"Now dear," Vivian, my guardian responded, "you have to go to school. Keeping up a secret identity is work, but it pays off in the long run."
I winced as she finished brushing my long russet hair. "Why won't you tell me where Su...Aunt Mayr is?"
She sighed. "I can't because I don't know. She didn't tell me, and the systems at the lair couldn't track the signal." She reached down and hugged me and I couldn't help but squeeze her back. "I'm worried too, but we shouldn't be. I don't think it's even possible for Aunt Mayr to be hurt anymore."
I sniffed, and then forced my feelings down. Mighty superheroes didn't cry. "I just wish I knew."
"Doubtless it'll be all over CNN tomorrow. Now run along - you're going to be late."
"Ok mom," and then I licked her lip.
"Gena, what have I told you...?"
"Sorry, couldn't resist, gotta run, bye!" And then I leapt out and slammed the door behind me, hearing my guardian, Vivian Vex, a.k.a. The Silver Vixen drive off.
Actually this seems a good time for explanations as you're probably just scratching your ear right now. You see, even though my name is Gena McGreggor, I'm also the Red Kit, sidekick of the new Silver Vixen. That's me, Sidekick. Not a superhero like my grandmother, the original Silver Vixen, but a lowly Sidekick. All that time practicing, preparing and I was STILL stuck as only the Sidekick. Life sucks. I ran along the sidewalk and into Bayview High, heading towards the library. There was still 10 minutes before homeroom.
As I nimbly slipped through the crowd, I had to admit that there were certain advantages to this Secret ID thing. I didn't have to worry about the special 'superbeing' course curriculum, I was the top non-super athlete in the school, and I had even been able to discover some completely new facets of my vixen powers through my elective in Lovecraftian Sorcery. Take that Bob's Superhero Warehouse! A final turn, a duck between two normals holding each other's hands with a " 'scuse me," then through the door and to a skidding stop in front of the library checkout desk.
Slowly Ms. Hallman looked up from the computer and then pushed her thick glasses down. "Ms. McGreggor, this school is no place for running."
How'd she know as I wasn't even breathing hard! Maybe the rumours that she was a telepath were true. "Sorry Ms. Hallman, but I'm running late. Is 'Superpowers and Superpowers - The Legal League and The World' in yet?"
"No Ms. McGreggor."
Slamming my fist on the counter, I screamed out, "WHAT?!"
"This is not the place for such behaviour. Repeat it and I will see you in detention."
I had to calm down; if I didn't, I'd soon be growing a tail. And if that happened, and Hallman saw it, not only would I be stuck with a month's detention, I'd get shoved into the superbeing program fast enough to make Superduperman's head spin. "I apologize, but I need that book for a project that's due tomorrow."
"You shouldn't have left it to the last moment."
I could feel a noticeable bulge in my behind. Leave it to the last moment?! I'd been after that book since day one, but it had been out. I'd gotten the information off the 'net but I needed it to verify the quotes! "Does Chris still have it?"
"As you know, declared superbeings have unlimited borrowing privileges. You'd better get to class before you're late."
That does it! I couldn't wait any longer and I was going to get that book today -- let Chris deal with being on the wrong side for a change. I'm a sidekick and just as good as he is! Just because he's the grandson of Kobra King, notorious supervillain... Well, mongooses aren't the only things that can trap a snake. "Would you let me know if he brings it back before tonight?"
"I would not depend on that Ms McGreggor."
"Terd." I turned to leave.
"Before you go, I have something for you."
I spun back around, painfully bumping the stub of my tail against the door and wincing. "What?"
She pulled out a big yellow envelope and passed it over. "I suggest you look at it later -- you have just enough time to visit the washroom as you're showing."
Calling out "Thanks," I was out the door before her comments registered. Showing? Make-up. That must be it -- she couldn't have noticed the tail. Running I slammed the washroom door open and doused my face in cold water, the shock calming me and shrinking the tail back. Terd, but I was starting to hate this. Ever since that slumber party where we'd all reviewed the Cliff's Notes version of The Necronomicon before a test, I'd found myself getting a little bit vixen-y at the oddest times. Darn pronunciation errors! At least the test had gone well, although my partner, Christine, had had an Origin that night into The Unicorn. Last I'd heard she'd left for Yosemite to defend the deer against hunters. Touching up my face I shoved the envelope I'd placed on the sink into my bag and walked to class at a more sedate pace, managing to arrive just in time.
Homeroom was the usual boring stuff: the Pledge of Allegiance, listening to the announcements, and all the usual stuff. The only thing of note was the announcement that John Dugan had had an Origin and would be moving into the superbeing curriculum. Terd! Now I'd need a new lab partner for Experimental Chemistry, my other elective. When the bell rang I made my way to Experimental Chemistry (my first class) and took my seat at my usual desk at the back and wondered, until I heard somebody sitting beside me and spun around... Phat! Before I could stop myself I burst out with, "Aunt M..." but then stopped as it couldn't be. Sure, the person sitting down was also an equine morph, looking very similar to Aunt Mayr, but his colouration was ebony black, from mane to tail to hooves.
As I stared he smiled, "If you like what you see, thank the Gremlin and The Sensational Six -- I do." [In her secret identity, Supermare is identified as a victim of a battle between Gremlin and The Sensational Six -- Sneakily Saying Samson]
"I... Sorry... I'm..."
He reached out with a black hoof-hand and lightly touched my lips, "Don't worry daughter of my egg." His voice was smooth, silky, seductive and I could feel the tip of a tail growing once again. "Epeius."
He just smiled with pointed white teeth as Mr. Crenshaw addressed the class: "Good morning. Before we start today I'd like to introduce Epeius Templeton. He's a transfer from New York. Epeius, would you stand up?"
I turned and watched, his glistening fur highlighted by the dull black of his t-shirt and jeans.
"No, he's not a superbeing, just an accident. Hopefully he'll last longer than the rest of Gena's partners." Laughter greeted that comment.
After Epeius sat down the class began. Today, in an attempt to keep the class peaceful and the classroom undamaged, the topic was testing for toxins in plants, and Mr. Crenshaw was more boring than usual. I half listened as he drawled on about plants, their toxins and methods of applications; how to avoid the dangerous plants; and some sample origins to show what to avoid. Boring. What good were plants? I turned to Epeius, but he seemed entranced so I just doodled for a bit in my notebook until I remembered the envelope. Apparently paying attention I reached down with my right hand and felt around in my bag until I grabbed the envelope, slightly damp from the sink, and then carefully put it on my lap. Still apparently paying attention, I whispered "Vixen Talon," and slit the envelope open with the claws that had just grown on my fingers -- fortunately, nobody was looking at my feet, so nobody noticed the claws the grew down there. Lovecraftian Sorcery had taught me all kinds of things. Another whispered "Vixen Talon," the claws disappeared, and I carefully removed a folded letter. A pause, and then I slipped the unfolded page onto my notebook and peered down, apparently dutifully writing notes, and read the letter:
Dear Ms. Gena McGreggor, a.k.a. Red Kit:
We here at Bob's Superhero Warehouse are overjoyed at the number of new superbeings you've created. As this has caused a noticeable increase in our clientele, we wish to thank you. Now we at Bob's Superhero Warehouse know how much you value actions instead of words and we're pleased and proud to gift you with $1000.00 worth of credit at our fair establishment, redeemable whenever you wish. Again, thank you.
Oh man, it would just suck if I'd caused all those origins! They made a mistake, they just had to be wrong. Still it might be worth while to browse the website, maybe find something useful for myself or the other Crusaders.
My thoughts were interrupted by a soft whisper, "Gena, he's starting the," I heard his hoof-hands scrape together, "lab".
Quickly folding the letter and slipping it between some pages I turned to look at him. His eyes, though still black, were lit up like glowing red diodes, and it seemed that every hair on his mane was standing straight out as though he'd stuck his hoof-hand in an electrical socket. I couldn't stop myself from leaning back just a bit only to be greeted with falling ears and a hurt look. "Sorry, you startled me."
His ears perked up and the look of unbelievable glee returned. "I'll use all the tasty chemicals -- you can just watch."
Perfect! I'd never liked these labs anyway, and if he got as absorbed in his work as he looked like he would, that would be the perfect time to sneak to the next classroom over and get that book.
A quick explanation for the once again confused reader. The labs are constructed as two adjoining classrooms with an equipment storage room between. Chris and the rest of the 'superbeings' were in their own biology class in the adjoining room, and I'd heard rumours that Chris would be demonstrating something about his Coil-gene which meant that his bag would be unguarded.
"Uh, sure. No problem. I'll just watch and take notes."
"Of course egg of my egg," and then he smiled a pointy-toothed grin.
What did he eat anyway? It sure didn't look like grass like Aunt Mayr -- I'd use her superhero name but she HATES it.
Mr. Crenshaw handed out the equipment, giving me a glare when I reached to take it from his hands. Terd! Just because my last 15 lab partners had origins within their first five classes with me, that didn't mean I had anything to do with it! Still, if it made him happy for me to not touch, it made Epeius even more gleeful. If I could get Epeius to do all the dangerous stuff, it would sure make my life a lot easier. I may be a superhero, but all this geek stuff just confused me; hopefully I'd be able to get an athletic scholarship to college and not worry about it.
One thing I'd learned as The Silver Vixen's Sidekick was that timing was everything. There's nothing worse then breaking through the side door into Fuzzy Mole Rat's lair only to find that The Silver Vixen had gone through the front door ten minutes ago and the fun was all over. Thus I was a dutiful student for just under fifteen minutes before I made my move. Leaning down behind the desk I was sharing, I whispered "True Baby Vixen Power". There was what seemed to me to be almost five minutes of gradual transformation and shrinkage -- that tests had confirmed that the change required only a second or two on the clock -- and then I was standing on all fours on the floor, a fully vixen kit. First step is always research -- straining my ears I heard Chris' hissing voice in the next room which meant that he was still lecturing. Second step is to reconnoiter -- looking around everybody was still working so I'd changed unnoticed. And, as my desk is at the very back, getting to the storage room would be easy. Third step -- phat! -- enough with this, it was time to go.
Quickly and silently I padded into the storage room and then slipped into the dim light around the corner so that I couldn't be seen. A quick look around -- the light wasn't dim to me -- confirmed that the room was empty, filled only with floor to ceiling cabinets, all closed. Then a few more steps and a peek around the corner into the superbeing class. I wasn't too worried about discovery -- one thing I'd learned was that both normals and superbeings tend to ignore things within a foot of the ground unless they hear a cute animal. Okay, I WAS a cute animal, but there was no way I was going to make any noise!
"...the Coil-Gene infectsss the 512th, 896th and 1018th basse pairs and beginsss the physsical transsformation..."
That was Chris still going on. How come the superbeing's get all the good lectures? Secret IDs suck sometimes, though I at least had Aunt Mayr's fish to take care of. They'd actually tried to escape last night! And if I hadn't noticed their cute little amphibian vehicle with the tiny water hose leading to the fishtank, they might have gotten away with it, too! Anyway, the stench of reptile made my nose want to throw up, but it led me straight to Chris' book-bag conveniently placed right by the entrance to the storage room. Perfect. As Chris lectured on I silently dashed out and under his desk and paused for a moment, but the lecture continued. Then I nosed into his bag and started rooting around. Personal heater, pencils, plans to transform the student body, socks -- gack but they stank -- and finally I found the book. Pushing the socks out of the way, I confirmed that it was 'Superpowers and Superpowers - The Legal League and The World' and smiled a toothy smile; grabbing it in my snout, I laboriously dragged it out, past the socks -- gack -- over the heater and other books, and then THUD onto the floor.
Terd! I dropped the book and cowered in the shadows beneath the desk and waited.
"...ssformation generally requiress three dayss but thiss variess depending upon the masss of the individual..."
I started breathing again -- nobody'd heard me. Hopefully Nobody hadn't either. Pushing my muzzle against the dirty floor I clamped my teeth around the volume and started dragging it towards the storage room. It was heavy and even tasted of Chris' socks -- after this class I'd have to rinse my mouth out for ten minutes to get rid of the taste, gah! It took me five minutes but I finally dragged the book into the storage room and out of sight. Panting, I carefully and silently let go and took a break. Take that 'Cobra Chris'!
"...demonsstration I have a number of ssampless in various sstages of transformation to visssually demonsstrate the processs. Let me jusst go and get them from the sstorage room..."
Oh no, he was coming back here! He couldn't see me, not him. I'd never live it down. Terd! Frantically I looked around but there was nothing -- just closed metal cabinets floor to ceiling! Careless of sound I grabbed the book in my jaw and made a run for the entrance to my class, just in time to see Mr. Crenshaw close it. No! No! If The Silver Vixen finds out she'll never forgive me.
*Are you in trouble?* ['*' indicates telepathic communication. Relentlessly Reminding Robert]
*Aunt Mayr?* Was she back?
*Not that delectable vision of egghood, just Epeius*
*You're not the only one with destiny given skills.*
I could hear Chris' footsteps. *You've got to help me -- I've got to get out of here, in secret.*
*Ah my vulpine aid, not a problem.*
*What are you...* and then the fire alarm went off, Epeius must have pulled it. *Thanks!* Crouching in the shadows I waited and listened, ears pressed against my skull because of the noise, as people ran and screamed, their sounds fading until all I could hear was the clangor of the bell.
*All the servants are gone -- better come and grab your stuff.*
Unfortunately there was a problem. I tried to say True Baby Vixen Power but all that came out was a kind of growl, and no reverse transformation. Before I could ask the door opened a crack and Epeius was there, standing along, holding my bag.
"True Baby Vixen Power," he said.
And his words restored me. Smiling, I leaned down, grabbed the book, and then grabbed the bag and shoved it in.
"We'd better hurry," he whispered, "We don't want to be caught, and you don't want to kill anyone." Then he turned and trotted off and I followed.
"How can I ever repay you? I'd never have lived down being caught."
"Just be my friend."
"I'm new, I have nobody."
I scratched his ears -- Aunt Mayr always likes that -- and whispered, "Of course -- I've only been here a few weeks too. We'll help each other."
*And keep our secrets secret.*
*Of course, only between friends.*
(1) The article on Gremlin was written by George MacDonald
Copyright 2002-2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org