32,044 / 50,000
What? Balance of Power? What's this?? Yes, I changed the name of my book. I was never satisfied with the original version, even if it did what I wanted it to do. This new one literally just popped up randomly. Wasn't even thinking on the book at all, when three little words entered my brain. And here we are.
With his walk around the room completed, and with a pass by Alphonse that made him more than a little uncomfortable as what was otherwise a very beautiful woman passed by him, Brendan turned and leaned against the wall besides the window.
"So," he started, with a break to actually hear his voice for the first time. He was about to continue right away, but his mouth hung open, and a hand started to reach up to touch his throat. He rubbed the longer, graceful neck this altered body had given him, and could feel the lack of an Adam's apple, and the dearth of stubble he had been used to always being there since he was 15. Brendan knew this new body would continue surprising him in all the little ways in which it was different, as well as the big ones, for some time to come.
He gripped his small throat, with his equally miniscule hand, amazed at how much even those fingers could reach so far around his neck now. Brendan stopped and moved his hand down to his shoulder, rubbing the spot between the two. He wasn't sore, but it felt natural to have moved from his neck to there, instead of just dropping his hand back to his side. His new hair rested atop the back of that hand, and he could feel it brushing against his knuckles as he rubbed his shoulder and continued speaking.
"Do you have any idea what happened? Why this happened? Why this?" He gestured the length of his body with his free hand.
Alphonse thought about it for a while, running his chin. They both knew the answer was obviously the emitter, and the energy it created, but it had never shown results such as those now standing before him, the results that Brendan was now stuck with.
He considered his answer carefully before finally speaking. "I can't be entirely sure, but this is not entirely an unexpected result. Maybe not one we had thought of in our intial drafts of the project, but certainly in the realm. Also, one that could be extrapolated from our other failures."
"What do you mean?" Brendan's head did that little head tilt he had done earlier, looking at Alphonse with a curious glint in his eyes. Alphonse did not immediately recognise the look, but it looked different coming from such a round, delicate face, and those altered eyes, with all the hair framing it. Once he got past the new form, he recognised Brendan's all too familiar look of confusion on that face. Such a look would have been hard for anyone to duplicate as well as this woman was. In that moment, Alphonse was certain that trapped within that soft, supple form was indeed his friend.
The look would have melted any man. Any look from Brendan's current form was highly likely to do that, Alphonse thought. A simple toss of the hair, or trying to brush it back would seal the deal.
Before the woman-form Brendan could do that, Alphonse continued.
"We had several test subjects, correct?" Brendan nodded. "And most of them seemed to exhibit some sort of energy projection, derived, I believe, from the same energy we were creating. In addition to all those people, we did have a number of attempts who were instead manifesting abilities of a transformative nature."
Brendan's eyes flickered in recognition. He knew were his mentor was going with this.
Alphonse smiled at the dawning light in Brendan's eyes, and nodded as he continued onward. "Now, those people were changed into creatures that were far from human. One in particular would have been easily mistaken for a wolf, or a werewolf amongst the more superstitious."
The young woman smiled, fascinated by the possibilities this was implying, even if Brendan was now the living example of these ideas.
"If the emitter could somehow alter a person to such a degree as to change from from a human into a dog, how far out of the realm of possibility is it for such changes to cause a person to change something as minor as sex?"
Brendan nodded with enthusiasm, taking over from Alphonse, and starting to walk around the room, his hands waving in the air as he spoke, just like he always did when he got excited.
"Not very far out of the realm at all. Dogs are so vastly different, in their way. At least, more different than another human. No real answer why it picked this form, though. Mot that it needs one. The energy works on a deeply genetic level, causing changes to the bodies we subjected to the radiation. Maybe it was just a matter of finding the genetic mix that wouldn't turn our subjects into globs of goo, or exploding fireballs."
Alphonse grinned, far more stoic than his friend, but just as excited, in his way. His excitement shone through his wide, maddening grin as the reality of it all sunk in.
"The results are unexpected, and certainly not as spectacular as a wolfman..."
"Or a wolfwoman," interjected Brendan.
"Yes, or that. But still. We have achieved so much, completely by accident. You were caught in the storm of particles within that room. You survived to tell the tale. Most importantly of all, your body has clearly been altered by the radiation."
Alphonse paused there, his smile threatening to snap his head in two, and the top of his head to flap back and fall to the ground if he didn't contain his excitement.
"And on top of all that, if that silver glow was any indication, and that you caused something to pick me up and through me through the air backs it up more than enough, it is very possible that you came through it with special abilities to go with the latest model Brendan. You are the living example of everything we've worked for. You're the proof that has made all these years of blood and sweat, all the failures worthwhile. It's all you, lad."
Brendan smiled back warmly, pleased that they had finally had a success with the emitter, a living subject, with abilities. Even if the cost had been high, he could not help but feel happy to have had results of any kind, that didn't end in another loss of life. Not to mention the life that wasn't lost was his own.
The joy they were feeling over their success also helped Brendan take his mind off his deeper predicament, that cost that had been paid to stay alive. Brendan didn't care about his gender in the wider picture of things. Their success, the validation of everything Doctor McKenzie had fought for his entire life, and if his abilities could be honed, and were useful for more than tossing middle-aged men out of hospital rooms, could be used against the looming threat of First Strike. They were no longer the only force on this planet to have powered entities that could be used as weapons.
In fact, amidst everything having turned out as well as it did, Brendan had forgotten for a moment the predicament he was stuck in. He never thought they would see this day come. So many things had gone wrong, and the last thing to have done so had apparently gone in exactly the other way.
"So, what now," Brendan inquired.
Alphonse's smile flickered for a moment, but remained as he pondered the question.
"Now, I suppose we will have to report what has transpired, in full. Oversight committees will have long talks with us, I'm sure. About accidents and all that rubbish. They probably won't believe in your miraculous survival and transformation, and think just what I did when I first saw your, well you're changes."
Brendan looked down at those changes as best he could see them from that vantage point. Even having it all connected to his neck, he found it hard to believe the claims that this was his body now. He wondered if he would ever be comfortable thinking of himself as something other than a he. Brendan was not sure which thought was more disturbing; if he continued to think of this obviously, and irrefutably female form as a him despite what was inside it, of if he grew more and more comfortable with thinking of himself as herself.
"I would ask just what you thought, but I'm sure I could easily guess," whispered Brendan.
"Yes, I'm sure you could. I was outside the room at the time, thanks to you. By the time I dared return, and by the time I could have seen anything anyways, I found my assistant replaced with the woman standing before me now. As being the most logical answer, I suspected you had somehow been swapped form him, and he was taken elsewhere. Possibly even by those self-same bastards in First Strike we're trying to find ways to stop."
Shaking his head, and fixing his glasses resting on his pudgy nose, Alphonse continued. "But now, I'm sure it's you in there. Too many little details that someone couldn't have faked. Not to mention there was no way into the room except past me."
"Unless," interrupted Brendan, "he was a teleporter."
Alphonse rolled his eyes. "Please, don't make things more complicated than they need to be. I was perfectly happy accepting you to be Brendan, but in this new age, such possibilities are just that. Possibilities. That could indeed be the case. Hopefully, I may be able to sway any offcials unconvinced of your identity. At the very least, if your abilities are stable enough, we have that as proof, and should appease anyone seeking results."
He watched Brendan for a moment, pondering, and examining the young woman. "Are you able to still use them? It wasn't some fluke, or trick? Could you try to do something right now?"
Brendan's face fell. He knew that sooner or later that the question of his recently aquired powers would come back up, but he had been hoping for later. Having no clear recollection of them, or if they even were real, he was far from sure if he even had any powers, let alone if he could utilise them at will.
Fidgeting, which he found to feel quite different from before his transformation. Just in the little things, emphasis on little. The size of everything. Despite being the same height, so much of him just felt smaller than it had before. Also, the way he stood when he fidgeted, it felt different, his shoulders slumped a little more, and he thought his face looked more nervous than he wanted it to look. Alphonse could see the difference as clearly as Brendan felt it. The young woman looked quite a bit more cute than Brendan could have while fidgeting, even beyond just the fact that one was female and one was male. The actions almost made Brendan look shy.
"I'm not really sure what I did before, or how to do it now. Or even what I should do as a demonstration. Any ideas?"
Wiping some sweat away from his brow as he thought, Alphonse considered. "Something simple. Something non-destructive, and won't throw me back through the door again." He grinned, causing Brendan to blush from the advice, feeling embarassed for doing that to his mentor.
Brendan felt as if he could manage to do something simple, if he could figure out just how to do what it is he could do. He held his hands up, elbows at his sides, and looked down at his palms. He took that in for a moment; that these were his now, his hands. Maybe it would be better to think of them as her hands, he thought, better help me assimilate into this new life.