Interface By EMW

Part 4
Chapter 6

I got into school bright and early on Monday and took my usual place. It was a slow start that day and it was quite a while till my arch nemesis turned up. I had begun to hope Tara was ill and would not bother me for the day, until she walked in looking like she was feeling superior. The news coverage over the weekend had obviously pumped up her already stratospheric ego.
She gave me a sneer, then sat with her usual cadre of friends, who all fawned over her like some Vid star from Hollywood. Still, she ignored me. Our truce seeming to hold for now. The day panned out roughly as expected, Some of the rumours Tara had started about me seemed to be dying out, as I wasn't quite so feared. I guess most people find it tough to believe a little girl who barely comes up to their chest could be some sort of threat. People still mostly ignored me, though the new girl gave me a few thoughtful looks which I didn't understand.

Things were going pretty good up until lunch time. Lessons had been okay and even PE was not too bad. But after I finished my lunch and was walking over to the library to catch up on a spot of homework, I was waylaid by a group of MORFS survivors with Tara at the helm.

“Hey, Lardo!” she called from behind me.

I turned to see her and a group of four others from her little club.  The Supers, though just the more disreputable types. Most of the supers didn't bother with other people, feeling they were beneath them. They almost all had a powerful dislike of the Pures, who were anti MORFS bigots. But as for the rest of the so called normal people, they called them mundanes, or caterpillars, and mostly ignored them.

They had different approaches to MORFS survivors. Some were friendly with all, others ignored all but the powerful, and some seemed to feel if you were not at the level of a super, you were at best little more than a normal person, at worst, a failure in some way, not having the strength to gain powers, and therefore someone to be shunned or bullied. It seemed Tara had recruited most of the last group as her new backup against me.

I felt a shove from thin air as Tara used her powers to give me a push, sending me staggering back against a set of lockers on the wall.

“Ah ah ah! So, you little pervert. Not so tough now, are you,” she said, shoving me.

This, from someone that needed four people to back her up before she would attack a girl half her size.

“HA!” shouted one of the boys behind her, a wiry individual who was known as Scan and was some sort of telepath. His real name was something like Colin, and he was known for not being the sharpest tool in the box. “This little slut used to be a boy!”

I looked at him, confused. It wasn't like I was hiding that fact. Tara eyed him with a similar look of confusion, tinged with a bit of anger, “Yes, we know, you idiot! For pity's sake Colin, do try and keep up!”

Disgruntled, Colin  told her, “My name’s Scan!!” But he was ignored by the rest of this motley crew.

“She looks light as a feather,” said a nasty girl called Laura, who used the name Tempest. “Let's see if she floats on the breeze like one.”

She raised her hands and all of a sudden, a terrible wind picked up in the corridor, blowing into me and almost knocking me off my feet. Tempest was living up to her name, causing a massive gale. Only my proximity to the lockers saved me from getting blown out the doors. I grabbed on and held as tightly as I could, though even that didn't help for long. The lockers only had a few protruding parts, and not much to grip onto. The blast of air from Tempest intensified as she tried to knock me on my behind. Out of desperation, I used my powers. The lockers were metal, and heavy, and if I stuck myself to them, it was unlikely I would be blown away.

I pressed my hand against the locker and stuck it there magnetically. I did the same with the leg that was up against it. Held fast against the relentless air, I closed my eyes and waited for things to calm down. Hopefully, Tempest would wear herself out.

After getting harder and harder causing debris to fly down the corridor and rattling the doors and windows. Eventually the artificial gale slowed and I saw my attackers glaring angrily at me, as if refusing to be knocked to the ground by their artificial hurricane was a personal insult to all of them. Once Tempest had taken a go, a few of the others stepped forward to try their luck. Next up were a tall thin girl with long brown hair and dark eyes who called herself Amy Zap, though her real name was Amy Zacowski, an electrical elemental, and a large stocky boy who everyone called Lump, due to his large physique, despite his repeated assertions that he was to be called Carnage. He had some sort of super strength, and his real name was Eric.

These two were winding up to hit me, but they stopped fast when they saw a teacher coming to investigate the mysterious wind that had suddenly picked up in the corridor breaking a window and scattering a load of papers they had been marking.

Intent on having the last word, Tara glared at me. “Remember, pervert. This is OUR school! We are the heroes who change the world. You are the disgusting slime that gets stuck on our boots! Me and my friends will see to it you learn your place at the bottom of the pile!” With that, she dashed off after her friends, not wanting to get in trouble again, given Mrs Thomas' threats.

I made my way on to the library, looking a little wind blown, but otherwise unharmed. Next time I might not be lucky enough to have a nearby metal object I could stick myself to. I sat down to think taking out Kittybot to pet for comfort.

I was pitted against these “Heroes”, with no allies of my own, and if said people were heroes, and I was their enemy, what did that make me?  'A villain I suppose,' I thought.

This seemed an odd thing. I had gone out of my way to be nice and only wanted to acquire some friends, yet it seemed I was the enemy shunned by most of the class, to be treated as a dangerous animal. I was at best ignored, at worst feared. It seemed that despite my own ambitions, everyone was keen to put me in the role of the villain.

'Well if I was going to have to play the villain to Tara's Hero, I might as well do it properly,' I thought.

Now I thought about it being a villain might not be too bad. Villains at least got some measure of respect. Still what sort of villain could I be? I didn't want to be too bad, since killing and maiming people was not really the sort of thing I wanted to do. It also occurred to me that I lacked any sort of deadly offensive powers, or an intimidating physique to strike fear into my enemies hearts. I had my fairly fearsome teeth, but even then, given my small but sexy body, I doubted that would be enough.
I was disheartened by this realisation for a bit, as  no sooner had I decided on my new direction than it seemed to be denied me. I stroked Kittybot for a bit, feeling annoyed. Doing so gave me an idea. I could be a smart villain! The sort who, rather than brute force and flashy powers, used their intellect and cunning to achieve their ends. But how to start on such a path? Could I manipulate others to do my dirty work for me? It seemed unlikely. People didn't like me, and if I couldn't get people to be friends with me, it seemed unlikely I could convince them to fight my battles for me.
Maybe I could use my new body to gain allies? I had seen the boys look at me and think me attractive. Perhaps I could seduce a few, and use them against Tara. I rejected that thought immediately. The thought of flaunting my goods to get boys didn't appeal. They would only do it if they got to touch me, or do other things to me and I felt a little ill at that thought. Besides, I didn't have the first idea how to seduce someone. It probably was more complicated than just flashing my new boobs or bum at the nearest boy. So if I was going to be a smart villain, that wasn't into manipulation, I needed some way to make up for my little body. I regarded Kittybot, and wondered if she was the answer. A legion of robotic warriors at my bidding? Still, I wasn't sure that was such a good idea. Controlling them might be tricky, and besides, it would take ages to build enough to have a decent size legion, what with my school work and all.
Perhaps I could build myself a suit of power armour. It would take me less time than an army of robots, and would make up for my little body. But it occurred to me that to make something capable of doing anything useful would be very, very expensive. I supposed as a super villain I could rob a bank, but then I would have to do it as myself, which would be tricky. It was a sort of chicken and egg scenario. If I had access to some sort of power armour, I could get the money to build it, but without the power armour I couldn't do anything to get the money. I supposed I could build it bit by bit, and skimp and save to build something, but still that might take years. I felt disheartened again and went back to doing some homework.

The rest of the day was okay. Tara was less cocky, without her super powered backup and the teachers watched the two of us like hawks after the previous incident. Even though I couldn't think of a way to become a super villain, I practised my cold super villain stare on the back of her head, just in case. It seemed in lieu of the fact that she couldn't challenge me in class, she turned her malevolent nature on others. The new girl, with her strange need to keep covered, and her slightly odd mannerisms was her new target of choice. I didn't envy her as she got a barrage of insults whenever the authorities were not looking. Tara had never been this bad before, but it seemed that our conflict had awakened her inner bully, and she now wanted to feed it. She used her powers far more openly to torment the poor girl than she had tormented me.
Vicky seemed to be made of far sterner stuff than me, as she mostly ignored it or even laughed at her assailants. This didn't stop them, but angered them, and made me feel very envious of this brave girl. By the end of the day Tara was in a spitting rage as she had completely failed to upset the girl. At least as far as I could tell, she could have been putting on a brave front. I knew only too well from my own experince how she might be a sobbing wreck at home. Still, I hoped that wasn't the case. She seemed nice, and I was beginning to wish I hadn't brushed her off so hard when we could have been friends. Still, as a super villain, friends were a liability, and I was probably better off without them.
I met Dad at the car, and as we drove off, I was smiling. Mum and Dad had to get some more spare parts for their project, so we picked Mum up from the garage then headed to the local wrecker’s yard where they hoped to find some of the parts they needed in salvage. The yard was a fascinating place, with all the old cars stripped of most of their parts waiting to be crushed for recycling. Mum and Dad often went there to find old parts that they couldn't get elsewhere.
I stayed close to my parents, knowing that this was a dangerous place if you were not careful, and made sure that Kittybot was safely stowed away in my bag back in the car. Mum was on good terms with the man who ran the place and he knew where all the good stuff was kept, so he led us personally to where he knew there was a cache of the same model of car they were restoring that might have donor parts. The owner was an older man called Mr Madison, a gruff sort of gent with white hair, scraggly beard, and a weathered face. His eyes were green and  full of playful mischief. He had a warm smile and a big booming laugh.
To those that didn't know him he might seem a little grumpy and distant, but with friends he was a very warm and funny man. He walked with a slight limp from an injury he had gained on the job, the details of which I didn't know but he had been a friend of Mum for a long time, and he had seen me grow up at various points when she had brought me along on her fairly regular visits. As a result, he insisted I call him Uncle Arthur, even though as far as I knew, he was no relation.

“So then, Mary. Who's this fine young lady with you?” he asked as he walked out to meet us, embracing my Mum fondly and giving my Dad a firm handshake before coming to regard me.

“Oh ye. You've not met Lexi yet. Alex went through MORFS a few weeks back and came out of it as Lexi, so I now have a daughter.” Mum said.

“Well, well, I would never have believed it if you hadn't said. It's good to see you, young Lexi. How is life treating you?”

“As well as can be expected, Uncle Arthur,” I said with a smile.

“Lexi has been helping us with the work on the beetle,” Dad told him. “Doing sterling work on getting the bodywork cleaned and primed ready for repainting.”

“Well now, I'm glad to hear that, I guess even though you're a lady now, there's too much of your Mum in you not to take an interest in the family business.  Come here and give your old Uncle Arthur a hug.”  He had to bend down to hug me, the disparity in our heights meaning I only came up to his chest.

“Well then, let's see about finding those parts you need.” He led us off into the stacks of old cars waiting to be crushed.

Pretty soon I was standing out the way while my parents looked at one of the cars in the middle of a stack, searching for the part they needed. Uncle Arthur was standing below, chatting away while they looked through the various parts. Nearby, a magnetic crane was being used to lift cars up after most of their parts had been stripped for the next stage in this disassembly line.
The guy operating it seemed to be fairly new, or just not paying much attention and seemed to have only limited control over the machine. So when he put down the chassis of an almost completely stripped car on a stack of four or five others, his positioning was slightly off and as he turned the machine away I saw he had overbalanced the stack. It began to topple, heading straight for Uncle Arthur, Mum, and Dad, sure to kill or at the very least hurt them.
Reacting more or less out of pure instinct, I cried out a warning, and knowing I couldn't do anything with my meagre powers from this distance, I ran over and pressed myself against the stack of cars near me next to the one falling. I threaded my magnetic power through the metal of the cars in my stack, binding them together and reached out through them into the toppling stack of cars.
Lines of magnetic force filled my strange vision, invisible to everyone else, but luminous rainbows of colour to me showing me the strength and shape of the fields around me. I used my power to hold the stack of toppling cars, exerting enough force to hold them in position and glue the stack together. The power radiating from my entire body into the metal slowed the falling stack, and stopped it in mid fall.
The top car was moving too fast to stop like the others, so it flipped off and began to fall on its own. Stretching my power as much as I could, I captured it in a field from the top of the stack and managed to halt its progress. It hung in the air suspended a few meters from my parents and Uncle Arthur, behind it a stack of cars falling towards them frozen in mid topple. “Move, please!” I cried, “I can't hold it for long!”
My parents and Uncle Arthur stopped staring at the few tonnes of metal hanging in the air in front of them, which was spinning slightly, as if suspended on invisible wire and blowing in the breeze. They wisely hurried out of the way So I could relax my grip to let the metal fall. I did my best to take as much of the energy out of it as possible, but the exertion of catching the car meant I was almost completely out of juice. When the last of the cars hit the ground and seemed to be stable, I collapsed, Mum just managing to catch my falling body as I passed out.
I came to some time later lying on a sofa in the office, my head resting on my mother’s lap as she was gently stroking my hair.
“Hey, Baby are you feeling okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, little worn out but I'm okay.”  I tried to sit up, but was still a little disorientated, so it took some help from Mum to get me up and on my feet again.
She stayed close by my side as I tottered about a bit. “Let's get you home. You look like you need a lie down.” Mum led me gently outside.
Uncle Arthur was stood off to the side, verbally lashing a young employee who looked quite sorry for himself and a little shocked. I guess the news that you had nearly killed three people, one of which is your boss, comes as a bit of a shock. Dad was stood to one side waiting, and when he saw me and Mum exit the office his face lit up and he rushed over, grabbing me in a big hug, lifting me off my feet and up into the air.
“My goodness that was wonderful, Lexi. You really saved our bacon!” he swung me around like a small child.
I giggled, “Stop it Dad! I'm getting dizzy!”
Returning me to the floor, he let me go, and I almost fell down again. Were it not for Mum's steadying arm grasping me securely, I would have.
Uncle Arthur had by now dismissed his very apologetic employee and came over, a big smile on his face. He also grasped me in a big hug, then beamed a happy smile at me. “Well, young Lexi you've saved the day, it seems. I tell you, my life damn near flashed before my eyes when I saw that car coming towards us. You've got some surprises up your sleeves, Little Miss, and no mistakes,” He grinned good naturedly.
“We should be getting home, Art. This little escapade has worn poor Lexi out. I think she needs a good meal and some rest. said Mum.
“Right you are, Mary. You run along now, but don't be shy about coming back now, you hear?”
We all waved to Uncle Arthur as we made our way over to the car. I climbed into the back, buckled up, and was soon fast asleep. I woke up to find Mum carrying me gently into the house.
“Oh I'm sorry to wake you, Sweetie. We'll have you tucked up in bed in no time. You can have a nice kip and then maybe a bite to eat a bit later. That sound good?” I nodded and let her carry me up the stairs. I felt so tired, like all the energy had been drained out of me. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open.
As Mum helped me into my pyjamas and then into bed, my eyes popped open. “Oh, what about Kittybot? She's still in my bag!”
“I'll get her for you.” She disappeared back downstairs while I clambered into bed. She reappeared with a confused looking Kittybot clutched in her hands. I guess she wasn't used to having other people hold her other than me. I gave Kittybot a hug and a kiss on the head, then set her on her bed before snuggling up in mine. Mum gave me a kiss on the forehead, then ruffled my hair a little before wishing me sweet dreams and turning out the light. I was asleep almost at once and dreamed of strange metal structures held together by luminous rainbows flowing through them.
Mum woke me gently some time later and offered me some food. I accepted, pulled on an old dressing gown and began stumbling down the stairs. I heard a dull thunk behind me and saw that my metallic companion Kittybot had followed me and had worked out how to get down the stairs by lowering herself down with her back paws as far as they reached, then dropping down the rest of the way. Not wanting to belittle my artificial friends achievement by picking her up in middle of her journey, I let her get to the bottom before picking her up and giving her a congratulatory hug and stroke. I placed her on her usual spot on my shoulder and she settled down to watch, her display 'purring' happily.
I sat down at the table and saw that my parents had made a large meal of salmon steaks, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, mash, a nice green salad, and then syrup sponge with custard for afters. I tucked in, ravenous. It was really tasty, the salmon delicious, practically melting in the mouth and the veggies were all delicious and crunchy. Syrup sponge was an old favourite, and it was good to find I still liked it after the alterations to my taste buds. I had two extra portions of nearly everything before I was sated. The large intake of food ended my hunger, but made me feel a little lethargic. I went into the living room to watch some TV, but ended up passing out with Kittybot curled up on my lap.
I guess Mum or Dad must have taken me up to bed sometime after that, as when I woke again I was tucked up in bed, cuddling Kittybot like a teddy bear. She didn't seem to mind, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Saturday I felt much more lively. My energy levels were back to normal and I was feeling good. I had a small breakfast, still feeling mostly satisfied from the big dinner I'd had the previous day. Still, a bit of toast and some juice were a welcome kick start to things. I wandered out to help with the car some more, though most of my work was in the fetching and carrying department.
It did give me time to think about what I had managed to do to save my parents the other day, something about that made me think that what had happened could be of use in my quest to become a super villain. I couldn't put my finger on what ever seed of an idea was now sitting in my head but I was sure given time it would germinate and I would figure it out. So I kept doing the various little things Mum and Dad needed doing while I idly considered things.
It was after lunch that I realised what I had been thinking. Like many such ideas, it hit me suddenly, and I stood there blinking, wondering why I hadn't seen it before. Drawing on what had happened the day before, and seeing the man using his electrical power to weld, I realised the answer to my problem. I could make a purely mechanical construction that was amenable to my magnetic control, and use my power in place of any sophisticated servos or electronics.
If I made the frame of the thing strong enough, it would even allow me to lift large objects with my powers since it would be able to counter the force required to lift things, whereas my small body would have just been stuck to what ever I tried to lift that I lacked the physical strength to manage. It would essentially be an exoskeleton providing enhanced leverage and structural strength with my powers driving it by selectively magnetising various parts of it.
It would be a big project, but it should be possible to make the thing out of scrap metal or salvaged bits of old machinery. All it would need is the correct properties to make a useful material strong but workable, and something that would magnetise well. Maybe with a little creativity I could add various features to make my exoskeleton a more powerful weapon beyond merely amplifying my strength and protecting my body.
I puzzled this over while I worked, and then when we finished for the day I raced up to my room to sketch some ideas.
I explained my thinking to Kittybot.  “So the large legs bend like this with a piston arrangement that I can control by altering the polarity of the magnetic field here and here,” I told her.
Kittybot looked at the plans, then back and me, then tilted her head to the side as if to say, “That's all very well, but it doesn't look very comfortable.”
She was a shrewd designer always thinking of the ergonomics, “I guess I could build it around an old car seat with the belt bits still attached for comfort and safety.”
She seemed happy with this and looked again at the plans then pawed at the upper shoulder area of the machine, as if asking “Is this where I will sit?”
“Well, while you are my favourite creation, I think a life of crime would be too much for one so young. Besides, I worry the strong fields I will be using would damage your circuitry.”
She seemed disappointed and sat down in front of the plans, making a stippled blue and green pattern on her display. “Well, maybe when I've robbed enough banks I'll have enough to build you your own exoskeleton.”
This seemed to appease her and she wandered off, or perhaps she got bored of me not playing with her and it had nothing to do with the plans at all. Still, she was a good sounding board. I jotted down a few new ideas of using an old seat from a car as my base then headed down to dinner. I realised I would need a secret lair to build my exoskeleton in and access to tools and the like. I knew that one of the garages my parents had was currently empty and it was quite a large space inside so I was sure I could build a reasonably large object there. Plus, it was pretty close, just down the road. I wondered if I could use it for my nefarious schemes.
“Mum?” I asked.
“Yes, dear?” she replied.
“Could I use the spare garage for a project of my own?”
“I suppose. … What sort of thing do you want to do?”
“Oh, some metal work stuff, maybe a little sculpture thing to learn some stuff.”
“OK, but you be careful.”
“Will do. Is it all right if I get some stuff from the scrap pile?” I was thinking of a pile of scrap bits of metal my parents had discarded from various projects and occasionally dipped into for something.
“Sure it's just sitting there rusting. You can use the machine tools in the main workshop but only if one of us is there to supervise.”
I nodded at that. They had taught me how to use all the equipment at one time or another, but I was limited to hand tools unless I had some supervision. I would have to make my plans so that I could make the thing without arousing any suspicion. I wondered if I could use my powers to achieve some of the things I needed. At any rate, I had my secret lair for the time being. I felt like doing an evil chuckle but I had a mouth full of mash potato, so I stroked my villainous sidekick, Kittybot, instead. I wolfed down the rest of dinner and spent all evening in my room sketching further revisions of my exoskeleton, staying up quite late as a result.
When I woke on Sunday I went straight back into it and by the time I was called for lunch I had a more or less final plan ready. I was fairly hungry from my missed breakfast and scoffed down quite a few sandwiches, much to my parents amusement. After lunch was over I asked for the key to the spare garage so I could go and set up for the exoskeleton, and maybe start looking at construction. I put on my overalls grabbed my plans and Kittybot and headed over to take a look.
Mum and Dad hadn't used the garage in a while since we had paved an area of the front garden to keep the car on and we had the workshop in the back for their tools and space to situate their various projects, so it was very dusty and full of spiders webs. It also has some junk that they had just dumped there rather than throw out since they never knew when some bit of scrap could be useful.
Amongst this lot was an old nearly complete car seat. I couldn't believe my luck. It lacked the head rest, but other than that it was perfect for my needs. I brushed the worst of the dust off it and hauled it into the middle of the open space to make it the foundation of my new exoskeleton. The rest of the day I spent clearing a space and moving about the bits of scrap or some old furniture they had also stashed there to allow me to get on with the task at hand. By the time dinner time came around I had my plans up ready, and enough space to work with. I had also extracted a few other bits of useful scrap from the junk and was very pleased with my progress. I allowed myself an evil laugh which echoed strangely round the garage, but made me feel a little empowered.
All through dinner I smiled secretly to myself, imagining how I would show those bullies what real power was when I had my suit ready. I would be part of the machine, the interface between the power and the mechanics.
'Hey that would make a pretty good Villain name, Interface - Mistress of Machinery,' I thought happily.
My parents shared happy looks on observing my smile, not knowing the reason for my good mood. I wasn't sure they would approve. They had always been law abiding citizens. Still, they thought I was happy and didn't ask too much, so that was fine with me.

Chapter 7

I got up bright and early on Monday, knowing it would be another day of school but I had to get through it before I could get back to my evil plans. I was keen to get started as soon as possible to get it all over with. Once I had dried my hair and feathers, I put on the day’s uniform, selecting a skirt instead of trousers. I was getting more comfortable wearing these girl clothes. the openness of them had been a little startling at first but now I was more used to it they didn't bother me so much. Of course I might feel differently when the weather began to turn colder.
I had a nice breakfast and caught my usual ride in with Dad. Given my early, start we were into school much earlier than normal, so when I got to the class room I was the first there. I sat waiting for the day to get started. The new girl Vicky was one of the first to get in after me. She smiled at me pleasantly but made no move to come and speak to me, perhaps having taken my brush off as my final word on things.

Pretty soon the room began to fill up and eventually my arch nemesis, Tara, showed up. I did my best to ignore her, which wasn't too hard, since she was more interested in harassing Vicky. She said a variety of unsavoury comments and began prodding the poor girl, making fun of her completely covered skin, pulling at her extra long sleeves and trying to get hold of her gloves.

This seemed to upset Vicky more than the verbal abuse. Tara, scenting blood, intensified her attack, but was stopped by the arrival of Mr Roberts. Vicky looked relieved and readjusted her clothing again to make sure her arms and legs were covered. She caught me looking, and self consciously put her hands down and pretended not to notice.

When we got up to leave for our first lesson, Tara tripped poor Vicky and kept hold of her sleeve when she was doing it. There was a ripping noise and the clothing tore as Vicky fell to the floor. Everyone stood stock still amazed at what was revealed. Vicky had no arms! Instead, there were octopus-like tentacles complete with suckers in their place. Her legs flailed around, bending at odd angles now she was knocked down, revealing them to be tentacles, too. It seemed she had no normal limbs at all.

Tara stared at the poor girl on the floor, trying frantically to pull herself back up and laughed uproariously, “Look at that freak!” she giggled. “She's a slimy tentacled beast!”

Many people stood laughing or looking disgusted, while poor Vicky flailed around with tears running down her cheeks. I decided to step in to help her. I pushed my way past those gawking and offered my hand to help her up.

“Oh, the freak is going to get the help of the pervert. What a surprise!” said Tara.

My newly decided Super Villain status making me brave, (Well, I had a lair, so it was surely enough to call myself a super villain). I rounded on Tara, baring my teeth and jumping forward with a growling sound. She let out a high pitched expletive of surprise and fear, and stumbled back, tripping over one of her own friends, nearly falling down herself. Turning bright red with anger, she stormed off.

I turned back to Vicky and offered her my hand again. She tentatively reached out with her tentacles, which had fallen out of her glove revealing she had a hand of sorts, though it seemed to be mostly on one of the tentacles but lacking one finger, the other tentacle performing that function. Her palm and the pads of her digits as well as the underside of her arm were covered in suckers. Apart from that, her tentacles looked very much like normal arms bent into impossible ways. They were flesh coloured, had pores and a fine layer of hair just like a normal girls arms. When she reached for me and her tentacles wrapped around my arm, I did my best not to flinch.

When she touched me though I found her flesh was warm and felt very much like a normal persons touch. The suckers were a bit odd gripping me, but she didn't feel slimy or cold as I had feared. In fact, they sort of tickled. Once she had a good grip, she hauled herself back to her “feet”. Now that I looked more closely I could see in the way she moved hints that she lacked a skeletal system in her legs. Her movements were fluid and though she bent her “legs”, she tended to curve her legs in a very slightly anatomically impossible manner as she moved. As she got her balance back and readjusted her damaged clothing, slotting her hand and extra tentacle into her glove, she re-established the illusion that she just had normal arms and legs.

“Are you OK? You took quite a tumble,” I asked her.

“Yeah, not too bad. Just a little bumped and bruised.” She brushed her clothes down. “Thanks for helping me up. My name’s Vicky Miller.”

“I'm Lexi. Lexi Jones,” I said giving her a smile. By silent consent we began walking to our next lesson together, talking.

“Most people don't want to touch my arms. It freaks them out.”

“Well, I must admit they did give me pause. Just gut reaction I guess, but they just feel like normal skin more or less.”

“They're made up of loads of muscle and nerve tissue, but rather than being adapted for aquatics, they are just normal, more or less a little more elastic than they should be.” She flexed her arm a little.

“You don't seem to have any bones, though. How can you act like you do?”

“It took a while to figure that out. Using my hand was the hardest part. Apparently Octopuses in the wild effectively form joints with opposing muscle contractions, anyway, in order to move stuff with their arms. So that was almost automatic, but to get that sort of fine control took time. I still more or less just wrap my hand around a pen to use it, and end up looking like a small kid with a crayon.”

“So, can you bend your arm any way you want?” anyway

“Kind of.” She brushed a stray hair out of her face, allowing me to see her tentacles moving through the torn sleeve. “I don't really have complete control over them it's more like I tell them to do something and they respond on their own.”

“So that you set them a goal, and they move to fit it?”

“More or less. I think I have a bit more direct control than an octopus does because some of my original human wiring is still there, but mostly it's like that.”

“Cool, so do you have two tentacles with your legs as well?”

“They're called arms, not tentacles, like on an octopus, and yeah I have 8 arms, two where each normal limb would be.”

“Do you have feet then?”

“a little bit like my hands. I have a bud at the end with some toes and the like, though they sort of stick straight out. I don't have an ankle as such.”

“It must have been weird to change like that. I just got some little wings as my extra thing.”

“Wings? Cool. Can you fly?”

“No they're too little.” I turned around to show her the outline under my shirt, “See? They are only small.”

“That's annoying. I guess it could have been worse. If they were big and useless, they would be in the way all the time.”

“Yeah, there is that.”

“When I was changing it was the worst. I absorbed all the bones first so I was basically a torso with floppy limbs that I couldn't really move for a few days, while all the additional muscles and nerves grew. Then it took a load of time to learn how to walk again. I spent a few months scuttling about on the floor.”

“You move mostly like a normal person now. I never would have guessed if that meanie Tara hadn't attacked you.”

“What is her problem anyway? She seems to be a bit anti-MORFS but she is a survivor herself. Then she seems a bit anti-hybrid, but she has them in her little gang, I don't get it.”

“She was never this mean when I was Alex, before I changed into a girl. She would throw the odd snide comment but nothing more than that.”

“You used to be a boy?”

“Yeah,” I said, a little embarrassed. I wondered if I should have told her, and if it would ruin the rapport we had been building up.

“One of my cousins on my mother’s side, the more tolerant half of my family, got that same gender switch thing. She was pretty shocked by it, but got over it eventually. I think she even decided she preferred being a girl.”

I shrugged, “It's not been so bad, apart from the extra attention from Tara. I got bullied a fair amount before, but nothing so constant and malicious. It wasn't until the day you arrived that I fought back and got some measure of peace. I had hoped I would do better as a girl, since they always seemed to have lots of friends, especially the pretty ones. It hasn't worked out so far, though.”

“Oh I don't know,” said Vicky with a smile, “I think you are well on your way to making a friend, Lexi.”

I smiled back, thinking Vicky would make a good friend. Not only was she a nice person, but we shared a common enemy. When we arrived at our class we sat together, but weren't able to talk much, as the teacher was quite strict. So we made do with the odd glance and whispered comment. Tara was looking daggers at the two of us, and even got into trouble a few times for not paying attention.

Usually I sat on my own at the back, so it was a new experience to be sitting with someone else. I had less desk space than normal, however other than that, there didn't seem to be any disadvantages. I watched Vicky writing out her notes and saw she did have some trouble with pens. She wrapped her hand around the pen and scrawled like a small child would. Her more flexible arms meant she had more fine control than I would have thought, but she still had some trouble making her handwriting neat. As she wrote, she got this intense look on her face and bit her lip. It made her look quite cute, at least to my eyes. I wasn't sure she would appreciate that thought, so I went back to my work. I didn't want to loose my first friend before I'd even really cemented the friendship.

After the lesson it was time for PE where I was on my own, though I now understood why Vicky couldn't do it. With her strange limbs she would have difficulty with a lot of the sorts of things they made us do in PE. I did wonder if Miss Adams would have made her join in if she found out what her real reason for not coming to PE was. I guess Vicky wasn't strictly lying. Having no human arms and legs was kind of a medical condition.

After what felt like a few hours of running around later PE was over and I was hungry. First, I needed a nice hot shower. Tara decided that confronting me when I was soaking wet and clad only in a towel was the best time to try intimidating me some more. She was a little annoyed that I was more interested in drying my hair.

“You and your little freak lover can take a hike! We don't want your kind round here!” Tara spat. When I didn't respond and turned my back on her to dry my wings she got quite hopping mad. “Look at me when I'm talking to you!”

“Oh, were you talking to me?” I asked with feigned innocence.

Tara tried to slap me, but I ducked out the way, causing her to miss me entirely.

“Why is it you are so mean to me and Vicky? What did we ever do to you?” I asked, not really expecting an answer.

She stared at me for a few seconds, saying nothing, then all of a sudden turned and ran off. She seemed to have tears in her eyes, though why, I had no idea. It all seemed rather odd, and having her run away with tears in her eyes further painted me as some sort of nasty bully, so I got quite a few unpleasant looks from Tara's friends. Still, I had done nothing wrong. Besides, super villains don't care what other people think of them. I dressed and headed over to lunch.

When I arrived at the lunch hall Vicky was waiting for me at the door. I noticed she had repaired the damage to her sleeve and now you would be hard pressed to spot that her limbs were not normal. She waved to me and we walked in together to get lunch. After picking out a table that was not too busy, we sat eating our lunch and chatting.

“Tara was acting a bit odd earlier,” I said.

“How could you tell?” Vicky said with a wicked glint in her eyes.

“He he. Well, she tried to have a go at me, but when I asked her why she was always so mean to you and me she ran off crying.”

“Wow! That is odd. Did you scare her with your teeth or something?”

“I don't think so.”

“Your teeth are a bit scary. It's a bit odd to watch you eat with those things. It’s like watching an industrial shredder tear something to bits.”

I covered my mouth self consciously, “It's not my fault they're like that!”

“I know. I wish I had scary teeth like that.”

“Why?”

“Then I could bite Tara and scare her off.”

“I'd never bite her. Someone so bitter is bound to taste nasty.”  At that, Vicky burst into gales of laughter, so much so that several people at near by tables gave us odd looks.

We finished our lunch and headed over to the library. Vicky didn't see why I wanted to go there till I explained it was a sort of Tara free zone. After that she was keen to get there, and even took my hand in hers, and began pulling me along with her. For someone with no legs in the conventional sense she could really move when she wanted to. Once we were safely ensconced in a quiet corner of the reference section, I decided now was the time to introduce my new friend to my robotic friend Kittybot. I had been extra careful of late making sure my robotic feline companion was hidden but in the library I felt safe enough to take her out for a look around.

“This is Kittybot. I built her myself,” I placed my artificial cat gently on the table.

“Wow, she's so shiny! What do the lights mean?”

“I'm not sure. She makes them up herself. She has her own neural network and self configuring hardware, so she does what she wants.”

“So, is she alive then?”

“Well, depends what you mean. She can react to her environment, and can certainly seem alive. But then it's surprisingly easy to make something seem alive just with a small amount of programming. You can make simple facsimiles of insects with a few lines of code and a light sensor. I tend to invest her with a personality even, if she hasn't got one.”

“Cool. Can I pet her?”

“Sure, go ahead. She has sensors on her skin so she can feel it, so just be gentle.”

Vicky reached out one of her hands and gently stroked Kittybot. After being a little unsure of this stranger, Kittybot warmed up to her now that she was getting stroked.

“She's amazing, Lexi. You're really smart to make something like that.” Vicky grinned at me as she stroked Kittybot behind her ears.

Kittybot made what I thought of as her purring display for a while, sweeping her tail about as she sat on the table in front of Vicky. Eventually she seemed to tire of this and wandered over to me and prodded my hand with one of her paws. I held out my hand and she clambered up to sit on my shoulder.

“How'd she do that?” asked a gobsmacked Vicky.

“Oh. I have some magnetic powers. I can make magnetic fields. So since Kittybot is metal, I can make her stick to me.”

“Neat! I can make illusions, but only for a short while.”

She got the same intense look of concentration on her face she got when writing, then gestured at the table top. A kitten appeared out of thin air and meowed at me for a bit before exploding into pink sparkles.

“It's not much, but at least I got something else other than crazy arms.”

“I think it's a funky gift. You can make things with your mind. My power was a pain when I first changed. It kept turning on at random and I would get covered in spoons.”

“Spoons?”

“Well, that or any other small metal object. Cutlery has been the most common so far.” I told her about Tara’s mean trick.

“With me, the biggest problem was learning to walk and use my hands again.”

“Oh yeah here I am moaning about getting a few forks stuck to my bum, and you had to learn everything from scratch again. I'm sorry, that was insensitive of me.”

“Hey no problem. It was tough. My extended family had been fairly anti-Morfs. While not purists as such, they had leanings. My parents were not actively that way but sort of went along with it, as it was what everyone else in the family believed. When I changed, they had a revelation of sorts, that I was still me, and still their daughter, and they still loved me very much. Most of the rest of the family didn't take things so well and we were forced to move to escape the abuse. I spent a few months learning to move around like I did before, as well as learning to hide and fit in. When I was sure I could pass as normal, I started here. To be honest, I’ve been getting tired of hiding so much, and it's nice to be talking to someone else who has been through the same sorts of things as me. I have to say though, the first few days I was really wondering what sort of place I was joining. I was more than a little afraid of you.”

“Of me? But I'm shorter than you by a good few inches, and not exactly very strong.”

“Yeah but when you leapt on Tara you made quite an impression, all teeth and fists.”

“She made me so mad! She had been tormenting me non-stop since I got back from changing into Lexi. Then she tried to kill my Kittybot, and it just made me snap. I felt terrible afterwards. Not for what I did as such, since she deserved it, but more for the loss of control.”

I could feel my eyes tearing up. It seemed so easy to let these feelings get the better of me in my new body. I felt a hand on my arm and looked up to see Vicky smiling back at me, “Hey, no need to fret. We'll keep each other safe from now on. What else are friends for?”

I smiled back, wiping my tears away, happy again, looking into the smiling face of my first true friend.

We were on our way back to lessons when Tara pounced once again. Whatever slight she had taken from my innocent question earlier, had meant she had found her four helpers to hurt me, and probably my new friend as well. They were waiting for us. Tara and Lump stopped us at one end of the corridor, while Amy Zap, Scan, and Tempest blocked our retreat. It also meant we were in the middle of their group, so it gave me some hope they were unlikely to cut lose with their powers with their friends in the firing line.

“Well, well, well, look who it is!” said Tara.

“Who is it, boss?” said Scan, turning around to look behind him away from us, which earned him a slap from Tempest.

“Thank you, Tempest. Now keep quiet, Colin, you bloody idiot!” said Tara.

Scan, or Colin, scowled at the lot of them. I wondered why he had decided to hang around with such abusive friends. He seemed to hear my thoughts, and looked at me for a bit, as if wondering that for the first time.

“Anyway, as I was saying, it's my two favourite freaks. Pervert boy and octopus girl,” Tara continued. “I warned you two. Now we'll teach you who's boss.”

She jabbed at me with her powers, which hurt a bit, but I could just about stand against them. I felt the hairs stand up on my neck, and from behind me felt something happening.

“Going to light you up like a Christmas tree,” cried Amy Zap as she threw a huge bolt of electricity at me.

I cried out and threw my arms up in foolish defence. The bolt hit me square on, singing my shirt a little, but then nothing happened. It was like I had just absorbed the shock. It occurred to me that the doctors at the post Morfs centre had said something about my powers being a form of electrical elemental. I guess this was the ultimate confirmation. I did feel a little energized, but other than that, normal.

Amy Zap just stood there like a fish out of water, flapping her mouth open and shut. In the meantime, Tempest let loose a blast of air, knocking Vicky down, while Lump raced in and grabbed my poor friend. However he was rather surprised when her arms and legs bent back on themselves and she grabbed hold of his head and arms, blocking his vision. He then ran around blindly banging into walls and other members of his gang as he frantically tried to get her off him. Tempest started throwing more air at me, knocking me against a concrete wall, which I discovered was reinforced concrete, so I could stick to it with my magnetics. I surprised them by running along the wall parallel to the ground, grabbing the still gaping Amy Zap, who woke up enough to start slinging more bolts of electricity at me, just as I showed her at Tempest, who got a nasty shock as a result.

There was a cry of pain, and I saw that Lump had finally detached Vicky and thrown her to the ground. He was now advancing on her to stomp on her prone body.

“You leave her alone!” I cried from the wall, looking for something to throw at him.

“Or you'll do what, girly?” he snorted.

The only thing near him was a bank of lockers against the wall I was standing on. With the only tool at my disposal, I reached out with my magnetics and created a very powerful opposing magnetic field to the one in the wall. This created a fairly large force in between the two and wrenched the lockers off the wall, hurling them at a rather surprised looking Lump, smacking him against the far wall. He pushed the lockers off, but was quite severely dazed by the event.

Looking at her battered minions, Tara shouted, “Useless, the lot of you! You should be ashamed of yourselves, beaten by two little freaks!”

At this point I saw a figure at the far end of the corridor walking towards us. It looked like Mrs Thomas. “What's going on there?” called a voice.

“Scram, teacher!” cried Amy Zap, pushing a dazed Tempest off her.

“But that's ...” said Scan before Tara cut him off.

“Shut it, Colin!”

“But really, it's not ...”

“Look, you blithering idiot. Shut up and run!”

“Fine, don't listen to me then,” he said huffily and ran off.

The gang legged it away and I went to see if Vicky was OK. She was sitting on the floor, propping herself up with her arms and legs splayed out at very strange angles that just looked wrong.

Mrs Thomas reached us and turned to me and in a strange cockney accent, said, “Well, this is a fine to-do and no mistake gov'na. A right proppa mess you two ave gotten yourselves into. Who's going to replace my fine china, and where's a lady spose to get a new racing hat at this hour?”

Then she vanished in a puff of pink sparkles and Vicky collapsed back looking exhausted, but very amused with herself. I offered her a hand and she snaked her two left arms around me, her sleeve having come apart again. One gripped my middle while the other wrapped around my shoulders.

“I can't do voices so well, but I can imitate people for a little while. I was kind of running out of material towards the end. Course if they'd listened to that telepath boy, they would have known they were running from a figment of my imagination,” grinned Vicky.

“That was awesome! I really thought it was her,” I replied.

“You did really cool with the lockers thing. That was great, and stopped whats-his face kicking me about.”

I realised I need to sort the lockers out. Luckily, Lump hand shoved them pretty near the wall so I could reach them with my field. I touched the wall and used the magnetic field to pull the lockers roughly back to where they were, then Vicky and I quickly made our way to our next lesson before someone came to see what all the scraping metal noises were about.

We sat at the back of the room giggling quite a bit, and were occasionally told to be quiet, but we just couldn't help ourselves because it had been such a rush after the initial fright had calmed down, to realise we had won in a fight against 5 self styled Super heroes.

Vicky took as much joy in our victory as me, and given her power’s usefulness, I wondered if she would make a good super villain partner. She didn't seem like a minion. She had powers, and was too smart to be relegated to fetching and carrying. Still, I felt I had better get further along with my plans before I approached her about it. Even if we had given Tara and her hoodlums a right royal arse kicking, I still felt that I needed better offensive abilities to be a true super villain. And for that, I needed to finish my suit. Still, the two of us were happy for the rest of the day even with Tara glaring back at us from time to time, anger burning in her eyes.

Come the end of the day we headed out of our last lesson, still buoyed up by our success.

“Do you want to walk home together?” asked Vicky, “assuming we are going the same way?”

“My Dad gives me a lift home,” I said, not really wanting to stop talking with my new friend, even though I would see her again the next day.

“Oh, well I guess I'll see you tomorrow then?” Vicky had a slightly disappointed tone of voice that suggested she felt like me, too.

“Whereabouts do you live?” I asked, not wanting to give up yet.

“Over on Willow Brook Lane.”

That was only a few streets over from my house, “Oh, that's pretty close to where my house is on Kings Field Avenue. Perhaps Dad will let you catch a ride with us and you could come over for a bit if you have time.”

“I have my guitar lesson later, so I won't be able to stay long, but I can probably stop for a little while, since it should be quicker than walking home.”

We turned to walk towards the car park together, “You play the guitar?”

“Yeah, and trumpet.”

“How do you manage the guitar without nails?”

“I either use a pick or some of these slip on nail things that go over my fingers. Once I got more used to my new limbs, I found I was actually a bit better at guitar, since my new hands have much more strength and flexibility than normal hands do.”

“So do you play anything else?”

“I used to play piano a little, but I've not quite got the hang of that with my new hands.”

“Wow you're multi-musically talented! The only vaguely musical thing I can do is sing in the shower.”

“He he I bet you have a lovely singing voice. Especially with that almost window shattering shriek you can do. I bet top sopranos couldn't manage anything that high.”

I pulled an angry face.

“Oh, I'm only joking. Please, Lexi, don't be mad,” she said with a mock sad face. I couldn't keep up my stern visage and burst out laughing.

We sat down on the wall where I normally waited for my Dad chatting about this and that. We were so involved I nearly didn't see Dad walking up to us.

“Oh, Dad! This is Vicky. Can we give her a lift?” I asked.

“Sure, the more the merrier.”

We hopped in the car, andVicky and I sat together in the back.

“So, are you two in the same class?” asked Dad.

“Yes, Mr Jones,” Vicky answered.

“I don't remember seeing you before. Are you a new student, or have you just gone through MORFS, like Lexi?” Being a teacher, Dad was somewhat used to kids disappearing for a week then coming back looking different.

“I moved here a few weeks ago, though I did go through MORFS six months back.”

“So you two became friends, both being new in a way.”

“Yeah, Lexi rescued me from a bully.”

“I only helped you up,” I said, blushing a little.

“You scared her off, though,” said Vicky, seeming to be slightly amused at my discomfort.

“I guess.” I tried to avoid my fathers eyes as he looked at me incredulously in the rear view mirror. He looked long enough that he might have driven us into a tree if he hadn't regained his senses.

Dad didn't say anything else for the rest of the short trip, just giving me the odd glance. We pulled into the drive way and I led Vicky up to my room. I took out KittyBot and showed Vicky the rest of my attempts while my latest and greatest sat on her lap and demanded to be stroked.

“So do you like games?” I asked.

“Yah, but I'm not very good,” she said. “And I've not really played any since I changed.”

“How about TV? What shows do you like?”

“I watch a few of the science shows, documentaries and the like. Oh I love that MORFS super heroine show, Violet Dawn. It's a bit cheesy but good fun.”

I decided to test the waters, “I always like the villains in that show, Mistress Danger and Dr Clive Chaos. They always seem to have a lot of fun.”

“Yeah, one of my Granddad's used to do opera and the like. He always played the bad guys, said the parts were more interesting and more fun to play. So what sort of music do you like?”

“Oh I quite like some of those pulse rock groups, where they use singers who are MORFS with unusual vocal range. They get some really unusual melodies and interesting sounds.”

“Who do you like?”

“Oh I've got a few albums by Twisted Kitten and Well of Nuns, that I listen to quite a bit.”

“Cool, I'm more of a classics girl, like the old dance music stuff.”

“That old junk?”

“Yeah I know, horrendously out of fashion, but it's fun to dance to.”

“I was never really one for dancing.”

“You should try it sometime.” Vicky jumped up and gave me a turn. She could move very fluidly, probably due to her lack of a skeletal structure in her arms and legs.

There was a knock at the door and then Mum poked her head in, “Hey, Lexi, does your friend ...”

“Vicky,” I provided.

“Does Vicky want to stay for dinner?” she finished.

“Oh I can't. I've got to go fairly soon. Thanks anyway, Mrs Jones.” Vicky checked her watch. “Actually, I'd better run or I'll be late for my lesson.”

She gave KittyBot a pat goodbye and picked up her bag, “I'll see you tomorrow, Lexi.”

I followed my new friend out to the front door and gave her a wave as she headed off up the road. She waved back and was off round the corner. I headed back in, already looking forward to seeing her again the next day.

I went into the kitchen to help with dinner and found Mum and Dad there. I caught a snatch of there conversation before they stopped talking, my enhanced hearing making eavesdropping easier.

“She's a new girl?” asked Mum.

“Yes just moved here. Seems like a nice girl. She said Lexi rescued her from a bully,” answered Dad.

“Really!” I rounded the corner in time to see Mum shrug, “Oh well, at least she's making friends that's all ... Oh, hello, Sweetheart. That was a little bit of a flying visit from your friend, what was her name again?”

“Vicky. She had a guitar lesson to get to, so she couldn't stay.”

“Well you'll have to invite her over another time,” said Mum with a smile.

I was sure I would. At that point I felt like inviting her over each and every day. As I helped with the dinner, Mum seemed to be very happy that I had made a friend and kept giving me hugs. She also took to looking at me with a small smile on her face when I wasn't looking. I guess she had been worried about my lack of friends, and my finding a friend had been a relief for her.

We had a nice tea of fish and chips. I helped load the dishwasher, then was off to work on my evil villain suit. I felt keener than ever to finish it so I could show Vicky. Maybe she would need some sort of armoured suit too. I guessed I could build her one once were rich and powerful after our many successful heists.

I had a long way to go. I had a basic idea of the design as well as a fair amount of scrap that would make up the body of it, but it was still in the early stages. I grabbed a few bits and started constructing the legs of my armoured suit. I had to keep rushing back and forth between my secret lair in the garage, and the main workshop where I had access to the power tools under supervision. This wasted a lot of time, and I was also worried that the parts I was making might give away what I was up to. I didn't really want my parents finding out, or even getting accused of being accessories to my nefarious deeds.

I decide to improvise a little. I had access to some old hand tools, so I took one of the old drills and hacked together a mechanical harness that would drive it using my magnetics. It took some effort and practice, but eventually I had a fairly powerful electric drill. I could make it spin quite fast, and even destroyed one or two drill bits by spinning them too fast. Some of them shattered and I was thankful I was wearing full protective gear as my parents had always taught me.

I jotted down the design in my notes and used something similar to make a rudimentary circular saw. By the end of the evening I had made only a little progress on my armour, but had constructed an array of magnetically powered tools. The only think I was really missing was the ability to do some welding, but I could get by with bolts and so forth. Perhaps I could figure out something to do the job later.

I packed things up then headed out back home, tired and happy.

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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