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A Whateley Academy Tale

Ultimate Disguise

by Kristin Darken

Tampa Bay, FL - Tuesday October 31, 2006 - 18:52

The attractive raven-haired woman sighed in frustration as she pulled her 1968 Mustang into the parking lot of her girlfriend's apartment complex. Children were running door to door dressed in costumes of ghouls and witches, of Barbie and Disney princesses, and a variety of monsters and television characters. She'd always loved Halloween; dressing up as someone else and hiding behind a mask rivaled with the thrill of creating a unique costume that no one else would have to make the holiday her favorite. And yet, the irony of the day was killing her.

Jackie, really Jack Rizeppi, was a mutant shape shifter. But because of the way her power worked, she was no more able to take advantage of the holiday than any normal person. Worse yet, her options for parties were limited to a brief attendance unless she wanted to go in her natural form. And as Jack, she was decidedly dull. One of the quirkier aspects of her power meant that each body she had at her disposal had its own personality and its own inherent traits; as Jackie, she had a decided intelligence advantage compared to anything else she'd lucked into so far. That meant that leaving this body always made her feel like she were trying to think through a brain filled with cotton candy.

Lisa, her girlfriend Dee's roommate and an occasional lover, was working this evening. While Jack welcomed Lisa's participation in their sex games, especially since the buxom blond tended to prefer men or at least muscular women; the woman had an annoying tendency to change her into a brainless sex toy. There were times that the pure release and immersion in the sensations and sensuality of uninhibited sexuality was welcome; but as Jackie, she had decided enough was enough. Besides, she hoped to convince Dee to continue their somewhat successful experiments with her powers and Lisa was a guaranteed distraction in that event. The woman had all the focus and discipline of a two year old. A two year old with ADHD. On Easter.

She slid the car into the guest spot at the end of the building and picked up the stack of DVDs she'd grabbed from the used movies rack at the Emporium before the end of Jack's shift. A group of kids rushed up the sidewalk ahead of her, knocking at the door where she was heading. The mother standing at the end of the sidewalk gave her an odd look.

"Nice... costume."

Jackie looked down at what she was wearing before realizing that she was still in the Catholic schoolgirl outfit from the previous night. It was an unusual look for her and she'd much rather see Dee in it than herself, but it had been part of another idea she'd had. It was at least slightly successful; they'd been able to prove that her shapes could be different ages from her own. Or at least appeared to be different ages. There wasn’t any way that she knew of that could test the truth of it.

"Thanks. Office party today."

The mother nodded politely, leaving Jackie to wonder if the woman had been one of the ones who had complained to the complex management about the depraved activities of the two women living in 1231. Fortunately, the management was already aware that Dee and Lisa worked under the names Candi and Bambi at the nearby strip club, Kimmy's Kittens. Quite a few of the dancers lived here, part of an arrangement between the owner of the club and the owner of the properties. As Jackie turned to walk towards the door, she felt the faintest hint of tingling under her skin; a sign that someone near her was becoming turned on. She turned her head to look back over her shoulder at the woman, whose nipples and slightly flushed neck revealed the source, and gave her a flirty wink. Closet lesbian mom, who'd have guessed?

Three kids pushed past the shifter, bouncing with all the insane energy of youth or with sugar-induced hyperactivity from eating some of their rewards already. Jackie knocked on the door and then posed innocently. The door swung open almost immediately to reveal a pink chiffon princess. The schoolgirl's innocent look, not really successful with the inherent sensuality of her pose, was lost completely with her reaction to Dee's costume.

"Oh my God! Dee!"

"Aren't you supposed to say trick or treat little girl?"

Jackie stood there, jaw agape. The princess laughed at her, then reached through the doorway and pulled her inside. A few more kids came up the walk before she shut the door, so she waited for them to arrive and shout their demands, and then passed some candy to them. As she closed the door, she tossed Jackie a piece. She unwrapped the small bar of chocolate and popped it in her mouth. As the chocolate melted in her mouth, she sighed at the wash of flavor that continued to amaze her. It might be cliché, but she enjoyed this so much more as a woman.

"Oh God..."

"You know how much I hate you, don't you?"

"I'm sorry Dee. You know I can't help it."

"I know..."

The stripper was badly allergic to the candy and couldn't eat even as much as Jackie had just had without getting extremely emotional and larger amounts could upset her cycle or create mood swings that were dangerous to her and others. Jackie had really reveled in the taste for the first few days but had tried to avoid it, especially around Dee, once she'd found out. But still, the rush from the candy was almost sexual in this body and it was very addictive. It probably didn't help that, with her new metabolism, she could probably eat bags of it without gaining a pound.

"Why are you giving out chocolate anyway? You know that you'll be tempted to eat the leftovers."

"I won't."

"Dee?"

"I promise Jackie. I thought I'd just give the rest of it to you..."

"I... no... Dee."

"You have to Jackie. You can't leave it with me."

"O...ok.  We'll see." She wanted it. She could just tell Dee she'd take it and then give it to someone else, maybe put it out in the game store on Jack's next shift. Jackie stood up and wrapped herself around Dee, pressing into the other woman's back as she peeked out through the window watching for kids. She nibbled the side of the princess' neck but her eyes were on the bowl of candy.

Another knock at the door signaled the arrival of more children in costumes. Dee untangled herself from her girlfriend's caresses before opening the door. Jackie slinked down the hallway, out of sight of the kids looking into the apartment. But from where she curled up on the steps, she continued watching her girlfriend pass out the candy. The cold anger that was bubbling up as child after child reduced the amount of candy left in the bowl never reached her face.

The children would probably continue to wander the complex for another half hour, if they used the whole time that was scheduled for them. After ten minutes, Jackie grew bored with watching the costumes, the extreme anger gone and forgotten completely, and headed for the kitchen to dig into the cabinet that her friends had given her to store her supply of munchies. She'd found that there were foods that seemed to sustain her better than others.

High calorie meal bars seemed to work particularly well in quelling the hunger and so did anything with a high protein, vitamin, or mineral level. Gatorade went down well, tasting almost like nectar at times. With each body, however, she'd discovered different tastes. As Jackie, she especially enjoyed sushi. As Jack, she'd never even been able to chew it without getting ill. As Molly, she didn't enjoy anything but sweets and would eat those before anything else if they were available, despite the fact that they rarely satisfied the hunger. Hunk and a couple of the newer sex-toy bodies hadn't been tested yet, mainly because she hadn't wanted to waste the time in those bodies. They weren't much interested in that sort of food anyway.

By the time Jackie had dulled the hunger and felt almost human again, her watch beeped at her. She glanced at it, noting the minute and second hands. As the hand swept forward, she waited for the change back to Jack to begin. A minute and eight seconds passed before the first of the sensations warned that it had begun. The wave of lust washed through her body, followed by a fiery heat in her veins. Almost immediately after this, the tingling filled her and her body changed.

Tick. The breasts and blouse sank into a flat chest while her hips reformed in a narrower male configuration; some of the mass flowed into her waist, widening it and forming another set of ribs above her abs. Tick. Her face reshaped, lips growing narrower and the skin changing over more subtle bone and cartilage adjustments. Her eyes blurred momentarily from a loss of focus as the muscles and retina changed. The outer layer of flesh separated and became cloth fiber, textures and colors changing so quickly that it seemed the clothing just appeared. Tick. Her body made the final adjustment from female to male, all the internal organs already modified and only the final external bits to change as a tube of flesh pushed out through what had moments before been labia. Tick. The watch shifted to a flesh color then grew to a larger men's size before returning to a metallic surface. Her mind slowed and new inhibitions and desires took control of the body, allowing him to be Jack once more. Tick... Tick...

The change that had once taken more than a minute was down to a few seconds, the disorientation from the sensations nearly gone. And each time he became Jackie, he was able to remain in that form a little longer. Sometimes it was only a minute, like today, and others it was several. While it all seemed like an incredibly slow process, it was hard to believe that it wasn't even a month since he'd discovered he had mutant powers at all. Most of that progress could be attributed to Jackie and Dee. It would have been a humbling detail if he had any ego at all.

Jackie was... one of the best things that had ever happened to him. It was frightening, at times, to consider the things that went through her mind. She wasn't nice, even particularly likable; but she was smarter, confident, and sexy. All those things made her an irresistible choice when it came to changing his shape. The only disappointment was that he could only be her for a little over two hours before he needed to recharge by sleeping and eating.

For now, anyway, the rest of his possible shapes weren't particularly useful. The way he acquired them limited the sort of things he could get and while all of them were sexy, sex was often the only thing they were good for. Of course, sex makes a powerful distraction in a society of prudes; so those bodies did have a use. They made excellent 'diversions' for illegal activities... the sort of activities that had let him acquire the money for things like his Mustang and the apartment on the south side of St. Petersburg that reduced his travel time to visit Dee and for playtime in Tampa, while also not taking quite so long to get to his normal job in Ft. Myers. But then, he'd put in his notice at the Emporium. He didn't need the job anymore, not when Jackie could make the same amount of money with just a couple hours every couple of weeks. And she was planning much more.

Jack pulled a bottle of water out of the fridge and picked up his Gatorade before heading back into the front room. Dee was still watching out the window for approaching kids. He sat the water on a handy coaster and sat quietly in a chair, drinking his beverage and watching her. Finally, when it looked like the children were done; he stood and walked up behind her and slid his arms slowly around her waist. Her breath caught and she leaned back into him, the rush of tingling starting to wash over him. And then it stopped...

"Oh... Jack."

The changes had stopped almost before they'd begun when she'd leaned back against him and found a flat chest. "Sorry... Jackie drove up from Ft. Myers. I'll need to nap before you can have her back." Even though she knew that he could change to whatever she desired, his appearance and personality had begun to affect her reactions. Unless he surprised her, he generally had to change before she'd get horny enough to change him again.

"You can take a nap upstairs if you want."

He sighed in frustration. "Come on Dee. You know Jackie wanted to try using some movies to get in the mood and turn me into some kind of action hero or something. I won't be like this long if it works."

"Ok. Go ahead and get the movies in and I'll get changed."

Jack nodded in agreement and went into the entertainment room while Dee turned and went upstairs. It was getting to be a constant struggle with the woman, unless he was Jackie. Then, the stripper practically went submissive and she would do whatever he wanted her to. If only he could get it to work for him when he was like this.

The first DVD he wanted to try was one of the newer Bond movies, Lightning Never Strikes Twice, to see if he could get Dee to change him into Pierce Brosnan. If it were possible, he could probably make a lot of money with the paparazzi for photos in all sorts of 'indecent acts.' And if one actor were possible, then others would be too. He might even be able to work things out so he could meet some of the real actors. Would they ever even know? He got the movie started and settled into the couch. He spent several minutes flipping through the menus to see what special features were available but finally went back to the main menu.

"Waiting for me?" whispered a sultry voice from the entrance to the room. Jack turned to see Dee leaning seductively against the wall dressed in a lace and satin number that looked like it belonged in her wardrobe at the club. It included a bustier and garter belt, a G-string, stockings and high heels, and some wispy fabric like a cloak or something that didn't actually cover anything because he could see right through it. Still, she'd never dressed like this for him before.

"Yep. Ready for the movie?" Oh, slick. Real slick.

Dee was running her hands in little circles on the bare skin of her hips between the garter belt and stockings. As one of the arms brushed the wispy material, her eyes seemed to light up and her attention shifted to the cloth. A moment later she was playing with it, pulling it lightly across her bare skin.

"Dee?"

"Oh!" She seemed almost surprised he was there.

"Dee... what did you take?"

"Just something to help Jackie."

"What?"

Dee crossed the room and joined him on the couch. He could feel the sensations of his change starting before she'd covered half the distance, suggesting that she was incredibly turned on. Even as she ran one hand down his chest, he could already feel the soft flesh of bare breasts rising to meet those fingers. The sensation was like fire and bubblegum and whispering peaches... his last thought before the flowing sounds pushed his thoughts under a smoky stream of chimes was that Jackie was going to be pissed.

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It wasn't the first time since his discovery that he'd woken to find a naked woman curled around him, but Jack was usually happier about it. He was almost... nauseous at the sight of Dee wrapped around him this morning. The boy started to slip out from under her without waking her but she began to stir and the frustration and anger boiled up from somewhere deep inside. His sudden movements as he pulled away and stalked toward the bathroom woke her completely.

"Jack?" her sultry voice followed him. He stared into the mirror, examining the bloodshot eyes and unusual bruises and discolorations all over his body. The bed creaked and he could hear Dee coming closer. Jack quickly pulled the robe off the hook and wrapped it around him, ignoring the fact that it was distinctly feminine. He barely had time to tie it before Dee was standing in the doorway.

"Jack... what's wrong?"

"What's... wrong...?" he slowly growled at her, turning to look her in the face. He took a step towards her, rage tightening the muscles throughout his whole body.

"Umm... J-jack?" she stammered.

He grabbed the sheet she had wrapped around herself and pulled her into the bathroom, using the momentum to pin her against the wall next to the mirror. She started to struggle but her arms were tangled underneath the cloth. As she looked up into his eyes, she grew still. Her own eyes grew wide.

"Never... ever... do something like that again."

"I won't... Jack... I promise... I just... I thought it might help... that it might be fun."

"You thought wrong," he told her coldly. "We don't have any idea what my limits are.  What if you got it into your drugged head that getting fucked by a vampire or some sort of tentacle monster or something was incredibly hot and I really changed into something like that?"

Dee looked down at the floor. "I wouldn't do..."

"You don't know that, Dee. People do stupid things when they're drugged and horny."

"But it didn't..."

Jack stepped back and let the robe slide off him, revealing the marks and odd discoloration. "No, it didn't... but that doesn't mean nothing did."

"Oh my god, Jack..." she reached out to touch one of the worst areas. Jack winced as she made contact; it wasn't colored like a bruise but it felt a lot like one.

"So what were these? Tentacles? I don't remember... obviously I didn't kill you in the process... but it was more extreme than anything that's happened before."

"It was all... sexual... at one point. Breasts and penises and pussies... all over... I think I passed out not too long after that."

Jack shook his head and walked back into the bedroom. Dee was right behind him. He took a seat on the edge of the bed, realizing as he did that he was still naked and not really concerned about it. He'd come a long way in a few weeks.

"Well, I suppose that means I can end up something other than human then. I wonder if..."

"If?"

"It's just... if I can be in a shape that isn't just a copy of a human, even a fantasized one, then maybe I can be other things. Like an alien... or like another mutant... copying their powers even?"

"Is that possible?"

"I don't know. But it kinda makes changing into movie actors seem pretty childish."

"Do you think you could be like Amazon... or Bright Angel?" Dee asked, her cheeks flushing.

Jack's skin started to crawl almost painfully. The nauseous feeling returned, followed by the anger. He was about to yell at her when he realized that the emotion wasn't connected to the question. The boy stood quickly and crossed the room.

"Jack?"

"Hang on..." the sensations and the emotional surge faded quickly. "I'll be damned."

"What is it?" she started to rise.

"No. Stay there," he warned her. "Something's wrong with me. When you got turned on by the idea of being with Bright Angel... who’s definitely hot, I'll agree... I got angry again. Rage, even."

"But..."

"Yeah... but there's no reason to get angry for that. And I started to feel sick... like I did when I first got up. You were dreaming about something sexy, weren't you?"

Dee blushed and nodded. He still had a tough time believing he was sleeping with a stripper who blushed about sexual things. It certainly destroyed the stereotype. Hell, the more he saw; the less he understood how the stereotypes got formed in the first place.

"Well, I think we need to stay a little apart for a bit... I'm guessing that the drug induced changes pushed my body too far... and it's reacting badly where it would normally start to shift."

"I really am sorry Jack."

"Yeah. I know." He started picking up his clothes and putting them on before realizing that it was Jackie's Catholic schoolgirl outfit. Dee giggled at him. "Uh... Dee? Where are my clothes?"

She looked around but her room was fairly neat and there weren't any other clothes lying around. Jack leaned against one wall and tried to wrap his head around the change.

"So I changed into Jackie at some point and we removed her clothes... but... I had khaki's and a short-sleeved shirt on from work. So when I changed back..." he realized something else. "The watch is gone too. What the hell happened to my clothes?"

Dee sat back down on the bed. "Maybe you should get some food and sleep some more?"

"I guess. I think showing up in the schoolgirl outfit is not the impression I want my new neighbors to get."

"You never know... Florida is weird like that. They'd either absolutely adore you... or burn you to death."

"Well, that seems to happen with mutants pretty much anywhere these days so I doubt I should try to convince the ones who don't accept the cross dressing that its just that I shape changed from girl to boy and didn't have a change of clothes handy."

"Probably not," she responded, giggling.

"Gonna make me wander around the house in this skirt or can I talk you into getting me some munchies?"

"I'll get them... you can get back in bed."

"Thanks, Dee."

As she left the room, Jack let the skirt drop back to the floor and crawled back into the bed. He hoped that with some food and some additional rest things would return to normal... or at least as normal as they seemed to be lately. Long-term damage to his shape shifting powers was not a problem he wanted to contemplate.

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St. Petersburg, FL - Thursday November 2, 2006 - 15:14

“That’s the last of them,” Garic told the group surrounding Tericia. She had been badly wounded at the beginning of the ambush but they’d been pressed too hard to take time to treat injuries. She managed to push to her feet but remained unsteady. One of the ranger's pulled out a ointment of some sort and started applying it to the bruising visible at the back of her neck and left shoulder.

“Kade and Lissen went down in the first wave,” reported one of the sergeants. “Poisoned swords, I think. We’re lucky they didn’t have more of them.”

“Rainwalker is down as well. Anyone see what hit him? He doesn’t look injured.”

No one responded.

"Attempted extraction of our girl, I think," Garic commented after a minute or two. "Poisoned weapons and death magic but they hit her with a blackjack or fist. Maybe they hope to turn her?"

“Can you bring the dead back?” Necina asked the druidess that had been leading them through the wilderness for days. The red-haired elvish looking woman shrugged and went to examine the fallen. Necina watched her for a while before turning to her pack to dig out some supplies. “I’ll see if I can get word back to base camp.”

The first two were warriors, both long time members of the Apropos Ring and highly skilled at this sort of action. Tericia was still alive only because of their sacrifice. The third was one of the battlemages and his death would significantly reduce their firepower. That was going to cause problems if reinforcements didn’t manage to catch up to them when they camped.

While the remaining injuries would slow them somewhat, they needed to press forward as quickly as possible. Their guide had taken them deeper into the Darklands and moving more quickly than the enemy could prepare for them was their only hope of reaching their goal successfully. Necina and Garic had taken Tericia aside when they’d begun this leg of the journey and warned her that someone in the group was leaking information to the enemy.  As much as they disliked the idea that someone in their closer circle of allies might be responsible, they were leaning toward that possibility until Tericia commented that she didn’t trust the elf. It had taken nearly an hour to convince the two of the possibility, which had seemed incredibly suspicious to her. How could they not be suspicious of the outsider, she had asked them time after time, especially when there weren’t supposed to be elves in the game at all. All the non-humans were either NPC's or monsterized Dark-side characters. She couldn’t possibly be everything she appeared and claimed to be. Yet everyone else had accepted her without question. Something about her was just appealing on many levels.

“They’re beyond my reach,” the druidess announced before heading to a nearby tree and pulling herself up into its branches. In moments, she was out of sight.

“Necina, can you cleanse and shield this clearing?”

“Easily enough,” the enchantress commented, nodding as she looked around them. “Especially if a couple of these big lugs will toss these beast parts over the hillside there while I send back the updates and get some people relayed up here.”

“Will do. Tericia, stick with Necina while I get these guys working.”

A moment later, the two women were the only ones remaining at the site of the attack. The enchantress quickly pulled out a bone rod and drove one end of it into the ground. The air around them shivered and filled with mystic energy.

“We’ll be protected while this lasts. I’ll report. Keep your eyes open in case we missed something.”

Necina dropped into the lotus position and released the magic that allowed her to communicate with other enchanters. In this instance, she was speeding to the head of the magic types back in camp. A few moments later, the bodies of the three dead shimmered and slowly faded from sight. They would be reforming at the camp and the priests would revive them and get them ready for reassignment. While she watched, Tericia caught a glimpse of the woman high up in the trees above, talking to something or someone unseen.

“I see you...” she whispered quietly to herself. The odds of the leaves and branches opening in just the right way for her to see that conversation were incredibly long, but that was one of many things for which she was becoming noted. Tericia was the Apropos Ring luck charm.

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Jack powered down his system, grinning to himself in satisfaction. His character was improving quickly; the quest she'd been given had provided opportunities to continuously challenge her newly trained skills. There had been tons of role-playing opportunities that boosted the many uncommon talents of the performer class. It was also becoming clear to him that there were hidden depths to the archetype that were not obvious to players who hadn’t been offered it or who did not play it regularly or well. It helped that working with the Apropos Ring on a normal day was better than a power-leveling experience with a lesser group.

He was also incredibly happy with the expansion pack that had added so many features to the interface. It was quite unusual for a game to release an expansion little more than a month after release, but GEO was far from any MMO that had ever been seen before. The speech features were an incredible boost to the way a group could respond in battle. Even the best third party speech servers couldn’t compare to the character specific voices that the game generated in such a way that even a regular speaker system could place the voice accurately enough that you could turn your character toward someone who asked for help or react to attacks based on sound. It took game immersion to a whole new level. And Tericia’s voice... amazingly sexy.

His experiences as Jackie had helped him to earn role-playing experience more quickly, as well. He could react to events as the adventurous woman that Tericia really was with a level of understanding that most men just couldn't have. For a while, though, he had cheated by actually becoming a woman... shape shifting into Jackie to take advantage of her more aggressive nature and intelligence. But the last couple times he had done so, he'd earned a smaller experience reward for the time he played. It seemed that the interface could somehow tell the difference in playing style and was penalizing him for inconsistency. So, instead of playing as Jackie; he just used his time as her as an insight into the feminine nature.

Tericia and Necina continued to grow closer, in an odd reversal from Jackie's relationship with Dee. In out of character chats with Nadial, the flirting continued despite his occasional reminder to her that he wasn't really female. If it hadn't been for the whole mutant shape shifter trump card, it would have been one of the more unusual things that had happened to him.  And, really... what didn't mutant shape shifter trump?

Jack had also started another character to play when the quest was in recess. A lot of the games he'd played had put players in the position of having one main character that was used almost exclusively until it reached the top levels of power with other lower level ones for special purposes. Even when you participated in raid content, you often continued to use your high level character for regular questing, farming, and errands of all sorts simply because it was the most efficient means of doing so. GEO was structured a bit differently. Because the key storyline situations were group reliant and it took time and effort to get to locations where they occurred, characters couldn't skip back and forth to various activities. Tericia couldn't get involved in other leveling or equipment raids because she was off behind enemy lines. When the group wasn't in session, Jack couldn't use her. Most of the Beta Bunch was in the same situation, so many of them who could play longer hours had alternate characters. He'd started up a wizard. A few other Apropos Ring members who weren't involved in the quest got him inducted and someone dropped by with a collection of spell books from the guild storeroom. With the rare spells available in them, he would be able to advance very rapidly.

Still, throwing around all that magic had proved to him that there was a problem with his computer. It handled regular combat well enough, though some of the larger scale battles had been a little laggy, but the more intensive graphics involved in spell casting nearly brought it to its knees. He needed to go shopping for a new system. That would require more money, since he had spent most of what Jackie had acquired so far on the apartment and the car.

Jack walked through his new apartment, currently sparsely decorated because he hadn't wanted to bring much of his old furniture into it. That junk belonged in the sort of place he'd lived before. This apartment demanded quality. And quality demanded money.

Money. It all came down to that one thing. But while he’d been out of commission as a shape shifter, it wasn’t possible to do anything about it. Instead, he’d used the time to play GEO and recover. He’d also spent some time driving around, looking for targets.

The discolorations on his skin had faded away over the day yesterday, especially after he'd eaten more than three times his usual large amount. By evening, Dee could come close to him while thinking sexy thoughts without triggering any violent emotional surges but he'd avoided using his power anyway, stepping away whenever he felt a change starting. She'd even run to the store for him, to pick up a set of clothing so he could get dressed. While she was gone, he'd called in sick to the Emporium. It was the first day he'd ever called off so it took a while to ensure the boss that he wasn't dying. That left him with three more shifts before he was relying solely on whatever Jackie could earn.

Did it count as earning when you ripped it out of ATM's or cash registers? He supposed that it didn't matter, Jackie could make more money in tips in a couple hours of stripping at Dee's club each night than he could make working full days at the game shop, though that means came with its own risks. Despite now having some identification, including an Florida state driver's license that might even pass if she got stopped speeding,  Jackie didn't really exist... and the government probably spent more time investigating illegal citizens and paperwork than they did robbery. Working in a regular job could bring him... her... attention that they didn't need, especially if it revealed his powers.

But that seemed to be a risk he faced in almost anything. He could use his ability for whatever he wanted, up until someone figured him out. Once he was known as a shape-shifter, then all the mutant hate groups would be after him. And the police, the MCO, probably the Army too if they figured out he'd been discharged early for being a mutant but not having powers and then ended up having some.

Before that happened, he... or Jackie needed to figure out a way to control what they did and capitalize on it... legally. Or he'd end up in prison. And prison, for a shape shifter who was influenced by peoples' fantasies; gave a whole new meaning to “being some guy's bitch.”

Tampa, FL - Friday November 3, 2006 - 19:54

One of the best parts of his relationship with Dee was that he spent at least two nights a week surrounded by women in various stages of undress. One of the club rules was no boyfriends or spouses in the audience, but everyone believed Jack to be a regular with a crush. After all, they knew Dee was heavy into a bad girl named Jackie who had even been up on the stage a couple nights for a few rotations.

Jack was sitting at his usual table, joking around with one of the other regulars about the music choices some of the dancers made. It was one of those things that you didn't notice when you came to a club once in a while, but as a regular customer; you could predict which dancers were coming to the stage and what sort of mood they were in by the music that was playing. There were exceptions, but many of the dancers had at most six or seven songs that they danced to and that was it.

“Jack?” a feminine voice interrupted his train of thought. He turned to see one of the waitresses who worked a full time schedule.

“Yes?”

“The owner would like to speak with you,” she informed him, gesturing towards the back where the dressing rooms were. He looked at her blankly. “She's waiting.”

Jack hesitantly stood up, wondering what was going on. Had the owner somehow heard that he'd been spending a lot of time with Dee? Or... was Dee the owner and just now going to reveal it to him? He followed the waitress into the back hallway, past the dressing room and showers to a door he hadn't even noticed before. The woman knocked on the door, nodded to herself, and then pulled the door open for Jack.

“Go ahead. When you're done, come back out to the main room and I'll get you a fresh drink and food.”

As he cautiously entered the office, he was at least slightly relieved that if they expected him to return to the main room; he wasn't being kicked out. But either way, there was no way that Dee was the owner. The woman sitting in the extremely expensive looking office seemed more suited to be a CEO at a major corporation than a “gentleman's club,” even one as upscale and popular as this one. The furniture was all antique style (if not actually antique), deeply polished dark wood and solidly built. The walls were mostly lined with shelves, filled with books... and not paperbacks.

The owner was seated at the desk, in a high backed leather chair, reviewing something on her computer. She was an athletically built redhead in her mid-twenties and she was gorgeous, dressed in a slightly risque version of a power suit that suggested she had everything she needed to be one of her own top performers. She glanced at him, in a brief moment seeming to assess him completely, and then returned to what was displayed on her monitor.

“Thank you for coming Jack. If you would wait right there without moving or making any noise please.”

Parts of her request had an odd sort of resonance to them, almost like an echo except that it seemed to come from everywhere at once. He tried to take a larger than normal breath and stretch out his neck to pop his ears, but found himself unable to do anything but breath normally. The resistance to moving seemed to extend to his arms and legs as he tried to figure out what had happened. Then it came to him, she'd just told him not to move or speak... and he couldn't. She was a mutant.

“Yes Jack, I am. And so are you.”

He tried to deny it, but again was blocked by whatever she'd done.

“Not a lot of experience with clubs like this, then? Did you know we have cameras everywhere? They're unobtrusive, we're not a cheap dive that has to go to Radio Shack; but we can see and record everything. And review it later for interesting details... like customers shape shifting in the private dance room.”

Oh... shit.

“Oh don't worry. I'm not going to turn you in.” She looked back up at him and for the first time, he noticed the color of her eyes. The iris was a metallic gold and seemed unexpectedly warm. “But I would like to see... Jackie?  Shift into your Jackie form for me please?”

As soon as the odd resonance pressure released him, his mind flashed to the moment of lust at the doorway to Dee's apartment that triggered his change into his better half. A heartbeat later, she was Jackie... in all her naked beauty, though the woman at the desk was decidedly the more attractive.

“Flatterer. You seemed slightly surprised by the... oh, I see. The shift was much faster than it's ever been. That happens when you train your abilities. Oh, I see. You're very lucky, burn out can be deadly but you seem to have come through it well enough.”

The woman was reading her mind, following through the progressions of thoughts and getting the associated memories too. Jackie tried to quiet her mind, feeling both Zen and foolish at the same time. At least as Jackie, she was able to...

“Interesting. That's an uncommon trait for shifters, you know. Most just change the form but it doesn't affect potentials in any way. It will be interesting to see how far that goes. Oh stop that silly still mind nonsense. If you had years of experience with it, you might be able to keep many psi-talented mutants from your thoughts but my ability doesn't work quite the same.”

Jackie tried to struggle with the hold on her, hoping that maybe the shift would have loosened it in some way. Under other circumstances, this could be fun; but this wasn't a bondage game.

“Kinky. You're not quite to my tastes, though. Maybe we'll play some games some other time. For now, we have a meeting in just a few moments.”

That piqued her curiosity; this was all planned, then. How much of it was part of a plan, did she know I'd be here tonight?

“You'll learn. But not tonight. You can move into the closet there and get comfortable. Stay quiet. You definitely don't want to startle our next guest. He gets excited so easily... and... breaks things... when he's excited.”

Jackie found herself curling up against the wall in a small closet beside a few pair of very expensive shoes. A moment later, the door closed and she could  hear the sound of heavy furniture being shifted in front of the door. On top of being psychic, the red head must also be stronger than normal. She hadn't been small or petite, but the furniture had looked pretty solid. Who could she be talking about, a mutant maybe? Was it someone local?  Part of Baker's Dozen or one of the few visible villains that harassed this part of Florida? He didn't have long to wait. Only a minute or two later, there was a knock on the door and after a quick pause; the sound of the door opening, a rustle of clothing that might have been a hug, and friendly greetings.

“Craig, I'm so glad to see you here. Can I have anything brought in for you?”

Craig sat on the couch in front of the door, the massive wood structure of it creaking as if it were dangerously close to collapsing. Jackie suddenly understood the warning she'd been given, this guest was a brick type mutant, probably massively muscled with a dense structured frame. If he had a reason to attack her, she'd never survive it.

“A beer would be great. You know I love coming here Kimmy. Your place is the cleanest, most modern club around and you bring in the best girls.”

So she was the owner, her name was actually on the club.

“How's your brother doing? I haven't seen him since that maniac about ripped off his arm.”

Jackie had a sudden sense of recognition, hadn't one of Baker's Dozen been injured in a fight about a month ago? It was one of the twins, the two bricks. That made this either Rock-E or Bullwinkle... no... right, Moose. Not that anyone ever called him Moose. Which one had gotten hurt, the skinny one... Moose, she thought?

“He's good, almost back to having full use of it. He may have gotten the shit end of the ugly stick appearance wise, but one good thing about being locked in like that; it's almost as good as being a Regen. Baker's going to put him back on the roster next week.”

“And your dad is ok?”

“His heart trouble is normal, at least. We're arguing with the insurance company about coverage for hospital stays and everything, but there's not much else we can do to help. The doc says he'll be fine, they do this surgery all the time now; but its still surgery.”

The couch in front of the door shifted slightly, most likely from the woman joining the brick. The silence carried on for a long time. Finally Kimmy broke it.

“You know I'll help, if you need it. Just ask.”

“Thanks Kimmy. Dad... it's rough, but he's going to be ok. He's just a stubborn ass about accepting help from anyone.”

“I know what we can do to get your mind off that. Let me have...” she trailed off for a moment, then continued. “Now, you know to keep your hands to yourself. These girls aren't exemplars.”

“You know I can behave myself, Kimmy. You don't have to compel me.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in, Tina. We have a special guest that could use some cheering up. Think you can help him?”

“Oh my god, its Rock-E! Should I tell Clair about...?”, came a young, perky voice that Jackie didn't recognize.

“I'll have her take you off the roster until you're done.” There was a click and a crackle from the direction of the desk and then music blocked out most of the other sounds, except for the sound of the door closing as Kimmy left the office.

Jackie couldn't hear much, but it wasn't hard to picture what was going on on the opposite side of the door. Then, the sensations began to seep into her. Like any of her previous experiences, there was the unconnected feeling of lust that warmed her all over. But unlike anything she'd felt in the past, there were... sparks... of pain that seemed to go from her skin down through muscle and bone, into... something... that dwelt inside her, deep down. There was a sense of growing smaller, and that was backed up from what she could see from her frozen position, though the lack of light made definite observations tougher. Yet, while she slowly shrank; there was a new feeling... of something filling her from outside, expanding her bones, her skin, like a balloon reaching the point of bursting.

Being trapped and unable to move while the sexual sensations caressed her body felt... wonderful and frightening all at once. She felt awe and compassion and love for this young man, so close to her own age but already famous for his actions as a hero. And the terrible things that were going on in his life, a brother badly injured in a fight, his father in the hospital with a heart problem. She wanted to comfort him, hold him and cry the tears he couldn't. She wanted to distract him from all of the pain, and replace it with love and pleasure.

Then, the overfilled bubble inside her popped and Jackie was gone. In the torrents of pain that raced through every inch of her, this new woman screamed a silent plea of anguish. Physical and emotional tides washed over her and receded without notice, leaving a woman in need of sexual contact with the man on the couch so close to her.

Stop,  a voice whispered into her mind from miles away. She ignored it, fighting, pushing, to reach out and touch the other half of her soul. So close, but so maddeningly far away.  And still the sensations flowed into her, sculpting her in subtle ways as her true love's passion grew. She never noticed the blond locks that spilled over her shoulders all the way to the floor. The wispy bits of clothing that formed out of her naked skin didn't draw any attention either, not that they would ever prevent anyone from viewing any of her beauty were she not already hidden from sight in a closet.

Don't fight it, the voice told her again, from further away this time. In her mind, she clawed at the unseen door and threw herself at it over and over until her nails were torn and bloody and she ached all over... and those wounds began to heal, slowly at first but accelerating until they were keeping  pace with the damage she was causing to herself as she fought to bring down the barriers pinning her in place. Keeping her silent.

The battle raged for an eternity but not once did she feel the walls holding her in place weaken, though she had stopped hearing the voice completely. It couldn't give her any new orders, and she hated it for binding her while she was weak. But she wouldn't be weak any longer and she would find a way to get to Craig; he needed her.

The orgasmic wave of lust that blasted through her, pierced through the rage and violence of her attacks, leaving her momentarily stunned. She thought, in that brief moment, that she heard a female voice thanking the Goddess that it was over. There was an abrupt noise outside, the music stopped, and almost immediately; she was Jackie again. While the shift was nearly instantaneous once again, there was also a feeling of... something... changing or rotating out of view into somewhere... outside. It left her disoriented and slightly nausious, so the sudden light a the closet door opened startled her.

“That was different, wasn't it?” Kimmy's voice asked, sounding tired. “Well, lets see what we've got then. Come out of there. You can speak now, quietly, but otherwise be quiet. That's fine, stand there.”

“Why are doing this? If you want me to stay away from Dee, you just had to ask. I'm not trying to hurt anyone.”

“Jack... Jackie. Don't be a fool. I know everything I want to know about you, secrets are my life and livelihood. I don't care what you do with your lover, any of them.”

“I don't have...”

“Not yet. But you will... we just added one for you, didn't we? And what will happen when we introduce you to Craig? Do you think you can just be friends? You wanted him so badly you almost shredded my control of you... and I am very good at compulsions, Jackie.”

She just stared at the psychic, unable to put the scowl on her face. Not that she needed to, she was sure the woman could read her anger at being manipulated like this from her thoughts.

“I can, indeed. But you shouldn't be so upset. I'm just giving you what you wanted anyway. A way to experiment and find stronger and better bodies. I have access and the means to set it up, in a way you could never do on your own. I like Dee... but let's face it Jackie, we both know who is the dominant and strong one in your relationship. Do you really think she'll ever give you even more power over her?”

“I... no... I guess not.”

“There, see. Wasn't that easy?” Kimmy smiled cheerfully. “Now, do you think you can control this new body well enough to test it out or should we go someplace safer first?” She snatched the answer from Jackie's mind before she was even consciously aware of it. “I didn't think so. I'll have someone bring my car around; why don't you just sleep until we get there.”

Darkness overwhelmed her before she was even aware of the final compulsion. In her dreamless slumber, she was unaware that the other compulsions dropped and she collapsed onto the plush carpeting at Kimmy's feet.

Near Pine Island, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 02:36

When she woke, Jackie could tell she was outside and near the ocean and far enough from the city that the sounds and lights weren't immediately visible. The glow in the sky off to her left and the ocean sounds not too far off in the direction of her feet combined to suggest that she was north of Tampa. Quite a way north. There wasn't any definite means to tell how long she'd been in Kimmy's office, especially trapped in the closet there, but the sky had that deep darkness that suggested it was late. Far too late for her to still be Jackie.

“It does seem like you're staying in that form much longer than usual, doesn't it?” came the red-headed psi's voice from the darkness behind her. “And before you accuse me, I haven't done anything more than bring you here to test our new dance partner for Craig.”

“Test?”

“Of course, before I let you go; I'm going to take a little precaution... and leave the area. I don't think we see eye to eye on this just yet. We will though, as soon as you work out just how valuable I can be to your little financial activities. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the money you could make working little jobs for me. Think about it; I'll send someone to get you when you calm down.”

Jackie could hear Kimmy walking away through sand and brush, heels clicking occasionally on a rock or sidewalk. “Wait!” The sounds paused for a moment, then continued. “Wait... please!” Distance muffled anything else and she tried struggling against her invisible bonds for a couple minutes in the silence, feeling the tickle of at least one ant exploring her bare skin. Then, in the distance; a sports car engine started, revved once, then took off at high speed, heading in the direction of the glowing sky. A few more ants joined the first, making her worry that she'd been left near a fire ant nest. Jack had been bitten plenty of times while growing up and she didn't want to think about what it would feel like on Jackie's more sensitive skin.

Go ahead and brush them off. I don't think they're fire ants, but I'm not trying to torture you here, Kimmy's voice whispered around her. It didn't have quite the same quality to it that the compulsions did, but it still had that omni-directional echoing feel to it. Still, as she heard the voice, her body suddenly responded to her will and she was able to knock the insects away from her and jump to her feet.

“Damnit,” she muttered to herself, as she brushed sand and bits of brush off her ass and legs. And swatted a mosquito as it tried for a vulnerable boob. “Great... just... great. Naked, miles and miles from anything resembling home... and the bugs are getting the feast of their life.”

She didn't get any sort of response.

“Well, at least Jack had something on. I've got to turn back fairly soon...” I hope.

I hate to be a party pooper, but we do have a test to do first. Think about sitting in the closet as Craig gets a top notch lap dance right next to you.

The pulse of lust, as the trigger memory was thrown right into the front of her mind by the compulsion, knocked her completely off her feet and  practically pushed her into an orgasm on the spot. Her hair fell around her face, growing so fast that she had to reach a shrinking hand up to pull it out of her eyes. It was also visibly lightening, clearly blond even in the dim light of the moon. She was getting smaller, becoming far more petite than any form she'd had yet except for one part that wasn't shrinking at all. Her breasts swelled, even as everything around them receded and she suddenly had an image in her mind of a very busty little dancer he'd seen a few times at the club, who had to have been the...

The realization was interrupted as the shift reached the point where she expected the emotional and mental changes to begin. Instead of those familiar, if unwanted, impulses; she was suddenly struck by that sensation of being filled with something, some force that was rushing into her from where it had been shifted outside. It felt... awesome... and then too much. Everything felt stretched out, as if she were being... reaching... the point of... where she would just... explode. But instead of exploding, she suddenly felt tingles of sparks running over her body. And love, and a need to... oh... she...

A blast of sand and brush devastated the picnic area where Jackie had been left as a petite blond stood and went from motionless to mach 4 in less than two seconds, still accelerating. She passed a cherry red Porsche on State 19 a little over ten miles away before the psychic inside the car even realized that the blur of fragmented images she was receiving meant that her test subject was in flight. The shock wave shattered the windshield of the car and  destroyed 500 yards of lighting on the highway and windows in surrounding buildings before the flier veered off, heading directly towards the lights of Tampa to the southeast. Kimmy struggled to maintain control of her vehicle, nearly ending up spinning off the road before coming to a stop in the median, inches from the sign welcoming her to Hudson. She tried to reach out mentally, but between the inherent psychic barriers that Jack's new form had acquired and the distance, that was rapidly growing, between them; she just couldn't apply any sort of compulsion. As she reached up to tap her communicator, she realized her hands were shaking and took a deep breath to steady herself before she activated it.

“Baker.”

Her page was met with static for a moment, then a crackle and a sound of wood splintering and a thump as something landed hard on a floor.

“Err... ya... Baker here. Wha... I just got to sleep Kimmy. What's wrong...?”

“I... have a little problem. It's heading towards Tampa at supersonic speeds and there's no way I'm going to get back in time... and I'm not sure I could stop it if I could. You have... maybe a minute to scramble.”

“Shit... Kimmy. We're not a military unit, I don't even know if anyone has their comms on. You're lucky I did.”

“I know Baker, I'm sorry. But this one is my problem. I need you to get Rock-E... I don't care how... but get him out in the open... at... Riverfront Park?”

“Uh... what?”

“Just do it, I'll explain later.”

“Ok... I'll try...”

Her earpiece crackled as Baker disconnected. The red head took another slow and slightly ragged breath and got her car back on the road. She tried projecting images of Craig waiting for her at the amphitheater at Riverfront to Jackie with everything she had. As she passed the point where Jackie had turned southeast towards Tampa, there were electric lines and trees down, windows broken, and building damage along the girl's path... as if a tornado had touched down or a hurricane had reached land here.

Northern Tampa, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 02:48

Several emergency services went to alert status as cell phone calls to 911 from travelers along State 54 near Black Lake reported explosions and tornado-like damage to their vehicles. Almost simultaneous to these calls, McDill Air Force Base launched F-16's to intercept a supersonic bogey heading for downtown Tampa. By the time they were in the air, the target was already closer to downtown than they were. It's altitude, despite flying at almost Mach 4.4; was an almost constant 100 feet and its radar profile suggested an extremely small target, classification almost certainly an unidentified mutant. Attempts to hail the flier for identification received no response. The mutant was classified hostile; the Air Force pilots given a green light to arm weapons. Between the target's velocity and extremely low altitude within the city limits; both pilots knew there was nothing they could do.

Tampa, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 02:49

911 switchboards overloaded with emergency reports from properties and vehicles all along the Suncoast Highway. Stunned operators could only wonder if Tampa were under attack. The shift supervisor hesitantly called his superior, to recommend a call to the governor, the National Guard, the MCO, and anyone else that might be able to handle the problem. Police, fire, and paramedic units were already en route to the first calls, but more were coming in every minute... all drawing a line on a map almost straight towards downtown.

Tampa, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 02:50

Nearly five dozen car alarms on vehicles in the St. Joseph's Hospital parking lot were set off simultaneously as the shock wave blasted through their midst, though the hospital itself suffered only minor damages. The supersonic figure swerved southeast over the Hillsborough river, capsizing boats at the Marina Club. She managed to drop under the bridge at Columbus Drive, but skipped off the water's surface beginning an uncontrolled tumble that threw her over top the Riverfront Park, which seemed to draw her attention momentarily.

Then she slammed into the turf at the University of Tampa football stadium, tearing up a divot 40 yards long. The tiny blood shook off the impact, accelerating out of the dirt mid-tumble. This brought her across the river into the downtown area where she slammed into the Rivergate Tower at the third floor. With an explosion of glass, steel and concrete she exited through the four floor on the east wall of the building and plowed into the Bank of America Plaza on the opposite corner of the intersection. The dust was just beginning to settle when the F-16's from McDill banked sharply overhead.

The Air Force planes were making their second pass overhead when the figure of a tiny woman dragged herself through the rubble to the street. While her waist length blond hair seemed to be a bit of a mess, the few gaping witnesses and tons of security camera footage all seemed to agree on  one thing. It only made her seem wilder, more sexy.

The woman seemed disoriented, looking for something, but her movements were inherently sensual. As if she were just interrupted in the middle of a good bit of sex and was heading back for more as soon as she finished with the interruption. She dusted off the tops of her breasts, which were barely covered by a wispy negligee, took two steps toward the street and exploded into extremely fast, low altitude flight heading north.

She tore a long gouge out of the west wall of the Park Tower, about 20 feet up before swerving out to the west far enough to clear the building. She managed to cross back across Ashley Drive, the shock wave shattering additional automobile and building windows before crashing once more, into the John F. Germany Library. As she crawled out of the freshly opened hole in the wall, police sirens began to be audible as units headed north were redirected to the source of the emergency now destroying downtown.

The blond was moving slower as she walked along the sidewalk toward the river, but still didn't show any sign of injury. As she reached the corner of the library, she blurred into flight again, but didn't travel far. She skipped off the river surface, lifted up enough to clear the far bank and then landed roughly in the trees and brush on the south end of Riverfront Park.

At that time, Baker and Rock-E were stuck east of the Ybor Channel as the Tampa Police tried to control access to what was beginning to look like a war zone. Handler, who usually provided team transport on telekinetically flown platforms, hadn't answered her comm or telephone. Baker smiled impatiently as a police officer examined his MID for almost three minutes before waving them through the barricade.

University of Tampa, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 02:56

“Uh... who... uh... ordered the stripper?” was not the usual sort of question asked in the university computer labs at three in the morning. But it did get immediate attention. Four geeks and a Theater major in the middle of a major paper looked up to find the lab attendant standing with a woman... a naked woman... who wasn't trying to cover up the important bits.

The six men looked at each other hesitantly.  The theater major turned back to his paper, “I need to finish this... besides, she's not my type.”

One of the geeks slowly raised his hand.

“Well don't just sit there, take me home with you,” Jackie told him impatiently. Abruptly, she forced a seductive grin and added “sweety.”

The next day, his friends found him tied up, gagged, and blindfolded in his dorm room closet. When asked why he was grinning, he sighed and looked at his hand before explaining that he'd actually gotten to touch a breast before he'd been tied up.

If anyone happened to notice Jack as he left the dorm early Saturday morning, it was only because it was rare to see students up and moving at that time on a weekend. No one connected him... or Jackie... to the rampaging mutant attack on the city of Tampa that had happened in the early morning hours.

St Petersburg, FL - Saturday November 4, 2006 – 09:15

“... we can see from this helicopter footage, taken just after dawn before the National Guard warned our reporters out of the area, just how powerful this mutant attacker must be. The most recent estimates place the damages over 3 billion dollars in just a couple minutes before she disappeared into the Hillsborough River. Unnamed sources working for the MCO indicate that this mutant is not registered or operating legally within the United States, supporting speculation that this is a terrorist attack. Police and military investigators declined to comment on this possibility.

At this time, hospitals report 47 wounded, 6 of them in critical condition. 3 killed... by this mutant authorities are now calling Sexpot...”

The television switched to another channel.

“... clearly visible how the mutant, Sexpot, takes off so rapidly that even the slightest error in acceleration or flight path could cause an enormous amount of damage in a heavily populated area. Most of the damages outside of the downtown area appear to be due to this mutant using this supersonic flight at extremely low altitudes, under a couple hundred feet, which is a violation of many FAA regulations...”

Jack shut the TV off and sank back into the leather couch, his mind repeating 'three dead' over and over. There were people dead because of him. He didn't even remember seeing it happen. Everything past the sensations of the shift was just a sort of euphoric blur of light and sound, as if his senses were unable to keep up with what was happening around him. There was no pain from crashing into concrete buildings or cuts from all the broken glass, just bursts of pleasure; it was like he'd been completely invulnerable to all damage. Up until Jackie had woken up in the brush on the edge of the University campus, a few scratches and bruises were the extent of what had happened to him... and those had faded completely before he'd even reverted to Jack. Unlike those people who'd been killed...

The guard who'd been doing his rounds in the B of A building when the walls had collapsed on him. The doctor who'd gone to his car for a cigarette break at the hospital and been shredded by a storm of broken glass. The designated driver who was heading home after dropping off the last of his drunk friends, who lost control of his car due to the supersonic turbulence and slammed into an electric pole.

He'd been in that form for less than ten minutes total, from everything he'd been able to piece together. The only reason the damages weren't even higher was that it had taken most of that time to get to Tampa from where Kimmy had left him. She had definitely been right to take him someplace safer before letting him shift into that form, if for the wrong reasons. If it hadn't been for the flying, it would have worked.

If he and Dee had managed to create a form like that, what would have happened? Would she be dead now? How many more people would he have killed? He didn't know... but it wasn't just fun anymore. He had to decide what he wanted. Could he trust Kimmy? It was pretty obvious that there was more to Baker's Dozen than he'd known about... but who else could he turn to?

St. Petersburg, FL - Sunday November 5, 2006 – 16:02

It had been a long time, in game terms at least, since anything other than minor wandering creatures had harassed Tericia and the Apropos raiding force. They were currently deep into a narrowing pass that was supposed to be the only path into an enclosed valley in the Dragonspine Mountain Range. To the best of anyone's knowledge, no one on the side of Light in the game had ever explored it. Even what little they'd been able to beat out of enemies who'd survived earlier battles was only rumor. It was, possibly, a Font of Evil... where the most powerful among evil beings came to swear to a higher Darkness and transform into beings of non-human form.

Their 'elven' guide was up ahead of them, on point. Tericia had finally convinced her friends that there was no way that the woman was on their side; the warning was passed among the guild members and she was being carefully watched.

“You know there's no way something as important as this Font could ever be this unprotected, Garic,” she commented to her friend and mentor.

“I agree. Necina and I have given the squad leads some plans for what we will do when the attack comes. Most likely it will be after we approach the Font. They could block off our retreat and prevent us from getting any additional reinforcements.”

“The lack of fights for the last leg of the trip have given everyone a chance to recover completely and most of our top people are here,” the enchantress added. “Other than a few minor things we couldn't possibly predict, we're as strong and prepared as we could be.”

“Meaning...” Garic finished for her, “if we fail, it wouldn't matter whether we got a second chance.”

“What should I do?” Tericia asked.

“Pick your battles carefully,” Necina suggested. “It might not be a bad idea for you to try to stay close to me. Or one of the battlemages. We'll still try to guard you, but in a large scale battle; we may not have a choice. You've come a long way quickly, but you're still not up to fighting the most powerful opponents. But you can use your blade and that will be plenty to keep a caster safe for the moments it takes to finish a spell, do what you can to keep them from being interrupted and it won't matter if you're good enough to kill things on your own.”

The druidess up ahead raised a closed fist in the commonly used signal to stop an advancing group. Then she continued on, almost ignoring all the stealth she'd used previously. When she scouted ahead, she was typically almost invisible. They hadn't been able to determine if it was inherent camouflage or magic of some sort, but it worked very well. Usually.

Her watcher moved slowly up, but when he reached the point where she'd called the halt; his lips moved in what Tericia would swear was the word 'shit.' The ranger hurried back to the main body of their force, gesturing for the leaders and squad leaders to gather.

“Tericia was right. I caught just a glimpse of her before she cleared the end of the pass and she was definitely not elven anymore. I'm not entirely sure what she is, but it was demonic of some sort. And she just walked out into that valley, like she owned it. And... she turned and winked at me as she did.”

There was silence for a moment.

“She... winked at you?” Garic asked.

“Yes.... she knew I was there, wanted me to see what she was and that she was going in. It's a trap... and they don't care that we know it.”

There was muttering throughout the group at that.

OOC to guild: Alright, let's file for a break bubble and pause for dinner. Everyone's clear for the evening right? This may run for several hours. Anyone that has the energy to teleport in and still be effective for a major scale battle is welcome, but keep in mind that fights on this scale may be suicide... and there's a good possibility with demonic characters present that there will be permanent character damage or even death.

No one backed out and a couple additional casters were able to teleport in once a beacon was set up for them, but most of those who were not already present would be unable to fight for at least a day if they teleported to a combat zone. Instead, they prepared what long range support spells they had available .

The temporary cease fire was approved by the other side and game masters, leaving them shrouded in the hazy white bubble effect. Most of the group immediately flagged AFK as everyone took advantage of the time to grab food and take bio breaks of various natures.

line break short

Jack was starving. He'd been eating full meals almost every other hour and even woke up after five hours of sleep needing to get food. He hoped that it would return to his 'normal' amounts soon, but was beginning to worry that the latest changes to his ability had made an additional level of demands on his body. At this rate, it would become a lot more difficult to hide that he was a mutant; simply because he was buying more food than most full families did.

But at the moment, he did have food in the fridge. Jack threw a bag of fries and a bag of pizza rolls on cookie sheets, and a frozen pizza on a baking stone and put all three in the oven. They would be ready about the time the game picked up and he could snack on them as he played to keep hunger from interrupting him later. It would probably be a pretty long encounter, from the amount of lead up to it so far.

With the food for later starting to warm up, he fired up the griddle and started making grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. While the first four were on the stove, he pulled out a gallon jug of water and mixed in the energy drink mix. It was something he'd found at one of the health stores, for athletes and weight lifters who were trying to put on mass. The clerk had sneered at him when he'd bought two of the largest containers the store had, probably because each one was supposedly enough for a month supply. Each one was probably only going to last him three or four days, at the concentrations that he was making it. It was worth it to keep him from constantly feeling like he needed to eat more. The only downside was that it made him pee blue, he wasn't sure if it did that to everyone or if it was a quirk of his own metabolism.

Forty minutes later, he was feeling slightly bloated but no longer starving. He turned on a few lights, knowing that it was very possible that the battle would last long enough that they'd be needed... and getting up in the middle of a battle to turn on lights wouldn't be a good way to end up dead. The pizza rolls, fries and pizza were finished in the oven, as well. He threw several paper towels into the bottom of a wicker basket and dumped in the mess of greasy finger foods. The pizza he sliced up and sat on a tray on the table behind his  gaming chair.

There was a smallish cooler under the sink that he put a couple trays of ice cubes into, then added a couple liter bottles of Coke. He placed that at the foot of the desk and then made one last trip to the bathroom, his lips twisting at the smurf piss.

As he sat down at his desk, seeing a series of people clearing their AFK flags a couple minutes early and chatting OOC among the guild; he could feel the air of excitement. Everyone knew they were about to experience something special, possibly even unique in the life of the game... like getting a world first in a raid progression. He was nervous too... his hands shaking a bit as he canceled Tericia's AFK marker. Jack took a couple deep breaths, trying to settle himself down; it wouldn't do anyone any good if he was too unsettled to make the UI react to his actions. Given how sensitive it was, it would probably translate into his character's performance; though there was every reason for the girl to be frightened. She had grown a lot, become fairly powerful in her own right... but even still, the people around her and the opponents they were likely to face were still an order of power higher.

In a sense, it was like his mutant abilities. On his own, he didn't have much going for him. A few friends, some people he got along with... and he'd come a long way. But even when he'd been given a powerful disguise, it only went so far. There were other powerful people out there who could easily overturn everything he thought he had going for him. He'd been led into a trap by Kimmy... just as they had been by this elven druid, who'd turned out to be a demon. Would it end up going just as badly...? It couldn't... really... could it? This time, it was just a game.

line break short

The Globe of Peace came down, right on schedule. A squad of fast moving skirmishers moved quickly down the last section of the pass, scattering in every direction as they cleared the exit to ensure they weren't all caught in any sort of area attacks while exiting the bottleneck. As the last of them crested the ridge and dropped out of sight, a magical map displaying the enemy battle-lines appeared subtly in each person's view, bright enough to make out key points without overpowering what they could see normally. The spell that created the map relied on three scouts having line of sight to any object for it to appear on the map and would break when combat began, but it was great for seeing what was ahead in a situation like this.

The pass opened onto a plateau, from which a natural earthen ramp led down into a barren, rocky valley. At the center of the area was a sort of open air temple with stone monoliths at six points around it. At the base of each monolith was a small pool of what appeared to be blood and from each of the six stones, a red energy blasted into the ground at the center of the temple. From this central point, a geyser of black energy erupted from the ground, stabbing upwards to pierce the sky. It's peak was out of sight beyond the roiling storm clouds overhead.

Companies of Evil creatures were arrayed across the valley floor. Some, orcs and goblins, would barely slow anyone of either side; their only purpose to drain energy that would otherwise be used for more direct purposes against more powerful opponents. The fantasy equivalent of cannon fodder. But amongst the lesser creatures were also powerfully equipped archetypes, some still human in appearance... others in nightmarish forms.

[Garic says, from beside you] “The demoness who led us here. That's Marala... I recognize her in that form, there by the Font.”

[Necina says, from behind you] “And Gorvqxys, the arch-lich on the rise to the right. I've fought him before. He has some terrible plague abilities.”

From the distance, in a company of Dark forces rose a shout in a growling ogre-ish voice, “Let's get ready to rumble!” Three nearby mages lobbed fireballs and dark energies into the company, frying two squads of gladiators and the ogre. On the ridge to the north, a red wyrm slammed its fore-claw into its head and growled.

 The Apropos Ring deployed out of the pass and onto the top of the ramp, the support mages moving quickly to high points along the rim. As she moved into position at the center of their forces, Tericia happened to glance ahead towards the temple. Within the dark pillar of energy, she saw eyes looking straight towards her. For a moment, it seemed as if that darkness grinned at her menacingly and a deep voice spoke from some unseen location but echoed across the valley.

“It begins.”

Behind them, the sound of rocks exploding and collapsing signaled the disappearance of the pass through which they'd entered. A wave of dust blasted past, then subsided. For several breaths, no one spoke or moved. Then Garic spoke in a voice filled with quiet confidence.

“Yes... it does. Apropos Ring, three bravo. Charge!”

Comments   

0 # Stickmaker 2015-12-08 20:18
I'm not sure what is meant by "another set of ribs." Men and women have the same number of ribs.
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0 # Kristin Darken 2015-12-11 00:26
Quoting Stickmaker:
I'm not sure what is meant by "another set of ribs." Men and women have the same number of ribs.

Normal human ones do, yes. But the forms that Jack takes are generated by 'sub'-conscious minds under the influence of strong emotion... logic and human anatomy are only limitations if those things are strong factors in how the mind of the source of the form works. Good catch though, I don't think anyone else has ever noticed that. I have a few of those sorts of things seeded in various transformations to slowly reveal how Jack's Shifting works. :)
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