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Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Cassandra was woken from her slumber by the sound of the alarm clock next to her bed. Back at her aunt and uncle’s home, she’d have stayed in bed another hour just to avoid facing the world. But in these new surroundings, she didn’t mind getting up when she was supposed to. Better to take full advantage of this place while she was here, she reasoned.

After shutting off the alarm, Cassandra got out of bed and threw the curtains and windows open, to reveal the Pacific Ocean spanning the horizon, and Ms. Zuel’s and her partner’s swimming pool below the bedroom. Kate’s bedroom was located on the other side of the house, presumably so that she wouldn’t accidentally get an eyeful of her parents being intimate in the pool, to say nothing of doing so when they were both giant-sized. There were no more bedrooms on that side, however, meaning that Cassandra had to take a room on the facing side. Not that she was complaining, mind.

“Cassie!” came a voice from outside the bedroom. “C’mon, time for breakfast!”

“Coming!” Cassandra called back, before opening the bedroom door to reveal Nancy, waiting expectantly. “Say, can I have scrambled eggs today?”

“Sure, if that’s what you want.” Nancy replied, smiling pleasantly. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

Nancy led her guest into the kitchen. Before Cassandra had the chance to sit down, however, Nancy reached into one of the cabinets and handed her a saucepan.

“Here, cook them in this. Better results than if you use a frying pan. You put it on a gentle heat, and I’ll get you some eggs.” said Nancy, smiling wryly.

“What?! I have to—” Cassandra began to yell indignantly, before quickly coming to her senses. During the last week, despite everything that Cassandra had been responsible for, Nancy had been an accommodating and welcoming host. The last thing she deserved was to be yelled at. “I mean, I have to start heating it up first? Shouldn’t we beat the eggs first?” Cassandra continued.

“Maybe for a larger serving, but for just the one, it won’t matter. I’ll just have some cereal.” Nancy said, taking a box of eggs out of the fridge. As she handed the box to Cassandra, Nancy heard her cellphone ringing. She took it out, and Doris’s name appeared on the screen.

“Hey, Doris.” Nancy said softly, as she answered the phone. “How are things?”

“Could be worse. We’re about to try something new with Kate, hopefully it’ll have results. How are you coping?” asked Doris’s voice.

“Oh, pretty well. Cassie’s not been any bother.” Nancy replied, glancing and smiling at Cassandra, who was breaking the eggs into the saucepan.

“Good to hear. But what about you?” Doris asked.

Nancy was silent for a moment. She gestured towards the salt and pepper for Cassandra’s benefit, then walked through to the living room.

“Nancy?” asked Doris.

“I’m… managing.” Nancy replied, quietly. “But I’ve got to be honest Doris, I’ve been really feeling lonely over the last week.”

“Lonely?” Doris asked, genuinely surprised. “But, isn’t Cassandra…?”

“It’s been nice to have her around, for sure. If she weren’t here, I’m sure it’d be worse. But you and Kate…” Nancy started to say, before suddenly feeling a tear rolling down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away, recomposed herself and continued, “I… haven’t been alone for this long since I met you. You and Kate mean the world to me, Doris, you really both do. I guess this week has given me a glimpse of what life would be without you both, and I, uh… I can’t say that I really like it that much.”

“Hey, hey, gorgeous, it’s okay.” Doris replied, trying her hardest to re-assure Nancy. For all the progress that Nancy had made during their relationship, Doris knew full well that Nancy still tended to depend on others. A consequence of her lonely childhood years, combined with so many years married to her cheating ex, no doubt. And much as she hated to admit it, Doris couldn’t imagine a life without Nancy, either. At least it felt nice to be wanted.

“Sorry. Urgh, maybe I should make another appointment with the psychologist, I mean…” Nancy said, putting her free hand over her eyes.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions yet, babe.” Doris replied, in a soothing tone. “Look, Cassandra’s back at school today, so why don’t you drop her off, then come on down to the base? Kate’ll be glad to see you.”

“Hold on, WHAT?!” Nancy called out, taking her hand away from her face and opening her eyes. “Cassie’s supposed to be back at school today? She never told me that!”

“Oh.” replied Doris, flatly. “Well, I’m pretty sure the school has her cellphone number. And I heard from one of the office ladies that they’d sent out a text informing the students it was re-opening today.”

“I… see.” came Nancy’s icy reply. “Well, now I’m glad I dragged her out of bed early. I should still be able to get her down there on time.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it!” Doris laughed. “Look, I’d better go now, but Kate and I are looking forward to seeing you.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing you both too. More than you can possibly imagine. See you soon.”

 

Nancy hung up her cellphone, then went to go back into the kitchen. Before she actually did so, however, she closed her eyes, focused on invoking her abilities, and slowly inched upwards, her nightie tightening around her hourglass frame in the process. She wasn’t tall enough for the difference to be immediately obvious, but it was enough to help make her point, if need be.

Just as Cassandra emptied the contents of her saucepan on a couple of waiting slices of toast, Nancy strode into the kitchen.

“Ta-da! What do you think?” Cassandra said, indicating the plate.

“Not bad at all. Nice and light – you should have plenty of time to eat it before we get you to school.” Nancy replied, with a smirk.

“School?! That’s… but I haven’t heard anything about that being open again!” Cassandra protested.

“Probably just an oversight.” Nancy replied, continuing to smile, but now looming over Cassandra. “I’m guessing they sent the message to your aunt and uncle instead of here. Doris told me the school was re-opening today.”

“Doris told you…?” Cassandra asked, her eyes suddenly widening. “Well, uh, Ms. Zuel would know, wouldn’t she? Being a teacher, and… stuff. Yeah, I’m not gonna argue with her. Just… gonna have breakfast, and then get ready for school.”

“Of course. I’ll give you a lift there, then head off to the base.” Nancy replied.

Cassandra silently nodded, then sat down and began quietly eating her breakfast.

That was easier than I expected. Maybe she genuinely didn’t know that the school was open again today.” Nancy thought. “Either that, or she feels bad for Doris.

 

Deep within the Justice League’s Los Angeles base, Doris paced back and forth in the private quarters that she and Nancy had been provided with. It was a bare-bones room that neither she nor Nancy had ever really bothered decorating, due to the close proximity of their actual home. Which was just as well – smiling family photos would be the last thing she needed to see right now, with the dilemma she had on her hands.

Still, lost in her thoughts as she was, Doris was still alert enough that she heard the sound of the room’s door opening. She turned around, to see her partner walking into the room, and no sooner had Doris caught sight of her, than she found Nancy’s arms wrapped tightly around her body, as she rained kisses down on Doris.

“I don’t ever want to be apart from you for that long again!” Nancy said, in-between kisses.

“Mmm… I’ve certainly gained even more of an appreciation for you!” Doris replied, savouring the feeling of her partner’s body pressing into and rubbing up against her own. Deep down she felt the urge to grow, but knew that this wasn’t the time or place. “So, shall we go see our daughter?” she asked.

 

Doris led Nancy into the hangar that had been converted into Kate’s temporary living space. It had been made a little more homely since Nancy last saw it, with the addition of bedding, a projector system, and a few drapes hung on the walls. However, the biggest surprise was what Kate was wearing.

“Kate! I like your outfit!” Nancy called out to her gigantic stepdaughter.
“Thanks!” Kate replied, seeming to have perked up just a little since Nancy had last seen her. She was wearing a top that looked like a green version of the top half of Nancy’s outfit, and shorts that resembled the lower half of her mother’s outfit. “They had Wayne Enterprises throw it together from their stock of spare materials from your outfits. Think I’m gonna ask for a mask, though. Masks are cool, right?”

“Well, uh, I… guess I’m kinda biased on that, huh?” Nancy chuckled. “But yeah, I think a mask would look good on you.”

“Kate… why don’t you show Nancy what you’ve been practicing?” Doris suggested.

“Yeah, sure! I think you’re gonna like this, Nancy.” Kate replied, as she sat up straight.

Kate closed her eyes, clenched her fists, and focused. After about ten seconds, Nancy realized Kate was slowly starting to dwindle in size. It was barely perceptible at first, but soon she was down to 45ft, then 40ft, then 35ft…

“Come on, Kate!” Nancy urged.

“Don’t distract her.” whispered Doris.

As Nancy, Doris and the other onlookers watched on, Kate reached half the size she had been moments ago. Fortunately, her outfit had kept pace with her size, sparing her blushes. Before long, she was only about 12ft tall. Her shrinking slowed at this point, but still continued. She dwindled to to 10ft… 8ft… 7ft… 6.5ft…

“Nearly there!” Doris whispered, a smile on her face.

The last few inches were the slowest of all, and from Nancy’s and Doris’s perspective, the most tense. Still, Kate continued to shrink, until she finally reached the height she had stood at before all this started. A round of applause went up from the people watching.

“You did it! I knew you could!” Doris called out.

“Come here, give us a hug!” Nancy added, gleefully.

“Oh, believe me, I’m gonna give you both a week’s worth of hugs!” Kate called out, as she got to her feet, then ran over to Doris and Nancy and hugged them both as tightly as she could, savouring the moment.

“You’ve been practicing, huh?” Nancy asked.

“Yep. All week. I’d been able to get down to about 10ft, but I wasn’t able to shrink down the last few feet until today.” replied Kate.

“I had a feeling that Nancy being here would help you with the home stretch.” Doris added, with a smile. Five years ago she’d never have thought it possible, but she was genuinely looking forwards to the prospect of having a normal family life again…

And then, just as quickly, that prospect was torn away again. After a few, quiet moments of the trio enjoying a hug, Nancy and Doris quickly became conscious of the sensation of their daughter slowly starting to feel larger.

“Kate, you’re-!” Nancy cried out.

“Oh, no! SHIT!” Kate yelled, as her body started to rapidly expand. Within a matter of moments she was double the size she had been when hugging her parents, and she continued to rocket upwards towards the hangar ceiling.

Nancy focused, and invoked her own abilities again. The belt on the long dress that she had put on snapped, her feet burst from her heels, and then the dress started to tear apart down the middle, exposing her Fifty Foot Woman outfit. Doris, meanwhile, just stared at her expanding daughter and partner, seemingly in shock.

Kate sat on the hangar floor in silence, as her body continued its growth back to the 50ft height it had been when Nancy and Doris walked in. Nancy soon caught up with her height, and put a reassuring arm around her. Within less than a minute of Kate having started to grow again, both she and Nancy were 50ft tall.

“I’m… I’m so sorry… I couldn’t…” Kate mumbled, fighting back tears.

“It’s alright! It’s fine!” Nancy told Kate, hugging her tightly. “I mean, it’s only been a week, and you can already get back to normal size and hold it for a couple of minutes. It took me over a month, and another few weeks to hold it as long as you did.”

“But you said before that…” Kate began to say, before thinking better of it. She had caused enough problems for her parents without reminding Nancy of her past. “Thanks, Nancy.” she then whispered.

Doris, still normal-sized, continued to stare up at Kate, seemingly pondering something. Finally, she came to a conclusion.

“Kate… you did well, kiddo. I’m just… I’m just gonna head out, and… I’ve got an idea, I just need to make some calls.” Doris said, quietly. Then, before Kate or Nancy could say anything in reply, she hurried out of the hanger.

Kate sat there in silence for a few moments, before bursting into tears.

“Hey, hey. It’s okay, Kate, it’s okay.” Nancy whispered, trying to comfort her crying stepdaughter as best she could.

“Mom hates me now, doesn’t she? I’ve let her down, let you down… fucked up my life, basically.” Kate sobbed.

“No, that’s not true at all!” Nancy replied. “Doris loves you so much. If she didn’t, she would never have taken you back in!”

“But she didn’t have any choice in the matter, though, did she? I mean, dad and… they got themselves arrested, and Social Services basically dumped me in your lap.” Kate said, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

“They didn’t force Doris to take you in, and I didn’t try to push her into it. If she didn’t want you in her life, you wouldn’t be living with us.” Nancy said, looking into Kate’s eyes.

“Well… maybe… but even so, you’re the one who’s with me right now, and she’s…” Kate began to say.

“Doris has always been the calm, controlled one between me and her.” responded Nancy. “She needs to be, really, god knows I get too emotional about things. But there are times when that façade of hers starts to crack, and… she doesn’t like people to see that.”

“Yeah. And it’s cracking because I was stupid enough to try stealing from my best friend.” Kate sighed.

“That wouldn’t even have been an issue if Cassandra hadn’t been using those gauntlets!” Nancy interjected. “Besides, if you hadn’t had that ruby fragment, Cassandra would have done a whole lot more damage before Doris and I stopped her… assuming we could have stopped her at all. I have to admit, what you did, throwing yourself on top of her, it was a pretty ballsy move, Kate!”

“Also a really dumb one.” Kate replied, allowing herself to smile ever so slightly.

“Look, Kate, why don’t we rest up for a bit, and we can try getting you back down to normal size again. I can teach you some of the tricks I use.”

“Sure. But do you mind if we watch some American Dad first?” Kate asked, pointing to the projector system. “I’m kinda tired from the last attempt.”

“Of course, Kate!” Nancy replied, hugging her stepdaughter tightly.

“By the way, how is Cass?” asked Kate.

“Her usual self. For better or worse.”

 

An hour later, Doris was stood in the Los Angeles hills, looking over the city, and waiting anxiously for her contact to arrive. She briefly wondered whether she was doing the right thing, but quickly reassured herself that she was. Anything she did for Kate – or, for that matter, Nancy – was, by definition, the right thing.

Eventually, a 4x4 slowly drove into view along the path that Doris had taken, before pulling up just behind her own car. The occupant got out, revealing herself to be a woman about Doris’s age, though a few inches shorter, with light red hair that was tied back.

“Ms. Mercer, I assume?” Doris asked.

“You assume correctly.” the woman replied, with a slight smile. “Shall we get down to business?”

“Yes, let’s. But first…” Doris said, as she reached into her pocket and produced a small device. “An electronics disabler. Good to disable any recording devices you have on you, and scramble the signal of any drone you might want to send this way.”

“A reasonable precaution.” Mercer said, as she reached into her purse and pulled out a similar device. “Though personally, I prefer the LuthorCorp version. Longer battery life, and it goes better with my purse.”

“Well, clearly we’re on the same page.” Doris replied, as she put her own device away. “So, you know what I need. What’s the price?”

“All in good time. Wouldn’t you like to inspect the merchandise, first?” Mercer asked, before reaching back into her purse and producing a small box.

Doris went wide-eyed in surprise. “Really? You’re just gonna show it to me like that? You do realize I could just grow big, knock you out and take it?”

“I don’t doubt you could. But I know all about you, Doris. Lex was very loose-lipped when he used to bed my secretary, you see. I know you’re always thinking about the bigger picture when you act. And I’m far more valuable to you as someone who’ll trade information and technology when the need arises.” Mercer replied, her smile growing ever more smug.

Doris ground her teeth for a moment. “Fine, you’re right.” she said. “Okay, let’s see it.”

Mercer handed her the box. Doris opened it, then checked the device in silence for a few minutes. It was a small device that somewhat resembled a blood pressure monitor, with a wrist strap and a couple of controls on the face. Finally, she looked up at Mercer again.

“Looks fine. What’s your price?” she asked.

“Hold on! You’re not even going to try it?” asked Mercer.

“I can do that later.” Doris replied. “Besides, you want me to do something in return for this, right? It’s not exactly in your best interests to cheat me before I’ve even done it.”

“Fine by me.” Mercer said. “All I can say is, salesmen must really love you!”

“I do my shopping on Amazon. Come on, what do you want in return for this?” Doris asked.

With a nod, Mercer reached into her jacket pocket and produced an A4-sized envelope, which she handed to Doris. “This should make things quite clear.” she said.

Doris looked over the contents of the envelope, then raised an eyebrow. “That… is actually a bit less than I was expecting.” she said.

“To tell you the truth,” Mercer said, as she crossed her arms and smiled, “You’ve already done me a massive favour by putting Lex Luthor inside. Since I gained control of LuthorCorp, profits have gone through the roof!”

“Along with your salary, I presume?” Doris asked.

“Hey, some of us are only human!” laughed Mercer. “Anyhow, all I’m asking you to do is help me cement my control over the company. You can do that, right?”

Doris scanned over the documents a few times, then looked back at Mercer.

“Okay… yes, I think I can do what you’re asking.” she said, a mild hint of trepidation in her voice.

“Excellent! I’ll give you a week. And if you were thinking of going back on our arrangement… well, Wonder Woman still has that Lasso of Truth, doesn’t she?” Mercer asked, as she crossed her arms and smiled. “I’d hate to think what might happen if someone got in touch with her, gave her reason to doubt your past…”

“That won’t be necessary!” Doris replied, quickly. “I’ll make sure this gets done.”

“I don’t doubt you will. I’m looking forward to doing business with you again! Take care, Ms. Zuel.”

On that note, Mercer got back into her 4x4 and drove away, leaving Doris stood by herself. After waiting a few minutes for Mercer to get out of range, Doris shut off her electronics scrambler, then took out her cellphone and dialled the number of one of her team-mates.

“Hey, Bruce. Listen, are you anywhere near LA right now? Only, I’ve got a device that needs testing, just to make sure it’s not booby-trapped or… Lucius is in town? Great! Can you ask him to call by JLA HQ? I’ll make sure you’re both compensated for… okay, great, I’ll meet him at the base. And I’ll send him on his way with a bottle of sauvignon blanc for each of you.”

 

Back in the Justice League’s base, Nancy and Kate were huddled up together. They had spent an hour watching cartoons, then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon training Kate’s powers, before going back to watching cartoons.

“You know, most of this stuff isn’t bad.” Nancy commented. But I’ve gotta admit, I prefer the classic cartoons. Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, that sort of thing…”

“Hey, I like those as well. It’s just that, you know, I prefer my cartoons to have a bit more of an edge.” Kate replied.

“Well, I guess it’s a generational thing…” Nancy began saying.

“Hey, ladies!” a familiar voice called out. Nancy and Kate looked down, to see the comparatively diminutive form of Doris stood by their feet. “Not interrupting anything, am I?”

“Um… nah. I’ve seen this episode before.” Kate replied. She momentarily looked away from Doris, before deciding that the least she could do was look her mother in the eye. “Listen, mom, I’m so, so sorry for this whole mess…”

“Kiddo, you’ve spent the last week apologizing! And I’ll tell you again, I’m not angry at you!” Doris called back, trying to sound reassuring. “Look, Kate… do you think you can make yourself normal-sized again. Just for a few moments?”

“Uh, yeah. I think I can manage that.” Kate replied, pensively.

“It’s okay, Kate, you can do it.” Nancy whispered. “Just remember what we practiced earlier.”

Kate nodded, and then once again began to dwindle down in size, at a somewhat faster rate than she had done in the morning. As she shrank, Doris opened the box she was holding, and took out the device inside, before slowly moving towards her daughter, as she shrank down to about 20ft tall.

“What’s that thing you’re holding?” Nancy asked Doris, only to be shushed by her partner.

Finally, Kate shrank down all the way to her original height, and stayed there. Without missing a beat, Doris clamped the device she was holding around her daughter’s wrist, and activated the central control button on it.

“OWW! That’s too tight! What are you doing, mom?!” Kate yelled, irately.

“You’ll see in a minute. Just stand up and wait a bit. Nancy, why don’t you make yourself small and come join us?” Doris said.

Nancy quickly shrank down to human size, and joined her partner and stepdaughter. The trio stood around in a silence that eventually became a little awkward.

“Mom, what exactly are we waiting for?” Kate asked.

“You to get big again.” Doris replied, before asking, “Do you feel like you might be growing at all?”

Kate looked down at her body, then back up at Doris. “Come to think of it, no.” she said.

Nancy raised an eyebrow. “You know, I wasn’t timing how long you were able to stay small when we were practicing before. But I’m pretty sure none of our trial runs were this long!” she said.

“Very promising!” Doris said, before adding, “Say, helping Kate practice must have been a thirsty job. Why don’t I get you an expresso, Nancy?”

“Um, sure, if you’d like.” Nancy replied, a little thrown by Doris changing the subject.

“And I’ll bet you’d just love a cocoa, wouldn’t you, Kate? After everything you’ve been through.”

“Well… I certainly wouldn’t say no.” Kate replied, equally bewildered.

“Excellent! I’ll be right back!” Doris said, before hurrying out of the hangar.

Nancy and Kate stood there, looking at each other in confusion for a few moments, before Kate held up her wrist.

“Any idea what this thing is?” Kate asked.

“Not sure. I’ve never seen that before.” replied Nancy.

“Whatever it is, it’s kinda tight. Maybe I should try and loosen the wrist strap.” said Kate.

“I’d just leave it for now.” Nancy said. “Whatever that is, your mother’s put it on you for a reason.” She then eyed the device up before saying, “I think I can guess what it is, but I don’t know where Doris got it from. I don’t remember her having anything like that even when we first met.”

After a few minutes, Doris came into the hangar, wheeling a small trolley piled with sandwiches, drinks, and cakes.

“The kitchen had a few things to spare, so dig in, ladies!” she said.

At the sight of a small buffet of the kind of food she hadn’t been able to eat for a full week, all of the questions Kate had about the device on her wrist instantly evaporated. She instantly rushed over to the cart and began hungrily devouring its contents.

Nancy, likewise, was so overjoyed to see her stepdaughter in such a happy mood that she walked over to Doris and gave her a big kiss on the lips.

“You are such a good mother, you know.” she said.

“Thanks!” Doris replied, before picking a coffee from the cart and taking a well-earned swig from the cup.

“So, what was this thing, again?” Kate mumbled in-between mouthfuls of food, as she pointed to the device she was wearing.

“Something that keeps my – or should I say, our – abilities in check.” Doris replied. “As long as you’re wearing that thing, you’ll stay at your normal size.”

“How long have you had THAT?” Nancy asked. “That would have come in so handy when you and I were… uh, you know… learning to share a bed without…”

“Truth be told, I had an old friend make one for me when I was learning to control my powers. Came in handy but I, uh… accidentally ruined it by spilling whiskey on it. Didn’t matter too much by that point since I had my powers pretty much under control, but after what happened to Kate, I decided to get another one made.” Doris said.

“Well, thanks so much, mom!” Kate added. “It’s pretty small and light, you know. I could probably go back to school tomorrow, if I wore a baggy sweater and have the sleeves cover—”

“School! Goddamn it, I totally forgot I was supposed to pick up Cassie!” Nancy suddenly called out.

Doris checked her watch. “It’s only two-thirty. You should have enough time to put on some clothes and get across town before her day finishes. Take a few things from the cart; no reason for you to miss out!”

“Sure, of course!” Nancy replied, hurriedly grabbing a selection of pastries, then looking at Kate. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Kate. And hopefully, I’ll see you back home sooner rather than later!”

“Believe me, I’m looking forward to that!” Kate replied, with a grateful sigh. “See you tomorrow, Nancy!” she continued, giving her stepmother a hug.

“Bye, darling!” Nancy said to Doris, kissing her on the cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Doris replied. “Take care.”

 

Once Nancy had left, Doris picked up a slice of lemon cake from the cart, and turned to face Kate.

“You know, you’re not far wrong about what you said. In theory, you could go back home tomorrow, use that device, and start living a normal-ish life again.” Doris said.

“’In theory?’ Meaning that I shouldn’t actually do it?” Kate asked.

“You could if you wanted. I wouldn’t stop you. But you see, Kate, the longer you use that device for, the better your body becomes accustomed to maintaining your normal size.” explained Doris.

“Sooo… you mean, if I kept it on too long, I’d lose my powers?” Kate asked.

“Probably not lose them altogether, but they’d become very hard to use.” Doris continued. “However, if you kept the device on for most of the day, but took it off every few hours and let yourself grow big, and did some more practicing changing your size… I reckon that by Saturday, you’d have as good control over your powers as Nancy did when she started working as a superheroine.”

Kate’s eyebrows almost jumped off of her head. “Seriously?! That quickly? But… why, mom? Would you feel safe, with me having this power, able to use it whenever I want?”

“Regardless of how you got it, Kate, you’ve got an amazing gift now.” Doris said, placing her hand on Kate’s shoulder. “I’ve spent so much of my life suppressing who I really am, in so many ways. I don’t want you to have to do the same.”

Kate pondered her mother’s words, then nodded and smiled. “In that case, I’m gonna make you and Nancy so proud of me!”

“Well, focus on doing that at school first. Then we’ll sort out the superheroine stuff.”

 

“NEXT!” barked one of the many customs officers at Los Angeles airport.

A middle-aged woman with dark blonde hair approached the officer, and handed over her passport.

“Good afternoon.” she said, smiling pleasantly.

“I’ll tell you whether or not it’s good… Dr. Sandsmark.” the officer replied in a gruff tone, without taking his eyes off the passport. He then scanned her passport into his computer. “Says here you’ve been gone for two years. What have you been doing in all that time?”

“Researching.”

“That’s not an answer. Researching what, exactly?”

“Archaeology. Ancient Greek ruins, to be precise.”

The officer scowled at her. “Greece, huh? Awfully close to the Gulf. And when an American citizen’s gone for that long in that part of the world, it’s not usually a good sign.”

“Sir,” Helena replied, indignantly, “I assure you I am no threat. I am a respected academic, and I—”

“Respected academic, huh? Well, in that case I’m sure you won’t mind talking to one of our interrogation officers for a couple of hours. I’m placing you into custody for enhanced interrogation. If you require a lawyer, you will be permitted to—”

“I do not have time for this!” Helena suddenly intoned, her irises glowing an unnatural blue-purple colour. “I am a citizen of this country, and you have no right to deny me access!”

The officer’s conscious mind wanted to tell the woman in front of him that she was a pretentious bitch, and to e-mail his colleagues to tell them to keep her awake until midnight before interrogating her. But he couldn’t quite focus himself enough to do the deed. Instead, as his mind seemed shrouded in a haze, he heard himself saying something:

“Welcome back to the United States, Dr. Sandsmark.”

“Thank you. Have a good day.”

As Helena walked away, the officer suddenly slumped forward, feeling nauseous and suffering from a splitting headache, almost like someone had run a cheese-grater over his brain. He looked around in confusion for a moment, and thought about calling security, but some kind of mental block prevented him from doing so. Instead, he resumed his job, and called the next traveller.

Helena, meanwhile, smiled to herself as she walked towards the airport’s exit. Experiencing this strange new world for herself would be interesting. But more importantly, she was going to reclaim what was rightfully hers. And no-one was going to stop her.