Sprite 1: A Little Problem

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Sprite 1: A Little Problem

A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story

by Amethyst

Authors Notes: Okay everyone, since I won't have time for writing much of anything new for a while, I'm going to post my latest Whateley story here. I have tried to lighten things up with humor here and there, but I must warn you that this story starts out dark and there are scenes that depict suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. If you deal with suicidal thoughts, please call your local suicide helpline. ~ Amethyst

Calgary, Alberta
Unknown Location
Friday, September 9th, 2016 – 11:43 a.m.

I awoke laying in darkness to a faint hissing sound as I gasped for air. I felt wet too, as if I had just been swimming. Had someone tried to drown me? Most concerning of all though was the fact that I couldn’t move, though it didn’t feel like I was restrained, more like I was just very weak. It was a feeling that I was unaccustomed to, and that I found myself immediately hating.

Yes, I felt weak; my limbs felt like jelly and everything felt weird. It was like the signals that my body was sending my brain were wrong somehow. I wasn’t used to feeling weak, and it worried me. It was as I was trying to shake off the feeling of cold dread building up inside of me and figure out where I was and what was going on, that I wondered if this could be a ransom attempt.

The last thing that I could remember was leaving the changing rooms after a late football practice, a familiar voice, and a glimpse of metal before passing out. Maybe whoever had grabbed me had drugged me and that was why I was feeling like this. I promised myself that as soon as whatever they had dosed me with wore off, I was going to make these people pay.

People don’t mess with the Mason family. My Dad is one of the richest men in Calgary, a fortune made through the Alberta oil industry. As a result, I had the best of everything growing up. The only reason that I was going to a public school instead of a private school was that my father said it would build character. No worries, if I couldn’t get out of this myself somehow, my father would have the ransom demand soon and the police would be searching for me too.

A voice in the darkness caught my attention. It was familiar but different at the same time so I couldn’t place who exactly it was, but whoever they were, they sounded far off and panicked as they asked, “What happened, Mom?!”

“There was a power surge as I was draining the embryonic fluid from the cloning chamber. It probably blew the breakers; I’ll go check the fuse box,” another oddly familiar voice explained. “Don’t worry, your copy should be healthy, her vital signs were optimal when I began the draining sequence and her brain activity fell within the expected parameters.”

Several minutes later, I had to clench my eyes closed against the insane brightness as the lights came on. Who uses lights that bright? I had to wonder who the ‘she’ that they were talking about was though, and what was this about cloning and copies? If these people went to the trouble of kidnapping me, they could at least pay attention to me instead of their science project. Well, hopefully, Dad would pay the ransom and I could get out of here soon if I couldn’t find some way to escape by myself.

It was then that I heard the first voice again calling out far-too-sweetly, “Oh, Aaaaaiden. Wakey wakey, little fakey.” There was a buzzing sound that came gradually closer followed by pressure on my stomach and hips. Then a slap to my face, hard enough to elicit a yelp from me, had me squinting my eyes against the light.

What I saw once I could see again was not reassuring in the least. Straddling me and looking down at me with a malevolent grin that I did not like the looks of at all was an all too familiar girl. She was fourteen years old but looked closer to sixteen, was very fit, and had a very nice figure for her age, though her chest was a bit small for my liking. I mean, an Exemplar with barely B cups? I heard they were all like supermodel material. Not that I could be interested in her, with that cotton candy pink hair, matching eyes, pointed ears, dragonfly-like wings, and the fluffy pink antennae growing from her forehead just beneath the hairline. It was the mutant girl who used to live next door, Blythe Adams.

I still couldn’t move a muscle and that wasn’t good with the predatory gleam that she had in her eyes. “Okay, Aiden,” I told myself as I took a deep breath to try and calm down, “so she’s used her size-changing trick to make herself my size. This isn’t new, I just need to wait it out. She can’t hold that size for more than an hour or two before she’ll be back to five inches tall. Then I can just pick her up and toss her or throw her in the nearest garbage can like I usually do when she bugs me.”

As I looked up at her, that predatory expression shifted into one of confusion as she called out, “Mom! Something’s wrong, her eyes aren’t pink like mine, they’re gold!”

Her? Gold eyes? What in the hell was the obsessive girl talking about this time? That was when I heard footsteps approaching, loud footsteps. A woman’s face came into view and I recognized her as Blythe’s mother, Ms. Adams, only she was a giant. “Wha…” I managed to croak out, but the voice didn’t sound like mine. It sounded feminine and far too much like the voice of the girl looking who was down at me for my comfort. Oh shit, I did not like what this was adding up to.

The gigantic Ms. Adams placed a magnifying glass in front of her face, distorting it and making it seem even larger before speaking. “Fascinating. She manifested, likely from the shock of adjusting to breathing air when I drained the embryonic fluid from the cloning chamber. I believe that it was likely the cause for the power surge. Because she didn’t have the years of energy buildup that mutants generally have before manifesting, she must have stolen it from the main power grid, via the cloning chamber.”

“But how, Mom?!” Blythe snapped angrily. “You said that she would just be a cheap copy, that she wouldn’t have my powers because she wouldn’t have my BIT!”

“Calm down, Blythe dear,” the giantess said. Though if what I suspected was true, she wasn’t a giantess at all, I was just very small. It is very unlikely that she has your powers, we are fortunate that she still has your form and that she survived the process. She likely has powers unique to herself, if any at all, and she is probably too weak to use them in her current state. To be safe, you can place her in the cage when you’re done with her. This could provide clues about the inherent problems in Devisor cloning methods when there is a BIT involved. Perhaps the clone tries to manifest as soon as it is viable, to separate it from the BIT of the original?”

As Ms. Adams walked off mumbling something with too many syllables for me to follow, Blythe got off of me and fluttered away, only to grow until from my perspective, she looked even larger than her mother had. Her massive hand moved inexorably toward me and I was too weak to even try to get away as she snatched me up. I was held firmly in her grip, she could have easily crushed me if she wanted to but I knew in my heart that that wouldn’t be any fun for her, just like it wouldn’t have been for me when I did the same to her. You don’t break your toys if you want to keep playing with them.

“Now what should I do with you, Aiden?” she asked as she held me in front of her large face with a self-satisfied smirk. “Should I give you a good toss? I doubt that you’d be able to fly like I could when you did that to me. Maybe I should throw you in the garbage while telling you what a freak you are, that was fun too wasn’t it? How does it feel, Aiden? How does it feel to be small and vulnerable? How does it feel to be a mutie freak? That’s what you are now, a mutant just like me, and everyone who sees you is going to know it.”

“Blythe, I…” I tried to say, uncertain if my words would even reach her.

“You’re what?! Sorry?! Are you sorry that you betrayed me?! Sorry that your constant bullying made me hate myself?! That it made me want to kill myself?! Well, now it’s your turn!” I winced at the volume of her shrieking, unable to shield my ears as I wondered how it came to this.

Blythe and her mother had moved into the house next door at the beginning of last summer, and at first we had gotten along well, we had even talked about possibly dating during those first few months. Then, near the end of the summer, just over a year ago, Blythe had manifested. She started to change, and not just her hair and eye color. She started getting smaller and growing those fuzzy pink antennae on her forehead and the pink-tinted dragonfly-like wings that she now had.

At first, I was the only one besides her mother that she told and I tried to keep my distance, and it wasn’t hard at first since her mother decided to homeschool her. I didn’t have anything against mutants, but I didn’t want to date one. What would my parents say? I could lose my inheritance.

There were three problems that cropped up though. First, Blythe became obsessed with me. For some reason, she thought that making out in her backyard one time equated to a relationship or something. She was constantly trying to get close to me and I was having a hard time keeping her away from my house so my parents wouldn’t find out about her.

The second problem came when she used her size-shifting power for the first time. It pushed her closer to her BIT and she was stuck somewhere between five and six inches tall. She could change back to a human size still, even a little bigger if she really pushed it, but only for a short time at first, and more recently a couple of hours before she reverted back to fairy size. It not only freaked her out and made her more clingy toward me, but it also made it damn near impossible to keep her away from me, especially since she could use her gravity-warping powers to make herself light enough to fly.

Then my parents did find us, in a very compromising position. They, of course, completely misunderstood the situation and they hit the roof. After my father chased her off, they ranted for hours that night about how dangerous mutants were, how having a mutant next door would lower the property value, and how we paid taxes to keep us safe from freaks like her. They said that we needed to encourage her and her mother to leave and talked about getting help from H1! or Great White North.

So I tried harder to push her away, for her own good. I might not be interested in her the way that she was interested in me, but I didn’t want her dead. We had been friends after all. I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t interested after that, and I did everything that I could to push her away. And it seemed to finally work last month when she and her mother moved before school started. I guess they didn’t move far enough.

“Blythe, listen. I…”

“Oh! I know what we can do!” she interrupted, her eyes crazed and her grin manic. Had I really pushed her to this? “I’ll tell you all about Mom’s work and show you around! It’s not as great as our old place, but it’s home for now.”

She did a spin, swinging her fist around fast enough to make me want to blow chunks, but I doubted that I had anything in my stomach to do so, with this being a brand-new body and all. She made sure that I got a good look at the dungeon-like basement that we were in and everything inside. There were stone steps going up, numerous strange machines in the room, what I assumed to be a large metal worktable with more small machines, and what looked like a birdcage tricked out with electronics sitting on the table as well. What really drew my attention though was my body, my real body.

I was strapped into a chair with my eyes closed, with various medical monitors, an oxygen mask, and IVs hooked up to me. There was also some sort of strange helmet-like device, or maybe a devise, on my head. The latter was connected by tubes and wires to a small coffin-like machine on a table. It was obviously made for my current body size since it was the machine Blythe had extracted me from a few minutes earlier.

They were keeping my body alive, so maybe Blythe wasn’t as far gone as I had feared. Maybe once she taught me the lesson she was working her way up to, they would put me back in my own body and let me go. “You see, Mom is a Devisor. She makes these awesome devises, but they only work for her. Oh sure, sometimes there’s the risk of an explosion, but you survived. That devise that I took you out of grew a clone of my body; except for the eyes, you look just like me. There’s another devise attached to it that moved all of the stuff in your head that makes you Aiden, into my clone. Oh, there you are, Aiden! Look at you, all big and strong and hunky. I bet you’d like to go back to that, wouldn’t you?” Blythe offered far too cheerfully as she stepped closer to the chair where my body sat.

“Blythe, let’s talk about this. I had to push you away, for your own safety,” I tried to explain.

“Bullshit! You don’t bully someone to the brink of suicide for their sake! You did it because you’re a bigoted abusive asshole, just like your parents, and you valued your precious inheritance more than me! I loved you, Aiden! I would have given you the world! I told you I would, but you turned on me!” I winced, not from her admittedly loud shouting, but because she was right or at least partly right. I had betrayed her, and my inheritance had been one of the reasons why.

* * *

Blythe did it again. Somehow she had managed to sneak into my bedroom and was sitting on my bed when I got home from school. Mom and Dad were taking me to dinner at the country club tonight so I had to hurry to shower and change. I dropped my backpack on the floor, tossed my shirt in the general direction of the hamper, and unbuckled my belt to let my pants drop to the floor, and that was when I barely heard the small yelp of happiness.

The pink-haired fairy-lookalike zipped toward me, seemingly not caring about my state of dress. “Aiden! You’re home! I was wondering if you would like to come to my place for a bit. We could sit on the swing in the back porch and…”

“Blythe, you have to stop this,” I told her with a sigh. “It’s not safe for you to be here, my parents…”

“Who cares what your parents think? I love you, Aiden. We can be together, my Mom would help us. I’d do anything for you, give you everything,” she insisted as she cut me off.

I needed to put an end to this. She was dangerously close to being found out by my parents, and who knew how they’d react? I might not love her the way that she claimed to love me, but I did care about her and didn’t want to see her hurt. She was my friend, and I made myself say the words that I hoped would push her away. “Blythe, it wouldn’t work out. My dick is bigger than you are.”

“Wait, Aiden! I can control it now!” She grew before my eyes until she was the size she had been before manifesting, but it only made her differences more obvious. At least when she was small she could hide. She was kneeling on the floor, gazing up at me with a look of adoration. “I can hold it for over an hour now! I’ll keep working at it and we can be together! I…”

That was when my bedroom door opened and my father barged in, “Aiden, make sure you wear the black…” Then he caught sight of me standing there with my pants around my ankles and a very obviously mutant girl on her knees in front of me.

He blew his top, and Blythe barely managed to change her size and zip out the window as he thundered over to me. We didn’t go to the country club that night. Instead, I had to listen to my parents ranting about mutants for most of the night. They threatened to get someone to ‘take care of her’ permanently if they saw her again, and threatened to disown me if they saw me with her.

It was the beginning of the end. Blythe still clung to me for months while I tried my best to push her out of my life. Over time it got easier; the slurs, the insults, taunting her about her size, and the physical bullying. I tried not to do anything that would physically hurt her, but I needed to push her out of my life, for both our sakes.

* * *

I tried to shake off the memory as Blythe muttered again, “I would have given you everything.” Then she took several deep breaths before adding in a tone that sent chills down my spine, “Now I’m going to take everything. Your inheritance, your perfect life, your baseline body, everything that you value.”

Was that why she was keeping my body alive, so she could take it for herself? Maybe I had misjudged her anger, and her sanity. “Whoa, Blythe. Nobody is going to believe that you’re me.”

She sneered at me. “I’m not going to try to be you. The thought of that makes me sick. No, I’m going to be me for the rest of my life, and so will you.” Then she turned to the stairs leading upward to call out, “Mom! I’m ready for the big reveal!”

“Coming, honey! I just wanted to jot dot some notes while it was fresh in my mind!” Ms. Adams called back. A few minutes later I could hear her footsteps on the stairs, turned my head to see her, and managed a full view as she descended the stairs. To say that I had never seen her like that would be a huge understatement. She had always been a milf, but she had always dressed down before. Now it was like she was trying to play up that sexiness and look somewhat like a scientist.

She wore a one-piece black spandex bathing suit that showed an insane amount of cleavage with matching gloves and thigh-high boots. Over top, she wore a leather tool or utility belt with a bunch of pockets and what looked like some sort of gun that hung suggestively off one hip, and a lab coat that might have kept her decent if it wasn’t completely open. Her long blonde hair was loose and she had a pair of high-tech goggles resting on her forehead. She looked like one of those bimbo scientists in porn movies… not that I have ever watched those.

Gone was her cheerful tone as she came forward to sneer down at me in her daughter’s grip. “Welcome to my lab, Aiden. We’ve been preparing for this day all month. For what you’ve done to my daughter, you have earned the wrath of Mistress Mechanicha!”

Did she seriously just pause for effect? I was about to use that brief silence to argue my case when she continued to monologue. “Except for the machines keeping your currently unoccupied body alive, everything in this room is a devise.” She casually walked over to where my body was seated and removed the strange helmet from my head to place it beside the tiny cloning chamber that I had been pulled from and reached for something leaning against the table as she continued to talk. “These are the ones that I built to create your lovely new body and transfer your memories and consciousness. They can’t be replicated by anyone else, they’re one of a kind and your only hope of returning to your old body. It would be a shame if anything happened to them, wouldn’t it.”

I could only watch on in horror as she lifted what appeared to be some sort of massive pneumatic hammer and crushed the pair of devises, leaving a large dent in the metal table and turning the devises into a pile of scrap. “Noooo!”

“Yes,” the Devisor replied with a cold smile. “But just in case you get any ideas about some other Devisor or Gadgeteer transferring you back into that sack of meat, you should know this. When I created that body for you, I made certain modifications to its genetic structure and brain chemistry. If anyone should try to make any changes to certain gene sequences then you will die. If they attempt to transfer your mind to another body by other means, you will suffer a catastrophic brain aneurysm and die. You’re fortunate that you survived when you manifested.”

“Now what should we do with your old body?” Blythe asked maliciously as she aimed me toward my old body in her fist. “I mean, it’s no use to you now that you can’t go back, and I’d prefer to never see it again. I know, I think we could all use some closure, don’t you, Aiden?”

“That’s my girl,” Mistress Mechanicha said with pride as she dropped the hammer on the floor and walked over to us to reach down to her belt and then hand the strange gun hanging from it to her daughter. Blythe took the weapon in hand and I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to see what I was certain was about to occur. I heard a humming sound coming from the vicinity of Blythe’s other hand followed by a sizzling sound as the scent of burnt ozone hit my nose.

“Oops, I missed,” Blythe’s voice casually stated. I breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, they had their fun; I was good and terrified now, so maybe they were done with me. My eyes opened and for a second I could only stare in horror as the smell of burnt flesh hit my nose at the same time that I saw the large hole burned through the chest of my old body. I thought that I might have heard Blythe say, “I lied,” as a scream tore its way out of my new throat and I fainted.

* * *

Meanwhile…
Across town at the lab of Kinosoo…

Cattail tried to work a kink out of her back as she followed Baby’s Breath into the warehouse that served as the lab for the Devisor locally known as Kinosoo, and as the meeting place for the Cowtown Heroes. They couldn’t really be called an official team, more like a loose association of local heroes who combined their resources when they encountered something too big to handle on their own. Most of the group usually worked solo, except for her and Baby’s Breath who worked as a duo.

There were, of course, rumors going around the city about why Baby’s Breath and Cattail worked as a pair, that kind of thing seemed unavoidable in a somewhat conservative city. Despite the wide range of speculation, and the associated shipping via online stories and various visual media, she and Baby’s Breath were not lesbian lovers. They were very close, but only because Baby’s Breath was her mother.

Objectively speaking though, her mother did look good for her age. People couldn’t see her face though and Cattail’s feline form didn’t resemble her even if people could see her face, so neither of the pair had taken those rumors too seriously. They knew the truth and that was the important thing. Besides, they both found it terribly funny.

Since this was probably business, Cattail was currently in her feline form; a humanoid snow leopardess with thick fur, a fluffy tail that was almost as long as she was tall, long and sharp claws, and canines that could punch through metal. Her costume consisted of a simple light blue two-piece bikini. The summers in Calgary were too damn hot for anything more, especially with a thick fur coat, and she could handle the cold well enough during winter.

Baby’s breath was in costume as well. Her costume consisted of a white form-fitting bodysuit with leaf green accents and similarly colored knee-high boots, a cloak, elbow-length gloves that covered her bracelets, and a mask. The mask covered her face, leaving only her hazel eyes visible. It was pure white except for a leaf-green outline of a flower on each cheek.

The mask had the appearance of porcelain, but it was not. It was metal and had a special breathing apparatus inside that would allow her to breathe in even toxic conditions and retractable night vision lenses. It had been a gift from Kinosoo after her old porcelain mask had been shattered the last time that they had fought as a team. He even went so far as to not make it look like a fish, though Cattail suspected that it had been difficult for him as they walked through the security scanners and into the warehouse to meet the others.

Kinosoo was a Devisor and Gadgeteer with fish-like GSD and she was pretty sure that he had only taken that codename because it was amusing to him and sounded kind of silly. Most of his devises had an organic fishy look to them, as was obvious to anyone walking through the warehouse as she was now. It was like walking through a fish market, but without the smell. Cattail was happy about that with her sensitive nose.

She followed her partner back toward the ‘O-fish-al Situation Room’, as Kinosoo called it. It had various monitors and equipment and was mostly dominated by a large scale-shaped table with four chairs currently around it. Kinosoo was an acquired taste, he had an odd sense of humor but he was good at what he did. He was also a fellow hero, was willing to work with others, and had offered a space to meet when necessary.

He was waiting for them, seated at the end of the table. He was of native ancestry, but his skin had a slight blue tint to it and silvery scales covered his cheeks and most of his arms and legs. His long black hair was split down the middle by a large fin and he had smaller ones on the outer part of his forearms. His ears were fin-like as well, and his eyes were slightly large and silvery blue in color. For a costume, he merely wore everyday clothes with a large utility belt and vest with a lot of pockets to store his gadgets and devises in.

Seated in a second seat was Chinook in her form-fitting navy blue bodysuit and domino mask that only partially covered the freckles on her cheeks. Contrasting the dark blue was a gold-colored half cape and matching ankle boots and gloves. Her bright red hair was flowing free, as usual, and her green eyes looked tired under her mask. Chinook was the most established of the group, a local media darling, and had the best relationship with the public.

Standing beside her was the newest hero in town, Bronco. He was a brick and a minor speedster who looked younger than Cattail was, probably in his late teens or early twenties. He was handsome in that traditional hero way with a square jaw, short black hair, and piercing blue eyes and his upper body was just as appealing with his muscles and six-pack abs. The reason that he was standing instead of seated though was that his lower body was that of a chestnut-colored horse. He looked like a centaur from the old Greek myths and he was popular with some of the female hero chasers in town, probably because he was hung like a horse.

Cattail followed her partner to take their seats as Chinook looked up to give them a tired smile and say, “Thank you for coming on such short notice, everyone. I could use your help on this. My contact in the RCMP contacted me first thing this morning regarding a missing person and I have had no luck finding any trace yet.”

Baby’s Breath turned toward the other heroine and asked, “A missing person? That isn’t usually our area of expertise. Why would they want our help with this?”

“It’s a high-profile case,” she replied with a shrug. “The son of Matthew Mason vanished from his school three days ago. There were no witnesses but evidence from where his gym bag was found suggest the involvement of a known supervillain. So far there have been no ransom demands, so the RCMP believes that this may be personal.”

As soon as she heard the name, Cattail’s big fluffy tail stood up and bristled. She practically hissed, “Wait, Matt Mason? The oil tycoon? The same asshole who called me and Kinosoo freaks to our faces after we saved one of his operations from those ‘Green Agenda’ eco-terrorists? Why should we help that asshole?”

“He sounds like a real nice guy, just the type of person I’ve always dreamed of helping,” Bronco muttered sarcastically.

Baby’s Breath put a calming hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “The child is not responsible for the sins of the father, Cattail, and he is the one who is in danger,” she said gently. Then she turned back to Chinook to ask, “What do you know?”

Chinook nodded to Kinosoo, who used a remote to turn on one of the screens to display a picture of a handsome teenage boy with a striking resemblance to his father with his short blond hair, blue eyes, and a large frame. “This is Aiden Mason, he’ll be fifteen in a few weeks. Most of us here are familiar with his father, well known for his anti-mutant rants on television interviews and social media. Aiden disappeared from North Calgary High School following football practice on Tuesday evening. The chemical composition of scorch marks at the site where his bag was found indicate a teleportation devise was used, one distinct to a supervillain known to operate in the area, and used in a rash of bank thefts recently by that same supervillain.”

Kinosoo clicked the remote again, this time bringing up a grainy security camera photo of a blonde woman in a lab coat and not much else. The fish-themed devisor frowned as he said, “This is Mistress Mechanicha, a Devisor. She was thought to be retired and out of the game for the past ten years, but over the last month she’s hit three banks, probably to fund something big. I’ve been trying to track her down, but so far I’ve had no luck.”

“The RCMP didn’t make the connection between the thefts and the kidnapping until late last night, and since there haven’t been any ransom demands yet, they believe this is personal somehow,” Chinook offered. “I’d like Kinosoo to remain here and see if he can find some clues to where Mechanicha might be, or some way to track her down. Bronco will stay here with him in case he gets some Intel and needs to move on it fast. Baby’s Breath and Cattail, I’d like the two of you to go to the school and see if there was anything that the detectives might have missed, and hit up the local information merchants. I’ll take one for the team and join the RCMP to interview the Masons and see if either of them recognizes Mechanicha.”

It looked like the meeting would break up there, but Kinosoo took something that looked like five sardines, roughly five inches long, from one of his many pockets. Each was in a slightly different color and he made sure to give each hero a specific color. “I made these so we can all stay in touch without having to phone one another. They’ll provide a secure comm signal in case any of us need backup in the future. Just tap the button on the side and speak the codename of whoever you want to contact, or you can say ‘alert’ in an emergency and it will contact everyone. Speak into the mouth end to talk and listen through the tail, and it’ll vibrate if someone is trying to contact you.”

“You know, you could have made them more like regular phones or something,” Bronco said as he stared at the one in his hand.

“What would be the fun in that?” the Devisor/Gadgeteer replied with a grin.

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
Mistress Mechanicha’s Lair
Friday, September 9th, 2016 – 1:20 p.m.

I woke up cold and hungry. I was on the floor inside the tricked-out birdcage that I had seen on the table earlier. It was furnished with pink plastic chairs, a table, and a bed that looked like they came from a dollhouse, and above me, there was a bird swing. In the corner there was an empty miniature porcelain teacup that I could only assume was meant to serve as my toilet and a violet-colored washcloth that had seen better days laid on the bed to act as a blanket.

Then there were the mirrors, four of them, with one on each side of the cage so I couldn’t possibly avoid my reflection. I tried to look at the floor instead, unable to face them, but that just made it so that I got a brief glimpse of breasts and delicate limbs before quickly shutting my eyes. I already had a good idea of what I would see and it was bad enough just feeling it. The sensations coming from my new body weren’t quite as jumbled and confusing as they were at first, but they felt strange and wrong.

After a while, I dared to open my eyes for a quick look around, trying not to catch glimpses of myself in the mirrors. I couldn’t see Blythe or her mother outside the cage, and I couldn’t hear any movement either. I could move but it took effort, I was extremely uncoordinated, and I still felt weak. Honestly, that wasn’t too surprising since I was essentially a day old and this body had never exercised before. Still, I needed to try to escape while my captors were gone, this might be my only chance. With that in mind, I crawled to the bars lining the cage and tried to figure out how I could make my escape.

The door to my prison was halfway up the cage; I figured that I might be able to reach the bottom of it and pull myself up if I stood on my toes and stretched. It might have even worked if I weren’t weaker than a newborn kitten. In my current state, I could barely stand though, and when I attempted the feat I only succeeded in falling against the bars. As I did so, my meager efforts were met with instant and painful resistance in the form of some sort of shock that lit up the areas between the bars with crimson light.

I jumped back in shock and pain and collapsed to the floor, though looking at where my hands and arms had touched the bars, I didn’t seem to be burned or otherwise injured. Was it some kind of force field? Regardless, I had just learned painfully that red means stop. Dammit. How was I going to get out of here now? I needed to escape, find my parents, and…

“And what, Aiden?” I asked myself bitterly. “Your real body is dead and you look like a mutant or something that escaped from a bad fantasy novel now. Even if they believed that you are who you claim to be, they wouldn’t accept you like this. More likely, they’d try to kill you, or have someone do it for them. They wouldn’t want to dirty their hands themselves. Besides, they were Aiden’s parents, not yours. You’re nobody, a clone, a cheap imitation of Blythe, and not even genetically related to the Mason family now. The closest thing you have to blood relatives are the two nutcases holding you hostage.”

Blythe had taken everything from me, my body, my name, my gender, and even my humanity. Even if I could escape, there was nothing for me to go back to outside of this cage. The only life left for me now was here as her pet or plaything, enduring whatever torments she decided to put me through. And I probably deserved it.

Sure, she was obsessive and clingy but she had been my friend and I had turned my back on her because she was a mutant and I was afraid of what my parents might think. I had probably chosen the worst possible way to push her out of my life too, and near the end, I had started to enjoy it, like a game. If she was telling the truth, I had driven her to the point of trying to kill herself. That hadn’t been my intent, I just wanted her safe and to get my inheritance one day, but it didn’t matter. The road to hell and all that.

I couldn’t face life as some kind of prisoner, pet, or something around for only the entertainment of Blythe and her mother. I’d already lost everything else, pride was all that I had left. My eyes fell upon the bars that had caused me such agony only moments before. Obviously, the force field was there to keep me from escaping, but maybe it could offer another form of escape.

I threw myself against the bars and held on tightly. It hurt more than anything that I had ever felt before my brief earlier brush against them. I held them until I passed out and fell to the floor from the pain. I couldn’t have been out long though because I was still tingling and breathing heavily when my eyes opened. Unconsciousness, however brief, was not the release that I had been hoping for. Whatever that energy field was, it was meant to keep me inside while not physically harming me.

For a time I just laid there, curled up in the fetal position and weeping, sobs tearing themselves from my chest until my breathing came only in wet and muffled gasps of air. Then I caught sight of the bed, and what lay on top. I crawled to the bed, still sobbing and gasping for air, to examine the washcloth blanket; there were a few loose threads and, at my size, they were fairly thick.

Yes, I could probably make a decent rope with them if I could pull them free without losing too much length. I had no idea how to weave rope, but I had plenty of time on my hands to learn. If I stacked one of the chairs on top of the table, I might be able to reach the swing. I would just need to figure out the specifics of how to tie…

The inevitable end of that line of thought was derailed by the sound of Blythe’s voice. “Oh, Aaaaidan! I hope you’re awake, we have so much to do!” I quickly flopped onto the hard plastic bed and tried to rein in my crying and steady my breathing, hoping that maybe she wouldn’t bother me if I appeared to be asleep. That hope was in vain.

The faint hum that I had been hearing since waking up was probably the force field because Blythe touched something on the outside of the cage and the noise stopped. A moment later, she was opening the cage door and flitting inside at her normal size. It made her the same size as me, but I wasn’t sure if that would help me any since she had superpowers and I could barely move my limbs.

I kept my eyes closed and heard her flit in and out several times, and I was almost curious, and nervous, enough about what she might be doing to open my eyes. I didn’t though and a few minutes later she was shaking me. “Wakey wakey, little fakey!”

I decided that I didn’t have the energy to care about what she had in store for me. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up at her, defeated. “What do you want, Blythe?”

“Is that any way to talk to the girl who brought you the essentials?” She asked in a disgustingly chipper tone.

“No, but it’s a damn good way to talk to the person who kidnapped and murdered you,” I retorted. I didn’t give a shit, she’d already done her worst and anything after this was just one more thing I would have to go through before I could finish my ‘escape’ plan and finally be free of her.

The other pint-sized mutant fairy sighed. “I didn’t murder you, you’re right here. I just got rid of the dead weight. I don’t think even Mom could have transferred to back to that without killing you, and now you won’t have to worry about it anymore and can move on. We can be together like this, things can be like they were before… well, except for the making out because that would be weird.”

It was almost like seeing the old Blythe again, but I couldn’t pretend to be her friend again because that would be all that it was, pretend. Even if it could somehow make things easier for me, after what she had done we couldn’t go back. Bridges had been burned, and while I might have been responsible for my share of them, I just couldn’t take her at her word. I couldn’t feel anything in my heart for her but pity and hate. “Looked like murder to me,” I told her tiredly. “I’m already dead, just leave me to fucking finish the job.”

All traces of the old Blythe were gone again in an instant. “Shut up! You’re mine! You have to do what I say!” she shouted before making a visible effort to calm down. “I… I’ll take care of you, I’ll make you happy.”

I couldn’t make myself look at her so I looked away, catching a glimpse of the closest mirror. What I saw there could have been a pair of sisters, one looking over the other with a worried expression on her face. It looked so innocent, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Pain welled up in my chest, tears streamed down my face once again, and I just wanted this to end as I whispered, “I’ll never be happy like this.”

Blythe grabbed my arm and yanked me forcibly into a sitting position. “Mom said that if I’m going to keep you that I have to take proper care of you, so I brought you some food and other things that you’ll need. Get up, you need to eat and exercise.”

“So that’s what I am, after all, a pet,” I muttered bitterly. She was going to make me do it one way or another and there was nothing that I could do to stop her, at least not yet. For a brief second, I looked longingly at one of the loose threads on my ‘blanket’ and then I allowed Blythe to drag me to whatever new horrors that she had planned. I would start working on my plan once she was gone.

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
OXford China Shop
Friday, September 9th, 2016 – 4:05 p.m.

Cattail sighed as she followed Baby’s Breath into OXford China Shop. The school had been a bust, it had been three days since the kidnapping, and even if there was still a scent for her to pick up, too many people had been in the area since. While enduring the smell of the victim’s uniform had given Cattail a scent, with teleportation there was nowhere to follow it to, even if it had been fresh with no other scents covering it. Since the kidnapping, the investigators, students, and staff had left a mix of scents that would have even made it difficult at a fresh crime scene. After three days, finding anything useful was next to impossible.

Baby’s Breath had come up similarly empty-handed while using magical means. She had attempted a scrying spell using the uniform as well, but she couldn’t locate him. That could mean one of three possibilities.

The first was that he didn’t have it long enough to form a strong enough connection to use it to locate him. Given that school and football season had just started, that was a likely possibility. The second possibility was that he was being shielded from magical sight somehow, there was a small possibility of that, but it was the least likely of the three. The last was the worst-case scenario, that Aiden Mason was dead.

If that was the case, his father would do his level best to make life miserable for anyone involved in this clusterfuck, and mutants in general. They would still have to try to track down Mistress Mechanicha, but a simple kidnapping would be much easier to deal with, as would any fallout. The longer that this went on without any ransom demand though, the less likely it was that this could be wrapped up neatly.

Cattail was careful to keep her tail wrangled so that she wouldn’t accidentally damage anything as she followed Baby’s Breath through the shop and toward the counter. As the name indicated the shop sold fine china, and from what she could see, fine was a very apt description. Each set was a work of art, surprising given just who and what their creator, and proprietor of the shop, was.

Sitting cross-legged on top of the counter was a teenage girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. She had bright green hair with a pair of little black horns poking out, orange eyes with slit pupils, and a pair of small black feathered wings on her back. She was rocking the whole punk look with a tank top for some band named Toxic Overbite, fingerless black gloves, fishnets, combat boots, and a short plaid skirt in green, navy blue, and silver. She was also paying no attention whatsoever to the shop as she did something on her phone and blew bubbles with the gum that she was chewing.

“We’d like to speak with Black Angus,” Baby’s Breath inquired as the pair approached to counter.

“Ain’t nobody here by that name,” the girl replied without looking up from her phone and blowing another bubble that seemed to emphasize her statement with a *pop*. Baby’s Breath let out a sigh and Cattail nearly joined her with one of her own. None of the other information brokers had been able to tell them anything useful and this was their last possibility. Both immediately perked up though as the girl added, “He hasn’t used that name since he opened this shop last year.”

Another sigh escaped Baby’s Breath before she said, “We’d like to speak with Angus Oxford then, is he in? It’s important. I’m an old friend, and I could use his help with something.”

Another *pop* preceded the girl’s reply. “Yeah, I’ll get him for you,” she offered, still not looking up from her phone before yelling loud enough to make the pair wince, “DAAAAAD!!!!”

It was unlikely that Angus knew anything, but he was the last information broker that either of the pair knew. He had recently retired after making enough money to start a business doing what he loved, making pottery and fine china. He was good at it too, from what Cattail could see. A beaded curtain behind the counter parted and a massive figure stepped out into the shop.

He was over seven feet tall and very muscular but that wasn’t the most unusual thing about him, instead of a human head he had the head of a bull with a coating of dark brown fur and a very impressive set of horns. “Katie, what have I told you about sitting on the counter like that?” he asked in a long-suffering tone. Then he noticed the pair of visitors. “Baby’s Breath, Cattail, it’s been a while. Katie… the kiln’s getting cold back there, could you heat it up for me?”

Katie sighed and made a show of rolling her orange eyes as she placed her phone in a backpack sitting behind her on the counter. “You know, Dad, when you suggested that I come to work part-time at the shop, I didn’t think you meant as a human flamethrower.” She hopped off the counter without a hint of modesty and blue flames were already beginning to flicker along her arms and hands as she stepped through the beaded curtain toward the back of the shop.

“She’s at that age,” Angus said with a nervous sigh as if that explained everything. “It’s not easy being a single father, but she’s a good kid. She just needs to start channeling her emotions into something creative so she can express herself. I’m hoping that helping me here will help. So… what brings you here? Are you interested in some fine china or did you just come here to shoot the bull?”

“We heard about Nightdancer, my condolences,” Baby’s Breath offered as Cattail nodded in silent and solemn agreement. “I wouldn’t ask this if we hadn’t already tried everyone else that I could think of, Angus, but we need some information. We’re willing to pay the usual rate.”

The minotaur mutant let out a deep sigh and looked away. “I’m not in that business anymore; I called it quits when I opened the shop. Any information that I have wouldn’t be current anyway.”

“Please, Angus, a boy’s life may be at stake,” Baby’s Breath pressed. “It doesn’t matter if it’s current; we just need to know anything that you can tell us about Mistress Mechanicha.”

There was a moment as Angus scratched his chin in thought. “Blonde? Devisor? More than a few screws loose? Dresses like a sexy scientist?” As both of his guests nodded emphatically, he shrugged. “She was mostly small time, but rumor was that she had a kid and she retired after a big payday. She’s been in the wind for years, what do you want with her?”

“She’s been making a comeback,” Cattail muttered. “She’s hit three banks this month and evidence points to her being involved in the kidnapping of Matthew Mason’s kid.”

Angus’s eyes went wide and the room carried a weighted silence for a moment before he finally broke it. “Oh… shit. I… I don’t have much, some information on her powers and tendencies, and a name. Could be real, could be an alias, but it might not be the alias that she’s using currently. That’s all I have.”

“That’ll be fine, Angus, anything that you have will help,” Baby’s Breath assured him as Cattail felt a sudden vibration in her chest.

The snow leopardess awkwardly removed the devise from her cleavage. “Excuse me I need to answer my… uh… sardine. Hey, I don’t have a utility belt or anything, where was I supposed to put it?” The last was directed at Angus as the large man-bull watched wide-eyed. Then she made a mental note to add a belt and some pouches to her costume as soon as possible as she took several steps away, raised the devise to the side of her head, and pressed the button on the side. “Cattail here.”

The reply was short and with every word that she heard, the expression on Cattail’s expression grew ever darker. “Well, fuck.”

Seeing the look on her daughter’s face and hearing the muttered curse, Baby’s Breath inquired, “What’s wrong?”

“That was Chinook, she and the RCMP officers managed to get some solid information to go on when interviewing the Masons at their home earlier, but they’re on their way back there now,” the snow leopardess replied as she returned the fish-like devise to its temporary spot between her breasts. “Aiden Mason was dropped off at the Masons’ front door half an hour ago, or rather, his body was.”

“Well, fuck,” her mother and partner, repeated dismally. “Mason and the MCO are going to be all over this. We need to bring in Mistress Mechanicha as soon as possible.”

“I’ll go get my file on her,” Angus said with what looked like a frown on his bull-like face before heading into the back of the store. It was a good five minutes before he returned with some printouts stapled together. Baby’s Breath placed a thick envelope on the counter but the large man-bull shook his head and pushed it back toward her. “This is a freebie. As you said, Mechanicha needs to be brought in as quickly as possible.”

Baby’s Breath pushed the envelope back. “Keep it, Angus. You’re just getting this business off the ground and you have a daughter to think of. We would be willing to buy any files that you might have on us as well, and pay a little extra to see the originals destroyed.”

Angus sighed but pocketed the envelope as he shook his head. “I don’t have files on you. Alisha… Nightdancer wouldn’t allow it. She might have preferred to work solo, but she didn’t want me to trade any information that could end up hurting her fellow local heroes. I could never refuse her anything.”

“Thank you, Angus, we appreciate this. Take care of yourself and Katie,” Baby’s Breath offered as she turned to leave the shop.

Cattail waited until her partner had stepped outside the shop before agreeing. “Yeah, take care of yourself, Angus, and take care of Spitfire too. She’s walking a fine line.”

The Minotaur’s eyes went wide. “Wait, how did you…”

“Katie smells a lot like a scent I picked up recently at a crime scene. I heard the name Spitfire being tossed around by some perps being sent to the hospital who were raving about being attacked by a demon girl. I just put two and two together,” the snow leopardess replied with a shrug.

Angus looked down, frowning at the counter where his daughter had so recently sat. “It’s like I said earlier, she’s at that age, and right now she’s mad at the world. She’s a good kid though and deep down, she wants to help people.”

“I can understand wanting to work out her aggression on lowlifes and supervillains, Angus, I really can, especially given how her mother died,” Cattail replied gently. “Hell, my whole thing is getting up close and personal, but I have a partner to cover my ass and I know when to use force and when to use stealth. Nightdancer tried to go it alone too, and no offense, but look where that got her. I think that we’d all rather not see the same thing happen to Katie. If she wants to be a real hero instead of a vigilante with a chip on her shoulder, we can help her learn the ropes and give her backup if she needs it. Tell her to think about it, our nightly patrols usually bring us through this area. See you around, big guy.”

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
Mistress Mechanicha’s Lair
Friday, September 9th, 2016 – 4:17 p.m.

I wished that Blythe would just leave so I could work my way toward ending my suffering. It had been almost three hours and she wouldn’t leave me be. First, she made me eat and drink and when I tried to refuse, she basically force-fed me. Have you ever had someone force-feed you granola? That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, try it when you’re like five inches tall and some of that shit is almost as big as your head.

Maybe I should have just let her choke me to death with that hunk of almond or drown me with all the water she forced me to drink to wash it down. It would have saved me the effort of trying to end it myself. I wasn’t even sure why I didn’t, but when it came to chewing or choking, I chewed. Did I really want to cling to this parody of a life? I had nothing left, and only suffering to look forward to, so what was the point?

After feeding it was time for walkies, or rather exercise. She had me doing every conceivable exercise to work my new muscles and build up a bit of stamina. She was even having me do exercises to learn to control my wings and strengthen them. Why help me get stronger? Was she that certain that I’d never get away or did she still care for me somehow, deep down in that demented mind of hers?

My muscles protested just the warm-up exercises, and then she got into cardio and yoga. I was sore and tired, and all of the exercises were causing the small breasts that were now standard issue for me to jostle and bounce wildly. I was glad they were small, as it was all of that bouncing was painful, both physically and mentally.

Normally I’m all for some good exercise but this was tortuous and it didn’t help that I was about as coordinated as a half-blind, three-legged elephant. The breaks that we took were short and only enough to keep me hydrated before we started again, and at one point, I refused and said, “We’re not all Exemplars here, you know.”

Her response was to grow a couple of inches, just enough to loom threateningly over me as she said, “Move that body, or I’ll move it for you. Mom said that you need to exercise as soon as possible to jump-start your body.”

She did realize that I wasn’t even a day old, right? It didn’t seem to matter to her though as we worked every muscle that I knew, and then some. But at least she explained while she worked my ass off. Apparently, booby-trapped genes weren’t the only changes that her mother had made to my new body.

I might not be an Exemplar, but supposedly my body had been tweaked to get to optimum fitness much faster than the average baseline and stay there with minimal effort, but my muscles, cardiovascular system, and metabolism needed to be pushed hard at first to get the process started. After a few weeks of regular intense exercise, I could probably compete as an Olympic runner or gymnast, if I were normal-sized.

I might have been happy about that under normal circumstances, but normal had long since vanished down the rabbit hole while muttering about being late to a pocket watch. Any excitement I might have had about it would have been crushed anyway when Blythe gleefully informed me, “Don’t worry, Aiden, your genes won’t let you get a bunch of unsightly muscle like some bodybuilder or football player. You’ll be toned and fit, not beefy, the whole point was to make you look just like me after all.”

Still, peak fitness seemed an odd modification to give to a prisoner and I wondered if maybe I was just a convenient test subject since they were cloning this body anyway. I didn’t have much time to think about it though since as soon as she’d declared my workout from hell complete, she grew to normal human size and took me out of the lab and up the stairs to give me a bath in the bathroom sink like some sort of Barbie doll. At least she’d returned to my size for that, she probably would have broken me otherwise.

The whole time she was instructing me on proper hygiene, hair care, and worst of all feminine hygiene. She had to shrink down to my size while holding things like hairbrushes several times to get me looking ‘presentable’. “If you’re going to insist on being my twin, I can’t have you not taking proper care of yourself or looking frumpy,” she taunted at one point. I just let her do it so I could get this over with and she would leave me alone.

Pointing out that it was her idea and I hadn’t been given a choice wouldn’t do any good and neither would trying to fight her. She had easily subdued me when I tried resisting her efforts to wash my body. I had refused to do it myself at first since I didn’t want to think about my breasts or what was nestled between my legs now. The sensations that put me through made me wish that I had done it myself, at least I would have done it quickly and I wouldn’t have felt so ashamed and awkward afterward.

After that, I decided that I would dry myself instead of trying to resist. A washcloth had been cut into half a dozen small towels that would work for my size so I tried to get it over with quickly. That was when I learned to pat myself dry instead of rubbing because this body’s skin was a lot more sensitive than my real body. I guess it was my real body now though, at least until I was able to join my old one in death.

Now she was making me get dressed, which I really wasn’t sure if I should be happy or upset about. On the one hand, it was cold and if I could cover up then at least I wouldn’t have to look at this body naked. While we were friends I had imagined Blythe naked from time to time, I’m sure that all boys did that with female friends when they reached puberty, but I had never expected to have to see it from this angle. Every time that I looked down at myself, I felt wrong and the sight jarred me because I knew all too well what should be there, and it wasn’t the body of a petite pixie.

On the other hand, what she was holding in front of me was a pink dress from a Barbie doll. There was no underwear and the material was scratchy as hell against my skin, but it would cover me down to my knees. To add insult to injury, the damn thing was too big for me when I finally stepped into it and put my arms through the sleeves. I probably looked like Barbie’s little sister wearing her hand-me-downs.

I had to wonder if this was Blythe’s hand-me-downs though. Had she been forced to resort to wearing stuff like this until she could get control of her size-warping power? This was one of nearly a dozen such dresses that she had shown me and on all but one of them, the Velcro fastening on the back had been removed and replaced with a button and loop at the back of the neckline that would keep it from falling off. It would also allow my wings to remain free via the slit in the back without Velcro rubbing against them and irritating them.

If I wasn’t her prisoner and wearing a body that wasn’t my own, I would have felt sorry for Blythe. I was getting a very good feel for how dehumanizing it felt to be this small and vulnerable. If I added the way that I had spectacularly fucked up when trying to push her out of my life, it wasn’t hard to see how she had lost her grip on sanity.

There had been brief moments since I had woken up like this that I got glimpses of the old obsessed but caring Blythe, but I couldn’t be sure if they were real, or an act to try to manipulate me. Those glimpses seemed to disappear as quickly as they had appeared, replaced by bossiness and threats when I wouldn’t cooperate or megalomaniacal rants when I argued or complained. It was exhausting, and I just wanted it to be over with so I could get on with my death.

I was relieved when Blythe decided to return me to the basement and my cage. At least that was what I was assuming when she snapped me up in one hand and my new clothes and the remaining dry ‘towels’ in the other. As she took me from the bathroom, through the house, and back down the stairs to what seemed like a cellar that Mistress Mechanicha had converted into a lab, rather than a basement, I managed to get a look around.

The house wasn’t anything like their old house next door to mine; it had definitely seen better days. The floors were wooden and worn and faded wallpaper covered the walls, where it wasn’t torn or stripped. I could hear noises coming from what I thought might be a bedroom as we passed by, so I figured that Blythe’s mom was in there working on something else to make my life miserable. A quick glance outside the window showed the sun getting low in the sky and stretches of barren fields, but I didn’t get much more information than that before Blythe headed downstairs.

Was I even in Calgary anymore? Or near it? Not that it mattered, nobody was going to come looking for me. Blythe had already gleefully told me that her mother had dropped my dead body off at my front door. My family thought that I was dead now, and I wouldn’t be able to convince them to believe what had happened to me, not with my dead body on hand and while in this body.

The best-case scenario was that they would think I was some mutant con artist and call the police. I knew better than to expect that though. My parents hated mutants more than anything, and I was small and helpless. They would have no qualms about having one of the servants kill me or calling in the MCO. My father had the MCO on speed dial.

Blythe placed my clothes and towels on the table outside of the cage, and then placed me inside before picking up something off the table and shrinking back down to my size to join me inside the cage. “Sorry, Aiden, but that’s all the time that I can spend with you today, Mom will need my help with some stuff while she’s indisposed tonight. Don’t worry, we won’t be staying here much longer, we’ll be leaving as soon as Mom is up and around again and then we’ll have a nice big house again and you’ll have everything that you could ever want.”

“Except for freedom, my old body, and happiness,” I spat back at her bitterly.

Her expression darkened as soon as those words left my mouth. “You lost any right to those things when you betrayed me. You’re mine now, so be happy that I don’t get Mom to do something worse to you.” Fear clutched at my chest and my heart raced at those words and the dark expression on her face. I had thought that she had done her worst, but what if she hadn’t? What if this really was her still caring about me enough to hold back?

I found myself shivering uncontrollably at that thought, and nearly jumped out of my dress when her hand reached out to gently caress my cheek. A chill ran down my spine as she added in a softer and more caring tone, “I still love you though, so I’m going to take care of you and give you everything, just like I promised. But since I can’t have you getting into any trouble while I’m gone…”

As her words trailed off she raised her left hand and I got a glimpse of a metal rod of some sort before she jabbed it into my chest. My last thoughts as I fell to the floor unconscious were, “Not again.”

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
Kinosoo’s Lab
Friday, September 9th, 2016 – 10:38 p.m.

Cattail was glad that her chair had a hole in the back for her tail, it felt like she had been sitting there waiting for hours. Okay, so she had been sitting there waiting for hours. This was the part about these types of investigations that she hated the most, going over information for possible clues and making plans.

This was not her type of heroics at all. Give her someone to sneak up on and knockout. She could do that. Fighting tooth and claw to take down gang members or minions. That was in her wheelhouse. But all of this waiting for people more observant than herself to figure out what their next move was? It just wasn’t her thing, and all the waiting was annoying. She wanted to do something.

The information that she and her mother had gotten on Mistress Mechanicha from Angus had been limited. There was one known alias, Naomi Keller, and a bunch of information on what kind of tactics she usually employed. Spoiler alert, Mistress Mechanicha preferred to use her devises in combat and instead of disposable minions for goons she preferred to use robots. Real big surprise there. So it was relatively certain that if they could find wherever she was hiding out, they would likely face rampant robotic resistance when they got there to try to take her in.

When the RCMP officers with Chinook had shown the Masons a bank surveillance photo of Mistress Mechanicha, they had been able to identify her and add another alias to the list. It seemed that until a month ago, she had been their neighbor under the name Kelly Adams, a well-off single mother with a daughter named Blythe. The daughter and Matthew Mason’s murdered son had been close for a time and she had apparently manifested sometime since they met, going by what Mason saw when he found her in Aiden’s room with him one night, looking far closer than the oil tycoon had liked.

Mason had been less than helpful in giving an up-to-date description of the daughter though, apparently ‘pink-haired freak’ was all that he had seen before becoming furious and chasing her from his son’s room. From the sound of it, she was likely a size warper and a flyer of some sort, going by his description of how she had fled. Both Baby’s Breath and Chinook believed that the daughter was the probable motive for kidnapping and murdering the boy.

Their leads had all come to dead ends so far though, so there was nothing for them to do but wait until Kinosoo’s investigation of other avenues could turn up something useful. Cattail was just about ready to lay her head on the table and settle in for a catnap when the Devisor exclaimed, “I found something!”

Cattail practically jumped out of her chair and joined the others in gathering around the screens that detailed Kinosoo’s various information searches. “What did you find, Kinosoo?” Chinook asked hopefully.

“There was a large spike in the power grid just before noon today. I traced it to a small farm just outside the city limits. Whatever she was doing, it took a lot of power, way more than a place like that would need. Going by the power consumption records, that place has been unused for years but it came back on the grid right around the time that the Masons said that Kelly Adams and her daughter moved away. Since then, the power-use average has been much higher than average for other homes in the area, and then there was that massive spike earlier today.”

“That’s outside of the city, how are we going to get there? Not all of us can wrap ourselves in a bubble of hot air to fly,” Cattail muttered with a glance toward Chinook.

“I’ve got just the thing,” Kinosoo offered far too giddily to the snow leopardess’s comfort.

* * *

Meanwhile at Mistress Mechanicha’s lair…

I awoke feeling like hell. Whatever devise that Blythe had used on me had left me waking up nauseous and with a pounding headache. That wasn’t even the worst of it. Sleeping in the dress that Blythe had given me to wear was even more agonizingly uncomfortable than it had been before. I must have been moving while I was unconscious and it felt like I was wearing the business end of sandpaper.

A quick glance showed that the irritation wasn’t just in my head either, I had a rash forming in the worst areas and it was already driving me crazy. I tried to ignore it for the moment as I grabbed one of the loose threads in my ‘blanket’ to work it free; it wouldn’t matter for long anyway.

Once I had pulled the thread free, I examined it. It was thicker than I thought and it would probably be long enough for my purposes. I just needed to form the noose and then tie it to the swing somehow. I never thought that my brief stint in the boy scouts would ever help me with something like this, but I managed a knot that I was pretty sure would do the job that I needed it to. Then I carefully placed the pink plastic chair on top of its matching table to be able to reach the swing and fasten the other end of the thread to it.

After taking a quick look and listening to make sure that Blythe was still gone, I took a deep breath to steel myself. I didn’t truly want to die, even now I was trying to think of another way out, but what else did I have to live for? I had lost everything that was important to me, everything that I was.

The only thing left for me was a parody of life in a cage and a body that I hated as the pet of a girl who I had betrayed, bullied, and probably drove to madness. Even when she wasn’t around, it would be her face that I would see in the mirror. The face of my keeper, torturer, and only companion.

No. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t live my life as some plaything that Blythe kept around for her amusement or to make her feel powerful and better about herself. Not without eventually going as mad as she seemed to be. I would rather die; I probably even deserved to die. This was my only escape because I was too small and weak to do anything else. Blythe had proven that several times, every time that I had tried to fight back.

I bit my lip, trying to hold back the tears as I held the noose with trembling hands and stared at it. My heaving breaths only served to make me more aware of my breasts, brushing painfully against the cloth of the dress. They felt so wrong, and not just from the rash that was probably forming. They didn’t belong there, this wasn’t who I was or who I was supposed to be. “Stop stalling and get it over with, Aiden,” I told myself.

God, I was scared. No, if there was a God, He either didn’t exist or had abandoned me. Or perhaps He thought that I deserved this too. My thoughts were running a mile a minute. I needed to stop this, I needed to push past the fear and do this now, or I might not get another chance. As scared as I was of dying, I was more scared about what future loomed over me if I didn’t take this chance. I looped the noose around my neck with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach and then I kicked the chair away and let myself fall.

* * *

And back at Kinosoo’s lab…

“The things I do for justice,” Cattail grumbled as stood on the roof of Kinosoo’s warehouse and watched the Devisor prepare the Flying Fish for takeoff. It was an airship of course, perhaps thirty feet long and shaped vaguely like a small yacht with landing gear underneath and a small cabin taking up a third of the upper deck. Kinosoo assured them that there would be plenty of room for everyone else in the below-deck areas though.

It was like something out of a steampunk novel, all dark wood with brass-colored accents, instruments, and portholes. There were various instruments, gauges, and several swiveling turbines that she assumed were to help steer the ship. Kinosoo was in the cabin warming up those turbines and doing a preflight checklist at the control panel with the large ship’s wheel attached. Meanwhile, Chinook was putting all of that hot air that she could manifest to good use.

Cattail had almost been impressed that the Devisor had held off on the fish theme with the craft until the large finlike rudders unfolded and the large kevra balloon meant to keep them aloft was fully inflated. It was a damn pufferfish. Of course, it was. She should have known that he wouldn’t be able to resist.

With a long-suffering sigh, and a small smile threatening to form, she followed Baby’s Breath and Bronco up the boarding ramp and onto the ship. Then they made their way down below deck to make themselves comfortable until they arrived at their destination. It was surprisingly comfortable with a full kitchen to the fore and to the rear were several tables with stools and comfortable padded couches in a rich emerald green along the walls so passengers could sit comfortably while taking in the view outside the portholes.

Within minutes they were in the air as they gained altitude to float above the buildings of the city, and once they had reached a safe altitude, the ship would turn west toward their destination. Cattail and Baby’s Breath made themselves comfortable on one of the couches and the feline mutant found herself gazing out the porthole as the city lights passed them by on their way upward. Then, when a slight lurch and a thrumming sound indicated that the turbines had been engaged, she stood up to pace the floor.

“What’s the matter, kitty cat? Scared of flying?” Bronco teased.

Cattail rolled her eyes and tried not to take the teasing to heart. “No, I just want to get there and get this mission over with. Something about this whole thing doesn’t feel right to me.”

* * *

Once again, we're back at Mistress Mechanicha’s lair…

I hung there still and silent for what seemed an eternity before sighing and reaching up to scratch my head, accidentally brushing my fingertips against one of the fluffy pink antennae sticking out from my similarly pink hairline. “Well, this certainly sucks. I’m not heavy enough, stupid light fairy body.” The noose had tightened, so I had made it right, but my body weight just wasn’t enough for the task.

I took a deep breath and tried to think the problem through, there had to be another way. I began beating my wings for all they were worth. I had gotten a good feel for them while doing the workout from hell and between my lightness and the wings I has this strong feeling that I could fly if I tried. I had no idea how I’d maneuver in the air, but it wasn’t like I planned on doing it for long. Just enough to get up some speed and hopefully then I wouldn’t have to worry any longer.

Holy shit, I was doing it. I was flying. Well, hovering, but that wasn’t the point. Before I could think any deeper about it, I leaned forward and tried to fly toward the bars of the cage as quickly as my wings would let me. It worked, the noose began to tighten and I was gasping for air, even as I willed my wings to beat harder and faster. My vision blurred, spots hovering. This was going to work; I could feel it with each strangled gasp for air.

Then I felt nothing. No fading to darkness, no light at the end of the tunnel, but most of all, no trouble breathing. All that I felt was the rapid beating of my wings and this faint warmth around my entire body as the noose snapped and I slammed into the side of the cage. I fell to the ground and started beating the floor of the cage with my tiny fists as tears streamed down my cheeks. “For FUCK sake!”

It was as I lay there, curled up in a ball and sobbing over what seemed to be my inescapable fate that two things occurred to me. First, I had actually flown. Sure, my wings felt like lead now from the effort and my general weakness, but I had flown. The second thing was that I hadn’t felt any pain when I hit the bars, even though I could still hear the hum of the force field.

I sat bolt-upright in shock. I was a mutant. Blythe and her mother had said as much. I wasn’t just a copy of Blythe, they said I had manifested, and if I had manifested then maybe I actually had powers of my own. I considered the idea, daring to hope for some chance of a real escape and I tried to push myself to my feet. That was when I noticed the dents in the metal floor of the cage where I had been pounding my fists in frustration moments before. “Holy shit, I’ve got powers.”

For a while, I just knelt there on the floor, stunned and unable to figure out what to do with this realization. Could I use these powers to escape? If I did, what kind of life could I even have out there? My parents wouldn’t take me back like this, even if they did believe that I was who I claimed to be.

I was a mutant, and worse, a clone. I had no real identity and I would be homeless. I wasn’t even fifteen yet, and even if I did have powers, I had no idea how to use them. I was also small and would stand out whenever I tried to interact with others. I might as well paint a target on myself. How could I possibly survive on the streets even if I did manage to escape?

But I would be free. Maybe I could get used to this body in time, or maybe it would always feel wrong. Maybe people would hate me and try to hunt me down because of the way I look, or maybe I could find acceptance somewhere. I would never know until it happened, and I wouldn’t get that chance if I stayed here under Blythe’s thumb.

My musings were interrupted by a high-pitched siren that seemed to reverberate through the entire room and had me covering my ears. A few minutes later, the sound stopped as Blythe ran down the stairs, seemingly in a panic. “Shit shit shit! Teleport patches, where are the damn teleport patches?!” She started rummaging through the assorted small devises on the table near my cage, finally finding and snatching up a circular metal object that was roughly four inches in diameter and a quarter of an inch thick.

She set the devise aside, along with a pair of others that looked suspiciously like grenades, and then yanked me from my cage before sweeping the cage and all of the other devises on the table that she wasn’t interested in into a sloppy pile on the floor. I was still trying to figure out just what the hell was happening when she said, “We’re getting out of here, Aiden, someone’s tripped the perimeter alarm. I had to take Mom out early and she’s too weak to move so I’m gonna have to get us all to the backup site.”

As she spoke, she used her free hand to put one of the grenade-like objects in her pocket, twist something on the other one, toss it on the pile of devises, and then grab the metal disc. I was still trying to process everything that was happening as she bolted up the stairs, gripping me tightly in one hand and the disc in the other. It was about when we reached the top of the steps and a small explosion rocked the cellar behind us that I came to my senses.

“Fuck you, I’m not going anywhere with you!” I snapped as I started to squirm in her grip. This was my chance to escape and I was damn well going to take it.

“You’re mine! You’ll do what I tell you, tiny!” she shrieked in reply as she tore out of the kitchen and through the living room, toward the room that I had heard her mother working in earlier.

I couldn’t take it anymore. Raw fury at what she and her mother had done to me bubbled up inside me. Until now I had been in shock from what I had endured, letting myself fall into a spiral of depression, shame, and a desire to make my suffering at her hands end because I thought that I had no way to fight back. She had kidnapped me, turned me into some sick copy of herself, killed my real body, and treated me like some kind of toy or pet. No more.

I had made mistakes, but I would take them back if I could. I didn’t deserve this, nobody did. She was insane, and I wasn’t going to let her abuse me for one more second. Everything that she had taken away from me, and every new shame that she had heaped upon me today burned in my mind. If I didn’t end this now, it would never end, I would either kill myself or remain her victim for the rest of my life. I fought against her grip, putting all my anger and loss into fighting back. I was not weak, I wouldn’t let myself be.

“I AM NOT YOUR PLAYTHING!” I shouted in unbridled fury as Blythe’s fingers flew apart and she yelped in either pain or surprise. I hovered there for a moment, wings buzzing behind me, before leaning forward and throwing myself at her as she stopped in shock at my sudden resistance. My body slammed into her with a power and ferocity that surprised even me, sending us both crashing through a window and rolling along the ground outside.

Blythe recovered first, growing to her maximum height of almost eight feet tall. I was still trying to figure out what had just happened and get to my feet when her gargantuan foot cast a shadow around me as it descended. “Shit,” I cursed as I reached up, trying to stop her from crushing me.

The foot stopped, or rather, I seemed to have stopped it. My tiny arms somehow managed to keep her from crushing me, but that only made her put more effort into it. Still, I kept her foot from crushing me, but we were at a stalemate. “If I can’t have you, I’d rather see you dead, Aiden!” Blythe shouted as she redoubled her efforts. She was cheating, using her gravity warping to make herself heavier and I wasn’t sure how long I could keep holding her off. She was going to crush me at this rate.

No! I wasn’t going to let her win! She had taken everything else from me, and I wasn’t going to let her take my life too. If I died, it was going to be on my own terms. I had no idea of what I could do against her in this position though. I really needed to get her off of me, I was desperate to do so and somehow fight back.

That was when things got weird and slightly disturbing, and given the day that I’d had so far, that was saying something. Glowing, fluorescent pink dust seemed to appear from nowhere swirling around me before coalescing into three distinct forms that were much bigger than I was. It was hard to make out details with the pink dust shifting along their forms, but they looked like bunnies. Adorable bunnies. That is until they opened their glowing red eyes and smiled to display rows of razor-sharp, shark-like teeth that shone like polished porcelain.

It was while I was worrying that I might die by bunny instead of the foot threatening to crush me that they jumped up to start biting and clawing at Blythe. This was very confusing, but not confusing enough that I didn’t take the opportunity to roll to the side and then take to the air when my nemesis started screaming and stumbling backward under the bunnies’ assault. “What the fuck?! Ouch! Hey! Stop that!”

Blythe crushed one of the bunnies in her hand and smacked another that had ahold of her arm, causing them to vanish with a popping sound. She was bloodied and looked really pissed as I flew into her again, knocking her into the wall of the house hard enough to splinter the wood siding. I was gearing up for another hit and the last bunny was hopping toward her again, but she wasn’t looking at us. She was looking behind us.

“Shit,” she muttered as she snatched up the metal disc that she had dropped when crashing into the wall. “This isn’t over, Aiden!” she shouted angrily before shrinking back down to my size and flying back into the house through the window as fast as her wings would carry her. Had I won? I should go after her.

That was when the exhaustion hit me. This body was still less than a day old and, superpowers or not, that fight had put it under considerable strain. My wings felt heavier and more tired with each beat as their buzzing slowed and I fell.

* * *

Ten minutes earlier…

“Robots. Why did it have to be robots?” Cattail grumbled bitterly as she dodged the lunge of one such devise. Big bug-like robots, and there was a huge swarm of them. The damn things were fast, well-armored, and everywhere. Worst of all, with this being an open field there had been no way to sneak up on them when they rose out of the tall dry grass almost as soon as she and her companions had stepped onto the property.

This had quickly become a battle royale, and their enemies didn’t care if they were hurt or their companions were taken out. While she didn’t mind close combat, she wasn’t a brick and preferred to hit hard and fast from the shadows and stick to hit-and-run tactics. Usually, she would rather sneak up on her adversaries, pounce and take them out with a hard punch or kick, a slice of the claws to something vital to disable or bite them to subdue them if the opportunity presented itself.

This wasn’t her kind of fight. In fact, this fight was probably the type that she was least suited for. Her ability to fade into the background was a psychic effect and wouldn’t work on robots, even if she did have cover, so her usual style was out of the question. She needed to use her increased speed, strength, and agility in this form to her advantage without becoming any more of a target than she was already.

Two of the three ant-like robots who had been trying to swarm her fell to the ground, their legs suddenly entangled in something she couldn’t see. She silently thanked her mother for the save and dodged the third before leaping on its back to slash at a gap in the armor between the head and thorax. It wasn’t a big opening, but when her claws came free they did so with a flash of sparks and bits of wiring as the metal monstrosity fell to the ground.

She quickly repeated the process with the two that Baby’s Breath had disabled and risked a look around. The other’s seemed to have things in hand. Kinosoo had some sort of big fish-shaped gun that was dropping any of the robots that he managed to hit with it, so most of the small fries like the ones that she had been fighting were down and the others probably would be soon as well.

The bigger, spider-like drones were a bit tougher and seemed resistant to whatever weapon Kinisoo was using, but there were fewer and the others were taking care of those. They couldn’t penetrate Chinook’s protective hot air shell and she was buffeting them with powerful wind blasts that were keeping them off balance. She couldn’t make the blasts as hot as she probably would have liked though. With all of the dried grass around, blistering hot air could have ignited it and then they would have been fighting in a wildfire.

Meanwhile, Bronco was smashing the spider bots to scrap one after another. His top speed was roughly seventy-five kilometers an hour, and it was making it difficult for them to keep up with him. And when a brick hits something at that speed, it tends to stay down. It was as she saw him send one of the large robots flying that Baby’s Breath told her, “They can handle things from here. Let’s go get Mechanicha.”

Cattail nodded but kept her senses alert for any other resistance as the pair quickly made their way toward the house. There were lights on inside, so hopefully, Mechanicha hadn’t escaped. A crashing sound made her quicken her pace, followed quickly by a girl’s voice angrily shouting.

She was close enough now to see a teenage girl with pink hair, and size warping seemed to be confirmed because she looked to be eight feet tall when compared to the house. It looked like she was just standing there, but the closer they got, the more something looked off. Then things changed in the blink of an eye. Small pink forms appeared out of nowhere and began attacking the girl, pushing her back and causing her to scream as she fought to remove them. “What the fuck?! Ouch! Hey! Stop that!”

A smaller form that Cattail could barely make out, even with her sharp eyes and night vision, slammed into the girl, sending her crashing into the wall of the house with an audible crack of wood. Wait, was that a fairy? Whatever it was, the tiny form and the final pink thing that looked like some form of a rabbit, looked ready to attack again.

That was when the large girl seemed to notice us running toward them and muttered, “Shit.” Then she grabbed a metal, disc-shaped object from the ground and shouted angrily, “This isn’t over, Aiden!”

“Wait? Aiden? That’s the name of Matthew Mason’s son, but isn’t he dead?” Cattail thought to herself as the large girl shrank, seemingly becoming a duplicate of the fairy that she seemed to be facing off against before zipping through a broken window and into the house. The little fairy seemed about to follow her when the slight buzzing of her wings became noticeably slower and she fell to the ground.

“Get… Mechanicha… I’ll check… on… the little one,” Baby’s Breath gasped, short of breath as the pair reached the house. Cattail didn’t waste time with acknowledgments, she leaped through the damaged window without breaking stride. She had to pause in what appeared to be the living room to look, listen, and scent the air for clues to which room the girl had fled to, or where Mechanicha might be.

A faint humming sound drew her attention, followed by a pop of displaced air and she took off running in the direction that it came from. There was an open door and she could smell an unfamiliar person’s scent. She was about to enter the room, and she could see Mechanicha sitting there in a chair with her eyes closed. That was when every instinct that both she and her spirit possessed told her to move and she jumped away as the room exploded.

* * *

Everything seemed to slip into slow motion as I fell through the air. My adrenaline was spent and I didn’t have the energy to move my wings, let alone go after Blythe. She was getting away and I couldn’t summon the energy to stop her. I had chased her off though… I won. That was the important thing, I would die free.

I was only five feet in the air when exhaustion hit me, but at my size, I might as well have been falling fifty feet. I was actually surprised that whatever power I had protected me from slamming into Blythe as hard as I had earlier, and that I had hit her that hard in the first place. I didn’t think that I would be so lucky this time. Ah well, death’s cold embrace would be a welcome one.

“Get… Mechanicha… I’ll check… on… the little one,” a female voice spoke, sounding winded. I stopped falling just shy of the ground, seemingly in mid-air, and then gently drifted into a pair of cupped hands wearing white gloves. At the corner of my vision, I was aware of something white and vaguely person-shaped running past me to leap through the window after Blythe. “I’ve got you, little one,” the woman’s voice said again in a gentle tone.

I was about to tiredly protest being called little, but that was when a loud boom came from the direction of the house. “Danielle!” the woman called out in fear.

A deathly silence fell, broken a moment later when that white form jumped back out the window. She, it was definitely a she going by how much her light blue bikini revealed, looked like some sort of anthropomorphic cat, white with black spots and a long and slightly bushy tail. She was coughing a bit but didn’t seem seriously injured as she said, “Explosive devise… took out Mechanicha and whatever devise she was attached to. She… she was just sitting there peacefully with her eyes closed. Should call in emergency services, the MSA, and RCMP.”

The woman holding me in her hands very gently shifted me into one hand and then used the other to extract a phone from somewhere, which she handed to the cat woman. “You really need to have someplace to put a phone and your communication devise,” she chided as she did so.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll look into it tomorrow,” she replied before stepping away to use the phone.

The woman holding me looked down at me but her features were obscured by a white hood and what looked like a white porcelain mask with a leaf-green outline of a flower on each cheek. “I’m Baby’s Breath, and that’s my partner Cattail. Our other colleagues should be joining us as soon as they finish mopping up Mistress Mechanicha’s mechanical minions. Are you alright, little one?”

The names were familiar, I had heard of local heroes by those names, had they come to help me? “Not little one…” I objected tiredly, “Aiden.”

I could hear her drawing in a sharp breath behind her mask. I doubted that she would believe me, that anyone would, but I had to at least try. There was a moment of awkward silence that was interrupted as Cattail returned and handed Baby’s Breath her phone. “They’re on their way. What about the fairy? Is she okay? And where did the pink bunny thing go?”

“She seems tired, but I can’t sense anything physically wrong. She’s likely a mutant like us, and it would appear that she’s a Wizard, that pink creature was a hobgoblin. I’ve dispersed it, but there are more important matters to discuss. She said that her name is Aiden,” the white-garbed hero informed her partner.

“Yeah, I heard the other girl call her that,” Cattail confirmed. “But how? His parents confirmed that the body Mechanicha dropped off at their home was his.”

As much as I wanted to protest Baby’s Breath calling me ‘she’, I was barely holding onto consciousness right then and there were more important things to communicate before I passed out. “Mechanicha cloned Blythe… put me inside to suffer… killed my body in front of me…” That was all that I managed to get out before everything started to go hazy and I lost consciousness.

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
Foothills Medical Centre – MSA Special Cases Wing
Friday, September 23rd, 2016 – 9:45 a.m.

Two fucking weeks. I had woken up in this giant hospital room (from my perspective at least) after my escape from Blythe and her mother, and I had been kept here since. They claimed that I was only here until I was strong enough to be released or they found some sort of fix for me, but I was just as much a prisoner here as I was in that cage with Blythe hovering over me. This prison was just a little bigger.

This was the largest hospital in Alberta and its leading institution for medical research. They said that they were working with a Bio-Devisor that they had on staff to try some way to help me with my whole clone situation, but I was just their newest little project. The new freak of the week for them to study.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t fair. They had been doing all sorts of tests and scans of me using some specialized equipment. They ran new tests every day until they stopped yesterday. Apparently, they had run out of ideas, but they were still keeping a close eye on me. I knew why, of course. It was the depression, they were afraid that I was going to fall to pieces and try to kill myself again.

I guess that I couldn’t blame them for that. When I had first woken up I had been ‘interviewed’ by two doctors, an MSA psychologist, and three members of the Cowtown Heroes; Chinook, Baby’s Breath, and Kinosoo. I must have told them the whole story a dozen times as they tried to wheedle the most details possible out of me to help with their investigations. I didn’t tell them about the suicide attempt at first, but they figured that I was leaving something out and the doctors pressed, against the advisement of the psychologist. So I finally broke down and described my suicide attempt in the most graphic detail that I could.

At least they believed that I was a clone, my DNA proved that, and the geneticist was fascinated by me and Mechanicha’s theories regarding my manifestation. They had even been able to determine that I was probably telling the truth about my mind being shunted from my original body into this one by examining what was left of the devises, not that they could replicate the process. In the last couple of days, they had even stopped trying to find a way.

At first, I had hoped that they might actually be able to find a way to get me out of this body and into one that was human-sized, and preferably male. With each day that hope faded more and more. Mechanicha had been telling the truth, any attempts to transfer my consciousness to another body by some other means would trigger a fatal aneurism that would kill me before the process could be completed.

The same went for changing my body. They had been considering attempting to transplant an Exemplar’s or Regenerator’s BIT somehow to change me, but my DNA had been twisted to the point that trying to induce any further major changes would in all likelihood kill me as well. I was ‘lucky’ that I had survived manifesting and the odds of me surviving a similar process a second time was less than two percent.

Kinosoo believed that I had been a test run and that Mechanicha had already used the destroyed devises that had been found with her shredded and scorched remains to transplant her consciousness into a new body. Part of the wreckage had been a cloning chamber like the one I had been grown in, but big enough for a full-sized person.

This might just make Mistress Mechanicha a bigger threat than she was before. If I really was a test run then there were the physical enhancements that she had made to me to be considered. From observing me, they also believed that she had replicated some Exemplar mental traits as well, such as vastly improved memory.

From what Blythe had said when she came downstairs panicked though, she had to pull her mother from the cloning chamber early, which was going to make her damn near impossible to find. Not only could they not be certain what changes she may have made to her physical appearance, but they couldn’t be sure of what age her newly cloned body was either now. She could still be a child, a teenager, or a woman in her twenties, and the only one who knew for sure would be Blythe, who had vanished with the clone.

I tried to shake off those dark thoughts by starting my daily exercise regime. Exercise had always cheered me up while I was feeling down when I was still human, and that was pretty much the only thing that hadn’t changed for me. I went through every exercise that Blythe had me go through that first day, a few that I knew from my old life, followed by a half-hour run around the room and then twice that long working my wings in flight.

At first, the exercises had been tortuous, but each day they got easier and I would increase my running and flying time. I was pretty sure that I had almost reached my peak physical state now, and as much as I hated this body, as much as it felt wrong to me still, I somehow felt stronger and healthier than I had in either of my lives so far. And yet, I hated myself for finding something about this body that made me happy.

Dr. Hager said that I needed to work on that if I was going to ever adjust and start thinking of this as my body, and not a copy of Blythe. She had been coming in every day as my MSA-mandated psychologist. She said that I needed to own this and try to focus on the good things that I had gained rather than the many things I had lost. I think she knew as well as I did that there weren’t many good things about my situation though.

She was full of advice that I didn’t really care to hear. Little peaches of psycho-babble wisdom like, “You will always be a victim until you choose not to be.” It sounded like something a psychologist would put in a fortune cookie. She did say some things that made sense though, like that I shouldn’t feel guilty for finding something that gave me some bit of happiness. That was hard, especially when I felt depression crushing me like some shadowy boa constrictor intent on squeezing away my will to live.

Dr. Hager hadn’t been my only visitor over the past two weeks. Every day one of the Cowtown Heroes would come to visit me, most often Baby’s Breath and/or Cattail. It was the latter who gave me advice that I could really cling to, even when depressed.

She told me that Blythe wanted this to be torture for me. She wanted me to either suffer as I had made her suffer for the rest of my days or to take my own life when I couldn’t take it any longer. If I killed myself or let this be the punishment that it was intended to be, Blythe would win. I needed to live and try to find some happiness in this life, even if it was only to spite her. “What happiness could I possibly find like this?” I had asked her while in the grip of my depression.

Her answer was, “Who knows what life will bring you if you try to carve your own path? Anything can happen, you might regain some of the things you’ve lost, or find something better along the way as long as you’re open to the possibilities. Until then, set a goal. Develop your new powers, make friends and allies, and think about how good it will feel when you’re strong enough to find Mechanicha and her daughter and bring them both to justice for what they’ve done.”

She was right, the mere thought of that brought such satisfaction that I firmly told myself I wasn’t going to quit or die until it happened. I didn’t know how I was going to learn to control my powers, or who could possibly want to be my friend after the way I had treated Blythe, but I would get stronger and make them pay for what they had done. They would suffer just as they had planned for me, by spending the rest of their lives in some super prison or until they decided to take their own lives.

Lunch came shortly after I finished my daily exercises. In the center of the small plate that the nurse placed on my bedside table was a thimble full of water, a single kernel of corn, a small chunk of roast beef that was the size of a whole roast to me, a tiny glop of mashed potatoes with gravy, and a partial sprig of broccoli. There was also a single cube of Jell-O with a tiny spurt of whipped cream for dessert. I probably wouldn’t be able to finish it all. Still, I gave it my best effort since I needed to keep my strength up if I was going to get stronger.

Only once I was finished with my lunch did I dare to get dressed. I couldn’t afford to let my one comfortable set of clothing get dirty. The cheap fabrics that most doll clothes were made from were way too irritating and scratchy against my skin and were causing me rashes. One of the nurses had taken pity on me and made me a sort of hospital gown from a white silk handkerchief that she had found in a secondhand shop.

It actually looked more like a sleeveless and backless dress since she had made it long to preserve my modesty, but the silk didn’t irritate my skin, it actually felt nice. Physical comfort trumped mental comfort and since I wasn’t about to flit around in the buff all the time, I had to wear something. I kept telling myself that it was a hospital gown and that it was necessary.

I had just finished dressing when there was a knock on the door to my room and it opened a moment later. I thought that it might be the nurse coming to collect my lunch but when I turned to look, I saw Cattail and Baby’s Breath entering, and the snow leopardess did not look happy as she clutched a bouquet of pink roses. Something was wrong; they usually didn’t visit until around dinnertime.

Baby’s Breath wasted no time with pleasantries, another clue that something was not right as she said, “We need to move you. We were hoping to keep you here another week until we could get things properly set up for you, but it’s no longer safe for you here.”

Get things set up for me? What were they talking about? And why wasn’t it safe for me here? Cattail answered that question by tossing the flowers on the bed in distaste and producing a crumpled envelope. “Aiden, these flowers were left for you specifically at the front desk early this morning. There was no card, only this,” Cattail offered grimly as she showed me the envelope with ‘Aiden Mason’ written on the front. Inside there was a photo, which she extracted for me.

The crumpled photo showed a tombstone, my tombstone. On the back, written sloppily in what looked like blood were the words, “Your suffering has only begun.”

A chill ran down my spine. There was only one person that could have come from, and it looked like she knew exactly where I was. Fear and anger battled for supremacy in my mind as I fell onto the bed and began trembling. No. I couldn’t let her win. I needed to get stronger so I could end this for good.
I took several deep breaths to try to calm myself before finally managing to ask, “What do I do?”

Baby’s Breath took the lead, pulling out what looked like a shoulder bag hidden beneath her cloak. After handing it to her partner, she explained. “The MSA already has a new identity set up for you. Your parents weren’t receptive to the truth and you wouldn’t have been safe with them regardless. Danielle will sneak you out of here and take you to the MSA testing facility where you can be tested to get your MID, and then we’ll take you home with us.”

“What new identity? And wha… Wait… I’ve… umm… heard about how… uhh… close you two are and I really don’t want to be a fifth wheel,” I protested. “And who is Danielle?”

Cattail’s features were changing as she took the bag from her partner, her tail and fur seemed to be absorbed into her body as it and her face took on a more human appearance. She was now a small and stocky woman in her early to mid-twenties and had snow-white skin with black freckles and catlike amber eyes. Her hair was short and white too, almost like fur in its thickness, but with makeup and contacts, she could probably pass as a baseline. “I’m Danielle,” she offered. “And we’re close, but not like that. She’s my mom.”

“You’ll be living with us from now on as my adopted daughter,” Baby’s Breath added as Danielle hurriedly changed into leggings, a hoodie, and a pair of sneakers from the shoulder bag. “We’re trying to get you into Whateley soon on an MSA scholarship though. You’ll be safe there from Mechanicha and her daughter.”

This was a lot to be hit with at once but they wanted to get me out of the wing, and preferably the hospital before Blythe had a chance to try to recapture me or something. As soon as Danielle had her contacts in and her makeup on to blend in among the baselines, she had me hide in the shoulder bag and walked right out the front doors with me. Her mother would wait a few minutes before leaving by other means.

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
Ministry of Supernatural Affairs Testing Office
Friday, September 23rd, 2016 – 4:52 p.m.

I was tired, sore, battered, and bruised. I was in good shape, but I was small, and doing tests meant for much bigger people. I also secretly suspected that these people might moonlight as torturers. They put me through hell. I was almost crushed to death when my tester raised the weight of the weights they had me lifting from 816 kilograms to 817.

They figured out that I had something called a PK shell that protected me and let me be a lot stronger than I look at my size, I guess because I was using it to lift or hit things rather than my actual muscles. They thought that I might be able to use it to help with my flying too. I was an okay flyer without it, but with it, I was faster, and using my wings seemed to need less effort.

They had me doing a bunch of physical and mental tests too, trying to adjust the physical ones to my small stature. I wasn’t an actual Exemplar and didn’t have a BIT, but with the genetic modifications that Blythe’s mother had made to my cloned body, I was strong, fast, agile, and very bendy. So they wanted to be thorough and give me an accurate testing that people could properly quantify my abilities with. They had to be able to put me in the right box after all.

At least with Baby’s Breath I just had to put my hand on some crystal and try to make it glow. She was a lot less surprised than I was when it worked. That was when she explained to me about Wizards, Essence, and those little hobgoblin thingies that I had apparently summoned to attack Blythe. Part of the reason she was adopting me and I would be living with her was that she wanted to train me to use my magic.

Now we were with the person who was collating my results and making up my MID, after getting a horrible picture of me, of course. I had tried combing back my antennae to make them blend in with my hair so I could look almost normal, but they kept popping up, and my wings being in the picture didn’t help either. I looked like what I was, a tiny little fairy that people would probably either ignore or bully. Just as I had done with Blythe.

That thought was like ice in my veins and a miasma of depression threatened to engulf me until my official Tester, Bob, snapped me out of it. “Here’s your MID, Sprite. Make sure to keep it with you wherever you go.”

I groaned quietly at the name. When I arrived with Danielle, they wanted me to have some sort of codename picked for the testing, but I wasn’t really feeling it and just asked Danielle to pick something for me. Why the hell did I ask a girl calling herself Cattail to pick a codename for me? Because I am quite possibly an idiot and was still too depressed about my situation to care what people called me since I was told on the way here that I would have to leave my old name and life behind.

She chose ‘Sprite’ and apparently it was such a terrible codename that nobody else running around in spandex had already picked it, so now it was all mine. Lucky me. And there it was emblazoned all over the ID card that was almost as big as I was. I had to take this thing with me everywhere?

I looked from it to Bob incredulously and rolled my eyes, “Seriously? How am I gonna take this thing with me everywhere I go? Magic? What the hell do you think I am? Some kind of fairy wizar…” I stopped to smack my forehead and sigh. “I’m gonna shut up now.”

Bob seemed unbothered, not to mention sickeningly cheerful as he offered, “Congratulations on manifesting and getting your MID, and have a super day.”

“Is it too late to register as a supervillain?” I grumbled in an aside to Danielle and Baby’s Breath as I hugged my new ID card so I wouldn’t lose it, and flew over to land on Danielle’s shoulder.

Thankfully, Danielle was willing to take it off my hands and put it in her bag, but not before looking it over. “Hmmm… Exemplar 2, Wizard 2, and PK 3.”

“Her Wizard rating is a best guess, on the low side to be safe,” Baby’s Breath clarified as she led us down a hallway. “She may be a three, but her size was making it difficult to get a proper reading from her.”

“Why do we even have me as an Exemplar?” I complained, trying not to grate when she referred to me as ‘her’. Dr. Hager said I needed to get used to it after all. “I’m not one, and at my size, it doesn’t really matter how strong I am physically. Without my PK shell just about anyone can crush me.”

“Because to anyone not connected to the MSA, you’re not a clone, you’re a mutant who recently manifested. With your appearance, having Exemplar on your MID will make people assume that you just have a BIT. Your physical and mental enhancements will help to sell that idea,” Baby’s Breath countered.

I was quiet then as she led us down several more hallways and eventually back to the office where she had been waiting earlier to test me for magic-ness. She worked for the MSA as a consultant and testing newly manifested mutants for magic. I guess it paid well, from what Danielle had told me while we were waiting for my Testing to start, and it wasn’t full time so she had more time to devote to being a superhero.

While we waited in the office, Baby’s Breath went back into her workroom, where she had tested me for the magic stuff. As she did, she called over her shoulder, “I’m just going to change out of my costume so I won’t be driving us all home as Baby’s Breath. It’s Danielle’s turn to take care of dinner tonight, so expect pizza.”

“You still live with your mother? How old are you anyway?” I asked the woman whose shoulder I was riding.

“That… doesn’t matter,” Danielle replied awkwardly. “It is easier that way with us working together as heroes and we have a home-based business too, selling dried herbs and other magical ingredients and accessories online to the magical community. Mom will probably get you to help with that stuff later too; it’ll help with your magic training, Vanessa.”

“Who the hell is Vanessa?” I asked in both confusion and mounting dread.

“It’s you, that’s the name they chose for your new identity, Vanessa Ada Gordon,” she explained with a shrug that jostled me slightly. “It’ll be the name on your birth certificate, health card, and other ID. The background that they came up with for you is that you were a runaway, fleeing an abusive home after you manifested. Mom has the adoption papers and everything, with Mason as your birth surname before Mom decided to take you in and adopt you.”

It was as if my heart just stopped and I started to shake and had trouble holding back the tears as everything hit me at once. In my head, I had known that people would never see me as Aiden Mason again. I knew that I couldn’t go back to that as I was now. I was dead. There was a body. I had a fucking tombstone and everything.

I couldn’t be Aiden anymore, so I would have to be somebody else. Given my current body, that someone was bound to be a girl. I knew that too, but for some reason, knowing it in my head hadn’t let me make peace with it in my heart. Putting a name on it, putting a name on me had made it all hit me like a steamroller. I was crushed, I couldn’t breathe, and tears started to stream down my face as my heart burned with everything that I had lost.

As I collapsed into a sobbing mess, Danielle sighed and oh-so-gently patted my head with a fingertip before pulling me close to her chest in something as close to a hug as she could give me. “Sorry, kiddo, I should have broken it to you more gently, but I told you that you were going to have to leave your old name behind.” I barely heard her. I cried, unable to stop myself until I finally passed out in her embrace.

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
The Gordon Residence
Friday, September 23rd, 2016 – 4:52 p.m.

“…nessa, it’s dinnertime. Wake up,” a feminine voice insisted; gently nudging me with what was probably a fingertip. “Geeze, she’s really out of it. C’mon, Vanessa, wake up. Mom says that you need to eat.”

For a moment, I just lay there with my eyes closed, trying to place the unfamiliar voice and wondering who this Vanessa person was. Sleep began to release its hold on me and, like an icicle thrust into my heart, I realized that ‘Vanessa’ was me. Aiden was officially dead. I opened my eyes and looked up to see a large face looking down at me in concern. I wondered if I would get used to my change in size perspective someday. I mean, people would probably always be huge and intimidating, but could it at least stop coming as a surprise to me?

The girl looking down at me looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, probably part Native or Metis from her slightly more than tanned skin tone and features. She was pretty and slender, with brown eyes and long black hair that seemed to pool around me as she looked down at me. I had no idea who she was and stared at her looming face for a moment in confusion. “Nnng too close.” I mumbled tiredly. I guess having a mental breakdown can wear a person out.

The girl backed off a bit, mumbling a quick, “Sorry.” Then she tried smiling at me again as she reiterated, “It’s dinnertime, and Mom says you need to eat. I’m Leanna, by the way, your new big sister, but I suppose that everyone is big to you.” She was babbling a bit as she looked down at me in interest. Then she seemed to realize what she had just said and a blush painted her cheeks. “Umm… sorry, Vanessa, that was probably insensitive of me.”

“S’true,” I mumbled as I tried to shake off my sleepiness. “Don’t need to apologize, no biggie.”

Leanna tried, unsuccessfully, to cover a giggle at my response. It took me a moment to figure out what I said that was so humorous, but in retrospect, it was a little funny. “So… yeah… dinner,” she said awkwardly, still trying to cover a smile. “Are you going to be able to get to the dining room on your own? If not, I could… umm… give you a ride.”

I was starting to wake up, so I managed to bite back the snarky reply that nearly left my lips. She was trying to be nice and didn’t deserve me being a jerk to her when we were meeting for the first time. If I was going to be living here, I should at least try to be nice to my adoptive family. Being an asshole was what got me into this situation after all. So, I stretched to work out a few kinks, started working my wings so I could flit up from the couch where I’d been sleeping and onto her shoulder, and then said, “Lead the way.”

Baby’s Breath had been right about having pizza, which was probably a good thing since Leanna said, “Our big sister Dani is a terrible cook.” It was good pizza though, and the tip of a slice and a piece of pepperoni were plenty for me. Dinner also served to help me get to know my new adoptive family better.

I had gotten to know Cattail and Baby’s breath as their caped personas, but now I was learning about the people behind the capes. They seemed like a nice family, nicer than my old one anyway. Not that that was a difficult accomplishment. Money doesn’t make you a good person, though the Gordon family seemed to be doing well enough for themselves, and they tried to make me feel welcome.

Baby’s Breath told me to call her by her name, Marie, at least for now. She didn’t want to push me into calling her Mom or anything because she felt that was something that should happen organically, once I was comfortable with my new family. It might never happen; she was well aware of what I’d been through and I was fairly sure that she didn’t want me to think that she was trying to replace my birth mother.

Personally, I didn’t think that would be a terrible thing. I had spent more time with her over the past two weeks than I had with my birth mother in the past two years. My parents’ social lives were more important to them than I was. I was mostly raised by servants, and only trotted out when they needed to show themselves as ‘caring parents’ for some reason. It said a lot that I was more upset at the idea of losing my inheritance than my parents.

The Gordons were able to live a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle because of their home business, Marie’s work for the MSA, and savings that she had put away for herself and her daughters from her late husband’s life insurance policy. I guess that he had died in a car accident a few years ago, none of them said much more than that.

Looking at Marie, I could see where her daughter got her looks from. She was a slightly older version of Leanna and she wasn’t a mutant like me and Dani. She was actually a Witch, came from a long line of Witches, and she was training Leanna to be her successor one day because it was a legacy that had been passed from mother to daughter for a long time. Not so much the superhero and spandex bit, Marie had started that, but the legacy of witchcraft that spanned centuries. Sometimes men would be trained as well if they showed talent, but only the most deserving heir would be granted the family artifacts.

The artifacts were a pair of metal bracelets that had been in the family for centuries. Marie wore them all the time and hid them beneath the sleeves and gloves of her costume as Baby’s Breath. The bracelets were silvery in color with a slight blue tint and strange runes carved into them. They were able to collect and store essence inside them, which made Marie able to do things that most wizards her age couldn’t or wouldn’t dare come close to.

Danielle was originally supposed to be the heir to that legacy, but things changed when she manifested at fifteen. They had been on a family trip to the zoo and she discovered that she was an Avatar when Xuě-fēng came into her life and her hallow. She was more than happy to let her younger sister take on the family legacy since she found studying magic boring and had zero aptitude for it.

Marie had teased that she just didn’t have any patience since Danielle was the same with school, it just didn’t interest her. Danielle just wasn’t a deep thinker, she much preferred to handle her problems physically, and that was what she was good at. That was why she had decided to pursue a full-time career as a cape and her mother’s partner, and help with the family business instead of going to college.

Leanna was only three years older than me, and six years younger than Danielle at seventeen years old and would be graduating high school this year. She also couldn’t be more opposite to her big sister if she tried. She was a straight-A student and loved learning magic from her mother. I was a little worried that she might not be happy about her mom taking time out from her lessons to help teach me, but she actually seemed eager to have me join them for magic lessons.

They were a nice family, probably nicer than I deserved. I wasn’t given a chance to think overly much about that and sink into depression though, because after dinner Leanna and Danielle took charge of giving me a tour of the house. It wasn’t a big house; there was no basement and it only had three bedrooms. The main floor consisted of the kitchen, dining room, laundry room, and living room and each room was comfortable and looked lived in rather than a museum, like my former home. I sort of liked it.

Upstairs were the three bedrooms and two bathrooms; though one was an ensuite for Marie’s room. There was an attic as well, but I was warned that it was dusty and cramped. I figured that that would be where they would be sticking me. They showed me the main bathroom, which looked normal enough, and then Danielle showed me her room.

It was a bit of a mess, as I had expected it to be, with clothes and bras, strewn all over the place. The only somewhat tidy spaces were her bed and the vanity where she usually did her makeup to pass as a baseline before going out. Stuck on the bottom of the mirror were several photos though. There was one of Danielle with a man that I assumed was her dad, and they both looked so happy. Another was one of her with Marie and Leanna, and the last one looked like a younger version of Leanna dressed for the cold in a bright pink parka, taking a selfie with another girl who was dressed similarly but even more bundled up, and in the background was a polar bear.

“That’s me before I manifested, back when I was still Mom’s apprentice,” Danielle offered as I looked at the photo in interest. “One of the things that Mom does for the MSA as a consultant is to find dangerous magical artifacts and… appropriate them. She usually replaces them with fakes and brings the real thing back here to lock in the MSA’s dangerous artifacts vault. She took me with her for that trip to Churchill Manitoba and it was mostly boring except for meeting Sarah.”

“Is that the other girl?” I asked.

Danielle nodded with a sad look on her face. “Yeah, she was the only kid close to my age on the tour. She was kinda awkward and spastic, and I had a feeling that she was hiding something, but talking with her made that stupid tour fun. I still wonder what happened to her sometimes, if she’s still alive out there somewhere. We were planning to meet at our hotel and have a girl’s night, but she had some stuff to do first and she never showed up that night. Then Mom came back late with the artifact and was in a hurry to get us out of town because she overheard some RCMP officer talking about how a group of drunk assholes and an MCO agent had beaten some newly manifested mutant practically to death before they escaped and disappeared. I’ve always wondered if it was Sarah.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that. All that I could really think of were empty platitudes and that just didn’t feel right. Leanna saved me. “You look like you want to go beat up some bad guys, Dani. I’ll finish giving Vanessa the tour and help her get settled while you and Mom get ready for your nightly patrol.

“Thanks, Lea,” Danielle replied as Leanna led the way out of the room and I flitted after her.

She turned her head to make sure that I was following her and stopped at the last door in the hallway. “This is my room, though I guess it’s our room now.”

It was as I settled on her shoulder that I noticed something odd about the door. At about eye level for Leanna, there was a door in the door, just the right size for someone of my tiny stature to walk through, complete with a little platform to stand on. That was when Leanna demonstrated that the tiny door could open and close just like a normal one. “What? Why?” I sputtered in confusion.

“Well, regular doors are gonna be hard for you to open,” she said with a shrug like it should be obvious to anyone. “And I figured that you’d want to be able to come and go when you want. You’re a person, not some pet. We’ve been trying to make improvements like this for you since Mom and Dani told me about you and Mom decided to do the whole adoption thing so she could train you to control your magic. We’re still working on trying to make some furniture and stuff your size; Mom was hoping to have another week to prepare.”

“I… uhh… thought that you might stick me in the attic,” I told her self-consciously, looking at my suddenly fascinating feet as I rode her shoulder and she opened the door to step inside.

She stopped halfway through the door and her shuddering jostled me a bit. “Ewww no! No sister of mine is sleeping in the attic! It’s creepy and dusty up there, and what if an animal got in there and attacked you in your sleep?! No way, we’ve been building you your own room, though it’s kinda a work in progress.”

Leanna stepped completely into her bedroom, which was as neat and organized as Danielle’s was messy, decorated with dusky pink walls and plush white carpet. She made her way toward a four-drawer oak dresser that had a cabinet half as big as the dresser sitting atop it. Another fairy door was cut in the bottom of the door of the cabinet and she opened the cabinet door to reveal the beginnings of what could only be a house for someone my size.

A pair of wooden shelves had been secured inside and were polished to resemble hardwood floors. That made for three floors that would have a comfortable ceiling height for me, with a wide hole in each of the shelves that would allow me to get from one floor to another like a fireman without a pole. Each floor was lit by a string of LED Christmas lights and there was some doll furniture on the middle and top floors along with a few knitted rugs. The top floor seemed to be the bedroom with a big (for my size) wicker bed topped with a pillow-like mattress, some sheets that were probably cut down from pillowcases, a little pillow that looked about the size of something that you’d put in a ring box, and a purple and white crocheted blanket.

For a long moment, I just stared. They had done this for me? I barely noticed Leanna saying, “Sorry, it’s not near finished yet, we want to get more comfortable furniture like the bed made for you instead of plastic doll stuff, and a proper wardrobe. We were talking about adding windows and curtains and stuff eventually too, and Mom said that Kinosoo is trying to work out a fairy-sized bathroom for you with running water and a water heater and stuff. Until then we have some things set up for you in the bathroom, and I made you a few sets of really basic clothes that shouldn’t bother your skin and will leave your wings free until we can find something better.”

My voice didn’t seem to want to work, a tightness gripped my chest, and my eyes were getting teary enough to blur my vision. It was several minutes before I was able to choke out, “I… thank you.”

* * *

Calgary, Alberta
The Gordon Residence
Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 – 9:45 a.m.

I sighed as I sat despondently on the black leather ladies' wallet that sat on the kitchen table. It contained all the necessities; my MID, the very basic half dozen outfits that Marie and Leanna had managed to make me, and a new debit card attached to the bank account where Marie would be placing my allowance every month. She had already placed some funds in there for me to use on the basics and for emergencies.

I sighed again. I was just starting to get comfortable around my adoptive family and now I was being shipped off to some school in the middle of New Hampshire of all places. I thought that we were getting along. Were they really that eager to get rid of me?

I had spent the last few days trying to get settled in and getting basic beginner magic lessons from Marie, with Leanna helping to tutor me whenever Cattail and Baby’s Breath were out on patrol. I couldn’t really leave the house looking like I do, especially with Blythe and her mom still out there, so I had even been helping around the house to relieve my boredom. Sure, it was just dusting, but it was something I could handle at my size, and I could get into places nobody else could.

There was only so much dusting to do though and I had too much time to think. There were times when I would get depressed about how my body felt wrong, how I was some cheap copy of Blythe, and what might happen if she ever found me. Yesterday had been particularly bad while Marie was working and Leanna was at school. Dani and Lea seemed to have taken the big sister thing to heart though and if either saw me sinking into a spiral of depression they would do their best to distract me or cheer me up.

Then Marie got a call from Whateley Academy yesterday. I had been accepted and she hadn’t let the grass grow under her feet about sending me there. She got the first available plane tickets to Boston and our plane was due to leave in around three hours. She had booked a hotel room for us to stay in tonight and tomorrow morning I would be leaving Boston by train, bound for somewhere called Dunwich, while she flew home.

Leanna had already said her goodbyes to me before heading to school and helped me to get ready for my trip with a hot bath in the bathroom sink. I had to use my fingers to comb my hair since nobody had been able to find a brush or comb in my size yet. It wasn’t the best of jobs and I had been forced to face the mirror directly for the first time to do it.

That was when I saw Blythe looking back at me. Except for my hair being quite a bit longer and my eyes being gold instead of pink, I looked just like her. Fourteen years old but looking closer to sixteen, very fit, with a slim waist, wide hips, a chest that I was now glad was fairly small, and pink-tinted dragonfly-like wings. My cotton candy pink hair was as wavy as hers but fell to my waist instead of just beneath the shoulders as hers did and I had her pretty all-too-familiar face, pointed ears, and fluffy pink antennae that matched my hair sprouting from my forehead just beneath the hairline.

The slight differences weren’t enough. I couldn’t stop myself from seeing Blythe, from seeing myself as what I was. I was her clone, a copy made to remind me of just who had done this to me. Leanna had probably been late for school because she had to calm me down and comfort me when I was reduced by the girl in the mirror to a sobbing and blubbering mess.

I could hear Marie talking to Danielle as they made their way down the stairs, and I tried to shake off my dark thoughts without much luck. “…go one night without going on patrol; I don’t want you getting in trouble without someone to back you up. You and Leanna can order takeout tonight and there are some orders that need to be prepared and shipped anyway, so the two of you can get that done while I’m gone. I’ll be back tomorrow night sometime.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, we’ll be fine, it’s just one day,” my eldest adoptive sister said with a roll of her eyes. “I’m more worried about you and Vanessa. She’s safe here with the wards on the house, but Mechanicha and her psycho daughter are still out there and Vanessa will have to deal with the MCO at the airports too.”

They were in the kitchen now, close enough that my small voice could reach them without too much effort. Marie was carrying a new laptop case and an overnight bag. The laptop case contained my new laptop and phone, Marie had bought them yesterday in her rush to hand me off to someone else with a stipend that she had gotten for me from the MSA. Neither were the top-of-the-line models that I was used to, but she said that they were good quality and dependable and she had already programmed hers, Danielle’s, and Leanna’s numbers into the phone.

“I… don’t have to go,” I said, making an effort to be heard as I brutally forced back the tears that threatened to flow. “I mean… things are going well here… aren’t they?”

They both turned to look at me and a look of realization hit Marie, followed quickly by either guilt or sympathy, I couldn’t tell which until she spoke. “Oh, Honey. I’m not trying to get rid of you. I wouldn’t have taken you in if I had any plans of doing that. You’re just going to school, a very special school from what I’ve been told, and you’ll be back here to spend Christmas with us.”

“Then why are you sending me to the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire?” I asked, still feeling the tightness in my chest and the threat of tears.

Marie crouched down to bring herself closer to my level. “Whateley is the best place for you right now, Vanessa, for several reasons. You need to be in school, and you’ll get an excellent education there. You can’t do that here, even if Mechanicha and her daughter weren’t still on the loose. You can learn to control your powers there, and they have magic classes as well. Most of all, my boss told me that it is probably one of the safest places on Earth for you right now. They try to remain neutral but they are fiercely protective of their students and their wards put mine to shame.”

“I…” I tried to think of some argument that wouldn’t make me look clingy and desperate but I came up empty.

“You’ll be back in no time, squirt,” Danielle offered with a smile. “We should have your ‘room’ finished by then and we’ve got plans for your first Christmas with us. Until then, we’ll be expecting you to call us once a week so you can tell us all about your school and the friends you’re making. Mom is right, it’s the best place for you right now. You can learn to control your powers and get stronger there.”

I still wasn’t happy about going, but Marie had made some good points. They hadn’t done anything yet to make me think that I wasn’t welcome here, in fact, in three days they had been a better family than my birth parents had ever been. They cared, and they seemed to be genuinely trying to make a place for me here with them. It was Danielle’s words that wore down my resistance though.

I wasn’t so sure about the making friends bit. I had already proven myself to be a terrible friend. I might not have been responsible for Blythe’s madness or the choices that she made, but I was responsible for my own. I had made poor choices too, and I wasn’t sure that I deserved a second chance. I could get stronger there though. Maybe strong enough to bring Blythe and her mother to justice for what they had done to me.

I stood up, summoned my PK shell, and took the wallet that was serving as my suitcase in hand. I probably could have put it in the laptop case with my phone, but I was probably going to need to keep my MID available for the MCO checkpoints at the airports. I resisted the urge to hug Danielle, I’m not sure where that came from but I had to do the same earlier with Leanna, I wasn’t usually this bad at goodbyes. “Bye Dani… I… guess I’ll see you for Christmas.”

“Take care of yourself, squirt, and don’t get into too much trouble,” she replied, picking me up to give me the gentlest hug that she could, just like Leanna had earlier.

“Don’t burn the house down while I’m gone,” Marie shot back at her eldest daughter once I was free and managed to flit away from my captor and onto her shoulder with my ‘suitcase’ in hand. Then we left home for the airport and Whateley Academy.

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Comments

Cue the Evinrude sound effects!!

They fit even better here than Faerie Blade. I hope we see more stories with both Vanessa and Felicia. They are definitely among my favorite characters already!

I feel sorry for Vanessa and her name. I have always felt someone flipped to the opposite gender would handle it better if they had a name that could be used by either gender to soften the blow. I'm not an expert but my best guess.

Good luck with your new job! And get some rest when you can.

More

Amethyst's picture

There will be more stories with both Felicia and Vanessa in time, though these take a while to write since they're a something I work on outside of my usual serials and projects. It would be nice if she could have a more gender-neutral name, but she's got a lot more than just a new body and name to get used to. I really put her through the wringer.

Thanks, I'm tired but I'll rest when I can manage it.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Grrr8 Start!

A new Whateley series!! Yaaaa!!!

alissa

Thanks Alissa

Amethyst's picture

Yup, and we'll see some other new characters as her story goes on, as well as some I've already introduced.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Now I'm flittering to see the

Now I'm flittering to see the shenanigans of (and? >:->) a wonderfully cute Vanessa at Whately. ;-)

Thx for an excellent chapter^^

Shenanigans

Amethyst's picture

lol yup, there will be shenanigans.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Also...

The image of a cat-girl talking on a fish-fone is almost too cute. I would almost have expected the com unit to make a 'bloop-bloop-bloop' noise to get attention.

cute ideas

Amethyst's picture

The Cowtown Heroes and several other characters came about from a chat with other Whateley authors joking about what heroes might be in Calgary. Some of the stuff was just so funny that we thought they deserved their own story, so I incorporated them into the idea that I had for Sprite. I thought that the stuff with Kinosoo and Angus Oxford might help lighten an otherwise dark story, so I decided to run with it.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

I don't see this working

Wendy Jean's picture

Unless she gets her size disability under control.