Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 4)

Chapter 4

             A cup of hot chocolate held by a long arm floated in front of Lora. A blue flame came from the palm to keep it hot and it was put on the saucer. Lora thanked the arm.
 “What do you mean you backed out, Cindy?” The long arms owner, Helena Christophers asked. “I gave you that clamp so that you could learn to slip through it, not let it collect dust and look like some cog out of Victorian era science fiction.”
 Lora blew some steam from her cup to take a sip; Cindy sat right across from her at the small kitchen table. Cindy held up her hands.
 “I know that, but, like, the peephole makes me dizzy when I adjust it for, umm… under three inches? I have to really work to not barf all over myself when I’m, like, half way through. What do I do?”
 Helena crossed her arms; they melded and stretched into each other while giving off a hard sheen.
 “Did you try and go in by the feet and push that way? The peephole can work both ways; your head doesn’t have to be poking out first.”
 Cindy smiled.
 “It does if you want a smoother childbirth.”
 Lora snorted as she sipped her beverage. She choked what she had down and tried to keep from giggling. Helena glared at Cindy and tried to stifle her own laughter. Cindy just smiled at Helena, seeing through her cracks.
 Helena rolled her eyes.
 “Can’t believe you did that…” She whispered and turned to Lora. Her hair swayed as if it was weighted. It was a very light brown with azure colored streaks here and there.
 “So you’re the new EnWol on the block, Lora?”
 Lora nodded and chuckled.
 “Yep, apparently.”
 Helena nodded and turned to Cindy
 “How did you find her this quickly? Trippi can do it in…” Helena shook her head, “…days. This took about three hours.”
 Cindy shrugged.
 “I just walked out of the bathroom and there she was.”
 Helena’s mouth gapped open, and she looked to the ceiling.
 “Do I even need to know?”
 Cindy shrugged again and mumbled, “I don’t know.”
 Helena went back to Lora.
 “Okay, Lora, Ms. Pink Lemon, I’m guessing that by your lack of changing the default colors, you don’t know what powers the gauntlets gave you, is this true?”
 Lora put her cup down and stuck her tongue out as if to examine it herself.
 “Hot.” She said and looked at Helena.
 “Not really, I’m sorry.” She scraped her tongue on the roof of her mouth.
 Cindy chuckled, her chin resting in her hands.
 “That’s totally what happens when you ask The Dazzling Blaze herself to make you some choco.” She muttered.
 Helena nodded.
 “Well, you can obviously stretch and fly. Can you manipulate ice? Fire? Electricity?”
 “That last one’s awesome when it’s done right.” Cindy said.
 Lora looked into space, puzzled.
 “I don’t know. How can I check?”
 Cindy suddenly had a thought. She butt-in with what she knew in her gut was very important information. She stood up.
 “Helena wait, umm, I don’t think that Lora can, like, stretch or anything. She’s still solid.”
 Helena looked at her with a sly smile, knowing that Cindy could be full of it sometimes. Helena studied Cindy for her own cracks in her sincerity, and could tell that her apprentice was serious this time. Helena’s expression turned from light arrogance to concern. She looked Lora over, instinctually stretching her neck out at a modest length for a better look.
 Helena held out her hand and asked for Lora’s. She presented her pink-gloved hand with her palm and wrist at an angle with flexed fingers. Helena gripped Lora’s hand, unsure of how to proceed. It remained solid when squeezed with some wincing being the only response.
 “Darlin’ I should be molding your hand like its jelly; pushing fingers back into a sphere and everything. I still feel a bone structure. Cindy, did you see her dissolve?”
Lora’s eyes widened and her breath caught.
“Dissolve? Mrs. Helena, what do you mean by dissolve?” Lora asked.
 Helena let go of Lora’s hand.
 “It works like this, when the gauntlets are first put on, they eat away at a person’s body and convert it to, well, goopy silver.” Helena held her Caucasian arm up and the skin turned into a perfect mirror. “This permanent transformation allows us to stretch and take damage unharmed.”
 Helena’s arm went back to normal.
Lora hesitated.
 Helena flicked her hand up.
 “Here, take the gauntlets off and put them back on, maybe it needs to reset. If so, then you should be able to form your clothes subconsciously for modesties sake after converting.”
 Lora’s face flushed and she tried to hide a bashful smile. She tried to ask a question, but it did not come out right against her giggles. Cindy had a wide smile. Helena examined the context and tried to answer.
 “No, I’m not sure if you’ll be naked or not.”
 Lora giggled a bit harder; she was too embarrassed to excuse herself. She looked at the gauntlets and decided to face the situation. Her smile abruptly fell as she undid the hinges. She pried them both off and nothing happened. The pink and yellow outfit remained.
 Helena nodded and Lora let her tension go with a smile.
 “Okay, that’s odd.” Helena said. “There should be a flash and you should be in street clothes. Put them back on. You should be able to stretch afterward.”
 Lora looked at the undone gauntlets and gulped. She hesitated.
 “Oh, umm… Alright. I’m not sure, but here I go…” Lora put them both on as Cindy and Helena watched without proper sympathy.
Lora secured each of the six latches, and fastened the last one ever so slowly. The three waited for proper results.
Lora looked up and shrugged.
Helena sneered. She stretched out to pull Lora’s arm up and examine a gauntlet. Lora let Helena hoist her. Helena found no change in a supposed pliable transformation.
 “This is a little distressing, to be EnWol is to be a silver goop, like peanut butter and jelly. You need to stretch Lora. An EnWol without the elasticity is like a jelly sandwich.”
 “Breakfast?” Lora asked.
 Cindy nodded.
 “I was thinking about that too.”
 Helena clicked her tongue.
 “No, you know what I mean. I haven’t properly eaten in decades. It’s the catalyst of being a quality EnWol. I’ll let Bronson know about this glitch; you need to stretch, Lora.”
 Lora made a fake laugh.
 “Umm, I’m not too excited about that. The idea of my turning stretchy, it… it sounds kind of yucky really. No offense.”
 Cindy wrinkled her nose a little bit and Helena nodded.
 “None taken. The idea of turning into slime is daunting, I’ll admit, but after my first year as an EnWol, I didn’t see any other way of living.”
 Cindy stood up and motioned toward Lora.
 “Wait, I want to know why this even happening. Or not happening, what the crap ever. What’s wrong?” She asked.
 Helena touched her lips.
 “I don’t know.” She caught a grin from Cindy and answered before she got a chance to ask.
 “But no, you can’t try them on for fun, nothing will happen anyway.”
 Helena had hit the mark on the head and Cindy deflated.
Lora looked up at Helena with a look that begged for sympathy.
“What do we do, Mrs. Helena?” Lora asked.
An idea erupted from Lora’s gaze. Helena turned to Cindy, hands on her hips.
 “Cindy, are you joshing me again? Is she really next up in line, or is she just one of your dinky little meta friends?”
 Lora grimaced. Cindy shot up, her height stretching up and down a few inches in effect.
 “What? No! Of course not! I’m a big kidder, but this is like a new presidential elect. I totally can’t joke about this! She is the new EnWol, those are the proper gauntlets for the job. Gaia’s gumball, I even saw her transform with the buh-buh-buh noise that those stupid car stereos make.”
Helena crossed her arms.
“EnWol need to stretch; that’s how the Heroes made the gauntlets. What makes her EnWol and not a normal meta? Elastic metas and EnWol do not share the same fluidity.”
 Cindy blinked. She searched for an answer and made some croaks as she cut herself off.
 “Lora… Lora can fly?”
 Helena nodded.
 “Uh-huh. So can ninety percent of the metas on the planet. What else?”
 Cindy was on the verge of tears and Lora shared the emotion.
 “She… she can commandeer ice and lightning? I don’t know! I saw the friggin transformation. Lora experienced the thing and got that suit from it. I can’t prove any more otherwise. This is totally bogus!”
Helena’s gaze went to Lora’s bright outfit.
Lora got up to round the table and comfort Cindy; she absentmindedly started to clean up her friends platinum hair. Helena took her arm and Lora stared at her, unsure of what was going on.
 Cindy continued.
 “I don’t know what you want. Literally, like, all of the descriptions of the transformation matched. Sonic boom, flashing light, all that except for the… the gooyification.” Cindy said. She wiped her eyes and noticed that Helena was preoccupied. Cindy stood up, trying to figure out what was going on.
 “Mrs. Helena…?” Lora started.
 “What are you doing?” Cindy finished.
 “Don’t move, Lora…” Helena took a wad of Lora’s sleeve in her fist and walked backward. The suit stretched out across the kitchen with ease. Helena peered at the outfit’s detail and Cindy joined her.
Lora stared slack jawed at the distance her costume was getting. Her eyes fluttered.
 “What’s going on?” Lora asked.
 Helena’s neck stretched a little and she looked up at Lora while chewing her lip.
 “EnWol silver. Both the suit and I are made of the same material. Other EnWol are naturally warm, so this can’t be someone else in disguise. Cindy, you were right about her.”
 Cindy smiled.
 “Ha! The Blaze got smoked.”
Helena rolled her eyes. She returned to her normal shape and then let her arm stretch back to Lora with the costume.
 “This hasn’t happened before; it’s probably a glitch in Bronson’s work.” Helena said and brought her arm back.
 “How do we fix this?” Lora asked. She smoothed her sleeve out and then tugged it herself.
 Helena shrugged.
 “Well, if this can’t be fixed, than you’re going to have to let the bad guys kick your trash if you want to be a Pink Lemon. It doesn’t look like you want to finish your transformation though, so I don’t know.”
 “I’d like it.” Cindy said.
 Helena nodded.
 “Yes, I know that you would like it, but you also said that you wanted to be your own hero without the EnWol powers too.”
 Cindy shrugged.
 “Well, I don’t mind either way.” Cindy trotted back up to Lora and wrapped her arm around her shoulder.
 “So, how are we going to test what her offense is if her defense is shot?” Cindy asked.
 “I was trained in a self defense class with Cindy by my side. I can fight people away if I really need to.” Lora said.
 Helena nodded.
 “Yes, but how are your long range attacks? Even as EnWol silver, we can’t get some people by stretching alone. We have to have a secondary power. Florence can generate electricity, I can shoot fire,” Helena’s thumb flicked up and a blue flame erupted from the tip, “and Nita Rafaela can control ice. All work to help immobilize a threat for easy capture.”
 Helena looked to her kitchen cabinets and stretched her arms out.
 Cindy nodded.
 “Yeah, you gotta have something, Lora.” Cindy said. Lora nodded with a frown, a little unsure of herself.
 Helena grabbed a bowl, filled it with water, and retracted her arms to set it next to Lora’s cup of hot chocolate. Her feet never moved.
 “Okay, let’s see if I can remember how Nita described this…” Helena drummed her fingers on the table in thought.
 Lora studied the water. As it settled, it rippled toward her, like small-scale waves at the beach. As she leaned in for a closer look, the water became more agitated. Lora passed her hand over the water where a bulge followed it.
 Cindy started to ask what her friend was doing, when Lora made a much closer pass. The water leaped onto Lora’s hand, making the bone-dry bowl wobble across the table. Lora shrieked and stood up so quickly that the chair fell on its back. A shaken Cindy and Helena stared at her, her hand in particular.
 Several crackling spikes of ice immobilized her outstretched hand. It clunked onto the table, spreading inches of frost in all directions. Lora’s breath caught and she held her chest.
 “What did you do?” Helena asked.
 Lora shook her head.
 “I don’t know. It was… attracted to me.”
 She looked at the ball and felt at a random spire. She gave a nervous chuckle.
 “That is a pretty cool trick though.” Her fright was poorly disguised.
 Helena shrugged.
 “Well, that’s that then. You and your partner can control ice. Wherever your partner is, anyway.”
 “What partner?” Lora asked.
Helena put Lora’s hand in the bowel and warmed her hand.
 “A Pink Lemon needs a Crimson Cherry. The EnWol Duo always comes in pairs, with Clive Ogden being the exception. I don’t doubt that you will be getting some help, Lora.”
 “Do you think that Ms. Cherry will be able to stretch too?” Lora asked.
 Helena shrugged. Lora’s fingers were free up to the second knuckle.
 “Or a Mr. Cherry, it’s impossible to say which until we meet them. I don’t really know if they will be able to stretch or not. The individual gauntlets have their own power source for each person, so it’s unlikely that the glitch would go across both sets.”
 Cindy chuckled and leaned back in her seat.
 “Well, I think it would be cool to be EnWol. Fly around and stretch…”
 “But, you do that already, Cindy. You don’t need the other pair.” Lora said.
 The last bit of ice fell from Lora’s hand. Helena took the bowel away to dump out the water and Lora flexed her aching hand.
“Well, why not up the ante?” Cindy asked. “Be a legal and true hero, kicking bad guy butt and shocking them silly. I totally think that I would make a good EnWol. Maybe I’ll be Lora’s Cherry. Going around with her, and fighting. Bam!” Lora jumped as Cindy’s fists flew above Lora’s head and back.
 “Poof! Boom! I bet that I could do it too. You think it will be me, Helena?”
 Helena shrugged.
 “The gauntlets read off the feelings of the wearer; it depends on Lora’s subconscious thoughts and how capable she thinks someone is. This is for compatibility. With her quip about how you can already stretch and fly, Cindy, I doubt that they will show up for you at all.” 

If you would like the whole book, a souvenir of the experience, check it out at Smashwords here: 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 3)

  Chapter 3

             Lora had no idea why she knew how to fly. It was one of the things on her mind as she and Cindy flew straight up into the air. To Lora, flying upward was as fun a convertible car top as it screamed down the 405 freeway, which she thought was great for the summer heat. She didn’t dwell on it for long.
 Lora watched Cindy reach the pinnacle of her trip, and then suddenly dive down, her arms spread eagle and body twisting through the atmosphere. Lora got a look at how high she was and gasped. From 2,000 feet up, she could see for miles. Saddleback Mountain loomed at her left and Laguna Hills to her right, dwarfing before the ocean. Catalina Island was off in the distance, behind the veil of haze. Lora looked south and saw the forests and the populated deserts that south Orange County had to offer beyond Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita. The characteristic blue California sky blanketed the state with its warm embrace.
 Lora’s breath caught, and she fell after Cindy, letting her newfound instincts guide her. She twirled through the air, laughing up a storm in spite of leaving her stomach behind. She figured that if fighting crime was anything like the thrill of flying, than she was going to have a lot of fun.
 The two landed at Cindy’s apartment, a half mile south of Lora’s current home. Cindy rushed to the door and got her key out, leaving Lora behind.
 “Cindy, what are we doing?” Lora asked. A huge grin on her face refused to leave.
 A still hovering Cindy shooshed Lora and shoved the door open. It hit the wall with a loud bang, scaring her parents inside. Cindy flew to her room with an excited chortle and slammed that door shut.
 Lora peeked inside and saw Cindy’s parents, Tina and Norm. They looked at Lora.
 “What was that about?” Norm asked. He looked her up and down and pointed at her.
 “Is it you that she’s spazzing out over, Lora?”
 Lora chuckled with her hands behind her back and an uneasy expression as she floated inside. She showed off her wrists.
 “Umm, yep. I… I was in Costa Mesa when Sergei Slade attacked and I got the EnWol gauntlets. Cindy was there to see it. I’m unhurt from the kerfuffle, but this still happened. ”
 “What?” Tina asked.
Tina left her computer and approached Lora.
Norm paled and he looked uncomfortable. He fidgeted. Lora shook her head and placed her hand on his shoulder. He winced.
 “Oh, no, no, no, no. I can’t stretch, thankfully. I know how you feel about it, Mr. Richards.”
 Norm paid attention to his breathing and his voice warbled.
 “In spite of how squeamish I feel, it being…” he shuddered, “…weird. In spite of that, Lora, I’ve always, always been supportive of Cindy, her powers and her goal of being a hero.”
 Lora smiled.
“That’s so sweet. I admire that Mr. Richards.”
 Norm tried to smile, but he grimaced instead. Tina rubbed his back.
 “However did you find those, Lora? And isn’t stretching a part of being an EnWol?”
 Lora shrugged.
 “Oh, I don’t know. They just flew at me after the explosion, I think. Cindy saw my inauguration, went crazy and brought me here.”
They heard Cindy’s room door open.
 “Okay guys,” Cindy said to announce her presence, “I am now Flex Shapeoid!” She showed herself and made a strongman’s pose without deforming her body.
Cindy had changed her clothes from civilian to heroic, although, she wanted it to look more like a spy’s catsuit than bright spandex. Her new outfit consisted of a dark cerulean, slightly reflective tank top, low-rise jeans, gloves that extended to the elbow, and a pair of combat boots. All topped off with a choker, hair band, and sunglasses.
Tina looked at her daughter from the top of her glasses, an amused smile creasing her lips.
 “Flex Shapeoid?”
 Cindy nodded.
 “Yep. Flex-your-shape-oid. It had a nice ring to it.”
 Tina and Norm went back to their own computers.
 “Sounds a little hard to say.” Tina said. “It is spelled with the word ‘shape’ and the letters O-I-D at the end? If you want to go down that route, you might as well be Stretchoid.”
 “Eww.” Lora said.
 Cindy dropped her arms.
 “M’oooom! Picking a heroic sounding name is tough! I don’t want to fly around with a name like… like Super Girl or something stupid like that!”
 Norm chuckled.
 “Wasn’t it The Resilient Miss Flex last week? It was C-Girl for the longest time before that. What is a Shapeoid, anyway? Is it like a trapezoid?” He asked with a smile.
Lora never failed to notice Norm’s own resilience when it came to shrugging off Cindy’s elasticity.
 “Dad, The Resilient Miss Flex was a terrible name! I couldn’t go with that! What is a trapezoid anyway? Is it like a robotic mouse trap?”
 “I think it’s a shape, some kind of square?” Lora said with faint traces of a valley girl accent shining through.
 “What? Flex Trapezoid? Like, really, dad?”
 Tina stood up.
 “I have a concern, Cindy. Can you tell me where you are taking Lora? You came back in such a rush to change that you left us all in the dark. I’m sure that she’s had a rough enough day already.”
 Cindy’s smile broadened and she tensed up.
 “Okay, sorry, look. Lora, being EnWol is kinda a big deal, you know that.”
 Lora nodded.
 “Well, someone, a good friend like me, needs to show the newest member of the species where to go.”
 Lora pursed her lips to the side with mild bewilderment.
 Cindy didn’t miss a beat.
 “So, I’m taking you to see Helena Christophers in Huntington Beach. We could get you evaluated and signed up and everything!”
 Lora smiled.
 “Oh cool. Yeah, you mentioned her back home too. She stopped a bunch of bad guys from creating a radioactive Pittsburgh.”
Cindy nodded.
 “We’re still waiting for both a result and a movie from that trial too.”
 Lora nodded, and then stopped, a realization coming to her.
 “Wait, I’ll get signed up there? But I’m moving, Cindy, I can’t do that.”
 Cindy waved her hand.
 “Doesn’t matter, the main branch is in San Francisco. Besides, if you sign up at one, you’ve signed at all of them! You’re pretty lucky!”
 Cindy lost control of herself. She shook her fists and squealed again.
 “Oh, this is so exciting, Lora! I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone who I knew when I left to be a hero, but now my girl is at the top of the tops!” Cindy screamed again. She fell into a fit of giggles while pitching backward in mid air.
 He three of them watched Cindy, slightly puzzled. Lora shrugged as if to say that ‘Cindy was Cindy.’
 Lora cleared her throat with a smile.
 “Well, gee, Cindy, if I didn’t know better, I would think that you got a new boyfriend.”
 “Hey, not in this house.” Norm said.
 Cindy looked up at Lora from being suspended upside down.
 “That would be stellar, grab something that would put a bigger shine on my face than this.”
Lora smiled.
 “That would be great.”
 Cindy swished upright and grabbed Lora’s hands.
 “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s head out!” She started to fly out the door.
 “Cindy, stop. You’re waiting for me.” Norm got up and approached his daughter without pause.
 Cindy’s arms stretched out as Lora gasped, stumbled and almost fell over. Cindy twirled back, knowing what was coming. She let go of Lora and whined as she hovered near the ceiling, her arms shooting back to normal.
 “Oh no, Dad, please, not this time.”
 Cindy lowered to the carpet and Lora stood by patiently by standing with her feet in a T-pose.
 “When you’re here, Cindy, you will receive this lecture.” Norm said.
 Cindy moaned again and let her father speak.
 “Not everyone on this Earth is like Lora. There are people out there that would not hesitate to hurt you, especially in places like Meta Corps. There are people that can take you and manipulate you to do their own bidding.
 Now, I’m not saying that you’re gullible, never, but think about this. What if someone offers to help you learn to be a better hero, or lets you in on some kind of super serum that will enhance your powers without going crazy.”
 Cindy rolled her eyes.
 “Dad, that only happens in the comics.”
 Norm held his finger up.
 “I’m not done. What if you accept and the serum only lasts for so long. To get more, you need to do something for them and before you know it, you’ve gone and secured a lock for a room that was about to blow up and you only realize it until it’s too late. Sure you get your serum, but at what cost?”
 Cindy backed away, her face contorted in disgust.
 “Gaia, Dad.”
 Cindy glanced at Lora, herself in mild shock with her hand over her mouth.
 Norm nodded, wide eyed.
 “Yeah, I know! Where do you think these storytellers come up with the ideas for all the horrid things that Hyper Glass does? Who do you think Sergei Slade looks to for inspiration?”
 Cindy rolled her head and used what she learned from a lesson on sneering from Sarra.
 “I don’t have an addictive personality. I wouldn’t take such a serum anyway.”
 Norm clutched Cindy’s arms and slid them down past the cuff of her gloves. He held her wrists
 “Look sugar, I’m not for sheltering you in the least, or telling you to be ultra paranoid like my father did me. I’m saying to be careful, be very careful because you could be an accomplice to a headlining villain. I’m sure that your mother and I, and Helena would not be pleased with you if that happened.”
 Cindy rolled her eyes and puffed her cheeks with a sigh.
 “I get it dad. Don’t buy the watch from the street vender. I hear this every time I leave the apartment.”
 Norm looked Cindy in the eye; she could see his fear for her in his. Depending on the day, Cindy took the look as his worry, his shyness poking through or a means to suppress her. On that day of new discoveries, she believed the third option.
 Cindy looked up at him.
 “Okay Dad, fine. Umm, can we go?” She pointed out the door with one hand, her other stretching arm slunk to the door to open it. Norm nodded and looked the other way; his cheeks flushed.
 “Yeah, bye. Your mother and I love you, and we don’t want to see you get hurt.”
 Cindy opened the door with a smile.
 “You forget that the doctor said that I can’t get hurt, but whatever, see ya, come on Lora.”
 With a loud boom, Cindy was gone. Lora half trotted, half-floated to the entryway and bid Cindy’s parents a goodbye. They did the same and Lora followed her friend to the north, the metaphysical wings on her feet uncertain.
 Norm sighed and headed back to his computer. Tina frowned and got up to rub his back.
 “Sweetie, Cindy will be fine. Lora’s with her, and she has enough sense for the both of them.”
 “Lora’s moving away though, so that’s out.”
 Tina’s tone hardened a little; her hands moved to his shoulders.
 “There are other fish in the sea, Norm.”
 Norm smiled and grabbed Tina’s hand.
 “I know. I hope that Cindy doesn’t get a chance to see just exactly what I’m talking about first hand.”
 Tina rounded Norm’s seat to sit back at her computer.
 “They’ll both be fine, taffy.” Tina said.
 While still grasping Tina’s hand, Norms own arm elongated several feet across the table and he let go. He let it reel back slowly while looking up at the ceiling with a grimace.
 “Only my old man. Why did you have to be so stern about this?”

If you would like the whole book, a souvenir of the experience, check it out at Smashwords here: 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 2)

Chapter 2

             “Like, great cheese and macaroni, Lora! That was totally intense!” Cindy Richards walked back and forth across the living room carpet. Lora sat on the sofa hugging both her legs and a pillow, bouncing back from her unique shopping experience.
Lora’s parents had finished talking to her about the attacks at the mall. Her father, Louie, had said that most go through their lives with a two percent chance of being in an attack like that. Her mother, Serena, said that the safety of those involved, including Lora’s, was one of the more important things.
Cindy though could barely contain her excitement over the occurrence and the heroic possibilities.
“I mean, like, how many times does that even happen in SoCal? We got a real super villain attack! It’s, like, wow!”
A noise of wet disgust came from the other end of the sofa. Lora’s sister, Sarra sat with her laptop, shaking her head.
“Okay Ms. Hero-wanna-be Cindy, look, are you so caught up in the moment that you didn’t think about who could have died? The internet says that that explosion killed fourteen people, six metas, and Crystal Court’s slide into the street killed another twenty-five. This is after Slade and his wife got away, somehow unharmed, with Redbird babbling on about him.
You can fly and stretch, did you use those powers to save anyone? Better yet, was it a good idea to bother since the bad guy’s explosion was caused by the swarm of metas? Most of which could probably conjure up some fire, I might add. When are too many goody-goods too much?”
Cindy frowned.
“Okay, like, that sounds like something a bad guy would say, and I’m not going to let a bad guy with purple hair bring me down.” Cindy said her valley girl accent in full force.
Sarra looked up at her golden brown hair creeping into her eyes. She curled her lip.
“My hair hasn’t been purple for months now. I stopped dyeing it when I accepted that I wasn’t gifted enough to have your platinum shade.”
Cindy crossed her arms and looked down at Sarra. Lora stood up and grabbed Cindy’s shoulder.
“Hey you guys, come on. Please be good, please? I just had a really scary experience, and I don’t need any more stress. I don’t want to remember this on top of that in our last few weeks together.”
Cindy nodded.
 “Yeah, take Lora’s advice; she’s the oldest, after all.”
 Sarra closed her eyes. She felt her blood boil with the reminder that she was the youngest of the duo. Sarra forced herself to remain calm; it was hard to be reserved sometimes.
 “By a minute or so, sounds pretty typical for fraternal twins.” She said through her teeth. Sarra inhaled and cleared her throat.
“Okay fine, I can see that age proclamation and B-F-F’s forever is more important than Lora’s harrowing experience. Of course, her bouncing back from something like that within minutes is her trademark.”
Lora clasped her hands together.
“Our move to San Francisco is a big thing, Sarra. I know that you have friends here that you’re going to miss.” Lora drew her honey blonde hair out of her face.
Sarra smirked.
“I have enemies that I will be glad to get away from.”
Cindy pointed at Sarra.
“Okay, dressed like that, I’m sure you have a bunch.”
Sarra sneered. Her shirt said advised to “stop fucking arguing and reboot.”
“Like, grow up, Sarra. Don’t dress like you’re fifteen or something.”
Sarra looked at her sister, who nodded in agreement with Cindy.
“That shirt is a little rude, Sarra.”
Sarra scoffed.
“Yeah, like a fifteen year old would know what this means.” Sarra pointed at Cindy. “Know what, look at you. You always wear the same kind of spandex out like you’re obsessed with the gym. Do you think you’re Xu Cougar?” She asked.
Cindy wore an athletic short-sleeved top and running capris. She tugged the bottom hem of her shirt.
“What’s wrong with my clothes? It’s not like; some cotton will stretch with me.”
Cindy rocked her leg forward and threw it up across her back. It stretched over her shoulder and she caught her own ankle before it hit her chest.
Sarra rolled her eyes and stood up.
“Yeah, having the ability to touch your own toes is useful, I gotta say.”
 Lora frowned. She hated how Cindy and her sister clashed. She started to make the move to break them up.
“You guys, give it a rest. Sarra, why don’t you go get some soda.”
Sarra snorted.
“Don’t cast me away like your slave.” She said and headed for the kitchen.
Cindy gurgled with disgust.
“She’s like, a total brat Lora.”
Lora helped Cindy to put her leg down without it going out from under her.
“You need to get to know her, that’s all.” Lora said.
Cindy nodded and pulled on her hand so that it would stretch a little.
“I have and I totally think that Sarra might work to get me tested in a lab, or something ├╝ber sinister like that.”
Lora looked up to think.
 “No, that’s silly. Sarra wouldn’t do that. Lots of people can stretch.”
Cindy shrugged.
 “We aren’t exactly two peas in a pod, Lora. More like, she’s a sour grape, and I’m… I’m, like, some kind of taffy, or something” She sneered and twirled her short hair in her finger.
 Lora laughed.
 “Cindy, that’s picture-perfect.” She said.
 Cindy smiled.
 “Really? Cool! I guess that you would be, umm… a strawberry then.”
 “Oh, yummy, I love strawberries.”
Sarra came out from the kitchen and threw a can underhand at Lora.
“Hey Pinkie, heads up.”
The can of soda flew at Lora. She flinched and got ready to catch it, when Cindy came out and did it for her.
“Okay, that wasn’t nice, you could have, like, hurt her.”
Sarra scoffed and sat back down.
“What-ever!” she said to mock Cindy. She popped open her can and absorbed herself in her laptop.
Cindy gave Lora the soda.
“Freak on a leash, I’ll be glad to get away from her.” Cindy croaked. “Hey, I’m glad that you and your parents, at least, are finding better things with this move.”
Lora smiled.
“Daddy got a promotion to head art director at Maze of Trees. I’m so happy for him, Cindy.”
“He’s going to help create such fine video games like ‘Who’s Afraid of the Troll?’”
Lora frowned and looked away.
“I don’t know that one, Cindy. Was Dad involved with that one?”
Cindy stuck out her tongue and made a quick raspberry.
“It stunk, like, don’t worry about it.”
She didn’t.
“Well, Orange County won’t be the same without my Lora Summers.” Cindy said. She stretched her arms out to give Lora a hug. Lora did the same with her non-elastic body.
“Nor will San Francisco feel complete without my Cindy Richards.”
Sarra looked up at them and smirked.
“Stretch and Sugar was filmed on location in front of a live studio audience.”
Lora broke off from the hug.
“Sarra, would you please stop it? We had a rough day today. Do you know how rude—”
“Lora, shut up. It’s how I cope with things.” Sarra said without looking at her.
Lora flinched.
Cindy watched the two sisters, Lora deflating and then springing back up and Sarra showing her patented apathy with horrible posture.
Cindy pointed at them.
“I may be, like, a year younger than the both of you combined, but even I know that that was wrong.”
Sarra glanced at Cindy.
 “Lora, why do you always do what people tell you to do? Especially from her?”
Lora’s eyebrows knitted together and then she giggled.
“What do you mean, Cindy? I like to help out.”
Cindy shook her head, her short bobbed hair hitting her face.
 “I mean that you’re… you’re a bit too nice, you know?” Cindy continued.
 Lora was confused. She cocked her head as Sarra chimed in.
 “Oh, you mean like you’re too much of an idiot and I’m too proud, stoic, and mean?”
 Cindy pointed at her.
 “Like, yeah! You’re right for once, Sarra.”
Sarra stifled a laugh. Cindy frowned, a little confused, and then her face darkened.
“Hey, wait a second, you…”
 Lora held her hand out.
 “Hey Cindy, let it go. What do you mean I’m too nice?”
 Cindy frowned and sat back down, glaring at Sarra.
 “As I was saying, it’s not that that’s a bad thing that you’re nice, Lora, but I noticed that it’s gotten you in trouble before. Remember how you dressed up as Sarra that one time and she showed you where Kevin Sherman lived?”
 Cindy glanced at Sarra and her widening smileShe was smiling.
“I do remember that.” Lora clicked her tongue and shook her head. “The poor boy was promised some… umm…” Lora couldn’t help but giggle. She waved her hand. “…you know, of that, but… he was too shy to go through with it.”
 “So, like, why did you agree to it? Why did you let Sarra take advantage of you for that long?” Cindy asked.
 Lora’s giggling dwindled and she bit her lower lip.
 “Well, she’s my sister, and I just wanted to help her out. Dressing up like her sounded really fun too.”
 Cindy nodded.
 “Well, what if Sarra had lead you to, say a serial rapist—”
 Both sisters expressed their protest at the last word; both also defended Sarra. Cindy held her hands up, her voice rising to be heard.
 “I never said that Sarra had or would, dudes, but I meant that—” A pillow struck Cindy’s face. Lora looked at her grumpy sister.
 “I’m sorry Sarra.” Lora said. Sarra made a rough grunt.
 “See,” Cindy started and tossed the throw pillow. “Why apologize on her behalf?” She looked up in thought.
 “Okay, I guess that was justified, I kinda crossed the line, but still. My point was that… Lora, I love you, but you know, even the clean cut civilian housewife with a flared dress and like, that creepy smile listens to their gut. At least I think they do, they might be zombies at that point, but never mind.”
 “Eww.” Lora said.
Cindy waved her hand.
 “Look, it’s good to be nice, but don’t be overly generous and do weird requests. Find the mama bear in you and learn to say no. Be more assertive! You know, instead of going yes-yes-yes all the time.”
Lora’s head slumped and she saw the design on her shirt; a family of cartoon cats was walking on a terrain-turned-caption that proclaimed “Whatever It Takes.” Lora could imagine a “Say Yes” preceding a comma floating in the pink void above the cats. She sighed and sat down in a seat.
 “You know your subservience might be the reason why none of you two have ever had steady boyfriends.” Sarra said.
 Lora looked at her sister, puzzled.
 Cindy scowled.
 “Hey, look who’s talking, chica. Like, I’m rubber and you’re glue. Why don’t you tell the audience where your boyfriend is?”
Lora laughed at the throwback. She gasped and stood up.
“That reminds me; I left something in the car from that event, just a second.” She left the house and went out to her yellow Bjalla.
Lora had thrown the chrome cylinders in the back seat in her haste to get home, and then forgot about them. She opened the car door and pulled the odd things from the back seat to study them. They were a pair of gauntlets. They collapsed like foam and were as light as, but they gleamed like metal.
Lora marveled at the odd construction as she closed her car up and trotted back to the house. Sarra made a quip as Lora walked back in.
 “You know Cindy,” she croaked. Cindy smiled at Lora and they waved at each other.
“I think that it should be known that I don’t look like some kind of athletic meta hero that tells kids to eat their vegetables. All while collecting green of a different kind.”
 Cindy frowned.
“Oh no…” Lora moaned. Sarra smiled with mocking cheer.
 “Hey there kiddos, I’m C-Girl, and I have the power to hand you my celery sticks! Uh-oh! Who’s that I hear? Why, it’s the dastardly no-good nick, Professor Lazy Bones!”
 Cindy’s eyebrows shot up. Sarra tried not to laugh as Cindy approached her.
 “He’s come to take away our youths abilities to play hearty sports like basketball, participate in invigorating activities such as running on a track field, as well as—”
 Cindy punched her square in the shoulder and left. Lora gasped and covered her mouth while Sarra laughed and hissed over the pain. Cindy stomped into the bathroom to get away and calm down.
“Are you alright, Sarra? Do you need ice?” Lora asked.
Sarra’s laughter was displaced by her moaning. She rubbed her arm.
 “Crap, she can pack a punch. My arm’s going to be black.”
 “I think that just because you can’t get along doesn’t mean that you two can’t keep quiet.” Lora said.
 Sarra snorted.
 “Blah blah blah… Let’s all be friends, and this way we’ll be fine…” Sarra slumped on the couch.
 Lora nodded and looked at the gauntlets. She undid the hinges to put them on.
 “Yep. I just wish that I knew how to enforce that a little bit better.”
Lora put the other one on and walked out in front of Sarra, who did not care to look up.
“Sarra, these bracelets, well, they found me today and I was wondering if you knew about… them…”
The inner side of the gauntlets glowed and Lora’s wrists burned. She shrieked and tried to remove them. Sarra stood up.
“What in the…” Sarra trailed off as her sister fainted.
Lora’s wrists rose above her head and brought her body into the air. A white light erupted from the gauntlets and Sarra turned away to shield her eyes. She bumped into the arm of the sofa and fell behind it. An inhuman whine came from Lora; it’s pitch escalating.
 Sarra looked back and saw both her parents, Louie and Serena, with Cindy behind, rush out to see what was going on. All four of them were too stunned and confused to know how to act.
“What happened?” Serena yelled.
 Cindy looked up at Lora’s arms and realized what was going on. She started to smile. From Lora’s shrill whine came several deep and pulsating tones.
Lora woke up with a gasp and tried to regain control. She felt the gauntlets squeeze her wrists so hard that they were going numb. Bouts of electricity ran up and down her body to replace her clothes with something new. The whine peaked before letting out a larger burst of sound that traveled the house and shattered all the windows.
 Lora’s odd torment disappeared as suddenly as it had come, leaving telltale changes. She hovered in the air wearing a two-tone one-piece suit. The bodice and the top part of the short sleeves, elbow length gloves, and pants were pink, while the rest of the sleeves and wide belt were yellow. Along with the suit, there was a pair of flat-heeled pink boots with yellow soles and trim. Her hair developed pink streaks and a matching pink hair band. Lora’s former clothing was in a pile under her feet.
 On the exact instant that Lora had regained control, she worked to rip the gauntlets from her arms. Cindy jumped up.
 “Lora wait!”
 Her arms stretched like water and wrapped themselves around Lora. A panic-stricken Lora looked back at a grinning Cindy and her confused family. She let her breath out with sharp mewls.
“What in the name of a horrible void is going on?” Sarra said.
 Lora nodded and looked to Cindy for an answer. Cindy carefully released her grip and whispered.
“Are those gauntlets the things that you left in the car?”
Lora nodded furiously. Cindy laughed.
“Coolness! Okay, you know how I said all that stuff about saying no to weird things? Ignore it! Know why?” Cindy’s voice could not contain itself.
 Lora made such a slight jerk of her head that it may have been a shiver. Cindy held her rounded arms out, double her own height, to calm Lora.
 “I don’t know how you got them from the malls freak out, but those…” Cindy squealed and pointed at Lora’s arms. Lora looked at her new accessories.
 “Those are the Gauntlets of the EnWol! You’re a hero!” Cindy said. She retracted her arms to hold her fists to her chin, and jumped up and down with a squeal. Lora held her head and noticed that she was hovering in midair.
She looked back at Cindy.
 Louie stepped up, his gravely surfer voice strained to its limit.
 “Wait, wait, my little girl was caught in a villains trap and is now a meta? Was there some radiation involved in that blast?”
 “I wanna be a meta…” Sarra mumbled.
 Cindy put her hands on her hips.
“Like, no, I’m a meta. I’m the one with the insensitivity to pain and a vicious heart with a flying, stretching body. I’d be one sick puppy without my elasticity too. Lora’s an EnWol now, a…” Cindy searched her mind. “She’s a Pink Lemon, as Florence Sanders was first designated.”
Louie and Serena exchanged glances.
 “Lora’s a liquefied flying powerhouse?” Serena asked.
Cindy nodded.
“Of course! Awesome huh? What do you think, Lora?”
 Lora was puzzled. She dropped to the floor, tugged on her gloves then looked at the windows with a frown.
 Louie followed Lora’s gaze and noticed the shattered windows for the first time. His face turned red and he swore as he went to inspect the damage. Lora looked at her flabbergasted mother for a moment and then at the floor. She didn’t know the first thing about metas or half of the margin that became heroes. She knew about the EnWol and the Meta Corps branches in the back of her mind, how some people could fly, stretch their bodies, or control some elements, all for good or bad, but not much else.
 Lora held her hands up at shoulder length.
 “Umm, Cindy?”
Cindy took a step with a wide grin.
“Yes, Pink Lemon?”
 Lora looked at her with a puzzled expression and chuckled nervously.
 “Oh boy, how do I say this?” She held her chin and then looked at her glove. “Ooo, that feels weird. Okay, I am very grateful that our evolution has given us the mutation and opportunity to become heroes if we want to, but…”
 Cindy laughed.
 “Um, hello, Lora. EnWol aren’t meta, duh.”
 Lora nodded and touched Cindy’s shoulder.
 “Oh, I know that, but… well, since I don’t have a mutation gene like you do, Cindy, I haven’t really concerned myself with it…”
 Cindy scoffed.
 “Well, Peach, I’m a meta; you concern yourself with me.”
 “No, Cindy. Well…”
 Lora threw her arms to her side and sighed.
 “Cindy, why?”
 Cindy laughed.
 “Why? What do you mean by why? This is the…”
 Cindy’s smile faded and she recalled seeing the life changing strain of being EnWol. Lora had an idea of what was being presented to her, but she was unsure of the changes at hand. Cindy frowned and picked at Lora’s elastic costume.
“Umm…like, if life takes a dump on you, than you learn how to deal with it, right?”
Lora nodded.
 “Yep, I guess. If life hands you lemons, you make pink lemonade?” She asked.
 Cindy laughed and pointed at Lora.
 “Exactly! Yes! So why not take this opportunity to like, totally step up your game and make a difference in this world as a hero. No one so far has given up the chance to be EnWol, you know.”
Lora frowned and looked at her parents. Serena shook her head and Louie was too preoccupied with the glass and his temper.
 “I don’t know, Cindy… Thinking about being thrown into a different world is exhausting.”
 Cindy took Lora’s shoulders.
 “I’ve been working on it, making a name for myself and all. A hero in training could help the newbie, right?”
 Lora gave a small smile.
 “This is a teensy bit too confusing.”
 Cindy bumped Lora’s shoulder with her fist.
 “Hey, it won’t be that bad. You might even meet some kind of super hunk. Wouldn’t that be something?” Cindy said.
 Lora made a genuinely happy smile for the first time since she put the gauntlets on. She took her hair in her hand and twirled it, basking in her own romantic thoughts. Cindy made a sly grin.
 “Hey, I know that look.”
Except for a slight flush of her cheeks, Lora did not react.
Sarra walked up.
 “Hold on, hold on. The Antiquity Channel has said that the EnWol usually put the bracelets on and they immediately turn into goo.” Sarra poked her sister. “Lora is still solid,” she grabbed Lora’s wrist, “and she still has a pulse. Her heart should be gone.”
 Lora’s dreamy look fell and she paled.
 “Gone?” She squeaked.
 Cindy nodded.
 “Hey, yeah, I noticed that. I wonder what’s up.”
 Lora frowned.
 “Why do I need to change into goo, Cindy? Sarra? Whomever? That’s… kinda yucky.”
 Sarra motioned toward Cindy.
“I don’t know, but Ms. Hero Morph here should. Tell us.”
Cindy sneered and looked back to Lora.
 “Umm, okay, so the EnWol need to turn to goo to be able to stretch so that they don’t get hurt, right?”
Lora nodded. Cindy swept an extending arm out.
“Well, they’re all like that. It’s a staple power for them; it just needs to happen and stuff.”
 “You’re just stretchy though, Cindy, you can’t get hurt like that either way.” Sarra said.
 Cindy shrugged.
 “I could get hurt if I couldn’t stretch; I just wouldn’t feel it. I would bet that stretching normally would hurt like a salty snail though.”
Lora nodded.
 “That sounds, right, Cindy. I remember how sick you got when your appendix burst.”
 Cindy held her stomach.
 “Oh, for sure, Lora. That’s about as bad as it got. I’ve totally been sick to my stomach before, but that was really friggin bad.”
 Lora nodded and looked back at her mother. Serena looked like she was nursing an oncoming headache. Lora dropped to her feet, unsure of how she knew how to stop hovering, and walked over to her mother.
 “What do you think of this, Mom? This is, well, pretty dazzling and I’ll do my best, but…” Lora asked. She twirled her hair in her finger while slowly grinding her left set of toes on the linoleum.
Serena sighed; she felt her developing migraine worsen.
 “Lora, you just turned twenty one. That’s technically an adult, so it’s your choice. You’re a good kid and I’ll be pleased with you no matter what you choose to do.
That was a good word that you used: dazzled. I am dazzled by the malls destruction, how you could have been killed; then this hero biz and the windows. Some things are too much, baby and I’m glad that you can keep sane while it happens.”
Lora nodded with a smile and thanked her mother. Cindy stretched her arm and clamped her hand on Lora’s shoulder.
“Lora, this is a risky business. You might hurt someone; or someone might hurt you if you don’t turn stretchy real quick. But think of all the good that you could do for mankind! The first Pink Lemon, Florence Sanders, wearing those very gauntlets opened the door for acceptance with those powers.
Hey, before Florence showed up to help stop Hitler, metas either kept to themselves or the people around them made sure that they kept to themselves. Now they’re all over the place because Florence proved that metas are people too. Now they’re out in the open, telling everyone about their abilities and pushing an understanding!”
 Cindy eyed Sarra.
“Everyone they can trust, anyway.” She turned back to Lora and stretched her neck a little. “Like, I think that these are the same gauntlets, they kinda alternate between partners, if I’m right.”
 Sarra rolled her eyes and her reserve of sarcasm bubbled.
 “O fair sis’, didn’t this meta tell you to refuse weird prospects, to just say no, regardless of it being redacted? Surely this asset was not forgotten in the commotion.” She said.
Cindy sneered at Sarra.
 “This is, like hardly weird, you idiot!”
 Lora got between her friend and her sister.
 “You guys please don’t start! Please?”
 Sarra rolled her eyes with a sigh and walked away. Cindy smiled and lightly backhanded Lora’s shoulder.
 “Well, you vanquished your first evil, Lora, how did it feel? Wanna do some more?”
 Lora looked at the hopeful Cindy; seeing her heart fluttering at the prospect. Lora smiled.
 “Would you be able to help me out, Cindy? You know more than I do.”
 Cindy’s smile faded with a sigh.
 “I wish that I could. Meta heroes need to have finished high school. I’m barely seventeen, so I have another year to go, a year and a half at the most. ”
 Lora stuck out her lower lip in a pout.
 “Do you still want to do this though?” Cindy asked.
 Lora nodded and smiled.
 “Well, sure! It sounds like a lot of fun anyway.”
 Cindy suddenly whooped and hugged Lora. Lora exchanged the hug and noticed that Cindy had hovered almost horizontally.
 “Oh cool, cool, cool! Whats the hero name going to be, Lora? Pink Lemon? My EnWol mentor, Helena Christophers in HB is the Dazzling Blaze.”
Lora tilted her head back and forth with a laugh.
 “What? Oh, I don’t know. Pink Lemon is cute. I’ll go with that.”
 Cindy moved back and made an okay sign with her hand.
 “A classic, Lora! Good choice! Come on, we need to tell someone at Meta Corps about you.”
 Cindy turned and flew out the open window. Louie watched Cindy go and slapped his forehead.
 Lora, trying to fly, felt herself lift up and ahead. She apologized to her father. Louie pointed outside the window.
 “Just go, Lora.”
 Lora nodded and she flew, putting her arms out in front of her to follow Cindy into the air. Louis was swearing to himself about the glass as Sarra stepped up behind him.
 “Now why couldn’t you two have made me be able to do that stuff, huh?” She asked.
“Sarra!” Serena warned.
 Louie glared at her, the color of his face sharing that of a beet. Sarra shrugged with a curled lip.
Serena sighed from across the room and spoke.
 “Sarra, I can handle a lot, including you and your sister, but… the move upstate, the glass, the mall, Lora and the EnWol… this is too much, I need to lie down. Sarra, just help your father with the window. Without any smart-ass remarks, please.”
 Serena left and Sarra looked at her dad.
 “So, do you need my Goon to haul the new glass around, or what?” 

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