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Monday, 15 February 2016 01:00

Whisper (Chapters 40-42 + Epilogue)

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A Whateley Academy Tale

Whisper

by Sleethr

** Chapter 40 **

“Yes, yes it is, but I just started there. Well, I actually start on Monday, so I don’t know if I really qualify as a ‘Sister’.” I think that I manage to cover my tracks rather well. I feel kind of pleased with myself. Maybe I am finally getting the hang of this subterfuge thing that my sister does so well.

“Oh, pshaw, young lady!  That just makes our meeting each other even more fortuitous. You, your Aunt and your Uncle simply ‘must’ attend my party. It would provide an excellent educational opportunity for you.”


Okay, maybe I am not getting the hang of it.

Aunt Julie comes to my rescue. “Umm, sorry, Mrs. Grantson, but I am not sure if Chloe can attend. She is flying home Saturday morning and we already have plans to celebrate her final night with us.”

“Well, you simply must change them my dear Julie!  Everyone who is anyone will be there.  The Virginia Attorney General and even the Governor will be attending.”

Okay, maybe not.  This is starting to turn into a tennis match. She serves, she volleys, oh! Smash! Wait, she makes an amazing save!

“Welll, I don’t know Mrs. Grantson. I will need to run it past Jim, and Chloe didn’t bring anything suitable for a formal occasion. How about if we think about it?” Aunt Julie retreats a little and gives Mrs. Grantson an opening.

Visions of one of those formal military ball things that I have seen on TV run through my head.  Dudes in elaborate military uniforms with lots of awards on their chest and swords strapped to their sides walk about with cigars and glasses of brandy.  Ladies in fluffy gowns gossiping about who did what with whom.  Followed by some waltz style dancing where the love smitten woman stares dreamily into the handsome officer’s eyes as he twirls her around the room.  Finally, the terrorists burst on scene and the heroic officer uses his sword to thwart the plot.

Okay, maybe not that bad.

Mrs. Grantson appears to take that as a yes. “Excellent! Well, I must be on my way, but I will send some invitations over to your house first thing in the morning.” She turns to me with a victorious grin. “And you, young lady, I cannot wait to introduce you to my nephew! You two will have so much in common.”

*panic*

I don't think she took Aunt Julie’s “think about it” the way that Aunt Julie intended it to be taken.  I glance over at Aunt Julie, and she looks almost as dazed and lost as I do.  Mrs. Grantson is almost a force of nature the way she bowls right over all resistance in her path.

I cannot believe that this kind of stuff keeps happening to me! What are the odds that some old lady who is putting on a formal party and knows Aunt Julie would run into her at the grocery store and then, have gone to the same school I am using as my cover?  Even more amazing, she is hosting the party for Captain Howard’s boss and I would need to wear some formal gown, dress thing and dance with her nephew.  Scenes from that movie with the Beast and Belle dancing around a fairy tale ballroom with dancing teapots flicker through my head.  I am not going to be some Belle of the ball!  No way, no how.

Why can’t some super-villain attack the store because he needs hot dogs for his minion party? That would be so much easier to deal with.

“Well, that was unexpected, where were we?” Aunt Julie shakes her head once to clear her confusion and returns to the feminine hygiene production selection as if nothing is wrong with what just happened. “Oh yes, here you go dear. I recommend that you try this brand.” She hands me a sort of pink colored box for me to inspect.  

It is not pink. What color is it?


> Analyzing color spectrum....
> #FF00FF

Oh, that helps, not.  What color is that?


> Magenta/Fuchsia

Isn’t that the same as pink?


> #FFC0CB = Pink

Oh, how silly of me to even ask and I thought that magenta and fuchsia were different colors.  Oh man, what am I doing?  It is freaking red!  Well, more red, but I guess it has some purple in it too.  

*sigh*

After that waste of processing time, I almost wish the box would cause an allergic reaction so I would have an excuse to drop it like a hot potato, but I do not.  “Umm, I am not sure if I like the idea of, you know...” I glance down. “...but is it true that I could use these for dressings if I get shot? Because if so, I think these might be useful.”

Aunt Julie’s eyes widen with surprise. “Chloe! What in the...” She pauses as if she cannot believe that someone would even think of using tampons as dressings. “You ARE definitely not a typical girl!”

“Umm, yeah...hello?” I hold my arms in supplication to draw attention to my body.

She giggles at my display before becoming serious again. “But yes, I have heard them being utilized for that purpose by the military.” She turns back the tsunami of options, grabs a blue box and hands it to me. “Here, a medium strength panty liner will probably be a bit easier for you to adjust to, but you may still need to think about a regular tampon if you have a high flow.”

I now have two boxes of ‘feminine hygiene’ products in my hands. It has gone from bad to worse and I am not allergic to the second box either. I also do not like the sound of that ‘high flow’ thing because, gross; I don’t even want to think about it.

“Actually, I probably won’t need either of these. After the last time my clothes were wrecked, I programmed my...” I glance around to see if anyone is paying attention to us. “...stuff to just clean up any excess ‘flow’ that may occur.”

Aunt Julie does not look convinced. “Hmmph, well, you should still have some on hand, just in case. Put them in the cart and let’s get out of here before anything else happens.”

Line Break broken

MCO Special Agent Lainer felt more frustrated by what should have been a simple mutant hunt than he could ever remember feeling before. He had nothing and the fucking target slipped through his hands, again.  All the leads turned out to be false and he had squat to show for all the resources that had been placed at his disposal.  He has had mutants get away from him in the past, but this one was different.  Whisper was different because he still did not have any proof that she even existed.  She appeared to be aptly named, but Ghost would have worked just as well.

The only bit of physical evidence he had to support her existence was a crappy picture and a few eyewitness accounts from the H1 incident.  The genuine fake U.S. Government issued MMID card that the fucking DARPA Deputy Director with delusions of grandeur flashed in front of his face only pissed him off even more.  

The latest incident or sighting only added more confusion.  The initial reports seemed to confirm Whisper’s existence, but now evidence was emerging that indicated it was all a hoax. A giant H1 plot designed to expose the danger that mutants presented to society. A plot that backfired on both the H1 and the MCO.  The MCO’s justified strong response only seemed to raise public sympathy and sentiment for mutants. The pro-mutant movement was becoming like the pro-gay movement.  

Everyone loved to help the minority freaks these days.  What was next for the American public to approve of, gay marriage? Lainer shuddered from that revolting thought.  He found it almost as repulsive as mutants allowed to run around without any MCO oversight.

He had bits and pieces. Fortunately, he had enough bits and pieces to show his bosses that he was onto something, but not enough to actually use in a court of law to justify the actions the MCO wanted to take with this mutant threat.  He was not worried about any action the MCO deemed reasonable making it to a court. The treaty and the fear of the public were very effective weapons against any filthy mutant making a case stick against the MCO. No, the real problem was the simple fact that he did not have anything for the MCO to act upon, and that was the problem.

“Fuck! This is so frustrating!”  His desk boomed as he slammed the palm of his hand against the flimsy file containing all his evidence. Somehow, the U.S. Government was successfully keeping Whisper’s existence a secret and with all the friends the MCO had in Congress and in Law Enforcement, secrets like that should not be possible.  

He knew that the CIA had been involved, but again his only evidence of that hypothesis was the sighting of the CIA’s pet mutant, Mirage, at the mall.  The FBI was also involved and the fact that they were involved and he still did not have any additional data on Whisper added even more frustration to his plate.

His “Message for you sire!” email alert drew his attention.  At first, it appeared to be junk email due to the random appearing sender address, but the content of the message lowered the temperature in his office by a few degrees.


> I have some information to whisper in your ear.
>
> Meet me tomorrow to discuss our mutual career goals.
>
> 09:30 @Caribou by your apartment.

It took him a few minutes to fully process the implications. “Holy, fucking shitballs!”

It looked like he had a source that could blow the lid wide open on the case.

Line Break broken

Aunt Julie and I manage to make it home without any further drama or excitement.  Rush hour traffic kinda sucks, but Aunt Julie is able to avoid the worst of it by taking the back roads.  After helping her carry a few bags into the house, I am finally allowed to change into more comfortable clothing.  I am definitely a jeans and t-shirt kind of gir-person!

Helping Aunt Julie in the kitchen proves to be much more fun than I expected.  My mom’s meals are good, but very simple. Aunt Julie’s recipes are very complex with tons of prep work involved, but the stuffed salmon turns out so yummy and I cannot help feeling some pride by the fact that I helped make it.  Maybe I should have taken a Home Economics class instead of Electronics, you know, so I could meet chicks.  Funny, but if I had done that, I probably would still be a boy.

While we are eating, Aunt Julie brings up Mrs. Grantson’s invitation with Uncle Jim.  “It would be interesting, but we can’t go, right?” She finishes, sounding suspiciously hopeful that he will find a reason that we could go.

Uncle Jim pauses mid-bite, and then reflects on the idea as he enjoys his food.  I try to telepathically gain his attention and tell him, “No, no, no. ‘We’ can’t go. It’s much too perilous.

“Hmm, I am not sure, Jewels...” Uncle Jim glances over at me. “It could be rather risky to have Chloe there and if her identity was discovered, a very embarrassing situation for everyone involved.”

Aunt Julie sits back in her chair, exhales and takes a sip of her wine to try and hide her disappointment. “I know, but, I was kind of hoping that you would see a way because it has been a rather long time since we got invited to one of these events and it would be good for your career.”

Now I feel bad. “Umm, you two could go. I could just stay home and watch TV. It’s no big deal.”

Aunt Julie beams an award winning smile at me. “Thanks Chloe, but Jim is right, it would be too risky and I would like to plan something for us to do together on your final night here. I mean, it is not every week that my niece comes to visit, now is it?”

Phew! I feel relieved and Uncle Jim relaxes a little more.  Aunt Julie is suspiciously silent for what feels like the longest time, 5.23 seconds. She sighs and puts her wine glass down. “Still, it would have been nice to find a dress for you so you could dance with that boy...”

I think she purposely timed her hope filled lament for when I was taking a sip from my glass.  “What?!?!” I manage to gasp out between coughs as my water finds its way down the wrong pipe.

“Gotcha!” Aunt Julie points and giggles at me.

“Ha, ha, very funny.” I look over at Uncle Jim. “How do you put up with her?”

He reaches out, grabs her hand and then, stares at Aunt Julie with a love smitten look in his eyes. “Because, I love her.”

Then, they kiss each other. “Helll-lo, kid in the room...” I mostly pretend to be all grossed out by the display of affection, but it is kind of heartwarming too.  I feel my eyes start to get a little extra lubricated, darn it.

They both laugh at me, but Aunt Julie gets up and gives me a quick ninja hug. “We love you too, dear!”

Now, I have to use my napkin to blot my eyes.  Dang excessive lubrication problem.

The rest of the meal and dessert is almost like being at home with my parents, except not.  Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie talk about their day. At first, I can tell that Uncle Jim is a little uncomfortable with me there.  Neither one of them is used to having someone else at the table with them, but he warms up to me after we get into a spirited debate about GEO, much to Aunt Julie’s chagrin.

Well, initially Aunt Julie rolled her eyes and got up to refill her wine glass, but Uncle Jim wanted to learn more about what caused my transformation and that brought her back into the discussion.  Especially, when we started talking about medical stuff and the nanites. I showed Uncle Jim the medical monitor and played the videos back to him.  That got him more than a little pissed at the CIA, followed by the Navy for ‘invading’ his private property.

We end the evening by starting “Independence Day” in the home theatre, but at 2100 hrs and just when stuff is starting to blow up, Aunt Julie grabs my arm. “Chloe, I need your help upstairs for a few minutes, do you mind?”

Uncle Jim glances over at her as his hand hovers over the remote. “Do you want me to pause it for you?”

“Oh, no, that’s okay.” Aunt Julie says while I nod my head yes.

I want to watch stuff blow up, even if I have already seen it a few times already. “What?” I ask her, feeling a little confused.

Aunt Julie gives me the ‘come on’ look while Uncle Jim looks back and forth between the two of us with a confused expression.  Reluctantly, I follow her while trying to catch a few more seconds of the action that I am going to miss.  I have no idea what is going on when she leads me into her bedroom.

After a few seconds to confirm that Uncle Jim is not following, Aunt Julie shuts the door and turns me with a hopeful expression. “Can you give me that makeover you did earlier today?  I kind of want to surprise Jim...”

Lightbulb...

I am more than a little surprised by her request and what it really means. I may only be 15 years old, but I do know a little bit about the birds and the bees. “Aunt Julie!  That was just a joke, but it was kinda cool. Are you sure?”

She blushes and looks down for a second before she looks back up with an evil grin. “Oh yeah, I wanna surprise Jim and I think that your little trick will, umm, do the trick.” She giggles.

I am not sure how to handle this situation. I have never had an adult admit that they were even thinking about what I am pretty sure she is thinking about.  I almost wanna cover my eyes and ears, and run screaming from the room.

TMI! TMI!

But, I don’t because, well, I don’t know why.

“Well, okay, but try not to get into too much trouble tonight young lady. I am not going to bail you two out of jail again!”  I sternly scold her with my hands on my hips as if I am the parent in this situation.

Aunt Julie has the nerve to laugh at me, but she straightens up and tries to look all prim and proper.  Yeah, I think I am going to have fun with this.  I pull up the image of her from before with the long, slightly wild, raven black hair and the nose stud, but this time I make a few extra tweaks.  

I add purple streaks to her hair and make her eyes a bright purple color, but I stop at making her makeup too Goth. Subtle eye shadow and blood red lips, but I add delicate vampire fangs. She nervously shifts back and forth and I grin as I come up with another idea. Instead of going full Goth on her, I add a full body dragon tattoo, but it is under her clothing so she won’t notice it until she looks in the mirror.

“Okay, I think I have the, umm, makeover ready. Are you ready?”

“I’m not sure now, I noticed you grinning there and now I am a little nervous...”

“Hehe, don’t worry, I think you’ll like it, but if not, I can change it.”

Aunt Julie cringes expectantly and closes her eyes. “Okay, I guess I am ready.”

It takes a bit more juice than the last time, but it is also more complex than it was last time.  I added a lot more details. As the spell activates, I gasp at the sight of her transforming before my eyes. She looks absolutely amazing and I feel my body responding in ways that I find extremely embarrassing to even think about.  She is my make-believe Aunt and I cannot believe that I find her attractive.  No, attractive does not cover it. Hot. Hot is the word I am looking for.  Actually, she kind of reminds me of Sara.

Oh...

Aunt Julie misinterprets my reaction and looks down at her body, almost like she expects to find a third arm or something. “Chloe, what’s wrong?!”

“Umm, nothing. You look awesome.” I manage to squeak out as I open the door and look back at her. “Umm, I’ll just go tell Uncle Jim that you want him to come up, in...10 minutes?” I close the door behind me and race down the stairs before she can tell me no and discover the tattoo.

“Chloe!” I hear Aunt Julie yell over the roar of the movie just before I make it back into the basement.

“What’s up?” Uncle Jim asks as I smoothly vault over the back of the couch to land back in my seat with a light, plop.

I am too embarrassed to look at him. So, I focus on the movie in the hopes that he will not see notice. “Umm, Aunt Julie wants you to come up to your room in 10 minutes, or so.”

Uncle Jim pauses the movie. “Did she say what she needed?”

I do not have to lie, but boy do I feel myself blushing. “Not exactly...”

Uncle Jim leans forward with the remote to restart the movie, but pauses and starts to stand. “Maybe I should go up now?”

I surprise us both when I grab his arm to stop him. “No!”  

He slowly lowers himself back into his seat. “Chloe, what’s going on?”

“Umm, Aunt Julie is changing and wants to surprise you, or something...” I find it very hard to look at him.  This is so awkward.  Old people are not supposed to be all young and stuff.

Uncle Jim sits back in his seat with a surprised gleam in his eyes. “Hmm...”

I cannot take it anymore. “Can you restart the movie?”

“What? Oh! Sure, sorry...” Uncle Jim points the remote at the TV and hits play.

Phew!  Stuff blows up!

We are both enjoying the movie and I think Uncle Jim forgot about Aunt Julie.


> Alert! 
> Friendly Target [ Aunt Julie ] Entering Engagement Range!

I look over my shoulder and what I see causes me to almost panic.  Aunt Julie is sauntering down the short flight of stairs wearing a black, mostly sheer negligee with a pair of red high heels and a smirk that exposes her fangs.  Yes...red high heels, not pink or fuchsia or purple, red.

OMG!  The tattoo turned out even better than I expected.  I try not to stare. Okay, I think about trying not to stare, but I cannot turn away from her as she glides over to Uncle Jim.

“Jim? Can you come upstairs and help me?” Aunt Julie says seductively in his ear as she wraps her arms around his neck from behind.

Alert! Alert! Movie! Stuff blowing up!

I manage to force myself to watch the movie. I figure that if I stare at the screen hard enough, maybe I will not even notice Aunt Julie and Uncle Jim.  Oh god, what did I do? Why did I make Aunt Julie look like that and why did she come downstairs?  She knew I was down here. Aren’t old people supposed to be more reserved or something?

Uncle Jim does not say a word as he lets Aunt Julie lead him up away.  Aunt Julie pauses at the bottom of the stairs. “And Chloe?”

“Yes?” My eyes remain fixed on the movie.  She is not going to trick me into looking at her that easily.

“Thanks and we have more movies in the cabinet.”

“Okay...” My mouth feels dry and I can use a glass of water right now, but I guess that it will have to wait.

After “Independence Day” ends, I follow Aunt Julie’s suggestion and hunt for another movie.  There is no way that I am going upstairs right now. Holy cow, I find “Smokin’ Aces”!   My parents would never let me watch that movie, but I need a good distraction right now.  Wow, there are some really cool guns in that movie and my system is able to identify each and every one of them. I am going to have to try some of those in my VR firing range tonight.

After the movie, I sneak up to my room and find the upstairs blissfully quiet.  No evidence of, well, you know...

1.53 hours later...ding!

I am awake again, but I hear some unidentified action emanating from Aunt Julie and Uncle Jim’s room.  I have zero interest in identifying said action so I retreat into my VR space.  It is a good thing that Aunt Julie has the day off, but I think Uncle Jim is going to need a lot of coffee in the morning.

I try out the Barrett that the dude in the movie used. Wow, a .50 cal sure can pack a wallop. I am having a lot of fun blowing stuff up when someone taps me on my shoulder.

“Ahhh!” I jump and spin around to face the enemy.  The Barrett is not all that great for close range stuff.  I make it most of the way around before I realize that it is Sara who snuck up on me, ‘again’.  How does she do that and why?

Okay, I guess I know why, but how is she sneaking past my alarm system?

Sara giggles and pushes the barrel away from her as she jumps forward to give me a hug. “Oh, that is a mighty large, umm, rifle ya got there, Bree. Are ya happy to see me or what?”

Oh man, not Sara now too, but I guess I should expect it from her. “No, I mean, yes, I am happy to see ya, but would you please stop sneaking up on me like that?”

Sara has the audacity to pout. “Oh, poo, that’s no fun...”  She perks back up. “So! What kind of trouble did you get into today?”

“Sara!  I do not ‘get’ into trouble, trouble finds me and this time it was some old lady at the grocery store-”

“Yeah, gotta watch out for those old ladies...”

“Sara!  Anyway, Mrs. Grantson, wife of Admiral Grantson. She ran into us at the store and would you believe that she went to the same school that I am supposed to be going to?”

“Wow, what are the odds?” Sara says without surprise.

“Exactly!  Because of that, she invited me to some ball or promotion party thing for Admiral Jensen so she can introduce me to her nephew.”

“On the plus side, no one shot you today, right?”

“Ha ha, no, but I did...umm, never mind.” I blush and stop myself before I admit to making Aunt Julie sorta resemble Sara.

Sara pounces on both my slip up and me, literally.  She tickles me mercilessly while ‘interrogating’ me. “What did you do? Come on, you can tell me...”

I fold before she waterboards me. “Okay, okay...” I pause, gasping for air.  

Sara stops with the tickle torture and holds me at arm’s length as I furiously attempt to gather my thoughts and figure out a way to lie to her about Aunt Julie’s make over.  “Don’t make me kiss you...” She growls.  “...because I don’t have all night. I have some other...” Her eyes narrow in anger. “...‘business’ to attend to as soon as I am done here.”

The way that she said ‘business’ gives me the shivers.  The temperature in my VR space literally seems to drop by a few degrees. I want to know, but at the same time, I don’t want to know.

I decide to stick to the topic on hand. “Okay, I kind of sorta made Aunt Julie sort of resemble you, except, not.”

Sara’s eyes widen with surprise before settling into amusement. “Show me...”

Like an idiot, I make the mistake of showing her what Aunt Julie looked like when she came down to fetch Uncle Jim.  Sara whistles with appreciation before she inspects my holographic model of Aunt Julie from all angles.

“Wow, hubba, hubba. Your Aunt Julie is hot and that tattoo is wicked cool.” Sara looks back to me with a slight bit of concern. “You did that with your magic?”

Now I am worried that she will be mad at me. “Yes, but it is just an illusion...”

Gone is the wicked and playful Sara. She walks over and studies my face. “How hard was it to cast? Did you have to force it?”

I shrug my shoulders. “No, it was pretty easy.  The tattoo caused a little extra essence drain, but not too much.”

Sara studies me for a few more seconds to see if I am lying to her.  She has a way of looking at me that makes me think she really can see into my head. Which is kind of funny, since she is in my head.

“Well, okay, but please take it easy.  I worry about you and don’t want you to accidentally burn yourself out.” Sara gives me a quick hug and a sisterly kiss on my forehead before she pulls back.

Even after she is done, I feel the sensation of her soft lips on my forehead and it makes me tingle all over. I almost forget that she was talking to me. “Oh!” I snap back into the present. “Thanks, I will. I mean, I’ll be careful.”

“Good, you better be! Don’t make me come fetch ya!” Sara stabs her finger into my chest to help drive home how serious she is.

Oh man, she could do that?  Why does that seem even worse than it sounds?

“Based on your encounter at the store, I take it that you got Paige’s present?”

“Yep, how-” I try to ask, but she holds up her hand and shakes her head.  “Okay, got it. It’s a secret...”

“Smart girl, but don’t worry; Paige plans on taking you under her wing.” Sara saunters seductively past me, her fingers trail across my jaw line on her way to my firing station.  She glances down range, inspecting my targets. “Looks like ya had some fun and I would join ya, but sadly, I need to go have a little chat with someone.”

Once again, I get the feeling that whoever she is going to ‘chat’ about ‘business’ is not going to be happy. “Umm, what are you going to-”

Sara stops me with a tight shake of her head. “You don’t need to know.”

“Oh...” Now I am really worried about her.

Sara presses her index finger against her lips. “Shhh...” Then, she gives me a warm hug. “I’ll be fine. It is you that I am worried about.”

“Oh, okaayy...” Now I am even more worried about her.

Sara steps back, gives me a quick appraisal. Her lips quirk into a grin that scares me. “You know, you should try that tattoo on yourself sometime. With your bod, I bet you would totally rock it...”

“Sara!”

“Ha! Well, gotta go...ta ta!” Sara waves and fades away.

As usual, I am both relieved and saddened by her departure.  I briefly debate playing a sniper scenario with my new toy, but I cannot bring myself to go through with it.  Shooting at target silhouettes and watching an actor in a movie is not the same as shooting at a person. I know that it would be more like playing a First Person Shooter on my console at home, but my system is too real. I sigh and shut down my big ass gun, or rifle as Sara euphemistically referred to it.  I don’t feel like blowing stuff up any more.

I am feeling kind of bummed for some reason. So, I spend the rest of the very early morning hours reading books and watching TV from the comfort of my living room.  I decide to wear something simple, comfy and not girly. Sweat pants, dark blue, with a simple t-shirt. No Jacuzzi bikini romps, tattoos or dress up playtime for this girl, I mean, person.


<Thursday, 22-Feb-2007 06:00:00>

Uncle Jim’s alarm begins trying to wake the dead. So, I decide to put some comfy clothes on and make some coffee for Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie. I am pretty sure they are both going to be somewhat tired this morning.  Of course, I will officially deny all knowledge of the reasons for that condition.

Wow, I am starting to sound like a secret agent now.

Uncle Jim surprises me by greeting me with an energetic smile and a spring in his step as he ignores the fresh cup of coffee I set in his normal spot at the kitchen counter.  Instead of sitting down and sipping his coffee, he gives me a quick hug and a fatherly kiss on my forehead.  “Thanks.” He says as he releases me.

I am not sure how to take that. “What was that for?”

“Oh, for making coffee...” Uncle Jim airily gestures before taking up his normal spot in front of his cup.

“Okkaaay...” I do not believe him for second, but I also do not want him to really tell me the truth either. Some things are best left unspoken.  “Do you want me to make you a bagel again?”

Aunt Julie decides to make a surprise appearance. “I can do that. Chloe, why don’t you go ahead and relax. Do you want anything?”  

Both of our gazes snap to Aunt Julie.

Uncle Jim smiles with appreciation while I am pretty sure that I look like a deer caught in the headlights.  I know that her punk rock, Goth, sort of Sara appearance should not surprise me, but it does.  She is wearing a fluffy bathrobe, but unlike my mom’s full length robe that almost reaches her ankles, Aunt Julie’s stops mid-thigh. Holy crap, she still looks hot. My eyes don’t know what to respectfully focus on.

Her face would normally be the safe target, but the sultry vampire smile she is directing at Uncle Jim is, distracting. Adding to the ‘distraction’ is the tattoo on her legs. I cannot help it; my eyes are drawn down to them. She has such nice legs and except for the tattoo, they are all her own. The glacier melting kiss she bestows on Uncle Jim only adds to my confusion.

Adults are not supposed to act like this with a kid, I mean, a younger person in the room. Well, I guess I have seen my parents kiss each other like that, but my mom never looked like Aunt Julie does right now either.  “Umm, No thanks, I can just go downstairs and watch a movie or something...”

I am a little surprised to see that my illusion is still active on her, but after I switch over to magic sight and inspect it; my illusion appears to be fraying around the edges. I guesstimate that it might last another hour or two, but until then, her hair and makeup will look perfect.  Hmmm, maybe I can use illusionary disguises to make getting ready for school easier.

“Do you want me to cancel the illusion or just let it-” I stop with that line of questioning when Aunt Julie and Uncle Jim decide to give each other a steamy kiss.

Awkward...

I make my retreat, but halfway down the stairs, I hear Aunt Julie giggle. “Jim, not now...”

la la la la!

After Uncle Jim leaves, Aunt Julie makes her way down to the theater room. She leans over and gives me a motherly kiss on my forehead.  What is it with the kisses this morning?  Geez, a little late night, umm, nevermind. I cannot help it, but I catch sight of her cleavage through the gap in her robe. I blame the tattoo for how it wraps around and...well, draws the eye.  

“Thanks Chloe, last night was...magical...” She says as she straightens back up.

“Do you want me to cancel it now?” I somehow manage to ask without my voice betraying the intense mix of confusion I am now feeling.  She is my Aunt, but not my aunt. She is old-er, but not ‘that’ old. I am a girl...

“Sure?” Aunt Julie glances down at her chest as she opens her robe to peek at herself.

I find it very hard not to peek at her chest myself.  She is not wearing a bra and the tattoo looks incredible as it wraps its way sinuously around her upper torso.

Aunt Julie sighs with regret. “I do like the tattoo though...”

I do too, but there is no way that I will admit that to her without turning myself into a bright shade of pink.  “Okay...”  I cancel the illusion.

Her real hair and makeup is a total mess, but at the same time; she still manages to look absolutely sexy to me and darned if I am going to tell her that. What in the hell is wrong with me?

Thankfully, Aunt Julie does not appear to notice my confusion as she absently runs her fingers through her hair. “Oh geez, I must look horrible now...” She says, and then slowly makes her way up the stairs.

No you don’t...

It is hard, but I manage not to do or say anything until after she was out of the room.  

Whooosh!  

I exhale a large sigh of relief.  Holy cow, that was unnecessarily awkward.  

After Aunt Julie is done with the hot water, I decide to follow her example and take a shower.  I find that it is getting easier to deal with my body, but it is still a little strange. I mean, for one I have to wash and condition my hair. Two, the soap is girl smelly good and I have to use a washcloth because my smooth, hair free skin does not lather up as easily.  Finally, and it might be a little weird to view this as a negative, but, I just cannot bring myself to pee in the shower like I used to always do.  

Despite my mom’s protests, when I was a boy, it was not gross to pee in the shower. Just aim it at the drain and hardly a drop would fail to hit my target. See, that is not gross at all, but now? Yes, I know, technically, I could pee standing up like I used to, but then I would get pee all over my legs. I could squat, but that is not the same. Besides, I would still get pee on my feet and that is gross.  Can girls aim?

Even though I did not do anything other than ‘freshen up’, it still takes me almost 20 minutes to finish my shower. Okay, 18.24 minutes, but it might as well be 20 minutes.  No wonder why girls always take so bloody long in the bathroom.  Thank god I did not have to shave my legs or my pits. I do not have a hint of hair anywhere below my eyes and I am perfectly fine with that condition.  I think that I will consider not having to shave my legs as a minor reward for all the hassle of being a girl.

I dress casual in jeans and a t-shirt. Okay, top, sorry.  I wish that was all, but bra plus panties, plus taking some time with my hair, plus attempting to match colors takes me another 30 minutes before I consider myself ready to leave my room.  It is a good thing that I need so little sleep because if I had to wake up an extra hour early just to get ready for school I think that I would have to scream.

I find it a little disconcerting to see myself in the mirror instead of Chloe. I think I have been spending too much time as Chloe. It will be nice to finally get to that Super Mutant High School so that I can be myself. Well, my new self because being my old self would probably take too much essence to keep that kind of illusion active.

The delightful smell of breakfast greets me when I finally make my way downstairs. I follow my nose and as I enter the kitchen, a normal and non-sexy, but still attractive Aunt Julie turns and greets me with a smile. “Chloe, I mean Bree, perfect timing! I was just about to call for you.” She gestures to the pan on the stove. “I made you a mushroom, cheese and sun dried tomato omelet...”

I have never had a meatless omelet, but I practically inhale the thing. So, yummy and before I have a chance to ask, Aunt Julie starts a second.  After breakfast, I help her clean up the kitchen and I am just starting to wonder what we will do today when the doorbell rings.

We both look at each other, followed by the clock for a second before I realize that I am not Chloe.  It is 0950. Alarmed by both the time and by the fact that I am not disguised, I reactivate my Chloe disguise and anxiously wait for Aunt Julie to answer the door. If Mr. Reilly follows yesterday’s agenda, he could be calling any minute now.

“Mrs. Grantson?!?” I hear Aunt Julie say.

Curious about why she is here, I peek my head around the corner. As luck would have it, Mrs. Grantson spots me.

Her face lights up with a smile. “Chloe!”

Aunt Julie steps to the side and looks over her shoulder at me with a helpless expression. Mrs. Grantson takes that as an invitation and enters into the foyer. “Julie, I was in the area and I simply had to stop by and deliver your invitations myself.” She says as she hands Aunt Julie an expensive looking cream colored, I mean white, envelope.

It worries me a teensy tiny bit that I initially thought of the color as ‘cream’ versus white because it is white, just not all white.

*sigh* The things I stress about are truly mind boggling sometimes.

Without pausing for a second to allow Aunt Julie to counter-attack, Mrs. Grantson gives Aunt Julie’s house a quick inspection. “Lovely house you have here, Julie...”

Instead of being rude and pushing her out the door, Aunt Julie turns back to her. “Oh, thank you Mrs. Grantson-”

Mrs. Grantson holds up her hand. “Please Julie, Victoria...”

“Umm, okay, Victoria. You kind of caught me by surprise, but may I show you some more of the house?”

“Oh yes, why that would be delightful!”

“Chloe, would you mind taking Mrs. Gra-, I mean, Victoria’s coat and hanging it up for me please?”

“Umm, yes ma’am.”

“My, what a delightful niece you have, Julie. Such manners...” Mrs. Grantson turns her attention to me. “And, I cannot wait to see you at my party, young lady!”

I hang back as Aunt Julie guides Mrs. Grantson through the ground level of the house. As we pass the stairs that lead down to the home theater room, I cannot help thinking that somewhere down there would make a great hiding spot.  I find myself checking the clock almost constantly. It is 09:59 and Mrs. Grantson is not even close to leaving.  Aunt Julie and she are looking over the back yard and discussing what flowers should be planted in the spring.


> Incoming CDMA signal detected!

*ringggg*

My secret secure cell phone begins to ring from the kitchen counter.  Aunt Julie glances over at it with alarm. With all the chatting she and Mrs. Grantson have been doing, I think that she forgot.

I smile at her and answer the phone from inside my head before it can ring again.

{“Hello?”}  I hesitantly ask before I realize that I probably should have answered the phone more military-like with a “Whisper speaking, how may I direct your call sir or ma’am?”.  I blame Mrs. Grantson’s presence for throwing me off my game.

{“Whisper?”} Mr. Reilly asks.

I can tell that he is using a speaker phone again. He must be in the conference room with everyone else again.  {“Umm, yes sir, sorry. We have company and I am trying to not draw attention to the fact that I am on the phone right now.”}

{“Company? Should we send a team over?”} Captain Howards breaks into the conversation.

{“Ha-ha, umm, sorry sir, but no, that probably would be bad.  It’s Mrs. Grantson, you know, Admiral Grantson’s wife.  Is Admiral Jensen there?”}

{“What?!? I mean, yes, Admiral Jensen speaking...”}

{“Congratulations on your promotion sir. I’m sorry, but Mrs. Grantson ran into us at the store yesterday and now she is here with invitations to your party.  She seems rather insistent that I go...”}

I can practically see Mr. Reilly clutching his head in pain from the headache that I must be causing him right now.  It takes a good 10 or 20 seconds, 17.329 before anyone replies directly to me. During that time I hear some muffled conversion that boils down to, “Should she or shouldn’t she?”

Admiral Jensen clears his throat. {“Yes, well, Whisper, I think that we are all in agreement that it would be a bad idea due to the current guest list. I am sorry, but if your identity got out during the party, it could be somewhat politically dangerous for everyone involved.”}  

He said that to me like I would be heartbroken over the denial. I am not. {“Oh, that’s okay with me sir. I understand and feel the same way. Yes, it would be much, much too dangerous for me to attend...”} I look back over at Aunt Julie and Mrs. Grantson.  They are now sitting the living room and chatting about what she plans on serving at the party. {“But, umm, Mrs. Grantson seems very determined...”}

{“Hmm...”} Admiral Jensen ponders the problem.

Once again, there is some slightly muffled brainstorming between the participants in the conference. It sounds like Admiral Jensen knows Mrs. Grantson well.  She is unofficially known as “Hurricane Victoria” because once she gets started on something, she is almost impossible to stop.  I find that extremely funny because I can see her flattening all resistance in her path.

{“What if she is in the Witness Protection Program?”} Mrs. Townsend asks, sounding a little hesitant to be speaking up with all the heavyweights in the room.

That idea is greeted favorably and it even makes sense with Uncle Jim being the prosecuting attorney, but Admiral Jensen feels pretty certain that Mrs. Grantson would simply call the Governor or someone in the Justice Department to see what they could do to help poor Chloe.

{“Whisper, can you put Mrs. Grantson on the phone?”} Admiral Jensen asks with some reluctance.

{“Sir! Yes sir!”} Is it wrong for me to feel so eager to see how Mrs. Grantson takes the news?  I briefly consider asking them if they want me to open up the monitor to allow video so they can see what I see, but decide not to because that could be kind of creepy.

I grab the secure phone and walk into the living room presenting the phone to Mrs. Grantson. “Ma’am, sorry to interrupt, but Admiral Jensen wants to speak to you.”

Maybe I should have opened up the video.  Mrs. Grantson’s reaction is totally priceless.  I don’t think that I have ever seen someone so shocked.  “What?” Mrs. Grantson asks incredulously as she accepts the phone from me.

Even Aunt Julie looks surprised, but I think she can tell that I am enjoying this a little too much. “Chloe...” She frowns at me.

{“Victoria, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it would be ill-advised for ‘Chloe’ to attend the party.”}

“Jack? What? How?” Mrs. Grantson sputters as she looks back and forth between me and Aunt Julie.

Admiral Jensen chuckles. {“That’s kind of a long story, Victoria and sadly, not one I can share at the moment. OPSEC, you understand, but I can tell you that Chloe’s anonymity is key to the current mission and it would be very risky for Chloe to attend the party due to the current guest list.”}

Mrs. Grantson’s shock and confusion ends pretty darn fast, too fast. “I see...” She pauses to examine me, her head tilted to the side as she studies me with far more intensity than she has before.

I almost feel like she has some super power and can read me like my mom does.  I dart a quick glance to Aunt Julie for reassurance. Aunt Julie is sitting very stiffly and giving the situation her full attention. She shakes her head once to signal for me to not do anything stupid. Well, either that, or something else.  I never have been good with non-verbal.

Mrs. Grantson nods once as if reaching a decision. “Okay Jack, but I expect a full report when and if it is safe to do so.”

{“I will see what I can do, Victoria, but it may take awhile. This one goes all the way to the top of the flagpole...”}

Mrs. Grantson’s eyes widen with shock and something else, recognition. I think she knows who I am. Maybe I am better at the non-verbal communication thing than I realized.

“Understood, is there anything else that I should know?”

{“Hehe, not at the moment Victoria, but I almost do wish that Chloe could attend. I would love to actually meet the young lady who seems to be as adept in getting into trouble as you are at finding it.”}

Mrs. Grantson smiles and her eyes twinkle with a mischievous fire. “Someone has to keep you men on your toes.  I swear that if the Navy didn’t issue you all uniforms, you all would be helpless!”

Admiral Jensen chuckles. {“Yes, maybe we should appoint you to the next uniform review board?”}

“Oh heavens no! I thought you liked me...” Mrs. Grantson shudders.

{“Well, we need to debrief ‘Chloe’ on a few more items. It should only take a few more minutes. Can you give her back the phone?”}

{“I’m here...”}

Mrs. Grantson appears surprised to hear me speaking on her phone while I am standing in front of her and not moving my lips.

Admiral Jensen sighs. {“I keep forgetting that little detail...Can you hang up your phone Victoria?”}

Mrs. Grantson hesitantly nods. “Okkaayy...” She fumbles for a second until I point out the red highlighted disconnect button.  “Well, that certainly is a surprise!”

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry.” I take half a step back, expecting her to be mad at me.

She laughs and waves away my troubling thought. “Oh pshaw! Not your fault young lady, but, if you need anything; feel free to let me know. I am sure that the dashing men failed to properly equip a young lady for the rigors at hand.”

{“Captain Howards, was there any equipment that Whisper needed?”} Admiral Jensen whispers.

Crap. I kind of forgot that I had the audio routed so they could hear what I hear.

{“Not that I am aware of sir...”}

Mr. Reilly clears his throat to speak. {“She was kind of dropped on Mr. and Mrs. Stiles with only the clothes on her back.”}

I don’t know why I feel the need to be ashamed by the fact that Mrs. Grantson hit the nail on the head with that observation, but I find myself glancing down at my clothes.  The clothes that Aunt Julie bought me. “Umm, maybe a little...” I see Mrs. Grantson’s triumphant expression and it worries me because I bet she will want to take me shopping, or something. “But, Aunt Julie took care of that already!”

Mrs. Grantson turns to Aunt Julie with a smile. “You picked that excellent outfit she was wearing yesterday?”

“Yes, I wanted her to have at least one good general purpose professional outfit. I would have liked to get her more, but I only had a couple of hours.” Aunt Julie appears both relieved and proud about the praise she received.

I do not like the direction that this conversation appears to be heading. If Mrs. Grantson offers to take me shopping, I think I will scream. Why does everyone want to take me shopping?  What is it about being a girl that means I need to shop for clothes all the bleeping time?  Video game shopping, that I could understand.  They release new games every week, but clothes?  Clothes are just clothes, the only thing that is new about clothes are their colors, right?

I am jarred from my thoughts by Mrs. Grantson. “Oh my, Chloe dear, is everything okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Oh, sorry, I was just, umm, thinking.  Please tell me that you are not thinking about trying to take me shopping-”

“Chloe!” Aunt Julie says.

{“Brianna Nicole!”} My mom says.

I cast my gaze down to the floor. I feel a little ashamed for my outburst. Well, maybe more embarrassed than ashamed. “Wellllll, sorry, but shopping and I do not mix.” My eyes begin to tear up and my voice catches in my throat. “Ever since, this...” I gesture to my body. “I can’t seem to go out in public without someone trying to hurt or kidnap me...”

Aunt Julie starts to reach for me. “Oh, dear...”

That ends it for me.  The dam breaks and my tears begin to flow. I hate all this crying. I hate all the people trying to kill me. I hate feeling so helpless and having everyone telling me what to do. I just want to be normal again.  “Why can’t everyone just leave me alone?”  I manage to get out as I lose all control of my emotions.  

I push myself away from Aunt Julie, disconnect the phone and run up to my room with tears streaming down my face.  I throw myself onto my bed and scream into the pillow.  Sometime during my meltdown, the secure phone rings again, but I ignore it.  I simply grab my pillow and hug it to my body like it was a big fluffy teddy bear. I am not saying that I have used one of those objects because my mom carefully packed away Mr. Snugs when I out grew the silly thing two years ago.  It got too embarrassing to have in my room when my friends came over. I miss Mr. Snugs.

“Chloe?” Aunt Julie cautiously steps into my room.

I hug the pillow tighter to my body and press my face into it in the false hope that Aunt Julie will go away.  

Aunt Julie settles down next to me and sort of surprises me, causing me to flinch as she gently touches my shoulder. “Chloe, sweetie, it’s okay.”

I refuse to look at her. “No, it’s not...and I’m not Chloe. I’m not even me!”

“Oh dear...” Aunt Julie hugs me. “I know that it has been hard on you the last few days, but you do have people who care about you.”

Is that supposed to make me feel better? “Yeah, but I also have a lot of people who want to kill me.”

Aunt Julie hugs me even tighter, giving me an affectionate kiss on my forehead and then, releasing me with a sigh.  “I wish I had a way to refute that statement, but I don’t.  It’s true, but you don’t have to let those people run your life.”

“Well, they are and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t go home, I can’t go to a mall, I can’t go to Amanda’s slumber party and I can’t go to Mrs. Grantson’s party even though there will be tons of military folks there.  What can I do?”

“Yes, right now all that is true, but it won’t always be. A couple of weeks from now everyone will have forgotten all about you and all this...” Aunt Julie waves her hands around. “Will seem like a bad memory. Heck, you might even think it was fun because how many people get to live through a spy movie?”

I cannot believe that she would make that comparison. I look up and spot her mischievous smirk. “Fat chance of that ever happening...”

“Come on, what about my disguise? You have to admit that you had fun sneaking that tattoo in, right?”  She sits back down on the bed and faces me.

I refuse to give in and agree with her. Even if she is right.  

“And, what about Amanda?  You liked hanging out with her and I won’t even go into the fact that you get to hang out with two cool older people like me and Jim!”

Dang it!  I want to keep sulking, but Aunt Julie is breaking past my defenses.  I accidently smile.

“There you go, dear, you’re so pretty when you smile like that.” Aunt Julie softly rubs the back of her finger under my eye, wiping away a tear.

I want to protest about being called ‘pretty’ because I’m not. Chloe is pretty, but she is just an illusion.  Then, I realize that my Chloe illusion is not active.  I bolt upright. “Oh my god! My disguise, did?” I look at Aunt Julie as my heart beats wildly in my chest.

She nods once. “Yes, it dropped when you left us and Mrs. Grantson felt so bad about causing you so much pain.  She asked me to let her know the next time you are going to in town so that she can throw a big fancy party for you and all your friends.”

“Ummm, I don’t really have friends here...”

“You have Amanda, and she has friends, the friends that are going to be at her slumber party. I am betting that they would love to meet you and go to a party.”

It sounds like it could be fun, but I am not convinced. “Maybe, if I didn’t get the party raided by the MCO or someone else...”

Aunt Julie laughs at me. “Oh Chloe, I don’t think that you would have to worry about that. Mrs. Grantson would defeat them with a single glare!”

I cannot help it. I can picture Mrs. Grantson doing that and that causes me to giggle because it is such an absurd idea.

“There you go dear. See, it’s not all bad.” Aunt Julie smirks and then suddenly becomes all business. “Now, I need your help getting the other guest room ready.”

Someone is coming to visit?  How can that be okay with me here? “What?”

“Your mom. Mr. Reilly decided that it might be a good idea if she was here with you. So, they are going to smuggle her out this afternoon.” Aunt Julie grabs me by my shoulders and looks into my eyes with a serious expression. “Well, unless you don’t want to see her...”

My eyes snap open and I gasp with shock that she would try to imply that I would not want to see my mom. “Aunt Julie! You know that I...”

She starts to giggle.

“You are so mean.”  I say as I struggle and fail, to not smile, happy with her news.

“Yep, but first, let’s go down to the kitchen. I think a mug of hot cocoa is just what the doctor ordered.”

“Ha-ha, doctor...okay, but can I have marshmallows in mine?”

Line Break broken

MCO Special Agent Lainer was in a foul mood this afternoon.  All of his men were avoiding him as he sat, brooding in his office.  The meet with the anonymous source was another dead end.  Whomever he or she was, they never showed and he wasted two hours sitting around in the damn coffee shop when he could have been here getting caught up on all the f’ing paperwork.

This damn Whisper or whatever she was or might be called, was turning into a monumental pain in the ass.  He was frustrated, his boss was frustrated and because of that, he could tell that his boss’s boss was also frustrated by the lack of progress.  The MCO ‘never’ has had this much trouble finding a rogue mutant or any mutant before.  The MCO has never had the U.S. Government actively working against them and stonewalling them at every turn either.

He found that little fact the most troubling because MCO’s popularity and public support has never been so low.  “We are the good guys, damnit!” Agent Lainer slammed his fist down on his desk.  “Can’t the public see that we are the only thing keeping them safe from the mutants?

His thoughts were interrupted by a polite knock on his open office door frame.  He looked up and spotted Agent Forester standing anxiously, holding a printout in her hands.  “Umm, sir, sorry, but I spotted this little article on the CIA news blog.”

His frustration momentarily forgotten by both the sight of the attractive Agent Forester and his curiosity piquedby her find, he smiled and motioned her to come into his office. “Come in, come in. What did you find?”

Reassured by the fact that her boss was not yelling at her, she cautiously entered his office and set the printout on his desk.  Agent Lainer quickly scanned the brief contents of the printout. “What the?” He looked up at Agent Forester.

“I think that he may have been involved with our little Whisper hunt. Director Falk surprised everyone by suddenly retiring from the CIA yesterday and this morning he was found dead by his wife. Apparently, he killed himself...or something.”

Agent Forester’s news made sense. It made a lot of sense actually, but why would he commit suicide if he was planning on meeting with him?  Was it really a suicide?

“Was there a note or something?”

Agent Forester shook her head slowly back and forth. “The article didn’t mention one, but if he did suddenly, as they say, retire. Maybe he was actually ‘burned’ by the CIA and maybe he was feeling depressed?”

“That’s a big ‘maybe’, but if he was planning on meeting with me...” Agent Lainer abruptly stood and paced back and forth as he considered the implications.  ‘If’ the late Director Falk was really the person he was supposed to meet and ‘if’ he was also forced to retire from the CIA instead of retired on his own and ‘if’ he really knew anything about Whisper, then, did the CIA kill him and make it look like a suicide?

If that was the case, then holy fucking shit, the U.S. Government was very fucking serious about keeping whoever this Whisper mutant is, a secret.  That idea scared the crap out of him, but at the same time, it made him even more curious about what the big secret really was.  Just who or what was this Whisper ‘thing’?

Agent Lainer looked up and was startled to see Agent Forester still in his office.

“Sir?”

“Good work with spotting this.” He looked over and smiled at Forester. “Notify Special Agent Billings and have him pull back all the surveillance teams.  I’ll update leadership and advise them to drop our active investigation, but also to keep an eye open in case Whisper shows up somewhere else, like that fucking Whateley place.”

“Yes sir, but if it shows up there, what can we do?”

“Well, not much, but the MCO still has the right to interview and access any newly registered mutant. Whateley may be a cesspit for mutants, but they still have to follow the law!”

Agent Forester took that as her cue to slip out of the office. Her boss probably didn’t want to know that the last MCO interview team at Whateley had been kicked out for attempting to conduct an illegal, off the record interview.

Line Break broken

I help Aunt Julie straighten up the other guest bedroom and eat another excellent Aunt Julie prepared lunch. Sadly, she has to leave for a few hours to visit her patients. Before she leaves, she reminds me to reactivate my Chloe disguise. I am not sure how I feel about that. It was kind of nice to not have it active for a few hours.  While I was in Brianna mode, Aunt Julie used my new real name and somehow, I found that comforting. As strange as it may sound, I even enjoyed helping Aunt Julie clean and prep my mom’s room.  I ‘never’ would have thought that kind of chore to be fun before.  What in the heck is wrong with me?  Did I get infected with some girl cleaning instinct?

My mom arrives, promptly at 1500 hours, escorted by Captain Howards and two of his men.  I did not know what time she was due to arrive, but since the doorbell rang at exactly 1500 hours, I assume that 1500 hours was the plan.  

As soon as I open the door, my mom bursts forth and scoops me up into a bone crushing hug. “Oh my god sweetie! Look at you!” She pulls away to inspect all of me. “You look so...different!” She resumes squishing me to death. “I was so worried about you!  Is Mrs. Stiles here?”

I make a show of coughing a few times to refill my lungs after she releases me. “Geez Mom, and I thought that the bad guys were bad. You could have killed me with that hug!”

She laughs and gives me another squishy hug. “But, I missed you so much!”

Feeling uncharacteristically buoyant, I pull her towards the kitchen to help make room for Captain Howards and his men to enter the house.  We were kind of blocking the doorway and they have both my mom’s suitcase and my suitcase in their hands.  My suitcase is pretty light, but I know my mom’s is not so light.

“Sorry, but she had to visit her office to check on some patients and I think she was planning on picking up some more food at the store, or something. She’s an awesome cook, Mom!” I notice that my mom looks a little upset by my praise. “But, not as good as you...”

My mom waves away my praise as she takes in the kitchen. “Brianna, you don’t have to defend my cooking. I’m just grateful that Mr. and Mrs. Stiles were willing and able to take you in under such short notice. Especially under the conditions...”

Captain Howards steps forward as his men take positions that give them maximum visibility of both the front and rear entry ways. “About the ‘conditions’...it appears that the MCO has given up trying to find you.  I was notified that they pulled away all their surveillance teams on our way here.”

“Really?!?” I glance between him and my mom in an attempt to see if he is trying to pull my leg. My mom nods with agreement.

“Yes, but I am not sure why.” Captain Howards frowns. “I thought that the MCO was more determined.”

I helplessly shrug my shoulders. “Maybe they realized that I wasn’t a threat?”

“No, I doubt that.” Captain Howards slowly shakes his head. “The spooks are probably going crazy trying to figure it out but, they appear to be out of the picture, for now.”

Oh wait, if the MCO is not looking for me. “Oh, so does that mean that I might have to go to Mrs. Grantson’s party now?” I cringe a little because I kind of expect him to say, “Yes.”

His eyes twinkle as he chuckles at me. “As delightful as it may be to have you attend, I don’t think you have to worry about that. Even without the MCO, all the other reasons as to why it would be a bad idea still exist.”

“Thank god...” I whisper with relief.

“Brianna!”

I grimace and turn back to my mom. “Sorry Mom, but I just don’t think that I am ready to get all dressed up for some stuffy formal military thing.” Belatedly, I realize that I may have just insulted Captain Howards. I turn back to him. “Sorry! I didn’t mean...”

He laughs with genuine mirth and even his men break into a quick smile before wiping all the evidence away. “Oh, you’re right. They can get kind of ‘stuffy’, but the food is excellent and as much as I hate to admit it, they can be good for your career.”

“Oh, good...”

Captain Howards purses his lips with consideration. “But, it could be fun to have you there. Just thinking about all the trouble you might cause makes me smile because a fire fight in the middle of a formal ball would certainly be memorable!”

I know that he is joking, but I don’t know how to take his idea of fun. I helplessly glance to my mom for support, but all she does is smirk and shrug her shoulders as if to say, “it could happen.”  Well, that is what my rudimentary body language interpretation skills come up with for a translation.

“He-he, I’m kidding, but, honestly, I cannot wait for you to join the Navy and have you under my command. I think that you will make a fine addition to the Navy.”

“What? I thought I had to join the Army?”

“No, Whateley is an Army JROTC, but that doesn’t mean you have to join the Army. Besides, have you seen anyone from the Army trying to help you?” Captain Howards glances around the room as if looking for a hidden Army dude.

“Umm, no?”

“He-he, see?” Captain Howards’ posture returns to his relaxed and ready for action stance. “Anyway, I do hope that you will seriously consider the Navy when it is time for you to make your decision.”

I glance up to his eyes and meet his gaze. “Okay, I will. Thanks for your help!”

Like the professional he is, he raises his hand to initiate a handshake. Instead of shaking his hand, I feel the urge to hug him. I decide to succumb to my girl instincts for two reasons. One, because I want to and two, because it will probably surprise or embarrass him in front of his men. I give him a ninja hug before he can react and I follow my sneak attack up with a tippy toe kiss on his cheek. After all, that is what Chloe would do, right?

“Yes, umm, well, it has been a pleasure meeting you...” Captain Howards blushes a nice shade of red.

I cannot help feel a deep sense of satisfaction by his reaction and by the fact that both of his men grin at their boss’s reaction.  I find it even more amusing when their faces return to blank slates as he turns to face them.

I will ignore the fact that I kissed a guy and the slightly rough texture of his clean shaven face against my lips. I will also ignore the fresh, subtle spicy scent of his aftershave and how nice I think it smells on him. I never noticed how handsome he is before. What a minute?!?! What in the heck am I thinking?  

As I drop back down from my tippy toes and spin to face my flabbergasted mom, I feel my face heat up with what has to be a bright shade of red.  Oh man, I really hope that my Chloe illusion is not showing my blush right now.

What is wrong with me? Camouflage, yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket.

Since Aunt Julie is not home and I am officially her niece, I see Captain Howards and his men out. All is quiet until I arrive back in the kitchen and my mom giggles at me. “Oh my god Bree, that was pretty funny how you got him to blush, but even more was the matching shade of red your face displayed!”

“Mooomm!”

** Chapter 41 **

“Weelll, I have to admit that it was kind of funny...”  My mom struggles to contain her laughter.

“I don’t think that she is very sorry. “Are you sure that is safe for you to be here?”

“Stinker!” She sticks her tongue out at me before finally composing herself. “So, tell me what happened. I mean, I know you told Mr. Reilly, but I wanna hear it from you.”

I am getting pretty good at telling the story.  It only takes me 30 minutes this time around and that is even with my mom’s hug and sniffle interruptions.  I follow that up with showing her the house and lugging both of our suitcases to our rooms.  Her suitcase makes me glad that I am slightly stronger than I look because I would feel pretty wussy if I had to wait for Uncle Jim to lug it up the stairs for me.  My suitcase is still only half full, thus it is fairly light, but I am sure that little deficiency will be fixed before I leave on Saturday.

She is very surprised by my admission that not only have I been helping Aunt Julie in the kitchen, but that I also helped her ready the guest room.  She has me drop my Chloe disguise and show her all the new clothes Aunt Julie got for me and she gets a little teary eyed when I model the skirt thing for her.  

“You should wear that on Saturday. It is practical and you look very pretty in it.” She says with her ‘this is not a suggestion’ expression.

“But, I don’t want to look ‘pretty’ on my first day and I don’t care about looking ‘pretty’...” I cross my arms over my chest. I am not going to give in on this.

“I know, but if first impressions are only made once.” My mom tries a different attack vector.

Sounds good, but I am not sold. “How does me wearing this outfit help with that?”

“Perception is reality. If you show up looking like you do right now, no one will ever question your gender.”

I attempt to speak, but my mom signals that she has more to say.

“Now, I have spoken a lot about this issue with Ms. Carson and while she assures me that Whateley is prepared to deal your situation; She also told me that there have been a few students in your situation and they have found that it was easier on the student if they presented themselves closer to the feminine norm. At least, initially.”

“My situation?  You mean my, you know what?”

“Yes...” She points at my body. “Your ‘situation’. I know that it has not been and is still not easy, but you should try to get used to wearing skirts as soon as possible.  They are the uniform that all girls-”

“What?!?!  You never told me girls at this school have to wear skirts? What the hell?”

My mom looks pained for a second. “Bree...language, please. No, I did not, but I also did not know about it until recently. However; Whateley is a private school...”

“Oh god, can’t I just go home and go back to my old school where I can wear what I want?”

“Sorry, but you, of all people, should know better than to ask that question. Seriously, Bree, it’s not that bad.”

“Maybe not for you, but I don’t want to have to wear a skirt.” I catch my reflection in the mirror and I have to admit that the skirt, leggings thing does look kinda nice. “Well, not all the time, but I certainly do NOT want to wear some schoolgirl uniform!” I shudder as I recollect some of my favorite Anime shows and all the fan-service shots. Not that I complained that much at the time.

“Well, the girls uniform do have a pants option, but they try to limit it to the winter months.”

“Okay, it is still winter, so I will just plan on wearing the pants.”

“Bree...”

“What? Why do girls insist on freezing all the time? It’s too cold to wear a skirt, but I guess I could maybe wear this outfit on the first day. I mean, it is kind of like wearing pants, but not...”

“Okay, I’m not going to pressure you any more on this topic, but I was a little surprised about the uniform myself and I would rather have you find out now than at the school.”

I am not sure how to process that bit of data.  On one hand, I thought she understood, but on the other hand, I kind of understand her point. I sigh with frustration. “I better change back into my comfy jeans and Chloe disguise now. I wouldn’t wanna get this wrinkled...”

Aunt Julie chooses that moment to arrive. Well, not in the room all sudden-like a ninja, but I detect her garage door signal.  “Aunt Julie is home...”  

Dang it, now I do not have time to change out of the skirt, but maybe if I wear it tonight, it will be too dirty to wear on Saturday.  With that thought in mind, I simply reactivate my Chloe disguise and lead my mom downstairs so that I can introduce her to Aunt Julie.

We surprise Aunt Julie by meeting her in the hallway. “Oh, Chloe! You look, nice.”

It seems like everyone is conspiring to make me wear skirts now. “Umm, thanks. Aunt Julie, this is my mom...” I glance helplessly back at my mom as she rushes forward to give Aunt Julie a hug. What is it about hugs? “Umm, Mom, well, I think you know...”

“Oh my god, Doctor Stiles, thank you soooo much for taking care of Bree, I mean, Chloe and especially for allowing me to stay--”

Aunt Julie stops my mom. “Please Jennifer, Julie is fine and your daughter was a joy to have stay with us.”  She looks over at me fondly. “If I am ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I would want her to be exactly like Chloe.”

I do not know how to handle her compliment. It was meant to be a compliment, but does she mean she wants to have a son who is turned into a girl?  I am pretty sure that she does not really mean that, but how else would she have a daughter who was like me?  Why is her compliment so difficult for me to just accept and feel happy about?  Oh yeah, it’s because I am not used to being referred to as a ‘daughter’.

My mom graciously accepts the compliment, but glances back at me with concern before Aunt Julie drags her toward the kitchen. “Chloe, would you mind grabbing the groceries for me?”

I am not sure how to take her request right now.  Things are going too fast for me to really figure out, but it is easier to just do it and think about it later. “Umm, sure.”

Thankfully, the groceries consist of only two bags and they aren’t that heavy.  It only takes me a minute or two, 1.873 minutes, to fetch the groceries and return them to the kitchen.

“Thanks dear, just set them on the counter there.” Aunt Julie points to the open spot next to the fridge.  “Oh, and you should go change. You would not want to get that outfit dirty. You will need it when we go out tomorrow night.”

“What?” My head spins around a few times with confusion.  We are going out, that is good, but now Aunt Julie expects me to wear this outfit tomorrow night too. Oh, that might work out because girls cannot wear the same outfit twice in a row. It is in the girl rule book, somewhere.

“Well, we did tell Mrs. Grantson that we had plans already and now that your mom is here, Jim and I thought it would be nice if we took the two of you out for dinner and maybe a movie, our treat.”

“Oh, Julie, you shouldn’t have...” My mom says as I numbly make my way out of the kitchen.

Aunt Julie pokes her head around the corner to yell up the stairs. “Oh, Chloe, can you hurry because I would like your help getting dinner ready?”

I do not like how the dynamic has changed with my mom here.  Why do I suddenly feel like a little kid?  I liked how Aunt Julie treated me more like an adult and a friend than a little kid. Or, am I just imagining things?  I manage to get back into my comfy jeans and girl t-shirt without too much trouble.  The bra thing, that still sucks and I decide to rebel a bit by not wearing a bra.  Seriously, women survived for millions of years without bras. My breasts are not that big. Why do I have to wear a bra?

The stairs kind of point out the need for a bra, but a little jiggling is not that bad. Maybe, if I was going to run or play a sport, I would want to wear a bra, but why would I need one for just walking around the house? Besides, they are in no danger of popping out of my t-shirt and it feels kind of nice not having that thing restricting my chest.  I can breathe!

I was not imagining things.  My mom and Aunt Julie are bonding nicely over a glass of wine.  I still help Aunt Julie with the cooking and I find it interesting, but it is not the same.  To make matters worse, my mom notices my bra rebellion.

“Young lady, why aren’t you wearing a bra? You do know that will cause your breasts will sag, right?”

I glance down at my chest. I am not worried at all about my breasts sagging. “Huh? Oh, I didn’t want to. This is more comfortable.”

“Actually, there is no medical evidence to support that claim.” Aunt Julie, MD comes to my defense.  Hip hip hooray!

Now it is my mom’s turn to look confused. “There isn’t?”

“Nope, none at all.  It is mostly a marketing thing the bra manufacturers use to sell bras, but I still prefer to wear a bra myself. Mostly, because in my profession, it helps me look and feel more professional with my appearance.”

Over the next 20 minutes, I learn more about brassiere and the history of brassieres than I ever wanted to know.  I also learn that my mom is a C cup, but she experienced some sagging after breast feeding.  She also grew two sizes during and she breastfed both me and my sister for a little over a year. Way too much information for me to handle, especially when the conversation shifts to babies, pregnancy and the joys of being a mom.  You know, all the things I never had to or want to worry about, ever.  

I might be a girl now, but I am ‘never’ going to have sex with a guy and this little info dump only reinforces my decision.  Sex education classes should just hire my mom and Aunt Julie to come in and have ‘the talk’ with the kids.  There would be zero teenage pregnancies.

Uncle Jim’s arrival brings some much needed testosterone to the conversation. As in, his arrival stops all the embarrassing girl talk and shifts the topics back to things I am more comfortable with, like which restaurant and movie should we go see tomorrow night.  The restaurant is already decided, but the movie option proves to be more difficult than it should be.  Again, my mom adds complexity to what should be a simple process. Uncle Jim and I want to see that new “Astronaut Farmer” movie, but Aunt Julie and my mom want to see some chick flick called,  “In the Land of Women”.  Seriously? It is about a porn star and it does have some hot chicks in it, but nothing blows up and no one gets naked!  Why would anyone want to watch it?  Sadly, I cannot officially use the last negative, but I am sure Uncle Jim thought the same thing.  Using their wifi, I am able to bring up show times and I find a nearby theater that have both movies playing and close to the same times.  I do find a review that mentions some boob exposure in the chick flick, but meh. Uncle Jim and I will see the good movie where stuff blows up, while the ladies, I mean, my mom and Aunt Julie, will watch the yucky movie about women crying, or something.

We do the hot tub again that night, but it is not the same. My mom is tickled pink to see me wearing a bikini, but I just feel more self-conscious and the adult conversation is boring.  Aunt Julie and my mom seem to enjoy each other’s company immensely, but I think Uncle Jim feels a little uncomfortable about how the conversation mostly seems to be centered around kids and babies. We decide to ‘retire’ to his office to play GEO. Well, for me to watch him play GEO.

Once again, he offers to let me use Aunt Julie’s laptop, but there is no way I am going to touch a computer with an active GEO session running.  Who knows what might happen? I could end up changed into a dragon or something worse, like an ugly troll.  No thank you, very much.

We ‘play’ until almost 2300 hours when a very tipsy Aunt Julie comes to retrieve Uncle Jim from his ‘den’ with my similarly tipsy mom in tow.  “Jen, you have got to see this!” Aunt Julie looks back and giggles at my mom. “Chloe, can you, you know, but not the same?” She waves her hands airily about.

Uncle Jim glances over at me with an expression that is part enthusiastic mixed partly with embarrassment. I feel more embarrassment because now that my mom and Aunt Julie are both standing side by side, wet and wearing next to nothing, I realize that my own mom is rather pretty too.  I am not going to mention the MILF thing, because that is just so, so gross.  

“You should change your mom too...”  Uncle Jim is under no such restrictions.

“Oh my god! Chloe, can you do that!?” Aunt Julie’s eyes almost pop out of her head.  She turns to my mom, swaying a little before she grabs my mom’s arm. “Jen, it’s so cool!”

My mom looks hesitant initially, but Aunt Julie’s enthusiasm wins her over. “I know I probably shouldn’t encou, encour, allow you, but if you’re sure it’s safe...”

Wow, Aunt Julie is drunk and so is my mom, but I do not, under any circumstances, want to make Aunt Julie or my mom, look like Sara again.  I am sorry, but the school uniform and Japanese school girl thing is the first thing that pops into my mind.  That thought leads me to “Kill Bill” with that Japanese schoolgirl martial arts chick.  Okay, she was crazy and hot, but never in a million years could I imagine her as girlfriend material.  I will make my mom look like her and Aunt Julie can be O-Ren Ishii, or Lucy Liu.

Yes, it was rated R, but I watched it John’s house and it was awesomely bloody.  My parents would never approve of it.

I focus on my mom’s disguise first and build up the image in my mind.  Long, straight black hair with bangs just above her eyes, skin tone, eyes and most importantly, the mini-skirt schoolgirl uniform.  The full body skin tone proves to be the hardest and most draining part of her disguise. A full body dragon tattoo proves to be way simpler than changing someone’s entire skin tone.

The uniform adds another layer of complexity and essence drain, but based upon Uncle Jim’s gasp and Aunt Julie’s jumping up and down with excitement that draws my eyes to her breasts, I will judge my effort a success.  

My mom looks down and notices her outfit, then pats it with confusion as her hands pass through what appears to be cloth. “You turned me into a Japanese schoolgirl?!”

My mom does not sound happy, but Aunt Julie is positively and uncharacteristically giggly about it. “Me now! Me now!”

Due to the skin tone and clothing drain from my mom’s disguise, I change my mind with Aunt Julie. I do not think I will be able to manage the O-Ren look and super complex kimo disguise.  Instead, I imagine Aunt Julie as Elle Driver, Daryl Hannah’s character with the eye patch and sexy nurse’s uniform.  Her illusion is a little easier since I do not have to change her skin tone.

Uncle Jim whistles. “Hello nurse...”

Thinking about that skin tone thing. Maybe I could have made Aunt Julie look like O-Ren. Since they will not be able to take off their illusionary clothing, maybe I only needed to change her and my mom’s skin tone where it is visible.

My mom appears does not appear as enamored with my idea for her disguise. “You are in so much trouble young lady.”

I find it a little hard to take her seriously when she looks like she now does.  Her parental image is completely absent as she comes across as, well, a teenage Japanese schoolgirl. Me, finding it amusing does not help.

“With me, now!” My mom spins on her heels, causing her short pleated skirt to flash her white panties before the sudden movement causes her to wobble a little bit. Regaining her balance, she marches out of the office.

I glance helplessly at Uncle Jim because I don’t really understand why my mom is so upset, but his eyes are all on Aunt Julie. Actually, she has Uncle Jim pinned to his chair as she straddles him. She is breathing heavy and passionately kissing him while completely ignoring the fact that there is a kid in the room.  I am no expert, but I have to say that Aunt Julie is very drunk right now.

I quickly exit the office and as I close the door to give them some privacy, I sneak a glance back, Uncle Jim gives me the thumbs up signal.  I am not sure if he is thanking me for closing the door or Aunt Julie’s disguise, but maybe it is both.  Seriously, adults are not supposed to act this way. It is downright weird for them to acting like sex starved teenagers.  At least, I can count on my mom to act normal by being mad at me for something.

I track her to her room and prepared to face her wrath, I gingerly peek in and spot her sitting at the foot of her bed, crying.  Which is very very strange when your mom does not look at all like your mom.  “Mom, what’s wrong?”

She looks up at me with her tear streaked face and she looks so adorable with her school girl hairstyle and uniform. “I’m sorry Brianna. I’m such a bad mom. I didn’t mean to push you so hard about wearing the uniform and the skirt.”

I enter her room, close the door, sit down next to her and give her a hug. “It’s okay Mom, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I was just thinking about...some...movie...” Oops, if she has not recognized her character, then I can’t let her know that I watched an R-rated movie without her permission.

“I know, you were thinking about wearing that silly uniform and you wanted to show me what you thought about it.  Then, you made Julie look like a sexy nurse and I got mad at you. I’m so sorry!” My mom cries as she hugs me.

I was not thinking that at the time at all, but now that she mentions it; I think maybe my subconscious was thinking about it. However, I cannot take being hugged by a Japanese schoolgirl any longer and cancel her disguise.  I am not sure if that makes things any easier on me since now she is in her bikini.

My confusion about what to think lasts barely a second. Okay, 0.43 seconds. She is my mom. I always thought she was beautiful, but until all this happened and I met Sara, Fey and Aunt Julie, I never thought about it. Seeing my mom next to Aunt Julie and truly seeing her as not just my mom, but as a beautiful woman too. Well, that is kind of mind blowing.  I miss my boring and normal life.

“Mom, you should get to bed and I wasn’t mad at you, I love y-”  Is all I can get out before she crushes me with a hug. I want to tell her that I only made her look like a kick ass character from a movie I watched and kind of gloss over the fact that the movie was R-rated, but I don’t.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so sor-” My mom hiccups, turns a little pale and then, bolts for the bathroom.

I add one more thing to my list of not-to-do’s. Drink alcohol. My parents have let me taste wine and beer before. I thought they tasted nasty, but why do adults drink if it tastes nasty and makes them barf, a lot?  I helped my mom for 20 minutes as she alternated barfing, crying and apologizing to me for being such a bad mother.  She felt like it was her fault that I got turned into a girl and then, she felt like it was her fault that she did not understand what I was going through.  Finally, she felt like it was her fault that the CIA kidnapped me because if she had been there, she would have known.

“Mom, it’s not your fault-” I say as I rub her back and help hold her hair to keep it from falling into the toilet.  I am interrupted when she barfs again.

“Thanks sweetie. Uhhh, when did I eat carrots?”

I do not want to look and the smell is kinda bad. So, I reach over and flush the toilet.  “I wish I could help you...”


> Initiating Remote Medical Diagnostic Service...

What?!

I jump back a couple of feet.


> Alert: Remote Medical Diagnostic Service halted!
> Please resume contact with patient...

I am not sure if that is a good idea, but the nanites help me. Maybe they can help my mom too. “Umm, ookkaaay...” I say as I reach for my mom.

“What was that sweetie?”

“Nothing...” I rest the palm of my hand against her back.  I immediately sense a drain of my nanites as some, a few thousand, rush out of my body and into her body via my hand.


> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...transfer complete.
> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...building...[xxx%]

Followed by a percentage complete indicator that slowly creeps from 0% toward 100%.  Is this a good idea?  I start to pull my hand away, but as I do I feel my connection to the nanites in her body began to degrade.  Okay, maybe it is safer if I maintain control until they are done and then, tell them to abort or something.  It takes an agonizing  30 seconds before the indicator reaches 100%.


> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...scanning patient...

Well, that does not sound too bad...

A small window opens up in my HUD and my mom’s medical status begins to fill into a monitor page.  Just like mine, it shows that cool EKG heart graph thing that goes ‘bing’, along with pulse rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen level, etc...more information than I know what to do with, but everything seems to be okay. I mean, no flat lines or anything bad.


> Alert!  Patient blood alcohol content = 0.12%
> Recommended treatment:
> Administer 16-20 oz fluids.
> Administer nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory.
> Administer glucose.

I guess I spoke too soon.

Oh, yeah, she is drunk, but is 0.12% bad?  Seems like a pretty low number to me, but my mom is pretty sick so maybe it is a high number?  Isn’t 0.08% considered drunk driving or something?  How can I ‘administer’ all that stuff, exactly?  Give her a glass of water and I am going to guess that second thing is aspirin and call Aunt Julie in the morning?

Oh yeah, the glucose thing. Sugar, but I doubt I can get my mom to guzzle sugar.  She always gave us crackers when we were sick, maybe those will help.  I let go of her and take a step back.


> Alert: Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...Disconnected.

“I’ll be right back!” I run downstairs and raid the kitchen. Large glass of water and bag of plain crackers in hand, I rush back to my mom.  She is still on the floor, hugging the toilet and just as miserable.  Geez, I am definitely never going to drink.

“Here mom, drink this.” I help her sit up enough to drink the water and surprisingly, she gulps it down without complaint.


> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...connected!
> SCRAM halted...
> Warning: Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...system at 83% efficiency.

Why is it at 83%?


>Remote Medical Diagnostic Service nanites began SCRAM instructions due to loss of C3 system.

Oh, I guess that C3 means me and I have to touch her to maintain control of the nanites.  I do not think I need to have them in her anymore and since Dr. Edmundson kind of freaked out when I leaked some blood on the ground; it would probably be safer if figure out a way to remove them from her body.

Umm, Remote thing, you can come on back to me now.


> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...Shutdown initiated.
> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...Starting nanite material retrieval...

I feel the nanites flowing back into my body through my hand. It kind of tickles, but it only takes 15 seconds to finish.


> Remote Medical Diagnostic Service Interface...Retrieval, Complete.

After that, I help her off the floor and she sits on top of the toilet cover. She also munches on the crackers, drinks a few more sips and keeps that down. So, I open the medicine cabinet and grab some ibuprofen. That is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, right?


> True

Why is a simple ‘true’ not so reassuring?


> Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, usually abbreviated to NSAIDs—but also referred to as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents/analgesics (NSAIAs) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIMs)—

Stop! Please. Okay, I get it...geez.

I hand my mom two ibuprofen and more water. “Here, take these...”

As she accepts them, it looks like she is going to cry again. “You’re so good to me...you shouldn’t have to be taking care of me like this...”

Yep, she starts crying again, but I manage to get her to eat more of the crackers. Actually, she eats an entire bag and drinks another full glass of water before I help her to bed.  She regains just enough strength and coordination to strip herself out of her bikini as if I am not even in the room. “Ahh, that is so much better!  Hey, you’re right, it does feel better to not wear a bra!”

Come on Mom, I know I am a girl now, but this is getting ridiculous!  I don’t say that though. Instead, I politely avert my gaze as she climbs under the covers.  

“Thanks sweetie!” She beams up at me as I help her pull the covers over herself.

This ‘sweetie’ thing has got to go.  “Umm, no problem Mom. I hope you feel better in the morning, but can you...”  I notice that her eyes are closed and she is already asleep. “...never mind.”

I turn off the lamp next to her bed and leave the room, carefully closing the door behind me.  “Phew...” I rest my back against the door.  That was a lot of work, but I hope my mom is going to be okay.  What about Aunt Julie?  She appeared to be just as drunk as my mom.

The door to their room is closed and I don’t hear any sounds coming from it.  No sounds are good because I would not want to hear what I think they probably did down in Uncle Jim’s- Crap, I thought about it and, umm, TMI.  Just in case, I sneak over to their door and listen. All I hear are the sounds of two people breathing slowly, as if sleeping.  It sounds like Aunt Julie is snoring a little too. Well, I hope it is her because if not, Uncle Jim has a very high pitched snore.

I debate attempting to shift into thermographic and see if I can see through the door. You know, just to make sure she is okay, but that might show me more than I want to see. I am sure she is fine. She is a doctor. She has to know how to treat a hangover.

I return to my bedroom, change into my very own silk pajamas instead of the flannel pajamas Aunt Julie bought me. It takes a few minutes of tossing and turning from worrying about my mom and Aunt Julie before I manage to fall asleep.  It would be really great to sleep for a full 8 to 10 hours like I used to, but I don’t. 1.5 hours later and I am wide awake and bored.

I hear a toilet flush and immediately worry about my mom. What if she is sick and needs help? I open her door and take a peek. Nope, she is still peacefully asleep in her bed.  Once again, I hear the unmistakable sound of someone barfing and crying at the same time.  That has to be Aunt Julie.

I take a few seconds to listen at their door and the only sounds I hear are Aunt Julie repeating my mom’s earlier performance with the toilet bowl.  I decide to try and help, but I discover that their door is locked when I attempt to slowly turn the handle.

“Crap...” I mutter with defeat.  Maybe it is just stuck?  I try it again, but this time it feels like something inside the door handle moves and then, the door opens for me. I guess it was just stuck.  

I sneak a peek inside their room and Uncle Jim is cutting some serious Z’s. I doubt he is even aware that Aunt Julie is tossing her cookies in their bathroom.  I tip toe past their bed and silently make my way into their master bathroom.  Sexy nurse Aunt Julie is hugging the toilet and I find that image hard to wipe from my brain.  Harder than my bikini clad mom.

“Aunt Julie, are you okay?” I gently touch her shoulder. Dumb question, I know, but it works.  

She looks up at me her perfectly disarrayed long blond hair, dainty old fashioned nurse hat, red cross eye patch, perfect makeup, but with tears slowly trailing down her face. “No...I drank waaayy too much...Oh my god!” She barfs, again.

“Umm, I’ll be right back...” I sneak back down stairs, grab some additional supplies and treat Aunt Julie the same way I treated my mom.  I find the nurse thing a bit distracting, so I cancel her disguise.  That makes things worse because she is completely naked.  

Why does this keep happening to me and why now?  Why not last week or last month when I might have found it more enjoyable.  Well, less confusing anyway.  Okay, I would probably have been even more mortified, but it would have been a gloriously epic story that I could tell my friends and be instantly popular and famous.

*sigh*

I grab her bathrobe and help her get dressed.  Well, mostly I just drape it over her body and she works out the rest, but I do have to help a little. Why can’t she have a mom bathrobe instead of this sexy mini-skirt robe?

Treatment complete, I help her back to bed and since I expect it, I manage to avert my eyes before she disrobes.  Naked, she pulls me into a loose hug and gives me a kiss on my cheek.   Seriously, why couldn’t this have happened when I was a boy?!? Oh yeah, because it would have ‘never’ happened, except in my wildest dreams.

“Thanks Chloe...” She attempts to fight off a yawn, but fails.

My Chloe name acts like a splash of cold water to bring me back down to earth.  I help tuck her safely into bed and then, I return to my room with the plan to play in my VR world until Uncle Jim wakes up.  No visits from Sara and after her mention of a mysterious ‘chat with someone’ from last night, I am a little worried about her.  

I decide to relax in my hot tub in the hopes that will lure her into making a visit, but it doesn’t. I even go topless for a few minutes before I feel silly for trying to lure Sara by flashing my breasts.  What kind of girl am I? Wow, that makes me laugh. I give up worrying about my mental problems and play in the shooting range, followed by some reading and TV in my living room.

<Friday, 23-Feb-2007 06:00:00>

I hear Uncle Jim’s alarm and I sneak down to the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going for him.  My plan is to hang out with him until he leaves, then grab in a shower before my mom or Aunt Julie wake up.  Based on their condition, I don’t expect them to be alive until at least eight or nine, maybe even later because the last time my mom drank a lot of wine with Aunt Barb, she was not up until noon.

Uncle Jim takes an appreciative sip of his coffee. “How’s your mom?”

“Umm, I think she is okay. She barfed a lot, but I helped her and made her drink lots of water before she went to bed.  How’s Aunt Julie?”

He winces with pain as he takes too large of a sip. “She’s out, but she will probably be very miserable this morning since she went straight to bed.”

I shake my head slowly back and forth. “Oh no, she woke up and barfed.”

“She did?” He stops mid sip.

“Yeah, it was around 0144 when heard her barfing. So, I helped her by making her drink some water and take a couple of ibuprofen like my mom.”

“I thought I locked our door?” He shrugs, looking mystified but not too worried. “Oh well...”

I decide not to mention that I thought it was locked at first too. Maybe he only half locked it?

Uncle Jim glances at his watch. “Oh, gotta go!” He says as he walks around to put his cup in the sink. “Hey, can you ask your Aunt Julie to give me a call when she finally wakes up, please?”

“Sure-” I am a little surprised when he gives me a quick hug and a kiss on my forehead.

“Thanks for the coffee!” He rushes out of the door without seeming to realize what he just did.  

Okay, I am a lot surprised. It takes hearing the garage door close to snap me out of my stupor.  Why did he do that?  Must be my glamour or he has just been thinking of me as his niece for too long.  Yeah, that is probably it. He was just playing the role as my favorite uncle.

My shower is a shower. I don’t have any problems with my breasts and any other part of my anatomy from the safety and privacy of my shower stall.  With all the swimming and Jacuzzi time getting my longer hair wet, it barely even registers with me that I haven’t always had longer hair.  Since I have my suitcase, I am able to use my own shower stuff. That is a plus, but I still do not like the fact that everything smells so flowery and girlie. I know it smells nice, but why can’t they make this stuff without scents? Why does everything have to sound edible or pretty to look at?

I manage to clean my girl stuff without feeling too freaked out over it. Actually, I am almost a little ashamed to admit it, but I purposefully touch myself down there. You know, just to make sure I got everything cleaned to specification.  I don’t see stars or feel my knees get weak like girls are supposed to. Well, according to the magazines and internet stories anyway. In some ways, that is almost a letdown for me because maybe I have been making a big deal about it for no reason.

Okay, maybe not ‘no reason’, but still.  What is the big deal? So, I no longer have a penis and now I have a va-vagina. Phew! I said it!  It’s not the end of the world. I am still me and I even have cool super powers as part of the deal. Maybe, it’s not so bad being a girl, as long as I can be ‘my’ kind of girl.

I don’t have to wear dresses and like pink, right?  I can wear pants and no one will think it is strange. That is something boys can’t do. I mean, they can’t wear dresses, even if they wanted to, without people thinking they are strange.  

It feels nice just standing under the warm water as it beats down on me. Well, until it starts to turn cold, but then I crank it up for another 20 seconds before I finally get out of the shower with a sigh. I feel relaxed and I don’t even rush to cover my body.  No one can see me and the mirror is all foggy.  I decide to blow dry my hair and defog the mirror at the same time.

As I work on my hair, I sort of take in my body without focusing on the specifics and I have to agree with Sara. I do have a ‘rocking’ body. I think I am very pretty and my new hairstyle is kind of growing on me. After all, it’s what I picked for Whisper in GEO because I thought it looked the best on her.  Short, but still very sexy and feminine.  Also, except for the extra steps, very easy to maintain compared with what I have seen my sister go through with her hair.

I decide to wear a bra today. It was nice to go braless, but I did not really care for all the extra ‘bounce’ in my step.  I also elect to take a huge step and put some makeup on.  Okay, not real makeup because that would be hard, but I do apply a very slight illusion to myself. Following the magazine’s advice and essentially repeating what I did in the girls bathroom with Amanda, I make my eyes a little darker and match the eye shadow to my top.  I also make it appear like I am wearing a slightly darker shade of red on my lips. Nothing too dark, just a few shades darker than my natural color.

After all, Chloe wears makeup all the time. What is the big deal for me to wear just a little?  That thought last all of two seconds after I check myself out in the mirror.  “Holy crap...”

With just that little touch of makeup, I am freaking hot. What in the heck am I thinking? Chloe looks very pretty with makeup and I have been her so much the last few days that I am sort of used to seeing a pretty girl in the mirror.  What I am not used to seeing is myself in the mirror and thinking I am even more beautiful than Chloe. I know my mom would feel delighted, but I don’t think I am ready for this step just yet.  I cancel the makeup effect and feel relieved to see my new real and unadorned face.

I am still very pretty and the way I absently curl my lip with frustration is kind of cute.

*sigh*

I hang out downstairs, watch real TV and read some of Aunt Julie’s medical magazines until 1027 hours when I hear a toilet flush. My system triangulates the sound as coming from my mom’s bathroom.  I decide to put a fresh pot of coffee on and grab another bottle of ibuprofen.  The coffee is almost done brewing when my mom stumbles into the kitchen like a zombie attracted to the smell of fresh brewed brains, I mean coffee.  She is wearing her full length mom bathrobe and looks a little more disheveled than normal as she takes a seat at the breakfast bar.

“Uhhhhh, my head...” She props her head up with her hands.

“The coffee is almost done, would you like an omelet with a bagel and cream cheese?”  I glance over my shoulder as I reach up to grab a coffee cup for her.

My mom glances up and her mouth opens like she wants to say something, but she is having trouble finding the words.  “What?”

I feel extremely pleased by her reaction. Her confused, ‘who are you and what have you done with my daughter’ expression is priceless. “Aunt Julie taught me how to make an omelet. Would you like one?”

“Umm, sure?” She still looks a little lost.

“Good, because I am kind of hungry too...”  I start by taking out the omelet pan and all the fixings. After that, I serve her coffee, just the way she likes it at home, cream with no sugar. She silently watches as I busy myself cooking for her.  I can tell she is impressed and more than a little surprised. After I serve up her omelet and bagel, I hear Aunt Julie’s toilet flush and I decide to get started on an omelet for her.

Aunt Julie arrives in pretty much the same condition as my mom, except she is wearing her much shorter bathrobe. I notice my mom cringe and rub her temples as Aunt Julie takes the chair next to her.  I guess with her empathy power, she is probably picking up some of what Aunt Julie is feeling.  “Thanks for making breakfast and for helping me last night Chloe, I, umm, I guess we...” She and my mom share guilty looks. “...had a bit too much fun.”

“Oh, it wasn’t a problem. I am sorry that you all feel so bad.”  I distract myself by starting on my own omelet because I am starving!  Why didn’t I make something sooner?

Aunt Julie takes a bite from her omelet. “Mmmm, good. Well, I think I would be even worse if it had not been for your help and making me drink all that water.  How did you know to do that?”

“Oh, I just looked it up...” I try to concentrate on flipping my omelet while hoping my mom is still too sick to really focus her Jedi mind trick powers on me.  “Oh yeah, and Aunt Julie, Uncle Jim wants you to give him a call.”

After reassuring Uncle Jim that she is okay, Aunt Julie and my mom take the rest of the morning pretty slowly.  Aunt Julie prescribes them each some ibuprofen along with plenty of fluids and by noon, they are both finally able to start moving.  Aunt Julie leaves right after lunch to check on her patients and ‘pick up a few things’.  How much do you want to bet she is going to buy me a few more outfits or something?

>My mom and I spend the rest of the afternoon doing some laundry and cleaning the house for Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie.  It is kind of boring, but it beats sitting around and doing nothing.  I already knew how to do my own laundry, but I did not know how to properly wash all the new ‘delicates’ that I own.  What a pain.  Whites and Colors, those should be the only two options.  Whites, Brights, Colors, Darks, Delicates, Hand wash and dry clean only are just too many things to worry about in the quest for clean clothes.

Mr. Reilly, along with Dr. Edmundson and Captain Howards, calls at 1300 hrs and gives us an update on the investigation.  They found a backdoor tap on Aladdin's super-duper auto-magical test machine that sent results to the CIA.  Well, it was more of an on purpose backdoor since the CIA originally funded the development of the device. It just got overlooked when the project was transferred to the DOD.  That is the claim, but I can tell Mr. Reilly does not really buy it.  

Mr. Reilly also tells us about the forcibly retired CIA dude committing suicide.  Suicide, really? I was a little skeptical, but Mr. Reilly claimed they found a note and then, immediately classified it so high that not even he could read it. The President was only able to tell Mr. Reilly that the dude was sorry for ordering my kidnapping and for something else that was very very bad.

I purposely forget to mention the little trick with my nanites. Mostly because I do not want to worry my mom or give them an excuse for me to return for more testing.  I just want to get to that Whateley place and stop having people trying to mess with me.  I do let Mr. Reilly know about the plans for tonight and after consulting with Captain Howards, they give me the all clear.  Captain Howards hints that he may have a few of his men in the area, just in case.  It is just dinner and a movie, what could go wrong?

Okay, jinx question, knock on wood and all that, but it should be pretty safe. We are planning on eating at an Italian restaurant, so maybe the mafia could bust in with some dude wearing cheesy suits, gold chains and machines guns yelling, “Say hello to my little friend!” as they shoot up the joint, but I figure the odds of that are pretty low.  This isn’t New York city or the movies.

For tomorrow, the plan is for Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie to drop me, as Chloe, and my mom off at Norfolk International at 0730. It fits with my disguise, but I am not sure what their plan for my mom is.  I could make my mom look like Aunt Julie and then, we could do the old switch-a-roo in the bathroom, but I am sure Mr. Reilly would not approve of me using my magic, if he knew.

Anyway, they didn’t ask me for my opinion on the plan. So, after we are dropped off, we will make our way to the baggage claim area and one of Captain Howard’s men and Airman Jessica pretending to be his girlfriend/wife, will meet and take us to Langley for my dropship ride.

My ride is confirmed for 0900, Saturday the 24th on board one of the Air Forces’s new CS-5 sub-orbital heavy lift vehicles. My ETA at Whateley will be 0934. A very, very short flight, or hop as the pilots like to call them. The military likes to call them SHLV’s, but everyone else calls them ‘dropships’.  They don’t really ‘drop’. It is more like a controlled fall, but it was an idea they stole from some futuristic giant robot fighting game and the grunts decided to call them that.  Vomit Comets has also been used to describe them, but never ever where an officer can overhear you say that. Yes, I did a lot of research on them once it was confirmed and I cannot wait!

The official reason for the flight is to deliver some additional ‘training’ materials to the Academy for the JROTC program. The thing can easily haul four M1A2 Abram tanks with some room left over. So, I am not sure what kind of ‘training’ materials would need a dropship or why a school might need said ‘training’ materials, but I am not going to complain.

Line Break broken

“Hey boss?” MCO Agent Roberts poked his head into Special Agent Lainer’s door.

Lainer looked up from his slowly decreasing stack of overdue paperwork.  One more burden caused by that f’ing ghost mutant. “Yeah?”

“I found something that you might find interesting...might be another lead on that Whisper mutant.”

Lainer sighed and sat back in his chair.  “Do I really want to know?”

“Maybe, maybe not, but the Air Force just scheduled a flight to that Whateley place tomorrow morning for one of their new CS-5 dropship things.  They are flying out of Langley...”

Lainer sat back up and glanced over at the still mostly empty folder labeled “Whisper”. “That is one hell of a coincidence...Any cargo listings?”

“Nothing specific. Even our sources can’t get that from the military.”

“But, they have to have something, right?  They would not waste a CS-5 just to carry a single mutant...”

Roberts shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “Well, this is the U.S. Government, but they do have a cargo euphemistically labeled as ‘training materials’.”

“Is that Nicholas Reilly bastard still at Langley?”

“Yes sir, but his pilot filed a flight plan that included three unnamed passengers for a flight from Langley to Los Alamos, New Mexico this evening.”

“Any guesses on who those three might be?”

Roberts absently ran his fingers through his hair as he thought it over. “Well, probably Dr. Edmundson, maybe Mr. Reilly himself, but it could also be our target and someone else.  There was an older woman listed in the original police reports for the H1 inci-”

Roberts jumped when his boss slammed his fist down on his desk with frustration.  “Damn it! I just know something is going on, but we don’t have the resources anymore.”  Lainer sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples as he thought it over. “Okay, it can’t hurt. Dispatch a pair of field agents to the airfield in New Mexico.  Have them observe who gets off the plane there.  If the damn thing even arrives. Hell, it might be another red herring...”

“Yes, sir. What about the dropship?”

“I am not sure...” Lainer absently drummed his fingers on his desk for a few seconds before abruptly stopping. “Okay, I will make a few calls and see if we can task a MCO recon ship to shadow the Air Force’s dropship. Since the air space around Whateley isn’t as protected as Langley, maybe get some spy shots of this Whisper when she exits the ship.” He reached for his phone, but paused before dialing. “Oh yeah, see if you can get a hold of the new enrollments list. There has to be some official MCO reason we can use to leverage a copy of that list from their administration. Besides, the list should be pretty small this late in the school year, right?”

Roberts shrugged his shoulders noncommittally. “Yes sir, anything else?”

Lainer glanced over at his soon to be, even larger stack of paperwork and sighed. “Yeah, can ya get me another cup of coffee?”

Line Break broken

I was right about Aunt Julie picking up some more clothes for me.  She returned with not one, not two, but three new outfits for me and by outfits, I mean skirts. One white pencil skirt, a black top and black three inch heels. A short black skirt with a long, black lacy over skirt thing that stopped at my ankles with a pair of mid-calf black leather boots, no heel. The final skirt was a kinda weird, but kinda cool, jade green longer in the back than in the front thing, asymeticrical A-line skirt is what Aunt Julie called it.  She got me another pair of shoes to go with it. Some stappy, black open toe one inch platform with an additional two inch heel things.  Seriously, no wonder why girls have so many freaking shoes if they have to have one pair for each outfit!

Both my mom and I protested, but it did no good. Well, I was sincere with my protest, but I could tell my mom was tickled pink.  Especially when she had me model each outfit.  I hate to admit it, but I kind of liked the black lace skirt thing. By kind of liked, I mean I disliked it less than the other two skirts because I am pretty sure if I saw a chick wearing it; I would think she was pretty bad ass. That did not stop Jedi Mom-Ka-Nobi from ‘recommending’ that I wear the black skirt for our evening out. “No sense in getting the skirt you plan on wearing tomorrow, dirty.” was her rationale.

I tried to argue that I could just wear my jeans and create an illusion to make it look like I was wearing the skirt. That did not work.  I also tried to claim I couldn’t fight with the long lacy skirt part hanging down to my ankles.  Any guesses on how that statement was received?

Beeeemmmp!

Wrong answer Brianna Nicole Peters because ‘you’ are not going to get into a fight. I debated for, like half a second, reminding her about the H1 attack, but I knew it was a lost cause. My mom had ‘that’ look in her eyes. You know, the one your mom gave you that worked like a rattle snake’s warning rattle.  Keep it up and I bite you!  Yeah, that one.

Chloe, wearing the skirt got a lot of second, third and fourth glances by the boys.  She also earned a few mean glares from a girl or two, but it wasn’t my fault, so they can all go to heck!  Chloe looked hot, but like I said, she always looks hot.

Oh yeah, my mom was disguised as my mom. Confused yet? She was disguised to resemble Aunt Julie’s sister-in-law, Karen.  Who is supposed to be my mom, but not, because I am not really Chloe Stiles.  I am not sure how Chloe’s mom made it down to Virginia, but we couldn’t have my mom go out as herself since the MCO might recognize her from the H1 attack.

I guess we could have asked my mom to stay at home, but that was never really considered as an option.  All it took to disguise my mom was a current picture of Karen and a few minor illusion tweaks later, my mom was a dead ringer for Karen, Chloe’s mom. I found that a little spooky, but my mom found it downright creepy to look in the mirror and see someone else’s face.  I did not think it was that big of a deal, but I guess I am getting used to not being myself because I have not been myself for almost a week now.

Dinner was good, but having David, our waiter, flirt with me was a bit hard to get used to.  Yes, he was definitely flirting and even clueless me could tell.  Especially when my mom and Aunt Julie decided to help encourage the poor guy by shifting the conversation to my ‘recent’ breakup with my boyfriend back home when he returned with our appetizers.  I guess it worked out in the end because he ‘forgot’ to put my appetizer on the bill while at the same time he remembered to put his phone number on the receipt. “Just in case we have a problem with the bill...”

The movie was kind of good with the back yard inventor triumphing over big government and big business to prove them all wrong. Uncle Jim and I came out of our movie with smiles on our faces and feeling uplifted. My mom and Aunt Julie emerged from their movie with puffy eyes. They claimed that they loved their movie and wished we had watched it with them, but I do not think you should exit a movie crying and claim you ‘loved’ it.  

No one tried to attack me or rob Uncle Jim. No Batman origin scenarios for me to worry about.  We had a nice night out and except for the dude flirting with me, it was almost relaxing.  Not even running to the bathroom after the show was a stressor because there weren’t that many women in our show.  We had to wait an extra ten minutes for my mom and Aunt Julie to make it through the women’s pee-pee dance line and out of the bathroom when their show ended. As a result, I felt normal for the first time since I changed.  Well, almost normal. Okay, more normal than usual.  

Since my mom and I are supposed to meet someone from Captain Howard’s team at the real airport tomorrow at 0730, we needed to get up at zero dark thirty, or 0500, to get ready so we can leave at 0700 hours.  I tried to tell my mom I only needed 30 minutes, from start to finish, to be ready, but my naive time management experience was overruled by my mom.  I do not know why I protested the 5am time, probably habit. Heck, I am going to be awake long before that time anyway.  

We get to bed a little late at 2310, or 11pm for you civvie types and ‘ding!’ I am wide awake almost exactly 1.5 hours later.  Okay, 1.5223 hours later.  Why can I only sleep for 90 minutes and why is it consistently 90 minutes?  Well, except for that one time when I managed to sleep for two hours the first night home.


>Searching....
>2,160,000 results found!  Display Y/n?

Umm, no thanks and holy crap that is a lot of results.

Okay, it is now 0043 hours and it is probably a tad too early to start getting ready. I guess I could take my shower and get that out of the way, but first, I will hop into my VR world for an hour or two. Maybe Sara will show up.

I suit up in my black vampire hunting tactical suit. It is not a cat suit, no matter what Sara might call it.  Once I am satisfied with how I look, I decide to play with the Barrett again, but with a sniper scenario.  It is not a lot of fun using that monster in a tiny range when it was meant to be used for super long range stuff.  I start out with a very realistic, shoot the bad terrorist’s head off scenario, but I can’t do it.  The bad guys are too realistic and I have zero interest in watching someone’s head explode like a watermelon hit by a sledge hammer.  When did I turn into such a wuss?  John and I played these kind of scenarios on his PS3 all the bleeping time, but, while the graphics are good on the PS3; they are not ‘real’ good like my VR sim.

I think seeing a real person get shot has kind of changed my perspective on a few things. So, I change the bad guys to general, all-purpose super-villain robots.  My first few attempts only cause the robot to miss a step when my round bounces off it, leaving a good dent. It takes a few shots to find a weak spot, but that also allows the bad guy bots to figure out my location.  Their sniper counter fire is downright depressing.  I get deaded a couple of times until I figure out I should shoot once and move because two or more shots allows them to triangulate on my position. Once they have my position down, lots of artillery falls from the sky and ruins my day.  I guess the enemy hates snipers or something.

Crap! How can I kill them if my rounds won’t penetrate their armor?


> Recommend Mk-211 AP

Wow, it is both armor piercing and incendiary. How cool is that? Okay, I guess I can try that.

OMG! Fun!

One shot and the robot’s head blows up with a shower of flame and sparks, but it doesn’t kill them.  Apparently, the model I used has their brains in their highly armored chest. Of which, the new AP round slices through like a hot knife through butter.  Which, sounds like a good analogy, but how do you get the butter to your toast with the same hot knife? Don’t answer that, it is a trick question.

I quickly discover that terminating the leader bot is way more effective for causing confusion with the enemy than it is to terminate a general purpose soldier bot. I guess I should have known that already, but I was more of a spy in GEO than an assassin.

I also discover that while my all black tac-suit is good for sneaking, adapting my suit to match the terrain is even better.  Just like in GEO, I can chameleon my suit to blend into the background and as long as I am not moving; it is almost as good as being invisible.  My Whisper face mask set to match my suit adds even more to my concealment factor.

Hmmm, I will have to look into duplicating this effect with my magic.  It could come in handy.

I feel rather pleased with myself for sneaking in and getting a shot on a robot with stars on its shoulders.  Especially when it blows up with a spectacular display of fire and sparks as its arms and legs blow out of its torso from the incendiary part of my rounds.  I do not wait to see what else happens as I turn around to un-ass the AO and spot someone standing behind me.

 

** Chapter 42 **

“Ahhh!” I fall backwards, onto my butt and automatically raise the Barrett’s barrel to aim my weapon at the woman’s chest.  I do not get very far before I realize it is Sara.  How does she keep sneaking up on me? “Sara! Stop doing that to me!”

Sara has the nerve to giggle at me as she blithely ignores the sniper rifle that I almost shot her with. “Nice camo effect ya got there.” Sara blinks as my suit re-adapts itself to my background. “Having fun blowing up robots?” She casually saunters over to where I had been lying and studies the results of my last shot. I turn back and join her to see what she finds so interesting with my scenario.

“Umm, yeah, it is kinda fun...” I watch as the soldier robots scramble to aid the burning general robot. The enemy robots spot the two of us standing out in the open and pretty quickly, a whole crap load of bullets, missiles and artillery heads our way. I pause the game before anything can get close.

“Why robots?” Sara frowns as she turns her head to look at me like she already knows the answer.

I feel a little ashamed by my inability to use virtual real people as my targets, but I can’t help it when the simulated scene where my mom was shot by the H1 dude plays itself back to me. “Umm, I didn’t wanna kill anyone...”

Sara pulls me into a hug followed by a peck on my forehead before she releases me with a heavy sigh. “You may not have that luxury in the future...” She looks so sad as she glances back at the frozen robot army before turning back to me. “But, I think we can worry about that another time. Now, tell me how your day went!” She grins at me. “What kind of trouble did you get into?”

“Sara! I do ‘not’ get into trouble. Trouble finds me...mostly...” I sigh with frustration and switch us to my living room with me already sitting on my couch. One leg folded under the other with my back wedged into the right armrest so I can face Sara.

“Okkaaay, then what kind of trouble found you?” Sara plops down next to me on the couch.

I notice my tac-suit changing colors to match the couch and I decide to switch to a casual sweat pant outfit. It will probably be easier for Sara and me to chat without me blending into the furniture. I could just cancel the chameleon effect, but Sara would probably find some way to tease me for wearing my slayer cat suit. I mean tac-suit. I decide to try and distract her by giving her my best smile. “So, how was your day?”

“Ya know, you could have just kept your cat suit on, meow...” Sara sees my bluff and raises me $20.

I cross my arms over my chest. “It’s a ‘tac-suit’ and I wanted something more comfortable to wear.”

“Uh-Huh, so, trouble?” Sara lies down on her stomach facing me, expectantly resting her chin in her hands with her feet kicked lazily up in the air.

“Come on, don’t you think I can go one day without getting into trouble?” I cannot help whining a little.

“Nope, not at all. Spill it.”

“Geez, okay, but it wasn’t really trouble, trouble. More like, ‘I can’t believe it’ sort of trouble...you probably wouldn’t find it all that interesting really...”

“Breeee...don’t make me tickle you...” Sara sort of growls my name.

“You would, wouldn’t you?”

Sara goes from relaxed to pounce mode in a blink of the eye and she breaks me in less than 10 seconds of tickle torture.

“Okay, okay! I’ll tell you!” I manage to gasp. I could have lasted longer, but I didn’t want to.

Sara gives me an extra 10 seconds of tickle torture before she stops. “See? I told you zat vee have vays of makin’ peeple talk!”

“Okay, okay, okay...well, you see...” I tell her about Mrs. Granston’s surprise visit at the house and how she was finally convinced by Admiral Jensen to de-invite me. My mom being allowed to stay with us and the MCO’s mysterious withdrawal.

“I hoped that might happen...” Sara distractedly smiles for second.

“What?” I wonder what she meant by that. Did Sara scare the MCO or something?

“Oh, nothing...do go on. Even your not-trouble is fascinating!” Sara smiles innocently up at me after she resumes her chin in hand position on the couch.

I tell her about my mom and Aunt Julie getting drunk with me changing my mom into Gogo Yubari and Aunt Julie into Elle Driver from Kill Bill, after they both asked me too. Sara finds it hysterical until I tell mention my mom getting upset because she thought I changed her into a school girl to be mean about the Whateley uniform. I kind of gloss over the puking and my remote medical thing. I explain the flight plans for tomorrow and finish my story with a nice, trouble free, dinner followed by movie.

“Hmmmphh, where is the earth shattering ka-boom?” Sara pouts.

“Hah! It can’t rain all the time...” I toss a quote back at her.

Sara stands and concentrates for a second. “Okay, so barring any further trouble, like someone trying to hijack an Air Force dropship, you will be here tomorrow morning. Hmmm, I would love if you could stop by and visit me, buuuuttt...That is probably a bad way to start your introduction to Whateley.

I know she is some sort of demon, or something, but I thought she was also my friend. Is she one of the popular girls at school and being seen with me would lower her standing? “Bad? Why?” I glance down to prevent her seeing the bleeping tears threatening to spill.

She drops down in front of me, grabs my hands and looks up at me. “Look, it’s not because I don’t like you, Bree.” She sighs heavily and her voice drops to barely a whisper. “It’s because I care very much about you and it would kill me to see you get hurt.”

I look into her demonic red eyes and see a painful loneliness that makes my heart ache. “I don’t understand. How could being friends with you get me hurt?”

“It’s complicated...” Sara pauses, closes her eyes and sighs.

I wait for her to continue.

“I am not sure if you are ready or not, but my dad, Gothmog.” Sara hesitates and I can tell she is not sure about continuing. “Oh yeah, I told him about you. He really wants to meet you. Hey, are you hungry? Maybe we should call it a night?”

Now she is trying to be evasive. “Sara...” I stare her down.

“Fine...well, he’s what is known as a Great Old One, or GOO.”

A Great Old One, they do not sound that bad. “Umm, okay?”

“You’ve never heard of a GOO before, have you?” Sara asks as I shake my head back and forth. “Have you heard of Cthulhu?”

Oh crap! Cthulhu, I have heard about. He’s in one of the original D&D Mythology manuals and from what I recall, he is bad, real bad, super insanity bad. Do not cross Go! do not collect $200 bad.

“I see you have, well, my dad is kind of a brother of Cthulhu and as a result, I am also a GOO, but more like a baby GOO.”

I cannot help it, but “goo-goo gah-gah” immediately comes to my mind and I start to smile.

“Don’t even think it...” Sara softly growls, but I can see the beginnings of a smile on her face. She pauses as I work to eliminate all traces of humor from my expression.

“Now, as I was saying...GOO’s are considered by most people to be, at their best, merely bad while the people who really know more about GOO’s, well, those people hate us and they see me, a baby GOO, as a threat to humanity.”

I look back up at her face, alarmed by her news. “But, I don’t think you’re evil...” I recall all the sort of evil, well, more like mischievous tricks she has played on me. “Okay, well, not a threat to humanity, but evil anyway...”

Sara giggles and affectionately messes up my hair before stepping back, conveniently out of range for a reprisal. “I am glad you feel that way, but there a people who feel it is their God given right and duty to see me dead. People who under any other circumstance, would be considered a good person, but they fear me. They fear me a lot and it would kill me to see you get hurt because they will use anyone and anything to hurt me.”

“I don’t care. I can help you...” I hope that she will let me, even though I know she is trying to explain why she will not.

Sara leans down and plants a warm and tender kiss me on the top of my head. “No, my lovable, innocent friend and cousin, you are going to be busy enough taking care of yourself. You do not! want to add my troubles to your plate.”

Sara makes me sound like a little kid. “Hey! I am not ‘that’ innocent and I am not about to do nothing if one of my friends are in trouble. I’m not afraid. I can help!”

“Hehe, I know you would, but I would rather you not go looking for more trouble by immediately associating yourself with me.” Sara drops to her knees in front of me and looks earnestly up to my face. “Look, I’m not telling you this because I don’t like you. I’m telling you this because I care about you, a lot.”

Her advice goes against everything I know. I do not like it, but at the same time, I think I understand what she is trying to tell me. “Oh...So, what should I do?”

Sara purses her lips with concentration. “I would try to keep your head down, don’t attract attention and learn all you can. It’s kinda like being in BASIC training. If the Drill Sergeant learns your name, then you’re in trouble.”

I do not have any experience with BASIC training, but I have seen a few movies and it was always the trouble maker or the easy to pick out person who got slammed by the drill sergeants. I am an Elf, sorry, Sidhe and as a result, I am pretty sure I will stand out and be noticeable. “Would it help if I disguised myself as a human then?”

Sara’s eyes briefly flare with excitement as she considers my idea. “Actually, that might not be a bad idea, but it will only be a short term solution.” She crosses her arms and taps her foot as she mulls over the idea. “There are students who will see through your illusion, but it might take them a few days to notice and that would give you time to establish yourself better. Once your Sidhe heritage is revealed, you will draw attention to yourself due to Nikki also being a Sidhe and one of the most popular girls at school.”

I summon a mirror and study my reflection. “Hmm, what if I keep it small and only change my ears to look human, maybe my eyes, those kinda stand out too...” I do not actually use my magic in VR to change my appearance, but I do simulate using my magic. I guess I could have just willed the change, but it seems more realistic. There, done! No need to OCD about how I do it in my VR world.

Sara smiles as she studies my face. “That could work. You’re still you, but not. Very subtle and it may even escape detection for a longer time. Hard to say for sure though...so just don’t count on it working for too long. In other words, have a Plan B.”

Me, I am torn by yet another disguise for me, but there is no need for me to go all angsty about it. I mean, what is one more disguise and as disguises go, this one is actually pretty minor. I still look like me, well, the new me, and not someone completely different, like Chloe.

Sara reaches over and gives me a quick hug before she grabs both of my arms and turns me away from the mirror, facing her. “What’s with the sad face?”

I drop my eyes, past her very distracting breasts. I am a little embarrassed about how I am feeling, but it is so complicated and I have no idea how to start. “I’m just not sure who I am any-ack!”

Sara does not let me finish. She crushes me against herself and speaks softly in my ear. “Shhhh, you’re you. Brianna Nicole Peters who was once Brian. People change, just some change more than others, but as long as you stay true to yourself, you will always change for the better.”

It feels good to be hugged by her. Well, more than good, but I refuse to acknowledge the warm tingly feelings she is causing me. “Umm, I like that,” I almost moan before I focus on her words to distract myself. “But it sounds kinda warm and fuzzy coming from a demon...”

Sara releases me and all the light in my room appears to want to absorb into her. “Don’t make me tickle you again...” She raises her arms and flexes her fingers threateningly as she pretends to stalk me.

I know that I should be scared, but it’s Sara. “No, no, not that. Please don’t throw me in the briar patch...”

“Brat!” Sara giggles at me. “Well, I hate to say it, but I must be off. Now that I’m a TA, I have tests to grade and virgins to sacrifice...” She looks at me with an interested eyebrow.

“Sara! You, you...I give up!” I throw my arms up with surrender before I turn away from her so she cannot see how close to crying I am right now.

She hugs me from behind, wrapping her arms under mine while giving me a tender kiss on my neck. I lean into her as she makes my entire body tingle with desire. She gently spins me around to face her and surprises me with a quick kiss on my lips before fading away like the Cheshire cat, fanged smile glittering as it fades and disappears on me.

“Well, that was, umm, distracting...” I absently rub my still tingling lips as I shiver from the after effects of her touch.

“Okay, focus!” I mutter to myself as I try to come up with a plan. Due to Sara’s info-dump, I have a lot to think about. It sounds like my basic goal will be to get in, not be noticed by anyone and get out. That should be fairly simple, right? Other than JROTC, I am not planning on joining any group and being with the JROTC folks should help me.

Okay, it is 0300 and I have two hours before anyone wakes up. First, I think I will take my shower and be ready to go. That way, I can do all my planning and the hot water will have a chance to refresh for everyone else. Not that I plan on taking a super long shower, but it can’t hurt.

The shower ends up taking a tad longer than I expected. No, not for ‘that’ reason. I accidentally got my hair wet and then, I decided to just wash it. In addition to that, I spent a few extra minutes under the water, simply enjoying the sensations of the warm water against my skin. I think I am beginning to get used to my body and *shudder*, even enjoy how the girl soaps make my skin smell and feel.

I decide to follow my mom’s advice and wear my skirt outfit. I will also need to get the girl’s uniforms ASAP and worst of all, I probably should wear the uniform skirt for the first few days too. It should help me blend in better since I assume most girls will be wearing the uniform skirts instead of the pants.

I study my reflection in the mirror I cannot get over what I see. I know it should not come as a surprise, but it still is and I think I feel even more shocked because I am not in disguise. I am me, not Chloe and if I saw a girl who looked like I do now, I would have totally been in love with her. Maybe when I apply my human disguise I won’t look so pretty?

I focus on looking human with just my eyes and ears and then, I cast my illusion spell. My features change and nope, I still look pretty, but not as exotically pretty. Something looks wrong though. I hate to say it, but I think my eyes are kind of plain now. Maybe too plain because I cannot remember the last time I saw a girl without at least a little eye shadow. Crap, this is getting more complicated.

*Sigh*

I add a hint of eye shadow to help my eyes ‘pop’ and now my lips look a little too pale. Girls at my school always have lip gloss or something, right? Okay, I add a slightly darker and glossy sheen to my lips.

I recheck my reflection and I cannot go out looking like this! What in the heck am I thinking? There is no way that I can pull this off! Everyone will look at me and think the same things I would have thought about the hot chick I now look like. Plus, everyone notices the hot chick. How am I supposed to not attract attention if I look like this?

I wipe out my illusions and ransack my clothes for something less girlish to wear. I can wear what I wore to the mall with Amanda because showing up in jeans and a t-shirt will work, right? I quickly switch into my jeans, but now I realize how tight and restrictive they feel compared to my leggings and skirt. The jeans also show off my butt. I need a long sweater or something to cover my butt, but I don’t have one. Crap, even with all these clothes, I do not have anything to wear!

Now I sound like my sister, except she has an entire closet full of clothes. I am NOT going to be one of those girls! I absolutely refuse to stress out about what to wear and waste all my time trying on different outfits while asking my boy-. Okay, asking my parents if this such and such makes my butt look fat. Even though I just thought my butt looked fat in the jeans.

Sigh, I can’t win, can I?

Grrrrr...okay, fine, I will wear the bleeping skirt thing with the ankle boots. I reactivate my human disguise, complete with the makeup effect. There, that’s not too bad. It ‘only’ took me 20 minutes to figure out what to wear. Ha! I am finally ready to go, mostly. I waste another 10 minutes packing my suitcase. It takes some work getting all my new clothes packed in there, but I make it happen. Being able to use my extra strength to smush things down helps a ton with getting the zipper to close.

I feel pretty happy about still being able to get all my stuff into one medium sized suitcase, until I remember all my new shoes and toiletry items. Dang it! I need a larger suitcase now. Packing girl clothes sucks!

I decide to leave the packing alone. I figure my mom will have some ideas on what to do about all my clothes. Maybe she can take some home with her. Instead of worrying about it, I make my bed and sit on it, cross legged, facing the door while being extra careful not to wrinkle my skirt. Satisfied, I enter my VR living room and add on an extra room. I make the room into my office slash command center complete with a high tech Star Trek inspired sliding doorway.

I stick with my Star Trek theme and make it kind of like a bridge with a captain’s chair and super large main screen display. I even make my default screen saver look like a moving star field. Designing and building it only takes a few minutes, so I break it in by beginning my plan of attack for surviving Whateley.

First thing I do is pull up Google maps for the satellite image of the school grounds. Second, I open the Whateley website and overlay their rather rudimentary grounds map to the satellite imagery. It appears that Whateley has more than a few structures that are not listed on their website.

They do have a student and faculty login. I assume that they must provide some additional manuals and guides to authorized users. I debate trying to hack into their site, but the risk is probably not worth it since I do not even know where to start. Besides, getting busted and in trouble for trying to hack their site would probably not make the school happy with me.

I bet the military has some good maps of the school. I check my Mil.Net access and surprise, surprise, Dr. Edmundson left it open. Sweet! I find some highly detailed topographic maps along with super high resolution satellite images of the school grounds. The military even has some thermographic and ground penetrating scans of the area. I am a little surprised that I can access the images because they are stamped “Top Secret”, but I guess my access level is pretty high because it lets me view them without any extra hassle.

Hmmm, there appears to be a lot of underground areas. I add all those to my map overlay, creating layers that I can hopefully fill in when I start scouting the school. The week break before classes start and all the students return should give me some excellent scouting opportunities.

Once I have a class schedule, I can plot out all my routes, sticking to high traffic areas. It looks like there are a few shortcuts worn into the grounds, but I might want to avoid those because taking the less traveled routes makes it easier to be noticed and separated from the herd.

A lot of my plans will depend on which dorm, or “cottage” I am stuck in and my class schedule, neither of which I have. As a result, I do not get very far into my planning session when Uncle Jim’s alarm goes off. I pause everything and run downstairs to start the coffee for the adults. After I get the pot started, I run back up and wake up my mom before returning to the kitchen to wait out the arrival of the dreaded coffee zombies.

Uncle Jim is the first to arrive. “Chloe, I mean Bree, you look...different.”

I am not sure how to take his feedback. Is it bad, or is it good? I glance down at my clothes to see if something is showing. Nope, just the bumps on my chest getting in the way. “Umm, different?”

Uncle Jim chuckles softly as he pours himself a cup of coffee. “Yes, one, you’re not Chloe and two, you’re following your GEO disguise plan by making yourself look human. Very good idea.”

“Oh...” I guess he is complimenting me.

He takes an appreciative sip from his cup and smiles at me with a twinkle in his eyes. “Plus, you look beautiful.”

“What?” I retreat a step as I feel my face flush. It is one thing to realize I might be a pretty girl, but it is a completely different thing to have someone else tell me I am not just pretty, but beautiful. Especially when that someone else is a man.

“Relax Bree, Chloe was or is a very beautiful girl and you did a fine job pretending to be her. You will be fine.” Uncle Jim reaches out and gives me a supportive hug before he takes his usual spot at the breakfast bar.

“Umm, okay, I will try, but this...” I point to my face and pan down to cover my entire body. “...is going to take some getting used to because, well, you know...”

Uncle Jim nods with agreement. “I know, but in all honesty, I can’t say I know because what happened to you is just not something I ever considered as a possibility. If it happened to me, I can only hope that I would be able to handle it as well as you are.”

His honesty simultaneously surprises and reassures me. “I didn’t really think I was handling it all that well...”

Uncle Jim pats the chair next to him. I take his invitation after grabbing a glass of OJ.

“Trust me on this, you are...” Uncle Jim waits for me before taking another slow sip of coffee and then, stares at the steaming black liquid, deep in thought. “I have known you as Whisper for over a year now. I know, I know, I didn’t really know you, not the real you.” He looks up and focuses on my eyes. “But even online; I could tell you were a good kid. Smart, but not a smart ass. Loyal and honorable, even though you were playing a thief. I knew I could always count on you to get the job done and some of the jobs you pulled were truly epic.” He grins. “Hehe, it’s almost a shame you were so modest because if more people knew about your exploits...well, okay, maybe it’s a good thing that they didn’t.”

My eyes are threatening to leak again. Dang it.

Uncle Jim looks back down at his cup. “What I am trying to say is that, well, you’re far stronger than you think you are and boy or girl...” He looks back up at me. “You will be fine as long as you are true to yourself and...” He lightly taps me on my chest. “...follow your heart.”

His advice sounds like something my dad would tell me and that realization, plus the fact that Uncle Jim sounds like he really cares about me; causes my eyes to totally leak. I grab a napkin and he pulls me into a loose one armed hug with my head resting on his shoulder. He turns and gives me an affectionate kiss on the top of my head before releasing me. “Thanks, I will try.” I say and surprisingly, I feel better and more sure about myself. “Umm, do you want me to make you a bagel or something?”

Uncle Jim shakes his head. “Not this time. Your Aunt Julie and I are planning on taking you and your mom out for breakfast before we drop you off at the airport.” He glances at his watch and then, briefly turns to look up the stairs. “Well, if we have time...”

It is only 0534 and I think it is possible, but I don’t know how long it will take my mom to finish getting ready or if she knows about the breakfast plan. “I should go check on my mom then.” I pour her a cup. “And, bring her some coffee. That might help.” I grin at Uncle Jim.

Surprisingly, my mom is almost ready to go. She smiles appreciatively at me as she pauses to take a sip of her coffee. Once the first sip is done, she re-opens her eyes and inspects me. “You look very nice Bree. I am glad you decided to wear that outfit today. You even did a good job with your makeup, or illusion?”

“Umm, illusion, and thanks, I guess, but I still feel weird dressing like this and worrying about my makeup...” I sort of just space out with the makeup concern.

She stops and gives me a quick hug. “You’ll be fine.”

I notice her suitcase is mostly packed, but I guess she never had to unpack it either. I mention the problem with my suitcase and she just smiles at me. “That won’t be a problem dear. Aunt Julie has an extra suitcase. Why don’t you go get it from her and meet me in your room? I will help you pack everything.”

Aunt Julie compliments me on my outfit and after Uncle Jim’s compliment followed by my mom’s, I respond favorably and don’t freak out in the slightest. She gives me a very nice, hard cover, rolling suitcase that is actually slightly larger than my suitcase. Maybe my mom will be able to fit everything into one suitcase now.

She does not even try. Ten minutes later, I have two mostly full suitcases and that puts the final nail in the girl coffin. It is official; my luggage now weighs more than me. Okay, maybe not, but it is close.

We make it out of the house in time for us to eat breakfast. That is a new experience because none of us are in disguise. Well, except for me in my human disguise, but no one tries to rob the diner or attack me. So, I guess I might be able to stay out of trouble for a few days. We have a tearful goodbye at the airport, but all the other people, rudely honking their horns, help to cut the public displays of affection to the bare minimum. I have to promise to email and call as soon as I can, but that is kind of expected.

Walking through the airport is very distracting for me. Not only are there lots of people, but there are also tons of signals from all the various personal cell phones, police, emergency and military band radios and the many wifi networks. It is too much, but I do not want to miss a possible attack.

Filter on keywords: target, Whisper, MCO and H1.

>Filter set

And, all the spam conversations minimizes down to a small window.

*cheer*

As we enter the baggage claim area I hear: “Brianna! Over here!” I turn and spot Airman Reynolds, I mean, Jessica, in civilian clothes hanging on the arm of the SEAL dude I recognize as Delta One. Jessica has a sparkly wedding band on her finger. So, I guess they are pretending to be married since she did not have a ring the last time she drove us to the testing facility.

My mom looks happy to see Jessica, but until I get into range to scan for their CAC ID cards, I am going to be a little suspicious of them.


> U.S.A.F./RA/Airman First Class/E-3/Jessica/Ann/Reynolds/xxx-xx-xxxx/A-/FALSE
> U.S.Navy/RN/PO2/E-5/Grant/Jonathan/Brooks/xxx-xx-xxxx/B-/FALSE

Oh, so that is Delta One’s name. Grant is kind of an unusual name, but oh well. I guess they are who I think they are. After we put on the standard, “Oh my god! It’s been so long! You have gotten so big! ( By the way, that is directed at me. ) How was your flight?” greeting slash show, we are whisked away in a fancy new Mustang GT. Swa-eet!

The Mustang sounds nice, especially when Brooks punches it to merge onto the highway. It accelerates pretty darn fast too.


> Alert: Encrypted military grade radio transmissions detected!
> Searching...
> Template match found!
> Implementing Template...

...lear.”}

I am a little worried about the transmission, but then I calm down when realize it came from Brooks. He glances over his shoulder. “We’re clear. No tails.”

At Langley AFB, our car is waved through the front gates with barely a second glance by the uniformed Military Police dude, but we pick up an escort vehicle and another tailing vehicle as soon as we get a few hundred yards past the gates. We are led to another set of gates that lead to some huge hangers with rows of fighter jets parked outside. The final hangar has a huge CX-5 Dropship parked outside and we are escorted into the hanger. The doors rapidly slide closed behind us.

Inside the hanger are a row of new F-22 Raptors and few people in dress uniforms. I spot and recognize Mr. Reilly, General Evans and Captain Howards right away, but I do not recognize the additional two men wearing Navy dress uniforms. Not until I zoom in and read their name tags anyway.

Admiral Jensen and Admiral Grantson, that is a surprise. I lean forward and get Jessica’s attention. “Does the Air Force know that the Navy is invading their turf?”

Jessica and Brooks look at each other and laugh. “Too funny, Bree!” Jessica says, looking back at me with a grin.

There are a few more lower ranked officers and enlisted folks helping out, but there is one woman who stands out because she is not wearing a uniform. Instead, she is wearing a simple dark blue women's v-neck top, with jeans and trekking boots, as well as an old leather coat. Her outfit was obviously put together with functionality in mind, but I think it has an urban badass mixed with cyberpunk feel. Her outfit wouldn't have been out of place in that Bladerunner movie Dad likes so much.

Brooks gives me a hand out from the driver’s side, while my mom is assisted by Jessica. “Umm, Brooks, do you know...” I don’t manage to finish my question because I hear my sister yell. “Mom! Bree!”

I look over and spot my dad grinning sheepishly as Lindsay runs forward to hug Mom. I walk around the rear of the Mustang with the intent to help Brooks with our suitcases.

Lindsay has other ideas. She rushes over, but stops a few feet away with wonder in her eyes. “Oh. My. God. Bree? Is that really you?!?”

I do not know what she is so gaga about. “Umm, yeah, but how di-”

Lindsay crushes me with a hug and almost bowls me over. “Oh my god! I was so worried about you! John and Lisa were too!”

I am glad I am wearing my boots with the two inch heel because they make me slightly taller than my little sister. Hey, it isn’t much, but I have to take my victories when and where I can. “Hehe, sorry Lindsay, I kinda expected you to have taken over my room already.”

“Ha! I wouldn’t want your stinky room, but...” Lindsay steps back and takes in my outfit with an appreciative smirk. “...I can’t wait until you come home because it looks like you will have so many outfits I can borrow!”

Say what?!?! I am shocked that my sister would say something like that, but not. “Hey!”

“Girls, we need to pay attention now...” My dad calls out sounding slightly hesitant with his pronunciation of ‘girls’.

Lindsay closes ranks with me as she turns back to face him with her patented angelic expression. “Yes, Daddy, sorry...”

I am still getting over Lindsay’s idea about borrowing my clothes. It takes me half a second to connect my dad’s “girls” as also applying to me. Lindsay bumps me with her elbow. “Oh, yeah, sorry...umm, Dad.” I am not calling him Daddy, but I do take some comfort by the fact that my dad seems a little unsure with the idea that he now has two daughters now.

“Oh my god, Bree, this is so cool!” Lindsay whispers as she grabs my arm to keep me from escaping, or something. It cannot be because she likes me and wants to be with me. Little sisters are not supposed to like their big bro- err, older siblings, it’s a rule somewhere.

Mr. Reilly clears his throat. “Yes, now, first of all, Whisper, I would like to introduce you to Admiral Jensen...” He points to him as Admiral Jensen takes half a step forward, hand extended.

I break free from Lindsay and shake his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you sir. I’m sorry I missed your party last night.”

“Oh, think nothing of it young lady, but Admiral Grantson’s beautiful, young wife practically badgered me the entire night about you...” Admiral Jensen glances over to Admiral Grantson as if he is surprised to see him standing next to him.

Admiral Grantson steps forward, interrupting Admiral Jensen. “If you think she was badgering you, try standing up to one of her interrogations!” He turns back to me and firmly shakes my hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I have heard good things about you and the Navy is looking forward to accepting your application to join when you are done with your schooling.”

I sneak a glance over at Captain Howards. He looks suspiciously innocent. “I’ll think about it sir, but I’m not really that good, unless you count getting kidnapped by the, umm, and pissing off the MCO as good.”

They both chuckle at my statement while Mr. Reilly grins and points me to the next person in the line, or line-up, depending on how I look at it. “Finally, we have Flashback and she is here to help us sow even more confusion with the MCO. Oh yeah, and she is how your father and sister were able to join us.”

I am a little confused by Mr. Reilly’s introduction. I have never heard of her, but based on her code name and the fact that my dad and sister are here, I am going to guess that she can teleport people. I am not sure what he means by ‘sowing more MCO confusion’. “Nice to meet you ma’am. Are you able to teleport or something?”

Flashback smiles and gives me the thumbs up. “Got it in one!”

I have a bad feeling about this and I glance back to Mr. Reilly. “Umm, what exactly is the plan now and does this mean I won’t get a ride in the CX-5?”

“Yes, and no. We have a plan that will mess with the MCO and Flashback here is going help make that happen.”

“And I just love to f-mess with the MCO!” Flashback smiles at me.

“Oh, so what is going to happen then?”

“While the MCO watches, and I am sure they have an eye on our dropship out there, you will board as planned and take off, but Flashback will be there with you and port you to Whateley while the dropship travels to Afghanistan and a few additional long haul destinations. We figure it will be rather costly and frustrating for the MCO when all it’s said and done.”

“Oh...” I am not sure about the new plan, but I have never teleported before. I wonder what if feels like to have all of your atoms blasted apart and resembled somewhere else. Is that how it works?

“Does it hurt?” I ask before I completely think it through. I am being a wuss because if my dad and Lindsay could handle it, then I should be able to handle it also. I start to blush from embarrassment before the sound of my stupid question fades away. “Oh god, please forget I asked that...”

Flashback grins at me. “Asked what?” She asks, pretending like she did not hear me embarrass myself.

Lindsay is not as cool about it. “Well, that’s my ‘older’ sister for ya! She can handle getting shot, but try and do something ‘simple’ like teleportation and she totally chickens out!”

“Lindsay!” My mom admonishes my sister with a smirk that tells both of us that she is not really mad at my sister.

Everyone else begins to chuckle and I attempt to recover some cool factor points with a bow. “Thank, thank you very much! I’ll be here all this week...” I realize I should have curtseyed instead and hastily correct my mistake, causing another round of laughter at my expense.

I glance helplessly over to Mr. Reilly. “Umm, are we there yet?”

Mr. Reilly glances up to the ceiling, pretending to be frustrated by the age old question. “Hehe, no and we need to give the pilots some time to finish securing their cargo and running their preflight checklists. How about if we give you and your family some alone time while we wait?”

He escorts us to an office inside the hanger and closes the heavy duty glass and metal door behind us to give us some privacy. Predictably, my mom and dad give each other an embarrassingly affectionate hug and kiss. Lindsay and I both look at each other and groan, then giggle. Yes, I giggle. So, sad. I have fallen so far in such a short span of time. Once the ‘rents reluctantly part, Dad holds out his arms and gives me the ‘look’. You know, ‘the come give your dad a big hug’ look and not the ‘hey Sport, come gimme a high five’ look.

I am a little reluctant and unsure, but Lindsay gives me a gentle, yet forceful nudge and I fall into my dad’s arms. He crushes me to his chest and it actually feels pretty good. I feel safe and protected in his arms and I cannot remember the last time he gave me a hug. I guess I missed them more than I realized because I start to cry. Well, if I was still a boy, it would be called ‘crying’, but as a girl, it is more like a little wet eye, sniffle cry thing. I mean, I no tears fell, so technically, I was not crying. Right?

I wipe away the excess moisture on his shirt and laugh to cover my embarrassment. “Oh my god, sorry, Dad. Dunno what came over me there...”

Dad musses my hair a bit and gives me an affectionate kiss on my forehead. “It’s okay Bree, I kinda missed being able to give you hugs when you grew up on me and realized it wasn’t cool for boys to hug their dads.”

“Ha! It’s still not cool, but I’ll let it slide, this time.” I smile up at him. “Umm, thanks Dad and sorry for being such a hassle for you and Mom...”

I turn to apologize to Lindsay too, but she is just my little sister. It would upset the delicate balance of power in our relationship. “Umm, but not you Lindsay. You’re still my little brat sister!” I stick my tongue out at her.

“You, you little...meanie!” Lindsay ruins her tantrum by breaking down and happily grinning at me as she taps her foot in mock anger. Finally, she crosses her arms and begins her interrogation. “Okay sis, spill it. What happened, starting with those H1 jerks!” She practically growls and if I did not know her better, I would think she felt protective of me.

It is also a little weird having her call me ‘sis’ instead of ‘bro’ and I have no idea how I can condense everything down to only 15 minutes, but I surprise myself by getting the story down to only ten minutes. I do it by sticking to only the H1 and CIA incidents. My mom and dad hold each other tightly when I cover the H1 ‘fun’ while Lindsay surprises me by giving me a hug and tearfully thanking me, both for saving Mom and for not getting myself killed. She has trouble believing I had been shot, not once, but twice. Even with Mom backing me up, she still makes me show her where I had been shot. She looked suitably impressed by the fact that I healed so quickly and without a scar.

During my story, Dad was hard to get a read on. He alternated between looking proud of me, horrified at what happened, concerned for me and Mom, and pissed off, but not pissed off at me. Thank God!

My family is so awesome. I always knew deep down, that my parents loved me and I am pretty sure Lindsay and I loved each other, but we did not really show it. Now, I feel practically invincible. I have gained an Aunt and an Uncle and made so many friends over the last few days. Friends I would have never been given the chance to even know if it had not been for my accident. Okay, so I only made three, Nikki, Sara and Amanda, maybe four if I count Brenda back at the labs, but that is a world record for me. I mean, I knew a few people, but I only had Lisa and John that I could count as friends.

Whoa! If I keep this line of thought running, I might start thinking being a girl is a good thing. However; I am sort of amazed. It is hard to believe I could get into so much trouble and have so many things in my life change in only a few days. Aside from being shot, well, and kidnapped, okay, and being attacked, I cannot help thinking how bored I would be if I nothing had happened to me and I was still a boy.

If I was still a boy, I would probably being doing my chores, playing some, okay, lots of GEO or hanging out with John. Maybe doing some jujitsu practice at Sensei Roger’s dojo, not exactly excitement-ville. Well, unless I got to practice against Lisa, but she is John’s girlfriend and she always kicked my ass. So, where was I?

Oh yeah, I don’t remember thinking of those activities as boring before, well, except for the chores. I actually remember looking forward to playing GEO all day or blowing stuff up on John’s PS3. All that ‘fun’ stuff seems kind of boring now that I think of it. Is there really something wrong with me? Do I subconsciously look for trouble now? You know, the old, ‘if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!’ adrenalin junky mantra?

 

Maybe, because now, I am going to get a ride in a freaking Air Force dropship and be teleported, yes, teleported to my new school. How cool is that?!?! The dropship and teleported thing. Totally not the school thing, because school is kind of meh. I know it is a super mutant school and might be a little cooler than a public high school, but it is still school.

I am a little startled and disappointed when Mr. Reilly politely taps on the door before opening a crack. “Whisper, it’s time.”

My family wants to walk me all the way out and up the ramp, but Mr. Reilly stops them before we get to the hangar doors. He points up and off to the right. “The MCO has a scout ship parked over that way, on the edge of Langley Air Space, but close enough to use their optics to read a small bumper sticker. We can’t let them see you guys.”

That announcement causes another round of quick hugs before I am able to peel myself away. Towing my excessive luggage behind me, I exit out and onto the sunny tarmac. I am tempted to try waving to the MCO dudes, but in a rare burst of impulse control, I stop myself. Hey, it’s progress, right?

An Air Force Master Sergeant, with a nametag of Evans on his uniform, snaps to attention as I approach and then, politely leads me into the huge ship. I wonder if he knows General Evans. I know it is ‘space capable’, but it does not look like one of those early 1950’s and 60’s streamlined things the sci-fi writers envisioned back then. No, it looks more Battlestar Galactica or Firefly, but definitely not Star Trek.

I can only see the rear half of the monstrosity that should not be capable of flight, but from the pictures, I know the thing looks like a boxy Frankenstein marriage of a Whale Shark and a garbage truck, if that makes any sense. It looks like the designers tried to make the nose streamlined, but gave up and slapped a bunch of boxes and engine pods on the thing in an effort to use raw power to make it fly.

From the rear it appears to be wide enough to drive three tractor-trailers side by side. In the center of the thing, there is a big, heavy duty ramp descending to the pavement from about 10 feet off the ground. It doesn’t have wheels, just massive, hydraulic activated steel skid plates supporting its weight over as wide of a space as possible. Inside, can see rows of HUMVEES secured to the deck with heavy duty straps.

The Air Force currently has 5 of these monsters in service with another 15 on order with half of those slated to go to the Navy. They cost just shy of 3 billion a copy, about three times what the Navy pays for a new destroyer, but considering what they can do and how much the old Space Shuttle cost, 3 billion is a steal.

They are built like wet water ships, with air tight hatches and share a lot of the same technology and construction techniques. As a result, they are causing some interservice rivalry between the Air Force and the Navy and due to their space flight capability, NASA.

Okay, not just ‘some’ rivalry. The Navy is fighting tooth and nail over them claiming that space is more like the ocean and the Navy knows more about operating in that kind of environment than the Air Force. The Air Force points out that they are “aircraft”, not “ships” because they fly and as a result, belong with the Air Force. It’s a big cat fight and no one can predict what will happen in the long run because some of the ‘experts’ are starting to suggest that they are both right and they should combine the two branches into an United States Space Force or Space Navy. Yeah, that terminology is causing some arguments also.

Politics aside, the science behind making a ship like this work is nothing short of incredible. Their design and construction had to have driven more than a few Gadgeteers insane and exactly how they work is still Top Secret, but I have heard each engine is actually a working fusion reactor. They also say it has some sort of anti-gravity device to make it lighter. Again, that is all Super Top Secret and I cannot say for sure if it is true or not, but we had a few ‘debates’ about it during science class last year.

Inside, I count ten HUMVEES tied down to the floor in what looks like a balanced arrangement. There are also few large pallets of MRE’s, water and ammo near the center of the massive cargo bay. The sergeant lets me gawk for a few seconds before he points me to the staircase that leads up to the next level. “Ma’am, head up the aft cargo bay access ladder. Leave your bags here. I will secure them for you.”

I look back at him, unsure what to do. He called me a ‘ma’am’. Weird, but I guess it’s better than ‘miss’. I don’t know why, but ‘ma’am’ somehow sounds more respectful. “Umm, thanks, Sergeant Evans, but I think I will need them because the plan is for me to jump out before we land.”

He plugs in his helmet into long, flex cable that is attached to a box on the wall, umm, bulkhead, or is it a fuselage? He glances skeptically back at me as he keys the mic attached to his helmet. “Captain, our rider says she needs her luggage because she plans to jump...did I hear that correctly sir?”

I cannot help it. I accidently, on purpose, listen into his conversation. I am standing right next to him and his hard-line intercom thing is not encrypted. “Button us up and send her up Evans. I have no idea what is going on, but the hanger has two admirals, a general, the Deputy Director of DARPA, a few folks that could be Navy SEALS and our tasking came directly from the Pentagon. If our rider claims she is somehow going to jump out before we land, then it is probably true and above both of our security clearances. So, you never heard her say it and you never officially saw her board, right Sergeant?”

Sergeant Evans stiffens to attention. “Yes sir!” He turns off his mic and shakes his head with confusion. “Okay, sorry ma’am. Wait here while I close us up. I’ll escort you to passenger compartment.”

The big tailgate slowly raises and locks into position with the red light turning green when the door seals. Sergeant Evans performs a few quick visual checks to confirm the seal and then, he leads me up the stairs and into a large open area directly above the lower cargo deck. It is a bit noisier in here due to all the men in desert camouflage uniforms shooting the breeze with each other.

My CAC ID system goes bonkers with all the soldiers, oops, sorry, Marines. There is an entire company sized element strapped down to heavy duty reclining lawn chairs made from cargo netting. Based on the number of Marines sawing logs, I guess they may be kind of comfortable.

As I am led through ‘Marine Country’, the conversation around me dies down as I quickly earn everyone’s undivided attention. Hello, there is a pretty teen girl wearing civilian clothes in the area. Everyone look. She is way more interesting than the back of your buddy’s head. I anxiously smile and wave at them while wishing I had known they were going to be here. I would have tried to bring some cookies for them, or something. Hey, that is not me getting all girlyfied and domestic. I heard that servicemen, and servicewomen, thank you very much, love to get cookies and other home baked goodies when they are deployed.

“This way ma’am.” Sergeant Evans motions for me to follow him forward to a heavy duty hatch or door. I guess the hatch is designed to be airtight because it looks a lot like something you would find on a Navy ship. Opening the hatch for me, Sergeant Evans offers to help me lift my suitcases over the small lip, but I easily lift them over and into what looks like an airlock. There is another closed hatch ten feet in front of us with a red light glowing above it. Sergeant Evans closes and secures the hatch we entered and the light above the other hatch turns green. He opens it and motions for me to follow him down a surprisingly wide hallway that leads to an open area containing a five by five row of first class airline seats, complete with five point safety harnesses. They have got to be way more comfortable than the webbed seats the soldiers are stuck with.

Sergeant Evans appears a little surprised to see Flashback seated in this section with a Marine Full-Bird Colonel, a couple of majors, three Captains and a Sergeant Major sitting as far away from her as possible without looking like they were trying to distance themselves from her. My system automatically reads all their CAC ID cards and helpfully supplies me with their ranks, unit, full names and combines that info with the Mil.Net network, of which, this ship is a node on. It tells me even more stuff I probably should not know about them and their mission to FOB Delaram, Afghanistan.

Oh, there is an alert posted only 29 minutes ago about an increase in suspected Taliban fighters in the town they are going too. Since they were going over op-plans for when they land, I wonder if I should tell the Colonel Braxton about it.

I don’t because one, it would probably freak him out. Two, he will probably check his intel when he lands and three; I don’t want Dr. Edmundson to be given a reminder about limiting my access again. Is that wrong?

Flashback further surprises Sergeant Evans by standing up and happily motioning me to come join her. “Whisper, over here!”

Her surprise outburst stops the planning session, causing them all to twist around and look at me. With the spotlight on me, I blush and nervously wave hello to them. “Umm, sorry and hi, don’t mind me because if you all need to talk about Top Secret military stuff, I probably wouldn’t understand a word you’re saying.” I lie to them and it looks like they buy it, because Colonel Braxton’s frown turns upside down before he turns back to his men.

Should I tell him? Oh, the hell with it. It would kill me if I hear on the news about some Marines getting surprised and killed. I detour over to the Colonel’s chair. “Oh, Colonel Braxton, sir?”

He appears a little surprised by me addressing by both name and rank. “Yes, how may I be of service to you, young lady?”

Okay, now I am really feeling nervous because, while he does not look mad at me, he definitely has that aura of command. I almost feel like I should salute him, or something and I am not even in JROTC yet. “Sorry to bother you sir, but are you going to Afghanistan?”

He quickly glances to his officers before giving me his undivided attention. I expect him to yell at me now because I probably was not supposed to know that, but instead, he gives me one of those patient, children ask the darndest questions kind of smiles. “I can’t really say, but why do you ask?”

“Oh, well, I just heard something on the news about an increase, well; they called it a ‘surge’, of suspected Taliban fighters entering around some place called FOB Delaram. I had never heard of that place before, but it sounds like it could be in Afghanistan. So, I was just wondering...” I trail off as his face slowly transforms itself from patient amusement to steely determination.

He nods once. “I see, and you say you heard this on the news?”

Oh, crap. He knows because there is no way the news would have reported something like this. “Well, not really on the news, more like on some military news website that I stumbled across while I was waiting for them to let me board this thing.” I need a distraction. “Oh, hey, I think my friend is getting kind of impatient. Umm, I’ll just be...” I point to Flashback. “...over there if you need anything, umm, sir. Sorry...” I say as I quickly make my escape.

I leave Colonel Braxton and his men looking extremely stunned. One of the Captains dig into his bag and pulls out a ruggedized laptop. Crap, I shouldn’t have told him that bit of ‘news’. I am going to be in so much trouble when Mr. Reilly finds out. I try to make myself look very busy with getting my luggage sorted and myself buckled into my chair next to Flashback.

She turns to me once I am finally done. “Hey Kiddo, what was that about? They all looked kind of surprised there.”

Yep, I am definitely going to be in trouble now. “Oh, I just told them about some news story I saw about Afghanistan. Nothing special...”

“Oh, okay. Well, are you excited yet?” Flashback asks, appearing to buy my story.

“Heel-heck yeah!” I almost said a bad word there, sorry but I am a little excited. She probably is used to riding in super high tech space vehicles. I bet her team has one of those X-Men style jets or something. “Okay, maybe I am feeling a teensy, tiny bit excited about it.” I laugh at myself.

Flashback smiles at me and I find myself admiring how calm and relaxed she looks. “Since you’re a superhero or something, don’t you get to ride in things like this with your team all the time?”

Flashback chuckles and shakes her head no. “No, not anymore, but back when I was active, we used to use something like this to get around.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you still might be a hero. You don’t look that old to me.” I cringe as I finish saying that. Good job Bree, open mouth and insert foot.

Flashback’s eyes sparkle with amusement as she laughs at my faux pas. “Well, thanks. I am kind of glad you feel that way.” She glances interestedly around the passenger area. “I have to admit the new stuff is pretty damn cool though. This monster is probably twenty times larger than the little thing my team used.”

Phew! I am glad she isn’t mad at me for calling her old, but now, I feel a little intimidated. Flashback is like a grizzled veteran compared to me. “Oh, okay. So, about this teleportation thing...”

She smiles at me. “No, it doesn’t hurt, kiddo.”

“Oh, phew! I was worried.” Another thought hits me. “What about our inertia?” Flashback looks at me curiously. “I mean, we will be moving pretty fast up there. What happens to all of our inertia?”

She blinks with surprise and then, shrugs her shoulders. “Good question, but it just works. No one really understands how it works, it just does.”

“Attention, this is your Captain speaking. On behalf of the United States Air Force, I would like to welcome you all aboard our ‘little’ toy hauler.” He paused for a second to chuckle once at his euphemism. “We will achieve zero-g during our flight and due to our trajectory; we will have a good 10 minutes of zero-G, inner ear confusion. Please have a barf bag ready because no one likes to be puked on and the crew hates the cleanup. Thank you and we will begin our 10 second lift off countdown in 30 seconds. If you are not strapped down, please do so at this time.”

Gosh, this is so exciting! I just hope I don’t barf because I really want to play in zero-G. It looks like so much fun when they show the astronauts playing around in the space station or during rides to the moon base. I glance back over to Flashback. “Umm, when will we be, you know, leaving?”

“Don’t worry Whisper. We will stay until they start re-entry. I wanna play in zero-G too.” She giggles at me.

Oh, that is a relief, but now, I feel a little anxious and curious about the dropship. A slight vibration begins to slowly build. What in the heck is happening?


> VIK Interface....found!
> Connect? [Y]/n

Whoa! I have never used the Vehicle Integration Kit before. I wonder what it does, exactly. Okay, Yes, connect please.


> Initializing....

I do not have long to wait as my vision is overlaid with all sorts of instruments. I see radar screens, navigations screens, communications systems, throttle position sensors, flight control sensors, external camera views, weapons systems, power systems and more. It is like the Black Hawk helicopter, but easier. I sure hope I can’t mess with any of those. You know, by accident, because that would be bad.


> Read-Only mode activated!

Oh crap! Thank god I thought about that. Wait, I could have taken over and flown this thing?!?! This VIK thing is too cool.

{“Tower, this is Air Force Heavylift Charlie X-ray zero two alpha...nav is locked. Ready to begin countdown on your mark.”}

{“Charlie X-ray zero two alpha. Affirmative. Window opening in three, two, one, mark!”}

I anxiously watch as the Captain engages the throttles, causing the entire ship to vibrate like a car driving over a cobblestone street. I expected it to be a lot worse, but I am distracted when Flashback reaches over and grabs my hand, giving it a good squeeze as we lift straight off the ground like a helicopter. At first, we are all gently pushed back into our seats we slowly begin to pick up speed when the ship simultaneously begins to move forward. The gentle squeeze turns into a heavy kick in the pants as the floor quickly tilts from zero degrees to 70 degrees and the rear engines go to full throttle. Now, the vibration is more like I expected it to be. It feels like I am riding on one of those old wooden roller coasters that shake, rattle and bang their way around the tracks. Flashback squeezes my hand even tighter. Wow, she has a pretty strong grip.

I look over to her and she has her eyes tightly shut with her jaw is clenched. She is the last person I expected to be worried about the take off. “Don’t worry, all systems are green. Nothing ttooo...” I stutter a bit as we hit a rough section of track on our super duper roller coaster of doom. “...worry about!”

“Hehe, yeah, I know, but take offs always get me.” Flashback lets off a little on the hand pressure.

I watch as the altimeter starts climbing, it goes slowly at first, but rapid picks up speed until the numbers are whizzing by. 1,000 feet takes a few seconds, but 2,000 is faster, 3,4,5, 10, 15, 25 fly past as we continue up under a constant 3.0 G’s of acceleration, just like I remember reading about the old Space Shuttle launches.

{“Oh, that MCO bogey is flying a little sloppy back there Captain.”} The weapons officer calmly notes over the crew intercom.

I focus on the radar and tracking systems, spotting the MCO ‘bogey’. It is climbing pretty rapidly, so I am not sure what the weapons officer meant by ‘sloppy’.

{“Yeah, command warned me about them. Keep an eye on them and warn me if they do anything aggressive or if they break off.”}

{“Yes sir.”}

“Hey, Whisper, are ya there?” Flashback shakes my arm to get my attention. With the G’s we are pushing, waving her hand in front of my face would probably be a bit hard unless she had super strength.

I could twist my body to face her directly, but it is easier to simply turn my face to look at her. “Umm, yes, sorry. What’s up?”

“I asked you if you thought the MCO was following us.”

“Oh, yeah, they are, but the weapons officer says they are flying a little ‘sloppy’, or something.”

Flashback’s eyes open with surprise before narrowing as she considers my information. “What? How?”

Uh oh. “Umm, I am kind of listening in on their radios?”

Flashback purses her lips. “You do know that they don’t use radios, right?”

I can only nod my head in agreement.

She starts to say something, but pauses and tries to shake her head before realizing it would take too much effort to pull it off. “Okay, I guess I can kind of see why Mr. Reilly is so worried about you...”

I do not think I am that bad. Really, I know I would not abuse my powers. Well, not on purpose anyway.

“Transition coming up in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...”

The engines throttle down, then to zero while the nose drops to more of a level flight path, causing everything in the cabin to start floating. Yippie! I look sneak a peek at the Marine officers and Colonel Braxton does not look happy. He reaches for the barf bag as he mutters. “I hate this part...”

Sergeant Evans enters the cabin, slowly flying like he has super powers. “We have ten minutes before we begin our descent and counter burn. You may now fly freely around the cabin, but be careful, gentlemen...” He skips a beat before he remembers we are in the cabin. “...and ladies because inertia can hurt.”

It is a lot of fun flying around the cabin and I am so glad I have leggings under my skirt because I would be so upset if I had to worry about flashing my pan-underwear at everyone as I bounced and flipped off the walls, sorry, bulkheads. It only takes a little force to cause a big change in direction. My reactions are pretty darn good and even Flashback looks a little jealous at how easy I am making it look. It is so fun doing barrel rolls and zooming all over the room. I wish I could fly for real because flight would be such a cool power to have.

A couple of the braver and younger officers join in and we have some fun playing with water bottles by squirting a little out and gulping the floating drops down. Sadly, all the fun has to end sometime. I spot Flashback wave at me to join her. “Grab your luggage. It’s time to bail.”

“Ahhh...but this is so much fun!” I grin as I fly down to grab my luggage. I get a little too cocky because pulling out my luggage causes me to temporarily lose control and bounce off the ceiling. “Ow...”

Flashback grabs me and helps get me steadied. “Thanks...” I blush, feeling embarrassed.

I glance over at Colonel Braxton and his crew and discover they are all looking at the two of us with interest. I am still a little nervous about my intel dump, but Flashback waves at them before turning to Sergeant Evans. “Thanks for the ride. Give my compliments to the Captain.” Finally, she glances over to me and whispers. “Ya might wanna close your eyes for this next part...”

Line Break broken

Master Sergeant Frank Evans had done and seen a lot in his 15 year career in the U.S. Air Force, but the last two years as the loadmaster for the Air Force’s new CX-5 Super Heavy Lift Star Master was the cherry on top of a delicious fudge sundae. He was very proud at being the first authorized wearer of the Air Force’s Enlisted Mission Specialist Astronaut Badge. Based on that, he felt confident he would get his second ‘hump’ and be promoted to Senior Master Sergeant within a year.

As the loadmaster and senior enlisted crewmember, he was used to assisting with and giving tours of his baby to Generals, Foreign heads of state, Senators, Governors, wealthy businessmen, their significant and not so significant others, but his latest passenger was an utter mystery to him and the rest of the crew. He did not know what to make of the young and very pretty teenage girl who calmly walked out of the F-22 Raptor hanger towing behind her luggage as if she was boarding a commercial flight because if the rumor mill was correct, this teenage girl was anything but ordinary.

Soon after they had set down at Langley AFB, Captain Everhart reported from the cockpit that multiple cars with stars on their flags were pulling into the hanger. He and the crew had been informed they were there to pick up two additional special passengers, but they were not to speak to anyone about it. The operation was blacker than black. Forty-five minutes later, this young slip of a girl was boarding his craft and no one came running out of the hanger to try and stop her. He expected a second passenger, but was told to button her up and prepare for takeoff as soon as the girl stepped foot in his cargo bay. That told him she had a lot of brass behind her and that data point made him even more nervous because the rumor mill was also saying that the President was directly involved.

Now, he watched with open amusement as the girl, whose name he still did not know, but had overheard her being called, Whisper, giddily and with rapidly increasing confidence flew around the cabin. She bounced off the bulkheads, performed flips and barrel rolls with a joy that was infectious. A few of the jar heads were also unable to completely suppress their delight in the young girl’s antics and eventually, they began to encourage her to play by pulling out some water bottles to make zero-g water bubbles.

Officially, he was supposed to prevent such tomfoolery, but small drops of water were much easier to clean up than barf. So, he let it slide because the girl and the jar heads were having fun. He shuddered involuntarily at the memory of the last barf cleanup party he had to supervise and assist some of the junior enlisted crew with.

The other woman who had appeared, as if by magic, in the VIP passenger cabin was also a mystery. When he asked, he was informed that she was their second passenger, but how did she get on board without anyone spotting her? Regardless of that mystery, the woman appeared to be enjoying her time in zero-G. Unlike the girl, she was much more subdued and cautious, but he could tell she had some experience in zero-G by the economy of her movements. With one minute to go before counter burn began and the return of gravity, the woman called the girl over to her.

He winced sympathetically when the girl over corrected and bounced off the top of the compartment when she pulled out her luggage. It was an easy mistake to make and she was not hurt, so it was not worth giving her a gentle safety reminder. He was more curious about what the pair thought they were doing. Did they think their ride was about to land? He was about to warn them to get buckled in when the woman looked at him.

“Thanks for the ride. Give my compliments to the Captain.” She said with a grin as her eyes twinkled mischievously.

Next, she leaned over and whispered something to the girl before looking back up, then, with a wink towards the confused Sergeant Evans and the rest of the curious ground pounders, she, the girl and the girl’s luggage simply disappeared.

“Deceleration burn beginning in 30 seconds!” Captain Everhart announced of the craft’s intercom.

“Crap!” Sergeant Evans gave the empty area the two had been standing one last glance before he scrambled back to his acceleration couch and buckled in. “I wonder where they went?” He muttered softly just before the G forces pressed him into the cushions.

Line Break broken

I rapidly close my eyes, but I still see a bright flash followed by a little less than a second of vertigo, 0.823 seconds to be exact. I am not sure where the ‘light’ came from, because it felt more like a thousand microscopic flashbulbs all going off at once. Further evidence of Flashback’s teleportation power destroying the bonds that hold my atoms together.

I blink my eyes a few times to try to try and clear my vision, but when I stop blinking, I discover a few things. One, while it was somehow bright, it did not hurt to have all my atoms blasted through space, or whatever, and two, I am now standing in front of a desk and inside a neat and tidy office. An older, maybe 35 year old, beautiful, blond haired woman is sitting behind the desk, wearing what I would consider ‘professional’ attire. A white blouse with a dark grey jacket, subtle makeup, limited jewelry and she has a phone to her ear.

“Thanks Nick, they just arrived and I have all of her paperwork. I’ll take care of everything.” She smiles a greeting to us as she hangs up the phone.

Who is she? The marble name plate sitting on the front of her desk simply reads “Mrs. Carson”, but she can’t be her. She must be Mrs. Carson’s secretary because she is way too young to be the Headmistress of this place.

I glance around, spotting the closed door behind us. I kind of expect this Mrs. Carson woman to open it up and come through any second now. The woman regains my attention when she abruptly stands and holds her hand out to Flashback. “Flashback, nice to see you again.”

“Good to see you again too Liz. I expected to see more gray hair from attempting to manage this place.” Flashback says with a grin as she shakes the woman’s hand.

I guess they know each other because this ‘Liz’ woman fondly laughs at Flashback’s remark. Due to her shaking Flashback’s hand, I kind of expect her to shake my hand too, but instead, she simply nods politely at me and gestures to the two guest chairs positioned in front of the desk. “Miss Peters...”

“Well, I hate to pop in and run, but I have a few more ‘deliveries’ to make. Liz, it was nice seeing ya again. Whisper...” Flashback gives me a friendly little nod and a pat on my back. “It was nice meeting you and your family. I think you will enjoy it here. Have fun!” She waves one more time and simple disappears. No flash of light, sound or smell of sulphur to make it cool. Her teleportation thing is actually a little lacking in the special effects department.

With Flashback gone, ‘Liz’ returns to behind Mrs. Carson’s desk and sits back down in the chair like she owns it. I feel a little awkward and unsure what to say or how to address her because I am pretty sure that addressing her as ‘Liz’ would sound like I was being too familiar with her. I mean, she might only be a secretary, but she is still an adult. She kind of looks familiar to me though. Where have I seen her before?


> Scanning for matching facial features...Match found!
> Lady Astarte, Ms. Elizabeth Amelia Carson, Divorced in 1995. Previous aliases are Miss Champion, Lady Champion, Comet Queen, Ms. Might
> 24-JUN-2004 18:12:32.0283 while viewing “Famous Superheroes and Villains. Where are they now?”

Oh yeah! Now I remember watching that show with my dad when I was 12, or so. Holy crap! No way, she is Mrs. Carson?!? If she is divorced, why does her name plaque still have “Mrs.” as her title?

I am a little distracted from that question when The Lady Astarte turns to me with an enigmatic smile. “Welcome to Whateley Academy, Miss Peters. I am Mrs. Carson, Headmistress. My staff and I are looking forward to assisting you reach your potential.” Her lips press together as she leans slightly toward me. “Now young lady...”

I wince at her address. It does not sound like a promising start. My parents only call my sister a ‘young lady’ or me ‘young man’, well, called me that, when we are in trouble.

“I understand you have had quite the little ‘adventure’ reaching my humble school.” Mrs. Carson takes some of the sting out of her previous address by giving me a small smile to let me know she isn’t mad at me. I hope so anyway.

She leans back in her chair, keeping her eyes focused on me. “Not as uncommon of a situation as you might imagine...” She tilts her chair forward and opens a thin manila folder that has my name, “Brianna Nicole Peters/Whisper” neatly printed on the tab. Inside is my application form, all filled out and signed by my mom, Mr. Reilly and Mrs. Carson.

I relax a little because this is more what I was expecting. Simple administrative stuff where she maybe has me look over and sign some additional things, nothing to worry about. She calmly leafs through a few pages and stops at a sheet with the header of “Mentor Assignment”. Sir Wallace’s name is printed there, along with Fey. There is also a small paragraph in Sir Wallace’s handwriting that while initially a little hard to read from my position, once I scan it, flip it and expand it in my HUD; I find out it is Sir Wallace’s appraisal of my magic powers. This could be bad.

“I am glad that Sir Wallace saw fit to evaluate you and you should also consider yourself very fortunate that he is also willing to take you under his wing. However; I see that you have also met Fey and share a common heritage with her, correct?” Mrs. Carson raises her from the paper and looks expectantly at me.

“Yes, ma’am.” I decide to keep the answers simple because I am not sure why she brought up Nikki, I mean Fey and our Sidhe heritage.

“I see.” She nods her head and purses her lips.

What? I only said yes. I know Sara warned me to stay away from her and take it slow with Nikki, but did I somehow let Mrs. Carson know I’m friends with Nikki and she now considers me her cousin? Is Mrs. Carson going to tell me to stay away from Nikki too?

“Nikki spoke to me after her visit. She had nothing but good things to say about you, but she did let it slip that you were her cousin now. Is that correct?” Mrs. Carson asks even though she obviously already knows the answer.

“Yes, ma’am. We aren’t really related, but Aunt Aunghadhail kinda ‘adopted’ me.” I probably say too much, but at least I don’t tell her Aunt Aung also called me her ‘champion’.

Mrs. Carson’s eyes flare with astonishment and she leans back into her chair with groan. “Great, please tell me you don’t plan on letting everyone know you are cousins...”

I know I shouldn’t be surprised because both Nikki and Sara warned me about how popular Nikki is at this school, but I am sort of surprised by Mrs. Carson’s reaction. “Well, I wasn’t planning on it. Sara-” Crap. I wasn’t supposed to let anyone know that I know Sara.

Mrs. Carson jerks as if I just hit her with a thousand volts of electricity. “What did you just say!? Please, please tell me you don’t know Sara Waite, aka Carmilla.”

Sara’s last name is Waite and her code name is Carmilla? Well, I didn’t know that. “Umm, no? I don’t know anyone named ‘Sara Waite’, why?” I very carefully ask because it sounds like Mrs. Carson would not be happy if I told her I knew Sara.

Mrs. Carson sighs with relief. “Good, because it is probably best if you didn’t know her.”

Now, I am a little confused. Why does everyone hate her so much?

Mrs. Carson notices my expression and sighs. “You’ll probably see her; she is friends with Nikki and even sort of resembles her due to a botched attempt on her life. She and Nikki now consider themselves as Blood sisters since it was Nikki’s blood some idiots thought would poison and kill Sara. I recommend that when you do see her, that you are not seen as being too friendly with her, it could cause problems for you and the school, okay?”

I slowly nod my head with agreement while I mull over the latest data point regarding Sara’s ‘popularity’ at this school. Wow, someone tried to kill her with Nikki’s blood. That sounds totally crazy. Why do people hate Sara so much? What if Mrs. Carson finds out I sort of lied to her about knowing Sara?

I sigh with frustration. Darn Cub Scouts and that pledge they made me take about being ‘morally straight’. See, that is why I am such a bad liar. Well, that and because my mom is an empath.

Mrs. Carson looks so hopeful and pleased by my initial answer. Why can’t I let her be happy? “Oh, that ‘Sara’. I’m sorry; I didn’t know her last name was Waite...” I pause when Mrs. Carson surprises me with a little moan or maybe it was a whimper.

“Go on...” She patiently motions for me to continue.

“Well, the Sara I know is kind of this pretty Goth vampire demon goo thing and her Dad, Gothmog, is kind of my Uncle now and he really wants to meet me, but she can’t be this Sara Waite/Carmilla person you’re worried about, can she?” I ask while Mrs. Carson slowly lowers her head and presses her hands against her temples.

She looks a little upset with me. Maybe I should have ignored that outdated little Cub Scout motto? I mean, it didn’t say anything specifically about ‘lying’ and I can’t really be in the Boy Scouts and continue working on my Cub Scout badges anymore either.

“Mrs. Carson, are you okay?” I ask because she is starting to make me worried about her.

She straightens herself back up, calmly closes my folder and looks me in the eyes with almost a pleading expression. “Okay, that was...unexpected, but please tell me you aren’t planning on trying to join either Team Kimba or Sara’s Pack?”

I am pretty sure I know the correct answer to this question and even better, I don’t have to lie or try to lie about it. “No ma’am. Sorry...” Feeling a little ashamed about stressing her out and not keeping my mouth shut, I glance down at my legs as I softly answer. “Sara warned me about being seen with her and how popular Nikki is here. My plan is to simply learn, do the JROTC thing and go home this summer to be with my family.”

I look back up at Mrs. Carson. She is thoughtfully studying me and I think she looks a little less stressed now. “I see, well, I will just have to see what I can do to assist you with that plan.” She perks back up, reaches back into my folder, extracts two, nearly identical forms titled, ‘Quarters Assignment’. She sets them, side by side, on her desk and looks back to me. “Stand up for me please.”

Now, I am getting worried. Why does she have two forms for me? One has “Cottage: Poe” and the other as “Cottage: Whitman”. I anxiously smooth my skirt and not wanting to cross my arms against my chest because it might make me look as impatient, I hold them behind my back.

Mrs. Carson purses her lips and narrows her eyes as she studies me. “Could you get me the SAT study guide book from the shelf over there?” She points to a bookshelf on off to my right and about 10 feet, 2.83 meters, okay 9.3 feet from me.

I return with the requested book and set it on her desk. That seems to make up her mind as Mrs. Carson nods once, more to herself than me. “Thanks.” She hands me the Whitman form. “Okay, please take this and give it to Ms. Hartford. She will send for someone to escort you to your cottage.”

I spare a quick glance over the form. It is mostly filled out and signed by Mrs. Carson, but no room number has been assigned to me.

Mrs. Carson notices my gaze. “Yes, you will be assigned a room based on the house mother’s recommendation.” Still sitting, she rests her hands on her desk, clasped together like a fist in front of her. “Now, I realize with what I am about to say to you that I am probably not being fair, but in light of who you already know here; Please try not to model your first week here based on your friend’s first week and try not to get into a fight with a Ninja army like they did.”

Pulling my suitcases behind me, I trip a little on my way to the door as both her plea and the ninja thing takes me by surprise. “Umm, okay?” I hesitantly agree with her because I wouldn’t want to fight off a ninja army either. Why would an army of ninjas invade a school and why does just knowing Sara and Nikki make Mrs. Carson think I will get into trouble with an army of anything? Okay, maybe an H1 or MCO army, but it would not be my fault!

[The End of Book One]

** Epilogue **

MCO Special Agent Lainer felt abso-fucking-lutely furious. He had just spent the last 43 hours, almost two full days, as an observer, crammed inside the tiny MCO scout ship as it trailed the Air Force’s monster dropship all over the freaking world in an attempt to find out where the U.S. Government was taking their little pet mutant. Only to have all his time, the MCO’s money and equipment usage completely and utterly wasted.

They easily spotted the young human girl, who resembled their target, suitcases in tow, walk across the tarmac and disappear inside the CX-5, but she never exited the damn thing! What in the hell happened to her and where did she go? Was she living inside the fucking ship now or did she somehow sneak out with the Marines when they landed in Afghanistan? He had already pored over the footage in an attempt to spot a girl dressed up in a Marine uniform, but no luck there. It was as if she had never boarded the fucking craft, except he had proof that she had!

She had to be a fucking shape shifter, or else the girl had been a decoy, but that still did not answer his question of what happened to the girl. He briefly debated attempting to get permission to storm and search the CX-5 after the crew had locked it down, but he knew there would be zero possibility of that course of action being approved, or even considered as sane. He would have probably been kicked out of the MCO if he had even suggested it.

He knew he was borderline, or maybe beyond it, obsessed with Whisper, but he hated mystery mutants and secret government programs with a passion. It was one of those secret government programs that got his brother killed 10 years ago. The military thought they finally had a super soldier serum perfected and his brother volunteered, yeah, right. His brother was a fuck up who had been promoted to Sergeant twice, been busted down to Private three times and was a whisker away from being booted from the Army when he suddenly ‘volunteered’ for some secret program.

It looked like the serum worked. For two years after he ‘volunteered’, his brother was a changed man, in more ways than one. Not only was he super strong, fast and nearly invincible, he was also a model soldier who was quickly promoted from Private all the way back to Sergeant for his strong leadership qualities. All that came crashing down the day he snapped and went on a rampage in a crowded shopping mall, killing 10 and wounding 15 others before an MCO Fast Reaction Squad was finally able to bring him down.

It took Agent Lainer years of digging and using his MCO contacts to find out what really happened to his brother. At first, he hated the MCO for killing his brother, but once he learned the truth; his hatred shifted to the government for making his brother into the monster that was still used as an example for why the MCO needs to exist.

So, if this Whisper girl or person was part of some new secret government program, he had to find out what it was and stop it before it was too late. Before she snapped liked his brother did and killed a bunch of innocent people. Since the government had proven itself incompetent and responded by covering things up, it was his duty, as an officer of the MCO, to find and eliminate this threat before it was too late.

First, he had to find her. If she had not been fooling everyone with her age, she was young and that could only mean one thing, she had to be at that fucking school, Whateley. He grinned with anticipation. Yes, this could be the lever the MCO could use to finally get that abomination closed down for good. With Whateley closed, those fucking mutants would have nowhere to hide and no one would dare try to protect the freaks.

To do that, he needed to get someone into Whateley, a spy, but he did not have one of those available or even know where he might get one. The MCO was a large organization, there had to be a solution because he knew of several mutant organizations that had been infiltrated by specially trained and loyal MCO mutants in the past. It didn’t matter if they sometimes died in the process, at least their deaths helped humanity.

His old commander was stationed out west somewhere and was running some super secret mutant research facility. Perhaps he would know or know someone who would be willing to help?

Happy for the first time in days, Special Agent Lainer pulled up his contacts list and sent Colonel David ‘Buster’ Fairbanks an email. Oh yes, he had a good feeling about this course of action.

Read 9139 times Last modified on Saturday, 21 August 2021 23:39

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Jayjay
1 month ago
Wonderful, just read yet again and I am so sad that Sleethr isn't currently posting more goodness like this
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