Scald-Crow 2: Under Pressure (Part 1)
A Whateley Academy Tale
Branwen & ShadowedSin
Pressure, pushing down on me,
pressing down on you, no man ask for.
Under pressure that burns a building down,
splits a family in two, puts people on streets.
It's the terror of knowing what this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming, "let me out".
Tomorrow gets me higher.
Pressure on people, people on streets.
Queen and David Bowie, Under Pressure
Chapter 1 - Beginning Rotation
Noon, November 10th, 2007 - Miskatonic Valley, NH
I thought the trip aboard a train would be without any problems. But, I should already know by now, I was a child who drew the ill-luck of Loki himself to my side. The trip itself had been completely quiet, and all I had to do was make the last few hours from Boston to the Dunwich station. Sure, I'd seen a few things in the last few days, but I had paid them no mind. The shape of a cat shifting around in the shadows as I walked down deserted quiet train cars. The large form of a black dog in others. Each and every time I only saw them in passing. In the corner of my eye and never clear.
Mirrors were the worst. I swore every few times I gazed in one I would catch that black-haired girl watching me. Her hood covering her face as her lips were visible pulled into a tight pained line. The night before I woke today, she'd been there just as I left, and this time I swore I saw a single burning eye from the darkness of her hood. She was mouthing something, and when I turned around to look again she was gone.
"Don't touch me!" the words leaped from my mouth as I bared my teeth at the older teen who dared to touch my ass. Every piece of me felt violated as the gawky teen jumped back. My reflection showed the small fiery glow beating in my eyes as I turned away and covered my face.
"Jeez, calm down, girl," the kid said as he held up both hands.
"Hey, shit brains, back off!" Sophia added as she strolled across the observation car. We were both in the lounge just trying to kill time instead of remaining in our seats. The kid’s heavy Southie accent didn't help as I glared at him.
"Ye touch me gain, ye damn bloody shite, I'll rip off yer face!" I screeched at him. It was at this point he made his retreat and I felt my hands start to shake. Images flashed in my vision as I had the sudden feeling of large hands grasping my own and pushing me down to my knees. A small whine escaped from my lips as my breathing increased and my heart pounded in my ears.
"Please, no," I whimpered as more images came and I found myself pressed up against the wall of the lounge.
"Gráinne, he's gone, breath with me," Sophia's voice broke through the fog of panic.
"Oh me goddess," I shook. Her arms were around me as I closed my eyes.
"I'm here for ye lass. Breathe, he and the others are gone." The ghostly arms of Morgan encircled my body as I felt a few small sobs wrack my body.
Ever since I put distance between me and my family the panic attacks had grown more common. When I had been home I'd been able to rush to my mom or my dad to work me through the worst of it. But being out of my element and the safety of my family home only made things worse. I had to put physical distance between myself and others. Any man or boy who came near me, I immediately backed away if I didn't know them. At least two feet between me and anyone was enough for me to maintain my sanity.
Between this and the weird moving shadows following me I was pretty sure I was losing it. Sophia led me from the observation car and through the shifting doors connecting our car with the lounge. Just before the doors slid shut, something darted out from between the legs of two passengers. I didn't even see it until I was in our car and once again caught a sudden movement seen from the corner of my eye.
"Old things left to sleep are waking up again. My own slumber sealed them, and now they sense me as we draw closer to the school." Morgan's portents were getting more commonplace and at times more confusing. The spirit held a definite level of obfuscation only an ancient entity like herself could. I swore a faerie was dwelling in my skull, and at any moment she was going to appear like Gandolf in The Hobbit and ask me to steal from a dragon.
"Not a bad book, but no, I'm not ready to tell you about dragons just yet. Or what lays before us."
"You've been sayin' that fer the last three days," I said.
"I have not the strength to reveal more yet, my heart, the murder of Sinead drained much of my essence," Morgan had explained the situation more than once. An attack that murdered her previous host left her near oblivion until we had bonded. One reason my changes were so extensive was that she needed a tighter bond to recover. Still, I wish she would drop the Jedi Master trope and just tell me what her plans were.
"When I can, and when we are safe, I will discuss the future with you." I gave a roll of my eyes and shook my head. All I could do was get to Whateley and go to school. RIght?
"Just two more stops..." the train slowed as we reached another station in the line. The last few steps for our seats weren't far away and I returned to find Sophia reading another book. This was one of the assigned reads from the magic class her mother bought beforehand.
"What are you learning today Soph?" I asked her. The native girl looked up, raised her chocolate brown eyes as a smirk came to her lips.
"Not much, just reviewing since I'm behind in class. The message Professor Grimes sent ahead to mom was pretty extensive of what I would need to prepare for the end of term," she told me.
From what I could figure Sophia had already registered for classes. Of the two of us, she had the most experience to fall back upon. Both Corinne and Gerald were assisting my family with my new mutant status, but I could tell mom was struggling in a few places. I mean she's gone from loving the X-Men as a kid to having one as a kid. A real mind break there, am I right?
I let myself go limp in my seat and I closed my eyes. A feeling of being watched from across the car caused me to snap them open a few minutes later to land a glare there. Nothing was watching me, of course, and in response, I gave an angry snort. Sophia eyed me from where she sat and shook her head.
"I keep seeing things!" I grumbled.
"Welcome to having witch senses, I see things too, but I'm not dramatic about it," she replied coolly.
She had me there. I was making a deal out of it to some degree. The anxiety of a change and not being in my comfort zone was definitely turning it all up to eleven.
"I'm only a Wiz 1, how in the world am I seeing things you don't?" I inquired.
"I'm not the one bonded to what might be a war god," Sophia replied.
In the time since my reveal as an Avatar, I'd told Sophia a bit about Morgan. This was done after the spirit gave her explicit approval, of course.
"Dun tell har too much." I noticed that Morgan's accent thickened when she was angry, and for some ungodly reason, I was starting to adopt her soft melody and trill.
"In fer a penny and fer a pound." She snorted as I rolled my eyes once again.
The train started to slow as I stared off into the distance. Were we already in Dunwich? I narrowed my eyes, a sign whisked passed the window. “Now Entering the Miskatonic Valley” it read. Miskatonic? Where in the nine have I seen that?
"Huh, didn't think it was real." Morgan's comments were helping as the spirit was obviously more in the know than me. The train continued deeper into the valley as deciduous trees and greenery-filled my sight. If I wasn't from the Great Northwest I'd likely be awed a little bit by the wilderness of the place, but come on, I grew up in Northwest Washington. To me, Wilderness was a landscape filled with alpine rainforest. Not on an Alaskan level of "nobody is here", but still more than this quaint little valley. If anything it just reminded of another Stephen King novel, and my outright dislike of the man's obsession with Maine.
Yes, I don't like Stephen King, sue me, he's a good writer, but he's not for me.
I leaned back into my seat and tried to forget the scenery. I'd be living in it for the next four years of my life and I didn't want to overdo it in one go. Even as I closed my eyes that annoying little feeling of being watched returned. This time, I canted my head toward the opposite seats and slid my eyes open. As I did I saw four distinct shadowy feet jump off from the seat and tumble under it out of the corner of my eye.
So great, periphery vision rules, fucking hell witch vision!
"Faerie rules lass." Morgan chuckled in the recesses of my head.
If I kept rolling my eyes I was going to make myself dizzy. A small smile graced my lips as I realized I'd finally calmed my anxiety down, for the moment. Letting out a slow exhale I tapped my foot as a few more minutes passed and the scenery changed to a small quaint train platform.
"Now arriving in Dunwich, New Hampshire," came the call over the com. I perked up at our journey ending its latest leg, and I rose immediately as Sophia was already on her feet and gathering her things. As if called by magic Corinne joined us shortly dragging a small bag for herself and the four large suitcases both of us brought for the year. I blushed as she handed mine to me and said, "I know you can handle these."
I'm an Exemplar four, so I can lift a lot, so they tell me.
Getting off was easy, we were pretty much the only passengers in our car. As we reached the platform I breathed in the chilly New England air and stretched. A few cracks were heard from my neck and my knuckles. Okay, I can do this, I can go to a new school across the country. I repeated the small mantra over and over again. The platform was simply a long piece of pavement near a small town main street. A colonnade cover met my gaze as I scanned the outline of the low hung mountains in the distance. Heh, mountains, unless they can spew fire and ash, they ain't mountains to -me-. Corinne was once again on her phone as Sophia waited beside me her face back in that stupid book.
So I was alone, for now.
I drank in the sight of the small town, and yup it was a small little town just like the annoying towns I knew back in Whatcom County. My eyes dragged across the shop fronts until I spied a young blonde leaning against the divider fence a few feet away. Huh, okay, I'm going to use my spidey senses and assume she's our contact, right? Taking a breath I set myself by Sophia and strolled over to her. Blue-green eyes met mine as I noted the inverted triangular shape of her face. Her blonde hair while well kept was held back in a military issue bun under a nondescript cap. A few quick deductions and it was her military boots that gave her away. My dad counsels Vietnam vets, and I've got army and navy relatives. This woman was a vet or at least had military training to some degree.
"Um, hey," I waved shortly before flushing bright red. Yup, there was old man anxiety right back behind me.
"From your hair and eyes, I take it you are Gráinne O'Callaghan," the woman said. I blinked for just a moment, there was something a tad familiar about how she talked.
"Wow, so yeah, you are someone sent here by the school," I reacted in typical not -too- surprised fashion.
"Sam Everheart, Whateley Academy Security," she offered me her hand and I did my best strong grip without crushing it.
"Can I ask what service you were with?" I asked out of the blue.
"Navy, how you tell?" she asked casually.
"Your boots, your hair bun, and I grew up with Vietnam vets for cousins," I replied. I mean it wasn't hard! Washington also had a massive military presence just south of where I live so it wasn't at all unusual seeing off duty folks just living life.
"Not bad," she replied before waving to Corinne to get her attention.
"Ah, Everheart nice to finally meet you," Corinne Jameson, a pure professional as the adults met and exchanged the usual handshakes. The two began to talk as Corinne inquired about the current state of Security on Campus and I waited for Sophia to join me. My friend finally stuffed her book into her satchel and gave me one of those "what" looks.
"You're back with the living," I chided her.
"Hey, you get lost in your head, I'm prepping for a magic class, don't judge," she shrugged to me.
Miss Everheart and Corinne finished their initial conversation before I found myself shepherded into a large white van with the words "Whateley Academy" on the side. All our luggage was loaded up with Corinne reminding me that I could lift most of it easily before we all piled in. The drive there was itself, more of the scenery from before. A deep forest seemed to surround a portion of the road as we drove onward. A small sign with the words "Now Entering the Medawhila Tribal Reservation" certainly brought back memories. From the chatter between Corinne and Miss Everheart, the former was in touch with someone in the local tribal government. From my experiences with Sophia's family, many of the first nations in the US had open lines of communication with each other.
Just as we drove up to the buildings I would learn about, the various halls, cottages, and other parts of the Whateley Campus time seem to freeze for me. Two things occurred which etched into my memory. A black shape, the size of a large wolf dash from behind three trees. Four legs, and not much else, but I did spy a pair of red eyes. The last however was a weird feeling of joy, dread, and what I can only describe as an epiphany.
"It's here! The heart of the trees is HERE!" Morgan seemed to sing with rapture at sensing something. Her words drew my gaze back to the trees, and all I could do was wonder.
Mid-Afternoon, November 10th, 2007 - Admin Offices, Schuster Hall
"Patience, mo Róis, do not let your fear of the wolf's den make you fear any Ollamh or teacher." Morgan's words were laced with care as she spoke to me. Sophia was gone along with her mother, leaving only myself and my student handbook.
Earlier that morning before switching trains Soph had walked me through what to wear for the uniform. A collared pure white ruffled blouse with long sleeves. I checked my cuffs and made sure they were buttoned. Sophia fixed my collar and then showed me how to tie the solid black tie I'd been given. She explained that black meant I was assigned to Poe Cottage, and I quirked an eye at her.
"Cottage system, you know Gryffindor and Ravenclaw House?" she said to me. Immediately, I got it. So, my identity was attached to the Cottage and its name was Poe. How did she know that?
"How do you know which house I'm in?" I asked her as she smoothed out her black dress pants while I was stuck in a black pleated skirt which grazed the top of my knees. Gods, I was so pale people would be claiming the Red Arrow of Gondor had been fired to Rohan.
"Mom," she replied and added, "and the Handbook indicates which tie colors to buy based upon your House assignments."
She proceeded to open my book to the page on girl uniform requirements and even pointed it out to me. I, of course, shot a glance toward the dijon yellow and grey striped tie she wore and upon noticing my expression she replied.
"I'm in Whitman, mom and grandpa want me to be in an all-girl Cottage while your parents asked for the one known for mental illness," she said.
"You mean the name of the Raven poet didn't give it away," I smiled, "might as well declare my goth name as Nightpain while I'm at it."
Sophia giggled at my joke. Being a quintessential high school goth and a former social kid, we both ran the gamut of the high school clique memes. I, of course, loved a few of Edgar's works, and while I wasn't surprised by the Cottage's name it did seem a little "on the nose" to me.
This brings us all the way back to where I was before our little trip down memory lane. Sam Everheart remained with me as a chaperone. From what the security officer told me she was there at the request of my parents and Gerald Jameson. The fact I'd indirectly killed a leading Humanity First member back home and possibly had a ghost woman stalking me meant I was a possible 'anomaly' the school didn't want to ignore. I didn't bother asking her why they also kept me away from other students, but it all seemed like I wasn't the first hunted trans girl they'd had. Especially one with connections to a few bad seeds in the MCO!
After the third attempt to strike a further conversation with Miss Everheart I returned to quietly just witness the school grounds. I noted a red flag flying at one point and made a mental note to ask about it. Places like this always had some sort of etiquette which wasn't the most obvious. Plus, I was pretty sure I had seen at least one reference in the school manual when I 'skimmed' it earlier.
"Alright, here we are," Miss Everheart stated, "Schuster Hall."
A quick look at the building and I barely had a hot second before she was opening the door. The actual movement I was undergoing was pretty rushed. The grand doors of the Hall opened up as several students pushed past us just past the entrance. Perhaps this is where the size and
grandeur of the school slowly started to sink in. Directly across from me was a massive mahogany staircase. Interspersed throughout the hall were a collection of couches, chairs, and small tables. Each cluster was carefully decorated with beautiful potted plants from which a few careful views revealed to be a mixture of flowers and some with colored leaves.
The actual homey massive school lodge feel was completed by the two massive fireplaces on opposite ends of the hall just as I entered. Miss Everheart appeared to give me just enough time to witness the formality bleeding from the room before she whisked me down another hallway. I barely had time to notice the words "Administrative Offices" on the door before I found myself once again in the Faculty Offices of my High School.
Great, I'm barely one day onto school and I was about to see the Principal. The only exception is this one called herself a Headmistress. The big difference here was the size of the secretarial pool. Ferndale Sported one main receptionist as the School Secretary, an entire grouping of cubicles here revealed the size of Whateley's administrative machine.
"Mrs. Carson is busy at the moment," a secretary from the pool stated just as we entered and upon seeing me. Everheart gave a curt nod before quickly conversing with the office worker about which bigwig I was going to be lectured by. Everything just screamed planning and as I stood there all I could do is wait.
"Hmmm. This school is tenser than a meeting of the Daoine Tír." Morgan shifted in my hallow and the feeling of being out of sync with my body returned. The Daoine Tír? I wondered aloud letting the thought shift in place of speech.
"My folk." She replied. The words sound Celtic to me and as I was about to think about it further she said, "Tis what the Gaels call us."
The Gaels? More questions and before I could pressure my spirit further someone spoke to me.
"Miss O'Callaghan," the words were succinct and precise. Another blonde, this one with a much higher air of authority than Sam Everheart was addressing me. She appeared to either be in her twenties or thirties and would definitely count as a knockout to anyone. Her golden blonde hair was worn in a neat French twist braid ending at the base of her neck. A pair of blue eyes watched me behind standard-issue thin, wireframe glasses. Her attire consisted of a violet long-sleeved collared blouse tucked into a black pencil skirt. What caught my eye was the small way her eyes moved over me in a cool methodical accounting. This woman's demeanor screamed code mistress to me.
"Uh, aye, tis me." I winced internally as my words flowed with the burr of Morgan's dream accent. It appeared the longer I was bonded to her the more of her habits I was adopting.
"Please come sit in front of my desk," the blonde speaking to me gestured politely to a large desk located just outside the Headmistress’ office.
Attempting to be a smart young lass I noted the name painted on a small plaque situated on a large expansive desk, Amelia Hartford, Assistant Headmistress. "Watch wha ye say, my heart. This woman be not an enemy ye want."
"Take a seat, Miss O'Callaghan," again those words were precise and ordered. Just enough that anyone with a long enough time with any software nut in Seattle would pick up the coder lurking behind them. When she said sit, I did and placed my hands in my lap.
"Let us begin," she spoke and placed a filed with my name on it on her desk. Miss Hartford didn't even sit but instead leaned over her desk to open the file and turn it around so I could read it.
"These are your room and cottage assignments." Her right index pointed at the emboldened "Poe Cottage, Room 236." She raised her eyes to meet my own and gave me an expression that I understood to me "you following me."
"You will be rooming with a Sophmore, Alexis Dunn, codenamed Shipwright, she will be able to explain the details of what's expect at Poe cottage." She returned her expression and waited this time for me to nod.
"Do you know why you are meeting with me?" she asked after finally taking a seat and closing her hands together.
"I'm a risk for the school," I said bluntly, "I was almost expelled for violence at Ferndale High, and killed someone."
My depression related to past acts bled through my words. I hadn't given into the trauma just waiting to make me break down on the spot, but I was nearing it.
"Well put," she said and adjusted her glasses, "and while Mrs. Carson would see you. She's currently busy at the moment."
"Th-thank you for giving me your time." I stuttered out before clamping my lips shut.
"My time is a rare commodity," she stated before continuing, "and you are right. You are a flight risk and a noted exemplar rager. We aren't taking chances with you, Miss O'Callaghan."
I didn't care how blunt and cold this woman spoke to me. She wasn't fake about it. Miss Hartford didn't give a fake too white smile filled with candied bullshit. She was being real and talking to me as a person and who was expected to understand it. This -bint- was giving me the agency I craved.
"Your family lawyer, Mr. Jameson, sent me over your permanent record from the Ferndale School System.” She paused before laying out my information in front of me and tapped the notes about my former expulsion. “Because of your history, the faculty are still discussing your schedule along with the recommendations forwarded by your parents. Your new schedule will be ready tomorrow morning.”
This meant they weren't giving me a choice. I was the traumatized berserk girl and they were going to tell me my schedule to a 't'. When it was ready that was what I was assigned and all control over what electives I wanted was out of my hands. Closing my eyes I grit my teeth to flush out that annoyance building in my body. I wanted to slam my fist onto the desk and exclaim that no one was going to dictate my schedule to me without consulting me! Remember Grainne, you're the girl who killed someone, you don't get a choice.
Yup, I wasn't going to have a life here, just a happy little robot in the school of wizards and mutants.
"Now, the second most important thing you will need to understand," she began opening a drawer and depositing another packet of information. Ultra Violent Regulations for School Year 2007 - 2008 it red in large red letters. Okay, this was the dramatic ruleset I was going to be put under, good to know. I let the last of my internalized snark fade away as she opened the packet and began laying it out for me. In its entirety, the packet was a secondary ten-page set of precautions I was taking as a rager. It also included a classification of rager and the various warning signs each classification wore on campus. This is where she then held out another sheet and required me to read and sign to make sure I legally understood the rules being set for my stay.
"You are being categorized as a Class Two Rager, and with your past assault experiences we are setting a few ground rules for you," she then told me to hold out my arm as she proceeded to roll a red armband with the word's "Ultra Violent" up on my right arm.
"Miss O'Callaghan, you must wear this at all times when out of your assigned room. As per your triggers, we will be making sure you have access to at least one student volunteer with rape trauma experience in your Cottage," and I let loose a sigh of relief at that. Yeah, it sounds stereotypical, but having one person I can meet and just not having to relive it all to get them to comprehend my emotional pain was - uplifting.
"She's more bureaucratic than a Roman Censor." I blinked at hearing a random comment straight out of history from my spirit.
"Um. So if someone intentionally triggers me, they get in trouble," I asked.
"Yes, and no, we expect you to remove yourself from the situations to mitigate it," she replied. Okay, again, the onus was on me to prevent my episodes. It wasn't at all unrealistic for the lovely level of acceptance women still had to go through as survivors. Inhaling slowly through my nose, I let the slowly growing panic attack rush along with my limbs. The thought of having to always be aware was with me and just heightened my already growing habitual hyperawareness. My fingers dug hard into the armrest of my chair causing the wooden surface to creak from my enhanced strength.
"Miss O'Callaghan, kindly do not break my chair?" her words instantly caught my attention and I ceased squeezing the armrest.
"Yes, Ma'am, sorry, Ma'am," which came out of my mouth sounding like "mum". Ms. Hartford gazed at me for a moment before adjusting her seating. A few moments later she was going through the files as I waited there on the spot.
"You understand it all I take it?" she asked me. I gave a slow pendulous nod as Miss Hartford placed all the information into an envelope for me to keep. Even as I felt my anxiety growing again, I attempted to focus on my breathing, but just as I raised my gaze to spy Miss Hartford again something skittered in front of the door behind her. It appeared as a faint shadow, yet as my eyes focused I could see the change in movement in the originally stationary backdrop behind her desk.
"Please bring Envy to the office," she said. A bit too busy with tracking moving shadows I nearly let out a squeal as I heard her speak again. My focus was shattered as whatever little shadowy paws I attempted to follow disappeared as Hartford made a command to an idling secretary. The woman from the pool gave a small start as she realized the Assistant Headmistress was talking to her.
"Right away, ma'am," the young office worker squeaked before turning to her phone to make a quick call to Envy's cottage.
This left me with one burning question. What girl calls herself Envy?
A Few Minutes Later, November 10th, Whateley Academy Campus
Wandering into Schuster Hall, gliding through the halls with unnatural grace, Envy approached Ms. Hartford’s desk near the apex of the administration. Only a few steps away was Headmistress Carson’s office, her mother’s nemesis. After a moment’s pause, she continued past the rows of desks in the secretarial pool outside the office. It was strange that Ms. Hartford didn’t have her own office, but Envy considered the commanding view that she had amongst the secretaries and understood. This was the hub of administration, every scrap of information passed through here. The Assistant Headmistress was like Julius Ceasar leading from the front.
Envy found the Assistant Headmistress sitting at her desk across from a stunning athletic redhead that was fidgeting, rolling on the balls of her feet impatiently. The girl was wearing a Whateley uniform, like Envy’s only more wrinkled and sloppy. The one difference between her and the pale-skinned redhead was the red ultraviolent armband that graced her upper arm. Her hair was wild, the kind that tangles moments after combing. Seeing a shadow move in the polished metal plaque behind the title ‘Ms. Hartford, Assistant Headmistress’ emblazoned in neat lettering, she felt a chill down her spine.
"Miss Valocco, good timing as always,” Ms. Hartford greeted with a genuine smile. As the school’s Syndicate representative, she and Envy were technically on the same side in the meta-culture of the mutant community. Few students saw the good side of ‘Hardass’. Envy didn’t have to be an empath to read the new girl’s reaction as she glanced over her shoulder at her, then did a double-take. Emerald green eyes, brighter than Envy’s, glanced down her body before she turned away to conceal her blush, legs pressing tight together. A new Poesie then, Envy concluded in the privacy of her mind, though more of a lily. “Thank you, Ms. Hartford,” she said aloud, “I would have been here sooner but it’s a red flag day. How can I help?”
"I would like you to give Miss O’Callaghan here her orientation,” Hartford said, adjusting her glasses before sitting back down. O’Callaghan blushed bright red as she looked from the adult to Envy. “Um,” she stuttered, “I’m Gráinne.”
Smiling, Envy offered her hand. “No codename yet? That’s ok, approval can take a while. I’m Envy, I’ll show you around and get you situated at Poe.” Looking to Ms. Hartford, the Assistant Headmistress gave her a nod. “Thank you, Ma’am, I’ll let her know everything she needs to know.” Quickly pulling the new girl away, Envy breathed easier. A secretary pointed them at an empty meeting room, so Envy led Gráinne inside and closed the door behind them. “I have a codename,” Gráinne stuttered once they were alone. Big green eyes watched Envy intently. “Mine is Scald-Crow,” she finally said.
"Nice to meet you,” Envy said gently, “my real name is Serafina Valocco. I’m in Poe, the same dorm as you, I’m also a frosh so we’ll be on the same floor. I know this is a lot to take in all at once.” Sitting on the edge of the desk, Envy crossed her legs. “For starters, I have to let you in on the big secret. Don’t talk about this anywhere you might be heard, these rooms are soundproof and swept for bugs regularly, so I can tell you here.”
"It is,” she murmured nervously before crossing her arms and shaking a bit, standing five feet away against the wall. “What’s the big secret?”
"You and I have something in common, we both admitted on our enrolment forms that we are part of the LGBTIQ+ community. Poe is for us legbutts, that’s the big secret. Openly, Poe is for weirder folks that don’t have the special needs of those in Hawthorne, that’s the dorm with folk that have dangerous mutations. We’re ‘the crazies’, as it were. It’s a pretty weak excuse considering some of the people in the hetero dorms but it’s worked so far.”
"Oh,” Gráinne said carefully. “I’m a lesbian… That’s good.” She said the words carefully before biting her inner lip.
Envy smirked. “Just a lesbian? I’d assumed that I was assigned to you because I’m trans.”
Gráinne’s eyes went wide as saucers. “I am! I am trans,” she burst out. “This is more common than just me, isn’t it?”
"It’s relatively rare when it comes to the overall population, but surprisingly common amongst the trans community. It seems that more of us manifest than the average, and when we do manifest we become our true sex. At Poe, you’ll be part of two sisterhoods, the lesbians and the transgirls. We’re your people.”
Her eyes were starting to tear up as she wanted to just sit there and cry. “So people will understand me then?” she asked, hugging her sides hard.
Envy nodded slowly. “I’d offer to hug you but I don’t want you to feel pressured. I’m a WIZ 3, PSI 3, EX 3, I changed sex when I manifested. It was a bit of a shock for me because I was in denial, and then I had to re-learn how to live. I was very different, I’d gone from a shlub nobody wanted to talk to to the hottest girl at school. But still, that phantom pain in the back of my head I never really understood is gone, so it’s good.”
"Thank you for asking me,” the redhead said unsurely as she looked down and flexed her hand, “and thank you for sharing.” She looked away as she tried to think about what to say. After a few minutes, she wrung her hands together before glancing at the floor. “I have to see a therapist,” she said slowly. “I’m exemplar 4, avatar 3 and wizard 1.”
"It’s ok, therapy will come. First, my job is to show you around our wonderful campus and get you into your dorm room,” Envy said brightly, smiling as she bounced to her feet. When you’re ready. Do you need a drink or anything? I figure we can swing by Crystal Hall first, it’s pretty impressive and houses the cafeteria.”
"Can you keep guys away from me?” Gráinne asked earnestly as her eyes darted towards the window. “I could use a few Poweraides, I’m pretty thirsty.”
"I’ll keep them away, I promise,” Envy said, opening the door and leading Gráinne out. They walked the hallways, Envy pointing out the facilities as they passed. Emerging from the building, Gráinne gasped at the crystal dome, rainbows dancing in the air around the building. Even for someone as jaded as Envy, it was a beautiful sight. As they walked towards the cafeteria, several students walked around them, avoiding coming too close.
"It’s the armband,” Envy told the new girl. “Most people know not to mess with people with a UV band on. If they do mess with you and you hurt them, it’s their fault. I know you probably don’t want to hurt people but that’s the situation, as long as you remember to wear the armband. Don’t worry, plenty of people will still be your friend.”
Pausing, Envy spots one of the flagpoles and points to it. “See the red flag? Those are all around campus. Keep an eye on them. Red means no powers unless you or someone else is in danger. Orange means be careful. Green means cut loose. It’s based on how many normies are around, technically we’re an ordinary boarding school in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t advertise through normal channels and isn’t on any maps.”
She nodded absently as they walked down the path. Distracted, she jumped when a boy across the quad gave them a catcall. Envy didn’t even look at him as she gave him the finger. “Don’t worry, the cafeteria will be mostly empty at this time of day.”
"Thank you,” she shivered as she walked closer to Envy, resisting reaching to hold onto her. “I don’t trust men much. I was almost raped at my last school.”
Envy’s eyes narrowed for a moment before becoming compassionate. “Preach it, girlfriend. I understand. I won’t let anyone hurt you, I promise. The therapists here are some of the best, you’ll get all the support you could ever need.”
As they walked into the cafeteria, they paused to marvel at the strange acoustics of the dome, multiple levels rising above them. Envy took the lead, weaving around to avoid the small groups of students scattered around at the tables. Retrieving several bottles of Powerade for Gráinne and water for herself, she returned and handed the drinks to the redhead. “Here we go, this one’s on me.”
Gráinne ripped the cap off the first drink and downed half of it in a gulp. “Oh, thank you, I needed that.”
"That’s ok. So, yeah, this is the cafeteria, like most, it’s jam-packed at lunch but there are some allowances for ragers who can’t handle crowds. Don’t worry, the faculty won’t put anyone at risk.”
"That’s a relief,” Gráinne said between gulps, finishing her first bottle quickly. “What’s next?”
They walked down into the basement for the mandatory viewing of the trophy room, including the portrait of Lord Paramount and a small pile of gold bars. Climbing to the roof of Shuster Hall, Envy pointed out the dorms and buildings scattered around the campus grounds, including Poe and Hawthorne to the southwest.
"What’s that?” Gráinne asked suddenly pointing at a large stand of trees beyond Poe. “You can feel that?” Envy asked delightedly. “That’s The Grove, it’s an ancient place of power connected to the Sidhe. Only one student I know of is welcome to go in, a Sophmore called Fey. She’s some sort of reincarnated faerie queen.”
Gráinne’s eyes widened. “For real?”
"Yeah, she’s the real deal,” Envy confirmed. “If she survives, she’ll be a contender in mage circles. You’re wizarding one, you’ll see her around magic classes.”
Gráinne suddenly turned her head, like she was listening to someone else, then winced. “Envy, I dun know,” she said, her words slurring a little as her lip trembled, “can I trust this girl?”
"She’s got a rep as a cape,” Envy says, shrugging, “most will tell you that I’m untrustworthy.”
She closed her eyes, listening to a voice that Envy couldn’t hear. “My spirit wants to know which Queen it was?”
"Aunghadhail,” Envy answered, “Mom’s keeping an eye on her.”
After a moment, Gráinne giggled. “Um, she describes Aunghadhail as a pretty unpleasant person.” She smoothed out her skirt as she shivered, fidgeting. “She says to introduce her as Morgan, Raven of the Centre.”
"Must be nice having a friendly voice to guide you sometimes.”
"You could say that,” she replied with a slight smile. “She’s too weak to manifest yet. So where to next?”
"I think you’ve had enough exposure to the masculine element for one day. Let’s show you Poe and get you settled. Your bags should be in your room already. You’re lucky, people with our experience get to help the House Mother set the place up for students. Usually, there’s a bit of extra orientation for us.”
They walked down from the roof and headed south across the grounds. Passing fewer people on this side of campus, away from the mainstream dorms to the north, which was a welcome respite. “I don’t like being away from my family,” Gráinne commented in a mournful tone. Her green eyes glowed as she stayed close to her chaperon while also peering at Envy’s behind.
Envy felt Gráinne’s eyes on her but kept her smiling mask in place. She’d stolen enough glances of her own at female exemplars to understand the instinctive hormone-driven urge. “I understand that family is stability. I might have issues with my Mom but she’s protective. Still, we have a lot to learn about taking care of ourselves and Whateley is the best place for that.”
"I’m not here because of that,” she said quietly as she stared off into space. “I was almost arrested and expelled. Then I killed a Humanity First chapter lead.” Her words were strained as she shrank into herself, anxiety plain as she fidgeted.
Feeling the aura of guilt around her, Envy struggled to process the feeling. “Uh, I’m not very good at this but I’m sorry you had to do it,” she said mechanically, trying to recite what her therapist suggested as a correct response.
"They shot me twice,” she said, fingers playing with the hem of her skirt, her shoulders starting to shake. “I could have just scared them off but I was so mad. I nearly ripped off a car door and caved his skull in.”
"You really should talk to your therapist,” Envy said hesitantly, sighing. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the same reaction to these things as most people. It was a traumatic situation but you were protecting yourself. Of course, I wouldn’t bat an eye if you’d told me you’d killed a Nazi in cold blood, but I’m told that’s the part of me that’s a little broken talking.”
"You aren’t broken,” Gráinne said slowly, “it’s just trauma.” She rubbed her shoulder nonchalantly.
Envy gave her a genuine smile. “Thank you. Sorry, I try to be good but I’m not one of the ‘good guys’.” Looking for a change of subject, she breathed a sigh of relief when Poe came into sight at the end of the path. “So that heritage-looking building is Poe. Don’t be fooled, it’s perfectly modern where it counts.”
"Made some modifications yourself?” Gráinne quipped.
"Only to my room,” Envy answered earnestly, smirking.
As they crossed the threshold, Envy explained where to find the House Mother, showers, bathrooms and the general layout of the building. With the minutiae out of the way, Envy led her down the hall towards her room.
"I’m not really well versed in capes versus villains. I think it’s a stupid black and white system,” she grumbled.
"Historically, it makes sense. Before there were schools, mutants didn’t have a lot of choices. Some used their powers in the service of governments, whether out of a sense of civic duty or coercion. They got the good press and became capes. Heroic mythology sprang up around them and now they’re as many symbols as people. Other mutants had to do what they could to survive and built an anti-establishment philosophy and community around criminal activity. Capes think the Villains are preying upon humanity, Villains think the Capes betrayed their own ideals by ignoring mutant genocide. It’s more complicated, of course, but that’s the summary. It’s still dumb. Personally, I don’t agree with everything my mother does, or what most Villains do, their ideology smacks of doing things to people for their own good. Some Capes are genuinely good but many of them stink of hypocrisy.”
"Makes sense,” Gráinne sighed. “Where is your door located?”
"End of the hall, on the corner,” Envy points as they stop in front of Morgan’s door. “If you need help I’m just down there.”
"I’m sorry I’m such a goober,” she replied carefully as she rubbed the back of her head.
"You’re not,” Envy said, starting to reach out but then stopping herself. “You’re good.”
Gráinne blushed bright red as she wrung her hands together. She drifted a little closer, “I have, like, no self-esteem.”
"I think you’ll surprise yourself once you start therapy and combat training,” Envy says encouragingly, “you’ve been through a lot, and you’ve been isolated, but that ends today.”
"Okay,” she nodded, leaning against the wall before falling silent for a few moments. “Can I,” she began, pausing in hesitation, “talk to you in the future?”
Envy blinked, blushing. She was so damn cute. “I, uh, yes, of course, you can. Knock on my door anytime.”
"Really?” she exclaimed as her green eyes lit up, struggling to hide a smile.
"Of course, you, uh, seem nice and we’ve gotten along well so far and you’re quite, um, beautiful and…” Envy froze, realizing what she just said.
She’d been nodding along with Envy until she said she was beautiful. Large emerald eyes widened, as her mouth opened agape in shock. “You think that? Really?”
"Ah! Y-yes? I do, I mean, you’re an exemplar so being hot is kinda our thing and I’ve always liked red hair and you’re cute and your eyes are pretty and I’m babbling! Shit! I’m sorry!” Envy blurted out, backing away nervously.
"No! No,” Gráinne waved her hand to try to get Envy to calm down. “Why are you freaking out? I’m a lesbian! I don’t mind the compliments at all.”
Envy freezes in place, looking around to make sure the hall was empty as she bit her lower lip. “But we only just met and it sounds like I’m coming on to you.”
"Uh, hello? I’m a girl who has no idea who she is ‘sides the voice in my head,” she scolded, taking a slow sigh to calm herself. “Why are you worried about this?”
"Who’s your Mom?” she asked, a trill of panic returning to her voice.
Collapsing against the wall opposite Gráinne, Envy hugged herself. “The Strega. She’s a supervillain enchantress.”
Gráinne went still for a moment as she thumbed her chin. “Wait… Wasn’t she the lady who held Paris hostage a while back?”
"Yeah,” Envy sighed, looking away. “She tried to blackmail the French government into helping find me when I was kidnapped by mimes. Long story. But she uses mind control and sex to get what she wants and I-I don’t want to do that.”
"Um,” Gráinne said, trying to buy time to think of something. “I wish I were better at people ‘cause I’d know the right thing to say. Not come off as either terrified of your Mom or gush over you. Uh, so…” She scratched her head, stammering. “I just met you, so your Mom’s reputation doesn’t really tell me who you are. Just that your Mom is super protective and I shouldn’t make her mad if we’re gonna be friends.”
"There’s that, but I don’t want to…” Envy trailed off, trying to organize her racing thoughts into words. “It’s going to seem like I’m doing the same thing to you that Mom does to people. You’re vulnerable right now and I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
"Morgan says you’re overthinking it and, while yes, I am actually weak to mental manipulation…” She paused, smacking herself in the forehead. “Please don’t pass that around.”
"We’ll get you some wards; I can help with that under faculty supervision,” Envy offered off-hand. “But I’m used to having to think about everything, to take every possibility into account, to be paranoid. Yeah, I’m in therapy for good reasons.”
"I just killed a guy,” Gráinne tried to say without melodrama, “I can’t throw stones.”
"Sorry, you don’t need to hear my problems,” Envy said, trying to smile.
"Um, you’re fine. I’m just trying to show you that there are no pain Olympics, life sucks equally,” she said, trying to sound sage-like.
"Yeah, I’m just… I don’t want to be my Mom, y’know? So I do think you’re beautiful but, um, goddess how to say this without sounding like a jerk…”
"Morgan says ‘outwit it ye sable-headed lass’,” Gráinne quoted, blushing.
"I would like to be friends,” Envy says very quickly, panic rising. “N-not that anything more isn’t possible later but I just don’t want to rush into anything and now it seems like I expected things to happen but it’s more that because of my mother’s reputation I need to state that, for the record, I’m not trying to get into your pants.”
"I… Uh…” Gráinne garbled as she tried to process the rapid-fire explanation. “I have no reaction to that.
Envy held her face in her hands. “I know, I’m being dumb. I’m so sorry,” she mumbled before backing away down the hall nervously. “I-I’ll get out of your way.”
With that, Envy fled down the hall, slipping into her room with barely the presence of mind not to slam the door.
Evening, November 10th, 2007 - Whitman Cottage
Sophia nervously pulled the tie knot free from around her neck. So far, even after having lunch with a few of her new Whitman mates, she'd been fortunate to avoid meeting her roommate. With the quiet of being uninterrupted on her side, she glided over to the luggage holding more of her clothing and proceeded to unpack it. The room itself was pretty standard dorm shape. Twenty feet by twelve feet, a small area down the middle about four feet wide or so for both occupants to stand side by side. She leaned against her faux maple desk. Her desk was already covered in bits of art she'd been working on over the last few weeks. Mostly traditional Salish art including one of her works of the Lummi Eagle. She was kind of proud of that picture, the pride that came with every artist’s desire to destroy and remake their art.
She glanced at her bed and walked over to it to flop down on her back. Her eyes were heavy at this point and all she could do was slowly drift off to sleep. Who cared if she had class the next morning! The young woman lazily picked up her phone from where she discarded it right by her pillow. As blue light flooded her face she set an alarm for a catnap and curled up to feel her mind lazily drifting away. It felt great to let the heaviness of exhaustion just take hold and let her body go numb from falling asleep. Thirty minutes of rest was what she needed.
A lone scape filled the vision in her mind's eye. Atop a tall Douglas Fir was a lone Raven, black eyes watched her as it tilted its head. The creature let out a loud caw as she walked toward the fir tree. She realized upon getting closer that she was wrong, or the tree itself morphed into a cedar. The evergreen smell permeated her nostrils as she stared straight up through branches. The Raven hopped from place to place down among the branches until it perched ten feet above her head.
"Who are you?" she asked.
Another tilt of the head and the Raven appeared almost amused by her question. Its beady black marble shaped eyes fixated on her for a moment. Lifting its head to the sky the Raven's caw burst forth, "PREPARE!"
"What?" she asked in response.
"PREPARE! PREPARE!" it cawed in response as it jumped from the branch and sailed above her in flight. She watched as the large black bird flew speedily over the horizon.
"NANI DES KA?" barked a voice suddenly and loud enough to shatter her dream. The loud guttural words caused her to sit up with a gasp. Brown eyes searched the room to find the source of the loud boisterous voice. A teenage girl dressed in the black blazer of the school with the Whitman tie hanging loosely around her neck. Blue-black hair cascaded down her head and framed her oval face. A pointed chin angled just below her tight pink lips gave her a steady scowl as she watched the newcomer on the bed. One of the strangest things about the girl was the steel needle hanging from between her lips. Her eyes were brown almost black with the right covered by a black banded eyepatch.
"What you lookin' at?" she retorted further in a gruff coarse voice.
"I don't know, the anime stereotype in front of me," the former cheerleader riposted.
"Ah fine," chirped the girl as she sat down on the bed. She crossed her legs from beneath her skirt and narrowed a singular eye.
"And you are?" Sophia said crossing her arms over her head.
"Tamahagane, Jeweled Steel in English," the girl replied before snarking, "And if I'm an Anime Stereotype then you're a total Himedere."
"I am not a fucking Princess!" she snapped. Brown eyes blazing with fury.
"I'm totally a Tsundere," the girl smiled as her almond-shaped eyes closed as she fell over giggling.
"Okay, I am going to assume you're Japanese since you seem to know this stuff better than most weaboo," Sophia sighed.
"Half-Japanese and Half-Korean on mom's side," the Tamahagane chuckled, "And you're First Nations."
"How do you know that?" Sophia inquired.
"First, few if any girls from the reserve ever lose that slight accent they got. Two, a few of my dad's contacts looked into you as they were pulling you into the office." She laid back and pounded her chest twice before withdrawing a long steel-colored practice sword from it. Shifting her arms Tamahagane wrapped her arms over the bodkin before sitting up lazily.
"How the hell would your father have contacts who can look at my name?" she asked.
"Syndicate," Tamahagane replied with a pout.
"Holy shit! Your dad's Steel Demon isn't he?" Sophia squawked.
"Yosh," she replied and gave a vigorous thumbs up.
"So what's your codename?" Tamahaganed asked.
"DuskWing and my real name is Sophia," Sophia nodded. "You're that kid who got kicked out of the top school in Vancouver right. Haruko Fujiwara?"
"Yeah, dad had to bribe a few school authorities to get me out of lockup," the Asian girl replied.
"Great, my roommate is one of the villain-spawn," Sophia threw her arms up in the air dramatically.
"So I'm a Bad Seed? What about it? Name's Haruko by the way," the more she talked; the more Sophia could pick out her low-brow accent.
"You really go whole hog with the Yakuza tough theme don't you?" Sophia asked. Haruko was busily unbuttoning her blazer to reveal a short sleaved v-necked white blouse beneath. That is most definitely not allowed in the uniform guide. What caught her attention though was she sheen of metal etched on the girl's skin. A silver lotus gleamed in the light of their dorm, and even more, designs scrolled their way down each arm she guessed from seeing the shortness of the sleeves. More metallic tattoos hinted at themselves along the girl's collar bone.
"Nice ink." Sophia leaned up against the wall against her bed and to stare directly at Haruko.
"It's my shell," the girl replied stiffly.
"You're a steel manifestor?" Sophia asked.
"So my steel senbon and pulling the bodkin out of my chest gave me away?" Haruko rolled her eyes.
"You aren't exactly subtle, just like a tsundere," Sophia smirked.
"Well." She let go of the bodkin and it remained solid as it lay just behind her head. Mirroring Sophia, Haruko slowly sat up and upon losing contact the steel bodkin disapparated.
"Well what?" she replied.
"Brass tacks then, I'm a Manifestor Four," Haruko rattled off the information.
"Wizard Three and Exemplar One," Sophia shook her head.
"Good, now that both of us are on an even keel," the Asian girl replied and cracked her knuckles nonchalantly. "We're both proud Rowdies, and we can maintain a little decorum."
"Rowdies?" Sophia asked quirking a brow.
"Something the Dickinson or Dicktwits came up for us a while back, and it stuck. Not a lot of girls use it, but I like being an underdog, it’s my schtick." Haruko crossed her arms and sat up while giving a sagely nod.
"Okay then," was all Sophia could say as she realized one thing. Fucking hell, I'm in a damn CW drama!
Chapter 2 - Ring, Ring It’s Recess
Early Morning, November 11th, 2007 - Whateley Campus, NH
"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" the loud dissonant cry of the alarm signaled my time to wake up. Promptly, I rolled over at the pain of interrupted unconsciousness. Some kids awaken with a jolt as their mind snaps into action. Me, no this wasn't happening today. I drifted toward the top and tore my way through the fog of REM sleep. Unlocking itself I felt a pang of agony wash through my skull and my eyes were overwhelmed by the bright light above me.
"DAMMIT LEXI!" I cried out in frustration as my roommate let out a demonstrative sigh. Suddenly, the light above me was turned off as I slowly rolled out of bed with a thump as my behind collided with the ground. Wincing, I gave my ass a gentle rub through my tight boyshorts and jumped to my feet. My chest and arse gave the prerequisite wiggle and I leaned back over my bed to begin straightening out.
"Rose," I heard from behind me as I glanced over my shoulder toward the curly-haired girl addressing me.
"Marguerite?" I shot back at her.
"We talked about you yelling in the morning!' she sat down across from me as I padded over to my armoire. Today was Sunday, and I was already late, or at least I felt like I was late. It didn't help that my body was still having issues adapting to the new timezone. Less than three days in and I had yet to adapt. A light growl escaped from my throat as I realized Lexi was already dressed for breakfast.
"You aren't going in your uniform?" Lexi, codenamed Shipwright chirped.
"No I am, its cold out so I'm going to wear the wool leggings mom sent me," I smiled as I dragged out the black leggings. Hell yeah, I was going to wear a skirt without worrying about my legs getting cold. After shimmying into the leggings I stepped into my skirt and zipped it up around my waist. That's when I realize I should have put my blouse on first. A small line of curses came under my breath as I gently unzipped the skirt and pulled a freshly ironed shirt from my armoire. By all the Gods above, why did women's buttons have to be the reverse of MEN!? What insane witchcraft was this that they made me deal with it.
I just had to wish of being a girl.
"Ye did, lass, sa in the ancient words o' our people - 'Quit yer bitchin'." Morgan's wit and sharp tongue were getting worse by the day. If I wasn't entirely sure I'd say she was getting better each day we were on the Whateley Campus. Perhaps it had something to do with the "heart of the forest" she felt the other day when we arrived. I was unsure really. Morgan was appearing more readily in mirrors as of late. A caveat, however, as she appeared to be only capable of doing it once a day and only for no longer than a minute.
"The Dullahan slew Sinead terribly, an' until now I had barely any memory of their horrible headless form." That was most definitely new. Immediately, I froze as a memory was shown to me. A strange figure in a reflection, and a sudden burst of pain in my chest. I gasped loud enough that Alexis gave me a worried look just as she was gathering her things. Alexis Marguerite Dunn was a short girl with just enough curves to be cute. She wasn't an Exemplar, but when it came to a Gadgeteer she easily rated a five or higher. The page boy cut she was sporting had nicely cut bangs, and easily one of the cutest of the Underdogs.
"You okay?" she asked while packing her notes for all I could guess was another research session. Lexi was pretty much B'elanna Torres and Data from Star Trek smashed together. Minus the Klingon anger and the android's lack of people skills. If there was anything she could achieve even if it seemed like a pipe dream I was sure she would eventually invent it.
"Yeah," I shook my head as I gathered my own notebook and a packet of mechanical pencils. In between my upcoming classes I wanted to get a little writing done and maybe some sketching. I wasn't an artist like Sloan, my little sister, who was already designing her own comics and taking up oil painting. Even my skill at the violin wasn't the best, but at least I wasn't half bad at writing. Or at least, that's what one of my English teachers told me.
"You looked like something was hurting you," she said as she finished pulling on her backpack. I refitted my skirt and smoothed out my blouse and the skirt. The small heels I wore fit quite nicely. A quick shake of my hips reminded me of the nice swish the skirt gave. Just as Lexi opened the door I finally was able to put things into words.
"Now and then, Morgan shares some of her dreams or memories of them," I said.
"Like how? Is she passing information to you or are you just getting images?" her eyes zeroed in on me with laser focus.
"Just images and feelings. Morgan's told me repeatedly she can't actually pass me the fullness of anything." I shrugged on my backpack and held the door open before closing it behind us.
Down the stairs and out through the common room, I caught sight of raven black hair and tan skin. I froze and watched the tall curved form of a girl who was obviously becoming my crush. Her legs peeked out from under the fringe of her skirt and were completely hairless. A bright red flush came to my face and all I could do was stutter.
"Gráinne, you're staring," Lexi remarked.
"Oh goddess," I said in embarrassment.
"You haven't heard about her have you?" Lexi asked carefully.
"No why?" I asked. Lexi shook her head as our talking easily drew Envy's attention and I was suddenly reminded that I had to get to breakfast.
The walk to Schuster and the Crystal Hall was uneventful. Most students gave me a wide berth with my white Ultra Violent armband on. There were a few kids who seemed to be psyching themselves up to come to talk to me, but most of the time I just gave them a glare and they backed off. While I felt no small shame in power, I was careful in using it. More than a few of them could easily take me and I'd likely find it hard to walk for a while.
As always I found myself eyeing the Crystal Hall dome and I smiled. Its really kind of sappy, but seeing a pretty building that I knew had enough food to feed me gave me a positive spring in my step. Brushing past the greater entrance of Schuster I was soon looking for Sophia. Where was she? Crystal Hall features multiple levels with most of the upperclassmen on the top and middle levels. One group of kids including a very loudly dress black teen seemed to just be off in their own world. Among them was a rather impressive naga girl (yes, I find snakes beautiful) who was absolutely gorgeous. A second or two of my little random teen minds before I noticed what appeared to be a large raptor signing at the boy.
Did I mention that this school was utterly the best thing ever! Nope? Dammit, I need to be more consistent.
Lexi made a beeline for the Underdog table, or what I was told was the Underdog table. I followed after her a few of them watched me as I sat down by her. One particular boy was looking my way I didn't know his name, but his eyes widened as soon as he saw my Ultra Violent armband.
"Alley-Oop’s kind of a perv," Lexi said as one of his friends stared at me before deciding I wasn't worth the trouble.
"Can we sit with your Lab friends next time," I suggested as I felt my breathing increase.
"Yeah, they're more likely to get your rager issue," she said with a sigh.
"All I can do is a punch hard thing, I can't invent a warp drive," I giggled.
"No," Lexi rolled her eyes before snorting, "But, you and a few of the Diedricks kids will get each other. And, I'm not working on a warp drive! I'm developing a system to prevent human flesh from being liquified during high g burns! It's to get us to Mars in less than a year!"
"Yup, shared trauma of our brains being the feckin' worst," I trilled. Most of that went over my head, but I could parse out the basics from something I read from Dune. I knew Lexi was a Gadgeteer Five, to say the least, but sometimes I wondered if she was downplaying her rating to me.
"STAY OUTSIDE TWO FEET," I snapped at one of the boys who immediately jumped backward.
"Yeah, let's get food and change tables," Lexi said as she gave me a careful yank. Already, as I glanced my way at a few of the kids I saw the solid grey of Twain Cottage or at least that's what I thought their stupid tie color was. Great, the GSD cottage would soon know about the crazy redhead of Poe! I considered adding an extra snarl before just following after Lexi toward the actual lunch line. Already, it was pretty long and as I waited I noticed Sophia walking towards me.
Unlike me, Sophia was already looking the part of the perfect school girl. Her tie was immaculate and as she broke away talking to one rather rough-looking girl she joined me and Lexi in line.
"Hey you two," the native girl said. She was wearing a pair of simple silver earrings in each ear. Those were new, I gave her a look and she smiled.
"So who was the girl you parted ways with, the one sporting the solid metal bodkin," I asked.
"Oh, that's Haruko, she's my roommate," Sophia added without saying else.
"Isn't she one of the Bad Seeds?" Lexi piped up.
"The what?" I asked. This was new to me. I mean, I had been on campus for a while, but most of my time had been spent setting up my room and trying to figure out how to not look like a hot mess in my uniform. Plus, there was extra powers testing they'd run me through the day after I arrived. Something about the DPA backed test back in Washington not being accurate enough. Whatever that meant.
"They're the kids of A to B list villains," Lexi explained to them, "one of the girls from Poe, Envy, she's the daughter of the Strega."
"I know, she told me," Gráinne replied calmly, "you know the saying, sins of the father, it's a bunch of shite."
Lexi and Sophia both shrugged.
"Just trying to make sure you're careful," Lexi commented.
"She's not wrong Gráinne, you attract bad luck like honey to bees," replied my best friend and surrogate mom.
"Yeah," I sighed. Maybe, I was being irrational, but there was something about Envy I couldn't quite put my finger on. I let the thought wander for a bit as I piled food onto my plate. Enough bacon to fill up my stomach twice over, and a good amount of hash for the extra sugar. Promptly we found a place near the Lab kids table as Lexi fell into talking to one of the other Gadgeteers.
"Lex, did you say there was a kid here who was a master of brewing?" I asked out of the blue.
"Yup!, Shine, he's basically an alcohol devisor," Shipwright commented. Sophia's eyes widened at that and she shook her head. I understood why it bothered her. There were still stories of people getting Lummi's drunk and using their inebriation to sign away land. I'm not kidding, an entire fucking family on Lummi Island has basically spent years doing such a thing. You know when you get that utterly sick feeling to be related in any way to a group of people. That's how I felt when I saw her face.
"Mortals and Spirits are like in that ye always have tat one arse who has to ruin it all fer everyone else." Morgan's rumbling growl at my memory brought me back to the present. I rose from my seat and walked my tray over to the busing bins nearby and stacked it with the rest. Sophia was already stretching as I returned and Alexis was once again discussing starship design with the new devisor freshmen.
"I need ta go off ta da offices," I slurred. My accent shifted as I felt my emotions wavering and preparing to run into a wild mood swing.
"I"ll see ye later back here for lunch then?" Lexi asked. Shipwright was a nice girl, and she seemed to have a bee in her bonnet to keep an eye on me. Likely it was Miss Horton, our House Mother's word in her ear. Sophia herself walked over before mumbling a question for a hug and I acquiesced. As my best friend, she was one of the few who could just hug me without permission, but still, she respected my space. I could almost feel her depression kicking up and I whispered a few small words of encouragement.
"K. I'll see y'all here after my therapy today," I heard the usual acknowledgments before I picked up my bag and skipped out past the door.
"WATCH IT!" I heard just as I nearly collided with a girl a few inches taller than me. "Damn lass, didn'a expect ye ta get all fay before I was stronger." Another tall blonde and a single look deliver the same results of what I was coming to call the Exemplar Girl Package. Or to put in mutable terms, a curvy tall woman with a body most models would kill for. She even had the stereotypical blue or grey eyes. Honestly, I wasn't looking at her eyes as she thrust her puffed out chest to me. Oh shit, I noticed the other two girls flanking her. One was the required brunette and another had dark hair which I assumed was black. It was hard to tell as I knew enough of what I was dealing with.
"Um, hi," I waved and flashed my Ultraviolent Armband. The white one which declared I would hulk out and attack most people who angered me.
"Stupid Frosh! Like, can you watch where the heck you are going?!" one of the girls at the blonde's side said.
"Um okay," I said as the Queen Bee shoved past me and gave me the usual shoulder shove. Except when she tried to do it I didn't really move.
"I'm an exemplar four," I mumbled as she glanced at me, and her eyes widened just the smallest fraction. Cheerleader Queen rolled her eyes as all teenage girls do and made a hasty retreat.
"Royal arse bitch she is, bout as bad as Queen Elizabeth! Though not as bad as her feckin shite of an Uncle!" That was new, I blinked as Morgan coughed up a few facts about her knowledge of the world. My spirit was still keeping a lot of her past close to her chest. I kept walking to put as much distance between me and Queen Bee as possible. The grand opening hall of Schuster met my gaze as I did my best to power walk through it. Again, as was becoming my usual treatment the kids in front of me evenly split aside to let me pass.
"Freak," someone yelled at me. Welp, at least my entire life hadn't changed too much. I caught the purple of Melville, and I let out a loud growl to make them walk away faster. I was through the doorway to the offices and quickly located the desk of the registrar. The office worker behind the desk a woman who looked a little worse for wear told me that once again I would be speaking to Assistant Headmistress, Amelia Hartford.
Why do they keep sending me to a woman that everyone in Poe seemed to lovingly name Miss Hardass? I hoped she was less judging of my uniform as the first day I met her and I soon found myself wanting as I padded over to her desk.
"Ah, Miss O'Callaghan, seems you are once again under my purview," she adjusted her glasses in what I could only be reminded as the classic anime style. You know when the smarmy asshole silently flips you the bird? No? Well, go watch a fucking anime then!
"Miss O'Callaghan, I would remind you that you should pay attention to when -I- speak." Those words ripped me from the little world my brain went to.
"Sorry, Miss Hartford," I murmured.
"Now, as Miss Carson is busy dealing with a few recent developments," she began and took a pile of paper and tapped it lightly on the top of her desk to align it. I did what years of authority figures ingrained into me - I shut up and put my hands in my lap to listen.
"Ah yes, shall we continue," I noted the lack of a question there. "Your schedule required a bit of discussion among the current faculty. There were a few protestations, to say the least mostly because while you show potential in magic, your well seems almost stagnated in it's status."
"Oh is that bad?" she asked slowly.
"No, you will be taking Magic basics with Miss Grimes, you'll just not be doing any spells any time soon, from what I'm told," she adjusted her glasses another time. Hartford gave me a few minutes to download all the information.
1400-1500: Therapy with Dr. Otto Octavius Jr., PsyD
0900-1200: Assigned Weekly Tutoring Period
Optional 1: Orchestra
Breakfast: Free Period
Period 1: BMA
Period 2: English 1
Period 3: World History
Lunch: Free Period
Period 5: Powers Theory
Period 6: Avatar 1
Period 7: Algebra 1
Optional 2: Biology 1
Optional 3: Intro to Magical Arts
Dinner: Free Period
I looked over the assigned periods exceeding ten classes a day. Of course, I let out a groan and covered my face as I imagined how I was going to keep up with all this.
"No whining Miss O'Callaghan, it's not professional, at least make an attempt to hide your contempt," Hartford chided me. Sitting up straight I gave her a sharp nod before taking the piece of paper in hand.
"Sorry, ma'am," I sighed as I took a few minutes to put myself together. I still had a lot of my Sunday to burn up, but I had a sinking feeling that very soon my day was about to get a lot more complicated than I wanted.
Breakfast, November 11th, 2007 - Whateley Campus
Fina blinked as Haruko snapped her fingers in front of her face. She gave the Japanese girl an icy look like the background noise of lunchroom chatter faded back into her awareness. “What?”
Stheno giggled, her hair snakes hiding behind her back. “You looked like you were a million miles away,” Haruko said, smirking. “You ok?”
"I’m fine,” Fina answered, going back to eating the small pile of food on her plate.
"Well, yeah, but are you ok?”
Fina rolled her eyes. She couldn’t get a bead on Haruko’s sexuality but there had been a number of otherwise heterosexual girls who had hit on her lately. It was getting hard to tell friendliness and sexual interest apart. “I am ok,” she stated firmly, “I’ve got therapy this afternoon, so I’m a little distracted.”
Haruko made a face. “Gah, headshrinkers.”
"Do all the Bad Seeds have therapy?” Stheno asked. Despite the name and her gorgon looks, she wasn’t a Bad Seed or even a prospective villain to Fina’s knowledge. It seemed that she and Haruko just clicked for some reason.
"Nope,” Haruko answered, “not that they don’t try. Sometimes we get sent to a therapist if we get caught doing something antisocial but it’s usually a waste of time. They just want to talk about our parents, probably snooping. It’s harassment!”
"Ooooh, what did you do, Envy?” Stheno asked, leaning forward to listen.
Haruko winced and gave Fina an apologetic glance. “I got kidnapped by one of my Mother’s old enemies, who stole one of my eggs while I was unconscious and had to fight my own way out with lethal force,” Fina said matter-of-factly. “I’m not in trouble, the doctors want to keep an eye on me in case I have PTSD.”
"Oh,” Stheno said, looking guilty. “Uh, I’m sorry.”
Fina shrugged. “It’s ok, we found and destroyed the egg.”
Something about Fina’s blase attitude seemed to shock Stheno. Haruko leaned over to whisper to her, “It’s ok, Bad Seeds are used to some crazy shit hanging around our parents. You get used to it.”
Fina sensed the interloper approaching before the other two. He wasn’t subtle about his gaze as he approached her from eight o’clock, listing to his left to see if he could peer around her shoulder to sneak a peek at the curve of her breast. Haruko noticed him a moment later, Fina could see her shift her stance to a defensive position, instinctive for someone well trained. Stheno noticed him last, though her snakes glared at him suspiciously.
"Uh, hi Envy,” he greeted her, forcing a wide smile to hide his nerves.
Slowly turning, Fina took in his skinny form, plain boyish face with a prominent pimple on his forehead and dirty blonde hair and immediately took him for an Underdog. She felt a pang of pity and guilt in the pit of her stomach as she desperately hoped he wasn’t here to try what she thought he was. Kicking puppies wasn’t her thing.
Like a train wreck, he continued interminably into a disaster. “Hey, babe, I’ve got my hands on some free movie tickets for tomorrow night…”
And like that her sympathy evaporated. “Who are you?” Fina asked, interrupting his pitch.
He blinked, put on the back foot. “Uh, I’m Alley-Oop, the star player for the freshman basketball team, you’ve probably seen me play.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, though the line of his gaze was below her chin.
"That’s a fancy way of saying you prematurely ejaculate spanking the monkey in an alleyway,” she said, “I’d rather you take your dribbling balls somewhere else, you’re spoiling my meal.”
Stheno’s jaw dropped. The corners of Haruko’s lips twitched as she fought against her mirth. Alley-Oop eyes were wide as he paled in shock, slowly turning to walk away zombie-like from the scene, merging back into the crowd without a word.
"Damn, Envy,” Haruko chortled. “You really are the ice queen. Jadis needs to watch out, you’ll steal her name.”
"You could have left him a little bit of dignity,” Stheno whispered, scandalized. “Poor boy.”
"No, I couldn’t,” Fina disagreed. “Guys like that will keep trying if you give them so much as a drop of sympathy. Underdog or not, he’s a contemptible snot that sees people as tools to be used to climb the social ladder. To him, I’m a trophy, nothing more.”
"You could say he’s driven by envy,” Haruko quipped, innocently drawing circles on the table with the condensation on the base of her drink.
Fina rolled her eyes. “Seriously, you think the therapists here are really being used to harass the Bad Seeds?”
"The faculty’s getting more and more hostile to us,” she answered, sobering. “Security’s snooping around our operations, it’s getting harder for us to operate as fixers and do business. Faction Three and other operations aren’t feeling the same pinch, though. Something’s going down.”
"I’ll ask Mom to make a few calls,” Fina said.
"Is there a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff between the Bad Seeds and the Capes?” Stheno asked.
"Not usually,” Fina answered. “Capes don’t do cloak and dagger as a rule. Frankly, though, the cliques are kinda bullshit.”
"Well, take the Bad Seeds. Our philosophy and attitudes are supposed to be defined solely by our parents? That’s a load of crap, villains are possibly the most diverse community in the world and we are equally diverse in attitudes. The Capes aren’t all good guys, some just want to get famous and ride the gravy train. Faction Three identify themselves through their perceived disability, Underdogs for strength in numbers… None of that tells you anything about who someone is as a person. There are Underdogs that are better people than most Capes.”
"Just not Alley-Oop,” Setheno snickered.
"Definitely not Alley-Oop,” Haruko agreed.
Feeling someone else’s eyes on her, Fina shifted to glance across the room from the corner of her eye. To her surprise, it was Gráinne, red hair fiery as it caught the light from the crystal dome just right. She was being subtle about it, pretending to listen as her friend talked, but she was interested in a lot more than Fina’s breasts. Fina recognized the girl Gráinne was sitting with as her roommate, Shipwright. She had a serious look on her face and kept glancing towards Fina’s table without actually looking.
Fina was tempted to read her mind but forced herself to look away instead. “I better go, therapy in ten minutes,” she said, getting up as they gave each other their farewells.
A half-hour later, Fina was glad to have something else to focus on other than herself as she found herself sitting across from a stout balding doctor who gave her a fatherly smile. “Afternoon, Seraphina,” Dr. Otto greeted her, “you’re looking well.”
"I’m an exemplar, doctor, we always look well,” Fina sighed.
He looked sympathetic. “I’m hearing in your voice that you’re feeling some stress.”
I smiled, understanding the probing technique he was using. “I’m used to getting blowback because of my mother but dealing with it every day is tiring. But I’m not used to getting hit on by boys or having capes warn people around me not to become my friend.”
"So you’ve got two problems you’re not used to handling.”
"I think I’ve got the boys under control, it helps that I can be intimidating when I want to. You have to give them a solid bop on the nose and they’ll leave you alone.”
"But you don’t feel you can stop people from talking about you behind your back.”
"Not without mind control… That was a joke.”
He smiled. “I know. Do you have any ideas what you can do about it?”
I rubbed my forehead. “Not really. I can feel people’s jealousy and fear. There are times when people talk to me and I can feel this kind of gulf between us. I get that they aren’t used to random kidnappings and people dying, I mean they’re kids.”
"And you’re not?”
"I am but I’ve got a lot more life experience than they do. I’m more grown-up, I think. Or more damaged, one of the two. I’ve had to take control of my own fate, I’m alone here, I can’t call on Mom or the faculty or anyone when I’m outside this office. I can only hope that my actions speak louder than gossip.”
"Do the Bad Seeds still have their support networks?”
"Yeah but I’m not going to use them. Associating with the Bad Seeds more than I do will just put me square in the sights of the capes and some of my peers in Poe will inevitably rush for them. I want to stay out of it.”
"Have you considered joining the capes? Not that I’m suggesting that course of action, just curious about your opinion.”
Sitting up, I shook my head. “Considered? Yes. But I rejected the idea. There’s a lot wrong with my mother, I don’t agree with her methods, but I believe in her agenda and I’m loyal to her.”
"You’ve told me that she’s manipulated you.”
"Yes, but let’s face it, you’re a therapist doctor. At least half of your job is about manipulating people into self-examination and tricking them into helping themselves. You’re manipulating me, I manipulate the boys who hit on me, those people who think I’m dangerous try to manipulate others into abandoning me. Society is a manipulative dance, influence can be used to good ends too.”
"So you believe your mother manipulated you for your best interests?”
"From her perspective. She’s not always right, that’s why I disagree with her methods. I’m aware that being mean to the boys that hit on me might bite me in the ass but it’s the only practical way of getting them to leave me alone without doing much worse. And I can’t do anything about the people judging me and soiling my name without being the villain they say I am.”
Fina paused, taking a deep breath and going through her meditative rituals. Once she was calm, she continued. “Thirteen years of martial arts training, one of the most powerful mutants in school, and I’m helpless, impotent, powerless in the face of gossip and public opinion. That’s why I’m stressed, doc. When I came here I hoped I’d be able to hang around with people like me, make friends, start over. But I’m getting isolated yet again.”
"Is there some way you can talk to people? Reassure them that you don’t want to hurt anyone?”
"Despite how I look, I’m not exactly the extroverted type and I’m not great at being reassuring. I haven’t had a lot of interactions with people my own age and I tend to panic,” Fina admitted, blushing. “Stupid, really.”
Dr. Otto smiled brightly. “It’s not stupid, you know your weaknesses, that’s a good thing. Now that we’ve identified a problem, we can work on it. Right?”
Fina smiled. “Right.”
An Hour Later, November 11th, 2007 - Room 236
Leaving Schuster I sped across Campus while making my way back to Poe. I needed a few moments of respite before being plunged into a forced therapy session. Upon entering my Room at 236 I flopped down on the bed across from Shipwright. Lexi sat cross-legged on her bed, a small thin custom laptop perch across both knees. Her usual brushed hair was quite frazzled hinting at her previously lying position. I didn't bother looking at the screen since that was a bit too obviously rude for me to accomplish. But in her hand was a small note pad and she was furious scribbling in it.
"Sorry to interrupt what I'm going to assume are some calculations," I said just as I sat up and leaned against my pillows. "I need a clearer low down of what this place is like. Half of the traditional cliques aren't even here. For fuck sakes, I've seen what can only be called the Next Generation of the Justice League!"
That last one drew a small smile from Alexis as she set down her notepad and pushed her laptop aside before gently closing it. She started off simply, "Whateley has changed a bit since last year. The top clique, the Alphas had a falling out with its old leader a real perv named Don Sebastian."
Who the hell names their kid like that? Lexi then proceeded to lay out the general order of the lunchroom in her, what I was coming to understand, usual clinical style. Most of Whateley's biggest "cliques" were either school clubs such as the Literary Club or the Euro-Promotional League or training teams made up the student social groups. Instead of a clear popular kids table, many of the team and club leads were part of the Alpha Council.
"Team Kimba is one of the teams located here almost exclusively at Poe," in the back of my head I began to organize the tables of Crystal Hall in my mind. It kind of made sense with the Lab Kids and The Underdogs.
"So...I mean this all sort of makes sense in a weirdly X-Men sort of way," I laughed.
"Not really, we have I guess what you can call a danger room, but we don't have kids actually fight in it," she snerked.
"Yeah, I did always find it weird that Charles had basically a team of Child Soldiers," I remarked as we went into heavy topic territory.
"Gráinne, has anyone told you how dark your mind is?" Lexi replied.
"Wouldn't be the first I heard of it." I replied as I decided to change the subject, "So...why did that Alley-Oop boy keep staring at me with his creepy little friend?"
"Who? Pythia?" she asked and I mentally re-attached the name to the snake skinned GSD girl.
"No, she's cute," I replied flashing a small smile as Lexi giggled.
"Oop possesses a slight fixation on Envy and Exemplar girls like her," I nodded. Honestly, I couldn't fault the guy, as an Exemplar woman I was already feeling the beat of my hormones. If Envy's hair wasn't so damn luxurious I wouldn't stare at it so much. Just the idea of running my hand through it gave me goosebumps.
"Great, so I need to be aware of a little monster who could make me rage out during lunch," I sighed.
"Nah, we'll sit with my friends at the Lab table," Lexi countered.
"I love Science and Scifi Lexi, but it's not exactly my thing," I said.
"Well, maybe Sophia can help you there," Lexi twisted her hand outward to me in an offering gesture. Just as I gave a smile and prepared a reply, it was when Morgan spoke up.
"Look at the clock lass." On cue, I shot a glance at the digital clock fitted to the wall above our desks. It clearly read 2:03 PM and I found myself leaping from my bed backpack in hand.
"See ya," I waved just as I was out the door. A green-haired elf girl was nearly in my way before I swung around her leaving me dizzy.
"Watch it!" she yelled at me as I swept down the stairs and off to meet my shrink.
Ten Past Two PM, November 11th, 2007 - Doyle Medical Complex
"Óró sé do bheatha abhaile!" I sang the words aloud in Irish as I sped along across the main space that separated Doyle from Melville and Poe Cottages. While running Morgan had said the first line and I repeated it back aloud. The lines flowed from my lips and my tongue danced to let the trilling syllables free. A girl named Gráinne, my namesake was imprisoned for a crime. Morgan's story wove as she didn't tell me, but let her thoughts dance along with the music. An image of a woman defiantly standing before old Dublin Castle.
"Óró sé do bheatha abhaile!" the words sprang for a forth time and I was nearly upon the entrance of Doyle as I sang, "anois ar theatch an tsamraidh."
I pushed open a glass framed entrance door and let the woosh of air created by the cold temperature outside press over my face. Scents of disinfectant and much more.
"Sing with me lass, focus on the song, banish your anxiety focus with me." On and off in my dreams and in between Morgan was doing her best to teach me, Irish. Not the standard form they wrote on documents in Ireland, but the form spoken by the people of Galway.
"Sé do bheatha, a bhean ba léammhar." I mouthed the words in time to the music she played for me. 'Welcome, oh woman, who was afflicted'. Gaelic music was dour at times, but much of the depression in it was defiant in the face of adversity.
"I use ta sing this wit Sinead when she was young." Morgan's words were braced with sorrow and were upheld in a deep grief I was still coming to understand. We both were traumatized by the events of our lives. Morgan's was far older and ran deeper, but trauma was trauma. I can't compare myself to an ancient spirit, because I'm not her. I stopped just inside as I read through a small directory of offices and found where I was to meet Doctor Otto.
The next line came to mind, "Do b'é ár gcreach thú bheith i ngéibheann."
"Your fine land in the possession of the thieves!" Morgan sang the reply in English this time as I smiled.
"And you sold to the foreigners," I sighed as I stood in front of the open door.
"That was quite beautiful, Gráinne," said a kind fatherly voice from within the room. It didn't make me calm right away. In fact, immediately I bared my teeth and crossed my arms defiantly. A man sat on a wooden reclining chair situated in the corner of the room. Atop a table in the middle of the room was a small hotplate with a pot of water sat on it heating up as the smell of mint tea greeted me. Defensively, I scanned the room slowly to take it all in. The table was parallel to a brown plush couch. I crept over to the couch and drew my knees up to my chest and hugged them.
"Doctor Otto?" I asked as I stared at the man whose mustache was carefully tailored to run along his lips. A small beard complimented the look and along with his short brunette hair.
"Yes, that is me," he said. Worry lines were worn hard into the man's face and as I tried to get a read on him Morgan spoke up.
"This man cares for his craft."
"Gráinne, do you know why you were assigned to my care?" he asked slowly.
"I was raped," I replied. Well, that wasn't the exact truth. There was never any penetration, just groping and painful abuse at the hand of those fucking bastards. My rage seeped from that ripped open scar and I let out a hard demonstrative sigh to expel it.
"Yes, no matter the extent of the abuse you faced," his words weren't exactly encouraging, "you survived a trauma. And, in a movement of pure courage, you fought back."
"I almost killed one of them," I said louder than I wished.
"It was self-defense," he replied.
"I was almost sent to jail for it," I sighed.
"You are not responsible for their actions, and for what happened to you," he sat there with a laptop in his lap.
"Why do they do it? Why did they attack me?! I didn't do a thing to them!" I shouted.
"Gráinne, I would like you to take a deep breath," he finished writing something on his computer and offered some tea, "Would you like some mint tea to calm yourself?"
"Ye - yes," I relented.
"This one is very patient, respect his words, my heart." Morgan's words came just as Dr. Otto picked up a strange looking chart from an end table by his chair. About two feet white, the thing was laminated. A range of colors from light green to the far left to dark red on the far right. He set it down and his laptop as well as he rose on his feet to retrieve a teacup from a nearby cupboard. Pouring the tea I kept my eyes on him the entire time, any sound too loud resulted in a visible flinch from me. Why was I so damn scared of my own therapist?
"You are showing the hyper-reaction and awareness often associated with rape survivors," he spoke to me after handing me the cup.
"...They are?" I asked. So I wasn't just going mad out of my gourd?
"Yes," Otto replied, "you're likely suffering from a form of PTSD. The Flashbacks listed in your file indicate a serious trauma."
"But they didn't rape me!" I protested.
"Gráinne, they abused you. Took away your agency and hurt you." His words were kind, and they bit deep into my sulking defenses. He was right, they had hurt me. Sure, the bastards hadn’t sexually penetrated me, but they'd physically assaulted me and talked of raping me.
"I - uh," I tried not to stutter in front of the man as he poured me another cup of tea. I sipped at the mint and let it settle my slowly nauseating stomach.
"I'm going to be expanding our sessions to two hours from now on. We'll be doing some basic discussion of your life and some means to help you regain control of your life." I nodded in return. Dr. Otto went on to explain that lifestream integration would mean I'd need to recount my experiences for the past year. This included my two encounters with Brad Finkbonner and his band of chimps. As we reached the early period of my manifestation I found myself gripping the edge of the couch cushions hard enough to tear a large chunk from them.
The level of disassociation I felt between what Dr. Otto was saying and how I felt was purely nauseating. I should feel a greater level of pain than I did right? These men violated me and all I'd done the second time was protest. Was I really a survivor if I did nothing? But...if I gave into my anger I'd likely kill again. What was I supposed to do?
"There be no comparison of pain and agony lass. The trauma I felt in war is no greater than what you experienced in abuse. You are a good person for accepting that ending the bastard's life wasn't necessary. But it was his fault he showed up and tried to shoot your family with his minions." Morgan's telepathic voice waned between the careful trill of her brough and between like the one I used every day.
I didn't realize, but Dr. Otto had ceased speaking and was pouring my third cup of tea. The mint calmed me enough that he waited for me to regain my focus and I gave a blush of embarrassment.
"Gráinne, our time's about up. If you do need to talk or are just needing a friendly message here is my number so you can send me a text." He handed me his card and kept his distance as he easily read the unease on my face. Staring at the card in my hand I noted the number and added him as a contact on my gizmatic phone.
"There is one thing I'm going to ask you Gráinne," he said to me as I was gathering my things and I gave him a small glance.
"Yes, Doctor?" I asked a little warily.
"I'm sending you an email to your school account. It's a form I'd like you to fill out. Just in case something bad happens. I want you to send it back to me before our next session," he never failed to speak in that calm and even voice.
"Yes, I will try my best Doctor," I said and gave him a wave before walking out the door.
Chapter 3 - A Day In The Life
Early Morning, November 12th, 2007 - King Auditorium
Have I mentioned how much I hate mornings? Like, I don't just -dislike- or find them -disappointing-. No, I -fucking hate- getting up before 10 AM in the morning. You'd think that years’ worth of early rising would have prepared me for it the day I now lived in the mutant school. Oh hell no! I still -hated- mornings and my body still decided to make me feel like I was weighed down by thick pieces of lead all over my body. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I got myself together and was able to shuffle into my uniform. I took an extra five minutes to clean myself off and packed my things for the next hour.
Unlike before the violin case weighed nothing in my hands. It didn't drag at me as I walked out of the room and closed the door. I checked my school registration pamphlet and noted the location of my first class, Music in King Auditorium. I took a few short breaths before setting off at a power walk to make the first bell. I arrived just in time as did a few other freshmen. One group was assembling into a traditional string quartet as others were busily playing to each other.
I pulled out my violin and caressed the neck and scroll. The strings were decent quality though I did want to eventually get some gut strings. One of my favorite and most annoying advantages of being an Exemplar was my increased sense of tune. I thumbed the A string and quietly sung a tune and gently fitted the peg until the string was set. Next, I cleaned off the used rosin from the days before using a soft cloth and reapplied it to my bow. Now, by using the A string I was able to tune the harmony of both my d and e string. The g wasn't the hardest after all that work.
Not being the most awake I didn't respond immediately when Mister King attempted to get my attention. You'd think a tall Elvis impersonator would grab my focus as soon as he spoke, nope. It was about three seconds doing one final check of my violin that I finally heard Mr. King clear his throat. Slowly and painfully, my eyes swept up towards the man's face as he crossed his arms and gave a slow shake of his head. Dammit! Why did it have to be today?
"Miss Ní Callaghan, why don't you show us a bit of your skill?" the tall man asked. His words were kind, but I could tell he was annoyed that I'd been so caught up in my own little world. I took a deep breath before deciding to respond. Without thinking I dragged a finger over the strings of violin finding a small playful tune as I picked at the strings to get my mind working
"Um okay," I said as I tried to think of what the hell I was going to play.
Being a violinist my preferred form of music usually fell between fiddle and classic baroque period pieces. I rummaged in my backpack as every eye was on me. My eyes flipped up to Mister King and I set my bow down and switched it back and forth. The slow notes slid into the dual string as I opened into the beginning of King of the Golden Hall from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. By the time I was done I set my violin down and gave a light smile.
"Not bad Miss Ní Callaghan," he said with a smile. I did like the fact he was using the Ní rather than the masculine Ó. Still, how did he know about it? Likely my parents, or more than likely Sophia's mother.
"Thanks for letting me play," class moved onward from there. Most of the early morning groups appeared to be focused on group play. At least one small string quartet, a nascent rock band, and finally someone I didn't recognize.
"Fine - fine." The voice was a lazy alto and I noted the Asian woman with a long steel bodkin rest between her legs while she leaned on it.
"Miss Fujiwara, you're listed as being a singer, why don't you show us what you can do," the girl let go of her bodkin and stood up revealing her long straight black hair tied in a high ponytail.
"Sure, teach!" she chirped before standing atop her chair.
"Anyone mind playing a few cords for me?" she asked and a kid nearby struck up something as she started a quick vocal warm-up. I smiled, this girl wasn't being serious, but she did at least like it. To me, singing was a way to manage my anxiety.
"Thanks," she sighed before running her hands over her body.
"Hey folks, here's the story of Minnie the Moocher!
She's just a low-dow hoochie-coochah!
That girl was rough and tough as nails.
But Minnie she had a heart - as big as a whale"
Minnie the Moocher? That was one of my favorite songs and the girl was nailing the ragtime sound spot on. She spun around and went into the second verse before giving a bow at an end of her display.
Just After Breakfast, November 12, 2007 - Laird Hall
Changing in the girl's locker room before my new Phys Ed class was a weird experience. I was used to a very specific scenery back at home and for the first time, I wasn't sure what to make of it. This is the point in all of the usual transformation stories where I tell it was like being a kid in a candy shop. Let's be clear, I'm a lesbian, a big fat lesbian. But, I was more creeped out by the girl's brush past me and triggering my flashbacks. Also, unlike a lot of those kids, I chose who I was. Pulling on my gi for the class I readjusted my sport's bra and the workout shorts I wore under my gi's trousers.
Did I get a few nice looks at the girl's around me - yes, yes I did? But, it didn't go beyond the usual level of a hormonal teenager and honestly, it was less creepy than a few of the kids back at Poe. Yeah, I'm not going to go into it. Locking my combination lock in place I followed the rest of the girls out onto the floor.
"Ah, good you are all here," I heard a slightly accented voice say. Not far away I noticed an older Japanese man observing the rest of the class. Making a beeline for the man I came to stand in front of him and offered a small bow. His face was lightly tanned, and shaped like a rounded square. His eyes were focused on the assortment of students taking a seat in a circle around a set of gym mats. I noted the light fuzz of his grey hair and his stance reminded me of many Martial Arts Teachers I'd spied in a few dojos and dojang. His arms were crossed behind his back as light blue hanto was draped over his frame.
"You as well Gráinne," he addressed me with a simple shift of his eyes.
"Um....hello Itoke-sensei," I said remembering the basics of honorifics.
"Soke, Itoke-soke," he corrected me, "Tolman is your sensei. I am the head of teaching therefore I am the soke."
"Apologies soke, while I have Japanese family I have not had the best education in proper manners," I replied with a blush of shame.
"Well, it is good to know you understand the uniform requirements for this school," he replied to me and offered a small smirk.
"Gráinne Ní Callaghan," said a tall curvaceous black woman standing nearby Ito. A black bodysuit covered her body and revealed every precise curve of her muscles. Her hair was braided and beaded back from what I could only guess was hours of work. A finely manicured eyebrow rose as she gave me a questioning look. Tolman's lips tense and a small shift of her brown eyes gave me the feeling she was unimpressed with me.
"Ye-yes, Tolman-sensei?" I stuttered. My hands wrung together as I couldn't control how my eyes darted across all the children.
"Once the current spar is done," she continued and used her right thumb to direct my vision to two girls currently facing off against one another.
"I...I'd like to request that I only spar with women," I said anxiously.
"What?" Tolman asked me.
"I'm...I'm a rager," I sputtered.
"The white band on your arm makes that rather clear," Tolman-sensei chided me.
"Yes...but I was nearly raped at my last school and I-." I stopped as I caught Tolman's expression. A flash of anger across her face as she shifted her stance from one foot to the other and popped out her right hip.
"Understood. I will speak with Ito-soke about this. Your opponent will be Tamahagane, she's currently fighting Kitty," Tolman-sensei informed me and pointed to the current conflict. A fox-eared woman with obvious Exemplar curves was fencing up against the girl from Music Class. I watched as the Japanese girl used a bodkin to slap aside the fox girl's weapon before breaking her hold with a quick strike to her sword-bearing wrist. It was as the redhead drew closer I finally noticed her wavering twin-tails. Wait, was she some kind of Kitsune? A GSD?
"Match to Haruko, well done Fujiwara-chan," Ito said simply.
"Domo Arigatou gozaimasu Ito-soke," she snapped. Did she always have an eye patch?
"Fox, you have shown an improvement since you joined us last year." Tolman-sensei was the one to speak as she traded a smile with Ito-soke.
"I want you to continue your training with Miss Beaumont as soon as possible. You have improved greatly, and I believe you should consider speaking to Beaumont about Iiajutsu." Her words were delivered with succinct precision.
"Oui, Maître d'Armes," Kitty replied before taking a seat among the rest of the spectating students.
"Fujiwara-chan, you will now spar with Miss O'Callaghan," Ito-soke smiled as he addressed the sword-wielding girl with a friendly honorific. Strange, why was I still Miss O'Callaghan?
"Hai, soke!" Haruko said and gave a snide smile. I walked out onto the circle and felt everyone's eyes on me. I had no combat experience what so ever so this was likely to be short and painful.
"This spar will be strength and skill only. No weapons or holdouts allowed! No usage of any other power other than your speed, dexterity and what you as a student can bring to the floor!" snapped Tolman-sensei, “Hajime!”
I glanced at Haruko as the woman's rosebud shaped lips were set in a thin line. Her brown eyes watched me as she offered me a small bow and I returned it with hands at my sides. I'd seen enough karate combat on the internet to understand I wasn't going to piss off my opponent by not returning a bow. There was a moment of silence as I slowed my breathing so I could gain a modicum of focus and calm my nerves.
Absentmindedly, I felt my eyes wandering their gaze over the crowd and found familiar black hair and light Tuscan tanned face. I froze on her green eyes as I tried to not catch her looking at me, and just as I was about to turn one thing, well two happened. First, I heard the word "BEGIN" shouted by Tolman-sensei, and second I felt the impact of a hard two punches to the front of my face.
"Tch, fight harder!" Haruko growled at me as she prepared to deliver another two hard punches to my face. I jumped back trying to put distance between us and found her pushing the attack. Three solid punches and a kick aimed at my middle and all I could do was use my shin to barely block it. With my Exemplar strength, I was easily able to weather the beating, but she was pushing me back and forced me to try something. Jumping over her I spun around to deliver a downward punch ended up hitting the ground as she rolled out of the way.
"Such a damn shame! Keep trying Aka-chan," she smiled at me.
"SHUT UP!" I snapped as I could feel my anger boiling up as it did. My eyes narrowed and I snarled while running at her. She sidestepped me and sent me skidding on my knees.
"How can an Exemplar be so terrible," she said just as she kicked my head causing me to see stars.
"FUCK YOU!" I screamed and lunged at her leading to two tattooed arms grabbing my hand and throwing me over her shoulder to land just outside the circle. Some of the kids had to jump out of the way to avoid colliding with my flying body.
"Ow!” I groaned as I hit the ground hard and I heard the command of, “Yame!” from Tolman-sensei.
"I see your lack of combat skill is worse than expected," Tolman-sensei said to me as I looked up at her from the ground. She offered me her hand and I took it to stand.
"I..I've never had combat training," I said carefully as a few in the class gave me sympathetic smiles.
"This means you'll need a tutor," Tolman-sensei said to me.
"I assume you will be assigning me one before the end of class?" I asked as a small joke.
"Miss O'Callaghan, you will be informed of your tutoring period after I speak with your faculty advisor," Tolman-sensei said to me in all seriousness. I had a faculty advisor? Who the hell could that be?
"Sit down and listen, lass. Ye have a lot of work cut of for ye." Morgan's words broke her silence throughout the spar as I stared at my bruised hands and the dust covering my chest from hitting the ground. "You have the strength and the rage for battle, lass. We just need the knowledge to back it up."
As always Obi-Wan in my head was clear and vague in what she meant, and to be honest I was surprised she didn't find offense to being compared to a Jedi. "He was a wise man," Tolman-sensei called for everyone's attention as Ito-soke began to lecture us all on the necessity to defend ourselves. I mean, I was only what about a month or two behind the school curriculum.
Just After Lunch, November 12th, 2007 - Whateley Campus
As I walked out of the Lunchroom I took a second to think and already it felt like I was running in place. Even at the beginning of my first day as I moved through the hours, a pattern was emerging. Perhaps it was because my ancestors were Gaelic warriors on one side and Norse vikingr on another, but I felt the bands of fate tying themselves to me. I wouldn't think of it right then and there, but later I sensed I would look back and see where it all led to. In a daze, I bussed my tray and waved goodbye to Sophia as padded out the front door of Crystal Hall.
I slowed and leaned against one of the chairs in Schuster's grand opening hall. The animation on my phone indicated my sister was writing something and I stared at the screen until the text appeared.
Sloan: The first deposition today for mom and dad's lawsuit happened. It was pretty epic! Mister Jameson let me watch as he tore apart your stupid former Principal. Oh my god, I swear she was either going to burst into tears or worse. It was just fucking great!
Leave it to my sister to have a serious case of schadenfreude when the enemies of my family meet a slow end. In a moment of pure joy, I pumped my fist into the air and shimmied a little. Just like Sloan, I enjoyed seeing my enemies driven before me! I even let out a little yip of happiness as a few of the nearby students froze and stared at me as if I'd grown a third head. Of course, that's when fate or more specifically my spirit decided to drop a bit of chaos on my head.
"Her. Of all the feckin bints to see, we run into -her-." I blink for a moment as I try to figure out what's going on and I notice the redhead walking by with a curvy umber skinned girl I could only assume was the infamous, Chaka.
"Which one? You aren't helping, those are two of the big players of Kimba," I sighed under my breath.
"THE SIDHE, THE FEY! HER THAT IS HER!" I can feel a feral reaction as I let out a loud, "SERIOUSLY?"
"Yo, what's up with you?" Chaka asked me as she stopped and stared at me. Her right hip was cocked as she placed a hand on it giving a pretty obvious expression of expectation.
"Um....hi I'm Gráinne," I spit out like an idiot.
"The new girl in Poe they stuck with Shipwright, right," the redhead says. Nikki, or Fey, now her I knew of her from a model page, I kept from last summer. I mean how could I not she was drop-dead gorgeous.
"Yeah...Gráinne codenamed Scald-Crow," I said giving a shameless shrug and adding, "Avatar 3, Exemplar 4 and Wizard 1."
"Niceta meetcha!" Chaka chirped at me with a smile that bled rambunctious energy.
"So why did you scream?" Nikki inquired as not only did I scream I also revealed my sharped teeth in a predatory snarl.
"Oh...my spirit, she says that your some kind of big shot," I said trying not to show my hand. Both girls were from Poe, yet I still didn't know them. People I don't know are people I can't trust.
"High and mighty upon her throne with the nine! We went to war and even now....where is she?" Morgan was muttering in the back of my mind.
"I...I once had a Spirit of-" she began.
I finished her line out of nowhere, "Aunghadhail."
"How did you know that?" she asked me perplexed.
I didn't it was then I realized that Morgan's determination had paired her words through my mouth. She hadn't possessed me but inserted the word into my speech.
"Morgan, my spirit, she...knew of Aunghadhail." All I could do was shrug.
"Wait, how come she can say Unga-bunga correctly?" Chaka asked curiously.
"...It's a name using Gaelic syllables...." I deadpanned at her.
"Is that how you say it?" Chaka pushed Nikki.
"I mean - I guess." Nikki gave a roll of her eyes before giving a demonstrative sigh and pinching her nose.
"How do you know it?" Chaka pushed as she seemed to start bouncing on the spot.
"Uh...my spirit is teaching me," I responded.
"Why?" she asked.
"Cuz she's from Ireland." This was getting old fast.
"Look I have to get to my next class," I said as I started to beat a quick retreat.
"See you then!" chirped Chaka while the two continued on their way.
"What in the world got into you?" I murmured to Morgan. There wasn't any point in speaking aloud to my spirit, but it did put my thoughts into perspective.
"I didn't think...she would come back. That any of them would come back! The nightmare that keeps my memories at bay only lets me see through for small periods of time." Another new side of the spirit bound in my body. "The First Princes wove it tight to prevent the madness of the dream from destroying us."
"What does all of that mean?" I snapped. More exposition from my spirit and just as she was about to say something I heard a sound similar to what I could only consider a pause.
"You aren't ready for it."
With a stomp in frustration, I took off towards my next class.
Afternoon, November 12th, 2007 - Schuster Hall
"An raibh tú ar an gCarraig, nó an bhfaca tú féin mo ghrá." I sang to myself as I strolled through the hall outside the classrooms of Schuster still excited from Powers Theory in period five. My backpack was barely a weight on my shoulder as I didn't bother to use my locker when all of my books barely weighed a thing to me. The song stayed on my lips as I was walking in circles just before the bell sounded. A group of students were slowly meandering their way to the assigned room and immediately noticed my red armband. One of them, a perky looking brunette was the first to walk over to me.
"Hi," she said and gave a little wave. I ran my memory on who she was.
"You've been sitting with Shipwright at the Underdog table," she started, "Grannah right?"
"Grahn-yuh," I answered slowly trying my best to be polite, "I just...arrived two days ago."
"Wow, so you're an avatar?" she asked. I noticed she had a slightly rodent-esque nature to her though it was hard for me to nail down what.
"Yeah....um...you're Aquana?" I asked really feeling stupid I didn't know her name.
"Aquerna...I'm bonded to a squirrel spirit," she smiled.
"That's so cool!" I replied.
"Really?" she asked her eyes widening with excitement.
"Yes. I'm from the Northwest. I mean it's no big deal, but squirrels there will chatter and natter at almost anything. Little bastards will stand up to house cats, full-size pit bulls and a lot more from their trees. But, they also are pretty awesome at jumping from the thirty foot tall Douglas Firs to others." I gave a shrug and offered her a smile.
"That's a whole lot of words," Aquerna said before smirking at me.
"Sorry! I am so shitty at peopling," I sighed and she winced when I swore, "Sorry...my spirit and I are pretty foul-mouthed. I've already been almost given detention over it."
True story, I was in World History and described the Pilgrims as "fucking idiots" while answering a question and the teacher had already warned me. What, it wasn't my fault I was battered for days with Sophia's blunt opinion on colonization. It didn't help that I actually read textbooks and several were quite clear that the early settlers of American really didn't seem to know what the hell they were doing. I mean don't even get me started on James Town!
"I can understand that. So...what kind of spirit are you bonded too?" she asked me and opened the door for me as we entered the class.
"She's an Irish spirit and I think she's pretty old."
"Rude little bint." Morgan suddenly spoke up in the recesses of my mind.
"Morgan's her name. In my dream-space, she's like seven feet tall and looks like she could kick Braveheart's butt!" I smiled.
"Wallace was an okay bastard, Bannockburn still brings a tear to my eye." I blinked at her comment and found a seat near the back of the classroom.
"Do you mind if I sit here with you?" Aquerna asked me a little timidly as I gave her a confused look.
"You want to sit near the rager?" I returned her question with my own.
"Sure why not, Lexi likes you, and you even seem nice to everyone at the Underdog's table." She began unpacking her bag and unfolded a workbook and spiral-bound notebook.
"I was bullied a lot at my last school. My own principal was gleefully going to hand me over to the MCO," I said slowly breathing to maintain my composure, "and if my friend' Sophia's grandfather hadn't been there with the 'rents I was sure it was over."
"That sucks, I'm sorry you had to experience all of that," Aquerna nodded.
"Yeah, it's not so bad. I mean, Morgan's made me really strong, and she's teaching me a bunch of languages." I smiled.
"Nice! All my spirit does is basically squirrel skills, though I can talk to squirrels too!" I watched her deflate for a second before fighting back her self depreciation.
"I can punch things hard. That's it, I even got my butt kicked in BMA today since I don't even know how to fight," I sighed.
Aquerna was about to speak before the door to the classroom opened and the last of the class started to file in.
"Dang...Aquerna, what's your name?" I asked.
"Anna." She smiled before turning her attention to the front of the class. I gave a small nod as the teacher made his way to the front of the class. He was a slightly chubby man wearing a lab coat. One of his lapels was completely covered in a hodge-podge of pins which I could only guess were from the various clubs on campus.
"This girl is almost Draoi like you. She will make a worthy ally." Morgan spoke up out of the blue as Dr. Hewley finished arranging his classwork for the day.
'Why are you talking now?' I thought in return to Morgan.
"I've been thinking...there is much here I thought all gone. New avenues and threats to sit on." Her words faltered as she made a telepathic 'hmmm'. It was then that I noticed entering and walking not far behind Dr. Hewley were a pair of young women a little older than myself. The oldest of the two had vivid red hair and an obviously blooming exemplar figure. She was far curvier than me in the top and her eyes flashed with analytical intelligence. She was wearing the blazer of an upperclassman and a black-tie from Poe. Her companion was a native woman with similar ochre skin as Sophia, but that's where the two differed. Her hair was a dark straight brown I was envious of (come on I have the hair from hell) and she was about my height making her maybe five-sixish. A soft heart-shaped face with distinctive cheekbones and kissable lips.
"There is a change in the essence here...other Spirits, Powers." Morgan's muttering continued as I felt her moving in me and gave a small shudder. "Sorry my heart, but those two have...powerful allies. One...is connected to a notable noble and one -not- to be taken lightly."
'Morgan. You need to tell me more about this...soon. I feel like I'm in some shitty anime prologue episode with all the useless foreshadowing you are giving me.' I responded telepathically to her. It was hard to focus enough with class beginning. The two girls from before took a seat as Dr. Hewley leaned over his materials on the podium and cleared his throat. Immediately, everyone in class snapped to meet his gaze.
"Welcome once again everyone to Avatars I or as some students call it, Spirits I." Dr. Hewley began his opening lecture for the day. "We have a new student with us today, Gráinne Ní Callaghan, a young avatar from Washington State!"
Immediately upon having my name given I stood and gave a very embarrassed wave to the rest of the class. Anna gave me a quirky cute smile as I sat down after a moment.
I was able to pick up some of the audible background noise from the other students:
"She's a rager? Why are they letting her into our class?"
"I heard she killed a Humanity First bastard back home."
"Is she the second coming of Fey with hair like that?"
I closed my eyes half-way as I placed my head in my hands and put my head down. "Don't tell them too much about me lass. We don't know much about this school yet."
"Gráinne, what can you tell us about your spirit?" Dr. Hewley addressed me with a genuine smile. I perked up in place and gripped the edge of the table to center myself. Just like Dr. Hewley I inhaled before speaking and breathed out very slowly to finish calming myself.
"I'm...Gráinne...codename 'Scald-Crow'. I'm bonded to a spirit named Morgan, and from what I can tell she's an Irish Spirit of passion." I decided to give them the generic spiel on my spirit.
"Interesting, very interesting," Dr. Hewley was giving the stereotypical fascinated professor chin rub. All I could do was give a small shrug as he immediately began a simple recitation from what I guessed was another lecture. The gist of which explained the nature of spirits symbiotic bond forged between them and avatars. Personally, it was a simple review and provided me with a lot more to work on understanding why Morgan needed me. But, I mean, Avatars from what Dr. Hewley explained weren't exactly common, but we weren't that rare. There had to be another one closer to Morgan when her previous host was murdered., So, why did she pick me?
"I chose you, my heart because you are Draoi. You carry the necessary lineage for me to properly bond with you. And we are of like mind and soul in so many ways."
"Now, as part of an ongoing upperclassmen guest lectures today Kayda Franks, or Pejuta, will be talking about her experiences as an avatar and channeler."
The Native American girl walked to the front of the class after receiving a fairly intimate look from the redhead. This wasn't romantic, but one forged from family. "Blood-sisters. Spear-sisters. That is what we would call them long ago." Her words made sense as the girl, Kayda, I guessed stood at the podium at the front of the class.
"Hey," she began slowly her body language showed just the tiniest bit of anxiety. She glanced over at the redhead who offered her a confident smile and started once again.
"Hey everyone, I'm Kayda Franks - and I'm a class five Avatar," she said and I saw her gulp. "There is a great weight on her shoulders, my heart, a Power of the Center walks with her."
"Some of you know me from last year, and the rest, yeah, I'm here to talk to you about the different kinds of Avatar and how Spirits interact with us." I sat up in my seat as she spoke and I raised my hand out of the blue.
"Um...Kayda, are you referring to Paladins and Channelers?" I asked. In learning what I was, I had scoured the internet looking for as many crackpot theories as I could. A site dedicated to "Mutant Watching" had said that Channelers were devil infused warlocks and that Paladins were the freaks of history bringing an unholy crusade. Yeah, I read some bullshit "Coming Apocalypse" stuff, but I was able to read between the lines.
"I wasn't going to but, that's actually a good topic," she seemed to brighten as she recognized my tie. Yup, she was a Posie, and I was too. Offering a smile I waited for her to continue.
"As an Avatar, I host Tatanka, the White Buffalo Spirit of my people, the Lakota," I nodded along with the others, "I also host a second spirit, Ptesanwi, who allows me to channel the great spirit, Wakan Tanka."
"Um, Kayda, what's the difference between a Paladin and Channel versus an Avatar?" Aquerna was the next to raise her hand and ask.
"From what I understand it - um - a Paladin hosts only a small part of a Spirit." She exhaled slowly, as someone who was of like mind. Whenever I was up for class presentations I would shake with every movement as my voice ran clear. I was watching Kayda carefully as I noticed the small tremor in her wrists and how she was attempting to control her breathing.
"And a channeler does just that - channel the spiritual energy of a spirit," she said and I noticed how she finished her lecture.
"What's the difference then? How are you different from any other Avatar?" a kid asked in a snarky voice. I couldn't place the speaker as I was busily keeping an eye on Kayda. Finally, I was able to pinpoint the kid after a few seconds of tracking the snobby arrogance of a football-linebacker built teenager. Great, another fellow Exemplar, and one who was using his newfound appearance to be a dick - just great! Thick shoulders, brown hair in a military buzz cut, and what I could see was a Melville purple tie.
"I'm one of the few noted dual spirited Avatars," she replied with a bit of fire entering her voice, "and but one of my spirits gives me access to the greater teachings of a major Power."
The kid didn't even really explain himself as Kayda stepped aside to let Dr. Hewley take over the day’s lecture. He immediately began to discuss the wide difference of Avatar sub-traits to everyone. I kept an eye on the linebacker as the kid was busily writing out notes on what looked like a high-end tablet. He gave me a skeevy vibe as he looked up and a pair of blue eyes spied me. I immediately looked down as an ashamed blush came to my face.
"He's not looking at you anymore," said a whisper from a seat nearby. Raising my head I blushed as I came face to face with the curvy bust of the Fox-girl from BMA.
"I -hate jocks-," I seethed through gritted teeth.
"I haven't had the best experiences with them either," the girl said and gave me a two-finger wave, "oh, Kitty or Catherine by the way."
"Gráinne," I replied as I returned it. We both eyed Dr. Hewley who was quietly checking a few notes and letting kids catch-up with what he'd written down on the whiteboard behind him.
"That dick's been sniping at Kayda and the other guest Lecturers whenever he can," Kitty said to me as her ears flicked absently, "typical goomba hormonal bullshit too. Always trying to get a look down their shirts."
"This lass smells of fox, and I don't mean her tails or ears." My spirit commented before I could reply.
"So you know Kayda?" I decided to ask.
"Yeah!" she said before slowly jotting down a series of notes on Paladin spirit shards. "I joined Whateley late last year after some shit in Seattle around last winter," she shrugged.
"You talking about the Overlord Coffee Caper?" I giggled in return.
"Don't get me started on that Gaius Baltar reject," Kitty smirked. "He has the fashion sense of Judge Dredd with half the moral fiber"
"What you get from C-List Villains," I laughed even harder.
"Ladies, would you two like to share with what is so funny with the rest of the class?" Dr. Hewley Chimed in as the rest of the class stared at us.
"Nothing Dr. Hewley," I said bashfully.
Class went back to the doldrums after that. Jock's'McGee was still using his stupid tablet to keep his notes while trying to rubberneck a few little glances at the nearest girls. Goddess, I was so happy I was a fucking lesbian at this point. A few of the girls at Poe were already trying to steal a few views of my own assets, but at least I wouldn't have to navigate the world of hetero dating.
Class ended without a bang and I found myself shuffling past the jock. Just as I was about to get past him he stood and inched out in front of me causing my heart to jump. What did this shit want? I got a good look at him, he was Bradley Finkbonner as an Exemplar. Tall, full broad shoulders; a chest hard enough to cut diamond. Yeah, if I was straight I'd find him hot if you didn’t get my drift. Except, his body had the exact opposite reaction he wanted.
"So - new girl?" he phrased a disjointed question to me.
"Gráinne," I said tersely. "What do you want?"
"Just want to welcome you to Whateley," he offered his hand and I quirked an eyebrow.
"Okay," I said and took it and gave him a hard firm handshake. His eyes didn't even widen when he saw my Ultra-Violent armband. There was a minute shift in his hand as he let go and canted his head to view me with a quirked eyebrow.
"There is something off about this one," Morgan growled from the recesses of my mind.
"Yeah, I um, killed a Humanity First guy who was attacking my family," it slipped out of my mouth before I could really explain.
"Not bad hot stuff, attractive and already blooded on the enemy. We should have coffee sometime," he said before stepping away and making his way. The dick didn't even give me a name as I watched him leave I felt my heart rate pounding loudly in my ears. I had been able to control my reaction long enough, but still, already I could feel phantom hands gliding over my chest and behind. A small squeak escaped from my mouth as I zipped out of the classroom as fast as I could.
Chapter 4 - Nose To The Grindstone
Early Morning, November 14th, 2007 - The Dreamscape
The moors of my dreams were filled with fog not unlike when I met the Banshee. The fog itself rolled two feet above the ground and as I dashed into the bank it moved around me. My feet were encased in a pair of hiking boots as my legs were covered in a pair of skinny jeans. The extra footing helped me as the tight green sweater kept me warm in the morning chill. I crested the hill just in time to see the sun in my dream rise and flood the bogland with light. The warmth came over me as I walked down the worn zig-zagged trail. Unlike the moor's of Scotland there was open bog everywhere and if I didn't know what lay beneath it could easily appear like the rest of the grass.
I came to stand near a dolmen, two tall stones stood up to bear a third. If you've seen Stone Henge, this was a simpler more primitive version of it. A spiral was carved into one side and I ran my hands over it feeling the carefully chipped indents. Power was suffused into the rock and every time my fingers made contact a small charge of green energy arced to my fingertips.
"Me inheritance is bound inta that stone an' the ring behind me," I knew the voice well. Behind me was Morgan in all her ancient Celtic glory. Her body fitted with a tight leather armored jerkin under a long skirt of chainmail. In one hand was a red-silver headed spear and in the other, a shield painted black with a gold spiral.
"You going to tell me more about who you are? Why you were growling about an ancient elf Queen?" I turned around and crossed my arms.
"Witin reason," she replied before resting her shield and spear against a stone in the large ring we always met at.
"Great, more mystery tropes," I sighed and rubbed my jaw.
"It is hard fer me ta tell you everything," she said as sighed, "I'm still healing fram the damage given ta me when we met."
I gave a nod slowly before saying, "You aren't messing with me?"
"Me folk can’t lie Lil' one. I can twist werds like the best of em," she began to remove her jerk and cast it off beside her spear. Just above her heart was a massive tear in her body, and it leaked a strange eerie green fire.
"When the Dullahan killed Sinead, she wounded me sa deeply it's taken weeks fer me to put together what I remember of me past." She let out a demonstrative sigh before pointing to the area around her.
"What is this place ta ye lass?" she asked me.
"A stone circle and that's a dolmen," I pointed to sculpture behind me.
"No. This be sacred ground," she said to me and walked overturning me to face the full circle.
"This isn't in Eire, Gráinne, we are in Tír Eile, the Otherworld." Her words took a few moments to sink in.
"My dreamscape is in a mystical faerie elfland?" I asked. She smiled at me as she drew me around the massive rock to reveal a small kettle boiling on a fire.
"Yes and no." She replied before she continued her Yoda level exposition. "Yer a draoi my love, a druid, an old-line capable of seeing portents, healing and more. My clan can only bond with yours."
She'd said that before and it made sense. From what I could put together from stories on the internet and a few other things some Spirits were deeply tied to cultural history. I mean it made sense especially with the girl on campus bonded to a Lakota Totem.
"So what are you then?" I asked her, "You didn't say you were the Morrígan, but you sure seem to have a lot of mythological connections to her."
"Morrígan ain't a person, lass, it's a title. Just like Nemain and Macha, my sisters and I earned it before it all went ta shit." She sat me down on a log by the fire and moved to sit across on the ground from me. The pot smelled fantastic and as she placed a wooden spoon into it I could see a thick brown stew boiling away.
"Whiskey and beef stew, with some carrots and other bits added." She murmured.
"That smells wonderful," I commented and found a bowl placed into my hands, "So. Explain it, whatever you can."
"Foine, foine," her accent stressed as she ladled some stew into my bowl and gave me a spoon.
"Whatever you can," I chided her.
Another demonstrative sigh and the seven-foot redhead heaved a deep breath.
"Time broke millions of years ago kid. The high civilizations of then were doing fine in a nice little Empire. Me, I don't remember much, but some terrible idiot decided to do what they do, open up a can of worms not meant for anyone. The literal madness of that little racist fuck Lovecraft unleashed on the world." She took a long draught from her stew and let out a satisfied aw. "So, Aughadhail, an' the other lasses of her ilk burned out- feckin' time."
"Let me guess they call it something ridiculous like the Cataclysm I chuckled," she looked up from her stew and glared.
"No, Sundering, an' it was hell on fuckin eart," she slurred.
"Sorry sorry!" I said.
"IT KILLED MY SISTERS," she growled and I placed up my hands to placate her.
"Morgan, I'm sorry," I felt tears in my eyes.
"I know lass...it hurts me deep to think I, the youngest, am still extant through sheer luck," she moved to sit beside me and I found her hugging me hard enough to press the breath from my lungs.
"So...I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that your family put shit back together," I asked her.
"Yes...my da and his friends wove up a terrible spell that kept us all from going mad and gave us the Otherworld." She said to me with all the sobering emotions of two best friends reliving war stories. I tried to put it all together from what I'd read and heard through my life. The Otherworld was a place of the faerie, and other related monsters.
"If you aren't a god what are you?" I asked her finally.
"I'm what yer ancestors called the Gentry or the Fair Folk," she sighed as she released, "A Faerie."
"I kind of figured with that accent, and the Irish ladened mythological references," I smiled.
"Ye -just- made that connection," she snapped.
"Ye think I be that stupid?" I growled back at her.
"No, but yer too easy to toy wit," she laughed loudly.
I finished the stew and let the taste linger in my mouth. It was heavenly, and it filled me so thoroughly I felt completely at peace after eating what was offered. Wasn't there some sort of prohibition to never take the food of the fae? Perhaps I should do some more research on the subject.
"Isn't there a thing about not taking food from the underworld or perhaps, faeries?" I decided to just blurt out.
"Nah, jus pomegranate seeds," she chuckled.
"Do you remember anything else?" I asked her as she took my bowl from me.
"The Sidhe. They were a powerful people, an' they lorded it above others," she said leaning forward to plant her elbows atop her knees.
"Anything else?" I asked as I drew myself closer beside her.
"No...that's all the lore I got in me, fer now," she said before patting my head. I stared up into the sky and admired the eerie blue color that is just off-color enough to sit in the uncanny valley. Letting my thoughts drift away I decided to just experience my time in the dream. By the gods, I sure needed the relaxation.
Period One, November 14th, 2007 - Laird Hall
The impact jarred my arm as I barely blocked a kick from my opponent. My hands snapped up to catch a punch, but it moved so fast it connected with my jaw. Stars blossomed in my field of vision while my center of balance threatened a feeling of vertigo. Again the punch came and I was able to bob my head out of the way. One would think I'd have the increased reaction time to fight against a girl with only a minor energizer rating. Haruko was smiling like a madwoman as she delivered two more quick punches to my face. I was only able to dodge the first as the second snapped my jaw around. Again I saw stars.
"You suck at this," she sneered at me as I kicked her in the solar plexus, hard. The impact barely seemed to phase her beside a minor wince. I could see her jaw straining as Haruko's eyes narrowed to a squint. What the hell was she going to do next?
The woman suddenly rolled to my side and landed a spin kick against my legs sweeping me off my feet. I tried to compensate, but all I could do was land hard with my leg outside the circle. The actual impact left me winded as I hit the ground on my right side knocking the air out of my lungs. A hand was thrust in my face as I took it and Haruko helped me to my feet. The Asian woman offered me a bow with both hands at her side. My face flushed bright red in embarrassment. Tolman-sensei was waiting outside our ring as she pulled Haruko aside.
"She's improved a small margin," Haruko commented her arms crossed. Sensei quirked an eyebrow before giving a slow nod.
"Gráinne," Tolman-sensei caught my attention, "Usually I would have you continue to spar to gain live experience."
"But I'm abysmal," I sighed.
"No, but your Rager trigger places a limitation on who I can have you face," Tolman-sensei said.
"I know," I blushed as I watched her, the woman was thumbing her face. "Haruko."
"Hai, Sensei?" she asked as she glanced at me, "What do you wish?"
"I’m assigning you to work with Haruko and your roommate on the weekends. You can use the sparring arena here during open hours in Laird Hall." She stated the new facts of life to me. I say this because obviously there was no way I would attempt to get out of a woman who dressed like a bond villainess's assignment. when she gave me an assignment.
"Heh, Senpai aaand Kohai!" Haruko pointed to herself and then me. I was about to protest to her when she back away giving me two sarcastic thumbs up.
"DAMMIT!" I growled before turning around to see Tolman-sensei watching me, "uuuh sorry sensei."
"Language kid," she sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Sorry, sensei!" I stammered.
"Okay, Esoteric you're up. I want you two just to do a simple spar, try to hold back your strength Scald-Crow." Tolman-sensei pointed at a blonde androgynous-looking girl who I'd seen around Poe. She stood up and gave me a wary glance before falling into a rough stance in front of me. Haruko whistled loudly as she sat beside our ring and Tolmen called out for the spar to begin.
I made the first move, two strides forward and I just tried a very light strike. Esoteric blocked it, but I could see her stagger a little bit before she recovered. What was she? I tried to remember the stats I'd heard throughout the week and hers weren't coming to mind. SHIT! She delivered a solid kick to my chest. The impact wasn't hard enough to really hurt me, but she was trying. It left me wondering what her traits and class levels could be. I kept running the numbers as I tried to plant my foot against her chest to send her out of the ring. The girl punched my leg away and I lost my balance. Wavering on my feet I hopped back to give me a few seconds to recover.
"Esoteric, hold your arms up to block," Toman-sensei said as Esoteric followed suit as I tried to deliver a punch. Instead, I slashed with my right hand, and just enough force to force her to move. Her eyes winced and I heard a hard intake of breath. Oh my god did I hurt her? FUCK! My opening was seized and I found a foot in my face. I barely caught it and just as anger filled me at my own weakness I nearly threw the poor girl out of the ring. Actually, I was about to do just that when Tolman-sensei stopped me.
"Okay, I don't need you throwing people right now," she corrected me and our spar began again. A minute in I was punching at Esoteric for her only to dodge the first two. "Punch twice, fake the second and kick her hard." The commentary came out from Morgan as I did just as she said. A quick one-two and just as my left fist went to connect with her block and just as I dropped my left foot swung hard into Eosteric's open hip. My opponent spun around and just as she shuffled to retain her stance, I pushed my advantage. Now I was going to attempt a crescent kick with my right leg. Lashing out my leg was arcing well in motion before I caught her shoulder far too hard.
There wasn't a crunch of bone, but Tolman-sensei was definitely not having it with my bravado. Erin spun around once before falling to the ground hard and I heard the loud, "YAME!"
I immediately raised my hands as Tolman-sensei walked over to examine Erin. Haruko glided to wait beside me as I could see the pained look of disappointment on her face. "Dun try too much till ye have bettar control." Morgan drawled to me in my head. Tolman-sensei turned around to face me and Haruko, her mouth was in a tight grim line and her eyes bore into me.
"Haruko," the woman barked just as she rose from kneeling beside Esoteric who appeared to be going into shock. "I need you to go get Chief Jenkins. Now."
My erstwhile tutor and all I could call my "rival" darted across the gym. I watched her leave as my anxiety spiked on the spot. A few seconds later she returned empty-handed, her eyepatch disheveled and almost unmasking her eye.
"Sensei, I wasn't able to find the Chief or any other assigned Corpsman at the desk." Tolmen-sensei scanned the entirety of the gym before pointing to something out of sight as I didn't dare let my eyes wander. "The Chief is likely attending to another injury. Just inside the door leading to the lockers is an emergency line directly to Doyle. Call in a power litter from Doyle, tell them we have a dislocated shoulder and likely a fractured clavicle."
DAMMMIT! My teeth nearly creaked from how hard I grit them as I kicked myself. Sure, I just had to show off right?
"Now, Miss Ní Callaghan," her words have carefully enunciated the words as she drew my attention. "-EVERY- single Saturday and Sunday with Haruko and Sophia. I'll assign MORE tutoring partners until you get a handle on your strength."
"Yes sensei! I'm sorry...I know I'm not as strong as others," I reached up and rubbed my nose. What else could go wrong today?!
"You aren't my first bullheaded student, kid," she said.
"What is Ito-soke going to say," I asked nervously.
"He already knew you were going to do something dumb. We just weren't sure if you'd hurt yourself or someone else. This was just the moment you needed to let it hit you hard enough to get your head out of the clouds," she said nonchalantly.
"Yes, sensei." Dammit, yup I just got my ass handed to me in the form of a batch of wisdom, Mister Miyagi style.
Just Before Dinner, November 14th, 2007 - Whateley, Campus
"Watch as we tread, my heart, the quiet at the crossroads means a devil is waiting." Morgan's words warned me as I walked out of the door from my last class before dinner. My insides were starting to ache as my body demanded nutrients and my mouth salivated at the very thought of fresh meat to devour. Yeah, the longer I've been here the more and more I've found myself eating. Biology class did mention some animals had to eat large portions of meat to maintain themselves, and they had a weird name for it. What was it? Obligated predator? Nah that wasn't right. Duh - I'm stupid, obligate carnivore! Yeah, I was - great I'm now the human version of a fucking jaguar.
"Less internal dialog mar situational awareness Luv." Again Morgan shoved me back into the reality of the here and now. I was standing near one of the large trees which decorated the campus along the main walkway. A quick survey of the area showed no red flags flying so I could be a little less "normal" while out and about. Just one look down at my body showed that my skills at dressing myself were getting cleaner. I always had that hot mess angle going though and I gave a frustrated sigh as my skills at 'Girling' were still kind of shitty.
"Dun warry ta much Summer Rose. Ye just aren't fully in bloom yet." The light eastern brogue helped me calm as I leaned up against the thick trunk of what I guess was an oak tree. There was not a soul near me and my personal space was being beyond respected. I could take this one itsy bitsy -moment- to catch my breath, right?
"Great -it’s you-," the contempt dripped from a comment in front of me. What the? My head shook as I immediately became sickeningly aware of the three girls standing perhaps fifteen paces away from me. Only teenaged mean girls talk like that, and only teenaged bitches stand in a sloppy u-shaped formation. Dammit. Not more shit! I just had to tempt the wyrd. DIDN'T I?
"Stupid Frosh," the blonde standing at the apex of the formation said with her hands on her hips. Oh, gods, it was that damn blonde I nearly plowed over a few days ago. Great! Just great! I'm already a target for the drama I escaped back home! Self-deprecating aside, I had to get my head in the game.
"Um....hello, I am Scald-Cro," what the hell why was I talking like Morgan.
"We don't care," one of them said, I think it was the brunette whose skin was starting to seemingly shift before my eyes. Goddamit I was facing a manifestor like Haruko?!
"You seriously think you can just run me over and walk away without -any- repercussions," the blond said as her arms crossed over her chest and she cocked her hip.
"No...sorry I," she let out a loud laugh just as I tried to defend myself and whatever it was it hurt my ears. What was this bint, a fucking sonokinetic?!
"You are going to stand there as we pound the shit out of you," she said simply.
"You know I'm a rager," I pointed at my armband.
"Sure, but it's soooo easy to just blame the attack on you," she replied.
Fuck my life, I was in mean girls.
"I saw how you kept staring at that Bad Seed slut earlier this week," the blond chuckled as the sound shook my head with pain. She was drawing closer, but I could tell she was intentionally staying out of reach. It was about right then and there I connected the color of their tie with their cottage. Each wore a dark purple tie with three gold stripes, and if my "Harry Potter" level of color assignment knowledge is right at least one of these bitches was from Melville. All this did was up the irony of having the rich kids cottage be the source of my torment.
WHY DO I ATTRACT PREPPY BULLIES?!
A Few Minutes Later, November 14th, 2007 - Whateley Campus
Fina straightens, feeling an ethereal breeze against the back of her neck.
Turning in her comfortable chair at the study desk in her room, her concern heightens when she sees that the windows are closed. It wasn’t paranoia this time, the watcher she’d placed to keep an eye on Gráinne was warning her. Gráinne was in trouble. Not bothering to change out of her disheveled school uniform, without shoes or blazer and the shirt collar button was undone, she raised her hands, pulling energy into herself. With a slice of her fingers, she opens a portal from her room onto campus grounds, stepping through into the cold outside air.
Gráinne was staring at her, eyes wide. There were three girls facing her, a bitchy-looking blonde, a brunette with a gemstone fist and a moderately attractive redhead. Fina recognized them from her files on the cliques: Yellow Queen, Gem, and Taser from the Martial Arts Cheerleaders, Melville girls. “Envy?” Gráinne gasped, just as surprised as the others.
Fina’s skirt and blouse fluttered in the breeze as she grinned. “Hey, Scald. Stay right there and keep calm, I’ll be with you in one moment.”
"Hey!" The blonde shouted, her voice unnaturally piercing. "Why don't you go work a corner with your slut mother and stay out of our business!" One of her backup groupies did smooth three-finger snaps like she's been practicing.
Envy's smile didn't budge. "Girls, you're provoking a rager with a prominent UV band. For your own safety, I advise walking away before I'm forced to prevent possibly lethal harm to your persons."
The manifestor squeezed her hand into a tight, stone fist. "You and your psycho gimp gonna take all three of us on, frosh?"
"No," Fina said, relaxed, "just me."
The three girls looked meaningfully at each other as they smirked and giggled. "Just you? Against three of us? Can you see your own tonsils from how far your head's up your ass?"
The redhead's face flushed and she took a step back. Her entire body vibrated with anxiety as she was starting to shake with rage. Gráinne's eyes were becoming unfocused as she put at least fifteen feet between her and the other girls.
"So, you've got the sass down," Envy said, beckoning, "let's see if a bitch's bark is worse than her bite."
Snarling, the blonde took a sharp breath, about to let loose a sonic blast. Envy simply took a step forward, thrusting her palm into the girl's solar plexus. Her breath came out as a heaving wheeze, falling to her knees as she struggled to regain her breath. The other two paused, stunned for a moment as their brains caught up with Envy's speed. The manifestor recovered first, her fist sparkling in the street lights as the red stone fist flew for Envy's head. A pained expression burst across the Taser's face and morphed rapidly into a rabid snarl. "ANOTHER STUPID Worthless demon stained tart is not beating us, again!" As the growl tore out of Taser's throat she zig-zagged as she sped right into Envy to deliver a electric spark laden kick directly at the Italian heiress' legs.
Envy grabbed Gem’s stone wrist, turned with the momentum of the blow until the girl's arm was fully extended, directing it away from her, then twisted and pushed. There was a loud pop as the girl shrieked, her arm flopping uselessly as Envy roughly guided her face to the pavement. As the energizer sped in from Envy's blindside, sparks flickering between her legs and the pavement, Envy continued to twist with her motion, leaping into a horizontal cartwheel. Both bare feet impacted with the last girl's face, one after the other. She spun, her kick arcing wild under Envy's body as she went down while Envy landed lightly on her feet.
Of the three, Gem and Taser went down harder, the sound of their bodies thudding on the ground with the expected "oof" making defeat all the more embarrassing. Yellow Queen glared, her eyes flickering between the Bad Seed and the rager. An idea twinkled in her eye as she regained her breath and let out a blast of sonic energy from her lips. Gem rolled out of the way in panic but Taser was caught in the blast, flat-footed, and thrown to one side
Stepping in front of Gráinne, Envy braced herself. Her mystic shield flared as the blast hit, converting a portion of the energy to light, though the sonic waves tore strips off her uniform. Gráinne shrieked in pain, collapsing onto the ground with her hands over her ears. Peeking up through squinting eyelids, Gráinne felt her heart pound at the feeling of Fina’s power.
Gem rose to her feet, ignoring the writhing and moaning Taser as she reformed her hard ruby quartz shell.
"Dammit not another fight!" someone nearby yelled, "stupid damn Poseies!" Bunches of students were starting to gather outside the surrounding buildings.
Glancing at the small crowd, Envy's clothes morphed into a skin-tight green suit, complete with a mask. Looking at Taser, who was out for the count lying face-down on the lawn, Envy shook her head. "Cut your losses, I can't hold back now."
"Crap." Yellow Queen sighed as she motioned for the other two to back off. Scowling, Gem picked Taser up, threw her over her shoulder and retreated behind Yellow Queen, who quickly followed.
Turning to Gráinne, Envy found the redhead on the ground curled into a ball, crying. Several of the kids nearby were pointing at the freshman as a few of the upperclassmen started to jeer. "Nice outfit Envy, great ass too!" hollered a male Sophomore sporting a purple and gold tie. He was a lean muscular type flanked by several other students obviously from the same cottage.
Turning on her heel, a blast of force knocked the jeering onlookers on their asses as Envy knelt next to Gráinne. "May I touch you?" Fina asked softly.
"Oh my god that hurt so much," she whimpered as she was obviously barely able to focus. For a moment the redhead didn't respond until she gave a weak nod in response to Envy's question. Easily picking Gráinne up, Envy cradled her gently in her arms as she walked towards the medical centre, ignoring the angry shouts from behind.
An hour later Envy found herself sitting outside a hospital room, while one of the physicians examined Gráinne, being grilled by a woman from Security.
"Miss Valocco, I understand you were concerned, but Forsythe is demanding to know why you were involved in a fight," the woman asked.
"I have a ward on Gráinne that alerts me to danger to her, miss, because I inducted her. I’m supposed to look out for her. When I arrived there were three girls provoking her, so I stepped in before Gráinne killed anyone."
"You aren't a security auxiliary, Valocco, you aren't supposed to be interceding like a damn hero." The woman gave a demonstrative sigh before tapping a pen against a notepad in her right hand. "You realize you'll be given detention for this. Likely it'll be Hartford you deal with."
Envy gave her a flat look. "Wow, I didn't realize the faculty hired morons. You want kids to die because they bully students with UV bands? Which one of us was the card-carrying villain again? Wait, I think I've got my membership somewhere in this suit..."
"Haha, very funny kid." She said and growled, "Not all of us are syndicate shrews like Trout. I'm just citing policy at you to follow ye-old-ass-covering."
"Whatever. Detention, fine. I feel like this is the start of an ugly relationship, ma'am."
"I just do what Forsythe tells me to do. If anything you'll get off light whereas Yellow Queen and her friends are not looking too good." She laughed before flipping her notebook shut. "Reminds me of that shit Sara Waite pulled last year with them." The smile was genuine as she sighed, "Just watch your friend there. She's an Exemplar, but from what her file says she's got serious trauma in her past."
"Yeah, don't we all?" Sighing, Envy walked back to Gráinne.
More than a few minutes passed as Gráinne was laying down on a small hospital bed. The stark sanitized room of Doyle was almost torn straight out of a hospital drama. The redhead shifted in her sleep as she covered her right ear and whimpered in pain for a few short minutes.
Mid Day, November 14th, 2007 - North Station, Boston
"I let you drag me all the way across the continent Second Lieutenant," Roberto sighed as he waited with Maeve for the train to come to a stop. Maeve dressed in a simple black wifebeater, boot cut black skinny jeans, and short heeled ankle boots. Over shoulder was slung her leather jacket she'd bought back in Seattle from Nordstrom. She wanted on the blasted train as soon as possible so she could reach the next leg of her journey. The magical trace left along the railroad was very faint, but it was enough for her to know this was the correct line to have been on.
Roberto meanwhile was still in his bloody suit from before, and from what Maeve could tell carried multiple sets along the way to maintain that "suave men in black" look he loved so much. After being with the man for more than a few days she was fairly sure he wasn't the standard DPA Agent. He was always dressed well which made sense for an agent, but almost every day she caught him sitting alone reading terrible romance novels. Maeve concluded they were terrible because she stole one of the small cheap paperbacks from his bunk from his sleeper seat and it was soppingly painful to read. Now that they were finally arriving in Boston's North Station all she had to do was wait for the transfer to the train to Dunwich. That was all she had to do.
"Thank you for riding with us this lovely week, and have a great day in the fine city of Boston," elucidated the lead engineer of the train over the PA. Maeve snorted before immediately jumping over the gap between the open door and the platform. Baggage in hand she quickly outpaced Roberto who was following her with his own briefcase and small roller case.
"Dammit, I need to eat something," Agent Jimenez grouched from behind her. Maeve's eyes slowly rounded across the waiting area past the passenger platforms. A small foodcourt greeted her with a central area for public sitting. Roberto went straight for the small McDonald's located just outside the passenger gates to the platform. She herself focused on the one thing she needed most at the moment.
"I'm getting a coffee, I'll meet you back here in thirty," she said. The man canted his head before giving a slight nod. He turned around and left her alone. Maeve was immediately drawn to the mass production image of Starbucks. Her body was exhausted from focusing her witch senses out around her. The essence signature beat in this place just enough to tell her she was on the right track. However, she could feel her reserves were already at their weakest and she would need the train ride to recover what she'd lost.
Maeve gave her order to the cute barista at the counter, a quadruple shot tall latte. Leaning against the bar, she waited quietly and scanned the entire coffee shop for a place to sit. Like all dime, a dozen places this one had a nice little copse of tables and chairs. What caught her interest was the prerequisite leather plush chair in the corner by the entrance. Walking over to it she dropped off her luggage to stake her claim before turning around to grab when her name was called. The cup itself was steaming hot as she took it and gave the girl tending the expresso bar a wink. Unabashed lesbian and Jack the Lass, that's me.
Maeve returned to her seat and crossed her legs, quietly drinking in the first sip of coffee. The latte gave her just enough of a wake up to cause the dulling of her senses to widen around her. Just for a second she felt a familiar trace of life, and just as she did she heard someone sit down in the chair beside her. This aura, nah, it can't be! Her blue eyes widened as she flicked the secret holster on her hand and a knife was quietly in her hand. Without even really turning her head she took another sip.
"Dia dhuit mo dheirfiúr," a feminine voice greeted her in Gaelic. Red hair tied back in a long french braid as well as eyes as green as emeralds. Same frame and same build, and the same damn voice! Whatever feckin joke this is I will kill whoever is playing it on me.
"Dia's muire dhuit," she replied, "You are no sister of mine."
"Méabh Nic Uidhir! Is that any way to speak to me!" her fake sister admonished her.
"What are you doing here Average Man?" she growled as only the True Fenians would have the connections to know her Irish name.
"Ah, fine, fine - Cailleach Gloine, I am here to deliver a message," he smiled.
"It was yer feckin Provo lot that kilt me sister!" she leaned to her right to draw herself closer to the other mutant.
"Yes, and no, sides - I won't admit it even to you." The fake Sinead spoke with a flat tone and added a knowing smirk.
"Póg mo thóin! Tá tú píosa cac." Her jaw tightened, "FINE! Give me your bloody message."
The clone of her sister chortled lightly before leaning back and giving her a coy smile. "Oh, Mother Mary, this is a delightful little encounter."
"..." Maeve's eyes filled with murderous intent.
"Alright," she stated before giving the message, "Tone says 'Tick-tock lovely. Yer running out of time.'"
"That's all?" She didn't move an inch as the knife kissed the edge of her palm. One more movement and she could slash the terrorist's throat open.
"Yup," the clone smiled before a strange alien distortion started to cover the woman's body. Maeve shot out of her seat in an instant. The knife reholstered as the woman's form was replaced by that of a small child.
"Not gettin' me today government dog," chirped the pretty little blonde haired girl staring back at her. Maeve's eyes performed the cursory glance of the people around her and she sighed that now a few were watching her. The kid smiled before skipping out the door leaving her completely alone. The Irishwoman grit her teeth and inhaled her coffee in one fell chug of its contents. Luckily, it wasn't much, to begin with. What was the name of that chit Roberto met? Fuck, she had the same name as the lass from that stupid pirate song! Mouthing the words of the old Gaelic song of Gráinne O'Malley. The girl even had an 'O' name to finish it off.
"Hey," she heard Roberto speak up from the entranceway. Maeve blinked letting reality sink back in as she strolled past him snorted with impatience.
"What was the name of the redhead you helped again?" she asked, remembering the off-hand remark he gave just a few days before.
"I don't remember saying she was a redhead," Roberto replied as he munched on a few french fries, "I said she had green eyes."
"You - said - red hair AND green eyes," she stated emphasizing each word.
"Okay, Jesus, yes, that's what I said," he said before giving her a perplexed look, "Why are you so fixated on a girl with gem-like green eyes?"
That was new. She smiled. Now that fit's the modus operandi of the asset. From what she remembered from the dossier on the Emerald Soul each and every one of its hosts was redheaded and had brilliant green eyes. But only one, her sister, had been gifted with one's that shined like jewels. She smiled as the half-hour of their wait time was up and she eyed the clock suspended over the entry gate to the passenger platforms.
"Good. Next stop, Dunwich and Whateley Academy," she flashed a determined smirk to Roberto and she sped through the gate as quickly as possible. Agent Jimenez devoured the last of his food like a man possessed. A burger he should have savored was gone in four bites. He rolled his eyes as he called out to his charge.
To Be Continued