Sisters

 

By yearends and Akane

With contributions from delta7447

 

June 23, 2023

Margaret Martin lay in her small tent partway up the slope of Mount Kilimanjaro feeling flushed and sweaty, with her equally flushed and sweaty husband beside her.

"Think we'll finally get lucky this time, dear?" she asked.

"I hope so," said Stephen Fahr. "Though if we do we'll have to find a long-term nanny or give this up."

"I guess we'll just have to go to some even more exotic locales. Maybe we could get Rwanda? I hear that young girl, what's-her-name, M-something, has really helped with making it verdant and lush. Remember those pictures you took almost thirty years ago? And those paintings I made?" Margaret shuddered, remembering their visits to the killing fields of the Rwandan genocide, piles of dead Tutsis enough to haunt her dreams ever since.

"Be nice to have a before-and-after set. I imagine we could sell the rights for a tidy sum, enough to pay for a nanny for a while, anyway."

"Might even just be a 'during' set. After all, with the sorts of powers she's demonstrated, that girl could well turn Rwanda into the most prosperous nation in Africa. Maybe even the whole world."

"Wouldn't that be nice?" mused Stephen. He rubbed his wife's belly. "Good luck in there!" he said, a smile on his face.

Margaret slapped his hand away and went to sleep, Stephen following shortly.

--

Britney Atwater lay in her bed and bawled her eyes out.

Life just wasn't fair sometimes.

She'd written her last final exam for the year and had plans to go out with some of her friends to see a movie which Britney thought was probably overhyped but, hey, it was as good a way as any to spend a Friday night when you weren't yet old enough to drink.

Instead her counselor had been waiting outside the exam room and asked her to come to her small office, where she'd closed the door and told Britney, as gently as she could, that her parents had been in a car accident earlier that day and had died instantly.

Britney cried the whole way as the counselor drove her home and hadn't stopped four hours later.

A small part of her mind told her that she was going to have to deal with where to live--she probably couldn't keep the house--what to eat, what sort of job she could get (at least she had a good reference from the CNE last year), how she was going to juggle that with high school, whether she could live on her own or if she'd have to go into foster care for a year, but that only made her cry even harder from how overwhelming it all was.

Tomorrow would be another day. Today was for tears.

--

Margaret Martin sat bolt upright as she felt a shudder pass through her, shocking her out of sleep. She reached over and grabbed her husband's arm.

"What is it?" he asked groggily.

"The tremor," she said. "Did you feel it?"

"No--" Stephen cut off abruptly as another tremor passed by. "Maybe Kilimanjaro's becoming active again."

"Well, turn on the radio. Out here, if it is, should be all over the airwaves."

Stephen flicked on their radio, but the various stations were all just on regular overnight programming.

"Go to sleep, honey," he said. "We've got enough here anyway. We'll leave for Kigali in the morning."

June 24, 2023

Stephen and Margaret had lunch in a nice little café in Mwanza.

"Think I should use that pregnancy test now?" Margaret asked. "After all, it's supposed to detect as soon as the fertilized egg implants."

"Well, you were tracking your ovulation, weren't you?" Margaret nodded. "So hopefully you should be pregnant now," he said with a bit of forced optimism, considering how long they'd been trying to have a child and how close they knew Margaret must be to menopause. "And if you're not, we can buy a few more." He shook his head. "You'd think those things would be incredibly expensive, given how well they work. It's like someone's just snapping her fingers and creating piles of them out of nothing."

The doctor and the artist chuckled at the thought, and Margaret drained her third cup of coffee and ordered another. Whoever was just snapping her fingers hadn't changed everything about a pregnancy test.

February 14, 2024

"Happy Birthday to me," Britney said with little excitement, blowing out the single candle in the small, lopsided cake she'd managed to bake.

She had to admit that the last eight months hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. She was allowed to live on her own, because of her good grades and a good letter from her old boss. Somehow, she had been able to keep her parents' house, since she'd gotten a letter in the mail telling her that she was now the designated holder of a patent for a revolutionary new technology that allowed for a mental interface between a computer and a user, the letter also coming with multiple computers for her use, all of which were equipped with the interface, and almost immediately she got lucrative licensing offers from practically every computer company in the world. She'd decided, after consulting with a lawyer, to release it generally for a comparatively small fee per computer sold, not as much as she could have gotten with exclusivity but more than enough for her to live on.

Of course, the simple fact remained that her parents weren't around to celebrate her eighteenth birthday with her, and that was enough to dampen her spirits and make her decide to spend the night alone at home--well, that and she didn't have a fake ID, and she didn't want to invite her friends over since she couldn't bake a decent cake to save her life.

She plucked out the candle and cut the cake into two. Setting one piece aside for her breakfast, she took a bite and grimaced. It was as bad as she'd expected.

--

Stephen and Margaret were watching a documentary on the Yugoslav Wars when Margaret gasped.

Margaret's pregnancy had been absolutely normal and proceeded better than anyone had expected, especially given her age. In fact, her OB-GYN even said that while she had been almost at menopause, she might well be able to have two or three more children after this one, but Stephen and Margaret were quite content to have only the one.

"I think my water just broke," she said quietly.

Stephen felt no immediate need to call an ambulance. He'd helped to deliver quite a few babies in far worse conditions. His formal medical training hadn't prepared him for delivering babies at a moment's notice with no equipment ready to hand, but his years of traveling with his wife to war-torn regions of the world had given him a lot of practical experience in doing just that.

The birth was quite rapid from there. Margaret stood up, grabbed the bar they'd attached to the ceiling so they could do chin-ups while watching TV on the rare occasions they were home, and began to push, Stephen quickly pinning her skirt up to watch and help with the delivery. Almost no sooner had he done so, though, than their daughter's head crowned and the rest of her followed easily, taking just long enough for Stephen to get his hands in and help their baby out.

Margaret looked flushed but otherwise fine as she took her daughter from her husband. There was no afterbirth, no umbilical cord. The baby was breathing normally, eyes wide, looking around as if she understood everything that had just gone on and wanted to know where she was.

"You're very lucky, you know," a young, confident voice said. Stephen and Margaret both turned to see three young girls, the oldest of them probably around seven and the youngest maybe almost four. The oldest appeared to be Rwandan, the youngest Japanese, and the other Russian.

"Who are you? And how are we lucky?" asked Margaret, recovering from her shock first.

"How rude of us," said the youngest. "I'm Shizuka Hirose, and my friends are Irina Volkoba and M'Wela Mutegaraba," she continued, indicating the Russian and the Rwandan in order.

"And you're lucky," said Irina, making it clear it was M'Wela who had spoken first.

"How so?" asked Margaret.

"Because your daughter is going to be a Super Goddess." M'Wela waved her hand at the newborn in Margaret's arms, and Margaret felt her child's skin become somehow tougher just before she was swathed in immaculate baby clothing.

"What do you mean, a 'Super Goddess'?" asked Stephen.

"I mean like us," replied M'Wela. "You know how I've been on TV, showing off what I can do?" Both parents nodded. "That's nothing compared to what I can actually do, or what your daughter will be able to do."

"What can you do?" asked Margaret.

"Anything we like," put in Shizuka. "We're omnipotent, and by the time your daughter turns three, so will she be."

"Omnipotent?" the parents said together, sounding alarmed.

"Oh, it's nothing to be afraid of," Shizuka continued, snapping her fingers. Instantly Stephen and Margaret found themselves in a different room, one they didn't recognize, but that was clearly a baby's bedroom. Shizuka stood there with them, and Irina and M'Wela joined them an instant later.

"See, all we want to do is help people and make the world a better place," the Japanese girl continued. "So I just created this room out of nothing and attached it to your house--well, actually, I just expanded your house to make it bigger inside than out--so that you wouldn't have to go through the inconvenience of moving stuff around to clear out a room and getting all the stuff you'd need for a baby and everything." She giggled. "Of course, you should have gotten started on that a few months ago, but you're first-time parents who are rarely home anyway, so it's understandable you'd neglect that. Lucky for you that we're here, then!"

Irina twitched a finger and the baby floated out of Margaret's arms into the new crib.

"Have you decided what you're going to call her?" asked M'Wela.

Margaret nodded. "Jennifer. Jennifer Fahr." Jennifer had started to smile, but at Margaret's last word she started to wail.

"I think she'd rather have your name," said M'Wela. "Jennifer Martin." Jennifer's wails grew louder.

Shizuka took a long look at the bawling baby and nodded firmly, glaring at M'Wela. "She told me she wants Jennifer Martinette." Instantly Jennifer's cries ceased and she cooed contentedly, reaching down to pull her blankets up.

"So what do you mean, omnipotent?" asked Margaret.

"I mean exactly that," said M'Wela. "She'll be able to do anything she wants by the time she's three. Even before then she'll be able to take care of herself while you're away--though I'd recommend finding a nanny for appearances' sake if you do. And don't bother trying to hide anything from her. She's already completely telepathic, at least within a small radius."

"What radius?"

"Oh, at this point, probably only a million light-years," said M'Wela, shrugging. "But on the plus side, if you need anything and she can give it to you, she probably will. And if not, just think really hard and one of us probably will anyway."

"Anything else we should look out for?" asked Stephen.

"Nothing much. She'll probably be walking and talking and all that within a month. She could probably feed herself now, and she will need to eat until she comes into her full power--that dependency's one of the last to go, and for that matter none of us could create food until we became truly all-powerful and didn't need it any more anyway, well, for ourselves, anyway. Look on the bright side, though: she'll be able to tell you exactly what she likes and doesn't like and you won't have to guess." Shizuka giggled. "Just be ready for a lot of stuff floating around. Levitation and telekinesis are some of the first powers we develop, and we all love using them." She illustrated her point by lifting off the floor to hover just above Jennifer. The nascent goddess burbled a laugh and reached up to stroke the floating young girl's face.

"Anyway," said M'Wela, "here's a list of all the stuff you really should do." A file opened on the tablet Stephen held. He skimmed through it.

"Vaccinations? Isn't she immortal or something?"

"Technically not until she turns three," said the African girl. "We've protected her, and that should hold up, since we can do anything we like and all, but just to be on the safe side, we'd much rather you get her vaccinated. I nearly died from malaria when I was just 18 months old, you know. Thankfully my immune system was just strong enough at that point to fight it off."

"But we've developed what should be a surefire vaccine for every disease," said Shizuka. "I mean, get her the regular ones, too, but right now, you can have these." Three syringes appeared, two of them adult-sized and floating over to Stephen and Margaret, and another, child-sized, resting in Irina's hand. "These don't work like regular vaccines. They're full of cells that adapt to your biology and so your body just sees them as another part of your immune system. But if you get any sort of infection that galvanizes a normal immune response--or attempts to suppress your immune system--these kick into action and ruthlessly eradicate the pathogen. Not only that, but they're quite undetectable, since they're somewhat intelligent and can avoid being sucked up if you get bloodwork done or even dripping out if you cut yourself or something--oh, and they really help clotting, too, and healing broken bones and such. Really, they're just a cure-all."

Irina walked over to the crib, passed through it to stand with her body split, half under the base and half above, then jumped lightly to rest her feet on the blankets. She lifted one to find Jennifer's foot. "Do you mind?" she asked, gesturing at the injector, then at Jennifer.

"It is harmless, right?" asked Margaret, overwhelmed by the thought of what these young girls--and her own daughter--could do.

"Quite harmless," said Shizuka. "We've already used it on another will-be Super Goddess--Ha-neul Park, she's in Korea but isn't quite omnipotent yet--and her parents. They've never been healthier."

"Okay, go ahead," said Stephen faintly, crossing his fingers.

Irina put the needle in Jennifer's sole and pressed the injector. Jennifer's giggles turned into another burbling laugh.

"Shall I go first, dear?" asked Margaret.

"No, I will," said Stephen firmly. "You're still recovering from pregnancy."

"Not really," said M'Wela. "One thing about having a Super Goddess child, the mother heals essentially instantly. You're as healthy now as you were before you got pregnant."

"Still, I'll go first," Stephen repeated. He pulled up his sleeve, finding a spot that, somehow, already appeared to have been rubbed with alcohol, and injected himself before he could second-guess his decision.

"Feel any different, honey?" Margaret asked after a few seconds.

"Not really," said Stephen. "I guess it's harmless enough."

"Check your leg," said Irina, a bit hesitantly, turning her head briefly before focusing her attention on Jennifer again.

Stephen walked out of the magically-created bedroom and into the nearby bathroom. After a short time, he called, "Marge? Could you come here?"

Margaret went over, turning to look back just briefly and seeing that M'Wela had already jumped (or walked, or flown, or teleported, or whatever--Margaret couldn't even fathom just how much her three unexpected guests could do and how much her daughter would be able to do) into the new crib to play with her newborn.

"That bullet hole? Remember, covering border skirmishes in Kashmir?"

"What about it?" asked Margaret.

"It's gone," said Stephen, amazement in his voice. "Look." He lifted his leg to rest it on the edge of the bathtub and Margaret could clearly see that the nasty scar he'd carried for years was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's the bullet?" she asked. "The doctors figured it'd be better just to leave it in there, I thought."

"Dunno--" began her husband, before both of them noticed some movement under his skin. Suddenly a metallic object broke it, moved out, and came to rest on top of the skin, which healed instantly. Margaret plucked it off Stephen's leg.

"But-- How-- I thought that vaccine just healed. The doctors said it was perfectly benign, no health risks."

"Oh, it was," came Shizuka's voice from the bedroom. "I just thought you'd like the souvenir." She paused. "Care to take yours now?"

"I guess," said Margaret, starting to head out of the bathroom when the third syringe appeared next to the sink. She found a spot on her arm that had also apparently been rubbed with alcohol and injected herself, immediately putting a hand to the scar on her neck where someone had once tried to slit her throat.

Just as Stephen's bullet wound had, Margaret's scar healed almost instantly.

They walked back into the bedroom.

"How can we thank you?" said Margaret. "I don't imagine there's much we can give you that you'd need, and anything you want you can get yourselves, so..."

"Just raise her well," said M'Wela, shrugging. "Of course, given what you do, we wouldn't ask you to put that on hold for a few decades, especially when you haven't got that much time left where you can do it--though that shot will also give you a good deal of protection from the nastier effects of aging. So find someone who'll raise her well while you're away. In fact, I think she's already got someone in mind."

"Who?" asked Stephen.

"Not our place to tell you," said Shizuka, still hovering above Jennifer. "She'll let you know in her own time."

"One other thing," put in M'Wela. "Don't tell anyone about us--or, at least, what we can really do. We're not ready for that to be known, and we know the world isn't ready to know. And we really are sorry, but this is just a standard precaution we take with all parents of nascent Super Goddesses--I did it to Irina's parents once I was powerful enough, and to Shizuka's parents a few months after she was born, and also to Ha-neul's parents, and now all three of us are doing it to you--but we can't quite trust you to keep silent, so we've put in a mental block against your telling people generally. It'll let you tell people who really do need to know--whoever you hire as Jennifer's nanny, for instance, and maybe her pediatrician and later her doctor, though they'll all then be similarly blocked--but not the public at large. When we're ready to announce ourselves we will."

"I can't say I like it," replied Stephen, "but I can understand it. It's your secret, after all."

"Good!" said the African girl, jumping through the side of Jennifer's crib. A few waves of her hand filled the room with typical baby toys, and another created a closet and chest of drawers full of all the clothing Jennifer would need until she could create her own. "Just remember, if you really do need anything, especially for her, just give us a thought."

"One other thing," said Shizuka. "Jennifer doesn't want to know she's a Super Goddess until she comes into her full power in three years' time. So we've put a block in her mind that will stop her from knowing that's what she'll be. You can mention it in front of her, but if you tell her she's going to be one, she won't believe you and she'll forget about it shortly afterward."

"Why?" said Margaret. "If I were in her position I'd love to know what sort of destiny I have ahead of me." She was answered with shrugs.

"Bye!" said all three Super Goddesses in unison, Irina much more quietly than the other two. They waved and vanished in front of Stephen and Margaret's still not quite believing eyes.

Margaret stepped over to the crib and touched it tentatively, half expecting to find her hand passing right through it, as if it weren't actually there. When her hand instead found a solid rail, she bent over to see her daughter sound asleep.

"I don't know about you," said Stephen, "but this was probably the most exhausting day of my life."

"Well, I hope you're not too exhausted," said Margaret, taking him by the hand and leading him to their bedroom.

--

Three small figures appeared around Britney Atwater's bed, where the orphaned young woman lay fast asleep.

"Jennifer's wrong, of course," said Irina.

"I know, and I think she knows on some level," said Shizuka. "But she still blames herself because of some notion of cosmic balance and she's determined to make it up somehow."

"She's getting closer to the brink," said M'Wela. "We'll have to keep a closer eye on her, for a little while anyway."

Three heads nodded solemnly, and then the figures vanished.

June 28, 2024

Britney Atwater went home in a taxi, struggling to hold back tears.

It wasn't as if her graduation ceremony had gone poorly. Quite the contrary: she'd been valedictorian. Of course, part of that was because of how she'd borne up after her parents died near the end of the previous school year, and she'd have given anything to have her parents see her graduate even if all she'd gotten to do was walk.

Her friends had paid for the taxi in advance, so she thanked the driver, got out of the cab, and entered her home.

Her academic record wasn't the best in the class, but it was good enough to get her into a well-regarded university with a reasonable scholarship, more than enough that she could make do with the royalties from the patent she'd inexplicably received without digging too much into what her parents had left when they died or what the other driver involved in that fatal crash had paid in a settlement.

But right then, none of that mattered to Britney.

She dropped her bag on the floor, kicked off her heels, stripped out of her formal clothes, threw her phone on a counter, rummaged through a drawer, and went upstairs.

--

"We shouldn't have made her valedictorian," said Shizuka. "I thought it'd cheer her up, but..."

"So did I," said M'Wela. "And so did Irina and Ha-neul. We all agreed."

"We could at least have looked along the more probable futures."

"You know the problems with precognition as much as I do."

"Well," said Shizuka, changing the subject, "did Irina and Ha-neul agree?"

"Yes. Especially now. We can't let Jennifer down."

"We probably already have. All we can do is hope we don't let her down any more."

--

"Honey!" shouted Margaret as she read the new message on her laptop.

"What is it?" said Stephen as he hurried over.

"You'll never believe the contract we just got offered." She handed the lightweight computer to her husband.

"Three of them?" he said, eyebrows raising. "All expenses paid, two thousand dollars a day, four months for each?"

"I wonder why they want it. Posterity?"

"Maybe something to show Jennifer what she missed out on."

"Maybe, but once she becomes an Ess-Gee she'll presumably be able to look back into the past and see what went on anyway."

"When did you become an expert on omnipotence?" asked Stephen curiously.

"Watching old science fiction and fantasy. Searching the internet. Regretting searching the internet." Margaret blushed.

"Well, who are we going to get to watch Jen?"

"I don't know. I mean, we'll be gone a whole year. I know she's special and all, but I don't like the thought of her being away from us for that long. And it's not like what we do is really suitable for a four-month-old."

"So, I repeat: who are we going to get to watch Jen?"

"I seem to remember one of them--M'Wela?--saying that Jen already had someone in mind."

"But that was before she decided she didn't want to know who she'd be." They knew Jennifer could hear them, of course--her senses were already far better than any ordinary human's--but they also knew that the mental block she'd requested the others put in would keep those sorts of statements from registering with her.

"Found someone!" piped Jennifer's high, reedy voice. Her parents turned to see her hoist herself off her highchair, float gently to the ground, and walk towards them, her small tablet hovering in front of her. The tablet turned as she came up to her parents. "Her. Britney Atwater." Jennifer smiled broadly.

"Why her, darling?" asked Margaret.

"I don't know," said Jennifer, obviously a bit vexed. She didn't like not knowing things. "But she's a valedictorian." Even at four months old Jennifer was the intellectual equal of any college-educated adult, and didn't struggle with words at all. "That's good, right?"

"Well, yes, but do you think she'll do it?" said Stephen.

"We can try," said Jennifer firmly. "Besides, I think it would be good for her." She turned the tablet back around and scrolled through the brief article to remind herself of a few points. "Her parents died around this time last year and she's been living on her own since then. Oh, and she has a decent scholarship." She paused, considering. "But I bet she still wants human contact, and could probably use the money anyway."

"How are we going to get in touch with her, though?" said Margaret.

"Oh, that's easy." Jennifer waved a hand at her tablet and the screen blanked, displaying only a phone number.

"How'd you find that?" asked Stephen, narrowing his eyes a little.

"I read her mind," said Jennifer with a shrug. "It's not like anything on this planet's a secret to me. But I promise I only ever go peeking with the best of intentions."

Stephen and Margaret gave each other a look. They loved Jennifer, but they also knew history.

"All right, we'll give it a try," said Margaret. Before she could even begin to get up her phone was in her hand and Jennifer had a broad smile on her face.

--

Britney was jolted from her semi-slumber by the very last sound she thought she'd hear.

She flopped her hand down on her bed next to her ear, and was very surprised to find her phone, vibrating slightly while it played her "unknown caller" ringtone.

Something all but compelled her to answer, however, so she accepted the call and said, groggily, "Hello?"

"Hello? Is this Britney Atwater?" The voice on the other end was female, probably in her fifties, Britney guessed. It sounded faintly familiar.

"Who am I speaking to?" she replied, just alert enough to know not to confirm her identity to a total stranger.

"Oh!" The other voice sounded genuinely abashed. "I'm sorry. I'm Margaret Martin."

The name kicked Britney's brain into full gear as she tried to remember where she'd heard the name. It hit her. "Oh! I'm sorry, if this is about that extra-credit paper I wrote in March I really didn't intend for it to get into the papers or anything, I just needed a better grade--"

"Don't worry about it!" There was a definite laugh in Margaret's voice. "Stephen"--Britney recalled that the world-famous landscape artist Margaret Martin was married to Stephen Fahr, a renowned doctor and amateur photographer--"and I are always happy for our work to be used in academic papers, especially by students. It's hardly your fault that your paper was so good the Star picked it up as a feature piece! I'm not looking for any remuneration from that. Really I was just blown away by how well-researched it was. You really looked into recent world events, especially considering how hard information was to come by during the political upheavals across Europe and Asia."

"I can only imagine what it was like to be there," replied Britney, her awe at having one of her idols calling her--and not to berate her for misusing their intellectual property--overcoming her fatigue and sorrow. "But if you're not calling about that, why are you calling?"

"Well," said Margaret, suddenly sounding a little awkward, "we have suddenly found ourselves in need of a service you're in the best position to offer."

"What sort of service?" Britney was completely befuddled. What could she possibly offer one of the most famous war reporters in the world?

"I don't really want to say over the phone," came the reply. "Can you come over here? I promise, no matter what happens it won't be a waste of your time."

Again Britney felt as if she wasn't operating entirely of her own free will. "I guess. I'll need your address, though."

Margaret readily provided that, and gave her the number of a luxury cab company she could call. "Just tell them to charge the Fahr-Martin account. We'll clear it with them so you won't have a problem."

Britney was feeling quite in over her head, but at the same time was feeling like things might just be looking up for her for the first time in a year. She had no idea why she thought that, but a small voice in the back of her head told her that whatever happened tonight, she wouldn't regret it.

"I'll be right over, then," she said.

"And we look forward to meeting you," replied Margaret. She hung up, and Britney did the same, crawling out of bed and wondering how her phone got there when she distinctly remembered tossing it on the counter.

And she wondered where her knives went.

--

An hour later the "luxury cab"--more like a full-blown limousine; there was even a hot dinner waiting for her--pulled up in front of Stephen Fahr and Margaret Martin's unassuming house. Britney supposed they didn't really need much, considering how little they were home. Still, it did strike her that she'd seen nothing from them in the last year, ever since they'd released pictures and paintings of the newly lush and verdant parts of Rwanda.

Britney had no idea how much the trip had cost, but since money, at least, wasn't much of a problem for her and she was in a better mood having eaten and anticipating meeting two people she deeply respected, she figured there was no harm in being overly extravagant this once, so she pulled $200 out of her purse and handed it to the driver as she closed the door behind her.

"If you ever need our services again, just ask for Cassandra Jenkins," said the chauffeuse in a professional tone. But Britney could have sworn the woman wanted to jump and click her heels as she walked back to the driver's door.

A light rain had started up during the trip, so Britney hurried to get onto the house's porch.

Seeing no doorbell, she knocked sharply twice. Moments later she heard footsteps, and the door opened to reveal a middle-aged man.

"You must be Britney. Come in. I'm Stephen. Let me get you next to the heater, I know it's never nice to get caught even in a light rain that you weren't anticipating."

Britney stepped into the house, which gave her a strange feeling, as if she were entering a place that wasn't truly real, but no sooner had Stephen closed the door behind her than a small figure streaked up to her and latched onto her left leg.

"Brit!" the young girl said in a high-pitched voice. "I'm Jen. We're going to have so much fun together. It'll be great having you as my surrogate mommy while Mom and Dad are away. But really I'd rather think of you like a big sister. Is that okay? Can I be your little sister? I know you always wanted one."

Britney almost turned and left, except that the small girl, Jen, was clinging so hard to her that she wasn't sure if she'd let go even if she did leave, and Britney didn't want to be accused of kidnapping. So instead she just froze.

"Oh," said Margaret's voice from the other room. "Sorry about Jennifer. She's... special." Her tone changed ever so slightly. "Come on, Jen. Let Daddy bring Britney here."

Jennifer smiled up at Britney and let her leg go, and she zoomed back around the corner she'd come from. Britney couldn't be sure, but she thought the girl's feet weren't quite touching the ground, at least not on every stride.

Britney was still shaken up, but after she'd taken her shoes off, Stephen took her hand and guided her to their living room where Jennifer bounced on a chair and Margaret lay on a couch. Stephen indicated a second chair for Britney and sat down next to his wife.

Margaret broke the awkward silence. "Now that you're here, I guess I can talk more freely."

Britney nodded, still confused.

"You know who M'Wela Mutegaraba, Shizuka Hirose, and Ha-neul Park are, I assume? Well, and Christina." Britney nodded. It was hard not to know who they were--the "wonder girls" who had given the world so many advances in science and medicine and peace over the last few years.

"Well," said Stephen, picking up for his wife, "Jennifer's like them. Or she will be, anyway."

"No I won't, Dad," protested the girl. "I'm just special. They're cool and have tons of powers and everything. I can just do a few tricks."

"But that's not exactly why we asked you to come here. We've been offered a contract to spend four months with three of them panting and photographing their everyday lives, and we need someone to look after Jennifer while we're gone. Rwanda still isn't exactly safe, you know."

Britney nodded. She knew that too well from her research. "But why me?"

"Because you're going to be my big sister Brit and I'm going to be your little sister Jen," Jennifer said, as if it were already a fact.

"Jennifer wants you, apparently," said Margaret, shrugging. "As you can tell, she's extremely precocious. She knows what she wants and she has a way of getting it--and it's not just because she's our only child."

That hit Britney. She didn't know they had been childless. For that matter, she didn't know that they'd had a child. And they were going to trust her with their only daughter's care, if what Jennifer was saying was at all indicative of her parents' intentions.

"I wanted to tell everyone," said Jennifer, sulking just a bit. "But they want to keep it quiet."

Britney raised an eyebrow. "Oh," said Stephen. "As she said, she's special."

"How so?"

"Well, for one, she can definitely read minds," said Margaret. "Why don't you show Britney what else you can do, Jen?"

Jen smiled and held out a small hand. Her tablet, resting on a table across the room, floated up into the air and zoomed over to the four-month-old. The stylus followed and tapped the screen, apparently of its own volition, to open an art program. The tablet and stylus hovered in front of Jennifer, rotated so that Britney could easily see the screen, and began to draw what was soon looking very distinctly like a picture of a certain valedictorian.

Jennifer lifted off her chair and floated over to hover by Britney, the tablet retaining its relative position to its apparent user. "What do you think?" she asked as the picture seemingly drew itself.

"I think," said Britney, "that you are a very special girl."

Jennifer smiled, hugged Britney as best she could, and vanished, reappearing instantly back in her chair. The tablet still hovered in front of Britney, continuing to draw her face.

"So what is it you want me to do?" asked the eighteen-year-old.

"We want you to be Jennifer's nanny, or surrogate mom, or, maybe, big sister," said Stephen. "We can pay you quite well. Five hundred dollars a day, plus expenses. You can even move your stuff over here if you want. We can get someone in tomorrow to clean out the spare bedroom."

"And if I don't?"

"Then we'll give you a thousand dollars for your time tonight and find someone else. But I think Jen would really much rather you accepted." Jennifer looked up at Britney with wide eyes and nodded solemnly.

"How am I supposed to be a nanny to someone who can fly, read minds, move objects without touching them, and maybe even teleport?" said Britney. "I'm not Mary Poppins!"

"Don't worry," said Jennifer. "I don't like being mean or anything. Have I ever done anything bad?" She looked at her parents.

Stephen and Margaret looked at each other. "No," said Stephen.

"At least, not that we can recall," added Margaret.

"I promise that I have never ever altered your memories," said Jen. "And I never will." She looked at Britney. "Nor yours."

"She can alter memories?" Britney said incredulously.

"First we're hearing of it," said Margaret. "But we knew it was a possibility."

Jennifer hopped down from her chair and walked over to Britney's, laying her hands on Britney's leg. "I promise I've never done anything bad. I just want a big sister. I want you as my big sister."

Britney sighed. She knew that this would either be the biggest mistake of her life or the best decision she'd ever make. "I'll do it."

"Yay!" said Jennifer, leaping high enough to hug Britney around her neck. Somehow, though, Jennifer seemed to weigh nothing, as if she were supporting her own weight with whatever special powers she possessed.

Stephen produced a few pages of forms. "Just a standard contract. You can read through it. Fill out your details, send us an image, and we'll give you the OK to drop it off at our bank. In the meantime, here's your first week in advance." He handed Britney an envelope packed with hundred-dollar bils.

"Why the rush?" asked Britney.

"The sooner we can fly out to Korea, the better," explained Margaret. "We've always got our basic travel kits packed, and we'd ideally like to leave tonight, if that works for you? I hope you don't mind staying the night with Jen."

Stephen had already disappeared upstairs while Margaret picked up her phone.

"You don't mind, do you, Brit?" asked Jennifer, looking up at her with wide eyes again.

"No," said Britney, figuring that she could get what she needed tomorrow. "I don't mind."

Margaret was already on the phone with the taxi dispatcher and just gave Britney a thumbs-up. Stephen came back down the stairs rather more carefully than he'd gone up them, holding a few bags that he was very careful to keep from banging into the walls.

Margaret hung up. "They'll be here in five, darling."

"I'm sorry our first meeting couldn't be longer," said Stephen, quickly pulling on a rain jacket and sturdy boots, "especially since we won't see you again for a year--well, maybe sooner, hopefully we can be back for a few days around Jennifer's first birthday."

The taxi--the same sort of luxury limo that Britney had taken--pulled up sooner than anyone expected. Britney and Jennifer stood on the front porch and waved Stephen and Margaret goodbye. Somehow, even though Britney knew her eyesight wasn't nearly good enough, she knew that their driver was Cassandra, and that she was quite disappointed to discover that her passenger wasn't Britney.

Britney went back inside after Jennifer and locked the door behind her. "When's your bedtime, Jennifer?"

"Call me Jen. It'll be easier if we just skip that part." Jennifer shrugged. "I go to bed when I feel tired, and I wake up when I feel rested."

That worked for Britney--no longer having school and not having a job, at least not one with regular hours, meant she could easily keep to that schedule. "Well, do you feel tired now?"

Jennifer nodded and jumped up the stairs--or, Britney noticed upon closer observation, actually flew up the stairs, her feet never quite touching the steps and her legs never really flexing.

"You'll have to lift me into bed, though," said Jennifer, leading Britney to her bedroom, a bedroom which, if Britney's immediate sense of the house's dimensions were accurate, shouldn't be able to exist.

"Can't you just fly in?"

"That's less fun."

Britney obliged her young, powerful charge and settled her in her crib, pulling up the covers.

"Good night, Brit," said Jennifer.

"Good night... Jen," said Britney. The name didn't seem too familiar, now that she'd said it.

Britney walked back toward the stairs, preparing to spend the night on the couch, when a flash of light in the corner of her eye caught her attention. Standing in front of an open doorway she was sure hadn't been there a second ago was a black girl, holding a finger to her lips and beckoning Britney to follow her.

That was one too many strange occurrences for Britney Atwater, and she fainted dead away.

June 29, 2024

When Britney came to, she found herself in a very familiar bed in a very familiar room.

"I was wondering when you'd wake up," said a voice. "Well, actually, I wasn't." Britney opened her eyes, squinting, to see the same black girl sitting on a chair she was certain hadn't been in her bedroom before.

"Who are you?"

"I'm M'Wela Mutegaraba." As if to back up her claim, the chair she was sitting on vanished, leaving her floating in midair.

"What are you doing here?" A part of Britney's mind told her that if she was actually speaking with M'Wela Mutegaraba, she probably shouldn't take so sharp a tone, but she was tired and, anyway, they were in her bedroom.

M'Wela seemed not to take offence. "I'm here to fill in a few things for you."

"What sort of things?"

"Who I am, who Jennifer will be."

Britney raised an eyebrow.

"I--well, I and a few others, Irina Volkoba, Shizuka Hirose, and Ha-neul Park--we're Super Goddesses. At least, that's what we call ourselves. What it means is that we're completely omnipotent. We can do anything we like. And Jennifer will be one, too."

"How do you mean, will be one? Is she a Super Goddess or isn't she?"

"She will be," M'Wela repeated calmly. "We don't gain our full powers until we turn three. Certain powers manifest before then, though. You've already seen Jennifer using quite a few, and you can expect to see her gain many more before she becomes completely omnipotent."

"Like what? What should I watch out for?"

"Well, looking at her physiology and comparing it to what the other four of us had, I think she'll probably develop super-strength and super-speed before too long. Here." M'Wela waved a hand at Britney.

"What did you do?"

"Nothing harmful. I just made you completely invincible. Just in case Jennifer loses control. Oh, and here." M'Wela created a syringe out of nothing and laid it on Britney's bedside table. "A cure-all vaccine Irina made. Shouldn't be necessary, with the invincibility, but you should take it anyway. Don't worry, there are no bad side effects."

"How can you be so sure?" asked Britney warily.

"Well, for one, because Jennifer and her parents all took it and there's nothing wrong there. But also because Irina didn't want it to have side effects, and since she's omnipotent, that means it doesn't." M'Wela gestured at Britney again, and the young woman felt a dead spot on her skin. "I know you hate feeling needles, so I've numbed some of your nerve endings. Do you mind?" M'Wela looked at the vaccine, which lifted off the table.

Britney just nodded, figuring that things couldn't get much weirder. "All done!" announced M'Wela a few moments later.

"Now, there's a few other things you need to know. For one, don't tell anyone else who we are. We're not ready to tell the world just yet." Britney nodded. For some reason she felt like she couldn't tell anyone even if she wanted to. "And also, Jennifer doesn't know what she'll be. We're all born with the knowledge, but she didn't want to keep it. She thinks she's just a special kid with superpowers. Don't worry about mentioning it around her, though. She'll just deny it, maybe call you silly, and forget. We've set the block to disappear when she comes into her full power."

An unrelated thought struck Britney. "How'd I get here, though? Did you teleport me?"

"No, well, not really. I've attached your bedroom to both your house and Jen's. Just think about which one you want to be in when you step out, that's where you'll be. Jennifer won't notice until she can do this, too."

"Do what?"

"Warp reality--or, more precisely, make a reality warp responsive to someone else's thoughts."

"So can I take her back and forth with me?"

"No. Until she can do this herself--which won't be until shortly before she turns three--it'll work for you and only you. If Jennifer wants to go to your place, you'll have to go there the old-fashioned way."

Britney shrugged. That wasn't so bad--after all, she couldn't spend $500 a day when her expenses were already being covered, and she knew cab drivers loved generous tips. Not that she intended to spend all of her stipend each day, but she didn't exactly have to be frugal.

"So what else can I expect?"

"I'm honestly not sure," said M'Wela. "I raised myself, pretty much, and Irina, Shizuka, and Ha-neul were, or still are, with their parents. This is the first time one of us will be raised by someone other than her parents."

"If you're all-powerful, can't you just look into the future?"

"Whatever we might say," said M'Wela, "we're not actually all-powerful or omnipotent or whatever. We really couldn't be, given that there's more than one of us. We don't like looking into the future--spoils the surprise--but when it comes to Super Goddesses, or even nascent Super Goddesses like Jennifer, we're pretty much blind to their futures. Even those who have spent a lot of time around them start to blur, to put it as best as I can."

"Am I blurry?" asked Britney.

"No," said M'Wela, "but I can only see the future you'd have if you walked through that door back into your own house and never went back to Jennifer again. Suffice it to say that it wouldn't be very pleasant--nor, for that matter, would have been the futures in which you didn't take Stephen and Margaret up on their offer, or the one in which you ignored their call entirely. But it doesn't take very long before someone's future is almost unknown to us. Ha-neul's parents were 'blurry' by the time she was six months old."

Britney pondered for a moment. "Anything else?"

"Not really. Jennifer will probably show off whatever new powers she gains, so you won't have to worry about being caught too much by surprise on that. And if you need our advice or help or anything, just give us a good loud mental shout."

With that, M'Wela vanished before Britney's eyes, and the mortal, powerless young woman only just managed to change into her pajamas before falling into the most restful sleep she'd had in a year.

February 13, 2025

Jennifer jumped up and down excitedly as Britney hung up the phone. "Mom and Dad are coming home! Mom and Dad are coming home!" She flew toward Britney and enveloped her in what would have been a bone-crushing hug for anyone who didn't have a completely indestructible body.

"Just for a few days, Jen," said the university freshman, glad that she had the next week off. Jennifer didn't much like that she was home alone while Britney was in class. Shizuka Hirose had assured Britney that Jennifer would be absolutely fine being alone during the day, since the four omnipotent girls were always looking in on her, and they were keeping various government agencies from looking at the family's file too closely to realize that the parents were away long-term and the caregiver they'd hired was in university, with no record of bringing her charge with her. But Jennifer was still stuck at home, with only evenings and weekends where she got to see her "older sister" Britney.

"And you've got to be careful," continued Britney. "You're already really strong and one day you'll probably be strong enough to crush the planet to the size of a pea."

"I'm already strong enough to do that," said Jennifer. "But I think I'm about as strong as I'll get."

"I don't know," replied Britney. To give her a better idea of what was coming with Jennifer, one of the other four--though never Irina--had been showing her the wonders of the universe most nights, showing off just what all they could do that they hadn't told everyone about. She'd seen Shizuka create a galaxy with a thought, then use her mind to crush it smaller than a quark--though Shizuka also told her that whatever modern physicists might think, there were far smaller particles than quarks. "I think you're just getting started on that. I mean, look at that M'Wela girl. I bet she could crush this galaxy to the size of a pea."

"She probably could," agreed Jen. "But I'm not like her. She's... I don't know. I can't read her mind at all. It's almost like she's not even there. But I'm just special. I'm not like her or anything."

Britney just shook her head. No matter how many times they had this conversation, it always ended with Jen denying that she was going to be anything like M'Wela, Irina, Shizuka, and Ha-neul. But then, M'Wela had told her exactly that.

"So," said Britney, changing the subject, "do you want to meet your parents at the airport?"

"Yes!" said Jen, excited again, hopping and skipping toward the closet with their coats. Neither of them, Britney knew, felt at all uncomfortable even in temperatures far below freezing--or, for that matter, ones in which she knew elderly people without air conditioning died from heatstroke--but for the sake of appearances they had to bundle up against the February Toronto winter. She walked toward the front door, taking her coat from Jennifer, who was floating to keep it from dragging on the floor.

Britney had to get ready the old-fashioned way, tugging on her coat and pulling on her boots while Jennifer used her telekinesis to do the same much more easily. "Aren't you forgetting something?" said Jen. At Britney's blank look, she continued, "Or are we going to walk all the way to the airport?"

Britney shook her head ruefully and grabbed her phone. Pulling up her contacts list, she dialled one of the top numbers.

"It's Britney Atwater. Yes, I need a cab. Charge it to the Fahr-Martin account, my name should be on there? Good. And please make sure it's Cassandra Jenkins." She paused, listened to the final reply, then hung up.

"It'll be here in five," she told Jen.

Jennifer jumped in excitement again, this time bouncing straight at Britney, the soon-to-be-nineteen-year-old catching her special charge. "Let's wait out there," said Jennifer. "I'm afraid that if I jump any more I might bring the house down!"

--

Júlio and Isabel Estévez had a quick death.

Moments after the earthquake began, a ceiling beam collapsed on them while they were shopping, crushing them instantly.

Moments after that, the entire population of Caracas, Venezuela and the surrounding area winked out of existence.

The earthquake was more powerful than any in recorded history. It defied all hypotheses regarding earthquakes, as all of the northern coast of South America was battered with miles-high waves and observers saw the Earth's crust split around the ninth parallel, the quake dying out south of the split but somehow intensifying north of it. Islands in the Caribbean were battered, causing untold devastation.

But as the quake spread, so too did the wave of people being whisked to safety in nonexistence, as if some divine force were deleting them from reality before they could die a more horrible death in a collapsing building, or drowning in a flood, or burning in an electrical fire.

When it ended, there was nothing but open water where millions of people had once lived.

As mourning onlookers watched, though, their sadness turned to amazement as the water receded and the land reappeared. Aerial crews confirmed that everything was as it had been, except for Caracas.

In its place was a new city, one that looked to have been designed and built by an intelligence far surpassing anything humanity had produced. It seemed to be a model for a new form of metropolis, one that ideally combined the needs of residents with the needs of businesses, that offered a perfect life to anyone willing to work for the opportunity and embrace the possibilities offered.

No sooner had that been recorded, though, when all the millions who had been thought lost reappeared, going back about their daily business as if nothing had happened, even in the city some were already calling "Nueva Caracas". When asked later why they were unsurprised to find themselves in a new city, residents could only say that God Herself had told them they had been chosen to live in the first of the new cities.

--

"We almost saved them all," said Ha-neul, a bit irritably. "And why couldn't we bring back Caracas as well?"

"Because Jennifer needs to know that actions have consequences," Irina reminded her quietly. "It's a lesson we all need to remember, even if the consequences we have to bear are ultimately only the knowledge that we did mess up."

"Well what about those two? That couple we didn't save?"

"Don't worry about them. See?" Irina directed Ha-neul's mental eye toward a particular point in Nueva Caracas. "I've been subconsciously recording everything that happens in the universe since I came into my full power. Turns out to be useful in situations like this."

"Isn't that, well, not letting them have any privacy?"

"We already know everything they do anyway. The moment M'Wela was born nobody on this planet had any real privacy. So I figure that the least I can do is use that for some good end."

--

Britney and Jennifer stood on the sidewalk, waiting for their limo. Jennifer was talking animatedly about how great it would be to see her parents again, when suddenly she fell silent.

"I think," she said, very quietly, "that I brought rather more than a house down."

"What are you talking about, Jen?"

Jennifer said nothing, but Britney found her phone floating out of her pocket. As it settled in the hand she had instinctively reached out to grab it, she saw that it was showing a news report about a gigantic earthquake that had just hit the northern coast of South America.

"What do you mean? Looks like nobody died at all. Maybe it was one of them that saved everyone?"

"Maybe. But I still destroyed a city that's over four and a half centuries old, whatever it might have been replaced with. I'm not one of them, but I have to remember that that doesn't mean I'm not capable of such incredible devastation."

Britney knelt down to hug Jennifer. "You're also capable of creating amazing wonders. Never forget that, either."

Jennifer hugged Britney back, and they soon found themselves interrupted by a familiar voice saying, "Is this a private hug or can anyone join?"

--

Britney gave Cassandra a hug as they got out at the airport. She handed the driver $400 and said, "You'll wait?"

"For the sorts of tips you give me you could tell me that the flight is three days delayed and I'd wait here."

"It's on time," Jennifer piped up. "In fact..." She pointed at a blinking dot in the sky.

"What's wrong?" asked Cassandra. "I'd expect a birthday girl about to see her parents for the first time in months to be bouncing with excitement."

Jennifer turned red and Britney almost expected her to do something drastic, but instead she just turned around and stared up at the sky.

"It should be quick," said Britney. "I just don't know how much luggage they'll have, so if you could get ready--"

Not much, Jennifer said telepathically, speaking directly into Britney's mind.

Cassandra gave Britney a quizzical look as she cut off. "I'll wait, and don't worry about luggage. There's plenty of room."

"Thanks." Britney turned around, tapped Jennifer on the shoulder, and started walking toward the terminal, Jennifer catching up after a moment.

You know she doesn't know, thought Britney, hoping Jennifer was willing to have a silent talk.

I know. I was just... it touched a nerve.

Do you want to tell her?

No! The vehemence in Jennifer's mental voice almost made Britney miss a step. Just... not yet. Maybe not ever. I don't know. But not now. Especially not now.

The two walked in silence, both vocal and mental, into the terminal, until they passed one of the few food outlets that was still open.

"In all the excitement," said Britney, "we never made dinner. And," she looked up at the arrivals board, "I think we've got time to scarf down two greasy meals." One great thing about that vaccine M'Wela had given her, Britney had found, was that she could eat anything she liked and it never showed. At least she thought it was the vaccine. Maybe it was some other aspect of her altered physiology. In any event, Jennifer definitely shared it, since she was often even more of a pig than Britney.

Four huge burgers, three massive plates of fries, and gallons of sugary soda later, the two got up and continued walking toward the customs area.

They waited in the crowd, Britney hoisting Jennifer onto her shoulders so she could get a better look, Jennifer using her ability to levitate to make herself almost weightless so that Britney wouldn't get at all tired.

As Jennifer had promised, the flight was on time, but it was still some time before Stephen Fahr and Margaret Martin got through Customs.

Jennifer hopped off Britney's shoulders, the teenager appearing to help her down so, she hoped, nobody would suspect that Jennifer had just floated down under her own power.

"Mom! Dad!" she shouted, running as fast as any normal one-year-old might, Britney easily keeping pace behind. Jennifer made sure that they were clear of any crowds before latching onto her parents' legs and hugging as tightly as she could without breaking any bones. Unlike Britney, after all, Stephen and Margaret only healed fast.

"Hi, sweetie," said Stephen, bending over to pick up his daughter.

"It's good to see you in person again," said Margaret, holding her arms out to embrace Britney. Britney felt a bit awkward, especially when Stephen joined in, but she figured a handshake would have felt too impersonal to the people whose daughter she'd been raising for the last eight months.

"So," said Stephen, "has Jennifer behaved herself?"

"She's been amazing," said Britney. "No temper tantrums, no refusals to go to bed, nothing that I would have expected from someone who hasn't even turned one."

"Well I wouldn't be all that special if I was like any other kid," Jennifer pointed out quietly.

"And what about you?" asked Margaret. "Jen's not been distracting you too much from your classes, I hope."

"Not at all. She probably knows the material better than I do, and I haven't not aced an assignment yet." Britney shrugged. "I've been applying for as many scholarships as I can find, and I'll probably get a full ride one for next year at least anyway." She paused. "Oh! We've got a limo waiting. Here, let me take your stuff, you both must be tired."

"Not really," said Margaret, but she didn't object when Britney took her suitcase, handling it gently to avoid damaging anything.

They walked to the cab, Margaret holding her daughter, who pretended to be a normal one-year-old, while they talked quietly about the past eight months. Britney soon caught sight of Cassandra, shifted the suitcases around to free up a hand, and waved. Cassandra waved back and moved to open the trunk.

"Does she know," asked Margaret, "or will we have to wait until we get home?"

"Cassandra knows," said Jennifer. "At least enough. She knows I'm really smart and articulate at least. She doesn't know just how special I am."

Britney laid the suitcases very carefully in the trunk of the limousine, and Cassandra helped her strap them down to keep them from bouncing around. The four passengers sat down in the back while Cassandra went back to the driver's seat.

There were two hot meals waiting for them there, along with a complimentary bottle of wine.

"I figured the two of you might have already eaten," said Cassandra, "but I know how much airplane food sucks."

Stephen and Margaret both thanked her and dug into their meals. Britney poured three glasses for the adults, and when she asked, Cassandra pressed a button on her dashboard that dispensed a bottle of orange juice for Jennifer.

Jennifer pouted just a little--Britney suspected that she could probably drink straight methanol, at least, and not show any ill effects--but, knowing the need to keep up appearances, just accepted the juice quietly.

"You know," said Stephen, "one thing I've noticed about alcohol now is that I can drink as much as I want and I'll get a good buzz, but I won't feel at all impaired or get a hangover."

"I know," said Cassandra unexpectedly. "Great, isn't it?"

Three heads turned in surprise. Jennifer sipped her juice calmly.

"Some young girl--Shizuka, I think she said her name was--visited me a few months ago. Said she knew we'd be spending a good deal of time together and gave me this shot she claimed was a wonder vaccine. Haven't even bruised myself since then. And I can drink as much as I want and still blow zero on a breathalyzer. I've been winning bar bets every day for months now."

"You've been given complete immunity from all diseases and other ailments and you use it to win bar bets?" said Britney a bit incredulously.

"Sure. Why not? It's not like I could extract a sample from my blood or anything, and anyway I imagine Shizuka would probably have something to say about that. Besides, there's always some sucker who thinks he can beat me just because he treated college as a time to party rather than study."

Britney shrugged. She wasn't wanting for money, and she always tipped Cassandra very well, but she figured that there was no harm in taking a bit of money away from arrogant drunks.

Nope, none, said Jennifer into Britney's mind. She's always sure only to bet what they can afford--which is why she always goes for the richest mark in the house.

Britney was, once again, a little disturbed at how casually Jennifer simply treated herself to everyone else's thoughts.

You need to get over that, Jennifer said in response to Britney's reaction. It's just a fact of life now that nobody has any privacy, even in their innermost thoughts. I can ignore it, of course, but I can't not know it.

Britney couldn't suppress her slight shudder.

"So," said Margaret into the silence, "did you two make a cake or anything?"

"No," said Jennifer. "We were hoping to make it with you."

"Of course, sweetie," said Stephen. "But tomorrow, okay? We need to get some sleep."

"That's fine, Dad." Jennifer turned toward the driver's seat. "Care to join us, Cassandra?"

"I wish I could, but I've already got a client who's booked me for the whole day."

"Next year, then."

The limo pulled up to the house just as Stephen and Margaret finished their meals. Cassandra grinned as both Margaret and Britney tipped her.

"Bye!"

It didn't take very long after they had all gotten inside until they were all comfortably ensconced in bed.

February 14, 2025

Britney woke up early, as usual, pulled on her clothes, and thought about being in Jennifer's house as she walked out of her bedroom door.

She was almost immediately tackled by Jennifer as the young girl flew out of her own bedroom. "So, ready to celebrate our first birthday together?"

Britney picked up her young charge and swung her around. "What sort of cake were you thinking?"

"I think it doesn't matter what sort of cake I was thinking."

Britney realized that her nose had been bugging her, and she realized why: there was a cake already baking downstairs.

"I thought you couldn't create food."

"I can't. Really annoying, too, since I need to eat."

It took a second for the implications to click in Britney's brain. "Your parents are sneaky, aren't they?"

"Not as sneaky as I can be." Jennifer grinned.

Immediately Britney's perspective shifted. Jennifer was still in her arms, but instead of being upstairs outside her bedroom, they were downstairs, standing between the chairs on which Stephen and Margaret sat.

"I hope they don't mind that we made the cake without them," said Margaret.

"It's the least we can do after being away for two-thirds of Jen's life."

What? Britney thought.

"I realized last night that I could teleport other people with me. Cool, right?" said Jen, out loud.

Britney's look prompted her to continue. "And I just hadn't told you that I could be invisible and inaudible, too."

"So just what all have you been getting up to? And what all else can you do that you haven't told me about?"

"If I haven't told you about them, it's probably because I don't want you to know about them," admonished Jennifer. "But don't worry, I never do anything bad with my powers."

"But how can I be sure of that?"

"Because if I was ever bad, one of those others would put a stop to it." Jennifer shrugged.

"And how can I be sure of them? And what happens when you're as powerful as they are?"

Jennifer tweaked Britney's nose. "I'm not going to be as powerful as they are, you know that. And really, you don't have any choice but to trust them." Jennifer's look grew somber. "None of us do."

Britney was reassured by the sign that Jennifer did share her concerns about having so many people with infinite power running about, even if she didn't realize that she would all too soon be one of them.

"Now," said Jennifer, her mood shifting, "how about we enjoy some cake for breakfast? I think they left the icing to us."

Britney stepped away, out from between Jennifer's parents, and back to the base of the stairs. She began walking back when Jennifer signaled to her that she'd lifted their invisibility and inaudibility.

"Did you make cake without us?" said Jennifer, admonishingly, as they walked into the kitchen.

"Sorry, sweetie," said Margaret. "But we thought it was the least we could do after being away for over half a year."

"Well, as long as you left us the icing, at least."

"We did," said Stephen, pulling the cake out of the oven. "Just let it cool for a bit."

Jennifer shrugged, floated out of Britney's grasp, and gestured at the cake, making a pulling motion, closing her fist at the end. Stephen almost dropped the cake in shock.

"What did you do?" he asked, managing to put it down on the cooling rack.

"Nothing much. I just shifted the excess heat around in it to make sure it was properly cooked, then sucked it out to leave it the perfect temperature for icing, and then of course eating."

"Okay," Stephen said, obviously a bit taken aback at the sorts of powers his daughter had developed in his absence. "So, anyway, there's the icing." He gestured toward it as he sat down.

Britney started to walk over to start filling the icer, but Jennifer just raised a hand.

As if of its own accord, the icing lifted from its bowl and filled up the icer, which then floated to hover above the cake. Jennifer levitated a little higher so she could see what she would write.

She started with a simple ring of white icing around the cake's edge, using the star-shaped tip already on the icer. Then, when that was done, the tip unscrewed itself and was swiftly replaced with one better suited for writing.

Britney was surprised when the icing that came out next was pale blue. "I thought you couldn't create food."

"I can't," said Jennifer. "But I can teleport it." A cupboard door opened and a bottle of blue food colouring floated out.

Soon enough Jennifer was done icing the cake.

"We can't eat that now," said Margaret.

"Sure you can," said Jennifer. "Just as long as you remember it."

Stephen had already run upstairs to get his camera, and came back down to take pictures.

Jennifer had made it look easy, of course, but everyone knew that not even the best professionals in the world could have decorated the cake as she had. The words "Happy Birthday Britney + Jennifer" were spelled out in thin, perfect lines, and below that was a small picture of the first time the two had met, almost detail-perfect, Jennifer clinging to Britney's leg, Stephen standing behind. The only artistic liberty Jennifer had taken was to place Margaret at Stephen's side even though, as all of them remembered perfectly, she had been sitting in another room.

Stephen took picture after picture, until he'd gotten every angle he could find and had filled up his camera's memory card.

"See? Now we'll all always remember it. Let's eat." Jennifer's stomach rumbled to accentuate the point, and instantly the large cake split into sixteen slices. Four plates floated out from another cabinet, and a slice settled onto each of them.

Britney took a bite first. Her face twisted a little. "Very... interesting flavour."

Jennifer was blunter. "Next year, I make the cake."

"Yeah," said Stephen. "Baking's never been something either of us has been good at. We just wanted to do something special for you."

Jennifer waved her hand around the room. Britney's next bite was far better.

"What'd you do?" she asked.

"I just rearranged the molecular structure of the cake."

"I'm not sure," said Margaret, "if I'd rather be overwhelmed with this a few days a year or wake up each morning not knowing what to expect."

"It's been interesting," said Britney.

The cake didn't last the morning.

March 9, 2025

Britney could hear Jennifer's high voice above all the cheering in the stadium as she sank another three-point shot.

The clock ticked down the last seconds of the women's basketball final as the opposing team inbounded the ball. They'd barely moved it past halfcourt when Britney once again intercepted a pass. The ball had just left her fingers for a final shot when time expired. Her teammates mobbed her.

"How do you do it?" asked Crystal, one of her teammates, in the dressing room as they prepared to go back out for the trophy presentation.

"I don't know," said Britney. "I've just felt like I could do anything recently."

"Well keep feeling that way, I like scoring fifty points per game, even if it means I'm playing with someone who does more than twice that," said another teammate, Georgia.

Britney laughed. All of her teammates had had seasons that would have easily put them in the record books if she hadn't been doing so much better. She felt she could easily have carried the team on her own, scored every time she touched the ball, but, not wanting to look too suspicious--instead, she knew, she looked like a prodigy who might be too good to be true, but she'd been tested for performance-enhancing substances so much there was no longer any question that, to all appearances, what she did was natural talent--she made sure to pass the ball whenever she was in a spot from which it wasn't reasonable to shoot.

"Well let's get back out there," said Faye, a senior who had been the team's best player before Britney was spotted by their coach playing intramural basketball and swiftly recruited, and was still captain in her final year. "We've got some awards to pick up."

Nobody was surprised when most of those awards went to Britney, and she and Faye beamed broad smiles as they held the trophy aloft.

Britney had received a special dispensation to take Jennifer with her to games on the team bus--made easier by the fact that everyone who met Jennifer couldn't help but adore her--and on the way back to Toronto, her new hardware safely stowed away, she asked, quietly, "Okay, Jennifer, spill. I wasn't anywhere near this good even a year ago and I only played intramural for fun. What happened?"

"Later," said Jennifer just as quietly.

The rest of the trip was spent chatting with teammates and speculating about whether they could break their records next season.

Britney phoned ahead and when the bus got back to their university, Cassandra was already waiting.

"Remember," said their coach, Regan, "tomorrow at noon."

Everyone else nodded and went their separate ways. They might have gone to the on-campus bar, Britney being only barely old enough to drink, but she'd told them that she needed to get home with Jennifer, and nobody was going to celebrate without their MVP. Tomorrow would do.

"So," said Cassandra right after she'd driven off, "how do you do it?"

"I don't know," said Britney.

"Well however you do it, another thing you did was turn me into a basketball fan. Couldn't stand it before--too fast-paced for me--but I couldn't help but enjoy it these past few months."

The rest of the trip passed in the same vein, and Cassandra promised--in exchange for enough money to make up for the fares she'd lose--to be at the celebrations the next day.

"See you tomorrow, then," said Britney, and she and Jennifer walked into her house.

"Okay," said Britney, walking to her fridge and pouring herself a glass of orange juice, "spill. What's going on?"

"I'm not entirely sure," Jennifer admitted. "I just wanted to see you do well since the first time I saw you play. So at first I guess I was subconsciously making you stronger, faster, more dexterous, better hand-eye coordination and such. But I guess I've started to gain a little ability to warp reality, because now it looks like you're actually weaker than you were but when you try to do things, reality alters around you to make it a little easier for you to do what you're trying to do. So if you tried to lift that couch, for instance," Jennifer gestured at it and it began to hover, "gravity would weaken around it so that it effectively became lighter."

"What do you mean, weaken?"

"The universal gravitational constant would become smaller around it," said Jennifer. "Not much--I can only do a little." She paused. "And that's all I'm going to be able to do. You know I'm just special."

Britney sighed. Living with a telepath was hard. Living with a telepath who denied what she'd become was, sometimes, almost frustrating enough to make her quit. She wanted to know what else was going to happen to her.

"Don't quit," said Jennifer. "This is all that's going to happen to you, I promise."

"Don't make promises you can't keep, Jen," said Britney. She knew how much her young charge wanted her to succeed.

August 25, 2025

The ball spiraled perfectly in the air as it flew from Britney's hand to the wide receiver's arms, and he ran the last few yards to the end zone to put the score at 6-0.

The home crowd cheered as Britney ran to join the celebration.

She was a bit miffed that she hadn't been put on the field for the kickoff--she knew that she could have easily kicked the ball short, recovered, and run it in for a touchdown--but she had been put in on defence after her team kicked off. So she'd intercepted the first pass, though she'd immediately been tackled, and then took the subsequent snap on first down and thrown her spectacular touchdown.

She had reached the sideline when her coach told her to stay on. "If you can keep throwing like that, I don't care how many converts we miss, so I want to see how you kick in a real game." Britney had nailed every field goal attempt she'd made in practice, but obviously her coach didn't share her own confidence that she could do the same under game conditions.

Of course, just as in practice, her convert was perfect. Her kickoff was also perfect--she decided not to show off too much with a short kick--and after she tackled the receiver at his team's fifteen-yard line, she proceeded to make an interception on the following pass play and run that in for another touchdown.

On that convert, she decided not to risk a bad snap to the holder (trusting that Jennifer's growing powers would ensure that any snap would fly right into her hands) and executed a perfect drop kick instead.

On the next kickoff, she did kick the ball short, recovered it herself and ran for another touchdown. As with everything else she'd done in the game, her two-point conversion pass was perfect, and her team led 22-0 after only a few minutes in the first quarter.

The defending team decided that they'd rather not risk another kickoff after that, but Britney nonetheless caused a fumble on their run play, recovered, and let herself be tackled so that she could again show off by drop kicking a field goal on her team's next possession.

The home crowd cheered wildly, but Britney looked toward one particular point, where Cassandra was sitting with Jennifer. Both were applauding, but Britney--who had noticed her eyesight improving over the last year--could see that Jennifer was blushing.

Sorry, she heard the young girl's mental voice say. I'll try to tone it down a little. Can't have people suspecting too much.

Toning it down a little just meant that Britney did most of her scoring on second down instead of first.

The final score was still a blowout, of course, just as all her basketball games the previous year had been. She showered and changed back into regular clothes--she used the same locker room and showers as the rest of the team, of course; it was amazing how when everyone was sure you could probably kill them with a tap from your pinky finger nobody harassed you--and met up with Cass and Jen.

"Thanks for looking after Jen," Britney told Cassandra.

"No problem," said Cassandra. "Besides, with what you pay me, it's better than driving people around, plus I get to discover just how much I actually do like sports." She paused. "When you're playing, anyway."

Jen pouted a bit, but didn't say anything until Cassandra had driven them back to her house.

"So what's tomorrow?" asked the driver.

"Soccer, but it's up in Ottawa."

"Well you know my rates, and Stephen and Margaret said they're happy for me to take care of Jennifer when you can't."

"I couldn't ask--"

"You don't have to. I like money and I love looking after Jen." Cassandra squatted down to give Jen another hug. "And I love seeing you score goals."

Once Britney and Jennifer were back in the house, Jennifer exploded.

"I do not need looking after!"

"I know you don't. But even Cassandra doesn't know just how special you are--for that matter, pretty much nobody except your parents and I know that."

"I know, I know. I wish I was going to be like M'Wela and Shizuka, but I'm not." Jennifer sighed. "If I was, I'd probably go to court to argue that I should be considered a legal adult so I can live on my own, or with whoever I like." Jennifer took on a more formal tone. "You see, Your Honour, I'm omnipotent. I can do anything I want, so I could just change the law so I am considered an adult, but I'd prefer to go through the proper channels." Her voice returned to normal. "But that's not going to happen. I'm not special enough for that."

Britney sighed. It really was frustrating living with a nascent Super Goddess who was convinced she wasn't.

February 14, 2026

"So, Britney," said Stephen as they walked with Margaret and Jennifer from the airport out to Cassandra's limo, "I imagine you must be excited about yesterday's news. A nice early twentieth birthday present, anyway."

"I'm only playing university soccer," Britney pointed out. "I mean, it's great that FIFA's decided to let women play on men's teams, and I've already talked with the coaches about starting to practice with the men's team for next year, but getting called up to the men's national side already? I know that's the speculation, but I'd be pretty surprised if that happened."

"Don't sell yourself short," said Margaret. "From the highlights I saw, you look every bit as skilled as the best in the world, and from what I've seen of clips from all your other games, you're probably at least as strong and fast as they are."

"Those are called highlights because they're the times where someone did something big. You don't see all the more boring stuff in between."

"Sure," said Stephen, "but there were a lot of highlights. And anyway I imagine the people picking the team are going to be going over full game tapes."

"I guess," said Britney. "Still, I imagine I'm going to be just another spectator. Watch two games, we'll be out, find someone else to cheer for."

The ride passed uneventfully, Cassandra promising to be at Britney's hockey game the next day. "I'm bringing three hats this time," she said.

"So I guess I'll just have to score twelve goals, then."

Cassandra laughed and drove away to her next fare.

"You've been behaving for Britney, right, Jen?" asked Margaret.

Jennifer adopted a demeanour that would have fooled anyone who hadn't either raised her or done daily video chats with her. "Of course I've behaved. I've been nothing but her perfect little angel."

"She thinks she doesn't need a babysitter anymore," interpreted Britney unnecessarily.

"Well I don't," said Jennifer, dropping the act and pouting a little.

"And you probably don't, sweetie," said Stephen, "but almost nobody else knows just why."

"I know, Dad, I know," said Jennifer.

Batters were already mixing as they walked into the kitchen, Jennifer's telekinetic powers being more than powerful enough to have started preparing her birthday breakfast while they were still in Cassandra's limo. The pan and waffle iron were hot, and perfect balls of batter floated over and began to cook.

"How much did you make?" asked Margaret, watching her daughter mentally orchestrate the operation while also mixing the batter for her birthday cake.

"I can always make more if this isn't enough, but there's probably going to be five waffles and ten pancakes each," said Jennifer.

Britney was already digging in the fridge. She snagged a container as it floated away from her, but let it go again after a few telekinetic tugs from her "younger sister". The whipping cream poured itself into a bowl and a fork began beating it faster than any electric beater could. She did take out a nondescript jug, then bent down to the small freezer underneath the main refrigerator and took out an odd-looking container.

"Maple syrup," she said, indicating the jug, "and ice cream. Both homemade."

"How'd you do that?" asked Stephen.

"Well, the ice cream was just something Jen apparently invented one day while I was at school. I came home and she'd built a machine that you just gave it milk, sugar and flavours and it gave you ice cream--better than any other ice cream I've ever had."

"It'll do frozen yogurt too if you replace the milk and sugar with yogurt," put in Jen.

"And as for the maple syrup, that would be from the new grove of maple trees in Jen's bedroom."

"What?" exclaimed Margaret.

"Miniature maple trees," said Jennifer. "Thought I'd try my hand at a few genetic modifications once I became able to see at that level of detail. After that it was just a simple matter of changing the proper genes to make them both small and fast to grow, and also to produce a lot of sap. Then I built a tap that automatically converts the sap into sugar or syrup. That jug's from last night."

The pancakes and waffles were already stacked high on plates, ready to be served. Britney put the ice cream away.

"Aren't we having that with these?" asked Stephen.

"No, that's for lunch."

On cue, the oven opened and three pies, one apple pear, one strawberry rhubarb, and one pumpkin, floated out and landed perfectly on cooling racks.

"I'd have saved the cream for lunch, too," said Jennifer, "but I know you prefer it to maple syrup on pancakes, Mom. And anyway I can just manipulate time around it so that I won't have to beat it again."

"You can what?" asked Margaret, both she and her husband overwhelmed by all the powers Jennifer was revealing. Even Britney was surprised at how casually Jennifer mentioned manipulating time.

"Oh, I just realized I could do that this morning. Not much--I can only alter the flow of time in small areas, nothing drastic--but enough to freeze the whipped cream so that it'll be as fresh later as it is now." She paused and glared at Britney. "Yes, enough to do that, too. But I won't. I promise."

"I wish," said Stephen, "that we could be around more, that we weren't so surprised by what you could do."

"It's okay, Dad. What you and Mom are doing is very important. Having contemporary documentary evidence of what's happening now will be vital for future historians, so that they don't have to rely completely on M'Wela's or Shizuka's word."

"Or yours, maybe," said Britney.

"I'll live a long time," replied Jennifer. "I can slow my own aging almost to a stop, but not quite. Some day, I'll die."

An uncomfortable silence settled around the four as the three adults all thought about how Jennifer would actually be immortal, and Jen gave them all annoyed looks, but moments later four plates, each with two pancakes and a waffle, settled on the dining table. They were quickly joined by cutlery and condiments, and the conversation easily shifted from discussions of Jennifer's astonishing powers to discussions of Jennifer's superb cooking.

July 12, 2026

Britney hadn't expected to be in the preliminary squad for the Canadian men's soccer team at the World Cup. She definitely hadn't expected to be in the final 23-player squad. And she absolutely could not believe that she'd started every game and had already broken the all-time World Cup Finals scoring record, with the final yet to play.

The opposition was, of course, far better than anything she had faced on her university's women's team, but even so whatever reality warping Jennifer was causing was up to the challenge, and Britney had been easily the dominant player of the tournament, leading her team to victory with at least three goals in each game while also ensuring that no shots from the opposition even came close to the goal. (Well, except that one time when their goalkeeper had gotten ejected from the game, with a penalty kick awarded. She'd put on the gloves, stopped the shot, and still scored another two goals to go with the two she'd already scored.) 

They'd beaten Ghana and New Zealand handily in the group stage, and due to an upset in another group ended up facing Italy in the round of 32. They'd posed little challenge for her--or, rather, Jennifer's powers--and that had set up a round of 16 match against Argentina. They'd been no tougher, and after seeing off Germany in the quarter-finals and Brazil in the semi-finals, they were now set for the final against the Netherlands.

The game itself was complete anticlimax. Eager to have the game done, Britney scored four goals in the first three minutes, and after that she and her teammates scored essentially at will against a Dutch team that was demoralized and broken after thinking that they might finally be able to win a World Cup.

The celebrations were muted, of course. Britney had no desire to flaunt their victory, however good it felt to lift the World Cup trophy, and the sheer size of the defeat they'd inflicted led her teammates to do the same. The media and the fans would do enough celebrating for them.

January 2, 2027

Britney carried a few shirts toward the changing rooms. "Wait out here, Jen, okay?"

"Okay." Jennifer sat cross-legged in one of the chairs.

Britney was feeling out of sorts, and she wasn't sure why. Normally she always felt in perfect physical condition, awake and alert and ready for anything, but today she'd felt tired, stiff and sore. So she'd figured that some shopping, followed by a nice, long bath would be just the thing to loosen her up.

But she couldn't recall how she got to the mall--walking? Bus? Cassandra?--only that she was there, and she couldn't recall picking out the shirts she had. She attributed it to her fatigue--the grinding schedule from playing as many sports as she did had to take its toll eventually--and took off her own shirt to try on the first one.

It didn't really fit, nor did the second one, but as she was partway through taking that one off, she heard a commotion outside, punctuated by a distinctive yelp that abruptly cut off.

She threw her own shirt back on and rushed out, looking frantically around for Jennifer.

"Where is she? That young girl I was here with?" she asked the first associate she saw.

"Some guy just grabbed her and ran off. And," the employee's voice went quiet, "I think he's got a gun."

A small part of Britney's mind told her that Jennifer should just be able to teleport herself to safety. An even smaller part told her that even if Jennifer was too panicked to do anything, she should still be completely invincible. But her protective instincts kicked in and she dashed out of the store and looked around frantically, managing to just spot Jennifer and her kidnapper turning into an alley.

Heedless of any danger, Britney charged after them, only to see, as she turned the corner, the barrel of a handgun pointed straight at her. She ran even faster, but before she even got close, the kidnapper squeezed off four shots without saying a word, and Britney fell backwards, both lungs punctured and two painful wounds in her abdomen.

The last thing she heard before she lost consciousness was Jennifer's scream of anguish.

--

M'Wela paused in discussing the history of the part of Africa she, Stephen and Margaret were in. After a moment, she said, "Now we know," and carried on as if nothing unusual had occurred.

--

Jennifer woke up. "Now I know." She floated out of her crib and padded toward a door that she hadn't been able to see before.

--

Britney woke up in a cold sweat, but every bit as active and energetic as she always was. She felt her torso for gunshot wounds and found nothing.

"Just a nightmare," she told herself.

"Interesting thing M'Wela did here," said Jennifer, jerking Britney fully awake.

"You can see it now?"

"Yeah. I can't undo it, of course--not that I'd want to!--but I could probably replicate it."

Britney nodded. That fit with what M'Wela had told her, with Jennifer's third birthday being six weeks away.

"Anyway, what would you say if I offered to give you a few superpowers of your own?"

"You can do that?"

"Sure."

"Then I'd wonder how you know that I could be trusted with them."

"How can you trust me with my powers?"

"I don't have a choice. But you do, so you should be sure that anyone you give powers to can actually be trusted to have them."

February 14, 2027

Jennifer snapped her fingers and a sumptuous meal appeared on the table around which she, her parents, Britney, and Cassandra were seated.

"Wow," said Cassandra. Jennifer had finally decided to tell her about how she was special a few days before, but all she'd seen was stuff like flight and intangibility. Creating an entire feast out of nothing was new for her--and, Britney thought, for all of them, at least so far as Jennifer was concerned. Stephen and Margaret had told her about M'Wela creating verdant oases out of nothing, but they also knew that Jennifer wouldn't gain the power to create food until just before she turned three.

"So," said Britney partway through the meal, having checked her phone to see that it was just before the precise time of Jennifer's birth, "looking forward to becoming omnipotent?"

"What? Omnipotent?" Cassandra put in.

"Britney," Jennifer sighed, "I've told you again and again. I'm not going to be omnipotent, I'm just special. I'm not like M'Wela and Shizuka and Ha--"

Jennifer broke off. Four heads turned to look straight at her.

"Oh," she said very, very quietly.

February 28, 2027

"You want to go to preschool?" asked Britney incredulously. "And what book are you reading?"

"Of course I do," said Jennifer calmly. "I might be all-powerful, but I still want to have a normal childhood, and normal kids go to school. If their parents can afford it, they'll start the year they turn three, and I'm three, so I'm going to go to preschool. As for what I'm reading, it's a book compiling all the medical knowledge Dad's picked up being out on battlefields and such. I've already read his old med school textbooks, but I wanted the benefit of his practical experience too."

"Don't you know all that already? And anyway all the deadlines have passed."

"Yes, I know it all already, I know everything, or, rather, I know anything I want to know. I think. As for the deadlines, that's nothing a little messing with history can't fix." She gestured toward the table, where Britney saw a letter of acceptance from a prestigious private school offering education from preschool to high school graduation. She realized she had two conflicting sets of memories and tried to reconcile them.

"Oh. Sorry. That's what happens when one of us changes history. We all remember both timelines, and anyone close to whoever did it remembers both--so that'd be Dad, Mom, you, and Cassandra--but as far as the rest of the world is concerned, this is how it's always been."

"What if there were changes you didn't anticipate?"

"Don't worry. I made sure that the rest of the changes were minimal. I even expanded the school by a few students so I wasn't bumping anyone out."

"You're sure? I've read too much science fiction not to know that changing history never works out the way you intend."

"But in those stories," Jennifer pointed out, "the characters weren't omnipotent. Well, except in that one Star Trek episode, but that was pretty obviously intentional. Trust me, everything's going to be fine."

September 7, 2027

"So," said Annette Brown, the principal of Jennifer's new school, "I understand you are not exactly a typical student, Miss Martinette."

Jennifer and Britney sat in the principal's office on Jennifer's first day of school, having teleported to the grounds a few minutes prior. Britney didn't think she'd ever get used to teleportation--it was jarring, being in one place one moment and another place the next. Not only that, but Jennifer told her that the easiest way to teleport someone else was to simply delete them from reality for a moment, storing them in her mind, then recreate them at the desired location. Jennifer, on the other hand, didn't need a body and could create new ones for herself whenever she wanted, and get rid of them whenever she wanted, too. Britney wasn't entirely comfortable with the notion that she only existed as part of Jennifer's memories, however briefly. At least Jennifer's reality warp--apparently, now that Jennifer was omnipotent, Britney was back to normal but the reality warp around her was so strong that literally nothing could go wrong for her--kept her in perfect comfort even when she suddenly found herself outside on a cold, gusty day wearing a short-sleeved shirt and mid-thigh-length skirt. Jennifer, on the other hand, had apparently changed her clothes with her body, going from pyjamas at home to the proper school uniform.

"No, I'm not," said Jennifer. "Don't tell anyone, but I'm completely omnipotent. I'm only going to school, quite honestly, because I don't want to stand out any more than I already will. I could easily change the law to exempt myself."

"But then why are you starting now, in preschool? Compulsory education only starts in kindergarten."

"I know," explained Jennifer, "but I want to come here, and it'll be easier for me to fit in if I start now than if I start in kindergarten."

The principal decided not to push matters any further. Britney was pretty sure she wanted to ask all sorts of questions about just what Jennifer could do, that she wouldn't use them to cheat, or bully other students, or anything like that, but given that Jennifer was floating comfortably a few feet above her chair to be level with the other two, it was clear that Ms. Brown had decided that it might be better not to make too many demands of someone who could very likely just alter her mind outright to make her just fine with whatever Jennifer decided to do.

"And I understand that you're her legal guardian, Ms. Atwater?" the principal said instead, turning to Britney.

"I am," Britney replied. Stephen and Margaret had signed the paperwork a few months prior, since M'Wela wanted them more or less permanently in sub-Saharan Africa now.

"Well, then, I look forward to seeing you at parent-teacher nights. And," it was clear the principal was struggling not to express her misgivings about having someone who claimed infinite power and obviously had some supernatural abilities at her school, "welcome to our world, Miss Martinette."

As Jennifer lowered herself to the ground and Britney stood up, the all-powerful preschooler created a piece of toast in her hand. A distinctive brown spread appeared on it.

"I hope you know," the principal said quickly, seeing the peanut butter appear on the bread, "that we have a strict no-peanuts, no-nuts policy here due to allergies."

"Oh!" said Jennifer. "I'm sorry. Let me fix that." She waved her free hand and took a bite of the toast.

"I said we have a policy banning nuts and peanuts, Ms. Martinette," the principal said sternly.

"No need for it any more," said Jennifer. "I just got rid of allergies."

"What?" said Britney and Annette Brown simultaneously.

"I like peanut butter, and I don't like people dying," said Jennifer. "So the easiest thing to do was just to get rid of allergies altogether. Should be hitting the news sites right about... now."

Britney pulled out her phone and the principal went to a popular news aggregator online.

Jennifer walked off to find the teacher who'd take her to her classroom for her first day of school.

"As she said," said Britney, "she's omnipotent. And I'm pretty sure you literally can't tell anyone."

March 28, 2030

Jennifer wasn't a typical student, and the parent-teacher meetings for her weren't exactly typical, either, Britney thought.

For one, when she was in school, except for her final year when she was living on her own, she hadn't been at them. But Jennifer, six years old and floating next to her, was very much involved in hers.

"Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to meet with us, Ms. Atwater," said Annette Brown. "I know it can't be easy juggling all the professional commitments you do. How do you manage to play all your games, anyway?"

"The schedules just work out. Well, that and Jennifer teleports me wherever I need to be." Britney was easily the biggest star in sports, and played every one she could, and so everyone running any league or governing body bent over backwards to ensure she could play as much as possible, because otherwise their revenues would crash compared to all their competitors. In particular, she didn't travel with teams to games; they had acquiesced to allow Jennifer to teleport her everywhere she needed to be and even put her in multiple places at once. (That, Britney thought, was quite an experience, at least at first. Now it was commonplace for her to be playing in multiple places at the same time, and it had definitely reduced all the scheduling oddities that had marked her first year of professional sports--or, for that matter, her entire university career.)

Of course, they did test her very rigorously to ensure that Jennifer wasn't helping her out in any other way. And technically, she wasn't. After all, the vaccine which protected her from every ailment was from Irina and her invulnerability was from M'Wela, and Jennifer's contribution was actually a reality warp around her that made things always go her way. Without those, she'd be plain old Britney Atwater, decent intramural basketball player but hardly the greatest athlete in human history. And as far as every test anyone could do could tell, plain old Britney Atwater was all she was.

But tonight there were no games scheduled for her teams; her entire focus was on this meeting.

"And your seasons are going well?"

"Undefeated as ever, of course, and I'm looking forward to defending the World Cup this summer."

"I'm sure we'll all be watching. Now, as to Miss Martinette. Reg?"

Reginald Patterson was the kindergarten teacher at Jennifer's school. "Well, I'm not sure whether I have no particular comments about Jennifer, or too many to list! But what I'll say, I guess, is that she's a diligent student and, more importantly, doesn't distract the other students in class. She does all the work--perfectly, of course"--Jennifer beamed--"and helps other students who are struggling as they need it and only as much as they need it. She never does their work for them. But she does pose a bit of a, ah, supervision problem at recess and lunch."

Jennifer giggled. Britney glared at her, turned back to Mr. Patterson, and asked, "Can you elaborate?"

It wasn't a new problem for Jennifer, but Britney was always curious to see how other people reacted to her various uses of her powers.

"Well, most recently, during recess, she's been sending me to a spa for a thorough workover every day, which takes hours, yet when I come back it's the end of recess, which is only fifteen minutes. And the chatter among the students is that they've spent hours in an amusement park, which seems to be located where our playground is, and which only Jennifer's class seems to have access to."

"Well of course," Jennifer put in, "since it doesn't exist otherwise."

"This of course represents a dereliction of my supervisory responsibility. I simply cannot have my students left unattended--even the redoubtable Miss Martinette."

"I assure you, Mr. Patterson, they are not unattended. I'm always keeping an eye on them," said Jennifer.

"You are a student," the principal reminded her. "As such, you simply cannot be responsible for the safety and well-being of your classmates as your teacher or the supervisory aides can."

"But I'm a far better supervisor than they could ever be," retorted Jennifer. "As everyone here is aware, I am all-powerful. Since I desire that none of my classmates will come to harm, none will. Can any of you say the same?"

Nobody could, but Principal Brown spoke anyway. "Nonetheless, Miss Martinette, you have said that you do not consider yourself above the law or school policies, and those are quite clear: supervisory duties are to be carried out by staff, not students."

"And I am also quite clear: your students are infinitely safer with me than they are with any of you. You would be derelict in your duty not to allow me to supervise them."

"Then it seems we are at an impasse."

Britney spoke up. "What if I take responsibility?"

Everyone looked at her.

"I'll take responsibility for the well-being of Jennifer and her classmates--and your staff, too. If any harm should befall any of them as a result of their interactions with Jennifer, you may hold me fully accountable."

Britney didn't really expect her offer to be taken--she only hoped to start building some sort of compromise between Jennifer and her teachers--but to her surprise, they accepted.

"Very well, Ms. Atwater," said the principal. "We'll have our lawyers draft documents to that effect. Please come by tomorrow to sign them."

"Just have them look over those," said Jennifer, waving her hand and making a sheaf of paper appear in front of the principal.

Annette Brown flipped through the papers quickly and her eyebrows went up.

"All-knowing, too," said Jennifer. "Comes with being all-powerful, of course--I can simply will myself to know anything I want to know."

"Yes. Well," the principal said. "I believe you were saying something about lunch as well, Reg?"

The teacher looked back down at his notes, composed himself, and continued. "Yes. Lunch. At lunch, we normally require all students and staff to eat the school-provided food--made, I assure you, by excellent chefs who have catered many high-profile events, and we are quite fortunate to have them on staff--but recently Jennifer has instead taken to replacing it with, frankly, junk food! Greasy burgers, thick milkshakes, ice cream, chocolate bars, and yet none of this has seemed to impair our students' functioning in any way."

"Ah, but you haven't done a nutrient analysis of any of it, have you?" said Jennifer.

"You know as well as I do that there's never enough left to do an analysis on!" the principal said.

"Well," said Jennifer, "I'll just tell you then. I hate that food that's good for you tastes bad, and food that tastes good is bad for you, so I simply made food that tastes great but has all the nutrients you get from the bad-tasting healthy stuff. I assure you, Ms. Brown, that your students are far better off with the lunches I create than anything your chefs, however excellent they may be, could make."

"Could you create a little extra next time so we can verify that, Ms. Martinette?"

"Sure--but you'll have to be quick to make sure nobody eats it, and you'll have to resist eating it yourself!"

"As for the rest of lunch," Mr. Patterson continued, "Jennifer seems to have a penchant for taking other students--of all grades--for, well, joy-rides. It's not an uncommon sight to see practically the entire student body sailing around the school grounds as if gravity had suddenly decided not to apply to them."

"And why should it?" said Jennifer. "Gravity does what I tell it to do, and being bound by it all the time is really no fun." She bobbed higher to emphasize that right then gravity definitely wasn't affecting her at all.

"Again, Ms. Martinette," said the principal, "this is a safety issue. What if you should lose your control over gravity and one of the students falls and breaks an arm, or suffers a concussion, or even dies? We'd be held liable."

"Well, I can heal a broken arm easily enough, for a concussion I'd just reach back in time to restore her brain unimpaired, and as for death, I'd just resurrect her." Jennifer shrugged. "Really, your students are safer up in the air with me than they'll ever be down on the ground with you. And anyway that's in the documents I made there."

And just when were you going to tell me that, Britney thought at Jennifer. The only answer she got was Jennifer's mental giggling.

"I see," said the principal.

"Beyond those disciplinary issues," Mr. Patterson concluded, clearly not entirely happy with the solution, "Jennifer's record is excellent. She's a good kid, really, and I'd hate to lose her. I have to admit that, were I in your place, Ms. Atwater, I'd feel quite lucky to have the privilege of raising her."

"We'd all hate to lose her," agreed Ms. Brown.

"I'll be by tomorrow to make sure you don't," said Britney. They all shook hands and Jennifer teleported herself and Britney back home.

"Well," said Jennifer, "that all went according to plan."

"What d'you mean, according to plan?" Britney exploded. "Now I'm responsible for the safety and well-being of every kid at your school! One thing goes wrong and it's my neck on the line!"

"But that's the point," said Jennifer. "That reality warp I gave you means that nothing can go wrong for you. Between my powers and that warp, nothing can happen. Trust me."

"But the reality warp is just your powers."

"Sort of. In origin, yes, but it's taken on something of a life of its own, and it's more attuned to you now than to me. It keeps you safe, and since you'd be harmed if any of my schoolmates are harmed, it keeps them from harm too."

Britney nodded, realizing Jennifer's intent. She still didn't like having to sign her name to the documents Jennifer had made--she knew their exact contents, Jennifer having given her the knowledge when she created them--but she'd learned to trust her young charge.

"And anyway, it's not like they were about to kick me out--not with how much money Mom and Dad are giving them!"

The giggle at that thought was fully mutual.

February 14, 2031

"And so you see, Your Honour," said Jennifer, floating so she was looking the judge straight in the eye, "I could just change the law. But I don't want to do that. I want to do things properly, which is why I'd like an order from you declaring me fully emancipated from my parents and my legal guardian."

"I'd feel more comfortable doing that, Ms. Martinette," the judge replied, "if I had some assurances from you that you will finish your schooling and that you will continue to live with a--well, another--legal adult."

"I can assure you that I intend to continue with and complete my schooling in the ordinary course of affairs, and that I will continue to live with Britney Atwater," said Jennifer.

The judge sighed. Britney didn't blame him--it wasn't every day that he had a seven-year-old come into his courtroom, float a few feet off the ground, demonstrate her astonishing breadth of knowledge in every subject in existence, and ask to be declared a legal adult! The matter really was unprecedented, but ultimately he really had no choice. Jennifer was going to get her way whatever he or anyone else wanted.

"Very well," the judge said, sighing. "Your request to be legally independent of all guardianships is granted." He banged his gavel. "Next!"

"So," said Britney as they left the courtroom, "home?"

Jennifer stuck her tongue out. "I don't have to listen to you any more, the judge said so."

Britney quickly knelt down to snatch Jennifer up in her arms. Jennifer let her. "But you're still gonna live with me, so we still have to get along."

There was almost no pause before the two broke down into giggles.

"So," said Jennifer, "where do you want to go for our birthday this time? I could show you this really neat black hole I found the other day, or maybe we could find out what a basketball game's like from the basketball's perspective."

"Now that you've got me thinking about that second one, I really am curious."

A moment later Britney felt herself bouncing off a hard surface, then flying through the air. She heard cheers as the cord passed over her "skin," then felt more hands gripping her as she bounced again and again. This time she felt herself flying through the air while still gripped in someone's hands, and experienced a sharp shock as she hit the rim and flew up, only to hit the court with a thud.

"I'll try to be more gentle to these things in future," she told herself.

November 22, 2034

"...and so today I am announcing the founding of the new nation of Prosperia," said M'Wela Mutegaraba at her impromptu press conference after having single-handedly obliterated the Rwandan military. "I have already signed treaties with the relevant countries to cede the land I have claimed for it." The image of M'Wela cut away to show the landscape reshaping itself at the command of the young woman who had just revealed to the world that she possessed infinite power, mountains and valleys forming and moving, water sources appearing from nowhere and basic transportation infrastructure building itself.

Britney closed the video on her phone with a thought. Jennifer had already narrated the entire sequence of events for her in real time, and she didn't need M'Wela's recapitulation. She did spot Stephen and Margaret near the front of the crowd behind M'Wela, their skin colour making them stand out. She wondered if they would be in Prosperia more or less permanently now.

"They'll be back," said Jennifer, popping into existence on a chair, school just having been dismissed for the day. Britney was also elsewhere warming up for a hockey game, a football game, and a soccer game, but Jennifer had told her to stay at home, too, because there would be "momentous events".

"So I guess the secret is out, then," said Britney.

"We couldn't keep it forever." Jennifer shrugged. "Doesn't change much, really. Oh, there might be a few crazies out there who try and kill me because I'm some sort of blasphemous demon-spawn from Hell or whatever, but I'm not worried about them. I'm more worried about someone starting a religion around us. Worship and prayers are the last thing I want."

"Why?" asked Britney. "Seems like it'd be gratifying, at least."

"Worship is just annoying. I already know everything going on in the universe, worship would just stand out even more. It'd be like a jackhammer in my brain. And prayers would just make me feel bad that I can't grant them all. You know, Goddess, make my team win, Goddess, make my team win, can't do that if they're playing against each other." She sighed. "Damn you, Goddess, don't you ever listen to me?" She shook her head.

"So if someone does start a religion around you all?"

"I'll suffer through it, I guess. I'm not about to stop them, after all."

"And why Prosperia? I mean, 'prosperous' I guess, but where'd she get the idea?"

Jennifer waved her hand and Britney heard the distinctive voice of Margaret Martin. "After all, with the sorts of powers she's demonstrated, that girl could well turn Rwanda into the most prosperous nation in Africa. Maybe even the whole world."

"It's not Rwanda, but I imagine that eventually all of Africa's going to become part of Prosperia," said Jennifer.

"Do you have any ambitions to rule?"

"No. I mean, I'm probably going to have to eventually, but honestly I'd rather not. I just want to have fun."

July 13, 2038

Britney was fielding questions at a press conference after Canada's fourth straight World Cup win--the first under her captaincy--when she suddenly found herself also sitting across her dining table from Jennifer.

"Jen, you know that was important. Now I'm distracted."

"No you're not, I know what you would have said and I've made sure you're saying it until you get over the disorientation. Look, I know that was abrupt, and I'm sorry, but this really is important."

"And what's important enough that you're willing to hijack my body?"

"I'm not hijacking it, I'm making it do what it would have done if I hadn't interrupted. Anyway, there was a Super Goddess conceived today."

"Conceived? I thought you said that M'Wela told you that you only know a new Super Goddess is being born shortly before she actually is."

"Normally, yes, but this one... she's different. When I was born, my telepathy only stretched from maybe here to the Andromeda Galaxy. Hers, as soon as the ovum was fertilized, hers was already fully formed. She already knows everything about the entire universe."

"So? Your strength developed faster than any of the others. Maybe this is just another variation."

"Maybe. But she's also the first of us to know exactly what she is from the moment she was conceived. Maybe..."

"Maybe what?"

"It's probably silly. Probably impossible, even for us. We know we can give people power almost equal to ours. Haven't done it yet, but we could. But we don't think we can give anyone else power exactly equal to our own. We'd always have that slight upper hand, basically, the ability to strip away someone's power if necessary. But given that she knows what happened as she was conceived, knows everything about her existence for the entirety of it, maybe she can figure something out. But probably not. Some things are probably impossible, even for us."

"Has she chosen a name? I know you chose your own."

"Paula, apparently." Jennifer went very quiet. "Paula Estévez."

"Is that important?" Britney asked, concerned.

"Remember my first birthday?"

"All too well."

"Well, there were ultimately no casualties, but two people did die initially. Thankfully Irina was able to resurrect them fully."

"Who?" asked Britney, thinking she already more or less knew the answer.

"Júlio and Isabel Estévez."

Britney took a guess. "So you were responsible for the deaths of the parents of the next Super Goddess to be born. What if Irina hadn't been able to bring them back?"

"I don't know. I don't think we'll ever know."

April 19, 2039

"That took longer than I expected," said Britney as Jennifer popped into existence next to her while she was resting after her last tennis match. "Something go wrong?"

"No, no. Well, Paula's decided that she wants not to use her powers at all for a good amount of time, and that she'd rather remain basically unknown, but we reminded her that we've promised everyone to announce to the world when a Super Goddess is born. So everyone's going to be watching her."

"So how are you going to manage that?"

"Not hard. Each of us will take it in turns to masquerade as Paula when necessary, show off some powers, nothing much. I'm probably going to end up doing most of it, though."

"Why?"

"Because I volunteered."

And, Britney realized, out of guilt over having accidentally killed Paula's parents, however temporarily.

"I guess you'll really get to know her well, then."

"Well, I hope it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship," said Jennifer. "How do I look?"

Britney looked down to see a toddler, obviously of Latin-American descent, next to her. "I think you look really cute."

"Good," said Jennifer, returning to herself.

"But what took you so long? Even with whatever complications ensued, it can't have been that long."

"Oh. Nothing much. I just went to some planet where a tyrant was oppressing his people and killed him."

"You what?"

"Killed him. One tap of my pinky." Jennifer demonstrated on her own head and it vaporized into nothing. A new one popped into existence. "I left them some stuff about political and governmental theory. Probably go back in a few years, see how they're doing."

"And if things go south?" Britney had a sinking feeling that they would.

"I'll fix it then," said Jennifer, shrugging.

"Jennifer," said Britney, "I think we need to have a good long talk about the value of foresight."

"Foresight's boring. I want surprises."

"I know, I know. You don't want to peer into the future, spoils things. But I'm talking the ordinary human version of foresight, the kind that tells us when we might be about to make a huge mistake."

"I'll try, but... it's hard to think of consequences when you can just go back and try again, you know?"

"Maybe," said Britney, "but is your patience as infinite as your power?"

September 9, 2041

Britney braced herself for Jennifer's return home from school.

The omnipotent senior (who had already applied to and been accepted by every university in the world) had been more than a little annoyed lately, and Britney was pretty sure she knew why.

Jennifer appeared in the middle of the kitchen, stalked over to a chair, and plopped herself down in it.

"How was school?"

"School was fine. These prayers are not."

Britney nodded, her suspicions confirmed. "Those Church of Femininity crazies, right?"

"Ugh," said Jennifer. "'Goddess, help me get away from my abusive husband.' OK, I'll set up a bank account for you with enough funds to live on your own for a while and pull some strings to get you a restraining order. 'Goddess, help me find a nice man to dominate.' Find your own man. 'Goddess, thank you for helping me find my car keys.'" Jennifer almost sobbed. "I did not help you find your car keys!"

"Can you do anything about it?" asked Britney.

"Can I? I mean, sure, I could, but will I? Probably not. And every time one of us does answer a prayer--because some of them really are worthy--it just confirms to them that women really are superior and all the rest of it. All the ones we don't answer? Ignored. Not relevant. And when they pray and it happens anyway without our intervention, well, of course we intervened! So then we've got to deal with all the thanks for stuff we didn't do as well."

Jennifer's head perked up as another of her bodies saw Britney score a spectacular goal in front of a crowd of millions--every stadium Britney played in expanded so that everyone who wanted to watch, could. "And you're not helping."

"What?"

"Oh, I'm not going to take it away, but they think you're their patron saint or something, since you're so much better at athletic endeavours than anyone else on the planet. Their worship services are centred around your games."

"Then they're worshipping pretty much constantly."

"Yeah. I mean, they're not all always at the services, but they're always listening to or watching one of your games." She paused. "On the plus side, they couldn't really do it without the mental computer interfaces, so at least you're getting that out of it."

"I'm sorry," said Britney.

"Don't be. It was my choice, and now it's my consequences." Jennifer paused. "So... I recall you saying something about foresight?"
 

Next ("A Life Well Lived", NSFW): https://omnipotent-girls.net/node/155

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