The only thought drifting through my mind as I stared into my own eyes twice over was that, somehow, this didn't feel like a dream.

I mean, sure, suddenly finding myself piloting two instances of my own body at once did seem more like something that might happen in a dream and not reality, but I knew my dreams, what they were like. This wasn't nearly as float-ey or abstract, nor as… okay, maybe instead of being more or less, it was just differently fucked-up, but still. Also, there were no random repetitions of events, and my sense of touch was fully functional. Not to mention I probably wouldn't feel so fucking tired in a dream. So, much as I disliked the circumstances, I was awake.

Y'know, I could really go for one of those dreams right now. Maybe the one with the endlessly replicating fear cubes, or the one with the naked stripper dancing while peeling off strips of her skin. Those were classic.

Sighing in stereo, I started looking around with both bodies, and immediately, before I even registered what I saw, I was struck by all the disorientation I wasn't feeling. The experience of looking at two different things with two separate pairs of eyes at once really had no right feeling as… as natural as it did. I didn't experience it as two images side-by-side or anything like that, nor did they overlap. It was just like looking at things normally, except doubled, and I could split my attention between them with literally no effort. I soon found the entirety of my split attention grabbed by a far more pressing issue.

Namely, my glasses were nowhere to be found. Each of my bodies had equally shittastic vision that blurred everything to fuck, and despite that, it was very easy to see that I was about as far from being home and in bed as I could get. My other senses decided to report their findings as well, providing further confirmation.

Apparently I had been laying on top of a flat-ish, mostly buried boulder. Thankfully, it was cushioned just a little by being mostly covered in soft moss. In every direction around me stood what I could only assume were trees. Some grew straight while others were more warped and twisted, and the ground surrounding my rock was but sparsely dappled with what blotches of light managed to penetrate the canopy above. Occasional signs of movement drew my gazes to various points in the undergrowth, but even when I squinted I couldn't determine the sources.

So, apparently I'd been doubled and dropped sans glasses in a forest somewhere that, I was coming to realize, was actually kinda chilly, not to mention completely unknown to me. A part of myself made the quite reasonable suggestion that I give in to panic, and I actually started to hyperventilate before I got a grip on myself and focused on taking calm, steady breaths. Panicking would be worse than useless now, and figuring out what the fuck was going on would have to wait until later. For now, I needed to focus on getting to safety.

It took a minute, but I managed to get both of myself to move into sitting positions so I could take stock of what resources I had available to me. What I found made it that much harder for me to hold onto hope. Each of my bodies was wearing a dress (one of my favorites, green with a mitosis pattern, and pockets!) and a simple necklace with a small, princess-cut, simulated emerald pendant. Beyond that, I had nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Not my wallet and ID, not my shitty flip phone, not even any shoes.

Well, actually, each of my bodies did have something else on them that I found in the process of taking stock: a tattoo of some sort, covering much of the undersides of each of my left arms with small text that I had to bring within inches of my eyes to even make out. Once I was able to actually read it, the sheer WTF-ness of the situation quickly began to skyrocket.

Hello there, Helena! We'd like to congratulate you on being the thirty-seventh successful product of our experimental flash-cloning technology! Well, we say flash-cloning, but it's really more of a method of performing a rapid, incredibly-detailed scan of a living being without harming said being in the process, making edits to the data thus obtained in order to repair or alter portions as needed, and then using that data to swiftly print a copy of either a specific portion of that being, or their entire bodies, as is the case with you. So yes, you are a nigh-perfect copy of the original you, down to the exact configuration of the gray matter containing your memories, personality, and whatnot. Your original remains where we found her, completely unaware that the scan ever happened.

Before you ask, no, you were not chosen to be scanned because we absolutely needed you for whatever. You merely had the variable fortune to have been within the area where we were collecting initial samples. Oh, and compared to most of the products made before you, both successful and not, you're being dealt a relatively good hand here.

Now, you have been released on a lovely little world known as Earth Bet, in the general vicinity of the city of Brockton Bay, as part of the experiment involving the multidimensional beings native to that particular multiverse. As such, we have connected a few of the shards we have managed to obtain to you and induced an artificial trigger event, resulting in you obtaining the approximate equivalent of four powers. Two of those powers are currently suppressed so as to help ease you into your situation there. We wouldn't want you rendered catatonic and vulnerable right out of the gate due to information overload and thereby waste our investment, after all. Spacing the shocks out a little should work a treat. In addition, a slight, and temporary, alteration to your brain has significantly heightened your neuroplasticity for the next day or so, which should further ease things for you.

But you want to hear about your powers, don't you? Of course you do.

Your first power is a form of self-targeted biokinesis. On average, it is pretty quick to make the changes you want it to make, though some changes are swifter while others are slower. Naturally, you are limited by the amount of biomass you have available.

Your second power enables the manipulation of nonliving solid matter in an area around you, in addition to providing some sensory feedback. It, and the previous power, are the two that are currently suppressed.

The third power, you have no doubt already noticed. It is what allows you to exist in two bodies simultaneously. Unfortunately, it does not allow you more than two at a time. That said, you can merge your bodies together for a time, which will grant you enhanced mental abilities for the duration, in addition to empowering your previous two powers to a certain extent.

Unlike your other powers, the final one is purely passive, rendering you essentially undetectable to Shard-based precognition. 'Cause at this point, why not?

Now, a final note before you go: we'll be watching your every action, but don't expect us to help you further in any way. Also, try to survive longer than a month? I have some money riding on it. Have fun! We certainly will.

Press the following word firmly to unlock your suppressed powers.


… What.

No, seriously. Was this a joke of some kind? My family wouldn't do anything like this, and I didn't exactly have any local friends inclined to such acts (or, well, any local friends, period), so there were exactly zero suspects who would have the motivation to do something like this to me as a prank, and that wasn't even acknowledging the whole suddenly-twins thing. There was no way I could think of that this could be a joke or a prank, but… it had to be…

I needed it to be…


"Please, please, please," my voice murmured from both of my mouths, making me jerk in surprise. It wasn't the fact that the words had been spoken without my input that startled me, of course. It happened often enough that I was used to it, and might be caused by my habit of not saying more than a handful of words aloud per day on average. No, it was the fact that, with two bodies, I could hear exactly what my voice sounded like. How… wrong it felt. My bodies sagged against one another, shoulder-to-shoulder as the bitter feelings welling up within me made me shudder.

And yet, despite how awful it felt, the dull misery was familiar, a known factor, and for once I did not try to ignore its presence. Rather, I clung to it, wrapping it around myself like a fresh and bloody animal skin to ward away the rising panic, even as the bone-deep sense of violation soaked in.

The mass of dysphoria grew under my focused attention, its cancerous bulk tugging me down. Away from the panic, yes, but deeper into the pit of depression, weighing me down until I couldn't muster the energy to move, to feel, to even speak. My bodies simply went limp, propping each other up.

Were I anywhere else, I might have allowed myself to just wallow in that muck until its hold on me gradually began to loosen, eventually letting me slip free. However, I was pretty sure that sacrificing a few hours in that manner would have some unpleasant consequences, thanks to my current situation. Gathering what scraps of mental energy I could, I closed my mind's eye, then opened it to focus on calming thoughts, reminding myself that I was not my body, that it was more akin to clothing I'd been forced to wear. And now…

My unfocused eyes widened as the implications of what the tattoo had said filtered through my mind. I had the tools necessary to reshape my shell into the form I'd been cheated out of at birth. Granted, they were deactivated at the moment, but accessing them would be as simple as pressing a button. With that goal in mind, close enough to practically taste, my struggles to break free redoubled in their intensity.

Thankfully, it only took a little over five minutes for my eyes to refocus and I was able to break past the phantom gravity. Knowing I couldn't afford to hesitate and risk losing my mental inertia, I raised my left arms again to look at the tattoos, then grabbed them with my other hands and simultaneously pressed my thumbs firmly into the final word of each identical tattoo.

Almost immediately, I felt a most peculiar sensation where the tattoos were. The only description I could think of was that I was being tickled, except under my skin and with dozens of sharp sewing needles. The sensations traveled with the ink as each tattoo flowed into a single, broad circle of pigment, which proceeded to skitter up my arms and under my sleeves. In under a second the sensations reached my skulls and sank through them.

Then, before I could so much as twitch, all thoughts in my mind were washed away as my world exploded.


I do not know how long I spent insensate, far too busy attempting to adapt to the sudden deluge of new sensory information to be able to so much as think. I was aware, yes, but only of the fact that I was aware, and the way my perception had expanded, both outward and inward. Without being able to even sense the passage of time I had no idea how long I'd spent like that, though on some level at least I knew that it was getting progressively easier to deal with my new senses.

Thankfully, once everything had squished together properly to the point that I could actually, consciously perceive the ache of sitting in the same position for who knows how long, I still had sunlight with which to work. Sure, the splotches of light on the ground had moved by, what, ten feet or so? But even so, the sun was still high in the sky. I still had time with which to make my way out of the middle of nowhere.

Of course, I chose that moment to have both of my bodies straighten up, and the resulting whining of my muscles made me turn my attention inward, leaving me with a metaphorical eyeful of all the parts of my bodies I least wanted to acknowledge. Sure, a huge portion of my innards were all squishy and gross in a way I was now intimately aware of, but that, I could deal with surprisingly easily. No, it was things like the facial hair follicles whose handiwork had been the bane of my mornings every day of my transition that made me grit my teeth in unfiltered revulsion. If only…

Something within me reached out to a patch of my cheek, and extruded keratin was withdrawn and whisked away to storage, follicles were cannibalized, and soon no evidence that facial hair had ever blighted that spot remained.

With wide eyes and the beginnings of an amazed smile, I did the same with the rest of my faces.

Gone. It was gone, forever! I'd never have to deal with it again!

… I'll admit that I laughed gleefully for a moment there, each of my bodies turning to hug the other, the sensation of their smooth cheeks rubbing together further bolstering my joy.

Of course, my joy was soon dampened by a twinge of discomfort in my heads reminding me of what I still had to deal with. If the tattoo was to be believed, and honestly I saw no reason not to, I was in the setting of Worm, with no documentation or anything in all likelihood. That meant I had no access to the various medications I was taking, and it'd really suck until I could get access, assuming I could even remember the exact names and dosages, or that the same meds existed under the same names here. Which, in turn, meant I'd have to deal with all the bullshit the pills were meant to deal with. Farewell, happiness and motivation, I hardly knew ye.

But, wait. I could manipulate my body. Could I… could I change my brain, fix that which made me need medication?

With that thought, my inner sight turned to the organs in question, and I was immediately made aware of the portion that I was only able to perceive as an oddly-shaped hole in each of my brains. It took me a moment, but I soon realized that this untouchable area, oddly shaped and with little tendrils of nothingness reaching out to other parts of my brain, could only be the corona pollentia and gemma. It looked nothing like the little spherical tumor I'd been unable to stop imagining it looking like. After coming to that conclusion, I felt a pulse of gratitude to my shards that I wouldn't be able to accidentally Kheprify myself, even as I mucked around with the rest of the soggy bacon that was the hardware on which my self ran.

Speaking of, as I observed the rest of my brains, I got the firm impression that I could most definitely accomplish what I wished. But I could do more than merely fix the deficiencies; I could also make improvements. A little twist and such here would improve my reaction speeds, a similar alteration there could hasten my thoughts. So much I could improve! Though that did raise a rather pressing issue: namely, how much could I change and still remain myself?

My powers were no help, of course, but I came to a decision soon enough without it. Any change, even the ones to eliminate the deficiencies I had to deal with, could very well count as a fundamental change to who I am. But even if the changes I make result in someone who is me without me being her, it'd be worth it to not have to deal with the depression and everything else. Dealing with them means I am merely surviving day to day, and for once I'd like to live, actually live! Is that so much to ask?

With my decision made, however hasty it might have been, I reached into my brains and made my first ch—