Ayla 4: Ayla and the Trials (Ch. 6) (2023)

Diane Castle / Ayla / Ayla #4: "Ayla and the Tests" / Part 6

- a history of the Whateley universe

by Diane Castle (with lots of help from the whole Whateley team!)

CHAPTER 6 - The Stymphalian Birds

Monday, October 23

I woke up to my alarm clock playing "Stab My Eyes with Synescence" by Brass Monkey. I stayed up late, going over my list of options. But I felt energized just imagining that Itiveoptions.

I just had to find one that really worked for me.

I knew some of the jade options wouldn't work for me. For example, I had already asked Chou and Destiny's Wave. But that left a few things I needed to try, starting with hypnosis.

I would definitely try hypnosis first. There was no point in choosing the painful and terribly risky options when something less dangerous would work for me.

Okay, hypnosis wasn't entirely risk-free either. But now I knew that I was Dr. Bellows could be trusted. And we learned from his work with Jade that we could trust him with hypnotherapy.

Okay, so I've had it checked by Trin and Macintyre, Planetary Investigation Agents, too. He had an impeccable track record, truly impressive testimonials, and a track record of top-notch endorsements. Also, he was really veryyoungerhow he looked. Man, sometimes sample BITs are incredibly bizarre.

Then it was off to the showers. Man, the further away from last Monday, the brighter things looked. I knew it was because I was freaking depressed about things. It really scared me to realize how devastated I was.

I was going to the bathroom when Tennyo got out of the shower. And she used the towel to dry her back so that her breasts and pubic hair were completely exposed and she was shivering. Holy crow!

She saw me looking at her breasts. I expected her to yell at me. I absolutely did not expect her to be happy when I looked at her.

"Aila! My God, I'm glad you're feeling better! For sneaking around like you don't care about naked girls? That was just creepy.

Vox took off her robe to step into the now available shower and turned to me. She said, "Yes, we've been very worried about you the last few days."

I wanted to say something back, but I couldn't bring myself to speak. vox completely naked. Away from me, showing the perfect ass. She turned left to face me, her full breasts jutting out like a Playboy pinup. These perfect curves, perfectly rendered. I would remember this photo for the rest of my life.

She jumped in the shower and I woke up from my trance.

A giggle to my right caught my attention. Bunny smiled. "I guess you're pretty normal again, huh?"

I smiled, "I was pretty miserable there for a few days."

Sharisha finished drying off, adding, "If you ask me, are youAlwaysvery miserable.. just like aYoung.“

I found myself laughing. "Sharisha, maybe you haven't noticed, but I have.bina youngster. A boy with a really weird BIT so I look like that and have to pretend to be a girl. Every time you call me boy it really cheers me up. Thanks."

She made a face, because the last thing she wanted was for anyone from Team Kimba to feel better. She grabbed her bathing kit and stormed out.

Bunny said, "Well, everyone was very worried about you." She even gave me a big hug. Then she jumped back, startled.

"Sorry," I mumbled. Well, it must have been quite a shock, hugging a girl so tightly and having a huge hard-on pressed against you. Between Tennyo and Vox, I had an erection that nearly knocked me over.

She winced, "It's my fault. I should have... checked first..."

"Before you jump?" I added.

Riptide got out of the shower and smiled, "In front of hersomething.“

I said, "I'm going to take a shower so I'm not looking at everyone."

The whole room was fine with it. Of course I didn't stop looking. After washing, I relieved myself and let the water run off me, then put my robe back on. After that, I went to an available sink and did all my morning chores, which I managed to stretch out to almost twelve minutes. This gave me enough time to: watch Vox dry; watching Nikki undress and step into the shower; catch Pilar shaving her legs totally bare; and then a perfect reflection of Nikki magically drying her hair before towel drying it. Man, after all that, I had a rod you could drill for oil with.

I went to my room and I felt much better. Incredibly horny, but feeling so much better.

While I was getting dressed, Chou came in and dried my hair. She was still drying her hair like a short-haired guy who didn't give a shit what her hair looked like when she was done.

I had to get Vox or Jody orsomebodyto show her how to dry her hair. She had beautiful hair. Just beautiful straight black hair that needs better treatment.

Chou smiled at me, "It's good to see you're doing so much better. I was really worried about you."

I realized that many people worried and cared about me. All of TK was there for me, and so many girls on the floor. Maybe some of the guys too. Risk and Flux weren't kidding either. As a thank you, I had to come up with something really cool. I mean, beyond the huge thank you the girls would receive at the end of January when Hydroflux rolls out some hardware to brighten their days...let alone nights.

Chou changed into her old outfit of yoga pants and a turtleneck top. Then she asked, "Would you like to go have coffee with me?"

I smiled, "I would like to, but I have a few things to do first. You continue. Tell everyone I'll meet them for breakfast."

She nodded and left.

I turned on Brass Monkey and played it loud enough to hide what I was trying to do. Just in case. Destiny's Wave was still in its holder on Chou's desk. But luckily for me, the sword didn't object when I played Brass Monkey. And it didn't have an eardrum, so it didn't matter how loud I played my music.

Destiny's Wave was the only person in the entire dorm who didn't care about Brass Monkey, and it wasn't even one person. The only time Chou discussed music with Destiny's Wave, it was hysterical. Chou tried his best to explain why Brass Monkey was terrible. But Destiny's Wave didn't "pick up" any music other than the music he heard thousands of years ago while he was alive. Almost all the songs were interesting as far as the sword was concerned, but none of the modern songs were really appealing. It only made Chou scream in frustration that his own sword was just as pleased when I played Brass Monkey as it was when Chou played his favorites.

So I put on my headset to call Trin and Macintyre. I had a few more research assignments for her.

When I ended the call, I turned off the music and ran to catch up with my teammates. I wasn't too worried. Tennyo and Lancer took so long to eat that I could have shown up half an hour later and they would have eatenyetwas eating. Sometimes I thought Tennyo and Lancer would have to keep me on their team as an adult just so the team could have enough food on the table at mealtimes.

I thought my first approaches would be easy. The top ten items on my list were:

  • Trin and Macintyre Research
  • talk to Nikki about magical approaches
  • talk to Jade about all the things she has been investigating
  • Talk to Mega-Girl about how her PK shell changed her body
  • talk to dr bellows in hypnosis to fix my BIT
  • Talk to Dr. Tenant in medical and surgical options
  • Talk to Zenith about other features
  • investigate available telltale drugs
  • Check with Beltane about using ectoplasm to alter my shape
  • If you're desperate, talk to Sara too

I wanted to wait for Trin and Macintyre's reports to come back before moving on to something bigger. But there was no reason why I couldn't start with simple things.

I took my time getting through the breakfast line. Chef Peter's muesli has always been worth buying, but I expected something more.

And let's go!Chef André had just left the kitchen when I turned to the roasts. He smiled at me and placed a piece of puff pastry galette on the table. It looked like it had a layer of some kind of cream on the middle layer and it smelled like almonds in the puff pastry or the cream. I couldn't wait for it.

I ate the muesli first so as not to spoil my appetite. So I liked the cake. The puff pastry was baked to perfection and the rich cream in the center was fragrant with almond and vanilla flavors. mmm

Nikki elbowed me as I savored my galette. She muttered, "Another special treat from your personal chefs?"

I smiled. "Want a bite?"

She shook her head. "Sounds great, but I'm done."

"Oh come on, one bite won't make you swell up."

She smiled, "You drug dealers are all the same. Heroin, cocaine, cookies... Sure, you say the first try is free, but once I get hooked, it gets expensive."

I laughed. "Yes, I am. I'll start with the light stuff. Puff pastry. Layer cakes. Then if you're addicted, I'll tease you with the hard stuff. Caramels. Brownies. Hot fudge sundaes."

She put her hands on the sides of her face and gave me the Macaulay Culkin "Home Alone" face.

It wasn't until I laughed that Tennyo realized we were up to something. "What are you talking about?" she asked about three pounds of bacon on the other side.

"Desserts," Nikki replied.

Billie shrugged, "Almost never good desserts for breakfast. I'll wait until lunch and dinner."

I helpfully added, "And a mid-morning snack and an afternoon snack and an after-dinner snack and..."

She fumed, "Why is everyone picking on me? Hank eats a lot too!"

I smiled, "Good point. I better give you some pain too."

She rolled her eyes but didn't say anything. Mainly because she crammed a piece of sauced ribeye in her mouth. And when I say "chunk" I mean something that only passes for "small size" when you feed sharks and orcas at MarineWorld.

I made sure to finish breakfast before Nikki got up. We left the cafe and she guided me to a secluded area near the courtyard. She asked, "What do you want?

To the right. receptive empathy. Idiot.

I began, “Remember when I thought my problem was GSD and asked if you could help? Now we know my body's problem is my BIT. So now I'm asking something backwards. Can you magically customize my BIT?”

She frowned. "I was looking for BIT morphs because of Jade, you know. It sounds reasonable on paper. But they never seem to work properly when the magician actually casts the spell. Even when the transformation goes well, something else goes wrong. So, this is an area of ​​magic that really should be completely taboo. No one should try these things because the results can be horrible.”

“Worse than a fiery serpent?” I had to ask. I mean, it looked like it was about as bad as it could be. Firesnake likely had GSD, making it look like a half snake. An attempt to magically heal him transformed him - not into normal-looking mutants with fire-manifestation powers - but into a ten meter long giant demonic snake. That didn't eat anything warm-blooded. Including maybe the magician trying to help him.

She shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know all the really horrible things that happened."

I tried again: "Well, could you arrange another short conversation between me and Circe? The last one went very well, although it wasn't what I wanted to hear."

She nodded, "Okay. Circe thought you were pretty decent for a non-magician. I think it helped a lot that you took her advice, even if that's exactly what you didn't want to hear. Hardly anyone does that. So, I think I can make something happen.”

I put my hand on her shoulder. "Thank you, Niki. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it."

She gave me a worried smile. "Just remember, Ayla. This is a forbidden area for magic.dangerousrealm of magic. Don't expect her to jump for joy at the chance to turn you back into a boy."

I made a face. "Yes. I know. It will probably be the same as when I asked about GSD. But I have to try it!"

She nodded. "I know. When I first realized what was happening to my body, I would have tried anything to get back to normal. Just don't try.anything. A lot of really bad things happened because someone was so desperate that they were willing to try absolutely anything, no matter how dangerous, evil or crazy.”

I wondered aloud, "Did you have that conversation with Jade?"

"Yes. Billie too. And Sarah. And probably Dr. Bellows and a dozen other people. She's very upset. You probably understand her better than any of us. Me and Billie? helps, adapts us, and makes us feel comfortable with change. Hank is okay with his change. Toni? Damn, she's excited about it. The changelings upstairs? Megs and Delta Spike and Electrode and Belle? They're all happy being a girl. She and Jade and Chou are the only ones who are stuck and really upset about it. Don't do anything crazy like Elaine did.


It was not meOdesperate. I waited. Elaine had done the stupidest thing possible. She attempted to transform from a boy to a girl by tricking a mad scientist into grabbing her and throwing her into his transformation chamber. She was very lucky to be alive. And feminine instead of something terribly crazy. And none of Dr. Pygmalion. Worse, Elaine apparently learned from this experience that she could try absolutely anything without considering all the consequences.

So I had to run to the costume shop. I couldn't finish this class anymore. I hope something interesting has happened now, instead of having to put up with idiots like Superior who constantly demonstrate that they have no style,EThey couldn't understand the simple basics like color theory. Being a role model clearly didn't make yousmarter, even if it exaggerated your reading speed and memory. Tansy Walcutt was clear proof of that. Along with that idiot Bubble in my World Lit class.

I went to costume class and sat next to Jinn. It was a red flag day. Jinn was wearing her skin casts, so she looked like a cute Japanese girl who was too normal to pass for Whateley. Except she always forgot to turn her head and look where everyone else was looking.

Mrs. Ryan wore another floor-length granny dress and a matching scarf. She looked around the room and saw me. "Phase? Could you see me at the end of our class? Thanks."

She then spent most of the class time talking about "color psychology". What colors mean to people and how it affects the way you use your costume colors to create psychological effects.

“Well, who can give an example of a real or fictional superhero whose costume was designed with color psychology in mind? We’ve already talked about heroes whose colors are built around flag motifs, so we don’t need to mention them today.”

One of the goth kids raised his hand and added, "Well, there's Batman..."

Mrs. Ryan smiled, "Yes. Perhaps the classic example. Black and gray represent night, darkness and menace.”

Another ventured: “Power girl? I mean, the other Supergirl? The one with the really big... um..."

Mrs. Ryan cut him off before he could actually put his foot down. "Which one, dear?"

"I, um, well, I was thinking about the white suit with the…um…big hole in the front…"

M.K. said in the back row, "You mean the horn window?"

Mrs. Ryan looked at him, "Mr. Uberman, that's enough."

But the boy kept trying. "Well, that, but the more I think about it, your old costume that was all silver and gold. Because silver and gold means value, importance, wealth and all those things.”

Mrs. Ryan said, "Well done. That's exactly the kind of example I want to think about. Power Girl's white uniform represents purity and truth alongside other concepts.”

The interesting color was red. Mrs. Ryan had examples of fantasies where the color red on a uniform obviously meant danger, examples where it clearly meant a demonic threat, examples where it meant drama or emotion, and examples where it obviously meant feelings like love. Thus, the uniform design and color interacted in an interesting way.

Someone in the back row couldn't shut up, of course. "That's why my suit is all red. Because I'm such a machine!"

Mrs. Ryan pursed his lips and said, "Mr. Superman. Please visit me after class for your detention.

When class ended, I went upstairs to talk to Mrs. Ryan before that stupid boss could come in. I cheated too. I walked easily in case anyone tried to block my path. Nobody did. Maybe I have a rep too.

Mrs. Ryan was writing on a pad when I approached her. She looked up and said softly, "Are you feeling better now, phase?"

I smiled, "Thanks for asking. I am. I had a really bad week last week or I wouldn't have missed class."

She said: "We all know what it means when a consultant like Dr Bellows writes a student note and not one of the doctors. And Miss Sinclair has brought her homework. I am very pleased with her work. Her latest drafts - made with computer characters - looks good. This week we are going to work a little with your colors. I think you can improve your design.”

Superior walked to this point. Mrs. Ryan ripped the top sheet off the pad and held it out to him without even looking at her face. He picked up the newspaper, looked at it in horror and turned pale. But he didn't say anything. He just turned and left. Fast.

Dude, that must have been an arrest warrant. Maybe I underestimated Mrs. Ryan.

Mrs. Ryan continued in the same sweet tone as if nothing had happened. "Well then. As I said, once we've tweaked your color scheme a bit, I think there's also room for improvement in the way you've faded your colors on your character. I think we'll be looking at some options there as well in the coming weeks. OK?"

"Yes ma'am." I just agreed with her. So I rushed to my next class so as not to be late.

I arrived at Spanish class about a minute before the bell rang. I sat behind Toni and Rip. Toni was busy jumping in her seat and describing something wild to Rip. So it was like every day.

"...so I just concentrated, and when he tried to hit me with that metal fist, I flowed through his attack. But he had a big ol' drum set on his hip, so I hit him hard enough to I broke it and blocked all of his power armor. I left him there, frozen like a statue, trying to scream for help from behind his stupid armored helmet. If no one helped him by this afternoon, then I will..."

A strong voice spoke in Spanish,"Please pay attention, class. It's time to start. Does everyone have their homework?"

I was way ahead on homework and way ahead on vocabulary, so I did really well in class. After class, I had to go upstairs to talk to Señor Ramirez. And he even wanted to have THAT discussion in Spanish.

"Phase, I'm glad you're back to school. Do you feel better?"

"Yes. I had a really bad week last week, but I'm better now."

"Great. Chaka brought your homework and I'm very happy with your progress. Your participation in today's class was very good. I hope you don't have any more problems."

"Me too, sir."

And then on to One Year of Sensory Deprivation, better known as an extremely boring period of Theory of Powers.

I entered. Both Möbius and Charmer waved at me.

Moebius grinned, "You know what? Some Cape Squad guys are interested in utility belts too! That's great!"

Charmer went straight to French:“Ayla, I'm so happy to see you're doing better. We were very worried. You seemed so depressed last week and you missed all Theory of Powers classes as well as the practical exercises.

I talked to them for most of the class because Dr. Quintain sent the bored class into a coma with his lecture on extradimensional and interdimensional density modifiers. That, and I was a week ahead of my costume shop homework and two weeks ahead of my Spanish homework, so I had no work to do. At least Filbert didn't ask me to go to one of his little shows.

Lunch was the shining star of the day, as Chef André prepared a dessert for me. He called it an "American-style upside-down butterscotch banana cake." I could tell by the way the roasted walnuts were roasted in caramel sauce that it was probablytiveroasted upside down. and he smelledFantastic. It smelled like bananas, butterscotch and vanilla and - I was sure - some rum, or at least a good rum aroma. I tripped over my tortilla and salad wrap to get there. And the rush was worth it. The banana cake was remarkably moist, rich with vanilla and what I presumed was good dark rum, most likely heavy cream to give it just the right flavor.

I made sure I had time to speak with André before rushing off to the aikido class. Marcel left to join the chat. I said André in French“That was really great. Was it dark rum and sour cream in the cake with banana and vanilla extract?

He smiled,"But yeah. I knew our best dark rum and vanilla would be worth it for a foodie like you trying the cake."

I smiled,"Flattery won't get you anywhere. Other than round-trip first-class Air France tickets for you, your wife and son to visit your parents for Christmas."

Marcel had already told me about André and Peter's Christmas plans. Well, I had asked.

André looked at Marcel, then at me, and then he really was too stunned to speak. That really says something for a Frenchman. He nodded and disappeared back into the kitchen.

Marcel explained"He really didn't feel he could take Genevieve and Paul – his wife and son – with him this year. You've done something really nice for him.

I went to class and still wondered about it. Nobody else saw how great these chefs were? Nobody else thought they deserved something that tells them they are valued? Did the middle class just treat their cooks like short-term cooks?

I would never understand "normal" people.

Aikido classes were pretty normal as I didn't miss any classes. Not that Ito and Tolman were going to say "good job" or anything to me. But Powers Lab was more than you were away for a week. Mrs.'s assistant Bohn, Dr. Yablonski took me aside after I took my weightlifting measurements.

Dr Yablonski was one of those teachers who really looked like a retired superhero. He looked like a model, right down to Captain America's build and Batman's jaw. His right arm and most of his right leg were cybernetic constructs, just as he had beenforcedretiring from being a superhero due to some really gruesome injuries. But that was all speculation on my part. I figured he wasn't an inventor or an engineer, or helping out in the workshop downstairs. His teaching style was the Batman-like "dark teacher of justice" style, rather than Ms. Bohn.

He frowned. "Phase, you missed some important labs. If you want to become a warper, you need to understand how the skill works in areas beyond your own. We had Stonebear and Holdout here for a day last week, a Tuesday and another Thursday for demonstrate their skills. They must invent these labs..."

He began an extensive discussion of how "size" deformers don't change their size (or the size of other objects) so much as they change their relationship to the rest of the tenth-dimensional universe around them. I had read the book - along with two books from Dr. Quintain, who went into more detail — but interactions with Dr. Yablonski has always fared better when given the chance to be Lord of the Show.

An internally sized deformer like Stonebear could do shrinking and growing effects. (Many inner-sized warpers could only do one of the two, and Rockbear was a rarity because he also had another warp ability.) But Rockbear's "giant" form wasn't quite a six-ton ​​behemoth with the bulk to do this by generating power. more heat than it could dissipate on its surface, causing it to overheat and die; he just looked like that. And he appeared like that in many real situations. If he hit someone, it would beto feelalmost as if a six-ton ​​giant had hit it. But what really hit the person was a warp displacement field. This also meant that a giant could absorb more kinetic force than you would expect, as the kinetic force would be acting on the displacement field and not directly on the giant itself. On the other hand, the bigger the giant could get, the more the displacement field separated it from the "real world". An 80-foot giant warper would have such a strong displacement field that even if you had all of Jade's strength, it couldn't effectively hit you. To be effective, he would need to hit another object and drop it on you.

An externally sized deformer like the Holdout can shrinkOthersobjects. From what Tennyo told me about the lab last week, it was called the Holdout because it could carry dozens of large holdouts and keep them shrunken for hours. Man, I bet he'd be a bitch and a half to fight with all the stuff he could rip out and restore and then shoot you. He could take a 90-pound Gizmatic Lightning Launcher™ mounted on a tripod and "shrink" it into something he could stash in a big pocket. But the object still had the same mass and volume as before. it's justhe appearedapproximately the size and weight of a 10-inch cast steel replica, as the real object has been interdimensionally shifted.

Tennyo brought home copies of the lab assignments last week, and I completed them using resources on the Whateley intranet. So I handed them over as soon as Dr. Yablonski stopped lecturing. He scrutinized them sternly, as if I were stupid enough to copy someone else's lab work at a school where copy teachers had near-perfect memories and could detect plagiarism in a millisecond.

He couldn't find anything to complain about in the lab assignments, so he said, "And you should also find a real-world application of one of these deformation abilities."

I showed him my utility belt with the seemingly useless pockets. Then I reached one and pulled out a throwing knife. I walked heavy with him and handed it to him.

"Hmm," he hesitated. When I handed it to him, he held the knife like it weighed 25 ounces instead of 25 pounds. Definitely a role model. After about a second, the knife returned to its normal weight. I could tell by his reaction. He said, "So this is the 'portable throwing axe' you wrote about in your density modifier assignment. That's good. I didn't trust you enough."

that was dr Yablonski. Tough but fair. The rigid teacher of justice. If he dressed up as Batman for Halloween, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. I had the cheeky temptation to ask him to say the line "My parents are DEAD".

But he still hadn't given up being strict. "I had a special task for you, but you weren't there. Dr Quintain thinks your out-of-dimension phase should allow you to interrupt the warper's interdimensional abilities and maybe even include the Shifting Field. I wanted to see what could be done. with Stonebear's displacement field."

I shuddered, "I don't know. After Fireball, I try not to influence others. What if I did something really terrible in his repression camp and it hurt him?"

He frowned. "Dr. Quintain doesn't think you can harm a person by interacting with your displacement field. The worst that can happen is that the displacement field collapses and the person returns to their normal size.”

I made a face. "Dr. Quintain also didn't think there was any danger of me destroying a specimen's BIT and turning it into a hideous, insane monster. Until it happened."

He frowned more intensely. "It's just an extra credit assignment. You don't have to do this if you don't want to."

You can't beat the strict master of justice any more than you can beat the stick. Also, Policy 101 says that in a situation like this, you should always let the boss think he's won. I just said "I understand sir" and continued with my lab work.

After that it was trigonometry. I made sure to turn in all of my homework before class started.

Mrs. Bell smiled at me and said, "I'm glad you're back and you're obviously doing your homework." She picked up the stack of papers and said, "Or maybe your homework is right before class. ... A lot of times when students travel that long, they fall so far behind, and then it gets... difficult."

So I went and sat down with Electrode and Unicorn. Unicorn smiled, "Electrode enlightened me about what I missed yesterday. I think I left too soon.

I said, "Yes, we could have used your help. It got really weird in there for a while.

She said, "Yeah, I heard Delta did that a lot this year."

Well, she must have, if her nickname in the Workshop was Blast Queen.

Electrode sat with an ugly expression on his face as he waited for us to finish talking about Delta Spike. one day i wouldterto get the facts about it.

After class, Einhorn made an effort to walk down the hall beside me. I made a guess about it.

When we weren't surrounded by people running away from the last math class, she muttered, "There's another Golden Kids meeting. At the same time this Saturday night. Can you do it?"

"Sure. I'll be there."

She waved at me and left.

Electrode appeared and asked, "What is this? Are you going to Golden Kids Shindigs these days?"

I shook my head. "Sure. They're like the kids I knew. In some cases, they ARE the kids I knew. I mean, I actually went to prep school with Glitch. And my family business has done business with the families of many from them."

She wondered, "What about Tansy Walcutt? Isn't she one of the Golden Kids? I thought you two hated each other."

I had to smile at the image that came to mind. "Yes, if Solange was still with the Golden Kids, I think the first reunion of the year would have ended with the two of us fighting to the death. Preferably her. Although I'm sure Dynamaxx would have been over us and rooting for us ever since. She made it look like a catfight. But she lost the gold last year when she ran for higher ground. They like to think they ratted her out, but she abandoned them for the alphas. And she deserves the alphas just as they deserve them. ”

Electrode went back to Poe while I went to the clinic. I called in the morning and had a quick afternoon meeting with Dr. Raul Tenant arranged. As I walked, I called my cell phone to see if he was going to be late. In a place like Whateley, a major emergency was always a possibility.

I was lucky for a change. dr The tenant was only able to see me a few minutes after the scheduled time. That was good because I had an appointment with Dr. Bellows.

I was ushered into a small, well-lit room that was Dr. tenant was. He studied a computer screen that I assumed was showing my medical records.

He waved me in and showed me a chair on the opposite side of his desk. "Phase. Please come in and have a seat. I'm just looking over all your test results and medical records. You have a lot of them."

I asked, "You know why I'm here, right?"

He nodded. "I read your meeting request. It was worded quite clearly, which is a nice change, I might add. You want to know if medicine has solutions for you. You don't have a GSD, but you have a BIT that makes you assume a form you don't like. I wish I could say this is a rare thing, but many of our specimens have BITs that are causing problems.”

"And is there anything you can do?"

He sighed, "I don't think so. I see you've completely healed from some serious injuries, including those lacerations on your arm. Not even a scar. So you've got enough rain to cause problems. By your recovery from injuries this fall, it's fine Of course, if you try any kind of plastic surgery, you'll get reversal syndrome.

I knew what that meant. "So if I had a double mastectomy..."

He looked somber. "Please don't do something like that. Your body would heal faster than it did at baseline, but not to a great extent. And then your breasts would almost certainly grow back. As you are young and may still be changing towards the your ideal BIT, your breasts can get even bigger than they are now.

I shuddered. that wasdefinitivenot what I wanted.

He concluded: “Then hormones are not going to help you. Surgery is contraindicated. I would also not recommend any Deviser medication. It's not really my area of ​​expertise, but you could do some research in that area if you like."

"I'll do it," I told him.

He said, “You could look into hypnosis. But if you don't get that, the usual medical options are all but exhausted. There are non-Western medical approaches such as acupuncture and acupressure, as well as herbal medicine. My magical adviser told me that magicians don't want to face that kind of problem, so I don't have news you want to hear."

Well, at least he was honest. From speaking with Chou and Destiny's Wave, I knew the "non-Western approaches" he mentioned wouldn't work for me either. Fortunately I had started with alanguagelist of possibilities.

I got up and held out my hand. As we shook, I said, "Thanks for being honest. I really wanted this.”

He gave me a small smile. "It's not what patients really want. Patients have to put up with it."

So I wasn't in the best mood when I went to Dr. Bellow's office arrived. Valerie led me inside. As always, he arrived on time. I felt like he was using his mutant abilities to figure out who needed extra time in his sessions, as he never seemed to be late, not even late in the day.

He welcomed me and guided me to their chairs so we could just sit and talk.

After we talked about how I was feeling and how my first day of school went, I brought up the subject of hypnosis.

He thought for a second. "Okay, Jade Sinclair is on her team, isn't she?"

"And your sister Jinn," I added.

He smiled knowingly. "I understand that Jade doesn't want everyone to understand how to contradict her, but I've seen her instantiate genies in objects."

I said, "Well, I would appreciate it if you would keep that to yourself."

He responded, "I don't think it falls under doctor-patient privilege, but I see no reason to discuss it with anyone. Even so, their real powers can be found in the computer records.

I nodded, but saw no reason why I couldn't change these computer records at some convenient time in the future. All I needed was a contact with proper access. I could work on it.

We talked some more about the hypnosis experiments we were going to do on Friday. He emphasized: "It won't be a miracle cure, you understand."

I said to him, "Okay. After all, not even Salvadorsan, the original "miracle drug," was a miracle drug."

He blinked a few times and then said, "Oh! It took me a moment to put in your reference. I didn't think a fourteen year old would know about Salvarsan."

I shrugged. "I read a lot. When I was in elementary school, I read a lot of books on the history of medicine and doctors in general.” I confessed, "At the time, I really wanted to be a doctor. But I knew it wasn't practical, as I needed to prepare to go into the family business."

"Hmm," he hesitated. "Did you ever feel that this was unfair? That someone should be allowed to become a doctor?

"Oh no." I explained, “We are Goodkinds. We have responsibility. People depend on us. And not just the people in our family. Millions of people around the world trust us. Dad wanted to be a baseball player when he grew up. Uncle Herb wanted to be a musician. But they both knew they had important things to do. They could not, so to speak, “run to the circus”. You had to learn a lot. They had to be willing to take over their grandfather's family business. for sure meit couldhe ignored that obligation and concentrated on becoming a doctor. My sister Heather basically did that. She ignored her responsibilities and became a model. Now she thinks she will be the next Angelina Jolie. As she has the brain of an ice cube, she will likely be the next Gia Carangi. Still, it would have been nice if she accepted her role in the family empire.”

He frowned thoughtfully. "How hard was it for you to know that all that training is for nothing since you can't go back to the family business?"

"I try not to think about it too much," I admitted. "Knowing that I can't be the person I've trained my whole life to be... In many ways, it hurts as much as knowing that my family despises me for being a mutant. Or being trapped in a body that I really hate. But I guess that's it." it could be a lot worse. There are a lot of people here at Whateley who are worse off than I am. And I'm doing my part to help all the people here who obviously need some decent financial advice."

"Apparently?" he checked.

Apparently”, I insisted.importantLife Aspects: The financial and legal side of life after they have built their creation. It's no wonder so many developers freak out or freak out when they are likely to be ripped off by every company they do business with. All these maniacs trying to steal millions with their gadgets could make a lot more money if they worked with decent financial advisors!”

Finally brought us Dr. Bellows returned to the subject and explained what he would do in the hypnosis sessions. "I'm not going to put you in a trance and command your BIT to magically repair itself. It doesn't work that way."

"I understand."

"Good. What we're going to try is to train you in hypnosis so that you can work on a self-hypnosis program. Then I'll guide you while you do the real work. Studies have shown that when the patient undergoes self-hypnosis, hypnosis performs are much more likely to produce useful results. Personally, I think there are many reasons for this, but I will give you two: you will always trust yourself more than anyone else, and if you do it yourself, you can reinforce the hypnotic commands much more regularly.”

"That makes sense."

He nodded. "Good. But here's the most important part. Hypnosis is not a miracle cure. It may not work. It may not work to any appreciable extent. And even if it does, it may take months or years to see improvements. Don't expect it to fix it." your life in a week. In fact, you should tell yourself not to expect too much. It's important not to get your hopes up with something like this. OK?"

"OK." I understand perfectly. What he really meant was that he didn't think this would work for me.

We broke up and I left his office. I could have gone back to Poe and joined the usual study group, but I felt pretty despondent. And I didn't have much to learn. I had finished Civics and Accounting I. I was well along in all my other subjects and was almost done with my World Lit work.

I decided to do something constructive that would make me feel better. I drove to Hawthorne.

Mrs. Cantrel met me at the front door. "Good boy, you don't have detention today. Yesterday was your last day.

I smiled. "I remember. I just thought I'd stop by and see if Claire needed help with math, and maybe Melissa wanted to talk a little.

She just shook her head and smiled. It wasn't the usual "shark looks at helpless swimmers" smile. It was a kind of surprised smile. "Their Kimbas never cease to amaze me."


"You are the fifth Kimba to pass through here today. Fey came, then Tennyo, then Chaka, then Lancer, and now you.

"I suppose incarcerations never show up just to see people."

She slowly shook her head. "Sir, no. Most people see that as the worst punishment detail on campus. I have people who volunteer to work the sewers or clean the sidewalks in the middle of winter instead of working in the freak house.

"It's not my fault that most teenagers are such…um, idiots."

She smiled widely, "No, it's not." She looked off into space for a few seconds, then said, "Louis thinks you should start with Claire. She could really use the help with trig. AndMeinold math skills are not good enough to teach her. I'll pick it up after a while, once we've cleaned Puppet's room, and you can visit her."

"I could help clean up," I offered. Not that I really wanted to, but if it was something that needed to be done...

She slowly shook her head. "I can't believe it. Not today. One of their big hoses broke and there's poisonous blood everywhere. We have a full MOPP 4 team there now. It was really helpful to have that Sara girl there for things like this last week as she was unaffected. You don't know how worried I am about exposing most of you children to Puppet blood."

She turned her head, "Dean? Dean! Would you please bring Ayla to Claire?

Slab got up from one of the big couches in front of the TV and stumbled. "Yes ma'am?"

"Dean, would you take Ayla to Claire's?" And be careful.

He nodded at her and then walked away without checking to see if I followed.

I went after him. Of course, as he was much taller, he had much longer strides and I had to walk fast to keep up with him. I asked, "Dean, what..."

"Laje. Calle me de Laje."

"OK." So much for Mr. Sociable. Well, a lot of people on campus used their aliases instead of their real names, so that didn't mean much. And he didn't have much reason to trust a good guy. "You can call me Ayla if you want, or Fase. Whatever... But what should you watch out for?"

He finally decided to answer as we walked up the stairs. "Parody. He's napping right now, and sometimes when he's sleeping..."

"Oh. Right. Nikki told me about your projections."

He frowned. "It was easy for her. A few copies of it? Big deal. You should see him when he's having a nightmare. After the last couple, no one in this building will let him see a horror movie."

I didn't bother correcting Mister Sensitivity about Nikki's feelings and "how easy it was" for her when her Spoof copies walked around naked. I suspected she would rather have faced one of those nightmares.

Claire was really surprised to see me. "Phase! What are you doing here? I mean... Don't tell me you have detentionagain…“

I scowled, "No! Of course not! I just thought I'd stop by to see how you were doing and give you some more tutoring in math. Damn it, why does everyone think I'm the Wicked Witch of the West? person said this to Tennyo or Lancer.

I watched Claire's face go from shock, then disbelief, then amazement, then realization...

I was getting heavy just in time when she suddenly threw herself into my arms and started crying. Static electricity crackled around us, and her tears sparkled with their electrical charge. She sobbed, "You came back... Everyone said you wouldn't come... Last time you didn't come... I didn't know what to think... I wanted you to come... But nobody comes back... . Everyone thinks we are." came after the last time... but you came back..."

"Girl." Slab shook his heavy head. He didn't understand what was going on and he was obviously smart enough to know that he would never understand women. He just led us to Claire's room so that her static buildup wouldn't destroy the hallway.

So I just held Claire while she babbled and cried. Her tears carried such a powerful charge that every drop that fell on me was like a huge electrical shock. Even if I got heavy. I didn't want to think about what her static would do to a baseline or someone like Jade.

Once I calmed Claire down, she sat on the bed and wiped away her tears while I took care of the static in the room. She wanted to talk instead of working on math, but I was fine with that.

Apparently, a third of Hawthorne was talking about Team Kimba visits. Chaka would drop by regularly to chat and teach some tai chi lessons to the kids - as if you could stop Chaka from talking. Tennyo had regular deals with half a dozen Thornies, including a girl named Fire Forge. Jade stopped to see Frank and Jello and a few others. Nikki stopped by regularly and all the guys in Hawthorne looked forward to her next visit. Lancer stopped at an odd time to avoid Olympia. Even Carmilla and Bladedancer interacted, and they didn't interact with those kids as much as the rest of us.

I explained, 'Sorry for the last time, but the principal said not to come here again until Tisiphone moves out. Did you meet her?"

Claire nodded. "She was crazy! She said she used to be pretty and you turned her into a monster. But you're not a magician or anything. And she said she was going to tear you apart and stuff..."

I admitted, "She was telling the truth. The Alphas reached half of Team Kimba a few weeks ago.

"You are pissing me off."

"No, I wish I was," I sighed. "Fireball set a little ambush for me. It would burn me and leave me a permanent scar. Or worse. We'll probably never know for sure. But... well, you know I can go heavy or light?

She nodded.

"I can't walk very easily. I have this layer I call interference light. When I get into that density and I go through the electronics, they fry. Or I go through people and knock them over. I did that to her. But we found - too late, if you ask me - that if I BIT an instance in the interrupt phase, I might as well destroy it. I ruined your BIT. I made them...Ding.“

"But it was an accident! You didn't know you could do this! And she tried to kill you or something!

I groaned, "But I still feel bad about it. And there's no way I can make it up to you."

She hugged me tightly and then smiled. "You know, when you're that heavy, hugging you is like hugging a steel statue."

I smile back. "Forgiveness."

"Hey, I'm not sorry. If you couldn't get so heavy, you wouldn't be able to come visit me!"

We talked all the time about Team Kimba and the people of Hawthorne, and we never took tutoring in math. Before we stopped talking, there was a knock on the door. A red light flashed above the door.

Claire winced, “Okay, the red light means whoever it is probably can't handle my static field. You need to slide the mesh screen over the door and make sure it's grounded before letting them open the door.

"I understood."

I have the highly conductive mesh over the port. It clicked into place when positioned correctly, which seemed like a good design. I unlocked the door and it opened to reveal a hopeful looking Frostbite.

She smiled, "You're here! Oly complained because she can never find Lancer - oh, I wonder why - and she said, "Even that Goodkind - well, she gave him a bad name - is here", so I signed up Mrs. Cantrel and you askedThey areHere!" She stopped and waved at Static Girl, "Hey Claire! Isn't it great? People are afraid to come see me, so I can only go out and see people when it's warm and dry outside, and even then things can go wrong...” She relented with sudden dismay.

Claire said, "Hey, come on, it wasn't your fault the fire hydrant wasn't fully turned off."

Frostbite frowned. "Yes, but when I turned the water to ice, the pipes burst, and then everything went to hell, and..."

"It was not your fault!" Claire insisted.

Frostbite said, "Never mind. I did it anyway. I'm going to be so happy when I get out of here. I think I'm going to move to the Mojave Desert. No water, no cold, no plumbing, it'll be great."

I was walking with Frosty and we were talking as she took me to Puppet's room. She stopped me when I put overboots. "You're coming back, aren't you?"

"I'm sure. Why not?"

She shrugged, "Well, people don't like to come here. It's getting really lonely.

I hugged her and said, “Well, I like coming here. Especially now that I'm not getting hit in the face with a five-gallon ball of phlegm."

"Eeeee. I heard about that. Sorry."

I grabbed a gas mask and went inside to see Puppet. "Melissa? Do you have time for visits?

She looked up from the notes on the table and smiled, "Ayla! Safe! Come in."

I smiled, "How are you?"

"Okay," she said. “But I'm studying for a European history exam. would you help me?"


So I spent most of my time reading her book and asking questions like, "How long did the Hundred Years' War last?" to dinner.

During dinner with all the TK's, we had one of our usual crazy conversations. Sometimes I wondered if anyone was listening to us. But I knew the typical conversations we'd have would either drive a snooper mad or scare him to death.

This time it was about Sara. She was up, but now her room needed some TLC. Apparently, she had a spare head that her dad burned along with the rest of the room before fixing things for her.

"Well, two heads are better than one!"

"We already made that joke."

"It had to be said."

I think it said something about the course of Team Kimba's life that the half-demon girl was decapitated, her head grew but the severed head didn't die, Sara was involved in a life-or-death struggle with The Kellith, an Old Man Demon , was in Poe's basement setting things on fire, and what everyone was worried about was the lumpy stuff in the meatloaf.

Okay, I wasn't worried about the meatloaf. I had a cassoulet with a rich confit d'oie, courtesy of Chef André. Tennyo wasn't worried either. She ate about eight servings of meatloaf before moving on to the next main course, like locusts clearing an entire farm before moving on to the next few fields.

Chaka interjected, "Okay, but what I want to know is who went to Hawthorne today?"

The hands start to go up. Up.

Everyone who was stopped, except for Sara and Jade, raised their hands. Well, Sara was in a lot of trouble with everyone, starting with administration, and Jade had just gotten off work helping these guys in the sewers. Though I'm not sure you can use the words "fresh" and "sewage" in the same sentence. Especially considering the sewers around here.

Jade pouted, "I have a job you know! We planned to sneak over there after dinner while I studied in my room.

I groaned, "Pronouns please!"

Nikki pointed out, "Well, now you don't have to sneak around anymore. Looks like we're all going there."

Tony shrugged. "What's the matter? I had a great time there. I like to go back.”

I tried to explain, "Looks like we're the only people who've ever had detention therewantedTo go back. You know the Alphas wouldn't come back. You know the campus bullies don't want to come back. And you know bad guys caught doing that around here don't want to come back. Who besides us is going to serve detention at Hawthorne?

Hank said, "When Lily's friends and I got in trouble for breaking into a restricted area to stop the Masterminds, we got extra security assignments."

Jade said: “Stan and Morrie said that Bronco and Silo break things all the time, but they keep getting assigned to maintenance to fix things. Stan says they're getting pretty good at the construction work. She cracked a smile. "Morrie said it was good because they aren't smart enough to be plumbers."

Bunny chimed in: "When guys get pulled over in the garage for breaking the rules, they're usually assigned to do outdoor things they really hate, like raking leaves, shoveling snow, clearing the yard... stuff like that."

Sara added, “When the Intelligence Cadet Corps raided Schuster last year to stop this gang of masterminds, they were assigned third shift security for two full weeks. That must be brutal if you still have to sleep.

Chaka summarized, "Okay, so we're the only people who do something bad enough to get detention at Hawthorne who aren't the bad guys and are tough enough not to be ravaged by the Dornies."

Nikki added: "And there are a lot of nice people out there and they need our help."

I emphasized, “I think that's the point. People like you would never, under normal circumstances, be arrested at Hawthorne. The Good Samaritans are helping others and not getting involved in huge superhero battles that endangers half the campus.”

After dinner I made a tactical error. I asked Nikki, "Hey, remember when you loaned Jade all those books on hypnosis? Well, let's try hypnosis to fix my BIT. I want to borrow them all. Is that in order?"

The tactical error was that I asked her as we were heading back to Poe and the rest of TK ran to me.

Of course, Chaka was there first. "Ayles, are you sure this is a good idea?"

Hank added, "Weren't you one of the people on Jade's case last time?"

Tennyo snarled, "At least Jade had some protection when she went in and tried. He could have done it.anythingto her while she was under hypnosis!"

Jade interjected, “Yes!” Then she turned to Tennyo and frowned. "Hey! I'm not totally helpless here!"

I raise my hands in surrender. "Look, we've been through this before. But now we know Bellows can be trusted..."

Jade grumbled, "There was this coughing thing when he was typing with the pencil. I didn't like that."

"...and I have a plan," I continued, ignoring her complaint. "I'll have Jade Jinn change me into my clothes right before the meeting, and then, if anything goes wrong, Jinn can just walk me out of there."

Jade smiled, "We can do better! I'll throw genie in your clothesEyour skin!"

I shuddered. "Didn't you do that with Tansy?"

"Oh no," she shook her head. "Nothing like that. But if Jinn is in her shoes too, she can control her eardrums!"

Hank chimed in: "Yeah, so she can talk to you by vibrating her eardrums. But it's really loud if it's not the right volume."

And then I understood. "And she can pinch my eardrums so I don't hear a suspicious hypnotic command!"

Jade jumped up and yelled, "Yes! That's exactly what I wanted to say!"

Toni muttered, "I still don't like it."

I told her, "I'm not very happy about it. But if someone you trusted came to you when you were ten and said that hypnosis could help you fix your body the way you need it, you would would have done?

I could tell by the look in her eyes that the answer was, "There was no way you could have stopped me."

I sighed, "Look, you all know this. Itergive it a try! I can't live like this, half stuck, the biggest crazy job on campus..."

"You are not a freak."

"Yes here."


"Thanks," I added, "but I hate my body. I have to try this. And if someone I trust takes care of me, I can relax under hypnosis.”

Jade looked at me with wide eyes. “Do you really trust me that much?” She gave me a big hug.

Nikki reluctantly took me to her room to get all the books on hypnosis. She muttered, "I didn't like it when Jade did that and I still don't. BITs are dangerous things to mess with."

"I'll be careful, Mom." I teased.

She showed her superior maturity by sticking her tongue out at me. Of course I didn't mind. Fey sticking her tongue out is a little sexier than, say,... last month's Playboy centerfold.

She pulled books from her shelf and piled them in my arms. "Okay, here's the stuff about the British Psychical Society... A History of Famous Mystics, Mesmer's in there... I bought Gauld's History of Hypnotism after Jade read it, here we go... I've got The Science from Hypnotism "No", but Jade said the library has about six copies, I can't imagine why, it's out of date and really bad... Okay, here's "Hypnotherapy: Theory and Practice" which is a little bit "Hypnosis" too much for my liking for Dummies "... And you'll want to read this one, there are two decent chapters on the subject..."

I ended up with six books plus a few references to look through the library that week. So I read Nikki's books during our usual study group. It didn't take that long. Some of the books were quite short, two contained only snippets of hypnosis, and none of them were technical.

But Jade kept bugging me with fantasy stuff while I was busy reading Nikki's books. I tried to work with all of them before the study group ended.

"Oh come on," she insisted. "We all agreed that we should do a tenchi muyo theme..."

I mumbled, "I don't agree with that..." Not that anyone paid any attention to my objections. Like always.

"...and I have a great idea for a costume for you!"

“It's not Kiyone or Mihoshi, is it?” I asked anxiously. I definitely wasn't ready to walk around in high-heeled boots and a miniskirt.

"Oh no, it's not like that. It's from later things. It'll be great."

I had no idea about some of Tenchi Muyo's later stuff, other than the fact that it evolved from Tenchi and Ryoko's stuff. But the group decided to do a Tenchi Muyo theme, as we already had an exact replica of Ryoko - right down to the costume.

Nikki said, "Jade had a great idea for my costume. I'm really looking forward to it." Suddenly, she gave a wicked smile. "ParticularlyThe accessories..."

I relented awkwardly, "Oh, fine."

I should have been more suspicious. Much more suspicious. I asked her to take my measurements and realized I was out of danger. Of!

At least she let me finish Nikki's books. Not that there was much content in these texts.

I put them back on Nikki's shelf and asked myself aloud, 'Did I learn anything from these books? Other than the fact that Mesmer was a nutcase?

Tuesday, October 24th

The alarm clock went off and played some of the deliciously polyphonic parts of "Defective Invective Detective" by Brass Monkey. I thought about hitting the snooze button, but ended up lying there and listening to the whole song before getting up.

I didn't struggle to get out of bed as much as I got out of bed. I got up and sank out of my pajamas and onto the bunk. Once on the floor, I walked around normally and put on my robe. I grabbed my gear and headed to Eden.

And the morning showers were his usual patch of heaven. Between Fey and Vox and Bugs and Scrambler and Riptide, the entire room glowed with splendor. I did my now standard "run for the shower" routine to make it look like I wasn't looking at everyone. Too much. I then commandeered a sink and spent as much time there as I could, looking in the mirror at pretty beauties who didn't notice that I was spending a ridiculous amount of time flossing my teeth.

So breakfast was a treat. Chef Peter had two orange rolls for me. Each was about two inches wide, so they weren't the usual crushing lumps of dough that Tennyo and Lancer always seem to shove into their mouths. These were sweet but tart, with a rich sourdough bread rolled around with a filling like homemade orange marmalade, cut into spirals and topped with a drizzle of royal icing loaded with orange zest and juice. Man, I could have eaten that until I exploded.

So Theory of Powers was kind of depressing. Filbert had me come down for a demonstration. rats. I thought I got away with it yesterday. The zombie voice caught me moments after I sat down next to Charmer. "Phase? Would you please come to the front of the room to help with a demo of our current live material?"

Möbius whispered: "Better you than me!"

I dropped my stuff and climbed over the tables to my right so I could head to the front. "Yes indeed?"

He said to me, 'Please step onto the platform with me and let Mr Clark unroll the equipment. It's going to be easy."

Then he started talking as Sean pushed a table full of junk behind me. "Now there seems to be some confusion about the difference between extradimensional density modifiers and interdimensional density modifiers. The phase here is an extradimensional density switch, and we'll be able to demonstrate some important points of interest here..."

He spoke a little about the differences between the two types of density shifters, while most of the class fell into a helpless coma. Then he had me walk over to the trouble light and run my hand over several electronic toys. Each one hissed and sparkled as I slashed at them.

After that, he made me take it easy, stick my hand in a pad of Lexan and struggle to disintegrate a chunk of it. It hurt, but I made it. So I blacked out again and pulled my arm out, leaving a handprint the size of Ayla devoured on the plastic. Because Lexan was a clear plastic, the whole class could see the effect.

After I finished, Dr. Quintain: “So this has real-world applications. An important difference between extradimensional density shifters and interdimensional density shifters is how they interact with an opponent in power armor, for example.”

Sean Clark went out into the hallway for a second and came back in what looked like old Roosevelt-class MCO armor, complete with a shoulder-mounted Gatling gun that looked like it was firing grenades the size of my thumb.

This got everyone's attention.

The light blue armor turned to me. I walked lightly, just in case.

Quintain stated, “We are all at risk of being attacked. One day, any of us could be attacked by opponents in power armor, regardless of whether we did something to deserve it or not. This is slightly outdated power armor that was donated by the MCO and was part of a school-sponsored information exchange. However, it is still potentially fatal for most Whateley students. Few mutants are bulletproof with that level of firepower, and few of us would want to fight a man in powerful armor. The interdimensional density shifter, who can become intangible if given the time to prepare, can easily pass through armor or have weapons pass through him. Or her, in this case.

“But the extradimensional density converter can do much more. phase will now be demonstrated. She will first run her hand over the Gatling gun controls, disabling the power armor's firepower. She will then slide an arm through the power armor and the operator, disabling the armor and knocking the operator out at the same time.

Hang on! I could not do! What if the guy inside had a BIT?

Sean Clark must have known what I was thinking. I doubt I was the Great Stone Face at that time. He leaned forward and whispered, “He's a security volunteer. He is not a mutant and does not have BIT.”

I sighed in relief.

Dr Quintain looked at me. "Phase? Are you ready?"

"Yes indeed."

"Then please begin."

Okay, so I've shown you a little bit. I was already light, so I jumped through the powersuit to get behind him. I went to block the light before running my hand over the control wires leading to the Gatling gun. Sparks flew as the subsystem experienced a dramatic short circuit. I then waved my arm over the back of the power armor and through the operator. The battery system shorted out in a huge burst of energy - which frankly hurt a lot - and the powersuit froze. Slowly he fell backwards. I got heavy and caught it in one hand before it crashed to the floor. No use hurting the unconscious guy from the inside either.

After I lowered the powersuit to the ground, Mr. Clark muttered, 'Can you help? I have to put him on the table so I can get him out of here and take him to the elevator.

Then I got a little heavier. The power armor plus the transporter only weighed about a third of a ton, so I had no trouble picking them up and putting them on the cart. Sean unrolled the material and I returned to my seat.

Möbius whispered, "Damn! That was MUCH more impressive than last week's Harrier demo!safeDo you need a utility belt?”

Charmer slipped into French, the way he did when he wasn't thinking about it."I have to agree! That was very impressive. Not surprisingly, you are one of the strongest fighters in the Aikido class. I am happy again that I rarely have to fight you."

But she smiled as she said her last sentence. I'd fought her enough to know that her physical skills were minimal-Jade could have carried her with one hand tied behind her back-but her magical skills were pretty hot. Not in Fey's class, but pretty good. It had a barricade spell that erected a magical wall I couldn't penetrate (although I could dive to the ground and duck under it, or go light and fly over it). She had a Golem spell that was quite effective, though not strong enough to last long with me, Prism or Golden Girl. She had half a dozen other spells she could cast on the fly, and she was working on more spells. Maybe she wasn't ready to compete against the top 4 or 5 in our aikido class, but she was definitely in the next grade.

When I got back from class that afternoon, I found an envelope in my mailbox. Not only was it marked as belonging to Trin and Macintyre, it was also hermetically sealed. And the inner shell was covered with magic runes. I suspected this was to prevent anyone from snooping around or stealing the contents of the envelope.

Easy way to test this? My. After taking out the papers, I took it easy and tried to open the envelope. Anything. I couldn't get past the rune-covered envelope. It was almost like trying to break through Nikki's magical wall of power.

The papers were two of the reports I requested. The first article was a well-known developer of drugs that affect primary and/or secondary sexual characteristics. The second was meeting intersex mutants throughout history and how they solved their physical problem.

Apparently, there were two drugs designed to turn ordinary men into transvestites: conditioning and the black market drug fem-gen. Neither worked for someone with a BIT or significant regeneration abilities or reversal syndromes. And both were only for men who wanted to crossdress.

Damn it. I didn't want to become a transvestite, I'm done!

Anyway, I already knew a lot about conditioning, since it was the drug Gracie took to become a transvestite. The Fem-Gen's effects reportedly only lasted a few days, forcing users to become "addicted" who need another dose every day or two. Then there were Lutinase and Androgenyet, two breakthrough drugs that had limited success in male mutants trying to become female. There were two known cases of mutants with BITs that did well with lutinase - they became fully female and still didn't come back after a few years - but there were far more failures. Unfortunately, there was nothing out there for an M2FM like me who wanted to be male again.

The second document was even more disheartening. There simply weren't many known mutants who were intersex or hermaphrodites, other than those who were in that state when they transitioned into something else. like Hank. He was still a two-sided hermaphrodite, even if he was constantly moving into a solid type. Hardly anyone had my problem, and none of them were fixed.

Trin and Macintyre had records of two intersex mutants who died trying to revert to their original gender and two who committed suicide when they couldn't fix their condition. There were brief reports of three intersex superheroes - one posing as a sexy supervillain - being brutally killed and/or gang-raped when captured by their enemies. Then there were two others who just disappeared or went into hiding or somehow killed themselves without a trace of their bodies, orsomething. But they were never seen again.

The last case was the worst. I was surprised Mom didn't dwell on that at some point. South American superheroine Mujer Fuerte. She was intersex but pretended to be a woman like me. She was one of the leaders of Los Conquistadores, the South American superhero team. She tried to repair her body with magic. She became completely feminine and went completely crazy. And her powers went up several levels as well. Oh, dear God. She had literally become "Dark Phoenix" on her team and in a large area outside of Rio de Janeiro. She had to be put down by... Oh Jesus. She took all of Los Conquistadores and the Brazilian Army and two full Dropships of the Knights of Purity and also two major supervillains who were her longtime enemies and took the opportunity to legally suffocate her.

The idea of ​​putting everyone I care about at Whateley in the "dark phase" made me throw away my biscuits. God, if I went crazy or went bad and also became powerful enough to cut through force fields, there would be nothing left here but body parts.

After reading these reports I was so disheartened that I just sat in my room and listened to REM for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, October 25th

At breakfast, Fey had news for me. "Looks like Circe will meet you at lunchtime. I'll take you there."

"Great," I said. But I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't be great. In fact, I thought it would be pretty depressing. But I had to find out, one way or another.

I was nervous all morning. Man, I wasn't so nervous the first time I had dinner with Warren Buffett. I lost pretty much everything Mrs. Ryan said about the clothes she reviewed. I had a hard time concentrating in Spanish class. i got dr Quintain completely knocked out - but that was perfectly normal and maybe had nothing to do with Circe.

I had a quick lunch and Nikki showed me one of the classrooms used by the Department of Magical Arts for introductory classes. Again, we enter a normal-looking classroom with a large whiteboard at the head of the room and an inconspicuous door next to the whiteboard, presumably so the teacher can leave quickly and not have to deal with students in the hallways. .

Circe looked the same as before. But this time I could see who she was as soon as we entered the room. Then she got up. The way she moved. The power and authority in her every move. It was almost like watching a human version of Aunghadhail.

I tried a polite smile. "Circle. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I hope I'm not interrupting your lunch or anything."

She nodded, "No way. Fey spoke highly of you, and when we met before, I saw that she was right.

I tried, "So... I guess you already know what I want to ask. Turns out I don't have a GSD. The problem is my BIT. My question remains pretty much the same. You can magically change my BIT to get me back for me?back for a guy?

She sadly shook her head. "There are rules for that. Really strict rules. And those rules are there for very good reasons. Mages and psies have tried to alter people's BITs, essentiallyNOComplete successes and a series of truly terrible failures. Even with partial successes, something drastically unpleasant often happens. The classic example of this was Gator, a 1990s superhero who was probably Specimen-5 by your current system and looked like a man-alligator hybrid..."

Oh God. The alligator. I knew where this story was going.noknew this one. It was all over the papers a few days ago in 2001. Mom made a fuss about it.Sweet.

She continued as if she hadn't noticed my huge contraction. "He persuaded Doctor Homunculus and Magistare to try a spell to change his BIT and it was a disaster. They changed his BIT. They altered him to look like a six foot tall handsome man. But he turned into a man with the strength of a Specimen-5, the appetite of an Energizer-6, and the intelligence of an alligator, he went on a cannibalistic killing spree in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, which he was eventually killed by two teams of Knights of Purity as he was about to invade. a female dorm in the middle of the University of Miami campus.

Yes, I already knew a lot about Gator's infamous rage. Thank goodness for Uncle Herb and his Knights of Purity. It was reassuring to know that there wassomegood guys out there. Though there was nothing reassuring about the magical question.

I sighed, "I was scared of something like that. I mean, after what you mentioned last time about fixing people's GSDs, I figured there was probably something like that, or the Department of Magical Arts would have fixed every weird BIT on campus .” Me trying to keep my shoulders from slumping too much as I said, "Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, even though I'm a muggle."

Circe didn't answer. She just looked at me. I had seen a cat watching a field mouse like that, so I didn't like it. Still, he wasn't in too much of a hurry, as long as he had Nikki in the room. I thought Circe was a really powerful mage, but I'd seen Fey in action enough to know that no one would ever push her, at least magically.

Finally Circe spoke. "You should take the magic course."


she waited.

My first thought was, "What the hell were you smoking? This was closely followed by "I don't have time for this crap, I need to plan a proper academic curriculum!" Of course I didn't say either.

Rather, I thought. This was no poor showman. That was Circe. This was a source of wisdom most mortals would cut off their right arm just to find. And she had just given me some advice.

If I met Alan Greenspan at one of his wife's parties and he gave me advice on economic trends, would I ignore him? Of course.

If I met Warren Buffett again and he gave me some stock advice, would I ignore him? No way.

If I had lunch with Bill Gates again and he gave me advice on the future directions of computer science, would I ignore him? No way.

So why did I think twice about it? Okay, so my schedule was already pretty full. So that wasn't my forte. So I didn't know what I was getting into.

I said cautiously, "But I'm not a magician." Then I checked, “Am I?”

She smiled slightly. "No, you're not. But you have all the qualities I've always looked for in a future student."

For some reason, my knees suddenly felt really rubbery.

She explained: “First you have to understand something. You don't have to be a powerful mage like Fey…” She glanced at me, but saw something else. “…Or Majestic…to learn magic. I have always demanded several things from my interns. thirst for knowledge. An iron will. Strong morale that has already been tested. A basic understanding of your little part of the world. Willingness to accept advice, even if you are used to being too smart to listen to those around you. Some of my best students didn't have an ounce of Fey's power when they started.

"You consider yourself magically weak, and yet you have no problem seeing Fey as a friend and teammate. You recognize Aunghadhail in her and The Kellith in Mrs. Waite. You're already taking bids that invalidate the world you grew up in. And yet, your understanding of your own little part of the universe is so intense that you are already well on your way to becoming a billionaire.

"You were tempered by fires you did not create. You learned the lesson of the wizard who lost his magic. You learned the lesson of the apprentice who had to face dragons. Your civil courage did not let you down.

"You may never be Merlin or Morgan le Fay, but you can learn more about magic than you thought possible. You can learn the commandments and skills. You have the willpower to compel magic to do your bidding. And you do." the wisdom of knowing who to listen to and who to ignore.

"One more thing. You currently feel that you are weak to magic, weak to psychic powers and weak to other powers. You look for 'strongholds' to protect yourself in times of crisis. Learning magic may one day give you more support than you are currently unwilling to understand. Just like learning martial arts teaches you more than you might think. One day you may need magical abilities and not your mutant powers as a warper."

I swallowed hard and asked, "So there's an introductory course in magical arts next semester?"

She smiled, "Spring semester. There will be enough interest for a single class. It takes place in the third period. On the days I'm invited to present, I expect intelligent questions from you.

She was up from her chair and out the teachers' door before I could put my legs up and run again.

"Oh. My. God," Nikki whispered.

I cleared my throat and said, "Yes. Me too. Did I just hear what I thought I heard?

She muttered, "Uh, yeah. I think you could even get a mentor if you want to try and take this seriously.”

I told her, "I'm not going to start this if I'm not serious."

She flinched. "I thought so. But... Ayla... there's one more thing you need to know. It's been a long time since Circe personally looked after a student here. She might not offer to guide you now, but she sure sounded that way to you. me. That's what people in the MA department talk about. The last student Circe mentored was a Wizard-2/Manifester-2 named Wight in the late '80s."

"I don't like the way you said that."

She pursed her lips. "You shouldn't. Wight didn't survive her last year at Whateley. She was coming home for Christmas and tripped over something. No one knows exactly what. But whatever it was, it gutted her like a fish and used her gutted carcass in some kind of necromantic ritual. As soon as word spread across campus that Wight was dead, people realized something important. Circe had already removed Wight's name from all the lists of Magical Arts courses for the fall and spring semesters.

"How did Circe find out about her death before anyone else?" I asked.

Fey emphasized, "You don't understand. Circe took Wight's name off the list during the Combat Finals that fall. Two whole weeks before Wight was killed. Sheyou knewwhat would happen to Wight. Sheyou knewWight would not return. A lot of people think that Circe chose Wight to be his apprentice in Wight's second year because Circe predicted that Wight would happen two years later."

I tried: "Okay, but this is an isolated case. In my family we have a saying. Once a coincidence, twice a coincidence, three times enemy action.”

She frowned. "Then I better tell you about the apprentice in front of Wight. According to Earth Mother, Circe came to Whateley in the 1970s and within two days chose an apprentice. Within three years, Gleaner had become known as one of the rising stars in some areas of the magical arts. During Gleaner's last year, he dealt with something that emerged from a cave about ten miles from here. His coat and shoes were They weren't badly damaged. It looked like he had managed to banish whatever was trying to escape. The rest of Gleaner was never found. The Department of Magical Arts locked his cloak and shoes in a vault. It's been over thirty years and psychometrists still can't touch these objects without going crazy, or at least falling into a temporary coma."


She insisted: "That's true. According to Sir Wallace, Circe took an apprentice in England in the 1930s and trained her for years. The woman competed against some members of the Thule community during World War II. She was awarded the the OBE by Churchill. Posthumously. Her skull was all they could find of her. It was buried at sea because no one could contain the magical consequences of what was done to it.”

"Ah, Good."

She took a deep breath and insisted, "Phase, you have to understand. Circe has mentored god knows how many apprentices over the centuries. The legends about them all have them fighting evil. And dying."Terrible. Circe wanting to mentor her is not considered a good thing here!”

Oh damn I felt my knees give out and I sat down in a chair. I thought out loud. "Then I have two options. I can either accept what she offers and probably end up being destroyed by horrible monsters. Or I decline the offer and end up being worn down by the same things but completely unprepared to stop them from moving forward.

Fey muttered, "It's not that simple. There are probably other options. This isn't black and white. Reliance on a prophecy – let alone your personal interpretation of a prophecy – is notoriously unreliable. And we don't even know that Circe saw any foreshadowings. Your case may not be like the others, but you have to know.

I snorted. "Yes. "Know enough to be afraid." That's Transylvania Polytechnic University's motto in the Girl Genius webcomic. I guess I better start studying enough to be afraid of the right things. Spring semester?"

"Spring semester," she shuddered. She took my hand and said, "But remember. Wight and Gleaner and everyone else? You were alone. You're not. You have a team that's there for you when you need it. Maybe someone like Wight wasn't up to it." of the task, but you'll have me. And Sara. And Billy. And the rest of TK.

"Thank you thank you very much." And I hugged her. She gave me a lot of pressure. I really needed a hug then.

And so I had to refocus before going to the aikido class so I wouldn't get beat up all over the dojo.

I stopped by Hawthorne's again after trigonometry class. Static Girl and Frostbite wanted help with math. Of course they also wanted to talk. Well, that's why I stopped regularly. So I stopped by Puppet and talked to her about the upcoming Golden Kids reunion.

She moaned, "Man, I really wish I could go out for stuff like this."

I promised: "Well, since you can't, I'll come on Sunday and clean up all the mess."

She smiled, "Will there really be dirt?"

"Oh, probably. I bet there are half a dozen people here wanting to tell stories about someone else."

That night, after dinner, all of us except Jade studied at Kimba Korner. She kept running to get more pieces for people to try on. She had a wide, tapered shirt for me to try on. She said I would wear one of the usual supersuits underneath. Okay, that sounded doable. She also had what looked like a longer version of a karate top.kimono, and something like a kimono. She said she would have the rest of the outfit ready soon.

I walked through the wall into my room and she rounded the corner to meet me there. As she checked the fit of the parts, I chatted with her about what she had already tried to fix on her BIT.

She said, "Well, you know about hypnosis." I shook my head. “And the Lutinase stuff.” I looked at her. I still couldn't believe that she hadn't talked to us about taking a potentially dangerous drug and that she hadn't noticed how the drug was messing with her feelings. “And Chou.” I nodded at that too. I already knew that none of these options were viable for me. "Let's see what else. I spoke to Nikki. And I spoke to Mega-Girl about how her PK case changed her physically."

"Okay, I didn't know about that last one." I had her on my list, but I hadn't realized that Jade could be way ahead of me with that.

She shrugged unhappily. "Marty practically told me to say goodbye. She told me not to talk to her about it until I tried to change as much as she did."

um That didn't sound like Megs. Maybe they just misunderstood each other. Or maybe Jade had caught Marty at a bad time. Anyway, I thought she could do a little better. I had an ace up my sleeve as Delta Spike owed me a big one. Or two or three big ones.

I told her, 'Look, I'm going to talk to Marty, and if I find anything encouraging, I'll let you know. OK?"

She smiled, "Man, thanks! Thanks a lot!"

She hastily made a few adjustments to the fabric at my shoulders and waist. Then she measured the distance from the hem to the floor. She made some notes on a piece of paper and left again. Man, she was way too serious about this costume thing.

I decided I'd better go upstairs and talk to Marty. Or at least try.

I made it to Damnation Alley without Hippolyta running up and confronting me. I thought it was a good omen. I knocked twice.

"In between!" That was clearly Marty's voice.

I opened the door to a scene that I would say was a caricature of Marty and Elaine. Marty sat at her desk and studied. In full superhero gear. She hassleepin her mega girl outfit? Elaine worked hard at her desk, working with a soldering iron and some small electronics. As long as you're dressed like a girl. She wore a crop top cut high enough to show the underside of her breasts. She was paired with a low-waisted pleated plaid miniskirt and a pair of high heels.

well not reallyandwith the skirt and heels, if you know what I mean. Elaine may have managed to transform herself into a girl, but she had no idea how to charge fashion sense into her brain.

Not that I meant it. While not rude, I didn't want to be responsible if she actually TRIED to build a device that could load such abilities into her brain.

Marty and Elaine turned to greet me. Okay, so they weren't style goddesses. But they were very hot. Marty had the whole "blonde Hollywood starlet with serious breast implants" thing going for him. Elaine was more the "hot brunette Playboy Bunny" look.

Suddenly it dawned on me. Next year I would be a sophomore and live on this floor. Marty and Elaine would be juniors, but they could still be on the ground. I could actually shower next to them! Wow!

Okay, they weren't as hot as Vox, let alone Fey, but they still smoked. And they were easily distracted, so maybe I got a lot of opportunities to look at them while they were naked in the bathroom.

You know, life is tough when you live in Poe.

Delta started: "Oh! Phase, I never thanked you for what you did at the gun show. I don't know why these things always happen to me..."

I was sure everyone knew. Not that I'd say that if I was going to pester your mate for a favor in a few seconds.

“…but it was a total disaster. I didn't make a single sale and all I had was a complete loss. Even my power whip.

I interjected, "Yeah, I guess you're lucky you didn't have crispy fries."

"Well, I have some burns, but they're mostly healed." She demonstrated by standing up and pulling her shirt up until her breasts showed.

It was pretty much all I could do to keep my eyeballs from popping out. But there were definitely red marks on her back. The burns were almost healed, but they must have hurt a lot for a while. "Ah. I see why you're wearing that short top."

She nodded as she carefully tucked her shirt back in place, "Yes, some of those spots on my back are still quite uncomfortable. But I'll have my new power harness ready in a few days, and this time I'll have ablative plastic in my costume to soak it up." excess heat in case the headgear burns again. Hmm... Ablative coatings..."

And suddenly she was lost in Devisor land, typing hastily on her PDA and muttering to herself.

Marty gushed, "Give her a few minutes, she's like this all the time."

I smiled, "That's okay because I came to talk to youOf.“

"Me? I can't help you with gadgets and such..."

"Marty, that's not why I'm here. I wanted to ask how your PK shell works. I heard it changes your body from male to female.

She pouted, "Yes, but it takes forever! And now I try to be like this scolded all the time because my skin itches like crazy if I leave my PK on for more than a few minutes and it's too expensive to buy new clothes and Feral says I don't I know how to put an outfit together, but Dee-Ess says I look good and..."

She chatted like that for another two minutes. I sat down politely, nodding at appropriate times, as if I really cared to hear how difficult it was to buy baby T-shirts in her size at Whateley.

Finally I interjected, 'Look, if you're really interested in good clothes that look good on you, you should try Rogers' Fabric Boutique in Dunwich. You've seen the newest clothes Tennyo is wearing, right?"

"Ooh those sailor suit styles were so cute on her!"

I managed not to roll my eyes. "Well, Cecilia made this for Tennyo. And she has a mutant power over fabric, so she put these clothes together in about ten minutes.”

"Wow!" she exclaimed. Then she stopped. “But I have a budget that I have to stick to. Dad really isn't happy that I'm turning into a girl and I have a lot of gross stuff from my childhood so I can't spend a lot on new clothes. I mean, it's absolutely not fair because..."

And then she was gone again. She rambled on for a while about how all those other girls on Poe had really awesome clothes like Fey and Bugs and Quake and she was stuck with things in her closet that she really hated. Well, I could relate. If all I had to wear were clothes like Elaine is wearing right now, I'd tear my hair out.

It took me a while to bring her back to the subject. "So how exactlyANDIs your PK projectile changing your body?”

"Oh! That. I really don't understand. Elaine explained it a few times, but I don't know enough science to follow what she's saying. But somehow my PK case is in the patterns or something tuned in my body, so the more I I can't take it, but it changes my body. What I hate is that it might take another year before I really look like a girl underneath, and maybe three or four years before it completely turns me into a girl. Then I'll have the same appearance, whether or not I have my PK shell. All of that will be ME!"

"So you think you could make a PK case like that around someone else and tune them in to that?whetherbiological patterns?” I asked, trying not to sound desperate.

That's when Elaine woke up from her fugue state and poked her cute nose into our conversation. Every time Marty tried to give me advice, Elaine would hit her mustard. In Elaine's case, it was more like a jar full of coins.

She interrupted Marty and said, "Oh, you couldn't do that directly. First, Marty is a Manifestation, but she's a MAN-4:a. Do you know what that means?"

"Actually I do-"

“This means that the PK shell forms at zero distance. You have to touch it. Therefore, it cannot form a PK shell around someone else. That's what your little friend Jade asked at the beginning of the semester, isn't it? She didn't let me get to the bottom of it. "Well, even if she could, it wouldn't help. The other thing is that Marty is not a specimen. She's a false model as her body reforms under the control of her mutant power. But if she was a model, then her BIT would always fix her body as it was before. Since she isn't, she has NOTHING to mess things up and can use her PK shell to repair her body.

"Thanks for the explanation"

“Oh yeah, and their PK shell only does that because their manifestation adapts them to their biological patterns. She cannot change the projectile's appearance and cannot change the fundamental frequencies of her PK projectile and therefore can only affect HER body. But I studied a lot and I really believe that this is the wave of the future. You know, if I had some venture capital, I could really make it big. It's only a matter of time before we unlock the mysteries of biomorphology and then EVERYONE will want to get on the bandwagon. This will be the next big thing! Once we can modify people's bodies to match their personal self-image, the world will be knocking on our door to get it. Every single person on the planet is going to want to transform…” Finally she stopped and took a deep breath. "What do you think?"

I said, "I think it has potential. But a lot of people have already thought that about the personal flying car, and you know how that happened.”

She frowned in thought. "Well, it might still work. We have the technology. It's not the cost.forinaccessible. The biggest problem is still power generation…”

I disagreed: “No, the biggest problem is that people can't drive worthlessly in a simple 2D world with carefully designed lanes and traffic controls to restrict drivers. Put a million Los Angeles passengers in flying cars and you have thousands of wrecks in the air every day, with heavy deaths in each accident.”

She thought for a moment. "Sounds easy to me. We just have to tell people what the rules are..."

I insisted: "Says the girl who broke all the rules even to be a girl! Think about it. Everyone would break the rules if they could and if they didn't think there would be real consequences. People do this in cars all the time. How many drivers do you know that he hasNeverwent over the speed limit, never stopped at a stop sign, never crossed a parking lot to pass a line of cars stopped at a traffic light?


"If people had flying cars, they would leave the official 'traffic lanes' at every opportunity, assuming no one would get hurt. And once a million planes flew the official routes, nowhere in the sky would be safe, except possibly the official routes! Some call it the law of unintended consequences. Others call it what it really is: poor strategic planning. This applies to your idea of ​​biomorphology. If you don't see all the possible consequences, then you're in trouble when these consequences happen. For biomorphology, the biggest consequence for your hypothetical start-up company? Complain. Multi-million dollar lawsuits whenever something goes wrong, or someone is rejected for a reason they don't accept, or everything goes perfectly, but then the person decides what to look like with Elvis it was a bad idea after all, and so was she, it's your fault you didn't talk him out of it."

"I don't think lawsuits will be an issue..."

I emphasized, “Elaine, in business we have a saying. 'The difference between theory and practice is that theoretically there is no difference.' This means, among other things, that you should expect the unexpected.”

Marty blinked and said, "I still don't get it."

"Look, it's really easy, and-"

But Elaine just walked right over me. With a steamroller. "Oh, I know I can get it to work properly, it really won't be a problem. Even though my attempts haven't gone so well so far and Knick-Knack doesn't want to let me join their working group. I asked Sonex if he could put in a good word for me, but it didn't help. And I just know I could really make some headway there..."


"And this is very important! All I know is that biomorphology will be the next big thing, and if we don't make it to the first floor, we'll be locked out..."


"I just need some decent sources of funding - I really think you could help me a lot with this - and a little luck in the workshop. And maybe discovering these galvanomorphs, that would really help a lot..."


“So it really comes down to the issue of funding. If only I could squat in the shop and work on it. I know with enough money I can make this work. And maybe if your family has some MCO contacts that could help me get a look at Dr. Throwing in Pyg's morph gear would really help..."

Yes, exactly. As if that were ever going to happen.


"What? You don't need to yell, you know."

"Look, if you want serious venture capital, you have to write a full proposal, just like everyone else who advocates getting venture capital from me." Okay, that was a tactical lie, as nobody tried to venture capital out to get me. Although I had hopes.

She insisted, "Well, who else is trying to get venture capital?"

"It would be unethical of me to say that to you."

Which was true, but still a lie, as it looked like I actually had potential customers whose identities I was protecting. But I had to lie to her or tell her to her face that the thought of giving her large amounts of capital scared the shit out of me. I was having these mental pictures of even bigger and more damaging explosions coming out of the shop.

I got out of there in one piece. It took me just another ten minutes to explain what would be required in a complete venture capital investment proposal.

So I went down to see Jade. I reluctantly broke the bad news to her. I told her that with Marty's PK shell there is no hope. And I warned her to be careful with Delta Spike sales pitches.

Thursday, October 26th

The morning started very well. I woke up to a rousing Metallica chorus. I had to watch hotties undressing, showering and drying off. My "work in the mirror" ruse still worked, although I had to escape the bathroom when no one was looking because I had a hard-on trying my best to rip a hole in my robe.

Breakfast was the usual madness at Team Kimba's table as Tennyo ate an entire stall full of boiled pork products while arguing with Jade about Halloween costumes. I mean, did it really matter which Ryoko Tennyo costume she wore? Apparently, they've had enough. But Tennyo's mouth was full of food most of the time, and every time Jade took a sip of Count Chocula cereal, her backpack played its part in the argument. So Tennyo had a really hard time not losing the fight.

In costume class, Ms. Ryan worked on my costume and four others. The other students had colored pencil drawings. Mine was a 3D mannequin made on my computer. I had the image overlays saved on a memory card in addition to the printed images I sent. Mrs. Ryan had compatible software on her laptop, so she really manipulated the colors in real time to show what was possible.

She just played around with the colors and added color gradients in places like the character's arms and legs. But honestly, she made some major improvements to my design in just five minutes. Which made me feel like she absolutely valued my skills as a costume designer.sucked. By the end of class, all five guinea pigs for the day have been assigned to work harder on our costumes: at least four new versions of our costumes that use what we talked about in terms of color schemes are due in the next week.

Okay, that wouldn't be a problem for me. I just had to do some scribbling and figure out what I needed to tweak. I was then able to paste the new color schemes onto my 3D mannequin in minutes.

Not everyone was so grateful for my creativity. While some people told me that my computer generated character was really cool and they were considering making it into their own costumes, several people thought that meant I was cheating.

"Fucking rich bitch Goodkind."

"I knew she would do that shit."

"She probably paid an artist a few thousand dollars to do her work for her."

And to top it off a few miserable minutes of listening to angry idiots, Superior and his friends kicked me in the face when I tried to leave the room. He sneered, "Nice computer graphics of you faggot. I bet you got a little more of you getting your ass naked." Idiot friends of his laughed at me.

I scoffed, "Once again transferring personal fantasies onto others? Why don't you don your Captain Spine costume and scour gay bars in Berlin? Like your dad does every weekend?

It got him. His face turned red with rage and he snarled, "Shut up, faggot!"

"Or what? You're going to demonstrate that I can kick your assEeach of your friends without breaking a sweat? Maybe you'd better get out of my way before I give you what I gave to Fireball!"

It shook him, though he didn't want to admit it. He took a step back and said, "Come on guys, I want to get rid of this faggot before I get anything from him."

Excellent. Now I had to threaten people with something so terrible I couldn't bring myself to do it. That would certainly win friends and influence the people here.

I stayed there until I could unclench my fists and then I went to Spanish class. At least nothing happened there, except that Chaka pleased Riptide with another story. And she got so excited about it that her ki nearly knocked my notebook off my desk.

At least lunch was a plus point. Chef Peter had a wonderful pumpkin puree for me. The fresh pumpkin flavor was enhanced by the subtle nuances of freshly ground nutmeg and allspice, which are often overdone in these soups. The soup was rich and thick, without the usual gooeyness of pumpkin.

I had to talk to Peter about the soup. He said, "Are you sure you want to know the secret?"

I knew what that meant. That meant I might not like the answer. It's like asking someone how to make sausage. I smiled, "I'll risk it."

He said quietly to me, "It's not a pumpkin. We use golden Hubbard pumpkin imported from California and Oregon. It's sweeter, has a richer flavor, and isn't stringy like pumpkin. The fact is, garbage buy cans of canned pumpkin "It's not a pumpkin either. Instead, the entire canning industry uses golden Hubbard pumpkin."

Well, I can't say I was surprised. After all, pumpkins are just big pumpkins with a really good PR campaign.

The afternoon classes went very well. Phobos and I had a lot of fun matching. Well, to be honest, a big reason we had so much fun is that we got to see Golden Girl spend a miserable time doing the same thing with Haywire. Exceptionally loaded, Haywire continued to shock GG even though she had already turned golden. And she really complained about it. Sometimes I thought Phobos would burst out laughing.

So Powers Lab and Trig went well. I was so far along in my homework that I understood everything Mrs. Bell said and I didn't even have to take notes. I hoped the afternoon class boded well, because then I had the opening session on accounting, and I told Mr. Marley who would be his assistant professor for the rest of the semester.

I still wasn't sure I was up to it. But I went to the Business Accounting Open Session. Vox found me and we walked together and talked about our day. She'd spent Aikido classes working combinations with Aquerna, and she had sore shoulders and a few bruises to show for it. Anna was stronger and faster than she looked.

I really appreciated Vanessa's support. I really wasn't sure how this was going to play out. I mean, I knew the cold stuff. But I worried about how someone other than TA would handle a good person who hates mutants.

I went in with Vox at the last minute. There were already eighteen other students in the room. I learned from Mr. Marley that only thirty-two students were enrolled in the course and two of us had already completed the course requirements. Several people recognized me, probably from the first meeting of the open session. None of them looked happy to see me.

I let Mr. Marley introduced me: “Hello everyone. I have good news. The open session was pretty busy with all the questions people wanted to ask, so I have a TA for the rest of the semester. Now you have ittwoPeople who can answer questions and many more people will get help. Our TA will be the phase that has already completed all course materials and is believed to be way ahead of this class.”

I looked around the room. Nobody but Vox seemed pleased with the news. Several people looked horrified, including Aqueous.


I got up. "Hello, I amyetAyla Gutkind. Many of you know that I am now codenamed Fase. Mr. Marley asked me to work as a TA in this class because I've already completed all assignments and optional assignments and I've already received an A+. So I don't have an agenda here. I already have the note I wanted. I'm not here to play pranks on anyone. In fact, I would feel very presumptuous if I put everyone here at least one A-.

“Most of you probably know that Aqueous got really mad at me the first day because of my last name and I haven't been back to open sessions since. And most of you probably know that dozens and dozens of people were a crowdmoremad at me for one reason or another the entire term. Some people even smiled about it.

"So if you don't feel comfortable coming to me for help, I'll understand. Just keep going to Mr. Marley. But if you want to try me, I'll do what I can for you. I'll make it difficult for you. If you're still not sure, ask Vox if I'm a good teacher for these things. So... anyone want to come over and ask me some questions?

Nobody wanted to be first. One of the girls called out, "Hey Vox, is she really a good teacher?"

Vox turned and looked at her. "Are you kidding? The phase isExcellent. He knows these things like the back of his hand and understands how it really works in the real world. I've been going to his room for help all semester, and he knows as much about accounting as you do.NeverI will study in a classroom."

Some snot in the back — a guy who looked young enough Justin Timberlake to be a model — sneered, "How much are you paying her to advertise?"

Okay, now I had an agenda. I wasThenwill not help the idiot.

Mr. Marley exploded: "Mr Preston! That was totally inappropriate and extremely impolite. Even for you! Now apologize to Miss Jackson immediately or you can go.

"Sorry," he said in the most insincere voice humans know.

After that, Mr. Marley tried to divide the room into people who would ask him questions and people who would talk to me. But it was pretty clear that everyone expected to join his group instead of mine.

I watched Aqueous plead with Mr. Marley, and judging by the sagging of his shoulders, he didn't get what he wanted. Reluctantly, he trotted over to me and gurgled, "Mr. Marley said I should talk to you about this. I knew the pretty ones would get you..."

I groaned. "Look Philip-"

"Watery. I like watery. I don't like 'Phil' anyway."

"Why not? Phil is a good name," I said.

He grimaced, "I was named after my Uncle Phil. And when I came forward..."

I finished, "He's an idiot who hates mutants. Right?"

Aqueous nodded sadly. "Why am I telling youOfO?"

I tried, "Maybe because you know my family is full of assholes who hate mutants too?"

He looked down at his feet for a few seconds and said, "Phlegm says you're a really nice guy, and you're the only person Puppet visits. And Jimmy T says you're friends with some underdogs. I figured…"

I figured, "That I would be a mutant-hating idiot, like many members of my family? Honestly, six months ago I probably was. Good people like to think of themselves as the oppositeto hateMutants who just recognize the threat that mutants pose. Which is still biased and terrible. But I came out and my family kicked me out and they did a mad scientist experiment on me and stuff like that. and my body didO. You think I'm one of the beautiful ones, but I look terribly deformed."

He admitted, "Slime said you really are a guy and your body is a total mess."

I shrugged. "Can be worse."

He said, “Yes, there are around hereAlwayssomeone worse than you.”

I nodded and said, "So what can I do for you?"

He cringed: "Look, don't knock me down or anything, but I don't understand. Why do we need to learn two different accounting methods? The cash method makes a lot more sense to me than the accrual method."

A few other people gathered around me and one or two of them agreed with him.

I said, "Sure, you can use the cash method of payment. Many small businesses use the cash basis for accounting. But it gives you a distorted picture of the business. So it's bad for anything other than keeping totals for tax purposes and can be a bit problematic in some rare cases."

A girl I didn't know asked, "How can that give you a distorted picture of what's going on? I mean, you have the same wins and losses anyway.

I smiled, "Now you get to the bottom of the mystery. The real difference between the two methods is none other than thattimed coordination. Let me do an example like some of the materials online. Suppose you keep the books of a designer - let's say it's Jericho - who has just received a patent for 'applied phlebotine'.

"That's one of Buffy's referees, isn't it?"

I smiled, "Yes. Now, in October, you're charging Joss Whedon $30,000 to use his patents on Phlebotinum. You get a check for $15,000 with a promise to get the rest of the money next month. But Knick- Knack also charges $13,000 for the components he built for his Phlebotum, so you write a check for $9,000 and promise the rest when your customer pays you next month. He's good at that." Everyone nodded as Vanessa wrote this on the board next to me as I spoke, "Now we're moving to November. Mr. Whedon pays the remaining $15,000, and you write a check for $4,000 to the Knick-Knack. How did we do when we used the cash payment method?”

Aqueous took Vanessa's magic marker and quickly drew a grid on the whiteboard, then filled in the numbers. “We did well for two months. We have earnings of 15,000 in both months, but in November we have a much higher profit.”

I pointed to the numbers. “Do we really make a profit of $11,000 in November if we have the same earnings? Have we introduced cost-saving measures? Or is that completely misleading?”

A guy I didn't know said, "It's liketotalerroneous. We didn't do squats in November. All these numbers are just carryovers from October.”

I smiled, "Exactly. If we use the demarcation method... Vox?" She added it to the grid and conjured the numbers in a few seconds. It was good to see that she had that chill. "Okay, now we see that we actually made a profit of $18,000 in October, and we just sat on our asses in November when we should have been trying to get Roland Emmerich or someone else to buy more Phlebotinum. We have a completely misleading picture of our finances. And that cost us the chance to do something meaningful in November. Now we are stuck with zero earnings for the month. This is bad. Using the correct accounting method helps us understand what is going on with our business and this allows us to figure out what we should be doing with sales, manufacturing and the entire business. For this reason, in the real world, we want to use the competency method most of the time. Of course, if you're doing the accounting for your cousin Larry's three-person business and he wants you to use the cash method of accounting, there's nothing wrong with that. Be aware of how this can distort the appearance of the win/lose structure.”

"Okay, that makes sense. Does this fit the concept of 'revenue recognition'?"

"Yes! Yes, that's exactly what revenue recognition means," I explained. "It means companies should recognize their revenue when it's realized - actually earned - so you're recognizing revenue when that's what widgets are actually sold for or services are actually rendered. This way..."

About an hour later, I finally left. Somehow I ended up talking about how understanding the competency method can help with basic forensic accounting and everyone was like I had something of value to contribute.

Vox and I walked back to Poe, just holding hands and kissing when no one was in sight. She purred, "You were such a nice guy to everyone. I didn't know how you would act when they asked really stupid questions, but you were awesome." And she kissed me again... until we nearly hit a tree.

It must have been very romantic, because it wasn't until I walked Vox up to her room and dropped her off that I realized we were walking in an extremely cold rain and I was soaking wet.

After dinner I decided it was time to see if Zenith had any ideas. I went upstairs and knocked on her door.

For the first time I can remember, Shrike didn't answer the door. Instead, Zenith did. She looked a little flushed.

Sahar was sitting on her bed. While Zenith was an example of an ultra-hot blonde, Sahar was very beautiful. She was obviously Arab, with beautiful olive skin and long luscious brown hair and eyes that would have been on the cover of a fashion magazine if the beautiful irises weren't rimmed in bright red.

Sahar was also a little flushed. And when she turned around, I could see that her shirt was unbuttoned.

Oh. Hoppla.

"Damn, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you two were…um…busy. I'll be back later," I apologized.

Zenith was about to send me away, but Sahar insisted: “No. Stage, please enter. I want you to talk to Zenith."

Okay, Sahar was known around campus as a medium with some pretty frightening power. Not in Fubar's category, but asignificantPsi who had psychically explored perhaps a dozen Psi. Psis that should be too powerful for anyone to exploit. So she probably caught whatever I was broadcasting and already knew what I was going to ask. This had to be significant.

Sahar turned to Zenith and said, "Zoe, I want you to talk to Ayla about this. You've avoided this for too long."

What had Zenith avoided? A few possibilities came to mind. If I had never met Fey, Chaka, and Tennyo, any of these possibilities would seem too far off to even be considered.

I tried to smile. "Well, it seems like everyone in the room already knows what I'm going to ask. But I'm going to say it anyway. Turns out I don't have a GSD. I have a weird BIT. I've talked to a lot of people about options, so I know that nobody in the arts department spells will touch it with a ten-foot pole. So I wanted to ask if you have any thoughts on the subject.”

Zenith closed her eyes and sighed. "Phase, you don't want to hear this, but my recommendation is simple. Give up. Just face the consequences of being trapped as a girl for the rest of your life."

What the hell was that advice?!?

None of them needed to look me in the face to know what I was thinking.

Sahar said: “Zenith is not cruel or indifferent. It's just realistic.”

Zenith groaned miserably, "I've learned this the hard way over the past two years."

How did you learn? Oh. got it One of my ideas probably wasn't so far-fetched after all.

She looked close to tears as she said, "I was born a boy, just like you. And when I realized my mutation made me a girl, I thought I was going to lose him." Even before coming to Whateley I approached the woman. I slowly slipped into the girly zone no matter what I tried. I fought tooth and nail to remain a guy. No luck. I even had a working tail until the end of last winter.

Sahar smirked, "It was really good too. I really enjoyed it. But I'm really happy with Zoe the way she is now."

I looked up in shock as I realized something terrible. No wonder she was so crazy about us changelings. No wonder she dressed like her. Was this what I was doomed to do? A super hot babe who didn't want to be a woman?

She looked down at the ground and whimpered, "I've tried everything. I have this talent I call the 'database' technique... Need I explain what it is?"

"No, Chaka gave us the facts about that."

"Good. Well, it allows me to understand the skills of the people I talk to and also put them in a usable context. So I knew what the options really were, as well as the experts I pestered. I knew the options, how they were." worked and what could go wrong. There's nothing else to try that isn't too dangerous.

So after trying like hell to stay a boy for at least two years, she gave up. Man, this depressed me to death. She obviously wasn't excited.

I tried to be nice about it, even when I really wanted to scream. "Look Zoe, I see how bad this is for you. I probably understand this better than anyone else here. Which says a lot about Poe. I know you have to talk to Sahar about this, and I don't know about Shrike, but if you want to put it on the air, come down and talk to me and Chou. OK?"

She gave me a brittle smile. "OK. Thanks. I doubt I'll talk about this with you, but thanks anyway."

Sahar chimed in before things got complicated: "By the way, Zoe told me you're a financial wizard..."

Oh, did she? What happened to the "Why shouldn't Phase try for six months" routine? I looked at Zenith and asked, "Did you track stocks as I recommended?"

She nodded, "Yes. And Shrike has been tracking stocks every day since you reinvested your money market funds. Some of those stocks have gone up since then, and the stocks you've put options on have gone down, so she's made big gains in all of them too." .”

Sahar looked at me intensely, probably trying to get my understanding out of my head. Zenith elbowed her, presumably to stop her. Then Sahar asked: “I don't understand. How can you make money when a stock goes down?”

But before I had to explain the call and put options to her, she understoodverin her eye. An "Oh, I get it now" look. This "database" technique was quite surprising. Too bad I couldn't get it.

She thought aloud, "Well... I understand how this works... but I don't see how I can invest money if I'm starting from nothing."

Zenith explained, "Semi can use my 'database' technique, but her version isn't as powerful as mine... And she doesn't really need to invest anything."

I told them, “Yeah, Chaka sort of explained something about Beirut and Sahar's parents.” As far as I could tell, Sahar had literally nothing. No home, no family, nothing more than what she'd saved by treating Tansy like an ATM. And many of them would likely pay the portion of their Whateley bills and tuition that was not covered by their sponsor. That was the CIA, if you can believe that.

um Zenith and Sahar were extremely powerful figures on campus. I wanted Zenith's help to become Poe Cottage's next fixer. I said, "I'll tell you what. We can work something out. Tell me what you have, what your debts are, what your assets are, and then tell me where you want to be in 20 years..."

Friday, October 27th

Mrs. Horton waited until I was showered and dressed before waving me downstairs. I was happy about that because I got to watch Rip demonstrate his jacuzzi trick in the open shower and I got to watch Nikki dry off and I got to watch Vox shave her pubic triangle to the end. Wow.

Mrs. Horton handed me a sealed Trin and Macintyre cardboard envelope. "Ayla, I knew you'd want this." A warper just delivered it. Now I know you can afford it, but I would be much happier if you stick with regular mail going forward."

I sighed, "I'm sorry, but I can't. The more valuable my business becomes, the more I have to resort to secure services. We both know nobody's mail is safe at Whateley. I can't let that happen. What if, say, If a thirty million dollar contract is in an envelope in a Whateley mailbox, we both know the odds that someone can use an esper talent to identify it and someone else can teleport it away before I even know it's there. . ."

She frowned. "I really don't like it when warpers show up unannounced on campus, especially here at Poe. You know why. But I agree that campus mail isn't that safe. It wasn't long ago that Hippolyta had to stop an Emerson boy from stealing something straight from Jade's mailbox..."

I decided this was important enough to skip breakfast. I waited for the dorm to calm down a bit and opened the envelope. There was a cover letter:

Dear Mrs. Goodkind:

Based on your original requests, we've compiled two lists. Top 30 bio developers worldwide, with special focus on their work with BITs, if known; and the world's top thirty magicians with a similar focus.

We were repeatedly told that no serious magician would attempt to change someone's BIT after a long series of failures in this area of ​​magic over many decades. We've included the list, but we strongly recommend that you don't try to change your BIT - or anyone else's - through magical practices.

Incidentally, most of the organic developers we spoke to strongly advised against it without a lot of prep work. You might want to make this a long-term research project.


Crystal Macintyre

I hated to say it, but that was basically the conclusion I came to.

I read the wizard file first. Wow. That was comprehensive. They even included dark wizards and well-known wizarding supervillains.

Heck, how was Fey already among the top thirty magicians in the world? Someone must have confused her with the magician who beat up the necromancer in Boston. This was probably a BAD thing as it made her way more popular than a high school freshman should be. Okay, nominally she should be a sophomore. That wasn't the point.

Of course, not all villainous mages had phone numbers and addresses where they could be contacted. I wasn't sure I wanted to know how Trin and Macintyre got the Black Wraith and the Convert's cell phone numbers. And I wasn't sure I wanted to know what would happen to someone whocalledthose numbers. Could you be hit by a spell on a phone line?

Okay, if they found the Necromancer's cell number, I'd give it to Sara and every top phreaker on campus. Even if it just meant turning off phone sales eighty times a day.

But every respectable or semi-respectable wizard on this list has indicated that they wouldnoBe willing to try to change anyone's BIT through magic. Even one ofdarkMages said he wasn't willing to mess with people's BITs: Mage also had occasional nasty rebounds. And there was no way I was going to call Black Wraith and ask him to screw up my BIT for cash.

The list of biological developers was even more complete as Trin and Macintyre included facts about each of the developers, including relevant research work and current employers.

Of course I started at the top.

Well, maybe not number 1.

Number one on their list was one of the world's most notorious supervillains. Doctor Bubonic. Trin and Macintyre established that he "apparently" escaped in 2004 after Dreadnought, Power Damsel and the entire West Coast League detained him as he attempted to hold the entire San Francisco Bay Area hostage. But he hadn't been seen since. So he might not have survived. As you might have guessed from this description, no phone number or current address.

Okay, I started at number two. Nucleic. Igor Gellmar, Whateley class of '83. M.D., two Ph.D., twenty-seven major biopatents, the inventor of the PRKL gene sequencing system, and the developer of Sneezix, to name a few of his accomplishments. He had much more impressive credits than the last 10 Nobel Prize winners in medicine, but he was blocked by the Nobel Prize Committee for being a mutant.

Man I really changed in just a few months. In June, I would have supported the Nobel Prize Committee in this regard. I would have asked dad to support her. Now I saw it as a strategically stupid decision. Maybe Dad was right: mutants really did see the world differently than good ones.

I would have felt so much better if I was sure I was right.

On the other hand, being absolutely sure you were right was probably aroomyThing. Stormwolf was so busy being Mister Right Arrow that he let a lot of bad guys on campus get away with a lot of bad things. Crucible was so busy being the Test Under Stress supervillain that thousands of people died trying to prove his points. Living with self-doubt has probably been good for me.

It took me ten minutes to speak with Dr. to get Gellmar on the phone. Finally, he turned on what was obviously a speakerphone. I could tell by the increased background noise. "Who are you? What do you want? I'm really busy right now!"

Wow. I bet your bedside manners were great too. I said quietly, "My name is Ayla Goodkind. As in, 'My father is Bruce Goodkind.' I want to hire you for a project. I happen to be a specimen and need an expert to find a way to restructure my BIT. I'm willing to switch off..."

“I don't work with BITs. People foolishly assume that since I am a biodeveloper I am interested or even interested in BITs. bits areNObiological andNObiomathematically quantifiable. I makeNOWork with BITs in any shape or form. I suggest you find another developer.” And hung up on me.

Oooh-kay. That didn't go very well. Two down, twenty-eight to go.

Number three. Chromatic. Dr Elvin Ferber. Author or co-author of seven major textbooks on genetic diseases. developer ofno uteroGenetic treatment systems for 8 different genetic disorders. He is credited as "the man who cured pre-uremic cystitis", saving the lives of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of babies and young children each year.

It only took me two minutes to find Dr. to get to Ferber. Maybe he wasn't as important as Gellmar. I'm serious. What's the point of providing an instant point of contact for urgent information if you're going to surprise everyone anyway and waste that time?

"Hello? Can I ask who's calling?"

I started, "Yes, Dr. Ferber. My name is Ayla Goodkind, um..."

"One of the good guys?"

I tried: "Yes, doc, one of the good guys. My mother is Helen Goodkind, the director of..."

“Goodkind Research. I'm not interested."

I insisted, "Wait a minute, I'm not affiliated with my mother's institute. I'm a mutant and I need your help."

"I'd rather do a five liter Ebola enema than help a good guy. Good morning! And DON'T call me again!"Clique.

Wow. These calls just got better and better. I couldn't wait for the next one.

Okay, number four on the list. The flu. Another supervillain. Started in Rome and apparently a big nuisance to most European supergroups.

Number five. The Prionator. Another supervillain. The Prionator's last big move was to get revenge on a British superhero by trying to wipe out all human life in the UK.

number six. nucleotide. Professor Heinrich Liebler, who works at the Austrian Institute for Advanced Studies and develops new drugs for Bayer. They are credited with developing four of the last six major breakthroughs.

He was simple and direct. In German he said:"I already have one job. In fact I have two. And my job at Bayer excludes collaboration with other outside groups. If I leave Bayer in the next twenty years, I will consider your offer. Good morning."


The hits just kept coming.

number seven. "Surely you don't expect me to believe that you are truly working in the best interest of the mutant community. You're a good boy! I have to count on you converting any developments into potential anti-mutant weapons!"Clique.

number eight. "I don't work with BITs."Clique.

number nine. Another supervillain. Dust.

number ten. "Good manners? Like in Humanity First! and the MCO? I'd rather become a coprophage!"Clique.

Man. that wasTHENThen. That put me 11th in the world, which...

Good Wilkins?!?

Jobe Wilkins, the newbie nerd here at Whateley?

Apparently. Among the details for him was the fact that at fourteen he already had a phenomenal record. He had several biopatents a year since he was nine years old. NINE? He couldn't have manifested as a mutant so soon. Which meant he was aGenuineChild genius, a brilliant biovisor to boot. And an insufferable idiot.

Jobe Wilkins was the sickly patient who genetically engineered the blade spinner. What a twisted POS.

The next line had me sitting up and nearly spitting my coffee across the room.

He had developed a new and much more effective vaccine against dysentery. It was designed to save perhaps six hundred to eight hundred thousand lives. Per annum. Holy crow! And he donated to the Gates Foundation. Free. Free?!?

The Gates Foundation was already distributing it internationally, although there were unfounded rumors that Jobe might have tested the vaccine on inmates in Caredonia.

Now,OI believed. Especially after hearing what he said to Greasy at the gun show.

But Jobe was the scary weasel that spoiled both Phobos and Deimos. It was Trin and MacintyresafeWasn't he a supervillain? I mean, everyone and his grandmother knew his father was Gizmatic. So I checked below.

Number 12. Dr. Pygmalion. Currently serving a 200 year life sentence in a federal metahuman correctional facility. Oh. To the right. The sick one Delta Spike took. But the biological invention that Dr. Pyg liked to do was turn talented young male mutants into offspring. Big breasted, long legged Playboy bimbos who thought Dr. Pyg be Jesus Christ. Except sexier.Definitivenot interested.

OK let's see. Number 13. Nimbus. Another damn biodeveloper supervillain. And this was apparently a new main character, as in "Now a Big Honcho with The Syndicate". My God, why couldn't these guys get into a Doctor Doom vs. Magneto and kill each other?

Okay, the next couple on the list weren't supervillains. I started calling again.

Another response: "Drop dead, you goodie."

Another "I don't work with BITs".

"I'm busy with other projects. Try again in eight years when my current contract expires.

“My NDA does not allow me to do outside projects.” I didn't work in the pharmaceutical industry, but I knew enough about their business models to know that a non-disclosure agreement is a non-disclosure agreement. So, by definition, he wouldn't reveal more than that.

A few more super villains.

Number twenty-three. Knick-Knock. Jean Paul Alivares. Okay, I knew him. I even bought one of his devices at the gun show. But he was also a student at Whateley.

I worked my way through the rest of the list. Two more super villains. Two more "leave your damn goodness" responses. Another "I don't work with BITs" and two more "I'm busy with other projects and will be back in dozens of years" replies.

Holy crow! I had gone through the entire list and my only options left were two other Whateley students. Two people who lived just a few hundred meters from me. I was either the happiest guy alive or the most screwed up.

If Jobe and the Knick-Knack also rejected me, I would have to reconsider this approach. I started to get involved with biodevelopers whose work was nowhere near reliable enough for me. At this point I would be talking to crazy developers no better than Delta Spike and Greasy. I didn't want to be manipulated by Nutbars, who would rather turn me into a wooden puppet than turn me back into a real boy.

After all that rejection, I was almost late for lunch. Luckily I wasn't late for BMA or Itohochprobably would have saved me halfway through sixth grade. Just to make a point.

The issue would probably be that he was a bad old man. But I already knew that.

Jade met me in the administrative area just before I went to see Dr. Bellows left and she invited Jinn to my skin and clothes. That was a little weird because I could feel Jinn checking my clothes. Jinn did some tests on my eardrums that were pretty crazy. First she did a sound check to make sure she was at the right volume while vibrating my eardrums. She started with a whisper so low I couldn't hear it and kept increasing the volume until I told her it was loud and clear. She then performed a mute check where she held my eardrums still, effectively deafening me. Both ran perfectly.

I was ready. In theory anyway. And I've spoken many times about my feelings about theory versus practice. But if something went wrong, Jinn could keep my eardrums still so I couldn't hear hypnotic commands or use my eardrums to send me messages. And she could pick me up to take me out of there. I felt so much better knowing I had an invisible guardian watching over me just in case.

Jade hugged me. - Good luck, Ayla.

I hugged the little splash back. "Thank you, I appreciate it."

Jinn whispered in my ear, "Okay, I need to concentrate now so that Dr. Bellows doesn't sense my feelings and realizes that you have a passenger."

I shook my head, which was probably stupid since she wasn't standing in front of me looking at me, she was thrown into my skin and clothes. Besides, she didn't need a nod from me. I remembered to pretend I didn't have Jinn around.

Dr Bellows welcomed me into his office: “Ayla, you are as punctual as ever. In between. Well, just like we already discussed, today we're going to try to put you in a hypnotic state and check how deep you've gone. That is all. We will train you later in self-hypnosis or work on your BIT. OK?"

"I like that," I replied. "I read about hypnotherapy and I think I'm ready."

"What did you read?"

I smiled. “Remember the list of books you gave Jade Sinclair?” He smiled appreciatively. "Fey has most of them, plus a few others. The library has the rest.

"Good," he replied. "Is that why you seem so much more relaxed and open?"

I admitted, "Partly. I also checked your credentials and did a background check on you. You've got a lot of people who think you're the best head-shrinker since Sigmund Freud."

He actually blushed. He said in an 'Oh Shucks' sort of voice, 'I'm just trying to help people. That is all."

Then he let me lie down on his couch and get comfortable. He said, "Be relaxed, but not so relaxed that you fall asleep. The goal is to help you establish your own self-hypnosis routines. But for now, we want you to relax and focus so you can get into a hypnotic state. Since you learned about hypnotherapy this week, you'll remember that. And I'm going to use some of the basic techniques I'm sure you've read about: a visual object of fascination and a simple monologue to help you get into it. into the state of mind you desire. If you've read about practical approaches to hypnotherapy, you'll recognize what we're about to do as the "ladder" technique.


He pulled everyone's favorite shiny disk on a string. He slowly rocked the disc back and forth while twisting the string between his fingers so that the disc spun as it swung. It made it difficult for me to focus on what the idea was.

He began to speak in a slow, monotone, carefully tuned voice. "Now I want you to watch the disk spinning... Keep your eye on the disk... Follow it constantly as it wobbles back and forth... As you watch the disk, I want you to imagine yourself going down a flight of stairs... It's covered with thick plush carpet... It's very easy to go down these stairs, the easiest and most comfortable thing in the world... I want you to count from one hundred to one... For every ten numbers, you are closer to a full hypnotic trance... Start counting now... As you count, you will feel your eyelids get heavy until you can no longer keep your eyes open..."

I started to count. "100. 99. 98. 97. 96..."

He went through the whole ladder method and I went down to "1". But my eyelids still didn't feel heavy.

He did some simple tests and concluded that I had not sunk. I was sure of it.

After that, he tried out the "House of Doors" technique and the "Float on a Cloud" technique. He spent the entire hour putting me in a hypnotic trance. We weren't lucky.

He smiled, don't worry. Many people are resistant to hypnosis. That doesn't mean we can't find a way to make it work for you. We'll try again on Monday. How is that?"

I wasn't very confident, but I said anyway, "Sure. That sounds good."

After I left his office, Jinn said into my eardrum, "He was despondent. I could see it."

That didn't cheer me up.

Saturday the 28th of October

I slept a little too long so I didn't have time to look at the babies in the bathroom. Which was a huge disappointment because it looked like Bugs was going to shave her legs. And it was about time she gave herself another bikini cut, so I was really looking forward to seeing this. Instead, I had to run out, get dressed, and run to the coffee shop for a takeaway coffee and some croissants.

I wasn't late for world literature class, but I was the last person in the classroom. I wasn't too worried. My article contrasts the heroic styles ofGilgameshEBeowulfhas already been submitted.

Next week, Indian epics would be theMahabharataERamayana. I'm just getting startedRamayana, and I had a lot to read in a very short time. I mean, the version Zinn gave us was 24,000 verses long! OMahabharatait was almost as long, and it took me a few days to read everything I used to.

Well, I knew what I was going to do with MY free time this weekend.

The class discussion was very interesting. Majestic contributed rather than mocking how people imagined Hera or Juno. And she didn't give us her usual smug, "Oh, I know how it went because I was there" attitude. Silver Serpent had his usual oriental approach to literature, which was really telling when we talked about it.Gilgamesh. I was really excited to see what she had to say next week.

The less I say about Bubble's "contribution" to the discussion, the better. The girl has a bladder, all right. between her ears.

Iron Star and Magni-girl stopped Pendragon in the hallway to discuss important Cape Squad matters with him. Something big, no doubt. Like trying to convince Bravo to go away and leave her alone. So I went to the cafe with Stunner and Silver Serpent. We were still talking about the Epic of Gilgamesh.

When we got to the cafeteria, everyone went their separate ways. Which was probably a good thing; because chef André had something for me and I didn't want to explain to everyone why he was getting something that wasn't on the menu.

André casually walked out and handed me a bowl of fragrant lamb stew that smelled of apples and onions. I got a salad and a dessert and was ready to eat.

I sat with most of Team Kimba, who were engaged in the usual crazy conversations that always seemed to happen over meals. This time, Chaka lamented how complex her love life had become, as she was being pursued by multiple men despite already having a boyfriend. And a girlfriend. And maybe another girl is also interested in her.

At the same time, Jade was concerned about the problems involved in sending some of the J-Team members to work in the sewers while trying to do all their sewing with another J-Girl. Apparently, the fourth J-Girl was Jeannie, and Jeannie was allowed to inhabit the fabric that was sewn together. That's right, Jeannie was the one who actually went through the sewing machine. Apparently, Jade could pull the fabric together, play Jeannie, and then hold and align the layers of fabric themselves and then run them through the sewing machine along the correct lines, while Jade just ran the sewing machine at the correct speed.

I didn't know much about sewing, but it seemed pretty quick. She already had half the costumes ready. Man, at this rate, she would end up with Cecilia Rogers. According to Rip, the normal method was to carefully line up the layers of fabric, pin everything together, and then thread the pinned material through a sewing machine inch by inch, pulling the pins out as the sewing machine worked through the fabric.

The lamb stew was excellent. The base of the stew was apparently a rich stir-fry of carrots, celery, onions, garlic and ginger. Then the diced lamb was added to the stew in a rich lamb broth and a nice red wine - a Bordeaux I was sure. There was also cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper, giving it a subtle Middle Eastern sensibility. Then, towards the end of cooking, apples were added - apples peeled, pitted and diced - to give the apples time to add their flavor but not fall apart. The stew was also thickened so it was a rich and delicious meal. After eating the entire bowl, I thanked Andre and found out what kind of apple he had used.

When we got back to Poe, there was a note on my door. I was trying to capture Beltane for a few days, but she was barely visible. Apparently, she cooked up some Beltane style mischief for some idiots on campus. Which felt a lot like most days for Belle. The note was from her and it said only: "The doctor is here!" and was signed with an elaborate "K". It took me a second to remember that her name was actually Kendall, since no one I knew called her that.

I ran to her room and got her before she snuck out to play poetry pranks with people other than us, which she still did quite regularly.

She ushered me in and asked in her most formal British voice, "And to whom do we owe the honor of the presence of a good child?"

I didn't bother telling her to stop. If I did, she wouldto holddo it. I explained, "I've been asking around and trying to figure out what options I have for fixing my BIT into something more normal."

She raised an eyebrow and asked in a much more normal tone, "And what does that have to do with me?"

I persisted, "You told us that you use your ectoplasm to change your biological patterns and turn you into a girl. They didn't explain how that works because we're just stupid frogs. But I wanted to see if you could use your ectoplasm to change patterns other people's biologicals."

She pursed her lips and asked, "Do you know what MATD is?"

I admitted, "Actually, yes. Mom wrote some treatises about it. I read most of the journal articles relating to mutants that come out of Goodkind Research. MATD is the manifestation of increased tissue deformity. When a Manifestation creates matter manifested at a distance zero and matter is in the form of a "carapace" or "shell" or "symbiote" and there is no separation between the skin and the manifested matter, the body can attune itself to the manifested matter, and the matter actually changes the body in the direction of appearance and substance of manifested matter”.

"Damn," she cursed. "I thought I had to give you the whole lecture. You seem like one of the forces that test tinkerers!

"Thanks. I think so."

She continued, "Since I don't need to train you in MATD, let me cut to the chase. Most Manifestations with MATD hate how manifested matter alters their bodies. Like Kaiju."

"KAIJÚ? Does anyone call themselves Kaiju?" I asked in surprise.Even if it was Whateley.

She corrected me: "Herself. When you get to know her, you'll understand."

I tried again: “Oh, come on, 'kaiju' is Japanese for… well… it would translate in English as 'strange animal.' But it's mostly used to denote giant monsters in movies like Godzilla and Mothra. Don't tell me there's a giant Godzilla running around Whateley and I kind of missed it."

She slowly shook her head. "Do you know what 'Kaiju girls' are?"

I don't think I blushed too much when I admitted, "Uhh, yeah."

Okay, I wasn't a saint. I was a boy of fourteen, for God's sake! I also had unusually high testosterone levels for a boy. Damn, I had high testosterone levelstwoBoys.NaturallyI searched the internet for inappropriate content. hundreds of times. I hadn't bothered since I came to Whateley, as there weren't anyanythingon the internet that I was almost as hot as the girls on my floor. But I've been to the Twisted Kaiju Theater and watched the kaiju/hot hybrids that performed there. AND…

"Oh shit. You mean here's a girl who has MATD and that turns her into a kaiju girl?"

Bella nodded. "Right in the money."


She nodded, "Sadhira is quite unhappy about this. But I'm MATDTellAt the. It's working slowly for megs but it's working great for me. Though I still have a long way to go before I look the way I want.

I told her, "Come on, you look good." Well, she looked good compared to her average baseline.

She huffed, "Says the kid who hangs out with Vox and keeps getting yelled at for looking at Bugs and Fey in the bathroom."

"Hey," I protested mockingly. “I stare at a lot of other girls too. I am an equal opportunity watcher.”

She laughed.

I pressed my point: "So the key point is that the ectoplasm doesn't have to have a separation from the skin,Ecompatible with the biological standard. Therefore, you cannot use your ectoplasm to reshape another person.

Suddenly, she had a devilish glint in her eyes as she said, "Oh, if I could! I could turn Farrago into a girl. Sneak into his dorm every night and give him an ectoplasmic female form while he was sleeping so that he slowly turns into a girl... Or turns Glissade into a goat girl... Or..."

Wow. Maybe it was a good thing she couldn't.

After Belle chased me down to do some devilish planning, I went to my room and read until Nikki came back from whatever she was doing.

I went to her and convinced her to help me with my next tactic. My really desperate tactic.

I asked Nikki to accompany me to Sara. I was hoping our local half-demon would have some advice for me that mere mortals ignore.

And we were lucky too. Her bedroom door was in Poe's basement, and she was inside.

She opened the door and smiled, "Ayla. And with your bodyguard. Like... trusting you.

You know, dating psychics can be really boring.

"Well, come on in. I promise not to plunge you into a pit of eternal torment until you at least explain what you intend to do.

Nikki collapsed into a chair and said, "Stop scaring her! She just wants advice.

Sara focused on me, which was as disturbing as ever. "No dark blessings? No unholy pacts? Just advice? How boring."

I've tried, "I have a messed up BIT. I've been looking for ways to fix this. The options I've looked at aren't going anywhere fast. Most high-level developers I've spoken to have said "go away" or "that's not it." my area". Hypnosis doesn't work, although I'm still trying. Medical treatments are contraindicated. Chou and Destiny's Wave looked at me and gave me a big "sorry, but no". Current telltale drugs won't. I've already spoken to Jade about what she's trying to do and I'm not interested in sacrificing my soul to become a man again." I looked at Nikki, "And I already know that no magician will try to help me."

Sara said, "Well, you're right. No self-respecting magician would consider changing your BIT. It's a very complex problem in pattern theory. What people don't take into account is that you seem to exist in three dimensions and we've described your physical reality in ten dimensions. But your BIT expands to higher dimensions. At least the math works better if we assume. But the BIT probably extends into infinite dimensions, with the superpatterns decreasing at hyperexponential rates with the Minkowski-Travitori distance, so the The total energy of the BIT is still finite and the Lie surface of the BIT is topologically constrained. Magical efforts to alter a BIT simply cannot propagate through an infinite dimensional system and affect all of its BITs in all dimensions. That means something must give way somewhere in the superpattern, and the resulting mathematical twist will wreak havoc on some aspect of your BIT somewhere. Or maybe just your sanity. Besides, there's always a chance that a spell this powerful, penetrating so many dimensions, might draw attention to something you really don't want to find. Do you know Firesnake?

I shook my head, "But wasn't it a GSD case and not a BIT case?"

She shrugged, "Personally, I think that's what happened with Firesnake. Maybe he had some connection to a spirit. Maybe he really was an avatar and not a GSD case. When they tried to change him, I think it attracted the type wrong interdimensional attention, and some kind of serpent demon managed to use the spell to manifest itself in that dimension."

"Oh mist."

"Well, if I'm right, even the perfect spell, cast with enough power to topologically encompass its entire superpattern, can simply fail due to outside interference. And that intervention could be something like the snake demon in the Firesnake case. It could very well be something much worse.”


She added, "And even if the spell doesn't attract anything you don't want to find, the need to topologically encompass your entire superpattern in infinite dimensions could mean that you would need an infinite amount of magical power to create it." it works just fine.”

"I take your word for math, Professor."

She smiled, "That would be a good idea, grasshopper. Unless you have a decade to devote exclusively to advanced mathematics and pattern theory.”

She turned to Nikki. "Could you set up a reading wheel here on the floor?"

Nikki said, "Sure. Give me a minute..." And off she went to work. It was amazing to watch because she said things in no language I had ever heard and made gestures that made my eyes water. turned to Sara and said, "There you are."

Sara looked at me and asked, "Would you like to join the circle?"

I scoffed, "Not one of those 'Straw Man' things, is it?"

She smiled devilishly. "Actually it is."

Let me just point out that Sara has a devilish smile.

Nikki warned Sara, "Stop scaring her."

Sara looked at me, "It really is a spell that requires your cooperation. I want to look at your BIT from a different angle, and this is an effective way to do that.”

Nikki said, "It's safe."

I asked, "Should I make a 'marathon man' joke here?"

Sara smiled. Nikki obviously didn't catch the referee.

I took a deep breath and stepped into the circle. I expected a lot of strange mystical things: light shows, demonic faces, unbelievable agony going through me, yada yada yada. Nothing happened. Well, nothing that I could see. But Sara and Nikki were looking intently around me.

Finally, Sara said, "There's something wrong with your BIT. It looks like it's already magically changed. But some of those qualities are definitely not magical.”

Nikki muttered, "Aunghadhail has never seen anything like it."

I groaned, "I think that's bad."

She replied, "Perhaps Circe saw that. Any magical interaction with your BIT.”

Sara said, "Tell me what happened to you when you realized you were manifesting as a mutant and when you realized you were becoming intersex."

I sighed, "Let me go back even further. The Goodkinds have been prenatally screened for what they call the "metagen complex" ever since there was research on the metagen complex. More than one-sixth of the people on Earth have it, so no. it's rare. I didn't have it. Nobody in my family had it... otherwise they wouldn't be in my family. I've been examined a lot by doctors, and this complex is not in my blood samples, not even two years ago. It's in my genome now At some point in the last two years, my DNA was altered in some way. Introns were added or altered in maybe a dozen chromosomes. Which shouldn't be possible. But the fun doesn't stop there. I was experimented on by Emil Hammond. Emil Hammond…”

"Nonsense." It took a long time to get a half-demon reaction, but it was enough.

I continued, "...and that included being a test subject for a drug designed to suppress the mutant abilities of mutants just by manifesting their powers. They could have done a lot of other things while I was unconscious too. I was unconscious for a long time there. day they stopped experimenting on me i found i had grown several inches over the weekend and my face had changed.it wasn't until the next day i found i was also growing breasts and hips but the whole time i was in an outfit heavily padded swimsuit that was molded on the inside to hide my feminine curves. I still have no idea why.”

Nikki pointed out, "But the magical impact on your BIT might have happened later. Maybe if you went easy and interacted with one of the magicians in your aikido class. Charmer and Kismet are there, right?

"To the right."

"And you fought both of them."

"Right. And I've also knocked both of them out at times. Neither of them are specimens. Thank goodness." Realizing what I'd said, I apologized hastily, "Oops, sorry, Sara."

"No problem." Sara dismissed the accidental insult. She added: "Or it could have happened while you were being exposed to these zombies in Boston."

Oh God. That zombie slime that splattered me all over. Could I have done it? I shuddered to think of those horrible moments down there in the dark, fighting things that were already dead, and perhaps being infected by the intracranial malice that animated them.

Nikki said: "We just don't have enough information. But we keep looking. Right Sara?

"To the right."

I asked nervously, "Will this magical thing do weird things to me in the future?" Is that zombie goo that got me turning into a zombie or something?

Nikki shrugged, "I don't know. But I doubt it."

Sara concentrated thoughtfully before saying, "No, what Uncle Darrow used to revive those zombies will have no effect on you because you have your own life force. However, just in case, I would recommend immediate cremation when you die. ”

Oh Gott.

I didn't know which was worse. Thinking about how possible zombie contamination might one day turn me into a carnivoreDing, or think of Sara's family tree. Her father was Gothmog, which means her grandmother was one of the Great Old Ones. And the mother's side of the family was perhaps balancedmoredisturbing. All those things made my family feel like an episode of Ozzie and Harriet.

We thanked Sara for her time and left. Only her door had moved while we were in her room, and now it opened into Hawthorne's cellars.

Nikki stood still and focused for a second.

Fubar appeared in front of us. It was Louis, right. But, for some strange reason, he wore an Elizabethan robe. He bowed deeply to Nikki and said, "Welcome, ma'am!"

She acted like he was doing this to her all the time, so maybe it was a private joke between them. she sighed. "Hello Luis. I just wanted to let you know we're here. Sara's room left us.

He smiled, "Not a problem if it's you. You're both welcome at the top if you want to go this way, or you can go to the main tunnel and go back home this way. I know Phase has already used the Hawthorne Tunnel for that.

Nikki asked, "Since we're here, can I go up and see her?"

He smiled, "Of course! When would anyone here object to you coming and visiting? Keep going up.

Just to be sure, I asked, "Am I okay with this?"

"Why shouldn't it be?" he asked. Then he replied to himself, "Don't think like that, Ayla. You're always welcome here unless we have an emergency. I'll let Static Girl know you're coming upstairs."

I ended up spending a few hours at Hawthorne. After helping Claire with math, I visited Puppet, played two games of Scrabble with Diz, and had a little chat with Frostbite before heading down the main tunnel to return to Poe.

Okay, if you have to ask, Diz hit me again.

I walked down the main tunnel to the central campus until I reached the point where I always went through the floor to enter the Poe Cellar. Apparently, I had done this a lot because someone had chalked the outline of a body on the wall in my place and written next to it: “PRIVATE DOOR TO STAGE. DO NOT USE."

Man, I wish I had thought of that first.

After dinner, I managed to get some reading done before it was time to go to the Golden Kids Soiree. I changed into a clean uniform and took off my coat. I went to the basement and walked along the floor to the Hawthorne Tunnel. Finally it isGuerramy private door. hehe I still laugh about it.

When I arrived at the secret entrance, the same security guards were on duty. So I stopped and said hello.

"Good evening, Officer Green. Officer Trews."


I looked around and made sure we were alone. I lowered my voice to a whisper, "I'm delighted with the package I found in my mailbox. But I still haven't received the information about all the students' powers."

Green frowned. "We've been working on it. But the boss has given up on so many leaks this semester. Apparently we're not the only ones snooping around. And be... Well, someone important told us to wait or something. It's just going to take a while."

"Okay," I replied. "Take your time and do it right so your tracks are covered. I'm not interested in sloppy work or having it traced back to you."

Trews nodded, "We're not interested in getting caught either. That's it.roomy.“

"I'm glad we get along," I said as I passed them in the atrium.

I also had to think about Green's slip up. There was a security sergeant who had wide appeal and was keenly aware of the criminal side of the system here. That had to mean he had a hand in it, if he wasn't one of the ones who did.lieThis. Knowing about said sergeant can be valuable.

Letting him know I knew could be bad for my health.

I saw that there were already several coats hanging on the rack, so I knew it wasn't the first. I walked into the lobby and looked around. I saw the same two employees as last time, but the three student age waitresses were different.

Traduce was loudly giving them last-minute orders, so it was pretty obvious who was in charge of this month's meeting. His voice was unmistakable. She had a sort of "Leona Helmsley" scream. I wouldn't have recognized her if I hadn't heard her. She had her back to me and she had changed her hair color and hairstyle again. This time, she got a blonde Paris Hilton haircut, even though she didn't have Paris Hilton's body. Traduce was a specialized Esper with two talents - which I knew of, anyway. She had a psychic gift for translating languages ​​and a psychic ability to force people to do what she wanted. Rumor has it that she had a bit of trouble not using the second trick if she didn't survive. Also, she was a terrible gossip so I had to take the time to talk to her. I wanted a good meal when I went to Melissa's tomorrow.

Ren Egerton - known to everyone as Glitch, although he preferred the name Overload - had already sunk into a distant armchair with a glass of champagne and a large bottle. Man, I wish there was something I could do to help him, but I knew from experience that he had to be willing to help himself first.

Tabby was already there, holding a glass of liquid and flirting with Dynamaxx. Of course, Dynamaxx also flirted with her. I don't think he's capable of that.noFlirt with any girl who was at least pretty.

A waitress ran up to me with a big smile on her face. I was surprised to see that it was Rhiannon. She whispered, "Hey phase! Have some non-alcoholic champagne.

I smiled back, "Hello. What are you doing waitressing tonight?

"Oh, Traduce offered a bunch of us in the dorm a lot of money to wait and play for one night and I'm trying to save up to buy some nice Christmas presents for my whole family, so I took it. Isn't that nice?"

I smiled, "Yes, but you have to put up with Traduce."

She laughed a little, "Oh, we have to put up with them all the time in the dorm so that's pretty easy."

I told her, "Calm down and keep your pace. After a few hours of walking like this, you're going to poop."

She winked at me and said, "Got it." Then she slowly walked over to the people who were entering.

Renshaw waved at me. I took a sip of the fake champagne... and immediately regretted it. Yes! Was this champagne without alcohol or thinner? I walked up to Ren and said hello.

"Nice to see you, Trev," he murmured. Dear God, had he drunk almost half of that bottle of Krystal? That was a bad sign. "Are you well?"

I shrugged nonchalantly. "Very good." I had no intention of telling someone like Ren all of my life's problems. An alcoholic was not a reliable bearer of secrets.

He smirked, "I heard you took care of those alpha assholes, but that's okay. Keep it up. Us Chilton boys gotta show those snots who's boss!

"So how are you?" Apparently he was waiting for me to ask him.

"Shit, I don't think I can take much more of my roommate. I already told you about him, right? I shook my head. "He must be the biggest hick you've ever seen. He's from East Buttfuck, Kentucky or something. Where they have the big horse race with mint juleps every year.

Ren would focus on alcohol-related events. "You mean the Kentucky Derby in Louisville?"

"Yes," he agreed with another sip of champagne.

A soft voice, not exactly from the South, cut in behind me: "Louisville isn't all that hick. We have shipping and manufacturing there. And I know Ralston-Purina has significant production there as well."

I turned my head and looked. It was tidal water. He was Marshall Sharp McClure of the Maryland McClures. I had heard that he was an avatar with some kind of water spirit, so he could swim really fast and breathe underwater. As far as I knew, he could also talk to fish.

Tidewater showed up with a few other Golds. One was a super hot brunette with unnatural blue eyes. I didn't know her. The other was a nerdy guy with unmanageable hair.

Tidewater looked at me and said, "Hey phase. Are these the worst appetizers ever served here or what?

The Unicorn walked over and said, "Appetizers? I thought they were something Traduce had a maid pick up at a Burger King.

This elicited some evil giggles. The hot brunette frowned. "Tide, I know this is pretty gross, but do you have to say things like that? Traduce gets upset over every little thing and it's only going to make things worse.

Tidewater sighed, "Yeah, you're probably right. But it's really hard to be nice about something like that."

The brunette said, "I'm not a little nice here, you know. I just don't think it's a good idea to say things that will come back and haunt you.

But the snacks were really really dark. I felt like you could buy better stuff in the frozen section of a grocery store. Not that I knew from personal experience. Traduce probably assigned someone else to handle the food and didn't bother to check the results. Or she had pissed off her cook. Well, there were rumors that Traduce's mother couldn't keep a maid or personal assistant for more than a year because she reacted so badly to help. Traduce probably learned her behavior from Mom's servants.

Tidewater paused long enough to introduce the Exemplar brunette, whose code name was Macrobiotic. She shook hands with those of us who didn't know her, including me.

She smiled at me, "I know you're a phase. One of the good guys. I'm Sophia Ferris from Ferris Biochemical.”

I knew the company. Goodkind International had several major contracts with them, including a Goodkind Research grant. Sophia's mother, Laura Ferris, ran the company and Sophia was the heiress who would inherit it all. Ferris Biochemical had had an excellent reputation since the early 1930s, when biochemist Martha Ferris founded the company by single-handedly developing a cure for a biological warfare weapon dropped in New York by Deathmaiden.

I shook her hand and said, "Nice to meet you."

But Glitch wanted to complain about his roommate, so we quickly returned. "And he acts like it's my fault every time his laptop shits, and..."

"Glitch, it's your fault every time his laptop dies. That's your power, you know?"

"Can't you two find times when he's working on his laptop in the living room when you're not around, and when you're around he's working elsewhere?"

Ren grumbled, "We've tried that. But it makes a big deal if I forget to call when I get back or forget to knock before entering..."

"So how many times have you thrown away his homework?"

"Look, it's not like I do this every day!" Ren drawled. "And he only had to bring the laptop back twice to get it fixed... maybe three times."

Someone pointed out, "Glitch, these things are supposed to be indestructible! You should NEVER have to bring it back to fix it!"

Ren scowled, "Why is everyone acting like it's my fault? He's the problem here! He's always on my case when I leave my stuff on the floor on his side of the room and he doesn't want to clean it up - I told him that would pay him - and he wouldn't take a really good offer to do my homework for me to do, and he gives a shit every time he catches me drinking in the living room..."

Tidewater said in his most sarcastic voice, "Wow. What a troublemaker."

"Yes." "What I'm saying," Ren agreed. He was so drunk he completely missed Marshall's sarcasm.

Marshall continued, "Then why don't you hire a maid to take care of everything?"

Ren grumbled, “Boys' dorm. You will not leave me."

Someone said, "Then hire a man as a servant. Or your cleaning service.

Ren nodded. "You know? That's a good idea."

Dynamaxx made its usual suggestion. "It's easy. There are plenty of girls on campus who would do anything for money. Hire one of them to lure your roommate out of your room most of the time."

Several girls pointed out that Maxx's proposal was beyond shameful, not to mention soliciting prostitution was illegal. Maxx nodded.

Ren complained, "It won't work. He has a girl he likes a lot, even if she isn't interested. One of the tinker girls.

um I wondered which developer it was. If it was Bugs, then the guy was SOL. Maybe it was Delta Spike or Widget. Maybe it was one of the cute ones like Kew, Spark and Tinkertrain.

I walked away before Ren realized that several people were being sarcastic instead of sympathetic. At least he was in a corner without a lot of electronics.

I poured the vaguely grape-like broth into my champagne flute and filled it with water. I turned to see who else was present and found two people walking towards me.

Tabby and Hatamoto came to me. Ken started first: "Phase! We've been talking and everyone is interested in how you took down an alpha strike team.

Automa-tech walked over and chimed in: "What did you use? Where did you get your gear?

Tabby added, "Did you hire henchmen?"

I said, "No, no henchmen-"

"Good move," interrupted Hatamoto. “They are easy to hire, but very difficult if you want to fire them later. Even if you're perfectly legal, you have the problems we've seen where your minions know all the sites you've visited, what weapons and armor you make available to your minions, as well as your strategies and tactics. and so on... So you have a lot of information to sell to the highest bidder, and each of your enemies will bid.

"I bet the Bad Seeds can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about 'care and nutrition for your mate'."

"Yes. Goons For Dummies. Whateley's new bestseller."

“My uncle said it was surprisingly easy to find hundreds of potential goons, and the interview process isn't all that different from interviewing new programmers or new mid-level managers. But with the staffing problems, everyone fails at work.”

"Absolutely. Keeping a diverse group of talented specialists happy is always a problem. If you don't have a manager who really understands them and who they respect, it always leads to problems. My cousin Pete spoke about the problems he said in the week past. with your programmers. The same goes for henchmen..."

Well, I knew how that worked. I knew what it meant to keep good people, hire good people, and work with good programmers.

“No, in some ways it's more like hiring a team of independent salespeople, some of whom want to compete directly with other salespeople in their workforce. How do you assess their personalities when you hire them? How do you keep them from clashing, undermining each other, or sabotaging other salespeople's sales productivity? It's basically the same management problem as dealing with a bunch of henchmen who want to fight each other when they're not on your behalf.

"Isn't that how H. Ross Perot started? As an IBM salesman taking commissions and sales from his colleagues so he could make more money?

"Yeah, and so he left IBM and took as many clients with him as he could to try his best to get money out of IBM after he left. One of the classic 'henchmen' ploys. He was just doing something that was technically Cool".

“And hiring a henchman around here is so hard. The Whateley handbook has dozens of rules on how to hire henchmen and treat them properly, and everyone says the headmistress is a total bitch when it comes to making sure you follow all the rules!"

I insisted, "Well, youhe mustfollow all the rules. In fact, your personal guidelines should be so supportive that you never have to.thinkon Whateley's Rules. I'm serious. If I hired someone like, say, Slab to be my henchman, why on earth would I want to mistreat or betray him? The idea is to have a guy who wants to work for me and look out for my best interests, not someone looking for the first chance to stab me in the back!” I couldn't believe some of these people didn't understand that.

The group wanted to discuss the handler/programmer paradigm, the handler/sales paradigm, and the handler/manager paradigm. I was just surprised that Dynamaxx didn't want to drool over a henchman/lover paradigm. After a while, I snuck out to talk to Traduce.

I found her right after she finished chewing on one of the staff for not arranging the food trays attractively enough. she should have screamedherselffor having inedible snacks in the first place.

"Slander! How are you?"

She groaned dramatically, "I don't know why it's always so impossible to find someone willing to work honestly for a decent wage. But the cook my assistant hired is useless. So is my assistant. I swear one more mistake like that and she isThenfired! And then I talked to my entire dorm, and only three losers were willing to work three damn hours…” She transitioned from drama queen to paparazzi. “So how are you? Is it true that Chaka has been with five different men and two of them are white?"

I decided to give her some dirt to wash away just to protect Chaka. "Oh, it's even better. She's only dating one guy - it's Thunderbird, who is absolutely white bread - but there are several guys who sigh for her and won't leave her alone. Do you know Mace? Is he a role model? dropped it all at once.

She gaped, "She took down a Paragon in one fell swoop? How is that possible?"

I shrugged. "No idea. But Chaka can do everything.”

"Can she get away with anything?"

I shook my head. "No, you misunderstood. She doesn't have to try to get away with things, because she can do whatever she wants."

"Reeeeely. How interesting…" she drawled. I wondered how she was going to twist what I had just told her.

After some dirty fishing about Lancer and Fey - like I was going to tell her anything, even though there were some juicy rumors about friends of mine - she finally managed to tell me what she'd heard. Or somehow heard. Or she was about to distort into something unrecognizable.

She smiled, "Well, Don Corleone tricked this energetic bitch named Coreolis. Everyone's been waiting like a whole weekend for him to finally get her until she thinks she's in love with him. And then he's going to humiliate her before he does. break up with her, probably in front of all her friends. You know, as usual for Don. But just a few days ago, Imperious, he's a lightning fast energizer and a great role model, you know, chimed in immediately and got them out of Don Corleone's clutches.So Majestic catches Coreolis and Imperious in one of Melville's salons around the time they engage in some really tough sex, and she has a huge magic attack that destroys the entire room and most of it. part of the hall..."

That night, as I lay in bed, just before falling asleep, I realized that I had missed something important. What did Translate say?Mich?


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