Bitter 375

In the end, it was the termination clause that convinced Mum to agree. She was still uncertain about the whole thing, but at least they could pull out if anything happened. She went over that part of the contract numerous times.

The whole ‘arms glowing’ aspect of it was certainly cause for concern, but it wasn’t like Britta had laser beams shooting out of her body. It was a very soft glow on the tip of her arm hairs that was barely noticeable. And it was only on her arms.

Her eyebrows didn’t light up. The hair on her head was just as mousey and lifeless as before. It was only on her arms that the effect appeared. Something Lin claimed was an important clue to what was going on.

Throughout all this, Dad was gently supportive of Britta’s position. He didn’t try to make any arguments for or against, even though he was clearly for. He just waited for Mum to come around. Even if she had put her foot down and refused to allow it, he probably wouldn’t have tried to convince her to change her mind.

He understood that this was a big step to take, and a sixteen year old girl couldn’t make such a decision alone. But Britta could tell that her arms glowing didn’t really worry him. Not as much as it should. In his eyes, it was a sign that Britta was going through some magical transformation. Possibly the start of a superhero origin story.

In his mind, he was probably already designing costumes.

Of course, he knew that wasn’t the case. He could tell the difference between fact and fantasy. It was much more likely to be something mundane, maybe even harmful. it bore keeping a close eye on in case it was the first sign of cancer, not the ability to fly or see through walls.

But the idea of it, that it was even something you could see as a 0.00001% probability of being true, was kind of thrilling. And the way Lin had described it could, if you looked at it in the right light, be described as a healing factor.

Looking at it objectively, Britta was sure most people would not let their child take the risk. And if they did, they would be accused of doing it for the money, and be considered terrible people.

It wasn’t because of the money, though. And it wasn’t to gain entry into the X-Men academy. Those were just the crazy things that came along with this opportunity. It was the chance to live a life that wasn’t an ordinary, nine to five, follow the path everyone else did sort of existence.

Her parents had gone that route, as most people did, and had no regrets, but they also saw the limitations. They had always encouraged their kids to take whatever path they wanted. What was the point of taking the safe path if it led to a life you hated?

Better to take a risk and reach for something you really wanted. That was how they had raised Britta, it was just that Britta had never felt that strongly about anything. She had thought she would do well at school, go to university, find a decent job, and life would sort itself out from there.

Not particularly exciting, but who got the chance to do something really amazing?

She did, it turned out.

This was her chance. Mum and Dad, for all the doubts, could see that. If it made them sick with worry, that was no reason to deny her the opportunity. To be rich, to be part of something huge, to be the next Wolverine. Whatever it was, they weren’t going to stand in her way just because it might not work out.

Britta could see all this play out between her parents, even though they never said any of it out loud. It was all in the way they looked at each other. It wasn’t just a risk to Britta, it was a risk for them, too. If anything happened to her, the guilt, shame and pain would be with them forever.

After they signed, Lin asked Britta to put the helmet on again, but not log in. Then she took full readings of Britta to get a baseline. She said she would need to take these every few weeks, just to see if there was any kind of slow change going on.

It was quite late by the time Lin and Dr Reedy left. Britta was exhausted, but her mind was too alert to be sleepy. It had been an intense few hours, and she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. The buzzing in her head was both exhilarating and annoying.

“Hey,” said Dad, “wanna have a look at my rig?”

It was dark in the garden. The shed seemed very innocuous, apart from the palm print lock on the door. Not many garden sheds had that level of security.

“Do those things really stop anyone?” said Britta. “They can just cut off the person’s hand and use it that way.”

“I don’t think locks are meant to be that secure,” said Dad. “You can always kill someone and take their keys.” He placed his hand on the pad. It lit up. “Plus, this one has a sensor that can detect if you have a pulse.”

“What if they drug you?”

“It can tell if you’re awake or not from your heartbeat.”

“What if they drag you screaming and kicking and force you to open it.”

“You can always put a gun to someone’s head and make them open a safe,” said Dad. He lowered his voice. “But there’s a panic button under the rim here, just in case.”

They had thought of everything, it seemed.

The door clicked open and swung inwards. A light came on inside. Britta had been wondering what was in here. What did the most advanced tech in the world look like? She took a step forward, and was stopped by Dad’s arm.

“I need to go in first.”

“Or what? Do lasers start firing?”

Dad smiled. “Never enter without me, and you won’t have to find out.”

Of course, he was just joking. She let him go in first.

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