It's a Matter of Death and Life (Part 4)
It's a Matter of Death and Life
by Camospam, editing by Wendy K,
Whateley Academy, Kirby Hall: Monday Oct 15, 2007
Louis Geintz had just wrapped up his famous Psychic ethics discourse, It’s a topic every student in his class would at some point need to face, and likely agonize over, because undoubtedly they’ll each need to decide whether to ‘cross the line’ or not.
A psychic has an especially challenging approach when using their powers. While an exemplar might have limitations to their strength, if they exercise their ability; say by starting out lifting a Volkswagen - however, by pushing themselves they could build up to hefting a bus. Conversely, a psychic needs to practice not pushing the limits, to not explore what’s possible. Instead, it’s all about finesse and discretion.
A truly skilled psychic is one that does no damage - to not leave footprints saying they'd been there, depending - of course, upon the decision of having ethics: to be good or bad.
If a psychic cared nothing about ethics, or perhaps better stated: had no moral inhibitions over harming other people … herein lay what always bothered Foob most. A simple punch can be easily healed from, so too a broken leg or arm although serious injuries, but a psychic blow! It has the potential to destroy a persons life and ruin their mind completely. It was possible to even kill with a thought. This is why he put such effort into teaching the value of ethical behaviour.
He hoped his students would always pick the high road because of his teachings.
The students left class with subdued vigour, the message was heavy, but at least its importance wasn’t easily discarded. Staying behind to speak with him were a few of his astral neighbourhood watch volunteers: The Dream Team, the students who took turns observing the goings on in the spirit realm.
He had tasked them with a special assignment: to observe if an inordinate amount of spirits had gathered at Whateley. Ever since his conversation with Outlook he’d been worried there might just be more happening in the realms than he’d believed.
His students would gawk in awe at him whenever he recounted his experience that night in Doyle’s basement, what he’d seen (leaving out names): how a spirit entity had stood close to him - it acknowledged him … that simply never happened! Spirits always avoided contact with psychics, they only ever condescended to speak with humans when one was bonded to an Avatar, even then conversation was vague or superficial.
It never occurred to Louis before, as it was one of his students that drew his attention to the disproportionately large number of Avatar students attending Whateley. He’d tried checking school records for the actual percentage, and was dismayed by the response to his inquiry: ‘That is classified information’ plus having to explain to Ms. Hartford why he wanted to know such a thing. He didn’t disclose exactly why he’d asked, but told her it was to be better prepared for teaching and advising students hosting another mind.
His personal count pegged the number of Avatars as having increased ten fold over the last five years, a disturbing trend.
After debriefing the Dream Team over what they’d found during their ‘patrols’, a pattern was beginning to form, but precisely what the big picture was - Louis hadn’t figured that out yet.
Tunnels under Whateley Academy
Solange walked into the secret room that the Alpha’s kept in the tunnels, reserved for some of it’s more clandestine meetings, there hadn’t been much need for this room lately - not since ‘The Don’ had fallen from grace, but still it afforded privacy when the situation demanded … discretion.
Entering the dimly lit meeting space Tansy saw seated at the table the Alpha Alpha: Wyatt Cody. Across from him was Imperious the leader of the New Olympians, or Zeus reincarnated, if Jason Stratholm was to be believed. The two looked to have just finished an argument when Tansy entered, her empathic reading from off both of them said it was something they didn’t want to share with her, and the timing of her arrival had ended the argument on pins and needles.
Jason stood and gave Tansy a casual greeting in passing as he left the room.
“Did I interrupt something?” asked Tansy.
“We had finished, you actually broke up an awkward moment.”
“I thought you would want this right away,” informed Tansy placing an envelope on the table and pushing it over to Wyatt.
“Were there any problems?”
“The transaction took longer than expected, the exchange needed extra precautions.”
“You said it would be straight forward.”
“Normally it would have been; but there was added complications.”
“What kind of complications?”
“My contact demanded a higher price than usual, and greater security for the exchange. He was being extra cautious since I haven’t been a regular customer after parting company with The Don.”
“Was your source suspicious.”
“Of course he was suspicious, it’s not like going to the corner store to get a newspaper. I was asking for classified documents, I’d think him a fool if he didn’t take precautions.”
“What did you get?”
“It’s what you’ve asked for - the official incident report: part of an ongoing criminal investigation. It’s not an original - but is a copy taken before it was put into sealed storage. My contact needed … encouragement to commit a felony. His price was steep, Daddy is going to ask questions.”
“You’re saying this could have gone outside Whateley? Elaine could be charged with something!”
“Yes. Technically we are now accessories to a crime” informed Solange.
“It’s Elaine, I’d do anything for her” admitted Wyatt.
“I didn’t say NO when you asked for my help, Lanie’s my friend - how could I not assist?”
Wyatt opened the envelope and read the report boldly stamped ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ and when finished he huffed in distaste before slamming the document onto the table, “I thought you said this is an official report.”
“It is” mollified Tansy.
“All names have been redacted, we don’t know who the infiltrator was!”
“Does it matter? He’s gone now - Grizzly did a good job of that.”
“If one fails you can be certain another will be dispatched. What worries me is this open incident report … and no detention for Elaine, it feels wrong” mused Wyatt.
“What should we do about it?”
“Not much to be done. We bide our time and stick to the plan” summed up the senior, “But you have to wonder: How did it know to come to Whateley?”
“Are you saying we should have asked it questions first?” wondered the girl.
“Of course not. But we better keep alert! This last one lit up like a sunrise, the next one might be harder to spot” he advised.
“We can watch any new arrivals, see if another one tries to slip in” assured Tansy, receiving a nod in agreement from Wyatt.
“We need to keep to the timetable moving. Is everything ready for tonights meeting of the Atlantean League?” asked the Alpha.
“Word has been circulated, usual place - usual time” notified Tansy.
The gesture of dismissal from Wyatt indicated that they had finished their business.
“Thank you Mustang.”
“Your welcome Kodiak.”
Dunn Hall: Wednesday Evening, October 17, 2007
Cameron was a bundle of nerves as he stood in the hall. Again he pulled at the bottom of his jacket trying to assuage his fear that it sat funny on him, straightening it for the umpteenth time. Either his clothing was simply out of proportion - or his young and growing body just wasn’t ready to sport formal wear.
He’d had to lengthen all his clothes after each growth spurt, another overnight inch increase with accompanying aches and pains confirmed he was filling out. That thought took him back to the times when ‘her’ Mom would mark the kitchen door frame with both the kids heights. Beside each was added their ages, and James would stand tippy toe to say he was catching up to Cameron. They would get into a fight over it, and … Cameron was ready to call it a night and started to turn about when the room’s door swung open.
“Don’t just stand there! Come in!” enthused a lady with prominent horns and a spade ended tail as she reached across the doorway and pulled the discombobulated boy in.
He wasn’t absolutely certain what had just happened, since he found himself standing inside a room that was large, but not huge, populated by a plethora of students who were attempting to move - with varying degrees of success, in harmony with the music.
Nearly all the rooms tables had been cleared away with only a few chairs remaining - being set up along one perimeter of the dance floor. The space wasn’t decorated like a fancy ballroom, nor was it adorned with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. At least Cameron’s worst fears hadn’t been realized.
Cameron needed to remind himself to breath so he finally exhaled. Dancing Lessons … he wasn’t completely settled onto the notion, but he’d promised Cecilia he’d at least try, and some company would be nice.
The dancing lessons poster on Crystal Hall’s notice board gave directions to and the times for the elective class held Monday and Wednesday nights, and Saturday afternoons. Even so: he hardly knew anyone at Whateley, and Mrs. Carson’s warning that he’d be unwelcome - even hated by other students was foremost in his mind.
The dance floor was occupied by a few couples receiving instruction from Miss Rogers about the proper positioning and footwork for a Foxtrot. At the moment Miss Rogers was giving pointers to a unique couple: the boy was quite tall and rather hairy, in fact he looked just like a werewolf from those old movies. Except when Cecilia moved his hand up from off his partners bottom and onto her back his toothy grin was exactly like that of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, even though he offered profuse apologizes.
Cameron sidestepped around the main flow of activity on the floor by keeping his back close to the wall. He headed towards a set of empty chairs and had almost succeeded in claiming one when his arm was latched onto, he found himself forcibly getting pulled across the room by the surprisingly strong lady with the devils tail and horns.
The woman retained a mischievous grin as she ‘escorted’ Cameron across the dance floor, his feet barely touching the ground as he was manhandled across the room. The lady had a scattering of black scales across her skin - which played havoc with Cameron’s sight as he blinked trying to adjust his vision. He was deposited beside a girl in a nice evening gown who was busy arranging items on a table, she hadn’t noticed the altercation coming towards her.
“Billie! I’ve found a partner for you” said his assailant.
The girl stood upright, straightening her dress, then turned to face them.
“You!” she said loudly in a sharp voice that made everyone turn to see what the commotion was about.
Cameron easily recognized the bizarre energy signature of Jade’s roommate; Billie Wilson aka Tennyo. Her dazzling signature was on displayed like a lit sparkler, burning brightly and sending off stray bursts which fizzled out as they flew away.
“Oh good, you know each other” delighted the lady as she maneuvered the two together and hastened them to face each other in preparation for dancing. They stood face to face and Cameron watched as Billie's nostrils flared while she breathed through her nose sporting a peeved expression.
“Hi Billie” offered Cameron as a wave of panic built within.
With effort she reined in her voice and asked “What did you do to me? I was a laughing stock.”
It took a while to piece together what the upset girl might be talking about “We met - and shook hands. I left a plate of poutine at the table - you didn’t like it?”
“When we touched - what did you do to me?” she demanded of him, forcefully tapping his sternum with an accusatory finger.
“I … shook your hand?” he slowly responded, his focus distracted by all the hair that just seemed to ignore gravity, “What kind of hairspray holds like that?”
“Don’t change the subject!”
“It must take … like what? Two whole cans of the stuff to get it to stand up like that.”
“Forget the hair - answer the question!” she was getting frustrated and grabbed his jacket in her fists.
“I’m sorry Billie: I don’t understand what’s made you upset.”
“I saw stars - in mid-day! I felt the earth hurtling through space, It was like being on the bridge of a starship.”
“Ummm, would you say it was like how in Star Wars when they streak towards you, or in Star Trek when they pass by a window?” asked Cameron between glances at the fascinating hair.
“It was you!” accused an exasperated Billie, giving him a shake.
“I was just trying to grasp your metaphor: I don’t know what happened. Could you try describing it for me?” squeaked out the boy who had progressed to level 6 worry, as Billie renewed her firm grip on his jacket.
“I was standing on the earth but could see out into space, I felt the earth turning and I could sense great speed as if traveling through space” sounded out a perturbed Billie endeavouring to recall the sensation.
“It sounds … amazing. Had you been standing on a mountain top? Did you notice anything around you?” commented the now intrigued lad.
“ I … No - we! You and I, ‘We’ were standing in Crystal Hall, but it was like it wasn’t really there” spoke Billie in realization.
“I’m going to suggest something, and please don’t get angry,” reasoned Cameron as he noted her grip hadn’t relaxed. “Maybe if you try touching my hand - to see if it happens again?”
“Is this your idea of a come-on?” she snarled and fixed the boy in a stone cold stare that bore through his visor.
“No!” admitted Cameron, who; if he could - would have gotten some distance from the girl, “I am just trying to eliminate possibilities, figure out what happened.”
“No funny business?” demanded the girl as she pressed her face closer into Cameron’s personal space.
“Honest, I don’t know what happened” admitted Cameron, his actions coming close to outright panic now “Please. Can you put me down … I’m not fond of heights.”
During the whole interchange, the two had begun to float, they had risen to a height nearing three feet off the ground. In surprise, Billie looked around and was shocked to see them both free floating in the air with her still holding tightly onto his clothing, but she hadn’t been lifting him.
“You’re a flyer?” she asked as they began to descend.
“I sure hope not” replied Cameron, who once his feet touched down gave a big sigh of relief. “I prefer to be attached to terra-firma.” Then after adjusting his bunched up clothes, Cameron presented his hand: palm up, inviting Billie to touch it.
Billie tentatively put her hand into Cameron’s and slowly looked up, “I can see the moon, it looks all dimpled and rough.”
Cameron did a scan before speaking “Billie, the moon’s over there” he said while pointed in the opposite direction she was looking to, “I think you’re seeing the stipple ceiling with telescopic vision.”
“A who what’s it now?” was the girls befuddled reply.
“Try looking outside” advised Cameron gently bringing the girl nearer to one of the rooms windows.
“Whoa, that’s what I was talking about, there are so many stars!” exclaimed Billie.
“I’m going to take a wild guess here” offered Cameron “I have never flown before - and you haven’t had enhanced sight” the starstruck girl nodded in agreement, “I’d say our abilities are interacting somehow.”
“Are you a power mimic?”
“You’ll need to explain that power set for me.”
“A mimic can copy or steal somebody’s powers.”
“No, although I do absorb energy - so that might explain the levitating” surmised Outlook, “But as to why you’d be picking up some of my sight … are you a mimic?”
“Not any longer.”
Cameron was puzzled at that comment but didn’t press the issue, “Well: sorry then. I don’t know the why’s.”
“How many types of sight do you have?”
“Microscopic, Thermographic, X-ray, to name a few” answered Cameron, “Tell you what, if I try putting on a pair of gloves, let’s see if that is enough of a barrier to stop the transfer.” Cameron brought out a pair of leather gloves and put them on, thereafter he again held his hand out to Billie.
Billie cautiously took the offered hand and then looked around, almost disappointed she said, “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“No dizzying array of colours and patterns?”
“Oh! Did Jericho come for dancing lessons?”
They shared a laugh at that resulting in Billie withdrawing her hand from Cameron’s. After a moment of awkward silence the boy gave a slight bow and held out his gloved hand asking “Do you wanna dance?”
“Yes. Yes I do.”
As it so happens, Billie turned out to be an accomplished ballroom dancer, for her part; she was pleasantly surprised with Cameron’s ability which she rated as a novice. He credited the training he’d received from figure skating - and not having two left feet helped greatly.
Learning the Foxtrot turned into a fun evening with the two gaining an easy camaraderie after their shaky start. They talked mostly about Jade and her J-Team antics interspersed between Miss Rogers and Miss Imp giving dancing advice, pointers and encouragement. At the end of the lesson everyone in the class broke into applause to say thank you.
Miss Roger called for everyones’ attention:
“I would like make an announcement: Whateley will be having this years Annual Fall Ball on November 30th.” Cecilia appraised her audience to gauge the level of excitement before continuing.
“In consultation with the teachers and trustee’s: We are hoping to inspire among the student body a greater interest in ballroom dancing. In an effort to encourage a deeper appreciation for, and demonstrate the fun dancing represents. We hope to generating higher participation in this class. So I am pleased to announce we are going to be holding the first ever Whateley Academy Dance Contest, to be held during the Fall Ball.” That bit of news sparked a little more interest and everyones focus was directed upon the lady to hear more details from Miss Rodgers.
“Some of you might be familiar with the TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’, we are going to have a similar competition, each couple will perform at least one dance to be scored by a panel of celebrity judges.”
“What will I win?” was called out by a blond girl somewhere nearby in the group of students. The boorish comment made Billie wince as she mumbled the name Exquisite.
“Each team will be scored on originality, you will need to incorporate popular types of media: such as famous entertainment into your dance routine. Every couple can recruit one support person to assist them in preparation.”
“What will I win?” was again called out to everyones annoyance.
“The support person can help with costumes and coaching, and heaven forbid - in case of injury.”
“What do …”
“The winners will get a pass for an all expense paid evening in Berlin which will consist of dinner and a movie plus transport to and from Whateley.” Informed Cecilia with a degree of impatience at the interruptions and glared at the obnoxious girl. “Please get the entry forms and contest rules from Miss Imp.”
Billie excitedly rushed over to the lady with the horns and tail while beginning a lively discussion with some of the other students. Cameron moved away from the crowd and looked around the room glancing at the less than friendly faces, most appeared indifferent towards him while others had an underlying hostility.
He walked over to retrieve his discarded jacket, smiling shyly at the students he passed nearby - but getting little notice from them when offering hellos. He sighed inwardly and had to acknowledge the accuracy of Mrs Carson’s warning in her office, about how the Whateley students would not be welcoming to him.
So be it, friends were a luxury he couldn’t afford right now.
He made his way to the exit, then standing on the doors threshold he looked back at the throng of excited youth, Cameron gave a goodbye wave which was unacknowledged and headed off wondering: what was wrong with everybody.
Settling in for the night Cameron crawled into bed, before sleep claimed him - he tried to come to grips with feeling both happy and sad as he reflected on his day.
Maintenance Yard: Oct 18, 2007
Cameron woke early, and needed to warm up his new room - considering how cold it had gotten last night. Ever since that extraordinarily harsh freak storm had hit a week ago, the temperature was much colder at night, so cold in fact he’d needed to give up his campsite.
That storm had dropped the temperature fast and dumped a lot of snow, which meant he left tracks: tracks that could lead someone right to him. Also, keeping a tent warm was a big energy expenditure.
Cameron’s thoughts went back to the start of that freak storm: how that singular event had sprung drastic circumstances. He and all the other students had been released early from detention when the storms intensity grew, all students being cautioned to return to their dorms until the storm passed. On his way back to his lakeside campsite he came across some government recruiters - he’d noticed they always seemed to be lurking about the campus and he typically avoided them, it seems they too had been caught unawares and unprepared for the quick change of weather.
Two of the sneaky operatives were hidden in a camouflaged blind in some shrubs and had huddled under an emergency blanket to keep warm - it wasn’t helping. Cameron discretely warmed them by infusing heat into their circulatory systems and then offered to shelter them through the storm. They raised a concern about another agent, whom Cameron was able to find by scanning the surrounding undergrowth. The third agent was exhibiting early stages of hypothermia, once Cameron tended to his condition and got him on his feet, the youth then lead the three to his campsite.
Still a distance away, Cameron materialized his outfitters tent, it was just large enough to hold all of them, and he poured heat into the stove to warm the space in preparation of their arrival. By putting layers of insulating blankets overtop the outfitters tent, it retained the heat from the stove well enough to keep it comfortable inside and protected them as the storm raged.
To keep attention off his abilities, he set out four beds and blankets, then to forgo the inevitable situation; he brought out of Storage all the food and drink he estimated they might need.
His guest’s first question upon entering the tent was why he wasn’t housed in a dorm, and surprisingly enough they bought Cameron’s excuse that he was earning outdoor survival points - detailing that it was a mandatory expectation within Canada’s education curriculum: since every Canadian needed to know how to survive in arctic conditions.
It took some time before the three warmed up enough to make introductions, Mr Craig with the CIA, Mr Wurth of the FBI, and Lieutenant Saunders, she worked for the NSA. Cameron was reluctant to disclose his affiliation with the RCMP, stemming from Chief Delarose’s warning to not disclose that info to anyone, when he did tell them it turned out to be a revelation which each of them took offence to, seemingly concerned Cameron might be horning in on their ‘territory’ by trying to conscript Whateley students to join the RCMP.
It was only after repeated assurances from Cameron that he was only here to attend school that they relented. Then in an effort to show his earnestness and because nobodies cell phones would work, he volunteered to let each of them make use of his Special Investigations satellite phone to notify their respective handlers in the CIA, FBI, and NSA to apprise them of their condition. The agents then began a marathon of coercion: as Cameron was beset with attempts at recruitment, he tried kindly to defer their efforts, but it wasn’t until disclosing to them his posting under the Canadian diplomatic office before they desisted in trying to sign him up.
Over the course of the their time together Cameron needed to stoke the fire in the stove often, refill the lantern for light, and top up coffee cups, he even put on a big pot of homemade bison stew to warm up for dinner and baked a tray of baking powder biscuits. His new friends were appreciative of his help and hospitality, raving about how tasty the meal was, and in a show of mutual support promised not to make waves for him as he sorted out his life at Whateley.
The agents had wanted to play poker to help pass the time: however, when Cameron repeatedly disclosed what everybody's dealt hand of cards were, they were open to suggestions. It took some convincing and several attempts at demonstration before they eventually started a game of ‘Greed’: a dice game Cameron’s family loved to play, it didn’t take long before they were so deeply enthralled with the game that no-one paid attention to the time.
The tent was just large enough to accommodate the four, however the situation demanded they make the best of it, but after the storm broke and the agents left to return home, it was apparent to Cameron how exposed he was. It was then that Cameron began hunting for a new hideout, in order to deflect Whateley’s attention away from himself, and prevent them from handing him over to the MCO.
Returning to the now Cameron looked outside, he was uninspired by the vista, the maintenance yard was not one of Whateley’s scenic highlights. The view stung his heart with him being reminded of his detention; the endless barrage of menial tasks he was forced to perform.
The guys in Maintenance had at least begun to act friendly toward Cameron, but they still had to treat him the same as all the other detainee’s. He had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be getting freed of detention until passing high school - only then could he present himself to the office, maybe then Mrs Carson would explain what it was he’d done wrong!
Although Cameron had really enjoyed his campsite, and missed the tranquil setting, it was also that he didn’t feel oppressed while staying there. As odd as it sounded, camping felt more like home than anyplace else had since … he shook off that bit of sadness, an unpleasant reminder about his family.
Deep in thought he again looked out over the maintenance yard through the c-cans walls. He had found a shipping container in the yard used for additional storage which was only partially filled, so he fashioned a false wall taking up one third of the space within the c-can, creating a comfortable home for himself. He splurged by making his new hideout look just like a log cabin inside, complete with a wood burning fireplace - although he mostly just warmed a metal stove until it glowed to heat his new room.
To keep his location discrete, and since he had no need of windows, there were no outward signs he had taken up residence, he would dissipate part of the wall to enter and exit, and all the traffic in the yard during the day hid his tracks. Plus having access to the washroom and shower in the maintenance shop was a bonus.
Cameron left fly a dejected sigh over his reflection upon his life at Whateley, it could be summed up as consisted of: Beck Library during the day as he continued the on-line high school courses using the libraries wi-fi, Crystal Hall to people watch and dissect the powers present at meal times, then to Maintenance and fulfilling the detention punishment Mrs Carson had assigned him. Cameron wasn’t happy about the situation, but he was alive - that had to count for something, and he had at least prepared for the worst.
Hawthorne Cottage: October 20, 2007
It was a rainy day, which to a kid is a huge disappointment, especially when it’s a Saturday. Cameron arrived at Hawthorne a couple minutes to 9:00 as he’d been instructed to yesterday when finishing up at Maintenance. Mr Duncan said this cottage had asked for some extra help, meaning they wanted a detention slave for the day.
Cameron entered the cottage’s foyer, he’d removed his visor outside, recalling how the residents granted a minor degree of acceptance before when he and Stan had helped Mr Gientz. The housemother was scooting about like a hen gathering her chicks and only mildly restricted by her wheelchair. The residents of Hawthorne acted like any other kids looking to let loose, some playing games while others were engaged in conversation, and still more just wandering about seeking amusement wherever available.
Although Cameron entered without drawing attention – that vanished once a resident called out “Deadman walking” to alert all to the arrival of a detainee. Cameron waved with trepidation to the questioning eyes that now turned toward him. Most ignored the gesture and returned to what had been their previous interest. However, Cameron found himself the focal point of four of the youngest kids he’d seen at Whateley.
“Your eyes are weird” said the first to speak.
“Revy, you shouldn’t call people weird, it’s not polite” scolded the second.
“I didn’t call him weird ... just his eyes” complained the first.
“Well, it’s not like he can just take his eyes out now can he?” said the second “Can you?” was asked, turning to look at Cameron in wonder.
Cameron had the presence of mind to shake his head no.
“Eewww, that would be gross if he could” interjected the third.
“Almost as bad as the guy who snorts loogies” added Revy.
Cameron now stood in the midst of an argument about what was the most disgusting abilities these four had yet witnessed. He wasn’t sure what was expected of him - but had to smile at the inappropriateness of the kids fascination. The fourth member of these young-bloods: a shy boy, hadn’t said anything, but just continued to watch him.
Rescue came from the housemother who shoo’d the awe starved kids away. “The world can be an exciting and strange place,” she offered to explain the young one’s conduct.
“It’s best explored with eyes wide open,” Cameron gave in understanding, “I was told to report to you, Mr Duncan said you are having problems with a washroom?”
“The men’s room on the fourth floor, east wing - but all of them should be checked over, is Stan or Morie with you?”
“No ma’am, Mr Duncan felt I could handle this on my own. But if I need help; I might have to call maintenance. Could I bother you in that regard?”
“I’m mostly stuck on the main floor without use of my other chair, so you’ll need to come find me.”
“Yes Ma’am. Thank you.”
Cameron proceeded to the fourth floor and located the first washroom to discover it had numerous problems, not the least of which was several non-functioning toilets. He commenced doing a full restoration: repairing the plumbing, fixing the walls and floors, renewing the fixtures and sanitized the room from top to bottom. It was a big expenditure of energy so he paced himself but still needed to sit on the floor to rest once done. He was surprised to find he had an overseer: the fourth kid from the mornings cuteness cluster, the silent one.
Cameron took the initiative and introduced himself, “Hello, I’m Outlook.”
It took a minute before the boy responded in a small quiet voice, “Morgan.”
“Morgan, would you help me?”
“I’m not cleaning a washroom for you” he said, emphatically shaking his head no.
“No. That’s my job today. I was hoping you could stand watch and warn me of anyone coming while I’m working in the ladies room.”
“Are you called Outlook because of your eyes?”
“Do you know what an outlook is?”
“Isn’t that where guys watch for forest fires?”
“Your close: those are Lookouts. An outlook is your frame of mind - what’s in your heart”.
“So, your heart is on fire ... cause your eyes are bright?”
“Good enough. Are you okay lending me a hand?”
“Is it going to take long?”
“It could take a while. Will that be okay?”
“I gotta go potty.”
Morgan stuck to Cameron like glue, it slowed down how much he was able to do, so he hoped the housemother: Mrs Cantrel, wasn’t upset. At times, all four of the little munchkins would be zipping about him – not getting in the way so much as needing entertainment, and Cameron seemed to be the only game in town.
It was just shortly after lunchtime, and Cameron had only finished the fourth and third floor washrooms when Mrs Cantrel sent word that she had something arranged for the team of troublesome terrors. Cameron escorted them down to the main floor.
“So, this is where you kids have snuck off to, come along: I’ve arranged a movie for you over at Kirby Hall.”
The more outgoing three of the group made a rush, but Morgan dropped his head and stood unmoving.
“Morgan? Are you coming?” asked Mrs Cantrel.
Surprisingly, he spoke up and asked “Can I stay? Outlook might need me.”
The housemother had a shocked look and cast her suspicious eyes upon Cameron.
“Please Mrs Cantrel, can Morgan stay? He’s been a huge help” interjected Cameron.
“Alright, why don’t you two head into the kitchen, it could use some attention. And young man: I consider babysitting a suitable form of detention.”
Morgan grabbed Cameron’s hand and dragged him toward something new to do. The kitchen was by no means small, it had a dining area attached which seemed to get considerable use since many of Hawthorne’s residents couldn’t leave for meals - and some couldn’t be bothered and remained in the cottage on red flags days, instead of venturing to Crystal Hall and the likelihood of being mocked or scorned.
Getting dragged to one of the tables, Morgan asked if Cameron wanted to play a game, he instead offered a compromise: chocolate milk. The confused boy watched as Cameron brought out a couple glasses of the rich light brown drink, and set them onto the table, he also handed the boy a straw.
Morgan asked “What’s so special about choca milk?”
“Watch” answered Cameron as he used his own straw to blow bubbles into the drink. The young boy gave a delighted squee and only made a small mess as he commenced blowing bubbles into his own glass, but the smile he wore was worth it.
“Why didn’t you want to go with your friends?”
“It’ll be dark in a movie” he confided, “This place is scary, but it’ll never be dark with you around.” He looked with a pained expression at Cameron and whispered, “I’ve seen monsters.”
“I’ve noticed a couple monsters too” said Cameron to the boys wide eyed amazement, “What do you suppose we should do about it?”
“I don’t know” the little guy said with a shrug, “I’m not very brave.”
“I have a great idea; why don’t I show you how to make a weapon that is sure to have even the scariest of monsters disappear.”
It took a moment, but eventually the shy little thing said; “so kay.”
“And wouldn’t you just know it, we’re at the perfect place to make them.”
The two commandeered the kitchen, and Cameron began the lesson by showing Morgan the proper method to measure the secret ingredients. He brought each item out from Storage that wasn’t already available in the kitchen, and had his new apprentice mix them together: very carefully, into one of the large bowls they’d located in a cupboard.
They each gently rolled the concoction into little balls that Cameron insisted they each had to sample to ensure accuracy. Placing the small balls onto pans they put them into an oven and minutes later out came the product of their labours.
“What do you call these?” asked Morgan.
“Monster bait” replied Cameron.
“They smell really good.”
“Monsters can’t resist them. So where are we going to find the biggest - scariest monster?”
“She lives in the basement.”
“She?!” exclaimed a shocked Cameron “I guess it’s only fair that equal rights apply to monsters too” he surmised, “Lead the way.”
The two stood in the hallway outside the door to one of Hawthorne’s Resident Advisors: Caitlin Bardue, aka Eldritch. Cameron had met her before as she was one of Jericho and Razorbacks friends, but he didn’t know her well.
Morgan had described her as the most fear inducing monster ever! She looked like a metal statue covered in tattoos, with braided cables for hair, and sparks flew off her when she walked. She scowled and growled constantly, and the little kid was terrified of her.
Handing the plate of still warm monster bait to Morgan, Cameron approached the door and knocked.
“Who’s there?” was called out in a short abrupt burst, so loudly it echoed around the basements corridor.
“Avon calling” replied Cameron.
A grumbling muttered voice could be heard nearing the door saying, “I don’t know any Avons.” The door swung open with such force the hinges squawked in protest, the suddenness of the doors swing left a whoosh of vacuum, making the two gasp for breath. The now open door revealed the well muscled and imposing occupant, “This better be good” said Eldritch.
“We’re on a mission to win friends and influence people” quipped Outlook.
“Just how might you intend to do that?”
Cameron motioned Morgan forward, who held the plate in-front of himself as a protective shield between him and the rooms occupant, as Outlook cheerfully announced “Chocolate Chip Cookies.”
Eldritch was caught completely off-guard “Damn, you went straight to the big guns.”
“This is serious business” advised Cameron with a small smile forming in the corner of his mouth.
“You better come in then” invited Caitlin sneaking a cookie off the plate as Morgan moved past her. “Mmm, still hot from the oven. You guys aren’t messing around.”
Having gotten invited into a couple chairs, Caitlin asked the pair: while munching her third cookie, “What’s up?”
“Morgan here needs your help” supplied Cameron, “He has monsters under his bed.”
Morgan sat quiet as could be while taking small bites out of his own cookie - but his wide eyes were securely fastened onto the intimidating girl as he payed close attention to what was happening.
“That is a tricky one. I can rig up some traps for you; that’ll do it” offered Caitlin.
“You don’t understand: his room’s on the fourth floor.”
“What difference does ... Oh! I see. And you think I can help?”
“Being terrified is rough stuff on a kid, So I’m hoping to show him that monsters are usually just as scared as he is” confided Cameron, “You: are his foray into the bigger world of addressing fears.”
“That’s asking a lot!”
“Not really, you already know what he’s scared of, try telling him what you’re scared of.”
“That’s a bad idea!”
“I don’t think so, because from your body language, I’d say you’re afraid of our young friend here.”
“Well ... yeah, there’s that. I don’t want to hurt a little kid!”
“So, by keeping yourself distant, you’re protecting them from the big bad. Right?”
“That’s not a nice way of putting it.”
“But that’s the idea isn’t it?” deduced Cameron, “How about this for a proposition: I suggest we tell each other our deepest secret, that way - no-one has a reason to be scared of the other.”
“Now I’m sure it’s a bad idea!” rebuffed Caitlin.
“You might be right” admitted Cameron, “How does this sound. Why don’t we share our happiest memory instead?” bartered Cameron.
“I’ll do it,” came a small voice from Morgan who hadn’t piped in yet, he squirmed in his seat before starting. “Mom and I visited the park and I got to play hide and seek in the big trees with a bunch of kids, Mom let me feed bird seed to ducks in the pond. I got to play in a huge playground with swings and slides and monkey bars an … I got to spend the whole day with Mom, just me an her. She even took me for ice cream … she said she would always love me. That was the day she told me I was being sent here. I guess it was my best and worst day.” Looking up Morgan sniffed then asked “Did I get that right?”
Cameron nodded his head yes, then took the initiative, “My family was sitting around breakfast, I had made pancakes and Mom cooked the bacon – she always did it perfect so it was just turning crisp ... nothing better than perfect bacon.”
“You got that right” inserted Caitlin.
“We were camping, the day was looking to be beautiful, we laughed a lot and ... we were a family. I couldn’t have been happier” concluded Cameron.
Caitlin had her head held low and continued in that position a long time before she started to speak. “I rode my bike down to the creek, just me and my dog ‘Kip’. We splashed in the water and he chased the sticks I’d throw. We were sitting on the bank drying off in the sun, and I had my arm draped over him, and … he licked my face ... It was the first time I knew someone loved me.”
Cameron took a cookie and invited each to grab a side, they broke it into three and shared it between themselves.
When Cameron and Morgan were leaving, Morgan wrapped his arms around the intimidating girl, resulting in Caitlin ever so gently placing a hand on his head and ruffling the boys hair.
As the two climbed the stairs Outlook said to the young boy, “You’re one of the bravest people I know. You faced your fear today - and scared off a monster.”
Arriving back at the kitchen, Morgan and he cleaned up the mess they had made and Cameron did some straightening up. The three other munchkins returned and Cameron warmed the remaining cookies for the four to share.
Mrs Cantrel wheeled near to Cameron and asked, “Did you get a lot accomplished today?”
From across the room came the answer spoken by Caitlin as she leaned against the door frame, arms folded and looking tough: “He did more than you could ever know.” And with that she turned and walked away.
“Then consider yourself released for today. Will we see you tomorrow?” asked the housemother.
“You’ll have to make the request to Mr Duncan, he’s overseeing my detention” bowed Cameron in reply as he took his leave.
Looking at the time, he felt badly that it was now too late to attend today’s dancing lesson, he’d had a lot of fun the other night. But detention wouldn’t allow him to skip out and attend the Saturday afternoon event, at least until he was released from his bond anyway.
Mediwihila Village : October 21, 2007.
“Oberon: I have counted only sixty and two surviving Were with us, surely there is more?”
“Let us hope the latest patrol finds such and brings these to join us.”
“How did this come to be? Had there not been thousands of Were in the villages” complained Arictevis, a seasoned lieutenant whose fresh battle wound ran clear down the full left half his face.
“I fear the decree from the Seven Courts was all encompassing - the command to ‘kill all Were’ must have run beyond just the war camps: carried afield to all lands beneath their sway” surmised the battle captain Oberon.
“Why would the Courts turn upon us, had we not given our allegiance to the Sidhe queens, shed blood in their battles, sacrificed lives to appease their ends, has not this war become our own?”
“We are sworn - our word was given, our brothers joined into battle. Such was our vow - this is our binding. But now that the a-cursed foe forged a great dark blade, our own brethren get consumed by the enemy when facing it, our very flesh yields to the darkness and fights against us. This alone has changed the tide of war.”
“The rumour bears true! The enemy is us” moaned Arictevis.
“Sadly: as Were fall - he rises anew with a dark heart. Dark’s forces are turning the mighty Were into puppets dancing a monsters bidding.”
“The Sidhe! Certainly the pact of alliance beholds upon them still! Be they not our protectors?” Arictevis exclaimed.
“Aunghadhail herself signed the decree, ‘All Were must die, or the war is lost’. I heard the words myself from the crier’s mouth. The battle front was but a league north, yet the soldiers slew every Were within swords reach. My escape was possible only in fox form and still narrowly did I away” confirmed Oberon.
“Oberon! See! A patrols return, alas only three come with - hold! One is not of us” alerted Arictevis.
A figure was hidden under hood and cloak made featureless by a robes folds, carrying only a walking stick. Approaching the two leaders till well within ear he spake,“I bring no harm, warriors borne, instead I offer relief: mayhap’s in time release, to ye who are shorn.”
“We’ve no interest in riddles” chided Arictevis.
“I cannot speak plainly for the future comes in waves, not placid waters” replied the robe.
“Be you a mystic?” sought Oberon.
“Nay, I am only a voice, sent to present a choice” came from the robe.
“We are a people done, our choice is die tonight or on the morrow” decried Arictevis.
“Not so! True this war is assuredly at end. But when next the courts rise and grow, Were will once more play a role. With open sky and room for it - what is now small will become great as does a foal” spake the robe.
“You offer us escape from destiny?” queried Oberon the brave.
“Life is what you make of it. But a door is open to escape this wraith” at which he pointed to a shimmering portal. “Choose your path” offered the robe.
“What is the price?” Oberon questioned.
“Among your men a farsighted Pantheress shall rise bonding a golden eyed man. By them, Were shall know freedom like waters from a burst dam. Keep your senses at the ready, the earth itself shall become unsteady” answered the robe.
Another sleepless night held Eloise captive. It was three in the morning, and now the Mediwihila’s chief had finally succumbed to pacing the floor in the kitchen, wracking her brain, replaying - lord knows how many times this night alone: the legend of the Golden Eyed Man. She worried how many deviations had crept in over its retelling, handed down generation to generation. Was she perhaps unawares of some key to unraveling the mystery?
Being Chief of her people, Eloise was the one looked to - expecting she’d have all the answers … She wished she hadn’t been nominated for the position when her mother stepped down after a long tenure as Chief, but it had become tradition for a Panther to be leader: in keeping with legend.
Eloise sighed: it was her sister Teresa who was getting trained and expected take up the Chiefs mantle, she had the gift of foresight after all. Great expectations had been placed upon Teresa as the promised fulfiller of legend. To break the binding vow given by the Were’s to the old courts, setting the Were free!
Hopes and expectations rose within the people when Teresa began predicting future events. Her tribe, and soon others, proclaimed her as the one prophesied in the oft told and revered legend of the Panther and the Golden Eyed man. Few Were had survived the Sundering, but held within that story was the future every Were dreamed would come.
Eloise had still been but a cub when mother had counselled with the Were leaders, and a search was taken-up to find a golden eyed man. They found one such among the Eagle people, and a marriage was hastily arranged along with a celebration touting the legends fruition. But Theresa rejected the position of saviour, tried to convince the elders and anyone who’d listen - she wasn’t the one.
Eloise’s tears welled up as she remembered that morning long ago in their house: the arguments and shouting still stung. Teresa pleaded with Mom to stop the wedding, that they’d been wrong - she wasn’t who they wanted … needed her to be.
Teresa rejected the Eagle at the marriage ceremony and ran away that day, never to return. Not that she could return: Teresa Donner had been banished and forbidden to walk among the Were: forever labeled an Outcast.
Eloise as a young girl, had cried when she found out Teresa was no longer her sister. Love is not a tap you can just close. Years later, a traveling Were had crossed paths with Teresa and gave a report to Eloise on what had become of her sister. Despite her responsibilities as Chief: Eloise wished Terry happiness.
With a sigh, Eloise took a seat at the table as the weight of hindsight now rested on her shoulders. If looking behind felt like a burden, she wondered how her sister - and now also her niece, could possibly carry the knowledge of tomorrow.
Teresa had been right! She wasn’t the Panther the legend promised would come. It was actually Teresa’s daughter: The Were had cast out their future.
How do you repair a bridge burnt over twenty years ago?
How do you rebuild hope within a broken people?
The appearance of Cameron Burke at Whateley had been a lightening bolt from out of the blue. ‘Golden Eyes that light the way’ went a song about the legend. To also learn that Teresa had a daughter was just as great a shock. But discovering that Lynn has even stronger foresight…!
The legends pieces had finally begun to fall into place! So why did Eloise feel her world was falling apart?
Had Cameron been evicted from Whateley - or denied entrance, all could have been lost. It was a saving grace that she had been able to intercede and offer hospitality, but last night when she had tried calling yet again to arrange a visit, the boy said he wasn’t able to come to the village yet, ‘On probation’ he claimed.
She didn’t know what his attitude towards the Were might be. By declining the invitation: did the boy perhaps hate them as surely as Lynn must?
Sleep wasn’t possible knowing her efforts had failed: the legend had died.
Eloise looked with annoyance at the phone sitting beside her, didn’t people sleep anymore? Can’t it wait until morning?
Seeing as she was up anyway's, she lifted the receiver: “Eloise Donner here.”
“Hello Eloise. It’s Teresa calling: will you speak with an Outcast?” the introduction caused the Mediwihla tribes Chief to nearly fall off her chair.
“Terry … I, You. How … Yes I will share words with an Outcast” spoke the Chief gathering her senses together enough to hold to tradition.
“Lynn says you need to give Cameron space. He has much to accomplish before he can be of help to the people. Wait for him to approach the tribe, because forcing his hand will only result in driving him away.”
“It has been a long time since the counsel of a seer has been heard by the people.”
“Be ready to answer his call for help.”
“Is he the one the legend speaks of?”
“He is everything you could hope for, and nothing like you’d expect.”
“When will Lynn reveal herself to the people?”
“Good night Eloise, Sleep well.” Bade Terry just before the phone was disconnected.
Beck Library: Monday October 22, 2007
Cameron sat at his usual alcove in the library, the partitioned workstations gave privacy to allow for studying - although at mid day he was the sole occupant save for the librarian: Miss Henderson.
The on-line courses allowed Cameron to progress at his own pace, the distance learning school had teachers available to answer questions and tutor him when needed, and once he’d finished a course he had arranged with Miss Henderson to act as proctor during his exams.
“What subject are you working on today?” Asked the librarian as she wheeled a cart loaded with books past his desk.
“English: I’ve been assigned to write an essay describing the difference between a translation and a transliteration” supplied Cameron as he adjusted his laptops screen from the fuzz he used into readable text for Miss Henderson to observe, “Do you know of a good example I could quote from?”
“The most translated book would be the Bible, but you’d have to speak with Reverend Englund as to the best versions. I know he keeps several copies in his offices at XXX Chapel.”
“That could prove problematic, and religion is always contentious so it may not be ideal. How about an ethnic cookbook?”
“Excellent suggestion! I learned to make Sushi last year and used a cookbook written by a famous Japanese chef, it’s just the thing you need. Wait a moment and I’ll get it for you.”
Cameron noted the cart left beside him, it was full of a wide assortment of books, the only thing in common about them seemed to be that they were all in poor condition.
Miss Henderson returned with the cookbook in hand and handed it to him “If you want to sign it out, I’ll be over at my desk.”
“Thank you” replied Cameron with a warm smile taking the book from her, “Um. Miss Henderson, what are you doing with these books?” He asked pointing to the loaded cart.
“I’m gathering up a shipment of books to send to a bindery to make repairs, some of these are irreplaceable, but are showing their age” informed the Librarian.
“I could help you with that, I mean - you’ve been so accommodating, It’s the least I can do.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m more familiar with which books are most in need of help.”
“No, you don’t understand. I can repair them for you.”
The lady looked at the boy with a curious expression, but eventually looked down into her cart and withdrew an old tattered hardbound book and handed it over to Cameron. She then looked on as he quickly ran his thumb across the pages.
“Hmm! Atticus Finch; interesting character, reminds me of my guardian Mike - maybe it’s because he’s a lawyer too.”
“Ohh! You’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird?”
It took a second to digest the question “That’s what this book is, isn’t it?”
“Are you telling me you just read it now?”
“Did I say that?”
“It sure sounded like it!”
“Well … yes: I did just read it - but also made some repairs” handing the refurbished book back to her.
“Cameron! Do you realize that this book is a first edition printing” she yelled as she inspected it.
“Sssshh!” he replied and pointed to the sign saying ‘Quiet Please’.
“Explain this!” was said with a hand on her hip, and the other holding the book towards him, “This book looks like it just came off the press!”
“You’re not happy?” inquired the boy.
The lady was stymied for a moment, “Of course I’m happy. It’s just … How?”
“The ‘How’ is - that all matter is energy, I restore stuff by renewing the molecular bonds and adding more material as needed.”
“And you can do this for all my books?” She said while giving the vast library a sweeping glance.
“How about a cart a day? Deal?”
“Alright you lot, listen up: todays work assignments will be …” with that introduction Moire handed out work assignments to the less than enthused detention recipients. Cameron was to fill potholes in the school’s paved pathways - for the second day in a row. He collected the hand tools and a wheelbarrow and went into the yard to get some asphalt patching material.
As he was heading out with his load Jinn caught up with him.
“Hey Outlook! Can I ask you something?” she called as she floated over to him.
“Are you avoiding Billie?”
“Not on purpose, Our paths don’t cross often.”
“You trying to be funny again?” she tsk’ed, and gestured toward his full wheelbarrow of patching material for the paths.
“Not much to laugh about, so no.”
“Billie was really sad on Saturday after dance class, it took me all weekend to finally get her to open up and tell me what was wrong. She really wants to enter the dance contest.”
“She should; she’s very good.”
“You DOLT! She needs a partner.”
“Ah!” as the figurative light bulb lit above in the youth “And you think I’m a likely candidate?”
“Pfft! You’ve got no clue do you?”
“Its because the Section 33 label scares everyone away.”
“Okay, I’ll bite: what’s a Section 33?” questioned Cameron then asked “It’s not because she’s unstable: is she?”
“Anyone who picks a fight with her risks expulsion.”
“Why isn’t everybody a Section 33?”
“That’s … that’s a good question. Anyway: She can be dangerous so the Section 33 is to prevent brainless wonders from doing something stupid like getting hurt, or worse.”
“I think my idea sounds rather reasonable.”
“Now’s not the time to debate that.”
“How’s Thursday after dinner?”
“Would that be a good time to have a debate?”
“What about Billie?”
“Sure, she can come - but we’ll need a fourth, otherwise it won’t be even sides.”
“No! Grrr … Are you going to ask Billie to be your dance partner or what?”
“If I say no is the debate off the table?”
“Yes … no. I don’t know.”
“No fair having an argument with yourself!”
“It’s people like you what cause unrest.”
“Try a glass of warm milk.”
“To help you get to sleep.”
“I don’t have a problem falling asleep.”
“So Billie doesn’t snore then?”
“No. She’s quiet as a mouse.”
“Good. Then I should ask her to be my dance partner.”
From his vantage point: the table on the second terrace in Crystal Hall, Outlook scanned the mass of students below. So far he’d been able to establish what each type of energy signature matched to types of ability. Now he’d been working on sorting those individual power groups into levels. He was also toying with ideas on what would be the best method to neutralize the different abilities.
For dinner he’d had a big slice of lasagna and a fresh salad, it wasn’t on the buffet menu so he’d kept his distance to prevent curiosity from exposing his retrieving food from out of Storage. He looked over to Team Kimba’s table and most of them had already finished eating and dispersed: leaving only Jade, Toni, and Billie who was on her third helping of food - My! That girl could eat.
Cameron carefully made his way over to the table so as to not attract attention and asked the occupants “Mind if I sit for a minute?”
Toni replied “Take a load off.”
The nervous boy then asked “How is everyone tonight?”
“We have a sim in under an hour, we’re up against team Phoenix” responded Jade almost gleeful at the prospect.
“A sim is a staged fight … correct?” questioned Cameron.
“Do you live under a rock or sumpthin?” boggled Toni.
“I’ll take ‘lives under a rock’ for 200 Alex” mocked Cameron.
Jade chuckled, but Billie kept her head down remaining focused upon her plate.
“So you’ve not joined a combat team yet?” questioned The Chaka.
“I’ve no interest in fighting people, hurting someone isn’t what I want on my conscience” remarked Cameron.
“You’re not one of those ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ freaks, are you?” scoffed Toni.
“I think you’ve confused weakness and meekness: Being meek means having the strength of conviction to do what’s right - despite the consequences. A weak person simply follows whatever everyone else does - because it’s easier to just go with the flow rather than have the courage to hold an opinion and take a stand.”
“But if you’re strong enough nobody will challenge you” chimed in Jade.
“There’s always someone stronger, faster, smarter. You just up-the-ante by becoming a hurdle for them to overcome.”
“So you’ll just let people walk all over you” summarized Toni.
“Only a bully resorts to forcing their will onto others. I feel sorry for those who cave in to whatever whims a tyrant demands - including debasing themselves to only satisfy a bully’s ego” informed Outlook.
“You think it’s okay to let the bad guys beat you up?” quizzed Jade.
“There are many ways to defeat someone, not all rely on being a brute - or diminishing your self respect by having to resort to the thinking and emotional void of someone who can’t work out their problems in a civilized way.”
“I’d rather have everyone know not to mess with me: I’m likely the best martial artist ever!” boasted Chaka.
“Does that define who you are? A fighter! Tell me; who are you when you’re not fighting somebody?” asked Cameron.
“I’m Toni Chandler.”
“And what’s going to make Toni happy once she’s bested all others?”
“What are you getting at?”
“A weapon is useless when left sitting on a shelf - when the war is over, what good is it?”
“It acts as a deterrent.”
“Are you saying people should fear you?”
“Well … sure, being the Champ means nobody threatens you.”
“So where in the life of a ‘Champ’ does love and happiness fit in?”
“You don’t think a warrior is capable of having a happy life?”
“I would say a warrior tends to treat life like a battle, every aspect boils down to becoming a fight, peace is no longer an option since he has dedicated himself to the far end of the spectrum … it eventually consumes him. The fighting only really stops when he’s dead.”
“That’s a very narrow view” admonished Toni. Both Jade and Billie gave Cameron a quick glance while they smiled knowingly over the comment about how someone who could see nearly everything had a narrow view. However their lack of endorsement raised Toni’s ire; “What? You think he’s right?”
“I’m beginning to think violence only winds up getting you more violence” added Billie, the first she’d said since Cameron had sat down. “Everyone focuses on how to beat you, and it escalates from there. Look at how Bardue keeps throwing tougher and more destructive stuff at me.”
“He’s just trying to hone your skill” advised Chaka.
“Sharpening the edge of a sword?” commented Cameron.
“You think it’s bad to protect yourself?” doubted Toni.
“Self preservation is commendable, but when you start encroaching upon others - that is a dangerous path to take” advised Cameron.
“Bullying! You’re saying someone could become a bully … if fighting is their focus?” interjected Jade into the conversation.
“All I’m saying is: maybe try finding something else to do with your life, before all you amount to is a tarnished trophy” advised Outlook.
“I’m done with this nonsense” retorted Toni, picking up her tray and leaving the table, not really so much in anger - but still dealing with a head of steam, knowing she has some deep thoughts to contemplate.
“I’ll stand up to anyone that wants to hurt me … or my friends” countered Jade “but I won’t pick a fight.”
“How about you Billie: do you have a warriors heart?”
It took a moment for the girl to check her heart “Fighting carries consequences, that much I’ve learned, but I don’t like the thought of hurting … or killing someone” admitted Billie.
“This coming from the most powerful person on campus?” wondered Cameron.
“I doubt that” said Tennyo in a display of modesty.
“Honestly: you are the most perplexing student here. I cannot determine what your abilities are since nobody else is anything like you” revealed Outlook.
“Thats my Onesan! One of a kind” smiled Jade.
“I’m nothing special” mumbled Billie, shrinking in on herself and not meeting the boy’s eyes across the table from her.
“With that I must disagree, there’s no-one else I’d rather enter the dance contest with” stated Cameron giving Billie a curious glance, waiting for a reply.
The poor girl nearly choked, “Seriously?”
“In all seriousness, would you be my dance partner? I’m not very good and can be accused of having poor rhythm and no talent, but I’ll do my best to make you look good.”
“How can you say no to that?” inserted Jade.
“I don’t know?” hemmed Billie.
“Billie!” nearly shouted Jade.
“Alright, partners” she offered her hand, and they shook in agreement “Now who could we possibly convince to help us?” she asked, tapping her chin all the while looking directly at her roommate and best friend.
Cameron smiled at the set-up but leaned toward the girl bouncing in anticipation, and asked anyway “Jade, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone who might be interested?”
“I thought you’d never ask” she said with a blush in her cheeks, “I’ve got some fantastic ideas for costumes!” She bubbled. Jade’s mischievous grin was setting off all sorts of alarm bells.
The trio sat swapping their favourite songs to begin figuring out what might work as potential dances.
Hawthorne Cottage Saturday, November 3, 2007
The way Mr Duncan had explained it, Mrs Cantrel over at Hawthorne Cottage begged to have Cameron back for another day of detention duties. Whatever the reason for it, Outlook approached the cottage’s front door and braced himself for whatever would get thrown at him.
Mrs Cantrel meet him as he entered, and she seemed genuinely pleased to have him there, but - she had a shopping list of ‘to-do’s’ ready for Cameron. It contained a plethora of broken or damaged stuff, ranging from splintered handrails to leaking plumbing: a veritable A to Z compilation. It would seem his secret was out and now he’d be beset by demands to fix everything.
Running down the list he noticed that several complaints centred on the stairs, so that was where he began. He slowly made his way up one set then down another, replenishing the worn treads, stopping boards from squeaking, renewing the finish and smoothing out any imperfections in the woodwork.
When tackling the issues surrounding the hot water heating system throughout the building, he started at the boiler then began to rejuvenate the piping and improving the heat transfer in the radiators. Some of the dormitory rooms had complex environmental controls which interfered with his ability and meant he couldn’t just complete the work from the hallway. In-order to get access he had to knock on doors to gain entrance.
One room housed an interesting girl named Puppet who had acid for blood and had to live in a special biosphere. She was friendly enough, and as they spoke for a short time it was obvious she enjoyed company - but understandable why not many could visit her. Cameron put on as many layers of protection he could think of in order to safely be in her room. However, coming away from there Cameron saw how hard mutation had impacted some.
So far, he’d had little resistance from his interactions with the cottage’s tenants, a few even said hello without hesitation - but some did complain about his presence and whispered comments of being a ‘pretty’. From Cameron’s past experience of being a girl, getting called pretty was a compliment, now it felt like an insult, wasn’t handsome the acceptable term to call a guy?
He was almost done with the chores, but there was still a problem with the heating, and it seemed to be located at this last room. Looking inside it seemed to be the most wonky of environments, but there was no caution posted, so Cameron knocked on the door and entered when hearing a ‘come in’. He hadn’t even finished a step when he dropped like a stone onto the floor - unable to move.
Laying there, pressed hard against the floor. He heard laughter. He should have known something was up when there had been a congregation of kids standing in the hall watching him and snickering.
Cameron tried to assess what had happened: Gravity! Gravity was several times greater in here. Looking across the room, sitting at a desk was a little person, at least that’s what he remembered you should call a midget - or dwarf. The furniture in here was extra heavy duty as it was big and blocky, the chair legs looked to be made from four by fours. The guy at the desk turned to look at him and gave an exasperated sigh.
“Can’t you read? The sign on the door says danger!”
“No … sign …” gasped out Cameron.
“Oh for pity sakes” he exclaimed in frustration, “I’m too busy for this nonsense. Can’t you clowns find some other way to pester the newbie’s than to annoy me?” he called out to his cottage mates. “It’s going to take five minutes to drop gravity levels before this mess can be scraped off the floor!” he complained.
Pacing his breath he got out “This mess is named Outlook” panting hard he continued “I’d offer to shake your hand but…”
“Save it” stated the extremely compacted guy, “I could have done without the disruption.”
“Not as much as you’re going to be! Doyle’s going to have to check you over. Imagine decompression bends from deep sea diving” he tsk’ed, “My neighbours don’t seem to understand that this isn’t a game.”
“Just about there” stated Cameron breathing with a touch of relief.
“I’ve nearly compensated for it” was relayed as Cameron began to shift himself about.
The squat figure began to take an interest and bent to get a better - closer look at the kid sprawled on his floor. “Hmm, Too skinny to be super strong, and doesn’t look like an exemplar - so not a build up of physical resistance.”
Cameron was at the point where he could push himself off the floor and get onto his knees. At this height he was a couple inches taller than the rooms occupant who was looking at him with unabated curiosity.
“I always thought of gravity as a friend” confided Cameron, “I had never tried absorbing its energy before, it’s taken awhile to figure it out.” Remaining on his knees as it seemed to relax his observer, “Outlook” was offered along with his hand.
The handshake was the strongest one he’d ever encountered, Buck was a featherweight in comparison, and Roche didn’t even qualify. He had to reset some dislocated bones after the crushing handshake.
“Dr. Heavy” was given as an introduction.
“Doctor? Wasn’t there something about not using titles in code names.”
“I really am a doctor” was supplied, “You’re not one of us are you?”
“Sorry, I don’t understand the context of ‘us’”.
“A Thornie, you don’t live in Hawthorne?”
“No, I don’t.”
That gave the youth pause, his body language spoke of being uncomfortable.
“I’ve been given detention, and was just trying to get the heat to work” provided Cameron as an explanation.
“With no tools?” Heavy said after assessing the kid, “What did you do?”
“To fix the heat, or get detention?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure. My choice was do this or get delivered to the MCO by Mrs Carson.”
The look of shock on Heavy’s face was gratifying, and his acceptance was growing as he stood more relaxed.
“I take it you’re not fond of the MCO either?” questioned Cameron.
“Isn’t every mutant?”
“It’s beginning to sound like it.”
“What’s with the glasses?”
“People get freaked by my eyes.”
“Can I?” asked Dr. Heavy - indicating he wanted to be shown.
“As long as you promise not to run away screaming - or worse: start reciting Brass Monkey lyrics” added Cameron to the boys growing smile, Outlook removed the visor, which looked like reflective safety glasses, to reveal the golden glow emanating from his eyes.
“You know: you’ll fit in better around here if you don’t wear those; you could pass for a pretty otherwise, actually I’m surprised you’re not a Thornie.”
“Thanks … I think, I forget I have them on at times. Mind explaining a ‘pretty’?”
“A non-GSD mutant, there’s so many exemplar’s at Whateley - it makes anyone who isn’t gorgeous stand-out worse.”
“The bar for what’s normal is skewed by the extremes found here?”
“We came in hopes of finding acceptance …”
“Only to be shown how far from being pretty you’ve become.”
“Yeah!” he added as his head lowered and a frown formed.
“Let me guess: other students are sent to Hawthorne as punishment - like banishment, having to associate with the rejects.”
“It’s like a slap-down to us every time” was conceded.
“I’m so sorry - I didn’t know.”
“Its obvious by what you’ve been doing around here to help that you’re not just putting in time - you care. So, nothing to be sorry about” gifted the youth, “You can call me Lester.”
“I’m Cameron: if you keep it hush-hush” was granted, “Very nice to meet you Les. It isn’t often I meet someone famous.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know: 10 items or Less. Every grocery store has a check-out lane especially for you” was said with barely a straight face.
“Greatness has its privileges” came with a smile. “What’s wrong with the heat?” asked Les.
“Pretty simple when you think about it. The high gravity is stopping the flow of water, I’ll have to let maintenance know they need extra pumps to overcome it” informed Cameron, “at least the problem is solved - I’d better go and let Mrs Cantrel know.”
“I need to see her too, I’ll come with you.”
As they walked down the stairs Dr Heavy actually floated as it was easier for his short legs. And it was Les that got Mrs Cantrel’s attention while she was having a difficult time maneuvering her wheelchair around furnishings in the main floor common room.
“Mrs Cantrel, Outlook was hit by my rooms gravity. He should get checked at Doyle.”
“Are you hurt?” questioned the lady.
“It’s okay, I’ll have some bruises, but no injuries … I self heal.”
“You’re a regenerator?” she asked.
“No ma’am” the look of unease on the den mothers face indicated a need for further convincing, “Dr Tenant is aware of my ability to help healing.”
“As long as you are certain …”
“I’ll be fine, honest” he interjected.
“I should let your house parent know to keep an eye on you” she reasoned.
“Perhaps if you called maintenance to let them know, they may have to do a safety report. Oh! And tell them that the heat pumps need to be bigger to overcome the gravity in Heavy’s room” suggested Cameron.
Mrs Cantrel looked frustrated by her limited mobility in the wheelchair, Les caught it too and said, “I’m sorry Mrs Cantrel, I haven’t been able to figure out what’s wrong with your chair.”
“Don’t blame yourself Lester, it’s a devise. My asking you to look at it was a long shot at best.“
“Still haven’t been able to locate the student who made your hover-chair?” quizzed Dr Heavy.
“No Lester, not yet … you know antigravity: tricky business, Gravimetric hasn’t returned my calls”.
“I’d like to help, but I’m a scientist not a mechanic.”
“Excuse me” interrupted Cameron, “perhaps if I could take a look at your chair, I might be able to repair it.”
“No. It’s a devise, only its builder can make it work” stated the dejected housemother.
“It couldn’t hurt to let him try, maybe I could be of help too” suggested Dr Heavy.
“Alright boys” relinquished the woman “Could you give me push to my apartment?”
The housemother found a safe position in her rooms and sipped a cup of tea, watching the two who began removing panels and commenced a conversation that sounded like techno-babble-rap as they delved into the inner workings of the devise. After periods of debate, components seemed to appear from no-where; then got refitted into the chairs recesses. After almost an hour the boys stood and shared congratulatory handshakes.
“Mrs Cantrel, you now have a working chair again, and we made a few small alterations, would you like to try it out?” offered Dr Heavy, to which she eagerly agreed.
Lester picked up Mrs Cantrel and then floated her into the rebuilt ‘hover-chair’. Turning it on, the chair rose as usual but without the previous hum it generated. Trying the controls the occupant made sounds of surprise and excitement.
“Boys: this is fantastic! It is so much more responsive … I won’t be bouncing off the walls anymore.”
“We deconstructed the devisor parts that had failed and rebuilt them” described Outlook.
“This is going to be revolutionary, I’ll be working for months designing antigravity systems” boasted Heavy.
“Thank you so much! It’s like being set free” rejoiced the housemother.
“Feels good doesn’t it” agreed Cameron reflecting on his time without use of legs.
“You’re good to go young man” smiled the lady, “Will you be back?”
“Ask for me at Maintenance” relayed the boy.
The Quad: Friday Morning, November 16, 2007
Cameron needed to take a breather after having dispensed so much energy - and effort.
Giving himself a moment to rest, Cameron mentally played back the dance routine that he, Billie and Jade had been working upon, how each step needed to be timed to match the music’s tempo. Last night while rehearsing over at the dance studio, they had sought to implemented a few changes and those hadn’t flowed seamlessly into the routine yet.
Also last night, Jade had described the costumes she was putting together … Cameron was glad Billie had put her foot down early on and kiboshed Jade’s ideas about dancing furries - it might look cute but those outfits would be heavy, hot to wear, and restrict movement. Not that Jade gave up without a fight, she flashed her ‘sad puppy dog eyes’ at them and if Billie hadn’t already built up an immunity to them … it made Cameron shudder.
Cameron relaxed against the bottom edge of the hexagonal obelisk he’d just fashioned. It had seemed such a waste to let all that stray energy wafting about this place just disperse and not make use of it. He’d constructed an energy collector which now stood almost eighteen feet high and consisted of six sides, each facet gathering a different type of ambient energy.
It was situated almost directly overtop of the schools power plant, which exuded much excess energy. This spot had been Cameron’s favourite resting place on campus, where he could just have a sit and soak in energy, but now the collector could gather it all the time, his plan was to come by every couple days and drain the battery as needed.
Cameron had fashioned his creation to pass as a sculpture, and had asked Mr. Duncan what the procedure might be to place an ‘artistic’ feature on the grounds. He’d first said ‘Cameron would have to go through Mrs Carson, who would then present it to the Trustee’s - who would set up a committee to debate about it, then a review panel would be called up to assure it had sufficient merit, then a study conducted before it could ever proceed … It was about then that Mr Duncan smiled at the boy over his desk and told him: “On the other hand: its easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” he finished with a wink.
Cameron checked his battery and it was replenishing what he’d expended, due to all the work he was tasked with rarely did the gauge get over half, and then the ‘Eureka moment’ hit, when you find that piece of the puzzle that fits everything together perfect, he could visualize the dance steps that would tie the routine nicely together.
From above came the call “Ahoy!” and then surprisingly beside him alighted a girl. She was slightly built but with fine features, and most strikingly she had long green hair exaggerated by the green exercise outfit she wore. The overload of green played tricks on his sight, but what really set Cameron off balance were the odd energy balls on tethers that circled around her.
“Blisterin barnacles, a salty pirate!” he replied as he stood, he’d seen this girl before in Crystal Hall but they’d never spoken.
“I’ll gut ya like a fish if that’s some kinda jab about my hair!“ she warned.
“Just trying to keep to the nautical theme you started with.”
“I was only giving you a heads up … blubber brain.”
“Arrr, she’s run me thru with her sharp tongue.”
“That’s what any scallywag deserves for laying claim to my booty!” was said as she leaned against the black hexagon beside them.
“I’ve never touched your illustrious booty!” replied Cameron with a mischievous smirk.
The green themed girl almost choked when she realized the double meaning of what she’d said. The look of embarrassment was bemusing “An you’ll be keeping it that way less'n ya want ta be sportin a hook!” she warned shaking a fist at his face.
“Forewarned is forearmed” humoured Cameron as he rotated his open right hand between them.
She looked at him with mild surprise before stating “That was actually a pretty clever comeback for a freshie.”
“I’m a root beer kinda guy.”
“If I want a pop I’ll get root beer instead of a freshie.”
The blank look he received was complimented by a well imagined “Huh?”
“Pop … a soda: carbonated beverage?” furthering that thought, “Back home we have a type of ‘pop’ called Freshie.”
“You are a sad strange little kid.”
“Hey! I’m almost as tall as you. Not counting the hair.”
“Couldn’t leave the hair alone, could you?”
“Consider it envy.”
“Okay then” she stopped seemingly satisfied for a second, but then “wait a minute, green with envy! You’re walking on eggshells pal.”
“Oh - you are just too funny” she rebuked with sarcasm.
“Well, I have been accused of having a heightened sensitivity about my size.”
“To make up, maybe I should throw another shrimp on the barby.”
“Alert the media; banter isn’t dead.”
“Abisinthe” she offered with an extended hand.
“Outlook” he replied shaking the given hand, “You felt the need to climb this?” he asked giving his creation a prideful pat.
“I was scouting a Parkour route for a run I’m to lead, this could be a great obstacle.”
“Hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“You made this?”
“What’s it do?”
“Its art, it doesn’t have to do anything.”
“I don’t get it” she said flatly, “It looks like a six sided climbing wall.”
“Art should challenge a person to look at life from different perspectives.”
“That’s why it has six sides?”
“You do get it.”
“Not really, but I’m sure it’ll be fun to climb.”
“I guess I should take that as a compliment. Art can mean different things to different people. It was supposed to spark your imagination! But I hadn’t thought anybody would want to climb it.”
“Why not? I imagined climbing it” Abisinthe moved over to the wall and ran her hand over it, “Every side has a different texture - its like a whole new challenge to get up each face.”
“Now that you mention it …”
“Right! And if there was a couple handholds here and there it would be a great place to practice on.”
“If you show me where, I can try adding some extra bumps and such.”
Abisinthe literally jumped at the chance, and began scaling the wall in-front of them: when she had to pause and seemed stymied on how to proceed, Cameron made an alteration to the surface.
The girl cast a suspicious eye upon him, her look hinting that she was uncertain about this guy. Somehow he managed to make handholds form at will, one-second: nothing … next a good place to grip so she could continue her ascent. This was done to each facet. Climbing down to the ground beside Outlook, the green themed girl looked back in wonder.
“Talk about weird. How’d you do that?”
“How is it that you have all these little things floating around you?”
“It’s what I do.”
“Same for me.”
“So: what’s it made of?” she asked, looking at his ‘masterpiece’.
“It’s an amalgamation of metals and polymers.”
“And it changes colour because?”
“What do you mean?”
“See! Here where I touch it, it goes from black to almost white.”
“That’s interesting: I hadn’t imagined that with direct pressure on it - it would do that. It’s sensitive to energy, so the colour will eventually change - but it’s acting like a mood ring.”
“A what now?”
“Mood ring? A little stone that would change colour when a persons temperature changed - or so I’m told; I never could get Mom’s to work.”
“Yah, it’ll change then too.”
The girl rolled her eyes in disbelief, then looked at the scrawny kid tilting her head before asking, “You an alien or sum thing?”
“This is the Fourth planet from the sun, isn’t it?”
“Shoot: that means I was off by this much” holding up his right hand as if measuring a distance while looking far off to the left into the sky.
“Better sign up to take astrophysics. Seriously; where are you from?”
“I knew it! You are an alien.”
“Foreigner, if you please.”
“Foreigner’s greatest hit: Hot Blooded.”
“And here I thought you were hyped at the prospect of meeting a ‘little green man’, it explains your …”
“Ohhh! You are just ‘cruisin for a bruisin’.”
“Speaking of which: Looks like a bruiser out on a cruiser, heading our way” indicated Cameron at the big student coming towards them on the path.
“Jerk alert! Its Centurion.”
“A friend of yours?”
“Look up ‘troglodyte’ in the dictionary.”
“Understood. Your call: what do you want to do?”
“We have a grudge match tomorrow. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s planning on beating me up. Put me in the hospital again so I’d have to forfeit.”
“Might I suggest some vertical separation” mentioned Cameron pointing with a single finger up the wall.
“What about you?”
“Go. If he’s got a hard head, I can be a hard target.” At which Abisinthe climbed out of reach.
The large boy approached nearer - walking with a swagger, taking on a menacing grin when stepping up close, evidently pleased that his presence had provoked Abisinthe.
Building upon his perceived success he spouted: “When are you going to take the hint and leave. The MCO doesn’t belong at this school! Or anyplace else for that matter.”
His sneer was evil and malicious, seemingly taking delight in harassing others by pushing them around. Then too, the brief assessment he made of Cameron was dismissive, so he focused back upon the out of reach girl.
Absinthe had a firm grip over halfway up the wall on a side facing away from the bully affording some protection, she checked to ensure her position was secure before hollering at the brute “You didn’t even know I worked for the MCO when you put me in the hospital!” she accused of him.
“Just made the results more satisfying” he goaded.
“You’re going to regret those words in the arena!” snarked the girl.
“I’m sure you’ll try - and fail” was said in complete disregarding to any potential threat presented to him.“Don’t forget to pack your bags. And have your Will prepared! You won’t be in any kind of shape after the match to do it.”
Cameron was dismayed at the severity of the verbal exchange, these were threats to life and limb, the body posturing was tense and ready to explode, the risk of this exchange coming to violence was extreme. He stepped up between the adversaries “Back away - both of you! Save your fight for this grudge match of yours.”
The tall lump of a menacing boy took a quick glance down his nose at the small in comparison Cameron. He gave a snort of derision, then brought his full attention down from off Abisinthe onto the boy, “As if you could make me do anything. Runt!” he bent forward in an effort to intimidate.
“I’m calling a ‘time out’” informed Outlook in a voice loud enough for both to hear.
Centurion didn’t move: not a twitch or a blink, just stood frozen in place.
Abisinthe looked on in surprise as Cameron walked away from the big goof, and with a sweeping motion indicated for Abisinthe to come down, he then lead her away from the scene. She followed his gentle suggestion and began to walk beside him, looking back occasionally at the unmoving lump.“Is he?”
“Having a couple minutes of quiet time, he isn’t harmed.”
“You didn’t know, did you?” asked Abisinthe, carrying a degree of worry from the revelation during the exchange.
“That Whateley would enrol troglodytes? I’ve encountered them before … he’s certainly a prime specimen.”
“About the MCO?”
“The MCO doesn’t give me warm fuzzies, but you’ve never hurt me. As long as that remains the case, I carry no resentment.”
“That’s fair, and more honest than I’ve come to expect.”
“You don’t by chance turn into a bear do you?”
“Nooo. Why do you ask?”
“Trying to tie up some loose ends is all” remarked Cameron as they parted company.
Arena 99: Sunday, November 18, 2007
Cameron was aghast at the unfolding scenario.
The premise of this match was simple enough: a game of capture the flag, or press the button as the case may be. But … this! He was in shock.
He’d asked during the morning detention assignments if he could do work at Arena 99, where Abisinthe said the grudge match would be today. He was curious what these matches were all about.
Morie figured it was a good idea to put him to work since some of the seats had fallen into disrepair, and eagerly granted the request. The boy had been cleaning up the stands and fixing broken seats until his attention had been drawn down onto the arena floor.
The participants, no - the combatants: this wasn’t any game! It was a battle - pure and simple. It was waged complete with weapons … and explosions. Cameron was certain that was a real sword in Centurion’s hand! This was a no holds barred death match. They wanted to hurt each other … badly: Under the pretence of a friendly competition.
The stunned boy needed to calm himself and remember: it wasn’t his place to interfere, not his war. Neither was he here to police or draw attention to himself … but maybe - just maybe he could right a wrong. He took off his visor and focused his sight upon the central protagonists engaged in battle.
Cameron was unnoticed for the minutes he sat and watched the battle below. He would have liked to be able to hear what was being said, as he could tell they had been conversing. The scene had built to a climax as the stage was set for a showdown between Abistinthe and Centurion; since most others in the match had been restrained or removed from the action. Suddenly the auditorium was filled by the conversation happening within the arena proper.
“So this is going to be three against one?” said Centurion sizing up the situation.
“I thought you liked fighting three against one. I mean, you and your two buddies jumped me from behind and ganged up on me three to one when you put me in the hospital” accused Abisinthe.
“And we should have hurt you more, you’re too stupid to take the hint and leave Whateley … ” stated Centurion.
Outlook was satisfied with the results and returned to his detention duties, letting the chips fall where they may.
Billie Wilson meet Cameron at the entrance to Poe Cottage and introduced the housemother: Mrs Horton, Cameron had to suppose she needed to check him over and ensure he wasn’t a troublemaker. Jade joined them after which Cameron was taken down to the cottages basement into a really big dance hall that they could use to practise in.
The three focused on preparing two dances, as the contest application suggested. Trying to settle on just two possible dances had been difficult, as they each had imagined what would be best. The hardest part had been paring all the crazy ideas down to something they all could agree upon, and still have fun.
Billie seemed tireless, and Jade was a constant source of suggestions, corrections - and laughs. She would cast J-team members into clothes to illustrate her idea’s and provide tips for improving the performance.
The three, or was is five … at any rate, they had been at it for a couple hours and Cameron was running out of gas, so they decided a break was in order. Toni had also joined them in the big room, she and another girl had been practicing with quarter staffs in a corner. Hank and Ayla had also come downstairs but had been talking tactics with their attention alternating between Toni and Billie.
Cameron had spotted something interesting moved off to the side, and was taking a look at it, then asked Jade: “Is this a Karaoke machine?”
Jade piped up “Yup, Ayla bought it: his old girlfriend is a siren and I think he was trying to be nice.”
“Do you suppose I could try it out?”
“Let’s ask Ayles“
A normal person would casually walk over to have a conversation, but we’re talking Jade here! She cast Jinn and she zipped over to where the two boys were talking, interrupted them and blurted out the question! Surprisingly this appears to be almost expected behaviour and from the head nod there was no issue.
Jade helped set the machine up, and Cameron scrolled through the songs until finding one he liked. Taking the mic in hand, he hit play. The melody was slow and a hush fell over the room.
Cameron started to sing the touching and emotional lyrics to Micheal Buble’s song ‘Home’.
A girl walked past the door carrying a load of laundry, pausing a second then took-off like a bolt.
Cameron made minor changes to the lyrics, which made the song reflect how much he missed his Mom.
As the song ended, Cameron bowed his head - lost in thought about his family. Toni forced him out of his introspective moment by standing in-front of him and out-right accusing him “You are an evil little twerp, aren’t you!”
Jade couldn’t help but hear the comment and on impulse defended her friend “Hey!”
“Well, you’re no towering amazon yourself” rebuffed Cameron.
“Do you realize everyone in this room now feels like they have to call their families.” Chaka explained “Have you seen what long distance charges cost.”
Looking up Cameron noticed that the room had filled from beyond the few Team Kimba members to at least twenty people, many in the room had tears rolling down their faces, but seeing Ayla sitting on the floor against the wall, his head tucked to his knees; slammed home the fact that he wasn’t the only one missing family.
“I’m sorry, I hadn’t thought … “
“If I had a nickel for every time somebody didn’t think! I’d … I’d have enough change to make a phone call” softened the girl in retrospect seeing the hurt displayed on Camerons face.
Two of the Poe residents stepped forward and Cameron was introduced to Vox and Go-Go. Vox commended him on his singing and asked when he was going to join the siren program. Cameron replied that he would have to think about that.
Vox asked if she could sing, and Cameron gave her the microphone. She choose a song called Blackbird, and the effect of her voice sent chills down his spine.
Cameron silently moved beside Ayla and sat next to him, saying: “I’m sorry: I didn’t consider that someone else could feel as hurt as I do.”
“They say you can’t sing the blues until you’ve experienced sorrow in life. It sounds like you qualify.”
“Thanks. Did you lose your family too?” wondered Cameron.
“I was kicked out when I manifested as a mutant.”
“Ouch! So you can’t talk to your Mom … and my singing opened a bad wound, Sorry.”
“With a name like Goodkind, you’d think we would be both good and kind.”
“Goodkind?” puzzled Cameron.
Ayla prepared himself for the inevitable anger the family name illiceted.
“Do you know a Bruce Goodkind? He sent me a letter of apology which was really heartfelt.”
Ayla was taken aback, certainly not the reaction he’d come to expect, but it did intrigue him deeply.
“You’ve had dealings with my father?”
“Okay, that kinda explains things. You’re Dad’s letter mentioned him having personal experience with a situation like mine.”
“In what way?”
Cameron with his sight had noticed that while Ayla looked like a girl, ‘he’ wasn’t. Revealing secrets is not done lightly, but he’d hurt Ayla, and the look on the mixed up boys face said this was something that needed to be done.
“I was injured and needed a surgery, I became a boy” admitted Cameron.
The double lifted eyebrows gave away Ayla’s emotions.
“Your Dad's company made the poisons which altered me.”
“Mutant tamer bullets.”
“You lived? I’d heard they killed anyone shot with them.”
“Almost! But it damaged my DNA, everything was moving toward a big legal battle when your father gave me an apology … I guess you influenced his motivation.”
“Any chance I could read it?”
Reaching into his shirt pocket, Cameron withdrew the letter from Cupboard, and pulled out the paper which was three times the length of his pocket, handing it over to Ayla
“How do you do that?” was asked by Ayla, taking the mysteriously manifested page handed to him.
“Another time” advised Cameron.
Ayla started reading and right off was struggling with his emotions, not only had he recognizing his fathers handwriting, but from the letters frank and candid manner. Cameron could tell just where he was in the text of the letter by how he reacted.
As Ayla finished reading, he sat back and fought a battle to stay in control, he folded the page up and handed it back “My father doesn’t show that side of himself very often. Thank you for sharing it.” Ayla quietly admitted to Cameron.
Cameron and Ayla sat on the floor, each digesting information that had come to light. Vox had sung a few songs during the two’s conversation, but both of them had been too preoccupied to notice.
Ayla broke the silence “You going to sing again?”
“I was thinking about it, no more sad stuff thou.”
“Know any Brass Monkey songs?”
“They sound like a bag of cats being hit by a stick.”
“They’re my favourite band!”
“You must be joking? All your friends say you have great taste!”
Moving from off the floor and up to have a turn at the karaoke machine, Cameron picked a song he figured everyone would enjoy. Van Halen’s Dance the Night Away is such a happy ditty, he hoped everyone would forgive his previous song.
It was a delight to see nearly everyone who had come to join the impromptu party in Poe’s basement begin dancing, Vox came and harmonized on the vocals with him to make it sound extraordinary.
At songs end, Cameron thanked Vox, but they were interrupted by the clamour for ‘one more’. Checking the playlist Cameron smiled and brought Vox over to see his choice with her saying: ‘nice’.
On cue, the hard driving guitar rift for Boston’s Feelin Satisfied started.
Vox wholeheartedly gave supporting vocals, swaying and clapping to get the room engaged. Toni and Billie came up in-front and began dancing like a couple of groupies, they also encouraged everyone to clap along. The room was filled with dancing and merriment, when it ended Cameron truly did come away feeling satisfied.”
The all encompassing shadow of night had just recently settled upon the little encampment, the small fire set within a circle of stones sent flickers of light which cast dancing shadows across the trampled long grass. A teepee set a distance away reflected part of the fires glow, acting as a beacon across the plains.
Weathered logs placed around the fire pit became seating for the invited guests: Kodiak had arrived first and sat with a huff of displeasure at being called to a gathering he wasn’t presiding over. When Grizzly arrived, she sat beside the gruff bear spirit but didn’t share his displeasure. Also in attendance was Mustang: the horse spirit bonded to Tansy Walcut, and Wihinape the cougar spirit bonded to Danny Franks.
Ptesanwi was making the effort to be a good host by offering ceremonial tea, but it was a futile gesture. None accepted the demeaning formality the hospitality represented among the simple minded humans.
“We’re not humans, easily swayed by folklore and traditions” chuffed Kodiak.
“True enough, but these traditions keep the low born in place, and are a useful tool to gain their trust” rebuffed the Ptesanwi.
“Why do you find it necessary to have us gather in such primitive conditions?”
“Would you have us in some forsaken cave perhaps? Here at least we can see the stars” commented Grizzly as she looked up at the clear night sky.
“It’s only an illusion, and in bad taste since we can’t return to the skys - I find it insulting, almost as much as your demand I come and prostrate myself before you”. spoke the angered and frustrated male bear spirit.
“We need to report on progress, and an accounting about the infiltrator has been requested” advised Ptesanwi.
“It was dealt with!” scowled Kodiak.
“Is that the message you want presented to the Council of Three?” inquired Ptesanwi.
“The Three have an interest?” remarked a surprised Grizzly.
“Indeed! It seems word has circulated about a spy having surfaced, the Three want to be certain it has been … dealt with adequately” informed the Lakota priestess.
Mustang jumped into the conversation, announcing “Grizzly removed the blight!”
“Explain!” required Ptesanwi, indicating Grizzly should give a narrative of the encounter.
“I spotted a new student arriving at the school, when I checked his aura - it was one of the gifted. I drove my meat-sack to intercept and we killed the vermin. I made certain it was dead: I held it’s un-beating heart in my paw! There was no life left within it.”
“Nicely done” commended the shaman.
“It knew to come to Whateley, another will be undoubtedly be dispatched to take its place” cautioned Kodiak. “We might only have six months before a second can be brought into play - even so: that doesn’t give us enough time.”
“Then we must be vigilant and watchful for when another does come, too many resources have been tied to this plan for it to fail” advised the shaman.
“On that we can all agree” Wihinapi added.
“Then we proceed with haste in building the Atlantean League, our leadership among the gene-spliced must be irrefutable” was the conclusion spoken by the shaman.
“Their humanity is proving hard to overwrite” insisted Grizzly.
“Win their hearts, then mind and body follows” said Kodiak with a wink.
(Once a letch always a letch) mused Grizzly.
McFarlane Auditorium: November 30, 2017
No doubt about it: Whateley knew how to throw a party! The auditorium had been transformed from its stark utilitarian appearance into a brightly lit well appointed gathering place, warmly coloured curtains hung covering over bare walls, streamers and floral arrangements strategically placed gave it a grand ambience.
A whole separate room was needed for the refreshments, the kitchen had prepared a veritable bounty with chef’s standing near to their creations in their pure white clothes and tall poofy hats, while many students worked the room as servers identified by the kitchen white attire.
Attendee’s wore lovely flowing gowns, a display of every colour imaginable mingled on the floor interspersed between the black tuxedo’s worn by almost every male present, although a few: like Jericho, didn’t hold to the norm when fashion was concerned. Jericho sported a brilliant white tux with an orange ascot then to further add to the visual assault he wore a purple cumber-bun. Subtlety was not a word found in that boy’s vocabulary. Of course, Razorbacks bright blue tie with yellow polkadots was also a fashion statement - but few if any would call him on it.
The festivities had been going on for a good hour already, the dance floor had attracted a few couples but mostly everyone was satisfied to engage in conversations and sample the culinary delights. At the end of a song, Miss Rodgers moved onto the dance floor into the beam of a bright spotlight.
“Welcome everyone, welcome to Whateley Academies Annual Fall Soiree. It is delightful to see so many lovely young ladies in such beautiful gowns, I am certain the young men with us tonight are overwhelmed by the beauty on display this evening.”
“Tonight, we have a special treat. Members of the dance class will be participating in a dance contest” at mention of this, a table was brought forward and placed centrally beside the dance floor.
“To adjudicate this competition, It is my privilege to introduce our honoured judges. I present to you: The Fabulous Imp!” At the mention of her name, the lady with the horns and devils tail stepped up to the table “Miss Imp has been a life long fan of dancing, and is a self described ‘Dancing with the Stars’ junky.” The ankle length sequinned red dress she wore showed off her curves and the light which was shone onto her added a special dazzle to her appearance as she curtsied.
Moving down the table to present the next judge, Miss Rodgers gave a hand flourish: “Sensei Tatsuo Ito: Whateley’s own Martial Arts instructor, a ballroom dancer of note and winner of multiple dancing contests” The introduced Asian man stepped forward, he gave an polite bow in his black tuxedo and slightly raised his hand in acknowledgement of the greeting. “Ladies! Mr. Ito is looking forward to cutting a rug later tonight. The line starts behind me” added Miss Rodgers.
“And lastly” announced Miss Rodgers as she moved to the last spot at the judges table “It gives me great pleasure to introduce a former semi-professional ballroom dancer, a dear friend, and Hawthorne cottages pride and joy: Mrs Deborah Cantrel” The crowd parted and moving forward in her hover-chair, the Hawthorn cottage housemother was wearing a gorgeous chiffon gown, her chair had similarly coloured ribbons set in loops and swings draped over it, also a splendid bouquet of flowers had been laid across her lap. She gave a rolling wave to the audience, and Cameron heard cheers and whistles coming from the Thornies present.
Addressing everyone in attendance Miss Rodger’s commenced “The rules of tonights contest will be thus: Each dance will be judged based upon merit, the demonstrated skill of the dancers shall be scored upon scale: one the lowest - and ten being highest. The judges will be looking at the interpretation of the music and how each dancer reflects the emotion and rhythm. As an added dimension: Each dance must be identifiable with notable media, be it from film or television.”
Turning to the judges each nodded in acceptance of the rules and their responsibilities. The audience took to applauded and followed Miss Rodger’s direction that all needed to move behind the lines marked on the floor. Once everyone was ready, she next said: “Be ready to be dazzled and amazed.”
It had been determined earlier by straws who would go first, and so after taking their station on the floor to be introduced, the first couple stood in the indicated spot as a spotlight lit revealing them to the eager crowd. Cameron recognized the werewolf looking guy - at almost seven feet tall Harry was kinda hard not to notice. They both wore similar costumes of denim overalls that had holes and patches sewn on, each had plaid checked shirts but while his was blue and white, hers was red and white.
They waited for the big screens to lower at either end of the hall, and when in place a paused scene flashed up from a cartoon Cameron held fond memories of.
In recognition Cameron mumbled “They wouldn’t” in disbelief.
To which Billie leaned over and asked “What’s up?”
The only fitting response was “Doc.”
The couple nodded to Miss Rodgers who called out “Hexette and Techwolf.”
On cue the screen started to move while the sound from the vignette filled the room:
“Let’s all Square Dance, Places all, Bow to your corner, Bow to your own” at which the couple commenced to square dance in imitation of the sequence taken from the classic Bug’s Bunny cartoon ‘Hillbilly Hare’. The audience was flabbergast at first until the absolute hilarity of what was being performed hit them, soon the audience was clapping along with the music encouraging the two in their antics.
As the song ended the two dancers lay spread out on the floor, Harry was flat out on his back panting with arms and legs sprawled every which way, Suzanne was on her stomach her head resting on her hands and as a finally; spit out the straw she had held between her lips, indicating ‘that’s all folks’.
The crowd roared with applause and shouts of delight where given, The Imp had tears tracking down her face, she too had stood up and been clapping, as a sign of pure joy she yelled out “Marvellous, Wonderful” to them as they walked up arm in arm to the judges stand.
Cecilia moved up to near the judges and asked them to display the scoring cards as she read them aloud to everyone “Judge Cantrel gives them a 6” the audience was polite but a little subdued by the score. “Judge Ito gives a 7” the clapping was more appreciative. “And Judge Imp gives a 9” to which the hall clamoured it’s acceptance. “A total score of 22 for Hexette and Techwolf”.
Miss Rodger moved away from centre floor to allow the next couple to take their place, once she was on the sidelines she announced “ We give you Halcyon and Shasta”.
The bright light illuminated a couple in a passionate embrace which set an ‘ooohhh’ from the audiences collective voice gathered around them.
The music started to blare at too high a volume and was badly distorted, the two dancers stood apart and began to gyrate in harmony to the music. Onto their clothes had been sewn lights that pulsed with the beat. A few in the crowd had started trying to elicit interest by moving to the music and encourage participation from the audience as a whole, but it didn’t catch on. The audiences attention and emotion wasn’t interested, as most just stood and well … stood.
As a finally the couple took the ever anticipated pose of defiance standing back to back and wiped off their brows then flung the sweat at those on the sidelines.
A few loyal friends exaggerated their appreciation, yelling and shouting ‘Oh Yah’s’. If anything, polite applause could be heard from the rest.
Waiting in the wings Cameron whispered to Billie “That was rather uninspired.”
To which she replied “It looked like every Hollywood dance sequence for the last ten years.”
Jade; standing beside Billie chimed in “That was as much fun as pulling teeth” to which the three chuckled.
Cameron changed his voice and did ventriloquism as Marcus had taught him - saying like Yosemite Sam “What in Tar-Nation, more Square Dancing!” Billie was shocked but Jade just roared in laughter and the members of Team Kimba who were nearby and heard the comment joined in.
Miss Rodger’s thanked the dancers and moved up to the judges, asking Sensei Ito for his score: a 5, then Miss Imp: a 6, and Mrs Cantrel: a 5, for a total of 16.
Halcyon gave the judges a glare as she walked past.
Cueing up for the next contestants, Miss Rodgers announced “Let’s welcome Exquisite and Gravmax” and moved off to give the floor to the next couple. They waited on the floor at the ready, both wearing leotards, she was in white and he in black, again the screens lowered into place at either end of the dance floor, these came to life when a picture was cast onto them.
The image on the screen was an Ansel Adams black and white landscape photograph. The music started, which was Dancing With Tears in My Eyes. Cameron recognized the Ultravox song since it was one his parents would listen to.
The pair of dancers interpretation of the song had merit, even if it was ballet. Exquisite was actually pretty good - obviously having gotten some training, but Gravmax was little more than a lump - he would shuffle about and take a form, having her swirl around him - then they’d do it again elsewhere on the floor. The Ansel Adams photographs would change every so often.
There was little noise in the room during the performance. Twice during the performance Gravmax lifted Exquisite up and would twirl her around, the last time he twirled her - he mis-timed the set-down resulting in her falling onto the floor. Toni sought to place a bet on which would have the bigger bruise: her ego or her butt.
Exquisite finished with a pirouette then did a curtsey to accompany Gravmax’s bow. Miss Rodgers congratulated them, and had them stand beside her for the scoring.
Billie spoke softly saying; “I liked the pictures.”
Cameron added “Nice composition.”
Jade said: “Only the dancing deserves to be tossed into the compost, the rest was pretty good” those nearby who heard snickered, and Jade was given a nudge by Hank and told to keep it real. Billie was thrilled that most of her teammates had come to give support.
Mrs Cantrel provided some comments: “The music and pictures gave an emotional depth. Exquisite your dancing is elegant but could have benefited from some more feeling, I thought having Gravmax act like one of the landscape features in the photographs added a fine touch to illustrate the dance of life going on around him.”
Sensei Ito ‘Hurrmpt’ at that - but kept his thoughts to himself.
“Judges; your scores! Mrs Cantrel - a 7, The Imp; a 7, and Sensei Ito; a 5. For a total of 19. Thank you all.” At which she walked over to the sidelines in preparation for the next dancers.
This was it: Billie and Cameron had drawn fourth, the well wishers sent them out and they took position at an end of the dance floor, having to wait for the screens to retract and the spotlight to adjust.
It felt like a slice of forever as they stood an arms length apart waiting, Billie’s hand rested on Cameron’s shoulder, and that is what the audience saw when the spotlight focused on them. It was a moment of pure terror before Miss Rodgers announced; “Tennyo and Outlook.”
The costumes Jade had fashioned were very becoming, emerald green on dark black. Billie had a blouse with alternating stripes of the colours and thin green streamers running off each black sleeve magnifying her arms movements, she had a green skirt that went down to her thighs with slits on the outer edges, and black leggings with ankle bracelets of reflective green fabric. Camerons attire was a black shirt with offset green diamonds front and back up on the shoulders, at his waist was a wide green sash and a fob on the left side, his black pants had two green lines dissecting like snakes running down each leg on the out seam.
They smiled at each other, then clapped in unison as the signal to start the music - and took each others hand as they set about doing a gliding ring around the dance floors permitter looking like ice skaters building up speed over the surface, each step taken was a tap on the floor matching the drum beat to Great Big Sea’s song Sea of No Cares.
Their movement really looked like they were on ice skates, since both of them just slide overtop the wooden dance floor by no more than an inch, every step now that touched down was done in the manner and posture of River Dance. Their speed was fast and as a result they covered the whole floor area to have it appear like a figure skating routine. The two would leap and do several rotations before continuing to tap to the musics rhythm with arms and backs held stiffly while the feet worked out rapid stepping.
The audience had started out slow to garner how this looked and felt, and thou the song was unfamiliar it had a catchy beat and the rhythm was infectious. Soon enough the audience began jumping in place and twirling when Billie and Cameron acted like tops spinning to match the songs tempo, it was most encouraging when people commenced joyfully clapping.
Billie had been excited to learn figure skating moves and was fearless in doing complex combinations like double lutz’s and salchow’s. The hardest part had been getting the momentum to look right with somebody who could fly.
The mix between the stiff style of Celtic dance, and the fluidity of figure skating had been hard to blend, but each foot tap resulted in an additional thump to exaggerate the musical score, forward momentum coming from a foot’s push-off was just like the toe kick on skates. Although the bodies stayed in character, both of them grinned wildly in the spotlight.
At songs end the two dropped to a knee - facing opposite directions but with arms linked at the elbows as they looked at the audience, they slowly spun around seeing the whole crowd before stopping and bowing their heads.
Miss Rodgers applauded as she approached, and called out “Let’s hear it for Tennyo and Outlook” there was clapping in appreciation and enjoyment for the two’s performance. Standing they bowed in acknowledgement and thanks.
Turning to face the judges, Cameron bent to catch his breath - however Billie didn’t even look slightly winded. Sensei Ito was given the floor “Before I judge you, I need to ask how you could float like that? Tennyo is known for ignoring the laws of gravity - what about you young man?”
Unwrapping the sash around his middle Cameron revealed a belt, explaining “This is a levitation aid of my creation, it supported my weight and kept me off the ground.”
The judges conferred to the side with Mrs Cantrel motioning to her chair resulting in agreeable nods before they turned and addressed the dancers, with Tatsuo Ito taking the lead “The creativity of combining two styles of dance was most intriguing, I am told that figure skating is a popular sport with competitions held at the Olympics, on that recommendation I must admit it meets the media criteria. The technicality of River Dance is a joy to watch - your interspersing it with high flying spins gave it a new dimension and visuality. Well done.”
“Judges you’re scores” asked Miss Rodgers “Judge Ito: a 7, Miss Imp: an 8, Mrs Cantrel: a 7, for a total of 22.”
As they approached the sidelines, Jade ran out onto the dance floor and gave a grand hug to Billie, a lesser enthused hug for Cameron but still a warm and heartfelt squeeze. Surrounded by Billie’s friends they each gave encouragement to their teammate, Ayla who had on occasion been present at rehearsals in Poe cottages basement gave what could almost be called a gushing “good job” if not for the stoic delivery.
Cameron was tapped on the back and he turned to see Jericho in his white tux “You going to share the design of that belt?” he asked with a sly smile.
“The power demand is through the roof” Cameron warned.
“Given enough power, I’d hope it’d go through the roof” Jericho joked “You still haven’t come to my lab to see my RAFE suit.”
“I will, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.”
“By the way - nice moves out there you two.”
Both Billie and Cameron were overwhelmed with congratulatory comments, so much so that the nearby audience started shushing them all as the next couple had taken position and was being announced.
On the dance floor: Lady Liberty and Hatamoto began their routine. Cameron was too worked up to focus on anything - but the rumble from Billie’s stomach spoke of a pressing need, Jade and he lead the hungry girl over to the food tables. On the way into the other room Billie apologized saying she had been too nervous to eat. The chef’s saw Tennyo coming and began preparing a large plate for her, and offered hearty praise while handing her the food.
Billie was busy with the task at hand, leaving Cameron to say thank you to the well wishers that approached them. Jade had gotten all of them glasses of punch and the emotional high was slowly abating when the song ended. Miss Rodgers voice called for all competitors to the dance floor, Billie was torn between the remaining morsels on her plate and the announced request.
Jade was surprising good at opening a path in a crowd, and Billie handed her plate to Toni in passing. Taking position standing in a row with the other performers on the dance floor facing the judges, as Miss Rodgers continued giving an encouraging speech about the joy and benefits of dancing, then made an open invitation for any and all students to join the class.
Miss Rodgers checked on her students, then began calling out each couples names having them step forward as their score was announced:
“Hexette and Techwolf; 22”
“Halcyon and Shasta; 16”
“Exquisite and Gravmax; 19”
“Tennyo and Outlook; 22”
“Lady Liberty and Hatamoto; 20”
“It appears we have a tie!” announced Miss Rodgers, turning away from the judges she continued “May we impinge further upon your evenings festivities to conduct a tie-breaker round of dances?”
By means of applause those in attendance gave their assent, Miss Rodgers then asked for an intermission to allow her dancers to make preparations and freed up the dance floor. Heading off to the change rooms Cameron heard music and people started dancing.
The atmosphere in the mens change room had been pretty intense prior to the contest, apparently any competition necessitated jockeying for dominance and trash talking to throw others off their game, anything to hinder preparations and get an edge. Now, it was more jovial, as the majority were stepping out of costumes and into tonights formal attire, all except Harry and Cameron that is.
Harry had already been dressed in his suit rather than stay in the coveralls used for his first dance, he had his jacket off and was unbuttoning his shirt when Cameron walked past to his locker “You did amazing with your dance” commended Cameron.
“Thanks” responded the big guy “Your’s was incredible.”
“Tennyo makes anybody look good” conceded Cameron.
“No. You kept up with her, that’s not easy to do.”
“Thanks” remarked the boy as he took the hanger with his second costume off the lockers hook.
Fortunately all Cameron needed was a second of privacy to materialize his outfit onto himself, once a washroom stall was open, the door had barely closed behind him when he walked out ready to go.
The draw for the tie-breaker had Billie and Cameron up first.
Jade was even more nervous than the dancers and was busy primping her costumes. Billie wore a navy blue dress that had an oriental cut, on one side a slit went down to her knee, the other rested higher up on her thigh , it hugged her curves but stretched to permit movement, she also wore a blue coloured pair of short leggings underneath the skirt that matched the dress, and to finish off the look: a pair of shoes often worn by asian women.
Cameron stood next to her in his rumpled black suit and hat - cane in hand. Each couple had been warned to prepare a second routine, but this had been an after thought at best, and his nerves showed.
Miss Rodgers introduced them and the main lights dimmed with only a spotlight shining on the dance floors middle.
Cameron walked out from the sidelines, imitating Charlie Chaplan as best he could, at the centre he doffed his hat to the judges, he was distracted during his bow and picking up something off the floor, blowing on it he shined it on his sleeve then somewhat satisfied put it into his pocket.
Billie for her part was on the dance floor walking near the sideline, she had a tan overcoat wrapped around herself and fedora hat on. She stopped and the coat and hat jumped off her as it was filled out by Jinn. Billie ran being chased by the coat and hat toward Cameron who was preoccupied petting an imaginary dog, when she bumped into Cameron the music started.
In The Mood by Glenn Miller is the ultimate swing standard.
From there, it was a wild display of Billie doing martial arts moves like punches and kicks using Cameron as a pivot as she fended off the attacking coat.
Cameron had watched so many old time comedies frame by frame and was trying his best to emulate Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton by acting like he was completely unawares of what was happening here, all the while making it feel like they were swing dancing.
Cameron would be tipping his hat and offering apologies to the poor unfortunates who had for some reason been laid out prone and senseless around them, while Billie continued to swing off - around - under - and over him, only to have Cameron dragged back in another direction by Billie as she overcame another faux assault.
At a point in the music they stood back to back with no more fighters advancing - Jinn laid the coat and hat out empty on the floor off to the side. Cameron turned and tapped Billies shoulder, she reared up to hit him but instead stopped since he had his hat and cane in one hand and his other was open in invitation, at that they danced together in unison
Tennyo and Cameron stood before the judges table, along with the mysterious trench coat and fedora hovering behind them.
Judge Ito spoke first: “Never had I imagined it possible for a Jackie Chan and Charlie Chaplain movie to be fused together!” He was supported by nods of agreement by the other judges “Tennyo: you showed remarkable control in your forms, a top notch display. I will speak with you further at our next class.”
Taking up the mantle next was Imp “Outlook; I could see elements of Chaplins ‘Tramp’ character in your performance, as well as the influences of Misters Keaton and Laurel, I thought you played the hapless bystander to a T, Well done young man - Well done.”
It was Mrs Cantrel’s turn, and she looked torn “Tennyo, Outlook. You did a fine job! Really. And it was delightful to watch, you both tried so hard to make it entertaining. But I must uphold the conditions of this contest: by bringing a third person into your dance you have broken the rules, as such I must move that you be disqualified.”
A collective groan was heard from all around, Cameron heard Billie fighting back an outburst of anguish and stay the tears welling up, he reached over her shoulder to give her a hug, the sleeves of the coat draped sorrowfully over either of them and the hat was tilted down in shame.
Putting on his own hat and resting both hands on his cane, Cameron spoke in as steady a voice he could manage “We forfeit! And offer our sincerest apologies.”
Miss Rodger came forward to speak “By means of forfeiture; Tonights winners are Hexette and Techwolf.”
Tennyo, Cameron, and Jinn led the crowd in applause as the winning couple came up to the judges table to accept their prize, the trio also gave the first congratulatory handshakes.
Attention focused onto the winners as the three walked over to Team Kimba who broke their huddle to offer condolences.
“We can fight this!” informed Ayla “Jinn isn’t a real person, so the rules don’t apply.”
“That would expose Jade, and winning isn’t worth hurting a friend” reasoned Cameron “Besides: you’re forgetting the entire reason behind this - or any shindig.”
“Oh! And what’s that?” inquired Toni standing between Billie and Jinn giving each a supportive squeeze, her question directed at the boy who had started moving away from the tight knit group of friends.
“I got to dance with a pretty girl!” he responded before the crowd and distance separated them.
Whateley Maintenance Yard: December 19, 2007
Winter break meant most of Whateley’s students had headed home, the place was deserted … almost, a few souls still remained - be it kids that didn’t have a home, or simply couldn’t go back.
And then there was Cameron; he’d had to refuse a couple offers of spending time with friends. Mike Williamson had invited Cameron to come to Prince George, Lynn asked on behalf of the Franklins if he would visit them, and Eloise Donner inquired about his plans: He’d had to turn them all down and he was sour over it.
Cameron was still on detention and as such wasn’t allowed to leave the school … He hated this place, he hated that he’d been forced to become a slave at this school.
He looked back upon his time here, wondering why he ever thought attending this school was a good idea, sure - he’d come anticipating an education … he’d gotten one alright; and it embittered him.
Cameron was taking a break from studying at Beck Library, he’d gone around to all the dumpsters and emptied them, he was waiting for Coop to show up in the garbage truck with his delivery of groceries, no doubt the snow had made the roads treacherous and why the man was late.
Cameron kept himself busy by shovelling snow off the pathways, likely the job he’d be assigned later anyway, The garbage truck finally made it, and Cameron hopped up onto the running board.
“Sorry I’m late, the roads don’t-cha-know” offered Coop while lowering the trucks window.
“Looks like almost a foot of snow has come down” sympathized Cameron.
“Yah, it’ll be touch-an-go getting back to town” stressed the man.
“Anything I can do?” wondered Cameron.
“Nah, Betsy here is a tough ol’ gal, she’s never let me down” he said while patting the steering wheel “Here: best be taking these supplies, I won’t be back till next year - so I hope it’s enough to last you … Oh! The mayor sent a little something extra, some of his wife’s famous rhubarb muffins.”
“I love rhubarb. Thanks Coop!” commented Cameron as he stepped down and backed away with his prize in hand.
Cameron waved goodbye as the truck rev’ed up and started moving away.
From behind somebody grabbed his parcel and shouted “Don’t Move!”
Shocked that someone would steal his stuff Cameron cried out "What. Hey! That’s mine” and he turned to confront the thief, resulting in an arm latching onto his shoulder forcefully. Cameron heard the “Uugh!” He looked behind to see a person fall into the snow.
It was a lady security guard, she had his package in one arm, but the other was held straight out and rigid. Fear racked the boy: her arm was disintegrating! It was falling apart like grains of sand.
He altered his sight to the molecular and saw how she was composed entirely of nanites, they were loosing cohesion as they died - the effect was aggressively moving up the arm, it was almost to her torso now.
Cameron dissipated part if the women’s shoulder to stop the spread, and that was all he remembered - apart from the massive hurt on the back of his head where a nightstick struck him.
Coming soon: What’s the Matter With You.