“Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll have some outstanding warrants,” I replied.
“It’ll get worse before it gets better; you know that, right?” Marie asked as she started down the sidewalk.
“Yeah, probably,” I responded. “But we’ve got to do something.”
“We?” She cast a sidelong glance my way.
I nodded as I answered, “You said you have kids, right?”
“Yeah,” she said slowly.
“What kind of adults are they going to be?”
Marie seemed to consider this for the next block before she stopped in front of a three story apartment building and turned to face me.
“Who are you anyway?”
“You can call me Metamorph,” I answered.
I could tell she was trying not to laugh.
“I won’t always look the same, this is a disguise, but you’ll be able to recognize the outfit.”
Marie raised an eyebrow as she looked me up and down.
“Yeah, that’s kind of hard to miss.”
I smiled as she turned and opened the front door.
“See you tomorrow, Marie,” I called.
“We’ll see,” she answered, then disappeared into the dark hallway.
As I walked back to my own alleyway and unlocked the back door to my building, I thought about the night’s events. I analyzed what I should have done differently and I wondered how long those guys really would stay behind bars. If I had to fight them off every night, Marie might be the only person I ever helped.
One person is better than none, I decided.
Back in my sub-basement apartment, I undressed and then found my scalpel. After a few slow, shallow incisions, I put the blade down and peeled away my disguise. The wig and contacts I saved, of course, but the skin went through a sterilizer before I deposited it into a side door of “the coffin”. After sealing the door I pressed the button that would start the process of breaking down the material and sending it back into the machine to be reused.
A hot shower, with the help of a special blend of herbs and chemicals, removed the last clinging particles of my second skin. I scrubbed vigorously to dry off and then wrapped the terry-cloth around my torso, tucking the top corner in to hold the towel in place.
My reflection was dramatically different than it had been a few hours ago. I once again looked the part of Leslie Baker, owner and manager of the Children’s Science Exploration Center.
The year of intense physical training with genetically improved strength, speed, and endurance had made a significant difference in my overall physique, but my stomach still pooched, and random patches of stretch marks and cellulite still dimpled my skin. A slow smile stretched across my face, deepening those crow’s feet which had progressed from fine lines to permanent residents. I smiled because I liked what I saw.
The best part of the last year had been learning how to feel good in my own skin again. Along with all the changes and training had come confidence. I looked in the mirror and no longer saw a victim. I saw a woman smart enough to create the viral carrier which had triggered her genetic enhancements. I saw a woman strong enough to overcome her past and face her fears. No disguise necessary, that was all me.
The End…For Now