A Greener Alex

“GC Regenerate?”

George Mack nodded hastily. “It’s my latest project. You see, while I was testing some chemicals’ reactions to GC-161 I found something a bit odd. Look, look.” He gestured, and Danielle Atron followed him to his workbench. In a petri dish on the table was a small puddle of the silvery GC-161. Set beside the petri dish was a beaker containing a pale green fluid that seemed to shimmer when the light hit it just right, and a second beaker containing an orangeish fluid.

“First, we introduce an impurity into the GC-161 sample.” George gingerly lifted the beaker containing the orange fluid. “Quadronitroxenonium. It interacts with GC-161 in a purely visual manner.” He poured a few drops of the chemical into the sample. The puddle of GC-161 promptly turned green.

Atron folded her arms over her chest. She tapped her foot. “I’m sure this is leading somewhere?”

“Yes, of course, Ms. Atron. Now watch.” George picked up the beaker of GC Regenerate. He poured a drop into the contaminated GC-161. It rippled, shimmered, and the green color seemed to flow away from its center, dimming until only the original silver was left. “You see! It can restore a contaminated sample of GC-161 to a like-new condition. Isn’t that fascinating?”

“Yes… it sure is.” But Atron’s eyes lingered on the quadronitroxenonium. A smirk played at her lips.

She had an idea.

Dave held his breath as he snuck through the darkened plant.

He rounded a corner quickly, pressing his back against the wall to avoid being seen. That is, until a harsh light shone in his face. He screamed and flailed his arms about, knocking the flashlight out of Vince’s hand.

“Are you done?” Vince asked.

“Vince! It’s just you!” Dave sighed with relief. “I thought I was a goner for sure.”

“You work here, you nincompoop. And Ms. Atron has authorized you to be here. Why are you worried about getting caught?!”

Dave pouted. “I don’t know…” Truth be told, he’d been imagining himself sneaking through an unauthorized area like some kind of super-spy, and his imagination had gotten the better of him.

Vince jerked his thumb toward George Mack’s lab. “The chemical’s in there. You remember the description, right?”

Dave nodded. “Orange chemical, turns GC-161 green.”

“It’ll make finding the kid a snap. Now get to it!”


The office door was unlocked. Dave slipped inside.

“Orange chemical. Turns GC-161 green,” he muttered to himself. “Orange chemical, turns GC-161 green. Orange chemical…”

He banged his knee on a table. He let out a shout, jumping up and down uselessly. That hurt!

Dave was pouting by the time the pain finally faded. Okay, he had a mission here. What was he here for again? “Green chemical, turns GC-161 orange.” Wait, or was it the other way around? No, he was pretty sure that was right.

George Mack had cleaned up after himself when he’d left work earlier. His work bench had only one beaker on it: a pale green liquid protected with a cork stopper. That had to be it. Dave gathered it up, stowed it in his breast pocket, and returned to the hallway, where Vince had his arms folded and was impatiently tapping his foot.

“You got it?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Good. Let’s get moving. We have one more stop to make.”

Dave shrugged and followed after Vince. Well, it probably didn’t matter; he was pretty sure the chemical he was supposed to grab was green. “Where are we going?”

“The Paradise Valley freshwater plant. And we have to get there by sunrise.” Vince grinned dangerously. “We’re going to unmask that kid once and for all.”

Alex Mack yawned, stretching her arms above her head as she made her way downstairs.

“You’re up early,” her mother teased as she came into the kitchen. “Is my little girl finally becoming responsible?”

“Oh, shut up,” Alex said, but she had a smile in her voice. “I have to meet Ray before school. We have that health class project together, remember?”

“What project was that?” Barbara asked.

“The egg baby, right?” Annie spoke up, between bites of cereal, from where she was sitting at the dining room table. “Is he the custodial parent, then?”

Alex laughed as she poured a bowl of cereal for herself. “Sure, Annie. You know it’s just an egg, right?”

Recognition flashed in Barbara’s eyes. Oh, that project, she was surely thinking. “But it is teaching you to be responsible, Alex.”

“I don’t get how. All we have to do is put it down somewhere safe and make sure no one eats it. Raising an actual kid has got to be way more difficult.”

Barbara pursed her lips. “Now that you mention it…”

“At least with a real baby you don’t have to worry about accidentally eating it,” said Annie.

Alex set her bowl of cereal on the kitchen table and went over to the sink to get some water. “Anyway, Ray doesn’t have ’custody’,” she said as she filled a glass. “We’re going to switch off. Fitzgerald needs to spend time with both of her parents.”

“Fitzgerald?” Annie repeated with a laugh. “That was Ray’s idea, wasn’t it.”

As if summoned by that statement, the doorbell chose that instant to ring. Alex shouted through a mouthful of cereal. “That’s Ray!”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Barbara scolded her.

Alex grabbed her bowl and rushed out to the living room to meet Ray. Her glass of water sat on the counter, untouched and forgotten.

Vince spent the morning sitting in the park. That kid was going to turn green. He just knew it.

All he had to do was keep an eye out.

Dave took a seat next to him, cracking open a can of soda. “I dunno, Vince. Kids won’t be wandering around in the park right now. It’s school hours.”

“You think the GC-161 kid is going to go to school while they’re green? No. They’re going to play hooky.” Vince glowered menacingly. “I just know it.”

“Well, if you say so.” Vince was the smart one. “By the way, Vince, do you want a pop?”

“It’s called soda, and no, I don’t. That junk rots your teeth.”

Dave paused. He looked from his soda to Vince and then back again. Then, with a dismissive shrug, he drank.

Between meeting up with Ray, sitting in class all day, and drinking a pint of milk from the cafeteria at lunch, Alex hadn’t had a drink of water all day. By three o’clock she was parched.

“Hold on. Can you watch Fitzgerald for a sec?” Alex handed the egg to Ray and doubled back into the school building. “I just want to head to the water fountain, I’ll be right back.”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll be right here.”

She reached the fountain, pushed the button on the tap, and drank her fill. Ah, much better.

Except… What was that strange feeling?

Alex frowned. She shook her head to try and clear away the strange dizziness that had suddenly come over her. Her limbs felt like jelly and her brain was fogging up.

And then she melted.

She let out a garbled shriek when she realized she was suddenly a puddle through no action of her own. This was not good.

The puddle that was Alex zipped around the hallway in frantic circles for a moment. When she came to her senses she stopped, took a deep breath—or did the puddle equivalent, since she didn’t have lungs right now—and reassessed the situation. “I’m a puddle,” she said to herself. “Okay, but that’s normal. I can just change back.”

Was it just her imagination, though, or was her voice somehow… higher than usual?

A ripple spread across the surface of the puddle, and then it took shape. Alex was back to normal. For a given definition of “back to normal” that involved suddenly being three feet tall.

She looked around in confusion. “What the… what the—?!”

Voices trailed down the hallway. Alex’s eyes widened and she looked around for a place to hide—and then she froze, catching sight of her reflection in the door to a classroom.

She was a kid. There was no way she was older than seven!

The voices coming down the hall drew closer, louder, and… angrier? Alex froze as Robyn Russo and Nicole Wilson turned a corner.

The two stopped. Nicole turned away from Robyn and stuck her nose in the air.

Robyn just seemed glad for a distraction from whatever had been going on. She scurried over to Alex. “Hey, are you lost?”

“What? No, I—” Oh, right. She was a kid now. Whatever had caused this was probably GC-161-related, so she couldn’t exactly blurt out her real identity. Not even to her friends. “I, uh… I’m meeting someone here.”

Nicole rolled her eyes. “Great. Now can you quit getting distracted, Robyn? We have to—”


Alex froze. Nicole and Robyn turned their heads to look down the hall to the double-doors where Ray was standing.

When Alex turned and met Ray’s eyes, a flash of panicked understanding crossed his face. They’d been best friends their whole lives—of course he recognized her. “Oh,” he said. “Uh… I… guess she’s not in here,” he lied poorly. “I’ll, uh, keep looking. Maybe ask Annie.”

Alex nodded her head by half an inch.

Ray bolted.

“…okay, whatever that was about,” Robyn said. “Let’s just go. Drusilla needs to be fed.”

“Her name is Harriet, Robyn,” Nicole snapped. “And she’s an egg, she doesn’t need food. What she needs is a new outfit.”

Am I really hearing this? Alex wondered.

“What’s wrong with her outfit?” Carefully, Robyn pulled a little egg out from a heavily-cushioned pocket of her backpack. It had been stuffed into a Barbie doll-sized black shirt, somehow, and it had long black yarn glued to the top of it like hair.

Drusilla the Goth Egg, Alex supposed, bracing herself for Nicole’s caustic response.

Ray was out of breath by the time he reached the Mack residence.

He burst through the back door into the kitchen, expecting to find only Annie. He wasn’t expecting to find George Mack with her, animatedly telling her about some chemical he’d been working on at the plant.

“Raymond?” George asked curiously.

“…Ray? Where’s Alex?” Annie asked, a bit more cautiously.

“Uh— um—” Ray stammered. Crap! “She’s, uh, in detention.” He kicked himself mentally right after he said it—but it was the only thing he could think of on the spot like that.

Annie didn’t miss the look of panic in Ray’s eyes. She sighed, as if put-upon, and got to her feet. “So you need my help with your egg-baby project since she can’t be here. Right?”

“R-right! Exactly.”

George’s brow furrowed. “Detention? Our Alex? That doesn’t sound like her.”

“It’s, uh, it’s not,” Ray said quickly. “She didn’t do anything. The whole class got detention because someone pulled the fire alarm.”

“The whole class? But you’re—”

“Anyway thanks for helping me out Annie see you later Mr. Mack!” Ray called over his shoulder as he tugged Annie toward the garage door.

Once they were alone, Ray let out a long breath.

Annie grabbed his shoulders. “Breathe, Ray. What happened?”

“Alex is a little kid!”

Annie frowned. “From my perspective, you’re both basically little kids.”

No! I mean she turned back into a kid, like, six or seven! It has to be a GC-161 thing!”

“GC-161…” Annie repeated thoughtfully. Her eyes went wide and she shoved her way past Ray, back through the door into the kitchen. “Dad!”

George was standing at the table, gathering a pile of paperwork to stick back into his briefcase. “What is it now, Annie? My lunch hour is almost over—”

“What was that project you mentioned just before Ray got home? The one you said you personally showed Ms. Atron yesterday?”

George’s eyes lit up. “Oh, you mean GC Regenerate! It removes impurities in GC-161 by reverting its state to an earlier point in time.”

“Now this is just… out of nowhere,” Annie said, “but could it be possible to make an antidote?”

“An ‘antidote’? It’s not like it’s a poison. It shouldn’t affect human cells.”

Ugh. “She obviously didn’t mean antidote,” Ray butted in. “But, like… something that could reverse the, uh, reversal?”

George stroked his chin. “I don’t see why not. It’s not really a priority, though. The only reason to use GC Regenerate would be to fix a mistake that had contaminated a sample of GC-161. ‘Reversing the reversal’ would just put things wrong again.”

Ray gritted his teeth. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Annie schooling a look of frustration back off of her face. Neither of them could tell George that… actually, yes, there was a reason for this. It’s not like there was a human being out there walking around with GC-161 flowing through her body.

“Well… can I look at the paperwork anyway?” Annie asked. “I’m just really curious!”

George shrugged. “All right. I do have copies back at the lab, so it shouldn’t hurt. Here you go.” He pulled some papers back out of his briefcase and handed them to her. “Now I really should be getting back to work. Oh, and Ray, good luck with your school project.”

“Oh—right.” The egg baby. Ray had almost forgotten about her. Instinctively he slung his backpack off his back, pulled out the plastic lunchbox he’d stowed inside—he hadn’t used it since fourth grade, but it made for a good carrying case—and opened it up. Fitzgerald, a plain white store-bought chicken egg, was still safely wrapped up in the soft t-shirt Ray had bundled her in to protect her.

“Clever,” Annie remarked admiringly as George ducked out through the front door.

“I would’ve just left her in the fridge, but one of the rules is we have to bring the egg to class every day,” he said. “So voila! The perfect baby carrier.”

“I’m sure Alex is thrilled.”

“It was partly her idea. I was just gonna use the shirt; she suggested the lunch box.” Oh. Right. Alex! “Anyway, you have to do something! What if she stays like this forever?”

“Or worse, what if she grows younger again?” Annie pursed her lips grimly. “I’ll find an antidote. Ray, you go get Alex. Where is she, anyway?”

Ray blanched. “Crap!

When Robyn and Nicole left the school building, bickering the whole way, Alex followed behind. It was out of curiosity more than anything. Even if she couldn’t be up-front about her identity, she wanted to know why her two friends were upset with each other.

“Why are you two fighting, anyway?” she demanded when they were halfway down the block.

Robyn and Nicole stopped in their tracks. They fell silent, their heads turning to look down at Alex.

“Are you following us?” Robyn demanded.

Alex stuck her hands in her pockets. “No, I live this way,” she lied.

Nicole rolled her eyes. “Well, butt out. Robyn’s so bad at childcare that you’ll probably be in danger around her.”

“Excuse me?!” Robyn exclaimed.

“Well, am I wrong? Every decision you’ve made about Harriet’s upbringing—”

“Her name is Drusilla.”



Alex shouted with frustration. “Why can’t it be both? Harriet Drusilla… uh, Egg, or whatever her last name is.”

Robyn and Nicole paused.

“Or Drusilla Harriet,” Robyn mused. When Nicole fixed a piercing glare upon her, she quickly added, “Although I guess Drusilla is a better middle name than Harriet is. She can go by Drusilla when she gets into high school and wants to rebel against us.”

Nicole sighed. “Works for me.”

Alex beamed.

“What’s your name, anyway, kid?” Nicole asked.

“Um…” She couldn’t say Alex. Not Alexandra, either. Alexandra… Andra… “Andrea. My name’s Andrea,” she blurted out.

“Well, then, Andrea,” said Nicole, “why don’t you just run along now? We have important, grown-up things to do, and I bet your mommy and daddy are wondering where you are.”

That was probably the best idea, but Alex still didn’t like the idea of her friends bickering. “Only if you two promise to stop fighting.” She could get away with talking like that. They thought she was a little kid. Actually… she kind of felt like a little kid the longer she stayed like this. It was like she was getting more immature by the second.

That… probably was a bad thing.

“Fine, fine. We won’t fight.” Robyn offered a smile.

“Okay!” Alex said. She turned tail and ran. She needed to find Annie.

Vince had one ankle crossed over the opposite knee. His arms were folded over his chest, and he occasionally glanced at his wristwatch impatiently.

“Are you really sure we should still be here?” Dave whined.

“The area schools just let out recently,” Vince acknowledged. “If we don’t see anything in the next ten minutes, we move elsewhere.”

A girl of about seven, dressed in a flannel shirt and a backwards baseball cap, ran past them.

Without an actual sample of GC Regenerate, Annie was at a serious disadvantage. Still, going off of her father’s notes, she had whipped together a rudimentary antidote by the time Alex’s puddle came zipping under the garage door.

“Alex!” Ray exclaimed.

Annie shrieked in surprise. She managed to avoid dropping the beaker in her hand. “That’s… Alex?”

Ray squinted at the puddle. “It does look smaller…”

The puddle reformed into a seven-year-old girl. Alex glowered. “I’m not that small. You jerks.”

Annie and Ray exchanged a Look.

“Anyway, let’s test this,” said Annie. “Hopefully it’ll reverse the effects of the chemical you somehow came in contact with.”

“What chemical? I didn’t do anything weird.” Alex sighed dramatically and flopped into a lawn chair. “I just want to go back to normal already!”

“You seem more… impatient than usual,” Ray observed.

“Yeah, because I’m a kid! I got more immature, too,” said Alex. “I’m just lucky I managed to notice it. I think it’s getting worse the longer I’m like this so hurry up already!”

“A mental regression, too…” Annie frowned. “That’s not good. Here, just… try drinking this.”

Alex took the beaker from Annie. The chemical in it was a gross brown color. “Ew…”

“I know. Just think of it like taking some medicine.”

“I don’t like taking medicine. Make me something different.”

Annie sighed.

“She wasn’t kidding about the immaturity,” Ray groaned.

Annie took the beaker back. “I have an idea,” she whispered to Ray. From what George had told her about his tests with GC Regenerate, this should work.

Alex swung her legs back and forth in irritation. At her current height, they didn’t quite reach the floor.

“While I’m working on this,” Annie said sweetly, “Alex, can you show me your puddle form again? I think it looked smaller than usual. There might be some interesting implications about how your mass affects the volume of your puddle.”

“I have no idea what you just said, but okay.” Alex hopped up to her feet.

“Why would it get smaller, anyway? She carries people around all the time and it doesn’t get bigger,” said Ray.

Annie shrugged. “It might not have to do with her mass; maybe it was caused by the GC Regenerate. We’ll need to do some tests.”

Ugh!” Alex stomped her foot. “Not more tests!”

“Just the one for now, I promise. Please turn into a puddle?”

Alex sighed dramatically. She melted.

Annie poured the antidote onto her.

The puddle let out a distorted shriek. “What the heck, Annie?!”

“Whoa,” said Ray. The puddle had started glowing. It shimmered, alternating between different colors of the rainbow, and Alex zipped around the garage in a panic.

“Don’t let her get away!” Annie exclaimed, but Alex wasn’t going anywhere. Eventually she stopped and reformed under a table.

She was thirteen again.

Annie and Ray let out their held breaths. Alex collapsed with relief.

It had worked.

George turned his head toward Annie. “Oh, by the way, about that chemical we were discussing earlier. GC Regenerate?”

Annie blinked innocently. “What about it, Dad?”

“When I went to take another run some more tests on it after lunch, it was gone! It’s the strangest thing. No one else who works in my lab had any idea what happened to it.”

“That is weird,” said Annie.

“Maybe Danielle Atron stole it,” Alex offered through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

As Annie covered her mouth to hide a smile, George gasped in offense. “Why, she would never! Alex, sometimes you say the strangest things about the chemical plant. I don’t think you have any idea what it’s really like to work there.”

Alex swallowed her food and shrugged. “I guess I don’t,” she said lightly.

“…so you didn’t find the kid.” Danielle Atron’s voice was cold with fury.

“We even turned ’em orange and everything!” Dave said. “Vince messed up the search.”

I messed it up?! Why, you—”

Atron slammed her hand down onto her desk. Both men stopped bickering and stood at attention. “Did you say ‘orange’? Are you sure you used the quadronitroxenonium?”

“Yeah, it was definitely the quadric… nitro…” Dave looked at Vince with a helpless expression on his face.

“The quadratic… uh. That thing,” said Vince.

Dave nodded. “The green chemical that turns GC-161 orange!”

Vince shouted incoherently. Atron groaned and rubbed her eyes. They were both so, so exhausted.

“And what do you have to show for your collaboration, Mr. Alvarado? Ms. Mack?”

At their teacher’s prompting, Alex and Ray stood up and made their way to the front of the classroom. “This,” said Alex, opening up Ray’s protective lunchbox and carefully extracting the unharmed egg, “is our daughter. Fitzgerald.”

“She’s made it through the roughest part of childhood,” said Ray, “and soon she’ll be ready to join her middle school band. Then it’s off to Juilliard where she’ll train to become the jazz sensation of a new generation!”

Their teacher raised one eyebrow. “Yes, well. I’m glad to see that your project turned out successfully. Ms. Russo and Ms. Wilson?”

Alex and Ray sat. Nicole and Robyn stood.

“Everyone,” said Robyn, “we would like you to meet Harriet Drusilla Russo-Wilson.”

Ray leaned over to whisper to Alex. “How much do you think they bickered over whose last name should go first?”

Alex giggled. “Nicole got her choice of first name, so I guess this balances it out!”

Completely ignorant of her friends’ whispers, Nicole pulled Harriet Drusilla the Goth Feminist egg out of her backpack. It still had black hair and painted-on black lipstick, but now it also had painted on it a pink ♀ symbol with an uplifted fist inside the circle.

Their teacher sighed. “Yes, well, it’s very important to raise your child with a strong belief system. Next was… Mr. Driscoll?”

Due to an odd number of students in the class, one person had had to take on the burden of single parenthood. Alex didn’t think anyone was less suited for it than Louis Driscoll.

As Robyn and Nicole returned to their seats, Louis headed for the front of the room. On the way there he managed to trip, sending his egg baby flying. Some students shrieked. Alex, instinctively, reached out telekinetically to soften the blow.

Ray set his hand on her shoulder. “No, Alex. He made this bed.”

Ray was right. Alex released the egg and let it fall. She covered her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see the carnage.

Louis scrambled to pick his egg up off the floor. It was… intact. There was a crack where it had impacted, but it wasn’t broken or even leaking.

“…Mr. Driscoll, do you have an explanation for this?” the teacher asked.

“Uh…” Panic flashed in Louis’s eyes. “Yeah—actually, I’m raising my egg to become a detective. You know… hard-boiled.”

Alex barked out a laugh. She wasn’t the only one.

“I don’t get paid enough for this,” the poor health teacher said, setting her head down on her desk.

The laughter of the class very nearly drowned out the sound of the bell ringing.