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Like A Weed By Jimmy Dimples

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 11 months ago


A Tetsuko Fanfic

For more info about the Tetsuko character, see the creator's page at http://www.dcmstudiosonline.com/tetsuko/


"Where are you going?" Dr. Eaton Green demanded. "We still have to fill out the reports on these samples."


"Stepping out for some fresh air, sir," replied his intern.


The doctor peered at Les over his glasses. "There's plenty of fresh air here, Mr. Safer. Tons of it. Plants pumping it out by the kilolitre. It's only pure carbon monoxide if you step out."


"Well, also, there's sunshine, too."


The doctor sneered. "Ah yes, got to feed that melanoma. Be silly to stay in here where it's just as sunlit with all that UV radiation filtered out."


"I'll be only an hour, sir. If that."


Dr. Green narrowed his eyes. "If you absolutely MUST step out, you might as well make yourself useful. Go down to Staples and get me a pack of DVD+RWs."


"Yes, sir."


"DOCTOR. I didn't spend five years of graduate study just to be called 'sir.'"


"Yes, doctor."


"And I want the 25-pack. SPINDLE pack. No jewel cases."


"Yes, doctor." Les turned to go.


"And they'd better be manufactured by an eco-friendly company in a country with proper labor and environmental laws!"


"Yes, doctor." He got outside.


"Go STRAIGHT to Staples, and back! I need these reports done and the guest suite ready by tonight!"


"Yes, doctor." Les opened the door to his hatchback.


Dr. Green yelled out after him, "And you take the electro-ped, not your gasburner. And if I find convenience mart or fast food ANYTHING, it WILL hurt your final grade! I WILL check the recycling bins!"


Breathing through his teeth, Les shut his car's door and mounted the electric moped. But not before he sneaked out his personal stack of fresh DVDs.




Popping his last forkful of hash browns into his mouth, Les Safer checked his watch. 4:40 PM. Just enough time. He hit the washroom and brushed his teeth. Organic food was fine and all, but his body was jonesing for some cholesterol and white sugars, and Dr. Green's soy breakfast patties just weren't cutting it.


He grimaced. He thought ecologists and planet savers were supposed to be hang-loose, mellow-out, peacenik-1960s hippie types. Sure, Les was eco-friendly, and wanted to save the planet as much as anyone else with a conscience, but the uptight Dr. Green wasn't making organic agronomy any fun. Shoot, just say the words "McDonald's" or "Burger King," and Les could count the veins in the doc's neck.


Ah well. He looked at his own pack of disks. He'd just give them to the doc, pick up a pack later on his own time later on the lab's account, and voila. The perfect crime. After scrubbing away the last bit of scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, topped and capped from his mouth, he exited, paid the bill and headed out the door. Just then a white SUV pulled into the convenience mart next door. A head popped out the driver-side window... a cute college-age blonde with big green eyes. "Excuse me," she asked, "Would you know where I can find Highway 25?"


"Oh, sure," Les said. He blushed a little, she sure was pretty. "Just pull out, turn left, and keep going until you see the four-lane going across it. You'll see the train tracks run parallel to it."


"Great! And Weddle Street, that's not too far on it, is it?"


"Not at all. Just turn right onto 25, and follow it down to the Sav-Big supermarket on the corner to the right. There'll also be a sewage treatment plant across from it, too." He pinched his nostrils shut. "Just follow your nose."


She giggled. "All right, thanks a lot, sweetie!" And she rolled up the window and pulled off.


Les smiled. Then he snapped out of it. "Dang! Didn't ask for her phone number!" he hissed at himself.


Then he heard murmured chuckling and guffawing. Right near the electro-ped. And it didn't sound up to any good.


He spun around. Three big local galoots were examining it. One of them, the biggest, fattest one in a black, dirty Harley Davidson T-shirt, was bouncing up and down on the seat. "Wonder how fast it can get to 60?" he wondered out loud.


"Wonder IF it could get to 60?" asked the short one in grey camoflauge pants.


"With your double wide butt," said the tall lanky one in bib overalls, "wonder if it could get to ONE!"


Les dashed up. "Hey, stop! You'll ruin the shocks!"


The three looked up. "Hey boy!" said Fatso. "Don't you know it ain't legal to take kids' toys out on the road?"


"It's an electric moped," Les protested. "It's street legal."


"What, you a DUI or something?" asked Shorty.


"An environmentalist."


"Oh, one of 'em faggy tree-huggers," scoffed Lanky. "That explains it."


Fatso folded his arms over his monstrous gut. "You actually RODE this P.O.S. out here? From where?"


"Industrial zone."


"Pfft. Sh'yeah, right."


"When yew gonna get a REAL ride?" demanded Lanky. "Something that has, oh, an ENGINE?"


Les glowered. "You guys won't have to look at it if you'll get off it and let me get outta here."


Fatso kept seated, arms folded. Les walked up to him, not backing down. Finally after a minute. Lanky tapped Fatso's upper arm, and jerked his head away. Fatso shrugged... and finally stood up, swung his leg around, and spread his arm and hand out to it as if to say, "all yours."


With that, Les sat down, put in the key, cranked up, and put it in gear. Pressing down on the throttle, he rolled forward, and it stopped. Squinting befuddledly, he pressed harder... and it went forward an inch... and that was it. The motors strained. He relaxed his grip, unconsciously shifted to neutral, and looked around and back...


...and he saw the hook on his back wheel's strut, with a rope leading back to an old rusty pickup truck's trailer hitch. And looking back at him from the cab with a nasty grin was Shorty. He cranked up.


"Gun it, Clyde!" Fatso shouted.


Screeeech! went the truck tires. Before Les could unhook, the truck dragged the moped off, and him with it! And somehow he still heard the other two's hooting, hollering, and braying laughter. Clyde dragged him off for 4 blocks, swung a left turn to try to flick him off. Les hung on for dear life as Clyde weaved and swerved, shaking him off the road, and letting the bike run off the shoulder and bang against some mailboxes. Les then worked up the nerve to reach back and detatch the hook.


While veering around, Clyde finally shook him into a busier street, and Les barely dodged getting steamrolled by an oncoming 18-wheeler. After Les and the moped spun out and landed on their side, the black pickup sped off, with Clyde's finger pointed right at him and his guffawing echoing across the neighborhood.




Dr. Green stood in the doorway as a bruised Les trundled back to the lab. "You're late," the doctor huffed. He stared down at the scuffed-up bike. "And what did you do to the moped?! It looks like it's been through Iraq and back!"


"Three rednecks fiddled around with it and dragged it off when I tried to leave the ... parking lot."


Dr. Green drew close and examined the back wheel. "Did you try to run over a cinder block?! The rim's all dented! It's a miracle the tire didn't burst!"


"Sorry, sir, but that's not my fau--."


"That's DOCTOR to you!" He looked up at Les. "So, do you have the disks?"


Les blinked. "The disks?"


"You know, from Staples?"


Les cringed. "Oh, crap! I left them in Waffl--" And he stopped short.


Dr. Green leaned in. "You left them where?"


Les propped up his head with his hand. "Waffle House. I stopped there for a snack."


Unsmiling, the doctor turned back to walk into the lab. "Hope you enjoyed it. Because that's going to be one expensive treat. The price of those disks is coming out of your living stipend."




"If you'd gone there and back like you were supposed to do, this wouldn't have happened."


"But those disks were from my car! My own stash! I never got them at Staples!"


"No difference."


Now Les was truly angry. "You're going to take out of my allowance something I never bought and lost in the first place!?"


Dr. Green glowered at him. "Do you want your internship to end as an incomplete failing mark?" he said icily.


Les stared at him in incredulity. Just then, they heard a vehicle's tires pull onto gravel. The doctor didn't wait for his answer. "Our guests are here. Ready the suite, and finish the reports. And neaten yourself up. You look like you've been in a fistfight."




After taking off his shredded slacks for neater ones, cleaning the asphalt out of his lacerated calves, and putting on hydrogen peroxide and some bandages, Les finally got the readings from the plants, marked them down on the computer, and recorded the data on flash keys. He also prepared the cots and some pillows, and the solar-powered shower. And he set the dining table for four. Then he went down to the doctor's office, where he heard a female talking with his boss.


He rounded the corner. It was a fairly young looking woman with brown wavy hair down to her shoulders, a pink, tight blouse, light blue cotton slacks. He remembered what he was told... the best help was invisible help. He stepped up behind the two, and simply said, "Sir, uh, Doctor, here are today's results."


They both turned around. And at last he saw how big the woman's chest really was. Each breast was about as big as her head.


Dr. Green cleared his throat. On that, Les stopped staring and looked up to her face. "Thank you, Mr. Safer, that'll be all for now," Dr. Green said patiently.


"Oh, wait, wait, wait, who's this?" the woman asked.


Eyes on face, thought Les. And he zeroed in on her brown eyes. Behind those big round glasses, and with that little heart-shaped beauty mark on her right cheek, she looked quite cute. Must be the visiting doc's assistant, he mused.


"This is my intern and assistant, Les Safer," Dr. Green said. "Les, this is my colleague, Dr. Sonya Gannon."


Les' eyebrows shot up. "Doctor?!" he exclaimed.


Dr. Gannon peered at him with a look. "Surprised?"


"Well, it's just that you're so... erm... um, you look so... young." He flushed red. Open mouth, insert foot, he thought. This day was getting worse and worse.


But instead of verbally gutting him, Dr. Gannon smiled. And she seemed to giggle. "Oh, you're very kind. I'm really a thirty-something. Got my sheepskin in medicine and biology a while back."


"Oh." Les felt considerably relieved. "You do botany?"


"Skirted a little bit for pharmacy. I was picking up some stuff from Eaton here, while testing out his prototype electric/bio-fuel hybrid SUV. Just made the drive from Orlando all the way up here."


"Wow. You must be tired."


"Not so bad. I got to nap. My girl Friday did most of the driving."


Dr. Green cleared his throat. "They also brought some things for us to work on here, too, Les. She's unloading it, and she's probably exhausted. I think you should go help her."


"Oh, yes sir, I mean doctor. I'll go do that now. Good to meet you, Dr. Gannon."


"Please. Call me Sonya." She stuck out her hand, and Les gratefully shook. And he excused himself, and ducked on out to the parking lot.




Les didn't like the neighborhood outdoors much. Sure, the sewage treatment plant gave off CO2 and nitrogen, which was essential for plants, and a big help to the greenhouse, and was part of the low property value game that the industries played at tax-time.


But the smell...


He hurried over to the front of the SUV. He saw a few boxes already out from the back, on the far side from him.


"Hi," he called out. "I'm Les, Dr. Green's assistant. He said you needed... help... unloading...."


And why did he trail off? Around the corner peeked the face of the cute blonde from the convenience mart.


"Hey!" she said cheerily. "You're the cutie from the Waffle House! We'd've never found this place without your help!"


He looked heavenward. "Thank You for second chances," he whispered. Then he grinned big and went around to her. "Glad to help out. My name's Les and--"


And he stopped short.


The blonde was BIG. Not fat, mind you. But very tall. The top of Les' head barely made it to her mouth. She had enormous muscles. Very broad shoulders. Biceps the size of NFL footballs. A bulging bodice threatening to burst her strained magenta T-shirt. An enormous torso swooping down to a fairly narrow waist, like a goblet. And pleasantly round, wide hips encased in blue jean cut-offs that sprouted gracefully curved, tree-thick thighs and calves.


Les was boggled. She was 100% power and strength and 100% curved, full-figured female beauty in one enormous package.


And all that might and loveliness was smiling happily at him.


Les was enraptured, infatuated, and terrified all at the same time.


"Thank YOU," she chirped. "My name's Tetsuko!"


Part II


Tetsuko put the steel drum on the pallet. "So, got any tape or shrink wrap?"


Les shook his head, and held up a giant blue elastic band. "Doc says to use these. Tape and shrink-wrap's too wasteful." And Les stretched one over the steel drums on the bottom, and once Tetsuko tossed all the boxes and lighter stuff on top, Les banded those too.


Tetsuko looked unsurely at the load, but said, "Okay, hopefully it won't snap and pop us in the eye. Where do you want it all?"


"North side loading dock's closest to the nursery. Just let me get the pallet jack."


She tilted her head quizzically. "Pallet jack?"


"Oh, you know, like a fork lift, only hand cranked and pushed."


"Pfft. We don't need that."


And she knelt down, making her big, thick thighs balloon unde the flex. She grabbed the sides of the pallet, and without the slightest sign of strain or effort, she hefted it up lightly to waist level. And instinctively, she pulled the almost-tall-as-herself load close to her own body to steady it (leaning back more than a notch to account for her bust).


"Got it," she said. "Lead the way, help me to not trip over anything, and be sure to get the doors for me, ne?"


Les stared with his jaw all the way down. "Uh... okay. Right this way." And he walked over to the loading bay into the old factory.


"What exactly is this place?" she asked as Les raised the dock door.


"Used to be a women's clothing factory. I temped here one summer after graduation loading trucks. But the local robber baron that's our landlord -- hang a right turn here -- shipped the jobs and most of the stuff off to El Salvador a few years ago. No warning. A lot of locals woke up with no job."


"Aw no! That's terrible!"


"Well, his plan backfired. The El Salvadorans demanded American wages, and -- okay, round the corner to the left here -- his rivals undercut him thanks to even cheaper labor and manufacturing costs in Sri Lanka and Taiwan. He just folded and sold off most of the works, though a lot of stuff's still here. He's renting out the place to us for a song."


"So, that's why you and the doc set up here, and not out on a farm somewhere?" Tetsuko asked.


"Well, the doc says he's letting nature reclaim the land. Arcology and all. But yeah. The real truth is, rural real estate around here's gone through the roof thanks to retirement condos. Sidestep left a little, there's an old cart here, that's good -- all right, place it down right here, please."


Thud. She eased the lot down on the concrete floor. And she looked around that big stack, and saw a hothouse with plants in it. "So this is what you and Dr. Green have been working on?"


"Yeah. Wanna closer look?"


And they went in, with Tetsuko turning sideways and crouching a little to enter. A variety of green plants sprawled the big room. Trees bearing oddly shaped fruit. Pots with flowers in them. Garden shrubs. Bonsai-sized oaks. Oak-sized bonsais. And a bunch of other greenery Tet-chan didn't recognize.


"Impressive... looks like an indoor Garden of Eden... hey, what's this over here?" And off in a corner, she closed in on a solitary plant with very big, wide denim-blue leaves.


"Oh, that." Les drew his toe in a circle and looked a little shy. "Just... a little side thing I'm working on."


Tetsuko peered at him and half smiled. "Come on. Tell me more."


Les took a breath. "It's... greenwear."




"Yes. The idea is, it's supposed to be living fabric. It lives on the human body like lichen or moss. Grows and reforms wherever there's a tear or rip, so you don't have to sew or patch anything. Also grows with the human body, so there's no more hand-me-downs for kids, or constant clothes shopping for Mom."


Tetsuko felt a leaf with her fingers. "Wow... sugoi." And she placed it on her thick forearm. "I'd heard many eco-folks say hemp's the cotton alternative, but it feels like a potato sack. This doesn't."


Les shrugged humbly. "Yes, well, glad you like it."


"No, really!" She put her hands on her hips and let Les see how wide she really was. "You have any clue how many times I wished my wardrobe grew along with me? I think you've got a major breakthrough here! I bet Dr. Green's proud!"


Les' small smile then shrank to nothing. "Yeah... well..."




Sitting at his desk Dr. Green glanced over the blue-leafed potted plant on it. Then at the bandanna. Then his unsettling narrow-eyed gaze locked onto Les. "So it actually latches onto the wearer's skin like lichen?"


"Yes, doctor," Les said, fiddling with his wristwatch. "It feeds off the dead skin and hair of the human body."


Dr. Green's expression didn't change. "And leeches off the body like lichen on a tree?"


"Not really leeching. It's more like removing the dead stuff that'd end up in a sink or bed anyway."


"The wearer is still going to think that it's like a parasite. That's going to scare the public. And even then, taking it off is going to be like pulling an adhesive bandage off a hairy arm. It won't be accepted."


"It's not that bad," Les protested. "More like Velcro if anything."


"It's not ready. Has your generation ever heard of drawing boards? Well, you've got to go back to it."


"Well, maybe you can help me find ways to fix the bugs--"


"No time. Besides, this is a food research facility. Trendy jean labels don't mean much to the starving."


"But clothing is just as vital to surv--"


"Wait, wait, wait, I'm not sure if I'm making myself clear. Perhaps a visual aid might establish the situation here."


Dr. Green slapped the potted plant onto the floor with a crash. He folded his arms. "Now clean up your mess and get the data on the Mito-Chloroplast culture."




Les rubbed his own fingers on a blue leaf of the plant he'd rescued. "I'm afraid he's got a few more projects of his own on the front burners right now," he said softly.


Tetsuko could feel Les' disappointment and battered dream in the air. She set a hand on his shoulder. "Les..." she started empathically.


"Look," he said quickly, turning to her to shake it off. "Dr. Green wanted us to eat shortly, and I still haven't gotten the fruits and vegetables. I'd better go and do that. Did you need to sit down and rest in the old lounge? I know you've driven really far."


"It's okay," she said. "It's relaxing enough in here. May I help you pick 'em?"


Les' smile returned. "I'd love that. Er, I mean, I'd like that very much."


Part III


The recycled plastic kitchen chair bent a little under Tetsuko's bulk, but held up nicely. Staring down at her plate, she found that chewing Dr. Green's vegan lasanga presented something that'd been quite rare for her lately: an effort. The "beef" had decent flavor but too much "bounce" in it. It felt like she was chewing a boiled, chopped art eraser. She decided to give the salad a try instead.


"And as you can see, and taste," Dr. Green beamed proudly, "all these spices truly bring out the flavor in the meal. Always have, always will. Doesn't matter if the protein vehicle is tofu, or tempeh, or animal flesh or milk."


Very good for him and the earth, thought Sonya, but why can't the guy just say "meat"? Nibbling on dinner, she thought it tasted okay, but soy cheese didn't hold a candle to some real mozzarella.


"And!" he continued, "The beauty of it is that all this food has all the original nutrients and carbohydrates in it, totally untouched or processed by any animals' digestive systems. We're getting it straight from the original source." He leaned forward and jabbed the air with his fork on each main word. "Think about it! If everyone switched to eating vegan, all that land that's wasted raising cattle could be producing grain or vegetables instead!"


Spotting Les nodding his head along with Dr. Green's spiel, Tetsuko could tell he'd heard this speech many times before, and could probably recite it perfectly with each word and inflection. "What about milk?" she asked. "That's got a lot of calcium and other important stuff. Nature's perfect food."


Dr. Green shook his head. "Too much fat and growth hormone. No offense." He missed Les' cringe on that. "And I take a leafy green/legume supplement for calcium." He put down his fork on his plate. "But, it'd be even better on this poor, worn, weary planet if we didn't have to plow up the land for farms." He folded his arms proudly. "And I've found the answer that'll finally end world hunger once and for all. Les! Go fetch the Mito-Chloroplast Culture! Sample A."


"Yes, si--"




"Yes, doctor." And Les got up and exited the dining room.


And Dr. Green called out after him, "And while you're at it, how about bringing out some coffee and tea for our guests?"


Sonya blinked. "Hey... wasn't he limping just now?"


Dr. Green huffed and waved his hand dismissively. "Accident from being a clod on the electro-ped. Nothing serious or I'd have treated it."


A few minutes later, Les reappeared holding a beaker.


"So, Tetsuko, right?" Dr. Green asked. "You know how plants make their own food with only water and sunlight?"


"And CO2," Tetsuko answered. "Photosynthesis, yes."


He plucked the beaker from Les' hands. "Well, this is a serum with enzymes, DNA binding agents and sugar-making chloroplasts from plants. In layman's terms, this installs and locks the chloroplasts to human mitochondria -- those are the things that generate nutrition into energy."


Tetsuko rode out the condesending tone. "Yes, I got that from high school biology."


He presented the vial with a flourish. "Well, dear, this means the human body will then be able to make its own sugars just like a plant! All it needs is water, sunlight, and carbon diox--" He stopped and stared at the label. Then he turned to Les and thrust the beaker back. "I said Sample A, not K!"


"Sorry, s-- doctor." And Les meekly exited the room.


"And bring the coffee and tea this time! Dr. Green turned back to Tetsuko. "Anyhow, dear, we've tested this on different animals back in NC State University, and so far it's been successful. Dr. Gannon's told me about your time with her own anti-aging formula, and how it's accelerated your metabolism and demand for nutrition. I'm willing to let you be the first human subject to try this formula out, with your permission and Dr. Gannon's."


Tetsuko's eyebrows shot up. "Me?!"


"Yes! Just think! Just drink water! No more high grocery bills! No more being hungry! No more worries on artificial ingredients, pesticides, irradiation, hormones, unwanted additives, spoilage, or package tampering! And you'll be the vanguard of--"


"-- ecological Armageddon," Sonya interrupted.


Dr. Green turned to his colleague. "Beg pardon?"


Sonya folded her hands. "Would she breathe only CO2?"


"Well... mostly, yes. She'll need oxygen for a few processes, but only a fraction of that for a normal human."


"And exhale oxygen mostly."


"Er... yes."


She shook her head. "Look, never mind I'm still figuring out how MY serum affected her, and another one would murk things up. If you plan on giving that formula to the whole world, there'll be a lot less CO2 in the atmosphere, which the plants need to breathe themselves."


Tetsuko then nodded. "And with us fighting the plant kingdom for it, the plants would soon die off."


Dr. Green's forehead wrinkled. "B-b-but the animals," he countered. "They'd exhale and--"


"It wouldn't be enough. Besides, no plants, the food chain's broken at the first link. The animals would die. Then WE'D all die." She shrugged sympathetically. "Sorry, Eaton, wonderful idea, but that's nature."


The disillusioned botanist stared at Sonya like she'd just swung a 2-by-4 against his skull. Then glared at his guest. "Well, what about YOUR formula, Dr. Gannon? There's a bunch of stuff on IT I'd like to tell you about!"


"Now, hold on--"


"Had you ever stopped to think how large the global population is? 6.4 billion people. And it's ballooning vastly as is, with normal lifespans. If EVERYBODY lived to be 175 or 200, it'd skyrocket even worse with nobody dying off!" He stood up, with hands planted on the table. "7 or 8 generations worth!"




"All vying for living space, food, drinking water, AND electric power for a comfortable lifestyle! And never mind the pollution from it all! The wars for resources would make the Iraq occupation look like a school yard fistfight! It'd be a REAL Armageddon!"


"Please calm dow--"


"And that's normal-sized people! If they all were as big and heavy and hungry as..." Dr. Green thrust his finger out at Tetsuko. "...as her--!"


Sonya sprang up from her seat. "Now you leave her out of this!" she snapped.


"Seriously, what were you thinking when you injected her with it?"


Now it was Dr. Gannon's turn to fume. "I was thinking I didn't want Slade's goons to blast us!"


Les stepped in with a tray. "Uh, folks, coffee and tea's ready."


"Not now!" Dr. Green snarled.


Les looked back and forth timidly. "Uh, shall I take it back then, Doctor?"


"That's SIR to you!" Then he twitched at his own malaprop. "Yes, yes, whatever!" he thundered, waving him off without a look.


"Maybe you should help Les and clear our places right now, Tet-chan," Sonya muttered icily. "I've lost my appetite."


Tetsuko glanced at her boss and friend, wanting to back her up in this verbal smackdown. Sonya glanced back and bobbed her head toward the kitchen with an "it's MY fight" look. So the ample assistant gathered up the plates and utensils, and left the two doctors to rage over which one of them would first wipe out the human race before the 22nd century.


Part IV


Les rinsed the dishes' remnants into the composting disposal unit. "Did you like dinner?"


Tetsuko stacked the plates in the air-dry rack. "It was okay. Your salad was best. Let's go get something to eat."




"Sorry, but that didn't fill big me all the way. Besides, we didn't get to dessert. What was it?"


"There wasn't one. Sorry."


Tetsuko whipped her head Les' way. "Not even fresh fruit?"


"Dr. Green thinks dessert is over-consuming."


She exhaled deeply. "Now that's just messed up. I need some sugar and saturated fats to counter all that healthy stuff. Can you ride with me and show me a good place?"


Les smiled. And he remembered the disks. "Now that you mention it... I know where we can get some decaf and pie."


And with the dishes cleaned, they set out to the parking lot.


"My car's a bit cramped," Les apologized.


"So we'll take the SUV, then," Tetsuko suggested.


"Won't that affect the readouts, results, scientific records and all that?"


"As long as we mark them down, it'll be okay. Just like logging mileage for the company car." Then she glanced at him. "Hey... you ARE limping!"


"Uh, yeah." He hurried over to the passenger side, trying to hide it, but rushing made it even worse.


"How'd that happen?"


He opened the door quickly. "Uh, I'd rather not bore you," he rushed.


She caught the door before he could close it. "Please," she urged concernedly. "Bore me."


He stared at her for a few seconds. "I heard your boss say something about Slade's goons blasting you."


She nodded. "Show me yours, and I'll show you mine, ne?"




As they pulled into the Waffle House parking lot, Tetsuko clenched the steering wheel. "If I ever meet those three jackholes..."


"It's okay," Les started.


"No, it's not!" she spat. "What if you'd been run over and killed? Or crashed into someone else?!"


"Easy, easy," he soothed, unconsciously patting a calming hand on her bicep. He was impressed how it was so soft-skinned, and yet granite-hard underneath. "Getting mad won't help. Look, it's not like they'll still be around here, probably. They don't lack THAT much of a life. What say I buy?"


Calming down, she looked at him. "I can eat quite a bit," she warned.


"Let's see how much."




"Okay, hun," said the clerk at the counter, "that's two pecan waffles, raisin toast, two pieces of chocolate pie, a large iced tea, and... you want anything, Les?"


"Pie and coffee, that's all," said Les.


"Alrighty, I can serve up the pie, tea and coffee right away, and get you the rest as soon as it's done, miss."


Pocketing the blank DVDs he'd left behind, Les spun on the stool next to Tetsuko. "How about we see what's on the jukebox?"


"You don't have to," Tet-chan said, "unless they got J-pop on it."


Getting up anyway, Les moseyed over to it, and sifted through the country/western and top 40 stuff. "Meh, feh, bleh, neh ehh... hey! 'Turning Japanese' by the Vapors! Didn't think they'd have that." And he put in the coins and punched up the song.


But when he turned back, he saw somebody sit down right at his seat, and dig into his pie. Then he turned right toward Tetsuko. "Hey, baby," he said, "all those curves, and me with no brakes!"


Tetsuko idly fished up a restaurant brochure. "Somebody's already sitting there," she muttered without looking up.


"Yeah, me!" he continued. "Hey, I know milk does a body good, but dang, baby, how much you drinkin'?"


"Hey, buddy," Les said, "That's mine." Not looking back, the other guy shooed him away like a fly. Irritated, Les reached for the seat's base, and spun it and the interloper around. "I said..."


And he cringed. It was Lanky.


"Well looky here!" said Clyde behind him. "Captain Planet's back!"


Les cringed again. A dirty, greasy hand shot out, grabbed his shoulder, and spun him around. Fatso. "Hey Babalooga, you got that little electro-putt-putt fixed already?"


"Yeah, how about another joyride like last time?" Clyde chimed in, slapping his back "playfully" roughly.


"Hey, back off," Les said tightly. "Haven't you got anything else to do?!"


"Didn't see your kiddy bike out there," Lanky said. "How'd you get back here?"


"With me."


Tetsuko slowly stood up straight from her seat, and put her hands on her hips. Four inches shorter than her, Lanky eyed her up and down.


"Dang," he whispered. "How much milk HAVE you been drinkin'?"


Without a hint of anger, her expression was cool as ice. "So you boys met before?"


"Uh, yeah," said Fatso, unsurely. "Just goofin' around."


"Les told me about you. You got a ride?"


"Yeah," said Shorty. "A Chevy S-10. Almost perfect machine. ALMOST perfect 'cuz you ain't in it. Yet." And he cracked a confident grin.


"Hey, get in line, boy," Lanky muttered.


Holding up a finger for Lanky to wait, Tetsuko turned to Shorty. "How much can it pull?"




"I got a hybrid SUV... want to have a tug-of-war and see which one's more powerful? If I lose, you boys and I go out on the town."


"Huh?" went a befuddled Les.


Lanky perked up on that. "Yeah, baby!"


Shorty didn't look so sure. But then he pried, "Hybrid, you said?" Tetsuko nodded. He then got a small, seemingly knowing smile. "Well... a'ight."


"What we waitin' fer?" said Fatso. "Got a loggin' chain in the back!"


And they headed out to the parking lot. Tetsuko followed. But first she whispered to Les, "Get take-out boxes for our food."




Fatso wrapped and hooked the chain onto the pick-up's back axle. "Alrighty, then," he said, as he handed Tetsuko the other end. "All set. Where's YOUR ride, sugar?"




Fatso's nose wrinkled. "I don't see yer SUV."


"You're not tugging my SUV," said Tetsuko. "You're tugging ME."


His forehead wrinkled. "Say what?"


"No, I didn't stutter." She held up the chain. "Tug-of-war, your pick-up versus me."


The three rednecks looked at each other like she was crazy.


"Well, if you boys wanna call it off..." she said, lowering the chain.


"No, no, no!" interjected Lanky. "Bet's still on." And they set the ends of the Waffle House as their turf lines.


"Ready?" Tetsuko yelled out.


The truck cranked up. "Yup!" called Shorty.


"All right, flag us, Les!"


Right at the chain's midpoint, tying a marker rag, Les looked at both contestants, totally unsure. Finally, he shrugged and raised his arms up in the air. "Ho-kay, ready...." He snapped them down. "GO!"


Screech! The tires did their impression of a drag race start, but it kept on for five seconds... then six...


"Hey Clyde," Fatso said, "get it outta neutral! Yer tires are gonna be slick as onions!"


"It IS outta neutral, ya nimrod," Clyde sniped, pointing at the gearshift in Drive. The three looked back. Tetsuko stood there, stock still, as if still waiting for them to start pulling.


"Shift it into a lower gear!" said Lanky.


Clyde slapped it into second. It put a little more power into the wheels, but no dice. The smell of burning, smoking rubber filled the air. Tetsuko just leaned back a little held the chain, and casually tapped her foot. Finally Clyde put it in the lowest gear and floored it. The engine roared in its fight-or-flight mode. The tires spun and burned down the tread to where the metal fibers poked out.


And finally there WAS some movement. But not the truck's way. Clyde, Fatso, and Lanky bounced in the cab, as the vehicle lurched backward. They turned back... and their jaws hung down wide open as they saw Tetsuko grab the chain, one hand in front of the other, as she reeled the Chevy in toward herself. Finally, the truck stopped near her by her end of the Waffle House. Letting the engine idle, they stared at her with eyes popping out of their heads.


"Better turn off the engine," she said. "Gas nowadays isn't cheap."


Clyde did. And they piled out of the truck.


"Huh!? Wha?! Buh! Guh!" stammered Fatso.


She beckoned an equally boggled Les over to her side. He came over, with the food packaged to go. "I think the words you're looking for," she said simply, "is 'I'm sorry, Les.'"


They kept on staring.


"You... you..." Finally Lanky snapped. "YOU FREAKSHOW! You she-male! How many steroids you poppin' a day anyway, MISTER?! I don't care HOW nice your face or big your boob-job is! No real woman can do that! You're like the ultimate lesbo-enviro-- enviro-- envi-- tree-hugger!"


Tetsuko didn't even blink. She kept her cool.


Lanky turned on Les. "And YOU! Little queerboy, let some quote-unquote 'girl' do yer fightin' for ya! You musta been cellmates from the same prison or something!"


Fatso rapped Lanky's shoulder, and nervously, silently prompted him to quickly shut up. Just one look at her face showed Lanky why.


It had hardened into a very vicious scowl.


"Don't worry," she said quietly as a snowfall, and just as coldly. "I've been called worse than that by better than you. But..." She dug into a takeout box, and fished up Les' half-eaten pie. And with a flick, SPLAT! She pitched it right into Lanky's face.


"That's for eating Les' pie."


Then she grabbed the chain with both hands and jerked. SCREEEAUNCH! The truck's rear axle wrenched free from the chassis, and flew like a misshapen TIE Fighter into Tetsuko's catching hands. CLANK! The pickup bed slammed onto the pavement.


"THAT'S for dragging and banging up his moped." She marched around with axle in hand over to the front end of the pickup truck. The three Bubbas backed off in a hurry.


"And THIS," she seethed, "is for throwing him in the path of that big rig."


WHAM! She swung the axle over her head and across the pick-up's hood, caved it in, smashed it into the engine, smacking that down onto the oily blacktop, and ruptured the front tires with a loud pop and hiss.


She dusted off her hands as best she could. "You lose." And with a shake of her head, she motioned for Les to join her in the SUV. Les timidly, quickly followed.


Clyde stared at the wreckage for the longest minute. Then he dropped to his knees. "MY TRUUUUUUCK!!!" he wailed. "That harpy... she... she... she totalled m-truuugh-buh-huhhuhuh!" And fell on all fours, bawling.


"She ain't human," Lanky rasped.


Fatso stared at the departing SUV. Then his eyes went from wide-open to narrow. "That little Planeteer said he came from the Industrial Zone, din-he?"




"Find me a payphone."


"To call a cab?"


"No, ya crackhead. Gonna call my boys." Fatso spat on the blacktop. "This ain't over yet."


Part V


In their suite, Sonya looked over to her friend Tetsuko. That big block of linen-covered industrial foam rubber her friend lay upon would've given Martha Stewart a heart attack. But it looked comfortable. Definitely a lot sturdier than the cot that Les replaced at the last minute.


"So you wrecked their truck?" the doctor asked.


Tetsuko nodded, sighed, and stared at the ceiling. "It got ugly. I tried ignoring the smack talk, I honestly did. In with anger, out with love, that sorta thing. But when they started dumping on Les, that just set me off."


"What about the police?"


Tetsuko glared. "I almost wish those three WOULD file a report. I'd get Les to press charges against THEM."


Sonya turned on her side and propped up her head with her hand. "You really like him, don't you?"


"Mmh," Tet-chan grunted. "He's really cute."


"Yeah. He is. Pretty considerate, too. That bed you're sleeping on was his."


The titanic towhead sighed again. "I wish he'd step up to that pompous windbag of a boss."


"Yeah." She looked over to the gift jar of muscle-growth nuts: amino-acid concentrated cashews, filberts, pistachios, and almonds she'd gotten before dinner. "Eaton's brilliant, and a real friend to the environment. But somebody's gotta take his high horse and break its legs." Her finger traced the jar's label.


"So you didn't choke him to death?"


"Tempting, but no. He just isolated himself in the lab, worked on a few more things, and called it a night. I just checked the news on my PDA. What'd you and Les do after the Waffle House?"


"Well, we rode up to a scenic overlook to finish our eats, and I talked to him about Slade, and how you injected me with the serum. He looked pretty nervous around me after he saw me smash that pickup." She shook her head. "I think I calmed him down once we chatted, but..."


A long pause. "So you think you'll get to sleep okay?" asked Sonya.


"Should. It's been a long drive."


And leaning back on her pillow, Tetsuko put her mp3 player's earbuds on, and started "Winds Nocturne" from Lunar Silver Star.




She heard the tires on gravel, to her surprise. Rising, Tetsuko sat upright. Sonya was still asleep. Feeling around for her cell phone, she found it and checked the time. 3 minutes after midnight. Swinging her long, thick, curvy legs around, and and drawing the sheet around her massive shoulders and chest, she got up and stepped as lightly as her big body could. She moseyed out, and felt her way around the dark halls, and made her way to the kitchen.


Tetsuko no baka, she thought, you don't know where the light switches are in this place. She went on anyway; she didn't want to wake up Les or tick off Dr. Green and get a lecture on wasting electricity, more likely than not.


Then in the dark, she saw a few reflections and recognized something on the counter: the tea and coffee service. With the cups still out; Les hadn't put it away. Well, she was feeling a little thristy. And no point letting this stuff go to waste. But she didn't want to be up all night, so she sniffed around. Hmm. That smelled kinda like herbal tea. She reached out, snagged it, (hmm, felt like a drinking glass), and chugged. "Bleah," she thought. Nasty menthol aftertaste. Needs water to wash it down. And she felt around, found the sink with the filtered faucet, and poured herself a big glassful. And with a big gulp, she put the glass in the sink, washed it out, and gently tropmped back to bed.


"Mmmb," went Sonya. "Tet-chan?"


"Just stepped out for a drink of water," she whispered. "Back to bed. Oyasumi nasai."


"Hmm," mumbled Sonya. "You sue me nicely, too."




Dawn came quickly. Tetsuko wasn't automatically an early riser, but she hadn't needed as much sleep as before Sonya's serum. And her throat was PARCHED. It's like she hadn't gone to get anything to drink at all last night. So she slowly staggered up, and rubbed the sandman's stuff from the eyes. Figuring everyone else was still asleep, she grabbed her toiletry kit, went out and found the shower near the office toilets.


Stepping in, she remembered the rule for showering when she went camping. Just enough water to get wet, turn it off, lather up, then turn it on to rinse. No Hollywood showers. Disrobing, she stepped in and let the water spray all over her massive body.


And turning the faucet off, she got her bar of Lever 2000 to lather up... and she noticed she was dry all over again. Puzzled, she turned the water on, got wet, and turned it off again, and soaped up... and got only the top half of her body sudsy. Sure, she thought, there was a lot more turf to cover up there lately, but still...


Gurglegurglegurgle went something inside her stomach. Eugh, she thought. Must've been all that pie and waffles. And she got a washcloth this time, and wiped herself below the waist. But it seemed like as soon as she got her legs done, she could only soap on thigh or calf or foot at a time before everything else dried up.


Ano, she thought, what's the showerhead spraying anyway? Rubbing alcohol? And this shower's so small, I have to step outside of it to change my mind!


Well at long last, she managed to get herself lathered up. And finally she gave up on conserving, and used the water at full blast to rinse all the soap off. And with that, she wrapped a towel around herself, and went to get some fresh clothes.


The towel barely kept all the censorable stuff covered. And as she passed through the doorways, they seemed closer than before.


When she got in, (and she barely missed the top of the jamb by an inch or two,) she quickly put her clothes on before Sonya woke up. But her black sleveless T shirt felt much tighter than she remembered on last wear. And it didn't cover her belly button. It was tougher getting her white trousers on. They felt more like Capris now.


"Uh-oh," she exclaimed.


"Mmmh, Tetsuko?" said Sonya, rousing herself. "What's wrong?"


"Tell me straight forward, Sonya-chan," Tetsuko asked. "Do I look any... bigger?"


"Dunno," said Sonya. "Need glasses and caffeine to see properly. Can we check in the kitchen?"



As they passed through the halls, Tetsuko gauged her height versus the doors. And she took a breath. "It's true. I HAVE grown. Six inches or so. I'm just a notch shy of seven feet tall."




Chop chop chop went Dr. Green's knife on the potatoes. He didn't look up as the ladies came in. "Good morning," he said coolly. "I'll have some canola-fried hash browns, and soy-milk French toast ready before too long.


"Thanks," said Tetsuko, "but I'm not very hungry right now. Am very thirsty, though."


"Brewing some bean juice right as we speak," said someone by the coffeemaker. Tetsuko giggled. Right there in red and white-striped pajamas, with very messy uncombed hair and a pre-caffeine zombie face, was Les.


"No, not coffee," said Tetsuko. "Water. Big glass of it. I feel like could drink a bucket's worth."


"Glasses are in the cabinet over the solar toaster," said Dr. Green.


And so, Tetsuko got the biggest cup she could find, hurried to the sink, and started pouring, turning off the tap, and gulping, and pouring again.


"So how you take your coffee, Dr. Gannon?" asked Les.


"Please," she replied, "Call me Sonya. And I take mine--"


"Wait, I'm sorry, I need cups. Just a second." And he looked over to the service left out from last night. "Aw, nuts. Forgot to store everything last night. I'm sorry. Let me just use one of these." And he moseyed over, and picked the cups up. As he passed, though, Tetsuko dropped her big gulp cup into the sink. And she put one hand over her heart, and another over her stomach.


Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, went her innards.


"I feel strange," she uttered. And she propped herself with both hands on the sink's edges.


Slowly but steadily, as her insides sloshed and surged like pipes being plunged by a plumber, her body got wider. It expanded, and got stouter, like a tree trunk. Her arms started to bulk up until her biceps were as big as large canteloupes. Her back and shoulders broadened, and a small tear began on her T-shirt up to the small. Up front, the shirt's bottom rose up from her navel up to two inches below her billowing breasts, each now expanding to almost the size of an average computer monitor.


Her thighs and calves also thickened and lengthened. And she got taller as well as wider. When she stopped growing, so did her internal noise. And she straighened up, now seven and a half feet tall.


The other three stared for quite a while. Then a horrible thought hit Les. "Uh, Tetsuko? Did you get anything at all to drink last night?"


"Uh, yeah, I remember coming here and getting a cup or glass of something... must've been that herbal tea. Tasted pretty funky."


"And where did you put the glass when you were done with it?"


"Uh, I rinsed it out and put it in the sink? Ah yes, this is it." And she picked it up and held it for all to see.


Les then winced and gasped sharply. Sonya looked up, and clapped a hand to her cheek. Dr. Green looked up and his eyebrows shot up. "Great Jonas Salk," he whispered.


Tetsuko then got a hard look at it.


It was a lab beaker. And it was labeled: "Mito-Chloroplast Culture: Sample K."


Part VI


"You BONEHEAD!" Dr. Green thundered at Les. "Why didn't you put that formula away like I told you to?!"


"You didn't tell me, sir," Les miserably groaned, "You told me to bring the coff--"


"The devil I didn't!" his boss shot back, finger-poking Les' chest on each word. "And that's DOCto--"


Tetsuko's even more massive frame swooped right between the two, taking the botanist's last poke between her chest and navel. And she bore down on Dr Green.


"One, you DIDN'T!" she snapped. "Two, the way you order him around, and made me so ready to get us out of there, it's no wonder he forgot to put it back! Three, I'M the one that didn't see what I drank, because I didn't look for the light switch, because I didn't want my head snapped off over the power bill like you do Les all the time! And four, you don't deserve any title except Dictator! Accent on the Dic-!"


The doctor sputtered. "Wh--what did you just call me?!"


"Oh, I'm sorry... DOCTOR Dic-!"


The insulted Eaton turned beet red. "Now, look here, you overgrown insolent--!"


"EVERYBODY SHUT UP!!!" shouted Sonya.


After a beat of silence and the other three's turn-and-stare, she toot a breath and steadied herself. "Look, this is what we in the scientific community technically term a group FUBAR. I didn't exactly help either by engaging in last night's shouting match in the first place. There. We've tarred and feathered everybody. Now, can we see about getting Tet-chan to a lab table or something so we can check her out, find out what exactly is biologically happening, and find some way to reverse or at least put the brakes on it?"


Dr. Green glanced back and forth among the others. "Well, we can get the bed from the old nurse's station to my main laboratory where the zoological and anthrobiological equipment is."


"Good. Les, can you take care of the botany stuff that doesn't need Dr. Green's immediate attention?"


"Yes, ma'am," Les said.


"Just a minute," went Dr. Green. "This is MY laboratory. Les... shave, get dressed, and do what the good woman says." Then he felt Tetsuko's shadow. "Please."


"Yess," Les replied, barely dodging a "sir."


"Right, then," Dr. Green said, turning to Tetsuko and gingerly ushering her from the kitchen. "Perhaps you can tell us EXACTLY what happened last night, and what you did between then and now?"


And they headed for another part of the old factory.



As Dr. Green put some donor cells in a glass slide, Tetsuko asked, "So you had this sample A, last night, and I drank sample K. What happened to B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J?"


"It's not an alphabetic sequence," Dr. Green said. "The letter represents the plant that each formula is based on. Sample A is for 'azalea,' which I picked for its hardiness and low demand for water."


Tetsuko wrinkled her brow. "And K is for...?"


He lowered his head, and his eye twitched. "Kudzu," he said weakly.


Tetsuko flopped back down on the lab bed and stared up at the ceiling. "Uwaaahh," she groaned.


Dr. Green quietly turned to his microscope and gazed through it. Then his demeanor brightened. "Well, well, well," he intoned. "Sonya, take a look at this."


She sidled over and peeked down. "Wow," she gasped softly. "That IS incredible."


Tetsuko looked up. "Someone mind telling me what it is?"


"Well," Sonya said, "it seems that instead of Eaton's chloroplasts binding to only the mitochondria, they've both binded to the nuclei of your cells."


"And the sugars which should be going toward making sugar energy for your body is instead going right to the DNA and RNA, and somehow making the cells divide, grow and reproduce at a record rate," Dr. Green added.


"What? You mean like cancer?" Tetsuko squeaked.


"Oh, no-no-no-no-no," Dr. Green reassured quickly. "Nothing like that. They look perfectly healthy."


"It seems that primarily your muscle and fat cells are affected," said Sonya, "but it looks like that Dr. Green's plant formula might have also reactivated your skeletal growth platelets to a lesser degree. Your growth happened in a short but powerful burst."


"That's got me boggled," said Dr. Green. "I'm no human physiologist, but I know that shouldn't happen. It's not physiologically possible."


"Well, THAT'S a relief," Tetsuko soured. "For a second or two I thought we were facing a serious problem."


Dr. Green stared at her indigantly, but decided not to vent. "I have a feeling that your drinking all that water might have triggered the growth spurt."


On that note, Tetsuko felt thirsty... again. She shifted and swung up. "Say, I need to see the little girl's room for a second."


He nodded. "Two doors down the hall, to the left. I think you can still fit in the handicapped stall. Hurry back, though, please."




Tetsuko got her mouth out from under the faucet, and turned the water off. She didn't like going there under false pretenses, but her throat and body felt dry as the Gobi Desert, and she didn't think either of the doctors would've risked another growth burst by giving her anything to drink. But she restrained herself to only one mouthful just to take the edge off.


With that, she ducked out the bathroom, and turned back to the makeshift doctor's office, passing by the greenhouse.


Then she heard, "I'd like to say thanks... for... defending my honor... gah, no, that makes her sound masculine."


She turned her head. That was Les. He sighed.


"I'd like to thank you for your time... ugh, that sounds like an infomercial."


She stepped quietly up to the greenhouse's door, which was ajar, and she peeked in. Les was by a bush, squinting hard at a greeting card in his left hand, and twirling a pen in his right."


"It's not that your bod's so big... it's that your enormous heart keeps pushing everything around it out... gack!" He clapped his pen hand over his forehead. "That'll get me slapped!" He took a breath. "C'mon, ya big girl blouse, keep it simple. Tell her thanks, you like her, think she's a babe, and--"


Tetsuko knocked gently on the door jamb. Les quickly lowered the card and the pen, pivoted around, and saw her.


"Hello, Les? May I come in?" she asked.


"Oh, sure," he said nervously. "Just let me... check my shoelace real fast." And he bent down, and Tetsuko heard him put his things in a thick paper bag and push it somewhere. "OK, it's tied."


Turning her shoulder to the doorway, she ducked down, slipped through the entry, and made her way through the narrower-seeming aisle, her hips brushing against the fronds and greenery. She glanced down at him, now much neater after his razor and comb.


"Are you doing all right?" she inquired.


"Me? Are YOU doing okay?" he demanded concernedly. "What'd they say?"


"All right, considering. Nothing malignant, I'm just... growing like a weed. Literally."


"Oh." He dragged his toe on the concrete, not sure what to say next. "I, uh, wanted to say thanks for dinner and waffles last night."


"Thank me? I should thank YOU. You bought, remember?"


"Uh, yeah," he chuckled. "I did, didn't I?" He took a breath. "I'm very sorry about those three goons last night."


"Bah. Forget it."


"No, it's just that when that guy started insulting you after won, I wanted to deck him. But... you kinda beat me to the punch."


She shrugged. "Pssft. Don't worry about that. His sour grapes, and all."


"Yeah, he WAS trying to hit on you, wasn't he?"


She nodded. Just then, the room filled with a mist. Tetsuko glanced around. "That's just the sprinkler system for the plants," Les said. "Pressure control program's a little glinchy; I'm still trying to debug it."


Tetsuko then looked down to his shoes. "Shoelace, huh? Those are Vans."




"Down there. Vans. No laces." And she squatted down, completely filling and blocking the aisle like a dam on the river. She felt her white slacks tighten and pull, her thighs and leg muscles push, and a stitch or two pop. Then her knee "accidentally" bumped into the bag she heard Les fiddle with earlier. "Hello, what's this?"


"Oh," went Les, like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He pulled it out into view: a bright, shiny, golden gift sack. "I wanted to give this to you once you and Dr. Gannon were going to leave, but..."


"So that's was you driving out last night?"


"Yeah. Midnight run, gift shopping at the All-Mart Maxi-center."


"May we look at it now?"




And she peeked inside.


It was a small white plushie lioness cub, wearing a tiny warrior's helmet and shield. And on the spur of the moment, Les plucked a white rose off a nearby bush, and placed it in the toy's free paw. Tetsuko giggled. "For defending your honor?"


Les paled. "You heard that?"


She nodded. He sighed, and fished up the card. It had a certain cartoon beagle, struggling with a typewriter:




And the inside simply read, "THANKS!"


"Couldn't think of the right thing to write," he apologized, as he simply signed and dated it. "Now you see why I major in biology, not English."


Tetsuko smiled very warmly, and put the works back in the bag. "You know where a big girl blouse belongs?"


"Uh... in a big girl's closet?"




"In a big girl's dresser drawer?"




A wishful smile played at his mouth's corners. "Big girl's suitcase?"


"No, baka-chan!" she tittered. And she reached around him with both arms. "On a big girl!" And she pulled him close, straightened up to stand, lifted him up, and squeezed him close to her enourmous torso in a huge hug. Surprised, but delighted, the foot-dangling Les reached around and hugged her back, his fingers barely making it to his opposing knuckles.


"You're all heart, Tetsuko," he sighed.


"Hai," she said. "Which is pushing the rest of me out. They say its beat got faster when I grew. Wanna listen for yourself?" And she gently pressed his face against her chest, so his cheek and jaw felt her very ample bosom.


"Yeah," he said. "Not quite the drum solo to 'Wipeout,' but that's not normal-- I mean, typical."


"It's OK, Les," she reassured, patting his damp back.


Les raked his fingers over long, thick, soft, golden hair, and down her back where her shirt didn't cover. Then he felt the lower back's skin again, puzzlement etching on his face. "Hey, wait-- my clothes are damp from the misting system, right?"


"Uh... yeah...."


He felt her right arm's huge biceps. "Your skin's bone dry."


Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.


Slowly Les felt himself rise, and he reflexively put his left arm back around her back to touch both hands. Or just the fingertips, and then only for an instant, as her trunk expanded and pushed them apart. Tetsuko's left biceps then swelled to watermelon size against his back, clamping him deeper into her plusher and plusher breast, which bloated back against his face like a balloon filling with warm water. His toes felt her calves expand as well, as they slid up to just below her knees.


Rrrrrrip! went her trousers along the seams, up to stouter mid-thigh.


Rrrrrrip! went her already torn shirt back, and a notch up her chest, leaving the cloth to drape over her chest, barely covering it.


Tetsuko blinked. "Another spurt?!"


"Don't suppose it'd help if I said there's just more of you to love now?" Les quipped.


"Oh, be quiet. We'd better see Sonya and Dr. Green." And she turned around and sidestepped between the planters to fit through more easily.


"Uh, Tet-chan?"




"Maybe you'd better put me down?"


"Oh. Gomen." And she set him down back on his feet, inadvertently brushing the top of his head with her three-pillows-in-one-case breast. And she had to stoop and turn sideways to get out the greenhouse's door.


Les took a breath. She was now 8'2"


Part VII


"Sonya? Dr. Green?" said Tetsuko. "I think you'd better -- ow!" Rubbing her head where she'd hit a fire sprinkler, she ducked and sidestepped through the door.


"Took you long enough," said Dr. Green, still checking at his clipboard. He looked up to her breastbone. "Did you get stuck in ther-- mlam... glah!"


Sonya closed in. She'd never been this thunderstruck since she saw her serum's effects for the first time ever.


"Tet-chan? What happened?!" She adjusted her glasses over her agape eyes. "Well, I see what happened, but... WHAT HAPPENED?!?"


"I think it's official," Les said, peering around her hip. "Water does make her grow." And he told about the greenhouse sprinkler incident, after which Tetsuko recounted her time in the shower, and confessed the mouthful from the washroom's tap.


When she finished, Dr. Green scratched his temple with a pencil. Then he slowly stepped up to her.


"Stick out your arm, please," he said. She did reluctantly, expecting to get her hand smacked like a naughty child.


Instead, he took a beaker of water and said, "Now hold it steady. Dr. Gannon, watch closely." Sonya drew closer, as did Les. The botanist then gently poured a small stream atop Tetsuko's massive ham-sized forearm, and let it bead.


After a few moments, all four of them saw the water seep into her pores and disappear quickly without even leaving the skin damp.


"I knew it!" he said. "Her body is soaking up the water like a leaf!"


"So that's why she'd dried off in a hurry all this time," said Sonya. "Her cells are letting the water in via direct osmosis like a plant!"


"And evenly distributing it among themselves, no doubt."


Tetsuko grimaced. "Does this mean I can't even touch water now?"


"Well that depends," Dr. Green remarked.




"On whether or not you want to be able to slamdunk a basketball without your feet leaving the court."


The golden-haired girl Goliath grimaced. "But what if I get thirsty again?! I need water!"


"We'll look for signs of wilting and browning first!" he huffed impatiently.


Sonya looked back and forth between the two. "I wish we could have caught the growth spurt so we could monitor it while it was happening."


"Well, doctor," said Dr. Green, "we'll simply have to stay closer to her this time." And he narrowed his eyes at Tetsuko. "And no more sneaky bathroom breaks without Sonya coming along."


Tetsuko shot him back a nastier look. "I'm not a child, buddy."


Les stepped in. "Hey, I saw how super-strong she was when, er, she unloaded the SUV. Any chance we can see if your samples made her any stronger?"


Dr. Green snorted. "Sure. Have any tanks or warships in your hip pocket?"


"Well, there's that old rusted-out bus in the back lot--"


"Which weighs only 17 tons. Last I heard, Dr. Gannon said that Tetsuko could lift up to 100. No test of strength at all to someone who could lift a Honda Accord like a pound of butter. Now go make yourself useful and tend to the plants and fetch the data from the SUV."


Without even a sigh, much less a "yes, doctor," Les turned back toward the nursery.


"Hey, wait, Les. Actually," Tetsuko spoke up, "that's not a bad idea. I could see whether or not I have an easier time lifting that."


"But that would be totally anecdotal and subjective information," Dr. Green countered.


Dr. Gannon crossed her arms. Tetsuko put her massive yet daintily curved hands on her wide-load hips. Dr. Green could tell they were wearying from his lip.


"Er, then again, I could get some cell samples and see how our formulas work under physical exertion. And it'd keep her away from the faucets."


Tetsuko nodded approvingly. "Wanna watch, Les?"


"Uhh... you're not going out in THAT, are you? What if you grow again?"


Everybody looked at Tetsuko's tattered togs. Her black shirt cloth draped over her chest hung on by four stitches and a prayer. Dr. Green rolled his eyes. "Oh, grow up. We're doctors, and haven't you ever seen a naked female before?"


Les turned beet red. "In a medical encyclopedia... by mistake... but anyway, it's not me, what if someone else sees her outside?"


"Oh please. This zone's virtually a ghost town. I could walk out there with the Union Jack tied around my John Thomas and not get spotted. Besides, where are we going to get something to fit her?"




Les turned off the old factory's industrial sewing machine. "Well?"


Tetsuko stepped out with the light blue floral print boxer briefs and loose upper wrap for her torso. "Well, it's not Lane Bryant," she remarked, "but it's pretty nice for a rush job. What's with the navy blue patches by the hip and under the armpits, though?"


"Old stuff around the place," he said hurriedly. "Does it feel okay?"


She nodded. "Blue patches are a little clingy, but it's great. Extra room, too."


"Fine, fine, fine," went Dr. Green. "Let's hope you won't need it. Now out to the bus. Les, back to your duties."




Searching the tall grass and weeds for beer cans, broken bottles, and other unpleasant stuff she didn't want to step on, barefoot Tetsuko trodded through the overgrown lot with the scientists. She didn't think the thing had seen a lawnmower since Reagan was president. And the bus looked like it had been dropped there right after "The Honeymooners" had been canceled.


Tetsuko smiled anyway. It was a bright, clear day, with only one or two clouds up in the sky. "Wow. This sunshine feels great." She spread her arms out and let the rays wash over her even more colossal body. "Feels like my body's been jonesing for this for the longest time." As she soaked it all in, Dr. Green and Sonya plopped the electrode suction cups on her body, and connected the wires to Sonya's PDA.


"Okay," her friend said, "let's get some data."


Crouching down, Tetsuko had a trickier time taking hold underneath, thanks to her even bulkier arms and blimped chest. But she managed and got the feel. She took hold. And she waited.


Dr. Green glanced at her cock-eyed. "Well?"


As quickly as a person could stand up, she hefted the rusting hulk up into the air. Pieces of red metal flaked off and fell to the ground. A family of raccoons scurried away from underneath.


The flabberghasted plant professor flinched back away from the shade. "Great Demeter," he whispered. "This is impossible. Physically, dynamically, quantum mechanically IMPOSSIBLE." He turned to Sonya. "Impossible! I don't believe it! Prove it to me and I STILL won't believe it!"


"Well," said Tetsuko casually, "normally I'd need to use 2 hands to balance the weight properly, but now..." She centered herself under it, and put one howitzer arm down by her side, holding the wreck up with one hand. "Doesn't feel much heavier than a value pack of ground beef did before Sonya stuck me." And with a grin, she spun it around like a Trapper-Keeper notebook on her fingers.


Dr. Green dove for cover as 34,000 pounds of Detroit steel swooped over his noggin. "Cut that out!" he shrieked. "What if you drop it on my head?!"


"Don't worry, doctor, I've got it!" she reassured. And she caught it so neither the front or back was dangling over Eaton or Sonya. "Just a ball park figure, but I think my strength's doubled now." She tossed it lightly up, and caught it. With a giggle, she tossed it again...


...and it catapulted up like a Mark McGuire pop fly ball.


"IIE!" Tetsuko shrieked. "I threw it too hard!"




Darren looked over his patrol car's new computer screen. State of the art, but it clashed horribly with the ancient dashboard, oversized fan (no AC), and the old rickety bubble-gum-machine light on roof. He half expected Andy or Barney to come on the radio in that thing. He swore one'd think that if they were gonna update the equipment, they'd get ENTIRE new cars. But nope, they had to patch it piecemeal and make do. Stupid economy. Stupid plant closures. Stupid budget. Well, at least the thing still ran.


He checked out the video from the convenience mart of Tetsuko demolishing Clyde's truck in the parking lot next door. After six months of dry-out lock-ups, he knew those three disorderly-even-when-stone-sober lunkheads probably had it coming, and he personally wanted to let it slide, but still the store made a report.


Settling in behind the steering wheel, he sipped his coffee and munched on his Krispy Kreme chocolate iced creme-filled. Maybe she simply moved on out of his jurisdiction and it wasn't really his problem anymore. He turned onto Weddle Street. Besides, her face didn't look like a typical blond bimbo's. He figured she scatted once the damage was done. Yep. Don't worry about tomorrow, like his mama said. Today's got enough headaches as is. He decided to relax until and unless he actually spotted her.


VOOM! Right behind the shuttered toaster plant, he saw a bus catapult right up into the sky. He nearly choked on his donut. Then as it crested and began its plunge, he saw a brick-house-built blonde woman leap up, catch it in her arms, then sail right back down with it. WHOOMP! He heard a heavy thud.


He got on the horn. "Uh, dispatch, this TC-1 on Weddle, near the Old Industrial Zone. You are not gonna believe this."




Les grumbled as he stuck the spooned the compost from the disposal unit into the plants' pots. He mocked Dr. Green's voice. "'I could walk out there with the Union Jack tied around my...' ergh. I'd like to grab him and test that theory for myself." Once he got the last shrub, he decided to head out into the parking lot and fetch the readings and data from the hybrid biofuel SUV.


But as he stepped out the side entrance, he saw somebody. A denim vested, blue jean guy with black leather chaps. And he was examining the SUV very closely. Too closely. The interloper rounded around to the passenger side door.


And Les saw the guy had a tool box in his hand.


"Excuse me," he said sharply, "can I help you?"


The guy didn't even look at Les. He just darted around behind the SUV. Then a small but loud engine roared to life. With a light skid, the guy peeled out on his motorcycle.


Les dashed out right away and examined the vehicle for signs of tampering. It didn't look like the trespasser had touched or broken anything. Still, Les figured he'd better call the others, if they had time. He nearly went in to call the police first, but debated on whether he wanted them sniffing about with Tetsuko ... in her current shape.


Then he heard a car approach. Who was it this time?




Standing in the small crater she'd made, Tetsuko tilted the old bus up on one corner. Then angling around, she put it back in the bare muddy patch where it had sat. "Sorry about that," she said.


"Why can't you be more careful?!" Dr. Green demanded.


"I said, sorry," she repeated. "Should we replug the electrodes into your computer?"


"We'll have to recalibrate, and record the data we picked up before we do that," said Sonya.


"All right," Tetsuko said. "I wish I could take off these things, though. I just want to lie down and work on my tan. I know I said it before, but the sun has NEVER felt this good to me before. Almost addicting." She felt her body. "Any chance we can work on... more... stuff... outdoors?" Then concern and alarm streaked across her face.


Gurgle gurgle gurgle gurgle...


The fabric stretched. The little flowers on it distorted. Each of her limb segments; calves, thighs, forearms, upper arms, breasts, abdomen, each half of her back: each one expanded and puffed out even more like someone had injected a 5 pound tube of hamburger meat into it. And all that beef made her bulk out and widen even more. It made her bulk upward, too; she was only one inch short of nine feet tall.


She stared down at the equally concerned, furrow-browed Sonya and Dr. Green.


"I didn't touch a drop!" she pleaded. "Honest! You've been with me all this time!"


Dr. Eaton put a hand on his forehead. "You didn't have to. I just remembered: sunlight's part of the photosynthesis process. That's what probably did it."


"Great," groaned Sonya. "Now we gotta keep her in a cool, dark, dry place, like a bag of Oreos. What else can grow wrong... I mean, go wrong?!"


Just then, a digital rendition of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony began in Dr. Green's lab coat's pocket. He fished his cell phone out of it, flipped it open, and read it. With a disgusted sigh, he put it to his ear. "If you're burning my minutes, Les, it had better be pretty bloody important. What is it?"


"Well, Mr., er, Doctor, um..."


"Spit it out!" he snapped. "Or hang up and see me face to face!"


A beat. Then Les squeaked, "Here, sir, maybe you'd better."


A different, older, Southern twangy voice came on. "Excuse me, sir, are you the proprieter here?"


"I'm the main renter. Dr. Eaton Green. Who is this?"


"Uhm, look to your left. In the parking lot by the white SUV."


He looked. There was a white and brown Sheriff's cruiser sitting by it. And standing by that was a very unhappy Les, and an officer dressed in brown.


"Well, sir, this is Deputy Darren Horne with the Taylor County Sheriff's Department. We have some questions on something that happened last night at the Waffle House out on Highway 106. Can you come by here promptly?"


Tetsuko tried to take dainty, ladylike mince-steps, but she knew that was useless. Her thunder -- no, nuclear-blast thighs brushed against each other as she trudged with the doctors over to Les and the staring deputy. And her beer-keg biceps pressed down alongside her beach-ball breasts in her futile try to keep her size in. Moving was sluggish and unsmooth; there simply was too much of herself in the way.


She was thankful that the top and shorts still fit, although snugly. The little blue patches seemed to do their jobs nicely. But then she stopped and did a double take. Weren't they much bigger just then? And tinted a bit green?


She shrugged her office-desk-wide shoulders. Probably just the color running funny. She headed over with Dr. Gannon and Dr. Green to see the deputy.


The botanist was hot and bothered. "If that kid has gotten this lab in trouble..." he growled.


Sonya slashed a finger across her throat. "Keep it to yourself!" she hissed, head-bobbing to the deputy.


"Fine, then, I'll keep it to myself," Dr. Green muttered. Then he added under his breath, "Until I end up married to a guy named Bubba. Then I'm going to mention it to SOMEBODY."


Deputy Darren Horne squinted. Then he rubbed his eyes. Then he held a thumb up for line-of-sight to a stack of pallets to make sure he wasn't seeing an optical illusion. He still wasn't believing it when the trio arrived, led by the lovely, literally larger than life lemon-haired leviathan. His first impulse was to say, "Sorry. Mistaken identity," and move on.


But no, the face looked just like the one on the convenience store cam. And he'd talked to Les, too. He couldn't think of anything to say besides, "You seem to be eating all your veggies."


"Thanks," Tetsuko said shyly and tenatively.


"What's your name?"


"Tetsuko. Tetsuko Breckenridge."


"Well, uh, Tess Sue," he said, scratching his head, "we'd gotten a call from the BlipMart next to the Waffle House last night. Said something involving a pickup truck getting wrecked in the parking lot there. You wouldn't happen to know anything about it, would you?"


Realizing the bind she'd put Sonya, Dr. Green, and maybe Les in, Tetsuko turned back to them with a pained "I'm so sorry" face. And while her brain spun with all sorts of wild stories she could tell, she knew and felt strongly enough that she should tell him nothing but the whole truth.




"...and honestly, I did try to blow it all off," she piped. "At least the junk aimed at me. But then that guy started railing on poor Les, here..." And her huge, heavenly hands clasped said young fellow's shoulders. "And when I realized that they were insulting him on top of nearly throwing him under some tractor trailer's tires...." She gave them a squeeze. "I nearly... I... I just lost my temper."


Darren looked up at that lovely, rueful face atop a Mount Rushmore of regret. "'Kay, I can sympathize with that," he said gently. "I'd feel the same way if they'd done that with my wife. But you can't exactly plead self-defense against simply talkin' crap. I mean, I could say you and that fine young lady over there were lesbian lovers." And Dr. Gannon flinched at that. "But that don't make it so, does it?"


Tetsuko looked down to the deputy the way she would've looked up to her daddy when she was only seven, and she shook her head no.


"So," he said, "it looks like you owe them a truck. But," and he steepled his thumbs, "mind you, I'm not tryin' to tell you what you oughta do. But, let's say I happened to be one of those three morons -- whom I've locked up overnight in the drunk tank more than once -- and somebody reminded me that I'd be facing 10 or 12 years total minimum on counts of reckless driving, destruction of real property, vehicle theft, assault, and endangerment of human life if someone pressed charges." And he leaned toward Les with an I'm-talkin'-to-YOU-son squint.


"If somebody reminded me of that," he continued, "then I'd be sorely tempted to just sell the wreck to the junkyard, go truck shoppin', and drop the whole sorry affair."


He glanced to his cruiser. "Say, my coffee was kinda lukewarm when I got out, and it's probably ice cold now. Any chance y'all got a microwave inside?"




"Hmph! Nggh! Rrph!"


Finally, Tetsuko popped her massive upper chest through the doorway, and hooked her body into the kitchen like a moving van crew would angle in a big piece of furniture. Once she slid the rest of herself in, she tried standing, but then realized that she had to bend the knees to keep her heaed from bonking the ceiling. Finally, she simply sat cross-legged on the floor, and watched Darren add the hot water from the water cooler to his "#1 Daddy" travel mug.


"So, lemme get this straight," he asked Sonya. "You were working on this experimental age-stopping formula, and these gangsters made you test it on her at gunpoint, and that made her all super strong."


"Yes, that's right," Sonya said, spotting his golden wedding band. Nuts, she thought.


He turned to their host, "And, you, Professor--"




"Sorry. Doctor. And you worked on this other experimental formula to make people grow like plants so they won't have to live on anything but water and air."


"And sunlight, that's correct."


Darren glanced at the lab works in the next room. "You DO have permits for all this, don't you?"


Dr. Green folded his arms stiffly. "Now may I remind you--"


Just then, Darren's radio squawked. "TC-1, do you copy? What's 10-20?"


"Excuse me a sec," he said as he plucked it out of his belt. "TC-1 to dispatch. 20's at former Perwoltz Clothing Factory.


10-26 with last night's Waffle House incident. Sitch under control."


"Be advised, TC-SG 10-76."


Darren's eyebrows shot up. "Uh, negative on the 10-78. I repeat, situation under control."


"10-76 like it or not, TC-1. ETA 'bout 4 minutes."


Darren stared at the radio with a sinking feeling plastered all over his face. Then he finally sent back, "10-4." He looked to his hosts with an uneasy, smile. "Uh... heh heh. Sheriff's on the way." He put the radio back in his belt. "We'd better be waiting outside."




"The sheriff is okay, right?" Sonya asked Dr. Green as they headed for the loading bay doors. "I mean, a nice person like our deputy?"


"Sheriff Geraldson," Darren interceded, "is a firm believer in law and order."


"Read:" Dr. Green murmured as he donned his white lab coat, "'makes Judge Dredd look like Rosco P. Coltrane.'"


"Heard that," said Darren. "Best mind yer manners. It IS an election year."


Tetsuko wriggled through the hallway after the deputy, doctors, and Les.


"I don't wanna face anyone else like this," she whined.


"Can't you say you just G-O-T S-T-U-C-K?" Les whispered.


She whispered back, "I don't want to be trapped in here for real in case I G-R-O-W M-O-R-E."




The budget-hogging black and brown Chevrolet Camaro Z28 B4C interceptor pulled up and stopped, and its door swung open.


There were only two signs to the exiting driver's gender: the wider curved junk-in-the-trunk hips adorned with twin not-department-issue Colt .45 M1911A1 pistols, and the magenta rhinestone earrings on the lobes. Stepping out, standing to her full 5'11" height, donning her SDTC ball cap and closing the door behind her, Sheriff Helga Geraldson walked deliberately across the gravel and stopped in front of Darren's prowler.


"Where's your hat, Horne?" she demanded quietly.


Bareheaded Darren put a hand to his black locks. "Hat?"


"You know." She pointed to her own atop her short-cut brown hair. "Hat. That thing you're supposed to always have on your head when you're outdoors."


"Oh. Uh, I must've left it in my car."


"Out of uniform, Horne," she said simply. "$100 fine. Put it on. Second offense, and you're fired."




As he opened the car to fetch his own headwear, the sheriff turned and looked over Tetsuko and her friends. The eyes behind her dark pilot sunglasses didn't show any hints on what she made of the colossal college girl. "So that's the perp from the Waffle House on the BlipMart cam?"


"Uh, that's a Tetsuko Breckenridge, yes." Darren said quickly and quietly as he donned his cap.


"Made positive ID and all?"




"Then why is she not restrained and in the back of your patrol car?"


"Uh," the not-as-mellow-now deputy hemmed, "because she hasn't made any threatening moves just now, and is being very cooperative?"


"You made positive ID on her, and you saw what she did on cam, Horne. What more do you need?" To Tetsuko: "Hands on the hood, miss."


"What?" Tetsuko gasped softly.


"You heard me." The sheriff patted Darren's fender. "Your hands. Here."


Reluctantly, Tetsuko headed over to the car at a stately pace. Her hands rested on the fender, making it dip on the driver side.


"Uh, Sheriff," the deputy said tenatively, "there's a bit more to the story. There's also an incident with three other perps who--"


"They're not here right now," Sheriff Geraldson said shortly, as she gave Tetsuko a quick, professional frisk. "And we'll deal with them and get said whole story at the courthouse. Ms. Breckenridge, you're under arrest for aggravated assault and destruction of private property."


Sonya gasped. "You can't do this!"


"Watch very carefully, miss," said the sheriff. "Horne, administer the restraints. Ms. Breckenridge, you have the right to remain silent--"


"Uh, Sheriff?" went Darren.


"I said administer the restraints. If you relinquish the right to remain silent, anything you say--"


"Permission to point out something, ma'am?"


"Denied. Follow your orders."


And as Sheriff Geraldson continued reading the Miranda Act, Darren reluctantly pulled the handcuffs off his belt and struggled to work the mountainous madien's humongous arms around her massive back. Tetsuko wasn't resisting at all; it was that her limbs and body was just too bulky and in the way.


"Wait a minute," went Les, "what about the three guys that started all this?"


"I wasn't speaking to you, son," the sheriff monotoned.


"Well, I'M speaking to YOU," Dr. Green sounded, loud as a trumpet.


Sheriff Geraldsson looked up. She finally showed some signs of annoyance. "Now look here, Professor--"






Dr. Green put one hand on his hip. "If that woman honestly was as big a criminal threat as you're making of her right now, she would have demolished your hot rod and your deputy's prowl car at the same time with one hand while drinking an iced tea with the other."


"Well, she showed plenty enough 'roid rage last night. Right here on video, in HDTV where available."


"And the last I checked, accusing her of drug abuse like that without proper evidence was deemed slander under United States law, officer."


Now Geraldson was irritated. She pointed to her badge. "That's 'Sheriff!'"


"Whatever." And his eyes narrowed. "And if you ever slander her, or any of my associates or myself like that again, so help me, Hera, I'll hire an attorney and slam you and your department with a defamation lawsuit so fast you'll swear you were in a time warp!"


In a slow burn, Sheriff Geraldson removed her shades. She heard someone's stomach churning; she didn't know whose it was, but figured it might as well have been hers. "Well, I don't know how they run things in your home country, Jeeves, but around here, we don't allow anyone to trash whatever they want. I don't care how big or juiced up they are. Not in my county, not on my watch. And if any of you interfere with this procedure again, so help me, Hannah, I'll run the whole lot of you in for obstruction of justice! Horne! Cuff her and stuff her!"


"I can't, Sheriff," her deputy croaked behind her.


"You can, and you WILL," she growled.


"No. I physically CAN'T."


Frustrated, she spun around... and saw what all the others had silently stared at during her big speech.


She had grown even taller, and bulked out even more massively: 9 feet, 9 inches standing straight up, and about almost five feet wide. And even with Tetsuko stooped over with her hands spread out on the car, Deputy Darren had to reach up above his head to reach behind her back to lock her hands together... if he could've in the first place.


"The cuffs are NOT going to fit around her wrists," he said.


The sheriff stared for five seconds. "Well, slap on her some of that LAPD binding cord I've got!"


"With all respect, Sheriff, what'd be the point? She's--"


"The point is I ordered you to, Horne!"


And for the first time ever, Tetsuko, Les, and the doctors saw Deputy Horne get angry. "Assuming she doesn't rip them apart anyway, she's NOT gonna fit in the back of my car! Measure her for yourself!"


The sheriff looked her over, and saw he was right. In a huff, Sheriff Geraldson snatched her personal radio out of her belt.


"Dispatch, Geraldson here. 10-95 at old Perwoltz factory. Send pickup truck or van, over."


"10-4," was the reply.


Just then, Dr. Green cocked his head. That caught Les' attention. "What is it, Doctor?" the assistant asked.


"Did you hear that?"


"Hear what?" Everbody stopped and listened.


"Something like a bunch of chainsaws," Dr. Green said. "Like they're deforesting the jungle in Brazil."


Darren then wrinkled his nose. "Not that last one," he said. And his mouth's corner's dropped a little. "Chainsaws don't have V-Twin engines."


Sheriff Geraldson's brow stopped narrowing and she nodded. "A Harley Evolution," she added. "1340 CCs."


And more engine noise came from the other direction of the road. And from an old service road for the trucks.


At last Sonya spotted them. "Over there!" And she pointed.


Around the bend of street from the north came a motorcycle. Then another. And a third. And up the southern stretch rode in more bikes, accompanied by a couple of pickup trucks and a van. And up the service road came even more two-wheelers. Some bikes were high-power hogs, others were budget rice-burners, but none of their riders were country-club weekend dreamers. No, they were all bedecked in denim, black leather, head bandanas, tatoos, and metal studs and spikes.


And each biker was also carrying something one'd rather not be hit with. Some had bike chains. Some had baseball bats. One or two had machetes. A couple others had crowbars. A number had glass bottles, and Sheriff Geraldson also saw some spare gasoline cans strapped on with those guys. She didn't think they were for refilling the fuel tanks.


One also had a hand-pump pesticide sprayer. She didn't know what that was for. And at least one in each pack had a shotgun.


Over two dozen bikers strong, they all straddled the roads, closed in on the gateways, and totally blocked off all routes exiting the old factory grounds.


"Who are these louts?" Dr. Green exclaimed.


"And what do they want?" Dr. Sonya wondered aloud.


"I think I know," peeped Tetsuko.


"Me too," Les dreaded.


Then at the foreground of the central blockade, a rusty red pickup truck swung around, and three guys hopped out of the bed.


"Aw, man," groaned Les. "I hate it when I'm right."


It was Fatso, Lanky, and Clyde.


As she scanned the still but rowdy horde, Tetsuko remembered her karate training: breathe, stay calm, note her environs, and see with all her senses (especially then, since that sea of muscle and breast mass called her body blocked out everything within a yard of her). She wasn't sure if she could still pull off most of the moves as ridiculously bulky and massive as she was just then. Even with her bigger, longer legs covering more ground, she doubted she could kick them as high or move as fast. But since all these thugs were like Oompa-Loompas to her now, she figured she could manage with only foot sweeps, front and low kicks, and the occasional crouching punch. Heck, if they got close enough, she figured she could take out three at once just by falling forward.


She hardened her jaw. She wouldn't have been scared any, or even all of these schmendricks even 3 feet and 3 inches ago. But she worried for her friends, and the officers... okay, and Dr. Green, too. She was pretty much invulnerable, but they weren't. She noted where they all were, hoping she wouldn't step on them by mistake.


Prudently crouched behind his old patrol car, Deputy Darren Horne quietly, urgently radioed the dispatcher for backup. Sheriff Geraldson stood close by the trunk of her interceptor, one hand close by her hip pocket, the other close to one of her Colt .45 self-loads. Dr. Sonya Gannon was discretely, wisely backing up to the factory building. Dr. Green was behind her at five o'clock, silently assessing the situation.


But someone was missing: "Les?"


"Here," he said down by her right side. And his tiny-seeming hand clasped her mammoth one. She instinctively wrapped her fingers and wrist around his head and cradled it reassuringly against her hip. He held on, and Tetsuko felt his grip was more bolstering and solid than seeking comfort and protection.


"Don't worry," he added, "I got your back."


She couldn't help but snicker, but admired his tone.


Down below, Les cheek felt the bigger, wider, formerly blue patch to Tetsuko's boxer briefs, which were now more like a '50s bikini bottom. It's texture was veined like a leaf... and the color was officially plant green. He wondered where he'd seen that pattern and color before.


Finally Deputy Darren stood up and put a hand alonside his mouth. "Hey, y'all!" he yelled as he pointed west-northwest. "Sturgis is 1600 miles THAT way!"


The whole gang stood silently and didn't even snort or scoff. No noise except the "potato-potato-potato-potato" of the cycle engines.


Sheriff Geraldson reached into her interceptor, swiched her radio to the internal PA system, and grabbed the mic. "Be advised," she announced, "you are obstructing traffic and are blocking a fire exit right now. You will have two minutes to move your vehicles."


Nobody moved an inch.


A beat. Deputy Darren focused on the three lunks at front and center. Shorty was looking mighty nervously at the huger, heavier Tetsuko. His mouth widened and narrowed like an out-of-water fish's: "Ah-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bi-bi-bi-big-bigger!" he stammered.


Lanky stared, agape and aghast. "Gross," he shuddered. "NOBODY has any business being THAT big."


Unflapped, Fatso spat onto the asphalt. "Easier target," he muttered.


"Boys," Darren called out, "the little lady and her buddy and I had a little talk about yesterday." He glanced at said buddy.


Getting the hint, Les snapped up like someone who just remembered his lines. "Uh, yeah," he said. And he put an edge to his voice. "Look, you got a wrecked truck, I got a banged up moped, and unpressed charges against you three for assault, vehicle theft, and reckless endangerment of myself and a bunch of others on Highway 106 yesterday. What say we just drop it all."


They still didn't go anywhere. If looks could have killed, Fatso's glare would've ended Les's troubles once and for all. "What say I drop YOU, Planetqueer," he grumbled.


"That threat's petty assault right there," the Sheriff barked.


"Wait, wait, wait," Sonya said, who had eased back forward. She pulled out her checkbook. "How much was the truck? I think I can pay--"


"Fraggin' straight," Clyde snarled, "only money ain't good enough! We're takin' it outta your carcasses!"


"Oh, ease up, Clyde, I dunno," Lanky said with a nasty grin. "I think Dr. Dolly Parton here might have something on her that's worth a truck." He giggled seedily, as the others guffawed loudly. "Or rhymes with 'truck,' anyway!" And he strode her way.


THOOM! Tetsuko slammed a foot down, and sent a mild shockwave which made friend and foe step back, if not hop up.


"THAT'S CLOSE ENOUGH, CREEPS!" she roared. And she tensed, making all her blood vessels pop up to turn her skin into a highway map. "Leave the white-coats and badges alone!" Her voice got a shade quieter but no less dangerous. "You gotta beef, you see ME!"


That made eight back-row bikers' bowels release. They quickly straddled their rides, pulled a 180, and fled the neighborhood. But before Tetsuko could chuckle at that...


Shak-shak KABLAM! What felt like a bunch of marbles smacked her clear in the forehead, eyes, and cheekbones. Metal marbles. KABLAM! Another sack's worth of marbles hit her barrel biceps, and her bean-bag-chair right breast. And she heard the cycle engines rev up.


Buckshot! she thought. Those corn-holers actually SHOT me!


"Get back!" Dr. Green shouted. "Inside!"


"Dispatch!" Deputy Darren yelled into his radio. "Mayday, mayday, 10-35! Shots fired! Bikers closing in on Perwoltz factory, need backup, STAT!" And he quick-drew his service revolver.


And as the doctors and Les beat feet into the factory, and the law's pistols popped their staccatto shots, Tetsuko blinked lead pellets out of her eye. A smaller putt-putt bike zipped past and thwack! She felt a wood plank with a nail swat and shatter against her thigh. Kpunk! Another hit-and-runner mangled his metal basebat against her kneecap. Then she saw three more bikes bear down on her.


At the last moment, she swung her massive leg around in a foot sweep and slammed it squarely against one bike's side, and sent it and the rider careening into his other two oncoming buddies. With shocked yelps, they and their bikes toppled like the ones outside the Satan's Helpers bar in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.




Crouching behind her interceptor for cover, Sheriff Geraldson thrust one emptied .45 back in her holster. "Horne!" she shouted. "Any backup coming?!"


Deputy Darren ducked a flung brick. "All deputies on patrol screaming over, town prowler each from Dawson and Dogwood, and two State Troopers off the interstate! Paddy wagon from Reynolds City, too! But it'll be a few minutes before they all get here!"


"Great," the sheriff muttered, as a thug's pistol ricocheted off the back bumper. She holstered the other pistol and pulled out her car's key chain. "Just great. Fetching Fanny Marcy. Cover for me." And tapping a button, she popped open the interceptor's trunk, ready to get the FN self-load Mark I shotgun in it.


She never got it. Just after the trunk's hatch swung all the way open, a flaming bottle spun end over end in an arc and smacked neatly and squarely against the Camaro's gas tank with a tinkling crack. KAWHOOM! "Aaaaaigh!" The back end of the interceptor reared up and crashed down again with a big orange and black fireball. Tetsuko's heart plummeted clear down to her colon as the blast catapulted the screaming sheriff into a clear area.


"SHERIFF!" shrieked the deputy as his superior crashed onto the concrete. And as if the pyromaniac wasn't postitive he'd hurt her enough, he wrenched the throttle, zoomed in on her and ran over her left leg and arm in passing. "Sweet Mother Mary! Dispatch, officer down! Ambulance down here, STAT!" And just as Darren leveled his pistol to go for a head shot on that punk...


Ch-shunk-screech! Mr. Molotov lurched forward with a sudden tire-burning stop and nearly flew over his handlebars. Righting himself, he looked up... and stared right up into Tetsuko's severe face. She was hunched over, holding the motorcycle by the front wheel fork.


"Sooooo," she said, "like to launch stuff in the air, huh?"


And she then picked up the bike by the front end, rider and all, and giant-swung it around and around, low, then up to her waist, and then up to her blimped chest. The firebomber got flung off, and he smashed against the side of an abandoned truck trailer. At the last swing, Tetsuko let go, and sent the two-wheeler flying to smash into the old bus she'd tossed up earlier.


Crack-tinkle-fwoof! She felt a glass bottle shatter against her back and hair, which then got very, VERY hot. And she smelled burning gasoline!


"Agh!" she yelped. Another firebug? Then she felt steel things smack against her thighs and hips. Without even looking down (her bulk blocked the view anyway) she stooped down, stuck her arms out, swung them closed like a steel trap, and stood up with with her catch: Lanky and two other thugs, each with a ruined crowbar, machete, or axe. They stared at her face with highly mixed feelings, mostly ill.


"Hey, boys," she said. "Know what to do if your body catches fire? Stop, drop, and roll!"


And bear hugging the lot as painfully tightly as she could without killing or crippling them, she flopped down on them, let her bulk flatten them, and rolled quickly, bearing down her weight on them as they hit the concrete. Soon she'd smothered the flames, and the three goons. They'd survived, though if they enjoyed her chest smooshing them, they sure didn't look it. Not even Lanky. Satisfied, she scrambled back up, and felt her back. The skin felt a bit tender from the flames, but nothing serious. It was probably the bright warm sun on it anyway.


Brap-brap-braaaaaap! She heard bike engines and -- fwoosh! Something else went up in flames off to her right. To her dread she saw it was Dr. Green's SUV. And behind it, to her alarm, she saw more bikers and a pickup truck head on into the factory through a bay door.


And to her rage, she saw Fatso and Shorty, and the pesticide sprayer hop out of the truck's bed once it was in.


She began to dash over... and she stopped and staggered.


And to her dismay, she felt her insides slosh, surge, squirt and squirm again.



Sonya dashed down the warehouse aisle as two cackling bikers chased her, twirling chains around. She spotted Dr. Green's arm wave her toward a corridor of stacked boxes. She knew it was a dead end, but finally chose to trust the doctor. The motorcycles' noise grew louder and closer and she fled down the cardboard canyon... and barely kept her feet as she stumbled across an electric cord. The goons snickered as they cruised toward their target...


And they jerked back off the bikes as the hidden doctor and Les pulled back on the cord and snapped it up to neck level, clotheslining them and making their bikes flop on their sides with a loud crash. And Dr. Green and his intern quickly swung some shoes into the downed bikers' faces. The thugs lay perfectly still.


Les shuddered as he stared down. "Do you think we've killed them?" he squeaked.


Dr. Green snorted. "They can make an appointment with Dr. Gannon later."


"Not taking any new patients," she quipped. And all three of them dashed toward the nursery.


Then they heard the fssh fssh fssh fssh fssh of something being sprayed. With Dr. Green putting a finger to his lips, they tiptoed toward it. It was the guy with the pesticide sprayer, coating the plants.


Dr. Green sniffed. Then his face made a horrified grimace. "That's not bug killer," he whispered. "That's petrol!"


Just then, he felt a steel chain wrap around his throat and yank him back painfully. Les did too. Turned out they didn't knock out the riders after all.


"Gotcha!" growled Fatso, as he wrapped his flabby arms around Sonya from behind.


"Let go, ya big ape!" Sonya shouted.


"Nuh uh." And he turned her around to approaching footsteps.


It was Clyde. He stepped right up to Les, whose captor wrenched the poor intern's face down to the short guy's level.


"Not so tough without your gorilla girlfriend, are ya, boy?" Clyde sneered. Les just glared at him silently. "Whatsamatter, boy? Too scared to talk?" Clyde goaded.


Les just curled his lips in a smirk. Paf! Clyde slugged Les in the stomach, making him grunt.


"Makes noise," Fatso said. "It's a start."


"Whyncha call for your she-male, boy?" Clyde goaded. Bap! went his fist across Les' jaw. "Or maybe Captain Planet?" Whap! went his backhand. "C'mon, what is it they say? 'Let our powers combine'?"


Les snickered. "You WOULD be stupid enough to find that watchable."


"Hey, I'm not the one gettin' the crap kicked outta me." Thupp! Clyde sent a knee up Les' crotch, making him grunt and groan through clenched teeth. "Aw, shut up. I didn't hit anything you ever needed."


"STOP IT!" Dr. Green shouted. "You little emasculated ba-glrk!" His curse cut off by getting his neck clamped down over his choking chain.


"Look," Sonya offered again. "How much to make this all go away?"


"Yeah, right," Fatso groused. "We cash your check, and the cops grab us at the bank. We ain't THAT dumb, Jumbo Jugs."


"Oh, I dunno," Clyde leered at Sonya. He pulled out a switchblade and clicked it open. "I think maybe Hank had the right idea earlier." And he slid over to her, and snipped off a button on her blouse.


"Get away from her, you little cockroach," Dr. Green grunted through his squashed windpipe, "Or I swear I'll--"


"Or you'll breathe through your jugular vein, Cadbury."


"That's DOCTOR Cadbury to you, ya greasy midget." Les sniped.


Clyde wheeled toward him. "Wrong answer." And he marched toward him with the knife aimed at him.


"NO!" Sonya shrieked.


Clyde didn't look back. "Jugs, you strip. Or they drip." He put the blade against Les' neck. "And I don't mean Kool-Aid."


FOOMKRASH! And just like the 1970s Kool-Aid Man, Tetsuko blasted through the warehouse wall. She was ten feet and eight inches tall, and about six feet wide. And from what everyone could guess, four feet thick.


She stared down at all the little people. "Oh yeah," she rumbled.


Clyde stared. "Oh no," he squeaked.


Atop that massive body, her head seemed tiny. The eyes shone fiercely at the two lead goons. She spoke lowly and deliberately. "Leave. My. Friends. Alone." And she lumbered forward slowly.


"Back away, Queen Kong," Fatso warned, fear tainting his voice. "Or we slice and dice'em. And our buddies--"


"--saw me grow," Tetsuko interupted, still marching closer. "And the ones still standing ran away."


Just then someone by the plants whistled. Everybody turned to see who it was.


It was the sprayer guy. And he had a box of matches. And he struck and lit one. "Get the marshmallows," he said simply.


He flicked it at a shrub and darted off. FWOOMP! The whole greenhouse quickly ignited into a blazing inferno.


"NO!" screamed Dr. Green. "You little whoreson!"


Tetsuko still trudged forward, not fearing the flames. Dr. Green's captor panicked, simply let go, and darted out the exit for his life. Les' more sadistic holder kicked his feet out from under, slammed him to the floor, and sprinted off himself.


Tetsuko didn't pay them any attention as they gave her a wide berth and fled.


"Les, Dr. Green, Sonya," she said. "Leave."


Fatso finally released Tetsuko's friend and started to run. Clyde made a break for it, too. But the former was too overweight and slow, and the latter didn't thaw out of his fear in time. Tetsuko's massive, long arm caught Fatso easily, and her other free hand grabbed Clyde by the neck. She hoisted each of them up and forward, and bore down on the incinerating greenery.


"What?! Let us go!" shouted Fatso! "You can't be serious! You can go burn yourself if you wanna!"


But they were going the same place as their love lives: nowhere. Tetsuko marched on to the blazing greenhouse. And just as she reached it, a bell rang, and then: Goosh! The sprinkler system drenched the whole works, and drowned out the flames.


And Fatso, Clyde, and Tetsuko got soaked.


Down by her feet, she felt her toe brush against something... or rather, someone. "Tetsuko?"


And she stooped down. She couldnt see him, but hear him. "Les?!" And she put Clyde in her other arm's hand and locked him down, while she felt for her friend with her free one. And his tiny little fingers felt her leg as he staggered to standing. But now she could tell he was only a few inches taller than her inseam. Her arm wrapped around him and she lifted him up, and held him under her arm to her side like an infant. She got a good look at him and his injuries. "Les!" she cried. "Your face!"


She then turned to Clyde and Fatso, and their expressions told her everything. "You...!"


And the water kept cascading all over them. They heard something. Down below them. A gurgling right below their feet, and deep within the monstrous maiden's body.


"You guys are beyond belief," Tetsuko growled. And she began not just to grow again, but to bloat. "You guys just push others around, bash them and their stuff and why?!" She expanded, distended, ballooned. Her belly rounded and pushed out like a professional weightlifter's under her zepplin breasts. She began to resemble a ball more than a babe. "Just because they're different? Just because he's not a gas burning slob like you?!" Wider and wider. Stouter and stouter. More muscular and more muscular. And taller and taller, until she became an official giantess at 11 feet and 8 inches. "Just because you're bigger and stronger than him?! And you feel like it?!"


She grabbed Fatso by the neck and drew them both close to her face, until they were almost nose to nose.


"Well," she hissed, "Maybe I feel like squeezing your necks until what little brains you have pop out of your skulls like zits."


Her hands clamped down on their necks. Their faces turned pink. Then red. Les, seeing what she was doing, gasped in horror. "Tetsuko!" he squealed. "Tetsuko, that's enough!" She kept it up. Clyde and Fatso wriggled uselessly, trying to break out of there. And breathe. They couldn't do either. "Tetsuko, don't do this!" Les squeaked shrilly. Nothing doing. Their faces darkened even more.


Then finally he twisted under her massive arm towards her and the smothering mountainous billow of her breast, wriggled closer up into her armpit, shoved his face toward hers and screamed at the top of his lungs: "TETSUKO, STOP! You're not a murderer!"


She turned toward him. "Pipe down, you twerp!" she snapped. "You don't know how much grief... I've been... through... today?"


She was shocked. Astounded. Here he was, his face all bruised, bashed, and swollen, and he was shrieking at her like SHE was the thug.


"I'm sorry!" went the voice in her left fist. "I said, I'm SORRY! I mean it! I'm fraggin' mother-humpin' sorry! Just let me go! I swear I'll never bother him, or anyone else here again!"


"Yeah," croaked the other voice weakly. "What he said."


She looked back at the two faces atop her fists, all reddened so much by her crushing they were almost Violet Beauregarde purple.


They were goons. Thugs. They tried to torch the whole lab, kill Les, and do heaven knew what to Dr. Green and her friend Sonya. And there was broken Sheriff outside, whom she didn't know whether or not was still alive. These subhumans probably didn't deserve to make in one piece to their execution, let alone their day in court.


But deep within that gargantuan, elephant-sized body, her little heart knew this was all wrong.


And very reluctantly, her hands slackened, loosened, and let the two goons fall to the floor. Fatso and Clyde then scampered out the hole in the wall she'd made, toward the multiple loudening sirens. "We surrender!" Fatso screamed. "We give up! Lock us up! Put us in the car! Just keep us away from that... that thing!"


She looked right into the eyes at Les in her arms. Her lip quivered. And she started to cry.


"It's all right," Les said. And he draped his arms around her neck and patted it. "It's all right," he repeated softly.


She wrapped her colossal arms around him, pulled him close and deep into her chest, as if she were to absorb his body into hers, and pressed his face and chest to her own tear-moistened cheek and hair. "Why?" she sobbed. "Why must you be so stinking sweet all the time?! And let people jerk you around?!"


"It's all right--"


"No, it's not! You put up with that Nazi boss of yours! You're defending the guys that tried to MURDER you for Kami's sake!" She held his head up so her watery eyes locked onto his. Their noses almost touched. "Do you know how much it hurts to see you be such a doormat? To see you fight for everyone else but yourself?" she croaked.


"Tetsuko..." Les trailed off. He didn't know what to say.


Then she felt a quick sting in her chest. Then it got worse. Then it got to be a sharp steady pain all through her chest, and streaking up and down her left arm. It twitched. Then her whole body shuddered.


Les stared at her with alarm and concern. "Tetsuko?"


She stared at him. "It... hurts...."


And toppling to her left, she collapsed and they crashed onto the concrete floor.

Part X


Les felt guilty about his twinge of pleasure from landing atop a breast that was bigger than he was. Or having the other land on him. Especially since the heart under it all was apparently having an attack.

"Doc!" he yelled hoarsely over the sirens. "Sonya!"

"Way ahead of you, Mr. Safer!" Dr. Green trumpeted as he dashed over. "Dr. Gannon! Signs of cardiac arrest!"

"Yeah, I see 'em," Sonya said quickly. "Here we go again! I need oxygen, analgesic!"

"Getting oxygen, and monitor, Dr. Gannon! Safer, get the medikit! Nurse's office!"

"Yes sir!" Les dashed off. Dr. Green did, too.

"Do we have an AED here?" Sonya called.

"No!" Dr. Green shouted down the hall. "We'll have to get one from an ambulance!"

Sonya turned to the hole in the wall. "MEDIC!" she screamed. "NEED A DEFIBRILLATOR, STAT!" Sonya checked her Tetsuko's pulse and breathing: erratic and very shallow. "Can you hear me, T-chan?"

"Ungh." Tetsuko nodded.

"Can you roll on your back?"

More like falling back, Tetsuko flopped over with a thud. Dr. Sonya Gannon literally climbed on top of her humongous friend's light-switch-level chest and started CPR. With her friend's chest so ridiculously gargantuan now, though, Sonya wasn't perfectly sure if she'd found the heart, let alone was reaching it. She kept at it. Dread filled her soul, as she tried not to think of the irreversible brain damage that might happne due to the loss of pumped blood. Or that every minute without defibrillation meant the odds of survival dropped by 10%. She knew her own serum saved the day the first time, but that was no promise here. Especially with Dr. Green's formula in the mix.

Then it hit her: What if the paramedics treated the sheriff first, and not her friend?!

"Medic here!" shouted an orange jumpsuited black man who sprinted in with a portable AED. "Where's the patient?" Then his eyes popped out. "Great googily moogily!"

"Yeah, I know!" Sonya sniped as she pulled back Tetsuko's top. "Code blue!"

"Right!" He clambered up, powered up, and slapped on the pads as Sonya hopped off. "CLEAR!"

BZZOT! The jolt didn't move Tetsuko at all. They tried again. "Clear!" BZZOT! She barely twitched that time.

Just then Dr. Green rushed up with a bottle and mask, using a plant-based oxygen compound. He put it to Tetsuko's nose and mouth. Les then arrived with the medikit, and administered the nitroglycerin and aspirin. In the background, they all heard the whoosh of fire extinguishers as the firefighters hosed down the burning wreckage of the SUV. Deputies, police and patrolmen rounded up the ne'er-do-wells and tended their injuries as they cuffed them and read them their rights. And the whole day blurred in a big collage of sirens, desparation, and running men and women in uniforms.


As the orange sun set, Deputy Darren Horne ducked under the crime scene tape blocking the hole in the wall. Moseying into the factory, he went over to the office area and found the doctors, Les, and the grand blonde bulk atop the three desks flush against each other. "Y'all okay?"

"Just peachy," Dr. Green grumped.

Darren nodded. Then he got a look at Les' black and blue face. "Ewww," he cringed. "Those scumbags whallopped you pretty good."

"Yeah," the lab assistant said absently as he sat on a stool, staring at Tetsuko's inert body.

The deputy patted a reassuring hand on Les' shoulder. "Don't worry, buddy, we'll make sure these jack-holes don't go anywhere. They're locked up neat and tidy in true Helga Geraldson hospitality."

Les didn't look up. "So how is the Sheriff?"

"Pretty serious. She'll live, but they pretty much broke every bone in her body except her neck and spine. We're hoping she'll walk again, but don't know if or when. How is Tessie Sue?"

"That's Tetsuko," Sonya put in.

"Sorry. How is she?"

She shook her head. "She's breathing. Heart's still beating. And that's it. No response. Not to my voice, not to flashlights, nothing."

"Well, I just called the wife back home. She's got Tetsuko on top of our church's prayer team's list, right up there with the sheriff."

Dr. Gannon nodded. "Thanks. And thanks for arranging the hospital equipment here, and steering the press clear of here."

"Jus' doin' my job, ma'am," he said. He didn't mention that Tetsuko wouldn't have fit in the ambulance anyway. He held up some white paper bags and a drink cup tray. "Speedy Lunch brought some food here. Got leftovers. Y'all want anything?"

Dr. Green shook his head. "I'm a vegan."

"Got fries, Cokes, coffee, and fried apple pies. 100% vegetable oil."

"McDonald's uses beef tallow in the frozen fries themselves. What about these?"

"Sorry, dunno."

Dr. Green sighed through his teeth. Then he stared at the sacks. "Oh, dash it all. I haven't eaten since breakfast." And he grabbed one.

Sonya took a double cheeseburger meal. Les silently kept watch "bedside," and politely waved the food off.


In the dark room, Tetsuko's chest simply rose and fell as she breathed, the IV dripped, and the heart monitor beeped. Les checked his watch. 10:45 PM. Finally, he got up and let his stiff, sore bottom unkink and pop back into shape. He reached over and clasped two of Tetsuko's fingers with his whole hand.

"Tetsuko," he sobbed quietly, "please don't die."

Then he felt her fingers curl around, and tug his hand a little closer to her hip. Startled, he looked to her face.

Nothing. She lay still. And her fingers relaxed. He still had to wriggle his hand to get it free, though, and it finally flew out and rapped her in the hip. But he felt something unusual. Something fibrous. Someting like... a leaf?

He gently, tenatively lifted her bedsheet up. The patch that was holding her briefs/bikini-bottom together was fully green, fully grown, and sprouting leaves. And he recognized them right away.

"Kudzu," he whispered. "It's kudzu! Just like in Dr. Green's sample!"

He then eased over to her stretched top. And he checked there. More leaves. More greenery. It was like a fashion struggle between Beau Brummel and the Garden of Eden.

But he also noticed something else... it was very trace, and easy to miss... but Les could see that Tetsuko was a shade smaller. She was still a leviathan, of course. Her bosoms were each still the size of himself curled into a fetal ball, but not quite fully the massive cushions that caught him this morning.

As soundlessly as his shoes would let him, he hurried over to his bunk. And he found his potted greenwear plant. He fingered the stem and the bare space where he'd plucked off the leaves to patch Tetsuko's "big clothes." Without a word to himself or anyone else he carried it over, and set it down by his seat by Tetsuko.

"Les?" Sonya gently tapped his shoulder. "Les."

"Eep!" He spun around quickly to face her.

"Oh! Sorry, didn't mean to spook you. Look, Les," she said, putting her other hand on his other shoulder. "it's almost eleven, and you haven't eaten, or even budged. You've done everything you can, and your insomnia won't help her. She wouldn't want you to do this to yourself."

He fidgeted. What if she wouldn't let him carry out his idea? "Well, you've been up all day and night, and it's been very tiring and stressful."

"Yes, for all of us. You too. Look, go to bed, and let me keep watch now, all right?"

Les thought fast. "Well... a small favor? Could you go to the fridge and get me a glass and some soy milk? It's just by the organic strawberry jam."

Sonya nodded warmly. "Gladly. I could use a drink myself. That OK?"


And she left for the kitchen. And Les looked at his plant. And the big mound of Tetsuko. And he made a hard, fast, unscientific decision.



Tetsuko rolled her head around. She didn't remember much after she fell down with Les in her arms. Poor guy. She just hoped she hadn't saved his life only to crush him to death under her glut. Then she wondered, and feared... how monstrously huge was she now? Fifteen feet tall and wide? Twenty? Thirty?

She rolled her head around again. She heard the beeps of a heart monitor. And she felt something rustle. Something like... leaves.

She winced. Was she too big to fit in the factory anymore?! Or worse yet, was she dead and buried? But she calmed down. She was lying on some sort of flat surface, not grass or dirt. Almost like... no, it was wood. Solid wood, like a table.

She tried to get up. More rustling. All over. It was like she had turned into one enormous bush.

"Hey!" she called out. "Les? Sonya? Dr. Green?"

"Tet-chan?" Sonya's voice groggily said. "Sorry, I was supposed to keep... watch... YOU'RE ALIVE!"

And then she felt two arms wrap around her, a big bodice squeeze against hers, and her friend pull tight against her, smushing the leaves all over her body down.

Hold on a second! Sonya could actually get her arms around to her back?! That meant...!

"Wait a minute. You're all green and leafy!"

Yike! She still wasn't out of the woods yet! Literally!

Then she heard running footsteps, followed by fast walking ones. Unshaven, messy-haired, pajama wearing, but nowhere near as groggy, Les bolted over to her. She peered at him through the leaves blocking her view. "Les?"

If faces were music, Les' would've been Beethoven's Ode to Joy. "IT WORKED!" he squealed. "Tetsuko, you're up and around! You're okay!"

"Ano, hai, I feel all right," Tetsuko said. "And I THINK I'm normal sized... well back to what I was. But now, I'm a huge shrub!"

At last, Dr. Green came in, and his hair and face hadn't met his comb and razor either. His eyes were half open as he focused on the spectacle. "What's all the rumpus?" he murmured. Then he snapped to. "What the deuce???!"

"Uh, Les," Sonya asked, "what did you mean by 'it worked'?"

"Well..." Les started.

"Stop stalling!" Dr. Green menaced. "What the devil did you do to her!"

"I know!" Tetsuko said. "The greenwear plant!"

"The what?!"

"Les' greenwear plant! It latches onto human skin like lichen, right? Well, I figure it must've absorbed the plant part to your formula, Dr. Green. And the kudzu chloroplasts bonded with the cells to the leaves that were patching together my bikini. Les' leaves must've sucked them all up, and I think either your formula or Sonya's or both must've made the kudzu on my skin grow overnight, and extracted all my excess body mass with it!"

"Well, three cheers and a tiger for us," Dr. Green huffed. "If you don't mind the 24-7 Green Beret field dress look!"

"Hold on a second," Les said. He reached for Tetsuko's arm. "May I?"

And with her yes, he reached for a kudzu tuft, and pulled by the roots. Like old sunburnt skin, the stuff slowly, steadily, but painlessly peeled off. Her own epidermis underneath was as soft, pink, and healthy as the day she was born. And after steady peeling (and an embarrased moment to catch and re-tie the ends of the bikini that weren't patched together anymore), Les stripped off all the rest of the kudzu skin, and put it aside.

Tetsuko looked just a hair plumper and bustier, but she was back to her old 6'5" self.


Right at lunchtime, Sonya motioned Dr. Green to the microscope. "See for yourself?"

He did. And he nodded. "Well, by Jove, it's official. She's a little fatter from my chloroplast's sugars, but other than that, just like the old samples you'd shown me."

"Teriffic," Tetsuko grumbled mildly. "I actually gotta skip dessert a while."

"Nothing your exercise regimen won't fix," Sonya reassured. "And it's all good cholesterol, anyway."

Les settled back. "Great. So the whole thing's a push."

Dr. Green folded his arms. "Sure. If you call losing the SUV and the greenhouse going up in smoke a push." He frowned sadly. "All that research destroyed. And my renter's insurance isn't going to cover any of that."

"Well, seeing that the bikers were going for the whole lab, and us with it," Tetsuko countered, "I think we got out okay."

Dr. Green nodded. Then he snapped his fingers. "And!" he exclaimed. "That greenwear negated the effects of my mito-chloroplast culture! That means anyone taking the formula won't have to stay that way!" He clapped his hands. "Ha! Ecological Armageddon hasn't got us yet!" And he spun to Les, and for the first time since Tetsuko or Sonya had seen him, he looked unsmugly happy. "And I owe it to you, my good man!"

Les then stared at Dr. Green with a pained look.

"What?" Dr. Green pried. "Don't tell me it got burned up in the fire!?"

Les shook his head no. But he held up his plant's pot.

It was dead. All the leaves had been stripped off.

"I needed them all to save Tetsuko," he said sadly.

All the others stared at the pot for a long moment. "Oh, Les," Tetsuko at last groaned softly.

Dr. Green suddenly slapped his hands on his hips. "Well, hang it all, I'm a doctor in botany, for Bacchus' sake!" he snapped. "I can -- no, WILL find a way to get it back! We'll start again, check our notes, retrace our steps, crossbreed, make hybrids, and--"

"Why bother," Les muttered.

All the others stared at him like he'd just grown a second head.

"Are you insane?!" Dr. Green sputtered. "This could get us the Nobel Prize! And what about your grade?!"

Les locked eyes on his boss. "My heroes. Gregor Mendell and George Washington Carver. Do you know their final GPAs, Doctor?"

"No," Dr. Green said automatically. Then he let that fact sink in.

"Look," Les shrugged. "The lab's trashed, I'm not really that happy here in my intership, and I don't honestly think I'm that appreciated anyway."

"The bloody devil you're not!"

"The bloody devil my PLANT isn't... Doctor."

Dr. Green then twitched a bit. And he looked like a dog caught chewing his master's slippers. "Very well," he muttered, "I'm sorry."

Les arched his eyebrow, as if asking "that's it?"

"For treating you like a lackey than a lab assistant," Dr. Green added.

Les stood silently.

Dr. Green grimaced. "For making an overblown deal over the title Doctor."

Les nodded, but didn't appear satisfied.

Dr. Green took a breath. "And for belittling your ideas and developments, and not hearing them out."

"And for hanging a bad grade over my head for eating meats or non-vegan stuff?" Les asked.

Dr. Green nodded.

"And for the stipend."

With a sigh, Dr. Green nodded to that, too.

"And how about letting the lab cover my burger runs for lunch?"

Dr. Green scowled. "Don't push your luck, Mr. Safer!"

Les grinned warmly. "Just picking your beans just then, Doctor." He stuck out his hand. "Apology accepted." And with a chuckle, Dr. Green shook it with both hands.

Before Sonya or Tetsuko could comment, someone else did: "Anybody home?" Deputy Darren.

Dr. Green turned around. "Don't you ever knock?"

"Hole was open. Anyway, I wanted to see y'all were all right, and was hoping to get some statements for the police reports."

Dr. Green nodded. "We can do that."

"Is the sheriff all right?" Sonya asked.

"She's in a full body cast," Darren said, "but she'll live. Ah, and I see you lost some weight there, Tessie Sue."

"Tetsuko," she corrected. "Yeah, I'm much better now."

The deputy grinned. "Looks great on you."

She blushed a little with a soft laugh. "Thanks."

"So, this afternoon at 3 at the courthouse work for y'all?"


"...and that's when I finally let them go," said Tetsuko. "Then they ran off, and Les calmed me down. And that's when I dropped from the chest pains. Guess my body got too big and heavy for my heart."

Deputy Darren marked it all down. "All right, so if you'll just sign here, Tessie, er, Tetsuko." he said, pointing to the dotted line. And Tetsuko put her John Hancock there. "And that'll do it. Just be sure to be back when it's time to testify in court."

Tetsuko furrowed her brow. "Say, what about me smashing the truck?"

"Well, if Clyde wants to make an issue of it, he'll have to press the charges himself."

"What about the sheriff?" Dr. Green asked.

"She told me to let y'all go," said the deputy.

Les blinked. "She did?"

Darren rolled his eyes away in thought. "Well... that's what I figured she said..."


Putting the flowers down on the bedside table, Darren came alongside Sheriff Geraldson's hospital bed and leaned over her body cast so she could see him. "So, how you doin', Sheriff?"

She murmured her reply: "Dmc smms M'll bm mmt mf hmrm mn smx mr mmght wmmks."

"Be outta here in 6 or 8 weeks, hmm?"


"Well, you'll be glad to hear we got those three lunkheads arrainged for court, and it doesn't look like they're gonna be bothering anybody anytime soon."

"Fmnm mnd dmndm. Bmt whmt mbmmt thmt Brmckmnrmdgm gmrl?"

"What about who, Sheriff?"

"Brmckmnrmdgm! Tmss Smm Brmckmnrmdgm! Thmt gmmnt blmndm chmck!"

"Oh, Tessie Sue, that giant blonde chick? Well, I let her go on her own recognizance. Still around at Dr. Green's, and she's all right now, thanks for asking."

"Whmt?! Shm's gmt mmtstmndmng mssmmlt chmrgms! Dmn't lmt hmr gm!"

"What's that? Let her go?"

"Nm! DMN'T lmt hmr gm!"

"'Dope, let her go?' Well, all right, all right. I might not be a supergenius, but heck, even I know she can plead self-defense."

"Thmt's nmt whmt M smmd, Hmrnm, mnd ymm knmw mt!"

"What's that? That's what you said and I know it?"

"Thm'ts NMT whmt M smmd!"

"All right, just making sure. Maybe they'll send us a postcard from Florida."

"Hmrnm, ymm mmsmrmblm mncmpmtmnt--!"

"What's that? Disassemble the interceptor?"

"Mntmrcmptmr?! Hmw thm Smm Hmll dmd ymm gmt thmt?!"

"Well, those bike punks pretty much already disassmebled it, permanently. But you said you want me to get current patrollers from that part of the budget?"


"Why that's mighty generous of you, Sheriff! We deputy's'll really 'preciate it!"

Her whole body, cast and all, lurched forward on that. "Hmrnm, ymm mmbmzzlmng mnsmrrmctmmnmst!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, Sheriff," Darren said, holding up his hands. "I know protecting and serving is your passion, but ya gotta calm down and not be so emotional."

"M swmmr, M'm gmmnm nmml ymmr gmnmds tm thm jmml cmll wmll whmn M gmt mmt mf thms bmdm cmst! Mnd thmt Brmckmrmdgm hmssm, tmm!"

"Now, Sheriff, you know stress slows the healing process." Darren's tone got a lot more serious. "You sure don't want to be still stuck in here during election day. People might think the job pressure's too much after such a bad trauma." He put on his cap. "And if I didn't want to tick off a lot of voters who are glad to see said Breckenridge 'hussy' take down or scare off a whole mess o' punks that's been plaguing the county for the past year, I'd simply let bygones be bygones." He tipped his cap. "Gotta be at the courthouse in twenty minutes. Get well soon, y'hear?"

And he quietly left a silently stewing Sheriff Geraldson's, closing the door behind him.


A few days later, Tetsuko and Les stood by a pallet of stuff in the factory parking lot. "I can't believe you're leaving already, T-chan," Les said glumly.

"Well, hey," she reassured, "you've got my e-mail, right?"

He nodded. "I'd like your mobile and dorm phone numbers, too, please."

She tilted her head sideways. "Promise me something first."

"What's that?"

She leaned in very seriously. "Promise me you'll stay sweet and keep sticking up for yourself and what you believe in. And

don't let ANYTHING stop you for going for what you want."

He looked at her straight in the eye. "Whatever I want?"


He smiled shamelessly. "Like this?" And then his lips sprang like a cobra on hers, and gave her a quick three-second smooch.

She was stunned. And she peered hard at him. "All right, Les. Iie. No. Nuh uh. NOT like that. You don't do that." Then she grabbed him just as fast, tugged him all the way in, and pressed him tightly against her chest and belly. "Like THIS," she cooed huskily.

And then she planted a big, fat, twisting wet one on his. It took him five seconds for him to pull together and kiss back.

"Right!" went Dr. Green behind them. "Break it up! The Microtel Inn is down the street!"

Les held up a "just a minute" finger. And finally, he broke off and got his breath back. "Promise."

Tetsuko nodded with a smile. And she leaned in her lips to his ear, and whispered each digit.

Just then a whooshing sound hovered, buzzed the factory, and circled them all. They looked up. It was a big hovering van, with VTOL jets jutting off the sides. It slowly came to a stop in mid-air, and lowered to the ground majestically, scattering debris all over.

"Boy, do I have a word or two for the driver!" groused Dr. Green. And he marched over to the driver's seat. There was no one in it. Not the passenger side, either. "Who's driving this thing?!"

"Preprogrammed!" said Sonya, just stepping out of the factory. "By a Dr. Bonn out west. He's overseas now. He's agreed to meet us in Orlando to pick it up when they return to the States."

"He's letting you... drive that... all the way back home?"

"As I said, it's automatic. We'll leave the driving to Otto."

In Tetsuko's arms, Les looked at her unsurely. "I'm not so sure about this... this Dr. Bonn... y'know, it doesn't seem like his tires have all five lugnuts, know what I'm sayin'?"

Tetsuko just laughed and bounced him lightly. "Can't be any crazier than what WE'VE just been through."


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