The next several days went by mostly as normal. Derek went home with a black eye for sneaking his name on Lucas's homework and forgetting about it. But his drawing of "Amelia" was a hit in art class and almost made up for getting hit. Derek went home to finally enjoy the weekend, already making plans to try and hang out with Jason. But before that was an uncomfortable conversation.
"A black eye? He gave you a black eye?"
"It's not a big deal, Mom."
"Honey, I know you're trying, but I just don't want to see you getting hurt like this. Come on. We have to talk to someone from the school."
"I thought you and Dad wanted me to handle my own problems."
"But you're not handling them. And I want to talk to the school about this."
An uncomfortable silence went without end as Derek went upstairs to complete his homework. And Lucas's. And by the time it was done, it was dinner time.
"Son, you shouldn't just let this happen. You need to stand up for yourself."
"Yeah. Easier said than done."
"You can't let this guy push you around all the time. Talk back! Fight back!"
"Not gonna help. Trust me.
"You can't give up."
"I'm not. You're asking Switzerland to fight Russia. Not exactly a winning battle here."
The conversation ended, and Derek went upstairs after dinner to watch reruns. He cheered up a bit at the old couple's humorous dialogue in the Avatar episode, "The Storm".
The night went dreamless, and Derek awoke to a sunny Saturday morning. Nothing eventful happened, except that he tried to see if Jason could come over to hang out, only to learn the latter had plans already. Sunday was equally boring, and the rest of the week was typical. Except for a dream on Tuesday night. All Derek could remember from it was that he was in a bubble underwater, moving down into a dark trench.
Another weekend came by, with Derek turning down a weekend visit from Jason this time due to having to finish an English paper. Saturday night brought another dream to him. This time, he was in a house that seemed to be growing right out of the trees.
Sunday afternoon, he was packing up his belongings for school when he noticed his picture of "Amelia". He had almost forgotten about it, about the entire weird circumstance from that day. The picture's corners were a bit crumpled up, but the damages weren't affecting the picture. He left it on his desk and went to sleep. In the morning, however, he found that his mother was slowly walking away, holding it in her hand.
"Mom, what are you doing?" he said groggily.
She jumped a little at this reaction, then let him finish talking and turned to him. "I came in here to wake you up. When did you draw this?"
Derek slowly sat up and said, "The day it happened, in class."
"Wait, you... You turned into her in class?"
"No no. I mean I drew that in class."
"Oh, thank goodness. I don't know if I'd want to try and explain that one."
The silence was very awkward indeed. "So," resumed Derek's mother, setting the picture down on his desk, "I'll go get breakfast ready." She paused in the doorway, then said, "You know, if you still want to talk about it, I'm still here to listen." And with that, she headed downstairs.
Derek didn't talk about it, mostly because it wasn't that important since he turned back to normal and he had forgotten some of the finer details. School happened, then sleep, then more school, and things were normal again.
Wednesday night, Derek slipped into yet another dream. He was moving fast, the landscape blurring around him. Something ahead of him disappeared in a burst of purple sparks, then reappeared some distance away, only to repeat as Derek got closer. Ironically, this dream where he was moving fast happened on the day he woke up late.
"No no no!" said Derek. The bus was down the street, driving away from him, too far to stop for him to catch up. Driving the final nail in the coffin was the bus turning the corner, out of sight.
"No!" he said. "I can't miss this test! I'm so screwed." He headed back to his house, mumbling his options. "Mom and Dad are at work, I don't have a car, it's too far to walk or bike... The neighbors? No, I don't know them enough."
As he walked back down the driveway, the feeling of doom weighing him down, his eye caught a glimpse of movement. He looked and saw a bird. A robin. The robin glanced around for a bit and pecked at the dirt once. It turned to face some bushes nearby, and as the neighbor's cat emerged from the shrubs, the bird took off, flying to a high branch in a nearby tree.
"Man," complained Derek. "I wish I could do that. Then I'd never need the bus ag-"
He paused when he remembered what happened to weeks ago.
"No," he said. "No no no no no. I- I can't... I- I just-" Try as he might, the temptation was growing, fusing with his desperation. He clenched his fist. "I can't. It's too- I don't even know how to... And I'd have to be..." He started shaking. "No, I just can't. I... But then... No, I..."
Finally, he slammed his fist against the dirt. "DAMMIT!"
He took a deep breath and recalled the time two weeks ago. How he had focused, willed himself to change, concentrated on shifting his body back to normal. Now, all he had to do was the reverse. He mentally conjured an image of her, using his memory of the picture as a guide. He concentrated on the idea of becoming her, pushing aside his urge not to.
And then it happened. In under a few seconds, his body shifted, molded itself into the female form. He could feel his body sliding against the fabric. He watched as his hands thinned out, turning distinctly feminine but not overly delicate. He felt a sort of loosening feel as he seemed to shrink a few inches, noticing the ground get a bit closer. What almost bothered him was that he couldn't feel his body changing on the inside. At all.
At the exact same time, the clothing started to change. The faint blue-white line, which Derek again compared to one from a computer scanner, started at the top of his head, making the cap and goggles appear on top of his head. His ears slid against the cap as they continued to shift into their new shape under the leather. Then his shirt started to change, the coat forming on top of it as the shirt was replaced from the top down by the white tank top. He felt the skin on his chest slide into the newly-formed bra, which he was only currently aware of because of how unused to it he was.
The new clothes continued to form over his shifting body, reaching his waist. His pants were largely unchanged, simply being refitted to his new legs, but he did feel an unusual shift in his underwear, which now seemed a bit closer to his body than he remembered. He felt the tops of longer socks than he was wearing form under his pants, and saw the tops of the boots from before form at his shins. By the time they had finished replacing his old socks and shoes, his body was completely finished changing.
The change complete, he glanced at himself. He was definitely female, which moving his legs slightly reminded him all too well. That aside, he was back to looking like a young pilot. One wearing a backpack, that is; he didn't have time to notice that his backpack was completely unchanged.
"Okay," he said shakily, trying to ignore his body and his new girly voice. "T- Time to... How do I do this? Um..." He crouched slightly, then jumped.
And landed an instant later.
"No, that's not it..." He shivered at the faint rippling sensation in his chest, the alien feelings of soft fabric cradling his hidden breasts. Trying to focus on getting to school, he locked his mind on the task of achieving flight.
"Um..." He struck a heroic pose and said, "Up up and away!" Nothing. A pause, and "Fly!" Nothing. "Launch! Take off! Um, Yip Yip?" At that point, he was getting desperate. "Aw, c'mon! I woke up on the ceiling! Why can't I take off now?"
He calmed down and thought hard about his situation. He brought his attention to the robin. "Hmm... D- Don't birds have hollow bones? So... they're lighter. Maybe... Do I... think light or something?" Hoping this would work, he looked at the sky. "What is light? Birds, probably. Clouds. Balloons... they just kinda float. Floating... like, floating in water. Maybe that's it." His mind turned towards a time he went in a pool. He remembered floating in the water, swimming, unsupported by anything solid.
And when he looked back to the ground, it was ten feet away.
"Gah!" he said. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he looked down again. "O-o-okay, I'm... I'm floating. I'm... I'm not touching the ground, and, I'm floating." He let the knowledge sink in for a moment. "I- I'm floating. I'm... heh. I'm actually in the air right now. Heheh. This is... kinda cool.
"No. Focus! Late for school. I- I'm floating. I... I can worry about it later. Now... H-How do I go?" He tried to turn, to pivot so he'd be facing towards the school's general direction.
His whole body rotated from the thought. "Okay... I turned. Now... um..." He thought about moving forward. Walking, swimming, both. But it worked. His body pushed forward through the air. "I... I'm moving. Okay, now let's try-" Before he could finish speaking his mind, his body reacted to the desire and moved faster through the air. "Alright. Progress. I'm-GAH!"
He was still partly distracted from flying and being late, so he didn't see the tree until he was tangled in its branches.
Pushing himself back, he said, "Okay, note to self: look where I'm going." Picking a couple leaves off his coat, he looked around for a moment, then said, "Maybe I should go over stuff." He thought about moving upward, and his body rose higher until he could see over the trees. "Alright, let's try this again."
He willed himself forward, first at the pace of a casual walk, then a bit faster. A jog. A run. A sprint. And faster. Wind pressed against him, his body offering resistance. He could feel the pressure of wind holding him back. It was then that he realized why superheroes flew the way they did in comics and on TV: less wind resistance. He tilted his body as if he was lying flat and held his arms out forward.
And he dared to go faster.
He was flying as fast as cars on the highway. Wind hit his face, but he ignored it. There was something else on his mind. The building feeling that had hit him since he first left the ground. He willed himself to turn slightly to the left. To slow down. To dive and climb higher. It was getting easier to steer himself. Finally, he stopped, floating in a standing position, knees bent slightly. He opened his mouth and voiced the realization that had grown to fill his thoughts in entirety.
"I can fly."
As if the words were a trigger, he shot forward like a rocket, turned and twisted in loops, dives, corkscrews. A cheer of raw excitement left his mouth as he pulled out of a steep dive. His worry of school forgotten in his enjoyment. Down he flew, leveling out next to a truck on a side road. He flew upside-down, then dove upward. Between two buildings and around to a mall, passing it and moving under a freeway bridge. He spotted a cloud nearby. Grinning, he shot towards it. He could catch it. He knew he could.
["Unknown aircraft, please give your identification."]
Derek almost stumbled from stopping so suddenly. The voice was electronic and right in his ears, and it sounded male and authoritative. He glanced around, looking for the voice's source, but saw nothing but blue skies, the cloud above and ahead, and the ground below.
["Unknown aircraft, please identify."]
The voice caused his ears to vibrate, and he realized it was coming from headphones built right into the cap. He put his hand to his head, feeling around for the earpiece. He felt a thin flexible pipe next to his right ear. A microphone? He pulled it towards his face, and it shifted on an axis, until he had it positioned near his mouth.
["Unknown aircraft, this is your third warning. Identify yourself."]
"Alright! Alright!" he said. "Who is this?"
["This is Air-Traffic Control, miss. Could you please give your identification?"]
"Air-Traffic Control," he said in a whisper. "Huh. It... It never occurred to me that I'd get pulled over in the air." He laughed nervously. There was a knot in the pit of his stomach.
["Miss, can you please just give your identification?"]
"My ID? I-" He then realized. He looked nothing like his ID. The state of his completely female body returned to the front of his thoughts.
["Yes. What is the registration number on your pilot's license?"]
PILOT'S LICENSE? thought Derek in a panic. "I- I was just trying not to be late. I didn't know that I'd- AH! What time is it!?"
["Seven twenty-three a.m. Now, please land at the nearest-"]
Derek shot back towards the ground and spotted the school. "No! Can't be late! Hurry hurry HURRY!"
["Miss, slow down! What are you flying? Airport! Go to the-"] The ATC officer realized something. ["Pull up! You'll crash into that school! Pull up!"]
Derek flew just over the school and slipped into a small grove nearby. He lowered himself to the ground, landing with a thud.
["Miss? MISS! Are you alright?"]
Not wasting any time, Derek concentrated again on changing back, even as he ran towards the school. His body melted back into its original shape while his clothes shifted back to what he was wearing before. The voice of the ATC official crackled once before finally falling silent. Not even noticing, Derek ran towards the school and ducked through the doors, bursting into his classroom just as the bell was ringing.
At the ATC tower, the official listened to radio silence. His radar was clear, save a passenger jet that was taking off. He was sweating, his face in shock. Around him, everyone was staring at him in panic at what had happened, what they'd just witnessed.
The official turned to his supervisor, who was also shocked. "G- G- Send someone to investigate the crash." He sighed and added, "Maybe we can learn just what the hell just happened."
Derek finished the test and waited for the bell, then headed for the bathroom to wash his face. He grimaced. There were pools of sweat staining his armpits. He sighed. "Can't do that again. That was way too close."
"What was too close?"
Derek gulped. He knew that voice coming from the stalls all too well. A quick glance in the mirror, though, confirmed Lucas's stall was closed, and they couldn't see each other. Derek had minutes, maybe seconds, before that safety ended. And he was about to exploit it and leave.
"Um... Slept in, had to run here. Almost missed a test."
He had no idea what he was doing, starting a conversation with Lucas. But it was his choice to answer.
"Yeah. I hate that. Almost--ngh--missed the bus myself yesterday. Ran to catch it at the next corner. Ended up stinkin' like a corpse all day."
Derek remembered that. It made it surprisingly easy to avoid Lucas yesterday. "So that was you in the halls? I thought someone had too many beans." Derek honestly thought that yesterday before he figured out the source.
"Yeah, no kidding." Lucas flushed his toilet, signaling there were only seconds to leave.
"Well, I gotta go," said Derek, heading back into the halls.
"Stalls are open now," said Lucas, opening the door. Luckily, Derek was just around the corner and out of sight.
Derek walked towards his second class, relieved that Lucas never recognized him. His relief was short-lived, however, as he rounded a corner and spotted Mike and Ben. And they spotted him. "Hey!" shouted Mike. Derek started running, dodging people and teachers. Until he crashed into exactly the wrong person.
"Hello, Meat," said Lucas. The almost normal amicability the guy had minutes ago was gone.
"Hello, Lucas," said Derek.
Lucas slugged Derek in the shoulder. "Not anymore. Picked up a new nickname at the last game. Luke Gravewalker. Has a nice ring to it. Anyway, it's just Luke now. Lucas just sounds wimpy by comparison."
"Duly noted," said Derek with gritted teeth and his hand on his shoulder.
"Now, on to business," said Lucas. "Where were you this morning? With my homework that didn't get turned in?"
"I was running late. Sorry if I couldn't get your F to you in time."
"You were gonna give me a F?"
"I'm doing worse in math than you are! I've told you this. Why do you come to me for math homework?"
"Well, you know what I think? I think you're just making that up to get out of doin' work. Now, you're gonna do the next assignment by the end of the day, and it better be a A." He clenched his fist.
Feeling smug, Derek said, "Don't you mean 'an A'?"
With that, Derek ducked to avoid another fist. He ran past Lucas and darted around a corner, only to make a U-turn as he saw Mike approach, just as the bell rang too. He ran up some stairs and down a different set of stairs, always catching a glimpse of one of the three behind him or ahead of him but always finding some way around. He was surprised he had dodged Ben all this time. Until finally, he came to the cafeteria and stopped behind a pillar. He paused to catch his breath.
But he realized something. "Wait a minute. Why did I hide here?" He glanced around the pillar and saw the trio headed straight for him. They were seconds away. Ducking back to his side, he thought, Damn. No way out. How am I gonna- He paused, realizing something. A way to escape. Dammit!
In a quick wave of change, one that lasted far too long in his opinion, he was the pilot girl again. He jumped up and concentrated on speeding towards the ceiling. It only took a second to reach the top of the two-story column. He pressed himself against the corner just as the three came around the pillar.
"Gotcha-huh?" said Lucas, triumphantly at first, then bewildered.
"The heck?" said Ben. "Where'd the shrimp go?"
Derek slowly shifted to the side of the column so that they couldn't see him if they looked up. He was mentally pleading, Don't look up don't look up don't look up don't look up...
"Ah, whatever. C'mon. We'll get him at lunch," said Mike. And the trio turned around and headed back down the halls. Derek looked down as Lucas passed underneath him, ignorant of Lucas's presence entirely. Derek floated back to where he had reached the ceiling initially, peeking around the side and waiting until he couldn't hear the trio's footsteps anymore. Once there was silence, he sighed in relief and slumped against the pillar, resting for a moment.
But then he spotted someone across the room. A man in a business suit. Who was staring right at Derek. And was in the perfect spot to have seen the entire thing.
The two stared at each other for just a moment, then Derek flew around the column and landed on the second floor balcony. He heard a voice behind him call out to him to wait, but he had already ran out of sight and changed back.
Derek skipped lunch that day to avoid Lucas and took winding routes through and even outside the building to get to his classes. At the end of the day, he hid himself in the crowd of students and snuck to his bus, sighing in relief that he'd evaded Lucas for the rest of the day. After a half-hour bus ride, he finally reached his house and got off.
There was a black car in his driveway.
"Huh," said Derek. "I wonder who it is." It wasn't too unusual for his mother to have guests over, usually visiting relatives or friends. He opened the door and said, "Hey Mom, I'm home."
"Derek. Good. Could you come here, please?" said his mother's voice.
"Sure thing," he said. Her voice had come from the living room, so he went there.
In the arm chair was the man in the suit. His parents were on the couch across from the stranger, and on the coffee table between them was an open briefcase. The TV was paused on something. And there was tea served.
Derek froze, staring at the guy who'd watched him fly off, probably watched him transform in the first place. He tried to feign recognition and said, "What's this about?"
"Just a simple conversation," said the man. "I'm Agent Richard Swanson, FBI. You must be Derek Parker." He held out his hand for a handshake.
Derek didn't return the gesture. "Yes...?" he said.
Agent Swanson then said, "Good. I'm here on an investigation, and I think you might know something about what I'm looking into."
"What kind of investigation?" said Derek. "What are you looking for?"
"Oh, just some insight into a little UFO sighting this morning."
"UFO?" said Derek. "There's no such thing."
"Of course there is. If we see an object that's flying, and we can't identify it, that makes it an Unidentified Flying Object. When we identify it and figure out what it is, it stops being a UFO. But, of course, most UFO sightings go without any insight. I, however, have information that suggests this particular UFO will be figured out pretty easily."
Hiding his nervousness behind a poor mask of skepticism, he said, "How so?"
"Well, you see, this morning, Air-Traffic Control picked up a fast-moving aircraft on radar. The object was small and pulling maneuvers that were only possible for helicopters, but it was moving far too fast to be one. The turns were too sharp, for instance. ATC tried to contact the UFO." He reached into the briefcase and took out what looked like an old tape recorder. "And to our surprise, we got a response, and in plain English no less. She sounded confused, worried, and then frantic. Whatever she was driving, she flew it towards a school. Her signal disappeared, and they feared she'd crashed.
"So, they sent me to investigate the crash. I went to the purported crash site and took a look around, but there were no signs of any damage, any aircraft, anything whatsoever. I went to the school to see if there were any signs of concealment or activity there. I spoke to the principal and a few assistant principals, but there was no sign of anything. I was heading for my next planned interview when I heard some commotion in the hallway.
"And that's when I saw you running from those bullies." He pointed lightly at Derek but only for a half second, and not accusingly. Nevertheless, Derek gulped. His fears were confirmed; the man had seen him transform.
"I think you know what happened next. After that, though, I decided to look further. I looked into the security footage so that-"
Aw crap! thought Derek. He had entirely forgotten the school had cameras, and now he was most likely caught transforming and flying on film. Only then did he recognize the paused scene on the TV: him in mid-transformation.
"-I could narrow down your identity and further this investigation. And also to answer 'why' and 'how'. Oh, and as an afterthought, I did you a favor and reported those bullies to the office for you. I certainly don't think they'll be bothering you any time soon. Of course, I could be wrong about that, since I don't work there, but still-"
"What do you want?" said Derek.
"Answers. Humans don't just fly, but you did. Humans can't turn into other people, but you did. That leaves me with two theories. Either you're not human, or you were given these abilities by something that wasn't human."
Derek stood uncomfortably for a few seconds, then sighed and sat down in another chair. "Okay, I don't really know how I got this, but... well, I... I had these dreams, and at the end of them, some voice promises me power and anonymity."
"Derek?" said Derek's father, almost in a scolding tone.
"Honey," said Derek's mother, focusing on her husband. Then, back to Derek, she said, "Go ahead."
"But shouldn't we-" started Derek's father.
"They have the tapes. What else can we do?" said Derek's mother.
Derek waited for a moment to see if they were done. A few seconds passed, and he said, "Well, then two weeks ago, I got this dream again, only it was much clearer. There was me and a bunch of different girls in class. At the end of the class, the teacher talked to me, then things kinda went dark. That weird voice came back and... gave me this power or whatever. And then I woke up... on the ceiling."
A slight pause, and the agent said, "As the girl I saw."
"Yeah," said Derek. "She was in the dream, and then I woke up as her."
"I see. And, between then and now, have you used this...ability of yours at all?"
"Not really. I was trying to forget it, but I missed the bus today and kinda didn't have much choice."
"Hmm... And the records of your flight path indicate you didn't travel in a straight line. In fact, it seemed you lost any semblance of a flight path until ATC contacted you."
"Yeah, I... kinda got too excited about... you know, flying."
The agent was silent for a few moments. Derek's father tried to break it by saying, "Well?"
"Well what?" said the agent.
"What happens now?"
Derek was thinking too. What would happen to him now that the government knows? Would he be taken away to be studied? Locked up to protect the populace from his unnaturalness? Get beaten by Lucas for supposedly reporting him to the staff?
"Well," said the agent after a long sigh, "before we decide anything, just... show me once. I'll need a demonstration."
"Now hold on-" started Derek's father.
"Dear, please," said Derek's mother, trying to calm the man down. Back to Derek, she said, "Go ahead, honey."
Derek sighed and concentrated again. He frowned at the thought that it was getting a little easier. And again in seconds, he had shifted entirely into being the pilot girl again.
The agent stared for a second, his mouth almost hanging open. "Incredible," he whispered audibly. "You look like Amelia Earhart."
"I know," said Derek. "I didn't choose that, though." Derek concentrated a bit and shifted back.
"Wait," said the agent. "I also want a short demonstration of your flight capabilities. I need to verify this."
"Aw, come on. I just changed back." The agent stared at him with somewhat of a disapproving face. "Fine," sighed Derek, shifting once again. This time, after completing the transformation, he thought about floating. And sure enough, he was hovering a foot over the chair.
Derek's parents tried not to react. Inwardly, though, Derek's mother was surprised over Derek's level of control, while Derek's father was disturbed at the same.
The agent was a bit less surprised than a moment ago, but was still in wide-eyed amazement. "That's..." But he caught himself and put his poker face back on. "Um, yes. That is impressive, I'll admit. But, this sort of thing can cause definite problems. Air Traffic Control, for instance."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I really didn't think-"
"From the sounds of things, you had no clue about any rules in regards to flight regulations, mixed with your excitement at having a new toy to play with, and the fear of being late which prompted this whole mess in the first place. Yes, we'll have to do something about that."
Derek gulped. His father said, "Like what?"
"Well, for starters," said the agent, "we'll have to make sure that his...her...whatever. Your flight capabilities are authorized. It'll require some instruction on flight regulations to get the proper paperwork down, but I'm sure you can manage it."
"Huh?" said Derek.
"Beyond that, we'll have to see what you're truly capable of. Top speeds and such, and I get the feeling there's more to it than just flight."
"What are you talking about?" said Derek's father.
"Just a simple study of your abilities. I'll have to clear it with my boss for appointment times, but-"
"Now hold on! Just what exactly are you suggesting? That you'll take my son away for study and experiments or something?"
"No, nothing of the sort. That would be unethical. We just need to make record of his capabilities. All done on the weekends, of course, so he won't miss anything important."
"How do we know you're not lying? And besides, how do we know your boss won't have different ideas than what you're saying?"
"First, I have enough pull to be the head of whatever observations are necessary in regards to your abilities. Second, I'd rather we find out his limits. What he can control, and what he can't. Sooner rather than later. Third, flight aside, he has the ability to turn into a female and back at will. Some people aren't comfortable with that idea, so it's better we test this in an isolated area."
"That still doesn't answer my question."
"What can I offer to make you trust me? A polygraph test? Unless Earhart over there can suddenly read minds, there's no immediate way of answering that. So for now, you're going to have to believe that I'm a reasonable government official who isn't stupid and cruel and got my job as reasonable government official because I'm not stupid and cruel."
The group paused, letting the words sink in and mull around in their thoughts. Derek thought to himself, Read minds? I... I don't think I can do that... But what if I can? How would I do that? Do I just try to listen like normal? Or do I have to concentrate? Derek tried to read the agent's mind, concentrating on hearing the man's thoughts just as he had concentrated on transforming and floating before.
But he heard nothing until his concentration was broken by Derek's father speaking. "Well, I can't say that I'm comfortable with this idea. But you are the government, so I can't exactly refuse."
The agent nodded, then turned to Derek's mother. "And you, Linda?" he said.
"Well, I must admit I'm a little nervous, but it sounds like a fair opportunity to see what he can do."
She didn't speak for a few seconds, so the agent took that as a signal to continue. "How do you feel about this, Derek?"
Derek stared at the agent for a moment before saying, "Well I'm not so sure about going in every week for testing. But... I have to admit, when you mentioned mind reading, I actually tried it out. It didn't work, but still. I... I want to see what I can do." He hesitated for a moment before adding, "Besides, if anything happens, I'll just fly away."
"Considering the government knows where you live, that wouldn't be a wise idea in the long run, all things considered. But I kinda like your attitude, kid." After an uncomfortable pause, the agent said, "So, we're all in agreement here."
"That's what it seems," said Derek's father.
The agent took another sip of tea and said, "I'm sorry, George, if you don't entirely like the idea. But I've presented my arguments and reasonings already, and you agreed to them." He piled a handful of papers into his briefcase. "I'd better be on my way, then. I have all the information I can get, and I need to get this back to headquarters."
"I thought we didn't want this to get out," said Derek's mother.
"Yes, but I'm going directly to my supervisor, who will be the only one to know about this besides us four. I have to clear it through him so we'll know when, where, and how to proceed. And we're the FBI. Keeping secrets is our MO."
"I thought investigation was your MO," said Derek's father.
"Tell that to the stereotypes." With a sigh, the agent stood and ejected the recording out of the DVD player, then put it in his briefcase, closing it. "Thank you for your cooperation. Hopefully we can get this looked into smoothly and without incident. And thank you, Linda, for the tea. It was delicious."
"You're welcome," she said.
"Oh, before we leave, I'd like to leave my contact information. Just in case there's any problems or if you have questions." He pulled a small card out of his front pocket, which had his office phone number. "Better to have these pre-made than to waste time writing things down every single time."
Linda took the card carefully between her fingers as the man turned to head for the door. The family followed him to the door but waited in the doorway while Agent Swanson left. "Thank you for you time," he said. "I'll call as soon as I get an update on procedures."
"Okay," said George. He closed the door as soon as Agent Swanson had driven down the street. To his family, he said, "Well, so much for putting this behind us."
"No kidding," said Derek.
"Um, son? You know you can change back now."
"Hmm?" Derek looked down and suddenly remembered he'd been "Amelia" since he was asked to demonstrate his flight. "Oh, right," he said, shifting back.
Linda gave a slight pout and said, "Anything we can do about this?"
Derek shrugged and said, "Cross your fingers and hope for the best?"
"Close your eyes and brace for the worst!"
Ben reached for Derek, hoping to finally stop the boy who had avoided him and supposedly reported him. Derek had managed to dodge Lucas and his cronies all day, but he had been cut off at the end of the day. Unable to get past them to the bus lines, Derek was eventually herded away from the buses and towards the classrooms.
Derek ducked around a corner, sprinting past two teachers while Ben slowed down considerably when he saw them. Derek was glad Ben was clever enough to avoid most trouble with the faculty, because that one factor worked to Derek's advantage. Not wasting the chance, Derek ran for the lunch lines and ducked down the hall towards the gyms.
He heard footsteps behind him, so he took a shortcut through the gym to the opposite hallway.
He had already missed the bus. Right now he was just looking for a place to hide and cool off.
He was vaguely aware of a couple of doors right near him.
The locker rooms.
Footsteps got louder. He had only seconds to choose.
The boys' locker room.
No. Dead end. Lucas could catch him in there easily.
Lesser of two evils, then.
Derek burst into the girls' locker room, then shoved it closed, holding it tight by propping his legs against the opposite wall. He stayed there for a moment, breathing heavily. All he could hear for a while was his loud, frantic heartbeat and the rush of air into his mouth.
Half a minute passed. He heard voices. They were looking for him. And they were close. Full minute. A door opened. Now there were only two voices. He sighed and slid to the ground, trying to catch his breath.
"What. Are. You. Doing?"
Derek jumped at the accusing voice, then relaxed when he identified it as belonging to a girl rather than a meathead. He glanced at the girl, only briefly taking in her black ruffled skirt, which was about eye level with his head at the moment, same as the gray bag she had slung over her body; her yellow shirt and black cropped jacket, if it could even be called a jacket--it was far too small on her to actually close. She had short black hair and half-framed glasses. The glare from the light was hiding anything behind her eyes, and her hair cast a shadow over her forehead, making her seem menacing.
But Derek didn't care at the moment, since she didn't seem as big a threat as Lucas.
Derek took a second to breathe, momentarily thinking on how to best explain his sudden entry to where he didn't belong. Then: "Lucas Graver."
The girl shifted, the glare leaving her eyes, revealing them to be a sort of rich green color. And her eyebrows were tilted in a confused angle. "Graver?" she said in a much calmer tone. Her fist clenched, and a hint of anger dipped into her voice. "That meathead?"
"You know him?" said Derek.
"Unfortunately," she growled.
Derek sighed in relief. "Good. Well, he's out there looking for me. And not for good reasons."
"Looking for- Wait, outside? Crap in a hat."
Derek pressed his ear to the door. He couldn't hear anything. His heart started beating faster. Not willing to risk things, he whispered, "Hey, see if he's still there, alright?"
"What?" said the girl.
"Check to see if Lucas is still there."
"What? Why should I?"
"Just do it! And don't make it obvious."
She glared at him incredulously. "What's he got on you that-"
"Explain later. Look now. Please?"
"Ugh," she half-sighed-half-groaned in annoyance. "Fine."
Derek stood and moved away from the door, leaning against the wall near it. The girl opened the door a small fraction, just enough to see outside. A brief glance, and she saw Mike and Ben standing there, waiting for something.
"Yep," she said quietly. "I've definitely seen those two hang out with Lucas."
"What are they doing?" started Derek.
"Hey, you think he's actually in there?" said Ben.
"Huh?" said Mike.
"They're talking," said the girl, trying to make sure Ben and Mike remained unaware that they were being watched.
Ben resumed, "I mean, what if the squirt's not in there at all?"
"Well, where else could he have gone?" said Mike.
Ben pointed directly at the girl. Or rather, the door she was hiding behind.
"They're starting to wonder if you're in here," said the girl to Derek.
"Crap," said Derek.
"Tch," said Mike. "Whatever. If you're that worried about it, I'll check it out for myself."
"What? You can't go in there. Not after last time."
"Pffft. You worry too much."
"He's coming here," said the girl.
CRAP! thought Derek. A rapid solution came to him. Damnit, not again. "Okay, listen, whatever you do, don't react to this."
"What?" said the girl.
Derek wasted no time in transforming. A quick streak of light was all it took to turn him into "Amelia" again.
It again took too long for his tastes, for as soon as he was done changing, the door started to open from the outside. And it was Mike on the other side.
"Hey!" said Derek. "What do you think you're doing?"
Mike stood there, staring at the spunky redheaded girl and the cute glasses-wearing girl standing at the door. Quickly regaining his composure, he gave a half smile and said, "Ah, nothin'. Just looking for someone who-"
"Shut up," said Derek, trying to push past him, grabbing the girl by the wrist. "Come on, let's go."
"Aw come on," said Mike as the two pushed past him and into the hall. "Don't you two wanna get to know a guy like me?"
"No thanks," said Derek, leading the girl towards the parking lot.
She blinked out of her stunned silence and said, "Y- Yeah, why would we want to hang out with someone who tries barging into the wrong locker room 'looking for someone'?"
"Well, I didn't mean it that way, but hey, I'm sure we can just forget about-"
"Done. You, forgotten completely. Goodb-Hey!" said Derek, changing his tone as the girl started moving faster, now leading him towards the parking lot.
Behind them, they heard Ben say, "Smooooth."
"Shut up," was Mike's response to Ben's sarcasm.
The girl led Derek around the cafeteria and to the school's back lot, near the sports fields. The only noise for a moment was the sound of the girl's shoes on the tile and pavement. Derek chanced a look downward and saw she was wearing slightly-heeled shoes, also black.
They stopped in the parking lot, and the girl glanced around before saying, "Alright, talk. How did you do that?"
"What, the transforming thing?" said Derek.
"No, the part where you leap into the air and fly around like Superman." Her tone was dripping with sarcasm.
Derek was stunned. "What the- How'd you figure that part out?"
"Figure wha... You mean you can fly? Prove it."
Derek glanced around. There were a few people standing in a corner, and this time, he remembered to check for cameras, spotting two that could see him. "Not here," he said. "Too many witnesses."
"Witnesses? What, you have to kill someone to use it?"
"Fine, just come on." Derek led them in between two cars. Checking again that no one was looking, he lifted one leg, then the other, while carefully keeping his head and torso at the same level. "See?" he said.
The girl opened her mouth in amazement. It was the longest time since they'd met that she'd gone for more than five seconds without being visibly mad at him.
And just as soon as it had left, her scowl was back. "Alright, come with me," she ordered, grabbing his wrist again. Derek stumbled to put his feet back to the ground before he was pulled into view.
"H- Hey! Where are we going?"
"This way," she said bluntly.
"That doesn't answer anything."
She led him to a small black car he couldn't recognize the name of, but it was a Nissan something. She took her keys out of her bag and unlocked the passenger door. "Get in," she said.
"Hold on. Why should I get in?" protested Derek.
"Because I can easily tell people that you barged into the girls locker room, and turned into a girl, who can fly. And you don't want any of those three things to get out, do you?"
"Y- Bu-" Derek sighed in defeat. She was holding his secrets over his head. "So that's it, huh? Blackmail?" he said as he got into the car.
The girl opened the door and sat in the driver's seat. "I'd rather use the word 'bribery' myself."
"But that's promising a reward in exchange for cooperation, not threatening to spill secrets. There's a difference."
"Well whatever. The point is-" She started the car. "-you have some unusual abilities, and I wanna know what's up with them. So spill, or I tell everyone."
Derek sighed again in defeat. First the government, now her? Who's next? The mailman? The Pope?
The drive went by with Derek explaining the events of his dream two weeks ago that resulted in him waking up floating on the ceiling as a girl (which reminded him to transform back to normal), then the events of the day before with Air Traffic Control and the FBI agent. She pulled up to a Burger King and ordered a double whopper, then parked in the parking lot to let Derek finish. He said why Lucas was chasing him, and every mention of his name caused the girl to clench her fingers tighter.
"...so I guess I was kinda thinking too fast. I figured if I hid in the boys' locker room, that's basically a dead end where he could follow me into. So I ran into the girls' locker room instead. And that's where you came in, so you're all caught up."
The girl was halfway done with her burger now. She finished her mouthful and glanced over at Derek, her eyes staring directly at his.
"Okay," she said, then took another bite.
"Okay?" said Derek. "I tell you about all these weird powers, and the best you can say is 'okay'?"
She swallowed and said, "Yeah, because I'm still taking this in." Another bite.
Derek sat in uncomfortable silence, thinking to himself. What am I gonna do now? Am I just that bad at hiding this? No, only she knows. I'm not in trouble yet. I'm good. But still... What does she want? What's she trying to do?
"Alright. Where do you live?" she said.
"What?!" That was the last thing he expected.
"Your house. Where's your house?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Because I'm dropping you off there."
"Why should I tell you where my house is?"
She glared at him and said, "It's called 'bribery'. You give me directions to your place, and I keep your secret safe."
"Again, that's called 'blackmail'," sighed Derek. "But fine. If it'll keep your mouth shut."
Derek gave directions to his place. They passed the bus going the other direction, but paid it no mind. Soon, they pulled up in front of his house. "Well, this is it," said Derek.
"Hmm..." said the girl. "Nice car."
"Huh? Oh, that's my Mom's."
"Ah. Anyway, here's the deal. The cafeteria, before school on Monday. We'll meet there, alright?"
"What? Why are we meeting before school again?"
"Good." She pushed the button to unlock the doors. Not that Derek couldn't have done that anyway.
Derek unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door to leave. But before he could close the door, the girl said, "I'm Lauren Carter, by the way."
"Huh? Oh, uh, Derek. Derek Parker."
"Wait, Parker? As in Mike Parker? What, are you brothers or something?"
"No! We're not related at all as far as I know."
"Oh," said Lauren. "Sorry."
"Yeah." Derek shut the door and Lauren drove off, leaving Derek to turn around and go inside.
"So, who was that?" said Derek's mother right as he walked inside.
Surprise only held Derek for a moment. "Oh, uh... Nobody. She just gave me a ride. That's all."
"Oh really?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, really." Derek headed up to his room and sat down on his bed. "Well this is just great. Now there's no way I can just forget it. What am I gonna do?"
He turned to look at the window, spotting a cloud in the distance. He thought for a moment about trying to touch the cloud.
"And here I thought I could just ignore it. Heh. Now I've got the government and some girl I just met both guaranteeing I'll never forget this. "He inhaled deeply and waited for a full minute, letting everything sink in.
"Well," he finally said, "here's to a new and uncertain future."