Topiary Genetics: Part 7

Summer

Within an hour of their arrival several other charter buses had arrived and Kelli found herself surrounded by hundreds of other teenage girls as she waited under a tree with her friends for the leaders to give some direction. It was startling to her that there were so many others that had also been through the same process. There had been no secret about the other groups but actually meeting them was entirely different to her way of thinking. Four groups of sixty, 120 men and 120 women were now 240 teenage girls. They all looked really cute and she was glad that her sex drive had moderated over the past few weeks.

When the last bus had disgorged its passengers and driven away, a pretty redhead with flawless skin used a bullhorn to direct them into the base recreation center. They were told to go to the gym where they would find staff members who would direct them to their rooms.

Kelli quickly found the A through G table and eventually she got a folder with her schedule a base map and her room assignment. She made her way across the parking lot with a stream of others curious to see where she would be living. The building she was assigned to had been a 1950's era enlisted airman's barracks. It reminded her of her college dorm from the late seventies. When she walked in she found her new roommate was already there. She was a cute brunette, perhaps a little taller than Kelli with brown eyes and something about her look that made Kelli think she had Italian or Greek ancestry.

"Hi, I am Leanne Berolotti. It looks like we are going to be roomies for the summer," the girl said.

"Hi, I am Kelli. Kelli Bellamy. Sorry I am still getting used to the new last name."

"Me too. That is why I try to use it so often. Do you have a preference for either bed?"

Kelli saw that Leanne had not started to unpack. She had obviously been waiting for Kelli to show up. "I don't have a preference. I imagine I will be too tired to care for most of the summer."

Leanne laughed. "That's what I hear too. I'll just take this one then."

"It's weird not really having much to unpack," Kelli said as she hung her red top on one of the hangers in her closet.

"I know. I heard that we would get our stuff tomorrow some time," Leanne said.

"Good. It is a little bit cooler here than I am used to for late May."

"Kelli, may I ask you a personal question?"

"Sure, no problem," said Kelli.

"I don't know how to put this so it doesn't sound odd, so please bare with me," Leanne began. "What I am wondering is if you always played for the girls team or if you have recently changed sides? My head mentor Victoria told us that half of the people here were recently men. She was the redhead with the bullhorn earlier. I have been looking at everyone and I haven't been able to pick anyone out as being mannish."

Kelli laughed and held out her small hand as if to give Leanne a high five. "You mean you can't tell from my meaty man hands that I shouldn't be here?"

"That is not what I meant at all. I am just curious."

"Okay, you've caught me, Leanne. I used to be a guy. Is this going to be an issue between us?"

"Oh, heavens no. I think it's wonderful that you are getting this opportunity. I've always loved being a woman and think you will too. I was kind of hoping for someone like you as a roommate. I just want you to know that if you ever have any questions I will be here for you."

"That is really sweet. I will take you up on it. It will be nice to have a mentor. I wish you had been around four or five months ago when they first hatched us."

"You have been out that long? I only finished rehab a couple of weeks ago."

"It kind of makes since to me though. Someone needed to come out last and they needed to teach us lots of basic stuff that most girls grow up knowing."

"I think that they may have gone a beyond the basics. Did you do your own makeup?"

"I put some on during the bus ride. I was bored."

"Well it is obvious to me that someone who knows what they are doing showed you how. Most girls go a little overboard when they are first learning."

"Marissa, the woman who taught our group, used to be some kind of big time stylist. She cut my hair too. She is here with us so you will probably meet her."

"I wonder if she will cut my hair, yours is so cute. Do you think she might, Kelli?"

"It never hurts to ask. Do you want to go back to the rec center? The reception should be starting soon. I would like to introduce you to my friends."

"Sure, I want you to meet mine too."

***

Kelli woke even before the alarm clock buzzed. Today was another big day and she was excited to get going. Yesterday she had been issued her summer workout clothes and had a tour of the areas that they would be using. They were on only a small part of the unused old base. The girls had three old barracks for single enlisted personnel, the rec center and a large field. They also had the use of one the hangers which had been set up as a gymnastics area. It had been a little surreal walking around the old empty base. There seemed to be wind blowing all of the time and there was no unnatural sounds that they were not making themselves. One of the mentor group mentioned that it was ten miles to the nearest farm house and more than 25 miles to the nearest inhabited town which was also named Glasgow. Kelli could not think of a time in her former life when she had been this isolated, although being able to see for miles was a nice change after bring in the windowless rehab facility for so long.

She quickly got dressed. She had been given two pair of trainers and eight identical sets of clothes. Socks, underwear, shorts tee shirt and track suit. All in black with Bellamy and the number 44 in yellow like a sports team would have on each item so there was no time wasted on clothing choices. She and Leanne, who was number 225, managed to get ready and be at the chow hall with some time to spare.

The two grabbed their morning snack, which consisted of a fruit cup, yogurt and a glass of juice. Nicole and her new roommate Emily were already at one of the long tables so Kelli and Leanne joined them. Within the next few minute the seats all filled up with excited girls. There was a pleasant buzz of conversation mostly girls getting to know their new friends and speculation about the coming weeks until the doors opened and about a dozen people filed in to the front of the hall. Kelli recognized Holly, Hailey and the other mentors from the rehab phase as well as Vicki, Leanne's redheaded mentor and many others whose names she did not know yet.

Holly waited quietly until all conversation had died before beginning to speak. "This is a big day. I hope everyone has taken the time to study the schedules you were given. If you haven't just stick with your group. We will meet here every morning except Sunday between five and five thirty. Everyone is required to be here, no sleeping in. After morning snack we will go out and practice yoga for an hour as the sun comes up. Always wear your track suit. Even summer mornings can be chilly up here. You can shed the outer layer after you get warmed up. After yoga we will have morning run before breaking into groups for dance, weight training, self-defense, gymnastics or sports. There is sunscreen at each station. Reapply every hour. Even with the UV treatments your skin is similar to that of a young child. Sun burn is no fun people so take care of yourselves.

"Breakfast is not until after the first group activity. Lunch is between third and fourth. After your fourth activity you have personal time from two o'clock to four o'clock to shower and change. We will then meet in small groups. Check your schedule for your group assignment. In groups we can discuss anything. This is a new situation for all of us and we need to know what is and is not working for you. Think of it as a cross between a therapy session and a focus group. At six you will be done for the day. There are video lounges set up in the rec center as well as in your housing. Lights out at 9:30 so be sure to have any laundry in the dryer by 8:45. Washers and dryers are available in the basement of each housing unit. Any questions?"

Brittney, who was sitting not far away, raised her hand. "Is it okay to switch rooms if everyone agrees to the change?"

"We assigned roommates based on compatibility profiles," Holly said. "It is important that you all integrate with the girls from other groups. Management feels that the secret is more likely to be maintained if you all feel like part of the larger group. I know that some of you have become very close with other individuals, and we are not discouraging that. However the group dynamic is an important part of the summer program. So, no I am sorry Brittany but there will be no room swaps this summer. It may be possible at the school if you still feel strongly about it."

A waifish looking blond that Kelli didn't know was next. "What if we can't do some of the activities? I've always been prone to hay fever and allergies and in school I could never do P.E. during my period due to cramps."

Leanne leaned over and whispered, "I think that girl was either a hypochondriac or really sick all of the time before the process. She complained all the way through physical therapy."

"Well Megan, if you are having medical issues just report to the nurses office in the rec center. However, in light of the process that you have undergone you should not be afflicted with any allergic reactions and cramping should not be as severe as you remember it. You are all much healthier on a basic level than at any previous time. I think you'll be surprised at what you are now capable of doing."

Holly answered questions for a few more minutes before turning them over to Hailey who lead them outside for yoga.

***

One week later summer camp was becoming routine. The girls were rapidly getting in shape due to an optimum diet and plenty of exercise.

"Holy crap, I am tired," Leanne said. "You can shower first Kelli."

"Oh, come on. It was not that bad. I just came from gymnastics and it was so fun. I did my first ever cartwheel."

"Congratulations," Leanne said in an exhausted voice. "I think you might have more energy than I do. I am just glad that we made it through the first week."

"I appreciate you letting me go first. I think I am getting the hang of doing my hair and makeup but it takes me so long."

"Well you are doing a great job of it from what I've seen this week. Don't take this the wrong way, but I think that you first time girls are way more enthusiastic about the traditional girly things than most of us who are doing a repeat. Being young again is amazing. I look better and will be in way better shape than the first time around but I have had a lifetime of hair and makeup. It is just another chore for me."

"Yeah, I can see that. I admit that I am enjoying everything about this experience. For me it is kinda like my fairy godmother came down and granted my fondest wish. It would be totally ungrateful not to try my best to be the person that I always wanted to be. We were talking in small group about it the other day. Some of us -- me included, are worried about being caricatures of what a real girl should be. I am going to have to depend on my more experienced friends to not become a Barbie."

"You can depend on me. I imagine you are going to be a girly girl in most ways, even more than the others. I promise won't let you go overboard with it.

"Oh, I heard some of the girls with mechanical experience talking about building some kind of cable ride from the top of the gymnastics hangar. Want to see what they are up to later?"

"Sure, Kelli said." Maybe after dinner we can check it out."

Fifteen minutes later Kelli returned, wrapping a towel around her head. Leanne was sleeping face down on the bed. Kelli almost let her sleep but didn't want Leanne to have to rush through everything for group time. They were fined five dollars from their maintenance accounts for being late to anything. Kelli was still not clear on how the money part was going to work in practice. Each day they participated in the study their account accrued a small amount towards the purchase of personal items less any penalties. They would be given access to the money as soon as they were settled into the school.

"Hey Leanne, time to wake up," Kelli said giving her roommate a gentle shake.

"Come on, ma. Five more minutes."

Kelli let her sleep as she moisturized her face applied foundation. She eyed a pimple near her hair line wondering if it needed concealer or if her hair would cover it. She walked across the room and gave Leanne's bed a tap with her foot.

"Hey, wake up. Time to shower. You stink!"

"Do not," Leanne said as she pulled her pillow over her head.

Kelli walked back to the mirror and decided that she could move on to a light dusting of powder like Marissa had taught her. She began to hum both to annoy Leanne into wakefulness and because she was happy. Next she added eye shadow before her next attempt at waking Leanne.

"Hey! Last call sleepyhead. I am about to attempt eyeliner and mascara and you do not want me to be waking you if it goes badly again."

This time Leanne sat up. "Oh all right. There is no need to threaten me like that," she said grabbing her towel.

"It was a friendly warning. I hate it when I turn myself into a raccoon."

"Well it looks like you are doing alright so far," Leanne said as she gave Kelli's face a close inspection. "You really are doing better than most girls of our apparent age normally do. Not too heavy handed and nicely blended. It looks natural. I don't see why they are making us wear makeup at all."

"I think it is mostly for people like me. You have to admit that makeup is different for a girl at sixteen than a woman of, about seventy-five."

"Okay I admit it. I just don't see the point."

"Because they want us to behave as if we were the middle of the bell curve as much as we can. Most girls our age wear at least some makeup and so we do too. Olivia was saying that she thought that this was like boot camp where they want all of the recruits to look act and dress alike. I kind of see the point. I do feel closer to everyone here than I have been to anyone in years. They should lighten up a bit once this is over. "

"I guess so," Leanne said. "Try to be done when I get out. I don't want to be late for my group again."

"But that's why I was trying to...," she trailed off as the door closed behind Leanne.

***

The big news of the day was Brooke and Madison were back. The two girls had disappeared a few of days before the move to summer camp. Kelli knew both of them although not well. They had not been in any of her activity groups. The two had been so overwhelmed with people who wanted to know where they had been that Holly had suggested that they be allowed to address all of the girls at camp. Permission was granted by no less than General Richardson for the two to give a redacted version of their time away.

Some of the staff had been asked to take the defense instructors out for what passed for a night out at the best restaurant in easy driving distance. Truth be told they were happy to get away for a night out. Even better, Holly had made arrangements to cover their dinner and a hefty bar tab in advance. With all of the people not cleared to know out of the way, Brooke and Madison could tell their story once and have done with it.

Kelli and all of her close friends were sitting in a group. They were as interested as everyone else to hear the story. Holly introduced the two girls for the benefit of those who had never met them. Madison quickly grabbed the microphone and began to talk.

"Hi everyone, I'm Maddy," she began. "Everyone has been asking what we have been up to. Apparently no one anticipated how interesting we would be to all y'all. I will start from the beginning. We were asked by our sponsors to help with a little project that they had going. Our job was to pretend to be a nice ladies daughter and her incredibly hot friend," she posed a bit to indicate that she was the hot friend, "while her 'husband' attended a professional conference. I am not sure if I supposed to tell you where it was so I am not going to tell you that it was Brazil. There is not much else to tell really. Our job was to hang out at the hotel and go for walks on the beach and do touristy stuff with and without Brooke's 'mom' and basically have a good time. Apparently it is unusual for spies to bring obviously underage girls on a mission."

"It was totally fun." Brooke said, taking a turn with the mic. "It was also strange. We haven't got a clue what we were down there for or if 'mom' accomplished whatever it was she needed to do. We hung out, flirted with guys went on a few tours. We took a ton of pictures and bought lots of souvenirs but they didn't let us keep any of that. That annoyed me but all in all it was a good experience. We were told that Maddy and I should take some questions now so if you have any raise your hand and we will try to get to you."

The two girls took questions for another hour. They were the first new thing to happen in weeks and everyone was happy for the entertainment. Kelli noticed that the two were happy to go on in detail about the hotel and the tours that they went on but talked hardly at all about the people who they had been with. That was fine as far as she was concerned. She did not consider herself the type to go on secret government missions. That was the kind of information that she really did not want to know. Brooke and Maddy were fun to listen to and the time flew by. Too soon it was time to get ready for bed. Tomorrow was going to be another busy day.

***

"I hope that we aren't cramping your style by coming up to see the girl's progress," Simon Graves said as he and Daniel Yamata walked with Holly across the tarmac. They had arrived just minutes before. The corporate jet sat behind them waiting to be readied for its return trip.

"It is no problem. At this point they all know the routine, so you have me for as long as you want."

"Good work, sis. Why don't you start by giving us the no bullshit version of what will be in the quarterly report."

"My reports never contain any bullshit. It is not my fault that your eyes glaze when you see our results written up in a form suitable for publication in any peer reviewed journal. Daniel will back me on this one."

Daniel laughed. "It's true, Simon. You are a great organizer and salesman but..."

"Fine," Simon huffed. "It is a fair division of labor, and I still want to hear from Holly how she feels things are going."

"As we anticipated there were a ton of things that did not go as planned but we quickly got all of it sorted out. Haley has been invaluable in that regard. The girls have really taken to all of the exercise. They are also very forgiving when the facilities are not state of the art. They have worked hard to simulate present day teenagers. By the time we are at the school next week I do not think any of the locals will find them too much out of the ordinary. "

"Really?" Daniel asked. "I would think the various age and gender gaps would take longer to resolve themselves."

"There is a group dynamic that has developed where the girls will call each other out when one does something anachronistic. For example one of the participants initially had issues with learning self defense because it was too unladylike, however some of those who were of younger generations walked her through some of the realities of being a modern woman and she is now one of the better students."

"So compared to the last group that you helped through the process how do these girls stack up?" Simon asked. He needed all of the information he could get to prepare for his next budget meeting.

"Oddly," Holly said, "in many ways having a large group has been much easier than even the last group of twelve. The girls have formed into interlocking circles of friends that they can turn to for emotional support. All of them have been able to work through any issues that they had with suddenly being young again."

"None of the men had second thoughts?" Simon asked. "Not even a small regret?"

"Not one. We screened them carefully after all. The men actually have taken to the changes with more enthusiasm than those who were born female. The data cannot yet confirm it, but I believe that having received their deepest wish, they are simply more determined to make this second lifetime the best it can be. At the moment that means exercising all day and eating an optimal diet."

"So what you are telling me is that all of the girly girls will be from the male born groups," Simon said.

"To an extent. On a percentage basis I think so. Whether this is due to them being less confident in their femininity or if it is the participants embracing it wholeheartedly comes down to the individual. Truly the biggest hurdle has been changing them from an older person's mindset to that of a teenager. However through overloading them with only media targeted to their new age group and focused group and individual therapy sessions all of them can function without suspicion as modern teens. Any anomalies can easily be explained by referencing their individual histories and the insulated nature of a boarding school environment."

"Not to change the subject," Daniel said, "but the numbers that you sent for the latest round of physical tests are exceptional. Every one of our girls ranks in the top twenty percent for that age group nationally. That is in all categories. Are you sure that the staff has been completely accurate when recording these measurements? There will be hell to pay if the group from the DoD comes to observe and reality doesn't match the data."

"Don't worry your pretty little head, Danny," Holly said with a big smile. "Not only are all of our participants enjoying having youthful bodies free of arthritis and whatever else they were suffering from. All of them remember much of their doctors' advice to be more active. I know from personal experience what a gift the opportunity to get a do over at life is. All of them have been focused on improving their new and improved bodies all summer. There is fierce competition to be among the best in each area. The stand out girls are not always those who I would have thought they would be when I look at who they were before."

"I am glad to hear that things have been going well, Holly," Simon said. "I know that I have not been able to be as hands on as in the past. You know I would have been here if I could have been. I can let you know now that we have been in talks to make this a long term project. we have funding for up to 100 individuals per year. Things are looking good. Now that I am here could you show me around? I would love to see some of the girls in action."

"I have to take a rain check on that tour," Daniel said. "I want to go over some things with my people while I am here."

"Certainly, Daniel," You will find most of them in the large white building over there," Holly said pointing to the old rec center.

***

Holly walked her brother around to all of the classes. It was nice to have him all to herself. These last years had been hectic. They had gone from her little brother Simon and Daniel saving her life when they were first starting their R&D company to them all almost being jailed for the disappearance of her masculine self and then plunged into the weird world of being a contractor for the secret parts of the government. It had not been the path either of them would have chosen but it had been interesting.

"I have saved the best for last," Holly said as she stopped in the shade of a nearby tree. "In just a minute the classes will change and that grassy area will fill with girls getting ready for the self defense class. We chose to have the girls learn Krav Maga.

"I thought we were doing Judo or Karate."

"Our government liaison recommended this group of trainers. They teach Krav Maga to corporate security teams and they have the contract to train the State Department's guys. I couldn't say no."

"What the hell is Krav Maga anyway?"

"It is an Israeli style of martial art. The core philosophy of Krav Maga is the best fight to have is the one that never happens. So they teach ways to avoid fighting and situational awareness. They teach how to recognize signs of trouble before it is too late to do anything about it. If in spite of the students' best efforts to avoid a fight then the girls are being taught the best option is to finish it as quickly as possible. Attacking the most vulnerable points on an opponent to either disable them or get away. They are learning to counter aggression with speed and maximum effectiveness. It is a very practical skill set."

"So they are learning how to fight dirty?"

"No such thing as dirty fighting when losing means rape."

"Good point."

A short time later the two watched the girls spar. They were in groups of five with two having a practice bout while the others watched. When one would tap out they would briefly critique the bout and change places. Simon watched the instructors circulating among the girls giving pointers or occasionally stopping a match to demonstrate something.

"Have you had any issues with fraternization among the participants and the staff? We are just signed the new deal and I would hate for anything unprofessional to happen."

"No. Most of the girls would jump at the chance but the contractors all think they are high school kids and want to keep out of jail. Besides there have been plenty of our folks who have been willing to relieve any tension that may build up instructing our nubile young participants."

"What do the outside contractors think we are doing here?"

"Just what we tell everyone: that we are doing a study on the effects of optimal fitness and nutrition on our young volunteers in exchange for an excellent education. Except for the self defense classes, we run everything with in-house instructors who know the score. All of us except for the medical and food service staff have been through the change ourselves. It has been helpful for the girls to have so many people that share the same life changing event all in the same place."

Simon grunted in agreement. It had been Hailey who had suggested training earlier test subjects to lead and council the huge group of girls rather than clearing outsiders for the secret. It had saved them a lot of capital as well as kept a large amount of past participants where they could keep track of them. The secret would eventually come out and Simon wanted to have an iron clad lock on the technology by then. Besides it gave him a chance to provide good jobs to some people who he felt deserved everything he could do for them. For all of his hard nosed business sense Simon had a soft spot for his girls. Each and every one of them was like a daughter... well more like a niece, to him.

Holly shocked him out of his woolgathering with a light punch in the shoulder. "Hey man, you are going to want to watch this one." She pointed to the nearest sparing area. "Do you see that really small girl squaring off with the taller African-American girl? The small one is Kelli and the tall one is Natasha. Who do you think will win?"

"This is where I am supposed to back the bigger girl and you take my money isn't it?" Simon said. "I am not falling for it. Why don't you just tell me what you think is about to happen."

"You're no fun!" Holly mock pouted. She really did love being with her brother. It was too bad he had never found anyone to settle down with. "Fine. Kelli is just incredibly quick. Even the instructors have a harder time getting hold of her than most of the others. Watch what happens now."

One of the other girls gave the signal to start. The two girls slowly circled each other then Natasha tried a quick punch to Kelli's face, however all she hit was air. Kelli had moved around Natasha's punch and gave her a kick to the back of one knee. As Natasha collapsed, Kelli jumped on top of her delivering a few quick pulled strikes before regaining her feet and moving away to indicate that she had made her escape. The entire bout had lasted about five seconds.

"Wow, I am impressed. Do you think that the same tricks would work with a man though?"

"The combat instructors assure me that they are effective techniques. I can say I wouldn't want to be the man who tried anything on that girl that she didn't want to do. She isn't the only one that fast either. I was curious if there was any correlation between the girls who were the most gifted physically and you may be interested in what I found. All of the top girls in gymnastics, defense and even running were part of Group E. Not only one set but all four sets of rejuvenated girls. Whoever did the work on those girls achieved better results than any other group."

"Daniel said that he had something of a prodigy on his team. Please make sure Daniel is aware of these results. We are awash in data and it could be months before something like this gets noticed even if it is the kind of breakthrough we are specifically trying to achieve."

"Will do. Let's go grab something to eat before the official staff meeting?"



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