All through the night and into the next day Sophie couldn't help but think about the battle that had taken place. More and more she thought that she could have done something to save the man. She refused to believe that he was beyond help and she kept repeating the events over and over again in her mind.
Sophie would have felt better if she was able to speak to someone about but that was the problem. Her life as At-Lass was secret but to one person and at this moment in time she couldn't talk to him. Instead she had to keep it to herself and this ate away at her little by little.
For most of the day she seemed to be distracted as she was seemingly coasting through the day. She didn't seem to be noticing anything in particular and this was noticed by her teachers. For now they weren't going to say anything unless the problem continued to persist. Most were used to dealing with moody teenagers.
Unfortunately for Sophie her contemplating did get her hurt. It was after school when she was at basketball practice. She was too lost in her thoughts to notice the ball heading towards her. The only point when she noticed it was when it struck her in the side of the head. It caught her more by surprise than anything else but she still did rub her head in some pain. There were a few giggles from her teammates who couldn't help but think that what happened was funny.
"Bale keep your head in the game!" shouted Emilia. The tall coach was standing at the side lines and she had noticed that Sophie had been distracted. She felt the need to shout over at her.
"S-sorry Coach," replied Sophie as she began to recover from the impact. She was more embarrassed than hurt.
"Do that in a real game and you'll only be a liability to the rest of the team. You might not want to win but the rest of us do!"
"I'll stay alert Coach, I'm sorry."
Sophie continued the practice along with the rest of her team but it was obvious to all that her mind just wasn't in the game. She was missing shots that would have been easy for her and allowing others to get passed her when she would normally be able to take the ball from them. Emilia was not impressed by what she was seeing and she did contemplate dropping Sophie from the team but she was one of the best players and thus couldn't afford to. All she could do was allow this to continue for now, if it lasted any longer than she would have no choice but to drop Sophie.
Later in the changing rooms Sophie was getting her normal clothing back on and once again she was lost in her own world. Her best friend Lizzie was standing quite close to her and it took her a moment or two for Sophie to even register that she was there. In the end Lizzie had to wave her hand in front of Sophie's face.
"Hey Soph are you there?" asked Lizzie as she continued to wave her hand in front of the face of her best friend.
"W-what?" replied Sophie as she finally snapped back to reality. It was almost like a light switch had been flipped in her mind.
"What's up with you today? You've kinda been like a ghost today, is there something bothering you?" There was concern in her voice as she thought that there might be something very wrong with her friend.
"N-no I'm fine." She wanted to tell her everything about At-Lass and the fact that she had accidentally been involved in someone's death. Telling her such a thing would lift an enormous weight off of her shoulders but she knew that she couldn't. "There's nothing bothering me."
"Are you sure?" She had known Sophie long enough to realise that she was hiding something. Whatever it was she knew that it must have been something big to want her to keep it secret.
"Yes I'm sure." She then picked up her bag and made her way out of the changing room. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Ok I'll see you then." She watched as Sophie left the changing room and she stood there with some confusion. It was obvious to her that there was something really bothering her and she wanted to get to the bottom of it. Not just for the good of the team but also to discover what was wrong with her best friend.
A few minutes later Sophie arrived home and she saw that her brother had already gone out to see his own friends. She said hello to her parents before going up to her room, one thing that she wanted to do was to talk to her sister Nicki. She knew that she would have to do it soon or else she Nicki would be in bed due to the time difference.
It had been a while since Sophie had last spoken to her sister since both of them had been very busy. Sophie had her duties as At-Lass and her general studies while Nicki had been training with her own team and the two girls just hadn't had the time to speak. The time difference also didn't help but today she did hope to get in touch with her sister before it was too late.
Quickly Sophie set up her laptop and checked to see whether Nicki was online. Much to her delight she was and Sophie didn't waste any time in calling her over the internet for some face time. It took a little longer than expected for Nicki to pick up and it was obvious that it was the middle of the night for her. However Nicki wasn't dressed in night clothes and it seemed like she wasn't in bed yet.
"Hey there lil sis," said Nicki. She smiled at her younger sister and seemed eager to speak with her.
"Hey there Nicki," replied Sophie. Her voice didn't seem to be as upbeat as it usually was which Nicki did find odd. For the moment she wasn't going to say anything about it though. "How's everything over there?"
"Well it's not all that great. We lost the last couple of games and coach is pretty steamed about it. If we lose any more than we might not win the championship. It's a little stressful but we should find our way around it. We just need a little more practice and maybe a couple of extra players."
"That's too bad to hear, maybe you can get that Brazilian girl that you mentioned." She knew that she was most likely with another team but she was just trying to carry on the conversation.
"I wish we could but she's been taken. In fact we played against the team that she joined and OMG this girl is huge. I thought I was tall but I felt tiny compared to her, plus she was basically unstoppable on the court. Management at my team are kicking themselves for not signing her quick enough." She then gave a sigh. "Maybe I'll have another big growth spurt and be able to match her." She giggled a little, even though she knew that she wasn't growing anymore she still thought that it was fun. "Speaking of tall girls isn't there a particularly tall superheroine in the city now?"
"You heard?" She didn't really want to talk about At-Lass but it seemed like she didn't have much of a choice.
"Of course, just because I'm thousands of miles away doesn't mean I don't look at the local news. At-Lass is that her name?"
"Y-yeah that's it."
"Cool have you seen her yet? I've read comments about people who have seen her in person and when I come home I'd love to see her for myself." There was some excitement in her voice, like her brother she was a fan of superheroes but not up to his level. There was even a superhero that she had a secret crush on but he operated in another city many, many miles away from Grendon.
"No I haven't seen her but I've heard rumours that she might be retiring soon. I guess being a superhero isn't as glamorous as many think."
"I don't think that she should. Believe me I know that our city had problems, it's one of the reasons why I decided to move here for. That place is dangerous but this At-Lass if that's her name, I feel that she's really making a difference. I've read comments about people who say that they feel safe to walk out of their house at night now. Giving a person hope is more valuable than any gift anyone could give."
This made Sophie think, she had thought about herself but now she was thinking more about the people that she had been hoping. The thought of giving people hope did make her feel better. If it meant that she still needed to put on her costume and fight crime she was willing to do it in a heartbeat.
For the next several minutes Sophie and Nicki continued to talk but rather than talking about At-Lass they spoke more about general things such as school and family. Nicki did miss her family and she planned to return to them while it was the off season for her team. She would be able to visit for a few weeks before she had to return so that she could train with the rest of her team.
Eventually fatigue got the better of Nicki and she decided that it was best for her to go to bed. The sisters said goodbye to one another and the online link between the two was cut for now. For Sophie the conversation had been much more than simply a chat between sisters, it made her see that despite what had happened last night the city still needed At-Lass. She still thought that she was ultimately responsible for the death of the man but there was something in the back of hr mind that made her think that Doctor Julius was right. On more than one occasion he had warned her how increasing her muscle mass too much would lead her to a heart attack. She thought that his warning is what actually happened to the man, the same would happen to her when she grew if not for the suit compensating for her.
With a few minutes to herself Sophie thought that it was best to carry on with her studies. That Monday she had a history test that she needed to study for, it was about the Russian Revolution and in particular the rise of Communism in the country. She did find some it interesting although quite a lot of it she did find boring. However she was amazed that a country could have two major revolutions in a single year.
After around an hour of studying Sophie began to hear something. It was unclear at first but after a few moments it began to come through clearer. It was the voice of a man and she didn't need long to recognise it as that of Doctor Julius. She knew that something At-Lass related was in order.
"Sophie can you hear me?" asked Doctor Julius through the communicator. It was a marvellous piece of equipment of his own design.
"Yes I can hear you," replied Sophie. "What's the problem?"
"There's a task I need you to perform that is of the upmost importance. I need you to come to the lab as soon as possible."
"What is it that you want me to do? Is it more training because if it is can it wait?" At this moment in time she felt that studying was more important than training.
"No it is something much more important than that, I need you to come here and I'll explain everything to you."
"Fine, I'll be there as soon as I can but before I do anything do you know anything about the Russian Revolution?"
"Which one? The one that took place in nineteen oh five or the two that took place in nineteen seventeen?"
"All of them." She gave a sigh as she knew that she needed to go. In her mind she could at least carry on her studies in while doing whatever Doctor Julius wanted her to do. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
"No need, just look out of your window."
Sophie did as she was asked and when she looked out of the window and she saw the jetpack that she used to travel great distances as At-Lass. Not only did she see the jetpack but attached to it was her suit but shrunken down. She opened the window and quickly it flew into her room and landed on her desk. She looked at it for a moment before getting back on the communicator with Doctor Julius.
"You bought my suit here?" asked Sophie. She was more shocked than she was amazed by this.
"Yes, I thought that it would be faster than you coming to me," replied Doctor Julius. "Please remove the suit from the jetpack if you would."
"Err alright." Once again she did what she was told and took the suit off of the jetpack. She could see that it also included the boots, gloves and goggles. One thing that she did notice was that there was something else attached to the jetpack. It seemed to be a pen drive and she looked at it for a few moments. However she soon noticed that the suit was growing and within a few seconds it was large enough for her to wear. She didn't need to be told what to do next as she changed from her normal clothes into her At-Lass suit. "What exactly is this mission you want me to do?"
"I'll explain on the way but as soon as you place the jetpack on the ground I'll begin the shrinking sequence." He needed to wait a moment for At-Lass to do what he had asked. When she had done this he quickly shrank her down to three inches so that she could use the jetpack. As she shrank her proportions changed as well which helped keep her identity a secret. It made her body seem much different to her normal proportions. Rather than seemingly looking like a lanky teen instead she seemed to be slightly more muscular and seemingly not as tall. It also gave her somewhat larger breasts which was one thing that she didn't mind.
No sooner had At-Lass attached the jetpack to her back she felt herself begin to fly into the air. She flew out of her still open window and made her way through to the open air. It was a bumpy ride but her jetpack eventually evened itself out and she was able to keep herself balanced in the air. She still had no idea exactly what Doctor Julius wanted her to do but she knew that it had to be important.
"Ok Doc you got me out of studying," said At-Lass as she continued to fly through the air. "Now tell me what this big mission you want me to do. My grades are slipping and if I don't study I'll be saying goodbye to my scholarship."
"My apologies but believe me this is important. At the coroner's office the man that you fought last night has been autopsied. I need you to sneak inside and retrieve the report from the computer system. That is why the pen drive is attached to your jetpack. Just slip in retrieve the information and then bring it back to me."
"Isn't that illegal?"
"Yes but when I get the information I can see exactly what turned him into that monstrosity that you fought. If I can find out what caused it we might be able to prevent something similar from happening again."
"I guess that's a pretty decent excuse. But what if I get caught? I don't want to spend the rest of my senior year in jail."
"That's why you won't be caught. You will remain at your shrunken size for the majority of the mission. I might have to shrink you further and if that happens be prepared to hold your breath, your lungs won't be able to absorb regular oxygen when they're below a certain stature."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Yes but if it is only for a short amount of time you should be fine. I don't need to say that you mustn't be caught. Not only do you risk capture but your newfound reputation will also be tarnished."
For the rest of the journey At-Lass and Doctor Julius continued to talk. However rather than going about the mission they instead spoke about the Russian Revolution. He was telling her everything that he knew about it in the hopes that it would help with her studying. She had heard that there was a chance that one of the Tsar's daughters escaped from her family's execution. However Doctor Julius had to shatter this theory when he told her that it had been recently confirmed that the daughter was amongst the dead. This did upset her as she remembered a particular film that she liked when she was growing up. Recently she had been doing a lot of growing in different ways.
By the end of the conversation At-Lass could see that she was very close the coroner's office. It was a relatively small building but she flew in closer, much to her luck there was an open window. It wasn't open enough for a person to get through but for someone of At-Lass's size it seemed to be the perfect fit.
The room that she was in had a smell that she didn't want to imagine. She knew what went on in this room and she didn't want to think about it. She was doing everything she could in order not to throw up. However she was struggling with this somewhat but she did keep herself in check.
There was also no light inside of the room but thankfully At-Lass activated the night vision setting in her goggles which allowed her to see. She prepared to fly but this time her jetpack wasn't activating. It took a moment for Doctor Julius to contact her about the fact that she wouldn't be using the jetpack unless it was absolutely necessary. This was somewhat annoying for her but she understood. However she was still going to have to walk around with the jetpack on her back.
Despite the situation this is something that she had trained for. A few times in the lab she had been shrunk in size and then instructed to make her way from one side of the warehouse to another. There were plenty of obstacles that would be in her way and she had overcome each of them during training. However this was the first time she was having to do it in the field.
After a little effort At-Lass did eventually leave the room and found herself in a corridor. This corridor was well lit so she switched off the night vision setting in her goggles. The corridor did seem to be empty and she began to walk down it. The trek seemed to be much longer than she had imagined but it was something that she didn't really mind. It helped keep her body in shape and might even add to her basketball skills.
At one point At-Lass saw someone walking down the corridor. It seemed to be a security guard and quickly she dived out of the way and thankfully she wasn't spotted. She was still too small to be seen properly so the guard walked by without even noticing her. This was a welcome relief as she continued on her journey.
From his console Doctor Julius was keeping an eye on what was going on. He was also looking at the blueprints of the building on another screen. He was directing her way to go but he was also keeping an eye on her vitals. If she seemed to be struggling due to her size then he would quickly increase her size back up to normal.
"How far is it now Doc?" asked At-Lass through her communicator. "Walking around at this size is nowhere near as fun as you think."
"You're almost there Sophie," replied Doctor Julius. "Should just be your next room on the right."
At-Lass did see the door but unfortunately for her the door was shut, it wasn't locked but she was unable to open the door at her current size. She had to remove her jetpack and then Doctor Julius increased her size. However rather than going all the way up to her full size she only grew half way. This was still tall enough to reach the door handle and carefully she opened the door and went inside. She did remember to pick up the jetpack before she went through the door.
Inside At-Lass saw the computer that had she had been looking for. It was a little older than she expected but she believed that it had the information that was needed. She took a few steps forward and she felt herself grow again. This time it went up to her normal size and she sat down at the chair right by the computer itself.
"Ok I'm here now," said At-Lass. Her voice was quiet so that it was harder for anyone else to hear them. "What do I need to do?"
"First you're going to have to hack into the computer," replied Doctor Julius as he knew that it was going to be quite difficult.
"Hack into the computer? Do I look like a computer nerd? I don't know how to hack into a computer, hell I can barely work my phone."
"Don't worry I'll step you through it. But the first thing that you need to do is to attach the pen drive into the computer itself." He waited a moment for At-Lass to remove the pen drive from the jetpack and then attach it to the computer. "Ok follow my instructions and you'll be in the computer in no time."
For several minutes Doctor Julius went through the instructions to At-Lass. She followed them as best as she could although there were a few things that she didn't fully understand. Nonetheless she carried on anyway and eventually she was able to hack into the computer which she was proud of. Although this was something that she wasn't going to tell anyone when what she had done.
Doctor Julius eventually told At-Lass which file he wanted her to copy over to the pen drive. This was something that she could do and she copied the files over, she felt happy about what she had done but suddenly she heard the door beginning to open. She looked towards it and she realised that someone was about to enter the room.
Before At-Lass could properly react she felt herself shrinking again. It was much faster than she had expected and felt lightheaded at first. When she had finished shrinking she did realise that the door seemed to be opening slower than she had expected. At first she thought that whoever was behind the door was just really slow.
However At-Lass soon realised why this was, it was like when she grew for the first time and became much slower. This time it had reversed with her reaction time increasing with her smaller size. At first she didn't know whether this was because of a malfunction with the suit or if Doctor Julius had purposely deactivated the software that kept her reaction time at a normal rate.
Despite this At-Lass went to hide again but this time she went underneath the desk. The computer screen was still on but she had logged off of it when she had finished. She had left the pen drive in the computer and her jetpack was on the counter. She could only wait for the guard to finish what he was doing.
The guard was examining the room like he did on his normal rounds. It was the same guard that she had seen in the corridor. To her he was going annoyingly slow as he went through his checks. He did find it somewhat odd that the computer screen was on but it sometimes would be when he checked the room. He had a torch in his hand which he used to light up various parts of the room.
The windows were checked along with anywhere that a normal person could hide. This included under the desk but At-Lass was able to move to another section of the room, her faster reaction allowed her to move at a much quicker pace than she could before. However at one point the guard did spot her.
However since At-Lass had seen this coming she did something that she saw a range of characters do in a particular film. She stood still when she was spotted and her appearance did catch the guard by surprise. He reached down to pick her up and naturally he assumed that she was some kind of action figure.
There was some confusion as he examined her but rather than thinking that she was a real person he thought that she was a toy that belonged to one of the children of the people who worked there. She had been able to strap her jetpack back on and the pen drive was attached to it as well.
Thankfully the guard didn't recognise the pen drive, he was an old fashioned man and didn't have a computer at home. He decided to take At-Lass out of the room and place her in the lost and found. It was more difficult for her to stay absolutely still than she had thought. One problem that she had was that she desperately needed to scratch her nose but she couldn't without blowing her cover.
Unfortunately with her reaction time increased it seemed like an eternity since she had been picked up. All she could do was wait for the guard to take her to the lost and found box and placed her inside. With her put to one side now the guard carried on with his duties as he didn't think that he had just handled the real At-Lass.
"Sophie are you alright?" asked Doctor Julius. He had decreased her reaction time down to normal before he spoke.
"Y-yeah I'm fine," replied At-Lass. "But this box is really doing a number on my nose." She tried not to breathe in as the smell was terrible. "But I was able to get those files that you wanted."
"Great, I'm going to fly you back here. Prepare to lift off in ten seconds."
At-Lass quickly made her way out of the box and just when she did her jetpack activated and she flew into the air. The first course of action was finding a way out of the building. This didn't take too long as nearby there was a slightly opened window, At-Lass soon flew through it and found herself outside in open air once again.
The latest mission did make her feel like she was some kind of secret agent. It was also another reminder that her shrinking powers were as useful if not more useful than her growing capabilities. It was true that she couldn't throw a car when she was three inches tall but she could do many things that others couldn't. However one thing that she didn't like about being small was the fact that she would feel like she was fragile. At least when she was big she felt like she could protect herself.
As At-Lass continued to fly she noticed something below her that caught her attention. It was the sound of police sirens and when she looked down she could see that there was a car chase. She could also hear gunshots as the passengers in the car shot at the chasing police cars. It was a very dangerous situation that she knew needed her assistance, although her mission was important she felt like she needed to do something.
"Hey Doc I've got trouble here," said At-Lass as she continued to watch the chase take place. "I think those guys really need my help."
"The mission is too important," replied Doctor Julius. "I need you back here as soon as possible."
"But I can't just ignore this. If anyone gets hurt due to my inaction I would never forgive myself. Besides what's the point of having this suit if I'm not going to help people? I can't pick and choose who to save and who not to."
At-Lass waited for Doctor Julius's response. She knew that her mission was important but she still couldn't turn a blind eye to what was happening. If he still told her to return she would probably lose a lot of respect that she had for him. All she could do was wait for his answer.