Saturday, 21 February 2009 13:09

The Second Book of Jobe (Part 2)

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The Second Book of Jobe

by Babs Yerunkle

Part 2 of 4

Thursday, February 8, 9:40 AM
The Underground, One of Belphegor’s many hidden labs

Some shocks are too great for the human mind to cope with. They defy our sense of realty and stab us in the back with the hard, cold knowledge that this experience is not only revolting and disturbing, it is horribly, terribly wrong. Some things are simply unacceptable, unholy, and unbelievable. It is like discovering that Walt Disney liked to torture small rodents, or that Dick Cheney collects plushies. It is like seeing Pamela Anderson in the nude, but as you slowly pan up her body, you discover Adolf Hitler’s head transplanted at the top.

This was like that.

I don’t mean to compare Belphegor to Adolf Hitler. He’s neither as clever nor as dangerous as Hitler. He’s more like a budget Hitler, from a parallel universe, where Hitler served as an actor on Gilligan’s Island, playing the part of Skipper.

Which brings me back around to the topic of Things that are just wrong. There was my perfect mate, my beauty, my creation, my drow. And inside that magnificent container was … Belphegor’s mind.

It wasn’t to be borne.

“What have you done!” I shrieked to the uncaring heavens. Oh, Lord, what had I ever done to deserve this torment? I had tried to be good, to live my life without giving harm or offense to anyone!

Well, perhaps that invoked the slightest bit of hyperbole, but still, surely none of my little amusements had ever been enough to justify this wanton cruelty!

“Oh, grow up, you pathetic parvenu,” my ideal mate told me in her sultry tones. “I’m the one who’s sporting tits. How d’you think I feel about it?”

While I wept, Belphegor began arguing with herselves.

“This is all your fault you know,” she told the male slug.

“Since you’re me, it seems like it’s a bit of both our faults, isn’t it?” the slug answered back.

“A valid interpretation, but since I paid the full penalty, you get the full blame.”

“Good point. I can handle that.” Then the slug took it too far. “So when do we have sex?”

My dark angel wrapped the sheet even tighter around herself. “I suddenly sympathize with every woman who ever turned us down. That was simply masterful.” Her tone cut like a knife.

“I thought you, at least, would be sympathetic.”

“Sympathetic, yes. Cheap, no. Besides, I’m not into other guys. D’you think I’m bent?”

Slug-boy just leered at my goddess. “You might do well to check the bits. For you, not being into guys is bent!”

She clutched the sheet even tighter, and her perfect blue eyes opened a bit wider. “"Think you I am no stronger than my sex, Being so father'd and so husbanded?"

Belphegor, the fat clod, nodded acknowledgment, and responded, “My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late!"

The girl looked like she wanted to weep. “What a nightmare! I’m going back to bed. With luck, I’ll discover this was all just a bad dream.”

“Fabulous idea!” Belphegor agreed, rubbing his hands together eagerly. “Head back to our room and sleep in our bed! I’ll be in a bit later.”

“Bloody hell.” She suddenly realized that she had more problems than a lack of proper clothes.

Which is when security broke in.

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The oak-lined room in Shuster Hall exuded the essence of power and stability. The far wall was one of those full-wall bookcases, and (in a step that I thought was slightly overdone) had been filled with legal reference tomes. The window exposed just enough of campus to display a Norman Rockwell scene of stately brick building covered with a fairy dusting of snow. You couldn’t make out the freaks and lunatics that made up the student body. Inside, the six of us stood at stiff attention: Belphegor (both the normal male tub and the beautiful dream-girl clone infested with his foul mind), myself, Nephandus, Jericho, and Phobos. My drow girl was at the biggest disadvantage, still being clad in nothing more than a tightly-clutched sheet.

Looking resplendent in a two-inch heels, a tight navy skirt, and a crisp crème silk blouse, Amelia Hartford surveyed us all with distaste.

First, glancing at Jericho and Phobos. I saw her cheeks inflate briefly, as her gorge rose, but she was clearly made of sterner stuff since she mastered the dictates of her digestive system through sheer willpower.

“Where in God’s name,” she asked, turning to Jericho, “did you get that shirt? I want to find them and kill them, so that they can never again harm an innocent.”

“Uh… don’t remember, ma’am.”

“I see.”

Her mouth tight in an expression of prim distaste, she gestured to both Jericho and Phobos. “You two, out.”

“Ma’am?”

“I’ve heard enough to understand your involvement. Which is nil. Out.”

They scampered for freedom.

I should have been more worried, but Amelia (as I called her in private) was a frequent guest at Karedonia. Given the nature of Dad’s business, he had plenty of reason to call upon one of the finest computer experts in the world. Miss Hartford made a good living, just on what Dad paid her. And best of all, it was all open and aboveboard. So I smirked inwardly, but outside I schooled my expression to worried concern.

“Illegal cloning, mind-transfer technology—”

“Technically it was mind copy technology…”

Belphegor’s cocky attitude lasted about a nanosecond under Amelia’s glare.

“Cloning itself, without license, permission, or even notification; theft of equipment and intellectual property,” she turned her basilisk’s gaze toward me, “genetic experimentation on campus, breeding and farming of venomous species, and on top of it all, a running feud with Counterpoint! Have I missed any significant details?”

“I have permission for the genetics and animals,” I offered.

Amelia scowled, as she consulted her notes. “I see. And your excuse for the cloning chamber?”

“For sale to legitimate and authorized medical personnel.” I was happier than ever for my exchange with Dr. Gellmar.

Amelia looked through her notes again. “Hmmm, so it would seem. However, Mr. Wilkins, I think it’s time to refresh your memory on Whateley’s ‘one percent’ rule. You’ve engaged in enough trafficking that I believe we will force you to incorporate, which means that Whateley will be assuming a one percent ownership in your soon-to-be-created biotech concern. And we’ll be monitoring the activity of our new venture.”

Damn. I’d been hoping to slide under that rule.

“And I’m sure this new ‘liquid skin’ invention your father mentioned should be handled through the corporation, hmmm?”

I gritted my teeth and tried to put some inflection into my response. “Yes, ma’am. What a good idea, ma’am. I’m surprised I didn’t think of that myself.”

Turning to Belphegor, she said, “And you, Mr. Blackadar. I don’t believe that you’ve marketed the public version of your force-field generator yet, nor your thought-screen, nor a half-dozen other inventions that have reached the stage of being publicly marketable.”

“Uh…”

“I think you should incorporate, as well. In fact, I insist upon it.”

“One moment!” the girl yelled. “Those are my inventions!”

Amelia stopped at her and leaned forward, deeply into the girl’s personal space. “You, my dear, have no name, no identity, and no records. You have no rights. Officially, you don’t even exist. If you were to die right this second, the most anyone would get tagged with would be incorrect lab procedures. You are the whole reason we are here!”

With a small “eep” the girl pulled as far back as she could.

“Excuse me, Miss Hartford.” Nephandus put every ounce of suave he possessed into his voice. Which is to say, he grated like fingernails on a blackboard. “What am I doing here?”

The demon-face of detention turned toward him. “You? You are here to see what monumental fuck-ups your fellow devisors can be, and how upset we need to be before we tip the whole lot of you into a vat of sulfuric acid to solve the problem once and for all! Do you understand me? You are here to learn that you and the spoiled children you hang out with had better learn to toe the line, if you don’t want to end up like this trio of idiots! Do you get it now?” At Nephandus’s frantic nod, she yelled, “Good! Then get out and stay out! If I ever see you again it will be too soon!”

The coward fled.

I was beginning to realize that this was not the Amelia Hartford that I’d relaxed with back on Karedonia. Perhaps our one-time familiarity didn’t count for as much as I’d hoped. And, just perhaps, I might be in bigger trouble than I thought.

Once the door clicked shut behind the fleeing Nephandus, Hartford turned back to us.

“In fact,” she said in a low, dangerously quiet voice, “you three have created such a problem that I don’t think I can handle it myself.”

Stepping to a desk, she touched an intercom button.

“Headmistress Carson, I think we’re ready for you now.”

Uh oh.

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Elizabeth Amelia Carson stands six feet tall in her stocking feet. With heels, she’s even taller. She appeared to be in her thirties, but even the dimmest idiot on campus knew enough of her background to know that she’d fought Nazis back in World War II. Sixty years of combat experience has a way of maturing a person, I suppose. She’d gone through at least three husbands, and a half-dozen superhero identities. She’d held the Champion Force for a while, and then given it away. Rumor said that she’d gone toe-to-toe with Deathlist, last Halloween. She’d faced him and beaten him, the rumors said.

And now, she was facing us.

I noticed that my mouth had gone oddly dry.

“Let’s begin with this feud with Counterpoint,” Mrs. Carson began. “It’s over.”

After a moment of silence, I suggested, “That’s fine with me, but I’m not sure that Counterpoint will be so agreeable.”

“He will be, or else.”

“Or else what?” I pushed.

“Are you familiar with classical mythology? Are you aware of the punishment that was handed down to Prometheus?”

I gulped. “Isn’t that a little extreme? I thought you were one of the good guys.”

Her eyes had a chill to them that could have matched any villain I’d ever dined with. “I’m protecting children here. I almost intervened during the blinding incident. In which case, perhaps you’d be the one having your liver repeatedly ripped out. Fortunately for you, our doctors told me that it was the equivalent of a dye in the fluid of the eye, both temporary and harmless in the long run. The retaliation, the cut you took in the back, was way over the line. The feud stops, now. Are we clear?”

I nodded. “Perfectly.”

“Next line of business. Jobe Wilkins, am I correct that you accidentally infected yourself with this ‘drow serum’?”

I turned toward Belphegor and the girl. “What does that have to do with…?”

“Answer the question!”

“Well, yeah. I’m working on a cure, though.”

“And how is that progressing?”

“It would be doing a lot better if I didn’t keep getting interrupted! I swear, if it’s not some lunatic dropping out of the sky to attack me, it’s some thief stealing my work, or dragging me into disciplinary hearings when I’ve done nothing wrong!

Mrs. Carson cleared her throat, forcing me to look back in her direction.

“Very emotional,” she judged. “Good performance.”

Ouch. That hurt, mostly because of the implied critique. Obviously, my performance hadn’t been good enough, if she’d cued to it.

“However, you still haven’t answered my question.”

“Uh, the altered cells have kind of moved into my nervous system,” I mumbled. “I may have to complete the process before starting a cure, although I still have one or two long-shot possibilities…”

“I see. And that process will leave you looking almost exactly like miss…” She gestured helplessly at my erstwhile dream girl.

“Belphoebe,” the male suggested.

“What?” she yelled back. “I’m Belphegor! I’m the one who came up with it!”

“Do I look like a Phoebe to you?”

I raised my hand. “Permission to answer? Please! Please!”

“Denied,” Carson snapped. “Belphoebe it is. Change it later if you want.”

Sir Tubby smiled. The other two of us grumbled.

“And you, Mr. Blackadar. You were responsible for taking advantage of the serum, er, breaching Jobe’s chamber, and quickening this child?”

He spread his hands and gave his most charming snake-smile. “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine."

“Quite appropriate,” Mrs. Carson stated. “Here, then, is my judgment. Belphoebe, happy birthday. You were born today. Official age: zero, going on sixteen for legal purposes. Don’t think that this is just a legal fiction. Despite your memories, your brain, body, hormones, friends and activities, everything about you will be new and different. This is a chance to grow in new directions, to make of yourself what you will. Whether you want to or not, you will quickly become a very different person from the one who gave you your memories.”

“But…”

“Every birth certificate needs other details. Father of record: Philip Blackadar, also known as Belphegor.”

“Wait, I never said—”

“Mother of record, Jobe Wilkins, also known as … Jobe.”

I shrugged. “My name suits me.” Then I did a double-take. “Wait a minute. Mother?

Carson had the school marm’s boy-have-you-got-a-lesson-coming smile. “Your daughter was created from your genetic material, correct?”

“Well, yes, but—”

“And the embryo grew within your reproductive equipment, didn’t she?”

The cloning chamber! Belatedly, I pulled my hand away from where it hovered over my lower abdomen. “Well, yes, but—”

“And mother and daughter will share a remarkable resemblance, won’t they?”

“Of course, but—”

“Then congratulations, mom. Jobe, you’ll be moving to Melville, as of this evening. I award custody to the mother; father has visitation rights every Sunday, and after school if the mother approves. Father will supply child support, to be determined later, payable directly to the mother. Whateley will intermediate, to ensure the transaction. The mother will be responsible for using those funds to provide clothing and supplies for her new dependant. The campus will provide room and board.”

“Don’t I get any money?” Belphoebe demanded.

“Only if your mother or father gives you an allowance. But you’re right. You should be primary heir to both corporations your parents are about to create. And let’s say, you receive a thirty percent share upon reaching your majority.”

“Child support?” Belphegor squealed like a pig, I thought. “Thirty percent share? What the bloody hell?”

Carson turned to him. “You chose to bring a new life into this world. Like many irresponsible fathers, you thought only of your own pleasure, never considering the long-term consequences of your action.”

“I didn’t— It wasn’t supposed to be—”

“I can’t be her mother!” I protested. “I’m not even a girl!”

“But you will be, won’t you? I’ll grant you, it’s unusual for the daughter to reach reproductive maturity before the mother does, but this is Whateley. We expect the unusual. If you have a close relationship, maybe your daughter can teach you what you need to know about sexual and sanitary issues.”

I gulped at that, not ready at all to consider the implications of that sentence. I tried for a different tack.

“Look,” I explained. “She’s beautiful, I’ll grant you that. Physically perfect, graceful, sensitive, poetry in motion.” Beside me, Belphoebe couldn’t help but smile. “But upstairs,” I continued, tapping my temple, “she’s got Belphegor inside. I don’t like him. In fact, I hate him!”

“You think you’re the first mother who didn’t like the father of her child?”

She considered. “If that doesn’t move you, consider this: This is hardly the first time someone’s used a mind transfer or an engram imprint.”

I debated telling her about some of Dad’s early attempts at girlfriends, but decided that it would be better not to interrupt.

“You kids think everything is new with your generation. Time to grow up. I’ve seen it all before, sometimes more than I care to think about. And here’s some facts: This new girl has the memories, skills, and for now, personality of her original template. But her brain is different. And her body – very different. She will diverge very quickly from her original template, until she has a personality that’s quite her own. A personality that you are responsible for guiding and nurturing, Miss Wilkins. I wasn’t joking about you being her mother, I was deadly serious.”

The implications of this discussion were definitely freaking me out. I did my best to ignore those, while concentrating on the important parts.

I decided to rephrase my argument. “Let me put it another way,” I pleaded. “She’s beautiful, but when I look at her, I see him. Get it?”

Carson sighed. “You’re the one who isn’t getting it, Miss Wilkins.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“You’re like a billion other women in the world. A bad marriage, an abusive husband, even rape. Grow up. Get used to it. You’re in the same situation they are.”

“But… but… they don’t give birth to sixteen-year-old girls! And they aren’t men!

Miss Hartford, the evil bitch, had been listening quietly, smiling throughout. Now she slid a paper across a desk. Carson glanced at it, scrawled a quick signature, and then stamped it. Then she looked up at me.

“They aren’t men? Guess what, Jobe? Legally, as of now, neither are you.”

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So there I was, newly designated mother to a beautiful girl clad only in a sheet, and given my walking papers to move from Twain to Melville, which is co-ed.

With piles and drifts of fresh snow on the ground outside. The walkways were clear and dry, but it was still cold enough to freeze your delicates off. And Belphoebe was wearing a sheet. Nothing else. And she was my responsibility.

Even less welcome, at my other side stood a walking zit, an ambulatory pustule, a flabby pus-filled waste of flesh.

“I’ll, uh, go get you some, uh, starting equipment!” Belphegor offered, speaking to Belphoebe. Before we could react, he scurried off toward Shuster, and The Underground. I knew it was nothing more than a blatant attempt to move the cloning chamber and all our gear before we could come and claim it back. I made a move to follow.

“Hey! I’m freezing here! And practically naked!”

“I have clothes in my room,” I ground out, between clenched teeth. “Come on.”

We made the walk briskly, and Belphoebe’s feet didn’t quiet freeze on the way. As I said, the paths were heated. And the two of us headed into my good, old, familiar cottage. Home. A place where we could finally depend on a warm reception.

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The boys of Twain, loathsome, lecherous filth that they were, couldn’t keep their eyes off my should-have-been girlfriend. Belphoebe was still feeling the cold, which was more than obvious with the briefest glance at her chest.

“Jobe,” Steve said. “this must be… The Girlfriend! I take back everything I ever said or thought about that project. You, my man, are an artist. You have given mankind an incomparable gift.”

Belphoebe, for her part, looked confused. Pleased and disturbed at the same time. Pleased to be inside where it was warm. Pleased to be admired. For obvious reasons, no one had ever admired Belphegor. On the other hand, I expect that it was hard for her to forget that they were all eyeing her as a woman, their hungry, roving glances soiling her with each glimpse. And, having been male recently, she knew far too well what was going through the minds of each of those animals.

Even Cheese came into the hall, sipping a coke. He half squinted, as if trying to figure something out.

“Nice outfit!” Scott was clearly enjoying Belphoebe’s wrap. He offered a few more compliments, then delicately itched his crotch.

“Wow.” “Hello, where’d you come from?” “What’s your name, beautiful?”

She didn’t know how to handle the attention. “I… thank you. My name’s Belphoebe.”

Cheese spewed his soda, his eyes going wide. I think he’d just figured out the missing detail.

“Back off, losers!” I shouted. “I’m taking her into my room to get dressed.”

“What?” “No fair!” “Talk about moving fast!”

“She’s right, boys,” Belphoebe said, with a malicious gleam in her eye. “I have to listen to my mother, don’t I?”

I managed to get us into the room after that and lock the door, but it was a near thing, what with the riot forming outside.

“You didn’t have to tell them that,” I mentioned, in my more-than-reasonable anger.

“Why mother, I had to let them know that we weren’t going to be engaging in anything … improper.” With that, she dropped the sheet and stood there in naked perfection.

I think I should be excused for any involuntary physical reactions that I exhibited at that point. After all, this was my ideal dream girl, and there she was, displaying herself in the all-together.

“Why, Mother! Is that for me?”

She was obviously talking about my erection. I concentrated on a mental image of Belphegor in bed, wearing a negligee over his fat carcass. Ah, problem solved!

I dug through my wardrobe, and flung a pair of Hanes at her.

“Here, put these on.”

“Really! Boys’ underwear? Used boys’ underwear?” Things were silent for a moment, then, “Oh, this isn’t right at all!”

I’d half expected Belphegor to be wearing them on his head, or something equally inane. Instead, she was wearing them normally. It’s just that they were a little tight across the width of her hips, and loose in the crotch. In fact, the whole scene was pretty damn erotic in some twisted cross-gender sense, watching this beautiful girl trying unsuccessfully to wear my male briefs. Despite the cloth façade, there could be no doubt of the gender of the person inside.

“Goodness, Mother, you do seemed to be having ‘erectile problems’, don’t you?”

I concentrated, imagining the Fury Twins in string bikinis, suggestively winking their third eyes at me. Ah, problem solved!

“Spray-on skin? What’s this?” She used the bottle to spritz some on her arm. “Hey, I’m white again!”

I sighed. “I’m still perfecting it,” I admitted. “Consider that you don’t look normally black, you’ll probably want to experiment with that a bit. You’ll need it, or something like it, if you need to avoid public notice.”

She was already spraying her face and arms, as I searched through my closet. I pulled out an undershirt and tossed it to her, while searching for something suitable for outer wear.

“You want me to wear a vest?”

“What? No, that’s a u-shirt. Some people call it a tank top.”

“No,” she argued. “It’s a vest. Some people call it a singlet.”

“Just put it on!”

“Okie dokie,” she said, with an absurdly exaggerated American accent. “How’s that?”

I made the mistake of looking, once more. The undershirt was loose around her waist, but oh-so-snug at her chest. She was decent only in the remotest sense of the word, because the contours of her breasts and nipples were clearly visible against the tight cotton of the shirt. In addition, the thin straps of the shirt exposed quite a bit of her cleavage, and the cut-away sides of the shirt hid nothing.

She modeled for herself in front of my mirror. “I actually look quite fetching in this, don’t you think?”

I pictured Nephandus trying to kiss me, his lips swelling larger and larger as he approached, until I could see his drool, his yellow, unbrushed teeth. Ah, problem solved. But it was getting more difficult.

I tossed her an old polo shirt, and a pair of khakis. “Put these on. For your feet… I think I have some sandals that will work. I’d offer you a lab coat, but they’re mine. Get your own.”

I packed while she dressed. In the end, my clothes looked dumpy on her, and she looked like a goddess in them. She pulled back her flowing white hair, which was long enough to reach her thighs.

“Nice hair,” she admitted. “I mean, it really feels good. I’m surprised it hasn’t tangled more.”

“That’s by design,” I muttered. “Thick and stiff enough for strength, and absolutely no splitting, so it’s slick and the hairs shouldn’t catch or tangle.”

She pulled it back into a high ponytail. “Do you have one of those hair things that girls use?”

“No. How about a zip-tie?”

“But when I cut it free, I’ll cut some of my beautiful hair, too.” She looked around. “How about that USB cable? Then it will be decorative and useful at the same time.”

I sighed and agreed. Obviously, we’d both been paying attention to the fashion choices of the girls that frequented the devisor labs.

She pulled her arms back to work on her hair, and it only emphasized her front as it pulled the shirt tight. God, this was embarrassing. I thought of Peeper and Greasy, alone in their room late at night. Ah, problem solved.

“I’ll tell you what,” I offered, very reluctantly. “Help me move, and I’ll let you use the equipment.”

Her eyes opened enchantingly wide. “Including the Poly-molecular Scanner?”

“Yes.”

“The organelle bank?”

“Yes.”

“The allergen synthesis engine?”

“Yes.”

“And the wet bar?”

“Yes, that too.”

“I’ll do it!”

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The two of us managed to cart the first load of equipment to Melville. By ourselves. Using manual labor. Our own manual labor. Through conditions that might as well have been a blizzard.

I expounded upon this theme at length, until my new “daughter” was as sick of the subject as I was.

“D’you mean to tell me,” she finally interrupted, “that you expect servants to handle all of these chores? That you don’t do any, er, actual work yourself?”

“Of course!” I could see that, if she was to be my daughter in anything even distantly approaching reality, she would need some considerable education. “Look, I’ll admit that I wasn’t always the most supportive person where your inventions were concerned—”

“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘contemptuous,’” Belphoebe suggested.

“Well, yes, alright. But still, you were a devisor. A thinker, a planner, a creator.” I gave the words their proper emphasis and appreciation. “You can’t be wasting your time scrubbing toilets.”

“That sounds nice in theory,” she agreed “but putting it into practice has proven difficult, in the past.”

“Good point,” I agreed. “Staff selection and training is a never-ending trial. Tell you what,” I said, confidentially, “who did you hire for your servants, over in Melville? If they’re any good, what say we hire them away from your ‘father.’ That would really chap his hide, wouldn’t it?”

“We seem to be speaking the same language,” she said, “but I don’t think we’re really communicating here. Are you saying that you’ll be hiring servants for us? In Melville? From, I presume, the other students rooming there?”

I wasn’t sure why she was acting so thick. I hadn’t given her defective genes for brain development, had I?

I tried to make it clear, through the subtle use of reduction ad absurdum. “Would you prefer to pick up your own clothes? Or wash your own dirty laundry?”

She blinked her large eyes slowly, as if she were deeply considering this possibility. “Tell you what, Mom: why don’t you handle the whole servant issue.”

I nodded. “I will. But don’t think I’m letting you off the hook. Anyone related to me – even if it’s just a legal fiction – must know at least the rudiments of proper behavior.”

Although there were additional encounters on our trek across campus, we finally got to Melville and began moving into the new room. Unsurprisingly, it had been left in less than pristine condition by the previous slovenly occupants. Fortunately, upon moving in, we encountered Jadis, or “She-beast”, to use her more elegant code-name. Jadis had apparently acquired a new roommate, a perky wide-eyed blonde. The naïve newbie was wearing a blue T-shirt stretched tight across her over-sized bosom, with a red diamond and an “S” placed where all the guys were most likely to look. Add to that a red miniskirt, and it was obvious that she’d been reading too many comic books.

“Jobe, this is my new roommate… Superchick?” Jadis did a fair job of keeping a straight face, but you could see what the effort cost her. “She’s new,” Jads added, unnecessarily.

I realized that this was an ideal opportunity to present myself to someone who was uncontaminated by the many scurrilous rumors that circulate concerning me. Belphoebe was appraising Jadis of our recent difficulties, and I decided that it was the perfect moment to begin my proper introduction to her roommate.

“Just a moment, Jads.” I had to interrupt some blather she was going on with. “I need to speak to … Superchick. Just put it on hold for a minute, okay?”

She goggled at me. “Sure Jobe. Work your magic on her.”

I took the girl aside, being careful not to lay a finger on her. Some people resent that, and I am nothing if not a keen study of human psychology. Besides, once I’d hired the girl as a servant, I didn’t want her to feel casual about physical contact with me.

“So… Superchick, is it?”

“Uh huh.”

“Your bearing, wardrobe, and general appearance make it clear that you hail from the dregs of the socio-economic ladder, so I have what you might well consider a golden opportunity.”

I paused to chuckle at my own linguistic cleverness, while the girl blinked in confusion, as she worked her dim-witted way through my sentence. It’s sad, but also what I’ve come to expect from the American educational system. I suspect that this girl had either been taught by inner-city gangs, or perhaps she’d been home schooled in some dilapidated barn. Given her ‘heroic’ motif, the later seemed the more likely possibility.

I decided to speak more plainly, so that she could understand me.

“I’ll pay you to take care of my dirty underwear. Interested?”

For some reason, the girl thought that a scream was an appropriate method for declining my offer of gainful employment.

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While I was untangling myself from a pointless misunderstanding, Jadis and my “daughter” were engaging in some sort of strange female sexual bonding:

“Bra? Why would I need a bra?” Belphoebe spoke correctly, but since I suspected that she was unaware of her improvement in that area, I took the statement (correctly) for inappropriate masculine denial. “I’m strong enough that I don’t need help keeping these beauties up!”

Perhaps she had a touch of female arrogance mixed in.

And then Jadis reached over to my drow’s tits and felt Phoebe up. She actually tweaked the girl’s nipple, right there in public, so that Feebs was simultaneously indignant and visibly firming up in obvious reaction.

“I’ll bet that you’ll be real popular with the guys, waving those things around!”

I felt a surprising flash of anger. Those were mine! Well, not that I had sexual designs on Belphoebe (ugg), but rather, the drow was mine! Designed by me, created by me, my property! Jadis needed to learn to keep her hands off!

“That’s real nice of you, Jads, real neighborly,” I told her, heavily. “And while you’re being all Welcome Wagon-y, how’s about giving me a hand with these crates?” At the very least, it should keep her from fondling my drow.

We had a minor scuffle over that, too.

“HEY! What’s this?” Jadis yelled, reaching toward Belphoebe’s small collection of gear. “It looks exactly like the metal fatigue inducer that my brother Mal built three months ago!”

I swear, we couldn’t go ten minutes without Belphegor’s kleptomania causing some sort of problem. The new baby solved that problem the way babies are wont to do – by crying. In this case, it was a piercing scream that echoed the one Misty had given a few minutes before. Personally, I think PostFatty was jealous of “Superchick” and wanted to compete in a purely feminine arena: the piercing shriek.

In any case, before her discordant tones had barely faded, we were “graced” with the typical interference of a micro-cephalic “do-gooder.”

“Halt, foul miscreant! Unhand that young lady, or you’ll answer to CAPTAIN BRAVO!”

Jadis didn’t even bother to go She-Beast on him, as she put him down. “What are you doing up here, Bravo?” she demanded. “You gotta graduate freshman year to come up here without an invitation.”

It was true, and my sudden adoption of Feebs had legally moved me up into Sophomore territory.

Before you could say “walnut-sized brain,” the self-impressed Captain Bravo had given himself a military rank, called me a homosexual pervert, offered to protect my daughter from me, refused me admission into his cottage, and summoned backup in the form of a team that was (unbelievably) even dimmer than the good captain. I call him that with all deference to Captain Kangaroo, who obviously outranked Bravo in terms of legitimacy, tactics, presence, intelligence, and fighting ability. Before they could get too messed up, Bravo’s sidekick “Long John” grabbed his leader by the shoulders.

“We don’t know what we’re getting into!”

Clearly, this fellow had at least two brain cells, making him twice as smart as his inept leader. And three times as smart as his companion, the aptly-named Hyper, whose mutant ability allowed his mouth to operate faster than his brain.

“Look-it’s-that-fag-Jobe-Wilkins! Are-we-gonna-let-that-fag-dis-US?”

He spoke fast, but everyone had to take twice as long to understand his spewed-out speech. I glanced at Long John, holding back “Captain” Bravo, and observed, “Excuse me, but I’m not the one getting all huggy in the hallway!”

The fact that anyone was resisting them was apparently too much for their tiny minds to cope with. Bravo sent some eye beam at Jadis (a mistake, because the She-Beast is formidable) and Hyper managed to get in a punch to my face. Why is it that the these self-righteous types always resort to their fists? I became more than a little angry. The punch had come as the topper to a long day of frustrations, and I had equipment vulnerably strewn through the hallway!

I extracted a newly-perfected infectious agent, and sprayed the aerosol into my mouth. To my surprise, Superchick competently laid out the speeding Hyper. Jadis, as expected, suddenly rippled into monster shape and grabbed Bravo by the head, draining the life out of him. This left Long John unoccupied. I tapped him on the shoulder, pursed my lips, and exhaled into his face.

Then, as The Beast dropped a weakened Bravo, I exhaled in his face, too.

The trick, of course, is to use slow, shallow breaths. This is difficult, as the oxygen is quickly depleted. You’ve got to breath enough to keep the culture alive, but shallow enough that it won’t take over your own lungs. The other trick is to purse your lips as you blow, like for a kiss, or blowing a smoke ring. As Hyper stumbled past as super-stumble-speed, I exhaled into his face as well, then maintained shallow breathing, in case I needed to re-apply.

Bravo wasn’t impressed. “Is that your best, mister big-deal faggot monster maker?”

He began to laugh uproariously at his own lack of wit, and his two cronies joined in the merriment.

Smiling at the successful test, I sprayed the antagonist into my own throat. Obviously, they’d all taken a sufficient application.

Bravo, Hyper, and Long John just laughed harder and harder, their voice breaking into titter and giggles. They tried valiantly to crawl to their feet, but they were helpless, gasping and laughing as they rolled on the floor.

One of the girls of the hallway looked at me in alarm. “What did you do to them?”

I showed her the mouth spray. “A new anti-riot measure. I seeded my throat with an air-vectored bacteria. Don’t worry, I’ve administered the antagonist, so I’m no longer contagious. Neither are they, for that matter. When I breathed on each of them, I infected them with a dose. The bacteria lodges in the pharynx and bronchial tubes, and stimulates the ‘tickle reflex.’”

“So… you’re tickling them to death?”

I smiled, the perfect image of benevolence. “Oh, no, not to death. Just to unconsciousness. The bacteria are aerobic, with a three second life cycle. Every three seconds, they double the amount of oxygen they consume. That’s why our troublesome invaders are gasping in amusement. So long as they continue laughing, they’re cycling air through their system. As soon as they stop, they’ll suffocate. Then their breathing will slow, the bacteria will die, and everything will be fine.” Honesty forced me to add, “At least, in theory. This is actually my first human test.”

Jadis shifted back from beast-form. “I like the ‘little girl giggles.’”

I nodded. “Wish I could take credit for designing that. It’s obvious in retrospect. They’re laughing hard enough to stress their vocal cords, tightening the larynx and increasing the pitch. It’s probably temporary. I’d hate to think it’s permanent.” I glanced at my spray bottle. “That could really reduce the potential sales… On the other hand, some regimes may wish to identify the rioters. I wonder what it does for females?”

For some reason, the girls all stepped back.

Bravo and company were looking a bit desperate by this point, pounding on the floor in a fine simulation of hilarity. It was really quite amusing, particularly as they began to turn blue. Jadis interrupted my appreciation by kicking me, as an adult approached.

“Mr. Forrest,” she hissed, “one of our house mothers!”

“What’s going on? I heard there was a fight up here!”

“Oh, no Sir!” I told him, with my best innocent manner. “These fine gentlemen heard about my transfer, and offered to move all my gear for me. In recompense, I was regaling them with my wit.” I pretended not to notice Belphoebe, as she rolled her eyes. I leaned toward the gasping crew and said, “So the guy says to the booking agent, ‘It’s called The Aristocrats!’

Bravo, Hyper, and Long John howled in laughter, gasping as they began to turn a deeper blue. They gave a final giggle, and one by one passed out.

Humming happily, I searched my gear. I was sure there was an oxygen canister around somewhere…

Jadis couldn’t help spilling the beans. “Bravo and crew tried to beat up Jobe, pretty much for the crime of being Jobe, and we stopped it before there could be any real property damage. It’s harmless – isn’t it, Jobe?”

I finished counting … nine seconds … and then applied the oxygen to Long John. He’d been the first infected, and the most reasonable. I wanted to make sure that he suffered least, in case there was any brain damage from the suffocation.

“Harmless? Of course.” At least, in theory. That’s why these tests were so important.

Long John showed no signs of retaining the culture, even with a forced feed of oxygen. That was good. Nine seconds seemed to be sufficient to wipe out the bug, exactly as predicted. I sprayed him with antagonist, just to be sure, and moved on to repeat with his two comrades.

Once they finally roused, Mr. Forrest gave them the eye and demanded, “Care to explain what you were doing up here?”

“It’s no big deal,” I offered. “No harm, no foul, boys will be boys, and all that. Just chalk me up as having been properly hazed.” Then I turned to the awakened trio, and tried to reach out to them, speaking in their own primitive dialect. “Well, whaddya waitin’ for? You offered to help us get these things stowed away, so, chop-chop! Get movin’ guys! Those crates aren’t gonna stow themselves y’know!”

They scrambled to comply, and I had to smile. Apparently they were capable of learning. Perhaps they weren’t as dim as I’d thought.

“What about that shiner?” Forrest asked, staring at my face.

“Hmm?” I gingerly touched my right eye, which proved to be quite sore. I realized it was already swelling shut. “This?” Since receiving the regenerator formula, my bruises typically healed in minutes. “It’s nothing. I’ve gotten hurt worse than this thumb wrestling!” Which was true, but Dad had a bionic arm.

I thought about the trouble this would cause. If that idiot Hyper had hit me hard enough, it would trigger my eye to go drow. That would be inconvenient. On the other hand, I’d be able to compare my new vision and old vision, which might confirm several hypotheses I had.

I realized that Forrest was still waiting on me, and hurried to placate him.

“It’s February in New Hampshire! You have to expect a little cabin fever. A little lifting and toting will get it out of their system soon enough, and square things up with me at the same time.” I glanced at my “daughter,” who had carefully hidden during the conflict – exactly the way Belphegor was prone to do. “As for you, svelte-for-brains, go keep an eye on them so they don’t put things down with the wrong side up! Or else, no beddy-bye story tonight!”

I chatted pleasantly with Jadis, a wide-eyed Superchick (apparently she also went by “Misty,” which wasn’t nearly so amusing), and the other wide-eyed and slightly fearful looking girls on the floor. Honestly, what was wrong with these people? Didn’t they realize this was Whateley?

Once enough time had passed, I decided it was time for me to go in and tell them how to do the job right, before it was too late.

“You put that THERE?”

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I hadn’t anticipated that Belphoebe would be so stuck on the room arrangement. She’s definitely her father’s daughter.

“It should be obvious,” I pointed out, “that if we haul these old beds away and put in bunks, we’ll have more room for equipment. Besides, it will free up access to that wall so we can rip it open to modify the ventilation in here.”

The girl looked at me like I was crazy. “You want to rip open the wall? You’re out of your gourd if you think they’ll allow that!”

“I didn’t have any problem in Twain,” I pointed out. “And my improvements to the cottage ventilation system saved them thousands of dollars. They won’t need to clean or upgrade that system for a few decades.”

“Why do y’need a new ventilation system anyway?”

I sighed. Didn’t she do any bio work? Or… maybe she did, only without precautions. That would be even worse!

“Fume hood,” I said. “With full sterilization system. Look, the room needs to be rigged with a bio isolation system. Over time in Twain, I devised a set of independent measures. The trick is to keep each precaution orthogonal.” I peered at her suspiciously. “You do know what that means, don’t you?”

She sighed, as teenage daughters are prone to do. “I’m not daft. Give me some credit.”

I nodded. “Well, the fume hood is the centerpiece, obviously. And we need a good flow, since I don’t use chlorine as a sterilizing agent – I prefer bromine.”

Belphoebe stared at me like I was insane. “And they let you keep a supply of bromine … in your room?”

I shrugged. “I find that things generally go smoother if I don’t pester the authorities with ever little detail.”

“Ooookay.”

I moved a crate to the corner in question. “So I have my own custom fume hood, with a vault and combination lock. Frankly, I’ll feel a lot better when I can store this inside.”

From my vest pocket I removed a small Erlenmeyer flask that I’d been protecting. That is, it was shaped like a small Erlenmeyer, but it was actually carved diamond, with a hermetic stopper that could only be unlocked with my thumbprint. Holding it carefully, I showed it to Belphoebe.

“The Satan Bug?” she read. “What’s that?”

“A joke from an old movie. Rather, an homage. I saw it when I was eight, and got completely inspired. This little beauty, if my calculations are correct, should be able to wipe out virtually all life on the planet. Whatever it doesn’t kill would probably starve to death in the resulting blight.”

Her black face turned grey. “Tell me you aren’t serious.”

“Completely,” I said. “Don’t worry, this is hardly ordinary glass.”

“Why on earth would you have something like that? And if you did, why would you keep it?”

I shrugged. “Like they say, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

“Who says that?”

“Well, nearly every gun owner.”

“Bloody Americans!” It was obvious that she was working herself into a top-notch rant. “You and your bloody gun laws! Thinking you’re all still living in the old west or something, waving pistols around like you bloody well want to rob the bleeding stage coach! I’m sick of the lot of you! And now I find out my roommate, my bleedin’ mother, is packing the biological warfare agent to end all biological warfare because it can end virtually all life on the whole bleedin’ planet?! I can’t take it anymore! Give me that bottle, you bloody, blithering, bollocked-brained bum-nugget!”

And with that, she rushed me, trying to grab the small flask from my hand.

Plainly, Belphegor was not the type to hold his cool when the situation grew tense. I’d have to train my daughter better. A contrived sequence of life-and-death episodes might help to desensitize her, but that would have to wait for the future. In the meantime, I found myself wrestling with a biting, scratching, super-strong madwoman, as I struggled to hold on to a flask of bacteria that could potentially end life as we know it. It was just like they say with guns: Don’t leave them around when there are kids present!

In this struggle, I had several advantages. First amongst those was the knowledge that the flask with triple-reinforced diamond glass, and wouldn’t break even if I dropped it. Second, I was even stronger than Belphoebe, since she was fresh from the cloning tanks, and despite her natural gifts, she hadn’t had a decent workout since her birth. Third, Belphegor was plainly from the “anger and enthusiasm” school of brawling, while I had been trained from birth by the Shoji Ninja Clan.

I moments, I had Belphoebe in a hold… which she promptly slithered out of, unmindful of the way she was tearing her own arm ligaments. She used her free arm to slash at my face, coming at my blind side where the eye had swollen shut. She used her sharp fingernails and gouged for my eye. I ducked back in time to save the eye, but felt slashes opening in my cheek.

Good instincts, I thought with a touch of admiration. I wonder if I can get Yuki to come up to tutor her?

“I can’t take this anymore!” the girl huffed, nerving herself up for another rush. “The wrong body, everything messed up, a psycho roommate who’s supposed to be my mum, and now I find out you’re trying to destroy the world? I can’t take it anymore!”

“That’s it, young lady!” I scolded. “You are not getting the combination to the fume-hood safe!”

At that point, there was a knock on the door and Jadis stuck her head in.

“Welcome wagon!” she called, and then held up some doggie bags from the cafeteria.

Belphoebe had retreated to the far corner, where she perched on top of the equipment crate like a sullen vulture.

Jadis let herself into the room.

“I just LOVE what you’ve done with the place! Nice to see that you’ve gotten over your ‘H.R. Geiger’ period. Personally, I prefer a nice conservative Queen Anne motif, but Techno-Industrial works, I suppose.”

I finished locking my flask in a temporary safe, awaiting the installation of a more permanent system.

“Very funny, Beast.” I looked pointedly toward the bags. “The food?”

She waved and brought her roommate Misty into the room. The blonde entered gingerly and handed me a box.

“Moo Goo Gai Pan. Enjoy,” Jadis ordered.

“Moo Goo Gai Pan,” I echoed, failing to fill my voice with delight. Jadis was well aware of my judgement: The Whateley “chefs” wouldn’t know good Chinese if they choked on it. They seem to believe that soy sauce, MSG, and a can of water chestnuts are the Great Chinese Secret, and that by using these techniques even a dish like baked beans can be turned into an Asian masterpiece. Mother had been the same way. Scrambled eggs and pancakes, but put an egg roll on the side and it’s suddenly Chinese.

Nevertheless, the room had to be my top priority at the moment, and sacrifices were necessary. Despite the protests of my stomach and higher brain, I forced myself to consume the slop.

“We threw in an egg roll!” Misty chirped.

I tried to conceal my groan as I manfully applied myself to the toil of eating.

Meanwhile, for some reason Jadis was buttering up Belphoebe. I don’t know, perhaps she’d decided to turn cannibal, and this was her introductory marinade. Judging from my meal, it would be a step up from the Whateley fry cooks.

“This,” Jadis announced, flourishing a larger box, “is for Belphoebe. This is my way of saying that maybe we got off on the wrong foot. It’s not your fault that that idiot Belphegor crammed his mind inside of your head, any more than it is my fault that my dad’s a super-villain. You’re not Belphegor, you’re Belphoebe, and you deserve a chance to find out find out who Belphoebe is. And, to further extend the olive branch, I think that you two need a time out from each other. Jobe, what say that I take your darkling bundle of joy here off your hands for a while, let you both get out of each other’s hair for a bit. She can sleep over with Misty and me.”

I instantly saw the possibilities – a chance to set up my bio-isolation layers without the nattering and fighting from an immature clone? A chance to prep the room, without Belphegor’s mind-double constantly looking over my shoulder? A chance to do some work, without being assaulted for every little thing? Naturally, I expressed guarded agreement to this quite reasonable plan.

“Oh, YES!” I shouted. “YES! YES! TAKE HER! Sure, do all that estrogen-bonding stuff. Knock yourself out. Teach her how to apply ear-shadow, or whatever the hell girls do when they're in private and not discussing valence bonding or organelle evolution or something that someone cares about. Hey, you want to keep her all week? Because, as her official mother, that would be fine with me!”

“Thanks so much for the support, mother,” Belphoebe hissed in return.

Jadis leaned toward her confidentially. “Do you really want to get undressed to shower in front of him?

Feebs looked down, as if only belatedly remembering her supremely obvious gender. “Uh…” A moment later, she was out the door, take out and all, and I had received the priceless gift of blessed peace and silence. Well, except for Jadis and her nattering.

“Misty, will you watch Belfy for a minute? I have a few things to sort out with the young mother.”

She closed the door and then looked me over, eyeing my healing wounds from the scuffle with my roommate.

“Woof! You look like a Manx cat that a neighbor of mine used to have.”

“Are you going somewhere with this,” I wondered reasonably, “or are you just indulging in some typical feminine sadism at my expense?”

“Hey, Patches, who says that I can’t do both? Y’know, you’re screwing the pooch here.”

I realized that she must think I’d been beating up on Feebs. Belphegor’s brain or not, she was still fresh out of the cloning tank. “I haven’t laid a finger on her, except in strict self-defense.” I neglected to mention that I’d been defending the entire planet, as well.

“Carson isn’t gonna let you out of this, just because you and Belfy don’t get along. She thinks that Belfy’s gonna dissolve into a puddle of goo.”

That stopped me, as I realized what she meant. Quick-grown clones are vulnerable to an equally fast breakdown. There are ways around that, but they’re tricky. Belphegor, worm that he was, had opted for the fastest of the fast-grow.

“Protein Antagonism?” I could do without a roommate, but I didn’t think I could bear watching my beautiful drow melt away. Considering the case, though… “I should be so lucky! That cloning chamber was going to be my payment to Dr. Gellmar! No way that anything I sell to Gellmar would be so shoddy as to create protein antagonism.”

“So I figured,” Jadis agreed, having been through this line of reasoning ahead of me. “So, you’re stuck with her, at least for the next three years.”

What was she hinting at? “So… Jads… are you telling me that you know some *ahem!* ‘Diabolik’ way of inducing protein antagonism in a stable organism?"

“If I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell you.” Then, like any other girl, she proved that she could maintain a single train of thought for about as long as Oprah can stick to a diet. “So, what source did you use for the mRNA for Belfy’s brain?”

“mRNA? Nada! Why would I? I wasn’t going to create a clone — that was Belfroggo’s brainfart. I was going to select an appropriate female with the requisite brains, wit, charm and incisive vision to—”

“Okay, okay, I get it, I get it,” she said. “I thought so. My point is, that right now, what’s got your panties in a bunch is that your dream-girl has Belfinko’s mind, right?”

She said that with a straight face. As an example of this absurdity, let me take the case of the classic shit sandwich. I am referring here to a sandwich where someone has actually taken a dump in the middle, and presented this steaming pile of dung to you as if it were an acceptable meal. I expect that Jadis would refer to this as “a sandwich with some problems.” I would speak more plainly. It is “shit with bread on both sides.” Terminology matters. Or, in the case of the subject at hand, a “dream-girl with Belphegor’s mind” is not what I would call a “dream girl.” I sighed, trying to figure out how to convey this simple concept to the suddenly sub-genius Jadis.

She continued on without me. “The solution is simple, genius-not.”

This I had to hear. How was she planning to fix the sandwich problem? “And your solution is?”

“Make her not Belphegor.”

As expected. A simple replacement of the toppings. I responded with typical restraint.

“I thought about that, uterus-for-brains! Overwriting an engramic template like that would—”

“Not an overwrite,” she interrupted, rudely. “High Tech isn’t the answer to everything, Patches. We do this the old-fashioned way. Belphegor didn’t really switch minds with Belphoebe, he performed an engram imprint. He Xeroxed he mind in, and you know there’s no such thing as a perfect copy!”

I nodded. “I keep trying to tell that to Dad. He wants me to cure myself by downloading into a new body.”

“So Belphoebe doesn’t have any real experiences of her own. All of the Belphegor’s old memories and traumas don’t really mean squat to her, not down where it counts. Also, there’s the fact that a female brain really IS set up differently than a male one. Right now, Belphoebe’s brain is frantically soaking up impressions and images to give her context. And, unfortunately, most of those impressions so far are of you screaming at her!”

“I’m convinced!” I said. “I’m all for moving her in with a different roommate. Hell, I’d be surprised if any female could put up with a coldly rational mind like mine! You just aren’t built that way! Too emotional.” Jadis was demonstrating that, in the ways her eyes were narrowing. “But how can we convince Carson?”

Jadis paused for a moment. I believe that she was mentally counting to ten. I’ve notice that many people, less intelligent than myself, employ this mnemonic device to restore a train of thought that they have forgotten or lost.

“I suggest,” she finally ground out, “that we give the process a hand and steer her in the right direction. Give her a full immersion session in all-out femininity. Provide her with some influences that are easier on the psyche than Baron Harko-nerd’s neuroses, or you trying to kill her. Give her a few role models that might add up to someone who’ll be easier to live with than Jabba the Halfwit.”

I nodded. Short of getting rid of her permanently, getting rid of her temporarily was a good thing. And if they could teach her to be demure, feminine, and appropriately deferential to men such as myself, well, so much the better.

“And this little ‘girl’s night’ thing?”

“Just the tip of the iceberg, Dr. Gluegenes,” Jadis confirmed.

“You already have a plan?”

For devisors, that word has almost mystic connotations. Jadis responded appropriately.

Plan?” She almost cackled. I could tell she wanted to. “For your information, I’ve already cut a deal for the Alphas, Masterminds and Grunts to lay off you for a few days, while you get all this—” she gestured at the room “up and running. But I warn you, if you futz around, they’ll assume that everything’s green-light. Take the time, and use it, Boy Wondering. And, as for Belfy, well, I have a few potential role models on the line, and appropriate paperwork is filtering through the system.”

“Thank god!” I responded.

I took her arm, pumped her hand, and steered her to the door, expressing my profuse thanks and grand hopes for success in her attempt to turn a shit sandwich into ham-on-rye. Before I could finally get rid of her, though, she had one more bit of bad news.

“Jobe… you have a chin.”

“What? Of course I do.”

“Not that Don Knotts thing that you used to have, Jobe. You have an actual chin there.”

In her ignorance, she was describing the famous “shy chin” that was the hallmark of the Wilkins Imperial Line. Someday it would be as famous as the Hapsburg Lip.

“You might wanna look into changing your meds, Jobe; I think those drow-regen cells are building up an immunity to them.”

She then had the temerity to poke me in the chest, encountering rather more flesh than I wished to publicly reveal.

“And yer gettin’ kind’a squishy up top. Kind of a reversal there – you used to be hard on top and squishy around the middle, now it’s the other way around. Though your top was never all that hard. More like shallow and sunken. Oh, and you might want to put a stopper in all the screaming – it’s hurting your vocal chords. Right now, instead of your usual reedy tenor, you’re talking in a contralto that’s very sexy – for a girl.”

After clearing my throat, I informed her that I hadn’t been “screaming,” it was merely an involuntary reaction to her poke. But I saw where her mind was going.

“Admit it, Jads – this is killing you.” I graciously allowed her time to recover. It can’t be easy, when your protective veil is so deftly ripped away. “Admit it! You want me. The thought of my manhood escaping you is breaking your heart. The only thing worse is the realization that, as a woman, I’d blow you off the stage.”

She pulled out a pocket recorder, the better to linger over my voice and words. “What was that again?”

I dumbed it down a little for her. “You know what I’m saying! You’re warm for my form. This is all your ploy so that I won’t be distracted, and I’ll find the cure that returns me to a hot, hunka, hunka burnin’ man!”

She laughed at that, a bittersweet laugh of passions denied and a loss so terrible that it could scarcely be contemplated.

“Oh, thank you, thank you! I’ll save that,” she said, confirming my supposition, “for when I need a good laugh. Well, I’ll leave you to your labors, Jobe. Oh, and one last little thing?” She stopped halfway out the door. “If you ever do manage to reverse this drow thing, leave the eyes alone! That shade of lavender in your black eye is absolutely to die for!”

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I checked the mirror. Sure enough, my right eye was almost done with the transition. The shape and size had altered, giving my face a lopsided look. The drow eye and eye socket were larger than human eyes, allowing for better resolution and a larger pupil. And while human eye growth is loosely tied to focus, the drow eye is tightly coupled. That, in conjunction with a regenerative ability to both grow and subsume cells, meant that the eye self-adjusted day-by-day to maintain optimal vision across the entire retina.

Blinking from one eye to the other confirmed this. I’d never needed glasses, but looking through my drow eye, I was astounded as how much sharper vision was. Textures and detail seemed to leap out, I could see distant objects with far more clarity, and close objects revealed a wealth of detail previously unsuspected.

Aesthetically, the eye was pleasing as well. I hesitate to use the word “limpid,” which is usually a cue for emotional slobber. However, the large size and huge, violet iris certainly lent an air of exotic innocence that I’m certain I never actually possessed, even as an infant.

Of course, because of the bruising, healing, and associated replacement of skin cells by the corresponding drow cells, the right side of my face (once I removed the fake skin) was black, with a white eyebrow. Meanwhile, a good portion of the left side of my face remained white, with a black eyebrow. I wasn’t quite ready to play Frank Gorshin’s role from the classic episode of Star Trek, but I was on my way.

Reluctantly, I took a still of my face. I added that to some pictures of Belphoebe, as I wrote a quick explanation and sent it off to Dad. Maybe he could apply pressure to Carson. More to the point, I needed some transition photos to remind him of my bona fides, once I didn’t look like me anymore,

After that, I settled down and finally got back to the important work.

The biggest problem with the new room wasn’t the heart decorations, or the less-than-subtle unicorn silhouettes, or even the boy band poster (“The Heart-Throbs”) that seemed permanently affixed to the wall – it was the overall color. Pink. Vivid pink, pastel pink, subtle and understated pink, shade after shade of pink.

And the deadline I was laboring under didn’t allow any time for redecoration.

I sighed and touched my chest. Jadis was right. There were … changes. Unsavory changes. In the face of that, and considering my need for a cure, the walls could wait.

I unpacked, and slowly began to arrange the room to my design. There was Dad’s old anti-surveillance system. It was probably obsolete, since it dated from Christmas. No matter how good it was, given a couple of months, devisors can work around anything. I mounted the nodes of the sterilizer and containment fields. (I count them as being orthogonal, since they operate off entirely different principles.) I disconnected the fire-safety sprinkler system and replaced it with my misting sprays of hunter-seeker bacteria. A lot of novices come up with the same idea, but they make their hunter germs too tough. They want them to withstand things like the sterilizer field. But that’s just a mistake, because they’re ignoring horizontal gene transfer. It’s the sort of mistake that switches a protection into a weakness, and ends up with your latest experiment escaping and infecting an entire cottage.

Eventually, I finished the last precaution and connected the fume hood, making sure the entire room was at negative pressure, venting up through disintegration unit in the hood. Finally, I seeded nano-cleaners around the entire room. They’re nice because they can also report when they detect a breach.

It’s a pretty fair setup for a dorm room. Not quite Biosafety Level 4, but a little above your standard BSL3. Given the various fields that Dad had built into the fume hood, I’d feel reasonably safe handling ebola or the like in here. For the really dangerous stuff, I’d use the lab.

By the time I finally finished, it was nearly midnight. I popped an MRE I had kicking around. I was trying to find a way to make them spoil, but my germs were all too sensible to eat them. I started some evaluation tests on the extent of my transformation, then collapsed to sleep in my wonderfully single room.

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The tests had finished by morning, and the results were worse than I’d anticipated. My muscle tissue – 93% drow cells. Even in the parts of my skin that were still white, I had 5% drow cells. Unsurprisingly, the black areas were between 95% and 99% drow. The cortical tissue sample (and believe me, those are painful to perform on yourself) was an alarming 7% drow, counting by number of cells.

I was starting to run out of ideas. It seems absurd, but for once I had built too well. The regenerator cells seemed almost deliberately designed to be infectious. Normal regenerator cells were bad enough, but the regen-5 samples I had received from Gellmar were particularly virulent. They formed free-floating stem cells that drifted through both the blood and lymphatic systems. Not exactly traditional stem cells, I’d dubbed them “stem spores.” They were far smaller than regular cells – actually smaller than blood corpuscles. Each tiny globe had a hardened “shell” and drifted harmlessly in the bloodstream, until it came to a site of damage. Then the spore came to life, unfolding and moving into position. It would cling to the nearest appropriate cells and immediately begin division and specialization.

This was great news if I wanted to heal a cut. But even a full-brain transplant would carry along billion of the little spore cells, even if I performed a blood flush during the transplant. I’d find myself right back where I started.

The backup/restore option was possible. I could grow a clean clone of my old body. But I’d always felt there was a certain je ne sais quoi lacking in such restorees. I could improve that with mRNA transfers from my current brain. And I’d been working on a “multiple imaging” technique that I held high hopes for. It was like a conventional backup/restore, only performed (automatically) 50 times in a row, with randomly microscopic variations in both receiver headset and inducer. The idea was that multiple snapshots would provide a bit of a time dimension, a bit better volumetric rendering, and something closer to true holography. I’d trust it to restore a close friend, if I had one.

But I wouldn’t trust myself to it. Not yet.

Which left me with two options. I could trust myself to one of several different mystic techniques. They have a bunch of typically hogwash names, but they all boil down to “soul transfer.” I don’t actually believe in that garbage. I’ve read proofs that it’s really a combination of high-end psychic ability and equally high-end self-delusion. And I should trust my life to it? Not likely.

The remaining option, and my last choice, was the exotic biological approach.

It was my last remaining hope, so I spent the morning getting ready.

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Sara Waite goes by the codename “Carmilla.” Most people think this is like John going by the codename Fred. What they don’t understand is that the original Carmilla was a female vampire, in a novel of the same name that predated Dracula by decades. It was, by many accounts, the first vampire novel. It was certainly the first appearance of the “Victorian” vampire, with all that implies.

And Sara certainly appeared to be a vampire. Red eyes, flawless, paper-white skin, black nails that curved to a point – almost claws or talons. She even had little vampire-fangs. But she wasn’t a vampire. At great expense, I had obtained a minuscule sample of skin and blood cells. Biologically, we humans had more in common with the octopus than any of us had with Sara Waite. Despite her appearance as a perfectly Goth teenager, she was less human than the monster they keep locked in the basement of Hawthorne.

But I am nothing, if not tolerant. I didn’t begrudge her that monstrous heritage, nor the tightly-strung black tentacles that filled the inside of her body, nor even the diet which required her to consume the body and soul of living creatures for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those issues didn’t bother me in the least – and they had nothing to do with why I’d been trying to kill her for the last three months.

No, the truth was that nearly three months ago, this inhuman fiend had stumbled into my lab. She had knocked over several experiments, and according to the surveillance tapes had apparently eaten the rest. Too late, I returned to witness a scene of unimaginable horror. It will doubtlessly remain etched upon my mind until the day I die. I scrambled through the wreckage, desperate to rescue what I could. But it was in vain. The leprosy plague – gone. My flesh-eating fungus – vanished as if it had never existed. The boil cream – likewise missing. My cannibal crickets had been themselves consumed. And worst of all, my cloud-seeding cellular emulsifier – lost without a trace. Even my lab notes were destroyed!

Standing there in the wreckage of my lab, tears streaming down my face at the senseless brutality and destruction, I swore that the fiend would pay! Furthermore, since she was apparently so contemptuous (or ignorant) of the wonders of the biolab, I would destroy her with that very science that she had so scorned! If she thought the lowly creatures of terrestrial biology were so beneath her notice, then I would awaken her to the errors in her thinking. From that moment forth, I had sworn, let her beware of every germ, virus, and fungus! Let her be wary of the insects that flew and the creatures that crept. Every tooth and every claw would be turned against her, until at last she fell, crying out in crushing regret, “What have I done? How could I have been so blind?”

At least, that was the plan. To date, many of my best efforts had been treated more as “snacks of opportunity” than as terrifying threats. But I was learning, and my attacks were growing more deadly and effective with every effort. Sara Waite was doomed, as surely as a slug vacationing at Salt Lake City. Unless…

Today, I planned to offer her an out. A stay of execution. If only she would use her strange biological powers to help me, rather than harm. The trick was to broach the subject, to slyly reveal the hope. To this end, I casually approached her, at her cafeteria lunch table.

As always, the so-called sex-demon was surrounded by her harem. Anyone who’d done the proper research would understand. Not only was Carmilla a tale of the first vampire, it was a tale of the first lesbian vampire. It was a research topic that had given rise to a fairly interesting body of work, involving exploitation of innocent young girls, necking as an extreme sport, and unspeakable lusts. Mindful of this lesbian predator, I had invited several girls on campus to assist me in researching the video coverage of the field, but apparently none of them cared to inform themselves on the nature of the monster in their midst, and I was forced to research on my own.

Thus fortified, I approached the table. The female Schwarzenegger, Hippolyta, gave me her best basilisk glare. The hateful eye beams bounced harmlessly from my Ray-bans (which were large enough to cover the distortion of my eye and lopsided face). Undaunted, I approached.

“What is it now, Jobe?” Sara asked, without even turning toward me.

“We need to talk.” Using my masterful control of nuance and emotion, I tried to convey the opportunity I was presenting her with.

“We do?”

She still hadn't turned toward me. Indeed, all I could see was her lab-coated back and a puff of crimson hair. I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to let her know who and what she was dealing with. Besides, she irritated me. Lab coats were my trademark!

“As the heir to a sovereign nation,” I gently corrected, “I am not accustomed to performing diplomatic negotiations to a back, or a mop of red hair.”

She masked her embarrassment with a low chuckle. “If you’re going to draw the diplomacy card, dear, you could at least stoop to being diplomatic. The Pope addresses his letters so me with ‘Your Holiness’.”

One of the harem looked up in surprise. “He does?”

“When he’s being polite,” she drawled.

I forced myself to the pinnacle of tolerance. “Can I please talk to you, Sara?”

She finally closed her book. I craned my neck, trying to see – it looked like an ancient treatise on black magic, but knowing her it was just as likely to be a cookbook.

“Girls, please be good and give me a minute alone with Mr. Wilkins.”

“Sara…” The muscle-bound steroid case tried to protest.

“It’s all right. He’s not going to try anything this time. And if he does, you’ll only be a few tables away.”

Obedient as ever, the puppets scuttled away to a nearby table where they perched nervously, surveying the two of us as we dealt to shift the tides of fate.

“Well, at least they’re well trained,” I observed, to my own amusement. “I wish I had that much influence over the Bad Seeds.”

She scowled in return. “Cut the bullshit, dear. I could explain about concepts such as love until you died of old age but you’d never understand a word. What do you want from me?”

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a keen student of psychology, virtually a master of interpersonal relations. To a normal man, it would be an insurmountable task to beg a favor from someone that you’ve been trying to assassinate. The master, however, realizes that this is merely an obstacle to be overcome. My strategy was to admit, openly and honestly, to the past difficulties in our relationship. Based on the trust established by that honesty, we could then move forward toward more amicable solutions.

I leaned forward, speaking softly, and cheerfully. “You want candid? All right. The first thing I want is for you to fuck off and die.”

Sara responded well, I thought. “Duly noted, you suave, smooth-talking, bastard.”

“My parents were married,” I gently corrected. “I have the birth certificate.” I kept a copy in my wallet, because a surprising number of people made that mistake. “Now, to make it very clear, I hate you. I hate you the way dogs hate cats.”

Sara shrugged. “Not exactly news. And?”

“Now that I’ve made my feelings perfectly clear, you’ll understand the enormity of my offer. If you’ll help me, I’ll call our vendetta quits. No more bio-assassins, no more breaking into my lab. Even-Steven. We both just walk away and may our paths never cross again.”

Then, she made a counter-strike, catching me with my guard down. “What vendetta?”

Was she serious? She couldn’t possibly be oblivious to my efforts… could she? What about the bug assassins? Or the phone-o-morph? Or the ortho-feedic shoes? Conversely, a dozen attacks that had been made against me… well, it was possible that I had misidentified those. With so many people trying to kill me, I sometimes lose track.

No, she couldn’t be that ignorant, even if she was a girl.

“We’ve been trying to kill each other for the last few months, you lab-wrecking monstrosity!”

“Kill each other? Listen, you monster-making Labrador, I haven’t been trying to kill anyone! If I were, believe me, you’d know it.”

“Okay, okay.” I waved my hand dismissively. “I’ve got a lot on my plate. Maybe I misidentified a few snipers and so forth. The point is…” I took a deep breath and tried to regain control of the conversation. “The point is, I’m not trying to be threatening, I’m trying to offer you something positive. We have a chance to end things here, and I’ll give you a pass, free and clear. I am willing to lay off you completely. I’m sure you’re at least interested in hearing my offer!” Seeing her skepticism, I added desperately, “Aren’t you?”

“Cut to the chase, Jobe. What do you need?”

I glanced around at the public cafeteria. “Do we need to do this in public?”

She patted the seat, right beside her. “Sit here, close. It’s noisy, we’ll be quiet. And I have a certain … influence … that should prevent most eavesdroppers from being able to spy upon us.”

I gulped.

I tried running over the details in my head, again and again. Not human. Bunch of tentacles or something. Not really a girl. Creepy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. I sat down next to her, and the pants were already tenting up something fierce.

The problem is that Sara Waite is a stone cold babe. There’s something about her that gets under your skin, and brings your fluids to a boil. She stares at you with those red eyes, those impossible cat-eyes, and gives a little lick of her tongue. I’m sure she’s not even aware of what she’s doing. And the tongue catches just for a moment on her little fangs. And you can’t help but feel your insides clench up in anticipation.

Her skin is flawless, did you know that? Not even exemplars have skin like that. My eyes traced the line from behind her pointed ear, down her alabaster neck, to the soft white swell of her breasts. I wanted to be stroking her, clutching her, grabbing her. I wanted to rake my nails across her perfect skin, leaving scratches that welled crimson red against that pure-white skin. If we’d done anything, I knew it would be the other way around. She would engulf me, draining me like a black widow drains an ex-husband. She would consume every life fluid I had, leaving scarcely a withered husk behind.

“Now,” she purred from right beside me, “what do you really want?”

I had to admire her negotiation tactics. Who can think, under conditions like those? I found myself babbling, and at the same time, desperate to explain.

“I’m begging you…” My brain struggled valiantly to overcome an ocean of hormones. “No, not begging. A Wilkins never begs! … So don’t make me. You have to understand, I’m up the shit, and creeking along without a paddle.” That wasn’t right. “I’ve blown the egg that lays the golden goose. Oh, for God’s sake, I’m mixing my metaphors!” I tried to take a deep breath, while deliberately not noticing her taking breaths. “Look, I’d go to anyone else first, but you’re my only, my last … hope. My arch nemesis is the only one I can turn to.”

“We can talk, Jobe,” Sara said, innocently. “But first, I want to look at your hand. I need to see it.”

I looked at my falsely-white hand and sighed. There was no reason to pretend – I knew exactly what she was talking about. It wasn’t like I had much of a secret to protect. I gave her my more delicate and slender hand, though it didn’t look odd unless I put my two hands side-by-side. The white neo-skin sprayed over it guaranteed that the color matched.

Sara stroked it, sending odd shivers up my arm. Her own flesh was so much paler than my original skin had been. What would her pale white flesh look like against my coal-black skin?

As if thinking along those same lines, she felt the synthetic skin. “This won’t do…”

With a razor-sharp black talon, she pierced through my false skin, then peeled back the fake flesh. It wasn’t like taking the skin from a banana or orange, it was more like removing the chrysalis from some new insect that didn’t have the strength to emerge on its own.

The sharpness of her talons against my skin was excruciating. Small droplets of blood formed, here and there. Sara brought a fingertip to her lips, her claw bejeweled with a single ruby drop, and she licked it free, smiling at me as she did.

Of all the odd reactions I might have expected, that clenching from deep inside me was not one I would have expected. My chest felt tight, and I had goose bumps that were almost painful. A particular pair of goose bumps was most prominent.

She took my hand in both of hers and looked at it, massaging it and measuring it with her eyes. Her touch sent strange shivers up the skin of my arms.

It was as if she were feeling the entire structure of my hands, the bones, the tendons, the muscles, by her massage and stroking. That may have been close to the truth, since she noticed the small ducts at the tip of each finger, just under the center of the nail. She lifted my hand up to her face, sniffing delicately, then sending her tongue out to taste the tip of each finger.

“Venom sacs? But… empty. Why is that?”

It was growing increasingly difficult to ignore the strange affect on my chest.

“Reservoirs,” I explained. “To be filled from an external source. More variety, harder to anticipate.”

She squeezed my fingertips, as if trying to milk the tiny sacs. It felt oddly exquisite.

“That won’t work,” I whispered, huskily. “They’re protected. Anyway, they’re empty. I… haven’t filled them yet.”

“Why on earth not?” Sara asked, sucking one fingertip into her mouth. “What a delightful little secret. Just one squeeze, and suddenly the underside of your sharp little fingernail is coated with… whatever you’ve loaded? So a scratch is painful or lethal or, I suppose, whatever other effect you’ve prepared for.”

“Um!” It was all I could answer. She sucked on my fingertip, and entirely involuntarily, I felt my duct opening, drawing in her saliva, trapping the precious fluid in a tiny little insulated sac, deep inside my fingertip. Intellectually I knew the sac was lined with protective mucous and specialized cells – a first-stage protection against whatever toxins I might carry. Only now, I wasn’t holding toxins, but Sara’s body fluids, her saliva. The thought of her fluids being carried within my body brought a heat to my abdomen that I didn’t understand.

“Sharp little nails,” she commented, studying closely. “Not quite human, but naturally falling to a bit of a point. Not so much as some people’s talons…” she raked her claws gently across my palm, triggering another wave of shivers and tightening across my body “…but combined with those secret little ducts, perhaps enough to bridge the gap between discretion and threat, eh?”

“Why are you doing this?” I demanded in a whisper. Everyone was staring at us. “You have me at your mercy. You’re humiliating me! Are you happy now?”

Now she stroked the skin over the back of my hand, and seemed to inhale the scent from my skin. “I’d heard the rumors, of course, but I had to see it for myself. How perfect, that after so many others failed against you, you’ve done yourself in. Oh, dear one, you know not the magic that lurks under your skin.”

I wanted to snatch my hand back, but didn’t, for some reason. I’d been trying to kill her! How dare she call me “dear one”! Who could possibly understand how this weird girl even thought? Magic? She was just babbling. More than likely, she was trying to get me under some strange spell of hers. I wondered if she was exuding some sort of pheromone that I hadn’t built up a resistance to.

“Talk sense!” I ordered. Well, pleaded. “Don’t give me that psycho-babble weirdness! Can you help me?”

She smiled, tracing circles over the back of my hand. Obviously the new nerve lines hadn’t finished integrating into my higher cortical functions yet, because her tracing on my hand sent strange echoing impulses all across my body.

“Oh, yes, I can help you. I’ll give you what you need, though we may disagree on what you want.”

I swallowed. I really should take my hand back from her.

“Stop that,” I said, weakly.

“You see?” Her voice thrummed seductively. “A perfect example of the disconnect between want and need. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met someone who more needed to get laid.”

“What?” My voice entered into a bit of a higher register as I said that. I tried to jerk my hand back, but Sara held it in a deceptively strong grip, yet one that was gentle for all that.

She began to rub the ball of my thumb, rubbing with deep pressure, sending pleasure into the strained depths of my hand. I realized how many nerve endings there were in the hand, and suddenly understood that she held me by an erogenous zone. We sat here in public, and she made love to my hand. I was about to protest more strongly, but the sensation of her smooth skin sliding over mine silenced me. Her skin touched like satin, like the whisper of a breeze across my palm, tickling and teasing in sensual celebration. Momentarily unable to speak, I looked up and was captured by her red eyes.

I took a moment’s comfort behind my protective sunglasses, but something told me they were no barrier to her strangely compelling cat-slitted eyes. Looking straight into her, I felt unbearably naked and exposed, and at the same time … appreciated. Her eyes caressed me as much as her hands did, penetrating into me in a way that was too personal to be borne, and simultaneously, too precious to refuse.

It must have been magic, because I felt things happening in my body that I’d never felt before. A warmth down low that I’d never felt, a weakening need that I had no words for.

She lifted my hand toward her face again, and her tongue snaked out. It was a light purple. The same as my eyes, I realized. Clearly, I didn’t know how far gone I was. Her tongue danced from fingertip to fingertip, and I gasped as a shiver traveled up my spine, forcing me abruptly upright in my chair.

I realized that the cafeteria had gone silent. I was sure they were staring at me – at us. But I was helpless to look away from Sara’s eyes. I was also helpless to get up. I was so stiff at this point that there wasn’t a single person on campus who could fail to understand my situation.

I cursed the impulse that had begun this project, so long ago. The perfect girlfriend? What had I been thinking? Far better to stick to things I understood, like custom toxins for pay (no questions asked), or targeted viral assassins. Far better to continue my relations with the servants back home. But no, I needed a “soul mate,” someone I could admire physically, while relating to mentally. What an idiot I was!

Sara opened my hand wide and brought it up to her mouth. She spoke, and her breath whispered across my flesh like the touch of a feather, creating sensations that echoed and rebounded in places that I wasn’t supposed to have.

“Your problem,” she whispered, “is that you have the flesh of a man, but the nerves and sensations of a girl. And for girls, the entire body is erogenous. It is a vulnerability … and a gift. Oh, yes,” she promised, whispering into my palm. “I can help you. But there will be a price.”

By this point, my entire body was wound so tight that I dare not move or speak, lest I do something that would humiliate me forever. I could only sit there, every muscle clenched tight, as she reached one hand toward me, while moving her face the smallest bit forward. I trembled on the brink.

Sara bit me. With those tiny fangs of hers, her mouth fastened over the thick ball of muscle at the base of my thumb, the area called the “mount of Venus.” At the same time, her other hand stroked across my neck, tracking a line from behind my ear down to my throat. That unexpected sensation arrived at the same moment that her fangs pierced the flesh of my palm, penetrating my skin so lightly, and so insistently.

My loins exploded and I cried out, some gasp that may have sounded like terror, or perhaps delight. I’m not even sure which I honestly felt at that moment. Every muscle in my body seemed to have escaped my voluntary control, as I spasmed in unasked-for ecstasy.

Sara leaned toward me and whispered one last instruction. “My room, tonight, if you would have what you need.” Then she took her tray and moved to another table, to rejoin her friends.

When my senses cleared, I noticed first the empty table I sat at. Second was the cafeteria, with nearly every eye focused on me, the population of campus watching in eerie silence. Third was the slowly growing stain in my paints.

It took only a moment to gather my wits, then I scooped a notebook to cover my lap and sidled out the door, as quickly as I could.

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The rest of the day was a haze of distraction, humiliation, and deeply driven research.

In the privacy of my own room, I gave that special squeeze at the tip of my index finger. A drop of hidden saliva welled up, and I dripped it into a sample vial that I quickly labeled and stored. Then I licked at the rest of the fluid, feeling myself tighten up, or perhaps loosen (I wasn’t sure which) as my tongue touched the rest of the fluid. It was like a second-hand kiss. All of that, and I hadn’t even kissed her. And my body still responded, just thinking of her. Just touching my tongue to her spit.

I managed to return to my room and change my pants without too many more incidents. Up until lunch, I’d been using the girls’ bathroom, as ordered, with the pithy suggestion that the understandably outraged girls complain to Carson about it. After lunch, I couldn’t muster the confidence. I used the boys’ bathroom, where the residents greeted me with either stark amusement, or awe, or a mixture of both.

“God, is she really that good? She got you off, just touching your hand?

“I’d let her give me a hand-job!”

“Think of what it would be like doing her for real!”

“Gotta call Peeper and ask if he’s got any Camelia posters! Or, you know, even some photos.”

“Her name’s Carmilla, you dork.”

“Hey, you okay, Jobe? I mean, aside from being totally humiliated, of course.”

In fact, I wasn’t okay. I was still so busy rebuilding my mental defenses that I couldn’t even manage a comeback to slap down the micro-cephalic walking gonads whom I had the misfortune to share a gender with. And, of course, I was still confused about Sara. I still wanted to kill her. More for the sport of it than anything else, really. But I was also thinking about marrying her. And bringing her breakfast in bed. That last impulse totally flummoxed me. At least in my mental fantasy I served her delightful Belgian waffles, topped with whipped cream, slivered almonds, and a mega-dose of cyanide (whose scent would be covered by the almonds).

“You okay Jobe? Your face looks really strange.”

“Uh huh,” I mumbled, realizing that I hadn’t worn my sunglasses for some time. I brushed my hair out of my eyes with a black hand, and wondered how much of my condition I was giving away.

Later I wandered to the lab. Not to work – I was far too distracted for that – but to research. There was no question of not going tonight, but I needed to be prepared.

I was so distracted that Jadis came by with a small group of girls. She wanted my credit card to take Belphoebe on a shopping trip to some big city. I barely noticed, handing over my card with scarcely a protest. All that mattered was that the unasked-for roommate would be gone. I would have precious time to adjust to … what I needed to face tonight.

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I was done with The Contract. I’d gone over the document six different ways, with legal analysis software, logic analyzers, and even a bit of freeware that was floating around on the net.

Then I noticed the flashing light that signaled an incoming call. I clicked “accept”, and Dad’s image appeared.

“Just called to see how it’s… going. Son, no offense, but you look terrible.”

“Feel terrible, Dad.” I didn’t really want to talk right then, but what can you do? Then I noticed Mom sitting with him, and I realized that it was going to be a talk.

Dad continued. “Son, we got your latest letter, with all the information about … Belphoebe.”

“Is she around, Jobe?” Mom asked. “We want to meet our new granddaughter!”

I mumbled something unintelligible.

“What was that?” Mom asked. “We must have a bad connection.”

“She’s out with some friends,” I said louder. “Shopping for clothes, and probably draining my AmEx.”

Dad chuckled. “Oh, lord, I know how that goes. Women and their clothes. What do you think made me turn to crime in the first place?”

“It’s good to hear she has friends,” Mom said. “I know that you never had any trouble making new friends, but it would be nice if someone in the family could do it the old-fashioned way, by meeting people.”

“Son,” Dad began, “your mother and I have been talking. This is hard to admit. Perhaps I haven’t given you enough support. I know it can’t be easy, growing boobs, feeling a sudden attraction for petticoats and doilies, and suddenly feeling the need for all those things that girls do, like having naked co-ed pillow fights.”

“DAD!” Honestly, where did he get his ideas from?

“What I’m trying to say, son, is that … you’re our only child. Son, daughter, both, neither, whatever. And we’ll stand behind you.”

I found myself suddenly choked up. “Gee, Dad…”

“I know how traumatic it was for me when I lost my penis—”

“Huh? When you what?

“It was back in the nineties. You were just a baby, but I got busted up pretty bad. Oh, you wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but that’s because I invented the OmniSqueal 5000.”

“His best invention ever!” Mom confirmed, gleefully. “It saved the world!”

I was still trying to catch up. “You lost your…”

“Why do you think you were an only child, Jobe?”

“But… you mean you never had a…”

“Not since you were a baby. I don’t usually talk about it, but then I thought – Hey, Giz. I sometimes call myself Giz. I thought, Hey Giz, you’re son’s turning into a chick, he’s losing his manhood, isn’t there something you can do for the boy? And right then, I realized that maybe you needed an OmniSqueal 5000, too.”

“I… what?” I wondered if it was too late to miss this call, and pretend I wasn’t in.

“Well, the surgical attachment is fairly simple. The main trick is the nerve linkage, like with any prosthetic. And you’re better than me with the surgical stuff, so you could probably handle that yourself. It comes in three varieties: original chrome, plastic pink, and now with spray on faux-flesh, thanks to your little invention. I wasn’t sure, but since you’re turning into a girl I thought you’d prefer plastic pink.”

“I…”

“I had them all Fed Ex’ed up to Whateley.”

“Gee, thanks Dad.” I finally began to recover my equilibrium. “But I’m not going to be taking any of the old girl journey. Got a new plan ready to go, so thanks anyway. Besides, even if I did go girl, I’m not sure I’d want the uh…”

“OmniSqueal 5000?”

“…yeah, messing up the line of my clothes. Immersion therapy, you know? Like learning a new language.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Jobe!” Mom said, primly. “The OmniSqueal 5000 is detachable! That’s how I used it to save the world!”

That time, I didn’t have to say a word. Apparently my expression was enough. I knew that shock could turn hair white. What I hadn’t realized was that shock could cause hair to spontaneously curl, like bedsprings. I should have known, from the old expression, “It’ll curl your hair.”

“Well, son,” Dad explained, “it’s just a prosthetic. You add an internal power source, a wi-fi connection, and voila.”

“Wi-fi?”

“Encrypted link, of course.”

“Saved the world?”

“I think you were three,” Mom began, in her chattering way. “Your father was making his first big address to the United Nations, he’d just taken power, you know, and one of those African dictators denounced him.”

“Me! Can you believe it? I’m the best thing that ever happened to this country! And that genocidal butcher accused me of being a criminal thug!”

“Well, your father stood up to speak, and I was just sure he was going to give that nuclear blackmail speech he’d prepared—”

Dad chuckled. “Oh, I was, believe me. Armageddon! BOOM!”

“—and I was watching on TV, wondering how on earth I could delay him until he could calm down.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I remember that from history class. How the world could have ended, if you hadn’t suddenly gotten sick to your stomach. The history book thought that some mystic type must have cast a spell on you.”

Dad was still laughing. “Oh, I wasn’t sick to my stomach. That’s not why I had to leave so suddenly.”

Mom smiled. “That’s right. You see, I remembered that I had one of the OmniSqueal 5000’s in my purse. I like to carry one with me, and I—”

“In your purse? Wait, ‘one of’?”

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to call down Armageddon when your wife is doing that to you!”

My hair emitted a couple of more springy sounds, as it spontaneously curled up in fright.

“You see, son,” Dad said, in a not-so-confidential aside, “that’s the advantage of prosthetics. It’s why I was never tempted to go back. Once I had the breakthrough of making it detachable, creating a half dozen was no big deal.”

“A half dozen?” How was I ever going to straighten my hair?

“Well, you know, it’s like the TV remote. You can never find one when you need one.”

“And I can use multiple, at the same time!” Dad announced, with the biggest grin that I’ve ever seen any man display.

“My limit was four,” Mom said smugly.

“I don’t want to know! I don’t want to know! I don’t want to know!”

“So, Son, that’s just why I had to call. I know you’re going girl, but with the OmniSqueal 5000, you could be a guy, too. Heck, with the detachable model, nothing even needs to show on the outside. In fact—”

I had my hands over my ears by that point, but it wasn’t helping.

“If you used the detachable remote, you could probably do yourself! Bet that would be a first!”

“Dad, this is Whateley,” I reminded him.

“Oh, yeah. Someone probably did it decades ago.”

“Well, much as I’d like to keep talking,” I lied, “I have a date with a demon. So… gotta go!”

“Bye, Son!” “Bye!” “Watch for that package!”

And with vast relief, I cut the connection.

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I didn’t find the freak show known as Hawthorne to be particularly inviting, and the basement was even worse. I had to wonder what sort of cottage exiled students to living in the basement. The door to Sara’s room exuded a feeling that made my skin crawl. Stationed on either side of the door were twin horror bodyguards. One was the mountain of “feminine” muscle, Hippolyta. The other was a matte black shapeshifter bodyguard that often accompanied Sara.

I wondered how full of herself she must be, to maintain a pair of bodyguards.

Sure, I’ll admit I was jealous.

Inside, the room was awash in silks and a huge, fabric swaddled bed. Sara herself was wearing some sort of clingy black nightgown that hid nothing.

“Jobe! I’d almost forgotten our little appointment! Come in.”

I tried to speak through a suddenly tight throat. “Before we can proceed, I think we need to agree on things, up front.” I was doing my best not to stare at her front, or the way her nipples pulled and slid inside the fabric as she moved. I realized that the fabric wasn’t actually transparent – it only seemed to be.

“Hmmm,” Sara took the contract and began reading through it. “Whereas you, whereas I… promise to destroy every female regenerator cell in your body and restore your original cellular structure, best of my ability, in return, vendettas universally dropped and forgiven, cessation to all hostilities, so on and so forth.” She gave a decisive nod. “I see nothing objectionable here.”

“Then you’ll sign?” I demanded.

“I’d be a fool not to.”

I handed her my pen. I’d done as much research as I could cram. Apparently, one of the demon tricks was using disappearing ink, from trick pens. Juvenile, but effective.

Sara accepted the pen. “Unless you’d prefer to have me sign in blood?”

“Well, if you’re offering.”

She shrugged. “If it will make you more relaxed.”

Taking a huge needle, she jammed it through her arm. Then, with the implement dripping her red-black ichor, she scribed a complex sigil on the parchment. Yes, I used real parchment. It takes a special printer, but they have one in the mystic annex.

“There!”

Sara handed back my document. On her line was a complex glyph that I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of.

“You have to sign, too, Jobe.” She handed my pen back.

I shrugged. So I couldn’t read demonic, or whatever characters she’d used. But she’d signed in blood, and I knew enough to know that this was how you sealed an iron-clad demonic contract. I quickly signed in my space, then rolled the parchment and tied it with a red ribbon.

“Good!” I announced, trying to seize control. “Now what? Erk!”

Sara was already moving on me, her hands busy untucking and unbuttoning my shirt. Writhing black tentacles had begun to sneak out of her body. My eyes widened – not in fright, but in eagerness to study the design details. Each arm had four tentacles, each as thick as a rope. Two erupted from under her wrist. It was an odd thought at the time, but I thought it was not unlike the character Spider-man, with his web shooters. Only instead of a single line of webbing shooting out from under the wrist, there were a pair of black ropes, coming from small openings like tiny mouths. Above the wrist were two more black ropes, for a total of four per arm. And the tentacles seemed both stronger and more dexterous than human hands and arms.

Then more erupted, from higher on her arms. I saw one form. The smooth, flawless skin suddenly developed a small, lipless mouth. The mouth opened, and a tongue-like black tentacle reached out. This one was as fine as a thread, and as Sara’s arms held mine, the tentacle pierced through my flesh in a sensation that was initially like a bee sting, but soon cooled to soothing comfort.

I had barely any chance to realize that the last of my clothes had gone, along with the last diaphanous bits of Sara’s nightclothes. Her amazingly firm breasts pressed against my chest, as her hard nipples jiggled the dance of our combined motion. I felt myself falling back onto the bed, and opened my mouth to cry out.

Sara’s mouth fastened over mine, and her tongue probed inward. Her tongue, and more. A hundred, then a thousand hairy tendrils filled my mouth, crawling up and down my throat, piercing through the soft flesh there as they burrowed toward my brain. With my throat filled, I couldn’t even scream. All I could do was open my eyes wide, as I peered helplessly into Sara’s burning red, cat-slitted eyes. Eyes that grew bigger and bigger until they engulfed the entire world.

For a while, I knew nothing. For a while more, I drifted, living in that thin slice that lies between dreams and waking. Something changed, and I became more aware. I knew enough to remember who I was and how I’d gotten there. I had enough time to question the wisdom of walking into the demon’s lair and placing myself in her power. But I was comforted by the contract. I had done everything in my power to spell out what could and could not be done. And with seven percent of my brain composed of drow cells, I knew that drastic measures would be necessary.

So I floated, occasionally feeling muffled echoes of my body outside. There were sparkling points of pain throughout my body. I soon identified the locations as being deep inside my bones. My shoulders and pelvis seemed to be seeing the most activity, but none of my bones seemed to escape attention. After the bones, there were two different networks that sparkled into life – both my nerves and circulatory system. Neither was as painful as the bone work. This was surprising, since I knew that both had been heavily modified into drow tissue. But then I realized that soft tissue must be easier than hard tissue. As the nerves quickly fizzed away, finished, the activity moved upward, toward my brain. This was what I was really afraid of. There was still a chance of mind-wipe, although evidence was mounting that Dr. Gelmar’s theory was correct and that the speed of transition was inversely related to the retention of existing structures and memories.

I was also a bit worried about losing that special spark of genius that makes me, me. Devisors are mutants with unique mental gifts, and to lose my gift would destroy me. But my research indicated that retaining memory, retaining the physical structure of memory, should also retain the physical structures that composed my gift. If I still knew how to walk and talk, I should still know how to devise. Dad had proven this with countless memory implants, as he restored his own mind into blank receptacles. If anything, his gift only grew stronger.

At last, the fizzing receded from my mind. I knew it had worked, because I felt, somehow, different from the way I’d felt, just before the correction. I couldn’t quite place the difference, but by comparison I knew that I had changed, and the change felt right to me.

Now the alterations were happening more swiftly. My skin erupted in a traveling wave of fire, my left eye healed and changed, now matching the right, as it should. My vestigial breasts filled with heat that receded again, leaving them feeling much better. Down in the cradle of my hips, a knot of muscle that I knew was my womb, burned with white fire. Little was needed here, the fire tracing itself down a muscular tunnel to my underside.

Finally, as appropriate for a sex-demon, the fire concentrated on a single organ, my manhood. As it swelled to life, I felt myself returning to full awareness. Even as connections withdrew, I could feel Sara there in my mind.

Fascinating, she said, silently within my mind. I thought I’d need to adjust for that. Did you know that drow seem to be naturally bisexual?

Hmmm? I returned, only slowly coming fully aware. I had tried for that. The interaction between genetics and psychology is tricky.

You wanted a bisexual mate?

What man doesn’t like watching girls make out?

She seemed amused at that. And you do like men, don’t you?

Of course! I felt myself stiffening at the thought. Those hard, firm, male bodies, the delicious scent of them, the thought of what they could do to me, and what I’d enjoy doing to them.

Alarm bells were ringing in my head. Wait, that’s not right! I don’t—!

That’s when she took hold of my manhood, and whatever I’d been about to say became unimportant. I’m still not sure whether it was her hand, or a set of tentacles. I thought I felt moisture, so perhaps it was her mouth. Or maybe, for just that moment, I was inside her. I suspect I’ll never know for sure.

Movement began, and I naturally responded. It was good, like always. In thrall to that ancient biological programming, I never noticed as the sensations began to change. Not only was I feeling pleasure from the thrusting shaft, but I felt it all the way down to the base, to the root of me. Even out to my flaccid sac. And the delightful heat spread, reaching backward to my butt. Not quite that far back, but spreading pleasure through the entire area. Lesser fires formed at my waist, and chest, and neck, down the back of my thighs, and along the hairless surface of my arms. Beneath, below, an insistent probing was rewarded as I became moist enough for it to tease its way inside, and then pleasure truly began. I spread my knees, to intensify the feeling.

I wasn’t even bothered by the tiny flashes, like gnat-sized knives, that continued to spark like little bites at the base of my manhood. That was bringing me less and less sensation with each buck of my hips. It was actually in the way, if anything. Then it was numb, just limp pressure that obstructed my movement. With a very satisfying bump and grind, I shook it away. I couldn’t be bothered now, not with things building…

The last few sparkles flashed through my body, and I felt a fading, errant thought that someone was too much of a perfectionist. Some part of me knew that Sara’s mind was completely gone, fully disconnected from mine, but it didn’t matter because I was… I was just about to…

And Sara rose up from me. “There! All done!” She gave a happy shiver and shook her head from side to side, flinging off the tiniest beads of dew-like sweat. “My goodness, drow are soooo yummy! It’s hard to stop with just a nibble.”

“No!” I shouted, scarcely noticing what she was saying, or that I was speaking in a husky contralto. “You have to FINISH!”

Sara gave a perfectly contented smile, and held up a loose piece of flesh. Only belatedly did I recognize it as a man’s penis, bloodlessly sliced away from his body.

“I don’t think we want to go there. As I see it, I am finished,” Sara purred. “You are well and truly fucked.”

“Huh?”

My thinking was still obscured by my need. I realized that I lay on my back. I looked down the length of my body, seeing pure black skin everywhere. My breasts weren’t large, but there was no mistaking them. Likewise, while little of my gender was visible from this vantage, there was no mistaking the absence of manhood, nor the beginning of that distinctive cleft. Since drow have no pubic hair, I could see the faint hump of my pubic mound, and the upper swellings of labia.

“But… we had a contract… it’s impossible…!”

With a move that was pure sensuality, Sara dropped her pound of flesh into a waiting beaker. She picked up the parchment scroll and tugged at the red ribbon, releasing the scroll.

“Jobe, dear, it’s important to know one’s limitations. Contracting with demons is no job for an amateur, even one who had prepared themselves by studying up on,” she snickered, “the internet. Honestly, a professional would have had me verbally agree, plainly and clearly, to accept the contract. And they would know a real signature when they saw it, not a refusal like this.”

She turned the contract upside down, so that I could read her “signature.” In this orientation, the words were visible as an overly florid style of calligraphy, even now just barely legible for all its embellishments. Still, I could read the words stacked on one another: “No way in hell.”

“I’ll have to frame this,” she said to herself.

With her other hand, she tossed my clothes at me. “Get dressed, honey. We’re done and I want you out of here.”

“But…” Despite all my shocks, there was one thing was I still couldn’t forget. I wasn’t done. “I’m almost…”

“It’s called coitus interruptus, chickie. Get used to it. As a female, it’s just one of the realities that you’ll have to become intimately familiar with.”

Numbly, I gathered my clothes, struggling to get my old clothing to fit my suddenly expanded hips. Whatever she’d done to me was still affecting me. “What did you do? And why?”

“What did I do?”

Sara began to languidly pull on her diaphanous nightgown once more, taking joy in displaying to me something I wanted, but couldn’t have.

“Well, I could have killed the regenerator cells and replaced them with your few original cells. But it was so much easier to go the other way. And you look better this way, too. A lot easier on the eyes, believe me. All the main work is done, but your body needs a lot of protein to finish the job. Mostly just filling out. Just chow down for the next few days, and you should be fine.

“Oh, if you’re worried about mental tampering while I was in there, put your mind at ease.” She laughed cruelly. “I did tamper. But I only did two, and exactly two things. I so swear on my true name, and my honor.”

“What?” I begged, terrified. Had she made me into another one of her slaves?

“First, as you were, I couldn’t see you taking to men the way you really ought to. Believe me, I thoroughly washed away that little inhibition. Your personality may keep you from taking dicks, but your body will be ready and eager. Oh, yeah! You won’t be able to keep your eyes off the guys.”

My throat tightened, almost choking me. “What else?”

“Just one teeny thing,” Sara said. Her smile revealed her evil in full bloom. “You won’t be able to give yourself pleasure or relief. Ever. You’re gonna need a partner, Jobe.”

“But… why?”

“Oh, let’s see. Maybe it was those killer bugs. Or the phone that grew a tentacle and tried to burrow through my ear and into my brain? Or how about the shoes that tried to eat me? Any of those ring a bell, asshole?

And so, clutching the shredded remains of my dignity, I fled Hawthorne Cottage, running into the black night, and the questionable welcome of Melville. Once again, I had been undone by my own better nature, my kind heart. You see, the assassin bugs had actually been just a warning, an opening gauntlet thrown. Well, I wouldn’t make that mistake again. No more Mr. Nice Girl!

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(INTERLUDE)

Hippolyta sauntered into Sara’s bedroom, displaying an easy smile that spoke of an ever-deepening satisfaction with her life. Those who’d known her a year ago wouldn’t have recognized her. The body and face were the same, but the personality inside was so transformed as to be unrecognizable. Distracted, Hippy leaned against the mantelpiece. There hadn’t been a mantelpiece last week, but this was the Lovecraft room, and you got used to things like that.

Suddenly, she recoiled in disgust. “Ew! How long has that been there?”

“Hmmm?” Sara sauntered forward, and plucked the cylinder off its display base. It was clear Lucite. Inside was a severed male organ, floating above an inscribed bronze plaque. The plaque read only: “Jobe.”

“Like it?” Sara asked, impishly.

“Not really.”

“Let me put it this way. Would you rather have it in here, trapped in Lucite, or out in the world wreaking havoc?”

“Well, when you put it that way…. Is that a souvenir of Jobe’s little ‘visit’ the other night?”

“Yep.”

Hippy gave the tiniest of frowns. “Uh, far be it for me to berate anyone for tearing off a guy’s gonads, but it doesn’t really seem like your style. Maybe the style you occasionally try to scare people with, but not the real you.”

Sara shrugged. “Oh, come on. If anyone deserved it, Jobe did.”

“No argument there.”

“And he … she’ll be happier this way. Trust me, I know. It’s one of those mystic things.”

“Sure.” Hippy opened her muscular arms and accepted the smaller girl, hugging her tightly. “I recognize the tone of self-justification.”

“I didn’t really like it, but I had to do it!” Sara said, beginning to sniffle.

Hippy smiled, deeply content. She was not only loved, but best of all, she was needed. For something like this, she was the absolute best at comforting the fragile-looking girl that they all loved. The fragile looking girl who was neither fragile nor human, but still had moments of doubt and fear over the cruel realities of her existence.

“You didn’t like it?”

“No.”

“Not even a little?”

“Well… maybe the part where I left her, disbelieving, just on the edge of coming and with no satisfaction in sight. You wouldn’t believe how distracted she was.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Or the part where I ‘fixed’ her so that she’ll can’t get any self satisfaction. Now she’ll have to find a partner.”

“You liked that?”

Sara gave a nasty chuckle. “Don’t mess with the master, bitch. Actually, that will be really good for her. Jobe wasn’t exactly social.”

Hippy snorted. “So you liked it a little.”

“Well… She’s just so hot now! Do you think we can ‘drow’ all the ugly obnoxious guys?”

The larger woman rolled her eyes. “Well, as tempting as it sometimes is, maybe we’d better leave that to Jobe. Let her take the heat for it.”

Sara laughed. “Yeah, good idea.”

They held on to each other for a while longer, before Hippy broached the sensitive subject. “Sara…?”

“Yeah?”

“You said you ‘had to’ do it.”

The smaller girl trembled for a minute. Then, quietly, fearfully, she said, “It has to do with … you know. You sure you want to hear?”

“No. But I think I need to hear.”

The white-skinned girl took a shaky breath. “You every watch any Dragonball? Actually, Dragonball Z, I guess.”

“Sure! Great show. Not enough girls, until lots later.”

“You remember how Goku was a Saiyan? As a baby, they dropped him on Earth. He was so powerful, he was supposed to either take over or destroy the whole planet by the time he grew up.”

Hippy laughed. “Yeah! Goofy idea. Only in a cartoon, I guess.”

Very quietly, Sara said, “Well… I’m basically a baby… of my kind.”

Hippy laughed harder. “Oh, come on, Sara! You’re not saying—” All at once, she stopped laughing. “Shit.”

“Yeah. Tell me about it. Oh, it’s not exactly the same. Goku was dropped on purpose, to destroy. In the case of my … kind … there isn’t any real need or desire to destroy planets. It’s more what you’d call benign neglect. But in both cases, sooner or later the adults show up.”

“And then?”

“I’m fuzzy on the details. I think they see whether I’m worthwhile, or whether I need to be culled. And I’m pretty sure I should expect collateral damage. A lot of it.”

“When?”

Sara shrugged. “Who knows? A few decades? A few centuries? Not long at all, by their standards.”

To Hippolyta, it felt like the room temperature had just dropped by twenty degrees, as all her blood vessels constricted. “Shit,” she repeated. “What do we do?”

“You? Nothing. Relax. Try to forget this conversation. Me? I need to prepare, learn, absorb life and knowledge. One of the best things I can do is to absorb the minds and DNA of this planet’s predators and deadly life forms. I’ll need those skills and abilities when…”

“Crap.” Hippy seemed stuck in a verbal loop, as the coming cataclysm unfolded in her mind.

“And that’s why I had to do what I did to Jobe.”

The apparent non-sequitur stopped Hippy like a kick to a phonograph player. “Huh? Come again?”

“For the past several months, Jobe has been attacking me with the most insidious, deadly, brutal, lethal creatures imaginable. They’ve been delicious! Better than that, they have been extremely educational. A few more years of that and I might actually be ready, when the adults drop in.”

“Um…?” Living with Sara, you got used to being a couple of steps behind in the conversation.

“Don’t you get it?” Sara asked. “He was threatening to stop! He wanted a truce.” She settled herself comfortably back into Hippy’s embrace. “But now I’ve made sure that she’ll never forget me. She’ll be attacking me with every horror her fertile and frustrated mind can devise.”

Sara smiled, finding that her fears and doubts had melted away. “I can’t wait.”

(END INTERLUDE)

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To be continued…

Next episode:

“It’s all because of that demon, Sara Waite! She did this to me! I swear, I think I’m going to die if some man won’t help me. Someone noble and selfless. Someone like you!” I tilted my head back, and gave him the quivering eye.

“Uh… well, of course I want to help, but… What exactly did Sara do to you? I mean, I know her, and she isn’t as bad as people make her out to be.”

“She’s a monster!” I practically hissed it. “And she changed me! And now, if a man won’t help me, I’ll die of frustration!”

“Help you how?”

I grabbed the straps on his harness and hauled myself up. If my mouth could just reach his lips…!

“I’m a virgin, Scott! I need you to fix that!”

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Original Timeline

Original Timeline stories published from 2004-2009

Original Timeline stories published from 2010 - 2015

Original Timeline stories published from 2016 - 2021