Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice (Part 2)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice
Saturday morning, Oct 20th, 2007
A sense of calm tranquility pervaded my dream as I sat within an empty courtyard, sipping on a glass of wine. I slowly looked around my surroundings, which were framed with tree branches and magic, providing such a serene beauty that I nearly didn’t mind that the one I was to meet with was quite late.
Then she finally arrived, Aunghadhail, Daughter of the Burning Oak, Paramount Queen of the West. She was stunningly beautiful as always, with long red hair, piercing eyes, and a flowing dress that was more magic and illusion than actual fabric. The queen radiated such a sense of power and beauty that it could easily overwhelm any who were not prepared.
I bowed down and gave her a proper formal greeting, adding “Welcome my queen.” Then with a smile, I teased, “You’re late.”
“A queen is never late,” Aunghadhail responded with an amused look. “Nor is she early. She always arrives when she intends.”
With that, Aunghadhail sat down while I poured her a glass of wine. Only after she had taken a sip and had given permission did I sit down as well.
“I would have been here sooner,” Aunghadhail admitted, “but my meeting with ambassador Rythax took longer than expected.” It was not an apology as a queen never apologized, though it was more of an explanation than I was owed.
“Affairs of the state must always come first,” I replied, remembering that my mother had been fond of reminding me of that when I was a child.
Aunghadhail didn’t respond to that, though she took a sip of her wine and then said, “You have completed your training and will depart to serve our forces tomorrow. I wished to see you before you left in order to wish you good fortune.”
“Thank you,” I responded, pleased by the personal attention. As a queen, she was very busy with more responsibilities than I could fully grasp, so it was a great honor that she would put aside even a few minutes like this to meet with me.
For a moment, she stared at me, then said, “With your lineage, I am surprised that you choose to serve as a scout…”
I bowed my head at that, then admitted, “I do not have the strength of magic of my mother, nor the strength of arms of my father. I merely wish to use my talents where they will be of the most use. Whether it is glorious or not, I must do my part.”
“As we all must,” Aunghadhail agreed with a note of approval. She was silent for a moment before saying, “The loss of your parents to the enemy is a great sadness to me, so fulfil your duty with care. I do not wish to see you fall to the enemy as well.”
“Yes, my queen,” I responded with smile.
It was at this point that I was woken up by the sound of my alarm going off. I sat up in bed and turned off the alarm, then shook my head as I tried making sense of the quickly fading dream. This was the first dream that I’d had like this in several days and one of the few that had actually been pleasant. What was most surprising though, was that this elf queen Aunghadhail, who had previously been a figure of fear in my dreams, had actually been…friendly.
For a brief moment, I considered looking for Nikki and asking her about Aunghadhail, but I’d been avoiding her for the last week and the idea of actually talking to her now just seemed…awkward. I was a bit embarrassed about how I’d been acting towards her, but even after this latest dream, she still sent chills down my spine.
I glanced at my clock, wondering if I could get a little more sleep in but then deciding against it. It was with some reluctance that I climbed out of bed, grabbed my bathrobe and shower supplies, and then started down the hall to the showers.
It was Saturday morning, so the showers weren’t nearly as full as they were during the week, but I still had to wait for one of them to open up. The girl in front of me was a petite black girl named Breakdown, who was one of the lesbians on the floor. I didn’t know much about her beyond that, other than that she was rooming with Downpour and was apparently some kind of devisor or gadgeteer. I hadn’t talked to her before, but she seemed to have a vague contempt for magic and little interest in me personally.
Cindy came into the showers, surprising me since she actually had green hair and skin, or at least partially green. “Let me guess,” Breakdown said, giving her a curious look. “You got caught by Jade or Belle?”
Yeah,” Cindy responded with a sigh. “Those two have been going at each other like crazy… This time, its water balloons filled with paint…”
I like the hair color,” I said with a wry smile, feeling just a little guilty.
When I’d retaliated against Jade and Beltane last Wednesday, I’d triggered a practical joke war between the two girls. And unfortunately, a few innocents had inadvertently been caught in the crossfire. I had no problem with turning my two attackers against each other, though I couldn’t help but feeling bad for those who’d been caught between them.
I just hope Thorn doesn’t decide to get involved,” Cindy pointed out. “Can you imagine a three way war?”
It might be fun to watch,” I said thoughtfully, thinking about the boy whom I’d been told was another huge joker. “From a distance.”
Once I finished with my shower, I quickly got dressed and went to Crystal Hall for breakfast, not even waiting for anyone else. After all, I had an appointment at Schuster Hall at nine, and I didn’t want to be late. After Zenith had invited me to meet up with the Hooligans, I’d done some asking around and found out that she meant the Parkour Hooligans, a school club for parkour runners. That sounded right up my alley so I didn’t want to miss out.
I arrived at the meeting place with more than enough time to spare, finding that several other students were already gathered. Zenith was there, obviously dressed for running, as was everyone else. She actually smiled when she saw me.
Everyone, this is Absinthe,” Zenith introduced me. “She’s a new froshie in Poe.”
Call me Gwen,” I said self-consciously.
Nice to meet you,” a brown haired girl with a squirrel siting on her shoulder exclaimed. “I’m Aquerna.”
I’m Thrasher,” a slender boy announced. Then he asked, “Have you done much running?”
I’ve been free running for about a year and a half,” I answered, suddenly feeling like I was being given an interview.
We’ll see what you’ve got,” a tall and athletic looking boy said, looking a little skeptical.
Don’t mind Slapdash,” Aquerna told me. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
And here comes the last member of the Parkour Hooligans,” Zenith told me, gesturing towards a very odd looking girl who was coming towards us. “Or at least, the last one coming today. This is Caitlin.”
Caitlin was beautiful and statuesque, with metallic black hair, white skin that looked almost like marble, and she was covered with metallic blue tattoos. Her clothes were fairly normal, with a white tank top that showed off some intricate tattoo patterns, a pair of black jeans, and she had a nightstick hanging from her waist. It was an unusual looking nightstick though, smoky-black, glassy, and had runes on it. Then out of curiosity, I glanced at her aura and winced, quickly looking away. It was filled with powerful magic…and was very strange.
This is Absinthe,” Zenith introduced me to Caitlin, who stared at me with a strange expression.
Pleased to meet you,” Caitlin finally responded. “Always glad to have another Hooligan join the ranks. Hope you’re up for a workout. We’re doing the Daredevil run today.”
After another minute of general introductions, we started on our run. Caitlin took the lead and everyone else followed her path, which led halfway around campus, hitting steps, benches, and walls, all before we finally reached a back area that contained some kind of an obstacle course. Whateley didn’t have nearly as many places to use as Seattle, but the obstacle course made up for it all. It was a challenge, which meant that it was also a lot of fun.
I strongly suspected that at least part of the obstacle course had been set up for exemplars and others with enhanced physical abilities, which only made it more interesting to work around. There was one high wall, which Aquerna scrambled up as easily as a squirrel climbed a tree. I couldn’t help but being a little impressed with the ease in which she’d done that.
When we paused to take a break, I told Aquerna, “That’s pretty cool the way you climb. You really are like a squirrel.”
She gave me a suspicious look, as though sure I had to be teasing her. “Okay…”
I like squirrels,” I assured her with a grin, thinking about the ones that were always teasing my cat Gozer. “We have some back home that are always messing with our poor cat.”
That got the squirrel girl to start laughing. “Yeah, squirrels are great…” Then she grinned at me and said, “You’re the one Fixx told us about, aren’t you? The girl with the pet faeries?”
What makes you say that?” I asked with my best innocent look as a half dozen faeries, who’d been following me around from above landed on my shoulders.
Aquerna’s eyes suddenly went wide and she blurted out, “They’re so cute…”
I chuckled at that as we all got ready to continue our run. I noticed that Caitlin was staring at me with a strange expression, though she quickly looked away and once again took the lead in creating our path. Several times after that, I caught her looking back and giving me odd looks, which were starting to creep me out a little.
When we finally finished with our run, I was feeling a bit sore and tired, just like I should feel after cutting loose like that. I had a feeling that if I continued running with these guys, I’d get plenty of opportunity to improve my free running skills, especially with the way Caitlin moved.
It was good running with you,” Thrasher told me with an approving nod. “We’re running again next weekend, if you’re interested.”
We’d be happy to have you,” Caitlin added while Slapdash nodded agreement.
Yeah,” Aquerna said excitedly. “We need more girls…”
Slapdash and Thrasher looked at each other before Thrasher responded with a grin, “We boys are already outnumbered, but we don’t really mind…”
Zenith stood back with a somewhat smug look. I wasn’t sure if this was because she got some kind of ‘finders fee’ status boost for finding me, or if she just liked the idea of not being the only one from Poe who was interested in parkour. However, it was obvious that she was happy that I’d agreed to come back next week.
While everyone else was starting to leave and go their separate directions, I turned to Caitlin, who was once again giving me an odd look. “Okay,” I finally said, giving her a wary look. “Why do you keep giving me the stink-eye?”
Sorry,” Caitlin told me with a wry smile. “You just have an…an uncanny resemblance to someone I met a LONG time ago. It…it wasn’t a very good time for me.”
Oh,” I responded, not sure what to say to that.
Caitlin just grinned, suddenly seeming like she was in a better mood. Then she nodded towards me and said, “See you next week,” before she left as well.
Weird girl,” I muttered with a shake of my head. From her messed up aura, I had a feeling that I didn’t know the half of it.
I took my time returning to Poe, enjoying the nice leisurely pace after having gone for the long run. And when I saw Centurion in the distance, I formed a quick illusion around myself, making me resemble someone else until he was no longer looking in my direction. I made it back to Poe without any trouble or incidents, much to my relief. I wasn’t sure I had the energy for another run so soon.
I had nearly reached my room when I noticed Mrs. Horton standing in the hallway, talking to Dana and Jinx right outside their door. “Now, about this room situation,” Mrs. Horton started to say.
Suddenly, Rose yelled, “Get back here,” and ran down the hallway, chasing a stuffed white lion toy, which was laughing as it ran away from her. I would have been surprised, but the lion had the same aura as Jade. Ever since I’d moved in, I’d noticed a number of supposedly inanimate objects, all moving around Poe with the same aura. It was obvious to me that there was something more going on with Jade’s powers than what her MID said.
At that moment, another figure suddenly descended from the ceiling, revealing that it was a sophomore girl who I thought was named Phase. I hadn’t met her yet, but as soon as she landed on the floor, she turned and walked right through the wall as though it wasn’t even there and quickly vanished from view.
Then there came a loud crashing sound from the next room over, making me jump. Mrs. Horton looked around with an expression of surprise, and when the chaos had faded away, she turned back only to find that Dana and Jinx had both slipped away during the excitement. I just laughed, wondering how much of that had been due to Jinx’s powers.
Those girls,” Mrs. Horton muttered with a shake of her head.
I chuckled at Mrs. Horton’s reactions, then went to take another shower. Sure, I’d already taken one just a few hours ago, but after that run, I was definitely in need of another one. Besides, I had another appointment scheduled for immediately after lunch and I needed to be clean and presentable for that one.
A short time later, I left my room and was immediately greeted with a wolf whistle. I snapped around and saw Dana in the hallway with a broad grin on her face, while Jinx glared at her and then elbowed her in the side.
What’s the special occasion?” Dana asked me curiously.
I looked down at myself and the dress I was currently wearing. “I have a class to get to,” I told her, earning a curious look in response. “Let’s just say, my teacher’s dress code is a little more strict than what the school has.”
I think it looks nice on you,” Jinx told me with a nod of approval. She turned to Dana and demanded, “Why don’t you wear dresses?”
For one,” Dana responded with a roll of her eyes, “I don’t own any. And for another…I REALLY don’t want to wear something that girlie. It’s bad enough having to wear a skirt with the school uniform.”
You are such a tomboy,” Jinx teased her while Dana and I both nodded.
Let’s see how well you’d adjust if you suddenly turned into a boy,” Dana muttered.
Been there, done that,” Lina commented as she came over. “Don’t like it.”
As far as I’m concerned, you’re still all girl,” Cindy told her with an appreciative look, earning a smile from Lina as well as a blush.
The five of us went to lunch together and the conversation somehow remained stuck on what was appropriate fashion for girls, as well as what worked for tomboys. It was a strange topic as far as I was concerned, but we were a strange group, especially considering that two of our group were former boys, two were natural lesbians, and one was a girl with boy equipment.
Unfortunately, I had to finish eating and then excuse myself early because I didn’t want to be late. After saying some quick goodbyes, I hurried on my way, going straight to the cluster of trees where I’d previously planted the seed that Mrs. Lauriant had given me.
The last time I’d been to this spot, there had been a small sapling, but it had definitely grown. In place of the sapling, there was actually a full sized tree, one with a trunk more than a foot across.
Wow,” I mused as I looked over the tree. “That thing sure grew fast.”
After a few minutes, I checked my watch and decided it was time. With that, I put my hand to the tree trunk and released a little essence, just enough to signal that I was here. I immediately felt a return pulse so pulled my hand away and backed up.
The bark of the trunk suddenly began to ripple and change shape until it looked as though a statue of a woman had been carved into the trunk. It didn’t look like just any woman though, it looked like Mrs. Lauriant, wearing the Woodwife armor that Dad had shown me a picture of.
Hello Gwendolynn,” Mrs. Lauriant said from the tree. The statue, which she was somehow possessing, actually moved as she spoke. However, her feet remained where they were, part of the tree and rooted to the ground. “It is good to see you are punctual and dressed appropriately.”
Of course,” I responded with a wry smile.
To start with,” she began, staring at me from her wooden face. “Please tell me what you have been learning this past week.”
I was about to answer her, then paused, remembering that there was something I really wanted to talk about. “Actually, I have something I need to ask you first…”
Go ahead child,” she encouraged me gently, apparently noticing that I was nervous.
I took a deep breath, then said, “Ever since I changed, I’ve been having dreams… Dreams of being an elf…I mean…a Sidhe…”
I told her about my dreams and how I’d begun to realize that they were more than just dreams. When I told her about being able to cast some of the spells that I’d learned in the dreams, she suddenly became even more interested.
When I was done, I hesitantly asked, “Is this some kind of reincarnation thing?”
That is possible,” Mrs. Lauriant told me thoughtfully. “From what you describe, these dreams certainly do sound like they could be memories. However, this may also be less a matter of past life regression and more a case of ancestral memories.”
Ancestral memories?” I asked curiously.
We know that one of your distant ancestors appears to have somehow been Sidhe,” she explained gently. “I believe that when your mutation awoke your Sidhe DNA, you not only became Sidhe…you also became a copy of that ancestor. That would explain why you changed genders.”
What?” I blurted out, surprised that she actually knew about my sex change when I’d never said a word about it to her.
However, Mrs. Lauriant didn’t stop and explain how she knew about my sex change. Instead, she continued, “I believe you are physically an identical copy of your Sidhe ancestor, and that because of this, you may have inherited some of her memories along with her form.”
I thought about that for a moment, and in a way, I actually found the idea somewhat comforting. If I’d turned into a copy of my ancestor and was simply seeing some of her memories, that would explain so much. And as weird as it was, it was actually a bit less creepy than the idea of actually having been that woman in my dreams and living through those horrible events.
So, I’m not seeing some past life,” I said with some relief. “I’m just seeing my ancestor’s memories…”
Perhaps,” Mrs. Lauriant admitted with a frown. “I have no way of knowing for certain. And to be honest, it is possible that both explanations are true.”
Do not worry about this overmuch,” Mrs. Lauriant told me gently. “The events in your dreams occurred a very long time ago, and even if you had lived through them in a previous life, you are not that person. You have a life of your own now. Learn from these dreams, but do not let them direct how you live your life.”
Thank you,” I told her, feeling a little reassured.
Now then,” Mrs. Lauriant said with a faint smile. “About your lessons…”
Monday late morning, Oct 22nd, 2007
It didn’t matter if you were at a normal school or one filled with super powered mutants, the one inescapable fact of school life was that Mondays sucked. As I sat at what had become my normal table in Crystal Hall, Dana grumbled pretty much the same thing, apparently having been caught by surprise this morning with a pop quiz. I was in complete sympathy since my morning hadn’t gone very well either.
I hate mornings,” Dana grumbled, taking a sip of her coffee. “And I have to work tonight during dinner, so I won’t be able to sit with you guys.”
You know, you didn’t have to get that job,” Jinx pointed out. “Didn’t you say Jackie would happily send you spending money?”
Dana nodded at that, then admitted, “Yeah, but I’m not exactly thrilled about where that money comes from, and I don’t want to give her any more excuses than she already has to get into more trouble.”
Just then, I noticed Fixx and Porcelain slowly walking towards the underdogs table. Porcelain was moving slowly as usual and Fixx appeared to be keeping her company, which wasn’t really surprising. I’d noticed that he was a little protective of her.
Hey,” I waved to them. “You guys want to sit here with us.”
I’d already invited Collin to sit with me, so he nodded. “Hey Fixx, how’d you do on that quiz you were studying for last night?”
Not bad,” Fixx responded as he joined us, gesturing for Porcelain to do the same.
This is Dana and Jinx,” I told Porcelain as I introduced her to my friends. Fixx had already met them previously.
We have some classes together,” Porcelain said after a moment.
Survival, for one,” Jinx told me cheerfully, once again reminding me that I really wanted to check out that class sometime.
Algebra,” Dana added with a sigh, obviously depressed since that was the class where she’d gotten hit with the pop quiz this morning.
Porcelain looked around the table, then hesitantly said, “If you do not mind my eating in front of you…”
Dana laughed, then told her, “Trust me, you can’t be nearly as bad as my little sister when she starts playing one of her games.”
Porcelain was a little hesitant before she began eating, but when no one began teasing her she seemed to become a little more confident about eating in front of us. It was a bit weird to watch, so I tried not to stare at her. I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable or think she wasn’t welcomed here.
A few minutes later, Dana groaned, “Oh no. Not them…”
What?” I asked, then noticed two boys were coming towards us. One had a smirk on his face and a microphone in his hand while the other boy held a video camera and had hair that appeared to have been greased back with motor oil. “Who are they?”
Peeper and Greasy,” Jinx stated with a look of distaste on her face. “Looking the way you do, I’m surprised you haven’t run into them yet.”
They got me on my first day in classes,” Dana muttered in obvious annoyance.
We’re here with the new beauty at Whateley, Absinthe,” Peeper announced into the microphone, staring at my chest with a leer that made me VERY uncomfortable. Greasy just stood back and pointed the camera at me.
"Prue is gonna kill me for this," Greasy muttered to himself with a sigh.
Go away,” Dana told them in a cold voice.
Leave me alone,” I said, starting to turn away from them.
So,” Peeper continued, completely ignoring the fact that we didn’t want him there. “All the guys out there are wondering, what are your turn-ons?
I’d though that the way he was staring at me was bad enough, but this line of conversation was even worse. I made an effort to try ignoring him, but Greasy moved to keep pointing the camera at me and Peeper stuck the microphone in my face.
Suddenly, sparks came from the camera and Greasy jumped back, exclaiming, “The camera isn’t working…”
A moment later, Peeper started shaking the microphone muttering, “This stupid thing isn’t working either.”
Jinx just sat there with an evil smile on her face, saying, “Wow, all your equipment broke at once. That’s just bad luck.”
You’ll pay for that,” Peeper exclaimed, in what I thought was a threat, until he added, “I’m sending you the bill…”
Peeper and Greasy hurried off, but they hadn’t gone far before three separate students all tripped and their trays went flying, right at the two pests. Peeper and Greasy stood there for a moment, covered with food before they ran away as fast as they could, with all the nearby students laughing, including everyone at our table.
Won’t you get in trouble for using your powers on other students like that?” I asked Jinx.
Jinx just grinned and asked, “Who can prove that I used my powers? After all, bad luck and coincidences happen all the time…”
Good point,” Dana agreed with a broad grin of her own.
After a few minutes, we got up to leave and go our separate ways. Collin, Dana, and I were going to martial arts, but the others had different classes to get to. As we were leaving the table though, I suddenly noticed Caitlin. She was standing halfway across Crystal Hall, right next to a garishly dressed Jericho and what appeared to be a velociraptor from the old Jurassic Park movie. Of course, I’d learned from one of my teachers that real velociraptors weren’t anywhere near that size, but that was still my impression. However, what caught my attention wasn’t the dinosaur, but the fact that Caitlin had been staring at me with an odd look.
Come on,” I told my friends as we started to leave the cafeteria.
Dana, Collin, and I had nearly made it to the exit when we suddenly found our path blocked by three other students. The one in the middle was Centurion, who still seemed to be holding a grudge against me from my first day in class. The two people who were with him were ones I’d never met, though I had paid enough attention to know who they were. The lean looking boy with the cocky grin was called Switchblade while the hot looking brunette girl was Slingshot. From what I’d gathered, these were Centurion’s best friend and girlfriend.
We have business to attend to,” Centurion stated grimly.
Switchblade looked to Dana and Collin, adding, “We’re just here to make sure you two don’t interfere…”
Slingshot gave me an angry glare, and when I glanced at her aura, I could see the jealousy radiating off her. After Centurion had begun his campaign of harassment against me, I’d made sure to check out who his friends were and ask about them, not to mention look up their MIDs. I knew that Switchblade was a low level speedster who could also manifest small bladed weapons, and Slingshot could absorb kinetic energy, then release it as force blasts. Both of them were pretty dangerous.
This slut thinks she’s all that,” Slingshot said, giving me a sneer.
I just smiled faintly and told Centurion, “I take it that you didn’t tell your girlfriend here that you tried to make me kiss you?”
She’s just making that up,” Centurion quickly told Slingshot, who gave me another glare.
It looks like this is going to be fun,” Dana said with an eager grin while Collin nodded.
I let out a sigh, definitely not wanting to fight them, much less here in the cafeteria. “You’re starting to get on my nerves,” I told Centurion. “Is your confidence really so bad that you have to throw a hissy fit like this just because I was able to beat in in class? You know, that’s pretty pathetic.”
Dana snickered at that, then told me, “After facing down the Liberty League, and a bunch of MCO goons at the same time, I don’t really think these three are going to be much of a problem.”
Don’t get cocky,” Collin warned her with a grim expression.
Switchblade held out his hand and a small glowing blade appeared in it. A second later he tried to lunge, probably just trying to intimidate us, though he found his feet were stuck in place. Unfortunately, so were mine and Dana’s too.
Since things had already begun, I had two of my faeries fly around and hit Switchblade and Centurion from behind, releasing all the glamour energy that I’d had stored. I didn’t have any faeries to hit Slingshot with, or at least none that contained glamour energy, but she wasn’t a threat yet. From what I understood, she wasn’t really dangerous unless you started to hit her.
Switchblade screamed and began to frantically grab at his clothes, yelling, “They’re alive…”
What is up with you?” Slingshot demanded, apparently not noticing that Centurion was starting to look around frantically as well.
Let’s get out of here,” I whispered to my friends, hurrying past the three confused students before they could regain their senses. I looked back just long enough to see Switchblade tearing off his clothes in front of the cafeteria, laughing at the sight but having a feeling that I’d be paying for it later. “Come on, let’s get to class.”
We arrived at class then went and got changed and took our places on the mat. It didn’t take much longer before Centurion came in, looking extremely pissed. He glared at me but made no efforts to attack me, not with Tolman and Ito being present. However, I just hoped that they didn’t ask me to spar against Centurion today because I had a feeling that could end up badly.
After some initial exercises and practice with forms, Ito and Tolman began splitting us up into pairs to spar. I was put up against Vulpine, a girl with three fox tails who was in my first period class. There was no doubt in my mind that I could beat her in a straight fight, as I could anyone else in this class, but once powers were thrown into the mix… As I’d learned, powers were the ultimate cheat, changing all the rules. I just needed to learn how to be better about using mine.
Vulpine and I sparred back and forth with punches and kicks, though I had to hold back a bit since I didn’t want to hurt her while we were just sparring. But then Tolman told us to use our powers and everything changed. Vulpine reached into a pouch she had strapped to her waist and pulled out a handful of papers, ones which contained magic spells that had previously been cast on them. Because of that, she suddenly flung a fireball at me, formed some kind of force field around herself, and then blasted me again with another fireball.
Damn,” I exclaimed as I dove to the side, not even getting time to cast a single spell. I pushed out raw magic, creating a couple dozen faeries that suddenly began to fly into her face to distract her. That finally gave me the opportunity to cast a spell of my own, one which created two illusion copies of myself.
I hate when you do that,” Vulpine exclaimed as she punched at one of my illusions.
I took full advantage of her confusion to kick her feet out from under her, then knocked her to the mat where I pinned her with a grappling move that Doug had taught me. With her pinned like that, she couldn’t fight back, nor even reach any of those spell papers she kept in her pouch. After a minute of desperately trying, she gave up.
Tolman came over and watched as I helped Vulpine back to her feet, then told me, “I don’t see jujitsu techniques used in here very often.”
My old teacher used to compete in mixed martial arts,” I told her with a grin. “He always said that in those tournaments, no matter how good you are at punching and kicking, if your opponent gets you on the floor and you don’t know how to deal with a lock, you’re done for.”
Understanding how to deal with opposing techniques is definitely important,” Tolman agreed. “And knowing techniques they can’t defend against can be quite useful.” Then she smiled in a way that made me a little nervous and said, “Absinthe, you’re going to spar with Flytrap. Powers are allowed.”
Collin and I ended up facing against each other and I groaned, realizing that Tolman was trying to teach me something about dealing with techniques I couldn’t counter. Specifically, I couldn’t do anything to counter Collin’s powers. As soon as she told us to start, the ground shimmered and I found my feet effectively glued in place.
Sorry about this,” Collin told me, his expression indicating that he was taking this seriously. I couldn’t help but be pleased at that, by the fact that he considered me enough of a threat to not treat with kid gloves. Unfortunately, it also meant that he wasn’t going to underestimate me as much as I’d like.
I’d seen Collin do this in class several times before, trapping an opponent with his powers and then coming up and hitting them when they couldn’t dodge or move out of the way. It was a good way of turning people into sitting ducks, just like he’d like he’d done to me. One of my best weapons was my glamour, being able to make my opponents hallucinate so they couldn’t focus. And unfortunately, I’d already used all my stored glamour energy on Switchblade and Centurion.
I gestured at Collin and released my raw magic, which erupted from my hands as a huge swarm of faeries that rushed into his face. They picked at his eyes, grabbed at his hair and clothes, and generally made a huge nuisance of themselves. And while they were doing that, I cast a spell to create two illusion copies of myself.
Though I would have loved to take further advantage of Collin’s distraction, my options were extremely limited. My feet were glued in place so I couldn’t reach him, and I didn’t have any offensive spells at all. The most I could do was lure him away from me.
Collin kept swatting at my faeries, and each one would pop and vanish when he connected with them. Before long, I only had a couple left, not enough to really keep him distracted. He looked straight at me, not seeming to be distracted by my illusions for even a second.
That won’t work,” he said with a cocky grin. “I can actually feel where you’re touching my field.”
Why didn’t you say that last week when we were testing your powers?” I demanded in annoyance.
I would have created some faerie fire as a bluff, but he’d seen me use that move several times and knew that it was nothing more than an illusion…just like everything else I had in my arsenal. I muttered a couple quiet profanities, realizing that I was going to have to add some new moves…and get more devious.
Sorry about this,” Collin said with a grimace as he finally got close enough to punch me.
My feet might have been stuck, severely limiting my options, but my hands were still free to move. I grabbed his arm and pulled him to me, then caught him completely by surprise and kissing him right on the lips. However, this was not only a distraction, but a countermove of my own.
When I’d been trying to learn how to control my glamour, I’d found that I could only hold it back for a very short period of time, but at the same time, I’d discovered that I could briefly increase the strength of my glamour as well. I’d just done that, cranking it up as far as I could, then pushing all my glamour energy straight into Collin, instantly hitting him with a full doze of dizziness and hallucinations. When I pulled back, he was staggered and confused, enough that he lost concentration and his power deactivated. I wasted no time at all before knocking his feet out from under him and slamming him face first into the mats, putting one foot into the middle of his back and twisting his arm back so that he couldn’t do anything.
Absinthe wins,” Tolman said with a faint smile.
Yeah,” Collin added with a goofy grin after I’d released him. “But what a great way to lose…” Then he stared off overhead and mused, “Oh look…stars…”
I blushed furiously, embarrassed at having kissed him, even if it had just been a trick to let me win. Then I suddenly realized, I could have focused my glamour through my hands just as easily as though my lips, if not more easily. That just made me turn an even deeper shade of red, especially since a part of me had actually kind of liked it.
When class was over, I raced into the showers, quickly changed clothes, then hurried on my way so that I didn’t have to face Collin. I still couldn’t believe that I’d done something like that with him, and I didn’t know what to say to him about it. I just knew that the next time I saw him, I was going to die of embarrassment.
As soon as classes were done for the day, I started back to Poe, letting out a long sigh of relief. Since I knew that Centurion was after me, I decided to take some steps so that he didn’t catch me by surprise again. I sent some of my faeries up, then used their eyes to look over my surroundings. Getting a faerie’s eye view of everything should give me plenty of warning in case anyone tried sneaking up on me.
Through my faeries, I did notice something odd, a blurring in the air a short distance behind me. I paused and turned to look at it, but didn’t see anything. When I began walking away, I kept watching the spot from one of my faeries, and the blur in the air began moving again.
Ripple,” I said with a sigh of annoyance.
Ripple was one of the students in my Introduction to Mystic Concepts class, and he’d been just a little too interested in my faeries and how I could use them to give people hallucinations. Ever since he’d seen a demonstration in class, he’d been following me around, trying to steal one of my faeries. Several times he’d gotten close to one, but not any of the ones that were holding glamour at the time.
Ripple annoyed me just on general principle, but I had to admit that he definitely had an interesting power. He could bend the light around him to make himself mostly invisible, though when he moved, it resulted in the appearance of a ripple in the air. After thinking about it for a moment, I stopped and let out a sigh.
I can’t believe I’m even considering this,” I muttered, thinking about the session where Lina and I had tried learning more about each other’s powers. Neither of us could actually copy the other, but we’d both benefitted from it anyway.
With that, I turned to my mage sight so I could see Ripple’s aura, in spite of the fact that he was invisible, then I walked straight to him. When I stopped in front of him and looked him straight in the eyes, he was so startled that he dropped his power.
I’ll tell you what,” I told Ripple. “I’ll make a deal with you.”
Ripple grinned at that, watching me with a shifty expression. “So, you’ll sell me a couple of your pixies?”
Not quite,” I told him, quickly adding, “It won’t do much good, because they can’t survive long away from me, and most of them don’t have any of my glamour. But I would be interested in learning a little more about how your power works. How about we meet up after classes later this week? You give me a good demonstration of your invisibility and let me study it a little, and I’ll give you a good demonstration of my glamour.”
Deal,” Ripple quickly agreed. I took his hand and shook it, then he turned and walked away, looking quite pleased with himself.
I let out a sigh, feeling just a little guilty for making that deal. “It’s not like I’m selling drugs or anything,” I told myself, knowing that my glamour wasn’t addictive, wasn’t harmful, and had no longer term effects. “I hit people with my glamour all the time, and this isn’t any different than the trade I made with Lina. If he wants to just experience the hallucinations instead of trying to learn from it, that will be up to him.”
When I returned to Poe, I found Breakdown, Jade, and one of the freshman boys who was named Hardwyrd sitting in the freshman common room, talking in the kind of technobabble that seemed common for devisors. I hadn’t been at Whateley for very long, but I’d learned that most devisors loved throwing in technical words and explanations that only they could understand.
Anyway,” Breakdown continued with some story. “I told Blackbox that I could dismantle and reverse engineer anything, even that puzzle box he’s so proud of, so we ended up betting ten bucks over it. But then when I’d disassembled it, he totally dricked out on me and refused to pay...”
So that’s what he was going on about,” Hardwyrd said. “I thought it was because Monkeywrench stole something from his lab again.”
I sat down on the other side of the common room and began doing my homework, deciding to just get as much of it done and over with as possible. While I did this, the devisors continued talking about Blackbox, Monkeywrench, and several other students in the devisor classes. I tuned most of it out since half the conversation was gossip and the other half was indecipherable technobabble.
After fifteen minutes or so, Bunny came in and joined them, announcing, “Jade, we need to talk about that project we were working on…”
I looked up at Bunny, who was every bit the blonde stereotype, except for the fact that I’d heard her talking technobabble just as readily as the other devisors. I’ve heard a few people around Poe making jokes about how all of her inventions look like Easter eggs, but in spite of that, the other devisors seemed to take her pretty seriously. In fact, I’d even heard the word ‘brilliant’ used to describe her, though I’d certainly never guess it from looking at her.
We were just talking about whether or not Monkeywrench really is building a banana gun,” Jade said with a grin. “I hope he is because that would be so fun to shoot…”
Bunny laughed at that, then said, “And I thought the big news was Eldritch.”
What about her?” Breakdown asked curiously.
Right after lunch, Eldritch came into the devisor labs to pick up a couple supplies, then locked herself in her workshop,” Bunny announced cheerfully.
Hardwyrd blinked at that, then asked, “But isn’t Eldritch some kind of magic user…?”
Yep,” Jade agreed with an emphatic nod. “And Caitlin has the BEST guns too… She once let me shoot one that…”
After this, Jade went off into some kind of excited discussion about guns while Breakdown and Hardwyrd nodded along with polite smiles. I just wondered if this Caitlin she’d mentioned was the same one from the Parkour Hooligans, the one who’d been giving me the stink-eye for some reason.
I finished my homework as much as I could with the distraction, then got up to go change out of my school uniform before dinner. It annoyed me to realize that I’d continued wearing this skirt even after classes ended, and I hadn’t even thought about changing out of it until now. That was yet another bruise to my battered and weakened male ego. Admittedly, a lot of old classmates had called me a wimp and a coward, and would have insisted that I’d never had much of one anyway, but it was still the principle of the thing.
As I stood up, I suddenly felt something warm and wet running down my thighs. I froze, feeling surprised and more than a little worried that I’d peed myself without even realizing it. But when I looked down, I was shocked to see blood running down my legs and into my socks.
Oh shit,” I blurted out as I felt my leg and pulled back my hand, with blood on the fingers. “I’m bleeding.”
I felt a surge of panic at the sight of blood on my fingers, with my first thought being that I must have gotten hurt in martial arts without realizing it. However, my second thought was the realization of what else this could be, and that thought sent a cold chill all down my spine.
I started running down the hallway while Jade called out, “Hey Gwen, what’s wrong?”
Seconds later, I burst into the bathroom, nearly knocking Cindy down in the process. I barely even noticed her, being too caught up in the surge of panic that was filling me. And when I got into a stall and pulled down my skirt, I saw that my panties were completely soaked through with blood. My heart felt like it stopped beating at the sight.
Are you okay?” Cindy demanded from outside the stall. “Gwen?”
Oh God,” I whispered, staring at my bloody panties and the blood which was running down my leg, which was coming out of me. And it wasn’t even coming out of a good healthy cut or injury. This was just…wrong… “I’m bleeding…”
Gwen?” Cindy asked, sounding worried.
Ever since I’d manifested and turned into a green haired elf girl, I’d known intellectually that I’d eventually be going through a period. After all, every girl went through them. However, knowing that it was going to happen eventually and being emotionally ready for it were two different things entirely.
GWEN?” Cindy demanded again, this time more insistent.
I was bleeding…having a period. That meant I really and truly was female now. That meant I could get pregnant and… My stomach knotted up at the very thought of what it meant. I was a girl… I couldn’t be a girl…but I already knew I was one. I was confused, and scared, and starting to hyperventilate. My emotions were on a downward spiral and I felt myself being drawn further and further into a panic attack. Tears began pouring down my cheeks.
From outside the stall, I could hear voices, ones that I tried not to listen to. Breakout exclaimed, “She left a trail of blood down the hall…”
Is she okay?” Jade asked.
Gwen, please,” Cindy urged. “Talk to me…”
What’s going on in here?” Dana’s voice asked.
I think she’s having her period,” Cindy answered. “She’s totally freaking out…”
Jade’s voice was serious as she demanded, “How long as she been a girl?”
A few weeks,” Dana answered, then blurted out, “Oh shit…”
It’s her first one,” Jade exclaimed.
It’s okay, Abbie,” Dana said awkwardly. “I know what you’re going through…”
We all do,” Cindy added. “Trust me, it’s not the end of the world…”
Then someone opened the stall door, revealing me as I sat there on the toilet with my blood soaked panties on the floor in front of me. I gasped, feeling a surge of shame and humiliation. “Leave me alone,” I blurted out frantically. At that, dozens of faeries suddenly exploded from me, rushing out and attacking everyone else in the bathroom. I dropped to the floor and curled up in a ball while girls ran screaming from the bathroom.
The walls are melting,” Dana cried out.
Monsters,” Breakout exclaimed in obvious fear, making me vaguely aware that my glamour was now radiating out at full strength. I didn’t care though, other than that it meant I’d be left alone. Nor did I care that more faeries were continuing to come into existence around me.
Then from the hallway, Cindy yelled out, “We have a Downpour protocol for Absinthe!”
I just remained curled up on the floor, whimpering and wishing the entire world would just go away. I had no idea how long I was there before there were new voices. One of them I vaguely recognized as Toni, the sophomore who roomed with Nikki.
No one can get near her,” Cindy said. “The pixies attack anyone who gets close, and then there’s the hallucinations… I’m still seeing blue rabbits and I know they aren’t really there…”
At least she’s not making storm clouds in the hallway,” Toni joked.
Don’t remind me,” Nikki said grimly. Then a moment later, I felt a strong wave of magic and all of my faeries popped at once. “Absinthe,” Nikki said gently. “Gwen…” I curled up tighter and in a moment of fear, another surge of faeries exploded around me, but they were immediately wiped out as well.
I don’t think this is working,” Toni said.
A moment later, Nikki bent over me and put a hand on my shoulder, which only made me panic even more. “Calm down,” Nikki pleased. “Please...”
There was a sudden pressure against my magic shields, the ones that I’d put up to protect me from outside magical influence. They held for only a moment before being casually torn aside. Another presence touched me, then all the fear, shame, and confusion all faded away, leaving me calm but more than half asleep.
I’ve soothed her, for now,” Nikki said. “But she was pretty upset.”
I was in a daze as several girls got me up, undressed, and then into a shower. Before I realized it, I was back in my room, sitting on my bed while wrapped in a blanket. I was slowly coming back to myself and realized that Dana, Jinx, and Cindy were all in my room helping me while Nikki stood at the doorway, watching me with a worried look on her face. My emotions were coming back enough for me to get a little worried, so she backed off and left.
Here,” Jinx said, putting a cup of hot chocolate into my hands. “This always helps me.”
I didn’t think you’d feel like going to Crystal Hall tonight,” Dana told me awkwardly. “So I got you a ‘to go’ box for dinner…”
And I kept her from eating it for you,” Jinx added, sticking her tongue out at Dana.
Cindy gave me a worried look, then hesitantly asked, “How are you feeling?”
I stared at the floor for a moment before quietly answering, “Embarrassed. REALLY embarrassed…”
To my surprise, Cindy gave me a hug, followed a few seconds later by Jinx. “The first time is always the hardest,” Cindy told me. “I can only imagine what it’s like when you didn’t grow up knowing that you were going to go through it.”
Dana nodded at that, then muttered, “It’s really gross…” She was blushing pretty brightly, reminding me that she was in the same boat I was. She’d grown up as a boy, the same way I had. Being a girl was just as new for her as it was for me.
It…it’s not just that,” I said awkwardly, unable to look anyone in the eyes. “It’s just… I guess everything hit me all at once.”
Dana nodded again, giving me a sympathetic look. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and panic for a moment until I remember it’s just me…” She gave me a wry smile. “It’s still pretty weird a lot of the time, but it is getting easier.”
We all have our issues,” Jinx told me with a gentle smile. Then she looked at Dana and added, “And some of us have a whole magazine stand.” Dana stuck her tongue out at Jinx in response.
I looked back and forth between them, feelingly oddly thankful for their presence since I didn’t really want to be alone at the moment. Then I realized that I didn’t have even a single faerie left. Nikki had destroyed them all.
How come you guys aren’t hallucinating?” I had to ask.
Cindy gave me an easy grin and answered, “Fey told us that she did something to suppress your glamour for a few hours.”
Half the girls on this floor came to see what was going on and got a dose of it,” Jinx added. “It was actually kind of funny. I mean, I actually saw the yellow brick road and a bunch of munchkins were welcoming me to the Lollipop Guild.”
And Bunny started chasing some invisible kittens around the hallway,” Dana added with a laugh. “She was determined to catch one too.”
I took a sip of my hot chocolate, forcing a faint smile. I was still really embarrassed over how I’d freaked out like that, but there was something comforting in knowing that these girls weren’t blaming me for it or making fun of me. Instead, they were here keeping me company and trying to distract me from why I’d freaked out in the first place. And if there was anyone who appreciated the value of a good distraction, it was me.
Tuesday morning, Oct 23rd, 2007
I sat up in bed, shaking my head a little to clear it from the strange dream that I’d just woken from. It had been the normal kind of strange dream, the kind that simply didn’t make a lot of sense rather than the kind that appeared to be the memory of some long dead Sidhe. I was thankful for that as the second kind always left me with the feeling that I was intruding on someone else’s life.
You’re up,” a voice announced from the other side of my room. “How are you feeling?”
I nearly jumped in surprise and looked over to the other bed, where Dana was climbing out of it. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, shaking her head and letting out a loud sigh before muttering something about a mocha.
What are you doing in my room?” I asked suspiciously.
Dana shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. “Well, after yesterday, we decided that someone should stay with you for the night.”
I groaned at that, feeling extremely embarrassed about the reminder of how I’d freaked out yesterday and how no one had left me alone since then. Now that Dana reminded me, I even remembered that I’d been so exhausted from the way I’d lashed out, and perhaps even as a lingering side effect of whatever Nikki had done to me, that I’d fallen asleep early with several girls still sitting in my room.
Great,” I muttered, glancing up to the faerie that was sitting on top of my book shelf, dangling her legs over the edge. It struck me that it was a good thing that I’d thought to summon her last night or Dana would have had some really trippy dreams. Then again, that might have been kind of fun.
How are you feeling?” Dana asked me carefully, looking as though she was a little worried I’d freak out again.
About as good as you’d expect,” I responded with a sigh. “I feel like crap.” I’d been pretty grumpy all day yesterday, but I’d just thought it was because I’d had a bad morning. Now, I wondered how much might have been due to my body doing these weird girl things.
I should be starting my second one again pretty soon,” Dana admitted with a look of dread on her face. “Amanda is great and all, but she’s always been a girl so there are some things she just doesn’t get. I mean, she grew up knowing that she’d go through this kind of thing and had time to get used to the idea. But for us, it’s just BAM…here you go.”
I nodded in complete understanding and exclaimed, “Surprise!” We both chuckled faintly at that. Then I shook my head self-consciously and told her, “The really embarrassing thing is, I knew it was coming. Not now…but that I’d have to go through it sooner or later. My Mom even sat me down and gave me the whole speech about how to…how to use that stuff.” I shuddered at the humiliating lesson, now wishing I’d paid closer attention. “Then when I saw it I just…”
Freaked out,” Dana finished for me, giving me a look of understanding.
It isn’t even the period,” I told her, staring down at the floor awkwardly.
Yeah,” Dana agreed. “It’s everything it represents.”
Most of my old friends and classmates wouldn’t have described me as being really manly, but I had been a guy and had been quite happy as one. After my change, I’d mostly just continued as best I could, acting as though the change in my body didn’t really change who I was inside. But having a period had been a huge smack in the face, the kind of reminder that I couldn’t ignore, that I was now female. I would be for the rest of my life. It was a massive bruise to not only my devastated male ego, but also to my very sense of self.
In a very short time, nearly everything that I thought I knew about myself had changed. Instead of being a boy, I was now a girl. Instead of being a baseline, I was now a mutant. Instead of being human, I was now an elf…a Sidhe. My entire self-identity had been shattered and I hadn’t even realized it until now. I’d been living in some kind of denial until I couldn’t deny it anymore.
I don’t even know who I am anymore,” I burst out, suddenly crying again. I felt humiliated to be crying in front of Dana like this, but I just couldn’t stop.
It’s okay,” Dana told me, giving me an awkward hug. “I know exactly what you mean.”
We just stood there for several minutes, and to my surprise, her hug actually felt rather comforting. I finally stopped crying enough to get ready for my shower. No matter how much of an emotional mess I was right now, I still had classes to go to.
At least you still have your family,” Dana told me almost sadly. “You have no idea how lucky you are.”
After this, I went to the showers while Dana went back to her room to get her own shower supplies. I felt extremely self-conscious as I stepped into line, embarrassed over what had happened and that everyone in Poe probably knew about it by now. My cheeks were burning and I just stared at the floor, unable to meet anyone’s eyes.
How are you feeling?” Lina asked me with a worried look.
I’ll live,” I responded with a forced smile.
Rose looked at me, but instead of glaring at me like she usually did, she gave me a look of sympathy instead. She didn’t say a word though, for which I was thankful. I didn’t know what to say to anyone.
I was relieved when I got to climb into a shower stall and wash off, especially since I could let my tears flow a little more and no one would be able to know. By the time I climbed out, I felt a little better, but then when I was done drying off, I had to stick a tampon up my yoo-hoo and a pad into my panties. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but I knew none of the girls would say anything about it. They were all trying to be comforting while simultaneously giving me plenty of room.
When I was fully dressed and leaving my room, I ran into Downpour in the hallway. She gave me a faint smile and asked, “How are you doing?” I winced slightly, wondering just how bad my situation was that I was getting sympathy from Downpour. Then again, if anyone could understand what it was like to have an emotional meltdown, it was her.
A little better,” I told her honestly. I’d gotten most of it out of my system yesterday.
She hesitated a moment, then in a meek voice said, “Yesterday when you were doing that thing…I saw butterflies in the hallway.” She paused at that, then gave me another faint smile before adding, “I haven’t seen any butterflies in a long time. Thank you.”
With that, Downpour went down the hallway and joined Rose and Cindy while Dana, Jinx, and Lina came and joined me. We started heading to breakfast together, but Mrs. Horton stopped me at the door and gave me a sympathetic look, which reminded me that I vaguely remembered her being there while I was dazed and under the influence of Nikki’s spell.
How are you feeling, Gwen?” she asked me gently, making me wonder if every single person in Poe was going to ask me that before the day was over.
I’m doing better,” I told her, feeling embarrassed by all the attention.
Mrs. Horton nodded at that, looking relieved. Then she handed me a piece of paper with the name Dr. Bellows on it, along with a place and time. It was an appointment slip.
I’ve made you an appointment for this morning,” she told me in a gentle but firm tone that left no doubt that I’d better make it. “It may help to talk about things.”
Thank you,” I told her, feeling a little depressed. Now on top of everything else, everyone thought I was crazy. Of course, after the way I’d lost it yesterday, I didn’t blame them one bit.
Come on,” Dana told me, putting an arm around my shoulder. “Cheer up. You’re a very lucky girl.”
Why is that?” I asked suspiciously.
Dana just grinned and responded, “Because you get the pleasure of my company.”
Don’t encourage her,” Jinx told me a roll of her eyes.
Breakfast was about the same as usual, with Dana eating a ridiculous amount of food and washing it down with at least half a pot of coffee. Several other freshmen from Poe joined us at the table and we ended up having a couple different conversations going on at the same time. I barely joined either of them as I didn’t feel like socializing much at the moment.
About halfway through breakfast, Jade came over with an older Asian girl whom I’d seen around Poe. I hadn’t actually met the other girl, but someone had pointed her out to me as Jade’s older sister Jinn. Or at least, she’d been pointed out as the ghost of Jade’s older sister, who apparently went by the codename of Shroud.
Hey everyone,” Jade greeted everyone at the table, looking so childish that I never would have guessed that she was actually a sophomore, a grade higher than everyone else at the table. She settled her eyes on me and asked, “How are you feeling, Gwen?”
If anyone else asks me that question,” I proclaimed with a sigh, “I think I’m going to scream.”
Just then, Jinn had a mischievious grin on her face that was far too much like what I’d seen on Jade. “So,” she asked with a mock innocent look. “How are you feeling?”
Instead of screaming, I simply asked, “How would you like to start seeing things that aren’t there?”
Like her sanity?” Lina asked with a snort.
We just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Jade told me with a worried look. Then she leaned over, and in a conspiratorial voice, added, “Nikki was a lot worse during her first time.”
I stared at Jade for a moment, then shifted my vision to look at her aura. Her expression was definitely sympathetic, but to my surprise, her aura was actually tinged with jealousy. It was as if she was actually jealous of me for having a period. I was a little confused by that, but then I looked at Jinn and blinked in even greater confusion. Her aura was the same as Jade’s…and tied to Jade with a thread. It was just like with that pixie joke, that Hello Kitty doll, and even those devises that Jade had shown off to some of the freshmen.
Well, we’ve got to get going,” Jade told me with a mischievious grin. “We’ve got an appointment with Belle…”
Of course, she doesn’t know about it yet,” Jinn added with a giggle of her own.
Jade nodded agreement and said, “This is gonna be so fun,” as she and Jinn hurried off.
Is it bad of me for wishing I could watch?” Jinx asked with a chuckle.
Maybe,” Lina responded with a smile of her own. “But I’m curious to see how Beltane will retaliate this time.”
Breakdown shook her head and muttered, “I just hope it’s nothing like that last time. I could hear the polka music cranking from Jade’s room at two AM.”
Try Brass Monkey,” Lina added with a grimace. “You can hear it from Phase’s room every morning when the alarm goes off.”
And that explains why everyone thinks Poesies are all crazy,” Dana commented with an exaggerated sigh. I winced slightly at that, feeling just a little sensitive since I had an appointment with a shrink in just a couple hours.
A short time later, I entered my first period class, feeling just a little nervous, as though everyone would be able to tell that I was having my period just by looking at me. I knew that it was stupid and foolish, but I couldn’t help the way I felt. I was beginning to think that maybe I really did need to see a shrink after all, even if I wasn’t being given much choice about it.
Mrs. Chulkris started off the class by saying, “Yesterday, we talked about several different methods of storing pre-cast spells for later use. For the rest of the week, we’re going to split into teams with each time doing a report on one of these methods…”
I nodded at that, thinking that it sounded quite a bit like what we’d done in Power Theory class last week. After we got split up, I found myself teamed up with Vulpine and Orc, the two people in class that I actually would have picked for my team if I’d been given the choice.
Orc had been helping me catch up in class, and in spite of his scary appearance, he was actually a very polite and friendly person, though he did like to talk a little too much about his home in Quebec. Vulpine was cute, a little shy at first, and a bit mischievious once I’d gotten to know her. She’d also already mastered the whole thing about storing a spell for later use, which meant she was just the person I wanted to work with.
I really want to learn how to do that paper thing you do,” I told Vulpine, thinking about the way she pulled spells out of her pouch during martial arts. It was a lot faster than having to cast the spells from scratch right there on the spot, though admittedly, once I’d gotten the hang of it, I was able to cast my illusions pretty quickly. Mrs. Lauriant had told me that it was a Sidhe thing.
My Grandma taught me,” Vulpine told me proudly. “Using magic runs in my family. Most of us aren’t really very powerful, but we’ve got a lot of tricks to work around that.”
Cool,” I said, definitely interested in learning any tricks I could.
I fear that my form of magic may not work that way,” Orc told us. “I control the elements and it takes a direct and immediate force of will.” He paused to scratch at his ugly chin before adding, “But this will still be interesting.”
Orc was right in that the whole subject was interesting, and one that might save my butt someday. I was so engrossed in the topic that I was able to briefly forget the fact that I was not only bleeding from a place I shouldn’t even have, but by now, everyone in Poe knew it.
After class was over, I went to Powers Theory where I sat in my usual seat next to Collin, Fixx, and Porcelain. Dr. Quintain was also his normally charming self, meaning that he was so monotonous and droning that he was able to make even a subject like super powers seem boring. By the time class was over, I was actually looking forward to seeing the shrink.
The time for my appointment finally came and I found myself in front of an office with the name Dr. Alfred Bellows on the door. A minute later, I found myself meeting the middle-aged man who owned that name.
It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Dr. Bellows said as he shook my hand.
I just smiled nervously at that, then looked around his office, noticing some kind of genie bottle siting on the bookshelf. Then I asked, “Is there a couch I’m supposed to sit on for this?”
If you’d like,” Dr. Bellows respond with a chuckle. “But I find most of my patients prefer to sit in a chair. Trust me, it’s very comfortable.”
At first, I just sat there uncomfortably, feeling extremely self-conscious. Dr. Bellows talked when I wouldn’t, making it clear that he knew about my gender change, though he didn’t seem the least bit judgmental about it.
I’ve talked with others in your situation,” Dr. Bellows assured me.
You’ve talked to other guys who turned into elf girls?” I asked wryly.
Dr. Bellows just smiled at that and responded, “Actually, yes.”
Before I realized it, I began talking, telling him about what happened yesterday. It was embarrassing, but he listened in understanding, which made it easier to keep talking.
And it’s not just being a girl,” I told him quietly. “It’s this whole Sidhe thing too… I keep having these dreams…”
When I was finished, Dr. Bellows nodded. “There are several other students on campus who’ve changed and become Sidhe as well. You might want to talk to some of them to see if they’re having similar dreams.”
I know these dreams are memories,” I said with a shake of my head. “I just don’t know if they’re memories from some past life or if they’re memories from my ancestor. Maybe both. It’s…confusing.”
Whether these dreams are memories or not,” Dr. Bellows told me. “They belong to another life…another person. You can learn from them, but don’t let them control your life. You have a life to live in the here and now, and that is what you need to focus on.”
By the time our session was done, I actually felt a little better. I wasn’t suddenly happy with the idea about having my period or possibly being the reincarnation of some Sidhe woman, but at least I’d gotten my problems off my chest and that had helped more than I’d expected.
As I started towards Crystal Hall and lunch, I smiled faintly at the thought that I’d be eating with Collin again. Then I suddenly remembered the way I’d kissed Collin yesterday and my heart jumped in my chest. I groaned, realizing that I had something else to talk to Dr. Bellows about during our next appointment.
Friday morning, Oct 26th, 2007
In my dream, I was sitting cross-legged on the ground while I played a beautiful melody on my flute. My friend and companion X’rxi flittered about nearby, dancing on the wind with abandon, clearly enjoying the tune. It was a joyous piece, which was just what was needed to restore the spirits after the long and haunting one I’d played before.
When I had finished, I slowly lowed my flute and looked to X’rxi, who landed on my shoulder as she often did. Then I looked at my surroundings and the massive forge which was spread out before me. This was the largest forge I had ever seen, and the only one I’d heard of which exceeded its size was owned by the Mountain People…the Dwarves. However, it was not the forge itself which drew my attention, but the being who worked it.
The Artificer was a strange being with pale, almost marbled skin, black metallic hair, and black, metallic runes which covered her body, in an artistic style popular among the nobility. Common knowledge said she was a construct, forged by magic with no will or soul of her own, existing for the sole purpose of serving her owner. However, that did not strike me as being true. When I stared at this being, I was certain that there was more to her than this, that deep inside, she held a soul and an ember of true life. Others laughed when I spoke of this belief, yet I knew it to be true.
I watched silently as the Artificer continued her work, not hesitating or showing the slightest indication that she’d noticed my presence or the music that I’d played. The Artificer had been given the task of forging magical armor for the queen, and she did so with the single minded focus of a construct…or one who had been bound and enslaved at the deepest levels of their being. While watching this, it was easy to see why she was believed to be a construct, but I was not fooled.
Every day for the past cycle of the moon, I have come here to this spot, to speak with the Artificer and play music for her. Once, I had been staring at the Artificer when I’d seen a brief guttering flare of her soul, little more than a spark, yet enough to tell me her true nature. She had a soul. She had a true life buried deep within. The thought that a living being could be enslaved in this way offended me to my very core, so I had come here since, attempting to stoke this spark into a fire, to awaken her soul and free it from this cold slavery. But as of yet, the Artificer had yet to even acknowledge my presence, much less show any signs of her soul.
“A name,” I exclaimed to the Artificer in realization. “What you need is a name of your own.”
The Artificer continued with her work at the forge, not responding to my comments, though that was no surprise as she hadn’t responded to anything I’ve said yet. Still, I held out hope. I would give her a name, a name would help her form her identity, to give her something to stand apart as an individual rather than a mere construct.
X’rxi whispered suggestions into my ear, though none of them seemed right to me. I finally went to the Artificer and told her, “I shall call you Ashtea. It means hope…”
The Artificer…Ashtea did not respond to me, though I had hoped she might finally do so. Still, that did not deter my own hope, nor my determination to awaken her soul. I would continue visiting Ashtea, in spite of the ever growing risk of being found out.
The queen had given strict orders that none were to approach the Artificer or interfere with her work, yet I had done so thirty-one times already, and would continue to do so as long as I was able. As a child, I had often been called willful and disobedient, yet disobeying my queen was a far more serious matter than disobeying my parents. If I was caught before I had awoken Ashtea, the punishment would be severe.
But for the moment, I turned thoughts of getting caught and punished aside, feeling confident in my own cleverness and ability to avoid being discovered. I had a great deal of experience in both leading enemies astray and in entertaining children, and I turned every bit of that skill towards the goal of trying to awaken Ashtea’s sense of curiosity and wonder. If anything could awaken her sleeping soul, that would be it.
When I awoke from the dream, I groaned and immediately sent my will out to one of my faeries, ordering it to come closer and then activating the weak light spell I’d cast into it last night. With that, my faerie began to glow, acting like a nightlight and letting me see enough to do what I needed to. I grabbed the notebook from the nightstand beside my bed and began to quickly write down the details of my dream before I lost them.
Ever since my transformation, I’d been having these dreams of that other life, most of which faded almost as soon as I woke up. Most of the time, I barely remembered anything about them at all, so a couple days ago, I’d begun keeping this dream journal. I hoped that this would let me purge the dreams from my mind as well as let me get back to them later on. So far, this was the first one of THOSE dreams that I’d had since I started the journal.
I scowled as I thought about this latest dream, holding onto the details a little better now that I’d written them down. The thing that stuck with me the most though was the Artificer…Ashtea. Though I hadn’t known it in my dream, now that I was awake, I realized that she’d looked exactly like Caitlin. The only real difference in their appearances had been the color of their tattoos.
Just then, a pillow hit me alongside the head and Dana exclaimed, “Turn that thing off. My alarm hasn’t gone off yet, so at least let a girl sleep a little…”
Sorry,” I told my new roommate, letting the spell in my faerie fade away so that it went dark again.
Even in the darkened room, I could still make out Dana’s silhouette as she rolled over in her bed. Last Tuesday, after we’d returned to Poe from classes, Mrs. Horton had announced that Dana would be moving into my room with me. Jinx had been running interference on that decision since I’d first arrived, but apparently, even her luck hadn’t been enough to deter the house mother forever.
As an only child, I’d never had to worry about sharing a room with anyone before and I was finding it difficult to adjust. It was weird, always having someone in my bedroom, intruding on my personal space. But of course, Dana’s situation wasn’t really much different since she had a room of her own until the time she’d arrived at Whateley. And to make it worse, she went from sharing a room with her girlfriend to sharing one with me. This was definitely a real bummer for her.
Since I was already awake, I decided that I might as well make use of the extra time. I got dressed in my robe, then quietly left the room, bringing my faeries with me. I only had three of them currently out since one had faded away and vanished during the night. When I reached the bathroom, I released a small burst of magic, just enough to bring four more faeries into existence.
Now to get THIS out of the way,” I muttered bitterly as I went into a stall and removed my used tampon and replaced it with a clean one. It was gross, disgusting, and uncomfortable, but at least I wasn’t freaking out at the very sight. Still, it did make me feel awkward and embarrassed, not to mention depressed when I thought about the fact that I’d be dealing with this for the rest of my life. “This is definitely the worst part about being a girl.”
I grumbled some profanities under my breath as I did my business, cursing the aching and cramps that came along with this as well. And then there was the moodiness and the fact that over the last few days I’d start crying at the drop of a hat… All in all, I HATED my period and everything that came with it. After this, I would NEVER make jokes about a girl’s period again.
When I was done in the bathroom, I went into the common room which was empty at the moment. I knew that a few girls were already up since I could see light under some of the doors and had even heard someone in one of the bathroom stalls, but so far most of the girls were still either in bed or at least hanging out in their rooms.
Now for my morning routine,” I said, wishing that I could do this in the privacy of my own room, but having a roommate meant I had to make certain compromises.
With that, I willed my oldest faeries to all vanish, then I began transferring my glamour to one of the new ones. I’d gotten into the habit of doing this every morning so that the faerie that was holding the glamour wouldn’t fade away and pop in class. That had happened a couple days ago, much to Collin’s embarrassment and the amusement of everyone else.
Once that was done, I turned my attention to another new addition to my routine. I cast a spell, then pushed it along the link to one of my faeries, much the way I did my glamour. In this way, I was able to have my faerie hold a finished spell, the same way Vulpine stored hers on a piece of paper. It didn’t take long for me to cast some of my spells, but having a couple of them already prepared and ready to go in an instant was even better.
It took me a few more minutes to finish with what I was doing, then each of my faeries was storing a single spell. These weren’t large and complicated spells, just ones that would help me out if I got into any unexpected trouble. With the way Centurion and his friends had been following me around, anything I could use in an instant would be extremely useful.
Thank you Vulpine,” I thought aloud, knowing that without her help, it probably would have taken me a bit longer to figure out this trick.
Of course, it had taken me half the week and a lot of attempts to figure this out, and that wasn’t even taking into account the ‘accident’ that occurred shortly after my first success. I found out the hard way that when one of my faeries was destroyed, the spell it was storing was automatically released. Fortunately, this only resulted in one of the Dylans getting blinded for a few minutes after having a flash of light in the face, but it had taught me the importance of putting in a safety. Now, if the faeries were destroyed before I was ready, the spell would just dissipate and vanish harmlessly.
I remained in the common room, practicing some of my other spells until Lina came in a short time later. She was wearing a blue robe with a peacock covering most of the back, so it definitely matched her hair. Since my robe was green, I wasn’t in any position to really say anything. For a moment, she just stood back and watched me, then she actually sat down and continued to do so.
I usually only see you creating those faeries and hallucinations,” Lina said, gesturing to the two illusion copies of myself that were walking across the floor. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen you do this other stuff.”
The faeries and hallucinations are pretty easy,” I told her with a grin. “They’re kind of automatic. The illusions actually take a bit more effort to learn.”
They’re pretty cool,” she agreed, looking impressed.
I grinned at that and couldn’t resist showing off a few more spells I’d learned while Lina clapped along happily. It suddenly reminded me of one of the dreams where my dream-self had been entertaining kids. Fortunately, that had actually been one of the dreams I didn’t mind remembering.
When I was done, Lina abruptly announced, “My turn.”
With that, she stood up and went to the middle of the common room and activated her powers. Suddenly, she had the giant glowing peacock tail behind her and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. This was just like the other times I’d been exposed to her power, but then things changed. Everything else around me seemed to fade away until she was all that was left, then she changed, appearing to be the most attractive person I’d ever seen in my life. Then just as suddenly as it had started, it went away.
I staggered for a moment, shaking my head to clear it. The effects of her power were very much like a glamour of some kind, and even with my magical shields, that had still been quite a punch. I could only imagine what that would be like for someone who didn’t have my protection.
Very impressive,” I told her honestly. “You’ve gotten more powerful…”
Yeah,” Lina agreed proudly. “We’ve been working on it, especially after you helped us realize we could do more.”
Then Lina paused, suddenly looking extremely nervous. Then before I realized it, she grabbed me and kissed me on my lips. I was caught completely by surprise and began kissing her back for a moment, realizing that I could feel a bulge pressing into me from the front of her robe.
You’re so beautiful,” Lina whispered when she pulled back, looking self-conscious. “I’ve wanted to do that since I first saw you.”
I…I don’t know what to say,” I whispered, feeling shaken to realize that after that, I didn’t feel turned on in the least.
What’s wrong?” Lina demanded, her expression turning to one of hurt. “Don’t you like me?”
Lina,” I started awkwardly, blushing brightly and feeling confused. “I…”
Lina backed away from me, staring at me with a look of anger and demanding, “It’s because I’m a freak…isn’t it?”
I think I like guys now,” I blurted out in shame and humiliation. This was something that I’d only come to realize in the last couple days and didn’t know what to think about it.
Ever since I’d come to Whateley, I’d been taking showers with all the other girls, but I hadn’t even been checking any of them out since the first couple days, and that had been more out of habit than anything. The other girls, I could still tell they when they were hot and when I should be drooling over them, but I just didn’t feel those things towards them anymore. Instead, my thoughts had been turning towards guys.
You’re not a freak,” I pleaded to her, hating the look of hurt and anger on her face. “You’re beautiful, but I don’t think I like girls like that anymore…”
It’s because I’m a freak,” Lina exclaimed, tears starting to flow down her cheeks.
You’re not,” I protested again. And since I didn’t know what else to say, I turned bright red and blurted out, “I think I like the guy who used to bully me at school. I don’t want to be like this…”
LIAR,” Lina yelled before turning and running out of the common room.
Lina,” I called out, staring after her but she’d already run to her room and slammed the door. I winced, feeling horrible about what had just happened and wishing I’d done things different. “I wish I could like you like that,” I muttered, staring to cry myself. “I would have killed for a girlfriend like you before…”
With that, I shook my head, wiped the tears from my cheeks, not that it did much good, and cursed my hormones. Then I slowly started back to my room, deciding that I should get showered and go to breakfast. I’d talk to Lina again when she’d calmed down and apologize.
When I got back to my room, I found Dana was already up and in the middle of drinking her first espresso of the morning. Or at least I assumed it was the first one. With her, it might very well be her third.
This is the best invention ever,” Dana exclaimed as she lovingly patted her espresso machine. “You want one?”
No thanks,” I responded with a weak smile. “I don’t really like coffee.”
But you’re from Seattle,” Dana said with a look of mock horror. “Blasphemer…”
I snorted at that. “So I’m not a big fan of the taste…”
Dana just gasped at me, then dipped her finger into her drink before using that finger to make the sign of the cross and saying something that sounded vaguely like it was supposed to be an exorcism. I just shook my head, wondering how Jinx had put up with her for that long. Then I looked at Dana’s rather generous curves and had a pretty good idea.
Now drink three lattes and call me in the morning,” Dana finished up.
I shook my head at that, then grabbed my shower supplies and went to get washed up before breakfast. However, I had barely entered the showers when I found myself confronted by an angry looking Cindy.
What did you do to Lina?” Cindy demanded. “She came in here crying…”
I winced at that, then told her, “I didn’t do anything…”
She wasn’t crying for no reason,” Cindy pointed out, giving me a suspicious look.
She…” I started, feeling awkward and embarrassed as I admitted, “She kissed me…”
Cindy looked a little surprised at that. “And?”
I was blushing badly as I quietly added, “I told her I’m not into girls like that anymore…”
Cindy just stared at me in silence for several long seconds before shaking her head and letting out a sigh. “Ouch…” Her expression turned from anger to sympathy. “How are you doing?”
I don’t know,” I responded quietly. “I’m a bit confused about it…”
I can’t imagine what that’s like for you,” Cindy told me gently. “I mean, I’ve always known I liked girls. I can’t imagine how weird it would feel for me to start liking guys instead…”
I didn’t mean to hurt Lina,” I said quietly.
Poor girl,” Cindy muttered with a shake of her head. “She was crushing on you a bit, so this won’t be easy on her… I’ll talk to her.”
A short time after I was finished with my shower, I went to breakfast with Dana and Jinx as I did every morning. We usually had Lina, Cindy, and one or two others from Poe with us as well, but not this morning. After all the drama, I wasn’t surprised that Lina didn’t come, and it appeared that Cindy had decided to keep her company. Of course, this meant that I had to tell Dana and Jinx about what had happened…and admit that I was starting to like guys.
I don’t know what to do,” admitted self-consciously. “It feels wrong to feel this way…”
I’m lucky I don’t have to go through that,” Dana told me with a sympathetic look. “I mean, it’s tough enough just getting used to these…” She stared down at her breasts and then added, “And everything that goes with them.”
That might change,” I pointed out to her, but she just shook her head.
I only look like this because I copied Jackie’s BIT,” Dana responded. “And even if I copied her sexuality as part of it, she’s a lesbian…”
I just feel sorry for Lina,” Jinx said with a worried look. “I know she usually acts tough, but she used to like guys before she bonded with her spirit. She’s had a really hard time dealing with her changes…both the physical ones and suddenly liking girls. And now, the first time she openly shows interest in a girl she gets shot down…”
I didn’t mean to hurt her,” I protested weakly, still feeling guilty.
Jinx nodded at that, “I know, and I think she’ll realize it too once she calms down. I just can’t help but feeling sorry for her.”
But even as Jinx was worried about Lina, I could tell that she was actually kind of relieved by my admission as well. Though she didn’t say anything about it, it was obvious that she’d been a little worried about me being roommates with Dana. At least now, she didn’t have to worry about Dana and I messing around behind her back.
I get a hot girl as a roommate,” I muttered under my breath. “And I can’t even appreciate it.”
So, are your parents going to be here for Parents Day tomorrow?” Jinx asked me curiously, obviously attempting to change the subject, much to my relief.
Unfortunately, no,” I answered with a shrug. “Or maybe that is fortunate. Dad is gonna be busy, and Mom isn’t up for the trip without him. And since I only just got here myself, there isn’t THAT much need for a reunion.”
That sucks,” Jinx said. “My folks are coming.”
Mine aren’t,” Dana said with a scowl, which reminded me of the issues she had with her family. “And Jackie can’t come either. She doesn’t think it would be a good idea to come here at the moment, not after that whole business with the MCO.”
Good thinking,” Jinx agreed. “Well then,” she asked, trying to change the subject again. “What are you up to this afternoon?”
Not much,” I responded with a shrug.
Dana smirked at me and added, “Didn’t you say something about doing some homework with Collin?”
I blushed brightly at that, still having a hard time believing the things I’d been thinking and feeling about him. He was the guy who used to chase me around trying to beat me up, and now I kept staring at his butt and thinking about his cute smile… I shook my head at that, not sure what I was going to do about all this.
It’s just homework,” I insisted, though my thoughts immediately turned to the time I’d kissed him as a distraction. I blushed even brighter at that while Jinx and Dana both burst out laughing. “Besides,” I protested weakly. “Fixx and Porcelain are gonna be there too…”
Oooh,” Dana teased me with a grin. “An orgy…”
Dana continued teasing me all through breakfast, so I was actually glad to say goodbye and leave Crystal Hall on my own. I had my faerie scouts out and about, so I easily spotted Ripple, who was trying to follow me along with some other boy from the Dylan’s. Yesterday after school, I’d given Ripple a good dose of my glamour in exchange for a thorough demonstration of his powers. I’d thought that would get him off my back, but instead, he’d told the other Dylans and now I was having more of them follow me.
It’s like feeding a stray dog,” I muttered to myself. “A bad idea.”
I went around a corner, then created an illusion of myself, which I sent walking back towards Poe. Ripple and the other boy followed the illusion, so I continued on my way towards my Magic Theory class.
Friday afternoon, Oct 26th, 2007
Classes were over for the day and I was making my way back to Poe. I still had plenty of time before I was supposed to meet up with Collin, so I decided that I’d look for Lina. Hopefully she’d have calmed down enough so that I could talk to her and apologize.
I certainly hadn’t meant to hurt her, especially since I had a pretty good idea of what she was going through. I was really confused by my own new emotions and could only imagine how much it would hurt if I bared myself to Collin and he turned me away.
I still can’t believe I’m even thinking that about him,” I muttered with a shake of my head. There was no way I could tell him how I felt. It was too…embarrassing.
When I went looking for Lina, I found that she hadn’t returned yet. And since I couldn’t talk with her, I decided that I should probably take care of something else that I’d been meaning to do for the last few days. In fact, it was something that I’d been thinking about doing ever since my talk with Dr. Bellows, though I’d been finding one reason after another to put it off.
My legs felt oddly heavy as I slowly walked through Poe, looking for my target. I sent my faeries ahead of me so that I could see through their eyes, and knew to go straight to the common room. When I arrived, I found a group of sophomores sitting around talking, ones who belonged to the group called Team Kimba.
We totally need to do that for the next sim,” Jade exclaimed excitedly, waving her arms around as she added, “It will be Condor Girl two…the sequel.”
Jade’s sister Jinn was beside her, nodding emphatic agreement. “Yeah, it will be great…”
It will be Insano Girl part one hundred,” another girl said.
I recognized this girl as Tennyo, Jade’s roommate. She had silvery blue hair that was spikey and seemed immune to gravity, as did the girl herself. She was sitting cross legged while floating in the air.
My eyes swept over the rest of the group, taking it all in. Toni, the graceful black girl was actually doing a one-handed handstand from a swinging hammock, however that was even possible. Lancer was the muscular blonde boy, and he appeared to be the only guy in the group. However, I’d heard that Phase, the girl with the spikey black hair was technically male as well, though in the same way that Lina was.
Of course, I’d also heard that Phase was part of the Goodkind family, which I found hard to believe. They were a family of billionaires who were notorious for hating mutants, so I just couldn’t imagine one of them ever coming to a school for mutants, even if they did manifest as one. More likely, she just had the same last name.
Then my eyes settled on Nikki, who was staring at me, obviously surprised that I’d willingly come so close to her. I took a deep breath and braced myself to speak, but before I could, Tennyo asked, “Aren’t you the girl who made all the freshmen see pink elephants?”
Is it true your dad works for the MCO?” Lancer asked me.
Actually,” Phase stated, giving me an odd look, “her father isn’t the only one who works for the MCO. She works for them too. She’s even here at Whateley on an MCO scholarship.” In spite of the words, I got the impression that she wasn’t condemning me for this so much as showing off how much she knew.
Ayla,” Nikki snapped at the other girl. “Leave her alone…”
And it’s not like Chou isn’t working for the MCO too,” Toni pointed out.
I’ll come back another time,” I muttered as I turned to leave, obviously not being welcomed here.
Yeah,” Jade added, glaring at Phase. “Leave her alone. She’s nice…”
I started out the common room door, but Nikki called out, “Wait,” and hurried after me. She gave me a curious look, obviously wondering why I’d go through the trouble of looking for her after I’d gone through so much more effort trying to avoid her. “What is it?”
I just wanted to thank you for what you did Monday,” I told her self-consciously.
Nikki nodded and gave me a gentle smile. “I’ve been there myself. Don’t feel too bad about it. You certainly aren’t the first changeling to react that way.”
Thanks,” I responded quietly.
Before I could turn to leave, Nikki abruptly asked, “Why are you so afraid of me?” She gave me a worried look, actually looking a little hurt.
I hesitated for a moment, knowing that she deserved an honest answer. “It’s not really you I’m afraid of,” I finally said, unable to meet her eyes. “It’s Aunghadhail.”
Nikki seemed a little surprised at that. “But Aunghadhail is…she’s not here anymore.” Her voice broke a little and her eyes were starting to water just a little. “How do you know about her?” She gave me a somewhat suspicious look.
A faint chill went down my spine as this conversation was running too close to my dreams for my comfort. However, I’d already made a decision to be honest with Nikki and get everything in the open. I just wasn’t sure how to do that.
Do you have Aunghadhail’s memories?” I asked Nikki. “I heard that she used to be in your head, or something like that…”
Nikki winced, looking almost pained. Then, she carefully said, “She used to be a presence in my head…and more. We’re…I’m a part of her, and we were slowly starting to merge. But she… She’s gone. She died.”
At this point, there were definitely tears in Nikki’s eyes, and I felt guilty for causing this. I didn’t know much about how she was connected to Aunghadhail, and even less about what had happened to the Sidhe queen, but I could tell that it was very painful for Nikki.
I was silent for several long seconds, then I let out a sigh. “When I manifested,” I started to explain, feeling self-conscious as I did so, “I basically turned into a clone of one of my ancestors.”
Nikki looked startled at that. “Continue,” Nikki urged me.
A really distant ancestor,” I admitted wryly, gesturing down at myself. “And ever since I changed, I’ve been having dreams…and nightmares.” I paused to lick my lips before adding, “They’re memories…her memories.” I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to keep my voice steady. “I don’t really know if I’m supposed to be some kind of reincarnation of her…or if I just have her memories because I’m her clone. But in my dreams, I’ve been living her memories. I remember a monster killing my best friend in front of me and then tearing off my arm. I remember dying…” My voice choked at that.
Nikki gasped, giving me a sympathetic look. “That sounds horrible.”
I nodded at that. “Aunghadhail was in some of these dreams,” I continued quietly, a note of bitterness slipping into my voice. “In these memories, she was the one who took everything I had away from me. Who banished me from my home.” And then I looked Nikki in the eyes as I added, “She’s the one who sent me to my death.”
What?” Nikki exclaimed, looked stunned at that statement.
You look just like her,” I continued grimly. “The first time I saw you, I literally came face to face with my worst nightmare.”
That…that explains why you’ve been avoiding me,” Nikki said quietly.
I don’t know everything that happened,” I admitted, no longer looking at Nikki. “My dreams are only bits and pieces of that life, and in some of them, Aunghadhail almost seemed like a friend. But in others…” I paused at that, my voice going dry as I remembered the sense of loneliness that I’d felt in the dream, so much so that dying had almost been like a release.
I…I don’t know what to say,” Nikki admitted awkwardly. “Aunghadhail told me a bit about her court and what it was like back then, but I don’t have her memories. I don’t know what really happened between her and your ancestor.”
And I only have bits and pieces,” I said with a sigh. “It’s…confusing. And scary.”
Nikki nodded at that, then gave me a nervous smile. “I’m not Aunghadhail. Please, don’t be afraid of me over whatever happened back then.”
I’m trying not to,” I said, feeling more than a little embarrassed over the way I’d been acting.
Nikki stared at me with a strange expression, then said, “If it makes any difference, I don’t think that you’re actually a reincarnation of your ancestor. That isn’t the feeling I get from you.”
Um…thanks,” I responded.
I felt a sense of relief at her words, which seemed strange since it came from the same girl who’d caused me so much fear and worry. Now that I was actually talking to Nikki, I could see that she wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I feared.
I’m not your enemy,” Nikki told me with a smile. “In fact, I’d like to be your friend. There aren’t a lot of people around who understand what we’ve gone through, and it would be nice having another one to talk to.”
Nikki had a good point about how nice it would be to talk with someone else who’d changed genders and turned Sidhe. And it was true, there weren’t a lot of people like us.
Thank you,” I told her with a nervous smile. “I think I’d like that.”
Sunday morning, Oct 28th, 2007
I sat up in bed and stretched, thankful that I’d had a peaceful sleep without any of THOSE dreams. I think there had been a dream about Collin, which left me warm, tingly, and embarrassed, but at least it had been my own dream rather than a remnant of someone long dead.
After a minute of just sitting up in bed and trying to wake up mentally, I looked across my room at the faint silhouette of Dana’s bed. I fought back the impulse to just turn on the light so I could get up and get dressed. I didn’t even activate that weak nightlight spell that I’d tried out yesterday morning. Instead, I sent a mental command to one of my faeries and activated a different spell that I’d prepared before going to bed. A moment later, the room suddenly lit up as though it was the middle of the day, though I hadn’t created any light at all. This was due to the night vision spell I’d just used, one of the spells that I’d learned from my dreams.
Very nice,” I whispered, feeling quite pleased by the results. “This is even better than night vision goggles…”
With that, I got up and put on my robe, then grabbed my book on illusion magic. I hesitated a moment and then grabbed one of the two notebooks that I kept next to my bed. One of the notebooks was used as a dream journal, but this one was where I wrote down the details of spells I remembered. It was the start of my very own spell book, though it wasn’t very impressive as of yet. One day, I was going to have to get a real journal to start writing them down in.
I left my room and went to the common room, noticing that I wasn’t the only one who was up and about. That was no surprise though as it was the same time we normally got up for classes, and not everyone was able to sleep in on the weekends the way Dana did.
Morning,” I greeted Downpour, who was sitting in the common room with a sketch pad. She looked up and barely acknowledged my presence before she went back to drawing, not bothering to show me what she was working on. I didn’t feel offended though as I knew she wasn’t a very social person. I suspected she had a bit of social anxiety to go along with her depression.
I started off by creating some new faeries and then casting spells for them to hold onto. I knew that there had to be a way to simply transfer the stored spells from my old faeries to my new ones, but I didn’t know how to do that yet. I was definitely going to have to figure it out though, because that would probably save some time and effort. Either that, or figure out how to keep my faeries around for longer.
Once I was finished preparing those emergency spells, I went to work practicing on a couple new ones. As I’d been repeatedly reminded of during martial arts class, I had no offensive abilities at all. Everything I had was distraction and evasion, so I was trying to figure out some way to add a little more punch to my power. I found a couple spells in my book which still fell into the illusion category, but which might help fill in that weak spot.
Maybe I can get Mrs. Lauriant to teach me how to throw a fireball or something too,” I mused.
After practicing one of the spells a couple times, I found myself getting distracted and doing research instead. There were a lot of cool looking spells in the book of illusions that Mrs. Lauriant had given me, and I definitely wanted to try all of them. Some of them would let me do the whole ‘look at me’ think that Lina did, or even turn invisible like Ripple.
I thought about all the spells in the book, knowing that some of them were very long and complicated. In fact, the book even noted that some of those spells would take years of study before someone would even be ready to attempt them, though I had a feeling that I’d be ready to try those ones quite a bit sooner than that.
Yesterday, Mrs. Lauriant and I had spent quite a bit of time talking about the Sidhe and what it meant for me to actually be one. After my talk with Nikki, I’d had some questions, and Mrs. Lauriant had done her best to answer them as thoroughly as she could.
One of the things that Mrs. Lauriant had told me was that Sidhe had a genetic advantage when it came to manipulating magic. According to her, they…WE could manipulate magic more directly, without all of the ceremonies and rituals that human magic users often required. She’d described it as a built in magical shortcut, and once she’d mentioned that, I realized that I’d seen the effects myself.
The spells I’d learned from my dreams had been very simple to perform, but when I performed ones from the book, they tended to be complicated and required a lot more effort. I found myself instinctively altering parts of the spells from the book as I cast them, simplifying them and making them more like the ones from my dream. And in spite of those shortcuts, they still worked fine for me.
I was reading through one of the spells when Breakdown came into the room, carrying an odd looking device about the size of a large toaster. She gave a quick greeting to Downpour, then sat down in a corner and began dismantling the thing she’d brought in. She had a notebook open beside her which she took notes in.
I thought most devisors liked to make things,” I teased her gently. “Not take them apart.”
Well I’m not most devisors,” she responded a little smugly.
Just as I was turning back to my book, Lina came into the room and stopped at the doorway, staring at me with a grim look. “I thought you’d be here,” she said, her voice shaking a little as she came towards me.
I’m sorry about the other day,” I quickly told her, feeling bad that I hadn’t been able to find before now in order to apologize. “I didn’t mean to hurt you…”
I know,” she responded, staring at the floor in clear embarrassment. “I’m sorry I overreacted… If anyone knows how hard it is to suddenly switch orientations like that, it’s me…”
It’s pretty weird,” I agreed awkwardly.
I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” she said with a sigh. “After I first bonded with my spirit, I tried kissing a guy I used to like, but I didn’t feel anything for him anymore… I guess that’s what the other day had to be like for you…”
Yeah,” I agreed sadly.
Linda stared at me for a moment, then asked, “Can we still be friends?”
What?” I asked in mock hurt. “Just the other day, you were asking me out, and now you’re giving me the ‘just friends’ speech….”
Lina burst out laughing at that, then grinned smugly. “Pretty much.”
Sure,” I responded with a grin.
Well, I’m gonna go take my shower,” Lina told me before she started to leave again. She paused to stare at me for a few more seconds and mused, “You know, it’s a real shame you’re straight now,” before she continued on her way.
Yeah,” Breakdown agreed, looking me over. “I’m not really into white girls, but it is a damn shame…”
Even Downpour nodded agreement to that, which made me blush in embarrassment. I was suddenly struck by the irony of the situation, that I had turned into a girl, was in a dorm with some hot lesbian girls who liked me, and I had to go and start liking guys instead. I was starting to think that God really had a twisted sense of humor.
A moment later, I was startled to see Phase coming into the room, wearing silk pajamas and holding a laptop close to her body. She also looked pretty annoyed.
Decided to come slumming with the freshmen?” Breakdown asked her with a faint smirk.
Something like that,” Phase answered, somehow managing to put a lot of attitude into that simple statement. Then she let out an exasperated sigh as she explained, “Beltane decided to hit Jade early this morning, so half the sophomore area is covered with cockroaches and shrieking girls. I came here so I could get some work done in peace.”
Cockroaches?” Breakdown asked with a look of disgust.
Neon green ones,” Phase added wryly. “Apparently, Jade was taking her shower when they started climbing out of the drain…”
Ooooh, gross,” Breakdown exclaimed while Downpour and I just nodded our heads.
Then Phase stared at Breakdown for a moment, or at least the pile of parts that were spread out around her. “Isn’t that one of Blackbox’s lock boxes?”
Yeah,” Breakdown agreed cheerfully. “He likes to brag that they’re impossible to crack, but I’ve found a design flaw that’s sure to send him back to the drawing board.” She looked quite smug at that.
Interesting,” Phase commented with a thoughtful look on her face.
I just shook my head, deciding that I’d let Dana sleep in long enough. I went back to my room, where I found my roommate worshipping her espresso machine, or at least that was my impression considering the amount of attention she was giving it. I didn’t say a word though as I grabbed my shower supplies, then paused with the sudden worry that I might run into some cockroaches. I had a bad feeling that the image of cockroaches in the shower would haunt my imagination for some time to come.
It was almost two hours later that I went to the visitor parking lot, dressed in nice slacks and a blouse. I felt a little self-conscious dressed up like this, but the truth was, it was actually less feminine than the dresses I wore for Mrs. Lauriant or the skirts I wore on an almost daily basis. And I had to admit, I did look pretty nice like this. Almost professional.
I didn’t have to wait long before a familiar looking car pulled up and Grace Winslow stepped out. Like the one other time I’d seen her in person, she was wearing a very professional looking suit. She might have come off as a bit strict and intimidating if it wasn’t for the pleasant smile on her face.
Hello Gwen,” she greeted me, looking me over as she did so. “Are you ready for your first day of work?”
Not really,” I admitted, feeling nervous about the idea walking right into an MCO field office. Of course, I’d done it a couple times back in Seattle, but then I’d been with my Dad. However, this was part of the agreement to have my education paid for.
Don’t worry,” Grace assured me. “We’re just people, the same as you… I’ve already warned everyone to be on their best behavior.”
And I’m sure everyone there was delighted to hear that they’d have a mutant coming in,” I pointed out with a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
Everyone is looking forward to it,” Grace told me, though there was a shift in her aura that told me she was lying. “Or at the very least, everyone will act professionally if they know what’s good for them.”
I climbed into her car, along with the half dozen faeries who were accompanying me. Grace watched the faeries for a moment, then she shook her head with a chuckle. When I gave her a curious look, she said, “I have a seven year old niece who would absolutely love to see those things.”
The nearest MCO field office was in Berlin, New Hampshire, which was where Grace began driving us. While we drove, we engaged in a little small talk, with her telling me about a few of the times she’d worked with my Dad, mostly I think to assure me that she really did know him. Of course, I’d already verified that myself. After I first got to Whateley, I’d called home to let my parents know that I’d made it, and while I was doing so, I’d asked Dad about Grace. He hadn’t said much, other than that she was both a consummate professional and a good person, which was high praise coming from him. He’d also assured me that I could trust her.
Then Grace began asking me a little about myself and how I was doing at Whateley, and I tried being polite but a little vague with my answers. In spite of the fact that Dad trusted her, I didn’t really know her all that well yet. There were a few too many things that I didn’t feel comfortable with sharing, nor did it seem like a good idea to tell anyone in the MCO too much about what was going on at Whateley.
Grace gave me a faintly amused look, obviously noticing that I wasn’t being very forthcoming. Then she commented, “Miles told me about your gender change. That can’t be easy to deal with.”
I was a little surprised that Dad had told her about that, though if Dad trusted her with that knowledge, it was yet more confirmation that I could as well. Then again, if she and Dad really were old friends, she’d probably have questions about why Dad was asking her to look out for a daughter that he’d never had before, so Dad probably wouldn’t have had much choice but to tell her.
It isn’t,” I finally said, after several long seconds. “It’s…kind of weird.”
Grace smiled faintly at that, then told me, “Then just wait until you have to go through your first period…”
I winced at that, clearly remembering my initial reactions and how I’d completely freaked out. “It…wasn’t fun.” I was just glad that I’d stopped bleeding yesterday. Grace gave me a curious look so I turned bright red and added, “Well, it wasn’t…”
I see,” she responded carefully. “I guess you really are getting the whole experience then…”
All I could do was nod at that, then mumbled, “They’re making me see a shrink at school.”
Grace merely nodded at that, giving me a sympathetic look and saying, “Sometimes, that’s the best thing we can do for ourselves.” Then she smiled and admitted, “I talk to someone on a regular basis myself. Sometimes, it’s just nice having someone you can talk to.”
After this, the conversation became lighter, and it was easier to talk with her, especially as she went back to talking about some of the things she’d done while working as a liaison with the Liberty League. Then, she finally asked me, “Do you know a girl named Sphere?”
I’ve met her,” I responded carefully, not mentioning that she was my roommate.
I’ve told you about the clash between the Liberty League and some overzealous MCO agents,” she said with a scowl. “A girl called Sphere was there and was heavily involved in the incident.”
I nodded at that, not trusting myself to actually say anything there. Dana had told me all about what had happened, and she still nursed a pretty good grudge against the MCO over it. I was just glad that she didn’t blame me for any of the things that those people had done while trying to catch her.
I’m not asking you to spy on your classmates or anything like that,” Grace assured me, apparently guessing my worries. “From what I understand, one of the rogue agents became obsessed with Sphere and caused several other incidents leading up to the one with the Liberty League. While we were investigating the incident, a member of the Liberty League suggested that Sphere may be at Whateley. If possible, I’d like to speak with the girl and take her statement.”
Take her statement?” I asked in surprise and just a little confusion. “You mean arrest her?”
No,” Grace responded, shaking her head but not taking her eyes from the road. “From what I understand, Sphere was an unwilling accomplice at most. And even if I wanted to arrest her, I don’t have the authority to do so at Whateley. My interest is in the MCO agent who went rogue, so I’d like to interview both Sphere and a villain called Pinball who was also involved. But at the moment, Sphere is definitely the easiest of the two to locate.”
And you just want to talk to her?” I asked, just a little suspiciously.
I just want to talk to her,” Grace assured me. “And get a written statement we can take to court.”
I hesitated a moment, thinking about what Dana might say to this. Then I finally told Grace, “I can tell her you want to talk to her, but I can’t promise anything.”
Grace nodded at that. “If she agrees, I can make arrangements with Whateley and we’ll hold the interview on campus so she’ll feel safe.” She paused at that, then admitted, “After what happened, I’m sure she won’t be comfortable talking to anyone from the MCO.”
Probably not,” I agreed almost cheerfully. “But I can put in a good word for you.”
Grace chuckled at that and then changed the subject to the kind of welcome I could expect and what I’d have to do today. It didn’t sound very difficult, but I was still a little nervous and knew I would be until I found out what the field office was like for myself. In fact, I suspected that I’d feel nervous until I was safe and sound back at Whateley.
When we arrived, Grace gave me a serious look and said, “Only use your codename while here. As you are already aware, there are some people in the MCO who don’t need to know any more than that.”
Yeah,” I said, remembering that Dad had given me several similar warnings.
The local director is Jack Dougan,” Grace continued. “He’s one of those who isn’t exactly fond of mutants, but he is a professional and shouldn’t cause you any trouble. And if he does, I’ll be there to help you.”
A minute later, Grace took me into the building through the front door, into an office that looked very much like the one where Dad worked. There were people in suits and ties, others in MCO uniforms, and there were a lot of desks. At first glance, this might have been able to pass for an office in the corporate world, though of course there were lots of small signs that hinted that this wasn’t a corporate office. The MCO logo was quite visible on coffee mugs, on the carpet, and even painted on one wall. And I knew that if this place was anything like the one where my Dad worked, there would be another area loaded with power armor, heavy weapons, and soldiers who were trained to use them.
Everyone,” Grace announced loudly, reminding me very much of my introduction in Dad’s office. “This is Absinthe. She’ll be working here occasionally as an intern, learning how the MCO operates.”
There were several looks of surprise as well as a few that were clearly hostile. I quickly looked around the room, using my mage sight and making mental notes as to who might be a problem later on. Unfortunately, there were more of those kind here than there had been back in Seattle, so I had a feeling that my time working here wouldn’t be very welcoming. But thankfully, not everyone was hostile. I made sure to note those who seemed curious and friendly as well as those who weren’t.
Grace began taking me around, giving me a quick tour and introducing me to people, some of whom stared at me quite openly. Other than my green hair and pointed ears, I pretty much looked normal, so I could only imagine how they’d react to some of the GSD cases back at Whateley. These reactions were enough to make me suspect that most of these people hadn’t run into many actual mutants before.
The introductions and tour took almost an hour, and when we were done, Grace gestured around the main office and said, “Why don’t you see about getting everyone coffee for now and we’ll find more for you to do in a bit.”
With that, Grace hurried off, leaving me in the main office with a lot of people I didn’t know. I had a pretty good idea of what she was doing, besides feeding me to the sharks. She wanted me to meet up with these people without her standing over my shoulder. So with a sigh, I decided to get to work.
Can I get you a coffee or something?” I asked a woman at the first desk.
She stared at me for a moment, seeming just a little nervous of me…maybe even a tiny bit afraid. I was a bit surprised at that since I certainly wasn’t very threatening. “Sure,” she finally said, giving me a weak smile. “I’ll have a coffee, heavy on the cream and with a touch of raspberry syrup.”
I nodded at that, then realized that I might have a hard time remembering the orders. “Can I borrow a pen and some paper so I don’t forget?”
Sure,” she responded, still giving me a wary look but not seeming hostile about it.
I didn’t remember her name, but fortunately, she had a name badge on her desk so I wrote down Marlene and then went to the next desk and took another order. Since I could only hold a few cups at a time, I decided to get a few orders, run and get the drinks, then take a few more. It made sense to me, but I still heard some grumbling.
Stupid mutant,” one guy grumbled to another, perhaps not realizing I could hear him or maybe just not caring. “Making me wait…”
I overheard another guy commenting, “Finally, a mutant who knows her place…”
I was getting angry and blushing at those comments, but fortunately, not all the comments were like that. Another guy told one of the complainers, “She seems nice and friendly to me…”
One woman pointed to the faeries that were floating near the ceiling and asked, “Are you a manifestor?”
Her question seemed nice and innocent, and it was delivered in a pleasant enough tone. However, I noticed an edge to her aura which warned me that she was up to something. Then I realized what it was. She was trying to find out more about my powers. She could look my MID up in the database…and very well might already have done so.
No,” I told her as pleasantly as I could, deciding to be honest but vague so she wouldn’t have anything to call me out on. “I’m a magic user. Whenever a magic user makes a mistake with a spell, it creates hobgoblins…little creatures like these. They’re harmless and don’t really last long.” With that, I willed one of them to pop and vanish in order to emphasize that.
Well, I think they’re very nice,” a middle-aged woman said, watching my faeries with an indulgent smile.
When I went to pick up the next batch of orders from the break room, I made sure to leave one of my faeries behind, just so I could listen in and see what they were saying about me when I wasn’t there. One guy who’d been friendly to my face, made a few racist mutant jokes while another guy who’d been grumpy and had come across as unfriendly, had actually defended me. My spy was definitely helping me learn more about the people in this office and what I could really expect from them.
I have to deal with these freaks whenever I issue MID’s at that school,” one man complained while I was out of the room. “Now Winslow brings one of them HERE?”
Grace had introduced this man to me as Agent Whells, and I remembered him giving me a look of hostility at the time, though he hadn’t said anything. But now that Grace and I were both out of the room, he seemed to have no hesitation in making his views known.
Just think of this as a learning opportunity,” a dark skinned woman told him. I vaguely remembered her as being introduced as Vanessa Brown.
A learning opportunity?” Whells demanded with a snort of disgust.
Know your enemy,” she told him firmly. “You can bet your ass she’s studying us for weak points too.”
How right you are,” I muttered in agreement. Then as I looked at the coffee that I’d picked up for her and Whells, I silently wished that I knew a curse to give them diarrhea. Then again, it was probably a good thing I didn’t or I could get myself into a lot of trouble. “Just smile and deal with it,” I silently told myself. “It’s only for the next four years.”
When I got back, Whells gave me a look of disdain and said, “You screwed up my order. How stupid do you have to be to screw up something that simple?”
I bit my tongue at that, knowing quite well that I’d gotten his order right. I’d even made sure to write it down and pay special attention because I knew he’d be a problem. However, he was just looking for an excuse to vent at me, and if he didn’t have one, he’d make one up.
I’m sorry,” I said, trying hard to keep the sarcasm from my voice. “I’ll get you another cup. If you write it down this time…”
Just then, Grace came over and said, “Absinthe, I have a project for you…”
I let out a sigh of relief as I walked away from Whells, thankful that I could avoid him for a bit longer. I was pretty sure that Grace knew exactly what she was doing when she’d chosen that moment to interrupt us.
Sorry about subjecting you to all that,” Grace told me, actually looking a little sympathetic. “But I’m afraid it won’t be the last time.”
I just nodded at that, definitely not happy about having to do that again. Getting coffee might not be so bad if it wasn’t for the people like Whells and Brown, who clearly didn’t like the idea of a mutant being in the office at all. Fortunately, there had been a couple pleasant people to balance things out. And at least, when I did this next summer, I’d be doing it in the Seattle office where I had a few more allies.
I learned a lot from that,” I admitted, though most of what I’d learned had been about who I couldn’t trust. Still, at least I had a better idea of who I needed to keep an eye on.
Grace gave me a knowing smile and said, “I thought you might. But for now, I’ve got something a little less exciting to do…”
Grace’s new task for me was little more than taking a large stack of papers and breaking it down into four smaller piles, each of which was going to be dealt with in a different way. I didn’t really even understand the papers I was working with, only that I had to look for certain things in the headers that would tell me which pile to put them in. This task was long and boring, but at least I didn’t have to deal with anyone insulting me to my face. The faerie I’d left in the office assured me that a couple of them were still talking about me behind my back.
I spent most of the day taking care of the files and performing similar easy jobs, and in the afternoon I did another round of gathering coffee for everyone. The entire time, Grace kept her distance, giving me the jobs but letting me deal with everyone in the office on my own, only stepping in when Whells started to get too insulting again. When my work day was over and it was time for me to leave, I was more than ready for it.
It was nice to meet you,” Marlene told me, surprising me a little. I glanced at her aura, which no longer had the edge of fear in it. There was still a little nervousness, but there was also something that I thought was warmth or fondness. She gave me a smile and told me, “I guess I’ll see you again next month.”
It was nice meeting you too,” I told her pleasantly.
Thank God she’s leaving,” I overheard one woman mutter while several other people seemed to have similar sentiments. However, there were others like Marlene, who were noticeably friendlier than when I’d arrived. One man, who’d been rather hostile at first, was still wary of me, but nowhere near as much as he had been when I’d arrived.
As I left the building with Grace, it dawned on me that this was really one of the main purposes of the program I’d been recruited for. A lot of people in the MCO thought that all mutants were criminals or threats, and my presence gave them exposure to one who wasn’t. It let them see firsthand that I was just a person, the same as they were. And even after having been here for only one day, I could see that I’d already had an effect on several people.
I’m sorry you have to spend so much time driving me around,” I apologized to Grace, feeling bad that she had to drive all the way to Whateley to pick me up, and then do it again to take me home.
It’s no problem,” Grace told me with an amused smile. “If it was, I’d find other arrangements for you. Besides, I really don’t think your father would be happy if you had to ride the bus back and forth on your own.”
I think I’d be able to handle the bus on my own,” I responded wryly, though I certainly wouldn’t want to have to do that. Riding in a car was quicker and more comfortable.
We had just reached the parking lot when Grace’s cell phone began to ring. She answered it, listened for a moment, then scowled. When she hung up, she let out a sigh and told me, “I have to go back in and take care of something.” She handed me her car keys and said, “You can wait for me in my car. It shouldn’t be more than ten or fifteen minutes.”
I nodded and continued to her car, and just as I reached it, I suddenly had a bad feeling. I’d been keeping my faeries out of sight as much as possible so that I wouldn’t draw attention, but with that I sent them out to check my environment for danger, much the way I’d begun doing at school. A moment later, I saw that there was indeed a problem, but by then it was too late.
A large man stepped out from behind a car where he’d been crouched down and hidden, then he stopped right in front of me, holding a tire iron in his hand. If his entrance and weapon hadn’t been enough of a warning about his intentions, the ski mask over his head and Humanity First pin on his jacket gave further evidence.
You’re kind of far from the ski slopes,” I said, already aware of the fact that he wasn’t alone.
Shut it, genescum,” he responded gruffly.
Several other men with ski masks began to appear from their hiding places as well, four of them in total. All of them were armed, and I noticed that two of them had guns. I felt a surge of fear, but pushed it aside as Doug had taught me. Survival came first.
The moment I realized my situation, I activated one of the spells that I’d stored in a faerie, suddenly creating a flash of light to blind my opponents. I followed that up sending out a raw wave of magic, creating dozens of faeries, and then running as fast as I could while my faeries created a diversion.
As I ran, I realized that there were two more men in ski masks, and these two jumped out at me before I could get far. One slashed at me with a knife and I dropped to the ground, kicking his leg out from under him. Then I rolled to the side and kicked him in the wrist so he’d drop the knife.
Damn freak,” the other man said as he pointed a gun at me. I released another stored spell, one that created three illusion copies of myself. He shot at one of them while I jumped behind a car.
I was terrified and angry at the same time, knowing that I had to get away from these men but realizing it wouldn’t be easy. My faerie spies in the air confirmed that there were only the six of them, but all were armed and three had guns. All they needed was an opening. Fortunately for me, there were a lot of cars to hide behind.
The men were spreading out and coming towards me, but I had a few seconds to think, thanks to the illusions they were chasing. I quickly began casting another spell, trying something that I’d been meaning to test out before this. However, now seemed the perfect opportunity.
I’ve used illusions to disguise myself as other people on several occasions, and what I was doing now was no different. Or at least it was no different in principal. What was different, was that I cast my spell on three of my pursuers, making each of them look like me.
There she is,” one of the men yelled as he opened fire, shooting one of his own people in the chest. I might have felt a little guilty about causing that man to get shot, if he hadn’t been trying to kill me too.
For several seconds, there was complete chaos as my pursuers targeted each other, resulting in two of them getting shot before the illusions faded. I didn’t know if they were alive or dead, nor did I really care.
You shot me,” one of the men screamed, revealing that he wasn’t dead yet. However, the other one remained silent and didn’t move.
You killed Frank,” another of the men yelled frantically.
I was trying to use this distraction to slip away, but one of the men had continued searching and saw me as he came around the car. It was the one with the tire iron. I immediately launched myself at him, swinging a punch at his face. He went to block it, probably out of instinct, which was just what I was counting on. A swift kick later and he was rolling around on the ground, grabbing at his groin and groaning in pain. Several more kicks later and he had a broken nose and probably a concussion as well. And what was more, I now had a tire iron, though I didn’t think it was pure iron because I wasn’t having a reaction to it.
Until now, I’d been holding back with my hallucination so I hit one of the men with the faerie and unleashed all of it on him. He began shooting his gun wildly, hitting another of his own people before he ran out of ammunition. I just grinned at that.
At this rate,” I muttered quietly, “they’ll take each other out and I won’t have to do anything.” Of course, that was a bit of an understatement since I was having to work quite hard to make sure they took each other out.
I snuck up behind the man who was hallucinating, waiting until he was out of ammunition before I hit him in the back of the head with the tire iron. After he hit the ground, I hit him a few more times for good measure, giving one of his knees a serious hit and breaking his wrist for sure when he tried blocking.
At this point, Grace suddenly yelled, “What the hell?”
Grace was running into the parking lot with a gun drawn, pointing it at one of the men who’d been attacking me. At the same time, the last man who still seemed capable of fighting or running had decided to do that, running away as quickly as possible. I didn’t bother chasing after him, though I did shift to my mage sight. To my surprise, I actually recognized his aura.
I can’t believe you’re protecting this genescum,” the man Grace had caught snarled at her bitterly. “You’re a traitor to your race…”
Not a word from you,” Grace told him grimly, her expression grim and tense. Her aura actually radiated with anger, showing that she was really pissed. However, when I came out of hiding and she saw that I was unharmed, there was a flash of relief as well. “I’m glad you’re all right.”
Me too,” I responded wryly.
Look what she did to my friends,” the prisoner snarled, gesturing to the man who was spread out on the ground in a pool of blood with a bullet hole through his chest.
In case you forgot,” I spat out bitterly. “I’m not the one with the guns.”
Grace looked at the dead man and then at the other men I’d managed to take out, either directly or indirectly. Then she gave me a speculative look before commenting, “You don’t play fair, do you?”
Not if I can help it,” I answered, feeling a little shaken now that the excitement was over.
Grace grabbed her prisoner and slammed him to the ground, then quickly tore off his ski mask and slapped on a pair of handcuffs. She looked at the pin on his jacket and scowled, still looking pissed.
Humanity First,” she spat out in disgust. “I’m half surprised these idiots aren’t running around in white sheets with pointy hoods.”
The one who got away,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and steady. I looked Grace in the eyes and said, “I recognized him…”
You saw him without his mask?” she asked in surprise, seeming pleased by that.
I shook my head at that. “No, but I still recognized him anyway.” I hesitated a moment, then I quietly told her, “It was Whells.”
Whells?” she gasped in surprise.
I nodded at that, absolutely positive it was him. Auras were like fingerprints and I’d seen enough of his in the office today that I definitely remembered it. I didn’t recognize any of the other men, but there was no mistaking him.
That’s how these guys knew when and where to ambush me,” I pointed out angrily.
If he didn’t have his mask off,” Grace said, giving me a questioning look, “then how did you recognize him?”
For a moment, I hesitated to say anything, then I gestured for her to move further away from any of the Humanity First people. Once we were far enough away that they wouldn’t be able to overhear, I whispered to her. “Part of my powers is that I have mage sight… I can see magic around me. And I can also see people’s auras. That guy who ran away…that was definitely Whells’ aura.”
Grace was silent for several seconds before she asked me, “But you didn’t see his face?” When I shook my head, she muttered, “Damn. Then we don’t have any evidence. We can’t accuse him without at least something solid…”
I noticed that Grace didn’t show any indication of doubting my claim, only of being able to prove it. I felt extremely frustrated at the realization that she was right. Unless I could prove it had been Whells, it would just be my word against his. And I seriously doubted that would work out well in my favor.
But he doesn’t know you recognized him,” Grace told me quietly. “That means he has no idea that we’ve linked him to this. For now, we’ll have to be quiet and keep an eye on him. With a little patience and investigation, we’ll find something we can nail his ass to the wall with.”
I let out a sigh and nodded at that. I definitely didn’t like the idea of keeping quiet when I wanted to go right into the office and accuse Whells of trying to murder me, but Grace was right. Unfortunately, as much as I disliked it, this was one of the situations Dad had warned me about, where my best weapon would be using the rules.
I hate it when Dad’s right,” I muttered, earning a curious look from Grace.
I’m afraid that going back to Whateley is going to have to wait,” Grace told me with a grimace, gesturing to Humanity First people. “Unfortunately, I need to call the police, then we both need to fill out a lot of paperwork.”
Oh no,” I groaned at the idea of filling out paperwork. I stared at Grace in resignation and said, “You really do know my Dad.”
To Be Continued