What's the Matter With You: Part 6
What’s The Matter With You
By Camospam, editing by Wendy K.
A Non-Canon Whateley Academy tale.
Saturday March 1, 2008.
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
6:00 o’clock in the morning remained one of the few quiet times in Poe cottage, aside from those few early risers who either didn’t or couldn’t sleep and greeted the day pre-dawn. Toni Chandler was not one of those who rose before the sun, but when she did wake she was at full throttle - ready for whatever the day might bring.
Toni’s roommate on the other hand needed some encouragement.
“Nikki! Come on girl! We’ve only got a half hour to get ready! Bardue scheduled us to unleash his latest nasty Sim this morning. He wants to torture the Grunts or something, and we’re expected to hand it to them.”
“There is no such thing as six o’clock in the morning on Saturday’s. Come back at a decent hour,” mumbled the redhead, wrapped tightly in a cocoon of warm blankets.
This wasn’t a big surprise for Toni. While everyone else, outside Poe, only ever saw the ravishing beauty that was Nikki Reilly. Everyday, Toni witnessed the transformation of the caterpillar like Sidhe, which slowly emerged from her bed to then become the personification of grace and poise, a regal figure who in every detail looked a queen.
Many times Toni just sat and watched the morning show. It was a rough mess - a tangle of entwined and distorted red hair, unfocused bleary eyes, oh! and the drool. Sometimes Nikki’s drool had run down all the way to her chin. Caked on, it would glisten if the light was just right. Eventually she managed to get it all tamed, given enough time the girl became an absolutely stunning vision. Just a single glance at Fey could stop most boys’ breath - or make their heart race. What a shock it would be for the world to see what Toni saw routinely each morning - society might not survive.
But right now, this disheveled young girl hated mornings with a passion, this was the real person behind the facade - the real girl that Toni knew and had befriended. To Toni Chandler everything else about Nikki Reilly was an act.
“I’ve already let you sleep in! There’s no time for this … we’ve got to get going!” coerced Toni, as she began tugging on the bedsheets to encourage movement. The rush of cold air only tightened the death grip from within the blankets. Toni halted the tug-a-war when a knock on the door interrupted them.
In a single vault Toni leapt, making a ten-point summersault with a twist, executing a perfect landing at the room’s door. Toni only opened the door a slight crack to peer into the hallway, and didn’t see anyone. Toni began to close the door when a rapid series of thumps sounded heavily upon the door, startling her.
Toni opened the door wide and fast to catch the culprit in the act, upset at the obvious trick being played upon her. When doing so, she saw a blur rush past her feet and she reflectively jumped out of the way, the little interloper moved fast as a lightning bolt.
Toni wasn’t going to let anyone or anything invade her space, reflexively she dove. Her arms outstretched to encircle and grab onto the intruder, and it was a shock to find her arms had entrapped something warm and furry. Drawing her arms in, her face was the recipient of multiple kicks from powerful hind legs. Those feet then propelled the little beast out of her grasp as it then began to bound off furniture like a thrown rubber ball.
Toni alerted Fey to the danger by shouting, ”Incoming!”
Nikki pulled back the sheets to expose her face. She was as expected - bleary eyed and not altogether coherent, “Wa?” was the extent of her comprehension to a change in her morning’s slumber.
“Jade is pranking us again. Cabbit on the loose,” warned Toni. The martial artist made another dashing maneuver, sliding across the floor in an attempt to secure the wild critter she had tracked to intercept. She got a hand around one leg, but it quickly squirmed itself free, leaving Toni laying mostly on the floor resting bottoms up against her dresser.
Nikki blinked her long lashes repeatedly and squinted to bring focus to her situation. Mere inches from her face was that of a tawny coloured rabbit looking down at her from atop her blankets. The rabbit sniffed, then opened its mouth to drop the small package it had been carrying. The item landed on Nikki’s pillow and came to rest beside her head.
The rabbit jumped down quickly from off the Sihde queen’s bed, and hopped calmly over to the door. Before it left the room, the rabbit turned to give Toni a look before it bounced down the hallway.
“I’m gonna give Jade such a wedgie, she’ll …”
“That wasn’t Jade. It was a real rabbit.”
“Are you telling me you’ll be getting visits from small woodland creatures now? … like Mary Poppins?”
“I think you mean Snow White.”
“Whatever! It stuck it’s tongue out at me.”
“You’re just imagining things.”
“I saw it, a little pink bunny tongue - it was trying to blow a raspberry.”
Voices came from down the hallway coming from others members of Team Kimba, the open door attracted Billie Wilson who stepped into the doorway. She was wrapped in a towel since she had just finished taking a shower. Arriving a few steps behind her came Ayla Goodkind, also concerned over the ruckus he squeezed in beside Billie to check on the rooms occupants.
“What’s all the commotion?” questioned Billie.
“Nikki’s started to attract forest creatures,” bemoaned Toni.
“It was just a rabbit,” retorted Nikki.
“She’s losing it!” scoffed Toni in a pained voice. “At no time can you say ‘just’ when you’re getting visited by wild critters.”
“What did it want?” pondered Ayla.
“It’s a rabbit! How do I know what it wanted?” boggled Toni, before providing some details; ”It knocked on the door - so obviously it wanted in our room. It bounced off the walls for a minute - took a look at carrot-top here, then hit the road.”
“Toni tried to catch it and had her butt handed to her,” snickered Nikki.
“I did catch it … twice, but it was like a greased pig and got away,” defended Toni.
“When have you ever entered a rodeo contest and tried catching a greased pig?” posed Ayla.
“I’m still working through how it knocked on the door,” mused Billie. “You’re sure it wasn’t one of Jade’s practical jokes?”
“What did I do now?” complained Jade as she joined the group squirming past the two blocking the door. “How come you guys aren’t getting ready for the SIM?”
“Toni’s miffed cause she had a run in with a bunny,” said Nikki, who had progressed to sitting upright.
“What did Bunny do?” worried Jade that her Wondercute teammate had done something to upset Toni.
“Not Bunny - a bunny, a rabbit - little furry critter, long ears, powder puff tail,” supplied an exasperated Toni.
Nikki quickly inserted, “Pink tongue - don’t forget it had a pink tongue too,” earning her a scowl from Toni.
“Where is it?” perked up Jade.
“It ran out into the hall,” answered Toni.
“You mean you’ve let a cute bunny run loose around Poe, and nobody thought to catch it?” complained a concerned Jade.
“What? I’m not allowed to roam the halls freely anymore?” questioned Bunny Cormick, overhearing the comment as she attempted to pass by the gathered crowd.
Ayla tried to sooth a potential dispute. “No no, Toni let a rabbit loose.”
Bunny was aghast at not having been brought in on the secret, “When did you get a pet rabbit?!”
Toni lost it. “It’s not my rabbit!”
Jade saw an opportunity and asked, “Can I have it?”
“You people are driving me crazy!” stormed Toni.
“If it isn’t assigned seating, I call shotgun,” remarked Jade.
“Out! Everyone out!” shouted Toni, too loudly given the time of day, “We have to get ready,” nearly slamming the door on Jade’s backside who was the last one to exit.
Toni stood with clenched fists, fuming until she calmed - straightening her rumpled pyjamas. Turning she was stunned to see Fey fully dressed and looking like a movie star: hair, clothes, and mascara perfect, all thanks to a magic spell she had just finished performing.
Toni moved close with a finger pointed in frustration, “You! - ohh - I otta …”
“You like? It’s a new trick I learned,” informed Nikki as she admired herself in the small mirror atop her dresser.
“I don’t have time for this!”
“Not my fault you wasted your morning hunting rabbits, everyone knows its duck season,” teased Nikki.
Spotting something left upon her roommates bed, Toni picked up the little log shaped roll, “Your admirer left a present.”
“Please tell me it didn’t …”
“It looks like a scroll of some kind.”
“That’s a relief! Do I open it?”
“Probably a good idea,” supplied Toni.
Nikki broke the wax seal that held the tiny roll securely closed, then gently started unraveling the message.
“That’s some weird looking paper.”
“Ewww, I think it’s rawhide.”
“What's it say?” questioned Chaka.
“I’ve been summoned to the Grove on Saturday!” stammered Fey.
Thursday March 5, 2008. Medawihla Lands
The highlands surrounding Whateley Academy included a prominence that looking over the schools grounds below, perched atop that hilltop sat a black panther tracking the goings on as students moved about the campus. The panther’s tail twitched, flicking to and fro as if keeping time.
The nearby undergrowth parted to reveal a red fox, it moved with typical stealth, an ingrained hunting technique to avoid detection. The fox approached the occupied panther with silent strides and slow movements until it lay down a respectful distance behind the panther.
Lynn took her human form, staying seated she looked out over the valley. “It looks so peaceful, Cameron said very little about it. You didn’t find him by chance did you?”
“His scent permeates several locations, but nothing recent,” reported Ella, now also human. Kneeling on the ground where she had set down as a fox, she hesitated before speaking, “My Lady,” her voice holding reverence, “may I ask a question?”
“Is it too much to ask for you to call me Lynn?”
“I must honour my families oath.”
“Even if it makes me feel like an oaf?! You know, I hate to burst your bubble, but my Mom is an outcast, I belong to no tribe and answer to no chief. You’re not even supposed to speak with me.”
“But the prophecy! You are the Pantheress - the farsighted one!”
“Prophecy huh? Tell me, you’ve tested Cameron - what does the Oberon pledge say?”
“He failed,” revealed a dejected Ella.
“But he carry’s my mark! If he isn’t the Golden Eyed Man, then by rights I cannot be the Pantheress.”
“A prophecy is rarely understood, most often it’s been layered under ages of speculation, and over zealous anticipation. Those awaiting fulfillment always overshadow the true meaning, putting their own want and desires onto it - to ensure the future is to their liking, and to suit their purposes. The future rarely comes about exactly how we imagine it, or expect it to be.”
“You suggest my tests were biased?”
“Had you ever considered why the Prophecy speaks of it being a Golden Eyed Man and not a Golden Eyed Were?”
“My tests required it to be a Were for him to pass,” realized Ella.
“So I ask again; is Cameron the Golden Eyed Man?”
“I … He …” stammered Ella.
“Try and answer this instead. Since you’d already deemed he wasn’t the Golden Eyed Man, why did you remain in Cameron’s company - as his Oberon?”
It took a moment for Ella to respond, “He was our first real hope for change.”
“I’ll let you in on a secret about prophecy, the only time the future is seen with one hundred percent clarity is when it’s in the past. Precognition only fills in some of the holes.”
“The coming battle … is it all just chance?”
“So far we know the where, the when, and the why. Who is still somewhat uncertain, so I suggest we discuss what we can do with what we have.”
“If you’re wanting a battle strategy, dividing our forces is a weakness we can ill afford, especially when we are not a cohesive fighting unit.”
“We cannot support multiple fronts when the fighting starts, by sending our new friends away we have in effect sacrificed them.”
“I’m worried about them too!” admitted Lynn, looking out over the school below them. “Cameron said several times how much he hated this place. It looks peaceful enough - just like you’d expect a private school to.”
”The stink of gunpowder and wounded ground tells of recent battle,” corrected Ella.
“The school has gun ranges and fields for weapon testing rather than playgrounds and ball fields,” countered Lynn.
“It’s a military college then,” deduced Ella.
“Not that Cameron or my Dad mentioned. Although, it’s hard to determine just what all goes on in there, so much is underground,” pondered Lynn at the conundrum Cameron had left her with.
“Is that why you’re the sending the humans in; reconnaissance?” surmised Ella.
“Cameron said you’re always looking for a fight, he wasn’t exaggerating!” teased Lynn.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” puffed up Ella.
“Good!” granted Lynn with a mischievous grin. “No - They will be staring down the barrel of a different gun than ourselves. But if either front falters, the future is very dark indeed.”
Lynn’s eyes searched the vista before them and gave a sigh of resignation over the situation, “What do you need to know to form a battle plan?”
Saturday, March 8, 2008. The Grove.
Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined anything of the like. She wasn’t certain when it was that the forest they had been walking through had changed. But that feeling of being watched … hearing whispers just out-of range, the hair on Lynn’s neck bristled in response to her senses picking up the difference. She was just not fully convinced yet if it was dangerous.
Ben had lead them down an overgrown track, not really even a game trail it was so hard to traverse. Gradually the branches began to withdraw back on their own accord, and the narrow route widened into an obvious path. Rounding a bend, the small group entered upon a large clearing.
The amphitheater was surrounded by ancient trees, whose grand height set a backdrop reminiscent of greek columns. In the basin’s flat centre was a series of stumps arrayed into a split semi-circle, behind the stumps the moss covered ground was layered into steps that radiated outward making seating for a substantial audience.
There comes a point when a person’s incredulity maxes out, so you’re just left with your mouth hanging open in sheer bewilderment. Lynn Franklin had hit that point a while ago, and now just hoped she hadn’t resorted to drooling like an imbecile.
Already present in the clearing was a few species who claimed sections of the arena. Each group seated themselves into clusters, close enough for the diverse species to converse, but staying tight-knit to prevent mingling.
Lynn drew a big smile, the tell-tale bright colours intermixed with polka-dots easily identified gnomes. The little fairy folk loved to adorn themselves in such outlandish fashion. A troop of gnomes had been traveling on a quest when the Franklins accidentally found them, inviting them to stay at their farm … what gnomes can do with a garden was amazing! The gnomes used the farm as a base to search the area for two years before moving on.
Lynn made the elaborate gestures of greeting she had learned from having spent time with the gnomes. Some of the tiny folk toppled over from surprise, but quickly recovered to respond with a suitable indicator of welcome.
Another group Lynn recognized was wood nymphs, or Dryads. She and Allan had a chance encounter with a young Dryad one afternoon when they had set out to climb a mountain in panther form. It had been so much fun playing together, running wildly in the forest. Remembering that brief encounter, Lynn mimicked the formal bow with swept back arms, receiving the same back from the Dryads.
No sooner had Lynn stood aright from her elaborate bow when a bright light stationed itself in front of her. Within the glow stood a diminutive girl holding a spear. Giving credit where it was due: Disney movies had already depicted pixies, so Lynn wasn’t at a complete loss, but come on! … Tinkerbell! Who knew?
The pixie closed her right fist and pressed it over her heart. Lynn copied the motion to which the pixie bent into a curtsy and swept her right arm into a long flourish. Setting aside her awe, Lynn followed suit, resulting in the ball of light zipping around her head before taking off into the trees. Tracing the lights trajectory, Lynn then saw that those tree branches were filled with pixies. Lynn made another chest bump, curtsy, and flourish towards them.
Ella ushered the trio down to the stumps in the basin’s centre, where she positioned Lynn, sitting her with Ben to the right, and Ella taking up the left side.
Movement drew everyones attention back to the entrance. Out from the growth came a rough looking figure, it was certainly female wearing leathers, but it looked like she was made of stone - and covered in tattoos. She made a slight nod of acknowledgement to those around, holding up a tiny scroll to indicate admittance, then moved under a tree and leaned against it.
A few steps behind her was another girl, Asian in appearance but her ears weren’t human looking, she wore a Whateley school uniform. The girl’s striking dark blue hair was a spectacle, since it looked like a lions mane spreading out, acting as if it had no regard for gravity. It was Ella who pointed out that her feet didn’t touch the ground as she moved further into the clearing. She also had one of the little scrolls in her hand.
Immediately behind the floating girl was a woman who’s attire looked to be woven vines, the green leafs providing covering. She entered the clearing and pointed the floating young girl toward some seats. A step behind them was a tall native man. The necklace hung around his neck was made of beads - his presence was unmistakable; a Shaman.
A hush fell over those assembled, shortly after which, out of the forest emerged two figures. The first of which was a pretty girl who’s long green hair blended into the foliage, her pointed ears caught Lynn’s attention; she’s a Sidhe!
Lynn had to force herself to breath after the shock took hold because standing on the edge of the clearing now stood a regal personage. Every fibre of Lynn’s being demanded she kneel and do obeisance, Lynn looked over to Ben and then Ella and joined them down on the ground.
The two newest attendee’s walked down to claim the stump seats in the basin to the Were’s right. Only after the redhead sat did the mental pressure subside allowing Lynn to return to her seat.
A curious look at the newcomers the short distance across from them, sat by far the prettiest girl she had ever seen. Ringlets of red hair fell about her face and hung down onto her shoulders. Every movement she made the mane bounce and dance about as if crowning her head like a tiara of flame.
She had green eyes that looked as deep as an ocean but as clear as glass, the symmetry of her face was beyond gorgeous, centred by a little button nose, full lips and flawless skin. The tips of pointed ears divided strands of her hair, and marked her as not being human; it only added to her beauty.
There was the briefest moment of eye contact between them, and Lynn noted a nervousness in those eyes … those eyes which in colour and emotion twinned her own!
Lynn performed the most honest and pure thing possible; she smiled, and that too was matched.
Marcus opened the van door to allow his foster children egress. They stayed close until Roche had stepped around the van to join them. The group had remained behind in Berlin until today - the day Lynn had said they would be needed, so they had arranged their visit according to plan.
“Hello! I am Michiko Shugendo, the school’s Dean of Students. Welcome to Whateley Academy.” greeted a woman walking up towards them.
“Mrs. Shugendo, I'm Marcus Johnson, class of 95,” greeted Marcus shaking the woman’s hand. “These are my three foster children: Timothy, Rachel and Charlotte.”
“So glad you could make it, we received your request to tour our school, I have arranged for accommodations in the Guest Quarters for your stay, I have also asked one of our students to act as guide. But first, why don’t we head over to Schuster Hall, to sort through some formalities.”
“Pardons Mrs. Shugendo,” interrupted Roche, “could you provide directions to your medical centre, we have an appointment for powers testing? The facilities back home were not equipped to provide sufficient testing, not enough for accurately ranking this mademoiselle.” mentioned Roche bringing R.E.D. out from behind Marcus - the most suitable place to provide her cover due to his height.
“Of course, We can get you all looked after once we get you signed in,” agreed Mrs. Shugendo, motioning the newcomers forward.
As the ensemble entered the stately brick building, the cluster of youth stood awkwardly in the hallway while Marcus and Roche sorted out paperwork. A bell rang indicating a class change, the hall suddenly became awash with students scrambling to their next class. Caught in the stampede, the strangers became an obstacle to be overcome as they got jostled and pushed about.
R.E.D. wore her usual grey hoodie with it covering her head. A large bull of boy purposely walked into her expecting she would be effortlessly pushed aside; instead she and he remained solidly in place, an unstoppable force held fast after meeting an immovable object.
“Outta the way girly!” briskly said the brute as he put his hand onto R.E.D.’s shoulder to push her into the wall. He immediately withdrew his red hand in agony, yelling, “Key-ryest!”.
“One should not put their hand where it is not welcome,” informed Roche, who observed what had happened. “Run cold water over it, then have a doctor check to see how deep the burn is,” he informed the whimpering boy.
The sudden rush abated as quickly as it has started, the altercation not even fazing the other students who disappeared into classrooms.
Mrs. Shugendo acted to head off the potential worry building within the newcomers. “Saturdays are not regular school days, but we run elective courses on the weekends, and extra classroom time for those falling behind before spring break,” she informed as she handed out clipboards to collect signatures.
With the formalities completed, Mrs. Shugendo lead them down into the space underneath the large dome everyone had spied when first arriving; it was connected to the first building they’d entered. “This is the Crystal Hall, our main cafeteria for students. Why don’t you grab a beverage while we wait for your tour guide?”
“You could feed an army!” stated Roche looking on in amazement.
“There was only the bottom floor when I was here,” remarked Marcus.
“The Crystal Hall now has seating for just over six hundred. The kitchens boast some of the finest chefs to be found. The original building was a legacy project, but it was the class of 2007 who added the tiers and other amenities such as the waterfall,” informed Mrs. Shugendo. “Please, make yourselves at home. The drinks counter has a nice assortment of fruit juices, and if you ask one of the attendants they can get you coffee,” directed Mrs. Shugendo. Then turning to face Roche she added, “I’ll check on the lab.” after which she walked over to a pillar, picking up a phone and speaking into the receiver.
The four youth scouted out the assortment of drinks available; rejoining the adults while sipping drinks. Mrs. Shugendo had finished her call and was speaking with Roche and Marcus.
“You came in the same van, do you know each other?”
“I had the pleasure of meeting Timbre last year,“ admitted Roche. “It was a pleasant surprise to find we stayed at the same hotel last night. He knew the way here so we came together.”
A young man in a lab coat approached, but detoured around the main body of the group when Mrs. Shugendo pointed out R.E.D. He walked straight up to tall hooded girl saying, “Miss, If you’ll follow me, I can take you for testing.”
“Might I stay with her?” asked Roche. “She is nervous, and this leads to … how should I say - unfortunate complications.”
“Please elaborate,” sought a now curious lab coat.
“If Flambé gets over-anxious she tends to get hot; her touch has melted steel. I’m a friend here to help keep her calm.”
“Of course, I believe the Doctors in the Lab would appreciate your presence. Will you be taking a tour of the school after testing is done?” interjected Mrs. Shugendo.
“If there is time, we would enjoy a chance to see this marvellous school,” beamed Roche.
The lab tech took Flambé and Roche over to an elevator; only a quick wave could be given in farewell before the door closed and they were gone.
Mrs. Shugendo walked the short distance over to a youth who had approached and was standing nearby. The attractive black haired girl was sporting a goth inspired look, but dressed in a well tailored school uniform. Bringing her to the group, the administrator announced, “Usually we have one of the residents from the dorm you’d be billeted in conduct the tour, but since this is just an introductory visit, I have asked one of our more exemplary students to show you around.”
“Swift, Perspicacious, Excelle, meet Phase.” Directing her comments to the student Mrs. Shugendo said, “Phase, please show our Canadian guests around, they are here to see if Whateley is suitably equipped to satisfy their educational needs.”
As the group followed the directions of the student up an escalator Charlotte whispered to her sister, “Perspiration?” Timothy heard the exchange and laughed heartily.
“Perspicacious! I had to give the school a code name on the forms we signed - it was the only thing I could come up with in a hurry,” huffed Rachel.
“It means: having keen mental perception,” interjected Phase. “a suitable moniker for a Psychic. ‘Swift’ no doubt chosen by a Speedster. ‘Excel’ potentially an Exemplar?”
“I’m an Exemplar / Energizer mix,” proudly claimed Charlotte, receiving a warning head shake from her sister.
“Don’t worry, Whateley is a place of safety. Revealing abilities isn’t sacrosanct among ourselves. Most often it’s used as an opener to get know each other,” placated Phase.
“So there’s more to ‘Phase’ then teenage mood swings?” asked Rachel.
“Density manipulation,” supplied Phase.
“How do the dorms get assigned? Do speedsters all get put altogether?” wondered Tim / Swift.
“There are boy’s and girl’s dormitories; each floor is populated by students in the same grade, so freshmen on the first floor, seniors on the top. We also have dorms to provide for special needs: Hawthorne for example, has a resident doctor for the students needing extensive medical assistance.”
“Hawthorn? As in the tree?” wondered Rachel.
“Named after the author. All of the buildings have been named after authors.”
“Which is yours?” asked Tim.
“I am in Poe, a co-ed dorm.”
“Isn’t that just kinda asking for trouble?” assessed Rachel.
“We have adult supervision, House mothers … or fathers. As well, we’ve got student advisors who act as big brothers or sisters.” The group stopped beside a two seated table on the cafeterias second level tucked away behind a pillar. “Here we are, I believe this is something you’re wanting to see.”
“What’s so special about …?” started Tim.
“Observe the pattern imbedded within the tabletop, this is where Outlook sat. He marked his spot,” instructed Ayla. The whole the group clammed up sharing glances between them.
“Why else would a group of Canadians show up at the door - he’s been missing since Christmas, I imagine you’re trying to find him.”
Lynn sat on the surprisingly comfortable stump situated between her Were companions; Ella and Ben. More Were had shown up to be in attendance and taken outlying seats, undoubtedly having come to be present as observers at this parley. Among them was her aunt Eloise Donner, whom Lynn had met for the first time when they arrived at the Mediwhila village. Joining Eloise was her brother Allan and a few delegates from Grand Council, who still growled at Lynn for usurping their position.
There had been much debate over who would represent the Were today, and of course many ego’s had asserted that they should be the voice of the people. It was Ben who advised that since the pact had been a blood bond, it needed to be a descendant of the first panther. The choice came down to either Eloise or Lynn.
Eloise decided to let Lynn be the one, as she put it, ‘she’s the farsighted pantheress’. So Lynn was put forward, and so it was Lynn who now carried the future of the Were on her slim shoulders.
Presiding over the assorted menagerie, sat an amalgamation of sticks and twigs interwoven with mosses and foliage into the shape of a man. Even so, it was only a manifestation to personify the Grove, the living forest in which they sat. When it spoke it sounded like the deep groan of trees bending in the wind.
Seated on a log in front of her was a row of potential jurors awaiting selection. It wasn’t that Lynn hadn’t been aware of fairy folk - it’s just that she hadn’t met so many different kinds before. So far it had taken three hours and they had only settled upon two jurors.
Standing up and facing the presiding officer was the floating blue haired girl, introduced as Billie Wilson. She looked uncomfortable and a tad nervous, and when she and Lynn’s eyes met she even looked apologetic for being there.
“Star Destroyer!” said the twig thing in a voice emoting a hint of repulsion, “Feel you that you could hear testimony and render a fair judgement?”
“Any judgement I might make would be clouded by my association with the accused, we are friends - sisters in arms.”
“The Star Destroyer has never been known to be given to emotion, how many civilizations have perished at your hand? Yet say you - you are unfit to make judgement because of friendship?”
“I am not this Star Destroyer of yours, I am Billie Wilson … Tennyo if you prefer. The girl brought before you is as close to me as family, do not ask me to set aside a friendship that is more precious to me than my next breath.”
Lynn rose and faced the host, “The aggrieved do not think this juror could offer an unbiased decision, we recommend she be excused.” Lynn caught the mouthed ‘Thank You’ on Billie’s lips.
After a moment filled with a low long groan the voice of the forest spoke, “Leave!”
With her head held down in a show of respect Billie asked, “May I stay to give my friend moral support?”
Another stump slowly emerged beside the redhead, after a long hug with a gush of anguish escaping from Fey during the squeeze, Billie sat down while the next prospective juror was called and came forward.
“Artificer! Have you the capacity to fathom the proceedings to which you’ve been called?” moaned the forest.
“I have attended many such hearings, and know very well the magnitude at stake from any decision this hearing reaches,” said the formidable looking tattooed girl.
“Explain yourself!” demanded the tree being.
“On five occasions, I have been present for testimony and borne the results of rendered decisions.”
“As a witness?”
“As disputed property!” spat out the stone girl in disgust.
“Have you sentience?”
“I am a person, free - unbound. No one owns me, nor ever shall. Woe to any who puts into their feeble mind an attempt at enslaving me.”
“Can you give an unfettered ear to a case against a former owner?”
“Aunghadhail was a Sihde queen to whom I was a slave. The girl before you today might be her heir, but is not the lady herself,” explained Caitlin Bardue. “At this ones hand, I have only ever received honour and fairness. I can repay the same.”
“Aggrieved. What say you?”
“We give welcome to the voice of a freed slave,” stated Lynn after standing, then bowing to the stone girl.
“I have reservations; as a juror, her history could sway against any reasonable argument brought forward. With regret, I cannot agree to her addition and seek she be excused.”
“As host, I cast the deciding vote in favour of retaining this juror. Join the bench Artificer.”
“I raise a point of order,” called out Fey. “To grant this one a seat of judgement is to elevate her station.”
“You object to calling the Artificer a citizen?”
“I would suggest a council be called to address that as a separate issue” said Nikki, looking apologetically at Caitlin.
“Do you claim her as property?” questioned the forest.
“No!” emphatically stated Nikki - emphasized with a head shake.
“Does any lay claim as owner?” sought the talking tree, and received no comment from those gathered.
“Since she bears no chain of slavery, and none seek her as chattel, then she is without bond. If called to judge she is honour bound to heed,” declared the trees. “We have a triune; seek you more to adjudicate?”
“We are satisfied,” responded Lynn after being prodded by Ben.
“It will suffice,” granted the heir apparent.
“Aggrieved, present your case,” commanded the forest.
“Come on Patti, you gotta try making a portal so we can get outta here!” connived Troy.
“Leave her alone Troy. She doesn’t want to do it,” admonished Oliver. ”She already said she’s scared, that it could open to somewhere worse.”
“Cause we’re in such a garden spot now!” bitterly complained Troy. “Can’t be anywhere worse than here.”
“I can think of one or two,” suggested Cameron. “Patricia was never shown how to anchor, open, or cast a portal forward. We can’t fault her for being worried.”
“How do you know so much about portals?” questioned Patti.
“I had access to a rather extensive Library, many books talked about magic, but none of it made sense to me,” answered Cameron.
“Portals are magic?” wondered Patti.
“It’s a very specific talent, very rare,” informed Cameron. ”Those who can make portals typically can’t do any other magic, and it’s very difficult for other mages to make them, or so I read.”
“So all Patti has to do is wiggle her fingers and prest-o change-o we’ve got us a portal!” summarized Troy with a gloat.
“Do you want to chance getting dropped onto the sun, or into outer space?” asked Ken Tallman. “It’s better if we come up with a way to defend ourselves.”
“Ken’s right,” agreed Cameron. “The amount of friendly places we could end up are very slim. If we make a bubble out of our poncho’s and use the poles as a frame, it might stop the wraiths from getting at us,” suggested Cameron.
“For how long?” Troy demanded getting mad.
“Until they stop,” informed Ken, while he handed the gathered ponchos over to Cameron for him to bind them together.
“They don’t seem like the type to give up,” expressed a sulking Troy.
“Then until we come up with something better,” counselled Ken.
“It is known near and far among the Fairy folk that Were are bound,” commenced Ben. “A pact was sealed back when the Sidhe courts ruled. Back in a time of war, when the world had been divided into factions, impoverishment and famine had befallen most, few as deeply as the Were - so a leader of our people was dispatched, a panther chieftain, to ask the Elven for help.
“Our homes were destroyed by the constant see-saw between armies, as each side sought to claim our homelands. War had consumed all resources as the battles raged for nigh on a century. When at last the fierce and untameable Were could no longer hold out, we sued for help - for our survival.”
“It soon became apparent to the Were that the pact we swore, a pact we hoped would ensure peace, made us soldiers. The Elvin had gained a prize; mighty warriors readily enlisted, an army of capable fighters - bound to heed a Sidhe’s beck and call whenever they sought to engage an enemy. Sadly, the Sidhe it seems had many enemies.”
“Under our solemn oath, the Were swore to never rise against the Sidhe. In return the Sidhe would spread protection over our people as a blanket on a cold night.”
“The Were kept the bond, a yoke around our necks, a bond of fealty and loyalty.”
“But as surely as the tide changes so too did the fortunes of war, the dark warlord forged a terrible weapon, a dark blade which sickened the mind and body of a Were.”
“Once touched, it blackened Were hearts - driving our kind mad. No Were in its thrall can hear a Sidhe’s call, to bend knee and uphold the pact upon our souls.”
“You might ask, how did the Sidhe save the Were from this dreadful attack, what form did their promised protection take? The very Sidhe queen who with her own blood sealed the Were pact, signed a decree in writ. A writ of denunciation! A single sentence. Death to all Were.”
“Our kinds salvation was genocide, borne at the hands of our comrades in arms. Our kin was slaughtered.”
“Aye, the Sundering rent the world of old to nothing - yet still - We remain!”
“We remain! In shame we remain, we who can barely stand as our knees quiver seeking the ground, we remain a people condemned! A death sentence hangs over our heads. For when a Sidhe Queen rises to restore her throne - The Were must die. A writ cannot be ignored.”
“Today! We remain! Because a Were’s hunger for life outweighs the call for forfeiture. We remain.”
“But we ask! Is it fair to remain? Remain loyal to a pact which swore to give succour? Loyal to a queen who sought us dead?”
“Are we to remain bonded to death?” summarized Ben, executing an exaggerated bow to the jurors before taking his seat beside an awestruck Lynn.
“What makes you think we know Cameron?” claimed a shaken Rachel.
“I only called him Outlook, you provided the answer to your own question,” supplied Phase.
“Do you know where he is?” requested Charlotte.
“My friends and I last saw him a few days before Christmas. There was scuttlebutt about a manhunt for him after we returned from break. No one has seen him since,” explained Phase calmly.
“You didn’t know anything about what happened in Canada?” wondered Tim.
“Nothing substantiated,” mused Phase."I believe the MCO suppressed any information outside Canada, entirely blocking external commentary. So is it true?” requested Phase.
“Which?” replied Tim.
“That mutants in Canada have civil rights, that the MCO has to treat them like real people?” asked Phase in earnest.
“Yes, thanks to Cameron,” gave Rachel.
“And Canada, has it opened its borders taking mutants in as refugees?” continued Phase.
“Yeah, it was a big to-do on the news,” supplied Tim.
“Surprising. And now Outlook’s whereabouts are unknown?” pondered Phase.
“We’re backtracking, trying to find some clues,” answered Rachel.
“Which is what brought you to Whateley I assume?” summarized Phase.
“Whateley wasn’t very nice to Cameron,” announced Charlotte.
“From the reports I’ve read, it’s seems to be quite the debacle,” granted Phase.
“Your privy to confidential reports?” sought Rachel.
“I am an information broker, would you be willing to make an exchange?” offered Phase.
The heir apparent, Nikki Reilly, asked for a brief adjourned so she might collect her thoughts, give her time to consult with her advisor Absinthe - discover what she might know about events pre-sundering.
Lynn hated listening in on the conversation, but Were senses couldn’t help but pick up what was being said and Lynn’s curiosity was killing her, it was her worst personality flaw.
“Do you have any insights from before the sundering?” asked Nikki. “Aung only told me a few stories, I didn’t know anything about the Were’s history.”
“My ancestor Vauldrene had already been banished by that time,” admitted the green haired Sidhe girl. “She had heard tales about the Were’s oath, but didn’t know the circumstances surrounding it,” mused Gwen before adding, “The Were aren’t able to lie, it is compelling evidence that what they said must be true.”
“Which means Aung must have been in dire straights if she had to resort to genocide,” deduced Nikki.
“Her army was being turned against her. Any Were was a liability. Talk about a Kobayashi Maru,” commented Billie Wilson.
“What did Captain Kirk do to beat a no win situation?” asked Absinthe.
“He cheated!” noted Billie.
“I think Aunghadhail did the only thing she could, she removed a few in-order to save the many,” reasoned Nikki, trying to grasp the situations implications.
“At what cost?” complained Absinthe. “That decision has had repercussions down through the ages; the Were have had to carry shame and guilt for generations. It’s no wonder they’re asking to be freed.”
“If it’s a blood oath, Aung sacrificed herself by breaking a blood bond in-order to save her kingdom,” admitted Nikki. “But it seems as though the Sundering must have hit before the geis could kill her.”
”But if the Sundering came - before the gies could hit,” wondered Absinthe, “is the blood bond still needing recompense to settle a broken oath?”
“I don’t know if the gies will fall upon me now, but since I’ve been made aware of a broken blood bond I can’t ignore the compulsion. I’m feeling a throbbing on my temples and it’s like an itch in my veins,” voiced a concerned Nikki.
Lynn was taken aback, she hadn’t ever expected that this might become a personal issue to Aunghadhail’s descendant. She hadn’t wanted to bring harm to the girl; no Were could raise a hand against a ruling Sidhe.
“What do we do?” continued Absinthe.
“The only thing I can. Try to be a queen!” decided Nikki.
Standing to address the living forest and resume the hearing, Nikki Reilly wove her hand in a graceful flourish, thanking those present for the time granted to confer with her associates. Glancing quickly across the assemblage, it irked her that each of the Were present had fallen to knell before her, they where obliged to do such in her presence.
“I would like to express my deepest regrets to my dear friends the Were; it has been too long that they have been burdened, waiting for the court’s return so they might air their grievance. It is dreadfully unfortunate that Aunghadhail herself is not present today. Instead, standing before you, I am merely a whisper of the queen that was. “
“I earnestly hope that my voice has enough authority to sever a bond; that my words carry sufficient weight to break the chain. I ask that all attending today to bear witness, how that the Daughter of the Burning Oak, Seventh Queen of the West in the five fold court, does hereby release the Were peoples from their oath to us.”
“They are free! Free to walk unfettered, free to stand without shame, free to be people filled with honour and dignity, free - to run down whatever path their heart desires.”
The girl, Nikki Reilly remained standing, her head bowed as she tried to sense if the pressure and fire within had ebbed. Feeling each beat of her heart she listened to herself, measured her being to see who she was. For all the changes and challenges she had faced since mutating, Nikki Reilly discovered she was at the end of the day - the same person who awoke every morning. So Nikki wondered; when had life become a dream?
Lifting her head Nikki saw that the Were had tentatively begun standing, testing if the bond upon them had fallen, realizing excitedly that they could now rise in the presence of a queen. Fey turned when one of the Were let fly a great howl, joined by others spreading the news.
The forest creature stood and motioned for the gathering’s attention, once the commotion abated, it spoke:
“The words heard have rung truth. We are adjourned.”
Nikki turned to rejoin Billie and Absinthe, and it surprised her to come face to face with the black haired girl who had been sitting opposite. Fey hadn’t even seen her move.
“Please accept my people’s thanks.”
“Do I know you? You seem … familiar?”
“Pardon my manners; I am Lynn Franklin. I’m a descendant of the Were who made the oath with the Sidhe. We share blood, I suppose in a way we are sisters.”
“You have the same eyes,” remarked Billie, who had stepped up to give her friend support.
“You’re not mad?” worried Fey.
“How can the Were be mad? For me, it feels like I’m taking my first breath on a spring day, it’s so fresh and clean, like the world has just come alive.”
“Oh! That’s just Billie’s shampoo,” joked Absinthe, as she joined in, her comment getting a huff from Tennyo in contrast to everyone else’s smirk.
“I can hear the cries coming from all around us. The Were are full of joy, you have gifted us unfettered life. Personally, I have only happiness towards you, and hold no animosity.”
“That is more than I deserve. I am nothing but a burden and a disgrace. What kind of queen does that make me?”
“The type of queen who values each friend, slowly builds trust and respect with each relationship, until one day - she finally feels the confidence inside herself that everyone around her already saw. When that day comes, know that the Were are your friends,” predicted Lynn.
The church sat empty mostly due to the late hour, none having sought comfort within its walls nor used the sanctuary for quiet contemplation. It was well and truly empty. The building was constructed of stones and mortar, a contradiction to the brick used for the other buildings of similar aged construct. In fact, at a glance, it looked like it belonged in ‘Old England’ rather than in the ‘New World’.
The ends of hand hewn beams used to support the roof stuck out visibly atop the exterior walls. Craftsmen inserted stained glass visages within each of the windows central panes, the churches steeple stood tall above the main building, housing a bell; rung to call the faithful to worship.
To look upon the building the observer was struck with an appearance which spoke of age. A reassurance of something solid and steadfast, a constant reminder to everyone who looked upon it of an unshakeable institution. The space available inside the church was small, but felt cavernous to any who sat upon its wooden bench pews.
The churches emptiness was nothing new, attributable in part to it being poorly attended, a situation falling squarely upon the one giving the sermon.
At first, all that indicated anything was amiss was a degree or two drop in temperature, which might have brought on a shiver. Next would be an irrepressible yawn triggered by a change in pressure, but - since when is it considered suspicious to have people yawning in church.
The distortion effect; a small vertical pinwheel in the air rotating clockwise and roughly the size of a volleyball, was the first visible sign. A stiff wind commenced, as if a large fan had been turned on, and any loose article such paper was taken up into a swirling vortex. The pinwheel grew as it soon reached six feet across.
Along with the wind came a size-able build-up of static electricity. At first it started small, just enough of a charge to raise the hairs on your arms, then a zap if put into contact with a ground. But as the pinwheel continued to grow, small arcs emanated from the edges creating flashes in the otherwise darkened place.
The intensity of the localized disturbance continued to expand and extend outward, surging like an incoming tide. In reality, it took very little time for the small pinwheel to become engorged to a point where it was barely contained within the churches walls. A maelstrom was being unleashed, wrecking havoc upon not only the contents, but against the building itself. The wooden benches combined with all other furnishings had already been caught up into the whirlwind, smashing and crashing as if thrust into a blender set on high, leaving only splintered remains caught in the swirling morass.
The pinwheel’s outward push breeched the edifice’s walls, which began to crumble under the pressure. Rocks, beams, and mortar joined into the debris caught in the violent rotation, each collision now rent further destruction breaking away more of the structure culminating in the roof collapsing into the fray.
As if watching a satellite image of a hurricane, in the maelstrom’s centre formed an eye, a calm heart amidst the violent tempest. In an instant eleven bodies were ejected through the eye like unwanted seeds getting spat out from a mouth.
Eleven bodies groaned and wheezed as they lay scattered about in the church’s remains. Each of them panted heavily as they strove to regained their senses, left unmoving in the near fridged air just beyond the reach of the torrent they had escaped from; that rotating mayhem casting an eerie glow in the pitch of night.
The first to recover stood on shaky legs checking for damage to its person, raising itself over discarded rock, what stood in triumph was a small boy, a child. He looked back over his shoulder at the storm and laughed. It was not a human voice that spoke, but one that sounded like an echo within a cave, a reverberation coming from a twisted and evil mind.
Troy shouted out, “Free! I am finally free!” Turning back to look out over all that the hard earned escape had won, he came face to face with Outlook standing only inches away.
“I think not!” stated Outlook as he trust a golden blade into the small boys stomach.
Troy lashed out striking Camerons head, knocking Cameron’s glasses off his face to reveal golden eyes shining brightly. Cameron remained stationary, unyielding, as the boy writhed.
Troy flailed wildly trying to extricate himself from the impalement.
Cameron lifted his sword shearing the connection between the physical boy and the intangible wraith that had possessed him, hoisting the speared entity high as its shrieks cut through the night.
“Patti! Close the portal!” shouted Ken as he rushed to aid Troy who had slumped down to the ground clutching his chest. “We don’t want any of those damnable things coming through.”
“I can’t!” she cried, “I don’t know how.”
Cameron cautiously stepped over rock and litter to approach the edge of the morass at the pinwheel’s centre. With a double handed swing of his sword he cast the intangible apparition back into the void.
Oliver moved closer to the panic stricken girl. Struggling over the rocks in the dim light, he cradled her in his arms giving her a hug saying, “I’m sorry!” before he punched her. Patti reeled and dropped limply in his arms.
The portal cascaded in upon itself; the debris that had been held suspended in the swirling mess fell into the collapsing dimensional breach. As normal space returned a hush fell until a final ‘pink’ was heard as it winked out of existence.
Ken’s breath made a cloud around his head as held his hand over the spot where the sword had pierced Troy’s body. He felt no liquid under his hand, but now that the portal’s glow was gone he couldn’t see how bad the wound was. He yelled out, “Cameron! What have you done? Get over here. You have to help Troy!”
As Ken looked up to find Cameron, he heard the unmistakable click of a gun chamber being loaded beside his ear.
Lynn’s scream of terror sent a wave of alarm to all within earshot.
Laying beside her on a similar cot had been Ella, who was now on her feet wearing only a nightshirt, but wielding a sword waiting for whatever had so desperately scared the girl, daring whatever it was to come forward out of the darkness.
“Ella, it’s time!”
Whateley Security had walked the nine unannounced strangers down the schools paths for interrogation. Troy and Patti had been loaded onto stretchers and taken for medical help. All others to be placed into secure lock-up.
Ken was placed into the cell beside Cameron, and was near furious at being incarcerated. “What do they think we’re wearing … Halloween costumes?” he said as he looked down at his filthy RCMP uniform, grey dust imbedded into the fabric. His sidearm had been quickly confiscated by the security patrol.
Oliver Jones was the first to be taken for interrogation, likely because he wore a school uniform, although his clothes were little more than tatters. Still, he had been gone for upwards of an hour already.
“I take it you can see again,” was said more as a statement than a question to Cameron, who had seated himself on the cell’s cot. Ken’s speech detailed his uncertainly at why Cameron had stabbed Troy, but Ken’s feelings of uncertainty didn’t outweigh the trust his friendship with Cameron had won.
“Yes, once we left null space, I regained sight,” detailed Cameron.
“Null space? Not the Void?”
“A pocket dimension devoid of light and life; where the condemned … rebels have been sent to await judgement.”
“What are you talking about?”
“My being blind is what likely saved your life. Had they seen my eyes - nothing would have stopped them from killing us, except Troy.”
“Why did you stab Troy?”
“He was possessed, one of the wraiths, a debased spirit - had entered him.”
“They can do that?”
“And more. I’m sorry you had to see that, I couldn’t let it escape. The damage they can do is dreadful … I couldn’t.” Cameron paused as he looked off to into the distance, “Ahh nuts!”
“Stay here! Cover the windows, keep everyone in the cells as far away from the bars as possible. Tear up a sheet and make blindfolds.”
“What is it?”
“Voodoo wolves,” said Cameron with a cold dread in his voice. “They sent a scouting party.” Cameron dissipated a section of the bars that made up his cell and walked through the hole he’d made, stepping into the hallway.
The security guard saw a freed prisoner in the cell block and ran towards Cameron, a baton held up in preparation to strike, the man froze midstep. “I haven’t time to waste explaining, and you guys haven’t been prone to give a listening ear.” After which Cameron rendered him unconscious - the guard dropped to the ground and slumped against the bars in front of Ken’s cell. “Help him if you can Ken, cover his eyes and get him into a cell.”
Cameron walked out of the holding area. None tried to stop him, not that any had been left conscious to attempt it. Cameron exited Whateley Academies Security office and sealed the door behind him.
Distancing himself from Kane Hall, Cameron walked towards the fortifications the Were had been establishing, a fortification just outside the schools shields. In a blink - walking casually beside him was his friend Timothy / Swift sporting a smile like the Cheshire Cat. “Come here often?” he asked.
Gob smacked Cameron stopped, he didn’t have a chance to say, “What,” before he was wrapped in a hug of relief by his friend. Cameron patted his friend on the back saying, “Always glad to see you, but how?”
“Lynn brought us. We’ve been on high alert. What’s the plan?”
“Plan? Plan!” Stammered a flabbergasted Cameron, “What I wouldn’t give for a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak.”
“Will you settle for Rachel, Charlotte, Marcus, Roche and R.E.D.? Lynn got word to us to expect you. She and the Were are preparing for battle.”
As they commenced walking, three rabbits scurried out of the undergrowth and blocked them. “Messengers,” instructed Swift.
Not skipping a beat, Outlook directed, “I’ll need to make more black balls, and find a way to transport them to the front line.” The rabbits switched to human form so Cameron materialized a stack of heavy boxes for them, more than they could carry. “Let Lynn know we’ll be behind the school’s shields, to prevent mutants from entering the battle.”
Timothy dashed off, but was back in so little time it was like he’d never even been gone. “They’re over here,” he directed.
As Cameron got close, he heard Roche prepping them, “Don’t look at them! They’re as evil as … well - as evil as evil gets. It’ll rot your eyes and brain right out of your skull!”
“Roche is right,” spoke Cameron, disclosing his arrival. He was mauled by Rachel and Charlotte, who in a show of relief smothered him in a combined hug. With a free arm he shook his other friend’s hands. Lastly, R.E.D. took off her heavy duty asbestos reinforced gloves and clasped his hand giving it a firm shake.
“Level six?” asked Cameron.
“Oui,” responded the tall girl, “call me Flambé.”
“Charlotte, you’ve manifested! What are your abilities?”
“I energize others, give them a boost.”
“One or two levels for a half hour, even more with my brother and sister.”
“That’s why Swift is moving faster than normal.” After a second of contemplation, Cameron gathered his friends into a huddle. “Okay, Here’s the plan:
Charlotte, you’re the key - you’ll be boosting everyone. Get comfortable once we’re in place, and hold onto me. I’ll be dumping energy into you.
Marcus; you’ve been practising lullabies I imagine, yes? (an affirmative nod was given). Good! You’ll be keeping everyone at Whateley asleep.
Rachel; link to Marcus - mentally broadcast his singing, we need to keep as many out of the battle as possible. With a boost from Charlotte I’m hoping you’ll be able to reach everyone.
Roche; we need a brick force field to supplement the schools shielding; stay touching Charlotte and take it to the max! Make a wall as long as you can.
Flambé; shoot your fire lightning to disperse onto Roche’s brick field, don’t get boosted too much. Just touch Charlotte in small doses, we don’t want you to go nova."
“What about me?” asked Swift.
“Get another charge, you’ll search for those that aren’t asleep and get them to safety; someplace they can’t see who’s attacking. If they don’t listen - keep em distracted. Oh! And Tim, there will be two girls at Poe, Fey and Tennyo. I doubt they’ll be affected by Rachel and Marcus, send them to us if they’re willing - it's better if they stand with us than against us.”
Tim left in a blink of an eye after briefly touching Charlotte. Cameron then directed his attention back to his teammates. “I want you to know how much I appreciate your being here, I can’t do this on my own! But with all of you, together, as a team, we can be amazing.”
Cameron spoke with a confidence that bolstered his teams shaky resolve, it also firmed up his own fortitude. “One stop before we get set up, follow me!”
Rachel commented to Marcus, “I don’t recommend singing Rock a-by Baby.”
“‘If the wind blows, down will fall baby, cradle and all’ are not exactly comforting thoughts considering our situation.”
“Good point. How about Ring Around the Rosy?” countered Marcus.
“That comes from when the plague afflicted Europe. You know: 'they all fall down’ - everyone dies!” corrected Rachel.
“You’ve severely impeded my repertoire,” grumped Marcus.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word,” suggested Charlotte.
“Mary had a little lamb,” recommended Rachel.
“Frere Jacques,” added Flambé.
“All I’ve got is ‘hundred bottles of beer on a wall’ cause I could sure use a drink bout now,” admitted Roche.
There was a combined snerk, followed by more song titles getting tossed out for consideration.
Cameron lead his troop through the Quad, bringing them up to his energy gathering obelisk. The faux sculpture was near pearl white now having gathered copious amounts of energy. Cameron put both hands against the surface and let out a sigh. “Just what I needed,” he said as the collector turned black again.
Cameron remained in contact with the obelisk, while it slowly decreased in overall size. Beside him appeared sacks of boxes filled to the brim with black balls. Soon the obelisk was gone, all the matter used to transform the collector into energy absorbing balls, ammo for the coming battle. The rabbits who had stayed in tow began hauling boxes up to the front.
“Ahhmm,” sounded Rachel as she cleared her throat to get Cameron’s attention. “Outlook! There’s a somebody wanting to speak with you.”
“Please repeat what he says for me,” instructed Outlook.
“Hello Outlook, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” repeated Rachel.
“Mr. Gientz, sorry, things are a little tense just now.”
“Is there a way I might be of some assistance?”
“Can you help point Swift to those who awaken, help get them to safety?” requested Cameron, “maybe into the tunnels?”
“Do you believe the school will get overrun?” worried Louis via Rachel.
“I promise you! My friends and I are going to do everything we can to keep this school out of danger.”
“The school is not without defences,” claimed Foob.
“This is the Were’s fight! A proclamation of emancipation and independence!” clarified Outlook. “But the dark want nothing more than to draw mutants into battle. That’s why they have chosen to attack - Here, Now!” summarized Cameron. “If mutants engage, it’s the start of a world ending conflict.”
“Then we keep them apart,” rallied Louis. Rachel was quiet for a brief time before saying, “He gave me some pointers on communicating psychically over a long range to a group.”
Once again Cameron surveyed the fortifications Ella had laid out. She had made long tapering frontages to act like funnels, then placed Were behind the lines to make use of an increased target area to pelt the enemy with energy absorbing balls.
The last of the Voodoo Wolf scouts had been captured and tamed by the Were. Taking the opportunity, breaking into a run, Cameron brought his team near to Whateley Academies shield wall, placing them - so only a few feet separated his small group from the last line of Were defenders situated just outside the shield.
Cameron shouted a greeting to their allies stationed mere feet away. A cheer arose from the ranks, proclaiming the arrival of the Golden Eyed Man. Cameron positioned each person in his intimate group so only he, Roche, and Flambé faced the enemy. Outlook manifested face masks that completely covered the eyes and distributed them.
Already portals started forming in a string within an arrow’s strike. Cameron counted six, and cautioned his comrades again, “Don’t look!” at which they donned the protective eye covers and mustered all the courage they could find.
The first of the open portals began spewing out black covered attackers after a Mage had stepped through establishing the connection. After each Mage then raced the dark army, the Mage staying at the portals mouth keeping it open.
Ella’s plan was working, the funnels used Camerons special flashlights to force the dark to skirt around a Were fortification. The created zones maximized the Were’s ability to assail the dark attackers, and the energy absorbing black balls got launched by slingshot or thrown from behind the defensive position.
The invaders incessant rush with in-numerable soldiers overcame the centre most defensive position, forcing those Were to scramble and quickly change tactics to fighting hand to hand. Now the dark’s screeching was meet with snarls of animalistic engagement.
Those making up the Were forces each wore many of the black balls, woven into garments or hung on jewelry, designed to account for when a Were received multiple injuries - preventing the dark ooze from assimilating them.
The assailing army was hemmed in. Behind the row of portals Were had rushed in wielding flashlights preventing the Voodoo Wolves from escaping the organized battle zone. To challenge the oncoming dark soldiers, the Were in formation fought back by jabbing, poking, and punching. Each thrust made by the Were brought more of the black balls Cameron had provided into contact with the foe, sucking the hate out of them.
The bodies of partially de-contaminated Were began to amass, as those having the dark energy siphoned off writhed in agony, creating pockets on the battlefield of no-mans-land occupied by those unable to engage and hindering further advancement of the still dark encapsulated soldiers. The dark swarm moved around those blocking their assault, the movement seeking any means possible to get to the school.
Cameron watched with fascination as the Were deployed something new. They fed his black balls into modified paintball guns, resulting in a rapid fire weapon that launched deep into the advancing army, weakening the inside surge and taking away the ability to reinforce the frontline.
Still more of the corrupted disgorged from the portals, their numbers spreading out as the two sides engaged in a ground war. The Were’s defences had been completely overrun in the middle, those Were fighters no longer able to hold back the onslaught from that position. The dark ones now slammed themselves against the schools shield and the barrier Cameron’s team made.
But the wall held! The battle raged mere feet away, but the singeing and lightening blasts didn’t falter.
Checking on Roche, Cameron noted he exuded power far in excess of what was normal for him. The boost he was getting from Charlotte had kicked him up so much it looked as though he wasn’t even struggling to reinforce his brick field wall. The projected wall resisted and confounded the attackers, the dark enemy was mounted three high in their efforts to breach the barrier.
Flambé’s blasts sent red tendrils that flared out along the brick field. As she alternated the direction she blasted the smell of scorched flesh hung heavy and the screams of pain rang loud as any who touched the barrier burned violently. The black sizzled and the attackers turned away to get distance from Cameron when he cast his Golden Eye glow onto them, only for those attempting retreat to be pushed forward again by the mad rush behind them.
Cameron internalized, watching his battery’s gauge drop in slow increments as he felt Charlotte taking energy to feed it to the others. Cameron materialized more black balls using up the last material he had and the rabbit Were moved them off to restock the defenders. To Cameron’s surprise, on each of the rabbit’s return trips they deposited boxes full of white balls. Cameron drove a hand into them and drew the energy out to recharge his battery, the turn around of energy balls restocked the frontline with more of the black balls.
Feeling a touch more steady, Cameron scanned the school. Locating Swift, he was confronting a few of the students unaffected by Rachel’s psychic persuasion and Marcus’ sweet melodies. These having awoken due to the sound of a nearby battle. Swift, helped by Foob, was directing everyone into safe haven, moving them down into the vast network of tunnels underneath Whateley. He was pleased to see Caitlin Bardue help shepherd the students and motivate a few teachers as well.
In his scan, Cameron spotted two figures walking towards him, energy patterns he recognized: Fey and Tennyo. He waited for them to draw close before saying, “Billie, Nikki, If you’ed considering helping us, I must ask that you not kill anyone. The enemy is made up of corrupted mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. This is a battle of attrition as the Were’s claim independence.”
“What do you need?” asked Nikki Reilly.
“Could you construct a barrier to press them into a more limited front, keep the enemy held against the Were?”
“What about me?” requested Billie Wilson.
“Billie, we could use an aerial position, find one of the rifles the Were are using and shoot from above, take a box of black balls with you.”
Nikki began to weave a complex working and Cameron refused to ingest the source of energy she spun.
He turned to see Ella handing over her paintball rifle to Billie from her elevated position, to then pull a slingshot from her back pocket, after which Ella continuing to fire into the horde as she called out commands. At a distance removed from battle he spotted Lynn flanked by Eloise and Ben - generals issuing orders to the Were army. Further, he saw Allan stuffing black balls into a basket to then be launched by a small catapult into the enemies’ ranks.
The influence of Nikki’s barrier worked amazingly well, pushing the right flank back into the melee’s middle. Seeing the assistance given - both Lynn and Ella directed the Were to redouble their efforts on the left flank.
Cameron watched Granny and others rushing into the battle’s edge, dragging the bone weary reclaimed Were who had been emptied of the dark - taking them away to receive medical attention. Cameron grabbed a box of the white balls, reshaped them into small pill sized pellets, telling the nearest Rabbit to get them to Granny and have her feed it to the recovered Were. Only a few pieces each would do the trick.
Yet still more of the corrupted exited the portals. The cry of battle intermixed with cries of agony.
The ground was strewn with fallen Were, caught in the throes between dark and light. Those already freed of corruption struggled to get distance, crawling between dark legs and over those who could only lay in exhaustion due to so little life remaining in them.
The fighters could hardly move being so deeply mired in bodies strewn about, making poor footing for those who could stand. The once black balls, now intermingled by milky white - having absorbed away energy, hung onto those splayed over the ground.
Mounds of flesh piled up high as one body fell onto another. Still each ball pulled out more of the dark until all that remained was a panting - spent human form. Each minute the battle raged more of the corruption was drawn off and the dark forces numbers decreased as the corrupted dark army wavered under the drain.
Cameron checked on Fey, she had taken a stance upon one knee so she could put all effort into her barrier, her head bowed as she concentrated deeply on her magic. Movement drew Camerons attention to a group of rabbits - at least twenty of them scurried frantically through Fey’s barrier to assist fallen foe now turned friend.
He watching the rabbits perform acts of unassuming bravery. A rabbit would drop a couple of the white pills into a distressed mouth, then bound off to another deserving recipient; a re-established Were casualty. Behind these first aid providers more of the rabbits assumed human form when near a cleansed Were, dragging out that restored Were to protection behind the magic defensive line.
Looking up at Billie, Cameron saw that the rifle had stopped working, having run out of propellant. Instead, she had resorted to throwing the balls. Grabbing handfuls of balls at a time she targeted the snarling screeching dark ones below her. Tennyo floated effortlessly above them confounding any effort by the dark to reach her, being just above the height of any jump they could muster.
Billie moved to hover over top of the largest portal, the large opening still bringing forth more combatants. Tennyo just scattered the black balls, letting them drop from above on top of the exiting dark enveloped enemy.
Billie shook the last of the balls out of the box, then looked about to see her best course of action. She saw the portal closest to Fey’s magic barrier wink out of existence. Since no more of the dark ones exited, it closed.
The Mage standing beside the second most portal of the flank nearest Fey's barrier was frantically motioning the stragglers to hurry as he moved to enter the portal himself. Billie swooped down grabbing his robe at the nap of his neck and threw him away from the portal’s mouth. The startled Mage stood back up in a fury, only to be quickly confronted by two rabbits that dropped him back to the ground with well place kicks. One of the rabbits taking on human form, subdued the Mage by giving him a solid thump atop his head.
Billie took to the air and flew over the battle beneath her. Passing over top the portals still disgorging dark foe, she dived at the portal that was no longer full of new arrivals and tackled a Mage who was about to depart. The Mage scurried across the ground to get distance, and as he stood he withdrew a sword from the folds of his robe.
Billie formed a blade, and the sheer amount of energy of which it was constituted crackled in the air. The dark in proximity shied away in fear since the light the sword cast hurt their eyes. The Mage sneered as he dived at Billie attempting to skewer her. Billie side-stepped the attack and with a skilled strike severed the Mages blade at the handle.
The Mage looked at his now useless weapon. Throwing the handle at Billie as he ran past her striving to escape into the portal he was intercepted by a large black cat knocking him to the ground, pinning him down, and was restrained underneath the panthers fangs - clasped tight around his throat pressing on his jugular.
The mage yielded defeat and closed the portal he had been holding.
Cameron checked on his team - his friends, he could tell they were tired; shoulders not held as high as before, breathing more rapid and strained. Marcus had been circling through repeated refrains, but keeping the worry out of his voice - so none would feel anxiety as they slept. Rachel was concentrating deeply, the sound of battle completely ignored as she only heard Marcus and sent that out in her thoughts.
Flambé was rotating her blasts to spread coverage over the greatest area, not seeing where to shoot she went off the sounds. If a blast to one spot generated more noise then she would fire upon it more often. Roche was at the brink, the point where exhaustion couldn’t be denied, but still his resolve was to press on and he huffed in his effort to keep at it.
Looking back to the battle lines, Cameron cycled his sight to focus upon a blur. His breath caught, Ben in bear form joined by an extremely large cat had made a rush into a cluster of still standing dark. The effect of the rush looked much like a bowling ball sending pins flying upon contact.
The large cat was fearsome, it was huge. It's claws where at least four inches long and fangs twice that size. As it ran it tore up the ground, nothing could stand up to its advance. With swipes of a giant fore paw it cleared a path.
The bear and massive cat ran towards one of the remaining open portals. At the portals mouth stood two intimidating warriors; to call them human would be an injustice - they only shared the shape. Each warrior easily towered at eight feet tall, muscles bulging under thick plates of armour held in place by heavy thick leather straps. Snouts of pigs and tusks of boar identified them as not being Were. The clubs the warriors carried weighed more than Cameron.
Ben dove headlong into the lead warrior slashing at exposed flesh and biting the arm holding the club. The two rolled on the ground embraced in a deadly exchange of fist and claw.
The big cat raked the second warrior, its claws shredding skin and leather. The warrior let fly a primal scream as it dropped to its knees in pain, out of its left hand dropped a small metal sphere which rolled a few feet until it came to rest against a downed body. The big cat tore into the warrior pig which squealed as it took more damage.
The fight in front of the portal continued in earnest, but Camerons attention was drawn to the sphere. He looked at it intently and gasped, “Dear God. NO!” as he broke away from his team and moved forward stopping just shy of hitting the wall.
Somehow Billie heard his cry amidst the din, and with a high vault she landed over by the metal sphere. Picking it up, she then rose above the fight to come up beside the force field barrier near Cameron.
“What is it?” asked a curious Billie.
“It’s a bomb. It’s … anti-matter,” gasped a horrified Cameron as he looked into the sphere.
“Where did they get anti-matter?” boggled Tennyo.
“Your blood Billie, it’s made from your blood,” said Cameron as he looked in-between the sphere and the girl.
The look of shock on Billie’s face spoke of a betrayal that cut her to the core. “Can you disarm it?”
“It’s anti-matter. It’s starting to mix with matter - I don’t know what to do with it! When it goes off the blast could crack the earth like an egg.”
Billie looked at Cameron, his panic evident; it told her there was little time or hope. The girl gave him a small smile with tightly pursed lips which widened until the tips of little fangs showed. Billie drew down into a crouch clutching the bomb in the crook of her arm as if she was preparing to jump up, and vanished.
Cameron spun wildly, his hands grabbing at his hair as he yelled, “Billie - NO!”
One of the messenger rabbits touched Camerons shoulder and pointed him skyward. Cameron looked up, freezing for a moment before dropping to his knees and began sobbing, watching the expanding energy burst - an explosion far beyond the earths atmosphere, out into the cold reaches of space.
“Billie!” said Cameron as he fell back facing the stars, the exhaustion that he had been denying; an exhaustion of mind, body, and heart caught up to him. Cameron closed his eyes.
“Is he awake?” was asked by a distant hushed voice.
“Not yet,” came as a reply. Cameron recognized Ken’s voice through the haze he wasn’t ready to step through.
“Maybe we should go in there and wake him?”
“I doubt that cat would let you get within ten feet of him without tearing your arm off.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll come back later,” relented the voice.
Cameron couldn’t help but smile, Lynn was here … now, if he just knew where here was. The haze began to dissipate, burning off like a morning fog. He groaned as he felt the stiffness in his limbs. Beside him, he could feel the pad of feet walking up to his face. The prickly bristle of a feline tongue was drawn across his cheek.
Cameron’s breath picked up the pace and blood began moving with a little more gusto. He opened his eyes.
Butted up against his face were two cat eyes - green as an ocean but shining like glass, eyes that looked intently into his own, the golden light reflecting off her irises. “Hi Lynn,” remarked Cameron, as he reached up to start petting a midnight black furred back, the cat began to purr with a deep rumble as it stretched into each stroke.
Once Cameron had gotten a little bit more coherent, he checked his surroundings. In jail again! Must be at Whateley!
Ken was seated on a chair in the hall just outside the cell. At least the situation had improved in some measure.
Cameron made the effort to sit up, at which Lynn jumped down off the cot and ran out between the bars. Cameron watched as she stealthily left the building, not even drawing a glance from the guards.
Ken called over in a soft voice, “How you doing Cameron?”
“Did anyone get the number of that bus? It must have run me over at least half dozen times.”
“Don’t kid yourself … it was only twice!” chuckled Ken, the levity making Cameron join in - only to elicit another groan from the boy. “As it happens, each of us who came out of Null Space needed to pass out, something about resetting ourselves after returning to normal time and space.”
“Doesn’t make me feel any better, my friends needed me.”
“Your friends have been worried sick about you.”
Cameron let out a sigh of relief. “How?” was all his thoughts would let him latch upon.
“After you separated from the group, it seems they had just enough juice left to give the Were time to subdue any stragglers. However Roche had to be carried to the hospital - Flambé has stayed by his side. He’s awake now and stable. Marcus and the kids are under house arrest at their lodgings.”
“12 hours, give or take.”
“What happens next?”
“Well, a representative of the schools Canadian Club was just here to see you. The Security Chief wants to hear your side of the story, and the Headmistress was ranting about reckless endangerment of her school and that heads should roll.”
“Ahhh, Whateley Academy, where no good deed goes unpunished.” sighed a resigned Cameron dropping his head and giving it a shake. “They let you out though?”
“Seems they don’t want to create an incident by holding a police officer.”
“But they made an exception in my case?”
“To be fair, you are a rather exceptional case.”
“Funny you should mention it, his name’s actually Timmy. He’s been full of questions now that the spirit is gone. Thankfully he didn’t sustain any injuries from your pigsticker.” Cameron and Ken shared a look and Cameron nodded his thanks. “Care to explain this thing you have about helping every Tim, Dick and Harry?”
“You know how it is, ‘Tim and unforeseen circumstances’.”
“I suppose it’s true, ‘Tim waits for no man’.”
“How about, ‘no Tim like the present’.”
“Sure, but, ‘Tim after Tim’?” snickered Ken
“‘Oh! Would you look at the Tim’!” chortled Cameron. The boy took a deep breath and looked over at Ken, “So! What do you think, should we leave?”
“I’ll watch your back, whatever you decide.”
Cameron stood and straightened out his uniform, he stepped over to grab the cells bars and the metal instantaneously turning to powder. Cameron walked through the opening and crossed the narrow hall to enter the cell which was against the outside wall. Placing his hand upon the wall Cameron dispersed the matter it was comprised of, leaving a gapping hole, a void that the two walked through.
Cameron stopped after a couple steps, “I can’t, I just can’t,” and restored the wall.
Before Cameron could resume his escape, Lynn joined up with them, Cameron gave her a bright smile but she hung back timidly as the trio commenced walking along the pathway between Kane and Dunn Halls.
The main entrance road was just a short distance ahead, but the path was suddenly blocked when two young girls alighted, the smaller having been carried by the other. The girl in front wore cargo pants and a multi pocketed vest, her hands held aggressively on her hips. Outlook recognized J Central immediately. Behind her was her ‘sister’ Jinn wrapped up in a long hooded cloak.
“Where’s Billie?” demanded Jade.
“I don’t know,” admitted Cameron. “But I believe she’s alright - it’s just that I haven’t any way to support my feeling.”
“Okay,” relented Jade, her hurt evident in those big doe eyes followed by her relaxing her stance, both of her stepped aside to let Cameron and crew pass.
“For such a small package, you sure have a big heart. I guess that’s why there’s so many of you,” commented Cameron when he walked nearer to Jade.
“Your not going to stick around?” questioned a hopeful Jade.
“I can’t stay here,” acknowledged Cameron.
“Toni’s gonna miss you,” dejectedly said Jade with a sniffle.
“Take care of your teammates Jade; please say goodbye for me.”
“I will.” squeaked Jade as she rushed up to him, gripping him in a squeeze. Then she ran off before anyone could accuse her of crying.
“If I had a sister, I’d pick her,” confided Cameron, as the trio resumed walking.
In a shy voice Lynn spoke asking, “So … you like Billie Wilson?”
Cameron stuttered in his step as he exhaled a deep sigh before turning to face Lynn. “Billie’s humanity is indomitable, I consider it a privilege to call her a friend. That … and she’s a fantastic dancer.”
“I like to dance,” perked up Lynn.
“Then it’s a date,” said Cameron smiling sheepishly at Lynn - the young man offering his arm, to which she slid her arm into the invited crook. Arm in arm they walked together down the gravel road. “So! During the battle there was this HUGE cat, it had these massive claws and fangs close to a foot long.”
“I don’t like to show my Sabre Tooth panther form, it’s kinda …”
“Scary! The first time I transformed into it, my Dad freaked.”
“For ‘special occasions’ only then?”
“I felt the situation warranted it.”
“I’m sorry about not seeing the battle all the way through.”
“Don’t be! You dropping in a heap drove the Were wild and they steamrolled over any resistance left. Your condition also gave me an excuse to slip away from the Mediwhila village without creating a fuss.”
“You didn’t want to celebrate with them?”
“It was too uncomfortable. I was being maneuvered to become a chieftain - or puppet. I said the pantheress needed to be at the Golden Eyed Man’s side, and they couldn’t refute my claim. Besides, I’ve been an outcast all my life, it - it suits me.”
“What about Ella?”
“Ella found her dad and is staying close, and Allan is staying close to Ella. They said they would catch up to us later.”
As they reached the parking lot for the school’s guest cottage, waiting for them was Flambé, Rachel, Charlotte and Timothy.
“How did you guys know to find us?”
Lynn gave an endearing giggle, “You still even act surprised.”
“Marcus took Roche up to the gate in the van, we decided to join you,” informed Rachel.
The group talked excitedly as they walked along the gravel road, swapping stories of daring ado - deeds exaggerated in retelling, but still deeds no one but those who stood within the heat of battle would believe.
Nearing Whateley Academies closed gates, two figures prevented the van’s passage. Chief Delarose loomed large in his security uniform. Beside him was a second security officer Cameron recognized as officer McTavish, and brandished a smile for the man.
Walking around the stopped van, only Cameron and Ken approached the security detail, halting a few feet distant to not appear a threat to the men.
Chief Delarose directed McTavish over to the guardhouse where he picked up a package. Approaching Ken he said, “Officer Tallman, here be yer revolver an service belt,” as he handed them to Ken. “Cameron, I be sorry ta see yah go lad, I owe ye a debt - but can only offer my gratitude in payment.“
“It’s enough Ian. Thank you for having my back,” gifted Cameron as he shook the man’s hand. McTavish returned into the guardhouse to resume his post.
“Seargent Burke, I regret not being able to garner your account of events,” Delarose’s deep voice boomed as he spoke.
“No disrespect is meant to you Chief. It is improper for me to be here and I must take my leave.”
“These are less than idyllic circumstances aren’t they. But I believe I owe you an apology, and also my thanks for saving this school … What is it? Three times now?”
“I should have been.”
“You’re a good man Chief, may you find all the happiness you look for,” offered Cameron along with his hand. The Chiefs grip was firm and solid, a man’s handshake, it was an honour to be treated as an equal. “If you can drop the school’s shields for a second, I’ll be out of your hair.”
The nod of Delarose’s consent had Cameron step back to avoid the swing of the gates, and Outlook then came up to the edge of the force field which surrounds Whateley Academy. McTavish was working a control panel when an angry voice called out:
“Don’t you dare take another step!”
Cameron turned towards the voice, as it came from several meters above him. Floating in the air was Lady Astarte glaring at him, a scowl on her lips. She wore a business suit rather than hero costume, but her hair waved in the breeze giving the same effect as if wearing a cape.
“I demand an explanation!” she said with enough force that was undoubtedly done to elicit a recoil in fear.
“I don’t believe this to be a good time or place for us to speak,” replied Cameron calmly.
“A good time?” scoffed the heroine. “You fought a war on my schools door step! You incapacitated us … left us defenceless! You endangered my students! Without giving me … us - so much as a howdy-do.”
“That the Were chose to leave you out of their affairs, that is something to take up with them,” addressed Cameron to her concern. “I had no forewarning, and certainly had no intent of returning here. Besides, as I understand it; it’s the Were’s land, they can do with it as they see fit.”
“How very convenient for you! I haven’t been able to contact Eloise Donner to get an explanation as to why my children were put in harms way.”
“I and my friends did everything imaginable to protect your school,” Cameron’s gesture included all his associates waiting by the van. “We prevented the battle from escalating; kept this school from being drawn into the fight, we kept your students safe.”
“How dare you! I should have been warned, been included and consulted, not just steamrolled over. You brought a war to my house!”
“You can’t blame me for your making this school a target of hostility. You’ve been indoctrinating your ‘oh so precious’ students into becoming warriors, combatants groomed for war - a war which will only end in total annihilation. I have given them … you - a reprieve; it may only be a stay of a month - maybe a year, perhaps more. Time if used wisely, will mean people don’t have to die futilely as cannon fodder.”
“What gives you the right?”
“You don’t get it do you? You’re a pawn! Everyone is using you - you’ve been manipulated from the get-go into giving them exactly what they desire.”
“I’m this schools headmistress, I deserve the truth! I expect answers.”
“So, here you are, threatening me! Again! Showing off with a grandiose display of power to justify your authority and unquestionable superiority. What! Do you expect me to quake in my boots? Should I fall at your feet begging for mercy? I’ve got news for you, I’m not afraid - not of you!”
“You should be - if you had any sense.”
“If the worst you’ve got is killing me - have at it! You and yours tried that already - it didn’t stop me before - it won’t stop me now. Just remember, I’ve got witnesses,” said Cameron as he pointed Mrs. Carson’s attention to those beside the van.
“You insolent, arrogant little …”
“Careful! What you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
“What unmitigated gall dragging me to court, you contemptible wretch.”
“Ah! You’ve exposed yourself; you believe it’s simply a matter of might makes right! You realize that ideology just makes you a bully!”
“That’s preposterous! I adhere to a code of conduct.”
“I would love to hear more about this code of yours. Please, explain to me how taking Tennyo’s blood and letting it be used to make an anti-matter bomb is justifiable? I suspect poor Billie is trying to come to grips with your betrayal right now.”
“I cannot be held responsible for that.”
“You’ve already stated you are this school’s headmistress! The lives of these students have been entrusted into your hands. Ergo, What happens under your roof is your responsibility.”
“But you felt entirely justified in endangering my students by bringing a war here.”
“The likelihood that Whateley would become a battlefield was sealed the day this school decided to provide shelter and give succour to wicked spirit forces.”
“We did no such thing.”
“Patricia Conner made a portal by following the path of a sustenance conduit. It ended - here!”
“You destroyed a church!”
“Collateral damage, if you want holy ground - don’t do unholy things there … unless of course you worship those savages.”
“Do you put yourself above the law?”
“Certainly not! Although there are times when it’s necessary to obey the rulings of a higher court rather than those of a lower body. It is unfortunate that you have neglected to give consideration that someone might be stronger than you. Someone you have to answer to.”
“Ha! As if you have could possibly best me.”
“I’m not talking about myself. You seem to picture the world as if it’s black and white, good or evil. It may come as shock, but it’s all a game, a revolving match that has been played over and over resulting in both sides cheating and taking advantage of the rules to win. To put it simply: this school is in violation of the rules, if left unchecked you’re going to push the world to total destruction.”
“So what? You consider yourself an umpire?”
“No! I’m only a spy. I was sent to find out what Whateley Academy is up to. But I should like to know why is it you favour a course which is contrary to humans. Do you want to see yourselves subjugated or eradicated?”
“I teach my students to survive and thrive in a world that hates them.”
“Sadly you’re leading them down the road of hatred, a path which only ends with them being slaves to their passion and a dead heart.”
“I cannot believe that Canada is the worlds watchdog.”
“Canada, like every nation and people, has a vested interest in tomorrow. But no, Canada didn’t send me, it only gave me a useful cover.”
“Who sent you?”
“If we are to understand each other, speak the same language if you will, I must ask your indulgence; During an age long forgotten violence brought that world to the very brink of annihilation. Two sides waged a prolonged war, let’s call one side white - headed by an order of courts ruled by five queens. The other fronted by a warlord - this one we’ll call black. That war’s viciousness was only surpassed by its destructiveness, battles raging over centuries. That event necessitated unleashing the Cleansing, which removed all combatants leaving the Earth free from white and black influences.”
“The Sundering, you’re speaking of the Sundering.”
“I know it only as the Cleansing, since it removed a malignant blight. Once cleansed the Earth was returned to its rightful inhabitants, humans, and an edict was passed forbidding interference from outsiders. So, with whom do you associate bringing about the … Sundering?”
“The Bastard!” reeled Lady Astarte.
“A rather derogatory name, no doubt coined due to his claiming no parentage, used I suspect by his defectors, angered from having their taint wiped away. If that is how you know him - so be it.”
“Your opinion of Whateley is unfair, you have a bias against us.”
“I’m only an observer, sent to expose what is hidden. But let’s explore your claim. Tell me, why did you reject my peace offering?
“What peace offering?”
“After I was attacked and killed, even though innocent blood was shed and cried out for equivalent restitution. I made a gesture of goodwill - offered an olive branch, granted a stay of justice. In return I was treated like a slave. What had you hoped to achieve from such?”
“It was a mistake!”
“Hmm, interesting. Who made the mistake? Me for offering kindness, or you for offering insult?”
“I didn’t know that you were in my office.”
“Your excuse is that had you known who I was, you would have acted differently?”
“I thought you where someone else! I heard someone else in my office.”
“Someone deserving of being treated harshly.”
“Herein lies the problem, I was the one in your office! I am not at fault for you leaving yourself open to manipulation by wicked spirits, harnessed like a mule to follow direction. That you can’t see it only means you’ve come to accept the blinders put on you.”
“But … it was a mistake.”
“Then I hope you can appreciate that the court case against you is not a mistake.”
“You insufferable little jerk.”
“One thing this school taught me was to use the tools available to get the job done. Blame yourself for getting that lesson across. However, what I have seen cannot be unseen: the attitude you install into people, how they act and what they do with the tools provided, these are added onto each persons account. All are judged by how they use free will.”
“Ah! And now it begins, if you don’t like the message - discredit the messenger, because there’s no possible way you could be wrong.”
“I believe with all my heart that I have not actively taken any side, I only strive to give these children an example of fairness and objectivity. Whateley Academy does not lean too or lend itself to outside influence. My students are forced by society to protect themselves, so we teach them to stay alive.”
“You consider yourself neutral - yet you align yourself with rebels. Nurturing and protecting those who’s interference had already been Cleansed. Aiding and abetting sprits cut off from life for their crimes - spirits who now take up hiding within those enticed by mystic powers and fame - people blinded by the desire to become gods among men.”
“Whateley welcomes all.”
“I’ve been the recipient of your so-called-welcome, it tastes terrible.”
“I told you, it was a mistake.”
“Then decide for yourself what defence to make, was it a mistake of ignorance, incompetence, indifference, or arrogance. I’m sure the years of legal debate you're facing shall give you time enough to figure it out.” Cameron looked up at the woman, she was unyielding in her conviction as demonstrated through her posture. “I wish to leave now, is it your intent to bar the way?”
“I can’t just let you leave! You're a threat to society.”
“Says you! Everyone who walks out these gates is a threat to society. You make sure of that.”
“You need professional help.”
“Who do you suggest? A social worker, psychiatrist, guidance counsellor? Each one of those professionals has already given me a clean bill of health. The only help I need is to get away from this place … and a good meal, I could really go for a good meal.”
“I can get a chef to prepare something.”
“Thank you, No! I’m going. However, if any from my group wish to stay, I will not prevent it. It is after all, their choice on how to live their life.”
Focus turned to the group standing near to the rented van, Each of them had been deeply engrossed in following the argument unfolding between Cameron and Mrs. Carson, but stayed out of the firing line. By presenting to all of them an opportunity to declare their intention, none wanted to be the first to commit, so they began a sharing of glances between them.
Charlotte broke the stalemate by stating, “I wanna to go home.”
Rachel gave her little sister a comforting hug, nodding her assent, saying, “Not interested.”
Timothy zipped across the short distance to stand behind his sisters and claim, “No thank you.” The trio of siblings began to climb into the van to join Roche and Marcus inside the vehicle.
Flambé removed the hood from off her head and looked directly up at the headmistress without her sunglasses which normally hid the intense gaze, “I think not,” followed by her also entering the vans side door.
Mrs. Carson directed her attention to Lynn, giving her a pleading look.
“I have no future at Whateley,” informed the Were as she took the couple steps forward to stand beside Cameron.
Mrs. Carson shook her head dejectedly but landed with practiced ease on the ground beside Chief Delarose. She gave a nod to McTavish who pressed the button his hand had been hovering over. McTavish flagged Marcus once the force field was down. The van slowly edged forward until it passed through the gate and beyond the school’s shield.
Cameron and Lynn, followed by Ken, walked the distance though Whateley Academy’s entrance, with Cameron keeping an eye on the shielding. Once beyond the confinement the force field had presented he turned and gave a farewell wave.
After all had grabbed seats and buckled in the van drove out onto the main road that headed off down the tree lined road, the route taking them back toward Dunwich.
Elizabeth Carson watched the van until it was obscured by distance. “He’s a lunatic! He’s going to get all those poor kids killed,” she said solemnly as a solitary tear fell from her eye.