PART TWENTYSEVEN

"What?!" exclaimed Annie, looking at Grace in disbelief. But before the FBI agent could explain what she just told Annie, the two of them heard a sudden sloshing sound at their feet. Looking down, they saw a silvery, gelatinous liquid rapidly oozing up out of the floor drain between them. Grace knew it had to be Alex, but the teenage girl's morphing power still unsettled her after only seeing it once, when Alex used it to attack her with two nights before.

"Oh, Alex" Annie said, wiping her forehead with a nervous gesture. "Am I glad you're here ......". But she never had a chance to finish. As Alex's small puddle-form accumulated over the drain covering, Annie quickly noticed it was not the proper size for her entire morphed form when she came out of the drain, and realized her little sister was staying small for some unknown reason.

"Alex?" she asked with a cautious edge to her voice. But to Annie's and Grace's astonishment, a column of liquid instantaneously shot up from the small puddle to a height of nearly two and a half feet, expanded outwards, took on human shape, and formed into Alex from the waste up! They couldn't believe what they were seeing; Alex half-human sticking out of the garage floor and the lower part of her body still morphed and down in the pipes below the house!

"Oh my God Alex!" Annie said aghast, as she and Grace took several steps back in awe. "What are you doing?!". Before emerging from the pipe, Alex quickly sensed and pinpointed where her older sister and Grace were standing in the garage. It was never really her intention to take the form she was in now, but it was just an image that flashed into her mind, and her morphed body obeyed instantly.

"No time to talk Annie!" Alex blurted out impatiently, glancing to each side of her to lock her sights on Annie and Grace. She didn't expect them to step back and distance themselves from her more, so she knew she had to act fast. Even though her upper body had complete human appearance and rigidity, it was still liquified, which enabled Alex to do what she did next.

Reaching her arms straight out to both sides, she elongated them an extra two feet beyond their normal length to grab the wrists of Annie and Grace. "Alex?! What are you dooiiiinnnnggg .....?" demanded Grace as she felt the hot, prickling, tingling sensation of being morphed rush swiftly through her body.

Knowing time was of the essence and they were in danger, Alex had no time to waste; she had to push her morphing power to it's limit. Although Annie knew what it was like to be instantly changed into jell-o, Grace was unnerved by the rapid transformation. By initiating physical contact, Alex was able to transform both her sibling and friend into liquid within the blink of an eye.

Splashing on the cold concrete surface with a sickening 'smack!' as they dissolved into puddles, Alex quickly absorbed Annie and Grace into her torso, as if her body was a sponge soaking up water. An audible, gurgling groan could be heard coming from the disoriented Grace.

But Alex did not intend to go anywhere, only get her charges to safety and hope she had enough time to stop the bomb from destroying her home. Alex willed Annie and Grace to pass through her body, back down into the drain, and out the other end of her own form. Sending their puddles down the pipe at breakneck speed, they emerged from a storm drain along the curb that was shielded from the street by a hedge, and by releasing her mental hold on them, Annie and Grace changed back into their human forms.

Alex had performed this particular trick several times when morphing with her sister and Ray. When she morphed a person or object after touching them, she could will them to remain morphed even though she was no longer in direct physical contact, and could control them up to whatever distance her morph-senses could keep track. She did it once when Ray was infatuated with the school's most popular girl Hannah Mercury, morphing him up onto Hannah's balcony. She'd done it several times with Annie.

Of course, this didn't matter to FBI agent Grace Lasky, who was reeling from what just happened. After reforming, Grace promptly stumbled backwards and fell on her rear, bracing herself up with her hands. "Jesus Christ!" she shouted, her vision blurred with dizziness and stomach queasy from the sudden shock of the transformation. "What the hell just happened to us?!".

Annie, not as fazed by the trip, knelt down beside Grace to calm her. After as many times as she'd been through it, she was almost used to it. "Alex morphed us Grace, and then sent us outside where it's safe" Annie explained hurriedly. "Safe?! Safe from what?!" she gasped. "The bomb Grace" Annie pointed out. "Alex told me when she passed us through her. There's a bomb in the garage".

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'Click ... click ...click' went the device as Alex closely listened to it in her morphed state, still halfway in the drain and halfway in the garage. Knowing Annie and Grace were safe now, she began rising from the drain in the floor, recovering the rest of herself from the pipe. She quickly rose upwards, her body taking on human appearance as soon as it cleared the surface of the drain grating. In just mere seconds, Alex was whole again, standing in the center of the garage facing the hot water heater less than ten feet away. Realizing she was vulnerable as a flesh and bone human, Alex conjured up the most powerful force field she could and wrapped it around herself.

Without her morph-senses to listen she could no longer 'hear' the bomb ticking, but she didn't have to hear it any longer. Every instinct within her was shouting at her to get out of there; to morph again and slither away to safety, but she knew she couldn't.

If she left now, the bomb would go off, and who knows how much of their house would be destroyed in the blast. Besides, there was one important thing she had to do; Alex had to know who did this. Feeling assured from Annie's assessments that her powers were ten times as powerful as before, Alex was confident her force field would protect her from the blast if she was too late to stop it. She darted to the hot water heater, looked at it's base, and gazed upon the bomb. There it was, just as her morph-senses told her.

Alex reached down to touch it, feeling the force field around her hand buffeting between her fingertips and the bomb itself, but that was enough. A cold flush abruptly flowed through her head and a bright flash of light filled her mind. It was all very clear to her now.

"Vince, you son of a bitch ..." she muttered in a trembling rage, then finally coming to her senses again. But her force field was no longer there! Her psychic flash distracted Alex long enough to cause her to drop her protective barrier, and she realized she might have been distracted by the mental images for any number of crucial seconds! The bomb could go off at any moment!

'Click ...click ...click ...click'. Trying to re-establish the force field or morphing were out of the question now. Not only was she still disoriented from the strong psychic image she received from touching the bomb, but she was fatigued from using her morphing power to such extremes. "I'll be damned if you win this one" Alex cursed silently to herself at Vince. Then she had an idea.

'Click ... click ...click'. She looked to her right and upwards at the round circulation fan near the ceiling of the outer wall of the garage. It was used mostly in the summer to blow the hot air from the room since it had no air conditioning. Alex focused on it and squinted her eyes in concentration. The four wood screws holding the fan in it's wall mounted bracket shot from their holes and across the room within the blink of an eye, and with a loud, sharp 'twang!', the fan popped out of it's bracket and fell to the grass below the outside wall.

'Click ...click ...'. Alex then looked down at the bomb and focused her attention on it.

'Click ...'. Her telekinetic powers grabbed it, pulled it from the bottom of the water heater, and rifled it out the eighteen inch diameter hole in the wall where the circulation fan rested only seconds before. With extreme concentration, Alex shot the menacing device at incredible speed high into the Paradise Valley sky.

'BOOM!'. She blinked her eyes in relief when after hearing the explosive go off harmlessly almost a thousand feet above. Alex bent over forwards, placed her hands on her knees, and sighed loudly.

Then a sudden dizziness overtook Alex and she staggered, plopping down onto the garage floor in a sitting position. She was so tired, and she knew it was from exerting her powers under such a stressful situation. In a span of less than a minute and a half, Alex had instantaneously morphed two other people, manifested the most powerful force field she'd ever conjured up, used her psychic ability, and then pushed her telekinetic power like she never had before.

As she sat there, a strange numbness seized her entire body, and everything around her seemed to be growing taller. Looking down, she saw her feet and rear were melting into silvery puddles. Within seconds, she was down to her waist, then to her chest. She tried to will it to stop, but exhaustion had completely overtaken her. She couldn't hold herself together, she was just too tired from the great expenditure of her powers.

"Oh great ......" she pondered as her neck and head followed the rest of her body, liquifying into one, big glob of ooze. "Another side-effect to worry about ...... As if I don't have enough problems as it is". The use of so many of her powers at one time were causing her to liquify, but she wasn't sure why. But Alex didn't care at the moment. She was so tired. All she wanted to do was just let herself settle and rest against the cool, cement garage floor.

"At least I know everyone is safe now" she thought, beginning to drift off from the comforting floating sensation of being morphed. "That is, except for Vince Carter when I get through with him".

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In a convenience store parking a mile away, Vince sat in his van patiently listening through the open driver's side window for the sound he knew would come any second. 'Boom!' echoed the detonation. Not quite as loud as he expected, but it would suffice.

"Phase two complete" he cackled happily, a satisfied smile cracking his face. The thought of both Annie Mack and the troublesome FBI agent Grace Lasky being blown to bits in one swoop seemed to brighten Vince's day, but the bomb was actually intended for someone else, Alex Mack. Although Annie's presence and the arrival of Grace took him unawares, he knew by past surveillance of the Mack family that the youngest daughter always arrived home from school around the time he set his bomb to explode. He also knew she usually entered the house through the garage, but all Alex had to do was be anywhere in the home's main living areas which mostly bordered the garage.

By placing his bomb by the natural gas line on the hot water heater, he knew there was more than enough explosive power to kill the girl where ever she was in the house. Alex Mack could not be allowed to live if Danielle Atron was ever going to be free again.

Vince's confidence was bolstered by a surveillance report from a trusted source which informed him earlier by cell phone that Alex had departed school and was heading in the direction of her house. "A trifecta" he thought, amusing himself with the realization that he just eliminated three rivals at once. Failure never occurred to him, as failure was completely unacceptable.

"Hey pal ..." said a heavy-set girl who stepped up to his van window. "What about my money?". Vince gave Jo a look of irritation, but realized that telling her to get lost might be a mistake. He may need the girl in the future. Anyway, he went through a lot of trouble to do his research on Amy Jo Rollins and enlist her assistance.

Even after Vince had been fired by Danielle Atron as Head of Security of Paradise Valley Chemical, Vince obsessed about finding the GC-161 kid, and Alex Mack had always been one of his top suspects. One of the High School's custodians at the time was a trusted spy he used inside the school to keep an eye out for the kid, and he remembered the report his spy sent him one day about the confrontation between Alex Mack and Jo Rollins in a school hallway.

The reports he got of the mess that was caused during their altercation and the sprinkler system mysteriously going off wasn't the first time his suspicions of the Mack girl had been aroused. If there was someone who didn't like Alex Mack, then that someone could be a valuable ally one day he thought at the time. It turned out to be a very good hunch.

Vince reached into his overalls pocket, pulled out a folded, fifty dollar bill between his pointer and index fingers, and flipped it to the girl. "Here you go ..." he said with a smile. "...And you never saw me either" he said in a low, warning voice as Jo took the money. "Saw who?' she asked with a reassuring smirk. Vince grinned and Jo turned and walked away.

He placed his idling van in gear and began to drive away, knowing anytime now emergency vehicles would be speeding past on their way to the carnage that was the former Mack home, and he didn't want to be anywhere nearby when they did.

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Grace slowly pushed the outer garage door open and stepped inside, scanning the room carefully, her pistol held close to her chest in anticipation. "Alex?" asked Annie hesitantly, stepping in behind Grace. "There..." Grace said, pointing at the silvery puddle on the floor near the back of the room, beside the hot water heater.

Satisfied that the room was safe now, she stepped aside and Annie darted across the floor to the puddle of ooze and knelt down beside it. "Alex?" she said to it urgently as Grace walked up from behind, looking over her shoulder. "Is ... is she alright?" she asked Annie unsteadily. "I think so ....".

"What do you mean 'you think so'? Aren't you sure?" Grace retorted impatiently.

"I'm o.k." gurgled Alex. "I just overdid it I think, and I couldn't hold myself together. I think I can reform in a couple more minutes". Annie and Grace sighed in relief. "I was afraid of this happening if you used your powers to such an extent" Annie told her liquified little sister. "You've overwhelmed your system by saturating it with the hybrid GC-161 your cells produce, and by exhausting yourself, you weren't able to control it".

"Thank you Dr. Frankenstein ..." Alex replied sarcastically. Annie was relieved her sister still had a sense of humor, because she wasn't trying to scold her, just offer her a reason for the uncontrolled morphing. The last thing Annie was, was upset with Alex. Actually, she was very proud of her little sister at the moment.

"Alex..." Annie began with a warm, admiring tone. "What you just did... saving us, and also saving the house. I just want to tell you how proud I am of you". "Yeah Alex, thanks" offered Grace, putting her gun away. "What you did was... pretty heroic". Alex was so touched that she would have cried if she had any human tear ducts to do it with, so she remained quiet for the next several seconds. "Alex?" cooed Annie. "Are you o.k.?".

Without warning, Alex's puddle began to ascend upwards into a column, and within just a few seconds, she was human again. "I'm fine Annie" she said with a smile. "and... thanks". Alex grabbed both of them in a hug. Grace was taken unawares by Alex' sudden show of affection, but then grinned at silly she was acting. "Just let me know next time you're going to morph me Alex. I thought I was seasick!" Grace added with a laugh. "Sorry 'bout that..." Alex apologized, finally releasing her hug. She leaned back to look at both of them, a serious gaze now replacing the happy one from before. "But there's something else I better tell you guys" she said. "The bomb ... it was Vince. He was here and it was him that planted it".

Annie's eyes widened, grasping Alex's arm. "Alex, are you sure?". Alex nodded profusely. "Yeah, I'm sure. I managed to touch the bomb and get a reading on it before I shot it out of the garage. It was Vince... the son of a bitch". "Alex!" rebuked Annie. "Oh c'mon Annie" Alex complained. "I think we have a lot more to worry about right now than me swearing".

"Can't help but agree with her Annie, especially after what happened to me this morning" confided Grace. Annie sighed and rolled her eyes at Grace's remark, all of a sudden remembering what they were talking about before Alex arrived to save them from Vince's bomb. Alex's expression turned to one of complete confusion and she stared at her sister and Grace. "What happened?" asked Alex.

Grace and Annie exchanged looks, and then Grace turned to walk silently across the room. "What?!" Alex demanded this time, but shakily. "Alex, Grace is, uh..." stuttered Annie. "Grace is no longer an FBI agent. Her field director in Sacramento terminated her commission this morning. He... fired her".

Alex was stupefied. She felt like her heart just dropped from her chest. "What?! He fired her? Why?!". Annie didn't know how to explain, as they never got that far in her conversation with Grace before Alex arrived to save them. Grace turned and walked back. Her face was flush with embarrassment as her worse fear of returning to Paradise Valley had finally come true. "He found out when Gino Lawless of the Federal Drug Administration called and informed him" Grace confessed. "It happened when we went to Vince's house to question him, and he didn't waste any time in letting Gino know that we'd known each other from before".

"But, but what about the FBI's case here? What about their investigation?!" Alex cried out, helplessness growing in her voice.

"It's over Alex. At least the FBI's involvement here" Grace continued solemnly. "After informing me he had revoked my commission, the Field Director told me he recalled Agent Black yesterday and was on his way back to Sacramento. I called the hospital to confirm it and he was already gone. I don't have any back-up or federal authority here anymore. It... it's like he doesn't want this case solved".

Annie took immediate note of Grace's comment. "Is there something you know that we don't Grace?" she asked the ex-FBI agent. Grace stepped to Annie's lab bench and sat on one of the stools. Alex, still feeling tired, did the same, seating herself beside the pretty oriental girl. Grace went on.

"I've been suspicious of the Field Director ever since he wouldn't let me put a warrant out for Vince's arrest when Agent Black was injured in the hit and run accident, and my gut has been telling me he may be involved in all of this somehow".

"Grace, you.... you can't be serious" gasped Annie. "It's the only reasonable explanation Annie" Grace replied, tossing her hands up in frustration. "I even tried logging on to the main computer at Bureau headquarters with my laptop earlier to see if I could dig up anything on this case, anything that might give me a clue, but my access code has already been deactivated. He's hiding something, I can feel it".

"Then there's got to be some way to get into the Bureau files Grace. I mean, don't you have any friends on the inside that can help you?" pleaded Annie. "It just doesn't work that way Annie. The Field Director is too powerful and no one will take the chance of making an enemy out of him, but.... but there may still be a way".

Grace's eye's brightened as she looked at both Alex and Annie. They noticed her staring at them, and it was Alex's and Annie's turns to exchange curious glances.

Grace explained. "Gino Lawless has access to the Bureau's case files. His evidence storage shed at the plant may have been destroyed, but he has his computer in the apartment he's staying in at the Paradise Arms. All we need is his pass code to get in and maybe we can find something out about what's going on with this case".

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting Grace?" Annie said, almost stunned.

As Grace and Annie stared into each other's eyes, Alex was attempting to process all of this as best she could, but was growing more and more impatient by the minute. Finally, she felt compelled to say something. "Uh, 'hello' guys..." she interrupted, waving her hand between them and breaking their concentration.

"...but Vince Carter just tried to blow us up a few minutes ago, or have you forgotten about that? We've got to get him before he tries again".

"Alex, if Grace is thinking of doing what I think she is..." Annie began. "...Getting into those FBI case files may be the ticket to finally putting an end to all of this".