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ELYSE WOULD BE LYING to herself if she said she wasn’t at all nervous over the prospect of Oliver becoming a Mighty. Of course, if he had to be a Mighty who better than Captain Might. But still, the idea of her husband changing into someone else . . . She tried not to think of it.
“Before we get into the specifics of transforming, dear boy,” Farnsworth said. “I would first like to suggest you put on Captain Might’s suit. The clothes you have on right now would never survive the process.”
Elyse gulped. Survive the process?
Oliver didn’t look at all afraid. If anything, he looked more than a little sour.
“Really?” he said. “I have to put that thing on again? I look ridiculous in it.”
“Yes, but as Captain Might, you will look magnificent,” Farnsworth said.
“Will he still be Oliver?” Elyse asked.
“Of course he will,” Farnsworth said.
“Well, I mean . . . will he still look, like himself.”
“I’ll be a lot bigger,” Oliver said. “I didn’t get to look at myself in a mirror last night, but I could see that much.”
“Oliver will switch bodies with a genetic construct which has been specifically designed for his genetic code alone,” Farnsworth said.
“Wait a moment,” Oliver said. “You’re gonna have to explain that to me in a little more detail”.
Farnsworth sighed which blew out his mustache like the mud-flaps on the back of a truck. Elyse tried not to smile.
“The moment you slid that ring on your finger,” Farnsworth said, “it began to take measurements of your genetic makeup. From there it constructed . . . well, let’s call it an avatar that can only be used by you. When you transform, your body, and the body of the avatar, switch places.”
“Switch places?” Elyse said. “That sounds safe.” She thought her sarcasm quite apparent.
“Where does my body go?” Oliver said. “Where is this avatar now? How can the ring construct an entire body like that? I only had the ring on for an hour at the most.”
The old man sighed again. “As I’m sure Peter explained, the rings were constructed by combining magic and science. Yes?”
“Okay, well as soon as you placed the ring on your finger, a pocket universe snapped into being, a universe out of time.”
“An entire universe?” Oliver asked. “Just like that?” He snapped his fingers.
She had a hard time wrapping her brain around the idea and could see by the way Oliver cocked his head—just like Joe, her old dog, used to do—that he was just as confused.
“Well, yes,” Farnsworth said. “But it is very, very small. And in that pocket universe, which, as I said, exists out of time, microscopic robots called nanobots have constructed your avatar. There the avatar waits until you wish to become Captain Might. Once that happens, your consciousness will leave your body and come to live within the avatar. The avatar will then replace your body in this world and your body will replace the avatar in the pocket universe. This will all happen, in a manner of speaking, rather instantaneously.”
“I’m not all that hip to the idea of my body being out there just floating around in this other universe.” Oliver said.
“Well, as I explained, the pocket universe exists out of time. You could be in your avatar for years here in this universe, then transform back, and as far as your body would be concerned, no time would have passed. Trust me; your physical self is very well protected.”
“Okay, so why do I need to change into the suit before I can transform? Will I need to wear that thing under my clothes?”
“Not at all,” Farnsworth said. “Look, it’s going to be easier for me to explain once you’re ready to give it a try. Please, go put the suit on.”
“Fine,” Oliver said, and Elyse watched as he made his way up the staircase.
Elyse sat quietly with the old man, studying him. The way his mustache drooped down over his mouth and chin gave him a permanent sour expression.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“Would you believe, madam, that I am doing this only out of the goodness of my own heart?” Farnsworth smiled.
“Not really, no.” Elyse didn’t trust his smile. It felt fake, like the old man had cut the smile from a model in a magazine and pasted it to his face.
“No, I didn’t think you would.” Farnsworth sighed once again, and again it blew his mustache out. “Let’s just say that I have a vested interest in seeing Captain Might back in Garrison City.”
“What is it? What is your interest?”
“Because Captain Might alone can do more for the war on crime than I, or any other Mighty in Garrison combined, could ever do, and it’s a war worth fighting. And frankly, it’s a war we’re going to lose if something isn’t done about it.”
Before she could respond, Oliver tromped back down the stairs in his Captain Might suit, looking every bit as silly as he had earlier when the two were alone in the bedroom. If anything, the slight pout that had affixed itself to his face made him look even more ridiculous, like a child wearing a pink bunny outfit their aunt made them for Christmas.
Oliver stalked over to the couch and fell into it.
“Shall we continue?” Farnsworth asked.
“I suppose,” Oliver said.
“Then stand up, dear boy. Stand up.”
“Now, the process is actually quite simple. You first need to think of the ring, and then you think of yourself going into the ring and then coming back out again as Captain Might.”
“Okay,” Oliver said. “I think I can handle that.”
Elyse watched as Oliver closed his eyes, stood silent for a full twenty seconds, and did nothing. He continued to do nothing until moments later when the nothing turned quickly into something. Oliver was bathed in an almost blinding yellow light that faded into orange at its core. It came from within Oliver and it surrounded him like a bubble of energy that pulsed and sizzled. She glanced at the floor and was relieved to see nothing was burnt. His form disappeared into the light, leaving nothing more than a dark orange silhouette within the bubble of yellow, like he had become one with the energy. The silhouette transformed, becoming bigger, taller, more muscular.
Then the energy dissipated and standing there where Oliver had been just moments ago was Captain Might. But not the same Captain she remembered from childhood. This Captain Might did look a bit like her husband, and yet, at the same time, not so much. But through it all, she could see Oliver in this man, this sculpted Greek God, who stood before her.
“Oh my,” she caught herself saying out loud.
“You like?” Oliver said.
But again, like the body, the voice wasn’t Oliver’s either . . . and, yet again, it was. There were differences and there were similarities. It was all very odd.
“Oh,” she said once again, followed immediately after with, “my.”
“Yes,” Farnsworth said in that deadpan way the British invented. “He’s very impressive.”
The old man’s jacket vibrated.
“Excuse me,” he said, standing and pulling a phone from within the jacket. He looked at the screen and his brow furrowed. “I need to take this.”
Elyse stepped over to Oliver as Farnsworth left the room with the phone to his ear.
“So that’s really you in there?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Feels like it,” Oliver said.
She poked him in the chest and felt the muscle and sinew resist her poke like a brick wall. She fought back the urge to run her hand along his abs.
“You like?” he said, smiling.
“Well,” she said. “It’s different. How does it feel?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It feels natural, like this is how I was always supposed to be. And I’m,” he paused and she could see him searching for the right word. “Aware,” he said after a moment, “of, well, everything. I mean, I can hear what’s going on all around me, like for miles and miles in every direction.”
“Sounds chaotic. That would drive me nuts.”
“But it’s not; it’s not chaotic at all. It’s like,” he paused to think.
This new face of his that was so similar to Oliver’s true face made the same expression the old one did when thinking of how to proceed with what he wanted to say. It was so much Oliver, and yet alien at the same time. It would take some getting used to, like seeing your father after finally shaving off the beard he’d had for the first twenty years of your life.
“Think about it like this,” he said. “You’re in a crowded restaurant. There’s conversation everywhere. But to you, it’s all just a dull murmur. You can focus in on the person sitting across from you, can hear everything they say. But you can also shift your focus to what’s being said at the table next to you, or behind, or wherever. That’s what this is like, just on a much, much larger scale.”
“Cool,” Elyse said.
“Switch on your television,” Farnsworth said as he entered the room.
“Why?” Elyse said.
“Please,” Farnsworth said. “Indulge an old man.”
“What channel?” she said, taking up the remote and pointing it at the flat-screen on the wall.”
“Any of the major networks will do, thank you,” Farnsworth said.
The set was on Channel Twelve as it popped on, and they found themselves watching live coverage of midtown Garrison.
“. . . V battles for her very life!” the reporter on the television said.
“You know who that is, yes?” Farnsworth said, aiming his walking stick at the screen.
“That’s Lady V,” Oliver said.
“Is that a robot?” Elyse said.
“It appears to be just that,” Farnsworth said. “And she’s not having an easy time of it. She needs your help, Oliver.”
“My help?” Oliver said. “Now hold on.”
“Look at the damage that thing has caused so far,” Farnsworth said, once again motioning to the screen.
The area around the two combatants was nothing more than ruble and debris. Elyse could see the First National Bank of Garrison in the background, but the rest looked like the city had been at war for years.
“I can’t just go leaping into a fight like that,” Oliver said. “I’m not prepared.”
“Innocents have already been hurt, Oliver. Lady V can’t do this one alone. How many more people need to be harmed before you make your decision, son? Must someone die first?”
“Back off,” Elyse said, stepping between the two men. “You can’t just expect him to go flying off whenever—”
“No, Hon,” Oliver said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “He’s right. If I can help, then it’s my responsibility to do so.”
“That’s the spirit, my boy,” Farnsworth smiled for the second time.
Elyse believed the smile this time, but it didn’t make her feel any better about the old man. She trusted Oliver, knew that he would do what was best, what was right, and her heart filled with pride at the thought of her husband out there saving lives. But Farnsworth made her uncomfortable, no matter who he used to be.
“But first you need to change back into Oliver,” Farnsworth said. “It wouldn’t do to have your neighbors see you leaving the house like this.”
Oliver nodded and closed his eyes. Once again the yellow and orange glow surrounded him.
“You make sure he comes back to me in one piece,” she said, leaning in so that only Farnsworth would hear. “I’m sure you’ve gone up against some world class baddies in your day, but all of their power, all of their rage, all of their combined bat crap craziness will pale next to what I will throw at you if he’s hurt. Am I clear?”
The old man met her eyes and she saw him flinch. It was almost imperceptible, but she caught it and smiled.
“Good,” she said, “I’m glad we have an understanding.”
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