Tuesday, 11 October 2022 00:00

Hardshell

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Morpheus’s Legacy Universe – Part 3

Hardshell

by

Morpheus

 

The sides of the road shot by me a thousand miles an hour, the trees vanishing before I even had a chance make out any details. I could feel the engine of my motorcycle roaring between my legs, urging me to go even faster down the empty country roads. It was the type of bike that was frequently called a crotch rocket, built for little more than speed. And God I loved it.

I loved my bike and the freedom it gave me. Freedom from the stresses of my job, as well as just about everything else. All I had to do was hop on and hit the gas, and away I'd go. I'd even gone through the trouble of giving my bike a custom paint job of green and a really dark gray, almost a black, making it look pretty awesome. Even my helmet was done up to match.

My name was Aaron Chase and I was a pretty normal 25 year old, working as a mechanic until something better came along. It was a job that I was pretty good at though didn't necessarily enjoy. But then again, that was why I had my bike.

With a grin, I looked up at the road ahead of me, briefly thinking that I should probably slow down since there could be a cop hiding out somewhere ahead. However I quickly discounted that idea, not seeing anyone else on the road or any reason why I shouldn't just kick back and enjoy myself while I could.

Suddenly I noticed something up ahead, just off the side of the road and in the middle of a field...or more accurately, a short distance above it. I pulled my bike to a stop and sat atop it, staring at what could only be a spaceship.

"No fucking way," I gasped, staring at it in awe.

The ship, if that was what it really was, looked somewhat like a stereotypical flying saucer, though not quite. One part of it pushed out into what seemed to be some sort of cockpit. I'd never seen a real space ship before, but I'd seen pictures of some on TV from some alien invasion attempt thing a year earlier.

For a minute, or sometime longer, I just stared at the ship silently, wondering where it came from. I wondered what kind of creatures were in it. And then, another thought occurred to me. What if they might be some sort of invaders? I had to tell someone. I knew that I had to rush to the nearest town and let the cops know.

Shaking my head, I muttered, "Damn," wishing that my ride hadn't been interrupted.

With that, I started my bike up again and was about to take off when I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone. There were two figures standing in the road in front of me, shaped like women but wearing some sort of armor...or at least I thought it might be armor. It was a dark gray and chitinous, with only the shapes of eyes showing any features in their faces.

I gulped, not liking that at all. "Do you come in peace?" I asked hopefully.

When they didn't answer, I gunned my bike and burned rubber, taking off as fast as I could in the direction I'd come from. However before I realized it, something hit me from behind, tearing me from the seat of my bike so that all I could do was watch it fly out of control and into a large rock alongside the road.

"NO!" I yelled out as my bike was mangled and ruined.

Then I was dropped back to the ground, grunting from the impact and then rolling around to see that it was one of the armored women who had dropped me. The other one was walking towards me, holding what looked like a blue crystal ball in her hand.

Suddenly there was flash of light from the crystal ball and everything went numb. I collapsed to the ground, barely able to even feel my body much less move it. A moment later, both of the armored women were there, talking in some strange chattering language as they stood above me.

I wanted to be terrified and confused, knowing that I should be, but instead I just felt oddly distant. As if my emotions were numb as well as my body. It was as if I were drugged somehow.

Then one of the woman grabbed me, picking me up as if I weighed almost nothing. I was carried in her arms like a baby as she took off into the air, flying me towards their ship. As I watched, a section slid open in the side, revealing a door that they brought me through. A minute later, I was unceremoniously dropped onto the floor of their ship while the armored figures stepped away from me.

After this, I was left on the floor, unable to turn over or get a better look. I didn't know how long I was left there, but some time later, I was picked again. If it was the same armored woman or the other one, I didn't know. Both looked the same.

I was still unable to move as she carried me out of the ship...and into what looked like the inside of another ship. Even in my stunned condition, my heart nearly jumped into my throat as I realized that they'd actually flown away while I was inside. I could only see things from the corner of my eye, but it looked like some sort of hanger bay with several other ships. I had to be inside of some sort of mother ship.

As I was carried through some hallway, I noticed that there didn't seem to be any sort of right angles. Everything was rounded out, even the doors and corners seemed to be. However, I wasn't able to see everything from my position, only enough to make me more curious.

Finally, we arrived some rounded door where I was thrown through. I hit the floor, not even feeling it from my numbed state. Then the door sealed up, and there was a flash of bluish light. To my intense relief, I was able to move again.

My whole body tingled for a moment, then I slowly sat up, feeling extremely uncomfortable. It was like that tingling when your leg had gone to sleep and was just getting back to normal. I grimaced though and got to my feet, thankful that it was wearing off so quickly.

"Where the fuck am I?" I demanded, glaring around the room, rounded like everything else I had seen. It was only then that I noticed that I wasn't alone.

There were four other people in the room with me, all of them men. Or at least three were men while one looked to be about fourteen years old.

"You've been abducted by aliens," a middle aged black man stated in a wry tone. He held his hand out, "I'm Mike."

"Aaron," I responded, shaking his hand, feeling slightly relieved that I wasn't the only one in that situation. Still, I was afraid of what was going on and more than a little angry at being kidnapped.

The others quickly introduced themselves. There was a scrawny guy named Darren, an overweight balding guy named Max, and the teenager who was named Rob. I quickly found out that all of them had been taken just like I had, and none of them seemed to have any reason why. A few guesses, but that was about it.

"I've been here for two days," Mike told me as we all sat on the floor, after telling me that he'd been there the longest. "None of us have been able to find any way out of here. Food comes from there," he gestured to an indentation in the wall next to the door, "and whenever they bring in someone new, they paralyze us all."

I grimaced, clenching my fists in anger. Being pissed was a little more comfortable than being afraid, and not too difficult considering what they'd done to my bike. Hell, they'd even taken away my helmet before dropping me in that room so I didn't even have that to remember my bike by.

"Damn," I muttered, hitting the floor then cursing again at my sore hand.

After this, I quietly asked, "So...what do they look like?"

"No idea," Max spat. "All I know is that it looked like a couple broads in the suits that grabbed me. Never saw em without the suits."

"Me neither," Rob said, shaking slightly and looking as if he was about to run out screaming. He was just barely holding on.

The others admitted that they hadn't seen our kidnappers without those suits on either, but all said that they looked like women. However, it was kind of hard to be sure since we didn't know anything about that alien race. Hell, for all I knew, they might even be humans.

"The protectorate will save us," Rob said, still sounding scared. He looked a little more comforted after he'd said it though, "I bet Vigil or Force will break in here any minute now."

"How bout Ms. Miracle," Max chuckled. "I sure wouldn't mind being saved by that broad." I certainly knew what he meant. I'd only seen her on the news, but she was hot, even if she wasn't a member of the Protectorate.

We all grinned at that since there seemed little else we could do. At the moment, we were stuck. I knew that all I could do at the moment was wait and pray...which really sucked since I wasn't very good at either of those things.

It didn't take long though before I had to see for myself. I tried prying the door open, finding that not only did it refuse to budge...but that it actually seemed to be welded shut. Then I tried looking for other ways out, finding none.

Finally, I just got pissed off and started to kick at the door, screaming, "Let me outta here you fucking bastards!" I kicked and screamed for several minutes, however there was no sign that they even heard me. I had sometimes been told that I was too stubborn for my own good, but even I got the hint after awhile and returned to sit with the others...for the moment. I just hoped that I'd eventually be able to wring some necks and kick some ass.

Eight hours after I had been locked in that room, I still hadn't seen any sign of the people who'd kidnapped me. They hadn't even shown their faces in that armor, only dropping a few rat pellets into the food dispenser, or at least that was what I thought of them as. I was getting very impatient as I waited to find out what was going to happen to me next, not to mention a little scared.

Suddenly there was a loud noise and everything started to shake. I jumped to my feet, as did all of the others. "What the hell?" I gasped.

"What's going on?" Rob asked, his voice shaking with fear.

"Don't know," Max muttered, "But I don't think it's good for us." Then everything shook again, almost as if on cue.

Mike just held his hands out pleading, "Calm down. We can't panic."

With a nod, and an extremely nervous expression, Darren cried, "I just wanna get outta here."

I grimaced, feeling like a rat in a cage while someone was shaking it. Being in the cage was bad enough, but that was a hundred times worse. There was little doubt that the others were feeling about the same way.

"We won't be able to do anything if we lose our heads," Mike told us, trying to look confident but not succeeding.

"Fuck that," I muttered, running over and kicking the door again. At that same moment, there was another boom as everything started to shake. Even the lights in the room flickered in and out. And to my shock...the door slid open. "Holy shit..." Then I caught myself from gaping and darted through the open door, yelling, "C'mon."

For a moment, I just stood in the hall, staring at the people running by in surprise. They were all women, and not just women, but women with blue skin and gray hair. Suddenly one of them stopped and turned towards me, reaching for something that looked like a gun on her side. It was only then that I noticed the pointed ears...and the fact that her eyes were all black and gold.

"Wait..." I started, but the alien woman shot at me...and missed. At least I thought she had until I heard a scream from behind me, turning and seeing Rob falling to the floor...a gaping hole in his chest. "FUCK!"

Suddenly Mike threw himself at me, knocking me to the floor, just as the alien shot at where I'd been just a moment before. I was horrified, but also pissed. Without even thinking about it, I kicked at the woman while she was aiming her gun at Darren. The alien woman howled in pain as she dropped the gun, but not before getting another shot of.

I cringed at the sight, whispering, "Darren..." I gulped and closed my eyes, trying not to look at the sight. At the sight of him or of Rob.

"Damn alien broads," Max yelled, picking up the dropped gun and firing it straight at the alien woman, who flew back with a hole through her chest.

Almost instantly, the only two alien women who were still in the hallway pulled their own guns and started shooting at us. Max shot back while Mike and I ducked.

"I can't believe this shit," Max spat. "I was in the Gulf War and never say action like..." He suddenly cut off, letting out a scream as one of their shots hit his leg, leaving a huge char mark on his thigh.

For a moment, I stared at the alien women in shock...too much so to think of doing anything else. However I noticed that their expressions were worried, one of them even glancing around as if she was about to run. But that didn't last long as one of Max's shots caught her in the face.

"Take that ya dumb broad!" Max yelled, just a second before the other woman shot him as well.

Max collapsed to the ground next to me, no longer moving. Mike was howling in pain and I was crouched next to him, but he was still alive. We were the only two that were and I was the only one who wasn't hurt.

"The gun," Mike gasped, the pain evident in his voice. "Get..."

With that, I grabbed the gun out of Max's hand, ducking to avoid getting hit again. However, when I looked up, the alien woman wasn't shooting, she was chattering in that weird language to something on her wrist...looking extremely worried. And with a single look of disgust back at us, she turned and ran down the hall as fast as she could.

"Something's going on," I told Mike, my heart racing, "Something bad."

"I know," he grunted taking the gun from me as he tried to stand back up, cringing badly as he did so. He let out a heavy grunt of pain, then collapsed back to the floor. "God it hurts..." he whimpered, looking as though he were in agony.

"Let's get out of here," I told him, helping back to his feet. He leaned up against my shoulder as we started back down the hall.

Suddenly there was another blast that shook the whole ship, knocking us both to the ground again, causing Mike to scream as his leg hit. Part of the wall crashed in further down and half the hall was filled with fire. I stared at it in horror, realizing that I'd just jumped out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.

"Go!" Mike grunted, "Hurry."

I jumped back to my feet and reached for Mike, "C'mon..."

"Get out of here," Mike gasped, his face showing the intense pain that he had to be in. "You can't make it with me slowing you..." He burst into cough.

"I'm not leaving you," I started.

However, before I realized it, I had a gun pointed straight at me again. This time by Mike. "I said get your ass out of here," he snarled, obviously putting effort into it. "I'm not going to get anyone killed." With that, he shot at the ground in front of me, causing me to jump back.

"What the hell?" I gasped in confusion. "C'mon man..."

"No...," Mike gasped, shifting position just enough for me to see his side...and the huge char mark that marked his ribs. He'd been hit in more than the leg. "Go..." He shot at me again, and when I didn't go further than a few feet, he spat, "Damn kid." His voice was weak and it looked as though he were barely able to hold the gun.

Though I wanted to leave Mike, wanted to run away and get out of there as fast as I could, I couldn't just bring myself to leave him there. I might not have known him for very long, but hell, I still thought of the guy as my friend. "I'm not leaving you," I told him firmly.

Then, with a look of intense agony, Mike gasped, "Go. Save...yourself." And to my complete shock and horror, he turned the gun around and fired at himself. I screamed out as he collapsed to the ground, tears running down my cheeks.

"Mike..." I gasped, turning my attention to the others, cringing as I did so. Then I looked at the fire and cursed, gathering my strength and doing what Mike had urged me to do...I ran. I ran away as fast as I could, hoping that I could find some way out.

As I ran through the halls, I saw several more of the alien women, but they were all scrambled and hurrying away, apparently not noticing me...or just not caring. All of them looked afraid as they tore off. I could certainly understand it as the ship kept shaking, each time getting worse than the time before.

"Where are they going?" I spat, realizing that something was wrong with the ship. They had to be abandoning it. That gave me an idea though. If they could get away, maybe I could to.

With that, I hurried in the direction that I'd seen one of the women run, hoping that I was going to the right place. Within minutes, pulled around a corner and stared into a room where three of the women were standing, including one wearing that chitinous armor.

"Oh shit," I squeaked, pulling myself to the side so that they wouldn't see me. I didn't want a repeat of what happened earlier, but I made sure that I could still see what was going on.

The aliens chattered in that strange language of theirs, and as I watched, a chunk of the wall slid open...revealing space. I could see the blackness through it...and the stars scattered beyond. It was some sort of window, or at least I thought it was until the one in the armor suddenly flew through the opening and off into the space beyond.

I gulped, "Gotta be something holding the air in," I told myself, but what I didn't know. Maybe some kind of force field or something, though I wasn't at all sure since I wasn't one of those Star Trek geeks or anything.

It was then that I noticed the other two women again. They reached for a pair of gray masks off of the wall that looked just like the face plates from the armors. There were about a half dozen of those things hanging from the wall, as well as obvious spaces for more that were missing. And as I watched, the first of the alien women put on the mask, followed quickly by the second.

"Oh shit," I gasped, startled by what was happening.

The air seemed to shimmer around both women, and to my surprise, a bunch of gray stuff seemed to shoot out from their masks...growing as it did so and spreading over their bodies. Within seconds, their bodies were covered by the gray stuff...which had turned into the armor. It was the same gray chitinous armor that I'd seen before.

I just stared in amazement at the two women, as they jumped through the hole and into space like the first. Since the room was empty, I ran into it, stopping at the hole and staring at the space outside of it. There were flashes and explosions, as well as what looked like pieces of the ship breaking away. I could even see the aliens in their armor flying away, suddenly making me realize what they were using.

"Space suits," I whispered, turning to the masks that remained on the walls. I didn't even hesitate before picking one off and holding it in my hands for a moment. It was kind of creepy in a way since I knew that this wasn't just some sort of normal Halloween mask.

With another glance out the opening, I gulped, realizing that the ship was going down. They'd abandoned it to save their lives, and unless I did the same, I was going to die. Just like the others had. I felt a chill down my spine at that thought, as well as a lot of anger. Anger at the alien's who'd kidnapped us and did that to them, as well as myself for letting them get killed.

I gulped nervously, hoping that I could figure it out as I raised the mask to my face. Almost as soon as it was in place, I felt something happen. The very air around me seemed to crackle with static and then I could feel the mask spreading...covering my body with those gray plates that made up the armor. However, it didn't take me long to realize that something was wrong.

"Oh shit," I gasped out as the armor finished forming around me, wincing from the discomfort. It was pinching me badly in places and definitely didn't fit right.

It was then that I looked down to see the armor and gasped at the sight of two armored breasts on my chest. For a moment, all I could do was stare at that surprising sight, then quickly glance over the rest of the armor that covered me. There was no doubt that it was a woman's armor and not designed to be comfortable for a man.

I cursed for a moment as I held my arms up, staring at the alien armor. It might not be comfortable, hell, it definitely wasn't, but I knew that at the moment I didn't really have any choice in the matter. It was either the armor...or death. And I wasn't about to die just to avoid looking a bit like a chick.

The only thing was, as I looked back out the opening again, from behind the shielded lenses over my eyes, I wasn't at all sure if I could breath out there in that space suit. Sure the other ones had, or at least I guessed they had, but I still wasn't sure. What if it was some sort of button I had to push to do that or something?

Suddenly the ship started to shake and rattle again, this time feeling more like a massive earthquake. An explosion quickly followed from outside the room...followed by a blast that threw me right out the opening.

I screamed as I found myself thrown away from the spaceship...flying backwards through space. Though I could still breathe without difficulty, it wasn't too comforting at the moment as I was scared shitless. That was made even worse as I continued to fly further away from the ship.

Though I scrambled for some control, as though I were under water, it did little good. I seemed to have absolutely no control over my own movement as I continued in the direction the explosion had thrown me.

Just several minutes later, I watched in shock as the alien ship was covered in light...which promptly exploded. Chunks of debris flew all over the place, though there was nothing left of the ship. Nothing except what could possibly be described as a junk yard in space...one which I was still moving away from.

I continued to stare at the debris of the ship for several minutes with mixed emotions. I was shocked of course, and partly even relieved that those bitches were gone. On the other hand, where did that leave ME?

And as I struggled uselessly for some degree of control, flailing around helplessly with nothing to grab onto and nothing to slow me down, one final thought came to mind. "I am so fucked."

linebreak shadow

The void stretched out all around me endlessly as I floated amid a sea of stars. They twinkled and winked in the distances, and the only thing that seemed even remotely close to me was the bluish softball sized orb that was Earth. It was so temptingly close...but infinitely far away.

I had no idea how long it had been since the space ship had blown up, since I had been floating in space helplessly. However, I knew that it had been a number of hours. It was hard to tell in space, especially since I had even drifted off to sleep for awhile.

"Damn," I whispered, staring helplessly at the Earth in the distance.

At the moment, I was feeling pretty scared, not having any idea when the air might run out...when I might suddenly find myself suffocating to death. It was something that I'd been thinking about for some time, though there were of course other things that I was worried about as well. Even if my air didn't run out, I didn't have any kind of food or water and could drift around until I eventually died from that instead. I suspected that staying on the ship would have been a much preferable death.

Of course I was also tired, frustrated and angry. None of that did me much good, nor did the fact that I was still uncomfortable. The space suit was obviously not made for a man, and I could certainly feel it. Hell, I was even beginning to get a bit numb in my body, especially from where it kept pinching me.

And oddly enough, I was even feeling bored. I'd been out there for who knew how long, with absolutely nothing to do. Though looking at the stars, Earth and moon was exciting at first, it didn't take long before even that kind of scenery got old. That was why I'd taken a nap earlier.

I was trying not to think about what would happen to me and stretched my body, still feeling uncomfortable, especially with the numbness, but not quite as bad since it didn't pinch quite as much as it had earlier. At least there was one good thing about that numbness, even it was caused by my circulation being cut off. As I stretched, I realized for the first time just how flexible the armor felt. I could move around pretty well in it, and I remembered from my short period aboard the ship while wearing it that it was pretty light as well.

My hands slowly came to my face, feeling the helmet that covered my head. It was amazing that at least that felt comfortable, even letting me breath easily. There was no doubt that it was better than any kind of space suit NASA had, even if it was designed for a woman. Hell, I could even see through the eye lenses just as easily as if they were sunglasses or something, rather than the messed up vision that a lot of Halloween masks and the like gave.

After a few minutes, I stared at Earth again in the distance, trying to get a better view of it. To my surprise, my vision sort of snapped into focus...almost as if I were wearing binoculars. There was a tiny picture in the corner of my vision that shows it as it had been a moment earlier, but at the moment it looked a hell of a lot closer.

"Wow," I gasped, "Totally wicked."

With just a little bit of experimentation, I found that I could snap my vision even more, making the Earth look a bit closer still, then shifting back to normal. All I had to do was sort of stare like I was trying to make out something far away, and it got clearer. I could shift my vision back to normal just as easily. I was definitely impressed, and at least it took my mind off of my problem.

Some time later, I woke up again, startled at that since I hadn't even realized that I'd gone to sleep. But then again, what else was there to do? I was a little thirsty, though other than that, I didn't really feel too bad, which was a little surprising considering how uncomfortable I'd been earlier.

I looked around me again, still seeing that nothing had changed, though I hadn't really expected anything to. However, as I thought about the cool vision thing that I'd found earlier, I couldn't help wondering what other tricks the suite might have in it. I grinned slightly, wondering if a radio might be too much to ask for. But if there was one, I certainly couldn't find the 'on' switch.

Just out of curiosity, and the fact that I had nothing else to do, I tried experimenting a little. Perhaps I could learn a little about the armor, something that might be useful...or at least distracting. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but that had never really stopped me before.

After experimenting for some time without finding any other tricks, I was about to give up in frustration. There didn't seem to be anything else the armor could do, at least nothing that I could figure out. And then, oddly enough, I was stretching my arms out and sort of pushing when I suddenly felt it. There was something in the suit around me...some sort of warmth that all went into the palms.

"What the hell...?" I started, surprised as bursts of energy shot out of each of my palms and vanished into the distance.

For a minute, all I could do was stare into the distance, wondering what the hell I'd just done. It didn't take long to realize that I'd found some sort of weapon that was built into the armor, and I was definitely impressed. Of course I would have been even more impressed if I'd actually been able to see what they might be able to do. For all I knew, I might just have turned on a pair of powerful flashlights...but I highly doubted that.

With a grin, I muttered, "Hell yeah."

Just a couple minutes later, I decided to try it again, however this time it wasn't quite the same. I could feel it building up in the armor, tingling around my skin and charging up in my palms...or at least trying to. This time it felt...sluggish. Sort of slow to respond. And it didn't even fire again before dispersing, only making my palms glow orange a little for a moment, then nothing.

With a sigh of impatience, I closed my eyes again and tried not to think of the nothingness that surrounded me. It was much easier since the armor wasn't pinching nearly as much as before, and in fact it only felt a little bit uncomfortable rather than extremely so. Either I was beginning to get used to it, or the armor was stretching a bit. However, I suspected that I'd just lost too much circulation in the pinched areas, which wasn't a very pleasant thought.

Once again time passed while I did nothing save float there, and I still had no real idea how long it had been. All I knew was that it seemed like forever, though it was probably only a day or so. The only relief that I had was that I was still alive, that the suit hadn't run out of air.

Taking another look around, I was startled to see something moving in the distance. All I could make out were some lights, until I used the binocular thing to get a closer look, surprising myself with the results. It was some sort of space ship...and it was coming in my direction.

"Fuck no..." I exclaimed, not sure whether to be scared that those alien bitches were coming after me again, or relieved that I was going to be rescued.

Within minutes, the ship had gotten close enough so that I could see it without even it using the binocular vision. And then I noticed that it wasn't coming straight towards me, only in my general direction. At least it wasn't until it changed direction...then it was coming at me.

"Damn bastards," I muttered, trying to move away, desperate to move away again. To my surprise, this time I actually did start moving away. I could feel something in the armor tingling, like when I used the energy blasts. "Thank God."

I was moving, though I had no way to determine just how fast. However I doubted that it was as fast as the armor was capable of because after a few minutes, I could feel it beginning to slow down...or at least the energy flow around me beginning to cut out like it did with the blasts. It didn't take long before it cut out entirely and I was left floating helplessly again, this time with a damn space ship breathing down my neck.

Then it was there, looking as if it were about the size of a 747, though somewhat wider. And it was close, very close. Close enough that it blacked out everything in that direction. All I could see was the ships underside, if it was the underside. It could have been the top. Suddenly the bottom began to open into some sort of door...one that I was being pulled right into.

"Hell no," I gasped, struggling helplessly, desperate to get away. I felt as if I was about to shit my pants. Then I got hold of myself, realizing that maybe it was my way out...or in depending on how I looked at it. At least I wouldn't be floating in nowhere again, so I relaxed and went with the flow, readying myself for whatever happened inside.

Once I was inside, the doors closed beneath me, becoming a solid floor. At that point, gravity suddenly returned, dropping me several feet to hit it, though the armor kept me from feeling it. I staggered to my feet, feeling unbalanced after all that time just floating in no gravity, quickly looking around. It was then that I noticed that I was inside of some sort of pinkish colored glass cylinder which was just wide enough to surround the door I'd been pulled in through.

"We have her," a voice said in clear English from behind me. "We have caught our prisoner."

I snapped around, freezing in shock as I saw who it was who was talking. It was a man with black hair and a single lock of white hanging down in front. He was wearing a dark green jumpsuit with several belts around his waist and over his chest that were filled with metal canisters. A single white lighting bolt symbol was visible on his chest.

As I stared at the man who'd spoken, one thought came to mind. "Oh shit..."

There was little doubt who the man in green was, especially once I saw the two people standing behind him. One was a woman with dark blue hair and a purple tattoo in the middle of her forehead that resembled an eye. She was dressed in a silky, loose flowing costume of purple and blue. The other was a man who's body seemed to be solid black, making him look as if he were some sort of living shadow. All except for the glowing white eyes that stared at me.

I knew without a doubt who these people were, especially since I'd seen them in the news enough. The man in green was Dr. Power, the woman was Mindseye and the all black man was Syphon. They were the members of Lighting Force. They were super heroes.

"So we've caught one of the Lendali," Syphon said in a sort of hollow voice, "What are we going to do with her?"

It took me a few seconds to realize that they were talking about me. They though I was a woman because of the armor...and one of those damn aliens.

"We question her as to their plans," Dr. Power commented casually, giving me an odd look. "I wonder though why she was out there like that. Her armor does not appear damaged."

With a gulp, I blurted out, "I'm not an alien. I'm human." I grabbed for my helmet, trying to pull it off so that they could see I was human, but it remained solid.

Mindseye took a step forward, looking at me skeptically, "Pardon?"

My heart raced as I blurted out, "I'm human. I'm from Earth. Those aliens kidnapped me , but I stole this armor and escaped when their ship blew up." I tugged at my helmet again, "Damn, how do I get this fucking thing off?"

All three of them stood there staring at me rather skeptically while I struggled with my helmet. Finally, Dr. Power said, "That sounds...interesting." Then he gestured to the blue haired woman, "Mindseye?"

"Of course," she responded, stepping right up to the glass wall around me, staring at me intently. I was surprised when the tattoo on her forehead actually started to glow.

Suddenly I could feel something inside of my head, as if there was another presence looking at me. The hairs on the back of my neck felt as though they were standing on end and I felt extremely uncomfortable...and worried. Then the presence faded away, with me quickly letting out a sigh of relief.

Mindseye stepped back with a surprised expression, "Oh my," she whispered, rubbing at her temples. And when Dr. Power gave her a questioning look, she announced, "He is telling the truth."

"He?" Syphon repeated in his hollow voice.

She just smiled faintly, apparently amused, "It appears that the Lendali armor only comes in women's sizes."

I just grimaced in embarrassment. "Can you let me out of here then?" I asked, a little bit of an edge to my voice. And I didn't just mean out of the cylinder they had me in either. I wanted out of that damn armor.

Dr. Power nodded and touched something on the wall. A second later, the glass cylinder around me vanished completely, leaving no trace. I looked around in surprise before quickly darting out of the area that it had covered, glad to be out of there, but still eager to get out of the armor.

"You said that you were on board one of the Lendali ships," Dr. Power stated casually, "Perhaps you might have overheard some of their plans for this invasion."

"Invasion?" I gasped in surprise, looking at the other two who nodded their heads grimly.

"Surely you knew," Dr. Power responded with a frown.

I just shook my head, feeling a bit shook up. "No. Hell, I couldn't even understand a word that any of them said. They just busted up my bike, kidnapped me and threw me into a room with...." I stopped, clearly remembering the others. Remembering the way Mike had shot himself. "I was the only one to get out," I whispered, tears coming to my eyes, though they wouldn't be able to see them through armor.

"I'm sorry," Mindseye whispered.

However I just grabbed at the helmet again, struggling to pull it off, again to no effect. "How do I get out of this damn this?" I demanded, beginning to get pissed.

"Calm down," Dr. Power told me, putting his arm on mine. "I do not know how the Lendali armor works, but I am sure that I will be able to assist you once I get to the equipment in my lab. Until then, please be patient."

I snorted, mumbling, "Easy for you to say."

Then Dr. Power quickly went on, "Since you seem to be unaware of it Mr..." He looked at my chest with an almost amused expression.

"Aaron," I told him, "My name's Aaron."

"Well Aaron," Mindseye said with a frown, "the Lendali are trying to invade Earth."

"There are several large motherships in orbit," Dr. Power announced calmly, "Though we managed to destroy one in a surprise attack. Unfortunately, we won't be able to deal with the other ships similarly."

"The ship I was on...," I whispered.

Dr. Power nodded, looking uncomfortable, "We did not realize that they were taking human hostages or we would have tried a rescue."

I nodded at that, not sure to be thankful that they'd blown up those bastards and given me a chance to escape, or pissed because it got the others killed. Hell, I still didn't even know why they'd kidnapped us, unless it was to use as hostages like the Doc suggested.

After this, I just sat down in a seat they offered while the Lighting Force went about their business. I couldn't help watching them, staring at them in amazement. They were real life super heroes. Hell, I'd never seen any real ones before, just on the news and all. And there I was, sitting and even talking with the Lighting Force, one of the most famous super hero groups in the US...or at least one of the most high profile.

About six months earlier, I watched a TV special that talked about them a little, though I didn't remember all the details. Dr. Power was some sort of genius inventor and could move stuff with his mind, even lifting tanks by thinking about it. Mindseye was a psychic of some kind, and from my own experience knew that she could read minds, but she could supposedly create mental illusions or something like that as well. And then there was Syphon, who had been cold and distance since I'd come aboard. Apparently he could absorb just about any kind of energy, including light, heat, sound and kinetic energy.

But as I thought about it, I smiled faintly, wondering if it really was such a good idea to be so public about their powers and everything. Hell, I was sure that even supposed bad guys that they might fight watched TV too. How smart was it really to tell everyone who might attack you just what you were capable of doing? Then again, in the year or so that Lightning Force had been around, they'd apparently done pretty good for themselves.

I wasn't really sure about what was going on, though Mindseye assured me that they were already heading back towards Earth. They'd just finished up some sort of scouting patrol, trying to find out more about where the alien ships were at, though they didn't say anything about how well they'd done.

Suddenly Dr. Power announced, "We will be breaching atmosphere in a little over five minutes."

"Good," Mindseye sighed, "I can't wait till we land and I can take a shower."

"The others should already be there when we land," Dr. Power told her with a bit of a warning in his voice. She snorted while Syphon frowned even further. His face seemed to be in an almost constant scowl. I just wondered who they were talking about though didn't want to intrude by asking.

Things went quickly after that, with Dr. Power ordering me to strap myself in, then jumping into his own chair, as did the other two. Then everything started to shake faintly as we hit the atmosphere.

"Don't worry," Mindseye called out, giving me a reassuring smile, "This is normal."

"Who's worrying?" I gasped with a grin, wishing that I could get a better seat by the window. Whatever else was going on, I had to admit that this was exciting and I was almost having a blast. I poked at the armored tits on my chest at that, deciding it would be a hell of a lot better once I could get that damn bug shell off.

The ship landed just several minutes later, much to my relief. As soon as I was shown the exit, I rushed out it and down the stairs, pausing only once I was touching the ground again. It was only then that I realized that we weren't at any airport...but more like a giant helicopter pad with a large building next to it, and lots of mountains in the background. My eyes widened just slightly as I realized where we'd landed. I knew that I shouldn't have been surprised, but I still was. We had landed at the Lightning Force headquarters.

"Wow," I whispered.

"A little bigger than we really need," Mindseye admitted from beside me, "but we acquired it from a group of former developed criminals and adapted it to our needs." She paused for a moment, "We got our ship the same way, from the M'baal invasion attempt last year."

Syphon snorted faintly at that, "Yeah, but it took almost eight months to fix enough to use."

Dr. Power didn't say anything as he started towards the building. It was only then that I remembered what he'd said, "Excuse me," I called to him, "You said you could help me get this damn thing off..." I tapped on my 'tits' to prove the point.

"Oh," Dr. Power turned responded with a nod, "Of course." It looked as though he had forgotten about it.

"And if I could get something to eat," I said a little impatiently, "I'm starved." It had to have been well over a day since I last ate, and the stuff the alien chicks gave me couldn't really qualify as food.

This time Syphon smiled as he said, "I'll bet it's not easy going to the bathroom in that thing either."

It wasn't until he mentioned it that I realized that I hadn't gone to the bathroom in...well, before those damn aliens kidnapped me. A slight chill went down my spine as I realized that I still didn't really feel the need to go. I'd heard of being scared shitless, but being scared pissless...?

"This way," Dr. Power told me, gesturing for me to follow.

He led the way into the building, opening it with one of those handprint scanners and a code that he typed in, like right out of the movies. Then he led me through several halls and down an elevator, ending in a huge room filled with all sorts of really high tech looking machines that I couldn't make the least sense of.

Then I noticed a huge mirror on a wall, though it was connected to a bunch of wires and stuff so I rather doubted that it really was a mirror. However, it looked enough like one for me to see my reflection for the first time since I'd put on the alien space suit.

"Fuck," I spat, staring at myself in amazement. I looked exactly like those aliens wearing it...and shaped just like a girl. It was a sight to freak me out, or at least make me even more eager to get the damn thing off.

With a look of curiosity, Dr. Power observed, "That armor must be rather uncomfortable."

"It was," I admitted thoughtfully, "at first." Then I paused for a moment, realizing that I wasn't at all uncomfortable inside the armor anymore. There was no pinching or even the numbness. Instead, it felt as if were a perfect fit, though of course I knew that it wasn't. But still, it sure as hell felt like it. "It feels fine now."

Dr. Power just nodded, gesturing to a platform off to the side as he told me, "Please stand on the scanner so that I can get a look at your armor."

"OK," I responded, doing as he asked.

I looked around, surprised when a huge metal ring descended from the ceiling and slowly descended around me and the whole platform. It glowed slightly on the inside and hummed faintly as it went down. I could almost feel a faint tingle as it passed over me, then again when it slowly returned to the ceiling.

"Hmmm," Dr. Power mused as he stared at a computer screen, rubbing at his jaw, "Let's see here..."

"Is that all?" I asked hesitantly, fighting back my impatience.

Though he didn't answer, Dr. Power nodded his head while Mindseye told me, "I think he's finished scanning you." Then she frowned, telling Dr. Power, "Syphon and I can deal with our guests." She nodded towards me, "Don't worry Aaron, he'll get you out of there." And then she turned and left the room, with Syphon following close behind.

I just stood there, silently looking around the room, at all the machines and gadgets that looked as though they had come from some science fiction movie. Hell, I was sure that some of them were probably alien, most likely taken from one of the other alien invasions or something. Just like their ship.

After only several minutes, Dr. Power turned back to me with a slight frown, "I am no expert on the Lendali armor, and can not pierce it for a complete scan, but as far as I can tell it does not appear to be damaged. You should be able to deactivate it yourself."

I frowned at that announcement, but tried to pull the helmet off again, to no effect. "It can't be working right," I told him, fighting back the urge to snap. Hell, I clearly remembered the way those blaster things and being able to move cut out. Then I told him as much.

"Interesting," Dr. Power mused thoughtfully. He looked up at the clock, "I do not have much time, but come with me so that you can demonstrate this. It might help to remove the Lendali armor."

With a shrug, I followed after Dr. Power again, this time going into a large room that was something like my old high school gym, but 3 times bigger and with the walls all looking like they were coated with metal plating. And to my surprise, Mindseye and Syphon were already there waiting...along with four people whom I recognized.

"The Protectorate," I gasped in surprise. Or at least some of them.

I immediately recognized Vigil, as would just about anybody. He was a tall, athletic looking black man in a black and blue spandex costume with a white metal belt and wrist bands. And then there were a pair of white metal broaches shaped like stars that held on his long red cape. Of course there was also the blue mask that covered part of his face.

Standing just behind Vigil was a tall man with black hair, wearing a green and white spandex costume. I didn't really know much about him other than that he was called Titan, and that he could grow into a giant.

Next to Titan was a very sexy looking Asian woman who had long black hair. She was dressed in a costume that was mostly white, but with a little bit of gray mixed in. Then there was a white cloak over her. She was called Spook if I remembered right, though she was a pretty new addition to the Protectorate.

The last member of the Protectorate who was there was Force. Force was handsome blonde guy who looked every inch the stereotypical hero, from the tall athletic build to the squarish jaw. He was dressed in a costume that was blue and white, with a pair of silver metal shoulder pads and a white cape.

Suddenly Force yelled, "One of them...," just before he suddenly flew straight at me. It all happened so fast that I didn't even absorb it...until he punched me and sent me flying to the other side of the room with a panicked scream.

I hit the far wall with a heavy thud, then fell down to the floor, feeling a bit shaken but not at all hurt. Still, I was royally pissed and jumped back to my feet, just in time to see Force flying straight at me, his fist extended. With barely a thought, I reacted, firing one of those palm blasts that I'd discovered in space.

"Fucker...," I snarled, half surprised when a beam of energy hit Force...throwing him back to the other side of the room and straight into the wall. However, he reacted much like I did, staggering only slightly but appearing entirely unhurt. Not to mention pissed.

Suddenly Dr. Power screamed out, "STOP."

There was a green glow around me and I was unable to move, even to take a step forward. I could see the same kind of glow around Force, and a determined expression on Dr. Power's face.

"He's not a Lendali," Mindseye yelled at Force, glaring at the other members of the Protectorate who were getting ready to charge. "He's our guest...so STAND DOWN!"

At that, the glow faded around me and I could move again, as could Force. He looked as though he were about to charge me again, but instead, Vigil nodded towards him and said, "Please explain."

Though I was still tempted to blast Force, I held back, cautiously walking towards the others instead. The members of Protectorate were all looking at me skeptically while Mindseye started to tell them about me. Their expressions softened at that, even looking embarrassed.

"Sorry about that," Force apologized, holding out his hand. I nodded and shook it, glad that I didn't have such a powerful super hero still pissed at me.

"Were is the rest of your team?" Dr. Power asked Vigil, looking at the others who were with him.

Vigil frowned, "I'm afraid that they will be late. They're in Dallas taking care of a Grendel rampage." He sighed and shook his head faint.

"Too bad," Mindseye muttered, "We could use Omni Woman's power.

Dr. Power nodded, then told the Protectorate, "Can you please wait to the side for a few minutes. Mindseye can brief you on what we found on patrol." Then he said, "This could be a good opportunity to learn more about the Lendali armor and how to stop it."

"How about how to get it off?" I asked impatiently.

"It appears that the weapons systems are working," Dr. Power continued as though I hadn't said anything, "But why don't we try it again."

A minute later, Dr. Power had touched something on the wall and some sort of target raised straight out of the floor. I did as he instructed and fired another blast at it, half surprised when it didn't choke up on me. Then I did it again...still with no problems.

"It's working," I exclaimed in surprise, firing several more blasts at the target, with no sign of it locking up or going sluggish like it did in space. After a few more shots, Dr. Power seemed satisfied.

With a faint nod, Dr. Power told me, "Attempt to test the flight capability."

I blinked at that. "Flight capability?" Then I remembered how I'd moved in space and wondered if that was it, "I'll try."

It took me only a moment to remember how I did it, and then several more to gather the nerve to try it. But then I grinned to myself, realizing that if that damn thing actually could fly, that would have to be a major blast. Probably not as much as riding my bike, but I sure as hell wouldn't know until I tried.

Then, I was suddenly in the air, nearly touching the metal plated roof. Hell, I surprised myself at how quickly I'd gone up, barely managing to put on the 'brakes' in time. For a moment I just hovered there, trying to reel in my senses.

"Definitely cool," I muttered, slowly flying around the room, finding that it was surprisingly easy. All I really had to do was think about where I wanted to go real hard, and I went there.

After several minutes of that, I landed back on the ground, wondering if I should suggest going outside so I could really open up and cut loose. I grinned in spite of myself, figuring that flying...really flying could be a major blast. But at the moment, I still wanted to get the damn armor off...and get something to eat.

Vigil and the others just stood back, watching curiously but not saying anything. Force and Spook both looked a bit impatient while Titan actually looked bored. I still couldn't believe that I was right there with the Lighting Force and the Protectorate both

"Everything appears functional," Dr. Power commented, looking at me intently. "I see no reason why you should not be able to remove that armor."

"Maybe you've just been trying to take it off wrong," Mindseye said.

. I stared at her for a moment, wondering if she might be right. Then I thought about how I was able to make the armor shoot those energy blasts and fly, wondering if maybe I could get the armor off something like that. It was certainly worth a shot.

After a moment of concentration, I felt something sort of 'click' inside, like a switch had just been thrown. Then to my surprise, I could feel the armor sort of vibrating around me...just before it peeled away from my skin, then pulled up towards my face...sort of the opposite of how it had gone on.

"Fuck..." I whispered, feeling the air on my skin again. Feeling it on my face. It was only then that I noticed that even the mask I'd originally put on seemed to be gone.

Suddenly Syphon's hollow sounding voice gasped, "I thought you said she was really a guy..." It was the most emotion that I'd heard from him.

Dr. Power and Mindseye were both staring at me, along with all the Protectorate members. Wondering what the hell they were staring at, I looked down at myself and let out a gasp...then a, "What the fuck?"

My eyes went wide in shock and confusion as I stared at what looked just like a nice pair of tits on my chest. Those feelings only expanded as I slowly forced my eyes further down, realizing that my whole body looked different. Drastically different. Hell, I looked just like...like a woman. Even between my legs.

Then I slowly looked up, feeling dazed and confused, not sure whether to scream, faint or curse. As I stared at Dr. Power with an uncomprehending look, I whispered the only thing I could think of, "Oh shit..."

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The room was eerily silent though I could feel seven sets of eyes staring right at me. The eyes of some of the worlds most famous super heroes. The eyes of Lighting Force, the most high profile group, and of the Protectorate, well known as the greatest super hero group. But even so, my eyes were staring at the very same thing that they all were...myself.

"W...what the fuck?" I squeaked out, realizing how feminine my voice sounded.

My mouth hung open as I stared at the breasts on my chest, and the rest of my body which now looked equally feminine. The whole sight shocked me as I knew without a doubt that I had been my normal male self before putting on that freaky alien armor.

"Interesting," Dr. Power commented, looking slightly startled. Then he quickly looked between Mindseye and myself, "She was supposed to be male...correct?"

Mindseye glared at him, looking a little confused. "I told you that he was a man...or at least his memories said so." She looked at me a little uncertainly.

I just looked up to Dr. Power, "What the hell happened to me?" I asked again, "I've...I've turned into a chick." But that wasn't possible. However, the tits I now possessed said otherwise.

Then I heard Force snicker faintly, "At least this is entertaining." However Mindseye gave him a steady glare that made him go silent, though didn't clear the snicker on his face.

"I think that we should go to my lab immediately," Dr. Power told me, quickly turning to all the others, "Please wait for the rest of the arrivals. I will return once I am finished."

With that, Dr. Power led me back down the hallway to his lab. I just followed in stunned silence, aware of the faint jiggle from my chest, from the strange sensations that were coming from my body. Hell, I felt more normal while I was wearing that freaky armor.

Once we got to back to the lab, Dr. Power hurried to some machine while I just turned to the mirror thing and stared at myself in confused silence. The reflection was...well it wasn't me. But the similarities were uncanny.

The woman in the mirror looked about the same age as myself, and had strong resemblance, almost as if she were my twin sister or something. She...I was rather shapely and curved in all the right places, with what I guessed to be around a large B or a C cup, though I was certainly no expert.

"No fucking way..." I whispered, slowly reaching out to touch my reflection.

Suddenly Dr. Power snapped, "Don't touch that." I turned back for a moment and he continued a little more calmly, "That reflective scanner is perfectly safe to look at, but it is very sensitive. I would prefer that you not take the risk of damaging it."

I nodded, then looked back at my reflection and blinked several times. My hair was about the same as before, dark blonde that was pulled back a bit and cut off about near shoulder length in back. That kind of surprised me a little since I'd half expected myself to have hair down to my ass or something.

Then I stared at my forehead in surprise. It looked like I was wearing some kind of tiara made of the same gray metal as the armor. I frowned and reached up to pull it off, but it refused to budge. Hell, the damn thing actually felt as if it were glued to my skull.

"What the fuck is this?" I demanded, tugging helplessly at the tiara.

Dr. Power just stood back silently for a moment, watching me curiously before finally saying, "If you step within the scanner again, I might be able to provide an answer to that." As I nodded and slowly started towards the platform again, he added, "Without the armor to block the full scan, I should be able to get a more detailed report."

After a moment, the metal ring descended from the ceiling again, humming just as it did before. Once it was back up and out of the way, I eagerly stepped off of the platform. The thing kind of me the willies for some reason. I guess that it just reminded me of the thing from the Fly movie.

"And a blood sample if you please," Dr. Power said, holding out a device that looked a little bit like a tiny gun.

"Whatever," I snorted, looking down at myself with a scowl. "Just get me back to normal."

At that, Dr. Power touched my arm with the device and I felt a faint sting, though only for a moment. He stepped back with it, pulled a small glass tube filled with blood out and started to work again.

For the next several minutes, I just stood there, impatiently watching Dr. Power. Then I snarled and started pacing, finally ending back in front of that mirror scanner thing. It was almost like my reflection was magnetic or something because I couldn't pull myself away from it. And it wasn't because I was primping or vain. I just couldn't believe that I was a chick.

Finally, Dr. Power announced, "I believe that I have some answers."

"Oh goody," I muttered sarcastically, crossing my arms in front of my chest...or at least trying to while I watched him.

Then Dr. Power looked down at me and blushed, looking embarrassed for the first time. Apparently it was the first time that he actually noticed that I was stark naked and a fucking chick as well. It was easier for me just not to think about that part.

"A...," he started, looking a little uncertain as he gestured towards a wall where I noticed several labcoats hanging, "Please put one of those on."

With a sigh, and a few curses under my breath, I threw one of the labcoats on, feeling a little better about it. At least I wasn't naked anymore, though I was still pretty damn close to it. Too damn close for my comfort, but what was I going to do?

Once I was finished, I turned to Dr. Power with a scowl, "Well...?" I knew that I wasn't being all that polite to him, but at the moment, I didn't really give a damn. I had far more important things to worry about than manners.

Dr. Power let out a sigh as he sat down, gesturing for me to do the same. "To start with," he said gently, "I believe that I should tell you about the Lendali."

"OK," I responded nervously, not sure where this was going.

"The Lendali are an aggressive people and have a matriarchal society, with the women outnumbering the men by a ratio of approximately 12 to 1," Dr. Power told me. "The males in their society serve little purpose except for breeding."

"A harem for every man," I mused with a faint grin. That might have seemed a bit more interesting though if it wasn't for my current condition.

"Not exactly," he responded wryly. "Though it might have something to do with why you and the others were kidnapped."

I blinked at that, giving a faint, "Oh," before gesturing at myself, "But what about THIS?"

"The armor uses a nanotechnology to link into the wearers nervous system when activated so that the user can integrate with and control the armor." He paused and stared at me for a moment, looking rather thoughtful. "The Lendali have a stronger immune system than humans. Much stronger." Then he continued, "The armor interface was designed to compensate and overcome the Lendali immune system...not a humans.

"And that means...?" I asked quietly.

"It means," Dr. Power answered, "that the armor interfaced into your body much easier than it possibly could with any Lendali...and much more thoroughly. Their immune systems would not allow the armor to completely infect their bodies. But a human's would. Yours did."

"But why did he change?" Mindseye asked, revealing for the first time that she was standing there. I had no idea for how long though.

"The Lendali armor is designed solely for female use," Dr. Power quickly went on, "quite possibly to prevent any of their males from attempting to use it. Or possibly just because they could see no need for a male to use it." He paused once again, giving a quick glance towards Mindseye before returning his attention to me, "After the armor so thoroughly integrated itself with your body, it proceeded to adapt you so that you could use it."

"Say what?" I squeaked, blinking at that.

Mindseye just looked at me in surprise, "But what about...?"

Dr. Power just shook his head, "I do not think that this could ever have happened to any Lendali. The system would simply have tried to integrate with a Lendali male...and then deactivated. However it had integrated itself far more deeply within your own body and because of your human immune system, was capable of much more influence." He sighed, "I believe that this is likely the first time such a thing has ever happened."

"Just great," I snort sarcastically, "Now if only I could get that kind of luck with the lottery."

"The question is though," Mindseye started, "Can you change him back to normal?"

For several seconds, Dr. Power was silent, staring at me with a grim expression. "I fear not," he said quietly. "The armor is still bonded to your body."

I jumped at that, "What...?"

He tapped at the tiara that seemed to be stuck to me, "It has deactivated into a semidormant state but it is still wired into your nervous system."

With that, he pushed something and what could only be an X-ray of my head appeared on the screen in front of me. It even had the tiara thing which seemed stuck to my skull even on that. He pushed another button and a dozens of tiny red lines appeared in the X-ray, going through my brain, the base of my skull and even down into my spine. And all of them seemed to link in to the thing on my forehead.

"The tiara as you called it," Dr. Power said, "is only the external manifestation of the armor. The neural network remains embedded in your nervous system and I fear that any attempt to remove it would prove fatal."

I gasped at that, staring at him in shock. Then I frantically grabbed at the tiara again, "Get this off of me...!" I was in a near panic as I scrambled, "It's in me... Get it out..."

Suddenly I felt another presence inside my head, just like before. "Calm down," Mindseye urged me aloud, "Please..."

Turning back to Dr. Power, I snapped, "Can't you at least change me back into a guy. There's got to be some way to get this thing out of me. Hell, you're a fucking genius, aren't you?"

He looked a little embarrassed, but slowly shook his head, "I am afraid that there is nothing that I can do. The armor has integrated itself into your body so completely that it can not be removed, nor will it allow your body to be reverted, even if I had the means."

"I'm sorry," Mindseye said gently, putting a hand on my shoulder.

All I was able to do was sit there in stunned silence, too shocked to even speak. At least not intelligibly. It had all hit me so fast...and it seemed so impossible. I was just a normal guy...a mechanic who liked riding on the weekends. This kind of stuff just didn't happen to normal people.

"But it does," Mindseye whispered, making me snap around, realizing that she was still reading my thoughts. At that, she looked embarrassed and I could feel her presence fade. "Strange things happen to normal people more than you realize," she continued gently, smiling weakly as she added, "I was just a normal person too at one time." I thought that I noticed a faint look of regret pass over her face at that, though I didn't pay it much attention.

"I am very sorry," Dr. Power told me gently, standing up and frowning. "I wish that I could do more for you, but I fear that we still have an invasion to stop." And with that, he slowly left the lab, leaving me there alone with Mindseye.

She looked towards the door with a frown, "But...," then she turned back to me with a sigh. "I suppose I can get you some real clothes before I go and help." However, she didn't look too thrilled about the delay.

I just nodded numbly, still in shock over the sudden changes to my body. Still, I was able to follow almost on autopilot behind Mindseye as she led me through several hallways, finally stopping at one door and gesturing for me to go inside.

"Huh?" I mumbled as I stepped inside, taking a quick look around.

It was a nice sized room with a bed on one corner that was scattered with clothes. More clothes were hung over a chair and what looked like a McDonald's bag was sitting atop of a table. There was even a couch and a TV.

"Ignore the mess," Mindseye muttered, looking a little embarrassed. "I've been a little too busy to do much cleaning"

With a faint nod, I took another look around, frowning slightly as I did so. It was definitely an apartment to do any bachelor proud. Hell, even my apartment was neater than that, and I wasn't exactly the neatest guy around either.

Mindseye hurried to her closet, cursing under her breath as she nearly tripped over a box of something on the floor and making me smile in amusement. That was certainly not what I would have expected from a world famous super hero. I mean, who would have thought that she'd be so...human.

"Try this," she told me, tossing me a gray jogging suit from her closet, "That should fit you." Then she pulled out a pair of tennis shoes as well, quickly going to her dresser for socks.

I just stood there, staring at the jogging suit and feeling a little relieved that she hadn't tried getting me into a dress and high heels or something. I was feeling bad enough as it was and probably would have run out of the room screaming if she'd done that.

With that, I slowly looked down at myself and scowled, especially at the sight of two bumps on my chest. I cringed for a moment, feeling more than a little embarrassed. I even poked at them again through the labcoat, trying to tell myself that they weren't real, though they certainly felt so.

"Damn," I muttered weakly, glancing nervously at Mindseye and then slowly starting to undo the labcoat. After all, I reminded myself, it wasn't like I had anything she hadn't seen before, though that thought only made me frown deeper.

Then she dove into another one of her dresser drawers which was full of panties. My eyes went wide at that and I wasn't sure which horrified me more, the thought of wearing women's underwear...or wearing someone else's used undies. Suddenly she pulled out a plastic store bag and muttered, "Here they are." With that, she scowled, "I just bought some new ones last week and haven't worn them yet," just as she pulled a pair of black panties from the bag and tossed them to me. From the look on her face, I could tell that she wasn't any more pleased to be giving away her panties than I was to take them.

"Just great," I muttered, staring at the panties with a scowl. I've had a bit of practice taking panties off, but none in putting them on and I sure as hell never thought that I'd be putting some on myself. "Damn."

Mindseye suddenly paused and looked me over, her eyes locking on my tits. I quickly covered them in embarrassment, knowing that I had to be blushing brightly as I did so. It hadn't taken long at all before I regretted taking off the labcoat.

"Relax," Mindseye told me, a slightly amused grin beginning to form as she stood there with her hands at her hips. "You don't have anything that I haven't seen before." I blushed even more at that and slowly pulled my hands away while she added, "I was just trying to determine your cup size." She frowned thoughtfully then shook her head, "I don't think any of my bras will fit you. They'd be a little too large."

"Thank God," I muttered under my breath, thankful that I wasn't any larger than I was. Hell, it already felt like I had a couple softballs on my chest and they were pretty damn distracting. They kept...jiggling.

"Please hurry," Mindseye said, glancing at the clock, "There is an alien invasion happening..."

I just nodded and grabbed the panties, wincing in embarrassment as I slipped them. However, to my relief, they were rather comfortable. Probably too comfortable to my thoughts. I paused for a moment and looked down at my chest again, then quickly returned to dressing, thankful that at least I wouldn't have to be prancing around naked or in that damn labcoat.

Once I was finished, I looked down at myself again with a frown, shaking my head in disbelief. Somehow, I suspected that if I wasn't still in shock, I'd really be panicking. But at the moment, everything still felt halfway like some sort of freaky dream.

Blinking for a moment, I looked up and gave weak smile then told Mindseye, "Thanks."

"No problem," she told me as she started for the door again, obviously impatient to get back with the others.

I followed behind her into the hall, then winced at an ache from my stomach. "Excuse me," I started, getting her to pause and look back at me. With a nervous smile, I patted my stomach and asked, "There a chance I could get something to eat?" I was starving, not having had anything to eat since back on the ship...and I hadn't felt like eating much then.

Mindseye frowned slightly but gave a faint nod. "This way."

"Thanks," I muttered again, my own voice still sounding strange to me.

A minute later, we arrived in a large kitchen where Mindseye immediately went to the fridge and started digging through it. Then she pulled out a plate of chicken and set it down on the counter. "Hope you like chicken," she told me, gesturing towards the microwave and back to the fridge, adding, "You can help yourself to anything else in there too. There's plenty of sodas too."

Before I could thank her yet again, she had rushed out of the kitchen, in a hurry to get back with the rest of her team and the Protectorate. However, I barely spared that a thought as I immediately went for dinner. At the moment, I didn't care if those alien bitches were invading the Earth, my stomach came first.

It didn't take me too long to finish eating and soon I was sitting back, staring mindlessly at the plate, realizing that I'd really pigged out. "Not very ladylike," I snorted sarcastically, forcing myself to stare at my hands. They felt normal, but they weren't. They were slender...more feminine.

For a minute, I remained where I was, realizing that for the first time since I'd gotten out of the armor...I was really alone. There was no one else around me, and I wasn't sure to be nervous about that, or relieved. Instead, I just shook slightly, but whether from fear, frustration or rage, I wasn't completely sure. It was probably some mix of them all.

"What's going to happen to me?" I asked aloud, though there were no answers.

A cold chill went down my spine as I looked down at my chest, though my shape was somewhat hard to tell with the jogging suit. However, that didn't last long as I slowly pulled the top off, just far enough to get a good look at the tits...my tits. They seemed so alien there, though I knew that I would have to get used to them if Dr. Power was right.

"Damn," I muttered, my hands clenching tightly.

I pulled the jogging suite back and stared at the wall, thinking about what had happened to me. It had all happened so quickly. In almost the blink of an eye, I'd lost my bike, my freedom and then my own body. Hell, I couldn't believe just how close I had come to losing my life as well.

"I guess I should be thankful that I'm still alive," I whispered. I was thankful to still be alive, and a feeling of relief washed over me at that realization. I had come so close to dying...so many times since the moment I first saw that ship. By all counts, I knew that I should probably be dead. When I thought about that, being a girl didn't seem nearly as bad. Then I frowned, "Try being that calm about it in the morning."

Finally, I stood up, my hands clenched even tighter, images of Mike, Rob, Max and Darren flittering through my head, along with the memory of my bike smashing into the rock. I grimaces as I remembered those blue skinned women, feeling more and more pissed with every passing second.

"Fuck the bitches," I snarled, snapping around and starting back towards that 'gym' in determination.

When I reached the door to the gym area, I hesitated for a moment, not even sure if they'd still be there. And after I peaked my head in, I was annoyed to see that it was empty. For a moment, I just stood there frowning, half suspecting that they'd already run out to fight the Lendali and feeling a little disappointed at that.

Scowling, I muttered, "Damn," not sure why I was annoyed. It wasn't like I could do anything to help, but I still felt like I had to be involved somehow.

I was just about to turn and leave when I heard some voices a short distance away. And though I couldn't quite make out what they were saying, they were clear enough for me to follow to the next room over. And when I opened the door and stepped inside, I froze, my eyes going wide in surprise.

The room was somewhat smaller than the 'gym', but with half a dozen huge TV screens on the walls, each of them showing pictures of Lendali ships, maps of where they were at and other similar things. Computers and the like lined the wall and several chairs were lined up by a table, though there were nowhere near enough seats for all of the people in the room.

A single glance revealed that Lightning Force and the Protectorate people weren't the only ones there anymore. My eyes quickly darted to the other new people in costumes, people who looked vaguely familiar from the news, though there was only one of them that I really recognized.

"Ms. Miracle..." I squeaked out, staring at the statuesque blonde heroine, wearing her tight red and gold costume. If I still had the parts, I would have been hard right then.

"Oh, Aaron," Mindseye said, glancing towards me with a slight frown. She gestured around, "These are the Miracle Men."

I quickly glanced at them, seeing that there was a black guy in a green and black costume with a little white, a tall skinny guy, a sexy redhead and a girl with short black hair with a little bit of white in front. However, I barely gave any of them a glance before returning my attention to Ms. Miracle.

"Did you say Aaron?" Ms. Miracle asked Mindseye with a curious expression.

Mindseye nodded, "Yes. He just had...a...reaction to Lendali technology."

Ms. Miracle stared at me for a moment, shaking her head just the slightest. Then she held out her hand, "I'm sure that everything will work out fine," she told me, sounding rather confident of that. I certainly wasn't though.

With a gulp, I stared at her tits, forcing my eyes away long enough to shake her hand. I was in a little bit of shock at that, "I...used to have your poster on my wall when I was growing up," I blurted out, feeling stupid as soon as the words escaped my lips.

She looked a little uncomfortable at that and muttered something that sounded like, "Me too," though I couldn't be certain.

Just then, Force snapped, "You shouldn't be in here. We have work to do and don't need your distractions." He stood there with his arms crossed, while a number of the others in the room nodded agreement.

For a moment, I just stared at him, my anger beginning to bubble up again. "I have every right to be here!" I snarled at him, my eyes narrowing and my fists clenching. "After what they did to me...." Then I paused for a deep breath, memories flashing through my mind before I could spit out, "I have more right to be here than you."

"Enough!" Dr. Power said, glaring at us both.

"She...um...he is right," Mindseye added, "Aaron is already involved in this."

Dr. Power nodded and quietly said, "And her experience with the Lendali may prove useful."

Force glared at me but didn't say anything, only glancing to Vigil who nodded faintly and told him, "Leave it alone." That didn't seem to make Force any happier.

I just shook my head, still hardly believing that I had one of the oldest and most famous members of the Protectorate pissed at me. But still, I wasn't about to back down on that one. Not when I KNEW that I had to be there. Whether I could be of use or not...I had to be involved.

And with that, I turned my full attention to the business at hand, listening intently as Vigil and Dr. Power started to make their plans.

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I stood in the back of the room, leaning against the wall with my arms crossed in front of my chest, though at the moment it wasn't quite as comfortable as it would have been previously. With a frown, I slowly turned away from the massive TV screens on the wall and looked at the dozen or so people who filled the room. All of them developed...all of them super heroes. I of course was the only exception.

For the last twenty minutes, I'd remained where I was, trying to avoid being noticed as I watched everything around me. Dr. Power had pictures of the Lendali ships and several attacks on cities filling the TV screens on the wall. And at the same time, the various leaders went on and on about plans and strategies for dealing with the Lendali.

Vigil announced, "The Protectorate has already stopped the initial attack in Miami and Lightning Force destroyed one of their mother ships. In spite of their power, they are not unstoppable."

"Well duh," the black man called Quartz muttered. "We took out a bunch of them in LA too."

"I suspect that the initial attacks by their armored soldiers were little more than tests," Dr. Power stated calmly, gesturing to the screen. "They have yet to unleashed their full power against any target, so I believe that they are still moving into position and testing what defenses we can provide."

"Your taking out one of their ships might have something to do with that," Titan stated with a cocky grin. "I bet they figure we'll take all of them out the same way."

"Quite likely," Dr. Power admitted.

Syphon asked, "But how do we do that?" He paused for a moment, his voice sounding eerie as he continued, "We were lucky to catch their weak spot before."

I just sighed as I watched this, wondering where it was all going. So far they'd all just been going around in circles while trying to come up with some plan to take out the invaders. All I was able to do was watch silently, not having much to offer, nor even being asked what I thought about any of that. After the initial noise about my coming it, I seemed to have been forgotten. And at the moment, I was rather thankful of that.

Suddenly Force slammed down his fist on a table, causing it to smash down with a crunch. "Enough of this," he growled, "We shouldn't be sitting around here talking about fighting them...we should be out doing it!"

I nodded agreement, as did several of the costumed heroes. "Good idea," I muttered.

"That is easier said than done," Vigil told him with a frown. "We must coordinate our attacks if we wish to succeed."

Force just scowled at that, looking impatient and annoyed. I certainly knew how he felt, but at least he could go out and do something. All I could do was seethe in frustration.

Just then, I noticed a red glow in the air a few feet away and turned towards it in surprise, only to realize that it looked sort of like a glowing red doorway. "What the fuck...," I started.

Mindseye snapped around, her eyes going slightly wide, "Oh..."

Then, someone actually stepped out of the glowing red doorway, a man dressed in a blue trenchcoat and with a blue hat on. I couldn't make out his face though since it was covered with some sort of gold metal mask that covered the entire thing. And right behind him stepped out several more people, all of them looking a little odd and all wearing costumes.

"Face," Mindseye said, sounding a little surprised as she nodded towards the man with the mask. "I didn't know if you all would be able to make it."

"I apologize for being late," a man with big white wings said, "but we were busy dealing with a group of the aliens."

"I understand Icarus," Dr. Power said with a smile, "And we are all thankful that Faction Zero was able to make it."

For a moment, I just stared at the other newcomers, vaguely recognizing them from the news, but not much more. There was the guy with the metal face mask, who was remaining fairly quiet. He seemed just a little bit spooky. And then there was the guy with the wings, another guy with a bow and arrows strapped to his back. There were also three women with them, one of them a woman who looked like she was wearing some sort of armor as well, and then there was one blonde chick who had to be 7 feet tall...and ripped with muscle.

"Damn," I whispered, staring up at her in surprise. I didn't know that women could get that big, but then again, I reminded myself, she was one of the developed.

Suddenly Mindseye looked towards the last woman that came in and said, "That's an interesting change in costume Wildcat."

The woman had tanned skin and extremely dark hair that was almost black. She had on a gray costume, though without any sleeves, but with dark red ribbon tied around parts of her arms. And at the moment, was looking extremely self conscious and embarrassed, which surprised me.

"This isn't Wildcat," the one called Face interrupted quickly, giving a quick look at the embarrassed woman.

Then, the seven foot blonde quickly went on, "This is her sister Alleycat."

"Hello," Alleycat said, sounding a little nervous, though she quickly changed her expression to try looking more confident.

"I'm afraid that Wildcat passed away several months ago," Icarus stated quietly. "Alleycat possesses the same powers though and has offered to help us deal with the invasion."

While Alleycat was being introduced to some of the others, I asked Mindseye to tell me who the rest of them were. The name Faction Zero was familiar, but I couldn't really say that I knew anything about who the members were, at least not until Mindseye had finished telling me a little about them.

Once everything had calmed down again, they once again started to talk about plans to fight the Lendali. This time however, the Face and Icarus were involved in the discussion. Oddly enough, Ms. Miracle seemed fairly quiet through the whole thing, which I thought was strange since she was such an experienced hero. Hell, if I remembered right, she used to even be a member of the Protectorate some time before she died.

"Then it's decided," Vigil stated after awhile, looking rather tense, "We wait until they make the next move...then we make ours."

"What?" Force demanded, looking surprised. "How can you suggest sitting on our asses while they're out there?" He was beginning to look more and more angry.

"I have to agree," Ms. Miracle added with a frown. She looked around, announcing, "I don't like the idea of waiting here until they attack again."

Dr. Power stepped forward, "Patience please. This is the only way to effectively neutralize the Lendali threat."

Ms. Miracle scowled, glancing back at her own team for a moment as if to see what they thought. And though there were no words spoken, several of them gave faint nods, seeming to communicate their own opinions. Finally, Ms. Miracle turned back to Dr. Power, "All right." She obviously didn't like it, but seemed willing to go with their plan.

However Force slammed his fist into the wall, putting a large hole in it and causing several of the TV screens go blow out. "Well I for one won't just sit still!" He looked around, obviously pretty pissed, "I'm going to stop those damn aliens...with or without your help."

"But Force..." Vigil started, holding his hands up.

Force just snarled and slapped Vigil's hands back. "Who's coming with me?" He looked around, frowning even more when no one volunteered. Then with a "Fine then, I'll save the world myself," he stormed out of the room.

"Damn," I whispered, staring at the door Force had just gone through.

Vigil shook his head, "Too bad. We really could have used his help.

"I know," Dr. Power responded slowly, "I know."

I looked around, then quietly asked, "What happens now?"

To my surprise, Dr. Power answered, "We wait." He didn't seem to happy about it, but he continued, "I believe that they will begin their real assault within the next several hours, and then we will respond."

"God help us all," Vigil muttered.

With that, almost everyone began to leave the room. I remained behind for a minute, watching all of the developed walk past me and feeling rather uncertain. All I could do was stare at then, fully aware that all of them had developed powers...and that was a freaky thought. Hell, at the moment my anger was temporarily forgotten, as was my current condition.

After a few minutes though, most of them had left so I finally left the room as well, not sure where to go or what to do. And as I walked down the hall, I looked down at myself again with a scowl, fully aware once again of what had happened to me.

"Fuck," I muttered, tearing my eyes back.

I felt like a damn freak and knew that I probably looked a bit like one too with that metal tiara thing on my forehead. With that, I tried tugging at it again, but it still refused to budge in the slightest from my forehead. Not surprising considering that it was actually grafted to my skull as if it were a part of it now.

A minute later, I had somehow wandered back into the kitchen area, though I hadn't really intended to. But to my annoyance, I saw that I wasn't alone. Titan from the protectorate was sitting down, talking with Mega, that massive blonde amazon from Faction Zero.

With a frown, I turned to leave and found myself almost bumping into Mindseye. "Sorry," she apologized, stepping back.

"S'all right," I mumbled in response.

For a moment, we just stood there facing each other, then she said, "I supposed that this must be strange for you."

I nodded at that, a little sarcasm creeping into my voice as I responded, "Just a little."

Then she sighed, "Follow me." I shrugged and did as she asked, going down the hall back towards her room. However, she stopped several doors short and opened one of them up, gesturing inside, "If you feel like cleaning up, you can take a shower in her and get a little privacy." And with that, she turned and left.

For a moment, I just stood at the door, glancing around for a moment before going inside. I immediately noticed that it was an apartment of the same design as Mindseye's, but without all of the extras that showed it was lived in. Still, it was furnished, but after a quick glance into the dresser and then the closet, I knew that it was empty.

Then I remembered why I was there. "A shower...," I sighed out, heading straight for the bathroom that was attached.

Within a few seconds, I was completely naked again and staring at the tub, thankful that there were a few basic toiletries there, though they looked about the same kind you get in a hotel. I certainly wasn't about to complain however and immediately jumped into the shower stall.

As soon as the hot water hit me, I let out a sigh of relief, realizing just how tense I'd been. I closed my eyes and sighed, "Thank God," soaking up the comforting warmth for a few minutes.

Once I opened my eyes again, I looked down at myself with a frown. As much as I hated to admit it, they were pretty nice tits, but they sure as hell didn't belong on me. Then I groaned slightly, knowing that I'd have to get used to the sight sooner or later...preferably later.

"Damn armor," I muttered, rubbing at my forehead again.

Then I braced myself and looked down at my breasts again, slowly touching them with my fingers. My hands slowly moved down my body, almost as if they had a mind of their own, gently touching every inch of my skin as if to see if it was real. At this point, my conscious mind seemed to slip back a little, letting me distance myself from my changed body somewhat. Perhaps it was the only way for me to really face what had happened to me without freaking out.

I slowly explored every inch of my body as the water continued to pour down on me, barely aware of the time. My skin felt so soft and smooth compared to normal, lacking all of the hair that I uses to have covering it. Then I paused at my crotch for a moment, my fingers gently touching my slit, amazing me at just how sensitive it felt. However, I didn't let my attention stay there for too long before moving on. It was only after I had finished my self exploration that I actually reached for the shampoo and started to wash up.

Some time later, I stepped out of the shower with a faint smile on my lips, feeling MUCH better. Not only was I a hell of a lot more relaxed, but I was definitely a lot cleaner as well. It almost felt as though I'd washed away some of the fears and worries that had been plaguing me since I'd first gotten involved in everything.

After drying myself off, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel wrapped around my midsection, just as I had seen women do plenty of times before. I just stared at my reflection, amazed that this was actually me. And just as surprising...that I was quite pretty in a girl next door sort of way.

"She could probably look hot if she fixed herself up some," I commented casually, deciding that being objective about it made the whole thing a little easier to stomach. However, I wasn't exactly an objective sort of person normally. "Damn."

With that, I slowly pulled away the towel and gave myself another good looking over, shaking my head faintly before leaving the bathroom. A minute later, I sat down on the edge of the bed, completely naked. And taking a deep breath, I slowly spread my legs open and bent over for a better look. That only lasted for a few seconds though before I sat back up, shaking my head in disbelief.

"That's really going to take some getting used do," I muttered, then groaned as I realized that I was about to get a little more experience with my new equipment as well. Mother Nature was giving me an urgent call.

I quickly found that relieving myself was somewhat different, though not too much so. In fact, the only real problem occurred when I realized just how messy relieving myself without my usual equipment could be...and why women use so much toilet paper. But at least I got the same relief from it.

"Damn this is strange," I mumbled as I put my borrowed clothes back on, grimacing as I did so. For some reason, I wasn't exactly feeling eager to go back out with all those developed, but I refused to just hide inside that room and cower. "Never before," I spat, "and not now."

Within a minute, I had left the room again, taking a quick mental not though as to which one it was in case I wanted some privacy again. I slowly walked down the hall, not sure exactly where I was going though I was heading towards the kitchen.

Then, I stepped back into the kitchen, only to see Mega and Titan talking to each other excitedly. He seemed to be a litter taller than the last time I'd seen him though, about her height. And from the way they were going on, I suspected that their conversation was a little more personal than the invasion. With a faint shake of my head, I turned and started back the other way, not wanting to interrupt those two.

"The middle of an invasion," I mutter to myself, "and they just want to socialize." I was really beginning to think that Force guy had a point.

About that time, I finally noticed that someone else was walking down the hall towards me, though it took another few seconds to remember that she was the one they called Alleycat. Damn, I thought to myself, she sure looked hot. Perhaps a little too athletic for my tastes, but I'd be more than willing to overlook that...at least if I still had my equipment.

I was just about to walk past Alleycat, when to my surprise, she stopped, "Hello."

"Huh?" I started, a little startled, "Um...hi."

She looked a little embarrassed as she said, "Someone told me that you...that you were a guy."

With a faint scowl, I nodded, "Yeah. Their fucking armor did this to me." I gestured down at myself.

Alleycat nodded faintly, then gave me an understanding look that oddly enough made me feel a little more relaxed. "I'm sorry to hear it," she told me, sounding sincere. Then she quickly changed the subject, "You really look uncomfortable here."

"That obvious?" I snorted.

"Well it's obvious that you're not used to being around a lot of super freaks," she responded.

I nearly choked at that, "I wouldn't exactly say that...," I started, though she did have the sentiment correct.

"No," she continued with a grin, "but I would." At my blank look, she explained, "This is all new for me too and I'm not much more comfortable here than you are. I've only had my powers for a couple months and haven't exactly been wearing this costume the whole time."

For a moment, I just stared at her in surprise, realizing that she was a super hero rookie. For some reason, that actually seemed amusing, and I found myself beginning to like her. I wasn't sure why, but it almost felt as if we really had something in common. Not to mention, as if she understood me and what I was going through.

We talked for another minute, then Alleycat put her hand on my arm and stared me straight in the eyes. "Don't worry," she told me firmly, "It will get a lot easier."

"But...," I started to protest, gesturing down at myself in annoyance.

However, before I could get anything else out, Alleycat quickly went on, "So you're a woman...big deal. It's certainly not the end of the world and it could be a hell of a lot worse. After all, with everything that you've already been through, you're very lucky to just be alive."

"I know," I sighed quietly, though getting myself to really accept what I consciously knew wasn't exactly easy.

Alleycat just smiled, "Just think of it as the price you paid to still be alive. And if you ask me, that's a pretty small price to pay."

Once again, I just nodded in agreement, surprised at how simple she made it all sound. Hell, it was certainly a different perspective and one to think about at that.

Finally, she told me, "Be thankful you're still alive and get on with your life...whatever it is." And with that she smiled and started walking away, calling out, "I hope things work out for you."

I just stood were I was for a minute, staring down the hall where Alleycat had gone. What she'd said had definitely made a lot of sense, though I wasn't completely sure if I was ready to accept her advice and just move on with my life. Hell, my old body had only been torn away from me a few hours earlier.

With a shrug, I started back down the hall again.

It was less than fifteen minutes later when alarms suddenly started ringing and Dr. Power's voice came out over some unseen loudspeaker, "Everybody to the control room...the Lendali have begun their assault."

I nearly jumped at that, then turned and started running for the control room. The fight was on.

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The digital clock remained frozen for what seemed an eternity before finally clicking over to the next number. Every moment that I stared at it seemed to take forever, reminding me that time really did seem to stand still when you least wanted it to.

"Damn," I cursed, turning my attention back to the TV monitors which covered the wall. Each of them was still showing pictures of the various Lendali ships, and of the news. All of it was about the invasion in one way or another.

It had only been just a little over half an hour since the alarm had come in that the Lendali had started their big attack, and only a little less since all of the heroes in the building had taken off to go stop them, leaving me there all alone. I cursed at that, feeling angry and frustrated as I stared at the screens, wishing that I could have gone as well, that I could have taught those blue skinned bitches a lesson. However, I knew that I would only have gotten in their way, but that didn't make me feel any better about it.

"Damn," I muttered again, leaning back in the chair and slowly rubbing at my new tiara. The metallic feel was strange beneath my fingers, feeling almost...alive. Almost as if it actually were a part of me.

Slowly turning my attention back to the TV screens, I frowned at the sight of one news channel showing a group of Lendali in their armor flying through Boston, blowing up just about everything that they came across. The sight was enough to make my blood boil, especially since none of the heroes had gone to stop them.

Another news channel flashed through pictures of the smaller alien ships that I'd been taken in, flying over various major cities. Some of them had armored Lendali coming out of them while others were just shooting at things. Various local heroes were shown fighting the Lendali as well, though none seemed to be doing extremely well.

A news woman exclaimed, "They alien ships are advancing...and there is still no sign of the Protectorate..."

Then suddenly the scene changed, with one of the Lendali groups they showed pausing from their attack, then flying away. The other channels showed similar scenes, with even the ships beginning to leave.

"They did it," I sighed, knowing that they'd done the first part, though I had very little idea of just how effective their plan had actually been.

Though I didn't know all of the details, I knew that their plan had been to wait until the Lendali attacked, then take advantage of their distraction to go after their mother ships. After all, that would hit them were it hurt the most, and force the rest to come back...but probably not until after the damage had been done.

Suddenly one of the monitors which showed a Lendali mothership in space, caught my interest. Specifically, the fact that there were explosions coming from one spot on the side, but not enough to actually destroy the ship. But still, it was obviously pretty messed up.

With a grin, I exclaimed, "Yeah. Go get those fucking bitches." I slammed my fist down excitedly on the table, then winced at the pain in my hand. My dainty, feminine hand. "Damn!"

After this, all I was able to do was sit back and stare at the clock, and the TV screens. Basically, the same thing that I was doing before, and it didn't make me any happier.

It was about fifteen minutes later that I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone. I jumped out of my chair in surprise, startled to see the Face stepping into the room from a red doorway, followed by several more people, including Alleycat. However, it was only about half of Faction Zero.

"Where is everyone?" Mega asked as she looked around.

I shrugged, "You're the only ones back."

"Not quite," another voice called out. I turned to see Ms. Miracle stepping into the room with that girl they called Rumor. Some of the rest of her group were visible behind her.

"Then I suggest Rumor and I retrieve the others," the Face stated casually, gesturing to Rumor who nodded. Several seconds later, both were gone again.

About five minutes later, everyone was back in the room, thanks to Rumor and the Face teleporting them. I was still somewhat in awe at how they did that, going all over the place and back in like no time at all. Hell, I wished I could do that too.

"I feel like a fucking sardine," I muttered, looking nervously about the crowded room.

Alleycat looked around with a scowl, and a somewhat nervous expression. "Is it like this every invasion?"

"Pretty much," a guy with a bow and arrow called Shiver responded. "But this was a little easier than most."

"It's called practice," Mindseye added with a smile.

I just shook my head in amazement at how these guys accepted an alien invasion as ordinary. Hell, Mega and Titan were even flirting with each other over in the corner.

"What all happened?" I asked Dr. Power.

He turned from Vigil and looked at me, "We awaited the moment of the Lendali's greatest distraction and then lauchned our own counterattack upon their vessels."

"We messed em up good," Shiver commented with a grin.

"But just enough to let them know that we meant business," Mindseye added, "And to make sure that they weren't much of a danger anymore."

"They were forced to withdraw their forces for defense," Dr. Power continued as if there had been no interruption, "and with their ships that severely damaged, it is unlikely that they will be able to resume any invasion plans."

I nodded, hoping that they were right. But then again, these were the guys who'd chased off the last couple of alien invasions. It seemed rather strange how many of those had stared up in the last few years. But then again, maybe it was like bad luck coming in threes or something.

Suddenly everyone near the door went quiet and I turned, startled to see Force standing in the door frame, a serious scowl on his face. His arms were crossed in front of him as he glared around the room, obviously not in a good mood.

"Welcome back," Vigil stated, his voice filled with obvious displeasure. "We could have used your power during the attack."

"And I could have used yours," Force snapped in response, stepping closer until he and Vigil were standing nearly face to face.

Vigil scowled, "We had a plan..."

"And it was a stupid one," Force growled back. "You don't win a war by waiting for your enemy to attack...then just pushing them back. You do it by beating them to the punch and hitting them with everything you have."

Spook put her hand out, "C'mon guys..."

However, neither Force or Vigil paid her any attention.

"You could have endangered our strategy," Vigil went on, growing more angry looking. "Not to mention our lives."

While Vigil and Force continued to argue, I turned to Spook and quietly asked, "Are they always like this?" If they were, it was amazing that they ever saved ANY lives.

"A little," she admitted, apparently not wanting to talk about it though as the only thing else she added was, "But usually not this much."

Then Force burst out, "I've had enough of this." He glared at Vigil for a moment, continuing in a steel filled voice, "Never again. I'm through with you...and the Protectorate."

And with that, Force snapped around and stormed to the door, while I and nearly everyone else stared at him in surprise. I didn't think that anyone expected one of the oldest and most famous members of the Protectorate to quit, not even Vigil who stood there in stunned silence.

A second later, I realized that the door was right behind me, but not until Force snarled, "Out of my way girl," then shoved me to the side as if I were nothing.

I immediately scrambled to my feet, the surprise vanishing as I got pissed off at that treatment instead, "Fucker..." I growled, barely aware of a tingling inside my head.

Suddenly I felt it, the tingling all over my skin, like the crackling of static electricity. My anger was momentarily forgotten as I grew aware of the armor spreading over my body once again, just as it had in the ship. I gasped in surprise, not really having considered that having the armor in me could mean that I could turn it back on, not until then. But as it finished sealing around me, I had no doubt that I could turn it off and on at will.

"Bastard!" I spat, pushing any questions and doubts from my mind as I started storming after Force again, thankful that I had the armor back. I definitely wanted to each that fucker a lesson for calling me a girl.

"Stop," Syphon stated, stepping in front of me and blocking my path. "Let him go."

Another voice...though I couldn't make out who said it since it came from behind me comment, "She thinks she can stop Force...?" It was filled with surprise at what he obviously considered my stupidity. But I didn't really give a damn.

"Aaron...," Mindseye warned, putting her hand on my arm, "You're armor..."

I paused at that, taking a deep breath to calm down and then talking a slowly look around me. I blushed as I realized that I was surrounded by a bunch of heroes and was just about to jump one of the most famous and powerful heroes on the planet. Even I had to admit that it was pretty stupid. Hell, I wouldn't have a chance.

"Never stopped me before," I muttered with a growl, but decided to let it pass.

"Interesting," Dr. Power commented from the side.

"What?" I asked with a scowl, still feeling a bit irritated at Force, as well as being back in the damn armor. I just hoped that I could turn it off again like I did earlier. But at least this time, it felt pretty damn comfortable.

Dr. Power stared at me, then responded, "Your armor as undergone a slight metamorphoses."

"Say what?" I stared at him in confusion.

"It's...changed," Mindseye exclaimed, gesturing down at me, "At least a little."

I looked down at myself, then blinked at the fact that instead of seeing the previous gray, the armor seemed to be green and a really dark gray. I was a little surprised at that, but before I could say anything, the Face did something with his hands and a mirror appeared right in front of me.

"I hope that this helps," the Face nodded towards me, his voice sounding rather curious though there was no expression for me to read since his whole face was covered by the gold mask.

With a slight nod, I looked into the mirror and gasped out, "Holy shit!"

For a moment, I just stared at my reflection, still unsettled to see a woman in armor. However, it was the color changes which had most of my attention, specifically the way it went green and dark gray. Hell, it was damn close to the custom paint job I'd had on my bike and helmet before those alien bitches had destroyed them. I had to admit though, it did make the armor look a hell of a lot cooler.

"What's up with this?" I asked Dr. Power, "I mean, it looks like how my bike was painted."

Dr. Power just said, "Interesting," then asked me a few more questions. When he was through, he nodded his head, "It appears that after the armor adapted you to suit it...it's adapting itself to suit you."

For some reason, I wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or worried by that. Hell, who knew what the freaky alien armor could do next.

"It looks a little more...," Mindseye struggled for the words, "Close fitting."

Frowning, I turned to the mirror and stared at myself again, realizing that she was right. I hadn't really noticed it because it was a bit more subtle than the color change, but the armor did look just a little less bulky and more aerodynamic.

"I believe that another examination is in order," Dr. Power sighed, glancing up at the clock.

"Well," Ms. Miracle said, "I hope things go well, but I'm afraid that we have to leave."

With a gulp, I blurted out, "It was an honor meeting you." She just looked a little embarrassed at that.

"Thanks for your help with the Lendali," Dr. Power told her, giving a good look at the rest of the Mystery Men and the other heroes as well.

Then, Ms. Miracle gestured to Rumor...and a moment later, the Mystery Men were all gone.

"I believe that we will take our departure as well," Face added, making a gesture with a glowing red doorway quickly opening in the air.

As the members of Faction Zero vanished through it, Alleycat hurried up to me and stuck out her hand, "I hope things work out for you kid," I shook her hand, not sure whether to be offended by the 'kid' crack since she didn't look any older than I did. However, before I could make up my mind, she had ran through the red gate as well, with it vanishing behind her.

"You know," Titan commented casually to Syphon, "It's times like this that I really wish we still had a teleporter in our group too."

"I know what you mean," Spook added. "I might even be tempted to trade in my invisibility suit for a teleporting one if I could."

Dr. Power looked at the computer screens and commented in a pleased voice, "One of the Lendali ships is already breaking orbit and leaving, and it looks as though several more are beginning to follow."

"That is good to hear," Vigil responded, looking rather grim as he said it. "But we should keep an eye on the others to make sure that all of their ships leave."

"I agree," Dr. Power told him, then looked at Syphon and Mindseye. "Please monitor the status of the Lendali vessel while I have another look at Aaron."

I nodded at that, looking down at my changed armor again and shaking my head slightly. The sight of the tits on my chest, even covered by the armor was a sobering sight.

"I don't think that you look much like an Aaron anymore," Mindseye told me with a wry grin.

"And what do you think I should call myself?" I asked sarcastically, glancing around at everyone in the room, all of which used code names. Then I held up my armored arm, making a clicking sound as I tapped on it with my armored finger, "Armor woman? Metal Maid? Hardshell?"

"Metal Maid is taken," Titan interrupted with a grin.

Then Mindseye smiled as well, "Actually Hardshell isn't bad."

I just snorted at that, "This is ridiculous." And with that, I flipped the mental switch to turn the armor off again, silently hoping that it actually went away again. To my relief, I could feel the armor pulling back up into the tiara once again.

Almost immediately, I noticed that Titan was staring at me with his mouth open while Syphon had a slight smirk on his face. Mindseye just blushed, "Um..."

It was only then that I realized that I could feel the air on my skin, and the floor under my feet. A moment later, I gasped at the sight of myself being naked again, "Where the fuck did the clothes go?" I was naked in front of a bunch of heroes...again. I grimaced at that, not sure whether to be embarrassed or pissed. And with a deep breath, I decided to just deal with it. Hell, all of them had already seen me walking around as a naked woman.

"Interesting," Dr. Power muttered, "Your armor seems to have disintegrated anything between it and your skin."

"Yeah, yeah," I muttered, refusing to look down at myself or show any outward signs of my embarrassment, "Let's just find out what's up this freaky armor, OK?"

The expressions on everyone's faces was almost worth it as I started for the door, leaving Dr. Power to follow behind me for a change. Hell, I could even see a bulge through Titan's uniform while Spook just bent over laughing.

Several minutes later, I was in Dr. Power's lab and going through that scanning machine...again. It was beginning to get old, real fast. And as I climbed off of the platform, Dr. Power silently handed me another labcoat.

It didn't take long before Dr. Power turned back to me with a thoughtful expression. "I can not be absolutely certain, but I believe that the armor has stabilized."

"That's a relief," I responded sarcastically.

"It appears that the newest adaptations it made were mostly cosmetic in nature," Dr. Power continued calmly. "I doubt that there be any further mutations within the Lendali armor you have so...curiously become bonded with."

I scowled at that, feeling more and more like a research object than a person when I was with him. It was NOT a feeling that I liked, but then again, at least he wasn't staring at my tits like Titan had. Now THAT was a strange thought. Somehow, I didn't think that I'd ever get used to the idea of having a rack of my own.

"Talk about kinky," I muttered to myself while Dr. Power continued talking.

With a sigh, I listened to Dr. Power tell me about what he'd found, but using a lot of scientific jargon that I didn't understand so I only got a bit of what he was saying. All in all though, it seemed to be a repetition of what he'd already told me with more details.

Dr. Power and I remained in his lab for close to half an hour before leaving it again. I stumbled through the hallway, scowling slightly at the floor against my bare feet. I'd already lost one pair of shoes so wasn't exactly sure that I could ask for another.

"Damn labcoat," I muttered to myself as Dr. Power and I went back into the control room.

A moment after I stepped through the door, I looked around, startled to see that Vigil, Titan and Spook were still there, though Titan and Spook were sitting down and looking rather calm while Vigil remained standing tensely.

"Most of the ships have departed from orbit," Vigil told Dr. Power with a scowl, gesturing towards one of the monitors.

"The Lendali are running," Spook added with a grin.

Mindseye nodded, turning away from one of the screens as she said, "Another one just left. There's only one ship left in orbit."

"Good," Dr. Power responded with noticeable relief in his voice.

I just stood there with a frown, staring at the TV screens on the wall. As the Lendali were leaving, I felt a little safer...but also frustrated at the same time. Frustrated and disappointed that I hadn't been able to do anything...except run from them.

"Oh man," I whispered, closing my eyes as thoughts of the others who didn't escape from the ship filled my mind. It hadn't even been two days ago...but it felt like so much longer. My body trembled slightly as their faces became clear in my memory.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, "Are you alright?" Mindseye asked, the concern evident in her voice.

"Yeah," I choked out weakly, not completely telling the truth. Hell, as I looked down at myself, I knew that things might never be alright for me again. It was only just really beginning to sink in.

However, I took a deep breath and silently reminded myself to 'take it like a man'. That seemed a little ironic, but it would have to work. I grimaced, feeling a little embarrassed as I realized that everyone was looking at me, but I refused to show it. Instead, I did what I always did and glared around me.

"Damn," I muttered, wishing that I still had my bike. If there was ever a time that I needed a good ride to burn off the stress, now was that time.

After a few more minutes, Dr. Power looked at me again, then at Mindseye. "Would you be able to lend her some more clothes?"

"What...?" Mindseye started, then turned to look at me, her expression quickly turning to a glare. It was obvious that she wasn't happy that I'd destroyed the clothes she'd already lent me. "I'll see what I can do," she finally responded a little impatiently.

I sighed, feeling a little guilty though I sure as hell hadn't intended to wreck her clothes.

"I think that it is time for us to go," Vigil said at that point, gesturing for the other two. "Hopefully the rest of our team managed to stop Grendel."

"Shit," Titan blurted, "I'd almost forgotten about that."

With a nod, Vigil glanced towards the TV screens and added, "If not...they may need our help."

A moment later, Vigil started towards the door, with Titan and Spook quickly moving along with him. The members of Lightning Force started leaving along with them so with a shrug, I followed as well. After all, I was definitely curious to see that helicopter they were famous for using.

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There was a large concrete landing area stretched out before me, with the Lightning Force headquarters building just behind me. A short distance ahead, I could see the space ship that they had rescued me in, then I slowly looked around, noticing that it wasn't alone on the pad.

Off to one side, there was some sort of jet thing, with wings that were sideways, with engines that were set for a vertical take off. It was a bit smaller than the space ship and obviously not designed for that kind of travel, though it still looked rather fast to me. It was probably what they used most of the time when they had to travel. I felt a tinge of envy, wondering if maybe I could talk Dr. Power into letting me get behind the wheel. That would have to be a real blast.

Then, I slowly looked in the other direction, and the dark blue helicopter that was also resting on the pad. It was a helicopter unlike any that I'd ever seen before, at least not in real life. I'd seen pictures of that particular helicopter before on TV, the one used by the Protectorate.

"Damn," I whispered faintly as I stared it in appreciation, then slowly walking towards it behind Vigil and the rest of his crew. I grew even more interested as we got closer.

The helicopter was bigger than a normal one, and looked a lot faster as well. Hell, most of the main chopper looked like some sort of futuristic jet, even having a few jet engines to help it go faster while flying. Then again, I guessed that it was half jet and half chopper, looking pretty impressive.

And as I stood there, a doorway opened on the side and bent down, turning into a stairway inside. Vigil stopped and talked to Dr. Power at the bottom, both of them out of hearing so I didn't know what they were saying.

For a moment, I just looked at the helicopter, shivering a little as I did so. It was only then that I really realized how cold I was feeling, wearing nothing except for that lab coat. And of course my feet were feeling kind of sore as well, letting me know that I definitely needed to get another pair of shoes. Hopefully Mindseye wouldn't mind lending me some once we got back inside.

"So what's up between you and Mega?" I heard Mindseye ask Titan, a hint of amusement in her voice.

I looked up, seeing that he seemed just a little embarrassed. "We just have a few things in common," he answered, then gave a cocky grin as he added, "There aren't many men...big enough for her."

"She is...attractive," Syphon commented from the side, his voice sounding hollow as he said it.

I nodded agreement at that, though she was definitely not my type. Way too big and a hell of a lot too muscular. I just didn't like the idea of going out with a girl who could break me in half without even half trying, and that was without even using any developed powers.

"C'mon big guy," Spook called from the base of the helicopter stairs, "we've got to get going."

Suddenly Spook's expression changed and her eyes went wide. She threw her arm up and pointed somewhere behind me. I turned around in confusion, gasping at the sight of a group armored Lendali flying towards us. There were close to a dozen of them.

"Lendali!" Spook finally yelled out, grabbing everyone's complete attention.

Then almost as if on cue, a series of energy blasts came smashing into the ground near us, though one of them actually hit Syphon. Fortunately though, it didn't seem to have phased him at all. And before I could even register what was going on, everyone had rushed into action.

"What the fuck?" I screamed out in startled confusion.

Dr. Power few into the air, covered with a green glow. Vigil took to the air as well, flying straight towards the armored aliens. At the same time, Spook shimmered as she ran...then vanished from sight while Titan started to grow...stopping at around 15 feet tall.

"Damn," Mindseye yelled, the tattoo on her forehead glowing just before a dragon appeared in the sky and dove straight at the Lendali.

I watched in awe as the Lendali scattered under the dragon's attack, firing at it at the same time, though their blasts went straight through it. It was obviously only an illusion, but definitely one hell of an illusion at that.

As Dr. Power got closer, two of the Lendali were covered with a green glow, and then thrown into each other with a loud thud. However, even as they fell towards the ground, they quickly darted off again, seemingly unaffected. And at the same time, Vigil punched another one of them, knocking her towards the ground as well, right into Titan's waiting hands.

"Gotcha!" Titan laughed, holding his captured Lendali in both hands and struggling with her as she tried to escape. He solved that problem though by growing even larger, then holding the Lendali entirely by her legs and swinging her at some of the others as if she were a weapon.

Then I heard a voice come from nowhere a few feet from me, "Damn it," Spook spat, though I couldn't see her until the air shimmered and she reappeared, "I can't do much stuck here on the ground." Then she looked at me, "You'd better find a place to hide."

However I just looked up at the Lendali who were flying everywhere and firing energy blasts at all of the heroes, feeling rather stunned. They might be women, but I didn't doubt that they were also monsters. Hell, they were the same bitches who'd kidnapped me and murdered the other guys.

"Those bitches fucked up my bike," I muttered with a grimace, beginning to get more and more angry with every second.

"Hide," Spook urged me again, giving me a push to encourage me.

I didn't pay much attention to her though, my eyes remaining locked onto the fight. With every moment, I seethed in more and more frustration. Or at least I did until one thought suddenly came crashing into my consciousness. The armor. I still had their armor.

With barely a thought, I turned it on again, barely noticing as Spook jumped back in surprise. The armor quickly flowed over my body once again, leaving me fully armored just moments later.

"Aaron...," she cautioned, an edge to her voice, "This isn't your fight."

I glared at her at that, though it did little good since she wouldn't be able to see my face through the armored mask. "No, you're wrong" I growled, "This is my fight."

Then, I jumped into the air, flying just as I had in the 'gym' earlier, and silently praying that it didn't cut out again like it did in space. Of course Dr. Power had assured me that it wouldn't now that the armor and I were fully adapted, but there was still a faint worry. Still, that worry didn't stay there long as I was almost immediately surrounded by several of the Lendali. To my surprise however, they didn't immediately attack me. Instead, I could hear some sort of chattering in my ears, in a language that definitely didn't come from Earth.

"I don't understand what the hell you're saying," I growled, realizing that they thought I might be one of them, though they were obviously confused. Probably because of the changes in the armor.

Quickly deciding to take advantage of their confusion, I threw up my arms and let out a blast, catching one of them straight in the chest and sending her flying back. And without missing a beat, I snapped to the other one, letting out another blast, though she managed to avoid most of it, having had more warning than the first.

Let out a scream of "Damn bitch!" just before sending out several more energy blasts, then having to dodge one as well.

The Lendali were flying around all over the place, with Dr. Power and Vigil both trying to deal with them. Most of it though was over Titan's head and beyond his reach, though one or two of them occasionally got too close and had to avoid his massive hands. And then there was the 'angel' with a light saber who was flying around and trying to cut the Lendali in half, only to have no effect since she was merely one of Mindseye's illusions.

I was barely able to spare a glance at everyone else who was fighting, having to spend most of my attention on all of the Lendali who were coming at me. However, from the corner of my eye, I noticed two of them going straight towards Syphon on the ground, their hands out as if to fire.

"Syph..." I started to call out in warning, but it was too late.

A series of energy blasts came raining down into Syphon, putting smoldering holes in the concrete surrounding him, but doing absolutely no damage to him in the least. He just stood there, and glared at them, gesturing as if daring them to come down within arms reach.

Then to my surprise, one of them charged straight at him, giving him a massive punch...that again seemed to have no effect. However, he quickly grabbed her by the arm, then pulled her into a bear hug. And as I watched, the blackness from his body seemed to spread out some, covering her. A moment later, he released the Lendali, who quickly collapsed to the ground, struggling to even get back to her feet.

"Damn," I whispered, snapping around and firing another series of energy blasts, catching one of the Lendali straight in the chest and watching her fly backwards, her armor actually blackened and charred where I'd hit. "Take that."

Over the next few minutes, the Lendali seemed to come at me more and more, almost as if they felt that they had some sort of personal grudge against me. But I didn't care. No, in fact, I welcomed it. After all, I had a hell of a grudge against all of them.

"Aaron...!" I heard Dr. Power yell out in warning.

I snapped around, already having noticed the Lendali coming up from behind me, and catching her completely by surprise as I let loose a massive blast, straight into her face and chest. She fell to the ground, her armor badly cracked and smoking, even seeming to peel away from her before I turned my attention elsewhere.

Within a few seconds, three more Lendali had surrounded me, all of them firing at once. I dodged to the side with little more than a thought, simultaneously firing back, hitting two of them with a blast from each hand...and then quickly snapping my arms around to get the third before she was able to adapt.

I was so distracted by those three, that I didn't notice the other two coming at me from above, not until I was suddenly hit by one of their blasts in the chest and knocked backwards. The other one quickly followed up with another series of blasts, sending me towards the ground, too startled to regain control.

Suddenly a flash of black, red and blue slammed into that Lendali with a massive crack, sending her flying right into Titan's waiting hands. Then Vigil just remained hovering there for a moment while I caught hold of myself and flew back into the air, just short of hitting the ground.

With a quick look down at myself, I was a little startled to see that there didn't seem to be any real sign of damage from where I'd been hit, but I didn't have to think about that as I went after the Lendali again, this time stopping one from hitting Dr. Power from behind, then another one from strafing Spook who'd made another appearance.

It didn't take me long before I began to notice that the Lendali all seemed...slow. Slow and clumsy. There was one racing away from me as fast as she could, and it took little effort for me to catch up to her. And once I did...she tried to get away from me, but it was as if her reflexes were gummed up because I managed to take her out without much problem.

And then there were the energy blasts. I didn't know what was going on, but I'd taken several good hits from them without any apparent damage. But whenever I got any of them with a good solid hit, I did some obvious damage.

"Strange," I muttered as I looked around for another Lendali, seeing that they were all broken up and scattered. Hell, a good number of them were flying around with damaged armor, and a few of them were even stuck on the ground.

Then I gasped as it suddenly dawned on me, a little surprised that I hadn't figured it out earlier. It had to be that integration and adaptation thing that Dr. Power had mentioned. Maybe I was faster because I was actually merged with my armor a lot closer than they were with theirs. That would have to effect my reflexes and stuff, maybe the power of my blasts as well.

Just then, I heard Vigil yell out, "They're retreating."

"Huh," I started, then looked again and realized that he was right.

The Lendali were quickly flying away, with several of them who didn't seem to be damaged diving down and grabbing the ones who were stuck on the ground. Several others continued to fire blasts, but not as if they were aiming at anything. It was more as though they were covering their retreat, which they clearly were.

"Shall we give chase?" Vigil asked Dr. Power.

Dr. Power hovered beside him, shaking his head, "No. Let them go."

With that, we all landed back on the ground, with Titan shrinking back down to normal size while Spook became fully visible again and walked towards us with a scowl. It was pretty obvious that she wasn't happy about being left out of that fight, but what good is invisibility when your enemies are way out of reach?

Suddenly Vigil put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Good work." He sounded a little impressed, which surprised me more.

"What?" I blinked, still fighting back the urge to chase after those bitches.

"He said good work," Mindseye repeated as she came up, smiling faintly. "I agree."

Syphon however just scowled and stood there with his arms crossed, muttering, "Rookies..."

I just stood there silently, feeling rather self conscious as they all stared at me. The fact that I was all armored up only made it worse, but remembering what had happened to my clothes the last couple times, I wasn't about to turn the armor off right there again.

"Do you think they'll be back?" Spook asked, a slightly nervous tone to her voice.

"Perhaps," Dr. Power mused thoughtfully.

Titan burst in at that, "But not anytime soon. We kicked their asses good."

"Not good enough," I muttered, still remembering the events aboard their ship. However, I knew that it would have to do...for now.

"And you just got that armor?" Titan asked me, looking rather doubtful. When I nodded, he continued, "Sure didn't look like it."

"He means that you handled yourself very well," Vigil told me with a smile, "And I agree completely. You acted like a professional."

"Um...thanks," I mumbled in response, feeling a little more embarrassed at having praise like that from such a famous person.

Then Vigil turned to Dr. Power, "We have to get going."

"Grendel," Titan explained with that one word.

"Have to see if the others need us," Spook finished.

Dr. Power nodded, "Thank you for your assistance."

A moment later, the Protectorate members hurried back to their helicopter, which was miraculously unharmed in the fighting. Spook and Titan nearly ran up the steps, but Vigil took his time, stopping about halfway up and turning around for a final look.

"It is dangerous work," Vigil stated, looking right at me, "but with it's rewards. If you choose to take up the trade, I would be honored to fight alongside you again." And with that, he went inside, leaving me to watch speechlessly while the door closed and the helicopter took off.

Finally, I just gasped, "Wow." I didn't know what to think about that.

As we all started back for the building, Syphon stepped beside me and muttered almost grudgingly, "Not bad kid. Not bad."

I just followed along behind, not sure what to say, or even sure that I believed what had just happened. That I'd just fought a bunch of aliens and helped the Protectorate and Lightning Force. Hell, I was just an ordinary mechanic with a taste for fast bikes.

Several minutes later, we were all back inside the control room and Dr. Power was looking at the screens, seeming rather pleased. "The last Lendali ship has left orbit," he told us , gesturing towards the screen so that we could see for ourselves.

"That's good," Mindseye said. "At least until the next invasion." She said 'next invasion' as if she thought of it as just another unavoidable annoyance.

"Well," Dr. Power said after a moment, frowning slightly, "The ship left a short while ago."

"So?" Syphon asked, somehow managing to make his hollow voice sound a little sarcastic.

"The last mother ship departed...," he explained slowly, "during the middle of our battle."

We were all silently for a moment while we thought about that and what it meant. Namely, that the ship took off without those aliens we'd just got done fighting. And more specifically, that they were still on Earth.

"Do you think they'll be back?" I asked with a grimace.

Mindseye looked at Dr. Power then back at me. "Yes," she said firmly. "Sooner or later, they'll be causing trouble again. They always do."

I grimaced at that, not sure what to think. The idea of a bunch of those armored bitches running around Earth, just waiting to cause more trouble just didn't sit right with me. Especially not when I thought about what they'd done to me, not to mention Mike, Max, Darren and Rob.

"Don't worry," Mindseye told me, apparently noticing my stress, "We'll take care of them if they ever come back. You'll never have to see them again."

"Unless," Dr. Power mused thoughtfully, "they can determine the location of her armor via some form of integrated tracking device that I have yet to identify." That thought just made me groan, but I was determined not to worry about it.

Syphon nodded towards me, then tossed me something. It took me a moment to realize that it was a bathrobe. He turned his head away, not looking at me though I nodded my thanks to him anyway. A moment later, I turned my armor off and slipped the robe on, shaking my head faintly at my situation.

"Damn," I whispered, leaning back into a chair, and staring down at my own boobs, or at least the cleavage I could see from the robe, not to mention the bumps. It was going to be a hell of a lot to get used to.

"At least they're gone for now," Mindseye said, though I didn't really notice.

For the next several minutes, I barely paid attention to what the others were saying around me. Instead, I just sat in the chair, silently staring down at myself and soaking up the realization that this wasn't just a dream. Hell, it was far too real for that, and far too shocking. And frankly, I didn't really think that my subconscious was creative enough to come up with something that weird.

Shaking my head, I muttered, "Too weird."

Then taking a deep breath, I fought back the urge to grab my tits and crotch in disbelief and bemoan my horrible transformation. But instead of that, I just remained there silently, my fists clenched tightly as I thought about what had happened to me, as well as the fact that I would likely be that way for the rest of my life.

I was startled to feel a hand on my shoulder, then I looked up to see Mindseye staring at me in concern. "Are you alright?" she asked gently, "After what you've been through, there's no shame in crying."

"Cry?" I asked with a scowl, slowly standing back up. And with a snort, I muttered, "Not likely."

Mindseye took a step back and looked at me in surprise, as did Dr. Power and Syphon. I just gave another faint snort and in a defiant gesture, ran my hands down my body to smooth out my robe. That just seemed to make them all a little more confused, which suited me just fine.

That damn armor might have turned me into a chick, but that sure as hell didn't mean that I was about to start crying like one, whether Mindseye told me that it was 'okay' or not. Whining about my situation was...useless, almost like crying over spilled milk. I was determined to take it like a man, even if I no longer had the right equipment.

"I prefer dealing with my problems," I said quietly but firmly, "rather than whining about them."

Of course I knew that it was easier said than done, but then again, I always had liked a challenge. I'd just never expected one quite like that.

With a faint smile, I thought about what Alleycat had told me earlier. About my being lucky to be alive. Of course she was right. I was damn lucky to be alive after all that I'd been through, and being turned into a girl was definitely a small price to pay for that. It was all a matter of perspective, and thinking about my situation like that made accepting it a bit easier.

"So I'm a girl," I said, looking around at the surprised members of Lightning Force and feeling rather amused by the looks on their faces. "I'll live."

Dr. Power just stared at me with a curious expression, muttering, "Curious...," though I could tell that he was itching to say more.

Then I rubbed at the permanent tiara on my forehead with a frown, deciding that the whole armor thing would probably be even harder to get used to than being a girl. Hell, half the people on the planet where girls, but I was the only one who was stuck with some damn alien armor inside of me.

"I was thinking...," Mindseye started slowly, looking at me thoughtfully and then at Dr. Power and Syphon.

Syphon responded with a hollow, "What?"

She smiled faintly, just as the tattoo eye on her forehead started to glow. There was a dazed look for a moment on Dr. Power and Syphon's faces, then they both nodded slightly.

"Agreed," Dr. Power said.

I just stared at them, wondering what the hell was going on. However, Mindseye turned back to me, "What are your plans now that this is over?"

"My plans...?" I repeated slowly, blinking as I realized that I didn't really have any plans.

It wasn't until she had asked me that question did I realize that I couldn't exactly go back to my old life. There was no way in hell that I could go back to my old job. What would everyone think? I might have been a good mechanic, but they'd laugh me right out of the shop to say the least. There was little doubt of that.

"I don't know," I answered honestly, "Get used to this I guess," I gestured down at myself, then shrugged, "I'll figure something out."

"Might I offer a suggestion?" Dr. Power asked. After I nodded, wondering where this was going, he said, "You would be welcome to remain with us while learning the use of your new abilities."

For a moment, I just stared at Dr. Power, sure that I had to have heard wrong. Then Mindseye quickly went on, "We can help you adjust...and we can certainly use your new powers."

"But..." I started, blinking for a moment. I wasn't a hero.

However Syphon gave me a much more controlled look, adding, "On a trial basis."

"Of course," Mindseye added, with a slight smirk that seemed to suggest that she might be humoring him.

While they stared at me, waiting for an answer, I just remained where I was, feeling more than a little overwhelmed, not to mention confused. Hell, being asked to hang out with the Lightning Force was about the last thing I'd expected to happen to me.

I was just about to protest that I was no hero, that I couldn't do the things that they did. But I paused, suddenly thinking about the fight with the Lendali, and how easy it had all come to me. About all of the flying and fighting.

Everything had been so fast...so...exciting. As I thought about that, especially the incredible way I'd been able to fly through the sky at extreme speeds, I couldn't help but smiling. It was only now that the excitement had passed that I realized what a blast that had been. Hell, that was even better than riding my bike.

With that, I froze, staring down at my arm and picturing the green and dark gray armor against it. Maybe there was a reason that the armor changed to the same colors as my bike. Perhaps...perhaps it had been trying to tell me something. Then again, it could have just been coincidence.

My mind raced for several seconds as I considered my options, but it seemed longer. And somehow, my thoughts kept coming back to the fight with the Lendali, and the armor's color scheme. My armor's color scheme. Everytime I thought of the flying, I felt a tinge of excitement and an eagerness to do it again. Finally, it seemed as though my mind was already made up.

"All right," I said, looking at Mindseye with a wry expression, then at the other two with a faint nod. "I'll stick around for awhile." I said the last almost as if I was doing them a favor, which made Syphon scowl. I just grinned at that, trying to keep from laughing.

"Welcome aboard," Mindseye responded with a grin, adding, "Hardshell."

"Hardshell...?" I whispered, realizing that I did rather like the sound of it.

Syphon just said, "We will see how this works," though he did give a faint smile.

Holding his hand out, Dr. Power said, "I am pleased to have you join us." Then he gave a quick glance at Syphon before adding, "On probational membership." However, the tone in his voice suggested that he might not take the probation thing very seriously.

As I shook Dr. Power's hand, I felt a mixture of emotions well up inside of me. Fear, nervousness and excitement to name the most prominent. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me now, but I wasn't about to back away from my future...whatever the hell that was.

Though I didn't say anything, my motivations for sticking around weren't entirely just to use my new powers to fight bad guys, or for the chance at doing something important, though those definitely played a part. There was the added bonus of the fact that the Lendali were still out there somewhere, apparently holding a grudge against me. If Dr. Power was right about being able to track my armor, which would explain how they found us for the attack, then they were likely to come after me again. And if that happened, I wanted someone there to watch my back. Who better for that than them.

And with that, Dr. Power and Mindseye simultaneously said, "Hardshell...welcome to the Lightning Force," while Syphon gave me a thumbs up.

I grinned broadly at that, feeling prouder than I ever had before in my life. However, the grin faded as I realized the one problem that I hadn't considered before, but knew that I would definitely have to face. It was something that sent chills down my spine to even consider. What the hell was I going to tell my mom?

 

The End

Read 900 times Last modified on Monday, 10 October 2022 14:10

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