Nature Versus Nurture 2: Project Octopus

How can you find your own identity…when you're a clone of someone else? That's what Octavia Jones wants to find out. And what are the ever-mysterious Agent Carlyle and her biological "genetic template" doing back in her life?

Chapter 1: It's the puberty, stupid

Octavia Jones, carrying her backpack, was on her way over to the table where she and her friends Jordan Nicholas and Daisy Gatsby usually sat when they had breakfast at McDonald's every morning. She moved with the slight awkwardness of one who has grown very much in a very short time, and still needed to get used to it. Octavia made her way to the girl's restroom.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she tousled her hair, which was a shaggy, handsome chestnut. She had large, deep brown eyes with long, dark lashes, and a strong chin. She wiped her sunglasses off, adjusting them on her long, straight nose. She looked exactly like her biological father…

"Oh hell, who are you kidding?" Octavia muttered to herself. "You don't have a father. He's the guy you were cloned from."

Making sure that Brittany Gibson, her rival whom she had always disliked, and her cronies were not around, Octavia shrugged off her long brown trench coat. The pincered tentacles she had borne on her back from the age of twelve, steel trimmed in metallic magenta, reared up over her, relieved to be free from under the heavy coat. They were freakishly powerful, monstrous, and terrifying, but at the same time satiny smooth, beautiful, and perfect. They were a paradox, a gift and a curse.

There was also an inch-wide birthmark on Octavia's right shoulder, a tiny, dark brown octopus. This was the final mark of her rather weird origins.

Octavia finally pulled her coat back up and made her way to Jordan's table, retrieving an Egg McMuffin on the way.

"What's wrong with you?" Jordan asked. "You're walking funny."

"I feel funny too. Ever grew from five-one to five-ten within two days?" Octavia muttered.

"Can't truthfully say I have," remarked Jordan. "I'm five-five."

"You know, I recognize the signs," Jordan continued. "You're going through another puberty."

"Puberty! That and—" Octavia still could not bear to speak his name. "Him. Are those two all you ever think about?"

"Nope," said Jordan. "I recognize the signs. My brother Morgan's going through puberty now. He's growing really tall really fast, his shoulders are growing broader, his arms are growing bigger, his hands and feet look too large for him, and his bones are getting thicker. Just like what your body's doing. Right? I can see where your trench coat's getting tighter."

Octavia uneasily agreed. She looked down at her hands—they had seemed unusually large and heavy lately. "I'm going through—a male puberty? I'm not gonna grow a mustache, am I?"

"Nah. You have two X chromosomes. You're genetically all woman. But all the rest of your genes you share with a man. You were cloned from a man, and a very hot man at that…"

"Jordan!" Daisy Gatsby now arrived at the table, shaking her long black braids. "I though you said you weren't going to talk about the good Doctor like that after what we went through with Octavia!"

"Aw c'mon," wheedled Jordan. "We always talked about our crushes before."

"Yeah, but he's like, her biological father or something. Even closer than that genetically. You're, like, grossing the poor girl out or something."

"Well, okay." Jordan agreed. "But that male part of you is probably where it's coming from. And you're a clone, so I don't think normal biological processes apply." Her loyalty to her friends Octavia and Daisy was unbreakable and her faith in mankind unshakeable. Although two years ago, that faith in her fellow man was severely shaken.

When the three of them were twelve years old, Jordan and Daisy noticed something was a little—odd—with their friend Octavia. When their old English teacher told them to write an autobiography, information about her biological parents was suspiciously missing. An enigmatic, dark-haired man was hired as the new vice-principal. Octavia's spine mysteriously began to itch and a tiny, octopus shaped birthmark appeared on her back.

And that was only the beginning of the ordeal. Of course, there were answers. Just not the ones one would expect: their friend was at the center of a wide-reaching conspiracy of politicians and scientists.

Octavia had no parents; she was a clone, an almost exact genetic replica of a very infamous, powerful supervillian. The scientists who had created her had grafted a sophisticated computer interface into her spine to accommodate the robotic tentacles which were the source of the supervillian's power. The birthmark was a tattoo to distinguish her when she was to be plucked from her stable adoptive home to complete the experiment. The mysterious vice principal was actually a CIA agent who did the dirty work, which included blackmailing Jordan, and when that didn't work, shooting her.

Octavia found safe haven in Jordan's house, but both girls still bore the scars of their ordeal; one had four tentacles grafted on her back, one had the scars of two bullet holes in her chest.

Jordan looked at her watch. "7:30, we ought to be heading off."

The three then paused at the two giant steel structures lining the entrance of Shylock High School.

"Aw damn, I forgot to tell you!" Jordan said. "They were installing metal detectors at the school!"

"What the hell for!" Octavia yelped. Two years—and now her deformity would be inevitably revealed to the whole school.

"You know, 'cause of nine-eleven, Columbine, all that. People are worried. And yeah, I know what you're thinking," Jordan replied.

"And just what am I thinking?" snapped Octavia.

"You're thinking as soon as you go through those things your ten—appendages are going to set them off." Jordan began thinking. Jordan's hallmark was her long, wavy blonde hair, but there was absolutely no reason to call her a dumb blonde. "There's more than one way to skin a cat!"

Unfortunately, the principal, Dr. Jacklyn Hyde, caught Jordan and Daisy trying to crawl through the window.

"Did you hear the new rules? The only place you can enter and exit the building is through that doorway." She pointed towards the metal detectors.

As soon as Octavia passed through the metal detectors, she heard just what she was most afraid of: a high-pitched beep. Everyone crowded around to see what the commotion was.

"You'll need to take off your coat and empty your pockets," the security guard informed her.

"Aw shit," Octavia muttered.