The Center
by
Lilith Langtree
This is definitely not what I expected...









Chapter 1

Three months later and I still couldn't deal. The simple grave marker that stood before me mocked the life and death of my best friend in the entire world, Andrew Post. We grew up together, literally, born only a week apart. Our mothers were best friends, living next door to each other, marrying in a double wedding to our fathers. They were inseparable, much like Drew and I, even in death. Both of our mothers died in childbirth to an unknown complication. Their hearts just gave out.

For now I sat there, in the dew covered grass, in front of his marker, playing over the same period of time before he died, in my mind.

He predicted it. One Monday morning on the way to school, Drew told me that he was going to get sick and life as he knew it was going to end. Now that's not normally something two sixteen year old guys talk about. Needless to say, I was kind of stunned and felt fear for my best friend. The weirdest thing about the whole experience was that Drew set his hand on my shoulder and then hugged me.

Okay, I'm not gay. In fact, I'm very heterosexual; very. But in that moment I wanted nothing but to comfort my friend.

"It's gonna be okay, Cameron. We'll see each other again, sooner than you think." When I broke in his crazy talk he just stopped me. "You gotta trust me, Cam. When it happens, don't be afraid, and don't worry about me. We'll both be fine."

That morning, when we separated to our different classes, was the last time I saw him. He grabbed my hand and said, "I love you, Cam."

A couple of classmates in passing heard that one, so I was teased to no end, all the way up until lunch when I was found by a student aide and told to go to the office. They couldn't get a hold of Drew's father, or my father, as they were listed in order of people to notify in case of an emergency, so it fell to me. He was dead.

Sometime during first period he went to the school nurse with a bloody nose. When his ears started bleeding they called an ambulance. By lunchtime the school had been quarantined by a special division of the CDC, and we were all tested before allowed to go home for the day. The whole thing was a farce. Everyone was scared to death that they were next, and they let us go with nothing but a skin test.

I was out for the rest of the week, a wreck, a walking zombie.

Attempting to return to school was joke. By that time, everyone seemed to have put Drew's death behind them, and were back with their devil may care attitudes. The one thing they didn't forget was that I was now gay, and therefore treated appropriately or inappropriately as the case may be. I didn't even last the day.

Now, school was out for the summer and I spent the better portion of each day at the cemetery, staring at that pathetic grave marker with the same questions riding roughshod through my head. How did Drew know that he was going to get sick? If he knew he was going to be sick, why didn't he go straight to the hospital? Why did he tell me everything was going to be okay? Why did he tell me that we'd see each other again? Was I sick too? All of these unanswered question just piled on day after day, which in turn took its effect on me.

So, I'd sit there in the damp grass, one day after the next, being angry, and confused, but eventually it would all end up with me in tears before I’d had enough and dragged myself away.

Redfield Cemetery was relatively quiet in the mornings. Virtually nobody visited, except on the weekends when I would make myself scarce much earlier than normal. On this particular day, a Wednesday, a blacked-out SUV parked itself behind me on the narrow drive that wound itself around the somber place. I say behind me, but it was probably fifty yards away.

I wiped at my face, destroying any evidence that I possessed feelings of any sort for my best friend, and then I stood. A quick deduction gave me the idea that they were waiting for me to leave before visiting a friend or relative of their own. I understood the need for privacy, having insisted on it quite often over the course of the last three months. So I left.

When I made it halfway out of the cemetery I noted the time. Dad had still not left for work, as he had the swing shift on Wednesdays. If I went home I'd only wake him and he'd feel guilty that he hadn't spent enough time with me during my 'difficult trials', as he called them. So, I turned around and leaned on a nearby oak to wait out the Visitor from the SUV.

It wasn't long before a tiny girl emerged from the door behind the driver's side. Her skin was darker then normal, almost the shade of mocha, but not quite. Her hair brown, with streaks of blonde. She was, in my opinion, beautiful. The sundress she wore spoke of a curvy body, but the expression on her face showed of mild grief. What can I say? I was entranced, bewitched, stupefied from her presence and body language.

She held a small arrangement of daisies in her left hand, which she cupped with her right as she slowly approached one of the gravestones. Imagine my surprise when she stopped in front of Drew's. It made me take an involuntary step forward to investigate.

I knew all of Drew's friends and relatives, and she was not included in that very short list. We had the same friends, and her dad was his only living relative.

From tree to tree I concealed my presence from her downcast eyes and from whoever was still in the SUV. It wasn't hard; there were a lot of trees. However, the closest I could get to her, without being seen, was about fifteen feet away. That's when I noticed it wasn't Drew's grave she was standing before, but the grave of Drew's mother. The girl had set the daisies in the little container provided, centered in front of the marker. I heard little murmurs which I assumed was her talking to the dead woman.

It wasn't surprising. I often talked to Drew. Cussing him out for leaving me with so many questions, and problems. We were supposed to be best friends forever and he left me all alone. There was one thing that was interesting about the girl, besides the obvious physical attraction I had for her. Her hands moved in a familiar way as she spoke, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out where I had seen those particular gestures before.

As I waited, a stray Calico cat found its way through my legs to relieve itself of an apparent body itch. I looked down and frowned, then lightly nudged it aside.

"Go on. I don't need fleas on top of everything else," I whispered. Instead of heeding my instructions it started to purr and rub itself harder against my leg. What can I say, I have a really soft spot for strays. With a mild grimace I bent down and picked up the cat under its front legs and brought it to my face. Its bright green eyes looked content as it flicked out a pink tongue and licked at its nose.

"Oh brother," I commented to the feline. "Word's gotten out about me, I suppose. A sucker for anything lost and alone."

Cradling my right arm, I made a place for it to sit while I scratched behind its ears. The sound of a twig being snapped alerted me that I had momentarily forgotten about the girl that had initially grabbed my attention.

"Hello Cameron."

Spinning in place I turned to the other side of the tree where she had snuck up on me while I was busy playing Dr. Doolittle. My mouth opened a little at how pretty she was up close, striking me temporarily mute. I blinked my eyes and tried to concentrate. "I'm sorry?"

She smiled and reached out to pet the Calico briefly. "Nothing to be sorry about. There's no crime in being curious."

The sound of a car door closing took my attention away from her amazing topaz colored eyes. Looking up I saw a guy standing by the SUV, looking decidedly official in his dark suit and matching dark sunglasses.

"Don't mind him. He's just here to make sure I don't get into anything I'm not supposed to."

That brought a smile to my face. "Like talking to stalkers in a graveyard?"

She smiled at me and I think my IQ dropped about twenty points. "Something like that."

The girl held out her hand, and I instinctively knew she wanted mine. Without a second thought I acquiesced. "Who are you?" I asked, so full of curiosity and wonder.

"A friend." The girl held my hand for a moment and then closed her eyes. "It will be this afternoon, Cameron."

I thought that I had missed something along the way. "I'm sorry?"

Her topaz eyes opened once more and I could see nothing but caring and tenderness in their depths. "It's gonna be okay, Cameron. We'll see each other again, sooner than you think." The words that came out of her mouth rocked me to the core of my being. It was the exact same words that Drew had said before he left me. "You gotta trust me, Cam. When it happens, don't be afraid."

With that, she released my hand and walked back to the SUV. The driver had the back door opened and she climbed inside before I could unstick my feet from the ground and actually do something. Dropping the Calico I ran up the SUV and stood outside the back window as the engine was started.

"Wait! Who are you! What do you mean don't worry!"

I could hear the transmission being shifted into gear and I almost beat at the window. But a second before my hand landed it opened no more than half way. The pretty girl smiled at me, sadly at first. "I love you, Cameron."

Again I was stunned. I'd never met the girl before and now she was reciting the last words of my dead best friend.

~O~

The Calico followed me home. When I opened the door it darted through my legs and into the kitchen to stand next to the refrigerator. At this point I was operating solely on automatic, not thinking twice before grabbing a bowl from the cupboard and filling it halfway with milk and setting it on the table. My newfound pet jumped to a chair and then up atop the table to begin lapping up my offering as I absentmindedly thought of the mysterious girl.

"Hey, hot rod, back early today?"

"Huh?" I spun my head around to see my dad heading for the cereal that I had left on the counter from my breakfast from the morning.

"I asked if you were already back for the day." He stopped in mid pour and looked at me with a small amount of concern. "Hey, are you okay?" Setting the cereal down he stepped over and felt my forehead. "No fever." Lifting my head up a little, for better lighting, I suppose, he took me in. "You're looking awful pale. You feel okay?"

I nodded. "I was… out at the cemetery this morning. Just got spooked is all."

Dad shrugged in understanding and then he eyed the cat. "New friend?"

"Yeah, a stray followed me home."

He chuckled. "Not the first, and it won't be the last." Returning to his morning ritual, Dad set the cereal box back were it belonged, in the food cupboard, and then grabbed what was left of the milk. "Taking it to the pound later?"

The Calico looked up at the mention of imminent incarceration and then looked at me, almost waiting for my answer. I gave it an inquiring leer in return. "Maybe--acts really smart."

At the curious glance from the cat, Dad chuckled again. "Looks like it. It's almost like she understands us."

Her meager amount of breakfast left in the bottom of the bowl left abandoned, my new friend sauntered up and rubbed its face along my cheek. I guessed I'd been adopted whether I wanted to be or not.

~O~

Dad left soon after he finished eating and made me promise to get some rest. He really didn't have to tell me twice. Reclined on the couch in the most comfortable position I could find I grab the remote and flipped on the television, for about half a second. Something in the back of it popped and fizzled, the smell of ozone followed soon after. Great, the TV died.

"Awww, man."

The Calico sat, staring at me from the kitchen door. "Did you curse my TV?" I asked the cat. After another few second stare it raised its paw and licked. "I guess not."

Abandoning the comfort of the couch I tinkered with the remote and then pressed random buttons on the bottom front of the television like it was going to do any good. Not even a flicker of life. With a deep and resigned sigh I gave up and decided on music instead. I'd go grab a book and camp out on the couch, maybe get some sleep. Before heading to my room I flicked the power switch on the stereo amplifier. Right when I touched it is when things took a turn for the weird. A visible static shock jumped from my finger to the amp and it was like fireworks were set off all around the entertainment center.

The screen on the television exploded outward showering the room in glass. Sparks erupted from the top of the amplifier, the DVD player emitted a plume of smoke, while the receiver did the same.

The Calico wailed at me. Who could blame her?

During all of this there was a knock on the front door. What the hell is going on? Waving at the smoke in the air, so that I wouldn't choke too much, I made my way over to the door and fumbled with the dead bolt. "Dammit!" I remarked under a closed breath. No need in scaring away whoever was there. When I finally managed to swing open the door I almost lost it into the wall, because she was there, the girl from the cemetery.

Her eyes traveled to the side and behind me with mild curiosity. "Having problems?"

"Uh… yeah." I coughed once more and waved at the air in front of my face.

The smoking electronics forgotten, she looked at me much like when we were at the cemetery. "It's time, Cameron."

Nothing was making any sense. I looked at my watch to see what time it was, only the LCD display was completely black. What the hell? "Look, I've got to make sure the place doesn't burn down. Can you give me a second."

Reaching inside the doorway, like she'd lived there all her life, she flicked the power switch to the entertainment center. This was kind of odd, because there are four switches grouped on the wall. The third one was the correct one. How would she know that?

"Your father's house will be fine, Cameron. I've already seen it. You have to come with me now." Her voice was insistent with worry.

"What? Why?"

She blinked and her face turned as if she were in pain. "Your friend, Drew?"

My eyes bugged. I had known something was off about her, with what she said earlier. "What about him?"

"The same thing is going to happen to you." Without any other words she turned and looked at the driver of the SUV, who was standing out of the way, so I hadn't seen him as of yet. He had one of those billfold identification wallets which he flashed in my face. I was aware enough to see some sort of badge and a picture ID, but not where it was issued from.

"CDC enforcement agent sir. I'm going to have to ask you to come with us."

I took a step backward. "Let me see that badge again. You can't just…"

Everything else was futile. The guy rushed me and sprayed something in my face. A few seconds after that I heard the Calico wale again and then the girl was hovering over my face as I was looking up at the ceiling from the floor.

"Don't be scared, Cameron. They won't hurt you. We're here to help. You're going to be f…"

~O~

It was the high whine that woke me, well that and the sleeping girl next to me, holding my hand, fingers intertwined with hers. The girl's head was propped up on my shoulder, her face snuggled in lightly along my upper arm. Strangely enough she looked at peace. I suppose most people look like that when they were asleep.

"She has had a very difficult day. Please don't wake her."

The henchman was standing to my right. A quick look around told me that we were in a small, probably private, jet, and if the clouds outside the window were any indication, we were probably pretty high up in the sky at the moment. He made himself comfortable at the chair cattycorner to me. I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, so I chose to play it safe.

"You want to tell me why you kidnapped me?"

He didn't take my bait, but instead looked at his watch. "In approximately forty-seven minutes, you're going to be undergoing a few physical problems." Before I could get all angry and righteous he continued. "It will be something along the lines as your friend Andrew Marks had happen to him."

That little statement sent my heart beating.

"Cam?"

The hand that was holding mine, squeezed reassuringly. She was awake, looking up at me with those damn topaz eyes, looking like… tranquility. How could I be angry or scared when she looked at me like that? It took a moment, but the severity of the situation finally broke her hold on me. Shaking my head, I turned to the side, and as I did one of the lights in the center isle ceiling exploded.

"Cameron!" the girl almost yelled as she grabbed my arm. "You have to calm yourself or you'll kill us all!"

"Me?" I responded incredulously. "What do I have to do with…"

She shook me and forced me to look at her again. "It's your power that is doing this, Cameron. You're an Electrokinetic. When you get upset or even when you aren't paying much attention you short things out. Being 20,000 feet in the air would be a bad thing without operable electronics."

"I'm a what?" I said with as much disbelief as humanly possible.

She didn't bother giving me Webster's definition. "You remember how your TV blew out, and your stereo?"

My eyebrows bunched with skepticism. "You're saying I did that?"

With a curt nod she pointed toward the ceiling. "Just like you did that. It was the first emergence of your power."

A polite electronic tone sounded from the front of the plane. "We are on final approach. Please make sure you are buckled in and all loose items are secure."

So many things were happening all at once, I didn't know what to think.

"Cam, look at me. I can help calm you until we reach the ground. I don't want them to have to knock you out again. The transition doesn't go so well if you sleep through it."

I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. "What transition? Who the hell are you people…"

Her eyes captured me again. "Shh, I won't let anything bad happen to you." She had brushed against my cheek, and I felt like all the tension in the world dropped off my back. It was like as long as I could look at her face, nothing else mattered. It was filled with nothing but caring and love, things that had been missing from my life for as long as I could remember. Just as long as I could stare.

~O~

"We have seventeen minutes, Danielle."

The girl nodded, and in doing so broke the connection we had. I hadn't realized how dry my eyes were. It was as if I hadn't blinked in quite a long time. I rubbed at them to restore what normalcy I could.

"Cameron, we have to hurry. It would be bad to be near to any electricity this close to the beginning."

I wanted to scream, 'the beginning of what?' but I just wanted this over with. If I was going to wind up dead like Drew, I just wanted it to end. "I'm going to die, aren't I?"

The girl, Danielle I suppose, looked at me like I was nuts. "What? No. I told you that I wouldn't let anything bad happen to you, Cameron, and I meant it."

We were rushed down some steps and into a waiting SUV. As soon as the door was closed it took off, not even waiting for us to put on our seatbelts.

"That guy said that I was going through the same thing that Drew did. He died. You can probably see where I came up with the deduction."

Danielle looked at me with a sad kindness. "Drew isn't dead, Cam. It was a cover story. Nobody would believe the truth if they hadn't seen it with their own eyes."

I was of mixed feelings at the moment. To find out that I wasn't going to die, and to find out that my best friend wasn't dead was probably the best news I'd had in months. "Where is he?! What happened to him?! Can I see him?!"

Her face cracked a little smile. "You care for him, don't you?"

"What, are you nuts? He's my best friend!" I sat back in the seat and glanced out the shaded window. Drew was alive.

"Cameron, you have to listen to me right now."

I looked back at her, the thought that I might be able to see Drew again still prominent in my thoughts.

"I wasn't kidding before when I said you were an Electrokinetic. It means that when you are in control of your power, you can pretty much have electricity do anything that you want, but when you don't have control…"

"What?"

"Well, there's no telling. I know you have the potential to be very powerful." She looked like she was bracing herself to tell me some bad news. "Imagine shooting lightning bolts out of your fingertips. That might give you an idea."

She got my furrowed brow for that bit of information.

"What's going to happen to you tonight is a very painful process, but you will survive, just like Drew did, and just like I did."

That shocked me, I have no idea why. I should have put it all together at the beginning.

"The place where we're taking you is more for everyone else's protection, not so much yours."

I could see how shooting lightening out of my hands might be a problem. "Uh…"

"They've got a special suit for you to wear during the transformation. It will help contain your abilities, the rest will be taken care of by a special bunker we have built for people with destructive powers, like you."

How does somebody process all of this and not think they are part of some really elaborate joke? "Okay."

A glance out the front windshield and her attention was back to me. "We're almost there. I'll be right outside during your time in there and I'll be the first face you see when it's over, alright?"

I nodded, not knowing what to say.

She was twisting her hands together, looking very worried. Then she stopped and looked up at me. "Can I kiss you?"

I almost had to shake myself. "What?" This was so surreal.

She didn't wait any longer and almost jumped in my lap. "Like I said before, Cameron Spencer, I love you. I have for years." And just like that, her lips were on mine.

Feelings of love, tinged with quite a bit of lust leaped in my head. In the background I could feel guilt, satisfaction, worry, fear, and a number of other emotions that I couldn't place, because I was s distracted by Danielle's mouth on mine and her hands tightening in my hair as it seemed like she was trying to pull me inside her.

"Twelve minutes, Danielle," the henchman upfront said in a slightly reluctant tone.

I felt the SUV lurch to a stop and Danielle pull away at the exact same moment.

Her topaz eyes bored into mine. "Do not fear, Cam. You will come out of this in perfect health. Some things will be different, but you will still be the same person inside. That's who I love."

I was still dazed by the rush of emotions I had just experienced when the door opened and I was pulled out. They hurried me inside the bunker and during my drunken trance I was stripped of my clothing and dressed in a padded outfit including some type of hood for my head. There wasn't a millimeter of skin exposed. They showed me a raised platform and had me lay down in the center, told me to stay right there until it was over. Someone was counting down the seconds from ten and the last person who was left leaned over me and gave me a thumbs up.

"Good luck."

I heard a heavy door close like so many movies I had seen in the past, namely sealing things left dead in a tomb. However I really didn't have time to think about being scared because that's when the world, as I knew it, came to an end.

~O~

The soft pinging of a heart monitor annoyed me awake.

"Hey, I told you not to worry."

It was her again. Danielle. I groaned, just a little. It wasn't from feeling bad, but from the memory of feeling like I was at ground zero for a test firing of a small thermonuclear warhead not too long ago. I started to say something but she held a finger to my mouth.

"Not just yet. I need to tell you some things first."

I hadn't noticed until then that I was strapped down. Slight tugging revealed what I was trying to do, namely test the bonds for strength.

"I'll undo them in a few minutes, but first I want to tell you what happened and the changes, so you don't freak out like I did."

I gave her a grimace, but nodded.

"The short version is easier, and then if you want I'll go into the long version later, okay?"

I nodded again, thinking only to myself, 'get on with it.'

She smiled at me. "I feel your frustration. Just bear with me."

When she made herself comfortable on a neighboring stool she leaned over me a little so I didn't have to turn my head to see her. "A little over sixteen years ago there was an internal terrorist attack at a genetics lab, not too far away from a bottled water facility. In the simplest terms some of that water was tainted unbeknownst to the water plant. Those bottles got shipped around the U.S. and any women who were pregnant at the time wound up contaminating themselves."

Yeah, even people like me can put two and two together. My mom was one, and I'm guessing that Drew's mom was one as well.

"I see you've already made the connection."

I gave her an affirmative nod.

"Well, those babies that grew are us. The doctors are still unable to tell us what triggers the change, but they can tell us it is unavoidable. It will happen. It's just a matter of when." She shifted a little. "There are some kids that didn't make it until they were ten before they got zapped. It took you and me a little longer. It always manifests itself with a psychic gift at first and then within the day a physical change occurs. But that's the last of it. You've already gone through the worst part. So we can take our time from here. With me so far?"

With a breath I nodded again.

"Okay, now is the time for a decision." She smiled a little. "Good news or bad news?"

She held her finger over my lips and quirked a grin at me. "Good news, huh?"

I gave her a annoyed look. "You ready to see Drew?"

My body jumped within the restraints, and she backed off. "Calm down, Cameron. I'm right here."

Huh?

Danielle looked a tad pensive and then added a little regret to her face to top it off. "This was my physical change, Cam. It's me, Drew."

Okay, that was it. I was done being taunted. "You shut the hell up! Where's…"

Oh god. Something happened to me. Something bad. They had me strapped down so I wouldn't freak out, and now my voice is completely different. A high pitch, almost…

"Cam, you really need to calm down. I can feel you spazzing right now."

I jumped again, but the restraints held me tight. "What did you do to me?! Why do I sound like this?!"

"It was the water, Cam. We didn't have any choice in the matter. You would have changed whether you, or I, or anyone wanted. The only thing we did was prevent you from killing a lot of innocent people around you in the process."

I jumped again, struggling against the bonds that held me down. Then a series of lights exploded along the ceiling.

"Cameron, stop it. Doctor!"

"PUT ME BACK! PUT ME BACK!"

A sting at my arm warned me that someone with a needle was close by. A spasm shook my hand and the room lit up in brilliant blue and white light before darkness overcame me.

~O~

I was aware of everything upon awakening for a third time. Since I was curled up in the fetal position I knew the restraints had been removed. The mattress I was on was soft, not like those too firm hospital monstrosities. There was a scent in the air, like someone was burning incense, and there was definitely a presence behind me.

"Cam?"

Danielle… Drew, what ever her name was. From what she said, she used to be Drew, and now she was a chick. I moved my arms a little and felt what could only be described as breasts on my chest. It would probably be hard to avoid them, considering how much room they took up. A little self investigation of rubbing my legs together a little and I knew there was nothing down there that would even vaguely be considered male equipment. So, that meant that I had transformed like Drew did. I was now a chick.

My minds-eye attached large breasts to my chest and put me in a short skirt and heels. I looked ridiculous. There would be no way I would ever look normal dressed as a girl. I'd be some cross species freak for the rest of my life.

The mattress shifted and I felt Danielle spoon up beside me. Her hand petted my hair and her voice attempted to soothe my nerves.

"Shh, baby. It'll be okay."

I didn't realize what she was talking about until I felt tears run across my eyes and drop to the pillow below. Great, now I was crying.

"It happened to all of us. Boys and girls alike. You aren't alone," she almost whispered.

My mind raced to find a way to get past looking like a crybaby, which was almost as bad as being turned into a chick. "How many?"

"Hmm?"

I cleared my new throat and repeated myself a little louder. "How many?"

"Oh, um… I think fourteen at last count. You'll make fifteen."

I would have thought more would have been affected. "Why so few?"

Feeling her shrug, I noted that her breasts were pressing up against my back. It was a new sensation. I hadn't really experienced sex as of yet. Yeah, I was a little behind the learning curve for your average teenager, but I had gotten to third base with Maria Delgado by the end of Christmas break. Now I have my own third base, not to mention a first, second, and home plate. Closing my eyes, I tried to focus on task.

"Well you have to keep in mind that only pregnant women that drank the water were affected. It doesn't bother men or other women. Not to mention that the bottled water craze was just starting to hit it big back then, and the fact it was a relatively new company. Not that many women were exposed." She sighed a little. "If you keep in mind statistics of the distributed areas, the bean counters estimate that maybe one to two hundred women had a chance of exposure before they were informed about the meltdown at Genetech."

We lay there in silence for a few more minutes before Danielle stopped fingering my hair. "You about ready to have a look?"

I was so tempted to just shake my head and lay in bed for the rest of the day that I shrank in on myself. But what was done, was done. The only chance I'd have to reverse what happened to me was to face it head on and start learning how it happened in the first place. So, I nodded.

The mattress shifted again and out of the corner of my eye I could see Danielle holding out a hand for me. "I'll be right here, Cam, with you every step of the way."

With a resigned sigh I pushed myself up. The breasts on my chest shifted and I could feel their weight immediately. The second thing I noticed was the hair that fell in my face, and down to the tops of those mounds on my chest. I fingered a few locks and moved them out so I could see better. It was brown instead of my normal strawberry-blonde, and it was considerably longer.

"It happens to all of us, Cam." She pulled a little of her hair forward. "Remember I used to have black hair? There are a couple of us that have green and lavender. At least we're somewhat normal in the regard."

My legs were next on the list of most obvious changed portion of my body. They were long, skinny, and smooth, with proportional feet attached at the end. Two hands and two feet – I'm still human.

"Another good thing about the change? In the three months I've been here I've only had to shave my legs once. Though with your electrokinesis you could probably just zap all your hair…" Seeing the 'are you crazy' look on my face, Danielle amended her last statement. "Though you probably don't really care about grooming tips at the moment, sorry."

I closed my eyes and gave my head a shake. If anything could prove that it was Drew sitting in front of me with a new girlie body, that was it. He always had a bad habit of sticking his foot in his mouth. But at least he was aware of it and tried to apologize.

She stood and held out both her hands. "Come on, there's a mirror over here."

Taking hold of her hands I pushed up from the bed and almost immediately fell over. Danielle gigged at me. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you that the first step is a bit different. Remember, you have an entirely new body now. All your weight has been redistributed to your chest and hips instead of your entire torso." At my questioning look she added, "Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it really quick."

The t-shirt I was wearing dropped to about mid thigh. I remembered how sexy I thought that look was on girls, the whole rumpled, just out of bed look, and I frowned before taking in the room I was currently residing.

The bed I was sleeping in was a bunk style and the room itself couldn't have been larger than a decent sized motel room. A partner's desk sat sideways under a window on one wall with one side looking like it was lived in, while the other side only had a desk organizer and a computer monitor.

"Is this your room?"

Danielle smiled. "It's our room now. I insisted on having you as my roommate." The smile dropped and I could see she was holding back a frown. "But if you want, you can have your own room. There's enough here until we start getting a lot of new arrivals."

I shook my head. "Sharing's cool for now." At that announcement, she brightened up again.

"Cool!"

There were two sets of dressers with small adjoining tables attached to one side. I looked at Danielle's and figured out right away that it was for putting on her make up. Now I have my own. For some reason, I didn't see painting my face every morning in the near future.

"Are you stalling?"

Why, yes, I was. "Um, no… I just wanted to look around."

One of her eyebrows lifted in doubt. "I'll tell you right off that I can tell when you're lying. It's part of my power."

Oh, yeah. "What is it you do?"

She smiled again, teasingly. "Still stalling I see." She giggled. "It's okay. I understand, really. Um, okay what do I do? I'm an Empath. Meaning I share whatever emotions that you have. If you're angry, I can feel it like it was my own anger. Plus I can push my own emotions on to others. That's what I did in the plane at the end to calm you down so we didn't crash. "

"Whoa."

"Neat, huh?"

I nodded.

"Also in certain regards I'm a Precog."

That sparked a memory of mine, but I couldn't place it. "I've heard of that one. Like a movie or something."

She rolled her eyes. "Minority Report, Tom Cruise. No, I'm not like that. If I have a strong emotional bond with someone I can see into their future, not to mention my own. That's how I knew what would happen that day I disappeared."

That made me a little angry. "You knew all of this was going to happen and you didn't say anything?"

A heavy sigh escaped her mouth. "Would you have believed me? I gave you want I could. I tried to give you hope that we'd see each other again."

"Dude, all you gave me was a shitload of questions I've been torturing myself with for three months." A look came over her face and I figured out where I'd seen that before. "You're black?" Only a black woman could give you that look where you feel like the stupidest person in the world. I have no idea why. I guess it was a whole face, shoulders, hands thing.

"I'm mixed in the racial category, Cameron." She shook her head. "I never thought you were racist."

"Um, I'm not. I was just trying to figure out who you remind me of." Really, I wasn't racist! I just have a really bad habit of trying to label things. With the withering look I received I don't think she believed me. What about her whole truth detector thing she had going? "You don't think I'm lying do you? When have you ever seen me be cruel because of something like that?"

She still had me with that disappointed look. "You're going to have to watch your mouth around here, Cameron. I'm not the only one who doesn't look like their original 'breed'." With a glance down my body I figured out what she was saying, and it felt like there was a stone in my stomach.

"I'm Asian, aren't I?" Drew knew about my dislike of Japanese anime that he was so fond of. Wouldn't it be karma for me to have been changed into some Japanese school girl, manga wanna be. I suddenly had a very strong desire to look in that mirror she talked about earlier.

Another giggle escaped her lips. "Tell you the truth? I don't have a clue what you are." Following her pointy finger, I saw a three-quarter length mirror attached to the back of what I was assuming was a closet door. I looked back at Danielle and watched as she took my hand to lead me to my newest revelation.

There I was. The new me. My hair was straight and kind of thin, falling to either side of my face with an offset part. A fairly oval shaped face had replaced my previous square shape that I had enjoyed as a guy. At least my nose was straight and proportional, and my eyes were a very pretty blue/gray… that I'd never thought I'd ever hear myself say about myself. Pretty. I kind of looked Spanish, with some European mix in there to mess everything up. I understood why Danielle couldn't peg me.

"I'll give you a few minutes to explore. I need to use the restroom."

I absentmindedly nodded before I heard the door close. With a glance I confirmed I was alone and did what anyone else in my place would have done. A calming breath later, and I lifted up my t-shirt. Cameron, that is most definitely not your old body.

It barely looked like had an ounce of fat on my torso. The outline of my ribs showed, not boney, but you could see the shape of them quite clearly. Right below them I could tell that I was well on the way to having very well defined abs. This doesn't even mention what was sitting on top of my chest. They were kind of round, but firm, with upturned brown areolas looking like they wanted to point to the ceiling. I wasn't centerfold material, but damn close. Maybe Girls Gone Wild: Sorority Edition. My waist was neatly tucked and the hips flared, but not too much. I had curves, that was evident, but I wasn't full figured. I could see that from the hip bones sticking out. I looked a little underfed.

Before I had a chance to explore down below, a soft knock sounded at the door. I dropped my t-shirt down my new body and felt my ears start to burn. What must have been a five count later and the door opened. Danielle poked her head in.

"Sorry, I want to make sure you had time to slip your nightshirt back on." At that, my face joined in with the humiliation by heating up. She saw my predicament. "Cameron, don't worry. We all did the exact same thing." With a little giggle she added, "They had to drag me out from in front of the mirror. I couldn't quit looking."

That made me feel a little better. But I wanted nothing more, at the moment, than to be covered head to toe in real clothes. "Can I have my…" On second thought, "Is there something I can wear?"

Danielle smiled and shook her head. "Sorry, I'm being a ditz. Yes, I went down to Wardrobe and picked out a generic outfit for you. We can go down later and you can choose your own clothes. Sound okay?" During all of this she had crossed over to what I assumed was my dresser and opened one of the drawers, only to pull out a stack of dark colored clothes. "I decided to go with blue. I don't think you're quite ready to embrace the pink as of yet."

"Thanks," I replied sarcastically. A quick look around and I found that there was no place to really change privately. Danielle jumped a little. "Oh, sorry. I'll turn around. You might need help with something, so I won't disappear on you."

It was a yoga outfit, or not quite a pair of sweats, I was going with yoga. The top part and the bottom part I could figure out on my own. Even cringing a little at the matching panties, I knew what to do with those. However, the bra, or more to the point, the sports bra was a puzzle. I assumed that it was just a short tight version of a t-shirt, made to contain a girl's breasts so she wouldn't get black eyes on a morning run. What I wasn't prepared for was the added garment inside that looked like it was sewn in. I flipped it around and inside out before finally figuring it out.

"Oh, okay."

"Lemmie guess, the sports bra?" Danielle said with a little mirth in her voice.

"Yeah." Fine, rub it in.

I struggled with it for a minute before thinking of a better way of putting it on and then adjusted my breasts after. This had to be the weirdest feeling I'd ever experienced, and that is saying something after going through the Jell-O in the jock strap incident when school started the previous year. We're not going to talk about that particular embarrassment.

Once I had that particular puzzle solved, the rest was cake; clothes were clothes, girls clothes seemed to just be softer and thinner. No wonder they were constantly freezing all the time.

"Okay, I think I've got it."

Danielle turned around and smiled at me while she gave me the once over. "Everything… supported? Nothing pinches?"

My ears started to burn again. "Yeah, fine."

She shrugged. "It's better to find out now instead of being in the cafeteria trying to adjust your bra in the middle of lunch. Believe me." The thought of attracting more attention to what I was wearing underneath my clothes and I was nodding right along with her. I may have boobs now, but I didn't have to advertise the fact… not that I needed to. I wasn't exactly flat-chested. They were 3-D advertisements all by themselves.

"Okay, feel up to taking a walk down to Wardrobe and getting you some real clothes or are you hungry?"

There was an ache in my stomach that pretty much announced that food would be good, not to mention I was virtually skin and bones. Five or ten pounds wouldn't go amiss on my new body.

"Food sounds pretty good."

Danielle looked down at my feet. "We're about the same size shoe." She disappeared into the closet and returned with a pair of flip-flops that I winced a little at. I hate the stupid sound they make when you walk, sue me. Flip-flop-flip-flop-squish-flop. The squish part was when you inevitably step in some sort of liquid and it splashes up under your arch and you have to stop to make sure it was water, because if it wasn't then you'd have some nasty… never mind.

Once I was reasonably attired Danielle led the way out the door. I stopped and looked at the light switch and then up to the door frame. "Dammit, I'm short!"

She threw a look over her should at me. " At least you only lost a few inches. Try being five-one after just making it to six foot. I was pissed."

The sound of the door closing behind us brought Danielle up short. "Oh, I forgot. We need to pick a feminine name for you. Nobody is allowed to use their original gender name. It's supposed to acclimate us to the change quicker."

I looked down the hall of doors with embossed plaques on each. Judging from the names inscribed I assumed they were the names of the occupants. "Uh… What do I look like to you?"

She turned to me and studied my face for a few seconds. "Maybe a Jessica?"

That was a little too girlie for me, so I shook my head.

"Maria?"

Another shake. "Something less… I dunno, less."

She frowned in thought. "How about Kristyn, we can call you Kris for short. That's pretty androgynous."

I was about to poopoo that suggestion too, but I really didn't have a reason. "Yeah, that's fine, I guess."

"It's going to be your name. You should be happy with it."

"Kristyn's fine. I'll survive with a girl's name. It's not the worst thing that's ever happened to me." Looking down at my breasts protruding out from my chest, that was saying quite a lot.

She nodded. "Okay, Kristyn it is." Danielle took my hand and laced her fingers with mine like it was second nature to her. "Cafeteria's this way."

The halls were mostly deserted which made me wonder what time it was. "Is everyone else asleep?"

"Probably. It's about eleven, but we might run into a night owl or two on the way. There's always someone up and about."

The cafeteria wasn't located too far away from the dorm rooms, which I suppose was good. At least I wouldn't starve from not being able to find it. It was big, like High school big, but since there weren't many students attending I saw that they had sectioned it off into a type of multi-purpose room. There were support columns along either side that sectioned the room off into quarters, one quarter being the seating area for dining. The closest wall near there was what looked like your typical ala cart line like in high school, but cattycorner to that was what looked to be heaven: a self serve snack bar. I could almost hear the angels singing Halleluiah.

"Hot meals are breakfast and dinner. For lunch or snacks, you're on your own," Danielle informed me.

My eyes widened at the set up. There were little see though windows with ready made cold meals behind them, three rows and about ten columns worth that included everything from sandwiches to desserts. To one side was a table set up with several baskets of fruit, microwave popcorn, energy bars, and a variety of chocolate bars.

"They rotate the snacks out so if you see something you really can't live without, I firmly suggest hording." She proved an excellent role model by picking through the bowl of sweets and swiping several Hershey's Dark Chocolates. I think that was the first time I had smiled since I got there.

"What's the food like?"

She shrugged. "It doesn't suck. Although stay away from the chili-cheese dogs; heartburn city. I don't know what kind of chili they used, but it will come back to haunt you well into the night, and we're roomies, so if you aren't kind to me…" She got a really evil look to her face. "Well, I could always lean toward the boiled cabbage and cucumber diet."

I wrinkled up my face. "Maybe I should look into a private room."

She laughed with me as I tried to make my choice. Turkey and Swiss sub it was! After I removed it from the refrigerated window unit and watched as it was replaced with something completely different via some kind of automated system I popped it into a microwave and nuked it for a minute. A fountain drink dispenser held my favorite soda, Pepsi! I don't know what I would do without my sugar and caffeine.

We found a table and I watched Danielle sift through a bag of baked potato chips and a bottled water while I made with the destruction of my sandwich. Her eyes flicked to the side and for some reason I knew we weren't alone, and my best friend was not happy.

"New meat?" came a masculine voice over my left shoulder.

I laid the remains of my sandwich down and looked over my shoulder. "Two boys, roughly our age approached.

"Go away Brian," Danielle warned. "I'll tell Mrs. Fine, and you'll be punished again."

The look on his face told me all I wanted to know. Apparently Danielle had busted the boy at one time or another. There was a grudge there. It was obvious.

"Dani, we are all supposed to welcome every new arrive. You know that's part of the rules. Gotta be one big happy family after all."

Danielle's eyes narrowed. "Fine. Brian, Kristyn – Kristen, this is Brian, otherwise known as someone that can't suppress his need to show everyone exactly how much testosterone he can produce in one sitting." She said through almost gritted teeth. "He's a Kything."

"A what?"

Brian smirked. "It means I can read your thoughts."

"It's more than that, and you know it," Danielle accused. "A Kything can create a link between two minds and experience everything that you can. If for instance someone was having sex, he can pop right in there and feel what its like to be you. Touch, taste, memories, knowledge. It's all there for the pervert to take advantage of."

Brian yawned dramatically. "What can I say? Male orgasms just can't compete with female's."

Then it clicked in my head. "You used to be a girl."

Brian heaved back and his laugh echoed in the almost empty room. "Oh, Dani, we've got an Einstein here."

Dani leaned back and a thought crossed her face. "You better keep your power away from Kristyn. She's an Electrokinetic. Go in without warning and she could fry your tiny little brain into soup."

"Is that what happened to the lights earlier?" the other boy asked from behind Brian.

"Kris, this is Christopher, a much less annoying person. He's an Empath like me."

The blonde haired boy shook his head. "Not like you. I can't project like you can."

"Please, Chris," Brian said in over exaggerated disgust. "Your crush on little miss perfect is making me ill."

That brought my eyebrows up. Drew is now little 'miss' perfect?

"Christopher, you're welcome to join us," Danielle said with perfect poise. "Brian, you're welcome to go somewhere else, that isn't here, and masturbate."

I leaned back and sipped at my Pepsi. It was just like old times at school, except I was Christopher at the time and Brian was the BMOC jerk that always annoyed me.

"You wish sweet cheeks," he cracked.

Christopher sidestepped around the table and went to fetch something to snack on, and Brian let his eyes rove over my body. I suddenly had a lot of sympathy for women around the world and what I used to do to them. Granted, I wasn't as obvious as Brian was, but still. The only thing that didn't make any sense was that he used to be a girl. Shouldn't he have some idea of what a jerk he was being?

"Listen, Kris, if you ever feel the need to test run that hummin' body of yours, you know where to find me."

I couldn't hold back. "Every wonder what it would feel like to have 10,000 volts of electricity pass through your penis, Brian." At his little flinch I saw that he was currently visualizing that moment. "Keep pushing and you will."

Danielle let loose with a high bark of laughter as Brian tried to retreat as manly as possible.

"Jesus, what an asshole," I said as I shook my head. My best friend was having a grand ole time. "So, I have a hummin' body?"

Her eyes lit up as she giggled some more, but it tapered down a little when Christopher joined us. "Sorry about him. Ever since he started to go through puberty he's been a gargantuan ass."

"Puberty?"

Danielle nodded. "Christopher and Brian have been here the longest."

Christopher thumbed at Danielle. "What she said. I was ten when I went through my thing and Brian was eight. From what I heard he, or rather she at the time was a serious tomboy in the first place. I figure she was always a he anyway."

That would explain a few things, I suppose. "What about you?"

He shook his head. "Nope. I liked being a girl. I still do on occasion."

I blinked at that. "You can change back?"

Christopher chuckled a bit at that. "No, I mean…" He looked at Danielle and she shook her head.

"We haven't gotten that far yet."

He shrugged and then explained. "They allow us to dress how we want around here. You'll sometimes see others do it."

I sat up and leaned into the table. "You mean dress in girls clothes?"

He nodded. "You learn not to judge around here… well, except for Brian that is. A lot of us know that we are in the body of the wrong gender. Dressing up allows us to," he struggled for the term. "Release some steam?" He sighed, looking melancholy. "I miss my Easter dresses the most."

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't imagine the boy sitting in front of me wearing a frilly pink Easter dress. It made me extremely aware of my own body and how much it had changed. Danielle had her eye on me, almost studying me.

"Marks here took to it like a fish to water though," Christopher commented.

"Marks?" I asked.

"Danielle Marks, or Dani for short if you prefer," my friend clarified. "And you know why it took me only a week to adjust, Christopher. I was always a girl inside."

I think my brain just short circuited, and considering my power, that wasn't out of the realm of possibility. "You were a girl… inside?"

Dani looked nervous. "Explain a few things about our childhood, Kris?"

Now that she mentioned it, yeah.

"Hold on," Christopher almost spilled his drink. "You two know each other… from like outside?"

Dani nodded without taking her eyes off mine. "All our lives. Best friends, inseparable."

That was the word to describe it; inseparable. Except now I knew what my best friend had really thought of me all those years. It wasn't friendship for him. It was actual love. That also explained those feelings I was overwhelmed with when she kissed me before my transformation. Those were his, hers – now I was confusing myself. The weird part? I wasn't freaked out by it. Now if Drew had been the one to lay a big smackaroo on my lips there would have probably been an issue, but I had been more than attracted to Danielle. Now? I have no idea.

Her eyes told me she was reading my emotions. I think I have that look down pat by now. She was still very beautiful to me. Beautiful enough to have a relationship with? I don't know, seeing as how I'm a girl now too.

"Oww!" Dani almost yelled as she grabbed for her shin.

Christopher gave her a disapproving look. "You didn't like it when Brian used his powers on you without your permission."

"He what?" I almost demanded.

Dani scowled. "Never mind. It doesn't matter."

There was definitely a story behind that look on her face.

~O~

Upon our return to the room, Dani produced a set of clean sheets and offered to make my bunk. Since I was the taller of the two, she volunteered me for the top bunk. Her reasoning was that If I fell off I would have a shorter fall. I chalked it up to Drew's personality. He was always an off the wall thinker.

The one thing I wasn't expecting as I sat on the lower bunk was to see up the skirt of my best friend while she was on the little wooden ladder that led upward. That was the first time I realized that her skirt was really short and showed off a really nice feature about her. Granted, she was petit, but she had really nice and toned legs which led all the way up to… whoa… she was wearing a thong.

Well that answered that question about my sexuality. Yep, still attracted to girls. Thank -- god. I looked away soon thereafter. While what I saw turned me on, I wasn't very sure about trying to hook up with a person that was, in my mind, a guy less than twenty-four hours ago. When I saw Dani make her way down the steps I turned back and saw a disappointed face turn into a small smile. Well that confirmed that thought. She flashed me on purpose.

"I have to be in class by eight tomorrow morning, so lets get up early and we can go raid the wardrobe together."

I gave her an accenting nod. "Alright." I really wanted something to do with my hands and women's clothes apparently didn't include anything useful in the way of actual pockets for private fidgeting.

Dani looked a little nervous. "Um… did you want to borrow one of my nightgowns? I have a perfect little babydoll…"

"I can just wear the t-shirt I slept in earlier."

"Oh… okay."

Before everything became entirely uncomfortable I crossed the room and grabbed the shirt in question and went into the closet to change. Maybe this roommate thing wasn't such a good idea after all. I love Dani – well, I loved Drew like a brother, but that was it. But Dani. Sigh. At first I was so attracted to her, which was weird. Then a really bad thought came into my head. Maybe she had used her Empathy powers to… No, Drew wouldn't do that.

I pushed that thought straight out of my head. It was stupid to even contemplate. My friend was made of better stuff than that. This whole being a girl thing was obviously making me insane. It had to be the hormones. Female hormones made guys idiots when they were being used on them by actual girls. I couldn't imagine what it would make out of a guy if he were subjected to them 24/7. I was way beyond help. Just keep your cool and work through this. I'd already seen what would happen if I overreacted and lost my focus. Boom.

Hopefully the people here can help me get my powers under control so I can concentrate on reversing whatever had happened to me.




Chapter 2

Waking up the next morning wasn't the most happiest of moments. Trying to sleep with two decent sized lumps on my chest wasn't conducive to a good night's rest. I kept stirring throughout the night which led to some… well let's just say that my dreams were unusual and leave it at that.

I dressed in the same yoga outfit that Dani had gotten me the night before and after our morning time in the communal bathrooms, which I'll have to go over at some other occasion, we headed down the hallway, crossing over into another building that was attached to the dorms. I did get a brief look at the outside world through two levels of security glass. It seemed to be warm and that sky was clear, but there wasn't anything else in sight; just a random countryside scene from Anywhere, America.

A quick trip down a single flight of stairs brought us to another short hallway with a single door. The Wardrobe room should have been called a room so much as a warehouse. I was bewildered at the amount of everything that was available.

"Dani? Who are these people again?"

She threw me a smile over her shoulder. "Amazing, huh?"

I nodded. Rows upon rows of hanging clothes stood before me, not to mention pegboards of packaged material, what looked like socks, underwear, assorted girlie necessities were scattered throughout the room.

"The boys have one just like this on the other side. There is a uniform during school hours and another for special functions, but for nights and Sunday's you're on your own," she explained.

At the mention of uniforms I looked my friend over. At first I had thought she was just trying to make a fashion statement, or maybe to look extra cute this morning dressing up as she had, but now I was looking at her outfit as a person that actually had to wear something that girlie. "Oh, you're kidding."

"Afraid not. My orientation councilor explained it as immersing yourself into the role that is expected of you. Regardless of how you look right now, you still hold yourself… your body image, as a guy."

We stopped in front of a set of black, grey, and white plaid skirts. Dani picked one at random from the rack and held it up for me. "Wearing something like this will be a constant reminder that you are a girl and to act accordingly: walk with poise, cross your legs when you sit, you get the idea. 'Cause if you don't, then you wind up flashing everyone what you are wearing underneath."

I couldn't get the mental picture of a busty Catholic school girl out of my head. Granted the outfits were nothing like that. I watched, kind of in a stupor, as Dani held the skirt in front of me. It came about half way down my thighs.

"It's the tall girls that get screwed with this particular skirt."

I looked at hers, and it came maybe an inch or two above her knees. Great, I have long thighs, which meant I was going to be flashing more leg. She put that skirt back, pulled another from a bit further down the line, and handed it to me.

"Here, we'll grab you the rest of your uniform and you can try it out for size," Dani informed me as we moved to the opposite side and pursued the white button down shirts. After we had procured a really low cut vest, a black tie with silver stripes, black knee high nylon socks, and to my horror, something Dani called booties, which looked like high heeled boots with the calf portion ripped off, I was led to a dressing room.

~O~

"Kristyn, you need to hurry it up a little. We're running behind schedule."

I was already dressed. The thing was that I really didn't want to step outside of the booth I was safely content with sitting in. I felt as if my entire body was on display. The shirt I was wearing had almost no sleeves, just little poofy things at the shoulders, and the vest curved under my breasts, squishing them together, up and out. Not that the bra I had to use wasn't doing that in the first place. Dani had to run back and switch out a few things, and had helped me considerably along the way, but she hadn't seen the finished product. However, with a resigned sigh I stood and caught my balance. High heels were the devil. They weren't outrageously high, maybe a couple of inches, but they made my already sleek legs even longer, my butt stick out and by balance compensation, my breasts stick even further out.

A light knock sounded at the booth's door and it opened a second later.

"Oh, my god! You're a darling!"

Great.

She skittered forward, loosened the tie around my neck and popped the top button. "You don't have to wear them like a guy," she informed me as she pulled it loose from its knot. "But you do have to know how to make a Full Windsor. It's more symmetrical."

While she fussed at my tie I went ahead and complained. "Why heels? I'm going to wind up killing myself on some stairs and bleed all over the place."

She giggled to herself. "Always use the banister to balance yourself and shift your weight to the balls of your feet. You won't fall. Besides, believe it or not, girls wear heels on occasion. You'll wear them during school hours so that they become second nature. Afterward you can go around in flip flops if you want."

She turned me around and checked me out to make sure I didn't wear anything backward, I guess. "Leave your hair. You have a meeting with Dr. Shanahan for your orientation and then they'll probably send you straight to the stylist, like they did me."

I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my hair in the first place, but from the look of Danielle's there was a bow that was probably going to be in my future at some point.

~O~

I only almost killed myself once on the way to the administration offices. Turning on polished floors in the shoes I was wearing wasn't really recommended. Who makes shoes with virtually smooth soles? The only part that actually gripped well was the heel which consisted of about a square centimeter of traction. So, lesson one in walking in slippery hells… sorry, heels (Freudian typo)… was that one doesn't lean into a turn. If one does lean, then one must go ahead and throw ones self on the ground or suffer a dislocated elbow while trying to catch ones self.

I was still rubbing the red mark on my elbow when Danielle held the door to the main offices for me. A spartan receptionist desk was the only piece of furniture in the small room, manned by a fairly buff guy with a high and tight haircut, white business shirt and a thin black tie. He nodded to Danielle and thumbed to an open door to the right of his desk.

"Dr. Shanahan is expecting you. Go on in."

"Thank you," Dani chirped.

She led me to the very first door on the left which was wide open, and knocked on the frame. "Dr. Shanahan, Kristyn is here for her orientation."

The blonde lady, in her mid thirties, behind the desk, typing away on her computer keyboard looked up with a smile. "Danielle, always a pleasure to see your smiling face in the morning."

"Thank you, ma'am."

I was almost expecting Dani to curtsey, with her finger on her chin, the way she was grinning.

"And you must be Kristyn?" she asked in an almost non-questioning tone. "Come in and have a seat." With a look at Dani she nodded. "Excellent work last night and this morning, Danielle. She almost looks ready to start her day." Before Dani got a chance to respond, this time, she was sent off. "That'll be all for now. I'll alert you when you can retrieve her."

The door closed behind us as I sat down. My skirt bunched up under my butt until I scooted up and ran my hand underneath to smooth it out. When I looked back up I saw Miss Shanahan smiling at me with a knowing grin. "Very good, Kristyn. You see you have some things to learn."

Without having to be prompted, I crossed my legs at the knee, which to my shock almost seemed natural given my trim legs and lack of male equipment to get in my way.

"Dealing with the heels without too much trouble?"

I frowned. "I almost took out a wall right around the corner, but yeah, I guess."

A laugh showed faint lines to the either side of her mouth. "Very good. It's important to immerse yourself into womanhood. Your future sanity depends on it."

Well that was ominous.

Once she sat herself behind the desk, she intertwined her fingers and set them in her lap. "What has Danielle had to say about your being here?"

A strand of hair took its chance and escaped from the confines of the bulk of my hair, falling across my right eye. It was becoming natural, already, to brush it away, but it was still a pain. "Um… well, we haven't really had too much time to talk. Between being drugged, transforming, and sleep, we've just been…"

"Catching up?"

I shrugged. "Sorta."

"You two are the first people that have known each other outside of the Center. It was rather fortuitous for your friendship to already be cemented before coming here. Considering the nature of your talent, it would have been very hard to explain your house exploding."

"Yeah," I hadn't really thought about it as of yet. "I guess I ought to thank you for that. My dad…"

She nodded. "Most likely would have been killed in the fallout."

I looked down, thinking about that happening. "He thinks I'm dead, doesn't he?"

When I looked back up at her, her face wasn't somber, but there was a considerable lack of emotion showing. "I think you understand why we have to keep your status and this facility a secret."

I nodded. "I've read enough comics and books. People wouldn't understand. We'd be lab rats if not burned at the stake."

"Very true." At my silence she added, "After a few months, when you become acclimated to our routine and learn your role here, we allow a visit of a sort. You won't be able to tell him, of course, but seeing him and how he's moving on with his life is allowable." At the disbelief I was showing on my face, she softly smiled. "We aren't monsters here, Kristyn."

I found myself looking back down and fidgeting with my hands. "What's the catch?"

"Catch?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Are you some secret government covert project that is looking to take advantage of kids with superpowers?"

A throaty laugh filled the air. "My, you do read a lot don't you."

I just nodded and gave her a tentative smile.

"Kristyn, the answer to your question is, yes."

Hold on. Wasn't there supposed to be a rule that the secret organization that you were drafted into was supposed to keep it a secret? "Uh…"

Her eyes drilled into mine with knowledge that I lacked. "Tell me, realistically, what would you expect to happen to someone in your situation?"

"Um…"

Her eyes thinned a little. "Enough with the Uh's and Um's, please. You are a lady now. You must act like one," she informed me in a polite even tone. "Think about what you are going to say and then tell me."

My back straightened. I was more conscious of my posture, for some reason. She wanted the straight poop, well, I guess I'd give it to her. "I expect that we would be trained in some way, for a specific purpose, that would be for the good of America. But, that isn't always the case. What you may think is for the good, other people would consider evil or self-served."

She didn't confirm or deny what I speculated upon.

"The young adults here at the Center, your soon to be classmates, will finish their education as normally as possible, but your extra-curricular activities will not be sports or dance." She let that settle into me before continuing. "Your school day will begin at eight o'clock in the morning and will continue until two o'clock. Thirty minutes will be your allotted time for lunch at noon. Then at three you will have sessions dealing with control and use of your talent. At five you will be released to your own devices, which will include homework, physical fitness, and personal time. Dinner is at six o'clock."

I didn't even have a chance to comment before she rapid fired the rest of my schedule. "That is your schedule for Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday will be for special training depending on your talent. Sunday is your own to do as you will."

Opening her drawer she produced a mobile phone, or what I thought was a mobile phone. It had a little leather carrying case and I took it as she handed it to me.

"We try to stay up to date with today's technology and use it to our advantage."

I undid the Velcro closure and pulled it out. "It's an iPhone."

"Not exactly, but the technology is extremely similar. You might say that we have access to certain patents that make our life here more pleasant. Peruse the applications at your leisure. You will find a class syllabus for the remainder of your education here at the Center. Apply yourself, Kristyn. We expect exemplarily testing scores, as at some time in the future your life might be teetering on the line of whether you remember your education and training."

They were turning us into spies?

"We took the opportunity of your father being at work to download the music playlist that was on your own iPod as well as the documents that were on your personal computer from your former house." I almost let out a relieved sigh. "We want you to be comfortable here, Kristyn. We want you to give your training priority attention. However we also understand the lives of teenagers. If you like, you are more than welcome to pursue personal relationships with the others, but you need to restrain your feelings. In other words, don't get attached. In a couple of years you or your friends might be shipped off to your first assignment." She shook her head. "You'll cover that in your sex education orientation."

"Uh…" At her sharp look I apologized. "Sorry, I mean… I already had sex ed in junior high."

Her lips quirked. "Believe me, Kristyn, you haven't had our version. I hear it's quite revealing."

Pictures of a classroom with a large bed flashed in my head. No… just no. A topic change was seriously needed at that moment. Stopping myself from saying, 'um', once more I asked, "What am I going to be training for?"

Dr. Shanahan shrugged. "Could be any number of different positions. Over the next week, you're going to be tested psychologically, mentally, and physically to determine your current status. We'll decide then what you are best suited for. But I will tell you that you will be grouped with two others for initial talent training."

There were others like me? She held my interest.

"They are Psychokinetics like yourself. Although their specialties differ."

That confused me. "Dani said that I was an Electrokinetic."

"You are. It's a subset of Psychokinetics. Your specialty is electricity as you already know. The others are Max Stevenson, a Hydrokinetic, and Heather Davis, a Photokinetic."

Ah. "Hydro is water, but what's Photo?"

"Light."

How do you manipulate light? That had to be seriously messed up. It's light, it's dark, it's light. Seemed kind of boring to me; a human light switch.

"The basics for control of your talents are virtually the same, so you will be training with them at first."

I nodded in ascent.

"I do have a request, if you are willing."

With a tilt of my head I was at least willing to listen.

"Ray Lomax, our most recent student besides Danielle. He's had a very rough time with his transition, and he voluntarily cut his personal relationships off with the rest of the class. I'd consider it a personal favor if you'd be willing to befriend him."

I've seen this one before, and no thanks I really don't want to hook up with a guy right now. "I'm not into guys, Dr. Shanahan."

Her smile only reached to her lips. "He's not into girls, Kristyn. No need to worry there. However, the signs are there for… lets just say that I'm worried about him."

"You think he might hurt himself?"

"Or others," she nodded.

That's where my eyebrows shot up a little. "And you don't think that he might hurt me?"

"You have a very powerful defense mechanism, Kristyn. Fear or anger will set it off at the moment. I'm not worried about you."

I pondered that statement for a while. "What's his power?"

"He has Photographic Reflexes. He has to see something done, no matter how complicated, and then he can reproduce the same operation."

"You mean like a doctor?"

A nod was returned. "A doctor, pianist, Tae Kwon Do master. Whatever he learns he can apply virtually instantaneously."

How incredibly cool is that? "I'll see what I can do. I wasn't really Mr. Socialite back at my old school."

"Just try, that's all I'm asking."

~O~

The meeting went on for what seemed like forever while we worked on the little details of my new life. I had to chose a middle and last name to go along with the first that Dani had given me. And thus was born Kristyn Anne Keys.

It was seven thirty in the morning and I felt like it was already late afternoon when Dani came back to retrieve me for breakfast.

"Is your brain fried yet?"

I was about to respond and forgot I was walking in what amounted to ice skates on the polished floor. A little slip later and I was resetting my posture and shortening my stride.

"I'm sorry. What did you ask me before I almost gave myself a concussion?"

Dani's giggle is really cute, by the way.

"I asked you if your brain was fried."

"Meh. It was about what I expected. Secret government agency looking to overthrow the world."

Her eyes rolled. "Well it does sound all nefarious if you describe it like that."

"Yeah, all we need is a hard core military type to head the school, you know, with an eye patch and a jagged scar on his cheek."

Dani's eyes went wide. "Got it."

"What? You're kidding." She shook her head.

"Nope, calls himself, the Colonel. He's got the scar, but no eyepatch."

"Creepier and creepier."

Breakfast was in full swing by the time we arrived. Thankfully, the whole 'having to wear school uniforms' wasn't a joke that Miss Shanahan and Dani had made up. All the girls were dressed exactly like I was. I felt very relieved, that was, until almost every person in the place stopped what they were doing and stared at me. God, I hate being the new guy… girl.

"You must be the new girl." A white-haired girl asked me. And I don't mean platinum blonde, or gray; I mean white. "I'm Heather." Recognition of the name gave me something to smile about. "PK'ers unite, amiright?"

Amazingly enough I understood her. PK'er-PsychoKinetic. See, I'm not quite as slow as certain people are led to believe. "Yo," I responded. That brought a giggle from her. Okay, what is it with the giggling. Will I eventually wind up performing this very feminine stereotype as well?

She turned to the black-haired girl in front of her who was studiously combing through a really old book. Coincidently she was one of the ones that hadn't ogled me from the start. "This is my BFF Debbie." When the girl didn't look up, Heather smacked her on the arm. "Debs, newbie."

The girl looked up. "Hey." And then straight back down, she looked at her book. Heather rolled her eyes. "She gets this way whenever they give her a new book. It's really annoying. She's an Omni-Linguist. No matter how old or dusty the book, she can read it."

I was ready to head for the hills. It was like she had one too many shots of espresso in the morning. I was seriously considering maybe an IV of caffeine hanging beside her bed or something.

She pointed at the head of the line at the purple haired girl. "That's Sheri, she's a Token-Reader. Next to her is Rita." She whispered conspiratorially to me, "They're an item, so hands off," she said with a wink. "Rita is an Eraser… memory, not like live bodies or anything." Heather paused for a second to mock shiver and take in another breath. "And the last two, " she pointed at a redhead, I mean really red, not like normal orange-red, but like fire engine red, "Lili and Lara." Lara was a brown haired girl. "They're like totally 'Wonder Twin's Power Activate' since Lili showed up last fall."

I glanced at Dani who was holding her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

"So, I heard you were a PK'er what's your specialty," Heather finished, almost bouncing on the balls of her feet.

"Um…" Dammit, forgot. So I started over. "Electrokinesis."

Her eyes widened. "Freaking awesome!" After a brief pause and an inward thought she actually bounced and pointed at me. "That was you last night! Holy crap, you have that much power?"

Now the other girls were interested in me as well, and not just looking at me like today's science project. Debbie even looked up from her book.

"What?"

Dani's hand took my elbow. "You kind of knocked out the power grid when you were in the clinic. It's shielded, that's what makes it a big deal. They were ready for you and you still knocked it out."

I was stunned for a second. "Oh… well, cool."

After shuffling through the line and acquiring a pretty decent looking omelet with a side of bacon, I was about to step out of line. Dani stopped me. "Protein and more protein? You're never going to gain weight like that. You're a stick. "She looked at the tray of biscuits, dropped two on my plate and smothered them with sausage gravy. "There, now you won't make the rest of us look like pigs."

Heather waved at Dani and I, pointing to the remaining two chairs at her table where Debbie and her sitting. As we approached I noticed the segregation of boys and girls, boys being about five rows away. "Is there some rule about mixing with the guys?"

Dani shrugged as she sat her tray down. "Always been that way I guess."

"What?" Inquired Heather.

"Guy's side, girl's side," Dani explained.

She nodded. "I've been here since I was eleven. Just Lara, me, Brian, and Christopher. Even then we were separated."

I casually glanced over to the guy's side to tell if I could… yep there he is, I bet. "Is that Ray Lomax over there by himself."

Heather looked over her shoulder and then her eyes bugged. "Oh my god! Are you boy crazy already? Normally it takes a few weeks to get used to the new body before the hormones make you insane."

My mouth just unhinged. I was sitting there with a half chewed bite of omelet for the world to see. Dani looked stunned. Debbie quirked an eyebrow in my direction.

Swallowing the egg I clarified as quickly as I could. "No. No, boys. I like girls." From the look on Dani's face I had to repeat myself. "Really. Girls only." Hold on. "What do you mean a few weeks and hormones?"

Dani took this one. "After your first period."

"I'm eating here," Debbie groaned without looking up from her book.

Dani rolled her eyes. "Well, your hormones really kick in."

One revelation after another. "Period?" I squeaked in almost a whisper.

Heather patted my hand with sympathy. "Fully functional, sister. Get used to it."

My fork clattered on my plate, and Dani joined Heather in my first female bonding episode. Except the second Dani touched me, her hand clinched and she jerked her eyes closed. Before I had a chance to become concerned they opened again. She cringed.

"Twenty-two days away for you, sorry."

"What?"

Heather shrugged. "It's almost like clockwork for a newbie. Twenty-four days after transition, usually to the minute, you start your cycle. I think Dani had a vision that you weren't going to make it that long."

This was confirmed with a sympathetic nod of my friend's head. "Sorry. Oh, and you might want to go ahead and stock up on maxi-pads; your first one is gonna be messy."

Debbie huffed in annoyance. "I'm EATING here!"

~O~

My schedule for this week did not include any regular classes. The ones to control my power were still there. I suppose that it was because that was a priority over traditional learning. In place of math, science, language arts, and others, was testing of every type imaginable. I really hate tests.

The first item on my schedule was a trip to the salon. Leave it to a government run agency to put every important thing on hold for appearances sake.

Dani was nice enough to escort me to the salon so I didn't have to revert to the Map application on the iPhone. Before leaving she pointed down the hall. "Last door on the left is the clinic. That's where you go for your physical." With a guarded look on her face she included, "Good luck with that one."

Another ominous topic. Wonderful.

There were two women inside, looking like they were setting up the place for business for the day, one a middle-aged brown haired lady, and one younger, college-aged blonde. I didn't even have to knock before the blonde saw me.

"You must be Kristyn!"

Great, bubbly. After experiencing Heather for thirty minutes this morning I'd had all the bubbliness I could take for one day.

"Yes, ma'am."

She giggled and looked at her co-worker. "Sweetie, I'm not that much older than you. My name is Sandra and this is Minnie."

I nodded a greeting at each of them. "So, what's first?"

Sandra pointed to the reclined chair in front of the sink with a gouge taken out of the middle. "Just have a seat right there and don't lean back until I get your smock attached."

After that duty was done she had me lean back where my neck was placed into the gouge and my head was hanging backward into the seat. It felt weird, but comfortable.

"First time in a real salon?"

"Yeah, I usually go to a barber for a trim every once in a while. They never washed my hair though."

She smiled at me as she adjusted the temperature of the water. "Well, those days are over, honey. Here, you get treated like the princess you are."

Princess? Hardly. "A haircut is going to make me a princess?"

I was drenched to the scalp a few moments later. "It's not just a cut and style. You're getting a manicure, pedicure, a few lessons in hair care. The really fun stuff won't be for almost two months." I gave her a inquiring look as she worked some shampoo into my mop. "Your skin is too new right now. No hair on your arms or legs, or anywhere else for that matter, and your pores are clear. That'll change. So, today we're just polishing the body up, so to speak."

Whatever she was doing up there was sending tingles down my spine. I never knew something as simple as someone washing your hair could feel so good, so I just let myself experience the pleasure. One thing I was aware of was that my nipples were tightening up. In this body, that has such a distinct feel to it that there could be no other explanation.

It wasn't until she turned the water off and her hands had been removed that I entered reality again.

~O~

My nails had been extended. Major league annoying. It wasn't crazy or anything, but I had already realized how much this was going to change the way I do things, pick things up, scratch, you name it. The feeling of my nails were different as well. It felt like there was a tiny, constant pressure on top of them. It didn't hurt, it was just different. That and they were gray. Sandra wanted to go with girlie colors, but I got by with telling her I wanted my nails to match my clothes. She thought that was very feminine of me. Ha! It's the little victories.

The next experience of the day was like walking into a dungeon and not knowing whether or not there was a demi-lich hiding behind one of the doors.

"Miss Kristyn, I'm Dr. Litchburg."

He didn't seem very undead. No protruding bones, or necrotic flesh. I think I'd been spending too much time role-playing. "Hi."

I was handed a flowery pink hospital gown and was shown where to change. Most of the examination was fairly straight forward, pulse, blood pressure, reflexes, blood samples, eyes, tongue, the average check up. It was when I was led to a room that had a chair/table with these bendy metal things at the end that I started to get nervous. A nurse was called in to sit on a stool beside the table when I was asked to have a seat and put my legs in the stirrups.

"Won't that… I mean…"

The nurse gave me a compassionate gaze. "Kristyn, all women go through regular gynecological exams. It's nothing to be afraid of, and the doctor is very professional."

My face felt like it was on fire, but I pushed myself to sit down and assume the position. The nurse set a thin sheet over my exposed parts until the doctor was ready so that I could at least have some modicum of dignity left. It wasn't until she removed the sanitized covering off of the instrument tray that I really started to freak out.

"What are those for?"

I saw a shiny tube looking thing with handles that looked suspiciously phallic in nature.

"This is a speculum. It's used to help the doctor open your entrance up so that he can make sure everything is alright inside. The other is a swab. The doctor will take it and insert it inside so that it brushes your cervix. It's for a test called a Pap Smear." The look in my eyes wasn't pleasant. "Don't worry, I'm right here."

She took hold of my hand and squeezed it reassuringly and then called out, "We're ready for you doctor."

A knock sounded at the door and was followed up by the doctor entering, closing the door and pushing the tab at the knob to lock it. A tug on my hand and the nurse was explaining. "That's so we aren't interrupted. We take your privacy very seriously."

The doctor didn't even look at me until after he washed his hands and put on some latex gloves. "All ready, Kristyn?" He didn't wait for a reply. "I promise to be as evasive as possible."

I nodded quickly and then found a point where the ceiling met the wall and tried to tune the rest of my body out. It was a trick I learned when receiving shots. I hate needles and usually if I could ignore what the doctor or nurse was doing then I wouldn't feel the pain as much.

"I'm going to perform the pelvic exam in a moment. To do this I'll need to insert…"

"Just do it," I said through clinched teeth as I tired to refocus on the point I picked out.

"Very well. Just relax."

The nurse squeezed my hand again. One of the doctor's hands set low on my abdomen, and the other…

A whimper escaped my mouth as I felt something enter me. It didn't hurt, but it felt cold and slimy. My vision blurred a little as tears fell from my eyes. I hated this. I hated it with all of my heart. When I was a guy, the worst the doctor would do was to say, 'turn your head and cough', a quick grope later and it was over. But this… this was so much more humiliating.

Then his hands were gone. My breath rushed out and I sniffed in relief that it was over.

"Now for the swab," the doctor announced.

Something else took the place of his fingers, from before. It was much colder and just as slimy, not to mention much bigger. My breath caught in my throat. I couldn't keep my attention focused any longer.

"What's happening," I said as I started flinch away.

The nurse squeezed my hand again. "It's the speculum that I told you about before. Just relax, he's almost done."

My face screwed up and something deep inside me felt like it was being scraped with a Brillo pad. I flinched again as another whimper was added to the mix. A snap sounded a moment later and then the pressure of whatever was inside me eased back to normal.

"There, all done."

A tissue appeared in my hand and I wiped at my eyes and nose, trying to reclaim my dignity. The sheet was replaced and the doctor stood, looking very uncomfortable and sorry for what he'd had to do. He gave me a courtesy nod and exited the room. The nurse picked up one of my legs and then the other to return them to the floor as I sat up. I have no idea why, but I broke out in deep sobs at the invasion of my body. The whole process was unfeeling and clinical where I knew somewhere deep inside me that I knew anything that was supposed to be going on down there needed to include… I don't know… love?"

The nurse led me to a restroom where I could clean up the mess that was left. It was equipped with a bidet of which I made lengthy use. My eyes were red and somewhat swollen when I looked into the mirror, so I splashed some cold water on my face and patted it dry before returning to my clothes behind the privacy screen.

~O~

The doctor's personal office was warmly decorated with rich woods and medical texts, not to mention a large ornate desk, separating him from me. The nurse was there again and sitting beside me in adjoining armchairs.

"My apologies, Miss Kristyn. I realize that the female version of a physical examination is much more embarrassing than the male's. However, it is something that needs to be done to insure your constant good health. If any problems arose, there wouldn't necessarily be any warning signs or symptoms. Tests like the pap smear can give us an early warning for cervical cancer, for instance. Early enough to be treated successfully. So try to keep that in mind for the next time. It's your health on the line after all."

Whatever. Why don't you let me shove that thing up your butt and we'll see who's singing Dixie afterward.

He smiled primly and then looked at his notes. "You'll be happy to know that you are in perfect health so far. We do have to complete the blood work, but I don't expect to find anything out of the ordinary. Your current vital statistics are height: five foot six inches, weight: one-oh-eight I'd like to see you add about five to ten pounds to that by your next physical. Once you start your workout routine you'll naturally gain a little muscle mass, but body fat is what I'm looking at. Your body mass index is a little on the low side. Nothing that would be harmful, just go a little heavier on the complex carbohydrates, baked potatoes, white meat fruit would be good. Don't load up on sweets or empty calories for the weight gain or it will probably go straight to cellulite in the future."

He looked up at me and my blank face. "Any questions?"

I just shook my head.

~O~

Expecting free time around here was a luxury and with thirty minutes until my next appointment with the first of a series of psychological profiles, I decided I would try to go ahead and see if I could get in early. The added time for lunch would be a blessing. I disliked shoving food in my mouth and then rushing off to whatever was next. Besides, if I was to follow through with my promise to Dr. Shanahan then I'd have to do it at one of the meals. The guys and girls didn't look like they interacted too much otherwise.

I did get a use out of my iPhone when I pulled up the application and tied it into my schedule so I could find out where the Center's psychologist was located. I frowned when I saw that I needed to take the stairs to the second level. Someone was bound to find my broken body at the foot of the stairs. When I entered the closed off stairwell I looked at the grips on the edge of each step. There just wasn't enough to make me feel comfortable, so I removed my booties and padded up to the next level with confidence before putting them back on and checking out the cell for my next instruction.

"Yes, may I help you?"

The room was set up with two lab tables in the center, surrounded by simple stools. At one of the tables were three booklets and two pencils. One guess who those were for.

"Hi, I'm Kristyn Keys. I have an appointment in about a half hour, but my physical was over early."

The lady in the knee skirt and crème colored shirt gave me a closed lipped smile. "I'm Doctor Tipps. Want to go ahead get it over with?"

"If you don't mind?"

She swept her hand to the table and the booklets. "Not at all. You have an hour to complete the three tests." I followed her over to the table and sat at the indicated stool. While I tried to figure out a way to cross my legs without looking like I'd never done it before, she continued with her instructions. "It's very important that you answer as truthfully as you can on these tests. Some questions won't have a definitive answer, for those just answer as best as you can by picking the closest answer to what you believe, or the greater or lesser evil, if you like."

The students at my school had to take one of these last year. I knew exactly what she was talking about. Some of the questions were just stupid, but served some greater purpose I presumed. She held her finger up and retrieved a countdown clock for me. After setting it and giving me the go ahead, it was started and then set down in my line of vision.

The first booklet was almost the exact same test I took last year, so I zipped right through that. The second booklet was a little weirder. Three sequential pictures were shown and I had to write a short paragraph about each of them stating what I saw, or a very short story. The last booklet was the weirdest. I was ahead of schedule with a half hour left so I took my time trying to decipher the meaning behind why they wanted to know about how often I masturbate, and my thoughts on being spanked and spanking others.

I quirked an eyebrow up at the doctor who seemed to take a perverse pleasure at seeing my reaction. "Just answer as best as you can."

Oooo-kay.

The questions only got worse. As they delved into the darker aspects of someone's personality with questions like: Name as many ways to physically hurt someone as you can. Name as many ways to emotionally hurt someone as you can. I still had one more page to go when the alarm went off.

The doctor noticed that I was almost finished and looked very interested. "Go ahead and complete the last page. I'll extend the time."

The last question was one question and the allowed space was the rest of the page.

Q: Your mother and father are sentenced to death by dismemberment. You are given the chance to save one from death. Given that you love both equally how do you determine their fate?

In my mind there wasn’t really a question. It was more practical than anything else. If you loved both equally then you wouldn't be able to choose without driving yourself nuts with grief. So I wrote: Flip a coin.

~O~

My hand was still cramping when I stopped off at one of the restrooms on the way to the cafeteria. The hot water felt good as I massaged the soft patch of skin under my thumb. I had a strange urge to scrape under my fake nails while I was there, but it wasn't like I had been digging in the dirt or anything, so I just dried my hands and left. My fingers kept moving at their own volition feeling the abnormal added length of the nails and the smooth, unblemished polish on top. Everything about being a girl was just so strange.

There was nobody there in the seating area so I took my time to see what there was behind the cold windows. Keeping the thought in mind that I was supposed to gain some weight, I chose a potato and popped it in the microwave while I perused the rest. The grilled chicken salad looked pretty good, for some reason, but then again the prepackaged cheeseburger claimed a little place in my heart. Sigh. I went with the salad. If I was going to be working out anytime soon, I needed to eat light and healthy. The cheeseburger would just slow me down in the long run.

Picking up some silverware, some oil and vinegar packets, and a few tabs of butter I chose a table.

~O~

The potato filled me up and I picked at the salad, eating mostly the veggies and the chicken, leaving the actual salad portion behind. My thirty minutes was used up and I heard the mutterings and clicking of shoes coming from down the hall. Dani was the first one to show her face.

"Kris! Oh, you already ate?"

Pushing away the salad I nodded. "Got out early."

"Cool, well you can talk this time while I eat." She smiled and set a satchel down in front of one of the chairs at my table before clicking off to see what there was to eat.

Heather bounced into the room. How she did it on those heels, I have no idea. "Krissy baby!"

No, thanks, I don't need a new girlie nickname. Debbie was close on her heels, sans old dusty book. She just gave me a look. "We aren't going to be talking about any bodily functions today are we?"

I gave her a shake of my head. "I promise."

"Cool, I wanted to have the spaghetti today and that would just be…bleh."

There's something to be said for guys turning into girls. It was just so much funnier when a girl grossed you out. All thought went out of my head when I saw a new girl enter the cafeteria. She was unescorted and cute as all get out in her school uniform. Dani arrived just in time with her food.

"Who's she?"

Dani smirked and bumped me. "That's Christopher."

"No – way."

"Way. Remember, he's been doing this for years. Lots of practice time. She's damn good with make up; taught me a lot."

That brought my attention away from the long curly blonde hair he was sporting and back to Dani. "She?"

She nodded. "It's kind of good manners to refer to someone as how they are, yanno. How they present themselves."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense." Then another thought came to me. "Does… she go by Christopher when she's dressed up?"

"Nuh uh. Christina or Tina."

Heather set her tray down and grinned. "I love it when Tina comes out to play. She's so much more fun than Christopher is, plus bonus points for a shorter name."

Dani took her chance to gobble up her tuna salad. Ugh. Tuna breath.

"Does she sit with the guys still or…"

"No, way. Tina's all girl!

Different strokes I suppose. Besides, who was I to poke at someone because they don't like the gender they were forced into? More power to her, I say.

"Hi girls. Mind if I sit?" Tina was standing right there, talking and I couldn't tell at all that she was actually a guy.

Heather looked almost crestfallen. "Deb's sitting here."

I grabbed my tray and stood up. "Tina, sit here. I'm already done. I can pull a chair up."

She gave me a brilliant grin in response. "Thank you, Kristyn. That's so sweet of you." Her heels clicked on the hard tile as she moved around the table and I tossed my trash. "Hi Dani."

Danielle blushed. Holy cow! She had a crush on Tina… and she had a crush on me. Indecisive anyone?

"Hey Tina. You look really cute today."

Tina preened. "New hair. They got the real stuff in last night. When I went to browse the new shipment I nearly peed myself."

Debbie sat down right then and sighed. So much for not having any discussions about bodily functions. I gave her a grin instead and pulled up a chair. There wasn't much room at the table anymore so I sat back and crossed my legs.

Tina turned back to me. "So, welcome to womanhood. Survived your first physical I see."

That brought my cheeriness down immediately. "I really don't want to talk about that right now." Debbie mouthed a thank you at me, which lifted up a corner of my mouth.

"That bad, huh."

Dani looked like she was concentrating a little too hard on me. I just nodded and watched Tina stir her nuked soup.

"I never had the opportunity to have that particular thing done in my previous life. I was still too young." I kept forgetting that Christopher/Tina had been there since she was ten.

"Be thankful," I commented. "Oh, there's Ray Lomax. I better go get this done." Looking over to Dani I whispered, "Wish me luck."

"Oh! You got your nails done!" Dani noticed. I waved them at her. "Gray? I bet Sandra was pissed."

I shook my head. "It's all in the manipulation. I told her I wanted them to match my skirt."

Tina giggled away. "Good call!"

As I approached the boys side of the cafeteria their conversation came to a whispered halt. I noted Brian scoot a chair out beside him and lean back to stretch his muscles. It was good for a laugh, but definitely not a wise flirting tactic. I pointed my finger at his crotch, mimicking a gun and said, "Zap!"

His returned frown was enough to sate me for a little while. When I passed the other occupied table there was additional empty one between them and Ray who had his back to me while he was doing something on his iPhone and slurping away on a soda. Without asking, I pulled out a chair and sat down, slowly crossing my legs.

Ray Lomax had his lime green hair cropped in a business style haircut except it was a little spiky at the fringe. His face was baby smooth. I doubted he had even started shaving yet, but his lips were full and… never mind. I could probably say, with what was left of my masculinity intact, that he was cute. Some girls, most definitely not me, might think that he was really cute. However, the expression on his face told me what my opinion was worth. I wasn't wanted there, nobody was wanted at his table. So, I jumped in with guns blazing in a strong whisper.

"You know and I know that Shanahan has something up her butt about your attitude. Seeing as how I'm the new girl, I get the honor, nay the privilege, of bringing you out of your shell. So, how about we sit here and talk about absolutely nothing worthwhile. I won't quiz you about your feelings and you won't ask about how I had my first pelvic exam today. We can kill several birds with apathy. I get to look like I'm helping out, and you get to look like you're socializing and get the shrink off your back."

His annoyed expression fell from his face during my little tirade-slash-plan, and his lips turned slightly upward. I think it may be the first time he actually had smiled since he had been at the school. It looked like the effort hurt him.

"Sounds like a plan."

Almost everyone was looking at us with interest, especially the boys. Most especially, Brian. But his face was turning a kind of puce color. I reached up my hand and scratched an imaginary itch on my cheek with my middle finger.

"Who was that for?" Ray asked.

"Brian." I rolled my eyes. "He tried to pick me up last night. I hadn't even been a girl for more than a few hours and he thinks I'm going to let him bone me."

Ray's lips pressed together and his shoulders started shaking. At first I thought that he was having a seizure, but in the end he was snickering. It wasn't a full blown laugh, but it would do for now.

"Okay, so how do you want to do Operation Get Shanahan Off Our Butts?"

He licked his lips, which I didn't watch. And I was definitely not watching how his smile made his face even cuter… as some girls might think. "Any ideas?"

I pondered our predicament for a moment. "Okay, Heather over there thinks that I have the hots for you." His eyes widened a little, but I cut that little idea in the bud right then and there. "I just asked if that was you sitting by yourself over here. Remember I had a important mission from our little miss doctor?"

He nodded in understanding and relaxed.

"You're cool, Ray. Nothing to worry about from me. I'm still very into girls and I heard you were still into guys." He looked down at the table and nodded again. "Anyway, if I'm right about Heather, she's going to have it all over that I want your hot and sexy man body…"

I had to stop, because Ray laughed out loud. I had to lean back a little. It scared the shit out of me. It was a great big bark of a laugh almost echoing in the cafeteria. "Holy crap, Ray! You need to calm down, or they'll think I drugged you," I said with a playful grin.

I scooted my chair closer to him and leaned in. "We're going to flirt a little. I act interested, you act interested. Get the idea?"

"We can't go overboard," he warned. "Shanahan would smell a rat."

"Okay," I acquiesced. "Then I'll leave it at this until tonight. Let's hook up… not that kind of hook up. Let's eat dinner together, maybe go for a walk."

"Good idea. Not really a date, but a date."

"Exactly." I looked back at my table and the look on Dani's face. It wasn't entirely pleased. "Alright, I'm gonna go back to my girlfriends. But I'm going to give you a nice big smile. When lunch is about to end, come over and ask me to eat dinner with you tonight."

That's where I almost lost him. His frown was back.

"Ray, Heather's not going to be able to spread the news if there is no news to spread."

He nodded, but I could tell he wasn't very happy about the situation.

"Great, see you in a few." I grinned, as advertised, and touched his hand before heading back.

On my way, my panties bunched up. Talk about your timing. Of course a lot of people were looking at me. As a result, the irritation made me swing my hips a little more to try and loosen the wedgie. Dani's mouth dropped open and Heather's eyes lit up with delight. Tina was holding her hand over her mouth, trying not to giggle and Debbie just raised her eyebrows at me.

My chair was still waiting for me as I slid into it and crossed my legs again.

"Shake that thang, girl!" Heather urged.

"I have a serious wedgie right now. I wasn't flirting."

Tina snorted a mouthful of soda and started coughing. Dani, of course, gave me a disappointed leer and patted her friend on the back. I wasn't flirting!

The conversation took a turn for the normal, for once. Debbie was actually able to eat her spaghetti without any nasty visual imagery. Heather treated us to some low key gossip about one of the teachers catching Sean Hunter masturbating in the stairwell by the clinic, the very one that I used that morning. She didn't know how accurate the information was considering the boy in question was a serious weirdo. He is a Medium, and often talks to dead people, spirits, ghosts, whatever you want to call them. Not to mention he has a secondary power of Spirit Possession. The ability to take over your body and do whatever he wants to with it. Like I said, spectacularly creeptastic . Luckily he had little to no control over that particular power. His victim, for lack of a better word, had to agree to the process and go into a slight meditative trace in order for it to happen. So it was pretty much a useless power.

So, I had another mission to find out if Dead-boy over there happened to have a crush on little ole me, and if he was acting out his fantasies in the stairwells with me as a subject, 'cause I gotta say… ewwww!

As I was debating the pros and cons of pulling the boy aside for a little talk I was interrupted by all of the girls halting their chatter at once and looking behind me. Oh crap, I forgot.

Spinning around in my chair, I looked up at Ray standing there trying to look like he wasn't nervous and did this thing all the time. God, I remember how awful that felt in high school, and I unknowingly just forced him into one of the most embarrassing situations guys can be in, asking a girl out in front of all of her friends.

"Hey Kristyn."

"Oh, hi Ray," I replied as sweetly as I could. I vowed to make this as easy for him as possible to make up.

He shifted a little from his left to right foot and scratched behind his ear with one finger while taking quick glances at the rest of the girls. "I w…was wondering if you'd like to have dinner with me tonight."

I gave him a bright smile and shifted my legs so I could cross them the other way. Given the position I was currently in it was playing havoc on my hips. His eyes dropped down and took them in. Whoops. "I'd love to, Ray. Thank you for asking."

Okay, maybe that was a little too much. His mouth broke another grin out for me. "Cool, then six o'clock okay?"

Heather grabbed me by the arm. "What time is your testing over with this afternoon?"

I really didn't know. "Hold on a sec." Pulling out my iPhone I checked my schedule. "Four-thirty."

Heather looked back up at Ray. "Better make it six-thirty. She has to have time to get ready."

Oh crap, what did I just get myself into? With another nod, Ray backed away and headed down the empty hallway to his next class.

Heather still hadn't let go of me. "Oh – my -- god. You ARE boy crazy already!" Without any conformation or agreement on my part the perky white-haired girl took the reins in hand and spurred the other girls at the table into action. "We have the Center's first official date to plan for, and only an hour to do it in. Dani, you're in charge of the dress. Something sultry, but not too revealing, and sexy shoes, of course Ray's tall, so we need at least something in four inches. Tina, we need your mega make up skills. Deb's, light of my life, you're of no help whatsoever."

Debbie gave Heather a scathing look and then leaned in to kiss her cheek. "I love you too sweetie."

That perked Heather up even more. "Okay, I changed my mind. You can make it down here and set up the table. Flowers, candle, decent settings, oh and see if you can get them to lower the lighting a little. I've got the perfect hair in mind. That's my job."

Dear Diary, I thought I was doing a favor for a new friend, until my head exploded when I tripped over my four inch heels to the waiting concrete below, in the candlelight. Man, was I embarrassed.

With a second thought Heather turned to her girlfriend. "Hey. How come you've never taken me on a date?"

I tried to find something else to look at when Debbie's eyes flicked to me in annoyance. Toni was getting into the excitement that Heather seemed to be spreading. "I can't believe he asked you to dinner. Lomax hasn't talked to anyone other than to reply with the absolute minimal answer. He must really like you."

Dani didn't seem all that pumped about the situation, but I guess she was sucking in the surrounding good feelings. "I tried talking to him once. I got a one word answer, that was it."

"Well, I can tell you that he was really nervous and a little excited too." I looked at Tina when she spouted off that revelation.

"What do you mean."

"I'm an Empath, remember? I thought he was going to start something when he came over here. I wanted to be prepared, so I read him."

Nervous and Excited? Nononononono.

Toni leaned forward. "You don't look so good. Are you okay?"

I'm fine, I think I may hurl in a second, but otherwise.




Chapter 3

At twelve-thirty, I was back in the psychiatric couch again, so to speak. The tests, if it were at all possible, were even weirder. This time I was being asked specific questions about real world issues. Not that I kept up with world events all that much. Hey, I was in high school. It was expected that I wouldn't care about anything other than trying to keep my grades up and the ins and out of the panty status of the cheerleading squad. It takes a lot to differentiate between boy shorts and granny panties, not to mention French cut and thongs. And they say teenage boys know nothing about woman's clothes. Ha! It's all a matter of priorities. I knew the type and brands of most panties out there by sight. I was just starting to get into the nuances of bras when I was snatched. I guess now I had all the time in the world to figure what women wear under their clothes. Or I could switch to boys underwear.


Nah.

Where was I? Oh yeah, more testing on real world issues. The questions wanted my opinion on politics, military issues (i.e. wars), Democracy, Communism, you name it. What did I know? Pretty much zilch, and I really didn't care. I mean isn't that why adults are around?

By the fifth booklet I was getting serious writers cramp, because they wanted to know about any role-playing games I used to be involved in. Hahahaha. This would be so much easier with a keyboard. Who was my favorite player character and why? I really got into this one. The one thing I found out over the five some-odd years that I played was that I could be anyone, and do anything. But the most important thing was that I could be someone that was totally contrary to my own personality. See, even if it's not true in the real world, evil characters are a lot more fun to play than good characters.

They have a lot more power than the goodie-two-shoes characters through most of the game modules, and you get to torture them and have fun cackling throughout while you spring your traps and overact all evilly and stuff. It's fun. It doesn't make me a bad person; it's just an outlet for my more base emotions that would never make it in the law abiding world to begin with.

By the end of that particular test I could barely move my hand, so we took a break.

Three-thirty? In only one more hour I would be assaulted by four girls in order to get me ready for a date with a boy, who might or might not have been excited with the idea of going on a date with me! About the only thing that I was relieved about was his inability of running out of gas on an empty road or field and having to fend off amorous actions in the middle of nowhere. The total lack of car or any mode of transportation prevented that little fiasco from ever occurring.

We'd eat dinner and then take a little stroll of the school. Believe me, there was nothing in the least bit romantic about the hallways of the school. Got to give it to the government to paint and decorate the hallways in uniform and drab colors. Boring. Oh, there's a door… and another door, Oh oh! And yet another door! Not to mention I'll probably be too distracted falling down everywhere in those heels Heather had planned for me. With any luck I'll take Ray down with me. Nothing kills romantic moods worse than a knee or elbow hitting hard tile. Brilliant!

"Kristyn, what were you just thinking about?"

Hmm? "What?"

Doctor Tipps was hovering and looking at me like I was behind the bars of a little cage spinning on my exercise wheel. Okay, avoid the date questions. Adults just didn't need to know about that just yet. "Um… some of the test questions."

Play it… play it, I urged myself on. "Yeah they were cool. I've never tested like this before."

She smiled knowingly. "Yes, they are quite different aren't they?"

I nodded, maybe just a little bit too eagerly. "What are they for anyway?"

She pulled up a stool and made herself as relatively comfortable as she could considering the firmness of the stool. "We're looking for what talents you possess, how you problem solve, what area of training you'll be most suited for, that sort of thing." Looking at me with a modicum of condescension she added, "That's about all I can tell you until you're finished. I don't want to influence your answers."

Well, there is that, I suppose. I worked my hand and it was even stiffer than before. "I think my hand is done for, for today. Is there something I could test on while not using a pencil?"

She smiled at me. "Actually you're way ahead of schedule, Kristyn. Most people have to take several breaks."

I laughed a little at that. I most assuredly did not giggle. "If this were computerized I'd probably be done by now. I can type a lot faster than I write." Hint hint.

She shrugged. "Sorry about that. We also do handwriting analysis as well."

So much for that plan.

"When do I get to learn about my powers?"

"You should check your schedule. I believe it will be after your Physical Analysis."

That brought on memories from that morning along with an accompanying frown. "I did that this morning."

With a slight shake of her head she made herself more clear. "That was the medical condition of your body. The Physical Analysis will be what you are capable of doing: running, strength, endurance, dexterity, and so forth."

Ah, my character stats.

"If you finish early, we can probably reschedule your appointments. It just depends on what you are working on. The teachers here sometimes serve several different subjects. Sandra from the salon is also our deportment teacher for the girls, and Mr. Weiss is our physical education trainer as well as our small arms specialist."

Certain things were starting to fall into place. "That's why you have so many things available. They looked like they were just setting up the salon this morning. It's been closed for a while hasn't it?"

"Certainly," she confirmed. "We don't have nearly the enrollment that would justify having a full time cosmetologist on staff, or a weapons master in either case. That's why your schedule is so important. If you have special needs or are above the average level of schooling than the others, we can make special arrangements, or training times for you, but it will be at odd hours. That's what Fridays and Saturdays are for. It's more attuned to your individual needs or growth."

I decided to go on a little fishing trip. "Any idea what I'm suited for from the tests I've taken so far?"

She almost laughed, but held it back. "Can't influence the tests just yet. Don't worry, you'll like whatever it is. That's key. People wind up doing exceptionally well in subjects and jobs that they enjoy, and we want you to do exceptionally well. In whatever it is that you do." As an afterthought she playfully added. "I can tell you that you aren't going to be have Heavy Wheeled Maintenance as an MOS."

At my blank look she explained. "You'll have to get used to acronyms working for the government. They love making really tiny words from really long words. I sometimes think that is the whole purpose of the military. Anyway, MOS sands for Military Occupational Specialty. Basically, everything in the military that can be done has a code. So if your CO, another acronym for Commanding Officer, knows that your MOS is twenty-four X-Ray, then he knows that you are a Designated Telecommunications Systems Engineer.

Uh… okay.

"That means you’re the one that holds the cell phone for the lieutenant."

At my weird look she laughed. "Sorry, it's an inside joke that you'll understand later. That particular job is actually quite important and a lot more involved than holding a phone."

"So, we're actually in the military?"

"Oh, no. I keep leading you in different directions. I used to be in the Army, so I naturally relate everything to that. However, we do use a lot of their training and documentation standards. It's a lot easier to use something that works than starting fresh from scratch."

~~~

~O~


The long walk back to the room made the halls seem a lot shorter than they actually were. Even using the excuse that I had to watch my step in the high heels, I couldn't justify arriving at five-thirty and making an excuse just to go out as I was currently dressed.

I saw that the door was opened and Heather was keeping watch for me. "Kris! What's taking you so long. Hurry up!"

With a sigh I stopped, took off my booties and made my way along the smooth surface. Ahhhhh. I didn't realize how nice it was to take off shoes!

She threw a robe, panties and bra at me when I got close enough. "Go wash your face, don't take a shower, you don't have time, and change into those. Hurry, Hurry!"

I actually squeaked when my bath shoes flew by my head as well. Holy crap that girl is scary when she gets her date mode on! I did as was instructed and rushed to the communal bathroom to wash my face. Why I had to do that I have no idea. I wasn't wearing any make up, but who am I to argue with a hysterical girl? After that was done, I stripped and donned the new panties. Sigh. Black lace thong. I'm in for some itching tonight for sure. Next came the bra, which was nothing like the ones that I normally wear. Hold on… They were not like the ones that I have worn since I grew breasts. I wanted to make that completely clear. I did not wear bras before becoming a girl. Okay?

What made this one different was the piece of industrial strength steel that served as an underwire. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating with that. The result was that I suddenly had much larger breasts for some reason. They were lifted high in the air and separated to maximize a deep trench between my breasts. I'm so going to murder Shanahan in her sleep for getting me into this mess. Maybe with piano wire or a nice spoon shank to the kidneys.

I donned the bathrobe and gathered up my school clothes before rushing off back down the hall. Oh, hell no. My breasts were bouncing all over the place! The flap flapping of my flip flops slowed so I didn't injure myself with muscle strain compensating for the sudden mobile effect this particular bra had on me.

"In the chair, hurry! We're seven minutes behind schedule? Tina was armed with a little triangular sponge thing in each hand and Heather was wielding a really big possibly very hot, curling iron. It wasn't pretty.

"Okay, so what's your plan?" Heather asked, trying to distract me from complaining while Tina was working on my forehead.

"Plan?"

Heather froze and stopped brushing my hair out. "You don't have a seduction plan? This is worse than I thought." Brushing increased at a frantic pace before she started yammering. "Remember he's a boy, they have hormones that make them do silly things. You have to tease him, but not too much, that's what the dress is for." She paused and jerked. "Your legs are smooth, right?"

I would have nodded, but Tina was working on my nose at the moment. "Yeah."

"Whew! That would have been bad."

Forty minutes and two more minor panic attacks from Heather later and I was standing there in my panties and bra having Dani and Heather slip the dress over my body while trying to avoid getting any make up on it. When they had it on I looked down and there, plain as day were my breasts hanging through an opening.

"Uh… what's up with this?"

Dani smirked. "It's commonly referred to as a key hole. You're not hanging out, just showing a little cleavage. Don't worry."

"A little?! There's enough room to fit both arms through."

Heather poke me in the ribs as she was settling the hem around the tops of my thighs. Hold on… "That's it? Does it at least cover my butt?"

"Relax. You look gorgeous, and your legs are your best asset, well, you have pretty nice boobs too, and a waist to die for."

"You're not making this any easier, Heather."

Knock Knock!

Tina started as she snapped an earring on. Oww! "Sorry, you don't have pierced ears yet. These'll have to do for now."

Dani opened the door a crack and whispered something that I couldn't hear then closed it back up. "He's here to pick you up!"

"Sit down, hurry, and put these on!"

I really don't know if what she handed me would qualify as any type of known shoe. It was basically four straps of black leather that joined around a tiny sole with a honking tall thin heel. I was so going to die. I tried to fiddle with the clasp, but couldn't get it hooked right until Heather dropped to her knees in front of me and did one up in like a half a second flat. A giggle later and she informed me that I might not want to sit like that, made my knees slam together while she did up the other.

I was pulled to my feet and almost promptly fell over. "Whoa!"

"Set yourself and concentrate. You have good soles on the bottom of these shoes. Your practice today should get you through alright, but I would suggest taking Ray's arm for support, just in case. Here's your clutch. Make sure you go to the restroom and touch up your lipstick after you eat, and definitely after you make out." The terror showed in my eyes. "I'm kidding, just after you eat, okay."

"You suck."

She kissed me on the cheek. "Knock'em dead, Kris!"

I got my balance and tested out the shoes for a second before I was urged to the door. Tina was at the knob and leaned in. "You look fantastic. Good luck."

With that, she opened the door to reveal Ray standing on the other side of the hall, leaning against the wall. He jerked to stand upright and I thought the boy was going to pass out. His face went pale and his mouth opened a little.

"I… uh…" he stammered. "Wow."

A covert whisper from Heather to the other girls made me wary. "Mission accomplished."

~~~

We had to take it pretty slow down the hall while I hung on Ray's left arm for dear life. "They went overboard, Ray, I'm sorry."

He shook his head. "No, they did great. You look great." He closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head. "If I say 'great' again, could you just hit me?"

This was going so bad for Ray. I felt so guilty for suggesting that we do this. "Ray." I tugged on him to stop so I could look at him properly. "Just relax. Try not to think of this as an actual date. You forget that just a couple of days ago I was in your shoes. I know exactly what it's like to be nervous and afraid you're going to muck everything up. But with me, you've got someone that understands. So be yourself." Well… "Never mind that one. Be comfortable with me. There are no expectations except to have dinner and a nice walk."

His demeanor was changing as I tried to get over my nervousness as well. "We'll talk about the school if you don't want to talk about before, or whatever you're comfortable with. Ignore everyone else, because they don't matter. We're not here to impress them, only to have a good time, okay?"

Ray's smile held steady. "Okay."

I grabbed his arm and we were off again. The cafeteria was not the same one we left at lunchtime. Apparently everyone had eaten and left already. The other tables were moved to the side except for one in the middle of the normal eating area. It was covered in four star manner, with white linen, candlelight and a single rose in a thin container located in the middle. The place settings were cattycorner to each other, so presumably we could be closer together. The overhead lights were turned off and the only other lightening available were the canister lights surrounding the hall. It was as warm and cozy as was possible considering original purpose of the room.

The food was already there and looked like it had just come out from being cooked. Okay, this really was an operation. After Ray held my chair out for me I sat down and crossed my legs. The dress rode up higher on my thigh exposing virtually the entire length of my legs. Granted they were wonderful looking legs, but still.

"I can't believe Heather arranged all of this."

"Yeah, I had to pass by here on the way to your room. They had all of about fifteen minutes. Everybody must have chipped in to help."

I giggled. Crap! "Knowing Heather, that really doesn't surprise me. The girl can crack a whip like nobody's business."

There was only so much you can do with school food. It was a little bit higher grade than the stuff I was use to. It actually tasted like real food anyway. Salisbury steak, new potatoes, and a vegetable medley; it wasn't four star cuisine, but this wasn't a real date anyway.

"I haven't heard, what's your talent?"

Wow, I kind of thought that everyone was pretty plugged into the grapevine. That actually made me think well, of Ray that he didn't listen to these things. "Electrokinesis."

"Oh, excellent. Good one. I would hate to be stuck with something like mentally controlling mice or something."

I giggled again. Double crap! "Yeah, that would suck."

"You're a Mimic?"

"Yeah. It's pretty cool, I guess."

"Pretty cool? Are you nuts? It's awesome. I'd love to have that power." I would!

He shrugged. "Takes the challenge out of learning for me. I'm so bored around here it's pathetic. Fifteen minutes watching a video of someone playing piano and I'm a virtuoso. It's okay for showing off, but no real fun."

Well that brought town the house, and not in a good way. "Yeah, I can see that. Maybe you can do something with it, like help people learn, teaching is pretty cool. I'd love to learn how to Tae Kwon Do someone."

He looked up at me, almost eagerly. "I can teach you. I finished that after my first week here."

I really wasn't expecting his offer. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, it isn't that hard with my talent. But with your body, I wouldn't go the Tae Kwon Do route. Maybe Aikido, or Jujitsu. The best way to know is find out the results of your Physical Fitness testing and let me know. I could tailor something for you."

I lost him at the 'my body' portion. "What difference would that make?"

He shrugged and pushed the remains of his steak around with his fork. "Every Martial Art has its strengths and weaknesses. You need to be able to fight or defend yourself with your own. You don't have a lot of muscle mass, so you'll need to rely on blocking, parrying, knowledge of pressure points, weak joints, and so forth. Your dexterity and possibly speed would be your greatest advantage."

I thought on that for a minute. "Okay, I'll let you know. Tomorrow. I take that test first thing in the morning."

He chuckled a little. "Good luck with that. You'll probably be limping away from any exercise by lunch time and wanting some serious painkillers by dinner."

Oh great.

With a wistful look at the conditions of our plates I grabbed my tiny little purse. "I've been told that I'm suppose to touch up my lipstick after I eat, if you'll excuse me for a few minutes."

He stood with me, until I left the table, and then proceeded to clean up our mess. I went to the restroom and, okay I did need to layer on a coat of war paint, but before I did I rinsed out my mouth and checked my teeth to make sure there wasn't a big pieced of kale sticking out from between the front two. Sparkly white. I messed up the first try of lipstick and had to dab at the sides of my mouth to remove the excess. After closing up the clutch I made it back to the cafeteria as Ray was folding up the tablecloth. He stopped when he saw me and held out the rose that was used for decoration.

I took it with a smile. "Thank you."

He disappeared into the kitchen for a minute and I took the chance to smell the flower. Yep, it's a rose. When he returned he was carrying a small paring knife. He took the rose and trimmed off the little thorns and then shortened it a bit before setting the knife aside. I was about to reach out for it when he closed into me and pulled my hair aside to place it behind my right ear.

"There, perfect."

It felt weird there, and kind of cold from the water it had been soaking in, but it was a nice gesture. "Thank you, Ray."

Holding out his arm he gestured. "Ready to go for that walk?"

I nodded, somewhat sheepishly. He led me a different way out of the cafeteria that I wasn't familiar with. However, on the way out I heard several clicks of high heels echoing far in the background. "We're being followed," I whispered.

Ray's jaw set, but he held off the frown I'd come to associate with his displeasure. "Outside. There's few places for them to hide within earshot." Squeezing his arm, I let him know I approved of the idea. Our pace stayed slow and steady and now I had a shot at actually seeing the grounds around the building. I had assumed that we were supposed to stay inside if we weren't escorted or something. Don't ask. I'm overly paranoid at odd moments.

As we got close to the door Ray pulled out his iPhone and entered something in one of the applications. A second later I heard a click and he pushed the door open. A smile pulled on my face. Teenagers just weren't made to exist inside for any long length of time. They needed fresh air or sunlight. I read that somewhere. It may have been the back of a sunscreen bottle, but at that moment I really didn't care. A warm gust of wind brushed my face and legs, not to mention up my tight skirt. Well it was good to keep that area well ventilated anyway.

I opened my eyes and it was a good thing I did. Stairs, more like steps, four of them, but still. Taking a firm grip on Ray's arm I took them one at a time. Lo and behold I didn't take a diver off any of them. Yea! I got this chick thing down pat.

"It feels great out here."

I didn't feel like saying anything, but I smiled at him nonetheless. The building, from the outside looked like any other generic government building, plain, brick, uniform windows. It must have been converted from something else and made to fit their needs, but it was big, that was for sure. When we turned one of the corners I almost had to stop.

"Oh!"

It was beautiful! The sky was purple, and pink with just a tinge of blue. Wispy clouds in the distance decorated the sky and I could see the land waved like the ocean off in the distance.

"Nice, isn't it." Ray had a gift for understatement. It was like nothing I'd ever seen.

"I grew up in the city, suburbia. I don't think I've ever seen so much of nothing and everything at the same time," I tried to explain. "It's remarkable."

"Just like you."

That brought a very strange reaction out of me. My head was saying, 'huh?', but my tummy was firmly in the, 'that was so incredibly sweet!' category. So, my mouth took a little vacation and just said the first thing that came to mind. "Ray." It was soft, almost too soft. My eyes dropped from his to his lips and then down to anything else that I cold find.

"I mean it. I've been at this school now for months. You're not the first person that Shanahan has set on me. She tried the guys to start, like just as long as there is someone else out there that went through what I did, then everything would be set to rights."

My lips twisted to the side in thought, when I met his eyes again. They were green, not like his hair, a much darker shade of green.

"Then she tried the girls, but they were," he stopped and rolled his eyes. "I'm not saying this right."

This was a topic I couldn't say anything on. Any encouragement or an attempt to push the subject for later would scare him off, back to self-imposed exile. So I waited until he got his thoughts together.

"You… you came out of nowhere and POW!" I blinked and grinned a little at his exuberance. "Didn't act all dainty and ask permission, or try to play on my feelings, or whatever. You just sat down there and told me how it was. You had something to gain and I had something to gain. We wouldn't owe each other anything."

I nodded. That was the plan. Do the deed, so to speak, and go our separate ways. No strings and no awkward attachments. So much for that idea.

"And then when I went over to ask you to dinner, like we planned, and everything went weird."

He looked to the side. Conflict played on his face. His jaw set and then released. When he looked back at me there was something else behind is eyes. Oh hell. He didn't rush in, but he didn't let his nerves stop him from doing what had probably been in the back of his mind all day. He kissed me.

Now, I've kissed girls before. I went on a few dates with a grand total of three girls and I had kissed two of them. It was nice. It got my hormones and goofy thoughts going. It felt good. Their scent, and the feel of their cushy lips against mine. The faint taste of their lipstick and the inevitable immature tiny war we played with our tongues. But it wasn't anything like kissing as a girl. He was in control as he bent down to gain access, I was the one with the cushy lips and they seemed to contain a heck of a lot more nerve endings that I was used to, because I was enjoying the soft brush of his against mine.

The kiss wasn't demanding. It was more testing at first. Not in a pucker up way, but brushing from one side to the other. When he returned for another I felt his tongue along my bottom lips. I think my brain melted at that moment, because I opened my mouth and raised my hands to pull him down while I lifted up on my toes. He tasted good.

The girls I'd kissed usually didn't taste like anything, but Ray… if 'need' had a taste then that was it. It wasn't bitter or sweet or tart or sour, it just 'was'. It was still soft, but it was wanting of something more than the meager existence he had been in for a good portion of the year. His hands told me of his loneliness. One was behind my head, cradling me gently but insistently, and the other was at the small of my back, pulling into his body. What I seemed to have been offering was a port in the storm. Some sort of grounding that he needed to feel normal again even if it were just for a few moments.

It was so wrong. I wasn't gay, and I wasn't bisexual. I had no desire to make out with a guy and I definitely had no desire to have sex with one. The big question on my platter for the evening was, 'then why the heck are you making out with one, and why does it feel so good… so right?'

It was a few seconds later that I'd realized that Ray had pulled back and was staring at my face. I opened my eyes and there he was. They dropped to his lips and something in me wanted more. His breath was quickened, as I could feel it caress my mouth and cheeks. It was hot with need, much like I was at the moment.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to me. I looked back up into his eyes and saw the conflict again. Well, we've already screwed up as much as we could tonight… well not that much. I suppose I could do the denial thing later.

"Can we do that again?" I asked.

He blinked, almost shocked, and a tear made a quick path down his cheek. This time it was urgent and I let him take what he needed from me. Our mouths crashed into each other and an urgent energy seemed to be passing between us. It was hot, pure heat, and the tingling of the heat raced up and down my spine until it felt like my head was going to explode from the pleasure. Somewhere between my thighs I felt it build up and things started to move easier. I had an incredible urge to rub my thighs together or against something. They had a mind of their own.

Then the smell of ozone hit me. I tried to pull back, and I almost made it, except Ray hadn't let go quite quick enough. The was a small crackling of sound and then a pop sounded, exiting from my lips to his. A second later and Ray was on his butt in front of me and I was swaying, lightheaded. My hand flew up to my lips as I saw what my powers had inadvertently done to my date.

He was sprawled out on the ground, barely holding himself up. The front of his slacks and dress coat were singed and smoking slightly and his lips were a little more red than they should be.

"RAY!" I knelt down and saw the confusion in his eyes and went into a panic. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry. It's my powers, I can't control them yet, and they haven't taught me anything yet. Which is stupid because I'd like to be able to kiss my boyfriend without blowing him off his feet and giving him a heart attack at the same time. I mean really, would you like to be tasered every time we kissed. I don't think so. Who would. Are you okay, should I go get somebody? Do you need an ice pack?"

He was looking at me kind of weird.

"Ray?" My eyebrows bunched up in confusion. "Are you okay? Can you hear me?"

"Boyfriend?"

In dropped the penny.

"Uh… Shouldn't you be laying down. I've heard that strong electrical shocks can cause hallucinations."

He dropped on his back, looking up at the twilight sky and started laughing like the clinically insane.

~~~

They were waiting for me when I got back, all four of them. I gave Heather the evil eye. "I blame you for this."

She saw my mussed up lipstick and her eyes pretty much exploded. "You made out! We saw the first kiss, but Dani made us go back inside. You mean you actually made out!"

Crossing the room I tossed my clutch to the dresser and disappeared into the closet. My, how ironic.

In a few seconds the naughty and apparently dangerous dress was on the floor and I was snuggling up into a fluffy white bathrobe. I kicked the dress on the way out, just for good measure. Heather was sitting in my desk chair and after seeing my face vacated it real quick. I dropped down and reached for the clasp to one of my shoes. It was a heck of a lot easier to take off than put on. Thirty seconds later and my toes were burrowing into the carpet pile.

Tina was on pins and needles watching me, but she just couldn't keep her trap shut. "What happened? He didn't…"

"What? No. It was me!"

A chorus of 'What's!' almost echoed in the room. My legs were splayed out but I had the robe shoved down between them subconsciously rubbing along my thighs. "He was so nice, and I could tell he was hurting, and it was so endearing, and he kissed me."

Heather edged up unafraid of my awesome uncontrolled powers, well I wasn't displaying them at the moment, but still. "We saw that part, what happened next?"

"I had a brain meltdown that's what. He was looking so vulnerable and I… I…"

"What?!" they chorus again.

"I asked him to kiss me again." Getting that out I reared back into the chair and covered my face with my hands. My thighs clamped together with an insane itch that I couldn't relieve.

I was kind of surprised that the air wasn't sucked out of the room from the gasps.

"What else!" Tina jumped in. Damn her. She knew the story wasn't finished.

"We 'really'," heavy deep stress on the 'really' mind you. "We 'really' made out."

Heather squeed, Dani covered her mouth and Tina was smiling with glee. I've got to hand it to Debbie during all of this. She just sat there on the floor, leaning up against the wall, looking over another old dusty book at me.

"What else!" Tina urged.

"Then I tased him." There, that was almost everything. They didn't need to know about the awful awful things I said afterward. Maybe they'll let the rest go.

Dani bounced up out of her chair. "Oh my god, you didn't!"

I nodded weakly and tried to look like a kicked puppy. "There was too much… um… I got exci… guh…"

"Whoa, that must have been some kiss." Yeah, thanks there Deb. Your contribution to my eternal embarrassment is duly noted.

"I can't control my stupid powers yet. They've got me taking all these stupid tests and aren't teaching me anything! And now I electrocuted my boyfriend!" As soon as the words left my mouth I slammed my hands on my lips vowing never to speak again as long as I lived.

Everything stopped. We could hear music playing in one of the adjacent rooms. My face felt like it was going to explode all over the place and to top off the evening I was now crying.

Dani reared back a little. "Okay, everyone out."

"But," Heather protested.

"Out," Dani insisted. "Kristyn has been a girl for barely twenty-four hours. I think you see the problem. So we're going to have a nice little chat and maybe a soak in the bath. Off you go."

The girls vacated after that with no problem. When she closed the door, Dani turned around and tried to look compassionate. "Do you want to talk about it."

Keeping my hands firmly in place I shook my head with an emphatic no. She nodded. "Okay. You stay right here. No more surprises tonight, alright?"

I nodded, still firmly clamped down.

"I'll be right back. Do not move from that chair until I'm back okay?"

I nodded again and didn't trust myself to let go of my mouth until the door was closed again. When it was I dropped them on the desk and threw my head down. "Oww," I whimpered. "Stupid desk."

The day had spun far out of my control, twirling in a dead-man's dive of which there was no way to pull out. I just sat there and breathed. Clearing my mind was way too late of an action. Focusing on one thing wound up with me focusing on the infuriating itch between my legs.

Before I knew it Dani was back and heading to the closet. She emerged a couple of seconds later with my flip flops. "Come on." She dropped them in front of me. "Bath time."

I gave her a pleading look to just leave me alone in my misery. Bitch couldn't take a hint! "You'll enjoy this and I'll keep the conversation light. You don't even have to talk, okay."

She'd nag and nag if I didn't give in. Fine. Stuffing my feet into the bath shoes I got up and straightened out the robe so nothing important was showing. Dani dug into one of my drawers and pulled out a single t-shirt I was using as a nightshirt and handed it to me, and we were off.

I felt like a little girl with her leading me by the hand down to the communal bathroom. This was going to be fun. That was sarcasm, by the way. I really didn't need a shower right now. I didn't feel dirty. I needed to wash the gunk off my face, but that was it. Plus I really didn't feel like dealing with wet hair right now. Long hair was a pain in the butt to deal with all the time. If I didn't know for a fact that I would look like a total dweeb with short hair I would have had them give me a burr cut this morning. Was that only just this morning? It seemed like I'd been here for four months already.

Passing by one of the doors, on the way, I heard something. I wasn't eavesdropping, really. I just knew they were talking about me, and I didn't recognize the voice.

"… down in the cafeteria right now, just sitting there with a dazed look on his face! His clothes are all burned, and his hair looks like he stuck his finger in a electrical socket or something. It had to be Kristyn!"

I must have another power or something. Super eavesdropping powers. That would explain how I know these things. Kind of like Spider-man without all of the sticky webs and wall crawling. He had the Spider–sense stuff right? No, that's all wrong. That was for warning of danger, like a pumpkin bomb to the head or something. All my comic book reading was useless at the moment. I'm sure there had to be an X-Men mutant that had super eavesdropping powers. They had everything else.

While I pursued the dozens of mutant abilities in my head, Dani led me through the door and around the back corner. Hey! Bathtubs! What the F? Two, out of four, of them were rushing away back to back, almost filled with mounds of bubbles and a calming scent in the air. This might not be so bad after all.

Dani smiled at me and then started to take her clothes off. Not needing another reason to taser someone I turned around shrugged off the robe. I'd had enough of modesty for one day. I just didn't care. So I reached around and unsnapped my push-up bra, upholstered the girls, and tossed the bra on the counter. The lace thong followed very soon thereafter. Ahhh, my butt thanks me. Without looking around at Dani I went ahead and entered the bath. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap… ahhhhh.

This was such a goooood idea. I'm glad I thought of it.

~~~

There were certain times during my soak that I was tempted to, um, finish things off, if you know what I'm saying. But considering what happened when I just got a little turned on by Ray kissing me, I thought I'd better wait to scratch that little itch for later. I could just visualize the bathtub exploding and me blowing the power grid again. Though I don't think I'd be able to hold out for too long, so I thought I'd better make it a priority tomorrow to learn some type of control. Yeah, that'll go over good with the staff. I can just see the conversation now. 'So, you want to know how to control your talent so you can run back to your room and masturbate?' Yeah, that's about the size of it, can you give a frustrated girl a hand?

When we got back to the room I was in much better spirits. At least I didn't want to grab the nearest tube of superglue and seal my mouth shut. My iPhone was chirping at me when we entered.

3 New Text Messages

It took me a second to figure out how to retrieve them. The first was from Ray:

Thanx 4 best eve in long time.

That gave me a little smile along with a little blush. The second was from the evil Doctor Shanahan:

I thought you only liked girls? My office before Physical Testing in the morning. Good job.

Jesus, did everyone know about everything in my life? The third message was from Ray again:

Are we official? I'm still out of it. B3st kiss I evr had.

That brought a giggle out of me. Oh god, I groaned to myself straight after. Dani looked over at me with a raised eyebrow. Dropping into my chair again I just looked at her. "He wants to know if we're official."

She stepped over and dragged her chair around to sit in front of me. "Okay, all B.S. aside. You're a girl now Kristyn. Odds are you'll never be a boy again. Are you going to stop being happy for the rest of your life?"

My eyes dropped to his message. "I don't know."

She sighed. "I know this just happened yesterday and you've taken, like a quantum leap ahead of all of us, in terms of being forced into adjustment time." When I looked up at her I saw the sincerity on her face. "I saw you two kiss for the first time. I also felt what you felt. It was beautiful."

I couldn't keep looking at her. I knew how she felt about me.

"You don't have to feel guilty. You're my best friend and I want what is going to make you happy." After a pause she added, "Besides, I think Tina has a crush on me."

I sniffed. Jesus, doesn't this water tap ever run out of tears?

"Don't throw away a chance to be happy because you think it's weird dating a guy. Besides, you aren't dating a guy, right? He was a girl before all of this. Maybe it's like some cosmic soul bond connection and you two were meant to be?" She leaned back in her chair and sighed dreamily. "Two souls destined to be together, yet separated by a gulf of gender confusion."

I snorted and tried not to laugh. Okay, I'm not the most romantic of individuals. I hit the return message key and typed out:

What, are you stupid? You're my boyfriend. It's too late to back out now. ;P Try it and I'll zap you a second time. D8

p.s. Dani thinks we're soul mates. Can you do something to play with her head at breakfast? <3 K

Yeah, I actually added a stupid heart to my signature. That was the final straw that broke the masculine back for me. Cameron is officially on a respirator, long live Kristyn Keys.

~~~

Back in the school girl outfit again. Screw the booties. I found some ankle boots that offered a little more ankle support, a gripping sole, and they have three inch heels. Dani coaxed me into applying a bit of eyeliner, mascara, and a light colored lipstick. She says if I'm going to have a boyfriend I should do it properly, and that means looking nice for him. Once she started making rumblings about calling Tina in on the action I conceded.

Ray send me another text wanting to meet up for breakfast at seven so we'd have a little time together before he had to go work on his physical training. Apparently just knowing a crap load of martial arts doesn't mean you can actually do them, properly. You have to train your body. So, he's not perfect after all. That left me a nice little warm spot in my tummy. Yeah, I left Dani snapping at me for leaving her behind.

Even in the three inch heels, I'm much better today than I was yesterday. It's amazing what one can accomplish with proper footwear! I took shorter but quicker steps to make it to the cafeteria on time. He was there when I turned the corner, leaning against one of the support pillars smiling. Cat -- Canary, you get the reference.

"In a hurry to see me?" he asked playfully.

Damn heels and their loud clicking on the tile! "I was really hungry," I countered.

As I approached I cringed at his hair. It was still frizzy on the tips. Reaching up, I touched it lightly. "I'm so sorry about that."

"The guys thought I'd ticked you off. They had a good laugh last night. Although Brian was strangely consoling."

That made me giggle. "I threatened to zap him between the legs if he didn't lay off."

Now it was time for Ray to cringe.

"I wouldn't do that to you. Strictly on the lips for you."

He leaned down and I met him half way for a light, testing kiss. No ozone, no energy discharge. Cool beans! He took my hand in his and intertwined our fingers. "Ready for some grub?"

I just nodded. We went through the hot meal line and since we were first, all was pretty right with the world.

"Three egg white omelet, with bacon and red peppers, and half a grapefruit."

"Egg white?" I asked.

"Less cholesterol more protein. The peppers are high in Vitamin A and the grapefruit helps burn calories. I'm trying to build muscle."

I frowned. "I should be doing that if I'm gonna be Karate Girl." He nodded.

"You should add some carbs though. You're going to need them for today."

Damn Physical Testing! I looked at the cook. "Same with a couple of biscuits, please, and only two eggs."

We went ahead to grab a good sized glass of O.J. apiece. Sigh, I'm already changing my diet because of my boyfriend. I'm such a lost cause. I might as well just kick off the shoes and get pregnant while I'm at it. Uh, no never mind. Forget that last part.

"Holy cow, you did taser him last night!" Welcome Heather.

"Told you."

"Hello, Heather," Ray sweetly greeted my evil date arranging friend.

She stopped and blinked a couple of times. "Uh, hi Ray."

"Pleasant day we're having isn't it?"

She looked at him sideways for a second. "Yeah, it's bright and sunshiny." When Ray brought his attention back to me, Heather gave me the strangest look, like she thought I put the voodoo on Ray or something. Debbie had a seat, totally ignoring us in deference to the same book she was reading last night.

"Hey Deb."

She looked up at me and said, "Hey." Before she recognized Ray sitting at our table. "Ray."

"Debbie. Ancient Sumerian?"

She looked back to her book and then at him. "Yeah."

We were halfway though with our breakfast when Dani showed up along with the rest of the girls. And from the way they were looking at Ray and me I had a sneaking suspicion that she gave them the lowdown about last night. Well, it's official. Everyone knows about our impending nuptials. Wedding will probably be next Tuesday. We'll honeymoon in the Gymnasium probably. We'll definitely need the extra padding from the floor mats because I'll likely be blasting Ray across the floor frequently with my electro-lips from GE. No batteries required!

Sigh.

A kiss on the cheek brought me out of my delusional stupor and then my iPhone tweeted at me. Dammit. Doctor Doom wanted to talk to me.

Ray looked at me with a question on his lips. I shook my head. Sorry, just fantasizing. He smiled. "Was I involved?"

I just leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "Intimately. I'm off to see Shanahan. Somehow she found out about last night."

He grabbed me before I had a chance to get up and brought me back to his lips. I had a flashback to last night and the passion that was brought up as his tongue battled with mine, there in the cafeteria.

When we broke apart there was a faint whiff of ozone in the air and that damn itch had returned. Ray smiled at me lovingly, and winked conspiratorially. "I'll miss you darling."

I almost lost it then and there, laughing. Yeah, that was good enough to freak some of the girls out. "You too sweetheart."

"Is something burning?" Heather asked. I gave her my best deadpan look. "Yeah, my loins."

~~~

The sad part about what I told Heather was that it was exactly the truth. I knew that she smelled the ozone. It appeared to be my early warning system. Smell ozone, and an attack was imminent. Good thing to know considering I had no way to stop them at the moment.

Seven-thirty on the dot I was at Doctor Shanahan's door. "Knock knock," I announced before coming in a sitting down without an invitation.

"Good morning, Kristyn. Having a good day I see."

I smiled falsely to her. "A little birdie told me that I was being spied on when I was with Ray last night."

She laughed a little at me. "The entire student body witnessed you and Ray at some point last night and you're worried about one staff member?"

I shrugged. She had a point. I didn't have to like it.

"Thank you for helping Ray. I am curious why you chose such a method though."

"It wasn't a method. Yesterday I just went up and told him straight up what was going on. In other words I made you out to be the bad guy. We had a nice little plan to have dinner together and then that would be that. You'd be off his back and I'd be on your good side for trying."

She didn't seem to mind my straightforwardness. "And?"

I shrugged again. "Things kind of took on a life of their own. I'm his girlfriend now." God that sounded so weird.

"Excellent. How long do you think you can keep up the charade?"

I leaned forward like she wasn't getting what I was talking about. "There is no charade. I like him. He likes me. There's nothing to keep up. I'm his girlfriend because I want to be." The truth of the matter was that I think I really was telling the truth. I had a desire to be his girlfriend. Even thinking about it made my thighs rub together.

"Are you saying that you like boys now?"

I opened my mouth to reply, but nothing came out. I had to actually think about that for a moment. "Uh… I don't think so. But I know I like Ray."

"Ray is a boy."

Wow! They actually give out doctorates to people that can figure that one out. That's it. I'm going for my doctorate in Psychology if it's this easy. "Nicely deduced." It didn't take me long to figure out a comparison. "I'm also a big fan of corn and I really don't like other vegetables all that much. Does that mean I can't like corn?"

She dropped the subject like a bar of soap in a prison bathhouse. "Considering your episode last night I think we need to reschedule your talent training. I overheard that you were interested in taking martial arts lessons from Ray."

"How… never mind. I'm probably bugged." Looking down at the buttons on my blouse I frowned.

"Her mouth twisted to the side in amusement. "Meditation, breathing, and control of your body are the first steps to control of your talent. I highly recommend you pursue that option with him."

"He said that he had to know my abilities first."

Shanahan laced her fingers together and leaned into the desk. "Tell him to start you on Jeet Kune Do and go from there. You'll spend the morning with him and after lunch you start your Physical Testing."

The look on her face told me I was dismissed. Twit.

~~~

When I exited the office he was there waiting on me. "I'm corn?"

My eyes bugged. "You were listening!"

He held up his iPhone and pulled the buds out of his ears. "If you know how, you can tap into anyone's cell that isn't encrypted. I used yours."

I couldn't help it, a little resentment found its way into my throat. "Why?"

"So I could know if you were sincere."

He'd already told me that Shanahan had been after him for a while. I'd probably do the same thing if I was in his shoes. My lips pursed for a moment and then I let it go. It wasn't important, and now he's sure about me.

"Give me a kiss and we'll call it even."

He took me by the waist and pulled me to him as he bent over and laid another knee-weakener on me. When the smell of ozone hit the air we both pulled back. He smiled at me and almost laughed. "Kissing you is dangerous."

"Just so we know where we stand," I teased back.

We pulled ourselves together and he led me to where he does his thing.

"I think I see where she's going with the Jeet Kune Do."

I shook my head. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Ever heard of Bruce Lee?"

The name rang a bell, but I think the bell was cracked and full of cotton so nothing came to mind. "Sorta?"

"Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury, Game of Death?"

Those sounded familiar. "Karate movies?"

"You're such a girl."

Hey! So I stuck my tongue out at him.

"He's like uber famous in the Martial Arts scene. Invented his own style, sort of, it's more of a philosophy."

"Jeet Kune Do."

"Uh huh. Except to really have what it takes to do this thing, you need to have really good upper body control. Not so much strength, but the ability to use what you have, everything in concert. And you, my beautiful girlfriend have an edge."

I eyed him in speculation. "My dazzling fashion sense?"

He shrugged. "Well there is that, but I was thinking more along the lines of you being an EK. With your talent, you'll be able to compensate for what you don't have in terms of physical power. Once you are able to channel it properly you can use it in your hands and feet. Thus…"

"Making me one kick ass bitch."

"Exactly." Drastic topic change time. "So, corn?"

"It was the first thing to pop into my head."

"That is so lame."




Chapter 4

It was a simple workout room. The middle of the floor was padded and all along the perimeter were the tools of the trade. Four stationary bikes, two treadmills, a universal resistance weight machine, a rack of dumbbells and barbells, a pegboard with jump ropes, and various solo instruments of pain and torture all in the name of physical fitness.

"We're not going to work on anything physical today," Ray explained. I want to jump right into breathing and settling your mind, so when the time comes you can achieve it a lot faster than you can now.

"Breathing?" I said with just a touch of sarcasm. "And here I was thinking I've been doing that right all of these years. Isn't it kind of automatic?"

He slipped off his shoes and went to the middle of the mat to have a seat. "To stay alive, yes; to stay focused and maximize your energy, no."

I looked around for a chair and was at a loss, so I hopped around a little while I managed to withdraw my feet from the heels I was wearing.

"Sit across from me."

I still hadn't learned how to sit on the floor without flashing anyone, so Ray may have gotten a sneak preview of what color panties I wore. When I'd finally gotten turned around he was smiling at me.

"Give me a break. I've been a girl for a day and half."

He pointed down at his legs and I saw that his feet were in his lap like that funky karate meditation pose. Oh, well I guess that's what we were doing, wasn't it? He closed his eyes while I arranged that one. There would definitely been flashing panties there. Surprisingly I was very limber; I didn't even feel the strain against my knees that I did as a boy when trying that particular pose out. Once the skirt was adjusted I let him know.

"You can look now, thanks." He nodded once.

Your hands aren't that important, but you want to keep centered, which is key to JKD. It didn't take me long to remember that JKD was Jeet Kune Do. Duh.

"So, back straight, but not rigid, head centered, level and in line with your navel, chin in just a little, but relaxed, and hands in your lap but symmetrical on place. If you need something to do with them then do that thumb middle finger thing like this, or close your fist, place your knuckles together and extend your thumbs where they touch, like this."

"I feel so Kung Fu."

He chuckled. "Shh. Now, let your eyelids relax, but not entirely close. You want to leave a little light so that you won't accidentally fall asleep. Good, just like that. Now here's the routine that I'm sure you've heard somewhere before. In through the nose out through the mouth. Good air in bad air out."

I gave him a good try sucking in a good breath and blew it out. He didn't say anything at first so I did it again.

"Sorry, I got distracted there. While taking a really deep breath like that is visually very nice it's actually counter-intuitive to the process."

I gave him a annoyed smirk for staring at my breasts.

"Instead, use your abdomen to cycle the air instead of so much of your lungs. Your chest and back shouldn't be moving and you shouldn't be able to hear the breath enter or exit. That may give you a better indication of how to proceed."

I tried again, slowing my breath in and out. It was odd using just my abs for this, but it wasn't as jarring, I guess, either.

"Excellent. Breathing in and out is one cycle. I want you to count as light as you can in your head for a hundred cycles. Keep your posture and try to clear your mind. If you lose count start over from one, don't try to figure out where you were, that just distracts you from the task. You can't overdo meditation, so too much is okay. I'll be right here when you finish so take your time."

Have you ever tried to just concentrate on one thing at any one time. What a joke. I was so distracted smelling my boyfriend's cologne at first that I had to start over five times before I even made it to twenty. What had to be four hundred counts later, I opened my eyes. Ray was staring at me with a really contented look on his face before he noticed that I was aware.

"Sorry, you're just… never mind. Okay, shake your hands out a little and then massage them. Get the heat going." We both performed the action and he gestured to my legs. "Feeling numb or anything?"

I shook my head. "I'm cool. Refreshed and very relaxed actually."

"Good. Untangle your legs and make sure, then climb to your feet slowly. If you aren't careful you can get a massive head rush and fall flat on your face. Believe me. I've done it."

We worked our way up and I followed his example of massaging my legs, hands, and arms.

"We aren't going to get into any sweaty work today. I'm just going to show you a few things and then Mr. Lions is supposed to meet us here at nine."

"Who's he?"

"Your talent coach."

I nodded and then waited patiently for the next lesson.

"JKD is different from all the other styles out there. There aren't any kata's to perform as you are supposed to be practicing on actual people."

I stopped him there. "What's a kata?"

"Think of them as the moves in whatever particular style you choose. You practice the moves in slow determined motions and it allows you to correct posture, angle, etcetera. Then you incorporate them into actual fighting. Once you do them a lot then the fighting becomes second nature. You move by instinct instead of having to think about everything that you do. JKD eliminates that, because it was developed, in part, to adjust to fighting against every style out there. You use what you need and toss the rest."

Ray went on explaining the basics and philosophy of that particular art, then by the time we were 'centering' my body an older guy showed up at the door toting a cart behind him.

"Good morning you two. All ready to start?"

Ray introduced us and then went off to one of the stationary bikes to begin his workout. Mr. Lions just jumped into the meat of the subject.

"So, what sets you off?"

"Pardon?"

"I've heard you are having control problems. Usually control is lost when you experience strong emotions. The barriers that you've naturally developed fall and you wind up… well in your case, zapping someone."

I crossed my arms under my breasts. "Yeah, that's pretty much it."

He nodded. "Okay, so any particular thing set you off so far?"

My face heated up a little. "Um, fear definitely. My first night here, after the transition."

"Ah yes, I heard that was you, that's very natural. Fear makes us do things that we wouldn't otherwise be capable of doing. What else?"

I darted my eyes to the side, where Ray coincidentally was starting to build up a healthy glow about him. Not quite sweat, but close. It was distracting. "Lust," I whispered so only the teacher could hear.

He nodded along trying not to grin. Seeing my discomfort he motioned to the opposite corner than Ray was working out. "There's no need to feel embarrassed about this. Lust is very distracting. People tend to totally let go in times like those. Unfortunately you don't have that option until you have total control."

I frowned. "I get a warning signal so I can stop, but last night…" It's like talking to your dad about your sex life. "Ray didn't pull away quick enough and I tased him."

Mr. Lions head drew back in understanding. "That would be a mood killer."

"No kidding."

"How about expulsion points." At my clueless look he clarified. "Where does your energy release at? Hands, toes, eyes…"

"Um, hands and lips, so far."

"Lips?"

I rolled my eyes in embarrassment. "We were kissing."

"Ah, gotcha." He pondered on that for a moment. "I'd have to say, until otherwise verified, your entire body is suspect. So we have to treat it all as an expulsion point. That leaves out a simple fix like special gloves to contain your talent."

Yeah, that would have been so much better. Pop some rubber gloves on me and I'm fixed. Too simple I suppose.

"Well, hopefully we can make some progress today, if you are willing."

"Please." I'd like to be able to kiss my boyfriend without burning his lips and frying his hair, not to mention do other things that keep annoying me.

"This little machine," he pointed out. "Will test your output and it will give you something to focus on. Once you can achieve focus then the rest is cake."

There was a single copper looking rod that stuck out straight from the cart that was hooked up to an analyzer of some sort. Mr. Lions was flipping a few switches while I glanced at Ray who had finally built up a sweat. He grinned at me an gave me a thumbs up for encouragement.

"Alright, we're all set, just grab that rod there and see if you can consciously deliver a jolt."

I didn't have a clue. "I don't know how I did it in the first place."

He nodded. "That's okay. I'm doing it this way for a reason. I don't want to influence any natural ability you have. That will serve you better in the long run. If I tell you that something can't be done a certain way then you might create a mental block, of sorts, and it will slow your training down. So we're going to do it step by step until we get some results."

Well, make sense why don't you. I really should stop and think things through on occasion, before speaking. I grabbed the rod. "Ready?"

He stepped back and concentrated on the display. "Go for it."

I flashed back to all of my comic book reading and how new superheroes were able to control their own powers when they first started off. Deciding on one way I closed my eyes and tried to mentally build up all the power in my body, focusing and forcing it up my toes, calves thighs, hips, from one side of my body to the other.

Before I knew it ozone filled the air, much stronger than I had smelled it before. I pushed that power down my left arm and into the copper rod. Blue-white light filled my vision even with my eyes closed and a loud displacement of air cracked in the small room, sounding like a bolt of lightening.

"Jesus, Lomax, get a fire extinguisher!"

My eyes shot opened and the cart, made mostly out of metal, mind you, was on fire. The machine on top was charred to black slag already. That's when the fatigue hit me. It felt like I had ran a four minute mile in two minutes. My knees went weak, and before I hit the floor and blackness could claim me, someone lifted me into their arms.

~~~

"Ray?"

I awoke in the darkness, the only source of light was a weak desk light somewhere behind me.

"You know if you keep this up then I'm not going to have anywhere to practice."

His face appeared above me. "Where am I?"

"The next office over from the room you destroyed," he answered rather jovially. "Mr. Lions said to bring you here and let you rest. It has a nice couch I sometimes use when I want to get away from it all." He briefly looked me over. "How do you feel?"

"Better, I guess. A little tired."

He nodded. "You want to try to sit up?"

I frowned at him. I wasn't an invalid. "Yeah."

He took hold of my hands and helped me up into a sitting position. "Yeah, just a little tired, and a lot hungry."

"Wouldn't surprise me. You missed lunch and it's almost dinner time. Feel like eating?"

I nodded and he handed me my shoes and nylon knee socks. "I thought you'd be more comfortable. Plus you have cute feet."

My toes curled under and tried to dig into the thin carpet. "Thank you." After making sure everything was secure, Ray helped me up until I was sure about the stability of my legs. "Were you or Mr. Lions hurt?"

He shook his head. Though I thought his hair looked a little more frizzier than it was earlier. I narrowed my eyes at him to fess up. He shrugged his shoulders. "You remember the old cartoons where the coyote has a bomb go off in his hands, how he looked all charred and blinking after it blew up, but he wasn't hurt?"

I nodded and cringed at the same time.

"Well that was Mr. Lions. I was far enough away for it to feel like a boat load of static electricity, hence the hair."

I reached up and patted it down. "Sorry."

"It's okay, although I'm getting you a skin tight rubber suit tomorrow. Not only will it contain you, but it will be hot as…"

I smacked him on the shoulder. "Only if you wear one too." He actually looked like he was thinking about it. "What?"

"Shh, I'm thinking about it. Just seeing you in one of those outfits might be worth it."

Leaning into his chest I lay my head against him. "I'm hungry. Feed me."

There we were, walking around the corner with me leaning on Ray when we were spotted. "Aren't they the cutest couple?"

My eyes were directed to Heather, sitting at our table, except there was another table along side. Debbie was next to her looking over her shoulder and then back to her book. "No, we're the cutest couple."

"Aww, you're so sweet," fawned Heather.

Ray led me over and sat me down. "I'll go get us some eats, you rest." I nodded. That walk took whatever energy I had left and dumped. I thought that I was going to fall asleep right there. Leaning against my palm was the only thing that kept me me awake and staring straight ahead into Heather's overeager face. Egads!

"What happened? Why are you so tired?"

"Blew up the workout room."

I heard the sound of an old book closing. "This has got to be a better story than learning about ancient foot cleaning rituals," Debbie commented. "Go ahead. Tell us about your latest drama."

"Mr. Lions had some machine and he wanted me to give it a shock. I kinda over did it."

Debbie's eyes narrowed at me in suspicion. "Was this around nine this morning?"

My skull felt like one of those bobble-head dolls as I nodded.

"That was you!" Heather squealed. "The lights went out again and the walls shook!"

My eyelids lifted a little in surprise, but I actually wasn't that shocked, no pun intended, considering I passed out. My hero came to my rescue when he sat a tray in front of me loaded down with protein and carbs of every variety. I was about to complain that I wasn't that hungry, but my stomach protested otherwise.

Heather just giggled. "You'll probably go back for more. I know I did when I found the extent of my talent."

At the first mouthful of mashed potatoes I thought I was going to have an orgasm right there at the table. It wasn't until I polished them off that I noticed everyone staring at me. I swallowed a lot harder than normal. "What?"

Debbie decided to clue me in. "You just inhaled about a pound of potatoes in under a minute."

The roasted chicken was next. "Just keep your distance and I won't have to hurt you." Oh, heaven! Two legs, a thigh, and a breast later and I moved on to the three dinner rolls. They had just the right amount of butter on them and were still warm. It was like Thanksgiving all over again. Oh, corn on the cob!

"You remembered!"

Ray's eyes were a little wide. "Uh huh."

Oh, needs salt. Shake shake shake. Much better.

"Did you want me to get you something else?" I looked at Ray as I was biting into the last half of the corn. "Oh, yeah, would you? You're so sweet. Maybe some more mashed potatoes and a couple more thighs? Oh, and another roll. Those were so good."

Dani and Christopher joined us, each looking at the utter devastation on my tray. "Hungry?"

I nodded. Heather explained. "Had her first talent session today. Kind of went overboard. Her body is claiming back all the energy she expended."

Half a glass of Pepsi followed the corn and by that time Ray was back with more grub! Christopher looked down at his plate and then over to mine. "Whoa."

"It's a psychokinetic thing. You really don't know the meaning of hunger until you've blasted all of your energy in one shot."

"I should have guessed when the lights went out and I heard thunder that you'd be involved," Dani said in mid laugh.

Ray reached up and moved my hair out of the way that had fallen in front of my shoulder. "You weren't there. You know that machine Lions uses to measure our energy output?" They all looked at him and nodded, for the most part. "Toast. Literally. So is most of the small workout room. Treadmills were melted. Lions barely had a chance to dive out of the way before lightning-girl here torched the place." I looked up as I was finishing the gristle off of the last of the thighs and grinned.

"He was covered head to toe in black soot and his hair was standing on end."

I dropped the bone on top of the tall pile in the middle of my tray, and a tiny high-pitched burp escaped my lips. "Whoops, excuse me."

A blue-haired Asian looking guy stopped by on the way to his table. "Whoa," he said as he noticed my tray. "I see the rumors are true."

"Hey, Max." Heather chirped. "Kris, this is Max Stevenson. He's the Hydrokinetic."

I said hi with my eyes as I was still too busy sucking down the last of my Pepsi. He leaned his head back and laughed. "Ah, I remember my first time like it was yesterday."

Almost slamming my cup down I sighed in contentment. "That's it. No more. I think I'm full." Then something caught my eye on Max's tray. "Oh, key lime pie!" I was up and out of my chair in a second. The dinner lady gave me a strange look as I was eying all the desserts on the counter. I picked up the key lime, and then saw a nice slice of German chocolate cake. I hadn't had any of that in like a year, so I got that piece… oh, dammit, pecan pie! "Can I get a scoop of ice cream for the pie please?"

Ray showed up beside me and helped me carry my choices back. There were some advantages of having a boyfriend after all.

My tray had been cleared and a fresh fork was produced. Oh, and my Pepsi was refilled. I stopped my clearing out of the food supply for a moment and tugged on his shirt until his lips were on mine. "Thank you."

Dani just stared at me with disgust in her eye. "I hate having to watch every little thing I eat. Eek! A peanut! I better watch out that might add five pounds. But you just ate the equivalent of everyone at this table and look at you." I patted my tummy. Yep, still firm, so I shrugged an apology, then proceeded to gather the last of the crumbs from the cake and mashed them with the fork so they'd stick to the underside and I could…

"I hate you," Dani deadpanned.

Seeing Ray finishing up with his tray, I stacked the desert plates and looked at him. "Want to go work off some of this food?"

~~~

"I think I blew my schedule."

Ray laughed quietly. "Don't worry about it. Things like this happen all the time at the beginning, at least from what I've seen and heard. They'll just rearrange things and you'll be back on track in no time."

We passed by what was left of the room I nearly destroyed. Everything that used to be in the corner near where I tested was gone. The floor already had new carpet on it and the smell of fresh paint was still lingering. "They work fast."

Ray shrugged. "Maintenance never has enough to do around here anyway. They don't mind." At my reluctant look he pressed on. "They think of you as job security."

He led me to the corner where it happened. "I want to try something if you're willing."

"Okay."

When we stopped he maneuvered in front of me. "We already know your warning sign right?"

I nodded. "Ozone."

His hands slid down to my waist. It almost felt like if he tried, he could meet his fingers on either side, but I knew my waist wasn't that tiny. They slid further down to the tops of my hips. "I'm going to kiss you, and at the first sign of warning we stop. Let you cool down and then start back up again."

I bit my bottom lip and looked up at him. "Are you trying to get me really frustrated?"

"Nuh uh. Well, in a way, yes. I'm trying to get you to where you can recognize what sets you off and put a clamp on it before it gets out of hand. If that means that you get frustrated, I would think that would be that much more incentive to get it right sooner, rather than later."

My lips were suddenly dry. I hadn't refreshed my lipstick since I ate, but that didn't seem to matter to Ray. I ran my tongue over them in preparation, but never finished before he set his lips on mine and literally sucked my tongue into his mouth. Oh wow, that was something I'd never done before. I fell into the pleasure of his body pressed against mine once more. My nipples tightened up, and my tummy tingling sent me to happy land. It wasn't until I felt his hand at my lower back and lowering to cup my butt that I smelled it.

I jumped back looking heat into his eyes. My breath was a little rushed and I concentrated on pushing the energy down until it I could feel it ease.

"Got it?"

I shook my head. "Not yet. But I can calm it."

"Good start." He smiled. "Ready to try again?"

My teeth showed this time. "Right where we left off."

This time I pulled him to me. He hand was right back on my butt, kneading it slightly. Who knew that could feel so good? It took much less time for the reaction to occur. I was already primed, so it made sense. With a frustrated cry I backed away and pushed it back down. Oh god, I'm never going to get any sort of release if this keeps up.

"Better?"

What? Was he kidding? "Sorta." Power's down, heat is up. It was a matter of perspective.

Again, I was in his arms and this time his hand was under my skirt and on the flesh of my butt. His skin was so hot. Only ten seconds this time. I started to break away, but he held me. "Fight it, Kris. I'm not letting go this time."

I almost panicked. I was going to taser him again! But as he continued to kiss me I forced all of my will to push the power back down. I was distracted so I didn't kiss him back so well, but when I knew I had it down I rejoined the fun with eager abandon. His knees bent and I followed him down a little until I realized he wasn't getting on the floor he was bending to pick me up. My legs popped up and around his waist instinctively, and both his hands were under my skirt supporting me as he spun us around and found the nearest wall.

As soon as my back connection I could smell the ozone again. But I was determined this time. Nothing was coming between me and this feeling that Ray was giving me. I grunted and took a mental sledgehammer to the whatever was trying to force its way out of me, losing on a second or two of concentration in the process. Something hard was between my legs. I knew Ray was still fully clothed. As an ex male I was very familiar with what was happening. I'd even participated in a session or five of dry humping. As a girl, this was a first.

My panties were wet and I had way more than an itch going on down there at the moment. But Ray was doing his level best to scratch it for me. His hands slid to the middle of my thighs for more support as he ground his trouser covered erection right where it needed to be for me to…

My mouth broke away from his. "GHNNNNNnnnnnn." What the hell was that? Did it come out of my… "Oh god, Ray!" Something washed over me, and I was afraid I was going to let it all go on him. I steeled myself and let the pleasure through but kept the power down. My fingernails dug into his back and I whimpered in his neck. That's when he stiffened and shuttered. A suppressed noise was held in his throat.

Both of our lungs were over labored and from what I could see of his face it was blushed red from excursion. He pulled back and looked at me as I was looking at him. Ray looked exhausted and I was just grinning like a hatter. I kissed him once more. My lips were over sensitive and felt bruised, so I made them light kisses. "Thank you, Ray. I did it. We did it."

He huffed once more and I felt his hands give way on my thighs. Bracing myself I dropped lightly to my feet and found out that I didn't have knees anymore. Whoops! I leaned back against the wall to brace myself and Ray dropped to his knees in front of me. I looked down at him and smiled. I still had a little itch, but I felt a heck of a lot better than I did over the last two days.

Testing out my wobbly legs I figured I was fairly safe and started moving for the door. "I'll go to the bathroom and get you some towels."

Luckily he was wearing dark colored slacks. "Closet."

I turned around and saw that he'd backed himself against the wall. "What?"

"Closet in the corner has some towels."

"Oh, okay." I took a peek out the door just to make sure the coast was still clear, and then closed and locked the door. That could have been embarrassing. A quick trip across the room and I opened a supply closet where a bunch of terry towels and cleansers were sitting there pretty as can be. Duh, people would have to wipe up their sweat from the machines so it wouldn't get nasty. Sometimes I just don't think. I grabbed two for him and one for me. Luckily, I wasn't a mess, just sticky. The panties were a lost cause. I'd have to wash them before sending those on to the school laundry.

"Um… " I handed him two of the towels, and noticed a large wet stain on the front of his slacks. I was the cause of that. Weird. And just to make the situation even weirder I sat down right beside him.

He started to unbuckle his belt and then stopped when he caught me staring.

"Like I said before, Ray, I've been exactly where you are at, and seen, not to mentioned experienced it as well. You've got nothing to be embarrassed about. With a pleased grin on my face I added, "In fact, I think you should be quite pleased with yourself."

He chuckled and then gave me a stern look. "Not the same. Don't look."

I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "I could help."

He blinked, definitely thought about it. "Not here. I want…" His face turned all serious. "I want our first time to see each other to be special."

Oh god, he's a romantic too. I really didn't know how to feel about that. I wasn't much of a romantic when I was a guy, but I did know that I like being romanced like last night. Okay, I'd let him play it his way for now. Besides even though I felt it rubbing nicely against me, I still didn't know what my reaction would be to actually see one out in the open. Guy feelings could jump back up into the drivers seat and I could get violently ill or something.

"You're right." I looked to the door. "I'm gonna go get cleaned up myself. Did you want to meet later?"

He grimaced. "I've got a ton of homework to make up. I wasn't able to do my regular classes today."

Because of me. "Sorry. You were sweet to watch over me. Okay. Tomorrow morning. Seven?"

He nodded. I got up on my knees and leaned in for a final kiss goodnight. I ran my fingers through his lime green hair, and smiled at him after. "Text me later if you get a chance."

"Count on it."

~~~

I stopped by the bathroom on the way to the room and washed out my panties. Yep they were a mess. But I was pleasantly sated at the moment and didn't mind cleaning up in the least. I added cleaning myself up to the mix and fifteen minutes later I stuffed the semi dry panties in the laundry chute and made my way down my room.

By some strange coincidence, Danielle wasn't there and I had time to procure a new set of black cotton panties before she got back. Whew, no explaining!

Right when I flicked my screen-saver off to check my schedule there was a bang against the door. The knob rattled a second later and then exploded inward with Dani eating Christopher's face off. Or that's what it looked like. I smiled and leaned back so as not to be noticed right away. Looks like love was in the air at the Center! He had turned her around and had her up against the wall. Was there something about walls today?

"Oh god, Dani, I want you so bad right now. I've always wanted you."

"Christopher," she almost squealed in delight.

"Ahem." I know, I'm a party pooper. This time Dani did squeal, and Christopher jumped about halfway across the room. "Sorry. Wow, bet you kind of regret this whole roommate thing right about now, huh?"

"Kris! I thought you were off with Ray?"

"I was. We were. We're done now."

Her eyes lit up. "You're glowing!"

Um…

"No, we didn't do that. He was able to figure out how to get my powers under control." Walking the line of truth. That's my specialty. We technically didn't do that, and we did get control of my powers. I signed off from the computer and stood. "I think it might be in both our best interests if I move next door, ya think?"

Dani looked heartbroken, but not enough to want to stop me. The double play on her face was almost cry worthy. I stepped over to Christopher and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Treat my best friend right, Christopher. I think you two make the perfect couple." Then I was beside Dani. A tear dropped down her cheek. "Don't worry about it. We have boyfriends now. We need the extra space, both of us." She nodded and jumped into my arms.

"I love you Kris."

"I love you too. Now…" we were interrupted by a jolt running through Dani's body. I pulled back and she had a really blank look on her face. "Dani? Danielle?"

Christopher grabbed my shoulder. "She's having a vision. She's a pre-cog remember?"

Yeah, I do.

"Just make sure she doesn't hurt herself and let her finish. It's the only thing we can do."

It took four minutes and thirty-two seconds, from the time I actually started timing her, for her to surface in a gush of breath. She grabbed me and almost screamed, "Kris!"

Christopher stepped in without waiting for a beat. "Dani, you just had a vision. Relax." Her scared eyes darted to her new boyfriend and she dived into his arms. "Christopher it was so awful," she sobbed.

"It's okay, baby. I'm here."

It took another five minutes at least before she was calm enough to relate the tale. "There's another transition. It'll be tonight, or tomorrow morning. It was still nighttime and I couldn't see a clock anywhere."

Christopher turned to me. "Get something to write with. I don't want her to have to tell this more than once." Without saying a thing I ran to my desk and grabbed a note pad and a pen, and started scribbling - tonight or tomorrow morning (night).

"It's in Houston. 762 Wainwright on the north part of downtown. I remember seeing the city from the window."

"Go ahead, don't wait for me," I urged.

"She's insane, Kris. I mean like raving psycho. She killed her parents and she was about to kill her little brother. There was so much blood." She shuttered and started crying again. Christopher pulled her to his chest.

"Call Doctor Shanahan. There's an emergency number on your cell."

I grabbed my holster off the dresser where I left it and pulled out the iPhone to follow Christopher's orders. He was a heck of a lot more experienced than I was with something like this. It took a second, but I found the number and hit send. Only one ring later and the doctor was on the other end.

"Yes, Kristyn."

"Doc, Danielle's had a vision. There's going to be another transition tonight and people are going to die."

"I'm still in the building. I'll be right there."

After she disconnected I relayed the message. Dani had pulled herself together, barely. "Kris, you have to be there tonight to stop her."

Ever ran face first into a wall while running? It felt a lot like that. "I what?"

Christopher dabbed at her tears with a tissue, but Dani grabbed it away. "Her powers, they're some sort of electricity based mental blast. All she has to do is look at someone and she can make their heads explode. She seems to have full control of her powers, but she hasn't transitioned yet."

What the hell makes her think I'm the only one that can… oh hell.

"You're immune to electricity. It can't harm you. You can feed off of it. It makes you stronger," rambled Dani.

"How can you know that? I don't even know that."

"She tried to kill you, but you absorbed it and used the power to…"

I didn't want to ask, but it came out of my mouth anyway. "To do what?"

Knock Knock!

"Dammit!" I ran to the door and slung it open. "I hate your timing."

Shanahan looked winded like she had run half the building. "What going to happen."

Christopher took over and was as succinct as possible. "Pre-tran subject female. In full use of her talent will murder her parents and possibly a young boy."

"What's her talent?"

"Some type of electricity based mental weapon. She blew her parents head apart. Dani saw it all."

"That's not all," I said rather stiffly.

Shanahan looked back at Christopher. "Apparently the only person that can stop her is Kristyn."

Got to give it to the doc. She's stubborn. "Unacceptable. How can a student with virtually no training take down the subject."

"I'm immune to electric based attacks. Apparently I feed off them and I was about to find out how Dani knows this when you showed up."

My best friend almost cringed, she did shrink into Christopher's arms. "I think you tried to talk her down, but she's insane. There is no controlling her. She just wanted to kill everyone, not just her family. She tried to kill you, right when you went to stun her with your powers, but whatever she did gave you a boost. It was like… hooking up a flame thrower to a Bic lighter. There wasn't anything left of her."

I backed up and almost stumbled, but I caught myself on the dresser. "I killed her?"

Dani looked miserable confirming what she just relayed to me, and nodded her head slowly.

Shanahan looked torn. "Kristyn, get a paper clip out of your drawer."

I think I was so confounded by what she said that I just did it on automatic. She crossed the room and took it out of my hand, unfolding it along the way and then handed it back to me. "That outlet there," she pointed at an unused one by the dresser. "Stick it in there." I was halfway there when my common sense came back online. "No, it'll shock me!"

"Not if you're immune it won't. It's not a great test, but we don't have time to do this scientifically under controlled conditions so we make due. Do it."

Screw it I've tased enough people for a little karmic payback. I jammed it in and flinched at the loud pop and sizzle. What I wasn't expecting was the burst of energy that ran up my arm. It was like having a shot of espresso pumped into me with an IV.

The lights dimmed, and I heard from somewhere down the hall, "Dammit Kristyn what the hell are you doing now!"

Debbie.

I pulled the clip back out and the metal was blackened, but my fingers were fine. "She's right. I feel pumped right now."

Shanahan didn't even blink. Instead she turned to Christopher. "Do we have an address?"

I held up the pad I was making notes on. "Right here."

She nodded. "Fine. Christopher take Danielle to the clinic. The doctor's been alerted. Tell him I authorized a mild sedative considering the shock she's gone though. Kristyn, you're with me."

I tore off the paper that I had the notes on and tossed it to the desk before grabbing my purse. "Where are we going."

She ignored me and started dialing on her cell. "James, I need you Max and Raymond ready for deployment in ten." The doctor stopped in front of Heather's door and knocked rapidly.

Heather swung the door open and almost jumped back. "Dr. Shanahan?"

"Heather, you and Rita deployment in ten."

Her eyes bugged and she ran back to her desk for something. We were halfway down the hall when Heather caught up to us. Rita was lagging behind. "What happened? Where are we going?"

"Houston," I said. "There a transition tonight and it's going to get messy."

~~~

We were led to a room downstairs and Shanahan passed us off to a late forties/ early fifties military looking guy in a off the rack blue suit and tie. He had a jagged scar along his left temple that ran down past his ear. I wondered for a second if this was the elusive "Colonel" that Dani told me about the day before.

Heather was told to suit me up and almost had to drag me into a semi large room off of the main one. She was up on my sizes from yesterday's 'date' mission, so she didn't have to go through that Q&A session. Instead she threw a sports bra at me, taking one for herself and began to strip right in front of me.

"Hurry up, we don't have much time."

Just going on automatic, I stripped of my vest, and the blouse followed soon thereafter. Heather was too busy dropping her bra on a table to notice me, and I don't think that she would have cared either way. Somewhere along the line we had flowed into the 'girls don't get embarrassed in front of each other, mindset.

Rita finally caught up and was halfway out of her blouse by the time she closed the door. From the looks of things there were a number of different outfits that we could choose from and Heather didn't think twice about dressing me up just like her, to avoid confusion in decision making I suppose. Next was a black tank top, followed by matching loose fitting pants. The pants rode up further above my hips than normal boy jeans, but they were comfortable nonetheless.

"You're a seven and a half right?"

I looked up at her as she was holding a pair of boots. With a nod from me, she set them down on the floor by me and sat to don her own pair.

"Stick the hem of your pants into the boots, so they don't get in the way later. Like this."

They weren't combat boots, at least not the ones that I have seen in movies, but they were close enough, riding high above my ankle. The heel was normal, lifting me up, maybe an inch, but nothing that a hiking boot wouldn't have done.

Noticing my lack of conversation, Heather piped in a few words of wisdom. "Just relax, and follow our lead. We're just there to make sure things go smoothly and assist where we can." She shook her head. "I have no idea why they're bringing you along so soon. You haven't even had any training."

"I…" I couldn't bring myself to say that I was only there because I had to kill someone, that I was the only one that could get close enough without having their head blown off.

"What?" She just finished lacing up her second boot and jumped up to retrieve something else. When she returned she had a shirt of sorts and a web belt, or a utility belt for those of you that aren't familiar with such a thing. No pouches for bat-a-rangs, but you had the ability to hook several things of use there if the need arose.

All three of us donned our commando gear. I could actually see where everything was going now. We looked ridiculous, like girls playing in their father's clothes, just not as baggy.

I wouldn't answer her question, so I was soon dragged back to the main room where the boys had finally arrived. It looked like they kept their G.I. Joe Night Ops clothes in their own rooms and were ready for action. How they got dressed so quick was beyond me.

Ray looked pissed when he saw me. "What are you doing here?"

I know he saw the guilty look on my face, but was cut off by the old guy spouting off. "At ease, Lomax. She's here because her talent makes her an asset to this mission."

Ray spun on the guy without a care in the world. "She's got no training, sir. She doesn't know what this is about."

"Which is the only reason you are coming along." He raised his eyes above Ray's head and looked at the rest of us. "Grab your gear and load up. We have a three hour flight ahead of us."

There was a locked room that the old guy swiped a keycard near. Once it was opened I saw why. Weapons. My stomach tightened, and I was suddenly aware of exactly how much I had to eat only an hour or two earlier. Every one of the teens entered, with me trailing behind and was given a number of different things. Ray looked after me from there on in. I wasn't given any weapon since I hadn't had any training, but he handed me two small canisters with ring hooks on the side.

"They're just smoke. You can't hurt anyone with these. Just pull the pin, count to two and toss it where you want the smoke to go." He attached them to my belt without a second thought. Then he looked again and grabbed a medium sized blade, and did the same. "Everyone should have at least a knife. Just in case."

I wasn't there to stab anyone. I could have told him, but I couldn't meet his eyes.

When he turned away again I saw him step up to a locker where a number of long rifles were stored. Even I knew what they were. Watch enough movies and you come to recognize those dark matte colored, sleek looking rifles with the mongo sized telescopic sites on top. He picked up a long cylinder object and screwed it to the end of the barrel, and then grabbed a box of bullets.

After slinging it over his shoulder he turned and saw the fear in my eyes. He seemed to have a little bit of conflict fall over his face. I could almost tell what was going on in his mind. He had never wanted to me to see him like this, to know what it was they did; not yet.

Before I knew it he had a hold of my upper arm and was steering me out into the previous room and through another door that led to a garage, apparently. "Now you know why I held myself apart from the others. Why I didn't want to make friends."

I swallowed hard. I didn't want to know anything else. I just wanted things to go back the way they were. We were the first ones seated in one of the SUV's. When he closed the door he situated the rifle between his legs, pointing upward, and then leaned back.

"I'm a sniper."

A choking gasp erupted from my throat. "A sniper?"

"An assassin." He clarified. "When there's a new one of us that is too dangerous to bring in, I'm the one they bring in to take them out."

My boyfriend killed people. My stomach clinched, knotted in cramps, and I was feeling sick. "Why?"

He didn't look at me and I didn't know if I could meet his eyes. "Sometimes… sometimes the transition doesn't take well to certain people. Their mind snaps or synapses fire wrong or something. But they wind up killing people around them. Usually their family is first. They have to be stopped." He sat there and rationalized what he was doing like it was some seminar, flat and devoid of emotion. "If we don't then the secret gets out because they go on a killing spree. I've seen it already."

"Why you?"

He laughed, almost ironically. "My talent makes me the perfect killer. I can shoot a perfect bull's-eye at almost 1500 yards. I can break a person's neck with one well placed blow. I can pass myself off in almost any profession and gain accesses to secure facilities with almost no effort." His face turned hard. "Shanahan says I have the ideal personality profile to handle the stress of the job. My morals are bent enough to enjoy what they send me to do."

I didn't want to ask. "Do…"

"Do I?" He ran a hand through his hair and his head lowered. "Yes, and no. I can deal with it because it's a job that needs to be done."

I took a deep breath and let it out. "That's why I'm along this time."

He snapped his head to the side and fear dropped like a mask over his face.

"I'm the killer tonight."

The doors opened up and Heather hopped into the front passenger seat and the thug looking guy that was with Dani when I got picked up was our driver. Ray didn't say anything else. Heather looked back at the two of us and appeared concerned, but then she passed me something. Gloves and a black nylon handkerchief looking thing. I looked at it for a second with a confused look on my face.

"It's for your head. Keeps your hair out of the way."

Ray reached for the cloth. "Here, I'll help you."

I snatched my hands away and almost dove for the opposite side of the SUV. "Don't touch me!"

The pain on his face was obvious, the shock on Heather's face was comical, but I wasn't laughing. I could tell that she wanted to know what happened. Thank god that she had the sense enough to let the subject drop until a more opportune time. I wasn't sure if it was the thought of Ray having killed someone or many someones, or the thought of it being me doing the killing that drove me away from the guy I had almost-sex with only hours earlier. Either way I couldn't stand the thought of touching anyone at that moment. Everything was just so unclean.

~~~

The plane ride was bumpy and ominous at the same time. The old guy gave us a brief aerial view of the 'target's' house, and the floor plans on the way. It was all very military. It was located in a residential neighborhood in an old part of Houston. He had places that everyone was supposed to be. Max was to climb the fence in the back. The family had an above the ground swimming pool, so he had a large source of water to do whatever he does. Heather's job was to eliminate the lights in the surrounding street and houses. Ray would be in the SUV with his rifle and would 'eliminate the target' if an opportunity presented itself. James was a Telepath. He would ascertain if the target was worth saving at all. I guess there was a small chance that whatever happened to the girl was a temporary breakdown or something that could be fixed with drugs or treatment. From the vision that Dani had we all knew that what was going to happen was a foregone conclusion.

The details were sent to us once Dani had her sedative and could coherently handle relaying the vision she had.

One of goons would wire the front door and blow it off its hinges. I would enter through what remained. The bodies of the parents would be in the middle of the room. The kid would be cowering on the ground with his sister standing above him, ready to send him off to his parents. We'd have words, and the girl would try to kill me. I'd fry her in the attempt. The house would catch fire, and that's where it ended.

I kept getting looks from everyone. Looks that held pity, or even surprise that I had that much power. The worst was from Heather. Hers, though she tried to hide it, was a look of apprehension -- fear.

After the briefing I went to the back of the plane as far away from everyone as I could. Curling up in the seat, I stared out the small window into the endless black of night.

~~~

Ray stayed away, well sort of. He kept me in his eye line and watched over me. He wouldn't let anyone try to bother me either. If he didn't get to talk to me then nobody would. Maybe he was just being protective. I wasn't in the mood to figure it out. The last thirty minutes of the flight I spent creating little electric arcs between my forefinger and my thumb. Once I knew how to suppress it I knew how to call it. Plus I had the added advantage of having that gigantic blow out that morning. So, instead of willing all the power in my body, I willed whatever was in the first joint of my thumb. That was enough for a reaction. Zzzt.

Before we disembarked I received a headset that everyone could communicate with. I felt very Commando at the moment. But since I didn't have one of those 50mm railguns to tote around, it was a lost cause.

Two SUV's were waiting for us, pulling up to the plane right when the stairs dropped open. It really looked like Ray wanted to say something to me, and contemplated blocking my way off the plane, but I gave him a stare. That gave me a reprieve for a little while. Though he still wound up beside me in the SUV.

By the time we arrived at the house the neighborhood was asleep. The downstairs lights were still on and I could see a shadow passing by the front window.

"They're still alive," I gasped.

Ray dropped his hand to my arm. "No matter how quick we go, they will die tonight. A Pre-Cog's vision cannot be changed. It's not a prophesy. It is a telling of what is to occur. You can't change anything, Kris."

I was about to tell him to eat me, but he kept going. "The most we can do is limit the amount of damage after she is dead. Dani spoke of a fire."

The second SUV's doors opened and Max, James, and one of the goons stepped out. Heather was already beside ours, slowly dimming the streetlights. Shadowy figures moved. I guessed Max was working his way around the back, and I could barely see James at the front window. He signaled the goon to front door.

"Go, I'll be here when you get back." I opened my door and he grabbed my arm. "I don't care what you have to do, Kris. I still care about you. Nothing is going to change that."

I flipped the handkerchief into a triangle and tied it around my head as I crossed the street at a leisurely pace, seemingly without a care in the world. Nothing could be changed. That meant that nobody would see me approach until I walked though the door.

"Advance, EK." Cute huh. That's my secret call sign when they are talking to me over the radio. By the time I was at the side walk I was slipping on fingerless gloves. Halfway up I started building up the energy in my arm to stun her. Just a short blast was all it would take. I'd still try to stun her. I'm not a cold-blooded killer. That's about the time I hear cussing and see something splatter against the curtains from the inside. Someone just died. High pitched screams. I guessed it was the dad. Ten feet away. The mother begging for the girl to stop. Another splatter against the window.

"Blow it," I said calmly and with determination.

A half second later and the front door exploded off its hinges. Just in time for me to make my entrance. I skipped the front step and jumped to the one above it to avoid some splintered wood. Right when I hit the porch everything went dark. Heather just insured that nobody would see anything in the surrounding area by sucking away all the light, including what was in the living room I just walked into.

Willing energy into my left hand I set arcs across my fingers illuminating the area about ten feet in diameter.

The first thing I saw was the blood coating everything, then the bodies of the parents, side by side on the floor. I'd have to step over them if I was to get any closer to the girl. To her left, a boy. He couldn't be more than five years old. He too was splattered with a spray of blood on his face and Speed Racer pajamas. His face was tear stained and snotty. A puddle was spreading beneath where he sat. It wasn't blood and it wasn't tears. The girl had killed the boy's parents right in front of him. All of this, I saw in three seconds. Any compassion I felt for the girl was gone. Nobody that could be capable of doing this deserved to live. "Who the fuck are you?!" The girl screamed.

Instead of relying on just the energy in my arm I pulled a good portion of what I had in reserve, pooling it down my arm and through my hand. Just as Dani said. We exchanged words. "Death."

My hand opened by my side and her eyes flashed electric blue. A surge of energy slammed into my head and I directed it straight down my arm and back to her. All the previous times when I went all out I'd had my eyes closed. This time I saw the arc of lightning coalesce out of four fingers and a thumb, meeting in a pyramid shape and shoot like Zeus' thunderbolts from Mount Olympus.

Air displaced and ozone followed in its wake. Since electricity travels at the speed of light I just saw the girl glow blue for the first few seconds and then literally disappear from the face of the earth right before every window in the house exploded outward from the resulting crack of thunder.

It didn't stop there. Arcs jumped off of the main bolt I had sent at her and ran along the ceiling. The television exploded, three lamps burned bright and follow suit. I heard things in the distance whine and pop and it felt like I was losing control. I wanted it all to burn, to wipe out every piece of evidence that this girl ever existed in the first place.

The screams brought me out of it. The boy. I looked down and he wasn't where I last saw him. He was in the hallway to my left holding his hands over his ears with his head between his legs, screaming at the top of his lungs.

My eyes closed and I pulled it back inside. The living energy that dealt a deadly justice retreated and then stopped all together. Opening them back up I looked over at the boy and he was even more terrified of me than he was of his sister. His eyes were terror filled as he screamed in a high staccato pitch, over and over. I just blinked and turned around, keying the com unit. "Clear."

The thug brushed past me as I was on the way out. James saw it all. He stayed well clear of me. I couldn't blame him. I had the first taste of the rest of my life, and it wasn't the fun and games of playing spy versus spy that I thought it was going to be. It was way too real. I knew exactly what part I'd play in the future. I knew what the tests were going to show. I knew where my talent lay, and it wasn't creating lightshows for the kiddies on the boardwalk. I can tell you that right now.




Chapter 5

Rita wiped the kid's memory of the entire incident. That's how it was at The Center. Take what you want, eliminate the rest, cover your tracks. I was so naïve. They left me alone on the trip back, voluntarily this time. Ray was still there, in the second to the last seat, turned sideways, watching me. I wasn't curled up in a fetal ball this time; there was no need. I just sat there, my head against the window, the lights low, so people could sleep. As if they could rest comfortably, after knowing what I could do.

James kept his mouth shut, only reporting to the old man, but they knew. The light show had to be fantastic. Who could have missed it after the windows were blown out? Ray had his telescopic lens, James along with the goon was front and center, Max had to have been able to see from a back window somewhere. He had to know when to send those jets of water onto the neighboring houses to keep them from going up in the conflagration that resulted afterward. Heather… well Heather controlled the lights. She had to be aware of the light-show that I lit up inside the house, and Rita. She would have had to see the memories to remove them, right? There would be no secrets from the students of The Center for long.

The only thing that was playing through my mind was how much time would it take for them to realize that I was too dangerous and turn on me? Would they send one of the others to kill me in my sleep? Would it be Ray they sent?

I looked over at him, sitting there, watching my every move. Being a spy wasn't as glamorous as it seemed anymore. James Bond was a tool, not in the 'screwdriver' sense, but in the 'lame-B.S.' sense. There was no glamor. There was power, death, and paranoia. Everything else was window dressing and times in between.

Maybe I shouldn't have looked at him. He got up and came over to sit beside me. So much for privacy.

"You don't have to talk. Just let me say my piece and I'll go back."

I didn't bother saying anything, and just lay my head on the window again.

"It was something like that my first time. In October there was a pair of twins that was due to transition. Tony is a Clairvoyant, but he is nowhere as good as Dani is a Pre-Cog. All he could see was that there was trouble with the twins, nothing specific."

I didn't know who Tony was. Maybe one of the guys that I hadn't met yet.

"On the trip out to New York City is when I learned how to use the rifle. A video file of a guy shooting a man sized target. Taking it apart, putting it back together, show me how to adjust for wind, distance, heat variances and visual distortions. I had it down pat."

We began our descent. I knew this because I could see lights on the ground below, they were still tiny, but I could see them.

"I took up position in the high rise across the street from the apartment they were in. All I was supposed to do was cover James. If he was in danger then I'd lay down fire to clear him, so he could get out." He paused and then started back up again. "I had both the twins in my sights. They were wearing matching white Polos and jean shorts. The window was one of those plate glass ones that cover like three times the space of normal windows. I heard James on the Com saying one of the kids had gone bad, like irredeemably bad. He was planning on killing his brother when he got the first chance, because they both had power and he was tired of being compared to him. Something that stupid…"

The pilot's voice came over the intercom. "We are beginning our descent, strap in and secure loose items."

"Rita's job was to go in and wipe the bad kid's mind. We'd take them, separate them and see if we couldn't fix the evil twin. Well things didn't go as planned. Heather did her thing, and I had to go to infrared. I still had everyone pegged down, no problem. The uniforms we have disperse our body heat differently and the parents weren't home.

"Turns out the kids were Pyrokinetics; fire.

"I had marked the twin on the east side of the room as number one and the other as number two. The evil twin was number two. The fire he shot at Rita killed the infrared as the whole room lit up in my scope."

I heard him swallow. "By the time I had switched back to a normal lens all I could hear was Rita screaming to take him out, number two. If I didn't then James and her were dead. The twins had moved, and I had no way of telling who was who. Rita wouldn't quit screaming, so they couldn't hear me asking which one was number two."

I turned to Ray at that moment. He wasn't looking at me and tears were streaming down his face.

"I had no choice. It was either take a chance or lose both of my friends." He sniffed and wiped at his eyes with the heels of his hands. "What you did tonight was justice, Kris. It was dirty and horrible, but it was justice. What I did was chance. I flipped a coin and lost."

I moved up the seat arm separating us and pulled Ray to my chest. Rocking him through his silent tears didn't help me. I was still too numb from what I did earlier to even shed a tear for him, but I tried to comfort him all the same.

~~~

It was almost four in the morning by the time we made it back to The Center. I still wasn't tired, and the old man excused the lot of us from classes and exams for Friday. We'd have to make it up on Sunday. He wasn't the most likable guy around at the moment.

I just grabbed my clothes and went up to the room. I hoped that Dani and Christopher would have taken it upon themselves to go ahead and move my things into the next room, but upon seeing my name plate still under Dani's, well, I was out of luck apparently.

Instead of trying to get some sleep which I knew would never come I set my shoes by the door and went to drop off the clothes in the laundry chute in the bathroom. I'd saved my cell and dropped it in one of the four hundred pockets located in the commando pants I was still wearing.

The only way I knew I would be able to sleep was if I was tired enough, so I went to the workout room and closed the door. The smell of fresh paint was fading but still apparent. The boots came off and I climbed aboard one of the stationary bikes. Ten minutes into a warm up I shed the outer shirt to the floor along with the web belt. Another ten minutes and I had removed the hair restraint handkerchief thingie, and rolled it up to use as a sweatband and to keep my sweaty hair out of my face.

The universal weight machine was still there and unharmed by my powers from earlier, so I did ten reps/three apiece around the machine. It totaled ten different styles. By the end I was still wide awake, but sufficiently sore and it was six-thirty. Enough time to shower and grab some breakfast, hopefully alone. I made it down to wardrobe and grabbed an outfit on the way to the showers. I really didn't want to stop by the room and wake Dani up, not to mention the interrogation I could avoid at the same time.

The shower made the aches from the workout go away, for then at least. Luckily the old man made it an off day for us. I wore a yoga outfit and tennis shoes. I just wasn't in the mood for anything else. Breakfast was comforting. I did eat a little more than normal, the excess use of my powers was evident, but not outrageous like the previous night. The girl's attempted murder boost was more than enough to counterbalance the loss that I had taken.

At seven-twenty I tossed my tray and disappeared down a different hallway that I knew everyone else didn't use. I did hear Dani's voice as she was talking to someone, so I knew the coast was clear in the room. Within a few minutes I noted my shoes were missing and I opened the door. Coast was clear. Dani was nice enough to set my boots inside on my desk.

I got to work moving my clothes to the next room over. I really didn't have that much to move. I hadn't gone whole hog at the wardrobe room, only taking enough to make it through until Sunday when Dani and I planned on going down and through the contents to find me some regular things. Two drawers of my dresser held socks, stockings, bras, and panties. I had three outfits that were hanging in the closet and four pairs of shoes. The desk held nothing of note, and I double checked to make sure I had signed out at the computer before heading to my bed to strip the sheets. It was the last thing to do. Imagine my surprise to find someone there waiting for me.

"Meow."

It couldn't be. It was. The Calico cat that had followed me home! "How in the world?"

I reached up and she let me pick her up and snuggle into my arms. The markings and colors were all where they were supposed to be. It was the same cat. "What are you doing here precious?" I rubbed my face in the fur of her neck. She had been cleaned recently and from the look of the collar around her neck she'd been to a vet. There was a vaccination tag hanging from the clip along with a identification tag as well, stating: Property of Kristyn Keys. If found call…

It was my cell number at The Center.

Pulling her back I looked at her green eyes. "Did you follow me here or did they bring you along when they took me?"

She didn't answer. Obviously. But she did lick her nose for me. Pulling her back under my neck, I ran my hand along her back. "It doesn’t matter. You're here now, and I need a friend that can't ask me any questions. You'll do quite nicely." Tilting her back so I could see her eyes again I asked, "Ready to go see our new digs?"

She blinked at me, so I set her down by my feet and leaned up to strip my bed. "Come on girl… We need to figure out a name for you."

After checking once more to make sure the coast was clear I slipped my name plate out of its holder and went about ten feet down the hall to slide it into its new home.

"Here we are Miss Kitty..." I frowned. Too Cat Woman. I opened the door to let her in and she rushed ahead. "How about Cali since you're a Calico?" She looked back at me and then proceeded to explore the room. "No, huh?" When she reached the desk, she reared back and jumped up top. It was a little dusty and her sniffing didn't do anything nice to her nose. She looked up at me. "Meow." And then she sneezed really weird. "Okay, Miss Bonsai it is." She tongued her nose again. I think she approved.

I didn't have the energy to dust or to do much beyond making my bed and kicking off my shoes and clothes. I pulled the blinds closed and locked the door before climbing onto the bottom bunk and pull the covers up. Miss Bonsai jumped up on the bed and snuggled near my chest as I smoothed her fur. The last thing I remember was the sound of contentment in the form of purring.

~~~

Miss Bonsai watched me from the unmade top bunk as I prepared for the rest of the day. Regardless of how much I needed sleep, I woke up shortly after lunch and couldn't get myself to escape into dreamland anymore. As I was doing my makeup, or the basics anyway, I still haven't gotten the hang of that yet, and without practice I never will, I pondered Miss Bonsai. She wasn't a full grown cat as of yet, but she wasn't a kitten either. Only being, maybe, eight to ten inches long from nose to rump, she probably had another few months of growth before she'd be an annoying bunch of fur that liked to sit on my chest during the night.

Every once in a while I'd see her through the mirror cleaning her whiskers or watching me. She was always watching me. But, what else do cats really do, and I am quite interesting. I can see how she would be attracted to me.

Since I really didn't have many other clothes I went ahead and chose the school girl outfit with the three inch heeled boots. Attaching my cell holster to my skirt I made for the door. "You staying here or you want to go with?"

She raced down the bunk stairs and petted herself along my ankles. When I opened my door Rita was just entering her room directly across from me. She came to a stop and nodded a greeting. You know the kind. 'Hello, but don't talk to me.' I returned it with. 'Fine I didn't want to talk to you anyway,' face.

My cell went off right when I closed my door. I swear, I didn't know how she knew I was up and about, but Shanahan sent me a text saying she wanted to talk to me ASAP. Probably bugging me like Ray did, yesterday. Why should I expect anything different.

Miss Bonsai ran ahead of me and inspected all the relevant corners and sniffed at a few doors before she led me to the main office. How she knew we were going there, I have no idea. Apparently everything and everybody knew more than I did. Before I opened the door I looked down at her. "Are you like a robot or something?"

"Meow."

"I figured. Android. Probably bionic. If she gives me a hard time in there just hiss at her." She licked her nose in reply and then butted the door with her head. "Yeah, I know. Get it over with."

The same receptionist was still there. "She's waiting for you."

I raised my eyebrows at him. "Well, far be it for me to keep her majesty waiting."

Yeah, I was a little snippy this morning… afternoon, whatever it was. Pulling all-nighters has its drawbacks. The door was open, and right as I was about to knock I noticed the old man from last night was sitting behind the desk and Dr. Shanahan was in one of the adjacent chairs in front. Great.

"Kristyn," Shanahan said with just a little too much cheeriness in her voice. "Come in, have a seat. You remember the Colonel, of course."

I nod at him. "We were never introduced, but I assumed. Does the Colonel come with any added name or is it like Cher and Madonna?"

"Harris," he answered with a take no nonsense tone.

"Pleased to meet you, Colonel Harris." I swept my skirt and sat, crossing my legs after, at the knee. "You wanted to see me, Dr. Shanahan?"

She gestured at the man behind the desk. "The Colonel actually, but I'll be here as well."

Without saying anything further I gave my attention to Colonel Harris.

"Miss Keys after a mission, at the first opportunity we debrief the participants to make sure were are all on the same page, for training reasons. This is your time to do so."

I didn't change any features on my face when I replied. "Is this the same training I received before I was told to kill someone last night? 'Cause I gotta say, if so, then your training sucks."

Shanahan leaned forward and looked like she was about to tear into me, but the Colonel stopped her with a gesture of his hand. "I'm willing to take a little heat, Dr. Shanahan, if it is deserved, and in this instance it is well deserved." His eyes shifted to me this time. "However, I will not be disrespected at anytime."

Something bumped against my ankle. Miss Bonsai. I leaned over. "Got the place reconnoitered?"

"Meow."

"Good enough, come on." She bounded up in my lap and turned around to have her back petted properly or to stare at the Colonel. Either was fine with me. "Colonel Harris, where I come from, one has to earn respect. I don't know you from Adam, but if I take it on faith that you are a Colonel, then you've commanded people in the military. You have my respect for that. But sending a girl who has been here less than two days into a deadly fight with no training… well, you're smart enough to see where I'm going with this."

As if on cue, Miss Bonsai hissed at him. I petted her neck. "Shh."

He eyed the cat and let the subject drop. "Continuing on, Miss Keys. Tell us what you encountered when you entered the house last night."

I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth to center myself. "I witnessed two people, the parents, dead on the floor near the entrance. Their heads were gone and most likely spread around the surrounding area walls, furniture, carpet, occupants, from what looked be caused by an small bomb in their head. Their bodies, from the few seconds that I saw them seemed to be in normal order.

"The child, a boy, was crouched by the girl shaking and pissing himself. The girl asked who the fuck I was. I told her 'Death', and then I killed her."

Shanahan blinked at me. I seemed to have taken her unawares. The Colonel seemed to be sucking on the inside of his lower lip. "Did she attack you?"

I nodded. "Her eyes glowed and then I felt a really strong force of energy slam into my head, but it was like a power boost for me, that I channeled into my return shot."

"You channeled it. I thought you said you didn't have any training."

I nodded. "True. No teacher here has taught me anything. You have Ray Lomax to thank for showing me how to control what I have thus far."

"So you never tried to stun her so that we could bring her in?"

I immediately saw where he was going with that remark. "No, I could have stunned her. I killed her on purpose."

"Why?" Shanahan asked with morbid curiosity.

I cocked my head at her, letting my hair fall to the side of my face. "She blew up her parents heads in front of her baby brother, and if we hadn't arrived then he was next. The kid hadn't even hit puberty yet and he pissed himself. She deserved it just for that alone." Turning back to the Colonel. "No, I killed her because a power like that girl had should not be allowed to exist under anyone's control. Her sole purpose in life, if you had managed to get control of her, would have been to kill people and nothing else. Pardon me, if you people have given me very little reason to trust you just yet." After a two count, I added. "That's everything."

I continued to pet Miss Bonsai while trying my best to stare the Colonel down. He's had years of experience being a badass, I'm just annoying when I want to be.

"Dr. Shanahan, give us a minute."

"Sir?" Shanahan was taken aback at the order.

The Colonel broke eye contact first, to deal with the good doctor. "I wish to speak with Miss Keys alone."

Reveling in the technical win, I scratched behind Miss Bonsai's ears and was given a warm purr in response. The doctor got up and seemed somewhat disgruntled at being kicked out of her own office. She'll live. When the door clicked shut, the Colonel leaned over and retrieved a satchel whereupon he removed his own iPhone. His had something attached to the back where he keyed in a series of numbers and then sat it on the desk.

"We're secure. Nobody can listen in on our conversation." I immediately thought of Ray out in the hall, yesterday. Hopefully if he was out there this time he wouldn't be too annoyed. "Lets lay our cards on the table, Miss Keys."

"Bonsai, down. Guard the door." I don't know if she understood me, but she followed directions to a tee. That cat is way smarter than I originally thought. Even the Colonel was semi-impressed when he saw Miss Bonsai center herself on the carpet in front of the door, sniffing for whatever cats sniff for.

"You're an oddity, Miss Keys." He absentmindedly fingered his scar with his left hand. "Every single one of the students, after transformation, had trouble dealing with their new gender. Even your friend, Miss Marks, who I'm told was a closeted transsexual. It took her a week to become comfortable in her new skin. Yet you are dating on your first official day here, less than twenty-four hours after your change."

My lips pursed. He didn't seem to want an explanation. He just seemed to be spouting facts. "Your personality profiles are truly interesting. You show a very pragmatic view of society and those around you, almost detached, but still informed. It shows that, if necessary, that you have an ability to turn off your feelings, in a way, and make practical choices. I personally saw evidence of this last night to and from the mission as well as during."

This is where I interrupted him. I wasn't about to be pidgin-holed by a psych profile. "I wouldn't rely too much on tests, Colonel."

His lips turned up slightly. "Oh, I don't, but they are an excellent guide in letting me know what to look for. And these aren't your average tests."

Figured that one out all by myself there, buddy.

"Something else I've noticed is your ability to bring together the young men and women during meal times. It's minor, to be sure, but a talent nonetheless."

I cocked my head at him. "Where are we going with all of this, Sir?"

He looked at me for another thirty or forty seconds before reaching into his satchel and pulling out a three inch thick binder. He opened it up to the first page and turned it around facing me. "Within this folder is The Center. What we do, why we do it, how you changed in the first place, and who is responsible, the chain of command. Interested?"

I wanted to grab it and run, but my curiosity won out. "What's the catch?"

This time he didn't smile. "The catch is that you can't tell anyone. The sheet on top is a non-disclosure agreement. If any of the information included in this folder is conveyed in any way, shape, or form to anyone not listed within, then you go to prison for the rest of your life, or shot, that option is up to me."

I looked down at the folder with a little more respect. "Why do you want me to see this?"

He leaned back in his chair and gripped the arms lightly. "I want you on board as a leader, Miss Keys. I see a great amount of potential in you. I see even more potential than you are aware of in regards to your talent."

He was playing games and I was in the dark as to why. Then something occurred to me. "That's why you had me come down here first thing after I woke up."

He looked at me as if to judge whether or not I could suss it out. "To separate me. You want the others scared of me." He lifted his left eyebrow slightly. "You knew I hadn't talked to any of them yet, even Ray, about what happened last night. By now it's all over the school how I walked in there calm as could be and destroyed the girl and the house without a second thought, and 'me' with no training." He relaxed his face and turned it to the opposite side watching me with interest. "They already think I've got something else the rest of them don't with how I've dealt with changing.

"Hell, Heather is spazzing out over me every time I turn around." I leaned into the desk. "What's your game, Colonel? Because you know I'm not going to sign anything that gives you any official power over me unless I'm more in the know."

Without missing a beat he said, "Turn to the second page, Miss Keys."

This is where experience wins over tenacity every time. I had just been played. I grimaced and flipped the top page over to the left.

"This is a different agreement that allows me to disclose certain generalities to you. If it gets out, you still go to prison, but only for five years and you'll never hold any job that requires a background check, because you'd fail."

I mentally shrugged. "I could live with that."

He supplied a pen and I signed. With that, I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs again.

"Imagine if you will, Miss Keys, a hypothetical situation."

Ah, we're playing that game. He's not admitting to anything just some mind candy that I would have a hard time proving. "Okay."

"Tainted water gets introduced into the populace. It was by pure accident, on the bottling company's part, that a hundred thousand containers are distributed to people across the United States."

My heart just fell somewhere into my stomach. That wasn't what I was led to believe. It was supposed to be a few hundred that were tainted.

"Now, lets suppose that the government found out about this and formed a special unit of Homeland Security that would deal with this situation. It would be off the books, of course."

"Of course," I acknowledged.

"Those imaginary bottles, they would be recovered, a good portion at least: fifty-seven thousand. That left a significant portion still out there, sold to customers in different cities, in different states. Now, there are people, children, that are hypothetically, possessing awesome talents and swapping genders across the land. Children that are not registered in any government database and with the right talent can become figuratively invisible… sell their talents to the highest bidder, and insert themselves near the highest levels of government, or move in and become your next door neighbor. Or they could go off on their own. Imagine a power like Brian Rivera's in the hands of a sexual predator, or a power like Danielle Marks' in the hands of a serial killer."

Oh, god.

"We would need people of unquestioned morality and practical judgment to find these gifted teens before it is too late. We wouldn't have time to pussy foot around with hand holding and nice little cries during or after a mission. We would need people that could get the job done no matter how awful the outcome. Those people would need to be able to make the life and death type of decisions that you made last night." He laced his fingers and got very serious when his eyes bored into mine. "You were completely one hundred percent correct in how you dealt with that girl. She broke the law and there would be no chance for a trial because there would be no way to hold her without endangering her jailers. The most important reason was that you were right: if certain agencies within our own government were able to grab a hold of her…"

He didn't finish. Instead he sighed. "Sign the first page, Kristyn. I'm done screwing around. I need you. Your country needs you. If you want another reason more altruistic, then little boys like the one you saved last night need you."

I looked at the folder. My lips pursed. "I need fifteen minutes."

He didn't seem too pleased, but he nodded. "Remember the terms of the agreement, Miss Keys."

I nodded and stood up. Miss Bonsai pounced out of the way of the door when I opened it and then followed me out of the office. I didn't go anywhere of any significance, just out into the main hallway. Pacing didn't seem to work, so I squatted on the opposite side of the main doors and let Miss Bonsai whirl around me entertaining herself.

Was I weighing any great responsibility or decision? No. I just needed to breathe. I knew it was a military man that was in charge of this facility. He was trained to think of the worst case scenario. That was a given. But what was the best case, considering what I witnessed last night? There would be people out there that took advantage of their powers for self-gratification. In all likelihood there would even be people that did exactly what Colonel Harris said they would do. But more than that, there could be thousands of kids out there that were like my friends: innocent enough, but powerful, and in the body of the opposite sex not knowing what happened or what to do. They needed help, and I didn't trust anyone not to take advantage of them.

~~~

He was still sitting there when I got back. After I closed the door he secured the room again.

"What would I need to do?"

No nonsense Colonel Harris just laid it out. "You would be in charge of the students. When we go out to find these kids you are the judge, jury, and if need be, executioner. If they are normal kids, bring them in. If they are on the fence, sedate them and bring them in. If they are like the girl you saw last night, eliminate them and destroy any evidence you were ever there. You'll have the talents of your team to rely upon. You won't have to second guess yourself."

I sat down and scooted up to the desk where he continued. "School is over for you. You graduated in the top quarter of your class with honors. You'll be trained from the start in military operations, physically trained, mentally trained to deal with what's out there. You have control of your EK talent, but from what our tests show that's only the beginning. You have a talent or several talents that haven't shown themselves. It's unclear at the moment. Further testing needs to be performed. I can't tell you anything else until you sign."

He held the pen out to me. I looked at it and inwardly sighed. 'This is your life now Kristyn. Don't screw it up.'

I took the pen and signed at the indicated line. He closed up the book and stashed it in his satchel. "You'll be able to access anything you want through your computer. Reset your password to sixteen characters including alpha and numeric symbols. If you follow guidelines then security will deal with hackers within the school, not that we have any yet."

They didn't know about Ray then.

"Let me see your cell."

I upholstered it and passed it over. He withdrew a different one from his satchel… how big is that thing anyway? The phone was like his, with the extra attachment on the back. "This is a scrambler that will prevent anyone from using this cell against you except for me. Whenever you want to secure it just type in 'secure' on the keypad, and cancel when you want it normal again. That password earned the fish eye from me.

It fitted more snugly into the holster, but the material would stretch to accommodate soon enough.

"The particulars: Officially you'll be a Warrant Officer."

"Pardon?"

"A technical adviser or specialist in your field. You don't have a title as such and will be addressed as Miss or Ms. No saluting unless you are in uniform which you never will be. You report directly to me for debriefing after every mission."

It sounded like I was being thrown to the wolves, a repeat of last night. Colonel Harris saw my face and waved me off.

"After training. Until then, I'll be accompanying you as an adviser on the more high-risk missions, and if the shit hits the fan, as team leader."

He tossed something else on the desk. "Your identification as a Warrant Officer under orders from the Director of Homeland Security. It's official, but I report straight to the President. You report to me."

Next thing I know, Kevin Bacon will pop up somewhere along the line, and I'll have my six degrees of separation. You'll be drawing a salary equivalent to a GS-9 with hazard pay. It's not in the same neighborhood as the big wigs, but this is the government we're talking about. Right now I want you to concentrate on your training, especially your tactical training. Second most important; work on your talent."

"What do I tell the others?"

He had the whole thing figured out long before I ever set foot in the school. He was just waiting for the right person to fill the position.

"We'll make an announcement at dinner, staff and students will be attending. Tell them nothing specific until then. You're under orders to stay silent after all, use it. I'll be alerting the administration and the teachers of your status change in a moment."

I nodded.

"Lastly, at least for now…" He passed me an ID badge. "This is your key to everywhere in the facility. Get to know every square inch. The only place you won't be able to enter are these offices. Maintenance is installing a security lock to your room. That will open it."

He jerked and I blinked. Then a frown came over his face. Scooting his chair back he leaned down, and returned with a hand full of Miss Bonsai. "Appropriate name for your cat."

"Sorry," I tried not to giggle, but it came out anyway. "Bonsai, don't bother the nice Colonel."

Colonel Harris chewed on the side of his mouth at being called 'nice'. "Any questions?"

I shrugged. "A few thousand, but they can wait until I read some of the folder on my computer."

He nodded, satisfied. "I'm available anytime during normal working hours for non-critical questions. After hours for any possible missions. Dr. Shanahan is at your disposal for anything else you need. As of now, you outrank her at the school."

"What? She's…"

"Your subordinate. You are number two only to me, Senior Officer on base, Field Officer on mission. Just keep in mind that you are also responsible for them as well. If they screw up it's on you to explain it to me… eventually." He smiled somewhat evilly.

"I have it this way for a purpose, Miss Keys. Very soon here the school will be loaded with students. Average people, like myself, will be at a considerable disadvantage. That's why you are taking the fast track. We need trustworthy and reliable people with the talent to enforce decisions that need to be made. You'll have time to adjust and learn what they do behind the scenes before I become a hardass. What I am getting at is I want the students we bring in to be comfortable and want to work with the system, not against it. They are our only hope to contain the threat that is out there. Make this school yours Miss Keys."

He stood and held his hand out. "Congratulations, on graduating high school, and welcome to the team, Kristyn. He looked down at what I was wearing. "And get something more appropriate to wear. I can't have all the men around here walking around gawking at you. That schoolgirl outfit is so wrong on so many levels."

~~~

When I got out to the hallway, I pulled my cell and looked up Heather's number then hit send. It rang three times before she answered. I've seen her whip that phone out in the blink of an eye. I guess that's how much she's nervous about talking to me.

"Hello?" She wasn't the bubbly Heather I'd come to know over the last couple of days. I guess I have some fences to mend.

"Heather, it's Kris. I need your help in wardrobe."

There was a definite pause there. "Um, I'm kind of busy right now. Tons of homework."

Okay. "Heather, this isn't a request. I have orders from the Colonel."

"Oh. Okay. Um… I'll be right down."

I closed off without saying anything. There was no point. She wouldn't be back to the way she was with me anytime soon. Pleasantries were for people that actually liked you at the moment. Miss Bonsai trotted down the stairs ahead of me and waited for the door to be opened before darting off to stand in front of the wardrobe room. Okay, what the hell is with this cat?

"How did you know where I was going?"

"Meow."

"Very helpful, thank you."

When I got there I looked around at all the different things that I would need to be professional. I was boggled. I was a teenager for god's sake! How was I supposed to… never mind. I pulled the cell again and looked up Christopher's number. It rang twice and a girl's voice answered. Tina.

"Hi Tina, it's Kris."

"Um, hey, I'm kind of in the middle of Physics class right now and the teacher doesn't look too pleased."

"Oh, sorry. I'll handle it. I need you down in Wardrobe."

"Okaaay."

"Miss Duncan!" I heard in the background.

"Let me talk to him, Tina."

I heard the cell being passed off. "It's the new girl, Kristyn. She wants to talk to you."

"Yes, Kristyn, I'm looking forward to having you in my class on Monday. These sort of things may be allowed…"

"Excuse me!" I almost yelled into the phone. "Mr. Whoever you are, have you checked your text messages within the last fifteen minutes?"

"No. We're in the middle of class," he answered briskly.

"Go ahead, I'll wait."

The door to the room opened and Heather came in, looking decidedly sick. Her face was pasty and it looked like she hadn't had any sleep since… well, I'd guess the day before yesterday. I waved her in and held up a finger for her to chill for a minute.

"Oh," I heard faintly over the speaker. It sounded like he was holding the phone to his side. "Yes, Miss Keys. I've retrieved the message. What can I do for you?"

He didn't sound pleased, but he was respectful. I'd take what I could get. "I need Tina down in Wardrobe ASAP."

"Very well. Anything else."

"Not at the moment, sir. Thank you for your cooperation. I'll try to keep times like this to minimum."

His voice changed again, almost conciliatory. "Thank you for your consideration, Miss Keys."

"Anytime, sir." Clicking off, I stuck the cell in my holster. That's when I noticed Heather spotting the new attachment on the back. Her eyes darted back up at me and she looked to the side as if she was caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Apparently I had a lot of work to patch things up. Seeing a couple of chairs against the wall I motioned her over to them.

"Let's chat."

"I didn't say anything to anyone. I promise."

I looked at her and sighed. "Heather, I don't care. Really. Tell whoever you like." As I sat down I reached to one of my boots and slipped it off. "I did what I had to do last night, just like you did. I'm not some psychopath that's going to go off on you at a moment's notice. If I was then The Colonel and Dr. Shanahan would have had me drugged and carted off to wherever they cart the psycho cases to, right?"

She lurched and let out a gasp of air she'd been holding. Tears immediately fell from her eyes and she covered her face. "I… I… I thought." I leaned in and pulled her to me, stroking her hair.

"It doesn't matter. I'm the same Kristyn… well not exactly the same. I mean after doing that I guess I'm a little more cynical, but you didn't see everything I did either. So I guess it's understandable that you thought I was going to play the bully card down here." Her breathing was becoming deeper, like she was trying to get herself under control. "Look, Tina's on her way down here. So, I promise, no hatchets in the head, or any Friday the Thirteenth things to worry about."

Where the hell did she get that tissue? It just appeared from nowhere. I have to learn that trick. Being a girl now, it could come in handy.

The door opened and Tina was through it smiling like it was Christmas. "You should have seen it! It was awesome!" Upon seeing us sitting there she rushed over. "What happened?"

"Give us a sec, Tina, okay?"

She nodded and backed off looking around for something to keep her busy.

"You okay now?"

Heather's head was still down and her hair curtained face, but she nodded.

"Alright, why don't you go to the girls room and splash some water on your face. Come back when you're ready."

She nodded and without letting either Tina or me see her properly see and skittered off.

"What was that about?" Tina immediately asked as soon as the door shut properly.

"She saw what I had to do last night, but not everything. She wasn't prepared enough, and thought I was going to go all Ted Bundy on her or something. She was scared of me."

Realization hit Tina's face. "Oh, eww. Sorry. That's got to suck."

I nodded. "Hopefully I got through, otherwise it's going to be really awkward around her."

"You're okay though, about last night?"

I nodded. "It's made it where there's going to be a few changes around here, but I'm… I guess the phrase would be, 'at ease', about it."

She nodded in understanding. "Sometimes it really sucks."

"Yeah. Anyway."

Tina's eyes lit up. "What did you tell Mr. Walton? What was on his phone. He nearly crapped himself when he looked at it!"

"Can't say. Sworn to secrecy, literally." At her disbelieving look I nodded. "No B.S."

"Okaay. So how can I thank you for getting me out of Physics?"

I laughed and pointed toward the cosmetic section of the room. "I need to look professional, but not like thirty or anything, and need to learn how to do it for myself so I can quit bugging you."

"Professional?"

"Yep. Colonel's orders."

Her eyebrows shot up. "He actually talked to you outside of a mission? That's rare. He never talks to us unless it's concerning a mission." Then her eyes widened further. "Oh, you're going on another mission, aren't you. That's why you need the professional look."

I thought it was easier to let her draw her own conclusions. "I can't really talk about it, Tina. Sorry."

She nodded. "It's cool, I understand. It happens sometimes." She turned around and led me to the pegboard with displays loaded down with everything a girl would ever need."

Ten minutes into explaining color coordinating your make up with clothes and times of day, I was lost. "Maybe I just better learn as I go."

Tina giggled at me. "It's not that hard, really. Once you get the basics down, it's just time consuming."

The door opened again and Heather returned, not looking much better, but at least she was in a better mood. "Sorry I took so long. So what's the mission?"

Tina sighed dramatically. "It's a lost cause. We have to make Kris look respectable."

Heather just looked at me after grinning along with the joke. "Hmm, not so hard. So, who's the audience?"

"Audience?"

She nodded. "You always dress to impress by judging who you are trying to impress."

"I'm supposed to look more authoritative. Like a young businesswomen, but not the frumpy crap I see in offices. Think TV or movies." It was the only idea I could come up with.

"Okay, come on. I want to try some blazers on you. Take off your vest."

~~~

Black and Navy colored blazers were my mainstay. Various blouses, turtlenecks and camisoles, for underneath and matching skirts of various types, not to mention a few pants, which I wasn't fond of. I'd explained the role I would be playing would be long term. That, and telling them I couldn't talk about it at the moment was the only thing stopping them from showering me with questions. The Colonel wanted it, so they provided.

The outfit I chose for the announcement at dinner was a Navy blazer with a pink button down that tucked into a matching Navy knee skirt. The collar was above the blazer and set open so that Tina could show off a demure silver necklace that hung halfway to my cleavage. A single silver band bracelet annoyed me on my right wrist and a matching watch on my left. One ring on each finger finished me off in the jewelry department. Or so I thought.

My lobes ached from when they dragged me to the salon and pierced my ears. Studs would have to do for now until they healed. At least I didn't have to mess with changing them all the time, for a while at least. The three inch closed toe pumps made me feel almost normal again. Who would have thought that I'd prefer high heels to flats.

Tina had me do my own make up three times, from beginning to end, with minor repairs here and there until I basically knew what I was doing. She looked at me in the end and didn't seemed entirely pleased. "It'll do for now. Sunday, we go at it until you get it right. Bright and early."

~~~

I spent the rest of the afternoon, all two hours of it, secluded in my room pouring over the materials of the mysterious binder on my computer, and was floored.

Genetech, a pharmaceutical company just upriver from the water bottling plant that started this whole mess, was on the forefront of genetic manipulation, ever since the breakthrough in deciphering the human genome was released. Their goal was to offer, somewhere down the line, the ability to offer custom babies to those that could afford it. Basically, Eugenics. The potential parent would be able to decide the sex, hair color, physical makeup, mental makeup, and so on, of their child.

The facility had been burglarized by a fanatical pseudo-terrorist group that was regularly on the news at the time. They would usually enter the facility destroy research, release test animals, and burn the place to the ground. In Genetech's case, they also tossed serum samples used for animal testing, down the sink. Coincidentally, Genetech dumped their non-potable water supply into the adjoining lake, which fed into the surrounding grounds down river, and into the water supply that the bottling company used for their product.

That's how it all started.

The Colonel was correct in his numbers to me earlier. Slightly more than a hundred thousand bottles were sent out to major cities across the U.S. and a little more than half had been recovered. They were able to track down the stores that the product was sent to and had them pull it off the shelves. But that didn't make a difference to all of those people that had already purchased bottled water during the months in between.

So far, only expectant mothers and their unborn children were affected by the tainted water, and depending on what stage of the pregnancy the children were in when the water was ingested determined how they developed. Apparently my Mom was drinking it on and off for a few weeks when she became pregnant with me.

Another reason, I figured, that the Colonel wanted me in the position I was in. I would be in the group most likely to overdevelop their powers. However there was a downside to being more powerful. We were also the group most likely to go off the deep end during transition, and turn into stark raving lunatics.

Detailed backgrounds on all the students were provided, and I checked out Dani's, and mine first. There was some stuff I never knew about myself located in the file, all the way back to conception. I'd been there for all of three days, well four really, but who's counting. How had they compiled so much information about me? The government was far more reaching than I had originally thought.

Dani, and the others as well, had fallen into the second and third tier group, having been exposed well into their development. Some like Dani, had made it through their first trimester, others the less powerful, made it all the way to their third trimester before being exposed. I could almost guess, by strength of power, who was exposed and when.

That was all I had time for before being alerted that dinner was about to start by my cell alarm.

After logging off the computer, I slipped on my blazer and hooked my cell holster at my hip. The ID badge was slipped in one of the outside pockets. Once I was announced, I would have to wear it all the time, but for now, I didn't want to announce myself as staff. My hair was pinned up on the sides to keep it out of my face and I had to readjust one of them for slippage. I'd get the hang of these things one of these days. Lastly, I stepped into the pumps and stood by the door with my hand on the knob.

Miss Bonsai was in her perch on the top bunk, watching me. "You have to stay here this time, Bonsai. Official stuff to do."

"Meow."

"Thanks, I'll need it."

The lock automatically engaged when I closed the door.

"Well, don't you look all spiffy."

Dani.

"Hey, yeah." I brushed the front of my blazer. "It's a thing the Colonel wants me to do."

She smiled at me with understanding. "It's already around the school that your status has changed in some way."

I looked up at her with surprise. "What?"

She backed off a little. "Nothing specific, just that the Colonel had you in the office longer than the rest of the mission team. Not to mention Tina and Heather dressed you up. They denied knowing anything either. Said they couldn't talk about it."

My lips pressed together. "They were right." I pulled out my cell and sent a quick text message to Colonel Harris. Cat is out of the bag about my status change. No specifics though.

"New phone?"

I didn't let her see it close up. "Yeah, kind of came with the job."

She studied me quizzically. "And you can't talk about it yet."

"Right."

Dani nodded her head in the direction of the cafeteria and we began to walk. "I've seen that modified phone before. The Colonel has one just like it."

I nodded. "I can't talk about it, Dani. Can we drop it for now, please."

She wasn't annoyed at me; it was the situation that bothered her. "Well, when you can, I'll be there if you want to talk."

I touched her hand with the tips of my fingers. "Thanks for understanding."

~~~

The Cafeteria had been redecorated. More area was being used and more tables were brought in. The teachers and administration were already there, just digging into their meals, while Dani and I entered the serving line. Rita, Heather, Debbie and Brian were in line ahead of us eying me with interest. Brian's eyes were at the vee of my blouse, watching the minor amount of cleavage I was showing, and then down at my legs. The skirt I was wearing showed less than the school girl outfit, but Brian seemed interested in me now more than ever. Well it was a little bit tighter than the previous skirt, hugging my hips and narrowing slightly as it approached my knees.

Heather winked at me. It looked like she might have gotten a couple hours of sleep; her color was better anyway.

When I reached the end of the line and was waiting for Dani to grab her dessert I felt a presence approaching me.

"Hello, Colonel Harris." No it wasn't some new power. I could see his high polished shoes out of the corner of my eye.

"Miss Keys. Much better choice of clothing."

"Heather and Tina helped me out."

Dani walked up at that moment and looked up at the Colonel. He was rather tall. It must be a serious bitch to be even shorter than I was. I think that's why I was enjoying the heels so much. Compensation.

"If you would please join us at my table, Miss Keys."

I made a small face at Dani that conveyed my apologies for bailing. "Yes sir. Thank you."

Being accustom to everyone watching you, all the time, is a acquired trait. You get used to it, but you are never able to ignore it, or at least I wasn't able. Conversations eased at the student tables and then picked back up with a fervor when I was led to a chair beside the Colonel.

I nodded to the other administration members that were sitting there, some of whom I didn't recognize, some of which I did. Immediately, Colonel Harris launched into introductions. Dr.'s Shanahan, Lynchburg, and Tipps, I already knew. An early fifties stern looking motherly type was introduced as Mrs. Stapleton from Admissions, and a stunning late thirties dark haired woman that looked in buff shape was Mrs. Fine, Disciplinarian. Luckily I hadn't encountered her as of yet.

I already knew some of their background and actual jobs, beyond the cover job for the students. Stapleton was head of Information. She's the one that did the background check on all the students and employees. Fine was head of Security. Her file said that she took care of in house problems, whatever that meant. The goons that I saw during the missions were under her purview. From my own background of books and movies, I reasoned that she might be some sort of internal affairs along with her job of spanking the children when they'd been bad. I bet Brian loved being spanked by her. I kid. To my knowledge, spanking wasn't going on behind closed doors, by the administration, at least not in a punishment sort of way.

The Colonel finished up with me. "Most of you already know about Miss Keys from the bulletin I sent off earlier today. I trust you've all familiarized yourself with her new duties."

Nodding followed all around. This is when I saw that Dr. Shanahan wasn't too pleased. She hid it pretty well, but I could see from the tightness around her mouth that the thought of reporting to a 'child' was beneath her. She was right. I didn't know what I was doing and she held a doctorate. But I also recognized that the students would need someone from their ranks to look up to lead them and make the hard decisions that they were too emotional to make themselves. Taking orders from an adult is all well and good in a school setting, but out in the field, eventually we will be on our own. Colonel Harris recognized this. That told me he didn't rise through the ranks of officers through college and officer candidate school alone. He was an actual grunt at one time. He saw the need for solidarity between the people that actually did the dirty job and their immediate commanding officer. It's a much different relationship between people on the ground and those that sit behind desks all of their life.

I was almost finished with my meal when he turned to me. "Ready?" I nodded with a last sip of Pepsi.

He backed his chair away from the table and stood. The noise in the room dropped almost instantly. The man commanded respect. I've got to give him that.

"Thank you for your attention."

I scanned the other tables and saw the teachers looking on with interest and the students eager to find out what the scoop was on me.

"As difficult as it is to quell the inner school grapevine of any topic, I see that most of you are aware of Miss Keys change in status. While the staff and administration only need to know about the change, I also recognize things work differently with students. You usually require a reason before you accept things. That is why I chose to have this dinner with all of us together so that we are all on the same page."

I turned my glass around in place, staring at the condensation sliding down the side as I listened.

"Because of certain confidential reasons of national security, I cannot go into the particulars of why she was chosen for her new duties, but I can tell you that we have been waiting for her, or someone like her at The Center. These reasons were revealed to us through testing, behavior here, interaction with certain people, tasks that were entrusted to her on her first day, and so forth. So I can tell you this is not a decision I made lightly."

I took another sip of my drink to quench the thirst of my suddenly dry mouth.

"As of one o'clock today, Miss Keys has accepted and was assigned a new job by me. If any of you care to second guess my qualifications in doing so then you can take it up with me or Mrs. Fine at your leisure. I ask that you trust in our experience and knowledge of all the facts that you cannot be made aware of at this time."

"Without further boring speeches by old men I want introduce my new second-in-command. Warrant Officer Kristyn Keys."

I gave the students a few seconds to let it sink in, as to the bomb the Colonel just set off in the cafeteria.

~~~

The olds let us to our devices, me alone to fend off the massing hoards of teenage angst.

"You just got here! How can you be in charge?" from Rita.

Dani just looked at me sadly. "Are you okay with this?"

"I… I…," James stammered.

Brian was just seething, mumbling to himself.

Heather and Tina knowing ahead of time how I was dressed seemed to be the two most adjusted of the bunch. The rest of the girls took their cues from them. The rest of the boys looked mystified. All except for Ray. His was a look of understanding. I let them get it off their chest. They wouldn't listen to any kind of reason until then. In the meantime I took out my badge and affixed it to my lapel: Miss Kristyn Keys WO1, then underneath, Senior Officer, Field Officer. Snazzy. I felt a little full of myself for wearing it, but it was part of the job now. Like it or not, everyone having a hissy at the moment was my subordinate and would be required to follow my orders here at the Center and in the field. For right now, I had to earn their respect.

"Quiet down, please," I said in a normal voice; not that anyone heard me.

I already told myself that I wasn't going to yell. Raising your voice, to me, meant that you were about to resort to violence and/or you already lost control. Neither of which was my current situation. So I spoke in a language that everybody knew.

Touching the tips of my fingers with both hands together, I raised a good amount of energy. Ozone filled the air and Ray backed up a few steps, knowing what was coming. Five separate electrical arcs leaped across from finger to finger growing longer, stronger, and crackling louder with each passing second. I separated my hands shoulder width apart and increased the strength. I figured this little trick out on the way to kill the girl last night. Passing electricity from one point of my body to the other didn't use up any of my reserves. I was shocking myself, in essence, but it didn't hurt, it just was.

One by one they noticed as I stared them down, and letting my power loose only enforced what I was capable of doing. Rita had her back to me and didn't notice until her hair started frizzing out and she smelled something burning. Everyone else backed away. Then Rita turned around and let out a startled yelp.

I moved forward one step, closing the distance to Rita. "Sit-Down—Now."

Her legs collapsed involuntarily and she dropped to the floor. I let the arcs bleed away until they were gone entirely. "I meant in a chair. Jesus, Rita."

Ray hid a snicker behind one of his hands, along with a few others that saw some humor in the situation. But I didn't let it sidetrack me.

"You all can second guess the Colonel all you want. The appointment's been made, it's not going to change for any one of you. The best you can do is work with me. If you can't work with me, well then you'll be removed. It's as simple as that."

Rita showed me a hate filled face for embarrassing her in front of the others.

"Now, as Rita pointed out, I have only been here a few days and now I'm in charge of you guys. That means here and it means out in the field. You don't have to like it. That's fine with me. But you are my responsibility now, because I can handle it."

Rita Pfft me. Okay. We do this the hard way. "Alright, Rita. Since you have the biggest beef against me, lets go."

"What?" Now she looked, well, not exactly worried, but wary.

I shrugged and then took off my blazer to lay to over one of the chairs. "You and me, come on. If you can take me down then the job is yours. I'll quit."

She crossed her arms and sulked. "You'll use your powers on me."

I shook my head. "No I won't. Just me and you. I'll even let you use your powers, how's that?"

She glared at me. "I'm an Eraser. I don't have any offensive powers."

I blinked and rolled my eyes. "You're kidding, right?" She didn't give me a response, so I gave her an example. "You're fighting someone and you can wipe the memory of how to fight from their head and you don't have anything offensive?"

That actually sunk in. Brian sent out a bark of laughter, so I glared at him. "You're next, Kything boy. Keep it up."

Rita stood up, and shook out her arms. From the position she took a foot or two away from me, it was obvious that she had hand to hand combat training, even to my untrained eye. "Just so we're clear," she said. "I get to use my powers and you don't. If I take you down, I get to take your place."

I nodded. "Everyone got that? Everyone willing to be a witness here?"

Ray was nervous. He knew I didn't have any formal training and the only thing I had to rely on was my power, but he nodded along with the others. Brian was in the background. "Kick her ass, McFadden."

I smiled at Rita, hands by my sides. "Yeah Rita, kick my ass. Give it your best shot."

I could see her face squeeze up a little, much like when she wiped the boy's mind last night. I took that moment of distraction and leaped forward to slam a fist in her face.

She screamed out in pain and then covered her nose. "You cheated!"

I shrugged my shoulders and held up my now sore fist. "Uh, this is my hand that I used, not my talent. You apparently just suck, McFadden."

She lunged this time, aiming low for my stomach, to tackle me to the ground. I moved to the side, as best as I could in heels, which isn't saying much. Then I reached out my hand and shocked the shit out of her. Blue lightning arced across her body, laying her out to the floor, twitching like she was having a seizure.

"And it's over."

Brian was the first to his feet. "You cheated! You said no powers!"

"I lied." I watched as the others tried to reason me out and a few just watched as Rita's body slowly stopped twitching. Straddling her body, I knelt down and made sure she could hear me. "The bad guys aren't going to play by the rules, Rita. Bang, you're dead."

Raising my head back up I looked at the rest of them. "Who's next? Brian?" His eyes dropped. "James? Lili? Come on, you're telepathic. You can see what I'm going to do before I do it." They shook their heads. "Max, surely you can kick my ass."

He smiled at me. "No thanks, boss. Electricity and water don't mix."

That made me smile a little. "Good point." The only other one that I knew had a chance at taking me down was Ray. "Mister Lomax, care to take a chance?"

"Nope. I've been tased by you before. I like my hair just the way it is, thanks."

"Fine, are we in agreement then? I win?" Looking down at Rita, I saw that she was starting to come out muscle lock. "Rita? Blink if you concede and promise not to give me any more shit."

She blinked.

After gaining my feet under me again I turned around and walked a few paces away. "I didn't want this job at first. I thought they wanted an assassin to scare everyone into behaving and following along like good little boys and girls. But that's not it." Turning around, I grabbed my blazer and put it back on. "I have access to files on what actually happened to make us how we are and what we're doing about it. While I can't tell you anything, top secret you know, I can tell you that we are the first and only line of defense. That's what we are doing here."

James raised his hand, and I almost laughed. "I'm not a teacher, James. Just ask."

"Are we going to have to kill people like…"

Well that was straight and to the point. "No." He looked relieved. "But let me ask you a question. You saw what happened last night, right?" A nod was returned. "All of it?"

"I read her mind. She was a psycho."

Some curious looks were passed around. Maybe the grapevine wasn't all it was cracked up to be. "Okay, for those that weren't there. Imagine a power that when used makes the victim's head explode. And I'm not talking about a nasty migraine. I'm talking about painting the walls in blood and pieces of skull and brain."

Lili looked a little green.

"Now imagine that power in the hands of a psychopathic killer, and her standing in front of her five year old baby brother about to use that same power on him." I paused for effect, and to just let it really sink in to their heads. "I didn't try to talk her down. I didn't try to reason with her. There was no point. There was only one decision to make."

Dani's face was stone. She already knew what had happened. She had a seat, front and center.

"I killed her. That's one of my jobs. In the span of about three seconds she was vaporized. Anyone else want my job now?"

Most of them looked down at the floor. Others, that finally understood, met me gaze for gaze. Even Rita, who had been pulled up into a seat, met my gaze. Will wonders never cease?

"Sleep on it. We make plans tomorrow. I don't have all the answers. I'm just sixteen like the rest of you. But we'll work together to make sure anytime we go out there that you are prepared and that you all come home safely."

I left them there, in the cafeteria. They had to talk it out amongst themselves now that the cards were mostly on the table. When I was halfway to my room my cell chirped at me. A text message from the Colonel: Had me worried there for a minute. Good job, Miss Keys.

I shook my head, and typed back: You--worried? Whatever.




Chapter 6

The blazer went back on the hanger when I got back to my room. The skirt, to a laundry pile, and the heels, back in the closet. I was dressed in my fluffy white robe and sitting at my desk with my feet up, Miss Bonsai purring in my lap, and the computer monitor displaying Brian Rivera's file while I pondered on what to do about the eventual pain in my butt. I didn't like his talent; it seemed too much like rape to me, and I had a whole new perspective on the subject now that I was female.

He'd been at The Center since its inception almost eight years ago. At first they thought he was an anomaly, a freak of nature, but that changed when Christopher came along. Then some analyst made the connection between the change and the bottling company fiasco. It turns out that Christopher was wrong. While Brian was a tomboy when he was a girl, he wasn't a transsexual at the time. Now, he'd spent almost as much time as a guy as he had lived as a girl. He was young enough at the time that he really didn't identify with being female too much and after a few months readily identified with being totally male, thus emulating his older brothers' and father's view of what a male should be.

Well that explained why he was an ass all the time. He'd taken to training very well, up until two years back when he had gone full blown into puberty. Now his counseling sessions, grades, and general attitude were declining into the crapper. He was becoming a liability. If I was reading the writing on the wall properly, it didn't look like he would be here for much longer unless something radically changed.

I grabbed my cell and sent a text to the Colonel: What happens to students that don't work out?

I wasn't expecting a reply since it was after hours, but within a minute I got one: My office 0600.

That wasn't good.

Knock Knock

I frowned at the door. "Who's behind door number one, Miss Bonsai?"

She jumped down and raced up the steps to the top bunk to take her attack cat position while I answered the door. I opened it up and Ray stood there looking somber. "Hey," I said with half a smile. Stepping back I let him in before closing the door and locking it. I know there was a pretty good one in place, but you can never be too secure. I tightened the sash on the robe considering I was only wearing my undies underneath.

Ray looked around the room. "I saw the security they installed on your door. I was expecting some wicked looking scifi computer system in here, or at least a plasma screen with a decent video game set up."

I smirked at him wryly. "I'm apparently easy to buy off."

He looked at me in consideration. "As long as they let you keep the robe then I consider it a good deal."

Looking down at my semi-frumpiness, I couldn't see what he thought was attractive about… never mind. It wasn't about the robe; it was about what I was wearing or not wearing underneath. He edged up in front of me and tugged on my sash, pulling me closer. Looking up at him I missed my heels. I was so short in comparison now. According to Ray's file he was six foot one. That gave him seven inches on me. I pictured a lot of neck cricks in my future if I didn't wear my heels. Maybe Wardrobe has a pair of high heeled marabou slippers I could wear around the room. In the meantime I'd have to deal. Raising up on the balls of my feet, Ray took me in his arms and gave me a kiss hello.

When I dropped back down in a mild lust filled daze I wondered if I could get in trouble dating a subordinate. I decided to file that one away for tomorrow morning's meeting with the Colonel. With a contented sigh I pushed on to obvious business. "Come by for anything in particular?"

He gave me busted face. "Was I that easy to read?"

I shrugged and went over to lean against the desk. The robe split apart at the opening in the front showing a good portion of my naturally tanned legs, but the rest was neatly tucked away for proper teasing. "Well considering you've only been to my room to pick me up for a non-date, I'm kind of wondering."

He shrugged. "I just wanted to give you the lowdown on what happened after the smackdown you laid out on Rita."

Pondering on the uses of said information I nodded and gestured to the other side of the partner's desk. "Let's keep this semi-unofficial for now then. We can play after, if you like." In the recess of my mind I hoped he wanted to. I had been really stressed out over the last twenty-four hours.

I sat behind my monitor and opened up an input file for the Student Data Base that was set up for additional information into each student's person file. Labeling it for my use only, I set a security setting on it that was only accessible to me and Colonel Harris.

Ray leaned back on two legs, at an angle so he could see me, and set his heels on top of the desk. "Ready?"

I nodded. I really needed a coffee maker in here, or at least a fridge so I could bogart some sodas. I was thirsty. "Shoot."

"They're scared as hell."

That took me off guard. I thought he'd give me the lowdown on who hates my guts at this point. I let what Ray told me roll around for a bit in my head. "I can see that."

"Rita thinks you're a plant by the Colonel. That you've been there all along in the background. It was the only thing she could think of that explained how you were able to take her down and get the position they gave you so quickly." He laughed at that. "Dani told her she was an idiot, not to mention James and Lili confirm everything."

I stopped breathing for a second and then restarted. Something just came to me, and I've been so incredibly stupid to realize it just then. "They're telepaths. They already know what I know." Everything.

Ray shook his head. "Telepaths are taken aside from the beginning. If the Colonel even suspects that they read anyone's thoughts but who they're told, something very bad will happen."

"What?"

He shook his head. "That's all they are allowed to say. They value their own hide enough to know that they don't want to screw up. Plus when they read you there's a dead giveaway. A little tickle at the back of your skull. We've all been trained to notice it. If either of them violate the policy…"

I waved him off. "I already know about the Colonel's confidentiality agreements." Prison or dead. "So how can they know I'm not a plant?"

He winced a bit. "Because all new students are read after transition, by all the resident telepaths, to make sure they're not nuts. They've already been in your head. Probably when you were in the clinic asleep at the beginning."

"Lovely."

"Max thinks you're the cat's meow."

I snorted. Okay, that was unattractive, but I couldn't help it. Sudden topic changes throw me. "Oh please."

"No really. He loves strong, intimidating, domineering women. He was a lesbian long before the changed and it hasn't made a difference." I just sat there with my mouth open. "When you popped Rita in the face, you didn't hear him squeal just a little?"

My eyes narrowed. He was screwing with me. "Right."

Ray laughed from the belly this time. "Well, he may not have squealed, but I'm not kidding about the rest. He's your second biggest supporter."

"Second?" Should I even ask?

"Dani."

I nodded. My best friend… what can I say. "I'm more interested in the other end of the spectrum."

Ray crossed his arms. "I guess that's pretty obvious."

"Brian."

He confirmed it with a nod. "He even tried to get me to dump you. Talking about how you put your foot down on me at the meeting too." I was about to explain that, but he rolled his eyes. "Please, like I don't know when someone is jerking my chain?"

"What about Rita?"

"Tame as a mouse. I think she used to be part wolf or something. Once you dominate her she knows she's beneath you."

"I don't think she's beneath me." I think she's a generalizing immature twit, but not beneath me. "And what do you mean dominate? Is there something you're not telling me?"

A playful grin graced his face, but he moved on. "That's about it for the pros and cons. I can tell you that they are going to be very wary around you for awhile. You've become a big question mark in their minds."

"What about yours?" This was something that I had been anxious about, every since the Colonel had brought up the whole idea of my taking control. I knew Ray to be a suspicious person. He had reason to be, hell, I had reason to be, but would it affect what we seemed to have started?

He rested his hands on his chest as he looked out the window. "I don't have a problem with you being in charge. I do have a problem with how they may be using you for their own ends."

"The Colonel."

He looked back at me and nodded. "Maybe I've seen too much game playing on Shanahan's part. Let's just say, I don't trust them, and leave it at that." Ray leaned forward and dropped his feet to the ground, so that I would pay close attention. "Be careful, Kris. When they tell you to do something, look at it from ten different directions before you do it. They always have reasons behind their reasons."

~~~

The chirping of my cell alarm woke me at four-thirty the next morning. I couldn't blame my lack of sleep on Ray. He gave me a lot to think about, not to mention some happy dreams to contend with due to our impromptu make out session afterward. It didn't progress to the point of craziness like it did in the workout room. I didn't know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. Probably the former. I was still a little weirded out about my new attraction to guys, well, not guys in general, but I was attracted to Ray. Either way I had some happy dreams for once. Having to make notes on Brian and Rita's files took less time than I imagined. Writing 'pain in my ass' isn't all that time consuming.

After a shower and a blow dry. I tried pulling my hair back into a ponytail, but it looked weird. The style didn't work for me, so I left it down and pinned it back to keep it out of my face. Only took me two times to get it right this round. Same blazer, white blouse this time, and matching slacks for the meeting with the Colonel. I tried a different set of heels. I went with four inch this time. High heels were becoming addicting to me. Five days ago I hated them and now I hate not having them. A quick check in the mirror, front and back… what is that on my butt? A frustrated sigh and a change of panties later and I was out the door at a brisk walk. When in my life did I ever care about the appearance of panty lines? I feel a mental breakdown coming very soon. If I didn't know better I'd swear Miss Bonsai was laughing at me from her perch.

I had to readjust my badge so it wouldn't flap so much before entering the main offices. Were there other offices located somewhere else in this place? Why was it named 'Main"?

A different receptionist today. Very tall, African-American in very good shape, still military looking though. "Miss Keys, the Colonel is waiting for you."

I nodded and zipped through the door on the right of the desk that he was gesturing to. I hadn't been down that hallway before. It only turned to the left once before coming to a dead end. I knocked at the closed door. Two seconds later I heard, "Enter."

A much nicer office than Shanahan's, but he was the boss, he got the perks. "Kristyn, come on in. That will be all Dr. Shanahan."

Doctor Doom nodded at me this time around and I didn't get any 'go to hell' looks. Hmm. Soon after she shut the door behind her I sat down and tried to get comfortable. "I get the impression she doesn't like me too much."

The Colonel was pulling something up on his computer as I was waiting for him. "It doesn't matter if they hate your guts, as long as they do their job and do it effectively. The minute a subordinate's attitude affects their job is when you step in and make it your problem. Much like Rita McFadden last night."

I ran my tongue behind my teeth on that comment. Even though he sent me a text that said good job after I took Rita down, I had the impression he had words to say. He didn't disappoint. "You took a big chance, not knowing what you were up against. Her talent stood good odds of making you useless to me."

"I knew what I was up against. Her sole duty is to take care of witnesses after the fact. She's never been in a real fight."

He quirked a bushy gray eyebrow. "Sacramento, just five months ago she saw action."

A burst of laughter bubbled up. "Hiding behind a couch screaming at the top of her lungs, 'take him out take him out' doesn't qualify as action. If she was any good at a quick response then she could have downed the boy in question instead of getting them both killed." I folded my hands on my lap. "I knew she hadn't had any significant training since then on her talent. Her hand to hand was the only thing I had to worry about, and when I distracted her with using her talent offensively, I knew she couldn't pass up the chance to take me out of the game and proclaim herself queen of the hill."

It was hard to tell if he was impressed or if a tooth was bugging him by the movement of his jaw. "You surmised all of this from her file?"

I nodded. "Knowing you were going to pop this on them at dinner gave me a chance to go over the files of the people I suspected were going to be a problem."

"Who were the others?"

"Brian Rivera, Sean Hunter, Lili Kirkland, and possibly Max Stevenson."

His eyes flicked to the screen. "I see the notes you added to Rivera and McFadden. You want to be more specific with your analysis other than, 'Pains in your ass'?"

I sighed and tried not to sound overly judgmental or juvenile. "Rita is just annoying. I've taken care of the problem, but I expect something more to come up later. She just rubs me the wrong way. Brian… Brian may be a lost cause. Depending on what I'm allowed to tell him, I may be able to shake some sense into his head. I don't know at this point. Hence my text last night."

There was that jaw working again. "We don't have time to play games. Tony Carter, your Clairvoyant, has seen seven more transitions this month, two of which have the possibility of going bad, and one is high risk."

I blinked in shock. "That many, so soon? We only have fifteen people that have changed in the past eight years…" Then I realized what I just said. "We've had fifteen successful changes." The Colonel nodded. "How many went bad?"

"Eight. I'm assuming that you haven't read up on the progression of the changes?"

I shook my head. The Colonel turned his monitor around so that I could see it. A simple line graph showed a gradual progression of something. "Right here." He pointed. I saw a point where the progression took a sharp turn north-east of about thirty to thirty-five degrees. "We estimate that this year we will triple the amount of students here. From Carter's predictions, we may be aiming low."

From what I saw of Tony's file, which wasn't much, he had an eighty-nine percent success rate for true visions.

"I need you to make it a point to come in physical contact with Danielle Marks at least twice a day."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. I'd be going on all the missions and I would be the contact person. Dani was one hundred percent accurate, but only where someone close to her was concerned. "I'll talk to her."

He didn't seem to like that I would inform her, but he nodded anyway. "Do what you need to do." He cleared his screen. "How comfortable are you with your talent?"

I shrugged. "I can get by. I really need to find out were I can take it. Being a walking taser is fine, but I know there's more."

"You have five days before the first higher risk mission. Tomorrow you go to Phoenix to pick up a low risk. Just a snatch and grab. Details are already uploaded to your cell. I would suggest bringing along Lomax, for back up on procedure and just in case."

"Alone?"

The Colonel nodded. "You were a higher risk than this boy will be, and you were taken down in eight seconds." I would have said something, but why waste my breath. "What are your plans today?"

"I wanted your permission to pull Brian aside and lay it out for him. If he isn't going to contribute then he needs to be moved."

"Moved?"

I shrugged. "Whatever it is you do with all of the bad little boys that don't behave."

He turned he head slightly. "I thought I made myself perfectly clear yesterday, Kristyn. The ones that can contribut to this organization are to come here. Those that can't, you deal with."

My eyes fluttered for a second. "He's not evil or insane. I just can't kill him for no reason."

"He's a liability, Miss Keys. Deal with it. I don't care how. Make it work or eliminate the problem." My heart thumped hard in my chest. "Dismissed."

~~~

It kind of looked like a gymnasium; it could have been at one time. Now, half of it was a firing range and the other half, separated by what I'm told is three layers of cinder-block, is the place where the Psychokinetics go to play with their powers. That's where I had a dedicated source of power set up for me that didn't connect with the school at all. I guess the maintenance guys had enough of me. The talent coach left me to my own devices after an hour long session with him. At least his hair was back to normal. Practicing alone was somewhat cathartic after the bullshit that Colonel Harris laid out. Fix him or kill him. Is that what I signed up for? I guess it was, in a way. Maybe I should have read the fine print.

While I was trying to work on my aim with smaller jolts of taser strength blasts the door opened behind me. I didn't bother turning around. I already knew who it was, since I contacted him myself only thirty minutes ago.

"You wanted to see me, Miss Warrant Officer Keys, sir, ma'am?"

His taunting brought up a surge of anger that I let loose with my right hand at a target. The targets were actually collection grids that would store up most of the energy that I shot into them. It was a little easier on the generators if I helped them along. That particular one took a little out of me. I needed to juice up again. "Have a seat, Brian, I'll be right with you."

I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I headed to the big gray box on the wall next to the big yellow caution sign that read High Voltage. He sighed and slumped down into one of those really comfortable folding metal chairs. You know the ones that make your butt go numb in about ten minutes? Lifting the safety cover I flipped a switch on the inside of the box and heard a high whine building in strength until the little green light turned into a little red light. Red was bad for anyone that wasn't me. Shuffling a little to the side I allowed Brian to have a front row seat to the event. Two metal shafts stuck up from the bottom of the box. I grabbed them and energy crackled between my hands, but mostly into me. Five seconds later I felt like could leap off a skyscraper. Screw energy drinks and coffee.

With a calming breath I flipped the disconnect and secured the gray box. He was still sitting there looking entirely bored. I guess he wasn't impressed. C’est la vie. I picked up one of the chairs and flipped it around. Might as well take advantage of not wearing a skirt. After I straddled the chair and leaned my elbows on the back I gave him my best 'no bullshit' look. "What's your problem with me?"

"No problem, Miss Keys, sir." He didn't even bother to look at me, finding his nails much more interesting.

I laughed. "You seem to be under the impression that I'm Shanahan or something. I don't give a crap what you call me. You want to play BMOC that's fine. You want to flirt with girls that you know don't like you, fine. But when you screw with me then we've got a problem."

He looked at me under half closed lids, and then away again, not saying anything. It looked like he'd played this game his whole life. Pushing just enough to get under your skin and then backing off so he didn't get into too much trouble. Sadly, that had to end.

"Your vacation is over, Brian. It's time to wake up and join the rest of us in the real world."

He jerked up so fast that I almost didn't see him move. "Real world? This? Please."

"It doesn't get anymore real than this."

Brian looked at me like I'd lost it. "You're kidding, right? We spend our lives in a building, going to class like good little boys and girls, except we aren't and we don't. If we don't have the right 'talent'," he spat the word with sarcasm. "Then we go to some more classes. All this is great and wonderful, but it ain't the real world." His seat scraped along the floor as he pulled it up close to me. "I used to have a dad. He was the greatest dad in the fucking world. And now I have Shanahan and Fine, and Harris. They're all great as long as you do what they say to the letter, like your buddy Marks."

He leaned in and copied my posture, half a foot away from my face. "But complain? Slack off on school, just a little? Not be a part of the one big happy dysfunctional family unit that they have here and pretty soon you're me."

Brian made some good points, but I knew it was mostly bullshit. "I'm sorry about your dad. You don't get to see him?"

His face tensed up in repressed anger. "I did up until last Christmas. They arranged for me to bump into him in the mall. He'd planned on shopping, at least that's what he told some friends. That's how they found out. Yanno, so they could arrange the bump."

I nodded along.

"He never showed. They sent someone to his house to see if there was a problem. Found him in the garage sucking on a hose he'd hooked up to his exhaust."

God I feel like an ass. That was nowhere in his file. "I'm sorry."

He smiled at me. I could see his eyes welling up. "My two older brothers went missing at sea two years ago. Dad didn't have anyone left. We were all dead to him. And we were… all except for me." Brian's face was going well into the red. "So don't you come to me with your 'I'm the queen hear me roar' speech I've heard it before. I just don't care anymore."

I wanted to reach out to him, but I just didn't know how. My fingers even lifted a little in reaction, but I pulled them back. This was beyond me. "Do you want to die, Brian." It wasn't a threat. I was genuinely curious.

His eyes dropped. That really wasn't an answer.

"I need to know, Brian. I'm not going to go running to Shanahan or Harris. This is just between you and me."

He crossed his arms and set his head down. His body just slumped like all the energy and hate just pooled out of his body on the floor. "Sometimes I think it would be easier. But I'm too much of a coward."

"Is that why you are letting everything go. Like maybe Harris will take away the choice for you and have you killed?" I saw him close his eyes. That was it. He was committing suicide by anger and apathy. I closed my own eyes and said a prayer to whoever was listening and then opened them again. "That's why I'm here, Brian."

He didn't move. Not an inch. However, he did breathe out and open his eyes. "Can you make it so it doesn't hurt?" Tears dropped from my face. He sounded so innocent, so relieved.

"No," I whispered. "But I can get you some help."

They closed again. "Been there, done that."

Now I started grasping for straws. "I can get somebody else in here. Somebody that can actually help you. I'll get Shanahan out."

His chest rose and fell again, then he lifted his head up and stared me in the eyes. A faint tickle itched at the back of my skull. "You'll do what you are supposed to do, Kristyn."

My body froze up on me. I couldn't move. All the animosity that I had seen in Brian's face over the last few days was gone. He was almost peaceful now as he looked at me. "It'll be my fault. Nobody will blame you. Shanahan has been expecting me to do something. This'll prove her right."

I wanted to scream, but I was held by his talent. He wasn't supposed to be able to do this. He wasn't this strong.

"I can feel that you actually care, Kristyn. Maybe that will be good for the others. Take care of them, okay? Don't let what happened to me happen to them."

My body lifted up and released my hands which moved forward to either side of Brian's head.

"Now where is the trigger…" During his search I screamed at him inside my skull, but nothing made it through to my mouth. Don't do this, Brian. Please. "…ah. There it is."

He gave me a wistful smile and then leaned in to lightly kiss my lips. "For good luck, right? Make sure to tell Shanahan to kiss my ass and Fine… just tell her 'see ya'."

The smell of ozone hit my nose. God, I didn't want to look. Blue white light leaped from my fingers and dug its tentacles into his head. It was overpowered just to make sure. By the time his power failed and I regained control is was too late. The side of his head was charcoal black and his face was unrecognizable. I jumped back and dropped to the floor. My heels slipped as I tried to push myself away. Brian slumped over my chair and teetered for a moment before falling to the side. I had already started to hyperventilate and tried to scream, but it was no use. I couldn't get it out.

The smell of burned flesh hit me and I couldn't hold it together anymore before turning my head away and emptying whatever was left in my stomach from the night before, which was nothing. The dry heaves tore at my abdomen for I don't know how long before I was able to get control of myself.

Scrambling to my hands and knees, I finally made it to my feet and ran to the door. Even on the other side of it I couldn't rid myself of the smell. It made me sick all over again.

~~~

Thirty minutes later I was still sitting outside the door. The tears had ran themselves dry, my stomach was still rolling in waves, but my mind was working once more. I pulled out my cell and sent out a global text.

Training room - Emergency – All staff, administration, and students required – ASAP. This is an order.

After punching send I sniffed and rubbed my nose with the back of my hand. I really needed a tissue. Once I was standing I smoothed out my blazer and adjusted the lopsided badge. Releasing the pins from my hair I combed my fingers through it a few times and then reattached them. I was not going to look like a train wreck in front of everyone. The more sane I looked, the better.

The first to arrive was Ray. He was just upstairs working out. I heard his feet pound down the stairs and his body slam open the door. He slowed a little when he saw that I was unharmed.

"Kris?"

"Just…" I had to stop and clear my throat before I could speak properly. "Just wait for the others."

"What happened? Are you okay."

I shook my head. "No, I'm not. Just wait." On second thought. "When Shanahan gets here find your way behind her and be ready."

His eyes hardened, but he didn't say anything, just agreed with a nod. Making his way down the hall toward the stairs he stopped and leaned against the wall. Security and Mrs. Fine were next. They were all armed and busted into the hallway like the storm-troopers they were.

"Keys! What's the meaning…"

"Shut up, Mrs. Fine. Holster your weapons and wait for the others." Her goons didn't listen to me so I let loose with a little light show. "Do it now!"

"Stand down gentlemen," she told her security team.

The noise in the stairwell increased and I knew the bulk of everybody else had arrived. Shanahan was cloistered in the middle of them, along with most of the students. I flicked my eyes to Ray and he moved in. When I saw the Colonel amongst the bunch I went ahead and started my impromptu speech.

"When I got here, at the Center, I couldn't figure out some things."

Colonel Harris spotted Ray had taken position, but did nothing. Apparently Mrs. Fine did too, but the Colonel held up his hand to her. Interesting.

"Everyone was segregated. It made no sense to me. I mean we were all supposed to work as a team, weren't we?" Nobody even acknowledged me. "But there was something else going on behind the scenes. Some major freaking problems. Lili, James come here, please."

They looked a little nervous, but stepped up. I whispered in their ears and then turned back to the crowded hallway. "Dr. Shanahan, can I ask you a few questions."

"What is it Miss Keys." I don't think she liked being singled out. She eyed the telepaths warily.

"Tell me about Brian Rivera."

It wasn't a second later that Lili gasped and covered her mouth. "Oh my god!"

James looked sick to his stomach.

"Ray!" I don't know what Shanahan thought she was going to accomplish by trying to run, but I guess getting caught with your brain in the cookie jar, so to speak, was a bad thing in her eyes. My boyfriend grabbed her hand and probably did some really painful pressure point thing because she looked like she was in a lot of pain. "Bring her to me, Ray."

The crowd separated to let them pass. The whispering had already started and Fine looked like she was going to burst if she didn't get to shoot something very soon. The Colonel looked very interested in what I was going to do next. I waved the telepaths back to the crowd and stepped over to the training room door.

"I want to show you something Dr. Shanahan. I think you'll find this really interesting." Ray forced her to the door and I cracked it open about half a foot so she could see Brian's current condition. Ray got an eyeful and he almost faltered. Before he could say anything I closed the door back. With my head I gestured to the wall and Ray slammed her into it without holding much back. Shanahan was scared, really scared. Her eyes were darting between Ray and me. Her hands were shaking and her jaw was working, but nothing was coming out.

Looking back at the crowd again I noticed James holding Lili's head on his shoulder. A crackling sounded at my hand. Ray slid to the side so he wouldn't get all toasty when I brought it up in front of the good doctor's face. "I think it's justice, don't you Doctor?"

"Someone's dead."

I turned to the crowd and saw one of the boys that I hadn't had a chance to talk to yet. Sean Hunter, the Necromancer. Well, not in the way you think. He's the one that talked to dead people. I held up my finger and looked at him. "Shhh. We're not through yet. Someone else is about to be dead."

"Harris," she shrieked. "Colonel Harris! You can't let her do this to me!"

I moved my hand a little closer to her face, just enough to let the tendrils lick at her cheeks. The doctor jerked and screamed.

"Miss Keys, may I?"

The Colonel stood to the side with his hands behind him at parade rest. I pulled my power back and nodded warily. Without moving closer he looked at the doctor. "Dr. Shanahan. Confess and you'll live to see a prison cell for the rest of your life. Stay silent and I'll be going to back to my office so that Miss Keys can continue uninterrupted."

She looked at him and his betrayal. And then at me.

"Oh don't sweat the little shit. Just tell me about Brian," I snapped.

She swallowed. "I… I…"

My hand ignited again and I brought it up.

"I took advantage of him!"

Lili's shriek echoed right after. "You RAPED him!"

Hearing enough to make me sick for the rest of the month I slammed my hand into her face. I pulled back the electricity enough to not be lethal, I wasn't a murderer. At least not today I wasn't.

I looked at the Colonel and he nodded to me. "Mrs. Fine arrest her and put her in confinement." I moved out of the way of the door so the Colonel could have a look. He just stared at Brian's body for a good minute without moving. His face just became progressively harder.

Moving in so only he could hear me I said, "He took control of me and used my powers to commit suicide." His eyes closed and I saw his face tense before he turned away and walked off. I shut the door once more. I felt Dani behind me. I don't know how I knew it was her, but I held my hand out and she took it. "It was Brian. He's dead, isn't he."

I nodded as I felt the tears returning.

"I'm so sorry."

I shook my head. "He was dead along time ago. She made sure of that."

"Miss Keys." The illustrious Mrs. Fine returns.

I turned to her and released Dani's hand. "Go tell every one else. I can't deal with it right now." Looking up at Mrs. Fine I set my face in stone and wiped at my eyes. "What can I do for you?"

She smiled at me in sympathy. "You can take the rest of the day off. You did good today."

Breathing in and letting it go slowly I shook my head. "I have things that need to get done today, but thank you for the thought. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dry heave some more."

I stepped around her and saw that all of the students were still standing there, looking at me. "The rest of you take today off, no training, no studying, do something that you enjoy doing. Please."

They separated when I passed, and I felt a few hands brush mine. I don't think I looked up until I was in front of my door swiping my keycard to open the lock. Ray was right behind me. Before the door was even closed he pulled me into him and I grabbed on tight. I felt like I was coming apart at the seams, but a few minutes in his arms and I felt I could breath again, at least for now.

"You're taking the day off, right?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Too much to do. I'll rest later."

I actually thought he was going to argue with me, but he didn't. "It's cool. I'll be hanging around if you need me." He slipped the keycard out of my hand. "I'll be right back. I'm going to grab something to do and get you something to drink, alright?"

I nodded and went to sit at my desk while he bugged out for a while.

~~~

My cell chirped as I was entering in what actually happened to Brian in his file. I was damned if this was going to be hidden like Shanahan did the deaths of his family. I didn't even bother to look at who the caller was. "Keys."

It was the Colonel. "I wanted to let you know that I'm bringing a few people in to have available for anyone that wants to talk about what happened. They're personal friends of mine. I'll vouch for them, but if you want to have James and Lili scan them they'll be agreeable."

"Thank you, Colonel. I'll let everyone know."

There was silence on the line for a moment. "Are you going to be able to continue with your duties or…"

"It's part of the job, Colonel. I knew that when I signed up."

More silence.

"I suspected something, but not this."

He sounded very old over the phone at that moment. "There's a lot of guilt to go around, Colonel, only take your fair share, not the whole lot."

"Same goes for you."

He signed off without any fanfare or salutations.

Ray returned with a ergonomic keyboard for him and a large Pepsi for me. Setting the drink and my keycard on my desk he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. "I'm back and I'm staying until you kick me out."

Kindness showed on my face. "You might be here for a while then. Maybe a couple of years."

He shrugged. "I'll have James and Christopher haul my clothes over."

I stood up and leaned into him for a kiss. I need something to make me feel normal again. Afterward I received another hug, then he settled in on the other side of the desk and swapped his keyboard in place of the standard one that was in all the rooms. I continued with my addendum to Brian's file and then switched to Shanahan's.

~~~

I had to go shower. The smell of… it stayed with me. Returning to my room, I saw Ray kicked back with the chair on two legs, his hand on the mouse, his sock covered feet on the desk and he was asleep. It was cute, what can I say. I stepped lightly into the closet and picked out another 'official looking' outfit. Hopefully they'll be able to get the burnt smell out of the last one. I paused at the bright yellow blazer that Heather insisted I take with me, and shook my head. Instead I moved to the black. More fitting, considering. A blue silk blouse went with this one. The skirt actually dropped to just below my knees this time. Wonder of wonders.

The only heels that went well with it were the two inch black pumps. I frowned at that. All the higher ones were too dressy and mostly strappy. Apparently they didn't go well with the business look. Once I had my make up and hair fixed I returned to my computer and downloaded the mission file for the next day.

His name was Michael Hicks of 937 Marion Drive, Phoenix, Arizona. Jesus, he had a fairly big file already. At sixteen he was set to graduate high school. Been in trouble with the law, underage drinking. I almost laughed at that one. What teenager hadn't drank. He just got caught. It looked like he'd been in the hospital a few times. His medical records were present. I guessed that's why his file was bigger than normal. Broken arm, fractured jaw, bruised ribs. All from a fall downstairs. Yeesh bad luck. And it's about to get worse.

Closed psychiatric report. Nothing I did seemed to work on opening it. After sending the Colonel a text he gave me Shanahan's access code, along with a warning that anything in there was to remain private. Yeah, like I'm the town gossip.

After reading the juicy bits I stopped and looked up at my boyfriend. Still asleep and balanced on two legs. How in the hell?

"Meow."

"Well hey sweetness." I picked up Miss Bonsai. "Are you tired of being locked up in here all day?" She licked her nose at me. I'm starting to believe that gesture meant either 'yes' or 'I have a runny nose and you're annoying me. Get me a tissue.'

"Well, you're in luck because we are about to make a break for it. Grab your kitty purse."

After throwing a paper clip at Ray and watching him rear back only to catch himself at the last second, plus the resulting adrenaline burst afterward, I smiled at him. "I need to raid Shanahan's files."

"Okay," he yawned and rubbed his eyes.

"You want to come or are you bored yet?"

I picked up my cell and sent Mrs. Stapleton a text:

Found something interesting. Have a minute?

~~~

I figured since Stapleton was the go to lady for background checks that she'd probably be info-girl as well. Ray begged off to go shower and change out of his workout clothes. We'd meet back up for lunch, not that I think I'd be eating anything today. My appetite was pretty much crunched for the day. Miss Bonsai tagged along and was able to attack a cricket that had made its way into the school somehow. It was kind of gross, but I guessed that was what cats did. As long as it didn't feel the need to present me with a dead mouse on my pillow in the morning I was fine.

The receptionist gave me a weird eye, probably because I didn't have an appointment. "I'll be in Shanahan's office if you can let Mrs. Stapleton know I'm here."

He nodded and punched a button on his phone set up. I heard him in the background as I made my way to her office. The door was locked. My badge didn't work on the lock. Right when I was about to blast the lock off the door, the Colonel was there, swiping his badge.

"Anything I should know about?"

I shrugged. "Just a hunch. I need to check out her computer since I don't have access to her session files."

He pushed the door open and I heard the clicking of high heels in the hall. I assumed that was info-girl. I flicked on the light and made my way around the desk. Her computer was still on and I cleared the screen-saver. Scanning the folders on the desktop I found one for every student, so I just clicked on the first one: Brian. Subfolders directed me to individual counseling sessions.

"If you are looking for more incriminating evidence I assure you that Mrs. Fine is up to the task."

I shook my head. "It doesn't have anything to do with Brian. His was just the first folder."

Right when Stapleton entered the room I looked up at her. "Is there a way I can find specific commonalities within variable folders?"

She paused for a second and then walked around the desk to see what I was doing. "Counseling sessions?" I nodded. "All the sessions with all the students, I assume?"

"Yes."

She nodded. "Right click on the specific folders you want to include in the search, send it to the desktop, group them and do an F5 keyword or phrase search."

Okay. It took me a couple of minutes to rip through all the folders and group them on the desktop. Then I did the search.

Colonel Harris's eyebrows lifted at my entry. "What are you looking for, Miss Keys?"

"I was reviewing the medical file of the boy I'm picking up tomorrow. When something jumped out at me. I'm wondering if it's common to all of us here, if so then…"

The computer bleeped at me.

1057 matches.

Okaaay, that was a little bit more than I was expecting. Scanning through the files it brought up I found several of Christopher's. "Just a quick peek to see if it's what I'm thinking." Upon opening it I found exactly what I was looking for. "Okay, I'm using Christopher as a baseline since I was obviously right with that one. Now Brian."

Brian, Max, Ray, Dani, Sean, Lili, all of them, everyone of us.

The Colonel leaned on the desk and looked up at Stapleton. "I was informed that there were no commonalities between any of the students. How can something this obvious slip by?"

Stapleton moved over and sat on one of the chairs. "Dr. Shanahan was part of the original team to research the first discoveries. I can only assume she was able to conceal the information for her own use." Her eyes darted to the Colonel and watched as his face turned an unpleasant shade of red, well on its way to puce. His phone was in his hand a half second later.

"Mrs. Fine. I need you to go over every piece of correspondence of Shanahan's main, email, personal and business. I want phone longs of all of her calls. Every possible contact within her tenure with the Center. Get the telepaths on it as well. She was selling information. I need to know to whom."

"Does this mean I get a raise?" I said with just a tad of humor.

The Colonel looked at me and his lips twisted like he wanted to spit. "It means your security clearance is being raised. If you come up with any more ideas I don't want you wasting any time because I'm not there to let you in the door."

"What about the other thing?"

Mrs. Stapleton grinned at me. "You, my dear have made my job a lot easier. Determining that all the students that transition were intersexed at birth was quite a find. How did you know?"

"Michael Hicks. He had a hospital stay after falling down a flight of stairs. They discovered he had ovaries on top of having testicles. They weren't in working order at the time, but they were there. The only thing I'm worried about is that they removed them when he was nine. Is that going to cause a problem during his change?"

The Colonel wiped a hand over his face. I was beginning to wonder if he was starting to dislike me and all the problems I was uncovering. "He supposed to be a PK as well, correct?"

I nodded. "Tony says he's a Reikikinetic, a healer."

"Do you think we can pick him up early?"

I considered the options. "We can always gas him like you did me, but I have a feeling that he might be our first volunteer."

"Why's that?"

"They shouldn't have taken out his ovaries. He believes he's a girl inside. He didn't fall down his stairs. He was pushed by his older sister for catching him wearing her clothes. It was in the police report after the incident. His father had them remove his girl parts, probably thinking he could fix him."

He nodded. "Brief Tina Duncan and take her with you. Her perspective might come in useful." Then he looked at Stapleton. "You've got a lot of work ahead of you. I want you in every medical and psychiatric database out there looking for possible candidates. Whoever is out there that has this information is leaps and bounds ahead of us."

I started closing down the files when the Colonel stopped on his way out and turned around. "If you want it, this is your office."

My fingers froze over the keyboard. "Um… cool."

He smiled at me. "You've earned it. Keep doing what you're doing Kristyn. Pretty soon, you'll have my job and I can retire."

"No thanks. The way things are going, I'll probably have an ulcer before the month's up."

~~~

All the tables were beside each other in a circle of sorts, when I broke the news.

"What's intersex mean?" Sean asked.

The looks on Christopher and Danielle's face told me that they knew. The others? No so much. "I means somewhere along the line, probably when our mothers drank the magic water our sexual chromosomes got fried and tried to make us into both sexes. One of them lost out, the one you were born with, and when the transition happens, something funky goes on… I don't know what, that's for the scientists to figure out, but it triggers the change in sex."

Lili took her chance to speak up. "That doesn't explain why I'm white now?"

I blinked. Okaaay. "You were another race before your change?"

"I was Chinese-American."

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't have a clue. Did you have any blood relatives that were white?"

She was about to shake her head, but stopped. "I think my Great grandfather was white. There were rumors."

Holding out a hand I smiled. "Well there you go. Look, I'm just grasping at straws, but I thought you should know that there was a reason behind the change. Someone isn't screwing with you and it wasn't at random."

Ray was staring at me with a blank look on his face. "So I'm still a girl, sort of?"

I shrugged. "Maybe. I think the doctor needs to run a test or something. He might be able to tell if we still have a chance on going back to our original gender."

That seemed to be a conversation starter, because I was able to go get some dessert. I still didn't want anything to eat, but I had a sugar craving that needed a fix and Miss Bonsai insisted on me getting her some ice cream.

Christopher met me in the kitchen. "You wanted to see me?"

I looked up at him while I was scooping a little mound of ice cream in a bowl for Miss Bonsai. "Yeah, I want you to come with me on a pick up tomorrow."

He looked mildly surprised. "Wouldn't Dani be a better choice? She's a stronger Empath than I am."

I licked my finger after sliding the scoop in the bowl. "It's not because of your skills that I want you along. Actually I want Tina to come."

He squinted a little at me in curiosity, so I explained. "The boy we are going to pick up is having gender issues, and due to a medical screw up we need him in here early so the doctors can have a look at him."

"What happened?"

"He had an accident when he was younger and they found his ovaries. They took them out. It might cause some problems when he changes."

His hand went to his mouth. "Oh no."

I nodded. "He'll probably be like Dani and actually want the change, but if it requires him to have his ovaries, then he's screwed."

"You want me to talk him into coming?"

"No, that's my job. I just want you to be there so either way he knows that he can come here and be safe knowing that there are others like him here." Again with the not understanding. "His accident was on purpose. He crossdresses. His sister caught him and tossed him down the stairs for stealing her clothes."

Understanding finally settled on his face. "What time?"

"It's in Phoenix, so a two hour flight. Tony says it's nighttime when he transitions, so we need to get there early in the morning. His file shows he goes to the local pool every morning for a swim. We leave at four."

"I'll be ready."

~~~

It was only one o'clock and I was beat, not necessarily physically, but mentally. The mission in the morning would give me the excuse to go to bed early, but just the general feeling of tasks left undone left me wanting to push on. The added advantage of not being able to sit still, in a room myself, left only to my own thoughts was attractive. I didn't want to think of Brian. I didn't want to think of how many ways Shanahan had screwed us over or to whom she sold us and other innocent teens out there. But it had to be dealt with. Brian could wait for now. The rest of us couldn't.

Before leaving, to bury myself in the seclusion of my room, a number of the students wanted something to do. They were like me in a sense. Just sitting around with nothing to do was driving them nuts. So I gave them an assignment. They were to actually talk to one another. They could do it in groups or maybe one on one with someone else, but they had to get out their worst fears or experiences at the Center. Something like what Brian experienced couldn't happen again. It was a wonder that Shanahan was able to go as long as she did without discovery. If only Brian would have told somebody what was going on, then he'd be alive and Shanahan would have been in prison a long time ago.

I left them looking at each other. It was a hell of a thing for a teenager to unload about their problems. I suspected a few tears and maybe an argument or two, but hopefully they'd come out of it stronger.

Miss Bonsai was still licking her whiskers atop the second bunk bed while I poured over Michael Hick's file in an attempt to get to know him better, to hopefully find a way to convince him to come with us. It may be something as easy as saying, 'hey Mike. Want to be a girl full time? Come on, here's a ticket to your fantasy come true!' But somehow I doubted that.

Knock Knock.

Dani was there. "Hey."

"Hey yourself," she said. "Busy?"

I shrugged and stood aside. She giggled when she came in. "I love what you've done with the place."

"Sarcasm doesn't look good on you, Dani." The truth was that I hadn't had any time to decorate at all. The place was as spartan as the day I moved in.

"Oh, there you are." Miss Bonsai meowed and let Dani pick her up for a cuddle. "I only got to look out for her for a few hours, before you left. I like kitties." In pure girlie fashion she rubbed her face in Bonsai's neck and repeated, "Yes I do, yes I do."

For her troubles, Miss Bonsai turned away and batted at Dani's nose. "Did you only come by to annoy my cat?"

She held up Bonsai and kissed her on her nose while I battled whether or not telling her that as much as she licked it, that it was probably runny. "I came over to see if you wanted to talk about what happened."

She released poor Miss Bonsai to my bed and watched as she jumped down and ran back up the steps to the top bunk.

I shrugged. "Nothing to talk about."

I got the look she used to give me when she was Drew. It said that I was stupid if I thought she was going to believe that. So I did what I did best when confronted with a really personal issue. I clammed up and moved on to something that needed doing. "Seriously, I have more important things to worry about now, Dani. I don't have time to break down and cry."

"Have you cried at all since it happened?"

Turning away I made my way to my desk and continued my notes on Hicks.

"Ignoring me won't help you."

"And crying about something I had no control over won't either, so can we drop the subject now?"

She had her arms folded under her breasts, gripping them… her arms, not her breasts. "Would you like me to get Ray?"

I sighed heavily. "I would like you to let me get on with my life without having a sisterhood of the traveling pants bonding moment, Dani. I may look like a girl. I may even act like a girl when Ray is around, but inside I'm still a guy and I don't like sharing my feelings." Her eyes welled up and I knew that I had gone too far. "I'm sorry, Dani. I really am. But I've killed two people in as many days, and I'm sixteen years old. Not to mention the fact that now I'm in charge of making sure the rest of you don't have to deal with things like this. Does that seem normal to you?"

Trying to keep your feelings down when your body is awash with estrogen is like turning on a faucet and trying to hold the water from coming out. I felt my own eyes burning.

"You don't have to do this alone, Kris."

"Yeah," I choked out. "I kinda do."

She moved toward me, closing half the distance. "We could go to Colonel Harris. We could tell him…"

I cut her off before she could make up a shitload of reasons why I couldn't do the job. "No, we couldn't. Leave it alone, Dani."

"I can feel your emotions. You're tearing yourself up over this. You need help."

I threw the pen I was holding across the room. "And I did not ask you to go routing around in my head, did I? Get out. Get out now and stay out until you can respect me enough to not mentally rape me every chance you get."

She flinched backward at my words and covered her mouth at the end of my tirade. Spinning around she ran to the door and flung it open, dashing out into the hall. The door swung back and closed on its own while I just stood there and gaped at what I just did. God, I hate myself sometimes.




Chapter 7

I still didn't get much sleep. Breakfast was a little somber until Ray and Tina showed up. I was still feeling guilty for being an ass to my best friend. I sent her a text, apologizing. I'm a coward when it comes to things like that, sue me. With my new office came a new laptop that I downloaded upcoming mission briefs upon. I couldn't really do much about them right now, but if we could come across more possible 'volunteers' I'd much rather bring them in early than wait on the off chance that whomever was on the receiving end of Shanahan's good graces at the time she decided to go traitor.

Deciding on civilian clothes was probably the easiest decision I had to make today. It was Phoenix in the summer, so shorts, a lightweight tee, and sandals were easy enough and fairly practical. It made me feel like a little girl standing next to Ray, but I had a feeling he liked the way I looked in white linen shorts that hugged every curve of my butt. He tried to talk me into a tiny shirt that barely covered my breasts, and left about a mile of midriff showing, but even I was a tiny bit modest with my new body. What was even worse was when Tina suggested swimsuits for the role, more specifically me in a bikini. No thanks. But I might be able to be talked into a private showing with Ray.

I rolled my eyes as I stared at the laptop screen while Ray and Tina were going over the specifics of the plan I had drawn up. If Ray and I were going to be a thing for the foreseeable future then I had some decisions to make. The heat between us was obvious, and from the scene in the workout room the other day was any indication, then I was going to be losing my virginity and it wasn't going to be next year sometime.

I know how boys bodies work. From the way watches me all the time, I know he's masturbating. Hell, I did it two or three times a day when I was a guy. Clean living you know. Being a girl eased that tension off a bit. As long as I was distracted with work or dealing with a crisis then I wasn't antsy. At night in bed, was a different story. The new body had a sex drive attached to it. Maybe it was the old one asserting itself into the new female mindset, but it was definitely there. So, sex was a foregone conclusion.

Looking at it from the female perspective it was also daunting. I'd heard stories, and did my research on the internet about how things worked on a woman's body. I wanted to be a good lover as a male. I didn't want to flub my first time being an idiot and I definitely didn't want to hear, 'that's not it' coming out of a girl's mouth when I did my thing.

I knew what a hymen was. What I didn't know was whether mine was intact. If it wasn't then I needed it to go away. I wanted to enjoy my first time, and not have pain or blood associated with it. The guy has enough to worry about without that being involved. Christ! I'm talking about getting laid as a girl!

Forget it, be practical, Kristyn. You know it's going to happen. Deal with it and move on. What was another problem that girls had? Pregnancy. Right. No freaking way in hell was that going to happen. The pill. I needed to talk with Doctor Handsafreezin about getting on the pill, how long before it takes effect, how good does it work, the works. Then maybe some condoms as well, just to be on the safe side.

The word abortion was never in my vocabulary. Right to choose, sure, but since I was a guy it just never came up. I didn't have to worry about choosing. That's why I had a semi-unopened box of condoms in my nightstand back home. At my old home I mean. I'd opened one up to make sure it wasn't all gross and that I had the right size, and knew how to put it on. But they had sat there for six months, unused. What a waste.

If I had a chance I'd get some on this trip. Plan ahead, Boy Scout motto. I wonder if Girl Scouts bought condoms. Probably. I wondered if there was a Girl Scout costume I could wear for Ray. Never mind. Lets not get sidetracked. I think first and foremost… there's that word again… I need to see if I was going to barf at the first sign of his penis. That would probably be a major turnoff. It made the thought of foreplay something altogether different from my perspective as well. Whether a guy or a girl, I wanted to be an attentive lover, and that meant doing things… things that… I think I'm getting air sick.

Closing my laptop was about all I could accomplish before making a dash for the tiny restroom in the back of the plane.

There I stood, looking down into the blue stuff they put in airplane toilets instead of real water. My stomach was rolling, but steady enough not to waste a decent breakfast that morning. Okay, this was going to be more of a problem than I thought. Just get the picture of generic penis' out of your mind. Think about Ray.

A soft knock sounded at the door. "Kris, are you okay." Great, just great.

I opened the door and pulled Ray inside the cramped space along with me. There was barely room for one person much less two, so I scooted my butt up on the counter and had him stand between my legs. Well there's a picture. "We're gonna have sex, Ray."

"Right now?" He sounded a bit on the nervous side until I smacked him on the shoulder.

"No. I mean in the future sometime."

His happy face told me that he was happy. "Uh, sure. I kind of… well."

"Yes, Ray, you play a large role in my fantasies as well."

He tried avoiding my eyes, but, again, tiny restroom. Not much to look at. "So… you have a plan or something?"

"Or something. I have a problem."

"What's wrong?"

I looked down at his chest and the tight t-shirt he had chosen. My hand ran down the length of it over his firm torso. "I don't want our first time to be, weird." He was about to say something, but I cut him off. "I'm a virgin, obviously. I was as a guy as well. And I'm attracted to girls."

He was considering my words.

"I was sitting out there trying to imagine… foreplay. If I could do it right for you."

"Kris, you don't…

"Shh, I'm talking. Yes I do. If we're going to make it as a couple then I need to know if I can."

He was looking at me really strange. "Right now?"

I smacked him again. "No, not right now, but maybe when we get back. I don't want to be in the middle of a romantic evening with you and then go down on you and wind up yakking, because I couldn't handle it."

"Ah." Light dawns on boyfriend's brain. "Yeah I can see where that may be a problem." He considered me again. "Do you feel weird when we kiss?"

I shook my head. "I know I should, because hello, guy. But kissing you has always been very natural."

"For me too. And I'm still attracted to guys, by the way."

"Who wouldn't be."

"Exactly."

"Do you think that you could go down on a girl?"

He shrugged along with an unknowing face. "I haven't really thought about it. The other day just runs through my head over and over when I…"

I saw where he was going. "It's okay Ray, everybody masturbates."

His face plumed a brilliant scarlet color, so I pulled him to me for a hug. Conveniently, I wrapped my legs around him and turned my face into his neck. There was something about him. He didn't smell like a guy, or at least what I remembered smelling like myself. I didn't really go around sniffing other guys, If I did then this whole thing would be a moot point.

He pulled back, but not from my legs. I kept him nice and trapped. "What I meant to say was that I never really got around to that point. We are always against the wall… just with less clothes."

I nodded in understanding. I tried not to embarrass him by grinning evilly. "I want to try something if you're willing."

"I'm always willing."

It was time for my grin. "Then when you kiss me in about ten seconds I want you to really get into it and then think about going down on me. I'm going to be doing the same about you. We can see if…"

"You said ten seconds. Times up."

It didn't take ten more seconds to feel like I was going to lose myself to him. So much so that I completely forgot what I was supposed to be thinking about when he backed off. "I'm cool with it," he said confidently.

"I got sidetracked. Can we do that again?" He chuckled and then leaned back into me for another try. God this boy can kiss. My legs tightened around his waist. This time I did think about it, and I think it was all in my mind. He didn't repulse me. Nothing about Ray repulsed me.

My breathing increased and I noticed the warning signs of going to far, so I pulled out of the kiss this time, and loosened my legs. "Okay, I think we're going to be alright." His eyes were glassy and I knew I had pushed him a little bit too far. In fact I could still feel it brushing up against me, how far I pushed him. "As soon as we get back, I'm going on the pill."

"You still won't be ready until after your first cycle."

"Really?" Dammit!

Ray nodded. "You're already on your, what is it sixth day, seventh day?"

Then a little birdie whispered in my ear. "OH!"

"What?"

"Dani."

"What?"

"You said her visions are a hundred percent right?"

Ray nodded. "Yeah."

"She said I have my… cycle this month."

He blinked a couple of times in response to that news. "So there's no way for you to get pregnant, is there."

My grin stretched from ear to ear. "Nope."

"So that means…"

"Yep. Although I do want to see the doctor about a few things. Just to make sure, but I wouldn't see any reason why we couldn't plan on another dinner this week, only with no walk, and possibly you spending the night in my room."

His grin slipped to the side. "Think we could skip dinner too?"

I kissed him. "You're going to need the energy, Ray."

~~~

Tina looked like the cat that ate the canary when we came out of the restroom together. "So, new additions to the Mile High Club?"

My mouth worked just a little too fast. "We did not just have sex."

"Uh huh." She didn't even bother looking at us and kept reading her magazine.

"Really, look!" I pointed at Ray's tented shorts. Of course right when I point it out Ray chose that time to dive for a chair. "Ray, you've got nothing to be embarrassed about. Believe me." He was staring daggers at me. "We were just having a private conversation, about sex, Tina."

She nodded, again not looking. "Just as long as we can bring Dani next time then I won't tell a soul."

The pilot chose that time to warn us about strapping in for final approach. I let the subject drop. My reputation had just taken a dive. Yet another thing to be wary about being a girl. Getting laid was great for Ray, bad for me.

I don't know who the driver was. Maybe someone from Homeland Security that was in the know. This made me wonder exactly how big the Center was if they had people positioned in major cities or if the drivers were flown out to destinations ahead of time. If the former was the case, then why did the goon that initially picked me up come back with us on the jet? Don't worry about it Kristyn. Concentrate on what's going on now.

If Michael Hick's information was correct, which always seemed to be the case with Mrs. Stapleton's background checks, his father and sister would head off to work at six and seven, respectively. Then he would leave from his house at seven-thirty, stop by the local convenience store for an energy drink and then head off to the pool, two blocks away, for his morning swim. I chose the convenience store for the initial introductions. Ray would wait in the SUV, and Tina and I would work our magic… hopefully.

Coincidentally, the store had two benches set up outside the front door. I suppose they were there for the people that were dying from heat frustration to take a break, or maybe pass out, in the shade. Egads, it was hot! Freaking seven-thirty in the morning and it had to be pushing ninety degrees already!

"It's a dry heat. At least you're not sweating everywhere," Tina commented.

I had my arms dangling to my sides, not taking any chances. "Yeah, but we're trading sweat for feeling like we're inside of convection oven. Don't they have wind here in Arizona? What's up with that? Shouldn't there be tumbleweeds blowing in the streets?"

She giggled. "That's a misconception. Do you expect everyone in Texas to wear ten gallon hats, or people from Australia to have a kangaroo following them around?"

I shrugged. "Well… yeah."

"You're such a goober sometimes, Kris."

"Bleh… I should have wore the crop top Ray was suggesting."

"Hey, there he… Oh, I mean 'she' is." Tina pointed with her finger so only I could see. "She's presenting as a girl while her family's gone for the day."

Sure enough a very cute girl wearing very short shorts and a baggy feminine t-shirt with two lumps that looked suspiciously like breasts underneath, was walking toward the store. She had a beach towel around her neck and feminine style sandals on her feet. I wouldn't have noticed her, but the face and hair color were definitely the same as the picture we had in our package. The one thing that was different was that she had her hair in a high ponytail. I presumed her swimsuit was underneath her clothes and that it most likely would be a one piece, considering that those breasts had to be fake.

We all smiled, and said hi to each other as she entered the store. Tina and I waited out front for her to get her drink.

When she came back out, Tina was the first to say something. "Excuse me?"

Michael turned and started to look nervous, so Tina immediately tried to put her at ease. "We're new here in town and I was wondering if you might be able to answer a couple of questions?"

His/her, sorry, if I don't know her girl name, it sounds wrong to call Michael a her. Anyway, her body language relaxed and she nodded.

"I'm Tina and this is Kristyn."

"I'm Elizabeth, you can call me Liz."

Thank you! A name! She moved over to the other bench that was closest to me so Tina had to lean forward to see her properly. Her mannerisms were very female, and just like Tina I would have never pegged her as a boy. "So, where are y'all from?"

I took the conversation from there. "We move around a lot."

"Oh, are you sisters?'

I looked at Tina and we both laughed. "In a way, but not by blood"

This seemed to interest Liz and her, shapely but not quite feminine, brow crinkled in confusion. "How's that work."

I shrugged a little. "We both had very similar experiences happen in our lives and… well, it's a kind of bond we share now."

Tina threw in, "Plus, Kris has a superiority complex, and has to have everything neat and orderly."

I tossed a look at Tina. "I do not. I just like things the way I like them."

Liz giggled. "Definitely sisters." After a second and my disgruntled leer at Tina she came to the point. "So are you all looking for something, someplace, or someone."

Straight to the point. I guess she really likes her morning swim.

"Well, we found the someone we were looking for. It's you."

At Liz's fearful look, Tina smacked me on the shoulder. "We're not here to out you sweetie, we're here to help."

Liz uncrossed her legs, and prepared to make a break for it. "Wh…what do you mean?"

Tina tried to look as soothing as she could. "I'm like you. We both are really."

Liz's eyes widened considerably as she looked us over, our hands, feet, throats, and faces. "No way," she said in an almost unbelieving voice. Then her face turned hard. "Did my sister put you up to this?" She looked around. "Where is she?"

"As far as I know, she's at work," I said. "And we are not here to embarrass you. Tina was right. We're here to help you. We know about your 'accidental' fall down the stairs." I threw air quotes up for that one. "We also know that your father had things done to you, which was a mistake."

"Kris, she's getting really agitated. Let me…"

It didn't really take an Empath to figure that one out. Liz had gone all jittery. I held up a halting hand to Tina. "Liz, this time last week, I was a guy."

It stopped her; shocked her. "But… you look so good. SRS isn't… I mean shouldn't you be in bed after the operation?"

I tried to look relaxed and non-threatening. "It wasn't an operation that made me who I am today."

The conversation came to a halt as she popped the top on her energy drink and took a big gulp. Before she started throwing questions at me I started in on my speech.

"Sixteen years ago, before you were born, there was an a problem at a genetics lab, long story short, a bottled water company's water source was contaminated, and they didn't notice for quite a while. Our mothers," I pointed at all of us. "All of our mothers, drank this contaminated water that they thought was completely safe."

The hand she was holding her drink in began to shake. Liz noticed and covered it with her other hand.

"The result was all of us being born intersexed. The boys were born with additional ovaries, and the girl with hidden testicles. Barring doctors actually going in and looking, or an MRI, or something like that, none of us knew that anything was different."

"Are you bullshitting me? Is this some kind of joke?"

I shook my head. Tina added something else. "Liz, I'm a boy underneath these clothes. Kris is a girl, but started off life as something different, like you. So you see, we are sisters in a way."

She still seemed resistant. "Why should I believe either of you? I don't know you."

"Because I can prove it to you, right here and right now." It was time to go for the weird stuff. "The problem with our gender isn't the only thing that you need to understand. There's something else."

She swallowed, expecting the worst. "What. Is it cancer… am I gonna die?"

I shook my head. "No, nothing like that. Each of us, for lack of a better way of explaining it, has a power. Something beyond what you would consider normal."

Liz blinked at me. "So you're crazy, is that it?"

I looked over my shoulder to make sure we were still alone. "Look at my hand. See, no sleeves no weird attachments or anything right?" She did as I asked. "Go ahead, feel it, it's just a normal hand right?"

Eying me for a second, she reached out an index finger and poked my palm. After another moment, she actually took my hand in hers and felt it. "Okay, so."

"Watch closely." Releasing a little of my power I made electrical arcs fly across my fingers. Liz's eyes widened to large proportions, and her face went pale.

"How did you do that?"

"I'm an Electrokinetic." Gesturing to Tina I added. "She's an Empath." Liz looked up at Tina. "And you're a Reikikinetic, a healer."

Now I could tell that she was off balance, not knowing what to believe. So, I upped the ante. "Liz, if you could have a choice right now, would you be a girl or a guy?"

Her glazed eyes focused, and centered on me. "I'm a girl. There's no choice about it."

Lacing my fingers together I leaned forward a little. "Even if it meant leaving your family?"

Tina set her hand on mine. "Kris…"

Sparing a quick glance at my partner, I shook my head. "She needs to know."

"What do I need to know?"

Tina didn't look too pleased, but she nodded, so I explained. "Sometime today, your power, your talent is going to awaken. You'll be able to heal with just a touch of your hand. Six to eight hours later, your body is going to change." At her look of disbelief I added, "We don't know why it happens, something in our genetic makeup, something to do with the talent activating, we just don't know yet. But it will happen. I wasn't kidding when I said I was a guy last week. I was six foot one, and a hundred and sixty pounds, with strawberry blond hair, and a penis."

Liz's jaw dropped open.

"The next thing I knew, I was blowing out all the electronics in my house. My best friend showed up, but I didn't know it was him at the time, because he was a she. She had already gone through the change. He took me in and here I am today, trying to tell you what's going to happen sometime tonight."

"Tonight?"

Tina squeezed my hand and I turned to see her smiling. I guess that was a good sign. So I nodded to her. "But there's a possible problem."

"What?" Liz's face fell.

"Your ovaries were taken out after the fall. We don't know how that will affect the change. Whether or not it might complicate things. That's why we came early for you, before your talent manifested itself."

"I might need the hormones. This is insane." She was definitely torn. "Can I see the sparks thing again?"

I let out a subdued laugh again. "Sure." Looking around again, I let her see something a little more impressive. Putting my fingers together I pulled them apart and let the arcs run between my hands.

"That is so awesome," she breathed.

"You won't be able to do that. We're, each of us, is different. Some of us are similar to each other, but we all have talent."

"How many?"

"You'll make fifteen, if you are willing to join us. That would mean leaving here and not being in contact with your family ever again, because by tomorrow morning they aren't going to recognize you anymore."

She swallowed again. "So, I either go with you, or my family deals with this tonight."

Well, she really didn't have a choice. "I'm not going to lie to you, Liz. I was taken by force, kidnapped. But if I wasn't, then my father would be dead from when I transformed. I would have blown the house up because of my talent. So, the Center did me and my family a favor." I really didn't need Tina to tell me that this girl sitting in front of me was on an emotional rollercoaster at the moment. "But as you can see, here I am, out in the real world, and nobody is holding a gun to my head or anything. I'm here because I want to be here. I want to help others like us."

We gave her a minute to think about things before she took another drink. "Can we go back to my house and get some of my stuff before we leave?"

I was about to say no, but Tina stopped me. "It would look like she ran away if we did this. They wouldn't have to think she was dead."

Which was worse? Liz almost snorted. "My sister hates me and my father could care less. I'm a major disappointment, not being a manly guy. They'd probably be relieved I was out of their life."

I could see she didn't want to believe that of her family, but sometimes blood is not thicker than water. Sometimes we were better off alone than living in an environment where we were abused, or threatened, or even just plain ignored.

"Okay, but keep it light. You won't need any clothes, because they probably wont fit you after you change anyway. We'll have everything you'll need at the Center."

We stood up and I asked Tina to introduce her to Ray while I grabbed something from the store. "He's my boyfriend, nobody to be scared of."

I darted inside and grabbed a couple boxes of condoms, just in case, and a boatload of updated magazines. The Center doesn't really keep up to date with theirs. The clerk just gave me the weirdest look. "Don't ask. It's better you don't know."

~~~

We arrived at her house, actually behind her house, so nobody spotted the SUV. It wouldn't do for people to witness a bunch of teenagers making off with a runaway. Liz did manage to keep it simple. Some CD's, her MP3 player, a laptop, and a few t-shirts that she couldn't part with. She swiped the emergency money from an empty coffee can so that the escape looked authentic. Liz rationalized it as, 'they stole my ovaries, I'm stealing their money.' Fair enough I suppose.

During all of this, I wondered if Liz really believed us or she was just taking advantage of an opportunity to escape from her family. She didn't know us from Adam, but she was trusting enough to go along. Maybe in hopes of starting over somewhere else. I'm sure the possibility of a new life, living the way she wanted, was very attractive. I felt a little guilty for praying on her that way, but I also consoled myself with the knowledge that we were doing the right thing for her, in the short term at least.

She was full of questions on the way back, almost as giddy as a schoolgirl, which in a way she was.

"You mean you're in charge?"

I shrugged, "Sort of. There have been some problems lately and I kind of fell into the role."

Ray leaned over and stage whispered. "She's playing it down. Kris is the best."

Liz giggled and I shook my head. "Ray's biased. He wants my body for his own nefarious use."

"Guilty," he replied smugly.

"Did you like boys before?" she asked me.

I shook my head. "Nope, but I like Ray."

"And you used to be a girl?"

Ray nodded. "I was in band, played the flute. I was a computer nerd. I had a boyfriend, and I lived at the mall on weekends."

She covered her face. "I just can't picture that. You seem so… manly."

He shrugged, and I giggled.

~~~

It wasn't long before we touched down, and I showed Liz to the clinic, leaving her in the hands of the evil doctor Handsafreezin. Before I left Tina to watch over her, Liz called out to me. "Will you be back tonight? For…"

"Of course I will. We're your friends now, Liz. Friends back each other up. Once we have a better idea when that will be, then the doctor will call me, right Doc?"

"Of course, Miss Keys. First thing."

~~~

I dropped off the magazines in the cafeteria and swiped one of the Cosmo's and a Road & Track. I'm still conflicted, give me a break. At least I'm not bogarting the Tiger Beat for the latest pictures of Justin, and whatever Brother band is hot at the moment. Yea, squeee, vomit.

The rest of the time before lunch I spent in my official office boxing up Shanahan's nonessential crap. I'd decorate the rest later. Mrs. Fine had already made it by to have the office turned, looking for anything incriminating. She did find a USB Flash drive taped on the underside of one of the drawers that looked promising. After review we found out that it was video of the time she spent with Brian. I almost lost my breakfast right there. For as smart as she supposedly was, Shanahan was an idiot as a pedophile.

Lunch had come and gone, along with the early afternoon. I wrote up a brief report for the Colonel as to Liz's status, and the mission success. This was a report I didn't mind filling the blanks in on while I was able to finally enjoy the music that was downloaded on my cell. The minor break obviously wasn't meant to be, before the music was cut off when my cell rang.

"Keys."

"Miss Keys." The Doctor. "Would you mind coming up to the clinic for a moment?"

Something lurched beneath my chest. "Is Liz alright?"

"She's fine, Miss Keys. I just thought you'd like to see for yourself."

I was already shutting the door behind me with my blazer in hand. "I'll be right there. Come on Bonsai. Time to make tracks."

Again my mysterious cat was well ahead of me on the stairs, and waiting by the door for me to open it for her. Not bothering to comment this time I let her run head through the open door of the clinic. Through the outer door I could hear Liz laughing and Tina giggling, so I opened the connecting door that led to the examination room.

"Kris!" Tina almost squealed. "Liz has her powers."

I slowed my pace and came to a stop a few feet from the examination table where Liz was dressed in a posh looking pink hospital gown. I'm thinking about a new look. "Great… so what's the hubbub?"

Liz was holding herself low on the abdomen. "I'm fixed. I fixed myself."

Maybe I was slow today or something. "You were broken?"

"Her ovaries, goober!"

Blink. "Oh!" Something inside me sent a jolt of happiness to my brain and short-circuited any boy impulses for the moment. I took another step and hugged Liz. "That's great! You're going to be a real girl here pretty soon."

"I know, right?" Tears of happiness were falling from her eyes. "You guys saved me. If it weren't for you and Tina…" She leaned back in, lay her head on my shoulder, and started to cry in earnest.

Tina's eyes were welling up as she was smiling at me. I just petted Liz's hair and patted her on the back. "We just provided the ride. You're going to do all the work."

"You'll be here right?" she confirmed.

"I'll be here. They'll let me know." She pulled back and wiped at my blazer. "I'm getting you all wet. Sorry."

I played it off. "Perks of being here. Free dry cleaning. Don't worry about it."

She smiled her thanks at me. "It's impossible that you were born a boy."

Shrugging away what I knew to be a compliment from her. "Why do you say that?"

Liz looked up at me with something that I had never seen before in anyone's eyes, so I couldn't place it. "Because you really care. Boys really don't care."

A little giggle came out of my mouth. "That's not totally true. There are plenty of boys out there that have…" I tried to think of some as I was telling her this. "My dad. He cared. He always made sure I was taken care of and grew up right. Ray, has always been there for me. My best friend Drew… well he doesn't really count."

She leaned forward and kissed me on my cheek. "I'll take your word for it."

Looking around for a decent stool or chair, I found one of those short stools with wheels that doctors use. They get all the cool stuff, right? Once I worked out the mechanics of sitting there with my legs crossed, I found Liz and Tina smiling at me. I really didn't want to know why. "So, tell me how this happened."

Tina started the story off. "When we first got here, they shoved her in an MRI machine to see exactly what was there and what was missing."

Liz nodded. "The doc said that he could tell where they had cut into me and used these tube thingies to cut and pull out my ovaries. He showed me where they were, but … I guess you have to be a doctor or something to read those things. Instead he showed me where they were, touching me here and here."

She set her fingers on her lower abdomen and rubbed them around. "So me and Tina were sitting here, and she was telling me about the Center, and what they do, and some of the things that you've done since you've been here."

My attention centered on Tina. "Nothing bad I hope."

Tina giggled. "Nothing that wasn't true."

That could be interpreted in so many ways.

"It was nothing bad. You did a lot of good, from what Tina says." There was that look again. It was a smile, but more relaxed than normal. "Anyway ever since the doc told me where they were I've kept my hands on them."

My head tilted back a little and realization dawned. "Is this going where I think it's going."

Tina laughed. "Shh, it's her story to tell."

Liz smiled happily at me. "About an hour ago my hands started to heat up, in a warm way, not like burning. But it was really noticeable. I didn't realize what I was doing, but Tina did."

My mission partner nodded. "While we were talking I noticed her pressing down harder and harder on her… well, right there."

I looked and Liz was doing it again, but not hard. It was like she was a pregnant girl rubbing her tummy.

"That's when I felt two sharp pains right under my fingers. Right after that, my hands cooled back to normal." She started speeding up and looking very excited. "I told the doctor, and he looked at me weird then told me that I needed a new MRI."

"And the rest is history." I concluded. "So you're back to normal."

Liz nodded. "I'm better than normal now."

"Plus, you're going to be a girl soon." It was easy to see the excitement on her face. It looked like she was ready and willing for nightfall.

"I'm so pumped. You don't know how long I've dreamed of something like this happening."

I was sort of skeptical, and she saw it on my face. "Kristyn. You don't know what its like to live your live your life in the wrong body… oh, well I guess you do."

"It's not so bad," I commented. It was true. At first I was scared spitless, but I'd adjusted. Probably a lot faster than I should have. "It's just a body. I'm still the same person."

"That's what makes you really weird, Kris," Tina pointed out. "I'd give almost anything to have my old body back."

Coming to my feet I moved over to Tina. "It's not out of the question yet, Tina. Someone could pop up tomorrow with the talent of switching us back. You never know."

She took my hand and rubbed my palm with her fingers. "You really think so?"

I nodded. "You're talking to the girl who shoots electricity out of her fingers. Anything is possible."

She cocked her head and looked at me inquisitively. "Would you go back to being a boy?"

That question took me aback. At first I was about to say, 'of course', then I thought of my responsibilities. If I were to go back to being a boy, would I lose my powers? Would I quit being an asset to the Center? In some ways it would be the greatest thing that could ever happen, but in an other way… "Maybe."

She looked surprised, but then back to normal a second later. "I understand."

"You do?"

Tina nodded. "You care too much, Kris. Liz was right. You see yourself taking charge and guiding us, making sure that we're taken care of, defending us. Kinda like a mom would do."

I rolled my eyes. "I'm not a mom. Maybe a big sister, not a mom."

They both giggled at me, so I backed up a little and made my escape. "I'm happy that you're getting your wish, Liz."

Miss Bonsai bumped against me when I stopped at the entrance to the clinic. Looking down at her I shook my head. "I'm not a mom. No kids for me."

~~~

I took the rest of the afternoon and worked out. Ray met with me later, and we worked on centering myself again, along with the beginnings of JKD. It involved standing. So, I've learned how to breath and how to stand. It's amazing how I'd gotten by with just doing it naturally all these years. But, apparently I'd been doing it wrong all this time.

The Colonel arranged for me to have a tutor, or a training specialist, his term not mine. It was all via email at the moment. I'd been assigned thirteen books to read on the subjects of tactics, strategies for platoon size or smaller, etcetera, ad nauseum. Get this: I was actually assigned Sun Tzu's the Art of War. I mean how cliché can you get? Every military role-playing game geek out there bragged about reading it, even though I knew they were lying their asses off. They thought it made them look cool. I thought it made them look pretentious. It helped that I trounced their butts all the time. But now, there I was looking at the book list, with it included amongst the other curious titles, such as: The 33 Strategies of War, Unrestricted Warfare, Six Secret Teachings, The Book of Five Rings, a couple of Machiavelli books. In all I was looking at some of the most boring reading in the free world. That Cosmo was looking better and better every second, after seeing my new study regime.

Strangely enough, the Colonel already had a number of these in his office, so I couldn't get by with, 'the local bookstore doesn't carry these books,' excuse I used on occasion to get English teachers off my back.

What did I get to do with all of this? Write reports. It felt like high school English class all over again. I was supposed to read a section of a book and then write a report about what I got out of it, or how I could relate it or use it for the students the school. This was the start of my military training. Okay, so maybe going back to being a boy was getting to be more attractive.

~~~

Dani had taken time to stop by the clinic and do her Pre-Cog thing on Tina, because she was staying with Liz throughout the day. The text I received from the doctor read that the transformation was to take place at seven-fifteen in the clinic. She didn't need the bunker, just support from Tina and me.

Dinner came and went for me. I was too distracted to be a good conversationalist. Everyone thanked me for the magazines. Contact with the outside world had been minimal at best. Most of their news had been in the form of the internet, and we all know how the internet is never wrong. Dani came in at the end and ate her meal with little comment here and there. My sticking around afterward was on purpose. The text I'd sent her earlier was lame. I knew it was lame, and I also knew that she was my best friend and deserved better than a lame apology.

"I'm sorry I was an ass last night."

It's much easier to tell someone that you're sorry while standing behind them. Dani stiffened and then slowly swiveled in her seat to eye me. She pursed her lips and then scooted out the seat next to her. I'd been forgiven. Now I just need to see what I had to do for penance.

When I sat and leaned my elbow on the table Dani started. "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have tried to read you without permission. I won't do it again."

"Thank you. I know you were worried, are worried, but I can handle this for now. Once we get on a more… I don't know, a normal schedule? I'll see one of the new counselors."

She reached out and took my hand. "It's a lot of pressure they're putting on you, Kris." She looked down and swallowed. "I'm afraid."

Estrogen surged in me again, and I leaned forward to pull her to me with a hug. "That's why I'm doing this, so you don't have to be scared. I'll take care of everything, so you don't have to worry."

"You can't do everything yourself."

"I know, but I can try, and the Colonel has people coming in to help. They'll take some of the load off."

She sniffed a little and rubbed her nose. "You promise you'll try to make time for yourself in between all the crisis'?"

I nodded and kind of laughed. "Ray and I are planning another date this week." Lightbulb! "Dammit I forgot!"

She pulled back. "What?"

"I need to see the doctor. I was going to get on the pill."

Dani's eyes bugged. "Kristyn! You're kidding? Already?"

With a playful shrug I nodded. "I'm trying to be responsible. Gimmie a break."

~~~

"Your friend Dani told you twenty-two days, correct?"

I nodded. The doctor did a minor count in his head. Currently that puts you around day fourteen of your menstrual cycle. Contrary to what you have heard, the pill isn't an instant contraceptive. You won't be protected until after your first cycle.

"But… she said that It'll be, I mean…"

"You can still become pregnant, Miss Keys, even if you produce blood during your cycle. It's rare, to be sure, but do you want to take that chance?"

I frowned. "No."

He smiled, almost humanely. "If you can't wait, then I would suggest the use of a condom. You haven't had your sexual introduction yet, have you?"

With a shake of my head he breathed in let out a sigh. "You should really participate in the class it is quite educational."

"Doc, look. I know all about the female body and what it can do, more than the average guy out there anyway. I know where all the parts area and what they do. I even know about the internal equipment and how it works. There are a few gaps in my knowledge, obviously, but I think I'm okay. Let's just get me on the pill and I'll figure it out from there."

"Can you really, Miss Keys?"

I nodded. Then he had to bring it upon himself to quiz me. Yes, I knew about yeast infections and the signs of such. Yes, I was familiar with various STD's and their signs. Yes, I was familiar with how to keep myself clean and not to use sugary food items in my sexplay down there. God, can my face get any redder? Could we talk about the pros and cons of spanking in sexplay? That would really make my day. Vomit.

~~~

I spent the rest of the hour I had to wait, in my office, with the door closed. A glass of water, a burst-pac of an estrogen/progestin mixed pills, and The Art of War. Might as well be as ironic as humanly possible. The doctor popped out the first thirteen pills and the rest were left for me to enjoy to my fullest. This was supposed to make my period experience easier, but probably wouldn't do any good for the one coming up in only fifteen days. I was told to expect bloating, mild cramps, moodiness, all a couple of days before. That's good news. A girl with really destructive powers afflicted by PMS. Can you measure this amount of badness with today's existing technology?

With a deep breath I popped the pill and drank the water. There, done. If I get fat from this I am so electrocuting somebody.

~~~

The time was seven o'clock. Only fifteen more minutes. Tina, me, the doctor, the nurse, and the Colonel were all in attendance. The room was bare, except for a single hospital bed. Liz was hooked up to a number of machines, measuring her vital statistics, and a couple I wasn't sure of. The doctor did let me know that none of it was needed for a successful transition. It was just for the scientists that were trying to figure out how the whole thing works. For Liz's part, she accepted what the doc had to say on the matter.

"Can Tina and Kristyn stay with me?"

The doctor frowned. "It's not procedure, Liz. We don't know what will happen to either of you if something…" I kicked the doctor in the shin.

"I'll stay with you, Liz. I can protect myself if need be."

She grasped my hand and we interlocked our thumbs as I set my other hand on top to hold us together. The doctor motioned to Tina. She palmed Liz on the forehead and kissed her cheek. "Good luck. I'll be right on the other side of that screen." Liz nodded and then looked at me.

"Did it hurt when you went though yours?"

I giggled a little bit. "I kind of blocked it all out. I don't really remember much, since mine involved a diving suit and a lot of lightning."

She gave me a weird look. "A diving suit?"

I waved her off with my free hand. "I don't know what it was. Some kind of protective thing that they stuffed me in so I didn't blow up the Center. They have this neat bunker out back that they shove all the potentially dangerous ones in."

She closed her eyes and smiled. "I'm glad I'm not dangerous."

"I'm glad you're not too." We sat there for a minute or two in silence. "So have you thought of a new name?"

Her eyes opened. "They said I could keep Elizabeth since it wasn't documented and I'm taking the last name Baker."

I weighed the name on my tongue. "Elizabeth Baker. Liz Baker. Sounds good. No middle name?"

Her face reddened. "Would it be okay with you and Tina if I call myself Kristina with a K-r-i-s?"

I looked back at Tina and she was all teeth and nodding. "I think we'd like that very much."

Liz's face contorted in pain at that moment. "I think this is it." She looked at me and I could feel her hand shaking in mine. "Don't go, please. I'm so scared."

I tightened my grip and set my free hand atop both of ours. "I'm right here, Liz. Everything's going to be alright. You just think about how nice it's going to be to be a girl."

Her attempted smile was aborted as her whole body convulsed. She groaned and I saw tears start to fall from the sides of her eyes. Her lips tried pulling inward and I could tell she was trying to say something else. I was concerned that she was in too much pain, but it didn't look like it hurt so much as it was just uncomfortable and debilitating.

I leaned in closer so I cold hear what she was trying to say.

"Do..Don't le...le…leave…Mommy."

I stared straight into her eyes as my own tears started to well. "I'm not going anywhere baby. I'm right here. Just close your eyes and think happy thoughts for me." I brushed her hair back from her face when the changes started occurring. Her eyes whet from Hazel to a sapphire blue in the span of a second. I could feel some sort of energy radiate from her body. It was hot and it felt like my hand, that was grasping hers, was burning. I wasn't letting go. She was a healer, and could always fix it whenever she woke up later.

Her skin darkened, from her original pale shade to a cinnamon color, and her hair darkened as I gaped in astonishment to a shiny deep black. The natural curl fell out and her cheekbones moved under her face. It was the creepiest thing I had ever seen, though her staring at me throughout the event was pretty creepy in itself. The cheekbones stood out more and her jaw filled in, becoming strong yet feminine. It was then that I recognized what was happening. She looked like an Indian, an American Indian, and she was beautiful.

"You're gorgeous, Liz. Do you hear me?" I palmed her face. "Can you hear me sweetie? You're beautiful."

More tears fell from her eyes, and her mouth tried to move into a grin. I know it did. She could hear me just fine.

Another convulsion made her body jump. If it weren't for the restraints she probably would have bounced right off of the table. Her eyes widened and then fell closed.

Her body stilled unnaturally, not even a twitch after. "Liz? Liz?" I turned around "Doc?"

"She's fine, Miss Keys. This is common. The pain becomes too much and once the subject looses conciseness the transition is easier on the body. Watch her hips legs, and feet to see evidence for yourself."

I did. They shifted. Her feet didn't change too much, just a little smaller. Her ankles thinned and the muscles of her legs shifted. I couldn't tell what they were doing at first, but then I realized they were slimming down, becoming more streamline. Her hips widened, and I could only imagine what that would feel like for a conscious person. The her torso underwent the final change. I could see her gown lose depth and width in her waist, and her chest grew slightly. Oh, duh, breasts.

The doctor came out from behind the screen. "She should be finishing up right about now. You can leave now, Miss Keys. I can call you when she awakens.

I shook my head. "I'm not going anywhere. I promised her."

He nodded once. "Very well."

I felt arms encircle me from behind and hug me tightly. "She called you mommy." Tina.

"She was delusional. The pain, probably, and scared stiff."

"I think it's sweet."

"I think you're delusional. And if I'm the mommy then that makes you the daddy."

Tina giggled. "I think Ray might have problems with that."

"Good. Then we're in agreement. This goes no further than this room."

~~~

I was trying to flip a page on the Art of War with my lips, which, by the way, is a seriously messed up book, when she awoke.

Her eyes flickered and I noted the page I was leaving off at before dropping it the end table beside her bed. She tried to focus for a moment and then her eyes tracked to me.

"Is it over?" She smiled at her new voice and then it went even wider at my nod.

"You did great, Liz. Everything is perfect. You're a real girl now."

Her hand, that was grasping mine, moved up and she frowned. "Your hand is cramping. I can feel the wrongness of it."

"It's okay. I don't mind. I promised to stay with you, and I always keep my promises."

Liz's other hand moved to where they both gripped it. Heat spread across my fingers and palm. I could feel the muscles and tendons loosen and relax under her touch. "There. That's better." And it was.

Her eyes roved around in confusion. "Where are we?"

I smiled at her. "Your new room. It's right next to mine."

"Really?"

I nodded and leaned backed so she could see. "You want to try and sit up?"

"Yeah." I remember the disorientation from my own awakening, and I gently pulled her into a sitting position. "Just take your time. We're not in any hurry."

She looked down, and her left hand grabbed at her breast. "They're real! And they're huge!"

A shot of laughter escaped my lips. Until I watched her hand drop from there to between her legs. She fumbled for a moment until I saw her face light up in delight. "It's all real. I really am a girl. Oh, God." She lunged into me. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much."

Liz's head was tucked neatly under mine. "I didn't do a thing. You did all the work."

"But you made it possible, Mommy."

I closed my eyes and sighed. I have a feeling I have a new title to go along with all of the other ones. She pulled back and looked a little sheepish. "Sorry, I won't call you that if it makes you feel weird."

My face let loose with all the tension I was holding. "If it make you feel good, then call me whatever you want, even if I'm only two months older than you. I want you to feel comfortable here."

She jumped right back into my arms, and squeezed me as tight as she was able. "Thank you. I've never had anyone that I've ever thought of like that, but you showed up when I needed you most, and you told me truths that I couldn't understand, and you brought me home with you, and you held my hand when I was hurting, and you said it was going to be all better, and you didn't break your promise." After a big breath she sighed. "That's what being a mom is. Well that and loving, but I don't expect…"

I have no earthly idea why it came out of my lips. "I love you, Liz. I want what's best for you. I want you to be happy here. And if you need a mom, then that's what I'll be."

~~~

I never made it back to my room that night, except to retrieve my sleep shirt and wash my face. Miss Bonsai took guard duty on the top bunk while Liz snuggled under my arm and fell into a restful sleep at my neck with her legs tangled up with my own.

The next morning, we were in the exact same position, and Liz had such a content smile on her face. I sighed and tried to flex my left hand that had fallen asleep sometime during the night. It must have clicked something in her head, because she blinked her eyes open. She looked up at me and blushed.

"You must think I'm a serious head case."

I cleared my throat. "There's nothing wrong with wanting a little companionship. We just can't make a regular thing of it. I think my boyfriend might get jealous."

She giggled into my neck. "I feel so… right. Finally."

An uncomfortable urge hit me. "Well we might want to get up soon, or you're going to need a new mattress. I gotta pee."

Heather was more than happy to skip her first class, and take Liz on a tour of the Wardrobe room in search of clothes, and on a tour of the school. While I was more than happy to take a long hot shower. Hopefully, the coming day would be normal and not full of doom and angst. I had another four full days until my second risky mission. It should give me enough time to come up with a plan, and maybe work on my own education along the way.

When I was dressed, today in a dark green blazer, yellow blouse, and a matching green skirt I was off to breakfast. I got my makeup on the first try, something that I was proud of. It was still light, but at least I was showing progress. Halfway through my meal everyone started showing up, and I closed the book I was studying. I knew better than to try to read at a table full of teens. There were better things to talk about than Variations and Adaptability, Chapter Eight of the Fart of Bore.

Debbie was kind of excited when she saw what I was reading. "I had a chance to see a copy of the original version. It was awesome."

I looked up at her through my eyelashes. "You're kidding, right?"

She shook her head. "The Wee edition almost has it right, but some of the translation was a little off."

I shrugged my shoulders. "As long as I can come up with something half-way intelligent to say for my tutor… sorry, my training specialist, then I'm happy. Some of this stuff is just useless for anything other than massive armies."

Heather swung around the corner with Liz, locked arm in arm, smiling brightly at me. She passed her off to Lara, so that she could stop by and give a kiss to her girlfriend. Once that was over she looked at me, and her eyes actually twinkled. "Hi Mommy, how are you doing this morning?"

"Not you too," I groaned.

"She was soooo adorable when she told me what you did for her. I think it's cute."

Debbie eyed me. "Mommy?"

I rolled my eyes. Heather giggled. "Yep. Our own sweet, Kristyn has some hidden motherly traits that she's been showing to the newbie."

Liz showed up, and took the empty seat to my left, smiling adoringly at me. "Hi Mom. Heather was great, and there was so many clothes. The schoolgirl outfits are adorable! What do you think?"

Debbie covered her mouth, and tried not to look like she was about to burst out in laughter.

I looked her over. "I think you look very cute, Liz."

She almost preened. "Thanks!"

"Let me introduce you to the other girls, and there should be some guys joining us soon." I gestured across the table. "This is Debbie. She understands about a billion languages and seems to have something caught in her throat at the moment." Debs waved and smiled. "That's Lili down there. She's a telepath." Lili looked up at her name and finger-waved.

"The pile of giggles sitting down next to you is Dani."

"Hi, Liz. I've heard all about you. A healer, wow! I'm an Empath and a Pre-Cog. Your hair is so pretty! I'm jealous."

Liz was in heaven, and it was bleeding off on Dani. My best friend was apparently taking her under her wing.

"Well girls, I have to get to work. Have a great day. Think happy thoughts, no drama today."

I stood and Liz jumped up and hugged me in front of everyone. "Bye Mom, and thanks for everything."

Dani's eyes lit up like Christmas had come early. My eyes roved around the table at everyone witnessing the scene. I hugged Liz back. "Heather, Dani, make sure you take care of her today, please?" Then down to the girl hugging me. "And you text, or call me if you need anything."

Her head nodded under mine. When she pulled back, I tugged on my blazer and got rid of my tray. It was weird having Liz act so… daughterly… to me, but it also plucked at something inside my chest too. It made me feel, needed, and not in a, 'deal with this situation,' type of way. It was almost cathartic. I felt buoyant, for the first time since I had arrived at the Center.




Chapter 8

Three days without a single incident. The mind boggles, right?

I say, without incident; I mean that nothing happened in the school. James, more so than Lili, was able to meet with the disgraced Dr. Shanahan and ferret out what exactly went down with why she went traitor. After his meetings with her, the Colonel was able to piece together the trail of evidence. It turned out that Doctor Doom was a pedophile before the fact, and was contacted via email with incriminating pictures of her in the act. Basically she was being blackmailed. Brian was just her latest victim.

With each new arrival she would send off what she could from an internet café in a neighboring town on her days off. It really made the Colonel, and me for that matter, wonder who was on the other end. The best Mrs. Fine could come up with was someone in our own government. Most likely, she says, the CIA or NSA. They'd give their family jewels for someone with our powers. Everybody was suspect, and nobody was beyond reproach.

All of the campus staff went through gatherings with James, Lili, Dani, and Tony without incident. I will say that Lili was a little bit worse for wear after everything was said and done. Her head had to be filled with so many dirty secrets by now that she was having problems dealing with it. That's when I stepped in and called a halt to using her for that particular assignment. The look on her face said that she was going to give me her first born child in thanks.

Liz was happy as a clam during her testing, and didn't suffer at all in having her first pelvic exam. She told me it was a rite of passage and it fulfilled an emotional release for her. She cried during the whole thing, but it was with happy tears. The Doctor didn't know what to think. So, she takes top honors for being the fastest adaptable student at the Center, a position I was more than happy to pass on to her. Something odd, no, that's not the right word. Hmm, something… else… that she had to do, was spend some evenings with me. When Ray was busy learning something or was just too plain tired after a long day of training, Liz would spend the evening with me.

She wanted to get started on her studies, and would like nothing better than to sit across from me at my desk and read her text books. Occasionally, she'd look up at me and smile, or even run to fetch me a soda or a snack. No, I didn't abuse the situation and have her gopher everything my little heart desired. She just wanted to be around me. The thing was… I didn't mind.

This threw me more than anything.

Liz loved to tell me about her day and all of her new girl experiences, not to mention how much she wanted to help out at the clinic. The doctor wasn't having any of that though. He told her that once she graduates medical school he'd be happy to entertain the thought of having an additional nurse or doctor added to his staff, but a teenager was out of the question.

I did let her heal my bruised hand after a particularly rough training session with Ray one day. It was amazing to watch her take my hand in hers and feel the warmth as the pain faded away seconds later, good as new.

But I digress.

~~~

Ray presented me with a vase full of wildflowers in the morning, at breakfast. "It's for your office."

"Thank you, Ray." I gave him a kiss as a reward, and I smelled at the different selections he had chosen. Liz smiled from her, now permanent, position on my left, and leaned over to have a sniff.

We'd set our second date for the upcoming Sunday, barring any drama that happened to come up along the way, which was only two days from now. I could almost feel my hormonal clock ticking in anticipation.

When I arrived at the office for another day of studying I was almost relieved to hear that the Colonel wanted a visit from me when I came in. His door was open and he was staring at his monitor when I knocked on the door frame. He motioned for me to come in and I shut the door behind me. Without any pleasantries he got right onto the subject at hand.

"Mrs. Stapleton brought something to my attention this morning." He spun the monitor around so we could both see. It was the headlines of the Rutland Herald, a newspaper out of Vermont.

Vermont Vampire Victim Four!

"Oh, you're kidding."

The Colonel didn't bother to respond to my disbelief. "We've retrieved the coroner's report from first three victims. There are no wounds to explain why the victims are dead. The blood isn't missing; it's just dried in their veins."

Our eyes met. "We've missed one," I concluded. He nodded that it was his thought as well.

"I need you out there today to see if you can get a handle on this. Take whoever you need."

"What about the retrieval tomorrow?" It wasn't like they could send one of the goons for this one. It involved another Pyrokinetic. Things could get greatly out of hand.

"You'll have to work fast." He saw the look on my face. "If it comes down to it, your team will leave and retrieve the subject. This takes top priority for now. It's already made the papers."

I understood. I was just trying to figure out a way to split us up. We really didn't have the human resources to handle multiple problems at the moment. "I'll have Max cover the Pyro. He can neutralize him at the very least if he goes rogue. I'll send Ray, Christopher, James, and Heather with him. Maybe they can help."

The Colonel nodded.

"I'll take, Dani, Lara, Sheri and Sean with me. I think they'll be our best chance in finding whoever is doing this."

He made to pick up his land-line phone, but his cell went off at the same moment. "Yes?" he answered. "You're sure of this." A major league frown upended itself on his face. He clicked of and holstered the cell. "We may have a bigger problem. That was Mrs. Fine. It seems as if the suspect was killed during another murder attempt."

I cringed. "That can't be good."

"I'm going to assign this one to Mrs. Fine. She has certain talents that will make sure the body of the killer won't make it to autopsy."

"I'm not even going to ask." Really. I don't want to know.

He nodded in agreement. "What are you planning for the Pyrokinetic?"

Adjusting to the quick change in gear that the Colonel was wont to do, I explained. "Considering his talent and EETDG I'm going to pick him up early, willingly if possible."

"EETDG?"

Ha! An acronym he doesn't know! "Estimated Exposure Time During Gestation – It's to base how strong we think the subject's talent is going to be. His is estimated pretty early, so, his talent is probably going to be pretty strong. If he goes rogue, I'd rather it not be in the middle of dinner with his father in a high income condo."

The Colonel considered the scenario. "What time are we looking at for First Emergence?"

"Six o'clock. Dani confirmed what Tony saw, but her vision was very short. All she could see was that he was in a dark room, and looking at the glow of his watch when his hair caught fire. So we don't even know if I was there or not, or where it was."

The Colonel pressed his lips together, which I was coming to recognize as his, 'making a decision' face. "Go now, gather your team. I'll meet you in the mission briefing room."

I was punching away at my cell, texting everyone involved for a unscheduled mission. When I was passing the workout room I spotted Liz inside with her physical trainer. An overwhelming urge to tell her what was going on overcame me.

Knocking on the door alerted the occupants that I was in the room. Liz smiled big and toothy for a minute. "Sorry coach, I need to borrow Liz for about fifteen minutes." He nodded at me told her what to work on for the next session.

She bounced out of the door a minute later. "Hey, Mom. What's up?"

Something pulled at my chest again; this time it wasn't comfortable. "I have to leave right away. Something's come up. Can you watch Miss Bonsai for me?"

Liz's face dropped in worry. "Is everything okay?"

I shrugged. "There's someone that I have to pick up. He might pose a danger to a lot of people. I'm going to take care of it."

She stopped on our way to my room. Her face went even more worried. "You're not going alone are you?"

I shook my head. "Of course not. I'm taking a good team with me."

"Can I come?"

I gave her my crazy eyes. "Definitely not. You're not trained for this, Liz. Not yet, anyway." She was crushed. Even I wasn't trained for this, but it was my responsibility and with the help of my team, we might be able to do something. "I need you here safe for me, so I don't have to worry, okay?"

And for some reason I knew I would worry anyway. "Just take care of Bonsai for me and make sure you keep up on your studies." God, now I was sounding like her Mom for real. She just nodded and we hurried along so that I could meet up with the team.

I swiped my pass key and opened the door. Rushing into the closet I chose the dressed down version of the commando outfit. Basically everything from last time except for the baggy shirt and web belt. I looked a little butch, but I've seen worse where I grew up. Liz watched as I changed. Concern was still on her face the entire time, but I tried to ease her mind.

"This is part of my job, Liz. You know I have the power to protect myself. You don't need to worry."

When I was dressed I checked to make sure I had my cell. "I'll text you while I'm gone, okay?"

She nodded quickly, and tried to appear brave for me. It almost broke my heart to see. "Come here."

In a second she was hugging me and whispering. "Be careful, Mommy."

I kissed her on the cheek. "I will be, sweetie." Looking up at Miss Bonsai, I said to her, "Bonsai, you watch out for Liz, okay. Make sure you go wherever she goes. Protect her. She's going to take care of you until I get back."

The Calico hopped down the stairs and ran over to rub herself on Liz's legs.

"Okay, baby, I have to go now." My face was flush and my eyes started burning. I kissed her on the cheek again.

Leaving them standing in front of my room, while Liz held Bonsai, wrenched at my heart. It felt like I was abandoning them to the wild or something, to fend for themselves. We were only going to be gone for a half day, one day at the most, but if seemed like it was going to be much longer.

~~~

We all met down in the mission briefing room. I was the last one there and the rumor mill was already in full swing when I arrived. Once I gave them the lowdown I dismissed everyone to Wardrobe to get properly attired and had Heather grab me an additional outfit to wear, Identical to the one I had on, and something casual, in case I was totally off base about how the subject dressed. The Colonel stood to the side as I ran the mission out for everyone, and after I dismissed them he nodded in my direction. I guess he approved.

He insisted I arm myself, so I took a butterfly knife and an asp, both easily concealable in my pockets. At my waist I carried, what looked to be mace, but was, in fact, the same crap they sprayed in my face when they kidnapped me. Last resort I suppose.

The teams returned dressed with a couple of overnight bags amongst them. Once we were in the air, The Colonel passed out our ID's.

"We had them made up to ease the way if you ever had to encounter law enforcement. A DC issued drivers license is in there as well. They're yours for the duration. Don't abuse the privilege."

I opened mine up: Kristyn Keys, Special Agent in Charge. The seal of the Department of Homeland Defense was prominent, along with my picture, expiration date, blah, blah, blah. On the other side was a gold, shield type badge with a spread eagle atop, looking like it was about to kick somebody's ass, or maybe snatch a field mouse for a snack… it could have gone either way.

"Um, thanks?" The Colonel was still lurking over me, waiting for something else. What's he want, a hug? "Do we get the neat looking holder things I can wear on a chain around my neck, like on cop shows?"

His eyes drooped, and the frown that I was becoming accustomed to returned. "No."

"Fine, take all the fun out of being a secret agent."

"That's Special Agent."

"Uh huh. Whichever."

Once we were in mid-flight I was getting decidedly uncomfortable. My stomach was tight, and my neck started hurting. It was like I was incredibly tense, and the more time I spent on the plane was making it worse. Constantly looking at my watch, and phone for some reason, was really starting to annoy me. Even Dani, who was sitting beside me, noticed.

"Kris, you look awful," she said at a whisper. "What's wrong." I gave her a frown, but she backed her observation up. "It doesn't take a Empath to notice you are seriously bothered by something. Is it the mission."

The truth was that I was on edge. The thought of having to leave… I groaned. "Liz."

Dani was lost. "Is something wrong with her?"

I shook my head. "Something's up with us. I feel like…" I couldn't figure it out. "Maybe you should take a look. Maybe you can tell what's going on."

She turned in her seat. "Okay, it's easier if you look at me." Meeting her gaze, I watched as her Topaz eyes went to work on my psyche. "You miss her. You're almost in agony having to leave her behind. It's like…" She gasped and broke her connection as she held her hand over her mouth.

"What. It's like what?"

She gathered herself together. "It's like she's really your daughter."

I think one of my eyes twitched. I must have seriously misunderstood what she just said. "I'm sorry, what?"

Dani took my hand in between hers. "You really, really care about her. It feels like a mother abandoning her child."

Okay, now I knew she was taking some serious drugs or something. "How would you know how that feels?"

Her lips pursed. "Kris. I've been working on deciphering my talent since the first week I've been at the Center. What I feel from you is loss, guilt, and love. A lot of love, and a lot of guilt, it's tearing you up inside."

My eyes were burning again. I can't deal with this right now. "How can I turn it off?"

She smiled at me, almost humoring me. "Sweetie, you can't turn off love. It just is." She paused for a second. "Send her a text. I want to see what you feel when you do. It's one way to make sure I'm right."

Steeling myself, I pulled out my cell and raised the text message screen.

"Send something that you feel, and do not try to cover it up, Kris. It needs to be real."

Dammit. I closed my eyes and thought of Liz, and the last time I saw her stand there in the hallway in front of the door holding Miss Bonsai. She was miserable and at that moment, and so was I.

Liz, I miss you. I'll be home as soon as I can. Love, Mom.

Before I could stop myself I hit the send key, and then felt tears drop from my face. Dani slipped a tissue into my hand. "Tina said that you were by her bedside when the transition occurred." I only nodded in conformation. "Maybe something happened.'

I dabbed at my eyes. "She was scared. I told her I wasn't going to leave her. That's when she first called me Mommy."

Dani sat in thought for a minute or two. "Kris, I may be talking out of my butt here, but maybe it's like an imprint or something." I didn't say anything, but I let her know that I didn't understand. "Oh, where's Sheri. She can explain this better than I can."

I turned back and motioned for the purple-haired girl to come up. She turned the seat in front of us around and leaned forward. "What's up?"

"Sheri," Dani opened. "Tell Kris about Emotional Imprints."

She raised her eyebrows and then blinked like she was recalling specific information.

Dani shook her head. "You were just talking about this last week weren't you?"

She nodded. "I can give you the basics. It's related to what I do. She shook her head when she noticed she was going off on a tangent. "Basically, a traumatic event causes them. You've heard of haunted houses, right?"

I nodded as I tried to follow along.

"A major crime, or a particular betrayal that causes a suicide or death are the main causes, but anything specifically, emotionally charged can leave a residue or a bond in the area it happened. Sometimes a specific object can be the holder of an Imprint. That's where being a Token Reader comes in."

"How about between people?" asked Dani.

Sheri considered it and then shrugged. "I've never heard of that happening before. What's going on? Is it related to the mission?"

Dani looked at me, and I rolled my eyes. "Go ahead."

"I think something happened to Liz and Kris during Liz's transformation. Kris never left the room when it happened."

"I was holding her hand," I confirmed.

"And you've seen how Liz follows her around like a puppy."

Sheri nodded her head. "It's hard not to. You think she left an Emotional Imprint on Kris?"

Dani shrugged her shoulders. "All I'm getting from Kris right now is that she is feeling seriously guilty for leaving Liz behind."

I mentally thanked her for not mentioning the love part. Not that she heard.

"So this whole Mom thing is for real?" she asked.

"I'm not her mom," I hissed back. Then I felt seriously guilty for denying that physical fact. "But I feel like I am." My head dropped back to the seat rest. "Somebody just shoot me, please."

Dani continued to rub the back of my hand. "Kris, there are worse things in the world than being a mother."

"I'm sixteen."

"There are a lot of sixteen year old mothers out there," confirmed Sheri.

"I haven't even had sex yet."

Sheri laughed. "Well there's only one virgin mother that I know of, and you ain't her, sister."

My cell chirped at me. Did I want to look? I opened the inbox and saw it was from Liz. When I opened the text I read her message and the waterworks started again.

Mom, Miss Bonsai and me are in bed. Lili told the doctor that I was crying and he made me go to my room to sleep. Mrs. Fine let me in your room to swipe your pillow cause it smells like you. I'm okay now. I miss you. I love you. Come home soon. Love Liz.

"Oh, Kris." Dani held me for a minute until I could get myself under control, then she made things worse, or maybe better. I'm still trying to figure it all out. She made me tell her everything that I thought of when I pictured her in my head.

I'm not going over that because It's very personal, but it was obvious that I thought of her as my daughter. There was no other explanation for it. The only thing I wanted to do at that moment was land in New York, kick the living crap out of the pyro for pulling me away from her, and get home as fast as I could. Okay, maybe I should just spray the pyro in the face with the magical sleep potion.

So, I just sat there, grinding my teeth, facial muscles working overtime to provide a nasty scowl, left leg and foot bouncing along in with nervous energy.

Is this what it's like for mothers that leave their daughters with a babysitters, when they go back to work, after the whole birth thing?

The good part about this? I won't have to hold the pyro's hand while he transitions as well. I'd be a crispy critter if that happened. One daughter figure in my life is more than enough… too much actually. God, I felt guilty when I thought that.

~~~

We must have looked quite the picture stepping off the plane at JFK Airport. Me in my urban teenage-rebellion outfit, Dani in a short skirt and heels, Sheri and her purple hair, James in Dockers and a red polo, Max dressed in the latest Manga-chic, and Rita, in her jean shorts and green tank, not to mention her funky red hair. All of us were being led by the Colonel who was still in his off-the-rack, blue, two button suit.

Just one SUV this time, and the Colonel was riding shotgun. Goon was driving. By the time we had made it to Greenwich Village, through the traffic, it was almost nightfall.

Jason Knapp was a clubber, spending most of his time, when he wasn't at his summer job, at one of the more seedier dives in Greenwich Village, Industrial dance music was his pleasure, hence why I was wearing the urban outfit. It opened at eight and the line was already forming was quickly being dispersed down into the basement club. The two bouncers were swiping a wand over the customers, so I took out my knife and Asp and gave it to the Colonel.

"Metal detectors."

He nodded and handed the Asp back to me. "Ceramic."

Right. Patting myself down I made sure I had my newly issued ID, and a wad of cash. The Colonel handed me a ear piece, which I looked at for a second. "You haven't been to a place like this before have you? There's no way I'll be able to hear anything once I get inside that club, and you can forget trying to hear me."

Sheri confirmed my description, before checking my makeup one last time. It was dark, matching my outfit and the general theme of the club. She did make me take off my sports bra, saying it was expected with the outfit. Her last gesture to me was to hold up a lipstick. "For touching up."

I grimaced. "I'm not going in there to make out with anyone."

With smile she almost laughed at me. "How, exactly, are you going to get him out of the club?"

Set phasers on stun. "Uh."

"Right," she said with more than enough satisfaction in her voice. "Take the lipstick."

I grabbed it and put it in a thigh pocket.

"Do you at least know how to dance?"

I gave her my best withering glare before opening the door and sliding down to the concrete. The Colonel opened his window and gave me the once over. I shook out my hair to make it look a little messy and arranged the back of my tank into the waist of my pants. "How to I look?"

His eyes stopped at my unbound breasts poking from the inside of the tank. "Young."

I smiled. "Good enough." My cell holster was belted down as I double checked and gestured to it. "I'll text you every thirty minutes. Send me one when he arrives."

He leaned back in his seat and I took off across the street.

Fifteen dollars to get in! I guess there's something to be said for living in a midsized American town. I've never had to pay more than five dollars to go to the under eighteen clubs back home. Maybe the all ages thing here had something to do with it. Probably. With the nicely faked DC ID I was able to acquire an armband that let me do whatever I pleased inside.

The stairs were lined with those white Christmas lights and I could already hear the thumping of dance music. My ears weren't going to be thanking me by night's end. When I hit the club proper, I noticed the walls weren't normal. They were dressed up cave-like, and the wall just to the left of the entrance had hand holds, like those rock climbing walls in the mall. I looked up and there was something akin to a tree house up there. I could see a couple of arms flailing about. This place is weird.

The bar was pink lit in the background and black light was everywhere. It wasn't too busy just yet. The dance floor was only a quarter full at the moment and the long bar had ten people waiting on their drinks served by three tenders. There were too many off shoot rooms around. It was going to be a bitch finding Knapp when he did show up. I didn't want to be standing at the bar watching the door the whole time. I'd be too tempted to drink. When one of the bartenders pumped his chin at me and smiled, I also know that I'd have to have a decent cover.

"What you having, baby?"

Oh god. I'm a single girl in a dance club. Maybe this wasn't such a good plan after all.

My usual fare from my boy days would be a Crown and Coke, but that wasn't going to fly here, plus I didn't want to get drunk. I think that would probably be frowned upon. What's a good chick beer? Something lite, obviously. "Bud Lite."

He reached down and in the span of three seconds had a longneck on the bar with the top popped. "Eight bucks."

FOR A BEER?!

I only pissed myself for a second before tossing a ten beside the bottle and walking off with my single drink. Maybe Budweiser is spiking club beer with mood altering drugs. It was the only thing I could come up with.

You want to know something? Walking around with no bra is annoying. My breasts were jiggling with every single move I made. Thank god I wasn't cursed with something in the overly large size. C-cups were big enough, and quite unwieldy when they were unleashed.

The vibration of my cell alerted me of a text.

Hi mom, I hadn't heard from you in a while and was getting worried. Are you okay?

The tightening in my chest, that I didn't realized I had, eased a little. I breathed out and smiled after, before returning her message.

Hey sweetie, Mom's on the job at the moment. Have you been studying like a good girl? Is Miss Bonsai watching over you? If you scratch her on her back right near her tail it makes her poke her tail straight up. I miss you baby. Mom.

I reviewed the message before I sent it and smiled then frowned. When did I get all… sweet and girlie? Liz would like it, and right now what made her feel good made me feel good, so I hit send. Deal with my new oddities later.

~~~

Three check-ins later and I felt another vibration. It was from Dani.

Game on.

By the time he arrived I had the whole dancing as a girl thing down pat. The beer was long gone and the Coke that I had in my hand had to go. I knew guys, and I also knew that guys zeroed in on girls with certain drinks. Beer was low maintenance, and the girl, aware of how she drinks. Mixed drinks were high maintenance, cold and annoying. Mixed drinks were too girl-aggressive, something that I didn't want show and put him off. His file said that he was more likely to be the aggressor in a relationship. Wine was totally out, and frankly nasty. It was the shot-girls that interested guys went after. They were looking to get drunk, get out, and get laid; not necessarily in that order.

I made it to the bar at exactly the same time he did, purposely. My skin was glowing from the dancing I was doing. I knew I looked hot, and not in a, 'can someone lower the thermostat, please,' way. The bar was crowded so I slid sideways, and pressed my breasts against him as I tried to squeezed through. I know, I'm awful.

I was looking at the pink lit mirror behind the bar and saw his face drop down and his eyes widen at the contact. That was way too easy. A different bartender pointed at me.

"I need Sex on the Beach." Yeah, I purposely said it that way.

The bartender laughed and I turned my head to the body that I was pressed up against. Knapp's eyes jerked to mine, and I gave him one of the smiles I reserve solely for Ray. "Sorry, I'm really hot and really thirsty." Stress on the word 'hot'.

"Any time."

Making a production out of eying his body and smiling satisfactorily I asked, "What's your name?"

"Jason," he yelled over the music.

"Ten!" the said the bartender. I tossed a twenty at him and smiled. "Thanks!"

Taking the shot glass I upended it into my throat, and swallowed in a single gulp, shook my head and smiled as bright as I could. Knapp grinned along until I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him down. "I'm very horny and I want to have sex right now!"

Letting him go was kind of funny. He didn't move hardly at all, just enough to see my face. I gave him my best interested look. Oh shit. Maybe I went a little overboard. His hand was behind my back and his lips were on my mouth. I guess that's one way to test the waters. It wasn't Ray, and I wasn't good enough to try to fantasize that it was him kissing me, so I stuttered a little at first, but eventually I guess I convinced him. I may have to brush with bleach tonight to get the taste of a random guy out of my mouth, but I didn't think I'd yak right there in the club.

His hand dropped down and squeezed my butt, so I did the only thing I could and grabbed him by the belt as I turned away, and pulled him along with me. I grimaced on the way out. Hopefully the alcohol from the drink would burn away the guy cooties that were in my mouth. Sheri was just going to love the fact that I couldn't get out of there without a lip-lock.

I already knew the answer, but once we got outside I immediately asked him where he lived. He got a little nervous. "Um... I still live at home."

"That's cool, are your parents home right now?" I already knew the answer to that too.

"My dad works nights."

I didn't ask about his mom, 'cause she was dead, and if she were there he'd say something. "Let's go then. Lots to do."

He looked like he hit the jackpot. Too bad that this slot machine wasn't paying off tonight. Knapp's condo was two blocks over from the club and on the third floor. He insisted on holding my hand. It probably would have been rude not to go along with it considering what I was going to do to him tonight, not to mention it would have looked a little weird asking him to have sex, and not look eager until we were inside closed doors.

Surprisingly, the place was very tidy. Not surprisingly, it was very male. It almost seemed like home to me in a past life sort of way. It made me miss my father more than I already missed him.

"Can I get you something to drink?" he politely offered.

"Water for me, please. Feel free to drink whatever you want."

The beer didn't do anything to me, but I was feeling very loose from the shot I downed about fifteen minutes earlier. The irony of being handed a bottled water wasn't lost on me. Well, I wasn't giving birth any time soon, so hopefully I'd be okay.

Knapp mixed himself a screwdriver. It was teenager's mixed drink. It's hard to mess up the ingredients. Believe me, I'd know.

"Jason, I have something to tell you, and I need you to hear me out."

He stopped stirring his drink and his shoulders slumped. "You aren't a guy, are you?"

I actually laughed at that one. "Um, no." He brightened.

"Good, I swear, I have the worst luck sometimes. Some guys out there can really pass for girls. I mean reeeeeally pass."

I know, one of them is a good friend of mine. I didn't say that, but I did nod in understanding. "This isn't about me, well, in a way it is, but this is about you."

Now he was stumped. "Do I know you?"

"No." I took out my DHS ID and showed him. What the heck, it might make him take me seriously. He took it and was, well I guess stunned would be a good word. He was just looking at it like he didn't understand what it was and why I was showing him. He did look up at me and down at the photo a few times.

"Is this for real?"

I nodded somberly. "Yeah."

He swallowed. "You're not really horny tonight are you."

I shook my head.

"And you really don't want to have sex, either."

They weren't questions. He knew I'd led him here under false pretenses.

"No. I'm here for another reason."

He frowned at his drink and turned to the wet bar to toss it down the drain, but I stopped him. "You really might want to hold on to that for now. You're gonna need it."

The glass started shaking and a some of his drink spilled over the side. He caught himself and set it down. "Is this about my dad?"

I shook my head again. "No, this is only about you."

Gears were in overdrive within his brain trying to figure out what it was that he did. Then his eyes widened. "Look, I can erase the downloads. I really didn't want the music anyway. It was Mitch, he said it was cool, but I knew better…"

"Jason! Stop, I'm not here about illegal downloads." I was just making things worse. "Bring your drink let's sit down."

Once I had him on the couch and he'd drank about half a glass of alcohol he seemed to be less nervous. I explained the bottled water fiasco. It was something that he never knew about. His dad never told him anything about his mother. It was a touchy subject in the Knapp household.

"So, I'm intersexed is what you're saying?"

I nodded.

"What does that mean?"

I leaned over and poked him twice low on the abdomen. "It means, here and here are ovaries. They aren't functional at the moment. That's why you haven't had any health problems, and you don't have any feminine characteristics."

He stared at me for about thirty seconds like he didn't believe me before he downed the rest of his drink in one long pull. I watched as he returned to the bar to have another drink. Maybe I'd discovered a new way to introduce this to new subjects! Just get them drunk and lay it out. For some reason I didn't think the Colonel would go for it. He was probably going to be pissed that I didn't drink Coke for the whole evening.

"I have to get these things out of me, right? An operation?"

I shook my head. "That probably wouldn't be a good idea. We have… I'm skipping over things here. Come sit back down."

"There's more?"

I nodded, and was about to suggest bringing the bottle along, but he beat me to it. When he situated himself, he took another drink and set the glass on a coaster, but still held onto the vodka bottle as some type of familiar object. Well, I know people that cling to teddy bears, why not vodka bottles? More cathartic in my opinion.

"The water did something else to you."

Before I got it out he just blurted, "It's gonna turn me gay isn't it? I thought telling Mitch that he was looking good the other day was just a nice thing to do. I mean he was going out on a date with Stephanie Hightower and he asked. I mean what was I supposed to say?"

He caught me off guard with that one. I just stared on, a bit open mouthed. Then I clicked it shut and shook my head. "No. As far as I know, you aren't turning gay. That's entirely up to you and your own lifestyle."

I jumped at my cell phone vibrating. Lifting it up, I saw that Liz had sent me another text.

I love you.

I smiled and it made my heart warm at the thought. "Sorry, it's my daughter… never mind. Just a sec." I typed in a return. Almost done, sweetie.

"How old are you?" he asked with skepticism. "I mean you don't look…"

"I'm sixteen."

While he was processing that, I dove in to the meat of the subject. "You have a talent, a power that's going to manifest itself tomorrow night." Okay, I'd lost him with that one. "Watch."

I did the arcs between the fingers party trick. He totally ignored the orange juice and took a hit right from the neck of the vodka. His eyes started watering, and he took a deep breath to cool his throat.

"What the hell was that?!"

"My talent. I'm a Electrokinetic, just like you're going to be a Pyrokinetic."

The phone rang at that moment, startling both of us. Jason stared down at the remote phone sitting on the coffee table. At the same time, my own cell started chirping at me.

"Answer it. I've got a call too." I watched him numbly pick up the phone as I clicked on mine. "Keys."

It was the Colonel. "Was that the house phone going off?"

"Uh, yeah. What, are you listening?" Duh, stupid question. I'd totally forgotten about the whole tapping into the cell phone spy thing that they can do.

"Three teen-aged males are entering the building. Did your subject let them in?"

"Hold on." Jason just set down his phone. "Who was that?"

He shrugged. "They said they had a delivery for my dad."

I had a really bad feeling something really bad was about to happen. "We're hitting the stairs, Colonel. Clear the way!"

I grabbed his hand and jerked him to his feet as I rose. "We have to leave now. Those weren't delivery men. Come on!"

"What? What's happening?"

We were to the door, which I opened it to check the hallway. "Which way to the stairs?"

"To the right, by the elevator. Where are we going?"

I pulled him into a run, but he wasn't feeling the danger. "Those guys you just let in are probably coming to kill us. I'm getting you to a safe place." It was sort of true. They would probably try to kill me, which I'm sorry to say is a little more important on my not to do list.

As we hit the door I heard the ding of the elevator announcing that the car was arriving. Of course this elevator out of all the slow clunkers in America happened to be the fastest. I shoved the door closed and hoped that they didn't hear. I looked around for some thing to block the door, like in all of the spy movies. There'd always be a heavy trash can or maybe a old timey fire hose that I could conveniently tie off the knob so it wouldn't open. Apparently the engineers that planned this particular building hadn't seen those movies.

I held my finger to my lips and shushed any further conversation while I tried to listen at the door. Nothing. Pointing down, we made tracks down the stairs until I heard the patting of shoes racing upward. We stopped and I pushed Jason against the wall out of the way. "Stay there. Let me deal with this."

It didn't take long. Another few seconds and a blond-haired boy rounded the corner, he reached up one hand to his ear and the other out at me. My dad didn't raise a stupid child. Nothing good was coming out of that hand at me, and I wasn't going to wait to see what it was.

All he got out was, "They're in the…," before I gave him the shock of his life… literally.

He slammed back into the wall behind him and collapsed to the floor.

"Come on, move!" I felt like the Roadrunner, my feet were spinning so fast on the stairs. "They know where we are."

The second floor whizzed by and we were about to the first when I heard gunfire from outside the final door. "That leads to the outside, right?"

Jason, already out of breath, nodded. "Hang on, I have friends out there. We'll be safe soon."

Something exploded and I heard rain. Rain? Max! "When I say run, you run straight toward a big black SUV. It should be right outside the door. Okay." He nodded. I pushed against the emergency door and, of course an alarm sounded. Well that might not be a bad thing.

A quick check and I saw the team about fifteen feet away. The Colonel was popping shots off at a car to the left and Max was using a fire hydrant to blast a jet of water at them. Perfect.

"Max, get'um wet!"

All I saw was a smile from his face when I rounded the door. "RUN NOW!"

Pulling up a large amount of my power I let loose in the direction of where the water was landing. Remember Max's warning about water and electricity not mixing very well? I did get to see something from the movies that I've always wanted to see. A car explosion!

By the time I turned to make a break for the SUV, Jason was diving inside and the driver was backing up to make a break for it. The Colonel jumped back in the truck and I was a couple of steps away when something hit me. It was hard enough to spin me around and drop me to the concrete below.

"KRIS!" Someone female, screamed.

I was dazed for a second and then the searing pain in my shoulder hit me. Landing as I did I had a perfect view of the front of the building and the two teens that were standing there, one of them holding his hand out at me and grinning. Fear, pain, anger, and everything else that was coursing through me screamed up and out, as I let loose with another bolt of energy directed right at them.

~~~

"Again!" "Clear!"

A jolt of energy coursed through me.

"Dude! You can't do it that many times, you'll kill her."

The Colonel's voice filtered through my aching head. "Keep him out of the way. Keys? You awake in there?"

I honestly didn't have the energy to answer.

"Charge it again."

"Give me a chance to tie off the pressure bandage, dammit!"

"Try her hands, that's where she's always recharged before!"

Two circular somethings were pressed into my palms. "Clear!"

Okay, I felt that one, and it felt good. My eyes blinked open.

"Kris!"

I groaned. "Fuck… is my arm still on?"

The Colonel leaned back on the heels of his feet. Apparently I was on the floor, and from the looks of things, already on the jet. "Yes, but you have a really big hole there." He looked over at Sheri. "Kirsch, start a unit of B negative for her. She's lost too much blood. Marks, hand me that kit."

The burning at my shoulder started to increase to the point where I was about to say something, but the Colonel beat me to it. "I'm going to give you something for the pain. It'll probably knock you out."

I nodded in thanks. Yes, drugs would be good right about now. "Liz."

"She'll be waiting for us when we land. You worry about yourself."

A little prick at my left arm let me know that he was already shooting something into me.

"I want her to heal me. She can do it."

The Colonel gave me a stern look. "She hasn't been trained to do something like this, Keys."

I grabbed at his hand, and he took it, squeezing reassuringly. "I trust her. I want her to do it."

I didn't get to hear his answer before he blurred out, and my eyelids grew too heavy to hold up.

~~~

The sound of somebody weeping woke me. My right hand was being squeezed to death and the back of it was wet. I blinked my eyes open and I saw a mass of raven black hair hovering over my hand laying on the bed.

"Hey," I said. My voice was a little rough from sleeping, but before I even had a chance to clear it, Liz's hair whipped up and around, as she jumped out of the chair and on top of me.

"Mom!"

I wrapped my arms around her and it felt like the best thing in the world to me at that moment. It was amazing how much I could miss a person that I hadn't known for less than a week. Whatever this imprint, bond, or link we had actually was, I wasn't seeing a downside at the moment. I'd probably retract that statement at some point, but the feeling of holding someone that I considered my daughter at that moment was absolute heaven for me.

Her voice was muffled at my neck, not to mention the sobbing that was going on, but I could still understand her quite clearly.

"Never again. I'm going where you go. You don't ever leave me again. Never. Ever."

I squeezed her tighter, and she broke down into my arms.

The door opened and I saw the doc stick his head in. A frown from my face, and one returned from him wound up with him closing the door. Since there wasn't a gigantic bandage on my shoulder and I wasn't in any pain I deduced that Liz had been at work.

"You fixed me."

Her head nodded quickly. "Uh huh."

"Thank you."

She pulled back and I could see she was a mess. Her eyes were swollen and red, along with her nose. "Mom, you gotta promise to take me with you next time."

I looked to the side, where a small table was set up, complete with a box of tissues. Plucking one, I dabbed at Liz's tears and smiled. "Sweetie. It's dangerous out there for us right now. I'd never forgive myself if you got hurt."

"But it's okay if you get hurt?" she gasped and then grabbed at the tissue to blow her nose. "I could have helped you."

I nodded. "And we were in a gunfight as well. You could have been shot and then what would I have done?"

She didn't like that question, and instead of arguing, she lay her head back down against my breast. "It feels so good to have you back. I missed you so much."

Running my fingers through her hair soothed something inside me as well as her. She sighed with satisfaction. Before long, I heard her breath deepen, and knew she was asleep. I must have dozed off again as well, because the next thing I knew, someone was touching my shoulder. Ray.

"Hey beautiful," he whispered.

I smiled up at him. "Hey yourself."

Leaning down he kissed me sweetly on the lips and stroked my hair back. "How are you feeling?"

I shrugged lightly. "A little tired, but Liz fixed me up."

He looked down at her, and turned his head like he was studying her sleeping face. "She was almost hysterical when she found out what happened to you." His face turned serious. "And I've got to say that I wasn't too happy myself." After giving me a disapproving purse of his lips he added, "I can't believe you left me behind."

"If the mission went as planned you would have never been needed, Ray. But that's changed. Now, every mission is going to be very high risk."

He nodded and then looked down at Liz again. "What's up with you two? She wouldn't even leave your bedside when the Colonel ordered her to. She told him to fuck off."

My eyes widened at that, but it brought a smile to my face. "I'll have to talk to her about that."

"Kris, she thinks she's your daughter, like for real."

There was that satisfaction feeling back again. "In a way, she is."

At his inquiring look, I explained. "Dani thinks she imprinted on me when she transitioned. I was there with her the entire time."

He considered my words and Dani's guess. "Is there a way to break it."

Liz and I answered at the same time. "No."

She cringed when she looked up at me and I gave her the raised eyebrow treatment. "Been listening for long, miss nosy pants?"

Liz ignored my question. "I don't want it to be broken. Please don't let them break it."

By this time I was wholeheartedly in her corner about that topic, but I was also the adult figure, between the two of us, so I had to consider the best thing for her. "Sweetie, I want you to think about something. What happened to us isn't exactly normal. I'm only a couple of months older than you are, but I feel as if I gave birth to you," I frowned. "As weird as that sounds." Before she could get a word in edgewise, I continued. "We don't look anything alike, so I can't even say we're related like sisters."

Her face was crumbling again. I know she thought I was rejecting her. Tears started to stream down her face. "Liz, I'm just saying you need to think about this, and not just go with your heart."

"I'm not dumb, Mom. You don't think I realize how weird this is? When I woke up after I changed, and you were there, holding my hand, I felt so loved and wanted. It was just like I imagined having a real mom would be. So what, if we're a little weird. So what, if you're just a little older. When I'm with you I feel so safe, like you wouldn't ever let anything bad happen to me."

I nodded. "That's how I feel. I have sympathy for the person that even looks at you wrong around me."

She looked at me like that should have been so obvious. "See. Are we hurting anyone?"

I shook my head.

"Are we hurting ourselves, by loving each other this way?"

"Probably not," I admitted.

"So where's the harm?"

I cupped her face and then set her head back down. "No harm at all, baby girl." I kissed her on top of her head. "No harm at all."

Ray looked wistfully at the two of us and smiled. "We are going to have such a weird relationship."

I shrugged. "Who wants to be normal?"

Liz's hand slid around my ribs and her breath was warm and humid against my neck. "Can I change my last name to Keys?"

~~~

We wound up spending the rest of the night in the hospital bed so the doc could keep an eye on me, and review Liz's talent at work. By mid-morning I was finally allowed to leave the clinic to take a shower, and get into some real clothes before heading off to a debrief with the Colonel.

He didn't seemed surprised to see me up and around. I was beginning to think that he had two moods, plotting, and suppressed anger, never surprise.

"Recovered from your nearly fatal wounds?"

I made a face at him. "Thanks to my daughter."

He acknowledged that comment with mild interest, but other things held more of a priority. With a spin of his monitor I saw the front page of the New York Post.

Terrorist Strikes In Village

There was a picture, probably taken by a cell phone. It wasn't very good, but I could see a decent profile of my body. Luckily my face was obscured.

"The President wasn't pleased."

I glowered at him. "Well then next time that we have to defend ourselves, I'll give him a call and ask his permission first."

He almost smirked, but caught himself in the end. "It wasn't that. That could be explained away any by any number of believable scenarios. It was the lightning strike on a clear night, the resulting explosion, the virtual destruction of the front of the building, and the resulting black out in a ten block radius, that held most of his concern." He held his finger up so I didn't interrupt. "Not to mention the death of two former members of Naval Intelligence that happened to be electrocuted, and half blown up from the car explosion down the street."

"Naval…"

"I'm not done yet."

"Sorry."

The Colonel spun his monitor back around and clicked a few key on the computer before spinning it back to me. "These two were supposedly missing in action almost twenty years ago in the Iraqi dessert. They were assumed dead until now."

That brought a frown to my face. "So, it is our own people that are against us."

He nodded. "It's a fair assessment to say the President is disturbed by this, and has called a meeting with the directors of every agency to the White House. He want us there representing Homeland."

"Us?"

He nodded. "Me, you, select members of your team. A sampling. He's going to lay it out in the open and hopefully put a halt to whatever is going on."

I clicked a second later. "He wants to out the person responsible."

"It's a fair assessment to deduce that one of the directors knows about their own group's existence."

With a nod from me he closed down his computer. "I want you, James Cook, Christopher Duncan, Debra Webb and Sheri Kirsch at the meeting."

Liz isn't going to like that I'm leaving again so soon, and without her. "May I bring Liz along as well?"

He didn't answer right away. "What's this unusual attachment that you two have formed? Don't think I didn't notice you calling her your daughter when you sat down there."

Just rip the band-aid off. "She's imprinted on me, as near as we can figure out, anyway. It makes her believe that emotionally I am her mother, with the reverse effect on me as well."

The Colonel opened his mouth, but then closed it again.

"She wants to change her name to Keys as well." I looked away at that admission. That little something in my chest? It was almost purring at the thought of making our relationship official.

I may have slumped a little in my seat, to subconsciously reduce my target size for his response.

"And you?" He voice was short and measured.

I shrugged, but nodded afterward. I couldn't bring myself to verbally respond to his question. Maybe it was the last remnants of maleness in me that was dying off. I was a young woman now, and I was taking a major step of womanhood, officially becoming a mother. Being responsible for the care and well being of my semi-adopted daughter was beyond anything that I'd ever imagined. That would mean changes and new responsibilities, but with those came a grounded feeling, a sense of delightful contentment. It might not be the real thing. I might not have physically given birth to a sixteen year old girl, but I honestly couldn't tell what the difference could be.

The clacking of his keyboard brought me out of my musings. The Colonel's jaw was grinding a little. He wasn't mad, I could tell that much, but he wasn't exactly happy either.

"There you go. Miss Keys, you are now officially the mother of a one hundred and ten pound bouncing baby girl. Your request to have her attend tomorrow is accepted. Have your team ready, and dressed in the uniforms that will be delivered to your rooms. Make sure this is on the QT."

I blinked. "On the what?"

I'm sure the Colonel was feeling his age when he replied. "It's a phrase that old people use. It means, on the quiet. Keep the information on a need to know basis, Miss Keys."

I nodded and realized I was being dismissed. Before I made it to the door I turned around. "Um, I thought you said I wasn't going to be wearing a uniform."

His hazel eyes turned to me. "I lied."

"Right."

~~~

We were heading out that afternoon. I'd have to miss Jason Knapp's transition, but he as secure in the bunker until it happened. I did stop by before going up to check out the uniform I was supposed to wear.

After opening the door, I stuck my head inside. "Hey, you want some company?"

"Holy shit, your arm is healed!"

I smiled. "One of the perks we have. Instant healing."

Jason jumped up off the bed and tossed the magazine he was reading to the side. Neither of us knew what to say at that point. I mean I never had the chance to tell him about the last part of the situation involving his transition.

Looking around the bunker I marveled at how there was nothing in there, and the walls were scorched. They looked clean, but I guess you can only clean so much, and what was the point in painting. "This is where I changed."

"Really?"

I nodded. "I don't remember it too much. I was a little out of it at the time."

"Lucky you. The waiting is killing me, and the vodka wore off hours ago." He didn't wait too long before asking the inevitable question. "Is it true, that you used to be a guy?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Last week sometime."

"And I'm really going to change into a girl," he commented with a depressed finality.

"Yeah, that's pretty much a given." I tried to joke a little to lighten the mood, or at least try to. "If it's any consolation, we're all pretty nice looking. You probably won't be a…"

"It's not." I got really uncomfortable. It seemed like Jason's way of dealing was to ask questions. "They said that I might look like I was born as a different race."

"Yeah, I was white bread, big time. Now I look Mediterranean or something. We're guessing it has something to do with what nationality your ancestors were. I'm guessing recessive genes or something. I wasn't that big in biology, sorry."

"I'm a mutt. You name it and it's in my bloodline." He kept staring off at one of the walls, like they weren't ever there.

"Have a preference?"

He shrugged. "I kinda like Italian, but… body hair." He shivered. "Maybe Swedish, that would be kind of cool."

"Blond hair, buxom, tall…"

"Yeah, good point. Maybe not. I wasn't that big of a breast guy."

I laughed a little. "You seemed to like mine well enough."

He shrugged, shyly. "Well, there was supposed to be sex involved at the time."

"Good thought. That always skews the viewpoint."

He rubbed at his chin and the darkening peach fuzz that was there. "My mom was supposed to be from East Asia somewhere." He shook his head. "Forget about it. It doesn't matter. I don't have any control over it anyway."

"Maybe you do." I shrugged. "We don't know a lot about this Jason. If you want any control of an uncontrollable situation then try to make a difference. It'll give you something to think about other than how much time you have until the evening.

"What do you mean?"

I was making it up as I went along. How was I to know? "I dunno. Try to visualize a race, hair color, body size, everything. See if it works."

He sighed and closed his eyes before growling in frustration. "I don't want to be a chick, dammit!"

I stepped in and took grabbed a hold of his wrists to pull his hands down. "Well, neither did I. Now do you want to look like a big blond bimbo, or do you want to have any say in the matter? If you don't care, then lay back down there and enjoy the last few hours of your masculinity, but if you want to accept that the change is going to happen whether you like it or not, then try your damnedest to tailor it, so you can accept what you are."

His hands were shaking, and I could see that he was seconds from breaking down in front of me. "Jason, we don't have a choice. You don't have a choice. But it's not the end. We've all dealt with the change, and come out better for it. I have more friends here than I ever had before. I have a daughter that I love, and that loves me, and I also have a guy that I am severally attracted to. We get to make a difference in people's lives every day that we hang on and push through."

His hands had stopped shaking, and he was staring at me, but there was still something missing.

"When's the last time that you really made a difference in someone's life, Jason?"

He shook his head.

"Well, you're going to have a very strong talent. You will be right by my side when we go out there to help others like us. I need you there, Jason. I can't do this by myself. The others help, but they just can't know what it's like to control real power. So, I need you to cowboy up, mister."

He blinked at me, his mouth looked like it wanted to function.

"Now, what nationality do you want to be?"

"Asian," he whispered.

"Fine, what color hair?"

He smiled and looked off to the side with his eyes. "Light purple."

"Ahh, manga. You'll get along with Max, real well."

He choked on a laugh. "I doubt it. I like girls."

I shrugged. "Leave that for later then until you figure out what you want. How tall do you want to be."

"I don't know?"

"Well, don't go too tall. They make you wear high heels around here until you're used to them. How about five-six, five-seven?"

He nodded.

"Pick one, Jason."

"Five-seven."

"Great. You want long legs, and a tiny waist, big breasts? What kind of butt? Big feet, tiny feet? Concentrate on it, Jason. Get a damn good picture in your mind and make it happen. Can you do that?"

He sniffed and then nodded.

I gave him a single nod, and leaned in to hug him. "Good luck, Jason. I mean it. I'm right there rooting for you."




Chapter 9

By the time we made it to Washington DC I was fidgety. Liz was spending her time looking out of the window, and the rest of the gang was busy talking it up in the back. The Colonel spent most of his time on the laptop doing secret black bag research or something, or maybe it was online poker.

The big taxi dropped us off at the Willard, just down the street from the big guy. It was ritzy as all get out, but the White House was flipping the bill for this one. Your tax dollars at work. The team got one three bedroom suite, and the Colonel, a room for himself.

While Liz was in the shower, I kept a watchful eye on the time. Jason would be coming into his powers very soon and I expected an update to how he was handling the whole situation. The President chose a really crappy time to have this getting to know you summit with the rest of the Directors across the Executive Branch of the government. Having one of my own going through something as traumatic as a transition was a big deal in my book. I should have been there instead of a hotel, a mile away from the White House, twiddling my fingers.

"Shower's free, Mom."

That still sounded so weird. It made me feel like I was thirty-six instead of sixteen. "Thanks, sweetie."

Liz beamed every time I called her that. It was like an affirmation of our connection. I watched as she crossed the floor to the desk that she was using as a temporary make-up table. She sat down and started brushing the dampness from her long black hair. She frowned a little and swiveled in the chair.

"Mom, would you brush my hair?"

I didn't think anything of it. "Sure I can."

A few steps later and I was making sure the ends of her hair didn't have any tangles before I start the long sweeps. A motion off to the side brought my attention to the bed and Miss Bonsai watching us.

"I think Bonsai's jealous of you."

Liz grinned. "I'll make sure to give her good skritches behind her ears when you are in the shower."

She closed her eyes, and smiled happily. I've had my hair messed with by other people. As long as it isn't Heather and her manic date-night hairstyles, it was actually pretty nice. So, I could see how much enjoyment Liz was getting out of my brushing her hair. When it was pretty much dry I excused myself and hit the shower.

~~~

Nine o'clock was when I received the call.

"Keys."

"Miss Keys, this is Ms. Fine." She didn't sound too enthused, but then again Ms. Fine never seemed to get excited about much.

"How is Jason doing?" I asked without any preamble.

"He went rogue, Miss Keys. At six-thirteen this evening he experienced his First Emergence, and by eight-twenty five was attempting to burn a way out of the bunker. He was put down at approximately eight-thirty-seven."

I tried to act nonchalant. I knew this was a possibility, but I thought if I did something, just my mere presence at some point would make a difference. The arrogance I possessed was astounding.

"Did… did you try…"

"We tried subduing him a number of times before taking final action."

'Putting down', 'final action', pretty words for such an ugly act.

"Miss Keys, he was beyond control. We will have to add an extra layer of protection to the bunker. The heat he was using actually exploded several of the cinderblocks of the inside wall."

I nodded to nobody. "I'll be expecting your full report by morning, Ms. Fine."

"You'll have it. Would you like me to inform Colonel Harris?"

"No, I'll do it."

"Very well, Miss Keys."

The connection ended without any salutations. The Colonel took the news like any other factoid I'd delivered to him before. No emotion, just acknowledgement, like this thing happened every day. As an afterthought, I suppose that it did happen often enough. I had only been at the Center for a little over a week and personally knew of two rogue deaths, one of which I was the executioner. It was a bleak future if the percentage of rogues was this high.

The others were watching television in the main room of the suite. When they saw the somber look on my face as I entered, I think James understood what had happened before the other three.

"Jason didn't make it." There were no gasps of disbelief, or empty platitudes offered, just grim faces. They, more than me, had seen this sort of thing time and again. But me, as their leader, had to put on the happy face, or at least the positive face. "We'll figure this out. There's a reason that this happens."

Well that didn't do any good, and it really shouldn't have if you possessed any semblance of a heart. "Get some sleep. We have a meeting with some bigwigs tomorrow and I need every one of you with your A-game."

A potential friend and ally just took one to the head. Good night kiddies. Sweet dreams. Yeah, I'm a great leader.

~~~

The uniform was U.S. Army. The breakfast was Continental. Miss Bonsai was stoned on catnip. Liz was busy scratching my cat's tummy while she lay twisting her butt around with contented kitty smile on her face.

The Colonel and I were reading the report Mrs. Fine sent via some funky military secured connection. Everything was all nice and neat, with a big timeline of events as they happened, down to the second. All very efficient. All very emotionless. I glanced at the Colonel's face as he read. His jaw was set and I couldn't see any change whatsoever.

Would this be what I turned into in twenty or thirty years, a robot that could just read dispassionately about killing someone that was under my care? If there was one thing I'd learned in my short time at the Center, it was compartmentalization was a necessity of life. One of the main reasons that he chose me for my particular position was because I didn't break down at the drop of a hat. If I did feel overly emotional then there was no way I'd be able to do my job. It's kind of hard to pull the trigger on a psycho if I was arguing the validity of every action in the back of my head.

Keeping all of this in mind, I realized how much I'd changed in so short of a time, and I wasn't liking what I was seeing.

"Comments, suggestions?"

I blinked out of my introspection and looked at the Colonel. With a resigned sigh I answered him. "I want to try something with the next subject." See, I couldn't even say, the next teenage boy or girl that we might have to kill.

"Go ahead."

"As soon as they come up on the radar through Dani, Tony, or whoever, we go ahead and pick them up."

He tried to read my mind or my face, one of the two. "Why?"

I told him what Jason and I talked about, with my suspicions of possibly being able to control the change somewhat. He looked thoughtful. "How about the rogue element? Any ideas on that?"

I shook my head. "I got nothing. What have the scientists come up with?"

"Nothing new. They haven't been able to sedate any subject that has gone rogue. It makes it more difficult to gather the necessary sample for blood workups. Once the subject is neutralized then all bets are off."

After clearing the screen on the laptop I shut it down. "What's the plan for today?"

The Colonel shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine. The President doesn't want to show any of his cards before the meet. The only thing everyone knows is that he's pissed."

"Great."

Glancing over at the table the gang had commandeered about twenty feet away, I saw Liz give me a short wave. My lips thinned for her in some semblance of a smile, which she frowned at sympathetically.

"The uniform looks good on you."

I grimaced. "I feel like an imposter. I didn't earn this."

After taking a sip from his mug of coffee he set it down. "You earned it. Maybe not in the traditional way, but still. Whether you are conscious of the fact or not, you are a member of the United States Army, Kristyn. You've entered into combat against the enemy of this country. Just because they live here as well doesn't change that fact."

My lips pursed at the thought.

"As such, you are entitled to the recognition of your position. I've already sent in the paperwork for your Purple Heart."

My eyes widened. "What?"

"It's a medal."

I narrowed my eyes. "I know it's a medal."

"You were injured in combat. It's all part of the package."

"Yeah, but it wasn't like I was laid up for any length of time or anything. Shouldn't those go to guys that lose limbs?"

He nodded a single time. "They get theirs too." With a frown he added, "Kristyn, there are people out there that are awarded the Purple Heart who never actually earned it. A number of politicians come to mind." Pointing his finger at me, my arm specifically. "You almost had your arm blow off, so shut up and take the medal when it comes."

I had a feeling that Colonel Harris didn't like backtalk.

"Yes sir."

He cocked an eyebrow at me.

~~~

The White House, while impressive and all It wasn't so welcoming as I thought it would be. I tugged on the Army issue skirt that I was wearing while I took in the gigantic meeting room where we were waiting for all the chairs to fill up around the conference table. I call it a table; it was more like something from a TV show. There had to be about fifty good-sized chairs surrounding the monstrosity.

Marines were all over the place with their hands not too far away from their sidearms. I was nowhere near good enough to take more than a couple out before they'd do so to me, and they were professionally trained to kill people. Not that I had plans to do that or anything.

The Colonel ignored scene as he was perusing the morning memos that Mrs. Fine had sent to him. It was him and me sitting at the table directly. Chris, Debs, Sheri, James, and Liz held chairs directly behind us. They were dressed in Army dress uniforms as well. The difference was that they had a single decorative red circle on their left sleeve, near the shoulder, not to mention their last names on a black pin above their right breast pocket.

Liz was happy as a clam to be sporting Keys. I was proud that she thought enough of me to want my last name.

Me, on the other hand…

I was wearing the red circle as well. But I also had these silver bars on my shoulders with a single black pip in the center. The Colonel informed me that was the rank insignia of a Warrant Officer. He did tell me that it was not in the least bit out of the ordinary for someone with 'specialist experience' to be given the rank. It was these people that had little experience in actual soldiering that the regular grunts knew served a purpose.

I was also sporting a set of curved wings below my left breast pocket with two tiny placards hanging off that read Team and Field. You can take that to mean that I was in charge of my crew and why I was sitting at the table beside the actual guy in charge.

People were dribbling in; old people. I made it a point to check out the name plates where they sat and they were fairly impressive. Directors of Central Intelligence, National Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice Department, Defense Department, you name it, they were there along with several people that didn't look too happy to be there.

All of them, every single person that walked through that door, spied us. We were the anomaly at that meeting. Teenagers.

Chris made sure that the girls, at least, had professional looking makeup, letting us give the appearance of looking a couple of years older. The boys were screwed.

There was one guy who looked like he should be in a military uniform that gave the Colonel a surprised look before heading in our direction. I nudged him under the table and Harris closed his laptop and looked up.

"Harris, I though they drummed you out of the Army," the older man said with a mild look of distaste on his face.

The Colonel's face was like stone, much like every other time I've seen him. "Appearances can be deceiving, Wallace."

The old man's eyes narrowed. "That's General Wallace."

The Colonel didn't seem intimidated in the least. "You're retired, Wallace. I'm active, and I don't answer to you."

I ping-ponged my eyes back and forth at the exchange.

"As long as you wear that uniform, you do."

"Then I suggest you take it up with the President. In the meantime I have work to do. If you'll excuse me."

With that, the Colonel turned around and promptly ignored the guy. Once the Wallace made his way around the table, he sat behind the Department of Defense nameplate. Well, I guess that explains that.

Once all the chairs were filled except for three at the head of the table, a door at the opposite end of the room from the main doors, opened.

"Stand," the Colonel whispered.

Two people I didn't recognize entered followed by someone that I'd only seen on TV.

The President didn't look too happy. Well, if I were him, I probably wouldn't be either. One of his underlings was killing innocent civilians and generally making themselves annoying.

"Thank you all for coming today. The topic of this meeting is considered Eyes-Only. If I hear word of this even hinted at in the press I will personally see the person or people responsible never see the light of day again."

The general mood of the room dropped. Tension rose. Presumably the people present were used to these kinds of things. They were the ones that protected the United States in all ways. One would assume that they'd been involved in something that should never be in the public eye.

The President motioned to one of his aides. The lights came down and four screens dropped down from the ceiling.

We were briefed the same way that Colonel Harris informed me about how the students of the Center came about. The Colonel wasn't paying attention to the presentation. Instead he was scanning the room. Once he made a complete sweep he turned in his chair and leaned back to Christopher and whispered something, then to James as well. When he returned to the table, proper, he scribbled something on a piece of paper and slid it over to me.

SecNav

Remember those acronyms from a while back? SecNav is military speak for Secretary of the Navy. Without turning my head, I looked up at the guy sitting next to the Department of Defense Secretary that was rude to Colonel Harris.

His name plate read Adm. George Kinsey. Behind him were his two aides, much like every person in the room had accompanying them. The thing that threw me was that one of the aides was looking at me. An intake of breath behind me took my attention away, but I still returned the stare. Then things got stupid.

A feeling of complacence washed over me. I blinked and tried to clear my head, but the compulsion to do absolutely nothing was too much for me to overcome.

Everything in the room went quiet and still. Everything but the SecNav's two buddies. The one that was staring me down stood up. His buddy stayed where he was and looked like he was concentrating. That had to be the one keeping me down, not to mention everyone else in the room.

"You just had to bring a telepath to the damn meeting and ruin everything, didn't you, Kris."

The only thing I could do in response was blink. I didn't know this guy, but he knew me. After pulling the SecNav out of the way, the guy stepped up on top of the table with a satisfied look on his face.

"And you, Mister President," he said with a large amount of disdain in his voice. "What the hell took you so long? Almost eight years after you found out about us and you're just now having a department meeting about it?" He laughed then paused.

Turning to my team, he squinted in the low light. "Well, you want to know what's going on. Now you get your chance." Taking out a cell phone, he punched a couple of buttons and then replaced it in his pocket. The main doors opened and three more people came inside.

Oddly enough they were dressed professionally, with one guy in a black two-piece suit and the other in a gray double-breasted ensemble. The black suited guy looked kind of familiar, but I couldn't place him.

"Is everything secure?" he asked.

A tall brunette girl carrying a backpack nodded. "The White House is in Lockdown."

"Collar them."

Without a second thought the girl set the backpack on the table and pulled out several metal rings.

Fuck this. I may not have been able to move, but my hands were on top of the table and I didn't aim with my anything but my mind. Focusing straight at the guy I deduced was causing my paralysis, and the douche bag standing on top of the table, I pulled up a goodly amount of energy and let it loose.

Ozone burned the air and there was a crackling of static electricity made the Colonel's hair stand up in my peripheral vision. That's when I saw the leader's eyes widen. He made a dive to the opposite side of the table and internally I was smiling maniacally. Blue and white arcs of energy shot out from my fingertips, burning the table as it made its connection with the guy holding us back, slamming him against the wall and burning a hole through his chest.

"Mom!"

My head snapped around to the two extra guys that had entered. The black-suited guy was holding something in his hand and I didn't give him a chance for me to find out what it was.

It came down to who was faster with their talents, and I was through screwing around. Another jolt lanced out, arcing over one of the Directors to hit the guy that was threatening me in the face.
Shots rang out.

"Everyone chill the fuck out or he's dead."

Douche Bag was holding a gun to the SecNav's head. By this time all of the guards had their weapons out. The girl and the gray-suited guy were shot and down. Half of the guards had their weapons trained on the hostage-taker.

"You're kidding, right?" I said. "You're in the same room as the President. Everyone else here is expendable, and can you pull that trigger faster than I can fry every nerve in your body."

Colonel Harris stepped in this time. "Put the gun down, and you might live to see another sunrise."

Douche Bag cringed. "It wasn't supposed to be like this." His eyes moved around, frantically, trapped like a rat. "Fucking Keys. It's all your fault."

Before he said anymore I ramped up a stunning jolt and sent it waiting at my fingertips. "Last chance. Put the gun down, and I'll let you live."

The sound of running boots sounded down the hall. Security was on its way. That was the last hurrah for Douche Bag. All hope to get out of the area alive left his face.

"Kris. He's going to kill himself," James hurriedly whispered.

Dammit. I waited until I saw the slightest flinch of his hand move and then I zapped him. Of course every other guard that had a clear shot also chose that moment to unload a round into his body.

Do you want to know the most screwed up thing about the whole situation? Once the bad guys were down, all the guards were pointing their guns at me.

~~~

The room was cleared except for me and my team. The Colonel was off trying to find out what the hell was up with detaining us like we were the cause of everything going wrong. Next time, I was letting everyone get shot.

Liz was as close to me as her chair would allow without actually crawling up into my lap. If we weren't in the White House then I'm sure that she would have been right there. My energy was down. I wasn't about to pass out, but I could tell I needed a boost of electricity or maybe an energy drink.

The Colonel returned about thirty minutes later accompanied by one of the guys that came in with the President at the beginning of the meeting. He stopped and talked to the guards while the Colonel briefed us at to what was happening.

He didn't even get to start, before I jumped in. "Can we go home now, or do I get to go to prison for saving the President's ass, not to mention the free world."

The Colonel actually cracked a smile. I thought I'd entered an alternate dimension or something. "Good, then you know exactly what you just did."

I shrugged. What can I say, I get cranky when I'm tired, hungry and low on juice.

"They want us out of here ASAP. You can imagine how nervous all of the military and intelligence services are with a telepath in the same room with them."

James' eyes bugged. "I didn't…"

The Colonel held up his hand. "I know. I told them of the warning signs when someone is being read. Everyone fessed-up that nothing happened. They still don't want you around, or any of you for that matter." He looked poignantly at me. "Especially you."

I didn't get a chance to respond before the other guy sidled up. The Colonel turned. "Miss Keys, I'd like to introduce you to the President's Chief of Staff, Brandon Hall."

The forty-something balding gentleman nodded and gave me a tight smile. I noted the lack of handshake. I almost snickered. I did just get through deep frying three guys with my hands, so I didn't hold it against him.

"Miss Keys."

Liz's hand settled at my lower back and I could feel James, Sheri, and Christopher forming a semi-circle behind me.

"The President would like to convey his thanks for what you did today."

"Uh-huh." He saw my lack of enthusiasm.

"You'll have to understand about the security issues as to why he can't be in same room with you or your friends."

I squinted my eyes at him. "They're my team, and they just saved his ass, Mr. Hall. Pardon me if I don't think…"

"Keys," hissed the Colonel.

I snapped my eyes to him and then frowned. "Can we leave now?"

"Of course." Mr. Hall stepped aside. "Your luggage is already being gathered at the hotel and in the process of being transferred to your plane. "If you need anything, please don't hesitate to contact my office."

Nice. Thanks for the save. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. "Yeah, recognition would be nice. Not to mention not being treated like a criminal."

At the Colonel's frown, which was directed at me, I held my hands up in surrender. The team of five armed guards and the hyper-awareness of what had to be fifty Secret Service agents followed us out to a waiting SUV. We were given a police escort all the way to the airport and then issued priority clearance to scoot to the head of the line. Did I understand why they were doing it? Yeah, I did. That still didn't make it right.

Maybe I was becoming an idealist, expecting maybe a handshake and a job well done comment or two from the man in charge. We were the ones that were actually trying to make a difference, putting our lives on the line. Was that asking too much?

Once we were in the air, the Colonel stood and took his position at the head of the plane.

"Job well done, people."

See, was that hard?

"It may not seem like it, but today was a win for our side." Liz squeezed my hand, and I scratched behind Miss Bonsai's ears.

"Miss Keys, Mr. Cook, if I could see you for a few moments."

I handed my cat to Liz and waited for James to pass before standing and joining them both at the front where Colonel Harris held court in privacy. He pointed to the chair beside him and James sat across from us both. The telepath didn't look too happy at all. Upon seeing that I felt the tension in my neck increase. Great, more bad news. The Colonel punched up a few buttons on the console beside his seat.

"Alright, we're secure. Tell us what you picked up."

James' eyes darted to me and I saw his lips tighten in regret. "Ray Lomax is a mole. That's where they're getting all their information now that Shanahan's been flushed out."

My hands tightened around the arms of the chair. I didn't let the information throw me into hysterics. I'd been betrayed in the worst possible way.

"You got that from the douche bag's mind?" I asked in a low tight voice.

He nodded. "I'm sorry."

Withdrawing my cell, I pulled up Ms. Fine's number.

"Kristyn, what are you doing?" asked the Colonel.

"Calling Ms. Fine. There's no telling what Ray's been up to since we've been gone."

He nodded.

"Fine," the head of security snapped into the phone.

"Ms. Fine. Keys here. I need you to find Ray Lomax, sedate him without his knowing and stick him in solitary confinement."

Her no-nonsense tone played in her voice. "Any particular reason?"

"He's a traitor. We just leveled off and are heading home. See you in about four hours."

This time, I didn't wait for her to hang up before disconnecting. Try as I might, it was incredibly difficult to compartmentalize the betrayal of the guy that I was going to give my virginity to. I'd been played, and taken advantage of. How had I not known? How could he have gotten past James and Lily when they did their telepathic thing on everyone after the incident with Brian?

"Continue," ordered the Colonel.

"They operate in cells, usually five person teams which report to one person. Even they don't know how many people they have."

I nodded. "Just in case one of them fall into our hands, they don't lose the whole organization." Turning to my boss, I asked him, "You don't think this is a government agency doing this anymore, do you?"

He shook his head. "No. Their execution was sloppy. If I'd planned that attack, everyone with talents in the room at the time would have been dead in about ten seconds after I played my hand. He was grandstanding and had a particular grievance against you for some reason."

I shrugged. "I've never seen him before."

James nodded. "He hated you, Kris. I mean really loathed you."

"And you couldn't tell why?"

He shook his head. "I was trying to get information about the organization. His personal quirks weren't as important."

"You did fine, Cook," the Colonel said. "Anything else?"

"Just that that was the entire cell. Then Kris did her thing."

James was dismissed after that.

The Colonel stuck his hand inside his blazer's pocket. "They were the same cell that we encountered in New York."

"How do you know?" I asked.

When he opened his hand, two silver-colored bearing balls were in his palm. "We pulled one of these out of your shoulder that night. Best guess was Magnokinesis."

"Let me take a wild leap," I said as I picked one of them up and looked closer at it. "He was some kind of magnet man?"

The Colonel nodded. When I squinted at the ball, I saw something scratched into the metal. "What's is that?"

"Your name."

I looked up at him. "You're kidding."

"You were his main target. This one is mine." He held up the other ball.

"Great, there are actually psychos out there writing out names on metal balls for killing us." After a moment's contemplation I realized something. "Is it me or were those guys perfectly sane."

The Colonel worked his tongue along the inside of his cheek. "Just because the people on their side aren't rogue doesn't mean they can't choose the wrong side in this war."

I blinked and leaned back. It wasn't the thought of evil people being out there. They've always been there in one form or another, evil people. It was the fact that I was now a central figure in a war that had only now bled out into the mundane world. For some reason I'd become a key player, regardless of how short a time I'd actually been in the game.

What had I done except for defending myself and others? Nothing. Then again I was pretty much in charge of the Center. That may have been reason enough for my name to enter into the fray.

"We need to build up the defenses around the school," I offered.

"Agreed. It's already being implemented. Once Shanahan was exposed I knew we were vulnerable. Secondary bases are being arranged. Beta site is in the Colorado mountains, and Delta site is in the Texas plains. Once they are at a skeleton operations stage you'll be informed of the details."

I nodded. Three Centers. With the influx of students expected over the next few years, we'd probably have to use at least two if not all three of them at some point. That didn't sit well with me.

When all is said and done, I had become somewhat of a control freak since my transition. Unless someone came along that could handle themselves and treat the students like I wanted them treated then we were going to have serious problems.

~~~

I was stalling. The plane had landed an hour previous. I was out of my uniform and into my urban commando outfit again. The combat pants, boots, and black tank let me feel a little more removed from the reality of what I'd have to do. There was no way that I was going to face my traitorous ex-boyfriend in a skirt and heels. I didn't think I could pull off the uncaring detachment of Ms. Fine's business suit.

Ray had seen what I could do dressed as I was. How I turned off all emotion and did the job that had to be done, dressed. I went ahead and put on the black bandanna to hold my hair back and the fingerless gloves as well. I wanted to remind him of what I could do, because I wanted answers. But most of all I didn't want him to know how much he'd hurt me.

Fifteen minutes was all I spared for a small breakdown in my bed when I got back. Eye-drops got rid of the bloodshot look afterward, and a complete lack of makeup let me feel normal.

Bonsai paced on top of my bed as I sat there staring at the opposite wall, trying to center myself, trying to turn off the warring emotions within me.

My phone chirped. I didn't even bother looking to see who it was.

"Keys."

"You asked me to call you when Lomax woke," Ms. Fine said with an even tone.

"On my way."

I clicked off and looked over to Bonsai. "Wish me luck."

She gave me an annoyed but reluctant cry. I nodded. "Yeah, I know. This sucks." Pushing myself up and off the bed, I looked back. "You want to stay in tonight or roam the halls?"

That was a stupid question. Bonsai leapt to the floor and went to stand by the door.

The isolation rooms weren't too far from the briefing rooms where we prepped for missions. The only difference was that it was completely sealed off from the rest of the building. A large steel door, reminiscent of a bank vault opened at my approach. I noted the camera in the upper right corner that kept an eye on the hallway.

I only recognized one of the five armed guards on duty as being the African-American receptionist I saw in the Main office the other day. They all either nodded at me or flicked their eyes in recognition when I passed. Ms. Fine was standing in front of the door I assumed Ray was behind.

She noted my outfit with the slightest lift of her left eyebrow. "Is there a mission tonight?"

I shook my head. "This is what I wore for my first kill. Ray will see the significance."

Ms. Fine looked thoughtful. "He was in his room when he was tranquilized."

"Did you pull up the log with his whereabouts?"

"What log?" It was more of a denial that one existed instead of a question about what I was talking about.

"Ms. Fine, you really don't want to dick with me today."

I suspected they had us Lojacked through our phones. There was no other way for Shanahan to know where we were when Dani had her vision that sent us to Houston so I could vaporize a girl.

Her tongue slipped over her front teeth with a measuring glare. "He's either been in his room, or the training room for most of the days. There are no oddities."

I nodded. "Computer?"

"Clean. He doesn't even look at pornography."

I nodded and looked at the door. There wasn't a large pane of reflective glass so I could see him. Apparently those only existed in movies. Considering the kind of people that would be locked up behind the doors, it was probably a good idea. There was an eye-hole so he could be monitored. I assumed there was also a camera of some sort inside.

"Does he know why he's in there yet?"

She shook her head. "You said to knock him out not question him."

With a nod I peered through the eye-hole. He wasn't wearing his normal clothes and he was chained to a table. "Ms. Fine I need an earpiece so you can talk to me while I go fishing. Something concealable." She didn't bother asking why and headed down the hall.

I took out my phone, pulled up the contact list and hit a number.

"Hello?"

"Lili, I need you down in holding for an interrogation."

Dani was next.

"When did you get back in?" she asked.

"Just come on down, Dani. The sooner the better."

When I looked back up, Ms. Fine was wheeling a cart down the hall with a monitor and a wireless set up on top.

"I'll be able to monitor you from out here, video and audio." She handed me what looked like a small hearing aid. I nodded and stuck it in my ear then watched as she turned on the video hook up. Ray didn't look too good, nervous, maybe a little scared. He was wearing a hospital gown.

"Why is he wearing that?"

Ms. Fine's lips quirked to the side. "Ray Lomax is a human weapon, Miss Keys, and anything in his hands makes him that much more dangerous. Something as simple as a belt or a shirt sleeve could be used a lethal weapon. The gown is made of very fine material that will shred with very little pressure. Do not let your guard down around him."

I looked back down the hall. "Tell Dani and Lili to join in from out here anytime."

Before I could lose my nerve, I opened the door and entered. Ray looked up at me and his face changed a couple of times. First it was relief at seeing me. Then, when he saw my face, it moved to confusion.

"Kris…"

I held up my hand and he stopped talking. "I almost got killed today, Ray. Again. Except Liz was there this time." Grabbing the chair opposite him I noticed it was actually on rails and bolted down so it could be moved back and forth about two feet, but that was it. Once I sat down I faced him, head on. "So, you can see where I'm supremely pissed off right about now."

"What happened?"

He played his part well. If I didn't know any better I'd totally believe he was actually concerned. "Nothing much. Big meeting with the President. Some of the bad guys were there. I killed them all and we came back."

The chain that was holding his wrists to the table rattled a little when he moved.

I gave him a grim smile. "But before their leader -- and I use that term really loosely -- died, we sucked his brain, found a few interesting tidbits."

His face kind of turned to stone at that point. "Is this where I'm supposed to confess?"

I just looked at him, interested. "Do you have something to confess, Ray?"

He shrugged. "Not particularly. It's all making sense now. One minute I'm reading, and the next I wake up in here wearing this drafty hospital gown."

"He's annoyed, Kris," came Danielle's voice over the earpiece. "He feels betrayed."

I nodded. "You want to tell me why your name came out of this douche bag's head?"

He leaned back, but the restraints wouldn't let him move much. A quick tug and a sharp rattle later and he stared me down. "Maybe he's a fan. How should I know?"

"He's telling the truth," said Dani. "Do you want Lili to go into his head?"

I was so confused. Could he beat Danielle's empathy powers with a built-in lie detector? Did he have some hidden mental powers that we didn't know about? How did he pass the check up with… the telepaths. I slammed my hand down. "Fuck! I'm so fucking stupid." I was out of my chair and to the door, slamming it open.

Electricity crackled between the fingertips of my right hand when I eyed Lili. Without breaking my gaze I asked a question. "Ms. Fine, where is James Cook right now?"

I pulled out my phone and dialed up Liz.

"Hi Mom."

"Liz, I have a very important question for you. I need you to remember what happened right before the attack at the White House."

"Uh, okay."

"This is really important, Liz. Who gasped right before that guy froze us in our seats?"

She giggled. "Sorry, that was me. I realized that I didn't leave Miss Bonsai's litter box out at the hotel. Those White House guys probably got left a couple of presents."

"Thanks, sweetie. Where are you at right now?"

"I'm in my room."

"Okay, lock the door and do not answer it for anyone until you hear back from me. I'm serious, nobody. Okay?"

"Is everything okay, Mom?"

"No, not really. I gotta go, bye."

Then I thumbed the phone off.

"Hey, can I get some clothes here?" Ray called out.

"Cook is leaving his room and headed toward the cafeteria," relayed Ms. Fine.

"Let Ray go. He didn't do anything." And I had probably lost my boyfriend because I didn't get the whole damn story from everyone right after it happened like I should have. However, I was too busy trying to compartmentalize my feelings of betrayal, doing what the Colonel expected of me, that I didn't trust my heart.

I left everyone just like that. Danielle looked worried and Lili looked like she was going to be sick. Racing down the hall, I could hear my boots echo in the otherwise quiet wing. I slammed into the connecting door to the dormitories. When I saw the open area at the end of the hall I slowed and readied myself for a weak shock to my target. I wanted him alive, so I could kick the crap out of him at my leisure.

When I rounded the corner I spotted several students. Sheri, Rita, Heather, Debs, Max, Sean, and Christopher, all seated, enjoying their lunch, but no James. Christopher was the first to spot me. There was a smile on his face which turned into not so much of a smile.

"Where's James?"

Half of everyone there looked at the food line. I snapped my head around and James was exiting the line, standing there holding his tray with a surprised and panicked look. I felt the tell-tale tickle at the base of my brain, letting me know he was reading me. He dropped the tray, scattering his meal on the floor and brought up his hand.

It came to me all in the span of a microsecond. He wasn't just a telepath. Before I had a chance to let loose my powers, something in my head rang like a bell. A very loud and painful bell that might or might not be slamming me upside the head at that moment.

"Too bad you found out, Keys. Now everyone's got to die."

I grunted and dropped to my knees, grasping my hands over my ears for fear my brain was going to leak out after it was through with the frappé setting it was set on.

"ROWR!"

"OOWW! Fuck!"

My vision cleared and the incessant ringing stopped long enough for me to open my eyes and see Bonsai latched onto James' back ripping her claws into his neck. Was that ice cream on her whiskers? Ah, saved by my cat's insatiable need for Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

I raised my hand and concentrated. "Bonsai!" She jumped clear and I let loose with probably more energy than was needed. Sue me. James hit the floor, twitching like crazy. Bonsai's fur was all on end and she was hissing, seriously pissed off at the boy that had betrayed us all.

Footfalls sounded behind me the soft puff of an air pistol sounded and I saw a tranquilizing dart hit James' thigh.

"Kris!" I looked up wearily to see Heather standing there. Her white face showed her shock. "Your eyes are bleeding."

I felt wetness on my face and reached up to wipe away trails of blood. Fumbling for my phone, everything started going blurry. "Oh hell."

~~~

It was two weeks later when I woke up. Liz had fixed my head, but apparently the shock of the attack had kept me down for the rest of the time.

Colonel Harris briefed me on what happened after all the hubbub. After being sedated and interrogated by Ms. Fine, Lili, Danielle, and the Colonel, it was found that James was doing everything, all the time. Shanahan was his contact with the outside world. She'd turned him the first week of his arrival after finding out the potential of his powers.

In a one on one fight, James could kick my ass, or melt my brain, take your pick. He was, what was now termed, a Full-Tiered User. Mental domination was his specialty. Telepathy, moderate mind-control, memory manipulation, and psychic weapons like the blast he sent at me.

He was the one that interrogated Shanahan for Ms. Fine. He was the one that planted suggestions in Douche Bag's head to rail on me. That was his mistake. Douche Bag, wasn't as incompetent as he seemed. James messed up his wiring when he took control at the White House. That particular cell was supposed to subdue us, wrap those collar things around our neck that was suppose to render us powerless, and then they would play their own games with the President and the others. James had blown the whole operation because he didn't know what was going on.

With Shanahan out of the way, James had nobody to relay orders to him. So he took things into his own hands. His priority was getting rid of me. He hated me with a passion. I'd come in and screwed his life up. He was receiving special privileges from Shanahan and with me there he was just another grunt.

Luckily for me, teenagers are petty.

In a private ceremony within the confines of Colonel Harris' office, I received a commendation for distinguishing myself by valor and meritorious service. There was a medal involved. That and a Purple Heart for almost having my arm blown off. There was a little oak leaf cluster to add to that uniform ribbon for having my brain half-way melted as well. I never understood medals. Whether I wanted them or not, they had to go on my uniform or Colonel Harris said he'd personally kick my butt.

It was one of the downsides of actually being in the military, weird stuff like this. As far as I was concerned, they could keep their uniform
and give me a vacation instead. Maybe in the tropics somewhere away from all the back-stabbing, and drama.

Speaking of drama.

~~~

"Miss Keys," the receptionist said over the intercom in my office. "Ray Lomax is here to see you."

After a sigh, I said, "Send him in."

Ray and I hadn't spoken in the three days after I was released from the infirmary. I was feeling tremendously guilty for suspecting him and I was sure he wasn't going to forgive me. Danielle said she'd given him the low-down on what actually happened. If I was him I had no idea what I would be feeling or even if I'd want to continue where we'd left off.

Regardless, I straightened my blazer and made sure my hair wasn't standing on end. Better to go out in a blaze of feigned confidence than to slither away with tearful regret.

He appeared at my door right when I pushed my chair back, and damn, he looked good. Tight black jeans, a lime-colored button down that matched his hair and brought out the brilliant green of his eyes.

"Hey, don't get up," he said.

I felt silly half-way raising myself off the chair and then dropping back down. He closed the door and sat down.

"You mind doing the privacy thing?"

I shook my head and withdrew my cell to block any unwanted ears from listening. When I set it on the desk, I looked back up at him. "Ray…"

He held his hands up forestalling me. "Let me get my piece in, if you don't mind."

His demeanor was serious and that didn't really bode well for me. "I talked with Dani, and with Liz too. Actually she hunted me down. I get why you did what you did."

"I'm sorry." What can I say? I couldn't let him keep talking without at least informing him of that fact.

"I know."

A moment of strained silence fell between us, broken by him half a minute later. "And I also know you'd do it again if need be."

My lips pressed together with displeasure of knowing he was right.

"I just don't think that I can be with someone that doesn't implicitly trust me."

My eyes started to burn, but I swallowed down the emotion. "I understand. You shouldn't have to."

He blinked. "What, that's it? You're just going to give up?"

My mouth opened, but nothing came out.

He sighed in annoyance. "You're the girl now, Kris. You're suppose to be more," he flipped his hand around looking for the right word, "defiant, when your boyfriend is faking the heave-ho."

I swallowed and realized what he was saying. I didn't know whether to jump over the desk and kiss him or strangle him. "Faking?"

"Duh." He sniffed and looked around the office while I composed myself. "So, dinner tonight?"

I nodded. "Do I need to alert Heather?"

His eyes widened and then he nodded. "Oh yeah. I like the dress she picked out last time."

"That was Dani."

He nodded. "Cool, well tell her too. I thought we might take a longer walk. Maybe a picnic. They can't come though."

The resulting grin on my face hurt, it had been so long since I'd actually smiled at anything. "Should I bring anything?"

He shook his head. "Just you. I'll handle everything else."

I nearly slammed my chair back when Ray stood. Racing around the desk I pushed him back against the wall and gave him the best apology kiss I could manage in my tight knee skirt.

Afterward he held me for a few moments until I reluctantly backed off and wiped at his bottom lip. "That shade really doesn't work well on you."

When he left, I turned around and saw Miss Bonsai atop the filing cabinet staring at me. "What? You're staying with Liz tonight. I have a feeling I'll be too busy to take care of you."

She blinked lazily at me and licked her nose.

"That's fine. Act like you don't care. You and I both know you can't sleep right if I'm not in the room."

Picking her up, I sat her in my arm and scratched behind her ears. "Want to go to lunch early? I think there's a big can of tuna waiting for you."

"Meow."


...Finis


Author's Note:
I was originally going to start another story having another few teens come in later on, a few months maybe, when more people were there. Then have a side adventure with mostly them. I still might do this if there is any interest. Kristyn and the gang would be there, but I'd explore the side characters a bit more since they were mostly just sitting around in this story.







~The Center~ © 2009-2010 by Lilith Langtree
Title Photo © Kristen K.
Illustrations © by Original Artists
All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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