- A Serialized Novel -

This isn't a superpower. It's a curse.

I have to admit—while the situation with Larabee’s guild was awkward, some small brilliance had come out of that night. That still didn’t make me happy to be Larabee’s roommate. Oh, no. Nothing would—though I did kind of think maybe the guild wasn’t that bad—not that I was ready to trust them with my genetic freak ability or anything.

No, I realized that—despite the way it had come about—that naming my alternate forms might actually be useful. I could give them all “stories” and let them be some kind of relation—or not—and so I started bracketing them by age groups—some of the ages looked about the same so it wasn’t really worth giving them all their own name. Still, it had some merit. I could even use these alternate identities for things I needed. I was starting to come to terms with my… er, gift.

Then again, I haven’t actually gone into what it was like trying to attend college like this…

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“Hey! Watch where you’re going.”

Clayton reached over to gather up his books again, trying to get the papers that had fallen out of them. He had taken the time—since he was stuck in the passenger seat—to do some more work for his classes, and now that was on the ground getting ruined. He had been in a bit of a hurry, since his car now wouldn’t start and he’d had to get a ride from Larabee, which meant braving the man’s room—and yeah, he did sleep in the nude—to wake him up. That had been unpleasant, to say the least.

He stood up again. “Oh. It’s you.”

“That’s what I get?” the girl with the hat demanded. “Not a I’m sorry but an it’s you? Who are you anyway—oh, wait. I know. You’re the crazy guy who thinks he can be any age, right? Then you run off into the bushes. You ever think of maybe getting some therapy for that?”

“I’m not crazy,” Clayton said stiffly. He did sometimes think he had to be, given what he was going through on any given day, but the sad thing seemed to be that he was actually quite sane. He kind of thought maybe he’d be happier if he was crazy. “I’m just late, and what are you doing standing right in the middle of the path instead of moving, anyway?”

“I was walking.”

“Sure you were,” he muttered in annoyance. “Look, I’ve got to go. I’m already late, and this professor docks your grades for that. I have a feeling I’ll fail this course on attendance alone.”

“You owe me an apology,” she called after him as he started to walk away. “Come on, you can’t take two seconds to say that? Maybe you really are brain damaged.”

He turned back to glare at her. “And maybe you need to watch where you’re going. You weren’t there one second, then you were, and that is not my fault—and what the hell is it about you that sets off this thing? Damn it.”

He dropped his books again as his fingers started twitching, and this time he just left them there. He didn’t know what he was going to look like after this was done, but he’d get the books later. At this rate, all he wanted to do was crawl back into his bed and stay there. For days.

He didn’t think he could do school. Not like this.

“Bushes? Again? You are brain damaged,” she said, leaning down next to him. “Here, your books. I didn’t do anything to you, and you still owe me an apology. Weirdo.”

He looked up at her. Oh, good. He must not have shifted into an age that was noticeably different. He could go to class. This might work. Of course, he still couldn’t predict when he was going to shift or what he would shift into, but he might actually try working on that now. He could look into the frequency of certain ages or he could try seeing if there was any way to affect the outcome of the shift.

So far, of course, muttering please, not now or please, not a kid didn’t have any effect, but since he could control the other shifts with his mind and thoughts, maybe that might work. Or he might be fortunate enough to where he’d get through most of his courses without a shift. So far he’d done alright with work because it was deserted. No one came into the archives. He could shift into anything and no one paid any attention. He just stayed back where he was more or less out of the camera range and worked away. No complaints.

A class room would be different. Full of people. Everyone wanting the back of the room to sleep in and stuff.

Maybe he couldn’t do this. He really didn’t think that he could.

He moaned and put his head in his knees. What was he going to do? He had no future as a superhero, and if he couldn’t figure out a way around this random shift thing to get through a class, how was he supposed to work? He wouldn’t always have the archives.

He picked himself up slowly. She folded her arms over her chest. “No thank you? Still? What, did no one ever teach you manners?”

He reached for one of the loose papers. “Thank you for the books.”

“I’m so glad I could help,” she muttered in annoyance, going back to the path. She stopped and shook her head as she looked at him.

He waved at her, forcing a smile, and headed toward the classroom.

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“You’re late, Mister…?”

“Moore,” Clayton answered, trying to pick out an empty seat in the classroom. He would have hoped to get in the other door and find a place in the back, but that wasn’t going to happen. He sighed. This wasn’t his day. They never were.

“We have been doing some introductions to the class, so why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself before you sit down?”

“Uh… I’m not sure what to say,” Clay began, feeling very on the spot. He swore he could feel twitching in his fingers. Did stress bring this on? Could that be it? He didn’t want it to be stress. He freaked out too easily, and if it was stress, then he was doomed. He’d never be able to live with this—unless he got put on medication for an anxiety disorder. That might help.

Of course, he’d have to explain that he was able to change his body into any age and apparently that made him insane. Maybe he was before—he didn’t know. He was definitely losing it now.

“Mr. Moore?”

“Oh, um, I work for the CIA and I have a lame superhero power,” he answered, trudging back to the nearest open chair. The room laughed at him, and he couldn’t help the sigh. He hadn’t really expected everyone to believe him—he didn’t even know why he’d said it. Still, it was a great feeling, knowing that for the rest of the world, his life was one big joke.

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