Scald-Crow 1: The Rocky Road to Whateley (Part 2)
A Whateley Academy Tale
Scald-Crow 1: The Rocky Road to Whateley
In Mullingar that night I rested limbs so weary
Started by daylight next morning blithe and early
Took a drop of pure to keep me heart from shrinking
Thats the Paddy's cure when'er he's on for drinking
To hear the lassies smile, laughing all the while
At me curious style, 'twould set your heart a-bubblin'
They asked me was I hired and wages I required to lay
Was almost tired of the rocky road to Dublin
The Dubliners, The Rocky Road to Dublin
Chapter 6 - The Road Gets Rockier
Morning, October 24th, 2007 - Ferndale Police Department
I thought I would never want a nice couch to sleep on or even just a shitty cot in the middle of a cabin back at summer camp. If one day I would be arrested for a crime I didn't commit I would tell my younger self to speak up more about my pain. About denying who I was and more about the bullying I was being put through. Perhaps if I said something my parents could have pulled me out of that hellhole. I held onto my knees as I awoke in a sweat and pulled them up to my chest. Sleep had barely been my friend as the changes continued. First, it was my collar bone, and then my ribs. Like molten magma, I swore I heard each of my bones creak.
My skull had been the worst as I felt one of the worst headaches I'd ever felt. Through it all I cried out for water and some food, nothing came. There were blisters from where those bastards zip-tied me still. They forced me into the cell and left me without anything to do. All I could hear was an argument from one of the deputies standing duty about some sort of fuss. How was I not in some scary fictional black site? As I stared at the blank cement wall of my cell I felt the increased weight of my hair and I growled at how long it was getting. Holding out a hand I noted how pale my skin was, and the number of freckles now scattered over my skin.
The cell was one of many which were made up of solid concrete walls fitted with steel bars. An electronic door for the holding cell was the only way out and as I sat on the bench I stared out. The walls were made of whitewashed brick walls. It was the same material they made my stupid high school out of and the same damn walls in middle school. Ferndale was obsessed with whitewash and it always made me feel like I was in an old-timey sanitarium. The only difference was sanitariums had beds, and wouldn't make me use the bathroom in public. What I learned from my few times using the simple toilet in the cell was I was pretty much a girl now.
A guard informed me that morning that the wait for processing was going to be over soon. Once they were ready to extradite me to the regional MCO offices in Seattle I'd be moving fast. This left me bereft of any hope I could muster. Fidgeting I stood as a guard appeared in full police blues and opened the door. He furrowed his brow at me, and I could tell the man was unsure how to proceed. All the police procedurals I grew up with usually placed the uniforms as faceless extras just saying a few lines. This man was the one who was going to hand me off to Wilks and his partner. They had a Warrant, and they already had me in holding.
Ferndale was happy to see a mutant menace silenced.
"Alright, this way please," he said and he indicated for me to follow. At first, I was unsure, and when he didn't ask me to present my hands for another zip tie I eased up a little. I held aloft my hands to show I wasn't a threat and he gestured for me to follow him. As I did, I noted how empty the holding cells were this morning. Whatever was happening, I was being kept in a place where I wasn't likely to be seen. Past another electronically locked door and I found myself in the station's bullpen. Several desks stood in front of me lined up so the local officers could do their work. Not far away was a small office where I guessed the chief was.
I just stood there as I saw agents Wilks and Barber waiting by the door of the office. Both were once again immaculately dressed in black suits straight out of Men In Black. Barber even had those weird little aviator glasses on his head this time, and both of their faces were set in impatient scowls. I heard a lot of yelling coming from the doorway as the uniform by me nudged me to move forward. I followed suit and walked past a series of cops all working at their terminals while filling out paperwork. Several gave me obvious looks of disgust, another gave me a small nod before I walked passed her in confusion. Wait, I thought all of Ferndale was against me?
Well, I mean not all of it. The rush of exaggeration was only made more real as the door opened and I once again saw Miss Fairchild. The woman was far from smiling now, and as I stared at her I could feel contempt flowing off of her. The woman's red-painted lips were smiling, none of her white teeth were showing through. Now we just had to wait for the Chief of Police to let us into his office, and decide if my extradition would continue onward. I had no idea if the man was a poignant racist like the two MCO Agents or a hidden one like Miss Fairchild. All I could hope for was just one chance.
Was it possible that not everyone in this dumb little town was an utter shit?
Please, Goddess, let it be damn true. I needed the respite, even if it was just for a little while.
Noon, October 24th, 2007 - Ferndale Police Department
Sophia hated getting up early on Saturdays and hated it, even more, to give up her weekend. Today wasn't any different, and as she worked her way to put on her best clothes for the day she remembered what her mother said when she awoke her daughter.
"Your Grandpa wants you to go with him to the Ferndale Police station," Corrine Jameson replied as she zipped into her daughter's room in a blink of an eye. As an energizer, Corinne was usually constantly in motion. As a member of the Alliance, she was usually the first on the scene and the first to give chase. Living with a speedster was not easy for Sophia, and being the daughter of one was far worse. It wasn't any easier since her parents divorced and Corinne changed their names. Really though, Sophia didn't mind being called Jameson-Langley, but her mom said it was too long. Whatever, after being woken up she rushed to get ready
She hated being up on Saturdays, but today was different; today was the day she would try to save another's life. Instead of her usual casual shirt and jeans, she grabbed a nice sweater dress to up the formality of her look. Makeup was easy today as she wanted to be minimalistic and to appear as conservative as possible. Her grandpa Gerald was down in the kitchen quickly preparing omelets for that morning. As she ate all she could think about was what was her grandfather going to do to save a fellow mutant.
Ferndale's School Board met in an emergency meeting the night before and finalized their decision to not only expel one Padraig O'Callaghan, but to add new so-called "no tolerance rules" aimed at mutants on campus. Right before falling asleep her grandfather gave her a copy of the minutes of the meeting which a friend of his on the board passed along. Scanning through it she noticed how thinly veiled racism of the rules were. What in particular caught her attention was one singular rule.
Students With Powers Who Use Any On School Campus Are To Be Suspended With Notice.
Hey, at least they'll suspend us and give us notice. I'd rather know I was suspended than being escorted off campus like a common idiot. Seriously, how are they getting away with this?!
The rate of actual mutants manifesting in the Ferndale School District was just slightly below the national average. Most were usually quietly removed from campus and shuttled to the facility just out of town set aside for remedial students and those just out of juvenile hall. Really, the school seemed to be bent on getting as many of the non-baselines out of its population as possible. Sophia herself was sure most if not all the teachers were happy to see her leave their class every day. Well, not all of them. Most in the music department didn't seem to care, and at least one of the female Physical Educators actually did try to keep the kids from teaming up on her during most of the team games.
If she hadn't been a cheerleader she was sure her classmates wouldn't have even noticed her.
But that all paled in comparison to what Padraig was facing.
Sophia finished her breakfast and was right behind her grandfather as he headed out the door.
"Dad I'll see you there, I'm going to head over to the Alliance Headquarters in Bellingham." Her mother was busily finishing up preparation before heading out to work. Corinne Jameson wore a grey skirt and blazer over a white blouse. Sophia admitted her mother had taste, and the office attire suited her.
"Okay sweetheart, send you a text if things go south," Gerald replied just as his daughter walked out the door. The sound of a car starting signaled her exit. After putting away the dishes from breakfast her grandfather grabbed his keys and ushered her out the door. The drive to Ferndale would only require a total of fifteen minutes, but it passed in total silence. Sophia eyed the briefcase sitting in the back seat of her grandpa's sedan. The young woman knew grandpa kept several documents on him at all times since he was a lawyer.
Is he going to free Padraig? The girl wondered as she started to think about the recent plans her grandfather was working on. Both mom and he spoke often about some kind of big change in the works. Her cousins had even said something about missing her when she moved. I'm not moving! Grandpa's house is huge and he's shown no interest in leaving his job on the Reservation! As she thought about it the more she wondered if it had something to do with her mom's divorce, and where her dad was. I know he's living somewhere off the reservation and working for the government. But, he's barely spoken to me in two years. Not since he and mom separated.
Whereas her mom's life as Swiftwing was known to her - her father's, on the other hand, was a near-complete unknown. He worked for the Games Commission with her grandfather's friend Rodrick. He always seemed busy with something, and after watching her parents argue for years as she grew up she figured it was the reason mom left him.
The thoughts of her father were pushed aside as soon as grandfather Gerald parked the car outside the police station. Like much of Ferndale, it was a squat little building that revealed a stark difference. To Sophia, Ferndale was a city that lived a dream of what it viewed itself to be: a large modern town - a true city. In reality, it was a small backwater town, made up of a patchwork of suburbs. A town just a step above small highway shopping district. The small squat building she saw in the police station really did emphasize just how the city really lacked that modern feeling other towns around it really had.
"You ready?" grandpa asked her and all Sophia did was give a gentle nod. Inside was a person she didn't know personally, but both of them shared a common bond. Both were social outcasts, and both had a keen dislike for the shitty little town they went to school in.
The entry hall to the police station really showed how the department was just an up jumped County Sheriff's office without the countywide level of jurisdiction. A small receptionist port fitted in the wall covered by a layer of clear glass. Gerald walked ahead of her as she came in her eyes staring mostly at her gizmatic smartphone. Busily texting with her cousins was one of the few ways she was attempting to keep a sense of serenity in the face of her classmate’s predicament. If they could do it to Padraig they could do it to her just as easily if not more so.
The uniform at the reception desk paged them in through the locked door leading the way further into the station. She walked directly behind her grandfather and earned a few odd looks from the uniforms and detectives present. She noticed the pantsuited form of Principle Fairchild as she came to stand beside her grandfather. Two men dressed in black suits were standing at rest beside the Principle as were who she guessed was Padraig's parents.
Sophia smiled at the redhead as the green-eyed mutant was sitting in a chair placed beside the door to the Chief's office. A tense moment of waiting began as a creaking inside the office itself. A few awkward minutes passed, and Sophia continued to text her cousin Lacey. The young woman was spending her early afternoon getting ready for a shopping trip to the Bellis Fair Mall and was listing off the various new clothes she wanted to buy for an upcoming school event. Probably a dance or something Sophia would have loved to go to before she became a social pariah.
Padraig was listlessly sitting in the chair without a single sound coming from the redhead. Sophia wanted to say something and slowly padded around her grandfather's back, drawing closer to the mutant who she easily figured was becoming a woman. I know a little bit about how things work, but I never met anyone who just turned into a girl. As soon as she was within whispering distance she cleared her throat to get the young mutant's attention. Even as the two were out of school for the day because of "special circumstance" she still could go back.
They had expelled the redhead.
"Hey," she said.
"Hey," the redhead replied in a weird lilting accent.
"So...what should I call you?" Sophia decided to ask. One of her cousins down south on her mom's side was Two-Spirits so she had some idea of what she was seeing in the redhead.
"Grainne," she said the words slowly, "I always hated my dead name."
"Dead name?" Sophia asked curiously.
"Yeah... a term I picked up off some LGBT forums; it's the name I had before I became who I really am."
Sophia canted her head to the right to regard the finality of Grainne's words. She leaned forward and smiled at the redheaded girl and gained one in response. Whatever had occurred to Grainne, the girl looked like she was straight out of a fairytale. Her hair was bright red, and a smattering of freckles covered her face. If she kept up that weird lilting to her speech Sophia would guess she was from Ireland itself.
"So," she stressed the word as she found herself unsure how to continue their small talk. Truly, she wasn't the best at it and preferred gossip or an actual subject for conversation. The young native girl rolled on the balls of her feet as she fidgeted with something to say.
Just as she was about to finally figure it out, the door to the Chief's office opened.
Twelve Forty-Five PM, October 24th, 2007 - Ferndale Police Station
I took a deep breath as I waited for the plunge to begin. The door to the Chief's office opened and as it did I could be the stereotypical opaque pane of the door itself had the name "Chief Victor Larson", and I craned my head to watch as a man stepped from the door. The man who appeared wore a suit which seemed to be the prevailing formal dress for today, and I could see where he dyed his hair to keep the grey "under control". His jaw was a soft round chin, and his nose was a bit pronounced as he had deep wrinkles under each cheekbone.
I wasn't sure about the man; he seemed to be too close to Wilks in his make. His suit was grey or some kind of off-color brown which to me said he grabbed it at a closeout sale at the Men's Warehouse. Nope, this guy, I didn't like him from one look, and as he ushered everyone into the room I found myself surrounded. Once again in a chair right before a cluttered wooden desk, my supporters ringed the wall to my right and my mom stood right behind me. To my direct left was Miss Fairchild, a woman I wish would just get punted from my life.
"So, Agent Wilks, your warrant seems in order, why is Miss O'Callaghan still here?" the Chief asked impatiently breaking the already increasingly tense silence of the day. I squinted at him and tilted my head in confusion. The man was using the correct gender for me, and yet seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Miss Fairchild. This was...unsettling to say the least.
"-MISTER- O'Callaghan is to be transferred to our regional office in Seattle soon once some red tape is cleared up down south," Agent Wilks huffed in response.
I gaped for a moment and gripped the hand rest just enough to cause the wood to creak under the stress.
"Young lady if you break that chair I will see you personally pay for it," the Chief snapped at me upon hearing the sound.
"Yes - yes sir!" I squeaked.
"I'm surprised she hasn't tried to run, she's strong enough to throw a full-grown football player across fifteen feet," Agent Johnson muttered at Wilks’ side.
"THEY ATTACKED ME I WAS DEFENDING MYSELF!" I barked at the man as my anger rose further. My mom placed her hand on my shoulder and I quickly inhaled to calm myself. It barely worked.
"You will not raise your voice in my office young lady," the Chief held firm and didn't raise his voice as I had. "And you! Agent, I expect you to keep the commentary to yourself -unless- I ask you a question."
My eyes widened as I looked to Agent Johnson and me smiled slightly at his admonished expression. But, this still left me wanting to hear the answer as to why I really was here. I mean, did Gerald get his foot in the door and was he bringing a means to get me back to my family. Squaring my shoulders I crossed my arms and brought my legs up to my chest as I breathed slowly to calm the fear growing in place of my anger.
Finally, I relented and gave a nod and mumbled, "I'm sorry sir."
I noticed not a single word from Agent Johnson as Wilks appeared ready to proceed with my extradition down south. In his hands were the same warrant he'd flashed at the school last night, and I could see him firmly ready to cuff me again as his free hand was fidgeting.
So that was it, right? I didn't notice any movement by neither my parents nor Gerald. All three of them remained silent as I returned my gaze to Miss Fairchild who had that stupid smug smile on her lips. But whenever did she not have that smug grin? I think she injected botox into her cheeks to keep it in place. A rustling of papers broke the air of silence. Gerald took a moment and handed a series of papers toward the Chief of Police and then a signed order to Miss Fairchild. The man licked his lips and waited as the two began to skim through the contents of each document.
"You can't be serious," Miss Fairchild said.
"Oh, but Principle Fairchild, I am," he said, "I was very happy to speak with Mr. Olmstadt after you and he himself has noted a history of bullying on your campus."
"Every school has bullying problems, what does this have to do with anything?" she asked in response.
"What matters is both Mister Olmstadt and my own granddaughter noted they saw the four boys attacking a small girl," he continued before turning to the Chief of Police.
"If these records are correct, and I've seen a few of these myself in the past year," he said as he dropped two files showing the names of Brad Finkbonner and one of his cohorts.
"Your star players have drug problems," Gerald started to Miss Fairchild, "And at least three complaints about sexual harassment. None of which has resulted in charges."
"This is most definitely the lax rules of my predecessor," Miss Fairchild nodded, "I'll open an investigation this next week and see to it that we put in place better rules to protect our students.
"I'm just getting started," Gerald removed even more documentation and I chuckled as I could see a small bead of sweat appearing on Fairchild's formerly smug face. So this was how adults played hardball? Oh, goddess, this was making me feel a lot better about my future.
"You can't be serious!" Fairchild exclaimed as she read the last document handed to her, "You can't possibly pull every single Lummi student and funding from the BIA in a single day!"
There was a noticeably angry scowl now on both Wilks and Johnsons faces. Their precious little warrant was looking more and more defused by the moment. I uncurled my body and sat up straight as newfound confidence surged into my being. This was my chance, and I could see an argument forming and a knife twisting to get me out of trouble. But, I did wonder, why did this man want to help me so much?
"You should know by now Chief when I present an argument I never do it without corroborating evidence to back it up," he said seriously.
"How did you get the Tribal Council to back this move, Gerald?" Chief Larson inquired.
"I called them this morning and we held an impromptu meeting to vote in response to newfound racist policies by the Ferndale School Board," he said with a smirk.
"The School Board added that new rule about the usage of mutant powers," he added.
"It was completely necessary." Miss Fairchild was now being reduced to what my friends and I called a "Karen". An angry soccer mom who found a way to complain to the manager about a perceived slight.
"I don't dispute it," Gerald chuckled as he continued his argument, "But as you can see from the files here Chief the School Board hasn't shown any interest accommodating mutants on campus. Most if not all are left to be bullied and or bussed to the remedial school on the outskirts of town."
The Chief of Police pressed his hand to his forehead and inhaled deeply. It was obvious he was thinking of something, and for a moment he thought about it before saying to an intercom on his phone, "Sergeant is the County Prosecutor here?"
"Yes sir," came the reply over the speaker. A few moments later another suited man entered. This man was much calmer and he shook both Gerald's and the Chief's hand. For the next five minutes, the three men leaned over the desk as a lengthy discussion continued. I could see they were busily hashing something out. Miss Fairchild joined in and I could see the anger present in her face as her jaw twisted into a grimace. I glanced over my shoulder to look at Sophia and I let my thoughts wander for a moment.
"Fortune favors us this day." Morgan's voice caught my attention as I felt her presence in the back of my mind. "We must ride the waves of fate carefully my heart. If we do not, we will be consumed."
Thanks, Morgan. I thought internally doing my best to not show any of my little conversations. I'm just trying to remain calm, and you have to drop that little number on me.
"I won't coddle you little Rose, you have so much potential, and you must gain the discipline to use it."
"I'm sorry Agent Wilks, but the charges for Miss O'Callaghan are going to be dropped," said a voice from the desk. I glanced up and shared a look with Sophia as I watched Wilks' face turn a vivid red.
"There's no way you can do such a thing!" the Agent balked at the pronouncement. Miss Fairchild looked like she'd just eaten a fly as she glowered at me.
"In fact, I can," the prosecutor said, "and tomorrow we'll be speaking to a judge about the issue in the county courthouse. You are free to attend."
"Mister and Missus O'Callaghan, we are releasing your child to you under your care, I don't believe I need to make it clear that we ask you to remain in the county and to bring her to the courthouse tomorrow morning?" the prosecutor said swiftly.
I gave a fast eager nod. Ah hell yeah I was going to be there! These adults just let me go and there was no way I was going to screw up my one chance to clear my name! Rising to my feet I was close to babbling out a thank you as Gerald turned to face my father. The County Prosecutor shook everyone's hand and stepped around me before taking my own and giving it a firm handshake. Something about the man seemed familiar as I turned and watched him slowly walk out the door. This left my family, Gerald, and Sophia along with Miss Fairchild. Both Wilks and Johnson were not looking happy at all.
"You strong-armed your way into this Jameson," Fairchild hissed venom at the old man. Gerald Jameson never lost a step as he guffawed loudly at the woman.
"I do what I needed to do when you did nothing but protect your beloved football team and cast your own charges to the wayside for a personal racist agenda," he cocked an eyebrow as he brushed past her. My parents gestured for me to follow and I soon found myself outside the office. A burden lifted from my shoulders and I turned to sob into my mother's embrace. I needed to let it all out as the fear, the rage and much more finally seized me.
"You're lucky Mister O'Callaghan," Miss Fairchild said turning her attention to me. I was busily still choking out a sob into my mother's arms when I heard her snide comment.
"I'm going to ask you one time, to never speak to my daughter again," my mother said very firmly.
"Why is that?" she asked carefully.
"Ah yes, Miss Fairchild one more thing," Gerald said as my father walked beside him.
"What is that Mister Jameson," she asked.
"We'll be seeing you in court soon, I'm preparing a class action suit against your school and you personally." The man said as he clapped my father's back before putting his briefcase back in order.
"You can't be serious!" she asked.
"Oh, we are," my father said as he adjusted his glasses, "you knowingly let four boys sexually assault my daughter. You are lucky I'm not pressing charges. We'll be calling you soon if Gerald thinks it's a good idea to settle."
My parents ushered me past the woman as I could barely contain my glee at her gaping fishlike expression.
Chapter 7 - A Drop O’ The Pure
Early Afternoon, October 25th, Alliance Headquarters, North Bellingham
"I know you can run harder Sophie!" her mom snapped as the teenager sped along on the treadmill. Set to an incline of fifteen and a speed of six miles an hour they were testing her endurance. So far, she'd kept it up for close to an hour and, while drenched in sweat, she was definitely showing an increase compared to her pre-manifestation tests. Dressed in a black Calvin Klein sports bra and leggings her eyes were squarely on the screen in front of her. As she ran, she was watching the second Twilight movie and picking it apart.
"Mom, seriously, did you see what they named this guy?" she asked listing off the "history" of the Quileute people of La Push and the shifters. Corinne leaned against the Treadmill slowly tapping away on her phone and rolling her eyes. Why is it whites never get how we look. Picking apart the movie was just a fun way to kill time. It centered her mind and let her body go to work on the test at hand. Even as a kid she used critical thinking or just plain old sarcasm to center herself. Even if it was a made-up argument pulling apart another person's logic steadied her in a way few things could.
"Sigh, don't want to even try that," Corinne shrugged as she finished a message on her phone, "You know they told your second cousin, Lacey, she didn't look 'Native Enough' when she auditioned?"
"Yeah, we...we had to scream for a bit about that one." Sophia's long straight hair was pulled back into a pair of pigtails that shook with each step she took. About another ten minutes later her mom turned off the machine and she sat there breathing before chugging her third Powerade. Her body devoured electrolytes like no other, and as she felt the sheen of sweat on her body cooling her heated muscles she could tell another length of torture awaited her.
"So, you tested out at close to a few hundred pounds in the lift tests, so Jeff is rating you as an Exemplar One," Corinne picked up a clipboard hanging off the treadmill and added to the notes. Sophia climbed down from the treadmill to drink even more water set aside for her. Already, she was starting to vibrate with curiosity. Her stats so far weren't already started, and hearing she was only an Exemplar did lower her expectations.
At least she would outrun most of the football players for years to come. Sophia started to stretch for the next few moments while Corinne sent a text on her smartphone. While the two were absently focused on the minutiae of the day a door opened to the large gym and entered a member of the Whatcom Alliance. A tall Chinese-American by the name of Tyson Zhang. Upon his entry, Sophia's eyes shot over toward him as she noted his square jaw and lips. A small blush kissed her cheeks as she looked away.
Tyson or Bronze Wolf was a devisor with a strange flair for devises seemingly straight out of eighties anime. Combined with an outright love of steampunk from what Sophia could put together, he was fascinating to the teen. Tall and well-muscled, Tyson in his full bronze composite armor suit cut a figure straight out of ancient China. Not to mention his short black hair framed a long lanky athletic form.
"Hey Swift," he said, his attention turned to Sophia, "And hey Lil Wing."
To call her feeling just infatuation with Tyson was a simplification, no, this was full-blown puppy love. Or at least, that was what her mother would call it. The man padded across the padded floor of the gym and set down a weird brass colored box onto a cart sitting by the treadmill. One look at it told the teen it was likely a devise, one of the more complicated creations made by Tyson. The devise itself was square, about six inches wide, and perhaps two inches deep. On its surface was a digital screen while a series of tesla coil inspired wires ran along the edge of the screen itself.
Right out of the top (what Sophia guessed was the top) were two prongs. Each ended in a thick bulbous copper ball and was attached via a thickened iron rod. More wiring coiled around each rod and was soldered directly to the copper balls.
"What is that?" Sophia asked curiously, and she shot a glance to her mother who was once again texting on her phone. The speed of which was notably slow as both thumbs were visible as they moved with precision.
"It's my bi-corder," he said, indicating the two prongs.
"Wait, what?" Corinne looked up at him and furrowed her brow, "are you still trying to sneak around Paramount's Trademarks with Star Trek? Seriously Ty?"
"Hey, hey, it's not my fault they thought hand scanners had to start with tri, I'm just using a derivative name," he raised his hands in surrender before crossing them behind his head.
"Cornelius isn't going to have it if you get us sued, again," Sophia glanced at her mom over her shoulder before nearly moving closer to Tyson.
"Fine - fine," he chuckled before pushing a weird red button on the contraption and holding it up to Sophia's chest.
"What does that thing do?" she asked.
"It scans for Energizer and Esper ratings. Well mostly just Energizer," he said with a wave of his hand, "I tried Wizard, but the thing kept telling me I was pregnant.
"I'm neither, I've never shown either." She said, as she watched and her mother walked over toward her. The woman took a deep breath while she pocketed her phone. As the machine beeped Corinne lashed out three hard jabs right beside and one at full speed teasing her daughter.
"Dammit, mom! We already tested it!" she said complaining and even stamping her foot.
"Yeah, and your 'bi-corder' is shit, Zhang," Corinne chuckled as she rubbed her nose.
"Welp, back to the old drawing board, it can detect energy signatures at least," he pointed it at Corinne and the thing let out a loud goose-like squawk.
"Still a piece of shit," Corinne remarked and picked up the clipboard to add more notes. There was one last power to test, and that meant as Sophia watched her mother, that her grandfather was going to be the next proctor.
"Lil' Wing you should shower," Tyson said as he pointed at the locker room attached to the gym.
"Okay," she said as she stalked over to the locker rooms to get cleaned up.
Late Afternoon, October 25th, 2007 - Whatcom Alliance Headquarters, North Bellingham
Sophia ate an early dinner before the next portion of her power testing. She was completely alone in the kitchen of the Alliance Headquarters. It was a large professional sized kitchen put together by one of the founders of the Alliance. During the work hours of the Alliance, many of the members along with volunteers prepared food for the super team to make sure there was enough to feed everyone on the team. She eyed a pot of devisor coffee sitting in an urn near the fridge. Well, one of the fridges humming in the mostly stainless steel room.
She leaned against the counter, and let her mind wander for a short time. The sandwich was mostly turkey and had a light touch of vinegarette to it. Sophia, of course, added a slice of asiago and provolone to it to add that creamy texture she adored. Her exemplar metabolism would need the extra energy so it helped that another sandwich was waiting nearby. After ten minutes she wolfed down the food and drank some juice for the extra calories. She noted that there were, even more, turkey and ham sandwiches on a platter inside the fridge. A large sticky note simply read "EAT ME" and she obliged the rule of said note. The renewed energy from the food helped steady the dazed feeling from earlier.
Now I just have to learn how to wield essence. Great, just, easy. Self-doubt wasn't an unknown friend to her, and for years Sophia lived in the shadow of the Jameson Legacy. First, Ravenwing, the shaman hero who helped keep the peace during the late 1960s to 1970s. Her mother took up the mantle after her father founded the Alliance and named herself SwiftWing. Both were well regarded in the community both on the reservation and off. The work done against crime along the border, and people causing trouble in the San Juans was enough to build a decent reputation.
Too bad her father was just a baseline. Bet he's laughing it up right now. She didn't remember much of her dad, just his rough squared face, and his short cut hair. The suits and dress shirts he wore on his ever-present work schedule. Bouncing from one project to another he was barely ever there at home. She squeezed the wrapped she’d torn off the second sandwich as she gritted her teeth after her father sent her a letter after she manifested. He didn't say I was a freak, but he did say I was a disappointment. He never liked grandpa nor respected mom's work. Her anger roiled for a bit longer before she grabbed the remains of her meal and tossed it in the garbage, minus the cup of juice in the sink to be washed.
I'll do it after testing.
Stalking out of the kitchen she found herself in the main hallway leading from the massive entry hall and museum of the Alliance to the offices dedicated to the team's support staff. The Alliance from what she knew didn't just fight crime and deal with the presence of gangs and organized crime. They also focused on charity and outreach across the county with many of their programs aimed at helping the less fortunate.
Sophia strolled down the main hall along the grey carpeted floor and passed newspaper clippings framed on the wall. Each story she pieced together from fireside tales by her grandfather or her mom's frequent lessons. She rubbed her hands together as her sneakers dragged on the ground. Grandpa told her to meet him in the study at the far end of the hall. So she did what he asked. Down the hall along with two sets of stairs running straight, she found herself in a small library room. The door was open and as she pushed it aside to get a better look she was met by a twenty-foot square room.
Each wall of the room was lined by six-foot-high shelves of books. In the room's center sat a simple round table. A small fridge hummed by the table likely containing what Sophia guessed were ingredients for spells. Besides the right of the table from her entry was a reading stand straight out of a wizard's tower from one of her preferred fantasy books. On the stand was a leatherbound book filled with strange hieroglyphs she couldn't make out. Standing over said stand dressed in a blue sweater and black carpenter jeans was her grandfather.
His silver and black hair was held back by a red headband. Sophia walked inside as soon as he gestured for her to come. Drawing closer gave her a better view of the book and she noticed the pictograph nature of the writing. It looked like something she'd seen in a textbook when her social studies class covered pre-Columbian Americas. Grandpa Gerald closed the book and turned to face her after a moment.
"Now we are going to do one simple test," he said quietly and lifted a bag hiding behind the mini-fridge. Inside he pulled out a small length of cedar which she instantly identified by the smell of freshly cut wood. Grandpa set it down on the table just as he pulled out a small glass votive candle about five inches long from the bag as well. Now, standing he inhaled deeply as he held his right hand and focused his eyes on the candle. After three seconds the candle burst to life as a small flame came into being on the wick.
"I'm gonna light a candle," she asked confused at his test.
"No...we're going to steal it's light," he said with a smile. His hands set down flat on the table before he held out his hand and his mouth moved silently. She tried to pick out what he was saying, but from what she could tell it wasn't English.After three seconds, the light of the candle began to dim as the flame seemed to have decreased to the point where barely a small spark remained. Her grandfather held up the cedarwood and she noticed that the end of it seemed to be glowing like the embers of a low burning wick.
"Like Raven, I can steal the flame, using my essence to draw the light to this wood," he smiled.
"Now, I’m going to have you conduct a simple ritual. If it works, you should be able to at least cause the light to dim," he smiled at her.
"You mean light my well?" she asked in response.
"Yes, you have been paying attention during our tutoring sessions from last summer," he smiled. She could see the growing mirth in his eyes, and how proud her grandfather was to have a proper apprentice.
"So what are we going to do?" she asked slowly. Her grandfather began removing more items from his bag. This time instead of a simple length of cedar wood he set down a wooden box. The box itself was a steam box often used by her ancestors to cook items. She noted he also had a small raven wing likely taken years ago carefully preserved. Once all of his items were arranged he inhaled once again.
"I am going to invest an amount of essence which is why we are doing this when I can rest for the next few days," he explained. It made sense, her grandfather was an accomplished wizard, but he still didn't have the energy he used to. She watched as he looked skyward and she finally noticed the skylight placed right above the table. The final rays of the day's sun were slowly lighting the room.
Her grandfather drummed a simple beat upon the edge of the table as he picked up the preserved raven wing. The wing moved in and out in his hand recreating the motion of it flapping. As he tapped out the beat he began to sing under his breath. Her grasp of straits Saanich was limited, but as she picked up bits and pieces of Lummi in his speech she could piece it together.
"Beloved teacher, and stealer of the sun."
She heard the name mink invoked at one point, and as her grandfather finished his song he did one final wave of the wing in front of her face. At the very last passage, she felt strange vertigo overtake her. It was like the entire room shifted six feet right, as the sunlight above fell away into darkness. FIve minutes later Sophia Jameson steadied herself as she noted the wry grin on her grandfather's face.
"What just happened?" she asked confused by it all.
"I asked the tricksters to take a shard of the sun, and to light the well of essence within you," he replied.
A few minutes later he set down his raven wing and picked up the stick of cedar again. After another deep breath to center himself he handed it to Sophia. The young woman looked at the partially burnt end of the wood and remained quiet. He's now going to test my ability. If I do this right. The ritual itself was simple as her grandfather related it to her. All she must do is a sing of how Raven stole the light from a secretive old man. Saanich wasn't really her forte, and years of attending classes after school and tutoring sessions left her pronunciation a bit - sloppy.
Grandpa relit the candle and motioned for her to begin.
"Concentrate Lil' Wing," he intoned, as he tapped out the beat to the song. She set her mind on the candle and as she sang she mentally imagined herself drawing the light away from the candle. As if a strange ethereal tether yanked on the vision of the light before her she felt a strange tugging sensation along her arm causing it to twitch with the cedar stick in her hand. A moment later the candle flickered - it seemed to dim for just a moment and returned to full burn.
"Not bad, Lil' Wing." She set down the cedar stick and wiped her brow. She felt exhausted after the ritual and after her attempt. Each and every test pushed her to the brink. The teen eyed her grandfather as he was writing down a series of notes onto a pad from what she guessed was his bag. She used the edge of the table to steady herself while he finished. Whatever he wrote, her grandfather finished his notes by signing his name at the base of the notepad. Sophia couldn't make out any of the words on the notepad. When are they going to give me my MID? She tilted her head and sighed. After spending the entire afternoon doing her initial powers testing she just wanted to go home and rest for a test the next day.
"Grandpa, are we done?" she asked, a slight whine in her voice.
"Yup, Lil' Wing everything is done," he chuckled and rose from his seat. Before saying another word he gathered up the items on the table and snuffed out the candle. The stick was carefully doused with a bit of water from a bottle from the bag and finally, it was all stored back therein.
Evening, October 24th, 2007 - South Seattle
A cool Seattle night was the telltale sign that winter was overtaking fall hard. Most started to layer up as fall went from the gently cooling nights to the harsh rains of winter storms. That Thursday night was like no other. Out from Elliot Bay rolled a hard storm chasing the dregs of the fallen leaves for the night. A singular woman walked along the sodden pavement past a tree rapidly shedding its own leaves. Her heels clomped across the sidewalk as she stopped in front of a door set below a dying neon sign reading "OPEN". She clutched the coat she wore and the hood over her head together around her small frame. A pair of jeans hugged her hips and as she walked in their tightness caught the eyes of the bartender therein.
Finnegan's, that was the name of the bar she ventured into. Like every place in Ireland, it tried to be the bar that was small and cramped. Bench seats lined the walls matched to small tables. One small little rectangle that sat perhaps up to thirty people at once, built into an old building just blocks away from the waterfront. How the place stayed in business was a tad strange to anyone, but the regulars. The girl ignored everything around her and strode directly for the bar. Her hands reached into a purse hanging at her side and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill.
"Start, a tab, and pour me three fingers, of the Islay you have," she pointed to a bottle on a glass shelf two levels up and the man retrieved it. The amber liquid poured smoothly into the glass, and she picked it up in a pair of delicate hands. Each of her nails ended in a pointed black painted point. Even her lips were dark red as she gently sipped from the shot glass. After perhaps a few more small sips she let out a calming breath of satisfaction.
"Not bad, for Scottish shite," she placed both hands on the table and gestured for another double. Three more fingers of Islay-based whisky put a bit of burning in her throat. It made her feel alive to experience that sensation, and after a second shot, she was already feeling a little buzzed. Shifting in her seat she pulled back the hood of her coat to release the thick brown curls bunched up underneath.
"Hey dun get snappy wit me," the bartender growled before pouring her a third shot, "My family is from Iona."
"Well, I shall have ta thank ye fer passable Whisky," she retorted. She slammed her hand on the bartop before downing the contents of the glass in a single go. She leaned forward letting her lips pull back into a garish smirk.
"Whatever," the bartender sighed before going to tend to another customer. The woman barely noticed the sudden presence that sat down beside her. To any onlooker, he'd appear just another bedraggled drunkard coming in from the cold and rain. What few would notice was how deliberate he chose his seat and how easily he slid in to sit beside the woman. The newcomer's features were average and easy to forget. A pair of brown eyes on an oval face with a rounded male chin. A sharp nose and slightly overly large ears. The man-made a motion for a beer.
"Took ye long enough," the woman said without even acknowledging his arrival.
"Oh Bess, ye wound me," the man said and placed both hands over his heart to emphasize his sarcasm. He was dressed like an old fashioned dockworker, a black turtleneck and heavy-duty jeans. His head was covered by a leather Irish cap.
"Why are ye here lad," she asked as she sipped what she counted as her fourth drink.
"Tone be wantin' a report. Ye kilt the Fianna bitch, and yet somehow...we have no proof of the rider's oblivion," he smiled and said to her. His beer came and the man sipped at the stout given without a second thought.
"Yer boss can wait, I burnt up most of my essence finding the new ridden," she gritted her teeth and motioned for another double.
"Good thing I'll be bringing a reliquary to yer hands soon." The man's demeanor didn't change at all as their conversation progressed.
"Oh, good, very good. Shall get shite crackin," her sarcasm was evident.
"What, can ye not do it ol' Bess?" he asked while turning to face her. The woman's pale features set into a neutral expression to cover her emotions.
"I can do the job, just like I made Sinnead's heart explode for fun," she whispered.
"Yer getting sloppy," he remarked after a long draught of the beer, "If I weren't already buzzed I'd be guessin' yer desperate to please the boss. Ye did fuck up the job in Navarre last year."
"Assassinating a key section lead for MI6 ain't easy, especially if ye dun wants any of it getting back ta me, or the boss," she said. This time she set aside the drink.
"Tone's losin’' his patience Bess. Ye already know he's got back up planned, and he'll use it if ye fail this again," he said and opened his jacket to reveal a silencer capped handgun.
"Old way I see? Not since the Fenians, did we kill our own for a little mistake," she chuckled uneasily.
"Ye didn't just fuck it up Bess, ye killed the wrong woman. That set some capes on us and alerted our old friends in Galway. Tone's name came up, and the Fianna now are on his trail."
It wasn't a revelation to the woman, and Bess had lived long enough to piece together the actions of Wolftone since she'd first contracted for the man. The man, her handler, was about halfway into his beer before he passed a small folder of information to her. She took it as the man motioned and she saw the bartender flip a switch from under the bar and the little light on the security camera above went dead.
In the criminal underworld, she knew that in a world of capes and villains it was smart to stay under the radar. Her work for the True Fenians had resulted in lucrative opportunities. She fingered the edge of the folder before licking her index finger and thumb to flip it open. Inside was an image of a woman with brilliant auburn hair, and stark blue eyes. A flash of memory came to her immediately and she noted the similarity to the woman and her previous hit.
"Sinnead's little sister be wantin' her sister's killer. This is when she's scheduled to arrive." The man pointed at an itinerary on the second page of the folder.
"Good, I found the rider a few nights ago, and I almost had her." The news seemed to please her handler who handed a very small note card to her. A name and a bit of hair were likely stolen from a hotel room.
"Ye can scry from this right?" he asked as he scanned the pub briefly.
"Yeah, I can. I've already got a trace on the girl. I'll rile up a few to kill her." Her words only seemed to please the man for a moment.
"If ye can't kill her, take out Sinnead's sister. It'll delay the Fianna and the Republic. Boss will see you still of use after buggerin' up so badly here in yankland." He finished his beer and picked up the folder. He pressed a burner phone into her hand as he pretended to give her a hug. Bess' skinned crawled as the regular looking man pulled back to look at her. His eyes flickered with controlled malice and desire. Just as quietly as he came he slowly glided away from the stool and she watched him open the door. In a few moments he was gone, not a trace of his arrival except for the empty beer glass.
"Sa," the bartender said breaking the quiet.
"Sa, get me more whisky, four fingers this stime ye stingy bastard." Her words were a low order as the man rolled his eyes and poured the ornery woman another drink.
Chapter 8 - No Turning Back
Early Morning, October 25th, 2007 - Dreamscape
Dewdrops dusted the ground as I found myself standing in the open bogland of my deepest dreams. My feet were wrapped in a pair of archaic boots made out of cow-leather. They were held in place by straps woven over my lower legs in a cross-stitch form. Unlike the last time I visited my dreamscape, I didn't wear a pair of trousers. Instead, I wore a leine tunic, along beautifully woven wool tunic all the way to just below my knees. At my waist, a thick belt cinched around my thinned waist. Long red locks fell over my shoulders as I twirled in the slowly brightening day of my dream.
I was a girl fully, not just an idea, but deep down in the deepest part of my soul, I knew it to be true. At full speed, I sped across the uneven ground and felt my body being unearthly nimble. Of course, this was not the real world, I was easily altering the logic of my own realm. Fleet of the foot was the best way to describe how I felt as I darted across the ground and leaped from rock to rock when I came to the bogs themselves. The surface of the bog was almost the same as the moss and grass-covered land around. I nearly slipped at one point and it was there I saw the possible watery grave beneath.
It's hard to describe how I felt as my hair seemed to lift in the air as I went and felt the wind whistling in my ears. Finally, after one more jump, I landed near the crystal clear waters of Morgan's domain. The large standing stones still remained and circled the water. Near the ground, I could see a fire pit and a boiling iron kettle suspended over the flames. The air smelled of tea and I heard a rustling behind me. I turned around to face Morgan as she came into view. Unlike before she wasn't wearing a dress, and her hair wasn't flowing free like mine. As always she towered over me, her green eyes were half-closed as she licked her lips deep in concentration.
"Morgan?" I asked her as she walked past me and I saw how carefully she'd plaited her hair. It reminded me of pictures I'd seen in a Celtic goddess calendar. Her hair was braided and tightened on both sides leaving a long braid down the center of her head. Over both eyes were blue lines curving then under each eye and along her cheekbones. Both cheeks were covered in a blue spiral as I noticed more paint along her neck and her exposed arms. She wore a leather armor over her chest, and a pair of trousers on her legs. The armor looked to be studded with pieces of metal and as she began to check on the boiling water I noticed a sword hanging from a belt on her hip.
"Morgan, speak to me!" I snapped. Ever since the incident with the jail, she'd been quiet. Only a day and not a word from her and finally I meet her in the dream and she was different. I could feel a silent roiling emotion shifting as a miasma around her. My spirit was going to tell me what was going on or I would be without a thing to do.
"It is my fault Sinnead is dead," were the words she said snapping her head to face me. The muscles of her body went taut like a leopard coiling to strike. I didn't take a step back or react. This was my spirit, my bonded companion, and I would not let fear hold me back again.
"Tell me why!" I declared and I stepped closer to her.
Morgan easily had two feet on me in her paranormal height, but as I drew closer, she looked so small to me. Her rage was so clear, but it wasn't directed at her enemies.
"Whoever killed her wanted me dead, and instead of dying with Sinnead, I am still here!" she growled before falling to her knees and wrapping her arms around herself.
"I don't know how spirits die Morgan, but you can't blame yourself for whatever killed Sinnead," I walked over toward her and I leaned against her back.
"I can't promise you won't die either." Her words were clear and for just a small second I feared whatever hunted for Sinnead would come for me. Yet, as I leaned against Morgan's back a small thought came to me.
"I beat back and nearly killed my attackers, Morgan," I said slowly. "It was your strength and determination which helped me survive the night. It was you who helped me become the woman you see before you."
I felt her shift as she turned and her arms brought me to face her properly. A small stream of tears filled my spirit's eyes as she bit her lip and her chin tightened. Suddenly, as a flame lit on a kerosene lamp I could feel her anger burn away the chaff of the depression. Self-doubt was shoved aside for something rawer, and far sharper.
"Will you help me find her killer?" she asked me.
"I'm not sure I can do that right now," I replied. Her green eyes bore into me.
"I don't expect you too lass," her voice no longer.
If I ever expected to see the 'Morrígan' in her terrible beauty I could see it in her. Morgan's face contorted as she stepped away from me and drew a knife I'd missed on the opposite of her sword. She threw it at the spiral etched stone and the knife embedded itself. A low keen erupted from her throat as she slowly quieted herself.
"Okay," I replied stock still and confused by her display. This was more braveheart than I expected, but I was willing to roll with the punches.
"I'm going to find the despicable thing who murdered SInnead, and still threatens you." Her low voice sent a chill down my spine as I saw her eyes burning with rage.
Suddenly, an image flashed across my vision. A black-haired woman, her face cowled by a hood pulled tight around her head. The lower bottom of her face was all I saw was her mouth moving quietly speaking out an alien mantra. The mirror, I had seen her in the mirror when Brad assaulted me. Shaking I waved to get Morgan's attention, and as she finished her display she quieted. Lean forward she knelt before me and waited for me to explain.
"There was a woman in the mirror when I was attacked by Brad. I saw her for barely a second, but I was sure she was there," I relayed it all to Morgan. Her face got a look as her eyes stared off into space.
"That helps greatly my heart," she said to me and rose to her feet. Walking over to retrieve the dagger she sheathed it deftly. I just stood there, watching the display as I could feel her rage being linked to mine. The defiance to never let someone victimize me or her ever again.
"Morgan...I need to learn how to defend myself," I said. Not the berserk kicking and punching I did earlier to Finkbonner and his lackeys. No, I needed to learn how to use my newfound strength. As a girl, I knew I was a target for others, and I didn't want to feel as terrified as I did that day again.
"I can't promise no one will ever hurt you again lass," Morgan relented, "but, if you speak with your parents for the need for proper training I am sure they and this friend of theirs, Jameson, will know what to do."
"I understand." It was kind of all I could say. Morgan's arrival and my changes shifted my life radically, and while I was thankful for my new body I didn't want to think there weren't strings attached. The very raw emotion I witnessed from her told me that whoever killed her last host, she hadn't seen it coming. It terrified me to my bones.
"I can promise you my strength, my unrelenting defiance, and my support in the trials to come." Her words eased my worry and scattered my fear for now. She rose and offered me her hand. I took it in mine and we shook in agreement.
Early Morning, October 27th, 2007 - Whatcom Alliance Headquarters
When my parents told me that my Powers Test was going to be changed to Saturday I didn't imagine they'd wake me up at the ass crack of dawn to catch the five-forty AM ferry to the mainland. Mom had me dress in a pair of leggings and a tank top for the day. We'd gone bra and clothes shopping the day before on account of my slightly growing assets. Laying down in the back of the van my parents drove all I could do was try to sleep on the way to the Whatcom Alliance Headquarters. Friday was a day of self-care as after the clothes shopping mom took me home to rest for the night. Whatever changes had begun during my time in holding continued on till Saturday morning.
A glimmer of my dream with Morgan remained with me as I stared at the rolling hills and countryside of Whatcom County. Farms surrounded the reservation and as we sped past the new casino I began to think about my new life. After leaving the police department on Thursday I told mom I wasn't ever going back to that shithole of a school. No matter what Mister Jameson said, there was no way one little incident would fix the year of bullying they'd put me through. My middle school went out of its way to hire teachers who seemed bent on tossing me under the bus for minor problems, and it was only two good instructors back in elementary who saved whatever feelings I had for the Ferndale School District as a whole.
No, mom and dad were pretty evident that I was not going back, not after my sexual assault by fellow students. Mom went full rage mode and I could hear her growling death threats to the boys on our way home that evening. Dad as soon as I woke up after a nap that evening passed me a bit of whiskey in a shot glass.
"You need this Grainne," he said before I sipped the stuff. It made me cough with the burning flavor, but I sipped it and for a bit, it numbed out the stress of the day at least for a little while. I was no stranger to altered states of mind since the school district had pushed for me to be diagnosed as ADHD as a kid. Even as I watched the countryside rolling by from the window of the car it was hard for me to focus on what my parents said. Ritalin did little for me and the other pills we tried caused my chest to fill with agonizing pressure.
We tried everything and finally my parents kind of moved on. Thinking back on it, I realize now that a lot of my repressed feelings of who I was likely didn't manifest in the best way to those seeing me from the outside. I ran a hand through my long hair nervously and licked my lips. The drive to the Headquarters of the Alliance took about fifteen minutes, but it dragged for me.
The building was utilitarian in appearance. Three stories tall, and made out of brick and mortar. An exterior with regular windows every few feet. I could see the office in the small attached lobby. A larger steel building which I guessed was the training center loomed behind it. There was a ramp and a set of cemented stairs leading up to the lobby. Parking in a small parking lot adjacent to the lobby I stared at the simplicity of the building. A small area surrounded by tall softwood trees and wetland was where they built the place. Mom told me it was time to go and I stepped out of the door to feel the cool kiss of a late October morning.
The lobby itself was a smaller block one floor tall and perhaps, from what I surmised, was about forty feet wide. At the top read the words "The Whatcom Alliance". As I walked closer I saw more on the doors "Officially Supported by the United States Department of Paranormal Affairs". It felt nice to finally see the home of the people who helped me out of clutches of the MCO. The very thought of Wilks’ seething hateful eyes made me shiver. His visage was banished from my thoughts as I pushed aside the door and was the first to enter. The lobby was pretty general, a few seats and a wrap-around receptionist desk that looked to double as a dispatch office.
A woman was typing away in front of a large flat-screen monitor. My parents walked up to speak with her as I remained back towards the door. I was soon waved over as the woman handed my parents a small list of what I would be doing for the day. Shooting a glance at her and then to the parental units I felt my anxiety growing. I could only imagine what lay in store for me.
Noon, October 27th, 2007 - Whatcom Alliance Headquarters
If there was one saving grace about the tests, it was that they let me watch old episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. Lucy Lawless’s figure was always something I dreamed of. A woman who was strong and sexy combined into one fantastic bundle of skill and knowledge. I was busy doing a lifting test as I was playing back one of my favorite episodes in the back of my head. I wasn't sure which one it was. Most of the Xena episodes were easy to run together, and I had to run through my memory to barely remember the name. My train of thought was completely distorted and it was only the immediate snap of Sophia's mother, Corinne which drew me back to reality.
"HEY LOOK!" she barked and pointed at how my hands were slipping.
"Listen!" I replied and Sophia who was hovering by her mother face palmed immediately.
"Okay, what?" Corinne eyed her daughter and Sophia mumbled, "It's a gamer thing."
"Fine - fine, just lift the damn bar," the Energizer ordered and so I did. Currently, she had set the deadlift at about two hundred pounds and I was easily pulling it up. My tester directed me to stop and she changed the weight again before I found myself lifting closer to four hundred pounds. Again, I was able to lift it upward, but I could feel strain setting into my muscles. I placed the bar down as Corinne jotted down a series of notes. I eyed Sophia who mouthed "I know your pain,'' to me. Another few weights moved on the barbell and I eyed Corinne. This was the moment in the Xena episodes she'd be doing one of her ululating cries and do a sky kick. Do you know the one with really obvious support harness and string work?
"This is boring, and barely a challenge." Morgan huffed in my mind's eye. We'd been communicating more during the day, and I could feel she was getting more in tune with me as her host. I felt an ethereal shift across my body as Corinne set the weights one more time and I reached forward. Sophia leaned forward and corrected my posture before I began to lift properly with my legs and not my back. I eyed the weights, it was about five hundred twenty-five pounds, and I was slowly able to push my limits. It took a few more tries, but finally I brought it up to chest level as I thrust my hips forward.
"Okay, that would rate you as an Exemplar Three," she said and looked up from the notes. From my short interactions with Corinne I liked her a lot. She reminded me a bit of Sophia in her outward snark and sarcasm. Since I came from a family of rage-induced Swedish Irish women it wasn't at all that difficult for me to understand. Sloan would have a field day with SwiftWing, and I was a little sad that we left her back at the house this time.
They had me repeat the process with a few different machines. First, I was asked to bench press a few hundred pounds and found I was about the same limit, if not a little bit closer to six hundred pounds. Second, Corinne had me run on a treadmill and steadily she increased the speed and the incline of the machine. By the end I worked up a healthy sweat and I could feel the newfound clarity my body gave me. Morgan was offering small commentary in the back of my mind.
"Not bad, this isn't any more difficult than the Defense Forces training Sinnead went through."
It was interesting that a slumbering spirit did seem to absorb the memory of her hosts. Personally, I had no access so I had to hear it a second person from Morgan's point of view. No different than a friend relaying what they saw or heard someone else do.
An hour later they brought me into a weird little library room. A singular round table was situated in the middle of the room with a skylight above. Upon entering, I was asked to take off my shoes and I shrugged in response. Complying with their request wasn't hard since I had a few Asian cousins making this far from weird to me. I padded barefoot across the carpeted floor and watched as Sophia followed in after her grandfather. I was a little surprised to see him in his full RavenWIng costume including the body armor. Each piece of armor fit on his legs, chest and his arms. It was a light impact type I'd heard people comment about on a few forums I scanned when I first did a little research on superhero uniforms.
"Ah, good to see you, Miss O'Callaghan, I have a few documents for you and your parents," he declared cheerfully. Documents? And my eyes immediately shot to his infamous briefcase which he carried with him.
"Did you file the paperwork for her name change?" my mom asked. I blinked, a name change? That was a tad quick. He opened up and placed a copy of the court order including a court time next week. A lump formed in my throat as I saw the full name of "Gráinne Róisín O'Callaghan" on the document. Immediately, I grabbed both my parents in a tight hug as I felt a sob shudder through my body. Upon releasing them I gave Gerald a hug hard enough that he actually asked me politely to let go. Tears blurred my vision as I picked up the documentation and noted the court date on it.
"Next week? How?" I asked. I knew a little on courts, just enough from years of watching Law & Order in that judges didn't have open slots that easily on their dockets.
"We called in a favor with the Municipal Courthouse, and request we expedite your application," Gerald told us all.
"Judge MacDonald owed me for saving his son on an incident just out to sea years ago," said a new voice. I turned to face a man I had only heard of, but now was finally meeting, Cornelius Holbrook, the leader of the Whatcom Alliance. Cornelius was an aging black man with short hair, and a small mustache graced his upper lip. I could tell by the ripple of muscle underneath his shirt that this was a man dedicated to his craft, and a few scars poked out along his hands. He was dressed in a blue button-down collared shirt and a pair of black jeans.
"You're...OGUN!" I said as the man smiled at me, "Yes...or as I was in the 80s, Crown Justice."
This man was a living legend! There was manga in Japan based on his armored visage and I was now just feeling my internal geek starting to squee at his presence. I could see Sophia visibly rolled her eyes as my nerdom flared for all to see.
"Thank you mister Holbrook," my father said as he shook the man's hand. I could barely contain myself as I was asked a few questions by the man himself. Cornelius wanted to know more about my experience at the school and in between Gerald listed off his plans for a lawsuit. We finished about ten minutes later and pulled apart for a small lunch so I could regain my energy.
As I was leaving the small room Gerald asked me and Sophia to stay behind. He set down his briefcase and like what seemed to be a small amethyst gem onto the table. Instantly upon seeing the shiny purple thing, my attention was officially fixated on the spot. Did I mention purple was my favorite color? It was the color of royalty and empresses so, of course, I adored it.
"Gráinne," Gerald said and drew my attention back to his face. I peered at him as my hands fell to my hips and I cocked one to the right. Damn, I was getting feminine posture down!
"All I want you to do is hold the gem," he pointed to the Amethyst and I picked up the piece of quartz in my hand. A small pulling sensation flowed down from my arm up into my chest. I winced a little as the gem seemed to glow in the palm of my hand. There was a slightly painful sensation aching in my fingers.
"Fascinating," he gestured for me to put the gem down and I shuddered. A bit of myself felt like it was being pulled into that thing.
"It's a container of essence, you just stored some in it." I blinked for a moment as I started to wonder what the hell essence was. "Magic lass, it's the energy used in spells."
It was nice I had a magical spirit to explain everything. Just like a little fairy from one of my favorite games.
"Never compare me to that floating ball of irritation - again. Or I'll make you bald."
Okay, never refer to Morgan as Navi ever again.
Early Afternoon, October 27th, 2007 - Whatcom Alliance Headquarters
"By the Gods this is good," I exclaimed as I dug into a massive plate of corned beef and roasted potatoes. After working away for the last few hours I was already craving calories to return my lost energy. Not only had they tested my ability to collect essence there were the tests on a few motions to see my flexibility. Walking a balancing beam wasn't really that hard and having me run around a track to see my full-on sprinting speed just added to the soaking level of my clothes. After showering in a YMCA-styled women's locker roo`-m I was cleaned up and in a pair of jeans and a tank top. It felt nice to be out of my sports bra and back into my preferred boy shorts.
The food served at the Headquarters was better than passable and as I tore into the corned beef I was licking my fingers as a bit of juice came off one piece of meat. After my second plate, I was finally satisfied and gave an embarrassed smile to both of my parents. My dad was shaking his head as my mom said to him, "She'll eat us out of house and home."
We were seated at a small table located in the lounge of the building. Nearby through a pair of swinging restaurant doors was a professional-grade kitchen set up by a member of the Alliance. Across from me, my parents were busy talking about something with Gerald Jameson. Beside me sat Sophia who was enjoying a nice hot cup of peppermint tea which she informed me she needed to help "calm her nerves".
For myself, a cup of coffee, I needed the stuff to function on some levels and definitely with tons of cream in it. The normally bitter taste of coffee always made me feel sick to my stomach. Didn't help with that mess with the mind-controlling Starbucks coffee thanks to some asshole villain in Seattle earlier this year. This was cup number two and I could already tell my mom wasn’t pleased with the increase of my vivid hyperness. I wanted to jump to my feet and start singing loudly to anyone who saw me. The thought came to me about how well I could hold a tune? Did I have an increased lung capacity? More ideas raced through my mind as Gerald finished explaining something to my parents.
There was a lot going on I wasn't currently in on. Both mom and dad had been in long phone calls the day before. Not to mention there was that notary work my dad spent time going over before I woke up. I only even knew about it because of his papers left on our dining room table. What was going on? For a few seconds, I let my mind wander long enough to what I'd experienced. This was most definitely the first of perhaps more Powers Tests. Being a mutant required I have a Mutant ID and it was likely one of the reasons my parents were talking at length.
But that left the issue of my schooling. Were they thinking of homeschooling me? I mean, that would make some sense, and I could easily get training here with the Alliance in their HQ. What it didn't explain was what I swore was a brochure in my mom’s hands as we drove in that morning. It created only more questions for me to consider.
Sophia was clearly done eating and as she finished her last bite she sipped a bit more of her tea. Me, I downed the last of my coffee before using a napkin to dab my lips clean. It was nice to not wear any makeup today though I was definitely hyped for learning the ancient secrets of how women changed their skins. A moment later I was done with my food as well and pushed the plate aside. Satisfied and full, I couldn't eat another bite! My eyes wandered around the lounge and my eyes landed on a pinboard located near the entrance.
In my boredom, I decided to just see what was on the notice board in question. Off the top of my head, I was able to make out a piece of paper about someone offering lawn work. A small flier about a missing dog and a second flier about an upcoming event for a local performer. I couldn't read everything, but I was still able to make out the general wording if it was big enough. After what seemed like a minute I got up to get a better look at one particular notice that caught my attention. It reminded me of something I'd seen before and as I drew closer, I finally saw the wording.
What was the Whateley Academy? Reaching out I removed the tack holding the brochure in place and opened it up so I could read its contents. The front folded page of the brochure depicted a picture from someplace called the Presidential Mountains. The School itself was in New Hampshire. As I read further it was then I recognized it as the very same one my mom had been holding on the drive in that morning. I tacked the piece of paper back onto the pinboard before turning around and brushing a stray lock of hair out of my face. Why was my mom reading about a school all the way across the country in New England?
Were they planning on sending me to boarding school?
I guess I'd have to wait to find out as upon returning to the board I could see both my parents and Gerald Jameson were waiting. Gerald appeared to have a clipboard like the one Corinne Jameson had been writing notes on from earlier. There was also a small piece of paper clipped to the top of it.
"Ah, so," dad said as he gestured me to take a seat.
"Alright, honey," mom began as she glanced at my father for a moment.
"You aren't sending me back to Ferndale are you?" I asked slowly just wanting to break the ice. There was no way I was going back to that shithole school.
"No," mom replied with a slightly shocked expression on her face.
"Okay," I said and was about to ask before my father said, "We've been discussing it and decided to ask Gerald a bit about where his daughter studied for High School."
"Mom went to Bellingham, didn't she?" Sophia asked. That was what her mother told her roughly when she was younger, and it was where Corinne had met her father.
"No," Gerald said and Corinne walked through the door dressed in what appeared to work out gear. A pair of black leggings and a loose razor-back blue tank.
"Oh, we telling them about Whateley finally?" Corinne asked.
"Yup," Gerald sighed as he furrowed his brow at his daughter's lax question.
"Okay," Sophia said and beat me to the punch, "I can see you affording to send me to a boarding school. Thanks for sending me away by the way." The girl crossed her arms across her chest and turned her head to look away in defiance of the adults.
"Actually," my dad spoke up, "we can afford to send Gráinne to a school which your mother has told us specializes in preparing young mutants for their future."
"Wait what? An honest to goodness Xavier school?" I chirped as I sat on the edge of my seat. This wasn't sound so bad.
"Yes and no," Gerald added as he placed his hands on the table. "Whateley is important as it's neutral ground, a place where you two can learn how to control your powers, and also get above-average education."
"Neutral ground, what you are saying-" Sophia said and she stopped as her mom nodded.
"Villains and Superheros do not break the neutrality, it's a seriously safe place, safer than Ferndale and it’s more than equipped to help you with your rage problems," Corinne informed me. I wanted to look away as she reminded me of my issue, but instead, I inhaled slowly and maintained eye contact with her.
Anxiety would not rule me for this conversation. Well, not for now.
"Remember lass, they want to do this for your own good. Don't get angry, think about it from their shoes." Morgan my ever prominent Jiminy Cricket-styled conscience. "Don't compare me to a Disney cartoon bug, ever again." Who can also read my thoughts. I really need to remember that my body had two passengers now.
"Is it better than Ferndale?" I asked carefully.
"Yes, and no," Corinne replied. "If you stay on the good side of most of the faculty they'll have your back. But there are bullies, and so it's best to learn how to defend yourself."
That didn't help at all. I blinked sadly at the idea, but it did sound better than what I had experienced. Slowly, I straightened up in my seat as I bit my lip. What other options do I have? I could go to Bellingham High School and make my parents drive me every day till next year when I could earn my own license. Truth be told, I was terrified of being far away from my family, and not being near them. I was tight with my family on a surreal level. Throughout my recent change, my parents had been nothing but supportive. There was no lying, my change was adding more financial burdens to them and honestly, I wasn't sure what else lay in store for me.
I threw a kid into a locker and almost killed him. Let's be realistic, I can deadlift a few hundred pounds without too much effort. From what I saw I was most definitely a threat without training. More than enough superhero movies and anime taught me that. There was no way I was going to be the fool who didn't accept an offer for hard-won training from a mysterious sensei. At least I wouldn't have to sit forlornly under a waterfall so I could learn the true way of the warrior. Or least, I didn't think this 'boarding school' would be one of the few places.
So I was going the Harry Potter route minus the obvious child abuse. I could only hope my school headmaster wasn't an eccentric with a penchant for letting underage children fight horrors of the deep.
"How would you guys pay for something like this?" I asked slowly.
"Well, there goes your college fund," my dad smiled.
"Really?" I asked.
"No," mom said and gave my dad a mock slap on the shoulder, "We've been talking to Gerald about a possible scholarship, and according to Corinne there are work-study options on campus."
"Ah," I gave a small nod to affirm everything.
"I'm going there without a choice isn’t I," Sophia finally spoke up.
"Yes, most definitely." Corinne gave a cocky smile showing there was absolutely no arguing the point.
"Am I going to do work-study?" she asked innocently with her mother.
"No, but, I would suggest it, I did and helped build connections I'm using now," Corinne shrugged.
All the cards were on the table, and I was facing a tough no brainer situation. This was going to place me in the stereotypical role of the working student. Okay, not like my parents didn't make me work for things in the past. There were the yearly splitting and chopping of wood. Helping with church functions as I grew up. As the old saying goes - this wasn't going to be my first rodeo of hard work.
"I'll do it," I said, "what do I have to do to get in?"
"We'll need to get your name changed and then you'll need to pick a codename for your temporary MID," Gerald informed me and I gave a nod.
Picking a codename? Okay, that couldn't be too hard? I just had to make sure none of it has been trademarked, copywritten or you know, owned. I could do that. Just a little old fifteen years old me, picking the superhero name that would stick with me for the rest of my life. How hard could it be?
Chapter 9 - Gas On The Fire
Late Evening, October 28th, 2007 - Jameson Family Home
Corinne inhaled the last of her cigarette and doused the burning end in her ashtray. Usually, she would likely look for a bit of alcohol, but she was trying to set an example. The last two nights hadn't been easy. Balancing an angry teenager with a former husband who liked to throw temper tantrums wasn't easy. Miss Jameson usually only opened her preferred personally rolled pack of cigs only when she really needed them. It wasn't too shabby that her friend at a local smoke shop also hooked her up with some high-quality tobacco now and then.
She was in her father's kitchen in the same home she'd grown up in. Weird, divorce your shitty husband and you move back in with dad. Some might laugh at her, but as a Superhero and a mom, Corinne didn't have much choice. The death of her mother three years after Sophia's birth exacerbated her father's mental health to a point of self-destruction. Entire new chapters of his life were made clear to her that it was her mother, Mara, who was the rock the old man needed. Now that she was a nearly full-time member of the Alliance her father retired and stayed on as a general council working with the Lummi Tribal government. He also provided a steady father figure for Sophia and kept her personal ass tick, Michael Langley, aka Sophia's sperm donor at bay.
That was until the bastard decided to call.
There was no real way to put into words how much a marriage could fall apart, but it's best said by how he spoke when she picked up the phone. She knew it was him, this time he'd used his unblocked telephone and likely his personal mobile too.
"What do you want Mike," her voice cracked with emotion.
"What's this about MY DAUGHTER attending that freak school you did?" his voice was a low feral growl. Luckily after years of verbal abuse at the man's hand, she was used to ignoring it.
"The school you so lovingly call the best football ground in Whatcom decided to nearly expel a girl like our daughter for defending herself," she barked in return.
"Sophia was doing fine at that school, she practically ruled Horizon Middle School," came the riposte.
"It was great until she manifested and like me was left by the wayside like any other token girl on the cheerleading team," she snapped in return.
"Well, it is good then that I was able to push a few of my contacts in the BIA and rattle some information for you then, toots." She heard him from the other end. Seriously, which misogynistic asshole still says toots. What am I a cigar girl in a speakeasy?
"There was an investigation on the campus of YOUR school, some poor Lakota kid died." The words at that point caught her attention and her jaw tightened. I mean. Kids can die, it's not like we're perfect. But, there is no way that... Her train of thought trailed off.
"Got anything to say for yourself?" he asked pushing the issue.
"One, I have full custody, two, if you call me again and scream into the phone again I'm filing a restraining order that widens the one I already have. Goodbye Mikey, stop calling!" she retorted before hanging up on him abruptly. Her hands tightened as she placed the phone down and thought about stomping her foot. Or maybe she'd go for a run and just scream!
No. Mom instincts kicked in as she brushed some hair from her face and rubbed the forming headache knotting up along her forehead. Nah, she had some calls to make. I could call someone from Seattle. They'd likely know more since the cities bigger and there's that huge MCO office down there. Thumbing her lips she scrolled through her contacts and noticed she'd added Claire Westbrook of the Seattle Squires last year. Oh, shit...her father was shot and I never said a thing! She tried to piece together what she remembered of Claire's family.
Hitting the call icon she waited as the ring continued.
"Hello?" came a feminine voice from the other end.
"Hey um Claire, its Corinne Jameson, I'm an old friend of your mother's," she said with a wince. There was a small pause on the other end.
"Oh...you worked with her on that case involving the Yakuza here in Seattle didn't you," Claire replied tensely.
"Yeah." She sighed and said, "I also testified against her husband since we both have experience with abusive pencil dicks."
The frankness of her words caused another pause. Why did I have to call her blood-father a pencil dick?
"That sounds pretty accurate," Claire said in a slightly clipped tone.
"First, I want to say I'm sorry I didn't call to offer condolences for your father's passing," she began, "and I hate to do this, but I need to ask you a few questions."
"Okay...and thank you." Another pause on the other side, "What would you like to know?"
Corinne let out a quiet slow breath to calm herself before heading straight into another difficult conversation. A bit of it panned out with that she was looking for, a murder on campus and a supposed 'chosen one' for the native people. What drew her attention the most was the murder accusations and her eyes narrowed. Whatever had been happening on campus was more worrisome than she'd contrived from the usual alumni newsletters.
"An entire club dedicated to things cute. Has Hartford reacted to that yet?" she asked steadily.
"No, seems they are letting it play itself out," Claire affirmed.
"Okay, a bit of this makes sense from what I've heard among some of my friends across the country about a new important Shaman. But, from what you tell me my daughter is facing some serious problems," and the conversation continued.
She informed Claire about the situation in the North and about the near seizure of a young woman by the MCO. The two spoke at length long enough Corinne ended the call by saying, "We should catch up soon. What about lunch sometime this next month?"
"That sounds nice, I could use someone to talk to. Oh, and I'll let my sisters know your daughter might be rooming with them," Claire replied.
"I thought Anna was your only sister?" Corinne asked quizzically.
"My little sister Catherine just started Whateley, she was a little sheltered by our parents," came the quick reply.
"Ah well I will tell Sophia about this when she's awake tomorrow," Claire said. The two were able to say goodbye cordially before Claire hung up. Corinne rubbed her now throbbing head and considered lighting another cigarette. She eyed the clock and sighed at the time. I have to get Sophia up in under eight hours. They were going to be heading into the High School to fill out paperwork to remove her daughter and Sophia's records from the registrar. Corinne knew the O'Callaghans would be doing the same and so they considered helping each other on the manner.
What to do? She leaned against the counter of the island in the middle of her family's kitchen. Corinne braced herself as she leaned forward and considered once again lighting up another cigarette. No, not this time, she had to prepare for a long conversation with her daughter. And possibly some very uncomfortable questions.
She heard a creak. Her eyes shot to the doorway and she saw the shifting shadow as someone leaned back from the edge.
"Come out Lil' Wing, you know it's rude to eavesdrop," she said aloud. A moment later a pajama clothed Sophia rounded the corner where she'd hid.
"So how much did you hear?" Corinne asked pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Most of it, I didn't hear the part before Claire," she asked slowly, and added, "So you worked with the DPA? Seriously?"
"Yeah, I didn't want you to know about that part just yet, it's one of the reasons I left your dad," she sighed.
"Did dad hit you, mom?" Sophia asked slowly after a pregnant pause.
"Once...after he did that - that was when I took you here to Grandpa's," she replied.
"Wait...that was only two years ago....why did you stay with him?" Sophia asked.
"I did it because I didn't want to disrupt your life," she said quietly. Sophia ran over and hugged her mother around the waist.
"Thanks, Lil' Wing, I needed that." she stroked her daughter’s hair before saying, "So I guess we have a lot to talk about. You'll need to go to bed in a bit though so you get enough sleep."
"Okay mom," Sophia said with a smile.
Just Before Lunch, October 29th, 2007 - Ferndale High School
Okay, here we go. I said this to myself just as I tried to fathom what I was about to face. Again I'd awaken early to be ready only to find my body still too sore to move. After snapping open my eyes I nearly crawled upstairs to my mom making some hot soup for breakfast. I ate three large bowls of chicken noodle soup and after my body stopped aching I got dressed and we piled into the car. Just mom and me, Lynn O'Callaghan and her daughter, Grainne. Curled up in the passenger seat I listened to my mom singing along to the Beatles as we drove to Ferndale High School.
I shivered just thinking about it as flashes of my attack came to me. I let out a mewling whine and mom immediately turned off the radio and gave me a worried look. Biting my lip I said, "I...I am starting to have nightmares about them."
Wow, I actually told her what was happening. I looked out the window as my mom quietly drove for a bit longer before placing her right hand on my own.
"Baby," she began, "I think we should talk with Gerald and see if there's a trauma therapist on campus."
"I don't need to see a shrink," I replied stiffly. I wasn't broken, I can get through this.
"Yeah, Babes, that's a load of bullshit," my mom told me.
Before we continue, I want to cover a few things about my family. My father is a vocational counselor, he's the one who the state asks to help people keep their job when their injured on the job. Worker's comp? All of that was handled by a man much like my father. He'd even gone on to get his Masters in Psychology, his second Masters Degree. Did I mention I come from a family of over-educated nerds? I wanted to fight my mom's words and I could feel tears slowly filling my eyes.
Was I really broken inside?
"I'll think about it mom," I said slowly, "the therapy for my ADHD didn't help at all."
"You know that's different," she replied, "and maybe your diagnosis wasn't right."
I blinked, wait what? Slowly, I turned my head to face my mom and I was going to ask her a question but just then we pulled into the school parking lot.
"We'll talk more about this in a bit, but think about it," she smiled before turning off the car.
"Okay," I sighed.
Trauma, was not a subject I wanted to face.
"I understand my heart." Morgan's voice whispered in my ear. "But your mam is right, we need to confront our pain. And learn how to not let it rule us."
I filed away the thought as I walked beside my mom down toward the main building. Ferndale High School's parking lot was north of the main auditorium and just past the cafeteria building. The bell rang for the first lunch of the day and a rush of students were already making their way from the various classrooms to head towards the cafeteria. As a bunch from the junior football team appeared out of the gym I tensed. They were a hundred feet away, but I could tell by how they all stood together and it helped one of them was tossing a football in the air.
Instantly a heat enveloped me as my hand clenched into a fist and I grit my teeth. More flashes as I let loose a low growl and only my mother's hand on my shoulder stayed me from running headlong into the boys.
"Grainne," she soothed carefully, "I know you want to punch them. I want to burn this entire school for what they did. But we are here to cut ties, not cause more trouble."
My mom was right, I let out a loud snort and shook my head. This wasn't the time, and I could feel Morgan biting at the bit, but barely holding it together like myself. Okay, we just had to get in and out. I strolled by my mom's side and considered hiding behind my phone. Today I was wearing a pair of hip hugger jeans I'd snagged on our last shopping trip and a black hoodie with a rose-covered skull on the front. Yup, time to up this goth to full-on! I grinned to myself as I pushed a bit of my bright red hair out of my face.
Mom opened the door and as more kids flooded out I tried my best to stay with her. You see the problem you often face when trying to get to the office when the lunch bell rang was actually getting through the flood of teenagers. Ferndale kids didn't give two shits about people heading the wrong way in their opinion. I instantly lost my mom as three tall seniors nearly shoved me out of the way and only my strength kept them from shoving me over. One of them gave me a wide eyed stare as I returned it with an indifferent shrug.
"Girl works out," the tallest of the three said before deciding to ignore me and move on. I needed to get a better look at myself, but I knew more change had swept over me since my visit to the Whatcom Alliance. I decided to trudge forward and make my way to the office and hopefully meet up with my mother. Walking back into the doorway of the main building caused me to pause just on the lip of the interior.
As I drew closer to the inside I felt myself freeze. Dread swept over my shoulders and crawled over the skin of my back. Hugging my sides I closed my eyes as a large hand suddenly enveloped my right buttock and gave it a hard squeeze. I whipped around as a snarl erupted from my mouth to come face to face with the last person I wanted to see again. Brad Finkbonner, his arm in a sling and I could see the stitches from where'd I'd nearly ripped open his cheek. My eyes widened to the side of plates as he looked at me and I could see him lick his lips.
"Damn girl," he said in the best imitation of a player he could be.
"Are you new?" he asked. I raised an eyebrow at him as it was obvious that I hadn't changed that much, right? I mean my chest was a bit bigger and my ass was a bit rounder, but I wasn't that different looking from when he last assaulted me. Fear was pressing on my chest as I could feel whatever composure I had collapsing.
"No," I squeaked as I felt my resolve falling away.
"Wait......you're the freak." He said and I noticed that instantly he reached out and touched my cheek. I shrunk away from his touch and instantly my right hand shot out to steady myself against the locker. The problem was I hit it hard and winced as a bit of pain returned my klutziness in kind. I didn't notice I had dented the locker, but Brad did. His eyes remained wide as I swear I could see a bead of sweat drip along his forehead.
"You're lucky you little fag you're so damn pretty," he leaned over me as I pressed my back up against the locker and his hand found a placed just to the left of my head.
"I'm not a fag," I said in a small voice.
I was stronger than this shit. Hell, I had even stood up to him and yet, his very presence was making me feel weak. More flashes, my head being pushed into his crotch as he reached down to unzip his fly. He loomed over me and his free hand over my right breast and palmed it. I let out a muted screech as I heard a voice behind him. As his hand touched my breast my eyes closed tight and I heard him say, "Damn you are a nice piece of ass aren't you Callaghan."
Upon hearing the boorish chauvinist comment on my attributes I firmly punched my left hand against the locker. My right hand shot out and grabbed the collar of his shirt. In a fit of rage I lifted the boy completely off his feet or at least to what I could see and grit my teeth.
"YOU WILL NEVER TOUCH ME AGAIN YOU FUCKING PERVERT," I growled through gritted teeth. I was going to break his jaw. There was also kicking him so hard I would render the shit pervert sterile.
I drew back my free hand and closed it into a fist ready to plow my full enhanced strength into his chest when I finally heard who was trying to get my attention. Dropping the little turd I backed away as my mom ran over and waved her hand in front of my face. I burst into tears upon seeing her and she embraced me on the spot.
"Brad Finkbonner, nice to meet you," my mom's voice was serious, "and it's great to see that you are as stupid as I thought you were."
"Wha - what?" he replied, "you're a freak of a kid assaulted me again."
He was stammering a lie and just as I was about to protest I heard my mom say it, "I saw what you did Brad. So did the School security feed.
Mom's hand jabbed out and pointed at the security camera peeking out from the corner of the ceiling and the wall just across from where he'd cornered me. Brad's face, that perfect chiseled jaw and angelic blue eyes, and did I mention his coiffed blonde hair? Yeah well, all of that turned ugly as his eyes widened and he got the look of a small child caught in their own lie.
"You're parents are going to love it that I have video evidence when Gerald Jameson includes them in the lawsuit we're filing against the school." My mom said each word firmly. "And you know what, I think this might even put you on the -sex offender registry-, you are eighteen aren't you? That means your little football future is now over."
The boy was gaping as my mom pulled me up and we began to walk away. At this point, mom was ushering me to the office so we could get done and get out of this hellhole. I walked along obediently in a daze by mom's side. We were soon inside of the office as my mom leaned across the counter while making a call.
"Good morning Gerry," her voice was saccharin as she spoke, "Yes, he tried to do it again. Can you get a court order to get the security feed of the school? You can? Good!"
My mom sat there as I closed my eyes. I found a seat a bit away from the secretary's desk and curled up to stare at my phone. An eternity passed as I heard someone enter, and I glanced up at the clock. An entire half-hour had passed, I scrolled through my phone's various apps and I tried to think straight. I wish I had brought my mp3 player with me, and that's when I realized I didn't have one. Sighing, I sat up as mom was quietly and concisely putting the secretary through her paces. Lynn O'Callaghan liked to always say that she didn't become a lawyer because she would use her mind for evil. Right there and then I started to see why.
"Oh, I'm not leaving until Gerald get's here, I don't trust you all," she smiled at the secretary. I considered looking into the music feature of my new phone, but I couldn't stop from just quietly watching mom work away on the poor secretary. It was weird, about five minutes later I found the silly internet browser and was busily reading through the headlines on the Seattle Times website. Nothing new was happening, a few new collars by the Seattle Supers, and a closing of the investigation into the death of a visiting Irish Professor. I scanned the article in question, and as I used my thumb to scroll through it I froze.
Sinnead Maguire, Professor of Irish Language and Culture, that was her.
"That was my previous host. Someone killed her using...her shadow." Morgan's voice said to me. I felt a strange settling in my body and I figured it was my Spirit settling in my hallow. A few minutes later I shook my head as I heard Gerald's voice, and I realized he was here. Wow, I really was out of it.
"Who would have thought the school's security budget last year, because of the Overlord attack in Seattle, would play in our favor," the lawyer chuckled.
I had no interest at all in participating in the scene's playing out before me. I pulled my knees up to my chest as I shrank away when one of the faculty walked past me. Mom was now arguing with the School secretary and Gerald was happily watching the entire exchange. Honestly, I wanted out of school as fast as possible. I was starting to shake now as the flashes were becoming all the more real to me.
"Mom...are we - we almost done," I asked. After about a minute she walked over and took my hand in hers.
"You're cold," she brushed my face as I shivered, "Okay, we're getting some food into you."
I gave a slow nod as I closed my eyes, more of the memories. More tactile than before as I winced as mom drew close to me.
"Honey?" she asked me and I opened my eyes.
"Sorry, mom...I just keep feeling his hands," I trailed off.
"Okay honey, food and we'll talk," she said slowly.
Another nod, and another flinch. I wanted to get away from this place and as mom started to lead me out I heard her say, "Gerald can you take care of this?"
"Yeah Lynn, no problem, take care of your daughter."
The actual walk back to the car was a blur. I couldn't even focus at all as I shivered in place in my mom's car. The green Honda CRV made me feel safe as we drove away from the school. A few minutes later we were near the highway and pulling into the parking lot of a local grocery store. I smelled fried chicken as I followed after my mom inside. A few shakes of my head and reality joined me again.
"Wait, we at Haggen?" I asked.
"You really are out of it," she said after picking up a heavy bag that smelled of fried golden deliciousness. After a few more moments we were sitting in the seated area just after mom paid for lunch. An entire pound of jojos just for me, and two chicken breasts. The food helped me feel better as the warmth seemed to permeate my skin and ease the painful chill at bay. I felt like Harry Potter just after a dementor attack, and just as I exhaled a bit of steam from the fried hot potato logs I glanced around. There was no way those floating monstrosities were real too, right? I mean, I had a Celtic spirit inhabiting me and my new friend can use magic.
"No...dementors aren't real. But, boggarts are." I heard the words of my rider and I shook my head again. Great, so at least the closet dwelling monster was real. More flashes, the feeling of arms twisting around my torso as hands dug into the edge of my jeans. The jeans themselves being yanked down to reveal my new black boyshorts.
"Babes," mom waved her hand in front of my face again, "I lost you again. More flashes?"
I nodded a bit and immediately began ravenously devouring a chicken breast. The warmth seemed to keep the memories at bay for now as I wanted to just get some energy. I felt drained and the food was invigorating me. As I tried my hardest I was able to push the memories to the side as the ongoing panic attack threatening to erupt from my chest was kept at bay.
"Did you pull me out of Ferndale today?" I asked mom out of the blue.
"Yes, we're filing the paperwork to transfer you to Whateley this week," she told me. Another nod, and another affirmation that my previous life was over. Padraig was gone, and I had shed the false skin I once wore. The weight of my hair and the pressure of my bra reminded me of who I was now. I was Gráinne Róisín O'Callaghan, and as soon as we got my new name and my MID I would be moving forward in my life. Another step forward, and there was no way I was going to take two steps back.
Seven P.M, October 31st, 2007 - Ferndale Camp and Conference Center
There was no way she envisioned herself renting a car under an assumed name and driving to a small middle of nowhere location far north of Seattle. The way how cities and towns were so spaced out compared to Europe was maddening to Bess as her hand gripped the steering wheel. Dressed in a black hoodie and carpenter jeans, she was about to do something rash in hopes of provoking the newest rider of her target. Just a few days after meeting the average man she was unsure how to proceed. The other target was not scheduled to arrive for another week or more, so all she had to go on was what she picked up from scrying the new rider's position.
A place in the middle of nowhere, home to a half-way decent American Football team. Scrunching her nose as she parked, the woman heard the crunch of gravel as she parked. The Conference Center was alight that evening, the evening of All Hallow's Eve. And as she shut the rental's door she palmed one of the reliquaries delivered to her by her benefactors. This one was about the size of a small ball and shaped like a jeweled pendant. A sapphire gem blazed in the middle of the square metallic piece of jewelry. Essence throbbed inside of the vessel and as she made her way into the meeting hall she smiled. With the amount of essence in this one vessel, she would be able to set a few things in motion.
"I see we are all here," cried the speaker, a middle-aged man dressed in a pair of dress pants, tie, and a white collared shirt. She didn't bother to learn his name, but she knew he was the local shadow-leader of Humanity First in the region. That wasn't hard to figure out as the face of the organization's chapter was the one smiling and offering handshakes on the way in.
"Thanks for coming, I'm Robert Dickinson, we need to stick together," she heard as she pushed past him.
"You all know why we've called this meeting and we understand it's likely to mess up your Halloween plans," the speaker continued.
"But as you know a long-time member, and supporter of our cause, George Rufus Finkbonner, has brought to our attention a new dangerous threat right in our own backyard." Just as the man finished gathering the crowd's attention he went straight into firing them up for the evening.
"She attacked my son!" cried a woman.
"She threw mine into a locker!" said a man not far away from her.
This is perfect if I can weave a simple rage working I can get them to do much more than whine and cry about their troubles. Bess draped the pendant around her neck and reached into her pocket to withdraw a small knife. As she focused her mind she turned clockwise while quietly intoning the elements. Her mind focused on the necessary thoughts as she started to mouth a rhyme under her breath.
"Ring around the rosy,
A pocket full of posies.
Get her, get her.
Or we all fall down."
Pouring gas on a fire. She smiled as the speaker wiped his brow free of sweat and drank a bit of water from a bottle on the podium he stood at.
"It's taken considerable work, but our friends in Bellingham, and in the county Government have informed us that not only is this danger going Scott free, but she's getting legal documentation! Where once was a boy now stands a freak of nature!" he roared.
A cry of what Bess could only consider homophobic ranting roared to life as she could feel the essence in the reliquary burning away. Her eyes closed and she imagined a miasma spreading out from where she stood in the crowd. Bess grinned as she could feel the thoughts woven in just as she spoke the rhyme one more time.
"Tomorrow we'll confront the family and ask for an apology to the Finkbonners for the lies they are spreading about our football stars," the speaker continued.
"We'll make sure it gets on the news," yelled
Her eyes closed as she could imagine the miasma spreading further. Bess slipped the knife back into the front pocket of her hoodie. This is too easy. I should ask for more of these reliquaries more often. The pendant was almost dead of the stored essence. Without even batting an eye Bess took a step back and slowly withdrew from the room.
"We'll need everyone there tomorrow!" the speaker wiped his brow again and drank more water. "Mister Finkbonner is asking for volunteers to come and help provide support as he tries to speak to his son’s attacker."
She smiled as she walked past a few rows. Her thoughts quickly caused her to lose interest in the speaker and his little plan.
"We should do more than that!" said a voice as she passed, "we should make an example of her and her freak family."
The words made her grin wider. Thanks, Tone, all I needed was the essence, and now my job is done. For now at least. Brushing past the man at the front door she fingered the keys to the car while everyone was entranced by the man at his little podium.
"Stupid feckin eedjit sheep," she giggled as she turned on her car and pulled out of the parking lot.
Late Morning, November 2nd, 2007 - Whatcom Count
"All the evidence appears in order, and you agree you are not changing your name and gender for nefarious reasons?" the judge asked me. Who asks that? Seriously, I should just say, "Your honor I plan on mowing down an entire park of kittens and puppies right after this." But, luck was on my side because instead of being an impulsive idiot I spoke up and gave a simple, "Yes your honor."
It was the end of the week and days after my last encounter with Brad. Across those four days, I'd spent most of the time getting ready with my parents for my new school. There were supplies to buy as well as a handbook sent via express mail. It arrived Thursday morning and I was already overwhelmed by the amount of information. The idea of wearing a uniform was strange, to say the least. One of my friends, Raphael Griffan, attended the local Catholic Elementary School and his uniform didn't seem too bad to say the least. I was so caught up in thinking about uniforms and staring at the uniform requirements that I barely registered the people around me. My name was now legally Grainne and my legal, as well as biological gender, was female.
Just as I walked out past the door I was suddenly blasted by a loud yell of, "There's the girl who attacked my boy"
Let me back up a bit here, I'm a five foot six, curvy, but lightly built girl. Mom is about two inches shorter than me and was a bit on the plump side. I was now shorter than the father I once matched height with, and while my hair did give me a nice presence there was no way I was that scary. However, just as I exited the courthouse, I came face to face with a blond-haired woman in her forties dressed in an expensive conform dress. Her ears bedecked with what I could only guess were diamond earrings.
I stopped immediately and my mom rested beside me. Sloan, who had decided to come along for reasons I'm not entirely sure of was the first to react. First, my dear little sister cocks a hip wearing her bell-bottomed black Hot Topic pants. The girl had a black collar around her neck as well as a black bomber jacket.
"So...why is Rachel from Friends screaming at us?" I snerked.
"Mrs. Finkbonner," my mother began stepped to the side. That's when we noticed the small, but decently sized crowd of people just beyond us. Immediately, Sloan bolted back inside to grab the Court security officers, my mom, the ever defiant mother bear, inserted herself in front of me. Me, the rage-filled redhead who could deadlift four hundred pounds, being body shielded by her baseline mother.
"We'd like to speak to your daughter, Mrs. O'Callaghan," Mrs. Fink Bonner said. I tilted my head as I scooted around my mother and stood by her.
"Not happening, your son is one hairbreadth away from being charged with sexual assault." Mom crossed her arms and I could hear the gears in her head working as she said, "Do you really want to hand me more fodder for our lawsuit against you?"
"I didn't know you'd be here, I was here merely to speak to a friend on the County Council," the blond Stepford wife smiled. You know those fake smiles people get when their about to play maniacal stalker, yeah, that was the kind of grin the blond woman.
"Mutants are a threat to baselines everywhere," added a person not far behind her. And the crowd decided to flash a Humanity First placard and I backed up a step.
"He attacked me," I gasped. Not wanting to get near any of those bastards several of which looked a bit like the football players who attacked me.
"You're lying," the woman snapped in reply.
Just as the mob started to close in toward us, my sister walked out with three uniformed police officers behind her. Sloan's hair was dyed purple at the time, and she looked damn heroic. She walked by and took my hand in hers and linked hands with my mother.
"Your stupid fucking son attacked my big sister," she snarled, "and now you're showing where he got his brains. Walk home malibu, not everyone is a degenerate like you."
"Your parents named your sibling well. She's as spirited and sharp-tongued as anyone I knew." Morgan's chuckled in my ear as my sister completed her quip.
"You little cretin," the woman neared us and looked about to say something as a uniform blocked her path.
"Miss, I'm sorry to form you, but this is verging on witness tampering." The Officer informed the woman, and as the other two began to wave off the crowd we made our escape.
After being assaulted again by her kid, I wanted to get one last good view of the woman as we made our escape. I turned around and just as I gazed at her - her eyes met mine. She smiled at me, not the weird shit-eating grin from earlier. It was like I was walking straight into a trap or something. I took my time to get a good solid view of the situation and of all my surroundings. There was no one around us outside of the protesters and the three uniformed Officers. Whatever, the woman was smiling about unnerved me to no end. Morgan herself growled in my ear as we turned to get in my mom's car. It was time to put the past behind us, and get as far away from reminders of it as fast as possible.
Chapter 10 - Fool’s Folly
Late Afternoon - November 2nd, 2007 - Haxton Road
Henry hated how dark it got near the end of the day in Winter. As a Floridian transplant to the state, he'd never got used to how quickly the temperature dropped near the end of October. To most a Washingtonian the low fifties were barely cold enough to wear anything more than a sweatshirt. The rain made it even worse in Henry's eyes, and as he sat along the road playing speed trapper he could feel his boredom growing by the minute. The shift was almost over though and would be ending at about Six PM.
His cruiser was one of the newer ones, a nice SUV made for speed and durability. Because he had a larger and more imposing vehicle the deputy, like others, traveled alone when out on his assigned shift. A small bag of food sat on the passenger seat, and as he glanced at the numbers tick away to five PM he decided to eat his lunch for the day. Six AM to Six PM wasn't an easy shift, and after eating small meals throughout his initial stops he wanted a nice bit of pastrami on rye. Unwrapping the sandwich his husband placed his meals in he savored the tanginess of the dijon mustard inside.
Even if the place was damn cold, he didn't have to worry about his background getting him in trouble. The young man was only in his mid-twenties and now two years on the job. A good recommendation from the Police Academy in Miami landed him this job in the first place. After about five minutes the sandwich was gone along with the Powerade he'd packed along with it. He preferred electrolyte drinks to that taurine heavy energy shit the kids drank these days.
his little break over Henry Duvalle scanned the horizon as his cruiser faced out away from the inner territory of the Lummi Tribal Reservation. He gripped the steering wheel as a series of headlights alerted him to a small convoy of passing cars. This wasn't unusual at all as many cars sped along Slater Road onto Haxton way on their way out to the Lummi Ferry Dock. But something about those lights made his gut turn. As they drew clearer he caught sight of five cars all moving at relatively the same speed as the others. The first was a nondescript sedan, black, and sped by at just five miles over the limit. He had no interest in ticketing someone for something so minuscule, but as the second car passed he caught sight of a Humanity First bumper sticker on the back of the SUV. The third car was a large Pick-Up truck with one of those strange little rigs in the back that let it fly a flag.
This one flew the Confederate Battle Flag, and upon seeing that his stomach turned further. As a southern boy, Henry was familiar with the flag itself. At times when he was growing up, he always felt proud of the Confederacy's history and even considered joining a Civil War Reenactment Society at one point. That was before he met Daisuke his husband, and before he adopted two little kids. Upon seeing that flag he decided that perhaps it best he pay a small visit to the Lummi Tribal Police. Lloyd Spencer, a drinking buddy of his and the brother of one of the Council Members owed him fifty dollars, and, if he reckoned right, was on duty right at that moment.
Just as the last car sped out of sight he turned around and reported in he was heading to the Tribal Police.
And he thought his shift was over.
Just After Five PM - November 2nd, 2007 - Jameson Home
You know all my life I'd been driven all over parts of the Lummi Reservation and even now as my parents drove through the trees enclosing the small clean kept driveway I was amazed at how beautiful it was at sunset. The Reservation itself is decent sized, It covered an entire peninsula splitting Bellingham Bay from Lummi Bay in the north. A smaller Island just off the coast by a few hundred yards was an added bit of land. Every school day since I started Middle School I was driven over parts of the reservation. Some of the homes we stopped off at weren't the best, and some were pretty ritzy. Just like any group of people, the Lummi had a middle and lower class. I mean it's not unrealistic since the reservation itself was, to a large degree, sovereign land.
So when the Jameson House came into sight I can actually claim I wasn't surprised by it. The House itself was about as big as mine post-remodel, with a total of three stories. I made out a large room facing the woods away from the driveway, and a small reception area near a covered carport. We parked a bit away from the front door and I stepped out just before my little sister followed after me. Mom and dad were already locking the car by the time I was told to get the gifts from beside my seat. I wasn't sure what dad bought for Gerald, but I knew mom was busily carrying her addition for dinner that night. A stroganoff meat casserole she made with chives and sour cream. Something I would have eaten the entire platter of.
Was probably a good measure mom brought two covered pans of it with us.
We reached the front door and I was a bit amazed. Beside the door and towering over me was an articulately carved totem pole, a smaller far cry from the large ones found across the reservation, but a totem pole nonetheless. What a lot of history teachers and professors might tell you is that totems are not a Native American wide practice. The Cedar Longhouses and their tall carved Poles are something unique to the Pacific North West. So was the beautiful style of art most of the tribes who made their homes along the Salish Sea used. Salish Art and those of other Pacific Northwestern first nations were hard to describe. It was geometric and used alternating colors and shapes to form images. Black and red were prominent in the design and I felt a warmth spread over me as I admired the pole in the sunset light.
At the base was Raven, the great sunstealer and teacher found in many parts of the Salish region. At the top was Eagle, and middle of the way through I picked out Whale.
"This is magnificent." Morgan's words broke my concentration as I felt her spiritually leaning in to get a better look at the pole’s craftmanship.
"It is right?" I whispered back to her.
Sloan gave me a side-eyed glance at my self-talk and as I turned to face the door. I was going to be the one to knock and not one for hesitation I did so. Three hard knocks to wake up whoever was in the home, and immediately I heard the barking of a few dogs. Dogs are a common sight on the reservation and unleashed animals are not at all peculiar to most when traveling it. When the door opened a massive black form whizzed out past me and was nearly tackling my sister. Sloan started to giggle like a schoolgirl as what I could only call a Newfie licked her face.
"Dammit Cody," I heard Corinne speak up as she leaned from the doorway and rolled her eyes.
"He's gorgeous," Sloan cried as she knelt down after him and hugged him around the neck.
"We brought some food, and a gift for your father," my mom said lifting up the pan of food and shuffling past me to show it.
"NICE! I smell stroganoff, gods, I've been wanting something fatty and greasy all day," she laughed.
"Good! I mean I used low fat sour cream, but plenty of chives," mom laughed.
"Can we go in and eat?" I asked with a small whine.
I was an exemplar, SUE ME, if I was hungry a lot.
Corinne gave a small shrug before asking us to take off our shoes. Just inside the foyer she showed us where we could hang our coats. The small entryway wasn't unlike my own at home. A tiled floor met my feet and the ceiling loomed just a few feet over me. It was painted green and as I looked across the room I noted that evergreen was the color of choice for the home. Green was a good color, and personally, I saw no issue with it.
"Ah, someone with a good sense of design!" Morgan chuffed as I set aside my coat and darted further into the home. A massive living room met me and upon a long couch, I spied Sophia laying down while nursing a cup of hot chocolate. Upon seeing me she sat up a bit and waved me over. My new comrade in arms pulled a blanket over us as she began to tell me about the show she was watching. Luckily, it was just Law and Order, which I readily agreed was far better than any of the "REAL MCO" shows others watched. The fact we both liked cop procedurals laid the groundwork and soon we were both talking about the upcoming change in our school life.
As part of some sick joke between our parental units, both Sophia and I would be traveling with her grandfather on a train across the country to Dunwich, New Hampshire.
"Did you get your measurements for the new uniform," she asked me.
"We're going to a tailor to get it done right," I sighed, "mom spoke to someone in the school administration and relayed how my measurements have been shifting lately."
"Oh, so your boobs did get bigger," Sophia chuckled.
"Yes! I'm up to a c-cup now and GODS," I growled. My breasts were awesome and in other cases, a fucking curse!
"Hey, being a girl isn't all that easy," she replied.
"I know, but, I feel like I wasn't given instructions, for all this," I gestured to my body.
"Welcome to girlhood and puberty, confusion and shame are your new friends," she said.
It was true. Not only had my body undergone a rapid change it was remade. I still ached from the last jolt of changes hitting me over the past week and I could feel how hungry I was. Sophia's mom handed me a cup of hot chocolate while I sat by her daughter, and we were soon back to chatting about our upcoming school.
"So," I placed my hands in my lap as I eyed Sophia and she returned my gaze.
"So," she returned.
"Is your application package done?" I asked.
"For the most part, Grandpa's already reserving a sleeper train for us." She drank a bit of her hot chocolate and I followed suit. "Why is your's not."
"Um...nooo?" I squeaked.
"First," she took a piece of paper and booped my nose.
"HEY!" I said and scrabbled to block my nose from further assault.
"You need to take this seriously," she scolded.
"I am - I AM!" I whined plaintively.
"Hey guys," Sloan said from the entry hall, "there's a ton of cars coming down the driveway."
"WHAT?" I heard Sophia yell.
"Yeah, there are like five sets of lights making their way here." Sloan was watching from the front door just beyond the small hallway leading back to the foyer.
"Why are you even in here?" I asked as I came to stand beside her. My little sister in her usual bomber jacket and black jeans stretched before giving me the bland reply, "Cuz yer busy playing dolls with yer new buddy."
"Whatever," I growled just as a small sedan parked just outside the door.
"Mister Gerald," Sloan cried loudly as a crowd of figures began filing out of the cars.
"Yeah?" he appeared around the corner just in time to see the men through the door window.
"Did you invite anyone else?" I asked.
"No," was all he said before the lights in the house suddenly went out.
* To Be Continued... *