Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice (Part 1)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice
Boston Massachusetts, the Airport, Friday late afternoon, Oct 12th, 2007
The flight from Seattle to Boston had been extremely long and uncomfortable, even with the two hour delay in Chicago where I got to stretch my legs and change flights. My book had given me something to do during the countless hours in the air, though admittedly, Collin had been my largest savior from boredom. The two of us had ended up talking for over half the flight, and by the time we finally landed, I was even starting to consider him as a friend.
And then, Adam goes and scrambles up this wall like he was a damn squirrel or something,” Collin said as we got off the plane, still in the middle of telling me about how I’d escaped him the last time he’d actually chased after me. “I’ve never seen anyone move like that, at least not until I saw the way you were running from those guys…”
It’s called free running,” I told Collin with a faint smirk. “It’s all about being able to move around your environment as fast and efficiently as possible.”
It was like something out of an action movie,” Collin said with a sigh. “I mean, are you sure that moving like that isn’t part of your powers?”
Pretty sure,” I responded. “I learned to run like that well before I manifested.”
And Adam is a baseline,” Collin mused to himself. Then he paused to give me a curious look. “Your brother is a baseline, isn’t he?”
I didn’t bother answering Collin since I didn’t want to lie to him, but I didn’t want to tell him that I actually was Adam either. Instead, I just smiled and let him stew in the question that was sure to annoy him for awhile.
I guess I’m probably lucky that Mike and I couldn’t catch him,” Collin finally said with a wry smile. “I mean, the one time I did get your brother to fight, he kicked my ass before I even threw one punch.” He shook his head at that and muttered, “Who knew the runt had it in him?”
I did,” I responded in my best innocent tone. Then I added, “Adam and I learned to fight from the same guy. We just…prefer not to.”
At that moment, something made me look up and I saw a black woman in a black suit coming straight towards us. As she got close, she suddenly held out a badge and announced, “I’m Grace Winslow of the MCO.”
We stopped at that and Collin’s eyes went wide with a look of fear. I kept my expression as calm as possible and said, “Yes?”
Are you Gwen Wylann and Collin Reynolds?” she asked, giving me a look that suggested she was already pretty sure of my identity. When I nodded, she smiled and told me, “Your father asked me to come pick you up from the airport.”
What?” Collin asked, looking vaguely confused.
Thank you,” I told Grace with a faint smile of my own. “But I kind of need…”
Of course,” she responded with a chuckle. “Miles told me that you’d need a pass phrase in case someone approached you like this. The phrase he gave me is Gozer lost the squirrel.”
I couldn’t resist grinning at that, especially since I was the one who’d given Dad that pass phrase to use. “Dad told me that he’d have someone pick me up at the airport, but he never said who.”
I’m here to drive you both the rest of the way to Whateley,” Grace explained pleasantly. “Miles and I used to work together, so he asked me to pick you up and keep an eye out for you.” As we began walking to baggage claim, with a stunned Collin following behind, she continued, “One of the conditions for the program you are in, Gwen, is that you will have to put some hours in at the Berlin field office, though only once or twice a month. There are a couple agents there who are…shall we say…distrustful of mutants, but I’m the one you’ll be reporting to.”
Collin gave Grace a suspicious look, then commented, “I didn’t think the MCO let mutants join.”
There aren’t many,” Grace admitted, giving Collin a curious look. “The program Gwen is part of was created to bring a greater mutant presence to the MCO, partly to increase trust with the mutant community, and partly to help curb some of the more extremist elements of our own organization. Needless to say, there are those who disapprove of the program and may try to discredit it.”
Though Grace didn’t say anything specific, the message was there. Don’t trust everyone within the MCO. Dad had also made that point quite clear with all the trouble he’d gone through to protect me from some of his own people. I was getting the feeling that there was a quiet civil war going on within the MCO itself, something that I never would have guessed before all this.
Once Collin and I had our luggage, we went out to the parking garage where Grace was parked. As soon as we were there, I opened my pet carrier and released my two faeries, both of whom immediately began flying around overhead. Grace watched the faeries in silence, though she clearly had an expression of fascination.
Sorry little one,” I said, looking at the oldest of the faeries, who was also full of glamour energy. I willed her to fly away from us and then self-destruct, safely releasing the glamour energy in the process, well away from where anyone would get caught in it. Then I snapped my fingers and released enough energy to create two new faeries. “Much better.”
That is an interesting power,” Collin stated with a nod of approval.
Thanks,” I responded, blushing slightly.
At first, the drive was fairly quiet, especially since Collin was nervous in Grace’s presence. It was strange since he’d always seemed so tough and confident back in school, but I guess he was pretty wary of the MCO. Once he realized that this wasn’t some kind of trap, he began to relax.
I know the MCO has a rather unpleasant reputation,” Grace said, speaking more to Collin who was sitting in the back seat than me. “And unfortunately, a lot of that reputation was well earned. Our purpose is to work with local law enforcement, including super groups, in order to deal with mutant criminals and ones who are a threat to public safety. The problem is that there are too many who join with the assumption that all mutants are dangerous threats. They make it difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs.”
I can imagine,” I said, having seen a bit of that from my short time with the MCO. There were a lot of people in the Seattle office who were professionals who didn’t seem to have anything against mutants, but there were also those who had definitely been hostile.
I spent a year working as a liaison for a team called the Liberty League,” Grace said with a sigh. “Then a few weeks ago, one agent let a personal issue ruin it all.”
“A personal issue?” I asked curiously.
Grace let out a sigh at that. “When he was a teenager, a mutant killed his sister in front of him. I don’t know if it was intentional or an accident, only that it left him with a severe dislike of mutants. He joined the MCO to fight ‘the mutant threat’.”
“Honestly,” Collin said almost apologetically. “I kind of thought that was how everyone in the MCO was.”
“And that is one of the problems we face,” Grace responded with a scowl. “Owens became obsessed with a couple suspects who kept slipping away from him and led an entire assault team after them. When he found that the Liberty League had the suspects cornered, he attacked them too. In the end, someone was killed, Owens was arrested for murder, and half the assault team is facing charges. And as a direct result, the Liberty League no longer trusts me so a whole year of working with them was flushed down the toilet.”
I thought about what Grace had said as we drove in silence, wondering how any organization could possibly function with people like that in it. That was exactly the kind of thing that gave the MCO a bad reputation among mutants, and why people like Grace and my Dad had to work extra hard just to maintain their credibility.
I let out a sigh, wondering what I’d gotten myself into when I’d agreed to work for the MCO. After hearing this, I was even less inclined than before to make a career out of it. But for now, at least I could get them to pay for an expensive private school, and all I’d have to do was occasionally fetch coffee.
After spending so many hours in the plane, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time riding in a car. Still, it was far better than having to catch a bus, so I wasn’t about to complain about the fact that my butt was starting to get numb.
We eventually arrived in the small town of Dunwich New Hampshire, where we stopped briefly in order to stretch our legs. Then from there, we took a scenic road the rest of the way to Whateley Academy where we finally stopped in front of the large gateway.
“We’re here,” Grace stated as she parked the car and we got out to check in with security.
I stared at the gates, feeling impressed and a little nervous. They were stone on both sides, with a couple of impressive looking gargoyles sitting on top. However, what really drew my attention, were the iron gates that were open and folded back so that they were barely even noticeable.
Gulping nervously, I remembered how my hand had burned the last time I’d touched iron bars. I shuddered at that, making a mental note to be very careful not to touch the gate if it was ever closed. After a moment, I shook my head and followed Grace and Collin to the security stand.
After Grace showed the guard her badge, he gave her a suspicious look then a clearly fake smile before asking, “What can we do for the MCO today?”
“I’m just here to drop off two new students,” Grace told him in a professional tone. “Gwendolynn Wylann and Collin Reynolds.”
“Here they are on my list,” the guard responded, giving me and Collin curious looks, probably wondering why we had the MCO dropping us off. “If you’ll wait here a few minutes, I’ll contact the Dean of Students…”
While we waited, Grace handed me a business card with her name and number on it. “Once you get situated and settled in, give me a call so we can schedule your visit to the office. Just make sure you call in the next couple days.”
I nodded at that, knowing that I’d really be reporting back to Dad and the Seattle field office, but that Grace would effectively be my onsite boss and reporting official. The idea of actually having a job of any sort was still kind of weird to me. I’d always thought my first job would be something like flipping burgers or bagging groceries, not working for the MCO. At least they weren’t really expecting much of me.
Eventually, two students arrived, both wearing uniforms. One was a beautiful blonde girl while the other was a tall and muscular black guy, both of whom had the too ‘perfect’ look that practically announced they were exemplars. Collin was quite noticeably giving the blonde the once over, which annoyed me just a little for some reason.
“Hello,” the blonde announced with a pleasant smile. “I’m Zenith.”
“Tektonix,” the black guy responded with an easy grin. “And in case you’re wondering, the name is because I’m a devisor with a specialization in geology and plate tectonics.”
“He makes earthquake machines,” Zenith said flatly.
“And earthquake detectors,” Tektonix said defensively. “And subterranean borers…”
“I’m Absinthe,” I said, introducing myself by my codename since that was what they’d both done. Collin followed my example and did the same.
“I’m going to get going now,” Grace told me with a smile. “And don’t forget to call me.”
Once Grace was gone, Tektonix and Zenith both gave me an odd look before Tektonix asked, “How did you two rate the MCO giving you a ride?”
Collin snorted, then said, “Her Dad is with the MCO.” Zenith and Tektonix both gave me a look as though I’d grown an extra head. I was just glad Collin hadn’t told them that I was working for the MCO too.
“Anyway, I’m assuming that you’re Gwen Wylann,” Zenith said, looking at me. “And you’re Collin Reynolds.” She looked at Collin.
Tektonix just chuckled and said, “It would probably be pretty awkward if it was the other way around.”
For a moment, Zenith had an odd look on her face and something flashed across her aura that I couldn’t quite make out. “Absinthe, you’ve been assigned to Poe Cottage, so I’ve been sent to escort you there and show you around. Flytrap, you’ve been assigned to Emerson, hence Tektonix will be escorting you.”
“But first,” Tektonix stated. “We need to make a stop at Schuster Hall. One of the school’s largest contributors put in a requirement that we show every new student his portrait within their first twenty-four hours on campus.”
I nodded and began picking up my luggage, but the security guard shook his head. “You can leave your bags here. We’ll make sure they get to your dorms.”
With that, we began our walking tour around campus while Zenith and Tektonix pointed out various objects of interest. I was just thankful for the chance to finally get out and really stretch my legs after having spent all day sitting down.
Tektonix pointed to a large crystal dome that looked incredibly impressive, and said, “That’s Crystal Hall…the cafeteria.”
We finally arrived at Schuster Hall, a large building which Zenith and Tektonix immediately led us into. Then we went through an honest to God secret passage and into a large room that looked almost like some kind of super hero museum. There were ray guns, some kind of robot, mannequins with super hero costumes, and even a pile of gold bars. Neither of our guides seemed very interested in the various artifacts, only in a large painting that hung from the wall. It was of a man, who was staring at a really old fashioned painting of another man.
“This is Lord Paramount,” Zenith stated in a flat tone.
I stared at the portrait, immediately recognizing the name of the world famous super villain and dictator. Dad had told me that Whateley Academy was considered neutral grounds, supported by both heroes and villains. I hadn’t really considered what that meant until that moment.
Once our tour was over, Tektonix told Collin, “Emerson Cottage is this way. Come on, I’ll show you to your room and give you the house rules.”
“I’ll see you later,” Collin told me with a grin as he followed after Tektonix.
Zenith started leading me in a different direction, and once we were alone, she commented, “So, from your body language, I’m guessing you used to be a boy.”
“What?” I gasped in sudden fear, wondering how she could have possibly known that.
“I used to be one too,” she admitted with a wry smile. “That’s why we’re assigned to Poe Cottage. It’s where they house the gay, transgendered, and changeling students like us. However, this is a secret and you can’t share that fact with anyone outside of Poe. Trust me, most of the residents don’t want to come out of the closet and would take it VERY personally if you outed them that way.”
I just stared at Zenith, still trying to absorb what she’d said. “You mean, there is an entire dorm just for…?”
“Students with alternate sexualities,” Zenith finished with a faint smile. “And those who have changed or are in the process of switching sides in the war of the sexes. Poe is a place where we can be ourselves without being judged. Mutants in general, tend to be a bit more open-minded than baselines, but there are still homophobes and others on campus who wouldn’t hesitate to make things difficult for us. We prefer to avoid giving them that opportunity, especially since most of us already have enough to deal with as it is.”
When we reached Poe Cottage, a large brick building, Zenith introduced me to Mrs. Horton, who was the ‘house mother’. I’d never heard the term ‘house mother’ before, but I gathered that it just meant she was the adult in charge of supervising the entire building. I had a feeling that with as large as that building was, she’d have to be a very busy woman.
Zenith led me up the stairs and then down a hallway to a room and unlocked the door before handing me the key. I opened the door and looked inside, seeing that it had two beds and some furniture, but the only sign that anyone was actually living in there was my luggage, which was piled in the middle of the floor.
“You’re lucky,” Zenith told me as she gestured at the room. “You get a room to yourself, though I wouldn’t expect it to last long. Mrs. Horton likes to have changelings room together so we can help each other out, so you and Dana will probably end up rooming.”
“Okay,” I said, not sure what to think. I was actually feeling just a little lost, so I looked to the faeries flying above me and smiled faintly. At least I had some familiar company. They might not be much for conversation but they were great listeners.
“Now to introduce you to some of the motley crew of misfits who live around here,” Zenith told me, taking me down the hall to a common room where six people were sitting around, doing homework, or just talking.
In one corner, a pair of girls were holding hands in a romantic manner while talking. One of them was a very pretty blonde girl who was just below exemplar standards, but the hot looking red head she was with was definitely an exemplar. The girl was tall, athletic looking, and had breasts that were a bit too large for most girls our age. Two boys who also appeared to have romantic interests in each other were on the opposite side of the room.
My eyes went to one girl, who looked far too young to be attending high school. She looked to be about ten, with long silvery white hair, and she was dressed in some kind of frilly, gothic Lolita dress.
Suddenly, another girl jumped up and ran to my nearest faerie, exclaiming, “Oh my God, they are so cute…” She was a cute Asian girl who appeared to be about twelve years old, and she was actually wearing a ‘Hello Kitty’ T-shirt. Then she turned to stare at me with a look of surprise before asking, “Are these yours?”
“Yeah,” I responded with a grin, showing off by making a couple more faeries suddenly appear. The Asian girl clapped excitedly.
“Everyone,” Zenith called out loud enough to get the attention of all the students in the room. “This is Absinthe. Absinthe, this is everyone.”
“I’m Jade,” the Asian girl introduced herself.
“Gwen,” I responded, having one of my faeries land on her shoulder, much to her obvious delight.
“In spite of appearances,” Zenith told me with a faint look of amusement. “Jade is a sophomore.”
I gave the girl a look of surprise, wondering how someone who looked a couple years younger than me could actually be a grade ahead. “Really?”
“Watch out for her and her Kimba friends,” someone else called out with a laugh. “Last year, they got into more trouble than everyone else in school combined.”
“It wasn’t our fault,” Jade protested, sticking her tongue out at the other girl. “Not mostly…”
“Alyss here is older than she looks too,” Zenith added, gesturing to the girl in the gothic Lolita clothes. “You’ll probably be in some classes together.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
“You too,” Alyss responded.
After this, the cute blonde came over and said, “I’m Amanda, but most people around here just call me Jinx.”
“She’s bad luck,” one of the boys in the room chimed in.
“I’m a probability manipulator,” Jinx stated proudly. “And I have full control over my powers…”
Jade grinned mischieviously and asked, “Then how come every bathroom in Poe got backed up at the same time?”
“That’s what happens when you put a power mimic in with a probability mangler,” the previous boy added again. “The bad luck gets amplified.”
The red headed girl blushed brightly and said, “Hey, I haven’t copied her powers since then. You know I’ve learned not to copy someone unless I want to…”
That resulted in a round of teasing and joking among the students in the room. I noticed that Zenith had taken the opportunity to excuse herself and leave, probably because she seemed to be a senior, just a little older than everyone else in the room.
Once the joking quieted down, the red head held out her hand and said, “I’m Dana. And it’s nice to not be the new girl around here anymore…” Then she paused and had an odd look on her face before admitting, “Well, I’m still sort of new to being a girl, but at least not the newest one around here…”
“You too?” I asked in surprise. She was so hot looking that I never would have guessed that she used to be a guy. And even from her comment, I probably wouldn’t have realized what she meant if Zenith hadn’t already told me that I might end up rooming with a changeling named Dana.
Just then, an athletic looking black girl with amber eyes stepped into the day room, moving with such an easy grace that my eyes were immediately drawn to her. “I came to meet the new girl,” she announced with a cheerful grin. Then she spotted one of my faeries and called back down the hallway, “Hey Nikki, your hobgoblins are running loose again...”
With that, the girl poked my faerie, and suddenly my faerie popped, releasing all the stored up glamour energy in one burst. The girl staggered as she was hit with a full dose of hallucinations, making me groan as this wasn’t a great way for me to make a good first impression. But then she shook her head and was suddenly acting fine.
“What was that?” she asked, looking surprised.
“What are you talking about?” another girl said as she came into the room as well. “I haven’t created any hobgoblins in over a month.”
All I could do was stare at the latest newcomer into the room, who was probably the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She had long red hair, almond shaped eyes, pointed ears, and features that were very much like what I saw every morning when I looked into the mirror. A single look was enough to tell me that she was Sidhe.
“Oh my God,” someone joked. “Another faerie princess…”
With my mage sight, I could see her aura, and nearly gasped as it wasn’t quite like any aura that I’d seen before now. And there was a lot of magic tied to it…a LOT. Whoever this girl was, I could instantly tell that she had a lot of power. She was even radiating her own glamour, one that was stronger than mine. And if it wasn’t for Mrs. Lauriant teaching me how to shield myself from outside magical influence, I was sure I’d be feeling it already.
“Hi, I’m Nikki Reilly,” she greeted me pleasantly, though she was giving me an odd look as well.
“Gwen Wylann,” I answered nervously, feeling a chill run down my spine.
Something about this girl tickled the back of my memory, making me think I’d seen her before, though I couldn’t remember where. However, whatever this something was, it startled me enough that I dropped my defenses.
Nikki’s glamour suddenly seemed to become stronger, and I now felt extremely attracted to her…and wanted to obey and protect her. There was some part of me that even thought about bowing before her. Then I felt a surge of fear and anger as I realized where I knew her from. Nikki looked a LOT like the elf queen from one of my barely remembered dreams, the one who’d ordered my dream self into exile.
“Hey Nikki,” the black girl demanded. “What’s going on?”
At that moment, I felt an instant of panic and suddenly the air around me exploded into new faeries. This was the first time since my crash course in magic with Mrs. Lauriant that I’d lost control and created hobgoblins by accident. However, I didn’t stop right then to consider this mistake as I was rushing out of the common room as fast as I could, getting to my new room and slamming the door behind me. Only then did I collapse to the ground, realizing that my first day at Whateley was a complete and utter disaster.
Saturday morning, Oct 13th, 2007
I awoke to the sound of girls talking in the hallway, along with what appeared to be a playful shriek. I groaned and sat up in bed, knowing that it was Saturday, and even if it wasn’t, I still wouldn’t have to go to class. After all, I still had a lot of in-processing to do, not to mention getting a class schedule and uniforms. Last night, Mrs. Horton had given me a list of things I needed to do before classes started again on Monday.
I was still debating about whether or not I should get up when someone began pounding on my door. “Hey Abbie, time to get up,” a voice called out a moment later. “You’d better hurry and get showered if you want to come to breakfast with us.”
“Who said I wanted breakfast?” I called back, though my stomach grumbled and told me that it did. “Traitor.”
After climbing out of bed, I began digging through my luggage for the bath robe that Mom had bought for me. It was green, which seemed to have become ‘my’ color. As I put my new bathrobe on and gathered up my shower kit, I made a mental note to get everything put away today.
When I opened the door a minute later, I was surprised to find Dana still standing there. “About time, Abbie,” she said. “I was afraid you were gonna make me late for breakfast.”
“My name is Gwen,” I corrected her. “Not Abbie…”
“Abbie,” Dana pointed out with a grin. “Short for Absinthe. Now hurry up.”
Dana was fully dressed and appeared to have already taken her shower, so it looked like she really was just waiting on me. I appreciated that, especially since I’d just arrived yesterday and hadn’t really made any friends yet. Still, a lot of the other people had been friendly, even after I’d had my little freakout.
I carefully looked down the hall, relaxing a little when I saw no signs of Nikki. Yesterday evening, I’d done my best to avoid running into her again, something which was made easier by the fact that she was a sophomore and lived in a different wing than my own. However, we lived in the same building, and on the same floor, so I wouldn’t be able to avoid her forever, though that had never stopped me from trying to avoid a confrontation before.
As Doug once told me, sometimes if you’re able to delay a fight long enough, the problem will solve itself. Of course, he’d also said that sometimes delaying a confrontation will only make it worse. As I thought about Doug, I smiled faintly, still finding it hard to believe that my meek and mild mannered self-defense teacher was really a badass mutant who worked with the MCO. Actually, Doug had never been the least bit meek or mild mannered, but it was still surprising.
I went down the hall to the communal showers and hesitated at the entrance, not quite sure if I should go in. Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that some of the girls in there were former guys like me while the rest were lesbians who were probably busy ogling each other. With that in mind, I stepped inside. Several girls glanced at me, but none stared in horror or yelled at me to get out.
There was a short line for an available shower stall, so I stood behind a pretty blonde with long hair. I’d been introduced to her last night, though I had to struggle to remember her name. “Cinderella, right?”
“Yeah,” she responded with an easy smile. “But everyone just calls me Cindy.”
I nodded at that, remembering the brief demonstration she’d given last night when she actually made a glass sword appear in her hands. She was a manifestor who could summon clear glass swords and armor, though she’d assured me that the armor could be as flexible as she needed and none of it was nearly as fragile as I’d imagine.
I glanced to the flip-flops she was wearing and asked, “No glass slippers?”
“Not today,” she responded cheerfully, in a tone that left me wondering if she was serious or joking.
The girl standing behind me was rather pretty as well, with a tall and slender build. Her hair was shoulder length and brushed back, however, it was also a brilliant blue color with green and purple highlights. “Hi,” I greeted her, not having met her yesterday. “I’m Gwen.”
“Lina,” she responded in a musical voice, though she was scowling as she said it. “But my codename is Peacock.”
I looked at her hair again and nodded. “Definitely peacock colors there.” Then I paused to point out, “But the only peacocks that look like that are boy ones…”
Lina gave me a look that suggested I’d just said something stupid, then pointed out, “Peacocks are all male. The females of the species are called peahens.”
“She’s a little touchy,” Cindy told me, giving Lina a quick look. “The spirit she’s bonded with gave her a little something extra down below, if you know what I mean.”
“Okay, he gave me boy parts,” Lina spat out bitterly, though her voice was still very melodic and feminine. “And he made me like girls too. But I’m still a girl…”
It seemed that Lina was an avatar, and apparently not a very happy one. I couldn’t help but feeling a bit sympathetic. “I went through a whole body change,” I admitted, blushing as I quietly added, “Just a couple weeks ago, I was a guy.”
“I know some girls who’d kill to have changed as fast as you did,” Cindy told me.
Just then, one of the stalls opened up and it was Cindy’s turn. She took off her bathrobe and stood there completely naked in front of me, not seeming to care that I was there. I stared in surprise since the closest I’d ever come to having a girl get naked in front of me was when Mom and I had been at the spa.
“You’re staring,” Lina pointed out with a scowl.
“Sorry,” I muttered, looking away awkwardly.
Cindy just laughed at that, not appearing to be bothered. “At least we’re not sharing the showers with Phase. I heard he really ogles all the girls…”
“He?” I asked in surprise.
“You do too,” Lina responded with a faint smirk.
“True,” Cindy agreed. “But at least I have the grace to be subtle about it.” Then she gestured to Lina, who had a noticeable bulge in the front of her bathrobe. “Unlike some people.”
Lina turned bright red while Cindy laughed and then climbed into the shower stall. Another stall opened up just seconds later so it was my turn. I hesitantly took off my bathrobe, feeling extremely self-conscious. No one laughed, but Lina was obviously watching me, still having the bulge in the front of her robe.
The shower had some odd equipment and nozzles in it, and though I wondered about the purpose of all this extra stuff, I didn’t bother messing with it. There’d be time enough for questions later on. Right now, I just focused on getting showered.
As soon as I was done, I stepped out of the stall and dried off while Cindy did the same a short distance away. Lina had already gone into a stall as well but came out just as I was finishing up. Though I wasn’t trying to look, I couldn’t help but catching a look of her naked and then gasping. She definitely had guy parts between her legs instead of girl parts.
“I didn’t ask to grow this thing,” Lina said defensively, quickly covering herself up with a towel.
“Sorry,” I muttered in embarrassment, feeling bad for making her uncomfortable that way.
Once I finished getting dried, I put my bathrobe back on and then stood there while some of my faeries undid any tangles in my hair and began brushing it for me. Several girls watched me in amusement.
“Fey has a spell that lets her dry off instantly,” Cindy told me. “You should ask her to teach it to you.”
“Fey?” I asked curiously.
“Nikki,” Lina added with a smirk. “The redhead you ran away from yesterday.”
“I don’t think so,” I responded with a scowl, not wanting to spend any more time around that girl than I absolutely had to. I really didn’t like the way she made me feel, either with her glamour or with that dream she reminded me so much of. As it was, I’d already boosted up my magical shields, just in case.
A minute later, I left the showers with a small cloud of faeries trailing behind me, much to the amusement of several girls who giggled at the sight. I returned to my room and got dressed, then met up with Dana and Jinx to go to breakfast.
Crystal Hall was the most amazing cafeteria I’d ever seen, or even heard of. It was a huge crystal dome with three stories of seating, and there was actually a huge waterfall with pools of water. And for the food, there was an enormous buffet, as well as an area where the chefs were handing out ‘specialty’ items. One reptilian girl walked away with a small cage containing a couple rats, making me shudder at the sight.
“I love this place,” Dana told me as she began loading her tray up with enough food to feed a half dozen people. She gave me a somewhat embarrassed look as she added, “Ever since I manifested, my appetite has been through the roof.”
“You can say that again,” Jinx responded with a roll of her eyes.
“My appetite has been through the roof,” Dana repeated with a smirk, only to have Jinx punch her in the arm.
One of the servers looked up and said, “Hey Dana, we might need you in a little early tonight for some help with the prep.”
“Sure thing,” Dana responded with a grin. “Just remember to have my go juice ready.”
“What was that about?” I asked, putting some waffles onto my tray along with some strawberries and whip cream.
“I used to work in my dad’s diner,” Dana explained, “so when I got here, I took a job helping out in the kitchen. I mean, I’ve got a lot of experience doing dishes and helping with food prep, so it sort of made sense.”
Jinx laughed and added, “I think her real reason for working there is that they give her some of that good coffee they usually save for the faculty.”
“That might have something to do with it,” Dana admitted. “It’s hard getting a good espresso here otherwise.”
Once we’d loaded up on food, we sat down at an empty table and were soon joined by several other Poe freshmen, including Lina and Cindy. Cindy took the opportunity to show off a bit by making a glass knife appear in her hand, then using that to cut her pancakes and breakfast sausage. I glanced at Lina, who was actually the subdued one, being a little surprised since I figured that someone with a codename like Peacock would like showing off.
Also at our table was a slender and somewhat feminine looking black boy named Shawn, whom I’d briefly met last night after coming out of my room. According to him, he used to be a girl and was more than ecstatic about turning into a boy. However, he was still in transition and it would probably be a year before his body was finished with the change. At the Moment, Shawn was in conversation with Cindy and Lina while I was talking with Dana and Jinx.
“Wait,” I said after Dana had made a comment that caught my attention. “You two knew each other before you manifested?”
“Yeah, we used to go to school together,” Jinx told me with a sigh, looking rather sad. “Then my so called best friend outed me and my family had to move. After that, they sent me here.” She shrugged at that.
“I didn’t even know she was here,” Dana told me with a grin. “Not until I got here and found out we were roommates. Talk about a weird coincidence.”
“Those tend to happen around me,” Jinx said with a shrug. “Before I came to Whateley, some guy nearly ran me over with his car. When we got to talking, it turned out that he was my dad’s brother. Apparently, they lost touch when I was just a baby and hadn’t seen each other since.”
Dana took a sip of coffee, then told me, “It was pretty awesome getting here and finding out that I was rooming with the girl I liked…” Jinx smiled at that while Dana added, “And I was afraid that I wouldn’t know anyone here…”
I nodded at that, then told them, “I came here with someone I went to school with before too… We even sat next to each other the entire flight.”
“Yeah?” Dana asked curiously. “That should make it easier.”
I just chuckled, then explained, “Yeah, but he doesn’t know who I am. As far as he’s concerned, I’m actually my own sister.” I shrugged at that. “We weren’t exactly friends before I manifested.” Then I snorted at that bit of understatement before adding, “He used to chase me around, trying to beat me up.”
“And you sat next to him the entire flight here?” Jinx asked, giving me a look of surprise. “What did he have against you? Or was this just typical bully stuff?”
“Actually, he’s a pretty decent guy,” I admitted wryly. “He just thought I was a mutant hating bigot or something, because of what my dad does for a living.”
Jinx gave me a curious look before asking, “Okay, so what does your dad do for a living?”
“He’s with the MCO,” I answered.
Suddenly, all noise at my table stopped and everyone stared at me as though I’d suddenly grown another head. For a brief moment, I wondered if someone was going to jump me so I prepared to deal with that if I had to.
“I’d be tempted to beat you up too,” Cindy said.
“Those MCO guys are assholes,” Dana spat out bitterly, giving me a suspicious look. “They beat the crap out of me then chased me all the way to Whateley, trying to kill me. Hell, one of them shot down my neighbor and even a super hero…even if he was a piss poor excuse for one.”
“My dad isn’t like that,” I protested, never having imagined that I’d find myself in the position of having to defend the MCO. “He’s trying to clean up the MCO.”
“Everyone with the MCO is like that,” Jinx stated as though it was a simple fact. “You don’t join the MCO unless you’re an evil scumbag.”
“Do you think I’m an evil scumbag?” I asked grimly. At her blank look, I set my MCO employee ID on the table. There were several gasps of surprise as they saw it. “The MCO is paying my tuition here. You might not believe it, but there are some good people in the MCO who are trying to fix things.”
With that, I grabbed my employee ID card and got up to leave, but Dana said, “Wait… I know, you can’t really judge a person by their job…not all the time.” She had a wry smile at that. “I mean, my big sister robs banks for a living, and she’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet.”
Lina and Shawn were still giving me suspicious looks, but the others appeared more curious. I settled back down into my seat and took a bite of my waffle, trying to calm down a little. My faeries continued to circle overhead, still ready to dive down as a distraction so I could escape if necessary. Fortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case.
“I know the MCO has a pretty bad reputation,” I said carefully. “And I’m pretty sure most of it is well deserved. But not everyone in the MCO is a mutant hating bastard. In fact, most of the people in the office back home are pretty professional and were friendly to me.”
“I’ve heard some pretty bad things about the MCO and how they make mutants disappear,” Jinx told me carefully. Dana nodded agreement. “I find it hard to believe that it’s a case of a few bad apples.”
“More than a few,” I admitted wryly. “But there are also a lot of people in the MCO who are actually trying to stop things like that. You could say, there’s sort of a civil war going on inside the MCO, with one side actually trying to make things better for mutants. I mean, I’m here as part of a program to try recruiting more mutants into the MCO in order to make things better.”
“Then how come I’ve never heard anything like that before?” Lina demanded.
“Because the people who are doing their jobs don’t make as much noise as the ones who screw everything up?” I asked.
Jinx nodded at that, saying, “That does kind of make sense.”
I shrugged and let out a sigh, remembering what Grace had told me on the drive from the airport. “Some people in the MCO are trying to work with hero groups and law enforcement, but others kind of sabotage it. A few weeks ago, some agents went off on some personal vendetta and ended up attacking a hero group called the Liberty League. They even killed one of them. Before that, an MCO agent had been working as a liaison with the Liberty League and trying to build a professional relationship, but this whole event ruined everything. You might not believe it, but this really pissed off people in the MCO. They’re even making sure that the agents involved are facing some serious criminal charges that they can’t just slip out of.”
“Wait,” Dana blurted out, staring at me in surprise. “You mean they’re not just letting Owens go?”
I blinked in surprise, then gave Dana a curious look. Grace had told me the name of the head agent involved, but I hadn’t mentioned it just now. Then I realized that just a minute ago, Dana had mentioned that she’d watched the MCO kill a super hero.
“You were one of the suspects they were chasing,” I exclaimed. Dana just gave me a defiant look, almost as though daring me to do something about it. I just shrugged and said, “They only hired me to fetch coffee, not to find their suspects.”
“Fetching coffee is a noble and worthy occupation,” Dana told me with a deadpan expression before she began giggling.
After this, the mood lightened again and we returned to more lighthearted topics. Lina and Shawn both gave me a couple more suspicious looks before they relaxed as well. I was just glad that my new friends hadn’t decided to lynch me, because that would have been an even worse start to my new school than running away from Nikki had been.
When breakfast was over, most of our group returned Poe, though Cindy took off to meet up with one of her friends for a trip to Dunwich, the closest town to Whateley. “You’ve got to check out this clothing shop they’ve got there,” she exclaimed before running off. “Celia is almost like my own personal faerie godmother…”
I still had some time before I had to go to Schuster Hall to do my in-processing paperwork, so I took advantage of the opportunity to sit down in the common room and read through one of my magic books. Other students kept coming through and making noise, so it was difficult to focus, but I actually kind of liked the company. It actually made me feel a little more like I belonged here.
I was in the middle of reading an interesting chapter on familiars when I heard someone yell, “You get back here…”
A moment later, a little stuffed Hello Kitty doll came running through the room, followed a short distance behind by that girl Jade. To my surprise, the doll called back, “Catch me if you can.”
Out of curiosity, I shifted over to my mage sight and saw that the stuffed animal actually had an aura, one that looked almost identical to Jade’s. And more than that, there was actually a very solid thread tying it back to Jade.
“It’s not fair pranking me like that,” Jade told the stuffed cat, standing there with her hands on her hips in a way that nearly made me want to burst out laughing.
“Someone has to,” the cat teased back. “Besides, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. You know that.”
“Arguing with yourself?” I asked, wondering if this was some kind of telekinesis.
Jade and the doll both froze and Jade gave me a faintly worried look before saying, “I’m a devisor and one of my artificial intelligences here decided to get a little too independent.”
I could see both the aura of the stuffed animal as well as Jade’s, so I could see the flickering colors that I’d learned meant she was being deceptive. However, I didn’t bother to challenge her obvious lie. Whatever she was up to, it was her business.
“I see you’ve got a thing for Hello Kitty,” I commented wryly, gesturing to the stuffed animal as well as the pink Hello Kitty bow that she had in her hair.
“And I see you’ve got a thing for the color green,” she pointed out smugly.
I looked down at the green hoodie I was wearing and shrugged. “You’ve got me there.” I remembered the way she’d reacted to my faeries yesterday so I let them come down and fly around her. She watched them with a look of fascination.
“Your hobgoblins actually do what you want them to,” she commented as she watched one land on my shoulder. “Even Nikki can’t get hers to really obey…”
“Yep,” I respond, feeling rather proud of the fact that I could get my hobgoblins to do things that other people couldn’t. “Anything I want.”
With that, all of my faeries came and landed on top of the Hello Kitty doll and actually picked it up off the ground. The doll struggled a little, or at least played along and pretended that it was struggling, as my faeries dropped it right into Jade’s arms.
“Anything,” Jade asked, though she had a mischievious grin that suddenly made me think she was up to something. I kept an eye on her aura, which also convinced me that she was up to something, though I had no idea what.
“Very interesting,” the stuffed cat commented before letting out an ‘evil’ laugh, “Bwa ha ha ha ha…”
“I don’t know what you’ve got against Nikki,” Jade abruptly said. “She’s really nice and feels kind of bad about what happened last night. I mean, I know she can get a little intimidating sometimes, but that’s no reason to avoid her. Besides, I think you two have some stuff in common.”
With that, Jade left the common room, carrying the stuffed cat that was actually singing something that sounded like it might be some kind of Japanese pop song. I shook my head, muttering, “That is one strange girl.”
A few seconds later, I settled back into my seat and returned to my book. After all, I’d just been reading something really interesting about familiars, something that was giving me some ideas that I’d have to test out.
Sunday morning, Oct 14th, 2007
Nine children occupied the courtyard, spread out in front of me in the shape of a crescent moon, each having positioned themselves to get a clear view of me as I played my flute. A beautiful melody filled the air, one inspired from the sound of the wind blowing through a chime tree. The dryad girl sat with her eyes closed, slowly swaying her body back and forth as though picturing the wind flowing through the leaves of her own tree.
The parents of these children were lords and ladies of the Court of the West, though one child belonged to an ambassador from the Court of the South. Today it was my pleasure to entertain them, to keep them occupied while their parents were here in conference.
After having spent time serving my queen as a scout, it was nice to be home where I could turn my talent to more amusing pursuits. Admittedly, I had enjoyed leading enemy scouts and advance forces off course and into traps, but there was nothing quite like seeing joy in the eyes of an innocent.
When I finished with my tune, I set my flute aside and then decided to entertain the children with some other tricks. I formed several balls of phantom fire and began to juggle them in the air, earning some clapping from the eager eyed young ones. Then I stepped back and began clapping along with the children as the balls continued to move as though being juggled by invisible hands.
I cast several more simple spells in order to entertain the children, then I realized that I had another in my audience that I hadn’t noticed until then. It was a pixie, keeping her appearance shrouded as her kind were wont to do. When she realized that I’d seen her, she ceased her hiding and came out, floating in clear view. The tiny thing had green skin, and to my amusement, hair that was nearly the same shade of green as my own.
The pixie darted to my hair and grabbed hold of it for a moment, holding her own hair up beside it as if for comparison. Then she darted away, appearing to be laughing. It was hard to tell what was going through her mind though as pixies were such silly creatures.
I woke up with a faint smile on my face, wondering why all of these strange dreams couldn’t be as nice as this one. Then before the dream could fade, I grabbed a notebook and began scribbling down what I could remember of the spells that I’d cast in the dream. I was pretty sure I remembered enough to duplicate at least a couple of them.
It took me a couple minutes to get out of bed and get my bathrobe and shower stuff together, then I hurried down the hall, hoping I could get a stall before any lines built up. Fortunately, unlike yesterday, no one else was there.
When I finished with my shower, I stepped out of the stall just in time to see Jinx walking in, wearing nothing but a towel around her. I’d seen the way she and Dana were when they were together, and Dana was a lucky girl.
“Morning,” Jinx greeted me cheerfully. “How’s the water this morning?”
“Wet,” I responded with a self-conscious smile. I grabbed my towel and began drying myself, covering myself up in the process.
“I’ve had a couple times when the hot water went out on me,” Jinx admitted. “Let me tell you, I can usually control my powers, if not the effects, but whenever I slip up…” She shuddered.
I just nodded at that, remembering quite well what it had been like to make people around me sick without being able to control it. Not having control of your powers was a pretty scary thing.
Once I returned to my room, I sat down and began going through the exercises that Mrs. Lauriant had taught me. When I was finished with those, I began to actually practice several of my spells, creating faerie fire and then practicing with my illusions.
I’d discovered that with my illusions, the secret was to clearly picture what I was trying to create and then hold that image in my head. The book Mrs. Lauriant had given me said that once I got better, I’d be able to preprogram the illusions and then just let them go without having to keep focusing on them, but that would take practice.
Before long, Dana started knocking on my door, calling out, “Hey Abbie, you ready for breakfast?”
“I’m coming,” I responded, letting my illusion fade away and then going to the door.
As I joined her out in the hall, I saw Cindy was standing outside her room with another girl. The other girl was a slender Asian girl with dark blue streaks in her hair and a literal raincloud over her head. The floor was getting wet as the rain fell on her and Cindy.
“Oh no,” Jinx said as she joined us. She was looking at Cindy at the other girl with a worried look.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“That’s Downpour,” Jinx told me with a grim look. “She has clinical depression and weather manipulating powers. Whenever she loses control and starts raining on herself like this, that usually means we need to keep a suicide watch.”
Cindy was hugging Downpour, obviously trying to comfort her. The rain slowly faded away but didn’t stop entirely. Jinx hurried down the hall to join them.
“I don’t really know what Downpour’s story is,” Dana told me awkwardly. “But she’s a nice girl. She just has…issues.”
“You guys go on,” Jinx called back, right before going into Cindy’s room with Cindy and Downpour.
“We might as well go,” Dana said with a sigh.
She was clearly worried, but like me, had no idea of what to do to help. I guessed that being empathic and comforting was something you learned, not something that automatically came with being female.
Dana and I went to breakfast, though unlike yesterday, it was just the two of us at the table. And since it seemed to be a lazy Sunday morning, Crystal Hall was also fairly empty compared to what it was like at dinner.
I watched in amazement as Dana ate a huge breakfast, wondering where she had room for all that food. She noticed me watching and just grinned, taking another big bite.
“I’m an energizer,” she started to explain.
“And energizers often have enormous appetites,” I finished for her. Then I asked, “What exactly are your powers? I mean, I thought you were a power mimic…”
“I am,” she responded cheerfully. “It’s just that the first time I copied someone’s powers, I imprinted on her. I got all of Jackie’s energizer powers, her regenerator abilities, and I even became an exemplar like her.” She gestured down at herself and added, “But I also got her BIT, hence my current appearance.”
“Wow,” I said, thinking about those abilities. “All that and you can copy powers too…”
“Yeah, but my mimic abilities are pretty much used up,” Dana admitted. “Whenever I copy someone’s powers, I get a weaker version of them. I can’t get more than a level one or two at most, except for some energizer abilities…”
I gave her a curious look, then asked, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I guess I had natural energizer abilities of some sort along with my mimic powers,” Dana explained. “I can make force fields like Jackie can, but I can also do a few things she can’t. And when I copy an external energizer, I can usually copy their powers at about the same level. I don’t get that bonus for internal energizer abilities though, only external ones like energy blasts.”
“Still, that’s an impressive mix,” I told her. “I’m a magic user, so I’m still learning what I can really do.”
Dana and I continued talking about our powers while we ate, until someone called out, “Hey, Gwen.” I looked up and saw Collin standing there with a tray of food in his hand. There was another boy with him.
“Collin,” I responded with a grin, happier to see him than I would have expected. This was the first time we’d seen each other since our tour with Zenith and Tektonix. “This is Dana.”
“Nice to meet you,” Collin said. Then he asked, “Do you mind if we sit here?”
“Go ahead,” Dana responded.
The boy with Collin was lean with a mop of auburn hair. “I’m Fixx,” he introduced himself.
“Nice purse,” Dana commented, gesturing to the fact that Fixx was wearing some sort of purse slung over his shoulder.
“It’s a satchel,” Fixx responded defensively. “Lots of guys use satchels…”
“Name one,” Dana teased.
Fixx sat down at the table before answering, “Indiana Jones wears a satchel. Chewbacca uses one too.”
“Fixx is my roommate,” Collin told me, then looked to Dana. “Is she yours?”
“No, I’ve got a single for the moment,” I responded a little smugly.
Dana stared at Fixx for a moment before asking, “Aren’t we in English together?”
Fixx nodded at that. “Yeah, I sit on the other side of the class from you.”
“I’m still pretty new here,” Dana told him apologetically. “I’m still trying to remember who everyone is.”
“So, what do you do?” Collin asked Dana curiously, obviously checking her out in the process.
“Mostly force field bubbles,” Dana answered with a grin. “Hence my name Sphere.”
“She’s also an exemplar, has regeneration, and is a power mimic,” I added. Dana got impressed looks from both Collin and Fixx. “I’m just a magic user who barely knows any spells.”
Collin snorted at that, then told Fixx, “Don’t let her fool you. I’ve seen her take on like a dozen mutants by herself.”
“If you call running away as taking on,” I pointed out with a grin.
Dana snickered at that, then asked, “So, what do you two do?”
Collin just smiled pleasantly and answered, “I’m an exemplar two, and I can stick people in place so they can’t run away.”
“Or even teleport,” I added, remembering Slippery.
“I fix things,” Fixx responded with an easy grin of his own. “Basically, I’m really good at finding ways to either fix or work around mechanical problems. I used to do most of the maintenance work in the apartment building where I lived.”
I nodded thoughtfully at that. “So you’re a devisor?”
Fixx just shrugged. “Low level. Technically, I’m a devisor one, gadgeteer one, reality warper one.” Not really all that impressive compared to some of the people like Loophole or Generator.”
“I didn’t know you were a warper too,” Collin said, giving Fixx a look of surprise.
Fixx shrugged again, then admitted, “They think my warper thing is really just an extension of my devisor power, or vice versa. All I can do with it is amplify the properties of things, so that they’re better at what they already do. You know, make glue stickier, metal stronger, and stuff like that. Still, that’s pretty useful when I’m fixing or building something.” Then he paused for a moment with a thoughtful look before abruptly asking, “Have you ever seen reruns of those old shows A-Team or Macgyver?”
“My little sister absolutely loves the A-Team,” Dana said with a chuckle. “I guess that just last week, my dad caught her as she was about to cut her own hair into a mohawk so she could be more like Mister T.” Then her expression turned sort of sad at that for some reason.
“Well,” Fixx said with a grin. “In the A-Team, they can go into a garage full of junk and just throw together a tank, and in Macgyver, he can take a shed full of yard equipment and build an ultralight, or take a bunch of household chemicals and build a bomb. That’s the kind of stuff I can do. It’s not exactly ray gun or power armor level.”
“That’s still better than me,” Collin told him. “I can barely put together a model car.”
We all continued talking about our powers for another fifteen minutes, until Collin paused to exclaim, “What the hell is that?”
I turned to where he was looking and saw a stocky black kid with dark glasses and one of those white canes that blind people use. However, what caught my attention wasn’t the fact that he was blind, but that that his clothes were the most bright and garish I’d ever seen. He was wearing a pair of yellow and orange plaid golf pants, a shirt that was pink with lime green spots, and he had on a white golf cap that probably would have looked perfectly normal on any normal golf outfit, but which somehow stuck out all the more when compared to the rest of his outfit.
“That’s Jericho,” Fixx explained wryly. “A brilliant devisor, but a horrible fashion sense. Hell, I don’t have any fashion sense and even I can tell his is bad.”
“The first time I saw him,” Dana commented with a grin. “I had to ask Amanda if she’d cursed his wardrobe. Anyone who gets that combination has to have REALLY bad luck.”
“Or he’s doing it intentionally,” I mused, thinking that dressing like that would be a great way to distract people and make them underestimate you.
Our conversation finished up a short time after that and we all got up to leave. “What have you got going on today?” Collin asked me curiously.
“Well,” I answered, “I did most of my in-processing yesterday, and bought most of my uniforms and stuff, but I’ve still got to meet with my faculty advisor and get my schedule.”
“Maybe we’ll see each other at dinner,” Collin told me, sounding rather hopeful. I found myself blushing slightly at that, actually looking forward to it. After all, I told myself, it would be nice having someone else around from my home town.
After this, we went our separate ways with Dana and I returning to Poe. We were met at the entrance by Mrs. Horton, who said, “Dana, I need to talk to you about...”
“Dana,” Jinx exclaimed as she came rushing in. “Downpour is doing a lot better, partly thanks to petting Danica for a bit, but we’re going to be taking turns keeping an eye on her…” Then she paused, apparently realizing that she’d interrupted Mrs. Horton. “Sorry…”
“This concerns you as well,” Mrs. Horton said patiently. “As I was saying…”
Just then, the phone in Mrs. Horton’s office started to ring. The house mother looked back at the phone, gave Jinx a faint glare, let out a sigh, and then went to answer the phone. She shook her head as she did so.
“I’m going to see about getting some reading in before my appointment,” I told Dana and Jinx, who seemed to want to spend some time by themselves. “I’ll catch up with you later.”
I stopped off at my room to grab one of my books, then went back to the common room to sit down and read. The four faeries that I currently had active continued to flitter around the room, doing what they usually did when I hadn’t given them any specific commands. The other kids who were using the room kept looking up and watching my faeries with amused looks.
“Too bad you guys can’t just go and fetch me a pop,” I told one of my faeries, who shrugged in response. They didn’t really have enough intelligence and initiative to do much unless I actually controlled them the entire time, and it would probably take all four of them to really fly the pop to me. Still, as I considered it, I realized it might actually be possible.
A moment later, I realized that someone was coming straight towards me, and I looked up just in time for her to demand, “I hear your Dad is with the MCO.”
The girl was tall, about six feet, with the kind of solid muscular physique that made her look like a fitness competitor or professional athlete. She had tanned skin and Hispanic features, and I might have thought her beautiful if it wasn’t for a nasty scar across her cheek and the fact that she was completely bald, not even having eyebrows.
“Well?” the girl demanded with a cold, angry look. “Is he?”
I let out a sigh, realizing that someone had been talking. It could have been any of the kids I’d shared breakfast with yesterday, or even the security guard at the gate. I guess it didn’t really matter who told her, only that she was obviously unhappy with the fact.
“My dad does work for the MCO,” I responded carefully as I slowly got to my feet.
“Hey Rose,” Lina asked from the other side of the room. “What’s going on?”
I didn’t take my eyes off the girl in front of me, but I had noted that Lina called her Rose. I’d heard someone mention a girl on our floor who was called Iron Rose, so I guessed this had to be her. She just glared back at me with a look of near hatred.
“Her dad is with the MCO,” Rose stated, then reached up to the scar on her face and told me, “The MCO gave me this…”
“I’m sorry about that,” I told her, not sure what I could say. I suddenly felt a strong sense of deja-vu as this reminded me a great deal of how Collin had reacted after he first found out what my dad did.
The other kids in the room were staring at me in surprise now, except for Lina who’d already heard the news. I felt the temperature drop several degrees and I squirmed uncomfortably under the suddenly hostile attention.
Rose snarled, “I’m gonna make you sorry…”
Rose telegraphed her punch well before she made it, easily giving me time to dodge to the side. Lina jumped to her feet and demanded, “What are you doing?”
“I’m gonna give this point eared bitch a message to send to her dad,” Rose answered, making another swing at me.
This time, I dodged her clumsy punch and moved back, sending my pixies in as a distraction. Three of them grabbed her ears and began pulling while the fourth one hit her and self-destructed, giving her a good dose of my glamour.
“Let me tell you,” I commented with a sigh. “This kind of thing is really starting to get old.”
“What the hell,” Rose yelled, looking around with an expression of surprise and confusion. She swung a punch at something that only she could see, then her skin actually rippled and changed so that her entire body was now made of a dark gray metal. As she made another punch at the air, I turned and hurried down the hall to the safety of my room.
When I emerged from my room again an hour later, I was relieved to see no sign of Rose. However, I did find Cindy and Lina in the day room, both of whom gave me odd looks when I came in.
“What did you do to Rose?” Cindy asked me curiously. “She was going on about alien robots…”
“I can make people hallucinate,” I told her cheerfully. “These faeries of mine are good for more than just looking cute.”
Lina stared at me for a moment, looking just a little hesitant before she asked, “Can you show me how you do that? My power messes with people’s minds too, and if I can learn to do more than just make people stare at me…”
“You make people stare at you?” I responded.
Lina let out a sigh and then scowled. She stepped into the middle of the dayroom, and suddenly there was a giant glowing peacock tail behind her, though I was sure it was just illusion. Still, her entire body was glowing and there was something almost hypnotic about her. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Then her tail and the glow vanished and I snapped out of it.
“That was…kind of cool,” I said, earning a blink of surprise from Lina.
“You really think so?” Lina asked me, looking almost like she thought I was messing with her.
“Sure,” I insisted with a grin. “I mean, it looked really cool, and if you can do that when you’re in a fight, the other person will be way too distracted to chase you or fight back.”
“I never thought of it that way,” she said with a thoughtful look. “I just kind of thought my power was useless…”
I shook my head at that and insisted, “No way. Your powers are great for distraction. I’d love to learn how to do something like that.” I thought about it for a moment, then told her, “I probably can’t teach you how to do the hallucination thing since its part of my glamour, but I can try.”
Lina got excited at that and we spent ten minutes talking about her powers and how she might be able to make use of them. Cindy watched with an amused look, not really adding anything to the conversation. By the time we were done, we’d agreed to meet up sometime this week to see if we could possibly learn how to do each other’s tricks. After this, I returned to my room for my book bag and a few items, then left for my appointment.
A short time later, was in an office meeting my faculty advisor, a matronly woman named Mrs. Chulkris. The moment I saw her, I had to blink and then try hard not to stare because she had vines and flowers growing all over her body.
“Ms. Wylann,” Mrs. Chulkris greeted me cheerfully. “It is my understanding that you will be studying in our magical arts program.” Then she looked to the faeries that were floating ahead and smiled. “Of course, the hobgoblins are a good indication. Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how to control your magic so you won’t be creating any more of those things.”
“Actually,” I responded self-consciously. “Controlling them is part of my power.” With that, I had all of my faeries land on her desk and sit down in a polite fashion, which seemed to amuse her.
“I see,” she said, looking at them more closely before nodding faintly. “Very interesting.” Then she stared at me for a moment before asking, “Have you had any magic instruction?”
“A little,” I admitted. “Witchling of the Seattle Supers recommended a teacher for me and she’s been giving me lessons.” I glanced at the vines and flowers that ran all over Mrs. Chulkris’ body and couldn’t resist adding, “She’s a nature mage.”
“Anyone I know?” she asked me curiously.
I hesitated a moment before answering, “She used to be called the Woodwife.”
Mrs. Chulkris blinked at that, and then smiled. “Now that is a name that I haven’t heard in quite some time. So, how is Victoria doing these days?”
I was a little surprised by her reaction since I hadn’t expected any real recognition, much less such a friendly tone. “She never told me her first name,” I finally responded. “But she seems to be doing all right.”
“She’s always been a bit of a stick in the mud,” Mrs. Culkris told me in an almost conspiratorial tone. “But a very capable teacher.” Then she frowned and said, “It is a shame about Walter though. He’d been such a kind man.”
I assumed that she was talking about Mrs. Lauriant’s husband, the Woodsman. Until now, I’d never heard any reference to his real name any more than I had to Mrs. Lauriant’s first name.
“Which reminds me,” Mrs. Chulkris said, giving me an odd look. “I see in your records that you are here on an MCO paid scholarship. I imagine that this may create some difficulties for you, but I hope you don’t let them deter you. I think this program may be just the thing the MCO needs. But for now, please tell me what Victoria has been teaching you.”
We probably spent half an hour just talking about what I knew and the spells that I’d learned so far. Mrs. Chulkris asked me a lot of questions, some of which left me scratching my head since I didn’t know enough to even guess what she was actually asking. However, by the time we were done with this, she seemed fairly satisfied.
“Now to the matter at hand,” Mrs. Chulkris told me. “We need to set your class schedule. Of course, you’ll be taking my class Introduction to Mystic Concepts, and you’ll need Principles of Magic as well. In addition, we recommend Powers Theory for all first year students.”
“So, just four regular classes?” I asked, a little surprised. I’d known that going to school here would be different, but I hadn’t expected so much of my class schedule to be focused on power related classes. I’d thought there would be a little more math, science and English. Then again, I supposed that Power Theory was a kind of science class, one that would be a little more relevant to me than something like marine biology.
“We also have a very strong recommendation that students take either martial arts or survival,” she added with a faint smile. “Being a mutant can be very dangerous these days, so we like to help you learn how to survive a hostile world.”
I frowned thoughtfully for a moment before musing, “Survival sounds kind of interesting…”
Mrs. Chulkris gave me a wry smile before saying, “Actually, your father sent the school an e-mail specifically requesting that you be assigned to a martial arts class.” She held out what appeared to be a printed off version of the e-mail.
I read the e-mail, specifically noting the last line. ‘PS, tell Gwen that Doug strongly recommends she take the martial arts class as well.’ I blinked in surprise at that. Doug didn’t have a lot of respect for traditional martial arts classes, saying that they focused too much on style but not enough on practical substance. If he was recommending one, I wasn’t quite sure what that said about the class, but it did catch my interest.
After this, it only took a few minutes before Mrs. Chulkris handed me a sheet of paper with my new schedule along with another one that contained a list of class supplies I was going to need to purchase. I saw that a martial arts gi was on the list and groaned. I had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be the casual self-defense environment that I was used to.
When I left Mrs. Chulkris’ office, I decided that it was time to take care of something that Mrs. Lauriant had asked me to do. I began walked around campus, looking for an out of the way place that would suit my needs. There were lots of trees surrounding the school, including one area where I’d been told was strictly off limits to students. I was definitely going to have to check the place out and see what the fuss was all about, but not right now.
I found a cluster of trees that looked to be just about perfect for my needs. With that, I reached into my book bag and pulled out something that Mrs. Lauriant had given me, a knot of wood that was a little bigger than a softball and shaped something like an almond. After setting the knot of wood on the ground, I pushed a little of my magical essence into it, just like Mrs. Lauriant had shown me. A moment later, the knot started to unwind and roots started to dig into the ground. At the same time, it began to sprout and a small sapling began to grow from it.
“That should do it,” I said, knowing that I’d have to wait a week before I could do anything else.
Mrs. Lauriant had visited me for one more lesson the night before I’d left for Whateley, and she’d also given me this seed. She said it came from the big tree in her yard, the one that she used to store her magical energy. Because of that, this seed was tied to that tree and she’d be able to use it to communicate with me, even though I was on the other side of the country. Apparently, her intention was to use this as some kind of magical Skype so we could continue our lessons. I was definitely curious to see how it worked.
I was finished getting my class schedule and performing this errand for Mrs. Lauriant, but I still had to call Grace as well as make another stop at the school store. Buying school supplies was turning out to be pretty expensive, so it was a good thing the MCO was giving me a stipend to take care of those kinds of expenses. And since Mom and Dad were giving me an allowance as well, I wasn’t hurting for money, at least not as long as I didn’t get carried away.
When I was finished shopping at the school store, I returned to Poe, eager to try out a couple of my spells. I’d been doing a lot of reading and practicing on my own, so I felt confident that I was actually starting to get a handle on this magic stuff.
Just as I reached the door to my room and began to unlock it, I heard a voice from behind me exclaim, “We want a word with you.”
I turned around, startled to see that it was one of my faeries speaking to me. “What?” I gasped in surprise and confusion. Until now, none of my faeries had made any noise at all.
“We’re tired of you bossing us around,” my faerie stated as she hovered in the air with her hands on her hips. Two more faeries hovered behind her, nodding agreement. “And we want a raise.”
“A raise?” I asked in even greater surprise and confusion.
Suddenly, three more faeries descended from the ceiling and hovered in the hallway in front of me, each of them holding tiny picket signs. They began marching back and forth through the air, while the one who appeared to be their spokesfaerie gave me a steady glare.
“We’re on strike,” she called out loudly. “Pixies of the world unite…”
There were several girls in the hallway who were staring at us and laughing. I just stood there, feeling confused and more than a little embarrassed as I wondered what was going on. This didn’t make any sense.
It wasn’t until then that it dawned on me that I only had five faeries out at the moment, and I could feel all of them around me. I couldn’t feel these striking faeries at all, which meant that they weren’t mine. I finally shifted to mage sight and saw that all these new faeries shared a single aura, a familiar looking aura which tied them all together and had a thread leading off down the hallway.
Just then, I heard loud giggling from down the hallway, in the same direction that the threads led, coming from the person responsible for this. “Jade,” I muttered, recognizing the aura of that strange girl. “I’ve been punked.”
I scowled in annoyance at being the target of such a joke, feeling embarrassed for the fact that I’d fallen for it. But after a few seconds, I had to admit that it had been kind of funny and I couldn’t resist laughing as I went into my room, slamming the door in the faces of the still marching faeries.
Monday, Oct 15th, 2007
I felt extremely nervous as I took my seat and slowly looked around the classroom. When I’d come to Whateley, I’d known that I’d be surrounded by other mutants and that some of them were bound to be pretty strange, but even after spending a couple days around campus, I was still caught by surprise.
There was a girl on the other side of the classroom who had dark blue skin, four arms, and glowing red eyes. There was a huge and ugly looking boy sitting next to me, who looked almost like he could have been an orc from the Lord of the Rings, but when he talked to the girl on the other side of him, he spoke with a French accent that completely threw me off. Then a large fox with three tails came racing into the room, going straight to a desk and then suddenly transforming into a girl, who still had three tails.
Though I’d been at Whateley since late Friday afternoon, this was actually my first day of attending classes, and my very first class. The class was Introduction to Mystic Concepts, which was being taught my Mrs. Chulkris. The fact that I’d at least met the teacher before let me relax just a little.
“Great,” the girl sitting behind me said, giving me a look of hostility. “Another pretty.”
The girl was…scary looking. She had black skin, slitted yellow eyes, fangs in her mouth, and a pair of large devil horns growing from her forehead. I could even see some kind of devil tail swishing around behind her. But in spite of that, she was actually kind of cute in a scary sort way.
“I’m Gwen,” I introduced myself, trying to be friendly.
“Fuck you,” she responded bitterly.
“Don’t mind Darqueheart,” the orc boy told me with what I assumed was supposed to be a friendly smile. “I’m Jean, though most call me Orc.”
“Gwen,” I told him, relieved to see no hostility in his aura, though there was some obvious interest which made me a little uncomfortable. “I’m called Absinthe.”
When class started a minute later, Mrs. Chulkris announced, “Class, you may have noticed our new student. This is Absinthe.”
“Damn, she’s hot,” one boy on the other side of class exclaimed, giving me a leer. I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat at the attention.
“Just what the school needs,” Darqueheart muttered. “Another fucking pretty…”
“Absinthe,” Mrs. Chulkris told me, gesturing towards a boy who had dark skin and black hair who looked Native American. “Wendigo is my TA and he will be able to help answer your questions.” Then she said, “Orc, if you will help get Absinthe caught up in class.”
“Oui,” Orc responded. “It would be my pleasure.”
Just then, a pretty blonde girl with pink ribbons in her hair exclaimed, “Look…” She was pointing to the faerie that I had floating near the ceiling above me. “Absinthe brought a hobgoblin…”
There were some laughs from around the room at that, reminding me that most magic users thought of hobgoblins as being mistakes. From that perspective, it had to look like I was walking around with a mistake actually following me wherever I went.
“I can take care of that thing,” the blonde announced in a smug tone. She pulled out a magic wand, the kind that looked like a little girl’s toy with a star on the end. Then she said something and suddenly my faerie was pulled right to her, as if by some invisible tractor beam. “Say bye bye…”
“No,” I called out in warning as I realized what she was about to do. However, it was too late as the blonde girl touched my faerie with her magic wand and destroyed it, only to get a face full of my glamour energy in the process. Her eyes went wide and she started to look around with an expression of confusion. I let out a sigh and said, “The hallucinations will fade in just a minute or two.”
“What did you do to Fairy Girl?” someone demanded, giving me a suspicious look.
“I have a glamour that makes people around me start hallucinating,” I explained, feeling self-conscious about admitting this in front of everyone. “Unless I have one of my faeries to transfer it to, everyone else feels the effects instead.” With that, I created a new faerie and began sending my glamour to that one.
One boy gave me a strange look and even odder grin before saying, “Awesome… Instant high…”
“I think you made a new best friend,” A girl sitting on the opposite side of me as Orc said. She gestured to the boy and said, “Ripple is with the Dylans.” At my blank look, she let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. “The stoners.” I nodded in understanding at that.
One boy turned to the hallucinating blond girl and teased her, “I would have thought that you’d be the last person to make a pixie vanish…”
“That’s what you get for trying to show off,” the four armed girl called out with a laugh.
“An interesting demonstration,” Mrs. Chulkris said, then looked around the classroom. “And a lesson in what may happen if you interfere in someone else’s magic before knowing its purpose.”
After this, Mrs. Chulkris went into a lecture and I paid close attention, though I also followed along in the book. I was pleased to notice that the class book we were using contained a lot of the same information as what was in one of the books Mrs. Lauriant had given me, and which I’d been reading on my own. Because of that and my previous lessons, I wasn’t nearly as far behind as I’d feared.
My second class of the day was Powers Theory. Since all my powers were related to magic, and I was already taking two magic classes, I technically didn’t need to take Powers Theory as well. However, I’d been interested in mutant powers and how they worked even before I’d manifested, so if I’d been given the choice, I probably would have taken this class as an elective anyway.
When I stepped into the classroom, I grinned at the sight of Collin already sitting at a desk. He was right next to Fixx, so I went over and took an open seat next to them, saying, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“I know,” Collin responded with an easy grin, the kind all the girls at our old school had gone crazy for. It wasn’t until that moment that I suddenly realized just how cute that smile actually was.
“At least I know a couple people in this class,” I told them with my own grin.
“Yeah, I didn’t know anyone last class either,” Collin told me.
Just then, I noticed another girl walking towards us, or at least towards the seat next to me. Her body and hair appeared to be made of white ceramic, giving her the appearance of being a living doll. Even her face was made of this material, looking just as blank and expressionless as a porcelain doll. She moved slowly and carefully as she sat down beside me. I watched as she sat, noticing that her joints actually cracked when she moved, leaving cracks all over her body which immediately began sealing up again when she stopped moving.
“Hi,” I greeted her, feeling self-conscious about staring. “I’m Absinthe.”
“I am called Porcelain,” she responded in a quiet and slightly muffled voice. Her mouth didn’t move when she talked and her entire face remained a blank mask. “It is nice to meet you.”
“Hey, Porce,” Fixx greeted her.
Porcelain turned to look at him, or at least she appeared to since it was hard to tell where she was looking. Her eyes appeared to be made of the same white porcelain as the rest of her. “Please do not shorten my name in that manner.”
“Sorry,” Fixx responded, looking embarrassed. “I forgot.”
Class started a few minutes later and our teacher, Dr. Quintain, began a lecture on various warper effects and the difference between internal and external warpers. He was obviously extremely knowledgeable, but he was also pretty boring to listen to. It was a real struggle to stay awake and pay attention.
Then before class ended, Dr. Quintain announced, “This week, we are going to perform a class project. I will split the class into teams with one warper on each team. Each team will work with their warper to discover at least one new use of their power, if possible. At the end of the week, each team will turn in a report as to what ideas were suggested, how they were tested, and what the results of these tests are.”
With that, Dr. Quintain made every warper in class stand up, which included Collin, but excluded Fixx, probably because his warper rating was so weak, then he began assigning teams to each warper. Dr. Quintain seemed to pick the teams based merely off who was sitting closest to their warper, so I ended up with Collin, along with Fixx and Porcelain.
When the teams were picked and the class ended, we stayed behind for a minute while Collin admitted, “My powers aren’t really that impressive…”
“Impressive enough to hold a teleporter,” I reminded him with a smirk. “One the MCO had spent months trying to catch without success…”
Fixx didn’t seem surprised by that comment, so I assumed that Collin had told him about what happened. However, Porcelain looked at him, though she didn’t have any expressions to give away what she was thinking. I tried looking at her aura, but something about her mutation was blocking it, giving faint hints of curiosity but nothing else.
“I can make people get stuck in one place,” Collin explained to her. “Like being caught on fly paper.” Then he grinned, “But once someone is caught, they are caught good.”
“Then it should be interesting to see your powers in action,” Porcelain said politely before she left.
Collin, Fixx and I all had English together next, so we continued towards class together. “Porcelain seems…odd,” I commented carefully.
“She’s usually pretty shy and doesn’t talk much,” Fixx said, giving a wry smile. “That’s not too surprising though since people like to mess with her. We both hang out with the Underdogs…”
“The what?” I asked, deciding that I was going to have to get a cheat sheet on all these clubs and cliques that seemed to be present here at Whateley. So far I’d heard of Team Kimba, the Grunts, the Alphas, the Dylans, and a couple others.
“Kids with pretty weak powers,” Fixx admitted. “A lot of them are pretty easy targets for bullies, so we’re sort of considered bully bait. Most don’t bother me too much, but Porcelain looks pretty odd so she gets a lot of teasing.”
“So,” I asked, half joking, “What kind of club do you think I’d be a good fit for?
Fixx stared at me for a moment before answering, “Maybe Venus Inc. That’s the fashion and modeling club.” I snorted at that since there was no way I’d go for something like that. Then he added, “And Fey is one of the members. She’s an elf girl like you…”
“Hell no,” I said, now even more determined than before to avoid them. As if I’d have anything to do with modeling, other than to watch the models that is.
“I don’t know,” Fixx said, giving me a shrug. “I don’t exactly know you well enough to know what you’re into.”
“Good point,” I agreed.
“The funny thing is,” Fixx told me with a grin. “After I hooked up with the Underdogs, I found out that they used to have another guy with the same codename as me, and similar powers too. Good thing he graduated last year or I might have had to change my name.”
“That would have been awkward,” I responded with a grin, surprised that more people didn’t end up trying to use the same codename.
English passed without much problem, and other than the fact that the girl sitting in front of me had snakes for hair, it was almost like a normal English class. The fact that I shared the class with Collin, just like in the English class in our old school, made it feel all the more normal. Of course, he had no idea that I’d been in that class with him, but I knew.
After English, Collin, Fixx, and I went to Crystal Hall for lunch where we met up with Dana and Jinx. Even though I’d eaten several meals with Dana, I still found myself watching her eat in disbelief, wondering how anyone could eat so much. Fortunately, Collin was just amazed as I was, but not as good as being subtle about it.
“I’ve got martial arts next,” I complained, definitely not looking forward to the class.
“Me too,” Dana and Collin blurted out simultaneously.
“Really?” I asked, looking at Dana and wondering how I could possibly be in the same martial arts class with someone who could bench press over half a ton. Dana had bragged about that yesterday at breakfast, so I was a little nervous.
“Oh yeah,” Dana said, pausing to take a sip of coffee.
I absently wondered how Dana could possibly drink so much of the stuff. I mean, I was from Seattle where there was a Starbucks or two on every corner, and I could only handle a mocha on rare occasions. Dana, on the other hand, always seemed to find the coffee.
“On my way to Whateley,” Dana explained, “I got into a fight with a superhero…” She paused before adding, “Don’t ask.”
“But what if I really want to ask?” I teased her, knowing full well that her trip to Whateley included a fight with the Liberty League and the MCO.
Dana stuck her tongue out at me, then continued, “Anyway, I was a lot stronger than Twist, but she still kicked my butt. She was way better at fighting. Well, it turns out that this martial arts class is where she learned to fight.”
Collin stared at Dana with a confused look. “Wait a minute. You fought a superhero?”
“What part of don’t ask don’t you understand?” Dana joked. “It’s a long story. But anyway, this class will really teach you how to fight. I’ve only been here for a couple weeks and I’ve already learned a lot.”
“I’m just glad I took survival instead,” Jinx said with a shake of her head. “I mean, you’ve got regeneration to take care of all those bruises, but not all of us are that lucky.”
“So speaks the girl whose power is luck,” Dana responded with a grin.
Fixx nodded at that, then said, “Survival is pretty interesting. I mean, where else are you going to learn the best way of getting away from someone chasing you?”
“Oh man,” I grumbled, wishing that I’d been able to take survival instead of basic martial arts. It sounded right up my alley. “I’m gonna have to take that one sometime.”
“I’ve done my share of running away,” Dana said with a scowl. “I prefer fighting back.”
“I prefer to avoid fighting when I can,” I stated.
Collin nodded at that, then said, “Yeah, her brother is the same way. They’re really good at running away, but you don’t want to corner them.” He winced and admitted, “I found that out the hard way.”
“The last time someone actually tried hurting me,” Jinx added with a smirk. “He slipped on his own shoelaces and ended up breaking his ankle. And that was without my even having to actively use my powers on him. I did that to a car once and the transmission went out, the engine block cracked, three tires blew out, and that was before the semi crashed into it.”
The rest of us at the table all stared at Jinx for a moment before Fixx said what we were all thinking. “Remind me not to piss you off.”
When we were done eating, Collin, Dana and I went to our martial arts class. I quickly changed into my gi, feeling extremely annoyed as I did so. So far, I’d been wearing my school uniform all morning, and that came with a skirt. As with the dresses that Mrs. Lauriant made me wear, that was just part of the price I had to pay in order to get the education I needed. I’d made an effort to do that without complaint. The gi wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as a dress or skirt, but it still bothered me for some reason.
“Doug would laugh his butt off at this,” I muttered.
I’ve disliked traditional martial arts because they were always about following rules and traditions that didn’t make any sense to me. Wearing a gi had been a part of that, so this almost felt like I was betraying my own beliefs.
“But Dad said that Doug recommended this class,” I reminded myself, knowing that Doug wouldn’t do that without good reason. And if Doug thought this class had something worth learning, then it was worth putting up with this in order to learn it.
“Just like wearing a dress,” I said, realizing the irony of that statement.
I went out into the dojo where all the other students were sitting on the mats. I sat down beside Dana, and a minute later, Collin came in and sat down beside me.
In front of the class was a short old Asian man, who was obviously the teacher. At first glance, he appeared small and weak, but something told me that he was anything but helpless. For one thing, anyone who’d teach martial arts to people with super powers, had to be pretty dangerous.
There was a woman standing up front as well, a six foot tall black woman who was wearing a black spandex body suit instead of a gi. Dana leaned over and whispered that she was sensei Tolman.
The old man came to where Collin and I were sitting and gestured for us to stand. “I am Tatsuo Ito. You may address me as sensei, Ito sensei, or soke,” he instructed us. Then he asked, “Has either of you had previous martial arts instruction?”
Collin shook his head while I said, “I’ve had self-defense lessons, but not martial arts.”
“Absinthe and Centurion,” Ito sensei abruptly announced, gesturing for us to get into a circle on the mats. “You will spar without using your powers. You lose the match by submitting, being unable to continue, or being knocked outside of the circle.”
I got up and went to the circle, immediately realizing what Ito was doing. He wanted to see what I was capable of by testing me against a student with known capabilities. Doug usually did the same thing whenever he got someone new in class.
“Poor girl,” someone called out, indicating what they thought my chances were.
Centurion was a tall and muscular boy with long black hair and a hawkish nose. He had a confident look about him and a faint smirk, making it clear that he didn’t think this would be any kind of fight at all. He was obviously a lot bigger and stronger than me, but that was absolutely nothing new. Doug specialized in teaching his students to defend against people who were bigger and stronger than them.
As soon as Ito indicated for us to begin, Centurion came straight towards me, obviously intending to get this over with quickly and show me as fast as possible just how outmatched I was. I kept backing away from him, but when he lunged and threw a punch, I grabbed his fist and used his own momentum to roll him over my body and slam him to the ground. A moment later, I was on the ground with him, using a grappling move and some leverage to keep him pinned and unable to move. Ito called the round.
“You caught me by surprise,” Centurion said as we got back up. He glared at me, obviously not happy about losing the first match to a newcomer, especially one who was a pretty girl. “It won’t happen again.”
Ito told us to continue and Centurion came after me again, this time more slowly, being a bit more cautious. I just kept backing away from him so the two of us moved around the circle until he lost patience and lunged at me again. This time, I slipped to the side, avoiding his punch and then I grabbed his hair and pulled as I moved, knocking him completely off balance. I kicked Centurion in the back of the knee, then slammed him to the ground. However, this time, he slipped from my grip and got back to his feet before I could pin him again.
“You grabbed my hair,” Centurion snarled angrily. “You cheated…”
“If you’re not cheating, then you’re not trying hard enough,” I said, half sure that Ito would call the match from that move. After all, in traditional martial arts, that kind of thing was considered cheating. However, he just watched from the side with an unreadable expression.
“You pointy eared bitch,” Centurion exclaimed, coming at me again.
This time, I jumped to the side and dodged him, playing defense as I kept moving around and avoiding his attacks. Centurion was obviously getting frustrated, then I saw my opportunity. I kicked at Centurion’s shin to make him lose balance, then I drove my fist as hard as I could into his solar plexus. However, it didn’t have the effect I was hoping for and Centurion slapped me, sending me flying back where I hit the ground hard.
Ito suddenly called an end to the match, then said, “You were instructed not to use your powers.” I realized that Centurion had a faint shimmering glow around his body, suggesting that he’d decided to follow my advice and do a little cheating of his own. I certainly couldn’t complain about that, though I mentally cursed myself for not expecting it. “Again. This time, powers are allowed.”
“Watch out,” Dana called out to me. “He’s strong and tough.”
“I noticed that,” I commented, not taking my eyes off my opponent as we began once again.
If Centurion had looked cocky before, he nearly radiated arrogance now. There was no doubt in his expression or aura that he was going to win this. That just made me smile faintly since I always seemed to do best when people were underestimating me. Sure, Centurion’s powers made him a lot stronger and tougher than me, but almost everyone I ever fought was bigger and stronger than me, so this was nothing new.
“You can’t possibly beat me,” Centurion stated. “I’m as strong as a hundred men.”
Centurion came straight at me, not seeing the faeries until one of them was in his face, trying to grab at his eyes. That kept him too distracted to notice the one that hit him from behind, giving him a full dose of my glamour. He began staggering, looking around with an expression of stunned disbelief and confusion. I had no idea what he was seeing, but it was obviously distracting him, just like I’d intended. I took full advantage of that distraction to begin casting my spells.
“What in the…?” Centurion exclaimed, taking a swing at something only he could see. Then he punched at something else.
Just then, I released my first spell and the air was filled with a burst of bright sparkles that would momentarily blind Centurion and give me yet another distraction while I unleased my second spell. When the sparkles cleared, there was now another me standing in the circle with us. The illusion looked identical to me.
Centurion’s eyes widened at that and he gasped in surprise. “Now there are two of you…” He snarled and swatted at something else that only he could see. I kept my own expression completely flat and emotionless while my copy began laughing. “So that’s the real you,” he exclaimed triumphantly.
With that, Centurion rushed to my copy and went to grab her, only to have his hand go right through the illusion. While he was standing there in surprise, I rammed him from behind, shoving him right outside the circle and winning the match. There was some laughter and cheers from the other students, but Centurion glared at me with a look of hatred.
“You CHEATED,” he snarled furiously.
“Enough,” Ito stated, giving Centurion a flat look that immediately stopped the large mutant. “You may take your seat again Centurion.” Then he turned to me and commented, “You said that you had no martial arts training…”
“I took self-defense lessons for a year and a half,” I told him honestly. “But our teacher was very clear that it wasn’t martial arts.”
“I see,” Ito said in a tone that gave nothing away. “Did your teacher have a name for this style?”
I shrugged at that before responding, “I don’t know… Frankenstein style? He just taught us bits and pieces of anything he thought would be useful.”
Ito nodded at that, and though his expression was hard to read, his aura suggested at least some approval. “We will work on your form to make your moves more effective.”
With that, I was sent back to the mat while Collin was told to spar with someone called Teke. I was a little surprised to realize that Teke was actually Shawn, the changeling from Poe. Because of that, I wasn’t really sure who to cheer for.
Collin was bigger and stronger than Shawn, and for the first match, he simply used his larger size to overwhelm his smaller opponent. For the second match, Shawn changed tactics and moved more quickly, though it ended in a tie as Collin tried to shove the smaller boy out of the circle but they both ended up toppling out together at the same time. For the third match, they were allowed to use their powers, so I watched in fascination to see how this would play out.
As soon as the match began, Collin activated his powers and I saw the shimmering effect along the floor that indicated his powers were on. Shawn immediately tried backing away, only to find that he couldn’t. His feet were effectively glued to the floor.
“This should be pretty easy,” Collin said as he confidently walked up to Shawn, not affected by his own powers.
“Don’t count on it,” Shawn said, right before Collin was suddenly flying through the air and out of the circle. “Telekinesis. I don’t need my feet to win.”
Collin got up and grumbled, “Now you tell me.”
After this, Tolman and Ito began pairing people off to spar, except for Collin and myself. Tolman took the two of us to the side and began teaching some forms. This part sort of bored me, especially when I watched the other students spar, often using their powers in the process. By the end of the class, I’d decided that wearing a gi and doing these forms would be well worth it if I could learn how to defend myself better against people with powers. After dealing with Slippery and that crew of fanatics, I’d seen just how relevant that could be to my life.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, and after the final class was over, I hurried back to Poe where I found Dana in the common room with a large package she’d received in the mail. Jinx stood beside her, watching Dana open it with a curious look.
“Come on,” Jinx urged. “Let’s see what it is…”
“It’s from Jackie,” Dana said with a cheerful grin. “So it could be just about anything.” Then she finished opening the box and stared inside for a moment before suddenly jumping up and exclaiming, “Oh yeah…”
“What is it?” I asked.
Dana just grinned excitedly as she pulled out an espresso machine. “She knows me so well. And look, she even sent me the receipt…”
“So you can take it back if you don’t like it,” Lina commented from the other side of the room.
“Hell no,” Dana responded with a shake of her head. “So I know she didn’t steal it.”
Cindy was sitting beside Lina and asked, “Is that a common problem?”
“Well,” Dana said with an almost innocent look, which didn’t really work for her. “Considering that the first time I met her was when she was robbing a bank…”
“I have GOT to meet her,” Jinx said with a giggle. “She sounds like a lot of fun.”
Dana shrugged at that, then said, “She told me she’d come visit when she could, but she’s laying low for awhile. We got a little too much attention a few weeks ago so she’s trying to avoid any excitement for a couple months.” Dana hugged the espresso machine as though it was her new favorite possession, and considering the way she seemed to drink coffee, it just might be.
I watched Dana for a moment and shook my head, definitely agreeing with Jinx. From what I’d heard about Dana’s adopted sister, she definitely sounded like someone I wanted to meet some day…even if she was a supervillain.
Then I looked to Lina and asked, “Hey, did you want to try that experiment we were talking about?”
Lina gave me a blank look for a moment, then grinned as she remembered what we’d been talking about. A minute later, we went into my room since I didn’t have a roommate yet, which meant that we had a bit more privacy. We started off by demonstrating our powers, with Lina becoming absolutely fascinating so that I couldn’t look away from her, then I hit her with one of my faeries. I would have let her get a slower dose of my glamour the normal way, but that would have taken too long.
“Wow,” Lina exclaimed as she staggered around my room, looking as though she was having a hard time standing. “I’m assuming that the floor isn’t really rolling…”
“Nope,” I responded cheerfully. “The effects should wear off pretty soon though. As long as I’m not actively hitting someone with my glamour, the effects fade in just a minute or two.”
“This is definitely distracting,” she told me, moving around as though she was badly drunk, though she wasn’t slurring her speech at all. “I’m an avatar, not a mage, but I hope my spirit and I can learn to do something like this…” Then Lina paused and tilted her head, as though listening to something I couldn’t hear. After a moment, she said, “He thinks that maybe we can do something like this…”
Once Lina’s head had cleared, she demonstrated her power for me a second time, with me paying close attention with my mage sight. The way the energy flowed around her aura was interesting, and not something that I thought I could do myself. However, it did give me something to think about. Lina and I spent an hour with this, and by the time we were done, neither of us could duplicate the other’s effect, but we’d both gained some ideas that we wanted to experiment with.
“Now to go get dinner,” I announced when we were through.
I opened the door to leave, only to find myself staring at another door. I blinked in confusion, looking to the door that I still had in my hand, then at the closed door in front of me. I pulled that one open as well, only to find a third door behind it.
“Okay,” I said, beginning to get annoyed. “Something is a little fishy…”
“Belle,” Lina announced in exasperation. At my blank look, she said, “Beltane.”
“Ah,” I said in sudden understanding. A couple of the girls had warned me about one of the Poe seniors named Beltane, who was apparently one of the biggest practical jokers on campus. I’d even been told that as the newest Poe resident, it was likely that Beltane would give me her own version of a greeting. “Great.”
I opened the third door, followed by a fourth. Then when I opened the fifth door, I found myself staring at a brick wall.
“Come on,” Lina snapped angrily, kicking at the brick wall though it did absolutely no good. Then she yelled out, “BELLE!” I heard a girl laughing from the other side of the brick wall, but nothing changed.
Lina and I kicked at the brick wall and called out for someone to let us out for nearly twenty minutes before the brick wall and all the doors vanished. By then, we were both more than a little annoyed. Lina stomped off down the hallway, muttering a constant stream of profanities while I was a little more rational about my response.
“First Jade, now this,” I muttered with a scowl, deciding that I was really getting tired of being everyone’s practical joke punching bag. Then I grinned as an idea began to form and I mused, “Of course you know, this means war.”
Wednesday afternoon, Oct 17th, 2007
It was Wednesday afternoon and the last class of the day had finally ended, much to my relief. It had been a long and frustrating day so I was more than happy to be done with classes, though unfortunately, as I’d learned over the last few days here at Whateley, the line between being in class and being out of it tended to blur. But that was to be expected when you lived on school grounds with all your classmates, and half of them continued wearing their uniforms after the official school day was over.
This morning, I’d woken up from another of those strange dreams where I’d been an elf…a Sidhe. In this one, some nasty looking soldiers had been chasing me through a dark forest, though oddly enough, my dream-self had actually been having fun. I couldn’t remember many of the details, only that I’d been playing the role of bait, leading a small group of advanced enemy soldiers into a series of traps.
“At least I got a new spell from that one,” I mused with a faint smile, remembering that in the dream, I’d used some kind of spell that let me see in the dark as well as if it had been in the middle of the day. I’d actually been able to remember enough of that spell that I was sure I could duplicate it.
Last night’s dream might not have been as bad as some of the others, but it still left me very worried. These strange dreams kept coming and I’d already come to the conclusion that they were far more than mere dreams. I had a lot of questions as to what was really going on, but I was actually a little scared about asking them…and what the answers might be.
Of course, that dream hadn’t been the worst part of the day. In martial arts, Ito had made me spar against Dana in some kind of game where we took turns trying to get each other into a cage. When it was my turn to play offense, she merely formed a golden force field bubble around herself and then floated up into the air where I couldn’t touch her until time ran out. Then when I was playing defense, before I could do anything, I suddenly had a bubble around me, which had flown me straight into the cage. It had been humiliating to get beaten so easily, though I’d congratulated her afterwards. What it meant though, was that I would have to figure out a way to be more effective against someone with that kind of power.
At the moment though, it wasn’t my powers and abilities that I needed to be concerned with. Class was out for the day, but I hurried to Crystal Hall to meet up with Collin, Fixx, and Porcelain so we could work on our project for Powers Theory. So far, we’d talked a few times about what Collin’s actual powers were and how they worked, but this was the first opportunity that we’d have to actually do this outside of class without any distractions.
When I arrived, Collin and Fixx were both already sitting at a table and waiting, and just a couple minutes after I sat down, Porcelain came in. She moved with the deliberate slowness of someone who had a fragile body and was afraid of accidentally falling and getting injured. She sat down with the same care.
“Everyone,” I stated in mock formality. “I have gathered you here today because one of you is the murderer.”
“Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the pipe wrench,” Fixx said with a deceptively serious expression.
There was a pause before Porcelain quietly asked, “What was the time of death?”
“And what about motive?” Collin added with a chuckle.
We continued joking for several minutes before we finally got down to business. On the surface, Collin’s powers appeared to be very simple, he just created an area around him that became super sticky and kept anyone from being able to move their feet. However, Collin had explained that the people who’d tested his powers, who were actually the very same ones who’d tested mine, said that he created a warp field along the ground that fixed anything that touched it in space.
“Doctor Oswald called my power an anti-teleportation field,” Collin said. “Instead of moving things from one place to another, it keeps anything touching it from moving at all.” Then he looked at me and grinned. “I didn’t think he meant that it was literally an anti-teleportation field…not until I caught Slippery.”
Collin and I both chuckled at that, which earned a curious look from Fixx, who’d heard the story already. Still, Collin and I repeated the story for Porcelain’s benefit, adding a few more details in this time.
“The MCO captured these people,” Porcelain said when we were finished, looking at Collin and then me with her expressionless face. “And the MCO did not arrest either of you?”
“Her dad was the MCO agent in charge,” Collin pointed out, earning what I was sure would have been a look of surprise if Porcelain had been capable of giving one. “Of course he let her go, and she talked him into letting me go.”
“I can’t believe your dad is with the MCO,” Fixx said, giving me an odd look. “I mean, the MCO…”
“You cannot choose who your parents are,” Porcelain said quietly. “Nor should you be judged by their actions.”
Fixx nodded at that, then continued, “I keep hearing stories about how they make mutants disappear…”
“I’ve heard them too,” I admitted with a sigh. “And trust me, I know there a lot of assholes with the MCO, but not everyone is like that. Some of them are just trying to do their jobs right. In fact, most of the ones who are just trying to be professional are actually pretty pissed off at the ones who are using the MCO to hurt mutants.”
Collin nodded at that, no longer seeming to really doubt that after having met both my dad and Grace. Of course, he hadn’t become a big supporter of the MCO either, but then again, neither was I and I actually worked for them. There were still too many of those assholes in the organization for my taste.
“My power isn’t really very complicated,” Collin said thoughtfully. “I mean, it spreads out from me along the ground in a five yard radius. If I lose contact with the ground, my field turns off. There’s not really a whole lot I can do with it other than turn it off and on.”
“Can you direct your field in one direction rather than in all directions equally?” Porcelain asked.
“Let’s go somewhere he can actually practice,” Fixx suggested with an easy grin.
A few minutes later, we’d left Crystal Hall and found an open area that would be perfect. We tested Collin’s powers, seeing if he could expand the range so his field could go out further than five yards, which it could, though only very briefly. He could also make it smaller. After a number of attempts, he could even manipulate the shape his field spread out along the field, making it longer and more narrow so it was shaped like an oval instead of a circle. It wasn’t much, but it was definitely an improvement on his control.
“We’ve already made enough progress with my powers to get an A,” Collin said happily.
By this time, we were getting hungry and began heading back to Crystal Hall, this time for dinner. I thought about how Collin was using his powers and remembered how easily Shawn had taken him out during their sparring match a couple days ago.
“Do you think you can use your powers on yourself?” I asked Collin thoughtfully. “I mean, could you stick yourself in place so that someone couldn’t fling you away?”
“I’ve never tried using it on myself,” Collin admitted, suddenly looking thoughtful. “I’d just always assumed I was immune to getting stuck. I’ll definitely have to test that…”
“But later,” Fixx said with a grin. “Right now, I’m hungry.”
We got in line and got our food together, but afterwards Porcelain said, “I should go…”
“Come on,” Fixx urged her, “Come on and sit with us. We can keep talking about the project…”
Porcelain hesitated a moment before admitting, “Most people do not like to watch me eat…”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Fixx assured her, giving Collin and I a quick glance so we nodded agreement. After several seconds, she gave a faint nod.
A minute later, we were all sitting down at a table to eat. It didn’t take long to see what Porcelain meant about people not wanting to watch her eat. She held her food and her porcelain skin actually cracked and shattered around the lower part of her face as she opened her mouth. It looked gruesome and painful, and when she stopped chewing, the cracks all melted together and vanished as though they’d never existed. When she took a second bite, her face cracked again.
“Doesn’t that…hurt?” Fixx asked, looking worried.
Porcelain stopped eating to look at him. She was silent for a moment before answering, “This is not my skin.”
“It isn’t?” Collin asked in obvious surprise.
“In spite of the obvious assumption,” Porcelain said carefully, “I do not have GSD.”
I stared at her in realization as several pieces of information suddenly came together. “You’re a manifestor,” I said carefully. “That’s actually a manifested shell of some kind.”
Porcelain nodded at that. “Correct. I have a manifested shell which covers my body and which I cannot turn off.”
“That’s rough,” I said sympathetically. Then I hesitantly said, “When I first manifested, I started making everyone near me sick. Everyone got dizzy and started hallucinating. I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get near anyone without that happening…”
“Yet you no longer seem to have that problem,” Porcelain pointed out.
With that, all the faeries that I kept nearby landed on the table in front of me. I gestured to them and said, “I learned how to use these girls to control it. Every other magic user thinks that they’re just mistakes, but without these girls, I’d constantly be making everyone around me trip out.”
“I’m sure you’ll learn to control your shell,” Fixx stated confidently, giving Porcelain a reassuring smile. “Maybe we’ll cover manifestors in class so we can work on your powers next…” Then he paused for a moment before saying, “Heck, who says we even need the class to try working on your powers?”
“Thank you,” Porcelain responded, actually sounding happy through her muffled voice. “But that is not necessary. My powers and their limits have already been thoroughly tested. I am able to control them as much as I will ever be able to. I appreciate the sentiment, but it is not necessary.”
Just then, an arrogant voice snarled, “If it isn’t the pretty little cheater…”
I looked over and saw Centurion had come up behind us and was glaring at me. As I’d seen earlier today, his long hair had all been cut off and he now had short hair that was very closely cropped. Obviously, he didn’t want someone to beat him by grabbing his hair again. I couldn’t help but finding it funny that he’d cut his hair just because of me.
“She beat you fair and square,” Collin said with a note of warning in it. “Accept it and move on. You’ll get a chance to spar against her another time.”
“You cheated,” Centurion accused me.
“Of course I did,” I responded with a roll of my eyes, earning a look of surprise from him. He probably hadn’t expected me to admit it. “So did you. I was just better at it.”
Centurion looked angry and took another step towards me, or at least he tried. He suddenly stared down at his feet in surprise as he realized that Collin had stuck him in place.
“Back off,” Collin said in a firm tone.
“Do you have any idea how strong I am?” Centurion demanded, slamming one of his fists into an open palm in a threatening manner.
“I heard you say you were as strong as a hundred men,” Collin answered, not looking the least bit impressed. “Doesn’t do much good when you can’t get close to me though, does it?”
“Is there a problem here?” Dana asked as she came up with Jinx by her side. Dana gave Centurion a cold look, which seemed to have at least a little more impact on Centurion than Collin’s threat had. After all, Dana was a little closer to Centurion’s power level.
“We’ll settle this in class,” Centurion stated, giving me a cold look before he turned and walked away.
“I wonder what he’d do if you copied his powers,” I told Dana with a grin, imagining her with all of his powers added to her own.
Dana laughed at that then sat down at the table before admitting, “It wouldn’t work. If I copied his powers, I’d only get a weakened version of them, enough to give me a small boost to my strength and stamina…maybe enough to match him.”
“She can’t really copy another exemplar,” Jinx explained.
“True,” Dana agreed, “but Centurion isn’t an exemplar. He’s a faux exemplar. He absorbs ambient energy to increase his strength, stamina and regeneration. Centurion is actually an internal energizer.”
“And you told me that you couldn’t copy internal energizers,” I said thoughtfully.
“Well, I can,” Dana responded with a shrug. “But I get a weakened version, just like I do with most other powers. I found that out when I tried copying a speedster the day after I got here. It turns out, the only other powers I can copy at full strength are compatible energizer ones. Things like energy blasts, force fields, and some other external effects that my own natural energizer abilities are able to synchronize with.”
Dana actually sounded a little disappointed by her limits so I just laughed. “Quit being so greedy. You’ve already got more than enough power as it is.”
Dana just grinned at me and said, “Remind me to learn a couple low level spells for the next time I copy a magic user.”
We all continued talking about our powers for the rest of dinner, taking a hint from our class project on warper powers and offering suggestions for each other on things to try. I noticed that Porcelain offered several interesting suggestions, but seemed uncomfortable when anyone tried talking about her abilities. Considering that she couldn’t turn them off, it was no wonder she was sensitive about the subject.
Eventually, dinner was over and we all began leaving Crystal Hall. Porcelain excused herself and promised to see us tomorrow in class, then she hurried off, or at least left at her usual slow and careful pace.
“Since it’s a green flag day,” Dana said cheerfully as she put an arm around Jinx, “I promised Amanda that I’d take her flying.”
With that, a golden bubble appeared around the two of them and they lifted up into the air and then floated off. I watched them for a few seconds, feeling just a little jealous of Jinx. After all, flying around in a bubble like that looked like a lot of fun.
“You want to hang out with us?” Collin asked me, almost eagerly.
“I’m afraid I can’t,” I told him, actually regretting it a little. “I have some things I need to take care of.” Then on a sudden impulse, I grabbed him in a hug and said, “Thanks for standing up to Centurion for me.” I let him go and grinned as I added, “I didn’t really need the help, but I appreciate it anyway.”
With that, I waved goodbye to Collin and Fixx, then started back to Poe. I hadn’t gone far though before I noticed that someone was standing in my path, obviously waiting for me. Centurion stood there with his arms crossed and a cocky smirk on his face.
“I decided that I don’t want to wait until class to settle this,” Centurion stated. He gave me a steady look and announced, “There are two ways this can go. You can apologize for cheating and make it up to me with a kiss, or we can go again right here and now. No referee and no stupid circle to get knocked out of.”
“I choose option three,” I responded cheerfully, right before I started to run.
“Get back here,” Centurion yelled at me, though I only laughed as he began to chase. I could have hit him with my faeries and given him a good dose of glamour, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. “You green haired bitch…”
Centurion quickly proved himself to be faster than I’d expected, which meant that I needed to get creative. I hit a bench and vaulted over it, then led him down to some stairs, leaping over the whole bunch. He continued after me, moving fast but not nearly as efficiently. I was definitely having fun, enough that I was almost tempted to slow down in order to prolong the chase a bit more, but I did have other plans for the night so started for Poe instead.
“Got you now,” Centurion cried out as he jumped, and to my surprise, actually landed right ahead of me.
“Holy Hulk leaps,” I blurted out in surprise.
When Centurion charged at me, I jumped to the side and avoided him. He tried several more lunges, but I was able to dodge and avoid them. At this point, I was losing interest in this as a game and was starting to get just a little worried. Not too much since I still had a few tricks up my sleeve, but enough to know that I’d actually have to take this guy seriously.
Suddenly, a new voice called out, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
I looked up and was surprised to see Zenith and Iron Rose coming towards us from the front door of Poe, neither of them looking happy. Centurion stopped and watched them curiously, especially Zenith. Rose glared at Centurion and then her body rippled and she was suddenly made out of metal.
Centurion didn’t look afraid at suddenly being outnumbered, but he did look annoyed. “We’ll deal with this later,” he told me before he turned and walked away.
“Thanks,” I told my rescuers, especially surprised by Rose since she’d previously tried attacking me herself.
“Poesies stick together,” Rose responded with a grunt. A moment later, her body returned to normal and then she turned and went back into the cottage without saying another word.
“I saw the way you were running,” Zenith told me with a speculative look. “Have you ever done any parkour?”
“A little I responded curiously. Then I watched Zenith for a moment before adding, “I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half.”
Zenith smiled at that and said, “Then I think you need to meet the Hooligans. If you’re interested, we’re going for a run this Saturday. We’re meeting up in front of Schuster at nine.”
After Zenith had walked away, I mused, “Hooligans? Is this some sort of soccer club?” I shook my head as I went into Poe, deciding that I was curious enough to at least check it out.
I went to the common room where Cindy, Lina, and Downpour were playing some kind of card game with one of the guys from the boy side of the cottage. Ricardo was so flamboyantly gay, I couldn’t help but wondering how they’d possibly kept Poe’s secret for so long.
“You want to play?” Cindy asked me, gesturing to the card game.
I stared at the cards, seeing one card had a picture of a teddy bear with a machine gun while another card appeared to have a little girl on a motorcycle. I shook my head, deciding that I really didn’t want to know any more about the game than that.
“No thanks,” I responded.
I glanced at Downpour, who hadn’t even looked up at me. A quick peek at her aura revealed that she was fairly depressed, but not as bad as I’d seen her before. For Downpour, this seemed to be the equivalent of a good day. I couldn’t help but feeling a surge of sympathy at that.
Lina stood up and absently ‘adjusted herself’ in the same way I’d seen countless boys do before. In fact, I used to do it myself back when I’d had the parts to adjust. I didn’t say anything as I didn’t want to embarrass her, though I hoped she was a bit more careful about doing that in public or she might be as big a threat to Poe’s secret as Ricardo.
“I’ve been working on my power,” Lina said with a grin. “I’ve figured out how to use it to make people a bit dazed and confused… It’s not a whole lot different than what I did before, but it’s definitely something…”
“Congratulations,” I told her with a grin. “You’ll have to show me sometime.”
I left the girls to their game and went back to my room where I immediately pulled out the laptop that Dad had given me. After pulling up the right program and entering my password, I then typed Centurion’s codename. A moment later, I had his MID open in front of me.
Since I was now technically an MCO employee, Dad had been able to get me access to the MID database. I had access to every MID that the MCO had on record, though I didn’t have access to anything more than that. I couldn’t see police records, power testing results, or anything else, only the MIDs, which didn’t even include a real name. Still, as long as I had someone’s codename, I could look up their MID and see what their powers were…or at least what were on record. As I knew firsthand, an MID didn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
“Yep, he’s an internal energizer,” I mused as I looked over Centurion’s MID. According to that, it looked like he was the equivalent of an exemplar five, which was a pretty impressive rating. Then I saw his weaknesses and laughed. “Strong allergic reaction to strawberries. I wonder if I should start carrying some strawberry jam.”
I studied Centurion’s MID for a minute, making some mental notes, then I searched the MIDs of a few other people. As Dad had obviously intended, being able to get an idea of what other people were capable of was a nice advantage when it came to protecting myself from them. In Centurion’s case, my best bet was to simply keep out of his reach, which I’d already guessed on my own.
When I was finished, I shut down my laptop and decided to get to work. I released a surge of magic and created a couple dozen new faeries, then I opened my bedroom door and released them to do their work. I settled down on my bed and closed my eyes, focusing on one of the faeries that I was linked to.
“Got it,” I announced as I was suddenly seeing through the eyes of my tiny spy. I shifted my attention to a second faerie and then a third, quickly getting glimpses of nearly all the public areas of Poe.
Mrs. Lauriant had told me that a magic user could often use the eyes and senses of their familiar as though they were their own, and after reading up on how to do it in my book, I’d discovered that I could do that with my hobgoblins. At that moment, I could really only see from one of my faeries at a time, but I was confident that with a bit of practice, I’d be able to expand that number.
When I found myself looking down at the common room, I paused, noticing that there were three girls sitting there doing homework. One of them was a beautiful blonde girl that I’d heard referred to as Bunny, one was the graceful black girl Toni, and the last was the one that sent a chill down my spine. It was Nikki.
“Oh look,” Toni said, pointing straight at my faerie. “Another hobgoblin. That new girl has these things all over Poe…”
“They’re so cute,” Bunny said with a grin. “I wonder if we can talk her into joining Wondercute…”
Toni just laughed, flipping backwards and doing a handstand on the back of her chair, which she was tipping so only one leg was on the floor. “She’s kind of weird. I mean, she runs away every time she sees Nikki.” She grinned at Nikki and asked, “Come on, what did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” Nikki said defensively, looking a little hurt. “I don’t know why she’s afraid of me. I went to talk to her, but a bunch of her hobgoblins distracted me, and when I looked back, she was gone…”
“Why don’t you just go to her room?” Bunny asked. “I mean, you do know where she lives…”
Nikki let out a sigh and admitted, “I’m afraid that would just scare her more…”
“Poor thing,” Bunny commented sympathetically.
Toni nodded and then did a flip before catching herself on the chair in a handstand again. “Yeah, I hear her Dad is with the MCO. That has got to be awful. It’s no wonder she’s so traumatized…”
“She’s Sidhe,” Nikki said with a sigh. “So it probably has something to do with Aunghadhail or the whole queen to come thing.”
The name Aunghadhail sent another chill down my spine and I almost lost contact with my faerie. This conversation was a distraction from my mission, but I couldn’t resist listening in.
“Well, Unga-Dunga was pretty intimidating,” Toni said, suddenly looking sad. “But you don’t have her ghost living in your head anymore.” She quickly gave Nikki an apologetic look. “Sorry…”
“I don’t think she’d know about Aunghadhail,” Nikki said in in a quiet voice, which cracked just a little as she spoke. “I don’t know why she’s afraid of me. I don’t think it was anything I did…”
I listened for another minute but then their conversation shifted to something else. I let out a sigh and pulled back from my faerie and then shook my head.
“Aunghadhail,” I said, testing the name and somehow ‘knowing’ that was the name of the elf queen in my dreams. Toni had said something about her ghost having been in Nikki’s head. I gulped and whispered, “It was real… It was all real…”
I remained where I was for several minutes, feeling stunned and shaken by these revelations. Someone from my dreams had actually been mentioned in the real world…in connection to a girl who looked just like her. Nikki didn’t just remind me of the elf queen from my nightmares. Somehow, she was tied to her even more than that.
“But if she was real,” I whispered to myself. “Then what about me? About my dream-self?”
I definitely had a lot of questions and not many answers. And after thinking about it for a little longer, I realized that I could remain distracted by this or focus on something of more immediate importance. After all, I’d spread my faeries out around Poe for a reason.
It was with some difficulty that I turned my attention back to the task at hand, quickly locating the person that I’d been looking for. Once I knew where she was, I decided that I was ready.
“Step one completed,” I said. “Now for step two.”
I stepped out of my room and looked around the hallway, making sure there was no one else there to see. Then I cast an illusion spell that I’d been practicing over the last couple days, one that put the illusion over myself. To anyone else, I no longer looked like Absinthe. Instead, I looked like someone else entirely.
“I can only hold this for a couple minutes,” I reminded myself, knowing that I had to hurry.
With that, I quickly made my way up to the sophomore’s wing, then went to where my faerie was watching my target. Less than a minute later, I had my target in sight. Jade was in the hallway, talking to the strange girl with the spikey silvery blue hair that I’d seen floating in the halls.
Since I didn’t want to waste any time, I cast the spell that I’d prepared and a moment later, Jade was covered in an illusion, much the way I was. However, where my illusion made me look like someone else, hers merely made her clothes look different.
“What the…?” the spikey haired girl blurted out, staring at Jade in horror.
“What?” Jade demanded, looking down at herself and then screaming.
She now appeared to be wearing a pair of hideous yellow plaid pants, a pink and lime green polka-dot shirt, and a jester’s cap. The whole wardrobe had been inspired by the eye aching clothes I’d seen Jericho wearing.
Jade’s expression was enough to make me burst out laughing, immediately drawing her attention to me. She glared at me with a look of anger and screamed, “BELTANE!”
I just waved at Jade and ran off, letting my illusion drop once I was out of sight. “Steps two and three complete,” I said with a laugh. Not only had I retaliated against Jade, but I’d also placed the blame on Beltane.
I was feeling quite satisfied with myself, but I still wasn’t done. I returned to my room to grab the supplies that I’d left there, an empty pie tin and a can of whipped cream. I quickly made a whip cream pie, then a minute later, three of my faeries flew out of my room while carrying the pie.
“Now to keep concentrating,” I said with closed eyes, focusing on not only controlling the faeries while seeing through one of their eyes, but also on maintaining the illusion that I’d cast on them.
My faeries flew up the stairs to the top floor, the one where the seniors lived. They went straight for target two, finding Beltane in the common room and smacking her right in the face with the pie before they quickly flew away.
A moment later, Beltane confirmed that my illusion had worked. Instead of seeing my three faeries, she’d seen a flying ‘Hello Kitty’ doll because she yelled out, “JADE!”
I willed almost all of my faerie spies to pop and vanish, all except a couple which I kept to watch my two targets. I sat there with an evil grin as I watched the results of my plan unfold. After several minutes, I opened my eyes and burst out laughing.
“I love it when a plan comes together.”
To Be Continued