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The Eyes of the Beholders

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  1. The Eyes of the Beholders
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  4. The fading autumn sun had already set on the campus of Watamatta University. One by one the lights of the old ivy-covered campus buildings were going out as the staff and students wound up another long day.
  5. Donna Waxwain was about to follow suit. She had just put away some ancient artifacts back on some decrepit metal storage shelves in the back of the archeology department's musty old lab when a knock - then a click came from the door.
  6. "What is this?" Donna asked in dismay as Brad Keyes, a classmate, staggered in the door with a large plastic crate. The numerous official seals and stamps on the box sank any hope she might have of leaving.
  7. "Arrr! More spoils of war." Brad said in a mock piratical tone, putting it down on the recently cleared table, "Needs to be checked out tonight."
  8. "Tonight? This late?" Donna said, throwing her hands up in dismay, "Come on!"
  9. "Can't help it - campus mail misrouted it to the art department - who sent it to the foreign language department, before they sent it to the computer department..." Brad shrugged helplessly, "So technically its here on time - and we're just late dealing with it."
  10. "And this must be why the government spends so much money at this stupid university." Donna said shaking her head.
  11. "Your tax dollars at work." Brad said, opening up the box, "Don't worry, I'll help you sort out this junk."
  12. "Its not junk. Its history." Donna said, looking at the disturbed treasures glumly. It had been over two years since the United States had invaded Iraq - and over a year since the military had informed all returning servicemen that bringing home souvenirs of the conflict was not going to be allowed.
  13. Trouble was - some servicemen were not very good listeners. So what they brought home was confiscated, and turned over to the appropriate departments. The military got the guns and weapons, the Justice Department handled drugs, and old Professor Orson Varney of Watamatta University's Archeology Department got to sort through ancient relics which the state's returning servicemen brought with them.
  14. Or - to be more precise, undergraduates like Donna and Brad got to sort through them.
  15. "Oh look - more Mesopotamian porn." Brad chuckled, pulling a shapely ancient sculpture of a toga-clad woman out of a heavily labeled plastic bag.
  16. "Greek porn - maybe from Alexander's time." Donna said, glancing at the fragile statue, amazed that it had lasted centuries, "See the Greek script?"
  17. "So it is." Brad said, putting the statue on a white cloth and taking photos for reference, "I can see why he would want it for the mantle piece."
  18. "No kidding." Donna said shaking her head, and unpacking the bagged contents of the box while Brad took pictures and entered the information into the computer database. An ornate dagger, ancient coins and jewelry, even a fragile clay tablets filled most of the box. Two bags filled with pebbles and powder were testament to how fragile some of these relics were.
  19. Donna paused at the largest find though. It was the last one she pulled out of a nest of packing material in the bottom of the box. Donna pulled it out of the heavily marked bag, and ran her fingers across the heavily inscribed clay jar.
  20. "What's that?" Brad asked as he finished taking close-up pictures of the jewel encrusted dagger and carefully noting it down in the inventory.
  21. "I'm not sure." Donna said, turning the large black-capped jar over, "It's kind of large - but I think it may be a Babylonian battery." She ran her fingers over a serpentine dragon that edged the top of the red jar, and joined with the etched black lid, creating a seal. Sometime recently, it had been cracked - probably in the mail, Donna thought.
  22. "No kidding." Brad said as Donna took it over to the table for a closer look, "Kind of big to put into a CD Player."
  23. "They didn't have CD Players in ancient Babylon!" Donna scolded Brad, who shrugged and smiled. Unlike Donna who was majoring in archeology, Brad was taking it as a minor. As far as Donna was concerned, helping out in the lab was just his way of earning extra credit, and a passing grade. "No one really knows what they were used for."
  24. "So, maybe the instruction manual is written on the side?" Brad said, taking a few snapshots.
  25. "Maybe. I don't think any other specimen has writing like this on it." Donna said, studying it closely, "This could be a major find!"
  26. "Not too loudly." Brad said, in jest and taking some more photos "Varney might hear!" Donna frowned at Brad, knowing full well that Varney had not put a full days worth of work into anything in years.
  27. "Well, the seal on the lid was cracked - recently too. Lets see..." Donna said, setting the reddish jar on its side and slowly lifting the black lid off. A copper cylinder slid out, slightly tarnished but not corroded, "Odd - it hasn't been used." Even the iron rod within the copper cylinder had only the slightest patina of rust.
  28. "Hasn't been used?" Brad said, taking some pictures.
  29. "Nope. It was sealed shut for all these centuries." Donna said frowning, "I wonder why."
  30. "Maybe it's a model - you know, to refer to when they made other batteries. Or maybe a replica." Brad suggested, "What does the writing say?"
  31. "I don't know this specific script - it's a kind of cuneiform though. I bet Sasha could tell." Donna said, wishing she did know the unfamiliar script. She set the cylinder aside to let Brad take some more pictures. A glint of something gold inside the jar caught her eyes.
  32. "Ohmigosh! LOOK!" Donna whispered loudly, her eyes opening wide, "Wires!"
  33. "Wires?" Brad said looking into the jar. Two golden spirals, like a double helix, circled down the insides of the ancient jar. Out of reflex, Brad took a picture of the inside before Donna turned the jar away from him, "So what?"
  34. "WIRES!" Donna said, reaching in with her right hand, "No one has ever found wires with these jars before, and - hey!" Donna felt something wind around her arm.
  35. "What?" Brad said holding the camera at the ready.
  36. "It's - grabbed me." Donna said, trying to pull her hand out, "I can't get it off!"
  37. "Careful - valuable artifact there." Brad said, putting the camera down and holding the jar, "Now relax - and pull your hand out."
  38. "I can't!" Donna said, pulling hard, "Darn it, I'm stuck!"
  39. "Well, you can't break it." Brad said frowning, "We'll either have to put you and the jar on display, or we'll just have to cut your arm off."
  40. "That's not funny!" Donna said glaring at Brad.
  41. "I know, I know." Brad said, as they tried to pull the jar off again, "I wish you would be as flexible as you say you are."
  42. "I - am!" Donna said, as an odd tingle coursed through her body. Suddenly, her hand seemed to soften - and the jar let go, causing Donna to fall down onto the floor. "OW!"
  43. "Hey!" Brad said, stumbling backwards, and catching himself, "See - you needed to relax."
  44. "I guess." Donna said, frowning and looking at her arm, "What the heck?" For a moment, a golden spiral wire glistened on her arm, before it sank into her skin, becoming a golden brown tattoo. If she hadn't seen it, she wouldn't have believed it herself.
  45. "So - did you get the wire out?" Brad said, not noticing what had happened.
  46. "No- I- look!" Donna said, getting up and rubbing her arm, "The wire - melted into me!" Brad glanced at Donna's arm, and then looked into the jar.
  47. "You must've been seeing things. It's probably an imprint from something inside the jar." Brad said, "The wire is still in there - look." Donna looked in and there was one spiral of golden wire inside.
  48. "But there were two spirals!" Donna said, rubbing her arm absentmindedly. For some reason it was brushing something cool and hard.
  49. "Maybe one was buried in the side of the jar when you were stuck?" Brad said, scratching the inside of the jar carefully. He wasn't about to get his hand stuck in it like Donna did - although the opening seemed large enough.
  50. At least - that was his plan. Donna had turned around to see what on earth could be brushing up against her arm.
  51. The sight shocked her.
  52. "BRAD!" Donna cried, bumping into Brad. Brad's hand went into the jar. He felt something clamp down on his arm.
  53. "WHAT?" Brad said in exasperation, turning around - to see Donna's right arm had somehow stretched down to the floor. It twitched and writhed around as they stared at the amazing apparition.
  54. "My - arm!" Donna said, freaked out, "What's happened to my arm?" Brad stared in amazement. It moved up like a snake as the two watched.
  55. "Okay - maybe there's some really weird drugs in this thing." Brad said as they stared at Donna's arm.
  56. "Drugs?"
  57. "Why else would we be hallucinating like this?" Brad reasoned. Donna shook her head.
  58. "No Brad - this - this is real!" Donna said, as she made her arm swish back and forth, and it slowly returned it to normal.
  59. "Oh - like this?" Brad said, holding up his hand that was trapped in the jar.
  60. "Oh no - you're stuck too?" Donna said as Brad put the jar down, and slowly pulled his arm free. It was a tight fit, but he managed to pull it out in time to see the golden spiral of wire he had been reaching for glitter in the light and melt into his skin, becoming a golden brown tattoo like the one Donna had.
  61. In fact, it was like a matching pair.
  62. "That - that's just what happened to me!" Donna gasped, watching it happen to Brad. Brad rubbed the spiral tattoo that now adorned his arm.
  63. "What the heck?" Brad said, rubbing hard - it wouldn't come off.
  64. "And that's the last of the wires." Donna said unhappily, looking in the jar. Brad stared at her - he had been so preoccupied with getting the wire - or tattoo off - that he hadn't noticed she had stretched her arms and neck around him.
  65. "Donna- what are you doing?" Brad asked. Donna stopped her inspection and looked back at herself.
  66. "Ohmigosh - I - I just - did it..." Donna said, dropping the fragile jar in surprise. Brad caught it before it could fall to the table.
  67. "Yeah - these must be some really good drugs." Brad said, wondering if it was real, or the two of them were out cold and dreaming all of this.
  68. "No. It's not drugs." Donna said, pulling her arms and neck back, and waving them before she restored them back to their normal shapes, "This is real. It has to be! I mean - those wires..."
  69. "Were laced with drugs - or something." Brad said trying to find a logical scientific reason why Donna was suddenly a living rubber band. He put the jar down on the table and was studying the inscription intently.
  70. "Maybe its magic!" Donna said.
  71. "Maybe its something else!" Brad said, not happy with the idea of magic.
  72. "Like what?"
  73. "I don't know!"
  74. "So - it could be magic!"
  75. "Or drugs. We need to read the inscription here and maybe that will tell us." Brad said, going to the bookshelf and pulling out a thick dusty tome dealing with ancient Middle-Eastern languages.
  76. "Honestly- I wish you could see things my way for once." Donna said, crossing her arms and stretching them around and around her body, "Darn it! This is going to take some getting used to!"
  77. Brad ignored Donna's last comment as his body shuddered, and shifted. It became lighter and slimmer - except in the chest, which pushed out uncomfortably against his t-shirt. Brad dropped the book, and felt his chest - he now had a pair of breasts! Before he could check his privates, he felt his hair lengthen and cascade down his shoulders.
  78. "Brad?" Donna asked, unwinding her stretched out arms. Brad ignored her and went to the cracked discolored old mirror in the corner that tried to hide a pair of exposed heating pipes. The face of a pretty young girl stared back at him in surprise.
  79. "What the HELL?" Brad cried, surprised at the feminine shift in his voice. He turned and stared at Donna, "Is it just me - or have I become a girl?"
  80. Donna stared is surprise.
  81. "Yes - You're right - we must be drugged." Donna snickered as Brad turned and brushed his - no her - hair back in distress.
  82. "This is NUTS!" Brad said looking down his shirt - yes, he definitely had breasts.
  83. "And maybe - I'm right." Donna said, finding herself stretching her head over to him. Once she got over the freaking strangeness of stretching, it did feel rather comfortable. Brad glanced at her hovering head, and looked down the length of her six-foot long neck nervously.
  84. "All right - maybe it is magic." Brad conceded, picking up the thick book - then setting it aside, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
  85. "Call Sasha?" Donna said. Brad nodded dumbly, "Right." Donna stretched her arm out and grabbed the receiver of the wall phone. As if she had been doing it all her life, Donna stretched her head over and deftly dialed in Sasha's number.
  86. "You do remember how to walk - right?" Brad said, slightly exasperated. Donna smiled sweetly and walked her body over to the phone, reeling in her arms and neck as she went. Brad stared and shook her head. He hoped he could handle her gender change as gracefully as Donna was handling her own changes.
  87. Sasha Tobin had long ago come to the conclusion that she was a magnet for weirdness. Her family was weird, the boarding house she lived in was weird, her school was weird, and weird problems seemed to be drawn to her. Usually it happened at the most inconvenient times. So it wasn't much of a surprise when she was roused from bed to the archeology department to find Donna and Brad in the state they were in.
  88.  
  89. "Business as unusual," Sasha muttered, and had gotten down to work deciphering the ancient writing on the jar.
  90. That had been two hours earlier.
  91. "Well?" Brad asked for the umpteenth time as Sasha scribbled down some more notes as she translated the writing off the ancient jar.
  92. "Well - a place to get water from - indicated by this character." Sasha yawned, scribbling out an arcane glyph on a post it note and sticking it on Brad's forehead, "You must learn to be patient!"
  93. "I am patient!" Brad said, taking the note off and leaning back, "And I have learned what the inside of the ladies bathroom looks like!"
  94. "Not all its cracked up to be, huh?" Sasha said with a smirk, "Sure you can't stretch around like Donna?" Brad looked down at the floor, which was crisscrossed with Donna's stretched out limbs.
  95. While they had been waiting for Sasha, Donna had decided to see just how far she could stretch. What had begun as some simple yoga stretching exercises Donna liked to do while she was bored and waiting had quickly gotten somewhat out of hand. She had found she could easily stretch out the parts of her body she could normally move. With a lot of extra effort she had even stretched out her teeth into vampire fangs and scared the daylights out of Sasha and Brad. There really didn't seem to be any practical limit to her sudden stretching abilities, although she was annoyed by the fact that her clothes didn't stretch with her.
  96. "Positive." Donna said, her head hovering over the table. She had insisted that they try stretching Brad after he had become a she, to see if he had gotten that ability along with his sudden gender change. For his part, Brad was a little relieved about that- it was crazy enough having exchanged manhood for womanhood.
  97. "Interesting." Sasha said, putting down the pencil, "Let me see that tattoo of yours again." Brad held out her arm for Sasha to look at. Donna looked down and with a little bit of effort, brought her arm with the tattoo on it up for Sasha to look at too.
  98. "Just as I thought." Sasha said looking from Brad to Donna, "According to the inscription, you have been blessed with the Eyes of the Beholders."
  99. "What?" Donna said. Sasha turned Donna's arm over, where the short spiral ended in a large open circle right under her wrist.
  100. "See - there's the eye." Sasha said, turning Brad's hand palm up to reveal the same insignia.
  101. "You call this - is a blessing?" Brad sputtered, pointing at his breasts, "I don't think so!"
  102. "Hey - it could be worse." Sasha said leaning back and adjusting her glasses with a smile, "You could be a newt. Or neutered." Brad looked very uncomfortable at that suggestion.
  103. "Thanks for the words of wisdom." Brad pouted, "Exactly what is this Eye of the Beholder."
  104. "Eyes. Eyes of the Beholders." Sasha said, picking up her notes "Keep in mind what I've got translated is kind of rough - and the inscription is in an early Babylonian dialect I'm not that familiar with..."
  105. "So what does it say?" Brad said anxiously. Sasha looked at her scribblings and adjusted her glasses.
  106. "Roughly speaking - the relevant part says 'Behold the gift of the great Tiamat. Blessed are those who are bonded by the Eyes of the Beholders. What one desires, so the other shall become. So it shall be until death do them part.' That's just the main inscription of course." Sasha said, looking up "The rest I'm working on."
  107. "So - what does it mean?" Donna asked. Sasha pursed her lips thoughtfully, and turned the jar around.
  108. "I think it means - you're bonded. Or as we call it, married." Sasha said.
  109. "MARRIED?" Donna and Brad both cried out.
  110. "Well - that's the gist." Sasha said, turning the jar around, "This is some sort of weird wedding gift, intended to make the pairing of a man and a woman equal."
  111. "By turning the man into a woman?" Brad said, emphasizing his plight, "No wonder the Babylonians aren't around any longer. Sasha sighed.
  112. "I have a theory. Partially." Sasha said looking down at the slinky stretched out limbs of Donna crisscrossing the floor, "Mind pulling yourself back together Donna before we try it out?"
  113. "Okay." Donna said, pulling her arms and legs back in. Before Brad and Sasha knew it, she was standing at the table looking as normal as ever - if not for her rumpled clothes and a slightly slimmer physique, "Now what?"
  114. "Now - before Brad switched genders, exactly what were you saying to him?" Sasha said.
  115. "Uh..." Donna thought, "We were trying to figure this out on our own, and Brad was going for one of the books..."
  116. "You said something like - you wished I could see things your way for once." Brad said.
  117. "Right. But you were probably thinking something like 'I wish he was a woman' - right?" Sasha said, resting her chin on her hand thoughtfully.
  118. "Well - I guess." Donna said, "I was frustrated. You know how men can be..."
  119. "Well excuse me - I don't seem to have that problem any more" Brad asked, looking from Donna to Sasha, "So?"
  120. "So - Donna - repeat after me." Sasha said, closing her eyes, "Say 'I wish Brad was a man again.' "
  121. "Huh?" Donna said.
  122. "Just try it." Sasha said, watching Brad intently.
  123. "Okay." Donna said, looking at Brad, "I wish Brad was a man again." Donna and Sasha stared as Brad began to bulk up. His hair shrank up to its normal short length as his obvious breasts melted away. Brad looked at his muscular arms and checked to make sure everything was where it should be.
  124. "How?" Brad said getting off the stool and looking himself over. Everything felt back to normal.
  125. "Eyes of the Beholders." Sasha said, "Simply put - What Donna wants to see in you, you will become."
  126. "Oh - I kinda like the sound of that." Donna said with a sly smile. Brad looked stricken.
  127. "And vice versa." Sasha said, causing Donna to look stricken "You said your hand got stuck in the jar, so Brad must have said something about you stretching or becoming rubber..."
  128. "Flexible." Brad said nodding, "You're always doing those yogurt exercises when I come in here."
  129. "Yoga." Donna corrected him and frowning, "So I undid you - now undo me!"
  130. "All right - I wish you were not as flexible. "Brad said, "Happy?"
  131. Donna tried to stretch to see if it had worked - but found she couldn't move at all. She stared ahead, unable to speak. It was as if she was trapped in a vise.
  132. "Well?" Brad asked. Sasha waved her hand in front of Donna's eyes. Donna didn't budge an inch.
  133. "I think you went too far." Sasha said, "Now she's not flexible at all."
  134. "So how..." Brad said, a little panicked.
  135. "Just wish her to be more flexible." Sasha sighed.
  136. "All right - what she said." Brad said. Donna stood there unmoving, "It's not working."
  137. "You have to wish it yourself." Sasha said, looking over the arcane inscriptions carefully, "And mean it."
  138. "All right." Brad said, drawing himself up, "Donna, I wish you were flexible again." Donna gasped as she felt herself freed from her stiff prison.
  139. "Lets not try that again." Donna gasped, relieved that she could move again.
  140. "I don't get it - what went wrong?" Brad said.
  141. "Poor choice of words I imagine." Sasha said, still examining the jar, "Try saying she was less flexible."
  142. "All right - I wish Donna was less flexible." Brad said, "Does that work?" Donna felt herself tense up - and she tried to move.
  143. "Ow!" Donna said as she moved - stiffly. It felt as if dozens of pins and needles were stabbing into her joints. Her eyes opened wide in horror. "It hurts..." Even talking hurt.
  144. "Huh?" Brad said, "That's not what I wanted..." Donna slowly, creakily stared in fright at Brad and Sasha. Even that hurt.
  145. "Okay - try this." Sasha said, taking off her glasses and rubbing her temples, "Say 'I wish Donna was the way she was when I first met her.' That should work."
  146. "All right - I wish Donna was the way she was when I met her." Brad said. Donna felt a wave of relief pass over her.
  147. "Oh. Much better." Donna said, flexing her arms - and stretching them up to the tall ceiling. The threesome looked up in dismay.
  148. "I'm pretty sure you couldn't do that when we first met." Brad said with a dismayed look.
  149. "Brad!" Donna said, reeling her arms back in.
  150. "Hey, it's not what I wanted!" Brad said, looking to Sasha, who was turning the jar around and around, "Why isn't it working?"
  151. "I don't know - it's not like there's a complete easy to read instruction manual here..." Sasha said, looking over the inscription "Maybe - uh oh." Sasha's eyes opened wide as a thought struck her.
  152. "Uh-oh what?" Donna said, stretching her head over to look at the jar.
  153. "I just thought of something." Sasha said, "Brad didn't have his half of the Eyes of the Beholders on when you began to stretch, right?"
  154. "Right." Donna nodded. Sasha turned the jar around, to part of the script she had skimmed before finding the main incantation.
  155. "So this line of script here talks of making the one unsuitable for their mate - suitable before the final bonding." Sasha said frowning,
  156. "Suitable?" Donna said in a bewildered tone.
  157. "Before the bond is made- something about welcoming or becoming - something - a final change may be made..." Sasha muttered, rubbing her eyes.
  158. "Meaning?" Brad asked.
  159. "It's like bringing the mate fully into the family - by making them physically acceptable to the family." Sasha said in frustration. "I really need to make a proper translation of this, but I think you may be stuck that way."
  160. "Stuck?" Donna said, looking back at herself as she looped her neck around Sasha and Brad, "I'm stuck as a human rubber band?"
  161. "Let me do a proper translation of this entire script to make sure." Sasha said, trying not to yawn, "It'll take a couple of days..."
  162. "Days?" Brad fumed, pointing at his tattoo "What about skipping to the part where we get these things off of us?'
  163. "I already read that part." Sasha said, "Or what part of 'until death do them part' don't you get?"
  164. "Death?" Brad said, "You've got to be kidding me."
  165. "The Babylonians probably hadn't invented divorces at that time." Sasha said, standing up and stretching in her own limited fashion, "Like it or not, you two are linked to each other..."
  166. "Forever?" Donna said, looking from Sasha to Brad.
  167. "Maybe. Probably. Knowing the way they did things, it's a safe bet that if one of you dies, so will the other." Sasha said, putting the jar up on the shelf safely out of harm's way, "It's not like you're physically joined at the hip or anything. Just deal with it until I finish a proper translation."
  168. "Deal with it?" Brad asked, watching Donna pull her neck back in, "Why can't we deal with it now?"
  169. "Because..." Sasha yawned again, "Unlike you two, I have an early morning test in trig to take tomorrow. And I'm dead tired. And you don't want me to do a proper translation when I'm this tired."
  170. "What's the worse that could happen if you translate while you're tired?" Brad asked, following Sasha out the door.
  171. "Well, here's a short list of scenarios..." Sasha said wearily reeling off a number of horrible fates.
  172. Donna followed them, pausing to close and lock the door behind them. She hurried followed the two, stretching her arm out as they went as she rattled the doorknob to make sure it was safely locked. Satisfied - and spying the night custodian as they rounded the corner, Donna let go and reeled her stretched out arm back in.
  173. " Okay, okay I think I can live with this a few days," Brad said cutting Sasha's description of being turned inside out short, "Sheesh, I never knew archeology was so hazardous!"
  174. "Oh, it's not - Cryptology is my major." Sasha said, "Archeology is just one of the requirements."
  175. "Cryptology?" Brad said with a frown. Sasha began to explain, but Brad held up his hands, "Never mind - what do we do now?"
  176. "For me - bed." Sasha yawned again, "For you two - play nice with each other. Maybe you can figure a way out."
  177. "Us?" Donna said.
  178. "Yeah - you're able to use this thing, not me." Sasha said, as they exited the building and out into the cool crisp night air. The clock on the main hall indicated it was well past midnight, "Just don't do anything stupid or crazy."
  179. "Like...?" Brad asked. Sasha sighed.
  180. "You don't need me to give you any examples." Sasha said, "Just play it safe. See you tomorrow." With that, Sasha headed south towards her boarding house.
  181. Brad and Donna watched her walk off for a few moments before they both looked at their matching tattoos and at each other.
  182. "So - um - we're hitched?" Brad said uncertainly.
  183. "I can think of worse guys to be hitched to." Donna said, with a shy smile "Like Stanley."
  184. "Okay - same here." Brad said, thinking of a few undesirables at the university he could be stuck with, "Well - like Sasha said, we'll have to make the best of it."
  185. "I guess." Donna said. Brad offered her his arm.
  186. "Walk you back to your dorm?" Brad offered. Donna smiled, and wrapped her arm around his - several times, "Um - you had better try to learn how to control that."
  187. "I'm working on it." Donna said with a smile as they walked down the tree-lined sidewalk, "But at this hour of night - who else is out to see us?"
  188. In the darkened deserted archeology department's rooms, a thin dark formless figure seemed to bleed out of the blackness. Quietly it crept amongst the shelves, making note of the old artifacts and new arrivals, which had been carefully cataloged.
  189. It paused at one point, its unearthly white eyes gleaming with delight.
  190. "Ah, something new - One of Tiamat's creations. How delightful." It chuckled with an unearthly rasping tone, tracing over the arcane Babylonian scripts that decorated the ancient jar, "Emptied - recently as well. But perhaps it is still of some use."
  191. The darkness bled over the reddish jar and began to fade away - taking the jar with it into the blackness of the night.
  192. Donna's alarm buzzed loudly, rousing Jody, who was the lighter of the two sleepers.
  193.  
  194. "I'm up! Turn it off Donna!" Jody moaned, pulling her sheets off and plodding to the door slightly less than half awake. It was a good thing she was in that state, since she would have stared in shock as Donna stretched her arm across the room to turn off the alarm clock on her desk.
  195. "Stupid alarm." Donna muttered as her arm retracted back under the warm sheets. For some reason, the small bed seemed even smaller than before. Donna turned over, onto something warm.
  196. "Hm?" Came a familiar sleepy voice from right next to her. Donna felt the warm body next to her, her face turning into a long frown. She turned around to see who it could be.
  197. "Brad?" Donna said in wide-eyed astonishment, "What are you doing?" Donna sat up and shook Brad, rousing him.
  198. "Huh? Donna?" Brad managed groggily, rubbing his eyes and looking up at her, "What are you doing here?"
  199. "Me? What are you doing here?" Donna demanded indignantly, "This is my room!"
  200. "Your room?" Brad said, looking over the covers, "But - What am I doing here?"
  201. "That's what I asked!" Donna said, making sure she had her pink pajamas on.
  202. "But I left you here - and went back to my dorm..." Brad said with certainty. Yes, he had definitely gone to bed in his room - and somehow managed to stay asleep when his loud roommate staggered in from another all night party.
  203. "And somehow got back to my dorm?" Donna said, standing up and frowning.
  204. "How? I mean..." Brad sat up, and suddenly realized something. A quick peek under the sheets confirmed his suspicions, "Crap! I don't have anything on!"
  205. "What? Come on Brad!" Donna said, "Get your clothes on, and get out of here before anyone sees you!"
  206. "Donna - I'm serious!" Brad said, pulling the sheets closer, his mind racing, trying to figure out what was going on, "I don't know how I got here - and I don't know where my clothes are!"
  207. "What do you mean...?" Donna said, as the door began to open again. Donna looked at it in fright, "Brad, no one can know you're here!" Donna looked back at Brad with wide eyes.
  208. Brad wasn't there.
  209. "Better hurry - the morning crew hasn't started using the hot water yet." Jody said, coming back as Donna looked around the room frantically, "Hey - lose something?"
  210. "Huh - um - no - you don't see anything - different here - do you?" Donna said uncertainly. Jody looked around and shook her head.
  211. "Um - nope." Jody said, wondering why her roommate was acting so odd, "Hey, nice magic marker work there." Jody said, pointing at Donna's wrist. Donna frowned and looked at the spiral as Jody began to get dressed. As she looked at it, it seemed to glow slightly.
  212. "Can you hear me now?" Brad's voice came out of nowhere. Donna looked around, amazed.
  213. "Brad?" Donna hissed, looking back at the bed - the sheets, which were empty, moved aside as Donna watched.
  214. "Huh?" Jody said, glancing back at Donna, "Did you say something?"
  215. "Um - no..." Donna said, feeling the hair on the back of her neck rise up.
  216. "BOO!" came Brad's voice booming next to Donna's ear, causing her to jump. Donna whirled and slapped something that wasn't there. Donna stared at the empty desk chair that moved slightly, as if someone had bumped into it.
  217. No one was there though.
  218. "Hey - are you all right?" Jody said, frowning and wondering why her roommate was suddenly acting so strange. Donna looked back at Jody, and regained her composure.
  219. "Thought I saw a fly." Donna said, "A really big, buzzing fly. Can't you hear it?" Jody cocked her head slightly, as Donna looked around as if following a fly.
  220. "Buzz buzz!" Brad said unhelpfully.
  221. "There it is again!" Donna said, looking around and glancing back at the bed - it was sagging, as if someone was sitting on it.
  222. No one was there though.
  223. "I don't hear it." Jody said, shaking her head and pulling a sweatshirt on, "Maybe you should lay off those late nights in the archeology department. They're starting to get to you."
  224. "Yeah - you might be right." Donna said as Jody grabbed her backpack and went off for her morning before breakfast run. Donna scanned the room carefully, "Brad?" She asked cautiously.
  225. "Still here." Brad said out of nowhere. Donna scowled at the bed.
  226. "How are you doing that?" Donna said, looking at the empty bed. Aside from a depression, which was definitely someone's rear, no one was on her bed.
  227. "Me? You're doing it, remember?" Brad said, " 'What one desires, the other shall become'. You didn't want anyone to know I was here, so - poof! No one can see or hear me."
  228. "Except me. I can hear you loud and clear." Donna said, frowning and crossing her arms. She stopped as she realized they were starting to stretch. Memories of the previous night's events suddenly caught up with her, "I can't see you though..."
  229. "That's because I wanted you to hear me - not see me." Brad said uncomfortably, "I'm still stark naked here."
  230. "Well - I want people to see you now - again. As you were." Donna said. Suddenly, Brad was sitting there on her bed, frowning and rubbing his cheek. "You know - you're cute when you're stark naked." Brad's frown turned into a hot blush.
  231. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." Brad said, pulling a pillow over his lap, "Now - what about wishing me back to my room?"
  232. "I can do that?" Donna said uncertainly.
  233. "Well - you must have wished me over here - because I sure couldn't have done that." Brad said, pointing to his matching tattoo, "This thing lets me do stuff to you - and yours lets you do things to me, right?"
  234. "Right - I guess." Donna said, "But I sure didn't want to wake up to find you in bed with me!"
  235. "Maybe its something on a subconscious level." Brad said glancing at the clock, "But I don't need to be late for class today. Just wish me back to my dorm room and we can sort it out later, okay?"
  236. "Okay." Donna said, pointing at him, "Hope I don't send you to the dining commons..."
  237. "Donna!" Brad cried in dismay.
  238. "Joke!" Donna said, closing her eyes, "I wish Brad was back in his dorm room." Donna opened her eyes - and stared in surprise.
  239. Brad was still there.
  240. "This isn't good." Brad said frowning, "Try again."
  241. "Brad - go home!" Donna said, waving her hands "Amscray!" Brad sat there, and crossed his arms with a certain kind of resignation.
  242. "Still not working." Brad said looking around and frowning.
  243. "I noticed!" Donna said, running her hands through her long brown hair, "And you can't be seen in here now!"
  244. "Why not?"
  245. "This is an all-girls dorm, remember?" Donna said, pacing, "No men allowed in until after nine. Ms Snodgrass would have a fit!"
  246. "Well - make me invisible again." Brad said with a sly grin, "I could just cut class and hang out in the showers until after nine..." Donna stopped pacing and glared at him.
  247. "Just what a man would say!" Donna started to scold him - then her look softened, "Maybe you should see what it's like."
  248. "Huh?"
  249. "I wish you looked just like me." Donna said with a smirk.
  250. "What?" Brad said with a sinking feeling as he began to shrink all over - and his chest began to bulge out again. He tossed aside the pillow and leapt up as his hands became more slender and delicate. By the time he reached the mirror in the room the change was complete. Donna's brown eyes and fair freckled face stared back at him out of the cold mirror. Behind him, Donna was grinning.
  251. "I always wanted a twin sister." Donna said, trying not to laugh as Brad looked himself all over. She was amazed - not a trace of Brad remained - not a hint he had once been male. Brad looked at Donna in dismay.
  252. "Come on Donna!" Brad said, "You can't leave me like this!"
  253. "Why not? You wanted to see naked girls." Donna teased Brad as she went to her dresser, "Now you can stare at yourself all day."
  254. "I was joking!" Brad said, still panicked and forcing himself not to keep on touching his new assets, "Really!"
  255. "Relax, it's not forever." Donna said, handing Brad some panties and a bra, "I made it so you would look like me - so you could wear my clothes and we can get you out of here."
  256. "Wear your clothes?" Brad said uncertainly, looking at what he was holding, "Are you serious?
  257. "Well, you are my size now." Donna said, pulling her top off and frowning, "Come on - The sooner we get you dressed and back to your dorm, the sooner you get to be a guy again." Glumly, Brad pulled on the panties.
  258. "Mind helping me with this?" Brad said holding out the bra, "I don't usually wear one of these."
  259. "Sheesh - you're helpless today, aren't you." Donna said, helping Brad put on the bra.
  260. "Well, dressing up in your clothes was not what I was expecting to do today!" Brad said defensively, adjusting the bra and trying to get comfortable with it on. "Now what?" Donna tossed a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt at Brad.
  261. "Waking up with you in my room wasn't high on my list of things either." Donna said, dressing quickly, "I guess you had better wear my sneakers..."
  262. "Why?" Brad said pulling on the clothes Donna had given him.
  263. "Because I've never seen you wear sandals or heels." Donna said with a sly smirk.
  264. "Good point." Brad said, pulling the last of his new wardrobe on and checking himself in the mirror, "So - do I look pretty?" Donna rolled her eyes.
  265. Five minutes later, they were at Stewart Hall, in front of Brad's room.
  266. "Nice message board." Donna said noting the dry erase board with a bombshell cheerleader on it.
  267. "My roommate's idea - not mine." Brad said, checking the doorknob, "And for a change, he's remembered to lock the door."
  268. "Unless he's asleep." Donna said.
  269. "I doubt it." Brad said, knocking for appearance sake only as one of the other guys in the dorm rushed by with a bag full of books, "He goes out early for practice."
  270. "Lucky us. It would be kind of tough getting him to believe you were his roomie in disguise." Donna said with a grin. Brad shuddered at that thought.
  271. "Well - its not like I have a key." Brad said, wondering how he could get in. He had really hoped the door would be unlocked, "And I can't get the spare from the office looking like this..."
  272. "Hey - let me try something." Donna said, looking down. Brad stepped back, and Donna leaned against the door.
  273. "Okay - what?" Brad said. Donna shifted aside to reveal that she had stretched her arm down to the floor and had squeezed it under the crack of the door, "You're still flexible?"
  274. "Yeah..." Donna said with a weak grin as she stretched her hand up the inside of the door, feeling for the knob. With a triumphant grin, she found it and opened the door," And there we go." Brad shook his head and the two went into the cluttered dorm room.
  275. "So this is how the other half lives." Donna said as Brad shut the door. It was easy to see how it was divided into two distinctive zones - one side was relatively neat with the exception of an unmade bed, while the other looked like a bomb had hit it. Donna grinned and pointed to the mess. "So, this must be your half...?" Brad frowned as he pulled the loaned clothes off.
  276. "No, that's Lance's crap." Brad said, heaping the loaned clothes on his bed "You know - Lance Brewster? The star jock?" Donna's eyes widened.
  277. "Him? He's your roommate?" Donna asked in disbelief. Brad nodded as he pulled off his pants, "He was voted the cutest jock on campus! He's a hunk among hunks!"
  278. "And he's also the sloppiest." Brad said, dropping the last of his clothes, "And the loudest. And rudest..."
  279. "Come on!" Donna said crossing her arms and looking Brad over, "Don't tell me that now that you're a girl you're not even slightly turned on by what you've seen in him?"
  280. Brad frowned - and shuddered before he shook his head.
  281. "No way." Brad said, "You just made me LOOK like you, not feel like you. Now mind changing me back?"
  282. "I bet I could make you think like me..." Donna said with a sly grin.
  283. "Let's not go there." Brad said as sternly as he could in Donna's voice.
  284. "Spoilsport." Donna said, "Okay - zowie, Brad, turn back to normal!" Donna watched with some appreciation as Brad lost Donna's looks as he grew and became more masculine. In moments, he was restored to his normal male self. Brad went to the mirror to see his restored blue eyes and black hair back in place - along with his five o'clock shadow.
  285. "Thanks." Brad sighed, opening his dresser and pulling out some clothes, "Lets try not to make this a habit."
  286. "Oh, I kinda liked having a twin sister for a while." Donna giggled watching Brad dress, "And I kinda like the view right now..." Brad blushed deeply at the last comment.
  287. "Well - I guess I'm glad you do." Brad said, pulling on the last of his clothes, "I wish I knew how I wound up in your bed - or where my class ring is...
  288. "Maybe under here." Donna said, pulling his rumpled bed sheets aside. Sure enough, there were Brad's pajamas, sprawled out as if there was a person sleeping in them, "Whoa. That's weird. I guess you did just vanish away."
  289. "I'll say." Brad said, leaning over and picking up something gold- his class ring "I'd hate to have lost this."
  290. "I bet." Donna said glancing at the clock, "We still have some time before class for one more thing."
  291. "Yeah - breakfast." Brad said grabbing his bag. Donna frowned and stretched her arm out, wrapping it around Brad several times, "Hey! Come on Donna!"
  292. "No silly." Donna said, "I want you to try something on me with your half of this Eye of the Beholder."
  293. "Okay, okay, what?" Brad said, "You want to try being a guy?"
  294. "No!" Donna said firmly, unwrapping her arm from Brad, "I want you to make me a blonde."
  295. "A blonde?" Brad said, blinking as Donna went to the mirror, "Why?"
  296. "Why not?" Donna said, looking at her brown hair and looking back at Brad, "Oh, come on! Just for a while."
  297. "All right." Brad sighed, not wishing to get into an argument, "I wish you were a blonde." Donna almost missed it as her brown hair faded to a dazzling snow white.
  298. "Wha? This isn't what I wanted!" Donna said, pulling at her hair and frowning, "I look like my grandmother!"
  299. "I dunno - I kinda like peroxide blondes..." Brad said circling Donna and going to the door.
  300. "Really...?" Donna said, "No, no - just make it a plain, bright yellow blonde."
  301. "You got it." Brad said, pointing a finger at Donna. The white melted away into a golden straw yellow, "Better?"
  302. "Hmm - hmmm..." Donna said looking at it, not totally satisfied before she followed Brad to the door "Well, I'll give it a try."
  303. "Next time, bring color swatches." Brad advised as they left to grab some breakfast.
  304. "And that concludes today's look at the culture of pre-Islamic Middle East." Professor Chase concluded as the anxious class rustled in their seats in the large auditorium. The clock behind her was ticking away, coming perilously close to the end of class.
  305. Donna tensed herself in her seat, ready for the mad dash to the front that was about to come.
  306. "I expect everyone to read chapters ten and eleven in Fahkir's History of the Persian Gulf." Chase said, pulling out a sheet of paper and putting it down on the table next to the podium, "You may sign up now for project conferences next Wednesday, or in front of my office. Have a good weekend everyone."
  307. Donna leapt up as the rumble of feet and book bags filled the hall as people rushed down the stairs to the table up front. To her surprise, she fell, and found herself sprawled out across the table she was sitting behind. Her legs didn't seem to be working right.
  308. "What?" Donna thought, looking down - her legs were wound around and around the pedestal of the chair she was sitting in, like a tangle of flesh-colored rope. Donna stared at the sight and looked around nervously as it struck her what had happened. Throughout the class she had been absentmindedly crossing her legs around the chair's pedestal, forgetting that she could stretch herself out into such a mess. Fortunately the tables in the auditorium kept anyone from seeing the peculiar sight, and everyone was in too much of a rush to notice her predicament.
  309. "So much for a prime spot." Donna thought as she laboriously unwound and unwrapped her elastic legs from the chair's pedestal. She had even slid out of her sandals as she had absentmindedly stretched her legs into that snarl. "I'll have to be more careful!" she chided herself. Still, stretching felt so good.
  310. The auditorium had completely cleared out by the time Donna had freed herself. She was picking up her sandals when she was startled by the flap of a pad of paper on the table next to her. Donna looked at the sign up sheet and then up into the bemused eyes of Professor Chase.
  311. "Having problems Ms Waxwain?" Professor Chase asked, her eyes twinkling behind a pair of wire rimmed glasses, "Normally, you are the first to sign up for these conferences- and the first to dash off from this lesson."
  312. "Just trying to get to the archeology lab to get in some extra work. You know how it is on Fridays." Donna smiled weakly as she scribbled her name in for a Monday appointment. Stanley Piper, the grad in charge of the lab would throw everyone out once he showed up in the afternoons on Monday and Friday. Chase nodded knowingly.
  313. "I know- and I also know how much extra time you have put into that lab." Chase said, brushing back her short curly salt and pepper hair. "On my way home from the play I saw the lights still on in the lab late at night." Donna's eyes opened wide.
  314. "We - uh- had a late delivery from the military. More confiscated artifacts from Iraq." Donna said nervously, "There were a few very interesting ones we were looking over." The last part was the understatement of the year, Donna reflected.
  315. "We?"
  316. "Brad - Brad Keyes, brought the box in and helped out." Donna said - Chase nodded with a blank look - she had not had Brad in her classes, "In fact, I wanted to get a better look at some of them today."
  317. "Of course. I won't keep you long, but there was one thing I wanted to say." Chase said, leaning on the table, "Your work in the lab has been exceptional. And as you know, Stanley Piper will graduate this spring."
  318. "I know." Donna said, handing the sheet back to Professor Chase, "Who's going to replace him as the student lab supervisor?"
  319. "Normally Professor Varney, the department chair gets to pick." Chase said, "But this time, I'm going to put in my own suggestion for an outstanding student. That would be you."
  320. "Me?" Donna said, a bit astounded, she repeated herself "Me?"
  321. "You." Chase said nodding and smiling, "Unless you don't want the job."
  322. "I - don't know what to say!" Donna said, still flustered.
  323. "Then don't say anything. Think about it this weekend, and let me know at our meeting Monday." Chase said, getting up, "I think you would be perfect for the job though." Donna sat and watched as Professor Chase left the room.
  324. "Me?" Donna said again, a smile creeping across her face, "YES!" She got up, giddy as a child with a new gift, trying not to stretch as she almost danced down the auditorium stairs. To even be offered the position of student lab supervisor was the biggest thing to happen to Donna all year. It was a prestigious position with plenty of responsibilities - and a nice stipend to help offset her mounting college loans.
  325. It was only an offer though - and it was more than enough to push thoughts of her other problems to the back of her mind. And Brad. For some reason she had been thinking a lot about him during the entire class.
  326. Donna threaded her way through the narrow crowded maze of hallways filled with noisy milling students arriving or departing classes in the large auditoriums. It was a little easier to move through the mass of bodies as she stretched and contracted herself to make her way through the narrow gaps. She was only held back by her non-elastic clothes and her heavy book bag.
  327. Even Stanley would be hard pressed to sour her mood she decided as she arrived in the lab. She punched in her security code, and the door unlocked, letting her in. Donna frowned as she entered. Stanley had been in earlier, leaving the lights and the computer on, along with a cup of cold foul smelling coffee from the Common Grounds coffee shop. Donna checked her watch. Stanley had a class for another hour, leaving her with time to examine the newly arrived artifacts in detail.
  328. Especially that cursed jar. Donna went right for its shelf.
  329. It was gone.
  330. "What? Where is it?" Donna said as her elation turned to distress. She began looking around the lab, frantically stretching and looking into every corner that the jar might have possibly been stashed.
  331. The harder she looked though - the less she found.
  332. For the rest of the morning, Brad couldn't get Donna out of his mind. Why, he couldn't tell, although he hoped it had nothing to do with the tattoo that they had been cursed - or blessed - with.
  333. By lunchtime he had almost gotten Donna out of his head - but he was still looking for her in the dining hall. She was nowhere to be found.
  334. He did spot Sasha, looking like a limp black rags sitting at a table by herself.
  335. "Hey, Sasha." Brad said, taking the seat across from her, "How did the trig test go?" Sasha looked up at him with bleary, sleep-deprived eyes.
  336. "Lets see - first I'm up dealing with your problem, then the idiots in the apartment next to mine start a fire the minute I get into bed." Sasha yawned, picking at her salad.
  337. "Ouch - was anyone hurt?"
  338. "Only if I get my hands on those two morons." Sasha said testily, "The fire was started by a grow lamp - which they were using to grow pot. So I get interviewed by the police until four in the morning..."
  339. "Sounds - fun."
  340. "Yeah. And despite all that, I think I passed the test. Maybe." Sasha said bitterly, "How was your night?"
  341. "Interesting." Brad said, leaning back "I went to bed in my room - and woke up in Donna's room. In her bed. With no clothes on." Sasha's eyebrow arced in thought as she took that piece of information in.
  342. "Hm - well, it is a wedding gift." Sasha said between a mouthful of lettuce, "And part of the inscription talked about getting a couple together..."
  343. "I thought you hadn't translated the entire inscription." Brad said pausing on his sandwich. Sasha waved him off.
  344. "I didn't - I skimmed it, and got some of the high points." Sasha said defensively, "Still - it only makes sense that it would try to bring you two together somehow..."
  345. "Like having me think about Donna all the time?" Brad said.
  346. "Exactly." Sasha said nodding, "It's a good thing you two are an item..."
  347. "What?" Brad said staring at Sasha, "An item?"
  348. "Well - you are, aren't you?" Sasha said, surprised, "I mean - you work on projects together for that class, and you get along..."
  349. "Yeah - but as friends, not - you know..." Brad said looking aside and taking a drink of soda, "Nothing serious."
  350. "Oh - sorry." Sasha said, looking down, "Some cryptologist I'm turning out to be."
  351. "Yeah - what is that anyway?" Brad asked, changing the subject, "I thought you were an archeology major like Donna, not a majoring in criminology..." Sasha smiled.
  352. "Not criminology - cryptology." Sasha said, "The study of the unknown and unknowable."
  353. "That covers a lot of ground." Brad said, "So what is it - a sub-discipline of physics or something?"
  354. "Not quite." Sasha said, "Ever see one of those TV programs on UFOs, monsters or ancient mysteries?"
  355. "Yeah - so?"
  356. "That is popular professional cryptology." Sasha shrugged. Brad stared at her for a moment.
  357. "You mean you need a degree..." Brad began. Sasha shook her head.
  358. "No, no - you don't need a degree - although it helps to establish some credibility."
  359. "If you say so." Brad said, thinking for a moment, "Wait a minute - you're not going to use us as your subjects or anything..."
  360. "Not officially - sheesh, what kind of person do you think I am?" Sasha said, "You're - like a practice run. Although if you want to come out on national TV..."
  361. "No way." Brad said firmly.
  362. "Most victims of mysterious happenings take the same stance." Sasha sighed, "So here's my plan - get those 'Eyes of the Beholders' off of you and Donna, and then I can find someone willing to stand up in front of a camera and show what they can really do with them."
  363. "Proving - what?" Brad asked.
  364. "For one thing - proving that magic exists under scientific conditions." Sasha said smugly.
  365. "Trust me - after being turned into a girl twice in as many days, I don't need any convincing." Brad said. Sasha licked her finger, and drew it down an imaginary chalkboard.
  366. "Scratch off one more skeptic." Sasha said with a smile, "Now, if you're done, maybe I should get back to translating that piece."
  367. "And you need an audience?" Brad said glancing at his watch. He did have some time before his next class.
  368. "I need practice working in front of one." Sasha said, getting up.
  369. Sasha and Brad arrived at the archeology lab to find Donna fit to be tied. If she wasn't wearing clothes, she might well have tied her elastic body up into knots. As it was, she was stretching up and down, looking above and below the many artifact-laden shelves in the lab.
  370.  
  371. "Donna?" Brad said with some concern, "What are you doing?"
  372. "Nice hair." Sasha said noting Donna's change in hair color. She made a bee line for the place where they had left the jar
  373. "Brad! Sasha!" Donna said spying them and pulling her overextended limbs in, and going over to Brad nervously "It's gone!" she said in hushed tones.
  374. "What's gone?" Brad said, trying to calm her down.
  375. "The jar." Sasha said looking at the empty place where she had put it the previous night. "Where did it go?"
  376. "I don't know!" Donna said, going over to the computer and pulling out a ledger, "Look - we cataloged everything that came in that night, right?"
  377. "Right." Brad said nodding.
  378. "Including the jar."
  379. "Of course including the jar." Brad said, "How could I forget that? I was fully female when I was doing it..." Brad's voice trailed off as Donna opened the ledger book. The entry was missing.
  380. "What the heck?" Brad said frowning and looking at the book, "I wrote it down right here..." Sasha went over to look.
  381. "There's the hard copy - and a copy on the computer, right?" Sasha asked, looking at the book carefully, flipping back and forth between pages.
  382. "Yes - but its not there either." Donna said, pointing at the aging old computer in the corner, "I checked! And the manifest was changed too..."
  383. "This is nuts." Brad said sitting down, and opening up the file on the computer "Is this magic affecting everything around here?"
  384. "It must be!" Donna said looking nervously from Brad to Sasha.
  385. "Not likely." Sasha said, opening the book on the table to the point where she was almost cracking the spine, "Magic doesn't use razor blades."
  386. "Huh?" Donna said, stretching across the table, "Razor blades?"
  387. "Someone carefully cut the last entry page out of this book." Sasha said, looking over at Brad, "And I bet that file was modified after you closed it last night." Brad frowned and checked the modification date on the file.
  388. "No - it was last night..." Brad said, frowning as Sasha and Donna crowded in next to him.
  389. "Maybe they changed the time on the computer, then changed it back?" Donna suggested.
  390. "That makes sense." Brad said, "The folder with the photos was modified this morning, and I know there were more pictures in there than there are now."
  391. "Pictures of what?" Came a nasal voice from the doorway. The three turned around to see the thin reedy form of Stanley Piper entering the lab. He looked at the three with his tiny rat-like eyes, scowling at Sasha the most, "And what are you doing here Sasha? Trying to prove UFOs were behind Atlantis?"
  392. "No." Sasha said, getting flustered at his accusation. As the senior grad student in charge of that lab though, Stanley had final say over many things, and could easily bar her from there, "Just helping with the translation of some artifacts."
  393. "MS-DOS or FORTRAN?" Stanley snorted haughtily, "The artifacts are over there on the shelves, still collecting dust."
  394. "We're - just looking some up." Donna said nervously, not wishing to cross Stanley either. He had a habit of ruining undergraduate's careers, "Ah - see, the tablets are on stack five, shelf a in the back." Donna said, pointing at a random entry, and hoping they could retreat back into the storage portion of the lab.
  395. "So it is." Brad said, going along with Donna, and closing the database window on the computer, "See, it's a good thing that we write all of this down. Who knows what might walk out of here without anyone being any the wiser." Stanley's frown deepened at Brad's crack. Unlike Donna or Sasha, Brad had yet to be intimidated by the gangly pale skinned grad student with delusions of grandeur.
  396. "So true. That's why we're archeologists, not supermarket managers or crackpots." Stanley said sternly, "Now its time for you three to leave. I have some very important work to do in here."
  397. "We'll just be in the back..." Brad said, as he got up. Sasha nudged him hard.
  398. "I said, I have work to do in here - alone." Stanley said as firmly and as nastily as possible.
  399. "So, we'll be going..." Donna said with a weak smile, leading the way out of the lab. Stanley followed them, closing the door loudly behind them, and locking it.
  400. "Lets see..." Stanley said to himself, frowning as he went to the computer and checked the last opened file, "This could be a problem. But maybe one I can use to my advantage."
  401. "The day keeps on getting better and better." Brad said, holding the door for Sasha and Donna as they left the building.
  402. "Better? Better? This is terrible!" Donna said as they walked past the library, "That jar is gone!"
  403. "Stolen you mean." Sasha said sourly, "And without it, I can't do a translation to fix your problem."
  404. "But how? Who?" Donna said, "Brad had just brought those artifacts in last night!"
  405. "I know. It makes it that much more disturbing." Sasha said, "My own line of studies has seen more than its share of debunkers, thieves and saboteurs- but never one that acted so swiftly."
  406. "Well - let's think for a moment." Brad said, "Maybe one of the professors borrowed the jar?"
  407. "And wipe out all records of its existence?" Sasha snorted, "Not likely. We're dealing with a thief."
  408. "But they didn't wipe out all the records." Brad said, "We can at least get a duplicate of that crate's manifest from the military, and check it against what's in the lab."
  409. "That's not much help." Donna said, frowning, "The manifest just has some basic information about each item."
  410. "But it's a start- we can at least prove that something is missing." Sasha said, "That's the first step to catching a thief."
  411. "I still can't believe that you think there's a thief in the archeology department." Donna said angrily.
  412. "I believe it." Brad said, "In fact, there are at least two." Sasha and Donna stopped cold as Brad continued to stroll down the sidewalk towards the student union building.
  413. "What? You know there's a thief?" Donna said loudly, dashing to catch up with Brad.
  414. "Yep."
  415. "And didn't think about telling us?" Sasha said catching up as well.
  416. "Well, it just happened."
  417. "So you know who it is?" Donna said anxiously.
  418. "Yep." Brad grinned, pulling out a tiny plastic chip, "One thief would be me."
  419. "Huh?" Sasha frowned, "What's that?"
  420. "The memory chip from the lab's digital camera. I was using it to take photos with last night." Brad said, "I know I didn't erase it - so maybe the guy who deleted everything else overlooked it too."
  421. "So - we have a photographic record? Of everything?" Donna said, wide-eyed as Brad nodded. Before Brad knew what was going on, Donna hugged him, "Oh, I could just kiss you!" And with that she did, much to both of their surprise.
  422. "Hello? Ms rubber band!" Sasha said, interrupting their embrace. Donna and Brad looked down and saw she had wrapped her arms around him twice like a pair of pythons.
  423. "Eeep!" Donna said, snapping her arms back and stepping away from Brad, "I keep on doing that!"
  424. "Good thing no one noticed." Sasha said looking around. Most people were too wrapped up in their problems or rushing off to class to pay any mind to Donna's unique abilities- this time, "So, how to we see if there's anything on the chip?"
  425. "Easy - we take it to an expert in the Pit." Brad said.
  426. "Not the Pit!" Sasha said, rolling her eyes and they went into the student union building, "Who in the Pit can help us?"
  427. "Let's say I've got some good friends in low places." Brad said as they descended the long flight of stairs.
  428. The Pit, as it was called, was centered in the basement levels buried deep within the bowels of the student union building. Student groups, from the language club to the student senate all kept offices of one kind or another below the sprawl of function rooms, restaurants and auditoriums overhead.
  429. The largest office within the dank confines of the Pit by far though belonged to the Wattamatta Watcher, the university's age-old student newspaper. Yellowing newsprint and peeling papers covered the discolored walls where the trio clustered around one of the many decrepit computers that wheezed away the last of their hours producing the publication.
  430. "There we go - hey who's the cutie?" Dave Rivers asked as the final photo transferred onto the workstation. Brad blushed slightly, looking at the photo on the screen. It was a picture Donna had taken of him when he was turned into a girl the night before, before Brad downloaded the pictures onto the computer.
  431. Brad had to admit - he did make a cute girl.
  432. "Brad's cousin." Sasha said, quickly, "What about the other pictures?"
  433. "Lots of them." Dave said, opening one after the other, "Some jar..."
  434. "We need a printout of those." Donna said.
  435. "Can do." Dave said, "I'll even burn a CD for you. All for a price of course."
  436. "How much?" Donna asked as the laser printer behind her whirred to life, printing out the images.
  437. "Information, right?" Sasha said, being more savvy in that area than Donna was, "Specifically, what is going on?"
  438. "Of course." Dave said, eyeing Brad, "The archeology department is such a dry and dusty department - it would be nice if we could uncover a nice juicy scandal about what's going on in it."
  439. "Like you did with the Professor Hamilton?" Brad said with a slight grin. Dave smiled and shrugged.
  440. "It's not my fault we found him making out with a student on campus." Dave said, opening, printing and closing the files to see what was there - part of the price of getting him to help them, "People should be more careful. So, what's the scoop here?"
  441. "Like you said - people should be more careful." Brad said, looking up at Donna, "Let's just say some things have been misplaced and we're trying to find them."
  442. "Gotcha - whoa." Dave said, opening another file that revealed a shining jewel-studded dagger, "Nice knife."
  443. "No kidding." Sasha said, transfixed and getting closer to the monitor where she could better see the detail, " 'I belong to - the true Prophet?' "
  444. "Where does it say that?" Brad said looking at the picture and frowning.
  445. "There - on the handle." Sasha said pointing at the picture, "In Arabic."
  446. "You're right." Donna murmured. She had only given the dagger a courtesy glance since they were busy dealing with their own crisis the previous night, and had overlooked the hidden inscription, "But - the design is definitely pre-Islamic."
  447. "Not by much." Sasha said, looking at Brad, "You took these photos just before the jar, right?"
  448. "Must've - the time stamp and file numbers are before that clay pot you're so interested in." Dave said, checking back further through the files, "Lessee - clay tablets, coins, - nice statue... That's it."
  449. "Everything we got that night." Brad said.
  450. "Including the cutie?" Dave said as he began to burn the CD.
  451. "Including the cutie." Donna said, frowning, "I don't remember seeing the dagger listed in the inventory either."
  452. "I put it in." Brad said defensively, "Accounting is part of my major."
  453. "Not that he can be held fully accountable for everything." Dave said with a grin, "I hope you didn't lose the cutie's phone number too." Brad gave Dave a pained look.
  454. "So there may be two artifacts missing." Sasha said, looking at the printouts as the Dave pulled the CD out of the computer, "That changes things a little."
  455. "Missing artifacts?" Dave said eagerly, handing her the CD and Brad the memory chip "Tell me more!"
  456. "We will when we know more." Sasha said, taking it from Dave, "And not a word about this until we're ready."
  457. "Why not?"
  458. "Because you might look stupid running the story without all the facts." Brad said checking his watch, "And I've got to go or I'll miss class."
  459. "Same here." Donna said, not wishing to remain in the dank confines of the Pit any longer.
  460. "Suit yourself. And tell that cutie I'll be watching out for her." Dave said with a grin as the trio left. Dave turned back to the computer and called up the photo again.
  461. "Hmm - now that's strange." Dave said, noting the strange spiral tattoo on the cutie's arm. It was just like the one Brad and Donna were sporting. He glanced back to the door where they had left, "Looks like there's a lot more to this story than any of you are letting on."
  462. "Brad! Brad!" Shouted a voice over the din of the mob leaving the auditorium after a long winded lecture on economic forecasting. Brad glanced around and spied Donna waving at him. Brad waved back, and threaded his way through the crowd to Donna.
  463.  
  464. "I thought you hated economics." Brad said with a crooked grin. Donna frowned.
  465. "I do." Donna said, "But this is sort of urgent."
  466. "Okay - what?" Brad said as they went towards the clogged exit.
  467. "After my class, I went back to the lab to see if that dagger was there - or if anything else was missing." Donna explained as they got out into the fresh air, "The lab is locked."
  468. "So?" Brad said frowning, "You have a keycard and code..."
  469. "I know!" Donna said nervously, "Its not working."
  470. "Well, can't one of the professors let you in?" Brad asked, "Or fix the problem?"
  471. "On a Friday evening?" Donna said, "Forget it, I tried. They've all left for the weekend."
  472. "Okay - so what can I do about it?" Brad said, following Donna to the ivy-covered hall where the archeology department was located, "I don't know anything about locks!"
  473. "But we do have the power." Donna said, pointing to the spiral tattoo that was on her arm. Brad rolled his eyes.
  474. "Come on - we don't have a handle on what it can and can't do..." Brad said.
  475. "It seems easy enough." Donna said, pulling Brad aside under the stairwell, "I did it to you this morning. Just make it so no one can see me."
  476. "Are you sure?" Brad said, unconvinced.
  477. "Positive." Donna said. Brad sighed.
  478. "All right - I wish no one could see Donna." Brad said. In the blink of an eye, Donna had vanished.
  479. Her clothes though remained visible. Brad stared in surprise as the empty blouse's arms moved on their own.
  480. "Did it work? I don't feel any different..." Donna said, inspecting her hands, "Brad! My clothes!"
  481. "All right, I wish your clothes were invisible too!" Brad said, wishing with all his might.
  482. Donna's clothes remained very visible indeed.
  483. "Come on Brad!" Donna said, a little annoyed and crouching back into the corner as people exited the building, "Make my clothes go away!"
  484. "I'm trying!" Brad said as a thought hit him, "Wait a minute - the inscription said something about what one desires, so the other shall become, right?"
  485. "Right."
  486. "It said nothing about clothing." Brad said, "Remember my pajamas and ring?"
  487. "Oh for crying out loud!" Donna fumed, "Just - just make me visible again!"
  488. "What she said." Brad said. An upset looking Donna reappeared in her clothes, "Look we need to practice or something..."
  489. "I know - a little closer to the lab." Donna said, leading Brad up the stairs.
  490. "Actually, I was thinking of something more private." Brad said following her up, "Not in a public building."
  491. "Don't worry- I know just the spot!" Donna said as they reached the same floor that the lab was on. Donna glanced up and down the hall before going to the utility closet, "This is always unlocked."
  492. "How do you know that?" Brad asked as Donna turned the knob. The door opened quietly.
  493. "Because I listen to the janitors complaining about budget cuts." Donna said with a smirk as she turned on the light in the tiny closet, and pulled the door closed, "Now, I'll undress in here..."
  494. "And I don't get to watch?" Brad teased.
  495. "Yes - you get to watch my clothes after you turn me invisible." Donna said, closing the door. Brad sighed and leaned against the door, waiting for Donna. It seemed like forever before she called through the door.
  496. "Okay - I'm ready!" Donna called.
  497. "Fine - I wish you were invisible." Brad said, stepping back. The door slowly swung open. No one was there.
  498. "This is so neat!" Donna's voice giggled out of thin air, "How do I look?"
  499. "Like a total airhead." Brad said, peering in and seeing Donna's bulging book bag. She had stashed her clothes in it he guessed, and grabbed it, "So now what?"
  500. "Now I get into the lab." Donna's voice said trailing away from Brad and towards the archeology lab.
  501. "How?" Brad said, quietly as a few students exited from one of the other rooms on the floor and passed them, "You said the door is locked."
  502. "It is." Donna said as they reached the door. Brad regarded the keypad lock next to the door as Donna continued, "Luckily, I'm very flexible now."
  503. "So?" Brad said looking around.
  504. "So if I could get my arm under your door - I should be able to get under this door." Donna said as Brad felt a kiss on his cheek, "Wish me luck!"
  505. "Huh? Donna..." Brad said frowning. Donna made no reply. He could just envision Donna stretching her elastic body under the door, first flattening out her firm curves then stretching back into her proper shape on the other side of the door. Then there would be a search. Without her clothes on to restrict her movements, Brad figured it wouldn't take too long for her to stretch and view all the shelves in the lab.
  506. Brad stood outside, waiting.
  507. Inside the lab, Donna finished pulling her body through the thin crack, instinctively looking back at it. She couldn't see it any more than Brad could, which made it slightly disturbing. She felt herself all over to make sure she was somewhat back in shape before she began to look through the dusty artifact laden shelves in the lab.
  508.  
  509. She went right to the steel cabinet where the more valuable artifacts were kept. To her surprise, it was unlocked.
  510. "No knife." Donna muttered, looking in the cabinet she had seen Brad place it in the night before. On the separate inventory that was kept for the cabinet there wasn't even a mention of a knife. Donna frowned, flipping over the pages. She had seen Brad make the entry for the knife too - how could she miss it the way he was complaining about being a girl? And the late Ottoman Empire coins they had catalogued were in place on the inventory, and in the cabinet.
  511. Something wasn't adding up.
  512. It struck her just as she heard voices outside the door. Quickly, she put the inventory away, and closed the cabinet door as the beep of a keypad and the sudden clack of a steel deadbolt told her that she had company.
  513. "All right - go in and get your stuff." Said Stanley, looking madder than usual. Brad ducked by him and went to the desk.
  514. "I really don't know where else my ID card could be." Brad said, fumbling around, "Good thing you came along or I'd be starving all weekend."
  515. "Whatever." Stanley said, gripping a plastic bag from the town's camera shop, and blocking the doorway "Just find it and go. I have important things to work on here." Donna frowned. Stanley hated doing anything extra, unless it involved tormenting another student.
  516. "Found it!" Brad said, holding up the missing card, "Now I'm gonna get me some grub!" Brad said the last part loudly. Donna got the hint - he was leaving with or without her.
  517. She had no intention of being left behind.
  518. "Then go! And I don't want to see you again until the lab class on Thursday!" Stanley said. Donna, not wishing to stay, flattened herself out and slipped by Stanley before Brad was show out the door.
  519. Stanley shut the door loudly behind Brad. Satisfied he was alone, he hurriedly opened the bag, and began cutting open a package containing a memory chip for the lab's camera. As he opened it, his eyes fell on a tiny sliver of blue.
  520. "Oh crap!" Stanley cursed, picking up the missing chip, and wondering how he could have overlooked it.
  521. "What's the big idea?" Donna said as Brad went down the stairs. Startled, Brad turned, and missed a step, tumbling down to the landing. Instinctively, Donna stretched her arms out to catch Brad before he hit. "Oh! Sorry!"
  522. "Don't do that!" Brad said, feeling Donna's invisible flexible limbs coiling around him and keeping him from crashing onto the hard floor. Brad grabbed the rail, and steadied himself, feeling Donna loosen up as he did, "Stanley showed up..."
  523. "I noticed." Donna said in a hushed tone as she let go of Brad. Brad nodded and continued down the stairs.
  524. "Wanted to know why I was there - and so I told him I left my card behind..." Brad said reaching the door, "And it gave me a chance to sneak the camera's memory chip back in."
  525. "Good idea - we don't need two thieves in the lab..." Donna said stopping, "Hey! I'm not going out like this!"
  526. "Why not? No one can see you."
  527. "The pavement is going to hurt my feet!" Donna complained. The tracked in dirt and grime were already hurting her feet.
  528. "Okay - your feet are as tough as leather. Happy?" Brad said. Donna felt a tingle, and suddenly her feet seemed tougher - more durable. Donna stamped one to check. It was as if she was wearing shoes.
  529. "Not bad." Donna said, "But why not just make me visible?"
  530. "Because Stanley told me to get out of here." Brad said, going out into the courtyard, "I'll make you visible back at the dorm..." Brad felt himself pulled back and to the side by an invisible coil about his arm. A few passing students noticed his odd change of direction, but most ignored it.
  531. "No way!" Donna hissed, pulling Brad towards the library, "Let's do it as soon as possible."
  532. "In the library?" Brad said, falling into step next to Donna's invisible form, "Come on..."
  533. "I know the perfect spot." Donna said as they went in. In a few minutes they were deep among the shelves, in an area nearly pitch black. The lights over those moldering tomes flickered dimly if at all.
  534. "Shouldn't they fix these?" Brad said, holding out Donna's book bag. Donna's invisible hand took it.
  535. "Budget cuts or something." Donna said, opening the bag and pulling out some clothes, "Besides, there's no real demand for these books or they would have fixed the lights long ago." Brad watched as a pair of panties floated for a moment before sliding up and into place on Donna's derriere.
  536. "Uh-huh." Brad said, looking over the arcane titles, and trying not to gawk as Donna put her bra on "Did you find the knife?"
  537. "No. And some other valuable things were missing too." Donna said, pulling her socks on her invisible feet, "Coins, a piece of jewelry..."
  538. "So there is a thief." Brad said watching the assembleage of undergarments rummage through the bag.
  539. "A clever one too." Donna said, "You borrowed my purple pen last night, right?" Brad groaned.
  540. "Yes, but I gave it back to you." Brad said. He had been slightly freaked out becoming a girl, and had made some off color remarks about how he should learn to use girly pens to do his work, "I wasn't exactly myself y'know..."
  541. "I know, I know." Donna snickered as she pulled her blouse on, and pulled back her long invisible hair, "But you made entries on the inventory sheets with it, right?"
  542. "Right." Brad said, watching Donna's empty sleeves pick up her slacks and pull them on, "So?"
  543. "The inventory sheets didn't have any colored ink on them at all." Donna said, tucking in her shirt.
  544. "No colored ink?" Brad frowned and thought for a moment, "So - they're photocopies?"
  545. "Right." Donna said, putting her shoes on, "The way I figure it, whoever is stealing is using white-out to rub out entries, making copies, and putting the copies in place of the originals."
  546. "Clever." Brad said, "But how could they get by Stanley? He watches that place like a hawk most of the time."
  547. "Like you said - someone very clever. Besides, Stanley isn't there all the time, or I'd probably be stuck with him and this curse instead of you." Donna said, looking over her clothes - everything seemed to be where it should, on her slim invisible frame "So - did you like the show?"
  548. "Very much." Brad said, slightly embarrassed for watching the strange sight.
  549. "Well?"
  550. "Well what?" Brad said dumbly. Donna's empty sleeves crossed her chest. Brad could sense a frown on her face.
  551. "Aren't you going to make me visible again?" Donna said.
  552. "Oh - oh, right!" Brad said, "I wish you were visible again." As soon as he said it, Donna reappeared, inside her clothes.
  553. "Much better." Donna said inspecting her fingers, then pulling out a compact, "Hey! My hair!" It had shifted from the brilliant blonde back to her normal drab shade. She looked at Brad with a slight frown.
  554. "What can I say?" Brad shrugged, "I think you look better as a brunette."
  555. "Well - all right." Donna said as a smile crept across her face, and she picked up her bag "So - What are you doing for dinner?"
  556. "I don't know." Brad said, shouldering his own bag, "But since I'm hungry I think I'm going off to get some. Interested?"
  557. "I think so." Donna said.
  558. Brad stirred as he bumped into something warm and soft under the covers.  Wearily he cracked his eyes open to view the dimly lit room.  His room.
  559.  
  560. "Good." Brad murmured, turning over - to see Donna's smiling sleeping face resting on the bed next to him. "Bad." Brad muttered, wondering how to rouse her without causing a scene.
  561.  
  562. Just then, Lance's alarm clock went off, blaring the university's radio show.
  563.  
  564. "Huh?  Wha?  Brad!" Donna managed as she was stirred from her slumber by the racket.  Brad glanced over at Lance who was stirring.
  565.  
  566. "Sorry to do this - but I wish no one knew you were here." Brad said.  He certainly didn't want Lance to know about it.  Donna looked startled for a moment before she vanished out of sight.  Only her outline under the sheets and on the mattress could really be seen.  Brad looked down the narrow room to see Lance getting up.
  567.  
  568. "Another weekend - another game!" Yawned Lance who rolled out of his bed, "Now if they would only get rid of the classes here, I'd be all set."
  569.  
  570. "No kidding." Brad said, sitting up and trying to look tired as Lance tossed off his bedclothes, "Who's it today?"
  571.  
  572. "Grudge match against Miskatonic University." Lance said grinning, and grabbing fresh clothes "They're never going to know what hit them."
  573.  
  574. "If you say so..." Brad said as he felt something soft and warm slide and slither by him, "So it's an all day thing?"
  575.  
  576. "Yeah - drive over, kick their butts, drive back." Lance shrugged, pulling on his pants "As easy as that.  Huh?" Lance stopped and looked around.
  577.  
  578. "What?" Brad said, hoping it wasn't what he was about to hear.
  579.  
  580. "I thought - nah." Lance said dismissing the thought, then frowning again and looking around, "There it is again!"
  581.  
  582. "What?"
  583.  
  584. "Just - weird feelings on my face." Lance said rubbing it, before pulling his t-shirt on, "Like someone is giving me a kiss and is massaging me..."
  585.  
  586. "Brain damage from too much football." Brad said, getting up.  Lance frowned at him, as Brad added "I mean, it's not like there's a naked invisible oversexed girl in this room, is there?"  Brad felt a sudden winding around his arms.
  587.  
  588. "Yeah - that's a good one." Lance snorted, stuffing some gear into his duffel bag and finishing, "If there was one, I'd have to say - hey - I really can't see a good relationship happening here.  Y'knowwhutImean?"
  589.  
  590. "Right.  See you later." Brad said as Lance went to the door.  As soon as the door shut, Brad let out a sigh of relief, "All right, I wish Donna was back to normal."  Slowly, Donna's stretched out form faded back into view.  Her rear and legs remained in Brad's bed, with her midsection coiled around Brad's arms.  Donna's upper torso was stretched out to the door, where she was looking at him with a slight scowl.
  591.  
  592. What's your problem?" Donna said, leaning against the door "I told you I just had to inspect your roommate's goods!"
  593.  
  594. "No you didn't."
  595.  
  596. "Yes I did!"
  597.  
  598. "Did you wish it so I could hear you - like I did to you yesterday?" Brad asked.  Donna frowned, leaning into the corner created by the door and the wall.
  599.  
  600. "No." Donna admitted, "But I still don't see what the problem is."
  601.  
  602. "The problem is, we're trying to figure these things out." Brad said pointing at the spiral tattoo on his arm, "And you don't want everyone to know what we're capable of."
  603.  
  604. "Okay, okay!" Donna said, sinking slightly lower, "But its not like anyone could see or hear me when you wished me that way."
  605.  
  606. "I know - but I could feel you..." Brad began before the door flew open, squashing Donna against the wall.
  607.  
  608. "Almost forgot the jacket!" Lance said, reaching into the closet next to the door and grabbing his varsity jacket without looking in, "Damn, its cold out today!"  With that, he shut the door, and a flattened Donna dropped the rest of the way to the ground.
  609.  
  610. "Ow!" Donna said, picking herself up and shaking her flattened upper body back into its normal shape, "That almost hurt!"
  611.  
  612. "I'll bet." Brad said, taking advantage of Donna's loosened coils to push them off his arms and go over to her upper portion, "Not too bad I hope."
  613.  
  614. "No." Donna said, rising up, snakelike and slowly stretching back to her normal proportions as she rubbed her head, "Mostly from surprise, y'know.   I'm still getting used to stretching."
  615.  
  616. "And the lack of clothing." Brad said as Donna sat on the bed, restored to her normal shape, "Good thing I still have those clothes you lent me yesterday."  Donna stopped rubbing her head and smiled.
  617.  
  618. "I had a brainstorm about that after you left last night." Donna said, "Maybe we can't change the clothes we're wearing, but we could create new clothes."
  619.  
  620. "Okay..." Brad said, slightly puzzled as Donna stood up, leaving nothing to the imagination.
  621.  
  622. "Okay, now close your eyes - and think of me wearing a nice pink tee and blue slacks." Donna said, "Then do that wishing thing."
  623.  
  624. "Okay." Brad said, closing his eyes, "I wish - what Donna said happens." Donna felt a tingle across her body, and she began to feel lighter.  Airier.  Her skin seemed to be pulling away onto folds of cloth and turning pink and blue. Just like a pink t-shirt and slacks.
  625.  
  626. "Its working - it's..." Donna managed as her arms vanished. Donna waved her empty sleeves in astonishment as she began to slowly drop to the floor in a heap of limp fabric, "It's not..." Donna managed as her head slowly sank into the shirt collar, becoming part of the fabric.  She couldn't see at all, although she could feel - and hear.  She lay there helplessly, waiting for Brad.
  627.  
  628. "Did it work - Donna?" Brad said, cracking his eye open, then both - and looking around.  Brad turned around, expecting to see Donna at the mirror admiring herself.  She wasn't there.  Brad turned around again, and his feet brushed something on the floor.
  629.  
  630. "Oh - crud." Brad said, picking up the limp pink t-shirt and slacks, "Donna - it that you?"
  631.  
  632. "Yes it IS!" Donna thought back to Brad, feeling excited by his touch, "Hell-ooo!"
  633.  
  634. Clothing of course, can't speak on its own.  Brad frowned for a moment.
  635.  
  636. "Okay - if you are Donna- I wish you could speak to me." Brad said, gently laying the clothes out on the bed.
  637.  
  638. "Can you hear me now?" Donna's voice came to Brad - more in his head than in his ears.
  639.  
  640. "Yes - so you are the clothes?" Brad asked, sitting at his desk and looking at the spread out t-shirt and slacks.
  641.  
  642. "No DUH!" Donna thought back hastily, "What were you thinking to turn me into - this?"
  643.  
  644. "I was doing just as you said." Brad said honestly, "I think we need to practice with these more."
  645.  
  646. "No kidding!" Donna thought back, "Now turn me back to normal!"
  647.  
  648. "What - you don't want to try being clothing for a while?" Brad asked, "See how it feels to be worn?  I mean we might have to..."
  649.  
  650. "No!" Donna said - although the idea did tickle the back of her mind.  What would it be like being worn, she wondered.
  651.  
  652. "Or going through the wash..." Brad teased her, interrupting her train of thought.
  653.  
  654. "Okay - if you think its so neat, you try it!" Donna thought back, wishing Brad into a suit.  Brad felt the tell tale tingle and watched as his hands vanished and his arms became sleeves.  Since he was wearing clothes already, it was less noticeable as his legs flattened out, and flesh turned to fabric.  Brad's head was the last to vanish as he drooped over the back of the chair, making an odd sight as a sharp new tuxedo wearing a ratty pair of pajamas.  Inwardly, Brad sighed to himself.
  655.  
  656. "So - do you like it?" Donna giggled - she wasn't able to see as clothing, but she knew it must have happened.
  657.  
  658. "It's - interesting." Brad thought back, "But I was only teasing..."
  659.  
  660. "Don't tease me!" Donna thought back, feeling slightly guilty - and almost wishing she had turned Brad into a girl so he could try wearing her around.  She banished that thought from her mind, "Just turn me back to normal!"
  661.  
  662. "Done." Brad thought back.  Donna felt her flattened form fill up as she took a deep breath of air.  She blinked as her head and eyes reappeared, followed by her limbs.  Donna sat up on the bed and stretched, flexing her fingers and enjoying the restoration of her body.
  663.  
  664. "Much better." Donna said to herself as she glanced at the desk chair filled with a pajama wearing tuxedo.
  665.  
  666. "Mind returning the favor?" Brad asked - in Donna's head, much to her surprise.
  667.  
  668. "Your wish is my command." Donna said, crossing her arms and nodding her head like a certain genie from TV.  She watched as the black suit changed to flesh color and inflated on the chair, becoming Brad again - just before he tumbled to the floor, "Better?"
  669.  
  670. "Much." Brad said, picking himself up and dusting himself off.
  671.  
  672. "Sure you didn't want to try being worn?" Donna teased him.  Brad gave her a weak smile as he reached under the bed and pulled out a large duffel bag.
  673.  
  674. "Maybe later." Brad said, pulling the clothes he had borrowed from Donna out of the bag, "Sorry I didn't get to wash them yet."
  675.  
  676. "It's the thought that counts I guess." Donna said, taking them, "We'll have to go shopping for you at this rate."
  677.  
  678. "Shopping?" Brad said, pulling on some clothes and frowning.
  679.  
  680. "Well, if you're going to appear nude in my bed - and me here every other day - we're going to need more clothes!" Donna said with a twinkle in her eyes.  Brad groaned at the thought, "Come on - it'll be fun!  I'll even let you try some on as a girl."
  681.  
  682. "Donna - oh, crap..." Brad said as he felt the familiar tingle and changes pass over his body.  Donna had switched his gender again, and became a duplicate of Donna, "Knock it off!  Maybe we should get some clothes for me instead."
  683.  
  684. "Huh?  HEY!" Donna cried as her breasts shrank down - and she felt something grow between her legs.   She dropped her clothes and went over to the mirror.  Brad's face stared back at her in surprise, "No fair Brad.  Turn me back now!"
  685.  
  686. "Or - what?" Brad asked, picking up the clothes Donna discarded.  Donna scowled at Brad, who suddenly felt a draft across his head.  He reached up to find that his long locks of hair had vanished, leaving him bald, "You know, we could keep this up all day."
  687.  
  688. "No kidding." Donna said as she felt her body snap back to normal.  She returned the favor to Brad, and they were both inspecting themselves to make sure everything was back in place, "Its also - kinda fun."
  689.  
  690. "Fun.  Right." Brad said with a disjointed smile, as he handed Donna her clothes back and began to get dressed.
  691.  
  692. "Come on!  It is kinda neat!" Donna said, coiling her arms around Brad.
  693.  
  694. "Okay - it is kinda neat." Brad admitted, "And we need to - practice.  Figure these things out so we don't make some major mistakes."
  695.  
  696. "Okay - lets start now." Donna said, setting her clothes aside.
  697.  
  698. "No - bathroom and breakfast first - then some practice." Brad said, "Unless you want to prove you're an unabashed exhibitionist."
  699.  
  700. "Oh - you..." Donna frowned, then relented.  She was a little hungry. "All right - but we'll have to do it here, since your roommate is out."
  701.  
  702. "Great minds think alike." Brad said, nodding as Donna got dressed.
  703.  
  704. Some time later, they returned to Brad's room, with a bag of clothing from the campus store.
  705.  
  706. "I don't see why we need so much clothing." Brad said.
  707. "Half for here - half for my room." Donna said, putting her bag down as Brad shut and locked the door.
  708. "Yeah, but Sasha should be translating a cure off of the pictures, right?" Brad said, sitting down on the bed, "We could be free of this tomorrow for all we know!"
  709. "That's why we kept the receipt, silly." Donna said sitting next to Brad, "Besides, what if there isn't a cure? We could be stuck like this for a long time."
  710. "Which brings us back to practicing with these things." Brad said, looking at the tattoo on his arm and comparing it to Donna's, "So - 'what one desires, so the other shall become.' That covers a lot of ground."
  711. "Lets see - it's made me stretchy - both of us switch gender, and into clothing..." Donna said thinking, "What else is there?"
  712. "Lots - like this." Brad said, making a silent wish. Donna suddenly felt like she was going down in an elevator, with her clothes sliding off. She struggled in the growing tent of fabric that surrounded her, pulling herself up through a yawning hole. Donna looked around, first at the heap of what were her clothes, then up at a giant grinning Brad.
  713. "Hey! What's the big idea!" Donna shouted, pulling herself out of the neck-hole of her blouse and standing up.
  714. "Just wanted to see if shrinking down was an option." Brad said with a grin, as he contemplated the tiny girl "Now you can wear you old dolls clothes..."
  715. "Good thing I have a few boy dolls." Donna said with a wicked grin. Brad braced himself as he began to shrink down into his clothing just as Donna had, "How's that for downsizing?"
  716. "Perfect - er - almost." Brad said, pulling himself out of his clothes and standing up. Donna had made him a full head shorter than she was, "Maybe you could add a little height to me?"
  717. "Only after you get me back to my normal height!" Donna said, crossing her arms and smirking. Brad felt himself shrink a little more on the bed.
  718. "Knock it off. There's a good reason to be this size." Brad said anxiously.
  719. "I'm waiting to hear it." Donna said, "And it had better not have anything to do with playing dolls!"
  720. "Of course not! Just think for a moment - we need to experiment with - these things, right?" Brad said pointing at his spiral tattoo, "We can do that here - in this room, at this size without anyone being the wiser, right?"
  721. "Well..." Donna said looking around. They were about a foot tall, and the room seemed like a small cluttered gym to her at this size, "I guess..."
  722. "Unless you want to go out and experiment on the commons in front of everyone - in the nude." Brad said, "I'm sure Dave and Sasha would love getting pictures of that."
  723. "Okay, you've made your point." Donna said, "Now what?"
  724. "Good question." Brad said, "So we know we can shrink..."
  725. "And invisibility..." Donna said, with a twinkle in here eye "Oh- what about this?" Brad felt a tingle as she made he wish.
  726. "What about... Huh?" Brad looked at his hands in surprise as he realized they had just turned a bright green- along with the rest of him, "Hey..."
  727. "Colors, check!" Donna said with a smirk, "I'll have to have you do my makeup every morning."
  728. "Or maybe this?" Brad said with a bigger grin. Donna felt a tingle, and looked down in time to see a blue and pink skin-tight jogging suit appear.
  729. "Hey! You did it!" Donna said, looking herself over, "I have clothes... Wait a minute..." Donna frowned as she felt for the edge of the cloth. She couldn't find it. In fact, it still felt as if she was wearing nothing at all.
  730. "Well - it's not actually clothes." Brad said as he grinned and watched Donna search for a zipper or Velcro flap, "It's - you."
  731. "Me? Wait a minute!" Donna said, realizing what was going on. Her skin had only been changed into something resembling skin-tight cloth. Her eyes widened as a thought struck her, "How'm I going to go to the bathroom this way?" Her private equipment had totally vanished thanks to Brad's idea.
  732. "Well - I just turn you back, like so..." Brad said. Donna looked down to see herself restored, "And you can do the same to me."
  733. "Uh-huh." Donna said with a smile. Brad suddenly found himself looking more muscular and wearing what appeared to be a bright red skin-tight jumpsuit with the letter "B" emblazoned in yellow on his chest.
  734. "Not what I had in mind." Brad said, looking down at himself.
  735. "I thought all guys wanted to be super-heroes." Donna teased, as Brad returned the favor. She was suddenly muscular and better built than most girls on campus. Like Brad, she was wearing a similar bright red suit with a yellow "D" on her suddenly ample chest. "Hmm... I must have some super-strength to hold these up."
  736. "Something like that." Brad shrugged, as Donna flexed her arms and stretched one out, lassoing Brad, "Although you're already elastic."
  737. "At least - this stretches with me." Donna said appreciatively, reeling her arm in, and Brad with it.
  738. "That's the idea." Brad said, trying to flex his muscles and break free of Donna's elastic embrace, "So did this suit come with any powers?" Donna looked a little stricken.
  739. "Uh- no." Donna said, momentarily loosening up on Brad, "What sort of powers do you want?"
  740. "I have no idea."
  741. "Well, try this." Donna said with a grin. Brad suddenly found Donna's squeezing embrace was squashing him, like toothpaste out of a tube.
  742. "You made me elastic?" Brad said, slightly disappointed as he squirmed out of her embrace and wriggled onto the bed.
  743. "You didn't specify." Donna giggled letting Brad go as he slithered out of her grasp, "You have to admit, it's kinda fun."
  744. "All right - I guess it is..." Brad said uneasily, pulling his spaghetti-like limbs back to their normal proportions, "I was thinking something more like - this..." Brad thought for a moment, and suddenly, Donna felt light headed.
  745. "Like what... hey!" Donna said, realizing she wasn't standing on the bed any longer, but was slowly rising, "Brad... I'm flying!"
  746. "Well - yeah." Brad said, watching her rise with a puzzled look, "Not very well though."
  747. "It's my first time." Donna said, as she slowly turned around, "How do you steer like this?" In truth, Donna wasn't flying so much as floating, like a soap bubble, her every movement causing her to drift one way or another.
  748. "I don't know." Brad shrugged, following her as she drifted off towards the edge of the bed.
  749. "Well, maybe you should figure it out!" Donna smirked. Suddenly Brad felt light headed, and his feet left the bed.
  750. "Well - um - I guess..." Brad said, managing to do a somersault in mid air as he thought about flying, or moving, "I guess we can only - float?"
  751. "It's neat." Donna admitted, stretching one arm out to the back of the giant chair, and looping the other around Brad, "But not very useful." She began reeling Brad in towards herself and both of them towards the chair, like a
  752. "Unless - let's try this." Brad said. Before Donna could ask what Brad was thinking, she felt her grip on the chair and Brad loosen as her fingers grew light and stiff. Donna stared as feathers sprouted out of her arms, which were not so much arms now as they were wings.
  753. "Brad! What were you thinking!" Donna said, flapping her arms and shooting towards the ceiling. She twisted and turned, changing her direction more by luck than anything else.
  754. "Not that!" Brad said, floating helplessly as Donna flew around the room, going faster and faster with every flap of her new wings, "I was thinking of wings out of your back, like an angel..."
  755. "Braaaad!" Donna shouted taking aim for the pillow and landing on it with a soft thud. She bounced back, and began to drift away again, "Will you turn the gravity back on!" Brad thought for a moment, and suddenly Donna was heavy again. She landed with a thump on the bed even as her wings turned back into arms.
  756. "Like I said, we need more practice!" Brad said, hovering over the bed. Donna looked up at him with a frown.
  757. "Okay - you're right." Donna agreed, as they continued to explore some of the abilities that the curse had granted them.
  758. "Couldn't we go back to my dorm room so I could change?" Brad complained as they approached Lincoln House, where Sasha rented an apartment just off the campus. As Donna predicted, he had shown up in her bed that morning thanks to their connected curse.
  759.  
  760. "But you look cute that way." Donna teased Brad. Brad rolled his eyes. In order for him to get out of Donna's dorm without causing a fuss, she had turned him into her twin again - this time with platinum blonde hair.
  761. "I know - but I'm afraid I'm going to get used to it at this rate." Brad said, rubbing the troublesome tattoo on his - now her arm, and wishing that Sasha hadn't called just as they were getting ready to go over to his dorm.
  762. "Stop griping. Its only until we see Sasha." Donna said as they came to Lincoln House. It was a large old private house that rented tiny apartments out to students at Wattamatta University. It was also a magnet for strange happenings. Brad looked up at the towering wooden house with its bizarre gingerbread trim as they went through the worn picket fence gate and up the cracked sidewalk to the front door.
  763. "Halt! Who goes there!" Came a voice. A wizzled old man's head popped out of one of the rambling rosebushes that flanked the stairs, "State your business!" He said wheezily, shaking a trowel at Donna and Brad. The two stared at him in surprise.
  764. "It's okay Wilkes." Came a voice up on the porch. Sasha leaned over the rail and scowled down into the bushes, "They're visiting me."
  765. "Oh. Of course. Carry on!" Wilkes said, lowering the trowel and throwing them a salute before he descended back into the gnarled tangle of thorns.
  766. "Sorry about that." Sasha said as Donna and Brad went up the stairs, "Wilkes has been over-protective of the place since the fire."
  767. "I can imagine." Donna said following Sasha into the rambling house and up the stairs.
  768. "Where's Brad?" Sasha asked, looking back at the pair, "And who's she?"
  769. "Its me - Brad." Brad sighed unhappily. Sasha raised an eyebrow before continuing the climb.
  770. "Although you could call him Brandi now." Donna giggled.
  771. "Knock it off!" Brad said, following the two, "Can we get this over with - I have a paper to write."
  772. "Should've done it yesterday." Sasha scolded him as they went down the hall and up a second flight of stairs.
  773. "We were busy yesterday." Donna said, which caused Sasha to stop again and look back at them, "Uh - experimenting."
  774. "Experimenting." Sasha said shaking her head. Donna and Brad nodded, "Experimenting how?"
  775. "You know - with these things." Donna said pointing at the tattoo on her arm, "We're getting better with them." Sasha's eyes widened as Brad suddenly turned a bright blue with red hair.
  776. "Oh for - come ON!" Sasha urged them up the stairs to her apartment before anyone could see.
  777. "Nice place." Brad said as they got in. It was all of three rooms - a dining and kitchen area, a bedroom, and a bathroom from what he could see. Then he saw his reflection in the mirror, "Donna!"
  778. "Sorry! I couldn't resist." Donna said with a grin. In a moment, Brad's skin and hair color were more natural hues.
  779. "He's not taking advantage of this, is he?" Sasha asked, spreading photos of the jar across the table.
  780. "No - in case you didn't notice, she's taking advantage of this." Brad said sitting down and gesturing to his altered assets.
  781. "I wasn't asking you." Sasha said curtly as she sat down.
  782. "Brad's right - I'm being a brat and he's being a perfect gentleman." Donna admitted taking her seat.
  783. "When I have the equipment to BE a gentleman. Which is becoming less and less every day!" Brad huffed, "What have you found out?"
  784. "Besides the fact that you're a lousy artifact photographer?" Sasha said, picking up a photo, "You only got good images of two sides of the jar."
  785. "Excuse me - I was a little distracted then too!" Brad said.
  786. "I can't imagine why." Donna snickered. Brad glared at her.
  787. "Don't get me started." Brad said, trying to resist the urge to turn Donna purple.
  788. "Okay, time out kids." Sasha said holding her hands up, "I did manage to translate the text I could read."
  789. "And?" Brad asked anxiously.
  790. "And - well. It's mainly praises of Tiamat." Sasha said weakly. Brad groaned and buried his head, "With some useful information."
  791. "Such as?" Donna asked.
  792. "Reading between the lines - and praises - you're bonded to the eyes of Tiamat."
  793. "We KNOW that!" Brad said.
  794. "No - bonded, as in servant or follower." Sasha said, "You're bonded to each other, and to Tiamat."
  795. "And who the heck is Tiamat?" Brad demanded to know.
  796. "What - you didn't bother to look it up online?" Sasha asked.
  797. "No." Brad said.
  798. "Tiamat was the goddess of the salt-water ocean in the Akkadian creation myths, and embodied the forces of chaos." Donna said, "When the younger gods slew her mate, she unleashed a horde of monsters on them."
  799. "Nice lady." Brad said sourly, "Who won?"
  800. "The younger gods - it's a common theme in most ancient mythology," Donna said, "The young overcome chaos of the old times and create a new order. Tiamat was killed, and made into the earth and sky."
  801. "So - she's dead, and we have no one to call on for tech support?" Brad said, leaning back, "Big surprise there!"
  802. "Actually, she may not be dead." Sasha said, pointing to the jar rim in the picture, "What else was there about Tiamat?"
  803. "She's portrayed as a dragon - like right there." Donna said, looking at the stylized rim and remembering, "So?"
  804. "So, dragons don't die very easily." Sasha said, "Especially not dragons named Tiamat."
  805. "So she's alive?" Brad said.
  806. "Probably." Sasha said, "My great-uncle had some references in his library on Tiamat - but the last confirmed sighting was over a five hundred years ago. That's over three thousand years after her apparent demise."
  807. "So - Tiamat is real, and she might be alive." Brad said, "Is that good - or bad?"
  808. "It depends." Sasha said, "How do you like being called private property?"
  809. "Us? But we're people!" Donna protested.
  810. "And she's a powerful dragon." Sasha said, "At best, she might consider you two - pets."
  811. "Okay - enough about Tiamat." Brad said, "What about getting these tattoos off?"
  812. "You can't." Sasha said, "The inscriptions are very clear about that."
  813. "The ones you can read." Donna surmised, "What about on the other side?"
  814. "I don't know." Sasha admitted, picking up a photo "But - here's an interesting thing - 'Tiamat's might will protect you from your fright.'"
  815. "Meaning what?" Brad asked, "We don't have to worry about getting scared at horror movies?"
  816. "No - its in relation to your condition - and the first inscription I did a rough translation of. Like I said, I do much better when I'm awake." Sasha said, pointing to a line of the ancient text, "From the praises, and dialogue, it looks as if either of you get into trouble or really scared, Tiamat will appear to protect you."
  817. "So - is that a good thing?" Brad asked.
  818. "Probably not." Sasha said, "The context seems to be used like a shepherd tending his flock - and -um - you know what happens to sheep."
  819. Brad woke up from a dream, where a giant snake was squeezing him. He tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes but found his arms were pinned to his sides. In fact, he was unable to move.
  820.  
  821. "Wha?" Brad said, wriggling as best as he could. He hit something soft behind him with his head, and heard a happy murmur. Looking over his shoulder as well as he could, he saw Donna's happy smiling face behind him, deep in slumber. Brad looked down and be the dim light of the clock, he could see Donna's arms wrapped around and around his body, like a pair of pythons holding him tight.
  822. "Cripes, knock it off Donna!" Brad whispered desperately as he tried to wriggle free. Donna murmured again, and hugged a little tighter, "Donna!"
  823. "Huh? What's that?" Came another sleepy voice in the room. Lance's voice. Brad frowned. Of all times for Donna to be sound asleep and Lance to be just dozing. Of course, it was still early in the morning according to the clock on his desk.
  824. Brad lay there for long moments, hoping Lance would fall back asleep, even as Donna tightened her slumbering elastic grip on Brad. At the rate she was going he was never going to get back to sleep - or survive until morning.
  825. "Okay - I hate to do this but..." Brad thought to himself, making a wish on Donna. Donna's constricting arms loosened up on Brad as she became thinner and flatter. Brad watched over his shoulder in the dim light as her head sank into her shoulders, and all her features vanished. In moments, Brad found himself wrapped in a soft, loose Donna-colored sheet. Brad let out a sigh of relief, loosening Donna's flattened form up before he drifted back off to sleep.
  826. "Yo, roomie! Still asleep?" Lance said, coming in the room and whipping open the window shade. Brad blinked in surprise as the sun shone in through the autumn leaves.
  827. "Huh? What time is it..." Brad gasped looking at the clock. It was late. "Why didn't the alarm go off?"
  828. "Eh - woke up before it went off. So I turned it off before it could go off." Lance said with a shrug as Brad threw the sheets off and began pulling his clothes on, "I didn't think you would oversleep."
  829. "I didn't either." Brad said, snapping the sheets over the bed so it would look presentable, and dashing for the door. He had just enough time to make it to the dining hall for some breakfast before class.
  830. Donna was the last thing on his mind.
  831. "What's going on?" Donna though as she was rudely awakened. It felt like her entire body was being rumpled up - then flattened and smoothed over. Distantly, she could hear Brad - and his roommate Lance. Mentally she frowned as she tried to open her eyes - but that didn't seem to be working. Or any other part of her body. She could vaguely sense she was somewhere warm, and soft- and little more.
  832. "Maybe this is another dream?" Donna said, as her mind came into focus, and she struggled to move. All to no avail. She felt as helpless as when Brad turned her into some clothes a few days before.
  833. Clothes - or cloth? Donna pondered.
  834. "Okay - I want Brad to hear me in his head - right now." Donna wished before taking a deep mental breath, "BRAD!" She thought as loudly as possible.
  835. Brad had just gotten up to the dining hall, when he staggered from the sound of Donna's scream in his head.
  836. "Hey - you okay?" the cashier asked as she handed back his student ID card. Brad shook his head.
  837. "Just - fine." Brad said as Donna let loose another loud scream in his head - and he remembered where he had left her. Mentally, he wished Donna could hear him as he went down the line.
  838. "Okay, I hear you!" Brad thought back to Donna, "Calm down!"
  839. "Good - this isn't a dream." Donna thought to Brad, "What did you DO to me?"
  840. "You showed up in my bed again - and were squeezing me to death." Brad thought back, picking up some donuts, "So - I sort of got creative."
  841. "Creative? How?" Donna thought back.
  842. "I wished you into a bed sheet."
  843. "Oh - great. And how long am I supposed to stay like this?"
  844. "I'm coming back to the room now. With food." Brad thought back as he grabbed some bananas, "Thanks to Lance, I kinda overslept - it's almost nine o'clock..."
  845. "Nine o'clock!" Donna shouted in Brad's head, causing him to almost drop what he was carrying as he went to the dining hall exit, "Brad, I've got a meeting with Professor Chase at nine! Turn me back to normal now!"
  846. "Calm down!" Brad said aloud, making a bee-line back to the dorm, "I'll be right back..."
  847. "Turn me back to normal NOW!" Donna screamed, "Or ELSE!" Brad sighed and made the wish.
  848. Donna began to feel control come back as her wrinkled flattened form began to rise under the sheets. First her torso began to take shape as the squared sides of her sheet-like body tapered inward to reform her arms and legs. Donna flexed her restored hands even as her head began to stretch up and out from under the hastily made up covers. It was a delightful feeling to be able to move on her own again.
  849. She blinked, as her eyes focused on Brad's room. Just as she was about to breathe a sigh of relief, she spied Lance, who was sitting there at his computer working on some paper. He didn't notice the curves of Donna's figure slowly rising up under the sheets.
  850. "Aw NO!" Donna groaned as she forced her elastic body to flatten out. She didn't want anyone to find out about her condition, and she certainly didn't want Lance to find her naked in bed. She lay there almost ready to die from embarrassment at all the possibilities. Today was supposed to be a good day!
  851. "Brad, your room mate's in your room!" Donna thought desperately to Brad as he charged up the stairs in the dormitory.
  852. "I tried to tell you..." Brad thought back as he reached his door.
  853. "What are we supposed to DO!" Donna thought, trying not to panic.
  854. "I've got it covered." Brad said, catching his breath, and opening the door, "Hey Lance."
  855. "Yo!" Lance said glancing up, "Thought you were late for class."
  856. "I forgot something." Brad said.
  857. "No KIDDING!" Donna thought back. Brad ignored her.
  858. "I saw Beth in the hall - she was looking for you." Brad lied. Lance's eyes lit up. He had been putting the moves on Beth since the semester began.
  859. "No kidding." Lance said getting up, "What did she want?"
  860. "I dunno - she was just looking for you." Brad said, stepping aside as Lance went out the door in search of beautiful Beth. Brad sighed and shut the door, locking it, "Okay, he's gone."
  861. "Good! Where's my clothes!" Donna said, throwing off the sheets that were covering her and stretching off the bed. Brad pulled her clothes out and she began dressing quickly "Oh, I can't believe this! I'm going to be so late! And dressed like this!"
  862. "Sorry, sorry." Brad said, helping her out as best as he could, "It's Lances fault."
  863. "I'll keep that in mind!" Donna said, looking in the mirror and picking at her hair, "Got a brush?"
  864. "Only a comb." Brad said offering her a cheap plastic comb he used. Donna looked at it with distain.
  865. "I need a brush!" Donna said, pulling at her tangled brown locks.
  866. "Wait wait! I wish your hair looked perfect!" Brad said. Donna glanced in the mirror as her hair untangled itself and fell down into long curling tresses which shined under the room's old florescent lights, "And - ah - you felt springtime fresh?" Donna gasped as she felt a tingle all over her body, as if she had just stepped out of the shower.
  867. "Oh - Much better! Thanks." Donna said, feeling fully refreshed and alert. Then she saw the clock, "Ah! The time! I've gotta run!"
  868. "What about..." Brad said as Donna ran out the door, "Breakfast?" She was gone before he could finish. Brad sighed, and grabbed his bag. He was running late for class too.
  869. "Hey! Where did you see Beth?" Lance asked opening the door just as Brad was about to leave, "Liz said she had left for class already."
  870. "Well - she said she wanted to see you." Brad said, "She didn't say she wanted to see you right now I guess." Lance frowned at Brad, who made a hasty exit before Lance could say anything else.
  871. "I'm late, late late!" Donna thought, racing to Professor Chase's office. It was bad enough she was running late, and that their meeting was so early. Even worse, she didn't have time to get the notes about what she had uncovered in the lab out of her dorm room. That would be a matter for another meeting, she decided as she bounded up the old stairs in Adams Hall, where the archeology department's offices were located on the third floor.
  872.  
  873. Donna paused outside Professor Chase's office, catching her breath and marveling how she had covered the distance in record time. Composing herself, she knocked on the closed door.
  874. There was no reply.
  875. Donna tried again.
  876. And again, there was no reply.
  877. "At least I'm ahead of her." Donna decided, now wishing she had taken the donut from Brad. She was starting to get hungry. But there was little she could do but stand at the door and wait.
  878. "Looking for Professor Chase?" A voice asked behind her. Donna turned to see a modestly attired oriental woman looking at her with a twinkle in her eye, "She's down in Professor Varney's office." The woman said, pointing down the hallway before Donna could reply.
  879. "Thanks..." Donna said, looking down the hall to the coveted corner office. When she looked back the mysterious woman had vanished.
  880. "That's weird." Donna muttered, going down the hall, past cluttered tables and jam-packed bulletin boards lining the hall to Professor Varney's office. She had never been in Varney's office before - and a building sense of anxiety nearly caused her not to rap on the old oak door.
  881. Behind the thick door though, she could hear muffled voices, including Professor Chase's and a mention of her name. Working up her nerve, Donna rapped on the door.
  882. "Yes, who..." Professor Chase said, opening the door. She was red in the face, and looked terribly out of sorts, "Oh - Donna. That's right, our appointment. Something - important came up, and I'll have to cancel it..."
  883. "Is that the Donna Waxwain we were just discussing?" Came a deep voice inside. Professor Chase looked over her shoulder and nodded, "Perhaps she could shed some light on this subject." Reluctantly, Professor Chase let Donna in.
  884. Professor Varney's office was lined with shelves filled with dust-covered books and cobweb laced artifacts. A calendar several years old hung on the wall above a cabinet piled with yellowing papers and test booklets. If not for the light filtering in through drawn shades, the room looked all the world like a forgotten tomb, with the pale, bloated form of Professor Varney sitting behind the high altar of his ancient wooden desk. To his left stood Stanley, looking quite smug as he clutched a thin brown envelope.
  885. "She's the one." Stanley said quietly to Varney, who nodded as if in agreement.
  886. "Indeed - have a seat Ms. Waxwain." Varney said, pointing to one of the rickety wooden chairs that sat in front of the desk. Donna did as she was told, and Professor Chase took her seat coolly surveying Varney and Stanley.
  887. "Where to begin." Varney said, "Ah! As you know, Ms. Waxwain, we are charged with a very important responsibility - to preserve the archeological record of history from misguided looters, souvenir hunters and the like. But recently there have been some - discrepancies in our own records."
  888. "I know." Donna said nervously, glancing at Professor Chase, " I was going to bring this up at our meeting..." Professor Chase looked at Donna in surprise.
  889. "I told you someone was stealing from the department's lab." Stanley said loudly, interrupting Donna, "As lab supervisor it's my responsibility to keep track of that sort of thing!"
  890. "Yes, but it can't be..." Chase began, looking from Stanley to Donna.
  891. "It is." Stanley said, waving the brown envelope he was holding and handing it to Varney, "I have all the proof right here!" Varney put on his spectacles and pulled a large sheet of paper out of the envelope. Her peered over it at Donna, the permanent wrinkled frown on his face growing ever so deeper.
  892. "Who is it?" Donna asked, hoping the mystery to be solved. Silently, Varney reached over the large desk, handing the glossy sheet to Chase, who stared in shock at the image. Donna looked over her shoulder, joining her professor in stunned silence.
  893. It was an image of her in the lab - sticking the missing dagger into a bag she usually carried.
  894. "How?" Donna said, trying to get a better look without stretching herself out.
  895. "When I realized items were being stolen from the lab, I set a camera to take photos of anything- suspicious." Stanley said proudly, "Imagine my surprise when that appeared."
  896. "Donna- how could you?" Chase said sorrowfully.
  897. "But I didn't!" Donna said looking from Varney's enigmatic face to Chase's ashen look, "I didn't do that!"
  898. "The proof is in the picture." Varney said, taking off his glasses, "Given the sensitive nature of this, I called on Chief Hall to execute a search of your dorm room for missing items."
  899. "What?" Donna said incredulously.
  900. "Perfectly legal - in fact, he was supposed to have brought you over here to be questioned." Varney said, reaching for the ancient rotary phone on his desk, and dialing a number, "I had best tell him you are here, so he can concentrate on discovering where you hid your ill-gotten gains."
  901. "Unless you want to tell us who you're selling them to." Stanley said with a smirking sneer as Varney consulted with Chief Hall on the phone.
  902. "I'm not selling anything to anyone!" Donna protested, "Or stealing! Believe me!"
  903. "I want to." Chase said, shaking her head and looking at the glaring glossy photo.
  904. "I would like to as well." Varney said bluntly, getting off the phone, "But Chief Hall says otherwise."
  905. "What?" Donna said, astonished.
  906. "While nothing turned up in your room - a package with your return address and insufficient postage showed up at your door." Varney said, leaning his girth back in his creaking desk chair, "Inside were eight of the missing gold coins on the long list of missing items complied by Stanley."
  907. "Oops." Stanley said with a nasty smile.
  908. "But..." Donna said desperately.
  909. "No buts." Varney said, leaning forward, "Until this is resolved - and Professor Lipro returns from Berwick to consult on this matter- we must take action to preserve the rest of our collections, and the integrity of this department and Wattamatta University."
  910. "Donna Waxwain - as of now, you are now suspended from the Wattamatta University's Archeology Program." Varney said with the tact of an executioner reading a death sentence, "And within a week we will hold a meeting to decide on your expulsion and what charges will be leveled on you for these grave thefts."
  911. Donna stared at Varney for a moment - and began to cry.
  912. "Get out of here looser." Stanley said with a crooked grin.
  913. "Oh yeah!" Brad said to himself as he left Sawyer Hall with the rest of the students getting out of class. He was in a giddy mood after getting back his essay on fundraising options. It had garnered high praise from Professor DeLay, who wanted to discuss it further with Brad.
  914.  
  915. Nothing could spoil his day.
  916. "Brad!" came a cry on the other side of the crowd. Brad stopped and looked around. Donna was there.
  917. "Hey! Guess what I got..." Brad said as Donna came through the dispersing crowd. He saw the despairing look on her face, which was red from crying. "Hey, what's wrong?" To Brad's surprise, she hugged him and began sobbing on his shoulder.
  918. "I've been suspended!" Donna managed, "And - and I might be expelled!"
  919. "What?" Brad said in surprise - and looking down. Donna was looping her arms around and around Brad as she hugged him, "Donna! Cripes, you're stretching again - in public!"
  920. "I don't care!" Donna sobbed, "I'll go home to Bridgeport and be a freak at the Barnum museum."
  921. "Get a grip on yourself!" Brad said, hugging Donna back - firmly, "Pull your arms in, and tell me what happened!"
  922. "All right..." Donna sniffed, unwinding her arms, and wiping her eyes, "It happened like this..."
  923. "Not here." Brad said, looking around, "Lets get something to eat. We both pretty much missed breakfast."
  924. "I'm not hungry..." Donna sulked, as they went to the dining hall.
  925. As luck would have it, Sasha spied the pair after Donna recounted her story to Brad. Another long explanation over the dining hall's excuse for Cajun-style roast beef followed for her benefit.
  926. If nothing else, it helped Donna work some of the stress out of her system.
  927. "Typical." Sasha said as Donna finished recounting her tale to her and Brad in the dining hall. Brad and Donna stared at her.
  928. "Typical? I don't think so." Brad said, "Typically, people don't get thrown out of Wattamatta..."
  929. "Unless they cross someone." Sasha said cynically, "Someone like Stanley."
  930. "I didn't cross Stanley." Donna said, "He might be a big jerk, but..."
  931. "You were going to get his job as the lab director." Sasha said, "That's enough for him to try to get rid of you."
  932. "But - he's going to graduate, isn't he?" Brad said.
  933. "Not if he doesn't want to." Sasha said, "And if you're the biggest fish in a small pond - why leave the pond?"
  934. "But the photo Donna saw..." Brad began.
  935. "I never put the dagger in my bag!" Donna protested again.
  936. "Photos can be faked." Sasha said, with a tight smile "Trust me, I know. All you need is a little expertise and a photo editing program. But who would Stanley get to do it for him..." Donna's eyes grew wide.
  937. "Stanley knows how to use one." Donna said excitedly, "One of his projects was to use image enhancing technology to recover lost and damaged lines in ancient clay tablets!"
  938. "So he has the know-how." Sasha said, "And some opportunity. And the good graces of Professor Varney."
  939. "Won't Varney believe us?" Brad said.
  940. "I don't think so." Donna said, slumping in her chair, letting her elastic arms reach the floor, "It's our word against his."
  941. "So we call in some experts." Sasha said looking at Brad, "I bet those hacks at the Watcher could help us out."
  942. "Probably." Brad said non-committally, as he finished his burger, "They'll at least want to hear Donna's side of the story so they can put it out in tomorrow's paper."
  943. "I can't do that!" Donna said, "My folks would find out for sure!"
  944. "They're going to find out sooner or later." Sasha said, looking at Brad, "Especially if you start showing up in Donna's bedroom every other morning."
  945. "Crud." Brad cringed at the thought - they were having enough problems dodging each other's roommates, "We've got to get rid of this curse."
  946. "At least your home is nearby mine." Donna said, "Although the commute from Bridgeport to Wattamatta is over an hour."
  947. "Nearby yours?" Brad said puzzled.
  948. "You told me you lived in New York." Donna said. Brad groaned.
  949. "I said I live north of York." Brad said, "As in York, Maine. Where the heck is this Bridgeport?"
  950. "Connecticut." Donna said, frowning.
  951. "Sounds like a lot of commuting for you two." Sasha said sipping her drink.
  952. "You think?" Brad said scowling, "And I haven't saved enough to get a decent car yet!"
  953. "Much less the gas - or insurance I bet." Sasha said thoughtfully, "Tell you what - I've got an idea for the commuting problem to check out - you go check things out with the Watcher."
  954. "What kind of idea?" Donna asked as Sasha got up with her tray.
  955. "Just that - an idea." Sasha said, leaving Brad and Donna behind.
  956. "Well..." Brad said checking his watch, and getting up, "I've got time to go down to the Watcher before class."
  957. "Think they can help?" Donna said
  958. "I can't see how they can hurt."
  959. The dank offices of the Wattamatta Watcher were abuzz with activity as students split their time between racing off to class and racing in to put the pages and stories together. Donna and Brad waited long minutes for Dave to finish explaining to a pair of aspiring writers why their stories would lead to humiliation, lawsuits and expulsion before he turned his attention to them.
  960. Then all it took was a phone call.
  961. "Good thing for you we're on good terms with the local police." Dave said hanging up the phone and turning to his e-mail, "Of course, they wouldn't see it that way."
  962. "They wouldn't?" Donna said frowning. Dave snorted.
  963. "Some things we never get to print because it's better to use common sense discretion." Dave said, "Or as Chief Hall put it - blackmail."
  964. "I don't want to know." Brad said as the e-mail downloaded, "What did Chief Hall say?"
  965. "Not much - it was the desk officer I talked to." Dave said, looking over his notes, "Lets see - they recovered a returned package in your mailbox with eight high-quality coins from the reign of Xerses of Persia..."
  966. "I never sent it." Donna said, "In fact - those coins were missing too."
  967. "So were your fingerprints." Dave said with a smile, "Of course, the police are probably thinking you wore gloves."
  968. "Of course." Brad said as the photo finally appeared on the screen. Dave turned to look at it - and did a double take.
  969. "I'll be..." Dave's voice trailed off. He stood up and surveyed the busy office, "Hey! Kate! Come over here for a moment!" A short stout black girl got up from her computer and came over.
  970. "What's up Davy? More weird web crap?" Kate said, looking at the screen, "Hey, what the heck is that?"
  971. "So it looks familiar?" Dave said as Kate took his seat.
  972. "Familiar? I should sue!" Kate said frowning and looking at Donna, "And you should too!" Donna looked at Kate, puzzled.
  973. "Sue for what?" Brad said.
  974. "That! Look." Kate said, as her fingers danced across the keyboard, "I was taking photos at that career day thing last month - and you were there too."
  975. "Yes, I..." Donna paused as a new photo appeared on the screen. It was the same photo of Donna - surrounded by young children in a classroom. In her hand, rather than a dagger, Donna was holding a trowel she was pulling from the bag.
  976. "I took a ton of photos that day for the different departments for their promo materials," Kate cursed, "And everyone was happy with them - except for one jerk in the archeology department who turned them down."
  977. "Let me guess." Brad said, "Stanley Piper."
  978. "Stanley something or other. That weasel!" Kate said, opening the photo again, "He said he deleted them all - but he must've kept the files, that's for sure."
  979. "And doctored them up?" Donna asked.
  980. "That's obvious." Dave said reaching over Kate and opening the once-damming photo, " Lighting is different - there's some distortion here and here..." Dave pointed out a number of glitches.
  981. "What about the knife?" Brad asked.
  982. "What about it?" Dave said, leaning over Kate and zooming in on the shining blade.
  983. "Did he use one of the photos I brought in?" Brad asked. Dave frowned and opened the files he had kept.
  984. "Well..."
  985. "No." Kate said authoritatively, inspecting the image "See - there's a greenish pall in these photos - from the room and the lighting I bet. In this doctored photo - no greens..."
  986. "Yellows and pinks on the blade. The digital camera that took the other two photos is probably an older model." Dave deduced standing up and scratching his chin, "We still have problems with interior lighting sometimes."
  987. "Interior lighting?" Donna asked.
  988. "Florescent lights give off green and yellow hues - incandescent lights give off red hues." Kate explained, "I was using my own digital camera and know how to deal with that for the swiped picture."
  989. "Well, it explains why the dispatcher wanted to know what we thought about it." Dave said, "They might think it's a fake too."
  990. "So - it proves I'm not guilty?" Donna said looking from Brad to Dave hopefully.
  991. "Maybe. It proves someone is out to get you." Dave said, "The question is, who?"
  992. "I think we have a pretty good idea about that." Brad said, "We just have to prove it. Somehow."
  993. "Good luck with that." Dave said, "Just be sure to tell us about it for the paper!"
  994. "It's a relief someone believes I didn't do it!" Donna said as she and Brad exited the student union building into the ever present crowd of people milling in and out.
  995.  
  996. "Hey, I believed you. Although I still can't believe what we can do..." Brad said, feeling a slinky snakey arm coil around his waist - again, "You're doing it again."
  997. "Doing what?" Donna said with a mischevious grin. Even having the people at the Watcher debunk the evidence lifted her mood again.
  998. "You know what." Brad said, "Stretching around."
  999. "I like stretching around. It feels good." Donna said, "In fact - you should try it..."
  1000. "Some other time - not in public." Brad said.
  1001. "Who's going to notice?" Donna asked.
  1002. "Someone might." Brad said.
  1003. "Or they might not." Donna said with a grin.
  1004. "Hey!" Came an unfamiliar voice behind them. Donna gulped and pulled her long arm in quicker than Brad thought possible. They turned to see a young auburn haired girl wearing jeans and a t-shirt standing and staring at them.
  1005. "Uh..." Brad said, looking to Donna who shrugged, "Are you talking to us?"
  1006. "Yeah..." The girl said coming up to them, "Are you Fay?" She whispered loudly to Donna.
  1007. "What?" Donna said, slightly astonished.
  1008. "Fay, you know..." She asked urgently, glancing behind her at a large retreating group going around the building.
  1009. "No!" Brad said, "Neither of us are - are we?" Donna shook her head no. The strange young girl looked slightly disappointed.
  1010. "Ms Thaxter!" Came a voice from the retreating crowd - a tall man waved at her, "Come on! We're not leaving you behind again!"
  1011. "Whoops - gotta go." She said, racing off after the group. Brad and Donna watched her go before heading off towards Donna's dorm.
  1012. "That was weird." Donna said.
  1013. "See - someone did see." Brad said, trying to scold Donna.
  1014. "Maybe she thought I was someone else." Donna said as they turned the corner of the library and almost ran into Sasha.
  1015. "Just who I wanted to see!" Sasha said with a grin, "I've got good news about fixing your morning problem."
  1016. "A cure for this curse?" Brad asked hopefully.
  1017. "Uh -not as such." Sasha said, "But it's a good solution..."
  1018. "As long as it doesn't have people calling us gay." Brad said.
  1019. "Gay?" Sasha asked. Donna gently patted Brad's back.
  1020. "It was a mix up." Donna said, "Some girl thought my name was Fay..." Sasha's eyes snapped to attention.
  1021. "Was not." Brad said, "She asked if you were Fay. Or gay. Or..."
  1022. "Quick! Where is she?" Sasha said excitedly.
  1023. "Back at the union... HEY!" Donna said as Sasha grabbed her in the direction Donna was pointing in.
  1024. "We've got to find her!" Sasha said urgently, ignoring the fact that she was stretching out Donna's arm as she ran. Donna stared at the sight for a moment before running after her. Brad followed.
  1025. "Sasha!" Donna shouted as her arm grew longer, "Let go!" Sasha glanced behind her and stared for a moment before dropping Donna's arm. It fell to the ground like a long thick rope, causing Brad and Donna to trip over it.
  1026. "Come on!" Sasha said urgently, circling around as the two picked themselves up, and Donna reeled her arm in again, "We've got to find her!" The pair got up and hurried after Sasha.
  1027. "Why?" Brad asked as they got to the student union's entry level.
  1028. "Because..." Sasha said looking around, "Did you see which way she went?"
  1029. "That way." Donna said, pointing and stretching her arm out a bit.
  1030. "Come on!" Sasha said dashing through the thinning crowd and around the corner, and looking around "Do you see her?" Only a vacant street and the nearly empty green lawns between school buildings were to be seen. Any trace of the girl and the large group had vanished.
  1031. "No. Maybe if I stretched out my neck..." Donna said.
  1032. "Don't you dare!" Brad said, going to the curb and looking down the road. He could see the familiar orange shapes of school busses turning the curve far down the road, "I think we missed her."
  1033. "What?" Sasha said going to the curb and missing the last bus making its turn.
  1034. "She was pretty young." Brad said, "And it looked like she was with a school group..."
  1035. "Isn't the drama department putting on MacBeth next week? Sometimes they have local schools come over to see the show before they officially open." Donna said as Sasha sat down on the curb looking slightly despondent. "What's the big deal?" Sasha motioned for them to sit down next to her.
  1036. "The big deal is if she called you a Fay, then we might be dealing with a sorceress." Sasha said, "And a sorceress might be able to help us."
  1037. "A very young sorceress." Brad said frowning "And why would she think we're Fay?"
  1038. "Because Donna can do this." Sasha said, grabbing Donna's right arm and pulling it across her lap to Brad's side, "Among other things Fay are elastic in nature."
  1039. "So- I'm Fay?" Donna asked, pulling her arm back in. Sasha snorted.
  1040. "No - Fay are an ancient, powerful magical race. You sort of have the abilities of one." Sasha said, "If we only had a clue who she was..."
  1041. "Someone called her Thaxter. And the theater people could tell us which schools were just at the play." Brad said, looking around - the crowds had thinned down as other students got to their classes, "And right now, Donna looks just like her." Donna frowned as she felt a tingle though her body - and she seemed to shrink ever so slightly, her clothes becoming looser about her.
  1042. "Brad, you didn't..." Donna said as Sasha studied Donna's slim reshaped face, her hair now a light auburn.
  1043. "If people are going to ignore you stretching, they won't notice a minor makeover." Brad said with a smile, as Sasha rooted around in her bag "Besides you were about to do it to me, weren't you?"
  1044. "Was - not." Donna said biting her lip, "Well, maybe..." Sasha found what she was looking for and pulled out a small digital camera.
  1045. "Say cheese!" Sasha said, snapping a picture of Donna before her surprise could register on her face.
  1046. "What?" Donna said as Sasha took another photo, "Sasha..."
  1047. "Photographic proof." Sasha said, getting up and patting the camera, "Maybe someone knows her by name at the theater department."
  1048. "Or maybe not." Brad said getting up. Donna began to get up, and made an unwelcome discovery.
  1049. "Brad! Turn me back!" Donna said as her slacks began to slide off. Her new form was just a little too small, and she was pretty sure her feet would slide out of her sneakers if she tried to walk.
  1050. "But you look cute..." Brad said in a tone like she would take when he complained. Donna frowned.
  1051. "Just do it Brad." Sasha said, mock lecturing him. Donna felt the tingle again, and her body expanded to its normal proportions.
  1052. "Happy?" Brad asked.
  1053. "Much!" Donna said, adjusting her clothes before standing up, and walking towards the theater, "Now lets see if we can track down this sorceress."
  1054. "It shouldn't be that hard." Brad said.
  1055. "Now you jinxed it." Sasha
  1056. "Five high schools to choose from." Brad said looking at the paper as they walked back to Donna's dorm with a change of clothes for him the next morning.
  1057. "Told you you jinxed it." Sasha said with a smirk.
  1058. "At least Thaxter isn't a common name." Donna said, "We can call the schools tomorrow..."
  1059. "I'll call." Sasha said, taking the paper from Brad, "My family has some experience with sorcerers."
  1060. "So why don't you call up one of them." Brad asked.
  1061. "I didn't say they were good experiences." Sasha said, "In fact..."
  1062. "What's going on there... Omigosh!" Donna said, pointing to an accumulating pile of stuff outside her dormitory. Clothes, books, and a few pieces of furniture were being heaped up next to the curb.
  1063. It was Donna's stuff. Nearby, Ms. Snodgrass, the dormitory supervisor was having words with a police officer.
  1064. "Donna!" Jody, her roommate called, racing over to Donna, "What did you do?"
  1065. "I- what's going on?" Donna said going to her pile of belongings.
  1066. "You've been evicted!" Jody said.
  1067. "Evicted? How come?" Brad said looking from Donna to Jody. Jody shrugged and pointed to Ms Snodgrass. Donna scowled and went over to see her.
  1068. "Look, this is going too far." The officer complained to the hot-tempered dorm supervisor, "We just wanted to serve a search warrant, not evict the student!"
  1069. "I don't care." Ms. Snodgrass snapped in a surly tone, "She's out of here!"
  1070. "You're interfering with an investigation." The officer warned.
  1071. "Ms. Snodgrass- what's going on?" Donna interrupted, "Why Is my stuff out here?" Ms. Snodgrass glared at Donna with fire in her eyes.
  1072. "There's your culprit Chief Hall." Ms. Snodgrass said, pointing at Donna, "Now do your duty and arrest her!" The officer groaned and rolled his eyes.
  1073. "Ms. Snodgrass - we don't have enough to arrest her. Or anyone else." Chief Hall tried to explain, "This is just a routine ongoing investigation."
  1074. "I didn't do anything..." Donna said.
  1075. "A likely story!" Ms Snodgrass snarled, "The police arrive first thing in the morning to do a search, and you're nowhere to be found!"
  1076. "But..."
  1077. "I'm not finished!" Ms Snodgrass said loudly, "Now I'm told you're on suspension, and on your way to be expelled! You are most definitely not the kind of young woman I want living in Bixby Hall!"
  1078. "You can't just kick her out!" Jody said.
  1079. "I can - and you had best watch your step too!" Ms. Snodgrass said, scowling at Jody, who shrank back at the threat, "I am the ultimate authority on who stays and who goes in this dormitory - and it is time for Ms. Waxwain to go!"
  1080. "But - where am I supposed to go?" Donna said in dispair, looking at Chief Hall.
  1081. "Somewhere far away from Wattamatta. Where is not my concern." Ms. Snodgrass snarled, heading back into Bixby Hall. Donna followed to try and make her case, but was stopped short as Ms. Snodgrass whirled around and gave her a stern look.
  1082. "Chief Hall! If this young woman steps one foot closer to this dormitory, I want you to arrest her for trespassing! And anything else I can think of!" Ms. Snodgrass shouted at the top of her lungs, before going into the dorm.
  1083. "But..." Donna said, feeling a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see it was Brad, holding her back. Sauntering up behind him was Chief Hall, with a disappointed look on his face.
  1084. "I'm sorry, but I have to listen to Ms. Snodgrass. Better step away from the building." Chief Hall said, "Humor me. She's been ruining my day with he attitude."
  1085. "Isn't there anything you can do?" Donna asked. The chief shook his head.
  1086. "No, this is a university matter." Hall said, scratching his graying temples, "I do have a few questions."
  1087. "Of course." Donna said glumly, looking at her pile of belongings. Jody and Sasha were at least keeping an eye on them as the onlookers of the scene passed by.
  1088. "At least he didn't arrest you." Sasha said once Chief Hall finished with her, "What did he ask?"
  1089. "What I did - how I handled the lab work..." Donna said, staring at her belongings, "What am I going to do?"
  1090. "No - its what are we going to do." Brad said, "We're in this together until Sasha finds a cure for this."
  1091. "Thanks..." Donna said, giving Brad a hug, "But - I can't exactly move in with you..."
  1092. "Not unless you switched genders..." Brad teased her. Donna could feel a tell-tale tingle of transformation.
  1093. "Don't you DARE!" Donna said. The tingling stopped, "I'd probably get you into trouble."
  1094. "From the way Brad spoke up for you, I'd say he's already in trouble." Sasha said with a wry smile, "Then there was Stanley..."
  1095. "Stanley?" Brad said looking around, "Where is he? We've got a few questions for him..."
  1096. "He's gone. But he saw you two talking to the chief." Sasha said, circling Donna's pile, "Besides, we've got to get this stuff to your new home."
  1097. "New home?" Donna said, staring at Sasha, "What are you talking about?"
  1098. "It's what I was going to tell you two about - before we found out you were evicted." Sasha said, "All we need to do is get your stuff there. And deal with a few minor things..."
  1099. "I'll call Lance and see if he can bring over his truck." Brad sighed, reaching for his cell phone.
  1100. "Why am I listening to you again girl?" Wilkes said as he led the way up a flight of stairs in the Lincoln House, followed by Sasha, Brad and Donna.
  1101.  
  1102. "Because I warned you that those guys were up to no good." Sasha said, "You decided not to listen."
  1103. "I didn't need to listen to anyone when I evicted them." Wilkes grinned a toothy grin as he went down the short hallway, "Just like I don't need to listen to you."
  1104. "But..." Donna said. Sasha held up her hand to quiet her.
  1105. "Well, listen to this - Donna is being railroaded by the University. By the system." Sasha said sternly, "Now are you gonna give in to the man, or are you going to help fight the system?" Wilkes stood there, fumbling with the keys before he found the one he was looking for.
  1106. "Rock on man." Wilkes said, opening up a door, "Take it or leave it." Brad and Donna walked into the apartment, taking it in. It was larger than Sasha's tiny apartment, with a bay window looking out to the street out front. The furniture was a motley collection of leftovers from some forgotten hotel and an estate sale.
  1107. "Kinda smoky..." Brad said, looking in the large bedroom. Scorch marks and water stains covered most of the walls in that room, "This is where the fire was?"
  1108. "Right. As you can tell, the fire extinguishers here do work." Wilkes said, "And since Sasha said you could do some repairs..."
  1109. "Repairs?" Donna said frowning.
  1110. "Oh, nothing much - some painting, and cleaning. That sort of thing." Wilkes said, circling Donna, "Since the fire ruined the bedroom furniture, you'll have to supply that."
  1111. "Looks - good. I think we'll take it." Brad said, looking into the bathroom, where an ancient cast iron tub sat atop its clawed feet next to an equally ancient toilet. In reality, the place looked like a collision of antiques, hastily assembled and barely held together, "And this is how much again?"
  1112. "Ah - well, this is one of the larger apartments, and it has a view, it commands a higher rent." Wilkes said, sliding his hands up and down his suspenders thoughtfully until Sasha nudged him in the ribs, "But - since you're going to do repairs, and you're fighting the system - The rest of the month is half-price."
  1113. "And the following month?" Brad asked.
  1114. "Well - you're assuming you'll be here the following month." Wilkes said flashing his toothy grin and rubbing his chin, "It might be great to fight the system - but in the end, the system usually wins."
  1115. "It's - nice - really nice I guess - but I don't have the money right now." Donna said, circling the rooms. "Not for all this." Brad sighed as Sasha looked at him.
  1116. "All right all right." Brad said, pulling out his checkbook, "I guess I can do without a new car a little longer."
  1117. "That's the last one?" Donna asked as Brad and Sasha hauled in the last boxes.
  1118. "Almost." Brad said, pulling in a heavy box, "Wilkes left behind a welcoming present." Donna went over to look. It was a box filled with paint and brushes.
  1119. "Some present." Donna said as Sasha flopped down in a chair, "How did you know to arrange this Sasha?"
  1120. "It wasn't easy." Sasha said with a tired smile, "But - I figured if you two were so closely linked now you might want a place of your own..."
  1121. "Whoa, whoa!" Brad said holding up his hands, "Donna was evicted - and suspended. I still have a dorm room, and a degree to work on..."
  1122. "And you'll still wake up here - tomorrow." Sasha said, "May as well go to bed here too."
  1123. "She's got a point." Donna said. Brad sighed.
  1124. "All right, but only until we take care of this curse." Brad said.
  1125. "It's not that much of a curse when you think about it." Sasha said, "As long as you agree on things that is."
  1126. "And think it all out." Donna agreed, "Like your idea to increase our stamina and strength so we could haul all of my things up three flights of stairs without getting tired." Sasha nodded tiredly - even though she had only carried a few things up, she was very tired. Thanks to her suggestion though, Brad and Donna felt as if they had only taken a brief walk.
  1127. "So it has some good points." Brad said with a shrug, "But I'm majoring in marketing and Donna wants to be an archeologist. And I can't see any practical use for this in either of those areas."
  1128. "Who says it has to be practical?" Sasha said, getting up and going to the door, she paused, "I've got a class to get to. By the way - take your shower before five, because the hot water runs out real fast in Lincoln House."
  1129. Long moments passed as Brad and Donna sat in the cluttered kitchenette.
  1130. "Well - ah..." Brad said looking around, at the old painted kitchen cabinets and cracked white plaster walls "This is not what I expected for my first place..."
  1131. "Same here." Donna said, "Thanks - I mean, I'll pay you back..." Brad waved her off.
  1132. "Lets worry about finding out who framed you first." Brad said, "Then maybe finding a cure for this curse..."
  1133. "Its not a curse." Donna said, "Remember - it's a gift..."
  1134. "From some ancient dragon-god or something, I know." Brad sighed, getting up and looking at the still-empty bedroom, "I guess we'll have to get an inflatable mattress or something for the night..."
  1135. "And paint." Donna said, checking her watch, "Don't you have a class soon?" Brad took a look at his watch and cursed.
  1136. "Crud! I've gotta go or old Professor Cole will kill me." Brad said, looking around for his backpack. He ran into it - at the end of Donna's stretched out arm.
  1137. "Here. Go." Donna said. Brad smiled and dashed out the door, leaving Donna alone with her thoughts and the clutter of her belongings.
  1138. For the first time all day, Donna was having some fun.
  1139.  
  1140. She had sorted out most of her things that had been hastily thrown out of the dorm by Ms Snodgrass, and nothing seemed to be damaged or missing. Partially out of habit, she began typing up her theater paper on her laptop. She stopped when she realized she might never be able to turn it in.
  1141. "Fudge!" Donna said, closing the computer up. She needed something to do. Her eyes fell on the waiting brushes and cans of paint.
  1142. "Well, it has to be done sometime." Donna said, shrugging. She hefted the box up, and hauled it into the still vacant bedroom before putting on some grungier clothes and spreading out the stained plastic drop cloth to cover the floor.
  1143. "Hmmm - this should be easy." Donna said to herself, opening the paint can and taking the brush. She glanced up, before stretching herself up toward the ceiling, "Oh yeah - no more ladders for me!" She stretched out her arm, laying down the paint over the scorched wall. Most of the damage it seemed was superficial, which was just as well, since she had no idea how to patch up a wall.
  1144. Back and forth she went and an amazing rate, her flexible arm whipping from the wall to the paint bucket and back like someone fly-fishing. Once she had mastered it with one arm, she began painting with both hands.
  1145. "Hmmm- " Donna grinned, sitting down and stretching her head out and over to make sure she wasn't missing a spot as the blackened paint shifted to gray and into the same shade of white she was spreading. In the back of her head, she figured she could get away with just painting the damaged area, but she wanted a challenge for herself - and her elastic powers.
  1146. With a grin, she slipped her feet out of her sneakers, and stretched her toes around two more paint brushes. It was a bit tricky, coordinating all of her stretched out limbs as she laid her body down on the floor to provide some measure of stability. She could easily stretch herself out to paint any part of the room from where she was laying.
  1147. "At least I can get a job painting rooms." Donna thought to herself as she used her hands to do the fine detail work and her feet to do the broader strokes. It felt so good to stretch out and let herself go. Had anyone bothered seen her through the windows, they might have thought a number of serpents were partying in the room as she whipped about, painting.
  1148. "All done..." Donna said, as she put down the final brushstrokes around the window frames. She stretched back to admire her work, which wasn't bad for someone who had never really painted a room. Then she glanced down at herself. In her haste to paint faster and faster, she had twisted and tangled her limbs up, so she looked like a twisted paint-dappled vine rising up from her body on the floor.
  1149. "Ooops..." Donna giggled a little, almost thankful that Brad wasn't there to see her in that state. In fact, where was he? She stretched her neck out into the kitchen to check the clock. It was much later than she thought.
  1150. Slowly she began to unravel herself, untwisting her tangled knotty limbs. It took some time to slowly unwrap herself, but soon she was standing on her own two feet again, looking more or less normal, once you discounted the white paint that had gotten smeared all over her limbs as she untied them.
  1151. There was only one solution for that.
  1152. Donna was soon enjoying a nice hot bath when Brad finally came in.
  1153. "Donna?" Brad called, putting his things down. The smell of paint drew him towards the bedroom. He paused a moment before turning to see Donna's head at the end of her stretched-out neck. He jumped back in surprise.
  1154. "What do you think?" Donna asked, nodding towards the freshly painted room as Brad recovered.
  1155. "Uh - very nice..." Brad said, scratching his head, "Y'know, I would've helped..."
  1156. "I know, but it's not like I have anything pressing to do, since I've been suspended." Donna sighed, slowly coiling her neck around Brad, "I needed something to get my mind off of things."
  1157. "And now?" Brad said, looking up Donna's neck to where it vanished into the bathroom.
  1158. "Painting can be very messy work." Donna grinned.
  1159. "Gotcha." Brad nodded, going to the bags he had brought in, "I got an inflatable mattress for tonight..."
  1160. "Aw - I was thinking you'd be the mattress..." Donna grinned. Brad grimaced at the thought.
  1161. "And what - you'd be the sheets?" Brad asked with a wry smile.
  1162. "Hm - I could try that tonight too." Donna said.
  1163. "Or, we could try to clear you."
  1164. "Clear me?" Donna blinked in surprise.
  1165. "You know, get you back in school." Brad said, "Stan is definitely up to something."
  1166. "Such as?"
  1167. "Such as threatening me if I helped you." Brad said, "In fact, since I'm technically your partner in the lab, he wants to flunk me. Or say I was in on it. But, if I shut up, he'll let me pass."
  1168. "That dirty...." Donna said, swinging her neck away from Brad and back again like a writhing snake, "You think he's behind it all?"
  1169. "Looks like." Brad shrugged, "Who else could it be?"
  1170. "Hold on..." Donna said, reeling her neck into the bathroom. The door shut for a moment. Brad waited a few minutes before Donna came out, dressed and looking ready to kill someone.
  1171. "Okay - so should I turn you into something to kill him, or can I have the honors?" Donna said flatly.
  1172. "Donna..."
  1173. "I'm serious!"
  1174. "Come on..."
  1175. "Or just main him..." Donna said, sitting down with a spreading smile, "Or neuter him..."
  1176. "That's not what we're going to do." Brad said. Donna scowled at him.
  1177. "Then what are we supposed to do?" Donna asked.
  1178. "The same thing you do in archeology. 'Investigate until we discover the truth.' " Brad said quoting Donna's favorite saying.
  1179. "Truth is, he's probably ruined my life - and yours too..." Donna said.
  1180. "It was our mistake getting these." Brad said pointing to the coiled tattoos that linked them.
  1181. "Not what I meant."
  1182. "Okay - but since we have them, lets put them to good use." Brad said, as there was a knock at the door. Donna looked back at it in surprise. "That would be Sasha."
  1183. "Sasha?" Donna asked, puzzled, "Why...?"
  1184. "I have an idea." Brad said, going to let her in.
  1185. "That sounds - interesting." Sasha said as Brad outlined what he had in mind.
  1186.  
  1187. "I know." Brad said, "But do you think it will work?"
  1188. "You won't know until you try it." Sasha said.
  1189. "I mean - we won't get stuck or killed..."
  1190. "Killed?" Donna said, feeling very nervous about Brad's idea. Sasha looked at what Brad had written down.
  1191. "Um - no. I don't think so." Sasha said.
  1192. "I don't like that 'um' there." Donna said.
  1193. "It's not like the photos of that jar spelled out the limitations put on what your curse does." Sasha said, "Like I said..."
  1194. "We won't know until we try it." Brad said, glancing at Donna, "Want to go first?"
  1195. "No!" Donna said, looking from Brad to Sasha. She sighed before Brad could say anything, "All right. I'll go first."
  1196. "You sure..."
  1197. "Just do it." Donna said. Brad cleared his throat.
  1198. "Can I get a camera?" Sasha asked. Donna scowled at her as Brad cleared his throat.
  1199. "I want Donna to have the same abilities that a ghost has, but to remain alive." Brad said - then hastily added, "- and dressed in her action suit."
  1200. Donna felt a strange tickle as her clothes dropped down - and fell right through her like leaves falling in the breeze. She looked down at herself to see that she could see right through her now ghostly body. To her surprise, she was wearing an 'action suit' of sorts instead of being in the nude. It looked as if she was clad in a black body stocking, with only her hands and head exposed. Donna got up and went to the mirror to see, walking through the table as she went. It felt like she was walking through warm water as she passed through. In the mirror she could just barely make her outline out.
  1201. "Donna?" she heard Brad say uncertainly, turning to Sasha, "Do you think it worked?" Donna smiled and went over to the sitting pair.
  1202. "Well, you're not dead - so she must be alive." Sasha observed as Donna waved her hand in front of their faces, "If she has the powers of a ghost, then she should be able to control her visibility, or move things around..."
  1203. "Or possession?" Donna thought with a smile. She had seen it done in a movie once, so she began to reach into Sasha. She felt a sharp pain as she did so.
  1204. Suddenly, she was thrown back, into the pile of her belongings. They tumbled down onto and through her as Brad and Sasha turned in surprise at the sudden racket.
  1205. "What the...?" Brad said getting up and staring at the pile, "Donna? Maybe I'd better..."
  1206. "Don't restore her!" Sasha said sharply as Donna got up, unsteadily, passing through a bag of dirty laundry, "She might have something in the middle of her!"
  1207. "Right." Brad nodded, "I wish only Sasha and I could see and hear Donna." Donna suddenly faded into view, a transparent ghost of herself that only Brad and Sasha could see.
  1208. "That's her action suit?" Sasha said with surprise.
  1209. "It beats running around naked." Donna said in a ghostly voice that caused the hair on the back of Brad's neck to stand up.
  1210. "Well - yeah..." Sasha agreed, "So what were you trying to do? Fly?"
  1211. "Um... No..." Donna said weakly, "I wanted to see if I could speak to Brad in your body, like in that movie..."
  1212. "Donna! You were trying to possess Sasha?" Brad said as Sasha rolled her eyes.
  1213. "Just to see if I could do it." Donna protested, leaning against the wall - and falling right through it. She got up hastily, "I wasn't going to be there for long - and it didn't work anyway..."
  1214. "That's because the Tobin line has an - immunity to magic." Sasha said, taking her glasses off and rubbing her eyes.
  1215. "An immunity?" Brad said, surprised. Of course, before they had been cursed with the so-called 'Eyes of the Beholders' he would've dismissed any idea of real magic as a mere fantasy.
  1216. "Long story short- an ancestor of mine was a wizard, who was stripped of his power and locked away from magic by an even more powerful evil wizard." Sasha said, putting her glasses back on, "So - that's why my family has a history of paranormal investigations. We're immune to most magic and weirdness. Which includes ghostly possessions."
  1217. "A pretty useful thing though." Brad said, pointing at the tattoo stuck on his wrist, "You don't get stuck with curses like Donna..."
  1218. "Hey!" Donna said before Brad could finish, "Lets see how you like this!" To Sasha, Brad suddenly vanished, his clothes collapsing onto the floor just as Donna's had collapsed into the chair.
  1219. Brad looked down at his ghostly body in dismay. Donna had neglected to add an 'action suit' for him in her wish.
  1220. "Donna, come on!" Brad said.
  1221. "Stop calling me a curse!" Donna said. Sasha rolled her eyes at the one side of the conversation she was able to listen in on.
  1222. "I wasn't!" Brad protested, "I was going to say Donna and me!"
  1223. "So you say now!" Donna said, ignoring Sasha who had gotten up.
  1224. "Okay, fine... Ow!" Brad cried as Sasha brushed by his ethereal form, somehow shoving it aside. Brad toppled through the chair, but looked up in time to see Sasha grab Donna's wrist.
  1225. "OW! Hey, Sasha!" Donna said, surprised that she could touch her. A painful blue glow rose from her wrist as Sasha clamped down, "Stop it!"
  1226. "No, you stop it!" Sasha said firmly, "In case you've forgotten, your fates are chained together by this curse."
  1227. "I knoooow!" Donna said as the pain spread. She tried to pull away, but her arm just stretched out, feeling like thousands of pins were being driven into it. Brad got up unsteadily, worried about what was going on.
  1228. "No you don't!" Sasha said sternly, "You and Brad need to get along if you want to at least find out if Stanley's really doing this to you!" Donna gasped, as a certain solidity returned to her. The pain subsided in her stretched out arm as Sasha looked about the room.
  1229. "At least Brad seems to know how to get along." Sasha observed, letting Donna's stretched out arm fall to the floor with a solid thud, "Nice clothes too." Donna looked down to see she was still wearing the so called black 'action suit' Brad had conjured up with his inspired wish.
  1230. "All right, all right." Donna sighed, reeling her arm in, "So I've been a brat - I've had a rough day, being tossed out of school and the dorm, and..."
  1231. "I know, I know!" Sasha said, "But the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you won't be able to prove your innocence. And the odds increase that you and Brad will be stuck together forever..."
  1232. "I could do worse..." Donna said worriedly, glancing about the room, wondering where Brad was. And unspoken wish later, she could see his ghostly form, leaning against the fridge, where he was waiting patiently, "Okay, I'm sorry Brad..."
  1233. "Fine. Mind making it so..." Brad's ghostly voice echoed in her head even as Donna wished up an 'action suit' for him too, "That's better."
  1234. "Good - now if you're done, you'd better get going..." Sasha said, even as Donna vanished into a ghostly state, invisible to the naked eye, as did Brad. Sasha paused, somehow sensing the two walking out, "Hey - good luck and try not to do anything stupid!" As if in response, the lights flickered on and off in the apartment briefly. Then again, like a child trying a new trick.
  1235. "Ghosts do that too!" Sasha said, knowing the pair were still present, "Now get going - I'll hang out here 'til you get back." With that, the presence faded away as Brad and Donna headed over to Stanley's apartment.
  1236. "Shouldn't we try to fly?" Donna said as the pair walked across the darkening campus. Not that anyone could see them. Thanks to an inspired wish, the curse that bonded the two together had turned them ghost like, invisible and intangible to the world going by around them.
  1237.  
  1238. "After our last flying experiment?" Brad shook his head, "I'd rather not... HEY!" A bicyclist raced right through his invisible ethereal form, "This is tough enough to get used to."
  1239. "Good point." Donna said, swiping her arm through a passing girl, who shuddered at the cold tingling sensation Donna's invisible arm caused. Donna kept holding it out, causing the row of street lamps it passed through to flicker fitfully as she passed through them.
  1240. "You're going to attract attention doing that." Brad said warningly.
  1241. "So? No one can see us- other than each other, right?" Donna said with a smirk.
  1242. "But they could trace the odd happenings back to Lincoln house - and us." Brad said, "Look - we're just going to see what Stanley might have hidden away in his apartment."
  1243. "I still don't know how we're going to find it." Donna complained, as she stopped causing the lights to flicker.
  1244. "Unit 3, Apartment 6B, in the White Birch Apartments." Brad said confidently as they turned onto Spartan Street, where the long low apartments lined one side of the road.
  1245. "How do you know that?" Donna asked.
  1246. "Looked it up in the student phonebook."
  1247. "Oh." Donna said, glancing at the line of regal old Victorian houses on the other side of the street, which formed part of the unofficial boundary between the town and the university grounds. She knew the apartments were reserved for visiting professors and some assistants, but she had not considered that Stanley had gotten one of them.
  1248. Donna stopped short as a most peculiar feeling spread over her as she stared up at one of the old houses. One in particular, dank and darkened despite the glow of street lights, caused Donna to stop short and stare. It was as if - something was dimly aware of her.
  1249. "This is it." Brad said, stopping and looking about, "Donna?" Donna was a few paces behind him, standing like a misty statue between the bright pools of light cast down by the faux gas streetlamps.
  1250. "Huh?" Donna said, shaking the cobwebs out of her ghostly head, and swiftly stepping over to Brad "Oh, right - we're here?"
  1251. "Down here." Brad said, as they walked into the parking lot in the center of the winding apartment complex. It was laid out in a large curve, edged with stubby sickly looking birch trees. Brad stopped short of the entrance.
  1252. "What - is something wrong?" Donna asked, wondering if he had felt the same odd sensation she had just a moment ago.
  1253. "Yes - well, maybe." Brad said, pointing to a dark blue car parked in a handicapped place near the door, "The police are here."
  1254. "Huh? How do you know?" Donna asked, looking over and resisting the urge to stretch. Two men were sitting in the car, looking a bit bored.
  1255. "Lance got pulled over by a car just like that when he was moving in." Brad said, walking to the front door, "He insisted that I remember the plate numbers and everything. Good thing they can't see us this way."
  1256. "I guess. So - should I just stretch in and let you in...?" Donna asked as they approached the front door. Brad smiled, and walked right through the locked door as if it were not there, "Or we could just do that..." Donna said, following Brad. It felt as if she had passed through a wall of thick mist.
  1257. "Well, I thought it would help us get around without being noticed." Brad said as they walked up the all but deserted stairs to the second floor where Stanley's apartment was located.
  1258. "I can be un-noticeable if I'm invisible - like the first morning or two...." Donna protested as they entered the hallway.
  1259. "I know." Brad said checking the door numbers, "But there were still little hints that we were there. I figure, if we're like ghosts, we can look - but we won't have to touch. No fingerprints."
  1260. "But if we can't touch, how are we supposed to get evidence to the police?" Donna asked. Brad frowned.
  1261. "I- well, I'm working on it." Brad said, "At least this way we can find out if he is the thief, or isn't."
  1262. "Well, I can see he's home." Donna said, pointing to a thin crack of light coming out from under the door.
  1263. "As long as we don't touch anything electrical, he'll never know we were here." Brad said, as he walked through the door. Donna sighed and followed, unsure what they would find.
  1264. "This - isn't what I was expecting..." Donna said, looking around Stanley's meager apartment. Hanging from the walls and ceilings were lamps and lights of every type, each and every one of them glaring bright.
  1265. "Either he's really afraid of the dark..." Brad said, looking at the strange sight of long florescent tubes and old incandescent lamps glowing away, " Or he has a real light bulb fetish."
  1266. "I never... Well, it explains why he turns on all the lights in the lab, even in the storage areas where we don't need them all the time." Donna said, pausing at a bureau and peering into its drawers, just by sticking her intangible face through the cheap wooden sides, "Hey- he even has lights in the drawers."
  1267. "Very weird." Brad muttered, looking in next to Donna, "See anything?"
  1268. "Gloves, and sweaters." Donna said, slightly weirded out by the sight of the knit items passing right through her eyes as she looked around, "Can't we just - solidify?"
  1269. "We don't want anyone to know we were here." Brad reminded her, looking in the bathroom, and finding more lights within the cupboards, and even the toilet tank, "Now this - is a bit much."
  1270. "Suppose he has one on in the fridge?" Donna asked.
  1271. "Why not?" Brad said, looking around, "Notice something missing?"
  1272. "Like an off switch?" Donna said, going to the kitchen.
  1273. "No - he isn't even here. Not even in bed." Brad said, poking his head into the bedroom, which was lit up like the rest of the house, "Why leave the lights on if nobody's home?"
  1274. "Maybe he's planning on being a politician?" Donna joked, sticking her head into the freezer, "Yep a light is on in here too..." Donna stepped back and did a doubletake.
  1275. "I doubt it." Brad said, looking around, "Now where would he hide..."
  1276. "I found it!" Donna said with glee, motioning to Brad.
  1277. "Found it?" Brad said, going to the freezer. He stuck his head in and had the odd sensation of having a frozen can of juice concentrate pass through his head as he looked into the freezer. He was taken aback as Donna's face emerged from a glacial patch of fish sticks opposite him, with a wide grin.
  1278. "Some of it! Look!" Donna said, as her finger emerged from the floor of the freezer. The pile of treasure sat improbably in the center of the freezer, illuminated by a light stuck on the roof. Gold and silver coins and bits of ancient jewelry filled the pale plastic shoebox, but dominating the pile of trinkets was the bejeweled blade, one of the items they were seeking. Brad gave a low, ghostly whistle.
  1279. "Talk about cold cash." Brad said.
  1280. "That's one way of putting it." Donna said, shuddering, "It's really cold in here!" Donna's face slid back into the freezer's side without a trace.
  1281. "Yeah..." Brad said, sliding down to look in the lower part of the fridge, "No jar though..."
  1282. "He wouldn't have put it in there!" Donna said authoritatively, "The cold and condensation might cause it to crack!" Brad pulled out of the fridge, happy to be out at room temperature.
  1283. "Good point." Brad said, looking around, "Now where would he stash something that size?"
  1284. "Lets see... closet?" Donna said, stepping out of the kitchen as Brad peered in the cabinets, all curiously illuminated on the inside, "Or maybe...AH! " Donna's thought was cut short as the door swung open and passed right through her - twice - as Stanley rushed into the room, slamming the door shut behind him.
  1285. "So sorry, so sorry!" Stanley muttered, passing right through Donna and Brad as he made a beeline to the freezer, with eyes filled with fear.
  1286. "You should be!" Donna said, following Stanley, who pulled the plastic shoebox out of the freezer, "Hey, if you can see us?"
  1287. "He can't, remember? We're untouchable and unseeable." Brad said, waving his hand back and forth in front of Stanley's eyes. Stanly pulled the knife and a few of the pieces of jewelry out of the shoebox before looking about, all the while muttering his mantra of sorries.
  1288. "Then what - Hey!" Donna said, spying the knife Stanley had set aside before dashing to the closet where he was emptying a knapsack, "He's taking the knife!"
  1289. "All right - he is..." Brad said, stepping out of Stanley's way as he came back into the kitchen.
  1290. "We've got to stop him!" Donna said, waving her hands in the air, and passing through one of the many lights on the walls. For a moment, the room flickered as the lights went on and off. Stanley looked up, almost petrified in terror.
  1291. "I'm hurrying sir!" Stanley said in a whimpering tone that surprised Brad and Donna. His hand clutched the knife so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.
  1292. "Sir?" Donna said, scowling, "Never mind - Brad, make me solid again, so I can give this jerk a piece of my mind!"
  1293. "No." Brad said watching Stanley look around.
  1294. "No!? Brad!" Donna protested.
  1295. "No..."
  1296. "Fine!" Donna said, sticking her ethereal arm through the lights again. Again they flickered on and off. Stanley gave a howl of primal fear and he raced to the bedroom.
  1297. "Donna!" Brad said as Donna pursued Stanley, "Will you calm down and think..."
  1298. "I am calm! Hey!" Donna said, as Stanley emerged from his bedroom, carrying the largest, brightest flashlight they had ever seen. More bizarrely, he had donned a strange vest covered with tiny blinking Christmas tree lights. In his free hand, he still carried the knife.
  1299. "I've faithfully followed your orders for years!" Stanley said, his voice trembling as he shined the light about the still lit room. He brandished the knife half threateningly "I'm getting it for you!"
  1300. "What's he talking about?" Donna said, looking towards Brad as Stanley stabbed towards the few shadows in the corners of the room.
  1301. "I don't know..." Brad said, instinctively backing up to avoid the wild arc of the knife. He was pretty sure that it wouldn't hurt him - but on the other hand he didn't want to take any chances.
  1302. As Brad backed up, he did the one thing he wanted to avoid.
  1303. He stepped into one of the walls filled with lights.
  1304. While Donna's quick thrusts through wiring caused lights to flicker, the presence Brad's entire body passing through dozens of light bulbs was enough to cause the entire room to flicker and wane eerily, before the light bulbs around Brad began to burst. Brad winced at the sound, unharmed - and fell through the wall, into the kitchen.
  1305. Then the room went black, save for a terrified Stanley and his illuminated vest.
  1306. "Brad, are you..." Donna called before Stanley let out a primal scream, and bolted for the door. He ran right through Donna, causing his vest and light to flicker just enough to cause Stanley to double his pace.
  1307. "I'm fine!" Brad said, going through the wall, "C'mon, we've got to follow him!" He dashed out the door into the semi-darkened hall after Stanley. Only the emergency lights were on.
  1308. "He's getting away!" Donna shouted, stretching past Brad in a strange ghostly way. She looped her arms around Stanley in vain, but since she was still intangible, he slipped through them, causing his strangely lit vest to blink furiously, "Brad! Make me solid again!"
  1309. "No - I've got a better idea." Brad said as a blinking red light caught his eye. He plunged his hand through the fire alarm, disrupting it enough to cause the fire alarms to turn on. Stanley was so surprised by the sudden alarms sounding that he tumbled down the stairs.
  1310. "Great! Now everyone's coming out." Donna groused as doors opened and the occupants of the apartment began to evacuate, "What good is this going to do us?"
  1311. "Witnesses." Brad said, going down the stairs, as Donna stretched after him, coiling about like a snake, "And the authorities. It ought to keep Stanley from getting away."
  1312. "Oh..." Donna said as they went out the door, "But - I don't think he's going very far." Brad gawked at the odd sight.
  1313. Stanley was clutching the lamppost, bathed in the bright light, babbling incoherently away in terror. The exiting crowd circled him, joining Brad and Donna's invisible stares at the strange scene.
  1314. As the police and fire department arrived, things seemed to somehow get brighter as if the darkness of the night was bleeding away in disgust as the police hauled Stanley away.
  1315. Outside a dark rainy sky opened up with the patter of heavy rain hitting the windows. Donna woke up with a start, and looked around the strange room lit by the dreary twilight of the day. It took a moment for it to register that it was the new apartment, since she had been evicted from her dorm just the day before. She looked to her side anxiously, expecting to see Brad's sleeping form next to her.
  1316.  
  1317. He wasn't there.
  1318. "Brad?" Donna called, nervously stretching her neck out to look about the apartment. The flush of the toilet gave her a clue of where he was. Rather than retracting her neck, she waited, her head hovering over the kitchen table at the end of her elongated neck. After a long moment, the door opened, and Brad came out.
  1319. "Morning!" Donna said, startling Brad, "Why are you up so early?"
  1320. "I always get up early when I'm sleeping someplace new." Brad said, recovering and going back to the bed as Donna followed him with her neck coiling around him.
  1321. "Odd- you didn't get up early those times you woke up in my bed." Donna teased him.
  1322. "Better mattresses." Brad said, sitting down and eyeing Donna's form, still covered up with the sheets, "And - I'm still thinking about how Stanley went off the deep end last night." Donna frowned.
  1323. "Yeah - that was weird." Donna agreed. They had hung around long enough to watch the police haul Stanley off, gibbering like a madman and clutching onto one of the policemen's flashlights. Even Sasha hadn't known what to make of that when they returned.
  1324. "And it was like he was prepared - for something..." Brad puzzled. Before Donna could reply, there was a loud rap at the door.
  1325. "I'll get it." Brad said, getting back up, "Better pull yourself back together." Donna smiled and reeled her neck back in as Brad went to the door. As she rubbed her neck and got up, she noticed a police car parked below on the street. Before she could puzzle out why it was there, Brad called.
  1326. "Uh - Donna? Someone wants to see you." Brad said. Donna peered out the bedroom door and gave a little gulp - a tall tired looking policeman was standing at the door.
  1327. "Ms Waxwain?" The officer said sternly, "Chief Hall would like a few words with you down at the station."
  1328. "You didn't have to come!" Donna whispered as she and Brad were driven over the station.
  1329. "Had to." Brad whispered back, patting her shoulder, "Considering the mess you got into the last time, I think you need all the back up you can get..." Brad's voice trailed off as they pulled into the police station.
  1330. "At least I'm not under arrest..." Donna said as they got out of the cruiser and were lead towards the imposing concrete building.
  1331. "Yet." Brad helpfully said. Donna glared at him as they went through the metal detectors and into one of the interviewing rooms in the sprawling station. Chief Hall was there, looking over evidence in bags lined out on the table. He looked up as Donna and Brad came in.
  1332. "Ms. Waxwain - and...?" He pointed to Brad questioningly.
  1333. "Brad Keyes." Brad said, shaking Chief Hall's offered hand, "Just here to provide - moral support."
  1334. "Good for you." Hall said, looking from Brad to Donna, "Have a seat - we've had an - unexpected break in the archeology department theft case..."
  1335. "I see." Donna said as she sat down, looking over the long table anxiously, "So you know - I didn't do it?" Hall frowned.
  1336. "You were a suspect." Hall said, pacing, "But not a very good one. Too convenient. Too neat. And we found evidence that these thefts have been happening since before you started work in the lab."
  1337. "So - if she isn't a suspect, that means Donna isn't suspended any more?" Brad said hopefully, "Right?"
  1338. "It's not that simple." Came another voice. Brad and Donna turned to see a bewildered Professor Chase adjusting her glasses in the doorway.
  1339. "Professor Chase?" Donna said, "What are you doing here?"
  1340. "Trying to help Chief Hall get to the bottom of this mess." Chase said, going to the artifact-covered table, "It - seems that we misjudged you - and made a grave mistake trusting Stanley. For that, I am very sorry."
  1341. "So - you'll let Donna back in?" Brad said, earning an icy look from Professor Chase.
  1342. "Who are you young man?" She demanded.
  1343. "Brad - my - boyfriend..." Donna said, earning a surprised look from Chase and Brad, "He's - been helping me out..."
  1344. "Of course." Chase said shaking her head and trying to suppress a smile.
  1345. "Did you have any luck with Stanley?" Chief Hall asked redirecting the conversation.
  1346. "No." Chase said, shaking her head, "I have never seen anything like it."
  1347. "Like - what?" Donna asked. Chase paused to consider it.
  1348. "He's - speaking in tongues." Chase said carefully, "At first, I thought it might be a Kurdish dialect..."
  1349. "Kurdish?" Hall said frowning, "Where would he learn that? His license says he's from Ohio!"
  1350. "No, no - I said I thought it might be Kurdish." Chase said shaking her head and taking off her glasses, "But it seems to be a much older dialect that he keeps on chanting."
  1351. "Chanting?" Brad asked.
  1352. "Yes - a very peculiar chant..." Chase began.
  1353. "Which he won't stop- unless we turn off the lights." Hall added, "Then he starts screaming."
  1354. "Nice." Brad said.
  1355. "The inmates in the drunk tank thought so." Hall said with a smirk, "Strange thing is, he's come back negative on drugs and alcohol - unless he's taking something new we've never heard of."
  1356. "Or... something else?" Donna said looking down the table, "Is this - everything he stole?"
  1357. "Everything we found so far." Hall said, "We were hoping you could help Professor Chase check these items against those listed as missing."
  1358. "Of course..."
  1359. "Once we find out - is Donna off suspension?" Brad butted in.
  1360. "As I see it - there is no reason not to allow her to resume her studies." Chase said, taking her glasses off, "We will have to get a final authorization from Professor Varney of course - but since this is such an extraordinary case..." Before Chase could continue, the lights went out.
  1361. "What the hell?" Hall said, reaching for his radio as emergency lights came on. Before he could make a call, an unearthly shriek of sheer horror seemed to fill the station.
  1362. "What was that?" Brad said in the dim light. He saw Chief Hall race out the door as the scream continued to intensify.
  1363. "It sounded like Stanley!" Donna said, following Hall out the door, "C'mon!" Brad glanced at Professor Chase who seemed to be shaken by the screams, and followed Donna.
  1364. By the time they reached the door leading to the holding area, the main lights fitfully flickered on and off enough for them to see Hall crouching over a fallen officer.
  1365. "Damn it Pete what happened?" Hall said, helping the officer up.
  1366. "I don't know - the lights went out, and that I was hit from behind." Pete said, rubbing the back of his head. Donna flattened herself and stretched ever so slightly to get around the two men unnoticed and into the holding area.
  1367. "Donna!" Brad said loud enough to attract attention. Hall looked up, and scowled.
  1368. "Hey! Stay out of there!" Hall growled as Donna stood still, staring into one of the cells, which was now glowing with light. Hall lumbered over like a bear, followed by Pete and Brad. They stared at the sight inside.
  1369. Stanley Piper was collapsed in the corner, staring at the ceiling with open white eyes, trying to speak.
  1370. "Hell - Pete, the keys!" Hall said as more officers showed up in the holding area, ignoring Brad and Donna for the moment. Hall fumbled with the keys, and opened up the cell door.
  1371. "Is he...?" Donna said, still shocked as Hall and another officer went in to examine the stricken prisoner. She might have hated Stanley for what he had done, but she wouldn't have wished this on anyone.
  1372. "Not dead." Hall said getting up, "But I wouldn't call it living either."
  1373. "I'll call the ambulance." Said one of the officers heading down the hall. Hall stepped out of the cell, scowling and looked into the cell next door where two terrified occupants were trying to stay as far away from Stanley's side as possible.
  1374. "Okay, Mikey - Jarrod. What happened?" Hall said.
  1375. "We- don't know man - the lights went out - and it got dark." One said haltingly.
  1376. "Man I ain't never doin' drugs again!" said the other, "The floor - it rose up and got the guy!"
  1377. "Not the floor - the shadows!" said the first.
  1378. "The shadows?" Hall said.
  1379. "Yeah man - it got darker than dark!" said the other. The first one nodded in agreement.
  1380. "Darker than dark?" Brad said, puzzled. Hall looked at Brad and Donna.
  1381. "What are you two still doing here?" Hall said sternly, "Get out and back to the interview room! I've got to get an expert in here to deal with this."
  1382. "Chief Hall is calling in an expert?" Sasha asked as Donna and Brad sat in the archeology lab, checking the inventory list they had made at the police station against the lab's own inventory list.
  1383.  
  1384. "Yeah - an expert on what, he didn't say." Brad said with a frown.
  1385. "Stan's eyes - they were totally white!" Donna said, still shaken up by what she had seen, "And the scream..."
  1386. "Awful." Brad said, tapping the table impatiently, "So, let's get back to work..."
  1387. "Interviewing witnesses is my work." Sasha said.
  1388. "Talking about how someone flipped out in jail?" Brad said.
  1389. "He didn't flip out." Sasha said, "Something got him."
  1390. "What?"
  1391. "It makes sense." Donna said, "He was scared of something..."
  1392. "Like the dark." Brad said.
  1393. "Or something that lived in the dark." Sasha said cryptically.
  1394. "Like...what?" Brad asked.
  1395. "You'd be surprised what lurks in the dark." Sasha said. Brad rolled his eyes.
  1396. "Do tell." Came a voice from the door, followed by a flash. The threesome turned to see it was Dave, holding a digital camera and wearing a sly grin, "This is turning into a pretty good story."
  1397. "Glad you think so." Brad said as Dave strolled into the lab, double-checking the camera's viewscreen, "So what have you heard?"
  1398. "Same thing you're talking about." Dave shrugged, "Stanley goes off the deep end, gets his eyes turned white and according to my sources, drools. A lot."
  1399. "That's more information than what I wanted to know." Brad said.
  1400. "Chief Hall was calling in an expert." Sasha said as Dave took a picture of them. She frowned, "Heard anything about him?"
  1401. "No - well, other than the fact that he was present during that fracas in the physics department last year." Dave said shaking his head, "We never found out what sort of gas caused people to hallucinate dinosaurs and cave men."
  1402. "Hm." Sasha said thoughtfully, "I hadn't heard about that."
  1403. "We couldn't get anyone to go on the record about that." Dave scowled, "So - what's on the record here?"
  1404. "Well- Stanley took a lot of stuff." Brad said, holding up a thick ream of papers, "Coins, jewelry..."
  1405. "No jar though." Donna fretted, "And some other things are missing."
  1406. "Like what?" Sasha asked, leaning over to view the papers Donna was comparing.
  1407. "Let's see - in addition to the jar..." Donna looked at her notes, "A number of clay tablets, small idols and cult symbols."
  1408. "So did he take those?" Dave asked.
  1409. "The police didn't find anything other than these valuables." Donna said, "But the missing items - they had some important historic value to them. You can't put a price on that."
  1410. "So - another thief?" Dave said hopefully, sensing a story.
  1411. "Or - something else." Sasha said ominously.
  1412. "How many thieves could be casing this place?" Brad said shaking his head, "I mean, it's Wattamatta, not Harvard or Yale..."
  1413. "Or - maybe it's a secret cult!" Dave said.
  1414. "Cult of what?"
  1415. "I don't know." Dave said, "You tell me." Brad looked at Dave, puzzled, "The tattoos on your arms - they match. What's the deal with that?"
  1416. "Um - nothing." Donna said, putting her arm under the table to hide the spiral tattoo.
  1417. "Hey - I don't have one." Sasha pointed out, pulling up her sleeve and baring her arm.
  1418. "And the girl in the photo - the one you keep on forgetting to tell me how to get in touch with?" Dave said, pointing at Brad, "She had one too. What's the story?"
  1419. "All right. You want the story?" Brad said.
  1420. "Yes."
  1421. "You won't want to print it."
  1422. "Try me."
  1423. "Fine." Brad sighed, "Donna and I..."
  1424. "We're engaged!" Donna blurted out, holding her arm up "See? Engagement tattoos." Brad and Dave looked at Donna in surprise.
  1425. "Say what?" Sasha said, breaking the stunned silence.
  1426. "Riiiiight." Dave said, "So - this is some kind of three-way thing?"
  1427. "No!" Brad and Donna said simultaneously. They looked at each other and frowned.
  1428. "Just let me tell him..." Brad said, scowling.
  1429. "You can't!" Donna said.
  1430. "It's cool..."
  1431. "Brad..."
  1432. "Donna - Be quiet!" Brad said, regretting what he was going to do. Donna felt a strange tingle to her face, and realized Dave was staring at her.
  1433. "Mmmm!" Donna managed, wondering why her lips weren't working right. She reached up to feel her face - and found her lips - her entire mouth had just melted away. A smooth soft featureless surface of skin covered the lower part of her face, as if she had never had a mouth before, "MMMM!"
  1434. "Whoa - wha- wha..." Dave managed, stepping back and staring as Donna scowled and tried to make her point to Brad.
  1435. "Here's the scoop - Donna and I have been cursed with these tattoos." Brad said, pointing at his, "So whatever she wants mmmmm...." Brad suddenly stopped talking as Donna made his mouth vanish into featureless skin just like hers. Brad rolled his eyes as he felt his face.
  1436. "What the heck?" Dave said, looking from Donna to Brad.
  1437. "Lover's spat." Sasha said, a matter of factly, "What one desires, the other becomes - and vice versa. Leads to some interesting fights..." Sasha stopped as Donna and Brad's mouths reappeared, and they gasped for air.
  1438. "Great- just great!" Donna said, recovering first, "So now Dave's gonna tell the whole campus we're freaks?"
  1439. "No he's not." Brad said, looking at Dave, "Are you?"
  1440. "Whoa, wait a minute..." Dave said, rubbing his forehead and pacing back and forth, "This - is incredible..."
  1441. "Unbelievable." Sasha added helpfully. Dave looked at her in dismay.
  1442. "Exactly!" Dave said, stopping.
  1443. "Totally unprintable too." Sasha added.
  1444. "What?" Donna said.
  1445. "Who's going to believe it?" Sasha shrugged, "I mean, people invent as many crazy things as they can witness out in the real world."
  1446. "Photos!" Dave said brandishing his camera, " Come on - do something."
  1447. "Like this?" Donna said with a sly grin. Brad groaned as he felt himself shrink slightly, becoming softer and curvier. Donna had turned him into a girl again.
  1448. "Brad?" Dave said, too shocked to take a photo, "You're - the cutie...?"
  1449. "Yeah - Oops!" Brad said, grabbing and holding up his pants before they fell off him, "Trust me - you do not want to go out with me..."
  1450. "Better take that picture." Sasha said, nudging Dave, "Of course, anyone could say someone fixed it up in Photoshop..."
  1451. "Yeah... I..." Dave shook his head, "Then how do I...?"
  1452. "You can't!" Donna said.
  1453. "Short of getting them to do their thing on live TV - there's no way." Sasha said with a smirk, "Trust me - cryptologists have this problem all the time..."
  1454. "Uh- huh...." Dave said, still stunned.
  1455. "Donna - do you mind changing me back?" Brad said.
  1456. "But you look so cute that way." Donna teased Brad.
  1457. "You're - used to this?" Dave asked.
  1458. "Weirdly enough - I'm starting to get used to it." Brad sighed, "Donna..." Before Brad could finish an unspoken threat, he felt himself growing and filling his clothes back out as his manhood was restored.
  1459. "But - how...?" Dave sputtered.
  1460. "Remember those jar photos we were so keen about?" Brad said, "That jar - did this to us."
  1461. "And of course, it's still missing." Donna said, "We thought Stanley had done it, but..."
  1462. "Donna?" came a voice from the door, interrupting Donna. It was Professor Chase, "Professor Varney is in, so we should be able to straighten your problem out." Donna stood up nervously, glancing from Brad to Sasha.
  1463. "Wish me luck." Donna gulped, heading out the door. Sasha gave Brad a nudge.
  1464. "Go." Sasha hissed loudly.
  1465. "Wait a minute..." Brad said, catching up to Donna and Professor Chase in the stairwell, "Mind if I take part..."
  1466. "I'm sorry, you are...?" Chase said, annoyed.
  1467. "Brad - Brad Keyes... I'm sort of helping Donna..."
  1468. "Which is commendable, but this is a private meeting." Chase said, continuing up the stairs to the floor where the archeology department's offices were located, "You will just have to wait. I am sure that this will be brief and Donna's suspension will be quickly ended."
  1469. "Yeah, but..."
  1470. "Relax Brad." Donna said, with a smile, "It's going to be all right." With that, she gave Brad a quick kiss, and followed Professor Chase down the hall to Varney's corner office.
  1471. Brad stood there, slightly stunned by their first kiss.
  1472. "Darn it, I wish I could be in there..." Brad fumed, sitting down in a chair next to the stairwell to wait. He had been planning to let Donna make him ghost-like again, but there hadn't been time to do so...
  1473. "Waiting for someone?" came a voice. Brad looked up to see a small oriental woman in a modest dark red dress smiling down at him. He could have sworn she hadn't been there a moment ago.
  1474. "Uh - yeah - She's meeting with Professor Varney... " Brad said pointing down the hall. The woman looked down the hall and smiled.
  1475. "Ah - and you couldn't be there." She said with a strange lilting accent, "It is a shame that you couldn't see through her eyes to view what was going on."
  1476. "Yeah, I guess..." Brad said, looking down the hall as a thought suddenly came to him. A smile crossed his face, and he closed his eyes.
  1477. The oriental woman nodded and smiled, and paced the hallway with strangely silent steps.
  1478. "No."
  1479.  
  1480. Donna stared at Professor Varney, who sat behind his ancient wooden desk like a huge pale heap as he passed his sentence on her appeal. Professor Chase was quick to jump to Donna's defense.
  1481. "Now see here Orson!" Chase sputtered, drawing only the slightest amount of attention from Varney who was busy picking his fingernails, "The police found it wasn't Donna who was stealing from the lab - it was your own hand-picked assistant Stanley Piper!"
  1482. "A fact that I will believe only when I hear it from Stanley himself." Varney said without a trace of concern.
  1483. "But - he's - out of it." Donna said.
  1484. "Out of it?" Varney said, raising an eyebrow with a hint of suspicion.
  1485. " He's at the medical center, in some sort of comatose state." Chase said, "The doctors don't know when he will come out of it- if at all."
  1486. "Then when he does, he can tell us all exactly what happened." Varney said, "Until then - I will put my trust in the damning evidence that he presented us showing Ms. Waxwain was stealing..."
  1487. "I didn't do it!" Donna said. Professor Chase held up her hand to calm Donna down.
  1488. "The police found a large number of missing artifacts in Stanley's rooms." Chase said evenly, thrusting a ream of papers under Varney's nose "We have checked it against the inventory..."
  1489. "I see." Varney said, taking the ream from Chase and idly flipping through it, "Yet so many artifacts remain - missing. Clay tablets from Ur, seals from Bozra..."
  1490. "Which the police may find." Chase said, "They are still investigating, and probably couldn't tell the difference between a student art project and a three thousand year old clay tablet..."
  1491. "Indeed." Varney said, trying to sit his girth up, as if he suddenly took notice of something interesting, "Then - there's the question of a very unique container which came into the collection."
  1492. "Container?" Chase asked.
  1493. "A jar, perfectly preserved with an intact copper scroll within..." Varney said, motioning with his hands the approximate size of the piece.
  1494. "The Babylonian battery." Donna said, drawing a blank look from Varney, "That was the first thing we found missing - before..."
  1495. "Before Stanley presented me with the evidence of your wrong doing." Varney said, "How interesting..."
  1496. "But..." Donna protested.
  1497. "We are still investigating." Chase said, "And when Professor Lipro returns from his excavations in Berwick..."
  1498. "Which won't be for some time." Varney said. Chase scowled at him.
  1499. "Which will be sooner than you think Orson." Chase said angrily, "You may be head of this department, but there are limits to what you can do!" Varney looked at Chase coldly.
  1500. "Is that a threat?" Varney asked.
  1501. "Advice." Chase said, "I am done listening to you. I am going to get Olaf back from Berwick and I want a full review on this matter immediately."
  1502. "A pointless exercise, I assure you." Varney replied without a trace of concern, "Until then - I do not wish to see Ms. Waxwain in my office again. She has already overstayed her welcome."
  1503. "But..." Donna said.
  1504. "Begone." Varney said sternly.
  1505. "You had better go dear." Chase said, glaring at Varney, "Orson and I have more things to discuss." Donna nodded, and went to the door, Varney's little eyes watching her as she went.
  1506. "Orson - what has gotten into you?" Chase said, blocking his gaze.
  1507. "A great many things of late." Varney grumbled as Donna shut the door behind her.
  1508. Dejected, Donna turned the corner and ran into the same oriental woman she had run into a day before.
  1509. "Oh - sorry..." Donna said, "I wasn't watching where I was going..." The woman smiled enigmatically as her.
  1510. "Perhaps you should listen to what you were hearing." She said cryptically.
  1511. "Huh?" Donna said, puzzled.
  1512. "Your friend is waiting for you." She added, pointing down the hallway as she walked by Donna. Donna looked and spied Brad sitting in a chair next to the stairwell. The moment she looked back, the strange dark-haired woman had vanished.
  1513. "Weird." Donna muttered, going over to Brad, who had his eyes closed tight, "Hey - what are you doing?"
  1514. "Sitting." Brad said.
  1515. "No duh!" Donna said, tapping his head.
  1516. "Hold it..." Brad said, opening his eyes and blinking, "That was odd."
  1517. "The sitting or the waiting?" Donna said, crossing her arms, "Trust me, it was a waste of time..."
  1518. "I know. They didn't let you back in." Brad said, cutting Donna off and scratching his cheek thoughtfully.
  1519. "How did you know?" Donna asked, slightly annoyed.
  1520. "I - um - used the curse on you..."
  1521. "What?"
  1522. "Nothing major." Brad said, "I just made it so I could hear and see everything you did since they didn't want me in there with you..."
  1523. "Brad- how could you?" Donna said, growing angry, "How many times have you done that to me?"
  1524. "Once." Brad said, rubbing his eyes, "I am not planning to do it again- it made me wicked dizzy..."
  1525. "You had better not spy on me again!" Donna said, wondering how she could get back at him if he did.
  1526. "Calm down...." Brad said, getting up, and motioning her to follow, "I wanted to find out exactly what you went through in person..."
  1527. "Great. So now you're feeling me without my knowing it?" Donna said.
  1528. "No - calm down already." Brad said as they reached the stairwell, "I didn't exactly have time to ask your permission to do it, but I thought it would be a good idea..."
  1529. "To listen to my life going down the toilet?" Donna asked.
  1530. "No - to get an objective viewpoint." Brad said, "What did that lady say to you in the hall? Listen to what you're hearing?"
  1531. "I heard Varney loud an clear..." Donna sulked, stomping down to the ground floor.
  1532. "No you didn't." Brad said, "He knew about those missing artifacts..."
  1533. "So? He's the chair of the archeology department." Donna said, going out the door, "Stanley probably told him a lot of stuff..."
  1534. "Including the jar?" Brad asked.
  1535. "Including the jar." Donna said. Brad took her arm, nearly stretching it out in plain view of everyone outside, "Hey!"
  1536. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and help out for a moment." Brad said, "Think about it - the jar was bounced around the campus mail system before I brought it to the lab. We spent most of the night there with it. And the next morning, it was gone."
  1537. "So... Varney probably saw it on a copy of the list we just got from the military." Donna said.
  1538. "We've looked at the list." Brad said, "All it says is it's a clay jar - nothing about the copper scroll inside."
  1539. "Well, it was sealed..." Donna said, her voice trailing off, "Wait a minute - how did he know about it?"
  1540. "That's what I'd like to know." Brad said looking up at the windows of Varney's office high in the ivy-draped Adams Hall.
  1541. Dave, Donna and Brad crowded into one of the large closets, which the Wattamatta Watcher laughingly called a private office. Old papers and mismatched headlines threatened to peel off the wall as the three crowded around the laptop Dave was sitting behind.
  1542.  
  1543. "Orson Varney - Wattamatta's man of mystery." Dave said, pausing and looking at Brad and Donna, "Well, after you two that is."
  1544. "Dave..." Brad sighed.
  1545. "All right, all right." Dave said, pulling up the file, "Varney, Orson. He was the star professor of the archeology department, a real active Indiana Jones type throughout the 1970's and 1980's."
  1546. "Indiana Jones?" Donna said in disbelief, "Get out of here!"
  1547. "Really." Dave said, "One of the old alums from the Wattamatta Watcher told us the nastier part of an excavation in Lebanon he took part in - with terrorists taking pot shots at them. Varney though - he just ignored it. He kept on excavating through the first Gulf War at..."
  1548. "What about something more recent?" Brad asked.
  1549. "Well- there's not much." Dave said, "His last expedition was to Jordan in 1999, near the Iraqi border - and he's been advising the Bush administration since the war began..."
  1550. "Doesn't he teach classes?"
  1551. "One per semester." Donna said with a frown, "Intro to Basic Archeology."
  1552. "She's right." Dave said, pointing to the listing, "And it's a 119 class."
  1553. "So?"
  1554. "That's the code that the administration uses to point out classes for jocks." Dave said with a smirk, "That way, they ace it between games and parties."
  1555. "But - Stanley's been teaching it." Donna said, "I've seen him do it all the time."
  1556. "Varney's name is on it." Dave said frowning, "Of course, lots of professors here let their prize grad students do the work for them. Adds to their resumes."
  1557. "Who's teaching it now that Stanley's out of the picture?" Brad wondered.
  1558. "One way to find out." Dave said, picking up the phone and dialing.
  1559. "Who are you calling...?"Donna asked. Dave held up his hand for quiet.
  1560. "Uh - yeah-uh - kin' you tell me when Intro to Basic Archeology will be held?" Dave drawled out in his best jock impression. He nodded and grunted a few times as he talked on the phone before hanging up.
  1561. "It's been cancelled." Dave said, slightly amused, "And - get this - Varney hasn't been in at all."
  1562. "But - I saw him." Donna said, "He was in his office."
  1563. "So you've said." Dave said, "But the secretary said she hasn't seen him all day."
  1564. "So - she took a break?" Brad said as Dave turned back to the computer.
  1565. "She says she's never seen him." Dave said, "How many department heads around here are never seen?"
  1566. "I don't know." Brad admitted.
  1567. "None. Here's the last picture we have on file of him in 1999." Dave said pointing to the monitor. A thin pensive man looked out of the screen at them.
  1568. "Sheesh- He's really let himself go." Brad said.
  1569. "That - that's not the Professor Varney I've met." Donna puzzled. The differences between the bloated man in Varney's office and this image were so striking that she wasn't sure it could possibly be the same person.
  1570. "It's been over five years." Dave said, scanning the paper's records "After 1999 - he began doing one class, and advising. And avoiding the public and press."
  1571. "But he instantly shows up to expel students for chuckles?" Brad asked.
  1572. "Good question." Dave said, pausing and getting up, "Hang tight - I've got to check something with one of our reporters." With that, Dave wriggled by Donna and went out the door.
  1573. "This isn't right." Donna puzzled, as Brad took Dave's empty seat, "Professor Varney - is very important."
  1574. "Was." Brad said, searching the newspaper's database, "All he does is send out press releases."
  1575. "And get grants." Donna pointed out, "The government is providing a large piece of funding for the archeology department's Iraq artifact project..."
  1576. "Which has gotten us into this mess." Brad said, "Suppose Stanley wrote these too?" Donna stretched her neck out, around Brad to view the laptop screen.
  1577. "Well - yeah." Donna said, "That one at least looks like Stanley's style of writing..."
  1578. "So, Stanley did it all..." Brad pondered, "Wonder what Varney will do without him?" Before Donna could reply Dave came back in, and did a double take at the sight of Donna's long stretched-out neck.
  1579. "What the..." Dave said, as Donna quickly reeled her neck back to its normal length. Dave stared at her as she smiled nervously.
  1580. "Find something?" Brad asked, shaking Dave out of his stupor.
  1581. "Huh? Oh - right." Dave said, leaning against the door, "This is a top-secret story we're working on- so this is strictly confidential..."
  1582. "We can keep secrets." Brad said nodding at Donna, "Can't you?"
  1583. "Right." Dave said, "You know the id cards everyone on campus has, right? To get meals, access to buildings and the library?"
  1584. "Sure." Brad shrugged.
  1585. "We've been doing some digging. To see who's abusing those privileges." Dave said with a sly smile, "Statistically speaking of course."
  1586. "Uh-huh." Donna said, "And who would abuse their privilege to get extra helpings at the dining hall?"
  1587. "Well considering the cooking, no one of course." Dave chuckled, "Its interesting how many of the professors make their way to the women-only dorms though." Donna's eyes widened.
  1588. "Like Varney?" Brad said, breaking Dave's eagerness to tell that side of the story.
  1589. "Actually - no." Dave said, passing the printout to Brad, "Varney hasn't used his card at all."
  1590. "Not once this year?" Brad said, puzzled.
  1591. "Not once as in never." Dave said, tapping the nearly blank sheet, "This is all the use he's made over the past three years when the university phased in the new card system."
  1592. "He only used it once - to activate it?" Donna said, surprising Brad and Dave - she had stretched her neck out again to view the page Brad was holding. The two stared at her in surprise, "Oh - sorry..." Donna said, reeling her neck back in.
  1593. "How are you doing that?" Dave asked.
  1594. "Part of the curse." Brad said.
  1595. "Could I at LEAST get one of the other editors in here to see you do that?" Dave said empathically, "Please!"
  1596. "No!" Donna said firmly, scrunching her neck down so her chin was sinking into her blouse collar.
  1597. "Aw, c'mon..." Dave begged.
  1598. "Wouldn't you rather have a bigger story?" Brad asked.
  1599. "Well - yeah, like what?" Dave said.
  1600. "Like - what is Orson Varney up to in his office?"
  1601. "How?" Dave asked. Brad looked at Donna, who looked ill at ease at what she knew Brad was thinking about.
  1602. "Well..." Brad said with a smile, "We sort of have our ways."
  1603. The showers that had dampened the Wattamatta campus all day had petered out, giving way to a brilliant sunset that evening. The steady stream of students that choked the courtyards and sidewalks throughout the day was starting to subside.
  1604.  
  1605. On a bench outside Adams Hall, Sasha and Donna sat and waited.
  1606. "Should we be doing this?" Donna said nervously, waiting for Brad to get out of class. Sasha looked over the silvery rims of her glasses, slightly annoyed at Donna's nervousness.
  1607. "No, you don't have to." Sasha said, returning to her book, "Just like you don't have to go to college, pursue a career, make a life for yourself..."
  1608. "But - this is Professor Varney." Donna said, still uncertain that the chairman of the archeology department could be doing something wrong.
  1609. "It doesn't put him above school policy - or the law." Sasha said, "Besides, you're just looking..."
  1610. "Sorry I'm late." Brad interrupted, as he appeared out of the crowd, "The professor went long on her lecture again. Has Varney been in?" He looked up at the corner office in Adams Hall, where the shades were drawn tight, and a strange darkness seemed to be settling.
  1611. "No sign of Varney." Sasha said, closing her book and stuffing it into the large bag she had brought for the evening.
  1612. "He could've come in and out from the back entrance." Donna said nervously. Sasha frowned.
  1613. "Not likely if he's as fat as you say he is." Sasha said standing up, "He'd take the elevator - which comes out next to this door."
  1614. "Yeah - but..." Donna said.
  1615. "He isn't in - not now, and not before." Sasha said, "We checked the tapes this afternoon."
  1616. "Tapes?" Brad said, puzzled.
  1617. "Security tapes - the entire campus is wired." Sasha said, "Dave got us access to the tapes for Adams Hall, and we didn't see Varney going in or out in the morning - when he should've been there to toss Donna out again."
  1618. "But - how...?" Brad said, shaking his head.
  1619. "Easy." Sasha shrugged, "We told them we wanted to do a statistical review of student fashion wear for the paper."
  1620. "We'll have to write an article about it though." Donna frowned, getting up.
  1621. "Oh..." Brad said looking around, "So - where should we go...?"
  1622. "This way." Sasha said, leading the way down the stairs next to Adams Hall. A small litter-filled nook between the stairs and the old hall was barely large enough for the three to fit in, "No one will notice us here."
  1623. "They might smell us." Brad said, as noxious odors from the access vent set in the cracked concrete wall behind him escaped from the ancient underground maze of pipes and corridors that crisscrossed the campus. "Ready Donna?"
  1624. "I don't know..." Donna said, looking up at Adams Hall. Brad shook his head, and in an instant Donna vanished, her empty clothes falling in a heap on the leaf-covered ground.
  1625. "You two are getting way too used to this." Sasha observed, as Brad picked up Donna's clothes and stuffed them into Sasha's open bag.
  1626. "Tell me..." Brad said, before he vanished as well, his clothes falling in a heap onto the ground. Sasha stepped aside, knowing her invisible intangible friends must be on their way in to Varney's office.
  1627. As if to confirm it, the street lamp at the top of the stairs sputtered on and off.
  1628. "You still should've warned me." Donna complained as they climbed the empty stairwell to the top floor where Varney's office was located.
  1629. "And you would've stalled longer." Brad said.
  1630. "So? It's not like I have any pressing engagements..."
  1631. "Yeah - but I have a test at the end of the week that I'd like to study for." Brad said.
  1632. "Oh..." Donna said, remembering that while she might be suspended - and effectively expelled - Brad still had schoolwork.
  1633. "I hope Sasha doesn't lose anything." Brad added, wishing that they had turned intangible at Lincoln house. But Sasha had insisted that she be part of the stakeout, as she called it.
  1634. The ghostly pair slid through the solid door at the top of the stairwell as if it were not there. The floor was eerily silent, with only the sickly glow of the florescent lights brightening the way.
  1635. "I still don't know about this." Donna repeated as they got to the heavy oaken door of Varney's corner office.
  1636. "Okay, fine - I'll go in and you wait here." Brad said. With that, he stepped into the door - and struck an unyielding surface.
  1637. "Ow!" Brad said, rubbing his nose, feeling as if he had walked into a wall, "Donna, did you...?"
  1638. "I didn't do anything." Donna protested, as Brad felt the door, scowling, "Can't you go through?"
  1639. "No - what about you?" Brad said. Donna touched the door, and felt a rough, impassible surface below the polished veneer. She pushed harder.
  1640. "Uh - no." Donna said as Brad backed up, "Maybe we can't go through wood?"
  1641. "We have before..." Brad said, easily sticking his head through the solid door of the office next to Varney's office.
  1642. "Maybe I could stretch in..." Donna said, lengthening and flattening her arm down to the crack at the bottom of the door. Try as she might, she couldn't find a crack to squeeze her flexible fingers through.
  1643. "This - is strange." Donna said, stepping back while Brad pondered the door.
  1644. "This is strange."
  1645. "I said that." Donna said, looking at Brad. Brad shrugged and they looked behind them in time to see Chief Hall coming down the corridor, led by one of the building custodians. Behind him, an odd man in an odd black suit followed, looking about, as if he was absorbing every minute detail within the hallway.
  1646. "Nothing strange about a search warrant." Chief Hall said as the custodian went directly to Varney's door. Instinctively, Donna and Brad stepped aside, pressing - and passing into the wall to let this trio by.
  1647. "Well, it's not every day I get served one." The custodian said, "Leastways not for Professor Varney's office. Should I call him?"
  1648. "Probably not." The man in black said pausing and giving a look at both Donna and Brad. Donna shuddered - it wasn't so much that he was looking through her, as it was he was looking at her, despite her invisibility. The man's gaze was averted as the custodian muttered a curse.
  1649. "Darn it - the key isn't working." The custodian said, flipping through his key ring and trying another one.
  1650. "Then who cleans it?" Chief Hall asked.
  1651. "No one." The custodian said, "Not since - well, Burt quit without a word, and then Varney told us not to bother cleaning his office."
  1652. "Burt?" The man in black asked.
  1653. "Older guy - he was about to retire a few years back, but he quit real sudden like." The custodian said, shaking his head and inspecting the door's lock, "I'll have to get the locksmith up here to open it up tomorrow."
  1654. "Tomorrow?" Chief Hall said, annoyed.
  1655. "Yeah." The custodian said, shuffling past Chief Hall as the man in black moved closer to the door, inspecting it closely.
  1656. "That - might not work." He said, leaning close to it and taking a deep sniff, "Tell me - do you smell what I smell?"
  1657. "I don't smell nothing." The custodian said, puzzled. The Man smiled and put his had against the door.
  1658. "What's he up to?" Donna whispered to Brad.
  1659. "And - I think the door feels- rather warm Chief Hall." The man said with a twinkle in his eye as he stepped back, "As I understand it, those are indications of a fire..."
  1660. "The alarm would've gone off." The custodian protested.
  1661. "Hey... we could set it off..." Brad said, looking up the hall.
  1662. "Don't..." The man said, glaring at Brad and Donna, who stared at him in surprise.
  1663. "Don't what Jack?" Chief Hall asked. The man looked at Chief Hall, hastily recomposing himself.
  1664. "I mean - don't you think that as police chief we should investigate?" the man in black said, "If only for public safety?"
  1665. "And what do you suggest Jack?" Hall said annoyed.
  1666. "No key - a possible fire - who knows who might be trapped in there?" Jack shrugged, "Besides, how many doors have you smashed down today?" Chief Hall looked at Jack, a smile crossing his face.
  1667. "Good point." Chief Hall said, backing up.
  1668. "Hey - you can't..." The custodian protested as Hall kicked the door hard. The door shuddered, and cracked, "That's university property...!" Hall kicked again.
  1669. Suddenly, the door shuddered and shimmered, as a loud hiss filled the air. The door sifted to a sickly shade of grey for a moment before it cascaded away into a pile of ugly grey dust on the floor.
  1670. "What the...?" Hall said, stepping back from the spreading cloud of foul-smelling dust and looking at Jack, "Did you?"
  1671. "Not my doing." Jack said scowling and peering in past the decaying doorframe, "Nor the work of termites."
  1672. "The door..." The custodian murmured as Jack and Chief Hall entered the room, "It just - disintegrated!"
  1673. "An astute observation." Jack said, stepping in and trying the light switch, "And the lights need to be fixed."
  1674. "So much for the maintenance department." Chief Hall said pulling out his flashlight and shining it about the dimly lit room.
  1675. "Professor Varney should've called us..." the custodian said, stepping back as Brad and Donna silently and invisibly stepped into the office behind Jack and Chief Hall.
  1676. "Could've - should've... Either way, the town fire marshal is paying this place a visit tomorrow." Chief Hall said looking up at the cobweb-covered smoke detector, "What are we looking for in here Jack?"
  1677. "I think we'll know when we find it." Jack said, circling the desk and pulling out the chair. It made a grating noise as it scraped across the floor.
  1678. "See the Jar?" Brad said to Donna as they looked about, "Or anything else that was missing?"
  1679. "No - but..." Donna said, passing her hand through some books on the bookcase. They crumbled into dust by her mere ethereal touch. Chief Hall swung his flashlight to where Donna was standing, as the sound of the crumbling books' remains cascading to the floor filled the room.
  1680. "What was that?" Chief Hall said as Donna and Brad stood there, frozen. Jack sighed and circled around the desk for a better look.
  1681. "I'm not sure." Jack said, eyeing a large wardrobe that stood in the corner, "Why don't you look in there and I'll look at the shelves." Brad moved to follow Chief Hall, but was blocked by Jack. Brad tried to sidestep him, but Jack stepped in the way. Brad frowned as he tried the other side, only to be blocked again.
  1682. "Look you two." Jack said in a low hushed tone, "I know not what you are - or why you're here. But..."
  1683. "HOLY!" Chief Hall shouted as something tumbled out of the wardrobe he had just opened, raising a cloud of the noxious dust that filled the dank office. Jack glanced over, then looked at Donna and the wide-eyed Brad.
  1684. "I'll be generous. Get out of here now." Jack said in a low growl, "This does not concern you." Brad stepped back, to feel Donna tug at him.
  1685. "Works for me!" Donna said, pulling Brad out of the office. Behind them, they could hear Hall calling someone on his radio.
  1686. Sasha studied Adams Hall with concern. She had seen Chief Hall and another man dressed in black go in shortly after Donna and Brad must have gone in. The fact that the windows of Varney's dark office had gotten slightly brighter seemed to indicate that was where they were going.
  1687.  
  1688. She didn't like it. She was on edge. It was as if something bad was about to happen. What happened next nearly caused her to jump out of her skin.
  1689. "...let me talk to Sasha!" Donna's voice came out of nowhere next to Sasha. Out of sheer instinct, Sasha took a swing at it, and felt the hazy feeling she got when she was too close to magic. But there was nothing there. Except Donna's voice.
  1690. "OW! Sasha!" Donna's voice came out of thin air.
  1691. "Donna? Geeze, I'm sorry about that." Sasha said, recovering and looking around, "Where's Brad?"
  1692. "Next to you." Donna said, her voice getting closer, "Okay, you were right - I'm fine..."
  1693. "Are you talking to Brad?" Sasha ventured, looking around.
  1694. "Yes - watch it, you almost hit him!" Donna's voice said, just as she faded back into reality. Sasha gawked at her skin-tight black suit. At first glance, it looked like what the track team wore, but from the way the curse worked, Sasha knew it was Donna's own skin - transformed.
  1695. "Should you be doing that in public?" Sasha asked, puzzled. Donna looked down, frowning.
  1696. "What - you can see me?" Donna asked. Sasha nodded, "Brad!" Instantly, Brad faded back into reality, wearing a similar black skin-tight suit.
  1697. "...ax, there aren't many people around." Brad said as he faded back into reality, "Besides, how else are we supposed to talk to Sasha?" Donna looked around - Brad was right, there weren't many people around.
  1698. "What happened?" Sasha eagerly asked.
  1699. "Not much." Brad said, "We'd better get out of here though."
  1700. "Why?" Sasha said as they began to walk, "What happened?"
  1701. "First we couldn't get into Varney's office - we could go through everything but his door..." Donna said as they walked down the path to the street, "Then..."
  1702. "Hey." Brad said, noticing something.
  1703. "Shush - Then Chief Hall showed up..." Donna continued.
  1704. "I saw that." Sasha said.
  1705. "Hey..." Brad said, louder.
  1706. "With this strange man." Donna said, ignoring Brad, "It was like - he could see us."
  1707. "He could SEE you?" Sasha said in surprise, "While you were invisible?"
  1708. "Hellooo----!" Brad said, tapping Donna on the shoulder.
  1709. "Yeah - then he got the chief to kick in the door in... " Donna said turning around, "What IS it?"
  1710. "Look!" Brad said, pointing to the line of parked cars along the street. Donna saw some flashing lights approaching.
  1711. "The police?" Donna said, surprised.
  1712. "No - LOOK! In the grey car!" Brad said, pointing. Donna looked more closely, and couldn't believe her eyes.
  1713. "It's - her!" Donna said eagerly. Sitting in the old grey car, looking very bored was the same auburn-haired girl who had stopped them the previous day.
  1714. "Her - who?" Sasha asked, trying to see.
  1715. "The one you said might be a sorceress." Brad said, as they walked back towards the car.
  1716. "Are you sure?" Sasha said uncertainly.
  1717. "One way to find out." Brad said, tapping the window of the car. The girl looked up in surprise, and rolled down the window.
  1718. "Uh - yeah?" She said uncertainly.
  1719. "Excuse me, but..." Brad began. He didn't get any further when she saw Donna.
  1720. "Oh - You guys!" She said brightly, then lowered her voice, "Sorry about that thing yesterday - I thought I saw..."
  1721. "This?" Donna said, looping her arm around Brad's chest several times. The girl's eyes widened as Brad rolled his eyes.
  1722. "Yeah!" She said, "So if you're not Fay - what are you?"
  1723. "Cursed." Sasha interjected, "Now for the fun part - are you a sorceress?" The girl took a moment to think about it.
  1724. "Well - yeah. Duh!" She said, leaning out the window, "I'm Myndi Thaxter, the best sorceress around! So what kind of curse did that to you?"
  1725. "An ancient one." Sasha said, "Think you can fix them?"
  1726. "Fix them?"
  1727. "Remove the curse." Brad hastily said.
  1728. "Well- uh - yeah, sure!" Myndi said, looking around, "Do you know what caused it?"
  1729. "An ancient jar." Donna said, unwrapping Brad. The number of police cars was increasing for some reason, and she didn't want to be seen stretching about.
  1730. "Do you have it?" Myndi asked, distracted by the racket.
  1731. "Uh- no." Brad said, "We're looking for it."
  1732. "Looking for it?"
  1733. "Look - you're a sorceress or whatever." Donna said, "Think you could help us find it?"
  1734. "Well- I'm supposed to be waiting for someone..." Myndi said.
  1735. "Who?" Sasha asked.
  1736. "Hey! You!" came a shout. The four turned to see a stout police officer coming over and pointing at Myndi, "We have a situation here and I need that car moved!"
  1737. "But I'm waiting..." Myndi tried to say.
  1738. "I want that heap moved NOW!" said the cop. Myndi frowned and looked at Brad, Donna and Sasha.
  1739. "All right - get in." Myndi said, unlocking the doors, "I'll help you find that jar."
  1740. "Then we can find out about Varney." Brad said as they got in.
  1741. "Tiamat did that to you? That's so COOL!" Myndi said with enthusiasm in a parking lot on the other side of the Wattamatta campus. Brad and Donna looked at each other in the back seat of the old grey Buick, a little bewildered by her reaction after they finished telling their tale.
  1742.  
  1743. "Okay - so it's cool." Sasha said, unimpressed by the apparent sorceress, "Can you undo it?" Myndi frowned and thought about it.
  1744. "Not without the jar." Myndi declared, picking up her purse and pulling out a stack of index cards.
  1745. "Which is missing." Donna said.
  1746. "Not a problem!" Myndi said, looking through the cards, "Lets see - maps, healing, shields - locator!" Myndi pulled out an index card with numerous lines and arcane symbols drawn on it, and proudly showed it off.
  1747. "Locator?" Brad said.
  1748. "Locator spell. I made it myself!" Myndi said proudly, "Now, you just hold the card, think of what you seek, and it'll be located."
  1749. "Think of what we seek?"
  1750. "Hey- simple as that!" Myndi said. Brad looked at it with skepticism before Donna took it.
  1751. "Okay - we're looking for Tiamat's jar- the Babylonian batt- OH!" Donna gasped as the white card took on a golden hue, glowing in the slowly darkening day. The four watched as above it, a tiny image appeared of the jar.
  1752. "Cool - it works!" Myndi said gleefully as the ethereal image began to drift slowly out of the car, "Now we just have to follow it." Myndi got out, followed by Brad and Donna.
  1753. "You didn't know it would work...?" Sasha said getting out, "What kind of sorceress are you?"
  1754. "Ah - a very, very good one!" Myndi said looking over her shoulder as they followed the tiny glowing jar across the parking lot, "This will take us right to the jar's resting place! Piece of cake!" With that, Myndi walked into the wall that the ghostly image had just drifted through.
  1755. "Right." Sasha said, unimpressed. Brad and Donna paused, unsure what to do as Myndi got up.
  1756. "What about the locator...?" Donna said, looking at the wall.
  1757. "Well, go after it!" Sasha told them, "Do your ghost thing and follow it - we'll catch up!" Before she finished, the pair had vanished.
  1758. "Man, they are getting too used to that!" Sasha said, shaking her head.
  1759. "Wow - that is SO COOL!" Myndi said. Sasha looked at her in dismay.
  1760. "Please tell me you have another way to track that thing down."
  1761. "I don't think Myndi is as good of a sorceress as she says." Brad said as they walked along after the tiny image of the jar, in a state as ghostly as it was.
  1762. "I'm not complaining as long as we find the jar. Oh, yuck!" Donna said as they passed through sewage pipes in pursuit of the tiny jar, "I'm going to need a long hot bath when we're through with this." The spell they pursued ignored any obstacle in its way, passing through walls, pipes and wood like a fine mist. Only by becoming as ghostly as the spell they were following could they follow.
  1763. "I'll join you." Brad said, having had his fill of seeing the disgusting dark corners of the university's buildings. Donna looked at him with a slight smile.
  1764. "Really?"
  1765. "Yeah - well... " Brad caught himself as they passed out of the building and out onto the lawn, "You know what I meant."
  1766. "Uh-huh." Donna said as they crossed the street. She was about to probe further, when she realized something, "Wait a minute - isn't this - familiar?"
  1767. "Familiar?" Brad said, looking down the street where the jar continued to drift, "Yeah - this is the other end of Spartan Street! See, there's the Stanley's apartments building..."
  1768. "Then why isn't it going in that direction?" Donna asked as the jar drifted slowly across the street towards the row of aged old Victorian houses that lined the opposite side of the street from the modern apartments.
  1769. "I don't know." Brad said, feeling uneasy as the jar drew closer to a dark brown house with a single tall tower. Even the trim was an unpleasant dark shade, which seemed to absorb the little light that was shed by the neighboring houses. What little dim light escaped from the tall windows was a sickly shade of green, "I don't like this."
  1770. "Is it me, or is that locator thingie going - down?" Donna asked, pointing. The image of the jar was slowly sinking down through the stunted hedge and towards the unkept lawn.
  1771. "Yeah..." Brad said as they passed through the hedge. Unlike every other solid object they had passed through in pursuit of their quarry, he felt the dead twigs claw at his ghostly form, "Did you feel that?"
  1772. "Yeah." Donna said shuddering and trying to ignore the creepy feeling. "But it's going towards the basement..." As she said it, the ghostly jar passed through a cracked window set into the crumbling brick foundation of the old house. Brad and Donna peered in.
  1773. "Look!" Donna said, pointing in. Brad nodded. In the center of the old basement room stood the jar on a pedestal, illuminated by the strange greenish light that seemed to emanate from the very walls of the room.
  1774. "Great - so we know where it is." Brad said looking in, "Now..."
  1775. "Brad - I can't get in." Donna said, leaning hard against the foundation. Brad pressed against the surface, feeling a rough, unyielding surface just below the bricks. He scowled at the surface, ignoring the blackness that seemed to be gathering below them.
  1776. "This is like Varney's office." Brad said looking up, away from the increasing darkness, "Whose house is this anyways?"
  1777. "Mine." Came an unearthly rasping voice from nowhere. Donna and Brad stood up like a shot, looking for a source of the voice.
  1778. "What was that?" Donna said, suddenly feeling frightened.
  1779. Before Brad could reply, the formless blackness bled up from the ground. Donna's yelp of surprise was muffled by silent black tendrils that covered her mouth. Brad struggled against the binding bonds that held him tight. Swiftly, the blackness engulfed them, and dragged the pair downward into the ground. For them, everything went black.
  1780. As suddenly as it began, the blackness dispersed, as if it had never been there. Of Brad and Donna there wasn't a trace.
  1781. "This is it." Myndi said as Sasha drove the big grey car around the block again, "That house!" Sasha looked at the map of the campus which was marked up by Myndi's magic marker, and out at the hulking Victorian house with a single large tower pointing to the sky. Its dark brown shingles seemed to make it fade into the night.
  1782.  
  1783. "You're sure?" Sasha said. Myndi nodded. "What about Adams Hall?" Sasha pointed to where Adams Hall was located on the map. When Myndi had first cast the spell, the marker had begun to scribble furiously there, before she redirected its efforts. Now the marker lazily hovered over the map, circling the spot where the house was located.
  1784. "That - was a little mistake." Myndi said with a weak smile that seemed to conceal more than she was letting on. Sasha rolled her eyes and pulled the car over to the side of the nearly deserted street, "So - now what?"
  1785. "We wait." Sasha said, looking at the eerie greenish glow that grudgingly seeped from the windows of the dark house.
  1786. "Donna!" Brad managed to call out as the darkness that enveloped them gave way to light. He could speak again, although he couldn't really move.
  1787. "Brad?" Donna said fearfully. Their eyes adjusted to the dim light of the basement they had been peering into either moments or an eternity before. Now they were in it, pinned to a wall spread eagle by dark bands. "Are you okay?"
  1788. "Yeah but...." Brad said, trying to pull his arm free. The razor thin bands held him tightly in place, "I'm stuck. What about you?" Donna frowned and tugged on her own bonds.
  1789. "Same here." Donna said, looking around and focusing on the jar, "What happened?"
  1790. "I happened." Came a voice. Brad and Donna looked to the source. A large heavy form was slowly descending the ancient wooden stairs.
  1791. "Who...?" Donna said, pausing as the bloated man's face came into view. She couldn't quite believe her eyes.
  1792. "Professor Varney?" Donna gasped. The balding old man smiled a wide grin.
  1793. "Figures." Brad said, scowling, "You're the thief, aren't you?"
  1794. "Not quite." Varney said, studying Brad and Donna, "For is it truly stealing when you are merely reclaiming that which is rightfully yours?"
  1795. "What are you talking about?" Donna demanded to know. Varney smiled and gestured to the jar.
  1796. "This receptacle - the tablets - the other artifacts - are all mine by right of marriage." Varney said boldly, drawing his massive girth up, "What belonged to my lost consort - now belongs to me. And now - so do you."
  1797. "Us?" Donna gasped.
  1798. "You've got a screw loose Prof." Brad said, struggling against his bonds, " Who the heck do you think is your consort?"
  1799. "The mighty lady of the bitter salt sea of course." Varney said turning back to Brad, "Tiamat." Brad stared at Varney.
  1800. "Oh yeah - definitely a nutcase." Brad said. Varney's smile widened. And widened. His head seemed to be slowly stretching out, like a balloon as they helplessly watched.
  1801. "Brad- what - AH!" Donna cried as Varney's mouth swung open, and his head fell back like the hood of a raincoat. His bloated form crumpled to its knees as an unearthly blackness slowly rose up out of Varney's gaping mouth.
  1802. "I am the Shade of Apsu, Tiamat's consort." The blackness said. It was without features, save for two tiny white specks, which seemed to be its eyes. It oozed out of Varney's hollow carcass, rising and falling like oil on a storm-tossed sea. As it did, Varney's empty skin slowly collapsed on the floor, like a deflating balloon. It slid towards them, passing from Brad to Donna, obliterating light as it went. The upper part remained vaguely human, before it gave way to a shifting mass of blackness that vanished into the shadows of the ancient cellar's floor.
  1803. "Apsu? Who's that?" Brad asked.
  1804. "What he said - Tiamat's first consort." Donna gasped. Brad stared at her in surprise.
  1805. "When did you find that out?" Brad asked.
  1806. "Its not like I had any classes. I read up on everything on Tiamat." Donna said "But - the epic said he was killed..."
  1807. "A misconception. Wishful thinking." Apsu said, its blackness sucking in the light, "I was merely imprisoned for countless ages, until Varney liberated me during his final expedition to my homelands."
  1808. "What did you do to Professor Varney?" Donna demanded to know, looking at the limp shell of the professor lying on the floor.
  1809. "Oh, we made use of each other." Apsu chuckled darkly, "But his thirst for knowledge could not compete with my hunger to regain my power. My need to feed. He makes a far better host than a meal though."
  1810. "You - ate him?" Donna said as Brad struggled harder. Apsu drew closer, his tendril-like fingers brushing at Donna's arm like icicles.
  1811. "After such a long imprisonment... I required - nourishment..." Apsu hissed into Donna's face. "He was delicious."
  1812. "Leave her alone!" Brad shouted. Apsu turned towards him, gliding silently over the floor.
  1813. "No need to struggle." Apsu said, "Even Tiamat's gifts cannot lend you the strength to break my bonds."
  1814. "What are you going to do to us?" Donna said, struggling against her own bonds. The black thing slid back and regarded the pair.
  1815. "You seem to have stumbled across my secrets - as have others, more powerful and more dangerous than you might imagine." Apsu said chillingly, "The façade of Professor Orson Varney has been cracking and crumbling under your sudden scrutiny. I knew this would one day come to pass, but my chosen vessel - has proven to be unsuitable."
  1816. "Stanley." Donna said, realizing it must have been this thing she glimpsed in the jail, "You're the one who Stanley was scared of!"
  1817. "As an unfaithful servant should be." Apsu said, anger creeping into its voice, "Had he not been greedy - and framed you for his thefts I would have continued to turn a blind eye to both of you. But now, he is gone and you are here - to serve as my new host."
  1818. "Me?" Donna's eyes widened in horror. Apsu chuckled darkly.
  1819. "Don't be silly, girl." Apsu said, pointing to Brad, "He shall be my new host. And you shall be my plaything."
  1820. "Like hell." Brad spat out. Apsu drew closer, its shadowy tendrils coasting across Brad like sheets of greased ice.
  1821. "Oh, do fight it. Varney fought. And fought." Apsu said, drawing closer, "It made him taste so much better than Stanley ever did."
  1822. "Brad!" Donna cried, willing their shared curse to make Brad invunerible, tough and nails, strong as an ox. Brad shuddered as he unexpectedly grew and bulked up like a body builder, but despite his changes, he remained held tight against the wall.
  1823. "Silly girl. I said Tiamat's gift won't break my bonds." Apsu said as Brad struggled to break the bonds with his newfound strength.
  1824. "We'll stop you - somehow!" Donna said defiantly, "We've got help!" Apsu paused, the white specks which seemed to be its eyes drifted about its amorphous head.
  1825. "So I saw." Apsu said, pulling back from Brad, who breathed a sigh of relief, "That curious spell was not your doing."
  1826. "That's right..."
  1827. "Donna - don't tell it anything!" Brad said as Apsu stood silently, watching them - and something else - as it pondered.
  1828. "Ah - there she is. A sorceress. With a friend." Apsu suddenly said, "Two appetizers before the main course. How delicious!" As he made his pronouncement, Apsu melted down into the dark rocky floor of the old cellar and vanished.
  1829. "Great - now its after Myndi and Sasha!" Brad said, struggling against his bonds. The old wall was cracking and crumbling from his struggle, but the bonds held him firmly in place.
  1830.  
  1831. "Can't you break free? I mean I really pumped you up." Donna said. Brad frowned, and Donna felt herself growing in proportions and strength. She looked at her new bulging muscles and rock hard chest in surprise.
  1832. "There. You try it." Brad said. Donna frowned, and tried to pull her arm from the wall. It was held fast.
  1833. "How are we going to get out of these?" Donna said, straining as she tried again. A few pebbles from the decaying basement wall broke free, but the bonds remained solidly in place.
  1834. "I don't know." Brad said thinking for a moment, "Wait - he said nothing could break these bonds."
  1835. "So we're stuck." Donna said, stopping her struggle. Her arm remained bonded in place, but she had managed to make a dent in the wall, "What about the ghostly abilities thing?" Brad shook his head.
  1836. "Tried doing that to you right away - it didn't work." Brad said, "Its like he turned that ability off when we were sucked up."
  1837. "Well this sucks." Donna said staring at the discarded skin of the late Professor Varney lying on the floor, "How are we supposed to get out of these?"
  1838. "We're not." Brad said, relaxing and thinking, "He said - we couldn't break these bonds. But- could you stretch out of them?"
  1839. "Huh? Well, turn me back to normal for a moment..." Donna said. Before she knew it, she had shrunk down to her normal size. Donna turned and began to pull her bound arm. It moved ever so slightly as she stretched it out longer and longer. "It's - working. But it's like my arm is stuck in tar!"
  1840. "A good description." Brad said, looking at the black bands that bound them, "What about this?" Donna felt odd, and suddenly, her arm seemed to be sliding more easily.
  1841. "What did you do?" Donna asked, finally pulling her arm free with a sickening popping sound.
  1842. "I thought about making your skin greasy." Brad said, relieved that it worked.
  1843. "I'll definitely need that shower." Donna said, working on pulling her leg free. Suddenly, she looked at Brad, "Ohmigosh! What about you?"
  1844. "Well, duh!" Brad said, "Better make me as elastic as you are - and greasy too." Donna gave Brad a wry smile, and suddenly Brad felt himself shrinking as his muscles melted away. He began pulling - and to his amazement, stretching as easily as Donna did. He paused when h realized what else Donna had done to him.
  1845. "For crying out loud!" Brad said - in a perfect imitation of Donna's voice, since Donna had turned him into a near-perfect duplicate of herself, "You didn't have to go this far!"
  1846. "Oh, cry me a river." Donna said, pulling her other leg free of the black bonds, "You should thank me for doing that!"
  1847. "Thank you...?"
  1848. "Apsu seemed pretty sexist to me." Donna said with a smirk, "So - if you're a girl, he won't want to eat you up like he ate up Professor Varney."
  1849. "Good point." Brad gulped, pulling his arm out. There was no telling when the strange shadow creature Apsu might return.
  1850. "Boring!" Myndi said as she sat in the car, levitating and reshuffled deck of cards with her magic. Sasha looked at her in disgust as the cards flew back apart and reshuffled themselves again.
  1851. "So magic can be boring. Life can be boring." Sasha said, "Right now, we have to wait and be bored."
  1852. "It's been too long. We should go in there and bust some heads." Myndi said.
  1853. "Bust some heads? Brilliant plan." Sasha said, wondering why it seemed to be getting darker somehow, "I assume you know as much about fighting as you do about magic."
  1854. "Don't you?" Myndi asked. Sasha stared at her, "Know some fighting?"
  1855. "Self defense." Sasha said.
  1856. "Oh." Myndi said thinking, "But your necklace..." Sasha glared at her, covering the little circular gold charm she wore.
  1857. "What about my necklace?" Sasha demanded.
  1858. "Nothing." Myndi shrugged, "It looked like it bore the seal of the warrior-wizards of Tobin..." Sasha looked at the little golden disk with the crossed blue thunderbolts emblazoned on it.
  1859. "It is the seal of Tobin." Sasha solemnly said, annoyed, and ignoring the slowly enveloping blackness.
  1860. "Yeah - but only trained members of the Tobin clan can wear them - at least that's what Pa'krik Tobin said when I asked her where I could get one." Myndi said.
  1861. "Where did you meet this Pa'krik Tobin?" Sasha demanded to know.
  1862. "Oh - you know..." Myndi shrugged, trying to brush it off, "In the Elsewhen..."
  1863. "In the Elsewhen?" Sasha said in astonishment. She had expected she might be a minor magician, but she had never suspected she hailed from the Elsewhen, a realm where magic reigned supreme. "Myndi - if you've been to the Elsewhen, tell, me what the heck are you doing here driving this car around the university?"
  1864. "Um..." Myndi said, trying to think of something to say, "I'm working - on getting my driver's license?"
  1865. "Driver's license?" Sasha exploded in disbelief, "Come on!"
  1866. "Well - yeah. Wizards need to get from point A to point B too." Myndi said. Sasha glowered at her. "Look, if you know it all, why don't you tell me why it's so dark outside?" Sasha looked out the car window at utter blackness. Not even the dim streetlight was visible outside the window. Frowning, Sasha touched the window and felt the chilling black slick move under her fingers.
  1867. "Crud! Myndi..." Sasha was cut off as the car suddenly flooded with the strange black substance. Myndi found herself gagged as it rose up like an inky flash flood, swallowing the two girls into its black depths.
  1868. As suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished, taking the two girls with it. The only hint that something was slightly amiss was the way the car still rocked from the sudden struggle.
  1869. That, and the stealthy approach of a police car.
  1870. "This is harder that it looks." Brad said as he - presently a she - stretched free of the last black band that held him in place against the wall. His stretched out arm fell to the floor like a limp garden hose. Wearily, he wiggled his fingers.
  1871.  
  1872. "You're thinking too hard about it." Donna coached him as he reeled his arm in, rubbing it as he did so, "Once you get used to it, its easy!"
  1873. "Once I get used to it - and used to looking exactly like you again?" Brad said with a wry smile as he flexed his restored arm - still a perfect duplicate of Donna's, but at least looking like a normal arm for now.
  1874. "Well..." Donna said.
  1875. "Forget it - let's grab the jar and... Oh crud!" Brad began and stopped as the floor of the ancient basement turned black and began to boil up, "Apsu's back!"
  1876. Before Donna could reply, and unearthly scream filled the house, much like the one they had heard at the police station. Two blackened forms were suddenly ejected from the writhing, rising black mass.
  1877. "I've got them!" Donna said, stretching out her arms as if she had done it all her life. With amazing grace, she caught one body before it struck the wall.
  1878. The blackness snatched the other, and slammed it against the wall.
  1879. "Myndi?" Brad said as Donna put the shaken girl down, "What happened?"
  1880. "You huuurt me!" The blackness screamed, pinning the other blackened form - Sasha, Brad guessed - against the wall, "You HUURT ME!"
  1881. "Sasha!" Myndi cried, distracting it for a moment.
  1882. "Free? But how?" Apsu glowered, looking from Brad to Donna. It didn't have a chance to do anything else but scream again, as a dim light appeared from the figure it pinned against the wall. The light grew, driving it back, and releasing Sasha from its grasp. Sasha gasped for breath, while holding the light steady towards the writhing mass of blackness.
  1883. "Sasha!" Brad and Donna called their dazed friend. Cautiously, she moved towards them, as Donna helped Myndi up.
  1884. "What is that? A lightsaber?" Myndi said enviously eyeing the short cylinder Sasha was holding in her hand.
  1885. "High powered flashlight." Sasha gasped, trying to compose herself, "I figured we might meet something that hated the light..."
  1886. "Of course!" Donna said, "That's why Stanley had all those lights!"
  1887. "It matters little." The Shade of Apsu said, growing and rising, "You are here in my lair - and I have found ways to defeat your pathetic lights as Stanley found out many times."
  1888. "Meaning?" Brad said. As if in response, Sasha's light began to sputter.
  1889. "Meaning it knows how to turn it off!" Sasha cursed, pointing the dimming light towards the gathering darkness.
  1890. "And oh, I know how to turn you off." Apsu chuckled menacingly. Black blades emerged from its shadowy form, clicking away in a most horrible, unnatural way, "The spectacled one - I had hoped to savor, but for the pain you caused, I shall have to kill you outright!"
  1891. "Any bright ideas?" Brad asked.
  1892. "OH! I know!" Myndi cried, "Ignis incendium!"
  1893. With that, every exposed piece of wood in the ancient basement suddenly caught fire.
  1894. Apsu screamed, and began to wither from the sudden bright light.
  1895. "Myndi! What the heck were you thinking?" Sasha shouted.
  1896. "It's killing it!" Myndi said excitedly as the black puddle writhed, and retreated, back towards the deflated shell of Professor Varney.
  1897. "It's going to kill US too!" Donna shouted, as she saw what the shadow was doing. Slowly, the form of Professor Varney was inflating as the black puddle oozed back into its unnatural home, "Oh crap - Brad..."
  1898. "I see it - and the way out! Come on!" Brad said, going towards the stairs. The three followed Brad's lead past Varney, who was starting to move again.
  1899. "Wait - the jar!" Sasha said, turning back to where it stood on a pedestal in the center of the conflagration.
  1900. "I've got it!" Donna said, stretching her arm out, and grabbing it. She reeled it back in, nearly dropping the black lid as Varney's arm reached out, grasping for her.
  1901. "You can't stop me!" Varney growled, rising up, his mouth closing on the blackness within, "I am Apsu! I am unstoppable! I..." His words were wasted as his once captive audience had dashed away, up the stairs. With a grunt, Varney's possessed form moved up the stairs with more speed than a mortal of his bloated proportions could have ever hoped to have done.
  1902. "You set fire to the entire house?" Sasha shouted as they emerged into a flame-filled hallway on the first floor.
  1903. "So I have some control issues!" Myndi said.
  1904. "This way!" Brad shouted, spying the front door through the thickening smoke. He reached the door, only to find it was locked. "It won't open!" Brad said rattling the door handle.
  1905. "Back--- OH!" Donna cried, hugging the precious jar. Brad turned to see the pale form of Varney emerge from the basement stairs.
  1906. "Aperta!" Myndi blurted out at the door. The sound of the old deadbolt sliding and clicking open filled the air.
  1907. "You won't escape me!" Varney bellowed, as Brad threw the door open and the four raced out onto the cracked walkway and yellowed lawn, "You've only sealed your fate!" With that, Varney charged after them as an unbelievable speed.
  1908. "He's still coming after us!" Brad said looking over his shoulder at Varney's pale form, silhouetted against the growing inferno of the old house.
  1909. "And me without my camera!" Sasha groused as something black and unseen tangled her foot, causing her to trip and topple into Myndi. Brad crashed into them as they tried to get up in the darkness, which seemed to grow thicker around them. Donna had reached the edge of the thick dead hedges when she realized she was alone.
  1910. "Come on!" Donna shouted back at her friends, as some dark tendril seemed to seize her leg, and drag her back towards Varney.
  1911. "You have forced my hand." Varney said, as Brad, Sasha and Myndi tried to get away, as unseen tendrils tried to pin them to the dry dead grass, "Now - it won't be as pleasant as I had hoped."
  1912. "Agreed." Came a voice from the darkness. Varney looked about, before he was blinded by a pair of headlights aimed into the yard.
  1913. "Lets go!" Brad said, feeling the tendrils that were holding him down weaken and fade. Myndi put her hand on his shoulder.
  1914. "Wait a moment!" She said urgently, looking back as Varney staggered. A strange blue glow rose from the ground, enveloping Varney in a crackling orb of blinding light. Impossibly, he began to rise, hovering over the ground as tendrils of light spasmed around him. Varney shuddered and struck back at it, as it contracted around him. The light shimmered and flared as they watched it shrink, seemingly binding with Varney's skin. Varney vainly struggled against it, before letting loose a final deafening scream. The light vanished, and he collapsed to the ground, spent and panting.
  1915. "Is - is he dead?" Donna said, kneeling next to Brad and cradling the jar.
  1916. "He had better not be." Came a more familiar voice from the direction of the headlights. Donna and Brad squinted to see it was Chief Hall, walking towards them with an air of authority. In the distance, fire engine sirens could be heard, even as the oppressive darkness of the night seemed to lift ever so slightly.
  1917. "Chief Hall..." Donna said, surprised at his appearance and more surprised at the fact that he ignored them and went over to the fallen form of Varney.
  1918. "Orson Varney, you're under arrest for murder. " Hall said, kneeling and handcuffing the moaning professor as he read him his rights.
  1919. "See - alls well that ends well." Myndi said brightly, sitting up and dusting herself off. The others stared at her in disbelief.
  1920. "I believe I told you to wait in the car." Came the voice out of the darkness. Myndi's eyes widened as the figure of Jack came into view, fading out of the darkness and back into reality.
  1921. "Uh - I can explain..."Myndi said, withering under the force of Jacks scowl.
  1922. "Explain what - ignoring simple instructions - or starting a fire?" Jack asked as Chief Hall hefted Varney upright.
  1923. "Hey Jack - think you can do something about the inferno over there?" Hall said. Jack shook his head, and snapped his fingers. Like a snuffed candle, the flames suddenly vanished.
  1924. "That..." Sasha said impressed and pointing at Jack, "Is a real wizard."
  1925. "The house will remain standing until the next nightfall." Jack said as Hall escorted Varney to the patrol car, "After that - it will go the way of his office."
  1926.  
  1927. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust eh?" Hall said, impressed.
  1928. "What did you do to me!?" Varney demanded, as he recovered from Jack's spell.
  1929. "A very complex containment spell." Jack said, "So you lived like a mortal - so you shall remain, trapped to share that shell's final fate." Varney glared at him hatefully, and pointed at Donna, Brad, Sasha and Myndi, who were standing nearby, waiting.
  1930. "Fine - then arrest those four too." Varney spat, "Trespassing - disturbing the peace - Arson..." The last he spat out at Myndi, who tactfully ignored it as she watched Jack.
  1931. "Careful. We could add theft and kidnapping to your charges." Jack said, "And I am sure prison won't suit you as well as your tenure as a professor here." Varney's scowl grew deeper at the thought.
  1932. "I want - a lawyer." Varney declared as the fire trucks and other patrol cars pulled up.
  1933. "And you'll get one. Bob! Take him away!" Hall said, motioning to one of the officers who just arrived, "He is - safe, isn't he?" he asked, as Varney was put into a patrol car.
  1934. "For the most part - harmless." Jack nodded, looking back at the foursome, "If I could only say the same about my apprentice..."
  1935. "Apprentice?" Sasha said, glaring at Myndi.
  1936. "Well - I am a sorceress- in training..." Myndi said weakly.
  1937. "And I have how long to prepare for her?" Hall said pointing at Myndi.
  1938. "Not nearly enough time." Jack sighed, looking from Donna to Brad, "And I thought I told you two to stay out of this matter. It didn't concern you..."
  1939. "Well..." Donna said uneasily, holding the jar tightly, "Actually, it did..."
  1940. "She's right - or one of them is." Hall said looking from Brad to Donna, in a puzzled way, since Brad was still a picture perfect duplicate of Donna, "She - Donna Waxwain - was accused of stealing from the Archeology Department... Although the records didn't say she had a twin sister..."
  1941. "Varney's the one who was stealing!" Brad blurted out, "And - we needed to get the jar back..."
  1942. "You see - It's complicated." Sasha said, eyeing Jack, "In a - magical sort of way."
  1943. "Magical?" Hall said is a disdainful way, "So, Varney conducted some weird sacrifices or something...?"
  1944. "No, Varney was possessed and - eaten up by something called Apsu." Brad said, not quite believing it himself, "And - he was going to do the same to us..." Hall looked at Jack wearily.
  1945. "Apsu - that's what you called this thing in Varney's office..." Hall said.
  1946. "Yes - or rather the Shade of Apsu." Jack said, "Apsu is dead - but when you are dealing with entities of such power and evil, even their shadows can become dangerous - if not held in check."
  1947. "This - is giving me a headache." Hall said, rubbing his temples and eyeing the jar Donna was holding, "And what is that?"
  1948. "Uh - we need that." Sasha said, "School project."
  1949. "If I remember right - she was expelled." Hall said.
  1950. "Because of Varney." Sasha said, taking the jar from Donna, "And - it's my project. Cryptology y'know..." Hall groaned. He had dealt far too often with the Cryptology department's collection of well meaning yet eccentric professors.
  1951. "Hand it over." Hall said, "It's evidence."
  1952. "But..." Sasha said. Hall gazed at her with steely resolve.
  1953. "Now." Hall said. Sasha sighed, and held out the precious jar.
  1954. "If I may." Jack said, gently taking the jar and turning it about, inspecting it. He paused for a moment and looked at Brad and Donna, "So - this is the cause of your unique - talents?"
  1955. "What talents?" Hall asked.
  1956. "Uh - yeah." Brad said, "It was - sort of an accident."
  1957. "My fault." Donna hastily added, "But - we were trying to fix everything - when the jar vanished, and Varney expelled me, and..." Jack held up his hand and looked at Sasha.
  1958. "And your role in this?" Jack asked.
  1959. "Translator." Sasha said, squinting and scowling at a small emblem on Jack's coat, "And if you're who I think you are..."
  1960. "I assure you - I am not." Jack said flatly.
  1961. "And I helped find it!" Myndi said, trumpeting her role in the night's misadventure. Jack scowled at her.
  1962. "That much I had deduced." Jack said, "Along with the source of the fire." Myndi smiled sheepishly and shut up.
  1963. "She set it?" Hall asked, pointing at Myndi.
  1964. "It was an accident..." Myndi said. Jack held his finger to his lips indicating that she should stay silent, "Really..."
  1965. "Jack...?" Hall asked again.
  1966. "I am trying to teach her - more control." Jack shrugged, turning to Hall, "In the meantime - I think we should let these three go with their jar."
  1967. "What?" Hall said, astonished, "That's evidence..."
  1968. "Call it - a preemptive solution to a possible problem." Jack said, eyeing Donna and Brad, "Unless you want these two stirring up as much trouble as Myndi will..."
  1969. "Hey!" Myndi cried, drawing a warning glance from Jack.
  1970. "But - you're a wizard or something." Donna said as Jack handed her back the Jar, "Can't you help?"
  1971. "In this case - it is probably better that I don't." Jack said, looking at Sasha, who was watching him with a mix of astonishment and anger, "Besides - I think your translator is on top of these matters," Jack added, patting the ornate black lid of the jar.
  1972. Morning filtered into the archeology lab's tall old windows as Sasha labored over the translation of the ancient jar that had started this mad adventure. Donna stretched absentmindedly across the long table and around Sasha, offering her own thoughts about the different symbols as Sasha asked.
  1973.  
  1974. "Coffee is here." Brad said staggering in with three cups filled with the strongest brew the local donut shop had to offer, and a bag of their donuts. It was the least he could do once Donna had finally turned him back to normal. He looked at Donna's ridiculously stretched out body, which looked like winding tan spaghetti wearing clothes, coiled about the table legs.
  1975. "How are you going to explain that if someone comes in?" Brad asked with a crooked smile. Donna looked back at herself and sheepishly grinned.
  1976. "So - I'm flexible." Donna said, slowly retracting her long arms and legs to more normal proportions. She kept her neck lengthened, and hovering around Sasha's shoulders until Brad put her coffee down at the opposite end of the table where her body sat.
  1977. "Gimmie." Sasha said, reaching for the offered cup and drinking deeply, "Are the police still here?"
  1978. "Nope - cleared out at the same time I left." Brad said, "Gotta wonder what they found in Varney's office..."
  1979. "Other than the disintegrating books and door?" Donna asked, pulling her neck back in and taking a sip of coffee.
  1980. "Well - yeah." Brad shrugged, handing Donna the coffee, "There's also something going on down the hall."
  1981. "Too early for classes." Donna said, grabbing a donut. She looked at it impishly before stretching her mouth out and devouring the donut whole.
  1982. "Well, the professors are there - meeting or something." Brad said, rolling his eyes at Donna's elastic experiments, "I saw Chief Hall there too with Professor Chase."
  1983. "Spreading the word on Varney no doubt." Sasha sighed, setting aside her pencil and scowling at the jar, "That's it. I'm done."
  1984. "You've found the cure?" Donna said eagerly. Sasha looked at her wearily.
  1985. "No - nothing!" Sasha said, flipping through her notes, "There's Praise for Tiamat - Blessings for Tiamat - More about the Blessed Eyes of the Beholders. But no cure."
  1986. "You've got to be kidding me!" Brad said, "Maybe it's on the inside...?"
  1987. "I looked. Closely." Donna said, "There's nothing on the inside except a thin residue of - something."
  1988. "Something?"
  1989. "I took samples to analyze." Donna said, "It'll take some time though."
  1990. "Great." Brad said, crossing his arms and slouching on a stool, before a thought struck him, "Hey - what about that wizard guy, Jack..."
  1991. "No!" Sasha said quickly, drawing the surprised stares of Donna and Brad, "I mean - well, he said I'd be able to take care of it..."
  1992. "Well, maybe he made a mistake." Brad said.
  1993. "No no..." Sasha said, looking at her notes and the Jar again, "There's something here he noticed - something I must've missed..."
  1994. "Sasha Tobin?" came a voice from the door. The three looked up in surprise to see Professor Chase and a lanky older man who bore some resemblance to Groucho Marx entering, "What are you doing here?"
  1995. "Professor Holmes..." Sasha said, instantly recognizing the bespectacled man, "What are you doing here?"
  1996. "No fair - I asked first." He said, wagging his finger, "Although I am glad to see you here - it seems that the archeology department and cryptology department have the makings of another splendid joint research project!" Professor Chase looked pained as Professor Holmes rubbed his hands in anticipation.
  1997. "Cryptology..." Brad asked, looking at Sasha.
  1998. "He's the head of the department." Sasha said quickly, "And I'm just here - helping with the translation..."
  1999. "Of the jar. Yes, I heard all about your - escapades last night." Professor Chase said, looking at Donna, "I never expected to hear that of you Donna."
  2000. "What else did you hear?" Donna gulped uneasily.
  2001. "Enough." Professor Chase snapped, "Enough that we need to have a - word or two with you."
  2002. "When...?" Donna asked. Chase looked at her watch.
  2003. "Now. Come along." Professor Chase said motioning. Reluctantly, Donna followed.
  2004. "I'm coming too." Brad said, surprising her, "Moral support."
  2005. "I've told you before, this does not involve you." Chase said flatly.
  2006. "Oh, come on Martha." Professor Holmes said, patting her on the back, "I'd say he was involved with this. And your ward..."
  2007. "Ward?" Donna said, puzzled.
  2008. "Will..." Chase began.
  2009. "And if he's not there - well, imagine how much worse it'll be when the Watcher gets a hold of this." Holmes said with a toothy grin. Chase frowned.
  2010. "I hate it when you're right." Chase said. "Come along - both of you."
  2011. Sasha watched them leave, before returning to her notes. A few minutes later, she had tossed them aside.
  2012. "Darn it, what am I missing!" Sasha muttered, taking her glasses off and rubbing her weary eyes, "I'm supposed to be on top of this thing..." She stared at the jar intently, hoping it might talk.
  2013. It remained silent as she re-read the inscriptions again.
  2014. "Argh." Sasha said, crossing her arms on the table and resting her chin on them. As she did, her gaze fell on the odd black lid that had covered the top of the jar. Its style didn't go with the red jar's own unique inscriptions or style, and she had dismissed it as a later addition. Without her glasses on, something unnoticed came into view.
  2015. "What the?" Sasha muttered, putting her glasses on and picking up the lid. The inscription she had noticed had vanished. Sasha scowled, and puzzled for a moment, before she took her glasses off again.
  2016. The inscription reappeared.
  2017. "Of course! Vya!" Sasha exclaimed, eagerly reading the ancient spell of a forgotten mage.
  2018. "Tough crowd." Brad said as they entered the conference room. The nine well dressed men and women who sat around the table looked up. At the far end, one stood up.
  2019. "Ms. Waxwain, I presume? Andy DeList, Wattamatta legal council." DeList said, walking over and shaking Donna's hand, before glancing at Brad, "And he is...?"
  2020. "Brad Keyes." Professor Chase said.
  2021. "Brad - Keyes?" DeList said, looking at Chase with a jaunticed eye, "Don't tell me Varney personally expelled him too?"
  2022. "No - he tried to eat me." Brad said, drawing a puzzled look from DeList and a slap on the back from Holmes.
  2023. "As we thought from the reports- a new parasitic life-form!" Holmes chuckled, turning to DeList, "But - considering the last incident on campus, I thought it would be best to have both of them here for the negotiations."
  2024. "Negotiations?" Donna said, looking around bewildered.
  2025. "Negotiations." Professor Chase repeated, "It seems that Orson - Varney - or whatever that thing is, overstepped its authority..."
  2026. "That is putting it mildly." Holmes said, "Varney - or whatever it is - not only expelled Ms. Waxwain, but had expunged all records of your attendance here."
  2027. "You've got to be kidding!" Donna said. From Professor Chase's face, she could tell they weren't joking, "You're - not joking! Great, first I'm suspended, then expelled, and now he's destroyed all my school records! What next?"
  2028. "We put things right dear." Professor Chase said kindly, looking at DeList, "Won't we?"
  2029. "Of course." DeList sighed heavily, "Provided she - no, THEY both sign the proper non-disclosure forms and promise never to speak about this..."
  2030. "Except to the cryptology department..." Holmes interjected. DeList sighed heavily again.
  2031. "Of course." DeList said, "But - we must maintain the high standards of education offered here at Wattamatta University, which means not a word of this ever reaches the media."
  2032. "So - this is a cover up?" Brad asked.
  2033. "Absolutely!" DeList said, "But - with benefits."
  2034. "What benefits?" Donna asked. DeList smiled a bitter smile.
  2035. "That - is exactly what we are here to discuss."
  2036. "See - it all worked out." Brad said as they left the conference room. Donna was beaming.
  2037.  
  2038. "I - I still can't believe it!" Donna said happily, "I'm readmitted to Wattamatta - I'm going to be the student lab supervisor..."
  2039. "You're getting one year here at Wattamatta free of charge..." Brad added with a grin. Donna smiled broadly.
  2040. "Along with you." Donna said. Brad could feel her arm stretching around his waist, snakelike, "That was a great idea..."
  2041. "Whups! We're in public!" Brad gently scolded Donna.
  2042. "But the hall's empty." Donna said, giving him a kiss.
  2043. "Okay..." Brad said, returning it, and returning her hug, "Of course - you have a lot of homework to get caught up on."
  2044. "So - It'll be a little late." Donna said, "I think after last night, we both need some time off - and some more practice with these tattoo things..."
  2045. "Oh - and what kind of practice?" Brad said as they walked to the stairwell.
  2046. "We'll come up with - something creative." Donna said, with a teasing smile, "I have a few ideas..."
  2047. "Uh-huh..." Brad said.
  2048. "There you are!" Came Sasha's voice, ruining the moment, "I've been looking all over for you!" Brad and Donna turned to see Sasha carrying a paper bag and looking very excited.
  2049. "Well, we just got out of the meeting..." Donna said, letting go of Brad.
  2050. "And Donna's gotten readmitted to the University." Brad added.
  2051. "Great!" Sasha said, hugging Donna, "Now for MY great news! I figured it out!"
  2052. "What...?"
  2053. "The cure for your CURSE, Duh!" Sasha said, making a beeline back to the archeology lab.
  2054. "Cure?" Donna said, sounding almost disappointed as they followed her, "How...?"
  2055. "It's what he cleverly said ' I'm sure you'll be on top of it.' Or something like that!" Sasha said, turning, "The jar - had nothing to do with the cure! The LID though, was crafted by Argon the Great to contain the curse!"
  2056. "Argon the who?" Brad asked, as they turned the corner, and ran into some unusual traffic. Men in olive drab uniforms were moving a large number of boxes out of the building.
  2057. "Argon the great, one of the first master mages, grandfather of Sargon..." Sasha said, ignoring the unusual traffic that slowed them down, "You know -Sargon the Great!"
  2058. "He was the first ruler to write down laws." Donna said, nodding, "But I never heard of..."
  2059. "He's not that well known outside of magic circles..." Sasha said, as they reached the lab door, where the traffic seemed to be flowing from, "But he knew how to create antidotes, and left behind the formula! And I just pick up all the ingredients for this cure..."
  2060. "Hey, great!" Brad said, following Sasha. He felt a tug at his arm. He turned to see it was Donna, looking concerned.
  2061. "Brad... I..." Donna began - only to be interrupted by a loud scream of frustration.
  2062. "You've gotta be kidding me!" Sasha shouted. Brad and Donna went into the lab, narrowly ducking another man hauling a large green box. Sasha was standing there, glaring at one of the men, who had a military insignia on his shoulder, "What is this?"
  2063. "Orders from the top girl." Said the gruff sergeant reciting from some bland order, "Due to the improper care and cataloging of these valuable Iraqi artifacts, the U.S. Army has no choice but to remove them to a more secure facility!"
  2064. "What?" Donna cried, looking about - the shelves of the lab were nearly bare of the many pieces she had so carefully cataloged, "You - you can't!"
  2065. "Never mind that - where's the jar that was here?" Sasha said, pointing to the worktable.
  2066. "It has been taken to a better equipped facility..." The sergeant repeated.
  2067. "Where?" Sasha snarled.
  2068. "Miskatonic University." Came a voice. The trio turned to see Professor Chase looking very sorrowful as a lieutenant followed her in, "I had expected something like this would happen when I heard about Varney being arrested - but I never expected it to happen so quickly!"
  2069. "Orders ma'am." Said the lieutenant, "I have to admit - they were very sudden too, but very explicit. We're here to head off any accusations that the United States Army is mishandling confiscated artifacts..."
  2070. "But - we sort of need one artifact." Brad said, "Just - for a little while."
  2071. "Why?" Said the lieutenant.
  2072. "Because - we're in the middle of - something..." Brad said, biting his lip. "Research..."
  2073. "Important research!" Sasha exclaimed, "We're on the verge of a breakthrough!"
  2074. "A - breakthrough?" Professor Chase said, glancing at the lieutenant, "What sort of..."
  2075. "It's kind of hard to explain." Donna said apologetically.
  2076. "But we really, REALLY need that jar!" Brad said.
  2077. "Lieutenant - perhaps we could locate this jar - if only for a little while?" Chase said. The lieutenant looked at her, "In the name of science, of course."
  2078. "I don't know..." the lieutenant said, thinking for a moment, "I believe you said something about taking this directly to the press?"
  2079. "Said in the heat of the moment." Chase assured him.
  2080. "Along with the part about calling us stormtroopers?"
  2081. "You're not far off on that." Sasha muttered, earning her a glance from Chase.
  2082. "You must admit, your appearance here was - unannounced." Chase said, "How would you like it is a group of taxpayers broke down the door to your barracks to reclaim your equipment?"
  2083. "Well - I supposed not." The Lieutenant relented, "Sergeant - let's have the list." Still scowling - his face appeared frozen that way - the sergeant handed over the list.
  2084. "Now this jar..."
  2085. "Red, terra-cotta like, about this size." Sasha quickly said, motioning with her hands, "There was a black lid with it too..."
  2086. "I see..."The Lieutenant said, flipping through the inventory, finally pausing and giving the sergeant a pained look, "Sergeant, what is the meaning of this?"
  2087. "Sir?" the Sergeant said, coming over, to look at the entry. His scowl melted away in confusion, "Well - she signed for it. Had official papers and everything - sir..."
  2088. "And you believed her?"
  2089. "Yes SIR!" The Sergeant snapped, his scowl back in place.
  2090. "And where did she go with it?"
  2091. "I - don't know - sir!"
  2092. "Our tax dollars at work." Sasha said, shaking her head and going back to the paper bag on the table to sulk.
  2093. "Her? Her who?" Chase asked, looking over the lieutenant's arm.
  2094. "A practical joker obviously." The lieutenant said sourly, glaring at the sergeant, "We'll have to hope that Miskatonic has far better security arrangements than here."
  2095. "A practical joke?" Donna said, unsure whether to be upset or relieved, "By who?"
  2096. "Someone we'll catch up to eventually." The lieutenant said, "Of course, I really doubt her name is 'General Tia Matt.'"
  2097. "What?" Sasha said, looking over as the lieutenant took the sergeant away to discuss the security arrangements more closely, with Professor Chase in close pursuit, "Who did he say?"
  2098. "Someone calling herself General Tia Matt..." Brad said shaking his head, "Will the cure work without the jar?"
  2099. "No - no... Ohmigosh, don't you see?" Sasha said thinking.
  2100. "See what? I see my job going down the tubes." Donna said looking at the carefully dismantled lab as the soldiers carried out the last few boxes. Only the artifacts from local New England excavations, and a neglected corner of Canada remained.
  2101. "No - her! She's HERE!" Sasha said, lowering her voice, "Tiamat!"
  2102. "Tia- Wait, the dragon that the jar was praising - and stuck us with these?" Brad said, pointing at his tattoo. Sasha nodded, "Excuse me, but I think that they would have noticed a dragon..."
  2103. "Not if she changed forms." Sasha said, "Just like you keep on changing your gender." Brad gulped at that thought.
  2104. "She - can do that?"
  2105. "Absolutely." Sasha said, "Dragons - well, dragons like Tiamat do that sort of thing."
  2106. "So - she's here?" Donna said, slightly scared. "So - what do we do now?"
  2107. "Good question."
  2108. "Oh, wonderful - just wonderful." Chief Hall grumbled, pacing about his tiny office as Brad, Donna and Sasha sat in his office nervously, "I listen to Jack, let you three off the hook with evidence - which gets lost..."
  2109.  
  2110. "Actually, the army lost it." Sasha said sternly, "When they were repossessing it and other artifacts in the lab..."
  2111. "Blowing a hole in my case against Varney." Chief Hall said, mulling what they had told him. He frowned, "So - did you - do whatever it was that needed to be done?"
  2112. "Um - no?" Brad said weakly, "The jar was taken away before we could..."
  2113. "Wonderful." Hall said crossing his arms, "So - pray tell - what were you trying to undo?"
  2114. "Believe it or not - an ancient curse." Sasha said.
  2115. "I thought those things killed people." Hall grumbled.
  2116. "Not this one." Sasha said, "This one is more - involved."
  2117. "Then what is involved?" Hall said looking at Brad, "Well?"
  2118. "Uh - well, this." Brad said, pointing to Donna. Hall looked at Donna and did a double take as she changed color, becoming bright purple with yellow polka dots.
  2119. "What?" Donna said, as Hall stared at her for a moment, not believing his eyes. She looked at Brad, who had a pained look on his face, and Sasha who was trying to suppress a smile, "What... BRAD!" Donna cried when she saw her hands.
  2120. "So - she can change colors because of this - curse?" Hall asked.
  2121. "It can get worse." Brad said.
  2122. "It WILL get worse for you if you don't..." Donna began, as her skin shifted back to its normal hue, "Thank you!"
  2123. "Worse than that?" Hall asked.
  2124. "Much worse." Sasha said, adjusting her glasses.
  2125. "So - do I want to know?" Hall asked.
  2126. "No!" Brad and Donna said together.
  2127. "So - this isn't a greater threat to the community." Hall said skeptically.
  2128. "No."
  2129. "So the two of you say."
  2130. "That's why we need to see Professor Varney." Sasha added, "He might be able to provide some insight on this."
  2131. "Which Varney?" Chief Hall asked rolling his eyes and sitting down at his desk, "Can you explain that to me?"
  2132. "Explain what?" Brad asked. Hall rubbed his graying eyebrows as he felt a major headache coming on.
  2133. "We conducted a search of Varney's office the same night we caught you leaving his house- and we found two skeletons in his closet. Real skeletons." Hall said, "The preliminary forensics have only identified one of them - as Professor Varney's."
  2134. "That's - weird." Donna said uneasily.
  2135. "Oh, it gets better." Hall said, leaning forward, "While I have Varney's skeleton lying in a box in our evidence room, I've got this other Varney - with Varney's fingerprints - sitting in a guarded private room discussing his case to some hot shot lawyer."
  2136. "Would it help- if we told you Varney isn't himself?" Donna asked, "He's kind of - possessed..."
  2137. "By a shade. That's what Jack told me too." Hall said, folding his hands on his desk, "That's not the sort of thing I need to release to the public."
  2138. "Would you rather say it's Varney's evil clone?" Brad offered.
  2139. "No." Hall said flatly.
  2140. "Whatever it - he is, we need to talk to him." Sasha said, "He might know how to solve our problem..."
  2141. "You should see Jack." Hall said.
  2142. "NO!" Sasha said, surprising Brad and Donna, "I mean - no, we wouldn't want to bother him about this..."
  2143. "I still think we should..." Brad said.
  2144. "Let's - talk to Varney or Apsu, or whatever this thing is." Sasha snapped, "Anyone can see him, right?"
  2145. "Right. You can." Hall said going to the door, "But this time, I'm sitting in on this conversation."
  2146. "All right - but it's going to get weird." Sasha said as they followed Hall down the hall to one of the holding rooms. An attentive but bored officer sat patiently waiting in a niche across from the door.
  2147. "Bob- are they done yet?" Hall asked, jerking his thumb towards the door.
  2148. "Got me." Bob shrugged, "The fat guy didn't like his lawyer at first, but it's been quiet since they closed the door."
  2149. "Lets see if they're up for some company." Hall said, rapping on the door.
  2150. A long minute passed. Hall rapped again.
  2151. "Something's not right." Sasha observed.
  2152. "Are you sure they're in there?" Hall said, rapping again.
  2153. "They haven't left - and I haven't left since they went in..." Bob said as Hall opened the door and went in. Before anyone could follow, he charged out.
  2154. "No one is in there." Hall bellowed.
  2155. "Chief - I never left my post - check the tapes!"
  2156. "Tapes?" Donna asked as Hall went to the monitor next to Bob.
  2157. "Everything is so wired around here." Sasha sighed, peering in and then down.
  2158. "To cover our collective butts after that biker nearly killed her lawyer last year." Hall snapped as Bob cued up the grainy image of the corridor on the tape.
  2159. "There he is." Bob said pointing to the screen. An officer led Varney up to the door, and let him in. Curiously, Varney stopped short, and turned, as if he didn't want to go in before the officer shut the door on him.
  2160. "No sound?" Brad asked.
  2161. "Budget cuts." Hall said, "Now fast forward it..." A number of officers moved back and forth up and down the corridor, until Hall and the threesome arrived just moments before, "What the blazes?"
  2162. "See." Bob said as the tape ended, "No one went in, or out..."
  2163. "Not the normal way." Brad said anxiously.
  2164. "Then how..."
  2165. "Uh - Chief?" Sasha said, calling from the room, "I think you should look at this."
  2166. "What is it? A massive hole in the wall I missed?" Hall asked, marching back into the tiny office. He stared at what Sasha was pointing at. It was a small, easily overlooked pile in the back corner, behind the tiny table.
  2167. Collapsed in a heap of clothes was the empty skin of Professor Orson Varney, its empty eyes staring towards the ceiling in abject horror.
  2168. "Well - we said it was going to be weird." Sasha shrugged as Hall picked up the limp empty skin, "It's odd though..."
  2169. "What?" Hall said, looking at her.
  2170. "Where did his lawyer go?" Sasha asked, "No other - er - remains..."
  2171. "Bob!" Hall said, draping the empty skin across the table and going out, "What about Varney's lawyer?"
  2172. "She went in there too..." Bob said, spying Hall's scowl, "All right, rewinding again..." Bob fiddled with the controls, and the grainy scene rewound again, until an officer appeared, escorting a young dark-haired oriental woman to the room, and letting her in, "There she is..."
  2173. "Hey- I've seen her - in the archeology department..." Brad said.
  2174. "Yeah." Donna said frowning, "Who is she?"
  2175. "Lets see - she signed in here...." Bob said, picking up the clipboard, "Huh. That's a weird one."
  2176. "What?" Sasha asked as Hall took the clipboard, "What's her name?"
  2177. "Tia Matt." Hall intoned with a scowl. Donna and Brad looked at each other with concern.
  2178. "Oh boy." Sasha muttered.
  2179. "This is a bad idea!" Sasha repeated as they walked the decaying brick streets in an ancient corner of Southend. Old houses from the little New England city's heyday as a major seaport huddled together before the expansive waterfront park, hiding a maze of short twisting streets that had vexed them since they got into town.
  2180.  
  2181. "I don't think we have many options left Sasha." Brad said, checking the slip of paper again, "Here we are - Destiny Way." Brad pointed at a street little larger than a wide alley that lead away, back towards the center of the city.
  2182. "This isn't where I expected a magician to live." Donna said as they went up the narrow street, moving to the side to let trucks laden with seafood pass by towards the restaurants downtown.
  2183. "Magicians can live wherever they want..." Sasha said, her voice trailing off.
  2184. "Here we are." Brad said uncertainly, checking the address on the slip of paper, "13 Destiny Way." The old house before them was a large yellow house that had been converted into a shop. An "Open" banner fluttered in the wind outside, next to a large black cauldron filled with flowers.
  2185. "Definitely not what I had expected." Donna said as they crossed the street, and past the white picket fence that guarded a tiny lawn in front of the house, "Maybe we've got the wrong place?"
  2186. "Won't know until we go in." Brad said, opening the screen door, where a bell tinkled lightly as it opened, "Ladies first."
  2187. "You go first - this is your idea!" Sasha snapped. Brad shrugged and went in, followed by the two girls. They looked about the hallway, lined with shelves that were laden with books, postcards and other souvenirs that trumpeted the town's historic side.
  2188. "Oh good morning." Came a voice from the side door, which nearly caused them to jump out of their skins. They turned to see a spritely older woman coming out to the counter, "How can I help you?"
  2189. "Well - this is going to sound silly but..." Brad began.
  2190. "We're lost and we're looking for directions." Sasha butted in. Brad and Donna looked at her in surprise.
  2191. "No we're not." Donna said feeling her arm stretching out as Sasha tugged on it. Donna pulled it back.
  2192. "What is it with you?" Brad said, turning back to the older woman, "We're looking for a magician named Jack..."
  2193. "Jack? Oh, he's out back. In the yard. Come along." The older woman said, motioning them to follow.
  2194. "He's out there." She said, pointing to a small ramshackle shed, where fumes seemed to be seeping out of the seams, "Just go and knock on the door."
  2195. "What's he - doing?" Sasha asked suspiciously.
  2196. "Training my granddaughter." She clucked, shaking her head as the tinkle of the bell drew her back inside to tend to a new customer.
  2197. "Training her to do what?" Donna said as they crossed the neat little backyard.
  2198. "We'll find out." Brad said, going to rap on the door. Before he could, the door opened, and Jack's sooty face peered out.
  2199. "Yes? Oh you." Jack said, coughing slightly as fumes of smoke wafted out the door, "All de-cursed I trust?"
  2200. "Actually, no." Brad said, which caused Jack to frown, "We were hoping you could help us..."
  2201. "I did- didn't I tell you about the top - the lid?" Jack said, motioning for them to enter the shed. Inside, a distinctly unhappy Myndi sat, pouting at a smoldering torch in the center of the shed.
  2202. "Hey! Hi guys!" Myndi said, brightening up a little at the sight of the trio, and a possible break from her tedious exercises.
  2203. "What are you doing?" Brad asked.
  2204. "After last night's- conflagration, I thought it would be wise to review ways to put OUT fires." Jack said, eyeing Myndi, "Again!"
  2205. "Hey, I didn't mean to do it..." Myndi said. Jack snapped his fingers, and the torch lit up again.
  2206. "Now..." Jack said.
  2207. "Exstinctum esse!" Myndi said, the flame sputtering out as quickly as it had begun.
  2208. "Better." Jack nodded, turning to Sasha, "At least as good as I would have hoped from someone wearing the crest of the Tobin clan." Sasha glared at him.
  2209. "Unless someone happens to be a descendant of Theodoric Tobin." Sasha snapped, stepping up to Jack, "You know what your friend did to him!" Jack stared at her, slightly stunned.
  2210. "Theodoric? The Theodoric Tobin?" Jack said is slight disbelief.
  2211. "Who's that?" Myndi asked.
  2212. "He was the greatest of the Tobin clan." Jack said, looking at Sasha with renewed interest, "That is - until Lord Faust tricked him into casting a spell that cancelled his own magic. But I had assumed..."
  2213. "He was killed? No." Sasha said, "He appeared on Boston Common in 1845 thanks to that spell you wrote..."
  2214. "My spell?" Jack shook his head, "No, that was my Sire's work, done long before my time."
  2215. "Your - Sire?" Sasha said, "You mean - you're not the Spadeheart?"
  2216. "No. Not that one." Jack said, "And I am trying to make amends."
  2217. "And why should we trust your word?" Sasha said, scowling.
  2218. "And why would my sire be bothering to train this young lady in a shed?" Jack said gesturing to Myndi, "Or for that matter, listening to a Tobin?" Sasha's scowl deepened.
  2219. "Oh-kay." Brad said, taking advantage of Sasha's stunned silence, "Now - can you help us with these?" He pointed to the spiral tattoo on his wrist. Jack gazed at them, seemingly doubly disappointed.
  2220. "No." Jack finally said, "Not without the jar."
  2221. "What? Come on..." Brad said," The jar's missing - again!"
  2222. "Missing?" Jack said, frowning.
  2223. "Taken by someone calling herself Tia Matt. You know - Tiamat. And the same one showed up and turned Varney into a skin of himself - or Apsu - or whatever it is." Donna said with concern, "We could be next!"
  2224. "I see." Jack said, picking up his cane, "I suspected she was nearby, lurking..."
  2225. "You suspected?" Donna said.
  2226. "Yes. Varney - or rather, the Shade of Apsu - had vastly overextended himself." Jack said, waving his staff, "His protective wards though were well crafted. Another week, and Tiamat would have carefully pulled them apart and removed him."
  2227. "And us too." Donna said, worrying as suddenly the jar reappeared, hovering in mid-air. "HEY!" Donna reached out for it -stretching a bit as she did so to catch it before it could fall. To her surprise, she passed through it.
  2228. "An illusion." Jack explained, trying to suppress a smile, "It beats hauling actual books and artifacts around."
  2229. "Can that take care of this curse?" Brad asked as the image of the jar slowly rotated.
  2230. "No." Jack said, studying the sides more intently.
  2231. "Then why show it to us?" Sasha asked.
  2232. "I just wanted to view the script..."
  2233. "Which part - the "Till death do us part" or the "Slaves of Tiamat" clause?" Brad asked.
  2234. "The latter." Jack said, looking at Sasha, "I trust you made a complete translation of this last part?" Sasha went and squinted at the symbols.
  2235. "Yeah - 'Let them be bound to Tiamat as she is bound by the rule of the land.' Sasha said, "So?"
  2236. "So Tiamat is bound by the rule of the land." Jack said with a slight smile, "Or, if you read into it - the laws of the land."
  2237. "So? Some ancient dragon-thing is going worry about getting a parking ticket?" Brad asked.
  2238. "No - wait. You mean any human law binds her?" Donna said as it struck her. Jack nodded sagely. "So - since slavery is illegal - she can't make us slaves."
  2239. "Essentially, yes." Jack said, dispelling the illusion, "At least here in America - unless you allow her to."
  2240. "And why would we?" Brad said, crossing his arms, "How...?"
  2241. "There's lots of ways. Binding contracts for instance. Or visiting a country without laws." Sasha said, "You'll just have to be careful I guess."
  2242. "It is slightly more complicated than that..." Jack nodded, "But you have the idea."
  2243. "But - she broke the law." Donna said, "Stealing the jar and - doing whatever it was to Varney..."
  2244. "She was just reclaiming what was hers." Jack said, "And being careful about it. There are some things even more dangerous than Tiamat out there, and it is best not to disturb them."
  2245. "That doesn't sound too reassuring." Donna said.
  2246. "Its not supposed to be." Jack said darkly, "Science may have center stage, but magic still survives - in its own quiet ways."
  2247. "And the curse?" Brad asked. Jack shrugged.
  2248. "Without the jar, there is no way to remove it." Jack said, "But - I have seen people learn to deal with far worse burdens than yours."
  2249. "Such as?" Sasha said. Jack shot a glance at Myndi.
  2250. "Such as dealing with my apprentice." Jack said with a wry grin.
  2251. "HEY!" Myndi cried indignantly.
  2252. "So - I guess we're stuck like this." Donna finally said as the bus arrived to take them back to Wattamatta University.
  2253.  
  2254. "Yup." Brad replied as they got on board, "I wish Jack could've helped..."
  2255. "Well, at least he pointed out that Tiamat wasn't likely to come after the two of you." Sasha said, sitting down. The two of them looked at her with a small frown, "..And - there are worse curses to get stuck with."
  2256. "I'll bet." Brad said.
  2257. "Want me to list some?" Sasha asked as the bus jerked forward, running through one of the potholes littering the street.
  2258. "No!" Brad and Donna said together. They looked at each other, each with a slight smile.
  2259. "Fine then. Don't mind me." Sasha said, "Just keep in mind - I do need something for my eventual thesis in cryptology - and unless something stranger comes along, you two are going to help me with it!"
  2260. "Okay, okay." Donna sighed, looking at Brad, "I hate to say it though - but I think I've gotten used to this - curse or whatever." Brad looked at her in surprise.
  2261. "You have?" Brad said, "But- I thought you hated it... "
  2262. "I know, it's a little crazy but - if Tiamat can't exactly get us- there's no rush to remove these things - right?" Donna said with a slight smile, "And just think of the things we could do with them!"
  2263. "I'm thinking of what we've done already." Brad said rubbing his forehead and looking at Donna, "You're sure it's all right with you - to be stuck together like this?"
  2264. "If it's all right with you." Donna replied, "Admit it - you've been having some fun with this too."
  2265. "Yeah - I guess." Brad conceded with a smile, "It's going to be a heck of a commute during break from Maine to Connecticut."
  2266. "Well - from Maine to Wattamatta." Donna corrected him, "I'll be in charge of the archeology lab, remember? That includes summer work."
  2267. "Still - a long commute." Brad sighed, lapsing into silence.
  2268. "All right - I've got a question." Donna finally said after the bus paused to let some passengers off.
  2269. "Shoot." Brad said.
  2270. "Do you - like me?" Donna asked, "I mean - really like me?"
  2271. "Well - yeah." Brad said.
  2272. "Not just because - we're stuck together by this?" Donna said, pointing to the cursed tattoo on her wrist. Brad stared at her for a moment.
  2273. "Of course not." Brad said, "You're fun to be around - even before you got - stretchy. You know..."
  2274. "Oh." Donna said, thinking it over, "Well - why didn't you ever ask me out before this happened?"
  2275. "What?" Brad said, befuddled.
  2276. "Yeah - why?" Sasha butted in, giving Brad a moment to collect his wits.
  2277. "Well - you were pretty busy in the lab all the time." Brad said, shrugging, "And - there never seemed to be the right moment..."
  2278. "Never?" Donna asked, disappointed.
  2279. "Never." Brad repeated, "Well - look - you're pretty, and smart - and into archeology, and I'm just a business major trying to fulfill a general education requirement. I mean, what did we really have in common, other than - these things?" Brad said, pointing to his matching tattoo.
  2280. "You're both human..." Sasha said, earning another glare, "Okay, I'll shut up."
  2281. "So - would you have wanted to go out - before all this?" Brad cautiously asked.
  2282. "Well, yeah!" Donna said, slightly indignantly, "You could've asked at least once!"
  2283. "All right - fine." Brad said, "Want to go on a date?"
  2284. "What? Now?" Donna asked in mock surprise, "I'll have to think about it..."
  2285. "Or I could arrange it so you're the one doing the asking." Brad said with a smirk. From the tingle, Donna could feel herself changing genders.
  2286. "Brad - don't you DARE!" Donna said at an octave deeper than she expected her voice to be. Brad grinned a silly smile as Donna felt the strange shifts in her body undo themselves, "Much better!"
  2287. "So - you want to go on a date?" Brad asked again, bracing himself for Donna's response. Donna made a small show of composing herself.
  2288. "Depends." Donna said haughtily, "Where are you planning on taking me?"
  2289. "Hogan's Mill." Brad said flatly. Donna looked at him in surprise. With the possible exception of the Tin Inn, it was the fanciest restaurant near Wattamatta.
  2290. "You're joking." Donna said, waiting for Brad to say they would eat take-out in the park below the deck.
  2291. "Nope." Brad said, shaking his head, "Seems like we've gotten off to enough bad starts since we got this curse. Let's make this the first of a lot of good starts..."
  2292. "One your mark - get set - go!" Sasha said clicking on the stopwatch. Brad and Donna sat there in their apartment kitchen, looking slightly smug, "Well?"
  2293. "Done." Brad said, handing Sasha a paper. Donna shrugged and handed Sasha her own paper.
  2294. "I don't believe it! You did it in - less than a second?" Sasha said, looking over the two pages. She looked up from the paper with a wry smile, "Your penmanship stinks."
  2295. "Well - we were rushing." Donna shrugged with a weak smile.
  2296. "And we have to slow down for the computer to catch up." Brad added, "But you have to admit - we're going to breeze through the homework assignments from now on."
  2297. "Uh-huh." Sasha said, putting the papers aside, "Any other interesting discoveries?"
  2298. "A few." Donna said, trying to hide a smirk.
  2299. "Care to share?" Sasha asked.
  2300. "No." Brad and Donna said at once. Sasha rolled her eyes.
  2301. "I should've known this was going to happen sooner or later." Sasha said with a smirk, "What about - that sleepover problem?"
  2302. "That?" Donna said, looking at Brad, "Well - right now, we've decided - to get engaged."
  2303. "Officially." Brad shrugged, "We could do worse."
  2304. "I'll bet." Sasha said, "So - which home are you going to first?"
  2305. "Ah...." Brad looked at Donna, "We flipped a coin. Donna's place."
  2306. "And what will the parents think of having him sleeping over?" Sasha said grinning at Donna. Donna smiled like the cat who caught the canary.
  2307. "Hey...! Not now..." Brad cried. Sasha looked over to his chair in time to see Brad shrinking away into his clothes as his protests grew fainter before they vanished. Still smiling, Donna got up and pulled a bra out of the rumpled mass of Brad's clothes.
  2308. "I don't think they'll mind - or notice much..." Donna said, modeling the bra, which was Brad. A frown crossed her face as Brad scolded her in her mind, "But you don't mind it this way, do you? Oh no! Not that!" Donna scooped up Brad's clothes and put them in the bathroom with the bra before closing the door.
  2309. "Not what?" Sasha asked, trying to contain a smile. She knew all about how the two of them could talk to each other with their thoughts. Donna smiled a goofy grin.
  2310. "None of your business." She said as Brad opened the door with a weird grin and shook a warning finger at her.
  2311. "Man - you two are really used to this." Sasha laughed, shaking her head.
  2312. * * *
  2313. Elsewhere on Wattamatta's sprawling campus, two figures walked, unnoticed past the leafless trees and students too busy to take notice. One appeared to be a young oriental woman in a red dress. The other, a balding old man in a inky black suit who seemed too spry for his advanced age. Had any mortal dared listen in on their private conversation, they might have been driven mad hearing an ancient tongue spoken aloud for the first time in ages.
  2314. "I see you dealt with Apsu quite nicely Lady Tiamat," the old man said, easily keeping pace.
  2315. "It was only his shade, Damien." Tiamat said curtly as she surveyed the distant outline of Lincoln House, "Even the shadows of my kind are powerful enough to take a life of their own."
  2316. "True. And what power it had. Slaying the local mage, and making it appear one was in residence." Damien chuckled darkly, "Now - there is a void here. Who shall take it?"
  2317. "Not I - nor you. That much I know." Tiamat said.
  2318. "I see - perhaps Jack...?"
  2319. "He has a different destiny." Tiamat snapped, surprising Damien with her burning red eyes, "No - It shall be - another."
  2320. "I see. One who will take your new - servants as their own?" Damien said nodding towards the Lincoln House. Tiamat scowled.
  2321. "I am bound by the laws of this land. Such was the curse that grants me my own awesome powers." Tiamat said sullenly, "I am working to - get around that. It will take time."
  2322. "What is time to one such as yourself?" Damien said.
  2323. "Everything." Tiamat said, glaring at Damien, "I do need these two in my service. Eventually. For now, they can learn of their skills and practice until I need them."
  2324. "Assuming the next master mage of Wattamatta doesn't take them as his own." Damien observed.
  2325. "That - is where you come in." Tiamat said with a commanding tone, "You are to find the most ineffectual mage to take Orson Varney's station." Damien looked at her in surprise.
  2326. "M'lady - need I remind you I am a free agent, with my own humble agendas for advancement in this cruel world." Damien clucked, "What incentive do I have to locate a useless mage?"
  2327. "You have my backing, wrath and power." Tiamat said, her eyes glowing slightly, "And - the eventual promise of a kingdom."
  2328. "A kingdom?" Damien paused, "And where should this kingdom come from?"
  2329. "Look about." Tiamat said, "All that you see is ripe for the taking. All that one needs is the proper incentive, skill and knowledge to pluck it for one's own."
  2330. "I see." Damien said, rubbing his chin, "Tell me more." Tiamat smiled a wicked smile at how easily Damien had agreed.
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