The air was cool against Claire’s skin as she woke, her head feeling like it was filled with cotton, and she shivered as she opened her eyes, blearily trying to remember where she was.
The sight of the open door of the tube and the far wall of the laboratory reminded her of where she was, and Claire blinked, looking at a mirror that had been set up in the middle of the room, along with a small cart that held a set of clothing. She opened her mouth, realizing that she wasn’t hooked up to the medical equipment anymore, but Circe spoke first.
“Welcome back to consciousness, Claire.” The AI spoke briskly. “The restoration procedure was successful and was able to get you extremely close to your desired specifications, with only a 0.02% variance. Mistress Lilith ordered appropriate clothing for you and supplied both it and a mirror, so you could examine yourself with some degree of privacy. She’s waiting outside at present.”
“Thank you, Circe.” Claire said, pushing herself forward to step out of the tube, and almost throwing herself onto her face as she mis-judged her strength. Anticipation grew within her as she asked. “What didn’t reach specifications?”
“Getting the precise physical strength and flexibility proved too granular of a change to implement perfectly, so each were tuned to be slightly better than what you requested.” Circe explained. “Everything else was able to come far closer to your desired levels.”
“Oh, good.” Claire said, some of her tension relaxing, and she carefully stepped around to look at the mirror… and stopped, letting out a breath of relief as she murmured. “Thank god…”
Claire’s reflection looked out of the mirror back at her, rather than the stranger she’d been seeing for the last several weeks. Her hair was longer again, and she had her original complexion and facial structure once more. Oh, there were some differences, since Claire had decided there wasn’t any reason not to deal with a few of her scars and annoying birthmarks, along with a few other things that weren’t entirely intentional, but it was her.
“I take it that you approve?” Circe asked politely.
“Of course! I’m not trapped in a stranger’s body anymore!” Claire exclaimed, delight surging through her as she grinned at the mirror. “Sure, I’m going to have to get used to being stronger than I was, but that’s a minor price to pay to be close to normal. Heck, it really isn’t a price. Thank you, Circe.”
“You should thank Mistress Lilith.” Circe replied gently. “Speaking of which, I believe she’s wondering how things are going.”
“Let her know I’ll be out in a few moments, as soon as I’m dressed?” Claire asked, quickly glancing at the pile of clothing. It looked a lot like what she usually wore, which made her suspect that Lilith had simply asked Circe to fabricate new clothing which would fit. That was reassuring, and nice of the woman.
“Certainly.” The AI replied.
Claire quickly dressed, and as she did she was startled by how different it was when she regained her strength so suddenly. It didn’t take as much effort to simply stand up, and she was definitely more flexible than before. Taking a deep breath as she slipped on her shirt, then a jacket, she smiled to herself again, glancing into the mirror. It was just better, now.
Soon enough she was done and she headed for the door, which slid open to reveal Lilith, in a different outfit and with her backpack by her feet. The look of boredom on the beautiful woman’s face vanished as she saw Claire, and she spoke warmly. “Claire! You’re looking better, I think. You especially look happier.”
“That’s because I am!” Claire replied, grinning as she quickly embraced Lilith and gave her a tight hug. “Thank you so much! I can’t express how much better this feels!”
“You’re welcome, but… not so tight!” Lilith gasped, and Claire quickly let go, seeing Lilith looking both startled and bit out of breath. “You’re certainly stronger, that’s for sure.”
“It’s going to take me some time to get used to. I hope I didn’t hurt you?” Claire asked, a bit concerned, but that eased as Lilith shook her head.
“No, no… it wasn’t that bad. It just left me breathless is all. Shall we go? I’m afraid that it’s rather boring when I can’t visit most areas of this base.” Lilith asked, picking up her backpack.
“I suppose it would be. Thank you for staying with me.” Claire agreed, walking alongside Lilith, and noticing a distinct bounce to her step that she couldn’t remember having had for a while.
“Waking up alone in a sterile lab isn’t something I think anyone should experience.” Lilith replied, smiling in return.
“That’s kind of you.” Claire replied, once again wondering how someone like Shadowmind could’ve created someone who was as level-headed and generally kind as Lilith was. It was an odd dichotomy, though with the villain dead, there likely was no way anyone would learn what she’d been thinking.
Soon enough they reached the teleporter, and Claire grinned as they stood on it. Lilith cleared her throat and asked. “Circe? If you’d take us back, I’d appreciate it.”
“Yes, Mistress Lilith.” Circe replied, and there was a sudden flash of light, and Claire found herself back in the other teleportation chamber again, and this time without the odd delay.
She also found three people there to greet them. Gina and Rachel were both present, as was a tall, brunette with almond-colored hair and intense blue eyes, one Claire didn’t recognize. The woman was wearing a simple suit and skirt that showed an attractive figure but was still fairly conservative.
“Welcome back, Claire!” Gina exclaimed, grinning as she rushed forward to give her a hug. “Circe said the procedure was a success, and I’m glad to see she was right!”
“Thanks, Gina.” Claire replied, taking care not to hug too tightly in return. Considering the blue undertone to Gina’s skin for a moment, Claire began. “Actually, could she fix what Blue Impulse did to you? I just realized that it never came up.”
“Nope. Magic is a pain that way, so it isn’t even genetic, exactly.” Gina said, shrugging as she pulled away. “Honestly, I’ve mostly gotten used to it at this point.”
“Fair, I suppose.” Claire said, slightly disappointed, but not too much.
Rachel let go of Lilith and smiled at Claire as she spoke. “I’m glad to see you’re well, too. Was it interesting?”
Gina moved to give Lilith a hug, and Claire glanced at the other woman, who was standing there patiently with her hands folded as Claire replied. “Not really, aside from the template. It was rather complex, and then I went to sleep for over a day and woke like this. Anyway… who is this?”
“You know exactly who it is.” Gina said, her eyes glittering with amusement.
“Oh?” Claire asked, slightly perplexed.
“I chose to undergo a chassis refit while you were being restored.” The woman spoke with Circe’s voice, causing Claire to blink in surprise. “I believed it would help with your discomfort at my previous appearance.”
“Circe? You look… quite different than before.” Claire said, studying her closely.
“I chose to take one of the depictions of my namesake in mythology and alter it slightly.” Circe replied, smiling slightly as she glanced at Lilith and continued. “I asked Mistress Lilith for permission to accompany you when you left, if you were willing to allow me to do so. She agreed.”
“I… I see. Well, that’s certainly a shock.” Claire replied, shaking her head. “I’ll have to consider what I think of it, but… we’ll see, alright?”
“That’s perfectly acceptable, Claire.” Circe replied, smiling slightly.
Gina giggled in amusement, and Rachel spoke quickly. “We made a celebratory dinner for you, if you’d like to join us. I mean, I think it’s wonderful that we could finally undo what Doctor Johnson did to you.”
“I entirely agree! Even if adjusting yet again will take some time.” Claire said, smiling in return. “I’d barely started getting used to what that jerk did to me, and now I have a completely different change to deal with.”
“I believe that Circe could help with that. The gymnasium has a large number of tools that were intended for my training.” Lilith suggested, and Circe nodded.
“I’d be happy to assist you.” The android said, her tone slightly hopeful.
“How about we discuss that later? I haven’t eaten in a couple of days, and I’m famished.” Claire suggested, her mood brighter than it’d been since she’d been rescued.
“Of course, Claire. I believe that the meal will help.” Circe said, her eyes glittering with amusement. “Even if Gina did almost burn the bread.”
“Hey!” Gina protested. “I thought you were going to keep that secret!”
The others laughed and led the way out of the room, and behind her the teleportation chamber went dark just before the door closed.