[Nasty's mouth tends to swear. Reader discretion advised.]
Nasty stared at the broken mannequin. She was aware of the door sliding open behind her, but didn't turn around. Hands pulled on her shoulders, getting attention. She raised her fist, ready to hit the person who grabbed her.
"Natasha, relax. It's just me," Jackson said, backing away.
Nasty stepped backwards, bumping into the mannequin. "Sorry," she mumbled. She looked at her fist. It still glowed with purple energy. "Don't ever sneak up on me like that again." Damnit. I need to turn this off. How the hell did I do this before?
"Something wrong, Natasha?" Christopher asked.
"I don't know."
"Natasha, let's come over here while Mike fixes the dummy," Jackson said, walking to a weight machine.
Nasty followed dazedly. "I didn't mean to break the thing," she said.
"It's been broken and replaced before. Don't worry about it. Could you turn off your hand, though. We don't really need to replace everything you touch today."
"I'd love to."
"I don't know how," Nasty said. "It's never stayed on like this."
"How did you turn it off before?"
"I don't know! It's always disappeared before."
"Okay, Natasha, calm down," Jackson said.
"Calm down? How the fuck am I supposed to calm down? My hand's a fucking time bomb!" Nasty yelled.
Christopher and Mikail looked over from replacing the mannequin. Jackson held a hand up to keep them from joining the distraught girl and him. "It's okay, guys. We're fine." As the two men in lab coats returned to their work, Jackson turned back to Nasty. "Natasha, it's alright. There's no need to be upset."
"Don't fucking tell me not to be upset. It's my fucking hand!"
"Natasha, calm down," Jackson said forcefully. "Getting upset isn't going to defuse your hand. Stop and think. Did you do anything special at all?"
"Okay, let's try this. You turned it on, so you can turn it off. Whatever you did to power up your hand will work to turn the power off."
Nasty looked dubious. "Are you serious?"
"Yes. Give it a try."
Nasty breathed deeply. What do I have to lose? Okay hand, any time you want, you can shut down. C'mon, shut down, damnit. "It's not working."
"Calm down and try, Natasha," Jackson said.
"Try," he says. What the fuck does he think I'm doing? Okay, Natasha, calm down and think. When you broke the table and at school, how did you turn off the power? Think, girl. Okay, after the table, you were in shock right? That's no good. At the school, you went home. You were upset with Mom. She closed her eyes. Right. I was upset both times, and I'm reaching that point now. So if I can calm down, I can turn off my hand, right? I mean, it sounds good and all and I've got nothing to lose. Okay, let's try it. Nasty took several breaths, each one deeper than the previous. Turn off, damnit. The tingling in her hand faded. Risking a look, Nasty saw that her hand no longer glowed.
"Good going, Natasha," Jackson said. "We'll have to work on that more, but not now. You need time to adjust."
"Look, just because I started to panic doesn't mean I can't do this," Nasty said.
"It's not that. All new metahumans need time getting used to their new abilities. You're no exception there, Natasha. We'll work on getting your power to work when you want it to. It's going to take longer than just one session. We could spend the day tomorrow working on it if you want."
"A full day just to get me to turn my hand on and off like a light switch?"
"It's for the best, Natasha," Jackson said.
Maria checked herself out in the mirror. She placed a hand on her hip as she tried to look seductive. I'm out of practice. Teenaged boys wouldn't even be turned on by that. She stuck her tongue out at her image. Well, I can still enjoy myself tonight. Maybe the bar'll be dark enough tonight to hide the flaws in my seductive look.
Grabbing a jacket, Maria left her apartment. Finally, a night without worrying about what Natasha is up to, she thought while waiting for the elevator. A night of my own. My turn to get into trouble. The elevator door opened, and Maria stepped inside. Too bad Natasha won't be at home to bail me out. Maria laughed at the thought. She'd be all uptight about it, too. Maria sighed. I miss the brat. I was looking forward to time away from her, and now . . . Christ. I should have gotten a phone number at least.
At the ground floor, Maria walked out the apartment building and hailed a cab. How is Natasha doing now? she wondered. She gave her head a shake. She's fine. Natasha has been looking forward to her leaving as much as I have. It was her decision. So why do I feel so damned guilty?
Jackson led Nasty, Christopher and Mikail back to the elevator. All four entered the elevator, with Jackson pressing the button to return to the ground floor. The elevator lurched, causing Nasty to stumble. Christopher caught her before she could fall.
"Someone want to fix this thing before it becomes a death trap?" Nasty grumbled.
"It's always acted up, Natasha," Mikail said. "Nothing to worry about."
"Right. Tell me that when this thing snaps."
"Natasha, please," Jackson said.
"Alright." I'm snarky today. What's wrong with me? They haven't done anything. Other than be cops, that is. Why am I on edge?
"Have anything planned for tonight?"
"I'm meeting a friend." Eric. His name's Eric. Why are you being so secretive? "I'm supposed to give him a call when I'm done here. Damn!"
"I've got a cell phone in the truck," Jackson said. "You can use that if you want."
"Thanks, but I'll call him at home. I need to change anyways."
The elevator stopped and the door opened. Nasty slipped out the door into shed, followed by the men. She looked around. There's nothing here waiting for you, Natasha. What is wrong with you? She turned to Jackson. "I'll need your help getting my bike out of the back of your truck," she said.
"I could drive you home," Jackson offered.
"I prefer to ride. We're meeting here tomorrow, right? I better figure out how to get here on my own."
"Fine. What time is good for everyone?"
"Ten's good for me," Christopher said. "Mike?"
"No problem here," Mikail said.
"I suppose," Nasty said.
The group filed out of the building. Jackson led Nasty to his truck. Nasty looked over her bike, still strapped down in the truck's bed. "You love that bike, don't you?" Jackson asked.
Nasty jumped in beside her bike. "Not really. It means a lot to me, but not because it's my bike. It's my freedom. I can go where I want, when I want. Seeing it sit there seems wrong to me. It's supposed to be on the road, on its own, not being hauled around."
"Yeah, well, tell my English teacher that. She doesn't quite get the concept. It's not something that I can put into words well. Have you ever owned a motorcycle?"
"A long time ago, when I was your age."
"Remember what it was like riding it? Remember the feeling you got just from starting it?"
Jackson closed his eyes. "I do. Freedom."
"It's more than that for me. There's freedom, but freedom from everything. Free from Mom. Free from school. Free from my own life. On the highway, there's just me. No one cares who I am, no one bothers me. Get far enough out of the city, and there's no one else around. Back roads are the best. You see things." Nasty sighed as she started untying the ropes holding her motorcycle. She patted the Kawasaki's saddle. "I don't what I'd do with out this old bike. It's kept me sane. It's just not right to see it in someone's truck."
"The bike means that much to you?" Jackson asked as he lowed the truck's gate.
"I suppose it does. I just didn't realize how much until we loaded it up here." Nasty shook her head. "I didn't mean to get so deep. I'm not like this normally."
"That's okay, Natasha. Everyone's allowed an off day."
"Assessment on Subject 13?"
"She will be difficult to train. She has little respect for authority. Subject 4 says he can feel her resist."
"I have full faith in Subject 4. How did Subject 13's assessment go?"
"She destroyed the test dummy with her first punch. Readings were good, though. Analysis is still trying to classify the energy Subject 13 produces, and Subject 2 expressed concerns that the girl could hurt him if she ever broke her control."
"Subject 4 will have to be subtle. Perhaps there is someone in Subject 13's life we could use to control her."
"Not her mother. Subject 13 harbours resentment against her. We could drive the girl further away using her mother."
"Friends? Lovers? There must be someone."
"Subject 4 thinks there is. Subject 13 is showing great affection for a boy in her class. We can use him in getting Subject 13 to adapt to our needs."
Name: John Anderson
Birthdate: November 29, 1966
Birthplace: Las Vegas
Hair: Dark brown with grey streaks
Mother: Amanda Anderson (nee Douglas)
Father: B.F. Anderson
Generation and discharge of electricity, up to a range of 375 metres.
Subject 12 is the result of Project Lambda (see file:\\FS16735-2\Projects\Lambda\i-lamba13.doc).
[End Issue 12]
Next Issue: Maria's night out.