PART THREE

Brraaannnggg!! went Alex's wind up alarm clock, the noise piercing her ears. Alex buried her head under her pillow trying to squelch the sound. She was tired and was perfectly comfortable. Moving just one inch in any direction would ruin everything.

Alex, Annie, Robyn, Nicole, and Rachael had been up with the boys until three in the morning watching movies, and when Mr. Mack came down to check on them, he found all the teens asleep except Annie. Annie was on the verge of nodding off, but was dutifully staying awake as the official 'chaperone' of the group. He and Annie rounded everyone up and got them to bed. The girls sleepwalked upstairs as the boys stretched out downstairs.

Mr. Mack almost got teary-eyed again when Alex hugged him around the waist before ascending the stairs, and softly said "Thanks. I love you dad".

Annie lifted her head from her pillow. "Alex! Kill the clock!" she demanded, never opening her eyes and pulling her head back down and under the covers. The other girls were on the floor in sleeping bags, and were audibly moaning and groaning at the loud alarm.

Underneath her pillow, Alex's face contorted in anger at the alarm clock's brazen outburst, and reached out her hand from underneath the covers and to zap the renegade timepiece. Alex pointed her finger in the direction of the clock but didn't feel the customary tingling in her hand that occurred when she generated electrical 'zaps" from her fingertips. Nothing happened.

"Damnit" she whispered in frustration, realizing she didn't possess her amazing abilities any more.

"Alex!" pleaded Robyn from somewhere in the room as the clock continued it's assault. "Grrrr!" growled Alex as she emerged out from under the covers like a panther about to strike, eyes still closed, and reached towards the nightstand between her and Annie's beds to hit the alarm button on top of the clock.

Her hand slapped down on empty nightstand.

"Huh?" Alex thought in confusion, and opened her blurry eyes to see that the clock wasn't on the stand.

The alarm continued to pierce the once-silent bedroom as Alex rolled over and sat up to find the clock.

"Alex!" shouted Annie again from underneath her covers. Completely befuddled, Alex looked around the room for the clock through sleep-filled eyes. Then, the irritating clanging suddenly ceased. Alex finally blinked her eyes clear enough to see Nicole across the room standing beside the dresser drawer with her hand clamped down on the missing alarm clock.

"Looking for this?" Nicole said slyly, nodding to the alarm clock. "Uh, yeah, ....thanks", Alex replied, looking back and forth from her nightstand to the dresser drawer in disarray. Alex could have sworn she put the clock on the nightstand by her bed when she set it before going to sleep. She had set it for ten o'clock so that everyone could get up for a late breakfast compliments of Ms. Mack.

"How'd it get over on the dresser?" she deliberated to herself. Alex dismissed it to just being tired and absent-minded before going to bed.

Robyn sat up and ran her hand through her red hair. "Why can't you have an electric clock that beeps quietly instead of that horrible contraption?" Robyn beseeched. "Do you have any idea what kind of damage that thing does to your hearing? You could go deaf".

Alex ignored Robyn, pulled her covers away, and swung her feet onto the floor.

"Ow!" said Ray's girlfriend Rachael when Alex stepped on her. The foot of Rachael's sleeping bag was positioned between her and Annie's beds.

"Oops. Sorry Rachael" Alex apologized as she rose and tip-toed over her and around Robyn to the bathroom. Nicole followed her. The two stepped in front of the mirror as Alex picked up her toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. Nicole reached into a small, black overnight bag she brought with her and retrieved her toothbrush as well. After carefully positioning a glob of paste on her toothbrush, Alex offered the toothpaste to Nicole.

"You know" began Nicole, pointing the tube at Alex's reflection in the mirror. "I still can't get over what you told us last night Alex, especially the part where you were split into two separate versions of yourself".

Nicole was speaking about one the many adventures that Alex told them about when she had her super powers. When Alex was fourteen, Annie accidentally spilled a GC-161 compound called GC-DIVIDE on her when she was in her liquid state, and Alex was split into two puddles. When both of the puddles reformed, there were two complete Alexes, a good one and an evil one. Thankfully, with Annie's and Ray's help, it had a happy ending, as Alex was able to recombine with her evil alter-ego and return to normal.

Alex looked up at Nicole's image behind her and raised her eyebrows. "Yep. My 'evil twin' so to speak", she said casually, spitting into the sink. Nicole grinned. "I always wondered why you acted so oddly on so many different occasions. All the while, you were just trying to protect us, and yourself".

Until Hunter came along, only Alex's sister Annie and her best friend Ray knew of her secret world, and they resisted telling Nicole, Robyn, or Louis because they were afraid that they would be targets of Danielle Atron if they had known. Louis found out the hard way when he found about her powers.

Alex rinsed out her toothbrush, set it down, and picked up a small hand towel to wipe off her mouth and hands. "I was really worried that you and Robyn were going to hate me, that I didn't confide in you when it all first happened ....." Alex admitted. Nicole put her hand on Alex's shoulder.

"You did what you thought you had to do at the time Alex. Don't fault yourself. It was ..... heroic that you were trying to protect us".

Alex had loved Nicole since the first time they met. When Nicole was ten, her family moved to Paradise Valley, and they moved in right across the street from Robyn house. Robyn and Nicole hit it off right away, and it didn't take long for Robyn to introduce Nicole to Alex.

Nicole Wilson was one of the most fiercely loyal people Alex knew. She was intelligent, had a keen, analytical mind, and always loved the underdog role, never backing down from anyone. If there was ever a rightful cause to be defended, Nicole was the perfect person for the job.

"But I still wish I could have experienced what it was like to 'morph'", she laughed.

Alex chuckled. Deep inside, she wished she still could too. To be able to transform her entire body, and anyone else along with her, at will, into a liquid state was a fantastic sensation to experience. Now, it was a feeling she'd never be able to experience again.

Alex grew melancholy and changed the subject. "By the way Nicole, thanks for helping out with Robyn last night" she said sincerely, stepping away from the mirror to let Nicole by.

Last night, when Alex explained everything, Nicole understood her dilemma, and accepted Alex's explanation for keeping her powers a secret from her. Robyn, on the other hand, was a different story.

Except for Raymond, Alex had known Robyn the longest. She first met Robyn in Paradise Valley Park when she was six. The Macks were on a Sunday picnic and sat near the Russos who were there for the same reason.

Alex and Robyn had been close friends ever since, and it wasn't easy for her to accept that Alex did not confide in her. Robyn was a walking 'Murphy's Law', "If it could go wrong, it will". In retrospect, she was a very sensitive and emotional person. When Alex spilled her heart out to the others last night, Robyn had some angry feelings towards Alex for hiding her secret from her for so long, but Nicole helped to ease the situation. Eventually, Robyn came to terms with what Alex did, and as any good frien would, Robyn understood and forgave her.

"All in a day's work" boasted Nicole with a wide grin in the mirror. Alex tossed the hand towel over Nicole's head as she walked back into the bedroom. Everyone had donned bathrobes and were standing and stretching just as a banging started on the bedroom door.

"Yeah?" asked Annie, talking to the trembling door.

"Hey! It's Ray! Can I come in? There's something you guys have got to see!" said Alex's best friend from the hallway outside. Alex looked at Annie and cocked her head. Annie just shrugged.

"Yeah Ray, we're decent. C'mon in" Alex conceded. Ray burst through the door and advanced into the room. Robyn and Rachael watched in surprise as Ray grabbed both Alex and Annie by the elbows and drug them towards the big bay window between their beds. "Ray!" they both complained simultaneously, Annie almost tripping over Rachael's sleeping bag.

"Take a look!" he said excitedly, letting go of their arms, sweeping the drapes aside, and pointing out the window. Alex and Annie looked outside. Their jaws dropped.

Outside, was a small army of vans, cars, and reporters from a dozen different t.v. stations and newspapers were parked in the street and in the Mack's drive. A crowd of sight-seers was gathered across the street as a lone police officer was already on the scene trying to keep the street in front of the house open. One van, from a t.v. station in Pittsville Gardens, was even pulled up onto the Macks' front lawn.

"Oh my God" Annie said in astonishment, as she and Alex locked gazes.


"Mr. Mack" the reporter asked. "Now that GC-161 has been exposed as a dangerous gene-altering compound, do you have concerns that the chemical may get into the wrong hands again, and someone use the same bizarre side-effects that your daughter experienced for questionable purposes?"

"I doubt that could happen" Mr. Mack answered expertly. "My daughter was exposed to the original GC-161 compound, and not the greatly enhanced version of the chemical that Ms. Atron tried to illegally distribute. In my own expert scientific opinion, anyone that tried to use GC-161 now, would likely be exposing themselves to serious health risks".

"According to FDA officials, all GC-161 evidence and information was lost when the chemical plant was destroyed. Is the world better off without GC-161 Mr. Mack?" asked the reporter finally.

"Absolutely. It's a very unpredictable and dangerous genetic mutagen. Hopefully, no one will be able to re-produce the chemical again. I just feel very fortunate that I had enough time to develop an antidote for the chemical's dangerous effects" Mr. Mack added decisively.

The reporter turned to Alex, who was sitting on the couch in the Macks' den with her sister and parents.

"Alex, a final question. The last four years have no doubt been an exciting time in your life. Are you having any second thoughts about taking your father's antidote and sacrificing those bizarre, but fantastic abilities? You'd have to admit, any other kid your age would have done anything to have super powers" he asked seriously. Alex's eyes widened for a moment, as deep down inside she already missed having her incredible powers, but she also realized the overall picture.

"No" she answered as sincerely as she could, although she was lying through her teeth. "I admit, they were fun while they lasted, but it wasn't any fun constantly looking over my shoulder fearing that Danielle Atron was going to make a lab rat out of me. I'm ready to finally have a normal life again, and the powers weren't worth risking my health over either".

Mr. Mack placed his hand on Alex's out of fatherly pride. Alex felt a pang of guilt as he did, because her father didn't realize that she honestly didn't mean what she said. No one could ever know what it was like to be able to do what she could do when she had the powers. To her, the powers had become so second-nature to her, that sacrificing them was like cutting off an arm or a leg.

"Thanks Alex" said the reporter as he turned to face his cameraman who was positioned in the far corner of the den filming the interview.

" .....And there you have it Paradise Valley. After four years, 'The Secret World of Alex Mack' finally comes to a conclusion, as does the popular local legend of 'the Chemical Kid'. A heroic young girl and her family and friends who overcame tremendous odds to prevent Paradise Valley Chemical Company's Danielle Atron from poisoning the American public with a potentially hazardous drug. Live, from the Macks' residence in Paradise Valley, this is Steve Tannen, Channel Six News".

Steve Tannen pulled his finger across the front of his neck indicating for the cameraman to stop filming.

"That's a wrap" he said contentedly.

Steve Tannen was a recognizable and popular reporter on Paradise Valley's Channel Six News, and he was also Ray's older cousin. Steve was from Ray's mother's side of the family. Tall, slender, and athletic like Ray, Steve was twenty-nine years old and had been a role model of Ray's ever since he started working for Channel Six three years ago.

When Mr. Mack saw the army of news vans in front of his house earlier, he was mobbed by a dozen reporters when he went outside to tell them get out of his drive and off his lawn. He almost couldn't close the front door as they nearly succeeded in following him inside.

Mrs. Mack called the police to get the reporters back from their house as one brazen photographer was standing at the kitchen window taking pictures! When the girls and Ray came down from upstairs to join Louis and Hunter, the group didn't eat much of Mrs. Mack's late breakfast, as the excitement of the media circus outside captivated everyone's attention more than eating.

When the police arrived in force to back the invading press off of the Macks' property, Ray's cell phone began to chirp in the backpack he left lying in the den. It was his father, James Alvarado, calling from their house next door. He checked to see if Ray and everyone else was alright and then asked to speak to Mr. Mack. Ray gave his phone to Alex's father who then turned and walked into the garage for privacy.

Mr. Alvarado told Mr. Mack that his nephew who worked for Channel Six News, Steve Tannen, was at his house asking if he could do a live interview with Alex and her family. Mr. and Mrs. Mack had known Steve Tannen since he was a child, and he was already friends with Alex and Annie through Ray. Knowing that Alex's being interviewed was unavoidable, the Macks agreed to let Steve and a cameraman come over and interview their daughters and their friends. If anyone was going to interview Alex, Mr. Mack at leastwanted it to be someone he knew and trusted.

Now, after an hour, the live interview was completed. Everyone seemed relieved.

Steve turned towards Alex on the couch. "Alex, you did great, and I'd like to thank you and your parents again for this opportunity, and for being so patient during the interview. I don't know why we had so many glitches with the equipment. I guess the gremlins are out in full force today" he said with a laugh, offering his hand politely to Alex.

"Sure" Alex responded, blushing, as she stood and shook Steve's hand. On a couple of occasions during the interview, the news crew's video and audio equipment had power failures. Annie's couldn't help but have her curiosity piqued by the malfunctions, which only seemed to occur when Alex was directly questioned, but she kept her observations to herself during the interview. Maybe after four years of being constantly paranoid of Alex's weird side-effects, she was being overly-suspicious.

Mr. Mack rose and approached Steve. "Steve, thanks for the great job you did. I'm glad it was you who got to do this instead of all those vultures outside" Mr. Mack commented, referring to the many different media people outside.

"My pleasure Mr. Mack, and thanks for trusting me. And rest assured, the station will be sending your family a generous fee for allowing us first crack at Alex's story" Steve assured him. Mr. Mack shrugged as Alex popped up off the couch beside her father.

"A 'fee'?!" she beamed at Steve and her father, her eyes wide with excitement.

"Now Alex ....." warned Mr. Mack.

Steve Tannen laughed at Alex's reaction as Barbara Mack rose from the couch to calm Alex.

"And it will go into your college fund and the rest into a trust fund for both you and your sister young lady. And you're going to share some with Ray too" Mrs. Mack cautioned. "But I don't see why you can't enjoy a little of it right away either" she added with a grin. Alex and Annie high-fived each other. "Yes!" they said in unison.

Mr. Mack couldn't say anything now, as he really didn't care about the money, only letting people know what Danielle Atron had done and the misery she had inflicted upon his family and it's friends.

Well, I better get going Mr. Mack" said Steve. "Mrs. Mack, Alex, Annie, take care of yourselves" he added with a friendly grin. As Steve's news crew filed out the front door, Mr. Mack could see about half of the army of reporters out front had already grown discouraged and left. others were beginning to leave as well.

Louis walked up to Mr. Mack. "You know Mr. Mack, you should have held out for CNN or someone like that. You could have made a lot more money off of Alex's story from them. Who knows? Maybe even a movie deal" he stated boldly. Mr. Mack just chuckled, patted Louis on the shoulder, and made his way out of the room as Mr. Alvarado followed him. Nicole couldn't help but put her two cents in. She stepped up into Louis' face and poked her finger into his chest.

"Louis, you utterly amaze me. This isn't about money, it's about doing the right thing. There were people's lives at stake here and you're trying to put a price tag on that?" she snapped. Louis just shrugged and held his hands up. "Hey, I can't help it. I'm a materialistic kind of guy". Everyone just laughed as for the first time, Nicole was at a loss for words. Louis' unabashed honesty had her tongue-tied.

"Now guys, since breakfast didn't go over very well, how about some lunch on me? Pizza anyone?" asked Mrs. Mack. Now that the interview was over, everyone's appetite seemed to have returned, and Mrs. Mack's pizza proposal was met enthusiastically, except for Alex.

She felt a warm flush come over her, then a tingling in her arms and legs as if they were asleep. Suddenly, Alex's world started to spin about her, and she fainted.