Identity Crisis - Chapter 3/10: When the Student is Ready...

Chris (as Prodigious Girl) finally meets Prodigy and convinces the aging hero to let him become the old man’s new sidekick. But winning Prodigy’s trust may be even more difficult than surviving his tutelage!

By Jenny North
Artwork by Fraylim and Splutt

Still prone on the rooftop, I flexed my aching muscles and snapped the tanglewire that had wrapped itself around me, at least enough to get myself loose. After I finished pulling it from around my boots, Prodigy leaned over and held out his hand. At first I thought he was offering me a hand up when he snapped his fingers and pointed at the grenade lying on the ground next to me that had failed to go off.

"Give that here," he said.

Nonplussed, I handed him the device, which he inspected.

"Disappointing," he muttered.

"What was it supposed to do?" I asked as I hauled myself to my feet.

"I was talking about you." He put the device back into his belt and looked me up and down. "How old are you?" he asked.

I'd actually been wondering the same thing about him. I was having trouble placing his age, especially since he was wearing the mask, but he was definitely north of sixty, maybe pushing seventy. He was in excellent shape for a guy that old—like one of those aging action heroes in the movies—but still.

"I'm sixteen," I said.

"Ye gods, what are they—"

"—feeding kids these days," I finished. I held out my hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir, my name is—"

"I know who you are. Kinda cheeky to go around calling yourself my sidekick, don't you think?" he challenged. He looked me over and shook his head. "'Prodigious Girl.' You're not big on irony, are you?"

I cleared my throat quietly. "Yeah, I'm sorry for not contacting you sooner. You're a hard man to reach."

"Uh huh," he said flatly. "So, hit me."

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I looked at him, perplexed. "What, you mean like hit you, hit you—?" I said, holding up my fists uncertainly.

He rolled his eyes. "In your dreams. No, hit me with your little speech."

"Sorry?"

"You know the one. The one you've been rehearsing for this moment, to try and convince me to take you on. My advice? Make it good."

My mouth went dry and my head was still spinning from the earlier fight, the shrieker grenade...oh, and the concussion grenade... I blinked and shook my head as he looked at me impatiently. I tried to remember what I'd written.

"Um, ever since I was little—"

"Skip forward."

"Oh. Uh, when I got my powers—"

"More."

"The public trust—"

"Ugh, further."

"Um, so in conclusion, I just...really want to learn from an experienced hero," I said. "I really look up to you." I pressed my lips into a little pout, figuring it might help win the old man over.

Prodigy's eyes narrowed to slits and he walked right up to me and fixed me with a piercing gaze. "You mean you want me to give you my name when I die."

I was speechless. "I—I don't—" I stammered. Then I had a terrible thought. "Are you psychic?"

"No, but I'm not an idiot, either," he shot back. "A cute little piece of jailbait comes prancing along and cozies up to me, what the hell else would you be here for?"

"I'm not jailbait," I retorted indignantly.

"Don't contradict me, girl. You're whatever I say you are. If you don't like it, you can waggle your fat ass out of here and peddle your crap to some other hero."

"Fine," I grumbled. And my ass was not fat. Plump, maybe, but not fat. Jerk.

"What was that?"

"I said fine! God!" Ugh, less than five minutes with this guy and already I sounded like a whiny teenage girl.

"'Prodigy' will do," the old man said with a smirk. "Feh. 'Prodigy.' I never even wanted that name. I wanted something old school and heroic, like 'Dynamo' or 'Laser Lord.' Fucking registration system."

I nodded sympathetically.

He looked me up and down and shook his head. "Yeah, I'll pass. I don't need a kewpie doll."

"I don't know what that is, but I think I'm offended."

"And what makes you think I'd want to pass my mantle down to a skanky little mallrat like you, anyway?"

I hesitated. Prodigy came off as a grade A misogynist, so I didn't think my would-be mentor would react well to knowing that the girl he was barking insults at was actually a guy, so I figured I'd best keep that tidbit to myself.

"Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't be a hero," I replied haughtily.

"Let me guess. You couldn't make the pep squad so you thought you'd try being a heroine to get the boys to notice you in your slutty little costume?"

"That is not why I want to be a superhero," I said emphatically. "And my costume is not slutty!" I added as I tugged at the hem of my miniskirt. "It's fashionable."

"Well when you walk into a hail of armor-piercing rounds tits first, you let me know how that fashion works out for you."

Oh, that's how it was going to be, huh? Well, fine, I decided. "I've done okay so far," I told him. "And you and I both know that we wouldn't even be having this conversation if you didn't think I had potential." I stood toe to toe with him and stared at him defiantly.

"You seriously want to throw down again?"

"If I have to."

"You've gotten your ass kicked twice today already, you sure you want to go for a third?"

"Day's just getting started, old man," I said.

He regarded me carefully and then broke into a tiny little smile. "All right. Come with me."

"W-what, you mean now?"

"Of course, now. You have better plans?"

I gave a little shrug. "Sleep. School." I wasn't very articulate, but I think I managed to convey the essence of my argument. "Sleep," I repeated.

"Welcome to the life of a superhero."

"Which won't last if I'm always getting detention for skipping class."

He grumbled. "Fine, this will only take a few hours. After that you can snuggle up with your boyfriend in homeroom and fall asleep in his arms."

"I don't have a boyfriend," I said through gritted teeth.

"Good. That was number seven on the questionnaire. C'mon."



I flew after him as he rappelled down into a nearby alley. I had to admit he was pretty athletic, but the thought of a guy that age fighting crime gave me pause. I'd had my butt kicked by those two street punks earlier that night, and even with my invulnerability and healing I knew I'd still feel the bruises for days. How the heck was Prodigy able to survive out there? He'd schooled me, certainly, but that was a sneak attack after I was already beat-up and distracted.

We reached the bottom of the alley and that was the first time I got to see the car. It was actually pretty cool. It was a small two-seater with sleek lines and painted a midnight blue that looked almost black.

"Neat," I said.

"I'm glad you approve," he said sarcastically. (Actually, dear Reader, maybe you can do me a favor. Anytime I say, "he said," just go ahead and mentally add the words, "sarcastically," "derisively," or "disapprovingly." It'll save me some time and my publisher assures me that I'm not being paid by the word.)

"So, what do you call it? Is it like the Prodigymobile, or something? Wait, that's dumb. Maybe like 'The Midnight.'"

He looked at me like I was an escaped mental patient. "I call it the car. Now get in the goddamn car."

I shut up and quietly slipped into the passenger seat. The inside of the car wasn't nearly as impressive as the outside, and what little there was of the back seat was cluttered with all kinds of equipment and junk I didn't recognize. The dashboard was almost unrecognizable...when I'd gotten in I was expecting to see something more like the cockpit of a fighter plane or at least some fake wood paneling, but instead it was haphazardly covered with knobs and switches, like a junior high science fair project run amok. I half expected my seat to be covered in fast food wrappers.

"What?" Prodigy snapped, obviously reading my face.

"Nothing," I responded quickly. Then, trying to make conversation, I offered, "Did you make all this yourself?" He didn't respond and just twisted around in his seat and rummaged around for something in back, so I quietly buckled my seat belt. "So, does it do things, like the Astromobile?"

He stopped and looked me in the face. "Let's get one thing straight. That asshole Arcturus is an asshole and a dilettante who even had the gall to install a wet bar in his car to help pick up superheroines."

I glanced away nervously.

"Oh, I bet you're wondering why I used the word 'asshole' twice," he said. "Do you want to be my sidekick?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Here's your first lesson. Arcturus is such a tremendous asshole that it is grammatically incorrect to refer to him without using the word 'asshole' at least twice in the same sentence. You got that?"

"Yes."

"You sure? You don't want a pen and paper to write it down?"

"I think I can remember."

"Good girl. Okay, look here."

"Look at wha—" I said as he held up a small device in front of my face. Suddenly there was a blinding flash. "AAAAHH! I can't see!"

"Yeah, that's kind of the point," he said as I heard him start the car.

"I'm blind!"

"Oh, relax, it'll wear off in a few minutes. Just long enough to get where we're going."

The streets of Faraday City were pretty empty at that hour of night, but there were apparently still enough cars on the road to piss Prodigy off—which as you may have surmised wasn't too hard to do—and he drove just a wee bit aggressively.

"Get off the road, you idiot!" he shouted as he swerved violently and I held on for dear life. Between the seat belt and my invulnerability I figured I'd probably survive a crash, but being totally blind on a terrifying roller coaster ride being operated by a madman...well, I was a little tense.

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"Jesus Christ, does the word 'taxi' mean 'student driver' in your country?!?" he yelled as we went careening into another turn.

By the time we came screeching to a halt, my eyesight started to return, as promised. ("Though you may not be able to see the number six for ten or twelve hours," he informed me. "No idea why that is.") And as I climbed out of the car, I saw where he'd taken me.

It was...a garage. It was sizable and all the windows were blacked out so I had no idea where it was, but it was basically just a large messy mechanic's garage. At first I thought it might have been like a safe house or something, but as I looked around at all the tools and equipment I saw some cluttered work benches nearby that had bits and pieces of electronic devices scattered around that resembled the gadgets he'd used on me. On the floor and along the walls were various canisters covered with prominent warning labels that were strewn haphazardly about, and over in one corner I saw a large video screen wired into a tangle of cables that I assumed to be some kind of computer. As I watched, Prodigy approached it and dug a keyboard out of the mess of wires and started typing.

"I know, you're speechless," he said.

"It's magical," I deadpanned. "What is this, steampunk?"

"Missy, this is how the sausage gets made. Contrary to your experience, being a hero isn't all hair bows and lipstick."

"Well that's good, because I don't wear a hair b—hey!" I cried as Prodigy yanked hard on my hair. If I'd been a normal girl it probably would have hurt like hell, but my invulnerability was good for something.

"It's not a wig, if that's what you're trying to figure out," I said, fighting to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

"I know what a wig looks like," he said as he examined his empty fingers. "Good," he muttered, "no loose hairs. I don't want you dropping DNA evidence everywhere."

"DNA?"

"Don't you kids watch Law & Order anymore? Yes, genius. In case you hadn't noticed, we operate at crime scenes. The cops and pretty much everybody you fight will be cataloging your every sneeze."

"I thought we worked with the cops."

"Work with, not for. Big difference. And you should assume that any DNA you leave lying around could be planted later to frame you for a crime."

"That happens?"

"Drop by The Pen during visiting hours and ask Miss Justice what she thinks."

"Are you saying she was framed?" I knew that was a big story at the time, some kind of break-in gone bad with a couple dead guards. She'd vociferously professed her innocence, but there had been a public uproar about the dangers of heroes run amok. It was one of the big things that had led to the registration system.

"I'm saying she was sloppy so we'll probably never know. Hold still." He approached me with a hypodermic needle.

"What's that for?"

"Blood sample. I want a baseline before you do something stupid like getting infected with some Thallonian super-virus."

He held my arm still and I scoffed at the little needle. "Yeah, well, I hope you brought something bigger than—OW!" Unlike the hair pull earlier, that did hurt! I looked at him in bewilderment.

"Surgical micro laser built in," he explained as he drew the blood. "You're not the toughest person I've had to deal with." He withdrew the needle and paused to look at me. "What's your blood type, anyway?"

"A-positive, I think." I used to joke that it was proof of how awesome I was, but I hesitated when I realized that was my blood type as Chris. As Prodigious Girl I'd cobbled my look together from various girls in my school, and Caleb's jibes notwithstanding it did seem like I may have also inadvertently copied their own raging teenage hormones. It wasn't that big a jump to wonder if I may have changed my blood type in the process.

"Feh. That's no use to me," Prodigy grunted.

"For what?"

"Battlefield transfusion. My kingdom for a universal donor."

Based on his sour disposition I guessed his blood type was probably B-negative. (I'm here all week, folks.)

In point of fact, I wondered if my shapeshifting power might allow me to do just that, but it didn't seem wise to volunteer that as the more I saw of Prodigy the more certain I was that he didn't have my best interests at heart. I figured my nascent metamorphosis ability was something to keep as an ace up my sleeve and decided to keep it to myself at least until he proved himself trustworthy. And based on his misogynistic comments I wasn't in a hurry to out myself as a teenage guy in this girl's body...I doubted he'd be particularly open-minded or sympathetic to my plight. So as far as he was concerned, I was just another teenage superheroine.

"Okay, hop up on the table, drop your drawers, and put your feet in the stirrups," he said.

"WHAT?!?"

He made a jeering little laugh. "I'm just messing with you, princess. You seriously need to relax."

Over the next few hours, he ran me through a battery of tests and questions. The medical questions were okay and made sense once he explained that the purpose was to have a baseline health profile in case I was ever exposed to some bizarre alien spores or I ate one of Tinsel's famous choco-nut brownies and I had a peanut allergy. Although some of the questions did make me a bit uncomfortable. ("Are you on the pill?" "Ummm..." "When was the last time you had your period?" "UMMM...")

There were some psych profile questions in there as well, but where I got really nervous was with the biographical questions. I reluctantly told him some non-specific details like what part of town I lived in and what school I went to, but the questions started to get pretty pointed.

"Name," he said.

"Um...Prodigious Girl."

"No kidding. But unless your parents were unusually forward-thinking and had a weird sense of humor, I'm guessing that's not what they called you."

I crossed my arms. "I'm not telling you my secret identity."

"Listen, cupcake, if you applied for a minimum wage job at the mall selling bras you'd tell them more than that just to get the employee discount. You and I need to trust each other with our lives out there, and the time to start building that trust is now."

"Fine. You tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine."

"That crap may be how you score a peek at some horny boy's wiener, but just in case there's any question here, you need to prove yourself to me and not the other way around, sunshine. And around here, this is what the pyramid of trust looks like," he said, holding his hand at eye level. "Up here at the top of the pyramid, this is me." He held it there for a moment and then dropped his hand.

"That's not much of a pyramid."

"You're not much of a sidekick. Name?"

I locked eyes with him for a long moment. "Fine, but I'm only giving you my first name. You need to earn my trust, too."

He raised an eyebrow.

"It's..." I wasn't about to give him my real name, but I was so exhausted that my brain just shut down as I tried to think of any kind of alternative. I tried to think of the names of women in my life, and my sleep-deprived brain came back with: Mom, Grandma, and Mrs. Shapiro. Damn it, stupid good-for-nothing brain. My eyes darted around as I looked at objects in front of me and tried to form a girl's name: Computerella, Deskina, Wrenchie, Testy Oldman... Ugh, why was I always making important decisions when I was tired? Then my eyes fell on the car. "Car...Carly."

"Carly." He didn't sound convinced.

I nodded vigorously. "Yeah, just—just Carly. Not short for Caroline or anything."

His face was maddeningly inscrutable.

"Fine," he said as he pulled out his IntelliComm unit and pushed a button. My own I-Comm unit beeped in response. "There. Now we can contact each other. I've brought you to my private little hideaway and I even gave you a ride in my car. That enough of a trust-building exercise for one day?"

I sighed a little. Maybe this would work, after all. "Yeah," I smiled.

"Good. Now here, check this out."

I brightened up. "Sure, what is i—"

That's the last thing I saw before he blinded me again with that stupid device.

"Dammit!"

* * * * *

Prodigy packed me into the car again and—after another harrowing and profanity-laden drive—finally kicked me out not far from where he'd picked me up. My vision had started to return and through bleary eyes I saw him speed away as I heard the sounds of traffic in the distance. I was absolutely exhausted both physically and emotionally and I paused for a moment to take a deep cleansing breath as I admired the beautiful cloudless blue sky with the bright shining sun that hung low over the horizon.

But not low enough.

"Oh, crap," I swore as I checked the time.

I arrived at school a full forty minutes late and even my first period teacher was impressed by my gall as she directed me to the Principal's office to get a tardy slip. I'd never even gotten a tardy slip before and I didn't even know what the process was, so I was told to take a seat while they got to me. But as I sat there surrounded by the school's usual ruffians, scalawags, and undesirables, it struck me how sheltered my life had been. And now here I was, lumped in with the bad crowd. Forever branded as a renegade and malcontent. A rebel with his first tardy slip.

A few seats away a couple bullies were talking to each other. I recognized one of them as Ashton Raleigh, a mouth breather who had even terrorized me on a few occasions. Ever since I'd gotten my powers I'd harbored a secret fantasy that he'd try something and I'd get some sweet revenge. Ash came from money and had a chip on his shoulder that even my super-strength couldn't lift. His parents decided to send him to public school as a character-building exercise, for which his victims—myself included—remained eternally grateful. The guy sitting next to him was Wade McGrath, who was never far from Ash's side and whose primary purpose in life seemed to be Ash's yes-man, a skill that would doubtless serve him well in later life.

"It's horse shit, it what it is," Ash said to Wade.

"Language, Mr. Raleigh," the secretary said imperiously.

Ash glared at her but lowered his voice. "Weeks of work, wasted! And then Tits McGee is all like, 'Ooh, well at least they're in jail, that's the important thing.' Man, if her boobs were brains she'd be a rocket scientist."

My bag slipped out of my numb fingers.

Ash and Wade looked in my direction. "Fuck are you looking at, Patterson?"

"Language!"

I stared at them wide-eyed. "N-nothing," I stammered as I fumbled with my bag and dropped it again, spilling my books on the floor. They both scoffed and quietly returned to their conversation as I kept sneaking glances at the two of them.



That afternoon after school Caleb and I went to his house and we went up to his room, closed the door, and I told him everything. The big fight at the warehouse. Meeting Prodigy. Learning that Blaze and Triggerhappy were really Ash and Wade.

He sat quietly through it and waited for me to finish. When I was done, I looked at him and waited for a reaction.

"Let me get this straight," he said after a moment. "You told him your name was Carly?" he said, laughing.

"That's that part that surprises you?"

"Oh, my God, that's hilarious," he laughed. "And yeah, I kinda always kinda pegged Ash as some kind of evil supervillain type. Or maybe he just acts like an asshole in real life as a cover for being a hero."

"I'm pretty sure it's the other way around."

"Well, you'll probably won't be teaming up with him now that you're hooked up with Prodigy, right?" he pointed out. "So, you think the old man'll give you his name?"

"I dunno. I don't think I've got any other competition, at least."

"How's he seem health wise? Guy that old has to have arthritis or a goiter or something."

"He seemed pretty spry. With my luck he'll last another twenty years."

"Maybe Methuselah will break a hip or something. Fingers crossed," he said. "Do you think he'll let you drive the car, at least? You told him you were sixteen, right?"

"He said it wasn't a question of my age. He said it was an issue of demonstrating a mastery of simian proctological avionics."

Caleb's brow furrowed. "So he'll let you drive the car when monkeys fly out of your butt?"

"Pretty much."

"Does the car do anything cool, at least?"

"Not sure. It's packed to the gills with all this crap he made himself, but it all looks like junk."

He nodded and considered that. "Well, maybe he at least has a handicapped tag to get a good parking space."

* * * * *

I was in History class when my cell phone beeped. I'd linked it wirelessly with my I-Comm hero communicator so it wouldn't look strange when I got messages, and from the ring tone I'd chosen I knew that Prodigious Girl had received an incoming message. My teacher shot me a dirty look as I scrambled to silence the device, but as I read the message I knew there were bigger problems than Attila's invasion of the Sassanid Empire. (I imagine the Sassanids might disagree with me on that point, but you get the idea.)

Fortunately my next period was lunch, and I grabbed Caleb and yanked him out of the lunch line. "Dude, I need your help!" I whispered.

He pointed back at the line. "But...today's mac and cheese."

"It's an emergency!" I said quietly but emphatically as our classmate Roger Alvarez paused to look at us. He was a swell guy, but very nosy. But when Caleb continued to stare at me blankly, I leaned close and whispered, "This looks like a job for..."

"Oh. OH!" he said as his eyes went wide. "Y'know, we really need to establish some kind of code word for that. Like, Jell-O, or grilled cheese, or tater tots..." he said, eyeing the lunch counter. "Wow, they have tater tots today, too?"

"Caleb!"

"Right! Okay, I'm with you. What's up?"

I dragged him off to the side and showed him the message. "Prodigy is sending a car over to pick me up right after school!"

"Okay. So?"

"Not me as Prodigious Girl," I hissed. "Me!"

"I thought he didn't know you were really a guy?"

"He doesn't!"

"Ooh. Awkward."

I grabbed him by the arm. "Look, I need you to run home and get some of your sister's clothes. I'll change into PG and put on the clothes, and then I'll leave with the crowd like I'm just another girl at school."

"Why me? Why can't you just whoosh on home and get your mom's clothes?" he said as he made a swooping motion with his hand.

"My mom's been working at home, remember? She'd hear me come in. And you live close to school. Besides, I've got a Trig test next period."

"Yeah, well, I've got important stuff going on, too, y'know!"

"Such as?"

"I've got Home Ec next period." When I shot him a look he added, "They're making brownies today!"

"Would you quit thinking with your stomach?"

"I'm not! Lauren Becker makes the world's most ghastly brownies. I've arranged for us to be partners, and I'm thinking she's going to need some consoling afterward," he said as he flashed his eyebrows.

"Caleb!"

"Oh, all right," he groaned. "Y'know, when I agreed to help you with this I never imagined myself cutting class to go rummage through my sister's clothes so my friend would have something pretty to wear for his after-school dates."

"It's a magical experience for me, too."

"Hey, I fully support your dream of being a superhero. But I have my own dreams!"

"Caleb, I really don't have time for this."

"Oh, that's nice. What kind of superhero are you that you can't make time to support someone's dreams?"

"Ugh, fine," I grumbled. "What's your dream?"

"I think the supportiveness would seem more genuine without the eye rolling."

I glared at him impatiently.

"Okay! My dream"—he paused for dramatic effect—"is to someday help save the city—"

"That's very noble," I nodded as I started to leave.

"—and also to hang out with cute teenage superheroines," he added. "Hey, you're rolling your eyes again."



We arranged to meet at a unisex bathroom on the far side of the school that was seldom used and its proximity to the teachers' lounge made it an unlikely hangout for anybody else who might be cutting class. I was starting to get nervous when Caleb finally showed up carrying a backpack.

"Okay, that was beyond creepy," he said as he handed me the bag and we ducked inside the bathroom. The designers apparently couldn't decide whether it was for a single occupant or not as it was fairly spacious for one person and inexplicably had a single toilet stall designed for handicapped access. I wasn't sure why a single-person bathroom also needed a stall, but right now I wasn't complaining.

Caleb then volunteered, "I got you a few outfits I think you could fit into. I also got you some shoes and stuff."

"Good thinking," I said as I dug through the bag. The first thing I pulled out was a short little bubblegum pink spring dress covered in white flowers. I held it up accusingly. "Caleb, I'm not a flower girl at a wedding!"

"Well I couldn't very well steal clothes that she wears every day!" he objected. "I had to take things I didn't think she'd miss."

"Great," I muttered as I locked myself into the toilet stall and hoped that his other choices were better. I took off my clothes and shapeshifted into my Prodigious Girl form and continued going through the bag. It wasn't long before I realized I had another problem.

I opened the door a crack and peeked outside the stall. "Hey," I whispered.

His face lit up as he saw me. "Holy cow, are you naked like that?" he grinned. "C'mon out, I want to see."

"Shut up, you perv!" I told him. "Where's the underwear?"

"I didn't get any."

"What?"

"Dude, I wasn't about to go rummaging around in my sister's panty drawer! Just wear your guy underwear."

"Okay, but what about...up top?"

He looked at me incredulously. "Oh, sure, like you'd be able to fit into anything that Lori wears. Just make do."

I made a little grumble and ducked back inside. After a couple minutes I found a plain light yellow T-shirt I was able to squeeze into and a short skirt. There were two pairs of high heels that I didn't want to chance, but there were some low-heeled sandals that seemed to work. However, I was enormously self-conscious about my bosom, which the shirt clung to like a second skin.

"So, how's this look?" I said as I opened the door.

At first Caleb was all smiles, but as I fully emerged and he got a good look at me, his eyes went wide in shock and he quickly looked down at the floor and shielded his eyes with his hand. "Okay! That—that is not gonna work!" he stammered.

"Why? What is it? What's wrong?" I'd never seen him like that and it kind of threw me.

"You are really—out there!"

Puzzled, I turned to check my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and the comically shocked expression on my girl's face matched Caleb's almost perfectly. The shirt was much too small for me and between the thin clingy material and light color of the fabric, it wasn't hiding anything and it was really obvious I wasn't wearing a bra. I instinctively crossed my hands over my bosom and ducked back into the stall.

"I'll try the dress!"

"Yep! Good idea. You do that. Try the dress."

A few minutes later I sheepishly emerged and Caleb peeked at me through his fingers. But slowly he lowered his hands as he got a good look at me. "That's not bad..." he offered.

As I looked at my reflection, I didn't much agree but at least the floral pattern was preventing me from violating any decency laws. The dress was short and flirty and showed a lot of leg and the clingy top put my breasts on prominent display, but it had a high neckline so at least I wasn't flashing my cleavage for a change. I thought the whole thing looked entirely too girly for something a real girl would wear to school, but I didn't have a lot of choice.

"Here," Caleb said as he retrieved an item from another pocket of the backpack. "Put this on. I found it with our Halloween stuff."

He handed me a long golden-blonde wig with hair that was nearly as long as the black hair I had as Prodigious Girl. "What's this for?" I asked.

"Well, he's expecting to see you in your secret identity, right? I figured if you were a real girl, you might wear this so you'd look different."

"Oh. Good idea." I nodded and fussed with my hair, trying to get it all under the cap of the wig. After a minute, I stood up straight and gave the hair of my wig a little toss as I turned to look at him. "How's this look?"

His expression was one of pure awe. "I was wrong," he said. "We definitely should have made you a blonde."

I made a little face, but as I turned to look at the mirror, I had to admit the effect was striking. Between the blonde hair and the flirty flowered dress, I didn't look much like Prodigious Girl at all.

"I look like a Barbie doll," I grumped.

"Yeah, well, it's a good look on you," Caleb said admiringly.

Just then the final bell rang, so I gathered up my bag and looked at him. "I gotta run. Thanks."

"Sure thing. Though if you're feeling appreciative, feel free to put a little extra wiggle in your walk when you go down the hall."

"Perv," I said, giving him a little smile as I headed out the door.



By the time I got outside there was already a mass of students milling around and chatting with friends. I did my best to blend in with the crowd but I soon discovered that looking as I did it seemed like "unobtrusive" wasn't going to be in the cards, especially without a bra to restrain my sprightly bosom. Several guys nudged their friends and stopped to check me out when they spotted me, and a couple cliques of girls gave me dirty looks as I walked past and I distinctly heard the word "slut." Blushing furiously, I reached across my chest with my arm to clutch at the strap of my backpack with both hands and attempted to discreetly control the bouncing of my unrestrained breasts.

I pushed forward and tried to ignore the looks of everyone around me as I walked towards the cars and wondered what it was I was supposed to be looking for. Then, conspicuous amongst the line of cars, I spotted a taxi and wandered closer. The cab seemed unremarkable, so I bent over at the passenger window and felt acutely aware how the maneuver caused me to present my boobs to the driver. At least with the high neckline I wasn't showing off a yard of cleavage, but given the shortness of my skirt, I suddenly realized that it was quite probable that I was giving the people behind me a show.

"Hi, I'm...Carly?" I said.

"Get in," the guy said with a leer.

As I slipped in the back of the cab I felt strangely vulnerable in my outfit, which was an unusual feeling for me. I could easily tear the door off the car and if the driver tried anything he was definitely in for the fight of his life. But as I sat there in my little dress and absently played with the blonde hairs of my wig, I felt weirdly self-conscious. It was one thing to be a superhero, but it felt weird to pretend I was just an ordinary girl. For once I found myself looking forward to being in my form-fitting costume as Prodigious Girl, especially since the cabbie seemed determined to hit every single bump and pothole on the road and it was causing parts of my body to become quite frolicsome.

When the cab finally stopped I noticed that we were in a run-down part of town. There was almost nobody on the street, and the few people that I could see were definitely not the sorts of characters I'd have wanted to meet before I got my powers. And it was clear that somebody who looked like I did was definitely going to be out of place. The cabbie seemed to notice it, too.

"You sure you wanna get out here?" the guy asked as he looked at me in the rear-view mirror. I don't think it was my imagination that it was angled to get a view lower than my face.

"Less and less," I muttered as I looked up and down the street and gathered up my bag.

"Well, if you wanna go anyplace else, it'll cost ya. This is as far as I got paid for."

I climbed out and as I shut the door the taxi sped off quickly. I can't say I blamed him. Unsure what to do, I stood there and waited for Prodigy to show up or something to happen, but after a few minutes of nervously plucking at my skirt I gathered that the next move was supposed to be mine. I noticed that some guys were walking down the sidewalk in my direction so I headed off the opposite way as I considered my options but I hadn't taken ten steps before I saw a few other guys walking towards me from the other way, too. They didn't look like they were spoiling for a fight, but dressed as I was I felt sure I was in for some trouble. Was that Prodigy's game? To see how I'd handle myself without blowing my secret identity?

Then I noticed a familiar sound, a low electric thrumming noise that I'd heard before. I turned to orient myself and positioned myself so that it came from off to my left and found myself facing a nondescript building that looked abandoned. With both sets of guys getting closer and now nudging each other and laughing as they spotted me, I took a chance and went inside.

The door was heavier than it looked and the dim room had a musty odor that was mixed with machine oil. As the door swung shut behind me, it did so silently until it clicked shut with a solid noise that belied its derelict facade.

"Took you long enough," Prodigy growled from inside the garage. "I thought you were going to start trolling for johns out there."

"You could have just sent me the address."

"Yeah, I could, except that you flying up to the front door all tits and miniskirts isn't exactly conducive to maintaining a secret location. Though I have to admit I also didn't expect you to come dressed like you were going to a garden party at the country club. This is what you wear to school every day?"

"It's laundry day. It was down to either this or my footie pajamas with the kittens."

"Yeah, well, suit up, 'cause it's time to see what you can do."



My tutelage under Prodigy's watchful eye was...awkward. And painful. "Seeing what I was capable of" was apparently a euphemism for "agonizing discovery of how much punishment I could endure, both physically and psychologically." I tried to follow his lead, but pretty quickly we fell into a pattern. I'd go in and get the villain's attention, he'd hang back while I took my lumps, and if I was lucky he'd outflank the bad guy and take him down. If I wasn't so lucky, his gadgets would fritz out, leaving me to get pummeled while he worked out a Plan B.

I confess that after a while of this, I may have started to get just the tiniest bit snarky. (Hard to believe, I know.)

* * * * *

Prodigy got word of a silent alarm that was striggered at a bank and we quickly responded and were apparently the first ones on the scene. I didn't hear anything unusual coming from inside, but we quietly entered to see the telltale signs of destruction as someone had obviously done some damage on the way in. For a moment I thought we might have been too late until I noticed a few of the bank employees lying on the ground and making insistent glances towards the vault as they saw us enter.

We made our way over to the vault and heard someone arguing inside. But as I turned the corner to block the entrance and I saw them, I rolled my eyes. Inside was a blonde in a skimpy metal armored bikini with a figure that put mine to shame, a villainess who called herself Nymphobrainiac. I didn't remember much about her except that she was neither as stupid nor as smart as her name might suggest. And right next to her inside the vault was her poodle. (And no, that's not an autocorrect mistake for "powerhouse" or anything. You read it right the first time. Poodle.)

IC_Ch03_03-small.jpg

"Shut up, I know what I'm doing," she said to the dog. "I need to find the diamonds so that I can improve the processing on the optical—"

I laughed. "Let me get this straight. You bring your dog with you on heists so you can make yourself feel smart when you explain things to her?"

IC_Ch03_04-small.jpg

She turned to look at me and glanced at Prodigy. "Why not? That's why he brings you."

"Hey!"

"She's not wrong," Prodigy said.

"HEY!"

She quickly unholstered a weird-looking gun and shot at us, and the energized particle beam made a dangerous-sounding hiss as it vaporized the air next to my head. I quickly ducked for cover outside the vault.

"She's got a gun!" I yelled.

"Of course she's got a gun! How did you not see it?" Prodigy snapped.

"I don't know, her butt's like a mile wide!"

"I heard that!" she yelled from inside the vault as two more shots sizzled past and disintegrated a nearby desk chair.

"Okay, screw this. I've got miss sassy pants, you take Fifi," I said as I dove headlong into the vault. I hadn't taken two steps before the poodle was on top of me, practically foaming at the mouth. Unfortunately for me it was a lot stronger than it looked and the impact of its charge slammed me against the wall of the vault with such force that I saw stars. The dog then bit my arm hard enough to draw blood—despite my supposedly invulnerable skin!—and I cried out in pain.

"Get out of the way, idiot!" I heard Nymphobrainiac yell as she tried to aim at me without hitting the dog. Another shot sizzled inches over my head.

"Or what the hell, I can get both of them!" I yelled, wondering what was keeping the old man. "Why don't you just go take some Metamucil and fall asleep in front of the Weather Channel!"

I tried to grab on to the dog's muzzle to pry it loose, but it shook its head violently and I lost my grip. "AAAHHH!" I screamed as it bit down harder.

"Okay, I hope the ASPCA doesn't find out about this!" I yelled as I slammed the dog against the wall with enough force to dent the metal. But out of the corner of my eye I saw the dog's mistress lining up a shot and I knew she had me dead to rights.

Just then there was the soft tapping sound of metal on metal and a small sphere rolled into the vault.

Not sure what to do, I ducked down, closed my eyes and braced myself as I held up my arm to shield myself with the only object I had: the poodle that had established a death grip on my forearm. It wasn't exactly an indestructible star-spangled vibranium shield, but it seemed able to take a punch.

The explosion proved to be more light and sound than actual damage, but fortunately my improvised poodle shield took the brunt of the attack. Nymphobrainiac, however, was temporarily blinded and took a wild shot in my direction that nailed Fluffy right in the back. The dog howled with pain and finally let go of me as it collapsed in a heap on the floor.

I took the opportunity to duck outside the vault to regroup, and as I did so I shot an angry look at my mentor. "Glad to see you decided to join in."

"Her gun only has five shots, genius," he shot back.

"Shit!" we heard from inside the vault as Nymphobrainiac realized she was empty.

"Oh. Oops," I said, realizing I'd jumped the gun, literally. "Okay, so what else can she—OOOFF!" I barely had time to react as a speeding blonde missile slammed into me, apparently every bit as strong and fast as her pooch was. We went sailing into the bank and crashed into the teller stations.

"She's also really strong," Prodigy deadpanned.

"Got that! Thanks!" I called as she slugged me with enough force to heft a Buick, but fortunately I was prepared for it this time and managed to stand my ground. I looked at her skimpy metal bikini "armor" and decided to pull my punch as I returned the blow to her unprotected solar plexus, fearing I might shatter her bones if I wasn't careful.

Her teasing smirk told me I needn't have worried. "So now we've established that you hit like a girl," she said.

I took the kid gloves off and the two of us smashed at each other in earnest and we grappled and destroyed furniture as we rolled around on the floor of the bank. At one point she had her hands around my throat and was choking me as I desperately tried to break her grip, and we were both momentarily startled by a sudden flash of light off to one side.

IC_Ch03_05-small.jpg

Still locked in our hold, we stopped and turned to see a middle-aged guy standing there. We looked at him in confusion and he held up his camera and said, "Hey, any chance you gals could do a little more hair pulling?"

Nymphobrainiac and I locked eyes in disbelief and I used the momentary distraction to punch her in the gut hard enough to not only break her hold but also to cause her to rebound off of the ceiling. I scrambled to my feet to follow up with another blow, but instead I found myself confronted with the business end of one seriously pissed-off poodle.

"Oh, come on!" I cried as I struggled to hold the dog's viciously snapping jaws away from my face. Nymphobrainiac started to make a move so I flew over to her, catching her off guard as she apparently didn't realize I could fly. I grabbed her forcefully around the neck with my free hand but as my muscles strained I knew I couldn't hold both of them like that for long. Then I spotted Prodigy out of the corner of my eye and noticed a silver leash on the ground, still attached to the dog's collar.

"Ab-gray the eash-lay!" I yelled to him, figuring the dog might be smart enough to recognize the word "leash."

The dog backed off its assault just slightly to peer on the ground and then used one of its paws to drag the leash closer, out of Prodigy's reach.

Its mistress then took the opportunity to kick me in the gut, which hurt like hell and sent me flying back twenty feet before I crashed into another wall. I sat up and stared at her incredulously. "Your dog speaks Pig Latin?"

IC_Ch03_06-small.jpg

"You'd be smart not to underestimate Tiara. Or me, for that matter," she said with a confident smile. But before she could take a step, another metal sphere landed by her feet. "Oh, please. Not this ag—AAAAHHHH!!!"

I watched as a brilliant flash of electrical blue energy erupted from the sphere, causing both her and her dog to cry out in agony for several seconds before they collapsed unconscious to the floor.

Still sitting on the floor amid the rubble, I turned to look at Prodigy as I tried to figure out what just happened.

"You are such a disappointment," he growled.



The ride back to his hideout was quiet and you could cut the tension with a knife. (So, pretty much like every other ride, basically.)

"So, uh, what was that you hit them with?" I asked tentatively.

Prodigy made a guttural noise, obviously debating whether or not to grace me with an answer. "Biomimetic energy pulse. It triggered a cascading feedback surge in their bio-armor."

"They were wearing armor? Even the poodle?"

He sniffed. "I forgot your knowledge of metahumans is limited to fashion. Maybe if I'd asked what color lip gloss she was wearing you'd have known that."

"Okay, so I didn't know much about them," I conceded. Then, trying to reclaim the moral high ground, I said, "Besides, if you knew that energy thingy would do that to them, why didn't you just lead with that instead of letting me get my ass kicked?"

"Because that 'thingy,' as you call it, takes a minute to charge, Prodigious Girl," he said with a sneer. (I hated when he called me by my name because he only ever used it ironically when I'd done something stupid.) "I'd planned to just fall back to charge it and then hit them while they were still distracted in the vault, but then someone had the bright idea to announce our presence by taunting them."

Abashed, I sat there stunned. "Oh."

"I'd have been better off teaming up with the poodle," he muttered.

* * * * *

We soon arrived back at the garage and he busied himself with something on the computer while I looked around. He always hated it when I touched anything but he'd at least deigned to answer some of my questions, which I guessed counted for something. Much of the equipment and such was beyond me, but there were a few interesting things here and there that caught my attention.

"What's this?" I asked as I picked up an alien-looking device. It looked like it might be something like a walkie-talkie since it had a friendly-looking button placed prominently on the front and had what looked like an antenna with a small dish on the end.

Prodigy gave an irritated look in my direction but then froze wide-eyed as he recognized the device in my hand. "I want you to put that down very slowly and very, very carefully," he said evenly as he stared at it in what looked like mortal terror.

I looked down in alarm. "Why? What is it?"

"It's a Fractalline Neutrino Separator. And unless you intend to blow a basketball-sized hole in my chest—because that's where you're aiming it right now—I suggest you put it down. Gently."

Nervously, I delicately placed the device back on the shelf, and Prodigy visibly relaxed. At least briefly.

"I said don't touch anything," he snapped.

"Yeah, well, maybe don't leave your dangerous Fig Newton doohickeys lying around, then," I said as he returned his attention to what he'd been working on.

Bored, I wandered around the rest of the cluttered space looking here and there. "What are these things?" I asked as I peered into a reinforced terrarium and tapped on the glass. Inside were some bizarre sluglike creatures I’d never seen before.

This time he didn't even look up. "Kalothian genital parasites," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

I blinked and turned to look at him. "Come again?"

"They're alien parasites that burrow into a host's genitals where they gestate until they come bursting out."

I moved my hand away from the glass. "Y-you're making that up." But as he faced me and maintained his stare, I wasn't so sure. "Why do you have five of them?" I asked.

"Because you never know when you might need five."

"I know I wouldn't," I said as I tried to imagine such a situation.

He seemed to revel in being a curmudgeon and I think he viewed it as a challenge to find ways to squick me out or make me feel uncomfortable, especially since I appeared to be a teenage girl. To get him back, I tried to find ways to make light of his attempts. That's how a few weeks later following a smartass comment on my part I came to be responsible for feeding the alien genital parasites.

I opened the top of their cage and shook some fish flakes into their habitat. The little guys were crazy for them.

"Wow, Zeppo, you're getting big!" I said. "Hey, Chico, don't be greedy, leave some for Gummo."

Prodigy paused what he was doing to look at me. "You named them after the Marx brothers?"

"Yeah, I wanted to choose names I thought you'd recognize. But if you'd prefer, we could go with your favorite periods from your youth: Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic..."

"Uh huh. Speaking of prodigious asses, is there some reason you think I won't toss you out on yours?"

"Yeah, well, the capaciousness of my rear end notwithstanding, I've noticed you don't complain about it when it gives you something to hide behind when the shooting starts."

"Okay, then," he nodded as he retrieved a small data pad and handed it to me. "Here's some homework for you that'll keep you resting on your tail for a while."

"What's this?"

"Comprehensive dossiers on all known metahumans."

I turned on the pad and thumbed through the entries. There were entries on lots of villains I'd heard about and many more that I hadn't. Caleb would probably go nuts for this, I thought. But as I skimmed through it, I noticed something else.

"There are heroes in here, too."

"Of course there are. One of them goes woolly or gets mind controlled, you'll want to know their soft spots."

"Where are you getting this from? I mean villains are one thing, but heroes don't exactly—"

"I hacked the superhero registration database."

I looked at him in shock. "You..."

"Get over it, girl. We need an edge, and you're holding it."

I glanced down at the pad and then back at him. "So what am I supposed to do with this?"

"Memorize it."

"WHAT?" I cried. "That's not fair! There's gotta be hundreds of entries!"

"And more every day, princess. Fighting crime isn't just about punching out the bad guys' lights, it's about being ready for them. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses."

Crap, that actually made a lot of sense. But I had a good whine going and I wasn't about to give it up.

"I have to memorize all of them?"

"Oh, please. Half of them did your work for you just with their name. Like Icicle...what do you think her powers are?"

I shrugged. "Ice powers?"

"Right. And she's vulnerable to—?"

"Heat, I'm guessing?"

"Exactly. People are morons, and super-people even more so. They get to call themselves literally anything in the world and they choose names that give away their weaknesses. Like that Flashback cretin."

"What's wrong with that? That's a cool name."

"See, that's the problem with you kids. You're so fixated on how it makes you look you don't even stop to realize you're unzipping your fly. Because now he just tipped his hand that he's a combat precog who's able to jump back in time five seconds at a time, so now I can plan ways to beat him. If he'd just called himself Surefire or Master Marksman I might have just assumed he was just a really good shot, but instead the fool gave up his biggest advantage for a name that sounded cool."

He turned away and ignored me again, but as I thought about what he'd said, I had to admit that he had a point. All of a sudden the idea of naming myself "Prodigious Girl" and withholding knowledge of my shapeshifting power seemed like really good thinking on my part. On the other hand, I thought about the crap I was enduring just to get a cooler name and realized it might be a little presumptuous of me to pat myself on my bra strap.

* * * * *

My pairing with Prodigy also had other complications. Sometimes he'd signal me to meet him somewhere, but all too often he wanted me to come straight after school to the garage "discreetly"...in other words, as Carly. As a result, after my first visit I quickly realized that "Carly" would need other outfits, to say nothing of proper undergarments.

I wasn't sure what sizes I wore so I quickly realized I couldn't do my shopping as Chris, nor could I just swoop in to the store wearing my costume, cape fluttering in the breeze. And so it was that I found myself at home late one night in my Prodigious Girl body sneaking into our laundry room to rummage through Mom's clothes for an outfit that I could wear to go shopping. Understand, I had no problem standing toe-to-toe against a death squad of voracious Reptilicons, but rifling through my mom's laundry and trying on her yoga pants went beyond the call of duty.

Once I'd found something less obtrusive to wear than the flowered dress Caleb snitched from his sister, I put on my blonde wig and made for a 24-hour big box superstore to buy some clothes and underwear for myself as Carly. But if I'd harbored any notion that my experiences running around as Prodigious Girl and getting gawked at in a skintight outfit would make this any easier, I was sorely mistaken. My occasionally-female body notwithstanding, my knowledge of girls was limited, and browsing through the selection of unmentionables in the store to find something to fit my "heroic" physique gave me the jeebies. And one of the women heading into the changing area definitely threw some shade my way when she saw how I was filling out my T-shirt and mentioned "implants" to her smirking friend.

Rescue came in the form of a matronly woman named Doreen who was restocking the shelves nearby and caught me surreptitiously holding a bra up to my chest as I tried to eyeball it for fit. She volunteered to help me and soon aided me in navigating the treacherous and uncertain waters of the Misses department. She retrieved a cloth measuring tape and measured me properly while she grilled me about the boys I was dating, and she happily provided me her grandson's number after I informed her that I was single. (And no, I'm not going to tell you Prodigious Girl's measurements, though I suspect they're already part of the public record.) Suffice to say that although the selection was limited for someone with my voluptuous...ness, I managed to walk out with a half-dozen bras and panties in a few different colors, along with the beginnings of a small casual wardrobe that I figured wouldn't cause Prodigy to be too suspicious. (I also walked out with a shocking new understanding of what girls' clothes cost! I had no idea!)

Oh, and the efforts I would later go through to wash my new clothes were something else entirely, since I could hardly just toss them in my laundry hamper. One night I'd foolishly hung my wig and feminine undergarments to dry in the bathroom and I nearly had a heart attack the next morning in my mad rush to retrieve them before Mom spotted them.

Apparently, maintaining a secret identity is a lot like being a character in a sitcom.

* * * * *

I decided I needed to talk to Trixie and she asked me to meet her on the outskirts of town near the ruins of what used to be a botanical garden. This was a favorite hangout for some of the plant-themed supervillains, so I wasn't surprised when I spotted her standing outside a large overgrown hedge maze. She gave me a friendly wave as I landed.

"Is this a bad time?" I asked, glancing around. "I wanted to talk about something."

"This should only take a minute. Quick pick-up," she said, pointing towards the maze with her thumb.

"You want me to just fly us over it and go straight to the middle?"

"No, it'll be faster if we just go through. It's Red Herring," she said with a semi-apologetic shrug before heading into the maze. I wanted to get her opinion of my troubles with Prodigy but wasn't quite sure where to begin, so we walked in silence for a bit and Trixie admired the overgrown greenery.

"Hm," she said.

"What?"

"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking how this reminds me a bit of the jungles from when I was growing up in Cambodia. We moved there from London—"

"I'm not falling for it, Trixie."

She gave me a sly grin and snapped her fingers. "Rats." Then she seemed to notice how preoccupied I was. "What's on your mind?"

I moved my hands in little circles, looking for the right words. "It's my mentor," I sighed. "He's a dick." (As you may have surmised by now, Keats and Shelley have nothing to fear from me.)

She snickered. "So pick a new one? It's like swapping your major in college. No biggie."

"I know, but I'm kind of committed. I—"

"HA HA HA!" a voice boomed on a loudspeaker. "You have fallen into my trap!"

"What trap?" Trixie shouted. "You texted me, remember?"

There was a pause. "Be that as it may!" Red Herring responded. "Now you must choose! Do you go left or right? Either way leads to your DOOOOM!"

I looked at Trixie and shrugged, but she just shook her head. "Give it a second," she said.

From down the right path, we heard a woman's desperate cries for help. I couldn't see her, but I reflexively tensed up and was about to fly off to investigate when Trixie started trudging off in the opposite direction.

"Ooh, I get it," I said as I followed after her.

"W-wait. Where are you going?" Red Herring said uncertainly over the loudspeaker. "That woman is in danger, you have to rescue her!"

"Uh huh," Trixie responded, then looked over at me. "So, you can't make it work with this guy?"

"I dunno. I just feel like I'm doing all the work, y'know? He's not teaching me anything and I keep getting the crap pounded out of me."

We came to another junction when suddenly a wall of flame burst into existence, blocking one of the paths. The other path stood clear. We walked right up to the flames and straight on through them, revealing them to be a harmless hologram.

"The wanker doesn't even use a real flamethrower," she muttered. "Okay, so you're a glutton for punishment, but that doesn't explain why he's keeping you around. Maybe he sees something in you and this is all just a big test to prove your commitment?"

"Maybe," I said as we came to another junction and a pair of machine guns opened fire down one of the paths. I'd gotten so used to being shot that I didn't react, but to her credit Trixie didn't flinch either, revealing them to be filled with blanks. We casually walked towards the guns as they continued to fire.

"You know you're more than welcome to join up with us, if you want!" Trixie shouted over the noise. "I'm sure Demetria wouldn't mind taking on one more!"

"Nah, I'll make it work!" I shouted back as we passed the guns. "I probably just—huh." We rounded the corner and came to a dead end in the maze.

"Ha ha! Not so clever after all!" Red Herring's voice sounded. "You won't find me that easily!"

Trixie rubbed the bridge of her nose and listlessly examined the area as I looked above us and nudged her to point out the blimp flying overhead. She rolled her eyes.

"Do you mind?" she asked.

"Sure."

She took a step back and I bent down and punched a hole in the ground and yanked back a piece of reinforced concrete covered with sod that was the size of a four door sedan. I casually tossed it back down the maze and we peered down into the hole to see Red Herring sitting at a control panel, staring up at us in shock.

"I might be Red Herring's identical twin that I've framed for his crimes," he offered.

"I'm willing to risk it," Trixie said.

We dropped him off with the authorities and while Trixie handled the paperwork, I found myself getting more preoccupied with her question...why was Prodigy keeping me around?

"Hey, space case," Trixie said, snapping her fingers in front of my face and jolting me out of my reverie. "Okay, now don't be mad at me, but I just made a quick call and Demetria really wants to meet you."

"Trixie—"

"You don't have to join! Just think of it like a mixer where you get to meet other heroes. And there is something I've been dying to tell you about."

"So just tell me?"

"I made a promise that I wouldn't. But trust me, it'll be worth it. Please?"

"Is it far? I gotta get home soon."

She just smiled. "That is the best part."



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