Faith stepped casually through the closed door into Bethany’s office at Sunshine Academy as though the heavy slab of oak wasn’t even there. "Hello little girl." Faith smiled at Bethany, her eyes a soft, shimmering pink, but with little flecks of blue.
"Little? I'm big enough I could take you over my knee in this body!" Bethany giggled and hopped up to hug Faith. "No, but seriously, what's up?"
"How do you always know I'm here on business, my daughter?" Faith smiled as she took a seat, "I have two girls coming to your school very soon, and one has an issue. Remember the thing we set up with Michelle so I didn’t have to waste all my power rewriting people’s lives?"
"Of course. I mean, it's hard to forget! It still amazes me that one little, miniscule change led to her working with those brits to crack the gender genome."
Faith nodded. “That’s the one, I don’t know why I beat around the bush with you. Ok this is the full story Bethany. Two near identical twins will be coming to Sunshine in the week: one named Casey. She was born a boy, but she wishes to be female. The trouble is that both are twin users, and if we do not correct this problem soon, they could end up killing a lot of people.”
Bethany stared blankly back at Faith, with a kind of ‘Not sure if serious’ stare. “That’d make Kris happy,” she teased. “So what needs fixing?”
“You know twin magic only manifests in Identical twins, of the same gender. Near identical twins are close to the same thing as Identical twins, but instead one twin is XX and the other is XY. We need Casey to represent her sisters completely.” Faith made a cup of coffee appear in her hand and one on Bethany’s desk for her.
“Of course, this is what Casey wants too, right? Like Taylor and Michelle I mean?”
“Yes, she's been dressing and acting like her sister in private since they were kids, But by Sunday their parents will be dead, and she doesn't have to hide anymore.” Faith took a sip of her coffee.
Bethany chuckled to herself as she leaned back in her cushy executive chair. “You know, I often ask myself why you allowed entropy to happen, or to allow it to create people like me... Or why you don’t just wave your hand and ‘fix’ it, like adding an automatic correction rule to a computer program.”
Faith shook her head. “You saw what happened when I waved my hand and fixed things when I did it for Sarah. You also know that entropy like this is part of free will. I do not impose one thing or another on anyone.”
“But it’s not really free will is it? I didn’t choose to be intersexed. And Marry and Kris didn’t choose to be transgendered.”
“No but your mother and father’s biology did. They chose and loved each other, and created you. Thats free will.” Faith’s smile broadened as she took another sip of her gourmet coffee. Between the two, the pungent aroma of freshly ground beans permeated the office.
Bethany scrunched her nose for a moment, like a child trying to decide if brocolli really tasted as good as the adults insisted. Finally though, she nodded. “I get it, I think. Entropy spawns from free will, right?”
Faith nodded. “Exactly. But sometimes a push here and there helps too,” she finished with a giggle.
“So what you did with Michelle... That WAS your way of adding a self-correction protocol to the Life.exe script?” Bethany giggled too.
Faith nodded again as she sipped her coffee then added, “Exactly: I just changed the road that Michelle was going to go down. It felt like a burp to the rest of existence. No harm, no foul.”
“Well, technically less harm since she didn’t go on a murderous rampage,” Bethany added cheerfully.
“Exactly, and she became what we needed did she not?” Faith added with a grin.
“And what she wanted. I’ve been watching her closely. I haven’t seen a couple that happy since my parents - and they don’t even need wacky weed for it!”
“Speaking of which, how is the miracle drug working on Taylor? and the rest that are on it?” Faith asked.
Bethany, about to take her first sip of coffee having let it cool to something less than the boiling hot Faith preferred, stopped abruptly, lowering her cup again. “Taylor’s taking it too? I thought you just did the finger-waggle nose-twitch on her?” she responded, rather surprised.
“Sort of. She’s not fully female, but very close. I applied the drug to her while adjusting her body, otherwise the energy expended would have killed me outright. It takes less effort to make one small change like with Michelle, than to rewrite someone’s biology like with Taylor - and I didn’t even touch the girl’s history like I did with Sarah. She was young enough to adapt without needing it.”
“So THAT’S why you seemed all fresh-faced and... y’know, not dead.” Bethany giggled happily. “Even God cheats at cards. I love it!”
Faith stared at Bethany for a moment, analyzing the analogy, and then laughed loudly. “I may be the universe child, but sometimes some things just take too much from me. I can destroy a planet without blinking an eye, but if I create or change one life on it I have to rest for months.” Faith sighed softly.
“Resisting the urge to make an ‘on the seventh day’ joke here,” Bethany shot back playfully. “Anyway as far as I can tell things are going nicely. Robin is responding well to it. The ‘complications’ haven’t set in yet though.”
“Good. I’m glad I pushed the surgeon general and the FDA to expedite human testing.” Faith winked. “I borrowed some of Jennifer’s power to look into the future. So far there has been only one possible negative outcome.”
“I’m glad you did too. I know Kris was worried that this was too much meddling, but honestly I think Marry was right - human evolution was already heading in this direction. You just gave it a little boost. … Wait, negative outcome?”
“Zombie apocalypse,” Faith answered with a chuckle before continuing, “And I didn’t give Michelle any help finding what she needed to; I didn’t even give her help programming the Stem Cells to do their job properly, she figured it all out on her own, and I am so proud of her and the human race.” Faith grinned.
Bethany reached out, as if picking something up off her desk. As she raised her hand, a gold-framed portrait of Taylor and her friends, Trisha and Megan seemed to fade into view, and she grinned. “If I remember right, even within the laws of entropy siblings tend to exhibit similar levels of intelligence when one sibling is extremely smart. I can’t wait to see what Taylor accomplishes in her life.”
Faith grinned as she nodded. “She is going to do great things for NASA. Bethany it’s time for me to go. Sarah’s mom has me scheduled to work at the restaurant in an hour. I love you and remember, the girl's name is Casey Owens.”
Bethany giggled as she set the portrait down, letting it fade from view again. “I’ll get the old bats-- Oops, I mean the coven on the preparations. I’ll see you tomorrow night for dinner?”
Faith stood, and her coffee cup vanished as she nodded her head. “Sure; I always love having dinner with you.” She turned, passing through the closed door as if it weren’t even there.
Bethany picked up the receiver of the old rotary-style phone on the shelf behind her, until now hidden from view by the back of her chair. “Now what was that number again... Oh, forget it, I’ll just go talk to them directly.” She dropped the receiver back into place and vanished.
“Hey Casey, put that skirt on and I’ll be back in a few minutes I want to do something with my hair, and maybe we can do it with yours later.” Angel smiled as she left her bedroom and went into the bathroom pulling out a hidden bottle of pink hair dye.
Casey smiled as he put on his sister’s skirt, already wearing a cute pink shirt. It was the only girl shirt he owned at the moment, a gift from Angel that he kept hidden at the back of his closet. “Don’t use it all Angel! I want to do my hair too!” he called out to his sister as he finished getting dressed as his female self.
“Patience, dear sister. First we have to paint your nails and toes. Remember, this is going to be your first time out of the house, so we have to make you presentable.” Angel giggled as she called back.
“You’re sure your friends are okay with this? And Emily?” Casey asked hesitantly.
When Angel came back into the bedroom, her hair smelled fresh of hair dye, and a new, inch wide strip of hot-pink streaked down her bangs on one side. “Yes Casey for the millionth time, they are all cool with you.” she answered, giving her sister a hug. “Emily thinks it’s kind of hot actually,” she added with a giggle.
“I’m just glad Mom and Dad are out of town for the day,” Casey sighed and fiddled with the skirt hem, straightening it so that it stopped a few inches above his knees.
Angel nodded, “They won’t be back till late tonight. We can clean your nails and stuff off before they get back, and I’ll take the blunt for our hair streaks.” Angel smiled reassuringly. “I’ll tell them it was mine and Emily’s idea to do yours and my hair like that.”
“Aww... Thanks Angel. Because they’d freaking kill me. ‘Man up’ and all that.” Casey sighed again as he slumped onto Angel’s poofy pink comforter-covered bed.
Angel poked Casey’s arm gently, “You can’t get muscles like a man. You’re no good at sports other than playing beach volleyball with us girls,” she whined. “I hate mom and dad for treating you the way they do.”
“They think having a... that... thing... makes me a boy. It’s like saying Dad’s black SUV makes him a CIA agent, or Mom’s blonde hair makes her a bimbo. It’s stupid! I know I’m a girl. YOU know I’m a girl. Having something extra doesn’t change how I feel inside.”
Angel nodded. “You will always be my sister, and I will always love you and stick up for you, you know that right Casey?” she asked, giving Casey a hug.
“Of course. Now let’s start with my toes because I want to try one foot, and if I mess up I can just wear socks, whereas I’m letting you do my fingers.” Casey giggled.
Angel smiled as she got out her metallic pink polish and handed it to Casey, “You remember how to do this?”
“I think so,” Casey answered hesitantly as he opened the bottle, wrinkling his nose at the sudden shock of the scent, but smiling a little as he set to work.
Neither one of the two heard the door open or their parents enter the house. Angel looked over to Casey, “Let me go get the bathroom ready to do your hair ok?” She smiled as she bounded out of the room and down the hall.
As Casey finished painting his toenails, his mom popped her head into Angel’s room, “Are you home Angel?” but didn't think much of it yet. “Oh Angel, let your brother know we’re home ok?” She turned to leave heading to use the bathroom.
Suddenly she screamed loudly, “Mark get up here and deal with your fag son while I take care of our daughter!”
Mark came trudging up the stairs to see what his wife was yelling about. When he reached the top of the stairs he saw two teen girls: one with a pink streak in her hair, he supposed because Chelsea was holding her by the ear that was Angel, and then he looked at the other. “OH fuck no!” he shouted. Grabbing Casey by the arm he threw him into his bedroom and pulled his belt off.
Chelsea pulled Angel into her room and started screaming at her, all the while loud noises coming from her brothers room. Then it got quiet except the door opening and closing and heavy footsteps down the stairs, and moments later Angel’s mother left her alone as well.
Downstairs Angel could hear her parents yelling at each other. “It’s your god damn fault he’s a queer! All that fucking coddling when he was a baby!”
She screamed back, “Fuck you Mark! I told you to enroll his ass in military school last year after he came home with a black eye, but no, you had to buy that god damn SUV instead!”
Mark huffed and Yelled again, “Fuck it! Lets take the brats to their Grandma’s and let her deal with them. I’m sick of this shit, and if I catch him wearing girls clothes again I’ll kill him.”
As the SUV rolled down the interstate, Casey and Angel chatted softly under the loud, full bass of the car’s speakers blaring classic rock from the 70s. Casey had on a pair of white shorts and an oversized t-shirt, stark contrast to Angel’s hot pink tank top and skirt.
“I’m sorry Casey,” she whispered.
Casey sighed, “It’s not your fault.”
Mark turned glare at the pair. “You two are supposed to be silent till we get to your grandmother’s.” he growled. This grandmother that Mark spoke of wasn’t their real grandmother just an old friend of the family's.
Before anyone could scream a word about the semi truck jack knifed in the middle of the freeway it was too late. The family SUV smashed right into the trailer, causing them to also hit the guardrail and flip, knocking the two kids out and killing the adults in the front seat instantly. What seemed moments later Casey woke up in the hospital.
“Where is my sister?” he called out, as a blonde-haired nurse, apparently in her late teens or early 20’s came into the room.
The nurse approached Casey and smiled warmly. “She’s fine, and so are you. She’s talking to the social worker, and we just finished with both of your x-rays and cat scans, and nothing seems to be wrong other then a few bruises, so we will be releasing you both to Social Services in a moment.”
She left and came back with Casey’s clothes a second later. “Go ahead and get dressed sweetie because your sister and your Caseworker are waiting for you. I’ll be just outside if you need anything, okay?”
Casey slowly nodded. Despite what the nurse said, his head felt foggy. What had happened? How did they survive the wreck? Did their parents? … Did he even want them to?
Moments later Casey exited his hospital room, and asked the nurse where he could find his sister. After getting his directions he entered a small meeting room where his sister and an older lady sat.
Angel looked like she had been crying, but she seemed cheerful enough as she sat and talked. As soon as she spotted Casey though, she nearly knocked her chair over, leaping to her feet to race over and pull him into a hug. “Oh thank God you’re okay. They said you were just knocked out, but I couldn’t help but worry about you.”
“I’m fine Angel. Where’s mom and dad?” Casey asked, confused, as he hugged his sister.
Angel sniffled as she held her brother out at arm’s length. “Casey... Mom and Dad were... They... didn’t make it,” she practically whispered, trying to keep it together long enough to tell him what had happened. “You know how Dad was about not wearing a seatbelt, and you and me... They said we were found a few feet from the car, ” she trailed off.
Casey looked hurt but couldn’t cry. He was still angry with his parents for beating him when they found him wearing his sister’s clothes. They almost beat her too for allowing it. “Oh,” was all he could get out.
“Yeah,” she answered softly. “But... They’re going to try and contact grandma, and in the meantime we’ve got a place to stay right here in Alpine Springs. It’s a private school. But Ms. Smith here says it’s really nice.”
“And should you decide you want to attend,” the woman finally broke her silence. Casey had barely noticed her before, but now he couldn’t help taking in her smart business suit and patent black heels, dressed as if she had an important business lunch later or something, “We’ll be more than happy to help arrange something. In the interim you’ll be treated like any other student and given an allowance and such, since you’re still wards of the state for the moment. I know it doesn’t take away the sting, but you’ll be safe and very comfortable there, I promise.”
Casey couldn’t shake the feeling that that last line was spoken directly to him. Maybe it was the way the woman was smiling at him. It was reassuring, almost matronly. He forced a small smile and nodded as he turned to hug his sister again.
“Well, let’s get you two checked out. I can’t imagine you’ll feel terribly comfortable riding in my SUV after what you’ve just endured, so I took the liberty of asking my super if I could borrow her daughter’s car. Oh before we do go I forgot I need you both to look over these papers really fast and sign them for me to verify the information is correct.”
Both Angel and Casey nodded, accepting the pair of clipboards the woman produced, and sat down at the conference table as she stepped out of the room. After just a few seconds, Casey poked Angel.
“Hey, I think I got yours,” he grumbled.
She blinked a few times as she stared back at him. “What?”
“This’ yours. See? It says ‘F’ at the top next to gender.”
Angel shook her head, “No mine has F in the gender box too. Maybe you should ask her about it?”
Casey’s face fell as he nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I couldn’t be lucky enough for them not to eventually figure it out.”
Angel then grinned, “Wait! Let’s just let it play out! I know you always wanted to be my sister, and I enjoyed the times with her just as much as with “my brother” - seeing as how there’s not much difference.”
“You know my toenails are still pink,” Casey brightened for the first time that day, trying not to giggle too loudly and attract attention from passing staff outside.
“Good! Maybe my suitcase is still intact, and I can paint your nails later.” Angel grinned.
Casey giggled outright, pulling Angel into a hug. “I love you sis,” he whispered, and kissed her cheek. “I don’t think I’d be able to go on without you if it’d been you instead of them.”
Angel kissed Casey’s forehead before returning the hug. “Love you too - sis,” she answered. The two quickly returned to reading over the paperwork as their social worker re-entered the room.
“Everything’s taken care of as far as your discharge, and I’ve taken the liberty of calling Ms. Anderson, the Headmistress, to let her know you’re both okay. She’s looking forward to showing you your new accommodations.”
Casey looked up from the paperwork. A new glow seemed to radiate from his face. “I think everything here looks fine ma'am.” Angel nodded her agreement.
“Oh, I’m sorry Casey, I never introduced myself properly did I? You can call me Ms. Smith. I’ll be in charge of your and your sister’s case, and Ms. Anderson will be tending to anything you might require. You need only ask,” she explained as she picked up the clipboards, dropping them into her briefcase.
“Thank you Ms. Smith.” Casey replied. “So where is it we’re meeting this Ms Anderson?”
“She’s getting everything ready for you at Sunshine Academy where you’ll be staying. I believe your things were destroyed in the car accident, so she’s ensuring you both have enough to wear to get you by until you can find something you feel more comfortable with - again, you’ll have a stipend to spend on that, but under the circumstances we’ll be giving you a small bonus to help, just this once, too. Ms. Anderson will explain more about how stipends work and how you can earn more. Shall we?”
Angel and Casey looked at Ms. Smith and uncharacteristically said at the same time, “Sure lets go.” They stared at each other afterwards, as if unsure that they really just did that, and started to giggle as they followed the woman out.
Casey poked his sister gently, “We never did that before have we?” he whispered.
Angel giggled as she shook her head. “Not that I can remember.” She threw her arm around Casey’s neck playfully. “Man, I kind of wish I’d been named Tracey now though.”
Casey looked at his sister, “Huh? Why’s that?”
“Duh. Then we’d be Casey and Tracey!” she whispered, but couldn’t help giggling again.
Ms. Smith either didn’t hear the exchange, or pretended not to notice as she led the siblings to the parking lot. In the first row of cars, a brand new electric blue BMW sat seemingly out of place next to the older model pickup on one side, and a bland-looking minivan on the other. The car honked, announcing its alarm being shut off as she pressed a button on her keychain.
“This is more car than I like to drive, personally, but I’m told it’s very safe,” she added, shooting the pair a comforting smile. Casey opened the front passenger door, but stepped back.
“Age before beauty,” he teased. Angel giggled.
“Hey, I’m only like thirty seconds older. But with a little lip gloss you are a knockout,” she said loud enough for Ms. Smith to clearly hear. Casey stammered, and the woman giggled under her breath, again not saying anything.
Angel just grinned at Casey as he passed her to sit in the backseat, just relieved that Ms. Smith didn’t say anything. Until she said, “Cosmetics are something you’ll be able to pick out for yourselves speaking of which. I don’t know what your parents’ rules were, but at Sunshine they’re very forward-thinking and progressive.”
Casey blushed as he slumped into the seat a little more, finding himself torn between the notion that she might actually think he was a girl, and the fantasy of living out that thought.
Angel grinned, “That’s cool! Maybe I can streak your hair too sis.”
Casey perked up a little at that. “Wow, that’d freaking rock!”
“Are you two hungry?” Ms. Smith asked thoughtfully. “I can stop and get you something if you’d like, or you can get something on-campus. Since the school doubles as a boarding school and foster home the kitchen is staffed and open surprisingly often, and each dorm has its own food court as of this summer.”
Angel turned to look back at Casey, who grinned and nodded. “Happy meal?” the pair announced in unison, causing Ms. Smith to laugh.
“You really are twins,” she teased. “There’s a McDonalds just another few blocks from here. I’ll stop at the drive-through so we’re not keeping Ms. Anderson waiting for TOO long, although knowing her she’ll fuss with the details right up until the last minute anyway.”
Both Angel and Casey giggled, “This Sunshine Academy seems like a nice place from what you have been saying.” Casey smiled brightly now.
“Oh it is,” Ms. Smith answered. “Bethany will explain in more detail the general ground rules, but I think you’ll fit right in. Many students aren’t just state wards like yourselves; they’re gifted students outright. The school focuses on encouraging children and teens to explore your interests not just academically, but politically or even in terms of lifestyle. Bullying is zero tolerance and handled rather severely, which I’m sure you’ll hear about in time.”
“Oh, did you want anything to drink with that?” she asked.
“Dr. Pepper?” both siblings answered. “Our parents wouldn’t let us drink soda,” Angel added.
“Not that it stopped us,” Casey laughed.
Ms. Smith smiled warmly as she pulled up to the drive-through window, ordering two Happy Meals for her charges, a salad for herself, and three Dr. Peppers. Angel tried to offer some of the money she had in the pocket of her cargo shorts, but Ms. Smith politely refused.
“This is my treat,” she explained as she passed out the meals. To Casey’s amusement, there was a pink-haired doll version of their favorite pop diva wrapped in plastic accompanying the burger and fries. Angel held hers up and giggled.
“Aww, cute! Thanks Ms. Smith. I feel kinda guilty being this excited about checking out Sunshine, but our parents...”
The woman shook her head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. I glanced over the police reports the neighbors filed myself. Frankly I’m surprised charges weren’t filed... But let’s not worry about that right now. I promised the two of you would be safe, and you will be. Even if you break a rule, Ms. Anderson doesn’t believe in corporal punishment under any circumstances.”
“That’s a relief,” Casey mumbled. Ms. Smith giggled a little.
“You might change your mind after you’ve had gum on the tip of your nose for a day.”
“That doesn’t sound bad at all, It’s better then having it in your hair” Casey sighed.
“Oh, ew, yes,” Ms. Smith answered. “My super’s daughter had that happen to her once. She tried everything from ice to peanut butter to get it out. She made sure to spit it out before taking a nap after that, though,” she added with an amused smile as they slowly rolled along toward the outskirts of town.
Angel smiled, “So the school is outside town then do we have to take a bus to go into town?”
Ms. Smith nodded, “The school provides your transport to the places you want to go, they allow you to be regular children sweetie.”
“Cool,” Casey answered, “So like if we wanted to go shopping somewhere - if there’s even a decent mall or whatever - we just like, take the bus?”
Ms. Smith laughed, “There are two malls here in Alpine Springs, the main mall which is rather large and a smaller outdoor strip mall. Both are very nice and yes the school provides a bus or a teacher transport.”
“What about getting back?” Angel asked next. “Is there like a predetermined time, or do we have a chaperone the whole time waiting to take us back?”
Ms. Smith grinned, “Bethany assigns all house students an android phone so you can contact your ride, and it also has an app for your school records, and another to keep track of your allowance. But she will explain that more we are about to pull into the school now.” making a right down a road with a Sign that said ‘Sunshine Rd’.
As the car drew closer, a massive, semi-modern complex came into view. The central building was clearly quite old on the outside, but had many modern extensions built on to it over the years. On either side of the massive main building, smaller buildings had been built with covered walkways connecting the various areas with the exception of the athletic fields.
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