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The Amy Dilemma – Chapter 3 – Re-Arranging the Pieces

Written by circes_cup :: [Thursday, 12 June 2014 04:47] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 12 June 2014 08:34]

The Amy Dilemma – Chapter 3 – Re-Arranging the Pieces

Disclaimer: This is a work of pure fiction. No semblance between the characters described here and real individuals – living or dead – is implied or intended.

The handcuffs that used to encircle his wrists were now in a broken pile on the coffee table. Amy had snapped them only moments before collapsing into his arms on the battlefield. She had slept all the way back; even the ride in the helicopter had not woken her up. Now, it was late afternoon and she was finally opening her eyes.

He handed her the mug of apple cider, just shy of boiling. An arm snaked out from under the comforter and took it from him. Groggily, she retracted her feet to make room for him at the end of the couch.

The second mug he kept for himself, blowing on it cautiously. Despite the caution, the first sip scalded his lip. She, meanwhile, chugged the burning liquid down like it was chocolate milk.

“I remember reading a story recently about a girl who didn’t bother to blow on piping hot lasagna before she ate it,” he said. Dave Gordon sat in the space that had been made for him and placed his elbows on his knees.

“You read some pretty weird stories, then.”

“No weirder than what I saw this morning.”

Amy seemed to consider this. She opened her mouth to ask a question, then closed it. Then opened it again. “Mr. Gordon, the last thing I really recall clearly was when my father pointed the gun at my head. Everything since then has been … fuzzy. But I seem to remember … No, never mind, it’s too silly.”

“You seem to remember changing – a lot,” Gordon offered.

She nodded. “Something like that. But that was just a weird day dream or something, right? I mean, did I take a blow to the head during the scuffle – something that would make me dream all this weird stuff?”

Gordon picked up the handcuffs that only hours earlier, in very different mental state, she had snapped off his wrists. She eyed their brokenness curiously. “Take them and squeeze them,” he said.

Her brow knotted in confusion but her hands nonetheless did what they were asked. The sound that emanated from the couch was like someone stepping on an aluminum can. She opened her palms. The stainless steel had been fused into the size of a golf ball.

“Amy, you have the strength of a million men, we believe. About enough to lift an aircraft carrier.”

“No,” she objected. But her hands continued to work the metal ball, which twisted and collapsed under the remorseless power of her slender fingers. “OK, maybe. Am I fast, too?”

“You broke the land speed record this morning – by a factor of 8 or 9. They don’t know for sure. They weren’t able to measure it.”

She giggled at that. “Bullshit. Anything else?”

“Bullets bounce off you like water droplets. Even your clothing, having been exposed to the oils of your skin, is bulletproof. Our research had hinted at this possibility, but yesterday, you proved it to be real.

“Right.” She nodded distantly. “And so all those vague memories I have – the running, the boulders – those are real.”

He paused. “I know it’s a lot to take in. But those handcuffs you’re holding – they’re made of steel.”

She replied with a wan smile. “As if been a teenager wasn’t weird enough …”

Long minutes passed as her eyes darted between the window and the abused steel in her hand.

“Is there anything else I can get you?” Dave Gordon asked. “I don’t have much. Maybe a few old cookies.”

She examined him dispassionately.

“I’m sorry,” he confessed. “It’s temporary housing. I’m usually alone in here. And I’m not very good at hosting.”

“You’re doing OK,” she smiled. “Just keep the cookies coming and you get a gold star.”

Gordon tried to smile back. But that fact that his house was so poorly provisioned was just a reminder of how empty life had become. He had rented the place several months back specifically for the Amy project. Before that, it had been something in Tennessee, and the list went on. No wife, no kids – he could disappear off the face of the earth and no one would care, except maybe West. And now even West was dead to him.

“I imagine the federal agents will come for you tomorrow,” Gordon announced as he receded into the kitchen. “They’ll come after they’re confident that you have adjusted to your present … circumstance. They’ll give you whatever you want: luxury hotel room in the city, a new car, they’ll take care of whatever you need just so long as you don’t tear the country apart.”

“Oh,” she said, quietly. “That sounds nice, I guess.” She squirmed uncomfortably under the blankets as Gordon returned, plate of store-bought cookies in hand.

“I had expected luxury accommodations would sound great,” Gordon replied.

“I dunno.” An arm emerged from under the comforter and snagged a cookie. “Luxury hotels don’t have Mega-Choco-Delite’s.”

“Two-week-old Mega-Choco-Delite’s,” he corrected.

“Luxury hotels probably don’t have couches this comfy, either.”

Gordon searched the depth of her azure eyes. Was she really suggesting that didn’t want to go with the government guys tomorrow – that she prefered his smelly couch over a luxury hotel? Wasn’t she the most powerful organism the Earth had ever known – powerful enough to bring any country to its knees in a week? She could have whatever she wanted – billions upon billions of dollars, someday, if it suited her.

She sighed. “Well, wherever your spooky friends at the government do for me, it will probably be a whole lot better than what CPS used to do.”

“CPS?” he asked.

“Child Protective Services. They used to take me away when I was little, when my dad got out of control with the bottle.”

Foster homes, Dave Gordon realized. In addition to all her other troubles, the girl had been bouncing around foster homes. The research had missed this. “You didn’t like the CPS homes, it sounds like.”

She bit her lower lip and shook her head. “They never wanted me there. Nobody’s ever wanted me anywhere.”

“I want you here,” Dave blurted, before he realized how forward that must sound. He felt himself reddening. “I mean, I want you to be happy. And if being here makes you happy, then you can stay here.”

Amy turned and looked wistfully out the window. “I did something bad today, didn’t I?” she finally asked.

He appraised the fifteen-year-old purveyor of mass destruction that shared the couch with him. She was a beautiful girl. And innocent, too. The town, in recently broadcast aerial footage, looked as though it had been hit by tornadoes – six or seven of them, at once. And it was all caused by this little wisp of a girl. Something bad? He did not know how to reply.

“You took the remote away as soon as we arrived in the house,” Amy informed him. “You didn’t want me to turn on the TV and see whatever bad shit I did today.”

Dave felt a chill come over him. The house had been pitch black when they had arrived. He had managed to slip the remote in his trench coat pocket before even flipping the lights on. Even darkness could not stop this girl.

“Mr. Gordon, tell me. Did I do something bad?”

“Maybe.” He glanced at his folded hands before returning to her eyes. “When a butterfly spreads its wings for the first time, it breaks the cocoon that contained it. Through destruction, it becomes something new.”

She laughed. “You sound like the underside of a juice bottle lid.”

Dave reddened. “It’s the best I can do.”

“It WAS good,” she smiled as she jabbed his thigh lightly with her foot. “You’d be a good dad. At least YOU remind me of the right kind of bottle. My father reminds me of the wrong kind of bottle.”

Dave felt a strange warmth inside when he heard this. Having her here is a civic duty, he reminded himself. This is not time to rehash old regrets about family, about children.

The sky blue of her eyes examined him cautiously. “So, I don’t have to worry about whatever I did? It was just all butterflies and cocoons and shit?”

“You didn’t kill anybody. And you’re still growing into your power. People will soon realize, if they don’t already, that the stuff you did today was simply a product of nature, like a thunderstorm. It’s futile to be upset at you.”

“But aren’t you scared of me?” She considered the crumpled handcuffs in her lap. “I could probably crush your whole house to splinters,” her child-like voice conjectured, “without even trying.”

It sent a chill through him, but he did not allow himself to waver. “I’m only scared of you if you think I should be,” he replied.

Her bright blues wandered downward to the cookie crumbs that littered the comforter. “I’m worried … I’m worried you are inviting me to stay just because you’re afraid to tell me ‘no’. How can you want to have me here? You don’t even know me.”

She began to pick up the crumbs one by one, disposing of them on her tongue. It was the same punctilious girl he remembered from the video, arranging her cosmetics, just so, on the bathroom vanity. The same girl who wanted the National Guard column properly encircled before she mutilated it.

“I do know you,” Dave argued. “At least, I know enough. What’s wrong? You don’t think that you’re worth being taken care of?”

“I dunno.” Her fingers froze, with the crumbs still on them. “Like I said, nobody has ever wanted me around before – especially not my father.”

“Well, then you had the wrong father.”

He shifted his position on the couch, perching himself on the edge.

Her Adam’s apple moved – up and down – as she choked something back.

“Amy, you’re welcome here as long as you want to stay.”

Amy cast her eyes downward to her comforter-covered kneecaps. “I wouldn’t want to impose. I mean, it’d be nice, I guess. But it’s kind of wierd for me to ask.”

“Amy, I’d like it if you stayed. The house gets a little bit … quiet … with just me in here. Having you around would make me … happy.”

“Are you sure?”

He nodded, and quickly found himself surrounded by her arms. She had sat up, and was embracing him, hard. Her breasts, enlarged by the transformation, dug into him with all the diminutive gentleness of bowling balls.

“Easy now,” he rasped, through compressed lungs.

“Sorry,” she giggled, loosening her grip and allowing him to breathe. She inhaled deeply, and then sighed, before releasing him entirely and snuggling back under her blanket.

“I like your aftershave,” she chirped. “My dad always smelled like cheap booze. But you – you smell like dad is supposed to smell.”

He chuckled. “Glad I could measure up.”

“What if they …” her eyes seemed to flutter with exhaustion. It had been a big day for her. “What if your spooky friends … what if they are mad at me, for whatever shit I did?”

Dave pulled the comforter up until it was under her chin.

“Don’t worry about the spooky friends. If they need to talk to anyone, they can talk to me. I’ll take care of you.”

“You’re the BEST.” Her mouth stretched out into a yawn and then relaxed into a contented smile.

It had been a hell of day for him, too, Dave realized – letting West down, getting fired, getting arrested, nearly getting killed by the monstrously powerful girl that was now snuggling into his couch. Over the years, he could think of any number of mistakes that had limited his career. And today he had gone beyond limiting his career. He had killed it.

Outside, the sun had come out, and the snow on the ground had begun to glisten with its melt. The memories, too, of his previous failures began to fade. Dave looked at the trees: they no longer sagged as much as they had the previous night. Their limbs were now better able to bear the burden.

Dave found himself looking down at the young woman’s face framed by waves of strawberry blond hair. Her expression was happy and, for the first time, placid. Her button nose and freckles were a girl’s, but her full lips and high cheekbones were a woman’s. And the person underneath was perhaps in transition between the two – aware of the dangers of the world, and yet still innocent, still scared.

“Goodnight, dad,” she mumbled, as her head sunk into the pillow.

Dave watched her irises dart back and forth under closed eyelids. Did she just call him “dad”?

There have been so many days in my life where I’ve done nothing but screw up, Dave Gordon admitted to himself. But not today, he thought, as he watched her settle into sleep. Not today.

The job hunt would not be easy, that much was clear, Dave sighed to himself as he paged through the job hunt websites. He hadn’t even lost his job yet, but there was no point in waiting. The phone call was coming. And when it came, he would be fired for cause, which was a career ender in the law enforcement community.

Amy had asked to stay with him, which meant he had a second mouth to feed. And who knew how long that arrangement would last? Would she still be living with him when she finished high school? Would she want to go to college? And how was he going to pay for that? He had always been attracted to the idea of raising a child, but he was now less suited to the task than ever.

Luckily, Dave did not have his music player on during the depressing web search. Otherwise, he would never have heard Amy’s approaching footsteps. He killed the browser window before she turned the corner.

“Did you sleep well, kiddo?” he asked, turning in his chair. He had decided upon ‘kiddo’ ahead of time. It was less familial than “honey”, or “darling”, which many fathers used with their own daughters. He didn’t want to be presumptuous.

She replied groggily, “Yea, I slept like a baby.”

You are, he thought.

She rubbed her eyes. “Whatchya doin’?”

“Nothing important,” he lied.

Opening, her blue eyes were like the ocean – wide, and without judgement. “OK. What are we doing today?”

“Well yesterday, you had some difficulty believing me when I told you about your powers, despite the fact that you reduced my handcuffs to play-dough. So, I need to get you fully briefed on your abilities, before you underestimate yourself and get somebody killed.”

“You want me fully briefed? You sound like an government agent.”

“For the time being, I still am.”

Dave Gordon navigated the car carefully through the slushy streets. The warming sun had outpaced even the snowplows.

“Before we get there,” Gordon said, “there’s one thing you may was well try now.” He shifted himself in the drivers seat and extracted a folding knife from his pocket.

“The biggest challenge we’ve had with the other girls is getting them to overcome their old fears. And you’ll be much more effective in your new life if you tackle this stuff up front.” He handed her the knife. “Open this up to the largest blade and center it on your palm.”

She did so, hesitantly.

“Now drive it into your palm, hard. Like you’re trying to drive a nail into wood, hard. You won’t get hurt, trust me.”

She pressed the knife gently, but then stopped. “I’m scared. It’s going to hurt.”

“No it won’t,” Dave objected. “Come on, kiddo. Show me that you some guts.”

She made another attempt, but it was half-hearted. The knife was still intact. “Mr. Gordon, I’m still scared.”

“Why? You don’t have to be.”

“When I would talk back to my old dad Joe, he would … the knife …” her lips began to quiver.

Dave slowed the car and cursed himself. He took the pocketknife back from her and carefully folded the blade back into its handle. “I’m sorry, Amy. I didn’t know.”

She just nodded, a look of relief in her eyes.

“Promise me you’ll try it someday. On your own time.”

She nodded again.

When they arrived at the scrap yard, it seemed to go on for miles. Abandoned on a Sunday, it was the perfect place to experiment.

She stepped out of the car wearing sweatpants and a form-fitting, cap-sleeve t-shirt. Her bare feet crunched through the three inches of snow that fell the night before.

“Didn’t you bring shoes?” Dave Gordon asked. He cursed himself for having missed this when leaving the house. A real parent would have noticed. “Or at least a jacket?”

“No to both,” she replied cheerily, flapping her arms for balance as she walked an old axle like a balance beam.

Dave drew his own jacket more tightly around him. “Aren’t you cold?”

“Should I be?” she asked, as her breath formed thick clouds in front of her. “It doesn’t feel that bad.”

Dave sighed to himself. He wasn’t qualified to raise a normal kid, let alone this one.

“So you want me to pick stuff up so I can prove to myself how strong I am?”

Dave nodded.

She reached down to lift a wheel rim. It was probably a 25 pounds. “Wow,” she said, lifting it easily.

“Kiddo, at that rate, we’re going to be here all morning.” He motioned his head toward one of the rusting cars. “Try something more substantial.”

“I feel kind of silly,” Amy objected, “with all these people watching.”

Dave had seen them, too, on the way in. They had been tailed by an unmarked car, and a helicopter had dropped off additional spotters on the ridgeline. That made two groups of two. It was understandable, giving that his companion this morning was a walking, talking natural disaster.

“It’s only a few guys,” Dave assured her.

“No it’s more. Two guys from the car, two dudes from the helicopter up on the ridge. And two planes circling above.” Strawberry blond hair spilled off her shoulders as she craned her head skyward. “But the planes have a really weird shape.”

Dave tilted his head and tried to follow her gaze, but saw nothing. “What type of weird shape?”

“Wings on the back of the plane, rather than the middle. And really long engines.

SR-71’s, Gordon thought to himself. Those things fly at 70,000 feet. They would be just the tiniest of specks. Her vision was beyond human capabilities. The Agency hadn’t predicted this.

“And also, there’s a whole convoy of trucks and stuff that just pulled in on the other side of that hill.

Dave glanced at the hill, which was a solid mile away. “If they’re on the other side, how can you be sure they are there?”

“Because the make the air kind of reddish. Not like, normally,” she explained. “When I just LOOK at the hill, it looks normal. But when I squint kind of funny, the hill looks black, and most of the air does too. But air behind the hill looks RED.”

“Infrared vision,” Dave concluded, out loud. The girl was a fully equipped reconnaissance nightmare. With freckles.

Amy seemed already to have moved on from those superhuman accomplishments, and was now tentatively tucking her hands under the frame of a rusted chassis. She paused. “I still feel silly.”

“I know if feels a little bit weird, but I’ve seen you do stuff like this before. You were in a trance the Agency calls the Rage, so you don’t remember it. But I need to know that you actually comprehend what you are capable of. That’s the only way that any of us – me, they guys in the trucks, anyone – can be safe.

“OK, here goes.” Amy grunted with effort. Her muscles twitched slightly and her hands flew above her head, as if she were throwing confetti in the air. The car shot skyward, climbing hundreds of feet, spinning end over end, before it came down with a resounding CRUNCH.

Amy’s mouth formed a big “O”. “Oh. Wow. That’s. Totally. Sick.”


“Yea. It means the same thing as when OLD people say ‘awesome,’” she explained as she skipped toward her next endeavor.

I am an old person, Dave reminded himself.

In front of her now was a stack of about twenty-five cars, all crushed to the width of about a foot each. It was more than two stories of solid steel.

The fact that Dave had seen this before did not remove one scrap of nauseation as he watched her athletic yet teenage frame heave the mountain of steel above he head. “Oh. My. Gosh!” she squealed. “So fucking easy!”

She took one hand away from the mass and screwed her face up in concentration as she flexed her remaining arm up and down. “This must weigh at least a ton.”

The sinking feeling in Dave’s stomach only sunk further. “Twenty five cars of that vintage would be more like 100 tons.”

“Feels like nothing,” she replied, tossing it casually to the side.

Dave covered his ears as a cacophony of steel rained down on the scrap yard.

As Dave removed his hands from his ears, she gave a disapproving look to the remains of the vehicles she had just scattered throughout the yard. “I should clean that up. It going to bug me.”

“It’s a scrap yard. Don’t worry about it,” he said.

She pouted. Messiness had always been her pet peeve, he knew.

“Look, I’ve got one more thing I need you to check out, and then we can leave and you won’t have to look at the mess anymore.” Gordon watched her assent, and then continued, “When you were in your Rage-”

“… hang on,” Amy instructed, staring into the distance. Your friends from the government are creeping me out. They keep inching closer. “COME ON!” she boomed at the volume of a hundred jet engines. “SCRAM!”

Her words echoed off the surround hills like the sound of artillery fire: scram-scram-scram-scram-scram-scram.

“They’re not listening,” Amy lamented. “Can you see them continue to creep this way?”

“No,” Dave replied.

“GO!” Amy shouted at the air.

“go-go-go-go,” the hills responded.

She picked up a car with one hand and a large truck axle with the other. She released the car in front of her and then whacked it with the truck axle, like hitting a baseball with a bat. The wind alone from the swing nearly knocked Dave off his feet. The “ball” emitted a deafening crunch when it absorbed the blow, and then rocketed toward the ridge line at blistering speed. The thing blasted a 20-yard-wide notch in the top of the ridge. Tossing another car in front of her, she hit that “ball” at the hill in the distance. It landed like a bomb, sending a plume of debris fifty feet in the air.

“Did you kill any of them?” Dave dreaded to ask.

“No, just wanted to send them a message.”

“I’m sure they received it” Dave lamented. When he had yearned to raise a kid, he had expected arguments about eating peas or buying a pony. Instead, he was talking to a piece of twenty-second-century artillery.

“What were you going to ask me?” she said, skipping back to him.

“When you were having your Rage, I could have sworn I saw your feet leave the ground. Can you levitate?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at her feet uncomfortably. “How do I find out?”

“Trust your instincts. Repeat that back to me.”

“Trust my instincts.”

“Do that, and you’ll always, always be fine, not matter what the challenge.” Gordon could only hope that was true. “Now, close your eyes. Trust your instincts. You can find the answers within.”

Amy screwed up her face in concentration. Pointing her hands at the ground, her body quickly rose away from it, feet first. Her ascent accelerated, and soon she was barrelling skyward in an uncontrolled fashion.

It was about a minute later that Dave saw a knot of limbs and blond hair come tumbling to the earth about twenty yards away – a fall that would have killed any normal human.

“Totally cool!” she was squealing by the time he approached her. She grabbed a can of spray paint discarded nearby. “I think I’m learning to control it too. Watch!”

She levitated more carefully now and managed to hover alongside another two-and-a-half story stack of cars. With the can of spray paint, she spelled out A-M-Y W-A-S H-E-R-E across the top.

Dave chuckled to himself.

“I think I’m getting the hang of it!” she yelled down to him. “Hang on! I’m going to be right back!” She disappeared in a blur, rocketing skyward.

It was only a minute later that the blur returned. With a rush of air and a THUD, the blur quickly resolved into a beaming Amy standing in front of him. Her hair was mussed and her grin from ear to ear.

“Let me guess,” Dave offered. “Totally sick.”

“Totally,” she gushed, as she crumpled the spray can and tossed it.

It wasn’t until later that that Dave learned what Amy had done during that high speed aerial tour. They were watching TV, dinner trays on their laps, waiting for the nightly news to start. With terrorist attacks against the government dramatically on the rise, the first five minutes of every newscast nowadays was the National Security Report, and Dave figured now was as good a time as ever to get Amy educated on the environment in which she was rapidly growing up. They had turned on the TV a few minutes too early; Dave muted the ads.

“Why is there a booming sound when I fly?” Amy asked as the TV silenced itself.

“There a booming sound when you fly?” he asked, alarmed.

“Duh! Didn’t I just say so?”

Dave shot or a chastising look, and she looked down, sheepish. “It means you passed the sound barrier: 720 miles an hour.”

“So, what if I heard it twenty times?”

Dave Gordon’s mind froze as he tried to comprehend. “Twenty times. Nothing has ever flown that fast. Amy, what exactly did you do up there?”

But before she could answer, the newscast was on. It started with footage of two SR-71’s landing. But something was wrong with their paint job, Dave noticed. His adoptive daughter meanwhile, was giggling.

The camera zoomed in, and finally Dave could make it out. The planes had been spray-painted: “Amy Was Here.”

Dave Gordon awoke the next morning to the loud ringing of his cell phone. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard Amy’s ring as well, followed by her voice answering it.

Gordon’s call was from the Agency. He had an inkling what it would be, and he didn’t want Amy to hear any part of it. He jammed the cellphone’s earpiece into his ear, and for good measure, cupped his hand over his ear. She was on the other side of the house anyway.

And sure enough, the call was straight and to the point. The good news: they were dropping the charges against him, which he had expected. Who in their right mind would piss Amy off with a prosecution of the only adult she appeared to trust? But then there was the bad news: he was being fired. Insubordination of duty in the Amy Incident, it was called. He had failed, he learned, to allow other officers into the room. He had failed to get her prompt medical attention. He had mishandled evidence, meaning, the gun.

At least West has a sense of humor, he thought to himself. All the inappropriate actions Gordon had performed at West’s direct request were now being pinned on Gordon. Nowhere did they mention the one inappropriate request Gordon had refused to fulfill, the real reason he was being fired: West’s demand that he kill Amy when they still had the chance.

Twenty-four years with the Bureau and then the NSA after that – gone in a minute. Dave couldn’t help his whole frame from slumping as he made his way downstairs.

“You got a call,” Amy observed.

He dropped his body into the chair across from the couch on which she’d been sleeping. “Nothing important.”

“That’s not true.” She ran five fingers through her strands of warm gold, drying to work out the evening’s tangles. “They’re dropping the charges against you. And you were fired.”

“How did you kn-”

“I got a big phone call too,” she announced. “They want me in Washington. Full debriefing. There’s that stupid phrase again.”

He nodded. And then, he gathered up his courage. “They’re trying to separate us, Amy. With Joe in jail, you officially become a ward of the State. With me fired from the government for cause, I’m a non-starter on an adoption process: my application would go straight in the trash.”

“And what’s more,” he continued, “I expect that they have found some legal gymnastics to transfer your guardianship from the county to the federal level.”

“So what does that mean? Is the Department of Homeland Security my new mother?”

Dave didn’t laugh. “Amy, it was great having you as my guest for a few days. And I wish it could have been longer. But given your exceptional abilities, I’m holding you back now. I’m sure the government has many good things in st-”

Amy didn’t let him finish. Dave saw only the blur of navy pajama and strawberry blonde hair before he felt her weight in his lap. Then he felt himself being squeezed with ferocious power – as if someone had piled two sumo wrestlers on top of him. “They are NOT taking me away from you!” She screamed. “I will tear their arms and legs out one by one before they put a finger on us!”

Dave tried to reply – something affirmative – but all he did was turn purple. It took a minute to untangle her from him, and Dave didn’t want to think about what would happen if it had taken longer.

“Tell me you don’t want to get rid of me!” she demanded.

That was easy to answer. “I don’t,” he assured. “You want to stay?”

She nodded so vigorously, Dave wondered whether her neck could come unhinged.

“We’ll get through this, somehow. Real families always do, right?”

As Dave’s breathing recovered from the near-death hug, something tugged at his mind. “Let me ask you one thing,” he said. “When you were on the phone, they were talking to you in one ear, were you listening to the sound of my earpiece with the other? You were able to pick up the faint sound of my earpiece, separate it from the louder sound in your other ear, and process both conversations simultaneously. Is that right?”

She nodded. “Yea so?”

“How many conversations can you process simultaneously?”

“I dunno,” she said sitting back down on the couch. She brought her knees to her chin and became a ball of pajama flannel the way only teenage girls know how to do. “I noticed I can do it yesterday, but I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Think about it now.”

She closed her eyes. “The neighborhood.”

“The neighborhood what?”

“I can hear and process every conversation in the neighborhood. Simatan … sima …”

“Simultaneously,” Dave offered.

“Simultaneously,” she affirmed, brightening. Learning that word was apparently more of an event to her than adding yet another item to her long list of supernatural talents.

The Agency’s previous research on her had been woefully inadequate, Dave Gordon finally realized. She wasn’t just strong and fast, as the Agency had already conjectured. She could fly – at rooftop level or at the roof of the atmosphere. And she had reconnaissance capabilities – far beyond the imagination of modern-day engineering – the surface of which they had not even begun to scratch. She could be an angel, if she wanted. Or she could be the first horseman of the Apocalypse. It was entirely her call.

He watched as she blew on the steel ball that used to be his handcuffs, as if she were trying to warm her hands or soften the steel “dough”. And sure enough, the ball began to glow red as her breath passed over it. What in the world did she have buried in those lungs, a flamethrower?

The Agency – he chuckled to himself – they had no idea who they were fucking with.

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