It's a Matter of Death and Life: Part 2
It's a Matter of Death and Life
Tuesday, September 25, 2007. Whateley Academy: Schuster Hall
Elizabeth Carson’s face almost touched the muzzle opposing her, she felt the hot breath being exhaled in bursts as it washed over her nose, her vision was blocked by the nearness of the snout prominent on a wide furred face; the blackest black nose indented by flared nostrils met bristle ends of short fur running up the bears face. The beasts eyes where big and menacing, Mrs. Carson was checking those dark pits in hopes of seeing something of the girl: Elaine. Some indicator of the intelligence, compassion, any hint of the humanity that the teacher had come to love about the student. She found nothing; and that thought scared her most.
Lady Astarte and Grizzly held the standoff for long moments, fighting a battle of wills, neither one backing down - and neither one ready to escalate this to a physical conflict, each waiting tensely for the other to make the first move.
Liz began calculating which attacks would be most effective to take down the Avatar, what containment spells might restrain a raging animal, could she appeal to the girl within - and wondered if she was truly even there. She recalled the photos of the deep gouges on the boy and became concerned over how much injury she could sustain from those claws. But unflinching and unyielding she stayed her ground; until.
“Don’t ever threatening me.” Eventually came growled through bared teeth.
“It's a matter of fact: murder is potentially a 20 year sentence.” Sounded the heroine.
“20 years in jail is a threat.” Was spat as a response.
Liz challenged by stating: “And murder is a crime!”
“Is a soldier charged with murder when he kills the enemy?”
“What enemy? You don’t even know who you killed .”
“It’s been explained: it was a minion of ‘The Bastard’, it came here to scout out Whateley’s numbers and defences in preparation for another attack”.
“You know this how?”
“It stunk of Were’s and Mytho’s magic: the smell of voodoo wolves.”
“Did you know your claim was tested out by Security.”
“What? did somebody analyze the grease spot they leave behind?”
“No. Your victim lived for a short time afterward, it was determined to be neither a Were nor was any magic found. Plus - there was a corpse left behind in Doyle’s basement. It didn’t dissolve like you’ve imagined.”
“It matters not, I did what needed to be done to protect Elaine.”
“It does matter! In fact you’re facing a murder rap - and you have harmed Lanie by ruining her life: you have broken your vow.”
“The vow is intact, she agreed to the course taken.”
“Was it an informed decision?”
‘You question what you cannot comprehend: ‘The hosts will is my will, there is no separation between us …’”
“‘And there is no separating you.’ Yes: I’ve heard the avatar creed.”
“Host and Spirit act as one.”
“And that is the sad truth.”
Cameron was keeping himself occupied inside the jail cell by sending and replying to emails, he’d had to explain umpteen times now that he was ‘okay’. He noticed that something was happening up front so focussed upon that area, he spotted Ben from the Mediwahla tribe and there was another Were with him; a werecat.
The two had a Security escort bring them back to the holding area, Ben smiled upon seeing the boy.
“Cameron, would you mind having a couple visitors?” Asked the big man.
“Of course” he said as he closed up his computer.
“I would like to introduce you to Eloise Donner: she is the Mediwahla tribes Chief.”
“A pleasure” commented Cameron as he shook the ladies hand “Am I correct in guessing a werepanther.”
“You guess correctly - but I would like to know how you did that.”
“Energy signatures: everybody has them: normals, mutants and were’s. I’m just starting to be able to distinguish the differences.”
“Some kind of second sight?”
“No. All matter is energy, energy in different applications has defined patterns - I see energy much like you would colours.”
“I am hoping to speak with you … but don’t like doing so through bars.”
The three were granted use of the small meeting room. Once inside Mrs Donner commenced “Cameron, the Were people have a long held tradition of welcoming marked individuals.”
“I hope you don’t mind explaining that - I’ve had someone else say that I’m marked - and I don’t know what 'that’s' about?”
“Marking is a scent that acts as an outward indicator that a Were female has chosen you.”
“Kinda like saying we’re dating?“
Ben roared with laughter “That’s cute! No boy - you must know the significance of a ring on a normals left hand ring finger?”
“For Were’s, scents are used.”
“Why that little minx!”
“You didn’t know?”
“I only thought she was encouraging a friendship.”
“Did she kiss you publicly: in-front of family and friends and place her neck against yours?”
“Then my young fellow - it’s binding… congratulations!”
Cameron sat in deep contemplation, and despite himself couldn’t shake the smirk.
“Who is she? Your minx.” asked Ben.
“You might know her Mom: she said she lived near to Whateley. Terry… Terry Franklin. Do you know her?”
Eloise reeled from the revelation. But it was Ben who responded
“Yes, we know Teresa: she’s Eloise’s sister.”
Eloise gradually returned to the conversation by saying “We haven’t spoken for years, I’d heard she had two sons: Alan and Lawrence - nothing about a daughter.”
“Her name is Lynn.”
“Is she … special?”
“Are you asking about my feelings towards her?”
“Her mother could see the future - she always seemed to be two steps ahead of everyone else.”
“I suspect Lynn is five steps ahead of her mom.”
“That’s … surprising” Eloise was wrapped up deep in thought for so long Ben nudged her and pointed towards Cameron with his chin “Cameron, may I see your eyes?” When Cameron lowered his visor both the Were’s gasped “Golden eyes!”
“Sorry! I keep them covered since people are freaked out by them.”
“They’re certainly distinctive.”
“That they are” confided the boy “I think I’m due for a long conversation with a certain someone. But before that: you had said I was welcome in your tribe, what does that mean?”
Elizabeth Carson sat in her chair and leaned it back as she looked out the window, the tree’s surrounding Whateley Academy had just started to turn from the lustrous greens of summer to the oranges and reds of autumn.
It was one of Liz’s favourite things - watching the seasons burst of colour when fall settled over New Hampshire, a bonus to having given up superheroing. Liz Carson had enjoyed being a superhero - the adventure of it all, challenging ones strength, wit, and resolve against another person. That life had been enthralling: but - she realized she loved teaching more.
Most days anyway, since becoming the headmistress her joy of teaching had morphed into becoming an administrator, her younger self would be laughing silly at the irony of the kid who thought rules were for schnooks - to see her now as the one keeping the rules - living by the book, being the old fuddy-duddy that spouted regulation like scripture. But times and life change and people need to adapt to cope with change … just like moving from one season to the next.
Tuesday morning so far had been a touch worse than most, the briefing meetings had set the day’s agenda and she didn’t like the implications. She had called in Miss Nalley in hopes of getting to the bottom of this whole deadly assault problem. It hadn’t gone well - not well at all.
In the earlier briefing she had chosen to be the lead for the deadly assault problem, and let Amelia handle the blackmailing. After speaking with Elaine - attempting to gain the girls confidence, it wound up nearly digressing into a fight, she had only gleaned one piece of information for her effort: Elaine had had bacon for breakfast.
In past encounters Elaine had stood up to Liz, battled with her by quoting rules and regulations, fighting back against the headmistress over every inch. It had pushed Liz in her duty as headmistress to consider the intent of a rule and not just the words used. Those had been the most interesting and challenging battles she had fought since becoming an instructor.
Elizabeth Carson respected the young girl for her courage; she was reminded of a very young and impressionable Miss Champion.
Mrs. Carson simply did not want to admit that she had succumbed to one of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make: giving preferential treatment to a single student. She had discovered something about herself while staring into those lifeless eyes: Elaine Nalley was very special to her, she had maternal feelings - and she would do anything to protect the girl. She had realized at that moment she couldn’t focus on the murder charge when she was more worried about the bond to a spirit.
Liz had been livid when Kayda bonded Elaine with the spirit Grizzly, she wasn’t even an Avatar so it shouldn’t have even been possible - but dealing with the kids at Whateley; the impossible was an everyday occurrence … still, it was a decision Liz didn’t agree with. And the consequences had started to become manifest now - after their encounter in her office.
Liz rang up Amelia and asked if she could to join her in the office.
“How did speaking with Elaine go?” Asked the headmistress’s assistant.
“Worse than I’d ever have imagined. I should have listened to Frank at the meeting: I’m too attached - I can’t be objective. Would you be alright if we switched problems? I’ll deal with ‘Wrought’ and you handle ‘Outlook’.”
“Sure Liz, I understand.”
“Thanks Amelia … and please - whatever you do: try to keep Elaine out of jail.”
“You know I will.”
“I’ve notified Marissa Dawson already: she has the briefing notes, I was going to meet with her over at Kane.” Instructed Elizabeth.
Amelia Hartford and Marissa Dawson exchanged greetings in Kane Halls reception area, they chatted briefly about the task at hand, ‘Outlook’ was just finishing up in a meeting with Mrs Donner.
The huge figure of Ben walked out of the Security offices towards them and notified them “Their ready for you now. Eloise wishes to remain with the boy.”
As the two Whateley representatives entered the room and took seats across the table from the boy, it was Dr. Hartford who made the introductions “Mrs Donner - Mr Burke, This is Mrs Dawson: Whateley Academy’s legal counsel.”
“Doctor, Mrs Dawson. Do you object to having Outlook’s guardians attending this meeting remotely?”
After a brief consultation Dr. Hartford replied “We are willing to oblige him by having legal guardians present.”
It took a short while to make the connection to bring Mike Williamson in via a computer link, when his picture came up on the projected screen he was seated at a table and was joined by Karen.
“Hello, I’m Micheal Williamson: Cameron Burke’s legal guardian, on my left is Karen Mitchell; my associate and Cameron’s friend and confidant. Thank you for letting us join this meeting.”
“Allow me to introduce our end: I am Doctor Amelia Hartford: Whateley Academy’s Assistant Headmistress, this is Mrs. Marissa Walcut: Whateley’s legal counsel, and lastly Chief Eloise Donner of the Mediwihla people.”
Mike asked the question “Mrs Donner, what role do you have in this affair?”
“This school is located on tribal lands, ours is the first level of external government at Whateley.”
“Thank you, I believe we understand the implication.” Responded Mike “Cameron, good to see you.”
“Nice to hear your voice. Hi Karen” Piped in the youth while adding a wave.
“How are you doing Cameron ?” Asked Karen trying to asses his appearance over the link.
“The shock has finally worn off, and I’m feeling okay.” Smiled the boy.
“Good! How are they treating you?” Questioned Karen.
“I think the wheels fell off the welcome wagon.” Commented Cameron.
“That’s a rather uncomplimentary criticism!” complained Marissa Dawson.
“That is coming from someone who just lived in a bomb shelter for the last two and a half months without complaint … I’d say he’s being generous.” Asserted Mike.
“Whateley has very nice accommodations. My daughter has a splendid room and the Cafeteria is second to none.” Chastised Marissa.
“Cameron: where have you been staying since arriving? Asked Mike.
“Well … my first room was the morgue, and - last night was a jail cell.” Admitted Cameron regretfully.
“Mrs Dawson: is that your idea of ‘nice accommodations’?” The lady made a huff of displeasure but before she could refute - Mike redirected “Cameron, how would you rate the food?”
“I can’t say: they’ve not given me anything to eat.” Was released as an answer.
Mike glared at the Whateley delegates over the video screen “Imagine how I’m feeling right now! Learning about the level of care being provided my ward. Indeed: ’second to none’ is the most honest thing I’ve heard yet” this was said with near hatred in his voice “Even so - I don’t think my concerns have anything to do with the reason behind this meeting! Am I right?”
Without even acknowledging Mike’s statement, Mrs Hartford supplied “Whateley would like Cameron to drop all charges in consideration that this Academy is neutral territory and outside legal recourse.” Her tone reflecting superiority and an air of self-righteousness.
Karen leaped at Amelia’s throat by jabbing with “Please reiterate your statement: You want Staff Sergeant Burke to drop criminal charges.”
It was obvious Karen had just narrowly beaten Eloise to commenting, but she spoke next by clearly stating “I must object since you are very much mistaken” looking Amelia in the eye “Whateley is not neutral territory! It has protection due to being situated upon tribal land - that relationship makes it exempt from many laws. However; an assault was made against one of the Mediwihla people, on Mediwihla lands. Mediwihla law must be observed and I demand justice!” Counselled Mrs. Donner
Mike stepped up and reminded everyone “Lets not forget the implications stemming from a foreign dignitary being assaulted: I doubt you’re claiming independence as a nation. US federal agencies are going to have a field day and are already undoubtedly lining up beat down your door. Are you prepared for the inevitable involvement of politicians?” Summed up Mike, sizing up Whateley’s resolve.
Cameron was restless sitting in his chair, he sensed where this discussion was heading. That outcome was not what Cameron wanted; arguments getting cast, the entrenching of sides preparing for war, battle lines being drawn. He saw his opportunity to attend this school slipping away by the second.
Cameron stood and positioned his hands to form a ’T’ and showed it to everyone - the room quietened as the combatants relented to allow the boy to interrupt, once attention was focused he returned to his seat.
“First up: I don’t want to be the spark that ignites a war. Goodness knows this could flare up to involve nations even armies - read history people: world wars began over less.”
“Secondly: I was killed - no: ifs, ands, or buts about it. Somebody decided I didn’t deserve to keep living, apparently that claim was denied … cause here I am.” Cameron looked around at the assembled people before continuing.
“Asking me to ‘forgive’ being killed is neither: fair, or just. Besides - I don’t think it’s my forgiveness that matters, better ask who brought me back how they feel about it. And just so you know I’m looking at it this way: Because I’m alive - that kinda says they might just be ticked!” He let that thought soak in for a second.
“However: I am willing to consider waiting pursuit of my attacker: until … such a time as Whateley is no longer in the equation, perhaps after my gradation.” Everyone in attendance caught their breath and had looks of surprise.
“Thirdly: Whateley cannot functioned if under direct outside control - that is if I understand it’s charter correctly. If any single authority has too much leverage the whole structure will topple. Balance is needed or else a lot of kids are going to lose their best hope in life. Am I wrong in my assessment?” Low voices admitted assent.
“That balance has gone awry and needs correcting: I propose all relevant security and medical documentation about me and my attacker be placed into a sealed container and given to the Mediwihla tribe for safe keeping - until such time as I finish at Whateley thereby upholding the internal integrity and external neutrality.”
“Fourth: I am very much concerned about my safety … for obvious reasons. For my suggestions to work - We need to agree upon a means that guarantees no more attacks while I’m at Whateley. Otherwise; failing in that commitment the sealed files would get released. I imagine the Mediwihla people would be best suited in fulfilling such a role.”
“Fifth: Since my status as a police office jeopardizes this schools charter: I am willing to not perform any policing duties and remain completely separate - unless my assistance is sought by the school.
I am however, also here in service as an emissary of Canada to be an observer, I see no obstacle in fulfilling that role and shall carry it out to the best of my abilities.”
The tone of the meeting changed drastically after Cameron stated his expectations and concessions, each party discussed the merits of the different proposals and how these could be implemented, as would be expected there was jockeying for position. But by meetings end they had establishing a clear understanding and had an agreement.
The position of the Medawihla that Eloise Donner had insisted upon was unexpected. While she was mostly satisfied with the tribes inclusion in the agreement, she added a few points:
1) If Cameron’s health or safety was endangered then tribal rule of ‘eye for an eye’ would be enforced.
2) Cameron was to spend one weekend a month at the Were village as a guest.
3) Finally but most contentiously: Cameron was now considered a full fledged Were - and as such he must be exempted from powers testing.
The Whateley contingent and Mrs Donner left together to get the document container sorted out, leaving Cameron in the meeting room with it still connected to Mike and Karen.
“Cameron, you did alright today, but we could have gotten more from them if you hadn’t said what your desired outcome was.”
“Mike, I’m certain you could have squeezed them dry: but for me - the important thing is that I’m where I need to be. So letting them come away with feeling like they won some ground will make my time here better.”
“It means that much to you ?”
“In this instance I think my Dad’s advice that ‘to have a friend you need to be a friend’ is well worth whatever concessions we might have gained.”
“Are you okay with what the Mediwihla wanted?”
“They’re good people, I look forward to meeting more of them. I could have kissed Eloise when she said I didn’t have to undergo more testing.”
“That certainly was a surprise! Glad you could contain yourself. Is working with Doctors really all that bad?”
“I don’t hate Doctors, I just don’t like being the object of examination … I like my privacy and being scrutinized and dissected feels like a violation.”
“But there is so much that isn’t understood about you?”
“Would you have preferred to have been told you’d only ever amount to a mediocre lawyer - or find out on your own just how good you really are?”
“Skys the limit if you believe in yourself.”
“Are you going to be okay getting Ray and Foreign Affairs to put my attack on ice?”
“I have a couple angles that should satisfy them, and - it does let you stay to make your report.”
Cameron had made his goodbyes then picked up his pack and moved out to take a seat in Kane Halls reception / waiting area, Mrs Hartford had said would need some time before she could be available to help with Cameron’s registration. The officer manning the desk suggested to the boy that he could head over to Schuster Hall to wait there, he arranged for the patrol just leaving Kane to take him to the office, and once there his impromptu guards even waited until he’d signed into the day’s logbook - as directed by Mrs Claire; who then pointed Cameron back to his old friend ‘the bench’. After he took a seat, he noticed sitting at the opposite end of the bench was the same student who had been his next-door neighbour last night in jail. The two nodded in greeting.
After a short while and multiple checks ensuring that the coast was clear, his bench mate slipped out of the handcuffs that had bound him and whispered at Cameron “I’m outta here … you coming?”
“I’ll stick around.”
“Suit yourself.” He then quietly stole away and exited the building at a run.
Elaine Claire was handling the office alone this morning, Amelia Hartford had booked out saying she had to take care of something important with Mrs Donner. So far it had been a busy morning with high level meetings necessitating staff coming and going.
It turned out that the number of the blackmailed families ‘Wrought’ had been extorting money from reached all the way back to his freshman year, Whateley had received numerous complaints over that time and Elizabeth Carson had tasked Sam Everhart to find the culprit.
Sam had been resourceful by enlisting help from the mystic arts faculty, it was know that all the ‘pidgeons’ had been Melville residents - but Security could never pin down who was responsible until Sam formulated a plan.
At the start of the new year Sam constructed a prime candidate for blackmail - a mutant kid who’s rich family didn’t want exposure, after arranging fake ID and having spells cast that would make each person see different information - along with the new students illusion power, she could track who saw what.
So it was, when a few weeks into the school year - one of the false contacts got ‘the call’. Sam arrested Ronald Lundquist: aka ‘Wrought”, and conducted interrogations and further investigations to reveal his outside cohorts.
The Security report provided to Liz during the mornings second briefing, had detailed the ensnarement trap. From the information gleaned Wrought / Ronald Lundquist was being manipulated externally to supply details on families who could be extorted. The revealing information about Ronald was disturbing as Mrs Carson weighted how this could be dealt with: It was the worst crime possible at Whateley - the school was entrusted with these children's lives and the parents faith. Whateley’s reputation was at stake.
Mr. Lundquist was in his senior year, he had completed most of the curriculum and with just a few more classes could graduate … It was a coin toss - let him stay / throw him out. Liz hated being in the position of choosing this boys future.
The Headmistress stewed over how best to handle this problem, if Ronald was not part of the scam - if he was being forced or coerced into it: he deserved a second chance. It all depended on him - how he’d react; no matter how bad the act, she simple couldn’t just give up on any of her students, no matter how deserving they might be of the full fury of her wrath.
She needed to calm herself and keep a handle on her emotions.
Using the intercom, Elisabeth called up front “Claire. Security has escorted a student to us, would you show him to my office”.
“Yes, Mrs. Carson.”
Mrs Claire looked out toward the bench and saw waiting there a lone youth “Mrs. Carson will see you now.”
Cameron gave the lady a “Thank You” as he walked past and moved toward the door stencilled ‘Headmistress Carson’, entering into the impressive office Cameron noted the large desk and the woman sitting behind it, she radiated a huge energy signature obvious to Cameron even though she sat with her back turned to him – her hands clasped tightly and held at her chin as she looked out the window.
“Good Morning Mrs. Carson, I was told you wanted to see me” spoke Cameron with an uncertain voice to the seated woman - she remained facing the window without movement, with no acknowledge him, she just kept looking out the window - but her energy was boiling.
“Don’t bother sitting Ronnie!” Elisabeth used a name which Hive’s report said Wrought hated – doing so specifically in an attempt to try and get a reaction, shake the student up and rattle his cage.
Cameron gasped audibly, the only person who had ever called him that was her little brother James; and only when trying to be a pest. Being hit with such a painful memory it forced Cameron to groan as a strip was torn from his heart.
Elisabeth smiled ever so slightly: there was hope.
Still keeping her back turned, fearing she would lose control if she looked him in the eye: “So, do I toss you out to the wolfs? See if the MCO would be interested in you?” It was a leveraged attack - laying the consequences out front, see what he’d shoot for.
Fear shot through his every fibre at the magnitude of the threat to his life. Cameron responded ever so quietly “No”
“If you’re going to stay at Whateley - you’re not going to be very popular, rumours will spread, some will outright hate you. Are you prepared to handle that?”
“I’m willing to try” spoke Cameron, his mind racing at the implications.
The scary lady behind the desk hhmmed for a second “I’m assigning you detention: Report to Mr. Duncan at Maintenance, everyday after classes – and weekends. How long you’ll stay on detention Ronnie will depend entirely upon you! Check in at Kane Hall every morning with the duty desk. Now go!”
Cameron shook as it took a moment to force his feet to move but made his way to the door, stopping a short distance from the exit door with a hand on the knob “Ma’am, perhaps there’s been some mistake, could you maybe …”
“Don’t push it Ronnie! If you so much as show your face at this office again until you have a high school diploma in your hand, so help me I’ll hand you over to the MCO myself.”
Cameron closed the door behind himself, and didn’t so much leave Schuster Hall as fled once he’d collected his detention slip. Cameron ran trying to distance himself from the display of anger he’d just been the brunt of. A copse of trees gave the first indication of shelter and he ducked down into the low growth to try and collect his wits.
He stayed hidden, seeking a way to grasp what had just happened: they had come to a workable solution… what happened? He replayed the conversation a dozen times from off his SI phone to make sure he really understood all that had been said.
Mrs. Carson was notified that Security was on a line for her “Headmistress’s office” she said into the receiver
“Mrs. Carson. Arthur at the front gate calling, you wanted to be notified if Ronald Lundquist left Whateley, he has departed ma’am”.
“Thank you Arthur,” Elisabeth slowly returned the phone to its cradle “Damn! I actually thought he’d stay”. Her next calls went to the Dunwich Sherriff and then to Berlin MCO notifying them of a runaway and his recent activities.
Cameron eventually pieced himself together, maybe he was allergic to these trees because he’d had to wipe away tears more than once. Giving it consideration: If not for the assignment he’d been tasked with - he would have gladly taken up the offer to get out of here. However, he resolved that he would do the best he could under whatever circumstances - his Dad didn’t raise a quitter and his Mom would always press ahead despite difficulties. He wasn’t going to let them down now.
Having sizing up the situation he’d come up with a solution: he could continue distance learning - surely this place had a library and those almost always had internet, he had being doing well with the online courses … it might take 6 months but he could graduate - then he could sign up for some of the courses that had caught his attention from off the Whateley registration brochure.
He’d noticed the school uniform worn by the students; taking a suit out from cupboard he made alterations to it as a facsimile of an ‘official’ uniform and donned the clothes to be less conspicuous.
He then began a self guided tour of the school grounds to become familiar with it’s layout. He easily found Liard Hall: the schools Library, and convinced the lady behind the desk to let him do correspondence courses at the library - and asked if he could have the wifi password, the librarian wanted to know why he wasn’t using a school issued computer - he said his laptop was specifically designed for his sight problems.
After signing up to continue his online education, Cameron continued exploring and found the maintenance compound he was to report to. At the schools centre sat a large domed building that it was attached to the schools office but Cameron felt confident enough to enter.
Crystal Hall was impressive, it was an open expanse with seating levels, stairs, escalators ,and elevators emptying everyone to the main floor which had huge serving tables that were set up buffet style. Tables spread out like a fan from the buffet and as a focus the room had a waterfall. Each raised level could look out over the bottom floor, it reminded Cameron of a grand theatre.
Much noise was coming from the kitchen, with no doubt preparations underway for tonights meal, Cameron noticed some sandwiches still at the table so grabbing a tray putting one onto it and a glass of orange juice, stepping up to what must be the cashier he disturbed the lady with a polite ‘ahem’ and handed her his credit card.
“Sorry dear, we don’t use money - I just need to swipe your student card.”
Patting his pockets Cameron shrugged saying: “Guess I forgot it.”
“We can't let you eat without it, so hurry and get it.”
“Yes Mum.” Cameron returned the items to the displays and left the hall. Sitting on a bench just outside he sat and did an internal inventory of Storage, he estimated enough food for a couple months anyways - but some basic’s like milk he’d run out of fast. Loud banging drew his attention and looking behind the building he smiled: a garbage truck was emptying bins.
He approached the truck and waved to the driver, after introducing himself the boy asked Mr Cooper "How often do you have to come to Whateley to empty these?”
“Three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - unless there’s a holiday then the schedule gets adjusted.”
“I’d like to make you a proposition.”
“I can’t smuggle contraband for you kid.”
“Would you consider milk and some dairy products as contraband?”
“What ? Don’t the feed you here.”
“Afraid not. I could pay you - or provide a service you might find useful.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can ensure these bins are empty - all the time. You would only need to come and make it look like you’re doing a pick-up. Interested?”
“I’ve got two bins to collect yet - show me how you’d empty em.”
Climbing into the trucks jump-seat Cameron went with him to his next stop on campus and demonstrated how he dematerializes matter, then explained that he used the raw materials later.”
“You the kid Albert was on about - fixed a water leak?”
“Yeah, that was me: Downtown Dunwich in-front of Cecilia’s.”
“Then I’d say we have a deal - a little milk and dairy: nothing illegal … right!”
Deciding to halt his exploration, Cameron found an empty study alcove at the Library and claimed it, setting up his laptop. The Librarian: Miss Henderson, stopped by to check up him and adjusting the computers display to show her the Ministry of Educations distance learning site: showing to her the Canadian History section he was working on.
Reviewing where he was at with his current courses: he still had a couple subjects in grade Nine to finish, but had already taken some grade Ten courses.
Reflecting back on something Buck had said which had stuck with Cameron: ‘Fortune favours the bold’. The battered but not beaten boy dug into his studies, the system didn’t have him cornered yet.
The relative tranquility offered in the library was broken when classes let out, students came in to make use of the resources available, the influx told Cameron it was time to head off to his detention assignment at Maintenance. He managed to locate Mr. Duncan who sent him to join Stan and Morie in the maintenance shop: the two men had been providing instruction to a small crew into which Cameron was added.
Checking over his fellow workers Outlook noticed that one of them was only an assemblage of animated metal bones: including some chains, a toolbox, a bear trap and other nasty bits making up the form of a person. Outlook was introduced to Shroud.
Stan and More apportioned duties to the teams they’d made, Cameron and Shroud would be working together and since she knew how to do the day’s tasks, she was assigned as the twosomes foreman. Collecting the tools needed they proceeded into the labyrinth that comprised Whateley’s underground tunnels to access the sewer system.
The first few passageways had lighting, but soon they transitioned into dark tunnels.
“I don’t really need light to be able to see down here” informed Shroud speaking through a small voice box disc “I noticed you didn’t grab a flashlight.”
“Don’t need one, I have my own light” responded Cameron as he removed his visor, the uncovered light was enough to illuminate the confined space.
“I see what you mean that it’s handy for finding your way in the dark”
“If it’s reveal our secret time; Generator. How do you impart your life-force into objects?”
“What? What are you talking about? I’m Jade’s dead sister Jinn.”
“You’ve got a good cover story going, but sorry” intoned Cameron as he tapped his temple “energy can’t lie. You match your ‘sisters’ energy signature exactly, just like ‘Kitty Compact’ did.”
“You knew? Back at Doyle - you knew!”
“I only suspected. I couldn't find the tether when you showed me … a free roaming surveillance and attack platform” discerned Cameron “Can you communicate directly with your main body when separated or do you need to re-join to share information?”
“no, no, No. you can’t! You'll ruin everything. If people find out …”
“Thing of it is: I’m good at keeping secrets” assured Cameron “What’s said; stays between us, these walls” then pointing to a recess “and that rat - they’ll have to figure out a way to make it talk before I’ll say anything.”
“I’m not altogether certain you presently have a pinky, but I swear it”.
“So, what’s this tether you mentioned?”
“You’re spreading yourself around, but need to reconnect … since we’ve been together your signature has been slightly decreasing, maybe a separation of say 6 hours? If you exert yourself does it shorten the time?”
“Not that we’ve noticed.”
“But each time you divide, what’s separated returns so you must know where ‘you’ are at - must be some kind of link … how far apart have you been?”
“I went to Colorado once, and returned from there.”
“That’s a stretch! How many of ‘you’ can there be?”
“I’m up to six now, my friends call me J-team.”
“Each individual has a name starting with J.”
“Oye, that’s got to be confusing.”
“You’re catching on.”
“So Jinn, are you J-One?”
“It’ll do. Now, what’s your story? Really!”
“My eyes can see multiple ways: Temperature, x-ray, telescopic, microscopic for example.”
“That’s why you could see through me?”
“It is. So far everyone I’ve met has a distinct energy signature: it’s like what they say about fingerprints and snowflakes.”
“So, do you know what a person can do - from their energy signature?”
“I’m starting to be able to identify groups and intesities powers, but there’s so much variety; I figure Crystal Hall will be like being in a candy store.”
“Anything else - holdouts?”
“Yes. I manipulate matter.”
“Like a manifestor?”
“No. I have to use existing materials to be able to repair or reshape stuff.”
“That’s cool! Can you show me?”
“No problem, see that crack in the wall: watch!”
Jinn moved closer to get a better look at the wall that went fuzzy as the manipulation effect moved up repairing the cracked concrete.
“That’s like so cool … can you do that to everything?”
“Pretty near, depends if I have that material stored to work with.”
“Where do you keep it?”
“I’ve got it tucked away in a safe place.”
“Then … we could maybe fix a lot of the problems down here instead of needing to come back every couple days.”
“Don’t know till we try … you first - oh leader of mice and men – lets see about losing that rat though; eeewww.” was said with a shudder.
The two walked a little further down the tunnel before Jinn stopped in front of a heavy steel door that showed many years on its rusted surface. Taking a moment of time, Cameron did a restoration on the door, then Jinn worked the opening mechanism, it moved with ease letting the teens enter. The assigned task was clearing a blockage, thankfully being able to prevent odours from entering his nose meant Cameron could ignore the smell, otherwise he might have been overcome by the stink.
“Someone has to come and do this every few days” informed Jinn.
Looking up and down the old brick pipeline, Cameron noticed the issue, a dip in the alignment. Walking between the access points Cameron corrected the sag after which it allowed for a free flow, in the process Cameron lined the surface with plastic which was an upgrade from the ancient worn brick. Since their work went quickly, Jinn had them restore two more lengths of the dilapidated and deteriorating system before Stan and Morie expected them back at the shop.
Walking the tunnels on their return Jinn started to recount how some of the original tunnels might have dated back to the civil war era and could have been used by the underground railroad.
“They had trains go through these?”
“No … are you topid or sumtin. It was how slaves escaped.’ She explained then went onto “Must be from all the cold up north - froze your brain.”
“Sorry: Canadian, remember. We have a different history than you. And just so you know: snowdrifts and tundra don’t start once you cross the border.”
“Ohh really Mr. Smarty-pants; then why is Canada white on the map?”
“It might have something to do with being a separate Country.”
“Sure - sure. If your oh-so-different from the States: name a Canadian food.”
“We’ve got all sorts of breakfast cereals, there’s a whole table full of them at Crystal Hall. Mind you I’ll be sticking with Fruit Loops! I tried some of that other stuff and man … drano for your soul or what.”
“Uggh, No! Poutine is fries with cheese curds and gravy, not … whatever you - just no.”
“Never heard of it, next!”
“You can always go back for more bacon. Billie does it all the time.”
“No… it’s. nevermind. Listen: can we drop this for now? I’m getting a headache”
“It’s the fumes; happens every time. You wouldn’t believe how often people get headaches while working down here with me.”
“Must be it.”
A short while later after the two had returned to the maintenance shop, Cameron found it to be a huge relief to be using the shops shower: he could wash himself but the whole idea of having been in that muck … it warranted a long hot shower to honestly feel clean again.
Jinn was still cleaning up their gear when Cameron exited the washroom, calling over to the boy she announced “Almost done.”
“I can finish up if you need to get clean.”
“A shower isn’t exactly the best thing for me … rust don’t you know. I get a buffing back at my room.”
”I could help - with your permission.”
“Are we talking a make-over?”
“How’s about a deep cleaning?”
“Yeah, please! Billie complains when I waltz in after being knee deep in it.”
Cameron commenced rejuvenating the metal that made-up Shroud’s frame “Billy? You’re in a co-ed dorm?”
“She’s my roommate, but yes; Poe is co-ed.”
“All done, rusts gone and I lubed your joints - you creaked. Are we finished for tonight?”
“Yup-ers, now its time for chow. See you at Crystal Hall?”
“I’ll drop by if I see you.”
Using the sign out punch clock as instructed, Cameron left Maintenance and followed at a distance the stream of students heading towards the large domed building. Crystal Hall was an overwhelming array of energy signatures at meal time, steadying himself Cameron bypassed the buffet line and hunted up a place to sit amidst the throng.
He found a table on the main floor removed from the crowd, sitting down he decided a bowl of soup would be a good starter, he’d hardly taken a couple spoonful’s when two of the more colourful students approached and stood staring down at him, the bigger one who looked like a dinosaur from a movie she’d never been allowed to watch, put his food tray down and started making gestures ending with a load shriek.
“Razorback here wants to know if your white or dark meat?” said the shorter, stocky looking boy with patterns in his clothing that made Cameron dizzy.
“I suspect I taste just like chicken, but it doesn’t mean I am one.”
Dino-boy made a snort and stocky had a smile, then; after some more signing “He says your too scrawny to even make a decent appetizer, we should throw you back until you’ve gotten some meat on you”.
“Your table I suppose?”
“Yup: Outcast Corner.”
“Not to worry, all yours. Thanks for the respite.” Said Cameron as he picked up his food and moved on.
Searching around Cameron found an isolated tabled on the second tier with only two seats and since it was tucked into a far corner behind a support pillar no one was using it. It looked to be unused since it was so well hidden away, but for Cameron it afforded an excellent view - for people watching.
From Storage came a nice steak with veggies and some rye bread, digging in - it was a most refreshing meal and since he’d not been intruded upon for having claimed someone else’s territory, Cameron discretely etched ‘Outlook’ into the tabletop to stake claim to this perch.
The activity in Crystal hall was riveting: the energy signatures pulsing and shimmering, a spectacular dance amid the noise and laughter. Cameron was able to single out Generator … the one Generator and the currently two divided up J-Team members, J-Central was in the company of a truly remarkable energy signature, Cameron hadn’t seen anything like it before: except maybe at a fireworks display where he had been given a lit stick that gave off sparkles, this signature had sparks flying out that fizzled off.
Generator and her friends gathered food and sat a table nearby, but when Cameron was heading to the escalator Shroud came up and offered to introduce her friends, stepping up beside the table it began:
“Gang. This is Outlook my fellow sewer rat” working around the table she made introductions.
“This is ‘Lancer’, or Hank; only his code name is pretentious.” Which got an annoyed look from the young brick to … well at first to Generator but then to Jinn.
“Toni, also called ‘Chaka’” pointed his hostess.
“Sup?” was offered by what could only be described as ‘wired’ girl.
“My sister Jade, aka ‘Generator’” who nodded.
“We’ve met, I see you still have that situational awareness thing happening” commented Cameron which drew a smile from J-Central.
“And our roommate Billie.”
Billie stood and … well - okay, standing isn’t quiet right: rose? When at no times is anything affixed to the floor can it be said that a person is standing? How about: oriented herself to mimic a standing posture. Anyway, Billie offered her hand and she and Cameron shook. Billie assumed a puzzled expression and quietly returned to sitting but kept watching the newcomer.
Toni piped up “What’s with the shades? You too cool for school?
Taking off the visor thereby letting the table see his eyes “Naw, it’s your dazzling personality – I need something to dampen the impact” he said.
“At least someone appreciates all that is ‘the Chaka’” recovered Toni.
“When did you start speaking in the third person” razzed Hank.
“Had to happen! There’s just too much of a good thing going on right here” was emphasized by Toni running her hands down her sides exaggerating her curves.
“Or maybe too little going on up here” being added by Jade rapping her knuckles against Toni’s head.
“Hey, hands off ‘The Chaka’”.
Shroud gave Outlook a nudge saying: “See what you started.”
“My bad, many pardons” offered Cameron.
“Our teammates are running late, take a seat” offered Hank.
“I’ve already had dinner, but here” pulling it out from Storage he set a heaping plate onto the table “Shroud wouldn’t believe me.”
“What is it?” asked ‘The Chaka’.
Shroud spoke up “He called it Pooh-teen, I have my doubts.”
“What’s not to like?” said Toni after a mouthful, which encouraged the rest to sample it and express enjoyment.
“Think Ayla would like it?” asked Jade having taken a few mouthfuls.
“Probably not high brow enough for his tastes, if it doesn’t have snails or a totally unpronounceable name - he can be so uncultured!” supplied Toni.
“It’s been a pleasure meeting you all, I’ll leave you to your dinner” remarked Cameron with a smile and left the table.
Jade had noticed Billie’s unusual behaviour but had waited to comment on it “What’s up Billie, cat got your tongue?”
“Did anybody else feel the earth move?” was the response from the stunned expressionless girl.
Her ‘Team Kimba’ table-mates exchanged curious glances trying to gauge the comment just made, it burst when Toni fell out of her chair unable to withhold the “Bahwah, hah, ha” joined by Hank bending down to hide his face as his body bounced from laughter. Shroud covered her voice-box which didn’t mask the wheezing laugh coming from it. It was the smiling face of Jade that asked “Billie, you okay?”
Having left Crystal Hall, Cameron stood outside looking around trying to decide his next move, concluding he needed to stay inconspicuous he headed towards the lake he had spotted earlier - there was a heavily wooded area along the shore that would serve his purpose.
The evenings darkness had descended but Cameron was able to find a small natural clearing; he brought forth from Warehouse the prospectors tent he had purchased along with a sturdy cot and sleeping bag. His camping chair was really comfortable and after sitting down Cameron commenced making the phone call that had waited too long.
Lynn was busy with something in her bedroom upstairs when the phones first set of rings beckoned. She was out her door and moving fast careening down the hallway bouncing off walls to help make course corrections. She called out a repeating broadcast of “I got it, I got it, I got it” as she rounded the top of the staircase and chased down them jumping two at a time, thumping like a wild elephant.
Lynn’s long black hair was wild streamers behind her as she flew downstairs, deciding to jump the last four steps she landed into a crouch then sprinted across the remaining distance into the kitchen, the smooth flooring had her skid past the countertops corner almost bowling into her mother, but she grabbed onto the counter and used it to right her course dragging herself back to round the cabinetry and turn the final leg.
Lynn hopped up onto the breakfast nook stool and quickly ran a hand past her ear to clear any loose hair as she picked up the receiver.
“What? No: Joe’s Pool Hall - who in the hall do you want?”
“Oh! Hi Cameron.”
“Your slipping, you always seem to know when I’m calling.”
“Can’t be right all the time.”
“I’m beginning to wonder about that.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Now… let me see: I had a most enlightening day today. Did you know that Were’s mark their mates with scents?”
“I might have heard something about that … from somewhere. Why?”
“Well; surprise - surprise! It turns out my girlfriend decided to jump the gun by a couple steps and mark me.”
“REALLY! I’m your girlfriend! ”
“Umm, Lynn: you might be missing the point here.”
“Wait till I tell Mom, she’s not going to believe this” Cameron could hear Lynn speaking excitedly in the background “Mom! It’s Cameron - he’s okay! And I’m his girlfriend!” Cameron at this point felt the stirrings of another headache.
“So … how’s it going ?” Asked Lynn coming back onto the phone
“Just peachy … never better. You?”
“I’ve been really nervous lately - I mean … I knew you’d be going through alot of stuff, and I was hoping you’d get through it okay and all, but you must have - cause you called.
“Yes - I’m okay. Whatever my expectations of Whateley had been, it’s not what I had hoped for, so far anyway.”
“ And you couldn’t have called sooner?”
“Sorry, but we really do need to talk about your marking me: We can’t be married!”
“I should think not: I’m too young for marriage. Dad said I couldn’t even think about it till I’m 18”
“And I’m nowhere close to being ready to commit to a relationship.”
“Exactly my point.”
“Okay, we’re in agreement. So why are the Were’s here saying I’m marked and it means we’re married.”
“Ohh! That’s simple: I marked you.”
“Lynn ... I need to ask: do you even know what todays date is?”
“Is it Thursday?”
“Maybe for you … but I’m still back on Tuesday” he answered but muttered as an aside “let alone what month.”
“Are those time zones too tough to figure out ?”
“No! Keeping up with a Precog is whats tough, could you maybe back things up a little and do some explaining?”
“About marking you?”
“That would be nice, yes”
“Well: it’s like this. When I became a girl is also when the precognition kicked in, it was so overwhelming! All I ever saw was darkness and despair, then one day I saw a touch of light and well: it was you. Despite all the hurt and pain you were going through - you stayed a bright spot. When we met I was so happy - and you were this kind, generous, humble person and I was drawn to you … cause … I like you." she softly said barely above a whisper.
“Lynn: I like you too” Cameron had to pause, what with the squeeing coming from the other end, “But isn’t marking a huge step?”
“You were going to a school full of hot exemplar chicks, I had to do something to protect you.”
“But we talked about that! I’m not anywhere close to being ready to date.”
“I know, but I … couldn’t risk it.”
“But you’re willing to risk people thinking we’re married?”
“Did anyone explain what it means for a Were to mark someone?”
“Only what it signifies.”
“Most Were don’t mark anymore, it allows a female Were to increase the tribes population by having multiple partners. Because a Were who commits to marking is bonded - for life, she has chosen her life-mate.”
“But Lynn. You didn’t even know if I would accept you.”
“As I said ‘I took a risk’ - I had too. Please don’t be mad.”
“Mad: no, not truly mad. Upset and confused yes! Why did you have to ‘risk’ it?”
“Did you ever hear the Were legend about ‘The Panther and the Golden Eyed Man’?”
End Part 2