The End

And so you see, that is how I came to be a superhero.

Yes, I agree, the lamest one ever. Lame power, not-so-smart, not-so-tough, not-so-bright, not-so-good. Really, I was just human, a bit genetically modified, and my greatest successes were no more monumental than anyone else’s—almost arguably less than them. Ordinary everyday heroes did so much better than I did—and April, as a teacher, was definitely one of them.

So why would anyone care about my story? Why bother telling it?

So someone would learn from my mistakes?


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“Tell it again.”

Clayton laughed and picked up the little boy, lifting him into his arms. “Aren’t you sick of that story yet? It’s not even a good story.”

“It’s funny,” the boy said, putting out his bottom lip and doing an impressive pout.

“It won’t work. Your Uncle Larabee might have tried to tell you that it does, and it does work on him, but not on me. You know better than that.”

“Dad, come on! Please! I like when you tell me the superhero story. Your story. Mom’s story,” the boy insisted, wrapping his arms around Clay’s neck. “I’m not that tired. Please?”

Clay shook his head. “You know how Mom feels about bedtime. One story. Or one part of it, at least. No more. Now you’ve had the story, and it’s time to go to bed. No arguing.”

“But Dad! You haven’t told all of it. You know you haven’t. You haven’t gone into how I got here or when you went up against the other bad guys. You need to tell all of it. All of it.”

“And when would you sleep then?” April asked, not amused. Their son winced. He knew that Mommy meant business. She always did. “Go wash up and get into bed already.”

“Mom, what’s a Ninety-Nine?”


Clayton set the boy down. He immediately started to protest. “But—”

She pointed him toward his room and shook her head as she watched him go. Clayton went over and wrapped his arms around his wife. She sighed tiredly. “You were telling him the story again?”

“Well, not all of it. That was his main complaint.”

“He should complain about you bad mouthing yourself all the time.”

“He thinks I’m a hero, and we both know that’s not true.”

April elbowed him, and Clay rubbed his stomach, grimacing. “Stop saying that. You’re his hero, and that’s what matters, isn’t it?”

“You’re worried about him trying to do what I can do, aren’t you?”

“Yes. And it does not help that Larabee keeps giving him new superhero costumes every time he comes by. That poor kid. He never stood a chance.”

“I don’t know,” Clay said, rocking her gently in his arms. “I think he stands a better chance of growing up to be a hero than I ever did.”

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Winding Down a Bit

So… It was all over, wasn’t it? Kilbourne was dealt with, and we had nothing but time and questions on our hand. We were just going to have to go home, rest, and figure out where our lives were going from this point on.

I had almost saved myself—it was just me and Kilbourne in that room, after all, and I could have walked out and left him. At the same time, unbeknownst to me, April had made contact with Larabee and gotten the cavalry to us. So I’m not really sure if we have to count that as a rescue. At any rate, now we were… free.


This was kind of like… the end, right?

Okay, no, there were a few things to wrap up first…

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“They are so pissed. I think you just got fired.”

“I thought I quit back when I found out they lied to me all my life,” Clayton said, shaking his head. He hadn’t gone back to work since he’d been kidnapped by Kilbourne’s people the first time. “And I keep trying to tell everyone—even myself—that I didn’t know he was really allergic. I mean, who is allergic to spandex? Like… no one. And deathly allergic? I didn’t even know that was possible. And it’s not like he started choking or gave any signs of real distress. I thought he was kidding! I didn’t think he would die! I had no idea that was going to happen. If I’d known…”

“Clayton, it is not your fault,” April said, trying to calm him down, again. He gave her a small, grateful smile. He didn’t know what he’d do without her. Her patience and rationality during all of this had been invaluable. Of course, her presence also unsettled him because she was pregnant and he was pretty much terrified by the idea of being a father. Still, when it came to helping him cope with the whole involuntary manslaughter thing that had happened, she was the best person for it. “You didn’t know, and you couldn’t trust him. Imagine what he might have done to you if he had tricked you. What he had already done. What he wanted to do to the baby. It wasn’t a risk you could really have taken. If you’d let him go, he could have started the whole thing again.”

“I know; I know,” Clay agreed, closing his eyes for a moment. “I just… I don’t ever think I’ll stop feeling guilty even if I know I didn’t really have much of a choice. Maybe I should have erred on the side of caution, but caution for him could have cost me everything. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“You never knew what to do.”

“Thanks for that, Larabee.”

Larabee shrugged. April glared at him. He went back to the papers he was working on. “It was one of our plans, and our plans never go right. Kilbourne getting caught in that inevitable crossfire was bound to happen, and with that in mind, I don’t think it’s worth punishing anyone over. The authorities certainly didn’t see it that way.”

“You just said they fired him.”

“Right,” Larabee agreed. “But no one arrested him or pressed charges or anything. That’s what I mean. They all agree that Kilbourne’s death was an accident. They’re only angry because they wanted answers.”

“So did we, but we’re not getting them, so screw them,” April muttered angrily. She rubbed her back a little, closing her eyes. Clay frowned, and she pulled him over so she could lean against him. “I’m fine. And the baby’s fine. Remember, they checked us all out. Don’t start panicking on me now. Back pain is apparently normal.”

“I know, but—”

“You don’t have to worry through every single step of this thing.”

“Yeah, the kid’s a future superhero. He’ll survive anything, no problem,” Larabee added, trying to be helpful. Clayton shot him a dirty look.

April shook her head. “We don’t know whether we’re having a boy or a girl yet, Larabee. Stop making costumes.”

“Hey, I can make them unisex. It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t even want to know,” April sighed. She looked up at Clayton. “You’re still worried about the baby getting your ability, aren’t you?”

“Kind of hard not to be,” Clay admitted. “I mean, we know I was genetically modified but not how or why and—Oh, I almost forgot! We do have answers. Maybe. Assuming they didn’t pay attention to the computer…”

“What are you talking about?”

“I told Kilbourne’s computer to upload everything to my online storage account. Since I kept losing computers, I got that huge one, remember? So it should, hopefully, have copied all of that stuff to it. It’s probably encrypted or useless, but we have something, and I don’t know that they know that we have it, which is something in of itself. And who knows if they’ll find what I did or not. The point is, if it did work—”

“Which assumes a lot for us and our plans and our kind of… luck,” Larabee interrupted, and Clayton and April glared at him. He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, let’s just assume it worked. Even if it only got a few things, it’s more than we had before, and we’re going to go with that.”


“Which means someone—cough—the mad scientist—cough—will have a bunch of data to go through instead of making baby costumes,” Clayton told Larabee with a bright smile.

Larabee stuck out his bottom lip, almost pouting. “But… but… look! Look at the things I could make if I learned to knit!”*

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*to see the sort of knitting items Larabee might make, click here.

What Price Victory?

I have to admit, that moment left me rather… stunned.

I hadn’t figured on him telling the truth. It never worked that way. It was supposed to be a big trick. A joke. I don’t know—everything with spandex seemed like nothing more than a big laugh for us. So when this came around, we had to figure—okay, I was the only one there—I had to figure it was just another joke.

It was Kilbourne, so it had to be another trick.

Didn’t it?

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“Dude, nice work, Clayton.”

“Uh, not so sure it’s good. I think he might be dead.”


“Death by spandex,” Clay whispered, shaking his head in disbelief. Larabee shot him a dirty look as he went over to Kilbourne. April came up to him and wrapped her arms around him, but Clay didn’t feel much comfort at the moment. “I think I killed him. I know he made me a genetic freak and he nearly killed me—well, let someone else do it, actually—and he threatened us and the baby, but I didn’t actually mean to kill him. I can’t even believe I hit him that much. That wasn’t me. Well, it was, but it didn’t feel like me. It was like that saying about how anyone’s capable of murder? Yeah, I guess I am when my wife and child are threatened, but I didn’t mean to do this. He wasn’t supposed to die.”

“You can’t kill someone by spandex, Clay,” April said, shaking her head. She tightened her grip on him, leaning against him and closing her eyes. “I am so glad you’re you right now. I didn’t know what we’d find when we got back to you.”

“Oh, he injected me with something, but you know how drugs work with me—never the way they’re supposed to. So I don’t know how long I was out, but I woke up a bit high, found he’d undone the restraints, started copying his computer, and then confronted him when he came back.”

“Wow. Sounds like you had it all under control.”

“Larabee, I killed the man by tying him up in spandex. Exactly how is that under control?” Clay demanded, lowering his head. “I mean, it makes sense now—I hated spandex because he was allergic to it, and he created me, but I thought he had to be kidding.”

“He was. Death by spandex is impossible,” April insisted. She turned around. “Isn’t it?”

Larabee shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s definitely dead, though, so there goes all the answers we were going to get from him.”

“I don’t know that I care so much about answers,” April admitted. She pulled Clay’s arms around her and put his hands on her stomach, and he tried not to freak out about that. “We were doing well enough without knowing about the experiments or what Kilbourne was doing, and he can’t do it anymore. This is a victory. Not the greatest because someone died, but still, it’s over, isn’t it?”

“More or less.”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Clay muttered, letting go of April and moving back to the sink to throw up for a second time.

“You know, she’s the pregnant one.”

“Larabee, leave him alone. Kilbourne may have been a bastard, but that doesn’t mean Clay is just going to be okay with the fact that he’s gone,” April told him, moving over to rub Clayton’s back. He shuddered a little, not sure if he was heaving or trying to cry. He didn’t know what to think or feel at the moment. Oh, and there was that other thing…

“How are we supposed to be parents? We can’t be parents. I can’t be a parent. Look at me. I’m one big screw up from start to finish. Kilbourne made me to be something I’m definitely not, I have a lame superpower, my job and most of my life is all a careful manipulation by people who didn’t have the decency to inform me that I was a science experiment, no plan ever goes right for me, and I just killed a man using spandex.”

She kissed his cheek and took his hand. “I know our plans never work, but you know what? We’re used to that. That actually makes us better prepared than most people who go into this with great plans for what they’ll do and who their children will be.”

“Yes, but most of them aren’t genetic freaks.”

“Okay, if this baby decides to have a random growth spurt and pop out of my stomach like that alien thing in that movie, I’m going to hurt you. A lot. But then again, it took two of us to make it, so you know… we’re in it together. Just like we agreed we were when we got married.”

Clay reached over and touched her face. “Can’t you just tell me you were kidding? And that he was? It would kind of be nice if this was a joke. At least the death by spandex part.”

“This isn’t a joke.”

“Oh, right. This is my life. And it still sucks.”

“Clayton, do not make me hurt you right now. I know you’re upset and worried, but do not say that,” she warned, and he sighed, trying to find a way to make this better somehow. He had no idea. He couldn’t fix it.

“Maybe we should just go home.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me,” Larabee said, putting his arms around both of their shoulders, herding them toward the door. “See, you’re going to need a lot of stuff if you’re going to do this, and I think I have the perfect solution—”

“No way in hell are you being our nanny, Larabee.”

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Allergies, True or False?

Kilbourne didn’t find the moment all that funny, but me? I couldn’t help laughing. In fact, I pretty much got lost in the laughter for a long time. I couldn’t help it. It was just one of those… things. Larabee had always considered my aversion to spandex irrational—though I still maintain that his obsession was far more irrational and abnormal than my aversion was—but now I had a real reason for it. The man who’d “created” me was allergic to the stuff. It suddenly made sense.

And it was still funny as hell to me.

I distinctly remembered wishing him a long, painful death from spandex—and it actually could happen. He could die of anaphylactic shock. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the worst way to go, and it was more because of the lack of oxygen, but it was still pretty damn awesome in my mind.

The rest of the world was scared of Larabee’s costumes because of their bright colors and blinding designs, but they could kill the monster. The monster was allergic to spandex.

And yes, it was funnier than it should have been. Um, by a lot.

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“Stop laughing, and let me go.”

Clayton gave Kilbourne a look, but that just set him off again. He’d doubled over and actually gotten to the point of rolling around on the floor. He couldn’t help it. It was hilarious to him. After all these years of hating spandex, after wishing Kilbourne a horrible death by spandex, to hear that the man was allergic to it? It was just… priceless. Absolutely priceless. Clay couldn’t pull himself together. He couldn’t stop laughing. He couldn’t do anything at the moment. He just kept laughing like a lunatic.

It felt good to laugh. After all they’d been through, after everything that had gone wrong, everything they’d suffered and screwed up, laughter was nice. Especially here and now. Yes, it was a bit crazy, too, and he knew that. He couldn’t help thinking it was insane, but it wasn’t going to stop, either.

“Moore! This isn’t funny! You have to let me go!”

Clay put a hand on the floor and looked at Kilbourne. The man’s blind panic and obvious fear made him very comical in appearance after the threats and terror he’d inflicted, and that made Clay crack up all over again. He shook his head. “Allergic to spandex…”

“You think this is a joke?”

“No! And that’s what’s so funny!”

“Clearly you were a flawed sample. A specimen that should have been disposed of. If I had been allowed to continue my work, I assure you that you would have been,” Kilbourne grumbled, trying to loosen his bonds. The spandex, treated with Larabee’s special ooze, didn’t budge.

Clay smiled grimly. “Yeah, and again, why would I untie you after that?”

“Because you’re not a killer, Moore, and this will kill me.”

“Please. You don’t even have hives. No skin reddening. No respiratory distress. I think you’re lying,” Clay said, sobering up a little with that realization. He no longer found it funny—not if it was a lie. Then it wasn’t funny at all. Well, maybe a little, but not enough to make him act like he’d been exposed to nitrous oxide. “That actually kind of sucks, did you know that? I kind of liked it when you were allergic to spandex.”

“I am allergic, damn it! Get this stuff off of me!”

Clay rolled his eyes. “The act was funny for a while—a bit too funny—but it’s over now. I’m not amused. Stop trying to fool me. I’m not letting you out of the bonds. I want my answers, remember? I am sick and tired of you manipulating me. I won’t let you do it again. I want to know why you created me, everything you were trying to do, and why I can do what I can do. That’s just… I don’t know, common courtesy? Yeah, pretty much.”

“Let me go!”

Clay sighed, picking himself off the floor. “No. I am not letting you out of there. Fuss and squirm all you like—I know I’d be doing it if I was tied up in spandex because I can’t stand the stuff. Makes me shudder. Then I want to vomit. Especially if Larabee’s wearing one of the—oh, there are not words for that kind of horror. I kind of think that you deserve to see it. I know it broke Brady easily. He spilled everything so fast, and that wasn’t even the worst of the costumes, honestly.”

“I am not joking, Moore. I am not trying to trick you. I am allergic. Let me go. You can have whatever answers you want, but if you do not get this stuff off of me, you’ll get nothing because I’ll be dead.”

“Hmm. Then I guess you’d better start talking because I’m not that stupid. I’m not letting you go.”

Kilbourne continued to struggle in his bonds. Clay leaned against the desk and watched him, sick of this part of the game. He knew better than this, and so did Kilbourne. It was just wasting their time, and Clay didn’t feel like wasting his time. “Is there a file, maybe? A journal or something? I mean, you keep notes on your experiments. You’d have to. It only makes sense to—unless, of course, you believe that the scientific method isn’t worth following. That wouldn’t surprise me. You’re not sane, for one thing, and you seem rather full of yourself, too. So either way, you would do that.”

Kilbourne glared at him. “Should have made you… with better ears… you idiot.”

“My ears are big enough, and I’m not going to fall for the allergic lie, okay? Is there a file or not?”
“Won’t tell you anything unless you untie me.”

“This is such a fun impasse, isn’t it? Not really, but since you’re going to be stubborn, I guess we both will be. No. I don’t know how else to say it, Kilbourne. I’m not letting you go.”

The other man slumped forward in the chair, and Clayton frowned. Huh. Maybe he really was allergic to spandex.

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Great Moments

I want to say that I was fully in charge and good and super heroic right then.

Realistically, though, I was none of those things.

I was queasy and overwhelmed, not sure how I was going to handle anything. We are talking about me, the failed experiment whose plans never worked. I might have been able to stop Kilbourne, turn the table on him, but that was more or less by accident. The idea of doing something that was a lifelong commitment, a thing where I’d have to live with my failures staring me back in the face—and most likely hating me for the rest of our lives—mine possibly a very, very long life—that idea terrified me.

So I sat, waiting for Kilbourne to wake up to get some answers, doing my best not to wig out because of what I’d learned. I actually wanted my wife to have lied to me. It would have been… easier.

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Clayton tapped his fingers on the desk, waiting impatiently. No one had come in to Kilbourne’s lab, and he didn’t really think they were going to. The men that worked for him must have been told not to disturb him in here, and that really didn’t surprise Clay. He also didn’t figure that they would even want to come in here. No one was going to bother Clay while he got his answers, and that was good by him. He needed to make this thing end, and it wasn’t going to happen until Kilbourne told him what he’d been trying to do—why Clay was so important—and even what he figured he’d “improve” with the baby. Not that Kilbourne would have that chance, but he wanted to know what the monster thought he could do—and what he’d been trying to do—before this was all done and the suit’s men took Kilbourne away and locked him up for good.

Clay really didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to wait, and needed to find April and make sure that she was safe, but if he left now, he might never know. If anyone did come to their rescue, it would probably be the suits, and they weren’t exactly trustworthy. They hadn’t told him anything of Kilbourne or the experiments until after Kilbourne’s goon had nearly killed him—and come to think of it, Clay hadn’t seen that guy in long enough to worry about him suddenly appearing because that was the way it always seemed to go with Clay and his messed up life where no plans ever went right, all his genetics were screwy, and Murphy’s law—everything that can go wrong will go wrong—was in full effect.

Annoyed, Clay kicked Kilbourne’s chair. “Wake up.”

The bastard didn’t stir. Clay kicked the chair again, harder this time. “Kilbourne! I think it’s about time we had a real conversation. I want to know what the hell you were trying to do to me.”

The other man’s eyes opened slightly, and he groaned in pain. The pain focused into anger that he directed right at Clayton. “Why would I tell you anything? You’re the experiment. A failed one.”

“I know. But you have yet to actually say what you were hoping to accomplish with me, and I just figured that might be worth knowing. And since I’ve got you tied to the chair and also kind of smashed your face in, I figure I get to ask the questions for now. Wouldn’t you think so? It makes sense to me.”
“I’m not going to answer any of your… What did you tie me up with?”

“Larabee’s special spandex blend. Not sure why you had some of it around—though the biotoxin label did make me laugh a little since I hate the stuff—but since you did and it seems to be working very well holding you, it was a good choice.”

Kilbourne shook his head. “No. No, you have to untie me.”

“You must think I’m a complete idiot. I’m sorry, but no. I am not that dumb, and I’m not going to fall for any of your tricks. I don’t think so. I’ve been hurt enough by you, and manipulated by you for even longer than that, even if for most of my life you were on the run. I’ve been nothing more than an experiment all my life, and you really don’t want to know what it does to a person to find that out. It’s rather soul destroying, honestly,” Clay said as he leaned back against the desk again, shaking his head. He didn’t know how to cope with the emotions that came with that moment, that realization, even after he’d lived with it for a while now. “I have no reason to do anything for you. You threatened April. And our baby. Yeah, no one in their right mind would trust you. Ever.”

“The biotoxin label wasn’t a joke.”

“Ooh, someone else who hates spandex,” Clay clapped his hands together and laughed. “Look, ‘Dad,’ we have something in common. We can bond now despite the fact that you’re a deranged sociopath who calls himself a scientist and experiments on people—specifically me. I love you, Dad. This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Kilbourne shot him a dirty look. “No, you idiot. I’m allergic to spandex.”

“You are?”

“Yes! Now untie me!”

Clay started laughing. “Oh, this is awesome. You’re allergic to spandex. It really is the greatest moment of my life.”

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With the Right Motivation

So… drugs. Remember, they don’t agree with me.

And plans never go my way.

I figured I’d be out cold again after I did my shift—and yeah, I picked a form that was still an adult just to make me difficult to move around because why make it easy for them? It surprised me to find that not only was I awake, but the pain was gone.

And I was sensible enough not to tell Kilbourne this.

I know. You’re surprised, aren’t you?

So was I.

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Clayton was awake. In fact, he was fairly certain that he hadn’t fallen asleep or passed out at all. Even with as loopy as he had been, he could swear that no time at all had passed. Wait a minute. That never happened. He held still as footsteps approached him. Kilbourne, probably, standing there and looking down at him. Clay hated that. He really just wanted the man to die. A horrible, spandex related death because the bastard deserved no less. It would be perfect. He could suffer in agony through the worst substance known to man—okay, that was an exaggeration, and Clay really didn’t know why he hated spandex so much, but… he did.

“I see the drugs almost had their desired effect,” Kilbourne observed, kneeling down next to him. “I must adjust the dosage. I have to get rid of this ridiculous delay in the shifts. It is impractical.”

Clay studied his enemy as much as he could without revealing that he was awake, and then he grabbed hold of the computer chair and wheeled it close enough, using it to whack Kilbourne, hard, knocking the so-called scientist to the floor. Clay heard the older man to groan as he got up and picked up the nearest syringe. He kicked Kilbourne mostly for the hell of it. “What’s in this one, hmm? Think it will give you a tentacle or a heart attack or what?”

Kilbourne glared at him. “You won’t win for long, Moore. Your genetics are far too unstable for that. You’ll succumb to the drugs or your own physical limitations soon enough.”

“Thing is,” Clay said, putting his foot down on the other man’s chest, holding him in place. “I have a lot more experience with dealing with my screwed up genetics than you do, and while, yeah, it surprised the hell out of me that I was still awake when you got in here, I don’t feel any pain, don’t feel any drugs, and that means I might just have mastered my healing shift. Your little experiment actually worked, but for me, not you. As does your apparently masochistic choice of chair. How can you sit in that thing for long periods? I don’t know, but I do know that I just might inject you with this for the fun of it because I’m voting tentacle. Life isn’t complete until you’ve had a tentacle.”

Kilbourne started shoved Clay’s foot away, knocking him down, and Clay really had no choice then. He stabbed the syringe into the other man’s leg and backed away, looking around the office for something else to use. That drug or whatever it was might not have any effect on Kilbourne at all. Clay had to do something else.

He was still getting the stuff from Kilbourne’s computer on the internet—hopefully—but Clay could pull the fire alarm and possibly set off the extinguishers in the lab, only that wasn’t going to stop Kilbourne. What he needed was a nice blunt object to hit Kilbourne with, make him lose consciousness for a while and then tie him up and get some answers for a change.

The man didn’t have a paper weight, and Clay figured whatever it might have been if Kilbourne had had one would probably have been twisted and scary, and the computer mouse wouldn’t do enough damage.

“The next one I will make more docile.”

“You’re not getting anywhere near my child, you bastard,” Clay snapped, launching himself at the other man in a blind fury. He was never going to be a real fighter with any technique or skill, but he had enough anger and rage and plain old fear to pound on the sadistic scientist until the man was bloody and unconscious.

Clay sat back, a bit horrified by what he’d done, but he forced that out of his mind as he picked the chair up and dragged Kilbourne up into it. With the monster in the chair, Clay hunted for something to tie him up with, frowning when he saw what looked like one of Larabee’s costumes in one of the specimen containers. Maybe Kilbourne was trying to research the ooze that made the clothes Clay wore possible. He’d have to, really, if he was planning on making more like Clayton, so yeah, that was probably it.

Clay shook his head, hoping that the stretch of the fabric would mean that Kilbourne couldn’t get out of it no matter how hard he struggled—especially since Clay had found his own clothing rather resistant to tearing over his various misadventures—and so he started wrapping it around the other man until he was practically mummified in it and stuck to the chair.

He went over to the sink in the lab and washed off his hands, shaking a little as he did. He never would have believed he was capable of that, but he had enough to motivate him—he’d do anything to keep April safe, and they were going to be parents, so…

Wait. Clay was going to be a father. A dad. A role model.

He went back to the sink and threw up.

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Running Isn’t Easy

Poor timing.

That’s one thing.

Poor choices—that’s another. I made my share. I didn’t fool myself about that. Not telling Clayton before all this happened, that was a poor choice. He should have known, and I never should have let Kilbourne take that moment from us. Not like he had.

That was a poor choice on my part. I never meant for it to get this out of hand. Overly optimistic, maybe, or maybe I was just hoping that this new side of Clayton, his new determination and new ability would mean that this new plan wouldn’t end like the last one.

He would have said I knew better, and I suppose I did.

I have, you’ll remember, made my fair share of bad decisions.

Probably the hardest one to live with, though, was having to run and leave Clayton in the hands of that twisted bastard.

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April leaned against the wall, her heart pounding, tears trying to escape from her eyes. She hadn’t wanted to run. She hated herself for it, even if she didn’t know what else she could have done. Clay was right—this wasn’t just about her. If she got out, she’d come back for him. She’d make sure he was okay. Still—she had something else to think about, and she knew that no matter how bad things were for Clay in Kilbourne’s hands, he would rather have suffered far worse as long as it made sure that their child was safe from that monster.

She put a hand over her stomach. How was she supposed to do this? She didn’t know. She couldn’t help thinking this was wrong. She needed to go back to Clayton, needed to get him out of here, but if she got caught, what good was it? And what kind of a mother was she, anyway? She’d already put her child at risk.

She heard someone coming and started moving again. She never should have agreed to this. Maybe if she turned back, if she managed to get to Kilbourne… No, it was far more likely that all she’d end up doing was getting herself caught and making their child a part of Kilbourne’s twisted experiments. She did not know would happen to her in that equation, but she doubted she’d be allowed to live for long.

She ducked into a room, hoping she’d done so in time to avoid the man coming toward her. She looked around her. An office. Okay. She could work with this. She crawled over to the coat on the back of the chair and smiled with satisfaction as she took a cell phone out of the pocket. She turned it on and quickly pressed the buttons for Larabee’s number. Someone had some explaining to do.

She shuddered as she heard the maniacal laughter that started Larabee’s voice mail message and sighed. Clearly that wasn’t going to work. Who else did she call, then? One of her friends from work? Oh, yeah, hi, it’s April Moore. Yeah, my husband—who happens to have a very unique genetic ability—got kidnapped by a sadist who calls himself a scientist. I was with him, but I sort of escaped, only we’re stuck here and need someone to help us get out. Oh, and did I mention I’m pregnant and this bastard wants to experiment on my baby?

She didn’t think anyone was going to believe her, and who were they going to get? The police? What if Kilbourne had contacts there? And even if they did believe her and could call and the authorities weren’t in Kilbourne’s pockets, she had no idea where she was.

She called Larabee again. “Larabee, it’s April. I have no idea what is keeping you from getting here, but I swear, if you don’t find us soon, when I get out of here—Never mind. I’m just… We need to get out of here, and you have to find a way to find us because I don’t know where I am or how to get out of here, and Kilbourne has Clayton. Please, Larabee. We need your help. Now.”

She ended the call and shook her head. What was she going to do now? Hide here in the office until she heard back? No, that was not going to work. She looked at the desk. No computer. What was the point of this? She checked the phone again. It didn’t have any internet access that she could see. Great. She supposed she was lucky that she’d gotten the call out, but still, there had to be something else she could do.

She nearly jumped when the phone went off in her hands. She looked at the number. It wasn’t one she knew—and apparently not one the owner of the phone knew, either. Oh, what the hell. She answered it. “Hello?”


“Larabee. Where the hell are you? What happened?”

“The van got trashed. They must have known what we had planned. They bombed us after they took you.”

“How bad?”

“Lost a couple people. What about you?”

“Clayton got noble and told Kilbourne to take him so I could escape, but I keep getting lost in this building, and they’re going to find me eventually. I don’t know—well, I assume he’s in the lab, but I don’t know anymore than that. Can you trace this phone, maybe? Is—is it going to be possible to get anyone here to help, or are we on our own? If we are, then… see if you can find anything on this building—a blue print, maybe, and send it to me as a picture? I can find Clay and get him out, possibly, but I need to know where the hell to go.”

“I don’t know. We’re regrouping, so I can’t promise anything. And my equipment got wrecked, too, so I’m behind and—”

“Larabee! I cannot afford to be patient here! I need you to give me what you can as soon as you can. Kilbourne has Clayton. He was talking about changing the twenty minute rule, and you know what that does to Clay when he doesn’t follow it! And then he says Clay’s just going to help him fix the flaws and he’ll make the next one better.”

“Well, I doubt he’s got the right materials for that considering that everything was confiscated from him and having to be on the run and everything, so we don’t have to worry about that right now—”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Oh. Crap.”


“I’m on it. I just need a few minutes, and I’ll get something going, I promise. Just one thing…”


“I get to make the baby a little superhero outfit, right?”

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Meanwhile, on the Other Side of Somewhere…

Before you say it—technical difficulties.

And yeah, I know you think that I’m just saying that—I’m sure that Clayton would tell you that it’s what I always say. That’s not true. It’s not what you think. You think me and everyone else abandoned Clayton and April and left them in the hands of a mad man.

That’s what it looks like. That’s not the way it happened.

Yes, there were technical difficulties for part of it, but the rest… Now that was completely out of my hands. I dare someone to explain how we were supposed to come to the rescue at this point.

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He looked up at the suit. Whatever this was, there was no way it was good. He didn’t need to be a genius—though, generally speaking, he was—to know it was very bad. It was that look on the suit’s face. Clayton’s boss never looked like that when things were going well, and this was clearly a case of things going very badly. For everyone. “Uh, sir, I did try and design the comm units to be impervious to simple shock, and so while we have, in fact, lost communications with April and Clayton, that’s very temporary, I promise. Any minute now, it’ll cycle back on and we’ll be able to talk to them again. Trust me, we’re good.”

“That’s not it, Larabee.”

“You mean the tracking devices? Again, they are also resistant to electro shock. I made sure that they’d think that they were shut off for a little while, but they should start working soon. Admittedly, it’s taking just a bit longer than I hoped, but it should be up and running any second now.”

The suit sighed. “Larabee, we have to wait.”

“Wait? With Clayton and April in the hands of madmen? What could possibly be more important than this? We’re in the middle of something here.”

“There also happens to be a terrorist threat.”

“Um… Should I point out that it’s technically the other agency’s jurisdiction? Either of them? I mean, this is kind of theirs, too, so should I just call them instead? You did this on purpose, didn’t you? You deliberately tricked Clayton into letting himself be found because you want that bastard to experiment on him. You want Kilbourne to finish whatever it is he started, don’t you? You set this all up so that you could pull out at the last minute and strand them there. What about April? She’s just a civilian. Who knows what Kilbourne might do to her? Clayton might survive it because of what he is, but he’s not alone. And April is not like him. She’s smart and tough and even amazing, but she’s not genetically modified. She could end up really hurt.”

“No. It was never our intention to leave Moore in Kilbourne’s hands or to let his wife get involved in any of this—”

The suit’s words were drowned out in the explosion, and Larabee was knocked back as the ground shook. Something hit him, and then he felt water splattering his face. He forced himself up before it could start drowning him, looking at the now demolished surveillance van. “Guys? Anyone… in there? I kind of hope you’re not because that thing looks like a pretzel and not in a good way. Wait, there is no good way to look like a pretzel. I’ve been spending too much time with Clayton. Guys?”

Larabee heard a moan, but it wasn’t from anyone in the tangled wreckage that had once been a van. He moved over to the other side, finding the suit on the ground, bleeding and pinned down by a large chunk of concrete that used to be part of the road. Larabee winced. “Uh, sir…”

“Must have… must have set it up to make sure we couldn’t follow this time.”

“Yeah,” Larabee whispered, knowing he should have been in that van—and therefore dead—right now. The other agents were. He was pretty sure of that. “I don’t understand… Clayton’s power doesn’t even work right. How is it worth all this?”

The suit coughed. “Kilbourne’s insane, remember?”

“Sure, but… Look at you. You’re a mess. And them. They’re… Well…”

The suit shoved the block of concrete, yanking his leg out and tearing his suit more in the process. He coughed again and looked at Larabee with a frown. “How come none of your clothes tore?”

“They’re okay. They’re mostly spandex.”

The suit groaned and closed his eyes.

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Brief Lucidity

I have to admit, I don’t do so well with drugs. Pretty much of any kind, honestly. I seem to have adverse reactions no matter what it’s for. It doesn’t matter if it’s calamine not working on chicken pox or Larabee’s pill giving me a tentacle. My genetics are messed up to where you can’t predict the effect any given injection will have on me.

Not that I really told Kilbourne this.

He wouldn’t have listened.

And it almost worked to my advantage.


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Clayton was floating. He remembered feeling kind of like this before, and he didn’t really think he wanted to wake up this time because the last time this happened, he woke up to find a tentacle. He shuddered. He didn’t want that. Not again. He wouldn’t be surprised if he did, though. Kilbourne was messing around with the stabilizer, after all, and that was what got the tentacle in the first place.

Clay tried to open his eyes, but they weren’t cooperating. Nothing was. He couldn’t feel anything but floating. Like a little boat.


He needed to get up and save himself here. This was not working.

He sighed, trying to get feeling in his fingers. This was so trippy. He hated it. Hated being like this. He was not good on drugs. Not good in general, but far worse on drugs.

He rolled over and fell off the bed.

Wait. Was he dreaming this bit? He was just hallucinating because he was high. He’d been restrained before. He remembered that clearly. He knew it had happened. What was going on? He didn’t feel right. It was all wrong.

He looked around. Yeah, this was, near as he could tell, the floor. Okay, so he wasn’t really sure how he’d managed to get free, but then he didn’t really care that much. He was free. He had to focus on that. He grabbed hold of the edge of the bed and dragged himself up it, trying to keep from falling down or puking, either of which was a good possibility at this point. He was not in good shape. Had Kilbourne done it, then? Had he managed to get Clay to shift without a full day of passing out afterward? Or was this the eight hours or whatever time belonged to how long it had been when Kilbourne injected him? Clay had no idea. There was no convenient clock, and even if there had been, he hadn’t looked at it before the injection.

He saw the computer in the corner and decided that even if he didn’t make it out of here, he could at least get the information on all of Kilbourne’s experiments. That would be something. Clay dragged himself over to the desk, sitting down. He turned the computer on and tried to figure out where what he needed would be. It should be simple enough to find. Yes. He didn’t know how much he’d actually get because it wasn’t like he had a flash drive or anything to copy it to, but he did have an online digital storage account—he’d started using it after his laptop broke and it had been useful when it got stolen. True, that could have been a partial information leak, but right now, he didn’t really care to think about it. He started the simplest thing—the automatic back up—and looked back at the door.

Okay, time to escape. He had to get out of here, plain and simple.

He stopped. Maybe the computer had information he needed besides the experiments. He pulled up Kilbourne’s most recent notes first. Hmm. Kilbourne had actually thought Clay would choke himself in the restraints, so he’d had them removed. That was one question answered. Now for how to escape.

He heard someone at the outer door and shut off the monitor. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t really work, but he had to try something. The more that copied from Kilbourne’s computer, the better.

Clay knew he needed to make the other man think he’d never been near it. He moved away from the desk, to the middle of the floor.

Oh, this was going to suck.

He took a deep breath and prepared himself for another shift. It hurt, and it did pretty much what he expected it to—he passed out again.

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The Twenty Minute Rule

So, at that point, all I really cared about, all that mattered, was that she got away. She would argue against that, try and say that I was that important or more, but she kind of had me outnumbered at the moment.

Besides, we were relatively certain that I could handle whatever they did to me.

Well… I did say relatively…

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Clayton looked at his hands and sighed. He’d been small enough when the random shift ended that Kilbourne had been able to pick Clay up himself, carrying him inside the lab and setting him down. Clay had been unable to stop him from using the restraints, so there he was, the size of a five year old, desperately hoping that April had managed to get away.

Kilbourne was busy with Clayton, leaving his goons to search for April, and they weren’t good enough to find her. No, he had to believe she was getting out of here. Then she’d round up a cavalry and make them come back for Clay and everything would be fine.

“I am curious about this twenty minutes business. Such a waste of time, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, but then your little experiment didn’t actually make the perfect… whatever I am, so you know, kind of your own fault, right? Exactly what was it you wanted me to be, anyway? Not what I am, I’m sure. What kind of a use is there for a power like mine?”

Kilbourne smiled cruelly. “Oh, I can think of plenty of uses for you, Moore, and we will most likely get to all of them since you’re rather resistant to death.”

“Gee, that sounds like so much fun.”

“Sarcasm is very unbecoming, especially from such a small mouth.”

“Larabee said the same thing, but you know, while I might—to a limited degree—pick up a few habits of the physical age that I happen to be, I’m not actually different. My mind is the same regardless of the size or age of my body.”


Clay shrugged a little, trying to squirm in the bonds. Kilbourne went to one of the refrigerators, took out a vial, and put a syringe in it, filling it. That couldn’t be good, whatever it was. “What is that?”
“I have been looking at the formula that your… friend created that he calls a stabilizer. It is crude, but with some work, I managed to improve it to where I do believe that it can induce one of your random transitions.”

“And why would you want to do that? And if you do, you know you’ll knock me out cold for like a day, don’t you? The only time that doesn’t happen is if the shift is a healing shift—and admittedly, I don’t know all that the healing shifts can do because they didn’t come along until you tried to kill me but I—Don’t give that to me. No. Please.”

“I thought you said you’d cooperate if I let your wife go.”

“But you didn’t. And you won’t because you have this idea that you’re going to perfect whatever went wrong with me with our child, so… Um, yeah, no. Not cooperating with you,” Clay said, but it wasn’t like he could do much, strapped down to the table like he was. If he could shift, he might break some of the restraints, but he wasn’t the Hulk so there was no guarantee there and beyond that, there was also the fact that if he shifted now, he was going to end up unconscious and still in the same trouble as he was before.

Stupid twenty minute rule.

“So now, if this does induce a random shift, since I know that you will not cooperate and shift for me, we will see just how soon you can come out of that coma,” Kilbourne said, lifting another vial. Clay grimaced. Two shots. Great. He hated needles.

Something buzzed right in his ear, and he moaned as he tried to roll over and relieve the pressure. It didn’t; he couldn’t. He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t really have time to figure out what it was because Kilbourne had taken hold of his arm, and he tried to pull free even as the needle pushed inside his skin, the plunger forcing the drug into his system. Almost immediately, he got dizzy and felt the twinge in his fingers.

At least he’d be unconscious soon, Clay thought as the pain took over. He just had to hold onto the hope that April had gotten away. If she did, then he’d be fine. He didn’t really care what happened to him as long as she was safe. Her and the baby.

Kilbourne, though, if Clay survived this, he really was going to find a way to make that man pay for all that he had done.

Probably with spandex. Just because. Spandex should be a weapon, and Larabee could make it one. Probably not on purpose, but that didn’t matter as long as Kilbourne got what was coming to him.

Clay managed to see his fingers getting bigger—and blurrier—and then he passed out.

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