Note: This story uses background and concepts from the Teenagers From Outer Space role-playing game, Copyright 2001 R. Talsorian Games, Inc. The characters and story are Copyright 2001 Rodford Edmiston Smith.
Freddy - fortunately male again - walked into class wearing an odd outfit, a snug-fitting, short-sleeved blue jumpsuit. Most people gave him no more than a puzzled glance, but Ramet and a couple of others looked startled, and Ramet actually gave a short, sharp laugh.
"Hey, Freddy," said Karen. "Did the nurse fix you up? And what's with the jumpsuit?"
"It's a shapeshifter's training suit," snickered Ramet, before Freddy could speak. "It changes shape with the wearer, and helps maintain a particular shape."
"Huh? Oh, because you keep..."
"Yeah, yeah," said Freddy, quickly. "I have to wear this until the medical people figure out what's going on."
Fortunately, most of the day went pretty uneventfully, Freddy not even changing once. In the middle of the afternoon, however, people began talking about the latest development in alien affairs. In their scheduled meeting during what for most people was study hall, even the newspaper group was excited about the new arrivals, of whom Freddy had never heard.
"We'll have to re-write our front page," said Karen, with a mixture of excitement and resignation.
"Who are these Benzemen, anyway?" Freddy asked.
"They're an intergalactic force for law and order," said Talli. "They can be recognized by the triform symbol they wear on the backs of their hands. Or other body part, for lifeforms without hands."
"But what do they do?" Freddy demanded. "Why are they here?"
"They said something about saving the Earth," said Jim. "Whatever it is, you can bet it's big. They don't get involved in small stuff."
"Well, if they don't tell us anything more by tomorrow we'll just mention that they're here and we don't know why," muttered Karen, staring at the computer screen. "Maybe the next issue we can print more."
After their planning session, Freddy was on his way to gym class when Talli stopped him.
"Hi," she said, smiling. "Say, can we talk for a bit?"
"Not for long," said Freddy, glancing meaningfully at the clock in the hall. He then resumed staring at her blouse.
"Well, I can do part of it quickly now, and the long stuff later," she said, smiling as she pulled her shoulders back a bit more. She looked around, then to Freddy's surprise shuffled them into the little cubby formed by a storeroom door and the lockers on either side. "Listen, Karen said something about you changing into a girl without being zapped."
"Yeah...," sighed Freddy, distracted by their closeness.
"You actually did, then?" said Talli. "Okay, well, I need to see you after school. It's about why that - and you getting that triplicate power - may be happening."
She winked at him, then sauntered off, the sight of her wiggling rear under her short skirt doing interesting things to Freddy's body chemistry. Things which, unfortunately, meant f-Freddy had to take gym class with the girls. Freddy noted, sourly, that her jumpsuit was now pink.
Freddy slowly and carefully unlocked his bike. He was moving slowly and carefully mostly because of all the bandages, though the pain certainly was a contributing factor. He was so preoccupied that Talli's approach caught him by surprise.
"Oh, hi. That's right; you wanted to talk to me."
"Yeah," said Talli. "If you want, we can ride together."
"That's okay," said Freddy, with a bit of a sigh. "Karen's not riding with me anyway, because of what happened in the girls' shower."
"Y'know, that's really not fair of her," said Talli, sympathetically. "You can't control the changes, can you?"
"Not really," Freddy admitted, slowly and carefully mounting his bike.
"Well, anyway, I wanted to tell you something, but you've got to promise not to tell anyone else."
"Okay," said Freddy, absently, as he slowly and carefully peddled away.
"Okay," Talli echoed, moving in close and lowering her voice. "I'm a spy."
"Huh?" said Freddy, as what she had said registered.
"There's several of us here, from several different governments. Flinkpoid is another one, from a group that's a rival of the one I'm with. Most of us are really teenagers, trained since childhood. Some are a bit older but can pass. A few are older shapeshifters, who shift into a younger form to come to school."
"You're not joking?" said Freddy, confused. "I mean... Why?!"
"Well, there's a lot of reasons, but the one that mostly concerns you, personally, is so we can gather data on the emergence of super powers in a new population."
"Uh..." replied Freddy.
"Look, most mature human and humanoid civilizations have at least a small percentage of their population who have powers," Talli explained, as they peddled along. "Most young civilizations may have scattered individuals with powers, but even those are usually presented as legends. But the few times a young civilization has been introduced to mature ones they have all had people develop powers very quickly. We're here to observe how and why this happens, and maybe learn how to cause or prevent powers deliberately."
"Oh," was all Freddy could say.
"Just... well, we've tapped into the school's medical records, but some people may not think that's enough. So just be careful. You may be kidnapped for examination."
"Well, that's reassuring," said Freddy, suddenly much more alert.
Freddy and Ramet crept carefully along the ditch towards the center of the camp the Benzemen had set up in the woods outside the city. The pair had been chosen for this reconnaissance mission for a combination of reasons: Both were pretty good athletically, and could hold their own in a fight, and both could change their shape without needing to use devices. They were both currently in human male form, and wore ordinary Earth clothing, all made from natural materials. They wore heavy cotton t-shirts, cotton pants, and shoes of cotton, leather and/or rubber; no metal, no synthetics. Given all the plant and animal life and plant debris in the area, they were practically undetectable by the Benzemen.
"They depend so much on high-tech stuff that they assume everybody does," Talli had explained, without explaining how she knew this. Though Freddy thought he could make a pretty good guess.
One of the first tasks performed by the Benzemen in setting up their camp was to dig drainage ditches. Even though this was the dry part of the year. And that was fortunate for them, because their camp was in a low area and the drainage ditches would just bring more water in faster than what would happen naturally. Still, it did offer Freddy and Ramet an easy path in. All fresh, hard-packed dirt, bordered by tall undergrowth and the occasional sapling.
Stopping every few meters to peek carefully over the edge, they reached the main hut without incident. They waited, listening to the quiet sounds of a sleeping camp and the woods around, timing the guards' patrols. Once sure that A) the hut was currently unoccupied and B) they could get in unseen, they made a quick dash across the open ground. The door wasn't even locked.
"That was lucky," whispered Freddy, as they closed the door behind them. "Uh, how do we see what's here? We can't turn the light on, and..."
"I'm giving myself owl eyes," said Ramet. "There's enough light coming in from the windows that I can see pretty good."
Actually, there was enough light that even Freddy could make out some details, though not enough to actually read anything. He did note that Ramet's eyes were *HUGE*.
The alien boy turned on the holodisplay, with the brightness so low that all Freddy could see was a faint glow. Ramet made fussy sounds as he searched for something which would reveal the Benzemen's mission. Suddenly, he stiffened, with a sharp intake of breath. He quickly looked at something else, apparently seeking confirmation. Then, his expression grim, he switched the display off and turned to Freddy.
"The Big G is coming," was all he said.
"That's nice," said Freddy, confused. "Do we need to bake a cake?"
"I'll explain later. Right now we need to get out of here."
Ramet returned his eyes to normal, and they moved back to the door. Ramet listened and, hearing nothing, opened it a crack. Seeing nothing, he slowly opened it and he and Freddy sneaked out. They closed the door and scurried back to the ditch. They were almost there, when a bright light blinded them. A blaster shot rang out, the beam passing right between their heads, singing their hair.
"Halt! Or I'll fire!" a voice cried.
"You've already fired, you idiot!" said another voice.
"Oh. Well, I've always had trouble with that."
"What's so difficult about getting things in the right order?"
"Oh, don't be so picky. It's not like I hit them."
"And that's another thing! You need more gunnery practice!"
By this time, Freddy and Ramet were in the ditch and halfway back to the edge of the camp.
"Hey!" cried a distant voice. "I told you to halt!"
Now blaster beams criss-crossed the air above the ditch. Not just where the two boys were, but all along the length. These were accompanied by multiple screams, as the beams found inappropriate targets. Just about the time Freddy and Ramet reached the edge of the camp, however, they heard a deeper, louder voice yelling orders. The random fire ceased, and lights began playing along the ditch. Flyers were also taking off, and heading towards the woods. The boys reached the end of the ditch, jumped out and ran into the woods.
"Wait," said Ramet, as the reached a hiking trail.
Freddy looked around in time to see Ramet change into a buxom blond teenager. She winked, and yanked up her t-shirt, showing her bare chest to Freddy. He was just starting to feel the blood begin to run from his nose, when suddenly it was her nose.
"That was a dirty trick," f-Freddy muttered, as Ramet lowered her shirt.
"Sorry," she giggled, grinning. "No time to be polite."
The waited a moment to catch their breath, then began jogging along the trail. Sure enough, within moments a flyer swooped down and spotlighted them.
"Hi!" Ramet called out, vapidly, bouncing up and down a bit as she waved.
Freddy, realizing what she was doing, joined in.
There was an odd, strangled sound from the flyer, which suddenly wavered unsteadily. The light snapped out.
"Have either of you ladies seen some men come running through here from the direction of our camp?" asked a somewhat strained male voice.
"Which way is that?" asked Freddy, in his best Suzy imitation.
"Never mind," mumbled the voice.
The flyer moved away.
"We encountered two more flyers and a foot patrol," said f-Freddy, after she and a now-male Ramet met the others at the designated spot. "Same tactic worked every time. Even the female Benzemen just rolled their eyes and waved us on."
"You were lucky," said Talli. "They've had a lot of groupies in the area, mostly girls trying to get a look at the handsome Benzemen."
"The Benzewomen are handsome, too," snickered Ramet.
"So who is this Big G?" asked Karen, impatiently.
"A cosmic being who feeds on distilled quintessence of ectothere," sighed Ramet, suddenly looking depressed. "He's practically unstoppable. Just shows up, drains a planet dry, and moves on."
"What... what happens to the planet?" Freddy asked.
"It becomes dull, lusterless and mundane," said Flinkpoid, startling them by speaking for the first time in their experience. "Centuries are required to recover."
"That's right," said Ramet, sympathetically. "Lapine, your homeworld, was victimized by the Big G about two thousand years ago."
"Yes," said the bunny guy. "Several centuries of no art, no fun, not even comedic used car salesmen, just bureaucrats and politicians."
"I think he's already been here," muttered Jim.
"No," said Ramet, firmly. "Believe me, Earth is a relative paradise compared to worlds ravaged by this monster."
"So what can we do?" asked Freddy, desperately.
"I have a plan," said Ramet, with a grim smile.
End Part Fourteen
This story is Copyright 2001 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Anyone wishing to reprint or repost it must have permission from the author, who can be reached at: email@example.com
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