No Matter the Cost: Part 2
No Matter the Cost
By Camospam, Wendy K and Gabi.
A Non-Canon Whateley Academy tale.
Arkham Research Centre (ARC)
Ken Tallman sat in the waiting room reading a copy of Field and Stream, he checked the cover: September 1988. “Oh well, at least it’s current,” he mumbled. He’d already undergone a so called ‘interview’, which proved to be an intense mentally exhausting session with an ARC Psychiatrist and Psychic.
Marcus Johnson was still being interviewed. Roche had been taken into another room at the same time as Ken, he must be into at least his second hour so far. Ken was still trying to sort through the bizarre questioning he had undergone for what he estimated to be an hour. He was asked many times, and in different ways about his association with Cameron.
This whole intervention business, they claimed, was orchestrated to free them from any mental conditioning; as if he was a cultist or something. “They insisted Outlook had done something to control him.”
“Did I look into his eyes?” That was the question they asked that brought the whole picture into focus. They wanted to determine if I had been brainwashed. The mental probing left Ken’s brain itching, he was irritable because he couldn’t figure out how to scratch it.
If Ken was honest with himself, it was good to have his decisions and actions scrutinized. How else could he be sure he hadn’t been compromised; how does anyone know if they are under someone else’s influence? But Cameron? Not Cameron! He was a decent kid.
Ken hated to admit it, but he wondered if maybe he had been the victim of manipulation. For as long as Ken had been sitting there reading the magazine he hadn’t even turned a page yet, and the itch was still annoying him. He just wasn’t sure anymore. Trust psychics and psychologists to turn your brain inside out leaving you scratching your head.
The door to an interview room opened and Roche stepped out followed by two doctor types in white jackets. Best Ken could tell, everyone who had been detained had been stripped and put into these… pyjama’s might be the best description. They were better than those wretched hospital gowns that left your butt flapping in the breeze, but not by much.
Roche gave Ken a nod of acknowledgement and came to join him. Roche stopped to peruse the magazine selection on the table and had just selected a copy of Better Homes and Gardens when a voice broadcasted through the building “Red Alert, containment breach!”
One of the doctors, a guy named Richmond, proclaimed, “Gentlemen, remain calm. ARC personnel have been trained to handle any emergency, just sit tight and this will be over soon.”
This could go sideways on so many levels observed Ken. He’d mentioned as much during his interview, cautioning them about exceedingly powerful individuals … such as these kids who warranted special attention. ARC had separated them: putting them into isolation for observation. A recipe for disaster on a grand scale for a group of kids who relied on each other.
Ken’s time with Cameron and his further assignment in the States; to learn about the dynamics of super groups, had taught Ken much about the need to handle the ‘super’ individuals with delicacy and diplomacy. Simply because hurt on that level had a boomerang effect.
“Tapioca? You’re eating Tapioca at a time like this?” shouted Timothy, standing in the doorway in disbelief!
“I didn’t know there was a bad time for good Tapioca,” puzzled Lynn, as she scooped more onto her spoon.
“Would you say it has honey, or did they use caramel?” asked R.E.D, ignoring anything which would distract from her delight.
“It has real vanilla, and it tastes soo yummy,” Lynn said around a spoonful.
“Perhaps one shouldn't imbibe Tapioca for breakfast?” questioned R.E.D. sizing up her now empty dish, the buffet table, and the newly arrived threesome who might have designs upon the remaining contents of the highly prized dessert bowl.
“But it’s after lunch time,” assured Lynn.
“Oui, but our friends here are just getting up now,” reminded R.E.D.
“Yah, who could sleep through all that racket out in the hall … so what did you guys do?” pondered Lynn, as her attention diverted to the three newcomers.
“We escaped, they had us locked in yucky separate rooms, so we busted out,” informed Charlotte.
“Us too, but was it really necessary to put this place on high alert?” quizzed Lynn. “We’ve been waiting here for an hour without setting off any alarms.”
“We weren’t willing to sit around doing nothing!” blustered Timothy.
“We weren’t doing nothing - we had lunch,” R.E.D. calmly stated.
“It’s okay, you three are here now," conceded Lynn. “It just messes with the timetable somewhat.” As if reviewing a mental checklist, Lynn began handing out assignments; “Swift; please ensure the kitchen is cleared out of people. Everyone is supposed to be on a break, but we best make certain nobody’s left in there. Take anyone you find into the hallway and release them. Flambé, can you secure all the doors into this area by welding them shut?”
“We don’t want hostages?” wondered Timothy.
“We are the hostages - remember? They kidnapped us!” established Lynn, getting nods of agreement.
“So what’s the plan?” Asked a curious Excelle, worried she’d missed something important.
“It’s simple, we hold out here and wait for them to capitulate. As it is, the first person will be coming through that wall of windows in a couple minutes,” Lynn revealed.
"Are you saying you don’t know who it will be?“ asked Rachel, attempting to grasp how precognition worked; her Psychic ability was being scrambled when trying to get a read off the girl.
“There are four possibilities: Ella, Ken, a security guard with a shotgun, or Mrs. Carson,” said Lynn trying to explain how different paths diverge.
“So?” snarked Rachel in retort, not seeing any difference between them.
“The outcome changes depending upon who comes to us first.”
“Which is best?”
“What? I have to rank them now?” objected Lynn. “Okay - fine … Ken is our best bet, the security guard the worst. The others are kinda equal.”
“Can we sweeten the odds in our favour?” wondered Rachel, not certain if precognition could be used that way.
“Maybe … Charlotte, can you open up a window?” politely asked Lynn.
“No problem.” The Exemplar girl picked up a heavy metal frame chair and lobed it through one of the windows.
“These are sliding doors, couldn’t you have tried opening one?” complained Rachel.
“You wanted an open window, you got an open window,” said the junior sister defiantly.
“Yes, thank you. I could have expressed my intentions better,” sighed Lynn. “Can everyone come over here, it will lessen the anxiety of our visitor if we’re together and in plain sight.
Elizabeth Carson took a couple steps back from ARC’s entrance door to get a better look at the building, she was trying to decide between kicking down the door, or finding another way in.
A sheepish notion hit her. How long has she been teaching her kids to ‘think before you act’, and not let an adrenaline rush take over and lead you down a dead-end street. Liz shuddered when she realized her first response had been to take matters into her own hands rather than let ARC handle it. It was one of the fundamental lessons Whateley tried to install into the kids.
A war of conflicting emotions raged within her. She had sent out a notification that an unruly group had left Whateley. Liz regretted that she called the group renegades, singling out one of them, Outlook, as a threat.
She recoiled at the possibility she had instigated this situation at ARC if it involved those kids. She couldn’t shake the feeling she was sticking her neck into a noose of her own creation. Guilt gnawed on her bones like a hungry dog.
Mrs. Carson had previously stifled the idea she was accountable. She felt she was the victim here. Whateley Academy had been endangered and she would defend it; so when Eloise had rebuffed her it put a different spin on her thinking and Liz's mind was reeling.
It had taken a lot of meetings with the schools department heads to root out the basic problems and get everyone to focus on the school as a whole unit, not only their own little empires. It was a lack of communication between the departments that created the cracks Outlook fell into.
Blame is a fickle mistress, it gets spread like a firecracker in a bag of dog poop… ‘Lord where did that come from?’ wondered Mrs. Carson - ah! An old Halloween prank from back in the day.
The headmistress reanalyzed how Whateley Academy was run. She plugged the holes she’d found, filled the cracks, and reopened lines of communication between departments. As the chief administrator it was her responsibility. However, getting everyone to buy in on the school’s interests first, and not be focused upon self serving goals and pursuits would take time.
The hardest part had been admitting that she, as headmistress, had dropped the ball. The drive over here provided the time she’d needed for a moment of realization, and the injustice of her failure stung the heroine.
The school had failed Cameron Burke, and that was coming back to haunt her. The school was being sued, she had been served the papers by lawyer Emit Paulson, who was far too pleased with himself when they met. Outlook was litigating not only with her, but also the entire board of Trustee’s.
As well, Eloise’s little bombshell about Whateley’s relationship with the Medawihla had been an eye-opener. Because of her mistake Whateley Academy was at risk on many fronts. Whoever dealt this lousy hand stacked the deck giving all the aces to Cameron Burke.
Liz realized the first time she had actually met Cameron Burke was at Whateley’s front gate where she berated him in front of his friends and accused them of being mindless drones. She let her aggravation get the better of her, and fixing the escalated situation didn’t bode well.
It had been an established policy to let the local authorities know when potential trouble was leaving Whateley, but Elizabeth had overstepped that protocol’s boundaries. Instead of just the police, she contacted Arkham as well, telling them about a situation involving mind control. Worst of all, she also called the MCO - out of spite.
Standing in front of ARC with the building in lock-down, Elizabeth Carson was frustrated to the point where she was ready to cry. How had everything gone so wrong?
Not knowing, on top of not being able to do anything about the situation was driving her crazy, so Mrs. Carson dug into her purse to retrieve her cell phone.
Amelia Hartford picked up on the first ring. “Liz, how’s it going?”
“Amelia, ARC is in lockdown, tell me everything you can about Outlook and his associates!”
“Just a minute, I'm accessing Outlook’s online presence. Cameron Burke’s school file is incomplete as you know; no MID, and no powers testing results. His application does list enhanced sight, energy absorption and molecular rearrangement. I haven’t heard of that ability before … does that make him some kind of Manifestor?” questioned Ms. Hartford.
“I don’t know,” confessed the Headmistress. “Had Cameron been attending classes we might have been able to figure it out; I’m sure the Lab would have been ecstatic to test something new.”
“Other than that, Cameron is affiliated with the RCMP and on a diplomatic posting. I will keep digging,” assured Amelia.
“We have old school records for Marcus Johnson, he’s called Timbre, he’s a Level 3 Siren and Level 1 Gadgeteer. He took boxing, fencing, and wrestling as extracurriculars, graduated in 96, added Amelia.
“Dr. Hewlett created a research file on Flambé. Let’s see, her name is Rhododendron but prefers R.E.D. Can't say as I blame her. Oh Liz! Don’t let that girl touch you, she’s a Level 6 Energizer, her hands can get extremely hot and she’s able to emit searing lightning like energy streams. She’s also a Level 3 Exemplar, she isn’t a Rager, but she gets hotter when upset. Not someone to take lightly.”
“Got it, don’t get the Energizer mad,” confirmed Mrs. Carson. “She could burn the place to the ground if left unchecked.”
“Let’s see what else I can find? Here we go! Ken Tallman, base line human, RCMP officer assigned to something called Special Investigations, sharpshooter among other merit awards.”
“Another RCMP, Al Koenig, uses Roche de Boule which translates to rolling rock. So he’s a Brick, obviously. MID classification has him between a Level 3 and 4.”
“Now this is interesting, a pair of twins and their younger sister, not much to go on, their records have been sealed by Child Services. But I have accessed their visitor packets.” “Swift is a Level 4 Speedster, his name is Timothy. Rachel, the other twin, is called Perspicacious; Level 3 Psychic. And their thirteen year old sister Charlotte goes by Excelle, she is an Exemplar / Energizer mix … power levels unconfirmed due to her age since she only has a temporary MID. She’s a Booster! That’s just not … Liz, forget the power ratings I gave you.”
“What’s wrong?” Intoned Mrs. Carson. “Youre not telling me something.”
“Dr. Hewlett tagged Excelle’s file, he’s begging that Whateley keep that kid on campus. If I understand his reasoning, a booster amplifies abilities by increasing the link to other planes of existence, the theorized source of everyones powers. And I quote “To be able to study a booster is like finding the holy grail.” I’ve never seen the good doctor so impassioned.
“Sure, dump another load onto my shoulders why don’t you?”
“Let’s face it Liz, these kids … all of them, need Whateley! Heaven knows who will try to get their hooks into them, use them to whatever ends. If we just let them go, without teaching them how to survive, we might as well have signed their death warrants.”
“Wouldn’t Gunny Bardue love to pit a group like this up against the Grunts,” mused Mrs. Carson.
“Now Liz! ... You hung up your cape to give the next generation the benefit of your experience, So don’t tell me you’re thinking of engaging in some aggressive negotiations?” humoured Amelia.
“Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” asked Mrs. Carson.
“I heard it called that someplace Liz.” “Hopefully we can resolve this peacefully like adults,” confided Mrs. Carson.
“Says the Lady who wrangles mutant teenagers all day,” tossed in the assistant headmistress.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst. That was a motto Champion used to say to me all the time.”
“I could dispatch a Whateley Security team to you, they could be there within a half hour. Eight against one are not good odds.”
“Arkham has their own people, it wouldn’t be right to steamroll over them. And it’s Nine! There is a Were with them,” revealed Elizabeth.
“Liz, Have you ever tangled with a Were before?”
“No, only verbally, which is more than enough. What I’m really worried about is that she might have an ability. Look online, see if there’s any reference to a Pantheress and a Golden Eyed Man.”
“I found something under Native American folklore, a tale about a farsighted chieftain and a mighty hero leading the people to victory, It has many tellings but that seems to be the basics.”
“Farsighted? Does that mean precognition?” stammered Mrs. Carson with a degree of worry. She had battled a Pre-Cog before and the memory of that day never faded. His ability had let him know exactly what Liz would do before she even did it - thereby countering every move Liz made until she was reduced to becoming a mere plaything to the villain. Ms. Miracle had been beaten badly that day, that prospect wasn’t something Elizabeth wished to re-visit.
Eloise had mentioned that Cameron was seen as a hero to the Were, it sounded like he found a way to defeat the Voodoo Wolves, a way that didn’t involve killing them.
“It’s not too late for you turn around and come home,” advised Amelia, aware of Mrs. Carson’s feelings about Pre-Cogs.
Liz knew she had little chance of winning today if it came to a fight, that is if her worst fears and the intel she’d just gotten proved true. But oftentimes just showing up was worth more than winning. An honourable loss can hold just as much importance when fighting for your morals and beliefs, when you're fighting for what’s right its the might of conviction that wins.
Cameron Burke sat on the edge of his cot, it was the only piece of furniture the small cell had. The young boy had fought the urge to leave already, but he hadn’t found any sign of his friends yet, and that hung like a proverbial 5 ton weight waiting to fall on him. How would the Roadrunner get outta this one?
Outlook worried what repercussions might befall his friends if he tried anything, it wasn’t like a locked door could stop him, however getting out of this pit could prove difficult. No, his concern was about Lynn and his friends, but particularly Lynn. It was getting hard to think about anything but her, he wanted to spend every minute of every day with her, talk with her about everything. He’d even settle for talking about nothing if it meant he could be with her. Besides, that single kiss wasn’t enough, the memory of it lingered on his lips, and he wanted more.
But Lynn acting so nervous around Cameron before … maybe, maybe she regretted being around me, she got what she needed done and now it was goodbye. The sadness that filled Cameron made breathing hard, maybe being locked up was easier than talking to her, maybe he’d lost her like he had his family.
Before, in the restaurant she had said, ‘I’m sorry’. She knew this would happen, but didn’t prevent it … why? If she cared … why?
Cameron couldn’t decide if he was more scared of being with Lynn or losing her.
What he did know was that; ‘Why?’ Is an exasperatingly annoying question, and it just keeps coming:
Why was Lynn so distant?
Why did Lynn allow me to be captured?
Why was I put in a cell instead of being experimented on, or tortured?
Why did Dr. Brentwood show up right after the drugs wore off?
Wait! That last why … maybe they have me under surveillance. I didn’t see anything in the cell - but that doesn’t mean...
While standing and stretching, he did a scan of the hallway beyond the one-way glass wall, sure enough, the light fixture outside his cell had a miniature camera. Cameron altered his vision to enable looking into the camera’s circuitry, after severing a wires connection within the camera it resulted in the camera dying. Cameron allowed a hint of a smile to form, let the games begin.
Cameron was sick and tired of the drab stone walls, he opened the small space up, making it square, then materialized wood using it to create a cozy looking log cabin. He blocked off most of the wall of windows with logs until all that remained was a nice sized picture window.
He needed a decent washroom, a toilet in the middle of the room wasn’t acceptable, so he shaped a doorway and began disintegrating rock, burrowing deeper into the cell’s back wall creating a hallway. He made a nice large room to one side for the toilet and sink, adding in a mirror and counter. Since he was at it, he fabricated a big walk in shower and beside that a massive stone soaker tub.
As Cameron pushed the hallway he’d formed outward, he came across something entirely unexpected. He discovered a seam of gold in the rock. Chasing the gold deposit, he ended up exposing a long length of tunnel. It became a large enough hollow to make a long swimming pool ideal for swimming laps. Plus he established a big flat open area to do some exercises, which seemed an appropriate addition.
Cameron decided that having a bedroom, a space suitable to put a decent bed would be nice, not that he wanted to stay long, but he might as well be comfortable. So across the hall from the washroom he opened up another room, and after making a pedestal, he set onto it one of the big extra plush beds from Warehouse.
He held to the rustic log cabin theme throughout and he felt calmer as it reminded him of his time with Marcus and Grace when they stayed at Jasper.
After pulling a huge leather recliner chair from Warehouse into the cell’s original space as a finishing touch, Cameron sat down to watch the anticipated fireworks. As he waited, he checked how much gold he had accumulated, he had mined just shy of 200 pounds, a tidy sum at current exchange rates.
The small basket in the elevator shaft was returning on the cable once again. This time, as before at lunch time, there was just a single occupant with a service cart. Outlook remained sitting in his chair, he checked his stores and decided he could spare some popcorn. Noticing just how tight space was on the lift, it dawned on Cameron that they mustn’t have been able to get anything better than foldable cots to sleep on down here.
The man pushed his service cart off the confining lift, came up the hallway to the light outside Cameron’s cell and commenced assembling a ladder. The man in coveralls proceeded to take the light fixture apart. It was a grand performance to make it look like he was changing a light bulb rather than checking on the disabled camera.
Cameron scanned the man looking for any clues and deep inside his wallet found a security card, it was MCO! Nickolas Turcotte wasn’t an agent but a technician. During the time Nick was working he repeatedly glanced over towards Cameron in obvious nervous disbelief, the boy was sitting in an impossible chair, in a most unlikely room.
Cameron didn’t give any indication he’d noticed Nick in the hallway. The boy dipped his hand into his bowl of popcorn, happily munching away while reading his book.
The technician finished repairing the camera after considerable consternation and difficulty, he was preparing to pack up his gear when Cameron went to the window and closed the curtains he had hung during construction, thereby blocking anyone - or anything from looking in at him.
Arkham Research Centre
Lady Astarte took to the air assuming the classic pose with one arm held forward and a bent knee; she climbed slowly upward to rise above the two story wall, scanning the facility for an access. She remembered there was a central courtyard adjacent to the cafeteria. It might be an easy place to gain entry, or at least she could hopefully find out more about what was happening.
After circling some of the above ground building comprising part of the ACR facility, she alighted onto a walkway within the courtyard. Her arrival stilled the advance of an armed security officer who retreated to a safe position. Elizabeth scouted her options; all the glass doors were closed and there were scant revelations about what had transpired. However, one window had been smashed out so she stepped closer to investigate.
As she neared the open window it was apparent a metal chair had shattered the floor to ceiling glass. The projectile had been flung with such force that it had come to rest a good thirty feet away.
Stepping on the glass fragments was unavoidable unless she flew. However, taking an aerial position could be construed as threatening, so she remained earth bound as small pieces of glass crunched underfoot. The experienced heroine prepared herself for an imminent attack as she looked in. The room was an eating area adjacent to the facility’s kitchen, tables and chairs situated throughout, a buffet table and drink dispenser set to one side.
Near the back corner of the room at a table sat three youths, two girls and a boy. Another girl stood close by, leaning against the back wall behind them. The fifth, another girl - younger than the others was sitting on the table beside them swinging her legs. She recognized them as the very group who had been with Outlook at Whateley’s gate.
“Mrs. Carson, please come in. We’d like to speak with you,” called a voice from within the building.
Elizabeth performed another quick survey of the room as she entered, no one else was present. Curious, there had been three adults with Outlook, one was standing beside him while the others remained in the van, yet no sign of Outlook or the adults. Where were they? No Arkham staffers either?
“There's coffee or tea if you'd like, some of the desserts are really good,” offered the seated girl in the middle. The Psychic, she’d surmised from her assessment.
“Tea would be nice,” smiled Mrs. Carson trying to stay calm and placid in her mind and body. It wasn’t that she was thirsty, but better to build a cordial relationship than refuse hospitality.
Before she even finished that thought, she had a plate in her hand, a tea bag was steeping in a cup of hot water, and on the plate were two squares, one lemon the other chocolate. No one had moved from what she was able to detect. The Speedster, no way was he just a Level 4.
A chair had been positioned in front of the table, it was a classic interrogation format, but Mrs. Carson lingered beside the buffet to doctor her tea before taking the strategically placed seat. It wasn’t an ideal arrangement, but at least she could keep an eye on each of them.
“Shall we commence with introductions?” asked the headmistress.
“We can dispense with that formality. We know you’ve been briefed, and you’ve deduced who we are … what we’re capable of,” revealed Perspicacious.
“I see. What about the others? Cameron doesn’t wish to dirty his hands with an interrogation?”
There was a quick glance shared between the two seated girls: the Pre-Cog and the Psychic; the Psychic was the spokesperson, a logical choice. “You expect us to believe you don’t know where Outlook is?”
“He’s not with you?” Puzzled Mrs. Carson, his not being with them at ARC was an entirely unexpected turn of events, Elizabeth had figured she would be speaking with Outlook, this entire venture had become so much worse.
“We were separated,” provided the black haired girl who shared features with Eloise Donner. “He was put into a different vehicle.”
“He wasn’t brought here with the rest of you” deduced Mrs. Carson as worry replaced hope. “You don’t know his whereabouts?”
The Psychic, Perspicacious, answered, “We are not in contact with him.”
This wasn’t good, she had walked into the lion’s den and was going to get shredded. By contacting the authorities, the headmistress hadn’t meant to break them up. She just tried to prevent a manipulated half cocked group of children who didn’t know any better from going off to get killed. Mrs. Carson honestly didn’t know where Outlook had been taken, or who might have gotten their clutches on him, but she had been the one to sic the dogs on him.
“She doesn’t know where he is either, but she’s the Judas who turned us over,” blurted Rachel to keep the rest informed on revealed details.
The tall redhead stood upright in anger, and scowled, “You had no right! We didn’t do anything wrong!”
“You have every reason to be upset with me,” confessed Mrs. Carson.
“Upset does not even beginning to describe how mad I am,” the Energizer’s eyes took on a tinge of bright scarlet. Her hair pulsed in rapid waves that traveled down its length. It also looked as if smoke was coming from her clothes, the sleeves of the institute’s pyjamas bursting into flames.
“Take it easy, deep breaths Flambé, let her explain,” calmed Lynn, receiving a ‘harrumph’ for her efforts as the girl patted out the fire like this sort of thing happened all the time.
“I am obligated to provide a warning about potentially dangerous individuals who leave Whateley. When you left, I didn’t know what you might be capable of … you had just fought a war at my school,” pleaded Mrs. Carson.
The enraged girl closed her eyes and breathed deeply trying to tame her rage, it wasn’t happening with ease.
“We did you no harm, heck - we protected your school,” complained Swift, upset over being maligned.
“I know that! … Now. At the time, I could only assume that you had been mentally usurped and used to suit Outlook’s agenda.”
“That’s the problem when you assume, It makes an ASS out of U and ME,“ chirped Charlotte.
“Excelle! You’re not helping,” snapped her big sister cutting the young girl off.
“No, she’s right,” admitted the headmistress. “My conduct was injudicious. Whateley Academy is my responsibility. When I perceived it to be under threat you took the brunt of my frustration. I’m sorry for lashing out at you, I acted out of fear without regard to the facts.”
“We appreciate that you came to speak candidly with us. But, as you’re aware, all our friends aren’t here. Until we can regroup are you willing to help us locate the others?”
“I have influence with a number of the people at Arkham, I can act as a mediator for the release of hostages if you like.”
“You’ve already helped enough!” scowled Flambé at the suggestion.
Rachel winced at the harsh words, but needed to diffuse the angst, “That’s kind of you, but we’re here because of you, we don’t trust you.”
“I meant I could negotiate with you, for release of your hostages.”
“We’ve taken no prisoners, we only incapacitated people - and those are recuperating as we speak.”
“I thought …” stammered Mrs. Carson.
“What? That we had brutally taken over this place to force our will, begun torturing and killing people, exacting vengeance for your misdeed?”
“Not exactly,” voiced Liz, concerned at having her thoughts exposed.
“That is what you felt us capable of,” revealed Rachel. “The truth is, we are the hostages. If you were serious in your offer to help Mrs. Carson, let our captors know that we want to be reunited and free to leave.”
“Or?” asked Mrs. Carson, to better understand the terms of the mediation.
“How long do you imagine this place can go without food? I can detect 300 people nearby; so many hungry mouths to feed with no kitchen!”
“I have your word you haven’t harmed anyone?”
“They experienced only dizziness and nausea, after a little rest they’ll be fine. We did disarm them which is to be expected after all.”
“Very well, I will speak to Arkham on your behalf,” commented Liz, feeling a wave of relief at how this was turning out. She started to rise from the chair…
“Before you go, would you answer another question?” spoke the Were.
The heroine’s nerve endings sparked, expecting the worst. “Shoot,” she replied, not even realizing the implications.
“Why do you hate Outlook?” asked the Pre-Cog. Well, that was a loaded question! The headmistress dropped back into the chair, but stared at the ceiling for a moment, collecting her thoughts and feelings before speaking.
The Psychic tilted her head slightly as she looked intently at the woman in the hot-seat, curious to hear the answer.
“I admit, I wasn’t happy about being charged with child abuse. That could have ruined my career, destroyed everything I’ve spent my whole life working for. But I don’t hate him.”
“Then why refuse to admit him to Whateley? Put him in detention?”
“Gods! That was a mistake! When he was in my office, I thought he was someone else … it was the worst mistake I’ve made; not turning around to look directly at him. But … when he spoke I heard another student’s voice, the reflection on my window was of someone else. I can’t understand it.”
“So you admit to heaping torture upon Outlook, and then couldn’t be bothered to check up on him.”
“He never came back to the office! I didn’t know about his situation. How could I be expected to fix something I didn’t know was broken?”
“You slammed the door in his face so hard he couldn’t come to you. Or anyone else at your school for that matter.”
“He should have stepped up for himself, maybe talked to his parents.”
“You mean the parents who have been dead and buried for eight years?”
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No! You shouldn’t have. But it shows that you’ve failed to understand the first thing about Cameron! He doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone, he’s trying to be an adult, and adults don’t come crying to mommy for help - they solve their own problems.”
“But he isn’t an adult, an adult would have asked for help.”
“You can’t be serious! Most adults are too full of themselves to ask for help. Or they're too scared that they don’t measure up to their peers.”
“He didn’t give us a chance.”
“A chance? A chance like the one you gave Cameron?” The words left Lynn’s mouth as she choked back a sob. ”Cameron tried to live under the conditions you stipulated, for three months he tried, he wanted so badly to impress you, to show the world he wasn’t a quitter,” the Were’s emotions broke as tears trickled down her cheeks, “… but Whateley just kept yanking the rug out from underneath him. Now he’s suffering from the wounds you inflicted!” Lynn used a napkin to dab at the tears running paths down to her chin.
“I wouldn’t … I didn't know … I screwed up,” commented the headmistress, as the implications of the matter came into focus with the full weight settling upon Elizabeth’s shoulders.
“What would you have done if Cameron had been here?” Sought the Were.
“I’d like to try and apologize to him, admit my mistakes, even if that scuttled our defence in court.”
“Had you at any time even considered giving him a hug and saying, ‘I’m sorry’?”
Tears now streaked down the heroine’s face, “No, I hadn’t thought that would be possible.”/p.
“Then you sorely underestimate Cameron.”
The elevator had been busy, it had made three trips in short order. Cameron calculated the shaft’s depth based on the turn-around time; a half hour round trip, give or take. Using the speed of travel of the metal basket on the cable, it was 1100 feet up; up to heavens knows what.
Outlook could only see through 200 feet of a solid object before his vision would get obscured. Maybe if he stood at the bottom of the shaft he might figure out more…
He couldn’t worry about that right now though, his foe had amassed three people at his door. They were preparing to make a forced entry.
A canister was being connected to his cell’s air supply, they wanted him knocked-out. The wheeled dolly with restraints they had brought down meant that whatever had caused them to be cautious before was no longer preventing them from becoming aggressive, and that didn’t look to be pleasant.
Surprisingly, it seems nobody remembers that a prison cell can keep people out just as well as it keeps people in. Cameron heard the additional hiss in the ventilation from the canister. He gathered the gas as it slowly entered his cell, putting it into a prepared vessel in Warehouse, then waited as the three agents outside his door counted down the time it would take for the gas to render him unconscious.
In preparation, the three donned face masks. Then at the GO signal the code to unlock the door was entered: One, Three, Seven, Nine, Five, Five. Cameron put the code to memory. Meanwhile, the three goons were stymied since the door didn’t budge. Not that it could move, Cameron had affixed the metal all around the former opening.
Two crowbars were used to try and jimmy the door open, to no avail. After an argument, one of the three climbed into the suspended cage basket to get hauled up. The other two kept trying to force the door, it was a valiant albeit fruitless endeavour.
When the basket returned, the third man had brought an acetylene torch with him and all three helped wheel the torch over. Then the torch was lit and they began to try cutting through the door.
The cutting didn’t go as planned The door’s metal didn’t even get hot so it could melt due to Cameron absorbing the heat, not that the three outside the door could determine that. Their frustration mounted at the inability to collect a prisoner.
All three men had been sweating from the labour of trying to open the door and the additional effort that wearing facemarks required didn’t make the task easier. Cameron was surprised by the sudden sequence of events outside his door, the acetylene torch slipped out of one of the mens hands, the flame cut across the gas canisters hose, an explosion burst outward hurtling the men against rock walls.
Cameron was unharmed hidden inside his protective cocoon, that wasn’t the case for the men outside who took the brunt of the blast. Exposed skin was burned, broken bones, cuts and contusions. The men were a mess those still concious writhed on the floor in agony.
The explosion caused the elevator basket to become wedged, twisting it in the tight shaft. Help would not be coming down anytime soon.
Black smoke rolled from the hallway up into the shaft, the air was clearer near the floor but the thick smoke at the ceiling dimmed the lights making the prison hallway dark.
Taking some of the knockout gas that had been intended for Cameron, he placed a small amount of the gas it into each of the men’s lungs. There was some coughing, but very quickly they all succumbed and lay motionless.
Cameron once again shorted out the camera surveillance feed so no-one could watch, even if the smoke blocked visibility. Cameron dissipated the doors restraint allowing it to retract into the wall, he then entered the hallway outside his cell. The youth conducted an assessment of each of the injured men. The masks they wore had protected their faces from burns, and filtered the smoke, but it restricted being able to gather breath.
Of all the men, the one closest to the explosion had suffered the most damage, his impact against the wall had broken seven ribs, each breath was a gulping / gasping affair. Cameron layered his sight and began to weave broken bone together. Once the man’s chest began to rise in a steady rhythm, Cameron looked for other problems, closing gashes to prevent blood loss.
The next man had taken a bad blow to his head, a clear liquid ran out from an ear. Repairing the internal damage allowed the man to visibly relax, Cameron reset the dislocated shoulder and tended to his broken arm. The two men had fallen into a tangled heap, so Cameron dragged them out of the small alcove into the hallway and laid them out flat on the floor.
The last man had been thrown clear of the blast, having bounced off a wall and landed away from the others. He had been winded, both his arms and a knee cap broken, with a long scratch down his side. After mending the breaks and ensuring no serious blood loss would endanger him, Cameron propped him against a wall to help him breath easier.
Going into the kitchen Cameron found some bandages in a first aid kit, and after soaking them in water he placing them on the worst of the burnt skin. There were no more life threatening injuries, time and a doctor’s care would suffice. Cameron felt no need to do more for them, but he would still keep them unconscious.
Since he was out, Cameron decided to check out his surroundings, taking a look up the elevator shaft. It ended 1123 feet up at a set of sliding doors with a winch and cable spool positioned above. Cameron’s vertigo had his head spinning, the boy didn’t get along well with heights.
Walking down the hallway Cameron looked into each of the cells to see who else was being held prisoner down here, checking up on his roomies to make sure everyone else had faired well in the explosion.
Two of the cells held avatar mutants, each hosting wraiths. These weren’t overly powerful spirits but neither of them could be counted on as possible allies. They had enough sense to stay laying down and had avoided any harm.
The third occupied cell held another mutant, a scruffy looking middle aged man without distinguishing features to identify him. He had a minor psychic rating that Cameron couldn’t place. He too was unharmed.
The fourth cell’s windows had been boarded up, but a few of the boards had been displaced, however: within - it was unmistakable, a corrupted Were. The black filth oozed as it covered over them. Cameron watched as the dark rolled and churned as it sought a means to escape confinement. It paced around the cell for what must have been the millionth time.
How someone had managed to capture it was almost as good a question as, ‘What was it doing here?’
Arkham Research Centre
The sneaky red fox’s entry into the dining room through the broken window almost escaped notice. However, Lynn’s senses picked up the quiet movement and tracked the fox with her cat tuned eyes. The fox snuck behind a chaise lounge along the far wall.
Lynn called out, “Hi Ella!”
All eyes turned to see the Were girl as she relaxed on a lounge chair. “Can’t leave you alone for a single minute,” Ella complained, wearing a smile as she acknowledged each of the youth by looking directly at them in turn, satisfied that they were whole and healthy.
“Good to see you too,” countered Lynn. “What have you done with my brother?”
“We split up in Dunwich; Allan’s following Cameron’s scent. He wanted to come after you, but my dad and I convinced Allan he should look for Cameron while the trail was still warm.”
“So your dad?” “Oh! He’s outside teaching some dud of a Fudd security guard that no season is fox season.”
“You’ve arrived just in time, Now that we’ve got two Oberons, this is going to be like having your cake and eating it too,” gushed Lynn, giving the other Were girl a hug.
“We’ve got some cake over here too, if you're hungry,” announced Swift. He filled another plate at the buffet table, reaching over Charlotte who was also at the table.
“He’s got the attention span of a doorknob, that one,” noted Ella in a soft mocking voice.
“Keep something shiny with you,” suggested Rachel, as she joined the Were’s in conversation. “Tim has a big heart but his brain gets ahead of his feet … and mouth.”
“I meant no harm,” back-pedalled Ella.
“None was taken, my brother can be a doofus, but he’s my brother,” admitted Rachel.
“I get what you're saying,” confided Lynn, “Allan can be the same way.”
“I don’t know, Allan’s kinda nice,” hinted Ella.
“Does the battle ready warrior have a conquest in mind?” exaggerated Lynn by raising her hand to her mouth as if shocked.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” stated Ella trying to dismiss her involvement.
“Really, and how far would you go?” asked Lynn, now becoming protective of her family member.
“I’m interested, I mean Allan’s a nice guy and all, but I don’t think I could commit to anything. Not yet anyway,” admitted Ella.
“Your duty as Oberon is foremost to your heart,” observed Lynn taking on her farsighted glaze. “Yet you wonder what your life might be like afterwards.”
“Of course there’s that, and I’ve never really given much thought to the whole boyfriend / girlfriend thing. But I guess priorities change,” mulled Ella.
“Okay, I’ll promise you something: when the battle is over, I’ll tell you what your future will be. Just don’t send Allan any mixed signals, he might look all strong and wonderful on the outside, but he’s been through a lot and has a lot of healing to do.”
“I like that he’s got a vulnerable side, it makes me feel needed,” mentioned Ella, but her nod of agreement sealed the pact.
“What about your dad? How is he doing?” asked Lynn mostly out of curiosity, and also because the current topic bordered on trying to determine her brother’s life.
“He won’t talk about it, he’s afraid to show any weakness.”
“Is he up to a fight?” Lynn’s question was direct; she said what she did for a specific reason.
“Are you kidding? He’s ready to tear a strip of anything that casts a shadow.”
“Will you introduce us?” requested the Pantheress.
“Just a sec.” Ella moved over to the open window and motioned for someone outside to enter. “Dad, this is the Pantheress, Lynn Franklin. My Lady, I present to you Ulrich Oberon, my father.”
The man dropped to his knee and bowed his head, not even daring to look at Lynn. The others in the crew watched with amazement as the scene unfolded. Lynn had to grab Ella to prevent her from taking a knee also.
“Oberon, I am pleased to meet you. I believe you are familiar with my mother, Theresa Donner,” Lynn said while motioning for him to rise.
The man stuttered as his memory stirred, “Theresa Donner, the Medawihla Panther who wouldn’t accept the mantle.”
“My mother couldn't fulfill the role, it wasn’t the right time.”
“Theresa only had two children; son’s, there was no daughter. The Pantheress couldn’t have come through her.”
“Granted these clothes are not very becoming, but I am most definitely female, and I certainly know who my mother is,” advised Lynn.
“But the Pantheress cannot be an Outcast, she must lead the people, an Outcast cannot be chief.”
“And so your sins catch up with you; you dug up a Golden Eyed Man to suit your template, tried forcing Mom to marry him, and entirely forgot to give heed to the prophecies intent.”
“No!” cried out the man as he reeled back trembling at the accusation.
“I should disembowel you where you stand, but the truth is Ulrich Oberon, I need your help to find Cameron Burke, we’ve no time to lose!”
End Part 2