FOREWORD

This is a bit of an experiment for me. I don't often write first person and I've never written a 'Diary Style' story before. I thought it might be fun. Don't hate me too much.

--

August 12, 2000 (Saturday)

Something seems very wrong.

I'm far from the one most prone to seeing duplicity around me - I'd have to leave that right to my precious twin brothers - I can't shake the feeling I have that something is going on behind the scenes.

Take this morning. Avarius. He's a chump, really, probably stays up all night coming up with lame-ass ways of incorporating his gimmick into this dialogue much like Hego does. Every time we fight with him he pulls out a new trick or device based on his bird-scheme and we squash him. He's never all that surprised that he's lost, and always acts like he's positive he'll be back to cause trouble again.

Now, I know that Go City Jail is like a revolving door when it comes to supervillains, but doesn't he ever doubt his ability to escape? And shouldn't anything that Avarius owned have been sized by the city once he became a fugitive? How does he maintain that oversized bird's nest on Go Mountain with no perceivable income?

Today Avarius had some sort of robotic ostridge that could run faster than I could see. It'd practically disappear once place and reappear another. It dodged all my shots and only Mego wrestling the remote from Avarius saved us from being pecked to death. Hego crushed the mechanical bird afterwards but, honestly, I wish he hadn't. It was pretty impressive how well the bird worked and I would have liked to have known how he got it move so fast.

So I asked Avarius while we waited for the police to arrive. He seemed to avoid my questions at first, but if I know Avarius, he loves to talk, and eventually he just started babbling. I could hardly make heads or tails of it. It wasn't until after I thought about everything he said afterwards that it struck me.

He didn't know.

The bird-brained idiot was a veterinarian! Not a robotics expert. I don't know why it never occurred to me earlier that he lacked the skills to create the devices he used on a frequent basis.

But what did that mean? Someone had to be supplying him with them then. But who? Why? And for how much?

It always comes back to the money. Avarius, Astronica, Bella Negra, Obtinus, Serpent King, Hellpike... scum of the earth and scourge of Go city them all, but who pays the bill?

Hego handles most of the finances for the team. He's always been the one most eager to do it too. Let him have his fun, I've always thought, but now I wonder. He told me once that Go Tower exists on the generosity of some of the city's most patriotic organizations as well as a number of undisclosed private donations that are handled by the company that owns the island the tower was build on, our benefactors: VersaGene.

Who are those 'private donations' from? Do our villains also exist on a collection of private donations from people that enjoy chaos?

Next week is The Anniversary. I hate to confront Hego during this time, he always acts like a baby during the time around our parents' death but I really need to know what's going on.

--

August 13, 2000 (Sunday)

He's a jerk! Hego, if it was possible to die from too much EGO you'd have kicked the bucket when you were ten.

He made such a big scene and called me ungrateful! As if I was questioning his ability to keep us afloat. I just wanted to know where the money came from. He made it seem as if I wanted to steal it.

"You know, sister, you've been paying an awful lot of attention to our evil villains, lately," he said to me. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

GAH!

Could he be more dense? He thinks that thinking positive and being on the side of right is all you need to fix the world. Doesn't he realize you have to study your enemy in order to better fight them? Why does good always have to be so dumb compared to evil?

All right. I should calm down. It is a very tense time of the year for all my brothers, maybe I should cut them a break.

We got an invitation to a dinner that our benefactors are hosting in memory of our parents on Wedneday. VersaGene has been very kind to us since our folks died. They pulled us from the wreckage of our tree house and helped us to understand how our bodies had changed after being hit by that meteorite. They even provided a home for us after mom and dad died in that car accident.

From what I understand, they weren't thrilled about the 'superhero family' idea that Hego had been pushing since ... oh, about five minutes after learning he had supernatural strength. But they treated us like stern but understanding parents and agreed to help us get our start. Then, when the donation program started, they helped to arrange the purchase of the island that GO Tower is on.

They had this memorial dinner last year, too. It was nice and many people from the public came to express their sorrow as well as their gratitude to Team Go for everything we've done for them. It was a real pick-me-up after a dreadful week of bad memories.

Still, as I mentioned yesterday, they do seem to handle all of those 'private' donations without ever letting us know who gave what and how much. I realize we're probably not supposed to know, so we don't play favorites, but I am really getting bugged by all this secrecy.

Oh, Bella Negra broke out of jail yesterday. See what I mean bout revolving door? We put one villain in, another comes out. This time, though, I think I'm going to put my sleuthing cap on. There is something wrong with the way the criminals have been acting lately, and I'm going to get to the bottom of it.

Who knows, maybe there's a mastermind who works for the city jail? Taking out someone like could save us a lot of time.

--

August 14, 2000 (Monday)

Oh. My. God.

I can't believe what I learned today, my hands are shaking writing this down. The whole world -- THE WHOLE WORLD -- looks different today and I can barely calm myself down enough to write about it.

Okay, breathe.

First things first: Bella Negra struck again today. I suspected she would this week but to do it the day before The Anniversary was a pain. Not just because of bad things happening on the eve of mom and dad's death, but because Hego was practically useless. I can't believe someone who was given the gift of being able to pick up a building with his bare hands can be such an emotional wreck sometimes.

Bella Negra has that silly panther-gimmick, like Avarius' bird thing. This time she apparently was feeling metaphorical because she attacked a jewelry store that had a gem called the 'Blue Panther.' It was mostly turquoise, I believe. Anyway, we came in to stop her and we did at first. Not really a big deal, Bella Negra has no powers like us, and she was one where we were five. Well, four without Hego being productive.

The twins were awesome, they had her surrounded in a flash and my shots kept her repelling cable from giving her an aerial way out. I think Mego was intending on lecturing her about the book he's writing until the police came, when all of a sudden she pulled out his little black box and threw it on the ground.

A black oil covered the floor in a flash then suddenly turned to a sticky goop, trapping all of us where we stood. Except for her, that is. She did an impressive leap off of Mego's head (sorry, brother) and fled the store in a flash. The twins were helpless, but Mego shank to a size where the goop didn't stick and then waded out of the danger zone. I used my fire to burn away the glue (leaving a TERRIBLE mess on my hair) and tried to chase after her.

Mego and I followed her into an alley where she apparently vanished entirely. I didn't believe it so I told Mego to search the alleys and I would search the roofs. I was always better at climbing than him, anyway. I flew up the fire escape as fast as I could to the roof just in time to see Bella Negra hand over the gemstone to a suited man.

I thought, "She's selling it to her black market buyer!" A little suspicious, but not unexpected. I charged after them, hoping to catch both the criminal and the buyer, figuring it would get me one step closer to understanding how a fugitive like Bella Negra got money.

Bella, though, she saw me, probably the whole time. The business man, who I never did get a good look at, fled through the doorway and down a staircase before I could reach him. The cat burglar just smiled at me and closed the door, kicking the knob off when it was shut.

I wanted to get everyone, but I knew then that I'd have to sacrifice one. I went after Bella. I've written in length about Bella Negra before, but she's probably the best fighter that Team Go has ever been challenged by. Naturally that means she's only at a slight advantage to me in normal hand-to-hand. But I have an edge.

I turned up the flames on my hands and kept her on the defensive. I figured, though, I could do more. "Who was that?" I asked her, trying to use the conversation to distract her.

"Oh, you know, the Architect, or one of his people, rather," she said, as if it was the most casual thing in the world. The Architect! I finally know something new! I pressed her for more while we fought. She wasn't entirely forthcoming at first but she explained.

I wonder now, if I should have just been happy with the name.

"You know, the group that arranges all our fights," she eventually said. I tried not to appear shocked and she got a few hits on me in the process. "They break us out of jail, gives us equipment to test, makes sure you hear the news of our crimes before the police do. You know, the Architect."

It was an outrageous story. Naturally, I didn't believe it for second.

"Right, and moon landings were faked," I told her. This sort of story was reserved for the tabloids and I couldn't believe Bella would try it on me.

"I expected you haven't heard," Bella said to try and convince me. "They're all very serious about you guys not finding out. I get this long contract every time the bust me out of jail." She looked at me with a toothy grin. "But I don't like rules very much. I'm a bad girl."

You're a lunatic, I thought as we fought. I think she realized I still didn't believe her because she pressed forward, trying to take the offensive and leaned in close as she grabbed my glowing hands at the forearm. "Who do you think arranged for you to get your nifty little super powers? Or did you think a meteor fell in your backyard without it ever making the news or anyone noticing in advance?"

I was caught off guard by that and Bella wasted no time. She kicked me in the gut and then threw me off the edge of the roof. I only barely caught the edge to keep myself from becoming a splat on the pavement. Bella stood above me and looked down at me. Like she was somehow disappointed or felt sorry for me.

"I guess you really didn't know," she said to me, like a pompous ass, then disappeared into the night.

By the time I got back onto the roof again, she was gone.

The police showed up later and were unhappy with us to say the least. We'd saved their asses enough times, however, I think they couldn't be too mad at us. I didn't care at all, I was too busy picking apart what Bella said. Could it be true?

I'm not sure about everything she said, but I went to the library tonight and looked up the supposed date of our 'incident' in the microfiches. Four newspapers covered our neighborhood when we were younger.

None of them ever mentioned the meteor.

--

August 15, 2000 (Tuesday) - Morning

We have a contact in VersaGene, a doctor really, who is supposed to watch over us in case something bad happens because of the energy we absorbed from the meteor. His name is Dr. Stengovich and he was there when we first woke up from the incident with our powers.

He works in a division in VersaGene called Neurotechnology, and studies mostly the brain to see how it adapts to new situations. He helped us to understand how get our powers to obey our commands. So I wouldn't go all angry and suddenly melt the floor with my fire.

These days he just checks in on a weekly basis. I think he's gotten himself involved in some bio-engineering project lately. Trying to build a better robot I believe.

I think I'll go to see him today, find out what he knows about the 'meteor' that hit us. I know the dinner is tonight for the Anniversary, but this is really bugging me and I gotta find out before we go and stand before the board of VersaGene and our pseudo-foster father, the VP of Special Projects, Quincy Masada. This is probably just Bella trying to screw with my mind and will turn out to be a misunderstanding.

Even there was a cover-up, I'll understand. The whole world couldn't start thinking meteors would grant them special powers, it would lead to insanity. Or worse: more Hegos.

--

August 15, 2000 (Tuesday) - Afternoon

He shut me out!

To his credit, though, I heard from a lot of other scientists at VersaGene that Stengovitch had been obsessed with his latest bioengineering project, probably in anticipation of the forthcoming merger with Nominal Systems Incorporated. Yeah, I heard a little bit of the commotion over this merger while I was over at the VersaGene building. They're trying to acquire some heavy industry partners or something like that. Gonna be another megacorporation with a huge name like 'VersaGeneNominal' or something. Which is ugly. They should shorten it.

Anyway, back to my anger at Katsuhito. Even if all this business stuff is going on, he should have had time for me. We're supposedly a priority to VersaGene. What if something went wrong and our only contact was too busy to waste time with the 'human element,' or whatever he called me.

Terrible, just terrible. I wonder sometimes what the human race is coming to.

I won't be finding out about the meteor before the dinner, but I guess it was unrealistic to think I would anyway. Too short term. There is one thing I could do, though. There still is the issue of this 'Architect' that Bella mentioned. She was right about the meteor not being in the papers, at least, I could find out if anyone else has heard of this Architect.

In fact, yeah, that's what I'm going to do right now. And I know just the talkative bird-brain to ask too!

--

August 15, 2000 (Tuesday) - Late Afternoon

I just have a second before the dinner.

Avarius confirmed it! He also claimed to be in contact with a group known as The Architect. I'm not sure how high this goes, but it's possible every villain we've ever fought has had help from this shadow group!

Have we been manipulated too? I've never heard of them before. Maybe Hego knows something? Or the Wegos? How would I find out for sure, though?

The dinner is right now and I have no idea what I'm going to do. Do I confront someone? Ask the people who have provided for us most of our lives if they also provided for our deadly enemies? How do pass that one over cocktails?

Quincy would know. He was in charge, after all, he would know if something were awry. He's been like a father to us. He wouldn't lie to me, right?

--

August 15, 2000 (Tuesday) - Late Night

I'm afraid to sleep.

Are they coming for me? Do I know too much?

Only as I sit here in the dark do I realize how involved VersaGene was to the creation of this tower. If we wanted to shut them out, could we? Are they watching me right this moment?

I need to collect my thoughts. This is what I found out at dinner and... afterwards.

First: Quincy is a rat bastard that deserves to burn in hell!

He knows about Architect. He could very well BE The Architect. I'm not sure. But it didn't faze him in the slightest when I brought it up. He nodded, like he already knew I knew, like he had somehow LET me know.

Maybe he did. There was this guy hanging around Quincy, supposedly he's going to take Quincy's post after the merger, very creepy. His name is Mason. It's possible he was the shadowy guy who bought the Blue Panther from Bella Negra. I'm not sure about that either, but he had the same build. I never saw the face of the contact, so I'll never know for sure.

Anyway, back to Quincy. He was brutally honest with me. Didn't even bother take me aside during the dinner, just looked at me and nodded then said, "Shego, do you really think the world polarizes so easily into villain and Hego -- I mean hero? Sometimes it needs a push in the right direction, an architect to make sure that the people who will be seen as good are fighting the people marked as evil."

Then he smiled at me, the way he always used to smile when I thought he was proud of me. Now I know the truth. He wanted me as a puppet and his smile was satisfaction that I played my part right. I think I grit my teeth so loudly that Hego heard it over the crowd because he quickly came over and pulled me away.

He had the gall to reprimand me for acting mean to our 'father.' I didn't even have a chance to explain, he wouldn't stop lecturing! I thought for a moment that he must have known about this all along but quickly dashed the concept. Hego's mind had polarized ages ago, even before Quincy's manipulations. He would never believe in their guilt.

Which mean, naturally, that I had to get proof. Oh, how smart I thought I was. We were already in the VersaGene tower, so I figured what better time to find out what I wanted to know. I slipped out of the party a little later on and snuck through the building. I know the security system rather well, actually, and unlike my retarded brother, I've always been watching our enemies, especially our more agile ones. Moves I'd only seen before I put to use slinking around corners and slinging beneath cameras.

I remembered the labs we played in during the days after the 'incident.' There were offices down there with terminals that accessed the digital archives. I snuck down as quickly as I could while keeping unseen and found an unlocked office.

The computer was tricky, I have to admit. My hacking skills are practically non-existent. I did learn a few things from hanging around engineers, though. They are incredibly forgetful of their passwords. I searched around the desk, looking under the keyboard and beneath the monitor, before finally locating the little post-it note taped under the mouse pad.

The system sprung to life as I entered in the right login. They had archived their records through an internal website and I looked through the project records looking for something that looked familiar, some glimmer of recognition that could have referred to myself and my brothers.

Ultimately, it was something obvious. Project 'HopeSpring.' I opened it to be sure, but Hope Spring was the name of the street we grew up on. The first and only house I ever remembered living in. I still think fondly of it, in the days before this insanity.

The file was brief, and apparently whoever's login I used didn't have full access to the details but it did make reference to a physical file downtown in the VersaGene records building. I read what was there, it was more than enough to make me ill. It still makes me ill. Dammit! How could they?

VersaGene apparently did a 'selection stage' they called it. A fake vaccine for something innocent like chickenpox, to get blood samples of every kid in our neighborhood. They selected a family and then they did SOMETHING to them. Something to make them different. The project was intended to induce some sort of experimental change in a person's body through gene therapy or something. Basically turn a whole person different by rewriting their DNA.

There wasn't much more in the file that I could read. Except that it was funded for 'military projects' and headed by Quincy.

I was about to go digging for more when that bastard Mason I mentioned earlier showed up and interrogated me. I told him I was bored and decided to play Solitare on someone's computer, but I don't think he bought it. How could he? He knows the computers needed passwords.

I apologized to him and fled back to the party for a few minutes for the commemorative toast to my parents and then slipped out to come back here.

Now it's very late, and I'm not sure. If Mason knew what I found out, would we be in jeopardy? How do I break the news to Hego, Mego, and the twins? Will they even believe me?

I'll need the physical file from downtown to prove it.

--

August 16, 2000 (Wednesday)

I never wondered what the worth of my family was. I can tell you, though, it's practically nothing.

Forget it.

What's the point anymore?

They don't believe me. They won't believe me. And I don't care. If they want to live their worthless dream that they exist in a pure incorruptible world, they can GO RIGHT AHEAD. I'm NOT going to stick around anymore. Who needs a family who doesn't even trust their own sister? Who needs a company who uses people like pawns and thinks their own opinions are worthless? Who needs a city who PAYS to let this entertainment?

I just have no idea where to go.

Oh, this was all in the physical file. There's no doubt anymore. I'll go through it simply because the details just prove how vile the human race is.

VersaGene put a bid out for some work, gene therapy type stuff. Make humans better. A super-soldier project. Arrogant pricks. Then some other arrogant pricks come by with support from the US government. They're interested in the research and they fund a human trial.

So the first pricks do a test, and it's cool, but then the soldiers go bat-crazy and kill themselves. The second batch of arrogant pricks isn't pleased, but they go ahead and order a second test. This time they choose children. Easier to manipulate is the first pricks' claims. So they pick me and my brothers. It works! Everyone drinks champagne and scotch, and has a freaking-orgy for all I know.

But the second batch of arrogant pricks change their mind. They want to make sure the 'soldiers' can withstand the changes in the long term. So they set up this scenario. It's easy, one of the test subjects has already provided a viable fantasy to work with. VersaGene makes us superheroes. But superheroes need villains to fight, so they make those too. The big-wigs at VersaGene and the US Government pricks laugh and play at making the heroes and villains fight to test the strengths and weakness of each group. It's all a big game. VersaGene gets a contract and becomes rich and the US government decides to keep funding the 'game' because it provides them a venue for testing new technologies.

THE END. Yeah, that's it. No tree house full of kids yearning to be something more. No magical meteor falling to earth imbuing them with powers and abilities far beyond mortal men. Just jerks playing games with jerks and using kids -- god damn KIDS -- as their pawns.

Is this what morals pass for in this world?

What's worse? Even holding the file in my freakin' hand wasn't enough for Hego to open his eyes. He though I was playing a joke! He though I had become EVIL and was trying to subvert his loyal nature. HE TREATED ME LIKE A VILLAIN!

So be it. He can play his game. I'll just join the other team. Not here though, I don't think I could face that moron again. I'll go elsewhere, somewhere where I can be appreciated. Somewhere where someone isn't trying to manipulate me.

And Hego can go on crying over those bastards we called parents. I'll start celebrating.

Oh, didn't I mention it before?

HopeSpring Project had a selection phase, right? Well, you can't do human testing of the scale done on us just for fun or even the US Government wouldn't pay for it. They had to have permission.

And they had it.

There was a contract in the physical file. Signed, dated, stamped, and copied. Probably a version exists in the US Government files too.

It was signed by our parents on the date of the 'meteor' incident. It was effecting a sale of their five children over to the VersaGene corporation for the sum total of six million dollars.

They sold us like a family of slaves. A family valued at six million dollars.

So, yeah! We're descended from the lowest scum of the earth. I think being an evil villain is actually an upgrade.

I think I might start off as a sidekick, though, just at first.

--END--

AFTERWORD--

VersaGene and Nominal Systems do succeed in merging after the end of this story and decide to shorten their name first to GeneNominal and finally just GENOM. Have a cookie if you figured that out before now.