Kirby Hall, Friday afternoon, Sept 30th, 2016
“It’s ALIVE,” I cried out, as if I was some mad-scientist from an old horror movie.
Bending over, I took a closer look at the vial of black liquid that was bubbling over a bunsen burner. It looked gross and disgusting, just like something out of one of those movies, hence the dramatic exclamation. There were several other containers of similar liquids spread out on the work station, as well as some powders.
What I was doing, was more like alchemy than mad-science, not that I actually knew anything about alchemy. In fact, I wasn’t really using any magic, and just about anyone else could have done the same thing if they had the ingredients at hand and instructions on how to do it.
At the moment, I was inside the magic workshop that my group had been assigned. This whole area was like the devisor labs, except for the magic students. Each work shop had various tools and equipment for our use, and most importantly, a lot of magic wards for safety and protection. Since I wasn’t actually doing any spell casting just then, I could have done this somewhere else, assuming that I actually had a place.
“I need to get my own lab,” I mused aloud. That way, I could do this kind of thing whenever I wanted, without the security and privacy concerns that came with a shared lab, that the faculty had full access too.
What I was up to, was simple. I was making my own inks, chalks, and paints, which would be useful for casting my spells. Since I could only do spells by drawing them out, I needed to have the right materials in order to get the best results.
In the book that I’d inherited from my grandmother, which I sometimes thought of as ‘How to Be the White Lady for Dummies’, there was a section that talked about how different materials could have different results, when rune magic was concerned. Writing a spell on paper might get an entirely different result, if the same symbols were drawn on leather. A spell that worked great when etched into a gold plate, might not work at all if etched into bronze or silver.
The was also true of inks. Different materials in the ink, could also affect the spell. I didn’t understand how it all worked, other than that this was all part of the ritual and tradition of the spells. And when you were relying on the law of precedent to make your magic work, ritual and tradition could be important.
The same section in the book, gave instructions on how to make some of my own inks and chalks, which is what I’d been doing for the last couple hours. There was one ink, that had silver nitrate mixed in, because some spells worked best if written in silver. There was one that was made from squid ink, though I’d only found one spell so far that required this. However, nearly all the inks, chalks, and paint that I’d just made, contained some of my own blood.
Blood was a powerful ingredient, and by mixing my blood with the ink, I’d be able to create a better link, and transfer my essence into the spell a lot more efficiently. From what I’d read, and experimented with myself, this meant that I got a bit more bang for my buck, when it came to casting spells.
Of course, using blood could also be dangerous. The same thing that let me transfer my essence into the spells more easily, also meant that if someone got hold of my blood, they could use it to cast spells on me more easily. Fortunately, once my blood had been processed to make these inks and chalks, that made it a lot more difficult for other people to use against me. Still, I’d have to be careful not to leave these things lying around, or to let people realize what was in them.
With that in mind, I took the tools and containers that had come in contact with my raw blood, and went to the cleaning station in the corner. After washing and sterilizing these items, I carefully put them away. Next, I took the paper towels and bandage that I’d used, and threw them into the small incinerator in the corner of the room. Most of the school magic labs had one of those, just for this kind of precaution.
Once everything was cleaned and sterilized, I looked at the book I’d brought with me and smiled in anticipation. There was one spell in the book, that would act as a magic fuse, in case anyone ever tried to cast a spell on me using my own blood. Since I was using my own blood, this would be an important precaution…once I was actually skilled enough to cast that spell. Unfortunately, at the moment, it was still beyond my skills. But one day, that would change.
By this time, most of my inks had cooled to room temperature, which meant that they were ready for use. I took the largest bottle, which contained my primary ink, which was just ink and blood mixed, without any fancy ingredients, and looked it over. A few seconds later, I pulled out a small paint brush, and used this ink to draw one of my primal runes into a sheet of paper.
“That should do it,” I said, gently blowing on the ink so that it would dry faster.
As soon as the ink was dry, I pushed a little essence into the spell. The paper burst into a ball of fire and vanished, leaving a broad grin on my face. Sure, I’d been able to do that before, though usually, it took a bit more essence to get that kind of effect. With this ink and my blood connection, I could get the same effect with noticeably less essence, which meant that I had more essence for other things.
It only took a few minutes to get everything else cleaned up, which mostly meant sealing up my containers and carefully loading them into my back pack. Then, I put my personal equipment which I’d brought in with me, into the locker. The locker wasn’t completely secure, but what was at Whateley? There were far too many ways to get into something like that, which was why I was bringing my inks and chalks with me.
“I really need to get my own lab,” I repeated with a sigh, thinking about all those secret rooms that supposedly filled the school tunnel system. I’d have to ask around and find out what it took to get one of those for myself.
Just as I was about to leave, I saw another student come out of one of the labs. He had brown hair, tanned skin, and seemed to be in a good mood. However, I scowled at the sight of Racoon, tensing up and waiting for him to pull something. He saw me looking and gave a brief wave, which I didn’t return. Did he really think I’d let my guard down that easily?
The first time I’d met Racoon, he’d seemed nice and friendly. Sure, his mom was a supervillain, but it wasn’t like I could say anything about that. I was technically the head of a crime family, even if it was only as a figurehead. But then, a couple weeks ago, the Bad Seeds had sent a hired thug named Beatdown, to rough me up, just so that I’d go running to them for protection. Apparently, they never expected me to defeat Beatdown, or that I’d be able to make him tell me who’d hired him.
“They underestimated me,” I muttered under my breath. Just about everyone did, and I wasn’t sure yet if that was a good thing or bad. The Messenger had underestimated me, and I was only alive now because of that.
With a scowl, I started back to my dorm room, though I continued thinking about the Bad Seeds. They were the children of supervillains, and in other circumstances, I might even have joined them. However, after what they’d pulled on me, there was no chance of that. They’d declared war on me for no good reason, and I’d spent the last two weeks trying to figure out what to do about it. Or, being more honest with myself, I’d been procrastinating, afraid that anything I did, would only make things worse.
One of the things that concerned me, was that I’d get my friends caught in the crossfire. I had no doubt that most of my friends in the Mutant Mayhem Machine would watch my back and help me against the Bad Seeds. Hell, my roommate Morgana would probably be happy to charge in with fists swinging, and that was one of the things I was worried about. I didn’t want to get my friends in trouble.
“I need to do something,” I reminded myself. “But what?”
I silently asked myself what Tessa or Marcus would do in this situation. Then, I asked what my Grandmother would do. However, I wasn’t sure any of their solutions would work in this situation. In fact, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t. The first thing I needed, was more information. I needed to know more about the Bad Seeds and what I’d have to deal with.
Crystal Hall, Friday evening, Sept 30th, 2016
I was sitting at my usual table in the cafeteria, eating dinner with some of my friends. At the moment, it was mostly just those of us in Poe, since we’d come over together. However, I expected that one or two other members of my training team would show up before long.
To my right, was my roommate, Morgana. She was British, and she could transform into a more intimidating form, where she looked like some kind of demon. Needless to say, she was a bit odd, but so were the rest of my friends, and I had no doubt that they would say the same thing about me. After all, between my pure white skin and hair, and my unusual family, I was hardly the poster-child for normalcy either.
On the other side of Morgana, was Laura. Where my skin and hair were chalk white, hers were Smurf blue…not that I’d ever say that to her. For some reason, Laura took any comparisons to a Smurf, rather personally.
Bailey was on Laura’s other side, and she seemed more focused on her meal than on the conversation. She looked up, and seemed to be about to say something, but her mouth was full of food. With a brief shrug, she turned her attention back to eating.
And then, to my left, there was my friend Janine. She was the only one of us who wasn’t a poesie, and therefore, didn’t know our cottage secret. But in spite of that, she’d recently been spending a lot of time in Poe anyway, usually to hang around with me. For some reason, Janine had gotten it into her head that she was now my personal assistant, not that I wanted or needed one. However, she was also a good friend and didn’t care about who my grandmother had been.
“How’s your new invention coming?” I asked Janine, who immediately brightened up with a broad smile.
Janine was a gadgeteer, but not an especially powerful or high tech one. While other people in the labs were making jet packs and death rays, Janine focused on complicated domino chains and Rube Goldberg machines. They were fun to watch, and a bit silly, but not exactly the kind of thing that people expected of a gadgeteer. As a result, Janine didn’t get a lot of respect from the other kids in the labs, and appreciated any interest in her work all the more for it.
“It’s going great,” Janine beamed. “I’m almost finished with it too… In fact, I should be done tomorrow.”
“I look forward to seeing it,” I told her honestly, knowing that this was her most ambitious project so far.
Janine’s eyes seemed to light up at that. “If you come to the labs with me tomorrow, you can help me test it.”
“Tomorrow is the big party,” Morgana reminded us. I would have been perfectly happy to forget.
“Then Sunday morning,” Janine said. “I’ll test it then.”
I nodded my agreement. “Sure. That should be fun.”
“I’m curious to see what you came up with,” Laura told Janine, though I suspected that this was more to be polite than for any real interest. Laura was the kind of devisor who really could create those impressive science fiction type weapons, so probably wasn’t very impressed by Janine’s accomplishments.
Morgana grinned and announced, “What one of you needs to come up with, is an alarm clock that wakes me up in the morning, with a big mug of quality coffee…”
“They already make coffee machines with a timer,” I pointed out wryly.
“Maybe,” Morgana agreed with a broad grin. “But I figure you lab wonks should be able to come up with something a lot better. I mean, if you can make a death ray, surely you can come up with a better way of delivering coffee in the morning…”
“So, you wake up and get your favorite brew handed to you,” I commented.
“Precisely,” Morgana agreed.
“And get a foot massage while you drink it,” I continued.
Morgana grinned more broadly. “Now you’re thinking.”
“So, basically, you want Rosie the robot,” Laura pointed out.
“Not a bad idea,” Morgana agreed. “Now, if you’ll get on that right away…”
Laura rolled her eyes, making it clear what she thought of the idea. I chuckled faintly, as did Janine and Bailey.
“So,” Morgana asked, pausing to take a good sized bite of her dinner. “What does everyone have planned for tonight?”
“I’m doing a little babysitting for the Wyatts,” Laura answered.
“Homework,” Bailey offered.
Janine looked a little self-conscious as she added, “I’m designing a new domino track.”
With a shrug, I said, “I was thinking of touching up some of the wards in our room…especially the sound dampening one that blocks out most of the snoring.”
Morgana casually flipped me off. “Just leave my coffee cup alone…”
It was about this time that I noticed two more of my friends heading towards our table. Hikaru and Tia were walking over together, which was no surprise since they both lived in Melville.
“Hey,” Tia greeted us with a smile and brief wave.
“Hello,” Hikaru said a second later.
When I’d first met Hikaru, she’d really come off as stuck up and arrogant, a bit like my older cousin Nicolette, or at least, like Nicolette had been. But the longer I knew Hikaru, the more I realized that a lot of this was an act, sort of like when I put on my metaphorical White Lady mask, in order to present a specific image. I was still trying to get a feel for the real Hikaru, which wasn’t easy, because she tended to be guarded and private, even among her friends.
I finished eating a few minutes later, as did the others who’d come with me. However, we remained at the table for another half hour anyway, just to hang out and talk. Eventually, though, we all got up to leave. As nice as it was to chat, we still had other things planned.
A short time later, I returned to my room, alone, since Morgana had other plans for the moment. Once I had the door locked behind me, I went to my closet and looked at the small safe that was hidden in the back. Tessa had sent me the safe, which had a few spells cast on it, making it a bit more secure than a normal safe of that make.
“Let’s see,” I mused, opening the safe and checking the contents.
Inside the safe, there was the book I’d inherited from my grandmother, all the new inks and chalks that I’d made using my own blood, and a few other small items, including a small stack of cash. I was fairly wealthy on paper, but I couldn’t actually access most of that money until I was an adult. Fortunately, Marcus gave me a decent allowance, enough to cover all my extra expenses, as long as I didn’t go crazy.
“I hope this is enough,” I muttered, taking two hundred dollars from the stack before putting the rest back into the safe.
A minute later, I left my room and started upstairs. I was only about halfway up the flight, when I passed Cherry Bomb, an attractive and somewhat punk girl, with short dark hair, who was on her way down. Cherry gave me a friendly smile and wave before she leapt down the rest of the steps with ease.
I was a little startled that Cherry Bomb was friendly towards me, or at least, I would have been if I hadn’t met her in passing, a couple times before. From what I knew of her, she was usually energetic and aggressive, though not in a particularly hostile way. She was a low-level exemplar, though she didn’t have the typical exemplar looks, as well as a devisor with a specialization in explosives, which was a prime example of her aggressive nature. However, the reason that her friendliness surprised me, was that she also happened to be a member of the Cape Squad.
Since I was the White Lady, and the official head of the Family, which was generally considered to be a criminal organization, I would have expected the Future Superheroes of America to be more than a little hostile towards me. However, other than a few suspicious and dirty looks from the club’s members, they’ve pretty much left me alone. I suspected that this was probably because several of the members, happened to be poesies, who might be a little sympathetic, because they knew a bit more about my real past than was publicly available.
After giving Cherry Bomb a polite nod and wave back, though she was probably gone too quick to see them, I continued to my destination. I went to the hallway where the junior lesbians were housed, and quickly found the correct door. Coincidentally, this happened to be Cherry Bomb’s room, though she wasn’t the one I was here to see. I hesitated only a moment, long enough to take a deep breath and prepare myself, then I raised my hand to knock.
“Come on in, Glyph,” a voice called out from the other side of the door, before I’d knocked.
Then, before I could even touch the door, it swung open on its own. I might have found that a bit creepy and intimidating, if I hadn’t known that one of the room’s residents was a mage.
Stepping into the room, I immediately saw the girl who’d positioned herself, right in the center. She was gorgeous, with creamy pale skin, high cheekbones, and long black hair. Obviously, she was an exemplar.
“Hello, Scrye,” I said politely, careful not to show any sign of being startled by the way I’d been greeted.
The older girl was sitting in a large chair, which gave the faint impression of being a throne. And if that was the case, then I was put into the position of having to approach and petition her, which immediately put me on my guard. My grandmother had played similar power games with people who came to see her, so I recognized what she was doing.
Like myself, Scrye was a magic user, though that wasn’t why I’d come to talk to her. At least not directly. She also happened to be an information broker around campus.
“Please have a seat,” Scrye said with a smile and a pleasant tone.
She gestured to another chair, which was smaller, less impressive, and lower than her own. If I hadn’t been aware of what she was doing, I might have fallen into the subtle psychological trap she’d set. However, since I was aware of it, I put on my White Lady mask and sat down with a fake smile, to play along.
“Glyph,” Scrye said. “Or would you prefer to be called Bianca?”
“Bianca will work fine,” I answered with a faint smile. It seemed silly to go by my codename when she knew my real one. In fact, she probably knew my original name of Bryan too.
Scrye nodded faintly, but didn’t ask me to call her by her real name. Instead, she said, “To be honest, I was expecting you to come see me a little sooner than this…”
“You know why I’m here?” I asked curiously.
The older girl hesitated a moment before answering. “There are several services I can offer, which would be of use to you. But admittedly, I’m not certain which of those finally drew you here.”
I felt a little relieved that she didn’t know everything, though if she had, that would have said something impressive about her abilities. For a moment, I just sat there, considering my answer and whether I wanted to keep playing her game. In my head, I could almost hear Tessa telling me that this kind of game was normal for someone in my position, and that I should practice it while I could. Eventually, the results of this kind of game could have serious consequences.
“I want to know more about the Bad Seeds,” I finally said.
The look on Scrye’s face immediately became completely professional. “What kind of information are you interested in, and what level of detail? Are you looking for something specific, or about someone specific? The price will vary, depending on how much information you require, and the difficulty in obtaining it.”
“I just want some basic information about who they are, what their powers are, and what I’ll be dealing with.” I paused at that, then reluctantly admitted, “I asked around campus, but got a lot of rumors, and I’m not sure how accurate it is.”
Scrye nodded at that, then sat there with a thoughtful look on her face for a few seconds. “That is doable.”
I watched Scrye, pretty sure that she already had the information I wanted and a whole lot more. She’d probably just been trying to decide how much to give me, and what she wanted in exchange. From what I’d heard about Scrye, she never gave information away for free.
“And what is the price?” I asked.
With a faint smirk, Scrye answered, “Information is my preferred currency, though I usually accept cash. In this case, there’s something you can do for me instead.”
“And what is that?” I asked, suddenly feeling wary.
“A simple matter for someone with your abilities,” Scrye told me. She got up and went to her desk and grabbed a piece of paper, which she came over and handed to me. “I would like you to translate this for me.”
I looked over the paper, which was covered in writing, in some language I didn’t recognize. However, just because I didn’t know what language it was, that didn’t mean I couldn’t read it. My translation ability made it as easy to read as if it had been in plain English.
While I read the page out loud, Scrye listened with a focused look. Since she was an exemplar, she was probably memorizing every word. The page seemed to be instructions on how to activate a magic amulet of some kind, but from Scrye’s expression, she hadn’t realized what was on the page, and apparently had no idea where this amulet was. However, when I was done, she nodded acceptance.
“I’ll have the information for you tomorrow,” she told me.
“Thank you,” I said politely, before I got up and left the room. I was still a little surprised, because I’d expected to pay a bit more than simple translation services. “I look forward to seeing it.”
Once I was back in the hall, I let out a sigh of relief and began walking back to my own room. I’d done it. I’d taken the first step in getting even with the Bad Seeds.
Poe Cottage, Saturday morning, Oct 1st, 2016
I bolted upright in bed, gasping for breath and shaking a little from my nightmare. I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d been dreaming about, but there had been sense of violence and people dying.
“Why do I have to keep dreaming about that?” I bitterly asked myself. “I already lived through it once. Isn’t that enough?”
After I’d calmed down a little, I looked over at Morgana, who was still sound asleep and snoring. Thankfully, this time I hadn’t woken her up with my nightmares. At least that was one thing to be grateful for.
One of the things that made Morgana such a great roommate, was that she actually understood. She had plenty of her own nightmares, so the two of us sometimes took turns waking each other up with them. It could be frustrating, to be woken up in the middle of the night by having her scream, but that was a small price to pay. Most other roommates wouldn’t have been nearly as sympathetic or understanding about my own screams.
It was late enough that I didn’t bother trying to go back to bed. Instead, I slipped on my robe, grabbed a book on Romani runes that I’d found in the school library, and went to the day room to do a little reading. If I couldn’t sleep, I might as well get a little studying in. So far, I’d already found a couple spells in this book, that might come in handy someday.
After getting comfortable in the day room, I opened up the book as well as a notebook that I’d been using to track the new rune spells that I’ve discovered. Eventually, I planned on transferring all of these to a good hardbound book, to make a better record of just what spells would work for me. But for now, it was more of a cheat sheet so I didn’t have to keep going back to whatever book I found these ones in.
“This might be useful,” I mused as I looked over one spell.
However, when I looked over the series of runes needed to cast the spell, several of them didn’t make any sense at all. I’d run into this kind of thing before when it came to the written portions of spells, where parts of them were nonsense. Sometimes, this was an accident, where someone accidentally wrote a rune down incorrectly, the equivalent of forgetting to dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T’. For normal writing, this kind of thing would be considered a minor mistake. However, for many runes, that small of a change could alter the entire meaning of the rune, or strip it of meaning entirely. I would be easy for someone who didn’t understand what the rune was actually supposed to mean, to copy this mistake and teach it to others. But at the same time, there were also magic users who intentionally inserted that kind of mistake into their records, as a form of code or sabotage, to keep others from stealing their knowledge and power.
As I looked over the spell, I wondered how well it would work, or if it would at all, when several of the runes were broken. Trying to test this might be the equivalent of casting a normal spell, but replacing several words with nonsense ones that you made up yourself. If you had enough essence, willpower, and focus, you could probably make the spell work, but not nearly as efficiently or effectively as if it was done right.
“And it’s more likely to blow up in your face,” I said with a shake of my head.
That broken spell was disappointing, but a few pages later, I found another one with promise. It was a fairly simple spell, using only one rune, which basically translated to ‘don’t look here’. I’ve heard of and seen similar spells, but this was one of the simplest versions that I’d run into so far. From what I saw, it wouldn’t be especially powerful, but it would make people much less likely to notice or pay much attention to whatever it was cast on…like a safe.
I considered the safe up in my closet and smiled. “Just the thing I need.”
Once I was finished, and had killed enough time, I packed up my things and went back to my room. Morgana was now up and awake, if you could call it that. My roommate moaned and staggered around the room, like some brain hungry zombie.
“Coffee,” Morgana moaned, in nearly the same tone that I might have expected a zombie to call for brains.
“You find coffee,” I told my still half-asleep roommate. “I’m going to take a shower.”
A minute later, I was in the showers down the hall. Since it was the weekend, rather than a regular school day, there weren’t any of the usual lines. In fact, the only girls who were present at the moment, besides me, were Flower and Laura. I made a specific effort, not to stare at either of them, even though they were walking around naked. Sometimes, the best thing about being allowed in the girl’s showers was one of the most difficult.
“Good morning,” Laura greeted me.
“Morning,” I responded a little uncomfortably.
I stepped into an open shower stall before we got into an awkward conversation, and turned on the water. My eyes went to the ‘special’ equipment that was built into the shower, but I was careful not to touch it. The Hydroflux system actually scared me a little. Using that stuff wasn’t just acknowledging my new parts and gender, it was embracing them to an extent that I wasn’t really ready for. I might not have any choice about being a girl, but I just couldn’t accept it quite as easily as Laura did.
Since my thoughts had turned in the direction of my changes, I was now quite aware of my body and new parts while I washed. Sometimes, I could go a couple days straight, without thinking about how strange my body felt, or how embarrassing it was to have breasts and a ya ya. But at other times, I was more than a little aware of it all.
I washed up as quickly as I could, trying to ignore my body at the same time. Maybe one day, I’d get used to this enough that it no longer seemed strange at all. One day.
When I was finished washing myself, it was time to dry off. I smiled faintly and reached for the mental switch to activate one of my built in spells, the one that let me control water. A second later, my eyes and all the watermark tattoos on my body, began to glow blue at the same time. This wouldn’t last long at all, but for the moment, I had the ability to control water, so I used this to pull all the loose water away from my skin and hair, and dropped it right into the drain. Like that, I was completely dry and the glow faded from my tattoos, along with the power. It would take me at least an hour to charge that spell up enough to use it again.
By this time, Laura and Flower had both finished up and moved on, leaving me with the entire place to myself. If I’d actually been tempted to use the Hydroflux system, now would have been the perfect time to do so.
Returning to my room, I saw Morgana was drinking from a large cup of coffee, and looking more awake already. She nodded to me in acknowledgement but didn’t say anything quite yet. Then, after taking another sip of coffee and letting out a yawn, she finally said, “Morning.”
“Unfortunately,” I agreed.
It might have been a Saturday, but that didn’t mean I was completely free of classes. I still had my costuming class to go to this morning, though at least, that was always an interesting one.
Just then, there was a knock on the door, right before something was slid under it. “What’s that?” Morgana asked.
“A folder,” I answered. “With my name on it.”
I picked up the folder and opened it up, though I wasn’t surprised to see the contents. After all, this was what Scrye had promised to get for me, files on the Bad Seeds. Each file consisted of a single sheet of paper, which gave limited information on one of the members. I quickly looked over the sheets and saw that there wasn’t really any new information. Between talking with Erica and asking around campus, I’d already learned all of this. However, it was hardly worthless, because this seemed to have the false information and rumors stripped out, leaving me with what actually appeared to an accurate report of each.
“This should be useful,” I mused. Sure, there wasn’t anything new here, but simply having all the inaccurate stuff tossed out, simplified things a great deal for me.
“What’s that?” Morgana repeated, though she was already pressed up against me to get a better look over my shoulder. “Oh, you’ve got a bunch of dossiers on the Bad Seeds. Nice.”
“Definitely,” I agreed, and all these had cost me, was some easy translation work.
“Just don’t plan on going to war with those guys this afternoon,” Morgana said. “We’ve got that party to go to.”
“Don’t remind me,” I responded with a shudder. “In fact, I think I’ll skip it…”
“Not on my watch,” my roommate responded with a grin.
The last time I’d been to a party, things hadn’t gone very well. Actually, that was definitely an understatement. The last time I’d gone to a party, I’d watched my entire family get murdered in front of me, and then, I’d proceeded to lose nearly everything else that meant anything to me, including my own identity. That party was the cause of the nightmare, that woke me up a short time ago, so I had absolutely no interest in going to another party, ever again.
Poe Cottage, Sunday late morning, Oct 2nd, 2016
I was in the Poe common room, curled up in a chair with a good book and a bottle of my favorite beverage. At that moment, I felt more like my old self than I had in a couple months. For a short time at least, I could forget my worries and pretend that I was still Bryan.
My drink was Black Cauldron rootbeer, made by a small company back in Chicago. Marcus had mailed me a case of the stuff just last week, to help with any homesickness I might have.
The book was the second novel in the Darius Shepard series, which were thriller adventure stories about spies and mutant conspiracies. I’ve read the entire series, and enjoyed it a lot, including this book, which I first read two years ago. However, after manifesting as a mutant myself, I went back and began reading them all over again.
Now that I knew a lot more about mutants, it was obvious how many ‘facts’ in the book, were inaccurate. That put a whole new spin on the series, which now came off more as anti-mutant propaganda than anything else. Still, it was well written propaganda.
As I shifted positions in my chair and then flipped the page, I decided that the only thing that was really missing, was a nice pizza from Mama Carlotti’s, or maybe even Gino’s East. The thought of good pizza, made the Chicago way, the way it was supposed to be, was enough to make me drool. The pizza in Crystal Hall wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t compare.
Just then, someone asked, “How can you read that crap?”
I looked up from my book and saw Chessa standing a short distance away, giving my book a look of disapproval. “Because,” I answered with an amused smile, “It’s a good story…”
Chessa rolled her eyes at that. “It’s also a bunch of BS…”
“I know,” I responded with a shrug. “But it’s well written BS, and pretty entertaining…” Then, before she could argue with me, I explained. “I used to be a big fan, but now that I know how various powers work, this is almost like reading a B-movie. I keep reading to see just what else he got wrong about mutants…and how bad.”
With a laugh, Chessa said, “I guess that makes a bit more sense…”
I just nodded agreement. “According to this, I must be possessed by some kind of evil spirit, and have to commit human sacrifices to perform any of my spells…” Well, the books were a little more subtle about it than that, which was why they were still fun to read, but they definitely took a negative view on mutants in general, and on how our powers worked.
“Somehow,” Chessa commented wryly, “I suspect that they wouldn’t be very positive about dragons either.”
“Precisely,” I agreed. Then, I hesitated a moment before admitting, “I heard that they’re actually making a movie of the first book. Is it wrong that I’m looking forward to seeing it?”
“Probably,” Chessa replied, though she was grinning as she said it.
After this, I glanced at the clock on the wall and realized that it was getting late. If I wanted to catch Janine while she was still down in the labs, I had to leave soon. With that, I gathered together my things and quickly hurried to my room.
“Hi,” I said to Morgana, as I dropped my book on the bed and set my half-empty bottle of rootbeer onto my desk. Then, before she even had a chance to respond, I said, “Bye,” and rushed back out the door.
“Weird girl,” I heard my roommate say from behind me.
I felt a little nervous, walking across campus by myself, especially after the way I’d been ambushed a couple weeks ago. There were a lot of people on campus who didn’t like me, for one reason or another, which meant that there was a good chance of it happening again. I had good reason to be worried. However, whether I liked it or not, I was the White Lady, and I couldn’t afford to let anyone see me acting afraid. Because of that, I tried to act as though I didn’t have a care in the world, or at least, like I could kick the ass of anyone who got in my way. If nothing else, maybe I could make people think twice about trying anything.
While I walked, I kept a close watch on my surroundings, trying to see if there was anything suspicious. My friends sometimes joked that I was paranoid, but was it really paranoia if people really were out to get you? Paranoid or not, I didn’t want to get ambushed again, not by hired thug like Beatdown, not by obnoxious jerks like Weaponeer and Photech, and certainly not by anyone that Scorn might send after me.
Since it was Sunday, there weren’t nearly as many people wandering around as there would be at this time on a weekday, but the area was hardly abandoned. There were enough kids around, that a couple of them gave me the stink-eye. My reputation as a supervillain and mob boss had already spread around campus, even if it was mostly undeserved. Ironically, the people who were the most hostile, and most likely to cause me problems, were the ones who thought of themselves as the ‘good guys’. And the Bad Seeds, I had to remind myself.
Once I reached Kane Hall I went down into the tunnels, and then to the labs where all the devisors and gadgeteers worked. It didn’t take me long to find the area I was looking for, since it was a large room with numerous desks and work stations set up for the students.
“Bianca,” Janine called out from the far side of the room. She was standing at her work station, waving for my attention.
I waved back as I walked over to her. “Hi,” I greeting Janine, before turning my attention to the girl at the next work station over. “Hello, Giggles.”
“Hello, Bianca,” Giggles responded in a polite tone.
Giggles used to be a little friendlier towards me, but ever since I was outed as the White Lady, she’d become a bit cool and distant. I was pretty sure she thought that I was trying to turn Janine into my henchgirl or something, and having Janine suddenly announce that she was my personal assistant, didn’t help any. This was annoying, but I couldn’t blame her for trying to look after our mutual friend.
A moment later, Giggles held up her hand, revealing the odd looking glove she was wearing. It was made of something resembling black and red rubber, but it had a few wires and metal pieces running through it. Then, as I watched, sparks shot between the fingers.
“Now, I just need to test the improvements on my shock glove,” Giggles said, in what I suspected was meant to be a subtle threat.
“Awesome,” Janine exclaimed, giving the other gadgeteer an envious look.
“I don’t have any real offensive abilities,” Giggles explained. “So, I figured that I needed some way to weaponize my power… For self-defense.”
“Well, it looks impressive,” I said to be polite, which seemed to please Giggles a little.
Giggles began removing her glove, so I turned my attention back to Janine and the small contraption, that had some wheels on it. I gave her a curious look, wondering whether or not she’d finished it yet.
“I used a remote control car as a base,” Janine explained proudly, “and built my domino setter on top of that.”
With a nod of understanding, I asked, “Are you ready to give a demonstration?”
Janine nodded emphatically, then picked up the contraption and set it on the floor. She picked up the remote control, and a couple seconds later, her invention began to move forward. That wasn’t especially impressive since she’d started with a remote control car. However, as it drove, it began leaving a trail of dominos set up behind it, all ready to be toppled in a domino chain.
“With this, I’ll be able to set up my dominos a lot faster,” Janine stated proudly.
Compared to what the other shop kids made, this wasn’t very impressive, though it was probably the most advanced thing that Janine had made so far. I watched the little car drive around, leaving a trail of dominos until it ran out after only four feet. Obviously, Janine’s toy could use a little more work, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.
“Nice,” I told her with a smile, watching her brighten up. “I can’t wait to see the domino setup you make with this thing…”
I was definitely sincere about that, because Janine’s domino chains were impressive. She could design complicated patterns in her head, then set them up without any notes or instructions. And when they went off, they were a sight to see. Janine’s gadgeteering talent was a little more low tech than what most kids in the lab worked on, but she could still do some interesting things with it.
Just then, Laura came into the room and started towards her own work station, though she waved towards us, calling out, “How’s the domino setter going?”
“I just finished it,” Janine responded, looking a little self-conscious. “It can’t hold enough dominos to do anything impressive though.”
“What are you working on?” I asked Laura.
Laura held up her neural neutralizer, which I’d seen her using on several occasions. “Just switching out batteries on my neural neutralizer.”
“I just finished upgrading my shock glove,” Giggles announced as she reached over to where she’d left it on her work station. However, a moment later she paused, only to blurt out, “It’s gone!” She began looking around frantically. “Where’d my glove go…”
Suddenly, Laura exclaimed, “Oh no you don’t, Karma…,” and went running towards the door, where she grabbed hold of a small figure who’d been about to escape.
Janine, Giggles, and I all rushed over, and I got a better look at the person Laura had stopped. I blinked in surprise, because there was a little girl standing there, who looked like she was only about seven years old. She was cute, with gray eyes and long dark hair.
“You give that back to Annie, right now,” Laura firmly told the little girl.
“But I only wanted to play with it,” the girl pouted, turning up he ‘puppy dog eyes’. “That zappy glove looks fun…”
“That isn’t a toy and you know it,” Laura pointed out. Then, she added, “And it wouldn’t do you any good anyway. It’s powered by Annie’s energizer power…”
“I’ll take that,” Giggles said, taking the glove out of the girl’s hand, then glaring at her for several seconds.
Laura let out an exasperated sigh. “Come on,” she told the girl as she gently led her out of the lab. “Let’s go get some ice cream…”
At those words, the girl’s pout instantly turned into a broad grin. “YAY. Ice cream…”
Once Laura and the girl were gone, I blinked. “Why was there a little girl in here?”
“That’s Karma,” Janine told me with a giggle. “I heard that she’s the youngest kid at Whateley…”
“But she’s not even old enough to be in junior high,” I protested in surprise. “Why is she in a high school?”
“She must have manifested pretty early,” Janine responded in a sympathetic tone. “I heard she’s a devisor, which is why she keeps trying to sneak into the labs. Because of her age, none of the teachers will let her around any of the equipment…”
“Actually,” Giggles said, “Smith told me that she’s a mangler. You heard about that paint incident last week…”
“Paint incident?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Janine responded with a giggle. “I heard about that.” At my curious look, she explained, “Apparently, Karma snuck in and accidentally knocked over a paint rack…”
“Paint splattered everywhere,” Giggles continued with a snicker. “Samantha Harris, you know, Tek Rider from over in Melville, was almost as blue as Laura… And somehow, Karma didn’t get a single drop on her.”
“That sounds like a mangler alright,” I agreed with an amused smile.
Janine picked up her domino setter and put it back into her work station, then began collecting the dominos, though not before gently pushing the first one and watching the rest topple over. Giggles just looked over her glove, apparently trying to make sure Karma hadn’t broken anything.
“It’s about time for lunch, and I’m getting a bit hungry,” I said, wondering if I should go for the pizza today. It might not be Chicago style pizza, but it should still be tasty. “Do you guys want to come eat with me? My treat.”
“Sure,” Janine immediately answered.
Giggles gave me a wry look. “You do know that the food in Crystal Hall is free…”
“Really? I asked in mock surprise. “Then I guess you can have seconds, on me.”
A minute later, the three of us started towards Crystal Hall. It seemed that Giggles was warming up to me again, so things were starting to look up.
The Quad, Sunday early afternoon, Oct 2nd, 2016
Clive Franks was a large boy, standing six foot one and being built like a linebacker. He had short brown hair, a wide jaw, and a slightly hooked nose. Overall, Clive looked like a thug, which secretly pleased him. He liked the fact that he looked strong and tough, because it made a clear statement about who he was. There was a good reason that he’d chosen the codename of Beatdown.
At the moment, Clive was sitting down at a table in the Quad, which he’d taken from its previous occupant a short time earlier. Clive had chased the smaller boy away, without even having to try very hard. All he’d done was come over, looking threatening and angry. The look on the other boy’s face was enough to make Clive chuckle.
Another boy sat at the table beside Clive. This was Shades, his roommate and best friend. Shades was almost the physical opposite of Clive, being five foot eight and thin, without any of the physical presence or strength. His blonde hair was shaggy, in need of a haircut, and he had a thin face with a scar on his lip, as well as a frequent smirk. In addition, he was also wearing the dark sunglasses that he was almost never seen without.
“Now, who is going to be our entertainment?” Shades mused as he looked around the quad. “Do you see any volunteers?”
“Not really,” Clive responded with a shrug.
The truth was, there were a lot of students nearby, and many of them would probably work for whatever Shades had planned. However, Clive didn’t really like to mess with people unless he had a reason to do so. If they tried to start something with him, pissed him off, or just got in his way, he’d be happy to stomp on their faces and give them a good beatdown. Otherwise, picking on some kid who couldn’t really fight back, seemed almost pointless.
“And there he is,” Shades said, pointing out a boy who was walking across the Quad.
Shades smirked as he raised his glasses, revealing eyes that were pure black, except for the silver irises. He squinted since it was too bright for his sensitive eyes, but he could usually focus and get a better lock on his targets, without his shades getting in the way.
A moment later, the unknown boy suddenly vanished, only to reappear a short distance away, right above a girl who was walking across the Quad. Clive immediately recognized the girl as Slyme, one of those thornie freaks. Her body was green and a little transparent, making it look like she was made of jello. The surprised boy fell right on top of Slyme, who splattered into a puddle of green goo, which got all over him.
Shades burst out laughing, exclaiming, “Nasty… He’s been slimed…”
Clive nodded agreement, chuckling a little as he did. This wasn’t quite as funny as when Shades teleported some boy into the girl’s showers, but it was still entertaining. Just because Clive didn’t like to go and pick on kids for no reason, that didn’t mean he couldn’t get some entertainment from it when other people did.
“Hey,” Shades said, gently elbowing Clive to get his attention, and pointing towards the Crystal Hall.
Clive looked where Shades was indicating, and saw three girls walking into the cafeteria. One of them immediately caught his attention because she had pure white skin and hair. She was Glyph…the White Lady. He couldn’t help but shuddering at the sight of her.
Just two weeks earlier, Esquire had hired him to rough Glyph up a bit, so she’d go to the Bad Seeds for protection. At first, it had seemed like an easy job, and he’d shrugged off everything she threw at him. But then, things suddenly changed. Before he knew what was happening, he sank into the ground like it was quicksand, and was then trapped. He’d been completely helpless…and humiliated. And to make it even worse, Glyph made it clear that she could kill him and make his body disappear, as easily as snapping her fingers.
The large boy had no illusions about how powerful he was, or where he fell in the overall scheme of things. Clive was a force field brick, and could even absorb certain kinds of energy in order to become more powerful. However, he was also only an energizer 4, and there were other students who were a lot stronger and tougher than he was. A couple of them had even thumped him good in a fight. But there was a difference between fighting someone straight out, where he could at least throw some punches and feel like he had a chance, and what Glyph did to him.
“You’re afraid of her, aren’t you?” Shades asked quietly.
“Of course not,” Clive lied.
“Just don’t get any bright ideas about going after her for revenge or anything,” Shades said. “You’ve gotta think about your future…”
This was now starting into a conversation that they’d had before, on several occasions. “I know,” Clive responded with a scowl.
Clive’s mom ran off when he was young, so he’d been raised by his dad, who was a hard-working mechanic. He grew up watching his dad work some long and hard hours, just to pay the bills and put food on the table. And while Clive had a lot of respect for his dad, he had absolutely no intention of working that hard for a living. Instead, he’d already decided that he’d make a living by doing what he was good at, pushing people around and breaking things. The idea of becoming a professional criminal appealed to him, especially as he could see himself as a mob tough guy.
Shades was from Las Vegas, with a valet father and a casino dealer mother. After manifesting, he’d tried using his new powers to ‘help himself’ to a small amount of money in one of the casinos, and as a result, he’d been ‘politely’ asked to leave Vegas and never return. Now, he was making his own plans for the future.
“We have to think about what we’ll do after we graduate,” Shades said, not for the first time. “And I’ve got an idea of how we can get our foot in the door…”
“Oh?” Clive asked. He’d heard a number of Shades’ ideas, and was curious what this one was.
“Glyph,” Shades stated with a smirk.
“Glyph?” Clive asked in surprise, and a little confusion.
“She’s the new White Lady,” Shades explained. “If we can get in good with her now, then after we graduate, we’ll have a place in the Family. We’ll be made men. Hell, if we play our cards right, she might even make us her lieutenants or something.”
Clive considered this for several long seconds, scowling deeply as he did so, before realizing that Shades was right. The Family was an established organization and could probably use some good muscle. If they could get in good with Glyph, then they’d be set. Of course, Glyph had nearly killed him, and she scared him because of that, not that he’d ever admit it to anyone else. Still, there were worse things than working for someone who scared you.
Finally, Clive nodded agreement. “Sounds good to me.”
Sunday late afternoon, Oct 2nd, 2016
Melody Sheridon, better known among the students of Whateley as Chained Melody, strolled across the campus courtyard with an easy grace. She’d just finished a long photo shoot with Venus Inc, and was eager to get back to Melville, where she could change clothes and meet up with her friends before dinner.
As she walked past the Quad, Melody noticed two girls sitting at a table together and talking. This was a somewhat unusual sight, since one of them was a junior while the other was a freshman. Normally, there was little socialization between students in these grades.
Melody immediately recognized the older of the two girls, since Kim Hashida, Perfume, was not only a fellow resident of Melville, but a former member of Venus Inc. However, Perfume had quit Venus Inc the previous year, halfway through the school year. She said that she wanted to put more of her attention and focus into her other club, the Intelligence Cadet Corps, but that seemed like such a waste to Melody.
The younger girl was Carrie Harper, Mouse, the newest member of the Spy Kids. Because of that, Melody suspected that Perfume was simply giving advice to their club’s newest recruit. Heaven knows, that mousy girl Mouse, could use all the fashion and makeup advice that Perfume could provide. Obviously, it still wouldn’t be enough, though.
For half a minute, Melody stood back and watched the girls, considering her options as she did so. She’d already had a few words with other members of the Spy Kids, and this would be a great opportunity to expand on that. However, Perfume knew her too well and might realize what she was up to, which wouldn’t do at all.
But then, Perfume got up and left, while Mouse remained behind at the table. Melody smiled faintly at that, then slowly began walking towards the table. Once she was close enough, she began humming a little tune, pushing enough essence into it to activate the spell. This wasn’t a very powerful spell, but it would encourage Mouse to be a little more trusting and open with her.
“Hello, Carrie,” Melody said, intentionally using Mouse’s real name. “Do you mind if I sit here?”
Before Mouse could respond, Melody sat down at the table. “No,” Mouse finally said, looking just a little annoyed.
“We haven’t met before,” Melody said in a pleasant tone, “so I thought I’d introduce myself. I’m Melody, or Chained Melody if you’d prefer codenames…”
Mouse looked a little uncomfortable, making Melody smile a little to herself. She liked dealing with shy people, because they often lacked proper social skills and were easier to…influence.
“Nice to meet you,” Mouse said a little hesitantly.
“My condolences on your gymnastic career,” Melody told her, trying to look sympathetic. “I heard that you had a good chance at a bronze, or even silver in the next Olympics. It isn’t right that they banned you from competing, just because you’re a mutant…”
“It is what it is,” Mouse responded quietly, though there was a flash of anger in her eyes. “Mutants have an unfair advantage.”
“Maybe some,” Melody mused. “But I don’t see how your power could have changed your performance.”
Mouse nodded at that, obviously having thought the same thing. “Maybe.”
“Well, I may not be an expert in gymnastics,” Melody continued, “but from what I’ve heard, I think you would have done fantastic, if you’d been allowed to compete.”
Melody talked with Mouse for a couple more minutes, softening the other girl up and then directing the conversation. Once Melody thought Mouse was receptive enough, she turned the conversation to her real purpose.
“This is a good school,” Melody said, “but I’m concerned about some of the students that they let in, such as that girl, Glyph…”
“I know her,” Mouse admitted with a clear note of disapproval. “We have a couple classes together.”
It was all Melody could do to keep from smirking at that. “I’ve heard that she’s a supervillain and even runs her own crime family…”
Mouse nodded agreement. “I’ve heard all sorts of stories about her…”
This was no surprise to Melody, since she’d intentionally spread a number of those rumors herself. In fact, she’d even made up a few of the more outlandish ones, knowing that those were the kind that people liked to share the most.
“I heard that she attacked two devisors, for no good reason,” Melody continued, trying to look concerned. “And she destroyed all their devises. If only there was some way to get security to investigate her…to protect the rest of the students.”
There was a long pause before Mouse hesitantly admitted, “We’re already investigating Glyph…”
“We?” Melody asked, trying to look confused.
“The Intelligence Cadet Corps,” Mouse answered. She sat up a little straighter and announced, “We started investigating her last week, so it probably won’t be long before we have enough evidence to get her kicked out of school…”
“Perfect,” Melody said with a smirk. “That is exactly the kind of good news I like to hear…”
Over the last couple weeks, Melody had not only spread a few rumors around about that white-skinned freak, but she’d also whispered into a few ears. It looks like her talks with some of the other Spy Kids had worked out in her favor after all. Now, all she had to do was sit back and let these nosy snoops do her work for her.
“It was nice talking to you,” Melody told Mouse, still chuckling to herself as she turned and walked off. Even after this delay, she still had time to clean and change clothes before meeting with her friends. Yes, this was turning out to be quite a nice day after all.
Monday morning, Oct 3rd, 2016
Basic Martial Arts was undoubtedly my least favorite class of the day. I’d learned very quickly that neither my powers nor temperament were well suited for hand-to-hand fighting or close combat, and I was reminded of this fact nearly every day in class.
I was about as strong and tough as any normal girl my age and build, which wasn’t really impressive, especially when compared to other students who had much more physical powers. Some of my classmates were bulletproof and strong enough to lift cars, and there was absolutely no way I could compete with that kind of thing.
Of course, I did have my own powers, and they could be quite impressive as well, in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, most of my magic was really only useful when I could set up and prepare ahead of time, which didn’t work so well in class. I did have a few inherent spells, which were the only reason I’d done as well as I had, but they each took an hour or two to recharge, and my classmates had seen me use them enough, to figure out their own workarounds.
Sensei Tolman was our instructor, and she was the kind of woman that people might call ‘tough but fair’, except that she seemed to be missing the ‘fair’ part. She loved putting me up against opponents whom I had no chance against. I knew that this wasn’t personal though, because she liked doing that to just about everyone in class.
At the moment, I was staring across the sparring circle at Bacon, who looked like an anthropomorphic warthog. He was a bit scary looking, though actually a pretty nice guy, as well as funny. He didn’t take himself or his GSD very seriously. However, I hated having to spar against him, because this was a perfect example an unfair match. Bacon was a PK brick, who was not only a LOT stronger than I was, but he could also shrug off just about everything I threw at him.
“Come on,” Bacon said with a broad grin, which was a little intimidating thanks to his tusks. “You want a piece of Bacon? Well, come and get it.”
“You know,” I commented wryly. “That is almost enough to make me turn vegetarian…”
Bacon just chuckled at that. “Well, hakuna matata, I always say…”
Before I could think of anything to say in response, Tolman called out, “Hajime,” and officially started our match.
I might have expected Bacon to charge at me, since that is the kind of thing you’d expect from a warthog. However, he began moving towards me more slowly, obviously waiting to see what I was going to do. He was probably waiting on me to activate one of my elemental spells, so he’d know what he had to deal with. Today, it was time to surprise him.
“Bacon,” I said as I held up a sheet of paper.
My opponent instinctively looked at the paper, while I focused on pouring essence into the rune I’d drawn. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light, which blinded Bacon. I took advantage of his surprise and momentary blindness, to try shoving him outside the circle. However, he caught his balance right before going out, much to my annoyance. A moment later, I followed this up by holding out a second sheet of paper and charging essence into that rune as well.
“Good one,” Bacon commented, trying to backhand me. Fortunately, his vision hadn’t recovered yet so he didn’t get very close.
“I do have another one ready for you too,” I replied.
I slapped the second sheet of paper onto his arm, and it exploded into a ball of fire before I could get my hand away. There was a searing pain on my palm, though at least I had the satisfaction of hearing Bacon yelp. Unfortunately, it was more a yelp of surprise than of pain. His PK shell protected him, leaving me hurt worse than he was.
While I was distracted by my own pain, Bacon grabbed hold of me, lifted me off the ground with one arm, then casually dropped me back down…right outside the circle.
Tolman called the match, then gave me a disapproving look. “Hurting yourself more than your opponent is a poor move.”
“Yes, Sensei,” I said in full agreement.
“Do you need to go to Doyle for your hand?” Tolman asked.
I glanced at my hand, then shook my head. While my hand definitely hurt, the burn wasn’t really very bad, and would heal up quick enough that it wasn’t worth a trip to Doyle. “I’ll be fine.”
When I returned to my seat on the mat beside Morgana, she leaned over and whispered, “Are you okay?”
“A little singed but I’ll be fine,” I assured her with a wry smile, embarrassed about the fact that I’d done this to myself. “At the moment, regen is my favorite power.”
Laura leaned over and quietly asked, “Why didn’t you just use your other fire spell?”
“Yeah,” Morgana agreed. “You could have blasted him good while he was blind.”
I nodded agreement at that, knowing that this would have been a smarter move. “I’m trying to not rely on my built in spells so much…especially since everyone expects me to use then.”
“You know,” Laura reminded me, “I can make you some nice holdouts.”
“Is it just me,” Morgana asked, “or is Mouse giving you the stink-eye?”
After glancing over to where Mouse was sitting, I saw that my roommate meant. Mouse was indeed glaring at me, though I’d never done anything to earn her dislike. Then again, a lot of students had given me that treatment, ever since I’d been outed as the White Lady.
“I’ve been getting it from Crysis too,” I pointed out. I’d seen him staring at me, or simply glaring, nearly every day in class. Like Mouse, he seemed to have it out for me, without any real reason. “I’m getting used to it.”
My eyes went to AJ, who was currently sparring with Rapunzel. He was a member of the Bad Seeds, and it was well known around campus that he was the son of a villain. I wondered how he dealt with this kind of attention, though I was hesitant to ask him. I got along pretty well with AJ, which was fortunate since we were partners in magic class, but I wasn’t very happy with the Bad Seeds over the way they’d outed me.
When class ended, several of my friends came up to me, asking how my hand was doing, and I had to assure each of them that I was fine. I finally had to hold up my hand so that everyone could see that there was no sign of injury. I hadn’t been burned very badly, and my regeneration had already taken care of it.
“You need to be more careful,” Jimmy told me with a concerned look. “You’re not supposed to hurt yourself…”
“You can say that again,” Morgana agreed, fixing me with her own gaze. “You might want to work on your combat spells a little more…”
By this point, I was already more than a little embarrassed. “Yes, I think I figured that out, thank you.”
Then, Bacon came over towards me, asking, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I repeated yet again, as I held up my hand. “I just need to be more careful in the future.”
“Sorry about that,” he apologized.
“Not your fault,” I assured me, smiling to let him know that I wasn’t blaming him for hurting me. “I got careless with my own spell, but that won’t happen again.” Then, looking him in the eye and trying to sound more confident than I actually felt, I said, “Next time, I’m going to beat you.”
Bacon just grinned at that, then gently patted me on the back. “That’s the spirit.”
But as soon as Bacon turned and went to the boy’s showers, I confided to Morgana and Laura, “I’m never going to beat him.”
“You’ll get better,” Laura assured me. “You just need more practice.”
“And maybe a bazooka,” Morgana offered with a grin.
Without saying another word, I flipped my roommate off, then went into the showers to clean up and change. Fortunately, it was now lunch time, which meant that I didn’t have to rush through my shower just to get to my next class in time. That was the biggest benefit of having this class right before lunch.
A short time later, my friends and I started for Crystal Hall together. Most of M3 was in the same BMA class, so there was actually a fairly large group of us, as there was on most days. Along with me at the moment, was Morgana, Laura, Erica, Callie, Jimmy, and Vic. Because of that, I was actually able to relax my guard a little, since there was little chance that someone would try to jump me.
“I’ve made some new inks,” I explained as we walked. Morgana nodded along since she was the only one of the group who’d really seen them. “Now, I’m trying to find some better paper…”
“What?” Morgana asked in mock surprise. “You mean notebook paper isn’t the best you can find?”
“Don’t tell me you’re going to start making your own paper too,” Erica said.
Laura chuckled. “I wonder if they offer classes in making papyrus…”
“I don’t think so,” I responded with a shrug. “But they are going to offer calligraphy during winter term, and I figure that one will help me…”
Suddenly, Morgana stopped and gently elbowed me in the side. “Look,” she said with a grim expression. “Your old friend Beatdown…”
I looked where my roommate indicated and immediately saw Beatdown walking towards me. I tensed at the sight of him, remembering the way he’d come at me in the tunnels two weeks ago. I’d managed to stop him, though I’d been afraid he might try again. Fortunately, he hadn’t come near me again since then, until now, and this time, he wasn’t alone.
A thin boy with shaggy hair and a pair of dark sunglasses, walked beside Beatdown. I’d never met Shades before, but I’d seen him around campus, and I’d heard about him. Apparently, he was a projective teleporter, who liked to mess with people. The only reason he didn’t get his own butt kicked on a regular basis in retaliation, was that they’d have to go through Beatdown first.
“Don’t worry,” Morgana assured me. “We’ve got your back.”
“These boys have to be stupid, to try anything here,” Jimmy pointed out. “Security has cameras all over the place…”
“Of course they’re stupid,” Laura commented wryly. “If they think that the two of them can beat all seven of us…”
“It does seem a little unfair,” Erica added with a grin, while Vic just chuckled.
But instead of charging forward and attacking us, Beatdown and Shades stopped short. To my surprise, neither of them looked hostile at the moment. In fact, Beatdown actually looked nervous, though he was clearly trying to hide it.
“What do you want?” Morgana demanded of Beatdown.
Beatdown ignored Morgana and looked straight at me. “Glyph,” he said, bowing his head a little. “I want to apologize for my actions the other week.”
“What?” I asked, not sure that I heard right.
“What I did wasn’t personal,” Beatdown explained. “I was just hired to do a job, but I regret taking that one…”
Before I could even think of what to say to that, Shades quickly added, “What my associate here is trying to say, is that he made a professional mistake that he deeply regrets, and which he hopes you don’t hold against him too much. We would like to make amends by offering our services.”
“What do you mean by services?” Laura asked, looking a little confused.
Shades seemed to ignore Laura, as he continued talking to me. “A woman in your position can use people like us, to watch your back or just take care of things for you…”
My eyes widened a little as I realized what Shades was offering. “Thank you,” I said a little shortly. “But I’m not interested. I don’t need that kind of thing around here…”
“But,” Beatdown started to protest, only to get elbowed in the side by Shades.
“We’re going to lunch,” I said, gesturing to my friends. “Thank you, but no thank you.” And with that, I quickly walked away, continuing towards Crystal Hall, while my friends followed close behind.
“Wait,” Jimmy said, once we were away from Beatdown and Shades. “Did those two idiots just ask if they could be your henchmen?”
Morgana burst out laughing. “Imagine what people would think if you had your own henchmen…”
“I think Bianca has enough trouble with the rumors as it is,” Laura agreed.
I just groaned at that, deciding not to point out that if I wanted henchmen, whether in the form of bodyguards, legbreakers, or enforcers, I had plenty of professional ones back in Chicago. My Loyal might not have powers like Beatdown and Shades, but what they did have, was training and experience, which those two wannabe thugs just couldn’t match.
A few minutes later, we reached Crystal Hall, picked up our food, and hurried to our normal table. Hikaru, Tia, and Tanya were already there and waiting. I was just thankful that Tanya was no longer giving me the stink-eye, or avoiding me like she had been.
“Get this,” Morgana announced with a broad grin. “Apparently, word is out that Bianca is trying to recruit some minions…”
I glared at Morgana, then glanced over to Tanya, hoping that she didn’t start avoiding me again over this. Sometimes, or most of the time, being the White Lady was more trouble than it was worth.
Kirby Hall, Monday afternoon, Oct 3rd, 2016
Magic Lab was one of my favorite classes, and not just because it was my last class of a normal school day. This class also happened to be one of the most relevant to my powers, along with being one where I had a chance to shine.
Of course, I had plenty of quirks with my powers, which prevented me from casting the same spells as everyone else. It was always frustrating to watch someone recite some nonsense words and get a spell from it, but that was the price I paid for having a large advantage with written spells.
I was in the workshop that we’d been assigned, along with my lab partners Morgana and AJ. Today, we were working on an exercise based off the lecture we’d received this morning in Magic Theory. Specifically, we were creating some basic wards, which was a subject that I was more than happy to work with.
AJ and Morgana were both standing inside their protective circles while they worked, though it was pretty obvious that they were going about their wards in different ways. I suspected that AJ had already been taught this by his mother, the Witch Queen, and was using the method she’d shown him, while Morgana was doing it the way Ms. Grimes had shown us this morning in class.
Like my two lab partners, I was inside my own protective circle as well, though as usual, I was doing things my own way. Or more accurately, I was doing them the White Lady way, which involved drawing my spell instead of casting it aloud. I used one of my new chalk pieces to draw two different runes on opposite sides of my circle, though I double checked them to make sure they were right before adding any essence. The ability to translate other languages, and therefore see if they were done right, was the key to my success with this kind of magic.
“Done,” I said, not bothering to activate my wards, at least not yet.
“Aren’t those the same ones you drew in our room?” Morgana asked.
“Two of them,” I agreed.
I tended to be a bit cautious about my privacy and security, so I’ve practiced with various wards quite a bit, especially to protect my dorm room. In this one aspect, I was a little ahead of most of my class. Of course, there were other areas where I was probably a little behind, due in large part to the limitations of my particular magic.
The two runes that I’d drawn on the floor were connected to each other via an invisible path of essence, which made this the magical equivalent of a tripwire. Once the path was broken, and the tripwire set off, essence could be released into other spells. Depending on how things were set up, this could be used to notify me that someone had broken the path, which was how I had it set up on the door of my room, or it could trigger more interesting spells. However, since this was a class assignment, I was keeping things pretty simple and straightforward.
Ms. Grimes came into the room a minute later and promptly said, “Now, let me see your wards…”
Our teacher went to AJ first and examined his spell, which I couldn’t really see myself. Some magic users could actually see the flow of magic, though I wasn’t one of them. Morgana had the advantage over me on that one. Grimes ran her hand through AJ’s spell, then nodded her approval.
“Well done,” she stated. “I can see some elements of your mother’s style. It seems that she’s already taught you a little about wards.”
“Yes ma’am,” AJ responded politely.
Grimes turned her attention to Morgana’s spell next, and though she didn’t seem as impressed as she’d been with AJ, she found it acceptable. She gave Morgana a few tips on how to improve her spell, and then came over to check my work.
“Clean rune work,” Grimes commented after bending down to examine my runes.
“Thank you,” I responded. My runes should be clean, since I’d practiced those ones often enough.
After examining my spell carefully, Grimes put her hand out between the runes, which triggered the magical tripwire and released most of the stored essence in a flash of light. This was just enough to give a nice show, and prove that my wards had been tripped.
“Nicely done,” Grimes told me, nodding in approval. “I assume that you’ve been practicing your wards.”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered with a faint smile.
The truth was, I’ve been practicing a number of different wards that had been in my grandmother’s book, nearly every day. I’ve cast them not only in my dorm room, but also on various pieces of my property. Considering my situation, it paid to take precautions.
“Keep practicing your wards for the rest of the class,” Grimes told us. “And test each other’s work. Tomorrow, I want each of you to arrive ready to add at least one improvement on your wards.”
After Grimes was gone, Morgana let out a sigh and complained, “These wards take too long to cast…”
I just smiled at that and pointed out, “Then you need to practice more. I mean, if we both put some wards on our room, it’ll be that more secure.”
Morgana rolled her eyes. “I think you’ve cast enough spells on our room for the both of us.”
AJ chuckled at that, then stared at me for several seconds. “Bianca,” he started, just a little awkwardly, as though he wasn’t sure how to say what he wanted to. “I heard that you’ve been asking around school about the Seeds.”
I tensed at that, bracing myself for the confrontation that I’ve feared would come for the last two weeks. But before I could say anything, Morgana demanded, “Well, what do you expect? Your friends declared war on her….”
AJ scowled and shook his head. “It wasn’t us, or at least, not all of us. Esquire did that on his own, and the rest of us didn’t even find out about it until afterwards. Trust me, we’re pretty mad at him for outing you like that.”
“And what about hiring Beatdown to jump me?” I asked, carefully keeping my expression controlled.
“Yeah,” AJ agreed, “The Seeds aren’t happy about that either. You see, most of us were hoping you’d change your mind and join us, but we figure that this blew any chance of that…”
“You think?” Morgana asked with a snort.
I stared at AJ for several seconds, trying to decide if he was being honest or not. He certainly seemed sincere, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. After all, AJ was pretty new to the Bad Seeds, and the others could have done this without bothering to tell him.
“For what it’s worth,” AJ told me, “I’m sorry you got outed that way. It sucks, having everyone look at you like you’re about to mug them or go on some kind of killing spree.” He gave me a wry smile. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, much less someone I think of as a friend.”
“Thank you,” I said, sure that he meant what he said. However, I was still more than a little skeptical about the rest of the Bad Seeds, in spite of AJ’s assurances.
When class was over, Morgana and I said goodbye to AJ and started back towards Poe. I let out a sigh of relief, thankful that the day was over.
“Crazy day, huh?” Morgana asked. “I mean, with those two morons actually trying to become your minions… What kind of rubbish idea is that?”
“Are you saying that I don’t treat my minions well?” I asked in mock innocence.
Morgana snorted. “You’d probably forget to feed and water them…”
“True,” I responded with a smirk. “But fortunately, they know how to cook for themselves.” I paused at that before musing, “At least some of them do. Jean-Paul could burn water…”
For a moment, Morgana just stared at me, then she shook her head. “Sometimes, I forget that you really do have your own minions…”
That just made me smirk. “And sometimes, I even paint them yellow and make them wear overalls…”
“Really?” Morgana asked in surprise.
I rolled my eyes at that. “Somehow, I couldn’t see any of my Loyal being willing to do that.”
Just as we were reaching Poe, Morgana said, “Speaking of your minions, here comes one of them now…”
Curious, I looked to where she was indicating and I saw Janine flying towards us. She was only seven feet above the ground, and was moving pretty slowly. Janine’s PK, like her gadgeteering, wasn’t especially impressive. She could fly, but only about as fast as she could walk, and she couldn’t lift much besides herself.
“Janine is NOT my minion,” I told my roommate. “She’s just a friend…”
“But that’s not what she says,” Morgana reminded me with a smirk. Then she waved towards Janine, calling out, “Hey, Tinker…” Janine waved back.
I remained where I was, waiting for Janine to catch up, while my roommate continued on inside. As soon as Janine reached me, she landed on the ground and let out a sigh. I knew that flying like that took a bit out of her, but she’d been trying to push herself lately, in the hopes of getting stronger.
“Bianca,” Janine exclaimed with an eager grin. “I brought some stuff so we can study. And I’ve got a new planner, so I can keep track of your schedule and all your important appointments…”
“I don’t really have many appointments,” I said, feeling a little guilty as Janine’s expression fell. I quickly added, “I’m sure we can come up with something though…”
Somehow, I was pretty sure that if Morgana heard this conversation, she’d be teasing me about having minions even more than she already did. I never asked Janine to become my personal secretary, and I really hoped that Beatdown and Shades took ‘no’ for an answer, better than Janine did.
A minute later, we went into the Poe dayroom, where a couple other poesies were already sitting. There was one girl, who had purple skin and a pair of horns. Janine stared at her for a moment in surprise while I just chuckle. I had to admit, that I never would have recognized Façade either, if I hadn’t already seen her current appearance this morning.
“Façade,” I greeted the purple girl politely, since I wasn’t sure what kind of ‘persona’ she’d developed to go along with this appearance. Sometimes with Façade, it paid to be cautious. Then I looked to Decibelle. “Deci.”
Janine and I sat down in the corner and began going over our homework and notes. Since she was on the tech track while I was on the magic, we didn’t have a lot of classes together, but we could still go over things like English and Algebra.
We hadn’t been there long before a couple other poesies came in and made themselves comfortable. A couple, like Bailey and Chessa seemed to be doing the same thing that Janine and I were, while Deci, Summoner, and Swerve, just sat there watching TV. However, after a short time, Bailey and Chessa began looking at Janine and I, and whispering to each other. Then, they were giggling and snickering.
I just rolled my eyes and quietly muttered, “I can’t wait until all these minion rumors go away.”
Monday late afternoon, Oct 3rd, 2016
Carrie Harper squirmed in her chair, fighting the urge to shrink down so she could hide. There was a reason she was called Mouse, beyond just her ability to shrink. Fortunately, at the moment, there was little need for her to actively hide, because nobody was paying her any attention anyway. Then again, nobody ever really did, unless she was performing one of her gymnastic routines.
With a sigh, Carrie looked around the table, at all the other members of the Intelligence Cadet Corps. As the youngest and newest member, everyone else ignored her, which suited her fine, at least for the time being. That just gave her the opportunity to observe everyone else.
David Nayer was a chubby black boy, with a broad nose, acne scars, and a pair of high tech goggles over his eyes. David, or Cyber Swarm as he preferred to be called, was a senior and the official leader of the Cadets, just out of pure seniority. However, Swarm was a gadgeteer and typical lab geek, so focused on his micro-drones, that he was usually too distracted to do much leading.
Even now, in the middle of the club meeting, Swarm was bent over the table and tinkering with a couple robotic insects that were sitting in front of him. He poked at a metal cockroach and didn’t seem to be paying much attention to what anyone actually said.
Perfume was sitting beside Cyber Swarm, looking gorgeous as always, which was to be expected of an exemplar. She was long-legged, lithe, and athletic, with Japanese features and long black hair that was tied back in a braid. In addition, she had a subtle flower scent, which filled the air around her. And in spite of her name, this scent wasn’t the result of perfume, but a low level manifestor ability that let her create any scent she wanted.
Carrie had a great deal of admiration for the older girl, who was poised, confident, and a lot more intelligent than most people gave her credit for. Kim had given up a career in modeling, in order to dedicate herself to law enforcement and detective work. It was no wonder that she was the second in charge of the Cadets, and the one who usually led them when Cyber Swarm was distracted.
Edward Temple and Caroline Voight, or Mister Blank and Miss Violet as they were also called, were sitting next to each other, as usual. The two of them were British, and they’d been partners and more, since before they even came to Whateley.
Edward was a slender boy, with a thin face that was splattered with freckles, and ginger hair that was always well trimmed and perfectly combed. He wore a nice suit, as he usually did when outside of school uniform, and he carried his trademark umbrella with him. It was an old-fashioned cane umbrella, rather than one of the ones that folded up into a small space, and he was almost never seen without it.
Violet, who really didn’t like being called by her real name, was an exemplar and looked the part. She was beautiful, with an athletic yet feminine body, a heart-shaped face, button nose, and pouty lips. Her violet and gold eyes, as well as the violet colored hair, which cascaded down to her mid-back, added an eccentric touch, that somehow made her seem more alluring. And then, as if intentionally trying to stand out even more, she was currently wearing a dark purple catsuit.
Carrie avoided looking at Violet, and tried not to think about how jealous she was of the sophomore. Violet was both an exemplar and a paragon, so everything was easy for her. It might not have been so bad, if Violet hadn’t been such a know-it-all and showoff.
Of course, Carrie’s dislike hadn’t really started, until a week earlier. She’d been practicing one of her old gymnastic routines in order to keep in shape, but then, Violet had come in and had completely blown her out of the water with a gymnastic routine of her own. It had been the kind of routine that could only have been performed by someone who was both an exemplar and paragon. Carrie had spent her entire life building her skills, and then, some rookie shows up and makes her look clumsy and unskilled in comparison. It was because of mutants like Violet, that mutants weren’t allowed to compete in athletics.
Flipside sat next to Carrie, though he didn’t pay her much attention either. He was a lean and athletic black guy, with a shaved head and an easygoing grin. Carrie still didn’t understand what his powers were, other than that he was some kind of reality warper and could make the laws of physics go wonky.
The last person in the room was Tiptoe, who sat on Carrie’s other side. Like her, he was another new member, with only several more days of seniority on her. To her annoyance, the others seemed to think that those extra days were enough for them to take him more seriously than they did her.
“How about Slyme?” Flipside offered with an easy grin. “She’d be a great Cadet. I mean, she can get through tight spaces, and would be great for infiltration or tailing someone without being seen…”
“She’s a thornie,” Edward pointed out with a faint scowl. “She can’t control her powers…”
Flipside just rolled his eyes. “I was a thornie when I first got here too, and besides, just because she has to sleep in a bowl, that doesn’t mean she can’t control her powers otherwise…”
Carrie sat up a little straighter and cautiously said, “Slyme and I are in a couple classes together. She’s pretty nice, and she’s really hard to hurt, which might be useful…”
“I just don’t think this goo girl is Cadet material,” Edward continued, seemingly ignoring Carrie. “As Cadets, we need to maintain high standards for membership.”
“Okay, we’ve heard what John Steed has to say,” Flipside joked, looking to Violet. “Now, what does Emma Peel say?”
“That’s Mister Blank and Miss Violet,” Violet corrected him with a look of annoyance. “And I believe Mister Blank is correct. We need to ensure any further candidates are qualified for our organization.”
“Slyme’s abilities could be useful,” Perfume said, giving a nod to Flipside. “Though Carrie is already more than capable of infiltration or tailing suspects without being noticed. None of us begin with all the skills we need, and we could train Slyme, if she joins our club… The important question is though, is she actually interested in joining the Intelligence Cadet Corps? I haven’t seen any real interest in her part…”
Flipside shrugged. “I think she’d make things a little more interesting around here, if nothing else…”
“This is not a game,” Edward said. “We are not in this business simply to entertain you or play James Bond, which you seem to think this is all about…”
“Pretty amusing, coming from the John Steed wannabe,” Flipside responded with a chuckle.
“Slyme?” Cyber Swarm asked, looking up and appearing to pay attention to the current topic for the first time. He blinked a couple times and lifted his goggles. “Isn’t she that girl that looks like she’s made of jello?”
“That’s her,” Tiptoe agreed.
“I wonder how she maintains her humanoid shape,” Swarm mused to himself. “She doesn’t appear to have any skeletal system or muscles. I wonder if the outer layer of her body may act as a form of exoskeleton…”
Perfume gave Swarm an odd look and shook her head, before saying, “I’ll have a talk with the girl. If she’s not interested in law enforcement or intelligence gathering, then any further discussion about recruiting her would be pointless.”
“Agreed,” Violet said with a nod of approval. “Now, if we’re finished discussing possible new recruits, I believe we should talk about ongoing investigations.”
“Okay,” Perfume agreed, glancing to the club’s leader to see if he had anything to say on the subject. When he didn’t, she said, “Then, moving on…”
Carrie listened carefully as they discussed their investigations on the Bad Seeds and the Masterminds, though there was little progress. Apparently, both of those other clubs had a lot of experience in avoiding the Intelligence Cadet Corps, which made it hard to get any serious evidence against them.
“Next,” Edward said, “is our investigation into Bianca St. Claire, AKA Glyph, AKA the White Lady.”
Carrie scowled as they mentioned Glyph, whom she shared a couple classed with. In fact, it had been her discovery that one of her classmates was not only a supervillain, but also the leader of some kind of mob family, that had inspired her to join the Cadets. After all, someone had to stop people like her from taking advantage of the other students, and campus security certainly wasn’t going to do that when another supervillain was currently running the school.
“My micro-drones have been of limited use against Glyph,” Cyber Swarm stated, looking up from his metal insects and scowling in annoyance. “As you are all aware, the magical wards on Poe Cottage tend to neutralize any bugs and listening devises inside.”
Tiptoe smirked faintly at that, commenting, “Trying to bug Poe isn’t a good idea. Mrs. Horton takes it real personally.”
Swarm nodded faintly and continued. “I have planted several passive recording devises on both Glyph and her roommate, in an attempt to bypass Poe’s protections, but my devises went completely inert once they entered the suspect’s dorm room. Attempts to place micro-drones on her window, have been similarly futile. In addition, the subject habitually casts spells throughout the day, that interfere with both active and passive eavesdropping devises, preventing me from gathering much useful intelligence on her.”
“It seems to me,” Violet commented thoughtfully, “that anyone who goes through that much trouble to avoid being observed, must be trying to hide something.”
“Precisely what I was thinking,” Edward said in agreement.
However, Perfume disagreed. “Attempting to ensure your privacy is not evidence of wrongdoing.”
“Perhaps,” Cyber Swarm reluctantly admitted. “But what little my micro-drones have been able to record, suggests that Glyph is attempting to recruit henchmen and minions among the student body.”
“I knew it,” Carrie blurted out.
Flipside just chuckled. “I wonder if she’s going to make them wear blue overalls, and feed them bananas.”
“I recommend that we put Glyph under a more active investigation,” Edward suggested. “We need to learn what she’s up to, before it’s too late.”
“I agree completely,” Violet said. “It’s about time that the Cadets make an example of a criminal, to prove that we should be taken more seriously.”
After a little more discussion, with everyone getting a chance to offer their opinion, Perfume looked around the table and let out a sigh. She glanced to Cyber Swarm, but when he didn’t say anything, she stated, “Then it’s agreed, we’ll step up our investigation on Glyph.”