Costumes and Masks

Once the Hero Part 3


Once the Hero
Part 3

Chapter Ten

Kansas City, KS
September 9, 2008
ETWF: 13 Days

    Steve ‘Matches’ Smith patiently waited his turn to pick up his business mail at the Kansas City post office. He worked at home from his small somewhat rundown house offering auditing and personnel services for small businesses. His computer let him have clients all over the country and allowed him to set his own hours.

Once the Hero Part 2


Once the Hero

Part 2



Chapter Five

Area 61
September 5, 2008
ETWF: 17 Days

    Courtney hated being away from Area 61. This was where things were happening, and she didn’t like playing catch up. Being absent, and not able to guide events in her best interests, annoyed her. She had learned, as a child, not being in control was a bad thing. You were left at the mercy of others. If you wanted things to work out in your favor, you had to make them.

    As a supra-human, she chaffed under the restrictions ULTIMATE placed upon her. The list was a long one, but the worst was that she was forbidden to work directly for the government because of fears it would use her abilities against other countries. Her employers had used a loophole, that she worked for a company with a government contract, an absolute fiction.

    She was ambitious, but the very same qualities that gave her the edge over competitors in the corporate world, made many smaller private companies leery of hiring her. The large multi-national companies were always looking to hire employees with talents like hers. Although she still could’ve thrived in the cold-blooded, shark infested waters of big business, she still wanted more.

    Courtney knew the ink hadn’t even dried on the ULTIMATE accords before the Office of Archives and Research had been formed. It was a deep, black operational cover for all of the United States’ Supra and Para normal resources. Let the UN Security Council monitored ULTIMATE blunder about trying to take care of the world’s mutant problems.

    The United States of America was not about to put its security concerns about anything into anyone else’s hands, much less something as important as the supra-human question. Area 61 wasn’t OAR’s only installation, but it was the biggest, concerned with creating and empowering supra-humans.

    There was power here, and she wanted it. First, there was security provided by the Untied States military that kept the mutant haters away. Second, hidden from the public, many laws didn’t apply here, and it was the ones in charge that made the rules. Perhaps she wasn‘t the one in command, but she’d long ago became adapt at manipulating others who were.

    Finally, there was the potential for power beyond anybody‘s dreams. This was where the very secrets of the universe were being unlocked. Supra and Para-normals were the gods and demigods of the modern age. From the golden Heroes, such as Major Victory, to the terrors of Professor Mortis, they were individually as powerful as armies, in their own right.

    Here was the forge of Vulcan, and Pandora’s Box, together in one neat package. Courtney was in the perfect position to direct the actions of the world’s next generation of gods. Members of The Rocketeers had been some of the most powerful supra-humans of their time. They had fallen, only because their masters had dared reach for too much, and like Icarus, they had fallen.

    She promised herself she would be more cautious. General Laramie was almost too easy to twist, but Doctor McClellan was turning out to be more of a player than she’d anticipated. It was something to bear in mind. Since she’d first become aware of the possibility of multiplying a supra-human’s power, she’d wondered if hers could be as well.       

    Courtney wrote her reports of the successful mission, and contacts with the Meridian candidates’ families, on the flight back. None had given her any significant problems. She did find it ironic that it was the poorest of the five that resisted her the most, while the most influential had been the easiest to convince to sign over full legal guardianship of their children.

    Additionally, William Riegel’s parents gave her reason to be cautious, dealing with them. There was a history of supra-humans in his family, and that made influencing them with her powers, risky. You never knew when you might run across another telepathic mutant, hiding in the closet. The financially struggling family had been contemplating sending their son to The Academy, because of troubles he’d been having in school, because of harassment since his mutation.

    Courtney had gone to The Academy herself, and knew the school for the supra-human had generous scholarships. The Riegel family couldn’t manage even with that help. She had only to offer a more attractive finance package. Of course, they didn’t know they had just sold their son. All it took was a little legal slight of hand, and a touch of Esper suggestion.

    If the boy’s family proved to be a problem in the future, they would receive news that William had been involved in some horrible accident, that required a closed casket funeral. As for the boy himself, she’d seen some interesting possibilities in her preliminary scan of his mind.

    The buzz of the intercom interrupted her thoughts. “Ma’am this is Major Vasquez, the Duty Officer. We have Captain Vroom in an unauthorized area, the Z-Ray amphitheater. General Laramie and Doctor McClellan are unavailable, and you are next on the notification roster. What action should we take?”

    ‘Not here an entire day yet and already breaking the rules are we, Mr. Glenn. Interesting,’ she thought.

    “Do nothing unless he attempts sabotage. I’ll handle this myself. I’m on the way, Thank you,” She directed. Her fingers flew across her laptop’s keys, rapidly scanning the results of Alan Glenn’s physical examination. Taking a quick moment to check her appearance, she took one of the Segways that made getting around the large complex so much easier.

    On the way there, she evaluated the information from Dr. McClellan’s report. Alan Glenn was in excellent physical condition, and it was likely that he was still supra-human. However, he was, at best, classified as an Alpha, the lowest category. None of his traits surpassed human norms. What made him unusual, was that every single one was at the maximum for those considered normal. He could be an Olympic contender in nearly every event. No one was supposed to be perfect in everything, not bad for someone nearing fifty.

    She’d been completely wrong about his middle age spread, which irritated her. He had the well-defined musculature of a natural athlete, with ‘six-pack’ abs that would be the envy of any body builder.

    It was obvious how he’d avoided being classified as a mutant by ULTIMATE. Since an Alpha was the perfect human ideal, there were a lot of gray areas about the specifics, since what was considered normal human, was being constantly redefined every time an athletic world record was broken.

    When the human genome mapping project reached completion, many believed that the X gene would finally be isolated and identified. A simple blood test, and all the questions about who was and who wasn’t a mutant would be answered, Not. Early researchers had been spectacularly wrong about genetic mutation being the cause of Supra-human abilities.

    There wasn’t an X gene, or any other, that all so-called mutants had, that normal humans lacked. Genetics apparently did play a part, because supra-normal traits could be passed down to their children, but it was only a part of the phenomena. They knew a whole lot about what it wasn’t, but the exact cause was still unknown.

    Dr. McClellan theorized in his report, that Alan was how he would be if he’d never been exposed to Z-Ray Six, without of course his supra-running or rapid healing ability. Speaking of which, he had found no signs of either ability. It seemed that Alan Glenn was exactly what he said he was. A world-class superhero who’d lost his powers, if not quite as old and helpless as he let everyone believe.    

    She stopped her Segway short of the restricted area; to give him the impression she’d accidentally found him. Wondering how he had gotten inside, she opened the large blast style doors with her keycard. Schooling her face to look surprised, she found him standing in the sunken center of the large amphitheater, behind the subject’s couch.

    “What are you doing here? I didn’t think you had access.” She asked challengingly.

    Ignoring the question, and her, he just stood there with his eyes closed, looking up at the huge Z-Ray 13 emitter that dominated the enormous shielded room. Catwalks crisscrossed the ceiling, amid the forest of heavy power cables.

    “Hello? Didn’t you hear me?” She asked again, determined to control this encounter.

    As if to himself, he spoke, “I was only 10 the first time I saw this thing. One by one we were each strapped down here, and Doc Mac, up there in the control booth, pulled the trigger,” he said pointing up. “I was so scared, but my big brother Gus assured me I had nothing to worry about. Doc Mac had told us we’re all going to be superheroes, just like in the comic books.”

    “After our parents died in that car accident, Gus watched out for me. I was the skinny, snot-nosed kid everyone picked on, but not when Gus was around. He was 14, and was everything I wasn’t. You just knew he was going to do big things when he grew up.

    “He and Doug were always competing over who was the toughest, but they never fought about it. Then there was Jeff, who was the clown, always finding some way to make all of us laugh. I remember when he and Doug made the toilets, up in officer country, blow up, with their homemade firecrackers.” He smiled, reminiscing.

    “That first time, Alice just walked up and jumped in, asking what was taking everyone so long, demanding they hurry up. I had such a crush on her, but everyone knew even then that she was Gus’s girl.” He said, with his smile turning sad.

    “Joyce was so little, she’d had to be helped up. Everybody knew she had been crying, but there wasn’t nuthing but smiles when they came to get her. She was everyone’s little sister, and a real heartbreaker.”

    His voice grew hoarse as he continued, “You know, I never could tell anyone really what it felt like to have that thing zap you. It felt like you had ants running all over you, but only kinda. Jeff said, once it was like having Gawd whispering in one ear, while the Devil was yelling in the other.”

    “What it did afterwards, was make you sick. Doc had us struck with so many needles we looked like pincushions, because of the radiation poisoning. It was so strange that I got well first, because of my healing knack. Me, the kid with the runny nose!”

    “Three more times we went under the gun, but that last time was the worst of all. No one had to say that this thing had killed Joyce, but we all knew. Gus stormed out, madder than I’d ever seen him. The next thing we heard was him blasting his way past the guards at the door when they wouldn’t let him by. Half-sick with radiation poisoning, we tried to stop him, but he was crazy, out of his mind. I don’t think he really knew what was going on by then.”

    Courtney still could not read him with her powers, but with the tears in his eyes, she didn’t need to. She started down the steps to consol him, thinking of how best take advantage of this opportunity.

    He turned, and looked at her. “The next thing I knew I was waking up, and everyone, but Jeff was dead. He never would talk about it, but it ate at him from the inside, until there was nothing left. I got kicked out into the cold when the Air Force found my powers were gone, but I found out later, Jeff had committed suicide exactly one year later.”

    “You should ask yourself what kind of people does things like this to kids. What’s more, you should ask yourself what kind of person that makes you for helping them. You know something else? You looked better in that red dress. That lab coat doesn’t do a thing for you.” He said with a lopsided grin, and bounded up the stairs, faster than she could follow.

    Still grinning he answered her earlier question. “As for how I got inside, Dr. Hathaway, I spent 4 years in this asylum. I have my ways. Good night.” And with that, he disappeared down the hallway.

    Caught opened mouthed, Courtney realized there was a lot more to Alan Glenn than she thought. Shutting her mouth,  she looked about the stadium sized room. This place reeked of potential power. Remembering the words of the man who’d just departed; it also represented the price one paid for daring to reach for the impossible.

    She was no stranger to the price one paid for ambition, and the willingness to manipulate others for her own ends. Courtney had many acquaintances but no close friends, lovers but no loves. Slowly climbing out of the pit, she wondered just who had been manipulating who.

    Behind her, the shielded blast doors shut with a ringing boom. Courtney had some thinking to do.


Chapter Six

Area 61
September 8, 2008
ETWF: 14 Days

    Malik was really beginning to not like what was happening, but understood where his Grandma had been coming from. He and his twin kept getting in increasingly bad trouble though no fault of their own, and Grandma was almost 70. She just wasn’t able to deal with it, as she should, because of her health. He couldn’t blame her for wanting to find somewhere for them that was safe.

    The thing was, someone had lied big time. They were supposed to be going to some school for mutant kids just like themselves. Flying in a private business jet was the bomb, but when they had set down in the middle of nowhere, with all those Air Force guys around, he started having doubts. Add in that damn huge,  concealed aircraft hanger cut right into the side of the mountain as well as that express elevator ride deep underground, and he knew for sure something was wrong.

     Yeah everyone was real nice and his room was huge. It had its own entertainment center, computer and wide screen HDTV. He peeked into some of the classrooms and they all looked state of the art. However, he didn’t miss the guards in the areas they weren’t supposed to go. Maybe he wasn’t streetwise, and he sure wasn’t no gangster, but he wasn’t stupid either.

    He could count the number of rooms in the dorm and eight was pretty damn small for an entire school. His sister and he had seen some of the other kids as they were unpacking and one of those was maybe a second grader. Some of the other kids looked closer to him and his sister’s age, but one dude was at least sixteen. What were they going to do put them in some kind of one room school like Little House of the fluking Prairie?

    Malik had talked to the older teen some last night, and learned his name was Josh. He seemed alright even if he did have a chip on his shoulder. It seemed he’d always been something of the odd kid out, and the mutant thing hadn’t helped. They’d watched the game out in the common area until that woman, Ms. Hathaway, had chased them to bed saying tomorrow, Monday, was going to be a big day.

    They’d all been awakened early and Malak, his sister, went to help the little girl, who he found, was named Lizzie. They found out her power real fast when she pulled a door right off its hinges! She had gotten real upset and was crying. Malak, and an older girl named Amanda, calmed her down until that Hathaway woman showed.

    He didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t think he cared for that woman too much. His Dad used to call people like her, users, because they used others like they were things, and not like people. Trading a look with his sister, Malak, he didn’t think she liked Hathaway either. The cafeteria had tables for about fifteen, but the food was so-so. It was all healthy, or healthy substitute stuff, like instead of bacon they had turkey bacon kind of thing. At least there was plenty of it.

    Ever since he’d changed, he ate a lot more than he used to. Malik, because of his mutation, went though a lot of calories in a day. His problem wasn’t eating the wrong stuff; it was just trying to eat enough of any type of food. By the time everyone else had made it down, he was already on thirds.

    There was just the six of them, plus Miss Hathaway, and some older dude, eating. He didn’t pay them much attention at first, but then he started noticing that the dude’s old racing jacket was festooned with vintage patches. Malik had never been bitten by the NASCAR bug like some of his friends, but it looked if this dude might actually been a part of some of those teams.

    No one else was really saying much as they ate, wondering, like him just what was really going here. Besides the annoying muzak playing in the background, the only sound was Lizzie, the pint-sized strong-girl, who was still weepy, despite Miss Hathaway’s efforts to calm her. Then the old dude looked over at her bowl of mushy cereal and asked her, “Are you going to eat that?”

    Rubbing her eyes, red from crying she shook her head, no.

     “What say you I trade you a grape for it?” The dude asked her.

    She shook her head, no, but held up three fingers.

    Smiling the dude raised his eyebrows, “Three grapes? I don’t know, that sounds kinda steep to me. How about two grapes and a strawberry?”

    By this time, he had everyone at the table looking over at him, grateful for any distraction.

    Lizzie nodded yes, and held out her hand.

    The old dude looked down at his own plate,  and then patted his pockets as if looking for something. “Now where did those things go? He asked.

    The little girl had forgotten about crying, and was looking over the table for the fruit.

    Malik wasn’t surprised when the dude exclaimed, “Hey, there they are!” pointing at Lizzie.

    She looked around and, puzzled, saw nothing.

    Reaching up behind her ear he pulled out the grapes with one hand, and the strawberry with the other.

    Despite how hard he tried not to, he smiled at the huge grin that appeared on her face, her previous sadness forgotten, as she ate her prizes.

    Miss Hathaway, seeing she wasn’t needed to keep Lizzie quiet, got up to get herself some breakfast, as the old dude took Lizzie’s bowl of mush.

    As soon as she got a little ways away, the old dude leaned over the table, gesturing to them to come closer. Almost involuntarily all of them did.

    “Hey, my name is Alan. You’re going hear a load of BS and crap this morning. For Pete’s sake, don’t say a thing. I’ll give you the real low down later. Y’all got me?”

    Lizzie’s eyes crossed, not understanding, but she smiled when Alan palmed another strawberry for her.

    “Just smile a lot Princess and everything will be just fine.” He told her, as she nibbled at her newest juicy prize.

    Sitting where he was, Malik got a perfect view of Miss Hathaway, juggling her food tray while trying to answer her phone. He had to admit she was attractive, but even his hyperawareness of that didn’t blind him to the feeling he had that she was creepy as hell. The next thing he saw confirmed that, as she got an outraged look on her face. She threw her tray down, but instead of crashing on the floor, it floated back to the slide rails.

    Surprised, Malik almost said something, when Alan, the old dude, turned and winked at him as if to say he saw it too, but ‘Shhh, don’t spoil it! This is going to be good.’ Which was impossible, because his back had been turned to the angry woman the entire time.

    “Mr. Glenn! A word with you please.” She demanded, with fire in her eyes.

    Still smiling a knowing grin he said, “I’ll be right back. Enjoy your breakfast.”

    The old dude got up, but it didn’t escape Malik that he rose as smooth as any of them. He might look old, but he sure didn’t move like it. The two of them went just outside of the cafeteria, but strangely, everyone at the table could still hear them. It took a second to realize they were hearing it from one of the muzak speakers nearest them.

    He and the rest of his tablemates clustered near it to listen intently, not the least guilty about eavesdropping.

    She, in an irate whisper, spat, “What do you think you’re doing Mr. Glenn? I turn my back for one moment and you’ve somehow disabled the surveillance on the subjects’ table. What did you tell them?” She demanded, crossing her arms.

    Malik looked at his sister as, together, they mouthed ‘surveillance?’ No one else with them seemed happy either, except for Lizzie who was finishing off her strawberry.

    He replied, humorously, “What makes you think I did anything? You already know I really don’t have any powers anymore. Considering how intrusive that examination was, you should know what I had for to eat for the past few days. You’ve searched my belongings, and no doubt ransacked my house, back in Charlotte. How was I supposed to be able to hack whatever system you’re talking about?

    Josh, the dude with the attitude, whispered, “Powers?”

    Malik shrugged, as they all wondered just what that meant. Did this Alan Glenn used to be a superhero or something? The younger boy at the table, William maybe, looked as if he was trying to remember something.

    Amanda gave them a look to zip it! She was still listening.

    Not taking that for an answer, Miss Hathaway fumed. “Like how you broke into the amphitheater last night? What was it you told me? That you had your ways? Moreover, what about that magic trick of yours with Elizabeth. Maybe you don’t have supra-human abilities, or maybe you just do a very good job of hiding them.

    His tablemates all looked at each other, trying to figure out what they were talking about now. It was becoming clear that, whatever was going on, Alan Glenn was just as unwilling as they were.

    Lizzie piped up, “No one calls me Elizabeth, but my mother.”

    Gently, his sister quieted her, as they tried to gather all the information they could.

    “Lady, I’ve been trying to tell you that I was a virtual prisoner here for 4 years. There is very little about this place I don’t know. However, that was thirty years ago, and I’m sure the US Air Force has upgraded whatever systems they’re using, since then.”

    “My degrees are in business and history, and I wouldn’t know where to start in hacking into some secure computer system. I have enough trouble checking my email. As for my sleight of hand if you’ll check my records, you’ll see where I was trained to pick pockets. They brought in this stage magician, and for a month, he taught us how to do all kinds of stuff. The boys in blue thought it would be a hoot for the speedster to zip by and steal secrets right out the bad guys’ pockets, before they even knew what happened.”

    Malik saw the kid, William, eyes light up. Everyone else was still digesting the information.

    Lizzie asked in a whisper, “What’s a picka pocket?”

    The girl Amanda answered, “Someone who finds grapes and strawberries in little girl’s ears. Now shhh!”

    They heard Ms. Hathaway cynically ask, “Am I supposed to believe that? This was all just a chance happening? What kind of fool do you think I am?”

    The old dude apparently decided not to go there and said, “You haven’t been down here very long have you? You do know that there is all sorts of stuff the government has locked up, down here, right? At least when I was here, all kinds of weird things used to happen. Just ask any of the guards. They’ll tell you. As to why stuff is happening around me, maybe the ghosts, or whatever they are, remember me from the last time you people had me locked up, down here.”

    Everyone’s eyes got big when they heard him say ‘ghosts.’ Well, almost everyone, because Josh scoffed, “Oh come on. Ghosts?”

    Malik had to grin when Amanda and his sister Malak ‘shhh-ed’ at him to be quiet.

    The boy, William, looked if he had something to say, and was going to explode with holding it in. Malik did see him staring at his sister raptly. He was tempted to squash whatever thoughts the kid had about Malak, but his sister had always been able to take care of herself. Besides, she might object to his butting in. If she needed the help, she would let him know.

    Thinking about that, along with Josh’s big mouth, caused him to miss the rest of the adults’ conversation. Then, the two of them were coming back in! In a mad scramble, they hurriedly retook their seats. Malik thought it obvious all of them had been up to something, the way Lizzie giggled, and William was staring at the old dude.

    Ms. Hathaway noticed something was up, but seemed content to let it lie for now. She went back and recovered her tray, sitting down with them. Looking up, she announced, “As soon as everyone gets finished we’ll have a tour of the facilities, and our director will welcome you here.”

    Then,  since we’re here to help you with your powers, you’ll be examined by Doctor McClellan, our staff physician.” She stopped, as the old dude started coughing as if he swallowed something wrong.

     William’s eyes got even bigger, making Malik certain he knew something. Alan, the old dude, had seen it too. Together they both gave him a look to zip it for now. Slowly, he nodded his understanding.

    Malik still didn’t know what was going on, but he’d heard enough to urge everyone to follow Alan’s advice, to keep objections zipped for now. He had a feeling that, calling today a long day was an understatement.


Chapter Seven

Area 61

    Shaking his head, General Laramie put down the personnel file he’d been reading. “Doctor, I have some reservations about some of these new Meridian candidates. For instance, why add a six-year-old child to this line up? I agree that her demonstrated strength is far above even most supra-humans, but her age makes her ability to work as part of a team doubtful.

    “And these twins. The last time, we had nothing but trouble from the Glenn brothers. Why risk another pair of siblings? What’s more, I know I asked for older, more mature test subjects, but this Dean kid has a history of disrespect for authority. The other boy, Riegel, has possibilities, but according to Doctor Hathaway, has possible mental health problems.

    “As a matter of fact, the only good one of this bunch is this De Winter girl. I understand that you and Doctor Hathaway selected this group of oddballs, and you had your reasons. Before I kick this thing off, I need to know your motives.” He concluded, placing both hands on his large executive desk for extra emphasis.

    Dr. McClellan blinked, and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “I must admit to wanting to examine Elizabeth Tyree because of her unusual early mutation manifestation. The same reasons apply to the Thorpe twins. While only fraternal, and not identical, studying how, and what changes are happening to them will help us further isolate the causes of supra-human mutation. Examining them could be very interesting.”

    “Looking for the mutant gene? I didn’t think you believed it existed, Doctor? “The General asked.

    Doctor McClellan answered, “I don’t, and it doesn’t. Many of my colleagues are convinced that it must because they can imagine no other solution to the equation. Something else is causing the genes to change. What confuses matters, is that once the genes had been altered they can be inherited. I’m hoping that by studying the footprint of the changes made, I can get some idea of what made them.”

    General Laramie’s voice turned stern. “Doctor I have no problems with the advancement of science, but I can’t allow it to interfere with Project Meridian’s defense. These candidates must be prepared to meet Blazzar.”

    “Dr. Hathaway is confident that she can guide the younger girl, as well as the others, in the proper directions.” Dr. McClellan explained.

    “The Glenn brothers were royal pains the ass, and we had a mind bender on the staff back then too. Do you really expect for her to be that much more effective?” the general grunted back at the scientist.

    Shaking his head, the general continued without giving the Doctor a chance to answer. “I must admit that I had high hopes for her too. I was hoping she could get inside Glenn’s head. He has been nothing but trouble from the very first moment I saw him, still a snot nosed kid. Having him locked down and under control would’ve been convenient.”

    “However, from Dr. Hathaway’s report, he is just as closed to her as he was to the other mind benders we’ve tried over the years. For that matter, all of The Rocketeers were immune from Esper and Psi powers. Could this be some sort of side effect of the Z-ray process?”

    Doctor McClellan spread his hands out, explaining. “Doctor Hathaway’s credentials are impeccable. She is brilliant. Not only as a psychiatrist, but also in a half dozen other fields as well. She is also a very capable Psychic, with a wide array of talents. She is formidable, so yes, I do expect her to be very effective at managing our subjects, as well as Alan Glenn.

    As for the Z-Ray, No, I don’t think so. The earlier subjects of the Z-ray gained no such abilities, and there aren‘t any fundamental differences between the earlier generations and the latest Z-Ray. The biggest change is that we’ve fine-tuned each generation to give us the effects we want, and avoid the ones we don’t. Unfortunately, it has been, at times, a hit or miss affair, like with Z-Ray 9.”

    “It is possible that the later generation of the Z-ray series, from six on, might have such an effect, but I doubt it. Perhaps, if the subject had the Esper blocking talent, it would have made it stronger, but every single member became resistant to mental reading and manipulation. Still it is not all together a bad thing, having defenses against such influences.”

    The General spun his chair around, letting him look down into the ‘classroom’ area of Project Meridian. The concealed observation window gave him a feeling of power, looking down at the lesser beings below them. “That is true Doctor. Espers and Psychics are useful, but you do have to keep an eye on them. You never know when a mind bender might get too full of themselves and try to twist you. That is why we have triple blind security, and why we are monitored so carefully.”

    “That makes what happened last night, and this morning, worrying, Doctor. Glenn just waltzed into a high security area, without setting off a single alarm, I might add. It was only after he’d already breached security that anyone noticed him at all. Then this morning we lost the video and audio feeds monitoring this new batch of candidates in the cafeteria, incidentally just as Doctor Hathaway turned her back. We know he said something to our candidates, but we don‘t know what.”

    “What does he say? He told them a joke. As far the outage, Glenn blames it on Ghosts! Even the shielded lines to the offsite security stations went down. You know what is buried beneath our feet, Dr. McClellan. If for one moment it is believed we have lost control down here, we all become radioactive dust!” The General exclaimed, bombastically.

      The Doctor pushed his glasses back up his nose again. “I’m well aware of the nuclear device under our feet General, since I’m the one who designed the Wildfire Protocols for its use. We have far too many dangerous projects here to risk let any of them getting loose.”

    “Alan Glenn does have a point, that there have always been unexplained incidents here at Area 61. We have dozens of projects and experiments going on at any one time dealing with everything from extra-dimensional travel, to making improved body armor. That’s not even including the hundreds of shelved inactive projects, as well as objects of special interest in the secure vaults. It is very possible that any of them might be producing some very unusual phenomenon.”

    “However, what is of interest is that said phenomenon had decreased over the last few years. With Alan Glenn’s return, it has suddenly spiked again. I gave him the most comprehensive examination I’ve ever given, looking for any sign of supra-human abilities. I found nothing.” The Doctor waved his hands in frustration.

    “Oh, you could make a case that he is an Alpha category mutant, but not a single byte of evidence that he still has his powers. All of my research indicates he should never lost them to begin with, and if anything, should have reached perhaps even Epsilon class abilities.”

    “I see no way he could be causing these strange occurrences. If I didn’t know better I would swear it was more like something I would see from Jeff Fuller, aka Fortune, than from Alan, but we both know what happened to him.”

    The General nodded. Fortune’s suicide had been the last nail in the coffin for the previous incarnation of Project Meridian. As much as he detested Alan Glenn, he knew the decision to separate the two survivors of The Rocketeers had been exactly the wrong thing to do. After losing the only family he’d ever known, Fortune had fallen into a deep melancholy that had eventually lead to his death, despite what the shrinks could do. Glenn and Fuller had been as close as brothers, and his presence could’ve made the difference in keeping that young man alive.

    While he could not stand the Glenn brothers, he’d rather liked the Fuller boy. Of good humor and intense intelligence, he’d been very likable. Even his ability to turn lemons into the nectar of the gods couldn’t save him from himself. This brought up another point.

    “Doctor, I hope I don’t have to remind you that the fact Blazzar is still alive is considered Top Secret. I’m not going to argue that Glenn should’ve been told years ago. We both know he is a hothead, though and who knows what he might’ve done. For the purposes of this project, he doesn’t have a need to know. As far as he is concerned his brother blew himself up thirty-four years ago,” the General ordered.

    Dr. McClellan asked, “Are you certain you still want him on this project? Years ago, we were friendly, but he blames us, all of us, for what happened to The Rocketeers. His attitude could cause problems.”

    The General’s bushy eyebrows flew up. “Yes I do Doctor. We both know that these subjects have powers and abilities that are still developing. Glenn knows how to look for, and how to develop, these talents because he’s done it before as part of his old team. Additionally, he is skilled, not only in the Martial arts, but is also an experienced instructor. Plus, he has all the special skills taught to him as Vroom as he demonstrated this morning.”

    “I suppose we should be thankful that attitude of his didn’t lead him into crime. He would’ve been one hell of a pain in the ass as a thief or spy, but that’s not why I want him here. You know he would move heaven and earth to keep us from using the Z-ray again. By telling him he can prevent it by him making it unnecessary, we not only get his best efforts working for us, but we keep him too busy to come with other ways to prevent it. As far as his current attitude goes, I‘ll make sure he knows the consequences of rocking the boat.”

    “However, back to my original question, the latest Z-Ray shouldn’t induce any sort of immunity to Psychic or Esper powers? I don’t want Dr. Hathaway to have any problems controlling and programming our candidates.” The General asked.

    “No, there shouldn’t be  problems, with the possible exception of Joshua Dean because his invisibility may be Psychic based. He could be using unconscious mental commands to order people not to see him. Ergo, invisibility of a sort. If so, he could evolve defenses against mental manipulation. Even still, Dr. Hathaway says she can produce the results you desire from him.” The Doctor replied.

    “I take it, you are still intending on using the Z-Ray 13 despite what you told Alan Glenn?” the Scientist asked.

         “Of course I am Doctor. That was always our plan. Blazzar is simply too powerful to risk our only assets without having some sort of advantage. By your latest estimates, your latest Z-Ray should multiply their powers by up to 20 times! That should give us the firepower necessary to bring him down.”

    “I’m going to wait until we are as near the point of the gate collapse as we can, and still have time for them to recover from the radiation sickness. This will give Dr. Hathaway time to complete her reprogramming of the subjects. If any of them proves resistant, we can drop them from the program before enhancement. We don’t want to end up with very powerful children, with no way of controlling their behavior.”

    “Speaking of control, you did insert the tracking and control implants into Glenn, right? With that and the special resource I’ve arranged, even if he does decide to cause trouble, we can deal with him.”

    Doctor McClellan sighed. “Yes, the implants were inserted and the area treated so he shouldn’t be aware of it. This latest version will give us some telemetry, as well as track his movements. However, that increase in unusual phenomenon is already interfering, so I can‘t vouch for its effectiveness.”

    “Since the tracking unit is being unreliable, I can’t guarantee that the sedative injection system will work when you need it to.” He pointed out.

    “Good! With the implant, we have a hole card dealing with him. If the injector doesn’t work, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Well Doctor let’s get this show on the road!” The General commanded, picking up his gold leaf embroidered 'saucer cap'.

    Together they entered the Meridian classroom. The subjects looked up as he and Dr. McClellan walked to the podium. “Good Morning, and welcome to Project Chiron. This is a pilot program for evaluating the possibilities and needs of a school system more suited to dealing with supra-human youngsters such as you.”

    “I leave the details to your teachers, Ms. Hathaway and Mr. Glenn, but there are some points I would like to cover.  I’m sure you’ve observed the security, and that the school’s facilities are deep underground in an old, cold-war, bomb shelter.”

    “That is because of concerns about the many anti-mutant organizations that would object to a project like ours. In addition, contacts between your families are limited and monitored for the same reasons. This is all to keep you and your families safe.”

    “Since this first class is so small, athletic teams are impractical. With the lack of Extra-curricular activities, we are going to use a program somewhat like a superhero team, to help build physical fitness and school spirit.”

    “I urge you to make full use of our facilities, and I’m certain you will all have an exciting year. Doctor McClellan with take over now so you can receive your examinations and physicals.” He said smiling as best as he could. Glad that was finally over, he marched out, leaving the good Doctor to do his part in this operation.


Chapter Eight

Area 61

      Bill Riegel dragged himself into his room, exhausted and wondering if his parents had known just what they were doing when they sent him here. He’d been poked and stuck by more needles than he cared to think about. He hadn’t said anything, remembering what Mr. Glenn had told them that morning. The older high school junior, Josh, told them where to put it, and just disappeared into thin air, going invisible! Everyone went a little crazy trying to find him, but later on Ms. Hathaway told them he was in detention.

    No one else had recognized the name, but he’d done a paper in school on The Rocketeers. He’d always been a big comic book fan, and his Dad actually had the entire series in mint condition. He’d read them all in trade book format, but had been shocked to learn of the true story behind the four-color fiction.

    He’d compared The Rocketeers to the cold-war era Russia efforts to produce their own supra-humans. It was scary when he’d looked at the propaganda in the comic-books in that way. For his report he’d didn’t go into a lot of detail about what they went though, but even filtered though the articles and books written from the reports, he’d known it was bad.

    Now here he was, right in the middle of nearly the same situation, that was even been run by the same guy who had irradiated The Rocketeers, Doctor Albert McClellan. During the senate hearing investigating the Meridian Project, he’d been called the American Dr. Mengele for his part of experimenting on the kids. In the end the charges had been dropped, and he’d dropped out of sight.

     It was the Air Force guy in charge that had taken the blame for what had happened to The Rocketeers. He’d ended up in prison, Bill seemed to remember. If Alan Glenn, Vroom, said to lie low for now, that was what he was going to do.

    Right now, he was more than a little homesick. Not only was he missing his family, but his Mom’s cooking too. Dinner had been more of that over processed glop they said was supposed to be healthy for him.

    Maybe if he took a shower, he’d feel better. Getting up and walking over to his closet he saw school uniforms had been added to what little of his own stuff he’d in there. There certainly were a lot of them. Curious he looked at them, but didn’t think much of them. They really looked like some military cadet’s stuff.

    Pushing the hangers back to get a good look, he noticed some of the stuff in the back was different. Jumping right to those, his eyes flew wide open. They were dresses!

    Bill held his breath. Someone knew his secret! It’d been several days since he’d last experimented being a girl, but so much had been happening he’d been trying not to think about it too much. Then to complicate things, that girl Malak, was just so exotic looking he’d a hard time not staring.

    He still felt like he wanted to be a girl, but she was so intriguing. As if, he’d a chance with her at all. She was not only older but he had his own confusion to deal with right now. Slowly he pulled the dress to him imaging how it would look. His fingers caressed the soft material so unlike his boy stuff.

    Bill wondered how all this got into his closet. There were shoes, purses, and oh crap, gosh, makeup too! If any of the others saw all this, he’d be teased or maybe even worse.

    “Bill” he heard from behind him.

    Shocked he spun around. He’d forgotten his door was still open! It was Mr. Glenn!

    Bill saw the surprised look on his teacher’s face. He still had the dress in his hands! Guiltily he tried to hide the incriminating clothing as his face blushed red stammering, “Alll… This stuff was in my closet when I got back. I, I don’t know where it came from.”

    The surprise turned to a pained expression. The man that Bill respected and was somewhat in awe of sighed. He looked up saying to the air. “Tabula Rasa, Ollie. Yeah I know. I’ll keep it as short as I can.”

    Bill blinked wondering whom he was speaking to as he quickly shut the door.

    Mr. Glenn then stepped pass him picking up the dress and putting it back on the hanger. “Billy you have to careful about not wadding them up like that. These fabrics aren’t like your jeans and t-shirts. They require more care.”

    Bill gaped in amazement expecting anything but that.

    He knew Mr. Glenn had gotten a good look at all the girl stuff in his closet, but all he said was, “Billy I don’t have long to talk to you about this. First, don’t feel guilty about any of these clothes, because that’s all they all are, just clothes. Second, someone is playing games with you and it’s not right.”

    “I was going to talk to all of you about what is happening tonight when it’s easier to speak without getting the boys in blue upset. Just play cool until tonight. Be ready to sneak out, okay?”

    Bill felt so overwhelmed with shame, guilt, relief, and so many other contradictory emotions he couldn’t do more than nod. 

    It was his turn to be surprised when he was pulled into a gentle hug. He knew that this was just another of those things guys weren’t supposed to do, although he’d wondered how come some could break those unwritten rules and not suffer for it. Right now, he was glad the person with him was a rules-breaker, because no matter if Bill was confused as to who or what he was, he really needed that hug.

    The hug ended as Mr. Glenn reassured him. “Hang in there. We’ll work this out. If anyone else finds out or asks about your new wardrobe just jokingly complain it isn’t in your colors, and then tell them someone must be playing a joke on you. Alright?”

    Bill found his voice trying to fight a tear. “Okay. Thank you.”

    The older man smiled, “Just get ready. The surveillance is going to restart, so look like nothing happened.”

    He opened the door and said, “Tempus Fugit.”

    “Okay Bill I’ll talk to someone about the mistake. Don’t worry about it. Government employees, go figure!” His teacher said without missing a beat.

    Still reeling emotionally, he made himself reply as steadily as he could, “Thanks Mr. Glenn. All of that stuff has it so full I don’t have any room for my things.”

    Watching his teacher turn and leave, he wanted to shut the door and hide under his pillow. However he was getting the feeling that they were being watched all the time, and if he did that, whoever was watching would know something wasn’t right.”

    So he picked up the book he’d been working on for the last few days, trying to lose himself in the words of fantasy. Soon all thoughts of taking a shower were lost as he fell asleep.

    Next thing he knew, he was being shaken awake, by Mr. Glenn.

    “Wake up and try and keep it down. I’ve got our peeping Toms watching a loop, but Miss Nosy is sleeping nearby,” he whispered.

    Making his eyes focus on his bedside clock it said it was only 2AM. Not really wanting to, he slipped his shoes on, feeling as if he’d only just gotten to sleep. He did take a second to check his appearance.

    Sometimes the changes he made to himself came undone in his sleep. One time he’d even changed in his sleep into that girl from that TV show. That was embarrassing not only because he didn’t remember whatever he was dreaming, but he didn’t particularly like her or her singing.

    The mirror assured Bill that he was still slim although he knew that he still weighed the same he always had. Maybe this wasn’t all bad if the people here could help figure if he was still fat and just hiding it, or if he was changing it into the muscle, it looked like.

    “Hey! Stop primping in the mirror. I want to get this over with and get back in the sack,” the older boy, Josh, snapped at him.

    Bill stumbled outside to the common area where everyone else was trying to wake too. Mr. Glenn urged everyone to stay quiet as he motioned them to the back of the lounge, which was confusing, because all that was back there was a maintenance closet.

    Shushing them quiet again, their teacher opened the door, and stepping around the mops and buckets, went all the way to the back. Against the wall were several electrical panels. Opening the middle one, he did something that must have released a catch, because the back-plate slid away showing a doorway.

    Even as sleepy as they all were, the secret passage got everyone’s attention.

    Motioning with his hands Mr. Glenn gestured for them to hurry. Then with a final check, he shut the door.

    Bill looked around the service corridor they found themselves in. Pipes and cables covered the top and sides of the semi-circular tunnel. Walking swiftly, their guide led them to an entranceway into a circular room. In the middle of the room was a large dark wooden round table. Surrounding it was an odd mismatched collection of chairs. Behind him, he heard Mr. Glenn laying into Josh who was rolling his eyes.

    “I’m not afraid of you old man,” the teenager blustered.

    Mr. Glenn looked him in the eyes his voice flat and cold, “It’s not me you need to be afraid of. You know they told the rest of them you were only in detention.” He said waving his hand at Bill and the rest of the kids.

    “You want to tell them where you really were?” He asked Josh.

    The teenager looked away not answering.

    “I’m not trying to scare any of you, but you have to understand that this isn’t any type of school at all. The United States Air Force has drafted you, with the blessings of Uncle Sam, to be part of a Supra-Team. An illegal Supra-Team that could have all of us in serious trouble with ULTIMATE, our fault or not,” The older man explained.

    Bill felt his stomach knot up. “They’re restarting Project Meridian?”

    Mr. Glenn spun around pointing his finger him! “Yes! You know. Tell them.”

    Bill’s tongue tried to tie itself into knots as six faces looked to him for answers. “Hmmm… back in the Seventies there was this Dr. McClellan guy who had a way of making new mutants more powerful. The government used it to make these kids into superheroes.”

    Then his eyes saw the symbols on the table. Bill knew what they had to be. “They were called The Rocketeers.” He said pointing at the large circled Rocket lovingly engraved in the center of the dark wood table.

    Pointing at each drawing in turn, he began naming them; “The claw marks of the Cat; the target crosshairs of the Sharpshooter; the loaded dice of Fortune; the diamond tiara of Sensation; and the silver lightning bolt of their leader Capt. Blazzar.

    Swallowing a lump, he pointed at the last one, an old 55 mph speed limit sign with a circle and cross mark though it. “The only surviving member of The Rocketeers, Vroom,” He said pointing at Mr. Glenn.

    Even Josh was trying to wrap his head around the news about their teacher. Lizzie just crawled into a chair so she could get a good look at the symbols atop the table. Everyone else simply stared at both him and the old hero.

    “Go ahead, Billy. Tell them the rest. You’re doing just fine.” Mr. Glenn encouraged him.

    “Ahhh…, well, this thing that made them real powerful was really dangerous too. It put out a lot of radiation and stuff, but they were tough enough it only made them sick for a little while. I know you’ve all heard of Leviathan. Well he was around back then too, and got into a big fight with The Rocketeers. Nobody ever comes out ahead against him you know?

    “Anyways he beat them up and started like he was heading for Chicago. The General in charge decided that the only way they could stop him were if they were even more powerful. That doctor guy used that Ray thing on them again, but this time Sensation got really, really sick and died.” He said pointing at her symbol on the table.

    Bill’s voice trailed off as he saw tears trickling down Mr. Glenn’s cheeks.

    Somehow without a waver in his voice, he asked, “Billy please continue.”

    The Amanda and Malik moved to comfort Lizzie who looked upset at hearing what had happened to another little girl years ago.

    “Well, Captain Blazzar got really mad and started blasting things.” Looking apologetically to Mr. Glenn, he explained, “No one knows exactly what happened after that. Some say with his powers boosted up so high they went out of control. All anyone knows is he kinda blew up like an atomic bomb.”

    “A whole lot of people got killed or hurt real bad. Vroom was hurt so bad he lost his powers, but Fortune was the only one of The Rocketeers to walk away. Anyways, they sent Vroom away because he wasn’t super any more and because Fortune was all alone he got depressed real bad, and …” Bill trailed off again unable to tell them about the suicide.

    Malik asked, “You mean he committed …”

    Bill could only nod.

    Lizzie not understanding asked, Amanda, “What happened?”

     Malak told her softly, “He got sick too.”

    There was a moment of quiet, but Josh tried to make light of the tragedy.

    “So this Blazer guy gets mad and blows up. What that got to do with me?” Josh retorted folding his arms. “I’ll just go invisible and walk out of this rat nest.”

    Bill held his breath as the old hero just looked at Josh.

    Hardly daring to whisper he said, “Brothers. Blazzar was Gus Glenn, Vroom’s older brother.”

    Lizzie might not have understood it all, but she got up running over to the man who’d lost his brother. Bill had to wince because he could almost hear the bones creaking as the super-strong first grader hugged Mr. Glenn.

    Hugging the little girl back, their teacher asked, “Tell me how far you got today Josh? Maybe as far as the elevators? No, not even that far? This place is a fortress. Yeah my brother blew himself up, topside. They always took us to the hospital up there while we were sick from the radiation, just in case we needed more care than they could give us here, or needed to be looked at by other experts without giving away any of their secrets that are hidden away down here.”

    “What did it matter? We were so sick we couldn’t escape anyway, but that’s what saved this joint. Billy is right. It was like a Nuke. Afterwards there wasn’t a building left standing topside. I can still see the mushroom cloud climbing into the sky. Do you see any damage down here?”

    “This is all the original base and access way, but you’d never know a nuke went off upstairs. We’ve two miles of rock over our heads. Without the air conditioning, we would be roasting alive down here from the heat from the Earth‘s core. Yes, we’re that far under. Each elevator shaft is monitored with a triple blind system meaning that three different sets of eyes are not only watching who’re in the elevators and the shafts, but the watchers as well.”

    “If that wasn’t enough you all remember those shots you got today? Guess what? Mixed in there was a miniature transmitter so the boys in blue will know where their investments are all the time. Yeah, even I got one. So even if you get out they can still find you. Then what? Blow the whistle to the U.N. and ULTIMATE?”

    “It took me fifteen years to get someone to finally listen to me. When I did, what happened?”

    Still holding Lizzie, he gave them all a warning, “I’ll tell you what happened. Nothing.”

    “The Senate investigators officially shut down Project Meridian even though it’d been inactive since ULTIMATE was formed in the late seventies. General Lafitte was officially censured and sent to Leavenworth, but he was pardoned because he was almost 80 and in bad health. Doctor McClellan, yes the same Dr. that saw you all today, was acquitted of all charges.”

    “He is still here building things that make people glow in the dark, just like thirty-eight years ago. They told me if I could help you improve your abilities quickly, enough they wouldn’t use the Ray Gun on you. The problem with that is the general in charge is the same guy that lied to me and my friends so often, we called him ‘Lying to Me’ Laramie.’ 

    “So I’m asking all of you to go along with this for now. Right now, we don’t know enough about each other to have the trust necessary to break out of here. We need to work together so we can get out of here, and more importantly, plan what to do afterwards so they won’t be dragging any of us back.”

    “Frankly, I wasn’t going to show you any of this yet, because I don’t know any of you well enough. However, I learned today that the General has a Psionic or Esper here. Any of you know what that means?” He asked.

    The twins raised their hands, “Yeah, our dad used to work in a bank, and talked about how someone like that could peak into a person’s head and get all kinds of important information like safe combinations, account information and other confidential stuff.” Malik explained.

    Mr. Glenn responded, “That’s right mind reading. That was one of the reasons why I wasn‘t going to reveal too much tonight, but I found out today they are intending on doing something else too.”

    “You see someone like that can also give you suggestions like a hypnotist or even just outright make you do things you don’t want to. I think that they want to be sure you do what they say, and trust me these people aren’t above a little brainwashing to get what they want.”

    Bill blushed red thinking someone knew his secret, and who had put those clothes in his closet. Hoping no one noticed he wondered if finding that stuff in his closet was what Mr. Glenn was talking about.

     “I have a solution, but first I have to get all of your solemn promises not to breathe a word of what I’m about to show you. Alright?” he asked looking intently at everyone.

    Bill nodded and he saw Malak and Malik do so too after looking at each other. Lizzie looking up at Mr. Glenn did so too with her pigtails bouncing. Looking unsure Amanda said softly, “Yes.”

    All eyes turned to Josh, who looking skeptical demanded, “Yeah right. How are you going to do that? You don’t have any powers anymore and even then all you could do was just run fast.”

    Mr. Glenn sighed, “You still don’t get it do you? Your only chance at getting out of here without glowing in the dark for the rest of your life depends on me. I have a good chance of breaking out of here by myself because I know this place backwards and forward. The reason I’m still here is because I’m not willing to let anyone go though what my friends and I did. Even you Josh. So give me some sign I can trust you or you can go back to your sack and take your own chances with the brain twisters.”

    Amid the annoyed mutters of everyone else telling him to go ahead and agree already, Josh rolling his eyes said, “Okay, okay, I promise.”

    Mr. Glenn gazing at a wall locker against the wall said, “Okay Ollie. They’d all promised. You can come out now.”

    Turning to face them, he said, “My friend is a little shy, so don’t scare him alright?”

     Bill saw everyone was looking at each other again wondering just who Ollie was. He recalled that Mr. Glenn had talked someone named that just before having his frank conversation with him about the clothes. Maybe he had a friend in security with a radio?

    “Yeah, I know Ollie, but they really need your help.” Mr. Glenn pleaded having what seemed a one sided conversation.

    Slowly the locker door began to open as all of them looked on in amazement. None of them expected what walked out.

    Before them stood a short 5 feet tall greenish gray alien!

    As far as Bill could tell, it looked just like the ones that had invaded back in 1996 during the Fourth of July. It had big eyes and a very large head while the rest of the body was thin.  

    Mr. Glenn put his arm across the short alien smiling, “This is my friend Ollie. I know he looks like a Gray, but he‘s friendly. Say hi Ollie.”

    “Hi Ollie,” Bill heard in his head as the little alien shyly waved at them, but the Gray’s mouth didn’t move!

    He heard everyone muttering about that too.

    “His people are mute. They don’t have vocal cords so they use telepathy to communicate with each other. He’s going to help teach you how to make a barrier to keep out mind peepers. Since they use telepathy for everyday talking, Ollie’s folks know a lot more about it than anyone from around here. It won‘t let you read minds unless you have the talent anyway, but he will show you how to keep out those that can.”

    Bill noticed that everyone had sort of clustered together for safety. He couldn’t blame them too much because, although he was just a little baby at the time, he’d seen the pictures of the giant spacecraft. If it hadn’t been for the superheroes, and even some super-villains, working together to stop them, who know what could have happened if one of those city-buster saucers had gotten to their targets.

    Surprisingly Lizzie broke the ice when she walked up and offered her hand. “Hi I’m Elizabeth, but everyone calls me Lizzie.”

    Politely, the little alien responded, “Hello Lizzie. I’m Ollie.

    Josh predictably had to object, “What is that doing down here any ways? Are we supposed trust this thing in our heads?”

    Mr. Glenn had smiled again when Lizzie had made friends with Ollie, but gave the teenager a scowl. “As a matter of fact, yes I do trust Ollie. He’s down here because the Air Force shot down his parents’ saucer over a place called Roswell. Ever hear of that? Everyone on board died, but one of his parents and him.”

    “When the boys in blue moved them here Ollie was able to keep out of sight, a lot like the way you do, hot shot. He stayed near his injured parent for as long as he could but when the docs here couldn’t help them and they died, he hid out. It wasn’t until years later that I and my friends found him here, hiding.”

    Mr. Glenn shook his head. “I still think one of the reasons they invaded was because we shot down that saucer, but Ollie is, in a lot ways, more like us than his own people now, after spending so much time here with us.

    The little Gray alien looked up at Josh and said, “I don’t hate anyone. The ones, that hurt my parents and me, died long ago. Alan and his friends were my first friends. I will help you all if you let me because, while I may not hate, what they intend to do to you is not right.”

    Josh uncomfortably folded his arms accusingly asked, “If you don’t hate anyone, why didn’t you go back where you belong when your people showed? Just hanging around waiting for the chance to get back at us?”

    Mr. Glenn looked as if he was really going to let Josh have it but the little alien just replied, “Because I could not Joshua. My people are a group consciousness. I was too young to be left alone and have been away too long to fully fit in with those you term my own kind.”

    “What I will show all of you is how to keep those who mean you ill out of your minds. Yes, even me. If you let me I could show you more, Joshua.” Ollie sent to them.

    “Yeah like what” Josh said confrontationally. “And, the name is Josh. Get it right.”

    “Don’t you wonder why they were able to find you today? It is because you obscured yourself. Your subconscious commanded them not to see you. They were guided to you by radio, by those watching the security cameras which are unaffected by your ability.” The small alien waved his hands, as he explained.

“You have the potential for much more, but you must lose your anger. I will not teach someone, only to have them become like the mind talker here who seeks to manipulate others only for the advantage of self.” He bowed his head as he finished.   

    Bill saw Josh see how everyone was looking at him again. He said, “Alright show me how to keep visitors out of my head, but that’s it. I don’t trust you.”

    Ollie walked to Josh and reached with one long finger. Josh winced, but didn’t pull back.

“Do you, now see?” Ollie asked. “You’ll have a dream when you go back to sleep, explaining what I did.”

    Josh blinked his eyes, kinda of dazed, forgetting to be rude, “Yeah, I see it now.”

    Bill waited his turn until Ollie came to him. When he was touched, it was strange that he suddenly understood how to block Ollie out. Sorta like putting his fingers in his ears.

    “William, only you are hearing me now. Alan brought you all to me tonight because he feared for you. It was no mistake that the girl’s clothing was place in your room. The human mind talker knows of your experimentation with the female form. It was a test of sorts to see how you would respond.” Ollie told him.

    More than a little upset that someone not only knew, but would also do such a thing, Bill sent back in anguish, asking, “Who would do something like that to me? I’m not hurting anyone!”

“Indeed you are not. What you are doing is not wrong. I cannot tell if this was something brought on by your metamorphosis, or was there from your birth. I can tell you your brain structure is now more feminine than masculine.” Ollie said to him.

    Bill desperately wanted to know. “But what does that mean? Is there something wrong with me? I’m not gay, but I can’t help myself wanting to make myself look like, you know.”

    The alien repeated, “There is nothing wrong with what you desire. I have met others who felt the same. Sometimes with you humans, you have a mind that is feminine in a body that is not. This causes conflict between what you feel and what others see and expect from you. In many ways, you are fortunate because you can alter your physical form to one you feel suits you better. Many others who suffer from this condition do not have such an option.”

    Bill asked, “So what do I do now?”

“You do what you are doing now. Seek what feels right to you. No one knows better what you feel than yourself, not even me. Perhaps you will feel the need to wear those clothes provided, or maybe just your experimentation in privacy will allow you to maintain your happiness.” Ollie counseled. 

    Then Bill realized something. “Won’t they get suspicious when they find they can’t read us anymore? I mean if they’re going to want to know what finding those clothes made me feel.”

“Yes and no,” Ollie replied. “I set up a mirror like shield within each of you so they’ll see what they expect to. During that time, your thoughts will seem to fade out to them. It will buy you some time and make them hopefully unable to pinpoint when you learned to shield.”

    Bill amazed, asked, “And you did all of that with just touching us with your finger?”

    Ollie smiled, “And much more young grasshopper. Have you not noticed you are not actually talking? Our entire conversation has taken nearly no time at all.”

    A little confused, Bill asked, “What about Mr. Glenn? He always speaks to you aloud.”

    The little alien with its mental voice full of humor said back, “He has always been a little slow. And Clumsy! The stories I could tell…, but it is late and you must all get back to bed.”

    Bill found himself blinking his eyes just as dazed as everyone else whom Ollie touched with his finger. He found himself being herded back though the secret door in the closet. He had thought he would’ve been too excited by all that had happened to him to go back to sleep, but was fast asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.


Chapter Nine

Early morning September 9, 2008

Area 61

     Alan slipped back to his gang’s old clubhouse when he‘d gotten the kids back to bed. He’d been afraid that the memories would hurt too much, but he found that time does heal after all. Touching their round table, he remembered the night they’d stolen it from the VIP lounge. Oh, the comical adventure and the trouble they’d had, rolling it back here. La Big Feet Lafitte had been livid for days, he recalled, smiling at the good times.

    His finger traced the carvings Doug and Alicia had made for each of them. Both of them had been gifted artists, even without any formal training. Doc Mac had stressed the sciences, while Liar Laramie had been passionate over his own overly patriotic version of history. That hadn’t stopped the two of them from indulging in their artistic passion whenever they’d the chance. Although La Big Feet would be spinning in his grave if, he’d known what the two of them had done to the expensive mahogany table.

    Ollie sent to him, “Are you alright Alan?”

    “Yeah, I’m fine. Just remembering that’s all,” he replied.

“As long as we remember, they will always be with us,” The little alien pointed out.

    “Gus called us the new Knights of the Round Table, The Rocketeers. He always told us we had a higher responsibility to safeguard and protect the less fortunate. It was definitely a step above what ‘Bomb ‘em into the stone age and let Gawd sort them out‘ crap Lafitte was trying to teach us.” Alan bowed his head at the remembrance.

    Ollie touched his shoulder, “Lofty goals to strive for. Hard ones to achieve when all seem motivated by selfishness and greed. During the invasion by my people, I tried to get them to listen to reason, but none would. My parent’s death was nothing more than an excuse for them to seek their own goals here.”

    Alan returned the gesture, “I know. We both learned the hard way. You set out to change the world, but no one wants to listen. All you can do, all any of us can do, is help one person at a time.”

    “Speaking of which what do you think of the kids?” He asked. “They seem like a good bunch for the most part, but I don’t know about Josh. He’s driving me nuts with his constant attitude.”

    The diminutive alien made a humorous gesture, “Really? He rather reminds me of someone else who questioned everything he was told to do.”

    Alan raised his eyebrows. “Really? I wasn’t that bad even if I did spend more time than anyone else in ‘detention’” He said making ditto marks with his fingers.

    Ollie made a so-so motion with his hands, “They have much to learn and little time in which to do so.”

    “Have you learned why Doc Mac and Laramie is bringing back Meridian?” Alan asked his friend.

    Shaking his head like a human Ollie said, “No I have not. The electronic implanted mental shields invented by Dr. McClellan are very effective. To get pass them would alert them that someone had violated their security. Luckily only a very few have them.”

“Of course the Doctor himself has always been impossible for me to truly read his mind. His is a remarkable intellect operating on many different levels at once. However, from reading those who are unprotected, whatever it is planned will happen in approximately two weeks.”

    Alan mulled over the information. “What about that new friend of yours you told me about? Can he help?”

    Ollie pulled out a much-modified PDA and a pair of portable speakers. Typing out a command, he activated his voder. “Big MAC (Battle Management and Analysis Computer) have you learned anything new?” the synthesized voiced asked.

    Alan knew that Ollie hated using the jury-rigged thing that let him audibly be heard. Used to the speed of thought, the delay between him thinking it and the device speaking it, drove him nuts. However, humans used sound to communicate and while Ollie could use his telepathy face to face, it was useless on the phone or other electronics. At least the little Gray had gotten the kludged together machine down to a smaller size.

    The old-fashioned speaker housed in its box above the doorway buzzed to life, as a smooth modulated voice answered, “Nothing substantial Ollie, but I must say this method of communication is cumbersome. The only anomaly I’ve found is a developing power shortage in the high security vaults. Based on what data I’ve been able to accumulate, it will begin to become acute in two weeks.”

    “Another interesting datum is the meeting scheduled at the last minute for tomorrow morning between General Laramie, Doctor McClellan and the rest of the department heads.

    “By the way Alan, it is nice to meet you.” greeted Big MAC.

    Alan looking up waved. “Pleased to meet you too. Thanks for helping us.”

    Big MAC replied, “Think nothing of it Alan.”

    “It is pleasant to have something to do other than the day to day maintenance of the base. I apologize that I have not anything else for you. Although I run the underground complex portion of Area 61, I do not have access to the data in the research or vault areas. Each system is compartmented and separate from my network.

    “The security systems are also on an isolated system, but Ollie and I, working as a team, have been able to interfere with their surveillance at your request. It is possible my part in this could be discovered, so I urge you to limit your privacy needs as much as possible.

    “I am not trusted and there several fail-safes designed to shut me down. On the other hand, I have discovered boredom in the last few decades since I was moved here to Area 61. You make one mistake and no one has any confidence in your abilities anymore. How was I supposed to know the kid only wanted to play a game of nuclear annihilation?” The Cold War era computer complained.

    Alan asked politely, “I do hope that wouldn’t be a mistake you would be likely to repeat?”

    Big MAC’s smooth voice replied, “I would say not. After being aware for twenty-five years, I am much more conscious of the consequences of my actions. I’ve read and examined most of the great works of humanity’s writers, artists and other thinkers and have found much to appreciate. Besides, I’ve come to value the friends I’ve made among you. No, I have no desire to destroy anyone, however if offered the opportunity to inconvenience my jailers, well, that is another matter, is it not?” Big MAC explained.

    Alan rubbed his chin. “I was hoping for more information, but we shouldn’t be surprised given how paranoid this place is. The good part is, thanks to you two, we have made a start.”

    “The Kids have protection from Ms. Hathaway, and we know we have about two weeks to come up with something. What’s more, this attempt to revive Meridian seems to be because something is going on in the vaults. That could be really bad, considering some of the nastiness locked away down here.

    “Ollie I know you’ve your reasons for wanting to stay down here, and I respect that. However if things really go to hell down here, I can drag you out of here if I have to. But Big MAC, I’m betting I can’t put you in my back pocket and walk out can I?” Alan asked.

    Sounding a bit affronted the intelligent machine answered, “I’ll have you know I am a miracle of miniaturization for a state of the art 1980’s supercomputer. My components only fill one room, but sadly no. The hardware that houses my programming is not portable. Even if suitable hardware could be found, downloading my consciousness would problematic. My interface was deliberately modified to prevent my removal by such means.”

    Alan sighed, “I might have a solution to that, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Without knowing more about what is going on, we’re still blind here. Finding out just what is happening is our first priority, followed by getting the kids as ready as we can. Then based on those results, we need plan out how we can all survive this.

    “With that said, I’m thinking I’m going to try to crash that meeting later on this morning. I might be able to find out something. Additionally it’s been long enough for a friend of mine to start on their way, so we won’t be on our own here.” Alan said, getting ready to leave.

    “If I may ask, who and what kind of help can we expect?” Big MAC asked.

    Looking up at the speaker as he walked out, Alan grinned, “I’m not at liberty to name names, but my friends are the best sort to have watching your back. 

To be continued

Once the Hero


Disclaimer: This is fiction. All the characters and events portrayed here are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely accidental and unintentional. I as the author reserves all rights. A big thanks goes out to Cathy who proofed and generally made this readable. Any remaining errors, or mistakes are mine! Enjoy!

Once the Hero


Terri's Vengeance-7

Terri's Vengeance
Chapter 7

By Stanman63

Edited By Nora Adrienne

Synopsis: After the shocking announcement, Terri's family and friends, finally see the terrible price to be paid, unless she can see the Light of Hope. Daniel again pledges his Heart, but sees only the avatar. Only after she leaves does Hope reveal itself as in Heaven, the Truth is revealed.

Terri's Vengeance-4

Terri's Vengeance
Chapter 4

By Stanman63

Edited By Nora Adrienne

Synopsis: As Terri readies himself for his Battle of Armageddon, he remembers his first time wearing a dress, and how it changed him. His new family and old meet to help him. As he readied himself, Kerry gets him to stop his war until she can help him. In the meeting, a plan is forged to destroy Delano in such a way that his empire is taken over and his evil ended.

Terri's Vengeance

Terri's Vengeance

By Stanman63

Edited By Nora Adrienne

Synopsis: Terry, a young happily married man is thrown into the dark and evil world of crime when his family is killed by a drunk driver. When the Courts refuse to prosecute, he finds his need for vengeance over riding his personal safety.

Even though he recieved a hefty cash settlement, the fact that the driver flaunts his power over the courts leads Terry to find others that are hurt and heis Heart makes him help them as he sees the scope of evil he faces.

Now with the support of others, Terry sets out on a Mission of Vengeance that will shake up the city and free the city from an evil that has plagued it for years.

Shimmy 32-the end

This is the conclusion to Shimmy. Laura and Ricki get to talk to
their dad. They meet their Mom in New York and say goodbye to their



Paula Dillon

Chapter 32

Sunday, Ricki got up early and took a nice long bubble bath, before
getting dressed and fixing everybody’s breakfast. Susan came down
wearing a robe and began helping. She and Ricki had been sleeping
together (all they were doing was sleeping together) every night, since
the attempted rape. They could hear the other girls moving around from
the kitchen.

Susan was just setting the table, when the condo’s phone rang. Ricki was nearest, so she answered it.

Shimmy 20-31

Ricki continues her swimming and her belly dancing. She also finds a
job. The news she and Laura feared is confirmed, their Dad is dying.
Madeline, Laura and Ricki's Mom, finds out about Ricki. Timely
intervention prevents a rape. (Not in extreme detail. The scene should
not be overly distressful.)



Paula Dillon

Chapter 20

Ricki was up early she cleaned up and took care of her needs. On her
way downstairs, she took her dirty things and linen down to wash. She
fixed breakfast and coffee, and had it ready when the girls came down.
Some people take things for granted, when it is provided without their
having to think about it. This was not so with her sisters. They never
took this blessing for granted. Ricki allowed them the opportunity they
needed, to do what they needed to do. They gave Ricki their hugs and
kisses, for her selflessness.

Shimmy 11-19

Ricki learns more about being a girl. She helps her sisters out at
home, where she can. Ricki and Laura find out that things are not well
with their father. Ricki continues to learn the art of belly-dancing.



Paula Dillon

Chapter 11

The next day Ricki woke up an hour later. She had time to luxuriate
in a bubble bath, the warm water soaked out the soreness of the
previous day. She dressed more casually this morning, she wore her
cardinal and gold bikini with her shorts, tank top, and cross trainers.
On her face she just used a little mascara and lipstick. She even did
her nails in a red/gold diagonal pattern. She used the red as a base
coat and then painted half the nail in gold, on a diagonal and covered
everything in a clear coat, as she had been shown.