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The Secret Return of Alex Mack

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This story is No. 3 in the series "A Brane of Extraordinary Women". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Alex is back from her 5-day trip to Hermione Granger’s world. But she's going to need everything she learned if she wants to survive, starting with finding her world's Willow Rosenberg. (Cross with BtVS, SG-1, HP, DCU...)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > General
Harry Potter > General
Stargate > General > Characters: Jack O'Neill
Television > Secret World of Alex Mack, The
DianeCastleFR132351,177,0232896490754,67712 Dec 1215 Nov 14Yes

Orphan Star

A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters.
A/N2: One section in this chapter will have a glossary at the end. You’ll know it when you hit it.

Willow once again read the email on her screen.

This so wasn’t fair. What had she ever done to deserve this? She reluctantly grabbed her speed-dialer and hit 1.

“O’Neill here.” She gave him a split second to look at his Caller ID and see that it said ‘Acid Burn’. His tone of voice changed completely. “Oh hi! What’s up?”

She whimpered, “Jack? Jack, I’m a monster!”

But he gently told her, “Calm down, honey.”

She insisted, “Jack, you’re looking for people adopted as babies born mid-summer who are too smart or too athletic or too pretty or too motivated or too aggressive or too strong or too charismatic, and all of ‘em between 25 and 31, and all of ‘em born right around my birthday, and most of ‘em probably went to really good homes with wealthy parents. Jack… I’m adopted.”

“Well duh on that, Will.” She could hear the smirk in his voice from the other side of the country. She felt like screaming, and he was being of the smirky. “Your parents are Ashkenazi Jews with curly brown hair and brown eyes and big noses, and their parents were exactly the same, and they look like all their relatives. You know, you have shown me the photos in your photo album. You, on the other hand, look like your last name ought to be Flaherty or Hannigan or O’Clancy.”

She pointed out, “My birthday’s right in the middle of summer.”

“I did notice that, right about the time I was taking you to San Francisco for your birthday.” Why was he being all snarky when he ought to be yelling at her and telling her she was under arrest?

She confessed, “I outran all the Terawatt cosplayers, and I was wearing really high heels. Which I got used to really fast, from what Alex says.”

“I noticed you ran my tired old butt off when we did morning PT while you were out visiting me. And when I went back over that footage from the convention center, it was pretty obvious you had a big lead on all those fake Terawatts.”

She tried not to cry. “Jack… I went out to the garage and I can almost pick up one end of my car!”

“Okay, first off, your car weighs about eight pounds.”

“Jack!” she squawked. Even if she knew her car was really small, and it was as light as it could be in order to get more mileage off its batteries, it did not weigh eight pounds. Electric cars were a lot heavier than they looked.

“All right, I already knew you were really strong. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but you’re strong enough to leave bruises a lot of the times we make love.”

She squeaked, “Oh gosh, I’m really, really sorry!”

“It’s okay, I’m getting used to deep bruises on the outsides of my thighs. And fingernail marks on the backs of my shoulders.”

“You shouldn’t have to ‘get used’ to stuff like that!” She whimpered, “How did I not notice any of this?”

He sighed, “Maybe you should ask your parents why they tried so hard to make you avoid conflict and avoid physical force and avoid anything that might make it obvious you were too strong and too quick as a kid.”

She asked miserably, “How long have you known?”

He admitted, “I didn’t. Not really. But we’ve been running into too many people adopted as babies, and a lot of them seemed stunningly attractive and athletic and powerful and dynamic and forceful. Remember when you pointed out that Batman has almost the same birthday as you? Remember the research you and Homer and Jethro did on that Newsom dork in the NSA? And then I looked at the pictures of Clare Tobias, and I realized from a ‘baby’s first Christmas’ picture of her that she had to be born in the middle of the summer too.”

She sobbed, “You must hate me. I’m like… Mata Hari or something.”

“You’re more like Rachel in ‘Blade Runner’.”

She complained, “JACK! Oh wait, she was really hot, and the good guy, and maybe Deckard was a Replicant too…”

“You didn’t know. I believe in you. And I trust you.”

Why was he being so nice to her when she was one of them? “You can’t trust me! I could be mind-controlled! I know it didn’t say so in the email, but I could be all with the ‘doh-de-doh-doh-doh I’m perfectly normal’ and then someone shows me a queen of diamonds and gives me the secret orders, and I go all Manchurian Candidate on you!” She burst into tears again.

“Will! Willow! Stop it right now, or I swear I’ll come over there and tickle you until you pee yourself!”

She sobbed, “And I need to give you back your ring, even if I love it, and I really love you, because you can’t be married to a badguy, it’ll ruin your career!”

“Okay, you are not giving that ring back unless you want out, because I don’t want out of the engagement. And I don’t give a crap if some four-star with a stick up his ass the size of a redwood doesn’t like who I want to marry. You’re not getting away from me that easy.”

She had another thought, and she gasped, “What do I tell Alex? She’ll think I’m part of the evil conspiracy. I mean, I really AM part of the evil conspiracy!”

“Honey? Can you calm down some? It’s bad enough here with Finn insisting I lock him in the dungeon and torture him on the rack until he confesses. He thinks there has to be some kind of subconscious cue that got planted in his tiny baby brain decades ago that somehow didn’t get triggered even once in his entire life, even though he’s been through the Army Ranger program and some serious conflicts, and the Ranger program now does an extreme ‘enduring interrogation and/or brainwashing’ component.”

Willow suddenly said, “Jack, what about Maggie Walsh? Adopted as an infant, but way too old to be in our 25-to-31 group. Let me check something…”

Jack started humming the ‘Jeopardy’ theme song just to be a pain. If she hadn’t been so upset, she would have stuck out her tongue at him, even if he couldn’t see her.

Willow looked at the screen and whispered miserably, “Jack? I think we’ve got a bigger problem. Maybe it’s not just ten kids every year for seven years.”

He smirked, “Okay, hit me baby one more time.”

She fussed, “Stop doing pop music jokes. This is bad. Board of Directors for the Breslynn Orphanage for that seven year span? Howard Royer Locke.”

He stopped being a smartass. “That… can’t be a coincidence.”

She typed furiously and added, “And… same timeframe… let’s see… He’s on the board of directors for an international group of six orphanages, one of them the Breslynn Orphanage. Let me see if any of these have on-line records… Okay, there’s one. In Switzerland… And… Crap.”

He sighed, “Don’t tell me, let me guess. Ten newborns dumped on their doorstep that they take in, no questions asked, right in the middle of the summer, every year for seven straight years, and they all get adopted right away.”

She thought it over. “Jack, if a famous geneticist who thought Maggie Walsh was a great addition to the world of science is behind this, then… six orphanages, seven years, ten kids every time… he could have an army of 420 super-strong orphans… except he’s dead now.”

“418, because I’m not counting you and Finn.” He suggested, “So maybe Maggie Walsh blackmailed him with this intel, and after she got all that money and killed him or made him commit suicide, she took over his little army.”

But she told him, “Jack, that makes no sense, because then she wouldn’t need to be doing the stuff she did in Downingtown.”

“Maybe not. Okay, now I need you to research Howard Royer Locke ASAP.”

“Okay.” In a very tiny voice, she asked, “Are you sure you don’t hate me?”

“No, absolutely not, and… Oh holy crap. I’m so stupid! Will, before you check on Dr. Locke, run a search on everyone in America who’s 25 to 31, born mid-summer and adopted as a newborn, who’s either rich, politicking, a celebrity, a top athlete, a science whiz, a scholastic whiz, an inventor, an engineer, a computer guru, a martial arts master, an important bureaucrat, a bigtime attorney or doctor, or a bigshot LEO or soldier.”

She choked, “Jack, I’m gonna get a ton of hits! There’s like three hundred thousand babies born every month in this country, and I have no idea how many are adopted!”

“Do it, then weed out everyone who isn’t sickeningly attractive, highly motivated, and also really athletic.”

She started, “I’m not sickeningly attract-”

He interrupted her, “Aht! No dissing yourself anymore! Don’t say it or I’ll spank you the next time I’m out there!”

“You promise?”

He hollered, “Willow! Fer cryin’ out loud, not now!”

Graham Miller looked up when he heard the fierce, rapid knock on his doorframe.

He never closed his door, unless he was having private conversations that were not meant for little ears, like when he had to dress down Corporal Peterson about that little security problem. One of the many things he had learned from Colonel Jack O’Neill was that when your people screwed up, you dealt with it immediately and appropriately, and then protected them from higher-ups who might be asshats about things. And it wasn’t like Peterson was talking in his sleep to KGB spies. He was just occasionally using his work computer for some inappropriate activities that Acid Burn spotted and registered as potential computer security holes.

It was Lupo at the door. He saw her face, and he swallowed hard. She looked like she had been crying. Not just crying, but bawling her eyes out. She hadn’t cried when a boulder broke her leg. She hadn’t cried when Finn ran maybe a hundred fifty feet carrying her while her broken leg was swinging loose. Jo Lupo did not cry, and there was no way in hell she would let her fellow soldiers see her cry. This was not going to be good.

She marched stiffly into his office and snapped to attention in front of him. “Permission to speak, sir!”

He gestured at the seat behind her and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever insisted you stand at attention in here.”

She didn’t sit down. She took out her sidearm and handed it to him butt-first. She put her combat knife on his desk. Then her holdout gun from her ankle holster. Then her butterfly knife. If she was deliberately disarming herself now, then…

She handed him a sheet of paper and said, “Sir, I must request that you place me under arrest immediately, and inform Colonel O’Neill and Acid Burn as soon as possible.”

Shit. He glanced at the paper. It was an email from the website, and the header of the message said ‘K.O.B.O.: Kids Of the Breslynn Orphanage’. Well, he knew she was adopted. It was in her file.

Then he read the rest of the email. “Oh shit.” He looked at her and said, “Sit, Lieutenant.” When she didn’t move, he snapped, “Now.” She sat, but she clearly didn’t want to.

He hit one particular speed-dial button on his deskphone, and while it dialed, he turned it to speakerphone.

He got Walter Harriman. “Colonel O’Neill’s office. What can we do for you, captain?”

He formally said, “Sergeant Harriman, this is Captain Miller. We have a Terawatt Code Red here.”

The sergeant carefully asked, “Umm, sir, does it involve an email from an orphanage?”

He winced inwardly. “Yes sergeant, it does.”

Walter said, “The colonel has some intel already. He was just awaiting a phone call from you and Lieutenant Lupo.”

Graham looked at Lupo. She looked just as shocked as he felt. He made a silent ‘got any idea?’ gesture, and she gave him a confused-looking ‘no’ movement.

Colonel O’Neill came on the phone. “Miller, I take it Lupo just came in, asked to be placed under arrest, and handed you an email from”

“Yes sir.” How the hell did the colonel know all that?

The colonel said, “Welcome to the club. She’s number three in the SRI. So far. We have more members of The Collective than the U.S. Senate does.”

Graham suddenly felt like someone had just shoved him into the Twilight Zone. “How is that possible? And how do you know how many Senators are in The Collective?”

O’Neill explained, “Because we’re looking at orphans, aged 25 to 31, born in mid-summer, adopted from the Breslynn Orphanage as infants, who are genetically engineered to be too good-looking, too strong, too quick, too athletic, too intelligent, too motivated, too aggressive, too charismatic, and certain to shoot right to the top of any organization they enter. And, like Lupo, they probably all heal somewhat faster than normal too. The youngest U.S. Senator right now is 38, so no Senators. Yet.”

Graham suddenly had an impulse to whack his forehead on his desk. “Riley’s adopted. And his birthday is mid-summer. And if anybody I know counts as too strong and too athletic and too smart, it’s him.”

The colonel growled, “Yeah, he already turned himself in and demanded he be locked up and interrogated.”

Graham was really dreading it, but he asked anyway. “Who else?” Because he could think of someone else who was almost certainly adopted, who also had a mid-summer birthday, who was damn good-looking, and who was incredibly skilled.

The colonel stiffly said, “Willow.”

“Damn it!” Sometimes, Graham really hated being the guy who was right.

O’Neill continued, “It makes a sick kind of sense, if these universes really are linked in these weird ways, that someone who’s unique and special and powerful in her own universe would be unique and special and powerful in this universe.”

Lupo formally asked, “Colonel O’Neill, why are you talking to me, instead of arresting me?”

O’Neill replied, “Because I’m not going to arrest you, or Finn, or Rosenberg. All of you came to us immediately and turned yourselves in. You’re not one of our opponents. You’re just from the same gene pool. Nobody who risks her life pushing her superior officer out of the way of a boulder when she could just as easily let him get squished, and maybe pick up a field promotion in the process, is working for anyone but the armed forces of the United States of America. Same with Finn, who put his ass on the line for me and Miller and Gates way too many times before we found you and Terawatt.”

Graham asked, “Then what was the point of these ‘Uncle Collective Wants You’ emails?”

“Willow has a theory. She pointed out that it’s the wrong time to enlist all three of you. The time to enlist Willow was the night after she got shafted and shitcanned by Larry Ellison and her venture capitalists. The time to enlist Finn was the day he didn’t win the decathlon at the NCAAs because his commanding officers at West Point wouldn’t allot him enough training time. The time to enlist Lupo was when she was having trouble getting into the Special Forces training program even though she’d finished first in her class at the Point. So maybe The Collective’s having a little splinter cell problem. Maybe this cell’s making a power grab and trying to snag all the Kids Next Door who aren’t already in the secret clubhouse up in the big oak tree. That’s our best hypothesis at the moment.”

Lupo asked, “How do we find these other mid-summer orphans? And how do we know we’re all there is to The Collective?”

O’Neill told her, “IT is already on it. And it’s not just the Breslynn Orphanage. We’ve got five other orphanages across the world. And someone older than 31 has been orchestrating a lot of this for a long time, so we know from the people we’ve already run into that it involves more than the 420 orphans that Howard Royer Locke brewed up three decades ago.”

Graham winced a little. “Locke? Our guy from Project Galinka? He’s the brain behind these orphans too? And I was thinking Maggie Walsh was the source of all our troubles.”

The colonel groused, “More than one person’s asked why Locke didn’t notice Maggie Walsh was a psychotic monster who would happily experiment on women and children and God only knows what else. Maybe the answer’s simple. He did notice, and that was why he picked her to be his favorite grad student. Because he also was a psychotic monster who would happily experiment on women and children and God only knows what else. And he saw Wacky Maggie as his protégée, in a creepy Hannibal Lecter kind of way that probably involved livers and fava beans.”

Lupo said, “Sir, if Locke was a ruthless psychopath, he certainly wouldn’t have committed suicide to protect his family name.”

O’Neill replied, “Agreed. But he might have been careless enough, or arrogant enough, to let his partner in crime get close enough to kill him in a way that she could make look like a suicide. There’s no question that Walsh is off-the-charts smart, and extremely dangerous.”

Lupo asked, “Sir, is there any way to find out if I have some kind of psychological trigger implanted, so they can turn me into a weapon whenever they need to?”

O’Neill said, “Finn asked that same question. Well, Willow did too, but she went with the whole Manchurian Candidate ref. And I think the answer is pretty obvious. There isn’t any such trigger, or The Collective wouldn’t have needed to try to get Clare Tobias in to kill a roomful of generals and maybe the Commander-in-Chief. Because Finn already had the clearance, and he was already there. He could have poisoned all the generals with something slow-acting, and then easily taken out the President while Hammond and I were just standing there. Back in Tokyo, you could have easily taken out Team Two and let those silicates loose on the whole country, and you didn’t. That spells ‘no trigger’ to me.”

Graham watched as Lupo sagged back in her chair. He didn’t think he’d seen anyone more obviously relieved, not since he was a teenager and his parents – who were in the middle of a big, ugly divorce at the time – found out that his mom wasn’t pregnant after all.

The colonel added, “And if they had these triggers, they’d have to be complete morons not to have already used them all over the planet already, instead of spending billions of dollars on plans we already hosed.”

Lupo nervously asked, “Colonel, what do you want me to do now?”

The colonel ordered, “I want you to call Acid Burn and brainstorm with her about flags to look for when we hunt down our ‘orphans’. Then I want you and Burn to call Finn and tell him that you’re doing fine, and he should stop moping around like someone shot his puppy.”

Lupo staunchly said, “Yes sir, I can do that.”

Willow merged onto the interstate and touched her earjack. She was dreading this call, but she dialed the number anyway. It rang twice, and she started hoping it would just go to voice mail and she could avoid the whole deal.

“Willow? Is anything wrong?” Sheila Rosenberg checked, in an obviously worried tone.

“Umm, I can’t just… call you?” She found herself automatically slipping into the New York Jewish accent her mother still maintained. “You know, I say ‘hi mom’, you say ‘hi bubbeleh’, we chat…”

Her mom insisted, “Willow, I can tell something’s wrong. Are you in trouble? I never call you ‘bubbeleh’. You never just call me out of the blue. You haven’t talked to me or your father since perhaps we maybe over-reacted about your boyfriend the shaygitz. You didn’t even call to thank Ira for your Hanukah present. He said all he got was an email.”

She sighed inwardly. “Mom, it’s about the whole ‘adopted as a baby’ thing.”

Her mother said, “I admit I wanted to wait until you were sixteen to tell you, but Ira pointed out that you were already bat mitzvah and that you were very mature for your age. And it wasn’t as if you hadn’t noticed everyone else in the entire family was brown-eyed and brown-haired, and either had the Rosenberg snoot, my family’s beak, or else was like your cousin Becky who has had enough plastic surgery that I’m surprised her face doesn’t melt on hot days. You know, those breasts aren’t real either.”

Willow tried again. “And did you know that the Breslynn Orphanage was having a fire sale on genetically engineered kids with superhuman abilities?”

The fact that her mother didn’t answer right away was, in itself, all the evidence Willow needed.

Sheila finally spoke. “We knew right away that you were the baby we wanted. You were so beautiful, even if you looked nothing like what we had planned to look for. So darling, and so lively, and so obviously perfect. Your father and I looked at each and said, ‘to hell with the plan for a nice Ashkenazi-looking baby with curly brown hair and brown eyes, we want her’. And we’re still glad we chose you, even if…”

“Even if what, mom?”

Her mom suddenly sounded like she might break down and cry. Sheila Rosenberg never broke down and cried. “Even if I spent most of your grade school years petrified that you might get into a fight with someone like that Chase shiksa and kill her, or maim her, and do untold damage to your juvenile psyche. Sweetie, when you were ten, you were strong enough to kill another child.”

“I know I must’ve been strong, but…”

Sheila sighed. “Do you remember when you were five and your father had knee surgery?”

Willow said, “Sure, but…” A hideous thought struck her. She whispered, “He said he hurt it bicycling.”

Her mom agreed, “That’s what we told everyone. There was no way we were going to admit that you ran to greet him at the door one evening and you hit him in the knee so hard you ripped two of his ligaments apart.”

“Oh my God.” Willow couldn’t stop the tears that streamed down her face. “Is… is that why dad avoids me?”

“Oh sweetie,” her mom fussed. “Your father doesn’t avoid you! I will admit he’s still a little worried about what you can do, but you’re a grown woman now, and you can control your impulses.”

Willow whimpered, “And so everything you insisted on… No fighting, no confrontations, internalizing everything, no going out for sports or anything the least bit physical…” She sighed, “You were trying to protect me. I should have known.”

Her mom agreed, “Yes, you should have. You’ve always been so astonishingly bright on the standard logical-mathematical IQ scales, and yet you’ve always avoided the intra-personal. We were so pleased when you discovered computers, just because it meant you were safe. It was a horrible shame what happened to that nice Harris boy, even if his parents were…”

Willow frowned, “I know what dad used to say, back before Xander died, mom. ‘Those people are an episode of C.O.P.S. waiting to happen.’ It wasn’t so funny in retrospect.”

Her mom admitted, “We didn’t want you playing with Alexander and Jesse in case there was any roughhousing and you hurt someone, but then Alexander died, and Jesse’s family moved away, and we saw that you had no female friends at all. It wasn’t until you went off to college and started talking about all the girls who didn’t mind being your friend that we realized it wasn’t your choice.”

Willow frowned. “It was Cordelia Chase. She really, really hated me. Anybody who was nice to me either got pulled away from me into her group, or else got ground into the dirt. Figuratively speaking. It didn’t get to the literally speaking until she had football players at her beck and call, and that was junior high and high school.”

Her mom said, “Your father, who never loses his temper or says anything bad, went to the Chases to talk about you and their daughter. They were not helpful. In fact, your father lost his temper so drastically that he called them a lot of unfortunate names. Mr. Chase sued us. Your father said he would rather lose everything he owned than apologize to a Nazi like Mr. Chase who would raise a monster like Cordelia. Fortunately, no Jew in town was going to take a case against Rabbi Rosenberg, and your Uncle Morris had no trouble tying Chase’s goyisha lawyers in knots.”

Willow whispered, “I… I didn’t know dad ever stood up for me.”

Sheila urged, “Please don’t tell him I told you the story. You’re the only thing he cared about so much that he lost his temper over it. That evening is one of the things he’s quite ashamed of, but he stood up for you. Not that it did you or us any good when it came to the Chases, they should lose all their teeth but one so they can have toothaches too.”

“Thanks for telling me, mom.”

Sheila softly said, “Sweetie, I just wish… I wish we could be closer. I wish we’d been better parents, but we simply didn’t know what to do about you. It’s not like this is covered in the child psychology textbooks.”

Willow confessed, “Maybe you came up with the best solution out there. The man who genetically engineered me created a small army of… us. Some of ‘em are trying to take over the world now.”

Her mom sounded shocked as she asked, “What kind of Nazi mumzer would come up with a plan like that?”

Willow decided she’d tell part of it. “The kind of mumzer who will succeed if good people do nothing.”

Her mom thought for a second and asked, “And is that what you’re doing now? I read that your company was doing a huge, important computer job for the Department of Homeland Security. Is that how you met your soldier?”

Willow firmly said, “Yeah. And he’s a great person who risks his life to save people like you and dad. He’s smart, and funny, and incredibly brave, and if he was Jewish and a vegetarian, he’d be absolutely perfect. And I can’t talk about the work he does, but he’s a real hero. Like Terawatt.”

“Now Willow, we’ve been over this before, and you can’t model your life after violent vigilantes who-”

Willow snapped, “She’s not like that!

“What did you say?”

Oh damn. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Which didn’t even make sense with today’s currency. “I met her. I got to talk with her. She’s not some deranged violent nutcase. She’s kind, and caring, and really smart, and she doesn’t like hurting people. She worries about things like vigilantism, and world hunger, and protecting people she’s never even met who maybe don’t even live in America. She’s not some nut who flies around looking for people to punch in the kishkas!” Willow took a breath and said, “You would like her. You should give her a chance.”

Sheila admitted, “I listened to her press conference at the White House. I admit it, she isn’t anything like I expected. And it seems like a month doesn’t go by that she isn’t fighting shreklikh things that would make me faint if I saw them.” Then she added, “And anyone on the wrong side of that schmuck Glenn Howard can’t be all bad.”

Willow couldn’t help smiling at that. “Did Sheila Rosenberg just make a joke?”

Her mom primly said, “Of course I can make a joke. I’m Jewish you know. Goodbye, mommashonna. Take care of yourself and your goy.”

Willow smiled tearfully. Her mom hadn’t called her that in years. She decided to call her dad while she was at it.

Riley dialed the first phone number he had ever learned.

“Finn residence.”

He smiled, “Hi, mom. It’s Riley.”

“Riley! We haven’t heard from you in over a week! And it isn’t like you two stayed all that long at Christmas. Your lovely Sam calls as often as you do, and I have no idea what the charges are on a call from Africa using a satellite phone. Hold on one second.” She covered the mouthpiece and hollered, “Jon! Grab the phone! It’s Riley!” She spoke into the mouthpiece again. “Your father’s still out at the barn. Have you talked to your brother? He got another promotion. If they keep promoting him, I don’t know how your father’s ever going to get him to quit and take over the farm.”

Riley grinned, “I know. He called me and told me all about it. I’m really proud of him.”

His dad came on the line. “Marti, I’m on. Riley! Hey there. What are you up to now?”

He stopped smiling. “Mom, dad, I figured I’d better call you and let you know… my secret’s out.”

His mom carefully asked, “Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?”

He admitted, “I’m not really sure right now. I’m hoping it’ll be a good thing, eventually.”

His dad winced, “Son, we always worried people wouldn’t treat you the same if they knew about your… abilities.”

He carefully said, “I think we can call them what they really are, dad. I have superpowers.”

His mom put in, “Well Riley, I wouldn’t go that far, I mean, even if you’ve always been the strongest thing in four counties…”

His dad continued, “And, Lord knows, no one ever beat you in a footrace, unless you let ‘em…”

His mom added, “And you were always healthy as a horse, even when every other child in your class came down with the chicken pox.”

Riley carefully said, “We found out that the orphanage where you got me was one of half a dozen fronts around the world where a genetics expert was creating superhuman babies and getting them spread around. I’m not unique. I’m one of maybe four hundred young men and women. We think he was planning on taking over the world.”

“Oh dear,” his mother gasped.

“Sounds like you ended up in the right line of work, son.”

He admitted, “I told my boss, and he’s being a real stand-up guy about it, but I don’t think his bosses are going to be happy when they find out the truth about me. Right now, I’m kind of expecting to get locked up in Guantanamo any day now.”

His dad insisted, “Well, you just call us a couple times a week, and if we don’t hear from you for a few days, we’ll be on the horn to every congressman and senator we’ve got, plus the governor. And maybe that blowhard Glenn Howard might finally be good for something, even if he’s over in Nebraska.”

He asked, “Does Mister Gaither still listen to Glenn Howard?”

His mom said, “Not after that Terawatt gave that big press conference at the White House. If I was her, I would’ve told that boy where he could stick those crazy notions.”

He was just sorry he couldn’t tell his folks that he knew Terawatt, and that she was even more amazing than people thought.

His dad told him, “Well, if anyone wants to know why you didn’t run as fast as you could when you were doing track, or why you didn’t score a touchdown every time you touched the ball, you just have ‘em call me, and I’ll give ‘em an earful.”

He smiled at that. His folks had worked with him for as far back as he could remember, stressing that he couldn’t let other people know just how strong or how fast or how tough he really was, because people wouldn’t treat him the same if his secret got out. Well, it turned out they sure were right. Even if Colonel O’Neill was being his usual smart-alecky self.

Riley really needed to talk to the colonel again and find out just how long the colonel had suspected the truth about him.

Willow pulled into the driveway and turned off the ignition. She knew she had to do this in person, even if it might be the last time she was ever allowed anywhere near the Mack home.

She took a deep breath and got out of her car.

A/N: Willow and her mom used a bit of Yiddish and Hebrew there. ‘Bat Mitzvah’ is Hebrew, the rest of the words are Yiddish:
bubbeleh: the cutesy name your grandmother might call you; literally it’s ‘little grandmother’
goy: a non-Jew, the plural is goyim and the most common adjective form is goyisha.
kishkas: guts, intestines
mommashonna: colloquially, it means ‘little darling’; literally, it’s more like ‘pretty little mother’
mumzer: b@st@rd
shaygitz: non-Jewish male, the masculine form of shiksa.
shiksa: non-Jewish female. Okay, both shaygitz and shiksa have undesirable connotations.
schmuck: colloquially, something like calling someone a ‘d!ckhe@d’; less colloquially, the male reproductive part.
shreklikh: horrible. ‘shrek’ is a horror. Yes, the big green ogre has a Jewish name.

A/N2: Willow is referencing “The Manchurian Candidate” which is one of the classic paranoid thrillers. Watch the original, not the recent remake. Granted, they both have great casts. But what is the point of remaking a classic film? Case in point: “Psycho” should not have been remade the way it was done. Period. There is no point in remaking *any* movie shot-for-shot, which is more like a film school term project. (A good remake of a movie that was pretty lame can be a different matter. Example: “The Fly”.)
A/N3: And Riley’s mother’s maiden name is Riley. I just thought you’d want to know.
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