A Whateley Academy Adventure
Round and Round (Part 1)
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Friday, Sept 14th, 2007
I was curled up on my bed with tears running down my cheeks as my head pounded in agony. This wasn’t a normal headache or even just a migraine, it was a super migraine. Or worse, it was Migrainezilla.
“It’s going to be all right David,” Mom told me as she put a gentle hand on my shoulder and tried to comfort me. “It’s going to be fine honey…”
At any other time, I would have been offended at my Mom treating me like this, as if I was some kind of a little kid who needed to be babied. After all, I was fifteen years old, hardly a little kid anymore. However, this ungodly pressure in my head was enough to make me grateful for any little relief I could get, even if it was only emotional.
Mom stayed with me for a few more minutes, making soft and comforting noises that I didn’t really pay much attention to. Instead, I just kept my eyes closed since the light only made my head hurt even worse. And though it hurt to even think, I couldn’t help but wondering if this was what a hangover felt like. Last New Year, Dad had complained about having a really bad hangover, saying that it was like being sick to your stomach and having the headache from hell at the same time. That was a lot like how I felt at that moment. Eventually, Mom got up and left my room, turning off the light as she did so.
“Is David sick again?” I heard my little sister Becky exclaim from the hallway. I winced at her loud voice, which was painful at the moment.
“Yes Becky,” Mom answered in a quieter voice. “Now let’s be quiet and let your brother rest…”
After that, everything went quiet, for which I was grateful. Sitting in the dark with no noise except for the faint hum of the ceiling fan was not only relaxing, but exactly what I needed at the moment. I knew from past experience, that this was the best way to get the pounding in my head to go away. Half an hour later, Migrainezilla had receded enough so that it was back to the level of a normal headache and it continued to fade away further.
I finally got up and left my room, then went to the bathroom to take a leak. Afterwards, I splashed some cold water on my face and looked into the bathroom mirror. I winced at the image, deciding that I looked like crap. In fact, I probably looked about as bad as Dad did whenever he came home from work after a sixteen hour shift.
Normally, I didn’t look too bad, or at least not compared to any other boy my age. I was a skinny blonde kid with ears that were just a little too large and with a scar across my chin due to an old childhood accident on the playground. I would have preferred to see a little more muscle in the mirror, but what boy wouldn’t.
When I went to the living room, Mom gave me a smile and asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“For now,” I responded bitterly.
My headaches had started about two months ago, first coming every couple days for no apparent reason. They hadn’t been too strong at first either, no more than any normal headache. But then about a month ago, they became more painful as well as more frequent. Now I was suffering from chronic migraines which usually hit me for an hour or so every day. It was agonizing and frustrating since even the prescription medication didn’t do much for them. All I could do was wait for them to go away on their own.
“We have another appointment with the doctor next week,” Mom reminded me, though I doubted it would do much good. During my last visit, I’d gone through an MRI but they hadn’t found anything. The only good thing that had come from it was the confirmation that I didn’t have a brain tumor, which had actually been one of our worries. “Hopefully, the doctors will find something with this round of tests.”
I nodded at that, though not very enthusiastically. My optimism that the doctors would find out what was wrong with me had faded just a little bit with each new migraine. Now, I just dreaded the thought that I’d spend the rest of my life dealing with them. These chronic migraines had already made things pretty difficult on me and had even cost me my position on the school track team. After all, collapsing in pain in the middle of a track meet didn’t exactly make for a good showing.
I was feeling pretty ragged, which wasn’t normal for me, or at least it hadn’t been before these headaches started. I went to the kitchen and began to fix myself an espresso from the fancy machine Dad had bought a couple months ago, but Mom snatched the coffee beans right out of my hand and shook her head ‘no’.
“No caffeine for you,” Mom reminded me with a faint smile. “Have some orange juice instead. It will be better for you.”
“But Mom,” I protested, giving my best whiney voice, though I knew it wouldn’t do much good. This was something of an old exchange and I knew exactly what her response would be.
“You know good and well you’re not allowed to drink this stuff,” Mom pointed out with a sigh. “The last thing I need is to have you bouncing off the walls again. You’re hyper enough without the caffeine.”
I grinned at that and went to pour myself a glass of juice, knowing that once Mom wasn’t paying attention anymore I’d make myself an espresso. By the time I actually sat down with my orange juice and a cookie, I was feeling much better. My headache had receded completely and my energy level was starting to recover, though of course, some caffeine would definitely help speed up the process.
“Good, you’re up,” Becky exclaimed when she saw me sitting there. Then without waiting for an invitation, she snatched one of my cookies and made a show of eating it right in front of me. “Now I don’t have to be quiet.”
Becky stood there with a smug look on her face, making me wonder what she was up to. I had a feeling that she was thinking of ways to get even with me for making her be quiet while I was dealing with my migraine. The fact that I’d already suffered enough probably never even occurred to her. After all, she was only six years old and a bit…precocious. At least, that was what Mom called her. I just called her a brat, though Mom always laughed at that and said she was just like I was at that age.
“Come on,” Becky announced, as though the decision had already been made. “You’re playing tea party with me.”
I gave Becky a suspicious look, knowing that she wasn’t the kind of girl who usually got into tea parties. In fact, she was more of a tomboy than she was a girlie girl, and the last time someone had given her a doll, she’d promptly cut its hair to give it a Mohawk and then used a permanent marker to give it tattoos as well. The doll hadn’t lasted long beyond that before it was dismembered and scattered throughout the house.
After a moment, I shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?” Honestly, I was curious about what my little sister had in mind. If nothing else, she was never boring.
I soon found that when Becky said tea party, she really meant T party…as in Mister T. She had several dolls and stuffed animals which the two of us proceeded to give mohawks to, then we sat around talking like Mister T. It was actually pretty funny, especially when Becky ‘borrowed’ all of Mom’s necklaces, then started going around the house exclaiming, “I pity the fool…”
The look on Dad’s face when he came home was hilarious, especially when he shook his head and muttered, “That’s it… No more A-team reruns…”
Dad was a heavyset man, in no small part because of his career as a professional cook. He owned his own restaurant, a small diner that served breakfast and lunch but wasn’t open for dinner. During the summer and weekends, I frequently worked there washing dishes, cleaning tables, and generally doing anything that needed done. Fortunately, Dad did pay me for my work, which was a good thing since I didn’t get an allowance and that was the only way for me to earn money.
“Too bad about those pesky child labor laws,” Dad joked, giving me a broad grin. “Otherwise I’d be able to keep you two out of trouble by putting you to work full time.”
Dad said the same thing fairly often, though I knew he didn’t mean it. Sure, he liked to put me to work to ‘keep me out of trouble’, as he usually put it, but he also believed that kids needed time to be kids. At fifteen, I certainly didn’t consider myself a kid anymore, but this was one of the occasions when I didn’t argue the point. If I did, Dad might decide to increase my work hours and responsibilities.
“So, do you want me coming in with you tomorrow?” I asked Dad nervously.
Dad hesitated just a moment and then glanced to Mom before responding, “Of course.”
Tomorrow was Saturday, one of the busiest days at the diner and I knew Dad would need all the help he could get. Normally, he wanted me there to work, but he was a bit worried about my headaches and didn’t want to put too much stress on me.
Less than an hour later, we were sitting down for dinner, which consisted of a couple pizzas. After Dad spent most of the day cooking, he usually wasn’t in the mood to do even more of it once he got home, which meant that he often got lazy about dinner and either left it for Mom or ordered out. And as we ate, we turned to our normal topic of dinner conversation, what we did during the day.
“I got into a fight at school,” Becky stated proudly. “That meanie Bobby tried pushing me so I hit him.”
“Young ladies don’t get into fights,” Mom told her, though Becky just shrugged it off as she usually did.
“Then I bet he won’t push you again,” I said, encouraging Becky, who just grinned at that. Mom rolled her eyes and Dad chuckled.
Becky nodded enthusiastically, then said, “If Bobby pushes me again, I’ll hit him so hard his head falls off…”
“BECKY,” Mom gasped while Dad and I just tried to keep from laughing.
“I had something weird happen today,” Dad said a minute later. “A mutant came into the restaurant.” There was a clear note of disapproval in his voice.
“A mutant?” Mom asked in surprise.
“Well, he had pointed ears and solid green eyes,” Dad said with a scowl. “And he ate three whole meals…so I’m pretty sure he was a mutant.”
“What did you do?” Mom asked, looking worried.
Dad snorted at that. “I fed him and got him out of there as quickly as I could. I would have kicked him out but I didn’t know what he would have done if he got angry…”
“You should have called the MCO,” Mom stated. “You know how dangerous those mutants are…”
Suddenly, Becky asked, “What’s a mutant?”
Mom and Dad both paused at that to look at Becky. Then Dad carefully answered, “A mutant is someone who is very sick…”
“Like David?” she asked, looking at me and making me wince.
“Absolutely not,” Dad responded firmly. “Mutants have bad DNA…sort of like cancer. It makes them sick…and dangerous to everyone around them.”
“I think it’s all the pollution,” Mom stated. “We never had all these mutants until we started polluting everything. If we cleaned up the environment and everyone took care of their diet, then I’m sure the mutant problem would just go away…”
I rolled my eyes and ate in silence while Mom and Dad complained about the mutant ‘problem’. It was annoying, but I knew from past experience that they’d soon get bored of this subject and move onto something else.
“So, Becky,” I said, deciding to take an active role in changing the subject. “Didn’t you have a new song you wanted to show Mom and Dad?”
Becky grinned at that and immediately began singing, right there at the dinner table. It was an annoying little song and I saw our parents quickly wince, though they struggled to hold fake smiles filled with false appreciation. My sister’s off tune singing hurt my ears as well, but the looks on Mom and Dad’s faces was enough to make up for it. I just wondered how much more effective this would be if I gave Becky an energy drink. Maybe it was time to introduce her to espresso.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Saturday, Sept 15th, 2007
I grimaced as I began removing the hot and steaming dishes from the dishwasher, knowing that I had to be quick about it since I had another load that needed to go in. The diner was always busy during the lunch rush, which meant that it was the time of day when I was needed most but least wanted to be here. I much preferred the quieter periods where Dad and his cook Henri would sometimes take the time to give me cooking lessons.
Once I’d finished reloading the commercial dish washer, I leaned against the edge of the sink and let out a sigh. I wiped the sweat from my forehead, looked down at my wet shirt, and was thankful that I’d brought a change of clothes. I just wished that we had a shower here at the restaurant because I felt like I needed one even more than I did after gym class in school.
“David,” Henri called out to me, giving me a flat look. The big hairy man could be pretty intimidating when he wanted to be, especially with his arms all tattooed up. However, I knew that underneath that rough exterior, he was actually as soft and cuddly as a grizzly bear. “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”
“Yes sir, mister bossman sir,” I responded, giving him a salute, and intentionally doing a very poor job of it. Henri used to be in the Navy and I liked to mess with him about it a little, though I knew better than to argue and was already moving to do what he told me.
“Smartass,” Henri muttered.
By the time the lunch rush was ending, I was tired and eager to get out of here. However, I didn’t bother complaining since my six hour shift was nothing compared to the hours that Dad worked. In fact, I hadn’t even seen him take a break the entire time I was here. He just kept moving around the kitchen like a man possessed, putting out hamburgers, omelets, and bowls of his spicy chili, as well as numerous other items from the menu.
“I’ve got a job for you,” Dad told me.
I let out a sigh and asked, “Am I gonna need a mop for this one?”
“No,” Dad responded with a chuckle. “Just your feet. I need you to drop the check from that catering job off at the bank on your way home.”
I grinned at that, immediately catching the implication that I was done for the day. I went into the back room and changed into my clean clothes, then came out and poured myself a cup of coffee into a ‘to go’ cup, adding a good amount of cream into the mix. Once I was ready, I grabbed the check and deposit slip from Dad and hurried out the door.
Dad’s diner was downtown, just three blocks away from the bank he used. It wouldn’t be a problem to walk to the bank, and from there I could catch a bus back to our apartment. With my coffee in hand, I began my walk.
The bank was located on the intersection of Main street and Third, occupying the entire bottom floor of a seven story building. I had no idea what other businesses filled the rest of the building, nor did I really care. All I had to do was deposit Dad’s check, then I was done for the day.
As soon as I stepped into the bank lobby, I suddenly felt a pressure forming in my head, one which made me wince at what I knew was coming. This headache wasn’t bad yet, but that was going to change very soon. There was no mistaking the beginnings of one of my migraines.
“Just great,” I muttered in frustration.
While I stood in line, waiting for my turn and silently wishing it would go faster so I could get out of there before my migraine fully formed, I slowly looked around at everyone else present. There was the bored looking security guard who stood near the doors, an obnoxious woman who was loudly complaining to a man who I assumed was her husband, and an overweight guy who was taking his time with the teller. Of course, there were other people as well, some customers and some employees, but none of them really stood out to me.
When I got to the front of the line, I silently handed the teller the check and deposit slip. My headache was really starting to hurt now so I wasn’t in the mood to talk or be friendly. I just wanted to get out of here and back home as fast as I could.
Suddenly, a woman’s voice yelled, “Nobody move!”
I snapped around to see the source of the yelling, as did everyone else in the bank. There was a woman standing at the entrance, one who would have immediately drawn my attention even if she hadn’t said a word.
The woman was about six feet tall with long red hair and a body that was sexy and athletic. The term ‘statuesque’ immediately came to mind. But even more noticeable than all that was the fact that she was wearing a spandex costume that left very little to the imagination. Her costume was red with white trim and covered her entire body from the neck down. The only skin that was visible was on her face, though even that was half covered by the red mask around her eyes.
A moment later, the security guard began to react, but she grabbed him and lifted him off the ground using only one arm. She didn’t even look like she was straining. In the process, the security guard dropped the gun that he’d been in the process of pulling from his holster.
“You can call me Pinball,” the costumed woman exclaimed, casually tossing the security guard towards the center of the lobby, well away from his gun. “This is a robbery. If everyone cooperates, no one will get hurt. I’m only interested in the money, not in any of you. So if everyone will calmly sit down on the floor and remain there without causing any trouble, I’ll get my money and be gone in no time.”
My eyes widened at the realization that the bank was being robbed by some kind of super villain, but strangely enough, I didn’t really feel afraid. My headache had become even worse and had entered into the migraine level, but I wasn’t the least bit scared…or much of anything else.
“I think we should all do what she says,” another woman said.
The new speaker looked like she was in her late twenties and was wearing a gray suit and skirt. She had shoulder length brown hair and a pair of glasses that made me think ‘librarian’.
“I don’t want to get hurt,” the librarian said, sitting down on the floor.
“Everyone sit over there,” Pinball instructed, gesturing to the area around the librarian. Then she turned to one of the tellers and said, “Not you… I want you to load up a bag with money. If there are any dye packs in there, I won’t be happy, and if I’m not happy, you won’t be either. And remember, this isn’t your money and the insurance will recoup the loss.”
I sat down on the floor along with everyone else, wincing as my head pounded worse and worse. I looked around, feeling vaguely surprised at how calm and relaxed everyone seemed. Not a single person looked afraid, much less like they were about to freak out and panic. I’d never been in this kind of situation before, but I would have thought that at least one person would have freaked out.
A minute later, the sound of police sirens could be heard from outside the bank, though the loud noise made my migraine even worse, if that was even possible. Migrainezilla had come back, even worse than it had ever been before. Tears began flowing due to the pain.
“They’re here a little sooner than I expected,” Pinball mused aloud. Then she looked around and said, “Everyone stay where you are and you’ll be safe.”
Pinball went to the glass doors, and for a moment, she was suddenly standing in the middle of what looked like a giant soap bubble. The bubble shimmered and then vanished again, though my headache surged worse and I actually cried out in pain. My head felt like it was about to explode. In fact, my entire body felt like it was on fire, which was something new.
Pinball snapped around and stared at me for a moment, then she abruptly gestured to me and exclaimed, “That’s what you get for staring at me.” She looked around at the other hostages and said, “I warned you all not to cause trouble, now it looks like I’m going to have to teach this kid a lesson.”
With that, Pinball grabbed my arm and lifted me to my feet, then drug me out of the lobby and to some office next door. I was hurting too much to fight her or resist, not that it would have done me any good. I’d seen from how she treated the security guard and how easily she’d lifted me that she was pretty strong.
Once we were in the office, Pinball set me down in a chair with a surprising gentleness, then asked, “Are you all right kid?”
“What did you do to me?” I asked, though it came out weak and shaky.
“I didn’t do anything to you,” Pinball answered, staring at me for a moment before abruptly asking, “What color are your eyes?”
I was surprised by the question, and also having a difficult time focusing because of the pain. I grabbed the sides of my head, as though I could push my migraine back down, or at least keep my head from exploding.
“What color are your eyes?” Pinball repeated.
“Gray,” I finally answered, though I was having a hard time focusing enough to even answer such a simple question as that.
“No they aren’t,” Pinball told me. “And unless I miss my guess, you’re in the middle of manifesting…”
It took half a minute for those words to sink in, and even then I was still feeling confused. “Manifesting?”
“As a mutant,” Pinball responded, giving me a rather gentle smile.
I gasped at that, then protested weakly, “I’m not a mutant…”
“Your eyes are definitely NOT gray,” Pinball told me gently. “And you were starting to glow out there in the lobby. Stressful situations can sometimes trigger a mutant’s manifestation, and I think a bank robbery qualifies. I figured that I’d better get you out of there before anyone realized that you were a mutant. If they did, they’d probably assume you were with me, and I didn’t want that.”
I was trying hard to listen to her words, but I was having a difficult time absorbing them at the moment. My entire body still hurt and my head felt like it was going to explode. Tears were coming down my cheeks and all I wanted to do was curl up and make the rest of the world go away.
“You really don’t look good,” Pinball told me, actually sounding worried. “Damn, I hope you’re not going through a burnout…”
With that, Pinball took off her glove and reached out to feel my forehead. As soon as she touched me, I felt as though I’d been shocked, starting on my forehead and then shooting down all the way to my toes. I let out a scream and would have collapsed to the floor if I hadn’t been sitting in the chair.
“What was that?” Pinball exclaimed, yanking her hand back and staring at it. She scowled and gave me an odd look, saying, “At least you don’t seem to have a temperature, so I don’t think you’re having a burnout.”
I just sat there, feeling dazed but oddly pain free. It was as though that odd shock had somehow released all the pressure in my head, making my headache vanish instantly. I didn’t understand how that was even possible, but I certainly wasn’t about to complain.
“You stay here kid,” Pinball told me. “Out of sight and out of trouble. Once I’m gone, you can tell the cops I roughed you up or something.”
With that, Pinball put her glove back on and left the office. I just watched her leave, feeling confused because that certainly wasn’t how I’d expected a super villain to behave. She’d almost been…nice.
I remained where I was, feeling worried and confused. I didn’t know why I’d felt so calm and unafraid out in the lobby when I was being taken hostage, but that was now gone. It wasn’t Pinball who frightened me at that moment, but it was what she’d said. She thought I was a mutant.
My migraine was completely gone, vanishing faster and more completely than it had ever done before. However, I still didn’t feel right, though I couldn’t quite explain it. All I knew was that I had a strange certainty that something was different.
“My eyes,” I suddenly blurted out in realization. “She said something about my eyes…”
And then, I remembered that Pinball had also said something about me glowing. I looked down at myself and saw no sign of any glowing, much to my relief. Maybe Pinball had imagined it. Or maybe, she was just trying to mess with me for some reason. After all, she was a bank robber and super villain so she didn’t exactly have a lot of credibility.
After a few minutes, I hesitantly got up out of the chair, a little nervous that Pinball would come back and catch me. She had told me to sit there after all. But then again, she hadn’t really seemed worried about leaving me alone.
I looked around the office, smiling when I saw a coffee pot sitting in the corner. I grabbed a paper cup from a stack that was sitting next to the coffee maker, then helped myself to some of the go juice.
“Being a hostage isn’t really that bad,” I mused as I took a drink. I just wondered if it was safe to come out of the office now, though it would probably be best to remain here until the cops came.
Then as I looked around the office, I noticed a purse sitting on the floor next to the desk. I wouldn’t have given it much thought, but I saw a makeup compact sitting right on top. That reminded me again of what Pinball had said about my eyes not being gray.
“She’s full of it,” I told myself, though I reached for the makeup compact anyway. After all, there was only one way to know for sure.
I popped open the compact and looked into the small mirror that I knew would be inside. I couldn’t make out much, but it was enough to see my eyes clearly. And to my surprise, Pinball had been telling the truth. My eyes weren’t gray anymore.
“No way,” I blurted out, adjusting the mirror and trying to get a better look at my eyes.
My eyes...the irises were no longer gray in color. They were golden and almost seemed to glow faintly. I was absolutely stunned by the sight, feeling worried and even more confused.
“I’m not a mutant,” I whispered, my voice shaking. “I can’t be…”
In spite of what my parents thought, I didn’t think that mutants were diseased freaks who were a threat to the human race. After all, there was a girl at school who I’d really liked who was a mutant, not that I’d ever told Mom and Dad that. However, the idea of ME being a mutant… The idea seemed ludicrous.
When Pinball came back into the office a short time later, she musing almost to herself, “There are a LOT more cops out there than I’d expected, and this whole thing has taken longer than I’d planned. I guess getting out is going to be just a little more challenging…”
“What did you do to me?” I demanded, suddenly feeling angry and glaring at her as though this was entirely her fault. In fact, it was her fault. If she hadn’t robbed the bank, none of this would have happened. “What did you do to me? What did you do to my eyes?”
“Like I told you earlier, I didn’t do anything to you,” she told me in an almost gentle tone. “Sorry kid, but you can blame your own DNA for those eyes…and whatever else your body is doing.”
“But I’m not a mutant,” I protested, swinging from angry to terrified again. All I could think of was what Mom and Dad would say if I was. “I can’t be…”
Pinball just stood there for a moment before shaking her head sympathetically. “Sorry kid, but it doesn’t work like that. Whether you like it or not, I’d say you’re probably a mutant…unless you got exposed to alien radiation or something like that.” She chuckled at that. “Either way, it probably isn’t a good idea for you to stick around here.”
My entire body was shaking and I wanted to scream and deny that I could possibly be a mutant. But instead, I picked up my half-finished cup of lukewarm coffee and took a careful sip, trying to act as though I was calm and in control, when the truth was that I was anything but.
“What do you mean?” I asked quietly.
“You’re starting to glow again,” Pinball pointed out. I stared down at my hands and was startled to see that there was a faint golden glow around them, though it stopped a moment later. “Between that and your eyes, it really isn’t safe for you here…”
I gulped at that, remembering what she’d said after she brought me into the office. “You said they might think I was with you…”
“A definite possibility,” Pinball agreed. “And when it comes to mutants, the cops tend to shoot first and ask questions later. However, I think we’ll have worse problems than the cops.”
“Like my parents?” I responded with a weak smile. “Yeah, if they think I’m involved in your robbery, I’ll wish the cops got me first…”
Pinball chuckled at that, then said, “Actually, I’ve been here way too long. It won’t be long before either some super heroes arrive, or worse…the MCO. If it’s the heroes, they may get a little rough with you at first, but you’ll probably be all right. But if it’s the MCO…” She paused at that, her expression turning grim. “Well, if they don’t shoot you on sight, they’ll probably make you disappear.”
I gasped at that, then protested, “But the MCO wouldn’t do that… They’re the good guys…” At least, that TV show about the MCO protecting the public from dangerous mutants always showed them to be the good guys. However, I had heard a few stories and rumors that they tended to get a little…overenthusiastic about taking down mutants.
Pinball just snorted and said, “Trust me kid, you do NOT want to find out what bastards they really are. I’m getting you out of here before that happens. As far as anyone else will know, you’re just some unknown hostage.”
A few seconds later, Pinball left the office and told me to follow her. I didn’t really to go with her, especially since my super power of common sense said that going anywhere with a super villain and bank robber was a very bad idea. However, her talk about my being shot by the cops or MCO had me worried, especially when I thought about my eyes and the way I’d been glowing a minute earlier. After several painful seconds of indecision, I started after her.
“Everyone remain where you are,” Pinball called out to the hostages in the lobby. “The police haven’t come in yet because they’re afraid of you getting hurt, but that won’t last much longer. Don’t worry, I’m going to leave before that happens, but stay there on the floor until the cops come in and you’ll stay safe.”
A moment later, Pinball slung a large backpack full of money onto her back, then grabbed me and made a show of taking me as a hostage. She pulled me, not towards the main entrance like I’d expected, but to an elevator off to the side. Once we were inside the elevator with the doors closed, she let go of me.
“Don’t worry kid,” she told me with a grin. “I’m gonna get you out of here safe and sound.”
I snorted at that and responded, “I might believe that a little more if it wasn’t coming from a bank robber who just took me hostage.”
Pinball chuckled at that and said, “Trust me.”
“As I just said,” I commented, earning another chuckle.
It was strange riding in the elevator with a super villain who had who knows how much stolen money slung over her shoulder. I knew that I should be terrified, and I was, just not of her. Instead, I was afraid of the cops, the MCO, and of what my Mom and Dad would say when they found out about this.
“I am so dead,” I muttered to myself.
“You know kid, you’re being pretty brave about this,” Pinball said when we reached the top floor.
“My name isn’t kid,” I said in annoyance, wishing that she’d stop calling me that. “I’m David. David Michaels.”
“Well…David,” she said with an amused smile. “It’s a good thing you’re coming with me.” She reached out and touched my hair and added, “Your hair is starting to change color…”
“What?” I gasped in surprise, reaching up to touch my hair, though it felt the same.
We got out of the elevator and then Pinball went to the stairway and continued going up, ending up on the roof. I followed behind her, wondering if she was expecting a helicopter to pick her up. Then again, she was a mutant with powers, so she was probably planning to fly out of there.
“Come on,” Pinball urged me, going to the edge of the building and looking over the edge. “Definitely a lot of cops down there.”
I hesitantly looked over the edge and gulped, deciding that it was a long way down, especially without any railings to keep me from falling. However, I did notice that Pinball was right. There were a lot of cops down there. There had to be a dozen cop cars, police vans, and even fire engines surrounding the bank. And that didn’t even take into account the helicopter that hovered in the distance.
“Trust me,” Pinball said, putting her arm around my waist and pulling me close. “And hold on tight.”
With that, Pinball jumped off the building, taking me with her. I let out a scream of terror as we rapidly fell towards the ground, probably sounding like a little girl but not really caring at the moment. I closed my eyes before impact, but then we suddenly stopped…but not the way I’d expected. There was no sudden stop that ended in death, or even any jarring. It was as though we’d simply stopped falling and ignored the laws of physics and inertia.
When I opened my eyes, I saw that we were on the ground right outside the bank. Cops were all over the place and were staring at us in surprise before they began pointing their weapons at us. Then I noticed a shimmering in the air all around us, as though we were both within the middle of a giant soap bubble.
“My force field absorbed the kinetic energy from the fall,” Pinball told me proudly. “And it can do the same to their bullets. They can shoot all they want and it only makes my force field stronger.”
I wanted to blurt out an ‘oh shit’, but my heart was racing too hard and I was too shaken to even speak. It was all I could do to just remain standing and breathing.
“Keep holding onto me kid…David,” Pinball instructed. “Now I’m going to show you why I’m called Pinball.”
A moment later, Pinball and I began moving forward, though neither of us had actually moved. I gasped as I realized that force field bubble we were inside of was actually rolling down the street like a giant ball, though from inside the bubble it didn’t feel like we were moving at all.
“Are you sure you’re not called Hamster Ball?” I joked weakly as I remembered the plastic hamster ball that Becky’s old pet used to roll around the house with.
“Smartass,” Pinball responded.
“And shouldn’t we be tumbling around inside here?” I asked nervously.
Pinball didn’t answer me and instead seemed to be focusing on all the cops and police cars which surrounded us. She grinned and then we suddenly began rolling forward even faster, completely ignoring the fact that the police were shooting at us.
“Oh shit,” I finally blurted out as we went straight for a cop car.
We didn’t slow down or change directions at all, and instead, we continued going faster until we smashed right into the side of the cop car…and kept going. I hadn’t felt any impact when we hit, realizing that it must be more of whatever effects protected us from falling or kept us from tumbling around while we moved.
Just seconds after we’d smashed through the first cop car, we hit a police van and then bounced off, ricocheting and hitting the side of a building before bouncing off again.
“We’re gonna die,” I cried out in terror, though Pinball actually seemed to be enjoying herself.
The force field bubble shot back and forth across the street, bouncing around like we were inside a giant pinball machine while smashing into walls and vehicles as cops jumped out of the way. In half a minute, we’d hit nearly every police car in the vicinity and then changed direction and began rolling down the street at a high speed.
“When I was about your age and first chose my codename,” Pinball said in a casual tone. “I couldn’t really direct my force field and tended to bounce off everything without control. Fortunately, that isn’t the case anymore.”
She proved that by suddenly making a right turn at an intersection and continuing down the street, rolling between cars and even over a few. When there was a large truck in our path, the force field bubble we were inside of actually leapt over the obstacle before hitting the ground and continuing down the road.
“I love my power,” Pinball commented as we bounced over another vehicle in our path. “Its offense, defense, and transportation…all rolled into one.”
I nodded at that, then joked, “It sounds like a well-rounded power.”
Pinball chuckled at that. “It’s been awhile since I heard that one. You really are a smartass.”
“Better than being a dumbass,” I responded, which earned another chuckle.
“I can’t disagree with that,” she told me. “Now that we got away, I’ll drop you off somewhere safe and then I’ll be on my way. I’ll make sure to create enough of a disturbance that they’ll follow me until I can lose them again.”
A minute later, we went into a parking garage and came to a stop. Once we did, the force field bubble vanished and I was once again standing on normal ground. I felt an odd mixture of relief at that, but also disappointment since that ride had actually been pretty fun, once I’d gotten over my terror that is.
“That was the best carnival ride ever,” I joked, trying to cover my nervousness. “You should go work for Six Flags…”
“I’ll think about it,” Pinball told me with an amused look. Then her expression turned serious and she stared at me for a moment before saying, “Be careful kid. Your body is obviously going through some changes, though I have no idea what kind. Just try to keep it as quiet as you can, and avoid the attention of Humanity First or those MCO assholes. Trust me, you don’t want to be outed as a mutant if you can help it, and you especially don’t want those kind of people to notice you.”
“Um…thanks,” I told her awkwardly. “I think.”
“Being a mutant can be really rough,” Pinball told me sadly. “But a lot of good things can come from it too, if you have an open mind. Anyway, I’ve got to get going. Good luck.”
And with that, the force field bubble appeared around Pinball again. She nodded to me, then rolled right back out of the parking garage and down the street to lead any pursuit away from me.
I stood there for a minute, feeling confused about everything that was going on. If it hadn’t just happened to me, I probably would have thought it was the plot from some movie or comic book. I also didn’t know what to think of Pinball. On one hand, she was a super villain and bank robber, but on the other, she’d actually been pretty nice to me.
“My friends are never going to believe I went joy riding with a super villain,” I told myself with a chuckle.
However, that thought also reminded me of one major problem that I still had to deal with. What in the world was I going to tell Mom and Dad?
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sunday, Sept 16th, 2007
“This isn’t fair,” I exclaimed bitterly as I paced back and forth across my small bedroom.
I was feeling cooped up, a little claustrophobic, and very frustrated as I plopped down my bed and let out a loud sigh. With the way Mom and Dad were treating me, you’d think that I was the one who robbed the bank yesterday, not that I was one of the hostages. I felt like I was locked up in jail, though at least in jail I might have had someone else to talk to.
When I’d returned home yesterday, Mom and Dad had been worried, having heard that there was a bank robbery at the Goodkind Bank branch where I’d gone to drop off the check. However, Mom’s next reaction was to demand to know what I’d done with my hair…and then my eyes. And when I’d reluctantly admitted that I might be a mutant, they both stared at me in horror…as though I’d suddenly caught cancer and had become extremely contagious as well. I’d been immediately sent to my room and hadn’t been allowed to come out since, except to use the bathroom. Mom and Dad didn’t even let me come out for dinner or breakfast and had instead brought my food to me, not even coming into my room when they did so.
“This isn’t jail,” I spat out bitterly. “It’s quarantine.” I snorted at that. I didn’t know a lot about mutants and what made them into mutants, but even I knew that they weren’t contagious.
From out in the hallway, I heard Becky exclaim, “But I wanna play with David. I’m BORED…” She emphasized the word ‘bored’ in the way that only little kids could.
“Stay away from David,” Mom told her firmly. “David is sick now…”
“He’s always sick,” Becky protested.
“But this is different,” Mom insisted. “David is dangerous now…to himself and everyone else. I don’t want him to accidentally hurt you…”
There was a long moment of silence before Becky asked, “Is David going to get better?”
“I don’t think he will,” Mom answered her sadly. “But I’ve called some experts to take care of him.”
I let out a gasp at that, wondering what kind of experts Mom meant. Had she called some doctors to come take a look at me, maybe confirm whether or not I really was a mutant? If so, maybe they could help me figure out these weird changes to my body…and tell me if I actually had some powers besides glowing like a night light.
As I’d already discovered at the bank, my eyes and turned into an odd golden color that definitely wasn’t normal. After I’d gotten home, I found that my hair had begun changing color as well. Instead of being blonde like I normally was, my hair was turning red…and growing longer. Since yesterday, almost all of my hair had turned red and had grown at least four inches. I suppose that as far as changes went, that wasn’t really too bad, but I had a feeling there was more to it than that. My entire body felt just a little odd, and every once in awhile I’d feel a strange tingling sensation in one place or another.
At the moment, I felt one of those odd tingles along my arms, and when I scratched at my arms, I was startled to realize that my arm hair was missing. I didn’t have a lot of arm hair, and what I did have was normally light colored and not very visible, but now it was gone entirely.
“I sure hope those doctors can help me,” I said, feeling worried.
A short time later, I heard Mom out in the hallway, saying, “He’s in here…”
“You’re doing the right thing ma’am,” an unknown man responded. “Now stay back and let us handle this. Mutants can be extremely dangerous…”
“What the…?” I gasped in surprise, jumping to my feet and wondering what was going on.
A moment later, my door burst open and an armed man in SWAT gear rushed in, pointing a large weapon straight at me. Two more men who were similarly dressed and armed came in right behind then.
“Don’t move,” the first man yelled. “Hold out your hands mutant…”
I was confused and absolutely terrified, and when I suddenly noticed their uniforms said MCO, I became even more so. I suddenly remembered Pinball’s warnings about what might happen if the MCO knew I was a mutant and nearly shit my pants. I quickly raised my hands so they wouldn’t shoot me, then realized that I was starting to glow with a golden light again, just like I’d done at the bank.
Suddenly, one of the men shot me with some kind of taser which sent a surge of pain through my entire body. I screamed while having some kind of seizure before all my muscles seemed to turn to jello and I collapsed to the ground like a rag doll, unable to even move.
“Damn mutant freak,” one of them exclaimed as he kicked me in the face. There was an explosion of pain in my nose and lip and I immediately tasted blood. “Don’t even think of trying to use your powers on us…”
The other two men gave me swift kicks as well, catching me in my stomach and side. I would have tried curling up into a ball to protect myself, but my muscles still weren’t responding so all I could do was lay there sobbing as they kicked me and then roughly cuffed my hands behind my back. Then they each gave me one more kick before dragging me to my feet.
“It’s always good to get them early,” one of the men told the others. “They don’t know their own powers and are a lot easier to take into custody.”
With that, the three men proceeded to drag me out of my room and down the hall. I couldn’t move enough to resist at all, much less actually put up a fight. I had little doubt that even if I had been able to move, it wouldn’t have done any good. These men had real weapons as well as the taser and I suspected they wouldn’t hesitate to use them.
“David,” Becky cried out in the living room, crying and trying to get to me though Mom held her firmly back. “David…”
“These men are making sure David won’t be able to accidentally hurt anyone,” Mom told my sister sadly. She actually had tears running down her cheeks as she stared at me, saying, “I’m sorry David…but this is for the best.”
I wanted to scream and cry out at this betrayal, of my own Mom turning me over to these people like this. However, I still couldn’t move or do anything except gurgle incomprehensibly while tears ran down my cheeks. Mom turned away so she didn’t have to look at me, taking a bawling Becky out of the room with her. That sight was enough to hurt me even more than the kicks had.
Dad wasn’t there at the moment, having gone to work at the diner the same as every other Sunday. The fact that his only son had turned into a mutant wasn’t a good enough reason for him to stay home from work. As Mom turned her back on me, I desperately wondered what Dad would have done if he’d been here. Would he have defended me from these MCO guys, or would he have let them take me the same way Mom had? Since I knew that he felt the same way about mutants that she did, he’d probably been part of the decision to call them in the first place.
“Thanks for helping us get this dangerous mutant off the streets before he can hurt anyone,” one of the MCO agents told Mom as they hauled me out the door. “We’ll make sure to take good care of him.”
“Come on kid,” one of the other men told me in a mocking tone. “We’re gonna take you to a nice comfy resort…” All three of the men laughed at that.
Just then, another apartment door opened and Mister Harris stepped out into the hallway, scowling and looking pissed. He was a grumpy guy who never seemed to like anyone else, but he was a neighbor whom I’d known for more than a year. As soon as I saw him, I felt a pressure in my head, similar to the one I felt right before my headaches started, though this time it was different…more mild. This also suddenly made me realize just how often my headaches started when going to or from the apartment, and while I was walking down this very hallway.
“What the hell is going on out here?” Mr. Harris demanded angrily. “You’re making a damn racket…”
“We’re dealing with a threat to public safety,” one of the men told Mr. Harris. “Everything is fine now…”
However, instead of looking relieved, Mr. Harris stared at them with a sudden look of fear on his face. “MCO,” he gasped, his expression turning into one of near panic as he yelled, “Fucking bastards…” With that, my neighbor’s eyes began to glow and a ball of fire appeared in his hands.
“He’s a mutant,” one of the MCO agents exclaimed, opening fire and shooting Mr. Harris. However, it was immediately obvious that he wasn’t using a taser this time since Mr. Harris was thrown back with big bloody holes all through him. The ball of fire vanished from his hand and he lay on the hallway floor, no longer moving.
“Two mutants in the same place,” the MCO agent who’d talked to Mom said, sounding grim. “Who knows how many more there are hiding here. We’ll have to let headquarters know to keep an eye on this place…just in case.”
I was shocked to discover that Mr. Harris was a mutant, or at least to have found out like this. At the same time, I was horrified at the way he’d just been gunned down in front of me, and I couldn’t help but feeling guilty. The MCO was here because of me, so if I hadn’t started manifesting as a mutant, Mr. Harris never would have been killed. If I hadn’t already been crying before, this would have been enough to make me do so.
A couple minutes late, the MCO agents took me out to the parking lot and threw me into the back of an armored truck. I was able to move again, at least enough to wiggle my fingers and toes but not much else. However, I was recovering quickly, not that it would do me much good. They actually put metal shackles on my wrists, ankles, and waist, then chained me to the sides and floor of the armored truck. Even after everything they’d done to me, I was shocked to be given such treatment, as though I was some dangerous serial killer or super villain.
Once I was secured, the MCO agent who’d shot Mr. Harris stood in front of me with a satisfied look on his face. “It was one of your kind who killed my sister,” he told me in an almost casual tone. “At least you’re one mutant who will never have the chance to hurt innocent humans.”
Then he punched me twice, once in my face and once in my stomach. I grunted in pain and doubled over while my kidnapper stepped out of the armored car and closed the metal door behind him. A pair of small lights on the ceiling kept me from being left in the dark.
It didn’t take long before the armored care began to move, and I knew that it wasn’t traveling alone. Before they’d shoved me in the back, I’d seen a car that had been parked beside it, one that had MCO markings on the door, the same as what had been painted on the side of the armored car.
Physically, I was extremely uncomfortable, hurting from the punches and kicks and feeling chafed from the manacles that bound me. But as much as my body hurt, that was absolutely nothing compared to how I felt inside. I sobbed like a baby, remembering the look on Mom’s face as they took me away.
“Why?” I pleaded aloud. “What did I do wrong?”
It wasn’t my fault that I was a mutant…that my body was changing like this. It scared the hell out of me, but instead of helping me when I needed them most, my parents had turned me over to these thugs. I didn’t know what the MCO intended for me, but I was certain that it wasn’t anything good.
There were no windows in the back of the truck and I had nothing to help me tell where I was going or exactly how long I’d been chained up back there. My body didn’t really hurt anymore, though I did grow even more uncomfortable as I desperately wanted to stretch out and move.
I cried for the first half hour or so, then my tears seemed to run out and I just sat there feeling numb and hopeless. I was in shock, hardly able to believe what was happening to me, and I kept thinking that any minute I’d wake up screaming, only to discover this had all been a bad dream. Unfortunately, I knew full well that wasn’t going to happen.
I’d been in the back of the truck for what I’d guessed was between two to three hours when there was suddenly a massive jarring sensation. I couldn’t see what was going on, but it was obvious that something had hit the truck. Seconds later, it came to a sudden stop and I would have been thrown around if I hadn’t been chained in place.
Since I had no other choice, I remained where I was, burning with curiosity about what was going on. Then after several minutes, the door opened and a familiar figure stood there.
“Hey kid,” Pinball greeted me with a smile. “Are you ready to get out of here?”
I stared at her in surprise and a little confusion before nodding enthusiastically. Pinball stared at me for a moment with an odd look before coming into the truck and unlocking my shackles. She must have gotten the key from the MCO agents, but I couldn’t imagine that they’d give it up easily.
“Come on,” Pinball told me, helping me up and out of the truck.
Once I was out of the truck, I noticed the MCO car a short distance away, sitting upside down with the side smashed in. It looked like they’d taken a direct hit from Pinball, and I really wished I could have seen that.
“Stand and deliver,” a man exclaimed.
I snapped around in fear, only to see someone who was obviously not one of the MCO agents. He was wearing some kind of really old fashioned white trenchcoat with a high collar that obscured the lower half of his face, and he wore a white tricorner hat which helped to hide the rest of his features. In each hand, he held what looked like some kind of ray gun.
The man in white was so distracting that it took me a moment to realize that one of the MCO agents was on his knees in front of him, obviously having been taken captive. Another MCO agent was on the ground a short distance away, barely moving at all.
“Thank you for your assistance, Highwayman,” Pinball told the man in white. “I knew this kind of thing was right up your alley.”
“It is always my pleasure to assist a beautiful woman,” Highwayman responded, removing his hat and giving a bow.
“I’m sure the money I’m paying you doesn’t hurt either,” Pinball said wryly.
“Money does provide a certain motivation,” Highwayman agreed. “But I would almost have helped you against these MCO dogs for free.”
Pinball chuckled at that and pointed out, “Almost.”
Highwayman turned his attention to me, staring at me for a moment before saying, “Rescues are not within my normal repertoire, but I am happy to have made an exception for today.”
“Um…thank you,” I told him. “And thank you,” I said to Pinball, feeling a strange mixture of relief, nervousness, and confusion. After all, she was a super villain and she’d just rescued me from the people I’d always thought of as the ‘good guys’.
“Until next we meet,” Highwayman told Pinball, giving her another bow and adding, “And if you should ever need my services again…”
“I know where to send the payment,” she responded.
With that, Highwayman climbed onto a strange looking motorcycle that was painted all white. It was one of those crotch rocket types of bikes, at least in basic design, but it didn’t look like any bike I’d ever seen before. For one thing, it looked extremely high tech. But before I could get more than a quick look at the bike, Highwayman rode off.
“Now let’s get out of here,” Pinball announced.
Suddenly, there was a loud gunshot, followed instantly by massive pain in my shoulder. I let out a loud scream and dropped to my knees, grabbing my shoulder which hurt like hell and was sticky with blood.
Then I saw the source of my pain, an MCO agent who’d climbed out of the upturned car, though he was still on the ground with a handgun pointed straight at me. He was the same one who’d killed Mr. Harris…and who’d hit me again once I was chained up inside the armored car.
“I won’t let you get away,” the MCO agent exclaimed with a look of grim determination.
“No,” I cried out, clenching my eyes shut and bracing for the shots that were sure to come. I heard two more gunshots, but didn’t feel any of them hitting me. I hesitantly opened my eyes and gasped in surprise. “What the…?”
There was a golden colored haze surrounding me in every direction, though a moment later, I realized that it was a force field bubble exactly like the one Pinball had used to get us away from the bank. There was one major difference, that one had been completely transparent and a little shimmery, looking like a soap bubble. The one surrounding me now was transparent, but definitely had a golden color. A moment later, the bubble vanished.
“Asshole,” Pinball exclaimed, holding the MCO agent up with one hand and glaring at him furiously. “And you people call me a villain.” And with that, she tossed him into the back of the armored truck, hard enough that he was going to have some good bruises and possibly even a broken bone or two. Then she locked the door on him and spat out, “MCO…”
I held onto my bloody and aching shoulder, feeling weak and dizzy as I stood back up again. “Thank you for saving me again,” I told Pinball.
“That one wasn’t me, kid,” she responded, staring at me with a look of surprise.
I stared back at her for a moment, feeling confused and wondering what she meant. Then I collapsed to the ground and everything went dark.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Sunday, Sept 16th, 2007
When I woke up, I was lying in bed, though it obviously wasn’t a hospital bed, just as I was clearly not in a hospital room. The room was only a little bigger than my bedroom and there was a dresser in the corner, but no other furniture or decorations. It struck me that this looked like a guest bedroom.
I slowly sat up in bed, feeling confused and worried. The twinge of discomfort from my shoulder reminded me that I’d been shot, right after being rescued by a super villain. If it hadn’t been for the pain in my shoulder, I might have thought it had all been a nightmare.
After a moment, I hesitantly reached up to my shoulder, which had a bandage on it but it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I would have expected. Instead of a sharp pain, it was more of a dull ache, and not even a really bad one.
I tossed the rest of the covers aside and saw that I was wearing my underwear and nothing else. Of course, a doctor would have had to take off my shirt to look at my wound, and my pants might just have gotten blood on them. Or maybe it was just more convenient to remove them before putting me in bed.
“Where am I?” I muttered, absently brushing my hair back out of my face. Then I paused in surprise, realizing that my hair had grown even longer.
After a minute, I slowly climbed out of bed, feeling extremely odd. Something was definitely off with my body, even more than before the MCO had taken me. I looked around for my clothes so I could get dressed, and though I didn’t see any sign of them, I did see a bathroom that was attached to the room. Since I definitely needed to empty my bladder, I decided that this should be my first priority.
I staggered into the bathroom and went to take a piss, but when I pulled down my underwear I was caught my surprise. Little David, which I’d always thought of as being a little bigger than average, though that may have just been hopeful thinking, was noticeably smaller than normal. In fact, it was only half as big as it normally was.
“What the hell?” I blurted out in shock.
Was this part of the way my body had already been changing, or was this something else? Having my eyes and hair change color was one thing, but this was going too far. There was no way in hell I was going to accept this. If the guys in the school locker room saw me like this, I’d be stuck with the humiliating nickname of Tiny Dick.
In spite of my equipment somehow having been shrunk in the wash, I still finished taking my piss. It was then that I began looking over the rest of my body to see if anything else had changed. Unfortunately, it was clear that my body had indeed changed more while I was out of it, though it was difficult to put my finger on anything specific. It was just that my skin somehow seemed softer and smoother, and my body shape just seemed…off.
“This isn’t good,” I whispered, my voice shaking and sounding a little odd to my ears.
I poked my chest, which was not only softer than normal but somewhat puffy as well. Was I putting on weight? I didn’t seem quite as skinny as normal, though I certainly didn’t look like I was getting fat either, at least not anywhere else.
After I’d finished looking myself over, I turned to wash my hands in the sink and then paused to gasp again. When I’d been looking over my body for changes, I hadn’t thought to check my face.
The face that stared back from the mirror was my face, but at the same time, it wasn’t. My eyes were still the same golden color as they’d been before the MCO took me, but other details just seemed a little off. My ears no longer seemed too large and my nose appeared to have become a little smaller as well. In fact, most of my face just didn’t seem quite right, though I had a hard time pointing any other specifics.
I’d already known that my hair had changed color and had grown longer, so I wasn’t surprised to see that my hair was now shoulder length and had turned almost entirely red. It wasn’t bright red like a fire engine or the orange color hair that a lot of people called red, but it was a deeper and richer red…almost the exact same color that Pinball had. The only exception was that I had a single lock of hair in the front that remained blonde, but even that had changed color. Instead of my normal dull blonde, that lock of hair had become a golden blond.
“No way is that me,” I whispered.
With my hair like that, it almost looked like a girl was staring back at me from the mirror. In fact, it looked a lot like a girl was staring back at me, one who could have almost been cute.
I turned away from the mirror, feeling angry, scared and confused. I reminded myself that as weird as this was, I still had bigger problems. When I remembered the way my Mom had turned me over to the MCO, I even began crying again.
“I can’t go back,” I whispered in realization. How could I possibly go home after my Mom had done that? I’d actually escaped from the MCO, and I had no doubt that they’d want me back. Pinball and Highwayman might have been the ones who actually broke me out, but my escape would have to be an embarrassment to them nonetheless. “Oh shit. I am so screwed…”
After I left the bathroom, I found my pants and sitting on the floor next to the foot of the bed, but there was no sign of my shirt. I wasn’t surprised at that since it must have been pretty messy with all the blood. I shuddered at that, suddenly wondering why my shoulder didn’t hurt more.
When I put my pants on, I was a little surprised to find that they didn’t fit quite right. They’d been a perfect fit before, but now they felt too loose in my crotch and too tight in other places. My shoes were about the same, pinching my feet as though they’d suddenly shrunk a size.
A minute later, the door opened and a woman stepped inside. She was tall, athletic, and stacked…having a totally killer body. And though Pinball was wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead of her costume, there was absolutely no mistaking who this was…mask or no mask.
“How are you feeling, kid?” she asked me carefully.
“I have a name,” I protested in annoyance.
“Okay…David,” she responded with an amused look. “Now, how are you feeling?”
“Weird,” I admitted, feeling self-conscious about how my body was changing. “And a little sore…” I touched my shoulder.
Pinball nodded at that, then said, “I’d expect no less, considering the circumstances. She stared at me for a moment with an odd expression, probably because of how much I’d been changing in such a short time. Then she came over and said, “Let me check your wound…”
After Pinball removed the bandages, I stared at my shoulder and was surprised to see that there wasn’t a hole where I’d been shot, only a scar. I gasped and felt it, finding that it was a bit tender but otherwise healed.
“How…?” I started in surprise, then looked at Pinball. “Did you do this…?”
“No,” she answered with a faint smile. “You did. I was taking you to get some medical attention when I realized your wound was healing on its own. Congratulations, it looks like you’re a regenerator.”
“A regenerator?” I asked blankly.
“It means you regenerate from injuries,” she explained patiently. “You heal extremely fast. Regeneration is one of my powers too and it’s saved my life more times than I can count.”
“No way,” I exclaimed, feeling my shoulder again and suddenly thinking that maybe being a mutant wasn’t all bad.
“At the rate you’re healing,” Pinball continued, “in a few more hours, you won’t even have a scar.” Then she reached out and hesitantly touched my hair. “And from the way you’re changing, I’d guess you’re probably an exemplar as well.”
I gave her another blank look and asked, “Okay, and what does that mean?”
Pinball let out a sigh and gave me a sympathetic look. Then she smiled again, though it seemed just a little forced. I wasn’t sure I liked the look of that.
“Being an exemplar is a fairly common mutant ability,” Pinball explained patiently. “It means you have a BIT…a Body Image Template. Think of it as a blueprint for your body. A lot of times your BIT is created by your subconscious as an idealized version of yourself, but sometimes, it seems a lot more random than that. A lot of exemplars end up looking almost impossibly beautiful, like photo touched supermodels…or better.”
There was a note of pride in her voice, so I said, “Let me guess…you’re an exemplar.” She was certainly beautiful enough to fit that description. She looked something like an idealized aerobics instructor or fitness model.
“An exemplar four,” Pinball answered with a grin. “Most exemplars get some degree of enhanced strength and stamina along with the looks, sometimes even enhanced mental abilities. I’m stronger than I look.”
I nodded at that, remembering how she’d lifted the security guard at the bank up with one hand, and she hadn’t even looked like it had taken much effort. And then she’d easily manhandled…womanhandled the MCO agent who’d shot me.
“After you were injured,” Pinball told me with a serious look, “your body started changing more quickly. I’m pretty sure your regen is healing your body according to your new BIT, which is fairly common for exemplars with regen abilities.”
I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment and wasn’t sure what to think. All this talk about exemplars and regeneration sounded kind of interesting, but it was difficult to believe that either applied to me.
“Does that mean I’m gonna be handsome with big muscles?” I asked with a nervous smile.
Pinball gave me a sympathetic look, then became evasive as she answered, “I’m not sure that’s the direction your BIT is taking you.” Before I could ask what she meant, she quickly continued, “How about I get you a new shirt, then we get something to eat.”
It wasn’t until she mentioned getting something to eat that I realized how hungry I was. As if agreeing with Pinball, my stomach chose that very moment to rumble.
I stared at Pinball, suddenly realizing that I was standing in front of this gorgeous woman without having a shirt on. I felt extremely self-conscious as well as confused. After all, she was a super villain…but she’d saved me.
“Um…thank you for saving me, Miss Pinball,” I said, still not sure why she’d done it.
“I don’t exactly hear that very often,” she responded with a chuckle. Then she added, “And you can call me Jackie when I’m out of costume.
“Jackie?” I repeated, surprised that she’d give me her name like that. She barely knew me.
“I do have a real name you know,” Pinball…Jackie told me with another chuckle. “Jaqueline Martin. My parents didn’t name me Pinball when I was born…”
“But aren’t you afraid I’d tell someone?” I asked suspiciously. “I mean, the whole secret identity thing…”
Jackie stared at me for a moment and then burst out laughing. “The police already have my real name on record, so don’t worry, this isn’t one of these things where I can’t let you leave because you know too much.”
Admittedly, I did feel a little relieved at that assurance. Jackie left the room and came back a minute later with a sweater I could wear. I was pretty sure it was actually hers, but since it wasn’t pink or some other girlie color, I didn’t complain.
We went down the hallway to the dining room, where I found another woman there, setting a large plate full of pancakes onto the table. She was in her late twenties, had shoulder length brown hair, and wore a pair of glasses. There was also something familiar about her, though it took me several seconds before I remembered where I’d seen her before.
“You were at the bank,” I exclaimed, recognizing her as the woman who’d told all the hostages to cooperate with Pinball, the one who’d made me think ‘librarian’.
“As were you,” she responded in a pleasant voice. “Though you look different…”
“I think the kid is an exemplar,” Jackie said. Then she gave me an amused look and said, “I think DAVID is an exemplar. We’ve already confirmed that he’s a regenerator.”
“Both would be useful,” the woman commented, giving me a curious look.
Jackie gestured to the woman and said, “This is my partner Emily.” From the way the two of them looked at each other, I didn’t think she meant just ‘business’ partners.
All three of us sat down at the table, though I eyed the enormous amount of food that was already sitting on the table. There were enough pancakes for a dozen people, as well as more sausages than three people could possibly eat. I was surprised when Jackie began loading up her plate until it was nearly overflowing with food.
Jackie noticed me looking and explained, “I’m an energizer as well as an exemplar, and most energizers have enormous appetites.”
I didn’t bother asking her what an energizer was. If being an exemplar was what made her beautiful and strong, I assumed that being an energizer had something to do with her force field.
To my surprise, I found myself eating a lot more than normal as well. Jackie noticed my embarrassment as I helped myself to more food, then said that it was probably because my body needed more energy to fuel both my healing and my physical changes.
“From what Jackie says, that was quite an injury,” Emily said in her calm and quiet voice. “It’s a good thing you have regeneration or you might have lost the arm or bled to death.”
I nodded at that, then in my best English accent, which was still pretty bad, I joked, “Tis just a scratch.”
Emily had a faint smile while Jackie actually chuckled at that. “Monty Python references are always appreciated.”
I couldn’t resist chuckling as well, thinking that this had to be the most surreal meal of my life. Here I was, eating pancakes for dinner with a gorgeous super villain, who was surprisingly normal.
Then I looked to Emily, who seemed nice, quiet, and completely normal. However, since she seemed to be the girlfriend of a super villain, there was obviously more to her than met the eye.
As I watched Emily, I realized that I could feel the faint pressure in my head, the same one that had always preceded my headaches, or at least a milder form of that pressure. Ever since that explosive migraine at the bank, the pressure had come several times, but it hadn’t gone any further than this.
I frowned as I remembered the pressure coming when I saw Mr. Harris, though it quickly faded away after his death. I’d felt it again when I saw the Highwayman, though it had vanished almost as soon as he had. And now, I was feeling it again.
“Are you a mutant too?” I abruptly asked Emily.
“Yes,” she admitted pleasantly, acting as though it wasn’t an unusual question at all. From the tone of her voice, I might as well have asked her if she owned a car. “I’m a projective empath. I can make people feel certain emotions.”
I stared at her for a moment as something clicked in my mind. “Like making them feel calm and cooperative when they should be pissing their pants?”
Emily smiled at Jackie and said, “He’s a sharp one.”
“Are you a super villain too?” I asked her, feeling a little nervous. Since she’d obviously helped with the bank robbery by providing crowd control, I thought the answer was obvious.
“No,” Emily responded with a faint smile as she adjusted her glasses. “I’m a paralegal. But I do sometimes try to make things go smoother so no one gets hurt.”
“And please don’t call me a villain,” Jackie added, looking a little annoyed. “Admittedly, the law and I are not exactly on speaking terms, but I have never once gone on a killing spree or tried taking over the world.”
“She might be a criminal,” Emily told me, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a villain.”
I just nodded at that, not bothering to argue with them. As far as I knew, using a costume and super powers to commit crimes was the definition of a super villain, but it would be rude to correct my hosts, especially after Jackie had saved my life.
“Why did you come save me?” I finally asked Jackie. “I mean, you told me why you helped me in the bank, but why did you save me from the MCO?”
Jackie was silent for a moment before answering. “Because I’m partly responsible for you being there… If I hadn’t come to that bank, you probably wouldn’t have manifested right then and there. After we left, I realized that the video cameras probably caught your glowing act…and anyone watching might have realized that I wasn’t the cause. I didn’t want them coming after you, so I kept an eye on you to make sure you really were safe.” She paused at that and gave me a wry smile. “I couldn’t let the MCO make you disappear. I’ve seen them get away with that crap too many times.”
“Thanks again for saving me,” I said quietly, trying not to think about how I’d gotten into the MCO’s custody. That was too painful to think about. Then I grinned at Jackie and told her, “The way you put that force field around me so I couldn’t get shot again was pretty awesome…”
“That was pretty awesome,” Jackie agreed with an odd smile. “But I didn’t have anything to do with that one. That one was all you.”
“What?” I asked in surprise.
“Exemplar packages, regeneration, force fields, and you even have the same hair color,” Emily pointed out thoughtfully. “It seems you two have a lot in common.”
Jackie stared at me intently for several very long seconds before she carefully said, “You’re right… That is a LOT of coincidence.”
Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Monday, Sept 17th, 2007
I woke up in Jackie’s guest bedroom for the second time, though this time I’d actually stayed the night there rather than just napping for a few hours. I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea that I was staying as the guest of a mutant super villain, and that instead of some kind of secret lair, she had a very nice house in the suburbs.
Emotionally, I was a bit of a mess. I alternated between feeling numb, confused and scared, about being a mutant, about what my own Mom had done to me, and about what kind of future I could possibly have. In the blink of an eye, everything had changed and I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
I tried not to think about any of that stuff as I went to the bathroom to relieve myself. However, when I went to take a piss, I was suddenly confronted with the other thing I’d been trying very hard not to think about…my physical changes.
“No,” I cried out, grabbing hold of Little David, though there wasn’t much to grab anymore. My equipment had shrunk yesterday but now it was even smaller. There was just a small nub left of my once proud penis. “I’m the size of a toddler…”
For several minutes, I just stood there with my hand on my junk, feeling as though I was about to start hyperventilating at any moment. And my penis wasn’t the only thing that had changed down there. My testicles felt…empty, like all I had was an empty sack of skin with nothing left inside.
“No freaking way,” I snarled, using anger to push my fear and confusion back a little. “I thought exemplars were supposed to be better looking…”
I finished peeing as fast as I could, though I couldn’t really aim very well and ended up spraying a little off to the side. I used a wad of toilet paper to clean it up, muttering a few profanities as I did so. This whole mutant thing was getting worse and worse.
“What next?” I demanded to whatever god was messing with me. “Am I going to go bald and get a pot belly too?”
However, I realized the irony of that since my changes seemed to be going in the opposite direction. If anything, my hair had grown a few more inches during the night, and my waist, which had always been thin, was still flat but seemed to have become more firm and toned.
Then I turned to wash my hands in the sink but froze to gape at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes went wide at the sight of a girl staring back at me. A girl with red hair and golden eyes.
“No way,” I gasped, grabbing hold of the edges of the counter to keep from falling over.
Yesterday, I’d noticed my face was changing and I’d even though I was starting to look a bit girlie, though I’d tried very hard not to think about that afterwards. Denial and avoidance were powerful tools when it came to dealing with something that was both frightening and confusing. Unfortunately, they were tools that could only work for so long before I was forced to confront the truth.
“I’m turning into a girl,” I said, my voice shaking and sounding odd to my own ears.
There was even less of my own face present than before, and then I had to really look for it. Instead, I looked like a pretty girl who was only a tiny bit boyish.
My chest was now swollen with soft tissue pushing out a bit on both sides. Now that I knew what to look for, it was obvious that I actually had a small pair of breasts, maybe A cups. Even my nipples looked bigger.
“No,” I whispered as I looked myself over, realizing that all of the changes in my body were now pointing to the same thing. I was looking softer and more feminine, developing the curves and body shape of a girl. Even my skin had gotten into the act, becoming soft and smooth. “I can’t be turning into a girl…”
I staggered out of the bathroom and plopped back down on the bed, feeling badly shaken by the realization of how I was changing. Before I’d even realized it, I’d curled up into a ball and was crying.
A few minutes later, the bedroom door opened and Jackie came in, announcing, “Good morning…” Then she froze at the door and abruptly called out, “Emily…”
“What is it?” Emily asked as she came into the room. Then she took one look at me and gasped, “Oh…”
Suddenly, all that fear and confusion faded away and I found myself feeling calm and relaxed instead. I slowly sat up and looked at Emily, who was obviously using her power on me.
Once again, I felt that faint pressure in my head, the same one I felt every time I got close to Emily. In fact, ever since the bank, I felt that pressure anytime I got close to any mutant, except for Jackie. But now that I was thinking about it, I realized that I did feel something similar when I was near Jackie, but it was much fainter.
“Are you okay, kid?” Jackie asked me, looking a little worried. “David.”
“No,” I responded after a moment, finding it odd to feel so calm when I knew I should be in the middle of freaking out. “I’m turning into a girl…”
Jackie and Emily shared a look that suggested they already knew this. Of course, they must have recognized the signs yesterday, well before I had. That would certainly explain why Jackie had been so evasive when I’d asked if I was turning into some kind of Adonis.
My sense of calm vanished and my other emotions quickly returned, but that short break from them had snapped me out of the funk I was in for the moment. I was scared and confused, but I wasn’t freaking out anymore, at least not too badly.
“You knew,” I accused them, my voice shaking and sounding odd to my ears. In fact, my voice sounded almost like a girl’s voice.
“I suspected,” Jackie admitted after a moment, giving me a sympathetic look. “I’ve seen the process before…of an exemplar turning from a guy to a girl, though that time it took a couple months to change this much.”
“Was that…you?” I asked curiously.
Jackie chuckled at that, then told me, “No, I’ve always been female. But before my mutation manifested, I was short, fat, had heavy freckles, and curly orange hair I couldn’t do anything with.”
“You’re a changeling,” Emily said, giving me a sympathetic look. “We had a couple changelings in our dormitory back when we were going to school.”
I stared at Jackie, trying to imagine her looking like she described but failing. I couldn’t imagine her looking any different than she did now.
“You said that most exemplars become idealized versions of themselves,” I pointed out, feeling as though she lied to me.
“A lot of exemplars do,” Jackie said with a sigh. “But not all. Are you sure you aren’t a transsexual?” At my glare, she shrugged. “No one understands it completely, but a lot of exemplars seem to create their BIT off some subconscious ideal, though sometimes your BIT makes no sense at all.”
“How do I stop this?” I demanded, anger and fear creeping into my voice. “How do I turn this exemplar thing off and change back?”
“You can’t,” Emily said quietly. “If anyone knew how to do that, a lot of mutants with GSD would be lining up for the cure.”
I didn’t bother asking what GSD was, nor did I fully believe her answer. Still, Jackie was nodding agreement so the two of them both seemed to think that there was no way of undoing this. I wasn’t accepting that yet and was going to have to ask an expert, if I could find one. The truth was, I had absolutely no idea where I could find a doctor who knew about mutants.
“I know you don’t want to hear this,” Jackie told me, “but you’ll probably finish changing in just a day or two. Most exemplars wouldn’t change this fast, not unless they’re a high level exemplar or have regeneration to speed the process.”
“Lucky me,” I responded bitterly, feeling the tears come again.
“For now,” Emily said carefully. “I suggest we get something to eat, and then we can talk about what comes next.”
“And maybe afterwards, we can try figuring out your powers a little more,” Jackie added thoughtfully, giving me an odd look. “That force field you threw up has me curious.”
Breakfast was much like dinner had been last night, with Jackie eating an enormous amount of food. All I could do was watch in amazement as she consumed almost twice what my entire family would in one meal. And as with last night, my own appetite surprised me as well.
“I’m an energizer,” Jackie told me when she noticed me watching her pile up a third plate of food. “And from what I saw yesterday, you might be too.”
“Needless to say, we have a VERY large food bill,” Emily pointed out, sticking her tongue out at Jackie. Jackie just grinned, stuck her own tongue out back, then went back to eating.
“Is that…is that why you rob banks?” I asked Jackie quietly.
Jackie was silent for a moment, her expression turning grim. “One reason,” Jackie answered carefully. “I do have a lot of expenses and I can’t earn the money to pay them legally. If it helps, I’m not a killer and I always try to avoid hurting anyone.”
“I usually avoid getting involved in her work,” Emily said with a faint smile. “But occasionally I will, just to minimize the chance of anyone getting hurt by accident.”
“I’m certainly no saint,” Jackie continued, “but I usually only hit people who deserve it.”
“The bank deserved it?” I asked, more than a little skeptical of that. I snorted my clear doubt.
“The people who work there probably didn’t,” Jackie admitted, “but the bank is owned by the Goodkind family. They’re notorious mutant haters and huge supporters of the MCO. I don’t feel the least bit guilty for going after their money and reputation.”
I just nodded at that, still feeling pretty skeptical. It was obvious that Jackie was using my recent experience with the MCO to try coloring my vision about her activities, but maybe she did have a point anyway. I used to think the MCO were the good guys, but now I wasn’t so sure. Maybe the guys who took me weren’t following the rules. Maybe the rest of the MCO really was like that TV show and these guys had just been exceptions…the bad apples that make everyone else look bad. The truth was, I wasn’t really sure what to think anymore.
“If you’re up for it,” Jackie said, “I think we should try testing your powers so we get a better idea of what you can do. Of course, you’re going to need some real power testing soon, but it helps to go into it with at least some idea of where to start.”
I nodded again, feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that was going on, though I was trying not to show it. I was especially trying hard not to think about how my body was changing and how freaked out it made me.
“I do have something that might count,” I said carefully, getting Jackie and Emily’s full attention. “I have a special sense that most people don’t…”
“Really?” Emily asked curiously. “If you have some form of psychic ability as well, then I might be able to help you with that.”
I leaned forward, and in a conspiratorial voice, I half whispered, “It’s called common sense. Most people just don’t have that ability…”
Emily stared at me with a blank look for a moment while Jackie burst out laughing. “You’re right,” she said a moment later. “Most people don’t have it.” Emily began snickering as well.
“And right now,” I pointed out, “my common sense is telling me that it might not be very safe hanging around with a bank robber.”
I immediately felt guilty for saying that since Jackie had been nothing but nice to me. She’d gotten me out of the bank when she could have left me behind to take the blame as her accomplice. She could have left me to the MCO instead of coming in to rescue me, and apparently paying Highwayman for his help in doing so. She’d brought me to her own house, put me in her own guest room, and she’d been doing everything she could to help me.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
“You’re right,” Jackie admitted with a sad smile. “Hanging out with me isn’t completely safe, but at the moment, you don’t have many other options. You can’t go home because the MCO will probably be watching your family for that. And at least here, no one knows where you are and I can protect you.”
I was beginning to tear up again at the reminder that I couldn’t go home, though I was pretty sure Jackie wasn’t trying to rub it in or hurt me. She was just laying the situation out like it was, and she was completely right.
“I know you’re right,” I told her with a weak smile. “And I do appreciate everything you’ve been doing for me...”
“Whateley,” Emily abruptly said.
“What?” I asked.
“Whateley Academy,” Jackie said with a thoughtful look. “It’s a school for mutants…” She looked at Emily and added, “You’re right…she would be safe there.”
“Wait a moment,” I exclaimed, bothered by the fact that she’d referred to me as ‘she’ but trying to stay focused. “You mean there’s a school for super villains?”
“It’s a school for mutants,” Emily explained with a faint smile. “They don’t really care what you do after you graduate, though they try teaching you how to survive doing it. Admittedly, some graduates do turn to a life of crime…” She gave Jackie a flat look. “Some become heroes, and others like me just try to stay below the radar and live as normal a life as possible. Whateley is pretty well known among the mutant population, but we try to keep its existence quiet so anti-mutant groups don’t show up at the front gates.”
“Considering the fact that you’re a changeling,” Jackie mused, staring at me with a thoughtful look. “You’d probably end up in Poe. That’s the dormitory where Emily and I first met when we were roommates.”
“We’ll have to keep Whateley in mind as a possibility,” Emily said. “But for now, I think we have more immediate issues to deal with.”
“Like getting a handle on your powers so you don’t accidentally hurt yourself or anyone else,” Jackie told me. “We’ll do some testing ourselves today and see about getting you an appointment for some real powers testing later. And though you probably don’t want to deal with it right now…” She paused and gave me a sympathetic look before adding, “Your new body is going to require some dealing with, which means new clothes among other things.”
I winced at that, wishing I could scream and lash out about this, but I didn’t dare act like that in front of Jackie and Emily. I was embarrassed enough at the way they’d caught me freaking out earlier and I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of wimp or little kid, so I did my best to act tough and pretend that it didn’t bother me. Then, I noticed that Emily was staring at me with a strange expression, though she quickly looked away. I knew she could make other people feel whatever emotion she wanted, but I wondered if she could feel theirs as well.
After breakfast, I helped clean up the mess in the kitchen, figuring that it was only fair since they did all the cooking. And it wasn’t like I didn’t already have a lot of experience washing dishes. But as I washed dishes, I began to notice the way my nipples were rubbing against the fabric of my borrowed sweater, making them feel…weird. I grimaced at that and did my best to ignore the odd sensations and focus on my work.
As soon as dishes were done, Jackie told me, “Come on. I don’t want to risk testing your powers here in my house. I don’t think my insurance would cover any damage.” She chuckled at that, making me smile as well.
To my surprise, instead of pulling up her hamster ball force field, Jackie led me to her garage and a dark blue SUV instead. I was a little startled that she’d drive such a normal car, but then again I shouldn’t have been. After all, she lived in a very normal looking house, and when she wasn’t in costume, she actually seemed pretty normal as well, or at least as normal as she could be while looking as hot as she did.
“I’m very careful not to be seen in costume or using my powers around here,” Jackie explained to me as we drove away from her house. “I REALLY don’t want to have to move and leave everything behind again. As the saying goes, don’t shit in your own backyard. That’s an important lesson, whether you’re a hero, criminal, or just trying to avoid unwanted attention.”
“You aren’t what I thought a super villain would be like,” I admitted to her, frowning as I remembered too late that she really didn’t like being called a villain.
Jackie smiled at that, then asked, “Do you want to hear my evil villain laugh?” Before I could answer, she exclaimed, “Bwa ha ha ha ha!”
I snickered at that, then told her, “I think I could do better than that…” But when I tried, my voice cracked and I couldn’t finish.
“Your voice is changing,” Jackie told me gently. “Along with everything else. You look and sound more like a girl now than you do a boy.”
“Please don’t remind me,” I said quietly, trying to fight back the tears.
Without saying a word, Jackie reached out and a hand on mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Everything is going to be fine,” she told me gently. “I know you’re scared and confused right now, but you’ll get past it.”
“Why do you keep being so nice to me?” I asked her suspiciously. “You aren’t trying to make me into your sidekick or something, are you?”
Jackie laughed at that. “Heroes have sidekicks,” she told me in an amused tone. “Criminals have henchmen. And no, that isn’t it at all. Honestly, you remind me a little bit of my kid brother. I haven’t seen him or any of my family in years, not since shortly after I started my…career.” She let out a sigh, looking sad. “Contact with them wouldn’t be safe, for them or me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, suddenly feeling like I understood her just a little better. Even after Mom had turned me over to the MCO, I still wanted to go home and see her again. “I have a little sister and I’m worried I might not be able to see her again…”
“I’m sorry,” Jackie told me with a sympathetic look. Then she abruptly changed the topic and said, “I know the idea of being a mutant must be pretty strange to you. I’m probably the first mutant you’ve ever actually met, or at least the first who was honest about it.”
“My neighbor was a mutant,” I said with a sigh. Mr. Harris had always been grumpy and a bit paranoid so no one in the apartment had really liked him, though now I understood that he had good reasons for being that way. “But I didn’t know he was until the MCO came for me…” I closed my eyes, remembering the look on his face as the bullets ripped through his body. “They killed him.”
We were both silent for the next few minutes before I finally said, “There was a girl at school… She was a mutant, but no one knew…”
I’d never told this to Mom and Dad since I knew their views on mutants and knew what they would have said. But Amanda Conner had been very pretty and I’d really liked her. We’d actually been friends, but I’d wanted to go further and had asked her to go out on a date with me. She’d turned me down and had then begun to avoid me after that, as though I made her uncomfortable. At the time, I’d been confused and hurt by her reaction, but now I understood it better.
“I guess she was afraid of anyone finding out,” I continued sadly. “Then one day, she and her best friend got into an argument and then her friend blurted out that she was a mutant in front of the whole class. Amanda started to freak out and her eyes started glowing, then the fire sprinklers all started going off. Amanda ran out of there as fast as she could and never came back. I found out later, her entire family had picked up and moved away that night.”
I frowned, remembering the look of fear and betrayal on Amanda’s face when Kimberly had blurted out her secret. I imagined that it was a great deal like the look on my own face when Mom had turned me over to the MCO. At the time, I’d been shocked at finding out that Amanda was a mutant, and I even felt a little betrayed since she’d lied to me and everyone else about it. But later on, all I could think about was how nice Amanda had always been to everyone else…and how much I missed her. I’d decided that in spite of what my parents always said, if Amanda was a mutant, then mutants couldn’t be that bad.
“Being outed as a mutant is never easy,” Jackie said grimly. “And it’s even worse when it’s done to you by someone you trust.”
I stared at Jackie for a moment, realizing that there was some kind of story there. However, I didn’t know her well enough to ask about what was obviously a personal issue. Instead, I remained quiet and the two of us continued our trip in near silence.
After driving for over half an hour, we arrived at an industrial area with several old warehouses. Most of the ones I saw seemed to be empty and in severe disrepair. Jackie seemed to know exactly where we were going because she drove up to one warehouse and got out.
“The company that owns these warehouses went bankrupt several years ago,” Jackie explained. “All the property got caught up in a legal dispute that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon, so I’ve made use of this one to store a couple things I might need in the future.”
With that, Jackie removed a padlock from a side door and let us inside. She flipped a switch and the lights came on, surprising me since I would have thought that abandoned property like this would have had the power disconnected.
Jackie seemed to guess what I was thinking because she commented, “I have a generator and some batteries hooked up to supply power. This place wouldn’t do me much good if I couldn’t even see in here. Just don’t expect cable TV or running water.”
I looked around the inside of the warehouse, which was mostly empty. In one corner, there were several stacks of boxes as well as a few things that were covered with tarps, one of which was in the shape of a car.
“In my line of work,” Jackie explained, gesturing to the stuff in the corner, “It pays to have a safe house you can go to in an emergency, not to mention a place to store emergency supplies. An apartment or rental storage unit would probably work, but this is cheaper and more private.”
“So this is your evil lair,” I joked as I looked around. “I was expecting something a little more impressive…”
Jackie gave me a look of amusement and said, “I’m afraid all the henchmen are out on strike and my order of sharks with laser beams on their heads got caught up in customs.”
I snickered at that, then asked, “So, what do you call this place? The Pinball Machine?”
“I’ll have to remember that one,” Jackie responded with a chuckle. Then she gestured to the far end of the warehouse, the opposite end from where her stuff was stored. “We’ll work with your powers over there…where we can’t accidentally damage my emergency supplies. Go on, I’ll catch up with you in a minute.”
I went to the far end of the warehouse, which was empty except for all the spider webs in the corners and the dirt on the floor. Jackie went to the corner with all her stuff and joined me a few minutes later, now dressed up in her costume.
“It feels more appropriate to do this while dressed properly,” Jackie…Pinball told me.
“So what now?” I asked nervously.
A large part of me really didn’t want anything to do with these powers I supposedly had and seemed to think that ignoring them might make them go away. This same part of me also had the same strategy for dealing with my physical changes. However, at the same time, I also wondered at what I might be able to do. That part was slowly getting stronger.
“We’ve already seen your regen in action,” Pinball told me, “and I don’t think there’s any reason to test it further. At least not here.”
“That’s good to hear,” I said, pretty sure that there was no good way to test how fast I’d heal from an injury.
“What I really wanted to focus on was that force field you called up yesterday,” Pinball said. “I want you to try calling it up again.”
“Okay,” I agreed, then paused before asking, “But how?”
Pinball stood back and said, “Watch me…” Suddenly, the air around her shimmered and formed into her transparent force field bubble. She rolled back and forth across the warehouse floor, which was odd to watch since her feet weren’t moving at all. After doing this for about ten seconds, her force field vanished. “Now you try.”
“I’ll try,” I said without much confidence, still having no idea of what to do.
When nothing happened, Pinball mused, “I’ve noticed that you tend to glow a little when stressed…like you’re on the verge of activating your power. I have an idea.”
With that, Pinball slowly walked away from me, then she abruptly turned around and started running right at me with a loud yell and her fist raised as if to punch me. I yelped in surprise and even a little fear, then right before she reached me, everything around me had a golden haze. The golden force field bubble that had saved me from being shot a second time had reappeared.
Pinball stopped and grinned. “I thought that might do it.”
“I did this?” I asked in amazement.
The bubble around me looked much like the one Pinball had, but where hers was clear but with a faint sheen, mine was transparent but with a golden color. As I relaxed, the bubble vanished again.
“Now try that again,” Pinball instructed. “Preferably without my having to scare you into it.”
I nodded and thought about the strange feeling I had in my body when the force field had formed around me, then I tried to will that feeling to return. It was surprisingly easy this time and the bubble reappeared around me, much to my delight.
“I did it,” I exclaimed excitedly.
“Now try to keep it up,” Pinball urged.
I did as Pinball asked and tried to keep the bubble from vanishing this time. It took a little concentration, but I was able to do it. After I’d had it up for a full minute, I was starting to feel confident in my ability to control it. That was when Pinball decided to step up the game.
Pinball gave me an almost evil grin, then she abruptly punched my bubble. I felt a little pressure from where she hit the bubble, but I didn’t lose control over it so it stayed up. I stuck my tongue out at her so she punched it a few more times until I finally lost control and the bubble vanished.
“You’ll get better at holding it with practice,” Pinball told me, looking rather pleased. “I just can’t believe how similar your powers are to my own. Let’s try it again and see if you can move your bubble…”
Once again, I willed the force field bubble to appear around me. Now that I knew what to do, it was getting easier to summon it each time. After it was in place, I tried getting it to move the way Pinball did hers. It took more than a minute of trying before I finally got it to move forward.
“I did it,” I exclaimed again.
I spent the next half hour rolling back and forth across the warehouse while Pinball advised and directed me. She seemed just as excited by my being able to do this as I was.
“You have better control than I did at your age,” she admitted to me with a grin. “When I first got my powers, once I got moving I had a hard time stopping, and if I went too fast, I tended to bounce off things uncontrollably. Then again, you’ve been moving fairly slow here so it might not be as easy for you once you get a chance to cut loose.”
“This is pretty cool,” I admitted, hardly able to believe that I was actually able to do the same thing she could. After seeing what she could do with her force field bubble while escaping the bank, I’d developed a healthy respect for her power.
“Let’s play a little bumper cars,” Pinball suggested, forming her own force field.
The two of us rolled around the warehouse, playing an odd game of tag as we tried to ram into each other. Neither of us went too fast, but Pinball definitely had the advantage of speed and control over along with her much greater experience.
Pinball got well away from me, then as I was trying to maneuver enough to go after her, she abruptly changed direction and came straight at me at a much faster speed than what we’d been practicing at. Her sphere hit mine and suddenly I was thrown back. I was so startled that my force field dropped and I was without any protection when I slammed into the warehouse wall.
The impact was hard enough that the wind was immediately knocked out of me. My whole body hurt and I collapsed to the ground, gasping for breath and sure that I must have broken half the bones in my body.
“David,” Pinball exclaimed, running to my side. “Are you okay, kid?”
I groaned, suddenly wondering what the hell I’d been thinking to play that kind of game with Pinball. After all, she was a super villain with who knew how much experience controlling her force field. But when she bent over me, I didn’t see a villain…I saw a friend who looked worried.
“I don’t know,” I answered after a moment. I took several deep breaths and sat up with her help. Now that I’d caught my breath, I didn’t think that I’d actually broken anything, though I’d probably be bruised over half my body. Then I grinned faintly and said, “I want a rematch…”
“Yeah, you’re definitely an exemplar,” Pinball commented with a chuckle. “And trust me, you’re going to be very thankful for that regeneration.”
After I’d rested for a few minutes, I brought my force field bubble up again and began another round of bumper car tag with Pinball. This time, she moved more quickly, apparently deciding not to hold back as much as she had been. She lunged at me time and time again, bumping me a few times and generally directing me towards one of the corners.
“I’ve got you now,” Pinball called out, coming straight at me while I had nowhere to escape to.
Then on a sudden impulse, I tried to escape, not going left or right where she’d be able to intercept me, but straight up. My sphere quickly rose into the air while she passed right through where I’d been, then abruptly stopped.
“Holy shit,” I blurted out, realizing that I was actually floating in the air, held aloft by my force field.
“Holy shit,” Pinball exclaimed, dropping her force field and staring up at me with a look of surprise. “I can’t do that.”
I was startled by what I’d done and lost control, letting my force field vanish so I fell back to the ground where I hit painfully hard. If I hadn’t bruised every inch of my body earlier, that was sure to take care of the rest.
“That was…,” Pinball said, still looking surprised. “I can make jumps in my force field, but I can’t levitate it like that.”
“Should I try that again?” I asked her, wincing from all the bruises.
Pinball hesitated for a moment, then shook her head. “No, I think we’re done for the day. I don’t want to push you too far and trigger a burnout.”
I felt a little relieved that we were done since I was hurting pretty badly and just wanted to rest for a bit and recover. But on the other hand, actually having super powers like that was unbelievably exciting and I wanted to try them out some more.
“Come on,” Pinball said, putting her arm around my shoulder and grinning. “Let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.”
My stomach grumbled full agreement and I realized that I was really hungry as well. I remembered Pinball’s eating habits and joked, “Do you know any good all you can eat places?”
“Of course,” she responded cheerfully. “And since you seem to be an energizer too, you’re probably going to be getting very familiar with some as well.”
Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Tuesday, Sept 18th, 2007
I stared into the bathroom mirror with a cold knot in my stomach. I wasn’t surprised by what I was seeing since I’d been expecting it, ever since yesterday morning when I’d realized that I was turning into a girl. And all day yesterday, my body had slowly continued to change, especially when I’d healed from all the bruising I’d received at the warehouse. By the time I went to bed last night, the swellings on my chest had grown into B cups.
“This is crazy,” I whispered, grabbing the two mounds on my chest which had grown into C cup size overnight.
Then with a gulp, I reached between my legs, finding no sign of my normal equipment there. Little David was gone and there was a slit in his place. Every inch of my body now looked female, though I was somehow sure that my changes weren’t completely finished just yet. They were close, but some odd sensations from inside my guts convinced me that my internal plumbing was still being hooked up. However, at the rate I’d been changing, even those final details would probably be complete within a few hours.
In spite of wanting to scream or cry, I tried remaining calm and looked into the mirror again, silently telling myself that I was going to have to get used to this reflection. If Jackie and Emily were correct, and I had no reason to believe they weren’t, there was no way to reverse this. According to them, you just couldn’t fight your BIT.
The face that stared back from the mirror was definitely that of a girl, a very beautiful girl at that. Of course, her golden eyes gave her a somewhat exotic appearance as well. There was also something oddly familiar about her, though I couldn’t quite place why. What I did know was that I didn’t have even the faintest resemblance to the way I used to look, as if every last trace of my old face and body had been erased.
I ran a hand through my hair, which was now deep red and went down to the middle of my back. I still had that lock of golden blonde hair growing from the front, which along with my eye color, helped to make me appear exotic and exciting. Of course, with my new body, I didn’t really need the help. I had an absolutely killer body with great muscle tone that was better than I’d had as a guy. As a guy, I’d been pretty plain looking, but now…
“If I’m stuck as a girl,” I told myself with a forced smile, “at least I’m a hot one.”
Of course, I didn’t want to be a girl at all, but at least being a good looking one seemed to mollify my ego a little. I could only imagine how much worse I’d feel if I’d changed from being a guy into an ugly girl. A large part of me still wanted to either lash out in anger or just curl up and start crying again, but I was keeping that part in check for the moment.
I turned away from the mirror with a shake of my head, thinking about yesterday and how my emotions had been bouncing around like a yo-yo. I’d freaked out about turning into a girl, got excited about having super powers, got depressed about the possibility of never seeing my family again, and I’d even been giddy at spending some much time with a hot babe like Jackie. After yesterday’s emotional roller coaster ride, it was no wonder I was able to stay calm this morning. I was just too tired to do it again.
A few minutes later, I was looking over some of the clothes that Jackie and Emily had provided me yesterday afternoon. Between the two of them, they’d scraped through their closets for a few things that would fit my changing body, and which I might actually be willing to wear. Fortunately, neither of them had provided me with anything too girlie. After careful consideration of my very limited options, I settled for a simple pair of pants and a T-shirt.
When I went into the living room, I found Jackie and Emily were both there, already dressed and watching the news on TV. I stood there and watched for a moment, seeing that the news anchor was doing a story about a super villain named Doctor Diabolik, who had apparently just launched some kind of raid against Toronto.
“Are you looking for employment opportunities?” I asked Jackie, trying to keep my tone light and joking rather than accusatory.
“Not at the moment,” Jackie responded in a casual tone. “I have occasionally done some mercenary work, but not for anyone like that. I have a strict policy of not working for either crazed killers or anyone with too much ambition, like Diabolik. Sure, I’ll help rob a museum or keep a super hero group distracted, but leave me out of any world conquest stuff. It’s much safer that way.”
“Oh yes,” Emily added in a wry tone. “Jackie is very responsible in her illegal activities.”
“Bite me,” Jackie responded, sticking her tongue out at Emily.
Emily just smirked and asked, “Is that an invitation?”
The two of them giggled like teenage girls and then kissed each other. I wasn’t sure I should look away in embarrassment or continue watching. After all, it wasn’t every day that a guy got a chance to watch a couple hot lesbians making out.
Once they’d settled down, Jackie looked me over and carefully said, “You’re looking very nice…”
She was obviously being nice and trying not to offend me at the same time. I would have liked to deny it, but it would only have been false modesty to say I wasn’t. The idea of being a hot looking girl still sort of freaked me out, though I tried not to show it and only smiled faintly.
Emily was watching me with a strange look, one that I’d seen from her several times yesterday. She finally turned to Jackie and demanded, “You really don’t see it, do you?”
“See what?” Jackie asked.
“I’d almost think you were blonde,” Emily muttered as she got up and left the living room. She came back a minute later with a photo album, then removed a picture and silently handed it to Jackie.
Jackie’s eyes went wide and blurted out, “No way…” She snapped around to stare at me with a strange expression, then gasped, “Impossible… How did I not…?”
“What?” I demanded suspiciously, suddenly feeling very self-conscious and worried about the way they were both staring at me.
Without saying another word, I grabbed the picture out of Jackie’s hands so I could see what it was that made her stare at me like that. It was a picture of two teenage girls, about the same age as me. The girl on the right side of the picture was wearing a leather jacket and had short and spikey green hair. However, it was the girl on the left hand side of the picture that immediately caught my attention. She was definitely the taller of the two, and she also happened to be the same girl I’d just been staring at in the mirror.
“What the…?” I started in confusion, staring at the girl in the picture more closely.
The girl in the mirror looked almost exactly the same as I now did, though she was missing the golden streak in her red hair and had green eyes instead of gold. But other than those small details, we appeared to be identical. Without the distraction of my odd eye color and the blonde lock, I suddenly realized why this girl seemed so familiar. I stared at Jackie in confusion.
“She looks almost exactly like you did when you were her age,” Emily told Jackie.
“How in the world did I miss that?” Jackie exclaimed, still staring at me with a look of disbelief.
“What did you do to me?” I demanded, feeling confused and worried again.
“Why do you keep asking me that?” Jackie responded with a shake of her head. “I didn’t have anything to do with you looking like that…or at least I don’t think I did.”
Emily adjusted her glasses and stared at me with a thoughtful look. “Yesterday, I thought you looked extremely familiar, but now that you’ve finished changing, I could see why.” She looked at Jackie and added, “You’ve probably never seen yourself from this perspective so it’s no wonder you wouldn’t recognize your own reflection. She looks like a younger version of you.”
“How is that…?” Jackie started, then paused. “Shape shifting…” She grinned at me and explained, “If you’re a shape shifter, you might be able to change back to your old look.”
“Really?” I asked with an intense sense of hope and relief. “How do I do that?”
“I don’t have a clue,” she admitted.
“You never did,” Emily added with a faint smirk, only to get a mock glare from Jackie.
“First you have my powers,” Jackie told me with an amused expression. “Now you’ve got my look. I guess they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
I rolled my eyes at that, feeling almost giddy at the idea of being able to change back to normal. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to give up these powers when I did because I was just starting to enjoy them.
“What now?” I asked eagerly. “I mean, how do I figure out how to change back?”
“Power testing, to start with,” Emily pointed out thoughtfully. “The first thing we have to do is find out if you really are a shape shifter, or if this is something else.”
“More bumper cars?” I asked Jackie with a grin.
“Nope,” she responded with a grin of her own. “Real power testing. I’ve already got an appointment for you later today. But for now, we need to focus on something even more important. Breakfast.”
I just grinned at that, nearly drooling in anticipation of breakfast. I was eager to get to the power testing appointment and find out more about my mutant abilities, especially if I was a shape shifter and would be able to change back to normal. However, I was also very hungry and felt like I could eat a horse. After I’d nearly been able to keep up with Jackie during lunch and dinner yesterday, that might not be much of an exaggeration.
“I’ll cook,” I volunteered, knowing that neither Jackie or Emily were particularly good cooks.
“You know how to cook?” Jackie asked me skeptically. “Okay, prove it.”
I went to the kitchen and the first thing I did was pour myself a cup of coffee with some cream, then I looked through the fridge and cupboards. I quickly found an electric skillet and two electric griddles and plugged them in on the counter, then I got out a few pans and the ingredients I needed. Emily and Jackie both stood back, watching me curiously, probably wondering how badly the food would taste. I just grinned and continued with my preparations the way Dad and Henri had taught me at the diner.
Though I wanted to make some fancy French toast and impress them, they didn’t have any good quality bread in the kitchen, nor was I patient enough at the moment. I was feeling ravenous, which I’d been told was probably a combination of being an energizer and my body needing all the extra energy for the healing and physical changes. I wanted food NOW. Still, I was somehow able to control myself.
Jackie and Emily had definitely stocked up on eggs and bacon, which was good because I pulled out three cartons of eggs and went to work. I cooked the bacon in the electric skillet while I used both griddles to do the eggs and a couple pans on the stove as well. I could have just made a big mass of scrambled eggs, and I was doing that in one of the pans, but that would have been too easy. So in addition to the scrambled eggs, I also cooked a bunch of them over easy and even made some omelets at the same time. I just grinned as I worked, feeling almost like I was a cook back at the diner. Dad and Henri would be proud of me.
I was in a good mood after finding out I ‘might’ be able to get back to my own body, and I was having a lot of fun in the kitchen as well. Since I felt like I was actually a real cook, I began humming the theme music from my favorite TV chef. My humming slowly got louder as I got a little carried away and finally blurted out, “Bjork bjork bjork.” Jackie burst out laughing.
As soon as the first batch of food was ready, Emily helped herself to an omelet, a couple slices of bacon, and a slice of toast. Jackie grabbed just about everything else. When the second batch was ready, I saved a bit for myself and ate while I finished cooking the rest. By the time we were done, we’d all had enough to eat, even Jackie, though admittedly, I’d eaten almost as much as she had.
“That was pretty good,” Jackie told me happily. “Especially the omelets…”
“My Dad owns a diner,” I explained, my mood dampening as I considered the fact that I might never get to go there again. “I work there…worked there part time helping out.”
Emily reached out for my hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze while Jackie just mused, “I think I know who gets to cook dinner tonight…”
I smiled weakly and looked back and forth at Emily and Jackie, still amazed at how much they were trying to help me out when they barely even knew me. What does it say about the world when a super villain is nice to me and my own family treats me like crap?
Then I asked Emily, “Do you have some kind of codename too?”
Emily seemed a little startled by the question but answered, “Yes I do, though I haven’t actually used it since high school. Officially, my codename is Soothe.”
“That seems pretty appropriate,” I told her. Then I stared at her for a moment before asking, “The other girl in that picture was you, wasn’t it?”
Emily looked a little embarrassed as she nodded. “I was going through a rebellious stage back then. I fancied myself an anarchist and even thought about becoming a super villain after graduating. I had a lot of anger, and with my power, I could share it with others…starting riots and causing all kinds of chaos and destruction.” Then she let out a sigh and shook her head.
“She used to call herself Riot Act,” Jackie volunteered with a smirk.
“Only until my sophomore year,” Emily pointed out.
“What happened?” I asked curiously. The Emily I knew seemed more like a librarian or teacher than some kind of punk rock anarchist.
“I grew up,” Emily answered with an amused look. “I realized I wasn’t the badass I thought I was and I got a first-hand look at what happens when a mob of people become angry and get out of hand. After that, I decided I never wanted to get caught up in something like that again, much less cause it.”
I looked at Jackie and asked, “Were you two planning on being partners or something? I mean, doing the whole Bonnie and Clyde thing?”
“Not exactly,” Jackie muttered.
“Back then,” Emily told me with a chuckle. “I was the bad girl who was always getting in trouble and Jackie was miss goody-two-shoes.”
“Really?” I asked, giving Jackie a look of surprise.
“Things change,” Jackie said grimly. “And sometimes life doesn’t go as planned.”
I nodded sympathetically at that, knowing exactly what she meant. I didn’t know what had happened to her, but my life had suddenly changed and was going in directions I’d never even considered. In fact, I felt like I was driving blind and had no idea which direction I was even heading.
Once breakfast was over, Emily and Jackie went to work on the dishes while I sat back in the living room, trying to keep myself occupied. At first, I just sat there watching the news and feeling bored, then I found myself staring down at the large bumps pushing out from my chest. I poked at them a few times, finding them soft and feeling a bit odd. It was hard to believe that these were actually part of my body.
“But not for much longer,” I reminded myself. “Hopefully at least.”
I didn’t want Emily and Jackie to come in on me while I was feeling myself up like that so I forced my hands away from my new breasts. I turned my thoughts back to the practice session that I’d had yesterday with Jackie, thinking about that force field bubble I’d been able to summon.
I could feel it inside of me, the mental switch that I could flip to call it up again. After all that practice, I knew that I could make that force field bubble appear without any effort at all. However, I didn’t think Jackie would appreciate me doing that in her house when I might make a mess.
Since I couldn’t call up my bubble in the house, I decided to experiment a little and try something different. I willed the force field bubble to appear, but I focused on it being much smaller. A moment later, a transparent golden sphere about the size of a softball appeared in the air in front of me.
“Got it,” I said with a grin.
With the large bubble, I’d been able to make it move around just by concentrating on where I wanted it to move. I tried doing the same with this sphere and found that I could do the same thing fairly easily.
I was in the middle of playing with my ball by making it move back and forth when Jackie and Emily finished with the dishes and returned to the living room. Jackie froze and stared at me with a look of surprise before blurting out, “How are you doing that?”
“I was just experimenting,” I said, feeling guilty at being caught like that. She’d told me that she was careful not to let anyone in this area see her using her powers, so she was probably afraid that someone might see me doing that through the window. I immediately let the sphere vanish.
“No, bring it back,” Jackie told me, coming closer and saying, “I can’t do that…”
“You can’t?” I asked in surprise.
“I can only form my force field around myself,” Jackie told me. “I can make it jump a bit, but I can’t make it levitate the way you can either.”
“So she’s only had her powers for a couple days, and she’s already better with them than you are,” Emily teased Jackie, who looked a little annoyed.
“Okay, I’m a little jealous,” Jackie admitted. She stared at me for a moment and said, “Obviously, your powers don’t work the same as mine, in spite of how similar they are.”
At Jackie’s urging, I made the sphere reappear in front of me and practiced at moving it around the living room. It was kind of fun, sort of like having one of those remote control helicopters.
“Now make a second one,” Jackie told me.
“You just want to watch me play with my balls,” I joked, earning a look of surprise from Jackie and then she burst out laughing.
“That’s not quite how I’d put it,” she commented while Emily just shook her head.
I willed a second force field bubble to appear in front of me, but as soon as it did so, the first one vanished. I tried it again, but once again the previous sphere vanished. After a few more attempts, it became clear that I could only have one bubble out at a time.
“We can experiment with this again later on,” Jackie told me. “Right now, we have to get going if we want to make your appointment in time.”
“Before you leave the house,” Emily said, pointing at my chest. “You might want to put on either a bra or a sweater…”
I looked down, wondering what she was talking about and then I noticed it. Since I was only wearing a T-shirt, my nipples were clearly visible against the fabric. I immediately turned bright red, which only made Jackie snicker.
“Oh, I can see that this is going to be fun,” Jackie teased me. “Come on little sister, let’s get you something to hide those before we go.”