Poe Cottage, Tuesday morning, Nov 27th, 2007
Alyss stood beneath the hot shower, closing her eyes as the water poured over her body. It felt good. Really good. Back when she’d been a guy, she’d never truly appreciated just how good a hot shower could feel.
“And this isn’t even using the special feature,” she quietly chuckled to herself. Of course, she had yet to actually try the special feature that so many Poe girls gushed about, nor any intention to do so in the near future. “Maybe when I’m older. Again.”
Once Alyss was finished, she began drying her hair, then wrapped a large fluffy towel around her entire midsection. This wasn’t something she’d manifested, but a real towel that her daughter Melanie had given her a couple days earlier. Unfortunately, as impressive as her manifestation powers could be, she still hadn’t managed to create a towel this soft and fluffy.
“Morning,” Jinx said as she slipped past Alyss and took the shower stall that she’d just vacated.
“Morning,” Alyss responded, carefully trying to ignore the fact that the other girl was completely naked. Of course, there were other naked girls around her too, and Alyss did her best to ignore that as well.
Alyss let out a sigh, trying not to feel like a pervert for being in the locker room. Sure, she was a fifty year old man in the body of a little girl, which made this whole situation pretty weird. However, it wasn’t like she was attracted to any of these girls. In fact, thanks to her prepubescent body, she wasn’t attracted to anyone…male or female. But still, it was the principle of the thing
Normally, Alyss tried to get her shower taken care of a little earlier, just so she could avoid all the other girls and feel less like some kind of pervert. Unfortunately, she’d been a little late about it this morning.
“I’m looking forward to tonight,” Cindy said from a few feet away. She was talking to Breakdown while they waited for stalls to open.
“Me too,” Breakdown exclaimed with a grin. “This hot tub social is going to be so fun…”
“I just hope that none of the boys on campus find out about it,” Rose said with a scowl as she came out of a shower stall. She absently ran a towel over her bald head before she began drying off the rest of her body. “At least, none of the boys outside of Poe…”
Cindy glanced at Alyss and asked, “Are you coming, Alyss?”
“Not my thing,” Alyss responded with a chuckle. If she was uncomfortable in a shower full of teenage girls, she could only imagine how much worse the lesbian hot tub social would be.
“I can see that,” Breakdown said, quickly looking Alyss over and obviously not being impressed. Not surprising since Alyss looked like a little girl, and she was no more interested in Alyss than Alyss was in her.
“Do you know if Amy will be coming?” Cindy asked. She sounded a little hopeful.
Alyss shrugged. “I don’t know. She has a girlfriend back home, so might not want to tempt herself.”
Cindy laughed, then smirked. “Yeah, I am pretty tempting.”
After chuckling at that herself, Alyss left the showers and started back down the hall to her room. She stepped back into the room at the same time that her roommate Martina was on the way out.
“How are the showers?” Martina asked.
“Busy,” Alyss responded. “You’d better hurry before anyone else shows up.”
“Thanks,” Martina told her before following Alyss’ advice and hurrying down the hall.
Once Martina was gone, Alyss went about drying her hair and getting dressed. The getting dressed part was easy since all she had to do was concentrate and manifest her clothes right on her body. This time, she formed a frilly black dress with crimson trim. And for a final touch, she slipped a ‘cute skull’ hair clip into her hair.
“Perfect,” Alyss stated when she was done.
Alyss looked over herself once more to make sure that she hadn’t forgotten anything, then she left her room and started for Crystal Hall and breakfast. When she arrived, she found that Amy and Sapphire were already there, though Monkeywrench and Aegis both joined a few minutes later.
“How are you doing?” Alyss asked Monkeywrench, who didn’t seem any worse for wear after what he’d gone through.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” the furry boy responded with a grin. “Getting something to eat really helped.”
Alyss nodded, though she was pretty sure that Monkeywrench couldn’t shake it off quite that easily. In fact, she was pretty sure that this incident would leave a few mental scars, even if he didn’t want to admit it.
“You have anything fun planned for after school?” Monkeywrench abruptly asked, as though he was trying to change the subject.
“I’d been planning to work on my car,” Alyss answered, though she suspected that things wouldn’t work out that way. Not when they had a group of crazy students coming after them.
Monkeywrench nodded at that. “You know, I was thinking of joining the Gearheads myself.”
“You were?” Alyss asked in surprise. “I didn’t know you were interested in cars…”
“He’s not,” Melissa said from the side. Alyss glanced over to where Melissa and Darqueheart were walking to the table together. Melissa had a broad grin as she continued, “He just wants to be a grease monkey…”
“Ya got me there,” Monkeywrench admitted with a grin of his own. “But you’ve got to admit, it would be totally awesome to make a racing go-cart that shoots bananas at the other racers…”
“And turtle shells,” Melissa added with a giggle. “Totally awesome…”
While they were laughing, Sapphire looked around and asked, “What am I missing?”
“It’s a video game reference,” Amy explained to her.
“Ah,” Sapphire nodded. “I never got to play many games growing up.”
“You didn’t miss much,” Darqueheart said. Alyss noticed that she’d taken the seat next to Aegis. The two of them had been getting along pretty well ever since that thing in Berlin.
“Video games can be fun,” Aegis added. “But I prefer playing real games…like football…”
“Jock,” Darqueheart said with a snort.
“And proud of it,” Aegis responded with a grin.
“So,” Sapphire asked, slowly looking around the table. “What are we going to do about our…opponents.”
Alyss was a little startled by the sudden change of topic, though not by much. After all, she knew this was going to come up soon.
“Yeah,” Melissa responded, nodding enthusiastically. However, instead of her usual grin, she actually looked serious. Her eyes went down to her arm, which was still wrapped up, as was her leg. Then she finally grinned, though it wasn’t quite as innocent as usual. “By the way, who got Gravmax? That was super awesome…”
“What about Gravmax?” Amy asked in confusion.
“Yeah,” Alyss agreed, giving Melisa a curious look.
“Didn’t you hear?” Aegis asked with a chuckle. “They found Gravmax in the quad this morning…hogtied and completely naked.”
“You’re kidding,” Amy gasped.
“Naw, I heard about it too,” Monkeywrench agreed. He looked around the table with a curious expression. “I figured one of you guys got him…”
“I wish I could take the credit,” Darqueheart announced.
There were several nods of agreement. “Me too,” Amy agreed. “That jerk deserves it…and worse.” Her eyes went to Melissa and she was clearly thinking about the other girl’s ‘accident’. Then she gave Alyss a curious look. “This isn’t the first time someone who annoyed you has turned up…mysteriously tied up in ribbons.”
“True,” Alyss agreed with a chuckle. “But this wasn’t me.”
“I think we would have heard if he was tied up with ribbons,” Darqueheart pointed out.
“Well,” Aegis announced. “Whoever it was, good for them.”
Alyss slowly looked around at her friends, wondering if one of them might actually have done it anyway. After all, they all had motive to get that punk, and it would probably be smart to deny any knowledge of doing so…not only to avoid retaliation, but also any punishment from the school. She could see the thoughtful looks in a few other eyes that suggested that she wasn’t the only one who was considering this.
“It doesn’t really matter who took out Gravmax,” Amy pointed out thoughtfully. “What matters is what WE are going to do.” She paused at that for a moment. “These guys have been coming after us…or at least…some of us ever since school started, and now they’ve started going after the rest of you too.”
“And it keeps escalating,” Alyss stated grimly. “Each time they come after us, they up the ante…”
“And they’re smart about it,” Sapphire added with a look of disgust. “Never where security can see or have proof of their action. Sneaky.”
“Yeah, that’s a problem,” Amy admitted.
“They use teamwork,” Aegis said. “Better than we have…”
Alyss gave him a curious look. “What do you mean?”
Aegis was silent for several seconds, then explained. “Whenever we deal with those guys, we’re usually all alone but they’ve got us isolated and outnumbered… And it’s not just the numbers, but how they work…”
“One provides distraction while another attacks,” Amy mused aloud. “Yeah, that seems to be a pattern with how they’ve been working lately.”
“Misdirection and distraction are your friends,” Melissa said, sounding like she was quoting that from somewhere…or someone.
“We worked together pretty good in Berlin,” Aegis said, then added, “And last night, of course… But other than that, they’ve been beating us in that…” Then he scowled. “My old coach said, games are won or lost by teamwork…”
Darqueheart snorted. “I never thought I’d say this…but pretty boy is right.”
“Pretty boy?” Aegis asked with a raised eyebrow. “Really? Is that the best you’ve got?”
Alyss chuckled at that. “Then we need to come up with a plan and work on it together.”
“Definitely,” Amy said with a nod. “But it needs to be smart. We can’t just charge in with our fists swinging…” She looked pointedly at Aegis, who didn’t seem to notice. “If we start brawling on campus…at least openly…we’ll only get in trouble and I’d prefer to avoid that.”
“Me too,” Alyss agreed, thinking about how embarrassing it would be to end up in front of Carson, and getting chewed out for fighting. “We’ve got to be smart about this...”
She scowled at that since her first impulse was to go in swinging. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do that against kids…no matter how bratty they were. However, she couldn’t think of anything else.
“I’ve got an idea,” Melissa exclaimed with an excited grin. She looked like she probably would have been jumping up and down for attention if it hadn’t been for her leg.
Monkeywrench grinned in response and asked, “Did it hurt?” Melissa just stuck her tongue out at him.
Darqueheart stared at Melissa for several seconds before asking, “What do you have in mind?”
Melissa grinned proudly, then announced, “We’re Team Shenanigans, so we should live up to that…”
Once Melissa explained what she meant, Monkeywrench burst out laughing. “I love it…”
“That…might work,” Amy admitted. “But I’ve got my own idea that might make it work even better…”
Alyss reluctantly nodded agreement. This whole thing was just too silly, but the other seemed to think it was a good idea. And who knew, it might even work.
“All right then,” Alyss said with a sigh. “Let’s get up to some shenanigans.”
Whateley Academy, Tuesday late morning, Nov 27th, 2007
Sapphire walked towards the Crystal Hall, eager for lunch and the opportunity to talk with her friends. And of course, the chance to get something good to eat.
Some students made fun of the cafeteria food, but personally, Sapphire enjoyed it. It was far superior to her mother’s cooking, but admittedly, her mother had never been a very good cook. That was no surprise though since her mother’s favorite snack was live rodents, just as they used they used to be hers. Not that she’d ever admit this to any of her new friends of course. None of them would understand.
While she was walking, Sapphire watched her surroundings for any signs of danger, but at the same time, she tried to pretend that she wasn’t. That was the hard part, trying to look like she wasn’t watching out for threats.
Earlier that morning, Amy had ‘accidentally’ bumped into Starbright and had read her mind, or at least, her surface thoughts. That was how Amy learned of the plan to ambush Sapphire during lunch. And because of that warning, they had time to prepare this time.
“Too bad we couldn’t set our own trap,” Sapphire muttered, wishing that they’d had more time and opportunity to set one up. She would have enjoyed the turnaround. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been able to set their own trap again and had merely been able to take advantage of the warning in order to avoid this ambush altogether. “That’s enough…for now.”
Because of this, Sapphire was staying in public and close to groups of other students. This way, her would-be ambushers wouldn’t be able to get her isolated and alone, away from witnesses.
Just then, the tune of ‘pop goes the weasel’ began to play from her cell phone. Sapphire quickly answered it with, “Hello,” immediately recognized the ringtone she’d set for Melissa.
“Gravy Max and Drama Queen are following you,” Melissa’s cheerful voice announced. “And they look really really annoyed that they can’t get you alone.”
“Thanks,” Sapphire responded, shifting her route a little to pass by another large group of students. However, she quickly glanced up to make sure that nobody was flying overhead. As those two had proven with Melissa, witnesses weren’t necessary a deterrent.
“And don’t worry,” Melissa added with a giggle. “Monkey and I have a great distraction.”
Sapphire’s eyes widened slightly at that, though she restrained her curiosity and avoided asking what the distraction was. Considering whom she was talking to, it could have been nearly anything.
“Then I will leave you to it,” Sapphire said before hanging up the phone.
A minute later, Sapphire heard a loud yell in the distance, which sounded like Gravmax. She couldn’t resist smiling at that, though didn’t bother looking in the direction. Instead, she took advantage of the distraction to continue to Crystal Hall without being attacked.
Once Sapphire was sitting at her usual table, it didn’t take long for the others to appear. Melissa and Monkeywrench arrived together, both laughing and giving each other high-fives.
Melissa was no longer wearing any casts or bandages, though she was still moving a little stiffly. Sapphire suspected that even this remnant of her injuries would be cleared before long. However, the mental bruises from such an attack would probably take much longer to fade away entirely.
“So,” Aegis asked, looking to Melissa and Monkeywrench. “What did you do?”
“We just hit them with a water balloon,” Melissa answered with an innocent expression which suggested that there was more to their ‘distraction’ than that.
Monkeywrench immediately cleared that mystery by proudly announcing, “Filled with cat pee…”
“Cat pee?” Amy gasped with a look of disgust.
“Where in the world did you get THAT?” Alyss asked with her own look of distaste. “Please tell me you didn’t lock up some cats just to collect their piss…”
“Of course not,” Monkeywrench responded, looking just a little offended. “I got it from Bunsen. But how he got it…or why he had it in the first place, I don’t have a clue…”
“You soaked them in cat piss,” Darqueheart said, looking half disgusted and half impressed. “That is…nasty.”
“Too bad you couldn’t get all of them,” Sapphire said with a thoughtful scowl. “Especially Exquisite…”
Amy started chuckling at that, which drew Sapphire’s attention. Her purple-haired friend pulled out a plastic baggie full of red powder and carefully set it down on the table in front of her. Sapphire noticed just how cautious the girl was being with that bag, which only increased her curiosity.
“Chili powder,” Amy said with a smirk.
“I don’t think they’re going to be afraid of your cooking,” Alyss pointed out wryly. “Not unless you’re giving devisor brownies to Melissa…”
Melissa stuck her tongue out at strange little girl. “Hey, I resemble that remark.”
Instead of being discouraged by that, Amy chuckled again. “This chili powder is made with dried and ground up ghost peppers…not the usual chilis.” Her eyes went to Melissa and she continued. “It would be a real shame if someone who couldn’t be seen happened to sprinkle some of this on their lunches while they were eating…”
An evil grin spread across Melissa’s face, right before she snatched up the plastic baggie without any of the care that Amy had shown. Then the girl vanished, leaving only the sound of giggles as she rushed away.
“You are a devious and evil girl,” Darqueheart told Amy with narrowed eyes. “I approve.”
The Quad, Tuesday afternoon, Nov 27th, 2007
The Quad was one of the most popular places on campus, being an open public area where students could gather and socialize. Students from different cottages could easily meet there, which meant that this was also the ideal place for Exquisite to conduct business.
At the moment, Exquisite sat at a table in the Quad, though she wasn’t alone. Kraken stood a short distance away, looking intimidating and playing the role of bodyguard. And then, sitting across from her was some freshman girl, who was virtually unmemorable, and whose name she had barely bothered to remember. This was the third such student that Exquisite had spoken to in the last week.
“Oh, I understand completely,” Exquisite told the girl with a fake smile and sympathy that was even more artificial. “Life can be difficult at this school for students who are lacking in power or resources. Fortunately, having the right friends can help…”
This girl was a nobody, like so many of the other students, without wealth, attractiveness, or even a useful power. However, even the nobody’s in this school could be useful…if used correctly. All it would take was the correct bait…a small favor, or in this case, a small loan to purchase holdouts for self-defense, and she’d set the hook. Soon, this girl would be in her debt, and then Exquisite would have another pawn to use. And as she knew, you could never have too many of those.
“I would be more than happy to be said friend,” Exquisite continued smoothly.
Suddenly, a thick cloud of yellow smoke began to pour out from around the table. Exquisite jumped to her feet in surprise while her would-be pawn scrambled back, tripping over her own feet and falling on the ground. Then, Exquisite noticed the strong smell of bananas that was forming, though in mere seconds, the smell changed to rotten bananas, before becoming something even worse.
“What is that?” Kraken demanded, plugging his nose and backing away from the growing stench.
Exquisite gagged and backed away, though it was too late. The horrid stench had already filled her nostrils and seemed to cling, even as the smoke itself faded away.
“Bananas,” she said with sneer of disgust.
The scent of bananas was a calling card, one that told her exactly who was responsible for this as well as why. She snarled in anger, barely noticing that the other girl had run off…well before the hook had been set. Exquisite was annoyed at that, though far more upset at the fact that someone had DARED come after her directly. AGAIN.
Earlier that day, someone had ambushed Gravmax and Drama, dousing them with that putrid liquid. And while those two had been showering and changing clothes, she and the rest of her associates had been targeted by another prank. Her tongue and throat still burned at the memory.
“It’s that monkey kid, isn’t it?” Kraken asked with a look of annoyance.
Exquisite glared at Kraken, annoyed at his calm reaction. Admittedly, at the moment, that was more out of jealousy than anything. Kraken had been immune from the throat burning pain that she, Iron, and Starbright had suffered. And if it had been anyone else, she would have zapped them with one of her pain blasts as a lesson. However, with Kraken, abstaining from that would be a greater punishment.
“Yes,” she hissed at him. “And I’m sure his friends are all in on it too. They’ve decided to turn the tables and come after US.”
Kraken just snorted. “I can take em… Hell, I bet I can take all of them at once…”
“I am sick of that so-called training team,” Exquisite growled, more to herself than to her ally.
They were supposed to be easy targets, quickly beaten and humiliated so as to be made into examples, then brushed aside as the nuisances they were. However, every time she thought they were dealt with…they hit back. They proved that they were too stupid or stubborn to know when they should stay out of the way. And now, they’d attacked her…interfered with her business…and humiliated her. This would NOT be allowed to stand.
“Tomorrow,” Exquisite announced furiously. “We crush them for good.”
Crystal Hall, Tuesday late afternoon, Nov 27th, 2007
Darqueheart stared down at the plate of food in front of her, feeling mixed emotions about it. On one hand, the pot roast looked tasty and brought back fond memories of Sunday dinner while growing up. On the other hand, it brought back memories of growing up…and of things that she desperately wanted to forget. In the end, her hunger won out and she began to eat.
After taking several bites, Darqueheart looked around the table where several of her friends had already gathered. Amy and Sapphire were discussing Hawthorne gossip, and talking about the latest trouble that Team Awesome had gotten into. From what Darqueheart could tell, those children had a habit of sneaking into Amy’s kitchen and stealing food.
“Hey, Amy,” a girl called out.
Darqueheart looked up and saw a girl coming straight for their table. She recognized the girl as Knockoff, from Poe. It took her a moment to remember that Knockoff was actually Alyss’ roommate, which confused her a little since the other girl was calling for Amy, not Alyss.
“Martina,” Amy responded to the girl with a nod. “What’s up?”
“Are you coming to…?” Knockoff started, only to pause and quickly glance around the table. “That thing tonight?”
Amy seemed to consider it for a moment before shaking her head. “Afraid not. I’ve kind of got my hands full.”
Knockoff nodded at that, as though not surprised. “Okay, I’ll let everyone know if they ask.”
Darqueheart watched the exchange with a disinterested expression, though the truth was, she was jealous. It looked like Amy had been invited to some kind of party, but the only thing anyone ever invited her to, were Faction 3 meetings. That kind of social popularity was just one of the perks of being a ‘pretty’, not that Darqueheart knew about those perks from personal experience. After all, she was the outsider, the freak who could only watch as others experienced those things.
She spent several long seconds seething in the familiar bitterness and resentment, then she shook herself out of it enough to silently ask, “What would the Imp do?”
That was a question that made Darqueheart snort. For one thing, there was no way the Imp would waste time feeling sorry for herself. In fact, the Imp would make a joke, proclaim how incredible she was, and then go on with her business. Darqueheart didn’t think she could shrug this off so easily, but she’d try.
“If she can do it,” Darqueheart quietly told herself, “so can I.”
“Did you say something?” Alyss asked.
“No,” Darqueheart lied, embarrassed at having been caught talking to herself.
A few seconds later, Aegis arrived with his tray of food. “Hey,” he greeted the table with a nod. “Darque,” he said, giving her an individual nod before sitting down beside her.
“Idiot,” Darqueheart greeted him, not quite holding back the smile that formed on its own.
Aegis was an idiot, and everyone in school knew it. He was the kind of kid who’d jump in front of a moving bus just to save a kitten from being run over, even though it meant he’d be killed in the process. Fortunately, he was getting better, and he wasn’t quite as stupid about it as he used to be.
Darqueheart’s thoughts went back to a week and a half ago, when they’d been attacked in Berlin. Aegis had leapt into a fight that he couldn’t win, like some kind of Don Quixote…to save her. The idiot had fought like crazy, and somehow, he’d actually won. As far as she knew, it was the first fight he’d ever won. And he’d done it for her. Nobody had ever fought for her before.
“How was your day?” she cautiously asked Aegis.
“The same as usual,” he responded with a shrug. “Well, actually, I didn’t get in any fights today.”
“That’s uncommon,” Sapphire commented.
“You haven’t had as many lately,” Amy added.
Aegis nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been trying to be smarter about when I fight.”
“He CAN learn,” Darqueheart joked.
The jock looked like he was about to respond to that, when suddenly Melissa came rushing over with a broad grin on her face. “Hey, guess what…”
“You got into Amy’s brownies again?” Darqueheart asked.
“Amy makes great brownies,” Melissa exclaimed, grinning at Amy. So, when are you going to make more, so I can come over and have a bunch?” But before Amy could answer, Melissa blinked and announced, “I just gave Iron a wedgie…and he didn’t even see it coming.”
“They made a mistake in declaring war on a prankster,” Alyss commented with a chuckle. “Especially one who can turn invisible.”
“I know,” Melissa responded with another grin. “Right.”
“Hey,” Monkeywrench protested as he joined them. “I do my part too…”
“Yep,” Melissa agreed, only to pause and look Monkeywrench over. Then she grinned and asked, “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”
Monkeywrench reached into his pocket and pulled out a banana. “Can’t it be both?”
Darqueheart watched the exchange with a mixture of amusement and jealousy. She envied their easy friendship and wished that she had someone like that in her life.
Once Monkeywrench and Melissa were seated, Amy said, “We’ve been pushing them pretty hard today. I don’t think it will be much longer before they come at us hard.”
“We’ll be ready,” Aegis said with a look of determination. Darqueheart felt a chill run down her spine, all the way to the tip of her tail.
“I’m ready,” Melissa proudly announced. She set several metal spikes on the table in front of her. “I’ve got these great new throwing spikes…”
Monkeywrench leaned over and in a conspiratorial voice that everyone at the table could clearly hear, “Too bad she can’t hit the broad side of a barn…”
“I’ve been practicing,” Melissa protested with a pout.
“You probably don’t want to rely on those then,” Sapphire pointed out wryly.
“Nobody goes anywhere alone,” Alyss stated, looking around the table. “We don’t want to give those punks any easy targets.”
“And watch your backs,” Amy added. “Don’t count on numbers or witnesses to keep you safe, especially not now that we’ve got them riled up.”
The conversation continued for the rest of dinner, and once they were finished, the group broke up as they all made their way back to their cottages. Darqueheart and Melissa went back to Whitman together, though Darqueheart was a little concerned about Aegis.
Amy and Sapphire shared a cottage, the same way that she shared one with Melissa. Alyss went back to Poe with a couple of her cottage mates while Monkeywrenchh had joined up with a couple guys on their way to Twain. Aegis, however, went off by himself, in spite of Alyss’ warning.
“Idiot,” she muttered to herself. “He’s going to get himself killed.”
“Don’t worry about him,” Melissa told Darqueheart as they walked back. “He’s been taking lessons from Imp, so he’s a lot better at using his powers than he used to be. I mean, you saw him in Berlin.”
“Yes, I did,” Darqueheart agreed, once more remembering the way he’d protected her.
Once they were back in their dorm, Melissa pulled out spray bottle and began giggling. Darqueheart gave her a curious look before asking what she was up to.
“You’ll see,” Melissa responded as she went to the room that Bethany shared with Porcelain. She quickly looked back and forth down the hallway, then sprayed the doorknob. “That should do it.”
“What is THAT?” Darqueheart asked.
Melissa flashed her a grin. “I had Sapphire spit into a cup earlier…” She gestured to the door, still smirking. “So, when Bethany goes to open her door…”
Darqueheart had to admit, that would be amusing. However, there was one problem with that plan. “You know that Porcelain lives there too…”
“Yeah,” Melissa responded cheerfully. “But she’s got that shell, so it’s like she’s always wearing gloves…”
For a moment, Darqueheart stared at the still glistening door knob before nodding. “Good point.”
Melissa just grinned again and was so excited that she was nearly bouncing in place. “And if she goes to the bathroom, I can even spray the toilet seat…”
“That might be going too far,” Darqueheaert pointed out with a shake of her head. Melissa had a tendency to get a little carried away at times, though admittedly, if anyone deserved this, it was Drama.
Right then, Drama came storming down the hallway, glaring at Darqueheart and Melissa. Suddenly, Darqueheart had the sudden urge to be nice to the other girl, maybe become her friend. However, she felt a surge of anger…her own natural anger, and that pushed the false emotions away.
“Don’t even try it,” Darqueheart hissed.
“Whatever,” Drama responded, going to her door. However, after opening the door, she suddenly paused and exclaimed, “MY HAND! I CAN’T FEEL MY HAND!”
Melissa immediately burst out laughing at that and Darqueheart found herself chuckling as well. When Drama glared at them in realization, Melissa suddenly vanished. Darqueheart just smirked, snapped her tail in Drama’s general direction, which she considered to be the equivalent of using her tail to give Drama ‘the finger’, then went into her own room.
Darqueheart immediately noticed that she wasn’t alone in her room. Her roommate Mina was there, spreading socks out on her bed. Each pair was different from the others, and almost all of them were brightly colored. There were cat socks, dog socks, and some that were spotted, striped, or plaid.
“What are you doing?” Darqueheart asked her roommate.
Mina looked a little self-conscious at being caught. “I was just going through my socks and trying to decide which ones I want to wear tomorrow…”
“What difference does it make?” Darqueheart asked. “They’re just socks.”
Mina stared at her as though offended. “They’re how I express myself…”
“Whatever,” Darqueheart grumbled, knowing that it was pointless to argue with Mina, especially over something as silly as socks.
Mina returned to sorting her socks, though after a minute, she abruptly asked, “Did you see what Jericho was wearing today?”
The GSD girl shuddered at that. “Unfortunately. I nearly had to claw out my own eyes…”
Mina didn’t seem to hear her, though she might have just been ignoring her instead. “It was totally brilliant,” Mina continued excitedly. “Jericho is a fashion genius…”
Darqueheart just stared at her roommate, whom she’d already known was a bit weird. But now, she suddenly wondered if Mina might need professional help.
Just then, Darqueheart suddenly heard Drama’s voice screaming from down the hall, loud enough that she’d been able to easily make it out from inside her room. The sound of, “I CAN’T FEEL MY BUTT!!!” came from the direction of the bathrooms, followed by the sound of Melissa laughing.
“She really did it,” Darqueheart gasped in surprise, right before a broad grin formed and she burst out laughing.
The Quad, Tuesday evening, Nov 27th, 2007
“Dude,” Jon told Chris. “You’re either ballsy as hell…or you’re an idiot. And as your friend, sometimes even I can’t tell.”
“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” Chris told him wryly.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Jon responded with a grin. “I’m here to provide perspective and words of wisdom.”
Chris chuckled at that. “You mean words of BS.”
Jon rolled his eyes at that. “You’ve got these guys gunning for you, but instead of sticking with your crew or in the relative safety of your dorm, you’re out here in the open…where they can easily get to you.” He gestured around the Quad, where the two of them were currently sitting at a table.
“I’m not afraid of them,” Chris announced defiantly. “I can take care of myself.” He paused at that, then grinned. “Besides, you’re here watching my back.”
“I’ll watch your back,” Jon agreed, then smirked as he pointed out, “But don’t expect much. I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
Chris chuckled at that, then looked around to make sure that none of his recent opponents were nearby. Since there didn’t seem to be anyone nearby, he let out a sigh of relief, then chuckled at himself for being worried at all.
It was getting pretty late, and though there were still a few people hanging around in the Crystal Hall or wandering around, most students had gone inside for the night. The campus almost seemed empty compared to what it had looked like just an hour earlier.
“You know,” Jon mused, “you need a girlfriend to help take your mind off this stuff.” Then he paused for a moment to smirk. “Or a boyfriend.”
“You know I don’t swing that way,” Chris quickly reminded his friend, whom he knew was only teasing him.
Jon just stared at him for a few seconds before his eyes narrowed. “You like someone, don’t you?”
“There are a lot of hot exemplar girls around here,” Chris replied with a shrug. “I just haven’t decided which one I want to date yet.”
Jon smirked at that. “Of course, that’s the only reason you’re not dating anyone…”
This wasn’t the first time that they’d talked about Chris’ love life, or more accurately, his lack of one. He frowned, thinking about the reputation he’d earned from all his fights, and most importantly, from losing most of them. With a reputation like that, who would want to date him?
“Maybe you should look at your training team,” Jon mused, watching Chris. “I don’t think Amy is right for you,” He had a faint smirk. “Alyss is out of the question, obviously.”
“Obviously,” Chris agreed, shuddering at the very idea of dating someone who looked like a little girl. Intellectually, he knew that Alyss was actually his age, but she didn’t look it, so she was definitely out of question.
“Sapphire?” Jon continued. “Maybe. She’s pretty hot, but I don’t really know her all that well…”
“She’s all right,” Chris said without any enthusiasm. Sapphire was pretty hot, but then again, she was an exemplar so that was to be expected.
“Then how about Darqueheart?” Jon asked thoughtfully. “I mean, she’s a bit exotic, but still kind of hot.”
Chris blinked at that. Darqueheart? “I don’t think so,” he quickly protested. “I think she hates me. Hell, I think she hates everyone…”
The idea of him and Darqueheart together was completely ridiculous. They were complete and total opposites. He wanted to be a hero, while she definitely leaned in the other direction. In fact, she even announced that with her codename. But on the other hand…she was really cute, in an odd way.
“Methinks thou doth protest too much,” Jon joked, while Chris rolled his eyes.
“And methinks thou doth imagine things,” Chris told him.
Jon just grinned. “Maybe.” Then he let out a sigh. “Well, I’ve got to get going. I’m working on a project and want to get back to it.”
“Later then,” Chris said as Jon got up to leave. “See you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” Jon agreed with a grin.
Once Jon was gone, Chris stood up and decided that it was time to get back to his dorm. However, he hadn’t gone very far when he suddenly noticed the figure ahead of him, one he immediately recognized, and who appeared to have been waiting for him.
“Kraken,” Chris stated, suddenly having a bad feeling.
Kraken came towards Chris, making a show of cracking his knuckles. “You and your friends have really pissed off Exquisite.”
“So, you guys can dish it out,” Chris said, “but you can’t take it.”
“She wants to wait until tomorrow,” Kraken continued, “but I think I should just go ahead and start kicking your asses now.” The large boy sneered down at Chris, obviously enjoying his size advantage. “And we never got to finish things last night…”
Chris gulped, feeling a little worried about his chances, but he’d never been one to run away from a tough opponent and he wasn’t about to start now. And even if Kraken did beat him, well, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d lost a fight.
“But not this time,” Chris muttered. He wasn’t going to fight the way he used to. He was a lot better now…with some awesome new tricks. This time, he was going to kick Kraken’s butt.
“I’m gonna kick your…,” Kraken started, only to suddenly pause and stare past Chris.
Confused by Kraken’s reaction, he turned and looked, only to let out a loud gasp. In the distance, a giant dome had appeared in the middle of the campus. It seemed to be largely black, though swirls and ribbons of glowing purple energy ran all through it.
“What the hell?” Chris gasped, almost forgetting about Kraken. He wondered what it could be, then mused, “Probably some devisor with a new kind of force field… Or maybe, some magic user…”
For several long seconds, Chris just stared at the strange dome, but then he remembered his opponent. He quickly turned back to Kraken, only to see the large boy walking in the direction of the dome, apparently planning to get a better look.
“Well,” Chris said with a sigh of relief. “If that isn’t good timing, I don’t know what is…”
In spite of his efforts to convince himself, he hadn’t been very confident of his chances of success. This way, he could avoid another humiliating beatdown and the pain that came with it.
“Besides,” he added with a chuckle. “I’ll have another chance at Kraken…on my terms.”
And with that, Chris turned and continued towards Emerson, deciding that it might be a good idea to watch Imp’s fight with Mr. Williams again. If nothing else, it might give him some new ideas on how to beat a bigger and stronger opponent.
Whitman Cottage, Wednesday morning, Nov 28th, 2007
Melissa finished adjusting her school uniform, making sure that everything was ready. Once she was done, she looked herself over in her bedroom mirror, then decided that there was still one thing missing.
“This is so cool,” Melissa announced, picking up the utility belt that Imp had given her.
The belt was all white with pouches all around it. About half of them had come filled with things like extra lock picks, smoke bombs, and even a small devise that could bypass electronic security systems. One pouch even contained eight metal throwing spikes, the same kind that Imp used.
Melissa pulled one of the throwing spikes out and looked at it in annoyance. The spikes were really cool, but she was less than confident in her ability to use them. After that incident in Berlin, Imp had given her a couple lessons with the spikes, but so far, Melissa hadn’t been able to hit anything she aimed at.
“Too bad,” Melissa mused, putting the spike back into the pouch with the others. Then she slipped the belt around her waist and covered it with her jacket so that it wasn’t visible. “Now I have a new bag of tricks…one I can carry around when I’m not wearing my jacket.”
Once Melissa was confident that she was dressed and ready to face the day, she left her room, eager to get to her first class. Of course, her first period class was art with the Imp, which was definitely her favorite class of the day.
Just seconds after stepping into the hallway, Melissa noticed Bethany walking down it. The other girl paused and glared at her with a look of pure hatred which had Melissa about ready to burst out laughing.
However, a moment later, Melissa suddenly felt guilty for what she’d done to Bethany. She was a horrible, awful person who didn’t even deserve to live. The guilt was so thick that it started to crush her spirit like a heavy weight.
“No,” Melissa whispered, remembering what Mina had said about Bethany’s powers. “It’s not real…”
Melissa didn’t feel guilty for what she’d done. Not really. In fact, she was proud of that little prank and would happily do it again. Once she reminded herself of this, she began to laugh at the memory, which seemed to be enough to break Bethany’s hold on her.
“I don’t think so,” Melissa exclaimed, making a show of sticking her tongue out at Bethany, who glared even more if that was possible, before turning and hurrying away. Once the other girl was gone, Melissa smirked and announced, “I don’t think she likes me very much.”
“I wouldn’t either after what you did to her last night,” Maxine commented wryly from beside her. “But I can’t say she didn’t deserve it.”
“It was hilarious,” Stryff said from a short distance away. Then in a mocking tone, she gasped, “I can’t feel my butt…”
Several nearby girls burst out laughing at that. Melissa grinned, then gave a sweeping bow. She couldn’t wait to tell Monkey about that prank…or Imp. Especially Imp.
Melissa continued on her way to leave the cottage, only to be stopped at the door by Mrs. Savage. “I have something for you,” the house mother said.
“Is it a present?” Melissa asked with an eager grin.
“In a manner of speaking,” Mrs. Savage responded wryly. She held out a box that was just a little smaller than a shoe box. “A courier just arrived with a package for you.”
“A courier?” Melissa asked in surprise. That sounded a lot fancier than the usual packages that came from home. Her dad always sent those through normal mail.
Melissa took the package from Mrs. Savage and immediately tore into it. The first thing she saw inside was a letter addressed to her.
‘MELISSA, I PROMISED TO MAKE YOU A HOLDOUT, BUT A VERY ANNOYING LITTLE BIRDY TOLD ME THAT YOU NEEDED IT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER. BECAUSE OF THIS URGENCY, I FINISHED THESE AS SOON AS I COULD. USE THEM WITH CARE AND RESPONSIBILITY. LOVE, AUNT BRANDY. PS, INSTRUCTIONS ARE ON THE SECOND PAGE. READ THEM FIRST.’
“Ohmygod,” Melissa exclaimed, bouncing with curiosity and excitement.
There was a second page, just as the note promised, but Melissa ignored that and pulled out the other contents of the box, a pair of gloves. She immediately pulled them onto her hands, delighted to find that they were a perfect fit. And the fingers were thin enough that she’d still be able to pick locks and things too.
“Awesome,” Melissa exclaimed, throwing a punch in the air. There were metal pieces over the knuckles, so she imagined that these would be like brass knuckles and would hurt. She stared down at the gloves with a broad grin. “I can’t wait to try these out.”
Crystal Hall, Wednesday morning, Nov 28th, 2007
Alyss sat down at the table and took a bite of breakfast. The waffles were good. Not as good as what Megan used to make, but still worth eating.
Back in Poe, the conversation of the morning had all been about the hot tub social from the previous night, at least among all the girls. It hadn’t taken Alyss long to get tired of hearing about the party, so she’d been happy to leave Poe for awhile.
But now, Alyss found herself surrounded by another topic that had been interesting at first, but which was quickly getting old. Nearly everyone in the cafeteria seemed to be talking about the strange force field dome that had appeared the night before, including her friends.
“If that thing hadn’t popped up when it did,” Aegis said. “I’m pretty sure Kraken would have kicked my ass.”
“That probably wouldn’t be too difficult,” Darqueheart said. “Half the campus has already done that.” The words might have been a little mean, but her teasing smile took the edge from them.
Sapphire chuckled. “I heard that this force field vanished as suddenly as it appeared.”
“Yeah,” Melissa said, cheerfully digging into her own breakfast. “Security was all over the place, but they still don’t know what made it.”
“Something of that size would take an immense amount of essence,” Darqueheart mused. “Perhaps if a number of mages were working together, or had time to create the right rituals…”
Alyss looked at Darqueheart. “You don’t sound very sure of that.”
Darqueheart just shrugged. “If it was magic. It may not be.”
“True,” Amy said with a nod of agreement. “That looks like something a devisor may have cooked up.” Then she paused to consider a little more before adding, “But I haven’t heard of anyone working on something like that. Sure, a lot of kids have personal force fields, but something that big…”
“The power for something like that would have to be crazy,” Alyss pointed out. “Even the best devise still needs the right gas in the tank.”
“And speaking of crazy,” Melissa exclaimedwith a grin.
Alyss looked to where Melissa was indicating and saw Monkeywrench coming towards the table. He stopped and set a brown paper bag down in front of Amy.
“For you,” Monkeywrench said.
Amy gave the bag a cautious look. “This isn’t going to explode, is it?”
“No promises,” Monkeywrench responded with a broad grin.
Amy rolled her eyes and then looked into the bag, smiling after she did so. She reached into the bag and pulled out a metal ball, which Alyss recognized as one of the rounds for the new toy she’d made over Thanksgiving.
“Nice,” Amy said, carefully placing the ball back into the bag. “I can’t wait to try these out.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to wait long,” Aegis said with a grim expression. “When Kraken tried jumping me last night, he said something about Exquisite wanting to wait until today…”
The table remained silent for several seconds after this, then Sapphire took a bite of her sausage and said, “We knew they would come for us soon. Now we know when.”
“But it could be any time,” Darqueheart half growled. “We will have to watch our backs all day…and be prepared.”
“Then that’s what we do,” Alyss said with a growl of her own. She hated the fact that these punks were after them but whining about it wouldn’t solve the problem. “Sooner or later, they WILL make another move, and when they do, they damn well aren’t going to catch us with our pants down.”
“Alyss is right,” Amy said with a scowl. “I have a feeling they won’t pull anything too serious until classes are over for the day. But once that final bell rings, they’ll be coming after us with everything they’ve got.”
“And when they do,” Aegis said, cracking his knuckles and glowing with a golden aura. “We’ll be ready for them.”
Whateley Academy, Wednesday morning, Nov 28th, 2007
Monkeywrench quickly walked through the tunnels, heading towards Schuster Hall and his third period Power Theory class. He was looking forward to it because he shared that class with the rest of Team Shenanigans, and it was one of only two classes that all of them had together.
There was a certain degree of safety and security that came with hanging out with his friends, but at the moment, he was in the tunnels and by himself…again. As he’d learned a couple days earlier, this was not a safe situation to be in.
A cold chill suddenly went down Monkeywrench’s spine and he could feel his fur starting to stand on end. He scowled at that, then quickly glanced around, though he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. However, he was in the tunnels, which meant that there were side tunnels around him and plenty of places for people to hide.
“Not again,” he muttered under his breath, knowing that this was the perfect opportunity for them to come after him a second time. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a banana, grinning as he did so. “But this time, I’m ready.”
A moment later, Monkeywrench felt it again, the bone chilling terror that suddenly filled him. However, he remembered what Melissa had told him about Drama’s powers, and he focused on how angry he was at her. That helped push the fear aside.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he called out in a sing-song voice. He prepared for what was to come, then peeled his banana and took a bite.
The fear abruptly ended entirely, much to his relief. A couple seconds later, three figures emerged from around the corner. Drama, Gravmax, and Starbright.
“Wow, Gravmax,” Monkeywrench said with a grin, “I’m surprised you’re showing your face around after what happened to you yesterday. I mean, that must have been humiliating.”
Gravmax glared at him with a furious expression. “I’m going to crush you to jelly, you hairy freak.”
“You should have stayed in whatever hole you were hiding in,” Drama added.
Starbright, smirked at him, light beginning to form around her hands. “Let’s just get this over with so we can get out of this disgusting hole…”
Monkeywrench made a show of taking the last bite from his banana, then casually tossing the peel onto the ground between them. “Then come and get me…”
The three morons all marched forward, obviously intending to intimidate him before attacking. However, three steps forward and all three suddenly slipped and fell down on their butts. Monkeywrench burst out laughing, especially as they scrambled to get back to their feet and just kept slipping.
“The old banana peel trick,” he proudly announced before turning and walking away. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d used a banana peel grenade to cover the ground with his trademark low-friction grease before they’d ever stepped into view. “It works every time.”
The Quad, Wednesday late morning, Nov 28th, 2007
Chris took a bite of his grilled cheese sandwich then glanced over at Jon. Today, instead of eating with his training team, he was eating with another friend, one who said that needed to talk to Chris
“So, what’s up?” Chris asked curiously. “You said you had something to show me?” Then he paused for a moment before adding, “And please don’t pull down your pants.”
“You’re no fun,” Jon responded with a chuckle. “Or as one of my cottage mates might say, “no fun guy.”
“That’s me,” Chris agreed. “No fun.”
He watched his friend, wondering what Jon was up to. Jon had been working on some project for the last couple days, and it looked like he was finally going to reveal what it was. Chris just wished that he’d hurry up with it though.
Jon nodded and his expression turned serious. He carefully set something onto the table between them, stating, “I’ve been working on this for the last couple days, and even used nearly all the essence I had saved.”
“What is it?” Chris asked.
The item on the table looked like some kind of pendant with a thin chain, perfect for wearing around the neck. Hanging from the chain was a small glass vial that seemed to be empty, which had a brass base on the bottom along with a brass cap.
“Think of it as a late birthday present,” Jon said with a grin. “I made it for you.”
“What?” Chris asked in surprise. “What is it…besides jewelry? And why?”
Jon picked the pendant up again and let it dangle from his hand by the chain. “A couple days ago, you said that you wished you knew more about your birth family. Well, this might be able to help you find them.”
Chris froze for a moment, his eyes locked on the pendant. For several seconds, he was unable to speak and barely able to even breath. Then, he finally shook himself out of it enough to look at Jon again.
“You’re kidding…,” he accused, though he wasn’t sure.
“Nope,” Jon responded with a chuckle. “Not this time.” Then he stared at the pendant and explained, “Once I activate this thing, it can sense if any of your close blood relatives are nearby.”
Chris licked his lips, suddenly having mixed feelings about this. On one hand, if he had the chance to find his birth family…to find out who they were…and why they didn’t want him… These questions had burned in him for as long as he could remember, and now, he might actually have a chance to get some answers.
On the other hand, he loved his parents and looking for his birth family felt like it would be a betrayal. He didn’t want to do anything to hurt their feelings…or to make them think he didn’t appreciate them and everything they’d done for him.
Jon shrugged apologetically then continued, “Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough essence to make it as powerful as I would have liked. I could have either made it with really good range, or so it could last a long time…not both. I chose the second, so if you’re ever within…maybe a mile or so…it should work.”
Chris let out a faint sigh at that. A mile. A mile wasn’t actually very far, at least when you thought about how big the world was. Even if he tried using this thing, there was a very good chance that he’d never get close enough to a blood relative for it to work. If he even had any blood relatives alive. For all he knew, his entire birth family could be dead. That might be why he was put up for adoption.
“How do you activate it?” Chris finally asked. In spite of his mixed feelings, he wanted to know. He had to at least try to find out where he came from.
“Well,” Jon responded with an evil grin. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
“What’s the hard way?” Chris asked curiously.
Jon suddenly pulled out a knife, his athame, and held it up for Chris to see. “I need some of your blood.”
Chris leaned back at that and gave the knife a wary look. “And the easy way?”
“Fine,” Jon said with a look of mock disappointment. He set the knife down on the table and then pulled out a syringe. “I still need your blood.”
For once, this was an easy decision. “I’ll take the easy way.”
“Like I said,” Jon responded with a sad shake of his head. “You’re no fun.”
Chris held out his arm for Jon to take the blood, but when the other boy tried, a golden glow momentarily flickered around Chris. Jon gave him a flat look, so Chris took a deep breath and concentrated on keeping his shell repressed. This kind of thing was much easier after all the training that the Imp had given him in controlling it.
Once Jon had taken the blood, he carefully unscrewed the glass vial from the brass cap, then injected the blood into the vial. As soon as that was done, Jon screwed the cap back on until there was a faint click.
“Now the focus is locked in place,” Jon explained. Then he paused for a moment before adding, “Oh, one piece of advice…”
“Never do things the hard way?” Chris asked. That sounded like something Jon would tell him.
Instead, Jon said, “Never give your blood to a magic user unless you really trust them. Blood, especially when given willingly, is powerful juju, and can really be used against you.”
“Chris scowled in annoyance. “I notice that you didn’t mention that until after you had my blood…”
Jon shrugged, then flashed Chris a grin. “Never mind that. The important thing is that your present should now be active and working.” He made a show of bowing down and presenting the pendant to Chris, as though it was some kind of offering.
“Thank you,” Chris told him, touched that his friend would do something like this for him. He knew how valuable essence was for magic users, and Jon had used up nearly all that he had for this, and that wasn’t even taking into account how much time he’d invested. “Thanks a lot.”
Just then, Chris suddenly felt the pendant twitch in his hand. He opened his hand in surprise as the pendant was starting to move on its own…pulling in one direction.
“Is it supposed to do this?” Chris asked.
“Only when its picking something up,” Jon answered, staring at the pendant with a look of amazement. “Damn, that was quick…”
Chris’ eyes widened. “It’s picking something up?” His heart began to race as he realized what that meant.
With that, Chris stood up and began walking in the direction that the pendant was pointing. He wanted…needed to see where it led him.
The pendant led him across the large open area between buildings, seeming to know where it was going. Chris looked forward, trying to guess where that would be or who it might lead him to. But as much as he tried, he couldn’t even guess.
In the direction that the pendant was directing Chris, he saw several students walking past. He knew a couple of them from Emerson or his classes, though one of them was in his own training team. Amy was in that direction as well, walking towards her next class.
Suddenly, something slammed into Chris, causing his PK shell to flare to life so that he glowed with a golden light as he tumbled end over end. When he came to a stop, he was face first in the grass, wondering if anyone got the number of the truck that hit him.
“I told you to watch where you were going,” a familiar voice exclaimed, sounding as if he was chastising someone. “I hope you didn’t break him.”
“What the hell?” Chris demanded as he slowly got back to his feet.
Chris really did feel like he’d been hit with a truck, though fortunately, he knew he’d feel better before long. After all, it wasn’t the first time someone had smashed him good. With a snarl, he tensed up and prepared to fight.
Once Chris was able to focus, he realized that there was a dinosaur standing in front of him, though he knew he wasn’t lucky enough for this to be a hallucination. Razorback was a dangerous rager, but he also had a reputation as a smartass and prankster. The sheer dichotomy was enough to give Chris a headache.
Razorback was making a bunch of growls and chirps while waving his clawed hands around. To Chris’ surprise and confusion, he wasn’t following up with the attack…if it actually was an attack. Chris remembered what Jericho had just said and realized that the collision may have just been an accident.
“What’s he saying?” Chris demanded of Jericho, who stood a short distance away. Chris didn’t take his eyes off the dinosaur, partly because he didn’t want a better look at what Jericho was wearing.
Jericho chuckled and answered, “He said tag, you’re it.”
The dinosaur snickered, though until that moment, Chris hadn’t even known that dinosaurs were capable of doing that. Then Razorback turned and walked away while Jericho went with him.
Chris blinked, still absorbing the fact that he hadn’t actually been attacked on purpose. After the last few days, he’d expected much worse than this, especially from a student who’d once used him as a trampoline.
“You really need to watch where you’re going,” Jericho told Razorback, though they were already far enough away that Chris could barely make this out. “Next time, it might not be some doofus with a PK shell.”
Since any real trouble had been avoided, Chris let out a sigh of relief. Only then did he remember what he’d been doing before the collision. That was followed with the realization that he’d dropped the pendant, and when he looked on the ground, he saw no sign of it.
“No,” Chris gasped with a sinking feeling. “It’s gone…”
Whateley Academy, Wednesday afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Amy adjusted the duffel bag that was slung over her shoulder, feeling just a little awkward to be carrying it around like that since it was a bit too much like an oversized purse. Of course, since she was a girl now, nobody else would think it odd for her to use a purse, but after a lifetime of being a boy, she still tended to think of it as inappropriate.
At the moment, she was a PDP, so she stretched her esper abilities as far as she could, ‘listening’ for any sign of trouble. She had no doubt that trouble was coming, the only question was, when.
“It won’t be long,” she quietly told herself.
Amy was on her way to sixth period Power Lab, her final class of the day. She suspected that Exquisite and her clique of thugs and bullies would wait until classes were out since that would make it easier for them to operate. However, as her friends had already been hit with smaller attacks, there was still a good chance that they might come after her a little earlier than expected.
A second later, Amy noticed the thick fog that that was suddenly forming nearby. She scowled at that, not needing her esper sense to knew who was causing this or what was going to happen next. The fog would keep anyone nearby from seeing what was going on, which included the security cameras.
“It looks like its my turn,” she muttered.
Amy reached for her needle gun, but then paused, realizing that it would be useless against Kraken. She turned her attention to her duffel bag, which contained a few other weapons, but before she even open the bag, she was hit with an intense surge of apathy.
“Why bother?” she groaned, knowing that it would be pointless to fight. They were going to get her anyway. It wasn’t like anything she did would matter.
However, Amy immediately realized that these thoughts and emotions weren’t her own. Since she was currently a psychic herself, she recognized the psychic attack and quickly snapped a mental shield in place. All that practice with Louis paid off as Drama’s emotional attack ceased.
Before Amy could return the favor and go on the offensive, she was hit with a powerful blast of water that sent her flying back. When she smacked into the ground, there was a painful snap in her arm that made her scream. Then, a heavy weight suddenly pressed her into the ground, almost as though some giant was stepping on her.
Figures emerged from the now thick wall of fog, and Amy immediately recognized all of them. She strained to move her head enough to get a good look, but from what she could tell, Exquisite had come with every member of her little clique.
“You must be pretty weak and pathetic,” Amy gasped out, “if it takes all six of you to come after little old me…”
“Shut up,” Starbright exclaimed.
“I don’t like this,” Iron admitted to Exquisite. “She’s a Thornie freak, but everyone knows she could keel over dead at any moment. I’m all for teaching her a lesson, but I don’t want to kill her…”
“As you said,” Exquisite responded with a sneer of contempt that was clearly directed at Amy. “She could have a burnout and die at any second, regardless of whether we are present or not. If anything does happen to her, it will just be her own power doing what it’s been trying to do all school year, and it won’t be our fault.”
Iron grunted. “Maybe.” However, he didn’t argue with Exquisite.
Amy frantically struggled, but her whole body hurt from the pressure, not just her arm which was probably broken. Maybe if she focused enough, she could use her powers to distract them. However, gravity suddenly pressed down even harder, hard enough that she could no longer even breath.
Exquisite’s foot connected with Amy’s head, making Amy reel from the impact. Suddenly, everything was spinning and Amy could no longer make sense of anything, though she vaguely heard her attacker announce, “Kraken, bring her with…”
Whateley Academy, Wednesday afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Melissa was worried. Amy hadn’t shown up to their Power Lab class, which really wasn’t like her. Amy was one of those responsible people who never skipped class and rarely did anything to get into trouble.
“Maybe they got her,” Melissa suggested.
The rest of Team Shenanigans, who all shared the class, nodded agreement. Melissa could tell that everyone else was worried too, even Darqueheart who tried not to show it.
“We might need to check Doyle after class,” Alyss said with a deep scowl. “For all we know, she only had another bad burnout…”
“Only,” Darqueheart said with a snort. “No burnout is an ‘only’, not even those micro ones that Amy keeps having.”
“We’d better find her soon,” Aegis pointed out. “I mean, we have a plan to deal with Exquisite and her people, and it requires ALL of us to be there…”
Sapphire nodded. “It’s Amy’s plan, so she should be present regardless.”
“Maybe she’s just playing hooky,” Melissa suggested, though she didn’t really believe it herself. “I mean, this class can get really boring…”
Of course, Power Lab was a lot less boring than Power Theory. How anyone could make a class on super powers boring, Melissa had absolutely no idea. But still, Professor Quintain managed to do it.
After this, Melissa tried paying attention in class, at least as much as she was able to. Her thoughts kept wandering, from wondering where Amy was, to remembering the way Bethany had screamed about her butt going numb, to thinking about her new holdouts and what they could do. Sitting still in class was always hard for Melissa, but right then, it was even worse than usual.
As soon as class had ended, Sapphire said, “We need to find Amy…”
“I’ll check Doyle,” Alyss said. “I really hope she isn’t there again, but that could be better than the alternative.”
“If she is,” Monkeywrench joked weakly. “I can bring her a bouquet of bananas…”
“I thought bananas came in bunches, not bouquets,” Sapphire said with a confused look that made Melissa giggle.
“Monkey is just being Monkey again,” Melissa explained. Still, she hoped Monkeywrench did make a bouquet of bananas, because that could be funny.
“Excuse me,” someone said from behind them.
Melissa looked and saw a depressed looking girl standing there. There was actually a small cloud floating a several feet above her head. She had a couple classes with Downpour, but they weren’t really friends or anything.
“Downpour,” Alyss greeted the girl with a gentle tone, almost like what most people would use to talk to a little kid. Melissa found this kind of funny because Alyss was the one who looked like a little girl.
“I…,” Downpour started quietly. “Someone asked me to give you this…” She held out an envelope, offering it to Alyss.
“Who asked you?” Alyss asked, still speaking in a gentle tone.
“It was…Drama,” Downpour answered with a confused expression. “I’m not sure why, but…”
“But you suddenly wanted to impress her?” Darqueheart added with a sneer. “Maybe, wanted to make her happy?”
Downpour nodded at that. “I…was happy to help her…”
Alyss suddenly looked angry, though she still gave Downpour a gentle smile. “Thank you then…”
“She’s been Drama Queened,” Monkeywrench exclaimed.
As Downpour walked away, Alyss shook her head and muttered, “If that girl didn’t have her head so far up her ass, she could probably help a lot of people.” Melissa was pretty sure that she was talking about Bethany, not Downpour.
Alyss opened the envelope and unfolded the letter inside, then grimly handed it to Sapphire. After reading it, Sapphire gasped, then held the letter out for someone else. Melissa snatched it right before Aegis could, then she stuck her tongue out at him triumphantly before turning her attention to the note.
‘I BELIEVE THAT I MAY HAVE FOUND SOMETHING THAT YOU LOST. IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN GETTING IT BACK, WE SHOULD MEET UP AND TALK.’
“Bethany has Amy,” Melissa gasped.
“No,” Darqueheart corrected her. “This isn’t Bethany’s style… This is from Exquisite…”
“And there are directions for where to meet,” Sapphire added with a hiss. “In the tunnels…”
“Tunnels,” Monkeywrench exclaimed. “Why does it always have to be tunnels?”
Monkeywrench was joking, but Melissa could tell that he was definitely nervous and trying to hide it. Then again, if she’d been lost in the tunnels without any flashlight, she would have been afraid to go back down there again too.
“It’s probably a trap,” Aegis said.
“Obviously,” Darqueheart responded with a roll of her eyes. “But we know it’s a trap, so maybe we can turn it into OUR trap.”
“That sounds good to me,” Alyss agreed, looking around. “Now, anyone have an idea how we can do that?”
Melissa immediately held up her hand, as though waiting to be called in class. “I have an idea…”
“Did it hurt?” Darqueheart asked.
Sapphire quickly added, “If it involves whoopie cushions or stink bombs, you can keep it to yourself.”
Monkeywrench just grinned. “If it involves whoopie cushions or stink bombs, I want to hear it…”
Alyss shook her head. “Okay, Melissa. What did you have in mind?”
Melissa just grinned. “First, we need a giant stink bomb…”
Whateley Academy, Wednesday late afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Darqueheart scowled as she walked through the tunnels, carefully watching her surroundings. There was a certain comfort from being in the tunnels, where nearly every corner was shadowed and where there were whole sections that hadn’t seen light in years. For someone with her powers, this was quite an advantage.
She glanced around at her companions…her friends, noting that each of them had a different reaction to the environment. Monkeywrench was tense and a little jumpy, no doubt from his recent experiences. She couldn’t blame him for that. Sapphire, on the other hand, seemed almost as comfortable in the tunnels as she was.
“This reminds me a little of Home,” Sapphire explained when Darqueheart had commented on this. “Most of the town is underground…in a bunch of tunnels that my Papa helped make.” She puffed up a little with pride as she announced, “He’s a terakinetic.”
“I imagine that could be useful for digging tunnels,” Darqueheart said.
Then she paused and looked ahead, waiting on their scout to return. Melissa had gone ahead of the group, looking for any ambushes that might be waiting. Since she could turn invisible, that made her a natural for the job.
“Isn’t there a faster way to find Amy?” Aegis asked. “I mean, if we find her on our own instead of just going to where they told us to go…”
“That would be nice,” Monkeywrench agreed. For once, he seemed serious, which was a bit out of character.
Darqueheart flicked her tail in annoyance. “I told you already, the spell I used to find Monkeywrench isn’t doing much good… It’s great for mapping tunnels and finding things in the darkness, but it doesn’t work if there’s much light. Wherever they have Amy, they probably have all the lights turned on.” She didn’t mention that she spell also took quite a bit of essence, and she couldn’t spare enough for a thorough search of the tunnels.
“Maybe you could cast a spell on some of her blood or something to help track her down,” Aegis suggested, looking particularly annoyed for some reason. She stared at him for a moment, sure that this wasn’t entirely about Amy. After all, he’d looked frustrated…at least more than usual…ever since lunch.
“Do YOU have some of her blood?” Darqueheart asked. “Because I don’t.”
“I guess not,” Aegis reluctantly admitted. “And it probably takes a lot of magic too…” He scowled at that.
Darqueheart nodded at that. “A bit.”
“It’s clear,” Melissa said as she suddenly appeared next to Darqueheart, making her jump in surprise.
She glared at Melissa, not sure if Melissa ad done that intentionally or not. With the blonde girl, you never could tell. Then again, Melissa hadn’t popped up behind her going, ‘BOO!’, which meant that it probably hadn’t been intentional.
“Nobody up ahead,” Melissa continued. “At least, not for the next two intersections.”
“We’re almost there,” Alyss said, looking over the directions they’d been given. “If they’re going to jump us before we reach that spot, they’re running out of places to do it.”
A few minutes later, they reached their destination, and to Darqueheart’s surprise, there had been no ambushes. Considering how many times that group had jumped her friends over the last few days, she had definitely been expecting something along those lines again. The lack of any ambush this time only made her worry. If it wasn’t an ambush, what did they intend?
The directions led them to what appeared to a large intersection where six different tunnels intersected. The space formed a large room that was actually fairly ornate compared to the rest of the tunnels, with arches and a raised ceiling that was far enough up that some students would even be able to fly. The whole space made Darqueheart think of a subway station, though she saw no sign of any train tracks.
Though there was no subway car or train tracks, the large space was not completely empty. Exquisite and her friends were all there, standing on the other side of the room, nearly lined up and waiting.
Exquisite was sneering, practically radiating an aura of arrogance and contempt. Standing beside her was the large and muscular Kraken, who had his arms crossed. He had a look of impatience, though he made no move. Instead, he glanced to Exquisite, as if silently asking for instructions. Drama and Starbright stood on the other side of Exquisite, with Bethany doing her best to mimic Exquisite’s body language and expression.
“It’s about time,” Gravmax said, presenting an entirely different type of arrogance than Exquisite. While she came off as someone who thought of herself as the queen, he was the spoiled rich boy who thought himself special simply because of who his father was.
Iron stood beside Gravmax, his arms crossed in a similar manner to Kraken. But while the larger boy seemed impatient and ready to fight, Iron seemed content to remain where he was. Then he glanced at Darqueheart and a look of fear momentarily crossed his face before he was able to hide it. She smirked at that, pleased that he remembered their last time together in the tunnels.
Finally, Darqueheart’s eyes went to Amy, who was tied up on the ground in front of Exquisite. Amy didn’t look good. She was pale…paler than usual since everyone was pale compared to Darqueheart, even Iron. However, she also looked clammy and sick, like she was drugged and had a hard time focusing.
“Amy,” Sapphire exclaimed, about to step forward until Alyss held out her arm and stopped her.
“How are you doing?” Alyss called out to Amy.
Amy shifted position and looked at her, though it looked like it took a bit of effort. “Head hurts,” she said, her voice weak and slurred. “Think I have…concussion.”
Alyss snarled at that and looked like she was about to charge forward. However, this time it was Sapphire holding her back.
“You have all proven to be tenacious nuisances,” Exquisite announced. “Like cockroaches who refuse to die…”
“No matter how many times we stomp on them,” Gravmax added, stomping his foot on the ground for emphasis.
“I would have thought you’d have learned a little humility yesterday,” Darqueheart said, reminding everyone present of how Gravmax had been found the previous morning, hogtied and buck naked in the Quad. There were several snickers at that and not only from her own group.
Gravmax snarled in anger. “I don’t know which of you freaks did that…”
“It wasn’t us,” Sapphire stated.
“Yeah,” Monkeywrench agreed with a grin. “Trust me. We’d LOVE to be able to take credit for that…”
“ENOUGH!” Exquisite snarled, obviously upset at having the spotlight stolen from her. “I… WE have had enough of you and have decided that it is time to teach you all a lesson in pain and humiliation, once and for all.”
“You’re going to make us listen to you blabber some more?” Monkeywrench asked. “That would be pretty painful for us…”
His mockery seemed to be angering Exquisite, so for once, Darqueheart silently encouraged Monkeywrench to continue. She rather enjoyed seeing the look of anger and frustration on that pretty’s face.
“Where is Mischief?” Exquisite abruptly demanded.
“She couldn’t make it,” Alyss lied.
Exquisite didn’t buy it. Instead, she pointed at Amy and sparks danced over her hand. “If Mischief does not become visible, Roulette will start screaming in agony…”
“NO!” Melissa exclaimed, suddenly appearing in the space between the two groups. She’d been trying to sneak up on the other team, but that plan appeared to have been ruined. Darqueheart just hoped that Melissa had been able to take care of her tasks first. “Leave her alone.”
“I thought you’d see things my way,” Exquisite commented with a smug look that really made Darqueheart want to hit her.
“Sorry,” Melissa said with a grin, though she nervously glanced at Amy, “But I can’t stick my head that far up my butt…”
“Ooooh, nice one,” Monkeywrench said, which seemed to anger Exquisite again.
“Let’s just crush them already,” Kraken grumbled, though he didn’t move.
Exquisite silently glared at Darqueheart and each member of her training team. The pretty didn’t seem impressed in the least, which as far as Darqueheart was concerned, merely provided further evidence of her foolishness. Shenanigans had been dealing with her and her minions before there ever was a Team Shenanigans.
“This seems like a suitable place to deal with you all, once and for all,” Exquisite commented, trying to sound calm and in control.
“No security cameras,” Starbright pointed out with her own smug expression. “No security getting in the way.”
“NOW can I fight?” Kraken asked Exquisite.
There was a momentary pause before Exquisite responded, “Yes. You are unleashed…” Kraken grinned at that and started forward, his expression suggesting that he was really going to enjoy himself.
Darqueheart scowled and quickly looked for a patch of strong shadow, something she could use as a weapon. But a moment later, she was suddenly hit with a bright light that left her blinded. And even worse, helpless. She needed darkness and shadows to use her magic, and there were no longer any present.
“Gotcha,” Starbright exclaimed.
“You’re not going to get us that way again,” Iron stated as he came towards her, clearly seeking revenge for their last encounter. “We asked some of the other magic users and found out about your weakness to light…”
“Damn,” Darqueheart snarled, backing away. She couldn’t even glare at Iron or Starbright properly. The light was far too bright to even look in that direction.
“Don’t worry,” Aegis exclaimed, suddenly charging forward. “I’ve got your back…”
Aegis threw himself at Iron, knocking the other boy back. A moment later, they exchanged a series of punches, at least until Aegis was hit with a blast of water that sent him flying back.
“I’m going to kick your ugly freak ass,” Starbright threatened, coming straight at Darqueheart.
Starbright was glowing brightly, blinding Darqueheart so that she couldn’t see the fist coming at her face, though she definitely felt it. The other girl hit her several more times, which was really starting to piss her off. With a snarl of frustration, Darqueheart punched in Starbright’s direction, then slashed out with her clawed nails, driving the pretty back and out of her reach.
“So, I can’t see you,” Darqueheart snarled. “That isn’t going to stop me from busting that pretty little face of yours…” Now, she just had to figure out how to fight someone she couldn’t see.
Whateley Academy, Wednesday late afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Chris slowly got back to his feet, trying to ignore the fact that he was soaking wet from Kraken’s attack. His first thought was to charge at the larger boy as hard and fast as he could, but he didn’t. Instead, he thought of the SIM match between Mr. Williams and the Imp, and how the history teacher had charged in with everything he had, only to hurt the innocent bystanders and make everything worse. Chris didn’t want to be like that.
“Think first,” he muttered, reminding himself of something that the Imp had told him several times. “Then act.”
Then he snorted, wondering when he’d started listening to the villains. However, he couldn’t deny that she made sense, more than some of the heroes he’d met. And of course, she’d already helped him with his powers, more than anyone else had.
While these thoughts passed through his mind, Chris looked around the room, trying to get an idea of what was going on. Darqueheart and Starbright were fighting, though it was hard to see with the way that Starbright was glowing. Still, they seemed to be at a stalemate for the moment. Monkeywrench was keeping Iron busy, running around the other boy and keeping him too distracted to help Starbright.
“Good,” Chris whispered.
Drama was standing back and appeared to be doing nothing, but she was glaring intently at Sapphire. From the way that Sapphire was backing up with a terrified expression on her fact, it was obvious that Drama was attacking her.
Melissa was blowing raspberries at Kraken, then when he tried to fire a blast of water at her, she suddenly teleported out of the way. She reappeared a short distance away and yelled some insults at him.
“Yo mama so ugly,” Melissa called out, “she has to tie steaks around her neck to get the dogs to play with her…”
Kraken snarled and sent a blast of water at Melissa, who merely stood there with a smirk. The water went right through her as though she was a ghost and hit Iron, who was thrown back.
At the same time, Gravmax and Exquisite were teaming up on Alyss, who was on her knees and screaming in agony. Exquisite laughed and fired another of her pain blasts at the girl, the sight of which made Chris furious.
“She’s just a kid,” Chris snarled. He knew that Alyss was older than she looked, not to mention a lot tougher, but she looked like a cute little girl, so the sight of her being beaten and tortured was enough to piss him off. “Let her go…”
For a moment, Chris wondered who he should go after and which of his teammates he should help. It looked like all of them could use a hand, though a couple of them needed help more urgently than others. However, that decision was taken from him when Kraken fired a powerful blast of water at him. This blast hit Chris and sent him flying back again to where he tumbled on the ground several times before coming to a stop.
Chris quickly scrambled back to his feet, and this time, he charged straight at Kraken. He tensed up, focused as much of his PK shell as he could into his fist, then hit the larger boy as hard as he could. Kraken staggered back about two steps, then swung at Chris, who dodged the punch. Kraken punched again, and this time, Chris was able to focus his PK shell on his arm, at least enough to block the blow. His arm hurt from the blow, even with the extra power protecting it.
“I hear that just about everyone on campus has kicked your ass at least once,” Kraken announced with a sneer. “Now its my turn.”
Chris snarled at that, growing even angrier. Sure, he’d lost a lot of fights. In fact, he’d become a campus joke because of it. But still, he didn’t like it being rubbed in his face, especially since he’d worked so hard to change things.
“Don’t get angry,” Chris muttered, remembering something else the Imp had told him during one of their training sessions. “Make your opponent get angry instead.” Unfortunately, Chris had no idea of how to do that.
“And as soon as I’m done kicking your butt,” Kraken continued with a smirk, “I’ll get all your friends too… I’ll drown them all like rats… The little brat… The fleabag monkey… That ugly devil girl freak…”
“DON’T CALL HER A FREAK!” Chris yelled in rage, throwing himself at Kraken.
At first, Chris was so angry that he forgot everything he’d learned and reverted to his old fighting style. He threw one punch after another, none of which did much good. Kraken laughed at the first two punches, then easily blocked the rest. Finally, he hit Chris, sending Chris flying back again so that he slammed into a wall. However, Chris refused to stay down and got back to his feet, feeling a bit shaken and sore, but definitely not defeated.
“Not like this,” Chris snarled. He couldn’t win like that.
With a great deal of effort, Chris took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down, or at least, to think. Kraken was coming at him again, seeming content to fight with his hands rather than his water power. If Chris wanted to win, he knew that he’d have to take advantage of this. He’d have to take Kraken down before Kraken hit him with his full power.
Chris thought about Berlin, how he’d fought against the power frames and had torn them to pieces. It had been brutal and effective, but to use that against another person… He grimaced, deciding that he didn’t have much choice. Besides, Kraken was a high-level exemplar and would be able to recover.
After a moment of concentration, Chris focused the power of his PK shell to his hands, then reshaped it. The shell stretched out and thinned, forming PK blades from each of his hands. Then he threw himself at Kraken again. This time, when Kraken blocked, Chris’ blades sliced into the large boy’s arms. Two more attacks and two more slices appeared in Kraken’s flesh, deep gashes that bled for several seconds before they started to scab up and close.
Kraken looked down at his injuries in mild surprised, not seeming the least bit pained by them. He turned his attention back to Chris and sneered, not looking impressed at all.
“Surrender now,” Chris stated with as much confidence as he could project. “Otherwise, I’ll be forced to cut you into pieces.”
The large boy gave a short laugh at that. “You can’t hurt me…” He almost looked disappointed at that, though only for a second.
Suddenly, Kraken threw both of his hands out and a wave of ice came at Chris. Before Chris could move, the wave washed over him, leaving him completely encased and unmoving. He started to yell, but it was cut off along with his air.
He’d lost. He’d lost again. And this time, Chris knew with cold dread, could very likely be the last time.
Whateley Academy, Wednesday late afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Amy was used to pain and helplessness. These came along with her powers, or at least, with the burnouts that the malfunction in her mutation caused. However, this time was different. This was not due to a burnout, but to the injuries she’d been given.
Her entire body hurt, especially her arm, which she was sure was broken. However, her head hurt as well. It pounded, which along with the dizziness, nausea, and difficulty focusing, told her that she probably had a concussion.
In spite of her condition, Amy was aware of the fight going on around her, at least a bit. She had a hard time focusing, but she still tried to focus and pay attention, even though this only seemed to make her situation even worse. Still, her friends were in trouble and she couldn’t bear to sit by and do nothing. They needed her. She had no idea how she could possibly help, but she had to.
“Aegis,” she whispered, unable to do anything more, when she saw him get buried in ice. “Chris…”
Amy knew that if Aegis wasn’t already dead, then he would be soon when he ran out of air. Unfortunately, everyone else was caught up in their own fights and couldn’t run to his rescue. As impossible as it seemed at the moment, she would have to do something. She would have to help him…somehow.
When Amy tried to move, her body and head protested. She collapsed again in pain, remembering that she was still tied up too…even if that seemed like overkill at the moment. Still, she’d never been one to give up before, and she wasn’t about to start now.
A thought drifted through her mind, a reminder that if she could just go to sleep, she’d shift modes and her body would heal itself in the process. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to go to sleep now. Even if she was somehow able to manage that, she’d have no idea of when she’d actually wake up…or if she would. But then, she remembered that there was another way to shift modes…one that didn’t rely on her going to sleep.
“There’s never a burnout when you need one,” Amy muttered with bitter chuckle.
She had a devise that could make her switch modes at the risk of a bad burnout, and that would have been ideal at the moment. Unfortunately, she’d left it in her dorm room, half disassembled and waiting for her to be a devisor again to fix it. That wouldn’t do her any good at the moment. However, there was something that would.
Amy focused her attention as best she could, concentrating in spite of the dizziness and nausea. Her head pounded even worse, enough to bring tears to her eyes, but she didn’t let her concentration slip.
Her eyes locked on her duffel bag, which Exquisite’s people had brought. It was out of reach, but at the moment, that didn’t matter. After all, she was a telekinetic, even if not a very powerful one. If she could keep her concentration, then she could do this without her hands.
The bag had been conveniently left open after its contents had been searched. Because of this, she was able to telekinetically reach inside and pull out the object she needed. It was s a metal sphere the size of a golf ball and with a yellow band painted around the center. The sphere rose into the air, then suddenly flew towards Gravmax, where it hit the floor beside him and exploded into a spray of liquid.
“What the hell?” Gravmax exclaimed, taking an instinctive step back. His foot hit the wet ground and slipped right out from beneath him, dropping him onto the floor with a thud.
With Gravmax distracted, he was no longer pressing Alyss to the ground. The girl quickly got back to her feet, glared at Gravmax, and then leapt at him with several lengths of ribbon forming in her hands.
Exquisite glared down at Amy with a furious expression. “What did you just do?”
Amy didn’t bother to answer since her actions had been louder than any words she could currently utter. Instead, she focused on helping herself. Her telepathy was weak and had almost no range whatsoever, but at the moment, that didn’t matter. Exquisite was standing right beside her, and it would be a simple matter to encourage her to simply do what she was probably about to do anyway. Amy grimaced and pushed out with her telepathy, trying to project a single thought…to encourage a specific action.
“How dare you?” Exquisite demanded as he held out her hand and hit Amy with one of her pain blasts.
Amy felt a brief moment of triumph, right before her entire body exploded into agony. Every pain receptor went off at once, and if Amy had been able to, she would have screamed. Instead, all that came out was a weak gasp and gurgle.
Once the searing pain receded, Amy gasped for breath and silently cursed the fact that it hadn’t worked. She’d have to try it again, but she wasn’t sure that she had the energy to concentrate so hard again. However, she didn’t have to as Exquisite blasted her with another burst of agony.
Even as the artificial pain receded again, Amy could feel a new pain starting. A familiar ache filled her bones and muscles, as well as a growing sense of warmth. Then the seizures hit as she was overcome with the burnout.
Most mutants dreaded the idea of a burnout, which could destroy their bodies from within, leaving them dead…or worse. Amy, however, was used to burnouts. They were a simple fact of her life, one that could kill her at any moment…or not. She tried not to think about that too much. But this time, she welcomed the burnout because even as it damaged her body from within, her body was already resetting, repairing that damage as well as the injuries she’d recently received.
Once the burnout passed, Amy remained on the floor, gasping for breath but feeling relieved. She was exhausted from what her body had just gone through, but she felt much MUCH better than she had before. There were no bruises, no broken arm, and not even any sign of her previous concussion.
“ALYSS!” Amy yelled out, her voice now loud and clear. “Get Aegis…”
Alyss was in the middle of tying Gravmax up in ribbons but paused to look around. She saw Aegis and exclaimed, “Shit,” before running towards the block of ice.
Then, while Alyss was breaking Aegis out of the ice, Amy turned her attention to the rope that she was tied up with. She strained against it and was relieved to feel the ropes snap and fall away. She’d come out of the burnout in exemplar mode, which wasn’t the energizer mode that she’d hoped for, but it would work just fine.
Exquisite stared at Amy in surprise, but then recovered enough for another attack. This time, Amy refused to let herself get hit since she’d already been in enough pain for one day. She hit Exquisite, sending the other girl flying back to crash into Gravmax.
“This will work just fine,” Amy said with a smile, reaching into the duffel bag and pulling out her coil gun. She quickly slapped a couple rounds into it, loading the weapon. Three metal spheres with yellow bands around them went in, and a moment later, it was ready for use.
Amy fired one shot at Drama, hitting the ground beside her. Drama moved to the other side, avoiding the ground that was now covered with liquid droplets. She silently cursed as Monkeywrench had only made her five of these rounds. One had been used for testing, the second had been used on Gravmax, and the third had been a waste. She only had two shots left and wanted to make them count.
“Someone get Starbright,” Amy called out in frustration.
Starbright was still going after Darqueheart, though the two girls seemed evenly matched at the moment. Amy would have helped her friend, but she didn’t have a clear shot. At the moment, she was more likely to hurt Darqueheart that help her.
“I’ve got her,” Melissa called out. Suddenly, Melissa appeared behind Starbright and exclaimed, “Tag, you’re it…”
A second later, Starbright screamed and dropped to her knees, her lightshow finally turning off. Darqueheart staggered back in relief, rubbing at her eyes since she could finally see again.
“Zappy gloves for the win,” Melissa exclaimed triumphantly, nearly dancing around with excitement as she held up her hands. Sparks danced over her fingertips, telling Amy that her friend seemed to have acquired a pair of taser gloves, or something along those lines. A moment later, Melissa vanished, only to appear behind Drama and repeat, “TAG!”
As soon as Drama dropped to the ground, Sapphire slowly got to her feet, looking a bit shaken but no longer under assault. She glared at Drama and then hissed, revealing her fangs.
Kraken was going for Alyss and Aegis, though Monkeywrench suddenly jumped on him from behind, announcing, “You’ve got a monkey on your back…”
“Get off me,” Kraken demanded, grabbing at Monkeywrench, who he couldn’t quite reach.
“Look out,” Amy called out a warning, just in time.
A wave of water erupted from around Kraken, throwing Monkeywrench back and splashing over half the room. Kraken then turned and sent a wave of ice towards Monkeywrench, who leapt out of the way.
Before Kraken could find a new target, Amy took aim and fired her two remaining rounds at the ground near Kraken’s feet. They both exploded, sending splatters of liquid all over the ground. These rounds were based off Monkeywrench’s banana peel grenades, though they contained only a third of the slippery liquid and lacked the banana scent that her furry friend preferred.
“Mom’s slippery grenades were way better,” Amy mused to herself. However, as Kraken slipped and fell to the ground, she chuckled. “But these things still work.”
For a moment, Amy wished that she had something a little more powerful on her, but there was a reason she didn’t. Explosive grenades might be more effective in a fight, but nonlethal ‘joke’ rounds were more likely to be overlooked by campus security.
Melissa stared at Gravmax with an evil grin, apparently ignoring Exquisite, who was in the middle of untying him from the ribbons. “Oh Gravy Max,” she called out in a sing-song voice, holding out her hands and giving little doubt as to her intentions. “Let me give you a big old hug…”
Exquisite fired one of her pain blasts at Melissa, but the blonde prankster suddenly teleported to beside them and put one hand on Exquisite and one on Gravmax. Both jerked from the shock while Melissa giggled and teleported away.
“That’s for dropping Silverwing on me,” Melissa announced proudly. However, a moment later, she looked down at her gloves and frowned in disappointment. “Oh man, the batteries are dead…”
“And you will be too,” Iron growled, throwing himself at her in a tackle, though he went through her as though she wasn’t there.
Melissa stuck her tongue out at Iron. “Wow, you guys suck…” And with that, she vanished again, though Amy didn’t know if she’d teleported or just turned invisible.
“I’m gonna hurt you for that,” Kraken called out.
Amy noticed that he’d covered the ground beneath him in ice and was standing on that to avoid the slippery spot she’d put down. She was a little disappointed since she’d hoped to get a little more use out of that trick.
Monkeywrench held out a banana and yelled, “Fear the power of my exploding bananarang…”
He threw the banana at Drama, who was only just getting back to her feet. She dropped flat to the ground to avoid being hit, which seemed a good idea when the fruit exploded, sending out a shower of confetti.
“This is STUPID,” Drama yelled, getting back to her feet and brushing the confetti off…or at least trying to. It was sticking to her clothes and hair…as if each piece was covered with glue.
Kraken snarled and fired a blast of water, hitting Sapphire, who was thrown back. She howled in pain, then scrambled back to her feet, revealing that her skin was now red and blistered. The ground around her steamed and Amy gasped in horrified realization.
“He’s shooting boiling water,” Amy yelled out in warning.
“Then maybe he can hit this for me,” Alyss responded, gesturing to the ice block that she was still tearing apart. She’d gotten Aegis halfway free, enough so that he could breathe again, but his lower half was still frozen in place.
Aegis began to glow golden again and began hitting the ice on his lower body, cutting it lose more quickly than Alyss had been able to break it. In a few more seconds, he was free, and just in time. A wave of steaming water came rushing at him and Alyss, and both dove out of the way.
“Me and my big mouth,” Alyss grumbled.
Monkeywrench was suddenly smashed into ground by Gravmax, who was back on his feet and pissed off. Iron ran towards the furry boy, apparently planning to get him while he was incapacitated. However, Melissa suddenly appeared in front of Iron, sticking her leg out so that he tripped and fell face first into the ground.
Amy saw that Starbright had also recovered enough to use her powers again, and was blasting Alyss with bright light, keeping her too blind to see Kraken coming at her. But at the same time, Starbright didn’t notice Darqueheart coming up behind her, not until the GSD girl had grabbed her in a stranglehold from behind.
Exquisite and Drama were positioning themselves to hit Aegis, but Amy was in a position to help. She threw herself at Exquisite, grabbing the girl and throwing her again, right into Drama. There was something incredibly satisfying about doing that, especially after everything Exquisite had done to her.
“Alyss,” Amy called out. “Sapphire. Focus on Kraken… Melissa, get Gravmax…”
“Gladly,” Melissa exclaimed as she suddenly appeared right in front of Gravmax, then promptly kicked him between the legs. He dropped to the ground, grabbing his groin while she laughed. “I can do this all day…”
Kraken fired a blast of boiling water at Darqueheart, but Aegis threw himself in the way, taking the blast himself. Darqueheart gave him a look of surprise but he nodded and gave her a thumbs up. She nodded back and smiled faintly.
Amy went back to her duffel and pulled out the needle gun that someone had taken off her and left there. It was with a great sense of satisfaction that she pulled the trigger, hitting both Exquisite and Drama. Since the needles were coated with Sapphire venom, there was no doubt that this would slow them down a bit.
Exquisite retaliated by firing a pain blast, but Amy was expecting that and dodged it. Then, she gave a bow before moving back out of range, looking to see who needed help next.
“I hate fighting kids,” Alyss exclaimed, grabbing Kraken and slamming him into the ground.
He sent a wave of ice out, which she avoided though Iron did not. Iron’s foot was caught in ice and he immediately worked to break himself free. Another wave of ice came out, spreading in all directions and creating a four inch thick coating along the ground for fifteen feet in all directions.
Alyss cursed and broke herself out, then sent a mass of ribbon tendrils at the large boy, intending to tie him up. However, an explosion of water knocked the ribbons away before she could tie them.
“There’s no reason to stay here,” Amy called out to her team. There was no reason for a full-on brawl like this, and the longer they fought, the more likely that someone would be seriously hurt. “Let’s go.”
“She’s right,” Alyss responded, adding her voice to the call to retreat. “We’ve got Amy back so there’s no reason to stick around here.”
With that, Sapphire leapt up and spat out a spray of venom, right into Kraken’s face. He gagged and began grabbing his face, which proved the distraction they needed. Seconds later, Shenanigans began to leave.
Whateley Academy, Wednesday late afternoon, Nov 28th, 2007
Melissa stood at the tunnel entrance, watching with relief as the rest of her friends joined her. A triumphant grin formed. They’d done it. They’d gotten Amy back, got to fight those jerks, and now they were about to make their escape. However, she had a feeling that she was forgetting something.
“Wait,” Melissa exclaimed. “We almost forgot something…”
“What?” Amy asked with a worried look. She quickly looked over the group, making sure that everyone was present.
Melissa pointed inside the room, just a short distance from the tunnel entrance. There was something there, placed behind a pillar so that it would have been completely hidden from anyone further inside the room. It looked like a small wooden barrel with a lit fuse sticking out of the side and slowly burning down.
“What is THAT?” Amy asked in surprise and confusion.
“Don’t ask,” Darqueheart answered. “You don’t want to know.”
“It’s a distraction,” Melissa proudly explained. After all, she was the one who’d placed it there when they’d all first arrived.
Melissa stared at the barrel, giggling as she did so. On the side, a sign had been painted that said ‘WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MONKEYS’, and though she couldn’t see it from her current position, she knew that on the other side was another sign that said, ‘100% MONKEY BUSINESS’.
Just then, Melissa realized that they’d hesitated a little too long and that their opponents had recovered enough to start coming after them. Kraken and Iron would reach them real soon.
“Damn,” Darqueheart snarled.
Melissa reached into her utility belt and pulled out a couple throwing spikes, then threw them at Gravmax as hard as she could. The spikes missed, much to her frustration, though not surprise. She couldn’t ever hit anything with those things.
Darqueheart muttered something under her breath, and a moment later, the shadows near the tunnel became even darker, turning into pits of pure blackness. Black tentacles began to emerge from the darkness and slowly reached out towards their opponents.
Kraken paused in surprise while Gravmax screamed like a little girl and jumped back. “YOU!” Gravmax accused Darqueheart. “You’re the one who jumped me…”
“No,” Darqueheart responded with a sneer. “But I dearly wish I had been…”
“Come on,” Monkeywrench exclaimed, holding up a small remote control. “We need to get out of here NOW.”
“Definitely,” Melissa agreed with a giggle.
With that, they started down the tunnel, hoping that Darqueheart could hold them back long enough for the real distraction to work. Monkeywrench then pushed a button on his remote and a moment later, Melissa heard the explosion behind them. She didn’t need to watch to know that the barrel had just exploded, filling the entire room with a thick smoke.
“Oh my God,” Amy gasped. “What is that smell?”
“HA!” Monkeywrench responded with a burst of laugher. “Who says Trixie has the best stink bombs?”
“Everyone,” Melissa answered with a grin. “But this one was totally awesome…”
“My eyes are already starting to burn,” Sapphire gasped.
“My nose hairs are burning,” Aegis added, coughing as he did so. “And we’re halfway down the tunnel. I almost feel sorry for those jerks…”
Then as one, they all said, “Almost.” They paused to look around at each other, then burst out laughing.
“Now that is one hell of a distraction,” Amy admitted, plugging her nose.
Melissa nodded at that, grinning proudly as she did so. After all, that distraction had been her idea. “Imp says that you should always have an exit plan…or three.”
As they continued down the tunnel, heading back towards the main campus surface, Amy pointed out, “They won’t be able to do anything in the open. Once we’re out of the tunnels, we’ll have room to breathe again.”
“Yeah,” Melissa agreed. “But I still like your plan…”
“Too bad they ruined that by kidnapping Amy,” Alyss said, still angry that they’d done such a thing.
“Maybe,” Melissa responded thoughtfully. Then she began to giggle. “Or maybe not.” She flashed the others a grin. “I’ll catch up with you guys in a bit…”
And with that, she turned and ran back the way they’d come, turning invisible as she did so. Now this was going to be FUN.
It didn’t take Melissa long to find Exquisite and her friends. They had only just left the big room that they’d all been in. From what Melissa heard them complaining about, they’d been confused by all the smoke and hadn’t been able to find their way out until it had cleared a little. Melissa had to bite her hand to keep from giggling at that. They’d been stuck in that stink for the whole time.
“Gross,” Melissa muttered, plugging her nose
All six of them smelled horrible, like they’d gone swimming in a pool full of rotten bananas. Or rotten bananas, mixed with monkey poo, mixed with a Miasma fart. It wasn’t quite as nasty as one of Trixie’s stink bombs, but it was still really impressive. As it was, Melissa was tempted to just turn and walk away, just so she could get away from that stink.
“But I can’t do that,” Melissa quietly told herself.
Melissa braced herself to deal with that stink, knowing that this was a sacrifice she’d make for her friends. Besides, she REALLY wanted to see the looks on their faces when she was done.
“Hey, Darqueheart,” Melissa exclaimed, though she knew her teammate was probably well out of hearing range. “Did you see look on Gravy Max’s face when you did that shadow thingee. He looked like he was going to pee himself…”
A moment later, Melissa heard Starbright exclaim, “I heard them… They’re not too far ahead…”
“Good,” Exquisite responded in a furious tone. “Then it won’t be hard to catch up to them…”
“That was a great stink bomb, Monkey,” Melissa said. “The best one you’ve made yet…”
With that, Melissa slipped further down the tunnel and hid around a corner. She couldn’t stay invisible for very long, but as the Imp taught her, there were other ways to stay hidden. All Melissa really needed to do was stay ahead of those jerks and give them just enough to lead them where she wanted them to go.
Melissa slipped ahead and made some more noise, enough to make sure they continued to follow. She led them back towards the main tunnels, to the ones that she was much more familiar with. It was at this point that she had to be careful, because other students could arrive at any moment and she didn’t want anyone else to mess things up.
“That’s it,” Gravmax exclaimed from further down the tunnel. “I’m tired of holding back… Let’s just go get them…”
“Uh oh,” Melissa gasped, realizing that things just got a little more complicated. She took a deep breath, then called out, “Run. They’re coming…”
But in spite of what she’d said, Melissa made no move. Instead, she remained where she was, clearly visible and standing out in the open. It didn’t take long before Kraken charged into view. In fact, she smelled him before she ever saw him, and his friends were close behind.
“Wow, you guys stink,” Melissa called out, holding her nose.
“Get the bitch,” Exquisite ordered, firing a pain blast at Melissa. Melissa teleported a short distance away, avoiding the blast, then she blew a raspberry at Exquisite, which only made the other girl even angrier. “I said get her!”
Melissa teleported again, then turned invisible and ran. They couldn’t hit what they couldn’t see…she hoped.
“Man, I can’t wait to tell everyone on campus about what losers you are,” Melissa called out while still invisible. “They’re going to laugh at you so hard…”
Suddenly, Melissa felt heavy and dropped to the ground, gasping as an invisible hand pressed her down. Gravmax. He didn’t need to see her in order to make everything heavier.
“Now we have you,” Exquisite exclaimed. “Now, where are your friends?”
“Closer than you think,” a familiar voice announced, right before the shadows came alive and began to move.
Iron jumped back with a look of fear on his face while Gravmax snapped around, forgetting all about Melissa. The weight suddenly vanished and she quickly scrambled back to her feet and teleported further away.
“You ugly freak,” Starbright exclaimed, blasting the darkness with her light. The shadows vanished, revealing the corner in every detail. There was no sign of Darqueheart.
“Run, Melissa,” Darqueheart’s voice came from another shadowed corner. “I don’t have much essence left, but I can hold them back…”
“Don’t,” Melissa warned her. “I’ve got a plan.”
Darqueheart didn’t say anything but the darkness pulled back and faded. Melissa was on her own again, though she suspected Darqueheart was still somewhere nearby, probably watching her back. She felt a certain comfort in knowing that her friends really were looking out for her.
“And I have to look out for them,” she said, reminding herself why she was doing this.
Kraken came charging after Melissa, sending blasts of water in her direction. She gulped, knowing that if he got close enough, he could send a wave over the whole tunnel, and take her out without having to see her. With that, she hurried her speed up just a little.
Now, she was in one of the main tunnel sections, one that actually had security cameras. However, she was careful to avoid being seen by any of them. Then, as she turned the corner, she saw what she was looking for and an evil grin formed on her face.
Melissa teleported back the way she’d come, appearing right behind Exquisite and yelling, “BOO!”
Exquisite jumped in surprise, then snapped around and fired a pain blast, though Melissa was already gone. The blast hit Drama, who shrieked in agony and dropped to her knees.
Melissa appeared a short distance ahead, blew a raspberry, then vanished. She moved to the side, staying invisible and waiting for the moment. It was not a long wait.
Kraken and Exquisite turned the corner, and both of them were already launching their attacks. A large wave surged down the tunnel along with several pain blasts. Then, everyone suddenly froze.
“Oh shit,” Iron exclaimed.
Melissa covered her mouth to keep from giggling aloud. Sprawled out in the middle of the tunnel floor, soaking wet and in a large puddle, were four armed men. Kraken’s wave had just knocked a campus security patrol off their feet, and even worse, one of them was screaming in agony from the pain blast. A second later, some very unhappy security people were glaring at Exquisite and her entire group.
Crystal Hall, Wednesday evening, Nov 28th, 2007
Alyss was tired. Not physically, since as a high-level exemplar, she had stamina to spare, but emotionally. She looked forward to returning to Poe, taking a long hot shower, and then kicking back to relax with a cigar and some beer, or maybe even something a little harder, like that last bottle she’d bought from Shine.
Unfortunately, all that would have to wait for later. At the moment, she’d have to make do with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. She would have preferred a good steak, but she’d take what she could get.
After taking a bite, Alyss looked around the table where all of her friends were gathered. They were all pretty tired after the fight and a few of them had been roughed up.
Sapphire’s skin was still a bit red from where she’d been hit with the boiling water. Fortunately, she was an exemplar and recovered quickly. In just an hour or so, there would probably be no sign of her being scalded.
Aegis had taken a pretty good hit from the hot water as well, but his PK shell seemed to have protected him from any damage. However, he had taken a few good hits from Kraken and had earned some bruises, though they’d all healed already.
Nearly everyone had been injured to some degree, even if it had only been some scrapes and bruises. Fortunately, the worst of the injuries had gone to those who were best able to heal and recover. And after that fight, all were dirty and in need of showers, though hunger won out in their priorities…for the moment.
“Thank you,” Amy abruptly said, looking around the table. “Thank you for coming for me…”
“Hey,” Monkeywrench responded with a shrug. “You came for me…”
“They crossed a line when they kidnapped you,” Aegis pointed out with a scowl. “There was no way I could let that stand…”
Sapphire looked up from her plate, her blue eyes flashing with barely contained anger. “They crossed the line some time ago, though admittedly, this time was even worse…”
“Anyway,” Amy said with a tired smile. “Thank you…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Alyss told her. “Friends watch each other’s backs.”
The others all nodded agreement, even Darqueheart. “That was a…dangerous encounter,” the GSD girl pointed out. “Some of them were not holding back at all.”
“Yeah,” Aegis agreed with a look of frustration. “I just wish I could have done more against Kraken…”
“Dude,” Monkeywrench exclaimed. “You tore him to pieces. It’s not your fault he was somehow able to shrug it off…”
“He hit me with that ice thing too,” Alyss reminded him grimly. “It’s hard to deal with on your own…for anyone.” Then she gave Aegis a faint smile and nod. “You did good out there.”
“You were very brave,” Darqueheart offered self-consciously. Aegis blinked in surprise and then began to blush, before she quickly added, “But don’t let it go to your head…idiot.”
“At least you got to get even with Gravmax,” Monkeywrench told Melissa.
However, Melissa just shrugged at that. “Gravy Max is totally lame…” She rolled her eyes. “I mean, he’s a gravity warper and ALL he can do is make things heavy…”
“You really should tell him that sometime,” Darqueheart said with a smirk. “That should be a nice blow to his ego…”
“That exit plan you came up with was pretty inventive,” Amy said, looking between Melissa and Monkeywrench, who both grinned and then gave each other high fives.
“We’re Team Shenanigans,” Melissa bragged proudly. “We need to live up to our team name…”
“Just so long as the rest of the school doesn’t think the rest of us are insane too,” Sapphire added wryly.
Monkeywrench smirked. “I resemble that remark.”
“That you do,” Alyss agreed. Then she looked to Melissa and said, “That was pretty good, getting them to jump security…”
“It was Amy’s plan,” Melissa said.
Alyss nodded at that, seeing similarities to the plan that Amy had first come up with, though there were definitely a few differences. Of course, Amy’s kidnapping had changed the plan but Melissa had done an interesting job of adapting.
“Not quite my plan,” Amy said with a look of amusement. “But it definitely seems to have done the trick.”
“Yep,” Alyss agreed with a chuckle. “And probably even better than what we’d planned.”
She shook her head faintly, thinking about how Exquisite and her goons had been jumping them time and time again since the start of the school year. However, as Sapphire had pointed out, each time they pulled something, they did it when there were no witnesses, or at least nothing that could be tied back to them. For a group of thugs and bullies, they’d been pretty damn good at avoiding security’s attention.
Because of this, Amy had come up with the idea of getting the thugs all riled up and angry, then getting them to do something stupid in front of security cameras and witness, so that this time, they couldn’t get away with it. The idea had been simple, put Exquisite and her people smack dab on security’s radar, while simultaneously keeping Shenanigans off it. Melissa’s little trick had managed to do exactly that, and even more effectively than what they’d originally intended.
“That was pretty good,” Darqueheart agreed. “You lured them into attacking security directly…”
“But how did you know security would be there?” Sapphire asked curiously.
“Well, duh,” Melissa responded just a little smugly. “Didn’t you notice that after that dome thingee last night, security has been all over the place today? I mean, they’ve been sending patrols all over the place, even going through the main tunnels every half hour…”
“I didn’t notice,” Aegis admitted.
“Me either,” Monkeywrench added.
“I thought there was more security than usual,” Darqueheart mused with a thoughtful expression. “But I didn’t think much of it…”
Alyss nodded at that, then told Melissa, “Good job. I don’t think those punks are going to forget this.”
“Especially not after security gave them the walk of shame to Kane Hall,” Monkeywrench added with a malicious chuckle. “They were all filthy and smelled like they swam through the sewer…”
“Welcome to being the campus laughingstocks,” Amy said with a knowing look. “From what I’ve seen of them and their egos…especially Exquisite…this hit to their reputation will be one of the worst things we could have done to them.”
“And security will be watching them now,” Sapphire continued with a nod and a faint smile. “So, they won’t be able to try anything again… At least not for awhile.” Then she paused for a moment before she burst out laughing.
“What?” Amy asked.
Sapphire smirked. “I just hope they get assigned to detention in Hawthorne…”
“WHY?” Amy asked in confusion.
“Because,” Sapphire slowly explained. “What do you think our cottage mates will do when they find out they have been harassing us, and especially, what they did to you?”
Amy’s eyes widened slightly. “Well, as long as they don’t come into my room…”
“I almost feel sorry for them,” Darqueheart said with a smirk of her own.
Then as one, everyone said, “Almost.”
A short time later, they finished eating and began to get up so that they could head back to their dorms for showers and rest. Alyss was looking forward to her shower, and absently wondered if she could get some private time in the hidden grotto hot tub. Since she’d skipped out on the hot tub social, this seemed like the perfect time to make up for it.
“With some beer and a good cigar,” she quietly added, smiling as she did so.
Just then, Alyss noticed that Aegis still looked frustrated and depressed. After having raised three kids, one of them with Diedricks, she could recognize that something was wrong. Admittedly, Megan had done most of the real work in raising them, but the point still stood.
“You okay?” Alyss asked Aegis, feeling a little awkward to be broaching the subject like this. “If you’re still worried about Kraken, don’t be. Most people would have a hard time dealing with that punk…”
“It’s not that,” Aegis responded with a sigh. “At least, not just about that…” He hesitated a few seconds, then reluctantly admitted, “I lost something today…something…special.”
“Your V card?” Monkeywrench joked. Aegis glared at him and he made a gesture as though zipping his mouth. Alyss knew that it wouldn’t last long.
“What was it?” Amy asked in the gentle tone, which Alyss recognized as her going into her ‘motherly’ mode.
Aegis just scowled for a moment before blurting out, “It doesn’t really matter…” He was clenching his fists in frustration, though as soon as Amy put a hand on his shoulder, he noticeably relaxed. “It…was something that could help me find something important… I know that doesn’t make much sense, but I lost it and…” Then he paused and shook his head.
“If it’s important,” Darqueheart offered a little awkwardly, “then I’m sure it will turn up sooner or later…”
“Thanks,” Aegis responded with a forced smile. “I hope you’re right.”
After this, they all nodded to each other, promised to talk again over breakfast, and then went their separate ways. Alyss let out a sigh as she started walking back to Poe, looking forward to a nice relaxing evening.
Melville Cottage, Wednesday evening, Nov 28th, 2007
Exquisite leaned back in the bathtub where she’d been frantically scrubbing herself the past half hour. Even now, after all the soap and shampoo, the horrid stench still clung to her nostrils. It was even worse than the stink from the previous day.
“Filthy little monkey,” she spat out bitterly.
A voice in the back of her head reminded her that it could have been worse. That furry animal could had flung feces at her instead of just stink bombs. She wouldn’t put it past that disgusting freak.
But as bad as that horrid, lingering stench was, this was but one of the numerous insults that she’d suffered recently, and not even the worst. Those other students, each and every one of them her inferior, had ruined her plans. They’d mocked her…humiliated her. They stubbornly refused to accept their place in the proper order of things, or to acknowledge hers.
Those fools called themselves Shenanigans, which seemed an appropriate name since all they were capable of were dirty tricks. And what other name could she expect from a group that included that filthy monkey and a girl named Mischief.
Exquisite scowled as she considered Shenanigans. At first, her interest in them had been purely business. They, or at least, some of those who would go on to become Shenanigans, had simply been the means to buy the loyalty of her new allies. Then, they’d put her into a position where she had no choice but to make examples of them. But now… Now it had become personal. Very personal.
Shenanigans had dared to come after her allies, and even worse, they’d come after her directly. But still, all those insults paled compared to what they’d done next. They’d lured Exquisite into attacking a security patrol, and as a result, she had been marched to Kane Hall while dirty from the fight and reeking from the monkey’s stench trap. Other students had seen them…and laughed. Her reputation…everything she’d built since the beginning of the school year had been destroyed in one day. Instead of being queen of the freshman class, she had become a laughingstock.
“They’re going to pay for that,” Exquisite promised.
Going to security and being questioned had been an additional humiliation. Of course, she hadn’t been able to tell them what they’d really been doing in the tunnels. That only would have gotten them in even more trouble. Instead, she and her allies had given a story about how they’d simply been hunting rats in the tunnels in order to practice their skills and accidentally hit the security patrol. Security hadn’t really believed the story, but they couldn’t prove otherwise either.
And then, there was the meeting with the headmistress, where Carson had calmly but coldly lectured them on reckless use of their powers, as well as respecting security. But even worse than that was their punishment. She and Kraken, who’d been the ones to hit the security patrol, had been given a week detention in Hawthorne while the rest of her team had received lesser punishments.
“I can’t believe it,” Exquisite snarled furiously. “I have to clean toilets in that freak house… ME.”
Someone was going to pay for this insult…this humiliation. Specifically, every member of Shenanigans would pay…along with all their friends and everyone they cared about. She was going to hurt them…badly. But of course, she couldn’t just go charging in like some cheap thug. That was what had led to her getting caught in the first place. No, she would have to be careful, especially since security was now watching her and her allies.
First, Exquisite would have to rebuild what this venture had cost her…her reputation. She would have to have to gather what leverage she had on other students in order to solidify her base of power, though reinforcing her own clique would be a key part of that.
As it was, Starbright and Iron both looked as they might potentially leave, so she would have to convince them otherwise. She couldn’t afford to have her allies leave her, and not only because it would weaken the group. How would that look to the other students, especially when she was trying to make her clique the ‘it’ group, the one everyone envied and wanted to be part of?
Exquisite scowled as she considered this, then paused in sudden realization. “We need a name…”
Every group worth anything had a name. A group name was like the title of a story, announcing who they were and helping to define them in the eyes of others. Her reputation and social position would be firmly linked to this group, so they needed a name with elegance and grandeur, without coming off as arrogant or pretentious.
“Like the title of a story,” she mused aloud.
However, it wasn’t the title of the story that Exquisite was most interested in, but the end. Specifically, an end where all her plans came together and she was left triumphant.
Inspiration struck. She had it. She had their name.
In every story, there was a spot at the end where all the plot threads came together, where everything was explained and resolved. This was called the denouement. That was also what her group would be to her, the place where all of her plots and plans came together.
“From now on,” she mused with a sense of satisfaction, “we are Denouement.”
Exquisite smirked a she climbed out of the tub and began to dry herself off. This bath had done wonders for her mood. After getting clean, washing way that wretched stench, and even making progress on her plans, she was feeling much more like her usual confident self.
A few minutes later, Exquisite left the bathroom, wearing a silk bathrobe and comfortable slippers. She made her way back to her room, already thinking of ways that she could strengthen Denouement and turn it into a force to be reckoned with.
Just then, a girl in the hallway suddenly pinched her nose in an exaggerated manner and loudly exclaimed, “Oh my God, what is that STENCH?” She smirked at Exquisite before adding, “Oh, it’s you, Naomi…”
Exquisite immediately fired a pain blast at the girl, who instantly dropped to her knees with a scream of pain. However, she felt no satisfaction over this, not when Shenanigans was still on campus. One way or another, she was going to make them pay.
Whateley Academy, Wednesday late evening, Nov 28th, 2007
It was late at night and few were openly moving about campus. Not a single soul could be seen in the open area, yet still, something moved through the grass, causing the blades to twitch and sway, leaving a sign that only the sharpest eyes would be able to spot.
A small pendant slithered through the grass like a snake, dragging its thin chain behind it. It had no mind, no will of its own, yet still it moved, like a piece of iron being drawn toward a powerful magnet.
There were no witnesses to watch as this pendant slowly moved across campus, where it was magically drawn to something…or someone.