“We are about to land. Please be sure your seat belts are fastened as we descend.” The robotic voice said over the speakers in the back of the BADGE shuttlecraft.
I yawned and stretched as I returned home to New Amsterdam after my orientation session aboard the BADGE Orbital Space Station. My mind was filled with hundreds of things to tell Mom and Dad. Meeting so many other people with Morphon powers, showing off my own shapeshifting abilities, and listening to so many heroic stories of things that others had done filled my trip with all sorts of amazing topics for sharing with my parents. I was a little nervous before I departed Earth for the orientation, but mostly excited. Now I felt doubly so coming back home. I could DO all of it for myself. I could be a hero.
And, don’t let me forget to mention, but I was in freakin’ SPACE, too. Seeing the ground disappear beneath me wasn’t new to me, as I could fly whenever I wanted by turning into a bird. That’s still cool but going past the clouds and up into space itself. Wow! That was awesome in all capital letters. I will never forget that. The world changes when you see it from space. It isn’t this vast everything that surrounds you anymore. It becomes a small blue and white ball floating all by itself in a sea of black. A sea of stars that may have over such spheres like mine elsewhere in it, but they are sooo far away, they might as well be non-existent.
The shuttle from the space station set down and dropped a group of us off at the old BADGE Headquarters in New Amsterdam. We arrived nearly an hour earlier than expected due to a guest speaker not being able to make their presentation. I understood heroes were busy people. They couldn’t always do what they planned because thing happen. Criminal masterminds acted on unusual schedules, not office hours.
Taking a moment to wave goodbye to everyone else, I moved into a small stand of trees and took the shape of a snowy owl. No need to call my parents for a ride when I could FLY. Having wings is especially cool. I often wished that as people we had them. Why couldn’t humans have evolved from flying monkeys instead of regular ones?
I took to the sky and began my journey home. Warm air currents carried me over manicured lawns, small groves of lush green glades, and the inevitable stench of car exhaust looming over busy roadways covered with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Climbing higher into the air, I rose above the stink and found clean, fresh air once again.
The peace and quiet helped give me time to think. Time I was grateful for as I knew I would be having a difficult talk with my parents after reuniting with them. They didn’t want me to become a cape or work with BADGE. They thought I was too young, and it was too dangerous. They worried how it would not only affect me, but them as well. We were a family and that meant none of us went through anything alone.
When I got home, I would have to make them understand that I couldn’t be anything but a hero. I could shapeshift into any creature I wanted, but I couldn’t change my desire to use my powers to help others. It wasn’t only about me having Morphon powers. I think having my Morphon given powers only helped me realize what I wanted sooner. I wanted to help people. And animals. Most animals. Being able to shapeshift, I found there were many animals I loved to be and thought of as special as people.
But then there was bacon and pigs. This would be a question of ethics and morality I knew I would struggle with for most of my life. Best to table that thought until another time.
To distract myself from the taste of salty, delicious bacon from my tongue, I scanned the landscape below me. I spotted a group of three dark-colored SUVs in position around a smaller car. They closed in around it and forced it off the main road. The smaller car skidded on the gravel on the shoulder and sped onto a small two-track path running between two fields of short green plants.
The SUVs gave pursuit, interrupting the flow of traffic around them as they reversed course and gave chase to the smaller car.
“SCREEECH!!! (Translated from owl: Hey, that’s not right. What the heck’s going on?)” I tipped a wing and circled back around to follow the pursued car. If they needed help, I’d be there. Maybe there was a reason the last speaker got called away from his presentation, putting me here and now for this calamity.
The car moved rapidly between the fields of crops. Suddenly, it launched a few feet into the air as if jumping and crashed back to the ground, forcing it to spill into a small culvert. It stops once it hit the opposite side of the culvert’s bank and a man in a blue suit poured out of the driver seat into the standing water.
The three SUVs stopped not far away from where the car launched into the air. Two men exited each vehicle two by two. I shook my head because each man looked identical to the other five. They paced over a piece of piping across the road (clearly the reason for the cars lurch into the air) and moved stealthily to where the man struggled to stand in the muddy water.
“The boss told you not to leave town, Mikey,” one of the six men said as they linked arms, lowering one of the men into the culvert.
“I’m not going to be a part of this anymore. What you’re all doing is wrong!” he shouted.
“You took his money. Wrong and right doesn’t matter.” The man at the end of the human chain said as he stretched out a hand to the man in the mud. “You’ve been paid. There is no leaving until the experiment is over. Well, there is one way of leaving, I guess. Is that what you want?”
The man stood up and hung his head in defeat. His arm hung limply to one side and a small trickle of blood dripped from a cut in his forehead.
“We didn’t think so,” the final link in the human chain said. He grabbed the wounded man by a shoulder, the one closest to his injured arm.
“AAARRGGhhhh,” the hurt man screamed.
I flew down and landed on top of the trunk of the car. At BADGE initiation, I came up with a name for my heroic persona. I morphed into the adult shape of Madam Marvelous for the first time. Wings grew into arms wrapped in long red gloves. My talons became flowing red boots and the rest of me shifted into a statuesque woman wearing red, blue, and black. I shook out my feathers of my head and black hair rolled onto my shoulders. “I don’t think he likes what you’re doing. Hands off him, dirtbag.”
“What? That’s impossible,” the dirtbag said.
I smiled with confidence at him and the rest of his identical companions who stared at me with open mouths. “That's 'I’m possible'. Actually, you’ll find I’m extremely possible and currently a bit miffed. Now, let him go.”
The men sneered at me and… merged into one another. The man on the bottom of the chain, still holding tightly onto the injured escapee flowed upward as the men flowed one into the other until finally only two identical men remained, holding hands at the top of the culvert. “You deal with her. I’ll get this one back.” The one who spoke shoved his prisoner toward the SUVs while the other one pulled out a pair of wands from within his suit coat.
“What happened to the other guys?” I asked. People called my powers weird, but that was just different. Where did all their clothes go? “Did you just absorb them? Ewwww.”
He didn’t say a word in response. I guess I wouldn’t be getting any answers about his powers, so I guess it was my turn to show him more of mine. I transformed into a pink panther. Well, a black panther but with bright pink fur. I didn’t want to be a total copycat.
With a roar, I leapt from the top of the trunk to the dirt path. The man backed up a few steps, keeping his sticks between me and him. I could smell the ozone from the electricity crackling at the tips of his weapons. Another nice advantage of being able to shift into animals. The senses of so many of them are far superior to that of a human. I could discern threats I might never have known of in my natural form. I lowered my head and prepared to pounce.
I heard a car door slam shut. I didn’t have time to mess with this dweeb if I was going to stop his companion from absconding with his prisoner. I pounced as I planned, but not at the man with the sticks. I jumped entirely over his head and landed several feet behind him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fast as I hoped to be. He lifted the sticks up and brushed my exposed belly as I passed over him. Electricity surged through me, numbing me and my reactions. My landing was more of a sad thump than the graceful landing of a cat.
My fur stood up like it was made of Velcro. I watched as he turned around and came at me brandishing his fancy cattle-prods. My body felt thick, unwilling to move. Maybe my parents were right and heroing was too dangerous for me. No. NO. An obstacle is meant to stand in your path but shouldn’t be allowed to deter. I wouldn’t let it stop me. I’d find a way to move around it.
Or make it move.
I gave myself a moment to let him get closer and then changed again. He may have had the upper hand with his two weapons, but I could outdo that. I changed into a creature that doubled, no, QUADRUPLED my ability to disarm him. My pink fur went purple, my legs duplicated into two limbs each, specifically tentacles, as I became an octopus. I lashed out with my tentacles, two at his legs and four at his arms. I wrapped around his limbs. With one swift yank, he was on his back on the ground and his lightning sticks were twisted into his own chest.
His jerks and spasms were very, very satisfying. He went limp, losing his grip on his weapons, which I grabbed and tossed into the water in the culvert.
The engine of the SUV revved to life. I needed to get to it and stop it before the last man could get away with his prisoner. I returned to my Madam Marvelous form and headed down the roadway. Imagine my surprise when I reached the rear of the second SUV and saw that the vehicle was pinned in place, caught between the two parked SUVs and another vehicle coming up the path. My parent’s minivan. What are they doing here? I could see my mother driving while my father was holding up his camera phone to the back side of the SUV. My dad seemed to be talking at the same time.
They must have been on their way to pick me up already. Dad always liked to arrive early.They’ve never seen me as Madam Marvelous. I hope they don’t recognize me or I’ll be in so much trouble.
They pulled up right behind the SUV and the emergency lights flickered on. The window on my mother’s side of the car cracked open. “We’re on the phone with 9-1-1 by video link right now. I don’t know what you were thinking when you drove that car off the road, but you could have killed people. You just stay there until the cops arrive.”
I couldn’t believe it. They were trying to stop the same crime I was. The tinted window kept me from seeing what the man inside the vehicle was doing. The other guy was armed. What if he was too? And he had the wounded driver of the other car in there with him. I needed to do something to keep him safe. But if I changed into an animal, my parents would know it was me for sure.
That was, if they saw me. Small insects were outside of my capability so far, but a mouse wasn’t. And mice have knacks for getting in and out of tight spaces when they wanted to. I dashed to the hood of the SUV and became a field mouse. I climbed up into the undercarriage of the vehicle and looked for an opening into its interior. As I did, I could hear voices inside.
“Just leave me here. I won’t say anything to the police.”
“No. You and I are getting out of here. These idiots aren’t going to be a problem.”
I heard a shifting of gears as the SUV’s engine revved. The driver was planning on backing into my mom’s car. No way I was going to let him hurt my parents. I dropped to the ground and as the SUV started to back up, I changed into my largest form yet. My skin and fur turned gray as my limbs grew thick. My twitching nose elongated as my size doubled, then quadrupled, and then went up several more degrees until I felt the SUV rise up into the air on my back as I became a fully grown elephant.
The wheels spun uselessly as the entire vehicle rested on my back. As it started to rock unsteadily, I lifted my trunk up to grab the rear bumper and hold it firmly in place.
The look on my mother’s face let me know that once she overcame the shock of seeing an elephant appear out of nowhere beneath a pinned vehicle, she recognized that the elephant was me. I tried to smile at her but smiling as an elephant is not an easy task. I knew that as soon as we had privacy, the talk I hadn’t wanted to have would begin.
At least now, I had a fair idea that my parents understood my drive to do right better than I gave them credit for. They chased down a set of SUVs to report their misdeeds to the police. If that wasn’t heroic, I don’t know what is?
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
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