Written by Furlough :: [Wednesday, 18 May 2022 18:25] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 11 June 2022 13:23]
"…what did you say these were for?"
"Heartburn, Ken. Anti-heartburn pills."
"Don't people just get over the counter stuff for that?"
"But this is so much better and more efficient! Do you know how hard I worked to get it like this?"
"Is it cost efficient, though? You know that's what the brass is gonna look at. We're not like those bigwig companies that hog all the pharma money. We're one of the cheapo loser brands."
"Ah… is there a problem?" Lincoln came into the lab and quickly strode over to see what was going on between Ken and Caroline.
"Nothing," Caroline said with a quick huff, "I'm just trying to explain to Kenneth a few things about this new pill I engineered. And remind him that it's his job to look at it even if he's got a few… colorful critiques to offer."
"I'm just trying to make sure she's got a clear picture of what this product is gonna look like through a marketing lens," Ken retorted. "Nothing wrong with being realistic if business is what you live off of."
"That's nice, Ken," Lincoln offered, "but Caroline's right. Regardless of what that… picture may be, it'll be up to the folks with actual marketing positions to decide in the end. Let's just stick to what our roles here in the lab are supposed to be; you let her take care of the development, and you check if there's anything that needs addressing on the technical quality inspection side, okay?"
Lincoln didn't wait for a response as he led his auburn-haired colleague away back towards their own workspaces. "Sure, whatever," Ken muttered to himself, likewise turning away. What a square, he thought. In the time he'd spent working this job, he hadn't exactly come to develop a glowing perception of his two colleagues; Lincoln was a boring stickler who went out of his way to chide anyone bold enough to place even a pinky toe out of line in his presence. Caroline seemed like a competent scientist, but whenever they actually talked, he couldn't help but notice that she was surprisingly short-sighted in the most peculiar ways. How could someone as smart as her fail to see such obvious things?
Still, he admitted, they always managed to find a way to shut him up by playing self-righteous on some kind of bureaucratic technicality. Today was no exception. With a dejected sight of annoyance, he went over to his desk and sat down, intent on starting the analysis of the sample he'd just been handed.
"Heya bud, what's cooking?"
Ken heard another voice coming from the lab's entrance, though one that filled him with much less apprehension. If anything, he realized only too readily, it did the opposite.
"It's already cooked, Kate," he shot back in the banteriest tone he could manage, doing his best to shake off his irritation. "Now it's my job to trim off the gross burnt edges and see if it's still edible."
Kate gave a quick snicker. She had known her colleague to be a bit of a smartass, but it wasn't every day that he was in a good enough mood to joke like that. "That bad?"
"We'll see, I guess," he gave with a sigh and a muted smile. "You know how these Caroline specials are…"
"Sure, sure," she said. "But you always manage to iron those out, right, K?"
Ken looked up for a moment to steal a quick glance at his colleague. Katelyn was already wearing the white coat emblazoned with the company logo that was part of the lab's dress code, but even when covered up with such a drab piece of clothing he couldn't help but feel some silent admiration at her figure. She was hardly a supermodel, but Ken wasn't the pickiest, and she was very attractive in her own way; her modest chest and hip assets could be easily appreciated in any ensemble by anyone who took the trouble to look, and the way she made her raven hair up in a shaggy ponytail that left enough of it free to frame her creamy white skin and bespectacled, icy-blue eyes always made his heart ache. Of course, thinking about it only ever succeeded in reminding Ken of how he had never gathered up enough courage to speak out on the way he felt about his coworker.
"You tell me," he quickly said, not wanting to let himself be overcome by his inner turmoil. "You're a K that works in this lab too, you know."
"Fair enough, fella," she shot back without skipping a beat. It wasn't just the way she looked, Kate's attitude had always left a strong impression on him. He had never really talked to her outside of work, but whenever they were on the clock, he had always known her to display a snippy temperament and a quick wit, which in his eyes belied a confidence that he simply could not ignore. "Well, what do we got so far?"
"Lemme see…" Ken took on a low, bored-sounding tone that sounded almost tailor-made to hide how nervous she made him. "It's this… thingy Caroline made for heartburn. Y'know, pyrosis, reflux, that kind of thing. The way she explained it to me, it's not like those inhibitors you can buy in any drugstore, it's more like a… a precision de-stimulant of some kind. A microscopic mechanism that can affect the gut lining just so to attain the desired result. No possibility of side effects, no surprises, really safe, yadda yadda… I'm looking at it right now, and it seems like doing all the necessary fine-tuning for mass-production would be a pain, though…"
Kate sauntered over to Ken's desk and looked at the monitors, which now displayed an array of freshly rendered computer graphics representing microscopic shapes and technical readouts. She narrowed her eyes and puckered her lips slightly as she looked over all the information before her.
"Yeeeaaahhh…." she finally drawled out, apparently satisfied with her first analytical impression. "Real fancy stuff. Gotta hand it to her. Weird to hear she wants to use it for that specifically, though."
"What do you mean?" Ken said.
"Well… see, it's the way this little guy is structured. She's got all the biochemical agents and whatnot primed to act on the gut lining, yeah? But this excipient… it ain't my design, but it almost looks like if you dressed it up enough, it could be repurposed to aim for… well, pretty much any kind of active reaction within the body. Could probably pack it with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anaesthetics… anything you wanted to be delivered with at least as much precision as what Carrie's selling. But…"
She narrowed her eyes even further for a moment, deep in thought. Ken couldn't help but to take a protracted look at her face with raised eyebrows, wondering what was on her mind.
"Nah," she finally broke the silence, "you know how this stuff is. Best to just stick with what ol' Carrie gave us. Cool shakeup from same same boring old drugs we're always working with, though!"
With that, she gave him a quick, muted smile and headed off across the room to her own desk. If only you knew what that does to me, Ken thought. The way she casually exercised and showed off her impressive intellect left just as big of an effect on him as every other part of what made her who she was.
But the way she had talked about Caroline's project had been very peculiar indeed. Ken quickly forced himself to turn his attention to the sample analysis to see what Kate had been talking about. And sure enough, the project Caroline had handed him had some very unique properties. Just as Kate had said, the special base Caroline had designed as a delivery vehicle for the active drugs was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Rather than focusing on a focused evaluation of the specific iteration he had been given, Ken took to running several simulations in which the enveloping substance was combined with as many different medications as he could think of, and miraculously, every single one of them worked perfectly, even producing data that suggested that any adverse effects usually associated with those drugs could be avoided completely. Exploited properly, this was easily a billion-dollar idea he was looking at. This is what she should be focusing on!, Ken thought. Why didn't she say anything about this? Is she playing games?
Ken's eyes involuntarily shifted from side to side for a moment as he thought over all the potential this invention had— and how he was probably the only one who could really bring said potential to fruition. He was hardly a saint, and took a mild sense of pride on the various times he had resorted to deception as a way to make use of opportunities that he thought others had been wasting. The extra cash they often afforded him didn't hurt either, of course— but this, he knew, was like nothing he'd ever come across before. A lifetime opportunity. There could be no mistakes, no underselling this, he knew, or else he would regret it for the rest of his life. And one thing still stuck out to him: That last pause in what Kate had said.
She'd probably noticed another special detail with that lovely mind of hers, but just what had that been? Ken knew he couldn't just ask, not if he wanted to pull this off the way he wanted. If this worked, he thought, he could give Kate more than just a bouquet of flowers and a nice dinner; he could give her the world, make sure she stayed with him forever. It wasn't like he was planning to keep it a secret from her; it wouldn't fly, not after that conversation they just had. No, he wanted her to join him in his journey to magnate-hood, but only after he did the initial legwork to prove how smart and capable he could be too. And the first step was this: to match her smarts in this question, to figure out what else about this had been so special. Something so big, that it would surely come out even if it slipped past him; he couldn't let that happen.
Ken pored over every technical aspect of the sample he possibly could, but no matter how he sliced it, nothing seemed more important than the most obvious aspect he had already figured: The substance's ability to flawlessly transport and effect any drug. His exasperation grew as he felt like he was spending hours just going in circles. At a loss, he eventually came back to the very first technical readout he had examined, the one that corresponded to the specifications provided with the sample he had been given. The one Kate had looked at.
Ken very nearly jumped out of his chair, but used up all of his willpower in that moment to make it look like he was merely taking a deep breath as he restarted his heart. Once he had collected as many of his wits as he was going to be able to, he turned to see Kate standing a short distance behind him, having apparently turned back on her way out of the lab for her lunch break.
"Yeah," Ken tried to play it off as if it was nothing. "You know, pain in the ass, just like I said."
Kate smirked. "Yeah, who knows what's up with those cell figures. Weird. But anyways, I'm off to grab some food, see ya later!"
Ken raised his hand slightly in a feeble attempt to wave her off. Every time, he thought, as he let out a genuine, pained sigh at seeing her go. Even if he loved to watch her leave.
What was it, though? What was it she just said?
Ken's brain snapped right back into action as he took a closer look at the readout. Cell figures. The simulation showed what the sample's interaction would be with the stomach cells it was designed to travel towards and deliver medication to. It would administer the drug, subjecting the nearby organelles to its effects, and… that wasn't everything.
How the hell did I miss this?
The vehicle was doing more than merely serving as a delivery agent for the drug— it was stimulating the cells in an intricately calculated way so that only the desired reaction could possibly be produced. That's why there were no adverse effects, no surprises. That's how it was so perfect.
But there was more. The sample Ken had been provided with was prototypical; it was malleable. Its primary specifications could be changed. Ken's eyes began to glaze over at this realization; given appropriate instructions and fed enough energy, this thing could alter the human body in any way imaginable. The implications were jaw-dropping. What the hell IS she playing at?!, he wondered, his thoughts turning to Caroline again. How do you come up with something like this and just— and just…
Almost as if in a trance, Ken's mind turned to envisioning the most ambitious application possible for this invention. Curing a disease was one thing, but with everything this thing could accomplish, what counted as 'healthy' anymore? Ken went on a crash research session for things he hadn't looked at in any kind of detail since his med school days; the physiological processes that helped athletes become so strong and coordinated, the genetic characteristics that granted the world's healthiest people their perks. It took some creative reverse-engineering on his part, but he managed to find an effective if rather haphazard way to plug all of this information into a significantly altered simulation of Caroline's sample, which he also programmed with a few stimulant drugs to complement the processes it was meant for. This still wouldn't be enough to accomplish everything he wanted, he knew; there would have to be some extra juice involved. He had only a vague idea of how this could be accomplished in reality, but making the simulation play along and pretend that such a surge of energy could be provided without any greater fanfare was simple enough. Finally, he held his breath as he plugged this extraordinary cocktail into a system meant to represent the human body— one, he made sure to confirm, was close enough to what his own cells would look like.
The results left him staring at the screens with a stupefied expression. This shouldn't be possible, he thought. This is beyond anything we've ever seen in human biology. But he thought further— he had come across something that would seem completely realistic from the viewpoint of modern, academic medicine, but that would also fit in some kind of fantastical account. Something that spoke about mythological heroes, of legendary beings descended from the gods. People that would never grow old or get sick, whose bodies would naturally tend towards the pinnacle of physical fitness and power, with strength and endurance that couldn't be matched even by the most prolific Olympic athletes. And yet, if he was to believe what was right in front of his eyes, that could all be made possible with a customized iteration of this sample fitted with some ambitious specifications.
This thing can alter basic cellular and genomic structures, Ken monologued in his mind once more. Even increase mitochondrial energy output by a mile and induce evolutionary mutation! This isn't just a wonder drug, it's THE wonder drug. This thing can make supersoldiers. It can render gyms and personal trainers and about a dozen branches of nutrition related studies obsolete. This'll change the world forever if it gets out. But first…
Whatever ambitions Ken had held upon his initial assessment of the substance's potential now felt like childish fantasies. But before any of that could ever happen, he knew that there was one thing he absolutely had to do.
Ken rushedly wiped any trace of the research and tests he had been conducting off his computer, making sure to stow as much of the relevant technical information as possible away in his own mind, and writing down some extra notes in a little pad in a coded cipher he'd whipped up in a hurry. He nervously looked around himself to make sure he was still alone before he began the next step of the plan he'd decided upon. He began writing a set of instructions for the lab's material synthesizer, looking to replicate the innermost workings of Caroline's sample down to the letter, while making it look to a casual observer like he was just typing up a routine analysis report.
As if on cue, Ken quickly became aware of some approaching footsteps. A few moments later, Kate came back into the lab.
"Heya K," she shot him with her usual snippy tone. "Did you manage to get some grub? You haven't just been locked up in here all day, have you?"
"Nah, don't worry about it," lied Ken, his casual tone sounding almost parodic now. "I managed to get away for a while, but I just had to come right back in. Caroline really did something special this time, this report is a killer."
"Dang," she responded. "Well, just don't forget to look after yourself, yeah? You know they don't pay us enough here to kill ourselves doing this kind of work."
He smiled at that remark, managing to look surprisingly genuine. She gave him a smile in kind before returning to her own workstation. If only you knew, he thought to himself once more, yet also noting the irony in that silent quip. She did know, it was her who had known, who had noticed. This discovery was hers. And she would know all about it, of its bounty, but only after Ken had full knowledge of it himself. He had decided he would be the first to reap the benefits of this marvel, transforming himself into the first example of the new pinnacle of humanity, with his first act using his newfound magnificence being to conquer Kate's heart for eternity, of course.
Ken could hardly contain his excitement, and yet his still very much ordinary self couldn't help but interpret that desire as a reflection of the inadequacy he felt as a mere mortal. He had known Kate for as long as he had worked in the company and been smitten with her for practically the same amount of time, and yet had never been able to bring himself to say anything beyond the usual amicable workplace interactions. He hardly knew anything about her personal life, but what little he did couldn't help but leave him with the impression that she was a bubbly, free-spirited chick who wouldn't hesitate to party and have new, exciting experiences. In other words, his exact opposite.
But he also remembered what they said about opposites and their magnetism— and well, it was certainly proving true on at least one side. He had never really seen her talking to anyone that he didn't also know from work. He figured it wouldn't hurt to try, and especially not after he had transformed himself into a real-life Hercules.
Ken spent the rest of his workday fine-tuning his new project. Even though he was confident he'd have a specs-file to feed into the synthesizer by the end of the day, he also knew that it would take until the end of the week for the machine to produce a usable specimen with the tweaks he had provided. And even as he shared his office with Kate, he knew there would be no way in the nine hells that he could take her off his mind until the moment when he could finally bring his dreams to fruition.
Kate's voice rung through the air, sounding like a divine bell to Ken's ears. Lincoln and Caroline were in the lab too, looking through some materials.
"Ah, morning, Katelyn," Lincoln said in his usual drab tone. "Well, I suppose it's high time we got back to our own office to do some crunch work. Right, Caroline?"
"Sure, yeah," the other offered. "Man, how time flies. Make sure you have that analysis ready for me soon, eh, Ken?"
"Yeah, sure," he muttered. "I'll have something to show you first thing next week." Oh, you have no idea.
The two interlopers shuffled out of the lab awkwardly, leaving Ken and Kate to themselves once more. Kate began walking over to her desk as usual, a wry smirk on her face from her successful rile-up of her other colleagues.
"So what's going on?" she asked Ken as she walked by. "You doing okay on that report?"
"Yeah, it's going, all right," he replied. "Looks like it's gonna keep going for a while, though."
"That sucks, but hey, it is what it is. But remember what I said, yeah? Don't go working yourself too hard for these losers."
The two exchanged polite smiles again before turning to their work. Don't work too hard… that certainly seemed to Ken as something she wouldn't just say— she would mean it completely. Just as he had predicted, she hadn't left his mind for a second after yesterday, and knowing that it would only take until the end of the week for everything to change, he saw no point in resisting his indulgence of dreamy thoughts.
He found himself thinking back to when the two had first met. It had been only a few years prior, but it hadn't taken much for her to captivate him. He saw it as only natural coming from her; the first few times they spoke, she was just a little bit stuffier, displaying some of the artificial politeness you'd show to a cashier in a store or someone else you weren't expecting to have to deal with for long. But as the familiarity between them quickly grew, so too did her confidence in treating him casually. She went from calling him "Dr. Kenneth" to "doc" to "pal" or "friendo" within the space of just a couple weeks. It had also been her who dubbed him "K", a far friendlier nickname than anyone else had ever given him, and adopted a chipper tendency to work it into puns.
It took no time at all for Ken's crush to develop something fierce. It didn't help that Ken had always been a pathological loner with no intention of building a meaningful relationship with anyone that didn't try to come onto him first— which, owing to his general overly-ascetic personality, was something with an exceedingly low occurrence rate. Kate was just about the only girl towards whom he had ever felt this intensely.
Matters were not helped when Ken happened upon her coming into work one day not long after the two had first met; he hadn't caught the full story, but it was something like she had been up too late the previous night, and had to hurriedly stuff her neat work clothes in a bag and rush to work to avoid coming in any later than she already was (which was quite a bit). Once she came in, she hurried into the ladies' bathroom to change, but not before exchanging a friendly greeting with Ken in the lobby. It was then that he was treated to the only glimpse he had ever gotten of her in an out-of-work casual outfit. But what an outfit it was! A modestly form-fitting jet black t-shirt with long, bunched-up sleeves, with ends that tied into her middle fingers like a half-glove, as Ken saw when she waved hi to him, framed in a ragged blue denim vest, with similarly dark leggings that led down to a pair of equally tenebrous boots which looked practical enough, but perhaps with a couple straps too many. Every part of this ensemble hugged her pleasant curves deftly, seemingly calculated to create as impacting of a frame as she could possibly evoke.
But what he had ended up focusing on the most, of course, hadn’t been any of that, or the spiky choker tied around her creamy white neck, or even the way her ponytail looked even more frazzled than usual. It was the way each and every one of these details came together to frame and emphasize her face— the very same face which, a few minutes later, emerged from the bathroom looking almost identical. In the end, that was what struck him the hardest; even though he had just caught sight of her as what he had since come to believe her true self to be —an unabashed party girl who wasn't afraid to let loose and act upon her wild side— that was the very same girl who had become his new lab partner in a highly technical job which nevertheless didn't seem to faze her in the slightest, and in fact seemed to be little more to her than an excuse to show off her brilliance and confidence to him while still acting modest. It was like something out of a dream; she drove him wild.
It always caused him a twinge of pain to remember that in all this time, he had never worked up the courage to try and make anything more out of those feelings, even if she was the only one who had ever really made him feel that way. There was another kind of anxiety gnawing at the back of his mind whenever he thought of it; the idea that she already had someone else to go home to. It seemed almost inevitable, he thought; for a girl as amazing as her to not have somebody? Even beyond that, for her to ever want a two-faced loser like him? That notion dominated Ken's brain as though it were cast in stone for the first few weeks of their acquaintance. But as the weeks went by, he began to notice a few things he hadn't at first, like how he had never once seen her with the other guy he so feared, and how she really only treated him like a friend and not a fogey from among all the people who worked in the lab.
What does that mean? He couldn't help but wonder. Why me? It couldn't be that a girl as smart and free as her could be interested in someone like me. But then… what does it all mean?
The day went by as the sample sat on the side of Ken's desk, completely ignored as he pretended to work on some pending material usage reports. In truth, he spent most of his time at his desk trying to monitor the progress of the synthesizer, unwilling to let any part of his plan go wrong. That thought mixed in with the endless churning of his mind where it came to Kate. When the time came, he would finally be able to tell her everything. He would have nothing to fear even if it did turn out that he really did have a rival for her affection; no mere mortal would be a match for his uber-enhanced self in any way imaginable.
No one, he thought, except her.
Even after he partook of what he anticipated to be the initial changes, the intelligence of the modified micro-elixir's host should remain mostly unaffected. As smart and technically-minded as Ken was, he still fancied he paled in that regard when compared to Kate herself. It wasn't just her technical knowledge, but her keen observations and constantly-exercised analytical mind that allowed her to stay on top of everything—even things that he himself missed, things as important as that which was about to change their lives forever.
He knew she deserved everything he could give her, and more. A thought stirred. Something he had thought about but only briefly, and yet he suspected had influenced the specifics he had fed the machine which was now responsible for producing the very thing that would define his future. He was just about done with the charade of work for the day, and began to head out of the lab while giving a shy, muted wave off to Kate, who shot him a fresh, energetic grin as she returned the gesture.
His thoughts turned back to his regret at never speaking to Kate in earnest. He thought about how close the turning point was. What would it mean if he never shared the truth with her before then? What would she think, even as she stared down the greatness he would soon possess, when she learned about all the time he had spent wasting an opportunity?
The thought of it gnawed at him harder than it ever had before. The increased anticipation meant that Ken's thoughts of Kate only intensified even as he headed to bed that night. He decided it was high time for him to take conscience and do something, just as the unconscious part of him had done when he programmed the synthesizer to produce just enough material to produce not one, but two doses of the miracle drug.
"H-huh?!" She blurted out, her eyes wider than he had ever seen them. "I-I mean… sure! No real r-reason why I'd say no to that, honestly… heh heh."
Her voice trailed off into a low, quiet tone as she finished saying that, coming out a little gravelly. Others might have called it a croaky sort of sound; as Ken looked over Kate smiling at him with half-shut eyes, her hand scratching at the back of her head which crooked forward in a slight hunch, he would have called it "fucking adorable" if his boldness extended that far.
But he'd already been hit with some of the biggest surprises in his life within the past sixty seconds. Not only had he managed to work up the resolve to get up from his desk and walk over to Kate's, clear his throat, ask her out to lunch together, AND gotten her to say yes— but she had broken down from her usual glowing, spunky self into a shy, flustered ball of nerves while doing so. He never imagined she would do that, thinking of such a response as something more akin to what he would have expected of himself if anything like this had happened to him back at school (it never did).
A few moments later, though, Kate seemed to come to a sudden realization of what she was doing and awkwardly rushed to pull herself together, clearing her throat.
"I mean, it's always more fun to have someone cool to talk to, y'know?" she shot in a tone that seemed far more appropriate for her in Ken's eyes. "Well, lunchtime would be in just a little while anyhow, so just let me know whenever you're ready, K?"
Her smiled enlarged visibly at her own pun, something Ken was somewhat used to seeing, but he fancied there was something more behind it this time, a pinch of what seemed like satisfaction.
He gave her a warm smile of his own before heading back over to his own desk. Leaning forward until he thought he was sufficiently out of sight of her, he finally gave in and had a miniature breakdown of his own, letting his own eyes go wide and taking a series of long, deep breaths. His arms shook slightly, but he felt as though a massive weight had been lifted off his back.
He had done it. He had a chance to talk to her. His mind was swimming. He wasn't even sure what he wanted to say yet. Just keep it simple and do the 'get to know each other' thing, or should he make some kind of allusion to his master plan? He knew he had to tell her about it at some point or another, or else he might as well have never talked to her at all. Part of his brain was screaming at him to just handle it like a normal human being, while the most rational part of him was actually the one that knew that such a thing was impossible under the present circumstances. It seemed as though asking her out was merely the first of many difficult decisions he was fated to make that day.
And what had been with the way she had reacted? Cool, smooth, quippy Kate actually letting her nerves show? And why, just because he, Ken the boring loser, had asked her out? That didn't fit at all with the image Ken had built up of her. His overtaxed brain gave him a nudge to remind him that the reality was that he barely knew her at all, that nearly every part of his impressions of her beyond what he had actually seen at work had been assumptions. It wasn't like he had ever actually picked her brains in any of the conversations they had shared in the lab. But now, he was about to finally have his chance.
He had also previously built up the impression that she had been able to read his own loser self-image like a book, but after what he had just witnessed, he figured that all bets were off. This coming lunch date was going to be a hell of a thing.
They sat opposite each other at one of the small, round aluminium tables set on the café's outdoor area. Their lab coats left back at the office, they were each clad in a rather ordinary set of "business casual" clothes; he in a simple dark blue dress shirt and slacks, she in a black-and-white striped cotton shirt whose pattern matched a pair of socks that disappeared both downward into a pair of dark loafers and upward into a humble set of blue jeans.
It took a while for things to really click, as it seemed neither of them really had anything thought out to talk about and both were fairly terrible at improvising. Once again, Ken was struck with how his sweet, idolized Kate didn't seem nearly so smooth and bold when she got out of the lab, even if he could see she was clearly making the greater effort at building the conversation.
"So, what was school like for you?" she ended up asking. Ken bit his lip, trying to come up with a good response.
"Well… it was really mostly just trying to keep myself in one piece so I could graduate. I knew it was stuff I was competent enough at, but everything that came with college was just sort of… not to my taste. I always found social life pretty awkward."
Kate chuckled. "Really? You always struck me as a real wiseguy type. I have a hard time believing you woulda had any trouble charming anyone if you really put your mind to it."
Ken found himself smiling in knee-jerk embarrassment and looking away for a moment. It seemed he wasn't the only one who had shown up to this date with a somewhat skewed impression of the other person.
"What about you?" he countered. "The way you're always talking around the lab, heck, you always seem cool as a cucumber. I'm sure you hung out with the cool kids when you were making your way up."
"Pfffft, are you kidding?" she snorted in an exaggerated, almost comical fashion. "Well…" she paused, looking away herself as she brought her hand up to the back of her head once again. "I'll tell you something, but first… can you tell me your last name?"
"Just play along with me, K?"
The edge of her mouth twitched into a smile for a moment at her fresh pun. Ken was still finding himself taken aback by all this, but conceded.
"It's, uh, Mazur."
"Mazur…" Kate repeated, drawing out the vowel sounds a bit. "That's nifty… sort of courtly, in its own way."
"Why'd you ask?"
Kate snorted to herself with a smile, bringing her hand up to her mouth and looking around as if she were going to reveal a big secret.
"Mine's Archibald," she spat out in a much quieter tone. "I dunno if you remember, but it's not rare in school for everyone to know your last name. You can imagine how long that kept me from scoring any cool points with anybody."
Now it was Ken who found himself smiling and chuckling to himself, surprised at how vulnerable and flustered the girl of his dreams was acting.
"Hey, I ain't kidding!"
"Sorry, it's just that…"
"Well, remember that time you came in late and we ran into each other? You were all decked out like a real punk rocker chick before you changed. Since you said you'd been up late the previous night I thought you'd been at some crazy party really living it up. I really can't imagine someone with that kind of energy as uncool."
"Oh man, you, uh, have a really good memory," she said, letting her voice trail off into a whisper before loosing a few nervous laughs. "I, um… was kinda hoping you wouldn't bring that up."
Her gaze drooped and she looked away slightly.
"Well, alright… I’ll tell you, but first, you gotta tell me something again."
"What's up?" Ken said with little hesitation, his interest thoroughly piqued by now.
"Did you have any… any embarrassing dreams growing up? Stuff that makes you pinch yourself whenever you think about it now?"
Ken grew pensive for a moment. That was the sort of question he would never in a million years consider answering if this were anybody else. But this was Kate.
"Well…" he started, having only a vague idea of how to answer. "I suppose I had the kind of naïve dreams that a lot of young people have. Things like, ‘I'll become a master of my science and my trade.’"
Kate's eyes grew a little wider.
"’The greatest ever.’"
The edge of Kate's lip twitched into a smile again.
"'All those popular simpletons who ignored me in school will be so far below me.' You know, that sort of thing."
He hardly realized it, but Ken's words were colored by a very particular conviction, one that was fueled by his knowledge of what was coming. Kate's hands came together in a tight clasp.
"The garish monotony of office work has a way of taking those kinds of thoughts out of you, though," he remarked. "So what was up with that getup of yours? Don't tell me it has something to do with a dream like that…"
Kate waited a few more moments before giving her reply. "Something like that…" Her eyes darted around nervously before she spoke again, but when she did, her actual voice had grown a bit more relaxed, like she was at ease letting him know this. "I always had trouble keeping my confidence up, and I knew I didn't wanna get depressed. So before I did, I decided that whenever I was nervous I'd pretend like I was… like I was stronger than everybody."
"Yeah, y'know, like… like they could never hurt me, but I could hurt them. I'm sure it sounds a bit weird, but a lot of the time I found that it gave me the right attitude."
"I see," Ken said. In silence, he admitted to himself that it seemed like a pretty clever way to go about things. Perhaps if he had tried something similar he would've been able to develop a better attitude of his own. "And that outfit?"
"Ah, that's… that's just something I ended up adopting just for myself as a part of that mindset. A way to make it feel more real, and to make sure I would never forget it."
By now Ken was really taken aback by how much Kate was opening up to him, but once again the analytical part of his own mind gave him some idea why. If she really felt that way, then it was no wonder his own comments about the thoughts he had as a young man had caught her attention. Coming to this realization, he decided to go just a little bolder for now and joke about it some more.
"I mean, if I'm being honest, it sure left me with a hell of an impression. Gotta be one of the most effective hustles I've ever seen anybody pull."
Kate's face quickly brightened up at hearing that. "No kidding?"
"'Course not," he kept going. "Almost makes me think I should've done something like that. Except that to properly reflect everything that was going through my head at that time I would've had to make myself some kind of cosplay powersuit with rockets and lasers and junk."
Kate brought a hand up to her mouth with a chuckle. "Really?"
"Yeah. Can you imagine me coming into work late wearing that, and trying to say hi to you? 'Good morning, little Kate. Sorry, I gotta do an extermination sweep a couple sectors over to make sure we get some peace in here today because you know those blabbermouths that come in here all the time are even more robotic than I am!'"
On hearing that, Kate couldn't help but burst into a fit of laughter. It came like a delightful tune to his ears, precisely the reaction he had been hoping for. Ken was over the moon.
"Man, you're making me feel like I wasted an opportunity," she offered once she came down from the high of laughter. "When I saw you that day, I should have said something like that. Like, 'Heya Ken, sorry I'm late, spent a little too long really raising hell out there and ripping the system. I reckon there's still a couple screws left around here in need of smashing, but I leave the rest to you!'"
Ken's laugh was more restrained, but there was no hiding its sincerity. Kate watched his reaction with satisfied amusement, grinning as she bit her lower lip in a gesture that filled Ken with all sorts of excitement when he got a look at it.
"Maybe we'll have to have a repeat of that sometime," he said next, "with both of us decked out. Imagine… leave everyone thinking we could put on a party so wild, it would rip through the entire world."
Kate laughed once more at that suggestion, though in a somewhat more subdued fashion as she tried to hide a fresh bit of nervousness that had just come to her; for it reminded her that her own fantasies ran considerably deeper than anything she was ready to tell Ken right at that moment. In her youth, part of what inspired her to develop her role-play based confidence had been her discovery of various stories about people who developed incredible powers and abilities. Not like in the comic books, though she was also something of a fan of those; the stories she liked most were ones in which they used these powers to dominate others, often in a sensual fashion. Sometimes, they developed powers that were monumentally far in excess of what any normal human could ever dream of, and got immense pleasure from their use of said power and the knowledge that it effectively made them gods— unbeatable, unopposable. It was hardly the sort of thing she had gotten the chance to talk about with anybody, but the very suggestion of a scenario that leaned towards something like that coming from somebody like Ken was enough to make her giddy.
The two continued their chat for a while longer, having finally kicked off a smooth rhythm of conversation. The more it went on, the more Ken was shocked and pleased by the realization that the woman he had idolized for so long was not only a humble, nerdy girl at heart, but also one that seemed really into him. Kate was likewise pleased to finally have the chance to open up more about herself to Ken, having been too distracted by trifles from work to really do so in the past.
Finally, they decided it was high time they went back to the office. As much as Ken would have loved to throw away any pretenses of normalcy right then and there and just spend the next few days with Kate, he knew it was too early to give up the ghost, and too early to tell her the whole story. But the time would come; he had absolutely no doubt about it now, and the prospect of it excited him more than ever. He began working out arrangements for exactly what he would do then in his mind, but for the moment he simply told Kate that he looked forward to chatting with her again during the coming days. He would make his move then, when the time was just right.
Ken and Kate came into the lab almost at the same time. Lincoln and Caroline were there, looking over some things in their excessively stiff, methodical way. Ken and Kate looked at each other and mimed an annoyed eyeroll and sigh, then a knowing smirk, having confirmed that they were both thinking exactly the same thing.
The others left soon enough, leaving Kate to pick up her work in peace and Ken to continue his monitoring of the synthesized materials undisturbed. Not much really happened for the remainder of the day, except a quick exchange between them when they were headed out to lunch, each alone this time.
"Work treat you alright today, Kate?" Ken asked, inspired to take the initiative for conversation after the way their chat had gone the previous day.
"Nothing too crazy, K," she shot back with a smile that seemed more energetic than ever. "I trust you're holding up just fine as well?"
"Yeah, for sure. Guess it goes without saying, but I'm glad to hear you're a-K too!"
She blinked and stared blankly for a few moments before it hit her, sparking another bout of laughter. She had never heard him make a pun before. Ken smiled with satisfaction, feeling himself becoming just a little flustered at his display of confidence with her.
"Dude," she said, "we really oughta get together like yesterday more often. You're a cool guy to talk to."
"I'd love to," he said. "I've, uh… actually got something like that in mind I'd like to talk to you about."
"No kidding!" she said, her face beaming. "Do tell?"
"I, uh, haven't really worked out all the details yet, but there's something I'd like to show you. I promise you'll like it." Ken had done a pretty good job of hiding his nerves the previous day, but some nervous laughter of his own was starting to come out here and there. The anticipation of what was coming was just too much. "B-but I'll let you know by tomorrow, okay?"
"K, it's a promise!" Kate offered, her face as radiant as ever, before she practically bounded out of there. Ken let out a breath he didn't realized he'd been holding in, slouching forward slightly as he relaxed. There was no going back now.
He rushed to eat his lunch, then went right back to the lab and worked faster than ever to figure out exactly what the plan was. He had almost everything he needed now, just a couple errands to run and everything would fall into place.
"Ken, corporate wants to talk to you."
All of Ken's nerves shot to hell in an instant, feeling as though they'd been injected with microscopic shards of razor-sharp ice. His eyes opened wide, he turned to look at Lincoln, the one who'd knocked on the door a few moments prior.
"What about?" He asked calmly, exercising titanic levels of restraint.
"Dunno. Reckon it's something to do with resource usage or productivity in the lab or something along those lines. You know how they are. Well, phone's off the hook waiting for you out in the hall."
Lincoln shuffled out of the lab as unassumingly as ever, only adding to Ken's irritation, even if he knew he had potentially much bigger things to worry about. Had someone cottoned on to what he was doing? Had some unduly curious rat snuck into the office when he wasn't around to snoop, tossing a spanner directly at the heart of his master plan? It was still a bit early and Kate wasn't around, so he was free to freak out for a few moments, his brain going into overdrive trying to figure out how he would try to deal with whatever was going to happen. Why now, when he was so close? Couldn't they have at least waited until the end of the day, when he could make some excuse and ditch them?
Taking a deep breath, he finally stepped out into the hall, where the office phone was waiting for him— not by itself, as he soon saw when he bumped into Kate.
"Oh, hi!" She said, greeting him with one of her energetic grins. "Morning to you, K! So, ready to tell me about that next date now?"
"H-hey Kate," Ken blurted out, having a really hard time keeping any part of himself in check with the pileup of emotions he was now facing. "I, uh, gotta take a phone call from the brass, but I promise I'll tell you right after, mkay?"
"Hmm… All right!" Kate said, bunching up her lips on one side of her face and doing a half-eyeroll in the other direction before returning to her usual chipper self as she spoke. "Don't keep me waiting, now!" Kate carried on with her leisurely step and quickly disappeared behind the door on the glass partition that led into the lab.
Ken's mind only became further aggravated. He would tell her, he decided, even if they tried to take it away from him. Whether he had to make some excuse to buy time, or even take drastic measures, he would figure something out. He had come this far in so many ways, there was just no question of him lying down and admitting defeat.
Finally, he gathered up as much courage as he could muster in the moment and picked up the receiver.
A few moments of silence, then some muffled noises followed by a woman's voice.
"Yes, is this Dr. Mazur?"
"Hello doctor, you hold a position as the senior technician in the facility's Lab QD, correct?"
"…that is correct, yes."
"There's something we'd like to confirm with you regarding the usage of some of the lab's equipment this week."
Ken gulped hard.
"It's something that came to our attention because of some of your coworkers, Mr. Lincoln and Miss Caroline."
"This may sound a bit silly, but there are some power banks that were installed in some parts of your lab prior to your employment that have not seen use in a long time. Our power usage reports indicate that it would be a lot more efficient if they were disconnected. They're not seeing any particular use by the staff now, are they?"
Ken blinked and stared at the wall in disbelief for a few moments.
"No," he answered dryly. "No, they are not."
"That's excellent!", the woman proceeded. "Then we would like to entrust you with the simple task of ensuring they are deactivated properly. It'll just be a matter of accessing each of them and making sure the power feed switches are off. Can we count on you to do this?"
"Glad to hear it. Just talk to our security guard in the lobby to get the access keys you'll need, he's been instructed to give you anything necessary for the job. Well, good talking to you!"
The call feed ended with a click. Ken's face still frozen in a trance, he slowly took the receiver off his cheek and set it back onto the hook before letting his arm go limp. It was all a false alarm. Nothing had changed. The plan was still in motion. And, if anything, it could be made even smoother than before.
Ken shuffled over to the lobby once he managed to pull himself together, and found the guard. He was asked what it was he needed exactly, if it was just the keys for this office or that. Ken lied and said he needed keys to the building as well, that it was going to be an ongoing process that he was going to have to check in on over the weekend. The guard looked at him funny for a moment, but relented without any further questions.
Ken walked back to the lab with keyring in hand, figuring that keeping up appearances was still the best course of action. It was there that he was all too quickly reminded of the promise he had just made.
"Hey, stranger!" Kate's voice rung through the room like a bell's chime. "Finally ready to let me know what the plan is?"
"Hey, Kate, yeah…" Ken's mind raced, but the immense relief he now felt left him with no problem keeping his cool even as he found himself forced to figure out exactly what he wanted to say on the spot. "Would it be okay if we met outside the building Sunday morning?"
"What, like meet here?"
"Yeah," Ken continued. "I figure it's a place we both know real well, and it'll make it easy to show you what I have in mind."
"Well, can't you tell me now?" Kate asked with a smile.
Ken couldn't. He thought it was still too soon. Part of him had been getting fired up to spill everything in case his fears were realized, but that hadn't been the case. Even as the answers lay waiting in the very same room they were standing in, he couldn’t give them away just yet.
"Well…" he teased, "I guess I can tell you one thing. It's to do with what we talked about at lunch a couple days ago. Just… a neat little something that came to mind when we were talking. I have no doubt in my mind that you'll enjoy it, but… it's gotta be a surprise, okay?"
"But… why is that?"
"I promise it'll all make sense then. Just bear with me for now, yeah?"
Kate bit her lower lip and looked away for a moment, looking somewhat disappointed or perplexed. A moment later, however, she looked back at Ken and gave a slight smile.
"Well, alright. It's a date. But I'll be expecting something real interesting!"
And you'll get it. That, I can guarantee…
Ken smiled back in silence and headed over to the corner of the lab that housed the power banks he'd been told about. Dealing with them made for a nice change of pace from the work pretenses he'd been keeping up all week, and it gave him an excuse to take a closer look at the synthesizer. Just a little over two days later, the task would finally be complete, and the doors would be flung open for him to reap all the undreamt-of benefits alongside his beloved.
The office was closed for the weekend, with nary a soul prowling the building that morning except for Ken. Using the keys he'd received from the guard, he snuck in and headed straight into the lab to have a quick look at the synthesizer's progress. Everything was going smoothly. One day less to go on the clock before he was able to collect on his destiny. But this bounty would be only one part of the process, he reminded himself, as he then left the premises once more to conclude his final set of preparations elsewhere.
Just a couple blocks away, a small three-storey hospital stood at one of the street corners. It was a humble, modestly-budgeted affair equipped mostly to treat any basic ailments the locals may have. The important part, Ken thought to himself, was that the head radiologist there was someone he knew from back at the academy, and who owed him a couple favors, having indulged in the somewhat unscrupulous goods Ken had secretly dealt during his days there. Ken met him outside as they had agreed beforehand, and after some smooth-talking that he needed only make a little bit forceful, Ken came into possession of a different set of keys; ones that led into the X-ray labs on the back of the ground floor. Before he left, Ken was also given the assurance that the labs in question would be unavailable to the public and staff on Sunday due to some convenient upkeep-related excuse.
With that business taken care of, Ken headed back into the lab and spent a few hours tinkering with equipment and materials from several of the offices there, working on a task he knew he could only accomplish with the extra privacy. He had originally intended to break in, knowing that the lab's security on the weekends was all but nonexistent, but the excuse to get the building keys the previous day had made the whole business significantly more convenient.
He finished up after some time, leaving the final preparation for his master plan stowed in a rad-shield container just inside his office. Taking one final look at the synthesizer to make sure everything was going smoothly there, Ken headed back over to his own place, almost wishing he had figured out a way to make the time go faster as well. He saw a few people roaming the streets as he went back, but they almost seemed like phantoms to him now; the only thing that remained on his mind always was the fate that awaited him, and more importantly as he dared to think, his beloved Kate.
Feeling fairly tired from his errands, it did not take him long to cultivate the needed exhaustion to make him feel like going to bed, and he did so at once when it came, feeling like the next morning couldn't come soon enough. Even as weary as he felt, his mental excitement kept him from passing out for a good while yet, tossing and turning in bed with anticipation.
When sleep finally took him, his overactive brain led him to experience some very unique dreams. He saw himself as a naked, muscle-bound giant, at least 5 times bigger than any other person. He strolled down a group of crowded streets, with the people around him either fleeing in terror or staring at him in open-mouthed amazement, with some people even falling to their knees in reverence of his impossible frame. On one of the street corners, he saw what he recognized as Kate in her punk outfit, looking up at him with an expression of utter delight and admiration, her hands at the sides of her mouth, her knees weak with excitement. He smiled as he knelt down to pick her up with one hand and brought her up to his face, kissing her much smaller visage as best he could. As he did so, he could feel her pawing at his cheeks in an attempt to embrace him, losing herself in a passionate rapture. When he pulled her away a few moments later, her body relaxed into the ecstasy of absolute satisfaction, before it suddenly began to shake. In a mater of seconds, Kate too began to grow bigger, quickly bursting out of her clothes to reveal that she was also developing impressively sleek, feminine muscles and a beauty that was inarguably fit for a goddess. Miraculously, whatever had been used to tie her ponytail remained in one piece even as her hair also grew wild and frazzled, lending her the unbelievably sexy frame of a titanic barbarian queen. She panted loudly, her light slouch and ridged, sweat-slick skin making it clear that the experience of growing had excited her even further. She came to stare at the enormous flesh-pole that now stood firm between Ken's enormous legs, energized by the spectacle that it had just witnessed. Their brains lit up simultaneously as the two giants lunged forward and embraced each other, collapsing to the ground as their godlike, animalistic passion led them to indulge in the most intense lovemaking the world had ever witnessed, with such force that the nearby buildings shook and buckled around them.
"Hey, Kate!" The two stood outside the lab building in perfectly ordinary looking casual clothes as they exchanged their friendly greeting. It all seems so normal, Ken thought. But it wouldn't stay that way for long.
"So, what's up? What's the surprise?" Kate asked, clearly excited to finally find out what was going on.
"For that, I think we better step inside," Ken said, trying to sound as calm and normal as possible.
"…what, like, in here? But there's nobody— Ken, what are you doing?"
"Open sesame," Ken said as he threw the unlocked lab doors open.
"I, uh, should we really be doing this?" Kate asked, having grown a bit nervous now. "I mean, I trust you and all, but I don't wanna lose my job."
"Shh…" Ken simply offered, while beckoning for her to follow him. He wasn't about to say something like 'no one needs to find out' when the truth was absolutely the opposite. Somewhat apprehensive, but unable to ignore the curiosity that such a sight inspired within her, Kate slowly conceded, though making sure to close the doors behind her.
Moments later, the two were standing in the lab where they usually worked. This time it was Ken who took the initiative to ensure their privacy and used the keys to lock them both in. This made Kate a little nervous, but the look on Ken's eyes as he turned to face her next let her know that whatever was about to happen was no joke.
"Kate," Ken said, taking a deep breath and taking Kate's hands into his own— a gesture that somewhat surprised her, but only reinforced what she suspected and told her to be all the more attentive, "there's something extremely important that I need to share with you. Will you listen?"
"Sure," she replied, her voice very nearly a whisper, her face betraying no sign whatsoever of mirth or mockery. "You can tell me."
Ken gave a slight smile at that response, then led her over to his desk, where he began turning on and preparing the displays.
"It's about that sample that Caroline left me at the start of the week," he started, "and more importantly, what you told me about it. Kate, with the right modifications, that thing has the potential to do anything."
"…what do you mean, anything?"
"I mean anything. Anything that can be dreamed of to accomplish with the human body, anyway. You noticed, didn't you? Its potential to affect physiology at the genomic level? Its practically boundless capacity for the induction of bio-energy?"
"I mean, I—" Kate found herself at a loss. This was about where she was ready for the whole thing to turn out to be an elaborate prank, but Ken's intensity meant she couldn't help but to try and think back to whatever it was he meant. "I think I said something about it, but… it was just an observation in the moment."
"Yes, that's just it," Ken said, growing more visibly excited, "but what a hell of an observation it was! Just take a look here, at what that observation from that beautiful mind of yours can lead us to accomplish!"
Ken stepped aside as he began to play the simulation rendering he had prepared at the start of the week for his own modified version of the sample. Kate found herself transfixed to the screen as she watched it play out, her disbelieving astonishment growing by the moment not only because of what was implied by the data readouts, but by the rendering of the effect it would have on the human body. The sharpest part of her brain subtly kicked in, urging her to look over everything to find the one bit of data that didn't fit, the glitch that would be required for this fantastical outcome to ever be imaginable. But she couldn't. No matter which way she sliced it, everything checked out. This incredible super-drug could really exist, and if what she had just heard was true, it would all be thanks to the combined applied intellect of herself and her colleague Ken. Two technicians in a low-end drug company, treated like common grunts every day, responsible for bringing about the next giant leap in human evolution.
"It's a beauty," Ken continued. "And it will be a reality way, way sooner than you could imagine."
"Wh-what?! What do you mean?"
"It's right here, Kate, in the materials synthesizer. I started the process on Monday. It'll be complete today, within an hour or so."
"But, I, but… shouldn't you— shouldn't we have…"
"What, played pilotfish for the prigs and the suits? No, I don't think so. Why give them anything? This kind of bounty belongs to those who can not only see the whole picture, but act on it too. This is…" Ken's voice began to grow a bit warbly as his excitement finally got the better of him. "This is just for you and me, Kate. It's what we deserve. There are two doses being prepared. I want to share it with you so that we can experience this together."
"Isn't it obvious?" Ken said, really starting to buckle under the pressure now. "Because I love you, Kate. I've always liked you, but this week, when I really got to know you, I knew there was no way I was gonna let things go any other way. I love the way you handle yourself with others, the way you've always been to me… but most of all, I love your mind, Kate. You're a fucking genius who always acts humble. And it was you who did this; you're the only one around here smart enough to have noticed something so important. If you hadn't said anything, this would've slipped past me like any other boring work assignment and then who knows what would've happened. But you made this possible! It's thanks to your brilliant mind that we can now become more than human. And, and…"
Ken's ranting slowed down as he felt he had little more to say without repeating himself. He now found himself relaxing for a moment, completely focused on gauging Kate's reaction, who had led her gaze away from the monitors and downward, her face of amazement now accompanied by a bout of barely-audible labored breathing.
"No, Ken…" she finally spoke.
"It's not just me who made this possible," she said, turning to him and producing a breathtaking smile to join her misty yet spectacular eyes. "This is yours as much as it is mine. I never would have had the initiative to prepare all this the way you have."
Ken felt himself filling with unfathomable joy as he looked over the way the woman of his dreams embracing the fate he had laid out for them. He felt like his heart was about to jump out of his chest.
"And I just gotta say," he muttered as though continuing on his hanging rant from earlier, "the way you show off your smarts with those little observations so casually… making it look so easy, but also clear to anyone that really knows their stuff that you're really something else… it's so hot…"
Kate quickly gave a giggle and a devious grin upon hearing that. "And did you know," she said, advancing upon the one on whom she had harbored a secret crush of her own for so long, "how exciting it is to have something like this happen to me for real? Oh, yeah… that strength thing I told you about didn't just come from nowhere, you know. I've always had a… 'thing' for stories about people becoming super-powerful. That's part of why I did the punk outfit thing, it made me feel so fired up to imagine myself as some kind of superhero with attitude. And the reason I was late that morning was because I had spent too much time the previous night getting… getting myself all hot and bothered with my roleplay. But now…" she said as she leaned in on Ken's ear to whisper sensually, "now, thanks to you, you lovely man, it's all going to be so much more than that…"
She leaned back to look into Ken's giddy eyes with her own, now wearing a mischievous, grinning expression. Not being able to hold himself back anymore, Ken gently cupped her face with his hands and leaned in to give her a lust-packed kiss. She quickly responded in kind, their shared heated ecstasy hiding the fact that neither had very much experience in this sort of thing. Within seconds, they were both on the floor scurrying to take their clothes off. The lab was quickly filled by the echoing sounds of their ecstasy as Kate mounted Ken right there on the floor, bouncing up and down on his shaft with singular excitement as he caressed her hips and legs. Their lovemaking went on for a good while until Kate's lustful moaning reached a crescendo and she collapsed next to him, staring into his eyes with a blissful smile as she struggled to catch her breath. Ken extended a hand to caress her cheek, ever in admiration of her natural beauty.
But as if to simultaneously break the two away from their reverie and intensify it even further, a sound suddenly rang through the peaceful lab room, a shrill beeping noise to indicate that the task the materials synthesizer had been assigned for the past week was finally complete. With eyes wide, Ken scrambled to get up with Kate joining him mere moments later, as the two hurried over to the machine to examine its output. A tray had been revealed which contained two small pellets encased within a rectangular, brittle slab of refrigerant compound. With an awed expression, Ken carefully picked up the mass with his hand and held it up to his face.
"Is that it?" Kate asked excitedly. "Our…"
"Our ambrosia, yes," he said. "The K's miracle."
"Do we take it right now?!"
"I'm afraid not. This is the crux to it all, but there's just one more thing we need. In order for these beauties to work to their full potential, we need an administration of energy far greater than the human body can provide on its own."
"Shoot," Kate continued. "But I think I saw something like that in your simulation, didn't I? Something to do with an external injection of energy…"
"God, you're so beautiful," Ken said, turning to look at her. She looks even better when she's showing off naked.
Upon hearing that, she giggled in half-embarrassment while bringing a hand up to her face. "So what do we do now? I can't wait, I can't wait!"
"We'd better get dressed," said Ken, bringing the miracle matter over to a second, smaller container he had prepared near the one he'd readied the previous day. "Just one final trip, and then, and then…"
Ken made up some story about having an appointment with a specialist to get himself and Kate into the hospital building, then quickly ditched the main hallways to scurry off to the radiology labs. The two were inconspicuous enough given that he had camouflaged the specialized lab containers he'd brought with him within a simple messenger bag. Just as before, Ken used the key he'd hustled to give himself and Kate access to an X-ray imaging area, then quickly locked the door behind them, giving the two all the privacy they needed. He got to work immediately, bringing the bag over to the biggest machine he could find and setting it down on the stretcher area the patient was destined for.
"So what are we thinking?" Kate asked him.
"It's the radiation from these babies," he answered. "That's the key to activating the energy absorption on our miracle treats to achieve everything we're dreaming of. But you see, the radiation from ordinary X-rays isn't nearly enough to garner the full effect we're after. That's why…"
"Why you cooked up some tailor-made radioisotopes? Is that what you've got in that bag there?"
"I knew I loved you for a reason," Ken said, looking back and giving Kate his most radiant smile yet. For her part, Kate's excitement grew considerably, biting her lip in anticipation as she imagined herself growing stronger and stronger.
Ken fiddled around with the machine, carefully re-engineering its inner workings to include the extra-strong power sources he had prepared. The process exposed him and Kate to some level of radiation that might have been cause for concern under any other circumstances, but he knew that after what was coming, it wouldn't matter. Finally, when everything looked stable, he produced the container with the compound that held the miraculous pills. Carefully shattering it to let them clatter down onto a nearby table, Kate joined him as they both picked one up and looked them over in impatient contemplation.
"I'll go first," he explained. "First, I take this pill, and wait a minute to let it work through my system. Then, I expose myself to this special radiation bath. And then…"
He grinned at Kate. She returned the gesture. They were done waiting. Ken gathered up saliva in his mouth for a moment, popped in the clear-looking pill, and swallowed. He reached for Kate's hands and took them into his own once more.
"Whatever happens now…"
"We did it, remember. It's our discovery, our reward."
Ken smiled once more. He couldn't love her any more if he tried. But he figured he would anyway, after she had gone through the process herself. Ken quickly began stripping off his clothes until he was left in just a pair of boxer shorts. He poked at the controls on the machine's console for a few moments, then turned to Kate.
"Once I'm comfortably on it, you just press that button there, okay?"
Ken clambered onto the machine's built-in stretcher, faced upwards at the ray projector, took a deep breath, and gave Kate a thumbs-up. She quickly pecked the button he had pointed out to her.
A humming sound began, growing steadily more intense, until it seemed like the room was inside an enormous foghorn. The cheap fluorescent tube lights set into the ceiling began to dim and flicker, as Kate fancied that she could see the colors from the part of the room that held Ken and the machine shift and mix around a little.
But these details were soon forgotten as she observed what was happening to him; Ken's frame seemed like it was slowly stretching out, like a far more dramatic version of sleep-growth, but one that was very much visible and that showed no sign of stopping. Not only that, but his arms, legs and torso suddenly began to fill out with large, defined muscles, his bulk seemingly doubling then tripling with power-filled tissue, his gangly arms transforming into bundles of beef, his languid stomach morphing into a phenomenal six-pack. His face underwent a transformation of its own, his gaunt features reshaping themselves into the sharp, elegant countenance of a heartbreaker. Every passing moment seemed to bring his frame closer and closer to that of an underwear model superstar, and Kate watched it all wide-eyed and very intently, her bunched-up hands to her mouth, completely enthralled.
After what seemed like forever, the loud humming gradually began to die down and Ken's transformation slowed to a halt. He loosed a few heavy breaths and opened eyes he hadn't realized were closed as he tried to get his bearings. Everything felt different, to be sure— he could feel every minuscule sensation on his back from the worn padding he was lying on, for one, and he also fancied he smelled a peculiar scent left over in the air from the radiation that had just finished washing over him. He lifted his now-impressive arms up so that he could see, and was greeted by exactly what he had been hoping for. In pleased excitement, he quickly hopped off the machine and pumped his arms upward in celebration.
"YES!" he cried. "Yes, haha! I did it! I knew it!" He looked down, meeting the gaze of his awed colleague-turned-lover. "We pulled it off, Kate! It works!"
"Ken, you look… incredible!" she said in earnest amazement. "Everything about what just happened, just… wow!"
"I feel incredible," he retorted. Carefully, he looked back at the bulky X-ray device and tried lifting it. It took him a modicum of effort, but within seconds, he was holding it above his own head with a pleased grin. The thing looked like it weighed several tons. He gingerly put it back a few moments later.
"That's just awesome," Kate said, enjoying every moment of that display.
"And I owe it all to you, Kate!" He went over to his sweetheart and literally swept her off her feet, bringing her up to his face to kiss her passionately. He put her down a moment later, but she merely embraced him, or as much of him as she could— the two of them had been more or less the same height before, but now she barely came up to his chest.
"Oh, Ken," she said, savoring the sensation. "The strength you must possess… this is all incredibly hot, but I want some of that too! Me next, me next!"
"Of course, my dear." Ken turned his attention to the machine's console once more. The power output had been calculated for two doses, just as with the pills. Everything was going to plan. As he hunched forward over the keyboard, Kate came up behind him and wrapped her hands around the front of his shoulders, massaging them slightly.
"You know, Ken," she said, "I didn't really get a chance to say it back there, but that sex was really, really mindblowingly great. Gotta be the best thing I've ever done, no contest. But can you imagine what that's gonna be like once we're both like this?"
Ken looked over at her. She was wearing that mischievous, lower-lip bitey expression of hers. Even now, it turned him on so much. Just how well would she wear it once she too had been transformed? He couldn't wait.
It took him slightly less time to program the machine for the second round. Kate swallowed her dose of the miracle pill, stripped down to her plain bra and panties, and went over to lie down on the machine. Looking over at Ken with an enormous smile, she flashed him an 'OK' sign with her hand. Not wanting to wait a moment longer, Ken began the process immediately.
The humming sound came forth once more, but this time the reaction seemed rather different from what Ken had anticipated based on his own experience. Kate gave a loud, startled gasp as soon as the first bit of radiation hit her, then immediately began breathing heavily. Her long, skinny arms gripped at the edges of the machine's stretcher, and it seemed to Ken's surprised, agitated vision as though she was breaking off bits of the solid, plasticky padding. She quickly held one of her arms up to her face, and it seemed to be visibly pulsing and gaining mass much faster than Ken's had. Her expression grew into one that simultaneously seemed to reflect pleasure, amazement, surprise, and worry, before her eyes suddenly rolled back into her head and she began to thrash around violently, her labored breaths growing into intense screams.
Ken jumped at attention, trying to figure out what could possibly be going wrong. The procedure was exactly the same as what he had been subjected to, and he felt better than ever. Some irregularity in the power feed? Some kind of miscalculation in the chemical composition? No, that was impossible, he thought. He fancied that if Kate looked over his preparations with one of her trademark analyses, she would've okayed everything as well. So why was this happening to her?
But he didn't have very much more time to frantically puzzle over the situation, as he saw her shut her eyes in a pained expression for a few moments, her breaths for the next couple seconds turning into muffled whimpers that quickly built up in intensity. Finally, when she opened them again, Ken was faced with a blinding flash of light that forced him to shield his own eyes as he heard Kate's loudest scream yet. The sound was soon accompanied by something like the blast of an explosion and an even louder crashing noise. Ken carefully opened up his eyes a couple moments later, when it seemed to him like the flash's intensity had died down, and was shocked to see a huge chunk of rubble surrounded by a thick cloud of dust where the machine had stood, along with a hole in the ceiling above it. What the hell had just happened? And was Kate…
Ken quickly turned around to see himself faced with three burly men in suits— though not nearly as burly as he was now, of course. He quickly figured that they must be the hospital's security staff, drawn to the area not only by the sudden crash, but by the conspicuous and inexplicable energy usage from his procedure. Shit, he thought, how could I have been so distracted?
"Alright," one of them barked, "you better start explaining what the hell is going on here, whoever you are."
"Listen, screw," he retorted calmly, knowing that none of them could take him on now, "this is really not a good time for you to come mess around with me, so if you want to keep your head on top of your shoulders I suggest you all move along."
The guards were left speechless at that retort, without any of them really wanting to be the one to try their luck against the giant before them. It was Ken who took the initiative and gripped one of them by the arm, shoving him and another one caught in the same motion against the wall. The two men collapsed, but the third quickly scrambled to produce a taser from his belt, which he aimed squarely at Ken's naked chest. Ken merely scowled at him, not believing that such a trinket would do any harm to him now, but just before he could motion to neutralize him as well, Ken was shocked to see the man instead be blasted back into the hallway by a flash of light much like the one he had seen just a minute ago. One that had apparently come from within the room.
Looking back, Ken was floored by what he then witnessed. Risen up from the pile of rubble the blast had created was an imposing figure that somehow floated several feet above the ground, her eyes shimmering with a red-hot intensity that gradually began to die down. Ken fancied it must be Kate, but it wasn't Kate, not as he had ever known her before. It was like a dream, an extremely perfect version of her, one only he —or she— could have imagined before. Even as she hovered off the ground, Ken could tell that the goddess before him stretched even taller than he did, her frame being the very embodiment of feminine perfection from toe to crown, packed with sleek, ridged muscles that each complemented her exquisitely alluring womanly figure. From diamond-hard calves and powerful, perfectly-proportioned thighs that led up to a succulently smooth sex, accompanied by a set of cobbled, powerful abs below an achingly perfect pair of titanic, teardrop-shaped titties that were themselves framed by the most awe-inspiring upper body muscles anyone had ever seen. And sitting atop it all was her face— the heart-rendingly gorgeous visage of a divine being, her features encapsulating both everything that had seemed cute about Kate before and the very essence of perfection that would make top models everywhere blush with inadequacy. Crowning it all was her raven hair, the ponytail part of it having grown just as wild and frazzled as in Ken's dream, and now looking so radiant that it seemed as though it was emitting some inhuman light of its own, with parts of its dark streaks shimmering purple.
"Keep your filthy hands away from my husband."
"K-Kate?" Ken finally brought himself to say. "Is that really you?"
The woman turned her gaze upon him and gave him the same mischievous smile. It was hard to believe this same gesture coming from this same woman had seemed so ordinary before, when now it seemed to him that it evoked enough beauty to inspire wars and raise raging tempests.
"The name Kate may bring you some respite in its familiarity," she said, her voice now carrying the honeyed, sultry tone of a succubus along with the underlying power of a titaness. "But I'm not really Kate, am I? Not the Kate you knew before, anyway."
"Then… who are you?"
The woman teasingly made a pensive gesture, crossing one of her arms across her chest as she rested the other on it and brought her hand up to her chin, all while still hovering in the air. Ken found the frame unbelievably sexy.
"Perhaps… I shall still be Kate, for what the value of a name is worth," she continued, "but now, I think I am closer to something different, but something that both you and she knew to some degree. Now… I am more like the very being that Kate longed to be her entire life. I am the one she dreamed about, and tried to bring to life in her own way…"
She paused and began using her hands to caress herself, taking great pleasure in the sensation of her magnificent, godlike body.
"…and now, she has succeeded, far more wildly than she ever could have dreamed."
"…the one I caught a glimpse of that morning at work," Ken said in a half-conscious utterance.
"The very same," she replied. "The one you talked to her about before. The one who could party hard enough to bring down the house on the entire world…"
"Is… is it really you?"
"Well, of course it's me, you dingus!" She said before spreading her arms wide and loosing a rich, powerful laugh. Just a few moments later, she flew forward through the air a few feet with otherworldly graceful movements, enough to scoop up Ken and cradle him in her arms. Even though they were a lot closer in size again, he could sense that she was far mightier, and that the gesture represented no effort whatsoever on her part. And just as he had done to her before, she leaned in to give him a deep, loving kiss. Her taste was like the balm of Gilead, as divine as the rest of her. Ken made no attempt to resist her.
When they pulled away from the kiss, Kate, or rather the idealized Kate that the old Kate had dreamed up now brought to life, looked over Ken with another mindblowing smile. Still, there was a little too much going through his mind at that moment for him to settle down.
"How… how did this happen? You… all this?"
"Hmm… well, I reckon there's one pretty easy explanation for everything," she started, her tone making it clear to Ken that there was still much of the old Kate in her. She put him down before she continued speaking. "The simulations you showed me were proof of the concoction's staggering potential, but it seems to me like you only ever tested it in relation to your own physiological makeup. You didn't run any simulations that would show the effect the same process would have on a woman, did you?"
"N-no, I suppose not…"
"Well, there you go," Kate continued, repositioning herself in some playful midair poses. "It could just be that. Or it could be that there's a psychological factor to influence the intensity of the process. Or maybe…"
Kate floated downward again, posing as though she was lying face down on a bed, kicking her feet back and forth and cradling her chin in her hands.
"Maybe it's just fate," she concluded. "Who knows?"
"I see, I see…" Ken said, still stuck in a limbo between awe, lust and confusion. "It's just that…"
Kate's expression momentarily shifted from its newfound smug confidence to a half-scowl. She could sense something amiss.
"Ken, look at me," she commanded. He quickly conceded. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he responded, "it's nothing. You're… perfect. Absolutely perfect. The way I always knew you would be at heart. I am proud to have partaken in the glory of making that as real as it deserves to be. But…"
"Well… look at how paltry I ended up in comparison. I've surpassed ordinary humans by a marathon, of course but… I feel that a frame that pales so much when faced with your own magnificence is less than you deserve. Even now, I can't give you everything…"
"Listen to me, you fool," she said to him sternly, demanding his full attention. "Of course I am perfect. I am the embodiment of a fantasy, a being that was pulled from the very fabric of dreams into reality. Making that possible is the greatest accomplishment that any creature living upon this planet has ever made. But it is exactly for that reason that I am so much more than just an ordinary person. I am an immense triumph, the culmination of a marvelous work."
Ken raised his gaze at her, looking at her more intently than ever.
"I'm talking about your work, Ken. The initiative that you took, to make this possible for us both. The project without which we never could have existed. You are a part of me, Ken, and I am a part of you. This is a triumph for us both, our reward. or did you already forget?"
Ken felt more and more at ease at her words, a smile steadily returning to his face as his fears were allayed.
"And besides… you've already spoken to this me before, countless times, whether you realized it or not. It was the old you that managed to not only put this whole thing together, but charmed me to go along with it in the end. Don't you see? You've always been good enough, dummy."
He felt a joy that filled his being thoroughly once more. She knew exactly what to say to put him at ease.
"And… hey,” she said, wanting to move on from that subject, “I haven't even begun to tell you about all the different things I'm feeling with these wicked new powers! It's more than my ordinary human senses that have been sharpened to perfection, I feel like I've begun to pick up on things that I could only have theorized about before. Like, there's a sense of unease surrounding us from that direction… that must be where most of the staff here are holed up, waiting for those blockheads to come back. And speaking of them, they're out cold, but they're terrified! Got no idea what was going on in here after all."
"You can pick up on… what, psychic readings now?"
"Semantics, but sure, if calling it that makes it easier to understand. But there's something more coming from me now, something about the way I've changed that even I am finding a challenge to explain. And… I also sense it coming from you."
"Here, come here!"
Kate's majestic frame swept back down upon Ken's, interlocking her hands with his. She gave him a tender smile as she closed her eyes, concentrating on something inscrutable to him. He felt a pleasant sensation pervade him as it seemed to him that a growing force was being exuded from the point where their bodies met, tossing back Kate's hair slightly, like a ripple echoing through space itself. But what he soon felt far more intensely was the effect it was having on him; in moments, Ken felt his own feet being lifted off the ground by a force as inexplicable as it was tremendous, unlike anything he had ever experienced. Instants later, as he and Kate both floated several feet off the ground nearly level with one another, Kate's eyes opened up again, eager to see his reaction to the gift she had just bestowed upon him.
"Well?" she asked. "Not bad, huh?"
"What…" Ken struggled to ask, filled with a giddy sensation of his own, "what is this?"
"Merely a little trick I just figured out. It seems as though our, but especially my, genetic capabilities have improved so drastically that we are now capable of harboring types of energy far beyond anything ever seen in ordinary human bodies. The very same super-energy that my own uber-powered cells are now producing constantly can be communicated to yours by way of physical contact and a little force of will."
"So… are we the same now?"
"Not quite. The change in my genetic makeup was far more dramatic in order to allow me to exhibit any of these fabulous powers in the first place. I've gifted you with some of the energy that empowered me to this level, but from what we've seen, it doesn't look like your own cells have the potential to produce it on their own. It'll use itself up, and you'll be back to your old… well," Kate snorted, "your old new self within an hour or so."
"Well then," Ken said, emboldened by his newfound temporary powerup, "we'd better not waste any time…"
Kate flashed him the same wicked grin she had so many times before, but this was by far the most beautiful it had ever looked to him. The way her perfect teeth squeezed her lower lip as she smiled so broadly with her eyes half-shut in mischief was something he could never get enough of, and even less so when it was complemented by the most achingly beautiful features and the most absolutely perfect, sublimely powerful female body that had ever existed. The two momentarily broke off their hand-holding in order to embrace each other thoroughly, squeezing their bodies against one another in rapturous passion as they kissed. Kate even partly lifted one of her legs back in the traditional 'foot-popping' pose in midair, filled with a newfound bout of joy herself at her successful reassurance of her beloved.
The two breathed heavily and giggled slightly as they broke off the kiss a few moments later, still looking over each other lovingly.
"So…" Ken said in between breaths, "what was that about me being your husband?"
"Oh, nothing," Kate countered in a playful tone of innocent mischief, tracing invisible scribbles on Ken's torso with her index finger. "Just a little something I decided on my authority as the single most powerful being in this world. You don't have any objections to that, do you? Or would you rather be my concubine?"
Ken caressed Kate's hair as he began to lean in for another kiss. "If there is anyone out there with any objections to me having the smartest, most beautiful and perfect woman who ever lived as my wife… I think that person had better hold their peace forever if they know what's good for them."
The two kissed again. Kate opened her eyes a little wider as she seemed to sense something.
"Hmm? What's that I hear?" she said. "I think the folks outside are starting to get a little antsy for news about what happened in here. Shall we go show them?"
Kate's playful mischief left absolutely no doubt as to Ken's response.
The hospital was usually less busy on Sundays, but the commotion from everything that had gone down in the imaging lab had caused nearly everyone in the building to gather in the lobby to await an explanation. It was just a few moments later that this crowd grew immensely shocked to see two naked demigods floating right through the glass-and-drywall partition that separated the entry area from the hallways that led to the back. Amid gasps, screams and other sounds of surprise and admiration, the crowd backed away from the strange, spectacular beings in a half-panic. One of the men there dared to speak.
"Who… who are you?"
"Who are we?" Kate began answering with absolute confidence. "That's funny, because that's something I had thought I'd end up finding difficult to answer just a little while ago. But now, I realize it couldn't be easier! I'm Kate, and this is my husband Ken. And as you can see, we're better and stronger than any of you could ever hope to become. But if you just play nice and don't try anything funny, we won't have to hurt you. Not like anything you could do would really hurt us, anyway."
By then, some of the people in the lobby had produced their cellphones and were busy trying to take pictures and video of what they were seeing, even in their partly horrified amazement. Kate soon caught sight of these, taking the opportunity to pose flirtatiously, showing off her body and her power as she contorted provocatively in mid-air.
"That's right, go on! Tell your friends! Tell everyone! Because things are sure gonna be different now that we're around. Here, why don't I show you something real neat I can do?"
Kate looked over at a man at the front of the congregation whom she slyly noticed had been looking over her magnificent body more intently than the others. She gave him a gesture like she was blowing a kiss, but what the others didn't expect was for that motion to induce in him a sort of stupefied trance, leaving his eyes rolled back and his mouth agape as he gave a loud wheeze. In moments, the extent of Kate's power was further demonstrated as the man shuffled a few steps closer to her before turning to face the others as she was. Kate gave one more playful pose, and the man copied it perfectly in synchronization with her movements. She flashed a new one, and her captive mimicked her to perfection. Finally, she gave a fake yawn and swatted at the air in the man's direction, seemingly releasing her grip on his mind as he crumpled to the ground with a gasping wheeze as he caught his breath, bringing his hands up to his aching head. The others looked over the spectacle with increasing horror and reverence, while Ken simply smiled, his admiration for Kate's beauty and power never ceasing.
"Well," she spoke once more, "hope you kids had fun watching, but I'm afraid we're gonna have to say ciao for now. Don't get me wrong, you'll see more of us once we've decided what to do with you lot. But I think before that happens, we're gonna take a little vacation, a week or so. We didn't get to where we are today without hard work, after all! So in the meanwhile, I suggest you all try to figure out the best ways to be nice to us and treat us right so that we don't see ourselves forced to do anything unfortunate to correct you. Well, time's a-wastin', so toodles! There's something we gotta take care of now that we've been putting off for far too long…"
Kate turned to Ken once more, looking deeply into his eyes. Ken returned the gesture. No one else present could tell, but she was showing off just for him now; projecting her thoughts into his mind and getting him to give an equally silent okay. Moments later, the two super-beings disappeared from sight by darting upwards faster than any mortal eye could see, leaving behind a series of deafening blasts from their breach of the sound barrier as well as their obliteration of the floors and ceilings they passed through. The crowd in the lobby drew back in terror, the men and women that comprised it left in a state of utter mental turmoil, completely confounded as to how to process the fact that a pair of gods would soon be living among them.
Kate stretched, jutting out her magnificent curves with catlike dexterity. Ken happily looked over her, silently remarking on how closely her flawless alabaster skin matched the surrounding landscape.
"It is a hell of a pairing, isn't it, hmm, sweet'ums?" she said without moving her lips. "That's part of why I wanted us to come here. Thought you'd like it."
"It's beautiful," Ken replied the same way, "but it owes so much of that to you being in it."
"Ever the smooth-talker, aren't you, honeybun?"
"You know I can't help myself." He came closer to her, ready to caress her perfect body some more.
"Hmm… I know! Why don't we try something a little different? 120 Celsius has made for a nice sauna, but if I'm right, we can get something fresh and cool if we just go on a little roadtrip to the next spot over. Whadda you say? Up for it?"
"Hell yes." Ken chuckled inwardly at the inherent pun he had just made. "You know anywhere is wonderful as long as you're there."
"Oh, stop it, you. Nah, actually, don't stop that, ever. I love it and you too much."
Kate sprung forward to give Ken a big smooch before the two of them zoomed out from the fresh crater they had left on the far hemisphere of the moon's surface with their lovemaking and started towards Mars. The vacuum of space was one of the few things that might have been on Ken's mind as intense enough to spell demise for even his tremendously improved self, but even such an awesome force of nature was no obstacle for Kate's own incredible gifts, which she continued to generously share with him. The two had spent the last few days consummating their proverbial honeymoon in the depths of space, as thoroughly impressed with the experience as they imagined they would be.
Sometimes, they liked to show off by stopping to pose whenever they came across what looked like a satellite camera. This usually resulted in more images of them making their way back down to the planet, further dispelling skepticism about their existence and Kate's thinly veiled threats. The two also enjoyed spying on the surface, which they managed to do sometimes through a combination of flying close to the exosphere and focused use of Kate's super-vision. Watching the lowly mortals lose their minds upon letting the news of their apotheosis sink in was always good for a laugh.
"So, what do you wanna do first when we go back?"
"I dunno." The two were able to communicate easily in deep space thanks to the fantastic psychic abilities Kate had developed. Ken had picked up the trick quickly, eager to open his mind to his beloved. "Should we take over a big city to show our power? Somewhere fun, like Tokyo or New York?"
"Hmm, could be," Kate replied, momentarily scrunching her nose and bringing her index finger to her mouth. "But it's not like we're heartless tyrants out to enslave everyone, right? I mean, we could," she communicated as her expression morphed into a devious smile, "no question about it, but why go that route? It's not like we really have a need for whatever twisted pleasure doing that would bring. Why, I think we've got all our pleasure needs figured out for the rest of eternity, wouldn't you agree?"
"You know I can't disagree with that," Ken smiled. Part of him would have been glad to give in to that kind of sadistic urge before, the same that had served as the basis for some of the dark fantasies he had experienced during his college years. But he had found something infinitely better now, and he wasn't about to try and say no to his godly wife. "Do you have anything special thought out? Maybe finally bringing one of those legendary parties we talked about to life?"
"Kennykins, it's like you're reading my mind! And I thought I was supposed to be the one with superpowers."
Ken's smile broadened. Even now, the way Kate teased and reassured him in her own subtle yet thoughtful way never failed to fill him with joy.
"Okay, okay!" she continued. "I was thinking someplace like Ibiza or Amsterdam. They say the people there really know how to party, yeah? So what if we both dropped in completely by surprise and started having a good time, just like that? See who among them has the spunk to hang with us. If too many squares show up or things start looking hairy, we split, go somewhere else, start over. If things go smoothly, though, I reckon we can have some more up close and personal fun with them…"
Kate smiled widely as she closed her eyes, imagining a group of strapping young partygoers worshipping her and catering to her every whim. The very thought filled her with a fresh thrill.
"Hubby, you have my permission to do whatever you want when we go on those outings as long as nothing too weird happens. And you check in with me every now and then. Don't want you running out of juice for my special gifts, after all!"
"Honey, you know I could never fall for anyone but you. But I agree with you completely…" Ken couldn't deny that a prospect like that excited him significantly as well.
The two joined their bodies again as they careened through the void, spiraling across space at unimaginable speeds towards the ever-approaching red star. Ken looked into eternity in wonderment and satisfaction. His ultimate dream was fully realized; he had given her the world, and now she would stay with him forever.
Things were crazier than they had ever been back at the lab. Only a handful of people had been able to even suspect that the two demigods that had emerged out of nowhere and appeared all over the news, rocking the world to its core, had once been two ordinary labtechs from a humble pharmaceuticals company. The main federal investigation that had started on the matter of their point of origin had focused almost solely on the hospital where they had made their appearance, but some of it had spilled over to the nearby lab building owing to suspicion of association. The lab that Ken and Kate used to work in was being rummaged by some official investigative group or another every day, leaving their colleagues Lincoln and Caroline to awkwardly try to get their work done across the hall.
"That's crazy, right?"
"Hm?" Caroline heard Lincoln coming into the break room. It was just a couple days after the incident. "What's that, Linkg- gah, sorry, I'm tripping over my words today."
"Call me Cole," he said, "it's what my friends call me." Not that I have many of them, he thought to himself. "It's about that thing they're talking about with Ken and Kate. Do you think it's for real? And… do you think it could really be, you know, those guys?"
"I dunno…" Caroline, or Carrie as most people called her now, had of course heard the news, but could hardly process the possibility, even as it was affecting her work. "I mean, how could such a thing be possible? Ken seemed perfectly normal last Monday, when I handed him that thing I was working on to look over."
"Yeah, another new product. Something I had designed in a bit of a rush that left me all burnt out. I honestly hadn't even looked it over too much by the time I handed it to him, just figured that it worked." She sighed. "If that really was them somehow, I wonder if something going on in his mind as the result of the workload I gave him ended up leading him to do something crazy…"
Cole and Carrie sat in silence for a few moments. Cole looked over at his colleague with wistful eyes. He had always found her somewhat cute, but had never bothered to say anything. His mind soon wandered, however, at what she had just said. He'd been around the same morning that she had handed Ken the sample, and while he hadn't followed up on his progress with it at all, he knew how strangely sophisticated Carrie's creations could be. Often just the sort of thing that would result in corporate pulling the plug before it got to production, but some of them with real potential. Potential that always made him curious to see their inner workings. Curious enough for him to sneak the sample away from Ken's workstation before the investigators arrived at the beginning of the week and cordoned that whole area off, and place it in his own office, where it was waiting to be examined even as they spoke.
"Yeah," he said, breaking the silence once more. "I wonder…"