So, you want to know how it happened to me, and how I made my decision. Fair enough. You deserve to know everything I can tell you.
It happened one night. I had climbed into bed and was about turn out my bedside lamp, when I heard an alto female voice coming from a shadowy corner of my room.
I was very startled, and very afraid. "Y-yes?"
Suddenly two eyes glowed in the corner. They burned like two small candles. It was then that I knew whom I was talking to. "Congratulations! You have been chosen to be a superhero."
Out of the corner stepped a stunning Hispanic woman in her mid-thirties. She had shiny brown hair and those strange glowing eyes. She had the build of a female athlete who spent hours in the gym every day. She wore a sky blue body suit that hugged her every curve. Around her waist was a metal belt. On her chest was her logo of a glowing eye.
I sat up in bed, excited. One of my idols was standing in my room... "Occula!" I exclaimed.
She smiled. "That's right."
What she had said just registered with me. Being chosen to be a superhero is like winning the lottery, twice. The odds are astronomical. "I filled out the application five years ago."
"And we've been evaluating you ever since. Over ninety-nine percent of the applicants don't get past the application phase. Most people end up writing what they think we want to read. But your essay, written by an eleven year old girl, had a ring of honesty that got the evaluation committee's attention.
"Of the few that pass the first hurtle, ninety-nine percent of those do not pass the background check and psychology evaluation. We are looking for someone who is truly selfless, and is willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good. We didn't have enough to go on, being you were so young. We kept an eye on you, and waited.
"We were rewarded when an incident last year brought you to the top of our prospect list. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
I wracked my brain for a few seconds, when it finally hit me. "Are you talking about the fight that got me suspended?"
This goddess-like being nodded her head. "Exactly; you stepped in and defended a younger girl from a bully, and got a black eye and broken jaw for your trouble."
I shrugged. "I couldn't just stand by. Becky has Down's syndrome. She couldn't defend herself. Someone had to help her."
"Most people would have looked the other way. But you took a beating from the school bully, and got suspended for a week for your trouble. This is the kind of character we are looking for."
"That took place over a year ago. Why did wait until now?"
"We have a constant number of thirty-six heroes at all times. There hasn't been a need for a replacement, until now."
"I thought there were only thirty."
"Some of our members shun the spotlight. They prefer to work in the background."
Realizing they wanted me to take someone's place, I gasped. "Did someone get killed?"
Occula shook her head. "No. I am being reassigned. There is a planet, about thirty light years away. A group of pirates are invading it. They are going to strip it of all its resources, and let the natives starve."
"Don't they have their own defenders?"
"Their race does not have the supergene, and their technology level is several centuries behind the pirates'."
I sat up and swung my legs out of bed. "Well, you've got to go."
"Right; but I need to get someone to take my place. You are on the top of our list. If you choose not to accept our offer, we have many other candidates."
"How can I refuse?"
"Most of the candidates do, once they understand the costs. It is my job to spell out both the pros and cons of choosing this life."
Reaching behind her, she pulled out a black briefcase. "First, let me show you what your superhero self will look like." Opening the case, she dumped out a translucent white blob. It was about the size of a trashcan and shined like a pearl.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It is called a transformation matrix, but most of us supers just call it the blob. If you decide to become one of us, you will touch it, and it will absorb into to your body, activating your supergene."
The blob started quivering. It sent little tendrils out into the air and across the floor.
"What is it doing?"
"It's looking for a sample of your DNA, from some dead skin cells or a stray hair."
The amorphous mass suddenly stopped searching. It collected itself back into a compact glob then started shaping itself into a humanoid form. Within a minute an incredible woman stood in front of me, naked. She seemed to glow with her flawless skin and incredible muscles that sculpted the body into something you expected to see in marble in a museum.
It took a moment for me to realize that this vision was me. It seemed so different. She had my face, but there was no acne, her pores were so small they seemed invisible. She also didn't wear glasses. My hair was dry and brittle but this new prototype had long flowing hair that gleamed in the weak lamplight of my room. She had curves that I had always wished for but knew were not likely, looking at my female relatives. This new me was also a foot taller, and I'm five foot five.
"Am I really going to be that tall?"
Occula nodded. "Eventually; at first you'll be your size now, but over the next few months you'll grow to your full potential."
"I look amazing!" I exclaimed.
"You do. It's amazing what an activated supergene can do."
"There's that word again, 'supergene'. What does it mean?"
"The supergene is in all humans. It is part of your DNA that is inert. It gives people superpowers, but no two people are the same."
"So I won't be able to see through walls and shoot laser beams out of my eyes, like you?"
Occula smiled, "Highly unlikely. You might have one or two of my powers, but not all."
She continued her explanation. "The first one of us, Mightyman, had the gene activated by accident in the 1940's when he was exposed to a test atomic blast. It took several decades to figure out what happened to him, and how to recreate it."
"And activating my supergene did all this?"
The Hispanic heroine nodded. "Mostly; the transformation matrix also fills out the gaps and flaws that are in all DNA.
I stood up and hesitantly walked up to the new body. I hesitated for a second, then reached out and touched it. It was warm, but didn't seem to be breathing and it didn't move. "Is it alive?"
"Technically, no; it is just your DNA replicated and refined. It has no functioning brain or breathing and heartbeat. It will remain in this form for four hours, before it reverts to that white blob."
"Then what good is it, if all I can do is stare at it?"
Occula reached into the briefcase and pulled out what looked like a metal blindfold. "Put this on and your consciousness will transfer to your prototype body. You can take it out for a spin. You may even discover a power or two."
I reached out, without a second thought, and grasped the device. I took off my wire-rim glasses.
"Lie down, and close your eyes before put them on. Make sure the sides are against your temples."
I didn't feel anything until Occula said, "Okay, open your eyes."
I had a moment of vertigo. I was no longer lying. I was standing, looking down at my motionless body. "This is so weird," I muttered. I was surprised by my full and mellow voice.
My idol seemed uncomfortable. "We should get you dressed," she said. She produced a pink leotard with a pink skirt around the waist. On the chest was a whirlpool of stars. Over it, in light blue, were the overlapping letters "GG". Attached to the back was a pink cape with the same logo on it.
"I know this outfit," I exclaimed.
"You should. Your mother made a costume like this for you for Halloween."
I started putting it on. "I was five years old. I loved that costume. I'd have worn it every day if my mom would have let me. She would not let me wear it to school. I put it on as soon as I got home."
"What does the 'GG' stand for?" she asked.
"I was Galaxy Girl, Defender of the Universe."
"Now you can be Galaxy Girl for real.
"Whatever happened to that costume?"
I shrugged. "I outgrew it. It was wearing out anyway. My mom probably made rags out of it."
"Well, you get to wear it again. This fabric stretches to fit almost any size. You can change the design later, if you wish."
"Oh no!" I exclaimed. "This is perfect." Every time I dreamed of being a superhero, I was wearing that pink outfit." Wearing if felt like a second skin.
Once I was dressed, my tutor looked me over. "Not bad; while you are wearing that outfit your will be Galaxy Girl or GG for short.
"The first thing we need to find out is if you can fly. About half of all heroes can. Think 'up.'"
I did that, and my feet slowly left the ground.
"Excellent," Occula said.
"Can you fly?" I asked.
She shook her head ruefully. "I am one of the unlucky half. But I do have a flying belt." She tapped the metal band that was around her waist. "It is not as quick or maneuverable as your ability, but at least I'm able to keep up."
I found myself drifting higher and higher. Soon my head hit the ceiling. I didn't feel a thing.
"You'll need some practice to master flying. Think the direction you want to go. In a few days you'll have it down."
I thought "down" and I descended back to the floor.
"Your time with this body is short. Let's go outside and see what you can really do." She opened my bedroom window, and I swooped through it head first, right into the branches of the oak tree in my family's front yard.
"I'm not off to a very good start," I muttered.
"When you are using your actual body, you won't make mistakes like that."
I was dubious, but I didn't say anything.
"How is your eyesight?" she asked me.
"Incredible! Everything is as clear as if it was daylight. I keep feeling like I should be wearing my glasses."
"Night vision is typical for almost everyone with an activated supergene. Of course, my vision is even better. I can see into the infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray spectrum." If I didn't know better, I'd think she was bragging.
"Let's fly around a bit. The airlines don't have any flight paths near here. We shouldn't get in anybody's way."
We flew up above the trees, and I pushed myself to go higher. "I don't feel the cold," I exclaimed.
"That template you are wearing doesn't have nerve endings on its skin. But even when you are transformed, you won't feel the cold as much, and it won't affect you like it did before.
"Since I don't fly, I am more susceptible to the cold. But our uniforms are so good a conserving body heat, it would take almost twelve hours to get hypothermia." I noticed that her outfit had stretched to cover her arms and legs.
We had been flying for a while, and were high above a busy street, when Occula stopped in mid-flight. "Someone's robbing that convenience store," she said, pointing down.
"What, where?" I asked.
"I have telescoping and x-ray vision. Believe me, it's happening. Wait up here for me. I'll be back." She dived straight down toward the brightly lit building.
I shook my head. If she thought I was going to sit this one out, she was crazy. I followed her just a few seconds behind her.
As I was approaching, I heard the sound of a gunshot. Evidently my hearing has been enhanced too.
Occula flew through the front door a second later. She enter with enough force that the glass door shattered.
When I arrived, the gunman was clutching his hand. The gun was lying on the ground, glowing red hot. Occula had evidently used her heat-vision to disarm him. The thief had an accomplice that was holding a knife to a girl customer's throat. She was just a few years older than me.
Evidently, the knife was too small a target. She was afraid of hitting the hostage with her heat vision.
I don't know why I did it, but I suddenly shouted, "Hey! Drop the knife!"
The young punk looked startled. He threw the knife away.
"Now, there's a handy power," my mentor whispered to me, just as a police car pulled up.
We let the police officers haul the two thugs away, and we flew away, with the fading sound of the convenience store people calling out their thanks.
Occula led the way, heading back the way we came. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"Back to your house," she said.
"We've only been gone two hours. We still have time."
"We need to talk."
The two of us flew through the late evening March night. I didn't see anyone else in my neighborhood out, but I may have missed a few.
I reopened my bedroom window, and we both flew in. My body lay motionless on the bed.
The Hispanic heroine reached for the metal covering that was over my eyes. "Close your eyes."
I did. When I reopened them, I was laying in my bed. My vision was nearsighted again. I put back on my glasses. "Why did you do that? I could have stayed super for another two hours."
"Because I want to speak to the real Linda, not some super mannequin being controlled by you.
"In two hours you need to make a decision, one that will determine the rest of your life. I will spell out the pros and cons of becoming a superhuman. From there, it will be up to you.
"First of all, the pros: As a superhero you will make a difference, and you will be remembered. Most people, after they are gone, are soon forgotten. You, will be remembered. Your deeds will help make the world a better place.
"Secondly, your lifespan will be greatly extended. You aren't immortal. Our founder, Mightyman, has been around over seventy years, and he looks like he's aged about ten years.
"I have been around for twenty, and I have not seen any sign of aging, yet. I still feel like I did when I got transformed.
"Third, you've only begun to understand what it is like to be superhuman. Remotely controlling that mannequin is like playing a video simulator of driving a racecar, compared to the real thing. There is a thrill, a feeling of power that cannot be described, only experienced."
She paused, waiting for me to ask her questions. I didn't have any.
"Can you think of some of the cons?" she asked.
One instantly came to my mind. "The danger," I said.
"That's right. That extended lifespan only applies if you survive. I don't think most of us will die of natural causes. Do you know who the last one of us to die was?"
"Mantis, he died five years ago, rescuing trapped miners in West Virginia."
Occula seemed genuinely pleased. "That's right. Four men lived because he held up the mine tunnel while they escaped. He had been a super for only three months.