A New Superheroine

Stan Lee had it wrong. To think that a spider could bite a man and have a 'spidey sense', make webs from his hands, and climb walls is a little outrageous. Sure, I can agree that a bite from a radioactive, genetically-engineered spider would likely play with your DNA, however, to be realistic, if you were going to create a genetically-engineered, radioactive spider, you'd start with a female spider; and a bite from one of those would not only play with your DNA, it would also play with your chromosomes. Believe me, I know from experience.

My name is Stan Levi, and yes, I know full well the irony in that name. But what I really should say, is that my name was Stan Levi.

I believe the place to start is when I met my wife, Alicia. Alicia, was born in the Ukraine. You can tell by her lush, dark brown hair, blue eyes, cute Slavic accent, and a gorgeous, model-like figure. I know you are going to think this is rather cliche, but it is true; when I saw Alicia, I knew it was love at first sight. It was New Year's Eve, 1999. I was thirty-six years old at the time. I'd never been married, not because I was not good looking, or successful, but more that I had never found the right one.

I remember precisely the moment I first saw Alicia. I happened to be living in a small town in Virginia at the time and anyone who was anyone would be at Ted's Bar and Grill for the New Year's Eve celebration party. Since I just happened to be someone that was someone, I made sure I was there at 5pm to make sure I had a seat instead of standing all night long. Even though it was early, the place was packed and I found the last unoccupied booth. I sat down and ordered a burger, and then the light of my life walked in the door.

Some people might say it is the looks that draw one person to another and I would mostly agree with them. As Alicia walked into the bar every eye turned toward her. She was uncharacteristically out of place. She was tall, probably five-foot nine or ten, with a perfectly formed body. She belonged on a runway, or in a New York Fifth Avenue event, not in Ted's Bar and Grill. She was, by far, the most beautiful woman in the place, and, in my opinion, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. If I were to try to give you a person that she most resembled, it would be Miranda Kerr with slightly larger breasts and a more athletic set of legs. What immediately drew me to her was her unpretentious nature, having the ability to command the room but choosing a casual modesty and humble attitude. She dressed conservatively, yet, to me it came across as intoxicatingly sexy. She appeared demure and confident at the same time. One look in her eyes and you could tell she was bright and intelligent.

She stood in the entryway for a moment and looked around the room. At first I figured she must be looking for someone, but it was soon obvious she merely wanted a place to sit. As she walked by, I stood and offered her a seat at my table. I was taken aback by her genuine thankfulness and grace, and I was very grateful that my initial assessment was accurate.

We hit it off right away. She had a PHD in Biotechnology and I had a Masters in Computer Science. We both enjoyed the same music and same activities and hobbies. I learned that Alicia was born in Chernihiv, Ukraine, a mere fifty-minute drive east of Chernobyl. Her father worked at the old Soviet nuclear power plant in Chernobyl and was there when it melted down. The whole area had been flooded with radiation and her father sent her to the United States to protect her from any fallout. She had fallen in love with the U.S. and decided to naturalize after her schooling was completed. Her parents still live in Chernihiv, lucky that the fallout was primarily north of them.

By the end of the evening I was smitten by Alicia. I'd like to boast she had felt the same way about me, but, alas, it was not true. She was very career-oriented and had not been looking for a relationship at the time. I did, however, get her phone number and a kiss at the stroke of midnight. I was very proud of myself and spent the next six months of my life unable to think of anything except her.

Destiny had intervened, and Alicia had fallen in love with me. I spent two years wooing her and building our relationship before we were finally married. On our honeymoon we traveled to the Ukraine so that I could formally meet her parents. Her father, Andrei, seemed very skeptical of me at first, as he was of anything from the United States. Her mother, Natasha, was an exceptional beauty, full of poised grace. She bestowed upon me every hospitality and was genuinely pleased by Alicia's choice.

Alicia and I loved each other deeply. We did everything we could to be together all the time. We were the best of friends and we were the envy of all our friends. I would say that she truly completed me and she would say the same about me for her. I tend to be more logical, brain driven and Alicia was always heart driven. It is my belief that the way she completed me was more like I contributed 10% and she contributed the other 90%. She was just that perfect. The one regret we had was not being able to have children. Apparently, my mother was having major health concerns when she was pregnant with me and the doctors insisted she use a new auto-immunity drug. On the positive side, I have never been sick a day in my life. On the negative side, the drugs they gave my mother made me sterile.

Alicia was everything to me, and then, on November 10, 2012, my world was shattered into a million pieces. Alicia and I were out celebrating our tenth anniversary. On the way home a drunk driver crossed over into our lane and hit us head on. The combined speed was close to one hundred and twenty miles per hour. I still remember my hand in Alicia's when the collision occurred. One second we were laughing and talking, the next half the car was missing. The force of the collision sheared the entire passenger side of the car, Alicia, and my right hand into oblivion.

When I awoke in the hospital several days later I not only had to deal with the loss of the love of my life, but the incredible pain and damage the accident caused to my own body. I had lost the vision in one eye, my hearing from one ear, my right hand was gone, and my right foot was so damaged that it had been amputated.

I won't bore you with the details of my lengthy and painful rehabilitation, or the months of desperation and despair I suffered. Alicia's parents were not able to get a visa to visit, as there was something about Andrei's background that would not allow him to enter the United States. It was hard for them to not have closure in their daughter's death nor be able to support me through my convalescence. Many times I considered ending my life but, in the end, I realized this would not have been what Alicia would have wanted me to do.

Two years after the accident I stood on the shores of the Black Sea. I had taken an extended leave from work to visit Alicia's parents and help them through the loss of their daughter. I had flown into Odessa and decided to spend a few days recovering from the jet lag before moving on to Chernihiv. It was a particularly cool fall day and the air was heavy with mist. The weather fit my mood very well as standing where I was, with one foot feeling the cold and damp, and the other not feeling anything, I was reminded that the last time I was at this spot was with Alicia and just how much I had lost.

I took a train from Odessa to Kiev, then another train into Chernihiv. Trains in this part of the world tend to be more functional and less comfortable so by the time I had arrived in Chernihiv my still recuperating body was in significant pain. I limped my way along the cold, wet, gray city streets. Every step brought me closer to having to deal with new reminders of my loss. I looked up at the nondescript, traditional, Soviet era apartment, and smelled the overpowering stench of feral cat pee. Ever since the evacuation of families in the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, domesticated cats had free roam of the area and flourished in the urban city.

Several times I nearly turned around, but what drove me onward is that if I were in Alicia's parent's place, I would want this opportunity for closure. When Andrei and Natasha opened the door they pulled me in and held me close. We all wept.

A few days later we had reached a point where we all needed a bit of a break from the small two bedroom apartment Alicia's parents lived in. I found it difficult to communicate as I knew little Ukrainian and they knew little English, yet somehow we managed. It was during breakfast that Natasha suggested Andrei take me to where he used to work. Now, in his early seventies, it seemed like Andrei lived very much in the past. His health was good but his eyes were distant. Upon Natasha's suggestion, the light came back into his eyes.

At first I was hesitant, as who would want to go into the middle of a highly radioactive site. After all, who wants to leave a trip to the Ukraine with a little extra glow to their skin? It took a while, but they had managed to assure me that certain parts of Chernobyl were accessible and safe for short periods of time. We drove the rough, bumpy road for about a half hour before the warning signs began to appear in abundance. I could not read Cyrillic but the signs were unmistakable. Warning, danger, keep out, death, destruction, and so on.

Twenty minutes later, with the ghostly ruins of the Chernobyl reactor on the horizon, we pulled off the road to what appeared to be a bunker. Andrei stopped the car and pulled out several industrial sized flashlights and radiation badges. The badges changed color depending on the radiation level. I was not amused that it started out as yellow instead of green but, apparently, there were two more colors to go before things got really bad. He led me to the six-inch thick steel door that was securely locked tight. Andrei pulled out a set of keys, unlocked the door, and turned on his flashlight. He led me down a set of dark, damp stairs into a labyrinth of passageways. As we traveled deeper and deeper into the structure, Andrei tried to explain what he used to do back in the 1980s.

I only understood a portion of what he was telling me but I gathered during the cold war Andrei was a geneticist tasked with creating two things. First, to find a method of enhancing Soviet soldiers strength, speed, and knowledge. Second, to find a method of delivering death to Americans. Andrei had selected the Brazilian Wandering spider neurotoxin as the delivery mechanism. Apparently the neurotoxin, PhTx3, of this spider was several hundred times more potent than the Black Widow spider and could be genetically altered in a way to act virus-like without becoming a virus.

As we continued further and further down into the complex, Andrei turned and used his keys to move through several more large steel reinforced doors. We walked into what appeared to be a large open lab. It was clear to me no one had stepped foot in there for many years, yet the preservation was remarkable. I checked my badge and it flickered for a moment to orange, but then settled back to yellow. Andrei continued to tell me more of what he did here thirty years ago.

Andrei was the premier geneticist for the Soviet Union. This lab represented the cutting edge of technology at the time. I looked around the room and noted the large industrial look of everything. Huge hand-wrought metal dials and analog instruments were everywhere. To me it looked like I had stepped back in time to the 1950s, but for the Soviets, they had to build everything themselves and miniaturization was not much of an option back then.

Andrei moved over to a giant mainframe computer panel and recounted how he used this machine to unpack the genetic codes and calculate the exact placement of DNA insertion points. Luckily, Alicia had been involved in biotechnology so most of this was familiar to me, which greatly assisted my translating efforts. By using human DNA, radiation, and genetic engineering, Andrei had tried to modify the neurotoxin of the spider to deliver DNA modifying code into human subjects. Acting like a virus, the toxin would quickly spread throughout the body re-writing DNA. Additionally, he believed he found a way to encapsulate knowledge and muscle memory into the code that would be delivered directly to the brain and cells of muscles.

Andrei ran his hands lovingly across the old machinery. You could tell he was enjoying reminiscing about the past. When Chernobyl melted down, the work was abandoned and the workers evacuated to other parts of the Soviet Union. He told me he was close to a breakthrough when the meltdown occurred. Andrei had begun modifying the toxin to include genes that supported cell regeneration as the toxin was still destroying cells faster that it was modifying them. Yet, even with the latest modifications, when they injected the toxin into test subjects no one ever survived the process. Back then; it was considered an honor to die as a test subject. The thought gave me chills.

Since Andrei was obviously distracted looking at the old systems, I wandered off to another area of the lab. Behind a large glass panel I spotted dozens of glass jars. Opening the panel I failed to notice my badge change from yellow to orange indicating a spike in radioactivity. I reached in and held one of the jars up into my light. The jar was filled with spider webs and I could see a large spider carcass at the bottom. I turned while placing the jar back on the shelf, but my depth perception had never been that great since the accident and the jar was only partially on the shelf when it fell to the ground. The noise of the shattering glass startled us both. Andrei rushed over and pointed at our badges. Steady orange. It was definitely time to go.

Not paying attention to the glass on the floor, I turned towards the exit. Meanwhile, the spider carcass twitched as it awoke from many years of dormancy. Andrei was in the lead but as I reached for the door to exit the lab I felt an excruciating and debilitating pain on my left calf. I yelled out as I passed through the doors, letting them close behind. Andrei rushed back to me and flashed his light on my calf. He pulled my pant leg up and I heard him gasp. His eyes showed a mixture of fear and shock. He grabbed my arm and started pulling me away from the lab and back into the labyrinth of passageways.

The pain began to ease but my leg began to tingle. I started to sweat and I became flush. We paused for a moment and Andrei checked his badge. It was back to yellow, but when he checked mine, it was red. Whatever happened, I was now dangerously radioactive. Now I was really worried as he urged us both towards the entrance and his car. By the time we got to the car I was shaking and feverish. Andrei did not speak much as he drove us back to Chernihiv. I thought he might take me to the hospital but he went home instead. I was not in any shape to argue.

With Natasha's help, Andrei managed to get me into their apartment and laid me down on a bed. He quickly began checking me over as he directed Natasha to cut off my pant leg so he could get a better look at what caused the pain. I asked him what had happened and he would not respond. He was focused on my vitals and speaking very quickly to Natasha. Natasha left the room and came back with potassium iodide pills for radiation exposure. Andrei helped me sit up to swallow the pill and I saw he took one himself. My body was on fire and I was sweating with fever. I overheard him say something to Natasha about a spider bite and he should be dead by now, but I could not be certain that is what I heard. I began to slip in and out of consciousness until finally I collapsed into darkness.

I was dreaming. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was walking hand in hand with my parents. My father carried a basket of food and we were walking through a forested trail. We came to a meadow and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face and grass tickling my legs. A gentle warm breeze lifted my dress a little. I was five years old and today was my birthday. The grass suddenly burst into flames and my body was on fire. I screamed.

The pain subsided and I felt myself being filled with new information. In my mind I was seeing checklists for starting a helicopter, techniques for hand-to-hand combat, guerrilla warfare tactics, survival knowledge, and weapons use. I could hear and understand languages of all kinds and I had a sense that I could read and speak them as well. Then there was more pain, excruciating pain, as my body's bones shifted and moved.

I was standing in front of a mirror. I was sixteen years old and my father was taking me out to a special lunch. My mother stood behind me brushing my long dark brown hair. I had chosen to wear a pink dress I had received for my birthday a few weeks earlier. My mother whispered in my ear, "You're beautiful, Alicia." The mirror shattered sending glass fragments through my body. I could feel my muscles tear and stretch. I screamed again in anguish.

The dinner table I was sitting at was old, but solid. I had spent so many hours there completing my schoolwork over the years. Now twenty, I considered my future and looked forward to the day I would meet that special man. I longed for the release to be out on my own, yet I yearned for the closeness of the home and family that had always been so supportive of me. I let my fingers slide over the rough surface of the table allowing the memories of our time around the table flow into me with each bump and nick. My father came into the room and asked if he could take some blood from me for his experiments. I nodded and extended my right arm. My father pressed the needle into my arm assuring me this would not hurt a bit. Suddenly my right hand and foot exploded in pain and my eye and ear felt like hot pokers were burning them out.

I floated pain free and at peace. I felt a deep and tangible connection to something I had lost. I was Stan Levi and yet I was also Alicia. Her life was now a part of mine in a way that transcended anything I could have ever known. I felt myself rising to consciousness and as I did so my mind was flooded with new sensations and thoughts. At first, I began to feel the weight of my body. It felt new and fresh. There was no hint of pain or aches that had been part of my daily beginnings for the past two years. I felt my fingers and toes and the thought crossed my mind as to how I could feel my right toes and fingers. I could now hear sounds around me. I heard voices and the sounds of vehicles moving outside. I even heard the sound of dripping water in the kitchen. There was no hint of hearing loss. The blackness began to fade to a gray and I felt my eyes respond to my awakening state.

I opened my eyes and looked around the room. Natasha was there hovering nearby. I recognized her as both mother and Natasha. It was then I realized my vision was perfect; actually, it was more than perfect, as every minute detail around the room was crystal clear. I could now see from the eye I had lost the vision in during the accident. I moved my hand towards my face to feel if everything was all right when I caught sight of my hand. My right hand, the one that I had lost was slender and delicate looking. It was not my hand! I began to panic and shouted out. The voice was not my own and I began to panic even more. It was then that Natasha placed her hand on my arm and gently spoke to me, "It's okay. You are going to be all right." I realized she had just spoken in Ukrainian and I understood every word.

Still panicking, but now a little less so, I watched Andrei come to the bedside. He brought a handheld mirror with him. "We did not think you were going to make it. I can't believe one of our spiders actually survived thirty years with no food or water. I suspect when you dropped the jar it was exposed to oxygen and woke up, similar to hibernation or even like cicadas that can survive totally dormant for years at a time. I hope you can fully understand me. You need to see something." Andrei held up the mirror so I could see my face. What I saw caused me to feel both relief and shock at the same time. I was looking at Alicia, albeit a much younger version of her.

I lifted my right hand again so I could see it. I turned it over and back and flexed my fingers. I then looked from Natasha to Andrei. I started to speak and caught myself listening to my foreign sounding voice and stopped. I tried to push back the thoughts that things were not right before I could speak again. Hesitantly I spoke again, in fluent Ukrainian. "I remember you taking a sample of Alicia's blood. Did you use her DNA for your experiments?" Andrei nodded the affirmative. "I was bitten by one of your spiders and it overwrote my DNA?" I looked at my hand again and took a deep breath. "It rebuilt my hand, my foot, my eye, and restored my healing?"

Andrei took a deep breath. "Yes. Alicia's DNA was healthy and I wanted to have a copy of it in case anything ever happened to her. I never thought, I mean, the thought never occurred to me that the toxin from a female spider would also alter chromosomes. Now that I see you, what it did to you, I can understand. The toxins only contained female chromosomes. How you survived, I'm not sure we will ever know. You've been unconscious and screaming out in pain for the past three days. Do you feel any different?"

"You mean besides being turned into your twenty-year old daughter?" I know I said it harshly and I saw them both wince. I reached out and took Andrei's hand. "I have her inside me, in a way. I have her memories until the moment you took her blood sample. Because of these memories, I feel as if she is almost with me. I feel like your daughter in many ways. I've been through a lot of trauma in the past year. My body, this body feels remarkably fit and well. My vision is restored and I can see details like I've never seen before. I can see the pulse of your heartbeat through the subtle changes of your skin. I can hear far better than I ever could before. I hear the drip of the faucet in the other room. I understand and seem to be able to speak fluent Ukrainian but I sense I could also speak Russian, German, French, English, Italian, Hindi, Mandarin, and many other languages. I think I could drive a Russian tank, fly a mig fighter jet or a helicopter. I gather this is also part of your genetically engineered toxin?"

Andrei nodded the affirmative again. "We truly loved you as our son. It took me a while to get used to the thought of having our daughter fall in love with an American. The cold war caused us all to be distrusting of anything outside of the U.S.S.R. When the accident happened, I admit I was at first angry with you, thinking it was your fault we lost our beloved Alicia. Over time I realized how good you were for her and how, in my pain, I forgot how much pain you were in, both physically and emotionally. I am sorry. I feel like I failed you as a father-in-law."

I sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed. I looked down at my body, which somehow had been put into a flannel nightgown. "This," indicating my new body, "will be hard to adjust to. I don't suppose it is reversible?" Andrei sighed, “No, it is not reversible. We've lost the information to recreate the engineered toxin. It would take years and millions of dollars to get back to where we were. People died being injected while testing. To attempt to do so would truly be a betrayal of life.”

I wondered if the drug my mother had taken while pregnant with me had anything to do with the fact I survived. I stood to my feet and hugged both Natasha and Andrei. “I could use a moment to myself. You wouldn't know where I can get some clothes?” “This room was Alicia's before she left. We still have some of her clothes from before the meltdown. We carefully put them away to preserve them in case she could come back sooner. With your change, we were hopeful and took them out of storage. They are here in the closet. Of course they are no longer in style. We will give you some time.”

As Andrei and Natasha left and closed the door behind them I was suddenly overwhelmed. I sat back on the bed, mentally exhausted. I looked down at my breasts pushing out from the nightgown. I placed my hands on them and felt their size and weight. The movement caused a rippling sensation through my body. They were so sensitive. I stood and looked at myself in the full-length mirror. Before me was a much younger version of my late wife. I was now the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.

I pulled the nightgown over my head and looked at myself. I was still attracted to this body, as I believe any living person would also be. The thoughts going through my head made me blush. My hair had grown long, to the middle of my back, and my eyes had turned blue. The after effects of three days of fever and transformation had matted my hair and gave me a slight body odor. I definitely needed a shower. I stood a moment longer lingering on what I had become. In my mind I knew I should rebelling at the thought of being a woman, yet, logically, I had been a broken man. I've gained thirty years of my life back. If I could have chosen anyone else in the world to be, it would have been my wife. I had my eyesight, hearing, and hand and foot back. Because of my wife's early memories, I felt as if we were a part of each other now. In a way, we were connected even deeper than we ever had been before. She would not want me to focus on the past, but on the future, and so, that's just what I decided to do. But, first things first. I needed a shower and then I needed a plan. After all, Stan Levi was no more and the new me had no identification, no passport, and no citizenship.

I found some 1985 clothing in the closet. I avoided the dresses and opted for a pair of good old American made jeans. Alicia's memory of getting these jeans on the black market was an interesting one. She had loved them. I also found some panties, bra, socks, and a warm, reasonably stylish sweater. I took these items with me into the bathroom. If you have ever been to some of these older Soviet cities, you would know that heat came from a citywide hot water heating system. Part of the old communist way was that everyone got hot water at the same time, which was usually late in the fall when things were already cold and freezing. During the summertime the hot water was turned off altogether. I was very grateful that when I turned on the tap, hot water came out.

I stepped into the shower and let the hot water permeate my being and restore me. It was as if the water going down the drain was a symbol of my old life and depression leaving my body. As my spirits lifted I became more and more aware of the sensations the water was having on me. My hands seemed to move automatically, stroking my breasts and sliding between my legs. A light squeeze on my nipple sent a light moan escaping from my lips. A touch between my legs caused a shudder than ran through me. This new body of mine seemed so alive that every touch would build pleasure upon more pleasure. With the water cascading down me, I gently massaged one breast while slowly sliding my finger into my new vagina. Aware my moaning might cause concern I did my best to muffle my involuntary sounds of pleasure. Within moments I exploded with wave after wave of orgasmic bliss.

I forced myself to stop what I had been doing and focused on washing my long hair. It took a while being so long and dirty, but after washing it twice and using a conditioner, I finally felt it was clean enough to get out of the shower. I wrapped my hair in a towel much like I had seen my wife do hundreds of times before. I slipped on the clothes I had found. Although slightly musty smelling, the clothes fit perfectly. After drying my hair and combing it out I realized I was very hungry.

I found Natasha and Andrei back at the dining table. My spirits had significantly been uplifted and I gave them both hugs. While I had never been a hug kind of guy before, Alicia always had been and these hugs simply felt spontaneous and given with the utmost care. I welcomed the bubbly and happy feelings. I had spent too much time dwelling on the past. Remembering how I always felt she had completed me before, I could tell I was responding much more from my heart than my head.

When I mentioned how hungry I was Natasha went to put together some lunch for us all. I could tell Andrei had something on his mind. "With such trauma to your body, it could be that your body needs fuel to fully heal yourself, but there may be another reason. We chose a spider for a number of reasons. They can lift one hundred times their own weight, they have incredibly fast reflexes, and some have regenerative properties. We did not expect people that survived the toxin to have these same characteristics, but, due to physics and scale, we did expect some enhancements to their capabilities. For all intents and purposes we estimated anywhere from six to ten times their normal abilities. These enhancements would cause them to metabolize food quicker, and thus your hunger may be caused by these enhancements to your metabolism. Can I test you?" "Sure."

Andrei told Natasha we would be right back. He took me outside to his car. "The back end of this car should weigh about 400 KG, or around 800 pounds. See if you can lift it." "You want me to lift the back end of your car?" I realize I sounded skeptical, mostly because I was. "Okay, I'll try it." I bent down and placed my hands under the back of the car and lifted. As I stood up I noticed the car tires had come off the ground. It was heavy, but I could probably have lifted more. I carefully put the car back down and looked at my hands. Andrei was smiling. "You are everything we had ever hoped for. We will need to test you more; test your reflexes, how high you can jump, and how fast you can heal. But first, we must eat!" In a way, my spider accident had validated his entire life's work.

During lunch we discussed my future. I was well off financially as both Alicia and I had well paying jobs and insurance paid out close to ten million dollars for my injuries. While I had access to those funds, I would never pass as Stan Levi again. I could create a new account and transfer those funds but I needed an identity before I could create an account. I suggested that since I no longer had a home or a country that perhaps I could stay with Alicia's parents and look after them. It warmed my heart to see their smiles at that suggestion. In the end, we all decided it would be best for me to travel back to the United States. I could make up an identity as Alicia's daughter, born in Ukraine in 1994. As luck had it, Alicia had traveled back to Ukraine for a year between 1993 and 1994. This would be about right for my current age of twenty. We would have to forge a Ukrainian birth certificate, a U.S. passport, and U.S. adoption papers. Difficult, but I was in Ukraine where people that did these things were easier to find. Once back in the U.S. I would adjust my old will to have the entire estate put into my name upon his death. My, Stan's, death would first be ruled as a missing person, then items would be found indicating he was murdered here in Ukraine.

We continued to work on the plan and finalize the details. When it came to choosing a name, I thought it was rather easy. Anastasia Alicia Levi. Natasha and Andrei loved it. Anastasia meant resurrection. I decided I probably needed more clothes and Natasha and I would go shopping in Kiev over the next day or so. Andrei thought he might know where I could go to get a start on my new identity. It would not be a safe place, but felt I could probably handle things with my new enhancements. Since time was of the essence, I would start first thing tomorrow.

In the morning I traveled with Andrei to one of the seedier areas of Chernihiv. He had told me that when the Soviet Union collapsed, many people who had been working in the Communist Party creating new identities for people moved into the Russian mafia to earn money. He had grown up with some of them and their children now took over the 'family business.' He pointed me towards a dark, windowless building and told me to ask for Ivan.

When I entered the building my sense of foreboding only grew. This was not 'spidey sense' going off, rather it was seeing every eye in the place turn to look at someone that they knew should not be there. I was a young, pretty girl standing in the middle of a world of violence and power. Their hardened faces told me they were mostly unsavory types; mafia, criminals, and fighters. I spotted someone who looked to be in charge and asked for Ivan. There was no mistaking the lustful look he gave me. After a heavy pause, he flicked his head behind him. I took the cue and entered a back room.

"I'm looking for Ivan." A man with a large visible scar on his left cheek turned toward me. "Let me guess. You are here looking for your new boyfriend. Well, you found him. Shall we go someplace more intimate?" I ignored his statement. "I'm told you might be able to help me. I need some documentation." "You don't look like a person that needs documentation." "I need a Ukrainian birth certificate, Chernihiv, March 20, 1994, under the name Anastasia Alicia Petrov, parents Alicia Petrov, no father listed. I need a U.S. Social Security number and passport under the name of Anastasia Alicia Levi with a Ukrainian entry stamp of October 17, 2014. Finally, I need a U.S. adoption record for Anastasia Alicia Petrov, new name Anastasia Alicia Levi with parents Alicia Levi and Stan Levi, dated October 11, 2005. Obviously the U.S. passport must be dated after that date." He did not flinch. "You are asking for a lot. It will cost you forty thousand U.S. dollars and I need to take your picture. Stand over there." He pulled out a camera and took several headshots. "Come back with the money in one week. If you fail to show up or bring the full amount your life will be forfeit. Now leave me."

I walked out of the building amidst many jeers. Forty thousand dollars was a lot of money, but that was not my worry at the moment. Somehow I had to get those funds here and the U.S. tracks every transaction greater than ten thousand dollars. Being in the computer industry, I had jumped on the bitcoin bandwagon early. I had approximately fifty thousand dollars in bitcoins. If I could find a way to cash that out, perhaps in Kiev, then I would have the money I needed without being tracked.

Back at Natasha and Andrei's apartment I used their computer to find a large bitcoin dealer in Kiev. I emailed him requesting to sell out my fifty thousand dollars worth. With bitcoin values on the rise, he jumped at the chance. I would sell all I had and get my fifty thousand dollars. It would just take several days for him to put together the necessary funds. With that settled Natasha and I planned our trip to Kiev for shopping. We would take two days and if all went well we would return with the money for the documents for my new identity. Andrei had been getting worried and wanted us to plan for various things that could go wrong. He would not elaborate on what he thought might go wrong, he just emphasized we needed a plan. Although I did not understand his concerns we planned for multiple scenarios, most around the mafia or military hunting us all down.

The trip to Kiev was uneventful. Natasha loved going shopping with her 'grand daughter' and I surprisingly enjoyed buying all types of clothing. I chose a mix of casual, workout, travel, and even a formal dress. The bitcoin transaction went smoothly and we arrived back at Chernihiv safely.

Since we had to wait a few more days for my new identity, Andrei took me out into the country where they had a dacha. A dacha was a traditional place where people living in communist apartments could have a small plot of land to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Usually there was a little cabin that a few people could sleep and eat in. With it being past the growing season, few people would be out there and it would be a perfect place to test more of my abilities.

The first day out at the dacha Andrei tested me for strength and speed. Using assorted items he found around the dacha he created a rather impressive set of weights. I spent the day lifting and adding weights until I could no longer lift them. Andrei calculated I could lift an astonishing 8.3 times my own weight. At five foot nine and around one hundred and twenty five pounds, that equated to just over 1037 pounds! Next we focused on speed. That was an easier test as we had a fairly straight road that we could measure out an accurate distance on. Of course he was using metric, but the conversions sounded pretty amazing. I ran at a comfortable, but fast pace for an hour. In that time I covered thirty-two miles. After an enforced rest, even though I did not think I needed it, Andrei had me sprint as fast as I could. He calculated I was running at fifty-six miles per hour, twice as fast as Usain Bolt, fastest, now second fastest, human alive.

The next day, we worked on reflexes and jumping height. Andrei had looked up several tests online before we left for the dacha. He replicated those tests and found that my reaction time to events outside of my vision were an astounding forty-seven times faster than the fastest recorded human doing the same test. When I could see the event it was even higher at ninety-four times. Andrei attributed this to my ability to see in such detail that I knew he was going to cause an event before he could even complete it himself. Jumping was another easy test. Using power poles and shadows, Andrei marked how high I could jump by marking the shadow on the ground. While not as impressive as the strength or speed increases, Andrei said I was jumping 4.2 times my own height. For those math whizzes out there, that was just over twenty-four feet.

With the tests safely completed we headed back to the apartment for the night. I was very grateful to have another chance at the shower and a comfortable bed, both of which were very conducive to special womanly pleasures I had become enthralled by. The next few days we spent in additional planning. It was determined that the dacha would be the place we would hide our documents and belongings. If anything happened to me, Natasha and Andrei would head to the dacha, grab their documents, money cache, and necessary clothing, and head to Kiev. From Kiev they would head to Madrid, Spain to wait for a reunion with me. In Madrid, at noon each day, we would try to rendezvous at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid's Buen Retiro Park. After thirty days, we would assume the others did not make it. Of course, we never expected to use any of these plans.

On the day I was to get my new documents, I gave Natasha and Andrei the extra ten thousand dollars I had collected from the sale of my bitcoins. This way they would have the needed cash to get anywhere they needed quickly. Andrei parked the car a few blocks from the building and I casually walked up to the entrance. My confidence had grown over the past week, knowing my limits and what I might be capable of. I received the same stares this time as I did the last time, but this time I was not unnerved by them. Ivan was again in the back room.

I placed the forty thousand dollars on the table in front of him. "I'm here as you requested. I'd like to see the documents." "I have them, but the price has changed. It was more difficult to get what you wanted than I expected. The price is now eighty thousand dollars." "We had a deal. You gave me the price. I've brought that price. Before I agree to the additional money, I need to see the quality of the documents." "Fair enough." He reached down and pulled up a handgun that he placed on the table for emphasis as to his expectations and then placed the documents next to it. I picked them up and thumbed through them. I was no expert on forgery quality, but these looked impressive. The passport even included a smart chip. "They look good but I am not willing to pay more." "You have three options. One, you leave now and I keep the forty thousand for the work I have already done. This way you leave with your life. Two, you get the other forty thousand and I give you the documents. Three, I'll take ten thousand off the eighty right now if you let me screw you." "You forgot option four and five. Four, you take the forty thousand as requested and I take the documents and we both get what we want without anyone getting hurt. Five, I take my money back and the documents and most likely you and your friends out there will be visiting the hospital. I guess the decision is up to you whether or not you want to honor our original deal."

I could see his pulse rate change and his hand begin to twitch. It was clear he was trying for option six; kill me and take my money. Before he could grab his gun it was in my hand. I quickly removed the bullets and disassembled it before handing it back to him. "I'm still up for option four if you want. You will wind up with nothing but hurt if you do not choose it." "Option four my ass!" He lunged for me over the table. I easily dodged him and in the process grabbed the back of his head and pushed it down into the table. I tried to be gentle, but his head sort of broke the table, breaking his nose and quite a few teeth in the process. Remarkably he was still conscious. "Option four it is then." I grabbed the money and the documents and walked back into the larger room.

Five large men now stood in my way of the exit. They had heard the noise and were prepared for anything. Well, not exactly anything, as they certainly were not prepared for me. One man pulled a gun and pointed it at me. Before he could pull the trigger I dove to the side. The bullet passed through the doorway I had just been standing in. A second man tried to grab me from behind, but I could hear him and felt the wind from his arms and managed a back kick to his chest. The three hundred pound man flew twenty feet to crash into the building's wall. The man with the gun had finally got his sights back on me again. I stood my ground and focused on his movements. A second before he pulled the trigger, I dropped to the ground and kicked a table towards him. The shot went safely over my head and the table went not so safely into his belly. He dropped his gun as the table propelled him backwards a dozen yards.

Two down, three to go. As I got back up, one burly man took a chance at hitting me with his fist. Within a fraction of a second my hand came up and stopped his fist and arm mid-swing. I held it there for a moment registering his confusion. A one hundred and twenty five pound girl just stopped a punch from an arm that had a thirty-inch bicep. I squeezed my hand on his and felt his bones begin to break. He dropped to his knees. The remaining two men stepped to the side as I walked past them. Just as I reached the door I could hear movement behind me. I sidestepped as quickly as I could and turned around to see a knife flying just to where I had been. I caught the knife by the blade and held it tight for a moment. Flipping the knife around in my hand as an expert would, I threw the knife back at the man. The knife went right to where I had wanted it to go, just below his most valuable parts. The man blanched as I turned and exited the building.

When I got to Andrei's car he looked me over carefully. "Any trouble?" He asked. "Not so much." I pulled some stray hairs behind my ear. "Your hurt! Let me look at your hand." Sure enough, the hand that caught the knife had a deep cut in it, but as we watched, it began rapidly healing. Within seconds, the cut had gone completely. "Regeneration?" I asked. He nodded. "We should get going." He put the car in gear and quickly drove towards the dacha. Behind us men rushed out of the building but they were too late to do anything as we pulled away and out of their sight.

After dropping off the money, documents, and our backpacks of clothing in our secret cache at the dacha we headed back to the apartment. I told Natasha and Andrei my story of what happened in the building. They would have rather I killed them all as these men were not ones to trifle with. I told them I knew they were bad men but I just did not have it in me to kill them. "We should have some time as it will take them a while to draw any connections to us, but I think we should all leave together tomorrow."

It was 8:13 am when I woke up the next morning. The apartment was quiet. I quickly got changed and verified Natasha and Andrei were both still sleeping. I thought I would surprise them with a special last breakfast in the apartment. I left them a note saying where I was going and that I'd be back by 9:00 am and headed for the shops downtown. As I walked I knew I was being followed but felt if I could get further away from the apartment then Natasha and Andrei would have more time to realize something might have happened and escape themselves. Just as I turned the corner to get to the shops military vehicles raced upon me from all sides. At least a dozen armed men carrying AK-47s surrounded me.

The circle of militia parted to let two men enter the circle. One man was Ivan, who looked like he was still in a lot of pain with his nose bandaged and his mouth still very swollen. The other was a high-ranking official with a hardened and stern looking face. He turned to Ivan, "You are sure this is the one? She's just a girl." Ivan, with his missing teeth, struggled to form words properly, "Yes. Do not underestimate her, Sergei." Turning back towards me, Sergei ordered, "You are now under military arrest. You will come with us peacefully or you will be shot. If what Ivan tells us is true, that you are a Russian spy, then you will be shot. If we find you are not what Ivan tells us, then we may be considerate and let you go or we may still shoot you. It depends on how well you cooperate." He turned and walked away but Ivan grabbed an AK-47 from a soldier near him and swung the butt of it towards my head. My hand had come up so fast to block the it that the impact broke the rifle in two and send Ivan crashing to the ground. Sergei, who had seen the incident shrugged and merely said, "Interesting."

The soldiers escorted me to one of the trucks where I took a seat with six rifles aimed at me. I allowed them to bind my hands behind my back with snap ties. I figured that as long as I was cooperative it would give more time to Natasha and Andrei to get away. I hoped by now they were already on the move.

I was taken to a military base several hours away from Chernihiv. Being in the back of a truck, there were no windows for me to get my bearings, but I figured we had been traveling north east by the way the sun warmed my back through the cloth walls. Once at the base I was surrounded by guards and led to a prison cell. They sat me down in a chair while three armed guards stood by. Sergei pulled up a chair in front of me.

"Perhaps you would cut these bindings from my hands? They are very uncomfortable." "Your comfort is not my concern. They stay on for now. What is your name and where are you from?" "My name is Anastasia Alicia Levi. I was born in Chernihiv." "Ivan told me that cannot be your name as he made special documents for you. I'll ask you one more time. What is your real name." "I've told you what my name is. Sometimes things are not as they seem to be. I had lost all of my documents in a fire and instead of wading through years of governmental red tape I thought his services would be a much faster way of restoring that which I had lost." "People do not spend forty thousand dollars to avoid red tape! You are a Russian spy! You came here to steal our secrets and bring them back to Russia so that they can use them against us! Tell me, how did you escape a building with six trained fighters unharmed?" "I actually did cut my hand a little."

I sighed. This was not going very well. I needed to buy some more time. I'd tell them most of the truth, as unbelievable as it was. "Okay, I'll tell you the truth. My name is Stan Levi and I am fifty years old. I came to visit my in-laws and while I was here I was exploring the area around Chernobyl. I stumbled across an old laboratory and was interested in what I would find there. I found a thirty year old desiccated spider and when I accidentally dropped the jar it was in, it reanimated itself and promptly bit me. I became feverish and ill and I woke up three days later as what you see now, but with super powers. I needed documentation to be able to get back home. Is this so implausible?"

"You are wasting my time. You are nothing but a stupid girl, enamored by the Russians. You came to Ukraine to spy on us! Guards, you will leave us now!" Obediently, the guards left the room. I heard the door lock behind them. "You will be shot at dawn as a spy, which, would be an unfortunate waste since you are so beautiful. I'm going to make sure you don't die a virgin." He grabbed the back of my hair and pulled it back to force my face up to meet his. I head butted him, sending him staggering to his knees. He looked up at me with hate-filled eyes, his hands holding his head. I stood up over him and snapped the bonds holding my hands. I lifted his chin with my hand. "I told you the truth. I was cooperating. Why was that not good enough for you?"

I grabbed his clothing at his chest and lifted him off the ground with one hand. His eyes went wide. I grabbed his gun then lowered him to his feet. "I think it would be best for you and your men to let me go peacefully." "You cannot escape here! If what you said is true, then you are a product of Soviet engineering and thus an asset of the Ukrainian military. We own you!" "And to think I was trying to be nice. I am owned by no one." I hit him on the head with the flat of the gun. Enough to render him unconscious but not enough for permanent damage. I slipped the handgun into the back of my pants and moved to the door. It was a thick, heavy steel door but most doors are weakest at the hinges and deadbolt. I placed a foot against the door jam and grabbed the door handle with my hands. I pulled back hard. The door and jam bent visibly and then the door came free.

I looked left and right down the hallway. There were guards down the right so I quickly and quietly moved left, closing the door behind me. At the next intersection I turned right to head back towards the entrance of the base. I checked a door on my left and listened carefully. I could hear nothing on the other side of the door so I opened it slowly. Inside was the laundry. I found some military fatigues that might be close to fitting me. I quickly changed into some and put my clothing into a laundry bag that I would take with me. I grabbed a hat and was back to trying to find a way off the base. I figured I only had a few more minutes before the base would go on alert. I stepped back into the hall and walked as quickly as I could towards the entrance.

I found a window that looked out into an open area outside. In the middle was what appeared to be a hanger and beyond that the fence and forest. That might be the best place for me to head. Further down the hallway I could see a door leading to the outside. As I approached, several men opened the door and came inside. I kept my hat down and continued walking past them. I was just breathing a sigh of relief when the alarms went off. Suddenly the halls were filled with soldiers running every which way. I pushed open the door to the outside, stepped through, and sidled over to the left of the building. Three men were guarding access to the open area but beyond them was a tank and a helicopter. I really wanted to drive the tank, but the helicopter would be the best for a quick exit.

I walked up to the guards, trying to act like I knew what I was doing. As I got closer, however, they saw through my disguise and pulled their weapons. They were shouting at me to halt and put my hands on my head. I jumped over them instead, landing immediately behind them. A leg sweep took one man down hard and an elbow to the back of the head brought the second one to the ground. The final turned and pulled the trigger but I was no longer there. I closed the gap between us and as he tried to fire again I kicked the gun from his hand. The first man had just regained his feet and was closing in with a knife. I grabbed the man in front and swung him around to hit the man coming up behind me. They were all moaning and on the ground so I took advantage of this by removing their weapons and using their snap ties to bind their hands and feet.

I sprinted for the helicopter and prayed my unique training would actually work. I tried not to think about what I was doing; just let my hands do the work. Within a minute the rotors were turning. I had just lifted off when the first volley of shots came from the base. I banked the helicopter quickly and rose over the tree line and out of their sights. To throw them off I headed north before doubling back. I needed to get to the dacha. I used the radio to listen in on the military chatter. Sure enough they had secured a Russian Mil Mi-28 attack helicopter. I groaned knowing that while the helicopter I was in had machine guns, the Russian one coming after me had heat-seeking missiles. Luckily I managed to get to the dacha without incident. I left the rotors turning and ran to our secret cache. I was happy to see a note and that Natasha's and Andrei's things were missing. The note read; 'Dear Anastasia, we saw the military activity this morning and when you did not return we suspected the worst. We quickly packed and came here. As planned, we pray we see you in our rendezvous spot. All our love, Andrei and Natasha.' I found my backpack and ran back to the helicopter.

I flew due west towards the Polish border. Since the Russians and Ukrainians were not getting along well I figured that border would not be the safest to cross and Poland would get me into the EU. It would take me about an hour and a half to get to the border. The problem was that I was a large radar target and the attack helicopter would likely catch up with me within the hour. I knew I could not outfly a Mil Mi-28 and I certainly could not out gun it. I needed to ditch the helicopter but I wanted to get as close to the Polish border as I could. I pushed the helicopter as fast as it could go and finally brought it down east of the city of Sarny in an old farmyard surrounded by thick forest. I grabbed my backpack and ran as fast as I could towards the main highway that would lead to Poland. As soon as I entered the forest I stripped and changed back into my regular clothing. Just as I hid the fatigues under a log I could hear the formidable Mil Mi-28. I took off at a sprint, due south through the forest.

My goal now was to find a truck heading west. If I could get on top of a truck I could get a free ride to Yahodyn and cross over into Poland on foot. I entered Sarny just as night fell. I walked cautiously and kept out of the light as much as possible. I was getting very hungry so I found a smaller, out of the way restaurant hoping to get some food in me. As I entered, I noticed a TV on in the corner but it was tuned to a hockey game and not of much concern at the moment. The place seemed to be more of a sports bar and eatery than a regular restaurant. I placed and order and waited patiently for my food to come. When my food came, the waitress looked at me and the amount of food I ordered and made some rude comment hoping I would get fat. Ignoring her, I ate slowly as I planned my next moves.

Having finished my meal, I left money on the table and got up to go when the hockey game was interrupted by a special news alert. I cringed and thought to myself, 'they wouldn't put me on there'. Of course, I was wrong. There in full living color was my face. They announced I was a dangerous Russian spy and to alert the authorities if I was spotted. I did smile when they said I was extremely dangerous. I was hoping nobody had seen the alert, but this is the Ukraine, and people were visibly upset to have their hockey game interrupted. Of course they were watching, and before I could take a step towards the exit the snarky, rude waitress was yelling at the top of her lungs, "That's her! She's the Russian spy!" I sighed knowing that now I would have to do something I really did not want to do, but at least I wasn't hungry anymore. Ignoring the 'extremely dangerous' comments on the news, two very large men stood up to block my way to the exit. One grabbed a hockey stick from the wall. "I'm really not up for a game of hockey right now. Do you mind if I take a rain check?" "We don't like Russian spies. Why don't you sit back down and we can talk about the game until someone comes to get you." "You really know what to say to a girl. Is that your best line for getting a date? Sorry, I just checked my date calendar and it is all booked up. Now, if you will excuse me, I'll be on my way."

I took a step forward and the guy with the hockey stick seemed a little irritated by me. Maybe it was something I had said. He actually swung the hockey stick at me so hard you would think he was trying to kill a grizzly bear. I caught the stick with one hand and yanked it away from him. Breaking the stick in two I turned it into a pair of nice little wooden clubs. "Last chance, Romeo." He actually roared when he rushed me. At the last second I stepped out of his path but I helped him along a little with a smack to the back of his head as he went by. That left one burly guy and one snarky waitress to go. The second man hesitated, but I gave him props for at least trying. He tried to grab me in a bear hug. I used the sticks in each hand to hold off his arms, then in quick succession I hit him in the stomach and groin, vaulted over top of him, and gave his backside a healthy push with my foot. In the same motion I picked up a baked potato from someone's plate, reached over and stuffed it into the mouth of the snarky waitress as she was on the phone. I realized I did not have to do that, but, then again, she really had been rude to me. On the way out the door, I called back to the waitress, "Just a quick tip for you. Customers are your friends. You won’t earn big tips if you insult them."

I was back on the road in no time but I was no more than a few blocks away when I heard the sirens. I found a back road and decided it was best to try out my newfound speed. I sprinted as fast as I could to get some distance between the restaurant and me. After several minutes I guessed I had put a few miles between me and where I had hoped everyone after me was converging. I slowed down and headed back towards the main highway. A short time later I was at the southwest side of Sarny and I found a gas station truckers used. I hid in the dark shadows of the night and waited for a truck to start heading west. I finally spotted one and I ran after it in the dark, jumping at the last second to secure a grip on the top back ledge of the trailer. I pulled myself up and found a less than comfortable spot to sit for the next few hours.

By my calculations I was no more than thirty minutes from the border when I heard the ominous sounds of the Mil Mi-28 attack helicopter. Not only did they have heat-seeking missiles, they also had thermal imaging. On top of a cold truck trailer, my own body's heat signature would make me stick out like a bullseye. I had just passed the small farm community of Kotsyury and I could see a line of forest coming up on the right side of the highway. I crossed my fingers that the helicopter would just pass by. The forest was close to the highway and I was positive jumping off a tractor-trailer at fifty miles per hour into a forest of trees would be painful. Just when I had thought the helicopter had not seen me, I heard the unmistakable sound of a missile launch. I leaped off the truck with everything I had.

I was still in the air when the explosion blew apart the trailer. The heat and concussion of the blast threw me even faster into the thick forest. I was right, it was painful. I tore through thick branches and bounced off several tree trunks before slamming to the forest floor. I was shaken but remarkably alive. I had several large cuts on my arms and one on my forehead but there were no broken bones. As I watched, the cuts began to heal themselves. The helicopter was still hovering nearby. This far into the thick forest their thermal imaging cameras would not find me, but it would not be long before reinforcements came to search by foot. My plan was risky, but if I could get to the other side of the highway I could follow train tracks the six or so miles to the border.

I watched the helicopter from the edge of the forest, and then when it turned away from the scene I would run through the fiery wreckage to the forest on the other side. This all went mostly as planned. The helicopter had turned away and I sprinted across through the flames, but as I headed to the forest on the far side I heard a cry for help. It was the truck driver. I would have to make another run for it to get back to him to see if he could be saved, only this time I couldn't wait for the helicopter to be turned away. I sprinted back to where the cab had flipped on its side and I jumped up onto the cab door. The driver was pinned inside. I tried not to think about the helicopter. I ripped the door from the cab and dropped inside. Once inside I saw that the driver's legs were pinned by the steering wheel. "This may hurt a little, but I need to get the steering wheel off of you." He nodded, not sure what to think of me. I braced myself and grabbed the steering wheel and pulled with everything I had. The steering column bent and pulled away freeing the man.

I kicked out the windshield so I could help the man out. I grabbed ahold of him and was about ready to make a run for it when the helicopter hovered directly in front of the cab. I had mere seconds. I held the man tight and ran like I had never run before. We had just moved to the side of the cab when the high caliber machines guns opened fire. Within seconds the cab was an obliterated mess. I managed to lay the driver on the side of the road. I held his hand a moment. "You saved my life. I will never forget you." I did not have the heart to tell him it was because of me that this all happened in the first place. I grabbed a large, fifteen-pound rock from the side of the road and walked about twenty feet from the man. By now, the helicopter knew where I was and was turning towards me. Before the helicopter could turn all the way, I threw the rock with full force. I aimed for the most vulnerable part, the rear rotor. It was a lucky throw and the rock bent one of the rotor blades enough that it began hitting metal. I dove into the roadside ditch as the helicopter pilot began losing control and spinning wildly. With a loud sound of screeching metal, the helicopter angled enough to catch the top blades into the road surface. The helicopter was thrown forward by the impact and blades were breaking and flying in all directions. With a tremendous crash, the helicopter smashed into the ground and began rolling towards me. Spidey sense or not, I knew I had to run. I headed straight for the forest with the great rolling metal beast slicing the ground at my heals the entire way.

Trees finally stopped the helicopter from moving any further and I managed to get deeper into the forest before the inevitable explosion. I hoped the man I saved survived. Somehow I felt he did. Within a half mile I found the train tracks and turned west towards Poland. I ran at a steady pace and soon found myself at some marshy land and the Bog River that marked the border between Poland and Ukraine. Two things stood in my way of safety; the river, and the fact that I looked like someone that had been spelunking in an outhouse. I figured I would cross the river first, and then worry about the other issue later.

The river was cold, real cold, but I managed to get across to safety. In a way, the cold clean water did help clean me up a bit. I washed my face the best I could and combed out my hair with my fingers. My backpack had a few changes of clothing and somehow, it had all managed to stay together and dry. I stripped out of my wet clothing and put on another pair. I left the wet, torn, bloody, and burnt clothing on the Polish side of the river. Hopefully, I would look somewhat better by the time I got to the border crossing on the main highway.

When I reached the border I was confronted with a young, male customs officer. Even with bits of forest in my hair he seemed to stammer with nerves, obviously enamored with me. This might have been due to the fact my clothes were clinging quite nicely to my body giving him something to imagine what lay underneath. I pulled out my American passport and told him I had been backpacking through Ukraine and into the EU. I smiled and lightly flirted with him and was pleasantly surprised to see him stamp my passport and let me go on my way.

I managed to get to the closest city, Chelm, and then took the overnight train to Warsaw. I was pretty bedraggled by the time I arrived in Warsaw. In a way, I felt like the woman in the movie, Woman in Red. I would go into shops and staff took one look at me and turned the other way. I did sort of smell of a healthy combination of marshland, river, forest, and jet fuel. I managed to buy a few things. Since I had lost most of my travel clothing I picked up two casual travel outfits, one of them had a skirt. I also found a replacement for my formal dress that I never got to wear. A pair of jeans and more athletic clothing, some underthings, a suitcase to carry it all, and I was now ready for a bath, a good meal, maybe a drink or two, and a good sleep. First stop would be a hotel.

I found a nice hotel in downtown Warsaw and checked into a room. It was spacious and luxurious and had a wonderfully large tub. I did not have any aches and pains and my cuts had healed without even a scar or scab, but the thought of soaking in a hot tub to ease away the tensions from the past few days sounded a little like heaven. I started the water and poured a variety of soaps and salts into the tub. As it filled I stripped out of the sticky and dirty clothing I had on and checked myself out in the mirror. I truly was breathtaking, even with dirt smudges and the odd leaf in my tousled and matted hair. It had been about ten days since my transformation and every day I felt more and more at home in my new body. Thinking back to my life before the transformation seemed more and more like a dream, or another life altogether. I loved the beauty, grace, litheness, and joy that came with this new life, even if that meant me having my close calls and adventures in the past few days than I had my entire life before.

I stepped into the hot water-filled tub with an audible moan of ecstasy. I let the past day's stress and tensions slide off me into water like dross being poured off the top of a glass. I lay back in the water and closed my eyes. My breasts floated freely increasing my desire to fondle them. I managed to maintain enough control to wash myself thoroughly first before succumbing to my carnal desires. One hand began massaging my breast while I slid a finger into my vagina with the other. I moved my finger with deliberate gentle strokes, letting the tip of my finger glide over my clitoris. My first orgasm only took about a minute. This body demanded more and I slowly built myself up to several more orgasms before the water turned cold enough to make me want to leave it.

Now thoroughly cleaned, sexually satisfied, and with my hair clean and dry, I put on the nice formal dress. Every time I looked in the mirror I was astonished by my beauty and found it hard to believe it was really me. I had a plan to travel to Switzerland and open a bank account to deposit the majority of the forty thousand dollars. Upon entering the U.S. it was likely my bags would be searched and carrying that kind of money would definitely cause issues, and I certainly did not want to get stopped. In order to open the account, I felt I would need to look like a sophisticated and wealthy young lady. Upon closer inspection I noticed that my hair could definitely use a trim and a style and I definitely needed a manicure. With a few additional accessories such as a necklace, earrings, and watch or bracelet I was sure I would pass scrutiny.

In the hotel lobby I found the concierge and asked him for a place close by where I could get my hair styled. He indicated the hotel had a stylist and spa and pointed around the corner. I could feel his eyes on me as I thanked him and headed in the direction he indicated. As it turned out, the stylist was a remarkable talent and they had a full staff to handle my manicure, nail polish, and I also got in a pedicure as well. It was amazing what a good stylist could do with neurotoxin created hair. An hour and a half later I walked out the hotel and down the street to one of the stores I had been in earlier as I noted they also had some accessories that might match my outfit. It was an amazing difference to see the response to the store staff now as opposed to before. They fawned over me. It truly was a 'Woman in Red' moment for me. Within a half hour, I walked out the store with all the accessories. I wore a set of dangling cultured pearl earrings, a pearl necklace, and a set of gold bracelets.

I never had people notice me before; at least I did not notice they noticed me. Now, however, in the time it took for a short walk down the street to dinner I saw more people looking at me than I had ever had in my life before. The feel of the dress against my smooth skin reminded me of Alicia's childhood memories. I smiled feeling the closeness to her again.

The next day I booked a private cabin for the thirteen-hour overnight train from Warsaw to Zurich. I felt the train would be more restful than a flight. I used my travel outfit for the train and switched into my formal dress for my walk from the train station into the bank. Everything at the bank went smooth and I deposited just over thirty-five thousand dollars. I still find it amazing that I get a lot more attention and service than I ever did before.

While in Zurich I did a little more shopping. Perhaps it is just that I needed all new things with my new shape, but I am really enjoying the entire experience. I'm getting used to dresses and skirts and the amazing comfort they provide. I bought another casual dress for Madrid and changed into it before heading to the airport. I arrived at 5:12 pm in Madrid and managed to book a night's stay at the Petit Palace Savoy Alfonso XII hotel. It was located right next to Buen Retiro Park and would provide me a quick walk to the Palacio de Cristal the next day at noon. I slept fitfully that night as my mind kept wondering if Andrei and Natasha had made it safely.

At 11:30 am I walked through the park towards our rendezvous point. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Once again I wore the formal dress, as I wanted to make a statement to Andrei and Natasha that I was more than fine. When I turned the corner on the walking trail and spotted them both, my heart leapt for joy. I quickened my pace and I saw they had spotted me as well and were coming my way. We hugged and kissed each other. I looked them over carefully making sure they were fine and they did the same for me. On a whim, I grabbed both of their hands and we walked together as I remembered when Alicia was five years old. As we walked Andrei told me about their escape from Ukraine. While they had made it safely to Madrid two days ago, it was not altogether uneventful. The Ukrainian military had locked down the airport when they were on the runway. Luckily their pilot had already been given orders to take off and decided a hasty departure was best for everyone on the plane.

I shared with them the highlights on my past few days. I left out anything to do with the attack helicopter, as they already seemed very worried for me. They told me that they had a hotel nearby and that they were going to formalize their immigration to Spain as going back to Ukraine was not an option. They were fine financially and would move to an apartment before settling down in a home. The Spanish southern coast was quite inexpensive since the decline in the country's economy and they hoped to find something there.

We spent the next few days together and they saw me off at the airport to the United States. It was comforting knowing they were safe and looking forward to a warmer climate down south. I was a little saddened to leave them as I was feeling more and more like a daughter to them and I got the feeling they felt the same way about me. We all knew I needed to resolve the estate and get myself settled and hopefully, within the year I would be able to join them in southern Spain.

When I exited the plane in Dulles airport I admit I was nervous. I had high quality documents but that was never a guarantee. As I approached the customs gate alarms began to sound. Within seconds I had multiple armed customs offices pulling me by my arms into a side room. They seemed courteous enough, but they did not hesitate to rifle through my belongings and then left me alone locked in the room without any real explanations. After about thirty minutes of sitting there one man, obviously a senior official, entered.

"Do you know why we stopped you at the gate, Ms. Levi?" "Not really, sir." "We have radiation detectors at the gates and you set them off, big time." "I think I can explain, sir." "There is another issue. Your passport and facial recognition flagged an urgent extradition request by the Ukrainian military. Now, I'm not going to have you explain anything at the moment, but I am forced to hold you overnight. We are bringing in a specialist to help us with you." "Am I under arrest?" "That may be up to you and how well you cooperate with us." With that they left the room and I was ushered by armed guards into a high security holding cell in Washington, DC. I could have escaped easily enough, but I needed to get some resolution. I could not keep running from country to country. I needed a home.

The next morning I was led to a larger room. Armed guards were posted at each exit. Three men stood before me. This time they introduced themselves. "I am Brody Macmillan, Deputy Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs." The next person introduced himself as Mark Hamilton, Assistant Deputy Director for the CIA. The final man was in his mid-seventies. He smiled and said, "I understand you might know an old comrade of mine, Andrei Petrov. I am Saburo Netsky, and I am very pleased to meet you." Brody then spoke again, "We need you to tell us the truth, no matter if you feel we will not believe you. Start with why you had two passports with you." I figured batting my eyelashes would not get me anywhere and I was interested in learning more how Saburo knew Andrei. I decided to tell them the truth. The real truth.

"I have two passports because I am sort of two people. Two weeks ago, I was Stan Levi. Let me explain what happened to me." I shared how I had met Alicia and how I first met Andrei and Natasha through my marriage to Alicia. I described our accident that had killed Alicia and severely injured me and my rehabilitation and subsequent trip to meet Andrei and Natasha in the Ukraine. "Now comes the part that will be hard to believe." I told them of my trip with Andrei to the Chernobyl bunker laboratory. I described the laboratory in great detail in case Saburo had worked there and could corroborate what I had seen. I described Andrei's work, the subsequent spider bite, and the three days of transformation. I then told them about my attempt to get a new identity and my ultimate escape from Ukraine. I sighed heavily. "I know how this must sound, but I swear it is all true." Without saying a word, the three men left me alone.

About an hour later they returned. "We are going to ask you to submit to a few tests." A few meant several hundred over the next five days. I was fingerprinted and my DNA was taken. I had vision tests, drug tests, radiation tests, and hearing tests. I was tested for strength, speed, and reflexes, which I was surprised had all increased some from my tests with Andrei. I was tested on languages and military training, including firearms, under very tight security mind you. I was totally and thoroughly mentally exhausted.

After the testing I was led back into the large room with the three men. Brody again spoke first. "You told us a very interesting story, which, I am amazed to say all checks out. At Saburo's suggestion, we sampled DNA from specific places on your body that would have remained after a neurotoxin DNA replacement. These are places where a thick build up of dead skin would not have been affected. Over time, these dead cells would have been replaced with new ones. We sampled DNA from two such areas, your heels and the tips of your hair. Both came back as a positive DNA match for Stan Levi. Your new DNA and fingerprints, match Alicia Levi. Just so you know, we sent FBI agents to the Levi residence to collect DNA samples. It appears, that as ludicrous as your story sounds, that there is no evidence to suggest you have not spoken the truth to us. In a way, I am a little jealous as it appears you have added thirty years to your life and I would love to do the same, albeit without changing sexes."

Next, Saburo spoke. "I worked with Andrei in the very laboratory you visited. When Chernobyl melted down, I used the chaos that ensued to defect to the United States. When the radiation alarm went off the immigrations people sent me the readings. You had two very distinct radioactivity registrations. The first was from spending time at the Chernobyl site. The second was from the spider neurotoxin, which has a very unique signature. Don't worry, as you cannot harm others with your radiation, as the levels are far too low. The sensors here are very sensitive. At first, I was very skeptical of what you were saying. Both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. had attempted the same experiments and both had abandoned them. I anticipate that the spider that bit you had been absorbing additional radiation for the past thirty years, modifying the toxins beyond anything we could imagine. You are completely unique in how you were able to survive. I would love to meet once again with Andrei. He is a good man."

I still had not spoken yet and now Mark Hamilton had his first chance to speak. "Your arrival here has sparked much interest. Ukraine is not aware you have arrived. We have never had a military extradition request from the Ukraine before. You, young lady, as I'm told you are definitely one hundred percent female now, have the potential to cause an international incident. I can see why they want you back. You could be an incredible asset to any government with your knowledge and skills. Did you know that your marksmanship was on the same level of our very best in the country? Your hand-to-hand combat skills are the same. Combined with your incredible reflexes, speed, and strength, you could wipe out a small army single handedly. The CIA and the United States needs to understand where your sovereign loyalty lies."

"You know, Stan Lee once wrote, 'With great power there must also be great responsibility.' I've lived my life mainly for myself and those immediately around me. The past few years, and the past few weeks in particular, have shown me that I've been too self-centered. I have much to offer and I have relied upon the sacrifices of too many people for my own freedoms. My loyalty lies with my family and my country, the United States."

Mark Hamilton spoke once more. "Then, by the power of the United States government, we welcome you, Anastasia Alicia Levi, as a fully vetted American citizen. I would like you to consider working for the CIA. In this post 9-11 world, our citizens could greatly benefit from your service. If you acquiesce, you would need to go through basic service training. Of course, we would have to keep your skills and enhancements very much a secret." "I would like that very much. Assuming I was instated, I would like to work out of southern Spain. I owe a great debt to my in-laws and I want to be close to take care of them. In a way, I also see that location as being strategically close to terrorism centers around the Middle East, Africa, and Europe." "I'm sure that can be arranged. I'd just recommend you stay away from Ukraine. As it is, they will be hunting for you."

Brody then extended his hand to mine, "Welcome home. I will contact all the necessary agencies to convert your estate into your name and make sure you have all the proper documentation. Oh, you might need these." He handed me my belongings and an additional envelope. I opened it to see a Virginia driver's license. "I think you might need that to help you get around. We anticipated your acceptance based upon the history and character references we did on Stan Levi."

Eighteen months later I was standing on my family's veranda overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I had purchased the home as a base for myself but also for Natasha and Andrei. Gentle sea breezes ruffled my dress against my smooth legs. I'm not sure I will ever get enough of that feeling. My phone rang and I knew by the number it was work. I answered without speaking, then hung up a few minutes later. Apparently there were American hostages being held by ISIS in Syria and they needed my help. I was very glad I could do so.

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