Fort Myers, FL - Friday October 13, 2006
The store could have been any one of a thousand computer game stores, found anywhere in the United States. Its customers sported the same scruffy facial hair atop faces that lacked even the inevitable coloring that came from daily excursions into the outdoors in this Mecca of tanned and beautiful bodies known as Florida. The displays were set up with the same small rack of new releases, a bulletin board over the register warning of the coming new titles as far as four months in advance, and its walls were covered with used games that definitely weren't worth a second time through. Quite a few of them hadn’t even merited a first time. There was also the same inevitable group of guys that spent most of their spare time hanging around talking about the best and worst features of every game that had ever hit the market.
This particular haven for gaming geeks was named the Gamers' Emporium and it sat within two blocks of the beautiful sands and waters of the Gulf Coast. Despite the short distance to public beaches, few of the people inside its walls had been on those beaches in months if not years. The current topic of debate was the Good and Evil Online release that had occurred a month ago, a gaming event that was singly responsible for more missed work and lost sleep than any in the history of computer games. Had it been any less a phenomenon, it would have been a particularly unusual topic because it was a PC game, not available for any of the pure gaming machines. Nonetheless, Enigma Solution, the company behind it, had pulled off an unprecedented release with almost no bugs or balance issues coming out of beta. It was strange, given the almost non-existent marketing efforts from a previously unknown gaming company, but no one who had played or seen the game in action could deny its quality.
The only employee currently in the shop listened in on the discussion from his stool behind the counter. The thin young man had been here since before lunch when the Emporium opened and as soon as the manager returned, he was off for the night. In his opinion, the end of the day couldn't come too soon. He was eager to get home to try out his newest purchase.
"... you think?"
The nineteen year old turned his head to look at the older customer who'd approached the counter. This was Gary, the RPG guru of the bunch; he'd even written articles for one of the gamer rags a few years back and was well known throughout the community for founding and running some of the best guilds found in Massively Multi-player Online games. Though it was less important to the computer gamers he was often around, Gary had been heavily into RPGs even before they’d made the jump to computers. With the typical irony of life, for all his unique experience and knowledge, the thirty-nine year old met most of the physical stereotypes for the role. He was heavy-set and wore glasses, had long but receding brown hair pulled back in a tail, and sported a full bushy beard. Still, there was no denying his brilliance when it came to comparisons of game mechanics for computers and for pen and paper RPGs.
"Jack, you with us?" Gary asked the game store’s clerk, recognizing the blank look on his face.
"Sorry man. What did you need?" he asked, getting to his feet to help shake his body back into life. Gary had served as his mentor in the world of computer RPGs since they'd met two or three years ago. It was hard to believe that he'd been working in this place that long, even if he had taken a bit of a break after high school. That break would have been a bit longer, four years long, if it hadn't been for...
"Just asking your opinion... what do you think about GEO?" Gary asked him again.
"Can't say yet, just got my copy today... payday, you know. Most of what I know comes from you guys." He held up the box he'd tucked under the counter with the book he was reading. The game was selling like crazy and they were getting low on copies of it. Unlike some other new MMOs, it wasn’t possible to download GEO. Supposedly, the installed game took around a hundred gigs out of the box and even more hard drive space once you started playing. There was no way that he'd been willing to miss out on getting a copy now that he had the money for it. He'd cashed his check at lunch and paid for it as soon as he got back.
"No excuse, it's been out for a month..." one of the others complained, a tall gangly redhead with heavy freckles and heavy glasses. That was Chris. His specialty was the first person shooter. He probably hadn't bought the game yet, either, but it would be a strange day when Chris wouldn’t have some opinion on a game related topic. The guy was obnoxious and more than a little notorious for getting into arguments about games he’d never even played. He was probably avoiding GEO out of spite just because he’d claimed early on that any game with heavy role-playing influences would suck. He’d held to that attitude even though it was reputed to have a combat interface that had more than a few FPS style elements to it.
"I know... gotta choose my purchases wisely with my pay from this place, especially if I don't want to move back in with my folks."
"Ouch," winced one of the others, an Asian gamer several years older than him that Jack didn't know well. He had been here a few times, but it was usually in the evenings when the boy had been covering the later shift for someone else. "Guess he told you, Chris."
"Yeah... " Chris grumbled. The two younger gamers had been in high school together; but unlike Jack, the redhead had been living at home while taking courses at the community college. He delivered pizza part-time; but like many young gamers, he’d not built up enough motivation to make the step toward getting out of the house. "You wanna pull that knife out for me, Lee?"
"You know, Jack, you need a bit of relaxation. What do you think Lee?"
"Sure... we can take him. Chris too, if he wants? As long as they follow the rules, anyway."
"Yeah! I'm in," cheered Chris.
"What are we talking about?" Jack asked, curiosity waking him up a bit. He hadn’t even realized that there’d been a non-game related topic in discussion. "I must have missed something."
"We're driving up to Tampa tonight," Gary explained. "Going to hit a strip club or two. You want to hang?"
"Sure... what was that about the rules?"
"You get drunk and do something stupid, we don't know you. I don't care if you drink before or in the car on the way, but don't go trying to get something while we're there even if you've got a great ID."
"No... that's cool. I don't drink much anyway, doesn't do much for me."
"Lee's got a friend in the finals for an amateur contest so we'll go there first... but after that, we'll just look for someplace with some life. Sound good?"
"Yeah, sounds great."
While Gary had explained the plans, Lee and Chris had gotten to talking about another game that was currently in beta testing; the new Sims Online. He'd gotten an invite to the beta but hadn't downloaded it yet. There were some aspects of the Sims idea that he found intriguing, but the first version a few years back hadn't been much better than a chat room with avatars. As Jack turned his attention to the discussion, Gary gave him a thumbs up. It'd be fun spending some time with the older gamer even if it was strange relating to someone who'd been playing video games as long as they'd been made.
The trip to Tampa took about two hours, though that had required pushing the legal limits just a little. Jack had spent the ride chatting with Gary as he rode shotgun in the older man's BMW. Lee and Chris spent most of the ride taking hefty swallows of something vicious that was colored with the small amount of Gatorade that had been left in bottles. It looked close enough to the real thing and would probably disguise the drinks well enough unless someone actually opened them. The few sips that Jack had taken to satisfy the two guys in the backseat had nearly eaten the taste buds off his tongue. He was tempted to ask them what exactly it was just so he could be sure to avoid it in the future. By that time, however, they had begun slurring their words badly enough that he wasn't sure he could understand what they told him even if they could remember.
The club that was their first goal was called Kimmy's Kittens. From the outside, the strip club had looked a lot like a huge version of one of the popular tavern restaurants. It had looked upscale, clean, and lively... a distinct contrast to the dirt and sleaze that Jack had expected. While they'd discussed leaving after the Amateur contest was over, there was a lot of activity on the main stage that had nothing to do with the contest tucked away in one side room. It didn't take long to convince the four men that they'd have to spend a lot of time going place to place to find another club that was this good. They settled in for the duration.
Lee's friend Kelly, an ex-girlfriend really, didn't do well and was eliminated in one of the early rounds. She joined the four men at their table for a while as the contest went through its remaining rounds. When the contest came to an end, and the professionals took the stage back, she started to get a little antsy and distracted. It seemed obvious to Jack that Kelly wanted to put an X to the ex part of her relationship with Lee. He considered telling Lee when the man sobered up... which might be sometime Monday given the way he was drinking. Chris was fairly gone, as well, but at least he would be unable to get any worse without access to drinks.
Jack was glad he hadn't had more than a few sips of alcohol and not just because the stuff they'd been drinking was foul. As he watched the beautiful women dancing, flirting, and teasing the men sitting closest to the stage, his mood was slowly turning darker. He didn't have the looks to get a woman who looked like these ones to want him. His body was too small, thin and without any real definition; his face was too angular and asymmetric to be attractive. He also didn't have the money to convince them to overlook his less than appealing physique. It made him angry and jealous and he desperately wished he had some way to prove to them that he was special.
But he not only didn’t have a way to prove it, he wasn't special at all. He had been average in school. There hadn't been a single subject that he'd taken that had really gotten his interest and while he'd done ok at most of them anyway, he had no doubt that he'd have to struggle to learn any subject more complex than had been taught in his high school classes. He was good at role-playing games; even Gary said that he had a talent for them. But what kind of talent was that? Sure, it might lead to something else... like acting, but who would cast someone who looked like him? There couldn't be many roles for small, skinny, ugly geeks. And while he had a talent for playing them, he didn't understand the underlying mechanics or the way the computers worked so he'd never be able to adapt that talent to creating games.
It was enough to push even the most optimistic individual into a deep depression. Jack wasn't an optimist. He'd leave that attitude to the rich pretty boys. Situations like these were nearly enough to push him from card-carrying cynic to full member of the pessimist gang. But at least sober, he could keep those feelings contained. He acted like he was having a good time. And like most red-blooded American teen-age boys, the sight of soft feminine flesh in various states of being unclothed was enough of a distraction to make him forget from time to time that it was an act.
At some point, Lee and his ex-girlfriend had gotten up to leave. She’d been trying to get his attention all along, not an easy task when she was now clothed and he was drunk. There were too many distractions on the stage not far away. The group of gaming geeks and several men at tables around them had all hooted and whistled when she’d pulled him toward the front door, claiming that they needed to talk in tones that left no doubt that she had other things in mind. The sounds pulled Jack back from his current fantasy and his mood sank back to its low level. He let some of the frustration escape in a long sigh.
"I hear you..." Gary commented, quietly.
"I shouldn't have come with you guys, Gary," Jack told his mentor, quietly.
"Nah. You needed to get out."
"This doesn't help!"
"You'd rather be watching some scantily clad vixen on your computer screen? Especially knowing that the person on the other end of that line is probably male?"
"That's the real thing up there, Jack. We can't touch it, we might not ever get a chance to touch something that looks that perfect, but it’s better than a photo in a magazine or an imitation in a computer program. She's taking off her clothes and dancing around to incite your lust... so what if she's not doing it for you alone?"
Jack took another look at the woman onstage. She was an athletic little thing with smaller breasts than many of the strippers but she was still gorgeous. Her hair and eyes were both a dark brown, her face slightly exotic in a mix of ethnicities, and she actually seemed to be a pretty good dancer especially compared to some of the strippers they’d seen. The dancing itself didn't seem to appeal to many of the men in this place, though. He nodded absently as he considered Gary's point, there was something to be said about being able to watch a woman like that and know she was real. He’d be able to remember that figure and the way she’d revealed it for a long time. As the DJ called for some applause for her, for Candi; he realized that his mood had lightened a bit.
"No problem, kid. Been there myself..."
Jack was turning his attention back to the next woman, a very top heavy blond who went by the rather uncreative name Bambi, when Gary got his attention again. The older man was gesturing to catch the attention of their waitress and when she arrived, he whispered something in her ear and slipped something into her hand. She took a quick look at Jack and down into her hand before nodding and heading toward the backstage area.
"What was that about?"
"Something else to cheer you up a bit," Gary winked at him.
"What do you mean?"
"You'll see." He chuckled a bit, not quite his usual evil genius laugh but it was close.
Jack shook his head and turned back to watch Bambi dance. She wasn't particularly good at the dancing part, but twice as many guys were vying for her attention as they had for the previous girl. Evidently her larger assets and more sexual style of moving was exactly what they were looking for. He shook his head in amusement and gestured at a pair of guys who were slipping bills into her G-string, each trying to steal her attention from the other.
"She's hot, but she's nothing compared to that last one. Look at those idiots," he told his friend. Gary grinned at him, but it wasn't his voice that responded to the comment.
"Thanks. It's not often that somebody likes me more than Bambi," came the very sexy feminine voice from behind him. Before he was able to turn to see who it was, a very soft and warm body in a lacy white top and a black leather miniskirt slid into his lap and put her arms around him. "Your friend thought you might like a private dance with me... and I'm glad he did, so I could be here to hear what you said. Come with me..."
She hopped out of his lap and pulled him to his feet. Bambi was keeping the attention of the room around them, so no one commented as they slid into one of the private booths and Candi closed the curtain. She gently pushed Jack past the brass pole and onto the narrow, padded couch and stepped closer to him. He swallowed uneasily as her legs straddled his and she kneeled on the edge of the couch to sit atop him.
"Have you ever had a private dance before?" she asked.
"There is a rule you have to follow... you can't touch me. Not with your hands or lips or anything. If you do, I'll have to stop."
"It's ok if I touch you... that’s allowed, unless you don't want me to?" she teased. When he shook his head no, she continued, "That's what I thought. You're lucky too... I always want to touch someone after I come off the stage."
Candi started dancing around the pole in front of him, stroking it seductively in a way that Jack wished she'd touch him. As she slowly unbuttoned her blouse, she crawled back onto the couch beside him leaning toward him so he could catch glimpses down through the widening opening at the red lace covering her breasts. Then, as the last button was freed, she stood up over him and slowly drew the shirt off her arms, dragging it across her torso, around her curvy but tight rear and down her legs. Even before she began pulling it along Jack's jean covered legs and up his torso, he could feel a warm burning and an odd tingling filling his body.
Candi slid back off the couch and dropped the blouse at his side before turning to face away from him. She began dancing again, legs bumping and sliding across his own, unaware that Jack's eyes were beginning to blink rapidly or that his breathing and heart rate had grown irregular. She was slowly swiveling her hips and lowering the miniskirt inch by inch to reveal her red lace panties. When the miniskirt touched the floor she turned and rejoined him on the couch, this time pushing close to him so that the tops of her breasts were nearly in his face. She swayed under the influence of the music and her own visible horniness, slipping her hands up and down his torso.
"What do we have under here?" she asked, quickly popping open the buttons of his shirt. Her hands wandered insistently across the sculpted muscles on the boy's chest and abdomen, causing her eyes to widen and a red flush to spread across her skin. Quickly pulling back, she slid her hands behind her back as she gripped the hard muscles of his legs with her own and released her breasts from her bra. As she pulled the red cloth away and leaned in to tease her nipples across Jack’s face, she pressed against the bulge growing in his pants.
With each reaction the dancer had to his body, Jack was growing more bewildered. He could feel the strength in the muscles of his torso and limbs, could feel the increasingly cramped feeling in his jeans as his genitals swelled in a way they never had before. And with each moment, the confusion was being overwhelmed with lust. This woman needed him to give her release and yet he had to do it without touching her.
Candi slid her hands down the strong but hairless arms to Jack’s powerful hands. She looked at them, her nipples growing visibly more rigid, and pulled those hands to her breasts. It probably skirted the line of what she was allowed to do, but as long as she kept her hands on his, she could have him touching her exactly where she needed to be touched. Jack kept his movements simple, letting her slide those hands that were so vastly different from his own across the soft flesh of her breasts. It was an incredible feeling.
The woman, music and dancing forgotten, pulled those hands along her sides and around to her butt and then forward across the tops of her thighs and the silky flesh of her inner legs up to where the lace grew damp from her lust. She left his hands there, sitting on his own muscular thighs so close to her most private parts, and pushed his shirt open so she could crawl forward onto his chest. Her soft breasts pressed against the rigid muscles of Jack’s torso as she nibbled lightly on his shoulder and neck. They were both panting with the passion that was building in their bodies.
A moment later, the woman slid her hips forward onto his hands and pressed herself hard against his chest while biting his shoulder. A series of shudders wracked her body as she held him tightly. As she slowly relaxed her hold, Jack felt the tingling sensation begin to spread across his body again. Finally, she pulled back and looked into his face. What she saw there seemed to startle her because she pulled back and brought one hand up to trace the lines of it.
"My God..." she said, sliding a finger across his lips. She leaned further back and covered his groin with her second hand. The hand didn't come close to covering its full length, causing both of them to blink in surprise. "Oh!" Her breathing grew heavy again. The tingling sensation stopped abruptly. Jack was filled with a nearly overwhelming desire to pick this woman up, carry her to her home, and spend the night filling her with his manhood. The sensation was rapidly growing and was about to overcome the previous imperative that he obey the rule and not touch her.
"Candi?" came a voice from outside the curtain. "Randi's onstage, you need to get ready to go on again."
Candi responded by jumping up and stepping back from Jack as though coming awake and realizing how far she’d strayed from the rules of the club. Immediately, the tingling and warm fire spread through his body. He leaned back, disoriented, as his body grew weaker and the lust faded. Candi's eyes opened wide and she carefully reached forward to put her hand on his chest as the muscles faded. She quickly collected her clothing and rushed out of the booth. By the time Jack had regained full control of his body the stripper was long gone. He carefully buttoned his shirt back up, noticing that two of the buttons were ripped off and the seam on one shoulder looked like it had torn. The bite mark on his shoulder was the only evidence he had that something unusual had happened. What had she done to him?
Jack was incredibly hungry by the time he returned to the table. He flagged down one of the waitresses, who grinned at his ragged appearance, and got some chicken fingers and nachos ordered. Lee had gotten back while he was gone and was drinking more heavily than before, which suggested that things hadn't gone quite as well with the man’s ex as they had for Jack. Chris had grown sober enough to speak again and was trying to draw Lee into an argument about one of the new FPS games that had come out. His ideas were interspersed with comments about one stripper's tits, a second one's legs, and their waitress' voice.
"That was a pretty long private dance Jack," Gary pointed out.
"I... yeah... she was pretty intense."
"Intense?" Jack slipped the collar of his shirt open far enough to show the bit mark to his friend. Gary's eyes widened in surprise and Jack quickly covered back up before anyone noticed what he had revealed. "Cripes kid. I wouldn't have guessed she was that wild from her style on stage."
"It was... weird."
"Definitely." Jack agreed while digging into the food that had just arrived. He paused between mouthfuls before whispering to his mentor, "I think she actually came while she was on top of me."
"Geez... kid, I'm gonna regret buying you that dance. Should have gotten one for myself."
They shared a grin as the DJ announced her return to the stage. Candi proved, once more, to be less of a draw than more buxom strippers but Jack could see that there was a heightened sensuality in her dancing that had been missing before. A couple times during her routine, he noticed her scanning the crowd. When her eyes landed on him, there was a sort of confusion that nearly distracted her from the dance she was doing. When she wasn't watching, Gary patted him on the back.
"She keeps looking at you, what'd you do to her kid?"
"I don't know..."
After a couple more dancers, they left the small side room and spent a couple hours in the main room. This suited Chris and Lee's moods better, because there were always several dancers on the long stage and various others were doing table dances all around them. Jack saw Candi watching him a couple times but she never came close enough for him to try to talk with her.
Not long after the clocks passed midnight, Lee was close to falling down drunk and Chris had nearly sobered up. Gary checked his watch and then pulled out his wallet. Jack was just finishing his third order of nachos as the older man threw a couple fives on the table as a final tip, though they’d all been paying for drinks and food as they received it, and started getting Lee on his feet.
"Let's wrap it up guys. We've got a long drive back home."
"Ok..." Jack agreed. "I've got to open in the morning anyway."
Chris looked like he was about to protest but then shrugged it off. "I'm too sober anyway. At least if we get out of here, I can have another drink." He helped Gary get Lee on his feet.
As Jack reached the front entrance, he turned and scanned the crowds. Just as he was about to give up, he saw Candi looking his way. Their eyes locked and she gave a little wave in his direction. He smiled at her and strutted out the exit.
Chris had spent the first ten minutes of the drive out of Tampa chugging down the rest of the liquid in his Gatorade bottle. When it kicked in, Jack suspected that the kid would be little more than a drooling pile of unconscious flesh. As if that weren't enough, the redhead dug yet another bottle out of the pack he'd left on the floor. It wouldn't have bothered Jack quite so much if he hadn't had to join the redhead in the too small back seat for the ride home. They hadn't been able to get Lee into the back, so they’d put him in the passenger seat beside Gary, who hadn’t been drinking any more than Jack. Before they'd gotten halfway past St. Petersburg, Chris' rambling dialogue was already heavily slurred and difficult to follow. He couldn't keep on one topic for more than a couple sentences. Cheats and tricks would give way to a detailed description of one stripper's breasts which would, in turn, lead to an argument with himself about the best way to complete a final level of a game he'd been playing. While it had been entertaining at first, Jack was getting more than a little bored with it. When Gary finally turned on his CD player with some classic rock to drown out Lee's snoring and Chris' droning voice, Jack sighed and turned to stare out the window over the bay as they drove along the long bridge.
By the time they reached the Sarasota area, Chris had settled into only occasional unintelligible mumbles. While that would have suited him just fine, Jack was beginning to feel uneasy as his body started to tingle and grow warm all over. The feeling reminded him of what he'd felt when Candi had pressed herself against him. He sat quietly, enjoying the sensation for a moment as he thought about the way she'd felt pressed against him. The need and lust was building again and he was starting to find it difficult to think clearly.
As the tingling and warmth faded, his skin felt chill by comparison. He had started to wrap his arms around himself when he began to be aware of the strangest sensations. His shoulders, waist, arms and legs felt bare and unusually sensitive. His clothing was almost completely gone. As his arms came closer to his chest, the soft silky skin pressed two full pillowy breasts together creating a deep cleavage visible even in the dim light as he looked down. The deep breath he took in surprise caused them to expand outward even though they were constrained in some sort of dark lace.
Jack ran one hand up the other arm, across his bare collar and down to the top of the chest. The sensation that followed his fingers was heavenly; it was all he could do to keep from moaning, as parts of his brain seemed to shut down. His other hand began tracing circles along the insides of his thighs, which were bare below the lacy panties he was now wearing. He lifted the fingers that were tickling the tops of his beautiful boobies to his lips. They felt so warm, so soft and full, so sensitive. He slipped one finger between those lips and licked at it; sucked at it, and let the sensations drive away any cares about why this was happening. None of that mattered, only touching herself... showing herself to her lover... taking care of him and giving him pleasure with every part of her...
The boy struggled within the overwhelming sensations, fighting the lust and desire that was filling him. His body wanted... needed... to curl up against Chris and drive him mad with her silky skin. To lick him and bite at him and kiss him with those full lips. Jack held the body back but was unable to keep her from touching the breasts, the legs, from sliding a finger down into those lace panties to touch the top of that warm, wet spot. She had his memories and knew that somehow she was that boy in the memories but none of that mattered at the moment. The most important thing she could do in life was to perform and reveal herself for the man beside her.
Her squirming and touching had allowed her to slide lower in her seat and she looked over at the man she loved more than life itself. She could lie across the seat and take him in her mouth without anyone else seeing. The idea seemed repellant to some ugly little voice inside her but she knew that Chris would enjoy it, that he wanted her to do it. He loved it as much as he would love seeing her take off her clothes on a stage. She needed to do this for him... it would be the perfect end to the evening.
Again, Jack struggled with the driving lust that pushed through her body. Inch by inch, she got closer to Chris' lap and he was being overwhelmed by the pleasure radiating throughout this body, by the feeling he knew she would get if she did this for her lover. He was losing himself to this woman. And worst of all, he knew she wanted to lose that self to the lust. Something inside the body seemed to click and a wave of the tingling warmth expanded outward from her solar plexus to every inch of her skin. She reached to his zipper and started to slide it open.
Chris' head lulled to the side as the alcohol finally overcame his consciousness and he drifted into the darkness of sleep. Somewhere inside Jack, he knew he had to escape her. The fire and tingling washed over Jack as his mind regained control over the body and the lust faded. He threw himself back to his side of the seat. He wrapped arms, slowly becoming more solid and rough skinned, around a chest that was growing flat and being covered by a cotton shirt that was missing a couple buttons. His mind started to clear and he found that he could think of something beyond sex and Chris’ body.
"You okay back there?"
"Yeah..." he spoke with a voice that was not quite his own but not female either.
"Yeah." This time, the voice was his own.
"Sorry... didn't sound like you for a moment. You still alive then?"
"I am... Chris is out though." The tingling was slowly fading as his body completed the change and was, once again, fully his own.
"Thank God. I doubt you were enjoying his rambling any more than I was."
"No..." Jack commented, looking over at Chris. "I don't think I'll be hanging around him much again."
"I hear that... he's got some issues even for a gamer."
"We'll be home in another half hour or so, I'm making good time."
It had been one strange evening... somehow, he was changing into other people... or at least thought he was. Was it something the stripper had done to him, some drug or something? Or was it more than that? He didn't know what was going on but he did know one thing... he was staying the hell away from Chris.
Jack spent most of his day avoiding people as much as humanly possible while trying to handle the daily operation of a small game shop. He hadn’t been able to completely shake the feeling of being that... woman... and while it might have been irrational, he was worried that someone would see it in him. That they might see how badly he had wanted Chris. It didn’t help that every time his mind started to wander toward that fear, something felt off balance and disconnected. It was almost as if every time, there was the approaching feeling of that odd tingling.
The Emporium had been fairly busy for a Saturday morning and that hadn't given him the time to think that he'd expected which was probably the best thing that could have happened. And by lunch, he'd realized that being near or touching people wasn't doing anything to him. If he hadn't imagined it all or been hallucinating from being drugged, at least it wasn't going to take over his life. As he came to that realization, he felt several knots of tension that he'd been carrying around since he'd woken up release in his back. At least he'd practically passed out in exhaustion when he'd gotten home, if he'd had enough energy for it; he'd probably have been up the rest of the night worrying about the weirdness.
With his major concern gone, the afternoon flew by and he was eager to head home and try out the new game. He'd heard a couple more gamers talking about it during the day and couldn't believe that Enigma Solution’s design team had managed to implement some of the features they'd been talking about. Game companies had been boasting for years about being the first ones to create unique personalized quests and cause-effect oriented storyline development where every action of every character helped define the way the world evolved. But every time one had, the feature had always ended up being dropped in the end as an unrealizable goal. If GEO were even half the game people were saying it was, he'd be quitting a lot of other games to give it his full attention. Just as he was closing out his register and getting things turned over to Paul, the second shift employee, Gary came in. Jack gave him a quick wave and hurried through the rest of his count. Everything checked out and he joined the older man at the new release shelf.
"Hi Gary, what's up?" His mentor gave him a grin and pointed at the GEO boxes. "Well, considering I sold you your copy of it and pretty much every other game on this shelf; I'll assume you aren't telling me you're here to shop."
"Of course not. Just waiting for you to get out of this place." He turned and headed out the door. Jack shook his head and followed.
"So enough with being cryptic already. What's up?"
"I figured that you were probably on your way to trying out your new purchase."
"Guessed right... and?"
"And... I wanted to make sure you set up your character on Tertius server."
"Because that’s where my crew is and most of them are from the Beta Bunch." The Beta Bunch were a group of hard core gamers that went from game to game, usually only staying long enough to participate in the beta testing phase because that’s about all longer it took them to work through the original content. That they were still playing on GEO a month after release was the best argument for the game that he'd heard to date.
"A guild, of course... I'm heading up a band of heroes, good guys, called the Apropos Ring and I convinced the senior members to give you an invite. Assuming you intend to play a good guy?" Gary headed for his car. "Give you a lift?"
"Sure, always happy to skip a bus ride." Once he got in, he picked up the conversation, "I suppose I will... I hadn't really thought about it. Was just going to see how things went. You don't have to pick ahead of time from what I heard?"
"True, but there are some tips I can give you that will get you headed the right direction off the bat... and once you're through the GEO equivalent to training grounds, I can send someone down to recruit you. We are an RP group though, you know."
"Yeah, I figured you would be... didn't realize there were RP types in the Beta Bunch though."
"A game like GEO will make a role-player out of even a rules lawyer."
"And it's your RP skills that I wanted to tap."
"Yep. There's some serious advantages for quality RP and some of those benefit the guild as well as the player or short-term team. So its not completely altruistic of me."
"Hey, no problem there... I benefit from being in your group, RPG guru extraordinaire."
They chuckled a bit and Gary was silent for a moment while he navigated some tough traffic.
"Okay... so once you get in-game, send me a private OOC to Garic, G-A-R-I-C, so I know who you are. I'll give you an hour or so to get through the intro zone and then have someone down at the Academy gates to collect you. I'll send you a nice starter package too."
"Cool." Knowing the sorts of guys Gary was talking about, that starter package would probably include the best possible gear available for getting through the low levels and cash to buy up anything that they couldn't send to him outright.
"It will probably be Nadial, so mind your p's and q's."
"THE Nadial?" The guy was famous. He was personally responsible for finding more pre-release bugs, achieving more server and game firsts, and amassing more wealth than any other player ever to appear in any MMO. He'd also been one of the founders of the Beta Bunch and appeared in more 'impossible' gamer stories than anyone.
"The one and only... and she's got a top notch enchanter type. If you play your cards right, you'll walk out of the recruiting process with buffs that most players won't see for a half year at least. And, she's got the ability to make them nearly permanent."
"You said she?"
"Nadial... womanizer and explorer of gaming worlds... is playing a woman character?"
"No... Nadial, womanizer and explorer of gaming worlds IS a woman. She also happens to be playing one in this rare instance."
"That one throws people a bit..."
"Yep. Which is one thing you better be careful about. If you play a female character, she will probably hit on you... and you better pull off the right reactions because that’s one thing that really bugs her."
"I think I'll stick with a guy..."
"Your choice. But if you really want to make an impression, give it your best shot. Takes big risks to get big rewards."
Jack shook his head in disbelief. "Nadial, a woman?"
Gary chuckled as he pulled into the parking lot to Jack's apartment. "Give me about twenty minutes and I'll be home and in-game."
"You have plenty of time, I haven't installed or patched yet."
"Not much patching needed. They had pretty much everything running smoothly before going gold. The only thing you'll be downloading will be content updates, though I'll admit there is a fair amount of that. They go offline for a couple hours every Wednesday night for an update. Mostly art and new zones."
"You're kidding? They're adding new stuff every week?"
"Yeah, amazing isn't it? They're really earning their monthly rates. It's no wonder most of the MMO community has already joined in. Tertius might be the least populated one of the three servers but its population dwarfs any single server in any other game... and the population of quite a few games, period."
"Ok, ok! I need to get this installed before I start drooling all over the place. I'll send you a tell as soon as I'm in. Thanks for the ride, Gary."
Gary waited for Jack to get his door open then took off across the parking lot. He was already back on the highway by the time the boy had the door closed and was heading for his computer. Jack grabbed the game box off the table as he passed, pulled a liter of Coke from the fridge and the box of crackers from the counter and dropped into the large leather desk chair that had been worth its weight in gold, and had cost almost that much. He nudged the system out of hibernate mode and tossed the first of four DVDs in the drive. He was still hungry when he'd gone through the crackers and pulled out a tray of frozen lasagna and tossed it into the oven. The computer beeped at him for the next disc as he finished setting the timer. He should have thought ahead and ordered a pizza... it was a lot easier to eat than pasta while playing. The computer beeped again, reminding him that it was hungry too.
A half hour later, the game was starting up and he'd already gone through more than half of the pasta. All the patching had finished and he'd barely had time to read all the patch notes as the files transferred, but the downloads seemed very content heavy with only a few changes to mechanics and bug-type issues. He was feeling the thrill of starting a new project, eager to begin solving puzzles and take on a new role. The first sequence walked him through his account setup and which server he wished to use: Primus, Secondus, or Tertius. It also required an unusually detailed amount of information about him, including a few personality profile type sections. He filled them out as accurately as possible, suspecting that they'd be used to fine-tune the options that he'd get with his characters later on. It was the sort of thing he was beginning to expect from GEO. Even though he might choose a variety of different character types, they'd always be influenced by his own personality. This would give them a way to lead him to the parts of the game that would suit him best.
With the setup details complete, a dialogue box asked him if he wanted to view the intro movie. He clicked on yes. The screen dissolved to black and the speakers popped once before launching into a subtle but rousing bit of music, filled with haunting pipes and distant chanting. Through the darkness flashed a light, revealing a white and black marbled stone floor. A second flash accompanied by the sound of distant thunder lingered longer, allowed the eye to see further... the stone ran into the distance on each side of this vast chamber. The third flash, the thunder echoing more loudly, revealed its own source on a dais at one distant end. A giant swung a huge hammer onto a large bar of metal glowing with heat, each stroke part of working another fold into a sword fit for gods. The metal was, like the stone of this vast hall, a combination of dark and light that created a complex pattern in the blade. The hammer swung down again.
The camera rushed toward the blade to reveal that pattern as the light and sound exploded outward. The mottled white and dark blurred into action, exposing a great battle of medieval soldiers struggling to rally around a white flag with a gold crown centered upon it. The hammer struck again, revealing a new pattern that swirled into motion. This moment showed the aftermath of another battle, the dead and wounded shivering in the blood soaked grasses amid abandoned weapons and drifting smoke. The pace accelerated, each stroke of the hammer adding another fold to the blade. Each fold showed a new pattern and each pattern revealed another moment of history, some recognizable and others unknown to Jack. When nothing more was visible but a constant white light and the thunder filled his ears, he realized that there was a whisper coming through beneath it all.
As he leaned forward to make it out, the screen went black and the thunder ceased. Deep within the darkness and floating eerily out of the music and chanting, the voice spoke.
"In this world, we are forged to serve our role in the next."
The room blazed with the light of several suns as the smith drew the blade back and quenched it in a pool beside the anvil. Thick steam boiled out of that silvery liquid and cloaked the dais in a mist that revealed the complex pattern of lights that combined to illuminate the anvil. The giant pulled the sword up, wiped it clean with a cloth that had hung at his side and held it into the light. The shining blade scattered the beams into the farthest corners of the room, bringing life to gigantic pillars of the same stone that composed the floor, and to the vaulted ceiling that contained a multitude of small openings that gave access to outside light, the very light that formed the many colorful patterns that now filled the room.
The sword was swept up over the head of the smith; and with an epic roar, it swung the blade downward, striking and driving through the anvil. A rush of images flashed across the screen, duplicating the many historical scenes but with each picture, each person was crafted of some combination of the white and black stone. The ones that were predominately white, blazed with light; the ones mostly dark drew light into them and consumed it. As each great hero or villain from human and mutant history flashed past, it was added to a collection of shapes that defined the backdrop for the flashing scenes. Again, the rush came to a stop and the camera pulled backwards, showing those faces and figures in the pattern of the completed sword.
The movie dissolved and faded away, leaving Jack panting. The music slowly faded as well and then was replaced by another song as a pentagon divided into five triangular parts filled the black screen. Each of these shapes appeared to serve as a button. This was to be his character collection, each of the five parts representing one character he could make. He selected the triangle at the base and settled into his chair to develop his first hero.
The screen quickly filled with small disks, each displaying a number of colors in some pattern. He looked for one that struck some chord, assuming that these were heraldry options. As the mouse pointer floated over each disk, the system sounded a musical sequence. He went back through his top disk options, all of them near the center of the screen, until he'd found that the one nearest the center both looked and sounded the most appealing to him. When he clicked it, it expanded to fill the screen and revealed a series of character details.
Jack scrolled through the selections, noting that each could be modified slightly... refined, as the option was labeled. There were attributes for various aspects of the character's nature: physical, mental, social, emotional, and magical. Each of these was set within a flexible range defined by the archetype that he had selected. This particular one was for a performer, a subset of some sort of swashbuckler type. He noticed that a small figure in the center of the collection of skills and abilities would flicker as he adjusted something. He clicked on it.
The attribute panels shrunk and shifted off to the sides and the figure expanded to a character picture. Jack shifted the agility within its allowable range, using up most of his allotment of points for physical traits in the process. The muscle structure and body structure changed subtlety, becoming more symmetric and poised. He shifted it back and put the strength attribute to full, marveling as the body bulked up in response. He noticed that within the range that he was allowed, it didn’t become huge like a warrior might. There were also quite a few small toggles and sliders linked to body parts and clothing that allowed adjustments to appearance, but again they were within reason... and the nature of the character seemed to provide a strong influence on the end appearance. He found the toggle for gender and flipped it. The body changed immediately but he also noticed that while the 'heraldry' pattern remained the same, the colors had become slightly less appealing and the musical signature had also become more tinkling than he preferred.
Jack had spent nearly a half hour just playing with the character generator to see what was possible before he realized that he hadn't even thought about trying a different archetype. He quickly backed out of the modification screens until he was back at the one covered with the archetype disks. Now that he understood what they led to, he realized that the colors, patterns, and sounds were all part of a complex recognition system. He clicked on one near the edge of the screen that neither looked or sounded interesting and laughed as it brought up the traditional priest of a monastic order, bound by various vows. He didn't even waste his time playing with its potential; he just wasn't interested. A quick click took him back to the previous screen.
He cycled through several options, learning that most of the ones away from the center of the screen were less suited to his normal play style and those in the center were things that had a high appeal. The complexity of the system was astounding; they'd somehow managed to create a pool of characters that he'd be most likely to play just based on a simple personality profile. They’d also linked those archetypes to patterns, colors and sounds that matched his likes and dislikes nearly as accurately as the character types. A quick check of the first several rings of archetypes revealed all of them to be male. A few of the innermost archetype patterns repeated near the outside edge of the screen as well, with different colors and sounds connected to them. Evidently, he was more likely to play certain types of characters even as a female before he'd try others who were male... like the priest with his vows of chastity and celibacy. That was certainly accurate in his experience.
The female version of the performer/swashbuckler was about two thirds of the way out the screen from the center. He selected it and pulled open the portrait view so he could see how she changed as he defined her traits. He adjusted strength and endurance downwards to provide a few more points for balance, flexibility, and speed. Each of the other categories followed in similar nature, slightly lower than the default in raw power and sustaining energy but faster, more flexible, and better able to rebound when unbalanced. The resultant figure was a fiery girl, lithe and athletic, wearing a tight but supple outfit of soft leather and suede. The curves were very feminine, and the garments only enhanced her beauty.
Her skill set had quickly evolved to include standard minstrel options, though Jack had focused them on acting, seduction and persuasion and taken music to lower levels. He really didn't have the knowledge needed to portray that sort of thing decently. He left the dancing skill where it was, that took a little less real world knowledge because of the nature of its use in-game, or at least he hoped that was the case. There were also combat skills, all related to a very flashy style of swordplay, that had put a beautifully rendered rapier visible at her side. The use of a dagger or main gauche was included, but either she didn't start with one or it was hidden somewhere.
Finally, the gamer decided that the character was as refined as she could get and typed in a name for her: Tericia. It wasn't a name he'd used in the past, which suited him fine since the character was unlike any he had ever played before. He'd save his more typical name for a male character that he'd make later. He clicked the 'finalize' option in the lower right hand corner.
The screen dissolved into a series of white and black patterns before displaying the single word 'Processing.' After a moment, a series of pentagons faded into sight across the lower part of the screen, each rotating while shifting through a spectrum of color until finally, each disappeared with a discordant pulsing tone. The message was replaced by a question:
"Characters more than 10% outside the personality range of the player are likely to fail regularly at role-playing evaluations. Players are recommended to select a character archetype that remains within this range to ensure regular successes and the benefits that are earned as a result. This character is 93% outside your evaluated personality range. This result poses an 'extreme' difficulty. Do you wish to continue with this character despite the additional challenge this character presents?"
A simple yes or no button pair waited his response.
"What was it Gary said?" he asked himself before making his choice. "Takes big risks to get big rewards. We'll see if I'm up to it." He clicked yes and was soon immersed in an introductory story that seemed tailor made for Tericia. As the game guided him through various operations and explanations of how to use the GUI, he remembered that he had to send a message to his friend. A moment later, the game presented the means to do it so he quickly sent off a message to Garic.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Hey bud, it's Jack. I'm in... this game is incredible... I could have spent a few more hours just putting a character together.
A moment later the response came back.
[Priv OOC - Garic]: Great, I'll let Nadial know so she can start heading in that direction. You decided to go with a girl, eh?
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Sure, why not? Hey... is a 93% / extreme difficulty going to be useless?
[Priv OOC - Garic]: For most people, ya... practically impossible. How'd you end up that far off archetype? That shouldn't even have been onscreen for your selection.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: It was only about two thirds of the way out... the female version of my best match, center screen.
[Priv OOC - Garic]: What's the archetype?
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Performer/swashbuckler
[Priv OOC - Garic]: Heh... you lucky bastard.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Why's that?
[Priv OOC - Garic]: That's a restricted archetype. There's only a couple in the game... they have a high difficulty rating and are only offered to a few personality types. I can make one... a male one... but even that will be close to your extreme rating. They have awesome potential, but only if you're successful with RP evaluations. They advance more that way the regular way. Pretty amazing it was your prime match.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Cool... like the ultimate RP challenge?
[Priv OOC - Garic]: Yep. I'll let you get to it... Nadial will be waiting for you just outside the Academy gates. She'll be the one glowing royal blue and looking like a dominatrix. Good luck with her.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: Err... thanks. Later G.
[Priv OOC - Garic]: And you... milady.
[Priv OOC to Garic]: lol...
Jack's attention went back to the tutorial aspects of the introductory quest. It wasn't as involved with RP as he'd hoped, but then there were a lot of things he had to learn before the game could really start. Soon enough, the lessons were becoming less frequent and he had to dive fully into the role to keep Tericia alive and progressing in the right directions. Some of the challenges required near instantaneous reactions that fit the personality of a female performer and swashbuckler. Though he fumbled a few of them, he was starting to connect with the character mindset. He couldn't wait to meet the legendary Nadial... and this was the perfect practice to make sure he was ready for that encounter.
Jack rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom, squinting as the hot sun tried to blind him when he walked past the hall window that faced the west. That wasn't really unexpected; it had already been well above the horizon in the east before he'd finally logged off. He just hadn't expected to come back to consciousness so soon. If it were a minute past two, he'd eat his slippers. As he came back to the bedroom to pull on a pair of shorts a moment later, his mind registered that the clock showed a time still in the two-digit hour range but he was hungry enough to eat those slippers anyway. He headed for the kitchen.
After pulling open both the refrigerator and the freezer, he'd found and thrown a box of pizza rolls and a bag of fries on a cookie sheet and fired up the oven. He couldn't explain it, but he was starved. After a moment's consideration, he picked up the phone and dialed the Chinese take-out place. As the phone rang, he checked his wallet. There was enough cash there for a couple orders of fried rice and beef. He only hoped one of the two food sources were ready soon, before his stomach decided to go berserk on him.
Jack downed half a liter of Coke before he woke enough to realize that it was only a little after eleven. He frowned at the window in the hallway, warning it that it wouldn't get away with that sort of trickery again. If he wasn't so damned hungry, he'd just go back to bed... though maybe he'd wait until he'd eaten and then go back to sleep. It wasn't like he had to work today... thank God.
He couldn't believe he'd spent hours following Nadial around. She'd given him, technically Tericia, a tour of Elustrian Castle, the home of the Academy of Heroes. Though he wasn't sure how exactly the RP evaluations took place, only seen the little sparkling light race around the gem that marked character progress, he'd already proven himself successful in several of them by the time he completed his stint in the Academy and entered the courtyard where a stunningly beautiful enchantress awaited him. Several other newly graduated characters were clustered around her talking a mile a minute about a dozen different topics, few of them coming anywhere close to being in character. In the tradition of all MMOs, it seemed even GEO had its share of beggars and leeches.
He'd sent Tericia to approach the woman, who was clearly Nadial according to Gary's description of the bright blue aura that surrounded her, and had his character sketch a respectful flourish in the air with her rapier as she bowed. It was one of many impressive greetings that the character had available and he could only wonder how many of them were unique to this archetype. His spoken greeting had continued warily but politely; after all, Tericia didn't know the enchantress. She'd only been made aware of her by a message and that was technically OOC, but he could play that easily enough as a delivered parchment from a family friend. And that's exactly what he'd done.
If anyone had asked him even a day before, Jack would never have guessed that he would ever speak with the legendary Nadial. But by the end of the morning, their characters were forming a close bond. Certainly, the enchanter was the superior of the pair... she had experience and power that were still far out of Tericia's grasp, but she wasn't treating the younger character as simply a part of an errand from her guild leader. She'd completed the guild recruitment process, which had required Tericia to swear an oath to travel and study with Nadial's character Necina. The enchantress had also set several spells on the swashbuckler, which enhanced her combat abilities and protected her from a wide range of attacks. They were more or less permanent unless Necina ended them, because they reduced the enchantress's available power for as long as they remained.
Necina had then pulled an enormous ingot of silvery metal that she'd barely been able to hold from a small pouch on her belt and set it on the ground before asking Tericia for her rapier. He'd had his swashbuckler agree and used the GUI to pass it over, leaving Jack amazed that the trade interface actually didn't just end with hitting yes to approve the trade. His character had drawn the blade from her scabbard and passed it to the enchantress. It hadn't been the first time he'd seen this aspect of the game in action, but he'd assumed that some of those frills would disappear once in the real game beyond the intro zone. They usually did. Not in GEO, evidently.
Most of the begging types had backed off as Necina had led Tericia through the city, most likely because some of the areas had low survivability records for newer characters. If they hadn't, Jack imagined that more than one of them would have tried to get hold of that ingot, especially after the woman told him... her really, since she'd explained its worth in IC terms... what it would take for most people to get one that size. A moment later, the point was moot; the ingot had dissolved into a thousand motes of light which had swirled around the rapier before diving into the steel, imbuing it with an inner energy that caused the blade to hum as she passed it back to the swashbuckler. That hum echoed more loudly as he had Tericia perform another flourish and then thanked Necina for it. When he'd mentioned that he owed her, Nadial had warned Jack in a private OOC that she'd call in the favor someday... once he'd reached the potential that she believed he had and had complimented him on his performance with the character.
[Priv OOC - Necina]: If Gary hadn't told me you were a guy, I'd never have known... and whether it seems like one or not, I hope you can take that as a compliment.
He'd thanked her... what else could he do when a legendary gamer complemented him like that?
The sound of someone knocking at his door brought him back to the present and he shook his head for a moment, trying to break the disorientation. He'd spent much too long playing a complicated character and had too little sleep since. He managed to get to the door and collected his take-out. Within minutes he'd discarded the chopsticks, which he'd never really mastered anyway, and was shoveling the fried rice into his mouth with a spoon.
Two large orders of rice had taken the edge off his hunger, but he didn't really start to feel satisfied until he'd added most of the pizza rolls and fries as well. He finally settled back, leaving the few remaining fries for a snack later in the afternoon and looked at the computer. He was tempted to log back in. He had the whole day to explore and learn more about what Tericia could do. It might be nice to get a little experience and combat practice before he played sidekick to Necina that evening. She'd warned him that she had to work until around five EST and had left shortly before he had, to grab a catnap before heading to work. He didn't have to be there when she was; but the more he was, the sooner he'd work off his oath of service to her and the guild and be eligible for full membership. Considering some of the people who were in the guild, being a full member would get him into some of the best adventures in the game and they'd all been eager to have an active swashbuckler, especially a performer, available for the bigger quests.
It was amazing; GEO was amazing. The GUI had practically disappeared from sight once he'd gotten used to it and adjusted some settings to make it function better for him. Some of its features had simply adapted on their own based on the way he used them. It was almost like an AI or a game designer were observing him and literally reworking the way it played to reduce the interference between him and his character. If the game continued to play like this, it wouldn't be long before he cancelled his other memberships... and given the quality of the players he'd been introduced to over the last twelve hours, he suspected that it would.
He caught himself nibbling on the last couple fries and stared at his fingers like they were something alien. This was ridiculous; he'd just eaten enough food to last him several meals at least. What the hell was wrong with him? He'd been eating almost constantly since... since he'd had that private dance from Candi.
"Oh my God."
Something had happened to him when she'd danced for him, practically made love to him. He'd brushed it off really, more concerned by what had happened in the car on the way home... and he'd been avoiding thinking about that as much as possible since he'd woken up the day before. But the hunger... that had happened before the ride home, almost immediately after that private dance.
He had... shape-shifted... and his body was forcing him to build up supplies so he could do it again? Was that possible? He tried to think of mutants, super-heroes or villains, who had the ability to change their bodies. He couldn't think of any major ones... but he did seem to remember hearing that there were some werewolf types that shifted back and forth between human and wolf forms. There was one way to find out.
Jack sat down at his computer and woke it up. As the screen flickered to life, he started up the browser and ran a search for mutant power categories. There were several sites with a lot of information that he'd visited after the Army had discharged him before he’d even completed boot camp. He'd tried to make sense of what they'd told him, that he'd registered as a mutant in their tests but that its effects had just made him a health risk and that he had no beneficial powers. Most of the best sites seemed to have been set up by anti-mutant groups, but strangely enough, they were pretty heavy on details. Kind of a sick version of 'know thy enemy,' he suspected.
If it hadn't been a hallucination after all, he was a mutant. But why now? Most powers manifested in the early teens supposedly, what had happened that sparked his powers? The strip club? Or maybe Candi... maybe it wasn't his mutation at all, but something she had done, turned what the Army had found in him into something major?
He spent a half hour reading everything he could find about shifters and he tried several things that supposedly revealed shifter powers... he concentrated on changing his hand, or growing larger. He tried visualizing changes while looking in the mirror and he pictured the way the muscles of his torso and limbs had looked when Candi had pressed herself against him. Nothing happened.
Jack even tentatively visualized the woman he thought he'd changed into in the car. He was almost relieved when nothing happened. It was one thing playing a female character in a game... even if he'd done it all night and had a great time doing so... and another to find himself actually turning into one. Especially when the woman had been about to give a blowjob to a drunken geek in the back seat of...
A wave of lust rolled through his body, followed by a now unwelcome but all too familiar combination of fiery heat and tingling underneath his skin. He was aware of his body shrinking and growing thinner at the waist while his hips spread and full, soft breasts pushed out his t-shirt. He rushed back to the bathroom mirror to watch it happen through eyes that were changing from gray to green. His hair was growing rapidly and lighting from its usual brown, stopping soon enough in a sort of blonde pageboy. She found herself giggling at the way her clothing sank into her skin, leaving her dressed only in her bra and panties, the same lace ones she'd worn when she'd been riding in the car with Chris.
The thought of Chris triggered another wave of lust, this one purely physical, that caused her body to react in ways that seemed new but so very right. Her nipples grew hard and she could feel her pussy grow warm and moist. She wanted Chris... and she wanted him now. But, how could she get to him? She should be able to get on a bus... or get a taxi... but she didn't know where the gorgeous man lived. There was something... something that she remembered... she should be able to use a computer thing to find him. But how did she do it? The words and images seemed jumbled, confusing... so hard to do. She just couldn't think what to do! She needed her lover to think for her, to take care of her!
She found her way into the bedroom and curled up in a ball on top of the sheets, crying to herself. After she'd sobbed for a long while, she started to feel hungry. A quick look through the closet didn't turn up anything that seemed like it suited her, but she found a long button-down men’s shirt that would cover most of her body. It wasn't really sexy, but it would be ok. She spent some time looking through cabinets in the kitchen before realizing that she knew where all this stuff was. It was hard to remember; but if she tried really, really hard, she could. She was eating some potato chips, though they tasted funny, when she felt the tingling fire return.
Jack was back to normal a moment later, once more in jeans and t-shirt, his underwear back to normal as well. He put down the bag of salt and vinegar chips that... that girl... had been eating. He checked the clock, trying to judge how long he'd been her. It seemed to have been over an hour but he hadn't really paid that much attention to what time it had been before he'd changed.
The experience was, strange... to say the least. He'd remembered who he was, and been able to at least put labels on everything around him; but she was incredibly helpless... and even with what he knew, she'd been unable to solve the simplest problems. He wasn't sure which was worse... having a mutation that made him show up as anemic on Army blood tests or one that allowed him to shape shift into the dumbest bimbo on the face of the planet for an hour at a time.
He glanced at the clock again and sighed to himself...
"Might as well find out how long it really lasts."
He retraced his thoughts from earlier, coming at last to that moment when he'd remembered the girl's lust for Chris as she'd reached for... a weak wave of lust caused his skin to flush but faded away as quickly as it came. There were no accompanying tingles or waves of heat; nor was his body reshaping itself into a sexy, but stupid, blond. Jack ran his hands down his chest.
"Or maybe not..." he added, as he pulled out the t-shirt and looked down at his chest. "Hey... the shirt! Where'd my shirt go?!" The button-down dress shirt she'd been wearing around the house had disappeared. Jack looked around but it was nowhere in the house. A strange look crossed his face... "Oh, man... I can't afford to replace clothing every time I change bodies. This is ridiculous."
The boy hummed to himself as he had another idea. He visualized the sexual tension he'd shared with the stripper Candi. When that failed to work, he replayed as much of the time in the booth as he could think of... hoping to find a point in that encounter that served the same purpose. While he could feel his body reacting to the thoughts, like any fantasy, there were no changes... not even that weak burst of lust. He tested the other moment again, between Chris and the girl, and checked his body as the lust washed over him weakly. But again, there were no accompanying heat or tingles.
So... something about the one encounter was different than the other. He'd changed in both cases... probably... but he hadn't been doing it consciously then. Now, he could go back to one of those shapes by remembering that moment of lust to trigger it. It was an interesting puzzle to solve. If he could just figure it out...and he had just the idea to try. He needed to go back to the strip club and talk to Candi.
Jack was nearly late to open the Emporium Monday morning. For once, it hadn't even been because of a late night of gaming. He'd gotten up early after going to bed earlier than he'd planned. He'd needed the extra sleep after only getting a couple hours Sunday morning anyway.
Nadial had noticed the efforts he'd made to get some practice with the game before she'd returned and gave him a couple tips in private OOC before they'd visited some nastier parts of the city outside the Castle. It reminded Jack a bit of TSR's old city, Waterdeep, from the Forgotten Realms campaign world before the game had been taken over by Wizards of the Coast. It was just as vast and contained as much potential for adventure as any caverns or ruins. And just like Waterdeep, there were rumors of interconnecting crypts, tombs and lost hiding places all through the earth beneath it. Tericia had gotten in some practice with her rapier when bandits had attacked them; but Jack suspected that there had been little danger. They'd eventually ended up in a tavern where patrons had demanded a story. After demurring, citing a lack of experience, he'd told them the only major tale he had by this point, his trials in the Academy.
He'd put his character through a serious workout, using emotes and actions to act out parts of the story, not even thinking about how unlikely it was that any of the people there were actually players. When he'd finished, a few of them approached him and offered coins... one, obviously a player, actually asked Tericia if she were an NPC or a player. He didn't respond to that at all. Necina was leading her up the stairs when an old man stopped her by taking hold of Tericia's arm. Jack hadn't even realized that was possible...
The man didn't say anything, but placed a rolled scroll into Tericia's hand before backing away and then heading quickly out through the door. Once they'd gotten up the stairs to a room that the enchantress had rented, they'd examined the scroll carefully. It seemed to be a request for assistance far to the North... a long way outside the city and Jack doubted that it was a task that he would be capable of completing alone.
Necina suggested that they present it formally as something that the guild might pursue but warned that because it had been given to the young swashbuckler, that she had to be a major player in whatever happened. Then, Nadial had explained that it was most likely a reward for the story she'd told... the sort of epic quest most players would be struggling to find or to even get a minor part in one earned by someone else. Then, she'd warned that she had to leave for the night and that if he wanted her to, she'd present the quest to the guild the next night and they could begin on Tuesday. Jack agreed and they, and their characters, parted company for the night.
Which brought him back to why he was blaming the close call on his late night gaming so he could provide better recommendations to people who were shopping in the store. The real reason was one he wasn't about to share with anyone he worked with... if anyone else, ever. He'd spent an hour and twenty-eight minutes being female, playing with herself as a blonde bimbo in the shower. It hadn't been intentional, but at least he'd had the presence of mind to glance at the small clock sitting on the sink before his mind had gone completely. Details on the length of his transformation wasn't the only benefit of the morning, at least. He'd still been wearing the dress shirt over the lacy lingerie when he'd completed the shape shift.
She'd taken them off before climbing in the shower, acting almost normally until the water began to stimulate her. The rest of the duration of the change had run out while she masturbated under the water, moaning Chris' name. When he'd come back to himself, he'd been standing under the warm spray in his boxers. The dress shirt and women's underwear were still lying on the bathroom floor... he'd been too busy trying to understand the concept and then trying to get to work on time to make the effort of picking them up.
At least the mistake should prevent him from accidentally changing into that bimbo, who had decided to name herself Molly at some point during the shower, during his workday. That would be a catastrophe of the highest order. He couldn't imagine trying to explain how a completely naked girl had been arrested after he’d disappeared in the middle of his shift and why the police had then found him in her cell. That story was beyond anyone's RP skills.
During lunch, Jack gave his dad a call and asked if he could borrow the sedan for an errand and some grocery shopping he needed to do that evening. They bantered about it a little, and eventually the older Rizeppi agreed under the condition that his son fill the gas tank before bringing the car back the next day. Jack didn't argue; if he made a fuss about it, his father might actually notice how many miles he put on the car for his errand and start asking questions. That might cause more trouble than it was worth.
The afternoon seemed to crawl by, as it has a tendency to do on those days when there are more important things on your mind that you really would rather be doing. He joined in on a couple conversations about GEO but even that subject seemed dull, though part of that was because the kids talking about the game didn't even realize how much more complex it was from their previous fantasy MMO. They were much too wrapped up in boasting about being henchmen to some evil monster, who'd started out as a human like everyone else but had now taken on a bestial or demonic form.
Finally, the workday was over. Jack headed out the door and started walking up the street. His parent's home was within walking distance of the Emporium, and it was the only thing he missed about living with them. They'd never understood his interest in games, even though they'd be proud of him when he'd gone to work at the game store in high school. When they'd discovered that he intended to use his paychecks to buy games, the attitude had almost completely reversed. They didn't hate him but he was pretty sure that they were terribly ashamed of him. He was sure they wouldn't be any happier if they found out he could change into a sluttish bimbo.
He stopped as he reached the construction site for the new hotel a third of the way to the house. It had been an empty lot for quite a while after the scandal with Baker's Dozen. There were eyewitnesses from all over the area who claimed that the vigilante group had killed a hero calling himself Lightbeam while they'd been working on clearing damaged structures following the hurricane two years back. Jack remembered meeting Baker himself, just before the fight had happened. The man had seemed like a real asshole, puffing himself up and treating Jack like some little kid.
Then, someone had brought in outside investigators and Federal agents to look into the battle and there weren't any bodies found in the rubble, so the charges were dropped. To make it even more ridiculous, the Feds had warned the city that slander counter suits might be filed because even if the team had killed the man; it was in self-defense. He couldn't have been a hero if he was rushing around after a super-group and attacking them while they were working on a disaster relief project. It probably hadn’t helped that the missing ‘hero’ had had a really lame name.
Still, the guy hadn't shown up anywhere since. If he wasn't dead, he was lying low somewhere. So even though Baker's Dozen had come out of it 'clean' as far as the government was concerned, people still talked about them. Their rep was full of that sort of thing, as if they had someone on the 'inside' cleaning up their messes. Some of the whispers were that one of the less visible members had puppet-master type powers.
Jack turned and continued toward his parent's place while wondering what he had to offer a super-group now that he seemed to be a mutant. Assuming that this wasn't something Candi had done to him, of course. But he had to see her even if she'd had nothing to do with it... because with her, he'd been a stronger and better hung guy. Anything was better than Molly.
He turned up the alley to the house and trudged up the back steps, feeling like every step was draining every ounce of energy from him. This was nothing new, though; he felt out of place in his parent’s home. He had felt out of place even when he'd been growing up and living here. It hadn't changed since he'd been here last, almost a month ago. The delay since the last visit was bound to be an issue, too, especially if his father got home before he’d left. Jack opened the door and stepped inside.
"Hi mom." She was cooking something at the stove and was cutting up vegetables on the counter. It all smelled really good and the unusual hunger hit him again. His mouth started salivating and he took a deep breath.
"Hi... your father left the keys for the sedan on the table by the front door. Do you want to stay for some dinner?"
The offer seemed innocent enough and he was hungry. But staying long enough eat would mean conversation and he had nothing to say to his parents. Especially not while he had problems to solve.
"Can't mom. I have a couple things I have to get done tonight." Like visit a stripper at a club in Tampa. "I can grab something later."
He slipped up the hallway to the front of the house and collected the keys. With any luck, he'd be out of the house before his father came in; the old man wasn't quite as easy to brush off as his mother. He was fairly observant for one thing, part of his job involved supervising detailed work, and it took a better class of story to fool him.
"Have you found a girlfriend yet, Jack?" she asked him, as he returned to the kitchen.
"No..." he responded, causing her to sigh in disappointment. "But maybe some possibilities, mom." There's the naked girl running around my apartment and the stripper that turns me into Mr. GQ...
"It would be nice to see you getting serious about a girl."
"Yeah... I gotta get going mom, see you tomorrow, ok?" Serious about a girl, of course she would. That would mean I'd have to look for a better job and stop wasting money an time on games. Why don't you just come out and say it mom?
He went through the door and down the steps to the car, a nineteen eighties something Oldsmobile. It wasn't exactly the height of class, but it would get him to Tampa and back. As he started it up, he checked the gas gauge... it was on empty.
"That cheap ass..."
He not only had to fill the tank up when he was done, he'd have to fill it up before he even left town. This was going to be a lot more expensive a trip than he'd thought. Jack put the car in gear and headed for the nearest gas station. Then he had to go through a Burger King before he starved to death.
Kimmy's Kittens was not quite as lively as it had been Friday night but Jack was surprised how busy it was for a weeknight. The side room where he'd seen Candi dancing before wasn't even open yet, if it would open at all that night, but there were plenty of open tables around the main stage. He found a table that would let him watch most of the room and the stage before settling in.
"Just a coke... and some chicken fingers," he told the waitress. It actually sounded a little strange eating at a strip club but it was a clean place, better than some of the fast food joints he'd been to lately. Besides, he wouldn't be able to find anyone if he couldn't get rid of some of the hunger pangs.
He was in one of the more dimly lit corners, out of the way of most of the traffic. Even if the club grew busier as the evening progressed, it was far enough from the stage that any crowds would be elsewhere. Jack settled in, absently watching the dancers on the stage. The one on the far end seemed familiar but he didn't remember seeing either of the other two. He hoped he hadn't made the trip all the way up here on a night the stripper didn't work.
"Here's your Coke... the snacks will be a little bit." The waitress smiled at him as she placed the glass on the table and put a small stack of napkins in the holder.
"Thanks..." The woman turned to walk away but turned back as he added, "Is Candi here tonight?"
"Yeah... wait, which one?"
"Uh... small, kinda athletic, shoulder length brown hair and brown eyes..."
"You got her eye color and haven't said a thing about her breasts... kid, you've got it bad. But yeah, that’s the one I meant. She'll be onstage in a while... she just got in."
"Can you give her a message?"
"Not supposed to, unless you want to pay for a private dance? Management frowns on note passing... a lot like high school, really... except, with a lot more nakedness," she grinned.
"Oh...well, I guess I..."
"I'll point you out... up to her from there, ok?"
Jack sat there kicking himself as the woman headed off to one of the back rooms. A minute later she came out and gestured for him to wait and then went back to her work. Now he just had to have a little patience. Amusingly enough, the DJ introduced a young redhead named Patience and had the men welcome her to the stage. When he realized, a moment later, that he'd been comparing himself... as Molly... to her, he groaned in disgust.
He flinched and looked up as the basket of chicken slid onto his table. Candi was standing there, looking at him with a mischievous grin on her lips.
"Hi... um... I never got your name, you know."
"Jack... sorry. I need to talk with you, if you can?"
"Talk?" she giggled. "I don't have time to... talk... right now. Weeknights are pretty tight cycles; we don't have as many girls dancing. If you want a little of my time for a private dance though..."
"Um... maybe during your break?"
"Nope… not allowed to socialize with customers during breaks... they don't like us playing favorites, causes trouble. I shouldn't even be here now... but I'm bad," she teased, biting her lip.
"Oh... well, I guess I'll pay for a private dance later then..."
"Don't make it sound like such a chore," she pouted at him. "You had fun last time, didn't you?"
"Um..." he blushed.
"I thought so..." she winked at him. "I have to dance soon, just give your money to the one of the waitresses when you're ready."
The woman turned and walked away with a very sexy wiggle. That was one incredibly hot woman. The most amazing part was, unlike the first time he'd seen her, he was actually beginning to wonder if maybe he did have some chance of touching her. Surely, the women didn't orgasm on top of every guy that paid for a private dance.
Though he hadn't really paid attention to the music Friday night, he was a bit surprised by the eclectic, but cohesive, style of the sequence of it. It made him wonder if the DJ put it together, if the dancers chose their own music, or whether there was some other system involved. Obviously some of the songs were planned for, because the stripper was wearing a costume that fit the song, but that wasn't always the case. He wasn't any closer to figuring it out when Candi went onstage.
He watched her routine, noting again that the quality of the dancing was better than the others even to his untrained eye. She was more graceful and seemed to have more refined movements but overall, it was missing something that it had had Friday night, especially the one time right after she'd danced privately for him. A couple times, her eyes turned his direction and he thought he saw surprise on her face when she saw he hadn't moved. Maybe she thought he'd have moved up close to the stage.
For the next hour and a half, he ate expensive snacks, drank Coke, and watched women take their clothing off. Candi had made several trips to the stage and each time she seemed a little more frustrated and distracted when she saw him still sitting in his corner. He wasn't sure what she expected from him and every time he'd asked a waitress if he could get a private dance from her, the waitress had said she didn't have time open yet.
Finally, he saw her come out and cross to the bar, pick up a drink, and go into a back room. The next time his waitress came into the area, he asked her again. She shook her head in amusement but agreed to check for him.
"You know there are at least twenty other dancers here tonight, kid?"
"Yeah... I know."
"All right... I'll talk to her."
A few minutes later Candi came out into the room and headed in his direction. She stopped and flirted with a couple patrons, several of whom put money in the band of her skirt. The stripper had put on an almost transparent top and the skirt wasn't completely opaque either. As clothing, it didn't really cover much at all, but it did reveal some very attractive satin lingerie and the flesh it enclosed.
"I hear you wanted a private dance... I was so surprised," she smiled at him while pulling him to his feet. He allowed her to lead him across the room to the nearest private booth.
She'd barely gotten him inside and the curtain closed before she pushed him onto the seat and climbed up on top of him. Once there, though, she stopped and just looked at him. Then, she ripped his shirt open; rubbing her hands across the skinny chest and undefined abdomen.
"How did you do it?" she asked him.
"What? I thought you did it."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about..."
"But aren't you... a mutant?"
They stared at each other before starting to laugh uneasily together. Jack broke the silence.
"So you didn't do anything to me when you bit me?"
"You didn't look like this when I bit you... I thought... I've never reacted like that during a private dance... with a stranger."
"But that was the first time it ever happened..."
"Uh... yeah... it happened again later... and a couple times since."
"I can't... I can do the one... but it takes time before I can do it again."
"What does it look like? A monster?"
"Uh... no... a girl."
She giggled then clapped her hand over her mouth.
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"Well... maybe if we recreate what happened Friday night, you'll change again?"
"Umm..." Jack blushed, trailing off.
She hopped back and started dancing for him; her nose was squished up a little like she was thinking hard about what specifically she'd done. Her face lit up, as she seemed to remember, and began to slide her hands over the pole in the center of the booth, playing with it seductively. Jack shifted uncomfortably on the bench. She left the pole, starting to unbutton her top and then just slid it off and used it to tease along the boy's body. She turned away, again slipping slowly out of her skirt.
Candi climbed back up in Jack's lap, running her hands up his legs to his crotch. When she felt the hardness there, she started to smile, then frowned slightly. Jack looked down at his pants, wondering why she'd stopped.
"By the time I got here, I slid my hands up along the muscles on your stomach... and you were bigger than this... it's not happening."
"Yeah... but... what's different?"
"Clothes?" She reached up and took off her bra and tossed it at her side. "I wasn't wearing much, so I doubt it was my clothes."
She reached up and took her breasts in her hands and teased the nipples. Then she let her hands drop down along her side and into her lap. She wiggled a little over the hardness hidden inside his pants, licking her lips. The tingling began around Jack's groin and was accompanied by a weak wave of fire and lust but the sensations faded almost as soon as they began.
"Wait..." Jack stopped her.
Candi froze in place. "What?"
"That tingling feeling... it happens every time... and this hot fire running through me."
"I don't see anything changing." The stripper said, running her hands along his chest.
"You were doing... you were touching yourself, not me... umm... can you do that again?"
Candi gave him a dirty look but then relented. She slid her fingers back up along her belly to her breasts and ran them lightly around the nipple, breathing out deeply at the feeling washing over her. Her eyes slid closed as she visibly enjoyed the feeling, unconsciously pushing herself against the hardness in Jack's pants.
"That's doing it!" Jack said quickly, as the combination of tingling and fire washed through him a little more strongly. As Candi stopped and looked down at him, she saw his chest bulk up for a moment and then collapse back to normal. "And now it's stopped again."
"That's two songs Candi," came a voice from outside the curtain. She stood up, annoyance washing across her face and pulled several bills out of a fold in her skirt and stuck them out the curtain where a large meaty hand collected them. She pounced back on top of Jack.
"That will get them to leave us alone for a while."
"That was like... a couple hundred dollars."
"This is too bizarre to stop now... its only money." Jack just looked at her. "Really! I can make that easily most nights... and a lot more on weekends."
"No. Now stop wasting time... change!" she poked at his stomach.
"I really do think it's when you're touching yourself."
"I think you just want to see me touching myself."
"Thought so. What about that girl you said you turn into?"
"Oh..." Jack frowned, trying to put the parts together. "I changed into her in the car, on the way back home from here."
"Who else was in the car? Those guys you were with?"
"Yeah. The drunk Asian guy was up front with the older guy who got me the dance."
"Which left the obnoxious kid your age in the back with you?"
"Yeah... Chris..." a slight wave of lust washed over him as he thought about the redheaded guy.
"What was that?"
"You shivered and your skin flushed when you said his name."
"Yeah, that happens when I think about... what happened." He shivered again as a slightly smaller wave of lust went through him.
"So... he was playing with himself in the back of the car while you were sitting there?"
"No... he was just... really drunk and... I turned into that girl, Molly, and it was all I could do not to..."
"Uh... yeah." He blushed.
"Ok... so you turned into her for him... and that buff version of yourself for me. Why can't you turn into him by thinking about the... dance... I did for you?"
"I don't know."
"So what else happened?"
Jack thought about it, trying to dig the details out of the fog of Molly's memories. "He passed out... that’s how I managed to resist at the last minute."
"But that’s it... wait... the tingling and fiery feeling!"
"The one that happens while you're changing?"
"Right. The whole time I'm changing but not while I'm changed, just while it’s happening."
"So... it happened again right before Chris passed out! And it was different, somehow... like..." He had a memory flash of Molly's time in the shower. He blushed as he explained. "...like a girl's orgasm... except starting here..." he touched his stomach just below his sternum. "and spreading outward to every part of my skin."
Candi looked at him carefully. She took a deep breath and her nipples started tightening a little. "Do you have any idea how many women would like a guy who knows how to make their bodies dance just right?"
"Um... no?" Jack responded carefully, confusion evident on his face. He could feel, in just the faintest little bits, the tingling and heat beginning deep inside his torso.
"Why do you think so many of us are willing to do girl on girl bits to entertain guys? Sure, the tips are good... but it also feels really good having someone who knows just what to do."
Candi leaned against Jack's chest and nibbled on his neck. Her breasts were pressed against his bare chest and he could feel the hard nipples pushing into him. A wave of tingling and fiery heat washed through him as she whispered against his neck.
"Are you feeling it Jack? I am... I've figured it out. I know what feels good and I know exactly what I want you to do for me. I feel your body changing under my hands, do you?"
He could... the places she was touching him were becoming more sensitive and he could feel the splashes of heat spreading from those points. Then she stepped back away from him and the tingling faded away. She grinned as she watched him change, but by the time he looked all he could see was a last bit of change in coloring.
"I want you to do something for me Jack."
"Go out to your car and drive south to the light then go east about a mile to the Wal-mart. Park near the entrance and wait for me."
"Tonight's your lucky night... you're getting taken home by a stripper. Hope you're up to it," she winked along with her pun.
"Yep, really. I'll be a little while... but you might want to use the time to go get some condoms. You might need them."
"Lots of condoms... my roommate Bambi will be home later and she gets really jealous when I don't share."
Jack didn't even notice the cheers that the regulars gave his ragged appearance as he staggered out the door a couple minutes later.
He'd picked up the giant sized box of Trojans at Wal-mart, hoping that 36 condoms would be enough, despite the smirk that the young woman had given him when he'd gotten to the register. Then he'd returned to his car out by the main entrance and waited for Candi to show up. He munched his way through a couple bags of Doritos and had drunk two liter-sized bottles of Coke before he began to suspect that he'd been had. What reason did a stripper as beautiful as Candi have to take him home?
Jack sighed in frustration as he opened the third bag of Doritos. Something needed to change with this food situation or he was going to need another job. His paycheck from the Emporium couldn't support the quantities he had been eating the past couple days. He considered leaving... started the car, even... but just before leaving, he turned it off and swore he'd give her a few more minutes and then he was going.
The tapping on the window beside him made him choke on the Doritos he'd just stuffed into his mouth. As he was coughing and sneezing the corn and cheese out of his lungs, he realized it was Candi. He quickly rolled down the window and, still wheezing, tried to talk to her.
"You ok?" she asked when he couldn't get anything out. He nodded his head and coughed a couple more times. "Sorry to scare you... come on," she added, pulling his door open.
Jack grabbed the bag of snacks, what little remained of them. "Shouldn't I just follow you?"
"Nope," Candi said confidently as she slipped into the tiny yellow sports car. "I'm not letting you leave until I'm done with you."
Jack shivered a little and nervously crawled into the passenger seat. He'd barely gotten the door closed before they were racing across the parking lot. The way she was playing with the gearshift distracted him from the way she zipped between narrow openings and out onto the street. She accelerated out away from the light and when she no longer needed her hand on the stick, she moved it to his leg. His groin hardened immediately and a moment later, the tingling and fiery sensations were racing across his body.
"What are you doing?"
"We'll be at my place in a minute. I'm just getting you ready for the fun."
Jack glanced down as his legs started transforming beneath her fingers. The jeans expanded outwards slightly, growing black and changing to a softer texture, leather. A moment later his hips expanded outwards and his waist pulled inwards, tightening up as his shirt shrank upwards to reveal his belly's silky skin overlying firm, taut abs. He turned to complain, but his voice cracked and then was unable to form a sound. He grasped his throat as he forced a whisper through lips that felt fuller.
"Candi! Not this..."
A sense of exhilaration was filling him as he looked out ahead of them, Candi was watching him change and driving faster hoping to get home sooner. This was dangerous, but suddenly he didn't care, he needed to submit to her; it felt right. He looked back down to see the short leather vest that had formed around his breasts, revealing a lot of cleavage and his tiny waist. There was black hair spilling down over her shoulders to the tops of those silky mounds. He brought up her hands to brush it to the sides, noting as she did that the delicate fingers were tipped with long brightly polished nails.
It is a very, very good body to be trapped in. she thought. She was beginning to understand what Candi wanted from her, all the talk about women understanding how other women feel and react. And the further they got from the club, the more this particular body grew hot, sexy, and dangerous. While she’d begun soft and willing to submit, that was changing and being replaced by an uncommon strength under the soft, silky skin. She could give as well as she got and could feel the desire rolling in her blood. The desire instilled by Candi's own desire, the desire that triggered Jack’s changes, changes that were now finished, along with the sensations that came with them.
She, Jackie, slid a single nail along Candi's fingers, smiling as the woman shivered in pleasure. The hand continued to slide upward along Candi's arm until she was shaking from the pleasure. Candi shook herself free, letting go of Jackie long enough to downshift and make a sharp turn into a luxury apartment complex. The tires squealed in protest and Jackie had to grab hold of the armrest and the door to keep from getting thrown to the side. As she did, the tingling returned, warning her that the changes had begun again. She quickly reached out to touch Candi, which stopped them, a sure sign that distance from the source of the desire was a factor.
Tires squealed again as Candi practically slid the car into a parking spot. Jackie followed her out the driver’s side, unwilling to let go of the stripper. As she stepped onto the pavement, she realized that she was in high-heeled leather boots. It was a new experience, but they were very comfortable. They also looked sexy and made her seem even taller than the small woman. Candi started to head for the front door of the nearest apartment but Jackie caught her arm and pulled her back into an embrace.
"Someone will see us," she moaned as Jackie kissed her insistently and let her hands wander down the other woman's back to where her shorts began. Candi tried to pull away again, so Jackie let her turn but stayed close behind her. As they walked up to the door, she found that as long as she was within two or three feet now, there was no tingling sensation signaling a loss of her form... that safe distance was growing... with the level of Candi's desire?
Jackie spun Candi around and pressed her up against the door with her own body, sliding her hands up under the other woman's t-shirt and found the hard nipples through the thin bra. The stripper shuddered with the sensations that were racing through her body. She was still fumbling with the keys and her purse, but not successfully. She repeated her concern.
"Someone will see..."
"Yes... someone will see. Don't you want them to see?"
"Oh, God... yes..."
Jackie pushed the smaller woman's top up over her head, in the process knocking the purse and keys to the ground. She returned the attention of her hands to the nipples trying to push their way out of the bra. Then, she lowered her mouth to take little bites along Candi's neck. She paused long enough to speak before returning the bites and kisses, but her hands slid around the sides of Candi's chest.
"Undo your shorts."
"Come on, I want to see you without them."
Candi's hands opened the front of the shorts and slid them off her hips. They hung there just long enough for Jackie to see that she'd not worn panties under them before gravity pulled them to the ground. A moment later, Jackie opened the bra that was the stripper's only remaining clothing. She slid her hands back around the front, tracing contour lines along the woman's torso while continuing the attack with her mouth.
"Jack," she whined.
"Jackie, love. Should I make love to you here where all your neighbors can see?"
"No..." Candi whispered.
"Are you sure, my sweet beautiful one? Don't you want to be a bad girl with me?"
"No..." she tried again, less sure of herself.
Jackie pulled Candi's hands up and placed them on the woman's own soft mounds and began kissing and licking her way down to them, all the while encouraging her to touch them, tease the nipples, and let the pleasure flow through her. She spent what felt like hours sucking on first one nipple and then the other, while Candi ran fingers through her hair. Candi's breath had grown ragged by the time she resumed her course downward.
"Such a very bad girl my pretty one," she told the stripper who shudder in pleasure. "You know you're a bad girl, don't you?"
"Yes, I am..." It came from the woman like a revelation and was followed by a long moan as Jackie slid a finger down along the mouth of her pussy.
"I'm going to ma..." Jackie was starting to tell her when a burst of tingling and fiery warmth spread outward from her solar plexus to every part of her body. She knew at once what it meant and began to laugh.
"What? What is it, Jackie," her words were fuzzy and it was clear that Candi was too wrapped up in the pleasure to understand, but Jackie told her anyway.
"It happened, oh Candi, you did it! But now... I'm going to make love to you until your moans have drawn every person in these buildings here to watch."
"Oh, God... yes."
Jackie took her first taste of a woman's pussy, licking up to the little nub at the top. Almost immediately, Candi shuddered in pleasure, her knees starting to give out. She fell back against the door with a loud thump. Jackie followed, keeping up her ministrations. She ran her fingernails in random patterns along the woman's inner thighs while she slid her tongue slowly over Candi's clit. She was thankful that she'd listened in to Lee's ramblings a few nights earlier, among which had been the usual male boastings of prowess and technique. Those ideas were improved on by vague memories of an hour in the shower with a more voluptuous body, but memories far more understanding of the effects than any man might have.
She could feel the moments of tension and relaxation in Candi's body and timed the moments of pressure to keep the woman high on the peak of pleasure that she was riding without letting her become over stimulated. The evidence of her success came moments later when the stripper began to orgasm and kept orgasming in wave after wave. Several times, she had thrust her hips outward and then fallen back against the door, each time making a sound that was certain to have carried to neighboring homes.
Finally, the woman was beginning to relax and Jackie slid her own body up along the vibrating muscles and glowing skin of the stripper and gently caressed her, kissed her, and let her slowly come to... and in that moment, the door swung inwards and the two of them fell onto the carpet of the foyer. Candi looked up from beneath Jackie wide-eyed, and sighed happily.
"Oh, Lisa... look what I brought home." Jackie rolled over to see Candi's roommate, who stripped under the name Bambi.
She had barely said "Hi." when the warning signs indicated that Candi's desire had been satisfied, at least for the moment, and she was changing back to Jack. She growled in protest until her voice went away during the change. She imagined the look of the leather being absorbed into her skin was a cool effect from the looks it got her but was glad Lisa had thought to grab their things off the step and close the door before Jackie completely reverted to Jack.
He groaned as he rolled away from Candi, feeling weak and dull. The world had seemed so much more alive while he'd been Jackie, ready to be taken and used for his pleasure. Smells had been clearer, colors and light brighter, and everything more exciting and alive. His original body even felt a little like when he was Molly... there were things he'd learned and figured out that just weren't as clear all the sudden. How had he been able to manipulate Candi so easily to keep himself as Jackie long enough to... to trigger that effect? Did that mean he could return to being Jackie now?
"Where did he come from, Dee?" Lisa asked the woman he knew as Candi.
Jack rolled to his feet and concentrated on the memory of Dee's desire. The sensations of the change pushed through him and he reveled in the return of the excitement and exhilaration that being Jackie entailed. He could feel his torso quickly shortening while his legs grew longer. His balance redistributed as his hips and butt pushed out one way and breasts formed beneath his shirt, pulling him another. Between the two, his spine curved and all around his waist, then his torso pulled inwards until the flat silky belly was all that remained. The longer hair was growing past his neck as his clothing was absorbed into the softening skin; then an outer layer reformed into the supple black leather outfit that she'd been wearing minutes ago. For the first time, she was aware of the change in his groin; one set of parts melting into the torso while a second type formed with a delightful sensitivity, already growing warm and moist from the lust that was a consistent part of her changes.
The change spread into her emotions and mind, thoughts came more quickly and she was aware of a subtlety in her relationship with Dee that both excited and worried her. She wanted, even needed, the woman... she loved her to the exclusion of anyone else. While she was Jackie, she could explore life in many new ways but only as long as Dee gave her the freedom to do so. For now, the stripper was wrapped up in the desire to have someone who could push her and be a sister and lover in her dangerous games. But what happened when that changed?
She reached down and gave Dee a hand up, feeling her lust for the woman surge as they touched. Lisa was looking more confused than before, but Jackie remembered what her girlfriend had said before. Lisa might get jealous if she didn't share... that not only didn't worry her, she looked forward to it.
"Let's talk," she told them, and pulled Dee behind her as she began exploring the house.
Jackie was pushing Dee's sports car close to the red line as she headed toward the Wal-mart where they'd left her parents' car the night before. It had been a really long night, but it was one hell of a way to lose one's virginity... several times. She'd gained several insights into her powers as well; the different bodies recharged quickly when she slept. She'd only been asleep for an hour or so before Dee had woken her back up for another round. It had been so much more pleasant than an alarm clock and by the time she'd been fully awake, she hadn't had to see herself as Jack. But after a little while as a mostly mindless sex toy shaped first female in female curves and then hard muscled male to serve other needs, she'd triggered a change to Jackie and turned the tide of Dee's little game. The stripper liked to be in control but when she'd made Jackie, she'd also wanted someone who could beat her at her own game.
The shape shifter reached over and tickled Dee's leg to wake her back up. She'd wanted to ride along to take her car back home instead of leaving it at the Wal-mart until Lisa woke up to take her to get it; but Dee wasn't really awake yet. She smiled a wicked little grin before brushing the hand away and closing her eyes again. Jackie let her sleep. She'd earned it.
She wasn't looking forward to having to return to being Jack again. Even if she took a catnap long enough to recharg her abilities, she needed to get back to Fort Myers and the afternoon shift at the Emporium. It was even more important than ever that she not miss work and risk getting fired, she'd almost used all her paycheck on food already and it was going to be tough to keep enough stocked to feed the changes... especially since she intended to be Jackie as often as possible. Strangely enough, she'd been able to remain in this body much longer than she had in the Molly one. It had been almost two hours if they'd timed it right. That meant there were some other factors involved that she hadn't figured out yet. But she would.
Her heart beat a little faster as an idea came to her. She'd never done anything like this... but it could work, no one could know. She pulled into the right hand lane and took a turn into a small plaza with a hardware store. The sports car slid into one of the smaller parking spots around the side of the building out of sight of most of the stores and any significant traffic. She woke Dee up, with an insistent shake of the woman's arm.
"Dee... I need you to do something for me."
"What?" she mumbled, not fully awake yet.
"Come on, wake up beautiful." That earned her a warm smile.
"I'm awake..." She looked around, curiosity showing on her face. "Where are we?"
"A plaza. I'm going to go do something... but while I'm gone, I want you to go into the bookstore and buy a book."
"Doesn't matter... just look around and then get something. When you're done, come back out and wait for me if I'm not already back."
"Ok. What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to be a bad, bad girl," Jackie told her, smiling a very mischievous grin.
They stepped out of the car and Jackie let her lover get ahead of her before she triggered the shift. Immediately, her body grew heavier as her skin expanded in all directions, immediately absorbing the leather pants and vest. Beneath the rough, tanned skin that was nearing its final complexion, heavy muscles were hardening in place. Her thoughts were slowing down but before they fled her completely; she started reciting her plan into his head. This muscle bound lunk might be well hung and useless for anything but sex but he could take orders very well. Hopefully he could take them from her.
Hunk didn't understand why his body was tingling or hot but he knew what would make his mistress happy. He started toward the stores at the front of the building. There was one with tools partway down. By the time he got to the sidewalk, the feelings were gone. People were looking at him funny from inside the stores too. He saw mistress Dee looking at books in one of the stores he passed. He didn't mean to break the shiny door into the store with the tools but it had opened too fast; the pieces crunched under his boots while people shouted things at him. Some of them were telling him things to do and he wanted to listen but his mistress wanted him to hurry. The bar of metal he needed was in the row near the front so he picked it up and went back outside. He tried to say sorry for the door, but no one listened to him.
He jogged along the storefronts, more people shouting and pointing at him; some of them from the store had followed him outside. They went back inside when he started hitting the machine that had the money in it. He could hear noises that sounded like danger coming closer so he hit the machine harder, finally breaking the pieces off the front. Hunk ripped the metal container open with the metal bar and started putting the money into the belt mistress Lisa had given him. When he'd taken as much as he could stuff into the belt, he turned and headed off around the corner and back through an alley between buildings.
He turned the corner behind the building and ran along the back towards the car. When he had almost reached the corner, Hunk stopped and followed his last order from the mistress who had been whispering in his head. He pictured the mistress Jackie and mistress Dee embracing, making love, and felt the heat and tingling wash through him. He let the crowbar drop as his thoughts started clearing up. As her mind gained control, Jackie noticed her body starting to absorb the belt and the money in it and quickly dropped the bills that were in her hands. When the sensations of the change stopped a moment later, she picked them back up, folded them, and stuffed them up under her leather vest under the bottom edge of her breasts before walking around the corner and getting back into the car. Dee wasn't there.
Jackie started up the sports car as she heard the police pulling into the parking lot. A minute later, she heard several of them spin their wheels as they pulled out, heading back the alley. She pulled the car out of the parking spot and came around the front where chaos seemed to be reigning. She stopped the car next to the bookstore and slid up through the window to sit on the door, looking across the roof of the car.
"What the hell happened out here?" she asked one man who had a bag from the bookstore. Then she saw her girlfriend and gave her a shout. "Dee!" The woman turned and saw her just sitting there on the car and rushed over, looking scared and excited all at once. Before she could say anything, the shopper answered Jackie's question.
"Some sort of freak in a fetish outfit just ripped apart an ATM. He must have been either really stupid or something if he doesn't realize they have cameras in those things... and in most of these stores. Someone said he broke that hardware store door too."
A woman standing near by added what she'd seen as well, while Dee came close enough for Jackie to hug her as if comforting her. "He stole the crowbar he used to do it from the hardware store. Did you see the size of his muscles... I can see why someone would want him to wear that outfit. I bet he was some sort of minion for some super villain!"
"I can't believe I missed it," Jackie complained. "Next time you can wait in the car, Dee."
She looked up at Jackie, barely able to suppress the giggle that was forming on her lips. Jackie shook her head, carefully, and nodded toward the passenger seat.
"Come on, let's get out of here."
Jackie slowly pulled past the crowd of people, edging the car towards the exit. One police car was blocking the side exit and an officer was at the main one controlling the traffic leaving the scene. She stopped next to him.
"Please pop the trunk Miss." Jackie complied. After a moment to check it, he looked into the backseat and spent a moment looking into the cleavage revealed by the driver's leather vest. Jackie could feel the faintest tingling coming from the area around her chest. The top of the vest was beginning to feel a little tight and she felt herself wishing the officer would check her out more carefully.
"See anything that you need to look at more carefully, sir?" she asked in a sultry voice that didn't belong to Jackie.
He coughed and stepped back a little, adjusting his pants to accommodate a slight bulge that had formed there. The added distance moved him outside her range and there was a moment of the usual sensations as her body reverted to the regular Jackie. She held her breath, hoping that he wouldn't come close enough or want something different enough that she'd change visibly... that would ruin the whole deal.
"Nope," the cop admitted. Then he added more quietly, as if concerned that he might have offended her. "Not while I'm on duty anyway... Did you see anything about the robbery that might help us catch that freak?"
Jackie shook her head. "I didn't see it at all; I was waiting in the car over there." She pointed at the side lot.
"Ok. You, Miss?" he asked Dee.
"No... oh, wait!" Jackie looked at her surprise. The officer leaned closer. "He had a really big package."
The cop wrote something on the little pad he'd pulled out.
"No one else has mentioned this. Can you describe what sort of package it was; could you tell? How large, colors? Any idea what was in it?"
Dee giggled a little. "Uh... not that kind of package." She glanced down below his waist, pointedly. "That kind."
The cop blushed and fumbled the pad while trying to put it away. "Oh... uh... thanks. Someone had mentioned that already... Uh... you ladies can go ahead." He waved them out of the lot.
They laughed the rest of the way up the highway to the Wal-mart. Jackie pulled out the money she'd stuffed up the bottom of her vest, glad she hadn't stuck it down her cleavage after the way the cop had had his eyes stuck there. Dee quickly counted it out, aloud, finding $640 in twenties.
"I can't believe you actually ripped off an ATM!"
"Why? It was easy... the only thing that keeps anyone from doing it is that they have cameras and stuff on them so they can find you easily."
"It's so amazing! But... how could you get back to being Jackie? Don't you have to wait until it runs out?"
"That's what I thought... but if I go to a different form before it runs out, I can go back. I haven't timed it to see if I still can hold this for the full time or what but I can do it. I did it without thinking about it last night when Lisa was playing with her incredible Hunk."
"That's so cool! I can't believe you did it..."
Jackie could feel the mild tingling that suggested that her body was changing somehow but she was busy navigating the parking lot toward the sedan and didn't have time to check what Dee's excitement was doing to her. It was enough to know that the woman was turned on enough by the robbery that the feelings were crossing the distance between them.
"You know what I can't believe?"
"That I only got $640."
"Yeah... people were talking like you... Hunk... was running off with thousands of dollars. Where'd you hide it?"
"I didn't. It's gone... it got absorbed when I changed. I thought it would just end up tucked in my pants or something."
"Maybe it's not gone?"
"Maybe. I'm not going to change back into Hunk anywhere anyone might see it though."
Jackie pulled up beside the sedan and shut off the sports car. She wasn't thrilled about having to drive the old thing back to Fort Myers but she had to return it. Maybe she'd have to do something to get a little more money... so she could get some nice things... a car like this, some sexy clothes, and maybe a better apartment close to Dee.
"Will I see you again Jackie?" the stripper asked, looking strangely innocent for the moment.
Jackie leaned over and kissed her. "Absolutely. I'm yours forever."
Dee pulled away from her and looked carefully into her eyes then looking down at her hands. "What about when you go back to being Jack? You... he... didn't want to be a woman, you know."
Jackie looked out the window, over the hood of the car. "No... he... I didn't. Dee, it might seem like I'm different people when I change. I'm not. It's still just the one; I remember all of it. I don't like the part of me that's Jack... he's average, unattractive, and there's nothing about his life that's special. It... hurts... to say that, but its the truth and it's not something that I only feel when I'm like this."
"So I want to be like this. I want to be better than this. If that means I have to be a woman, then I'll be a woman. But maybe it doesn't. Maybe I can be like this... but as a man. I have the three shapes now... but who knows what's possible?"
"And what about me then?"
Jackie turned to look back at her girlfriend. "I love you Dee... I love what you've done for me and everything you've given me. Could you love me if I'm not Jackie?"
Dee looked back up and examined what she saw in Jackie's eyes; then, she slowly nodded. A smile was forming on her lips. "Ok. Especially if you have a big package."
They laughed and shared another quick hug.
"I've got to get going. I wrote down your phone number this morning... that's ok, I hope?" Dee nodded. "I'll give you a call this evening. I probably won't be able to get away from Jack's life for a couple days... but I do have off work on Saturday this week so maybe I can come up Friday night and see you again?"
"Yes," Dee agreed quickly. "Maybe you can come dance at Kimmy's? If you want to make money without shredding more ATM's."
Jackie looked down at her body. She was certainly attractive enough for that; but she really didn't want to waste time in this shape doing something like that. Then she thought of a solution to that problem.
"What about as Molly? When I'm like that, I'm built a lot like Lisa. Not very smart but I bet I could dance as well as Bambi."
"You'll get more tips like that than I do, too. The jerks are like that... it's all about the huge boobs."
"I'll think about it. I probably wouldn't be able to do private dances without revealing my powers." She looked at the clock on the dash. "God, I've got to go. I don't have a problem pushing the sedan to get back quicker, but I'm going to run out of Jackie time soon and Jack will want to stick to the speed limit."
They shared a last kiss before Dee passed her the stack of twenties. She jumped out and went to the sedan. Dee had gotten out and was leaning against her car watching Jackie as she started it up. Jackie gave her one last smile before putting her dad's car in gear and headed for the highway. The smile slowly faded and was replaced by a chilling sneer as she contemplated the possibilities of her newly discovered powers.
Considering he'd only gotten a couple hours sleep after a night of making out with a pair of strippers, Jack was surprisingly awake for his afternoon shift at the shop. But even the extra energy hadn't been enough to keep him from flinching every time a police car went by or someone came through the door to the shop. A couple of kids had given him strange looks but for the most part, his behavior went unnoticed. He knew if he let it bother him too much, he'd do something that would make people suspicious but he couldn't help worrying that someone would figure it out.
He'd been relieved when Gary had dropped in to chat for a while. It was the first time all day that he'd actually felt like he belonged. Finally, it was something he could relate to in his own way.
"Heya, kid. Got a minute?"
"Sure, what's up Gary?"
"Nadial talked to the top dogs last night about your quest. Everyone's ready to jump on it. You ready to get started tonight?"
"Really? Great! I was afraid no one would want to help."
"Are you kidding? Didn't she tell you how rare it is to get something on that scale? People are ready to kill to get asked to help out. You'll probably have a half dozen teams standing by when you log in tonight... not only guild people but top ranking folks from all over the place."
"Yep. But remember... it’s your quest. With a little good role-playing, you can have the ranking guilds eating out of your hand... or hating your guts. And that means us too..."
"Wait... sorry... didn't mean that how it came out. I mean, they'll love or hate us for being on your side."
"Oh... " Jack laughed uneasily.
"Not to say that some players in the guild might not be upset if you left them out, but if anyone gives you a rough time about it; you let us know. They'll be out on their ear before they know what hit them."
"Because we don't work that way... you'll see once you've been with us longer."
"Thanks Gary. You don't know what that means to me." He hadn't realized how much Gary's friendship had meant to him before.
"It's no problem, kid. We role-playing types have to stick together."
"Hey... do you know anything about this place the quest is at?"
"Absolutely. Nasty place. It isn't far from a lot of the home areas for folks that go toward the evil side of the game... once they get to higher levels, and start abandoning their humanity. You'll see a lot of the traditional bad guys: dragons, demons, and the like. The evil side has a lot more of that sort of thing that good. We’ve got very few non-humans, no elves or dwarves at all. GEO has some fairly unique stuff, not from the usual fantasy mythology. Some of it is Lovecraftian... but hopefully they won't be throwing anything that bad at us for a quest given to someone as new as you."
"Why do they give quests like this to new people at all?"
"They don't... usually."
"Yeah. Not to mention most people wouldn't be able to get the word out soon enough to get support crews and supplies. But when it does happen, it pretty much guarantees that character a rapid advancement."
"I can see that... lots of risk so lots of reward."
"Right. Oh... speaking of risk. Do not get away from your bodyguards."
"Your guards. That'll be me and Nadial... and a couple other top-notch people. We'll keep you alive even if it kills us."
"Seriously. You'll get experience and all that but don't get out of our range or you'll probably die before we have time to make sure you're protected. There will be at least one quest given to someone on the side of evil that will have to do with stopping you."
"Gary... this shit is amazing. How do they pull all this off? No one else is doing anything like this."
"I know. I don't know how they're doing it either... but I'll tell you right now, there are a lot of people who would throw themselves at the feet of these designers and worship them in a heartbeat."
"Yeah... you think... it's a mutant?"
"Don't know. Don't care."
"I guess... anyway, I get off at six... should be home and ready to go by seven."
"Great. We'll be ready for you. You're still logging at Nadial's chambers at the Seven Rings, right?"
"The inn? Yeah."
"Ok. See you then." Gary turned to head out, and then glanced back. "Oh... hey. Wanna go back to that club again? Friday night, maybe?"
"Sure!" Oh god... did I just say I'd go to the place I was thinking about stripping... with my best friend? Dee is going to love this.
"Great. And don't mention it to Chris, ok? He's been a moron since we went. Talking about some chick he wanted to bag."
"No problem." No chance in hell am I getting anywhere near that guy. Did he actually remember something from the car? For a moment, he was afraid he'd gotten too close to the image that triggered the change into Molly... his body had tingled a little. The moment passed, leaving him wondering if he'd actually resisted it or that maybe it had just been adrenaline from the worry.
He had to do some inventory work on the used games shelves, a job he typically hated, but it did make the rest of the afternoon go by quickly. The forty-minute bus ride home was the worst part of the time because he hadn't brought anything to read. The long day finally caught up to him and he nearly missed his stop because he'd fallen asleep. An old woman, who got off at the same stop and was often on the bus at the same time he did, woke him as she got up.
"You live here, right?"
He looked around, trying to clear his eyes and realized he was getting some dirty looks from people who wanted to get home. "Uh... yeah, thanks." Jack rushed off the bus and headed for his apartment. The first stop was the phone; he dialed the pizza place and ordered three large pepperoni pizzas and three two-liter bottles of Coke. His stomach felt like it was tied in knots and he had gaming to do so there was no time for food that required silverware. He also hadn't gotten around to doing the shopping because he'd been too busy fooling around.
With a few quick motions, he got the computer going and the game started. While he waited for it to power up, he decided to find out one more thing he hadn't had time to check before heading to work. He stepped back from the computer and triggered the change into Hunk.
The body quickly expanded outward, muscles forming as his skin absorbed the jeans and t-shirt before they grew too tight on him. He struggled to keep his mind working clearly but was fighting a losing battle, he knew what he had to do; but couldn't really think about it or do much more than find the money that was tucked into his clothing and make a pile of it on the table. Lots of money. Too much to count. More than one for sure. Hunk knew that Jack would be happy and Mistress Jackie would know what to do with it.
The big lump of muscle scrunched up his face as he thought about what to do now. No one was here to tell him and he'd done all the things he was supposed to. He sighed, and decided that a nap sounded good. Hunk lay down on the couch, slightly uncomfortable in the shiny pants he was wearing, but quickly dozed off.
Jack woke to the sound of someone knocking on his door. He glanced at his computer to see it sitting at the character selection screen for GEO then over to the clock, which read ten after seven.
He jumped up and clicked on Tericia's icon. That got the game started toward loading him up at the inn. As he turned to answer the door, he noticed the very large stack of twenties on the table.
"Shit!" He turned toward the door and shouted "Coming... one second." He quickly gathered up the pile and started tossing it into a drawer of the desk. It took several handfuls to get it all moved. Then he plucked a couple back out and rushed for the door. In the process, he clipped his knee on the coffee table. As he opened the door, he was muttering curses under his breath.
"Hey... delivery for you. Looks like you're having a party here?"
"Uh... no... just too lazy to do any shopping." The kid looked at him strangely. "What do I owe you?"
Jack handed him three twenties. "Give me a ten back, ok?"
"No problem. Wish it was a party though."
"Yeah, I hear ya. Here you go." He handed Jack two fives on top of the stack of pizza boxes and then set his bag of Coke bottles inside the door.
"Great. Thanks man."
Jack closed the door and sat the boxes down next to the computer desk. The screen was showing the inn and several messages were scrolling onto his screen from the guild channel, welcoming him back. Jack tore open the bag of cokes, put one on the desk and rushed the others to the fridge before returning to his seat and getting settled.
He typed a couple greetings before seeing Gary's message that he should come down to the common room and meet the people who would be helping him. He scarfed a quick slice of pizza, took a swig of coke, and started down the steps. If he wanted to make the best impression... and advance his character as quick as possible... he had to think like Tericia. And if anyone could do that, it was him.
They'd been traveling for hours after going through a process of getting several groups formed up and sent through a gateway that sent them far to the north. Even with that leap over the intervening terrain, Garic had warned that they would be lucky to reach the village where the message had originated by the end of the night when everyone would start logging off. Even epic quests wouldn't prevent people from having real responsibilities, especially when it might take many days to complete the quest. Anyone who had to leave before they arrived at the village would have to travel the rest of the way on their own.
They’d encountered the usual wandering monsters on the way, giving Jack a healthy respect for the teamwork and skills of the guild mates that were with them. There’d been a manticore and a swarm of giant insects that had been dispatched almost before he’d known they were there. Then there’d been a good-sized raiding party of orcs and ogres. Tericia had actually needed to fight that time because there were too many opponents for her to be completely isolated. The experience, regular and RP oriented, was building rapidly and Tericia’s skills had grown quickly. Still, the people around her were whole orders of skill more powerful.
Finally, with a third of the group camped out in various parts of the forest behind them; the main part of the group and all of the team serving as Tericia's bodyguard were approaching the village. For the last ten minutes of their journey, they'd been seeing strange carvings on trees. The insect and animal noises that Jack hadn't even noticed until they were gone, they'd been so appropriate to the environment, had disappeared as well. Only the eerily echoing sounds of their own animals and equipment remained.
When they came out of the woods, the buildings of the village were out of sight, tucked into a valley beyond a rise. But even from here, it was obvious that something was wrong. Thick, dark smoke hung over the tops of the ridge like a fog and there were a few bodies pinned to the ground where they'd cleared the slope in an attempt to escape.
"Wait" he told the group... then realized they couldn't hear him even though Tericia had stopped as he'd lifted his fingers and triggered for her to stand in a defensive pose. He quickly typed the comment and sent it to the local speech channel, which would be far enough to reach the groups around them.
The groups positioned themselves around her bodyguards, looking around for what had caught her attention.
Garic asks from beside you: What is it Tericia?
Jack pivoted his character so he could view back toward the smoke, trying to make out the shapes he'd assumed were bodies. What was going on here? These were good players; it had been obvious in the way they worked together when they'd been attacked various times along the way. Why weren't they having the stealthy types scout out what had happened before just walking in? He typed in a quick question.
You ask: Garic? What do you see up ahead?
The massive warrior took a few steps to get clear of the people. He seemed to be scanning all along the ridge, and then even looked up in the air for flying creatures. When he’d finished, he turned back to Tericia.
Garic speaks from ahead of you: Some light smoke... cook fires probably, it's around the right time for dinner in a village like this.
Jack had Tericia draw her sword, which caused several others to follow her lead. As he'd thought, they were good... even without knowing why; they knew she'd done it for a reason. Now to explain why she’d stopped.
You speak: It's illusion. Heavy smoke and bodies...
He sent the incomplete message as he saw figures starting over the ridge. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he tried to figure out what they were, all the time wondering why no one else could see them.
You shout: Something’s coming... on the ridge!
The various groups sprang to action, several individuals starting spells for defenses and the rest had drawn some sort of weapon. Still they were less organized than usual, as if preparing for an enemy they could not see. He realized that if the enemy was real, that was exactly the case... only Tericia could see it. He knew he didn't have a lot of time and this was probably a puzzle that he had to solve, part of the quest for Tericia alone. If only he could think like...
Maybe the two short naps were enough? He concentrated and triggered the transformation into Jackie. As soon as he felt it begin, he returned his attention to the screen. He could feel his body changing, becoming softer and more sensual. Her breasts pushed out in front of him, absorbing the t-shirt as they went. By the time the nipples had grown full and dark, the leather vest formed over them. And then her mind had cleared enough to recognize what she had to do.
You speak: They move slow, like through mud. Follow me, each of you take one target and strike where I thrust. I don't know how many times it will take, but that will give you your target.
And with that, Jackie pushed Tericia through them and ran towards the enemy. She'd grown used to using the interface somewhat, but as she rushed Tericia across the fields; it reacted oddly. Then, she realized the size and aggressiveness of her movements with mouse and keys were different from what she'd done as Jack. After a few moments, the interface seemed to adapt to the changes and once again; the game responded smoothly. It seemed to her that Tericia took on some measure of her aggressiveness in the process, moving more swiftly through the attacks until each of the creatures had at least one person hitting it. Jackie wondered if the other players could see anything that their characters were hitting, or if it was just showing them swinging their weapons through open air.
In a few minutes, the battle was over and the smoke began to lift. Several of their warriors had been injured, one badly, but the healers and mages were taking care of the wounds. She moved Tericia toward the top of the ridge and looked down into the village. Garic and Necina were beside her, a few of the other bodyguards followed closely behind. None of them appeared injured at all.
You speak: Looks pretty bad.
Garic asks from beside you: What does?
You respond: The village. It’s badly burned, I don't see anyone moving.
Garic speaks from beside you: It looks like it always has to me...
Necina speaks from beside you: Wait. There's a fog forming.
Garic speaks from beside you: I see it. What's happening? It's not... fog... is it? I see the bodies now...
Necina speaks from beside you: Me too... it was some kind of illusion, though I was beginning to think it was one that was only affecting Tericia.
Garic speaks from beside you: I see what you mean now... this place has practically been razed. And then covered with an illusion so we'd just wander into it to follow up on that message.
You ask: You think the message is a trap, the whole quest maybe?
Garic responds from beside you: Could be... but what would someone gain by luring us out here?
You respond: They could attack you with creatures you can't even see to fight.
Necina speaks from beside you: Maybe... but some of the warriors have blind-fighting skills, once something was close enough to attack them, they'd have a chance.
No one said anything for a while, though a couple other characters whose players had been listening in came up to see what was going on... by that time, the illusion was completely gone. There weren't any ideas on what might lie in store.
Garic shouts from nearby: Ok folks... everyone help set up a defensive camp so we're safe while we tend our wounded.
He then added in the guild OOC channel, "Let's wrap up here for the night gang. We've got a puzzle to solve and it’s probably going to take a house-to-house search to find any clues. Think about our options and what might be gained by getting this group of players out here. We'll pick it up tomorrow... same time, Tericia?"
"Sure." Jackie responded. Jack would get off work at the same time tomorrow.
"Ok, thanks for the help everyone."
There was a chorus of "you’re welcome" and "no, thank you" type responses and then everyone was chattering a mile a minute in OOC about what was going on and how strange it was that the lowest powered character was seeing through the illusion and so on. Which, under other circumstances, would have had Jack joining in. But instead, Jackie put in a quick comment that Tericia was logging for the night. She got a long list of goodbyes, mostly by male players who hadn't yet been told that she was also male behind the female character and hadn't guessed because of her successful characterization so far. Then she had to laugh, technically, she now was a female player... that rarity among RPG gamers.
The reason she'd logged, though, was that Dee should be home by now... and while Jack had been considering skipping the call until he knew what he wanted to do about the relationship, Jackie knew exactly how she felt. She picked up the phone and dialed Dee's number. As it started to ring, she realized she hadn't even had to check the paper she'd written it on. It was one more reason why she loved being Jackie. She hoped Dee wasn't tired, they had lots of things to talk about... and Jackie wanted to see how hot she could get her girlfriend before she had to hang up.
Jack started Thursday off by showering... first, as himself. Then, he'd changed into Molly, who was still naked and feeling very hot and bothered from her brief interlude with Lisa. Jackie had adopted her form for a little playtime between large breasted blonds during her night with Dee and her roommate. Then, Molly had been left hanging when Lisa had begged for her Hunk again, the shape she’d imposed on Jackie while Dee had curled up and watched the two of them play. Molly hadn’t been bright enough to resist the request and once in the Hunk form, he’d had to follow orders until it had run out. Then Dee’s lusts, built up from watching, had imposed yet another unintelligent boy toy body even before he’d fully reverted to Molly. He hadn’t been in it long enough for it to be usable later.
After Molly was squeaky clean, and a lot less hot and bothered, she switched over to Jackie for yet a third shower. While she was tempted to spend more time enjoying her body, she wanted to arrange things to be a little more practical for all of them. She was going to do a little shopping. But first, she got dressed in her single outfit again... which wasn't as ripe as she'd worried it would be. Then, she shifted over to Hunk... who had very specific orders to strip naked, shower quickly, dry off but don't dress, and then to change back to Jack. As usual, Hunk did exactly as he was told. Even though the water had grown cold by that point.
Jack wasn't as enthusiastic about the idea of a shopping trip as he’d been while being Jackie, but it did make sense. Molly was more or less useless as long as she wasn't dressed... and having Hunk appear his garish PVC pants with leather belt and harnesses, even in the off chance he was useful for something, he'd stand a good chance of getting arrested. It wouldn't hurt to have something a little less bad girl for Jackie, though he suspected that anything he got wouldn't get worn and anything she got would drive him crazy. Still, it was fun being that confident. Nothing fazed Jackie.
He counted out a thousand dollars from the ATM money and stuck it in his pocket. Then he realized he hadn't counted the whole thing yet and quickly went through the pile. Eighty-three hundred dollars... plus the sixty he'd used to pay for the pizza. That was more than he made in working at the store for half the year. And he'd done it in a couple minutes... and, no one had any idea who might have done it. At least, they didn’t according to the news Jackie had watched while talking with Dee. This was enough money for a cheap car and stuff he'd need to get to be able to use the bodies his powers gave him, though probably not a car that would satisfy his aggressive alter ego. Besides, he couldn't just walk into a car dealership with a couple thousand dollars in twenties. Still... it would be good when he could stop having to use the bus.
Jack's first stop at the mall was the Sears. Jackie had had the idea to put Hunk in some nice casual clothing, basically as far from PVC fetish styles as possible. He had no idea what size the big guy would wear and their access to the memories made while in that body was limited by Hunk's awareness of the world... which was sadly lacking. So, he'd have to guess and just take things into the dressing room and try them on. Hopefully never forgetting to tell Hunk to take them back off and change back when he'd finished.
The attempt turned out to be a disaster. Jack couldn't get the concept clear enough for Hunk to remember how the clothes had fit, though he did manage to get out of the dressing rooms as Jack without having to explain missing clothing. Evidently, Hunk was going to have to remain a bedroom boy toy for a while unless they could find another way to get him dressed.
Jack found a quiet, out of the way hallway, dropped the wad of money on the floor, and shifted into Jackie. The transformation seemed quicker each time she went through it, she noted as her mind aligned itself into her personality and intelligence. She'd have to test that, to find out if it was an accurate observation or simply that she was growing used to it. The woman then turned her attention to the shopping problems; she should have known Jack wouldn't be successful at giving Hunk orders. The big guy much preferred taking orders from women. Still, she couldn't take the men’s clothing that would fit him into a dressing room without getting some really strange looks. Of course, she could always talk Dee or Lisa into taking him shopping. She picked up the money and headed back toward the Sears.
The difficult part was going to be that she didn't seem to know clothing or fashion any better than Jack. She'd assumed... in both bodies... that as Jackie, she'd have some sort of eye for what looked good. But she didn't seem to have any ability there... nor any knowledge of what her sizes might be or what things might serve her purpose. She knew she liked leather... but a quick look around hadn't revealed anything except miniskirts. She'd picked one out and held it up to her waist to judge the size until she found something she thought would work. But that hardly solved her problem.
The process ended up taking a lot of trial and error. Fortunately, the store didn't have anyone on duty at the changing rooms so she didn't earn the sort of looks that she'd been afraid taking five sizes of the same skirt would have gotten her. Since the trick worked well enough on her, she'd shifted over to Molly and tried on the same series of skirts. Once she'd found a slinky top that showed a lot of her cleavage to go with her leather miniskirt and a sundress that showed off Molly's curves nicely, she'd found them both underwear and heels to go with the outfits. She also saw some nightgowns that gave her an idea that had her chasing around the store for few sets of matching his and her robes, which would solve the general nakedness problems for bodies that didn't start out with clothes.
She still wasn't certain that things were right, fashion-wise, but she’d kept it simple enough that she hoped it would work. And the sizes were good. She paid for the purchases and headed back outside. The clocks showed that she had just enough time to get home, drop off the clothing, and get to work. But first, she went back to the hallway, put the clothing down and shifted back to being dull, little Jack.
At least he'd have some of her time available tonight if he needed to solve some puzzle in GEO.
After having spent all day Friday eagerly anticipating the trip to Kimmy's Kittens, this trip to Tampa seemed to fly past. It had helped that Gary had wanted to talk about the quest in the hope that they'd be able to figure out what the clues they'd found might mean. But although they had a lot of ideas, neither gamer was certain that any of them were right. Somehow, they'd missed something. They'd have to go back over the village with a fine-toothed comb and try again.
Gary couldn't help but notice Jack's eager scanning of the dance floor the moment they got through the entrance. He headed for the same side room as before then had to come back and drag Jack with him. As they got seated at a table in the middle of the room, not far from where they'd been the previous week, he gave the younger man a curious look.
"Ok... I'll bite. What's the deal with you tonight? You're completely not the Jack I know."
"Uh... I'm just happy to be here."
"Sure you are. What happened to Mr. I Shouldn't Be Here from last week?"
"Wouldn't happen to be a hot little athletic number, nice pert breasts, dark brown hair?"
"Why would it be that?"
"Probably because she's about to bite your neck like a White Wolf vampire."
A pair of arms wrapped around him as a woman pressed her body to his back, then kissed his neck before stepping away. He looked up with a grin as the tingling came and went quickly. "Dee... hi."
"Shh... it's Candi here." She smiled at him then winked at Gary.
"You're kidding me," he asked, jaw dropping slightly. "Here? as in.. as opposed to when you see each other somewhere else?"
"We wouldn't do that, would we... its against the rules." Dee teased the older man.
He looked at Jack, then up at Dee. "You... I get the feeling yes. But not Jack... he's... well, sorry Jack... more power to you I guess."
As they laughed together, Dee ran her hand along Jack's back starting the tingles up again. She pulled her hand back and they faded again. "I'm come back later, Jack. For what we talked about, ok?"
Gary watched her go before turning back to Jack. "Ok, give over kid. This did not happen last Friday... what's going on?"
"I had to see her again." He explained, trying to figure out how to explain it. "So I borrowed my dad's car and came up on Tuesday night."
"So... we talked." Some part of his upbringing was chanting in the back of his mind 'a gentleman does not tell' over and over.
"She wasn't touching you like someone she's talked to or even someone she's danced a bunch of private dances for."
"Ok... so we hit it off, all right?"
"Sounds like you hit it off really well... you're a lucky bastard, Jack."
"Yeah... I guess I am." His attention was diverted by the action on stage and they were silent for a while, then only occasionally commenting on one girl or another. He forgot completely that he hadn't thought of a way to talk Dee out of wanting him to strip. There was no way he was doing that while Gary was in the audience. As it was, every now and then a tiny wave of tingles would come and go as someone would brush close to him. It was all he could do not to hold his breath and try to move away any time a drunk started to stumble in his direction. He was starting to think that maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to come back to the club when it was like this.
It was a little over a half hour before Dee came back to the table and pulled Jack away before he could protest. He could feel a change start over him, but she was pulling him quickly across the room to a door marked employees only, and they were through it and into a hallway without anyone seeming to notice. He started to protest that she was risking someone seeing when she covered his mouth with her own, her breasts pressing against the ones forming on his own chest, which were expanding far enough that it was becoming hard to continue their kiss.
He could feel himself starting to get hard but before it pressed tightly against his jeans the feeling had faded into the pleasant warm emptiness that he was starting to enjoy too much and the haziness of one of the sex doll type intelligences was starting to gain control of his thoughts. He pulled away and triggered the change into Jackie before someone wandered in and noticed her slowing shifting with Dee's sexual whims. Dee stepped back and looked her over.
"You're no fun. Don't you want to do this?"
"Dee... I'll strip if it will make you happy... but not as that... whatever it was you were lusting after for a minute there."
"So you'll do it?" she looked giddy with the idea. "Hey, that's a different outfit!"
"Yes... like this, not Molly or anything else. And just to see what it's like. The club can't pay me or anything, you know... I don't really exist."
"Oh... I hadn't thought about that."
"It's ok... let's talk to whoever we need to so they’ll let me go on, ok?"
It took a little convincing to get the manager, Sue, to let her go out. They settled on the name Daisy and dug up the music to the old Dukes of Hazard television show. Jackie couldn't figure out why, she looked nothing like Catherine Bach... a name she hadn't even realized she'd known. Then they got everything set up with the DJ. While Dee went out to dance again, Sue asked her why she was doing it.
"For Dee... and to see what it's like."
"You two an item, then?"
"Too bad, there's a couple girls here that have been trying to get their hooks in that girl. They'll probably wish they'd seen you first too."
"Neither one of us minds company."
Sue raised an eyebrow. "Well, that fits with what we know about little Bambi... and they are roommates. Well, I think you're up next, you’d best get ready."
The actual details of stripping were simple, they’d told her, don’t rush anything and enjoy how you feel. Jackie slowly slipped out of her top... spending more time teasing at showing the lingerie underneath... then she did the same with her skirt. Every now and then she'd approach one of the men in the row nearest the stage to let them slip a piece of paper into the band of her panties or her bra, and then quickly flee before the tingling revealed some change that shouldn't have happened and hinted to her real nature. By the time she'd begun slipping out of the lacy bra, she wasn't even thinking about what she was doing.
Instead, Jackie was thinking about all the attention that was turned towards her. All of lust that was focused in her direction and she knew that it wouldn't be enough to just be Jackie and Molly and sometimes a brainless lump called Hunk. Each one of these men, infatuated with her, drooling over some ideal woman... had the potential to create someone new inside her, give her a new body that could be more beautiful, more creative, more sexy, more intelligent than ever before. And wandering around between those men were women who could be tapped to create stronger, faster, more virile men. She could be anyone she needed to be, study at the more prominent colleges, train and compete in the best sports teams, do anything she wanted to... even break all the rules because unless she told them, how would they ever know it was her?
And all she had to do to start that little journey to glory... was fool around a little, have short meaningless little relationships in which she would take what she wanted and then leave... one fling after another.
That would be the name she'd give... someday, when she had taken what she wanted. She was Fling.