, I hear we have a match scheduled tomorrow?

She nodded, "Yeah, those two guys you beat in the crash the other day asked for a rematch in the sims, and Salthound accepted." I could tell she wanted to get at something else for a moment, before she continued, "And, Mary, can I please ask you to not call me that? I really didn't expect to get a nickname like that when I went to such a long effort to find a codename without 'dragon' or 'thunder' in it, you know? I thought Filigree would be nice and appropriate, not teasing bait."

Well, she was so nice to me that I couldn't fault her one request like that, so I agreed. Alright, I guess that's fair, I won't call you Filly anymore... I couldn't help but quirk a smile. ...Mercie.

She didn't physically react to my new nickname for her beyond rolling her eyes again at first, but I could feel a sort of flatly-accepting-but-still-a-bit-humorous feeling well in her for a moment. Teasing her was fun! Then she quirked a smile of her own, and called me *Chitty* in return! Urgh, that one was terrible, it better not catch on. I think I really will just stick to Mercedes from now on, and try for a truce.

Then something broke my thoughts, surprising me. That's a good idea, Mary. You should be nice to your friends. Especially that one.

Someone was contacting me telepathically. I hadn't felt that ever since Fubar talked to me about psychic ethics last week. I couldn't tell exactly where they were at first, but soon realized it was a very scrawny but still baseline-looking boy halfway on the other side of the arena. He was relaxed in his seat, but looking in my direction.

Umm, hello? I tried in return. I don't think we've met yet?

He gave me a mental nod. Yeah, I know. Sorry. My name is Marvin- Marvin? Huh, that's the same as my uncle. -, or you can call me by my codename, Brainteaser, if you prefer. I've been watching you for a few days, and I'm contacting you now since the Foob asked us to make your acquaintance.

I guess if a teacher was involved I shouldn't be worried about a stalker or something. Alright, well, you can call me Mary then, and consider me an acquaintance made. So who's this 'us' you're talking about?

Well, we're a group called the Dream Team, made up of Psychics, Mages, and Avatars. We deal with things to do with the astral plane, but don't worry about that for now. The Foob named you as a possible recruit, so I'm wondering if you'd be interested in checking us out.

Another training team? I don't think I have the time for that, even if I did fit in with them in a way. Umm, I don't think I'd have the time for that, I just recently joined Monster Squad and my course work is going to pile up a lot in the near future.

I felt a slight smile from him. Oh no, we're not a training team like that. Think of it as more of an extracurricular club that meets only occasionally. We actually try to keep this a secret, or at least not advertise too much, so I wouldn't mind if you kept this conversation to yourself. I was thinking you could come to our meeting this Saturday, we'll show you around and you'll see if you like it.

Hmm, I did have a lot of free time on my hands for the next week and a half, so a club could work, but I wasn't sure how much time I'd have past the two finals weeks. Well, okay, I can come to a meeting. But I'm not making any promises about joining yet.

He nodded, and I could tell he was fine with my answer. He gave me a time and location, and then my concentration broke from the telepathic world back to the physical one around me. Mercedes was waving her arm in front of my face, not that it was as obvious to me as it would be to someone with eyes, mind you. "Earth to Mary? You still there?"

Oh, yeah, I'm here. Sorry. What is it?

"Nothing I guess, you just seemed really zoned out there. So, do you agree about the match?"

Oh, shit, she was talking and I wasn't listening to her! Wait, exemplar memory, review... Ah, she was just telling me about the sim match Salthound was setting up for tomorrow. Yeah, I'm up for it. It's not like I'd ditch you guys, so you don't even need to ask.

Thursday Afternoon, December 13, 2012[/b]

Think of it as a very strange coincidence or whatever, but I actually was issued a school laptop I could use just after thinking about it yesterday! It was great, now I didn't have to go to the library all the time. I still didn't feel like staying in my room while reading and doing homework, like I could have easily done now, so I did it in one of the rec rooms instead. There was some TV watching and board game playing, but it was more pleasant than being cooped up all alone. It's not like the distractions were any worse, I could already hear the thoughts of the entire cottage from my room.

I was thinking if I should take it to lunch with me, but I decided against it. There's always something interesting going on in the Crystal Hall, even if I don't find anyone I know there.

Mercedes was there, sort-of eating lunch, but obviously agitated about something. I asked what was wrong. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn't. Apparently something happened today at that same magic class thing she left off in a hurry to catch yesterday, and she was still majorly annoyed by it.

So you spend a lot of time with the magical types? What's it like? I hoped I could pull off an innocent redirection, taking the topic away from whatever it was that happened, and onto something else. Instead I apparently stepped into the core of what was bothering her.

"It's like... Okay, and this analogy is probably a bit terrible, and maybe not exactly right in every way, but it's still what I've been thinking lately. You've probably seen what some fandoms on the internet are like, right? You know, every popular show and book has a fandom hiding somewhere out there." I was familiar with a few such websites. I nodded. "Well, it's basically *exactly* like that, with all the worst parts! I almost couldn't believe it when I started thinking in this direction, but every time something happens I feel like I'm perfectly right. Every time I hear or read about another argument about some arcane topic I just can't help but remember Harry Potter fanfics and arguments or something! And all my fellow "magic types" would really give me the stink eye for even mentioning Harry Potter in the same sentence as them, believe me. It's like people argue about various stories, and push their favorite interpretations which sometimes have almost nothing to do with the original, and they often aren't even only emotionally invested in being right but sometimes a lot of real power is in question. And I'm sure you know what power means. Now imagine all that, except some of it has been going on for several thousand years. Yeah, it's not a mess of biblical proportions, some of it predates the actual bible! It's no wonder we aren't taken seriously by anyone else despite often having so much power. And I actually intend to study this stuff full time, can you believe it? I'm such a moron. Maybe I need to rethink some things. Frigging fanboys..."

She again left me without anything to say. Mercedes was good at that, even when she was ranting. And I managed to get her even more annoyed than she was at the start, too. I gave it another try. So, you like Harry Potter? I liked it a lot too.

She snorted at first, still annoyed by some memory, but in the end she smiled and nodded, and we got into a much easier discussion about which book of the series was our favorite for the rest of lunch.

A bit later, just as we were about to leave the cafeteria, the male contingent of Monster Squad caught up with us. Constrictor was again giving me trouble keeping my 'eyes' off him and his sleek muscles (would you believe that a snake can still have an amazing ass?), now that I had another chance to check him out without worrying about impending violence in the next few minutes.

After a few quick greetings, Monster Squad walked out of the cafeteria together, and Salthound started talking all business-like in his deep voice, distracting (or is that un-distracting?) my attention from snake boy. "So, I wanted to talk about a few things, since we have two new members now and a scheduled match coming up in only a few days. I tried getting some sim time for us to get at least one practice run in with all five of us, but getting slots on short notice is next to impossible right now. So, we can't do that. But we can at least talk things through, and maybe try and make some preparations. And with that in mind. Chitin, you're a high level telepath. I've heard some teams use a sort of telepathic comms-link. Do you think you could do that for us by tomorrow afternoon?"

I had no idea, I've never even thought about something like that before. Well, I'm honestly not sure. I can sort of imagine how I'd do it, but I'll have to practice first to see if it'll work.

He nodded, "Alright, the rest of us can help you out with that if you like, since we're going to be on the other ends of your 'comms-link' anyway."

"Okay, the real issue. The match we're having tomorrow. We were challenged by Dozer to, and I'm directly quoting here, "Our entire team versus your entire team, fishface.""

He was pretty smug about that, and I realized why in a moment, just as everyone else did. They didn't know Filigree had already joined when they made that challenge! Hah, I almost felt sorry for them. I had the feeling Salthound maybe wouldn't have let it play out like that if it weren't for the fishface comment. I could help but laugh. At least, telepathically laugh, and transmit it a bit at the other four.

After that the conversation went over the smaller details. First they explained how the VR sims work to me and Filigree, which was really interesting and I couldn't wait to see it in person.

Then we went over what our three opponents, team Tau Seven, can do. Dozer was a higher level PK than I thought, having a force maximum of more than six tons, which was even more than Angie. That was pretty brutal, but I already learned he wouldn't be a problem for me to deal with, he was far too vulnerable to my telepathy. Plasma-Tech was apparently an almost completely weapons-focused devisor, known for his plasma mortars and launchers, but also always packing a few other tricks and surprises on him as devisors are wont to do. Their third memeber, Shatterpoint, the girl I hadn't seen yet, was a high level exemplar and a siren who could command you to do whatever just by telling you to do it if she focused on you one-on-one, and also blast sonic screams around. The biggest threat was apparently Shatterpoint, and she'd been giving Monster Squar real trouble in the past since in addition to the siren command thing which nobody had a real resistance to, she could even neutralize Grumble's own sonic attack without much issue. And while grumble was pretty strong, that ranged attack was still his ace. I think she'd be in for a few surprises soon. If nothing else, from powers theory I'm pretty sure either I or Filigree would be immune to her siren command power, possibly even both of us. Hell, if I'm lucky I'd be able to snap my teammates out of it telepathically if she does get to them, but I wasn't completely sure about that one. We'd see. Apparently there was also a fourth member, some warper or something, but he was a new addition and we didn't have much info on him yet.

Tau seven. What a weird name. I wonder if it means anything.

After going over our opponents we discussed our own tactics, things like who's on point, who leads, who does what when something happens, etcetera. I was actually given a backline position despite being pretty brickish if necessary, mostly because of the telepathic comms thing. I guess I could see why, Monster Squad already had plenty of combat monsters, with Salthound and Filigree in the lead, but not that much of a support line unless you count Constrictor's shields and whatever Filigree would be able to scrounge up with her magic by tomorrow. Apparently she didn't have much team support yet, not having any really advanced magic worked out beyond some more advanced versions of her clothes conjuration spell she's been working on lately. So that meant I'd be out of the first line of fire. I was alright with that. I didn't need to be up in front to be effective, and I naturally didn't like getting hurt either. It also meant I'd be working close with Constrictor, which gave me a few naughty thoughts again. Filigree would be on point as probably the biggest brick in the team - not only was she a high level exemplar who could turn into a gigantic dragon on demand (which I really hoped I'd get to see in the sim), she had a level of regeneration that was pretty scary too, AND a whole bunch of more exotic resistances on top of that. That girl was something else in the powers department, it was no wonder Salthound was so happy to have gotten her on his team.

So in a regular starting situation, it was Filigree on point, Salthound one step behind her, me and Constrictor in the middle, and Grumble bringing up the rear since he could jump forward the fastest if necessary.

Then we did some of those telepathic comms tests like we talked about earlier, with me routing thoughts between everyone, and I needn't have feared anything. It was pretty easy to do, as long as I just kept everyone in on one big conversation instead of trying for a number of specific channels. Filigree needed to do something, don't ask me what but I think it might be magic, before I could get a clear signal to and from her, but after that everything worked perfectly. We could actually keep in touch like this all over campus if we wanted, as long as I was paying a little bit of attention to the others. It made me realize that I didn't even need to physically look for anyone as long as I did things like this, which was another 'doh moment for me and my powers, like how I needed three reminders to start using my flying more casually. And I mean, it was flying. There had to be something wrong with me to not indulge sooner. Sure, I wasn't the fastest flyer on campus or anything, but that didn't matter, it was still awesome.

Apparently the only thing the team needed now to get into the A league of Whateley training teams was someone to make weapons and other holdouts for us. I had a thought that Cirrus could fit into that role if she was willing, and made a mental note to maybe propose it to her in the future. Assuming she'd be willing to make such things, I wasn't completely sure about that.

I was actually pretty excited about this sim. Wasting more than an hour on a team meeting wasn't a waste at all.

Sunday evening

I met up with Angie again for a talk back Whitman, I told her about my combat final that she missed, and we talked about the sim match that she'd seen a recording of, and I even asked her what she thought about the Dream Team invite. I thought it would be okay to talk about the Dream Team with my sis at least, despite the semi-secrecy or whatever they were trying to keep. And despite our age we even had some silly fun like we used to when we were little kids and our ridiculous mutations and our asshole father hadn't broken up our family yet. I could tell Angie was glad about how things were working out, but she was thinking about something deeper herself, half worried and half thoughtful.

I was pretty sure it wasn't the same reminscing of our childhood as I was doing. I was also pretty sure she wasn't going to bring up whatever it was without being prompted, but I could tell it had something to do with me directly, so I nudged her into spilling it.

"I don't know, Mary," She slowly started pulling her thoughts together, "I guess I'm just surprised you're doing so well. Most of the kids around here with issues like yours... Many of them take years to recover, if even then. But you're just taking it so well. It hasn't even been a month and you're already happily making friends and joining several groups, and you're even glad to do your homework for some bizarre reason. I was worried you'd mope around too much or shut yourself off from the world, but you completely surprised me."

It surprised me too, thinking of it that way. But she was right. I just accepted what happened and moved on with my life, unlike some of the other people with even milder physical issues than I have. And it's not like I worked hard at it or anything, it just happened.

I had to wonder for a while to get to the bottom of it, and I only made it to a decent conclusion a while after Angie left back to her own cottage.

I had a screwed up body. But I already felt that way, before, when I was a boy. I just swapped one type of screwed up for another. Okay, so I still have issues. I screwed myself up royally with my wild devisor experiment, and most people can't stand me now. But some can, and they're great friends, and best of all I can stand myself better too.

All in all, I guess it was worth it after all.

End note: I apologize if this seems abrupt and unfinished, and that's because it is. See the discussion thread for a longer explanation if you care, though it's not a particularly good excuse or anything.
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