Esme Grey (foenix) wrote,
Esme Grey

Balance of Power: Chapter Four, Part Five

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
47,265 / 50,000

For those keeping track, yes, that's right.  I wrote 3k words today, and change.  I was on a ROLL baby!  And damn, it felt good.  And I did it all in the span of two hours. o.o

I most definitely deserve my coffee this morning, as I couldn't get it made as early as I wanted to after my first thousand words, as is my usual tradition.

The main reason I went with the extra words was because I'm going to be in Massachusetts doing the family thing 'til Friday afternoon, and while I may be able to write, I'll probably be too damned tired to do much of it, not to mention that the internet will be lacking and this way I stay mostly on track.  Also, I really wanted to get this scene knocked out, as the book is lurching forward.

        The sneakers squeaked with each step down the stairs, the tread still fresh and new.  Brendan smiled at the officer and stood in front of him.  Even though he was still the same height as he used to be, Brendan felt small, looking up at this man as he stood in the foyer with his hands clasps in front of him.
        "Ok," he said, his voice sounding small and unsure.  "I think I'm all set.  Do you know what all this is about?"
        The young enlisted man shook his head.  Brendan watched as his crew cut naturally didn't move an iota.  He longed for a short haircut like that again, but part of him couldn't quite bring himself to trim his new golden locks just yet.  Once he had adjusted to everything, and things had settled down, Brendan supposed he could give thought to a haircut then, but he suspected it might be too late by then.  Even at that point, he might not get it cut that short.  Brendan thought it would be a disservice to do such a thing to a beauty such as he had become.  Even if it was him inside that body.
        "I don't know much about it.  The doc just said to bring you in, and said something about preparing you, ma'am."
        It was Brendan's turn to shake his head.  "That's not entirely what I meant.  I did mean that, but also, how much do you know about what's going on?  About me?"
        "I'm afraid my clearance isn't very high, ma'am.  I only know what I've been told, and what I've heard."  Brendan could tell that behind that calm voice, the guy was holding something back.
        "And have you heard anything interesting?"  Despite his transformation, Brendan was still a scientist at heart, and wanted answers.
        The officer looked uncomfortable from all the questioning, but he gave forth answers none the less.  "I am aware of what we're trying to do here, what Project: Lightbringer is all about.  I had also heard that you may be the first successful result of the project.  A few of my friends had volunteered, and it makes me glad their sacrifices weren't for nothing, ma'am."
        Brendan only nodded, not really confirming or denying what the man had said, what he had heard, only trying to signal that he was listening.  If the soldier had not been officially informed of his status, it certainly wasn't Brendan's place to reveal that information.
        "Anything else," Brendan asked.  He did not fully realise just what he was doing, using his new body to try and get information from the young man, although deep down, Brendan was well aware of his actions.  He was curious to see how it would pan out, as he flashed a smile at the guy.
        Before speaking, Brendan saw the man look a little flustered under his stoic demeanor, and a brief stammer when he spoke.  "No, ma'am.  And I hate to remind you, but we really ought to be going.  I wasn't given any specific time by the doc, but it did seem urgent to get things started.  Ever since Mister Conrad left the project, he's seemed unusually excited about his work, despite the loss, and Doc McKenzie never seems this excited.  So whatever you are to the project, you must be important.  That's all I need to know, ma'am."
        And that was all Brendan needed to hear.  They had covered up the disappearance and replacement of Brendan Conrad by a young, beautiful blonde woman by having his old self simply leave the project.  Brendan knew he would never leave Doctor McKenzie's side, but no one hear would suspect anything amiss.  People came and went all the time.
        He nodded and fixed his hair, as the officer got the door, holding it open for what he thought was nothing more than any other young woman.  Although he had his suspicions she was something more.  Brendan was sure he would have those suspicions proved right one way or another soon enough.
        Stepping outside, Brendan was immediately hit with a gust of cold autumn air, and he was met with the realisation that his new satin wardrobe was not going to offer much in the way of protection aginst the elements.  He fought off a shiver, and gritted his teeth, not wanting to show weakness, and not having a coat handy he could put on anyways.
        The officer stayed close to her, even though there was no clear need for it on the empty base.  It was clear he took his job with a great deal of seriousness.  He stayed just ahead of Brendan and led him to the maroon sedan that had been parked in the small driveway in front of the garage.
        He opened up the door for Brendan, something he would have done whether it was a man or a woman, but something about the gesture only served to remind Brendan of his situation.  He made no mention of it though, or even any outward sign that it even affected him, as he got into the car.
        Brendan skipped bothering with a seatbelt, despite a glance from the officer that could only be about that as he backed out of the driveway.  Brendan had experienced the annoyance of one the day before, when another officer had dropped him off at the house.  Not wearing it went against his common sense, but dealing with the seatbelt and his new aquirements was an adventure Brendan was willing to risk, and save for another day.
        The car ride was silent, as the officer concentrated on where he was going, as focused as he had seemed inside the house.  The base was large, but the lab facilities were not far from the housing complexes, so the silence was short.  Brendan could have made the trip on foot with ease, but those in charge of the project, above even Alphonse McKenzie, wanted to keep a close eye on their new asset.
        Once they arrived, the officer tried to get the door for Brendan, but he had already gotten the door open, and out of the car before the young man could get around the front of his sedan.
        The officer had parked right in front of the laboratory buildings.  They were three seperate cubes, connected via glass enclosed walkways, one at ground level with doors in the center, and another about halfway up each cube on the fifth floor.  Each cube, and the non-glass portions of the walkways were all painted white.  The main labs were housed underground as one large facility, not divided up into three like the above ground portions, and the cubes served only as a facade for more normal work, including the hospital facilities for the entire base located in the westernmost cube, currently on Brendan's left.  From the car, he could even see where his room was, or at least the general area.  He had spent enough time at the window looking down at almost the exact spot where he now sat.  Each cube had in its front a square indentation that receeded about a foot before it was blocked by the main doors of each building.  Brendan was reminded of a mall's doors, when he saw them.  Large, mostly made of glass, and with large chrome handles, and more chrome around as the door frames.
        Brendan closed the door behind him with a gentle thud, barely even that escaping the vehicle as the door was closed.  He smoothed out the golden blouse he had picked, part of him regretting the choice, but it seemed more appropriate than one of the t-shirts he had been sorely tempted to wear instead.  He may be a whole new person, but he was still a professional, with a job to do.  Although, now he was unclear just what that job would entail.
        "I never got to thank you, for finding those things for me, and bringing them over.  So,, what's your name?"
        The focused stare of the officer broke as he let slip a smile and looked down at the blonde before him.  "Sorry, ma'am.  I forget my manners sometimes.  I'm Lieutenant Jonas Palmer.  And no thanks are needed.  If you need anything else, just let me know.  I've been assigned to keep a personal eye on you."
        Brendan stuck out his hand.  "Well, thanks anyways.  It was greatly appreciated Lieutenant Palmer.  I'm very pleased to have such a dedicated soldier in our army watching my back."
        Jonas' smile only widened, and he shook Brendan's hand in a rock hard grip, pumping the small hand that was engulfed within his own with a force Brendan had not felt in awhile.
        "Doctor Alphonse said he would be waiting -" Jonas didn't even get the chance to finish his sentence.
        "Oh, I'm sure he's in his office.  And if he's not there, he's probably nose deep in computer code trying to get the emitter working.  Or, considering the time, he might be in the cafeteria, if he isn't too engrossed in that code."
        Jonas nodded and opened the door to the facilities for what he thought was nothing more than a woman.  Brendan wondered if he would be so courteous if he knew that underneath that soft, flawless skin, was buried a male mind.
        Each of the buildings was at a slightly lower pressure than the outside.  If there was a major accident, the difference in pressure would cause the building to collapse in on itself under most circumstances, as a safety precaution.  Such measures made the doors often difficult to open, and Brendan was grateful to have Jonas along to open the door for him, rather than finding out the hard way that his new body was going to have difficulty, and embarassment.
        Brendan stepped through the glass and chrome doors, and heard the door shut behind him with a hiss as the pressure was readjusted in the small alcove that served as an airlock between the outside world, and the inner labs.  He half turned, looking over his shoulder, and gave a quick wave to the young officer that had brought him here.  Jonas gave a quick nod, and he disappeared from sight as Brendan turned a corner and found the elevators to descend into the primary facility.
        The elevators were swift, and Brendan knew the lab's layout well enough that he could have navigated his way anywhere within the htree buildings without even thinking about it, and blindfolded.  Even trapped within this strange new form, he still had his sense of direction, and years of habit.
        While he traversed the hallways and corridors to Alphonse's lab, the most likely place he was at, Brendan practiced his walking some more.  The more he did, and the less he thought about it, the easier he found it becoming.  As long as he put one foot in front of the other, and let his new bone structure and muscles do the rest of the work, he walked just like any other woman.  He was even finding it to be rather comfortable, as the body was resistant to walking against what it now saw as normal.  If he tried to force his body to walk a certain way, that's exactly what it felt like: forcing it.  Brendan could feel the sway of his hips, and a certain bounce in his step - not to mention his chest - as he walked, but even that was becoming less of a concern.
        Brendan wound his way through the maze of corridors to the offices of his old friend, and knocked with his knuckles against the door.  Even that sounded softer and lighter than he was used to.  Brendan was finding that everything he did was now being translated through this woman's body, and came out accordingly.  Everything he did served to emphasize his current state.
        From behind the closed, white door came a muffled voice Brendan recognised as Alphonse's.  It urged whoever it was to come in, and so Brendan did just that.
        The sight Brendan saw was a familiar one.  Alphonse was huddled over his desk, working on notes, jotting in the margins as thoughts flashed through that genius level mind he had, before they were lost to the next random thought.  The doctor's balding head reflected the light overhead, as did the glasses resting atop it, making the top of Alphonse's head resemble a face all it's own, minus some key features.
        Brendan may have changed to an amazing degree, but is pleased and reassured him to see that some things would never change.  If things took their normal course, Alphonse would forget where he had left his glasses before too long.
        "Just one moment," he said, as he finished jotting down the thought in his head.  Brendan leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms as best he could around the new obstructions to his favourite pose.  He cocked one leg and stood with it crossing his other and resting on the toes of that foot.
        Alphonse finished the work he was engrossed in, and looked up, smiling brightly at his friend, a familiar smile no matter what form his friend may have taken.  "Ahh, there you are, lass."
        Brendan's face fell, as did his hands and foot, with his body's muscles going slack.  The word had come out like a slap across the face.
        The good doctor saw the reaction, and bit his lower lip.  "I'm sorry, old friend.  I had been practicing for the past few days with it, and had not considered your reaction at all."
        Brendan stopped him short, holding up a hand, and said only one word.  "Why?"
        "Because," started the doctor.  "It is what you are now.  We may be able to publicise that you are indeed the first of a government initiative to create superpowered beings, but we can't come out just yet and say that you used to be a man."
        Brendan heard the words, and while they made sense, he was still taken aback by the whole idea.
        Alphonse continued.  "If we are to maintain your new, cover identity to one and all, everyone must treat you exactly the way you appear; as a woman in her late twenties.  I apologise for this, again, but it is necessary.  Calling you lad, or Brendan, would cause confusion and unwanted questions."
        The new woman nodded, unable to argue against the logic, as much as he may have wanted to do just that.
        He, Brendan thought to himself.  If everyone else was going to be treating him as a woman, calling him lass, and calling him a she, maybe it was time for Brendan to let go of the pronoun, and embrace his new gender, but he still fought against it.
        "On the upside, this will protect your family, your loved ones, and friends.  No one will be able to connect Brendan Conrad's associates to the new life you will now lead.  In fact, the only people who would be in danger that both yous have known would be those here on base, if anyone traces the source of your newfound powers back to my research."
        "My new life," Brendan spoke softly, not wanting to ask the question on his mind.  "Who is she?  Who am I?"
        Asking that question took more out of Brendan than he had expected.  Questioning his identity so deeply, and no longer just internally, was almost as hard on him as seeing his new visage in the mirror last night.  However, this time he kept himself together.  This was something he would just have to accept, as much as he fought against it at the time.
        Alphonse sorted through the mess of papers on his desk.  He tried to keep his notes together, but as he moved the loose pieces of paper this way and that, excavating through the veritable chaos of his personal filing system, they only became more confused.  He eventually gave up trying to keep it sorted, and started pulling papers together and stacking them on any arguably free space on the desk.  Underneath it all, he finally found a manilla folder with no markings on it, and handed it over to Brendan.
        "This is your new identity.  Everything has been set up, every little piece of paper, from birth certificate to transcripts.  If anyone was to compare the two lives, they would see Brendan and the new you have lived nearly identical lives, as we did not want to force you into something out of your area of expertise.  However, we doubt the connection will be made.
        "While the events are similar, the locales are different, and based upon a number of young women from those areas.  If anyone goes poking around, they will find the appropriate papers, and if your picture is shown around, someone is sure to recognise some blonde haired, blue eyed woman."
        Brendan nodded, not even listening as Alphonse prattled on, and instead opened the folder in his hands.  Inside, he found all the documentation his friend had hinted at.  Birth certificate, social security card, driver's license.  Even a passport, and the aforementioned school transcripts.
        All of the paperwork was made out to describe a 28 year old, sharing the same birthday as Brendan, five foot nine, 120 pounds (Although it had been a hefty eight pounds, three ounces at birth, he saw), blonde haired, blue eyed woman named Dawn Evans.
        Brendan looked at the photo he had rememebred having taken two days ago, on his new driver's license, and held up the small laminated rectangle.  He shot a look over the folder to Alphonse.
        "Dawn Evans?  I'm surprised you didn't go with Brenda Something."
        Alphonse laughed and shook his head.  "No, we honestly had not even considered it in any serious way.  It had come up briefly, but was shot down as seeming to be too obvious.  Brendan and Brenda are too close for comfort, and would have been a flashing neon sign of a clue."
        Brendan nodded, feeling uncomfortable about this new life being so close, and yet so far from his old one, despite agreeing with the silliness of having gone with the name Brenda.
        "Ok, that makes sense.  So, why Dawn, then?"
        The doctor blushed a little.  "A little pun, I believe.  Your powers are light based, so..."  He trailed off.
        "So, you went with Dawn.  Cute.  And you thought Brenda would have been too silly?"
        Alphonse nodded, rubbing the back of his neck.  "It seemed appropriate.  Often, characters in fiction have names that have something to do with their powers.  And as for Evans, well.  Truth be told, I just picked that randomly out of a phonebook.  The two sounded good together."
        With a shrug, Brendan - Dawn now, he supposed - stuck the ID back into the folder and closed it.

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