A Second Generation Whateley Academy Tale
Friday, Nov 4th, 2016
Karma stared out the bus window, watching impatiently as the Whateley gates came closer. It was Friday, so she couldn’t wait to get home. Friday meant that it was allowance day.
Of course, Friday also meant that it was the weekend, so she wouldn’t have to go to school for the next two days and could play the whole time instead. At least, that was the way it was supposed to be. But Karma lived at a school and her mom was a teacher, so things didn’t work the same for her that they did for her classmates. In fact, she thought that it was pretty silly that they made her go to Berlin for school when she already lived at Whateley, but adults were really silly sometimes.
“Wyatt and Connie don’t have to go to some other school anymore,” Karma grumbled, thinking about how unfair it was that her friends didn’t have to go to a completely different school every day like she did. Of course, they had their powers already and she didn’t, which was also unfair in her opinion.
When they reached the gates, the bus came to a stop so the guards could give it a quick inspection. She saw her favorite guard standing outside so she waved at him. He waved back, which made Karma grin. She didn’t actually know his name, but they waved at each other nearly every day when she came home, so he was her favorite.
A few minutes later, the bus arrived at the Village and dropped Karma off. She immediately leapt out of the bus, grabbed hold of her backpack straps to keep it from bouncing so much, and ran as fast as she could to the apartment where she lived.
“MAMA, I’M HOME!” Karma yelled out as she burst through the door.
“I can see that,” her mother responded with a smirk. “And hear it.” Her mother’s tail was swishing back and forth, which told Karma that her mama was in a good mood. “So, how was school?”
Karma let out a sigh. “Boring… Mrs. Fraggle wouldn’t let me have any fun at recess…”
Mrs. Fraggle wasn’t her teacher’s real name but was what her mama called her instead. Karma had actually gotten in trouble a couple times for calling her Mrs. Fraggle at school, which only made her more determined to use her mama’s name for the woman.
“That’s too bad,” Mama responded with a look of sympathy. “Most teachers are kind of boring.” That made Karma laugh since her mama was a teacher too. “By the way, your allowance is in your room.”
“YAY!” Karma exclaimed, already running to her room.
Karma rushed into her room and casually dropped her backpack on the floor. Her attention was immediately focused on the metal lock box which sat in the middle of her floor. It wasn’t quite a safe, though it came close. This was also a new model, a little more secure and advanced than the lock box her mama had used for the last couple months.
“This is a new one,” Karma said with a grin.
She dropped down to her knees to get a better look at the box and the lock on the front of it. Most of her previous boxes had been locked with various types of padlocks, sometimes with multiple locks on a single box. But this one had a built-in combination lock, one that would be a bit more complicated to figure out. She could hardly wait.
After examining every inch of the box, Karma went and pulled a metal lunchbox out from beneath her bed. It was an old lunch box with pictures of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo on the front. However, the inside didn’t have a thermos or her lunch. Instead, it had her best set of tools, the one her big sister had given her for her last birthday.
As soon as Karma had her tools ready, she went to the bookshelf in the corner and began scanning the various titles, trying to find the one she needed. There was Lockpicking for Dummies, the Adventures of Robin Hood…the Disney one with the Fox, The Monster at the end of this Book, Larceny 101, Pickpocketing and You, the Art of Rembrandt...
Karma paused at that one, which her mama had given her, deciding that it should be on a different shelf. This Rembrandt guy had some pretty pictures, but he didn’t have any of his pictures on Mama’s fridge the way she did, so he couldn’t be very good.
“Here it is,” Karma announced.
She pulled out her coloring book and flipped through the pages, admiring her coloring job, though it was the pictures she was really interested in at the moment, not how well she’d colored them. There was one picture in particular that she wanted at the moment, and it didn’t take long to find it.
Karma’s coloring book was a locksmith manual, full of diagrams for various types of locks and showing how they worked. The page was now open to a diagram of a combination lock which was very similar to the one in her new lockbox. She looked past the purple and green crayon and instead, focused on how the dial and tumblers worked for this particular lock.
Once Karma was ready, she went to work on the lockbox. She knew that there were easier ways to open it, that she had several toys Melissa had given her, or that she’d ‘borrowed’ from her mama, but she wasn’t allowed to use any of that for the allowance game. There were rules for getting her allowance, and if she broke those rules, then she wouldn’t get any allowance at all for the next week.
This lock looked easy in her book, but the real thing was a lot trickier than she’d expected. In fact, she soon realized that it wasn’t actually the same lock, only one that looked like it at first. But in spite of that, Karma was able to figure it out, and an hour after she began, the lockbox finally popped open.
“OH YEAH!” Karma exclaimed, jumping to her feet excitedly. Then she immediately got back down to see what was inside.
As expected, there was money in the lockbox. There was always money, though not always the same amount. Whenever Karma got a new type of lock or one that was extra challenging, there would be more money…and other things. She quickly stuffed the money into her pocket without bothering to count it. She was more interested in the other things in the box.
“Cookies,” Karma announced with a broad grin as she pulled out a whole bag of cookies.
She immediately shoved one into her mouth, not caring that it was about time for dinner. As long as she didn’t spoil her dinner, Mama didn’t care if she had some of her dessert first.
And then Karma saw the last thing that was resting in the lockbox. It was a headband, a purple one with a pair of devil horns on it. She stared at the headband for several long seconds before letting out an excited ‘SQUEEE’ and gleefully putting it on. Now she had horns, her very own horns, just like Mama.
Karma danced around her room for several minutes and practiced making dramatic poses which she thought would suitably show off her new horns. Then she paused, realizing that she still hadn’t shown her mom how they look…or bragged about getting her allowance out already.
The girl raced to the living room to tell her mother but paused when she saw that her mama wasn’t alone. Mama was in the living room with a guest, a middle-aged woman with brown hair that was greying at the temples, and which was pulled back into a bun.
Karma immediately recognized Mrs. Hastings, the devisor shop teacher, though she wondered why the other teacher was there. She tried to remember if she’d done anything wrong or had done anything at all that might have brought Mrs. Hastings over, but couldn’t think of anything. She hadn’t even been in the devisor shop in FOREVER. Or at least, a week.
“So, you’re saying,” Mama said with an amused look, “you’re updating the security on your top-secret devisor vault, and you want me to look it over…”
A quiet gasp escaped Karma’s mouth as she heard those words, but she quickly clamped her hands over her mouth to keep making a sound. So far, Mama and Mrs. Hastings didn’t seem to see her, so she backed up and moved around the corner where she wouldn’t be seen. This top-secret devisor vault sounded interesting…and like something that they wouldn’t talk about in front of her if they knew she was there.
“We’re still in the middle of changing over the security system,” Mrs. Hastings explained. “But yes, once we’re done, we’d like you to see if we missed anything.”
Karma peeked around the corner and saw that her mama was grinning. Mama’s tail was even swishing back and forth. “You know,” Mama told the other teacher, “I imagine a big warehouse…like that one at the end of that one Indiana Jones movie…”
Mrs. Hastings chuckled. “Nothing quite like that, I’m afraid. Our vault isn’t nearly that large since the only things in it are the various inventions that have been confiscated from our lab students over the years, for being too dangerous.”
Mama nodded at that, then admitted, “Oh, I’ve definitely heard of this vault. Quite a bit in fact. However, I’ve never actually seen the inside, so I look forward to taking a peek…” Mama smirked. “You know, professional curiosity and all…”
“Of course,” Mrs. Hastings responded with a chuckle. “There was a time when I would have been quite eager to look inside such a vault myself.”
After this, they began discussing teacher stuff, which immediately bored Karma. She slipped back to her room, still thinking about the vault they’d mentioned. If it was full of devisor stuff, especially things that teachers had confiscated from devisors, then she really wanted to see it for herself.
Saturday morning, Nov 5th, 2016
Karma stared at the locked door in front of her, especially at the lock. It was a fancy plate that looked like you were supposed to put your hand on it. Her mama had shown her locks like that before, ones that needed fingerprints to open. However, this one looked even fancier…and trickier.
“Tricky tricky,” Karma mused, her fingers running over her lockpick set. “Hard to picky.”
She knew that there had to be more to this lock than just fingerprints, but she didn’t know how much more. That made her fingers itch to try it, though she held back and kept looking.
There didn’t seem to be anything that she could actually pick, or any way to open the panel to get into the electronic parts behind it. There weren’t even any hinges on the door that she could take off. That meant, if she wanted to get past this door, she’d either have to get really sneaky…or she’d just have to cheat.
Karma carefully put her lockpicks away, knowing that they wouldn’t do any good for this lock. Instead, she pulled out one of the toys that she’d ‘borrowed’ from Mama.
Just then, Karma suddenly heard someone cough behind her. She snapped around, realizing that she’d been so focused on the lock that she hadn’t been watching out behind her. If Mama found out she’d been caught like this, she’d get a lecture for sure.
“Well, look what we caught trying to break in,” someone said.
Three people stood there, all of them familiar to Karma, though she really only knew one of them. The youngest of the three was a girl, a few years older than Karma. She had dark blonde hair that was pulled back into a pair of pig tails, and she was wearing a pink witch hat.
“Um…,” Karma stammered as she gave an embarrassed wave. “Hi Twitch.”
“Karma,” Twitch exclaimed, crossing her arms and giving a look of disapproval.
“It looks like we caught you red-handed,” the second person said, shaking his head slightly as he did so.
Karma stared up at this boy…at Racoon, then gave a nervous glance towards the third person, a boy named Esquire. Racoon had a look of amusement on his face while Esquire just seemed annoyed.
After taking a moment to collect herself, Karma stood up straight, gave her best innocent look, and protested, “I was just looking at it…”
“Look somewhere else,” Esquire snapped impatiently.
However, Racoon ignored him and asked, “And what, pray tell, is this?”
Racoon held up a black metallic disk. Karma’s eyes widened in surprise, then she quickly opened her hand and stared at her empty palm.
“My toy,” she blurted out in surprise, wondering how Racoon had gotten it out of her hand without her even realizing it.
“This here, looks like some kind of devise,” Racoon commented, staring at the metal disk, which he then began to roll over his fingers like an oversized coin. “Let me guess, it was to help you get through our lock…”
“Hey,” Twitch exclaimed in realization. “That must be how she got into our Wondercute hideout… And Petshop’s lab…”
“And probably quite a few other places as well,” Esquire added impatiently before addressing Karma. “Now move aside, brat…”
“But first,” Racoon asked, giving Karma a curious look. “Why in the world are you trying to break into our clubhouse?”
Karma flashed him a grin and proudly announced, “I wanna join your club…”
Racoon’s eyes widened a little at that, but before he could say anything, Twitch blurted out, “Not again…”
“Again?” Racoon asked, glancing at Twitch.
Twitch crossed her arms and glared at Karma. “The last time she said that, we ended up with those furry things all over the place…”
“What nonsense,” Esquire stated, leaning on his cane. “Surely, you must be joking…”
“I’m not joking,” Karma protested. Then she grinned, “And don’t call me…”
“Begone,” Esquire snapped, gesturing for Karma to leave. “I don’t have time to deal with your childish nonsense…”
Karma glared at him, more annoyed at her joke being interrupted than by being told to leave. “But I wanna join the Bad Seeds… You guys have a neat clubhouse and everything…”
Racoon let out a sigh, then smiled patiently at Karma. “Yes, we do have a rather cool clubhouse and everything…”
“Hey,” Twitch protested. “She was trying to break in…”
“I know,” Racoon agreed pleasantly, holding the metal disk up again. “And unless I miss my guess, she would have succeeded if we hadn’t happened to see her…” Then he glanced to Esquire. “And there’s a good chance that she might try this again sometime in the future…”
“Then, I supposed well will have to teach her not to,” Esquire responded, his eyes narrowing.
Racoon held out his hand, gesturing for Esquire to stay back. The look he gave the other boy clearly stated that he would handle this.
“Now then,” Racoon told Karma, “while we’d love to have you as a member, I’m afraid that the Bad Seeds are a rather exclusive club. You see, you’d have to actually be a student at Whateley to join.”
“That’s not fair,” Karma whined.
“Maybe not,” Racoon agreed, “but that’s the way it is.”
Karma pouted and kicked at the ground. “Phooey…”
Racoon put a hand on Karma’s shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. “But hey, if you ever manifest and end up as an actual student, come on back. We’ll be happy to have you.”
“Okay,” Karma grumbled, feeling a little better since at least he was nice about it. Then with a sigh, she started walking away, shuffling her feet as she did so.
“Hey, Karma,” Racoon added, causing her to pause and look back. He tossed the metal disk to her. “Don’t forget this.”
Karma nodded and quickly stuffed her lock picking toy back into her pocket. She took one more look at the three people who’d caught her, then one at the door. And with a mischievous grin, she quickly hurried on her way, silently promising herself that one way or another, she was going to get through that door.
Saturday morning, Nov 5th, 2016
Twitch ran into the Bad Seeds’ clubhouse while Racoon and Esquire followed behind her at a more leisurely pace. She came to an abrupt stop when she nearly ran into AJ, who was just turning away from the microwave with a bag of freshy popped popcorn.
“Hey, slow down,” AJ warned her.
“Sorry,” Twitch apologized, grabbing hold of her hat which had threatened to come off.
“No problem,” AJ responded with a shrug. “But you might want to be a little more careful. Not everyone around here is as easygoing as I am.”
“Um…yeah,” Twitch agreed, imagining what would happen if she’d accidentally run into Transhuman or Nightsnake. “Thanks.”
“So, why the excitement?” AJ asked, looking to Racoon and Esquire.
“We found a pest pawing at our door,” Esquire said contemptuously.
“Karma was trying to break in,” Racoon explained with a look of amusement. “I’d bet good money that she’ll try again, sooner or later.”
Esquire shook his head. “You were far too gentle with that brat.”
Twitch nodded at that. “Karma broke into our Wondercute clubhouse…”
Racoon dropped down into an empty chair, taking on a completely relaxed position. “Well, there’s a reason you should be nicer to her.” He paused at that, then held up his hand with three fingers raised. “Actually, three of them.”
“Do tell,” Esquire responded with as skeptical look.
“One,” Racoon said with a smirk, now holding up only a single finger. “Her mom is a teacher…and not just any teacher either. If the Imp thinks that we’re bullying her daughter, she can cause a lot of problems for all of us.”
“That is a good point,” AJ agreed as he popped a piece of popcorn into his mouth.
“Perhaps,” Esquire agreed, though he didn’t look convinced.
“Two,” Racoon agreed, holding up a second finger. “The rugrat has some impressive skills for a kid, and she’s only going to get better. It makes sense to stay on good terms with her, because you never know when you’ll need someone with those skills.”
Esquire snorted dismissively. “She’s still too young to be of any use…”
“At the moment, yes,” Racoon agreed with a smirk. “But she will get older. And that brings me to my third point.” He held up three fingers again.
“Do tell,” Esquire wryly commented.
“Considering who her parents are,” Racoon explained, “there’s a very good chance that sooner or later, she’s going to manifest and end up as a student here. And when that happens, she’s going to be eligible for membership…”
Twitch nodded, having figured that out a couple weeks earlier. Still, she asked, “You mean, she really can become a Seed?”
“Yep,” Racoon responded with a grin. He winked at Twitch. “You might be a junior Seed, but Karma could be considered as a junior junior Seed, or at least, as a future member.”
“You do make some good points,” Esquire reluctantly admitted.
“Yeah,” Twitch muttered.
AJ nodded his own agreement as well, though Twitch knew that he probably would have been nice to Karma anyway. Still, she remembered the way she’d treated Karma back when the other girl had tried to join Wondercute, and for a moment, she felt a little guilty about it.
Late Saturday morning, Nov 5th, 2016
“I hope this meeting is important,” the Imp announced as she stepped into the room. “I had to cut my class short to be here.”
Robert Turner, the Assistant Headmaster of Whateley gave her a wry smile. “We all know that your Animation History class is just an excuse for you to watch Saturday morning cartoons.”
Imp didn’t bother to deny that. “I’ll have you know, cartoons have important cultural significance.”
“No one is arguing that at the moment,” Geoffrey Mazarin, the Headmaster commented.
“So, what’s going on?” Imp asked in a serious tone, her eyes going from Mazarin, to Robert, and then to the final person in the room, Rachael Hastings, the devisor lab instructor.
“Do you remember the devisor vault we talked about yesterday?” Hastings asked.
“Of course,” Imp responded with a raised eyebrow.
“Well,” Hastings continued with a scowl. “Someone broke into it last night.”
“It wasn’t me,” Imp immediately protested. “I didn’t do it. Nobody can prove a thing…”
Robert rolled his eyes. “No one here is accusing you…”
That caused Imp to pause for a moment. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
Mazarin cleared his throat. “As Mrs. Hastings stated, someone broke into the devisor vault and stole something extremely dangerous…”
Imp’s eyes widened in alarm. “The Jobe section?”
“Secure,” Hastings assured her. “In fact, we incinerated most of the contents of that section before classes started.”
Imp nodded at that, a little relieved, though she wouldn’t admit it. She’d heard of some of the projects in that section and she’d dreaded the idea of any of them ever getting loose.
“So, what was taken?” Imp asked curiously.
“A bomb,” Hastings answered. “Specifically, a stink bomb.”
“A stink bomb?” Imp asked in surprise, right before her eyes widened in realization. “Do you mean THE stink bomb?”
“There was only the one stink bomb in the vault,” Hastings agreed.
“You never said that this was just a stink bomb,” Robert said, giving Hastings a flat look.
Hastings shook her head. “Not just a stink bomb, but…”
“THE stink bomb,” Imp interrupted, staring at Robert and then Mazarin.
“Explain,” the Headmaster stated.
Imp glanced to Hastings, then let out a sigh, knowing that this one was on her to explain. After all, this was from before Hastings or either of the other two had even been at Whateley. She momentarily wondered when she’d gone from being the rookie teacher to the one with seniority.
“A few years back,” Imp explained, “one of our students decided to make the ultimate stink bomb. The problem was, it was a bit too potent and as soon as she finished, the danger sense of everyone on campus who had one, went off at once. Needless to say, it was confiscated before she had a chance to test it.”
“The creator accidentally made a chemical weapon,” Hastings added. “If this stink bomb had actually been activated, eighty percent of the student body were likely to have been killed.”
Robert cursed while Mazarin merely scowled more deeply. “And why was this not destroyed?”
“Do you have any idea how many lethal weapons there are scattered around this school?” Hastings asked him. “Between the vault, the ranges, and even some of the dorm rooms…”
“Back to the matter at hand,” Robert announced.
“Yeah,” Imp agreed with an annoyed flick of her tail. “Like, why am I here instead of Everheart? She’s head of security.”
“Samantha is already looking for the item,” Robert explained. “We asked you here because we found something in the vault that appears to have been left by the thief.”
With that, Robert held out a purple headband with a pair of devil horns sticking out of the top of it. And on the side, written in black marker, was the name ‘Karma’.
Late Saturday morning, Nov 5th, 2016
“It’s not fair,” Karma complained as she trudged across the campus. She kicked at the ground, pouting as she did so. “Nobody ever lets me have any fun…”
Karma reached up and patted the top of her head, noting the absence of her headband. She was sure that if she hadn’t lost her good luck horns, then she would have been able to get into the Bad Seed’s clubhouse.
“I can’t believe they caught me,” she grumbled, sticking out her lower lip a little further. “Stupid stupid stupid.”
The worst part about getting caught was that she knew better. Mama always told her to pay attention and not let people sneak up on her, but that was exactly what she did. So, if Mama found out, she’d be disappointed.
Suddenly, Karma heard someone call out, “THERE SHE IS!”
Karma froze and looked around, immediately seeing the source of the call. Two campus security people were coming towards her with one of them even pointing at her. She didn’t know why they were after her, but she didn’t hesitate to start running.
“GET HER!” one of the guards yelled.
“You don’t need to yell,” the other guard responded irritably. “I’m right next to you…”
The girl ran as fast as she could, running right through a group of students, one of whom was a girl who looked like she was made of lime Jello. Karma barely avoided hitting the girl though one of the guards wasn’t so fortunate and accidentally bumped into her. Suddenly, the transparent green girl splattered all over the place.
“Slyme!” one of the other students exclaimed.
“HEY, WATCH IT!” the green girl exclaimed as she pulled herself back together.
“Sorry,” the security guard called back.
Karma giggled, then looked back and blew a raspberry. “Neener neener neener…”
She ran towards another group of students, hoping that she could use them to slow down the campus security guards. Karma knew that she was really good at running, better than any of the kids at her boring school, but she wouldn’t be able to outrun these grown-ups. At least, not without cheating.
With that, Karma started heading towards the nearest entrance to the tunnels. Those tunnels were really long and confusing, so she was confident that she could lose those security guys down there. She’d done it before…several times.
“She’s heading south,” one of the security guys said into his radio. Karma scowled in annoyance and changed direction. “I mean east…” She changed direction again. “Damn it, just follow her on the cameras…”
Karma grinned triumphantly when she saw the tunnel entrance ahead of her. However, her grin turned to a frown as she realized that there was a security guard standing there. And it wasn’t just any of those security guys either, but HER security guy, the one who waved to her every day when she came home from school.
“Hello, Miss Chambers,” her security guard greeted her with a friendly wave.
For a moment, she thought about trying to run around him, but she wasn’t sure she could manage it. And he was standing there, looking nice and friendly instead of chasing after her, so she came to a stop and gave him a suspicious look.
“It wasn’t me,” Karma protested indignantly. “I didn’t do it. It was the one-armed man.” She had no idea who the one-armed man was, but her mama liked to blame him so she did the same.
“I’m afraid you have to come with me,” the guard said, still giving her a gentle smile. He made no move to grab her, which made Karma relax a little, though she did glance back at the other two guards. However, her guard gestured for them to stay back and keep their distance.
“But I don’t wanna go to jail,” Karma whined, remembering how much trouble she’d gotten into because of all those Tribbles. She still felt sad about her pet Fuzzy.
The guard chuckled at that. “We’re not here to take you to jail.”
“You’re not?” Karma asked, giving him a skeptical look.
He shook his head. “Nope. We just need to go see your mother.”
Karma gulped at that, not sure if that was better than jail or not. Then she smugly pointed out, “Mama told me to never go with strangers…”
Her guard chuckled again. “Well then, let me introduce myself. My name is Dave… Dave Kretch.”
“I’m Karma,” she responded a little uncertainly. “My real name is Susan, but nobody ever calls me that… Well, nobody but Daddy…”
“It’s nice to meet you, Karma,” Dave said with a still friendly smile. He held out his hand for her to shake, and after a couple seconds of hesitation, Karma reached and out took it. “Now then, we aren’t strangers anymore, are we?”
“I guess not,” Karma reluctantly agreed, still giving Dave a suspicious look.
“Good,” Dave said in a pleasant tone. “Now, why don’t we go see your mother. I bet she’s a bit worried about you right about now.”
Late Saturday morning, Nov 5th, 2016
“Karma didn’t do it,” Imp stated matter-of-factly.
Hastings gave her a look of disbelief. “Her headband was found inside the vault…” She gestured to the headband in question.
“Did anyone see her do it?” Imp asked dismissively, knowing that they didn’t have any witnesses or they would have said so already.
“Not that we know of,” Robert admitted. “And unfortunately, all the cameras near the vault were somehow scrambled.”
Imp gave him a flat look. “Karma is only eight, and she doesn’t even have any powers.”
“For most children, I’d accept that reasoning,” Robert told her. “But this is Karma we’re talking about. I’ve known her since she was a baby, and I know exactly how clever and…curious she is. I’ve seen how she absorbs everything you, her sister, and admittedly, my wife, have taught her, and I know that she’s better trained than many professional criminals. I’d almost call her a prodigy, so if there was any unpowered child in the world who might be able to pull off something like this…it would be your daughter.”
Imp puffed up with motherly pride at that. “She is rather talented,” she admitted with a smug look, her tail swishing back and forth. “And yes, stealing a stink bomb is the sort of thing that Karma might do. But that being said, she still didn’t do this.”
“Christine,” Hastings started.
However, Imp calmly continued. “As I was saying, she’s only eight, and as skilled as she is for a child, that vault is still beyond her abilities.”
“The vault security is in the middle of being upgraded,” Hastings pointed out grimly. “Its possible that there may be vulnerabilities that we are unaware of because of this…”
Imp nodded in acknowledgment. “I think you’re forgetting a couple
points. First,” she looked pointedly at Hastings, “how would Karma know that there was a stink bomb inside that vault? And even if she knew that there was one inside there, how would she know exactly where to find it? I doubt that there are any big signs that say ‘stink bomb here’.”
“That is true,” Robert responded, glancing to headmaster, Geoffrey Mazarin, who’d been silent during this exchange. He was watching them with a thoughtful expression.
“The potential security vulnerabilities are greatly troubling,” The headmaster finally said. “If a child, and one without powers at that, was able to access a vault with such dangerous contents…”
“Then who knows who else might be able to,” Robert finished.
Hastings scowled. “The security was good. Good enough to keep out every gadgeteer and devisor who ever tried retrieving their confiscated experiments…or acquiring someone else’s. And, it was just starting to be upgraded further.” Her eyes went back to Imp. “But Karma has a tendency to get into places she shouldn’t be able to.”
Imp just shook her head, then continued with her defense of her daughter. “And most importantly, if Karma had stolen a stink bomb…the very first thing she would have done…maybe second, after activating it…would be to come and brag about it to me.”
Before anyone could respond to this, there was a knock on the door. A second later, someone called through the door, “I brought Miss Chambers…”
“Then come in,” Mazarin responded.
The door opened and one of the campus guards came into the room, leading Karma by her hand. The girl wasn’t resisting the guard or trying to escape, which made Imp curious. Normally, her daughter wouldn’t be quite so cooperative with a stranger.
“Um…hi, Mama,” Karma greeted her nervously.
Mazarin scared down at Karma with a serious expression before muttering, “I never thought my career would come to the point where I had to interrogate a child.”
“Tell me about it,” Imp commented as she got down on her knee in front of her daughter. “Now then, honey, I need you to answer some questions, and I need you to be honest.”
“Okay,” Karma responded, giving nervous looks at the other adults, who all seemed unhappy for some reason.
“Did you sneak out of the house last night?” Imp asked her daughter.
Karma hesitated a moment before nodding. “Yeah…”
“And did you sneak down to the devisor labs?” Imp asked.
Karma nodded again, this time flashing a proud grin. “Yeah… I made sure none of those cameras saw me…”
Hastings gave Imp a triumphant look, though Imp ignored her. “And did you open the devisor vault?”
The girl deflated a little and pouted. “Kinda…”
“Kinda?” Robert asked.
“What happened?” Imp asked her daughter.
“I found that big vault door and I really really wanted to see what was inside,” Karma explained, still pouting. “But the lock was really super tricky so I had to cheat…”
“Cheat?” Robert asked curiously.
“She used special tools,” Imp answered for Karma. “And did you get in?”
“No,” Karma pouted, “It was really tricky… I thought I had the fancy electric lock open, but there were extra secret locks I couldn’t open…”
“And then what happened?” Imp encouraged.
“Then someone else came,” Karma said, still looking disappointed over her failure to open the vault. “I heard them coming and snuck away before they saw me…”
“Someone else came?” Robert asked. “Did you see who?”
Karma shook her head. “No…” She reached up and touched the top of her head, pouting again. “But I lost my horns when I ran away…”
“You mean these?” Robert asked, holding up the purple headband.
Karma’s eyes widened with excitement and she immediately snatched the headband out of his hand and stick it on her head. She began dancing a quick happy dance before realizing that all the adults still looked unhappy.
“Can we believe this explanation?” Mazarin asked the other adults.
“Yes,” Robert told him. “I believe her…”
“So, we have a different thief,” Hastings said.
“It wasn’t me,” Imp quickly announced, a bit smug over having been proven correct. “That never was my type of job.”
Robert gave her a doubtful look. “Somehow, I can see you stealing a super stink bomb.”
“A super stink bomb?” Karma asked, her eyes going wide with interest.
“Maybe,” Imp agreed with a smirk. “But if I’d done it, the job would have been a lot cleaner.”
“Our primary suspect appears to be innocent,” Mazarin said, looking down at Karma. “Relatively.”
“I’ll let Everheart know,” Robert told the headmaster. “But I suspect that she never really thought Karma was behind this…”
Mazarin continued to stare at Karma for a few more seconds before finally looking to the Imp. “This is the second incident that your daughter was involved in during recent weeks. I think that from now on, it might be best if she remained in the Village unless escorted by an adult.”
Karma gasped at that, then blurted out, “That’s not fair…”
Saturday afternoon, Nov 5th, 2016
Karma stretched out on the couch, watching TV as she absently ate a bag of microwave popcorn. She hated being grounded but was determined to enjoy it as much as she possibly could, just to spite Mr. Mazarin.
Just then, the door opened and a large boy stepped inside. Karma leapt to her feet and looked for a place to run, but the boy had already seen her.
“What the hell?” the large boy exclaimed. “Why is there a midget in our clubhouse?”
Several other people pushed into the room behind the large boy. Esquire immediately groaned. “I thought we got rid of this brat…” He glanced to Racoon. “I mean, this charming young lady…”
“KARMA!” Twitch blurted out as she came in. “I thought our security was better than this…”
“Its okay, Hammer,” Racoon told the large boy who’d first come in. “I’ve got this…”
The large boy…Hammer…grunted, then turned and walked away. Esquire glared at Karma and looked like he was about to do the same, though he paused and leaned on his cane, then glanced to Racoon.
“Well?” Esquire said to Racoon, smirking faintly as he did so. “I believe you said that you had this…”
Racoon let out a sigh, then turned back to Karma. “Karma, what are you doing in our clubhouse?”
“And how did you get in?” Twitch added.
“Mister Mazarin grounded me,” Karma explained with a pout. “So, I came here because I didn’t think anyone would look for me here…”
“Why would Mazarin ground you?” Racoon asked with a look of confusion. “You aren’t even a student at the school…”
“And isn’t your mom a teacher?” Twitch asked equally confused. “If anyone was gonna ground you, I’d think it would be her…”
“So,” Racoon said with a smirk. “You get grounded, and your first thought is to hide out in our clubhouse?” He looked at Esquire and chuckled. “It sounds like she’d be a good fit for the Seeds…”
“What did you do?” Twitch asked curiously.
“I didn’t do anything,” Karma protested with her best innocent look. The three members of the Bad Seeds all looked skeptical. “Really… I didn’t do it…”
“And what exactly did you not do?” Racoon asked with a look of amusement.
“They think I stole some kind of super duper stink bomb from a devisor vault,” Karma explained. “But I didn’t take it. I didn’t even know there were stink bombs in there…”
Twitch giggled for a moment before saying, “But if you did know there were stink bombs, then you would have tried to steal them…” Karma didn’t argue the point.
Esquire now looked much more interested. “I heard that someone broke into the devisor vault, but my sources weren’t able to tell me what was taken…”
“It wasn’t me,” Karma insisted with a pout before quietly admitting, “I couldn’t get in…”
“But Mister Mazarin thinks you did it?” Twitch asked sympathetically.
Karma nodded at that. “He’s a meanie.” Then she looked sad as she muttered, “I miss Mrs. Carson…”
Twitch stared at Karma for several long seconds before announcing. “We’ll help you prove your innocence…”
“Speak for yourself,” Esquire responded with a dismissive tone. “This is no concern of mine.”
For a moment, Twitch stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at Esquire as if trying to will him into changing his mind. When he showed no sign of responding, she turned to Racoon and gave him a pleading look. “You’ll help us, won’t you?”
Racoon rolled his eyes, then responded, “Sure, why not? It might be entertaining.”
“See,” Twitch told Karma. “We’re gonna help you prove your innocence.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Karma asked curiously.
“We’re gonna find the real thief,” Twitch proclaimed. “And I have a plan to do it too…”
Saturday afternoon, Nov 5th, 2016
“What have you found?” Geoffrey Mazarin asked Samantha Everheart, who’d just entered his office a few seconds earlier.
Everheart gave a polite nod to Robert Turner, then turned her attention back to the headmaster. “To start with, we have video footage of Karma hurrying away from the devisor labs at the same time the vault door was unlocked.”
“Proof that she wasn’t the culprit,” Robert said with a faint smile. “But I thought the cameras were all down.”
“All the cameras near the vault were down,” Everheart agreed. “However, Karma was caught on camera outside that area…”
“Was the actual perpetrator caught on camera?” Mazarin asked in a calm tone that revealed little of his actual thoughts.
Everheart shook her head. “No. Several additional cameras were disabled by the person we believe to be the perpetrator, but none of them caught the individual.”
Robert frowned thoughtfully. “There are any number of students able to disable a camera. Half the gadgeteers and devisors, Blindspot…”
“We know who disabled the cameras near the vault,” Everheart stated. “Elliot Conner. Weaponeer. Yesterday, he tripped and accidentally discharged one of his weapons into a wall. It seems that he damaged a junction box, which later failed as a result, killing power to those cameras.”
“Quite a coincidence,” Robert said. “A mangler?”
“Possibly,” Everheart agreed. “None were in the area at the time of Weaponeer’s…incident.”
“Regardless,” Mazarin mused. “Whether the perpetrator arranged for the camera failure or simply knew enough to take advantage of it, they used this opportunity to enter the vault.”
“Correct,” Everheart agreed. “We’re still narrowing the list of potential suspects while continuing to search for the item. We used a clairvoyant in the search, but they couldn’t find anything of use. It seems that whoever was behind this, may have taken precautions against espers, but we are looking into other alternative search methods in addition to the traditional ones.”
“I see,” Mazarin said. “Very well then, continue your search and keep me informed.”
“Of course,” Everheart responded before leaving the office.
Once Everheart was gone, Robert let out a sigh. “And to think, an eight-year-old girl is the closest thing we have to an actual witness.”
“The girl was fortunate that she wasn’t hurt,” Mazarin pointed out. “Now, we have to ensure the safety of the rest of our students.”
Saturday night, Nov 5th, 2016
The Imp stood outside of her daughter’s bedroom door, hesitating a moment. She knew that Karma was disappointed about being confined to the Village, just as she was also certain that this would do little to curtail the girl. Karma was far too much like her at that age to simply settle for that kind of limitation.
“What did I ever do to deserve her?” Imp asked with a smile, not sure if she should be proud, exasperated, or both. Then with a chuckle, she decided that it was both. Definitely both.
With that, Imp slowly opened the bedroom door, careful to be quiet so that she didn’t wake her daughter. There was just enough light from the hallway for her to see her daughter’s bed with the figure stretched out beneath the covers. In that moment, her smile turned into a scowl and she quickly hurried to the bed, pulling back the covers and revealing the pillows and blankets that had been piled up beneath in the general shape of a body.
“Really?” Imp asked with an exasperated sigh, her eyes going to the bedroom window, the only way Karma could have slipped out without her noticing. “Did she really think this would trick me? I’m a little offended…”
And at the same time, she was a little disappointed since she knew that she’d taught Karma better. If you’re going to create a decoy, you should at least make it a little more believable.
Saturday night, Nov 5th, 2016
“Sneak sneak sneak,” Karma whispered as she carefully avoided a camera.
“What are you doing?” Twitch asked.
Karma glared at the other girl, then pointed up at the camera. “Trying not to get seen…”
Unfortunately, her efforts would be completely wasted because Twitch and Racoon were walking right in front of the camera, as if they didn’t care about being seen at all. What was the point of sneaking out at night if they let the cameras see them like that?
“Don’t worry about it,” Racoon said as he flipped a coin up in the air. Then he caught the coin and held it out. “My spell is keeping the cameras from seeing us right now…”
Karma’s eyes widened at that as she realized how useful something like that could be. “Really? Neat…”
“But we really should hurry,” Racoon continued with a smirk. “This spell eats through essence pretty fast.”
Karma stared at the coin in Racoon’s hand for a few more seconds, wondering if that could do that cool magic camera trick for her. For a moment, she thought about borrowing it to see if it would, but then she reminded herself that they didn’t have a lot of time.
“Yeah,” Twitch said a little nervously, nodding agreement with Racoon. She adjusted her hat and then the backpack she was wearing. “We have to hurry too, because if we’re too late, it won’t work.”
A minute later, they reached the area of the devisor labs. Karma paused when she heard something from one of the side rooms, with Twitch and Racoon both pausing as well.
“Just some devisor or gadgeteer,” Racoon whispered. “There are probably a few of them down here, working on their projects.”
Twitch nodded agreement. “Yeah… There are always people down here…”
“And most of them will be too distracted to notice us,” Racoon added with a chuckle. “Even if we walked right past them…”
Karma nodded her own understanding but remained quiet as she continued heading towards the devisor vault. She didn’t want to take a chance of anyone seeing her, especially since she was already grounded.
Once Karma was sure that nobody was nearby, she warned Twitch and Racoon, “Be vewwy vewwy quiet. We’re hunting cwiminals…”
Racoon chuckled at that. “That’s kind of ironic, considering that you tried breaking in here too…”
“That was different,” Karma protested defensively.
“Of course it is,” Racoon assured her with a roll of his eyes.
When they reached the vault door, Karma stopped and stared at it, noting that it was closed and locked up, just like the night before. However, there was an extra lock on the outside of the vault, one that was higher up on the door and which had definitely not been there before.
“That looks really tricky,” Karma said, still staring at the new lock. She reached into her pocket for her special toy, frowning as she did so. “I don’t know if I can open that one…” Or the other locks which had stopped her before, though she didn’t mention that part.
“We aren’t trying to break in,” Racoon reminded her.
“Yeah,” Twitch agreed as she took off her backpack. “We’re here to find the real criminal…”
“I really hope it wasn’t my mom,” Racoon joked. “That would be really awkward…” Then he shrugged. “Well, this isn’t really her style anyway.”
Twitch opened her backpack and pulled out what appeared to be a mirror with a fancy metal frame that looked sort of like gold…but not quiet. Karma guessed that it was some kind of fake gold, maybe even gold paint, because she didn’t think that Twitch could afford a real gold frame…or that she’d be able to carry it around with her.
“My magic mirror will tell us who did it,” Twitch bragged. “I’ve been working on this for WEEKS…and I really hurried to finish it up today so we could use it…”
“Is that a real magic mirror?” Karma asked in an awed voice.
“Yes,” Twitch answered, while at the same time, Racoon responded, “Nope.”
Karma gave the ‘magic mirror’ a closer look and realized that the ‘mirror’ part wasn’t really a mirror. It looked more like a tablet monitor that was turned off. And on the back of the ‘mirror’, there was a part that looked like a cell phone camera. That made her a little skeptical about it being a real magic mirror.
“In spite of being called Tek Witch,” Racoon leaned over and told Karma in a conspiratorial tone, “Twitch is a devisor, not a mage.”
Twitch pouted for a moment before announcing, “I’m gonna show you just how good my magic mirror is…”
And with that, Twitch touched the side of the frame and the ‘mirror’ part lit up, like a computer screen that had just been turned on. She backed up, well away from the vault door, though she kept the back of the mirror facing towards the vault.
“You said that you were here last night at this time,” Racoon commented, looking to Karma for confirmation. “And that you heard someone coming…”
Karma nodded. “Yeah…”
“I SEE HER!” Twitch exclaimed excitedly.
Karma and Racoon quickly moved to Twitch’s side and looked into the ‘mirror’. The image was in black and white, and was very blurry, but it clearly showed the vault door. It also showed Karma, standing next to the vault, wearing a headband with a pair of horns.
“That’s me,” Karma gasped from beside Twitch. She reached up to touch her horns, confirming that they were still there. “But I’m right here…not over there…”
Twitch gave a triumphant grin as she explained, “My magic mirror can look into the past…” Then she deflated just a little as she admitted, “But I can only look back one day… Twenty-four hours…exactly.”
“An interesting limitation,” Racoon said, staring at the image. “But pretty useful anyway…” Then he reached out and snatched the hat off of Twitch’s head, only to ruffle her hair a bit before putting the hat back. “Great job, Michelle. I think this is your best toy yet.”
Twitch blushed a little at that. “Thanks… I can’t wait to show the girls in Wondercute…”
“But first,” Racoon reminded her, “we need to focus on the business at hand.”
Karma continued watching her other self in the magic mirror, though she had to keep looking to the vault door to make sure no one was actually there. In the mirror, her previous-self worked on the vault door, unlocking the primary lock and then discovering the additional locks she hadn’t known about.
“Here it comes,” Karma whispered, knowing what was about to happen next.
Her previous-self suddenly paused and listened to something that only she could hear. The magic mirror only showed images of the past and didn’t provide any sound. Then, the other Karma suddenly turned and ran, accidentally losing her headband in the process.
After the past version of Karma was gone, they had to wait another minute before a new figure appeared in the mirror. The image was blurry and vague, making it difficult to pick out many details. However, they could see that the person stopped in front of the vault door and connected something to it, something that looked similar to the toy that Karma had used.
“It looks like a guy,” Racoon mused. “A little hard to tell from this thing though…”
“He’s wearing a mask,” Twitch pointed out in an annoyed voice. “I can’t see his face…”
In the mirror, the vault door swung open and the figure moved to step inside, kicking Karma’s headband as he did so. The headband skittered along the floor, right through the vault door, and a moment later, the figure followed after it.
“Can we see inside?” Racoon asked, looking up at the real vault door which was still locked shut.
Twitch shook her head. “Not unless we can really go in there…”
They moved closer to the vault door and Twitch positioned her magic mirror so that they could see past the open vault door, though not very well. After a minute, the figure came back out the door, holding a box.
“Did you get a recording of that?” Racoon asked Twitch. “That should be useful for security.”
Twitch’s eyes widened a little. “It can’t record…”
“So, we’re the only ones who saw it,” Racoon commented with a disappointed sigh.
“So, what now?” Twitch asked.
Karma stared at the mirror, then down the hallway where the figure had gone with the box. Then with a grimace of determination, she grabbed the magic mirror out of the surprised Twitch’s hands and hurried down the hallway.
“We follow em,” Karma exclaimed.
Saturday night, Nov 5th, 2016
Miguel Perez stood in front of a hidden doorway, looking around carefully to make sure that nobody saw him. Then he nervously removed his cowboy hat, ran a hand through his short black hair, and returned the hat to his head. Only then did he open the doorway and step into the clubhouse.
“About time you got here, Burst,” someone said.
Miguel glanced around the clubhouse, noting that only three people were present beside himself. He let out a faint sigh of relief at that since Bystander wasn’t one of them. Bystander scared him more than a little.
Then his attention went to the one who’d spoken, a gorgeous and busty girl called Doma Know. Doma was an exemplar and one of the hottest girls he knew, but when she wasn’t actively trying to manipulate someone, she was a stone-cold bitch.
A moment later, Miguel looked to the second girl in the room, Scrye. Scrye was an exemplar too, but not quite as obvious about that fact. She stood there with a faint smirk, as though she knew something that he didn’t. Of course, she was an information broker, so that was undoubtedly true.
And finally, Miguel glanced to the last person in the room, a lean and wiry boy with long shaggy hair who was casually leaning back in a chair. Devil’s Advocate wore black leather pants and was completely shirtless, as he often was when given a choice.
Crouched down beside Devil’s Advocate was a hideous creature, three feet tall and resembling a cross between a frog and a hairless monkey. This ugly green creature was one of Advocate’s devils, which represented one of the seven deadly sins. Considering the fact that Miguel suddenly felt like collapsing into a chair and remaining there for the rest of his life, it was easy guess that this particular devil was sloth.
Miguel tore his eyes away from the ugly devil and resisted its influence as best he could. Since he knew what this creature was and what it could do, that made it easier to resist.
“I’m here when you said to be here,” Miguel told Doma Know. “Twenty-four hours after the job.”
“Glad you made it,” Devil’s Advocate said, gesturing to the bottle of cognac beside him. “Help yourself, if you want.”
“I’m good,” Miguel responded, wishing this was all done and over with so he could leave.
Devil’s Advocate shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“How did it go?” Doma Know asked, her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
Miguel bit back a scowl, trying not to show how unhappy he was at the situation. He hated doing jobs for the Masterminds, nearly as much as he hated being a member in the first place. Of course, he didn’t have much choice about either.
During Miguel’s freshman year, he’d wanted to join the Future Superheroes of America…the Cape Squad…and eventually become a superhero back home in Austin. But then, his sister Marie had gotten sick and his family had become buried in medical bills. Edward Lowe…Golden Lion…had paid off those bills, but this ‘generosity’ had come with strings. Strings which required Miguel to do a few ‘favors’ for Edward, favors which gave the Mastermind leader further leverage against him, leverage which resulted in him being forced to join the Masterminds.
“There were no problems,” Miguel answered in a calm and even tone. “The cameras near the devisor vault were all out…just like you arranged.”
“Of course,” Doma Know responded with a smirk.
Along with being an exemplar, Doma Know was also a precog, able to see potential chains of cause and effect. Thanks to her powers, she knew exactly where and when to spill her coffee, causing a specific devisor to slip and drop his weapon, which would then go off and hit a piece of important equipment, resulting in power to the cameras being lost right when they required it.
“I had to take out a couple cameras on the way there,” Miguel continued, holding out his hand which glowed blue for a moment, a reminder of his electro-magnetic pulse abilities and how they could jam or destroy electronics…among other things. Of course, he could have used that to neutralize all the cameras near the vault, but that would have been a little too obvious and pointed suspicion straight at him. “But I got in with no problem…”
With that, Miguel took a small devise out of his pocket and handed it to Devil’s Advocate, who’d lent it to him for this job. He had no idea where Devil’s Advocate had acquired such a devise because the other boy was an avatar and magic user, not a devisor. However, Miguel knew better than to ask.
“Once I got the package,” Miguel added, glancing to Scrye, “I hid it in that hidey hole you set up.”
“Good,” Doma Know said, giving Miguel a dismissive look. “You didn’t screw it up…” Then she smirked. “And in a few days, it should be safe for us to retrieve so we can deliver to our client.”
Scrye had been completely silent so far, so it caught Miguel’s attention when she finally spoke up. “Actually, there was a problem with the job.”
“What do you mean?” Miguel asked in surprise. “I got the package and nobody saw me…”
“Explain” Doma Know ordered.
Scrye didn’t bother looking at Doma Know. Instead, she told Miguel, “You were sent to retrieve container four five seven A, which has the super-soldier serum that our client requested, but it seems that you took container four five seven B instead…”
“WHAT?” Doma Know demanded angrily. She glared at Scrye as she demanded, “And why didn’t you say anything earlier?”
Miguel grimaced as he muttered a profanity. “I thought I had the right box…”
“So, what did we get instead?” Devil’s Advocate asked in an offhand tone, almost as though he was only mildly curious.
“An unintended chemical weapon,” Scrye answered. “Security has been searching everywhere for it, so its fortunate that Burst never brought it here.”
“A chemical weapon?” Doma Know asked with a calculating look in her eyes. “Not what our client wanted, but I think we can still sell that…”
“Not for nearly as much,” Devil’s Advocate pointed out. He reached out and absently patted his devil on the head. “Dangerous chemicals are pretty easy to come across… Super-soldier serums…not so much.”
“And not worth the risk,” Scrye added.
Doma Know snorted. “We need to get SOMETHING from this screw up.” She glared at Miguel. “Our client is going to be pissed…and so is Edward.”
“Undoubtedly,” Scrye agreed with a scowl.
Miguel gulped at that, knowing that the only thing worse than having to work for the Masterminds was to have failed in the job they gave him. He just hoped that Edward blamed the ones who’d planned this job rather than him, but he wasn’t about to count on that. Especially not with how quick he knew that Doma Know would be to throw him under the bus.
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
“This way,” Karma exclaimed as she hurried down the tunnels, magic mirror firmly clutched in her hands.
Karma stared into the mirror as she moved, seeing a blurry figure rushing down the hallway ahead of her. She didn’t want to risk losing him, because whoever he was, he was the one who got her grounded.
“Wait up,” Racoon as he followed behind.
“Hey,” Twitch protested. “That’s MY magic mirror…”
“Finders keepers,” Karma responded with a giggle, still not taking her eyes off the figure in the mirror.
Finally, the figure turned around another corner and Karma sped up even more so that she didn’t lose sight of him. Once she was around the corner, she paused, seeing that the hallway only went a short distance further before coming to an end.
“It’s a dead end,” Racoon said, stopping beside Karma.
“Where is he?” Twitch asked, snatching the mirror out of Karma’s hands.
“Hey,” Karma protested, leaning over to try looking into the mirror again before tearing her eyes away from it and just staring down the dead end tunnel. There was nothing down there. Nothing. “Boring…”
“I think we lost him,” Twitch grumbled, not even looking into her magic mirror. She looked around, frowning as she did so. “Maybe we should go back…”
“Maybe,” Racoon agreed, shaking his head as he did so. He looked down the tunnel, then at the two younger girls. “I don’t think this is the right way…”
Karma scowled and stomped her foot. “But I saw him go down here… I think I did…” She had a confused look on her face as she said this.
Racoon stared at her for a moment, his eyes narrowing a little. “You know, I’ve got a feeling that there’s something funny going on around here, and I don’t mean ha ha funny either.”
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
Callista Saunders, better known at Whateley by her codename of Scrye, scowled as she walked back to Poe Cottage.
The meeting had not gone well, though she’d known that it wouldn’t before she ever stepped foot into the clubhouse. As the Mastermind’s specialist in gathering information, she’d already known ahead of time that Burst had grabbed the wrong box.
“I was very clear when I told him which box it was,” Callista muttered in annoyance.
This mistake was not her fault, though she was concerned that Edward…the Golden Lion might blame her. Of course, even if he did, he would never risk doing anything against her. She was too valuable to him and the rest of the masterminds. And of course, she had certain leverage that she could use against him if necessary. Him and the rest of the Masterminds.
“Leverage,” she said with a faint smirk.
It was all about leverage. Having the right leverage against people...blackmail material as some would call it…was critical to her survival strategy. She always made sure to have material that she could use against others if necessary, and Burst was no different.
Callista and Edward both had leverage on Burst, but Helen…Doma Know hadn’t been satisfied with that. Helen had wanted more leverage on him, to tie him more tightly to the Masterminds, which was why she’d insisted he be the one to pull this specific job. In fact, this job had been nearly as much about gaining further leverage on Burst as it had been about acquiring that super soldier serum for their client.
“Too bad for Miguel that his abilities are so useful,” Callista mused. Edward had plans for the boy, for his electro-magnetic powers, and was grooming him to be a useful tool. “But business is business.”
Unfortunately, their recent business had been a complete disaster. Security for the devisor vault had already been drastically improved, which meant that there was almost no chance of still acquiring the item that their client really wanted. The client would not be happy about that.
And even worse than getting the wrong container was the fact of just what that wrong container contained. A chemical weapon, which Helen was already plotting to sell. Callista liked money, but the idea of dealing in chemical weapons left a bad taste in her mouth.
Suddenly, Callista felt a magical tugging which indicated that one of the wards she’d set had been triggered. She did a quick mental survey and saw exactly which one it had been. It was the ward for the hiding spot she’d set up for Burst.
Callista held out her hand and opened a scrying disk in the air, a magical window that let her see things at a distance. This one opened up to the dead end tunnel where Burst had hidden the container.
Her scrying disk showed three people standing at the opening of that tunnel section, just a short distance away from where the container was hidden. They were close enough that they’d triggered her wards, and from the confused looks on their faces, it was obvious that they were caught in the effect of her ‘nothing of interest here’ spell, which covered that entire dead end section. However, the fact that they were still there and hadn’t gone away yet confused her for a moment.
“Ah, Racoon,” Callista said as she recognized one of the potential intruders. Racoon was a magic user as well, so may have detected her spell.
Callista continued watching the three for a little longer, recognizing the other two as well. She was amused to note that one of them, Tek Witch, was using her own version of a scrying mirror. That devise might even be something that she herself could use…if she could make it work reliably. Devises were notoriously fickle, especially when used by someone other than their creator.
“They’re not leaving,” Callista said, looking once again at Racoon. They were resisting her spell, which meant that they had a reason to focus on that section of tunnel, a reason to fight the lack of interest that her spell encouraged. “This could be a problem…” Then she paused, a smirk starting to form. “Or an opportunity.”
Karma was just a child, but she had also been a suspect in the theft of that container. Racoon and Tek Witch were members of the Bad Seeds, the children of supervillains. Those three would be ideal scapegoats since most people on campus would easily believe nearly anything that they were accused of.
But on the other hand…
Callista was an information broker and didn’t think twice about a little theft or blackmail, but she wasn’t a murderer. She hated the idea of dealing with a chemical weapon…or ANYTHING that could be used to indiscriminately kill lots of people. That was her line, the one that she refused to cross. Some of the other Masterminds wouldn’t understand that, which meant that she would have to go around them.
After taking a deep breath, Callista reached out to touch her scrying disk…and cut loose all of her spells on that tunnel. In an instant, every one of her spells collapsed, removing her protections on the container.
“It’s a shame that Racoon is such a clever thief,” Callista said, practicing the excuse she would give if anyone questioned her. “He snuck through all of my magical defenses…”
Then, with a smirk, Callista closed her scrying disk and continued on her way to Poe.
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
Karma scowled as she kicked at the ground. She was bored. Bored, bored, bored.
The girl didn’t know why they were standing at the entrance of a super boring tunnel, not doing anything at all. This was supposed to be a great adventure, not some boring nothing.
“What are you doing?” Twitch asked Racoon, who was staring down the tunnel with a thoughtful look on his face.
“I’m trying to figure out this spell,” Racoon answered, not bothering to look at either of the girls. “But it’s hard to focus on it… I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of attention diversion spell…”
Karma rolled her eyes, muttering, “Blah blah blah…”
But then, Karma suddenly remembered why they were there. Her eyes darted to Twitch’s magic mirror, then down the dead end tunnel.
“That guy ran down there,” Karma blurted out. “I saw it in the mirror…”
“What did you do?” Twitch asked Racoon with a look of awe.
Racoon hesitated a moment before admitting, “I didn’t do anything… I was just trying to get a grip on the spell when it suddenly vanished…”
“Vanished?” Karma asked, her eyes gleaming with interest. “Like my mamma?”
The older boy shook his head. “It probably burned through whatever essence was used to power it…”
Karma nodded at that as though she understood what Racoon was saying, though she didn’t really. She didn’t know much about magic, even if she had begged one of her old babysitters to teach her about it back when she was little. Unfortunately, Aubrey had refused to teach her anything at all about magic. Maybe she would have if Karma hadn’t locked her in the closet while they were playing hide and seek… Well, at least when Karma had been playing hide and seek.
Instead of asking Racoon to explain what he was saying, Karma turned her full attention to the dead end tunnel. It was…still boring. The whole tunnel was section was completely empty, without any doors or anything. There was nothing there. Of course, appearances could be deceiving.
“There’s nothing there,” Twitch complained, echoing Karma’s thoughts.
“Mama says that you shouldn’t judge on looks,” Karma announced a little smugly. Her imaginary tail was twitching back and forth, though she wished that she had a real tail so she could twitch it properly. Still, she grinned, “I bet there’s a secret door…”
“You might be right,” Racoon agreed with a mischievous grin of his own. “We just have to find it.”
Karma hurried down the dead end tunnel, quickly looking over every surface and trying to see if anything stood out as different or out of place. Racoon followed behind her, doing the same thing but at a much slower pace. He took his time as he examined the tunnel walls.
“I wish I brought my crystal ball,” Twitch grumbled. “Then I’d be able to see any secret passages…”
“That would be useful,” Racoon agreed with an amused look.
The older boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small handful of coins, which he stared at intently for several seconds before pulling one of those coins out with his other hand. Once he’d done this, the rest of the coins went right back into his pocket.
“I’ve already got a spell ready for just such occasions,” he announced, flipping the chosen coin up into the air and then catching it.
Suddenly, the coin began to glow. Racoon moved his hand in one direction and the glow faded. He moved his hand in the other direction and the glow became brighter.
“Awesome,” Karma gasped, her eyes going wide as she watched Racoon move forward, following the glowing coin. “It’s like a compass…”
He paused to give Karma a look of surprise before nodding agreement. “Yep. And it will point us towards anything hidden down here…”
A couple seconds later, Racoon stopped in front of a section of wall. At first glance, it didn’t look any different than any other section of wall in that area. It was dull grey concrete. But when Karma ran her hand over the wall, she could feel a slight difference…as though there was a slight crack that was hidden in the shadows. A very straight and even crack.
“Here it is,” Karma exclaimed, growing more excited as she traced the faint seam, finding that it formed a square about three feet on each side. “A secret passage…”
“Careful,” Racoon warned her. “It might be trapped…”
Karma gave him a defiant look. “I ain’t afraid of no traps…” Still, she took a step back.
“Is there a trap?” Twitch asked, trying to get in for a better look.
“Maybe,” Racoon mused. “There’s a hint of magic…but it’s fading fast. I think that there was some kind of spell here…”
“Another spell?” Karma asked in annoyance.
“Maybe to hide it better,” Racoon answered, not taking his eye from panel. “Maybe for something else… I can’t really tell what it was doing, only that it isn’t really there anymore…” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The essence must have run out…fortunately for us.”
“But there could be another lock,” Karma pointed out. She didn’t see any keyhole or keypad…nor any way of actually grabbing hold of the panel. “Or another trap…”
Karma put her hands on the panel to see if she could move it. She was a little surprised to find that she could push it in a little, though there was a faint clicking that made her freeze. However, the panel immediately popped back out…just a little further than where it had started, then it slid to the side.
“What did you do?” Twitch, pushing closer for a better look.
The panel slid even further to the side, revealing a large hollow space behind it. However, the space behind the panel was not empty. There was a container stored in the space.
“Let me see,” Twitch exclaimed.
“There don’t seem to be any traps,” Racoon said as he carefully pulled the container out of the hidden nook. “Surprisingly light too…”
Racoon set the container down on the ground and Karma crouched down for a better look. It was a metal box about two feet wide and two feet long, as well as a foot and a half tall. The entire outside was a dull grey metal, though the numbers ‘457B’ were painted on both the top and the front.
“This must be what they took from the vault,” Twitch exclaimed. “It’s about the same size and shape as what that guy was carrying in my mirror…”
“And it looks like its locked,” Racoon commented, pointing to a clear latch with a keyhole in the middle.
Karma stared at the keyhole, grinning as she did so. A moment later, she was reaching into her pockets, pulling out a small flashlight and her lockpicks.
“This is just like getting my allowance,” Karma exclaimed as she went to work on the lock.
“Not bad,” Racoon told her with a grin. “Not bad at all…”
“I don’t think we should open it,” Twitch pointed out a little nervously.
“But I wanna see what’s inside,” Karma responded, pausing as the lock clicked and popped open.
“I have to admit,” Racoon added with his own look of excitement. “I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about.”
Karma opened the lid to look inside the container. She’d been hoping for something really neat, like maybe a bunch of gold coins or a super ray gun. Instead, there was another box, this one about the size of a shoe box, though it was held in place by a Styrofoam insert between it and the sides of the larger container.
“It doesn’t look like much,” Twitch said, sounding disappointed.
The smaller box seemed to have metal sides, though the top was a clear plastic plate which let them see inside. There were a couple clear glass tubes that looked like they were filled with different liquids, and there were a bunch of wires in there too.
Suddenly, Racoon sat up and tilted his head. “I hear someone coming.”
“The bad guy is coming back for it,” Twitch exclaimed.
Karma’s eyes widened at that, though she didn’t hesitate since she already knew what needed to be done. When other people are after you, you need to run and hide. Mama taught her that.
“We need to go,” Karma gasped, grabbing the container and trying to lift it, though it was just a little too heavy to do so easily. She quickly changed course and picked the smaller box up out of the container instead, which was much lighter. “C’mon…” And with that, she ran back towards the entrance of the dead end.
“Wait up,” Racoon called, but Karma was already turning the corner.
Racoon and Twitch followed close behind Karma, quickly catching up with their longer legs. She glanced back at them, then further back to where she could see a shadowy figure.
“Eeep,” Karma gasped, picking up the pace even more and turning another corner. “He’s after us…”
“RUN!” Twitch exclaimed.
“Or,” Racoon offered in an amused tone, “we could stop and see who it is.”
Karma had no intention of stopping, at least not until she found a good place to hide. She gave an annoyed look back at her companions, momentarily thinking about whether she should leave them behind or not. It would be a lot easier to get away if she was on her own…though admittedly, probably not as fun.
With a grin, Karma turned another corner and began singing, “Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you…?”
“What are you doing?” Twitch asked in confusion.
“Chase music,” Karma answered with a grin. “Whenever you’re being chased, you HAVE to have chase music. It’s a rule.”
“I don’t think that’s a real rule,” Twitch protested.
“Maybe not,” Racoon said with a chuckle. “But I kind of like it.”
Karma glanced back again, but she couldn’t see who was chasing them. She could hear the footsteps and see glimpses of their shadow around the corner, but she couldn’t actually see them and she had no intention of slowing down or stopping just so she could get a good look.
Just then, Twitch let out a yelp of surprise as she tripped and fell. Racoon quickly caught her before she hit the ground, though her magic mirror wasn’t as lucky. The devise hit the ground and shattered, sending pieces of screen everywhere.
“MY MIRROR,” Twitch cried out, grabbing the devise but looking around in horror at the tiny pieces which remained behind.
“Talk about bad luck,” Racoon said as he gently pushed Twitch along. “We don’t have time to pick up all the pieces, unless of course, you want to see who that is…”
“No,” Twitch agreed as she hurried along again. “I’d rather not…”
“Are you okay?” Karma asked, giving the other girl a nervous look before glancing back behind them. The echoing footsteps were getting louder.
“I’m fine,” Twitch responded with a pout and one more glance at the pieces of her magic mirror which were still scattered along the ground, before she shook her head and hurried away.
Karma pointed to the tunnel ahead of them and exclaimed, “The way out is just up here…”
Almost as soon as Karma had said those words, they saw the stairs which led up to the surface. Karma grinned and raced up the stairs, eager to get away from whoever was chasing them. However, as soon as Karma was out of the tunnels and back on the surface, she froze and let out a yelp of fear.
“Oh no,” Karma squeaked out, her eyes going wide at the sight of the figure standing just a short distance away.
Karma still didn’t know who was chasing her, but she had no doubt that they couldn’t be nearly as scary as the woman who stood in front of her. She stood there with her arms crossed, glaring at Karma with an unhappy expression. However, what was even more telling was the way her tail snapped back and forth like a snake that was ready to strike.
“Um…hi Mama,” Karma greeted her mother nervously.
Karma quickly stepped behind Racoon as he could shield her from her mama, but he suddenly transformed into a small furry racoon and scrambled over to hide behind Twitch. Twitch desperately looked around for someone who she could hide behind, but not finding anyone.
“Susan Moira,” Mama announced, using Karma’s real name which told her that she was really in trouble now. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
“Um…someone is chasing us,” Karma exclaimed, hoping she could distract her mama.
She pointed back down the stairs, only to blink in surprise as two men in campus security uniforms emerged from the tunnels. One of the men was holding the metal box that they’d left behind, while the other man was familiar. Still, it took Karma a moment to realize that he was HER security guard.
“Dave,” Karma exclaimed in surprise. She almost hadn’t recognized him at all because he was scowling and looking more unhappy than she’d ever seen him before.
“It looks like we caught her red-handed,” the guy with the box said, looking at Karma.
“My hands aren’t red,” Karma protested as she looks down at her hands. “They’re pink…”
Mama rubbed her temples for a moment before saying, “Karma, you just gave me another grey hair…” She shook her head, muttering, “And I don’t want to collect them all and get a full set…”
“I think this is what we’ve been looking for,” Dave said, coming up beside Karma and staring down at the box she was holding. He gave her a weak smile before announcing, “Now, it looks like we need to make a few phone calls…”
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
Karma looked around the campus courtyard and then to the tunnel entrance just a short distance away. Her eyes went to the metal box, or more accurately, to the smaller box sitting on top of it. Everyone had been so afraid of the stink bomb she’d been carrying that they made her put it down, and then nobody had touched it since.
“Scaredy cats,” Karma grumbled to herself. It was JUST a stink bomb after all.
She didn’t understand why all the adults were being so serious about a stink bomb, but there was no doubt that they were. A bunch of adults had shown up, and all of them were grumpy about having to get up so early. And while they talked with each other, they mostly ignored Karma, much to her relief.
Karma let out a long sigh, wishing that she could leave. After the adults had talked to Racoon and Twitch, they’d been sent back to their dorms while she had to remain behind, waiting on her mama.
Mama looked at her, then told Mr. Turner, “I’ll have to get Karma back to bed soon, though I am NOT looking forward to dealing with her tomorrow. A tired and grumpy Karma is almost as hard to deal with as a hyperactive one.”
“I think you should be good to leave soon,” Mr. Turner told Mama before turning to Mr. Mazarin. “Once this thing is back in the vault where it belongs…though admittedly, I’d feel much more comfortable if we destroyed it.”
“I agree,” Mrs. Hastings said. “It should have been destroyed years ago…along with half the other items in that vault.”
Just then, one of the security people came over, announcing, “I have the security footage from the tunnels… It looks like it confirms what those kids said. It shows them going to the vault door, then following some devise away from it. We don’t have any footage of the tunnel where they found the container, but there is some kind of magic residue there, so everything seems to add up…”
“So, you’re saying that a group of kids found this thing when all of campus security couldn’t?” Mama asked with a smirk. “Maybe you should lower your minimum recruitment age by a decade or two.”
The security guy scowled at that which made Karma giggle. He gave her a look of annoyance so she stuck her tongue out at him. He looked away, pretending that he hadn’t even noticed her, which annoyed her a little. Nothing ruined her fun like other people ignoring it completely.
“Once again, your daughter was conveniently involved,” Mr. Mazarin told her mama.
“I know,” Mama responded with a sigh. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was a mangler…”
“Well,” Mr. Turner joked, “she already has the right name for it.”
“Is there any new evidence of the culprit’s identity?” Mr. Mazarin asked the security guy.
The security guy took a couple seconds to answer. “Not much. There is magical residue in the tunnel, which narrows our suspect list a little. We’ll have the magic department look into that and see if they can determine exactly what spells were cast there and by whom.”
“But I wanted to unmask the real villain…” Karma complained loudly. “I wanted to pull off his mask and see who it was…”
“I bet it was Old Man Jenkins this entire time,” Mama suggested with a grin while her tail swished back and forth.
Karma grinned at that. Mama always understood.
Before Karma could say anything else, she saw someone else coming towards them. Ms. Everheart looked serious, but that was no surprise because she was always serious.
“I can’t say anything about rubber masks being involved,” Ms. Everheart announced, “but I do have a good idea about who might be responsible for the initial theft.”
That immediately got the attention of all the adults. “And who would that be?” Mrs. Hastings asked.
“To be clear,” Ms. Everheart explained, “I have a strong suspicion but no solid proof as of yet.”
“Do tell,” Mama urged. “Was it Ms. Scarlett in the hall with a candlestick?”
Mr. Turner smiled faintly. “I suspect it was Colonel Mustard in the billiards room with a rope…”
“I vote for Mister Body,” Mrs. Hastings offered. “But perhaps we should see what Samantha has to say.”
Mr. Mazarin didn’t actually say anything. He just leaned against his cane and gave Ms. Everheart a faint nod to continue.
Ms. Everheart calmly explained, “The cameras near the vault were originally disabled due to damage caused by an accidental weapon discharge into just the right place, hours earlier.”
“You mentioned that before,” Mr. Turner said. “I assume you found more information on the…accident.”
“You think Weaponeer did this intentionally?” Mrs. Hastings asked a little skeptically.
“No,” Everheart responded. “But this does seem to be quite a…coincidence.”
“You mentioned the possibility of mangler involvement before,” Mr. Mazarin pointed out.
“Or someone with a power that resembles the effects of mangler interference,” Ms. Everheart continued with a nod of acknowledgement. “This was obviously planned, both in breaking into the devisor vault and in hiding their spoils afterwards, but there was also a clear lack of experience when it came to actually following through successfully. I believe that this all suggests a certain unofficial campus club.”
“I believe you may be correct,” Mr. Mazarin agreed with a thoughtful look. “Continue your investigation and see if you can recover enough evidence to act upon. The weapon may have been recovered, but we cannot allow the theft to go unpunished, especially not when the potential results could have been so devastating.”
The adults continued talking, though Karma had already lost interest in their conversation. She was bored and wanted to do something else, even go home and back to bed. Though she wouldn’t admit it, she was pretty tired, especially since the adrenaline had faded.
Karma looked around, letting out several long sighs as she did so. None of the adults paid any attention to her, which suited her just fine. She always had more fun when the adults weren’t paying too much attention.
Then, Karma suddenly saw something that she hadn’t noticed earlier. She moved closer to the stink bomb, her eyes going wide as she stared at something interesting. On the side of the box, there was a button. A big red button that practically screamed ‘PUSH ME’.
“KARMA, NO!” someone shouted, but it was already too late.
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
Dave Kretch had never liked performing campus patrols during the night shift. The campus always seemed a bit spooky after dark, even with all the streetlights making it easier to see. He guessed it was all the stories he’d heard from some of the older security personnel, especially stories about werewolves, demons, and things that went bump in the night. He was just thankful that the only scary thing he’d had to worry about that night, were a couple kids who’d been out on an adventure after curfew.
A faint smile formed on Dave’s lips as he thought about Karma, the youngest of those kids. From everything he’d heard, she was quite a handful to deal with, though he’d never had any problems with her. In fact, the girl reminded him of his own daughter Shelby, whom he’d barely even seen since the divorce. Maybe that was why he had a soft spot for the little ball of energy.
However, Dave’s patrol partner Carl, who was walking beside him at that moment, was less generous towards the girl. “I can’t believe we finally caught that brat in the act,” Carl grumbled, “and they’re just going to let her go.”
“Karma is a good kid,” Dave disagreed. “A bit high energy, sure, but still a good kid…”
Carl snorted at that. “We caught the brat with a stolen chemical weapon… There is NOTHING good about that…”
“True,” Dave reluctantly agreed. Kids shouldn’t have any contact at all with things like that. “But it isn’t like she’s the one who stole it…”
“Of course she did,” Carl responded sharply. “Don’t let the cute kid act fool you. Her mom was a notorious villain and she’s following in her mom’s footsteps. The brat is a lot more devious…and a lot more dangerous than you’d think by looking at her.”
Dave rolled his eyes at that, not surprised by Carl’s cynicism. After all, Carl used to work as private security for some high tech company, until they were cleaned out by some supervillain on his watch. Carl held a grudge against supervillains in general…including former villains and their families. But in spite of that and his tendency to jump to conclusions where certain staff members and students were concerned, he was still pretty professional when it came to doing his job.
“With the new headmaster,” Carl grumbled, “I’m not surprised that they’re going easy on the brat. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s in some early recruitment program for the Syndicate.”
“She’s only eight,” Dave reminded Carl. “I don’t think the Syndicate is interested in her yet…”
However, it was also a well-known fact among campus security, that various organizations were always trying to recruit kids from Whateley, some of whom were not even old enough to drive yet. In fact, one of the things that they had to look out for while on patrol, were the various recruiters who kept trying to sneak onto campus for that very purpose.
Suddenly, Dave heard a ‘BOOM’ from behind him, back towards where they’d left the recovered chemical weapon. He snapped around, only to see a thick wall of green fog spreading out from that area.
“God damn it,” Carl exclaimed.
Dave was already reaching for his radio and reporting, “We’ve got a problem,” right before the fog hit.
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
Twitch clutched the shattered remains of her magic mirror as she made her way back to Dickenson Cottage. She looked around nervously, not happy about being out so late, or more accurately, so early since she’d been out all night. It was spooky out, especially now that she was by herself.
“I wish Racoon was here,” Twitch grumbled to herself.
Unfortunately, after they’d been questioned by security, she and Racoon had been sent back to their dorms. Racoon had offered to escort her back to hers, but he’d been told to go straight back to his own dorm. Because of that, Twitch was all alone, though at least, she was close to her destination.
Then, she brightened up a little as she realized that she was going to have a great story to tell the girls in Wondercute. They were going to be so jealous when they found out that she was on a big adventure without them, and that she helped to find the stolen bomb.
“Gigi is gonna be SOOOO jealous,” Twitch told herself with a grin.
And then there was Karma. Karma had annoyed Twitch in the past, but she had to admit that Karma had actually been a lot of fun on this adventure. In fact, Twitch had almost felt like she got to play at being Karma’s big sister, which had been a different kind of fun. Most of the time, she was used to being the youngest person in the group, so getting to be the older one was different and exciting.
Twitch reached the door to her cottage and let out a sigh of relief. Now, she could get back to her room and go to bed, though she knew that her roommate Jessie probably wouldn’t let her sleep in very late.
A moment later, Twitch suddenly smelled something horribly foul. It was worse than anything she’d ever smelled before in her life, even worse than when she’d smelled her dad’s sweaty gym socks…which he hadn’t washed in MONTHS. Her eyes burned as she began to cough and gag, noticing at the same time that the very air now looked a little green and hazy.
Early Sunday morning, Nov 6th, 2016
“Ewww, gross,” Karma gasped, staring down at the puddle of vomit in front of her.
She was plugging her nose with one hand, but she could still smell…and even taste…that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad stink. That stench was without a doubt, the absolutely WORST thing she’d ever smelled in her entire life. Of course, that also meant that this was the absolute BEST stink bomb.
“Well,” Mr. Mazarin commented with a grimace. “Other than having just lost my dinner, I notice a distinct absence of being dead.”
Ms. Everheart nodded agreement. “The lethality of this chemical does seem to have been…overstated.”
“Fortunately,” Mr. Turner agreed. “Very fortunately, especially considering the fact that we were at ground zero.”
Mama shook her head and grumbled, “I haven’t felt this sick since my other daughter emailed me a picture of the Hippo Man in a speedo…”
Mrs. Hastings visibly shuddered at that. “Yes, that would be disturbing…”
“Not that I’m complaining,” Mr. Turner asked, giving Mrs. Hastings a serious look, “but WHY are we not dead?” He gestured to the stink bomb. “I was under the impression that if this went off, it would have killed most of the school…”
“I have multiple reports of illness,” Ms. Everheart pointed out calmly. “But nothing more serious than this…” She indicated the ground in front of them, which held several small puddles of vomit. “I’m having my people contact every house parent to check on all the students…just to be sure.”
“Good,” Mr. Mazarin responded, looking at Mrs. Hastings
“The chemicals have been in storage for years,” Mrs. Hastings answered, gesturing to the stink bomb. “Nearly a decade. They must have broken down and lost their potency in that time.”
“Maybe,” Mama announced, fixing her gaze on Karma and making the girl cringe, “but someone is still going to be grounded for a long time.”
“Not the hoosegow,” Karma gasped, hoping she could convince her mama that this was a bad idea. It had worked often enough that she was sure it would work this time too. “The clink… The slammer…”
“Yep,” Mama responded with a faint smile that gave Karma some hope that it was working. “Solitary confinement with just bread and water even.” Then her expression hardened again which made Karma wilt. “There are times when even I have to be serious, and unfortunately, this is one of them. You’re grounded, and I’m sure your father will have a thing or two to say about this too.”
Mrs. Hastings crouched down and smiled at Karma, trying to be a bit reassuring, though it didn’t work. Karma could see all her sharp teeth, which always made her look kind of scary. “You should never play with any devise…or something like this…especially when you don’t know how it works. You could accidentally hurt people.” She paused for a moment before quietly adding, “Even kill them…”
Karma gulped at that, seeing just how serious Mrs. Hastings looked. Even Mama was being super serious, which worried Karma even more. It was JUST a stink bomb… Wasn’t it?
“Trust me,” Mrs. Hastings said with a tired sigh. “You don’t want that on your conscience…”
After this, the adults continued talking about how they were going to check everyone on campus and make sure this kind of thing never happened again. It was all boring talk, so Karma didn’t pay any attention to it. Instead, she let out a loud yawn, tried to blow the stinky smell away, and then sat down and started to drift off.
Karma barely noticed when her mama came over, gently removed her devil horn headband, and kissed her on the head. Then her mama let out a long sigh and mused, “Trixie always did make the best stink bombs.”