. . . of a Bored Goddess
Coughing and gagging, Dexter pushed himself to his hands and knees, feeling bits of rubble slide off his back as he moved. Except for the swirling white dust making his eyes water and a few bumps, he seemed unharmed. He gave his head a little shake, trying to clear his senses and wincing at the all-too-familiar sound of alarms alerting his security force that he was at it again. What could have happened? He hadn't been working with anything explosive (in the conventional sense, but it was quite possible his definition of explosive material didn't match up with the definition in the dictionary) and the debris and dust seemed far more extensive than one blown up microwave oven could explain. He had been demonstrating (okay, showing off) a prototype device that utilized microwaves to charge cell phone batteries in just under two minutes. Up to this point, the tests had gone perfectly and his chatterbox sisters had provided him with a seemingly endless supply of dead batteries.
Dexter climbed to his feet, still coughing as the microwave beeped impatiently. Except for everything in the small laboratory around it being covered with rubble and some of the fine white powder now filling the air, the appliance was perfectly fine. He popped open the oven and pulled out the plastic unit containing Rex's cell phone battery. It was the only clean thing in the room and it held a full charge.
"It worked," he announced.
Four more people in the room with him were moving about, all of them coughing and as dirty and even more confused than Dexter.
"Is it supposed to do that?" rasped Rex, leaning on his knees as he tried to clear his lungs of dust.
"Seems like a bit too much cleanup to charge a battery, dude," Ben agreed, making sure Rex was alright.
Nigel pulled off his sunglasses to clean them. "Dexter, you might want to reconsider the viability of this particular invention."
"It never did this before," muttered Dexter.
Mr. Green hit the control for the fans and gradually the air began to clear.
"I don't understand. What exploded?" Still holding the charger, Dexter looked around. The lab was perfectly intact, yet covered with dust and gravel and bits of sheet rock and debris and - was this dust actually flour? He stared at his white-coated gloves, at a loss. "Computress, analysis. What just happened?"
"A power surge of unknown origin and composition engulfed the demo lab for a span of 3.7 seconds, resulting in a transplanted debris field and chromosomal resequencing."
"Chromo-what?" squawked Dexter, horrified. His experiment had nothing, nothing, less than nothing to do with genetics and the only organic compound involved was plastic. Confounded, he turned around.
The door burst open and Sgt. Morton piled in, rifle at the ready and prepared for anything, it seemed, except this. There were a few things Navy SEAL training and experience as an executive officer just didn't cover and this was most definitely one of them. He slid to a stop next to his teenage boss and joined in the slack-jawed staring contest.
"Uh, sir, this isn't infectious, is it?" he asked a little nervously, finally mustering the strength to blink. He laid hold of Dexter's collar, prepared to bodily haul his employer out of here if necessary.
"What the - I don't believe this!" cried an indignant voice.
Kilroy Van Green, fire demon, head of DexCorp's research and development, and Dexter's favorite teacher, always so tall and poised and elegant, could now add willowy, wasp-waisted, and buxom to his - or rather, her - list of most appropriate adjectives. For a long moment Green looked down at stiletto heels, skin tight leggings, tight-laced corset, elbow-length gloves, and one hell of a lot more green skin than he - or rather, she - had ever displayed before. She tried to fold her arms across her chest and found the habitual gesture impaired by a rather ample bosom, and settled for resting her hands on her suddenly curvy hips. Wisps of smoke that smelled of brimstone rose up on all side and her one red eye glowed with anger.
"Dexter," said his tutor in the soft, high-pitched voice of a female fire demon, her horns curling in anger, "what have you done?"
"You must have done something."
"Nothing! Nothing! I don't know why this happened. I don't even know what happened!" Dexter argued desperately for the umpteenth time, his panic unabated despite the fact that a good half hour had passed since the initial trauma of seeing his closest male friends converted into girl friends.
Used as he was to turning into aliens and dealing with all manners of odd species, Ben was definitely dealing with the situation the best - better even than Dexter, who hadn't been affected. After everything else he'd turned into and experienced in his life, ending up as a female version of himself just seemed inevitable for the Wielder of the Omnitrix. After cleaning up and one look at her reflection, Ben just shook her head, pushed her hair behind her ears, and sighed. Her calm acceptance of the switch was actually agitating her friends. As a girl she looked very much like a pert, brunette copy of her cousin with a pixie cut. Unlike Nigel, she didn't question why her jacket had changed to a corset, her skinny jeans to a mini skirt, why her high-tops now laced all the way to her knees, or where the fishnet stocking had come from.
Rex had been angry only up to the point where she caught sight of herself in the bathroom mirror, when fascination had replaced fury. Tall, slim, with dusky skin and short-cropped hair, her responses had ranged from "I can't go back to Providence like this!" to "I may not be happy, but man, I'm hot!" to "Hey, Nigel, can I try on your boots?"
Curled up in a corner of the lab, Nigel was simultaneously grateful her red sweater hadn't converted to a corset like her friends' shirts had and horrified that instead of shorts, she now wore a tutu, thigh-high stockings, and ankle rocket boots. And a bra. She was wearing a bra, not even a B.R.A., and worse still, she needed one for the exact reason bras had been designed. She was a girl, with all the equipment that accompanied the sex. Much as Nigel liked and respected girls, she did not want to be or dress like one. This was not acceptable, and she was in a state of absolute denial.
The KND operative abruptly pounced, tugging the tutu down over shapely thighs. "Dexter! Put us back!"
The young genius was frantic, his anxious voice even more high-pitched and heavily accented than normal. "Nigel, I didn't do this thing! The device I was demonstrating is incapable of initiating a resequencing of chromosomes. Microwaves don't do that sort of thing!"
"Then what did?" screamed Number One, shaking Dexter so hard that his teeth clamped together. Off to the side, Morton just stood by the door and let the KND vent since it was plain that he needed to. Chip would only intervene if Dexter was in actual peril.
"Dad's trying to figure that out right now!"
They all looked over to where Professor Utonium and Ms. Green were bent over an impressive collection of microscopes and computers and sciency things. Pages and pages of notes littered the table, and everyone who had or hadn't been affected had gladly surrendered samples of almost every fluid their bodies could produce. Utonium was having quite the difficult time focusing, especially since Kilroy growled and muttered every time her chest got in her way, which was constantly. As with his son, seeing one of his closest friends turned into a woman was rather disconcerting, especially since, to put it mildly, Roy was stacked.
Aware of the desperate eyes upon them, the two scientists looked up. Since Nigel looked about a second away from strangling Dexter, and before Morton had to intervene the Professor rose and said, "Dexter's right. His device didn't do this, Nigel."
Game to make the best of a weird situation, Rex turned where she stood outside the bathroom to admire her back in the mirror. "Any idea what did?"
"Not yet," admitted the Professor. "That energy that hit the lab doesn't seem to have an outside source. It only appeared in the one room, not anywhere else on campus."
"Computress didn't recognize the energy signature, either," said Green.
"But you can fix this, right?" begged Number One.
"We'll do everything we can to revert you back. First we need to figure out how and why it happened to begin with."
Coming from the foremost geneticist on the planet, this was not reassuring.
Ms. Green rose as well, almost turning her ankle in those stiletto heels. "What I'd like to know is how our clothing was converted to . . . this." She gestured at the corset and tights she's been poured into. Utonium hastily averted his eyes.
"I wonder if my aliens will be female now, too," said Ben, not helping at all. "If there are female versions, that is. I'm not too sure about some of them. Most of them." She's already tried to get the Omnitrix to fix them, but the device had not detected any genetic anomalies - they were perfectly normal for their assorted species and, apparently, genders. "Hey, Professor, how come Dexter's still a guy?" She glanced at her best friend. "You are, right?"
"What? Yes!" squawked the redhead, offended. He paused long enough to take stock of himself, just in case. "Yes, Benjamin, still a boy."
"Why's that?" asked Ben, opening a whole new can of worms.
"Good question," said Utonium, giving his ward an assessing look. "Dexter?"
"I don't know!" exclaimed Dexter, throwing his hands up in frustration.
Behind dark glasses, Number One glared. "Were you a boy an hour ago?"
"Nigel, I've always been a boy!" snapped the scientist, returning the glare.
Ben chimed in. "Except for that time in second gra-"
"Shut up, Miss Tennyson."
"Boys," admonished the Professor. He caught himself. "Girls. Whatever. We need to work the problem, not snip at one another."
"You're right, sir," said Number One, briskly snapping into command mode out of sheer desperation for some sort of handle on the situation. "We need to - oh, my god, Lizzie! I have a date tonight!"
She clapped her hands to her hairless head, as close to panic as any of them had ever seen the commander of Sector V. Everyone stopped, wide-eyed and sympathetic.
"Lizzie'll be cool with you being a girl, right?" ventured Ben, utterly failing to infuse her voice with any optimism. A garbled wail out of Nigel was answer enough.
"Crap," breathed Rex, likewise remembering. She pulled her cropped bolero jacket close and pouted. "Noah is coming with Six when he picks me up tonight." She looked in the mirror. "I'd really rather they didn't see me like this. Six won't care but what if Noah wants a date? I don't have anything to wear but this!" Even as she spoke, Rex considered the corset and bolero jacket she was wearing and silently concluded that it wasn't all that bad a variation on her t-shirt and jacket.
"Aaaaaand Kevin and Gwen are giving me a ride back to Bellwood after we all get together for pizza tonight," Ben announced, somehow slumping while strapped into a corset. "Just kill me now."
"This is a disaster!" gasped Nigel, once again tugging down that short tutu. She was on the brink of hyperventilating.
"Oh, turtledove!" sang a new, familiar, and unwelcome voice, producing groans from all and sundry. A puff of pink smoke appeared and suddenly Him materialized in the center of the room in all his tulle-and-satin glory. Here was someone that had no issue with short skirts, thigh-high boots, and stiletto heels. "You were supposed to . . . call me?" Him trailed off, his green and yellow eyes widening in surprise as he saw the advantages of x chromosomes at work.
"No, Nigel, this is a disaster," corrected the fire demon as her significant other was caught completely off guard by Green's change in gender and wardrobe. "Him . . ."
The Ultimate Evil looked Green up and down and up and down again, a smile of awe and salacious delight spreading across his angular face.
"Nice rack, Kilroy."
Utonium and Dexter each clapped a hand to his head in identical gestures of disgust. Kilroy tried and failed to cross her arms over her chest again, having to settle for planting her fists on her hips.
"I hate you," Ms. Green snapped in a thoroughly unconvincing tone.
"I can't believe you said that to me in front of my boss and my student. And Chip!"
"Yes, you can, darling. I really did mean your horns."
"No you didn't."
"Fine, but they are very impressive."
On the far side of the laboratory, Dexter cautiously approached his adopted father. "Dad?"
At the soft voice, Utonium looked up from where he was puzzling over blood samples taken from Ben over the past few years. The Professor shook his head at the addled cells on parade before him. It seemed that nothing about that kid was normal.
Casting a furtive look at his gender-bent friends, Dexter quietly asked, "Why aren't I a girl now, too?"
"No! More . . . confused."
"You're in good company."
"And a trifle concerned."
"Is there something off about me that whatever affected them didn't affect me?"
At a loss, the Professor shrugged. "Maybe whatever happened doesn't affect humans."
Dexter frowned, and then his eyes flew wide. He knew perfectly well that Ben was an Anodite hybrid. Rex was an EVO. Green was a fire demon. But Number One . . . ? "What?" he demanded in a tight whisper. "What the hell does that make Nigel, then?"
"Language, Dexter. And when I figure that out, I'll tell you after I tell him."
Shocked into speechlessness, Dexter could only stare. The Professor let him stew, enjoying the silence for a little while before he suggested, "Why don't you try to track down where the flour and rubble came from, and how it got transported here?"
"Ja, good idea, Dad," he agreed faintly, glad to be told what to do as the day somehow managed to get weirder. Utonium watched him go, trying to figure out how to tell the roomful of girls he had no idea whatsoever what had happened to make them this way nor how to realign their sex with their birth certificates. Nigel's clenched jaw and intense stare as Dexter crossed the room was enough to make him delay that particular announcement.
"Please tell me you've made progress," Kilroy murmured in quiet desperation. She leaned close to look at the notes the Professor was scribbling. Catching sight of the multitude of question marks scattered across the pages, she let out a tiny groan. "I'm going to send Him to the moon if this doesn't get reversed soon."
"Nigel might be shipping Dexter off there too, only without a spacesuit."
"I don't think Dexter had anything to do with this, to be honest."
"Agreed. Even if he had the know-how, even he'd need more equipment than a microwave to pull off this."
"It's the clothes that have really got me confused. And why wasn't Dexter affected?"
"He was just over here asking me that. He's pretty worked up about it, but it may be a non-human thing. He had no idea about Nigel, either."
"So far as I can tell, Nigel doesn't know about Nigel."
"Well, right now I haven't got a bloody clue how any of this happened," he said under his breath. He gestured at the samples and notes. "This is all for show."
Green's red eye narrowed and she tried not to lose all control. "I'll get you more coffee," she said with deceptive calm. It was as much a threat as a promise, and Utonium knew he was going to be trapped here until they had answers.
A very tense half hour passed before Dexter exclaimed with absolute indignation, "This dust is flour. Wheat flour. And all this debris came from the dumpster behind Hangar II where they're ripping out the ceiling tiles that got ruined by a water leak. None of this makes any sense! What is going on here?"
Ben lifted her hands in confusion. "You tell us, dude."
Him had relegated himself to a corner of the lab slightly removed from the shenanigans and very much removed from Chip Morton. He was thoroughly, completely enjoying every moment of the teen drama, especially the part where everyone wanted to throttle Dexter, not to mention having his boyfriend turned into a girlfriend for a spell. Unlike the mortals present, he had a very good sense of what had happened, but he wasn't about to say anything just yet.
He waited until he was sure she was close by to check on her handiwork before slipping between dimensions. Here, between one moment and the next, they could see and talk without anyone noticing. A woman stood in the lab, tossing up a golden apple and watching with an amused gleam in her eyes as Dexter vainly tried to defend himself from another attack by his friends. Dressed in flowing white, blonde, gap-toothed, brimming with mischief, Eris smiled to see the Ultimate Evil popping in to pay her a visit.
"Bored, are we?"
"That was brilliant," he complimented. "I especially love what you did with Kilroy."
Her smile broadened. "I can always do an encore for holidays."
"I'll keep it in mind. Why didn't you change Dexter?"
"Listen, when you've been at this antagonizing business as long as I have you figure out that sometimes the best way to mess with them is not to mess with them."
"It's working to perfection."
"Besides, I couldn't think of anything sexy to do with a lab coat. Apple?" She held up a shining gold apple.
"No thanks. Is it permanent?"
"Naa. It'll just last until midnight. They'll switch back tomorrow."
"I'm so going to be seen out on the town with Kilroy tonight."
She tossed the apple up and snatched it out of the air. "Yeah, but meanwhile I think all of DexLabs should get to appreciate my handiwork, don't you?"
"You're thinking too small, Eris. Why not the whole army?"
"I like the way you think, Him." She gestured, and suddenly alarms blared from all sides. Moments later, Mandy's voice came over the speakers.
"Red alert! Fusion presence detected in Downtown. This is not a drill! Tennyson, Uno, Salazar, report to your stations immediately!"
Screams of panic and denial erupted from every corner of the lab, and Eris, Goddess of Strife and Discord, laughed and exalted as her day was made.