Interface By EMW
On Sunday I was furious with myself for what had happened. I’d had the chance to steal a load of money, even having been saved the bother of having to ask for it since the other robbers already had done the threatening and the bagging up. I suppose looking on the bright side, if I had arrived a bit later I would have found no money, since the robbers would have cleaned the place out. Still, it didn't change the fact that I hadn't managed to steal anything. I was a failure as a super villainess. All the other super villainesses would probably laugh at me.
I was in a grumpy mood all morning as a result, and my parents gave me a wide berth, Mum even suggesting it might be due to my new body and its strange cycles, which made me embarrassed as well as grumpy.
I stomped about complaining to Kittybot about how unfair it was. Other super villains probably had some training at some super villain school or something, or were under the wing of a hero that they eventually betrayed, but who helpfully taught them everything they needed to know before that point. I only had what I had seen on TV or read in books.
Kittybot listened patiently, not interrupting my ranting. Eventually she rolled over onto her back and poked my hand with her paw as if to say “Not to worry Lexi, you'll get it right next time.” Or maybe she just wanted her belly stroking. To cover all bases I took the advice and gave her belly a rub while her display purred at me.
Maybe a bank had been too much for my first time out. Maybe I needed something simpler, like an armoured car. I didn't know any of the routes though, so I needed to do some research. I picked up Kittybot and ran upstairs to do some villainous internet searching. I sat Kittybot on my lap to stroke. Villains often stroked their cats while explaining their evil plan to the hero they had caught, so I figured they would probably have done the same while devising the evil plan.
I scanned the local public web cams looking for a potential target. Using some mapping software linked to a satellite feed I spotted all the local banks and looked for any that might be getting a delivery. Soon I found an armoured car out on its rounds as it passed one of the public traffic cameras. It wasn't stopping at banks but was serving various shops in a chain. I looked up the position of other shops in the chain online and figured out the cars probable route. If I hurried I reckoned I could intercept it a few stops along.
“Quick, to the Secret Lair!” I said to Kittybot. Then put her in her bed since she was too young for a life of crime. I wondered if I should train her so that if I was caught or captured she could come and rescue me. Still, no time for that now. I raced out the door with a quick goodbye to my parents and ran all the way to the garage.
I put on my costume and climbed into my armour. This time would be different I would stay focussed and not forget that I was a ruthless and dastardly super villainess . I clambered carefully out of the garage and made my way over to my estimated route for the armoured car. As I turned the corner I was surprised by a man out walking his dog.
“Good Afternoon,” he said and kept walking. The dog barked at me a few times and his owner called him, “Come along Jack.”
He didn't seem to find it strange that there was a huge suit of metallic armour walking along the path. I was too surprised to say anything and it threw me off my game a little. I shook my head and picked up the pace. I didn't want to miss my target by being distracted by people walking their dogs. I charged up for a jump and leapt high into the air, landing on top of a three story building. It occurred to me after I landed that I couldn't tell from my jump point if it would take my weight or even if the landing area was clear. For now I trusted to luck and my enhanced vision, but I would need to think about that long term. With careful aim I made a series of jumps across the roof tops and through alleyways towards where I thought the armoured car might be.
I perched on top of a four story building looking for my target. Using my vision I swept the streets. I picked out the armoured car as it made its way down one of the main streets. I jumped closer to my target, picking a convenient roof nearby and readied myself for the jump. I had to be ruthless and focussed. I was a villain. I was bad! Again, now that I was on the brink of a crime my doubts nagged and I wondered if I should just go home. I shook my head to get rid of such thoughts. I was a villain now, that was all there was to it. I made a growling noise to get myself in the mood and even tried an evil laugh which I suspected was the sort of thing villains did when warming up for a crime. I got ready to jump down. The car was coming to a junction where it would have to stop. I figured I'd jump down when it stopped, then tear the doors off to go for the money.
Then as I was waiting for the truck there was a commotion in the street below. A push chair had rolled into the street in front of the oncoming armoured car. I heard the screech of brakes as the armoured car tried to stop, and the scream of the mother, and before I knew what I was doing I was in the air. I landed a ways in front of the baby. and extending my jump struts, reached out my arms out to grab the truck. I could see the shocked faces of the driver and passenger in the car as it skidded towards me, trying to stop in time accompanied by the thrumming noise of anti skid brakes fighting to stop it. My suit’s feet gripped the tarmac and as the car hit, there was a grind of steel as I grasped it.
The powerful magnetic field in the jump struts decelerated the car as they slid back into the leg. I bent the arms to absorb some more of the energy but I was still pushed slightly along the road as the tarmac gave way. Luckily it was enough to stop the car from rolling over the child. I stood up, taking care not to step on the push chair as the mother rushed out to grab her runaway baby. The child seemed bemused by all the fuss and was giggling happily, oblivious to the danger it had been in.
The mother turned and looked up at me. “Thank you,” she said simply, tears in her eyes.
All around me people were coming towards me, clapping or cheering. I began to get nervous, feeling that I was being boxed in. I decided I’d better make my escape. I knew it meant failing again, but I didn't think I could get away with the robbery with all these people, and to be honest, I was having second thoughts on the whole thing now. I charged up for a jump, self consciously gave a little wave, and then soared into the sky.
I focused on getting back to my hideout safely and without people seeing me. I was annoyed and frustrated at another failure, but also relieved I was going home. I carefully slotted my suit back into the garage and climbed out, closed up and headed back home.
“Hey, Lexi where're you been?” asked Mum as I walked into the kitchen.
“Oh I just went to the shops,” I answered fairly truthfully.
“Cup of tea?”
She poured me a cup and handed it to me. She then gave me a hug from behind and a kiss on the forehead. I smiled. Even though I was a failure, at least my parents still loved me. I told Kittybot of yet another failure and she commiserated with me. I wondered if maybe I just wasn't cut out to being a super villainess. Maybe all young super villains went through this sort of thing. Maybe most started out on some sort of apprenticeship scheme, being taught the ways of evil by an older villain that they then had to double cross at some point to assume the full status of villainy. But where would I find a villain to teach me the ropes? And even then, I wasn't sure that I was the double crossing type. I did a bit of my homework, played with Kittybot and watched some TV.
On the news they were talking about the rescue of a small baby that had rolled into the middle of the road. They mentioned that they had pictures taken by passers-by on their phones so I quickly changed the channel, just in case my parents might recognise the bits of old car I had used to make my suit. I cursed myself for not being more careful. Now people had pictures of my suit, maybe they would track it back to me.
I resolved to put my criminal plans on the shelf for a bit to wait till things calmed down. That did imply that I had further plans, which after my recent failures wasn't really the case. I supposed taking a break would give me time to come up with some plan that might actually work this time.
I was fairly quiet at dinner. I had got over the worst of my annoyance at my failures, so was in a better mood. I decided to spend more time with my mechanical companion. I felt recently, what with all my villainess work, I had been neglecting her. I read a physics book my dad had got me to learn more about my powers and idly stroked Kittybot till it was time for bed.
I got to school fairly early on Monday Vicky was very talkative about her weekend and it took the pressure off me to explain what I had been up to without lying to my best friend, for which I was grateful. Vicky had been to see her grandma at the weekend and was full of stories about what they had got up to. She didn't see most of her extended family that often these days due to a lot of them being anti-MORFS. Her Grandma on her mother’s side was one of the few who had stood by them. So she was very fond of her. She chatted away for almost all of morning registration and at any opportunity in our morning lessons and morning break.
It wasn't until lunch time came around that her mind turned to anything else. We were sitting eating with Colin when she turned towards me and asked, “Oh yeah! Lexi, did you see that thing on the news about that robot that saved the kid?”
I must have turned bright red at that. My pulse rocketed and I had a moment of panic. Just from being asked about it.
Just as I was calming down and preparing myself to answer calmly, Colin practically jumped out of his seat, “That was you!!!?” he exclaimed eyes wide with surprise.
I went even more bright red, realising that my moment of panic had caused my surface thought to broadcast to any telepath in range that it was me that saved the little baby from the armoured car.
'Good job I didn't think about stopping that bank robbery on Saturday,' I thought.
“You stopped that bank robbery, too!” Colin practically shouted.
Damn! I had given that away as well now, “Keep it down, please,” I asked pleadingly. I didn't want everyone to know.
“What do you mean that was her?” asked Vicky curiously.
“Can we talk about this somewhere else?” I said trying to salvage the situation. Eventually I got some agreement out of the two of them and we finished our lunch and made our way over to the library, hiding away on the reference section.
Vicky looked at me quizzically across the table. Colin's expression was more one of disbelief.
I tried to work out how to start, but my prevaricating was obviously too much for Vicky, “Come on. Lexi, spill it! What have you got to do with that robot thing I saw on the news?”
“Well, that robot thing was me. That was a suit I built. I was driving it,” I said simply.
“But how?” asked Colin still not believing it.
“I made it with bits of scrap metal and old car parts we had lying around.”
“But how does that even work? How could you afford all the motors and such to make it move, even if it's all scrap otherwise?”
“It doesn't have any electronics as such. It's mostly steel and iron. It's all driven by my power.”
“So you saved that baby and stopped some bank robbery. Cool! You're like some super hero or something Lexi!” Vicky said excitedly.
“I didn't mean to be,” I grumbled, “I wanted to rob that bank, and the only reason I was near the armoured car was to rob it. I figured since Tara was a hero, I must be a villain, so set out to play the part. I messed it all up though.”
“You wanted to be a villain?”
“Well I figured I had to be, since Tara was my enemy and she was a hero, that made me the villain.”
“Hmmm I can see that I suppose, but why didn't you tell us sooner?”
“I was going to, but I wanted to be sure it was going to all work first. I guess it didn't,” I said dejectedly.
“Cheer up, Lexi. That suit thing looks awesome, and it's way more than stupid Tara could ever manage. She just uses her stupid tk powers as she got them. You've taken an odd power and made something great of it.”
“I still can't believe that was you!” said Colin.
“Can we see your evil villain lair then to prove it?” grinned Vicky.
“I suppose so. I figured I'd have to lay low after the last few disasters. I've got the thing in my parent’s spare garage.”
“Cool … After school today you can show us your creation,” said Vicky, clapping her hands in glee. Even the usually distant Colin looked like he was quite interested in seeing my suit.
I felt a bit better now about the whole thing. Even if my attempts at super villainy had been a disaster, it felt good to finally share my secret with my friends. It had been hard keeping it from them, especially from Vicky. It felt good to know that Colin shared the secret too. It was another milestone in our friendship.
We switched to other topics of conversation after that and did some of our homework. Later, Vicky decided we should take a walk, and since it was a nice day we all agreed with her. We wandered about the playing fields, just enjoying the sunshine.
We passed a group of boys maybe from the year above us sitting on one of the walls outside the art block, who were all gathered around one of their number who was showing them something and talking excitedly.
“You really got a picture of it?” exclaimed one of the boys.
“Yeah, I had my phone out when it landed so I just whacked it on video. I might get some money off the news people for it,” said the boy at the centre. He was holding up a fairly fancy phone which was showing video of a large metal suit stopping an armoured car from running over a kiddie in a pushchair. It looked like my failure was following me around.
“Wow, look at that thing, it looks like it's all bits of scrap, but it stopped that van like it was nothing. The guy inside must be some super powered metal elemental or something!” said one of the on lookers.
“Nah, it must be some eccentric billionaire technopath that's made power armour for himself,” another said, elbowing the others out the way for a better look.
“You're both wrong. It has to be some powerful telekinetic and illusionist that manufactures that seemingly improvised exterior to fool his enemies!” said another.
At this point I noticed Vicky had broken away and rushed over to the group. She agilely slipped amongst the boys, pushing her way to the front so she could get a closer look.
“Wow, I heard about this on the news. It must have been amazing to see him in action,” she said putting a slightly odd emphasis on the him that was obviously for my benefit. I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable with this and wanted to get away.
“It was amazing. One moment nothing. Then the machine dropped out of the sky right in front of the armoured car,” said the guy holding the phone.
“Amazing! So he can fly or something?” Vicky asked.
“I guess so. After it was over he took off into the sky again, though there were no rockets or jets or anything, so it must have some really fancy antigrav or something. Here! Look at the end. You can just see it take off.”
The crowd made noises like they were watching a fireworks display, all ahhhhs and ooos as they watch me jump away.
“Do they know what he's called yet?”
“No not officially, but some of the news were calling him the Metal Avenger.”
“Wow, what a hero.”
The boy nodded enthusiastically as Vicky returned to me and Colin grinning like mad. Colin had a smirk on his face as well. By that point I seemed to be the only one who didn't think it was funny.
Vicky ran up and clasped my arm in her own by wrapping hers around mine, a disturbing sensation. “See Lexi? You're a famous hero!”
I scowled at her. That made her giggle. “So, Metal Avenger. What will you try next?” she said, laughing away.
“I am not the Metal Avenger,” I said grumpily.
“Right! To think all those boys are going to be fantasising about meeting, or even being the man in the suit ,not realising that inside is a cute little girl.” Even I had to smile at that one.
I stifled the smile and did my best to scowl some more, “I'm not cute!”
Vicky wasn't having any of it though, “Sure you are. So ... what is your Villain name then, did you pick one?”
I very quietly said, “Interface.”
“Why'd ya pick that?” asked Colin with a puzzled look on his face, “Sounds more like what a technopath would pick.”
“Well, I can sort of control machinery, like my suit. Without me in it it's just dumb scrap iron bolted together, but with me in control it comes to life.”
Vicky grinned, “I think it's a great name.”
We walked along a bit further till we encountered a line of people blocking our way. Predictably, it was my arch nemesis, Tara.
“Well isn't that cute. Arm in arm, the freaks together!” she sneered and her gang cackled.
I decided not to let her words hurt me.
“Shut it, Tara, you stupid looser!” shouted Vicky, clinging to my arm defiantly.
Tara scowled at her and gestured, and Vicky was knocked off her feet by her school bag.
I screeched at Tara in anger, which caused everyone around me to grab their ears in pain. Using the distraction I ran at Tara and jumped on her, grabbing her round the neck. She ran around flapping her hands at me, trying to dislodge me as I held on with one arm and hit her over the head and pulled her hair with the other.
“Get her off me!!” she cried. Her gang tried to pull me off, but I had a pretty good grip and Tara was too busy running around trying to shake me loose for them to do much. I got a few good kicks in on a few of them when they got too close.
Eventually Lump managed to grab me off her back and pull me loose, taking some of her hair with me. He held me kicking and screaming away from her while she regained her feet. Meanwhile, Vicky and Colin were being held off by Tempest and Amy Zap. They made several attempts to come to my rescue, but they were blown back or shocked each time.
Lump held me while Tara rounded on me, “I'm going to beat you black and blue for that,” Tara shouted, balling up her fists.
She came towards me slowly savouring the thought of the damage she was going to do me while Lump held me, one arm around my neck, the other gripping my legs to stop me kicking. I pulled at his grip trying to get free, but he was too strong. So I did the only thing I could think of. I bit down hard on his arm. My savage teeth sliced into his soft flesh like it was butter. He let out a girlish scream and dropped me. I landed, a bit dazed while he clutched his bleeding arm which had a row of neat puncture marks, each bleeding. It didn't look too bad to me, merely a superficial cut. I wasn't sure if it was psychosomatic, but I had a horrible taste in my mouth now. I spat on the floor to try and get rid of it.
Tara grabbed me and hit me in the stomach. It hurt, but I did my best to fight it by stamping as hard as I could on one of her feet. She cried out in pain so I slapped her. Neither of us were very good fighters. Mostly we just waved our arms about trading awkward blows and trying not to get hit ourselves.
Soon a group of kids had gathered round us chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Finally someone told a teacher, or one happened to be passing and we were shoved apart.
“Break it up! Right, you two are both getting detention for this!” shouted the teacher, holding the two of us by our arms. We were dragged off through the crowd. I noticed the other members of Tara's gang trying to look inconspicuous at the edge of the group that had gathered round us.
We were soon sat in front of the Head Mistress who told us she was very disappointed in the both of us and we would both do detention after school this evening. She went off to inform our parents, leaving us alone with dire warnings about what would happen if we fought again while she was gone.
We sat in silence, basically ignoring each other waiting for her to get back. As we waited I suddenly felt I had to ask Tara something, “Why do you hate me? I've never done anything to you.”
Her head span round and rage burnt in her eyes, “You know why!” she spat back.
“No I don't,” I said, “I never said a word to you before I changed, but since then you have just been always attacking me and any friend I have. I don't see why.”
“You wouldn't, would you, it's all so easy for you! You change, and you make out it's not a big deal not a problem! Like it's easy! Like losing your manhood was a good thing! You don't know what I went through, how I suffered. How all my brothers ganged up on me now I was the weak one. Now I was a worthless girl! You make out it like it was no big deal. Like I should be happy I changed, like you are! You make me sick! I lost all my friends and had to change schools. They wouldn't have me at the all boys school any more, and they didn't want me at home either.
“Changing ruined my life! I was a happy popular 17 year old boy almost ready to leave school, my Dad's favourite son with everything. Then I changed and became a worthless weak younger girl, a shame on the family, not fit to join in any of the normal activities or help run the family company when I came of age.
“Eventually to get rid of me. I was sent away to live with a crazy spinster aunt who made me act like a girl at all times or she would punish me. I had to repeat school again because I looked so young and my aunt doctored all my records. I lost everything ... EVERYTHING! Then you make out it was no big deal, that turning into a girl was a good thing! I hate you! I despise you!”
After that she sat crying slightly, her face a mask of rage. I was a little shocked by the whole thing to say the least. I tried to think of something to say to her but couldn't come up with anything. She'd had a pretty awful time of it, and it seemed I was the focus for all her pent up rage. I had accepted this change and taken the good with the bad, and she felt this was some insult to her that I had gone through the same things she had, yet still had loving parents and a happy outlook on life.
While I was trying to work out what to do, the headteacher came back in and told us to head back to our lessons and report for detention after school, giving us a room number. Tara stomped off. I tried to call to her to talk to her, even though I didn't know what to say, but she just ignored me.
The bell had gone so I went straight to my next lesson, expecting to see Vicky there, but when I got to our usual place she wasn't there. She turned up a while later with several bandages on her face. She sat quietly next to me. When there was some time to talk I asked her what had happened. After I got carted off, Tara's gang took their revenge on Colin and Vicky. Tempest used a gust of wind to pepper them with rocks. Amy Zap hit them with several strikes and then Lump gave came in to finish the job. They managed to run away before it got any worse, but Colin had suffered a broken arm and had to go to the hospital, while Vicky got a few cuts and bruises, but nothing too serious. They had complained, but it hadn't done any good.
I apologised for getting her into this mess but she just smiled and said it wasn't my fault. After what Tara had said I suspected that wasn't true. It was me that was keeping us in the firing line. I had to sort this out somehow. Even though I hadn't done anything wrong, I felt it was up to me to save my friends. But what could I do? All our attackers, including Tara had more power than me. I had my suit, but I couldn't exactly walk the corridors in a 9ft tall armour suit. And it wasn't like I could hide it somewhere nearby and then go get it if things went bad. No, it seemed hopeless.
Perhaps sensing my mood, Vicky patted my arm, “Cheer up Lexi, it's not your fault and I'm sure things will get better.”
I hoped she was right.
The rest of school was pretty normal, angry glares from Tara and hard work. When the final bell rang I made my way over to detention, saying goodbye to Vicky. I kept a few paces between me and Tara on the way over, just in case and just before we got to the detention room she spun round to face me. “You are going to suffer little freak! I'll see to it you and your stupid little friends pay for all you've done. This isn't over!”
So much for hoping she would leave me alone. We were sat at opposite ends of the room and made to write out lines. It was dull and boring. I let my mind wander; trying to think up a way out of this. Maybe I could make a smaller suit and wear it under my clothes. No, that was stupid! I couldn't wander the school in essentially plate mail and hope to get away with that. Everyone would hear me clanking along. I needed something discrete I could wear all the time that wouldn't give the game away, but offered some of the advantages of my suit, like protection and strength. It needed to make the most of my powers, and it needed to be something that would give me an advantage over not just Tara, but the rest of her motley crew as well. Something nagged at me in the back of my mind but I couldn't figure out what it was. I focussed on copying out the lines, hoping the tedious work would free up what ever it was that niggled me.
The end of the hour came and Tara was out the door like a shot. I followed slower and found my Dad waiting for me. He didn't look angry, more disappointed, like I had let him down somehow. It made me feel sad, I tried to explain but he cut me off.
“I don't want to hear it. You've paid your debt and that's that,” he said firmly.
I nodded meekly. I felt bad for letting him down even if it hadn't been my fault and we drove home in silence.
It was very quiet at home. We ate dinner without saying anything much. I helped with the washing up then went up to my room without saying anything. I felt rotten for letting my parents down. I almost wished they had shouted at me. It would have been better than the silence. I was a lousy daughter. I had never gotten into trouble as a son.
Kittybot did her best to comfort me and I appreciated her efforts, “It's not fair, Kitty. I tried to be a good girl and it got me nowhere. Heck, I even tried to be a bad girl and that didn't work either. Now I've got Tara gunning for me because she used to be a boy and hates it, while I wasn't sad I had changed.”
I sighed and lay back on my bed, “I just can't win.” Kittybot climbed up on to me and curled up on my tummy as if to say, “Don't worry Lexi, things will work out.”
I gave my mechanical friend a stroke. She was an optimist, always looking on the bright side of things. I was more pessimistic about the situation. I was sure that things would get worse. I scooped up Kittybot and headed over to my desk to try and think about some way to solve my armour problem.
I toyed with the idea of building some sort of body armour that I could wear under my school uniform but there was no way I could make it so it was not obvious. I played with Kittybot some more, disheartened. Later that evening, just as I was getting ready to go to bed Mum came into my room and without a word, wrapped me in a hug. She didn't say anything but she didn't have to. She was just showing me she forgave me for what ever had happened at school and still loved me. She stroked my hair and kissed me on the forehead, then left. It lifted my mood immensely and I went to bed with a smile on my face.
Dad was still quiet the next day, but he was at least speaking to me. I took that as a sign that he was on his way to forgiving me. I headed up to my classroom, hoping I didn't get into more trouble again today.
Vicky was waiting for me. I told her about detention and she made faces of sympathy and cursed Tara's name. It was comforting to have a friend backing me up. Eventually my arch nemesis Tara turned up, but she seemed to be back to just pretending I didn't exist for now. I was a bit worried what would happen if she managed to catch us somewhere out of sight of the teachers, and P.E. loomed on the horizon like a bad storm.
Most of the morning went fine. Tara didn't do anything in lessons, and when it came to P.E. our teacher stayed in the changing room with us, a bit like she was expecting trouble. I went to lunch, internally breathing a sigh of relief that the morning was over without confrontation or injury. There was still the rest of the day to get through but it was looking good so far.
Safe in the lunchroom I deliberately sat near the teacher’s table to reduce the chance of any nastiness. Vicky, Colin, and I enjoyed a quiet lunch. Colin was talking about some club he had joined that did photography or something. Since he had abandoned his more super leanings, he had been looking at the various school clubs most of which the supers frowned on for one reason or another. He had found all sorts of things that he had been missing out on. While some of the clubs were a bit sceptical of his motives, most were good enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was glad some good had come from the confrontation with Tara.
Once we had finished, we headed to the library while Colin went off to do some club things.
We reached the library without incident and once we were safely inside I got Kittybot out for some exercise and we got down to some homework and idle chit chat.
“So when are we going to see your evil lair and your armour?” asked Vicky.
“You could come and see it tonight,” I said, then remembering, “Oh but you have your guitar lesson tonight.”
She gave Kittybot a tickle under the chin, “I could probably manage a short visit if your lair isn't far, as my lesson is a bit later tonight than normal.”
“It's not too far.”
“Where is it? I didn't know there were any hollowed out volcanos around here.”
“No, none at all.”
“I know. It's underwater ... maybe in the duck pond?”
“OK, it's on the moon!”
“No, that would be a bit of a commute.”
“OK, I give up, where is it?”
“It's in my parent’s garage.”
“Is it a secret garage?”
“Oh yes, very secret. I put signs up and everything,” I said with my best straight faced serious expression.
Vicky nodded at me seriously for a few moments before her face began to show some strain and then finally she cracked up. The two of us were roaring with laughter. We continued for quite a while till a smiling Miss Gordon came over, “Try to keep it down a little, girls.”
We nodded and tried to stop laughing but it wouldn't take much for one of us to set the other off again. This went on for several minutes until suddenly Vicky's eyes locked on something behind us and all the laughter drained out of her. I spun round and saw Colin walking towards us his face all bandaged up.
“Colin!” we both exclaimed and jumped up racing over to his side.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Lump,” he said angrily, “Tripped me coming out of the art block. I smacked my face into the concrete, bloody hurt!”
“That fat bastard!” exclaimed Vicky.
“Language, Victoria!” Miss Gordon said in a scolding tone coming over to see what the fuss was about.
“Oh dear you look a bit the worse for wear young man. You'd best take a seat,” Miss Gordon said and we led Colin over to a convenient table, “I assume since you're bandaged up you told someone about this?”
“Yes Miss, Mrs Norton saw the whole thing, so had Lump, sorry Eric, put in detention,” Colin replied.
“Well you just relax a bit let your friends take care of you. If you are not feeling up to lessons let me know and I'll give you a note and you can stay here.”
“Thanks Miss. I should be OK.”
Miss Gordon gave him a nod then headed back to her desk.
“How are you feeling?” asked Vicky.
“Not too bad. My Mum had signed the pain killer waiver so the nurse could give me a pill which has taken the edge of it. It looks a lot worse than it is,” Colin replied.
“Well you just sit here, we'll look after you ... would you like a book or something?” I asked.
“How about one of the comfy chairs?” Vicky asked.
“Maybe a drink of water?”
We rallied round our friend offering him everything we could think of to make him feel better but in the end he shushed us with a small bemused smile on his face. “Really I'm fine. I'll just sit here and recover a bit.”
“Okay, but say if you need anything,” said Vicky.
I felt a bit bad that he had gotten beaten up. I felt like it was my fault.
“Hey, there's no need to feel guilty, Lexi. None of this is your fault,” Colin said.
“If I hadn't flipped Tara's switches then this never would have happened,” I said quietly.
He put his hand on top of mine on the desk, “Maybe, but I never would have been friends with you two and that would have been a shame.”
Vicky smiled and put her hand on top of his. We sat there for a bit smiling at each other and enjoying this bond of friendship when Vicky began giggling again and pointing at our hands. Kittybot had decided to join in and stood with one of her paws on top of Vicky's hand. We all burst out laughing at my mechanical companion’s antics I picked her up and gave her a kiss on the head, “Aren't you a clever girl, Kittybot!”
I stroked her belly and then sat her on her normal perch on one of my shoulders. She curled up happily hiding in my hair.
“So are you coming to see Lexi's secret lair after school tonight?” asked Vicky.
“I guess,” he said, not sounding all that excited.
“It'll be cool she can show us her fancy suit,” grinned Vicky.
Colin brightened at the mention of the suit, “I must admit I am curious to see that thing up close after reading about your exploits on the news.”
“Well I can show you both tonight. I trust you both to keep my secret.”
Vicky beamed like the sun and Colin looked a little embarrassed but pleased.
The bell rang and we made our way to our next lesson, arranging to meet Colin in the car park after school in the hopes my Dad would give us a lift.
The rest of the day was fairly quiet and we made it to home time without any further incident. Vicky and I made our way into the car park waving to Colin who had already arrived. He had taken off most of the bandages and cleaned up a bit so he looked a lot more normal. A short time later Dad showed up. I noticed he was carrying a brown cardboard box.
“Hello girls,” he said and then looked a little taken aback by Colin's presence.
“Daddy this is my friend Colin. Can he have a ride with us too?”
“Sure, why not?” he replied looking between me and Colin with a speculative look on his face. I wondered what he was thinking ,then I realised what he was thinking and was very embarrassed, feeling my face turn bright red. I didn't say anything as any preemptive denials would only make him think he was right. In my embarrassment I forgot all about the box he was carrying.
“Why are you suddenly blushing?” whispered Vicky in my ear, “You look like a tomato, you're so bright red.”
I whispered back into her ear, “I think Dad thinks there might be something going on between me and Colin!”
We climbed into the car Colin taking the front seat. “And is there,” whispered Vicky with a mischievous grin once we had belted in.
“No!” I said vehemently, and probably at slightly more than a whisper as Colin and Dad turned to look at us.
“What are you two whispering about?” asked Dad with an amused smile.
“Nothing,” said Vicky with a look like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
“Just girl talk,” I said with a grin, which caused Vicky to start giggling.
We drove home with Colin looking worriedly at Vicky and me, Dad grinning, and Vicky giggling.
Once we got back to my house I took my friends up to my room so I could dump my school stuff.
“Hey sweetheart,” Mum said as I walked in the door. She must have just got back from work, as she had grease marks on her face and hands. “Hello Vicky.”
“Hello, Mrs Jones,” said Vicky.
“And who is this?” asked Mum when Colin came in.
“This is my friend Colin.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Jones,” Colin said very politely.
“Nice to meet you too,” said Mum, “Well, I better get cleaned up. Have fun, kids.”
I escorted my friends up into my room and extracted Kittybot from my bag, then chucked it under my bed.
“I'll just put Kittybot on her charger, then we can head over to the garage,” I said.
“Lair!” insisted Vicky, “Can we take Kittybot with us? I'll look after her.”
“OK,” I said, handing her over, “best keep her clear of the suit when I use it. I'm not sure what the intense magnetic field will do to her.”
Vicky hugged Kittybot to her and gave her a good stroke, “Don't you worry, I'll keep her safe.”
Colin was staring at all the various prototypes that had led to Kittybot. He was so fascinated that he didn't notice us leaving the room and Vicky had to call back to him, “Are you coming Colin?” before he came and joined us.
I led my friends out into the garden passing dad on my way, “Don't go too far, honey, Dinner won't be long. Do your friends want to stay?”
Both of my friends shook their heads, “I've got a guitar lesson later,” said Vicky.
“I've got family coming over this evening,” said Colin.
“Right ho. Well if either of you need a lift home give me a shout,” Dad said, then went off to help with dinner.
I took my friends hands and pulled them along, excited to be sharing this with someone other than my mechanical cat. I dragged them along to the garage and then checked around to see that the coast was clear.
“OK, in we go!” I opened the garage and we all piled in. With the suit and the three of us it was quite a squeeze. It was a good job Colin, Vicky, and I were relatively small or we wouldn't all have fitted.
“WOW!” exclaimed Vicky.
“I can't believe you built all this yourself!” said Colin, running his hand over the suit feeling the joints and welds.
“Careful, I didn't smooth out all the edges,” I cautioned.
“Can we see it in action?” asked Vicky.
“What if someone comes?” I asked.
“We'll keep watch. I just want to see it in action!”
“I don't know ...”
“Oh pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease,” begged Vicky. I decided I couldn't say no to her.
“Alright. Check to see if it's clear while I get things ready and stand well back. I don't want to step on anyone.”
“Yay Lexi!” squealed Vicky, giving me a quick hug, then grabbing Colin and opening the door. They ran out and I began putting on my padding to protect me in the suit. I left off the disguise stuff, as they knew it was me so I didn't think I would need it.
I clambered up into my suit and then waited for the all clear.
“Okay, you can come out now,” said an excited Vicky.
I reached out with my powers feeling the flow into my suit and slowly animated the metal shell. I carefully rolled the suit forward on its little trolley, then stood it up and slotted the trolley back into the garage.
I looked around turning my suit to face my two friends. “So,” I gestured carefully with my metal arms to strike a pose, “what do you think.”
“Awesome!” said Colin. Vicky just jumped up and down with glee, clutching a confused looking Kittybot to her chest.
“What can it do?” asked Vicky.
“Well I can jump really high and it's pretty strong and tough,” I replied.
“Oooo, show us the jump.”
“Well ... Okay just step back a bit more I don't want to land on you.”
They walked back and I charged the jump struts for a smallish jump, aiming myself straight up. I released the power and braced myself as I rocketed into the air higher than I had intended, probably three or four times the height of my suit. I charged my struts in mid-air to slow me down, and landed with a mighty thump, pretty much on target.
“Yay!” shouted Vicky clapping her hands.
“That was so cool,” said Colin, trying hard to get his jaw up off the floor.
I smiled to myself pleased as punch that they liked my suit. It was good that it had some use after all the work I had spent on it, even if it was only to impress and entertain my friends.
Vicky was still clapping when she glanced to her side “Oh no!” she exclaimed, “It's your dad!”
“Oh no, I won't be able to get out of this thing in time!” I cried.
“Hide! I'll cover for you!” said Vicky.
I charged for a jump and propelled myself over the garages, hiding in amongst some trees.
“Hi there Vicky, Colin, did you feel the earth shake? It felt like a small earthquake or something? Where is Lexi?”
“Hi Mr Jones, Lexi is in the garage. she was just showing us something,” said Vicky.
“Ah, the mysterious project she's been working on and has yet to show us. I must say I'm quite curious what she's been up to. All manner of bits of scrap seems to have disappeared from the spares pile.”
He was making his way over to take a look in the garage. He would see I wasn't there! Then just before he got within line of sight someone walked out of the garage.
“Uh Uh, no peeking. It's not ready yet,” said a carbon copy of me.
“Oh well alright,” Dad said. “You're just like your mother. She's always making secret things and refusing to tell me. Dinner’s nearly ready.”
“OK I'll be in shortly,” said my doppleganger.
“Right ho,” Dad said. He turned and walked away, giving a wave to Colin and Vicky.
When he was out of sight the Lexi double vanished in a puff of pink sparkles and Vicky collapsed to the ground.
“Vicky!” I cried out quickly jumping back over the garage and opening the suit.
I climbed down and ran over to my friend, Colin was already by her side.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Ya, it just took it out of me to do that,” she said with a tired grin, I saw that she had protected Kittybot from the fall by tucking her into a pocket on her jumpsuit.
“That was a pretty good likeness of me, and the voice was spot on. It was wonderful,” I said, holding her hand as Colin and I helped her to her feet.
“Well I know you well enough to imitate you,” she said, beaming at the praise.
“Cool, I better put the suit back before we get more company. Are you going to be alright?”
“Fine, you go square things away in your evil lair.”
I flashed her a smile and left Colin to look after her. I got back into my suit and positioned it back on its trolley then rolled it away. I jumped out and put all the stuff back in place, closing and locking the garage behind me. I skipped over to where Vicky was sitting recovering from using her powers to cover for me. Kittybot was sat in her lap examining her curiously. Maybe she was wondering why Vicky had fallen down so suddenly.
“You better hold Kittybot. I think I need my arms to hold onto you two,” Vicky told me.
I offered Kittybot my hand and she scampered up my arm to sit on my shoulder, held securely by my power, “So, since you've helped cover for me, does that make you my partner in crime?”
“Hehe, I guess so. My powers aren't much use for crime though.”
“Oh, I don't know you'd make a terrific alibi. You could wander somewhere public with an illusion of me while I could be committing crimes miles away.”
Vicky grinned, “Hooray, I'm a villain too! What about Colin? What can he do in our gang?”
Colin and I helped Vicky to her feet. She put her arm around our shoulders to hold herself up and we began walking back to the house, “He could scope out things, learn the secret entrances or where the valuables were hidden.”
“I get to be reconnaissance while you two do all the stealing?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Vicky, “This is a girl’s crime gang and you are only in it because we have bewitched you with our feminine wiles.”
I giggled at that, and Colin rolled his eyes, “Better than the last gang I was in, I guess.”
“True,” beamed Vicky.
We helped her back to the house and she began walking more normally. As she got her strength back she slipped her hand off Colin's shoulders leaving only the one on mine loosely.
We got back into the house and met my dad as he was coming out of the kitchen, “Hey you kids, everything alright?” he said.
“Sure Dad. Everything’s fine,” I said smiling. His gaze shifted to look at Vicky's arm on my shoulder.
Vicky noticed his look and pulled her arm away quickly, looking embarrassed for some reason. ‘Maybe she thought she'd give away my secret, yeah that was probably it.’ She glanced at her wrist absently turning her face away to hide her blush then she startled.
“Oh, is that the time? I need to be getting home!” she said suddenly.
“Need a lift?” asked dad.
“No thank you Mr Jones. It's not very far. A walk out in the fresh air will do me good.”
“I should probably be going too,” said Colin.
“How about you? Are you okay to get home?” asked Dad.
“Yeah, I'll be fine. It's not too far for me either.”
I walked my friends to the door, “See you guys tomorrow.”
Colin glanced between Vicky and me, then gave a smile and a wave, and set off. Vicky turned and gave me a sudden hug, then raced off, “See ya later, Lexi!” she called as she rushed off down the street.
I wandered back in to help with dinner. I found Mum and Dad talking in hushed tones in the kitchen.
“Really you think she …” said Mum, to which Dad nodded, “But I thought the boy …” to which my dad shrugged.
“That's what I thought initially, but I don't think so given what I saw. It's not that surprising given … Oh, hello Lexi,” he said spotting me.
I wondered what they were talking about, probably silly adult things. I helped set the table and we settled down to eat our dinner. I was famished from using my suit and ate several helpings.
When we were finished and tidying up the dishes Dad turned to me and said, “Oh, I nearly forgot. I have something to give to you, wait here.”
He disappeared into the little office he used to do his school work in and returned with the brown cardboard box I had seen him with in the car park. “We were doing some experiments at school with this stuff and I thought you'd like to see it.” he opened the box and pulled out a small roll of black fabric.
He rolled out a reasonably large sheet of it and then held it up. It was floppy and reasonably light. “This is pretty new nano fabric that has been engineered to change it's properties in certain situations.” I realised he was unconsciously switching into teaching mode, “As you probably know, a variant of this stuff has been used in motor sports for quite a while, designed to react to fire. If the fabric gets exposed to heat the fibres expand, preventing the fire from catching. This stuff has been designed to respond to magnetic fields. They use it in some of the new loud speaker designs. Give it a go with your power.”
I held out my hand and felt the material it was light and soft, I switched on my powers and the fabric seemed to come alive in my hand, flexing, then suddenly rigid and hard. “Cooool!” I exclaimed.
I tapped the fabric. It was now hard and solid, and felt almost like thin sheet metal. I turned off my power and the fabric flopped back to its original state. I tried it several more times, adjusting the field, and finding I could alter the way the fabric changed depending on how I applied the field to it. Different directions of field changed the way the material responded.
This had potential I was sure I could use this somehow, “Can I keep this?” I asked.
“Sure. They ordered far too much of the stuff. Entered a ten for ten rolls but ended up with ten boxes of the stuff, so they didn't mind me having it.”
“Thanks Dad.” I grabbed the stuff, racing up to my room to examine it.
I swiped a pair of scissors from the sewing kit, as well as a needle and thread, then began trying things out with the fabric. On its own it was tough, but floppy, and not very strong. It would just bend.
I carefully cut out some shapes and sewed them together to see if I could make rigid objects with the fabric. Most of them ripped themselves apart the instant I applied the magnetic field. The thread was too weak, and the objects flexed with quite a lot of force under a magnetic field, ripping my stitches. I went online to see what the normal approach was to this fabric. It seemed mostly they used heat bonding to create joins. In its non rigid state the fabric melted under intense heat and could be joined together that way. If a magnetic field was applied to the join while it was still hot, then the nano fibres that made up the material would align correctly and lock together, making the join very strong.
I took my first attempt and got my soldering iron out of a drawer and heated it up. I used an old tip to join a seam, the black fabric going shiny and slightly liquid under a lot of heat. I gently applied a field to the fabric and watched with my magnetic vision as the shapes of the field shifted and twisted in the material and it locked together. When it was cool I tried to pull it apart but I couldn't. It was like the join had always been there.
By the end of the evening I was very excited. I knew enough about this material to use it and make things out of it. It was the answer to my problem how to protect my friends and not make it obvious. With this fabric I could make a suit that would look like normal fabric until I applied a magnetic field then it would be like a suit of armour. I knew the fabric could make things tough. I had made a little prototype, magnetised it around a potato and then attacked it with a hammer. The potato survived unharmed despite my best efforts to damage it. I began designing a new suit, one I could wear at school and no one would notice. It would not only protect me. but help me. by careful design I would be more than a match for my nemesis Tara and her gang.
I made a start on the suit and got most of the shapes cut out to make it. I didn't get very far with the heat bonding before it was bed time. But I allowed myself an evil laugh, since it wouldn't take me long to finish my new stealthy suit, and I had some ideas for some other more interesting additions. That would have to wait till tomorrow. Tara wasn't going to know what hit her.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/