Activation Energy

By expander

After it was over, of course, there was an inquiry. They interviewed the witnesses, collected evidence, wrote reports, trying to determine exactly what happened and how it got started. The board of inquiry guessed, quite correctly, that it had something to do with Adam's father's lab. The entire lab -- all its apparatus and records -- were seized, stored in some federal warehouse or, more likely, turned over to the military. Nothing more was ever made public. They never found the exact connection, never discovered the precise combination of chemicals that produced such dramatic effects. That was probably for the best. But here is how it started. Robert Atherton was one of a dozen staff scientists in the research laboratory of Carruthers Electric. Someone in Robert's lab, a bright young Ph.D. named Stone, made the following observation: when nature needed to make an reaction happen, the activation energy barrier was overcome with a catalyst. Think of a boulder and a hill. To get the reaction going, you have to first push the boulder up the hill. Don't push it and nothing happens. Push it too little and it rolls right back to where you start. Once you push it enough, up to the top, the laws of physics take their course and the reaction runs itself, but first you have to push. Unfortunately, the boulder can be very large. The hill can be very steep, and very tall. Every segment of modern heavy industry had to cope with this problem -- it seemed to be written in the laws of physics. A great deal of Carruthers power (and money) was being used in simply getting boulders up hills, so to speak. Mother Nature takes a different course, though. When she needs a reaction to get going, she doesn't use millions and billions of joules to start it. Biology simply lowers the hill. A billion years of evolution have found these shortcuts -- a tiny pinch of just the right molecular structure can make everything start to happen. When they're naturally made, they're called hormones. When they're artificial, they're called drugs. But it's all the same thing -- lowering the hill enough so that just the tiniest bit of energy gets the boulder going. If it works for us, Dr. Stone reasoned, why can't it work for our machines? The idea was sufficiently convincing that the Carruthers board was willing to put a large chunk of research capital into it. Labs were fitted out (the company previously had no capacity for biological research), and white-coated men and women went to work. They started with some of the most common hormones: cortisone, estrogen, and testosterone, among others. They analyzed and studied them. They made chemical modifications, shearing off a few atoms here and there, replacing them with atoms not found in biochemistry: iridium and platinum and gold, giving the molecules electrical and magnetic properties. The resulting structures they called "electrohormones." The possible combinations were almost endless. It was expected to be a five- to ten-year project. About ten months into the project, Robert Atherton happened to spill a bit of the particular electrohormone he was working with at the time on his pants. It was a tiny quantity, so little he didn't even notice the tiny blotch of powder. He went about his work, and when he got ready for bed that night the stained pants went into the hamper. Two days later Atherton's 18-year-old son Adam was preparing a sandwich in the kitchen when he cut himself. The cut itself was insignificant, but Adam bled a little on his t-shirt. Swearing, he went down to throw the shirt into the washer before the stain set. He stripped the shirt off and tossed it into the washer. It seemed a waste to run the washer for a single shirt, though, so Adam looked for other things to wash as well. The hamper from his father's bedroom was sitting there. Forgetting his injured finger, which had stopped hurting anyway, he reached in to pull some dirty clothes out, and the tiny cut on his finger brushed up against the contaminated pants as he threw them in the washer. That was the precise chain of events. Each one was so unlikely, the probability of them all happening was near zero. But it happened. This extraordinary chain of ordinary events resulted in a tiny amount of some electrohormone -- probably no more than a few micrograms -- making its way into the young man's bloodstream. The first human electrohormone experiment was underway, but no one realized until three days later. * * * * * Adam stepped out of the shower, and began to towel himself off. He was handsome, dark-haired, and fit. He was about average height -- six feet even. He'd never be mistaken for a bodybuilder, given his lean build, but he was reasonably athletic. It was three weeks after graduation. In the fall he'd be going off to college, and this was his last summer with most of his high school friends. He'd just gotten back from a game of softball, and he was in a good mood, having homered twice. He was usually not much of a hitter, but twice in that game everything had seemed to fall right into place -- he'd seen a good pitch coming and everything just came together, his whole body cooperating to smash it out of the park. He took a good look at himself in the mirror. Standing there, wearing only boxers, he was pleasantly surprised to see a bit more muscle definition than usual. "New routine must be really working," he mumbled to himself. He checked out his body, lightly squeezing a deltoid that seemed bigger and rounder than he remembered. He touched his chest, delighted to discover a fine growth of hair that hadn't been there before, spreading across his upper chest and running in a line down to his navel. As he ran his fingertips down his stomach he was amazed to feel the hard bumps of real abs underneath. Despite doing a lot of crunches, he'd never had much of a washboard, but now he could feel distinct muscles there. His chest and arms felt more solid than he thought they used to be. As he pulled on a t-shirt, he hoped that it wasn't all just wishful thinking. The next day he examined himself closely after his morning shower. It wasn't his imagination. The improvement was still there. He grinned, vowing to work even harder in the gym. The next few days were filled with nonstop lifting, sports, eating, and sleep. It paid off in spades -- every day he seemed bigger than the day before. His growing biceps produced a definite bulge in his upper arms. He could look down as he took deep breaths and watch his broadening chest expand and contract. Already he was twenty-five pounds heavier -- and it wasn't fat. All his lifts increased significantly. Even the hair on his chest was growing fast -- not a thick mat blanketing his whole torso, but a fine covering, the perfect color to match his summer tan. Adam was on top of the world. It was a week after he first noticed the change before he began to wonder. How could he possibly be growing so fast? He'd never heard of anything like it before. And why would lifting weights cause his chest hair to grow? The last time the changes had been anywhere near this rapid he'd been thirteen. It was almost like he was going through puberty -- again. On a whim he measured his height. He'd shot up quite a bit as a young teenager, even if the growth had ended up petering out at six feet. He marked his height on the wall, and got out a tape measure to discover that he was still -- six foot two. His mouth hung open for a second. There must have been some mistake. He wasn't wearing shoes, or even socks. He used a hardbound book, resting up against the wall, flat on his skull, to mark the line. He even examined the tape measure, making sure the manufacturer hadn't left out a number or two when they marked it. But the result was the same -- six feet, two inches. Adam didn't know whether to be thrilled or worried. Two inches was fantastic! But was this kind of growth a sign of something wrong? He didn't want to turn out like one of those freaks you see pictures of, eight-foot beanpoles, with gaunt, stretched faces. Adam thought, and decided to wait a bit. Maybe it was just a little growth spurt, one last hurrah for the mechanisms of adolescence. It would probably stop soon, and everything would be cool -- he'd always wanted to be taller, anyway. During the next week he slacked off a bit, spending a little less time in the gym. He took long walks outside in the sunshine and fresh air, hung out with his friends, anything to keep from worrying about his growth. He knew he was still getting bigger, could see the changes in the mirror every day, but he refrained from measuring himself -- he just didn't want to know. If he was still getting taller, at least he didn't have to worry about becoming a beanpole, it seemed. The muscles of his arms, shoulders, and chest were becoming bigger and thicker, and more clearly defined. His flexed bicep reached 21 inches, a round, hard peak of muscle. A definite six-pack had started to etch itself in his stomach wall. His legs were amazing. A week later, he finally decided he couldn't stand not knowing. He got out the tape measure and measured himself. Six foot four, he discovered, six foot four and 240 pounds. People at the gym were starting to notice him. The big men he'd always steered clear of started to show him some respect. Smaller guys seemed to almost jump out of his way. Once he'd walked up to a bench right after a guy had just started a set. The little guy nearly yelped in surprise as he saw Adam waiting for him to finish. He dropped the bar after two reps and scurried away. Adam hadn't meant to kick him off, he had really meant just to wait. He thought about yelling after the guy but decided that would just embarrass him more. Shrugging, Adam dropped to the bench and started his curls (though not before piling another 200 pounds on the bar). As his muscles powered the weight up, he felt a kind of warm glow on the inside. So that's what it's like to be intimidating, he thought. Not bad, he mused, not bad at all. He started to track his weight and height every day. If it was a medical problem, the doctors would probably want records. After another week or so, the growth seemed to level off. Adam was secretly a little disappointed, though he couldn't complain -- six foot seven was a pretty fucking sweet height to be. And at nearly 300 pounds of muscle, he was now the absolute biggest guy at the gym. Everyone got out of his way now. The guys at the gym weren't the only people to notice the change in Adam. His father started to give him sidelong looks whenever the two were together -- which wasn't often. There had been a messy divorce a few years ago, his mother had taken off to live with some guy, and he'd stayed with his dad just so he didn't have to change schools. His father worked long hours at the lab. Adam wasn't surprised that it took him so long to notice his son had grown by seven inches and 120 pounds in three and a half weeks. But his dad said nothing. His friends, on the other hand, were another story. They were awed by Adam's transformation. They wanted to know if he was on the juice. Probably wanted to get some for themselves, but he assured them he wasn't -- it was just some kind of freaky growth spurt he'd had. It seemed to have started and stopped all by itself. Adam was pretty sure the growth had spent itself, but he decided to keep measuring himself for another couple of weeks, just to see if there would be anything more. For a few days there was nothing, but then one morning he found he'd added half an inch. Adam was thrilled. He was in total awe of the massive, muscled, hairy-chested giant staring back at him from the mirror every morning. He wasn't worried anymore, he was going to ride this thing for all it was worth. He had to get some new clothes. His old ones, which had been fashionably baggy, were starting to become unconfortably tight, especially across the shoulders. Fortunately, it was summer, and shorts and t-shirts were cheap. Shoes were another story, but he didn't mind going barefoot. Before long he was six foot ten -- it seemed the process had started again, with renewed vigor. That evening, he was sprawled out on the couch, looking at the weight/height chart he'd kept. Something about the time the growth had stopped rang a very faint bell in his mind. Thursday through Sunday, it had been. He'd gone to the gym as usual, drank his protein shakes on schedule. He'd been planning to play volleyball at the beach Friday, but they couldn't on account of rain. So he'd hung around the house, mostly watching TV. And he'd stayed the same size. The rain. The rain was the difference -- he suddenly just knew. He ran to the computer, checking weather records on the net. Summer on the California coast was usually a bland uniformity of sunshine, but on three of those four days a storm system had swept through. Sunday had been the tail end of it, just cloudy and overcast. Then the sun had come back -- and his growth had started again. Adam wondered what the connection was. Maybe going to the gym had nothing to do with his growth after all. Did the rain somehow halt the growth? Did the sun cause it? Hell, maybe watching TV was what stopped it, he thought. He was going to find out. It was dark now, but he resolved to spend more time outside tomorrow and see what happened. It was hard to sleep, wondering how much he'd grow the next day. He finally fell unconscious about 4am. When he woke up at nine the sun was well up, and he cursed himself for missing the start of the day. He grabbed some breakfast and a blanket, and went and laid out in the yard. It was warm already, so he peeled off his t-shirt, letting the sun's rays beat down on his broad, bulging back. He stayed out there, turning himself from time to time, all morning. In the afternoon he went for a long bike ride. He returned about three, sweaty from the exertion. Maybe lifting weights would help, he thought. He ran down to the basement and carried what equipment he had out to the yard. The small plates were really far too light to challenge his strength, but he went through the motions. About five the sun dipped behind some low clouds on the horizon. His heart pounding with excitement, he went in and measured himself. Six foot eleven -- he'd grown an entire inch in a single day. He was almost shaking as he stepped on the scales. His weight had increased by ten pounds. The implications were stunning. There was no way he'd even eaten ten pounds of food that day. Where had all that mass and energy come from? It had to be the sunlight. Somehow the sun was energizing his body, powering his muscles in ways scientists had never dreamed. It was incredible. Thinking of scientists reminded him of his father. Adam considered asking him about this process, but decided against it. His dad would want him to stop, to stay indoors, to see a doctor. And Adam had no idea how long this ability of his would last -- he didn't want to waste a single second of it. For now, he thought, he'd keep it to himself. It would be easy enough -- with the old man's schedule at the office, they rarely crossed paths in the house. The weather was sunny and dry for the entire next week. Adam spent every moment of it, practically, outside wearing nothing but shorts. He never got a hint of sunburn, though -- somehow his muscles were soaking up every drop of energy and using it to fuel his growth. And grow he did -- six inches in the next week. He kept up his charts, despite the fact that he had to now stand on two scales and add their readings together to determine his weight. He noticed his weight was still increasing way out of proportion to his height, though his muscularity seemed to have stabilized. That meant his muscles must be growing denser. He could feel them hardening under his skin. His movement were as easy and graceful as ever -- those powerful sinews rippled easily as he moved, but you could have probably struck his upper arm with a hammer and not even made a dent in that solid granite mass. Striking Adam with a hammer would have been extremely foolish, though. He'd always had a bit of a temper, and now he was big enough to hurt people, to hurt them very badly. Cross him and you might find one massive shovel-sized hand clamped on your shoulder, breaking your weak bones in its crushing grip. Adam took to walking the streets of the town, half naked, looking down at the puny people surrounding him, growling at anyone who didn't get out of his path. Still he grew. The pencil marks on the wall charted his progress -- at the bottom, nice and even. Then bunching up suddenly for the few days it had rained, but returning to the even spacing of before. Then suddenly spreading out, shooting up toward the ceiling, when he'd made the connection between the sun and his size. He hit eight feet. He couldn't track his weight anymore -- he'd exceeded the capacity of even both his scales together. He thought about trying to get a third, balancing himself Twister-style on the tree pads, but then thought, fuck it. He assumed his mass was growing in perfect lockstep with the cube of his height, as it had for the last few days he'd been able to measure his weight. That would put him somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 pounds. One Saturday afternoon, eight-foot-six Adam was walking around town, taking in the sights as he let the bright sun pump more energy into his gigantic muscles. He came across a deserted construction site. They were putting up what looked to be an office building, maybe five or six stories tall. It was the weekend, though, so the place was empty. The gate was locked, but Adam snapped the chain with contemptuous ease. He opened the gate and walked inside. He was delighted by what he found. He'd been itching to test the limits his body, which had gone beyond merely strong to being superhuman. His old gym held no challenges anymore, so he'd stopped going. Here, though, was a playground for a full-grown man. Thick steel I-beams, stout concrete columns, heaps of cinder blocks, all just waiting for Adam. Grinning, he pulled out an eight-foot piece of steel rebar, maybe a half an inch thick, and began to bend it across his thigh. No problem. Sneering, he proceeded to wrap it round and round his thick forearm, curling it into a tight helix. Tossing it away, he picked up a handy brick, wondering if he was strong enough to crush it one-handed. He squeezed, and the brick simply popped, shattering into a dozen fragments and a handful of dust. Laughing, he crushed another one in his other hand. He shoved one under each arm, tucking them into his huge hairy pits, then clamping down with his massive upper arms, breaking the bricks against the sides of his torso. He set a cinder block up on a ledge and bashed it with his forehead. Let's see some karate guy do that, he thought. He entertained himself for the better part of an hour, trashing the whole construction site. But then this too grew boring. He felt unsettled, unsatisfied in some way he couldn't quite define. He stood there for a second, trying to decide what he wanted to do. Absently he rubbed his hand across his stomach, feeling the eight massive blocks of muscle and the deep ridges between them. His hand moved downward, and he suddenly realized he was rubbing his crotch. He smiled, knowing what it was he wanted -- he wanted to go see his girlfriend. The foreman's trailer on the construction site had a proper bathroom, not just a porta-potty. With one hand Adam ripped the door off its hinges and went inside. He could feel the cheap floor giving way under his enormous weight. He walked into the bathroom. His fist smashed a hole in the wall, and he tore off the small mirror so he could get a good look at himself. Casual destruction was becoming a habit for Adam. Not bad, he thought, not too unpresentable. He should probably get a shirt. He hadn't been wearing one for a few days, now, but he wanted to look good for Amy. He was already downtown, and knew there was a sporting goods store just a few blocks away. He had to crouch down low to get through the door, but once inside there was room for him to stand up straight. He grinned down at the clerk, who looked frightened of him. There were only a couple other customers in the store. They took one look at Adam and started heading for the exits. Apparel was towards the back. He shouldered his way through the store, knocking over displays right and left as he strode through the narrow aisles. He looked through some jerseys, but couldn't find anything larger than 2XL. "Hey!" he roared. The clerk at the counter jumped. "Where's your really fuckin' big gear?" The scared guy nearly ran into the back room. He emerged a minute later, carrying what looked like a small tent of orange nylon. Nervously, he approached Adam, trembling like a leaf as he held up the garment. Adam snatched it up. 4XL. Still far too small, but it looked like it would have to do. He turned to the full length mirror, and started to pull the garment on. He stretched and tugged his way into it. He was inching it down over his massive broad shoulders when he felt a loud r-r-rip from the rear. "Fuck," he muttered, but kept pulling. He got it on, more or less. It was far too short -- his massive abs were plainly exposed. As soon as he inhaled one of the sides split. He flexed his arms a little, letting his massive biceps tear open the sleeves. His thick neck and huge traps were too much for the collar. Just putting it on had pretty much reduced it to a rag. Oh well, he thought, it would have to do. He strode out of the shop without paying. He figured it was payment enough that he hadn't smashed up the shop even more. He strode confidently towards her house, up one street and down the next, until he was standing before her front door. The sound of Adam's massive fist pounding on the door could be heard throughout the house. It sounded like he was trying to break it down, which of course, he wasn't. He could have shattered the door in one blow if he wanted, but he was showing a little respect. It was Amy's father who answered the door. "What the hell is the matter with y- -" He caught sight of Adam and was abruptly shocked into silence. "I'm here t'see Amy." Her father shook his head. There was no way he was letting this gorilla in the house. "You can't. She's busy." Adam chuckled softly. At one time, that would have meant something, but now -- well, Amy's dad was only six foot one. As he started to shut the door, Adam stopped it cold with one hand, banging it into the wall as he forced it open. "That wasn't really a request." With his left hand, he caught the older man by the shoulder and shoved him aside, knocking him roughly into the door jamb and sending him sprawling to the floor. Adam stepped into the entranceway. Filling his lungs, he roared, "AMY!" She was probably down in the den. Ducking the ceiling, he walked down the stairs to find her on the couch. She leapt up. His massive stiff cock throbbed at the sight of her. "What are you doing here?" she asked. "What the hell happened to you?" He cut her questions off by shoving her roughly down to the couch. Nothing serious, just the rough stuff they'd had so much fun with last time. It had been two weeks since he'd seen her -- he hadn't even reached seven feet then. She'd been incredibly turned on by his size, his muscles. They'd had the most intense, mind-blowing sex, over and over. He'd never known she could be such an animal. And if six-ten got her off, imagine what eight-six would do. Her struggling was useless against the massive hand pinning her to the couch. She clawed at the muscular forearm pressing down on her chest but her nails were nothing to the hard steel of Adam's flesh. He laughed at her playful attempts to "escape" him as he grabbed a handful of cloth from his chest and tore the worthless shirt off like a wet kleenex. He leaned over her, the incredible solid mass of his hairy muscular torso drawing closer and closer. She kicked him in the thigh, as hard as she could, and he just smiled. As he fumbled with his zipper, though, trying to release his straining member, he happened to catch sight of her eyes. The smoldering lust he'd expected wasn't there. There was no excitement there, no anticpation, hardly even recognition of him. There was just cold, blank fear. At six foot ten she'd been wild about her boyfriend. At eight foot six, it seemed, she was terrified of him. Shocked, he let her go. As soon as he released her Amy started to scream. He jumped backwards at the sound, demolishing an end table that got in his way. He realized, dully, that she probably would have been screaming the whole time if he hadn't been crushing the air out of her. She let out another yell and Adam ran for the door. At the top of the stairs he was met by her father. Without even noticing the gun in the old man's hand, Adam seized him by the throat, hurling him bodily across the room, where he shattered the drywall as he crashed into the wall, and was still. Adam's feet pounded the pavement as he sprinted away from the house, running blindly. When he finally slowed, he was in an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was getting late in the afternoon -- around four. Adam walked aimlessly for half an hour, pondering his fate. Being so huge was such a rush, but now he wondered if he could ever lead a normal life. He was too strong. Wherever he went he would break furniture, overflow cars, harm people -- even when he wasn't trying to. And it seemed the growth would never stop -- what was he supposed to do, stay out of the sun forever? He was in a rotten mood when he heard a car pull up behind him on the deserted residential street. A spotlight was trained on him, and he heard a voice yelling "Freeze!" Adam slowly turned around, and the look on his face said murder. He stared icily down at the deputy, who had a taser pointed right at his chest. "Hands up!" Adam didn't move. "I said, hands up, asshole!" Adam stuck out his hands towards the cop, palms up. "Are you gonna cuff me?" He waited. The cop shuffled forward, taking out his handcuffs while keeping the taser trained on Adam. "We've been getting a bunch of calls about you -- smashing up a store, attacking some girl. But I've got you now, boy." He reached forward to snap the braces on Adam's obliging hands. The cuffs didn't fit. They wouldn't close around the solid thickness of Adam's wrists. The cop stuttered a bit, briefly at a loss for words, forgetting for a moment to keep the taser up. Adam took his chance. With lightning swiftness he raised one mighty clenched fist, intending not to injure, not to disable, but to kill. An arc of electricity leapt from the cop's hand. The pungent smell of ozone filled Adam's nostrils as the bolt struck his massive thigh. He roared in pain. The world seemed to swerve and drop around him, and he thought he would die. But he didn't. To the contrary, it was now that Adam made his third discovery. He managed to remain on his feet, but his skull-crushing blow hadn't made contact -- his clenched fist swished through empty air. As his vision cleared he wondered what the hell had happened. The cop was backing away from him, aghast, stun gun dangling at his side. Apparently I missed him, thought Adam. Then he realized why. Everything around him was smaller. The cop who had a moment ago been level with his chest was now closer to his waist. Everything else was smaller too. Adam realized he must have grown -- about two feet in the space of seconds, he guessed. Actually, that was an underestimate -- he was now just over eleven feet tall. He laughed stupidly as he made the realization -- it wasn't just sunlight, it was energy. Probably any kind of energy. Sunlight had gotten him pretty far, he thought, but that was nothing to the huge electric current the powerful little weapon had just pumped into his body. Two and a half feet worth of power and muscle -- Adam's weight was well over a ton now. The little cop looked weak with fear. He cried out as Adam, leaning down, struck him lightly on the side of the head. The giant's glancing blow smashed him into the side of the squad car, sending him bleeding and unconscious to the pavement. The taser clattered to the ground. Adam reached down to pick the tiny thing up. Whatever chance he'd had for a normal life was gone now -- at eleven feet he couldn't even go in his own house any more. As long as he was going to be a freak, he figured, he might as well be a big one. He jammed the terminals of the taser against his naked thigh and pulled the trigger. Intense pain mixed with equally intense ecstasy as he watched the world shrinking around him. After twenty seconds the effect stopped, the powerful device's batteries having been totally drained. Adam casually snapped it in his hand, crushing the delicate assembly of plastic and metal. He took a look around, laughing at his absurd size. He stood fully twenty-one feet tall now. His heart was pounding hard but he felt strong. Eight solid tons of muscle stood and looked around, wondering what to do first. Lifting one foot up high, he stomped it down in the middle of the waiting squad car's roof. Glass shattered as the support pillars buckled, crushing the roof down into the seats. Snarling, Adam grabbed the side of the car, tilting it up with one hand. He took hold of the axles, one in each hand, and hoisted the car high above his head, laughing at its lightness and fragility. Then with an explosive grunt he flung the huge weight down at the pavement, totally smashing in the driver's side. He left it sitting on its side amidst scattered bits of metal and glass. He looked down at the deputy, dazed but alive, and considered just crushing his skull underfoot. But he decided to let the man live, as thanks for allowing him to make this incredible discovery. Besides, he had more fun things in store. He walked down the middle of the street. Occasionally a car would approach. He'd stand squarely in its way, looking down at it, massive arms folded over his colossal chest. Invariably the car would screech to a halt, little passengers looking up through the windshield at the gigantic man blocking their way. Adam would lift one leg and rest it on the hood. As his powerful muscles pressed down, the hood would begin to buckle. It was at this point that the people flung open the doors and ran, ran from the hulking young man who proceeded to destroy the car. Adam figured it wouldn't be long reports started pouring in and more cops arrived. He needed to get bigger. That was easy, though. Power lines ran all down one side of the street. Adam was already as tall as the poles, but he wondered if he could handle that much juice. He decided to try. He stood before the thick black cable, hanging at about chest height. He took a deep breath, steeling himself for the pain. In one swift movement, he seized the cable in his hands, tore it in two, and rammed the sparking ragged ends into his sides. Lights in the surrounding homes dimmed as current poured into his body. It was incredibly exhilarating. Far from pain, the intense sensations were almost orgasmic, coupled with the heady rush of looking down and seeing his body grow. Thirty feet. Forty feet. At the corner about 50 yards away, a transformer was starting to glow cherry red as enormous amperages flowed through it, fueling the giant's growth. Fifty feet. The wooden pole supporting the transformer, now white hot, was starting to smoke. Just shy of sixty feet, the transformer exploded, showering the area with glowing shrapnel. Adam felt the growth stop as the wires in his hands went dead. He looked around, amazed at what he saw. Sixty feet, more or less. He didn't know that, exactly, but he could see all the houses of the neighborhood, no more than waist high to him. He also didn't know he now weighed almost 190 tons, but he could see the trees shaking as he walked, could see the asphalt cracking under his feet. With a vicious snarl he raised his foot over a parked car and stomped it down, completely crushing it. He laughed, and now his laughter was like thunder, carrying for miles over the rooftops. It wasn't even five o'clock yet. Plenty of time for a newly minted giant to have some fun. An evil thought crossed his mind. Some unfinished business he had. What the hell, he figured, nothing could stop him now. He started back in the direction from which he came. He approached a busy commercial street, lined with strip malls and fast food restaurants. He looked down, smiling at the traffic snarl his appearance was creating. So many tiny little cars, with tiny little drivers all of them at his mercy. He didn't much care if they lived or died. It would be so easy to just pick one up and crush it in his hand. As he stood there, contemplating this, he realized something -- in this area, the power was on. In wasn't near dark enough for streetlights yet, but from every building garish neon was blinking. He smiled. His last growth spurt had blacked out the neighborhood -- but it seemed he'd left the affected area. And for what he had in mind, he could stand to be a little taller. He reached down, utterly fearless this time, for the nearest power line. He pressed it into his calf muscle, and sucked in his breath as the rush of energy slammed into him. Terrified onlookers watched as the already huge man grew even larger. They could see the massive bulging muscles rippling as they grew longer and thicker under his tough skin. The line Adam grabbed was a heavier-duty one than the first one, intended to serve scores of thriving businesses rather than a quiet residential neighborhood. Even though each additional inch required more and more power, he got another forty feet out of this one before it too blew. The neon signs winked off in unison. Adam dropped the dead wire, looking down on the intersection from his hundred-foot vantage point, intent on doing even more destruction. But that could wait. Right now he had somewhere else in mind. He turned and thundered away. The neighborhood felt the trembling of the ground long before they caught sight of Adam himself. But once he got there he was hard to miss, his ponderous bulk threading his way through the familiar streets. Until, at last, he was back at Amy's house. Only this time, rather than knocking on the door, he was big enough to destroy it with a couple of well-placed kicks. That wasn't what he had in mind, though. "I'M BAAACK!" he roared, his colossal voice rattling windows all around. "I HOPE YOU'RE IN THE MOOD BY NOW!" With that, he unfastened his shorts and dropped them to his ankles, revealing a massive rock-hard cock. With an enormous thud Adam dropped to his knees in front of the house. The hairy pillars of thigh muscle rose up from the ground, reaching higher than the roof. His gigantic erection smacked into the roof of the house, crushing it in a bit and sending a spurt of pleasure shooting up Adam's spine. "OOH, THAT'S THE STUFF," Adam moaned. He rubbed one hand sensuously over his colossal chest, before bending over the tiny house. "I HOPE YOU DON'T MIND, BUT I DON'T THINK JUST THE TWO OF US WILL WORK ANYMORE." With that, he thrust his hips forward, sending his massive cock crashing through the front of the house. "IT'S GONNA TAKE SOMETHING BIGGER TO SATISFY A MAN LIKE ME." He leaned forward, pressing his elbows into the ground of the backyard. His thick meaty forearms crushed flat a fence and a jungle gym in the backyard of the house behind Amy's, but Adam paid no attention. With his gigantic form arched over the entire house, he began to rut. He groaned as his colossal meat smashed walls and furnishings. He savored the intense sensations as things were battered to pieces against his most senstive flesh. The hairy iron grid of Adam's washboard stomach hung over the house, just barely above the roof. With every grunting thrust, the house shuddered and shook as those great blocks of abdominal muscle slammed into it. His massive thighs and hips bludgeoned the front as his 11-foot steel battering ram drove deeper and deeper into the house. He watched as the back door was flung open, and three tiny figures emerged, right under Adam's nose. They stared up for a second at the gargantuan chest hanging over them, before fleeing. Adam watched them go. He could have crushed them in an instant, but at the moment he was occupied with fucking their home to pieces. Tiny onlookers watched, horrified and fascinated, as Adam's frenzied lust built in intensity. They had to dodge his huge feet and legs, which were knocking aside cars and trees as they jerked back and forth. Then Adam's moans grew into a deafening roar, and they watched every muscle in his colossal body contract as he climaxed, his veiny cock blowing gallons of semen into the battered structure. He felt absolutely wonderful. Every muscle in his body felt like rubber. Exhausted from his efforts, he let himself simply collapse to the ground, crushing the beleaguered house into rubble underneath his bulk. He lay there for a moment, luxuriating in the feeling. Then, almost lazily, he rolled over onto his back, casually bulldozing aside the home of an unfortuate neighbor. He lay quietly, listening to his own breathing, enjoying the easy rhythm of his chest's expansion and contraction. He turned his head to one side, noticing a stately maple tree lying within arm's reach. He wrapped his fingers around its trunk, and with the slightest tug tore it from the ground. He had to laugh, laugh at the idea of commanding such awesome power. He didn't feel like getting up, but as he lay there, he started to hear sirens. Dozens of them. Distant, but drawing nearer. It was time for action. He got to his feet, brushing off the shattered timbers that clung to his sweaty frame. He reached down and pulled up his shorts. For the first time he realized that his shorts were growing with him. He'd just never noticed it before. It must be because I'm wearing them, he thought, and I could never tell when I was growing slowly 'cause I was wearing something different everyday. It was interesting -- somehow whatever had gotten into him affected an ordinary pair of soccer shorts as well -- but probably not important right now. Right now he had a showdown with the cops on his mind. It was time to get bigger. He looked around, casually scratching his chest. For the first time, he noticed all the little people surrounding the zone of destruction, staring up at his gigantic form in disbelief. "WHAT'RE YOU LOOKIN' AT?" he roared, stomping his foot into the ground, making it shake a little. People began to back away from him nervously. Angered, Adam took one step in the direction of a nearby group, bringing his foot down on an overturned car with a colossal crunch. The gawkers turned and fled, scattering away from Adam in every direction. He reached down and picked up a car, hurling it in the general direction of some of them. It missed the people but wiped out the second story of the house it struck. With a satisfied grunt, Adam turned to go. He was near the edge of town, and somewhere around here he remembered seeing an electrical substation. It was to the north, he thought. He moved through the shrunken landscape, smashing cars and trees with contemptuous ease. He was beginning to wonder if he'd gone the wrong way when he spotted it a few blocks away and rushed over. His face split with a wide grin. Here was the terminus of the long-distance high tension wires, the point where their power was split up into the dozens of feeder lines that branched all over the city. An enormous amount of energy was flowing at this very moment through the six-inch thick conductors suspended from sturdy 70-foot steel pylons. He walked right up to them, wondering what that kind of power would do to him. He took one last look at the city from his current height, then gathered the power lines in one fist, tearing them from their supports, and pressing the whole bunch into the middle of his chest. Miles away, operators in one of the power grid control rooms saw the load on one set of high-tension lines climb dramatically. As the needles shot up into the red zone, the men in the control room wondered what it was that could be drawing that much current. Back on the edge of the city, Adam was expanding visibly. The golden light of late afternoon made his bronzed muscular form seem to glow with vitality. Larger and larger he grew, gaining fifty feet in just a few seconds. He reached a hundred and eighty feet. Two hundred. Two hundred ten. By the time the overloaded circuit breakers shut down the line feeding his growth, he'd reached a towering two hundred and twenty feet. His mass was an unbelievable 9300 tons. Dropping the dead wires in his hand, he placed his hands on his hips and looked out over the town and laughed, huge rolling thunderclaps of laughter that shook the whole town. Now I'm ready to face the cops, he thought. He started forward, doing tremendous damage with every step. He stepped easily over the puny houses scattered all around him -- usually. Sometimes he'd "miss" and his huge foot would crash into a home, pulverizing it instantly. In no time he was back, towering over the crowded main drag of the town. A couple dozen blocks away he could see tiny flashing red and blue lights. He walked toward them, paying no attention to the civilian cars he was crushing and mangling with each step. One car after another became a flat pancake of metal clinging to the bottom of his great sole. When he reached the cops there was simply nothing they could do to protect themselves. He reached down, grabbing every blue and white car around and crushing each to scrap in his hand. Brave men screamed for mercy as Adam easily wiped out the police force sent to stop him. A few managed to get off shots before being destroyed; they watched in horror as even the most powerful ammunition pinged harmlessly off Adam's hardened skin. Crushing the last of the squad cars between his fingers, Adam reflected on how harmless they'd been to him. He stroked his stubbled chin, looking down on the tiny city, looking out over the buildings and inhabitants that were totally at his mercy. He knew it wouldn't last, though -- these were just city cops that he'd just massacred. Pretty soon they'd call out the military, and then Adam might be in trouble. He had to find a new source of energy, first. There was nothing left for him in the town -- his last growth spurt had torn out the main supply of electricity to the town, and the few generators scattered around at hospitals and schools weren't enough to make him grow much. But those wires had to come from somewhere, reasoned Adam. Ignoring the crunching from underfoot as he trod on houses and cars, he strode back across the city to the ruined substation, and started to follow the dead power lines back to their source. * * * * * Pine River Station was a coal-fired power plant, two boilers producing a combined 600 megawatts of electricity. It sat on the bank of the river for which it was named, just a few miles upstream of the Pacific. Major distribution trunks spread out from the facility, feeding Pine River electricity into the energy-hungry power grid of central California. Extra operators had been called in to investigate the sudden failure of the No. 2 line. Around 6:30, the load on that line climbed dramatically upward, as if everyone in Bakerton had turned on their air conditioning at once. In twenty seconds the drain on the line had passed the previous record high and was still climbing steeply. Alarms rang in the control room as transformers began to overheat. No. 2 kept drawing more and more power until the breakers had overloaded and the whole line was automatically shut down, leaving the city of Bakerton and surrounding areas without power. Now trained engineers were poring over records of the incident, looking for clues as to its cause, while repair crews had been dispatched to look for faults along the entire transmission route. The all-wheel drive truck bumped a bit as Tom Davison steered it across a grassy the meadow. The transmission line cut straight as an arrow across 70 miles of countryside, evenly spaced towers stretching into the distance. Master Dale Moore had let his assistant take the wheel as they drove along parallel to the line, his more experienced eyes glued to the wires overhead, inspecting the towers and lines for signs of wear or breakage. Each tower was a sturdy steel lattice, rising up from the four corners of a wide square base. The four legs came together in a sort of waist about forty feet off the ground. The vertical body of the tower split at the top into three broad arms, each supporting a thick copper conductor. He was concentrating on his work, letting Davison keep his eyes on the road. He figured that it was most likely a faulty insulator -- the thick glass cylinders separating the wire from the steel tower were the most vulnerable component of the whole setup. Moore was nearly thrown into the windshield as the truck screeched to a halt. "What do you think you're doin--", he spluttered, before being noticing the sudden terror in young Tom's eyes. Tom was pointing out the windshield. "L-look at th-that..." he mumbled. Moore's jaw dropped. A few hundred yards away he could see a man. A giant of a man -- a huge, heavily muscled behemoth, striding right at them. He seemed to move slowly, deliberately, enjoying the spectacle of trees and vegetation being crushed and smashed aside by his enormous feet. As the two linemen watched, the giant happened across a house, a big rambling farmhouse typical for this country. The giant saw it too. He moved toward it, the muscles of his colossal legs flexing as he lifted one foot above it. Moore and Davidson jumped in their seats as the cruel giant crushed it with one step. As he lifted his foot from the remains of the smashed home, the giant looked down, and a big grin showed brilliant white teeth. Seemingly encouraged by the sight of such total destruction under his foot, he looked around hungrily, searching for something else to wreck. With a deep rumbling chuckle they watched him seized the nearest electric tower. He reached down to grab the thigh-high structure about halfway up, the strong steel girders bending like rubber as enormous fingers clamped around them. One tug with his bulging muscled arm tore the whole thing free. The graceful conducting wires snapped and fell to the ground, barely more than threads to the colossal giant. He swung the tower up, catching it with his other hand. As he held it horizontally across his broad chest it looked no more sturdy than a tangle of wire coat hangers. With a cruel, determined sneer on his face the giant began to twist the structure up in knots. The steel yielded easily to the superior strength of his massive arms and chest. Adam could feel the incredible strength of his body overpowering the soft metal as he demolished one of the little electric towers. Bits of it fell to the ground as he bent and snapped its beams. Finally he just crushed the remainder between his hands, wadding it up into a little ball which he chucked into the distance. As he watched it bounce and roll, he noticed a tiny little truck stopped near the base of one of the towers. They were watching him, it seemed. He took a step toward them and the truck lurched into motion. The driver made a quick three-point turn and roared away. Adam laughed and gave chase. The truck was probably doing 70, bouncing over the grass, but Adam was faster. In just a few steps he'd caught up with them. He could have stomped them flat easily, but instead he smashed his right foot down directly in their path, forcing them to stop. He reached down and grabbed the car, marvelling at how tiny it was in comparison to his hulking muscled frame. He turned it vertically, pressing it against his torso and running it up his body, playing with it like a toy. The rubber tires felt funny against his hard muscles. Suddenly Adam yelped; some of his chest hairs had gotten wound around the tiny axles as he drove it across his mammoth pecs. The unexpected sharp pain had caused him to involuntarily close his hand around the car a little -- leaving it crumpled but intact. Carefully he ran it backwards, releasing his pinched hair and shredding the truck's transmission to ribbons. He held the destroyed vehicle up, looking in through the windshield at the two terrified but unhurt men inside. The truck's interior was suddenly sprayed with glass as Adam rammed his tree- trunk-sized finger in through the driver's side window, shearing off the roof. His finger had struck the driver, knocking him out cold, but the tiny passenger was conscious and obviously scared shitless. Adam grinned widely down at the little men in his hand. He'd already decided to let them go, but he figured he'd have a little fun first. He dumped them out onto his palm. He stared at them with an ominous, menacing look, not taking his eyes off the conscious one, even as he slowly crushed their tiny truck in his enormous fingers. After tossing the mangled vehicle away, he started to curl the fingers of his other hand in toward his little prisoners, threatening to crush them like he'd crushed the car. He was amused by the little man begging and pleading for his life to be spared. "OH HELL, YOU'RE NOT BIG ENOUGH TO BOTHER WITH ANYWAY." His voice was a colossal thunder, so loud they couldn't even understand his words. Without ceremony he squatted down and dumped them out on the ground. "JUST REMEMBER HOW EASILY I COULD HAVE CRUSHED YOU," boomed Adam, raising his foot above them. He smashed it down, narrowly missing the shivering little man and his blacked-out companion. With that, Adam started forward, heading towards the power plant without giving the little men a second thought. He could see it in the distance now -- the large squat building, the smokestacks almost as tall as him. Within the plant they could feel the earth shaking as nine thousand tons of bone and sinew thundered closer. He was unstoppable. His foot crushed a couple of cars as he crossed the parking lot in three earth- shattering strides. Adam stopped right up next to the plant, looking down at the forest of wires and transformers that fed the large transmission lines that branched off. Licking his lips with anticipation, Adam squatted down and plunged both hands into that nest of wires. In the control room, every gauge was spinning madly as Adam's body started to drain energy from the plant. The station was running at full capacity, due to the heat of summer, but now the entire 600 megawatt output was being pumped into Adam's already huge form. Far away in Sacramento, warning buzzers began to sound as the master control board for the state power grid showed Pine River's output suddenly just -- stop. Technicians were incredulous, watching as the flow of power cut off, and then, incredibly, reverse itself. It wasn't just than Pine River had shut down, it seemed, rather it looked like something out there was drawing an enormous amount of current. Lights dimmed in homes across hundreds of square miles as whatever it was sucked more and more power from the system. A cluster of onlookers watched from the parking lot, frightened and amazed, as the giant smashed his hands into the middle of the distribution network. Components exploded violently and huge arcs of lightning danced from one wire to another, but the giant paid no attention, seemingly unhurt by the incredible discharges. On the contrary, he seemed to be enjoying it. "He's getting bigger!" a woman shrieked. They could see it. His back was turned to them and he was squatting down, but they could see his gigantic form getting even larger. He was now even bigger than the building he was crouching next to. Still he grew. Adam shifted his stance, in order to keep his hands pressed down into the increasingly small junction. The earth trembled as he moved, and the curious onlookers began to turn and run, realizing that they weren't safe from the colossal young man's continued growth. His head passed the top of the stacks, and still he grew. His hands were so big now he could only keep one in contact with the wires. He placed the other one flat on the ground to steady himself, flattening as he did several cars and a couple unlucky people. Adam didn't even notice, wrapped up as he was in the incredible sensations accompanying his explosive growth. Workers were fleeing the plant in terror before Adam grew so big he crushed it. One had the presence of mind to run into the control room and pull the emergency scramble switch. There was a distant rush of steam and the floor vibrated as the huge generators started spun down. Outside, as the flow of power from the station dried up, Adam's growth process tried to take more and more energy from the rest of the supply grid. Steel supports softened and bent from the heat generated by hundreds of flowing megawatts. One by one, the transmission lines broke, wires falling to the ground with a halo of lightning. Finally the last line failed, and Adam's growth slowed to a halt. As his head cleared, Adam blinked several times, pulling his hand from the jumble of tangled wreckage. He slowly got to his feet, looking at the shrunken landscape around him. He scratched his powerful chest, slowly absorbing the scale of his body. He was nine hundred feet tall. The disabled power station was just a little box at his feet, ankle-high and no more than a couple feet square. The smokestacks barely reached his calves. Crushed under his feet was most of the of the parking lot, scattered with little cars not even an inch long. Grinning, he kicked the smokestacks. It was just a little tap, but they shattered and collapsed into the river. Adam laughed. He reached down and seized the locomotives of a train stopped on an adjacent track. A string of coal cars dangled from his hand as he crushed the big diesel engines flat. He squatted down once again and started to demolish the power plant itself, pulverizing it with a few blows of his massive fist. After destroying it, he looked in wonder down at himself. He'd never imagined someone so huge. He didn't know what to do with himself. He stood and looked back the way he'd come, towards his hometown. I could pound them back into the Stone Age, he thought, I could bulldoze the whole fucking town flat. He stroked his chin, the fate of the thousands in his hands. Then he started to move -- not back to the city, but west, towards the ocean. * * * * * After the initial shock and sensation, the people of the area calmed down quite a bit. The destruction of property was incredible, of course, but the body count was surprisingly low, especially compared to what could have been. Barely five dozen people lost their lives in what became known as the Atherton Incident. There was initially fear that the giant would attack LA or San Francisco next, but as the weeks and months passed with no sign of Adam, all but the most paranoid evacuees moved back and got on with life. The news stories went from page one to page three to page nine to page nothing. Californians put up with earthquakes, mudslides, and fires -- what was one more threat of natural disaster? For a while, there was a rumor circulating that the military had cut a deal with the giant. Given him an island the South Pacific, they said, all the food and clothing he wanted, in exchange for peace, and maybe occasionally smashing up some banana republic whose dictator we didn't like. The Pentagon denied such reports strenuously, of course, so everyone quite naturally assumed they were true. Whatever happened, though, Adam Atherton was never seen again. * * * * * Adam didn't need food or shelter. He didn't grow much anymore, either -- even with the incredible catalyst still circulating in his bloodstream, the sunshine that fell on his body was almost entirely used to power the colossal masses of muscle he already had. What was left over was barely enough to add two inches a year to his height -- which was nothing for a man who already towered over 910 feet. He leaned back. It didn't concern him. 660,000 tons of brawn was plenty for one man, anyway. He yawned and stretched, the massive bulging muscles of his arm rippling and flexing as he rubbed his fingers over a hairy expanse of rock- hard washboard stomach. It felt good to be alive. He wondered what to do next. •

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