A Whateley Gen 2 what if
Author’s disclaimer: any potential bad English in this story is the character’s bad English and in no way caused by me not being a native speaker.
The truck engine stopped. I couldn’t see outside but my watch indicated that it shouldn’t restart, at least not with me on it. I was pretty sure that I reached my destination. I started to collect the papers scattered all around my container. For the past 14 days I was stuck inside it. Drawing schematics was the only thing I could do to prevent going crazy. I had also written an awful lot of code. It was surprisingly easy to do, even if it was on paper.
The container lifted up, started to rock a bit. Yes! I was being unloaded. I couldn’t wait to see the sky again.
The door opened, as I was ready to greet the person who will save me from my prison. I instead heard.
“Whateley Security! Stand still, hands behind your head!” A man in a security uniform holding a high tech looking gun yelled to me.
I froze, not able to move. I was so scared I was not able to think correctly, I didn’t know what to do. After roughly 30 seconds that felt like hours I moved my hand behind my head as instructed.
“Intrusion in delivery. Young mutant girl. Hiding inside a container.” The man said to his radio. My head burst into pain. I hadn’t felt like that ever before, never had a headache that powerful and sudden in my whole life. I dropped on my knees, starting to cry.
“Unknown powers. Send reinforcement. She hasn’t tried anything yet.” He continued.
“Now you will cooperate gently and nobody gets hurt”. He said to me, I nodded, not wanting any more trouble.
He came over and handcuffed me. He activated his walkie-talkie, and being now much closer, the pain was even more unbearable. “Subject neutralized, transferring her to confinement.”
He grabbed my hands with one of his. The other one was still firmly gripped on his gun. I could feel the tip of the weapon pressed against my back, it felt cold, terrifying.
“Now forward.” He ordered me. I didn’t resist. He guided me outside the building. I was looking down at my feets, not able to keep my head up. My now long copper hair was hanging in front blocking part of my field of view.
He led me into another building. We entered a small room. In the middle there was a table with four chairs. The walls and floor were made of wood. It really broke the interrogation room look that the table and my situation had.
“Sit here and don't try anything.“ he ordered me. After I sat down he left and I heard the door locking.
I had just left a prison for another one, all so close after escaping captivity. It didn't really go as planned. To make things worse my current cell was giving me a hell of a headache. Of course that wasn't new but for the last two weeks I had been fine on that front.
The door opened, and a woman came inside. She sat opposite me. She looked at me intensely, the angry and authoritarian kind of look. I couldn’t bring myself to meet her eyes.
“So you tried to infiltrate the Academy. Well girl you are in trouble. I am Admiral Samantha Everheart, Head of Security here at Whateley. Now we'll make it quick, just answer my questions and nothing else. Okay?“
I didn't say anything, just nodded.
“Oui” I said then realizing that French probably wasn't the right language to use right now “ Yes” I added just after.
“Fine, we'll start easy. What is your name?“.
“I don’t have one anymore.” I said, I took a deep breath and realized codenames were also used in mutant cycle, “Faraday” I gave the one I came up with when contacting the school.
“Could you shut down the lights?” I whispered. “They are killing me, wifi and everything else too”
“Oh yeah you spent, what, 3 weeks in the dark, I’ll dim the lights.” Everheart said.
“No. leds they hurt.” I looked around, ”maybe an old flashlight, I have one in my container”
“Not getting any tech from your container. With a name like Faraday, you're likely a devisor or gadgeteer. There is one with the same name, a Faraday coming from Switzerland.'' She looked like she was finally putting the one and two together, “Oh damn, I signed the autorisation for you to be brought here. Why try to sneak in?”
“Please can I go back in my container” The pain was becoming unbearable. “Please”
“Please my container, I’m safe there”
“It might feel like this but you need medical help” She insisted.
“Then send it there! I’m not going anywhere else. It got worse, bordel, so much worse.” I was in tears from the headache.
“I don’t have her medical history, let’s follow her instincts. Tell Doyle’s team to meet us at shipping”. She said immediately
I lost consciousness there and then, these were the last words I heard.
I woke up to knocking on metal. I was back in my container. I recognised the familiar setting even in the dark, “You’re awake, good. I’m coming in.”, a female voice announced the door opened,
“I’m Dr. Tenant . You arrived at Whateley. Do you know what happened?”
I took a deep breath, and started, “Well it would seems that my arrival wasn’t announced properly, the GFIEN was supposed to announce I was coming by containers, they set it up, but knowing the bureaucracy the file might not have yet arrived at your destination, you see I need to travel in trucks because my mutation is screwy, I don’t really know how or why but I developed electrosensitivity, probably due to the antennas looking lines on my body. So when I arrived by truck, security….”
“Okay slow down” Dr Tenant interrupted. “No need to hear your whole story just yet. You seem clear headed. To be brief, you went into a dangerous epilleptic breakdown. You went close to dying. Ms. Everheart had the right idea of bringing you back to your containers. And you thought ahead enough to leave us your medical history and your notes well in evidence.”
“Dying?” I asked worriedly.
“Yes, you’ve been very lucky that everyone reacted correctly”
”Now answer my questions as succinctly as you can. When did your electrosensitivity start?”
“25 days 5 hours 13 minutes ago I was working under duress for them and it started while I was in their workshop roo…” I started, before a finger was placed on my lips.
“Shh” The doctor said peacefully, “Succinct answer remember, we don’t have much time.”
“Oh sorry, it’s kinda hard to not talk, being cooped up with no one for…” I started again, but stopped at that point. Biting my tongue. It took a lot of willpower to do it.
“How bad is it? What can you tolerate“
“I don’t know, I’ve been isolated for two of the weeks, but before I went in I couldn’t bear any of the normal stuff in GFIEN's base, just the lights were too much. And the constant hums of mains voltage, it got worse every day”
“So even the lights were too much?”
“LED lights especially, though I’m guessing a CF light starting might be painful but they didn’t have any left. And the mains, and the cellular network. Basically everything from the modern way of life and the electrical era. It gives me a headache, that’s why I didn’t take the plane you see. I would have been too exposed on a plane.”
“Yeah I see” The doctor interrupted me, “I’m guessing your near death experience was due to your electrosensitivity getting worse.”
“That’s my theory as well, I kept changing during the trip and now have 536 new tracks on my body. Not counting those who became bigger or that I can’t see while self examining” I said, of course not talking about the bigger change that started mostly during the trip.
“Now I’m going to need your MID”
“I don’t have one, I had troubles at home, I came to the US illegally, I know it's bad but well the school is run by a super villain my rap sheet is not the worse here I'm guessing it's not like I have killed anyone I just can't get power tested by the MCO. ”
"It's okay. they will issue one here when you get power tested." The doctor interrupted in a reassuring tone.
“If they can power test me, last time I almost passed out, I had to be pulled away from the room. Like I said, things got hairy and there wasn’t time for me to get the paperwork in order before I could come here, it should have been done in the meantime but I guess it hasn’t happened, The GFIEN must have been busy, I’d call them but they left me with no means of contact because it’s how they operate, I’d have a to go through the standard number and a lot of secretaries to reach someone who knows about my case, and well I can’t exactly pass a phone call that long, the pain would be unbearable even with a corded phone.” I babled, this time not interrupted by my interlocutor.
“We’ll find a way, Whateley is used to special cases like you. But first we need to figure out your housing situation. You can’t stay here.”
“I have blueprints, schematics and designs for a fully decked out electromagnetically sealed room to live in. It will be expensive though. I’m guessing from the materials alone it’s 30’000 but that’s including a kitchen, and workshop.”
“You can get the food from Crystal hall.” The doctor said, “And don’t worry, if you need special housing in Hawthorn it’s paid for you. That will be discussed with your housemother, Mrs. Bardue.”
“Oh good, I like cooking but if it’s too much, I’ll find a way to get out anyway, I have already many ideas on how to break the isolation, I could build a dampening field which jams precisely the whole magnetic field around me, got the prototype plans done during the trip. Of course I also have millions of other ideas”.
“Shuuuush, you’ll have time. I have one other question before I leave. The initial documents about your arrival indicated you were a boy.”
“This room was built for external energizers who can’t control their powers.” Mrs Bardue told me from her ordinary wheelchair. “But it should be perfect for your needs, it’s shielded, and we were able to make a few modification to the design according to your plans”
I was invited by a simple gesture to open the door. It was heavy looking, but surprisingly easy to move. The room was very similar to what I had imagined, metal clad walls. No particularly distinctive features on them, except for next to the door, on the wall, a heavy sliding switch, a rheostat to be precise.
At the back of the room, in the corner, the bed was rough looking, with a metal frame and a thin looking mattress on it. It really looked like a chamber built to sustain a storm from the inside. I had a feeling that the mattress was incombustible.
Then I realized something was missing, something big. I didn’t have any toilets.
“Euhm, sorry to ask but where should I relieve myself” I broke the silence
“We’ll bring you a porta potty soon, it should arrive next hour” Mrs. Bardue explained. “Then we’ll figure out another way, more permanent.”
“Good because I’m not looking forward to the smell again, after being in a container for so long.” I exclaimed. “Didn’t you see the plans I left for you? The mechanical liquifier and small mesh design, or the double water-lock extravaganza for hyper hermetism of the cage. Same for…”
“That was this morning my dear, we haven’t had the time to do major work on the room.” I was interrupted. “We are lucky that room was free, so you can get in quickly”
“Ah oui, Right, désolée, I get a bit carried away at times.” I said, a bit ashamed of myself.
“I was warned.” the house mother said with a faint chuckle. “There are a few things we need to deal with now.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” I joked.
“As you probably understand this is a school, in order to stay here you’ll have to follow classes.”
“Yeah of course, that’s one of the reasons Bärnerbär sent me here. I’d be safer than at the GDFS, and I need to learn, not that I feel the need to so much. It comes so easily to me.”
“You’ll still need to, Madame Prudhomme will come soon to arrange your class schedule and what to do about it. You are arriving quite late in the term with no credits to transfer, so you might have to wait for the next one for most of your classes.”
“That’s ok, I was ahead a grade back home. As long as I can take some technical classes.” I replied.
“Those should be the easiest for you to join in the middle.” She commented back, “But you can’t attend them from here. Normally we have an intercom system for the children stuck in their room”
“But it won’t work for me, I do have an idea for an adaptation, but the sound quality might be crappy. I’ll draw up the schematics for that today, I would really like to be involved as much as possible in adapting my room to my needs.”
Mrs. Bardue chuckled, “Of course, you’re really the typical gadgeteer. I don’t get enough of your type in here.”
*Knock knock*. Someone was at the door of the CAGE It took intense efforts just to lift my pen away from the schematic I was drawing, a polarity reversal probe. I had no idea what I would use it for, I can’t be near anything that would require a reversing of polarity.
*Knock knock*. There it was, knocking again, I really should leave my drawing alone. But it was so beautiful, and peaceful. No, I've been drawing alone for too long now.
I put down my pen, straightened my pajamas, yeah I’ve not been wearing people clothes recently, the ones I packed well, they were for before my change. I went to the door and yelled.
“Have you read the sign? All technology off your body.”
“Yeah, all in the box on the side,” the voice, a girl's one said. It wasn’t one of the few people who I had already met here. I opened the door, and tried my best not to react to the girl who was standing here. More precisely not to react to her skin color. I had seen a few mutants recently, none were blue.
“Hello to blue, uehm désolée hello to you” I babbled, now blushing in shame.
The oddly colored girl didn’t look amused, but did not make any note of my remarks.
“Hello, you’re Faraday I’m guessing.” she asked.
“Yeah, welcome to the CAGE, let’s get in, I’m already getting a headache.” I hurried her in
“Cage? This is your room then?”
“Yeah the CAGE, acronyme for Chambre Apparemment Garantie EMR-free, French for Apparently assuredly EMR-free chamber” I explained with a grin while closing the door.
“EMR-free chamber, headache” the girl noted, “You’re electrosensitive !”
“Yeah. it would appear so, mutations aren’t always fun.”
“Mine was great in the end. But yeah it’s one of the reason I came, ”
“Wait, I don’t even know your name.” I realized and interrupted.
“Oh yeah, sorry, I’m Laura Samuels, code name Cerulea, but call me Laura.”
“Faraday, I don’t use my first name at all, I have people after me.” I said, with surprising calmness for the stress of the situation. This is when I realized, I felt safe in the US, far enough away from them.
“Oh, not from the fact you look nothing like you used too?” Laura asked
“How do you know about that?” I asked, now suspicious.
“Dr Tenant , she let it slip to Tabby Cat that you might need support. There is a group of us, who one way or another found their way across the gender barrier.”
“Wait really! There is a whole group of us!?” I exclaimed, before thatI didn’t want to talk about it, I knew the US was more conservative than home, and even at home I had kept that to myself. But now my mind was racing, I wasn’t alone anymore!
“Yeah about a bit more than a dozen of us, The Whateley Transgender Support Alliance. Most members keep it a secret.”
“I’m guessing not everyone here would be fine.” I interjected
“Indeed, most of the few who are out have had, let’s say, eventful coming outs. And it was the case at my old school.”
“Oof, yeah it would have been really hard at my old school, only guys there.” I sighed, Laura was giving me a questioning look so I explained how my old school back in Switzerland worked. She was fascinated we had vocational schools so specialized at such young ages.
To be fair, and I did say it, I skipped a very early grade so I was a year younger than everyone else there.
“So you’re my new therapist? I must say I didn’t expect to get one so soon after I came” I said to Dr. Bellows.
“Are you familiar with therapy?” he asked.
“Yeah I had one back home, but he really didn’t help me much. I think he didn’t take my problems seriously. You see I came to see him for anxiety I had and he just scoffed and said it was normal for a teenager like me. But I really felt bad, to the point where I sometimes couldn’t do my homework or panicked in class so much that people would laugh at me. Especially Dylan, he was a pain in the ass back in 11H. So much so that I almost failed German due to him. And the fact I can’t get that language in my head as much as I try. I don’t know how I picked up English so well and not German.”
“I see that you’re using talking as a way to decompress. Now usually I struggle to make my patient talk, with you it will be trying to keep you on topic.” he interrupted.
“Yeah sorry, it definitely got worse recently. I can just feel my mind racing!” I exclaimed
“Dr. Tenant warned me that was the case. It would make sense given the early notes I have on your mutation, gadgeteering and exemplar traits do mess with the head in those kinds of ways.”
“I never thought so clearly before, it’s amazing!” I said excitedly
“Now I’m also aware through the notes that you changed gender with your manifestation. I know Ms Samuel already came to talk to you about that, how did it go?”
“Fine, I’m happy to have changed, I hadn’t had the time to talk to my therapist yet about it, given he barely gave me appointments when I needed, or had the courage to talk to my parents yet about it but I didn’t feel like a guy. I think I was trans and now when I see how I’m still changing it fills me with euphoria I’m sure of it. I’m so happy to have changed that way, and so quickly. I thought mutations could take years to change your appearance.”
“Yeah indeed but let’s focus on the subject. No fear, no regrets with your new gender. It can still be difficult even if accepted.”
“No but well I fear a bit how the people I know will react. Not that I can see them, oh no I can’t even say to my family I’m ok” I started crying. “They must be so terrified.”
“It’s ok, were here to help you deal with that, '' he explained.
After a while of questioning about what happened to me that my family couldn’t even visit me, that I wasn’t able to answer the doctor offered something else.
“I’d like to try talking about the events since your manifestation through hypnosis. It allows you to detach yourself from the events and me to comprehend them in order to help you deal with it.”
It all started the day I discovered I was a mutant. I had no idea yet, I mean my brother is one but there was still a chance I wouldn’t be one. We were in the digital electronic lab, doing a simple circuit on the breadboard that would compute the correct logical equation. I say simple, that’s even before the mutation kicked in I found that class quite simple, it’s just simple logic.
When I went to get my components in the drawers my eyes were drawn to some NPN transistors lying to the side. We hadn’t yet covered them in class, but instinct took over and seeing the speaker also in the drawer, I just knew I could do something with that. I secretly took them, a couple capacitors I felt were the right size, a few inductors, a potentiometer and got to work.
It took me a couple of minutes to wire everything on the breadboard, trying to not look as if I was completely ignoring the instructions on what to do. Finally I put the power on, fiddled with the potentiometer for a second and tadaa! Couleur 3 loud and clear.
“What is that?” Mr. Galliano asked, visibly annoyed, of course I’m paraphrasing, because it’s hard to directly translate anything.
“Radio, sir. It’s coming from Éric’s table” Luc snitched, obviously, and yes, Éric was my old name, never really liked it too boring, and a pain to write on a computer with the acute accent on the capital e, that something we just don’t have on QWERTZ keyboards. And my parents insisted I put it in everytime.
“I know it’s a radio but Éric, why do you have one?” He said while coming to me.
“I euhm, built it euhm sir” I stammered.
“You built this? Show me.” He said. Then looking all over the bench, looking for something. “Where did you find the schematics?”
“I euhm, didn’t use any, I just built it from the parts” I kept stammering, building a bit of confidence back because well, I was kinda proud of what I did still.
“Without schematics? Are you a mutant?” He asked me directly, anger could be felt in his voice.
“You should disclose that”
“I’m not sir! I’d tell you if I was. I was just inspired, I’m reading a lot of electronics blogs so that’s where I must have seen it.”
People in the class were all staring at us, whispering and chatting, I couldn’t make out what they were saying. But clearly it annoyed Mr. Galliano and he asked me to follow me to the headmaster’s office. With my creation in tow.
We quickly arrived there. I’d been there once before, for the interview for my admission. Back then it was stressful, but now it was even more so. I was in actual trouble, not that I think I should have been.
Mr. Riva was a gray haired man, with a short trimmed beard the same color, he looked more sympathetic than threatening as a head teacher. That reassured me, if it was my old school headmaster I would be stressing even more.
“So what did Mr. Burgener do, that you felt the need to bring him here. My understanding from the early review was that he was a brilliant yet overly quiet student. Not on my list of troublemakers.” Mr Riva stated, which once again reassured me.
Mr. Galliano told him the story of me disturbing the class with my radio, and then added.
“He must be a mutant in hiding, we should get the MCO.”
“It wouldn’t make sense if Mr. Burgener was hiding to suddenly attract attention to it that way.” Mr. Riva countered then turning to me and asked, “Did you have any weird new feelings, sensations recently.”
“I’ve been sick this weekend. Other than that, just the feeling I knew what I was doing when I built the radio. I don’t see what that has to do with me being a mutant.”
“Have you ever heard about gadgeteers, or devisors?”
I shook my head, “Not much, just that they do tech.”
“Exactly, and I’m thinking you might just be one of them.” Mr. Riva said, “just manifesting right now.”
“But I ” I started, then realized, maybe that was true, maybe I took after my brother.
“We have a test for that in place, you just go to the uni next door, follow one of their classes then try if you can use that knowledge. The one other time we had a case like you it made it clear.”
“Shouldn’t I get tested at the CHUV? That’s what they tell new mutants to do.”
“It takes weeks to get an appointment, my granddaughter just went through it.” Mr. Riva stated.
“And we need to know as soon as possible if you’re indeed one of those.” Mr. Galliano interjected.
“Our status sadly would prohibit us from further teaching you. The government decided that people like you should go to specialized teaching facilities if they want education, the GDFS, Gadgeteer Devisor Fachschule”
“That’s german,” I said worried, I was barely passing that language.
“It is in Zürich, sadly not enough people manifest in Switzerland to have more, but it’s very internationally minded”. Mr. Riva said, “I hear it’s a good school”
With that I had to go to the building a couple of streets down from my own school, accompanied by Mr. Riva.
I was put at the back of a room, a large one with an auditorium. The professor there was talking about Shannon Entropy, and its use in compression and the limitation it brought down to cryptographic systems.
My mind was racing with the new information, I started to think about what I could do with that.
Then at the end of the class I asked for a work laptop, to prove I could do something, I went down and started writing the C code, as it was what I had learned, to encrypt the files on the folders, but using the new knowledge from that class it seemed quite obvious now.
I tried it, it compiled on the first try, which even if I wasn’t bad, is still surprising. “And I just encrypted my external hardware.” I exclaimed
Mr. Rivia was watching me work, as well as the professor who did the class.
“Wait already? How much data did you have?”
“403GB, but low entropy, so I first compressed it down to 231GB, which makes the encryption easier.” I explained
“And you didn’t use OpenSSL?” the professor asked.
“I’m not familiar with that.” I said.
“I’d say I’m quite impressed, ” the professor said, “I am not sure there is any other explanation than the fact he is one of us.”
“Wait you’re?” I asked,
“A gadgeteer, yes” the professor said, “the hardest thing in my job is remembering it’s not this easy for my students.”
So I had been expelled from school for being too naturally talented at it. As a consolation prize Mr. Riva had been nice enough to let me choose a couple dozen components to take from the storage, understanding that young gadgeteers or devisors had an itch to tinker that was quite strong. And that it was better to encourage it.
He had wished me good luck and sent me home with a glowing recommendation to the GDFS, which thankfully accepted students all year long. It was apparently quite focused on self studies.
I was having a talk with my brother, about what it meant to be a mutant, how people would treat me now.
“You’re lucky, so far it doesn’t show on the outside” He told me, it’s clear that his bright orange eyes were noticeable, and I had yet to show any outward sign of change.
“Yeah, but it’s so weird! I was learning how to do that kind of thing, but now it comes to me so easily, I just know” I said, putting down the screwdriver I was using to open the TV.
“Maybe but think of it just as your genetic gift, we are gifted people, you see when I stand next to the fire without breaking a sweat, all my colleagues at the station are jealous, but that’s why I’m doing it. As Michel said, as mutants it’s our responsibility to help with what we can do better than anyone else, in order to help those who can’t” He was talking about Michel, the only other mutant I knew, a friend and colleague of my brother at the volunteer firefighter station.
“Yeah but you, and him, it’s obvious how you can help, you have physical powers. Me, it's all in my head, how can I help anyone with that, other than myself making money as an engineer.” I said, not that selflessly enriching myself would be too bad for me.
“You’ll find a way, people who want to always do!” He said reassuringly.
“Éric, there is a letter for you.” My mother announced.
Who could it be? I never receive letters. Maybe it was the GDFS already responding. I grabbed the letter, no couldn’t be them, there was just my name on the letter, no address. So people went to the building to deliver it, that was odd. I opened it. It was black paper with a red inscription, a bunch of numbers in a circle, with more numbers on the side.
“Who is it from?” My brother asked.
“I don’t know, don't say.” I stared at the cycle more intensely, having one of those feelings I was now used to getting where I just knew the answer, “I think it’s a cypher, can I borrow your laptop, I’m gonna need some processing power.”
I went to work in what my brother later described as a trance-like state, trying various algorithms to get a meaning out of the scrambled numbers. It took me most of the day, mainly because our laptops were so old and slow. I think I skipped lunch, I’m not entirely sure, the details around the work are blurry. When suddenly I cracked it, Goeldi.mut/dQw4w9WgXcQ.
It was a website, a mutant website, so normally blocked, but I just knew how to get access, not due to my weird power, but because the professor from yesterday told me how to do it.
There wasn’t anything, the page just blinked, and closed. I went to see Goeldi.mut's homepage, but it was just a login. Now I had a feeling that I could get past it, but it would take more work than I had the energy to do right now. It was already 22:00, way past the time I would normally go to sleep. I saw my parents looking a bit scared at how furiously I had been typing.
“Are you ok?” My father asked, “you’ve been locked in here all day, you even skipped meals. We didn’t dare bother you since you weren’t even noticing us”
“Oh, ehm yeah now that you mention it, I’m ravenous.” I said. “I think I’m just getting caught in projects easily now…” I kinda hated that my mutation was changing how I think, but at the same time it had felt so satisfying to put the cypher back together.
Dr. Bellows’ appointment had stopped just before reaching the hard part, so it had left me thinking about them, what happened, and that completely cut me off from the motivation to draw schematics. I felt trapped, I stared at the walls, a cell. I wanted to step off, do what I hadn’t been able to do at the chalet.
I knew intellectually that my new prison was for my own good, to prevent me from dying but it was consuming my soul, the travel I could put it into perspective, I had to be there for the better. But this, now, this prison with a smelly porta potty, was my better place. I had been there only two days and I was already sick of this place. I wasn’t fully alone, but the fact my two visitors of the day left so quickly just felt like a knife in the back. A reminder that people could leave, I couldn’t.
Tears rolled on my cheeks, I was shaking, my head was starting to hurt, it was like an icepick was running through my head. I finally snapped and let out a primal piercing scream.
“Oh, sorry, I was bringing dinner, I’m guessing it’s not the right time.” A voice sounded from the door.
“Yeah not a good time, I’m not really hungry.” I snapped back at the door, that was a lie, I was really hungry, but I didn’t want to see anyone. “Just leave it behind the door, I’ll get it later.”
“It would be cold, and Mrs. Bardue insisted you needed someone.” the door insisted.
“She sent you?”
“Yeah, she asked those of us who can go out for someone to be a buddy for you. Get you stuff, keep you company, help you get along.” Those of us who can get out, way to rub salt in the wound. I didn’t manage to contain the next wave of sobbing.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m bad at this. I should have let someone else do it, I’m screwing things up for you.” The girl said, sounding herself sad.
“No it’s definitely me the problem, et cette putain de cage.”
“Oh you’re feeling bad because you’re locked up?” She said, a bit more lively.
“Am I that obvious?” I snapped, still annoyed
“I completely understand you, I spent a few weeks locked in here before learning how to control my power.” She said.
“Really?” Now I felt a bit more like talking.
“Yeah but can I come in? Would be simpler than yelling through that door”
“Yeah, come in!” I finally accepted, maybe someone who lived this experience could be better company than Laura or that psychiatrist. Laura had been nice, but she didn’t understand, not that I talked about that. I had been in a good mood then, until she left.
I opened the door, definitely this school was full of surprises. After the blue girl this morning, I was now faced with a floating girl.
Thankfully I didn’t say anything stupid this time. She did.
“I’m sorry I’m gravitationally challenged.”
“I can see that” I said, getting out of the way so she could float down inside. I quickly closed the door afterward, not wanting even the faintest hint of a headache.
She slowly proceeded to straighten herself up on the wall and put her feets back to the ground.
“I can go back down now, but it takes some effort. I’m Zero G by the way, but you can call me Sophie”
“I’m Faraday, I don’t have a first name.” I said, feeling a bit better now
“How come ?” She asked
“It’s a very long story, and I honestly don’t know you enough to tell.” I told her soberly
“Oh, you’re the secretive type ok. I won’t push, Faraday it is.”
“Good, I can work with that”
She was staring at the porta potty I had in the side of my room, “You’re really stuck in this room to that point?”
“Yeah it’s too dangerous out there, especially with all the wild tech and energizers running around this school I can’t risk it. Mrs. Bardue apparently has a hoverchair, the em field from that alone could probably kill me.”
“Oh wow, she said you had it bad but I didn’t realize quite how much.”
“It’s likely only getting worse. According to Dr. Tenant it’s either that or it is a transient property of my mutation that will settle when done changing fully.”
"So you could be okay in the end?"
"It's possible but I don't know for sure. And I can't go to the labs where they could figure it out" I explained.
“When I arrived I had no control over my power.” She started explaining “I’d cancel gravity for everything around me, I broke so many things that just fell from being near me.”
“How did you travel then? Doesn’t seem safe in a plane, or when you’re out”
“A friend is a long range teleporter”
“Oh great, that would have been useful” I explained how I had to travel to Whateley, she was quite shocked, I then went into the details of how electronics cause my “allergy” for lack of a better term.
Sophie spent the evening with me. She was quite friendly and pulled me out of my foul mood. In the end she also demonstrated her power letting me float away in my cage. That was super fun.
My new friend just flew into my room with lunch boxes. It became a tradition since Wednesday she'd bring me food, we'd talk, get to know each other, she'd talk about what happens outside of Hawthorne or in the other rooms.
Until now other than generic living in Switzerland comments, I didn't open much on my past. But today, I felt it was time. I didn't want to wait so long with Sophie before I told her the truth about who I am.
"How's my favorite Swiss doing?" She asked.
"I'm happy, they finally came to install my bathroom" I said.
"Oh good, you seem a bit tense still, is something wrong?"
"Yeah, well, not really wrong yet. But stressful. It could end up badly.”
“I have to talk to you about my past.”
“Oh, well let’s start eating, and we'll do that. I promise not to overreact, if that’s what you're afraid of.” Then she smiled at me, “You’re not a supervillain in hiding are you?”
I burst out laughing, then cautiously said, “I’m hiding from supervillains, but no, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I’m not ready yet to talk about that with anyone other than my therapist.”
“Oh, yeah that sounds traumatic. If you need to talk to someone else, know I’ll be there for you.”
“Thanks, you’ve already been a great help about the pain of being locked up.” I took my lunch box and sat at the small table dedicated for that purpose in my room. Sophie did the same, pulling herself back in the seat and reactivating her gravity.
“So what I will tell you, it can’t leave this room.” I said, very seriously, to make the gravity of the situation clear. Sophie nodded.
“I don’t know what would happen if other people knew, but it wouldn’t be good for me.”
“Well so far except the Thornies nobody knows who you are.”
“Yeah, but I heard things can spread fast. You’ve heard about Calliope?” I asked cautiously.
“The Italian girl who got outed to the whole campus for being born a guy? I’ve not followed it closely, but I did feel bad for her in how she was treated.” I let out a sigh of relief, she continued, “but that was more than a month ago, how did you hear about it?”
“That reassures me. You see, I’m like Calliope.” I said, for once my mind wasn’t running my mouth as fast as it could, I was weighing every word.
“Oh” My friend exclaimed in surprise. Then followed an awkward silence as she was staring at me.
“Good!” She finally exclaimed, “If you didn’t change I wouldn’t have met you”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“Well if Mrs. Bardue told us that a guy needed help I wouldn’t have volunteered, and you would have to share this meal with Hypergolic or someone like that.”
I giggled, “You’re stupid.” she giggled back.
“More seriously. It’s fine you were a guy in the past.” She said, "I've not known you long but still I like you, and I can only see you as a girl. I hope you don't take that the wrong way, I don't know how you feel about this"
"Oh I love it, I wasn't happy as a guy. That's probably why my BIT was that of a girl"
"Oh great! Then I'm happy for you. Thanks for telling me, like I said it changes nothing in the way I see you"
"It's still new to me though, I still looked mostly like a guy when I left Switzerland, I had already guessed what was happening but nobody else had. Then I think, well the doctors think that my manifestation was accelerated by the copper supplement I was given for the trip, which made my body think it was ideal conditions to change and changed faster than it should have. But even now I'm still changing. I wouldn't pass for a girl with a proper exam."
"I see that you found your talkativeness back" Sophie commented.
"Yeah I'm so reassured, I was really afraid that you'd react badly, I mean I've been through a lot recently and the thought of losing my only friend was terrifying. But I didn't want to lie to you, I need people outside the Whateley Transgender Support Alliance"
"Wait, there is a group for people like you?"
"Yeah but it's pretty secretive, I can't tell you who in it that I met, because she is not out publicly, I've yet to meet the rest of them and I can't wait, because while I am happy to be a girl, I still don't know anything about being one"
"I could teach you maybe, want me to bring my makeup bag tonight"
"That would be fantastic, you have no idea how good it feels to be treated like one of the girls and not like an outcast guy. I never really mixed with the others in school. Oh yeah another thing, I'm thinking about, you see I told you I didn't use my first name, well it's mainly due to this. And the supervillain problem. But I was thinking maybe we could get our brains together and find me a new name. Because Sophie, I don't want you to call me Faraday all the time. It doesn't feel personal to go with a codename that will end up on my MID, of course you could call me Fara or another shortening like that but I don't know. Faraday is not necessarily me, it's just a name that describes me, the mutant, not me the person. And I am going to need a name for my parents, I won't have them call me Faraday. Well I'm in no stress there because well, I can't see them until the supervillain problem is fixed. It's a real pain but at least I'm safe in Whateley."
"Do you ever need to breathe? Talking so much is your true superpower I feel" Sophie commented.
"Well I'm an exemplar. I might have superhuman lungs" I joked. "But no, according to the power tester who came here yesterday I'm likely not a huge physical exemplar, I seem to have it all in the mind, which according to Dr Bellows is likely why I talk so much, the mouth can't keep up with my super brain."
"Or your modesty" Sophie interrupted.
"Hey!" I countered.
“But yeah, a name.” Sophie continued, “How exciting that you trust me with that!”
“I’ll keep my veto right, so don’t offer things too silly!”
“What was your old name, we could start with that”
“Non, there is only one feminine variation and I don’t like it.” I really didn’t want to be called Érica, I wasn’t much of a fan of Éric and that name was even worse.
“Okay, do you have any idea or should I get the baby names books from the library?” Sophie asked, "I'd google it but I can't with you there."
"I don't know, there is so much choice"
"What about Julie? I think you have that name in Switzerland too"
"Yeah but I can't help but think of Julie Sierro, an old classmate. I don't want a name that will remind me of someone I know."
"Marie?" Sophie offered.
"Too biblical, I'm not religious so I don't want a biblical name" I countered
"Okay that removes a lot."
Then I had an idea, I remembered the last day of class, when I went to get checked by that professor. He had been talking about a mathematician. I've been reading his work since.
"Shannon!" I exclaimed.
"Not very french"
"Well I'm in the US now, and anglicized names are trendy around home."
"Okay, Shannon" Sophie tried my name.
"Yeah it works, I'm Shannon Burgener. Sha for short. Like the secure hashing algorithms"
"You're a nerd" she giggled.
"So Shannon, it's good that you found a new name." Dr Bellows said, "it's an unusual one for someone from your country, is there any deeper meaning behind it?"
"It's an homage to Claude Shannon, famous mathematician, who basically created information theory. I love that. And it's special for me, because it's with a class talking about that I found out I'm a mutant. And I do work with information theory a lot in my work, got a book on that to keep me occupied. Shannon is a name that means a lot to the new me."
"I see so you’re really focusing on your new life, letting the gadgeteering trait govern your life.” Dr. Bellows commented.
“The old me would probably also have been interested in information theory, if I had encountered it, it’s really interesting and totally the kind of thing I did before.”
“Yeah, I don’t often meet people like you whose technological interest predates their mutation. Do you have anything else to say or shall we go back to the hypnosis.”
When I woke up, I knew immediately that something was wrong. I wasn’t in my bedroom. I was still on a bed, sitting on top of the cover. The light was coming through the window. My head was still fuzzy, I stood up slowly. The room was free of features, just a bed, a window, and a door, and the walls were clad in wood. I looked through the window, I was somewhere in the Alps, I didn’t know enough to know more. I was sure that Michel would have been able to, he’d recognise the mountains immediately.
I was dressed in my pajamas. That made me realize, even through my fuzzy head, it wasn’t normal, I should be at home. I should be in Lausanne, with a view of the Léman, not whatever mountains I was looking at. Something was really wrong. I rushed toward the door, thankfully it was open. I arrived in a cozy chalet, very modern with an electric fireplace. There was bread on the table with butter and a jar of jam.
I felt like I’d been kidnapped, but at the same time, my kidnappers were oddly kind, it seems, I wasn’t in a basement. Still I didn’t want to stay there, so I went to the other doors in the room, starting with the one that looked the most like the main door. All doors other than the one from the room I’ve come from were locked.
“Is anyone there?” I yelled. There was no answer. So I went to have breakfast. The jam was strawberries, my favorite.
I then waited, looking in every storage space for something I can use to take down the radio and tv, in order to communicate with someone. To ask for help. But my captors had been foresighted and removed anything other than the butter knife. I could maybe undo a couple of screws, but not the smallest ones on the devices.
When I finally decided, ‘ok I’m going to do that’ and turned over the tv to start taking it apart.
“I wouldn't do that if I were you.” A voice said from behind me, it was a woman’s voice, with a heavy swiss german accent while speaking french. I turned to see a very tall lanky woman, with purple hair.
I froze and dropped the knife I had been struggling to work with.
"So Éric, you're probably wondering why we took you"
"Who…who are you?" I struggled to ask.
"The name is Hax. And don't worry, I won't hurt you." The woman said, sitting down at the table.
"We're part of a group, a top secret security group." She continued "our work is of the utmost importance for the safety of all mutants, you've been recruited due to your burgeoning talent."
"So you're some kind of spies?" I asked excitedly.
She had a faint smirk and she replied, "Yes now I am sorry for our methods. We had to make it look like a disappearance for your own safety. Nobody can know you're working with us. So you can't contact anyone"
"Okay" that was rough, but also so exciting a true super spy agency. This seems perfectly to be the kind of thing I was probably meant to do with my gift.
"You see, the letter you received yesterday was a recruitment tool our last gadgeteer left us. To find someone who can fill his boots after he had to leave."
"It was a hard one to solve, especially with limited material" I said.
"Limited material won't be a problem now" she stood up and opened one of the doors. It was amazing, I'd never seen a desk with that many PC screens on outside of TV. There were also spectrum analysers, oscilloscopes and full of other network equipment.
"This will be your workplace"
With that the main door opened and two figures came inside the chalet.
The first wasn't scary, a sporty androgynous person, a woman I guess, with electric blue hair in a pixie cut . She was dressed in a leather jacket and tight fitting jeans.
The other one however I shivered just watching him. He was tall, taller than anyone I’ve ever met, he had to lower himself just to enter. And his face, it was not a human face but a wolf, he was an overgrown werewolf.
"Éric, this is Plasma and Monstre du Valais, they will be here to keep you safe."
"No need to be afraid, I don't bite. Unless I have to" Monstre du Valais said, it was unmistakably him with that name because he's a monster and his accent was thick from a valley of the Valais. It completely clashed with his wolf-like appearance.
Next Hax explained what I'd have to do. Apparently I was testing the safety of a server that according to her was used by humanity first. The famous anti mutant group. I had heard of them on TV before. Apparently their security was really high. My goal was to access the server, stay unseen on that and then assist them with the attack on the building to liberate assets. I was surprised that a spy organization didn’t have anyone else to do that, but she said something about the previous one having to leave. Maybe for an even more important mission I thought.
I woke up still in the chalet. I was absently scratching the back of my right hand, I looked at it. There was a spot of orange metal about 1 cm long, 3mm wide on the back of it. It looked like copper. It was really stuck to the skin. I scratched it harder, almost to the blood and it didn’t bulge.
I went into the main room, Plasma was watching TV, Monstre du Valais wasn’t anywhere to see. Good, he was still intimidating me greatly. I hesitated for a bit, would I bother Plasma about the copper on my hand. But I was too scared to not do anything.
“Ehum, Plasma I was wondering, could you check something for me.” I asked politely, she wasn't as intimidating as Monstre, she was still a bit scary.
"What is it kid?" She said, coming over to me.
I held my hand and showed the mark. "It's stuck"
She looked over at me and said, "your eyes have changed color too and I see some shiny bits in your face. You're still changing."
"My eyes… changing" I muttered to myself.
"You didn't think my hair came from the bottle, or that Monstre was born like that. Congratulations you have GSD kid" Plasma said.
"You mean, I'm going to be a visible mutant"
"Yep, now get to work, it became even more personal for you" she hushed me.
I went back to work, but I couldn't help but think about what it ment. I was a visible mutant, my skin was changing to be made of copper it seemed.
And then I dreaded how much I would change, would I end up like Monstre du Valais, completely disfigured, or like Michel, a super muscled hunk…
Both options seemed bad for me, I was afraid I would look too much like a man that I couldn't if I ever got the courage to transition. Right now I was frail, small and thin, I could probably pass. I was still too afraid to talk about it to anyone about that, but it had been on my mind a lot. But what if I changed in a way like Michel and while not disfigured was stuck looking like a man. I shuddered to think about that.
Of course there was the skin too, which made it scary. If I got copper skin I'd never pass unremarked, it would attract attention to my looks, something I could not deal with.
With all that my work on the server barely progressed, I still was scanning the packets too and from it to find some kind of pattern to them, but they were encrypted, using an algorithm I didn’t know, and didn’t look like any of the standard ones my internet research came up with.
I think the first step would be to reverse engineer the algorithm they use, then try to find the keys, but all that seemed really complicated, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do so.
I then had to go to the toilet and I met the mirror. “Wow” I exclaimed, my eyes, they were striking, instead of my old brown there was a green, but not the normal brown green eye that some people had, really a deep green of an electronic circuit, the look was even more of that of a circuit because there was shiny flakes in it that looked just like the copper pads.
And yeah next to the eyes I had another line of copper, this one a bit bigger. I could feel it with my hand when rubbing it. That made me want to check all my body for other lines. I took off my shirt, I couldn’t see any on my torso, I went to rub my back. There was one spot, a large one in the middle, just at the base of the neck. It was a 15mm wide square.
I went back to work, still worried about my skin. I started to get some weird shock-like sensations at the back of my neck, just underneath the spot that was likely covered in copper. I was a bit worried, maybe my manifestation was going wrong. I couldn’t talk to anyone about that, Plasma was out to get pizzas, and I was too intimidated with Monstre du Valais. And doesn’t help that his thick accent made him seem like a farmer, so I doubt he would have anything to help from a medical standpoint.
About half an hour later I started to have a faint buzzing headache. I didn’t know back then, but that was the start of a lot more headache in my futur.
My skin had kept changing so much. But now I didn't fear that it would cover everything. It seemed to develop in lines, the three spots I had all grown. The one on the hand made a 45 degrees turn to the left, that's what had made me think they are lines and not a full coverage.
There were now 4 other spots where the copper was growing. The other hand on the palm, both of my legs and my torso. Whatever was happening it affected the whole body.
My health had been deteriorating, I've been getting cold, tired easily, and worse there was the headaches. The longer I worked the worse it got, much to the annoyance of Hax and the ones looking after me.
They refused to get me a doctor and just fed me dafalgan to help with the headaches.
Hax had been coming every couple of days to check on my progress. She didn’t seem very happy that I basically only broke one layer of encryption in all that time. I had discovered 7 layers in total I’d need to break before having access to the data.
But I had managed to make her understand that this was a very extreme measure and normally people only used one layer. She had brought me the data that the previous gadgeteer had gathered. I was scanning through it, there were programs and tools that could be useful for the decryption.
But scanning through the drive I found a folder that contained pictures, curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. There was a picture of the gadgeteer, standing next to Hax. I don’t know how but I immediately recognised that face, I had seen his face on the 19h30. He was the mutant that had been arrested for the draining of numerous accounts at the UBS, of course all the money had been brought back. But I remembered they had talked about him being part of a larger mutant criminal world.
That bothered me, if Göldi was a super spy network why would a low level criminal like him get involved with them. What was Hax doing with him?
The tools written on that disk were also perfectly usable to do the hack of the banks, like I could easily see how it was done. I then thought of what I was asked to do, I didn’t even know what server I was hacking, just that Humanity First had things there, but out of the few clear messages coming from them, there was nothing to indicate that, it was simple financial transactions, I decided to check them with a public repository. I found that the server I was hacking was the BNS, the swiss national bank. Not somewhere you could hide funds, because it was entirely controlled by the gouvernement.
Other things also didn’t make sense, why kidnap me, why prevent me from talking to my family, why not just get the messages to be sure I don’t give out too much information. Why rely on a 14 year old kid. Why did the guard look like thugs, Plasma with the way she dressed and her disrespectful behavior, always the feets on the table and smoking like a chimney, and Monstre du Valais being a literal monster.
There was one way it made sense. Göldi wasn’t a super spy group, it was the bad guys the news had talked about when they arrested that gadgeteer.
I needed to send a message out, but not to my family, they might surveil them and they wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. No I needed to send a message out to the superheroes, but how? How do you get in contact with superheroes when you’ve been kidnapped by the bad guys? My first guess, the 117 and ask them. But no, no phone, and given who I’m working for, normal lines of communication online might be surveilled.
Then I thought, the attack the previous gadgeteer did, superheroes were the one to make the arrest, maybe if I repeated it that would bring their attention. And maybe I could leave a message with that.
Yes, I had the plan completely formed, I’d repeat the UBS attack on Credit Suisse, and drain all the accounts but leaving a number between 0 and 7 in each. And I’d write my message in octal.
I immediately set out to do that, being careful to not watch my captors too closely, I didn’t want them to realize my outlook over them had changed.
“Is that electronics?” Sophie asked from near the ceiling. “I thought you were allergic”
“Only if it’s powered on, I’ve been working on stuff like that all weekend. I will soon have contact with the outside world!”
“So that’s why you didn’t want me to come yesterday?”
“Yeah I was working, got my PC setup, I’ll just need your help to plug everything and do the initial setup.”
“If I understand what you need me to do.”
“Just type this into the keyboard when we plugged in the PC” I said holding a few sheets of paper.
“Wait, don't you need a soldering iron to work on electronics, aren’t those electronic?” Sophie asked.
“Most are, but I used a butane one, not ideal in a closed room but better than the headache of a PSU running a normal soldering iron”
“And how did you afford all that?” she said looking at the monster PC case that was in an alveoli dug into my room. With a heavy door in front, that could close. That was one of the advantages of being underground, they could simply dig space for my material.
“The core PC, I bought it thanks to federal money, they are paying for my stay and have enough for needs like that. Because yes I need a 256 core processor at 5.2GHz, with a 3’540 TFLOPS parallel computing unit. The rest is on loan from the tech department” I smiled thinking of finally having even more processing power than I did at the chalet
“Those numbers mean nothing to me.” Sophie commented
“They are big, that’s all that matters.” I smiled.
“And that device you’re working on.” She asked.
“I think the proper term when someone like me does it is gadget, and it’s a communicator, will allow me to travel with you in your pocket and hear the world through you. I put in a 360° camera but I can’t deal with screens so I’m not sure I’ll use it.”
“So what do I need to do?”
“There is a screen outside the room, and a keyboard.” I explained, “You can go there and type the page I gave you but first, I’ll need you to turn on that switch and close the door as quickly as possible. I’m gonna stand as far away as possible from the PC.”
Sophie did just that, bringing the beast of a machine to life, and oh boy was the headache powerful and sudden. It was well present, a less violent version of the ones I got from the walkie-talkies, but still. I couldn’t have done it without her. The door was then closed and the headache very quickly receded.
Now Sophie exited the room.
“If everything got set up like I asked, there should be a button called zlion on the desktop.” I explained, “Click on it”
“Done” Sophie said, “there is a menu what do I do”
“Select the option new zmake program, then replace the text in the editor by what’s on the pages I gave you. Then press the green arrow, it will compile and run the program.”
It took sophie a good 15 minutes to copy all the documents I gave her,
“Done, but I fear I might have done a mistake or two”
“Don’t worry, I’ve done it so the first instructions checks the hash of the file to confirm it’s correct. You can’t break anything with a mistake.” I reassured her.
“It says daemon initialized” Sophie said, “Is that good? Because it doesn’t sound good”
“Yeah it’s good, I now have a self upgradable bit of code I can improve myself. This was the minimum bootstrap I needed. Thank you so much, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“No worries, that’s what I signed up for when I learned you were a gadgeteer. At least you’re not a devisor, those can be scary.”
“Oh yeah, I operate fully within the boundary of physics, unlike them”
Sophie came back inside.
“So what’s next?” Sophie asked.
“Now I have to scan those pages that contain the upgraded program, so I can upload the program from text.” I held my bunch of pages, it was painstakingly marked down. They were composed of a grid, with black squares for one, and white squares for zeroes. I had written directly the machine code for my program.
“So all you have is a scanner?”
“And a printer, and when I get my stuff running I’ll get a voice interface.” I explained to Sophie.
“The scanner is for code and schematics, the printer for outputs, and the voice interface is for general navigation and talking with the rest of the world. However the sound quality behind the aluminium membrane, that isolates it electromagnetically, is too degraded for a good comprehension, so my plan is to either clean up the sound artificially, but that would take time. So the first part I’m going to pass it through speech to text, and then text to speech, because I can use off the shelf software for that. Mrs. Cody helped me to choose the libraries for that.”
“So you’re gonna sound like Steven Hawkings?” Sophie asked,
“Nah, but it will mask my accent, which might be good.”
“I mean you can say you’re swiss, nobody from your supervillain group will be in Whateley.” Sophie said.
“Yeah, be proud of where you come from, go see the Berets. You’re safe, nobody will do anything in Whateley, they’d get the wrath of all heroes of America and elsewhere, and even the Syndicate.”
“But what about when I go out?”
“Weren’t you still a guy when you were in Switzerland? Odds are they wouldn’t even recognise you when you get out. Live a little, you’re already stuck in this box, don’t limit yourself too much”
Sophie was right, I was safe in Whateley, I could be safe to share where I come from, share about my past, well some of my past. But Göldi couldn’t do anything. Even if they found out I was out of their reach. Now I did have to be somewhat safe, not let them know because they could go after my family, even with the GFIEN on the case. So I needed to not do anything to annoy them.
I finished the work on the desktop, after the minimal machine code I had my optical character recognition running. And then I could put some code directly, written by hand, and install the libraries for the text to speech. It then progressed very quickly and I could joke with Sophie a bit more while working. She was doing her homework while I was working on my setup.
Then it was time to set up the communicator, I needed Sophie’s help for that too.
“I’m going to program the communicator, the hardware is done. It’s pretty basic, I used off the shelf components, I might do a better one once I’m set up with the labs.” I explained.
“So now I don’t have to type anything?” Sophie asked.
“No, just plug in the communicator and switch it on. There is a USB cable to load it.”
“And then you’ll be able to talk with me when I’m out?”
“Yeah and the plan was to have you give it to people if I need to talk to them.”
Sophie went out and plugged the gadget into the system. I heard the ding dong of the device getting plugged in. I then said the magic words.
“ANODE load zmakelist.txt found in folder ComGadget to target device”. ANODE was the name of the program I made to communicate with my PC with the different means I have. It stands for Accès Non-standard sur Ordinateur pour Développement et Études. And Anode is a name that has been coined by the historical Faraday, so it was good to give him another homage like this.
“ANODE activate com gadget.” I needed to find a better name for that gadget, so I brainstormed for a bit at hyperspeed. It was my first communication device, so it made sense to call it after Marconi. I’d find a backronym for it later.
“ANODE rename com gadget MARCONI” I gave the command.
“This is Faraday calling Zero G” I said.
“I hear you loud and clear, voice is not yours tho.” Sophie replied. I did hear her, it was a bit tinny, but not surprising given the insolation I had.
“Yeah it’s text to speech, you hear the voice called Chloe. You don’t hear any cross talk?”
“Good you’re dismissed then, why not go for dinner with your other friends. You’ve been eating with me a lot since I arrived, and you can take me with you now.”
With that she left, and went to her usual table at crystal hall, the MARCONI was placed in the middle of the table. I decided I could use the camera to print the pictures of the people around so I quickly whipped out an off the shelf facial recognition with OpenCV and used that to isolate the faces from the feed of the 360° camera.
The friends of Sophie were really friendly and it really made me feel less alone, this was amazing. This week had been long, but I had managed to connect back with the outside word, and that felt good. I was still stuck but now I wasn’t alone. I felt a bit better.
It has been three days since I discovered the truth about my captors, and two days since I had emptied the accounts of random people on Crédit Suisse, and I felt bad about that, but I knew they would get it back, I had moved everything to an account specifically done for that, that I had opened at an online bank and the trail was quite obvious, my IP had been also broadcasted in clear during the process, they should find me easily. I just hoped they would get the message.
Another thing I thought after, was that if they talked about the hack on the news before they came to rescue me I might have a big problem with Hax. But no, I had been watching the news and nothing came out of it.
However Hax was here today, she was not happy, my fatigue had gotten worse, I was barely able to work more than 4 hours a day, especially as a headache would build slowly while working. Even the growth of the copper areas had stopped.
“I’m sorry” I said, “I think my mutation isn’t going right.”
“Yeah but we can’t sacrifice the project.” Hax said, “You deserve to know a world without mutant discrimination.”
“Can’t I just see a doctor?” I pleaded.
“Once you’ve done enough progress for us to have access in the server, we can’t have anyone know you work for us”
“If you break the encryption, I can take the rest of the work” Plasma stated, “I’m no gadgeteer but I have training in IT”
“Okay, I’ll try my best but I must say I’m really not in a good shape”
“We see that Éric, but it’s too important, we can’t delay the operation much further. I promise you the first thing we’ll do when it’s done is get you to the hospital.” Hax said, I don’t know how they thought their ruse still worked, thankfully I was too tired to look suspicious.
Suddenly the window exploded, and in the middle of the table was a crossbow bolt, which immediately started fuming like crazy. The whole chalet was filled with smoke. We all jumped from our seats. Hax yelled,
“Monstre, take Éric.”
I was grabbed by the wolf monster, and he lifted me from the ground with ease. I still couldn’t see anything. The wall exploded and a flying shape came through, I saw its blur coming toward us. It punched Monstre du Valais, sending him tumbling down and me with him.
The figure then yelled something in Swiss German I didn’t understand.
The valaisan let me go to fight the blur, he yelled “Bärnerbär!” I recognized that name, it was a famous superhero, the bear from Bern, leader of the GFIEN, the Groupe Fédéral d'Intervention Extra Naturel, The superhero group of the confederation, they were there to protect us over all the territory. I thought to myself that finally I was saved. They were there. And everybody knows the good guys always win, so I was sure to be saved. At least with their entrance they had the advantage.
“Monstre du Valais, this time you won’t escape me.” Bärnerbär said in French, with a heavy accent. I suddenly felt a pressure in my head, at the same time I heard a buzzing sound. I turned my head toward the source of the sound. It was Plasma, she had two plasma swords in her hands. That’s when I realized, the copper on my skin, the headaches it all made sense now.
The copper was an antenna, it received the electromagnetic waves and transmitted them to my nervous system. The spikes of pains I felt, those must have been the nerves connecting. But the connection must be screwy and instead of doing something useful with the information that there are waves near me it built in headaches for me. That’s why it got worse and worse the longer I worked, because I’m in the office with all the equipment and who knows how many different perturbations to the field.
Then suddenly water rushed into the chalet. That reminded me that there was a fight for life and death happening. A figure surfed the wave that arrived and drop kicked Plasma down. It was a woman, I recognise her, having seen her at Ouchy, it was Naïade, one of the few Romands in the GFIEN. I knew she could control water and was super athletic.
She started trading blows with Plasma, astonishingly enough she had the upper hand with a water sword and shield over the plasma weapons of my captor.
I pivoted to see what Hax was doing. She seemed busy deviating bolts that fumed and exploded and throwing fireballs to the outside. I was guessing Tell was the one to send them, the hero inspired by our most famous folk hero.
Bärnerbär was fighting with Monstre du Valais, both were hairy, both were massive. It was impressive, and happening a little too close to me for my comfort. Monstre was on the offensive, punching wildly while Bärnerbär was parring the punch with ease. And suddenly he took advantage of a particularly strong punch from Monster, which was easily parried and unbalanced the wolf creature. He then slammed the creature hard on the wall, breaking it, and some of the lab equipment behind. The wolf was down. He didn’t seem to be moving.
The bear yelled something else in Swiss German, and I saw him fly toward Plasma, and held her and threw her at Hax. With Hax on the ground and Plasma dazzled, the team moved quickly. I saw Tell in the back launch a bolt that deployed as shackles to hold both Plasma’s arms, and legs. Hax disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Bärnerbär went back to secure the wolf, who was already moving again. And Naïade ran toward me. I raised my hands and said, in french of course, I knew she spoke french, “I yield. I’m the one who sent the message.”
“I see.” Dr. Bellows exclaimed when I awoke from the hypnosis, “You had a difficult time with both your mutation and kidnapping. Tell me how you feel now?”
“Safer but I’m worried for my family. They still don’t know what happened to me. I’ve not seen them in 33 days, never been cut off from them for that long.”
“I’ll see what I can do to have you contact them.”
“Bärnerbär says it’s too dangerous, Hax is still out there and according to him she’d want to take revenge on me one way or another. Since I’m hidden, there isn’t any other way than going after my family. I’m scared for them.”
“I’ll talk to Mazarin if he has contact with Göldi to make it possible to avoid that. I think it’s important for your recovery that you can talk to your family”
“No please, they’d know I’m here if you do that. And apparently the ones I met weren’t the worst, they were just the French speaking ones, chosen due to my language. I don’t want to have to deal with all their mages, magic scares me. Hax was already enough.”
“Mazarin wouldn’t do anything that would endanger a student, he’s dedicated to your cause.”
“Yeah but don’t, I don’t want the help of another supervillain. It bothers me. I want to solve the issue myself.”
“I can assure you I have my full trust in our headmaster, but if you're more comfortable without it I won’t push you. Doing it yourself could also be good for your recovery. You talked about fatigue during your stay there, you don’t seem to be suffering from that anymore.”
“It was a copper deficiency, it was getting pulled to the skin, and hair. I’ve been taking supplements ever since the medics of GFIEN took a look at my blood samples.”
“I see, anything else you’d like to talk about?”
“I had a nightmare this night, that my brother was eviscerated by Monstre du Valais.” Tears came to my eyes as the very vivid dream came back to me.
“Does that happen a lot?”
“Past few nights, it wakes me up and then I have to work on designs to calm my mind. I don’t get much sleep.” I explained.
“I can prescribe you sleeping pills if this bothers you too much. But if I understand it fully that mutant has been captured”
“I know, it’s just, he’s so scary.”
“He can’t hurt you or your family anymore.” Dr. Bellows stated reassuringly.
“I guess, but the others in Göldi can. And I’m the reason they lost two members and their chance at overthrowing the BNS. So I’m sure they are going to come after me or my family.”
“I can’t say that’s not possible, or even likely. But you need to trust your friends in the GFIEN.”
“They don’t want me to see them,” I cried, “merde ils me manquent, je veux juste pouvoir revoir mes parents. Et mon frère. J’en peux plus de plus de pas avoir de nouvelles, c’est trop dur sans eux.” tears were flowing heavily
“I’ve not understood everything, but I get the feeling. You miss them and I understand that. I’ll try to contact Bärnerbär, organize contact with your family. You need it.”
“Merci” I said “Thank you”
“Now I know you have your first class very soon, will you be able to go there?”
I wiped my tears, “Yeah, it will change my mind. And ANODE will hide the fact I’m crying.” I then had to explain ANODE to dr. Bellows, and going into technical details pulled me out of my problems. The psychiatrist then had to leave once I was done.
I went to my desk, the class of advanced electronics was going to start soon. It was my first class.
I tuned in the classroom teleconference unit. The professor welcomed me immediately. “Greetings Faraday. Class, we have a new student joining our class. Sadly due to health reasons, she won’t be able to join us in the labs just yet. There is hope the situation will resolve itself. I’m asking for you to be kind to her. And there is a tiny bit of extra credit if you create and test her designs, especially for the devisors among you. It could be interesting to work on someone else’s designs. Faraday do you have something to say to the class”
I sighed, I didn’t want to talk too much to the class “Hello, euhm I’m Faraday, but you can call me Sha. If you’re interested in working on a high end security system, that’s my next electronics project so contact me.”
Class was actually a theory class. It was interesting but a bit difficult to follow with only the audio and a couple of pictures every once in a while. I missed a lot of the information the teacher was writing on the blackboard. I would need to figure out a way to get a screen in the CAGE. Remote learning wasn’t ideal in the end.
“You know what, you’re too slow” I said to Sophie through the MARCONI, “I need to build some thrusters for you, so you can fly there.”
“Today is a red flag day anyway!” My Canadian friend contered.
“So you’re not against the idea of me strapping rockets to you. Good.” I smiled.
“Well we’ll talk about that later” her tone made me think she wasn’t totally on board.
“But think about it, with your power you’re already halfway there, no need to fight gravity, just propel you in the direction of the movement, could give you so much freedom.”
“I’m stopping this before it becomes a rant about thrusters. Why couldn’t you just call them? You managed to do that for your classes.”
“Meeting isn’t in a classroom, the intercoms are just for there. And the MARCONI is cooler and gives me more of a physical presence. And I can see their faces that way.”
“Okay, yeah, maybe it’s better for you.”
“And them! They can pass me to someone else when they are tired of me.” I laughed at my own joke.
“It’s true that you come with an off button with that device, thankfully.” Sophie teased me.
“Anyway, I’m seeing two european students, let me hail them, maybe they can take you.”
I was then left to sit and wait, I tried to stay quiet, while my friend was interacting with them.
“Hey, you're going to the Euro-promotional meeting?”
“Si” an Italian voice said.
“Good I was headed that way.”
“You’re Zero G right? Were together in Power Theory. Aren’t you Canadian?” the same girl said.
“It’s not for me, I’m dropping a friend. Well, a friend's communicator. She’s back in her room in Hawthorn”
“Sha?” Another voice said. I recognized Erica Von Abendritter, one of my German mentors in the language lab, the one I had talked with today.
“Yes, it’s me hello.”
“Schwindelst du immer noch mit Text-to-Speech?” Erica asked me.
“Ja, ich habe keine zeit zu korrigieren” I tried to answer.
“Well you better find a way to do that till next week, so I can start correcting your pronunciation” Erica told me.
“I’ve got other priorities, if it’s so important for you, you can always visit me at the CAGE” I said.
“And I’ve got other students”.
“Can I give you the device?” “Gadget!” I interrupted Sophie to correct her. “Yes gadget, I’ve got to go finally got a day off from babysitting Sha” She finished.
I heard the sound of my MARCONI switching hands. I kept discussing with Erica and met Calliope. I had to keep biting my tongue not to say something about the gender issues while talking to Calliope because I didn’t want Erica to know about me. Like Laura had said, it was better to keep those things quiet. Even though I was sure that Calliope’s roommate would be fine on that point. But I’d never know who has super hearing nearby or hacked my feed. Well I hope I’d realize if someone hacked my feed, I did base my encryption based on what I learned during my time at Göldi and it would take me weeks to break mine even without the obscurity factor.
“Bonsoir Calliope, Erica. What do you bring in” A new voice stated. I’m guessing we reached the destination, so I immediately asked ANODE to take an image of the people around. Three visages came out of the fast printer, a blond, I’m guessing Erica, next to her it had to be Calliope, and I then guessed the french speaker was the tall redhead on the other side.
“Ce serait plutôt qui elles apportent.” I replied.
“Oh ça parle” She said, sounding surprised, “Are you an AI?”
“Nah, I’m Sha. Long story short, I’m a Thornie, so I can’t come here in person.”
“And your voice changes depending on the language?”
“Oh yeah, don’t mind that. It’s an artifact of the way I have to talk”
“Okay, anyway I’m Adrienne le Floc'h, or Fleuve Noire” she introduced herself.
“Shannon Burgener, code name Faraday, but you can just call me Sha.”
“Well Sha, were are you from, France?” she asked.
“Switzerland, French speaking part. Lausanne if you know the region.”
“Oh cool, we usually only deal with EU members but the Swiss are of course always welcome. We have another that joined us just last month. German speaker tho.”
“Well that will be one more occasion to learn, since German is one of the things I’m supposed to come back from the US having learned. And maybe learn a bit of Swiss German.”
“Poor thing” Erica commented “It’s not German” I laughed, that wasn’t communicated by the program, because I thought the laugh of the text to speech would be too creepy.
The MARCONI was then given to Adrienne, she was a really nice girl. We went to talk with the other french speakers. It felt good to hear the mother tongue, relaxing. All were very nice, with maybe the exception of Gouyasse, the Belgian giant seemed drunk and I never really got along with drunk people. I had always planned when I turned 16 not to drink, now being in America will make that easier.
<You know, one day we should organize a fondue.>I said, <Proper one, moitié-moitié, in the CAGE, I offer>
<Good but if it’s with what Americans call cheese I’d pass> Adrienne said.
<No, with proper Gruyère and Vacherin AOP, I found where to order directly from Switzerland, you’ll see if you tried the Savoyard it has nothing to do with it. Now if you don’t mind, I was told there was an other Swiss, I’d like to meet him.>
I was then brought to the guy, he was apparently sitting alone just now, so perfect to make a first contact.
“Hello, I’m Sha” I said, going with English given it was probably our only common language. “I’m from Lausanne.”
“And from a voice box? EPFL designed AI?”
“Nah, why does everyone think I’m an AI?” I explained my situation, he just listened calmly.
“Damn, you got it rough. I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Beat Keller, Füürlifuuscht”
I tried to pronounce his name, but my text to speech was not set up for that, when I tried it got some very funny mistakes. I turned on the feedback on my end to hear it.
“Well I do now have a reason to fix the sound processing of my microphone.” I said in the end.
“It’s ok.” Beat said,
“Nah I want to be able to say your names. Even if I didn’t understand what your codename meant.”
“It’s Fire fist if I translate, because well it describes what my elemental spirit lets me do.”
“You can light up your fists. That reminds me of my brother's power, in more impressive.”
“Your brother is also a mutant? Cool, what about your parents?”
“Baselines. But I’d prefer not to talk too much about my family, I miss them.”
“My mother is a mage, I think she’s sad I didn’t follow the magic path.”
“I don’t understand magic,” I commented, “I’m a techhead, was that way before my mutation too.”
“I love people who are passionate about what they do. And it’s good that it’s not your mutation screwing up your centers of interests. When I was waiting for my spirit I was worried that it would change my perspective a bit. Now I just have a bit of trouble containing my anger.”
“Oh it made you a hothead too, not just the hot fists” I joked, I could hear him laugh.
“I’ve not yet taken a picture of you.” I said, “Do you mind if I do ? It allows me to put a face to the voice.”
“Just if you’ll allow me to see you, because for now I only have that reconstituted voice.”
“Of course, you’re welcome to the CAGE anytime you want.” I then activated the camera and took a look, he was, well he didn't need to tell me he was an exemplar, because wow. “You’re super cute”
“Oh no I’ve said it aloud!” I kept saying aloud, “I’m sorry, sorry. ANODE MARCONI shutdown.”
I facepalmed, how could I have let my mouth run like that. Things had been going so well with Beat, but I wasn’t ready for more. Oh no I wasn’t ready for that. My eyes still darted toward the sheet with his picture, he was cute, and hot. I was so confused, I’d never felt like that for anyone.
With the classes starting, even on my light schedule I had a lot less time to work on my various projects. I still managed to put in place a system I had designed during my trip. Despite what Sophie said I was still paranoid about Göldi ever finding out I was in the US. And if they did I really wanted to be aware. Thankfully the backbone of communication, phone calls were surprisingly badly encrypted. It took me very little effort after all the encryption work I did at the chalet. I was really surprised that no gadgeteer was ever hired to improve phone call protocols, but I guess it’s the price of decades of backward compatibility.
Now I did have a problem, I couldn’t scan every phone call on the planet. I did have enough bandwidth to scan every non business related phone call between the US and Switzerland, this should likely catch any phone call that mentioned me or Göldi or a couple of keywords I had programmed. Well I wasn’t looking for keywords exactly but for symbols of packets and signals that would mean that word. It was an advanced pattern recognition work that I was surprised I managed to pull out. At least I hoped it worked.
I put it online, it will run in the background, taking half of the resources of my machine, so I was really hoping I didn’t need to use it for long. My eye caught the picture that was still on my desk, my heart skipped a beat when I saw Beat. I really regretted having fled yesterday’s evening. Thoughts of it hadn’t left me, the conversation had been very pleasant until my teenage hormones took over. I used to be afraid of opening up to someone, of falling with someone, and I just didn’t. But now with my change, I was more confident in myself that I could see myself with someone else. At least I think it’s my change, it made me the person I wanted to be and liberated me.
Then I was pulled from my daydreaming when the phone call alert rang. “ANODE, give me that call from the start.”
“Grüezi Mami , Beat da.” Shit, I didn’t want to listen to his call with his mom. I almost closed there, but then I froze when I heard.
“Grüezi” Even if it was another language, I recognized that voice, how couldn’t I. I still had nightmares from it. It was Hax.
TO BE CONTINUED