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Bill of Health (IC)

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January 11, 2011

Jessica Parker stood at the entrance to Archetech's corporate HQ, a massive black pyramid with a squared-off top. It might have intimidated someone else, but the young woman had been running around corporate offices and research labs since before she could legally drive. What fixed her attention wasn't the building so much as the man she was here to meet. Doktor Archeville was an unparalleled genius, a man who outshone her accomplishments like the sun outshines a flashlight. Her pulse sped up a little bit just thinking about being in his presence, talking and exchanging ideas. She entered the building and trod quietly, not out of the respect for the company or the wealth is represented, but because of the man at its head.

The interior was a wide lobby area, with discreet signs pointing off towards different facilities. Jessica navigated the maze effortlessly, coming to a security station manned by several uniformed guards. She fixed one with her sunniest smile as she walked up and placed her hands flat on the counter separating them. "Excuse me," she said. "I have an appointment with Doktor Archeville. He should be expecting me."

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"Yes, Miss Parker!," a disturbingly perky receptionist chirped, drawing Jessica's attention to the tiny seated woman. "Doktor Archeville is expecting you, up on the fifth floor. Here," she continued, holding out a VISITORS ID badge attached to a blue lanyard, "you'll need this to get around."

Jessica briefly wondered which had a higher percentage of plastic, the ID badge or the receptionist's chest.

"There's an elevator right down that hallway," she went on, pointing to the largest of the hallways behind her. "Have a super day!"

Jessica could sense -- which was, in fact, why she was here -- that the badge was emitting a radio signal.


Elsewhere, on the seventh floor, Archeville was going over some test results from his latest experiments -- the development of a "metal rubber," a flexible material that can be heated, frozen, washed or doused with jet fuel, and still retain its electricity-conducting properties -- when an alarm from reception alerted him of Parker's arrival.

This is so awesome!

"We have an excellent material here, gentlemen, but now is the difficult part: finding a way to make it affordable, cheap and easy to make. But," he roses and headed for the door, "you will need to start in on that without me, for I have an appointment. We can meet again in... two weeks? Excellent!"

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The visitor badge apparently interacted with the building, because as soon as Jessica took hold of it colored arrows appeared on the walls and floor. Colored arrows that corresponded to the colored border on her badge. She took a moment to admire the simplicity of the system and set off, mentally working out the particulars in one corner of her head, even as the rest of her was geeking out over the possibility of meeting Doktor Archeville -- again! I have the coolest job in the world, she decided.

The arrows lead the young woman to an elevator, and once she was on it they circled a particular number. It started up and Jessica tried to ignore the muzak, but she had a moment of inspiration. If Mara could use her abilities like a door opener, and Jessica now had the same abilities... She reached out in a way that was still new to her and found the particular computer node that controlled the elevator muzak. She tried grasping it and tuning it to a slightly more agreeable radio station, but either she turned to hard or ran into some security problem, because there was a squeal of discordant noise and a popping of overstressed stereo speakers. She glanced at where the muzak had been drifting from a second ago and winced, hoping that the little incident wouldn't find its way onto a bill.

Thankfully, the loss of the stereo didn't cause the elevator to come to a halt, so Jessica simply rode up in silence. She came out on one of the upper stories, and began following the color arrows again. They directed her to a wing of the building where she felt a sudden sense of deja vu; machines all around her talking about blood pressure and respiration and EKG. She didn't know that Archetech had a medical wing in the same building as their executive offices.

The room she was eventually directed to wouldn't've looked out of place in any hospital, if you ignored the chemical shower and the hydraulic press and the immersion bath. Presumably standard equipment when testing superpowers. She hoped those wouldn't come into play when examining her, but she twisted her wristwatch around all the same. She should be able to summon the armor in here... she hoped.

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A pinprick of blue-gray light suddenly appeared five feet in front of Jessica. She felt the tiniest twinge of vertigo, and she knew why: gravitational fluctuations playing hob with her inner ear, the calling card of Doktor Archeville's 'Schwarzschild Wormhole Aperture Producer,' or SWAP. The pinprick became a disk, the disk a hoop, and out of it appeared Doktor Viktor Archeville himself.

Ta-daaa!

"Hello, Miss Parker! Hope I did not startle you!," he chuckled, and extended his hand to her. The wormhole winked out of existence as soon as he emerged, and the blinking lights on his belt slowed, then most went out.

The records she sent in from Freedom Medical Center were a most fascinating read. I do wish I had been there when she was treated!

"No problems getting here, I trust?," he nodded towards her visitor's badge. "I was concerned your new abilities might have interfered with the signals it gave off and the sensors embedded" he swept his hands out, "all throughout the building."

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Jessica stood up a little straighter in the presence of her idol. "It was fine," she said, deciding not to mention the incident with the elevator. "It is kinda noisy in here," she admitted, "but I suppose it's something I'll have to get used to." She ran out of words and stood there for a moment, feeling dumb and awkward. She felt a blush start behind her ears as she imagined Archeville's mind examining her and finding her banter wanting. "So, um, I've never really done this since I got out of high school." When I was fourteen. "Do you want me to get up on an exam table?" Her blush spread as she considered the possibility of having to disrobe before the superscience superstar.

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Minimal scarring or blemishing from her encounter. Good!

"Indeed, though the table is in a shielded room," he said with a smile as he lead her down the hall, "so that we can gradually test your interactions with assorted frequencies. And so you do not accidentally interfere with any of the delicate equipment here!"

As he led her down the hall, she could see numerous wide examination rooms along either side. Most held conventional equipment, both for study and for rehabilitation, and a few held some advanced devices. Some rooms were more like giant tanks, filled either with water or non-standard atmospheric mixes, some of which looked decidedly toxic to humans. In one, a man of stone was hovering over a large metal disk, which she recognized as an antigravity generator. In another, a woman with tree-like growths on her extremities was getting some wayward roots trimmed with a small handheld laser.

"As you can see we have many station set up for a wide variety of environments, as well as a number of unique tools for our cases. These are needed for those metahumans whose mutations necessitate a non-standard environment, or for whom standard medical equipment would not suffice. For example, a little over a month ago, we had a young metahuman come in, suffering form a nasty infection. We tried to do some standard reads off him, but the standard monitoring equipment got nothing. That was when he told us his body projected a skintight force field around him -- which was preventing the leads from making contact with his skin!" He laughed, "getting medications into him proved a challenge, too -- but one, I am happy to say, that we were able to overcome!"

They also help in testing sections of ArcheStern, which I hope to one day expand into a waystation for extraterrestrial ambassadors and scientists, and a place where we can all share our cultures and ideas!

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Jessica walked alongside Doktor Archeville, her powerful young brain taking in everything she saw; the stone man with the anti-gravity disc, a tree woman getting a laser haircut, something that seemed nothing less than sentient electricity jumping from one Tesla coil to another, and many other metahuman oddities. She suddenly felt like a heel, taking up so much of the good Doktor's time with what now struck her as a petty concern. Still, i she left now this time would be a total waste.

Hungry for something to distract her from her self-depreciating musings, her mind latched onto the problem Archeville had presented her with. "Assuming the force-field was transparent," she said, "you could learn a lot without ever touching him. Visible-wavelength laser thermometers exist, and I'm sure you could adapt a laser microphone to work as a stethoscope, or even rig it as a heartbeat monitor. Don't know if it would reveal irregularities like an EKG would, but just stick him in an MRI machine and get the organ modeled while it's working. Brain pattern's a tricky one, but they're doing amazing things with SQUIDs these days."

Jessica kept up a steady stream of technical chatter, almost stream of consciousness style as she dissected the problem laid out in front of her. She got so into it that she didn't notice when Archeville stopped and might've run into a wall if he hadn't grabbed her. She fell silent and blinked once or twice as her mind descended from the lofty heights of mathematics and engineering. They were in a smaller room, with white tiles on the floor, walls, and ceiling. She realized that the low-level, ever-present jabber of machines and computers had cut off almost as soon as they entered the room. "Oh. A Faraday cage?" She glanced around and rolled her neck and shoulders, trying to relax, and finding that it was oddly difficult. Had she grown use to the background noise so quickly?

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She is a smart one!

"Those are, in fact, exactly the steps we took!," he replied enthusiastically. "Have you considered work in the metahuman medical field? You seem to have the quick-thinking needed for it!"

The signals had been drastically muted, though not completely muffled. When he closed the door behind him, it door sealed shut, fading seamlessly into the stark white wall; once the door had sealed, the signals that had been streaming into Jessica all stopped completely. She was cut off, with the signal from the visitor's badge being the only signal she detected. Looking around, she saw the room was sparse: an exam table, a small stool, an eye chart, ear/nose/throat light on the counter next to a sink that was off to the side, and a small cabinet above it. There were no obvious light fixtures, but rather the entire ceiling gave off a soft and warm light.

Archeville gestured towards the exam table, and began retrieving some basic examination gear from the cabinets. "Now, let us start at the beginning, please: tell me again everything that happened which lead you to contact me about your new condition."

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Jessica moved to the exam table and hoisted herself onto it, perching on the very edge. She hesitated before answering Archeville's question; how much could she reveal? She was all out in the open, but Dragonfly valued her privacy. Jessica might poke and prod her friend to be more open and sociable, but in a situation like this she wanted to respect her friend's wishes. "Well. I had become aware of thefts of several high-tech devices, along with some chemicals from various warehouses around the city. I narrowed down the possible targets for another theft and came up with a specific warehouse, owned by Dawes Tech serendipitously enough. I got inside and planted RFID trackers on all the items inside, then staked the location out with another heroine.

"To make a long story short, we tracked the thief to an abandoned subway station out by the airport. He was mixing some chemical agent; my armor was compromised and I got gassed. I ended up at Freedom City Medical Center, and you have the records of what went on there. After the treatment I started... hearing machines, mostly. But not just machines, anything with a microchip or any sort of electronics. And it's not always auditory; sometimes I can feel the presence of electronics like an itch or a heat on my skin, and just the other day I patched into my webcam and managed to see through it, even controlling it with just my thoughts."

The inventor moved her gaze down to the visitor badge she still wore and began fiddling with it, turning it over and over and tapping it against her fingernails. "It's interesting and exciting sometimes, but I'm also scared. This is my brain that got messed with. I know enough about biology that when anything happens with your brain, it's a serious matter. So I went to talk to Doctor de Havliand -- we work at the Lab together -- and she recommended me to you." She shrugged. "I don't really know what I want, to be serious. Maybe just an assurance that my brains aren't going to melt, or that I'm not going to get a stroke because someone's computer BSODed."

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Archeville nodded, "was it a known villain stealing the tech, or someone new? I have faced more than my share of that sort, and I like to keep up with any new ones, and I do not recall hearing of anything lately from any known villains."

Why cannot more people use their abilities and talents for good?!

"The chaotic sensory inputs you describe are typical," he said as he began a cursory examination, checking her eyes, ears, respiration, heart rate, reflexes, and other standard responses, "for someone who gained such abilities in an accidental, rather than intentional and directed, fashion. Seeing through a webcam does go beyond simply receiving and directing electrical devices, though." He smiled reassuringly, "you may develop further abilities!"

So exciting!

He cleared his throat, "ah, first things first, of course -- making sure there is no damage. So," he reached into his labcoat pocket and drew forth his Electromagnetic Screwdriver, "if you would lay back, I can do a simple MRI scan of your brain to start."

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Archeville nodded, "was it a known villain stealing the tech, or someone new? I have faced more than my share of that sort, and I like to keep up with any new ones, and I do not recall hearing of anything lately from any known villains."

Jessica gave a small shrug. "I've encountered him before -- or, I should say, them. The villain acts and operates and talks like a scientist, but he's usually dressed in rags and cast-offs. He's got some sort of minion, a reanimated dead man with some nasty electrical abilities. I don't know what name they go by, if any," she added, "but I've been calling him Doctor Dishabille or Doc Hobo."

He cleared his throat, "ah, first things first, of course -- making sure there is no damage. So," he reached into his labcoat pocket and drew forth his Electromagnetic Screwdriver, "if you would lay back, I can do a simple MRI scan of your brain to start."

The young woman eyed the slender, silvery tool. It was beyond her current understanding, but that didn't stop her from trying to dissect it in her head. "I asked you to tell me what's going on in my head. Wouldn't be very fair to ask you to do that without looking at the organ, and this is less fuss than cutting my skull off." She scooted back until just her feet were hanging off the edge of the exam table and then lay back, settling her hands over her stomach. "Please tell me you don't need to strap my head down."

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Archeville paused, "Doctor Hobo? A reanimated dead man with electrical abilities? Sounds like someone I should definitely keep tabs on!"

Reanimated dead man... would that Dead Head fellow know anything about it? I will have to see if I can get in touch with him.

Once Jessica had settled down and voiced her concern, he chuckled. "Oh, no, no, nothing of the sort. Well," he began passing the wand-like device over her head, "assuming you can lie... perfectly... still..."

Archeville hummed a little tune as he passed the gadget back and forth over her head several times, once down the entire length of her body, and then again a few times around her head. She could not place the tune.

... Work your cares away / Dancing's for another day / Let the Fraggles play...

"Alright, that is enough scanning," he said as he adjusted the controls on the wondrous techno-wand. "Give me a moment to process these into a displayable mode and... ah!"

Broadcast into the air before them was a life-sized 3-D holographic MRI scan of Jessica Parker's insides, in various shades of gray. Highlights appeared on several parts, in a rainbow of colors, mostly in the brain and along the spine. Archeville appeared to merely at it a moment, then nodded. (In truth, she knew that moment was all he needed, as that was all she needed to notice several things.)

"Yes, this is about as I expected. Ah, we will start with the brain first." The image 'zoomed in' on Jessica's brain, which was now as big as her entire body and thus easy to make out. "One of the biggest changes is to the pars opercularis and pars triangularis," he pointed to a section near the front of her brain, "which together make Broca's area, the region most involved in language processing. Which would be needed to 'translate' commands to and from the codes used by devices toy interact with. There are also changes to your auditory" he indicated a section in the middle of her brain, then one near the back, "and visual cortexes, so you can interpret the new stimuli. Now, I am not sure for certain, as this is just one scan, but my hypothesis is that there was some alteration to some of your neurotransmitters, or a change which resulted in the generation of all-new neurotransmitters, which react in certain ways when exposed to various long-wavelength electromagnetic energies, such as radio waves, which is what allows you to receive and transmit signals."

Far more neurons there than usual, and not just in those areas, but her entire brain, and judging by their interconnectivity they have been there for years. She had some metahuman thinking ability before this happened.

"Now, here," he refocused the image so it showed all of her again, then zoomed in on her spine, "we see changes all along both your spinal cord and the spinal column itself. Those dark spots all along there are metal deposits; your spine is now one giant antenna. Probably a remnant of the original neurotoxin; it sounds like your 'Doctor Hobo' was trying to whip up something that would have effect similar to heavy metal poisoning -- a subtle and largely irreversible neurodegenerative -- and these are the remains of what you been exposed to. Though your pre-existing mutation probably served as a 'buffer' for the effect, all those connections serving as redundant back-ups. Hrm... it would have had to be something the body would readily absorb, and hold on to for some time..."

He was silent for a brief moment. Was he thinking through what sorts of chemical compounds could be used for such an effect?

"... probably a gadolinium-iron or gadolinium-copper alloy. Oh, your armor itself may have been an element of this change; I would like to see it, examine the breached portions. Ah, there are similar deposits all throughout your peripheral nervous system, which is likely the cause of the sensation you have felt on your skin." He adjusted a control on the wand, and the image resolved back to the full image of her body, which began slowly rotating. "See, little flecks all throughout, though the largest concentrations are along your spine and skull. Very uneven, too; definitely not an intended effect. You, ah, will probably want to stay away from microwaves," he said with a slight chuckle. "Honestly, you are lucky you got away with as little lasting damage as you did!"

And lucky she was able to get in touch with me!

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Jessica rolled onto her side and rose to one elbow, watching the holographic display with bright eyes as she absorbed Doktor's diagnosis. It was certainly chilling, watching him pinpoint the metal deposits in her body and talk about how they could be --probably were -- responsible for her sudden superpowers. When she mentioned looking over her armor though, she shook her head. "The armor wasn't involved," she said. "The armor wasn't physically damaged; the villain dropped an EMP and shut down my sensors, forcing me to open my helmet. That compromised the environmental seal and let the gas in." She sat up and leaned forward, staring hard at the projected images. "Is there a chance I could get a copy of these scans? I have a project I think they could be useful for."

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"Of course, of course!," he replied enthusiastically. "A personal project, or something being worked on with others at The Lab? Ah, no, do not tell me," he waved, "that can come later, and only if you wish."

Though I do really want to know! But, if she would rather keep it to herself, I will respect that. She has proven herself, and there is absolutely no reason to suspect foul play!

"There are still more tests I would like to run, like to see if your neurotransmitters were affected. Make sure there are no harmful side-effects, either short-term or long. But, really, the question of the day - one I am sure you have already been asking yourself" he said with a smile and a wink, "is: what do you want to do about this? On the one hand," he held out his right hand, palm up, "I can try to 'streamline' this some, make the inputs less chaotic. Perhaps even create a small regulator you could wear to better help you get the hang of it all. On the other hand," he held out his left, palm up, "I could try and remove the metallic bits, undo any other alterations, and remove this ability."

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Jessica stared for a moment, her brain running in circles. Take it out? Cure her? It was a miracle. It was the next twenty Christmases and birthdays rolled into one. It was everything she could've wanted, and more than she'd hoped to dream for. She opened her mouth to say something approximating "Yes yes, a thousand times yes, do it now, get it OUT of me.'

An image came to her, out of the depths of her perfect memory, and stopped her cold. It was a brain, hideously malformed, flat where it should be wrinkled and creased where it should be smooth, potions starved or else overfed and left to bloat. The organ had been tortured beyond Mengele 's wet dreams and it resided in her best friend's head. Mara had never had this kind of chance, and even if something could help Jessica a week after it started it wouldn't help a woman who had been like that for twenty years. She couldn't take the easy way out, not when her friend didn't have a way out.

Jessica closed her mouth, swallowed, and opened it again. "No," she said. "I can deal with all of this on my own. Bust, um, thank you very much for the offer." She rubbed at her eyes with the heel of one hand, moving to a sitting position on the exam table. "The project I've got in mind is kind of personal. I've got to integrate this data, but I'll be sure to give you a call. Okay?" Had she just given Doktor Archeville the brush-off? She must really be distracted.

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... wait, what? Is she giving me the brush-off? Ha! 'Kids today!' indeed!

"Ah, a moment, please," he said, puzzled. "My question was not a binary, yes/no thing, Miss Parker-"

Maybe addressing her as a teacher would a student will get her to listen? Well, probably not, but it is worth a shot!

"'No,' you do not want these abilities? 'No,' you do not want me to remove them? 'No,' you do not want my help in whichever course of treatment it is you are planning to pursue? Do recall that all I have done is performed one scan, one really not that much more advanced than the MRI you received at Freedom Medical, save that mine was faster. There are still many more tests to be done to fully ascertain what happened to you. And while I cannot and would not force you to undergo them, I would consider it a... favor," he grinned, "if you would let me satisfy my own scientific curiosity and run more tests to see how this change occurred. Superpowers aside, it may be possible to turn what happened here into a way to bypass damaged nerves and restore mobility and sensation to certain disabled persons!"

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Jessica gave a small smile. "I suppose that's the least I could do for you," she said wryly, "for figuring out exactly what's -- exactly what happened to me. I suppose having heavy metals in my body could cause problems down the road. It would be a good thing if I could take it then." For a moment her expression grew clouded and dark, and her eyes focused on something outside the confines of the room. Before more than a handful of heartbeats had passed, though, her countenance cleared and she gave Archeville another bright smile. "Besides, a chance to work with you? I be there are people who would give an arm or a leg to be where I am right now!"

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Archeville smiled,

Yay, more science! And with someone who can come closer to keeping up with me!

"While ArcheTech has made some impressive strides in the fields of prostheses," he said, chuckling slightly, "I would hate to think there are people intentionally maiming themselves to get them!"

"Now, I will warn you," he continued, sitting in the stool opposite her, "some of these tests will be painful, though I shall do my best to minimize any discomfort. In addition to blood, we will need to extract a small amount of spinal fluid. Also, I would like to run some real-time scans of your brain while exposed to differing levels of radiowave stimuli, and while interfaced with an assortment of devices, so we can track exactly how your brain is reacting to and interpreting these signals."

I wonder what she would get off Miss Americana. Could she take control of her? Best to keep them apart, for the time being, until I know more.

"There is also the matter of consent, as your medical records," an adjustment of the techno-wand shifted the holographic display to one of Jessica's info from Freedom Medical, "indicate you are not yet eighteen. Though existing state and federal laws do not require medical professionals to inform the parents or guardians of any metahuman abilities discovered in their children, we are allowed to tell them. More importantly, treatments: depending on what treatments, if any, you receive here, I would be required to inform them. Will this be a problem?"

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Jessica winced inwardly. Ever since November she'd done her level best to avoid her parents; with the Lab and Blake and patrolling, she'd succeeded these past few months. The last thing she wanted to do was to call them up, tell them she'd been a victim of a chemical attack, and was getting her bits and pieces probed by a German fellow old enough to be her father. "Well, why don't we start with what we can do, first," she suggested. "No reason to bother my parents unduly." Or at all, she added to herself.

She hopped off the exam table and straightened the visitor badge. "I think you might be underestimating your popularity, Doktor. You were really one of the heroes I looked up to when I was younger."

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Aww, she is making me blush!

Archeville was, in fact, blushing slightly. "I am happy to hear I have been a role model for others, gotten others interested in science. Inspiring others to pursue -- and responsibly use -- science and technology is one of the main purposes driving all I do. Of course, my other drive," he clicked off the holographic display of Jessica's records, but remained in his chair, "is stopping all those who would abuse science and technology, use it for wholly selfish or otherwise evil reasons."

And all the damage my grandfather did... and anything my Other may have done. Man, is it good to be rid of that tumor!

He flashed a little smile, then turned to the spot where the door had been, then back to Jessica. "Are you still studying at Hanover? I know how difficult it can be, juggling the responsibilities of both schoolwork and the unique rigors of being a superhero, but it can be done! And I know that you are smart enough to do so."

Stay in school! I did, look where it got me!

He glanced over at the sink and cabinets, then back to her, "I do not have the equipment here needed for the blood and spinal fluid extraction, though I can bring them here. Before doing the spinal tap, though, I would suggest we do the scans of your brain under varying levels of radiowave exposure. And, no," he waved a hand, "none of these tests are anything I would need to get your parents consent on."

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Archeville was, in fact, blushing slightly. "I am happy to hear I have been a role model for others, gotten others interested in science. Inspiring others to pursue -- and responsibly use -- science and technology is one of the main purposes driving all I do. Of course, my other drive," he clicked off the holographic display of Jessica's records, but remained in his chair, "is stopping all those who would abuse science and technology, use it for wholly selfish or otherwise evil reasons."

"I feel the same way. In fact, you and my granddad were the biggest influences that got me into heroing. He taught me that if you have a gift, if life gives you a helping hand, you should give back to people." She shrugged. "I'm smarter and I'm richer than most people can ever hope to be. I have a lot to give back. But even more than that, using science to go out and help folks directly -- I took that from you, Doktor."

Jessica blushed as a particular memory surfaced. "In fact, I tried to build your electromagnetic tool for a science fair project back in high school. But it just ended up magnetizing the car. I, um, didn't try anything like that again. And I made a toothpick model of Archestern for Art class, once." She suddenly realized how much of a fan-girl she sounded at the moment and blushed harder. She glanced around to try and cover for it, and ended up pointing at the exam bed. "Do you want me to lie down on that again, for the radiation tests?"

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If I id not know she was loaded, I would offer her a scholarship!

"Your grandfather was a fine man, Jessica," he said somberly. It had been 9 weeks since his passing, so much of the sting of his loss was gone, but hearing the admiration Archeville had for him brought it back. "I regret not being able to spend more time with him; I had hoped to interact with him when making deals with Dawes Tech."

Ah, but now is not the time for sad reminiscences!

"And I am deeply honored that you chose me as a role-model," he added, smiling. "I trust I shall continue to be worthy of that honor, from you and others."

Which should be much easier no that my Other is gone! Ah, but now it is time for Science!

"Ah, sit up or lay back, as long as you can hold your head still," he said while re-adjusting his gadget's controls. "I shall slowly introduce electronic signals, one or two at a time, and I will monitor your brain activity. By the end of the test, you will be open to about twice as many signals as you were when you entered, though if it gets to be too much for you, just say the word ans I shall stop."

The test began, and Jessica heard smooth jazz from a local FM radio station.

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Jessica sat on the edge of the exam bed and lay back, her legs bent at the knees and hanging off the edge. She resisted the urge to kick her feet idly, and folded her hands over her stomach as the music slowly filled her head. It was certainly a different experience than she felt at most doctor's offices; then again, she should have expected something out of the ordinary from the very best in, well, every field. That's not to say that the experience was unpleasant -- quite the opposite in fact. She found her fingers tapping along to the drum line and forced them to stillness. Doktor Archeville had told her to remain quiet, and so she forced herself to keep rock-steady. Still,

The signals shifted slowly, from jazz to rock to electronica -- from digital signals to infrared beams to radio and wi-fi. Doktor Archeville slowly lowered the shielding around the room, exposing Jessica to more and varied signals. The young woman's body responded; her entire brain lit up like the city skyline at night, her eyes started moving under their lids like someone dreaming, her limbs witched as electric signals triggered the wrong neurons, and her core body temperate rose by three degrees.

There was all sorts of interesting data coming off Jessica's body, and she was swimming in information herself, pure binary song. She scoured through Archetech's database, inhaling volumes of low-security files, barely touching on the protected stuff before retreating. She found one file, digested it, and sat bolt upright. In the time it took her to go from horizontal to vertical the strange signals disappeared and she was left staring at Archeville. "There are werewolves in city?"

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... hunh.

"I suppose I really should have anticipated that," he replied with a chuckle. He reactivated the room's shielding, plunging Jessica back into radio silence.

"There is a close-knit group of metahumans living just outside of Freedom City, in the Wharton State Forest, who all share a common mutation that gives them many of the abilities associated in legend with werewolves, though unlike standard mutations this one is communicable, passed on via fluid exchange, such as through biting. I first learned of them almost a year ago, when I happened across one fighting some mobsters in the Fens. I tracked him and met him when he returned to the city, opened a dialogue, and eventually opened one with his 'pack.' I have been studying the nature of their mutation since then, and a few months ago started piecing out parts of the project to others here at ArcheTech; elements of it alone are useful in a number of research projects. Which actually proved quite fortunate," he added with a broad grin, "as about two months ago we had a young metahuman came in exhibiting symptoms of lycanthropy... and we were able to cure him!"

"For now this is hush-hush -- though I have notified the Freedom League of it, i case of any trouble -- and in time I will make this more public, along with various other 'supernatural' research projects I am undertaking."

How is she going to take this, I wonder? Which reminds me, I need to contact Doctor de Havilland and see if she would be interested in my werewolf and vampire projects. Maybe Dragonfly and Supercape, too, for dimensional work.

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Jessica sat there for a moment, processing the information. "It makes sense," she responded, oddly enough. "I mean, superhumans only came into the public eye around World War II, but it stands to reason that such groups were around through most of human history. Throw in all sorts of stereotypes and scares like medieval witch trails, and it makes sense that these groups would tend to band together. If the powers are related to mutations, then they'd be passed on genetically, so a large pool of subjects with the same genetic traits would make it more likely that these mutations were passed on to a large number of their descendants. Throw in a pre-scientific worldview and it's easy to see how one would come up with werewolves, vampires, and magic in general. Makes me want to subject a magic wand to an EMP field," she added.

"If you don't mind me asking, how did you treat the 'werewolf'? Gene therapy?"

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