Metro 1: Chewing Through The Straps (Part 1)
Metro 1: Chewing Through The Straps (Part 1)
Tell me if you've heard this one before: Two young men walk into a Dunwich bar. The first one says to the second one there, "I hope you're having fun."
... except the first one there isn't really there yet, they're both under-age, the other one has a sacrificial knife in his gut - because, why not? - and the bar is really a hospital. Welcome to Whateley, boys. The first unit of blood's on the house!
Chapter 1: Introductions
Ten days later, Friday, August 10, 2007
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
Today had started off cool and pleasant, giving way to a dry sunny afternoon under a blue sky that begged for someone to take advantage of rising thermals to a view of forever. For those less fortunate, the day was still perfect for hiking, exploring, or any of a hundred different activities a young man might turn his fancy to. There should be a law against holding classes on a day like this. From Thomas Jensen's vantage point, it seemed doubly cruel to hold out a promise of a near-perfect day, when his best friend and partner in crime was still being held in a medically-induced coma. Nonetheless, he mustered up a smile for the omnipresent cameras, and walked in to Doyle Medical Center to see what – in all likelihood – probably hadn't changed.
Entering the hospital room, he checked on the various details that were swiftly becoming second nature to him. No spirits hovering about, malign or otherwise. Various wards intact – no new ones at least – even though none of them were configured as he was used to. The psychic dampers were still green-lit: score one for any of the other patients' piece of mind. That was one thing he didn't like much about this plane: so many of the locals were telepaths and empaths, and a few too many of them were smug about it. Maybe they deserved to have Mads' nightmares shared around?
"That's a bit harsh, don't you think?" asked a gentleman now in the room with him. The young man was slowly becoming accustomed to Louis Geintz' habit of doing unto him as he was used to doing unto others. Turnabout may be 'fair play', but that doesn't mean he had to be comfortable with it.
"Not as harsh as being stabbed, rushed to an unknown backwoods facility, and then held in an induced coma. Nine days since the first operation? Waiting on the sidelines through all that has been more than enough nightmare for me," the young man replied.
"As we've told you before, and assuming that the medical records he was carrying on him are more legitimate than the faked IDs, Mads is going to have a slow recovery ahead of him," Dr. Tenent pointed out as she entered the room and joined the awkward conversation. "The folks at ARC are still examining the dagger he was stabbed with, so we just don't know yet if or how that's complicating his already-slow healing. If it's any comfort regarding the extensive monitoring, they are picking up a sizable portion of the medical bills in exchange for the research opportunity."
"Extensive monitoring? Doctor, I've seen more extensive monitoring carried out in a Detroit back alley." The young man hung his head and sighed at his own frustration and misplaced guilt over the situation. "Sorry. But I recognize enough of this stuff to know that his own first aid kit duplicates three quarters of it."
"We know that now, but we haven't had the spare time to waste on re-breaking the encryption every time it cycles. For now, we have to go with what we have." It wasn't like either the doctor or the Clinic's staff had nothing else to do between the permanent campus residents and students enrolled in the Summer session. Hardly anyone would expect the friends and family of a patient to understand that, but the doctor privately thought it would be a nice change.
"I can't see that the epigenetic reactivation, or 'induced burnout' as you called it, helped make the situation much better. I do accept that the treatment may have lowered the risk from whatever toxins or enchantments that could have been on the blade... but still, here we are."
Dr. Tenent decided to ignore the implied criticism, in light of the mounting piles of medical scans and other test results that didn't say much more than what they could all see. "It probably did more to save his life than the abdominal surgery. In the long run, that may be what allows him to stay alive." She knew better than to openly add 'We hope.' to that statement. That tempted fate.
"So... what else haven't I been told because I'm not legally 'next of kin' or anything else of import in this country?" Thomas figured that that would be one of the many things to set Mads off once, not if, he awoke. He could have warned them about that already, but he wasn't in the mood to lessen the fallout for the folks in charge.
Louis Geintz had been about to leave the two for their daily 'discussion', but it felt to him as if something was weighing on the doctor's mind related to this. Perhaps a gentle prod in the right direction was needed? "Doctor, Thomas here will be involved in Mads' therapy. Also, Mrs. Cantrel and I need to know if additional measures are needed for his room once he moves to Hawthorne Cottage."
The doctor closed the door in the hope of retaining some measure of patient confidentiality. That was never an easy task with the clinic being co-located with a school teeming with psychics, mages, shapechangers, and nosy electronics tinkerers.
"Fine. Mads may not have known, but his long-term prognosis was never very good. His lungs were scarred badly enough from past traumas that eventually they wouldn't be able to keep up with oxygen demand as he grew into adulthood." Judging by their expressions, both visitors were able to recognize that this was officially bad news. "Did he ever mention, um, having swimming 'accidents' when he was younger?"
Thomas spoke up first. "Doctor, those weren't accidents unless you count his survival as being unintended." Louis frowned and shook his head, backing up what Thomas' statement implied.
"Gentlemen, I do have to ask about these things, painful as they may be. While the records that we retrieved from the equipment he was carrying do match much of what we've been seeing, they are fragmentary at best from pre-school through sixth grade, and nonexistent for several months during seventh. It appears that his doctors planned on a clonal transplant once the deficit became notable. Since arriving here, those plans have necessarily had to change." She clipped a handful of films to a wall-mounted light table to help explain what she was about to say.
"Over the past week, it appears that his body has been reconfiguring his respiratory system, skin, circulation, and gills to cope with adult oxygen demands. He now has something similar to an air bladder encasing his lungs. That structure and the bronchial tubes, here and here, now have valves similar to what we see with the epiglottis in other humans. Open one set, and he breathes air in and out as normal, the bladder collapsing around the lungs. Open the other, and water can be drawn into the bladder, partially collapsing and/or closing off the lungs. The inhaled water is then expelled through newly developed lateral gills. We'll all need to be aware that the structural changes to his skin may make him more susceptible to dehydration and to contact toxins. We also expect that for the next few months he'll need to be spending a few hours each day submerged and breathing oxygenated water, at least until his body gets used to these changes."
"I take it that that will require a water tank and filtration system in place of a bed? Freshwater or saltwater?" asked Louis.
"Freshwater at first. Absolutely no chlorine- or bromine- based sanitizers. If necessary, I'll sign a waiver of the school's swim test."
"Facilities could have a tank and recirculation system in place by Monday. The additional weight does mean his room will be in one of the basement levels."
"You'd want to do that anyway," sighed Thomas, his mood visibly darkening. "Even on a good day, he's supposed to stay in a ground floor room, second story at most."
"What about a 'bad day'?" asked the doctor.
"He's been known to jump. Opening a window first? Optional." The boy paused in thought before adding, "He isn't easily triggered, but sometimes the nightmares he can't remember in the morning set him up to be triggered later."
"We usually don't place at-risk students in a single, and no, we wouldn't be able to place you both in the same room in Poe," Louis didn't look happy with either option as he explained them to Thomas.
"Finding a different roommate wouldn't be simple," Dr. Tenent went on, "The pheromones he's putting out induce a 'fight or flight' reaction in most animals we've tested, so that excludes students with familiars or service animals. We don't know yet, but that may include students with animal-spirit avatars as well. He also has some sort of glamour — one that disturbs the people around him, while failing to bother a few others. Then there's the PTSD, and the fact he doesn't have to be armed or awake to hurt someone if surprised or awakened suddenly."
"He always recognizes me, even when he can't wake up," Thomas pointed out.
Louis looked at him, "As I understand your 'mutual relationship', you wouldn't be sleeping well either?"
"No. It's less harrowing for all involved if I can help him snap out of it."
"There is a spur tunnel from Poe to Hawthorne's main tunnel. If the two of you behave yourselves," the teen's mentally rolled eyes warned the psychic that he wasn't talking to the poorer role model of the two, "we could arrange permission for you to come over after curfew if needed."
"And that requires shortstop there in bed to wake up in the first place." Obvious, yes, but the adult humans may have missed that planning step.
Dr. Tenent frowned at that, "We discontinued the meds keeping him unconscious yesterday. He should be awake. Groggy maybe, but conscious."
"Did you tell him that?"
Both adults were surprised. Good. They'll need the practice.
"You have full magicians on campus, right? And at least one psychic who can astrally project back into the material plane better than either of us can materialize? And yet, no one thought to tell 'Mr. I think Shadowsfall Keep has a nice ring to it' that it was time to return to his body?"
"That's too many 'and's, dear. You'll understand the joke when you meet Belle. In any case, there are strict guidelines for the use of psychic abilities, even for what you're suggesting we do."
"Do they preclude following his astral cord out to the spot in the Otherworld where he's playing amateur stonemason? Or chasing fish. Or whatever caught his attention. To inform him that it's possible to return to his body without being trapped by the sedation he was under?"
"No. I see. That's usually not an issue."
"I'll take care of it. He should be up and bouncing off the walls by the afternoon," the young man's knowing look and sideways grin promised a new level of mayhem — one for which he'd be accepting none of the blame.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Surprise! The patient wasn't bouncing off the walls after all. One fall, a couple of ugly bruises, and a series of blood tests later, it became clear why his copper levels had stayed in the metaphorical toilet. His body was trying to circulate hemocyanin through the lymphatic system, and needed a lot more of the red metal to pull that off. A few other abnormalities in the blood tests were cause for concern, but potentially treatable.
Note: The patient says he'd like to continue (?) using Paso Doble for a codename. We've passed that on to the Security officer tasked with resolving which if any sets of his identity records are valid.
P.S. The British Consulate was quote - Not Amused - unquote.
Scribbled comment (lined out): Does that mean we can send him back?
Comment in neat, block letters: They're our allies, remember?
Sunday, August 12, 2007
It's commonly held that medical professionals make the worst patients, even when compared to patients who've spent more time in a hospital bed than the complaining professionals have spent around one. Then there are those patients who live at the intersection of these two hell-patient sets. No prizes for guessing who qualified.
Observation: The patient has begun using the inhaled-water evacuation technique appropriate to his revised respiratory structures.
Comment: Did he show you how he used to do it? That was disturbing. It's even worse when you consider that he used to live near Lake Erie.
Second comment: Congratulations. That was even more nightmare-inducing that one of Rev. Englund's sermons.
Monday, August 13, 2007
As far as Ophelia Tenent and half of the nursing staff were now concerned, Toby Keith's lyrics should have been "Beer for my horses, Ritalin for the kid."
On the bright side, Denmark's agreed to issue a passport with a matching cover identity.
We now have proof that every silver lining has a cloud: P.D. has been practicing Danish. On the staff.
That patient needs more Ritalin; we need more ibuprofen.
Did anyone know before now that there are Danish rock bands, let alone one named Nephew?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
What do you people mean, the room in Hawthorne is still not ready?
Thursday afternoon, August 16, 2007
Standing outside the renovated Hawthorne Cottage, Mads Christian Jensen (according to his current ID) stopped to look around his new home away from home. There were still some construction activities in progress. Based on the way the newer structural sections fit into the older, he guessed that it was an expansion project. Based on what he'd been told of the cottage's purpose, that was less heartening than it otherwise would be. Living here had to beat living at ARC and going through a primitive version of 'online study' toward a diploma. Living in either location likely beat having your blood drawn out of you while eldritch creatures gnawed on your living bones and muscles and organs. Mads drew a firm mental line against testing the comparison, in case someone were to ask.
The path back up to Doyle and the Crystal Hall, and the rest of the campus looked twice as steep as it had looked going down. If he stopped to willfully ignore the hospital facility, the slope stopped looking quite so bad. He would, after all, have to get used to it. He'd been told during Ultra-Violent Student check-in at Kane Hall, also at the top of a hill, that between the "critter spook" effect and "glamour", he'd be expected to use the above-ground paths in place of the underground tunnels on red-flag and foul-weather days. This was primarily for the comfort of the other students, and barely even secondarily for his own safety. At least there was supposed to be an option to attend classes via teleconference in case the welcome students objected to his existence amongst them. Mads wondered if that system failed nearly as often as the Security sensors in the tunnels likely did.
On the other hand, the forest to the south looked interesting. Sure, he'd been solemnly warned to avoid the Grove, as if that would be the first wild landscape that had tried to kill him. However, given that forests often include rivers and streams stocked with tasty fish – he'd been able to keep a couple of his knives even though his handguns were confiscated to prevent him from defending himself – the local woodlands jumped several notches on his personal "To Explore" list.
Nothing to it but to do it. He climbed up the steps to the entrance.
"Oh, lord. The new school year hasn't even started and the Uvie kids are already getting detention!" exclaimed the fairly large woman heading his way on ... a grav sled? Hover chair?
Maybe he could rebuild his old hoverboard using local gear and get more lift and speed out of it?
"... Ahem. Do I have your attention now? As I was saying, with all the construction going on, the best thing we could have you do is to mop the floors. Some of the kids here have respiratory problems and the dust doesn't help."
From the common area behind the woman someone called out, "See? The pretties don't even think they need to listen to the House Parents!"
Unfortunately, that caught Mads' wandering attention. "Pretty? Flattery will get you just about anywhere!" he winked and aimed a thumbs-up at the spiky-haired speaker: a boy who seemed to be suffering from the world's worst case of static electricity, "As long as my boyfriend doesn't object. Too much, that is."
He paused for a moment in thought, and said, "Errrr, actually he may be objecting any minute now. I didn't get the note about waiting for him at the clinic."
"So, Mrs. Cantrel. Where did you say the mops and dust masks are kept? If I get started now, maybe you could tell him that it was all 'missed connections' or something?"
"Has that ever worked for you in the past?" The boy had been certain that there was no one that close behind him, but sure enough, there was Mr. Geintz.
"Good. I've just informed Thomas, and Ophelia, that you will be staying right here, waiting for them to sign off on the room walk-through."
"Louis?" Mrs. Cantrel could put a whole question behind just a name.
The look on her face suggested the answer was more an omen of things to come than a simple fact. "Right." She turned in her chair and addressed the kids who were gathering to watch a dress-down that promised to be entertaining:
"Folks, let's say hello to our newest resident, Mads Jensen. One who I happen to know still needs respiratory therapy. In case you see him doing anything to jeopardize his recovery, be sure to contact myself, Eldritch, or Louis, so we can handle the situation." Growled as it was, that last part promised retribution for the aborted getaway stunt.
Chapter 2: On A Sunday
Pausing on a Sunday"
— Stephen Sondheim, "Sunday"
Sunday, August 19, 2007,
South side of a hill, overlooking Poe and Hawthorne Cottages
At first glance, up ahead would be just another carefree young man, perhaps a bit short and slim for his age, lazing about on a grassy knoll and soaking up the late summer New Hampshire sun. The only shade to be seen was from a cap and blacked-out sunglasses half-shading his face. The lack of earbuds, a gameboy, or a girlfriend irritated at her boyfriend unwisely dozing off (or playing some stupid game!) seemed to be the only things out of place. The boy's fair hair and paler skin showing on arms and legs awkwardly sprawled out from under a light t-shirt and shorts suggested that most of him was sure to be a much redder shade soon enough.
The teen walking up to him was a 'West meets East' counterpoint to the sunbather: short dark hair, black to the point of being highlighted in blue and purple, height a good couple of inches taller even without the boot heels. He wore a plaid shirt and jeans, and just enough of a tan to greet the sun as an old friend instead of a hostile enemy. Life's just kind of like that when you are born to fly.
"So. Are we working on a sunstroke, or planning on playing straight through to cancer from UV exposure? 'Do not pass Go, Do not collect 200 nuyen'?" he asked his friend.
"Naw. Would you believe there's a functioning ozone layer up there? Between that, and some SPF 80, I've got plenty of safe stay time," the other smirked, hardly moving more muscles than necessary. His earliest ancestors might have hailed from colder climates, but the sun felt good. He finally tried to sit up, thought better of it, and reached up with his left hand. Thomas helped the boy up, aware of the implicit trust behind Mads revealing some weakness and still reaching out to another person with his preferred shooting hand.
"Thanks. Penny for your thoughts?"
The darker-haired teen thought about that, then looked around before sitting down. That he also took the time to be scanning the area for threats had long since become second nature (I'm not even supposed to be the paranoid one here!) "For you, ten percent off. I gots mouths ta feed here," he joked. More seriously, "I thought you were planning to go to church? Next thing I know, you're spooked and skipping lunch out on the grass here."
Simplest things first, "Nah. I've been keeping a couple of those sludge bags with me, just in case. How did they manage something even worse than MREs or even soy paste? That's one thing I'd like to know."
"That's something you'll probably deeply regret finding out. But, so long as you can keep it out of your shared nightmares, knock yourself out. Church?"
"Meh. So, picture yourself the northeastern U.S. of A., lots of Protestant bible-thumping tradition, Whateley's a kinda-sorta old school, so of course there's that Dillon Chapel on campus."
"There I was, checking out the announcements board for sleeping, er, sermon times..."
"You'd make a bad Christian anyway."
"Oy! I attended chapel services when I was in school before!"
"It was a military academy prep school, attendance was mandatory, and from what I've been told everyone above you was bigger than you."
"Anyway, the place looks deserted even for summer school, so no need to be shirt-n-tied."
"Did you expect a bunch of mutant kids, stuck at school because they cannot go home, to be enthusiastic about religion? It's a miracle the place wasn't boarded up."
"There is that," acknowledged the shorter boy. "Still, that's not the weirdest part. Ever see threshold markings like this?" He passed a display over to his friend. "Also, the building's wards weren't like anything I've dealt with. If the place isn't being used, I'd rather not end up on the wrong side of some trap left behind for stupid people."
"Er, no. The symbols could be personal to the magician. I assume you've already checked your references?" The other nodded his reply. "So, not corporate security... I got nothing. The library here's on reduced hours, but you could try that. Want me to see if I can scare something up next weekend, when I head out to Shadowsfall for your gear?"
Thomas frowned at that. "Yours. Don't pretend you expected both of us to end up in this situation."
"I already had spares for some things," Mads shrugged, then pointed out, "in case you ever had to cover for me while I was 'out'. There's a long weekend following, so if you run short on time ... Hm, you've got the Corporal's pack too, right?"
"Key point, again, being that it's his."
"No. The key point being he resents having that part of his past around. The uniforms shouldn't fit you, but some things you should keep, others can go toward your sponsors' smokescreen covering the circumstances of his death. Both you and Thom are running a bit short on closure about that."
Mads looked down and fidgeted with the grass. Of the three involved, the former air spirit had had the least time to deal with the situation leading to his corporeal status here. It may be "ironic", maybe, but certainly not fair. No news there – it had to be a certain kind of hell to be stuck with damaged goods like himself. No telling why T stuck around when he could maybe walk away now and go back to living free of current burdens. Mads was certain that it would kill him if that happened, pact, or no pact.
For a brief moment, Thomas had felt something like jealousy over his namesake having spent more time with his partner, "We'll see. Okay?" That said, he felt an underlying worry through their link, not that he needed help to see the poorly-hidden guilt and self-recrimination in the other's darkening expression. For a few minutes then, he just sat and mused at how nice the sky could look without acid rain and volcanic ash-fall. Maybe it would be good, to learn how to see the clouds from this side, now and then? Not alone, though.
"As long as they don't wear you out too badly with placement tests and powers testing," Thomas paused to take a chance on one of those odd human gestures he was adapting to, and reached over the other boy's shoulder to hold him in a side-hug. "We could take advantage of that long weekend to try our luck with the libraries at Bristelùchairt. I'd rather you be the one talking when we're there."
Mads looked up at that, ghosting a smile as he pushed his cap up. 'He should do that more often,' Thomas thought. "That's a surprise! What for?"
"For one, you're more comfortable thinking in much the same twisted way as the Court does. Second, they see elemental spirits more as the hired help than someone to take seriously. And third, they can smell the daoine sídhe in your blood from a league away."
"I do bathe on occasion, if that's what you're implying. Just because I do reside underground... " Mads still grinned before pointing out, "Don't forget we have a joint tenancy."
Thomas held Mads' shoulder a bit tighter before letting go; the rainclouds seemed to be parting, "I haven't forgotten anything. Just want you with. Good enough?"
"I've heard worse plans, even executed a couple of them." Time to change the subject! "By the way, what's it like over at Twain? I heard that that one, Whitman, and Hawthorne are the only cottages left open for us summer rejects, while the others get refurbished." Veiled insults, Mads could handle. Tact, on the other grasping paw, just wasn't his strong suit.
"It's nice enough for what it is. With all the construction on the south side of the campus and the red-flag days from that, the more visibly-unusual kids are stuck using the tunnels. I'm not sure that it even matters who ends up where." Thomas stopped and chuckled a little as a thought struck him, "Most of the guys there would be much less alone, and a whole lot happier, if they ever realized that the 'female of the species' isn't completely an alien entity."
"Where'd you hear that?"
"The girls over in Whitman. While we were studying. Don't give me that look!"
"Heh. Studying. Biology?"
"That's enough sunshine for the day: you're getting overheated. Well. Time for my good deed of the day, turning you over to the authorities to lock you back in your cell."
"Aw, man!" mock-pouted the smaller boy.
It only took a minute or so to gather up and repack everything laid out on the ground, from the reddening teen to his gear. They were met at the Hawthorne cottage steps by a man dressed in a khaki sheriff's uniform with a large ring of old-fashioned keys at his hip. Back to a cell, indeed.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Geintz! Time for this one to come home," announced Thomas. There was just a slight hitch in the teen's jocular greeting, as he turned to catch the other's elbow barely in time to prevent a misstep.
"Thanks for catching him." Whether the psychic meant hauling Mads in from escaping his cell or just then, he declined to say.
The subject of the conversation felt a little left out, "Had a nice trip, see ya next fall?"
"Let's not," Thomas and Fubar chorused.
The sitcom sheriff continued, "The coast is clear for you two to head on down, and Thomas?"
"Outside of classes and official functions, I really do prefer to be called 'Fubar'"
"I'll try to remember that, sir."
Fubar just shook his head at that. It was still too easy for the boys to slip up. At times, borrowed memories left Thomas reacting more as the late Corporal Thomas Jensen, CDF, than as a school-aged military dependent that merely happened to have the same name. Moreover, Mads' attitude almost reeked of a police or paramilitary upbringing. Maybe he should bet Eldritch how long it would take for Security or the Range Crew to stick the boy with a more suitable code name?
First basement level, Hawthorne Cottage
"Fine! I'll try some aloe gel later. That stuff's almost as bad as sunscreen for trashing a shirt," the local inmate was in a full-blown, sixteen-going-on-six whine. Was sunburn that much of an issue? Really? Thomas realized that if drinking a couple of full glasses of water and cooling down didn't help fix the attitude soon, someone was going to be hooked up to an IV before the evening was out.
"That's at least a start. By the way, I didn't want to mention it in case someone overheard, but you should try wearing headphones and playing music to cover for you zoning out in VR or projecting."
"Couldn't hurt, unless the music sucks."
"Avoid Brass Monkey in that case."
"Noted. Want to grab some food later?"
"Take a shower first, though." In response to Thomas' directive Mads promptly went for the stereotypical male armpit check.
Thomas looked down to hide a grin. Some incorrigibles do not need encouragement, or at least one in particular.
'Agreed,' chuckled a nearby psychic.
"No, you don't stink. But you know how much some folks have complained."
"While we're at it, we should start looking over the course offerings for Fall Term. "
"Yeah. Shower, nap, clothes, food, and if you don't behave, we'll be visiting your friends at Doyle."
Chapter 3: Security Theater
—Steven Moffat, The Doctor to Rory Williams, "The Wedding of River Song"
Morning, Monday, August 20, 2007, Kane Hall,
Joshua Green didn't mind being assigned front desk duty. The variety of people coming in for a variety of reasons gave him ample opportunity to earn a second paycheck for giving the right people a heads-up notice. Among other services. So Officer Green took due notice that the blond-haired kid who just walked in was totally dressed for the part of "small fish about to be dropped into the lake that is Whateley". There were plenty of his sort each year: straight-A nerds, freshly-cleaned up a little by their mutation, naively thinking they'd finally be top of the heap at the new school. One of Security's less pleasant duties over the school year would be to escort them to Doyle after reality set in and they crashed and burned. On the other hand, even those kids weren't eager enough to be on-campus an extra week early. Nor did they scope out every camera trained on the entrance. As noted earlier, it was his job to notice things like that.
So. We have either a student who's a menace to himself, or just a menace. Not a professional. No one familiar with the school would send in someone to scout the place out with an "ultra-violent" band on.
"Good morning! Who do I need to see for check in?" asked the kid once he'd sighted the desk and walked over. The cap he was wearing didn't come off or even get pushed up. Right. Cameras.
"Check in? Son, that's not until next week."
The boy nodded, "Right. But I was told I needed to check in with Security periodically because of this," he pointed to the UV band. "Listed by code name, right? I've been thinking about going as 'Paso Doble'"
That rung a bell, but only because the name had been added recently, and it sounded gay. At best. Officer Green selected an interior line and called someone else on the day shift. "Metler? Green. We've got a 'Paso Doble' here for a white band check-in. Need a twenty-five, or pulling up the twenty good? Right. Thanks."
"Looks like you're good to go." False alarm, but around this place that was a relief. Mrs. Green didn't raise her children to be stupid. She may not have raised them well, but they all left home with a knack for survival.
"Wiz," the kid then pulled out an administrative note, double-checked it, and smiled. "Also, I've a 0800 meeting with Chief Delarose. Not sure what I did bad enough to be called in right at shift change." That was interesting, Green thought, then crossed 'telepath' and 'projective empath' off his internal powers checklist. This kid had one of the worst "I'm innocent" expressions he'd seen in some time.
Green punched in a different line, "Chief. Green at the front desk. Your oh-eight-hundred appointment? He's here. Will do," He hung up and turned to call one of the officers, "Daniels? Need an escort, Chief's office." "This is Officer Daniels, he'll take you back there.
Office of the Chief of Security, Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
"Thank you, Daniels. Would you close the door?"
Aside from just looking professional, the security chief obviously treated his personnel with courtesy. Judging by auras and speech, the two that Mads had met so far respected the man in return. That was a good sign. Aside from that, Chief Franklin Delarose had just a little too much of that "you shouldn't notice me unless I want you to" thing going to have had a career strictly in law enforcement. In conclusion, not a good person to torque off.
Figuring professional courtesy would be expected, Mads Jensen stepped forward and reached out a hand to the officer while maintaining eye contact, turning just enough to keep the female officer present in view. "Good morning." A slight hesitation in returning the handshake told him that the Chief had been briefed on a few things. Probably, they were things that Jensen would rather he forgot. Hopefully, none of them included fiascos involving hookers.
"I believe you know Officer Everheart. She handled your background checks, along with Thomas'." Everheart nodded. "You can sit down. This isn't an inquisition, this time." Which only means such things can and do happen.
"What can I do for you, Chief Delarose?" Let's get down to business, shall we?
"I don't know if anyone has taken the time to discuss this school's curriculum with you yet, but Whateley puts a great deal of emphasis on teaching students how to survive past graduation," Delarose paused to see if the young man was following.
"No, but that's a goal I can wholeheartedly support."
"Good enough for now. Aside from standard high school classes, and classes on how to control and make use of various paranormal powers, you will also be expected to participate in practical courses relating to self-defense,"
"I think we all know I need to work on that, even though my own defense is actively frowned upon," Mads grimaced and tapped the white band on his arm.
"... weapons proficiency, small-unit tactics, and some aspects of law enforcement as it applies to prospective heroes, villains, career criminals, and to various extra-legal or irregular forces."
No doubt about it. Everheart had managed to find the appropriate files involving hookers, blow, fires, and explosions from his comm-links. If anyone were to ask for specifics, Berlin was so not his fault.
Mads soldiered on. Seeing as how he was still breathing and not handcuffed, no sense in self-incrimination at this point. "Which brings us to today?"
Everheart spoke up, "Whateley isn't your old public school in a burned-out section of south Detroit. Instead, this is a college-preparatory academy, albeit one incurring additional scrutiny of the students regarding their potential abilities, amongst other points of interest, meaning..."
Mads finished for her, "Even with the best paper hanging in the business I'll stick out like a sore thumb. Security's interest?"
Delarose smiled, the boy could follow if carefully led. "Our interest is to forestall trouble. As you can guess, many students haven't yet figured out that they aren't 'all that'. Some do get cocky, mouthy, they even back-talk staff or armed security." Mads was pretty sure he didn't like where this was going.
"Your records indicate that that's a potential trigger for you, which would be odd for a person with your official background." Correction. Mads was entirely certain that this wasn't a conversational direction he should be looking forward to. "So we do need to ensure that when people do start asking questions that could undermine your identity, they get the answers we want them to have. Officer Everheart has suggested that we include you in the indoctrination and refresher training scheduled for the current break."
Everheart followed up, "Some of the Clinic staff were concerned that you wouldn't have enough activities to keep you occupied until the term starts." 'Bouncing off the walls' was but one of the colorful phrases used.
Ouch. But why would senior staff need to brief me? Oh, right. This isn't entirely for my benefit. "I take it that students aren't the only ones whose mouths have written checks their asses can't cover?"
"You'd be surprised. As far as Second Platoon and the new guys are concerned, you'll be working with Security as part of your detention for comparing our Sgt. Buxton to a 'doughnut-chomping, lard-ass flunky'," That sounded curiously specific, and insulting to the student. Neither officer missed the slight clenching of neck and jaw muscles at the implied insult. Given a chance, too many exemplars, let alone empaths and telepaths, would catch that tell.
The Chief continued, "You'll be accompanying them through classes and training exercises as scheduled. Training starts at 1300 on Range Two, goes through the weekend, and includes some evening patrols. You will be paid a stipend as a student auxiliary. All by the book." Delarose looked up and waved an approaching security officer in, "Sergeant Buxton here will take you back to the cage to draw your gear, and to get your stories straight. Now. I have work to do, and so do you."
After the slightly shell-shocked freshman left with the Sergeant, the two senior officers continued their discussion.
"Sam, Westmont's expected back by Thursday, right?"
She nodded. "We'll give him a chance to observe Jensen in action, see if the kid really is this Matthew Nelson he remembers. Around here we have seen stranger transformations through magic, mutation, or other means. At some point, he should wind up exhausted enough to make a mistake that we can catch on tape. Louis, your opinion?"
The psychic arts teacher appeared, shaking his head, "Nothing in his surface thoughts, dreams, or memories has Nelson as anything other than a recent ID to be used and discarded. Even if he were MI-6's defector, de-aged, etc., too many people have mucked with the boy's psyche in the past to say that anything of Nelson would have had much chance of survival. Unless the situation changes drastically, I'd say there's nothing for them to be concerned with."
Sam chuckled, "You're assuming Sir Wallace reports 'nothing to see here'. He could recommend adding the boys to their recruitment list."
"Is that likely?" Frank Delarose suddenly had visions of more recruiters duct-taped to a flag pole.
"Anything that can go wrong, will." was Sam's reply. Then she thought of something far more amusing, "He could recommend Jensen and Jensen to the Spy Kidz." The Intelligence Cadet Corps had a reputation for being deadly earnest about their 'missions'; not so much of a reputation for being effective. For a brief, guilty moment, retired Admiral Everheart wanted to see the look on Ace's or Sir Wallace's face on being presented an After-Action Report in the form of a pop-up book colored in crayons. Fubar just smiled.
"Great. Let's not suggest that." Monday mornings did not need more catastrophes to dwell on. "By the way, Reverend Englund's back on the warpath again. It's been less than 24 hours, and he's already got a wild hair about some student – one looking suspiciously like the trouble-magnet that just walked out – who couldn't pass the Chapel wards to attend services."
"We're dealing with two very paranoid people on a collision course there," Fubar noted. "If Mads doesn't tap out by Friday afternoon, you might need to warn your personnel to expect a 'bug hunt' Saturday or Sunday night. I'd guess that it will just happen to be big enough to pull in your recent trainees for 'educational purposes' or backup."
"He would do that. Again. Definitely this weekend, so it doesn't risk his own trainee students or Miss Reilly." The security chief could already feel the birth of a new ulcer. "It'll be something lethal too, if he decides the kid has been Mythos-tainted."
Sam needed to know, "Is he?" That was all they'd need, the rabid preacher trying to pit one monster against another at the very start of the term.
Louis smiled sadly, "No. But he's been assigned to Hawthorne with the rest of us monsters."
Tuesday Morning, August 21, 2007
Range 2, Whateley Academy
"Ready on the right?"
To Mads Jensen's mind, too many people, not just "civvies" Did I really have to say that out loud yesterday? found the rules of a properly-supervised weapons range to be an unnecessarily complex pain in the hoop. He found the discipline of breath and action amidst a strict safety routine to be one of the more restful forms of meditation he'd been taught. Even Thomas agrees with me on that, and that's... less common than I'd like.
Speaking of agreements, he had to agree with Everheart's plan for reconciling his skill sets, cover story, and class schedules. That still didn't make him a rifleman, as seen the day before. Today, he was looking forward very much to re-qualifying with pistol, so he could get back to carrying his own pistol full-time.
"Ready on the left?"
SSGT Ryan Wilson had been surprised that the recently-injured boy had been thrown into this training. The mystery only deepened when he found out that "that P.D. brat off the UV list" was the person responsible for bringing weapons that Caitlin Bardue had emphatically wanted off the impound inventory before her hired replacements arrived. The very little bit of research that could be done on them confirmed the evil woman's opinion that neither of the kid's firearms belonged on an inventory that he'd want to explain. Hell, the manufacturer didn't even exist as an arms 'reseller'. The idea of Hawthorne's latest lunatic inmate with a pistol in his hands wasn't a very comforting thought, but having these sidearms accidentally walk off with Third Platoon was a much less inviting idea.
"Ready on the firing line."
Wilson's next concrete hint that something was up was when Mads set foot onto the range. Gone were all traces of the teen goofball that half the clinic's nurses had been complaining about last week. Little details about his posture and bearing, and the way he wore the issued uniform started rearranging themselves in Ryan's mind. The next hint clicked in his brain as he watched the boy set up his station. Even Security and the Grunts relied on the ranges' fully-stocked cleaning gear and supplies, but not the Jensen kid. So what had he been up to in the past that he was so used to cleaning his weapons in the field?
Mads planted his feet, squared his shoulders, and went to work sighting in. Just another range day, like any other since he'd turned five.
Wilson overheard some grumbling from a late arrival, "What I want to know is whether 'PD' really stands for 'Paso Doble', or 'Police Department'? The kid shoots like a cop."
"He's got a slight accent even when he's not hamming it up. Bet his dad's Metro PD and he was a cadet before this summer. That'd explain why Burlington-Smythe hasn't given him the boot."
Maybe, maybe not, but something still wasn't adding up.
Another chimed in, "The runt's got range procedure down cold. At least he won't be shooting in the wrong lane, unlike some people I could name."
"By the way, word is that he mouthed off to Buxton" "Really? Couldn't happen to a nicer guy." "Shyeah. So the Chief's putting him through the ringer to teach him a lesson. London Metro connections or not."
Figuring he'd warmed up enough on the first set of targets, for the rapid firing and any following parts Mads switched to his baby. It looked the part of a heavy pistol, but Wilson was interested in seeing if there was much difference between this and other pistols on the market, beyond the clip capacity.
Nope. That sidearm is not going back to the cage to get 'lost'.
"Clear and lock weapons"
"Clear on the left"
"Clear on the right"
"The firing line is clear"
There had been a window of time during which the 'Metro' nickname could have died a quiet death. Let's re-figure the odds on that working out.
"Son, where'd y' learn t'shoot like that?"
"When I was at Academy, Sergeant-Major. A bit 'ere and there thereafter." Clearly the morning meds had worn off just in time to start echoing the wrong accent.
"Hereford, was it?"
"Wha'? No! Lo- Sorry. Wasn't thinkin'. Public school in the States - you'd never've heard of it. I did get some time in on a range though, last time I was in London."
"Laddie, yer in the States. Aye?"
"Oh, never mind. Off wit ye. You sorry lot have enough things to do, yeah?"
"Yeah, yeah. What've we got next?"
Like any other non-comm, Wilson had been fed more than his fair share of bovine-sourced fertilizer while he was in the service. The unofficially official story regarding a police brat – maybe one whose posher relatives would be embarrassed if the word got out regarding a mutant in the family – had much the same smell. It fit the boy's familiarity with weapons training, but not the odd quirks that reminded the retired sergeant of some professionally scary people he'd met who'd seen combat far too early in life.
Wilson shook his head at the departing group. He could always hit up Eldritch later for the real scoop from Hawthorne, once her special bibbity-bobbity-boo project was finished.
As it would turn out, "The docs upped his meds twice last week. Also, they've installed psi screens in his room, and there's a 'Do NOT Wake' sign by the door." was not at all the news he wanted to hear.
"I did not need to know that. Nightmares for me it is."
"That's what you get for asking questions around here."
Wednesday Morning, August 22, 2007
PT sucks. So does this journaling nonsense for the headshrinkers...
In other news, there are more ways to screw up a forced entry than I have ever seen before.
Friday Morning, August 24, 2007
PT still sucketh to a great degree. There has to be a good back-street body shop that handles retreaded lungs around here.
Sunday afternoon, August 26, 2007
The training's "graduation" briefing could be summed up by two news items. The good news was that no one was being fired. The bad news was that it turns out that Earth has its own share of toxics and shadow spirits, no need to import any.
If it's just a "bug hunt" as they say, null sheen all around. But if it were my lair, I'd have plenty of nasty surprises set up for anyone poking around.
The plan is to hold the folks fresh out of training for backup. Yeppir. Second Platoon does not have a rock-solid reputation. So here's hoping Thomas comes back soon with my AK. The .308's nice, but the '98 is rock solid. Plus, there's all those grenades I haven't had a chance to use yet. There aren't many things with a nervous system that can shrug off a jungle load of Hi-Ex, frag, and gamma-scope splash.
Monday, August 27, 2007, go-frag-yourself A-frickin-M in the morning
Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
It would be charitable to say that the crew dragging themselves in looked like death warmed over and, to be honest, smelled worse. Only two of his men needed to be dropped off at Doyle for minor injuries, so Frank Delarose considered that much a win. Fubar had been right - the intel had been crocked just badly enough that he just didn't want to think about what could have happened, but not badly enough for a certain local preacher to shoulder any of the blame if the operation had gone sideways.
"I'd rather have been wrong, you know," Louis "Fubar" Geintz quietly told him. His projected image sat down across from the security chief. Even he looked tired. Not all of the fight had been on the physical plane.
Delarose decided to address one elephant in the room, "Who was the real target?"
Delarose explained, "This was a trap set to spring any time someone poked at it the wrong way. Who had he been saving it for?" This night could not be over too soon.
"I'd like to know that as well, gentlemen." A clear alto carried across the small office, as the door was firmly shut. "I would also like to know the reason that two of my students, one of whom somehow was on a full week's detention that I previously did not know about, were involved with something that was clearly a long-standing Dunwich matter." Liz Carson was not loud, nor needed to be, and she was not at all happy.
"You cannot be asking me to probe the mind of one of the regents, much as I might be tempted?"
"Louis, what if we hadn't had Westmont on-hand, or that channeler hadn't dropped in from out of nowhere? I don't suppose we could hire him on to beef up astral security?" Carson mused, but then remembered, "And who the hell gives a Kalashnikov to a kid that age?"
"The assault rifle did already belong to Metro."
"He's had it for a couple of years now, in fact."
Also about to be Not Helping was the knock on the officer door. Delarose stifled a groan before calling out "Enter!" The fire in his boss' eyes announced that this would be a very temporary reprieve.
"Chief! My apologies Ma'am, Louis." The young man stepping into the office was a full five foot, four inches, and Ophelia is going to be on the warpath later in the morning if those present were guessing his weight correctly, of battered but cleaned-up warrior.
When it rains, it pours. "Mrs. Carson, may I introduce Mads Jensen, code-named Metro?" An eyebrow quirked at the unfamiliar codename and its doubled meanings, "Jensen, this is Mrs. Elizabeth Carson, Headmistress of Whateley Academy."
"Oh! Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Carson. Again, my apologies for the interruption, Ma'am, I just needed to check out with Chief Delarose. Er, yeah. So. Lesson learned, right? Should I turn in my gear now, or..." The young man finally caught on to the atmosphere in the room, "Or, it can wait until next shift can't it? If there's nothing else, I'll be on my way. Right." One could tell that exhaustion was taking it's toll in those glazed hazel-green eyes.
"Check the Second Platoon schedule for your work shifts. The position also counts as work/study for those on scholarship. There's still coursework you'll need to complete. Sooner is better." It also should count toward showing him we're not the enemy.
"Yes, sir. If that will be all sir?"
"Yes it will. Consider this your Monday check-in. Get some sleep."
"Again, good morning to you Mrs. Carson, Mr. Geintz."
One good thing about the guy, other than his terrible sense of social timing, is that he realized that the sooner he was out of Lady Astarte's line of sight, the safer they'd all be.
"That. Was. Inexcusable."
"Liz, after tonight's firefight, do you really want to tell those men and women out there that you're taking away one of the few magic- and firearms- capable students who'd have their backs in a stand-up fight?"
"That is not the point. This Metro's a child."
Louis broke in, quietly, "He was a child, some time ago. But when he's out of a uniform, and not on a mission, he is still left trying very hard to figure out who he is and what's to be done about the parts of his childhood that he's lost along the way."
"He's also the channeler you wanted to hire, Liz. Care to wrestle for it?"
Carson looked back at her chief of security, then over to the head of her Psychic Arts department, and decided everyone still present needed less arguing, more sleep.
"Get some rest gentlemen, this isn't over, but it will keep for now."
Monday, August 27, 2007, later in the same morning. Seriously?
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Thomas Jensen turned to glare at the irresponsible, infuriating idiot daring to address him before he could fully wake up.
"Thank you for making it back early. Needed you. Like always. But, you know. Thanks."
"I," Thomas paused, then frowned, taking in the sight of his exhausted friend. Judging by the shadows interlaced in his aura, Mads was more than slightly banged up. "You're welcome. Sit down, eat something."
"Yeah. I could do that."
By the time Thomas got back with a mug of coffee and a couple of pastries the other should be able to eat, the schmuck was asleep at the table.
It was almost adorable, but there are Limits to charitable behavior at their age.
Thomas was halfway back to Twain before Mads' doctor found him dropped off at the clinic.
Chapter 4: Underwater Basketweaving
—Headmistress Elizabeth Carson, Whateley Academy
Mads "Metro" Jensen looked up from the new (-ish, a few coffee rings back) course listing, with that look on his face – the one reserved for new ways to add more recoil compensation to the sort of assault rifle he left 'back home'. He leaned over into his lunch partner's 'personal space'.
"Hej, scan this! They're offering – I kid thee not – Underwater ..."
"No.", his friend shot back. From the rapid response, one might get the idea Thomas Hrafn Jensen was well aware of the mayhem his partner-in-crime was capable of. For example, he was never, ever, well maybe, come to think about it, going to suggest that a certain Thornie must have 'chewed through the straps' to get somewhere.
"But you didn't even hear the rest of it!"
"I don't have to. You lost me at 'under'"
"Oh, really?" The arched eyebrow and smirking reply only rated a glower back. "That's not what I recall from last..."
"Goddammit, Mads. There's a place and a time..." The blush spreading across Thomas' face undercut the glower more than just a little.
"You name it luv, I'll be there!"
"Fine." sighed Thomas, "Which class is it?"
"Underwater Basket Weaving! It's offered as an art elective AND it's a P.E. credit, so it's got to be good.", Mads pointed out.
"Unh huh. Right." Thomas tried softening the cynicism a bit, "So where exactly does this amazing class meet?"
"Starting out at... Laird Hall, Indoor Pool 4. Oh.", was Mads' crestfallen response.
Thomas grimaced, "Trying out devisor sanitizers on your gills sounds like something your biologic parents would have tried." He offered instead, "How about something a bit less painful and life-threatening than that - is there a firearms class that doesn't that doesn't put you, Eldritch, and SSGT Wilson on the range at the same time?"
Mads just nodded, chewed on his pencil a little more, and said, "Maybe? Maybe not. So that puts us both in Basic Martial Arts for 4th period, right between lunch and counseling, and on into Magical Theory. Ballroom dance in the evening. Agreed?"
Thomas said, "That sounds OK." He paused, frowned, and then followed up with "I just agreed to a painfully-bruising martial arts class and a life-threatening Magic lab in lieu of electrocution, chemical burns, and drowning, didn't I?"
Chapter 5: Meetings and Greetings
Saturday, September 1, 2007
There should be a rule against having a "First Assembly" on a Saturday morning at the start of an extended holiday weekend. Mads Jensen was even less impressed on learning about the "tradition" of marching the students in by house, with Hawthorne up front and center. First in, last out. If that didn't emphasize to the student body that the cottage's residents were officially intended to be at the bottom of the social order, nothing would.
Then there was the follow-up message, in which he was informed that he'd be "allowed" to attend the Assembly by remote video feed from his room. For the health and safety of your fellow students.
"I get those notices too," commiserated Phlegm when Mads had mentioned it at breakfast. "But what they really mean is that they don't want me mucking up the upholstery. At least I never came close to driving the powers testing staff out of their own labs!"
The weather cooperated beautifully with the planned "meet and greet" picnic out on the quad. Sunny, breezy, cool: "Chamber of Commerce" weather as some would say. The Crystal Hall staff had set up a professional array of outdoor event food prep stations, and the sweet smells of smoke and barbecue competed with condiment stands, soda, Student Organization tables, and a riot of color and music as different groups took the opportunity to show off their various styles.
When Mads and a group of other Hawthorne kids got out of the elevator at Crystal Hall, they were greeted with a large "Picnic! OUTSIDE!!" sign. The dining facility itself was mostly still set up for between-meals cleaning, although a few tables had been cleared by earlier-arriving kids from Twain and Whitman. Even on a green-flag day, not everyone was entirely comfortable with being out and about.
"If you want to eat lunch sometime today, you'll need to get it from one of the food lines outside," one of the boys volunteered, "You definitely want to do that before the heavy eaters clean them out." Judging by the bat-like wings he was sporting, he had to be from Twain. "If you need something from 'special meals', you might be able to catch one of the kitchen staff when they come back in to re-stock the grills," another added.
A few minutes later, Metro still ended up stuck at a table by himself. Between wearing a "UV" band and eating lunch from a well-marked foil package (might as well be a sippy cup), he was finding open seats at occupied tables to be rather scarce. After dumping his emptied meal pack into one of the hazmat containers, he decided it was time to take a hint and head outside for some fresh air. The arrangement of the club tables were just a bit revealing of various social divides. For example, there appeared to be no less than three martial arts groups on-campus, (maybe four... What's a Jedi?) and none of them wanted much of anything to do with the others. "Whateley Martial Arts Cheerleaders" - did the school even HAVE sports teams? - probably was not for him. "Dragons"? No, just no. Even if there weren't real wizworms running around. That made his first stop The Tigers.
The Tigers Martial Arts Club table, The Quad
By a process of elimination, Stunner and Damballah were left manning the fort for the Tigers. While it was one thing to have someone at the table to "represent" (and to avoid pointless vandalism), it would have been another to have some of the more political members as the public face of the club. They wanted the African Diaspora students to feel welcomed, not chased off before they could meet anyone else. That didn't mean the sawed-off piece of europrivilege headed their way had to be welcomed, now did it?
"Take it easy, sister. Cold Brutha say he knows this one." The Jamaican sophomore's voice held equal parts warning and humor.
"How does, no, wait. Do I want to know how he knows that kid?"
Damballah chuckled, "You're learning. That's good." Then he called out to the freshman walking up, "Good day, cousin!"
"Good day to you too! For some reason, I'm sure I know you from some place," he scratched his head in puzzlement, then brightened up, "I'm Mads Jensen, going by 'Metro' here. Pleased to meet you?"
The Tiger signalled for a moment's pause, and then a large bleached-bones white snake came slithering out from his mouth to take an honored place on the boy's shoulder. "We are Damballah. This is Cold Brutha and I am Warm Brutha. And the lovely young lady sitting next to us is Daphne Bosworth, also known as Stunner."
"A Stunner indeed, but where are my manners?" Just as Stunner's companion's voice had changed, there was a change from tenor to contralto in the freshman's voice as his accent shifted from London to Dublin, "Cheers Cousin, how's it been hanging? Don't mind Madsy, he can be an arse, but he's family from way back." In a more normal tone, and directed to the snake, "Duty calls, I suspect. But I think Brigitte's glad to see you taking an active interest, regardless of what it may foretell."
"Yes. Likewise, little ghede. Interesting days ahead."
As the snake returned to its place, Daphne took a closer look at "Madsy". The kid's skin was nearly as white as the snake, and by a trick of the light it almost looked like he was wearing a black suit, trimmed in bloody red and icy lavender. If the wind had blown from his direction, the ancestral parts of her brain knew the scents of funeral pyres and marsh-drowned cemetaries would taint the air. The moment passed and all there was was just a blond-haired boy, slight and pale, with a crooked smile before her. "Sorry to have bothered you all, I just felt a need to say hello before my other half finds me and drags me away." He nodded a slight bow, and headed off to annoy one of the other clubs.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"This never happened?"
The "Goobers" club table, The Quad
Some Christian Paranormal Fellowship or something, had the positive feature of investigating paranormal threats. The negative features involved one Reverend Darren Englund, and the distinct impression that some of the members had been handed Mads' picture as a paranormal threat to lethally investigate.
Note to self: those sigils on the Chapel entrances still need researching.
The Future Super-Heroes of America Club table, The Quad
Being thoroughly dismissed by The Future Superheroes of America was almost refreshing. Among Metro's numerous faults:
- Failure to manifest as an Exemplar
- Barring that, failure to manifest as a "PK Superman" or a "Package Deal Psychic"
- Having the horrific bad taste to manifest any measure of GSD
However, they could let the lack of American citizenship slide. After all, two of the last year's graduating seniors had even been, gasp!, British. The ditz that he talked to stumbled over those objections for a good three or four minutes before one of the others pointed out that she was talking to one of those UV criminals destined for super-villainy. The boy left, wondering if it would be terribly bad form to take a page from his old friend Max's book, and torch off some napalm in their clubhouse?
"Somehow, I just cannot picture you as some selfless hero swooping down out of the skies to save a village. Burning one down? That's a different story. Berlin comes to mind, as do Detroit, Kansas City, London..."
"Love you too, Thomas," Mads smirked back at the taller, dark-haired boy who'd walked up behind him. "And Berlin was entirely Not My Fault. See any clubs you can stand, other than the role-players?"
Thomas thought about it, "The Nations seem like they're getting things together. Neither of us are formally tribal members, so that's a hard sell. Watch out for Bluejay, he sees a lot more than he lets on."
Mads looked over, "Which one's that?"
< The handsome and intelligent one, blue hair, standing right behind you! >
As Mads struggled to get both hearts back down from his throat, Thomas Jensen demonstrated his maturity by laughing at his friend's near-panic.
< Payback is mine, Blue Boy, and it shall be glorious. > "Maybe I should fill your iPod with recordings of love songs, sung by Thomas here, in Tlingit?"
The blue-haired Alpha waggled his eyebrows suggestively as he bent down a bit to face the tow-haired freshman, "Maybe I'd enjoy that?"
Thomas drawled out, "More than you'd enjoy hearing Mads mangle Dansk."
"I'm working on it!"
"And I'll be waiting on those recordings, or maybe more entertaining payback, wink, wink, nudge, nudge." With that, Bluejay popped back over to the Nations' table.
Soon there were few of the special-interest clubs left to check out.
The Euro-Promotional League table, The Quad
The "European Promotional League" didn't seem too popular. Their table was set up next to one labeled "Intelligence Corps of Cadets", so their could be some membership overlap - two unpopular clubs for the low, low price ...
According to his commlink, cell phone, whatever, they still had some time before catching a bus into town.
"'European Promotional League'. Has the joke about how could a continent need promotion...?"
"Three times already. Un fois en français." The sophomore manning the table looked resigned to the prospect of more lame jokes at the club's expense. She was cute, in a Gallic sort of way. If even her boyfriend wasn't hanging around?
Oh boy. "What's with the table? I would have thought"
"... that the Administration would think to provide a proper list of foreign students to invite? But no. By the time we get to meet many of our fellow Europeans, they've already become immersed in the other clubs, and then it is too late to make a good impression. For example, two incoming freshman are named 'Jensen', but one is Canadian and the other Danish. Which is which?"
Mads suggested, "The Danish one probably answers to 'Jensen', instead of 'Jensen'", pronouncing "Yensen" and "Jensen" differently.
"Oui, but on paper ..." the French girl agreed, before changing to a more positive tack, "I'm Adalie Vitesse, code-named Charge, and you are?"
"Mads Christian Jensen, and this is my good friend, Thomas Hrafn Jensen." Mads jerked a thumb back toward his friend, "He's from British Canuckia." That earned a spit-take from the next table. Ontarian or Quebecois? "Or, Metro and Valravn. I'm guessing the code names didn't help tell us apart."
"Non. Would you be interested in our club? At least give us a chance to show you what we are about?" Charge looked hopeful, for what was probably the first time since she'd been abandoned at the table by her so-called friends.
"I'd like that, but I have to admit up front that while I have European citizenship, from Kongeriget Danmark and the United Kingdom, I've lived most of my life in Detroit. I may know less about European cultures than many of the other students here."
That brought on a scowl, "That would be more difficult than you could imagine."
< Worse than my ####### french? Impossible. >
"That, that ..." It seemed that Ms. Vitesse had led a more sheltered life than the boy had.
"That is what happens when one takes a crash course from a former Legionnaire."
Thomas chipped in, "Speaking of crash courses, he learned to drive in Cairo. Not pretty. Very much like his French."
"I'm fairly certain that no one asked you your opinion of my driving skills," the mood whiplash was even more exaggerated as Mads' accent veered a bit more towards Received Pronunciation. The accompanying miming of tie-straightening with that nose-in-the-air stiff upper lip sold it.
Thomas rebutted, "Quite right, old chap. The exact wording was "He'p me, Jesus!", before the prayers started in earnest." Even the euro-snob in Adalie's head gave up at that, and she started to laugh. He managed a few more jibes at his friend's expense to keep the conversation from plunging back into a toxic silence, even getting the 'Intelligence Corps Cadet' to introduce herself. Soon enough though, "Dude. The time."
"Ah! Oh, right. The comedian and I need to catch the next bus into Dunwich. It was good meeting you, if you email me the meeting times I can see if I'm over-committed yet or not, yes? Au revoir!"
As they watched the two head off in the right direction to catch a bus, Kew leaned over to Adelie, "You know he's trying to pull the wool over your eyes?"
Charge smiled an 'I know something you don't' smile, "Per'aps, per'aps not. I recall seeing both of them at drill with the other JROTC cadets yesterday. Some of the cadences the short one attempted were ... très intéressant. The sergeants had much to say about that."
"I'll bet. How was the view? Should we inform Phase that you'd love to see a guy in a uniform?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe for Halloween? I never thought I'd say this, but I may suggest that whatever he wears have room for holdouts."
"You wouldn't be the only one thinking that, Adelie. Not the only one at all."
En route to Dunwich, NH. Populated
Thomas Jensen didn't need to rely on their link to tell that Mads was happy to get to go some place, nearly any place, that wasn't on-campus. The guy was almost as wound up as a six-year-old devisor mainlining pixie sticks and coffee. No wonder that after recovering from the abduction and all the surgeries afterward a few years ago, his doctors had been willing to let the kid escape into the Detroit streets for a while. Tailed the whole time, but otherwise uncaged.
It wouldn't do to let the excitement over heading into some little podunk town become too infectious, but Thomas did let a smile sneak onto his own face. If it overpowered his own last memories of the place, being called away while his soulmate stumbled to a bench, bleeding, so very much the better. "It wasn't your fault. Try to remember that," he half-heard, half-felt as he opened his eyes (When had he closed them?) and looked into two hazel orbs shadowed in concern.
"I'll take that under advisement. We there yet?"
"Just about. Do I need to remind your friends on the Dream Team that you need to get enough sleep too? Maybe I should sic Caduceus on them?" Sometimes it was hard to distinguish concern from mayhem in his magician's screwed-up mind.
Soon enough, the boys found themselves at the door of the fabled Rogers' Fabric Boutique. "We could be a few minutes early, but if we stop to do anything else we'll just be late." Thomas figured that with their luck, 'late' wouldn't even begin to cover the potential outcomes. He also knew that saying so would be to openly tempt fate. He settled for following Mads inside.
A pleasant feminine voice rang out from the back, "If you could have a seat, I'll be out shortly!"
"That's fine. We're a few minutes early I think!" Mads replied, and promptly forgot the 'have a seat' directive to inspect some of the fabrics on display in the front of the store. Something something worrisome in the planning works comes. Hopefully, these fabrics are largely fireproof.
The wait wasn't very long at all before a young woman in a shop coat, who had to be Miss Rogers, led one of Whateley's more stunning students to the front to settle accounts and deliveries. Thomas found himself staring. Then he found himself being stared back at, with more than a little exasperation. Three, two, one ... *ahem* "That's MY boyfriend, mister. Back. Off." Mads Jensen, the diplomat, not.
Oh, my. There were very "male" energies playing through the student's aura, but the hair style, breasts, hips, and leg proportions were very clearly "female" ... and the person inside it all was badly embarrassed. Thomas mentally stepped back and pictured a more androgynous outfit on the young, man, then realized.
"Ayla! I didn't recognize you dressed up. erm, Mads? Down, boy. Poesie."
"Excuse me? Do I know either of you?"
"Mads Jensen," at least he was offering a handshake instead of assault, "and you would be?"
"Ayla Goodkind, yes, one of those Goodkinds." Phase got through the first part of a litany before realizing that the Jensen boy in front of him had no clue what a Goodkind was supposed to be. "But I'm a student at Whateley, as I gather both of you are."
'Ayla. Goodkind. Poe.' It was surprisingly cute, watching the young mage mentally grind gears in concentration, "You're Melissa's cousin? Melissa from upstairs?"
"If you mean Melissa Thurber-Goodkind, then yes. Otherwise, no. If she's upstairs from you that would place you in Hawthorne as well, correct? You don't look like you'd have much need to be there."
In response, Mads motioned for the other to wait, pulled off his hat, revealing the start of two fuzzy antlers, and handed the hat off to Thomas. That was followed by his tie, and once he unbuttoned the shirt's collar button, a pair of purplish slashes across both sides of his neck became visible. Ironically, the gills that looked so much like a slit throat actually were supported by cartilage that made effective throat-slitting less effective. Ayla looked suitably ill.
"Would you like to see more? There are four more pairs of thoracic gills under my shirt. That's one of the reasons it was recommended that I seek Miss Rogers' help. She's one of THE experts at tailoring around metatraits like that."
"They don't seem to be posing much problem for you now. I'm still surprised you're in Hawthorne."
Mads shrugged, "Problems are all about how you deal with them. I still have a few months of hydrotherapy ahead until the doctors are happy with my oxygen levels while asleep. Even then, let's just say that finding a roommate for me will be a challenge."
Miss Rogers, sensing Ayla's mounting discomfort, stepped in. "Well then, Mister Jensen, since you've already started taking your clothes off, why don't you step into the measuring cabinet over there. Once in, follow ALL the instructions, please."
"I should be leaving if I want to catch the next bus back. Cecilia, thank you again for seeing me. As always, I look forward to doing more business with you," turning back to Thomas, "I'm sorry. I don't think I ever got your name?"
"Thomas Jensen. Valravn. I'm over in the boys' wing. And, yes I am," smiled Thomas, letting implications sink in, "Don't worry. You didn't offend him by asking instead of assuming."
After Phase had left, and Thomas stepped into the measuring cabinet, the human monkey wrench struck again. It seemed he wanted something made from something he had on hand that he didn't want Thomas to see yet. Miss Rogers looked reluctant to have anything to do with it. Smart lady.
"Mads, if she knows enough to be worried, chances are she knows enough to keep a confidence or two. So where'd you get the dry goods?" Thomas said, taking in the developing scene.
"I might have exchanged some goods and services while I was out, for some end-pieces a certain Lady Angharad was interested in parting with. Before you ask, yes I did thoroughly examine what I received, before and after."
"So, Tír na nÓg. It's not like clothing is an unknown thing there." Turning to Miss Rogers, Thomas clarified, "We both do know better than to pull goods from some person's grave."
"There are some really good curses for that, by the way!" Thank you ever so much Mads, for Not Helping. "But that's what I've been trying to say, that these are the products of a free and unencumbered exchange."
"Nonetheless, I want to have the fabric checked out by someone I trust before going any further with them. That's final." Miss Rogers took the wrapped package to the back. One can only assume she had some means of storing enchanted or other unusual fabrics. Whateley wasn't far away after all. Or Miskatonic U for that matter.
When she returned, it was back to work. Unfortunately, when an expert on all fabrics and their uses is teamed up with a scion of a major munitions and security services corporation to discuss uniforms for a school that literally has combat finals... Thomas found a couple of magazines to read. Maybe a copy of "War And Peace"?
The sound of fingers snapping woke Thomas up. This time he was prepared for the extreme invasion of personal space. At this distance, he could count the veins in Mads' eyes. "Yep. I'm going to have to have a few words with some folks about keeping certain other folks awake at all hours." He barely had time to register that his friend had changed clothes, before he was "helped" up. "We need you to check the fit on some of these garments before Cecilia goes to work on the rest."
Thomas made a mental note to thank his namesake for his memories as a full dress uniform was hung over one arm and he was herded behind a standing screen to change. From those he knew what went where, and whether all the insignia were correctly placed. The need to check the garment's fit quickly became apparent, as some of the accessories were NOT normally part of a cadet's uniform, unless the cadet in question was very, very paranoid and really did have enemies.
Once dressed, Thomas was guided to the shop's dressing mirrors. Well, now. He did look sharp, no doubt about that. But who the hell was that behind him, suit-and-tied, leaning against the counter, and staring at him like a present to be unwrapped? The effect was ruined when the stranger handed Miss Rogers a twenty, "I knew where to look and I still can't pick out the knife sheaths from here."
Mads walked up with another bundle of clothing. "Here. Since everything there fits, you can change into these. Cecilia's been good enough to put together enough basics to carry us through to classes. I'll wash what we've borrowed from the school's Goodwill stash and return what's wearable." The newer set of clothes was in a casual Western style - someone liked playing 'dress up the air spirit' - but the fabrics all had that feel of very high-end performance synthetics. You can take the kiddie from the Corp, maybe, with enough firepower and bribery, but you can't take the Corp from the kiddie.
Miss Rogers noticed the attention Thomas was paying to the clothing, and tactfully ignored the attention Mads was paying to Thomas, "The fabrics have been treated to make them as stain-, sweat-, and tear- resistant as feasible without making them unwearable. You Whateley students are pretty rough on your clothes, some far more than others."
Mads explained, "I didn't want to say anything in front of Phase, but our sponsors, as well as Doyle Medical, and Security, had already contacted Cecilia about expanded safety requirements. For both of us. Because, well, you know." Sensing he was about to add more than he wanted to say, the boy looked down at the suddenly interesting toes of his shoes.
Miss Rogers picked up the dropped ball, "You can expect the rest of the clothing and uniforms by the end of the week or so, since I don't plan on working through the holiday. The packages will also include mailers. If any of my garments fails, or needs repair, you can use one of those to send the damaged items in for repair. Here are a couple of my cards. I can always use new business or new challenges, as the case may be. And boys?"
"Try not to get yourselves hurt or killed. There will be a number of formal dances throughout the school year, and it would be refreshing to see more young men NOT afraid to take part."
"We'll give it the old College try!"
"I don't think that Miskatonic counts"
Chapter 6: Amerikan History In Translation
[ Author's Note: Eliza, a Syrian student in Metro's history class was created by Kaitha39 ]
First day of classes , Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Eliza was having a little bit of trouble getting to class without being jostled by, or being pushed into, one male student or another. The slight reassurances she'd had that modest behavior might not be an alien idea here, gained from being placed in a girls-only dorm, had been rapidly erased. Yet she persevered and arrived at her next class in time to hear the teacher start his lecture.
"Good Morning, everyone. My name is Mister Williams and I will be your instructor for American History 1. I see that there are a number of unoccupied seats matching the number of students still standing around. Would someone care to explain this behavior before I start assigning seats?"
One of the girls still standing said, "Mr. Williams? I'm sorry, but if I have to sit next to that creepy guy in the back over there, I'll have to drop the class!" Some students around the room nodded in agreement.
"Is that so? Mister," the teacher nodded toward a back corner of the room. "Yes, you. What is your name?"
"Madz Yensen" or that's what it sounded like to Eliza. Another of those coarse Western names she'd be expected to remember. The boy looked nearly as uncomfortable as his name sounded to her.
'Remember child, your name may sound equally unfamiliar to the others,' sounded the voice inside of her head.
Seeing something he did not approve of, Mr. Williams went on, "Jensen. It's bad enough that I have one of you in my class; I will not tolerate you disrupting my classroom further. Whatever you've done to alienate so many of your classmates, that stops now. For the moment, the rest of you hold on. It seems I have another problem student: Eliza... I can't even pronounce this. She's from the Middle East and may need translation help. I don't suppose any of you reprobates... Yes, Jensen, what is it now?"
"I know some Arabic." Actually, the boy looked like the one of the least likely persons on earth to speak the language: dirty blond hair, pale skin, slight frame, almost pointed eyebrows over mischievous hazel eyes. The glasses framed in reinforced plastic hooked over not-quite-pointed ears? If he wanted to look trustworthy, he was trying far too hard for far too little success. On the other hand, the way his tie was tied and the way his shirt and jacket hung over hidden body armor, matched men whom Eliza's father had pointed out as al-Mukhabarat.
To complete the image of decadence, there seemed to be something going on over his head, certainly not a halo. Eliza didn't blame the other students for avoiding this one.
'He wears illusion. Perhaps to avoid more trouble than he already attracts?'
He is a sorceror?
Williams said, "Good, she can sit next to you and you can share notes. So, Eliza, are you present, so we can get this over with?"
The boy looked around and said, in ʿAmmiya, <Eliza? The teacher wants you to sit by me. Do not worry. It is for instructional purpose only.> Eliza gave her location away when she nearly laughed at the image of this very Western boy speaking like a Cairene truck driver.
The boy's gaze was appraising, guarded, not inappropriately forward as with most boys his age, nor openly contemptuous as she'd seen in other Westerners' eyes. In this she was reminded not only of the secret police, but of those times when little Thomas had been bullied by the other children in town and was trying his hardest to not let their parents know.
< Are you truly a sorceror? I have been told you use illusions.>
Smirking a bit, the boy replied, < Did not Imam as-Sadiq say that the Holy Prophet has ordered, "The Muslim sorcerer must be killed and the infidel magician must not be killed."? >
< My family does not follow Islam. >
< I apologize for my error. >
It took a few minutes to find students willing to sit near them. Certain boys seemed as likely to be uneasy as the girls objecting to his presence. It wasn't as if he hadn't kept himself clean... but as the class progressed she imagined being near some distant battlefield - cordite, tear gas, petrol, woodsmoke, saltwater, ice, sweat, blood, death. Disturbing, but she'd become far too used to too many of these things in her life back home.
At the end of the class, neither student rushed to the door. What would be the point, when the rest of the class seemed to be trying to get away from the 'raghead' and the 'uviefreak' in the back? Also, she was more tired than she'd expected to be from trying to decipher the other kid's accent. He wasn't completely fluent, and some of the idioms he used? It was certain that he had not lived in a polite part of Cairo.
< Eliza, may I ask where you are from? >
< Syria. We used to live in the northeast, before the devil men came. My father, we had a farm, but > Eliza could not stop the tears from falling. >
As Eliza wiped her eyes Mads asked, gently, < Who is left to you now? >
< Only my sister. She lives with another family in America so she can be safe. > Even though it left her sad, she knew it was for the best.
< You studying here assures her safety, yes? Such things are important in life. > The boy nodded to himself. Maybe he had family he hoped to keep safe? Moving to a more neutral topic, < A farm you said? My... > "how do I say foster?" < mother took me to a farm once. They even let me try one of the flame-throwers! >
Flame-throwers??? Merciful Allah! < What kind of farm was that?>
< Soybeans, I think. Dangerous business away from towns. >
< Where? > Such demon-infested places would be good to avoid!
"Ehmmm..." < Tribal council lands. Manitoba? I think that is it. >
'My dear, I think that young Mads is far, very far, from where he calls home.'
Chapter 7: Communication Breakdowns
—No known surviving Whateley instructor. Ever.
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
As Elyzia Grimes left the infirmary examining room, she paused for a moment to shake her aching head. Her inquiries had resulted in a rambling narrative, courtesy one mildly-concussed student, not much improved by the dry commentary from the other student who'd accompanied him to the clinic.
She almost, almost, pitied whoever had that duo for Intro to Mystic Arts. The Three Little Menaces had cured her of that weakness the year before.
To the martial arts instructor awaiting a coherent explanation of what had just happened, she remarked, "I seem to recall Circe recommending a certain combined physical education and arts course be held outdoors this term". At this point, she was ready to share her rapidly-developing headache.
"What bearing would that have had on today's events?" Sensei Tetsuo Ito crabbed. To be fair, he was glad no one was badly injured or worse, but the head-start against last year's damages was an embarrassment.
"As I understand it, our Mr. Jensen's aversion to chlorinated pools somehow led to him missing the part of the course description about SCBA gear being a requirement," Miss Grimes explained. "Or, perhaps, the absence of 'tasty fishiez' to be caught in such pools. He isn't entirely clear on that point, and we both should be glad he hasn't further elaborated. Yet. Either way, he signed up for your course instead."
"That brings us to: 'The capture cage is a simulation for a device that can nullify your powers. I don't care how that would be done, or whether it is even possible. You will act as if it is true.' Does that sound familiar?" the mystic asked.
"Of course. Each class is introduced to the concept, without fail. You already know that," Ito-sensei replied.
"To every one present, no exceptions?"
"Yes. Again, it's necessary for our students to learn to adapt to all possibilities in a potential fight. Why?"
"Because in this case, your audience included a fire elemental that had already been summoned and channeled by your student," Miss Grimes noted.
"Should not the spirit have then departed peacefully when the student entered the cage?" like, before setting things on fire, the sensei barely left out.
"Not necessarily, as Sorceror's Contracts can be very literal. By the terms you laid out, both were to act as if the summoner lost his powers upon entering the cage, thereby releasing the spirit, which then was bound by the agreement to demonstrate why losing control of a spirit can be a Very Bad Thing.", supplied the mystic arts teacher. She continued, "Had the summoner truly lost control, the entire dojo could have been incinerated. That's notwithstanding the water elemental Mr. Jensen did summon afterwards, before managing to slip on the newly wet floor of the capture cage," Please, please, let this child not be in any of my classes this semester!.
"So, we wouldn't have to replace scorched and/or water-soaked tatami mats," the martial artist groaned, already picturing future mishaps, "if he'd simply taken Underwater Basket-Weaving."
Chapter 8: Hazing the FNG
Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
As most folks know, reveille watches can be the worst of all. Dull. Dark. Bored watchstanders getting froggy...
"Awww. Looks like our #1 Ultraviowent wore himself out 'finding his wolf'. So cyute!"
"You know he's still going to sneak back in before Filbert notices he was ever outside."
"Speaking of losing track of time, did Jensen forget to sign out or what?"
"Said he had to take care of, quote-unquote 'personal business' over at the nut-house, but he'd keep the channel open."
"Hang on there. Check the next nearest camera with overlap. Is that what I think it is, sneaking around near Hodges?"
"Ayep. Too bad Johnson's so far away. I'd pay good money to see him downwind of that."
"What's Jensen's call sign today?"
"Shortstop. He hates it."
"Too bad. Shortstop, Dispatch. You copy, over?"
"... Shortstop. Read you 5x5, something up? Over."
"That's what she said." "Shhh!"
"Roger, Shortstop. We've got a couple of IR paints near sensor Forty-two Lima Uniform Echo. One stationary, low to the ground, matches a student ID tag, the other rapidly approaching that position. Are you in position to check that out? Over."
"Dispatch, Shortstop. Copy two IR targets near Forty-two Lima Uniform Echo. Will investigate. Shortstop out."
"For a skunk that's fast!"
Projecting would be the fastest way to scope things out, without waking a comatose friend back up after finally talking him down from a nightmare. My, look how... long past clock-out. Oops.
Sure enough, someone was curled up at the base of a tree, right in front of a security camera. What. A Dick. From the astral side of things Metro could see a second, werewolfy, impression on the astral. The only other moving life force was much smaller. So we're sending the newbie on a snipe hunt? Let's take a look before it snuggles up to wolf-boy.
There was just enough time to get a close look at the long-tailed "snipe" for our hapless patrol to realize that manifesting between a skunk and, well, anything was a bad idea. Between an upset skunk and a badly-spooked werewolf? That was a Very Bad Idea.
"Dispatch. Shortstop. 10-23, You [Something untranslatable, probably involving biologically-improbable acts, including, but not limited to, imitating a Folsom Street Fair piñata in violation of International Laws and Good Taste] Shortstop going 10-42. Out."
"I guess he got a good look at it! Well, if it were dangerous, he'd have called that in, right? Oh, hey, Sarge!"
"If you're all that bored, you can stick around for the first round of the morning's uvie check-ins. Give the incoming shift a break. Oh! I almost forgot: I just left word with Mr. Filbert that Bloodwolf and crew need to check in here, in person, first thing today. Everyone cool with that? Shake your heads 'yes', boys."
Chapter 9: We No Longer Really Care If You Have A Nice Day
[ Author's Note: In the canon stories, the mental health support staff never seem to have a bad day themselves. Then again, I'd give someone like Tennyo, Fey, or even a mildly-impoverished Goodkind priority access to their care, myself. Lest anyone thinks our boy gets away scot- and skunk- free ]
"Good morning. Mr. Jensen? This is Natalie, with the Counseling Office, yes.
Sleep well this morning?
Good. Glad to hear that.
Yes, 'really, really'.
I've just received a pass for your morning classes.
Well, you see, if we have to provide counseling in a closed and warded office to Mr. Hodges regarding this morning's unholy demonic attack from the foulest pits of Hell, it's going to be a 'group therapy'. Did you know his werewolf spirit recognized you in the area around the time of the attack?
It gets better. Some kind soul suggested that this Thing only looked like a normal animal on the material plane, and that you must have scared it away before it could destroy anyone's soul.
No, if I knew who it was, they'd be receiving an Academy Award for saying something that stupidly insane, to a howling werewolf, while maintaining a straight face.
No, the camera feeds only show some flickering before the Entity exploded into chunky salsa and other spray. Nice try, bucko.
Wait. Did you just claim innocence on the grounds that you were busy at the time watching out for the safety of your best friend and other Poe Cottage residents? That's almost amusing.
Why? Because Mrs. Horton and Dr. Bellows are currently busy themselves, trying to calm a hysterical Danny Franks down from what he thought he saw the two of you up to when he came down the stairs this morning, without going into age-inappropriate details about what the two of you were not up to.
'Oh dear' is right. I'll bet the call light now flashing is from Dr. Tenent, who had been assured at one time that her patient would be responsibly getting sufficient sleep each night and NOT staying awake to keep summoned spirits on safety patrols, scaring skunks and werewolves from the astral plane, and whatever the hell else you've been up to to make our jobs more difficult.
Hold on, one moment.
My bad. That was Mrs. Carson.
Mr. Jensen, God Himself and all of Satan's lawyers cannot get you out of this request for your presence. See you soon."
Chapter 10: Never Again Volunteer Yourself
Lunchtime, Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Even with an extended orientation period, the assembled first floor occupants of the school's over-the-top cafeteria could be a jaw-dropping spectacle. Aside from the relatively normal-looking students among the Underdogs, Nerd Herd, and other social groups used to being pushed to the fringes, there was also the full range of mild- to- moderately- "unusual" students sitting together for mutual support or with friends who weren't so impressed with the self-impressed on the second or top floors. The only real drawbacks were the noisy, jostling traffic to and from the meal lines, or the proximity to some of the bullies and losers also exiled to the ground floor.
At one of the mixed-menagerie tables, Thomas 'Valravn' Jensen stopped eating for a moment, swallowed, and then chuckled liked he'd just remembered something amazingly inept or suicidal that Mads had done, "So, it looks like you missed a trip down old 'Memory Lane' earlier."
The boy across from him looked up from some notes he was going over. He was back on a semi-liquid diet, so it's not like he'd been needing utensils. "Oh? When was this?" To be honest, Mads 'Metro' Jensen would have preferred to be a complete stranger to quite a few of his own memories. Unfortunately, some things just can't be "processed" with 9mm ammunition. Or, rather, they could, but Medical frowns on that sort of behavior.
"Earlier, I had to swing back to Poe to grab my homework and who walked in but Loophole? Eh, she's one of the TAs for the girls wing, Gearhead, Alpha, you get the picture, " he added for their friends' sake. "Abso-frickin-lutely reeking, like she'd spent a few days camping... with this guy, actually," he finished, maturely sticking a tongue out at Metro's scowl.
It was a testament to the time they'd spent hanging out that Thomas caught the puzzled and slightly scandalized look on his ex-roommate's face.
"Do you mean to tell us that a girl, or rather a lovely woman along the classically shapely lines of our dear Loophole, would have ever 'camped out', so to speak, with Metro here? Whenever would this have been?" drawled the much larger, heavily-GSD "boy". His size and baritone voice were such that one would never have guessed that he wasn't the oldest at the table.
Mads jerked his chin up and mimed straightening his tie, "What, you doubt that eligible women would have reason to spend time with me?"
The boy sitting next to him, owning a static-shocked hair style and maneuvering his food around within a mad devisor's impression of a mobile Faraday cage said, "We doubt an eligible anyone would. Present company excluded, Val."
Thomas nodded, then struck back with, "Mads, you spent more time sulking and wishing Yoyo were dead than anything else I could name."
"You didn't like the useless slitch either! Only person I've ever met that was stupid enough to suggest boosting cars in a war zone." was the growled rejoinder. "What about Jade?"
"She only slept with Proxie, and dealt with you more as a contractor. I wouldn't call that 'eligible'."
"Or Yuki? Completely professional, as needed."
"Professional? Er, okay. You her type? Hells to the no. Squared."
"A LOT of work went into making that establishment a class operation. I mean. um. What about ... wait. Guys? Why is everyone moving away? I DID shower today," he turned back to his friend and waggled his eyebrows, "and I'm assuming so did Loophole?" Back to a safer subject.
Maybe, Mads thought, he shouldn't sit with the UV arm band pointing towards other people at the table. Wrong impressions, y'know.
"Oh, yes. Apparently, Mrs. Carson took Pejuta and Loophole on a field trip. Camping gear and all," explained Thomas, with a "I know something you don't know" smirk. "You really should see if she'd tell you where."
The other boy thought about and piped up, "Maybe I will!"
Fourth period, Wednesday, September 5, 2007
After the milliseconds needed for the BMA senseis to realize that Metro was still seeing three people to the two of them, there was plenty of open time before Mads needed to officially have his head examined, again.
A Dr. Bellows was the designated sacrificial goat for the week. So the boy headed over to Schuster Hall, not too far from Doyle, to get Officially Told where he could stick his curiosity.
"Liz, there's a student here who says he has a short, but possibly delicate question to ask, if you have a minute for it?"
Headmistress Carson knew Elaine Claire well enough to smell a set-up a mile away. Even more suspicious was a lack of timely intervention by her own Assistant. It was a little early in the year for "Were you really Superhero X, what a looker she was!" or "Sorry I mistook you for Superheroine Y, whatever happened to her?" or "I have a crush on [ teacher, student, random object or eldritch abomination (last year had been sooo special)]", so she took a moment to compose herself. "Send them in." This had better be good.
She was not expecting the politely smiling face of one of the freshmen near the very top of her personal "shit list".
"Mr. Jensen. What a ... surprise. Please, DO sit down." She indicated one of the interrogation chairs directly in front of her desk. It only took the student two tries to guess which chair he was seeing was the one that was indicated.
"Thank you, ma'am. Could you tell me where your morning class on extradimensional entities was convened, assuming that's not confidential?"
Before the Headmistress could answer with a lightning strike at his head, he added, "The reason I ask is that a friend of mine suggested that he'd gotten a downwind exposure giving him the impression that I would be very familiar with the location."
That was not the question Elizabeth Carson was expecting, even with prior hints and warnings from her staff.
"Yes, it is a confidential location, and as you are not one of my students for that class I do have NO obligation to answer that question, Major Gunnison." She smiled, Check, "But I do believe that you are familiar with a certain Training Zone Charlie, and I do hope that you would trust me to have made the appropriate arrangements for its use." and Mate.
"Charlie. Right," the boy knitted his eyebrows in confusion for a moment, "But I was told they were instructed to pack for a field outing?"
Confusion. That's an interesting reaction.
"That is correct."
"But it's a basic survival range. We'd just drag prospects... out of class." Ah. The light dawns. "You never told them that you had atropine injectors on hand, or medevac on stand-by." Seeing the smile and the slow, amused head-shake, one could tell that The Headmistress is quite capable of being a cast-iron bitch when need be. "Or that they were eating the wrong stock." Ouch. Got it.
She finished for him. "Well. I'm glad we had this little talk, but we both have further appointments today. In addition, I'll see you tomorrow in class as a guest reviewer for Ms. Nalley's and Ms. Franks' debrief papers."
I. am. a dead man.
Chapter 11: Broken Toys and Other Headaches
Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Sir Wallace Westmont had honestly worked at his public image of the dapper gentleman in service to Queen and Country, one of sufficient means and unimpeachable character (or perhaps a roguish loyalty to the Crown) that neither bribery nor blackmail would cross a competitor's mind. If he had a well-known "weakness" for beautiful and strong women, well then, they'd have to measure up to his dear Suzanah, wouldn't they? Where he stood today was a far cry from a certain young Lincolnshire farmer's son who dreamed of a more exciting life than a bit of trade school, maybe a hitch in the RAF, and then back to work the soil he'd be buried in. Each episode he'd managed to see of "The Saint", "The Prisoner", "Mission: Impossible", and the like, but John Steed was his hero.
If learning a bit of sleight-of-hand impressed his schoolmates, or combining a bit of card manipulation, tarot, and cold reading impressed his dates, so much the better toward his pursuit of that small amount of spycraft he could take hold of. But farms and the families they support thrive or falter on the wind, the rain, the weather. Out of necessity, he'd paid very close attention to the underlying signs and patterns behind those cthonic forces. Sometimes he fancied he could influence them after a fashion, much like a pack of cards or a willing, "if-only-they'd-ask!" prospective date. Seasons turn and sometimes young lads do grow to see their dreams (and a few too many nightmares) come true.
That being so, he of all people could understand young Mr. DeWitt's fixation on the fictional Harry Callahan. That did not mean that there were never times he'd been tempted to drop-kick the Winnipeg Junior into Saskatchewan. Judging by the letter sent to Whateley Academy from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ths summer, the RCMP would be ever so happy to punt Mr DeWitt and Miss Pollard to Alberta, if there weren't a good chance that Prairie Sun and Fly By would return them to sender. He'd have to keep the document for future reference, as it was a masterpiece example of "scathing." At least Miss (and sometimes Mr.) Sawyer and Miss Etincelle managed to make less of an impression on the French MCO than certain other young travellers to that part of Europe.
But summer inevitably gives way to autumn, students come back to old haunts and old habits, and it was soon taking much his training as an impartial third-party observer and as a wizard to prevent his migraine from unleashing itself as a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. The notoriously snobbish "Beret Mafia" had somehow managed to draw some student interest at the start of the term. That the Intelligence Cadet Corps was not so successful in drawing new students to the "cause" (of harassing the Bad Seeds, Masterminds, Venus Incorporated, the Workshop, among other student groups) was somehow deemed to be proof of the criminal machinations of said targets. Jesus wept. The cause of this new rivalry was that ONE European JROTC cadet had chatted up the Euro-Promotional League and pretty much ignored the ICC. This was taken as an indicator that the freshmen in the JROTC program needed careful vetting by the Cadets before the military elements on campus could teach them how to avoid such scrutiny. The idea that matters touching on national security were best left to the respective military intelligence units (Thank you, Reach and Rez!) fell on deaf ears.
Too soon enough, someone got the bright idea of flying a functioning, recording surveillance drone around a Sidhe wizard who not only had been enhanced with classified military technologies, but was still jumpy over being abducted by a "rogue" CIA operation months prior. Luckily, Whisper had excellent aim, and no one was hurt. The excuse of "I'm in Whitman too! I was just testing it out here instead of going somewhere else." fell as flat on his ears as it had Whitman Cottage's house mother, Trish Savage. He'd concede that it was more plausibly deniable than bugging Hagarty's bra, but not much more.
Sir Wallace should have seen the next escapade coming, given the detention given. Perhaps he could blame it all on a migraine?
Because the nefarious Mastermind, Jello, resided there, in addition to Phase's frequent visits (to her own cousin), it was decided among certain circles that Hawthorne Cottage was in need of more electronic surveillance. If nothing else, the potential connection to a Danish JROTC cadet could not be ignored - as an expression of international cooperation! The idea that Denmark might not want their citizens surveilled by a group of American and Canadian high schoolers somehow was missed in the planning stage. Likewise, the reality that the Cottage currently hosted no less than four students on Security's Ultra-Violent List, three of them known to have body counts in their past, also was omitted from the planning.
Jimmy Trauger smashed the few devises he came across. Eldritch fried a few and took some of the more uniquely-sourced bugs to Chief Delarose. Cyberkitty sent a cheerful email promising to have "fun" with the next batch. The fourth UV student opted for a more personal touch.
"Sir Wallace? Mads Jensen. I'm given to understand that you're one of the Mystical Arts instructors as well as a faculty advisor for a campus club. Might I have a moment of your time?"
"Certainly. Do sit down, please." Because it's usually more difficult to draw your pistol while sitting. "Is this about some class homework you need help with, or does this have to do with my other academic duties?"
"A bit of both, perhaps."
"Do go on."
"I'm in Dr. Tenent's sixth period Magical Theory class, and one of the topics we've covered has been various 'laws of magic'. Dominion, Definition, and so forth."
Sir Wallace had heard quite a bit about that particular class already this year, and this was already sounding like something he did not want to hear about. "Right. Under some conditions, those could be considered principles or maybe only rules of thumb. How binding or effective they are often depends on the magician or their tradition - if they have one - as much as they'd depend on anything else."
"So I've gathered. Hypothetically speaking, how might one expect the effects of the Laws of, say, Nemesis, Similarity, and Contagion, possibly Intent, to interact with a technological devise?" the freshman mused.
"Hypothetically, given the concentration, skill, and intent with which a devisor crafts their devises, there could be a link between the creator and their works. Such a link could even be used against the devise's creator."
"In that case," the boy stated, very carefully in case of recording, "perhaps you might convey that information to the members of the club you sponsor."
The boy then dropped a small, shattered pile of electronics on the instructor's desk. "That is, if they do not contact you themselves. You see, while your charges may not consider foreign objects lodging themselves in the water tank I need to sleep in, in order to breathe at night, to be a matter of concern, I do. Should such activities persist, I will be contacting Security and Administration for their legal opinions on the matter." Jensen rose and said "Thank you for your time. I do hope for an amicable resolution, although I understand that I am in no position to dictate such outcomes." The boy paused, and then gestured as if using a computer screen before continuing, "Erm, judging by the feedback I'm picking up, you may wish to answer the incoming call. No, on the tapped phone line."
"Miss Quenton, what a surprise. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Is that so? Out of curiosity, how many devises in total 'just' broke down?"
"I see. You weren't using your school laptop to monitor them, were you?"
"Why yes, I do believe that you should bring it to me. In turn, I'll take it to the Mystical Arts department for evaluation."
"Come again, who do you think is responsible? Now why would he be involved in the Intelligence Cadet Corps' business?"
"In an aquarium? You don't say. All things considered, I think that you should meet me at Doyle Medical Center, in Dr. Tenent's office, I will be there in ten minutes, and expect you to be there as well."
"My dear, I assure you that it is indeed in the best interests of your continued health."
"In ten minutes, Miss Quenton."
(End of Part 1, "Chewing Through The Straps")