"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."
"DOCTOR. I didn't spend five years of graduate study just to be called 'sir.'"
"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.
"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?"
"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!"
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!"
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."
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, 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."
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.
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?"
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."
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. She needed 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."
"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:
All of it crossed out.
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 to her enormous 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?"
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.
"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".
Continued in Part 2