Playing the Part: Counterfeit Crusader
(A Danny Fairchild Story)
by Bobbie Cabot
Author Notes: This story is just a quick-paced, humorous little tale, where the guys from Lilith Langtree's The Center meet Danny. The events portrayed here are quite left of center, as in reeeally left of center, even for Danny. So, it makes you ask - did they all really happen? Were they stuff that Danny just dreamed up coz he ate too much of his mom's crunchy spaghetti again before going to bed, or maybe he was thrown into some weird parallel universe or something? Or maybe they really did happen? Good questions, all, but no one really knows the answer. heehee... Not even Danny. Still, it's a lot of fun.
Please note that the events here will not affect anything in The Center, nor in Danny's world - think of it as a completely separate story altogether. But for those who are curious, or would like to try to pigeonhole this little vignette into the Dannyverse just for the heck of it, it would probably be part of the soon-to-be-posted Danny, Part Seven. It's not... but it could be... (The last chapter here is a preview-excerpt from Part Seven, by the way.)
For those who don't know what the heck I am talking about and find all of the things in the story a bit confusing, it's probably best for the readers to check out "The Center" and "Danny" first.
( http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/book/15964/center and http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/book/14774/danny respectively)
(Thanks, by the way, to Lilith, and everyone else I sent a copy of the draft to for previewing prior to posting.)
In any case, I hope you enjoy this fun little romp.
The characters Kris Keys, Ray Lomax, Dani Marks, Sheri Kirsch, Heather Davis, Vee, Rita McFadden, Liz Keys, Miss Bonsai and Colonel Harris are from the fictional universe of The Center by Lilith Langtree, and are used with permission. (Lilith has mentioned that there are a lot of non-canon elements so this will be classified as "fan fiction," per her Post "The Center: Universe Rules and Information".) The Black Widow comic character and image are the property of Marvel Comics: this story is partly a fan-fiction story - no copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 1: Cosplay Girls
I ran down the main building's steps, rushing to my car, happy that school's out for the day. I waved to Danielle, Drew, Morgan and the others. We were all meeting up at my girl Nikki's house later. Nikki was home sick, and I promised to bring her something to make her feel better (she was actually feeling a lot better but was just milking the situation to get a couple more sick days in). So I was rushing to get something for her, and then I was going to rush back to meet the others over at her place later. Flowers were out coz I knew she was allergic to certain plants but I couldn't remember which at the moment, so I thought of just getting chocolates. Pretty cliché, though. I mean, chocolates... lame much? Maybe I should go all out and buy some that came in a heart-shaped box... Not!
But then, what do I bring her? Chicken soup? She's sick, after all. Hmmm... That's an idea... Heheh.
I was running to my car but when I got there, I braked hard - there were people in the way. A bunch of refugees from some comic-book were blocking my way. Actually, four refugee chicks and one regular chick. Actually, five real hot chicks, about my age, except that four of them had anime hair - one had pure white hair, another had chocolate-brown hair with blonde highlights, another with purple hair, and the tallest had pure-black, maybe blue-black, hair and a large star-shaped tattoo on her face. The last one looked pretty normal, though, and sported regular, run-of-the-mill brown hair. All of them pretty hot. Though I knew Nikki wasn't around, I reflexively avoided looking at them except at their faces. (Of course, I couldn't do anything about peripheral vision, and I silently screamed "score!" in my head.)
"Cool your jets, Red," the girl with the purple hair said.
"Watch who you callin' Red, Shrinking Violet," I said, gesturing at her hair with my eyes, and laughed sarcastically. Well, just a little bit. What a babe. "Who the hell are you guys, anyway?"
"Shut up," the normal-looking one said, and turned to the absolutely gorgeous black girl with the chocolate hair and blonde streaks. "Is she the one, Dani?" She? They must think I was my sister Danielle. But I was in guy clothes, I was wearing a low guy's ponytail, and you couldn't see my sports bra.
Chocolate Girl giggled. "Yup, she's the one." Dani?
"Pretty scrawny, I'd say," the purple-haired girl said.
"Shut up, Sheri."
"But, Kris! You heard what Dani said at the Center. This girl doesn't match what she said she saw. I thought we went here to recruit some six-foot-eight amazon! That'd be cool! Instead, we get..."
The normal one stared her down, and she eventually shut up. Normal looked at Mocha Girl again. "I hate to say it but Sheri has a point, Dani. I don't think she's the one."
Dani looked at me again. "No! She's the one! ... Well, I think she's the one..."
"Well, Kris, you know how it is - it's not like a TV in my head, y'know."
The normal-looking one made a patting gesture. "Okay, okay. Vee, tell me what you see?"
"Ummm, Kris," the girl with the tattoo said, and mimed writing on a sheet of paper.
"All right, all right!" Normal Girl sighed exasperatedly and turned to me. "Miss Fairchild, my colleague needs to do a procedure on you, and she's reminding me that, according to our rules, we need your permission. A signature on one of our forms is preferable, but since someone forgot to bring one," she glared at Purple-hair, "verbal consent will have to do."
"Huh?" I said.
"She needs to read your brain, kid. God!"
Normal Girl threw her hands up in frustration. "I give up!"
"What the hell's going on!" I shrieked in frustration, and clapped my hand over my mouth. Damn, I hate it when my voice goes ultrasonic. I looked around and was relieved to see no one else heard.
"Ray," Normal Girl said into a walkie-talkie, "bring the Black Widow around. I'm outa here." She put the radio away. "Dani, I told you this was a wild goose chase. And if it wasn't for Colonel Harris and your one hundred percent batting average, I wouldn't have agreed to this damn-fool mission. As soon as Ray gets here we're going back to the Center."
"But, Kris, I had the thing... the vision... y'know?"
"Dani, she's done transitioning. And there have been no reports of anything. No houses burned down, no flying cars, and no exploding heads or other mysterious goings-on in this pissant little burg. If there was anything that was gonna happen it already happened. But there's nothing in the news. Zero. Zilch. Nada. So let's get outa here, 'kay?"
Dani hung her head. "'Kay..."
At that moment, a humungous black step van pulled up by the parking lot entrance. "Black Widow's here." Normal Girl approached me and shook my hand. "Sorry about all of this, kid." She waved to the others and turned to the van. "Let's go, gang."
Purple-hair and Tattoo Girl waved bye-bye and followed Normal Girl. The sexy black girl with chocolate hair leaned over and gave me a hug and a peck right on my cheek.
"Sorry for the trouble, hon," she said, and went after the others.
Which left White-haired Girl. She was looking at me, smiling wide. "Glad to have almost-met you." She giggled, gave me a wink and a kiss on the cheek, and skipped towards the others.
I stood by my car as they drove away, with Chocolate Girl and White-hair waving to me from the back windows.
"Dammit, what the hell just happened!" I exclaimed as the van drove away.
Chapter 2: Like an Open Book
The next day, after classes, I and the gang were walking down the hall toward the school's main entrance. I had my backpack on my back and the neck of my old three-fourths imitation Strat in my hand (I deliberately don't bring my Rockergrrl guitars anywhere in case someone recognizes) when I saw through the windows three of the five girls from yesterday standing by their big van parked on the street by the school.
"Dammit," I said. "It's those crazy chicks again."
"Those manga babes from yesterday?" Mickey asked. "Cool! Where! Where!" He started rubbing his hands together like some sex-crazed maniac. Joanne hit him over the head with her purse. "Ow! What was that for?"
Joanne leaned over and patted his cheek. "Just for you being you, hon," she said sweetly, which broke everyone up.
I told the gang about what happened, except the part where they thought I was Danielle. No need to worry anyone. Some were thinking of calling the cops, but Morgan said there's really nothing to report, except that there's a bunch of crazy cosplayers looking to recruit some more cosplayers. Danielle said we should wait on calling the cops until something else happens.
"Have to tell you, l'il dude," Joanne said, turning towards me, "Nikki found your big tub of chicken soup thing hilarious. And sweet."
"She did? Cool!" Morgan and I did a high-five.
She pulled me towards her by the collar. "Don't do it again."
"But you said she thought it was sweet!"
"Yes, she did. But it was a really big tub, so she said we should all share."
"So I hate chicken soup," she growled.
She let go of my collar, tossed her hair (or she would have, if her hair was straight and long enough), and tried walking away in a huff. Didn't work though coz we all huffed with her down the hall.
"She reeeally hates chicken soup," Danielle whispered to me.
"Gee, thanks," I said dryly. "Good to know."
As I passed yet another window, I saw the van still there, but the people weren't standing beside it anymore. I turned to the guys to point the van out, but an arm reached out from a small storage room right next to the window and pulled me in by my neck, backpack, guitar and all. "Urkkk!"
I woke up in the van. From all the bouncing, I assumed I was in the van. I was lying down on a foldable gurney surrounded by the girls from last looking down at me, except they were missing the normal-looking-girl.
White-haired Girl leaned down and bussed my cheek. "We're baaack," she whispered in my ear.
"Hey," I said groggily. I looked around. "Where's the other one?"
Chocolate Hair pushed her aside. "Kris took the Citation and went back to the Center," she said. "It's only us this time." She flashed a little light in my eyes, checking me out, apparently. "You're okay," she said after a bit.
"Well, I hope someone explains what's going on this time."
"Sure, honey. We're just a few minutes from HQ. As soon as we get there, we'll explain everything."
"I hope that includes an explanation why I was kidnapped and strapped down, too."
"Surely," White Hair said, giggled, and gave me another kiss on the cheek. Nikki wouldn't like that... Cool...
After a while, I felt the van make a few last turns and then it slowed to a stop.
A big guy with green hair came into the cabin. Yike. Another cosplayer.
"Okay, we're here," the big guy said.
"Where is here," I asked.
"Our parked cargo plane, which we're using as our temporary HQ while we're here."
"The nearest county airport is at least a hundred miles from the school campus."
"Ahhh." Must've been knocked out longer than I thought, then.
"So, since we're here already, get up." Hmmm. Rude much?
"Ahem," I said, and jiggled the restraints holding down my wrists.
"Ooops! Sorry." The guy reached for something in his jacket pocket and the buckles on my wrists, ankles and waist popped open.
I got up a little warily and looked through the window. "Hey, this ain't the airport!" I said.
"Bright girl." What's with the Jolly Green Giant?
"You said we were going to the county airport!"
"What I said was that I agreed that the nearest airport was at least a hundred miles away. Did I say that we were going to the airport?"
"There were no airports near enough that could accommodate our plane," Tattoo Girl interrupted, forestalling any argument. "So we parked our plane in your lake. Our plane's a convertible," she dimpled. "Ignore Ray," she said, hooking her thumb towards the big guy. "He's just grumpy coz Kris had to leave."
Tattoo Girl had a pretty cute smile, I thought, and as soon as I did, she cringed. Eh?
"Listen," she said, "Stop calling me Tattoo Girl, okay? I'm sorry no one's introduced us. My name's Vee." She pointed at Jolly Green. "Our chief scientist, doctor, brilliant inventor and innovator, lawyer, and, most recently, our pilot, chauffeur and newly-appointed Mission Commander, Ray Lomax."
Jolly Green curtseyed sarcastically. Which was incredible to see. I mean, imagine a six-foot tall green-haired jock curtseying.
"She of the resplendent, silvery filaments is Heather Davis."
White Hair giggled and gave me a merry smile. "Babe."
Tattoo Girl gestured at Purple-haired girl as she walked by me carrying a pile of what looked like dark-blue jumpsuits. "She of the lavender coiffure is Sheri." Sheri winked at me, and then reached to pull the van's rear door up.
"And sexy black girl's name here is Dani. Same name as yours." Oh, joy... Dani and Tattoo Girl giggled.
"S'go, guys," Purple Hair said, and jumped down from the van.
Everyone followed and jumped down as well. I was incredulous at being left alone. What's stopping me from escaping?
"No one's stopping you from escaping, you know," Tattoo Hair said from outside. "And my name is not Tattoo Girl, okay? Stop calling me that. Now come on."
Tattoo Girl is real pushy. Too bad coz she's real cute, too.
"Thank you, sweetie," Tattoo Girl said as she stuck her head through the door. "But I don't roll that way. At least not anymore. My name's Vee, okay? So stop calling me Tattoo Girl and come on!"
Okay, already! Sheesh. I walked to the door and looked out. I saw we were parked on some grassy lakeside shore somewhere and, in the moonlight, I could see a big plane floating maybe twenty feet away, moored to the shore via some sort of inflatable raft-like bridge. I jumped down to the soft grass.
They were all already walking on the bridge. I had half a mind to turn tail and run into the trees, but all five of them weren't making any sort of effort to guard or me.
Tattoo Girl stopped and turned to me.
"Mizz Fairchild, you and I know you don't really want to run away. But if you do, I swear to you we won't come after you. We don't want to hurt you, and you're welcome to go anytime you want. But please come with us to the plane first, so we can say our piece, have a bite, and if you really want to go after that, you can. We can even bring you back home. Okay? Besides there're coyotes and snakes and other things out there. It's not good to be out in the woods alone at night."
Her words were assuring, but what was really assuring was the fact that they were virtually ignoring me and not trying to stop me in any way. I thought it over and when I looked back at them, all of them were already inside the floating plane, except for Tattoo Girl who was beckoning to me. They clearly weren't trying to kidnap me. And what were a bunch of kids doing with a ginormous airplane.
"Our airplane, and everything else, will be explained. At least have some dinner, okay? You must be hungry."
Come to think of it, I was hungry, actually. What time is it, anyway?
Tattoo Girl looked at her watch. "It's past seven."
No wonder, I thought. Might as well. I started walking on the floating bridge. And besides, they don't look scary. Especially Tattoo Girl.
"I said to stop calling me Tattoo Girl," she said, and climbed through the airplane's big hatch. "I mean it."
I nodded and walked more briskly. But as I was climbing through the hatch, I realized that I haven't been saying anything to her. At least not out loud. That stopped me dead in my tracks.
From inside the plane, I could hear Tattoo Girl giggle.
Chapter 3: Ex-men
They explained that their cargo plane-slash-mobile HQ was based out of a C-17 military cargo plane, but it wasn't a cargo plane anymore, heavily modified for use by The Center, which, they explained to me, was a special unit of the Department of Homeland Security. Still, I didn't understand why they had the inside appointed like an extra-large motel room. High-tech and fully automated, to be sure, but orange carpeting and tacky Ikea furniture?
Anyway, we were gathered around a large folding table in the space formerly occupied by the step van they called the Black Widow, converting it into a conference area. Right beside it was another area currently being occupied by another van, this time a cool F150-type SUV. We were just finishing a nice dinner of spaghetti and buttered rolls cooked up by Jolly... I mean, Ray, and ice cream.
The girls were looking at me in wide-eyed wonder as I polished off my fourth serving. But it was real good! "Great thpagetti, Way! Lottth better than my momth. Weally taftey!" Ray looked at me as I stuffed my mouth, trying not to grin too widely.
"Thanks, hon," Ray said, trying not to laugh.
Anyway, during the meal, I corrected them - that I was Daniel Fairchild and not my sister Danielle, but it turns out that they already knew. (Inside, though, I was wondering why they still called me a "she").
They had explained all about who they were, and what the Center was about. Essentially, about sixteen or seventeen years ago, a batch of bottled water got tainted with some chemical (a long story in itself, involving a pharma company, urban terrorists and the military). Women that were pregnant at the time who drank the water had an even chance of giving birth to children who would go through a spontaneous physical change, which included a sex change accompanied by the development of certain comic-book-y powers in their middle teens.
During our little dinner-talk, they explained that the Center was put up by the government to gather up these Teen Titan wannabes, train them and, eventually, use them for counter terrorism and other military stuff.
Apparently this bunch that kidnapped me was made up of some of these kids, and was sent out by the Center to collect me since I was under suspicion of being one of them. Vee was a mind reader, which I had already figured out, Dani was an empath (that was like a mind reader, except she read emotions, mostly), Sheri was a "token reader," which allowed her to know things about people when she handled their stuff, and Heather was a "photokinetic," which was like a telekinetic but for light only. And the big guy, Ray, was a genius-level mimic - that was to say, he can easily learn stuff and therefore mimic anyone - like reading a medical or legal text or a training manual and he's a doctor or a lawyer or a karate expert. It was hard to really believe all of it until all of them staged a little ten-minute show-and-tell. Ray assembled a flashlight from a walkie-talkie, a plastic drinking cup, two forks and a piece of aluminum foil, and Heather shaped its light beam into a little rainbow-colored dragon and made it walk across the table. Vee staged a kind of ventriloquist act where she echoed what I said a fraction of a second after I said each word, and Dani correctly identified which out of twenty different flavors of pudding I preferred (which Heather hated coz I basically ate up their little kitchen's entire stock of pudding). As for Sheri, simply by holding on to my disposable Bic pen, she was able to recite a list of everything I ever wrote with it since I bought it yesterday.
All I could say after all that was, "wow."
Ray explained that, usually, in these recruitment missions, they'd be accompanied by a bunch of military types for contingencies or emergencies, or if the recruit turns out to have crazy mutant powers or something, but since Dani's vision said I wouldn't be any trouble, it was just them this time. Apparently they were swamped with a lot of stuff back in The Center and couldn't spare too many people for these "milk runs" hence the skeleton crew.
As I listened to their explanation, I had time to think and compare what they were saying with what I had been going through. I was wondering what kind of powers I would get when I get through changing.
"Lemme get this straight," I said. "These so-called abilities - they come with the sex change?"
"Yeah," Tattoo... I mean, Vee, said. "All of us here are ex-guys, except for Ray, who was an ex-girl."
"You have GOT to be kidding," I said, looking at these babes surrounding me, all google-eyed. And they're all ex-guys. Dammit!
Vee giggled. "I'm flattered. Really, I am. But I guess my, ummm, sexual preference has flipped as well."
Hmmm... "I take it you're reading my mind again, like before?"
"Well..." she said as she sidled up to me, batting her eyelashes in that clichéd way, "just a little bit?" She sat uncomfortably close. "You gave permission, after all." She waved her hands and laughed. "Okay, okay. I'll stop."
I tried to keep my cool and kept on asking questions. "How 'bout the hair? Is the colored hair part of the change?"
"Not all the time. A lot of us look pretty normal. We can't really control how we end up looking. Sometimes we get weird-colored hair and other things. Sucks a bit. Look at me." She gestured at her tattoo.
"You're kidding right? You're gorgeous. In fact, all of you are."
"Awww!" they all said, even Ray. They all moved their chairs closer. That panicked me a bit.
"So..." I said nervously. Uh, oh. This is starting to feel very familiar.
"So..." Dani giggled. Being an empath, I'm sure she knew what I was feeling at the moment, and was deliberately teasing me.
"So," Heather said, echoing Dani and looking all cute n sexy. Grrr... "How long since your change?"
"And what kinda powers did you end up with?" Dani interrupted.
"Well, I'm not completely done changing. So maybe that's why I don't have any powers yet." I looked down at my almost-empty plate. I was feeling a little depressed. After everything I've gone through, I couldn't believe it was all inevitable after all. That I'll eventually turn out to be a girl regardless... It's not fair. I was glad I wasn't freaking out too much, but I suspect that's coz it hasn't hit me yet. And I'm probably a little distracted by... my surroundings... These girls are real cute.
When I looked up, all of them were looking at me incredulously.
"What do you mean you're not completely done?" Ray said.
"What do you mean you're not completely done!"
"I mean I am not completely done. That I'm, you know..." They were all looking at me with wide eyes. "... that I still have my..." They were still looking. "... my original, ummm, equipment? You know?"
Ray grabbed me by the arm and pulled me through a cabin door. I ended up in an examination room.
"The change happens in less than twelve hours," Ray said. "So the fact that you 'aren't done yet' is impossible. The only thing I can think of is that Dani goofed and you aren't one of us. So. Loose the clothes."
"I need to give you an examination and find out what's wrong or what's different. So lose the clothes!"
Given that he was a mile taller than me and a thousand tons heavier, I undressed real quickly.
After a quick round of CAT scans, x-ray, EKG, EEG, and a jillion blood tests, I found myself standing in the middle of the room in a flimsy hospital robe with the ties in the back undone.
Ray was pressing a stethoscope all over my back and asking me to cough.
"Is this really necessary?" I asked as a little bead of nervous sweat ran down my back. "Wouldn't the x-ray and scans tell you..."
Ray harrumphed, embarrassed. "It's best to be sure." This is getting familiar again.
The girls barged in and both of us jumped.
"What!" both of us said a little guiltily?
"What's the verdict?" Vee asked.
"Ummm... I don't know yet, Vee," Ray said. "I need to wait for the scans..."
"Tadah!" Sheri of the purple hair said, and pulled several x-ray plates and computer printouts from behind her back.
"The computers just finished spitting out the results," Dani said, by way of explanation.
"Gimme that!" he said, and grabbed them from Sheri. He went to a table against the wall, sat down and started poring over them, leaving my back exposed to the others.
In the ensuing silence, I started feeling nervous, prickly little goose bumps popping up on my exposed back and tushy as I felt four pairs of eyes staring at me. I wanted to turn around and find out what they were doing, but was scared to.
"What's happening?" I asked.
"Nothing," Dani whispered huskily, almost in my ear, and I screamed. How'd she get so close?
They all broke out in giggles.
Dani, Heather and Vee moved around and stood in front of me. I know that look.
"Do I have something on my face?"
"No, honey," Heather said. "Nothing at all."
"Y'know, Danny," Vee said. "You're pretty cute."
I started to back up. "Gee, thanks." My backside bumped into Sheri's hands. "Yike!"
"Sorry, Danny," she said. I shivered when Sheri "inadvertently" caressed my butt.
"You're shivering. You must be cold. Here let me close up your gown." I felt her get the ties of my hospital gown and knot them loosely as Heather touched my cheeks with the tips of her fingers. I was ready to jump out of my skin in embarrassment and a substantial amount of fear.
"Dammit, girls!" Ray said, "Stop teasing her! Heather, back off. And Vee - get out of her head."
"Awww!" Heather said, and Sheri said, "we were just playin'."
"I just wanted to - " Vee said.
"Reading minds without permission's against the rules, Vee. You know that."
"Oh, all right," Vee pouted.
As soon as they all moved away, I sat on a stool and backed up against the wall. Extremely aware of my underwear-less condition, I kept my thighs together.
We had a bit of awkward chit-chat as we waited for Ray to finish reading the medical exam results. Sheri brought me my clothes but I didn't want to put them back on in front of them so I endured being cold. I held my clothes balled up in front of me and smiled at them nervously, waiting.
The girls were eyeing me like four dogs circling a juicy steak. Cute dogs, to be sure, but...
Eventually, Ray rescued us. "Okay, I'm done," Ray said. "There is a bit of a problem here. Let's go back to the table. Danny, we'll leave you alone so you can get dressed." He gestured for everyone to leave the room, and as soon as I was alone, I started getting back into my clothes.
When we were all back in the conference area, Ray started explaining.
"I can't tell for certain if she... ummm, I mean he, is one of us. Many of the markers are there but aren't exactly the same... Vee, Sheri, what've you found out?"
"Is it okay, Danny?"
I shrugged. "I guess."
Vee took my hands in hers and looked deep into my eyes in a very uncomfortable way. I felt a kind of tingling in the base of my spine. So this is how mind reading was. Don't understand what the big deal is... except for the actual reading of minds that is....
But after a minute or two, Vee groaned and dropped my hands. "Dammit! Ray, it's not working!"
"Is she like blocking you or something?"
"That or I'm too distracted! All I can get are surface thoughts."
"Let's try again later. Sheri, your turn."
"I need something of hers."
Ray got up and left the room for a moment and came back with my backpack.
"Danny, is it okay for Sheri to go through your stuff?" I shrugged again. "Here, Sheri, use this."
As Sheri started taking stuff out of my backpack, Ray turned back to us.
"Sheri's gonna take a while so, in the meantime..." He brought out my examination results.
"From a gross physical examination, I guess you might say Danny is, in street terms, a she-male." The girls all looked at me with raised eyebrows. "But based out of the full-body scans and blood work, Danny is actually more female than male, except for the, ummm, dangly parts."
Sheesh! Ray's an incredible doctor-mimic, but he needs to work on his mimicking and improve his bedside manner.
"Do you know about all of this, Danny?"
Guess it's my turn. So I told them about me and everything I've gone through, except about Batch Fourteen and everything else that I was supposed to keep secret. It was kind of a relief to be able to unload, and although I'm sure they just wanted to hear the details of my, umm condition, I ended telling them about a whole lot more. Like my constant fears and insecurities, about my friends, my twin sister and the fact she's named Danielle (which interested Dani a lot), the adventures that we have had and about the complications that my condition added to our little escapades.
I told them about my near-breakdown when I finally noticed my breasts, the hormone anomalies discovered by the doctors, the twice-a-month shrink sessions, my band and our twice-a-week gigs at Mario's, my freaky voice (they laughed their heads off when I did my Bimbo Betty and Brad Pits voices), and so many other things. I guess no one can really blame me for opening up to strangers - it was the first time I was able to open up to people other than my friends. I suppose this is the way for a lot of people forced to keep secrets. Besides, they might be able to shed some light on my condition.
In any case, it was near midnight when we wrapped up. Ray said that he needed to run more tests so I promised to meet up with them tomorrow after school. Four hours earlier I was about to run away. I can't believe I'm promising to return to my captors voluntarily.
Vee and the girls drove me home in the Black Widow at about one in the morning (not that late, but late enough to make mom n dad go into a hissy fit when I got home) gabbing all the way. Turns out we weren't too far from town, and with me giving directions, we made lots better time. On the drive home, they shared their own little stories about having to cope with being girls now when they were guys less than a year before. Selecting what to wear, how to behave, relating to others et cetera. But most importantly, learning to live with it. It's like the transsexual version of girl talk. Anyway, I got hugs all around before they dropped me off at my house and zoomed away.
Now, how do I get past my folks?
Waitaminnit... where's my guitar and backpack? Oh, darn...
Chapter 4: Dee
Actually, it was a good thing that I forgot my backpack and guitar. That way, I was able to tell my folks that I got mugged and was at the police station the whole time filing a report and waiting for the cops to get my stuff back. So instead of getting yelled at, my mom gave me a hug and got me a piece of cake.
At school the following day, I was flipping through a newly-bought steno pad to tide me over until I get my stuff back. I told the guys the cover story so I got made fun of. I knew I shouldn't have left them in Burger King last week without a ride.
At the end of the day, I stood by my car, waiting. I told everyone that they should go on ahead and told Danielle that I would be going home late since I had to go back to the police and see if they got my stuff back. So that means, as long as I was home at around eleven I was fine.
I was in a bit of hot water with Nikki, though. Everyone was going to a welcome-back-to-school dinner for Nikki at the mall but I had to beg off. Nikki said it was okay, but I could read between the lines. Dammit!
Dani, Heather and Vee showed up soon after the gang took off. They explained that Sheri and Ray were doing some research. No van this time so we took my car. They had parked their plane relatively near and I didn't have too much trouble finding the spot. I parked on the grassy part next to the Black Widow (a name that didn't really suit the van - I mean who would name a step van The Black Widow). I saw their plane in the daylight and it looked even larger.
When we got out and I walked around the van's front, I saw the rad custom Ford F150 Raptor with a cab-van cover parked beside it, and Sheri was sitting on its hood with her arms wrapped around my guitar.
"Hey, Tattoo Girl," I said, and waved to her.
"Hey, Rockergirl," she fired back, and walked up to me.
"Excuse me, that's Rocker Grrrrl, thank you very much!" I said, and we both giggled. Seems she's been doing some readings on my guitar. Wonder what else she knows. Well, I didn't mind. Much.
"What's with the truck?" I asked.
"We needed more room inside," she said. "Also, we all decided last night. From now on, we're gonna start calling you 'Dee.' To avoid confusion. How does that sound?" She put her arm around my shoulders and we walked to the plane together.
I shrugged. I guess that was okay.
The girls and I sat at the conference area, like last night, and I asked if they found anything new. We went through a new pile of printouts and x-ray plates, and after quoting me really long science-sounding terms, they said that they weren't any closer to any conclusions than last night.
"Ray's on the phone with Kris," Dani explained, "you know - the girl who went back to the Center? She's actually our boss. As soon as he comes back, he can explain it a lot better than we did." Their boss? That girl must be eighteen only, twenty tops. And she's their boss.
They were, however, able to give me lots of information about my intersexed condition. Unfortunately, they didn't tell me anything that Dr. Roberts, my own doctor, already told me a long time ago, although they missed the whole pheromone thing.
They did, however, find out a lot of stuff about my band, courtesy of Sheri, I'm sure, and they were all excited and wanted me to tell them all about it. Heather even searched the net and managed to download a bootleg copy of the Jubilee concert, which they all watched last night.
"So," Dani said, "tell us all about how it is to be a girl rock star." They all giggled. Hmmm. For a bunch of girls that used to be guys, they weren't acting very dude-like.
"Tell us about being a girl DJ on the radio, too?" Sheri said, smiling gleefully and wagging her eyebrows.
"What?" the others said simultaneously.
"What're you talking about?" "Dee's a DJ, too?" "You're kidding!" "Ooh!"
I had to shake my head to clear out the high decibels bouncing around in my skull. I'm starting to doubt if they were ever dudes.
Thank god Ray took that moment to come in.
"Hey, Danny," he said.
"We're callin' her Dee!" Dani said.
"All right. 'Dee.' Okay?"
"Deeeee!" they all cooed.
Ray waved them down. "Settle down, people. Dee," (the name's growing on me. I guess. Not!) "I just got off the phone with Kris. And she said, given we've already wasted all this time and money on this mission, she wants us to be thorough and cover all bases, and come to a determination about you, so that all of the effort doesn't go to waste."
I sighed. "More tests, huh? What is it this time? Sucking out my bone marrow? Sample of my eyeball fluid? Teeth extraction?"
Ray laughed. "No, Dee. We're going to do something called 'appreciative Inquiry.' It's a problem-solving technique in business where you solve problems by looking at what's going right. I think such an approach might work, even in this situation."
"We're gonna start looking for what is right instead of what is wrong. For starters - since all of us have all of these powers, we then check if you have any kind of power. And if we find any, then we know you're one of us."
In my mind, I imagined me working on some kind of high-tech test equipment, and in the end I'd end up with some cool kind of power, like the power to throw fireballs, the power of invisibility, or the power to stretch like a rubber band, but hopefully NOT the power to look like a gravel pit. That'd be fantastic! (Heheh. Fantastic... Get it?)
"So that's why we parked the Devastator outside so we'd have room for the test equipment."
"That's what we call the souped up Ford SUV."
The Devastator? "Who the heck makes up the lame-ass names for your cars, anyway?"
"Them," Ray said, and pointed to the girls, who immediately looked away and started whistling nonchalantly.
"Anyway...” he gestured to the equipment laid out on the side where the Ford used to be. In its place was what looked like the exercise equipment in the gym my mom goes to. Talk about disappointing. Where's the high-tech stuff?
"We'll start putting you through some exercises, and find out what powers you have. We only have 'til eleven PM or so, so we better get crackin'."
"My mom sez I have the power to drive her crazy. Does that help?"
"Mom?" Dani said. "Your mom's still alive?"
"Dammit!" Ray said. He pulled out his cellphone. "Call Kris," he said, and his phone made the connection.
After a while, the other party picked up. "Yeah, Ray," she said via Ray's cell's speakerphone. We could just glimpse her on the phone's little screen. She was wearing a military-looking green blazer.
"Her mother's still alive, Kris."
This was met with silence. "Okay, I'm pulling the plug on this whole thing."
"Kris, wait!" Dani said, and walked closer to Ray to speak into the phone.
"Dani, he hasn't had a full physical change, his mom's still alive. What else do we need?"
"Wait," I said. What about my mom?"
Ray patted me on the shoulder. "All of the mothers who drank the tainted water died during childbirth."
I looked at Ray in realization. I put my hand on Ray's shoulder in sympathy. Ray put his hand over mine, and gave me a sad, melancholy smile and a shrug.
"All that may be true, Kris," Dani said, "but I still had my premonition. I saw her in action as part of the team. She's going to be one of us. I saw it."
"Dani, everything points to a mistake. He can't be one of us."
Dani huffed in frustration. "My premonitions have a one hundred percent batting average, Kris. Not one single mistake in over fifty missions."
"You're killing me, Dani. You really are."
"I'm sorry, Kris..."
We heard her sigh. "Okay. I've made my decision. Is Ray around?"
"Right here, Kris," Ray responded.
"Ray, I want you to find out what Dee really is. Do all the tests you need to do, but do it fast so I can pull you out of there. And if it turns out he isn't what we expected, then I'm gonna ask Rita to fly out ASAP."
"Who's Rita," I asked.
Ray made a patting-down gesture at me. "Got it, Kris. Anything else?"
"Just hurry up. I... miss you."
The girls all went, "oooh..."
"I miss you, too."
After he hung up, he turned to the girls. "You guys..."
All of the girls burst out laughing.
Chapter 5: Gym Clothes
With the equipment that they had on the plane, they couldn't really do much to test me. The first bunch of tests they did on me was to test for esper and kinesic abilities, administered by Dani and Vee. I thought nothing was really being accomplished because all that I was being asked to do was to sit down and concentrate on things, like to try and read Vee's thoughts, or to try and guess what Dani's feeling while she had her back to me.
All it really accomplished was to get Vee irritated at Dani, and vice versa, as they argued techniques on how to test me. I did a whole bunch of other things but suffice it to say, I didn't show one iota of talent, extrasensory, paranormal or otherwise. By that time, Ray had to step in and break Dani and Vee up since they were almost at each other's throats. I suppose it was sort of like how you feel when someone's messing up something and you're just itching to take over coz you think you can do better.
Anyway, after I was through doing my disappointing mind tests (and after Dani and Vee were done almost choking each other), we moved on to the physical tests. Sheri came in wearing a workout outfit which was basically an exercise tanktop, a pair of shiny lycra pants and white sneakers, in shades of white and baby blue. Wow.
"Close your mouth, dearie," Sheri told me. I obediently closed my mouth.
Heather gave me a small pile of clothes.
"Put those on," she said. I went to the other room and the clothes turned out to be exercise clothes - a bright pastel green exercise racerback bra, bright green stretch tights, bright white bobby-socks and white sneakers. There was a bit of a problem "down there" but with a mind reader in the house, it wasn't too big a problem. Vee snuck her hand through the door holding a pair of white short-shorts, which I wore over the tights.
There was also a wooly white towel and a terrycloth sweatband in the pile. I put the sweatband on and the towel around my neck, and stepped back into the exercise area. Dani and Heather gave me wolf whistles, their argument from before seemingly forgotten.
Sheri attached some electrodes on my forehead and upper chest, gestured for me to get on the treadmill as she got on a duplicate treadmill herself. Apparently she was gonna shadow me. She told me to keep pace with her and we started to jog.
We started slowly, but gradually built up speed. At last, all my jogging with Danielle would finally pay off. Both our speeds were displayed on a big screen in front of us, allowing us to monitor our performance. After a few minutes, we were doing a respectable five miles per hour, which we kept up for about ten minutes. I started to get bored and looked at Sheri. When I finally caught her eye, I smiled evilly and picked up the pace.
Sheri took this as a challenge, and matched my pace. She smiled at me nonchalantly as if to say, "this is so boring, I don't know if I can keep myself from falling asleep."
I raised my eyebrow at that and speeded up some more. Pretty soon, it was like we were in some race. Jogging gave way to running, and after a while, we were hitting fifteen miles per hour, which was, I found out later, a verrry good pace. Sheri was pretty tall, maybe 5'9", legs a mile long, and extreeemely buff (rawr...), and so she was able to keep up the pace very easily. But after a while, I noticed that she was starting to lose steam. I wanted to give her another evil grin before picking up my pace, but I couldn't spare the energy nor afford to lose my concentration. I forced myself to try and channel Lance Armstrong or something and speeded up some more.
"Lance Armstrong is a bicycle rider, Dee," Vee said. In my head, I pictured myself sticking my tongue out at her, and that broke Vee up as well as Dani.
I pushed myself to my absolute limit and my readout said 18MPH. I tried vainly to push it higher, but after struggling for maybe fifteen minutes, I admitted to myself that I couldn't anymore and reluctantly slowed down.
"Do it gradually, Dee" Dani said, "otherwise, your legs are gonna cramp."
Through the sweat-drenched locks of hair obscuring my vision, I nodded. I desperately wanted to stop but with Dani's continuous admonition, I slowed down gradually instead.
Ray helped me off the treadmill and had me sit down on the floor. Heather and Vee double-teamed me and massaged my aching calf and thigh muscles to prevent any cramping while Dani gave me a drink of water.
When I started to recover, I looked around and couldn't find Sheri. "Where's Sheri?" I asked. After which, I heard a groan coming from the other side of the treadmills. Seems Sheri had already given up about fifteen minutes ago, and was sprawled out on the floor trying to get her intestines back inside herself.
After maybe an hour, after Sheri and I had a chance to recover and for all of us to have some dinner, I continued my testing. Sheri begged off though, and said she'll just monitor me this time.
Next up were strength tests. After putting on a kidney belt, I started working on some weight equipment. After a lot of reps on the machines, we found out that I could dead lift about three hundred KGs, and weight lift thirty KGs. Not the best stats, but pretty good, Ray said, especially for someone as small as me.
I was then asked to do some vertical standing jumps. I was averaging between three and four feet before we decided to quit for the night. I haven't really tried jumping like this before. I wonder if I did good.
Ray asked me what kind of health regimen I had. I told him that my sister and I did a regular jog around our neighborhood every Saturday. He just looked at me. "And that's it?" he said, incredulously. I nodded. He asked if I was on any medication and I told him the only things I take were the vitamin supplements my doctor prescribed. I quoted him the medicines and the dosages, which he dutifully wrote down.
I asked Dani for a glass of water and another towel as I had already completely drenched the one I had. And I had already gone through two.
"You sure do sweat a lot," she said, and gave me a fresh towel.
"I know," I said. "Pretty gross, huh? Sorry 'bout that."
"I think it's pretty sexy," Heather giggled and pulled me into an embrace, unmindful of my sweaty condition. Ray frowned a bit, and looked a little puzzled at Heather's reaction.
Dani stared daggers at Heather, and then said "Aaahhh!" when she saw the time. "Girls, it's almost eleven! We gotta bring Dee back home."
Ray looked at her in irritation, but eventually he nodded. "Okay," he sighed. "I'll call Kris. Again. Wish me luck." He sighed again. "You guys bring her home. Dee, you have to come back tomorrow. Is that okay?"
I shrugged. "I guess."
"Don't forget your stuff again."
We trooped out of the test area and out to the cars. Dani, Vee and Heather rode with me, and Sheri drove the Black Widow.
Twenty minutes later, I drove up our driveway. Everyone got out and we gave each other hugs. They then got in the van and drove away.
I turned to our house and trudged to our front door. As I looked up, I saw my sister, Danielle, standing in the doorway, clearly pissed.
"Where have you been and who are those girls?" she said.
"I asked you a question!"
"Ummm, I was at the police station? I was waiting for them to get my stuff?" I held up my guitar and backpack.
"Okay... Well, how about those girls?"
"Ummm, they were there at the police station to get their van. We sort of struck up a conversation and they decided to wait with me until I got my stuff back?"
I grinned. Yes!! We both went in the house. And as the door was swinging closed, Danielle asked me another question.
"And what's with the leotards?"
Dammit! I knew I forgot something!
"Ummm... they're not leotards?..."
Chapter 6: Double D's
During lunchtime the following day, I went to the flower shop at the mall. I bailed on the welcome-back-to-school-Nikki thing yesterday so I got a peace offering of a half-dozen roses. I'm sure Nikki would get a kick out of toting around flowers from class to class, with her friends making a big deal about it.
I stepped out of the mall and was almost run over when I was about to get into my car.
"Watch it you!" I screamed. But when I looked up, I saw it was Ray at the wheel of the Black Widow.
"Dee! Get over here!"
"What's the rush? Where're you goin'?"
"There's an emergency downtown. We need you."
"Just get in, will you? I'll explain on the way." He leaned to the side and slid the passenger door open.
Over the past days, I've started to trust these people. For them to say they need me... I decided to throw caution to the wind and jumped in.
"Strap in," Ray said and peeled out of the mall driveway just as I was buckling my seatbelt.
"So," I said. "Explanation?"
Well,” Ray said, as cool as a cucumber even as he drove like a maniac. He was probably channeling some speed-demon racecar driver with his mimic-powers. He was wearing a jumpsuit that looked like a cross between a SWAT uniform and an Indy 500 pit crew uniform.
As we bounced around from his driving, he tried to explain.
"I'm sure you figured out," he said, "we came here coz of Dani. Her vision was how we found you. That she saw you with her inner eye, and that it told us that you might be one of us. Actually, almost all of our recruitment missions are based on Dani's visions, and the visions of other people like her." Ray paused for a moment as he concentrated on maneuvering around some parked cars.
"Anyway, she just had another one of those, ummm, 'premonitions' this morning. Something that was gonna be happening in your little town today, and that we're gonna be needed. She said it was connected with the original vision that brought us here, and that we were gonna need you."
"What exactly's gonna happen?"
"No one really knows. Dani's premonitions sometimes aren't really exact or clear with all the details. All we know is that there's gonna be something happening, and that you'll be part of it."
Ray said that they told Kris this morning. She was dispatching some people but they will definitely be too late getting here. So it was up to us.
The thing, whatever it will be, will be going down on or near the town plaza, so the girls were walking around out there keeping their eyes and ears open for anything weird. Heather and Sheri were both wearing wigs while Vee used some makeup on her distinct birthmark so they were able to criss-cross the plaza at will, as well as go in and out of the surrounding side streets, without attracting undue attention.
Ray pulled the van up near the town hall, parking it under a convenient tree for a bit of camouflage. It was fairly far away from the plaza, but Ray sez its procedure, since the Black Widow will be acting as field HQ.
"This is the Black Widow," Ray said into a mic on the dash, "we're in position. How're you guys doing?"
"Black Widow, this is Heather. Nothing to report."
"Same here, Black Widow," Sheri said.
"Dani? Vee? Anything to report?"
"Sorry, Black Widow," Vee said. "I am picking up jack."
"Black Widow, I'm picking up something." It was Dani.
Ray and I looked at each other.
"What have you got, Dani?"
"I'm getting a big chunk of nervousness and agitation, coming somewhere in the direction of the office buildings north of the plaza. It's too faint, though. I'll try to get closer."
"Keep safe, Dani."
"Thanks, Black Widow. I'll call if I get anything. Vee, you keep track of me, 'kay?"
"I got your back, Dani."
"Okay, everyone. Black Widow going on silent. Chime in if you get anything."
Ray turned to me. "Ok, hon," he said. "Time to suit you up."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
He indicated his attire.
"Better safe than sorry."
I didn't understand but I still went with him to the back compartment. Ray brought down a pile of clothes from an overhead bin. He looked me up and down first, and then pulled out two sets of clothes.
The first one was like a set of SWAT overalls, just like his. I took off my clothes except for my socks, boxers and sports bra. (I've been wearing sports bras for a while now, ever since I started getting boobs. Aside from making things more comfortable, the bras helped flatten them out a bit and stop people from guessing. I usually keep my bras camouflaged underneath my baggy shirts. So far no one in school has guessed.) Once undressed, I put on the overalls.
After I did, Ray couldn't stop giggling at the baggy fit. "Doesn't do anything for you, dearie," he said. I looked into a full-length mirror tacked to the wall, and I had to agree. Ray's laughter was infectious, even though he sounded a bit effeminate. But then, he used to be a girl.
"Sorry, hon," Ray said, "but that's the smallest size we have. All we have left that might fit you is this."
He held up what looked like a leather catsuit.
"You have got to be kidding," I said.
"Hon, it's this or none at all."
"Why do I have to wear any uniform at all?"
Ray picked up the overalls and brought it and the catsuit to me.
"See this material?" he pointed out the cloth of both uniforms. "This is a special kind of material that is very flexible but will not yield at the speeds of most bullets, and nothing short of a needle will penetrate it. It's the best bulletproof material around. Way better than a kevlar vest. So whatever we will encounter, I think wearing one of these would really help keep you alive."
"Okay. You sold me."
"Also..." he went to a locker bolted to the wall. He brought out what looked to me like a high-tech gun. I don't really like guns.
"This is our version of a taser." He cracked it open and it split like how I saw shotguns did. He then picked up what looked like a semi-transparent gold disk about four inches across filled with lots of sparkly bits. "This is its ammo. This disk is filled with little pellets that are smaller than matchstick heads. Each match-head, upon contact with any object, will stick to that object. If it hits flesh, or makes electrical contact with flesh, it will release about eighteen watts of pulsed electric power, at point-five joules per pulse at about three mA average current. It will do so until it burns out, which takes about five seconds. That's long enough to cause neuromuscular incapacitation. Just like a regular taser."
"How many match-heads per disk?"
"A little over a hundred per disk."
"Wow, cool. So that's like a hundred rounds? What if the match-head sticks to something else other than skin?"
"It releases its power all at once, with the explosive power of about twenty grains of gunpowder. That's about a third the explosive power of a forty-five caliber bullet's gunpowder."
"That doesn't sound too deadly."
"Well, no, but imagine hitting something with this in a continuous stream."
"Course, it takes a lot of juice to power this. And each match-head only retains its power for a short time. They have to be continuously recharged." He reached into the locker and took out a pouch with a belt. He took out what looked like less than one-half of a pink donut (like someone took a big bite out of one) inside a soft, puffy, semi-transparent silicon pouch.
"This is a power charger. When the gun's switched on, It charges its ammo via wireless induction charging, just like the old Treo cellphone chargers. Just make sure you have your taser partnered with one of these, and so long as you're within five feet of it, your taser will always be charged."
He then proceeded to give me a crash course in how to use the gun - loading it, targeting, locking the safety, et cetera.
"Y'know," I said, "this is all very impressive. But why give me a weapon, or how about just give me a regular gun?"
"Well, you need some way to protect yourself, and, legally, we're all underage, so we can't carry regular firearms, only non-lethal weapons."
"Okay," Ray said. "Let's see you in the suit."
I took the suit and the accompanying boots. I was about to put the suit on, but Ray stopped me.
"You know, given how that's built, I don't think you can wear it over your underwear. Hold on."
He went to another locker and handed me a pair of silky men's black thong briefs.
"Use these. They're size twenty-six so they should fit you. Just don't ask where I got them from."
I looked at the girly-guy piece of underwear with a less than happy look.
"Turn around," I said.
Grinning widely, Ray turned his back to me and started whistling nonchalantly.
I took my socks and boxers off, pulled on the thongs, adjusted my junk in its pouch and stepped into the suit. It was a little small but they stretch. Which was good if you have to... hide things... By now, I had the knack of... minimizing my... profile down there.
Though it was extremely tight, the catsuit's material was very slick on the inside, like nylon, and it had a lot of stretch to them. Clearly not leather at all. I didn't have any difficulty sliding them on. Also, when I looked at the crotch, there weren't any telltale bumps. Thank god. I was starting to worry that dressing like a girl too often is starting to become this easy now.
When I got it up to my torso, I paused, thought it over, and decided to take off my bra. After I took them off, I slid my arms through the catsuit's sleeves and they slid on easily. I adjusted my boobies in the suit and then zipped it up with the big zipper that ran from the crotch to the collar. I pulled the zip up to chest level, pulled my hair out of the collar, adjusted my boobies again. So who needs pushup bras?
I turned to Ray and cleared my throat. "Okay, Ray," I said.
Ray turned around and whistled. "Good god, Dee," he said.
I blushed like a tomato. "Shut up," I said and sat down on a nearby stool to pull on the boots. Dammit, they had at least a three-inch heel. I stood up but, oddly enough, despite the heels, the boots felt comfortable. At least with the boots on, I felt lots taller. A few pluses with the minuses.
"Special orthopedic boots," Ray grinned. "Take out that scrunchie and use this." He handed me a wide toothed comb. I shook my hair out and started combing it out.
When I was done, I turned to Ray for his opinion. "Good god, Dee..." he said.
"You already said that," I laughed.
Ray brought out a couple of juice boxes as well as a small box the size of a shoebox, and we sat in front and waited We sipped our juice and Ray took out what looked like clip-on earrings from the shoebox. Apparently, they were voice-activated two-way radios. He showed me the controls and told me to clip em on and try 'em out.
"Black Widow to Dani," I said, pressing a button on the thing a bit self-consciously, "what's your status."
"Dani to Black Widow. Hey, is that you, Dee?" I heard her giggle. Her voice could be heard very well, like I had a small speaker on me.
"None other. What's happening?"
"Well, there's definitely something fishy happening. I'm near the bank, and I can feel a whole lot of people radiating a lot of nervous energy. I'll try and get closer."
"Okay. Be careful. Out."
I sipped my juice and turned my taser gun over and over. I practiced aiming, breaking it open and loading and unloading its disk.
Ray brought out something else from the box. It looked like a kind of fold-out rifle. Essentially, the rifle part was just a mount for a copper-colored mini-bandoleer of some big-assed bullets. The "bullets" were actually incendiary mini-rockets you fired individually via a little button connected to the bandoleer itself. Ray said It wasn't really an offensive weapon but the advantage of it was that it had greater range than the taser gun. I declined.
From time to time, Ray leaned over to speak into the mic in the dash to check with the girls, and after maybe fifteen minutes of nervous waiting and two juice boxes later, the radio crackled on.
"Black Widow, come in. This is Vee. I'm starting to pick up something. It's a bunch of kids. One of em's clearly a transformee. They're on the way to the bank! They're gonna rob it!"
Ray thumbed the mic. "Okay, gang. This is it, I guess. Converge on Vee's and Dani's position. I'm comin' over. Wait for me." He pulled out something from the glove compartment and put it on his head. It was a black wig.
I grinned. He glared at me. "Not. One. Word."
He took a gray trench coat from a hook on the wall, put it on, and then got one of the tasers from the locker as well as a charger and a couple of disks and put them in the coat's pockets.
"Guys," Vee said over the radio, "they're in the bank. They're casing the joint now."
Hearing that, Ray rushed to the rear of the van. "Stay here unless we call you, okay?" he said to me. He slid the back door up and jumped down. I closed it and went to the front again. I watched Ray nonchalantly walk into the lunchtime crowd and walk leisurely towards the direction of the bank.
"Black Widow to team," I said to my earrings. "Ray just left and is walking towards you. He's wearing a trench coat and a black wig."
"Copy that, Black Widow," Dani responded. I wondered where my earring radio's speaker was. It didn't sound like it was coming from my ear.
I saw a pair of binoculars on the dash and used it to track Ray's progress. The bank was quite a ways from the van so he took about ten minutes to get to Dani who, by then, was with the rest of the girls. They talked for a bit and then they went into the bank as a group. At which point, I lost sight of them.
After maybe three minutes, the bank's alarm went off - I could hear it even this far away - and the glass doors in front of the bank exploded outward. Through the binoculars, I saw a couple of the bank robber kids pull down the bank's steel shutters, and as they rolled them down, a couple more explosions rocked the inside of the bank.
"Black Widow to team," I yelled. "what was that? Are you guys okay? Ray!"
"Vee's down," Dani whispered. Oh, no! "She's alive but she's unconscious. Concussion from being thrown by the explosion."
"Where're the others?"
"Ray and Vee are near the front. I'm here with Heather and Sheri in the middle of the floor, with most of the bank customers. The bank robbers are with the bank manager towards the back. I suppose that's where the bank vault is."
"Have you identified the changee?" Ray said.
"Hard to miss. She's about seven feet tall, buffed out like a bodybuilder, with solid red eyes and very, verrry long blond hair."
"Wow!" I couldn't stop my reaction.
"There's Sheri's amazon for you," Dani said. "What do we do now?"
"Well," Ray said, "we need to open the doors and then get the people out. Only then can we start bringing her down."
"Can we even bring her down?" Dani asked.
"Why," I asked. "What can Amazon Girl do, anyway?"
"She seems to be able to make things explode just by looking at them. Other than that, I don't know."
"What is she doing now?"
"Ummm, she is apparently making out with one of her guys..."
"What! In the middle of a bank robbery?"
"Okay, enough!" Ray said. "Dee, bring the Black Widow. Find a way to get those storm shutters open. Once you do, we'll have to find a way to get the people out."
"Okay,” I said. "Lemme go get ready."
I was super-nervous, but what could I do. I clicked the taser I've been playing with closed and went to the weapons locker. I got out another taser, loaded another disk. I rooted around and found a couple of holsters, strapped them onto my thighs and holstered the guns.
I wanted more ammo so I looked for an ammo belt or something. I found one and clipped on about ten of the disks to it. I put it on but with the ten disks, I couldn't really cinch the belt tight coz I had too many of the disks on it. I had to settle for it hanging loosely around my hips.
I got out a couple of the induction charger thingies and linked each of them to the guns (it was like partnering a phone to a Bluetooth headset). I looked down at my suit. No pockets... So I put the chargers in the only convenient place.
After putting them under, and to the sides of my boobies, I adjusted the catsuit's front until I felt comfortable. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I had to giggle. It looked like I had a pair of double D's. I struck a pose and giggled again. The chargers pushed both of them together giving me one hell of a cleavage. Eat your heart out, Angelina Jolie.
Then I thought of the people in the bank. Gotta stop all of this screwing around and book.
I went back up front. I put the shoebox of stuff on the floor so I could sit in the driver's seat. Hmmm... I decided to take a peek in the box. I pulled out the rocket-thing, but my outfit strictly didn't have any room for it. I detached the copper bandoleer. It wasn't a bandoleer really, but more an ammo belt, except that it only had eight of those rocket jobbies. No place to put it. Hmmm.
I detached the belt from the launcher. Hey... I wrapped it around my wrist instead. Hey, neat. I was even able to tuck the trigger cable under the rockets, with the trigger pad right under my forearm. I rummaged around and got another one. I rigged it to my other wrist just like the first one. Cool. Bracelets... ginormous bracelets.
I started the van. "Black Widow is rolling," I said.
"Okay, Black Widow," Ray said. "Move it."
I moved the driver's seat a bit forward and screeched out of the parking space. I wasn't as good as Ray but I think I wasn't too bad. I screamed around the plaza's elliptical road and slammed to a stop right in front of the bank in less than a minute.
I slid the driver side door open. and jumped down. I had this urge to go, "Tadahhh!" and to pose like Superman from the comic books, but I lacked the cape. Plus the boobies just didn't make it.
"Move aside, folks," I said, in my best sexy-but-authoritative voice, sorta a cross between my friend Joanne and my scary sixth-grade math teacher, and made my way to the front of the bank.
I touched the radio. "The Black Widow is here," I said in a ridiculously officious tone. "What's your status?" Heheh. Cool.
"Same as before, since you last called thirty seconds ago, Black Widow. Duh."
"Ummm, yeah... Heheh." Better turn down the volume so I'm the only one that can hear.
I looked at the storm doors. "Okay, you guys, back up in there. I'm gonna blast the doors open. Be ready."
I looked the doors over. There were some padlock holes at the bottom so they probably lock that way on the inside as well.
Okay, here goes. I pointed the rockets on my left wrist at the approximate area of the padlock holes, placed my hand on the trigger button and fired off a rocket.
"Cool!" I wanted to say, but that would be totally out of character. I grabbed the bottom of one of the doors and heaved. Putting my back to it, I was able to heave the door upward despite the bent railings. When I had it up as high as I could, I yelled. "Ray! It's open!"
Ray came out carrying Vee. I ran to the van and slid the back door up. Ray climbed in with Vee, and set her down inside the van. I ran back to the bank. A couple of the bank robbers were peeking out. I raised one of the guns and fired a stream of taser bullets. The ones that hit the wall exploded in little firecracker bursts but the ones that hit them made them shake like epileptics and fall down.
I stepped through the rubble and another one of the bank robbers ran towards me with what looked like a chair leg, yelling like a crazy man. When he was close enough I reached up and wrenched the chair leg from his hand and spun around to kick him in his behind. He sprawled on the floor face down. Thank god my sister gave me some pointers on self defense.
I looked around and brought up the other taser as well.
"Anyone else around?" I yelled. I saw a couple more in the upper gallery. I fired both tasers but they were too far away. They fired at me with their own guns so I ran for cover as quick as I could.
As I hid behind a metal shelf, I heard a voice.
"Dee," Sheri called. "You okay? did you get hit?"
"I'm okay, Sheri," I answered. Now you better take cover."
"Dee, stop acting like some friggin' superhero, and get outa here!"
I ignored that and stepped from behind the shelf.
Before the two guys on the balcony could aim properly, I lifted my arm and fired a couple of rockets right below where they were standing. Shhh-boom!
The part of the balcony that they were standing on collapsed and they fell. I ran to them as quick as I could. While they shook off the fall, I slugged them both full in the face. Owww! I didn't know hitting someone hurt that bad. I pulled them away from the rubble and leaned them against the wall. I then ran to Sheri, Heather and Dani.
"Anyone else around?" I asked them.
"There's no one else except the ones in the vault," Dani said.
"Are you sure?"
"Ummm, duh? Who are you talking to?"
I smiled sheepishly. "Right. Now's our chance. The front's open. You guys start bringing the people out. I'll stand guard here."
"We'll stand guard," Heather corrected.
"Now's not the time to argue, okay?" She brought out her own taser gun.
I reluctantly nodded, and Dani and Sheri started shepherding the people out.
"So, who's the hot redhead in the superhero outfit" a man in a suit toting a briefcase asked Sheri.
"Is that the Black Widow you guys have been talking to?" another man said.
"Will you two quit embarrassing yourselves and shut up?" One of the women said.
When everyone was out, Dani came back.
"Everyone's out now, 'Black Widow,'" Dani said, but spoiled the effect when she giggled. "You look real sexy, Dee," she said.
"I'll say," Heather said. "Dee, you are absolutely gorgeous." She pointed at my boobies. "Is that just you or is there someone else in there?"
"Ah, shut up." I looked around. "But now what do we do?"
"Well, we'll know in a bit," Dani said.
"What do you mean?"
"Yes, I am," we heard a sultry, sexy voice say.
We saw her come out from a door, presumably the one leading to the bank's vault. What I had in my mind didn't do her justice. At maybe seven feet tall (and that's excluding the heels) she had to duck to clear the doorway. She was a real big girl in other ways, too - muscles up the kazoo, but still extremely feminine. She had immense breasts, bigger than my... enhanced ones... proportionally speaking, I mean. She had the face of an angel, maybe a sex-crazed angel, but an angel nevertheless. Her eyes were sexily turned up at the corners and were red-tinged. she had long, wavy platinum-blonde hair. And I do mean long - it was actually dragging on the floor. She was wearing a tiny, pure-white monokini as well as red skyscraper stiletto heels which must be at least six inches. Good god!
Half a dozene guys came out the door, too, all of them carrying canvas bags as well as machine guns. The bags were obviously filled with money.
"Sooo," she said, even as she caressed the butts of the two half-naked guys that had their arms wrapped around her, "you must be the famous Black Widow I keep hearing about."
Keep hearing about? I turned to Dani. "Anything?"
"I'm not getting anything," she said, "except she's real horny. And I mean real horny. Like, off the scale nympho-level horny."
"You think?" I asked sarcastically.
Dani glared at me.
"Can you get any readings at all?" Heather said.
Dani squinted in concentration. "She's definitely one of us. She changed about a week ago. Used to be a fat kid named Horace. Now she calls herself Marilyn. She has slightly heightened hearing, an extremely heightened sex drive, a kind of sexual aura that allows her to control people, and an ability to project high-pitched sounds in bursts that can be explosive."
"You know," 'Marilyn' said, almost purring, "I could really go for someone like you."
I couldn't help my eyebrow from climbing upwards.
"So why don't you come over here?"
I could feel something in my head. A sort of tingling. Like the kind I feel when Vee is reading me. But other than that, no other effect. Sexual aura my ass.
"That the best you can do, Blondie?"
The amazon girl frowned. "Get 'em, boys!"
All six of the guys, plus Marilyn's boy-toys sprang into action. I pulled up both tasers, and Heather and I fired at the floor less than a foot in front of them, making them stop dead in their tracks. The little explosions sounded like firecrackers. Soon the air was full of smoke and the electric smell of ozone.
"Not one more inch," I said.
"What are you waiting for!" amazon girl screeched. "I said get them!"
After that momentary hesitation, they leaped forward again, forcing Heather and me to fire at them directly. But even though they started shaking in neuromuscular shock, they didn't stop coming. Each one required at least five shots. After which, they laid on the ground out cold, totally not moving, aside from the odd twitch or groan.
Heather and I looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Aaah!" we heard a scream, and amazon girl literally fell on us like a ton. I scrambled back up but I noticed that Heather wasn't. Both Dani and Sheri were knocked out, and Heather was knocked back by an open slap.
Amazon girl was starting to get up as well. I backpedaled and made sure she noticed me. I walked a bit away and she started following. Thank god I was able to lure her away from Dani, Heather and Sheri. I started running away, and amazon girl lumbered after me.
When I fetched against the wall, I knew I had nowhere else to go. Amazon girl slammed into me like a pile of bricks. She lifted me, pinned me against the wall, and started pawing me. I was so short, or she was so tall, my feet weren't touching the ground. I couldn't believe how strong she was.
She was in heat or something, 'cause she started kissing me. After a few seconds of mauling my lips, she started shaking. Oh no, just like Betsy. In moments, she got weak, let go and fell to the floor in a faint. Yup. Betsy all over again. Times ten.
I looked up and saw the balcony that ran around the inside of the building. Crouching low, I jumped as high as I could, just like in the tests. I got my arms on the balcony. Looking down, I saw amazon girl coming around. Weakly, she started to reach for my legs. I kicked her hands away, swung my legs sideways and hooked one of them on the concrete balcony. Using that one leg, I lifted myself onto the concrete. I stood up and looked below. Amazon girl was so tall, all she needed to do was to just reach up and grab onto one of the metal brackets. As she started lifting herself onto the balcony, I stomped on her fingers. She yowled in pain.
I walked backwards keeping my arm pointed at her. I was reluctant to use the rockets since I was liable to kill her, but I had no other choice - seemed I lost my tasers.
Amazon girl finally pulled herself up. She started walking towards me, and I walked backwards slowly.
"Come here, gorgeous," she said. "How 'bout some more of that?"
All I could think to do was to walk backwards more slowly and stall, and maybe the guys could come up with something in time to rescue me.
Eventually, I got to the part of the balcony that I collapsed with my rockets. I crouched and leaped the ten-foot gap like my life depended on it. I landed on the other side a little wobbly but managed to stay on my feet.
Amazon girl smirked at my jump. Clearly, she thought she could do better. She got to the edge and, as she was jumping, little round balls of light popped up in between us and exploded in multicolored rainbow hues of light. Blinded, she lost her balance. Stilettos are real sexy but aren't that good for running and jumping, especially if you have a photokinetic friend around making little balls of exploding light. Amazon girl fell through the gap. Thanks, Heather, I said in my mind.
I looked down and amazon girl was sprawled on the ground shaking her head. I jumped down and ran to her. I slugged her right in the face but it was like hitting the wall. I kept on slugging her but it had minimal effect. And my hand was starting to feel like it was full of broken glass.
I walked backwards, giving me room. I glanced at the two I bank robber dudes I knocked out earlier and was glad to note they were well away. I held my arm up again and fired several rounds into the concrete balcony. Shh-boom! Kaboom!
A bunch of broken concrete blocks and other debris rained down on amazon girl, and I think that did the trick - she was finally out cold.
I cradled my severely bruised hand, and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked around and the damage wasn't too bad. The front doors and the balcony will need more than a coat of paint though. Who ever thought all of this derring-do was fun?
Dani, Heather and Sheri cannoned into my arms, almost bowling me over.
"Baby, you did good!" Sheri said, and gave me a kiss.
Heather was standing to the side smiling smugly.
"Hey, Heather," I said. "Thanks for the assist. You're an angel."
Heather grinned and whistled nonchalantly, a little halo of white light floating just above her head. We all laughed.
"Why aren't you guys in suits?" I said. "it's so unfair. I have to wear this frickin' suit while all you guys are in street clothes."
"Who says we aren't wearing suits?" Sheri said.
"Dee," Heather said, "the suits are supposed to be worn under your regular clothes." They all laughed. Sheri unbuttoned her shirt and I could see she was wearing the catsuit underneath.
"Who told you that you couldn't wear your own clothes on top?" Dani asked.
After I looked nonplussed for a few moments, they all broke down laughing.
"Hey!" we heard someone yell.
We turned around and saw Kris standing with Ray and a bunch of other people by the bank doors, all of them dressed in the SWAT uniform Ray was wearing, except for Kris herself - she was wearing a green military officer uniform, every inch the efficient military leader. A pretty redhead stood beside her.
"Oh, thank goodness," Sheri said sarcastically. "The cavalry's arrived. We're saved."
Chapter 7: Assessment
We went to them arm in arm, with wide grins and a happy skip in our step. When we got near enough, we heard Kris talking to the redhead.
"Okay, Rita," Kris was saying to her, "we have thirteen civilians that you need to work on. Ray, you go help her, okay?"
Ray nodded and started walking into the bank lobby, with the redhead in tow.
Ray gave me a hug as they passed. "Great work, gorgeous," he said. The redhead, Rita I think her name was, gave me a wink.
"So, Mizz Fairchild," Kris said.
"That's Mr. Fairchild," I said.
She pointedly looked at my getup. "Well, whatever's fine," I said lamely.
"Mizz Fairchild," she said again, "there are a lot of things that I would have done differently, and I am sure my people would not have made as much of a mess, but all in all, very impressive. I'll expect a report."
"Take the compliment, Dee," Dani staged-whispered. "That's a very big compliment coming from for Kris. She's a pretty uptight girl, if you haven't noticed."
"Shut it, Dani," Kris said, smiling.
A cute native-american girl came in.
"Mom," the girl said.
"Liz, how's Vee?"
"I left her in the van. She's totally all right now. She's sleeping it off." She turned to me. "Sooo... you are the famous Danny Fairchild." She looked me up and down. "Nice."
"Danny Fairchild, this is my, ummm, daughter, Elizabeth," Kris introduced us. Eh? Daughter?
"Nice to meet you." I said. She was about reach out to shake my hand but noticed that I was cradling it gingerly.
"You've hurt your hand!" she said. "Here, lemme."
"It's okay, Dee," Sheri said. "She can help fix your hand."
Liz held my hand in both of hers and a pleasantly warm feeling enveloped it. When she let go, I didn't feel any pain anymore.
"Hey, cool!" I shook my hand and it was as if there wasn't anything wrong with it.
"That's what I do," she said, giggling. A little cat slinked over and started wrapping herself around Liz's leg.
"What's Miss Bonsai doing here," Dani said.
"With you gone," Kris said, "and Liz and I leaving, she refused to be left alone."
"Are you talking about the cat?" I said.
"Yes," Liz said. "She's very possessive when it comes to her humans."
I crouched down. "Hey cat," I said. The cat looked up at me for a second and then jumped into my arms. I stood up and turned to Kris.
The cat flicked her tail in my nose a few times making me sneeze. I handed her to Liz, but she jumped back to me.
"You know," Liz said, "this is the first time for me to see her take to anyone."
"I'm flattered and all, but..."
"Oh, she's just a cat," Liz said. "Be a sport. She'll get tired of you soon enough."
We went to the bank manager's office where we briefed Kris. Kris wanted to hear all the details and we went through everything. Each of us took turns speaking, but when it was my turn, Kris wanted to get even more details. I think I talked more than all the others combined. By the time we finished, it was already past six PM. Kris finally wrapped everything up when my stomach's grumbling couldn't be ignored anymore. Kris turned to Ray.
"Ray," she said. "I need your assessment."
"What can I tell you, Kris," Ray said. "Everything worked. We got our transformee, we foiled a robbery and we got a new commando-in-training." He gave me a wink.
"The assessment I am asking for, Ray," Kris said with long-suffering patience, "is the original one I've been asking for - the one about Dee. The reason we came here in the first place."
"Oh." Ray said.
Kris looked at Ray for a moment and clicked her radio. "Call Rita McFadden," she said into the radio. "I may need her in a moment."
"Kris, we don't need Rita..."
"Ray, you know it's necessary. Actually, it might not be necessary. Depending on your report."
"Kris, I know you'd like me to say that we've found another one. But in all honesty... I don't know."
"And I know you think we're wasting time and resources, but we owe it to Dee to find out for sure, at least, one way or another."
She looked at each of us in turn. And then she looked directly at me, looking at me like she was studying me. And then she smiled. "I don't think that. I think our time here was worth it." She turned back to Ray.
"All right, Ray," she said. "You have one more day. Do your best. But this is definitely the last day. One way or the other, you will come to a conclusion."
Just then, Rita, the new redheaded girl came in. "You called me?" she said.
"Great timing, Rita," Kris said. "Ray, Rita will be staying with you until you can get back to me with an answer." Kris looked at Rita.
Rita shrugged. "If you say so, Ma'am," she said.
Kris turned to me. "I hope you can stand one more day of poking and prodding, Dee," she smiled apologetically. "But I promise you it'll be the last. Okay?"
"Okay. Ummm, so we're done here?"
"Almost. We do need to do a bit of cleaning up around here, though."
"Okay. Guess it's too late to go back to school now, huh?"
Kris nodded. "We'll help with some kind of cover story. Ray?"
"On it, boss. Let's go, Dee."
Turns out everyone but Ray was staying to help with the cleanup. After saying my goodbyes, I handed Bonsai the cat to the new girl, Liz, and Ray and I walked out of the bank. As soon as I was outside, everyone broke out in applause. All the rubberneckers and everyone else out in the plaza were looking at me, clapping and cheering.
A bit puzzled, I nevertheless waved back, and the cheering got louder.
A girl I recognized as one of the people that were trapped in the bank screamed. "It's the Black Widow!" she said, and the people behind the barricades surged forward. The commandos from The Center, who were masquerading as riot police, had a hard time keeping them back. Ray and I made our way to the van.
Ray laughed. "You're a hero, Dee."
Before climbing back in, I turned and waved again. The cheering rose in volume. We slowly pulled out, with me still waving to the crowd, and left the plaza.
Once we were away and we were sure no one else was following, Ray pointed to the back of the van.
"So, you sexy thang," Ray said, "time to change, don't you think?"
I unbuckled and wearily went to the back of the van.
"Just change back to your clothes and leave everything. I'll take care of cleaning up."
I peeled off the suit, and all I could say was, thank god it was dark blue, otherwise the sweat stains would have been extremely embarrassing. I took out the two chargers and put them on the foldable gurney along with the suit (It was probably the one Vee laid on when Ray brought her into the van. Wonder where she was.). The chargers were pretty wet with my sweat so I used the sheets to wipe them down. I also used a bunch of paper towels to wipe myself everywhere I could reach. Boy, do I need a shower.
"Ummm, Ray?" I said, "about the underwear..."
"You can keep em," he said. "I don't want em back anymore."
So I just kept them on and proceeded to get back into my sports bra, socks, jeans, white tank and loose shirt.
I sat on the floor, put on my sneaks, and went back up front.
"You forgot this," Ray said, and handed me my scrunchie. Oh, yeah. I put it back on in my usual guy's ponytail.
Half an hour later, after going through a very circuitous route to avoid being seen, we eventually ended up back in front of the mall. He parked the van right behind my car.
"So," he said. "See you back at the lake tomorrow?"
"Okay." I sighed.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
In my mind, I thought of everything that had happened to me ever since I met Ray and his friends. I can't believe that was only five days ago. And everything that happened, especially everything that happened today - it was like a dream.
I looked back at Ray. These people could easily become friends, or rather, were already friends. But they were all surrounded in mystery. How could anyone possibly believe the things that they told me, but then again, everything supported their story. But still... It would be good if all of this ends soon.
"Ummm, I was just thinking that I'll still need that alibi to tell the school on Monday," I lied.
"How 'bout this," he said. "I'll have someone call your folks and your principal first thing tomorrow. They'll be told you were trapped downtown because of the traffic that foiled robbery at the bank caused, and then you were questioned by the police all afternoon as an eyewitness, and that the police apologizes for detaining you. How's that sound?"
"I have a lot of practice making up cover stories," he said. "So we'll see you tomorrow then?"
"'Kay." I gave him a hug.
"Later, Dee. Oh, and don't forget these." He handed me the flowers I got for Nikki earlier this afternoon.
I waved goodbye as he pulled away, got into my own car, and drove to Nikki's. I was so bad at making up stories, I'm sure the guys will see right through me. I hoped that I can keep Ray's cover story straight in my head.
Chapter 8: Picnic
After I finished my early Saturday morning radio program, I went over to Mongo's for our usual band practice, with my guitars and other band stuff. But since I had to be at the lake again tonight, I had to beg off from our gig at Mario's later. I told Janet but she didn't like that one bit. I said I had to do something I couldn't get out of. Eventually, she and the band agreed, even though I was being vague about what that something was. So during band practice, we picked songs that the band could play without me. When they left for Mario's, I went to the lake instead.
I wasn't a hundred percent sure exactly where they had their plane parked, but I was sure I could find it. After I turned a bend I saw the Devastator and the Black Widow parked in the same field as before. Everyone was sitting around on a blanket laid out on the grass. They were having a picnic. For me? Well, gee.
I parked right beside the Black Widow and got out. Vee, Dani, Heather and Sheri jumped up and ran towards me. Ray and the new girl, Rita walked more sedately.
Heather and Dani hugged me around the neck and I almost fell. Sheri and Vee looked on, leaning against my car, and giggled.
As Sheri leaned back, she put her hand on the hood of my car.
"Sheri," Vee said. Sheri closed her eyes and stood like a girl in a trance.
"Sheri!" I exclaimed. "What's wrong?"
I was about to put a hand on her shoulder, when Vee stopped me.
"Don't, Dee," she said.
"Vee, what's wrong with Sheri?"
"Nothing's wrong, Dee. Sheri's just... doing her thing."
Dani and Heather pulled me away. "She'll be all right, Dee," Heather said. It's that object reading thing.
I looked back at Sheri, motionless, with both hands on the car, and Vee standing beside her. I let myself be dragged away.
The rest of us tried to enjoy the picnic. The spread that Ray and everyone had laid out was excellent. No alcoholic drinks, though, not even beer. As the boss's main squeeze, Ray had to play things pretty straight. And serving alcohol to minors was definitely a no-no.
Everything was great, but despite which, though, I wasn't enjoying the picnic as much as I could. I kept on sneaking looks at Sheri and Dee over by my car. They weren't moving much. Hope they're okay.
Rita, the new girl, was looking at me incredulously.
"For such a little fella, ya shore do eat a lot," Rita said in a very strong Texas twang.
Dani giggled. "That's Dee for you," she said.
"Where do you put it all?" Rita said.
"Dee's a very special person," Heather said. "And I guess that's part of her specialness." The girls, with the exception of Rita, giggled at that.
"Tell me!" Rita said.
Dani looked to Ray.
"Go ahead," Ray said. "Kris gave her clearance."
And then everyone started telling Rita about me, and especially what happened in the bank yesterday.
Rita listened spellbound, at moments giggling like a loon, and in others staring at me wide-eyed.
It was a slow but wonderful afternoon. Although we were mostly talking about me, the talk wasn't too heavy, and was very pleasant. We watched the sun set down, red and orange lights reflecting on the surface of the lake. And as the air become cooler, we felt a mild, crisp breeze ruffle our hair, and made the hot chocolate that Dani poured out of a thermos taste real good.
I had this feeling that we were all waiting on Sheri and Vee, and that we were just passing the time until they were done with whatever they were doing. At least there weren't any tests.
I didn't mind.
I got the low-down on Marilyn, our sexy amazon girl. She was definitely a changee. She was a boy named Horace that went missing about a week ago. In a way, his going missing was a good thing because no cover story had to be made up. His change affected him mentally, and he started fancied himself as some super-powered amazon after his change, and with his, or rather 'her' powers, she started collecting a harem from all the boys in his school that used to bully him. She now has a full-time psychiatrist assigned to her, and hopefully she'll be fixed up soon.
Dani's reading was also right on the money - her hearing was indeed slightly heightened, like we expected, but so were her other primary senses, but not by much. That accounted for her being able to overhear us, and for her being such a nympho. Other than that, she was pretty normal except for her ultrasonic voice that can shatter things explosively, which was what she used to blast the bank doors and vault. The people from the Center now had her on sedatives and were keeping her throat numbed until they can figure out what to do with her. As for her sex overdrive mind control thing, the fact that I was able to fight it gave them a clue on how it worked and how to manage it. There was no danger of any orgies happening at the Center.
I commented on her super strength but Ray explained that she actually wasn't all that strong. Her strength was actually normal - any ordinary human girl that was that big to begin with, and spent all her time doing weight training, could easily have matched, even surpass her. She was just a muscular, seven-foot tall girl with strength proportionate to her size.
"Actually, she's only a Level One changee," Ray said, "not even close to a Level Two. She just looks scary."
"Oh, I don't know about that," I said. "I thought she looked pretty sexy, actually."
"Speaking about sexy," Heather said, "didja see the pictures that's floating in the internet now? About that sexy Black Widow bounty hunter?" She grinned evilly.
"Ooooh!" Dani said, and giggled.
"Bounty hunter?" I said. "How'd I suddenly become a bounty hunter?"
"That's the internet for you," Ray said. "Besides, it's a great cover. And you looked different enough that we doubt anyone will connect you with this."
I knew all about that - I've lived with Danny the singer and Nighthawk the DJ long enough to know that that was super-possible.
The Center had impounded all of the bank's security video and covered up the whole robbery, making it appear like a regular bank robbery that was foiled by the timely arrival of SWAT. They said Rita helped a lot in covering things up, but Ray didn't give any details of her involvement. Also, no mention of the Black Widow was made to the press, but Ray said that an urban legend was sure to grow around the whole incident now, especially if pictures of her keep on popping up on the net. That was kinda neat, actually.
Sheri and Vee were standing right beside me. I stood up quickly.
"Sheri!" I exclaimed. "You okay?"
Sheri turned to me and gave me a hug. That surprised me, but I hugged her back. She started crying. I didn't understand why. "I'm sorry," she whispered to me.
Vee walked to Ray, and they had a long, whispered talk. They started walking to the parked plane.
I turned back to Sheri. "Why are you sorry? What happened?"
We sat down. "I saw a lot of things," Sheri said.
"When you touched my car, huh? Well, I think I've told you guys most of the high points already."
"Hardly," she smiled again.
"Well, I didn't think I could tell everyone everything."
"True," she laughed.
Everyone was looking at us. All of them looked sad, or rather more melancholy. Dani looked at Rita angrily.
"Hey, I just follow orders, okay?" Rita said to Dani. "If y'all need someone to blame, blame Colonel Harris. Or maybe Kris."
To break everyone out of the mood, I asked them about life at the Center, and although they didn't tell me any details like where the Center really was, or what they did there, they did talk about life as a changee. I could identify with them so easily, the problems that they go through, or having to relate to others when they were now members of the opposite sex. I guess I envied them a bit, 'cause they could be so open about it with each other, even though I knew they had a lot of other problems I would never have.
I also found out that Ray was Kris's boyfriend (well, it was so obvious, even to me) and Liz was sort of her daughter. No one could really explain that clearly, but I just let it go.
Ray came back with Vee in tow. Ray was carrying a box with a handle on top. It was covered in shiny black lacquer and roughly the size of a portable amp.
When they got near, Sheri and Dani started crying. Rita stood, somewhat reluctantly.
"I won't do it, Ray," Rita said. "I hate it, what I have to do. I know it's necessary, but Dee doesn't deserve it. Please don't make me."
Ray made a patting gesture. "Rita..."
Ray hugged her. "Be cool, Rita," Ray said. "You don't have to do anything."
"Thank god!" And Rita started sobbing. But it wasn't a sad thing. She was sobbing in relief.
Dani and the others crowded around Ray. Though I felt the mood lighten, I still couldn't figure it out.
"Sit down, guys," Ray said. "I have to tell you something."
When everyone settled down, Ray put down the lacquered box and sat down with us on the grass. He got himself a mug of hot chocolate and then turned to me.
"Dee, you've heard what all of us can do, right?"
I nodded. "Except for Rita."
"Well, Rita is an eraser - someone that erases memory. She's here just in case."
"In case of what?"
"You knew that Sheri is a token reader, right? An object reader?"
"Yes. When she touches objects, she can tell things about people."
"That's right. I asked her to do that with you, so that we can find out more about you. I guess she picked your car."
"Anyway, after what she found out - we now know it's true. That you aren't really one of us. You're not a changee - what Sheri saw confirmed it. And all the tests you went though. It just reinforces it. You aren't a changee. Or rather, you are a changee. Just not a changee like us."
"Rita is supposed to erase your memory, if you turn out not to be a changee. And you'll forget all about the past week, all about the Center. All about us. So that the secret is safe."
I didn't know what to say. I finally understood what all the crying was about earlier. But...
"So... I'm about to lose my memory?"
"I explained, and Kris agreed, that we don't need to." Everyone cheered. "in exchange for your solemn promise that you'll keep everything a secret. And that you will try and help, if we need it."
Ray pointed to the lacquered box. "That's some stuff you might need, just in case we call." He wagged his eyebrows.
"Like a couple of high-tech taser guns, several cartridges of taser ammo, chargers, a couple of mini-rocket launchers, some boots and a set of really fancy and sexy skintight bulletproof overalls." He wagged his eyebrows like Groucho Marx.
"You like that, huh?"
"You know we can tell if you're lying, right?"
I gave Ray a raspberry.
Chapter 9: Epilogue (an excerpt from Part Seven of the story, Danny)
***** Nikki *****
Danny has been disappearing after school a lot lately, ever since I got back from the flu. Danielle told me he's been coming home late these days, like around midnight or sometimes even later. I told Danielle I was worried that he'd found another girl. Danielle shook her head, and said that she would know if he did. I knew how close they were, and since I trusted her implicitly, that settled my mind a bit. I then had this thought.
"What if it isn't another girl?" I said. Danielle looked at me, a question evident in her eyes. "What if... Danielle, what if it was a guy?"
We looked at each other, thinking of the possibilities and the ramifications of Danny cheating on me with a guy...
"Nikki,..." Danielle began, and faltered. "Nikki, I don't know if that's even possible." Danielle shook her head like she was trying to shake away an image in her mind she didn't like.
"But one thing's sure," she said, looking me in the eye, "I would know if he was cheating on you, whether it's with a girl or a guy. Believe me, I'd know. And he's head over heels in love with you - don't you know that?"
I sighed. "I guess I'm just being paranoid."
Danielle touched my cheek in understanding, just like Danny would. Sometimes it's like they were the same person. "But, Danielle," I took her hand. "If it isn't that, then what's he up to?"
She looked out the living room window, with an expression of both worry and fear. "I don't know, Nikki, and I'm worried."
His bandmates were worried, too. Danny had said he couldn't join the band for their usual Saturday practice this afternoon, as well as the gig tonight. Janet was beside herself, but Danny told her he cleared it with Mario and he said Mario was fine with it. Janet tried to find out what he was up to but couldn't get anything out of him. In the end, Janet and the others had no choice, and they went ahead and played without him tonight. Danny suggested they get Fallon to fill in, but Janet angrily vetoed that.
Mel and the others were there. It wasn't the band's best gig, she said, but good enough that Mario wasn't too mad. Although she said there were a lot of disgruntled people at Mario's, pissed that they wouldn't see Danny. Actually, that's why I was here at Danielle's sleeping over tonight - I mean, what's the point of watching Unlimited Bandwidth if Danny wasn't there?
Everyone assumed it was because of Janet, but no one wanted to bring it up. I think Janet thought so, too, but she pretended like it was because of something else.
Anyway, long after the show, and everyone had gone home already, Danielle and I caught him sneaking in through their kitchen door.
"So where've you been!" I huffed, hands on my hips. "We were all worried sick!"
He looked down, chastised. "Ummm, just out. And did a few errands. The bank to, umm, pay my credit card bill." He did that sometimes when the station wasn't able to pay his company-issued credit card bill on time - He'd pay it himself so he could avoid the late payment charges.
He looked down at his shoes, scuffing the floor like a guilty little boy, making me smile at how cute she was, I mean 'he' was. I couldn't stay mad at him when he acted like that. "We'll talk about it later then," I said. "go to your room and get washed up. I'll come check on you in a bit."
Danny nodded and picked up a shiny black box that was by his feet, roughly two feet by two feet by one. It looked like a big, shiny, black ceramic bento box, but without any designs painted on it.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing," he said nervously. He tucked it under his arm and ran up to his room. I noticed a slight limp. Have to ask him about that later, too.
I turned and saw Danielle giggling.
I wasn't in the mood. "What're you laughing about, little miss smartypants?"
"You sounded just like our mom," Danielle said, and continued giggling.
I just had to giggle at that, too. "Yeah, I guess I did." I gestured up towards Danny's room. "Did you notice he was limping a bit? And what was that he was carrying?"
Danielle shrugged. "We can ask him later. And that thing's probably some computer thing, or maybe an amplifier for his guitar, or something like that. You know him and his toys."
After maybe twenty minutes, we knocked on Danny's door, and found a freshly-showered Danny in socks, a freshly-laundered oxford shirt and what looked like Bermuda shorts. And no telltale limp. I looked around and found the box standing beside his candy-pink guitar propped up against the wall. Danielle was right, probably just an amplifier.
And, as was typical, Danny was able to charm me out of my misgivings and we never did get to talk about his disappearing act. He polished off the big bowl of popcorn I made in nothing flat. Typical. And since he started acting normally again, as well as in the following weeks, (no more unexplained nightly disappearances, I mean) everyone forgot about the whole thing.
Later, when Danielle left us to go to bed, she reminded Danny that Dad said to keep his door open. She giggled and winked at me, shaking a finger at the both of us.
I stuck my tongue out at her, trying not to giggle myself. When she left, having pointedly left Danny's door wide open, I snuggled with Danny on the bed, staying on top of the covers. It would have been too much of a temptation otherwise, and we were expecting Danny's folks to come home anytime soon.
As we lay there quietly watching TV and wrapped around each other, I couldn't help but wonder what Danny's disappearances were all about. He said it was just some stuff for school and the glee club, and I took that at face value, as we almost always did Danny's explanations. But I promised myself to look into it. But later - right now, I was enjoying myself too much.
- - - - -
You've got your love online. You think you're doing fine but you're just plugged into the wall.
And that deck of tarot cards won't get you very far. There ain't no hand to break your fall.
Well, I know what I've been told. You gotta know just when to fold. But I can't do this all on my own.
No, I know, I'm no Superman. I'm no Superman.
"I'm No Superman" by Lazlo Banes - theme from the TV sitcom, "Scrubs"
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