Thursday morning, Oct 6th, 2016
I was in my first period Power Theory class, where I was surrounded by a lot of my friends. Last night, I’d told the ones in Poe about what had happened with Esquire, and this morning during breakfast, I’d repeated the story for nearly everyone else. Now, I was having to tell the story for a third time, for Janine.
“What?” Janine gasped, staring at me in horror. “He really attacked you?”
“He started to,” I responded with a sigh. “If Golden Lion hadn’t been there, things might have gotten…messy.”
“I’ve heard about him,” Vic said. He sat several seats away but was close enough to hear us talking. “Apparently, he’s some big man over in Emerson.”
“Why would he be in Emerson?” Laura asked, giving Vic a curious look. “I didn’t think they put anyone with GSD over there.”
“Yeah,” Morgana added with a smirk. “But he has the ‘pretty’ kind of GSD.”
“And rumor around Twain is that he greased a few palms,” Vic added wryly. Then he shrugged. “Admittedly, the rumors are mostly from kids with GSD, who just MIGHT be a touch jealous.”
“But what about Esquire?” Janine asked, giving me a worried look. “If the Bad Seeds declared war on you for not joining…”
“Not all of them,” I corrected her with a sigh. “Just Esquire. In fact, I have it on good authority, that the rest of the Seeds are keeping their noses out of it.”
Morgana grinned at that. “Then all the better. If all of us go after him…”
“Then the Seeds would probably decide to get involved,” I pointed out grimly. “Right now, it’s between me and him, but if all of you got involved…”
“Then they’d probably feel obligated to help him,” Laura finished for me.
“That just sucks,” Tia commented while Tanya nodded agreement.
Tanya scowled, pointing out, “This isn’t a fair fight. I mean, Esquire is a sophomore, and you’re a freshman. He has more training than you, and to be honest…we’ve seen you in BMA.”
“Don’t remind me,” I responded with a wince.
“Bianca can beat him,” Janine announced with a confidence that surprised and confused me.
“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” I told Janine, feeling a bit touched by it.
Morgana nodded at that. “You know, we have your back if you need it. Just say the word.”
There were more nods of agreement from my friends. Tia offered, “You can still bounce ideas off us, if nothing else.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told her, before turning my attention back to the class and the lecture that we’d been talking through.
When class ended a short time later, the conversation immediately started up again, or at least, several separate conversations started up. Janine was by my side, complaining about how last night, Karma had gotten into her latest domino chain, and set it off prematurely. Knowing how much time and effort Janine put into these things, I could understand her frustration.
“Oouch,” I said sympathetically. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Janine admitted with a sigh. “The workshops aren’t really a good place to set up my dominos, but I don’t have anywhere else where I can leave them set up overnight. Well, except for Dickensen’s basement, but there are always girls who’d mess with it, just because.”
“You probably need to find a private lab,” Laura suggested. “You know, one of those hidden rooms I keep hearing about.”
“That’s a great idea,” Tinker exclaimed, her eyes gleaming with interest.
“I wouldn’t mind getting a private lab myself,” I commented almost absently. I glanced at Morgana and continued, “No offense to you or AJ, but I’d like somewhere a little more private to work on my inks.”
Morgana gave me a look of mock offense. “I’ll have you know, I’m mortally offended. You’ll have to earn my forgiveness with a properly caffeinated apology.”
“You can put it on my tab,” I told her wryly.
“I’m keeping a tally,” Morgana assured me with a smirk. “And one day, I am going to collect.”
“You’re welcome to try,” I said with a smirk of my own.
After this, our group split up and went in different directions. Morgana and I had Magic Theory next, so the two of us went to that while everyone else went to their classes.
Thursday late morning, Oct 6th, 2016
I stood under the hot running water, letting out a sigh of relief as I did so. I could feel all the aches and pains washing away, along with the sweat and grime. In fact, I could literally feel my bruises healing and fading.
BMA had just ended, and I was taking a much needed shower before going to lunch. Today, class had gone relatively well, and I was feeling rather pleased with myself.
At first, I’d sparred with Rapunzel, who’d quickly tied me up in her long prehensile hair. However, I’d been able to activate my built-in fire spell to burn a lot of her hair away and free myself. In the process, I’d also left her unable to defend herself from my retaliation, which meant that I won the match.
Most girls would have been furious at having their hair destroyed in that way, but not Rapunzel. She’d been annoyed, but nothing more. Her hair grew at a rate of several feet a day, and she had to cut it every day just to keep it at a manageable length. By class tomorrow, her hair would be just as long as it had been at the start of class today.
When I was done with my shower, I activated my built-in water spell, which caused all my silvery watermark runes to glow blue. It took me only a couple seconds to pull all the loose water from my skin and hair, and then to drop it directly into the drain, leaving me nice and dry. Several girls gave me looks of envy as I got dressed, not having to worry about wet hair.
“That was a pretty good match against Rapunzel,” Laura told me, giving me an approving smile. “But next time, you’ll need to keep your distance and avoid her hair entirely.”
“Trust me,” I responded with a sigh. “I know.”
“Yeah,” Morgana added with a grin. “That burnt hair smell is nasty. I do NOT want to deal with that again…”
“Weren’t you the one who burnt her hair last week when you were sparring with her?” I asked my roommate. “Where do you think I got the idea from?”
“Yeah, but it’s different when I do it,” Morgana responded, before sticking her tongue out at me.
Laura chuckled at that. “You both had better hope that she doesn’t find a way to make her hair fireproof. I think, someone in the labs is working on some shampoo to do just that…”
“Then I guess I’ll just have to resort to scissors,” I said, pulling out the knife that I usually carried with me. It was a dagger, not scissors, but it got the point across.
While we finished getting dressed, Rapunzel showed up, with her blue hair now being only a little longer than a pixie cut. This was the shortest that I’d ever seen her hair, though I knew that in no time at all, her hair would be touching her shoulders again. She gave me a nod of acknowledgement that was almost friendly.
“So,” Rapunzel asked, looking at Laura. “What’s this about fireproof shampoo? And where can I get some?”
Laura, Morgana, and I all looked back and forth at each other before we all burst out laughing.
A minute later, Morgana and I left the locker room together, while Laura remained to talk with Rapunzel about the possibility of devisor shampoos that might work with her hair. However, as soon as we stepped out of the locker room, I noticed two members of campus security standing there.
“Miss St. Claire,” one of the men said. “We need you to come with us.”
“What?” I blinked in surprise and confusion.
One of the other girls who was coming out of the locker room saw this, and immediately said, “About time they took care of her…”
“What’s this about?” I asked, trying to calm down. The only reason I could think of for security to want to see me, was because of what happened last night with Esquire.
“We aren’t at liberty to say,” the other security officer said. “But we’ve been instructed to bring you to the security office.”
“Bianca didn’t do anything,” Morgana protested, immediately coming to my defense.
I looked at my roommate and gave her a nervous smile. “I guess I’ll see you later…” I silently added a ‘hopefully’ to the end of that.
The security officers didn’t really say anything as we left, which only played on my already frayed nerves, though they didn’t handcuff me or anything, which I took as a good sign. A couple minutes later, they led me to the campus security offices, and then to one specific office. There was a nice looking desk in the middle of the room, with an attractive blonde woman sitting behind it. I immediately recognized Samantha Everheart, the head of Whateley Security.
“Here she is ma’am,” one of my escorts said.
“Thank you,” Everheart told him, before gesturing for them to leave.
Once the other two were gone, Everheart stared at me for several seconds. There was something about her body language and the look in her eyes, that immediately reminded me of some of my Loyal back in Chicago, though perhaps a little more intense. At a surface glance, this woman didn’t look very dangerous, though I had no doubt she was.
Then, without any polite introductions or preamble, Everheart said, “Several students have reported being harassed, threatened, or in one case, physically assaulted, by two students who claimed that they work for you.”
“WHAT?” I blurted out in surprise and confusion.
“You’re surprised by this,” Everheart said. It was a statement, not a question.
“Yes,” I admitted, not sure what else to say. After a couple seconds, I added, “I don’t know anything about this. I don’t even have any people working for me here…” Well, there was Janine, but I wasn’t going to mention that. “And I certainly wouldn’t ask them to go after other students.”
“But you do have people,” Everheart pointed out.
I nodded agreement, knowing that it was pointless to deny anything. The school knew all about who I really was, and not just as the White Lady. There was no doubt that security, and especially Everheart, would know every bit of that.
“I have bodyguards back in Chicago,” I said. “And technically, other people who work for me too.”
“Technically?” Everheart asked, raising an eyebrow.
With a grimace, I reluctantly admitted, “I might be the White Lady now, but I’m really just a figurehead. I don’t actually have any authority with the Family.”
“I suspected that was the case,” Everheart told me with a faint smile that quickly faded. “Now, about these students who claim that they work for you…”
“But I don’t have any,” I started, only to pause in realization. With a gulp, I asked, “Who are they?”
Everheart stared at me for a moment. “Shades and Beatdown.”
I groaned at that and nearly pulled a facepalm. “It figures…”
“You aren’t surprised that it’s them,” Everhearet pointed out. “Why is that?”
That was a question that really made me nervous, so I wondered just how much I could tell without giving away enough to get me in trouble. Somehow, I didn’t think that security would look favorably on what happened in the tunnels a couple weeks ago, even if I was the one who’d been attacked, and had only defended myself.
“A couple weeks ago, Beatdown tried to jump me,” I said. “I got away from him and thought that was it. Then, a couple days ago, he and Shades showed up and asked if they could work for me. I told them that I wasn’t interested…”
“Well, it seems that they misunderstood,” Everheart responded with a sigh. She scowled at that and shook her head faintly. I had a feeling that she was marveling at the stupidity of students.
I took a deep breath, then cautiously asked, “Am I in trouble?”
Everheart stared at me for several more seconds before answering. “No. I believe you, that you aren’t behind those two. However, I suggest that you have a word with them and clarify your position.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I responded in relief.
A minute later, I hurried out of the security offices, wanting to get away from Kane Hall as fast as I could. I might not be in trouble this way, but I’d seen the way a couple of those security officers looked at me, like I was either some kind of troublemaker that they had to keep an eye on, or worse, like I might be a potential payday.
Fortunately, my visit to security hadn’t taken all that long, and there was still enough time for me to get to Crystal Hall and get something to eat before I had to get to my next class. I hurried towards the cafeteria at a quick pace, already expecting all the questions I was bound to receive from my friends, about what was going on. I had a feeling that Morgana would laugh her butt off, and then tease me even more about having minions.
Since it was still the lunch period, students were out in force, which always made me a little nervous. Being surrounded by so many people always triggered that little paranoid voice in the back of my head, the one that had only become louder after the attacks in the tunnels.
I slowly looked around, trying to see if there were any threats, not that this was likely with so many witnesses. However, you never knew, and it always paid to be aware of your surroundings.
Two boys, who were obviously either gadgeteers or devisors, were messing around with a robot that bore a striking resemblance to the one from that old movie Short Circuit. A short distance away, several more students were playing a game of frisbee, using their powers to make the game a little more exciting. And then, there were numerous people who just seemed to be walking around.
My eyes locked on one of these people in recognition. Esquire was walking past a short distance away, calmly strolling by with his cane and acting as though he hadn’t seen me.
Seconds later, I suddenly heard some kind of explosion from the side, and when I snapped around, I saw the robot had exploded and something was flying towards me. I barely registered that it was the robot’s head, before it hit my shoulder and sent me flying back in a burst of pain.
The Quad, Thursday late afternoon, Oct 6th, 2016
I was sitting on a hard bench in the Quad, feeling chilly and sore. My coat helped me against the chill, but didn’t do anything for the ache in my shoulder.
Earlier today, a couple devisors had been testing out their robot, which spontaneously exploded, as devises sometimes tended to do. The robot’s head had struck me in the shoulder, breaking my collar bone and severely bruising me. If it had hit me just a little differently, or several inches closer to my head, there was no doubt that I would have been killed. As it was, I’d been rushed to Doyle, where they patched me up as best they could. Between their healing spells and my own enhanced healing abilities, I was much better than I had been. However, my entire shoulder was still heavily bruised, and extremely sore, and probably would be for another day or two.
They said that it was an accident…that devises sometimes failed and even exploded for no clear reason. They said that I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t believe that. Not in the least. Not when a ferrokinetic, who happened to have a grudge against me, was right there when it happened.
“Esquire,” I said in a quiet and bitter tone.
Esquire had come after me again. First, he’d outed me as the White Lady to the entire school, which caused me some serious problems. Then, he’d sent that thug Beatdown to rough me up, in the hopes that I’d go to him and the Bad Seeds for protection. And now, he’d attacked me directly, trying to make it look like an accident when it clearly wasn’t.
“I have to do something about him,” I told myself.
This was the kind of thing that most students would take to campus security, or at least, the kind of thing that they should. After all, this was what security was there for. However, that wasn’t an option for me. I could almost hear Marcus and Tessa in my head, reminding me that I couldn’t be seen as being weak, and if I ran to security, that was exactly how I would be seen.
“So, nothing has changed,” I pointed out with a scowl.
I couldn’t go to security without being seen as weak and unable to solve my own problems, and I couldn’t allow my friends to get involved, without risking a full war between us and the Bad Seeds. I’d just managed to avoid that, and had no intention of starting that up again, or dragging my friends into it. Esquire was my problem, and I’d have to deal with him on my own.
Then with a sigh, I looked around at my surroundings, trying to catch sight of any other possible ambush or attack. I wasn’t happy about being out here in the open like this, but this was where Janine had wanted to meet up with me. She’d said that she wanted to show me something, so I assumed she wanted to demonstrate some improvements on her domino setting machine.
While I waited for Janine, I continued watching my surroundings closely. However, my attention kept going to Kopy, who was showing off for a couple girls, obviously trying to impress them. From the sparks he was shooting out of his hands, I assumed that he’d copied the powers of some energizer.
At the moment, I was just thankful that Kopy wasn’t bothering me. Either he hadn’t noticed me, or he’d finally realized that I wasn’t with the Bad Seeds and couldn’t get him into the club. He claimed that his biological father was the supervillain Mimeo, but apparently, the Seeds didn’t believe him, because they’d never offered him membership. Kopy was definitely something of a show-off, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he’d made the whole thing about Mimeo up, just for attention.
“Hey, Glyph,” Kopy called out to me, finally noticing that I was there, or just deciding to acknowledge me. “I was wondering if I could copy your powers for a bit…you know, for practice. It always pays trying out a variety of different abilities…”
“I’m afraid not,” I responded as politely as I could.
The truth was, I had no idea what would happen if Kopy tried to copy my abilities. My abilities didn’t all come from my mutant power, at least not directly. Most of my powers were due to the legacy that I’d inherited from my grandmother, the one that was passed down from one White Lady to another.
I suspected that if Kopy did try to copy my powers, all he’d get would be my mutant avatar trait, without a spirit to go with it. However, I was a little worried about the possibility of him somehow copying my ‘spirit’, the family legacy that made me into the White Lady. If he could do that, it would create a lot of problems that I didn’t want to deal with, so it was best to avoid that can of worms entirely.
Fortunately, Janine showed up before Kopy could press me on the issue. “Bianca,” Janine called out as she quickly walked in my direction. As soon as I saw her, I let out a sigh of relief. My problems with Kopy were over, at least for the moment.
“I’m glad you made it,” I told her in complete honesty.
Then I noticed, she didn’t have her domino machine with her, or anything to set up a domino chain. That made me more curious over what she wanted to talk to me about.
Janine gave me a concerned look, asking, “Are you okay? Do you feel better?”
The questions made me instinctively reach over to touch my aching shoulder with my good hand. “It still hurts,” I admitted. “But now, it’s mostly just bruising.”
“The guys feel really bad about what happened,” Janine told me with a pained look. “They don’t know why their robot blew up. I think they’d come and apologize but…” She cringed, suddenly looking even more self-conscious than usual. “I think they’re kind of intimidated by you…”
I blinked at that, surprised for just a moment. I wasn’t a very intimidating person, or at least, I certainly didn’t think I was. Nobody who actually knew me, thought I was intimidating, but I guess I did have a reputation now, whether it was deserved or not.
“It wasn’t their fault,” I told Janine with a scowl. Then, I explained, “I think Esquire was trying to take me out, and make it look like an accident…”
Janine gasped at that, giving me a look of horror. “No…”
“It isn’t the first time that someone tried to kill me,” I stated, clenching my fists as I did so and trying not to shudder. “And it probably won’t be the last.”
I glanced around nervously, hating the fact that I constantly had to watch for ambushes and assassination attempts. If I let my guard down for one minute, I could get killed. That had nearly happened a couple hours ago, and was a clear reminder to stay alert.
“That’s horrible,” Janine gasped, giving me a look of worry.
“So,” I said, trying to change the subject. “What was it you wanted to show me?”
Janine’s eyes seemed to light up at that. “Well, I was talking to some people in the labs about how I needed to find a place for my dominos, and Samantha…Tek Rider, said that she just got a new lab, and that I could have the old one she used last year…”
“That’s great,” I told Janine, honestly happy for her. I knew how hard it was for her to find a place to set up her dominos and Rube Goldberg machines, where other people wouldn’t mess with them.
“Yeah,” Janine started to respond, before pausing for several seconds. She gave me a nervous smile before continuing. “That was really nice of herj, but when I went to look at the lab…it was way too small for me. I need a lot more space than that…”
I nodded at that, knowing that her domino chains could take up a lot of floor space when she set them up. That was one of the reasons she had such a hard time finding the right place. This was a busy school, so a lot of open space that was also relatively secure, was hard to find.
Janine bit her lip for a moment before saying, “So, I kind of thought that you might like it…”
“What?” I asked in surprise.
“You said that you wanted a lab too,” Janine explained self-consciously, bushing as she did so. “It’s a little small, but I thought you might want it…”
“Um…thank you,” I said, not sure what else to say. “Where is it?”
Janine pulled a folded sheet of paper out of her pocket and unfolded it, showing that it was a series of directions. “Samantha wrote down the directions for me,” she explained, before starting towards the nearest entrance to the tunnels.
I had no idea where we were going, and Janine only seemed to have a vague sense, in spite of having been there already. She kept looking at the directions in order to guide us through the tunnels to our destination.
“We’re here,” Janine finally announced, stopping in front of what seemed to be a janitor’s closet of some kind.
I peeked my head into the closet, which was actually empty, before wryly commenting, “You’re right. This is too small…”
Janine giggled at that, then stepped inside and pushed the wall, which swung open, revealing that it was actually another door. I blinked at that, then followed her into the small closet and then through the door.
A moment later, I found myself inside a small room that couldn’t have been any larger than the dorm room I shared with Morgana. In fact, I was pretty sure that this was just a little smaller. The floor and walls were all plain concrete, which made me think ‘jail cell’ for some reason, and the entire place was almost completely empty. The only thing in the entire room, besides us, was a bench against one wall. If this place had been used as a laboratory by some devisor or gadgeteer, she’d obviously done a good job of cleaning it out.
“I know it isn’t much,” Janine said awkwardly, “but I thought you might be able to use it…”
“Definitely,” I responded with a smile, already imagining where everything would go. This place wasn’t nearly as large, nice, or well-equipped as the lab I shared with Morgana and AJ, but I could make it work. “I can make my inks and chalks right over there.” I pointed to the bench. “I can put a bookshelf here, to store my materials. And I can even put a small writing desk… This place is perfect for what I need… Thank you…”
Janine practically beamed at that. “I’m glad you like it.”
“Best personal assistant ever,” I said, which made her blush. “Now, I just need to figure out some security…”
“Security?” Janine asked me curiously.
“Well, Tek Rider obviously knows where this place is,” I pointed out. “And who knows how many other people might know.”
“Oh, yeah,” Janine responded with a disappointed sigh.
“I’ll need to get a good lock,” I mused aloud, looking at the door. In fact, I might want to reposition the door, sealing that one up and opening another one instead. That would be a real pain in the butt, but with my built in ‘earth’ spell, I could probably speed that up. “And I know a lot of wards I can use too…”
“I can help with the physical lock,” Janine offered eagerly. “That could be fun.”
I nodded my agreement. Then, I asked, “But what about you? Maybe I can help you find a place for your dominos…”
“I already found a place,” Janine replied, looking pleased. “But thank you…”
“You did?” I asked in surprise.
Janine nodded at that. “A couple people in the labs told me about a spot that should work. Apparently, a lot of people in the labs know about it, but most other students don’t. It’s got a LOT of room, but since it isn’t super-secret, and it’s out of the way, most people don’t bother going there. They said that if I set my stuff up there, nobody should really mess with it.”
“Then, let’s go take a look,” I said, curious about this place.
“All right,” Janine said, barely containing her excitement.
Before we left, I bent down and drew several runes near the door in chalk, setting some wards that would let me know if anyone else came into the room. Then, I shook my head, already considering the physical and magical protections that I’d need to set up if I actually wanted this place to be secure. I silently promised myself that by the time I was through, this room would be just as secure as my own dorm room, if not more so.
“That should do it for now,” I muttered, definitely not satisfied with the current level of security. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time for anything more just then.
The place Janine told me about wasn’t too far away, though the twists and turns in the tunnel made it seem further than it actually was. As soon as we stepped through the door into the large room, I could tell that it was indeed perfect for her domino extravaganzas. The room was huge, with lots of floor space, and that was after taking into account the various contraptions that were scattered about against the walls.
“I guess some people used this for storage or something,” Janine said, staring at some of the odd contraptions. “But I bet I can use some of this stuff for parts…”
My eyes went to something that looked like one of those death traps that all the villains liked to use in the old Batman TV series with Adam West. There was a big container up top, with skulls painted on it, along with the word ‘ACID’.
“I figure I can put in some new locks and use this place,” Janine told me. “Of course, a lot of people know where this is, and if they want in they can get through the locks, but that will probably make it too much trouble for most people to bother with…”
“I’ll set up some wards to help protect the place, if you want,” I offered.
“Really?” Janine asked, suddenly getting more excited. “You’d do that for me?”
“Of course,” I responded, giving her a look of surprise. “You just got me a lab. This is the least I can do…”
Janine let out a little squeal of delight and then grabbed me in a hug, before jumping back with a look of embarrassment. “Sorry,” she apologized with a bright blush. “I got kind of carried away…”
I smiled at that, though I was blushing a little myself, or at least, what little I was able to with my odd coloration. Getting hugged like that had actually been kind of nice.
Then, I looked over the room again, trying to decide how I could help with security, when suddenly, an idea came to me. For a moment, I just stood there froze, my mind racing as the details began to come together. It would take some work…a LOT of work…but if I could pull this off…
“Janine,” I asked carefully. “Before you set your stuff up here, would you mind if I used it for a few days?”
With a look of confusion, she asked, “What for?”
“Because,” I responded with an evil smile, quite aware of my still aching shoulder, “I have an idea for how to deal with Esquire.”
Thursday evening, Oct 6th, 2016
Carrie squirmed self-consciously in her chair as she looked around the table. Only three of the other Cadets had shown up for the meeting, and all of them were staring at her expectantly.
“You were right,” she told Miss Violet before glancing to Mister Blank and Perfume.
Violet just smirked. “Of course I was.”
Carrie wanted to roll her eyes. Instead, she continued, “Whatever spell she uses to jam our listening devices, doesn’t work on someone who is physically close enough to listen in themselves.”
“How close were you?” Edward asked curiously.
“I was shrunk down to just a few inches tall,” Carrie answered. “So, I was able to practically get right under the bench where she was sitting.”
“It seems unlikely that Glyph would talk about anything sensitive in the open like that,” Perfume commented thoughtfully. “But did you learn anything useful?”
“A little,” Carrie said, uncomfortable with the attention.
Ironically, she’d done gymnastic routines while being watched by lots of complete strangers, and she never had any problems with that. However, once she was out of her comfort zone, her confidence went out the window.
Carrie took a deep breath and steadied herself as she continued, “Glyph was talking with Tinker, and she said that Esquire was the one who caused her accident today.”
“Better they go after each other than team up,” Edward pointed out.
“But I wonder what they’re fighting for,” Violet added a moment later, looking thoughtful.
“If they are,” Perfume mused. “We don’t have all the facts yet, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions.”
“Tinker also said that she found a lab for Glyph,” Carrie added.
“Glyph has a lab now?” Edward asked in surprise.
“If she has a lab,” Violet said, “we need to get a look inside it. Who knows what evil spells she might be cooking up there.”
Carrie nodded her agreement, though didn’t say anything. Instead, she sat there and silently watched while Edward and Violet tried to figure it out.
“There’s no point in speculation,” Perfume finally said. “We need to get more information first, and that means investigation. Now, where is this lab at?”
“I don’t know,” Carrie admitted with a wince. “I couldn’t keep up with them when they went down into the tunnels.” Then, she got defensive. “It’s hard to go very fast when you’re the size of a mouse…”
“That’s understandable,” Perfume told her gently.
Edward smirked. “You still learned more than any of Swarm’s drones.”
“Tinker said that it used to be Tek Rider’s lab,” Carrie offered.
“Then, I think we have a place to start,” Perfume said, giving Carrie a smile. “Good job, Carrie.”
Emerson Cottage, Thursday evening, Oct 6th, 2016
Crysis sat on his bed, doing his best to ignore his roommate Cole, who was on the other side of their shared room, staring at his laptop. He didn’t know if Cole was doing classwork or looking at porn, and was afraid to ask. And at that moment, Crysis had much more important things to concern himself over.
“Glyph,” Crysis whispered to himself beneath his breath. “The White Lady…”
Earlier in the day, after BMA was over, he’d watched as security came and took that white-skinned girl away. Out of curiosity, he’d followed at a distance, until he’d seen that they were taking her to Kane Hall. After that, it was only a matter of waiting until she came back out again.
At first, Crysis had only intended to follow her, to gather information and come up with a plan. But then, he’d seen his opportunity. A couple lab geeks had been testing some kind of robot, so it was a simple matter of using his telekinesis to tear the thing apart, making it look like it had exploded. Then he’d thrown a part at Glyph, and had even hit her…though not as fatally as he’d hoped.
His heart raced as he remembered what he’d done, and how close he’d come to killing her. If he’d succeeded, he would have earned his dad’s respect, as well as a position in Scorn’s organization. Unfortunately, while his powers were pretty strong, he still needed to work on fine control. If he’d had more control, and had been more accurate, he would have succeeded.
“It would have looked like an accident,” he muttered. Nobody would have been able to trace it to him.
Crysis was frustrated by his failure, but at the same time, a small part of him was actually relieved. He’d never killed anyone before, and the idea of actually doing so made him a little uncomfortable, even if his victim was someone who deserved it, like the White Lady. After all, she’d killed a man and mailed his head to Scorn, so she was no helpless innocent.
“Next time,” Crysis quietly promised himself, “I’ll do better.”
Of course, he’d have to be careful and wait for the right opportunity, because it had to look like an accident. If he got caught killing someone on campus, even someone like the White Lady, not even Scorn would be able to help him.
Crystal Hall, Friday late morning, Oct 7th, 2016
I was sitting in my usual seat as I ate lunch with my friends. Today, the conversation was pretty lively, though it would have been more accurate to say that the conversations were, since everyone had broken up into smaller groups, and several different conversations were going on at once.
Taka and Hikaru were talking to each other in Japanese, and I had little idea of what they were actually saying. I knew that they were discussing some important event in Japanese history, but when they’d tried explaining it to the rest of us, it hadn’t made a lot of sense. I guess that I didn’t have the cultural background necessary to appreciate the detail or importance to their culture.
Vic and Jimmy were similarly engaged in a private talk, though Jimmy’s VI ferret Tavi, floated over the table in front of them and kept inserting random comments. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but from the way Tavi suddenly pumped up with muscles, and then had a cape and spandex hero costume appear, I had to admit that I was curious.
On the other hand, I could easily hear what Tanya, Callie, Erica, and Tia were talking about, though I would have been happy not to. They were talking about fashion, and since Tia knew a lot of professional models, most of their attention was focused on her. I was somewhat amused by that, as well as sympathetic. Tia was a changeling, like me, which meant that this was probably still a little odd for her.
And then, there was the conversation that I was actually involved with. Laura, Morgana, Bailey, and I, were all talking about BMA and how the class had gone this morning.
“It’s things like this that make me wish I had a more physical power,” Laura said, still complaining about her own sparring match.
“I know what you mean,” Bailey agreed. “I hate sparring with Cindy…”
The rest of us nodded agreement. Cindy Hoffstatter looked almost like a stereotype of a scrawny nerd girl, but she happened to be a PK supergirl, and a fairly strong one at that. Only a couple people in class could match her for raw physical power, and I certainly wasn’t one of them. The only thing more humiliating than being badly beaten by your opponent, is when the opponent looks like the stereotypical bully victim from nearly every movie ever.
“I have a lot more experience with martial arts,” Laura continued, “but it’s hard to compete against that level of power.”
“She’s called Miss Omega for a reason,” Morgana commented, having had her own rough sparring match against Cindy earlier this week.
“I got off pretty easy,” I commented.
Today, I’d been matched up against AJ. Sure, he was better than I was, and he’d beaten me, but at least he wasn’t the kind to rub it in your face. As I was frequently reminded in class, hand-to-hand combat wasn’t really my thing, and in spite of what Sensei Tolman said, I didn’t think that any amount of practice was going to change that.
Since I was thinking about AJ, my thoughts naturally went to the other Bad Seeds, and especially to Esquire. I scowled at the very thought of him, knowing that I owed him for what he’d done for me. When he’d outed me as the White Lady, he’d helped reveal my location to Scorn, and had put me in serious danger.
My eyes went to the center of the table, where two of my spell cards were sitting. Each one contained a different spell to protect against eavesdroppers and bugs, and while there were ways to get around them, doubling up on the spells would make that more difficult. With as many enemies as I had now, I didn’t consider that kind of protection to be paranoid, merely a reasonable caution.
Esquire was a pain in my behind, and he’d caused me a lot of trouble, but admittedly, he wasn’t my worst problem. That would be Scorn, who’d probably send more assassins after me eventually. Then, there was Crysis, who was probably Scorn’s spy. Of course, there was also Chained Melody, who was spreading rumors about me and trying to instigate trouble for me, the Spy Kids, who kept trying to stick their noses in my business, and even those two idiots who caused me even more trouble, in the name of trying to help me.
“I need even more protection,” I muttered to myself with a sigh. Or at least, I needed to take care of some of those people, so that they weren’t problems anymore. Unfortunately, that was a lot easier said than done, especially where Scorn was concerned.
While I’d been distracted by my own thoughts, the conversation continued around me. I hadn’t even noticed that, until someone called my name.
“Bianca,” Laura asked, giving me a curious look.
“Earth to Bianca,” Morgana added. “Are you listening?”
“Sorry,” I responded with a self-conscious smile. “I was just thinking about something…”
“Don’t strain yourself too hard,” Morgana teased, flashing me a grin to show that she was just joking.
“We were just talking about getting together after dinner tonight to study,” Laura said.
“Sorry,” I apologized, shaking my head. “I already have plans tonight.”
That seemed to catch everyone’s attention. “What kind of plans?” Bailey asked.
I paused for a moment, not sure how much I should tell my friends. I had no doubt that if they knew what I was up to, they’d offer to help. However, this was something I had to handle on my own, at least for the most part, and I didn’t want them involved any more than they already were.
“I’m just working on a project,” I responded, keeping my answer honest yet vague. “Janine is helping me with something.”
“Oh, really,” Laura responded with a look of interest. Morgana and Bailey shared a look and began to grin, though I was a little confused why.
“Just the two of you,” Morgana said with a smirk, “working on some secret project together…”
“Yeah,” I said, still not getting what she was talking about, though Laura and Bailey both snickered.
Once I was finished eating, I excused myself and said a quick goodbye to my friends. Algebra was my next class, and I didn’t want to be late. It might not be my favorite class, but at least, unlike BMA, I didn’t walk out of class every day with more bruises.
However, on my way out of Crystal Hall, I happened to see a couple of the items on my list of problems that needed to be dealt with. Beatdown and Shades had been running around campus, threatening other students in my name, and damaging my already poor reputation. And since I’d already been hauled in to talk to security because of their actions, I was more than a little upset with them.
At the moment, my two wannabe henchmen were standing in line to get food, surrounded by a lot of other people. Now would be the perfect time to talk to them, if there weren’t so many other people to hear. Then again, that might make this the best possible time.
“Damn it,” I grumbled under my breath, feeling self-conscious and nervous. I hated confrontations, but I didn’t really have much choice. If I just let this continue without saying anything, then I might as well have given those two goons my blessing.
I took a deep breath and braced myself as I slipped my metaphorical mask into place. Hopefully, anyone looking at me would think that I looked calm, confident, and in control, without realizing how little of that was true. Then, I walked over to the food line.
“I want to talk with you two,” I said, hoping that I could keep my voice even.
My eyes went to Breakdown, and I hoped that they didn’t see how nervous the large boy made me. Just a couple weeks ago, Esquire had paid him to attack me, and I couldn’t forget how close he’d come to seriously hurting me. It was probably my imagination, but for a moment, Beatdown looked almost as nervous as I felt.
“Glyph,” Shades said with a grin, as though happy to see me. Maybe he thought I was coming over to thank them.
“You’ve been running around campus, telling everyone that you work for me,” I announced in a cold tone. “I clearly remember telling you two, that I didn’t want or need any hired muscle. And I know good and well that I never told you to go after anyone…so STOP IT! If you two want to be a couple of cheap thugs, that’s your business. Just leave me and my name out of it.”
Then, before either of them could say anything in response, I turned and walked away, shaking a little as I did so. I’d done it. I’d managed to confront those two and make my message clear. I wasn’t sure if they’d really listen, but that was only half my reason for doing this. The other half, was that there were enough people watching and listening, that hopefully, this would get around school pretty quickly. Hopefully, this time, I could actually use the school gossip mill for my own benefit. And hopefully, people would stop thinking that I was sending a couple of goons around to beat up anyone who badmouthed me.
“The last thing I need is security to lock me up because of those two,” I grumbled to myself. Or just as bad, have some kid I’d never even met, swearing vengeance on me, because of them. “I’ve already got more than enough of that to deal with as it is.”
Now that all the excitement was done and over with, I hurried out of Crystal Hall as quickly as I could, while still walking in a dignified manner. It wasn’t until I was out the door, with no sign of anyone following me, that I let out a sigh of relief. Now, to get to class.
Crystal Hall, Saturday late morning, Oct 8th, 2016
I was eating lunch in Crystal Hall, though not at my usual table. Janine and I had finished setting up my project a short time ago, which had been a lot of work, then afterwards, we’d gone to lunch together, and ended up sitting with some of her other friends.
Giggles was there, of course, because she was Janine’s best friend. She was a bit protective of Janine, so after learning that I was the White Lady, she’d become a bit suspicious and hostile. Fortunately, she’d mellowed a bit, probably because she realized that I had no intention of either using or hurting Janine.
There were two other girls at our table, but I didn’t know either of them very well. Dodo, who was apparently called that because her real name was Dorothy Donner, she had dull grey feathers where her hair should be, and her powers were pretty much useless, was one of Janine’s fellow Underdogs. From what I understood, she was a low level telekinetic, with a range of only a couple feet.
Amy Pfeiffer, AKA Blackberry, hosted some kind of plant spirit and could grow thorny vines, which was a bit more impressive than what Dodo could do. I didn’t know if I made her nervous, or if she was always this shy, but she’d barely said two words since Janine and I sat down.
Dodo stared at my spell card, which was placed in the middle of the table. There was probably no real need to protect our conversation from eavesdroppers, but I’d gotten into the habit of doing so whenever possible. From her expression, she wasn’t used to that kind of protection, and she probably thought I was being paranoid. Amy gave my spell card a curious look, but nothing more. Janine and Giggles were both a little more used to my precautions.
“So,” Dodo asked, giving me a curious look while nodding to my spell card. “Do you do this kind of stuff very often?”
“All the time,” Janine answered for me.
Giggles nodded. “She’s kind of paranoid.”
“Not paranoid,” I responded with a wry smile. “Just prepared.”
Janine quickly came to my defense as well. “The Spy Kids have been snooping on her.”
“Ah,” Dodo said with a look of understanding. Of course, she probably just assumed I was only worried about my fellow students, so I didn’t bother to mention that there were far more dangerous people after me. So far, the Spy Kids were merely annoying.
“So,” Giggles asked, looking at Janine. “What were you up to all morning?”
“Only half the morning,” I corrected her. “I had costuming class first.”
Janine brightened up. “Bianca and I were cleaning up the new test area for my dominos…”
I nodded agreement, not bothering to point out that were doing a few other things as well. Though we’d cleaned the area out for my own project, once I was done, Janine would benefit from the work.
Janine held out her notebook and flipped through several pages that were filled with diagrams and sketches. “I’ve been thinking about this one for the last month, but haven’t had any place to set it up until now…”
“And what is that gonna be?” Dodo asked curiously. “That doesn’t look like just dominos…”
“It isn’t,” Janine responded with an eager smile. “It’s gonna have a bunch of Rube Goldberg type stuff mixed in too.”
“That sounds pretty cool,” I said, looking forward to seeing how it all worked out.
“It’s the biggest and most complicated thing I’ve done so far,” Janine announced proudly. However, she deflated a little and admitted, “I’m not very good at the real high tech stuff.”
“Maybe not,” I told her. “But you’re real good with all this mechanical stuff. Have you ever thought about working with cars?”
Janine nodded at that. “I’m pretty good with cars, and back home in Idaho, I fixed my uncle’s tractor a couple times.”
Dodo suddenly got excited and suggested, “Then you should join the Gearheads. You’d be able to get your own car on campus too…”
“Maybe,” Janine replied without much enthusiasm. “I don’t really like working on cars though.”
“Have you ever worked on clocks?” Blackberry asked, surprising me since I’d almost forgotten she was even there. When we looked at her, she explained, “Old clocks are all springs, and gears and stuff. You know, all mechanical…”
“That’s true,” Giggles said, looking back at Janine. “Have you ever made anything clockwork?”
“Not really,” Janine answered. However, she now had a thoughtful look in her eyes.
“Well, there you go,” Giggles continued with a smirk. “Maybe you should specialize in clocks…or at least, in clockwork.”
“But this domino stuff is so fun,” Dodo pointed out, while I nodded agreement.
“Who says you can’t do both,” I offered.
Janine no longer seemed to be paying much attention to the rest of us. Instead, she began doodling in her notebook. I couldn’t quite tell what she was drawing, though I could make out a gear or two. It quickly became obvious that she was too distracted to bother with the rest of the conversation.
A few minutes later, I finished up my lunch and said a polite goodbye to everyone at the table. As I made my way out of Crystal Hall, I wondered what my roommate was up to, and if she was still fiddling with +that magical telephone bowl she’d been given, or if she was already done with it.
“Or maybe I’ll sit down with a good book,” I mused to myself.
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort preparing my new inks and spell cards, not to mention the project that I’d been working on over the last couple days. I’d more than earned the right to sit back and relax for awhile. Besides, I had a new spy novel that I was really looking forward to reading.
I’d just left Crystal Hall and started to make my way across he Quad, when I noticed several of the Bad Seeds gathered together at one of the tables. I thought it was a little too chilly to be sitting around outside like that, but they didn’t really seem bothered by it.
Only two of the Seeds seemed to notice me, or at least, gave indication that they did. Twitch waved cheerfully, until a gust of wind knocked off her witch hat and she leapt to chase after it. And then, there was Esquire, who stared at me with an intense gaze that made a chill run down my spine. Then, Esquire slowly stood up.
“Let it go,” Racoon said, giving me a shrug and an apologetic look.
“Let it go… Let it go...,” Twitch began singing, earning a glare from Esquire and a snicker from Racoon.
I was thankful for the distraction and quickly continued on my way, until I realized that Esquire was following me. I tensed at that, and for a moment, I considered making a run for it. However, I restrained that impulse and stopped instead. Since I had to deal with Esquire anyway, now was actually as good a time as any.
“Now, we can continue our conversation,” Esquire said, pausing a short distance of me and making a show of leaning on his cane. I knew he didn’t really need the cane to walk. It was an affectation of style, as well as a weapon. In fact, the cane reminded me just a little too much of the Messenger, which was just one of the reasons I didn’t like Esquire. Of course, he’d given me plenty of other reasons too.
“I have nothing more to say to you,” I said, trying to keep my White Lady mask in place so that he didn’t see how worried I was. “Now, leave me alone, or you’ll regret it.”
“Are you threatening me?” Esquire demanded with a sneer, clearly confident that I posed no threat to him.
“No,” I responded, repeating something that I’d once heard my grandmother say. “I don’t make threats, only promises.”
With that, I turned and walked away, though I was a bit worried that Esquire might attack me from behind. Fortunately, he didn’t attack me, though he did follow, obviously deciding not to take my warning. Then, I realized too late, that my warning had merely encouraged him.
“We aren’t finished quite yet,” Esquire called out.
I grimaced at that. “He can’t say I didn’t warn him.”
Instead of responding to Esquire, or even looking back, I went down into the campus tunnels, confident that he was going to follow. He did. I picked up my pace, though I didn’t break into a run since it wouldn’t be very fitting for the White Lady to run away from someone. And besides, I didn’t want to risk losing him.
A couple minutes later, I reached the large room that Janine had claimed for her test area, and which was now lacking the previous clutter. The whole room was wide-open and empty, a nearly blank canvas that Janine would soon be able to use for her dominos. I barely had to wait before Esquire arrived to join me.
“Campus security has no cameras in this area,” Esquire announced as he confidently walked into the room. “They won’t be able to see or hear anything that occurs down here.” He paused to stare at me for a moment. “But you already knew that, didn’t you? In fact, I have the distinct impression that you’re trying to lure me into some kind of trap.” From his smirk, it was obvious that he wasn’t concerned.
I gulped at that, then nervously demanded, “If you think this is a trap, then why did you walk right into it?”
Esquire continued to smirk as he opened the handle of his cane, releasing the steel ball bearings that had been hidden within. “Because,” he answered casually, “you’re just a freshman, and can barely control your powers. White Lady or not, you’re no threat to me.” He looked around before commenting, “I assume your friends are going to jump out at any moment to attack me…”
Shaking my head, I said, “No. My friends aren’t part of this.”
“Very good,” Esquire mused, fixing me with his gaze. “Mine have made it clear that they won’t get involved either.”
“It’s just between us,” I stated grimly. “But it doesn’t have to be. You started this, and you can walk away.”
Esquire seemed amused by that. “Why would I do that when I’m holding all the cards?” He stared at me with a hungry expression. “You have resources and contacts that I need, both now and after I graduate. We can still work out an equitable arrangement, one where you gain some benefit.”
“And if I say no?” I asked
“Then, in terms that you can understand,” Esquire responded, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse…”
As soon as those words were uttered, several of the metal spheres shot right at me. I’d been expecting this attack and immediately activated my built in air power, though still only barely managed to do so in time. The ball bearing slammed into a wall of hardened air, which protected me almost like a force field. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold this up for long. Only half a minute at the very most.
Then, I realized that Esquire knew this. He’d kept most of his spheres back, floating in orbit around him. He’d intentionally pushed me into using this power, knowing that it wouldn’t last long, and that once it wore off, I’d be vulnerable.
Esquire took a step towards me, with an arrogant certainty of his victory. After all, why shouldn’t he be confident, when as he’d said a minute ago, he seemed to be holding all the cards.
A couple seconds later, Esquire stopped and gave me a look of surprise and confusion before demanding, “Why are you smiling like that?”
Esquire might think that he holds all the cards, but I had an ace up my sleeve. No, I had a full house.
“Look down,” I told him.
As soon as Esquire looked down, he let out a gasp of surprise, seeing the glowing runes and symbols that were not only beneath him, but surrounding him as well. Over the next couple seconds, this spread, so that the entire floor of the room was covered with glowing runes and glyphs.
I’d spent the last couple days working on this project, clearing the room in order to create a blank canvas, and then drawing all these symbols. It had taken a lot of time and effort, a lot of blood and chalk, and nearly every bit of essence I had available. But the look on Esquire’s face made everything worth it.
“You just walked right into the middle of a mine field,” I explained, not bothering to keep the satisfaction out of my voice. “And you just stepped across the trigger that turned all of them on.”
It had taken a lot of work to create this many runes, and even more to create the layer of wards that was woven in with them. I’d taken a page from Janine’s playbook and set it all up as a complicated domino chain of spells and wards, or more accurately, a series of chains that were tied together. This was the same thing that I’d done in class with my wards, just a lot more complicated. In fact, this was the most complicated thing that I’d ever done, either with my power or without. And if I dared to show Grimes, I was sure that I’d get an A in class for this project alone. Along with detention.
Esquire tried to jump back, only to find that his feet were stuck to the floor, held there by magical superglue. At the same time, the effects of one of my other spells became evident, as every ball bearing that he had floating in the air, began to rust and disintegrate at once. Since I didn’t want to leave Esquire with any weapons he could use against me, I’d taken precautions, which included removing all the metal clutter from around the room.
Now would have been a good time to gloat, but I couldn’t think of any clever comments to make, not that Esquire would have been able hear them. Some of these runes were spells to neutralize sound, making it so Esquire couldn’t hear anything, and nobody would be able to hear him. This was the same spell I sometimes used in my room, so I could sleep through Morgana’s snoring, just with a bit more power and essence.
And then, there was a similar spell, which neutralized light instead of sound. There was now a big black blob of darkness where Esquire stood, keeping him from seeing anything at all. I figured that dark, silence, and not being able to move freely, would freak anyone out a bit. Of course, none of this would last for long since I had a limited supply of essence, but Esquire was also surrounded by more spells that did the same thing, and which would keep him occupied for awhile.
“That should do it,” I said as I carefully walked through the safe zone towards the door.
Esquire had done a lot of things to deserve this. He’d outed me as the White Lady and put my life in danger. He’d attacked me via Beatdown, as a way to try manipulating me. And then, when that hadn’t worked, he’d attacked me directly. Yes, Esquire definitely deserved this. However, this wasn’t just retaliation for his unprovoked attacks on me. This was also a message, that he couldn’t come after me without consequences, and a warning that next time, the spells I used might be nastier.
When I reached the door, I paused to look at Esquire, or at least, the patch of darkness that obscured him. I briefly considered staying to watch, but decided that it wouldn’t take long before I got bored. And with that, I turned off the light, just to make things more interesting for him, and left, sure that Esquire would find his own way out…in an hour or two.
Saturday early afternoon, Oct 8th, 2016
Carrie scowled as she looked around at her surroundings. She wasn’t claustrophobic, but walking around in these tunnels, she was beginning to see why some people were. As it was, she was tempted to shrink down, just to make the tunnel feel larger and more spacious.
A moment later, Carrie glanced to her companions, Edward and Violet, or Mr. Blank and Miss Violet, as they insisted on being called, since they were working. A short time ago, she’d overheard Glyph and Esquire having some kind of disagreement, then watched as they both went down into the campus tunnels. That had been interesting enough that she’d immediately gone to report it to the other Cadets, though Edward and Violet were the only two she’d been able to find on short notice.
“Are you certain that this is the direction they went?” Edward asked Violet.
Violet looked annoyed at the suggestion she might be wrong. “About as certain as we can be, without Perfume to track them down.”
Carrie was a little skeptical of Violet’s claim, but wisely didn’t say anything. Perfume had an enhanced sense of smell and could track people down by their scent like some kind of bloodhound. Violet didn’t have that kind of ability. Sure, she was a paragon, but as Carrie had learned, that was focused mostly on physical activities and things that used muscle memory, not on things like tracking or detective work.
The three of them looked around the junction of tunnels where they stood, trying to determine where Glyph and Esquire could have gone…if they’d even come this way at all. However, Edward pointed down one of the tunnels and announced, “I’ve got a strong hunch that they went down this way.”
“Very good,” Violet said as she nodded approvingly. “One of your hunches is as good as must people’s facts.”
Carrie nodded along as well, knowing that Edward’s hunches were actually a part of his power. Without any further hesitation, the three of them began walking down the path that Edward had indicated.
They hadn’t gone much further before they saw another student, a short boy with unruly red hair. Carrie recognized him as one of the lab geeks, a devisor called Weaponeer, but she didn’t really know him very well.
“What are you three doing down here?” Weaponeer demanded suspiciously. His hand twitched a little but didn’t quite go to the odd looking gun that was hanging from his belt. From the way he was acting, Carrie suspected that he probably had one of those secret labs close by. She’d heard that the tunnels were filled with those things.
“That isn’t any of your concern,” Edward said, holding his hand up.
Suddenly, Weaponeer froze with a look of dazed confusion on his face. It took Carrie a moment to realize what was going on. Edward had just used another one of his tricks, the one that had earned him the name of Mr. Blank. He’d just erased Weaponeer’s short term memory, leaving it a complete blank.
With a smirk, Edward said, “Come on, before he recovers.”
As they hurried away, Violet commented, “That was uncalled for.”
“Perhaps,” Edward agreed. “But we can’t risk him telling Glyph that he saw us down here, or having her realize that we’re investigating her.”
Carrie knew that as both a freshman and a rookie in the Cadets, her opinion wouldn’t matter much, but she still said, “It doesn’t seem right to erase his memory, just because he saw us…”
“I didn’t hurt him,” Edward assured her, just a little defensively. “And he only lost about half a minute.”
Carrie scowled at that, still not happy with the way Edward had used his power on that boy, but didn’t say anything else. Instead, she tried to focus on their task of locating Glyph and Esquire, and learning what they were up to.
Just then, Violet exclaimed, “Quiet. I heard something…”
A couple seconds later, a boy burst out of a doorway, pausing for just a moment with a look of wild-eyed fear. It took Carrie several more seconds to realize that this was Esquire, and he was clearly upset…and without that cane she’d always seen him with. He barely looked at her, though he did give Edward and Violet a dark glare before making a show of neatening his clothes and walking off with as much dignity as he could muster.
Once Esquire was gone, Carrie asked, “What in the world was that?”
“I don’t know, Mouse,” Edward said, looking in the direction that Esquire had gone, with a thoughtful expression. “But it certainly bears investigating…”
“Indeed it does,” Violet added a moment later. “And since Esquire was last seen following Glyph, that suggests she was involved, and quite possibly the cause.” She scowled thoughtfully. “This seems to confirm the report that the two of them are at odds.”
Edward nodded his agreement, before saying, “If Glyph can make Esquire behave like that, then she might be even more dangerous than we suspected.”
“And if that is the case,” Violet said with a grim expression, “then I’m going to recommend we further upgrade our efforts to deal with this threat.”
Poe Cottage, Saturday evening, Oct 8th, 2016
I was in the Poe common room, leaning back in a comfortable chair with a good book in hand. A bottle of my favorite rootbeer was resting on the table beside me, already half consumed. After the success of my little project, I deserved a chance to just relax and enjoy myself.
In spite of the book in front of me, my thoughts kept going back to the trap that I’d set for Esquire. I couldn’t help but feeling a little smug over how well it had worked out. I’d put a lot of work and essence into setting up those runes, so it was good to see that it hadn’t all been wasted. But at the same time, a part of me still felt guilty as well. What kind of human being would lure another person into that kind of trap? The answer was obvious. The White Lady would.
Marcus and Tessa had both told me that when someone comes after you, you only have a limited number of options. In this case, Esquire had not only caused me a lot of problems, he’d damaged my image and reputation, so I’d had no choice but to retaliate. If I hadn’t, then not only would he keep coming after me, but it would encourage other people to come after me as well. As it was, I’d actually taken it pretty easy on him, perhaps even too easy.
One of the things that Marcus had told me, was that if you want to make an example of someone, you have to do it in a public fashion. You have to hurt or humiliate them in such a way that other people would know about it, and would want to avoid that kind of thing themselves. However, what I’d done to Esquire had been in private, without any witnesses but the two of us. This wouldn’t work very well as an object lesson because of that, but hopefully, it would keep Esquire from retaliating or escalating things because he felt like he had to save face.
“I just hope that he’s done with this,” I muttered to myself, before reaching over for my rootbeer.
As it was, I hadn’t really hurt Esquire, merely his pride. So far, I hadn’t done anything that the school could really punish me for. This hadn’t been anything more than a relatively harmless prank. Or at least, I hoped that they’d see it that way if anyone found out. But if Esquire came at me again, I might not have any choice but to raise the stakes, and I really didn’t want to do that, and not just because I feared the consequences. In spite of what everyone else seemed to think, I wasn’t my grandmother, and I really didn’t want to hurt anyone.
“But I might not have a choice,” I reminded myself.
After taking a long drink and emptying the bottle, I let out a sigh, deciding that I should stop worrying and just enjoy my victory while I could. I’d expanded my skills in a way that I hadn’t even known was possible, until I’d been forced to it, and in the process, I’d beaten one of my enemies. I’d proven that I wasn’t some helpless victim that Esquire could manipulate or threaten into doing what he wanted. But of course, I hadn’t done it alone.
A smile formed on my lips as I considered Janine’s part in my victory. Not only had she provided the place for my little trap, and helped me clean it out, she’d also been the one who inspired it. It had been her domino chains that gave me the idea for chaining my spells and wards the way I had. Without her, this wouldn’t have been possible, so I was going to have to take her out for an ice cream treat or something as a thank you.
While I was considering this, I noticed Morgana walk into the common room. She paused at the door long enough to look over the room, then gave me a nod and smile before coming over to join me.
“What are you so happy about?” Morgana asked with a faint smirk, “and does it have anything to do with that look Esquire gave you during dinner. I swear, it looked like he was about to crap himself.”
I chuckled at my roommate’s semi-vulgar but accurate description of Esquire. For a moment, I considered lying to her, since I’d been trying to keep her and the others out of my conflict with Esquire. However, now that I’d already sprung the trap, there was no reason to remain quiet any longer.
“Actually, yes,” I admitted with a wry smile.
Morgana gave me a curious look. “Spill it already.”
I carefully closed my book, making a show of doing so slowly since I could see Morgana was impatient. “There isn’t really much to tell,” I finally said. “I set up a trap and lured Esquire into it…”
Morgana’s look of interest suddenly grew a little sharper. “Ooooh, now I’ve got to hear the details…”
“Well,” I started with a faint smirk. “You remember that project I’ve been working on…?”
Once I finished, Morgana burst out laughing. “So, you left him in a dark room, with no sound, and with his feet glued to the floor...?”
“Pretty much,” I agreed cheerfully.
“And what happened when those spells wear off?” she asked curiously.
“Then, there are a lot more of the same ones for him to go through,” I explained.
Morgana chuckled at that and shook her head. “But couldn’t he just stay in one spot and not trigger them?”
I shrugged at that. “Probably. If he thought about it. But he still had to go through them if he wanted out of there.”
“Why didn’t you let me help?” my roommate asked. “I would have loved to be in on that one…
“Because,” I explained…again, “this had to be all me. Esquire had to know that I was the one who was dealing with him, not my friends. If you or any of the others had helped, then it would have defeated the purpose.”
“I guess I can understand that,” Morgana said with a sigh. “But you know, if you need my help…”
“I know,” I interrupted her, since we’d had this conversation before. “You and the others have my back.”
With that, my thoughts turned to my other enemies, the ones that I probably would need help to deal with. I let out a sigh, thinking about Scorn and the fact that he was still after me. Even though I silently assured myself that I was safe at the school, and that there was no way he and his assassins would be able to get past Whateley security, I still wasn’t convinced. I’d lost more than one night worth of sleep because of worrying about this very thing.
But for the moment, I didn’t want to worry about Scorn, his spy Crysis, or those nosy Spy Kids. Instead, I simply wanted to savor this one victory while I could, because tomorrow, all the rest of my problems would still be there waiting for me.
The Quad, Saturday evening, Oct 8th, 2016
The Quad was nearly empty at this time of evening, with only a few stragglers passing through on their way to or from a late dinner at Crystal Hall. That suited Clive perfectly fine though, as he wasn’t in the mood to deal with other people at the moment. Clive leaned back against a light pole and scowled, making one nearby boy hurry away as quickly as he could, without actually running.
A minute later, Clive noticed his friend Shades, who was casually walking in his direction. Once Shades reached him, the other boy gave Clive a curious look and asked, “What’s the grumpy look for?”
Clive thought about lying, but just shrugged instead. “Just frustrated,” he grumbled. “I thought we were in with the Family…that we were set.”
“Oh that,” Shades responded dismissively. “That whole thing with Glyph was just for show. You know, for plausible deniability.”
“You really think so?” Clive asked skeptically. “She seemed pretty serious to me…”
Clive shook his head, worried about what could happen if Glyph really got pissed at him. He didn’t want to go swimming with a pair of concrete sneakers. He might be tough, but even he needed to breath. And as he well knew, Glyph was quite capable to giving him a full body concrete suit, all on her own. He shuddered at the memory.
“Yeah,” Shades assured him. “She doesn’t really have a lot of muscle here at Whateley, and everyone knows about her usual crew. She probably wants to keep us a little more on the down low for now. You know, as backup, or in case she needs us to deal with something that she can’t be tied to directly.”
Clive made a show of cracking his knuckles. “That works for me.”
Shades nodded at that, then smirked. “You know, I’ve been thinking…?”
“Why do I have a bad feeling about that?” Clive asked, giving his friend a suspicious look.
After giving a look of mock offense for just a few seconds, Shades asked, “You know what would be even better than getting hooked up in the Family as a couple of the White Lady’s lieutenants?”
“What?” Clive asked warily.
Shades smirked. “Getting hooked up in the Family…as her boyfriend.”
Clive blinked at that. “She’s not really my type…”
“I mean ME,” Shades exclaimed, puffing himself up. “Once I turn on the charm, she’ll be putty in my hands…”
For several seconds, Clive just stared at his smaller friend, expecting Shades to burst out laughing at the joke. However, when he realized that Shades was serious, he shook his head instead. There was no doubt in Clive’s mind, that this wouldn’t turn out well for anyone involved. Still, he’d have Shades’ back. After all, that was what friends did.
Crystal Hall, Saturday evening, Oct 8th, 2016
Crysis sat at a table by himself, eating a late dinner. After a good workout at the gym, he’d built up a nice appetite. Sure, he couldn’t compare to most energizers, but he still had a much larger meal than normal, and justified it with all the calories he’d just burned.
But in spite of the food in front of him, which he ate almost mechanically, Crysis’ thoughts were elsewhere. They were focused on Glyph…the White Lady. They were focused on this opportunity he’d been given to earn his way into Scorn’s organization, not to mention, make his dad proud. However, all of that was contingent on whether or not he could deal with HER.
So far, Crysis had only made one serious attempt on Glyph, and it had failed. Sure, he’d injured her, but it hadn’t been enough. The truth was, it was lucky that he’d hit her at all. He was a pretty strong telekinetic, but he knew that he was weak when it came to fine control and accuracy.
“Next time,” Crysis promised himself.
Next time he wouldn’t fail. Of course, he’d have to make it look like an accident, and that would be the hard part. Killing her would be easy, but doing it in a way that he could get away with it… That was something else entirely.
“Hello,” a voice suddenly said, immediately drawing Crysis’ attention to the gorgeous blonde exemplar who sat down across from him.
“Chained Melody,” Crysis greeted the girl.
He’d never spoken to her before, but he’d seen her around campus and knew who she was. However, that didn’t explain why she was sitting across from him. He briefly wondered if she was hitting on him, but quickly discounted that. She was here for some other reason.
The blonde gave Crysis a friendly smile, then said, “Rumor around campus has it that you have some kind of personal grudge against Glyph.”
“You know how reliable rumors are,” he responded in a flat tone.
“Oh, I do,” Chained Melody agreed with a faint smirk. “I also know that sometimes rumors are true.”
Crysis didn’t respond to her obvious attempt at fishing for information, at least not in the way she wanted. Instead, he asked, “What’s your interest?”
Chained Melody smiled in a sexy way that earned an immediate response from his body. However, he noticed that it didn’t quite reach her eyes, which dulled the effect a little.
“I’m just a concerned student,” Chained Melody said. “And I’m especially concerned about having a dangerous villain on campus like that…”
This time, it was Crysis’ turn to smile. “That sounds like a valid concern to me,” he agreed.
“I was thinking,” Chained Melody continued in a pleasant tone, “that it would be in everybody’s best interest if she could somehow be convinced to leave school…”
“And you think that I might be the one to do the convincing?” he asked curiously.
“I thought you might be one person with motive,” she agreed.
Crysis considered this for a moment, immediately seeing how this could provide certain opportunities. If Glyph left Whateley, then she’d no longer have the school to protect her, and Scorn could deal with her more easily.
“Did you have something in mind?” Crysis asked curiously.
The blonde girl smirked, obviously pleased by his interest. “That was just the thing I wanted to talk to you about…”
Crysis listened to Chained Melody for several minutes, wondering what she had against Glyph, not that it mattered. However, it was obvious that she had her own issues with her, ones that were more personal than his.
By the time the blonde had finished her spiel, Crysis had developed a few more ideas of his own. Sure, this alliance could be pretty useful for dealing with Glyph, but there were some other possibilities here as well. Maybe he didn’t need to make it look like an accident. Maybe, all he really needed was a good patsy.
Saturday evening, Oct 8th, 2016
The beautiful young woman paused by the entrance of the hidden door and looked around carefully, to make sure that no one was watching before she opened it. After all, it wouldn’t do for anyone else to learn where this clubhouse was, especially since the club that it belonged to, didn’t officially exist.
After entering the clubhouse, she quickly saw that the other Masterminds had already arrived. Or at least, most of them had. However, as their leader was still absent, she wasn’t concerned by her tardiness, and knew that none of the others would be either.
A couple of the others silently acknowledged her presence, though it was Doma Know who greeted her. “Scrye.”
Scrye nodded at the other girl, Helen Cartwright, AKA Doma Know. Doma was a gorgeous exemplar, with long red hair that had a streak of black in front. She had green-eyes that were flecked with gold, and the kind of exaggerated curves that would normally only be found on some cartoon woman, like Jessica Rabbit. But even though Scrye found Doma to be extremely attractive, she’d never act on this interest, since she knew just how cold and manipulative the other girl could be.
For a moment, Scrye stood where she was and glanced over the room, taking note of who was present and where they sat. There were only three open seats available, but two of them were on either side of Bystander, and there was no way that she would willingly sit beside him.
Bystander had shaggy, dark blonde hair, and a look of youthful innocence that was only enhanced by his frequent grins. However, those grins never reached his eyes, and Scrye knew quite well that he was nowhere near as innocent or helpless as he looked.
Scrye disliked violence on principal, and felt little but contempt for those who embraced it needlessly. She felt a great deal of contempt for Bystander, and though she’d never admit it…fear. After all, she knew about his dark amusements, and was thankful that he had the self-control to avoid that kind of behavior near campus.
Fortunately, there was one other empty seat, so Scrye didn’t need to sit next to the psychopath. Instead, she sat down next to the self-absorbed hedonist, Devil’s Advocate. He would undoubtedly hit on her for the entire meeting, but that was preferable to dealing with Bystander.
Once Scrye was seated and comfortable, she looked at the other Masterminds again, before settling her attention back on Doma Know. She admired the other girl’s beauty for a moment, thinking that it was a pity she wasn’t in Poe.
She found it amusing, that while the Masterminds didn’t officially exist, the other students who did know about them, primarily the Cape Squad and the Cadets, had no idea who their leader was. They all thought that Doma held this position, which was a misunderstanding that the whole club encouraged, especially their real leader.
Just then, the clubhouse door opened, and Scrye straightened up, knowing that their illustrious leader had finally arrived. She carefully kept any expression except boredom off her face.
“I’m glad to see everyone here,” he announced, seeming to ignore the fact that he was the one who was late.
The massive form of Edward Lowe, AKA the Golden Lion, one of the top financial movers and shakers on campus, sat down at the head of the table, in the seat that had been reserved him. As usual, he was dressed in a nice suit.
Scrye schooled her face to avoid the sneer that wanted to form. When Edward had first arrived at Whateley, he’d been just another cheap thug and bully. But then, unlike most of that ilk, he’d realized that his mental abilities, could be even more powerful than his physical ones, and that money could give him power far beyond his mutant powers. He’d completely reinvented himself as a businessman, and worked hard to build his fortune and new image. But in spite of the money and the expensive suits, underneath it all, he was still just a cheap thug at heart.
“Now, down to business,” Edward said as he absently straightened his tie. “Report.”
Scrye set a folder onto the table in front of her and said, “Blueprints have been acquired. The company changes the access code on a daily basis, and we have no way of identifying which code they’ll be using ahead of time. However, I found an employee with access, who happens to have certain secrets that he wouldn’t want revealed. We can leverage this to our benefit.”
“Of course, you’d go straight to blackmail first,” Swandive commented with a note of disapproval. “That is your business after all.”
“Yes,” Scrye agreed with a faint smirk. “It is. But I’m professional enough not to do anything on campus. Can you say the same?”
“What about our exit?” Doma Know asked thoughtfully. “If there’s one thing I learned from the Imp’s heist class, it’s that you always need a way out planned ahead of time, and preferably, at least one backup.”
“That is one of the things that we’re here to discuss,” Edward pointed out.
For the next half hour, they discussed the upcoming ‘club activity’, and then moved on to the next item on the agenda. This was to be a continuation of a topic from the previous meetings.
“The White Lady,” Edward stated. “Glyph. As you all know, we’ve discussed recruiting her for the Masterminds. I’ve made contact with her the other day.”
“I know that you’d get certain financial benefits if we recruit her,” Doma Know commented. “But what does that do for the rest of us?”
“She has a great deal of contacts, that can benefit all of us,” Edward pointed out calmly. “And having connections with the Family, can be useful after graduation as well.”
“Esquire thought the same thing,” Scrye pointed out wryly, “and that didn’t work well for him.”
Doma snorted. “Esquire’s ambition exceeds his competence.”
“There is a reason we denied his request to join, last year,” Edward agreed.
“She’s cute,” Devil’s Advocate pointed out with a smirk. “And I wouldn’t mind having another magic user around.”
Scrye scowled at that. And while she had to admit that Glyph could be a useful member of their club, there were a number of things that could go wrong. After all, Glyph was extremely useful to her for translation services, and she’d hate to lose that because someone like Devil’s Advocate couldn’t keep it in his pants, or because Bystander scared her off.
“What do you know about her?” Doma asked Scrye. “And do you have any leverage on her?”
Scrye hesitated for only a moment. Of course, she held knowledge that could be leveraged against Glyph. They were in the same cottage after all, and she knew all about Glyph’s previous identity. However, while Scrye didn’t care if others knew that she was a lesbian, she had friends in Poe who would suffer if they were outed, and she wasn’t about to risk that for something like this. In spite of the fact that she was an information broker, the secrets of Poe were safe with her.
“Glyph was not intended to inherit the mantle of the White Lady,” she carefully said, providing enough information to be useful, without giving any real secrets away. “Because of that, she was never fully trained. She’s naïve, which gives us an opening. If we offer her protection and training, especially at the right time, she might be willing to join us.”
“Very well,” Edward announced. “We’ll wait for the right opportunity, then extend our offer of membership.”