Interface By EMW
Waking up bright and early on Monday, I felt sure that this was going to be my week. I showered and scrubbed my self up as pretty as I could manage, then put on my uniform and grabbed my bag before heading down to breakfast. Kittybot was tucked safely away in my bag, occasionally taking a look out, but content to stay where I had put her. I had my breakfast, wished Mum a good day, then headed out with Dad for a lift in.
I was very quiet on the drive into school. I had a lot on my mind I suppose. When we parked, Dad wished me a good day, and I waved goodbye before heading up to my classroom. There were very few people in the room, so I took my place at the back. A few people started turning up , but I was lost in my thoughts.
Then I was startled as a girl introduced herself. “Hey, I'm Anne, are you new?” She was a short, though not as short as me, brunette girl I didn't really know all that well. She always seemed nice from what little I knew of her.
“I'm Lexi, I'm not really new I used to be called Alex,” I replied carefully.
“Ah, so did you get any powers?”
“I can make myself magnetic, but that's about it.”
“Cool, I didn't get anything from MORFS beyond a new hair colour. So what music do you like?”
“Oh all sorts. Anything with guitars in it, really.”
She rattled off a list of bands I didn't know and continued to talk about the things she liked. She talked almost non-stop before Mr Roberts turned up to take the register. I hadn't gotten a chance to say much, but it was nice to have someone talk to me. My potential new friend and I stayed together most of the morning and through mid morning break.
Then came the part of the day I was dreading, P.E.. I was very nervous about what would happen what with me being a boy turned into girl, and in the girls changing room. I followed Anne in and sat next to her. I was very careful to keep my eyes away from anyone else for risk of getting called some sort of pervert. The girls changing room was really no different to the boys one. It was just full of girls rather than boys. I put on my gym kit then waited talking briefly with Anne while I waited.
Miss Adams was known even to the boys as a fairly brutal teacher, one of the’ no pain no gain’ school of physical education. I kept my head down and just did what I was told and it seemed to go fairly well. I was physically exhausted and a little muddy after all the running about, so the hot shower was welcoming.
Showering in a room full of other girls was a terrifying. I was scared I might offend someone if I looked at them. It was a bit silly since I had all the same bits as them, but still I was worried about becoming an outcast.
I was in the last group to wash, with Anne, who half way through my shower surprised me by asking, “What is that on your back?”
“Oh, they're my wings,” I replied, giving them a little flap, trying to focus on her eyes and not let my gave drift.
I went back to my shower trying to get washed as quickly as possible. It was maddening. Here I was, someone that thought they would have loved to be in this position not more than a few weeks ago. Now I was terrified of seeing the girls around me.
I finished up and headed back to my clothes, wrapping my towel around me like I had seen other girls do. Just as I got to my stuff there was a jerk and my towel went flying over into a puddle of water on the floor. I cried out with surprise and spun to try and retrieve my towel. I was hit by my clothes as they flew past, also into the puddle. I tried to grab them, but they danced and bounced along like they had a mind of there own till they were soaked. A wicked laugh keyed me in to who was responsible for this. Tara and her cronies were laughing at me as I stood there soaking wet and naked, trying to retrieve my clothes. Soon other girls began laughing at me, and to twist the knife yet further, even Anne joined in. I felt totally betrayed.
I sat there staring at my ruined clothes practically crying as Tara and chums left for lunch laughing their heads off. Anne stood nearby chuckling.
“Oh come on girl it was pretty funny,” she said when I shot her an angry glare.
“It is not!” I shot back angrily.
“Well fine, if you can't take a joke,” Anne said huffily, before she stormed off.
I sat there soaked, not sure what to do. My towel was soaking and my clothes were too. I felt angry and sad.
At this point one of the other female PE teacher, s Miss Barton came in. “Come on girls, get a move on, time to be off for lunch.” When she saw me sitting there naked and soaking wet, clutching my wet clothes and fighting back the tears, she came over. “Hey, what's going on here?”
“She threw my clothes in the water,” I sobbed.
It was just me and Miss Barton by this point, the rest of the girls not wanting to be associated with this at all.
“It was Tara. I'm sure of it. She used her powers to do it. I don't know why she hates me so. Now all my clothes are soaked, and my towel is wet through.” I had begun crying by this point.
“Hey. There. There. There's no need to get worked up about it. We can fix things. You just wait here. I'll see about getting you a spare towel.”
She vanished out and returned a moment later with a slightly worn but clean and dry towel. “Here.” She s handed it to me, snatching up my wet things, “You dry yourself off I'll see about getting these clothes dry. Maybe we can hang them on the radiator or something.”
I dried myself and sat there wrapped in the borrowed towel, quivering with sadness and rage. How could they do this to me? How could they humiliate me like this? Why did my continued attempts to gain a friend fail? Something in me began hardening and turning inward, maybe to despair, or maybe to festering anger. It was too early to tell at that point. I took out Kittybot, the only friend I knew wouldn't desert me, hugging her sleek metal curves to me and stroked her. I didn't know if she could appreciate the anguish I felt then. Maybe it was too much to hope that a simple machine could develop that level of understanding. Still, she was there and that gave me some small measure of comfort.
Miss Barton returned a short while later with my clothes and towel all bone dry, “We were in luck. One of the sixth formers was about and was able to dry out your clothes with a little heat She mentioned having something similar happen to her at your age, so was happy to help.”
I nodded numbly and put Kittybot down on the bench while I dressed. My clothes were a little rumpled from their water treatment, but dry and warm, like they had just come out of a tumble dryer. The thought of toasty warm clothes straight from the dryer cheered me a little. I had always loved feeling the warmth and the clean soft feeling of freshly dried clothing.
I picked Kittybot up and set her on my shoulder while I packed away my things and decided to leave her there for comfort, keeping her attached with careful use of my magnetic field.
“Don't let those girls get you down,” said Miss Barton, “I'll be having a word with their teachers. If they try anything like this again, you let me know and I'll come down on them like a tonne of bricks.”
I nodded wearily and made my way out. I didn't want to go near the dining hall, since I knew my tormentors would be there, but I was hungry. Plus, a certain bloody mindedness set in. I was not going to let them intimidate me.
They laughed at me as I sat down to have my lunch. I ignored them, my anger and sorrow growing in equal measure. They didn't do anything more, except tease me. It seemed they had fulfilled their quota for active physical humiliation for the day. I just got the jeering mental kind of abuse. Constant references to how I’d “wet myself” or some other slight were made at me for the rest of the day. I kept Kittybot close, like some sort of child's soft toy, my only comfort. I also kept her firmly attached to me so that no one could take her away, mindful that these girls would love to steal away the last of my joy.
Anne tried to approach me again. I wondered why, maybe she was in league with Tara and wanted to build me up so Tara could knock me down. She seemed genuine enough in her attempts to placate me, but I said nothing. The way she had laughed at me could not be forgiven. A true friend would have never done such a thing.
I ignored her as I ignored everyone else, retreating into the same shell I had used when I was Alex, blocking all the people and staying silent so they couldn't hurt me. Eventually she left me alone, giving up and going to sit with Tara and her friends. So maybe she had been one of them all along.
I barely said a word for the rest of the day. Mostly I just glared angrily at Tara, not sure what I would do, but sure I would have my revenge somehow.
The day ended and I went home, saying nothing to Dad or Mum, despite their careful gentle questioning. They may have been told what had happened, or they may have just seen my mood, but either way I said nothing, retreating to my room to sit on my bed in the dark and stroke Kittybot.
The next day was no better I spent it in the same haze. One of the girls tried to steal Kittybot to have a game of ‘hold the thing out of reach to torment the small person.’ She fell flat on her back when she grabbed her and tried to run off, only to find Kittybot firmly attached to my shoulder by a powerful magnetic field.
There was more jeering and name calling, so I retreated further into my shell. Blocking everyone and everything out, I barely paid attention in class, just biding my time till I could get away from the constant barrage of insults and teasing.
Wednesday was more of the same, as was Thursday. By Friday I hadn't spoken a word for nearly two days. Tara and co. Had not grown tired of me as a punching bag. If anything, my retreat back to how I was before made Tara even worse.
That night I heard my parents talking about me. I was in my room, my sanctuary, playing with Kittybot and their voices drifted up through one of the heating vents from the living room below, “I'm worried about her, Peter!” came Mum's voice.
“I know Mary, I know. I'm doing my best to help her, but you know what kids are like, and there is only so much I can do,” Dad's reply came.
“It's worse now than before her change. She was never this withdrawn and depressed.”
“It's only been a few day's, . Love. Give it time. I'm sure she'll find her way and these kids will get tired of picking on her or find some other target.”
“But she's very fragile right now. She's lost her old self and got this strange new body loaded with hormones she doesn't understand. I'm worried it might be too much for her.”
“What can we do though, Love. Taking her away will only make things worse. I'm sure of it.”
“I know. I just wish I could help her. I've got half a mind to go down there with a hammer and bust all of those girls’ heads in.”
“There'd be more to take their place in an instant, love. It's a sad fact of life.”
“I feel so helpless Peter she won't even talk to us any more. I love her so and it's tearing me up inside to see her like this.”
“I know Love, me too.”
They went quiet and I felt even worse for the fact that my own despair was hurting my parents. I cried myself to sleep, not for the first time in the week.
The weekend was my chance to have a break from the teasing and the humiliation. Not having to see my tormentors let some of the tension unwind in me and I felt a bit better and able to face the world. I slept in, then decided I would go for a walk around the neighbourhood. I set off with my beloved Kittybot perched on my shoulder, the only person other than my parents I could rely on.
It was a nice day and the sun and fresh breeze lifted some of the cloud of darkness from my mind. In a spirit of adventure and discovery, I decided to look at my local streets with my new magnetic vision. It was like noticing all manner of new fine detail in a familiar painting. All the old familiar streets seemed alive with new and strange meaning.
The wires in the street, in the walls, and running overhead all pulsed in strange magnetic wavelengths no one else could see. Dull and boring substations covered in graffiti now glowed in rainbow brightness as the step-down transformers did their work. Places that before had been normal boring streets now pulsed with glittering light, showing the ebb and flow of power and even information. Through it all the great field of the earth was like a wide river flowing, through which all the small eddies and turbulence mankind made moved, then carrying them on its way. I wandered these familiar and yet new and different streets with a sense of wonder, for a moment forgetting my troubles.
I was on my way back home when I saw something very strange. I was nearing an old shop at the end of the street, a strange seemingly deserted place that had once been a butchers shop. Some of the windows were boarded up, and what little you could see inside was obscured by some large metal cupboards. Through a side window I had glimpsed what looked like a workshop, though I had never seen any people in it. Over the door an old hand lettered sign said “H.G. Mason and Son” and the door on the front of the shop displayed a small open sign, though I couldn't recall ever seeing any customers enter.
It had been there as long as I could remember, a strange shop full of machines which occasionally had lights turned on, but seemed never to have customers or staff in evidence, despite being sometimes open and other times closed. I had no idea what they were in the business of making or doing, and though I had asked my parents a few times they had no clue either. It was one of those mysteries I was happy to let lie, but then I got another glimpse of the puzzle and stopped stock still to stare at the store.
For the briefest instant a hugely powerful magnetic field had exploded out of the confines of the shop. It appeared and disappeared so suddenly I stood stock still in the middle of the street in shock, and only moved when the thankfully light traffic honked me awake. Finishing crossing the street, I watched, and there it was again, a pulse of powerful magnetic energy far greater than anything else I had witnessed. It repeated several times, and eventually I could stand it any more and before I really realised what I was doing, I was inside the shop, closing the door and making my way around the obscuring cupboards to see what was going on.
I was confronted by the sight of an older man in a boiler suit shifting a large metal sculpture on which he appeared to have been doing some welding, though I couldn't see a torch or an arc welder in evidence. He stood admiring his work for a while not even noticing me. It was some sort animal, maybe a horse, though it was hard to tell, given its unfinished state. It was constructed of all manner of metal part salvaged from other things. The legs appeared to be made of several rods from metal banisters. Its head seemed to be constructed of a part of an engine, a hole, perhaps where the cylinder went making the eye. A large sheet of mottled rusty metal making up the body and various small parts all fused together gave it weight and structure. Most of the metal was old, and slightly rusty. The few bits that shown were used as accents to the dull red finish. The shape emerged out of the chaos, or would do so when it was complete. At the moment all I got was an impression of an animal in motion.
I glanced around the rest of the room, which was full of tools and various metal working machines drills mills and lathes, as well as some of the hammering and shaping facilities. The walls were lined with benches, above which were stocks of well worn hand tools and miscellaneous fixings, all neatly arranged to make them easy to locate. Scattered about were various projects or work pieces sitting on them in different states of completeness. Against one wall sat a half finished motorcycle. The motor sat on the bench beside it, the rest of the streamlined machine more or less complete. The place was pretty tidy. Being around my parents, and given mothers profession, I was used to workshops and had seen my fair share of them. This was probably one of the neatest I had seen. Not spotless by any means, but it was obviously not for show.
The old gent in the boiler suit stood scratching his head examining his work as if considering what to do next when he spotted me and turned, “Oh, hello there my dear. Not often I get visitors. Is there something I could help you with?”
I hesitated, then explained, “I saw a large pulse of a magnetic field and wondered what caused it.”
“Well now, a magnetic field you say …” He eyed me up and down, scratching his head, “I don't rightly know what that could be. I was just in here doing a spot of welding, don't have much call for magnets, myself.”
“I didn't see an arc welder or an oxy-acetylene torch or some such.”
“Oh, so you know a bit about working with metal,” he said, breaking into a big smile.
“My Mum is a mechanic, and taught me a few things.”
“You do any metal work yourself then, Miss?”
“Well, a little. I made the chassis and shell for Kittybot,” I took my diminutive robotic creation off my shoulder and showed her to the man.
He lifted a pair of battered eyeglasses up to his eyes. They were held together with tape, and attached round his neck with a small length of string. Their lenses were flecked with paint, and the arms marked with grubby finger prints. He put them on and strained to make out what I was holding.
His eyes lit up with joy when he made out Kittybot. “Oh what a neat little sculpture, so neat so shiny. What flawless lines, and you say you made this. I'm truly in the presence of artistic genius. My eyes are not what they used to be, young Miss. Would it be possible to take a closer look over in the light here?” He gestured to a clean bench with an anglepoise lamp mounted to it.
“I suppose,” I said, a little wary, though his flattery and kind manners were nice after a week of abuse.
I carried Kittybot over and placed her gently on the table top. She stood still, observing the man. He looked at her closely, grinning like a kid in a sweet shop. As he reached over and shifted the lamp to get a better look at her other side she startled, and scrambled back, hunching herself up, ready to make a break for it.
“AH! It moves! How wonderful, young Miss. It's not just a sculpture, it's a little automaton or robot as well!” He clapped his hands with glee, further disturbing Kittybot, so I gave her a reassuring stroke.
“She's the first one I got right, the first one I tried giving a brain of sorts.” I stroked my creation proudly.
“Truly a wonder, all made by one so young. It's great to see someone such as yourself taking an interest in making beautiful, and indeed, functional things out of metal. But where are my manners. I am Horace Monk. I own this little workshop. The sign is many years out of date. I make ends meet doing the odd bit of sculpture or custom metal work. It hasn't made me rich, but it’s rewarding work.”
“I'm Lexi, Lexi Jones.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Jones, and as to your earlier question of why you can see no welder, it's down to a little trick I have.” He held his hand out with index fingers outstretched and a huge spark jumped between them. Brilliant rainbows ringed the bolt of electricity, showing me its magnetic field. “I'm an electrical elemental and found I could use my power to weld metal, much like an arc welder or spot welder. It took a fair bit of practice, but it gives me a lot more flexibility than with torches or the like.”
“Oh, that explains it. The powerful current you used to weld generates a magnetic field, which is what I saw,” I beamed at figuring out the mystery.
Mr Monk scratched his head and smiled, “If you say so, Miss Jones. I'm afraid I'm not too well versed in such things. Arts and crafts were always more my thing. I take it seeing this magnetic field is a gift you have received from MORFS?”
“Yes, I can see magnetic fields and generate them a little.” I levitated Kittybot as a demonstration, much to her displeasure . “I don't mean to be rude, Mr Monk, But you are the oldest MORFS survivor I have ever met. I didn't think people your age had MORFS when you were kids.”
“Ah, no offence taken, Miss Jones. I'm not as old as I appear. The years have not been kind to me. I also underwent MORFS at the upper end of the age bracket. I was nearly twenty when it hit me, much to my surprise. Still, what seemed at the time like a death sentence has turned out to be a blessing. It just took me some time to realise it.”
I stayed a while, watching him work. He was keen to show me little tricks he had learnt about metal working and how to make things. He seemed a little lonely, and happy to share his passion with someone who could appreciate it. I stayed quite a while before deciding I had better be on my way. I wished Mr Monk well and waved him goodbye. He made me promise to drop in and see him the next time I was passing.
I skipped my way home feeling a bit happier. I played a little, had a nice lunch, played some more, then it was dinner time. I went to bed happy and peaceful. Sunday was overshadowed by the realisation that Monday was now only a day away and my torment would begin afresh.
I almost didn't want to get out of bed on Monday I entertained ideas of pretending to be ill and staying home. With the state my parents were in worrying about me, I suspect they would have let me get away with it too. Only the fact that Tara would see my staying away as a victory kept me from doing it. I mentally braced myself for the day ahead and was soon sitting in my classroom awaiting the inevitable attacks.
I noticed there was a new girl in the class today. She was small like me, with a nice body, short dirty blond hair,, and glittering blue eyes. She was a little odd in that she was wearing clothes that completely covered her arms and legs. Every inch of her skin was covered, with small gloves on her hands that tucked into a long sleeved top. She wore trousers that tucked into socks, with a pair of boots laced tightly on her feet. When someone asked about the gloves, she shyly mentioned a skin condition then carefully adjusted her clothing to ensure she was covered up. She made a few overtures of friendship to me, but I was wary, remembering Anne, so I said nothing. From listening in I learned her name was Vicky Miller, and her family had just moved to the area. She seemed like a nice enough person, but I had learnt the hard way, appearances could be deceptive.
When Tara arrived, the presence of a new girl, who was a little odd, distracted her briefly from her usual activities. But as soon as the novelty had worn off she resumed teasing me. Some way into this something terrible happened. Using her powers she grabbed Kittybot off me.
“Haha, got your little toy, perv! Here, fetch!” She tossed Kittybot across the room, smashing her into a wall. I howled in anguish and ran sobbing to where my only friend lay twitching.
I quickly surveyed the damage. The blow had caused a little denting to her casing, but the shock of the impact had shaken her power cells loose and broken the connections to Kittybot's main control circuitry. She was losing power rapidly, and since her program or mind was all kept in volatile storage, if she lost power, I would lose her. She was dying! I worked frantically, trying to reconnect things, but she was losing power too fast. In a last desperate move to save her mind I used my magnetics power to induce a current in the wires leading to her main processing unit just to keep her brain alive. It worked just well enough to buy me the time to do makeshift repairs to the power connections. She would be all right, but it had been very close. I carried my gravely wounded metal companion back to my bag and left her in sleep mode till I could make more permanent repairs.
I was in a rage. Tara had tried to kill my Kittybot, my only friend. I wasn't going to take that anymore. She had crossed a line that I wasn't going to accept. I spun and glared at the laughing Tara and bared my teeth, making a strange high pitched shriek that caused most of the room to cover their ears in pain.
I leapt at Tara like a wild thing. A look of surprise graced her face as my tiny form hit her at speed and toppled her to the ground. I pummelled her face and chest with my fists. She raised her arms defensively, deflecting almost all of my strikes, so, I was not really doing a lot of damage but the surprise of it caused her to cry out in fear. Two of her friends grabbed me and pulled me off her. I fought in their grips like a wild animal and kicked at Tara on the ground with my legs.
She got to her feet, and I redoubled my efforts, managing to breaking free and charging at her, making another screeching noise that distracted the two who tried to stop me. I wrestled with the larger girl, my own ferocity making up for my small size and lack of muscles. Her fear also played its part, as until then she hadn't really seen my teeth properly. I had taken great pains to keep them hidden. Now my attitude, combined with my angry eyes and bared teeth made me look quite unlike the small girl she had tormented.
She pushed me off with her power, knocking me into some chairs. I got back up and ran at her again, knocking her over and grabbing her by the hair. I had been the victim of many bullying attacks as Alex, and had learnt the hard way how fight to hurt someone. I had also learnt about pain, and how to function under it, since sometimes you had to fight through it in order to escape to make the pain stop. Most bullies, at least in my experience, knew about inflicting pain, but not receiving it. It seemed in this regard Tara was typical. She was completely unable to focus with me pulling her hair, so her telekinetic attacks went out the window.
I grabbed onto her and didn't let go, so that was how Mr Roberts found us, Tara and I were rolling around on the floor, me with my legs wrapped around her, grasping her hair with two other girls trying to pull me off her.
“STOP THIS NOW!” Mr Roberts shouted. I almost immediately let go, causing Tara to flop forward onto to the floor with a crash.
The moment the fight had stopped, I began feeling awful about my loss of control, and about the anger and how I had given in to it. I began bawling my eyes out. I tried to stop, but I just couldn't. I sat there crying, sobbing like a little kid. Some of Tara's friends looked at me like I was trying to get out of trouble by pretending to the victim or something, but even they realised my anguish was genuine.
Everyone, Mr Roberts included, seemed quite confused as to what to do. We were made to stand outside as Mr Roberts got the scoop, and eventually we were dragged off to the Head Mistresses office for fighting. By now, Tara had recovered somewhat and was loudly claiming she had done nothing wrong, and that I had attacked her without provocation. Even then, she kept shooting me worried, almost fearful glances as I sobbed my eyes out, quite unable to stop crying. The emotional floodgates had opened and all the pent up feelings were rushing out.
We were sitting in the waiting area while Mr Roberts explained what had happened to Mrs Thomas. The secretary, Mrs Donnal, eyed the two of us with her beady eyes, her mouth set in a sneer. I had taken my bag with me, not wanting to leave a fragile Kittybot near Tara's allies for fear of losing her. I reached into my bag and stroked her chassis gently just for comfort.
The door to Mrs Thomas' office flew open and Mr Roberts motioned us in with a grim look on his face. We sat in two chairs, sitting far enough apart that we couldn't reach each other. Mrs Thomas sat behind her desk, her face serious, her eyes hard. I had never been in trouble like this before. It was making my already turbulent emotional state worse.
“Now girls, we take a very dim view of people fighting!” She began.
“She started it! I didn't do anything!” Tara said, trying to play the victim.
“I know full well you have been tormenting Miss Jones for days,” Mrs Thomas said sternly, causing Tara to shut her mouth and scowl, “I also know that you took something of hers and tried to break it, which instigated the fight. You are far from blameless in this, Miss Patterson. Be that as it may, we don't tolerate that kind of behaviour, Miss Jones even if there is provocation. I will, however, be lenient as a result. In future you will inform a teacher of such incidents and they will select a suitable punishment. You two will be spending lunch time in detention and I don't want to hear of you two fighting again. And Miss Patterson, you are now on notice. If this bullying happens again, you will get a far more severe punishment.”
I nodded my head, meekly accepting my punishment. I didn't really feel bad about attacking Tara. She had deserved it. I felt bad about losing control and acting like some sort of wild animal.
Tara, however, was outraged at her punishment. “WHAT! She attacks me and I get a detention too, just because someone lied about me starting the fight? This is an outrage! I'm going to tell my parents!” she huffed.
“By all means, tell them. Then when they contact me to complain, I can bring them in and talk to them about the rest of your behaviour. The choice is entirely yours.” Mrs Thomas face had a sly grin.
Tara quieted down after that and took to scowling angrily at Mrs Thomas and me. Pretty soon we were dismissed, with instructions to report to the staff room at lunch time for our punishment. My tears were still flowing a bit, but the flood had begun to wane. We left with instructions to return to our lessons. Most of my anger seemed to have fizzled out.
Tara took my quiet sobbing as some sort of capitulation. She started to try and reassert her authority, “If you try something like that again, you filthy pervert, you'll regret it I'll ...” she started.
That was all it took for the rage to come flowing back from behind the tears. My face became a mask of anger, eyes burning hate, my hands clawed, my teeth bared. A strange growling noise came from deep in my throat the tears were suddenly completely gone. I leapt at her, reaching for her with one hand.
She squeaked and fell over backwards. I stared murder at her lying there on the ground. My sudden shift from crying girl to maniac had completely terrorised her mind. So, even though I couldn't do anything to her, she was scared to death of me. I took one more step, watching her scrabble backwards out of reach.
“You ever speak to me again,” I growled as best I could in my new voice, “and I'll make you wish you'd never been born!”
They were pretty bold words, since she probably weighed twice what I did and had telekinetic powers to boot. But given her current mental state it had a fairly strong impact on the whimpering Tara. I wasn't sure how long she would fear me, but it might give me a little peace for a short while till she realised it was all basically an angry bluff.
Just to underline my point, I took another step forward and spat on her, then turned and headed on to class. I had always hated people who spat, and I took very little pleasure in doing it, even to Tara but in my rage it had seemed like the thing to do. I carried on, with Tara following, wiping her face on her sleeve, staring at me with frightened eyes, keeping enough distance so I couldn't spring on her again. With each step I found it harder and harder to hold onto the rage, and by the time I reached the classroom I was again crying a little. We were ushered in by our teacher and quickly took our seats.
Throughout the lesson, Tara watched me fearfully when she thought I wasn't looking. Every now and again a jolt of anger shot through me, and almost without meaning to I bared my teeth at her, causing her to look away. Most of the rest of the class didn't seem to notice, though the new girl Vicky looked thoughtful. She was obviously trying to work out the dynamics of our group, and had arrived on a day where the standard order of things was upset.
This probably give her a twisted view of things, or at the very least mixed signals. By PE, Tara had been spreading rumours about me enough so that I was getting fearful glances from many of the girls. It seemed she had spread word that I was some sort of unstable raving psychopath. Now all the girls were giving me a wide berth. There were no more repeats of the clothes throwing incident. In fact, I had a nice area all to myself, and when showering I had no one either side. I noticed Vicky hadn't come in to PE and had presented some sort of note that let her off. Probably her skin condition again.
Lunch came and I presented myself for detention. The tears had dried up and the anger was seemingly extinguished. I felt almost numb now, as if I had completely used up my quota for emotions for the day. I spent a boring time sitting at a desk down the corridor from the staffroom. They didn't even give me anything to do, I just sat there feeling hungry. I could feel Tara's eyes on the back of my head for the entire time. At one point I saw my Dad as he made his way about. He spotted me sat there and looked surprised. He started to come over but was then called into the staffroom and I didn't see him after that.
Finally our time was up and we could make our way down to lunch. It was getting pretty late so there was no choice but at least we got something to eat. Tara and I sat as far away from each other as we could physically get, both facing the other so we could see if they came at us, but pretending to ignore each other. As if we could see everywhere in the room but the space directly across from us.
After lunch was over I headed to the library for what little time I had left. For the rest of the day I was avoided. It seemed during lunch, the rumours had spread further and got grander in the telling. Now when I walked down the corridors, whispers followed me, stopping if I turned to see who had said something. People got out of my way like there was some invisible force field around me, excluding everyone in a sphere around me. Despite my size people seemed to fear me which was a very strange feeling. I knew full well what it was like to walk these halls afraid of someone, but to be the one people feared was a new and unwelcome experience. The only person who sat near me in class was Vicky, and even then, only for one lesson till she was pulled aside by some of the other girls. I even seemed to have lost any attraction to boys who had been eyeing me up since the moment I returned to school. Now they stole glances and looked away fearfully when I looked back. I didn't know what rumours had gotten started about what I was capable of, but it seemed I was universally feared now. It seemed to put a stake through the heart of any hope I had of making a friend in my new life.
It was a very tiring and stressful day and I was glad when it was over. In some ways the new fearful glances were better than the barrage of insults, but then neither was what I would term ideal. I waited for Dad as usual, and when he came out he gave me a stern look and said nothing. The car ride home was quiet. I had nothing to say and it seemed Dad was saving what ever was on his mind for when we got home.
We went into the house and Mum called out, “Hello, Dears. Did you have a nice day at school?”
Dad turned to me and said, “Lexi, go wait in the kitchen! I want to have a talk with your mother.”
I nodded and walked past Mum, who looked confused and looked at Dad questioningly. I wanted to get upstairs and start repairs on Kittybot, but I had been expecting something like this. Mum and Dad liked to present a unified front when I had done something wrong. Though not a regular occurrence, it had happened in the past.
I sat at the kitchen table, laying my head down on the cool surface, feeling my tears surfacing again. It was not enough to start crying but my eyes moistened. I could hear Dad's voice from the living room. I couldn't make out what he was saying but the low earnest tones were familiar. I could hear Mum interject things from time to time as they discussed what had happened.
Eventually they came into the kitchen and I raised my head to look at them. My wet eyes made Mum’s eyes widen.
“Lexi,” said Dad, “Mrs Thomas told me you had been fighting with a girl today. You know we don't approve of fighting and we want you to tell us what happened and why you did it.”
“Well, Tara was shouting mean things at me again and I was ignoring her. Then she got hold of Kittybot and threw her against the wall, trying to kill her.” At this point the tears that had been threatening, burst out again, and I began sobbing, “Kittybot was my only friend, and I just couldn't take it any more and lost control.”
Mum looked ready to run over and comfort me as I sobbed. It was only my Dad's hand on her shoulder that stopped her. Even then, she looked like she was going to shrug it off and come over anyway.
“Did you apologise to the girl afterwards?” asked Dad.
I felt the glimmerings of anger again, “No, afterwards she threatened me, so I threatened her back and now she's afraid of me, so hopefully she'll leave me alone now.”
“That's not the way we taught you to do things,” Dad scowled.
“If I had apologized, she would have continued to tease and hurt me,” I said, angry but still sobbing a little.
Dad looked set to say something more but Mum stopped him, “Enough Love, she's been punished at school and she's been through a lot. This girl has been badgering her for days. She won't let something like this happen again, will you Lexi?”
I nodded, and Dad seemed to capitulate. I was allowed to trudge up to my room with no further punishment. I gently extracted Kittybot from my bag and placed her on my work bench. Opening her up, I connected her circuitry to external power so I could safely repair her battery without cutting her off from the juice. I redid the mountings that held the battery in place, and reinforced them so the cells wouldn't come loose again. Then I rewired the power cells into Kittybot's circuits with proper wire and made sure the connections were sound. With that done, I thought about what else I could do to prevent this sort of thing happening in future. I thought about adding some EEPROM (electronically erasable programmable read only memory) shadow memory to store her fpga program in dynamically saving any changes, but I didn't really have the space on my custom pcb (printed circuit board) to wire it in. Also the slowdown associated would probably cripple her ability to function. Instead I wired in a backup battery cell directly to the main processor and memory systems and a couple of super capacitors to provide some tempory shutdown power, then added some additional code that stipulated that if she lost power for any reason she would switch to her backup power cell and go to sleep, running with minimal systems. I estimated that the charge in the backup would allow her to survive for almost a month, powering only her locator systems and reserve power to her memory. Pleased with my work, I closed her up and switched her back to internal power.
I righted her, then woke her up. She scrambled into motion, but appeared confused. I guess she was reacting to being flung against the wall.
“I'm sorry, Kittybot. I should have protected you better from that wicked girl,” I told her.
She bounced around agitatedly, then ran over to my hand and clung to it, wrapping her tail round my fingers. I lifted her up and hugged her to me. She seemed to calm down after a bit and reached out and patted my shoulder with one of her paws. I placed her there and used my magnetism to securely attach her. She sat there happily flicking her tail about. When I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the head, her light panel became all sparkly for a second, so I imagine she liked it. I decided to head back downstairs to see if I could help with dinner.
Downstairs I walked into the kitchen to find Mum peeling potatoes by the sink. I walked over to help and she pulled me into a hug and gave me a kiss on the forehead when I stood next to her .
I helped peel the potatoes and chop carrots. I liked helping out, as it was some quality time for me and Mum. I felt like I had been letting my parents down with all that had been going on.
Dinner was quiet. I think Dad was a little angry with me for getting into trouble. Mum gave me reassuring looks, seemingly not mad at me at all. I felt conflicted. I didn't want my Dad to be mad at me, but then again, I felt Tara deserved what had happened and didn't feel like apologising to her about it. I was sorry that it had happened, that I had lost control like that, and would apologise for that. But that was as far as things went.
Kittybot sat on my shoulder watching us eat. She seemed interested in everything, and at one point wanted putting down so she could get a closer look at the plates of food. She spent a long time examining a sautéed potato, seemingly trying to work out what it was for. At one point Mum reached for the pepper and Kittybot scampered over to take a look at this strange wooden thing. But when she heard the grinding noise of the pepper mill she ran back to me, and with a little magnetic help, scrambled up my arm and onto my shoulder, taking refuge up against my neck, peeking out from under my hair suspiciously at the pepper grinder for the rest of the meal.
When we were done we watched a little telly. Mum sat with me on the main sofa with her arm around me stroking my hair. It was nice to be held like that. It made me feel safe and loved. After that I was off upstairs to get my homework done. I ended the day tired from the emotional roller coaster I had been on and slept fairly soundly.
Tuesday was much better than the previous few days. I was for the most part ignored by Tara and her friends. I was treated with fear by some of the rest of the school. It seemed to mostly be my own year and some of the ones below us who had been told stories about my bloodthirsty nature but it meant I got left alone, which was both a good and a bad thing. I did my work and paid attention in class, and was almost back to the sort of behaviour I used when I was Alex.
Wednesday was more of the same, Thursday also, but come Friday, things changed. The moment I got into class in the morning I could feel things were different. People in the classroom were talking excitedly. It was more than the usual animated discussions. Everyone in the room seemed involved, and across groups that never talked to each other. Wondering what had happened, I took my seat and listened in.
“The whole building collapsed and she saved them!” said Melvin.
“No way! I saw it on the news. They said three whole stories caved in due to the fire,” said Alice.
“Yeah, but she was walking past and used her power to get the people down off the top floor.”
“She did! I heard it from my Uncle, who is in the police and was at the scene! She's a real heroine!”
“What? You're telling me Tara save a load of people?”
“Yeah, she used her power to clear the burning debris off the fire escape so the people could use it. She even caught a girl who nearly fell!”
“Wow, a real life heroine in our class!”
I felt sick, Tara a heroine? They had to be wrong. She was an unpleasant self centred little cow! A while later, the self satisfied grin on her face told me it was true. She had saved those people, and was now going to milk her hero status for all she was worth.
“Why did you do it?” asked one of the girls.
“I had to I saw those people. They needed help, and it was my duty to save them. A lesser person might have done nothing, but I knew only I could save them.” Her face had a smug smile. “When something like that happens to people like, me instinct takes over and we just act without thinking. I used my power and saved those people. They all owe me their lives now. I'll probably get a commendation and a big reward for my heroism. The head of the firemen said he wished there were more young heroes like me about. It would make the world a much better place.”
“Were you scared at all?” asked one of her friends.
“No. When you have the depths of courage I have something like that barely phases you.”
I wondered what exactly she’d had to be scared of. It wasn't like she had gone charging into a burning building to save those people. From what I'd been hearing, she had been standing safely across the street and had just used her powers to help the people without really putting herself on the line. While what she had done was a good thing, she had hardly been risking herself like the fire fighters or other people who had tried to get people out.
“Are you going to be on the news?” asked one of the boys.
“When you do this sort of thing, you often shy away from publicity, but I might do a few interviews, and will probably be thanked personally by the mayor. Though given how much of a heroine I am, there's a good chance they'll give serious thought to making a film about this heroic rescue.”
I felt she was possibly getting too carried away with her own sense of success, and I sat in the corner fuming, I hated her even more now. Thankfully, the day started in earnest and some of the fuss calmed down. It wasn't until break time that Tara had the chance to spread more propaganda about her heroic deeds.
By lunch time she had convinced most of the class that they were thinking of having a new public holiday in her honour. During lunch I was forced to watch her entourage, (by this point her lies had attracted a large group of people to hear her stories of the flaming inferno) from my position on the other side of the room. As the current stories had it, she had fearlessly fought her way through, while the fire fighters were kept away by the flames, with a baby in each arm and an old disabled woman on her back. Towards the end of lunch she was approached by a group of powerful MORFS survivors that some people called the Supers. They stopped at her table, and using my enhanced hearing I clearly made out what was said.
The leader, a girl whose real name was Winifred, but insisted on being called Quill due to the large number of spikes erupting from her head and down her back, approached Tara. She was a bioelemental as well as some sort of spiked animal hybrid, and she had learnt to throw her Quills with various chemicals on them to paralyse or hurt anyone that attacked her. So far, she had never been caught in action. Otherwise she would have been kicked out of school. She knew enough to extract her quills then using her powers to cover up any wound her barbed spikes had made on impact before leaving any victim.
The group was a strange assortment of hybrids and other odd looking kids, with a few who looked perfectly normal. Every one of them carried a sort of self important air about them like they were better than anyone else around them, and that everyone else should look up to them just because they had powers. I didn't like them. They were bullies, just of a slightly different sort. Even though I had never been on their radar as such, I still had got shoved out the way by a few of them on occasion, when I was unfortunate enough to be holding them up.
“We heard what you did to save those people. Someone with your level of power should be among like-minded people, not the pitiful ordinary people. We know what it's like to be special, to have power and not be afraid to use it. Join us and leave the world of mundanes behind. Become one of the elite, a hero everyone will look up to in awe and wonder,” Quill told her.
Tara's face lit up, Her thirst for power, and love of having people worship her must have made the offer something she couldn't refuse. She stood up then, and without a word, left all her friends and admirers and went off with this group of self proclaimed ‘elite’ MORFS survivors. When I saw her again in our first lesson after lunch, she was already affecting the same haughty ‘I'm above everyone else’ attitude that the other Supers had.
It got her into some trouble almost immediately. When asked why she hadn't completed the homework for the current lesson, she responded, “Heroes don't need to do such things. We have far greater concerns than petty homework.”
This didn't go down too well with the teacher, as you might imagine, and she had to stay behind, much to my amusement. I skipped over to meet Dad with a little smile on my face, happy in the knowledge that Tara was having to stay to complete the homework because of her remarks.
That evening the rescue did get some news time. Tara was reasonably pretty. and it was a good human interest piece. Tara made all the same sorts of dumb statements about how she had done the decent thing because of her heroic nature and the news people had lapped it up.
I wondered why she had really done it. Had she seen this opportunity from the start? Was the only reason she had saved those people because she had thought it would get her face on the telly? I wasn't sure anyone could be that cold.
Still, I sat on the sofa and scowled angrily at Tara as the news people proclaimed her a heroine. On my shoulder, Kittybot bristled and hunched her self as if ready to pounce, though whether that was down to remembering the girl who had tried to kill her, in sympathy for my own reaction, or due to some indecipherable reason of her own, there was no way to tell.
Still, I wouldn't have to see the lousy cow in person till Monday, so there was something to be happy about. I went up to my room after that, too annoyed to watch anything else after seeing Tara. I decided to do a little bit of practising with my powers. I was getting the hang of them now, and they were hardly switching on at random at all these days. I could also do useful things with them, like grip Kittybot to me or locally levitate bits of metal with careful use of my magnetic field. I'll admit none of that was exactly earth shattering, but I could grab our metal salt shaker from across the table and pull it towards me without effecting any other bits of metal, which given my little arms, had actually come in handy a few times. I could only influence some metal things and even amongst the items I could influence some things were a lot easier than others, iron being the easiest aluminium I couldn't seem to influence at all.
I also found that in certain types of metal the field I generated seemed to get concentrated by it, extending my influence much further. I could also thread the field through metal objects. It was the usual thing like hanging a chain of paper clips from a permanent magnet. Once they were magnetized, each clip could magnetize another, the magnetic field extending down the chain with the field strength decreasing with each link. My ability to shape the field and control it worked through the metal as well, so with a simple bar of iron, I could exert very nearly full strength at the very tip. I suspected that like the paper clips with more bars stuck together the field would decrease at each step. My control meant I could do some interesting things to the field to achieve different effects. I found that by rotating the field very fast, I could make electricity, or by arranging forces carefully, motion. I could even magnetize some things more or less permanently by creating a very strong field around them for a period of time.
It was all good fun that seemed of little use beyond my own self exploration, but I had a good time at dinner passing the salt using only magnetics. Having a bit of fun and a laugh with my parents was good. It had been a while due to my issues with Tara, and I had missed it.
I had a good evening with them and went to bed a happy girl. I had a dream about Tara coming to school dressed in all neon red lycra with blue knickers on the outside, a large blue cape made from a table cloth, and a blue facemask. Over the chest of this costume was a stylised B. She then insisted on everyone calling her Bully Girl, and would repeatedly leap out of windows shouting, "Up, Up, and Away!", only to crash to the ground below in a comical fashion.
It was gigglesome when I woke up on Saturday, and put me in a good mood. I had a late breakfast, then, resolving to be bold, I put on some very girly clothes. I picked a small white top exposing my new cleavage and flat tummy, then a short pink skirt. I went for matching pink undies, figuring colour coordinating was something girls did, so having smalls that matched my outfit was an important first step, even if no one was going to see them.
Picking up Kittybot, I sat her on my shoulder then headed out to see what was going on. Mum and Dad were in the garden, continuing to repair the old car. I sat in the garden watching, occasionally petting Kittybot or making the tea.
I helped Dad make some lunch while Mum was doing something tricky with the engine. We made a few plates of sandwiches and some more tea, then took the food out to eat in the garden. Mum gave her hands a quick scrub and joined us, still in her oily overalls with a few useful tools tucked into the various pockets. |She had a smear of oil across her forehead and her blond hair was all over the place. Growing up unlike other kids whose Mums worked in normal offices or stayed at home where they associated some perfume with their Mum, just the mere scent of it bringing happy memories of her. For me, it was the smell of oil or the sharp citrus smell of the powerful cleaner she used to wash her hands. Often she would hold me lovingly, her hands smelling like oranges and usually the faint smell of oil from her day at the garage. Now whenever I smelt oranges or engine oil, I got a warm safe happy feeling like I was back in her embrace. Of course liking the smell of oil was another reason kids thought I was weird.
We munched our sandwiches, Kittybot curled up on my lap, her tail playfully swinging back and forth as she watched the proceedings. Mum and Dad discussed their progress with the old car. They needed to make some modifications to the engine to allow it to run on currently available fuel. Other than that, their restoration of it was going fairly well. The underlying frame of the car was intact and most of the running gear was okay. It just needed the engine fixed up and the bodywork repaired. Dad asked me if I wanted to help by stripping down the metal work that was ready for repainting, and I decided I might as well do something to help. So after lunch I changed into some more practical clothing, then was equipped with one of Mums old overalls with the arms and legs rolled up so it vaguely fitted me. Kittybot sat on my shoulder, pawing the strange material of my new outfit as Dad showed me how to strip off the old flaking paint on the bodywork ready for the new layer. Then he watched as I did a small section. Once he was sure I was doing it right he went back to sorting out the damaged sections that had rusted. Some could be patched up. Others were so badly decayed he just replaced them with better ones salvaged from other vehicles. I scrubbed the metal clean of paint, then Dad showed me how to use the sprayer to apply a protective undercoat to keep the metal from corroding.
I spent the rest of the day scrubbing and painting till they had a stack of drying grey metal pieces ready for more painting. I was quite pleased with the smooth finish I had achieved. I had been very careful to avoid any drips or runs on the paint, since that would mar the final finish. I beamed happily as Mum and Dad inspected my handiwork and complimented me on my skillful hard work.
I had a shower and changed back to my previous more girly outfit, then headed down for dinner. We had a nice dinner of pork chops. I was famished from my hard work, and ate far more than I normally did, though still less than I used to when I was Alex. Mum had to remind me to keep my legs shut when sitting. I still forgot about such things, but still, I thought I was making good progress on acting like a girl considering I had only been one a few weeks. We ended the day with a few board games, then a good nights sleep, having worn myself out physically.
Sunday was quiet. More work on the car for my parents and me. We took a trip to the local car repair place and picked up a set of overalls for me, though getting them so small was somewhat difficult, since as a rule, mechanics tended to be taller than me. Still, with something that was closer to my size, and a little alteration, I now had something that fitted me a lot better. I no longer had to contend with too long sleeves and legs that got in the way, which could possibly trip me up. I did some more metal cleaning and painting, as well as helping Mum clean some of the bits of the engine. It was all fun, and kept my mind occupied and off the fact that it was school again tomorrow.
In the end I went to bed apprehensive of what Monday would bring. I was sure my truce with Tara was unlikely to last, and when it fell, I was sure to be on the receiving end of some payback.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/