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A Whateley Academy Tale

Hive 2

By Warren

Waking up made me think of camping trips and being in-country on a mission. Floors still hurt. I had gone to sleep without rolling out the sleeping pad to take the edge off. I regretted it now. Even though the room was poorly lit, my enhanced vision let me find the door and step out to the bathroom. It let me take care of the absolutely needed things. I really need to get this place fixed up fast. I didn't like the idea of going down to the security locker room to take a shower. I'll have to do it today though. At least it was late in the morning. My body was still on west coast time so I woke up at six in the morning internally; but it is actually nine in the morning.

I grabbed my kit, headed for the door, remembered something, went back, headed out again. I repeated this three times. By then my arms were loaded down with items I figured I needed, not that it was heavy, just a lot of bulk. Must remember to get a larger bag than a shaving kit. After arriving at the locker room doors I could hear men in one. For once I was thankful I could use the other side now.

During my shower I couldn't help but hear the conversation in the men's locker room.

"Hey Sarge, did you hear that Delarose has hired a guy for the security detail?" a voice said.

"Yep. Some hot shot sniper from out west. I hear the guy's old too." the sergeant replied.

"Oh great someone who we not only will have to baby sit, but we will have to carry too." the first voice griped.

"Can it, Simpkins. Give the chief some credit for not being totally stupid. Even though he hired you," the Sergeant said which generated some laughter. “And you get to be record keeper for the MID recording. Just because you’re recording the information, don’t plan on selling any fake ones to a student on the dodge. The government already has a list of ALL the students at the academy. There are so many cross check’s and balances that it’s easier not to try.”

I finished my shower, dried my hair, got dressed, and returned upstairs.

Once I put my bath stuff in the room I went back downstairs. I used the opposite door from the one I entered the night before. I approached the front desk. It was manned by a wide man. I couldn't really judge much more because of the massive size of the desk that separated us.

"Hello, miss, my name is Joshua Green what can security do for you today?"

"Hello, I'm Sam... uh Samantha Everheart. I was told to meet with Chief Delarose this morning."

He said, "Hmm," as he looked down, "Let me give him a call, he does seem to be in his office right now." as he began dialing the phone.

"Yes? What is it?" asked Chief Delarose through the phone.

"Miss Everheart is here to see you Chief."

"Have someone bring her back."

"Right, Chief."

Joshua hung up, hit another button, and said, "Daniels, up front, I need an escort."

A moment later another uniformed security guard stepped through a door and looked around as Joshua pointed to me and said, "Escort Miss Everheart to the Chief's office."

I followed Daniels through the door and into what had to be the operations office. My first reaction to operations reminded me of a tour I once had of the new state of the art command, information center on an AEGIS equipped cruiser. There were three large screens against the same wall I just came in through. In the center was a double tier of three stations with monitors, controls and keyboards. It was all very interesting.....

"Miss Everheart, Miss Everheart, follow me please," Daniels urged.

"How long was I out?" I asked.

"You came in and just froze and started staring. It took me a couple of minutes to get your attention again."

"Sorry about that,"

"This way, please," he said as he walked on.

I noticed I now had a couple of new tabs to one side in my view. I'll look at ‘em later. Daniels led me to an office off to one side of the operations room, simply labeled Chief Delarose. He knocked and let me into the office.

Chief Delarose was behind his desk. He stood up as I entered.

"That will be all Daniels," he said.

After Daniels had left, the Chief looked said, "Have a seat."

I sat down and he continued his scrutiny. "I know Mrs. Carson hired you and wants you to work in security. I've taken the time since last night to really go over your service record and the other information that has been provided. It's all very impressive. What I want to hear from you is: What is it that you feel you can do to help Whateley security to improve itself?"

"I have always had a knack for organization, tactical awareness and operational decision making to ensure goals are met," I said.

"I can get that much from your records. What else?"

"I can tell that you have some security holes in your campus network."

"What proof do you have?"

I opened up the new windows Hive had displayed. "First and foremost there seems to be quite a few static images in the camera logs. Most seem to be only an hour or two long. Network traffic from this building seems to change levels in quantity for two weeks then it's down for a week, then it's up again. Also the phone logs and the telephone switch don't agree. There is an increase in overseas and national calls on the same time frame as the network.

"Buxton....." Delarose grumbled, "The source of the leaks is known to me."

"Is there any way I can help shut them down?" I asked.

Delarose sighed, "I wish I could, but they are a necessary evil."

"What do you mean?"

"The academy is a sort of neutral ground. It gets operational donations from both sides," he explained.

"I'm not sure I follow."

"As an example, we get donations from most superhero teams that have members that attended here, including Champion. At the same time we receive donations from those of a more questionable reputation. Lord Paramount is one such donor." Delarose said

"Prince of Wallachia? What interest would the mutant prince of another country have in this school?" I asked.

"Would you believe me if I told you he was born in Burbank, California?"

"You're kidding."

"Yes, I'm kidding, but he did go to school here. During the fall of communism he was back home campaigning for peace and using his powers he got it. A piece of Hungry, Transylvania and Rumania which he got by using his powers. Anyway he's a big contributor now. The point I'm making is that since both sides keep the school open through donations, that a certain amount of not wholly legal operations take place on the school grounds. Along with various agencies and governments trying to recruit students before the Job Fair. The mandate we try to follow is protect the students from each other and dangers from outside the school. If anyone on staff or security is trying to pad their paychecks, it's allowed as long as it doesn't endanger the students or the schools neutrality," Chief Delarose completed.

"Do you mind if I keep you apprised of anything I find?" I asked.

"Mind? No, I would expect and count on you to report anything you find. Except of course if you start anything shady. I don't expect you to rat out yourself. I'll learn about it eventually," he finished with a chuckle.

"Chief, about my job, what am I suppose to be doing?" I asked.

"Well, to start, I have planned to cycle you through the teams. So I can see how you work with each of them. We have three platoons with three squads in each. At anytime six of those squads are available. Platoons work in a two week on, one week off, rotation. There are three work shifts as well. Normally a platoon pulls duty with a squad available for each shift. Two platoons on two squads on duty. We just changed platoons on duty. So, it's my thought that I'll start you next week working a four on schedule. You will pull four days on one shift then change to the next shift that starts work it for four days then change to the next shift. The shifts are twelve hours long. So the first one you would work will be the day shift starting at five am. After four days you will change to the evening shift starting at one pm. And finally you will work the graveyard shift starting at nine pm."

"Sounds busy,and very tiring."

"It can be, but you can see that you get almost a full day off between shifts. It's only for twelve days though. After that we should have a feel for which platoon I can slot you with."

"When do I start?" I asked.

"As of last night you were sleeping in a converted machinery space. Take a week, get yourself moved in and get a feel for the school grounds. You can start Monday morning early," Chief Delarose said. "You might check in at student services about hiring some help moving in."

"I'll do that. It's over in Schuster hall right?"

"Yes next to the Crystal hall. Big place, can't miss it." he said with a smile.

I went over to Schuster. I wandered in like a tourist, looking at everything. Sure enough I got called on it. My entrance interrupted a conversation

"Aren't you suppose to be in class young lady?" a woman in cafeteria whites asked.

"She's new, can't you tell Joyce?" asked a woman dressed in black.

"Still she should be in class at this time of day. Even if you're not teaching this period." Joyce said.

"I'm a new employee in security. I don't start working until next week. I was told there is a student services office here I can possibly get some help moving into my apartment." I said.

"I dealt with security once. I told them, even though it was a nice day they really should have used the hard top limo in Dallas, I don't think Jackie ever forgave them." the woman in black said. "The office is right over there. I'll talk to you later Joyce." she pointed and walked off.

"Don't mind Circe, She's been around for a while. I'm Joyce Tanner. I work here in the cafeteria. She was right though, the office is right over there. I think Elaine is in the office right now."

"Thank you."

I entered the office. The best description I can give for it is ordered chaos. Behind a desk sat a woman typing away on the computer. "I'll be with you in a second. Let me finish typing this in." A moment later she finished and looked up at me. "You're new. Did they send you over here for me to get started on your admittance?" she asked hopefully.

"'Fraid not..."

"... Oh so you're here looking for a job. You need that bit of extra cash. That's always nice," she interrupted.

"Actually I'm looking for workers. I just got hired in at Security and they gave me a week to get moved in. I need help setting up my new apartment," I explained.

"I'm sorry we don't normally give students jobs that take them off campus."

"My apartment is in the tower in Kane Hall. If I'm going to make that place really livable I am going to need someone skilled in plumbing and electrical work, and someone skilled in framing and construction." I said.

"Hmm. I think I have a couple of students that might be suitable. They can do the rough in work but someone from the maintenance teams will have to do the finial connections. How much are you willing to pay?" she asked.

"That depends on how many students you send my way. Minimum wage at least, plus any bonus I decide to hand out since this is only a short term job. The work shouldn't take more than a week. If it requires working on Thanksgiving I'll even pay double time. But don't let the student know that."

"We should have someone over to your apartment this afternoon after classes let out."

"Great, tell them to ask for Samantha Everheart." I said.

"Miss Everheart? Oh, I have a message for you. I was working at reception earlier. You are requested to report to the science department. Something about incomplete medical records," she explained.

"Oy, time to go under the poke and prod again." I groaned as I turned to leave. "Oh, Elaine, I never caught your last name, I only know your first name because Mrs. Tanner used it."

"It's Claire. Elaine Claire. No pastry jokes please," she said with a slight smile.

I caught myself before I did a spit take and sputtered in her face but only just. "Ok, thank you Miss Claire. Before I go, where do I need to go to see them?"

"Dunn Hall. It's right next door."

All this walking from building to building was bringing back memories of both my own time in school and military training. I entered Dunn hall. The foyer was basically a T with the library entrance to one side and the entrance to Biological Sciences on the other. I turned toward the Sciences side with a certain amount of dread. Lately it seems testing me lets Murphy throw stuff at the fan. The receptionist saw me and pointed to the elevator to my right. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because I just blindly turned and entered the waiting elevator. I was expecting a short ride but this one took a bit. I was beginning to wonder just how deep I had gone when the doors opened. There was a young male orderly behind another reception desk who looked up as the doors opened.

"Oh you arrived. The doctors will be pleased, he said.

"Which doctors, and who are you?" I asked.

"Doctors Hendricks, Shandy, and Tenent. Only one of them is a witch, though I wouldn't call her one to her face unless you get to know her better. I am Gene Smith. Normally I'm pulling EMT duty but I'm covering for a friend today. If you'll follow me we can start on your test.'

"The last guy who asked me to do that got in a world of hurt.” I said.

"Hey, I just work here. You can debate with the doctors about your testing. Just give me time to get clear of the room before you go off," he said with a smile as he led me down the hall. We entered a lab and he pointed me at three lab coats. Two of the coats were over suits and one looked decidedly out of place over flowing robes. I approached cautiously, afraid they might bite.

"Miss Everheart, welcome to the inquisition. I am Dr. Hendricks, I will be your head inquisitor today; and these are my cardinals, Doctors Shandy and Tenent," the tall doctor said, indicating the second suit and finally the robed one. He appeared to be about to say more but was cut short by being hit by a purse wielded by Dr. Tenent.

"Uh... What do you have planned for me?" I asked.

"Ouch," rubbing his arm, Dr Hendricks said, "Well, we know you and powerful magnetic fields don't get along too well. We do have some tests that we can conduct using some custom built equipment. So let's get the ones that are not too invasive done today. It's going to be a lot of standing around on your part though."

"Where do you want me?" I asked with a sigh.

"Stand on the X there."

I did as I was asked and stood there while they moved equipment around from one spot to another, separated by buzzing noises. Then they rolled a high table up and took a blood sample. The nurse got ready to tape down the cotton ball after drawing the blood. I just moved her hand; the cotton ball dropped on the table. The wound had healed. Next, so help me, Dr. Tenent rolled up another table with a crystal ball on it. She mumbled some, peered at me through a couple of other crystals, and then rolled the table away.

"Are we done?" I asked.

"As much as we can do today with the constraints of the class schedules. Even though you're not going to classes, some of us do have to teach," Dr. Tenent explained.

"Can you tell me what you know so far?"

"Well, it's going to sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but since you asked," Dr. Hendricks said as he was handed a clipboard full of papers. "We have detected carbide ceramic ossification of the skeleton which has rendered your skeleton nearly unbreakable. Your nervous system has undergone superconducting fibrification of the neural dendrites and the alteration of bioelectrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction, resulting in, we estimate, a four hundred percent increase in your reflexes. It may result in a marked increase in your intelligence, memory and creativity. Your eyes have had optical macula enhancements. This resulted in the heads up display and vision improvements you've said you experienced. Your esophagus has a slilicastic lining coating the mouth, throat and nasal cavity. This leads to a secondary stomach that currently contains the remains of a crude battery. It should be gone in a day or so. We also noted some intra-muscular enhancements. Your muscles have increased in density and there was a corresponding decrease in lactase recovery time. You are stronger and not as quick to tire. You can by our estimates lift between 900 and 1000 lbs. You have a superheterodyne receiver located in the area of your appendix with GPS decoding connected to it." Dr Hendricks paused to take a breath."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"Surprisingly, yes," Dr. Tenent said. "I detected a developing bond between you and Hive. I've only seen such a bond between two people who I would call soul mates or a split soul in the process of rejoining."

"Sam, there's something else," Dr. Hendricks said.

"Yes, Doc?" I queried.

"I'm not sure why this has happened, but for the foreseeable future, I would recommend that you do not try to return to your male self."

"Why is that?"

"It would be bad."

"I'm a little fuzzy on the whole good bad thing doctor. Explain it to me and use little words."

"You may die."

"Oh...."

"Is there anything you want to know about specifically?" he asked.

"Well, Hive told me that there are other ways to recharge it. I mean it will only be so long before I either look like an anorexic crack baby or be spending all my time eating to keep Hive powered. I even drank a home made battery"

"What other ways?"

"Exposure to electricity would facilitate faster recharge. But a high risk of my being damaged made sticking my fingers in an electrical socket a bad idea. I didn't relish the shock I got at DARPA either even though it did charge up Hive."

"You may have hit on the solution earlier." Dr. Hendricks said.

"What? How?"

"A battery. More specifically an alcohol based fuel cell."

"What do you mean? I thought those things were big and clunky," I said.

"When trying to power a car, they have to be larger. And other types of fuel cells had a better energy to weight ratio. That's changed. I need to know if the plans for one were shown to you could the hive duplicate one or more. Then to recharge all you'd have to do would be to take a drink."

"Show me this fuel cell plan please."

They called up the plans on a workstation and I looked them over. Hive said, "Construction is possible. Additional materials required to complete construction."

"Hive says it can do it but it needs more materials to complete construction," I said.

"Which ones?" Dr Hendricks asked.

I listed off the materials Hive needed and an assistant brought them over. As I looked them over I said, "I can see I'm going to need to brush my teeth after this. I'm going to have a hell of an after taste in my mouth. Hive, how much of each do you need?"

"Eight ounces should suffice." Hive said.

I ate the materials. Thankfully they were all in powdered form. Then I drank some water to wash the residue out of my mouth. In only a few minutes Hive signaled it was ready for the alcohol.

"I'm ready for a drink doctor." I said.

He handed me a half gallon cider jar and I took to cap off. It cleared my sinuses.

"Whew Doc, where did you get moonshine north of the Mason Dixon line?" I asked.

"Oh we doctors have our ways. Ever hear of medicinal alcohol?" he asked with a smile.

I hefted the jug and said, "Over the teeth, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes," and began drinking. After about six hefty swallows Hive said "Reservoir full." and a moment later a window popped up saying "Charging."

"It seems to be working Doctor," I said.

"That's good, I'll send a dietary requirement sheet to the cafeteria for you," he said.

"The cafeteria? I'm not a student."

"Security eats there, too, when they are working."

"Am I done for the day?"

"Well we still would like to see how you do with the Xavier test and Dis-Chess but now that we know just how much computing power you have, I think both test results are going to be worthless. You can go, I'll get the shop working on your charging station..."

He waved me out. As I went, I waved to the other doctors.

As I returned to Kane Hall and my apartment, standing outside the door was an odd looking duo. From the left, the first had to be seven feet tall. To top it off he was covered in grey fur and had a muzzle. I glanced around for a film crew. Not seeing one I looked at the second one. She was close to six feet tall, very thin with brown hair. She was dressed in browns and dark greens. It hugged her form rather closely.

The tall one stepped forward and asked, "Are you Miss Everheart?"

"Yes, I am."

"I am Harry Wolfe, and this is Fran Barnes. We've been told you have a short term job that we would be well suited for."

"Well, let's go up and take a look shall we?"

I stepped in the stairwell and started up the stairs. The sounds of their steps assured me they were following. We arrived at the door, which I unlocked, and went in. After they had entered I closed the door and said, "This is it. Kind of a blank canvas don't you think? Oh, and you can call me Sam or Samantha."

"What is it we are supposed to do?" Harry asked.

"We are going to turn this into an apartment," I said. "And this is the brainstorming session. I've never dealt with a round room before. So I need ideas."

"This sort of reminds me of a yurt. We had a couple on the reservation," Harry said.

"And that applies here how?" I prompted.

"They are round and self supporting with no internal supports taking up space."

"Ok, what are you thinking?"

"In a yurt there is usually a smoke hole in the center. Why don't we put the kitchen in the center? Make it roughly octagonal."

"Sounds good. Do you have any ideas Fran? You've been awfully quite." I said.

"Well..." she began.

"Don't worry Fran, one of the rules of brainstorming is you can't critique an idea. So fire away. No one will say anything bad about it."

"Well, Harry already made the suggestion about Indians, and yurts. They make me think of nature...."

"From what I've heard, everything makes you think of nature." Harry said, with a chuckle to show he was joking.

"True, but in this case I see how I can help here. I think a woodland glade idea would be good," Fran said with a smile.

"Pardon me but you said 'how you can help.' What did you mean?" I asked.

"Oh, it's my power. I can persuade materials to change shape. Like this." She picked up a dowel that was left on the floor. She seemed to concentrate for a bit and the dowel behaved like a snake and tied a loop into the middle of its shaft.

"Cool!" I said, sounding a lot like my daughter used to. "Is wood the only thing you can change?"

"I can change wood, rock, water, earth and living plants. I've tried mixed materials like steel. They don't work well; it keeps breaking down in to iron and coal. I can't do anything with plastics."

"So what would you suggest specifically?" I asked.

"For starters, the central kitchen idea is good,” she stood in the middle and faced one side. “If we say this half of the apartment consisting of part of the kitchen an island or bar so who ever is in the kitchen can still be part of what ever is going on in the living space. A full bathroom over there next to the entry doors. Maybe even put a stacked washer dryer in there. Following around the kitchen there can be two bedrooms. You never know when you might have guests. The two bedrooms can be divided by a closet wall. Half for each bedroom. Over here, a simple wall will close off the second bedroom from the dining room. That about does it for me."


"Great plan, but your nature idea needs light to work, and these medieval arrow slots don't let in much light. Let's say off each bedroom and the dining area we put a balcony with glass doors. We can put a window in the bathroom and a couple of windows in the living room area. They should let in enough light.”

"Won't that effect the structural stability of the tower? Knocking great big holes in the side for balconies?" Harry asked.

"I don't think it will be a problem if we support it right. I've watched enough home improvement shows to know it's possible. The floor below is still unfinished so we can run the plumbing, wiring and venting down there."

"We have a problem," Harry said.

"What's that?"

"Even if we do get everything done, we are not certified to perform the final connections to sewer, water and electrical."

"Aside from that, how long do you think it will take us to get the rest done?" I asked.

"Oh I can get all the walls up and in place in a few minutes. Then there is the stringing the wiring and running the plumbing. Not sure how long that will take." Fran said.

"Well, I can get the items we need for building with a couple of trips to town. I'll even get everything to finish the apartment. What say we meet back here tomorrow afternoon? That will give me that much time to get everything together. Oh, before I forget, this place is going to need heat. I think we can go with a retro-fit under-floor system."

“Why go with a retrofit. With my power I can install it IN the floor. Then it’s just needing to install the reflector and insulate down stairs.” Fran said

“Ok, I guess we have most of it sorted. Does that sound good?”

"Sounds good to me. How about you, Fran?" Harry asked.

"Sounds good to me as well," she said

"Then I'll see you tomorrow," I said, “Oh! I have yet to ask you two. How do you like school here at the academy?”

“It’s ok, I guess,” Harry said.

“It’s kind of dull,” Fran said.

“Ok? Kind of dull? Come on there’s got to be something you like here. You make it sound like a prison sentence here. What do you like about the school?” I asked.

“Well, I like my physics, powers theory, and advanced design concepts. I wish I didn’t have to take English and History though,” Harry said.

“I only like my powers theory course. The rest of it I could have taken just as well at home,” Fran said.

“Well Fran, I can understand taking interest in courses that apply directly to you. But trust me the other courses have their uses even if you don’t see them yet. The same thing goes for you Harry. While learning about things that help you use your powers or learning how other people’s powers work, the fundamentals are needed too.”

“We were shown a movie in English of a superhero and villain having a war of words and the hero loosing. But I don’t see how it would apply to me, I’ll never be a villain or a hero,” Harry said.

“You’ve read Einstein’s theory of Relativity right? And other books on fascinating pieces of design. Would they ever have written them if all they could say was do this and it works?”

“Devisors already do that,” Harry said.

“Well besides them. Here’s another example. What about Fermat’s Last Theorem? It was written in the margin of his copy of the ancient Greek text Arithmtica by Diophantus. The note was discovered after his death. The original was lost. But a copy was preserved in a book by his son. The note was…. Let me see if I have it right… ‘Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadrato-quadratum in duos quadrato-quadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet’ which translated is a formula I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘It is impossible for a cube to be the sum of two cubes, a fourth power to be the sum of two fourth powers, or in general for any number that is a power greater than the second to be the sum of two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain.’ Which led to the proposition that the Diphantine equation where all variables are integers and nonzero solutions for any exponent greater than two became known as Fermat’s Last Theorem simply because of a well written note. Even though no mathematician was able to prove it for hundreds of years. And I think I better stop spouting math because Fran’s eyes are glazing over,” I said with a smile. “Fran I really think you should look into more math and art classes. You have a knack for design and your powers only help you. You could only benefit from some courses that teach you to read a blueprint or even draw them and to understand the building codes so these wonderful ideas you come up with will be accepted as spaces people can live in. I’ll even say as much to your teachers. Now you two better get back to your dorms. And no necking on the way,” I said which generated some laughter.

The next morning I drove into Arkham to a home improvement store. I spent a while buying supplies and materials for the apartment project. I was waiting to pay for all the things I bought when I heard a boy’s voice say, “Are you new around here?”

“Yes, I only moved to the area a couple of days ago,” I said.

“Well, um, would you like someone to show you around?” he asked.

Is he “hitting” on me? I looked him up and down, he was flushed in the face and pale in the hands.

“Are you ok? You don’t look well,” I said.

Hive opened a window with the boy’s physical stats displayed. He was flushed. Cold sweaty palms. He was afraid.

“I uh, I uh, no, not really. Listen you’re a great looking girl and I was afraid you’d laugh in my face if I tried to ask you out on a date. You really leave all the other girls in town in the dust,” He said.

“If you think I look good, you should see some of my friends in the area. They make me look sub-par.”

“Well, uh maybe we could arrange a group date some time,” he said.

There it is. He asked me out on a date. I guess I better let him down easy.

“I’m afraid that my new job is going to keep me busy for the near future. The schedule is crazy and I need to fit myself in. I moved across the country for this job,” I said.

“California girl? Oh, well I understand how important it is to settle into a new job. You don’t want to loose it and be faced with moving back home on your own dime. Good luck with the job,” he said and walked away his shoulders a little lower and a bit more slouched.

As I was paying, I rapidly realized my truck wasn't going to hold it all, so I went to storage rental place and rented a larger truck. When I returned to the store they had everything ready to load. Getting it loaded went quickly; then I went to the local mall and bought some furniture. I arranged for delivery on Friday.

I arrived back at Whateley, rolled up the back of the truck, and starting hauling materials up to the apartment. After about two hours and many trips the truck was unloaded; I drove the truck back to the rental place and picked up my truck.

On my return, I was getting hungry. I saw the students heading for Schuster. I followed them in and got in line. Joyce saw me and waved me over. "Staff doesn't have to wait in line dear. You must be Samantha Everheart. Your dietary sheet is a bit odd even for Whateley. It says to give you a fifth and let you call in any other special requirements but otherwise let you eat normally. Here you go dear. Prost!"

I went through the rest of the line and picked up a salad and a sandwich, then looked for a seat. All I saw was a sea of black and white uniforms with a little variation in designs. I saw Harry waving to me. He was sitting with a group mostly of girls and another boy. Then I saw her. Nikki Reilly was sitting with the group. On seeing her, I scanned the area for possible threats. It just seemed right that I do that. I took a seat down at one end near Harry.

"Samantha Everheart, allow me to introduce you to my friends.”

”Starting to my left is Billie, but we all call her Tennyo." To me she looked like an anime fan that didn't change out of her costume after the convention. How did she get her hair to stay that way? And that shade of blue?

"Next to her is Jade." She was a small girl of Asian descent. She actually looked a little young to be at the school.

"Beyond Jade is Sara." She could have been Fey’s evil sister. Long, blood-red, hair. Regal, elfin, face. Pointed ears and burning red almond eyes under tiny black horns. She had the Goth look down pat, black around the eyes, blank white flawless skin and full ruby red lips. Just a glance was enough to take my breath away. Fortunately, she seemed to be more preoccupied with a cage at her feet than paying attention to group. She was petting a dog in the cage,

"Next to her is Toni." She had sleek down pat.

"Next to her is Hank." Dark hair and the strangest grey eyes.

"About done, trust me Samantha. Next we have Chou Lee." Looked like an athletic young girl who would be at home in gymnastics.

"After Chou, is Erin Wynguard." The tanned, athletic girl with sunglasses gave me a casual wave before returning to her meal.

"And rounding out the merry menagerie we have Nikki," Harry finally finished. Nikki had shoulder length flame red hair that framed a face that beamed “care for me.” I could see why Nick was worried about his new daughter. She’d have the boys breaking down her door.

"Hello everyone," I said.

"Samantha is moving in to the tower in Kane Hall. She'll be a floor or two below the observatory. She hired Fran and me to help turn the empty room into an apartment," Harry explained to everyone.

"How is it you rate an apartment when all we have are dorm rooms? You look like a senior to me. Is one of your parents on the board to the school?" Toni asked.

"Actually, I'm going to be working here."

"Teacher's assistant? What do you have that got you a job here at Whateley?" Toni prompted again.

"I have a lot of military experience. I start working in security Monday." I said.

"Oh man! It's the cops!" Toni said in a stage whisper.

Just then another kid walked up to the table. At first glance, I couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. On second glance I still couldn't tell. He, or she, was wearing the typical Whateley boy's dress shirt and tie with the girl's skirt, socks and shoes. The kid also had on a red headband that covered the ears, though the ears underneath seemed a bit longer than they should have been.

"What's this?" the kid said. "Oh, don't tell me...look, that bully thing happened a couple weeks ago, and none of those guys have dared to come near me since then. Really! You can tell Ms. G that I'm fine and I really, REALLY, don't need a babysitter at school!"

"What?"

"Oh, you're not for me? Nikki?"

The elfin girl shook her head, "No, Jamie, this is Sam. She's working for security."

Jamie cast a wondering look at Tennyo and Sara. "What happened?"

Tennyo scowled.

"Nothing happened. Harry was just helping her move in."

Jamie pulled up a chair and sat down, relieved. "Oh."

"I know it's not something asked in mixed company, Samantha, but how old are you?" Nikki asked.

I opened the bottle and was greeted by the nose clearing smell of moonshine. "I'm forty-seven years old," I said, and drank half the bottle.

"You're forty-seven? I find that very hard to believe; and if you are that age, if you keep drinking like that you won't make forty-eight," Nikki said.

"I guess it is origin time for me. Up until about a week ago, I was working at a research lab in Washington State. There was an attack. After I had taken care of some of the guards, I went into the lab to check on a doctor friend of mine. She had died. I started coughing and went home feeling sick. Later I woke up looking like this. After some things happened, I ended up here with a job to work in security and a chance to work on some personal issues. Any of you interested in earning some extra cash?"

"Most of us have already gotten jobs through student services or are on a scholarship with living allowances," Toni said.

Quite Jade spoke up, “I’ll be busy today but can my sister help?”

“I can always use help. Would she be available after classes?” I asked.

“Yes, and she’ll be able to work as long as you need her. She could even skip Powers Theory if you need her earlier.”

“I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for skipping classes.

"I see. Looks like it will just be the three of us, Harry. I hate to eat and run but I need to get back to work on it," I said.

Nikki got up too. "I need to get something from my room before class. I'll walk out with you."

Once we were out of range of everyone she said, "You don't quite look like Dad described you, Sam."

"So, he told you," I said with a chuckle. "Least he didn't try to sneak me in behind your back. Good. I don't like being a spy."

"Hey, at first I felt a bit mad at my father sending a babysitter for me. Then I thought about it from his point of view and I could see why he'd want to. Besides, it might be good to have a friend in security." She checked a wall clock. "Darn I have to run if I'm going to make it to class. See ya."

I waved good-bye.

After lunch, I went back to the apartment and started marking out the rooms. Then came the marking where the electrical outlets needed to be, and then the balconies, and all the hookups for the water, and electrical panel. The hookups got me thinking. I needed to contact the campus maintenance and arrange to get the final connections and inspections for any of the rough in we do. A short trot downstairs and over to Schuster Hall and I was directed to a door. I followed the directions, going down three levels, through the door, and left to the end of the hall. I found myself standing in front of a door with "Operations Office" on the door.

I tried the handle and the door opened. The office inside looked like NASA moved underground. It had about as many monitors as the security office but most were displaying status readings of various things. Sitting at the desk between the monitors and me was a man that reminded me a lot of how I use to be. The name plate on the desk said Vance Merrill, Assistant of Operations. I decided the try the soft approach.

"Hi, I'm Samantha Everheart; I have a request if it can be done... I was hired yesterday to work in security. The headmistress and Chief Delarose have been kind enough to let me turn one floor of the tower into an apartment. I'm pretty skilled at home improvement but I know some things need to be done by licensed people. Would it be possible to get an inspection and finial hook ups for plumbing, electric, telephone and networking Friday? If we have everything ready by then."

"So you want us to perform the final connections after we sign off on your rough in?" he asked.

"That's the idea. I'm from the west coast so I'm not up one hundred percent on the building codes here on the east coast. But they should be close."

"Let's make sure. Here," he said as he dropped a heavy book in front of me entitled ‘The building codes of New England circa 2006’. "You be done reading that by Christmas then we'll talk about this renovation."

Hive said to me, "Read the book open each page flat and Hive will beep when the page has been scanned. Hive will convert book to digital format."

I scooted up the chair to the desk, opened the book and started flipping pages as I heard beeps. Soon there was a beep about every two seconds. In under five minutes. I finished and sat back.

"You finished reading the book just like that?" Vance Merill asked.

I nodded, "Just like that."

"What's the required drainage pitch for sewage plumbing?" he asked.

Hive showed me the appropriate page. "Fifteen degrees."

"Maximum spacing on electrical outlets?"

Hive again showed me the right page, "Five feet. If any socket is in a wet area the whole circuit should be Ground Fault Interupt; wet areas being kitchens, bathrooms and laundry."

"Photographic memory?" he asked.

"Appears to be that way."

"Ok, if you have it done by Friday, I'll get someone over there. You will be paying for their time. I'll even get someone from the wire crew over to check off that part."

"Thanks." I said and got up to leave.

As I was closing the door I heard. "Why do I get stuck dealing with smartasses?"

After I closed the door I said, "You're just lucky I guess." and headed back to the apartment.

I walked back to the apartment, got in, and started framing out the walls. Since the apartment was thirty-five feet across, I had plenty of room to frame up the walls on the floor and then get them in position. That only took a couple of hours. Being able to move the walls around like they were made of balsa wood helped. By the time Harry and Fran showed up I had finished the framing.

"Whoa! Are you sure you needed our help?" Harry asked when they came in.

"Framing always goes fast. Take a look at that television show where they rebuild an entire house in a week. They always have the framing done in less than a day. This was only five and a half walls. Now comes the fun parts cutting through the walls for the new windows and doors. Then we have all the plumbing and electrical rough in. That will take a few hours depending on how fast we can go. I think it will go faster than a build on the west coast because we can use the flexible piping for the plumbing. Venting the drain in the kitchen is going to be a bear, though. We can tackle it last or tomorrow."

"The windows and doors aren't a problem. Grab one of them and mark out the dimensions where it goes. I'll take care of the rest." Fran said.

I grabbed one of the windows for the living room. I reversed it and marked the side and placement the hole I'd need. I stepped back and said. "There it is."

I saw Fran stare at it intently for a moment then the area inside the marked spot seemed to flow and move. In minutes a hole the size I had marked out was there. I twisted and tilted the window through the hole and pulled it back into place. Pulling out a level, I checked for plumb. It was out a bit so I gave directions and soon it was perfect. A couple of nails and it wasn't going anywhere.

"Gee, if they all go that quick we might be ready to tackle the plumbing and electrical tonight." I said.

There was a knock at the door. I opened it to find a pale girl standing there. She was more than pale, her skin was dead white! Her figure was at that stage of blossoming femininity, just coming into her future curves. They were a ways away from matching my own generous curves. I was appalled to notice that I had been comparing myself to another female. When did I start comparing myself against other real girls? I’m not in competition with them.

Hive derailed that train of thought with an observation, “Anomalous skin texture…” Hive whispered in my ear. “Subject is hollow.”

As I looked at her, a window popped up on the right side of my view. I glanced at it and it moved to the center of view and zoomed larger showing a vastly magnified view of the girl’s white cheek. Only it wasn’t skin. Magnified as much as it was, it looked like a layer of round white granules.

“Hi, I’m Jinn,” she said, holding a hand forward to shake. The magnified window closed and I took a second look at Jinn. Her grip through the glove was firm, and I saw her Asian features. Combined with the white of her skin, they made me think of a geisha. Her arms, legs, face and midriff were exposed, covered with the same dead white material. Her ragged bikini, gloves boots and large hooded cloak were made up of a flat-black material that absorbed light so well that it masked any more details.

Another window appeared. I brought it to the front of my view.

ACCESSING SECURITY DATABASE…

Codename: SHROUD
Real name: Jinn Sinclair
Height: 5’ 7”, varies
Weight: N/A, Negligible
Age: 17, DECEASED
Hair: Black, shoulder length, varies
Eyes: Usually blue or green, varies
Face: Japanese, oval, varies
Build: Slim, but varies
Subject is deceased, but survives as an independent Class Three entity (analysis below). Aided by younger sister, subject can “possess” different physical objects to provide a semblence of life and animation. Although subject most commonly appears to be humanoid (black costume with white skin, or street clothes with platic/cosmetic skin), subject can posses multiple items and multiple shapes (see Power/Threat analysis: “poltergeist”).
CASE FILES: Ninja/Poe/06; Solange, possession incident; Boston Brawl.

POWER/THREAT ANALYSIS: Slow flight, normal (class 2) strength, conventional attacks. Extreme defenses, as absence of body or physical form makes subject effectively immortal (post-mortal) and difficult or impossible to stop with conventional techniques. …

Jinn tilted her head as she considered me that jerked my attention back from Hive’s tapping into security’s computers. It would certainly be useful if I could keep from being too distracted by the information. I motioned her in while I thought about how to grill the girl on her powers and background, without seeming to be too nosey.

“Jinn…” I delayed, trying to think of something to say.

“You met my sister in the cafeteria, at lunch? She said you’d pay for help.”

I nodded, “Sure. What can you do? Any experience with carpentry?”

“Not really I died before I could really join the workforce as more than a burger flipper. My condition does give me some new options though. I don’t really walk, I float. So if you have any ceiling work, I’d be good at that. While I’ve never used a hammer, I am willing to learn. I don’t get tired, so I’m good at lifting and hauling. And, it’ll be inconvenient, but I can be just a hand, or even something smaller, if you need be to get into a tight spot like a wall, ceiling or under the floor.”

It’s always been my experience that the intelligence dossier can’t really give you an accurate assessment of the subject. Despite having Hive in my head, I was going to need to learn about each of the student individually, if I wanted to really understand them.

“Harry mentioned pulling cable through the wall. Can you do that?”

“Sure. I’ve pulled cable before. It’s easy.”

She grabbed an extension cord and walked over to where I had several sheets of plywood stacked. Then she rolled up her sleeve. Except – she had no sleeve. It looked like she rolled up her arm. With her left hand she seemed to push the white flesh back, leaving nothing but air where her arm should be. The glove still floated there, wrapped over an invisible hand on an invisible arm. Subjectively, I knew she was hollow, thanks to Hive but to see it… Using that glove she picked up the extension cord and walked up to the plywood panels. While she was on one side of the plywood, her free-floating hand – and the extension cord – was on the other side.

“See? Easy. The only trick is learning to see through your glove.”

“I can see where you would be ‘handy’,” I replied, dryly.

Harry bent over with a “whoof” then said, “Two points, pun damage.”

Over the next half an hour, I was kept busy keeping my crew busy. Their combined abilities made short work of the wiring, and most of the plumbing. Then we got back to work on the windows.

We repeated the wall opening steps eleven more times. I was standing there scratching my head, and Fran asked, "What is it?"

"Well, I'm thinking about the balconies. None of them are going to be easy to set up; the joists are running the wrong way."

"You saw how I did the windows and doors right?"

"Yes, you dissolved the material."

"Actually, I asked it to move. If you put the wood near the doors with it open, I’ll take care of it."

"Well, let me show you the framing arrangement needed..." I started to say.

"I won't need it. It is going to be a solid block of wood," Fran explained.

"Huh?"

"I'm going to... never mind. Move the lumber near the door."

We moved it and stood back. Again she appeared to concentrate and again the wood appeared to melt. This time as we watched lumps moved from the lumber under the threshold of the door and out of view. Soon a ledge began to appear and fill out. Soon the lumber was gone and a platform was visible. I walked over, knelt down and crawled out on the balcony area. I stuck my head over the edge and looked down. The underside of the balcony looked like it was covered in bark. As I got back up I noticed the balcony itself looked like a fresh cut section of tree with growth rings running the length of the balcony.

"Wow, can you cook too?" I asked with a smile.

Fran, Jinn and Harry broke up laughing.

I framed up a short wall to act as a railing for the balcony. After I had secured it and said, "That should do until I can get some iron railing made."

Fran just looked at me and harump'd. She moved some more wood on the balcony and did her thing. When she was done in place of the rough balcony railing I had made was a beautiful wood railing with spindles that had leaves made of wood woven through them.

It continued like this late into the night, with little Jade dropping by several times to check on her sister. We finished all three balconies and spent some time moving between floors running the plumbing and wiring. We actually got to the point we needed the inspections and connections before we'd be able to continue. So I escorted them back to their dorms and made my way back to the apartment.

Next morning I grabbed a light breakfast and my bottle and came back to the apartment. While I was thinking about what next to do, there was a knock at the door. I answered it and found myself facing two men as much a team as Curley and I were, and just as different.

"Good morning, what can I do for you?" I asked.

"You wouldn't happen to be Samantha Everheart would you?" the tall one asked.

"Yes, I am. Who are you?"

"We are the maintenance men who will be hooking you up to power. I'm Stan, and this is Morrie," he said.

"On Thanksgiving? Shouldn't you be home with your families rather than at work?"

"We had to come in on another job. It didn't take too long, and we saw the balconies. So we thought we'd scout the job to see if we were going to face anything tough," Stan explained.

"Well the only thing that has me a little stumped it venting the sink drain, but I can show you the rest."

I spent about the next half an hour showing Stan and Morrie the apartment and all the plumbing and wiring we'd done. When we completed it, Stan looked at Morrie and they just nodded to each other. Morrie grabbed the bucket I had the plumbing tools in while Stan grabbed the wiring tools.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"You are so close to finish we're going to hook you up now." Stan explained while I followed him down to the entry of Kane hall. He turned to a closet door, opened it and I heard a breaker trip.

We retuned to the apartment and Stan connected the power sub panel I had set up to the feeds in the breaker box for the bathroom in the stairwell. A short trip down and I had power in the apartment. When we arrived back Morrie was roughing out the vent pipe for the kitchen sink.

"Morrie, ya done yet?" Stan asked.

Morrie nodded.

"Do you think she can complete the vent connection?"

He nodded again.

"What do I do?" I asked.

"I installed a T in the vent pipe when I hooked up the rest of the plumbing. Run this top loop of pipe down and to that connection. The rest of the plumbing is connected." Morrie explained.

"Come on Morrie, let's go. We can still get home in time to catch all the football games," Stand urged.

"Oh, before you go!" I flipped them both a gold double eagle, "I would take those to a coin shop, and you’ll get more than face value for them. I promised your boss I'd pay you double if you worked on the holiday. I just never said double what."

They both left chucking with smiles.

So, I got to work in the bathroom by moving the stacked washer/dryer into the room. I hooked up the connections and lifted it into the overflow tray. Next came the shower tub. It was a rather special arrangement. Not only was it a whirlpool tub, but I had included a body spa system that could be used with the flip of a switch. It was like a whirlpool bath standing up. Getting that installed took most of the morning. When I finished I headed for the Crystal Hall for lunch. I found Thanksgiving to be in full swing.

As I waited in line, even though I didn't have to I overheard a green skin girl talking to an amazon.

"Explain to me again Hippie what's going on." she asked.

"Pilar, the Americans are celebrating the founding of the first colony in America. I think it's silly, since in July they celebrate throwing the British out of the country. On the good side, though, classes today and tomorrow are optional if you do the special assignments," Hippie said.

Hmm, a house warming. I know it's a little silly, but I'll be able to meet a lot of the people around here. Now I just have to get the dang thing completed. I noticed the group with Harry was enjoying the meal. I wanted to get back to work, so I grabbed the first open spot I saw. I ate my meal and headed back to the apartment.

Once there I tackled installing the radiant under floor heating in the bathroom. It only took me thirty minutes to get the hot wire laid and the thermostat positioned. Then I mixed up a special quickset concrete mix to cover the wire and poured it out in batches. Once I was happy with how it looked, I settled back to wait. I still had another two hours until Harry and Fran would be back. So I sat and thought about the eventual look of the apartment for all of five minutes. Looking out at the views from the balconies got me thinking.

I set up a sniper's position and examined the views.

"Hive, can you bring up a terrain map of the school and the surrounding area?" I asked

A map appeared in my vision.

"Can you correlate what I'm looking at on the map?"

A pie shape appeared on the map. There were a few dark areas that weren't colored. I knew I couldn't see everywhere. I repeated this looking out each balcony and window in the apartment. I had most of the campus covered from here. The range was short enough that if I could see it, I could hit it. I told Hive to save the maps. I'd print them out later and give them to the chief.

By the time I was done with the sniper geek-out, I heard a knock at the door. I went and answered the door to find Harry, Jinn, and Fran waiting.

"Hi guys. Guess what! We have power." I said by way of a greeting. "I went ahead and installed a radiant heating system in the floor of the bathroom and poured the mix for the tile to sit on. All we can do tonight is set the kitchen cabinets, and set the tile in the bathroom. I have a challenge for you, Fran. Do you think you can work rock as easily as you worked the wood yesterday?

"Sure," she said.

"Well grab your coats you two, we're going shopping," I said.

"Shopping? It's Thanksgiving; the stores are closed," Harry said, puzzled.

"Not that kind of shopping, Harry. We are going shopping outside. Earlier today I spotted an outcropping of blue stone in valley wall. I think we can get a few pieces and use it for the bathroom floor, and the counter tops."

"I like that idea," Fran said with a smile.

So down we went and struck out towards the outcropping I saw on the south valley wall. After about thirty minutes of walking we reached the spot. Jinn was a maniac with a shovel, tirelessly digging as fast as she could. Honestly, I could have done the same myself, but of my three assistants she was the closest to being brute labor. I thought a little digging might help her feel that she’d earned her keep. And shortly we had uncovered a face of bluestone about ten feet across and five feet high.

"Do you think this is enough? That is if we get a slab about an inch thick."

"You said this was 'blue stone.' It's not blue." Harry accused.

"It's the type of rock this is. It is strange to see Pennsylvania bluestone here but it's not unheard of." I explained.

"Yes, it should be. But how are we going to get it back? That will be a big piece, and bound to weigh a lot," Harry asked.

"We'll carry it, or more precisely, I'll carry it with you three watching I don't take out any trees. Once we get back to the campus proper we can break it down into smaller pieces to get it up to the apartment."

And so it went. Fran was able to split off the slab. Working from one end I was able to get a grip under the center and lift it off the ground. Jinn floated above, steadying the awkward load and helping me steer. Once I was ready to start moving I couldn't resist making the comment, "Ok, now I know what a forklift feels like."

"Well, we could carry it in smaller blocks..." Harry began.

“Then the rest of us could help,” Jinn added. “But there’s no way I can carry something this size.”

"Nah, I don't want to have to make this trip over this terrain more than once. And I don't want to be doing it in the dark. It's been raining off an on all day and looks like we are in for a drop in temperature tonight. That means sleet. Lead on, Macduff," I said.

It took a while but we got it back to the campus. I called a halt on the edge of the campus and leaned the slab against a tree.

"Why are we stopping here?" Fran asked.

"Because I'm not sure how much of this slab we will actually use. Rather than leaving a pile of building materials to clutter up the campus, I thought we could break this down here and carry the smaller pieces in. Besides, do you think we'd have any chance at all fitting this in through one of the balconies?" I asked with a smile.

So we split it down in to door sized slabs. Pieces this size Harry could actually carry, while Jinn flew up the smaller ones. A few trips later we had it all in the apartment. Since it was the most visible area we started with the kitchen. Working with Fran, it went very quickly. We moved on to the bathroom. We had a lot stone left after completing the sink countertop.

"Sam, how would you feel about a very natural looking bathroom?" Fran asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, we have all this extra bluestone. I looked at the tile you were planning to use in here, I'm sure I can thin the stone down to that thickness. We could turn the bathroom into a grotto. Tile the tub surround in bluestone and use it on the floor and as a wainscoting."

"Tell you what, I have everything I want and need in here, but I'm flexible. Knock yourself out finishing the room. Before you dive in though, since you want to go with bluestone in the bathroom these floor tiles will seem out of place on the kitchen floor. Let's lay a few slabs for the kitchen floor too."

"Ok great! Let's do it; I want to get started on the bathroom." Fran bubbled.

In short order the kitchen was completed and waiting for food. Something for me to do Friday. I grabbed up the box of lighting fixtures and headed for the bedroom. I couldn't really define one as a master and the other guest since they were both the same size. This one was close to the bathroom though.

Harry and I set about installing the fixtures, one to each side of the bed, while Jinn served as a floating power ratchet and screwdriver.

"I think we may have created a monster, Samantha," Harry said glancing toward the bathroom.

"What's this we white man? I take all the blame for this."

"I'm American Indian to tell the truth," he said with a chuckle.

“And I’m Japanese,” the pale white floating girl offered. “At least, back when I was alive.”

"Ok, what's this ‘we’ my ethnically diverse comrades?"

"Ok, ok, you got me. Fran and I came here expecting to do a lot of general labor. Moving, lifting stuff.”

“I resemble that remark,” Jinn muttered.

Harry continued, “Fran has been a wall flower all year. I have her in Powers Theory and Powers Lab.  She's been quiet all year, I got her to open up a bit going from class to lunch. She didn't know what she was going to do with herself after Whateley. I can think of all sorts of things she could do with her powers. Technology companies would be breaking down the door for her. She told me that she knows her powers could be used for illegal things too."

"I guess by asking your input on the apartment we opened up a whole other set of options for her, and it's something she truly seems to enjoy. I intend to let her loose decorating the apartment. I'm not picky. When it is done I now intend to make a point of showing it to her councilor. It's something she enjoys and should be encouraged. Speaking of encouraging. Just what can you do? Besides the occasional werewolf movie," I asked.

"I have a knack with machines. They classify me as a devisor here at the school. So I'm taking a lot of technology and design classes."

"A devisor, huh? Take a look at this." I said and pulled out my gun case.

I opened it and over my shoulder I heard a stereo, "Whoa." let out in a breath.

"You have a thing with machines. I like guns and rifles that can reach out and touch someone. The rifle isn't what I wanted to show you though. This is." I hefted one of the special rounds for the rifle. I watched as Harry became glassy eyed and focused on the round. "A friend in the Seattle Knights made me a few of these. Do you think you can do better?" I asked.

"Ooo, ahhh," Harry said as he reached for the round.

"Careful, Harry, it's a live round." I said, as I handed it to him.

Seeing the curious look on the ghost girl’s face, I handed her a round as well. She studied it, but apparently didn’t learn much before carefully handing it back. In contrast, Harry held on to the round caressing it and petting it. Jinn and I turned back to working on the lights. When we had finished in the room I walked over to Harry and said, "Harry, I may have to start calling you Lenny."

"Huh?" he asked, breaking out of his revelry

"A character from Of Mice and Men; along with innumerable cartoons. You know 'I will hug him and feed him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George.'

"Oh," he chuckled, "I guess I do get focused around technology. I've been doing a good job I think, not doing this same thing to you Samantha."

"Oh, so you can tell about my secret huh?" I asked.

"I can tell you are surrounded by an organized cloud of nanites.”

“Really?” Jinn sounded surprised. “I can’t see a thing.”

“You don’t see them,” Harry explained, “you feel them. They give you a nice glow by the way. And I can sense a few more things that are different about you. Not much else." Harry explained.

Looking at my watch out of habit I said, "Come on Jinn, Harry. Let's go pull Fran away and get to dinner. She's probably famished."

“If you don’t mind,” Jinn said, “I’m going to take off. I don’t need to eat, but I do have an important evening appointment.”

I nodded agreement, then collected my two living helpers and headed for the cafeteria.

Not quiet as many people were here for dinner as were here lunch. The curse of Thanksgiving. Seems like there's going to be some hungry kids waking up later.

We went through the line and found a spot. Once we settled, Fran began to talk about the apartment.

"Oh wow, I could do a totally cool theme through the entire apartment. The bathroom a grotto, The living room area as a glen and the bedrooms...."

"I'll take care of the bedrooms thank you." I interrupted.

"But, but, my theme...." Fran began.

"You forget Fran that while the theme is a great idea for the public areas of the house, the private areas need to suit the resident. They need to feel comfortable there. No matter what the designer wishes." I explained

"Why won't you let me continue it into the bedrooms?" she asked.

"This is not the place for some things to be revealed. I'll tell you both in time. So how are you going to do the living room?" I asked as a way to distract her from me.

She took off describing the plan to turn the living area into a forest glade. I reminded her to remember the materials used in the kitchen need to be easily cleanable and non flammable. She thought for a bit and continued on. The rest of dinner was spent drawing out ideas from Fran. Well, actually it was a matter of controlling the flow of ideas.

Returning to the apartment, I looked in the bathroom and it was amazing. It actually did look like a grotto while still keeping all the cabinets, closets, toilet, tub and sink accessible. As I turned to complement Fran, she pounced.

"We're alone now, why won't you let me makeover the bedrooms too?"

"Central America," I said

"What? What does Central America have to do with this apartment?"

"Hive, check for listening or recording devices. if you find any disable them."

"Hive? Who's this Hive you're talking to?"

"Room secure." Hive said.

"Which do you want answered first Central America or who is Hive?"

"Central America," Fran said.

"Your lovely rooms bring back memories of two years back in 1985."

"Huh? You weren't even born then," she accused.

"I guess they actually are the same question," I mused.

"Huh? Now you're talking in riddles."

"All will come clear. Time for a short, history lesson that is not to leave this room."

I explained about the change and Hive and my military career.

"Oh," her face fell, "You associate death with the jungle and natural places."

"Maybe a bit. When you spend two years killing someone about every two to three days it tends to leave a mark. With me, the mark is I don't sleep well in natural surroundings. The SEALS call it 'sleeping with one eye open'," I explained. "Now none of this is to leave this apartment. Hive has some serious people after it, and I'm stuck in the cross-hairs." I said.

I looked over at Harry. He had that far off look in his eyes as he looked at me. I walked right up to him and slapped my hand together right in front of his nose. "Hey! Snap out of it!" he blinked and his eyes lost the glaze. "You really need to work on that Harry. Someday someone will show you a new GPS while you're standing in the road and you won't even feel the truck that killed you. The furniture arrives tomorrow. Thankfully, I think it will still fit with Fran's theme. So we can meet tomorrow, move the furniture up. Then Fran can do her tweaks, then you’ll get paid."

I woke up the next morning rolled out of the sleeping bag I had been using, and looked out the window, Sure enough the temperature had dropped enough to turn the rain to sleet over night. Now there was a layer of ice on anything not in the sun this morning. Then I remembered. The bathroom was done!

I grabbed my bathing kit and entered the grotto. I started the tub filling, adjusted the temperature so it wasn't too hot, and waited for it to fill. I prepared the christening of the tub by brushing out my hair and brushing my teeth while it filled. I paused in thought and went back to my duffle I pulled out the bath kit Oxana had snuck in my bag. It contained bath oils, scented soaps, and shampoos. I set the soap, shampoo, washcloth, and towel within reach of the tub after adding a little oil to the water.

The tub had filled to what I felt was a good point. I let my clothes fall around my feet as I watched steam rising from the water. Taking one careful step after another, I stepped into the welcoming water. I carefully lowered myself into the warm embrace of the tub. With a sigh I settled in for a soak. From the time I joined the Navy, I had been restricted in most cases to taking showers while deployed. After the Navy work usually prevented me from indulging in a soaking bath too often. I intended to enjoy this one.

Water was trickling away down the overflow valve on the tub. I took a leisurely time soaping and washing my face, arms, legs, chest and private parts. I was letting the heat seep deep into me. It was like I was in a deep warm hug. After nearly going back to sleep in the tub, my arm brushed against something I had forgotten about the controls for the Jacuzzi system in the tub. Still being a bit of a tech geek and a worshiper of gadgets, I had gone as far as I could on the tub and shower gadgets. I pressed the pump power on button and was awarded with a hum that was more felt than heard. I could feel the water moving. I opened the valves to let some air into the pipes and bubbles began to fill the tub.

With the whoosh whoosh of the tub, I started full body massage cycle. It began with my back. I could feel the many jets, pumping away on my back. Up and down went the pulsing jets. They changed from the up and down cycle to one that started at the center of my back and worked up and down at the same time. Then the foot system came on and began working on my feet. Starting hard and working around. Next the legs and arms started working from the shoulders to the hands and from the knees down then back up to my rear I was sitting on two jets and the lifted me slightly as the water pushed and pummeled at muscles that had decided to give thanks that the pain they had been dealing with silently was washing away.

The cycle shifted then turning soft working from my neck down to my feet like soft brushes across my skin. The water had drained down enough that my nipples were just being lapped by water. It felt nice. The jets changed slightly. Brushing with a bit more power upwards from my feet. My legs floated a part naturally. Feather light caresses along my legs upward from my feet up each time moving a little further then back. Then a new caress that felt very nice. I liked it. My legs opened a bit more as my breathing increased. It felt even better. Pulsing and cycling floating away on a sea of bliss. I moaned from this pleasure.

Then all feeling focused down to one point, then exploded across my body. It felt like every nerve across my skin felt something at the same instant. It was incredible.

The whoosh, whoosh of the jets slowed down and the massage cycle stopped.

Wow!

"Sensory input requires further examination. Repeat please, " said Hive.

"Not now," I said.

I climbed out of the tub on weak legs and dried off. I cursed and stepped back in the tub as I reached for the shampoo to do my hair. Once that was done I climbed back out dried off and wrapped my hair up in the damp towel. I grabbed a second one and wrapped it around me.

Drying my hair took some doing. I had never wore long hair when I was male. I had gotten use to military regulation hair cuts while I was in. And I had still preferred to wear my hair short. But now, looking in the mirror, it just didn't seem right to Samantha to go back to wearing the same still hair. Oh, well, deal with it.

After it was dry I looked at the perfumes. I sniffed a few and found I liked the smell of the rose and lilac mix. Possessed by an urge to be silly I copied the women I had seen in so many movies as they put on perfume. A touch behind each ear, another at the top of the cleavage, and one of the wrist which I rubbed against the other wrist. I got dressed in Jeans and a flannel shirt because I knew I was going to be moving furniture today.

As I headed toward Schuster, Hive said. "Hive needs to resupply nanite factory." So I changed course to the labs where I was tested. One of the assistants was in early, I explained my problem, he smiled, and led me to a cabinet. Inside were containers I was familiar with from my time with Dr. Terry. With Hive whispering in my ear what resources it needed, I filled a few butter tub like containers and grabbed a couple of bottles of liquid chemicals, I had used before. I thanked the assistant and left.

Loaded down with my loot I headed to Crystal Hall for what promised to be an interesting breakfast.

I picked up a tray put all my loot on it and walked down the line, I snagged a plate with eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes and a coffee, along with my moonshine chaser.

It was late as I settled in to eat. I watched as Harry and his friends headed off to what classes they were going to take. Sara, she paused at the exit turning and looking over the remaining student as she took a deep breath. Looking puzzled she turned and left.

Once again I drew a few strange looks as I started eating dry chemicals and washed them down with a beaker of acid. I got rid of the taste in my mouth by drinking some of the moonshine. Then I settled in to actually eat. It only took a few minutes to finish since I was eating alone. I was running ideas through my head about where to put what in the living room as I returned the tray to be washed. Carrying what I hadn't consumed of the chemicals, I returned to the apartment and put them under the sink in the kitchen.

Looking out I saw a large truck arriving with the name of the store I bought the furniture at on the side. I went downstairs to meet them. The delivery men were quite a bit less than happy about the route up to the apartment. I got frustrated with their feet dragging and just told them to leave the bigger items under a balcony and to carry up the smaller stuff. I'd have to take care of the big items myself. Once I had signed for the delivery and they had left. I used the rope to pull the furniture up like we had the building supplies. It was a bit more difficult getting the bulky items in but I got it done. It wasn't like they were heavy.

With everything in the living area I grabbed a rug and rolled it out in the master bedroom. Then I started in on setting up the room. The bed went against the one flat wall in the room with a bedside table to either side. The dresser went in the far corner with a TV on top. I repeated a similar layout in the other bedroom.

Now I had room to work in the living areas. I set up an area rug for the dining table and set up the table. Next to the door to the second bedroom I put an armoire. I put the last rug down and put the two couches still covered in plastic in position. I looked around and wondered what time it was. I had stopped wearing my watch because there was no way to make it small enough for my wrist. I started for the bedroom and stopped.

"Dam, I can be such an idiot sometimes. Hive, what time is it?" I asked.

"11:35 am," Hive answered

Time for some lunch

I went over to the Crystal Hall grabbed a salad, sandwich, and some milk. I told Joyce I'd pick up the shine on my way out.

"Don't let the students get any of that" Joyce warned.

"Don't worry," I said.

I left the line and looked out over the sea of black and white. I spotted Harry with the group and went over.

"Hello, everyone."

"Hi Samantha." was echoed around the group.

Sara had been looking at the cage near her. As she looked up, she ran her gaze over my body, as if sizing up a piece of meat in the butcher's window. The longing in her eyes reminded me of a soldier on leave in the red light district of Buenos Ares after a twelve month tour. Her gaze made me feel strange. I felt like a chill wind had blown past me. At the same time I felt like I was in my hot tub again. I shook it off.

"How are things going?" I asked.

"Sir Wallace, had me floating hollowed egg shells all morning. 'To develop my fine control and concentration.' he says. as he tossed another dozen eggs for me to catch and float." Nikki griped.

"Least you don't have to handle them." Hank groaned. He held up a hand in which he held an egg. "I was given the assignment to hold this egg without harming it from Powers Theory until Powers lab this afternoon."

"Can't you put it down?" Toni asked.

"No, Mr. Quintain put a powder on it and my hand. If the egg is removed before the counter agent is sprayed on, my hand and the egg will turn purple. He even numbered the eggs." Hank groaned.

"Control of strength is good. One wrong move or forgetting yourself and you could accidentally hurt or kill someone close to you," I said.

"I don't get it. I don't miss when I punch someone. Unless they are a speedster or have something to prevent the impact, I'm going to hit." Hank said.

"What did you use to do when you went to visit your grandparents or your parents when you had not seen them in a while and missed them a lot? You ran up and gave them a hug. What would happen to them if you ran up and hugged em like you use to?" I asked

"Oh.." his face fell a bit, "I guess there is a point to this after all."

"Teacher usually do have something they are trying to get across to you." I said with a smile. "Before I forget, Sunday, I'm going to throw a little house warming for the apartment. Since I don't know that many people here, I thought I would invite those I know. What do ya'all say?"

I looked at each of them as they responded with various yes answers.

I got to Sara and thought I saw a dog in the cage then it was gone. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "I wouldn't miss it." Then she licked her lips. I wonder why?

"Anyway, I have most everything set up in the apartment now. I have a few finial things I need to get set up and it will be ready."

Getting up I said, "Catch you later."

Toni piped up with, "Not if we see you first." and laughed.

I chuckled as I left. I returned my plate, got my shine, and returned to the apartment.

I decided to make the rounds now and pass out the invitations to the house warming. Since I was in Schuster, I went to Mrs. Carson's office. At first I didn't see anyone

"WHAT are you doing out of class young lady?" an accusing female voice asked.

I turned to a woman about my height, with pale skin. She had her blonde hair up in a tight bun. She was wearing glasses. They looked exactly like the military glasses I saw in the navy. We used to call them "Birth control" glasses. On her they probably worked. She looked more dowdy to me than professional. All of that took away from the pin striped woman's business suit she wore. All her jewelry was understated except a very stylized A on her lapel. I disliked her already.

"Is the Headmistress in?" I asked politely.

"All student business has to go through the assistant administrator," she said curtly.

"Well.. It's sort of personal," I began.

"Personal request to speak with the Headmistress must be passed through the house mothers to the assistant administrator who will evaluate if they are deemed to warrant the headmistress' attention." she said getting a bit louder.

Great. A red tape maven. "That's all well and good. But I'm not a student." I cut her off.

"Then get off this campus before I call security." she threatened.

"Why call them? Someone from security is already here. Namely me." I said.

"You work here?" she asking at me puzzled.

"I recently have been hired, yes."

"I've not seen any paper work on a new security officer being hired." she accused.

"You wanted to see me Samantha?" Mrs. Carson asked.

"Yes, my apartment is about complete and I thought I might throw a little house warming party Sunday to meet the Staff, a few select students and the other people on security."

"That sounds lovely. Do you mind if I invite a few others?" she asked.

"I might have to spread visitors out since it is a rather small apartment, but you're welcome to. After all you're the boss," I said

"Yes, I am. Yet some people seem to forget," she said.

"I'll see you then," I said and bid my farewell.

As I left I could hear the woman repeating that she hadn't seen any paper work. I also heard the headmistress reply, "That's because it's not filled out yet."

I went in the security entrance in Kane Hall to find, Joshua on duty again.

"You are either lucky or unlucky. I haven't figured out which yet." I said with a smile.

"Hello Samantha, how are you today?" he asked.

"Fine. The Chief in?" I asked.

"Just got back from a personal sweep of the grounds. Head on back, I'll let him know you're coming."

I headed back and didn't lock this time. I guess Hive expected this time. I took a peek at the grounds status myself, through the sensors, headed back to the Chief's office and knocked.

"Come in." He said through the door.

I stuck my head in and said. "Hi Chief, I'm about done with my apartment and plant to throw a little party on Sunday. I thought the security gang might want to size of the new kid for themselves. I think all three shifts can manage to drop by for a bit during daylight Sunday if they want."

"That'll be fine. Be sure to get some rest. You start morning shift Monday though." he warned.

"Oh I figure to get everyone out by 10 pm at the latest." I affirmed.

"That's good. See you then." Chief Delarose said and I left for my apartment.

The walk upstairs seemed to be getting shorter since this morning. First there were the curving stairs around the outer wall, then the tight spiral stair that led up to my apartment and on past towards the observatory. I had yet to meet anyone else in the building, but of course, we kept different hours.

When I entered the apartment, I realized that the dining area balcony doors were open. Sara was there in the doorway, fiery hair framed by golden sunlight. She slowly slinked into the room before I closed the doors, dressed in a slitted gown made of some sort of leather. I started to move back to the front door to show her out when she giggled. I turned and looked at her.

I blinked as the young Sara moved languidly towards me, her red eyes smoldering yet slightly distracted, as if she were following her nose rather than her sight. I hadn't seen anything move like Sara did in all of my forty-seven years; the smooth motion of her limbs was unnatural, yet vaguely erotic. Slowly I forgot about the rest of the apartment, I was like a bird watching a snake. I was mesmerized by her.

Sara circled me slowly, closing the abandoned door behind me, herding me like a prey inside. I turned to face her, trying to find the breath to speak. She lent forward to sniff tentatively at my collar bone, "Hmmm… there was something different about you this morning, yes, that musk is unmistakable. Scented soaps… aromatic perfumes… smooth, clean skin… and the warm glow underneath. You did have a pleasant bath, didn't you?"

My enhanced hearing caught the feint creak of stretching leather as I turned to follow this demon's movements. Sara was growing inside her clothes, aging before my eyes until the two of us were almost at eye level, and I was now slightly shorter. I tried to back away as Sara reached out to caress my cheek, but the back of my knees pressed into the arm of the sofa, still wrapped in plastic.

"D Don't you have classes to attend?" I managed to stutter out.

"Do I scare the big, bad, SEAL?” Sara laughed, “I did the alternate Thanksgiving assignment. We have plenty of time."

I felt her breathing deepen as the Goth stepped close, breathing in my scent with her eyes closed. Straining my eyes in order to look downward without moving my lips closer to Sara's own neck, I saw her flawless pale flesh revealed through the diaphanous cloth. Her curves had filled out, the slight swell of Sara's hips plainly visible above long, slender, legs. It was the sort of figure I only expected to see on the cover of magazines. The sort of girl I would have killed to have before… Joann.

"S-stop that," I stuttered. What's going on?

"Stop what?" Sara smirked, pulling back, tracing a line up from her stomach and over her breasts with her middle finger. Ever so slowly, the Demon Princess let her shoulders fall back, slipping the straps of her dress loose. Fortunately, the dress clung to enough of her to stop it falling around her ankles, "You hide your feelings so well, Samantha, even you don't know what you want any more."

I didn't know what to do or what to say as the demon girl wrapped her arms around my waist, pressing our bodies together. Something in the back of my mind wanted to run, the rest of me wanted to stay, wanted to hold her so badly…

"Let yourself go, Samantha, and stop torturing yourself. It's time to have a little fun," Sara started with a chaste kiss on her lips, slowly working her way down my neck towards the collar bone, "If you want me to stop, just say so and I will, ok?"

I gulped; pursing my lips closed tightly, a familiar fire building inside.  As the foreplay continued I froze in place, Sara slid her hands up the back of my shirt, kneading the muscles beneath.  The world rocked as my body turned to jelly, melting against Sara, relying on her to keep us both upright.  She failed me, stepping lightly back, grinning wickedly as I reached out for her.  She was toying with me, leading me back, seducing me with small caresses, and gentle rubs, baiting me.

I wouldn’t have noticed that we were in the bedroom if she hadn’t lithely arched back over my new bed, parting her legs to allow me inside her embrace as she pulled me down on top of her. It simply seemed natural when I found myself lying on my back, lips locked with Sara’s as the Goth groped and squeezed, her hands seemingly everywhere at once.

I blinked when one of those hands slid down my jeans. Sara’s eyes stared into mine, begging for permission, paused at the threshold. A welter of emotions assaulted me. Aching need and unbound curiosity shouldering all others aside, I nodded.

At first, the rubbing simply made me shiver with goose bumps, but soon the constant assault attacked my nerves, my body purring in its enthusiasm. I rocked in time with the beat of my heart, my breathing matching our rhythm. The tiny nub exploded several times, emptying my mind of everything except a primal need. An ache deep inside only intensified with each breath as Sara toyed with folds. Grinning wider, Sara slipped something else in.

I was beyond care, all I knew was that it was long and thick and it was just what this body had been craving. I bit at the pillow as it squeezed inside, pumping back and fourth, back and fourth, intensifying the rhythm. Soon, I was rocking my hips in counterpoint to the rolling waves of pleasure, trying to get more and more of it in.

Sweat sprayed from my head as it whipped back, I was screaming into a pillow as the wave broke, mashing our bodies together, the force of pure emotion multiplying the strength of my limbs.

When I came to my senses Sarah had gone. Damn look at the time. Schools about to finish and I'm naked and smelling of sex. I can't be caught like this!

I grabbed my clothes, ran to the bathroom. I used the shower this time to be quick. I bent over to get the soap and nearly took off again from the jets in the standing shower. I turned them down and finished.

I put on a terry cloth bathrobe and got ready to dry my hair. Then it caught up with me.

You had sex! You had sex with your daughter! You had sex AS your daughter! You let Dr. Terry die! You enjoyed it! You let your wife and daughter die! You enjoyed it! You had sex with a demon princess. You enjoyed it!

I found myself panting. It was getting hard to breathe.

"Request system check of Everheart network. Operating outside of recorded parameters," Hive said.

It was like a bucket of cold water. I shoved all the feelings into a mental box. I'll deal with them later. I took a deep breath and got dressed.

Just as I finished there was a knock at the door. I answered it and let Fran in the apartment.

"Hi Sam," she said looking around, "You got a lot done. I think only some minor tweaks and it will be finished."

"Great. Let's get to it."

Over the next two hours I helped Fran put the finishing touches on the apartment. When we had finished it looked a lot like a clearing in the woods with furniture in it. But the furniture looked like it belonged there. We were just about done when Harry knocked.

"Come on in Harry," I said, "Well, it looks like it's pay day for you two."

"Really?" they asked in unison. I had to laugh.

"Yep. Here you go." I said flipping them a coin each.

"Gee, thanks" Harry said dripping sarcasm.

"Before you go and classify me as 'last of the big time spenders' take a closer look at that one coin."

He looked at it. "So it's worth twenty dollars." he said

"Not much of a Numismatic are you?" I asked

"Huh?" Harry asked. I discovered it was possible to look totally befuddled while covered in fur.

"Coin collector. Harry. That is 1903 twenty dollar gold piece. It's solid gold. Just shy of an ounce. That alone makes that worth in excess of $400.00 for the gold alone. And since President Roosevelt ordered the seizure of all gold coins currency in the US around 1933. It makes that coin a very rare bird in deed. Enjoy them." I said.

"I, I, I, can't take this, I hardly did anything." Harry complained

"All very well and good Harry but I never did say how much I was paying for the assistance. Depending on how you look at it I paid you about ten dollars an hour for five eight hour days. Well four days and one at double time. Working on a holiday and all."

"Uh... Wow?"

"You're welcome and thanks." I smiled.

I went into town Saturday. I got food for the party and necessities that I would need for living in the apartment. I was turning into a real homebody. A homebody who could lift a truck. It will definitely be interesting the first time I have to change a tire now. After spending forty-five minutes or so putting away the supplies, I still had plenty of daylight.

There has to be a training area for security, Maybe they have a range and I can squeeze off a few rounds. I grabbed my guns and the M-650, I left the special ammo.

Wearing my guns and carrying the case I headed downstairs. I stuck my head into the security office and asked the desk officer where the range was.. He told me it was under Schuster. So off I went following my nose literally at one point. I got off the elevator after going down three floors and took a deep breath. I smelled cordite. So I followed it and found the door to what I took as the range. I opened the door to the muffled sound of gun shots. I was in an airlock of sorts; used mostly as a sound damper.

I entered the next door and was not only assailed by gun shots but some odd sounds as well including a strong English brogue.

"Well, wha' doo we have here on me range?" a voice asked.

I saw a man about five foot nine, wearing the green brown battle dress of a British soldier. He had a penetrating gaze. It looks slightly out of place with a balding head and a handlebar mustache.

"Just someone wishing to use it Sergeant-Major." I responded.

"Oc, now lassie with what do you intend to use on me range?" he asked

I walked up to the table between us and set down the rifle case and my smaller pistol case. He opened them and whistled.

"Don't get ta see many of these. Not sure if we can even simulate something to make shooting at it a challenge with this. The range just isn't large enough. And if I shrunk the targets ta simulate the range the bullet would make such a big hole as ta make judge'n accuracy impossible." he grumbled. Obviously wanting to see the M-460 in action.

"Well, I guess I'll have to just do some pistol practice. The range is big enough for that isn't it?" I asked.

"Lassie, I could even make em shoot back iffn' I wanted to. By the by, my name is Sean Burlington Smythe."

"My manners are just as bad as yours Sergeant Major. I'm Samantha Everheart."

"So this monster is your father's?" he asked.

"No it's mine. So are these," I said as I opened the pistol case revealing the two Glock 18's.

"I can't say as I'm comfortable with you using those cannons, I'd feel real bad calling the dispensary for someone to come set your wrist back in place."

"Trust me I can handle these."

"Tis your funeral lassie. Have it your way. Use lane three" he pointed.

I moved over to firing lane. I set the gun case to one side, I picked up one pistol, checked the safety, loaded a clip and looked down range. I saw a human shaped statue with target silhouette on it. I set the gun back down, took down the hearing protection, and shooter's glasses and donned them. I picked up the gun again, holding it in a two hand combat grip I squeezed the trigger. The bark of the gun was a bit of a surprise, but I expected it. What I wasn't prepared for was the sound of the shot in the range. Most indoor ranges I had shot at had rubberized walls to dampen noise and absorbed the energy of bullets. There was no such muffled echo here.

I looked at the dummy and saw I had hit center of mass but a little high. I adjusted my aim and fired again. Better this time. I began shooting for joints and disabling shots as I worked through the thirty one round clip.

Behind me I heard, "Hello, Mr. Smythe can I get a lane to shoot some target practice?"

"I see ya got yir gun back Jade. It's been a while since you was down. Yes you can use lane five. Mind your range safety." the Sergeant Major said.

"Thanks, I'll keep the gun pointed down range." Jade said.

I finished the clip, cleared the chamber, dropped the clip out and slid home a full one. I dropped the hammer back down chambering the first round. I set the gun down called up sixteen targets to be space evenly ten feet in front of me.

Once they were set, I picked up both my guns. I thumbed the switches and pulled the triggers while waving my arms. I was greeted by the roar both Glocks on full automatic. Two seconds later the guns were empty.

"Jesus Christ on a crutch! What the hell was that?" I heard Jade asking.

"That darlin' was impressive," Sean said

"I know that, but what did it?" Jade asked.

"Talk to the lady in lane three. She owns the demons that did it."

I smiled, set down one gun then pulled the clip from the other. In a moment I felt a tug on my pant leg. I turned to find Jade stand there.

"Hi Jade, didn't mean to scare you there. What can I do for you?" I asked

"What in the world made that racket?" she asked.

"Just a second." I said as commanded the dummies to move closer for inspection.

I looked over at Sean who nodded. I took one of my guns, removed the magazine, and cleared the chamber then showed the gun to Jade.

"It's not that impressive." she said.

"It's old school to you. This is a Glock 18, 9 millimeter machine pistol. The clips can hold thirty-one rounds and in full auto it can shoot at a rate of twelve hundred rounds a minute. That's fast enough to empty the clip in two seconds. And..." I turned to inspect the dummies, "I've done better than I ever have before. I manage to put four rounds in each of fifteen dummies and one dummy only had two holes in him."

"Wow." Jade said

"Just my own version of a 'shock and awe campaign'," I said which caused Sean to smother a guffaw.

"So, you going to be using those when you're on duty?" she asked

"Maybe, depends on the situation."

"Remind me not to piss you off."

I had to laugh. "Don't worry. These aren't my weapon of choice. They are my back up."

"What is your preferred weapon?"

I put the Glocks down and stepped over to the rifle case. "This is," I said as I opened the case.

With a bit of awe and as close to a New York accent as she could, Jade asked, "Does it shoot through schools?"

"Depends on how many students are in the way." I answered deadpan. Then I laughed, "Actually with a .50 caliber bullet, the human body or number of them doesn't really matter until you get up to about ten of them. Sergeant Major is one of those dummies down there not attached to the floor?" I asked.

"Non of them are lass, they have both legs and wheels though," he replied.

"Get ready. One of em is going to need repair." I shouldered the rifle, chambered a round, aimed and fired. The target dummy did a back flip and landed on it's stomach. You could clearly see that the head was gone.

"Wow!" was said breathlessly.

"This was the weapon I used in the Navy. I was a SEAL," I said.

"Wait a second, don't they only take men for SEAL training?" She asked

"Last time I checked yes. They were letting women jet pilots in though."

"You mean... that you... how?" she sputtered.

"I'll explain it to you another time." I put away the rifle and asked. "So what are you shooting?"

Jade proceeded to show me a gun that looked a lot like a smaller version of my Glocks. It was a lot lighter than one of the Glocks though.

"Just what does this shoot?" I asked.

"I have some special non lethal rounds that I use. The gun itself fires the bullets using a small linear accelerator," she explained.

"Interesting. How accurate is it.?" I asked.

"I'm still learning and it gets heavy after a while," Jade said.

"See if you can't get some wrist weights like runners use. Start out wearing them for the day at a light weight." Then wear them when you're shooting. If you can't do that, do some weight training by lifting and holding a dumb bell weight in place of your gun and try to hold it for a set period of time then bring your arm back down. Guns aren't meant to be held at arms length for prolonged periods. Hold it out for five shots then bring it down. After that bring it back up aim and shoot five more. The idea is to keep it steady long enough."

"I'll have to try that. Thanks."

I went back to my lane and guns. Memories flooded in of the times I had taught Samantha and Joann how to shoot. I remembered having almost the same conversation with her when she was young. I remembered taking her hunting with Curley. Of how we were hunting elk and Sam complaining that even standing up that Curley and I would disappear. I also remembered hauling out Samantha's kill while Curley and I failed to kill any.

I finished my shooting in a couple of hours, then went back to the apartment and cleaned all the weapons.

That night was hard. I couldn't stay asleep. When I did sleep I dreamed, it was like a who's who of every person I was close to that was dead. My first SEAL team, the men under my command who died because of orders I gave in Kuwait and on the road to Baghdad. Dr. Terry, and the rest at Syn-gate. Finally there was Joann and Sam. All of them haunted my dreams. They wanted something or were waiting for something.

I woke up with the sun streaming in and most of the bedding wrapped around me.


Sunday November 26th 2006

I got up, showered and performed the other necessary things to be presentable for the day. For once I was hoping some of that everclear would actually hit my stomach and I might get drunk. But since the introduction of the fuel cell I doubt I can get drunk any more. Hive seems to gather every bit of alcohol for use in the cell. I ate alone and quickly. I had a lot to do today before the party and work tomorrow

I laid out some snacks and chips and punch.. Since there were probably going to be students other than those I personally invited dropping by, I locked up those few items I felt were valuable. I turned on some music so it was playing at a background level. About ten o'clock the night shift from security came up to look around. I got a few complements and a few commiserations at being located so close to work. It was pointed out by them that I could expect that I might be "on call" twenty-four/seven. I didn't think much of it. After all what could go wrong at a school? Even if it had some specials students.

The next few hours went by pretty much the same way, with students, teachers and a few people from the labs dropping by. I spent an enjoyable hour drawing plans for Curley's remote control practice target system for Sean. He liked the idea because it allowed set up of extreme length shooting ranges without having to have someone at both ends.

Towards dinner a few of the faculty dropped by. I got the same complements and comments. I even got a different complement from a small oriental teacher name Ito. He said, "Very Zen."

Later Mrs. Carson came up and I was pestering her with questions about her being a superhero. She patiently answered them and asked questions about my being a SEAL in turn. Then she came in.

An Amazon with an attitude. She was so developed I could make out ever muscle on her body. She almost had no breast. When I asked who it was, Beth said she was Olympia, that she was only fourteen and that she had Deidrick syndrome, whatever that was. Hive offered the information but I didn't bother to read it. She was looking around checking out every nook and cranny as if she was looking for something. I excused myself and went over to talk to her near the dining area balcony.

"Hi, my name is Samantha can I help you?" I asked.

"You can say hello to your new roommate sweet cheeks." Olympia said, "That is until I can get you moved out."

"Why is that?"

"I need my protection, I need to feel safe, I don't feel safe in the dorm. All the girls are plotting against me. Even my room mate is plotting against me. I need a place of my own. This is it." she emphasized this by dropping a heavy arm on my shoulder."

"Look I just spent a week of my own time and my own money completing this apartment for my own use...." I began

"And I appreciate the donation to the cause Samantha but it’s mine now." she cut me off.

I was beginning to get angry. "I don't think so. And you can call me Miss Everheart."

"Listen, Sa-man-tha, I don't care what you think," she said as she squeezed my left shoulder to make her point.

I reached up and slipped my left thumb under her pinky and bent it painfully back as I lifted up. She dropped to her knees for a moment then started to get up once she had relieved the pressure on her finger some. I released her and said, "I guess you need a lesson, I can teach but since it's a weekend I'll make it short."

She swung at me and I blocked the swing. She was surprised I could then I counter punched. She back peddled and fell back over the railing. I grabbed an ankle as it went by and found myself dangling her off the balcony. "Class is in session for survival 101. First lesson: A little Sun Tzu. 'Know thy enemy' Because with knowledge of the enemy you can evade capture and learn more till you find a weakness you can exploit."

"Pull me in! Pull me in! Don't drop me!" Olympia was yelling.

"Second lesson: Learn your terrain. Better to fight on an area you know than you don't know. This is my terrain."

She was still screaming.

"Third lesson, a little Heinlein I think. ' Don't piss off the little guy. He'll kill you.'"

Her screaming grew louder.

Beth was watching this and said, "Samantha," I looked at her, "Do be a dear and try not to drop her on the pavement. Blood is a pain get off of it and she is dense enough to crack it." She then mouthed "Don't drop her,” and shook her head.

Olympia started calling to Beth, "Mrs. Carson, she's endangering a student do something."

"Right now I see her as a teacher tutoring a student." Beth said.

She went back to calling for anyone to help.

"Test time. What's the first lesson?"

"Know thy enemy, she answered.

"Right. Next question. What's the third lesson?"

"Don't piss off the little guy."

"Right again. Last question. What's the second lesson?"

"Fight on terrain."

"annnnnnnnnn" I buzzed, " Wrong answer. You failed the test. I'm afraid I'll have to let you go."

Beth looked a little tense at that comment. I hoisted Olympia up and set her down. "Get out of my home."

I escorted her to the door and made sure she had come alone. Then I settled back down with Beth.

"People like that annoy me because they will get dead in the real world." I said.

"Well she is a member of the Brute Squad for a reason."

"You're kidding," I laughed. "Someone named a group on campus from the movie?"

"There are more than one group or team on the campus that has been influenced by a movie or series of them." Beth said.

"Color me surprised. Olympia did do the service of reminding me of something. First I have to ask you straight out. What do you think of the apartment?"

"Very nice, almost tranquil, I was surprised when your invitation came for today. I didn't believe you would have it done for a month or more."

"I had good help which is what I want to talk to you about. The girl that worked with me Fran Barns, she did most if not all the design work to achieve the look. She has a lot of natural talent. When you add in her power she could be incredible with some training. She really got into designing the look and feel of the rooms. I think she could benefit from classes working towards a career in interior design, or architecture tied with contraction. Perhaps you could help it along," I said.

"Perhaps I can. I will give your recommendations to her councilor" Beth said.

I was about to call it a day and start herding people out when doctors Hendricks, Shandy, Tenent came in along with Chief Delarose and another man.

Beth said, "Here's someone you haven't met, Dr. Bellows, allow me to introduce Samantha Everheart."

"Charmed." he said.

I moved over to the kitchen to start cleaning the dishes since most everyone else had left.

"First I have to apologize for the timing of this"

"Yes, it should have waited until tomorrow," Dr Bellows said

"But you're starting work in the morning and out next chance to would be two weeks off and you deserve to know this."

"What should I know?" I asked.

"After further analysis of all your test results we've come to a conclusion."

"Yes, a conclusion. Perhaps you should sit down the dishes can wait a bit."

"I've got to get them done and get some sleep if I'm to be ready to work tomorrow."

"It's a woman's prerogative to be late some times. Besides you're special. We can afford to take it slow. Come sit down, " Chief Delarose said.

"Yes, do some and sit down Samantha. I can do the dishes if you feel it's that important." Mrs. Carson said.

"Okay, okay. What's so important that the headmistress offers to do that dishes?" I asked as I came over to sit down..

"As I started to say, we've reached a conclusion on your test results."

"Can this bush we're beating around get any bigger?" I joked.

"Samantha, this concerns you and it's never easy for a doctor to face a patient with a diagnosis. It destroys their subjectivity." Dr. Bellows scolded.

"Alright, what is it that can't wait?" I asked.

"After looking at the test results from Hanford and comparing them to our own test results, we found a disturbing trend."

I sat forward, listening more intently. "Go on." I prompted.

"Due to a combination of things, Your modification, the exposure to radiation, the prolonged hosting of the hive....." He sighed. "If the hive was to be removed from you now you would either die from cellular breakdown or end up spending the rest of your life living in a bucket. But that is not all. Due to those same reasons, if you were to tell Hive to change you back to your male self, the breakdown may commence."

I was silent for a couple of minutes. Everyone appeared on the edge of their seats with worry. I looked at each of them, then I sat up straightened my skirt.

"Thank you for telling me this doctors. And thank you for a wonderful welcome to the school. I feel like I can call this home now. If you’ll excuse me, I'll get the rest of the dishes in the washer. Then I must get to sleep so I'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for work in the morning. Five am does come early and all too soon." I said.

I bid my good-byes to everyone shaking hands and hugging were appropriate. Then I suited actions to words and finished the dishes and went to bed.

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Franklin Delarose walked downstairs and went to his office. He still had a hour or two before the day shift left. Going to his office, he sat at his computer and started cycling through the campus cameras and status screens doing a simple check on the security of the school. He wrote a note for maintenances of a couple of light bulbs that were blown along the walkways. When he looked up, he was looking in a bedroom and saw Samantha walk into view and lay down. Text appeared below the view. "EVERHEART NETWORK INTEGRATITY IN FLUX. ADJUSTMENT NEEDED." He reached for his phone and began dialing.

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Amelia Carson walked across the parking lot, she entered Schuster Hall heading for her office. She needed to write down the class changes for Fran for she agreed that the girl had a real talent that needed to be nurtured. She settled into her desk and set to work. Some minutes later she was looking over the suggested revisions in Fran's class schedule when the computer screen blinked then changed to a camera view of a familiar bedroom. She saw Samantha walk in and go to sleep. then the message "EVERHEART NETWORK INTEGRATITY IN FLUX. ADJUSTMENT NEEDED." As she reached for the phone it rang.

"Amelia, something is wrong with Samantha." she heard Franklin say.

"Are you seeing an overhead camera and text on your computer screen?" she asked.

"Yes, how did you know?"

"I'm seeing the same thing. Hit the page for Dr. Bellows. He'll know who else to bring in. Have everyone meet in your office it's closest. I'll be right there." She hung up, grabbed her purse and headed for the door.

An assistant entered the lab when the screaming stopped. He new better than to enter while there was still screaming.

"This one is ready to go. Take her to the pens." the man said.

The girl was released from the table and led away.

"Sir, we've had a hit on our search," the assistant said.

When the man didn't respond the assistant continued, "The search for further information on the Washington incident of two weeks ago."

"Refresh my memory," he said.

"The company you insisted the Goodkinds buy to further your research. The one that Dr. Terry worked at developing her nanite project," the assistant explained.

Showing keen interest now he asked, "What is the hit?"

"The janitor sir. The one that killed your assault team. We found out he has a daughter that is still alive. She's at Whateley sir."

"We'll have to arrange to get a hold of her. She will know where her father is. We find him, We'll find the hive." he said.

Then the intercom buzzed. "Emil come to dinner, You can give me an update on your progress over it."

"I'll be there in a bit Theo, I just need to wash up." Emil Hammond said.

The things I have to put up with to proceed with my research. So many problems will be solved once I acquire the hive.

Meanwhile. At Hanford's DARPA Labs.

"Sir, power draw from the alien device has increased twenty percent."

"Any danger to the facility?"

"No sir, but we are detecting a signal modulation coming from the pyramid."

"Type?"

"We monitored previous modulations in the last three days. Unlike those, this one was highly directional in nature."

"Direction?"

"It's not going into space sir. It's actually going into the ground at an angle."

"That makes no sense."

"It does to me sir."

"Explain."

"It was looking before. Now it's found her again."

"You mean the girl?"

"Yes sir."

"God help us all......"