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[from here]

He looked at her incredulously, shining the flashlight beam on her face.

"You again? What on earth are you doing here?"

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Jackie didn't feel well at all. She'd been wandering around feverishly after she couldn't sleep. Common sense would have told her not to do such a thing alone. At night. But she wasn't exactly thinking about common sense at the moment.

She was thinking about water. Lots and lots of it and how dry she was feeling. After downing five glasses of it, she just went walking in the rain till that stopped. It had felt so good...she didn't even know where she was till the flashlight caught her in the face.

Jackie blinked confused at the light, the skin on her face with patches of gray, the veins bluish and standing out. "Who's there?" she asked, putting up a hand to block the light...a hand that had webbing between the fingers.

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"Well that's unexpected."

He stepped forward, turning off the light.

"So you're apparently turning into a fish. That's not supposed to happen. Usually."

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More disoriented blinking. "Oh...Tesla, right. Looked you up," she's still completely oblivious to her changes. Maybe because she's drying off. "Wiki kept giving me this physicist guy who died in the 40's."

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"'43, actually. Hell of a year to die, when you get down to it. But hey, when you have to fake-go, you gotta go."

He looks her up and down.

"And somehow you're turning into a mermaid. Life is full of surprises, isn't it?"

And did he just claim to be the original and greatest Tesla? Oh yes.

"Did the internet at least use a good picture? Hopefully one where I look thoughtful. I did really well with those."

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She tries to make a pffft sound but it ends up being a hacking cough. Her lungs felt so heavy. When she finally gets an honest breath, she answers worriedly, "Think I'm sick...not a mermaid." She really felt ill.

"Had a mustache..." Jackie takes a step forward and trips over her feet. Which are starting to get a lot flatter. "Maybe you should call an ambulance."

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He caught her as she started to fall, then supported her under her arms - his skinny frame could clearly handle more than it might at first appear.

"Yeah, best thing about a mustache? Nobody ever recognizes you without it. And the ambulance won't do you any good. Luckily for you, I'm here. Genius and all that."

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She's grateful for the catch but really...he doesn't seem like the doctorly type. And she's pretty sure medical attention is in her near future or she won't be having a future.

Any objections though get muffled in her coughing and gasping for air. Her legs can't seem to hold her up anymore as they're slowly changing to morph together. "*cough* Lucky me *breathe* can't you just *breathe* call 911 like *cough cough* everyone else?"

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He sighed, rolling his eyes, and started dragging her towards his vehicle. He didn't often drive, but tonight he was very glad that he had done so.

"You go to a hospital, you'll be dead before morning. You come with me, you get to live. Either as a human or a sea-going abnormal. Not sure which. But hey, we'll find out soon enough."

Because there were words he didn't really understand, medically speaking. Like 'bedside manner'.

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Dragging her towards his car? No, this was bad. Jackie flails a bit but is finding her new skin a little slippery. "No no, you're gonna experiment and use needles aren't you??" He was a scientist after all.

Of course, if he lets go, she's not going to get very far crawling on her hands and....lack of knees.

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"Quit struggling, or I'll have no recourse but to mount you on my wall as a tacky conversation piece," he said with a hint of annoyance.

"Yes, there will be needles - but I'll answer that question with another: feel like dying tonight?"

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Incredulous, "...maybe! If the alternative is *breathe* needles and other bad stuff." He wouldn't really do that, would he? Mount a person on his wall?

"Where are you taking me?"

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Probably not, but if the exaggeration were effective...

"Life is good, death is bad - everything else it is necessary to endure. And there won't be many needles, I swear."

He may be lying. He wasn't actually sure. He reached his car, throwing open the back seat.

"I've got a small facility nearby, don't worry."

It paid to be small and mobile sometimes, when you were him.

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She reluctantly crawls in the back, mumbling to herself "this is a bad idea, this is a bad idea..." Jackie is convinced he moonlights as a kidnapper now.

Laying down feels better though, her stomach stops doing flip-flops. Despite her best efforts to not get too comfortable. Also, trying not to panic over the fact her feet are going numb as they're falling out of her shoes, which don't fit anymore anyway, and starting to stick together.

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He drives like he conducts his science, at high speed and with a dash of recklessness. But the rain had kept most people indoors, and the streets of Old City aren't exactly busy at the best of times.

He arrives at a nondescript building that merely says 'Law Office', thought the windows are heavily shaded. He got out of the car, opening the back door, noticing what was happening.

"Wow, this is fast. Ok, what would Helen say..." He paused a moment, rapping fingers on the door frame. "Ok, um, just hold on - and try to think human thoughts."

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His voice snaps her back to reality, she zoned out for most of the trip. Thinking about breathing...and water.

Jackie sits up, her face and arms slightly damp, the moisture starting to bleed into her shirt. "Who's Helen?" That's human enough, right? Oh dear I'm dying but who's that you just mentioned?

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"The most attractive woman on earth," he said, pulling her out of the back seat again. He left the car open. Somebody would steal it, but that wasn't important right now.

He managed the trick of letting himself in along with her, and put her carefully on the floor.

"Right, keep her alive, water..."

Thankfully, this level had an old working bathroom. He started the tub running, then came back for her.

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"Oh..." There's no struggling this time, Jackie hoping she's making the right decision in trusting this guy. But she really doesn't have any other choice right now. She's already got spots in front of her eyes from lack of oxygen as she lays on the floor like....well, much like a fish.

"...for a little guy...*breathe* you're pretty strong..." The floor was nice and cold. Maybe she'll just stay here for awhile...letting her eyes close as she tries to breathe. Gills opening up on her neck in large pink and blue slits.

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"Appearances are deceiving," he said, dragging her as fast as he could towards the tub.

"And you're getting slippery. Life is full of surprises."

He managed to lift her top half from the floor, then got his arms around her waist, lifting her up over the lip of the tub and dropping her down as carefully as he could.

He stood back, looking down at his suit, and the bits of...well, fish-slime on it.

"Great."

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Nope. Absolutely no bedside manner.

Jackie splooshes into the half full tub of water, getting completely and utterly soaked. And somehow feeling better for it. Her feet slash still-morphing-fin doesn't fit in the tub but the rest of her does.

She gulps in a mouthful of water, gurgling on it as she tries to speak around the slits in her neck that she didn't realize were there till this moment. "That's COLD."

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He looked at her, hands on his hips.

"Yes, well, next time you start suddenly transforming into a member of the Merfolk, I'll make sure to have a luxury suite ready."

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Another cough and she gets a non painful breath FINALLY. Sighing with relief, bubbles coming out near her neck. "Ohhhh, that's better..."

Ok, her arms are now gray and covered with...shiny scales in patches. Jackie pokes at one of them, curious and grossed out at the same time. Her lungs still feel a bit heavy, the more she stays out in the air. But being underwater, that's akin to drowning and she's not ready to go there just yet.

"What on earth is going on?" He has to know more than he's telling. "Is this from your freaky sea monster thing? I didn't even touch it."

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He left the room briefly, and when he returned he was wheeling in a rash of computer equipment on a cart, and a medical pack on top with a syringe.

"Well, no, I very much doubt that. Did you get nibbled on my one of the dolphins?"

He shook his head.

"What were you doing right before we ran into each other?"

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Jackie watches the computer cart roll in, puzzled as to what it might be for. Hopefully that syringe is out of sight somewhere in the pack.

"No, they were nice...and dolphin-y." She splashes water over her head, her body still giving her signals that it was too dry. "I was..." she has to think a moment, "...sneaking over the wall into the aquarium. And avoiding the security cameras.

...before that I was in my friend's car. Because they drove me there."

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"Ok, let me ask another way - did anything bite you? Did you feel a poking sensation anywhere? Did someone hit you with a strange fish?"

He sat on the edge of the tub, reaching for her arm.

"Not just let me draw some blood..."

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She just looks at him. "...did someone hit me with a strange fish? What is this, Monty Python?"

Jackie's arms are suddenly unavailable. And being held very close to her person. "What? No. No blood." Keeping her eyes on that syringe. Jackie hated getting shots.

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Oh no, not this again. Bad enough when the giant furball refused to take his medicine. He fixed her with a glare.

"Ok, I can use any body part, and not gently. I'm being nice, and that isn't the easy way - now, be a good girl and let me figure out why you're transforming, and why it is so fast."

He was wondering if he'd have to call Helen in over this. He'd love to handle it himself, though.

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She's going to be stubborn about this. "Is that even a clean needle? You're not a doctor, you're probably used to sticking monkeys and-and-and rabbits. You ever even stuck a human before? And drugs do not count."

She's practically sitting on her webbed hands now.

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"Of course it's clean - I don't miss little steps like that, thank you very much!"

He's about three seconds for just sticking her in the nearest piece of available flesh.

"I'm going to make this as clear as I possibly can. You're transforming too fast. Your body can't handle it. You could die. And I'm going to take a guess that you have a life you'd like to get back to, rather than being a mermaid the rest of your life."

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He sounds serious. Way too serious. And Jackie's starting to believe him.

There's a moment of silence before she pulls her hand out of the water, handing over her arm and looking away with her eyes closed. "Just...don't tell me when you do it. Kay?"

She didn't want to die. Whether she was human or half fish. At the very least, maybe this would buy some time so she could figure out what was really going on.

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It was, really, Helen's influence on him. He was still his arrogant old self, but...there was something else there. An annoying ability to actually care what happened to people.

Though, were anyone to ask, he was just doing this to see what discoveries it would lead to. He drew the blood quickly, professionally, without saying a word.

"Right, if I had candy I'd give you some, for being a good little girl." He quickly prepared a culture for analysis, putting it under a microscope that was tied to the computer.

"This makes sense only if you have latent abnormal DNA. Otherwise, the speed shouldn't be as fast. Not anywhere near this fast."

As he watched the computer analyze, he realized with a wince he was going to have to call her in on this.

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She only squeaks once...instead of what she usually does at the doctors, which is talk incessantly and climb the walls. But that's a story for another day. At least it didn't hurt too badly.

Jackie watches him doing his science thing, now sitting in a full tub of water that's about to overflow. Every now and again, she'd duck her neck under to wet her gills but still wouldn't breathe in the water. Jackie's putting that off as long as inhumanly possible.

She moves her tail carefully back and forth, in awe that she has an actual tail. "Dude look..." It felt really weird but at the same time, it was kind of entertaining to watch it move.

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He looked, briefly, and remembered to shut the tap off. Oddly enough, he'd seen merfolk before.

"Yes, right, tail - special."

He ignored her for a moment, taking out a cell phone and dialing.

"It's me," he said, after a moment. "Your lovely Nikola...yes, no time to tell me how you feel - I've got a rapidly transforming human here. No, it wasn't something I did! Have some faith in me, Helen. I just found her - rapidly becoming one of the Merfolk." A pause. "Well, I thought you'd know how to fix it."

He turned away, hand on his hip. "Well, yes, she was at the aquarium. Oh. That virulent? Well, I'll work my magic on it, then. I'll see you later, when my genius solves this."

He hung up, turning back to the computer.

"Well, you're in luck - I know what caused this now."

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It was so weird...she had a tail. On the downside, it felt like her ankles were fused together but once you got past that...

Oh he was calling someone, apparently this Helen person. Jackie listens in, frowning more and more in stages. Merfolk?

"...yes, it's increasingly apparent that you have completely lost it." This would be the traditional Spencer joking-in-a-ridiculous-situation tactic. He's the one that's crazy, not the half fish girl in the tub.

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"Wouldn't be the first time," he said, watching the computer like a hawk.

"You've been attacked by a very unique abnormal species. Microscopic, it basically fires off every mutated gene in your body - turns out yours? Has a bit of Merfolk DNA in there somewhere. It feeds on the energy released, then it exits, stage left."

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Jackie lowers her neck in the water for a moment, coming back up to talk. "You're saying a virus is doing this?" That is one freaky virus. Uh oh, hopefully it wasn't a contagious thing. "Where would I have gotten that?"

He knows how to reverse it, right? "I can't go to work like this." She gestures down at the tail.

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"Not unless you're a Disney extra," he remarked.

"And no, it isn't a virus. Well, almost, but not quite - but it is feeding off of you, and while it'll take the internal organs larger to change over, there isn't a whole lot of time."

He typed a few commands into the computer, and some other equipment whirred into life.

"And I'm designing an antidote on the fly here with just the information I've been sent by my dear friend Heinrich - so the sped I'm working at here? Impressive, even for me."

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"...I could totally do that." Now she's even considering it. What a resume she would have for working in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

"Ok, good. Antidote, good thing." There's a high pitched whistle at the end of her words, one she wasn't prepared for. Rather like hitting puberty for a guy only it was her vocal cords switching over to more of a fish like configuration. "Hey, I can whistle."

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"Yes, yes, of course you could. Tell me," he pressed a few keys rapidly, "how are you going to avoid all the people who are going to try to dissect you in the name of science?"

He listened to that.

"Well, give it a few hours, the telepathic communication will come online, and you'll probably get echo-location or whatever the hell fish use to find other fish."

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"Quit poking holes in my fun balloons." She sulks a bit, still whistling after every other word.

"....great, I'm turning into Aqua-man." The world's least liked superhero. Jackie gasps a few times, dunking her gills under again. It's helping less and less, just being moist and not breathing underwater.

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"Well, fine, if you want to get yourself killed? I'll say nothing more about it."

He worked at the computer for a moment, turning away in frustration.

"So. I have a potential antidote. Maybe a 60% chance of working, however, maybe 65% - because that pesky little thing inside of you? It's changing the chemical makeup as it goes along, the little tease."

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"You are....so negative."

Jackie coughs, splashing some water over her head again, breathing heavily in the air. "Can't....breathe...again...what's wrong?" She was doing so well.

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"Because you're still trying to extract your oxygen from your mouth - trust your gills, girl - there's a reason they appeared first, they had the farthest to go to be in working order."

He paused a moment, then tried to explain.

"Look, your body is trying to keep you alive - doing it's job. Meaning that it's transforming first to allow you to keep breathing and keep your heart beating, then move - then it'll work on feeding and the other internal organs."

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"Feeding?!?!" Wait, what do merpeople eat?? What if she had to eat raw fish? What if she had to hunt and catch AND eat raw fish??

She whistles through her teeth, worried. "...I don't want to drown..." For once, she's being serious. Breathing water was a no-no when you're human, how do you get over that?

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"You're going to have to eat eventually," he said, evenly, "and I'm sorry to say that cheeseburgers and mac and cheese? Off the menu now."

He sighed at her latter statement, sitting on the edge of the tub.

"Look, nobody ever wants to. Survival is great. But you have to do what human beings have always been good at, and take the leap."

And if she doesn't, he'd probably just force her head underwater.

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...he was making it very difficult to stay cheery.

Jackie tries to listen but really, this is a lot to process. Usually she's not this overwhelmed. He seems in earnest though but when she tries hesitantly, she swallows more than she bargained for and comes back up coughing. "No...*cough* I'll do without *gasp* breathing....s'all good..."

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He sighed, looking momentarily nonplussed, drumming his fingers on the porcelain.

"It's the big furball all over again," he said, to himself, shaking his head.

He looked at her, finally.

"Yes, well, that's not actually going to happen."

He reached out, hand on top of her head, and pushed down.

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She didn't think he would go that far. Jackie flails underwater, trying to get back up but he's awfully strong. Her hands tear at his hand on her head as she tries to hold her breath...

...and ends up inhaling a lungful of water. She coughs, gags underwater, stopping the fight to come back up as her body convulses, trying to accommodate breathing water instead of air.

Finally, the bubbles stop coming to the surface and Jackie lays very still, breathing underwater. Still freaked out about it, but she can't exactly stop now.

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He waited as she scrabbled at him, sitting calmly and if anything he was simply waiting for things to take their course, impatiently. Vampire strength really did some in handy sometimes.

He waited until she had stopped struggling, then looked down, and smiled sardonically.

"Now be a good little fish and don't die."

He stood up, shaking off the wet hand, and went back to work.

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She could still hear him after a fashion but sounds traveled slower through the water. Jackie kept hugging her arms around her chest, certain she could feel the water going in and out of her which was REALLY unsettling.

She mouths the words you suck, not sure if he'll see but it still needs to be said.

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He did, and he decided against pointing out how funny it was that she was a fish in the remnants of a shirt and pants. It was rather funny.

"Not for over a century," he said, grinning all the more.

He kept working at the computer for a minute, then pulled out a full syringe.

"Ready for our attempt to keep you from being the world's most interesting grouper?"

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Her body's finally settling into being water bound instead of an air breather. Those initial feelings of panic are starting to fade away. It's still an effort to breathe the thicker water as apposed to air, but she's getting the hang of it.

Jackie really hopes that's not another syringe he's got above the water there. She's not even coming up for this one. Not yet anyway.

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He stood there for a moment, just watching her, that semi-annoyed look on his face.

"I don't want to have to fish you out of there."

He held out the syringe so it could be clearly seen.

"Come up and take your medicine."

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Ha, fish. If this wasn't happening to her, she would have laughed at that.

Oh for peats sake, he's even showing it to her. This is not how you get a needle-phobe to cooperate. But he's already shoved her underwater, she wouldn't put it past him to drag her out again.

Jackie finally comes up out of the water, but too far. There's more gasping and coughing up water before she gives up on that and goes back under. Leaving him only an arm to work with.

Hopefully this works, she's trying not to worry. But that arm is sure cold, clammy, and a little shaky.

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He sighed, shaking his head.

"You know, I don't know why I'm doing this. Apparently I've fallen into good ways."

He took grasp of the arm, trying to ignore how it felt like a shaking eel, and injected her with his first attempt.

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If she had the energy, she'd flinch. But the whole mermaid experience was wearing her out, mentally, physically....unless that was that virus thing feeding off of her. Which was still creepy to think about.

What had he said? 65% chance of this working? Not exactly the greatest odds but she's worked with less. Of course, those weren't life or death decisions.

The arm goes back underwater the moment he's done with it, Jackie not sure what to do now besides twiddle her webbed thumbs and wait to see what would happen. They don't have too long to wait though.

The feeling of drowning is back, a disturbance under the water as the antidote and virus battle it out. Jackie struggles underwater with herself, suddenly unable to hold still. Her limbs felt like they were on fire from the inside out and she scrabbles to get out of the tub. A high pitched wail coming from her that was more animal than human as she panics, sliding to the slippery floor to writhe like a fish before laying very still.

It hadn't worked, if anything it was speeding up the process. She was getting patterns and coloration to her arms and her tail, some along her face as her body was going colder and colder. As if putting her in some sort of suspended animation so it could finish transforming.

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She was actually twiddling her thumbs. This...this was becoming a farce, rapidly. And then she was laying there, apparently resting.

Oh this was going so well. He turned back to the computer, typing rapidly.

"Ok, that was useless." He looked considerably annoyed.

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Breathing was automatic now, her body rejecting the antidote and finally able to finish what it started now that she wasn't fighting it.

Her eyes are closed underwater, her gills fluttering now and again. The partial T-shirt was all that was left of her clothes, she had a fully formed tail now.

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He sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Great, only a minor genetic mutation on the usual strain, and here we are, with the little mermaid, hipster edition."

He starts to work again, periodically making sure she's still in good order.

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There's a soft whistle, almost a sigh as she starts coming around.

...my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton candy... Jackie thinks to herself...not realizing she was projecting her thoughts. Her head did feel a bit buzzy around the edges as her mind was falling into the transformation as well. She could see the surface of the water above her head, trying to remember what happened. Too much to ask if this is a dream.

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He winced, hating voices inside his head that weren't his own. Telepathy, what a drag.

"No, sorry, not a dream - though good job on the mental projecting. Took you far less time than I expected. Which isn't exactly good for the whole 'turn you back' part of the plan."

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You don't like it...I'm not exactly jumping up and down myself.

She could sense his discomfort about it. At least this way, she didn't have to come back out of the water to speak.

I can't spend my life in a bathtub....I'll get wrinkly.

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"Worse comes to worse, some friends of mine have a larger pond for you - and scales don't wrinkle, for the record."

He typed at the the keyboard, trying to keep up with the mutation from his original sample.

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Good, lets go. She was starting to feel cramped. Besides, this guy had access to whole aquariums and labs, surely they could do better than one small bathtub.

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"Well, in case you didn't notice? I didn't exactly have a water-truck handy. Because I can't exactly toss you in a cab, can I?"

He tapped a few more keys.

"I need more equipment than I have here - may have to refer you to a higher level."

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.....I could hold my breath. She's being facetious.

How do other mer---people do it? Since you apparently know so much. She's been wondering about that, how does he know so much about mermaids and the like.

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"Do what?" he said, absently, continuing to work.

The more the results on the screen changed, the less and less of a chance he had to actually find a solution there.

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Live out of water. Maybe they don't, but you'd think there would be a way in case they had to switch bodies of water for some reason.

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"If they do that, I wouldn't know - they're quite secretive about most of their behaviour."

He shook his head.

"As far as I know, they spend their entire lives underwater."

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Jackie sits up slowly, her now green colored eyes poking up out of the water to look at him. That can't be fun. At the moment, she wasn't seeing a bonus to this transformation.

Telepathy aside.

Swimming on dolphins would be brilliant now but there wasn't really a way to get from point A to point B.

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He flipped open his cell phone again, placing another call.

"Heinrich, it didn't work. Well, obviously, your genetic sequencing is out of date - we're dealing with a new strain. Tell Helen to quarantine the aquarium immediately unless she wants an epidemic."

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Great, more phone calls. And Jackie really didn't want to be in this tub. It was too small. Smothering in fact. Could be she was using up the oxygen in the water and just needed some new clean water. Hers was looking a bit murky.

Whenever he turns his back while on the phone, she slides out of the tub and across the floor for a few feet, thinking about the large ocean that's out there...just a short car ride away.

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By the time he turns back, she's already gone a decent distance.

"Oh, what the hell...Henry, Henry, she's doing a...I don't know, a crawl. I need - just sent a pickup with a water liner, for crying out loud, just do it now!"

And he sets off in pursuit, wondering for the hundredth time why he's bothering.

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Being all wet and slippery, she moves a lot faster than initially thought. Her gills do wave back and forth in the air, Jackie trying to breathe as slowly as possible. It seems to be working, she's nearly to the car again.

Of course, she's not worked out what she's going to do once she gets there. Definitely can't drive with a fin instead of feet.

Her mind is projecting images of the ocean, how wonderfully cold and big it would be. Almost like it was calling to her.

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He stands by the car, watching her incredulously.

Finally, he sighs.

"To hell with this."

He shoves her into the front seat of the car, getting behind the wheel.

"You know, I'm ruining a good suit for you - I hope you appreciate it."

The choice is, get her to water or she will die, and relatively soon.

"It's like you don't even want to be human again!"

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She makes a displeased sound, more animal than human as he picks her up off the ground. Jackie isn't thinking about being human right now. She just wants more room. More water.

Can't you hear it? It's right out there. She gasps quietly to herself, pressed up against the glass of the window, trying to see the ocean. I need it.

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"Well, you risked your life for it - I think I understand how much you want to be there!" He said with considerable annoyance.

He sped off towards the water, nearly sideswiping a car on the way.

"How were you planning on driving the car, or were you just going to let it roll there?"

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She's not really listening, her webbed hands fingering down the drops of rain on the window. Ocean~...with it's lovely waves...

Her slow breathing starting to whistle at the end of each exhale. She was starting to dry out a bit.

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He swerves around another corner, and the beach is in sight. About damn time - at the rate she's drying out, a bottle of evian over her head wasn't going to cover it.

"Almost there, don't go jumping the gun."

He's fairly sure sand in her gills won't be good.

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She can almost taste it, they were so close. Fortunate for him, she was getting weaker as she was drying out so there wasn't going to be any jumping out of the car.

Maybe falling out if she managed to get the handle open but she was having trouble with that. Waterwaterwater...

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He drives it deeply into the sand, to save even a few moments.

Finally, he stops, pulling her out of the car and slinging her over his shoulder. Vampire strength, got to love it.

He lugs her towards the water, muttering to himself.

"I swear, I'm falling into good habits - it's all thanks to Helen. I swear, she's going to be the death of me."

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Some of that must have penetrated the haze of needwaternow in her mind because the next thought she has is...

You're a what??

Could this day get any stranger? Probably not. She tries to hold still but it's hard not to wriggle about, wanting to face the water instead of being carried to it bottom first.

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"Stay out of my inner monologue, I don't invade yours," he said, with irritability. "And stop twisting."

Finally, he staggered out into deep enough water, and dumped her in, unceremoniously.

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*SPLOOSH*

Lovely ocean with it's lovely waves, she dives in like a natural. Floating just under the surface as she gets her bearings again.

Vampires aren't real, you don't even have a cape. Yes, she realizes she's saying this AS A MERMAID.

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"Yes, and they also wear ruffles and can you shut up about it?"

Really, he doesn't like being compared to the comic book versions or the Bram Stoker brigade ones.

"Just...stay put, would you?"

He quickly called Henry, yet again, to give his new location. He probably should have put a tracker on her, given how she seems to have a severe impulse control problem.

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Really, she was thinking of Lugosi...or the Count from Sesame Street, one of those.

I'm here, ok? She was floating back and forth with the tide, swimming a bit closer to see around his dress shoes as he stands in the water.

You're getting wet.

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He planted his hands on his hips, just staring at her.

"And half my suit is covered in mermaid slime. Believe me, this is the least of my concerns."

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That was...kind of sweet. That he was concerned about her. Not at all in character compared to the rest of their dealings with each other.

Thank you for that, by the way. She means it.

.....do you really suck people's blood? Nope, not getting off the vampire thing.

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Falling into good ways. That was the only explanation. He could quit any time he wanted.

"No, I don't. I made a promise."

He says no more on that.

"And you're welcome for not letting you die," he remarked, flippantly.

----------------------------------

Oh, so that was it.

Please say you don't go all sparkly in the sunlight? Because she couldn't handle being saved by a Twilight vampire. Seriously.

He's now getting a mermaid hug around his legs out of gratitude, she's even smiling underwater.

----------------------------------

"Oh, that, the worst in a long line of propaganda."

He sighed as she did that, shaking his head.

"Are you usually this ludicrous? Do you just go for the cute and stay there?"

----------------------------------

I should point out, you don't know me very well. I can be as ludicrous as I want. The Spencers were a strange family to begin with.

Is Helen a vampire too? Is there like a mermaid/vampire pact thing going on where you both know about each other but never meet? Her tail flicks out of the water, testing how well she could move it. She was feeling so much better in the ocean water as opposed to the fresh water from earlier.

----------------------------------

"No, she's not a mermaid, or a vampire, or anything. She's just extraordinary."

He smiled, briefly, at what she said, however.

"And nothing so melodramatic and teen novel...Merfolk have their ways, but they're generally peaceful."

----------------------------------

Figures. Not even an angsty mermaid, she was a boring peaceful mermaid. So there is more of them. Goodness, what if she meets more of them out here in the ocean?

----------------------------------

An unlikely event, given that their usual habitat was, at a minimum, hundreds of nautical miles away.

"Hundreds, thousands. I'm not at all sure how your genetic code tired into theirs, but it did."

----------------------------------

Just lucky, I guess. Made one wonder what would happen to other people...if this virus ever got out of hand.

Jackie's using his legs, still holding to them, to anchor her to keep herself from sliding out to sea. So what do we do now? That injection didn't work, did it?

----------------------------------

That was precisely what Helen would handle, making sure it never spread.

"No, no, it didn't - and I don't have the information on-hand to make a working one. I'll have to wait for my friends to show up - at least they're working on a strain of it that might."

----------------------------------

She lifts her head to look at him properly, gills fluttering under the water. Trying to speak but her voice seems to have gone, replaced with whistles and soft sounds that aren't even close to words. She puts a hand to her throat, looking sad. Jackie rather liked her voice.

----------------------------------

That, at least, he can easily interpret.

"You'll get your voice back, don't worry about it - your body will revert to its natural DNA, which will bring the voice back like it was never gone."

----------------------------------

Oh good. She's relieved to hear that. So he does know how to fix it.

Hopefully.

I guess you're already wet, do you want to swim? Maybe we can find some dolphins out there. If he was determined to babysit her till this Henry person showed up.

----------------------------------

"No, I don't want to swim." I'm Nikola Tesla, not some olympic swimmer."

And of course he was - he wasn't going to let her wander off and try to hug a shark or something.

----------------------------------

Ironically, as much as she loved dolphins, sharks were scary. And they were nearly the same size.

Ok, since you're here...and we obviously have some time...what IS a Tesla coil? She's got this image in her head of a spiral light bulb for some reason.

----------------------------------

"You don't know? What the hell do they teach children these days."

He was seriously nonplussed by that. It would have been nice to be remembered a bit more actively.

"It's an electrical resonant transformer - when I invented it it was cutting edge power generation. Now they make them for fun off of the internet."

----------------------------------

So....it resonates electrons? She was trying, her expression quizzical. ...and glows? Maybe?

She could make her own off the internet? Jackie would have to look into this when things were back to normal.

----------------------------------

The look on his face had a lot to say about the failings of education and just how much they annoyed him.

"No, it generates power - it was a simple machine that could do anything with alternating current! Powerplants, x-ray machines, you name it! One of the best manifestations of my genius ever, and it's a curio now. Time is a fickle, fickle mistress."

----------------------------------

Power...like a battery maybe. But why coil, does it go round and round? Is there a coil in it?

Hey, at least she's asking, most people would be like, yeah whatever so long as it works. So to recap...you're really old, you were a vampire once, you made something that produces power, and you're friends with mermaids.

----------------------------------

"Yes, there's a coil involved. Believe me, it's about a thousand times more efficient than anything in its day."

He sighed, half-smiling at her 'recap.

"Not once, and not so much friends directly as I have a friend who is a friend of them."

----------------------------------

Well, you said you don't.....y'know....anymore, so. Technically not a vampire.

----------------------------------

"For the last time - not a storybook vampire."

He looked down at her.

"Really, vampires were an apex species when yours was still figuring out cave painting - there's ways past simple bloodlust."

----------------------------------

And for the record, I wouldn't touch those books with a ten foot pole. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that I can get behind.

Close your eyes and think of England?


----------------------------------

"I'm Serbian. Was Serbian - at any rate, never English."

He did like that first part however.

"It's useful, though. Everybody thinks I'm afraid of sunlight and allergic to garlic."

----------------------------------

She looks amused, making a few bubbles from her neck gills as she tries to laugh. Do you ever fake it? Stepping into the sun and pretending to melt horribly to freak people out?

----------------------------------

"No, I don't do that."

He said it testily, then stopped to think.

"Come to think of it, that might be kind of funny."

----------------------------------

You should. Make sure it's October. Pranks were very much her line of expertise. You could even add in those fake blood pellets in your mouth while having a seizure.

...providing one of your friends isn't a medical doctor because they tend to get a little anxious about stuff like that.


----------------------------------

"I'll never say no to a little theatricality," he said. It was worth considering. The look on Helen's face might be priceless.

"Oh, they cover pretty much everything, professionally speaking."

----------------------------------

Well, then you just have to be sure to snap out of it before they go for the electrical paddles....

Devious smirk.

Which if they're powered by Tesla coils, that would be the most ironic and worst way to go.

----------------------------------

"Oh, electricity isn't something I have to worry about."

I mean, honestly, Nikola Tesla. If there was one thing he was good at, it was electricity.

----------------------------------

Is it vampires can't get electrocuted either? Is the thing about wooden stakes true?

A small school of fish is swimming by...and Jackie watches them, not entirely sure why they're holding her attention.

----------------------------------

"No, the thing about stakes isn't true at all - and as for electricity, well, I'm a bit of a special case."

He watches her for a moment.

"Don't go chasing the fish. Just...don't go chasing the fish."

Because that will not go well in terms of trying to find her again.

----------------------------------

....I wanna chase the fish, Jackie thinks aloud, her eyes watching the shiny fish darting back and forth. They're so pretty.

----------------------------------

"Well, resist the temptation," he said, sharply.

"If you go off into the ocean, we'll never find you again and that'll put paid to ever making you into a human ever again."

He started to reach down to restrain her from doing just that.

----------------------------------

She tried to listen. Really she did. But her body kept telling her it was lunchtime, watching the shiny fish darting back and forth just out of reach.

It was like a string to a cat.

When he gets a hold of her though, she wriggles unhappily, trying to swim towards the fish. I can get them! Please, just one?

----------------------------------

"It'll never stop at just one..."

But he's trying to hold onto her by the tail, and that is simply not going to be a good solution, and as he realizes that, it's precisely when her wriggling slips her free.

----------------------------------

And she's free! Free to glide underwater straight for the school of fish. She's fully transformed now, darting just as fluidly through the water and chasing her prey.

There's a flick of the tail over a wave before she can't be seen anymore, she's too far from shore.

----------------------------------

Oh, Helen is not going to be pleased with this part.

[He shakes his head, hands on his hips.]

Great. Nikola Tesla, can't handle a neophyte fish-woman. Just great.

----------------------------------

It's a moment or two before there's a glint in the waves, her coming back slowly.

There's a very embarrassed face that comes out of the water nearby him. ....I swallowed a fish. Whole.

It was disconcerting.

----------------------------------

Well, that's going to give your digestive system an interesting few days. Something to look forward to.

[Said with a great degree of sarcasm. He glances at his watch]

Look, they should be along any minute with their van - promise me you're not going to try migrating in the next few minutes?

----------------------------------

Ugh, she makes a face. Definitely not going to look forward to that.

"...do mermaids migrate??" she asks in her whistling garbled voice. Jackie really couldn't promise anything after that display of her lack of self control.

----------------------------------

Maybe. Ask Helen when she gets here.

[He turns his head at a sound, hoping it's a van from the Sanctuary. And it isn't. He turns back with a sigh]

----------------------------------

She sighs too, bubbles emanating from her gills as her tail curves up to flick over her back in an almost wave gesture idly. Life as a fish. What the hey.

....you like being a vampire?

This would be Jackie's attempt at small talk.

----------------------------------

It's given me over a century of extra time to pursue my various projects. That and it makes me the inheritor to the greatest species in history so...yes.

[And this, despite his strange life, still qualifies as being very high on his list of surreal moments]

----------------------------------

[That wasn't at all the answer she thought he would give. And yes, this whole conversation was pretty out there.]

...what happens if you can't...turn me back? [She actually looks worried about that.]

----------------------------------

Then you get used to eating halibut for breakfast - what do you think? I doubt you're just going to change back on your own.

[Though with the parasite that's been working at her, who the heck knows for sure?]

----------------------------------

[Yes, it was a parasite, what was it going to do with her once it was finished? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good.]

I hate fish... [Or hated, rather. Jackie dives over to snatch another one, unable to stop herself as she swallows it down.] ...but I'm hungry.

----------------------------------

Just...try to avoid the bigger ones. They're the sort that bite back.

[And finally, a van appears at the top of the beach. And Tesla sighs.]

About damn time.

----------------------------------

[She rolls her eyes at that. Of course she's not going to eat anything big.

Jackie lifts herself up a bit to see what he's looking at, her tail arching up.]

Friend of yours?

----------------------------------

Well. Protege? Technician who idolizes my brilliance?

[He smiles]

Or just Henry. He'll be getting you to the Sanctuary, and they'll sort you out from there.

----------------------------------

She frowns. Sanctuary, what's that? A mermaid wildlife preserve? Hey, at this rate, anything was possible. She'd probably believe him if he said he was late for his vampire knitting book club.

----------------------------------

Sort of. You'll have company, at least.

[Ah, and Henry has a large water tank with a nutrient-supply set up. Something that could actually help. And he may well be laughing at Tesla standing up to his thighs in the water, in one of his suits]

----------------------------------

[Jackie makes a few bubbles underwater, smirking too.]

Some friends you've got.

[But she's starting to swim a bit closer to the shore, just in case.]

----------------------------------

[He does glare at her a little bit for that]

But they can sort you out, and apparently I can't.

[He seems frankly more annoyed by that fact than anything else]

----------------------------------

...it's ok, you did your best. [Why was she encouraging him? Maybe she didn't want to see him annoyed about his failure for some reason.]

Are you coming too? [She sits on the shore, breathing shallowly in the thinner air with water streaming out of her gills as his friend comes towards them. She really wants him to come, it's not like she'll know anyone else there.]

----------------------------------

[Out of fascination, obviously, and nothing else, he nods]

Of course I am. In for a penny, in for a pound.

----------------------------------

Oh good....I mean, good, y'know....whatever. [Trying to be nonchalant. But really, this whole thing has been pretty scary. A familiar face is welcome before she has to be around strangers again, even if they're only acquaintances.

Now, maybe if his friend can quit sniggering long enough to get her into the truck, she's starting to feel a little dry.]

----------------------------------

[He shooed Henry away from it, telling him to get the truck ready, then he strode back into the water]

Well, come on. The night isn't getting any younger.

[And he reached down to pick her up again]

If I'd know I was going to be a fishmonger tonight, I'd have worn something appropriate.

----------------------------------

[She holds onto him as she's carried to the truck, still working on breathing carefully]

Nice to have a career to fall back on if you need it. [Y'know, in case the science-ing doesn't work out]

----------------------------------

[He placed her in the special support unit, which *should* give her a more than adequate air supply.]

Oh, ha, yes, I'll keep it in mind as a fall back position.

[He started pushing the unit back into the van, climbing in after it]

And you know, I think I just need to see how this ends.

----------------------------------

Don't say that with such finality. [Hopefully a good ending, not a bad one.

Ahhhhhh, nutrient bath...she sighs and whistles right into it, feeling so much better. The parasite had been feeding off of her own nutrients, with the bath she wasn't losing as much as she was gaining. Jackie settles on the bottom of the tank for the trip.]

What a way to travel. [Underwater by truck.]

----------------------------------

Oh, it's a strange one, all right. Teleportation's odder, though.

[He watched her, noting the slight change in her attitude and movement]

Well, you look better already.

----------------------------------

If next you're going to say you're the leader of the xmen, I'm getting off this crazy train at the next stop.

[She does look better, very content and serene. So much so that before she even realizes she's doing it, there's a few low soothing musical notes coming from her. No wonder sailors thought they heard mermaids calling to them.]

----------------------------------

Oh, please, I'm not a comic-book cliche.

[And he watches that carefully. Well, turns out the legends have some evidence on their side. It *is* a very nice song]

What music is that?

----------------------------------

Huh? What music? [She hadn't even realized she was making it. It's just she felt happy and...it sort of happened on it's own.] Was that me? I hadn't noticed.

[She sighs again underwater, a few more notes singing out. There's a part of her biology between her throat and gills that's letting her do it, something between singing and purring for a cat. It's definitely the kind of song that would meld easily with the sound of the ocean.]

----------------------------------

Obviously not. Well, that's part of the legend starting to make a lot more sense.

Well, we learn something new everyday.

[He is still obviously a bit annoyed about the salt-water logged pants, really]

----------------------------------

[She's a little sorry about that, but they'll dry off eventually. As for his friend Henry, no idea when he'll quit sniggering over that.

Jackie's finally comfortable enough in the nutrient bath and completely exhausted from all the transformation that she manages to sing herself to sleep floating in the water.]

----------------------------------

[When she wakes up, she'll find herself in a much bigger, more comfortable tank. And she'll likely wake up from him rapping his knuckles on the glass]

Hey! Fish-girl!

----------------------------------

[Apparently they put her in without waking her, that was quite a feat. Jackie snaps awake in surprise, a shower of bubbles coming too as she looked out at him.]

Oh hello. Still here?

[She's just now finding out "here" isn't where she thought it was. She moves cautiously to swim around the tank, investigating how big it was.]

----------------------------------

Yes, I'm still here. [Note mild annoyance at that]

It was insisted upon. And they've got a handle on what's happened to you - they're synthesizing an antidote now. Presuming, of course, you don't feel like a lifetime of cod.

----------------------------------

[She can't help a smirk at his annoyed face. It was almost adorable in a way. He was probably still irked about the pants thing.]

No, I really think I would miss my skateboard. And my cat.

[Even if she was stable in this condition, there was no telling how long that would last. Or even if it was lasting before the parasite decided to kill her off and find another host.]

----------------------------------

Skateboard and the cat. Well.

[He sighed, scratching his forehead, a hand on his hip]

At any rate, they'll be by to give you your inoculation, and that should reverse the process. And don't try any of that submerging stuff - they will come in after you.

----------------------------------

He's a very nice cat. [Don't be dissing her lifestyle now.]

[Jackie gives him an unenthusiastic look back.] You make it sound so appealing. [sarcasm]

----------------------------------

As opposed to living in a tank with a permanent hankering for fish?

[His hands were on his hips as he regarded her]

And I didn't have to stay, you know, but I thought 'oh, well, a face she knows'.

[He paused]

Is there...anybody we should contact, if it doesn't work?

----------------------------------

I insist on one of those bubbly treasure chests if I have to stay in here for a long while. [That sounded more like the old Jackie. She is glad he stayed, though not sure how he would take a thank you.]

[His question makes her pause, floating down closer to where he is at on the glass. Tell Shawn about this?? He'd flip. And Jackie couldn't be certain it would be in a good way. Her mom, no way. She worries enough as it is. And dad hadn't been seen in years since he left mom so...Jackie shakes her head.] No, I'm good.

----------------------------------

[And isn't that thought process visible.]

Well, then they'll begin in a few minutes. [He checked his pocket watch]

And you'll be happy to know they found the source of the parasite, so nobody else will be going through this.

----------------------------------

Oh good. Cause then we'd have more mermaid people popping up all over the place. [Or worse.]

[Jackie flicks her tail, swimming around the edge of the large tank as if to check how much room she's got before coming back to where he is.] You said you'd met mermaids before?

----------------------------------

Well, that tank didn't just happen to be here - the merwoman who usually occupies it is visiting family, so don't start moving the furniture around or anything.

----------------------------------

[She thought there was a sort of homey feel to the tank...if that was possible.]

...not named Ariel, is she?

----------------------------------

[He laughed, briefly, shaking his head]

No, no she isn't. Don't worry, nobody is about to break into song.

----------------------------------

Good...because that would be weird. [As if being a mermaid wasn't weird.]

[Jackie presses her hands and face up to the glass, trying to see what the place was like beyond the tank, her hair hanging suspended around her face above her.]

----------------------------------

[She'd see other glass enclosures, on the side of what looked like a vast, old-style circle]

It's only temporary anyways, I assure you. You'll be fine.

----------------------------------

...looks like a crypt out there. [Hm, was there more things out there like herself? If they had more enclosures, it was practically a zoo.]

----------------------------------

Yes, well, the crypt-keeper and I just finished playing chess, so...

[He waves it away]

Don't worry about it. It's surprisingly nice upstairs, this is just where there's water to put you in.

----------------------------------

Oh...its sure a big place.

[She swims slowly around the outside of the tank, trying to see all there is to see from this vantage point.]

----------------------------------

It's the biggest one in the network, certainly.

[He glanced at a pocketwatch]

Ah, should be ready. Good news is you won't have to be injected this time. Bad news is they're going to pump the serum directly into the water for full contact.

[He pointed to the top of the tank]

Come up when you feel the need for air - I'll be there to fish you out. Again.

----------------------------------

[Jackie fairly grins at that news. NO MORE NEEDLES WOO! She didn't see how that could possibly be bad news.

She nods and swims in a small circle, looking up at the surface of the water. Waiting...not sure exactly what kind of transformation back she should be prepared for.]

----------------------------------

[Which, to be fair, he's not sure of either! Balance is a wonderful thing. A few moments after some equipment was lowered into the water to disperse the cure, she'd see him standing over the open top to the tank.]

[And, being him, he waved]

----------------------------------

[She can't help a smirk at the wave, doing the same back but with her thumb in her ear. Nyah.

Change wasn't so slow this time, it was much faster. Her legs started to itch from the tail up, her skin starting to go from gray to patches of pale and pink as scales started falling off.

Then she started feeling very lightheaded as her brain chemistry started shifting back to human, away from being telepathic. She felt like she was sinking again....the water sitting heavier in her lungs with each breath.

Jackie tried to reach up for the surface but found it going farther away as she was falling towards the bottom of the tank.]

----------------------------------

[He sighed, tossing aside his suit jacket and waistcoat at high speed]

It's always something, isn't it? [He said, sarcastically, then dove in after her.]

----------------------------------

[He wasn't so bad at this hero stuff. Jackie's dimly aware of someone else in the tank as she gags on the water in her lungs, reaching to grab onto him whenever he's within reach.

Whenever he does get her to the surface though, she's already unconscious and very waterlogged.]

----------------------------------

[It wasn't supposed to be THAT fast a process, but then again, neither was the initial transformation. And she wasn't breathing when he got her to the surface. Which was not good under any circumstances.]

[He leaned in to give her mouth to mouth, the hand placed on her upper chest not pumping - but instead giving her a jolt of electricity - oh the benefits to being Nikola Tesla - in an attempt to help jumpstart the process as oxygen became available again]

----------------------------------

[The breaths help but it's the jolt of electricity that finally gets her heart started again. Jackie convulses, gasps, and coughs up all the water in her lungs, trying to get an honest breath in.

She's laying in a puddle of water, soaking wet and blinking up at him. Her lungs ache but they work. Finally.]

....how....how'd I do? [her voice is shaky but back]

----------------------------------

[He wanted to say that for a woman in the remains of a shirt and shredded pants that were, technically, a soaked skirt of little value, she did rather well. He was fairly sure that the fact of having clothing in a weakened state is what brought her down in the first place. He reached over, dragging he a heavy brown towel to cover her with]

Considering you just fought off a virulent parasite in a huge tank of water? I'd say you did rather well.

----------------------------------

[She coughs a bit more but can't help a smile, hugging the towel to herself.]

Well...I can't take all the credit. [Her way of saying thank you]

----------------------------------

[He patted her on the shoulder]

Well, all I had to do was get a little bit more wet. I was uneven, after all, couldn't stand it. Just the legs being wet? Oh, no thank you. All or nothing.

----------------------------------

You're the best, *cough* Tesla. Definitely my favorite physicist. [Even if he was the only physicist she knew]

[Jackie sits up carefully, wrapping the towel around herself and wiggling her toes happily.

~TOES~

How she missed them.]

----------------------------------

[Well, the compliment helps, certainly. He does sigh at the toes part, though]

Be more thankful you have fingers back - they're more useful.

----------------------------------

Don't be too sure of that. You ever try playing toe darts? [Because she has. Multi-talented people, the Spencers.]

[Jackie finds her footing, also glad that she can stand.] So...maybe you can tell the mermaid lady thanks for the use of her tank.

----------------------------------

You know, oddly enough? Never that bored. And I will.

[He sighs]

Now let's get you all dried off and back home, hmm?

----------------------------------

Home sounds fantastic. [She is so ready for something a little more normal.]

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Jacqueline Ann Spencer

2017

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