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|"That was amazing Andrew," Margaret said, coming up and putting her hand on his shoulder. "Very well done. I'm glad to see you weren't shy in the interview."
"Thank you," said Andrew, following her into the house. "But I do have a question about lifting the van."
"What question?" Margaret asked. "You did fine."
"That's what my question is about, " Andrew said. "Why did I do so well lifting the van, both here and in Alexander's cavern? My father told me my maximum lift should be about 3,000 pounds right now. It should reach 7,000 pounds by January. By lfitng the van in November, and then again today, it seems I'm ahead of schedule."
"Maybe your father was mistaken," Margaret suggested. "It's not like anyone like you has come along before, so it would be hard to guess at the actual rate of your strength increase. You must be hungry after lifting the van. What would you like me to get you?"
"How about explaining why you think my father would be mistaken," Andrew replied. "He has devoted his entire life to scientific and athletic research. He is not someone who would have to guess at how fast my strength will increase."
"Just drop it, okay?"asked Margaret, taking a couple of plates out of the cupboard.
"Why are you acting so guilty?" Andrew asked, blocking her path as she tried to put the dishes on the counter. "What did you do? Did you accidentally accelerate my adrenaline production when you healed my injuries in Alexander's cavern?"
"How did you figure that out?" asked Margaret in shock, droppign the dishes on the floor with a crash.
"Aha!' Andrew exclaimed in satisfaction. "So you admit it! You did do something!"
He began walking towards Margaret, who backed away nervously, terrified of his huge size, even though he was calm.
"I guess we need to talk," Margaret said, when her back was against the living room wall. "It's time for you to hear the whole story, from the beginning."
"How far back is the biginning of the story?" Andrew asked, following Margaret over to the couch and sitting down.
"Back to my first healing of you on the Transylvanian Space Station five months ago," Margaret replied. "Carrie knows more."
"What do you mean?" Andrew snapped. "What does she know that I don't?"
"She knows that I used my magic to slow your heart down to normal, making your adrenaline last long enough to defeat Alexander."
"Is that why I was able to take four bullets with minimal effect?" Andrew asked.
"Yes," agreed Margaret. "My magic also made your skin and muscles denser, so that the bullets would not penetrate to your internal organs. But you must have noticed how the adrenaline surge wore off, expecially after your ribs were broken. The first enhancement my magic gave you was only temporary."
"Then what happened?" Andrew asked. "Everything that has happened to me seems to focus on the healing I had in the Station's Medical Room. What exactly happened in there?"
"I don't know if you father told you, " Margaret said. "How much should I fill in?"
"He said that the doctors purified my adrenaline gland," Andrew replied. "After they were done, it produced the purest form of adrenaline. They told me that they picked up some genetic enhancement on their scanners as they were healing me. Was that yours, or theirs?"
"It was mine to begin with," Margaret replied. "But they used the residual effects of my magic to help purify your adrenal gland. So of course, after they were done, their scanners would have picked up the enhancement they performed as well."
"So they didn't lie to me," said Andrew. "They just never revealed the sources of the genetic enhancement."
"Correct," agreed Margaret. "Your father and I had discussed it a few days before. He let me in on his impending army research; I told him of the Space Stations' genetics program, that Marge had told me about. My magic was the link that tied both goals together and allowed the research to proceed."
"This is the first I have heard about all of this," Andrew said.
"I know," Margaret agreed. "The Space Station wanted to test their genetic program, and your father wanted to test his military enhancement program. Since my magic temporarily enhanced your strength anyway, you were the perfect subject for the experiment."
Margeret realized her poor choice of words immediately, as Andrew's face turned red in fury.
"'So I was just a "subject for the experiment', was I?" Andrew growled in fury, standing up suddenly. "You make me sound like a lab rat, not someone you have known for 9 years! My father is even worse, using me as a medical experiment to test his theories! I feel so..violated! How could you do this to me?"
"There were so many people involved," Margaret managed finally. "Marge, your father, me, Doctor Franklin, the physician at the Space Station, and the Base Commander. I'm sorry we didn't tell you, but it turned out that we were right to do what we did."
"How do you figure that?" Andrew snapped. "Just because you're the adults, and I'm just a teenager? Were you just doing it for "my own good'?"
"You have forgotten what happened next," Margaret said quietly. "The life support systems of the Space Station failed, thanks to Alexander's delayed sabotage, while we were still in orbit. You were the only one who remained conscious, thanks to the adrenal enhancement. So you were able to pilot the station down to an altitude where the outer vents could be opened, allowing air to come into the station again. You saved hundreds of lives that day, including mine! If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be standing here today! You're a hero!"
Andrew lowered his head briefly, and when he looked up again, he was crying softly.
"Do you really think I'm a hero?" he aksed quietly, wiping his tears away with the back of his hand.
"Of course!" agreed Margaret. "You saved all our lives that day; you brought the school trophy to O.D. later, and you helped a lot of people today as well."
"I guess I never thought of it that way," Andrew said. "I do wish you had all told me about what you were going to do before you did it. Knowing the benefits, I probably would have agreed to the procedure willingly. But I guess the ends do justfy the means in the case, especially if lives were saved in the process."
"That is exactly the argument your father and the Army made to the government," Margaret agreed. "I believe they put it something like this: 'Can you imagine if we just enhanced a few soldiers; how many lives we could save? How many more sons and daughters we could send home to their families?'"
"Without such humanitarian reasoning, I doubt they could have recieved any funding for their research, " Andrew guessed. "I suppose I should get used to being a hero. It is just all happening so fast. I keep getting bigger and stronger so quickly."
"That's partly my fault," Margaret informed him. "As you correctly guessed, I accelerated the enhancement, by accident, when I healed all your bullet wounds in Alexander's cavern last month. You should reach you full strength by New Year's Day."
"What a great way to start off 2006!" Andrew said, grinning. "With a 7000 pound bench press!"
"Yes it will be quite amazing," agreed Margaret. "I can't think of anything off hand that weighs 7000 pounds, but I guess we'll find out soon enough. Just remember what I told you, and think of what I am about to tell you, as well. The astronauts currently lose lots of muscle mass when they are weightless. But, with you showing that the treatment works, the Military and the Space Program can begin to introduce the genetic enhancement to their soldiers and astronauts. After, that, theastronauts won't have to worry about weakening bones while they are weightless, since they will be as muscular as you. The soldiers won't have to worry about bullet wound skilling them, allowing many more of them to come home to their families on leave."
"My father did touch on that," Andrew agreed. "He did say that his sports company will parallel the reaserch for athletes too."
"Yes, it would save a lot of football players form the career ending injuries they experience on the field," Maragetr stated. "Imagine the financial stability that a longer career in the sport could provide, not only for their families, but the charities they support. This genetic research couldshave all kinds of long term benefits for many people. It is all thanks to you, our first successful test case."
"Did you just say 'test case', referring to me as a medical experiment once again?" Andrew asked. "You will have to watch your chioce of words from now on."
"I didn't mean it that way," Margaret said hastily, remembering how angry Andrew had become earlier. "I'm sorry, I couldn't think of any other way to say it. I just meant to say that now we can help lots of other people reach their full potential, just as we helped you reach yours."
"That's much better," Andrew said, standing up. "Put it like that, and you'll have volunteers lining up around the block. Just remember to ask first this time, especially if they are still minors."
"I will," said Margaert, relieved that Andrew was calmer. She let out a slow breath, hoping Andrew would not notice how nervous she was.
"I just wish people would not get so nervous around me," Andrew sighed, watching Margaret shift in her chair. "I don't want people to be afraid of me. It's just so hard to control my temper sometimes. Especially when I feel betrayed. "
"I'm sorry again," Margaret said. "It will take some time for everyone to adjust to the chagnes you are going through. Now, if you're ready, I have something to show you. Please follow me to the garage."
"Sure I'm ready, " Andrew replied. He came up to Margaret, and gave her a gentle hug. "Thank you for explaining everything to me, and for such a wonderful gift that will help so many other people. I'm sorry I got so upset, before I knew all the facts."
"No problem," said Margaret, leading Andrew outside. "I believe I have foudd the perfect way for you to let out your aggression, and enjoy your new stength at the same time."
"I hope you're right," said Andrew, following her outside. "I really do."
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