A/N: This is it! The big Alex Mack story I've been wanting to put up for a few years now. Bear in mind that it's not going to follow the kiddie plotline of "heroes win, villain loses". In fact, things have only gotten more difficult for Alex since the series finale. Those looking for traditional Alex antics should look elsewhere.

As always, Alex Mack and everybody involved (c) Ken Lipman and Tom Lynch. This story is mine, though.

So without further wait, presenting Alex Mack in...

A NEW BEGINNING!


"Hey, wait!" Alex Mack shouted, trying not to slip and fall in the rain. "Wait, wait wait! Don't tow it!" Gasping for breath and dripping wet, Alex ran up to the traffic cop as she watched the tow truck lift up her jeep. "Sorry about this. See, this is my jeep."

"Okay," the cop said. "You can tell them that down at the impound."

"No, you see, I had to go inside for a couple of minutes, and I couldn't find a space, so..."

"Listen, ma'am! You saw the sign," the cop argued as he pointed to a nearby No Parking sign. "You blow it, we tow it."

"Yes, I know it's a no-parking zone, but you gotta let me go on this." Alex removed her red hat and looked deeply into the cop's eyes. "I'm a college student, it's raining out, and I need to get home," Alex said, adding a sympathetic tone to her voice. "Heck, the only reason I even have that jeep is because I won it in a contest."

"A contest, eh?" the cop chuckled. "I was in a contest once. Y'know what they said to me?" He handed a parking ticket to Alex. "Better luck next time." Turning to the truck, the cop shouted, "Haul away!" cueing the truck to pull out of the area with Alex's jeep in tow.

With a groan, Alex looked down at her ticket and stared at the fine. "$250?" Alex gagged. "That's three classes worth of books, just for my jeep." Alex stuffed the ticket into her pocket and ran back towards the doors, looking to get out of the rain. She mentally kicked herself for forgetting to pull her umbrella out of the jeep, then ran into the supermarket to dry off.


A few minutes later, Alex was in the store calling on a cell phone. "C'mon, c'mon. Pick up," Alex hissed as the ringing on the other end continued. Eventually, there was a response...

"Mack residence! George and Barbara aren't here, so leave a message."

The machine... Alex sighed. "Hey, Mom, it's me. Listen, I'm at the downtown FoodSavers. You know where it is. Anyway, my jeep got towed and I need a ride. Oh, and $250 for the ticket. I'll see you soon, I hope. Love ya." Alex hung up. Dad's most likely at Sedgewick Chem working, and Mom's been doing some job-hunting recently. It looks like I'm gonna be here a while.

Alex hung up and was just about to leave when the sound of shouting came from nearby. "Stop, thief!" shouted a cashier as a young boy burst through the crowds and towards the door, holding what looked like a purse. Off to the side, Alex saw a store employee pushing shopping carts and smirked. A second later, the end cart suddenly burst forward and slammed into the kid, knocking him off-balance and allowing Alex to catch him easily.

"Whoa, slow down, pal!" Alex grabbed the boy by his arm. "You're, what, 12? 13? And you're purse-snatching?"

The boy only sneered at Alex. "Lemme go, you hag!"

"Hag? I'll have you know that I'm 19!" The cashier finally caught up to the two of them. "Here you go, pal. No harm done." Alex tossed the purse to the cashier.

"Thanks, ma'am," the cashier replied. "He just swiped it from an old lady, right in front of everyone."

"Shameful." Alex shook her head. Taking advantage of her distracted mind, the boy broke out of Alex's grasp and ran out of the store. The cashier was about to chase him again, but Alex stopped him. "Forget it. You got it back for her."

"Yeah..." the cashier shrugged. "Thanks for the assist."

"Ehh... Don't mention it." As the cashier walked off to return the purse, Alex stared out the doors to watch the rain fall out of boredom.

She lived in Pittsville Gardens now. Her father had gotten a job at the Sedgewick Chemical Plant a few years ago, and it was eventually decided that the Macks would move out there for the sake of convenience. When Paradise Valley Chemical went out of business following the arrest and conviction of its corrupt CEO, Danielle Atron, the town's financial security died with it. With no more chemical plant to provide its money to the businesses and municipalities, everybody realized that there was no future for Paradise Valley anymore, and so they moved away.

After settling into Pittsville, Alex graduated high school (barely) and then moved on to Pittsville Community College. She pulled decent grades, and also found some part-time work at the local mall by running the ticket counter at the movieplex. Not exactly a prime career choice, in her sister Annie's opinion, but Alex was grateful to have some kind of personal income.

Speaking of whom, Annie was coming over from MIT to spend the weekend with her family, and Alex was glad to be having her back, if only for a while. Alex looked forward to showing Annie that she was fully capable of living her life without being supervised. The last three years was proof of that, or so she hoped.

"Hey, Alex!" Alex turned her head in surprise to see a red-headed girl with freckles walking towards her, holding a shopping bag full of groceries. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Hi, Robyn," Alex greeted back. "Nice to see you, too." Robyn Russo was about the only familiar face that Alex had in Pittsville. Everybody else had long since separated. Louis had moved back to Cincinnati with his parents, while Nicole and her family had moved out east for a job offer. Losing Ray, her longest and closest friend, was the hardest blow. He and his dad were in Seattle, no longer as convenient next-door neighbors.

"So, Alex," Robyn said with a solemn voice. "What happened? Did the store run out of Stoodles or something?"

"I wish," Alex replied. "My jeep got towed."

"Oh..." Robyn shook her head. "How shameful, those tow truck people. Pulling away vehicles from their owners without them knowing, and in this weather. You know that pneumonia is notorious around this time of year?"

Alex sighed. Robyn always knew how to find the worst-case scenario in anything. "Robyn, relax," she began, putting on a casual face. "It's not like losing my jeep is the worst thing that's ever happened to me."

"I guess not." Robyn sighed. "Getting thrown into a plexiglass tube with explosives threatening to blow you up isn't exactly something that can be topped, is it?" she replied.

"Whoa, hey! Careful, there, Robyn," Alex warned. "I'm not in the mood to be dredging up old memories."

"I didn't mean it that way," Robyn hastily apologized "I'm just saying that, for someone like you, you've had it a lot worse than me on occasions."

Alex put a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Robyn, it's over," she began. "What's done is done. Atron's gone, my you-know-whats are gone, and everything's okay. No need to be dwelling on the past."

"I... I guess."

Alex suddenly saw a cab pull up to the store, and nearly gasped when she saw Annie in the backseat, waving at her. "Sorry, Robyn, but I've gotta go. I'll see you in class on Monday, 'kay? Bye!" Alex quickly walked out the doors and got into the cab, leaving Robyn alone with her groceries.


"No one was home when I got in, but then you called on the machine, so I figured I'd surprise you," Annie explained as the cab drove down the streets of Pittsville Gardens. "So, I'm assuming that everybody's still convinced that you're plain ol' Alex Mack?"

"You better believe it." Alex replied back.

"Including Mom and Dad?"

Alex heistated, but shook her head in agreement. "Of course," she quietly replied. "I still don't see why we can't tell them, though. They're our parents, for cripes' sake."

"I know, but imagine if Dad did know," Annie pointed out, choosing her words carefully. "He'd freak out, and you'd never hear the end of it."

"You don't know that!" Alex angrily spoke back. "Heck, if Dad knew a long time ago, that crazy woman would've never gotten as close as she did."

"You don't know that." Annie calmly countered. "Remember what you said happened to Hunter's dad when he tried to stop her?" Alex tried to find something to counter the argument with, but was silent. "You see, Alex? You can't trust anybody with this, not even Mom and Dad."

"Well, I still think they deserve to know," Alex grunted as the cab pulled to a stop in front of a two-story house. No sooner had Annie paid the fare when Alex stormed out of the cab in a huff. Grabbing her suitcase, Annie walked out after Alex, who had already unlocked the front door and let herself in.

Just like old times, she thought to herself. Annie sighed.

This is going to be a long weekend.


A few hours later, the Mack family was gathered around the dinner table. Just an hour ago, George and Barbara had gotten in to find the sisters watching some TV in the living room, as silent as ever. After some modest reunion between the family, Barbara ordered some Chinese, which had arrived only fifteen minutes ago. Now, they were having their first full-family dinner in a while.

"So, Annie," George spoke up, trying to strike some conversation, "how's college? Still blowing the grade curve to hell and back?"

"My grades are good, if that's what you're implying."

"Well, what about when you're not busy, Annie?" Barbara added. "I mean, you are taking time to live, right?"

"What do you mean?"

"Dances, dates, eating out," Barbara counted off her fingers. "You know, socializing."

"Mom, in this day and age of college, no one socializes." Annie dug at her Chow Mein. "It's every student for themselves."

"Well, I'll have you know I was quite the social butterfly in my youth. After class, there would always be someone to spend an hour or so with just hanging around." Barbara sighed. "It's a shame as to what the college scene is like these days. I mean, when I went back to college, everybody seemed so... dull."

"They're not dull, Barbara," George bluntly reiterated. "They're among the best and brightest, working very hard to bring about a future. Not just for themselves, but for all of us."

Barbara rolled her eyes. Leave it to George to miss the entire point, she told herself. "So, to hopefully change the subject, how's our other college hopeful?"

"Eh, nothing worth reporting," Alex mumbled as she picked at her rice. "I barely passed a pop quiz in math, then had to spend time with the counselor over my still-undecided major. It ran late, so I stopped in a supermarket to grab a snack, only to come out and watch my jeep get towed."

Barbara feigned a smile, trying to at least cheer Alex up. "Sounds like you had quite the... interesting day."

"Yep, just another wonderful day in the life of Alex Mack." Alex put down her chopsticks. "I'm done. I'll finish the rest later tonight." With a loud sigh, Alex left the kitchen, leaving her family looking at her aimlessly.

"George," Barbara spoke up. "Does she seem... peevish to you?"

"What?"

Barbara shook her head. "Never mind." Annie merely said nothing to her credit.


About an hour later, Annie came upstairs into Alex's room. Alex was currently inside, sprawled out on the mattress. She had changed out of her earlier clothes and into an old t-shirt with knee-torn jeans. Her expression was one of general boredom. "Nice room," Annie replied as she saw the fairly-cluttered mess on the floor and furniture.

Alex sat up and sighed. "Sorry 'bout the mess." With a thought, Alex telekinetically gathered up a pile of laundry and dropped it in the hamper. "You want I should make some room?"

"No need. I've got a room at the Pittsville Motel," Annie replied as she sat down on Alex's bed. "Anyway, since you haven't really brought it up yet, how're things in your secret world? Nice and calm, I hope." Alex nodded. "That's good. So why the long face?"

Alex sat up. "Annie..." she began. "Have you ever felt like you're simply wasting your life? That you feel like you could be doing something more with yourself?"

"No. Why?"

"I dunno. I just..." Alex sighed. "I just feel like my life's in a rut."

"I can see why," Annie replied. "I mean, you've been in college for two years, and you still haven't decided on a major. You stamp movie tickets for chump change, and your bank account barely has enough money in it to register a pulse. There's a word for your kind, you know. It's called 'slacker'."

"Hey, it's not like I haven't tried to find something," Alex said in her defense. "It's just that nothing ever feels... right."

"Your problem, Alex, is that you lack direction," the elder sister continued. "You've never really had to plan for your future, since Atron would've decided it for you... one way or another. Now that she's gone, you've got to fend for yourself. Heck, we all had to. At least I made plans for the worst-case scenario."

"Yeah, yeah." Alex rolled her eyes, obviously annoyed at Annie's ego. "Ol' Little Miss Perfect herself, star of the Mack family household. If anyone can make it big, it's Annette Mack, no question."

Annie grunted. "Don't call me by that name," she tersely replied. "You know how I hate the formality of it."

"Sorry," Alex apologized. "Meanwhile, I'm sitting on my rump, taking college classes for a future I can't decide on and letting my other talents go to waste. At least back in the Valley, there was always something going on."

"Yeah, it was fun when we were kids, but that's gone now," Annie said. "Like it or hate it, Alex, it's time to grow up and face the real world like an average woman. Plus, hate to break it to ya, but superpowers are not a part of the average daily lifestyle."

"Well, maybe I don't wanna be average."

"Life doesn't work that way. Sorry." Annie glared at Alex. "I'm just saying that if you don't get some direction in your life real soon, you're gonna find that the path you're on is going someplace you won't like. Might as well conform and save yourself the headaches."

"Yeah, I'll be a BIG success, just like you." Groaning, Alex walked out of the room. "I gotta get out of here for a while. If anybody asks, I'm out with college friends."

"You want I should roll out the red carpet?"

"Nah..." Alex instantly liquified herself. "I'm good." Annie didn't bother to respond as the silvery blob quickly darted into the bathroom and down the shower drain.


It was a dark night in Pittsville Park, and most of the people never bothered coming out at this late hour, which suited Alex just fine. It gave her the animosity she wanted when she needed some alone time. She was currently near the back of the park, close to the border. There was a small crevasse that was almost completely obscured by trees and shade, making it very easy for the average passerby to overlook. Alex often came out here to practice her skills, confident that most folks wouldn't think to find her there.

Lately, Alex was experimenting with new ways to use her powers. For example, just the other day, Alex had gone bowling with some college pals of hers, and found herself fascinated with seeing the ball crashing into the pins with so much impact. Alex figured she might be able to pull off something similiar.

Willing her body to transform, Alex melted into the familiar silver puddle she had used since the very beginning. Once fully liquified, Alex began to stretch her compacted form outward and upward, until she formed into a perfect sphere. "That's great!" she exclaimed. "But can it roll?" Giving herself a telekinetic nudge, Alex rolled forward by two feet. She then continued putting more pressure into her thoughts, allowing her spherical form to roll every which way. Left, right, forward, back, Alex moved in any direction she could think of. Finally, the liquid-ball rolled to a stop, where a pile of bricks sat stacked in a corner.

"Alright. I've got the form, the angle, the strength." Alex's liquid-ball form then began to crackle with electricity as it bobbed towards the bricks. "Eight-brick, corner pocket. Fire at will!" With an audible blast of sound, Alex shot forward like a glowing bowling ball, her telekinesis pushing her full-speed towards the bricks that looked like they were gonna get knocked down. When Alex hit the bricks, though, all she got was a gooey splat. Her liquid form splattered immediately on impact, and the bricks stood firm. "Rats!" Alex swore. "Still not enough force."

Sighing, Alex willed her splattered form back into a single puddle, then molded herself back to her human state and solidified. Sitting on the brick pile, Alex looked up at the night sky.

It had been a full seven years since the chemical accident. What happened that day was since reduced to quick flashes in her mind, but they were always there, lingering forever in her memory. She could remember the date clearly: September 9th, 1994. She had woke up utterly dreading her first day of Junior High School in Paradise Valley. She remembered looking like an idiot in math class, having her favorite red hat nearly stolen by a punk kid, and being humiliated in front of a cute boy. Truly, it was the most miserable day of her life.

Coming home from school, a PV-Chem truck loaded with drums of chemicals came barreling down the street, and Alex, still moping over her miserable school day, barely registered its presence in time to run away and avoid getting hit. As she dove out of the way, the truck crashed into a fire hydrant, and the force of the impact knocked a drum onto the street. Between that and the spraying water, Alex was quickly covered in the chemical. The next thing she knew, she was running away towards home, not even paying attention to the driver's screaming.

About half an hour later, Alex Mack was no longer the 12-year-old girl she once was. A train set left in the garage turned itself on with just a simple thought from Alex's mind. A bolt of electricity inexplicibly launched from Alex's finger and lit up a nearby lamp. Perhaps weirdest of all, her body literally melted into liquid while she was gazing at a water bottle.

The first person who came home that day was Annie, and she became the first person to discover Alex's new powers. Her best friend Ray Alvarado was the second, having stumbled onto their initial studies in the garage. The three of them poured over the facts and concluded that, whatever the chemical was, it was probably a very big deal to PV-Chem, and so they kept it secret from everybody, even their parents.

However, though Alex wasn't aware of it at the time, she had stumbled onto PV-Chem's secret project: to use the chemical in question, GC-161, as the lynchpin in their upcoming line of weight-loss products and dietary suppliments. GC-161 had an incredible effect on the human metabolism, and they sought to exploit it despite the danger of Alex's "side-effects". It had taken Annie years of study to really understand what GC-161 was, and it was her theory that Dr. Charles Vernell, the man who had originally developed the compound in the late seventies, wasn't quite sure what it was either. According to her studies of his notes, which Alex found following a chance meeting with Dr. Vernell, Annie theorized that, whatever the circumstances were that created GC-161, it had to have been by a complete (and most likely unintentional) stroke of chance.

Since Alex would've been a key test subject in the project, the company CEO, Danielle Atron, desired her captured, tested on, and eventually eliminated for being a witness. Of course, at the time, Atron had no clue who she really was, and the truck driver's sketchy memory made it more difficult for her and her security chief, Vince Carter, to find Alex. Many wild attempts and close calls followed, and though Alex escaped them all intact, she was absolutely appalled at Atron's insatiable lust for money and power. Danielle Atron scammed investors, faked reports, discredited politicians, and even ordered witnesses murdered (among them the father of Hunter Reeves Jr., an early love of Alex's), all so she could make billions at the expense of the lives of the consumer public. In Alex's mind, that CEO was a complete monster.

Four years after the accident, Alex was exposed and captured, and Atron revelled in her adversary's defeat as she prepared to blow up PV-Chem with explosives, so as to destroy Alex, her parents, and any incriminating evidence (Annie, thankfully, was in college at that time, but Alex had a sinking feeling that she would've eventually been silenced anyway). It took a miracle in the form of Alex's friends to save her and her parents and escape before the explosions went off, and to arrest Atron for her crimes. Though Atron stood trial, lack of evidence got her off with a relatively light slap on the wrist: two years in prison before being released on parole, much to the anger of the immediate public. Her debt to society finished and her former reputation in shambles, Atron vanished from the public eye and was eventually forgotten.

As the dust settled from that incident, Alex eventually confessed the truth to her parents. Once the initial shock and anger faded, her father, ever the brilliant chemist, developed a GC-Antidote to purge the chemical impurities out of Alex's body. Though she knew it was created out of his concern for the possibility of "long-term damage" with her condition, a part of Alex wanted to keep her powers forever. Nonetheless, she drank the antidote and gave her father peace of mind...

... but then, a few days later, it started all over again.


Three years ago...

"So, let's see if I can understand this, Alex," Annie calmly began as she sat on her bed in her and Alex's shared room. She had taken a leave of absence from MIT when she heard of Alex's near-brush with disaster. "Four days ago, you took the antidote, correct?"

"Yes, I did."

"And, during the subsequent news interviews, you clearly said, to the entire world, that you took the antidote, correct?"

"Of course. You were there."

"If that's the case, then why are you morphed?"

The silvery puddle that was Alex Mack quivered in resignation. "I don't know. Honest!" Alex replied in her echoey "morph-voice". "I just woke up this morning and I was like this. I didn't know what else to do, so..."

"Well, you can start by reforming." Alex obliged, instantly restoring herself to a flesh-and-blood human. "Second, we need to examine the possible reasons why the antidote failed to work. It may have only been a temporary cure, or perhaps it had no effect at all. Also, until we decide how to handle this..."

"I know, I know. Keep our mouths shut about it." Alex sighed and flopped back down onto her bed. "Man... and I was just starting to get used to being normal again, too. No more glowing fits or morphing spasms, and especially no more Atron or..." A sudden epiphany struck Alex's brain and she sat up in a flash. "Oh my God!"

"Or what, Alex?"

"Annie, you said that the whole world knows about me taking the antidote, right?" Annie nodded yes. "And now, I'm guessing the antidote didn't actually work, right?"

"I don't know how or why, but it would appear so."

"So, by extention, that means that no one else knows that the antidote failed, either!" Alex explained. "You know what this means? It means that, so long as I don't give anybody a reason to suspect me..."

"No one's ever going to come after you again!" Annie finished.

"Exactly!" Alex grinned. Annie smiled out of genuine happiness for her sister. "So, we tell Ray?"

Annie shrugged. "Might as well. He was in on it since the beginning."

"Great!" Alex was just about to reach for her phone and call Ray when she stopped. "Wait a minute. What about Mom and Dad?"

"What about them?"

"Well, I think we should actually tell them this time," Alex explained. "I mean, they deserve to know, especially after all that recent trouble they went through because of me."

"Whoa, hey, bad idea, Alex!" Annie grabbed Alex's arm and glared at her. "If Dad knew the antidote failed, you know what he'd do? He'd go crazy over you, testing and prodding until he could find a way to cure you, so to speak. He wouldn't give you a moment's peace." Alex's earlier exuberence turned into a frown of detest. "You think my testing on you was bad enough? Dad can have the stamina to go weeks on end when he's focused. Trust me, I know. I've worked with him."

Alex scowled. "Somehow, I severely doubt that."

"But can you really take that risk?" Alex opened her mouth to protest, but no words came out. "Dad's getting ready to move to his new job in Pittsville, and the last thing we need is for him to start getting too worried about you."

"What about Mom?"

"She's got her own issues with college and getting a new job. Let's not make it harder on her." Annie looked into Alex's eyes with complete, unflinching honesty. "I understand where you're coming from, but I think we'd save all of us a lot of heartaches if we just kept it quiet from them."

"Fine." Alex crossed her arms. She hated when Annie was right like this. "I'll keep it quiet... for now."


Back to present day...

It's been three years now, Alex bitterly thought, and they still don't know the truth. It seems like every time I try to convince Annie otherwise, she throws some shlock about keeping quiet 'for my own good' and changes the subject. I swear, it's like she doesn't even bother to listen to my reasoning.

Deciding that she had had enough practice for the night, Alex leapt out of the ditch and and began to run through the park. As she ran, she began to focus her energy into her legs, energizing them and pushing them to faster and faster speeds.

As Alex approached the edge of the park, she saw to her left an incoming car. The streets were empty, but she wasn't going to risk that one car catching her in the act. With a second burst of energy, Alex made a mighty leap over the street, somersaulting overhead at exactly the same time the car drove beneath her. The driver remained blissfully oblivious to Alex's superhuman antics as the Super-Teen landed safely on the opposite sidewalk, confident that no one had seen her.

As much as she wanted to go full-speed all the way home, though, Alex decided it'd be safer to not act so suspicious. Sighing, Alex calmed herself down to let the excess energy fade, then began to jog down the sidewalk at a more leisurely pace. But she didn't even get off the block when a loud scream caught her attention. What the... Who's screaming at this late hour? she wondered as she stopped to try and track the sound. A second scream drew Alex towards an alley, where she saw something that made her blood boil: Robyn Russo being cornered against the wall by a bunch of street punks.

"Pretty nice lungs she's got, eh, boys?" the leader, a tall, lanky man with greasy black hair and a tattered outfit commented, getting some laughs from his cronies. "Methinks we're gonna have some fun tonight."

"D... don't hurt me," Robyn pleaded. "I'll give you my money, my credit cards, everything."

"We appreciate the sentiments, girl," the leader continued, "but you see, we've just got into town, and we're looking for some entertainment, if ya know what I mean."

"No, I don't."

"Simon says... make me laugh." Laughing, Simon drew a knife from his vest and brought it into view. The other punks were whooping and hollering as the cruel man approached Robyn, looking to cut her up... or worse.

Alex had seen enough. Adjusting her hat so that the brim faced forward, the Super-Teen marched into the alley and shouted, "Hey, you jerk! Why don'cha just leave her alone?" Taken aback by the voice, Simon looked up towards Alex, whose face was obscured by both her hat and the alley's shadows. "I said leave her alone."

"Or what, ya twerp?" Simon taunted. "Really, wha'cha gonna do to save her? I mean, just you against... well, all of us." The other punks snickered at Alex's show of bravery. One of them threw a rock at Alex, only for her to telekinetically grab it inches from her face and toss it aside. Simon raised an eyebrow at the strange counterattack, but held his defiance.

"Seriously, is that your best trick? Throwing rocks?" Alex strode forward. "Look, if you want trouble, then, by all means, pick on someone who can at least fight back."

"Okay then, girly. You first!" Simon gestured to one of his men, who immediately charged her. But Alex simply held her ground as he kept coming forward. Just when he was about to collide with her, Alex dodged off to the side, telekinetically grabbed his shoulders, and shoved him to the dirt. It wasn't a graceful attempt, but it did the intended job as the punk laid there groaning.

"Now, I'll ask just once more," Alex threatened. "Leave. Her. Alone."

Simon raised his knife towards Alex. "Aw, man. You're gonna get it now, you little brat!" The entire gang obliged and approached Alex with the intent to pound her into the dirt. Alex leapt forward and took a swing at the first opposing punk. It nailed him in the chin and dropped him to the floor. Before the next one could react, Alex raised a hand and fired a zap, hitting him in his hand and forcing him to drop his crowbar.

From her vantage point, Robyn watched with amazement as Alex took down the punks that kept advancing on her, sidestepping and countering with barely any effort. Most of the punks got shoved into the wall as she telekinetically pushed them away, their weapons knocked out of their hands by the bolts of electricity she fired at them. One of the punks then decided to sneak up on Alex from behind, so that he could grab her and hold her down. Suddenly, Alex's entire body turned a gleaming silver and she literally melted to the ground, only to pop back up on his side and shove him to the ground, landing in a dizzy heap.

Alex turned to the punks and shouted, "Back off!" Nearly all the punks (those that were still conscious) cowered back, but Simon leapt towards Robyn with his knife, looking to cut her up. Alex raised her hand and fired a zap at his knife so as to disarm him, but Simon moved faster than she estimated and her shot wound up grazing his arm instead. Simon let out a scream of pain as he gripped his arm, revealing a visible black scorch wound. Alex winced at the sight. "Uhhh... Sorry?"

Snarling and cursing, Simon waved to his gang to retreat. "This ain't over, freak!" he swore as he followed suit, still holding his arm. What punks that were still out cold had to be dragged away by their buddies, but they all eventually cleared out, leaving Alex and Robyn all alone in the alley.

Glancing around, Alex saw Robyn simply standing there. Oddly, Robyn didn't seem too surprised. The expression on her face was more of resigned fear. "Robyn?" Alex raised her hand, but Robyn didn't notice or respond as she ran out of the alley as fast as she could, leaving the Super-Teen standing there by herself in confusion.


Back home, Alex was busy relaying the recent events to Annie. "And then they ran off," Alex finished. "It was actually kinda funny to watch. All those punks trying to look all scary, and they find themselves running away out of humiliation."

"Dammit, Alex, you know better than this!" Annie snapped, making Alex wince. "All it takes is one person, and before you know it, you're gonna have every power-hungry scientist beating a path to your door. Self-defense or no, you can't show off like that."

"I don't care! I had every right to do something for Robyn's sake," came Alex's angry response. "I'm not gonna let a few street hooligans push me or anyone else around just 'cause you want me to feign helplessness."

"But aren't you the least bit worried?"

"Not about Robyn, if that's what you're implying. She's my friend, and I think that, once she understands my point, she'll realize the importance of this secret. As to the punks, who's gonna believe that they got their rears handed to them by a 19-year old girl?" Alex took her hat and adjusted it so the brim faced forward. "I'm gonna go pay Robyn a visit. She deserves an explanation."

"Fine. Go run to Robyn. Tell her everything," Annie replied, then glared at Alex, "but for her sake and yours, you'd better think about what your choice tonight could entail, or else your future's gonna be very, very short-lived." Alex simply nodded as she once more morphed out of the room, into the bathroom, and down the bathtub drain.

Annie sighed and rubbed her head, feeling the migraine grow. As much as Annie wanted to trust her, Alex didn't always think things all the way through, and that's what worried her.


It was quiet when Alex arrived at the two-story house. The fact that the house was only three blocks away from the local funeral parlor (which Robyn's father currently worked at) only made it seem more eerie, but Alex held her peace as she willed her liquid form up the wall towards a window. A quick glance inside confirmed that it was indeed Robyn's room, and the redhead was lying on her bed wide awake.

She didn't seem to notice Alex's presence, and so the Super-Teen reformed right there, crouched on the windowsill. Knocking lightly on the glass, Alex saw Robyn sit up and look towards her. "Can I come in?" Alex asked.

Robyn got up and opened the window. "I was wondering when you'd show up," she said as Alex let herself in. "I knew my own best friend wouldn't wait until morning to inflict irrevocable psychological damage."

"I was just trying to protect you," Alex defended. "Seriously, what did you do to rub those guys the wrong way?"

"Nothing. I was just walking home when they simply grabbed me." The redhead looked distraught. "I appreciate the effort, Alex. Really, I do. But how do I know you're not gonna shut me up violently?"

"Because you're my friend," Alex replied, "and I trust you to understand the reason as to why I keep this secret."

"Well, yeah, but..." Robyn suddenly trailed off. "Alex, listen, I... You see, the truth is... well... It's just..."

"Just what?"

"Well..." The redhead grimaced as she began to recount a memory she had hoped she'd never have to talk about.


About five years ago, in Paradise Valley...

"Uh, hi, Mrs. Mack," Robyn greeted. "Are Alex and Annie home?"

"They're in the garage, I think. Said it was a private conversation, though I don't know why they can't do it in their room." Barbara shrugged her shoulders. "Why, is anything the matter?"

"Tell them that..." Robyn sighed, apparently not happy about what she had to say. "Miss Hardwick said not to bother coming into work tomorrow. She's out of business."

"Why? What happened?"

"I've done her books personally. She's so knee-deep in missed payments that the repo men came today to grab her popcorn machine. Said they'll be back for the rest tomorrow."

"How sad," Barbara consolingly spoke. "Maybe she can convince Miss Atron to give her a loan?"

"That's what she originally suggested," continued Robyn, "but I warned her that she'd become another lifeless cog in this unfair dictatorship of a town if she grovelled to that woman. Naturally, she chose the lesser of two evils."

"Smart decision." Barbara smirked. "Very well, I'll tell them over dinner."

"Thanks." Barbara closed the door, and Robyn began to walk down the driveway. As she was about to leave, though, a pair of faint voices coming from the garage perked her ears up. Unable to ignore her curiosity, Robyn ran towards the side of the house and quietly positioned herself below the small garage window. Straining her ears, Robyn overheard the sounds of an argument coming from above.

"... adds up," she heard Alex say. "The facts all point to one thing, and Ray and I are going in the plant tonight to get Beth out of there."

"You got poor Ray in on this, too?" Annie retorted.

"Well, he doesn't know it yet, but he's my best friend and I'm sure he'll help me."

"Alex, this is ridiculous!" Annie replied angrily. "If you go snooping around the plant, they're gonna catch you. Might even be a trap." For a moment, there was an awkward silence between the two sisters.

Beth? Does she mean Beth Gaskin? Robyn wondered. I thought she went out of town with her parents. Why would the plant have her? Robyn strained her ears to listen as the discussion continued.

"Just like that?" Annie prodded, her tone one of disbelief. "For once, you're gonna listen to reason?"

"Yes, Annie, I'm gonna listen to reason. I'll forget the whole idea." A loud croaking suddenly sounded, nearly making Robyn jump.

"Alex, do you have a frog in your backpack?"

"Yes, Annie, as a matter of fact, I do have a frog in my backpack." A few seconds later, the inside door closed, signifying that someone had left the garage.

After a long moment of silence, Annie groaned loudly. "Stupid Alex!" she grumbled. "I'm starting to wonder if that chemical accident mutated her better judgement." Annie then left the garage, unaware that Robyn had heard every word.

Chemical accident? Wait, she doesn't mean... Robyn, like many others, had heard of the chemical spill a couple years ago, as well as the rumors of a child being caught in the middle of it. Robyn personally didn't believe the rumors, saying that the chemical was most likely so caustic that, if there really was a child involved, he or she would've literally been melted into a steaming puddle of goo.

But it was Alex? she asked herself.


As Robyn concluded her story, Alex sat there quietly. She couldn't believe that Robyn Russo had actually learned about her and didn't even say so much as a word about it. "So why didn't you tell me?" Alex asked. "It could've saved us a lot of headaches in the long run."

"Well, I was afraid that if I told you, you'd be angry with me for eavesdropping," Robyn admitted. "You're one of the few friends I have, Alex. I didn't want to lose our friendship over it, so I figured it'd be safer if I just acted as if nothing happened. But when I saw you on the news that night... Oh god!" Robyn suddenly began crying into Alex's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Alex!" she croaked.

"For what?"

"For being a pessimistic coward who was too scared to help her friend," she mournfully groaned. "I didn't know about your powers, only that you got hit with some kind of chemical. But even if I had believed Louis, I was afraid of what would happen to me if I got involved. I could've gotten killed or arrested or experimented on or... or..." Alex only stayed silent as Robyn continued to sob on her shoulder.

The Super-Teen patted Robyn's back in consolation. "You made the smart choice, Robyn," she softly spoke. "I just wish you had told me from the beginning."

Robyn managed to stop crying long enough to respond. "So... you're not mad?"

"No, Robyn." Alex smiled. "I'm not."


Meanwhile, at a small tavern, Simon and his men were busy recovering from their beatdown. The leader in question sat alone at his table, chugging beer and growling curses. A bandanna was wrapped around his arm, hiding his burn mark.

One of the punks approached a friend of his. "How is he?"

"Still there and still drinkin'," another crony replied. "You know Simon. Once he gets drinkin', he's not gonna speak to anybody 'less they got a death wish."

"Heh, that crazy girl did a number on us all, so I don't see what his problem is."

"Well, try askin' him that."

"No thanks."

Oblivious to the banter of his cronies, Simon growled and cursed to no one in particular, his only companion being a beer bottle. "Lousy stinkin'..." Simon swore as he took a long draw from the bottle. "Goes and burns me for just havin' a little fun. If I ever get my hands on that little-"

"Excuse me," a voice spoke up. "I couldn't help but overhear your... conversation, and I was wondering. Just what do you mean by 'burned'?" Looking up, Simon saw a tall, imposing man glaring back at him. He looked quite strong and intimidating, and his crewcut blonde hair made him look militaristic.

"Why should you care, gramps?" Simon slurred back.

"Because I'm curious," the man replied. "Now, I'll ask again. What do you mean by 'burned'?"

"The little minx raised her hand, and some kinda... yellow... glowing thing came out. Scraped me right in the arm!" Simon raised his arm and removed the bandanna, revealing the wound from where he got burned by Alex's Zap Shot. "She ain't human, I swear."

The man rubbed his chin, looking as if he was recalling something. "But did you get a good look at her face?"

"Well..." Simon rubbed his arm, wincing at the pain. "It was dark in that alley, an' she was wearin' some kinda hat, so we didn't really... Look, what's the deal 'bout her, anyway?" he asked rudely. "What's it mean to you about who she is?"

"She's... someone I've been after for years," the man thoughtfully replied. "Tell you what. You look like you could use a job."

"What?" Simon looked angered at the man's words. "Say that again to my face, I dare ya!"

"Oh, I dare." The man chuckled, amused by Simon's attempt to sound tough. "I need some... added manpower in an upcoming task I'm planning. You and your friends seem capable enough, so what do you say?"

"Forget it, gramps!" the lead punk sneered. "Me and my boys stuck on 9-to-5 slavery for pennies a day? No way!"

"Well, in case you change your mind, here's my card." The man handed Simon a small business card. "However, since you've provided me with some interesting news about the girl, here's an advance on your first day's pay." The man then took out his wallet and handed Simon several 100-dollar bills. "And there's more where that came from, if you're interested."

Simon was surprised at the man's unexpected charity. He looked at the cash, then the card, and finally back at the man. "What's your name?" he asked.

"My name's Vince, and that's all you need to know." He then got up to leave, leaving Simon at his seat.

Simon looked back down at the business card. It read: OFF-THE-RECORD SECURITY, INC. After a bit of thought concerning the wad of money that was now sitting in front of him, he got up and called out, "Yo, old m... I mean, Vince."

"Hrm?" Vince turned back rowards Simon. "You're interested?"

"Maybe. What will we be doing?"

"First, as a small test, I want you to get me a photo of your so-called girl," Vince replied. "After that..."


Later that night...

"... and then I morph and go through the scanner just as Carlton steps through," Alex told Robyn as the two of them strolled together down the street. "Needless to say, his face was quite red when the security crews grabbed him. But after how he tried to ruin Annie's project and blame me for it, I'd say it was well-justified revenge."

"Wow," whispered Robyn in awe. She and Alex had decided to get out of the gloomy house and enjoy the open night sky. Although the attack from earlier left Robyn a little shaken, she knew she would be safe at Alex's side. "Seriously, Alex, you're amazing. Why couldn't you have told me about this sooner?"

Alex shrugged. "Annie figured that the less people knew about me, the better," she plainly replied.

"That's dumb." Robyn crossed her arms angrily. "I mean, I'm your friend. If I had these powers, I'd tell you about them."

"Yeah, well, Louis got tortured into telling Atron who I was that day." Robyn's face quickly turned to a nervous expression. "Now you know why we had to keep it quiet. If Atron got leverage on any of you-"

Robyn shook her head. "That doesn't matter. It was Louis," she angrily spoke. "What matters is that your real friends should've had the right to know."

"Well..."

"And why are you always so dominated by Annie, anyway?" the redhead continued. "What right does she have to boss you around like that?"

Alex raised an eyebrow. "What are you getting at?"

"I..." Robyn's tirade suddenly stopped and she bowed her head. "I don't know. It's just..." She grasped for words. "It's just not fair to you! Always hiding, always lying, simply because your sister's afraid of you getting into trouble."

"Well, maybe so, but..." A loud SNAP! sounded somewhere from around her, like a camera going off, and Alex immediately looked up, only to feel a very hard piece of metal smash into her back. Robyn screamed and hid as Alex fell to the sidewalk, clutching her shoulder in pain.

Her vision blurred and her mind screaming in pain, Alex could barely recognize a pair of scruffy-looking punks run away from her... one of whom she recognized from the alleyway as that of Simon's posse. "That... jerk..." Alex groaned, still trying to hold herself together. Her face was already starting to glow brightly, a surefire sign that she was emotionally struggling. Using all her strength to keep her friend on her feet, Robyn put her friend's good arm around her shoulders.

"C'mon, Alex. Hang in there," Robyn pleaded. "I'll call a doctor."

"No..." Alex tersely replied. "Annie... She's at... the Pittsville Motel."

"There?" Robyn replied. Alex only groaned again. "Well, it's not far anyway. Stay with me here, Alex!" The Super-Teen didn't respond as she staggered along the sidewalk, with Robyn holding her up.


The motel manager, thankfully, didn't give the girls a hard time when they came into his office asking for Annie Mack's room number, especially when Robyn (very carefully, so as to avoid unneeded suspicion) told him the story of her friend's injury. The Super-Teen was using every ounce of her willpower to keep her face from lighting up like the neon sign outside, but as soon as she and Robyn reached Annie's room and knocked, Alex couldn't hold it in any more.

Annie opened the door to find Robyn and Alex standing before her, the latter's face brimming with a bright orange-yellow hue. "Oh my god, Alex!" Annie nearly screamed as she caught Alex from falling over. "Alex! Are you alright?"

Alex looked up at Annie incredulously. "Alright? I got slugged in the freakin' shoulder with a metal pipe! You think I'm alright?"

"Robyn, there should be a first-aid kit in my suitcase. Pull it out!" Robyn nodded and hurredly began digging into Annie's suitcase. "Right, let's just see how it looks." Annie helped Alex to a small chair and took off her flannel shirt, leaving Alex in her bra. A nasty-looking bruise mark sat in her left shoulder.

Breathing heavily so as to calm her nerves, Alex felt her face cooling down, a sign that the brightness of her glowing face was dimming significantly. "How bad is it?" Alex asked shakily.

"Well, I'm no doctor, but it looks like it was a pretty hard blow. Probably dislocated it and everything. I don't think you'll be using this arm for a while," the elder sister diagnosed. "Seriously, Alex, what in the world were you doing?"

"Those punks returned, and they clubbed me in the back," Alex explained. "I think they know who I am now."

Annie groaned, once more amazed at how much trouble Alex got herself into due to reckless power abuse. "Oh, Alex..."

"Well, you might as well say 'I told you so'," Alex groaned as she laid down on the hotel bed. "God, I feel awful. My jeep gets towed, my friend gets attacked, and I end up on the ground aching."

"Tell you what, Alex. I'll let you stay here for the night," Annie offered. "That'll give you a chance to recover. Also, so long as you're here and we're alone, I'd like to do some tests on your... abilities." Annie put her hand on Alex's. "Provided, of course, you're willing to let me."

Alex sighed, not surprised at Annie's segue. "Just like old times, huh?" The Super-Teen smiled. "Okay. For you. But I do have work tomorrow, so let's not make a full day out of it."

"Great! I'll call Mom and let her know. I'm also gonna need to call the motel manager and tell him that I'm having an extra guest tonight." Annie put a wet towel on Alex's head. "You just rest up, little sister, and I'll check on you in the morning."

"Okay..." Alex replied quietly. Annie got up and ran for the bathroom, having needed a moment of privacy to let everything process in her mind. Alex just groaned and closed her eyes.

Robyn sat down across from Alex. She knew she'd have to leave soon, since she wasn't a paying guest, but she didn't want to leave her ailing friend alone just yet. Deciding to break the silence, Robyn asked, "Was it always like this between you two?"

"You have no idea," was Alex's only response. Robyn simply said nothing. She was still trying to fathom the complexities of the sisters' relationship.


"We got it like you wanted," Simon said as he handed Vince the photo. "It's the same freaky chick from before. Trust me, she's not someone you forget easily."

"Obviously," Vince replied as he looked over the photo. Sure enough, there was Alex's face, clear as day.

"Look, I dislike her as much as you do, but what's the big deal, anyway?" Simon asked.

Vince chuckled. "If you must know," he spoke, "she's a very personal loose end of mine." Simon only shrugged, apparently not too concerned for her reasoning. "But she's not important right now. I just need your added manpower. Rest assured, you will be compensated for your services, but business first."

"So long as it involves murder and mayhem, we're game," Simon said eagerly. "So, what's your plan?"

"Patience, Simon. You'll know soon enough," he plainly spoke. "You just rest up. I'll let you know when it's time." The punks left the room, leaving Vince all alone. After a few minutes, Vince pulled out a cell phone and dialed up a number.

"It's me," he began. "They've brought me a positive photo. Hang on." Vince tapped a button on the cell phone, activating the phone's digital camera. He quickly snapped a picture of the photo, then sent it over to the recipient's own phone.

A few seconds later, the sounds of heavy cursing filled his ears. "My thoughts exactly," Vince responded. "So, are you sure you want to go through with this? I mean, there's always the chance that something will go wrong." The person on the other end responded angrily. "Very well then. I'll have them armed and ready to ship out within the next 12 hours. And don't worry. There won't be any compromise of my identity."

Vince let a small grin of triumph cross his lips. "You can always count on me... Miss Atron."

END OF PART 1