Chapter 21

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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In the morning, I bounced out of bed in anticipation. Sure, it's Saturday and normally I'd be sleeping in. I was eager to confront Mr. Sanders about everything we learned. Was he really behind all of this? He seemed so laid back and chill with me. I felt we connected on some level. Maybe he was just blowing smoke up my ass. It wouldn't be the first time I was conned. Hell, not even the first time this month.


It looked cold outside so I got one of the sweaters I brought back from Emma’s. I also put on a pair of leggings. I know what you’re thinking. Leggings, Jack? Sure. Sophia dared me to put a pair on one night. I was impressed at how comfortable they were.


I spent a good portion of the morning pacing and killing time. I brought back breakfast from the dining hall for me and Sophia.


Right before we were to leave our room, I opened up my underwear drawer and pulled out my Glock. I examined it in my hand. It still felt so much bigger and heavier than I was used to.


“You’re not bringing that are you?” Sophia asked.


“No,” I said, putting it back in the drawer and covering it with my unmentionables. “It's been a crutch for so long, but after Pittsburgh I realize it just causes more trouble than it’s worth.”


We left our dorm and all of us met in the quad around 2:20. Me, Sophia, Sam, Kayla, and Brett.


“This is exciting,” Brett said. “Last weekend we got to take down a trafficking ring. This weekend we get to take down someone stealing magic.”


“This isn’t fun and games,” I chided him. "Remember, magic is dangerous and unpredictable. We have to be very careful."


As I said that a figure appeared at the other end of the quad, in the direction we were heading. Surprise, surprise, it was our attacker.


I looked at him as he kept his distance, standing a good ten yards from me. He was wearing guy clothes. It made me wonder where he got those clothes, or whether Julia kept a stash for… reasons. 


“You made it,” I said to our guest.


“I was debating whether I should show up or not,” he replied, rubbing his left cheek.


“I’m Cate.” I motioned to the others. “This is Sophia, Sam, Kay-”


“I know who you all are,” he rudely interrupted. “I have her memories.”


“And she doesn’t have yours?”


“No. Allister made sure of that. Until Mr. Sanders brought me back - I was dead.”


I turned to Sophia and whispered, “Allister?”


“I guess the asshole that erased him and created Julia,” she replied. “Julia never used his name.”


“Oh.” I turned back to him and asked, “Since you know our names, what’s yours?”


“George.”


“Hi, George. I’m sorry about yesterday. You have to understand that-”


“I don’t care,” he loudly interrupted. “I came here to tell you all to leave me alone. And leave Mr. Sanders alone.”


“George,” Sophia pleaded. “I’m Sophia. Julia was like a best friend-”


“I don’t care!” he growled, cutting her off. “I’m not… her. She is a work of fiction. She was made by a douchebag. Her blonde hair. Her perfect skin. Her height. Her breast size. Her submissive personality. Fuck - even her age! I’m supposed to be in my twenties! That’s Allister’s fantasy girl.. I am the real person.”


“You’re angry,” I said calmly. “There’s no debating that your friend, Allister was a real-"


“Piece of shit,” Sophia finished my sentence. Damn, girl. I wonder how often George’s ex-friend came up in her and Julia’s conversations.


“All I want is my life back,” he yelled. “I want my body back!”


“Hey, join the club, pal.”


“You’re not helping,” Kayla cautioned me.


“What about Julia?” Sophia asked.


“She’s not real!” he yelled. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you!”


“She’s real to me,” Sophia countered.


“OK, OK,” I said, holding my hands up to get everyone’s attention. “There’s no use arguing about this. George - I get why you’re angry. I empathize. I want my old life back too. But the way you’re going about it leaves a lot to be desired.”


“But-”


“We can help each other,” I cut him off.


“He promised me he would restore me, and erase the abomination.”


“As you know, we’re heading there anyway. I kinda have an appointment with him. Join us and we can sort this out.”


“I can’t let you interfere.” George stood his ground.


“You know Mr. Sanders is my science teacher, right? You can’t stop me from seeing him.”


“But by Monday morning it’ll be too late.”


Well that wasn’t ominous. I looked at Sophia who seemed to look more and more masculine as the hours passed. Was George talking about Sophia or was he talking about something else? “Too late for what?”


George didn’t answer. The son of a bitch was stalling. 


I turned to the group. “This is getting us nowhere.”


Sophia leaned into me. “Let me handle him. You go ahead of us.” She looked at George. “So you have Julia’s memories? How does it feel to strangle your roommate? Do you feel any remorse?” 


He stood there looking at the ground.


I took this opportunity to slowly back away from the group and head towards the edge of the quad.


“Look at me, George,” Sophia directed. “Julia is my friend. We spent many nights together. She took me under her wing and helped me adapt to this new life.”


“That wasn’t me,” he said defiantly.


“Oh, sure, but you remember it.”


“I was forced to do that.”


“No, you weren’t. You were forced to be subservient to your former best friend. Not to me. No. You went out of your way to befriend me. I asked her one night why she was being so nice to me. Do you remember what she said?”


“She said that maybe in my former life, I was a good person.”


“So are you? Are you a good person, George?”


At that point, I figured Sophia had it under control and since I was no longer in George’s sight, I booked it to the Science Lab.


* * *


When I reached the Science Building, it was still at least twenty minutes before I was to meet up with Brandon. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, the campus was mostly quiet except for the occasional study group. There were students studying in the Science Building’s lobby. I wasn’t interested in them so I just wandered the hallways.


Mr. Sander’s classroom was dark and the door closed. I don’t know why I assumed Technology Club was in his classroom. I hadn’t been to the science lab yet in my month at PAA. It was usually reserved for Chemistry and Physics classes and we weren’t covering those quite yet. When I reached the science lab, all I found was a boy and a girl wearing safety goggles, playing with a bunsen burner.


I knocked on the door. “Is this Technology Club?”


The girl looked at me as if I was speaking a different language. “No. We’re just practicing for an exam.” She turned back to the open flame and started igniting something she held with tweezers. The boy smiled as the object sparked and burst into a red flame. 


Anyway, back to my current dilemma. Where exactly is Technology Club? Brandon said to meet here.


I strolled up and down the hallway only to find more empty classrooms.


I doubled back around and returned to Mr. Sander’s classroom. I tried the door and it opened. 


Since the lights were off, I slowly walked inside. I needed to be sure Mr. Sanders was behind all of this, so I walked over to his desk. On it were his car keys I had recognized from yesterday. I started opening drawers. 


I found the whiskey and lowball glasses from the other week. A drink sounded good, but not the best time right now.


A drawer full of dry-erase markers.


A file drawer labeled with test numbers. A sneaky thought crossed my mind about looking up the next test, but it’s not like I was failing this class. Besides, I had bigger fish to fry.


Another drawer full of miscellaneous school supplies, then a drawer of scattered papers. On top was a photograph. It was a picture of a smiling teenage girl in a cap and gown standing in front of a flower-sign saying “Class of 2019.”


This must be Jackie. She’s rather cute. Another picture with her and well-dressed parents. Another one with her kissing a teen boy who was also wearing a graduation gown. I remember her telling me there was a boyfriend before her run-in with the Slider.


There was a letter addressed to Jackie Sanders. She must’ve kept her original last name. It was an acceptance letter into Cornell University. 


Next was a newspaper clipping from July 2019. Local girl, 18, missing, featured another picture of a smiling Jackie. The next one was dated almost a year later - June 2020. Local missing woman found. I quickly skimmed the article and it matched what Mr. Sanders told me. Jackie Sanders was found drugged up and trafficked in Europe. I couldn’t help but think this almost happened to me and Chloe, too.


I put the photos and papers back in the drawer where I found them, and walked over to a filing cabinet. Inside of that were folders marked with students’ names. I found a folder with my name on it and examined the contents. It was just graded tests and homework that I had recently turned in.


“Cate?”


I jumped and turned around to see Brandon standing in the doorway. “Jesus, don’t scare someone like that.”


“You weren’t at the Science Lab,” they said.


“Well, there was a couple that looked like they had chemistry between them and I decided to give them some space. Then I remembered I forgot to ask for a paper I handed in but didn’t get back.”


“Sure. Follow me.”


I shut the filing cabinet and walked out of the dark classroom and followed Brandon.


“I’m glad you can make it,” they said as we walked.


We walked right past the actual Science Lab. The boy and girl were busy burning something else. 


“Where are we really going?” I asked.


“Tech Club has a secret location,” they responded, looking around in mock paranoia.


“Of course they do,” I agreed sarcastically. I really didn’t want it to be true that Mr. Sanders and Brandon were behind all of this. But damn if they’re not making it obvious. Did they read a how-to book on being a supervillain? Step 1. Acquire secret hideout.


We came to the stairwell and Brandon held the door open for me. 


“Now we go down,” they instructed.


“Down? There’s only stairs that go up and a door.”


“Through the door is the basement.” They opened the non-descript door and I could see a dark descending stairwell.


Great. Step 2. Make sure secret hideout is in an underground bunker. I sighed. Maybe I should’ve brought my Glock. At least I still have my cellphone on me in case Sophia and Sam need to find me.


“Oh,” Brandon stopped suddenly. “We can’t bring our cellphones with us.” They placed their phone on an adjacent long-since-abandoned painted-over radiator.


Shit. As if he was reading my mind. “Seriously?”


“Yeah, the radio waves affect some of the experiments.”


That sounds like bullshit to me. Running into Jacob’s trap last weekend was still fresh in my mind, so I was reluctant to go first into the dark stairwell. But I needed to see this thing through, so I placed my phone on top of Brandon’s. “Hey - you go first, I have a thing about going head-first into dark, damp spaces.”


“Is that why you’re divorced?” Brandon chuckled.


I gave them a serious look.


They suddenly got apologetic. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I thought you liked that kind of humor.”


“I do. But now really isn’t the time.”


They shrugged and walked down the dark stairs. I sighed and reluctantly followed.


When we reached the bottom of the stairs it wasn’t as dark as the stairwell. It smelled musty like my grandparent’s basement. Old pictures lined the wall.


“What is this place?”


“It’s been unused since the ‘70s,” Brandon replied. “The Science Department was using it for storage.”


I stopped to look at one photograph. 


A picture of twenty or so high school-aged kids posing with magic wands and cloaks. Then another. A framed and badly yellowed black and white photograph of a kid with a wand standing over a cauldron of something. Hand-written on the bottom was “Magic Club, 1957.”


“I thought Magic Club was disbanded in the ‘40s” I said.


Brandon shrugged.


So this was a magic version of a speakeasy? “What can you tell me about Technology Club?” I asked.


“Tech Club is so much fun, and very educational.”


“Sure,” I said. “Who doesn’t like a good baking soda and vinegar volcano?”


“It’s Tech Club, not Science Club, silly.”


“So, what do you all do? Computers? Keyboards? TV/VCR Repair?”


“VCRs? Pfft. We build our own devices.”


“I tried taking a computer apart once to give it more memory. I wound up throwing the whole damn thing away and buying a new one.”


“Don’t worry, Mr. Sanders is a good and patient advisor.”


“OK, Brandon,” I said, grabbing their shoulders and turning them to face me. “You gotta level with me. What the hell are you guys actually doing here in Technology Club? In a super-secret basement lair?”


Brandon looked hesitant to answer that. “I-I uh. I think Mr. Sanders would be a better person to explain.”


“Why me? I’m not the friendliest new student at PAA. And I’m not really into social clubs.”


“Uhh.. Mr. Sanders asked me to ask you.”


“Yeah, he asked me too. Do you know why I finally agreed to come?”


“Yeah, but please listen to what Mr. Sanders has to say. It will all make sense.”


Fuck. They all but confirmed my fear that some of my friends were behind this the whole time. Right under my nose.


Brandon continued walking, and I reluctantly followed them to see this thing through. We finally came to a room that had its lights on. Mr. Sanders was busy at a computer. On one of the lab benches was a glowing orb. It reminded me of those static lightning balls. That was a cool toy. My parents never got one for me. I suppose I could blame them for my lack of interest in science.


“Hi, Mr. Sanders, I brought a friend with me,” Brandon announced, gleefully.


Mr. Sanders looked up. “Ms. Fox. What a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting you until later. I see Brandon was finally able to convince you to join us.”


Join what, I wondered. “What’s all of this?” I asked, looking around. I pointed at the glowing orb. “That’s a cool bowling ball.”


“This is Technology Club,” he replied. “I think you might find this interesting given your status as a Displaced.”


“Why are you guys meeting in a basement?”


“Because some of the stuff we’re working on is… controversial.”


Step 3. Do illegal stuff in said underground lair. I walked over to a table that had several of those silver disks scattered all over. Oh, shit, there’s more than two. I carefully picked one up. “What does this do?”


“That,” Mr. Sanders said, picking another one up, “is a 4th generation neural feedback stimulator.”


“Neural--what?” I asked.


“Neural feedback stimulator,” Sanders repeated slowly. “It allows us to inject thoughts into the brain, overwriting the brain’s own thoughts.”


“So, mind control.”


“Well, it was originally developed by a subcontractor for the CIA as a mind-control device. Once a synchronous flow was established you could not only read what the brain was thinking, but you could imprint new thoughts over their existing ones. And that was just the first generation.”


Cool. Standard issue for a high school science lab. “This looks pretty complex. Did you design and build all this yourself?”


“Yes. It’s an upgraded version of the device that swapped the Barneses.”


Now we’re getting somewhere. “Really? So these body swap people too? Does it do julienne fries?”


Mr. Sanders frowned at my joke. “Well, the body swap was an unexpected side effect of the original prototype. They were largely untested, and when two or more were near each other there could be crosstalk. That’s why their brains swapped.”


“Yeah, I seem to remember something bad happening if you crossed the streams,” I said sarcastically.


“In fact, that side effect was the whole reason we obtained the specs for it. Initially, I was looking for a way to swap back. If this device did the same thing that it did with the Barneses, then potentially I could use it to swap back into my old body. Essentially I would be the body hopper!”


That’s what we really need. Another body hopper. “So you’ve made some improvements?”


“Ah, many improvements.” Step 4. Criminal Mastermind brags about his accomplishments.


“I’ve implemented opto-isolation of the disks, preventing cross-talk. A dozen of these could be going at once and no chance of unintentional brain wave crossing. Plus, each disk auto tunes itself to the wearer. A disk worn by one person will not work on another. That’s why each one has a serial number on it.


“Well, that all sounds great, but what about the magic?”


He rolled his eyes. “I hate that word.”


“OK. Energy. Whatever.”


“That’s the best part!” Normal brain waves are all at a very low frequency, one to thirty-five Hz. I discovered that certain TG brains have a very high resonating frequency that makes them sensitive to high-energy waves. My analysis of this resonating frequency has demonstrated that energy and what you call magic are interchangeable. The high-energy waves can change a person at the molecular level, which appears to the average person as magic.”


I hope there won’t be a quiz on this. “So, basically, everything we see around us called magic is really some kind of high-energy physics.”


“Cate Fox, if I was still going to be around at the end of the semester I’d give you an A Plus. You’re the only one who seems to understand why magic is really science.”


“So, then, what’s with the disco ball over there?” I asked, pointing at the glowing orb.


“That is where the high-energy waves are stored as a plasma. We can extract the energy from a person and store it in there. We can then transfer it into a different person to create whatever effect we want. Age, gender, body features, we can control it all.”


I was on a roll here with his admission of guilt, so I kept him talking. “So, how does all that energy get from a person into the ball, and back again?”


“Well, the first way is direct contact with the orb. Upon contact with a person, the orb generates a gaussian field.” He made a big ball shape with his arms. “It surrounds the person and permeates the body allowing them to give up their energy to the orb, or absorb energy from the orb.”


I didn’t know the difference between a gaussian field and a cornfield. “OK, you’ve officially lost me with the gaussian field stuff.”


Sanders continued. “The other way involves using the orb and disks in tandem. Because the high energy is in the form of a wave, the disk can superimpose it on a carrier wave to transmit it back and forth to the orb. Much like television or radio transmission. And it doesn’t matter where the energy is stored. A body, or a talisman like the bracelet or Brandon’s ring. Once you synchronize the resonating frequency you can transfer the energy to or from anything. You see, it’s all science,” he concluded.


“That is interesting. Where did you get a crystal ball?” Evil Masterminds dot com, or Acme?


“It was on clearance at Kohls.”


“Sure, that’s the first place I’d look too. You mentioned the CIA. And you said you obtained the specs. Where from?”


“Well, Josh Barnes talks too much when he’s drunk,” Mr. Sanders chuckled. “It wasn’t too hard to track down the subcontractor that made the original prototype.”


I suppose that’s where Ashley Tart came in. I’m not sure if I was jealous, learning that Sanders had another drinking buddy. “They make the craziest stuff available to the public on the internet these days.”


“We put in a year’s worth of work. It’s exciting that I can finally see it all come to fruition.”


“Who is ‘we’?”


“The Technology Club. Me, Mx. Jones here, some members who are no longer with us-”


“Ashley Tart?”


“Yes. Ms. Tart was integral in getting this project off the ground. We needed to test it on someone. Ms. Tart was adamant that we use this experiment for good, so we selected a student - George - who was a victim of identity death.”


“Yeah, George. We met yesterday. He’s why you had to spring me from jail.” 


Mr. Sanders didn’t acknowledge that and kept fiddling with a device in front of him. 


“So, what happened? Clearly that didn’t work. Julia is my roommate’s friend.” I’m getting the feeling he knew that fact, too.


“It was sporadic and sadly George reverted back within hours. We changed some of the parameters, then Ms. Tart volunteered herself. What we didn’t expect was for it to target her age, not her gender. Either way, the experiment was a success. We were able to transfer the energy that was used to change her from a middle-aged guy to a teenager and store it in another artifact.” He motioned to the glowing orb.


“OK, but something bad must’ve happened right? Ashley’s in a nursing home and not standing here.”


“Yes. I tried absorbing that energy. But I was only able to de-age myself by 30 years.”


Only 30 years? That would mean you were still…”


“In my 50s, yes. It all made sense. You see, the energy used to transform Ashley was only 30 years worth.”


“You needed more. So, you took more years from Ashley?”


Mr. Sanders was silent and his excitement seemed to fade. He exhaled and looked at me. “Is there something you wanted to ask me, Jim?”


I guess we’re going to drop the whole student - teacher facade now.


“Or is it Jack? Detective Jack Baker, right?” 


“I see you’ve been doing some detective work of your own, Jackie.”


“I had to when you started snooping around and interfering with our work. I thought I was in the clear when you got yourself expelled. But somehow you came back.”


“I’m hard to get rid of that easily.”


“I did some digging on you. Detective Jack Baker has been missing for a month. Upstanding detective up until then. He’s recently divorced. In and out of therapy since his partner died 15 years ago.”


“16. Hey, some of that stuff is private.”


“Emma Kincade, 14, missing until she was found unharmed a day later. Transferred out of her school to an unknown location. Looks very much like you.”


“Is there a point to this? I already told you I was a Displaced and Emma is my body’s owner.”


“I had to know who I was dealing with. It’s interesting you lied about your name but not hers. I’m assuming her plight still haunts you and she is why you’re really snooping around.” He glanced over my shoulder. “George, you can come in.”


George slowly walked into the lab. We both eyed each other.


“Where’s everyone else?” I asked him.


“Looking for you,” George replied.


I had this bad feeling I was in trouble. Having voluntarily walked into a trap. I was outnumbered 3-to-1. But I’m a physically fit teen athlete. Surrounded by an 80 year old man, and two very non-athletic teens. But above all else, I felt betrayed. Both by Brandon and Mr. Sanders. I turned my focus back to Sanders. “So your concern for me was just a ruse? 


“Oh, no,” Sanders said. “On the contrary. I enjoyed our drink and your company. You’re a decent student even if you’re chatty and sarcastic. But you’re just like me, Jack. We’re both Displaceds - caught in a world that thinks we want to adapt to our new lives. But really we just want to go back to our old bodies and old lives. The Order of the Dawn is the real villain here.”


I started shaking my head. Step 5, claim someone else is the villain. “Listen. Like I was telling George earlier. I empathize. I really do. The Order sucks. Being unable to fix the students sucks. It’s your methods that are wrong.”


“I tried to do this the legal way. The Order was standing in my way. Hypocrites. They had the power to fix me. To fix any student here.” He gestured widely. “Instead they are more worried about hiding us, forcing everyone to assimilate, and appeasing Normies.”


“You know, the law typically frowns upon vigilante justice.”


“Isn’t that what you were doing with George yesterday afternoon?”


I suppose he got me there. “What about Ashley?”


“That…was an unfortunate accident.”


“Bullshit. You stole 60 years of her life. And now a 15-year-old is dying of old age. That was no accident.”


“True,” he said with no emotion. “She now knows the pain I live with every day. But she made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of science.”


“I don’t understand, why aren’t you young now?”


“Because it still didn’t stick,” he replied. “Both myself and George reverted back a few hours later. I needed more tests, more trials. I was able to bring George back for hours at a time. And I was able to be a younger version of this body. But I still wasn’t me. Ashley’s energy only got me youth. I needed to be a woman again.”


“With Ashley no longer available, you found someone else… Lulu.”


“Yes. This school has no shortage of students who were enrolled here against their will.”


Suddenly a naked form appeared behind George and started to strangle him. It was Sam. “You bastard!” she yelled, still holding George in place. “Lulu didn’t want to change back. You had no right - no right - to change my girlfriend without her permission!”


“Where the hell did you come from?” George managed to choke out.


“I can be as quiet as a mouse,” Sam replied with a wry grin.


“Welcome, Ms. Weaver,” Mr. Sanders said. “You can let go of George. I assure you, you’re amongst friends.” He looked at me. “Jack, tell Samantha she’s among friends.”


“I’m not sure that's true,” I replied. “Her girlfriend had her gender changed without permission and was kicked out of PAA because of you.”


Mr. Sanders opened up a drawer. 


I got in a defensive posture just in case he was reaching for a weapon. 


Instead it was a pile of clothes. “At least get dressed.” He tossed them at Sam’s feet. “This isn’t a locker room.”


We all looked at each other. Sam released George and pushed him aside and picked up the clothes.


“Anyway,” Sanders continued. “As I was saying, It worked perfectly. We were able to transfer the energy from one artifact to another. Ms. Matthew’s bracelet to this orb. I was once again a teenage girl.”


“What the hell, Jackie? You’re a teacher for Christ’s sake. You’re supposed to be helping them, not hurting them!”


“I’m just doing what the Order should’ve done for them in the first place!”


At this point I had heard enough. I didn’t expect Mr. Sanders to straight-up reveal his plan to me. I guess he’s used to being a teacher. He had to make sure he explained it to his class. I should excuse myself and let Ms. Hathaway know I solved the case. Then Mr. Sanders would be the Order’s problem, not mine.


“Hey, look at the time,” I said looking at my bare wrist. “I forgot that Sam and I had a lunch date with our other friends.”


“Even after that experiment, it still wasn’t me,” Sanders loudly proclaimed, completely ignoring my attempts to extract myself from this conversation. “I still needed the ability to transform into my former body and lock in the changes. Mx. Jones was the key to that puzzle.”


“Hi,” said Brandon, who had been silent the entire time. They looked uneasy now as if they’re re-evaluating having joined this club.”


“Brandon here was very willing to part with their curse,” Sanders explained.


“Well, at least you asked this time,” I said, trying to get them to realize what they did to Lulu was wrong.


“My ring was meant to allow the wearer to assume their ideal identity,” Brandon explained. “For whatever reason, it never worked for me - and actually had the opposite effect.”


“It contained the stored energy I required for my permanent transformation back into Jackie,” Sanders replied.


“And that mysteriously glowing crystal ball?” I asked.


“I needed a container to store all that energy.”


“Sounds like a battery,” I commented. “Storing the magic from Ashley, Lulu, and Brandon,” I concluded. “Then why did you need Sophia’s magic, er, energy?” 


“I didn’t,” he said abruptly. “You came back into the picture, poking around the school asking too many questions. I did, however, store her energy separately so I could give it back to you.”


“Well that was nice of you. Wait, so you’re extorting me with the cure for my roommate?”


“Don’t think of it as extortion. Think of it as… an opportunity. I was waiting for you, Jack.”


“Hey! What about me?” George interrupted, anger building. “There won’t be enough energy for me. You promised to rid me of the girl I keep reverting back to!”


“Once we prove this works on me, you can have your pick of any TG’s energy on campus.”


“Wait, Mr. Sanders,” Brandon interjected. “You promised you wouldn’t hurt anyone else.”


“We’re not hurting anyone,” Mr. Sanders replied. “We’re liberating them.”


“Lulu and Sophia would disagree,” I chimed in.


“We can’t let you do this anymore,” Sam joined in, finally dressed in a PAA-branded gray sweatshirt and sweatpants. “This is against their will.”


“I’d be careful if I were you. There’s no telling what this device will do to a Shifter. Of course, I’d be willing to conduct an experiment if you really want.” He turned to me and held up a miniature version of the glowing orb, the size of a….


“Is that a lacrosse ball?” I asked.


“Jack, this will fix Sophia. But it comes at a price.”


I rolled my eyes. “And that price?”


“Don’t stand there looking so innocent, Jack. You desperately want to break the rules to change your roommate back. Just like you desperately want to become Jack again. Join me. Become Jack Baker again. Together we can track down the ones who did this to us and give them a taste of their own medicine.”


I sighed. I generally don’t like giving into extortion, but he does have the winning poker hand. He’s got Sophia’s cure and my masculinity within my reach.


“Cate, no!” Sam protested.


I turned to Sam. “I promised Sophia I would help her.”


“Find another way. If she was here, you know she’d say the same thing.”


Sam’s right. This magic belongs to Lulu and the others. Taking it wouldn’t be right. Now I just have to convince Sanders of that.


“Jack, here’s a taste of my gift to you,” Sanders said, grabbing my hand and placing a disk into it. Instantly I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move, or even let go of the disk. He then pressed a button on the device he was holding.


The disk in my hand got warm. I felt a rush come over me. Slowly I could feel myself getting taller. I felt the clothes I was wearing get tighter. My bra strap was straining my ribcage. I could hear the tearing of the fabric. My bra strap snapped. My feet hurt in these petite sneakers. I found I could move again, so I quickly pulled my socks and shoes off with my other hand.


Sanders came by with a mirror and held it up to me. “Behold your true self…Jack,” Sanders proclaimed with some perverted sense of pride.


In the mirror, I saw my old self. Jack Baker. I rubbed the stubble on my face. Felt just like I remembered. Sure, my figure was bursting out of this sweater and leggings. Actually the leggings were still comfortable despite stretching to accommodate my masculine legs.


“I can make this permanent,” Sanders whispered to me. “Detective.”


I looked at Sam who was gazing her eyes upon the real Jack Baker for the first time. I wondered if my true form was a disappointment. She shook her head in a mixture of disgust and resignation.


I was speechless. After a month of being Cate, seeing Emma in the mirror became the norm and started to become comfortable. Seeing my old self in the mirror after all this time was shocking. I seem to have more hair than I remember, but maybe that’s the result of the magic.


“I know you want this, Jack,” he said, gesturing at my old male form. “Yes. You’re a Displaced, just like me. You never wanted to be Cate. Yet, they’re treating you like every other TG. Haven’t you been feeling the pressure? By Hathaway? By your teachers? By your peers? What do they say? Be Cate. Be a girl. Act feminine. Wear a skirt. Don’t - be - Jack. Be who they want you to be. Get with the program. How many times have your so-called friends called “Jack” your dead-life? Well, Jack isn’t dead. He’s standing right here. Tell me I’m wrong.”


I sighed. “You’re…not wrong.”


“Exactly!” he exclaimed. “Then join me, Jack. Let’s leave this manipulative place behind. Let’s find both of our body hoppers and make them pay for the lives they’ve stolen.”


His offer did sound appealing. I would love to give my Slider a piece of my mind and force him to put me and Emma back in our bodies.


But the shock of changing was wearing off and I was able to think clearly again. I mean, Sanders was right. I have been under pressure to conform from the start. I looked at Sam but remembered what she told me last week when we sat in Emma’s bedroom. “Don’t be Emma. Don’t be Jack. Just be Cate,” she told me. But what did that really mean? She wasn’t telling me to conform or leave the past behind. She was telling me to be myself. Or maybe be a better version of myself.


Everyone was looking at me. Waiting for me to make my decision. It wasn’t that simple. I was finally myself again, but at the same time this felt like a betrayal to my new friends. I made promises since I’ve been Cate. To Lulu. To Sophia. To Emma. I can’t betray them. I looked at my masculine hands. The disk, still in my one hand. Then I looked down at my now bare feet and saw the green painted nails that Emma painted over a month ago. The green polish was now chipped from the growing nails. One thing became very clear to me. “This is still Emma’s body.”


“Come again?” Sanders asked.


“This isn’t my body,” I said in my old voice. “It looks like my body. Sounds like my body. But this is still Emma’s body.”


“Semantics,” he shrugged off. “I can’t get my body back. Neither can you. This is the next best thing. Consider this a gift.”


“You don’t know me. You only think you do. Jack Baker would never sell out what few friends he had. I made promises. If I make this body my own, Emma no longer has a body to go back to.” I motioned to my male form. “I made a promise to her. And this is the result of Lulu and Brandon’s magic. And I made a promise to Lulu. Besides, if you or I use it, there isn’t enough for the other. What then?”


“Like I said,” Sanders shrugged. “There’s plenty more Magic TGs out there.”


“Mr. Sanders, we can’t,” Brandon protested. “You promised.”


“Stealing innocent people’s bodies?” I accused. “Stealing their magic? You’re a teacher. And a TG just like everyone else. I thought you were better than the Slider,” I said bitterly. I paused to let my words sink in. “I made a promise to the real owner of this body. I made a promise to my friends. I can't do that to them. This isn’t a gift. This,” I gestured at myself again, “is a curse.”


“Fine, Jack. Don’t join me, then,” he said, pressing something on his device again. “Be a 14-year-old girl. I really liked you, Jack. I thought we could work together.”


I felt the device in my hand heat up again. I looked down to see my body start to shrink back down into Cate. My feet shrunk, my hips flared, my breasts filled the cups of my tattered bra.


Meanwhile, Mr. Sanders pushed another button on his device then placed both of his hands on the glowing orb. As he touched it, his entire body started to glow brighter and brighter until we had to look away. 


When the light faded, in his place stood Jackie, the young blonde woman from that photograph. She had an excited grin on her face. The expression of someone who just got everything she wanted.


The orb was no longer glowing. I could see the look of defeat in everyone else’s eyes. Jackie’s body had absorbed all of the magic.


Jackie held up the glowing lacrosse ball from earlier. “I am not a monster. This is Sophia’s energy. I’ll give it to you when I’m finally away from this pitiful campus and shithole town.”


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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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marter

Should have brought the gun
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Emily

I'm sure she's thinking the same thing.
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Ellilinya

Why the next chapter button doesn't work ?
I found this story yesterday and now, I'm sad that there is nothing else to read for now
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Emily

Thanks for reading! You're all caught up. I publish a chapter weekly on Monday nights.
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criticalsmoke

Why cant Sander just make more energy? That is the part I find silly. He is being pushed to the role of the villains cause he cannot create electricity? Can't he buy a generator? 
"The Order of the Dawn is the real villain here"
You can have 2 villains. I really hope that the magic becomes a widely available thing, not a stolen thing but a thing people can use to fix problems.
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