Glyph 4: Putting Pen to Paper (Part 2)
A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story
Glyph 4: Putting Pen to Paper
Crystal Hall, Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
“Are you sure it’s all right if I come?” Janine asked nervously, not for the first, second, or even third time.
“Of course it’s all right,” I assured her, trying to keep my impatience from showing. “I wouldn’t have invited you if it wasn’t.”
When I’d first asked Janine if she wanted to come with us on our Berlin shopping trip, she’d been excited about it. She was still excited, though she’d been growing increasingly worried that I’d change my mind, or that Laura or Morgana would object to her presence. Of course, none of that was going to happen, but that didn’t stop Janine from worrying about it.
“Stop worrying about it and go have fun,” Dodo told Janine in a slightly exasperated tone.
“And don’t forget to bring something back for us,” Giggles added with a grin.
“I’ll accept chocolate,” Blackberry suggested. Then she blushed and self-consciously continued, “Especially if you can get Laura to get you some of her special blend…”
Janine let out a gasp of that, her eyes quickly darting down to her own chest, drawing my attention to her improved assets as well. She blushed noticeably but didn’t say anything. I quickly looked away, before she could catch me staring.
“Laura feels real bad about what happened,” Giggles told Blackberry. “I think she’s afraid that someone is going to sue her…”
“That isn’t really a problem,” I pointed out, knowing that Giggles was right. Laura did feel guilty over what had happened, which was one of the reasons that she needed this shopping trip too. “She followed all the safety protocols that they required…”
“That doesn’t mean that someone might not TRY to sue her,” Dodo reminded me. “People can be real jerks sometimes.”
I nodded agreement, though I didn’t say anything aloud. Instead, I just looked around the table, smiling faintly as I did so. This morning, I was eating breakfast with Janine and some of her friends rather than with my normal crew. They’d all been pretty nervous about me when it first came out that I was the White Lady, but they’d gotten to know me well enough to relax in my presence. I appreciated that because so many of my other classmates still treated me as if I was some kind of evil supervillain.
Dodo was a cute girl. Not beautiful, but ‘girl next door’ cute. However, the fact that she had light gray feathers on her head, where her hair should have been, added an exotic element to her appearance. Between this, her weak powers, and her unfortunate codename, a lot of students made fun of her, so she was happy to have another friend…even one with my reputation.
Blackberry was a bit shy and had taken a little longer to warm up to me, though the truth was, I suspected that she tolerated me and my bad reputation more for Janine’s sake than for any other reason. Still, she was a nice girl and loyal to her friends, so I couldn’t fault her for that.
And then there was Giggles, a gadgeteer with an embarrassing form of Diedricks. Whenever her Diedricks went off and she dricked out, she burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles, which was way better than the psychotic delusions and fits of violence that some had to deal with.
“So,” Giggles said, looking at me. “I heard that a secret admirer gave you flowers the other day…” She grinned eagerly. “Do you know who it is?”
I cringed a little at the line of questioning. “No,” I admitted, shaking my head as I did so. “No idea…” Then I hesitated a few seconds before adding, “But they left some chocolates for me yesterday…”
“Ooooh,” Giggles and Dodo both exclaimed, looking even more interested.
Janine, on the other hand, was frowning. “Was it good chocolate?” she cautiously asked, looking almost worried.
“No idea,” I responded with a sigh, wondering how many more times I’d have to explain this. “I’m not about to eat something when I have absolutely no idea where it came from or who left it…”
“Generally a good policy,” Blackberry pointed out with a nod of approval.
“Yeah,” Dodo agreed. “That probably wouldn’t be smart.”
“Still,” Blackberry mused with a sigh. “Wasting good chocolate is almost a crime…”
Giggles burst out laughing at that. Real laughter, not her Diedricks induced giggles. “Don’t let those Spy Kids hear you saying that or they might start investigating Bianca for wasting chocolate too…”
I chuckled at that almost in spite of myself. “Probably,” I agreed. “I’m still not sure if they’re trying to investigate me for anything specific…or just on general principle.”
“They should leave you alone,” Janine firmly insisted. “You haven’t done anything wrong…”
“Try telling them that,” I told her with a sigh.
“Anyway,” Giggles asked. “Do you have any idea who your secret admirer might be?”
I shook my head, replying, “Not really…”
This is a question that I had considered off and on for the last couple days, especially since receiving the chocolate. There were several clues, but none of them gave me any clear answers, merely more questions.
Someone had delivered the chocolates to Poe, which meant that they probably hadn’t come from someone within the cottage. This meant my secret admirer, if there even really was one, was likely a boy. That thought just made me feel a little queasy.
The flower had suddenly appeared at the table, right when I was eating dinner. None of us there had seen anyone approaching, but there were a number of ways to pull off that kind of thing. Invisibility? A speedster who moved faster than we could see? Or was it simply teleported there?
Even if I knew for a fact that teleportation had been involved, there were multiple ways to get that type of effect. Warper? Mage? Devisor? And I was sure that there were other ways to pull it off too. And of course, whomever this ‘secret admirer’ was, they may not even have done this themselves. They may have asked a friend to deliver the flower for them.
Unfortunately, I might enjoy a good detective novel, but that didn’t make me into a detective. Investigating this kind of mystery was a little out of my experience. Jimmy might be better suited for that kind of work, especially if he had Tavi to help him, but I didn’t want to burden him with something so ridiculous as tracking down someone who gave me flowers and chocolate.
“That’s too bad,” Dodo said. “A secret admirer sounds romantic…”
“Or scary,” Janine added, looking at me. “If you don’t know who they are or what they really want…”
“Yeah,” I agreed, relieved to see that Janine understood.
This was scary, especially considering how many people were after me. I didn’t know whether this was a legitimate secret admirer…which I had a hard time believing…or just one more person trying to mess with me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure which of those two options would have been worse.
“Bianca already has enough stalkers,” Janine stated firmly, almost protectively. “She doesn’t need any more.”
“One stalker would be more than enough,” Dodo agreed a little awkwardly. Apparently, she still thought that my secret admirer might be legitimate.
“So,” Giggles asked, clearly trying to change the subject back to something a little more comfortable. “Who do you have as escort for your shopping trip?”
“Cherry Bomb,” I answered. We’d asked a few of the older Poesies and she was the only one who’d been available.
“Cherry Bomb?” Giggles gasped, her eyes going wide. “Your escort is Cherry Bomb?” She shook her head and exclaimed, “You’d be better off taking KARMA as your escort…”
“You know,” Dodo told Janine. “It isn’t too late to change your mind.”
Janine gave me a faintly nervous smile before responding, “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
“Famous last words,” Blackberry added.
“I thought that was hold my beer and watch this,” Giggles said with a grin.
“Those are different last words,” Janine told her with a giggle.
We finished our breakfast a short time after this and got up to leave. Janine and I began to head off together while the other girls went in their own directions.
“We’ll meet up with the others at the bus,” I told Janine. “I’ll need to get some makeup on before we go though.”
I held up my hand, showing the pure white skin that would clearly mark me as a mutant for anyone to see. Well, my white skin didn’t necessarily mark me as a mutant since my grandmother and other predecessors hadn’t been mutants, but it did mark me as being unusual. I didn’t need the kind of attention that could get me.
Janine and I hadn’t quite left Crystal Hall when I noticed the figure walking towards us. He was a slender boy who was wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.
“Shades,” I muttered in annoyance. The last thing I wanted to deal with at the moment, was him asking to become my henchman again, especially since I thought we were done with that nonsense. “What now?”
“Tinker,” Shades greeted Janine before giving me a bow. “Milady.”
I scowled slightly at the ‘milady’ but carefully controlled my reactions so that I didn’t show just how uncomfortable that made me. “What do you want?”
Shades grinned, though it was definitely a cocky one that verged on being a smirk. I couldn’t see his eyes behind the dark sunglasses, but I could feel them locked on me, making me want to squirm.
“I just wanted to tell you how exceptionally lovely you are today,” Shades told me. I blinked in surprise. “You are like a majestic glacier with the sunlight gleaming off it and blinding all who see…”
I stood there for a moment, confused by what was going on and trying to make sense of what Shades had just said. Before I could overcome my shock, much less figure out what he was up to, Shades gave me another bow and hurried away, this time clearly smirking.
“Did he…?” I started, blinking several times and then looking at Janine. “Did he just try hitting on me?”
“He did more than just try,” Janine responded with an angry glare in the direction that Shades had gone.
Suddenly, I remembered one small but important fact. Shades was a teleporter…able to move other things but not himself. That meant, he could easily have sent a single rose to me while I was eating dinner the other day.
“Oh no,” I groaned, feeling equally stunned and disgusted. “I think I know who my secret admirer is…”
“Yeah,” Janine agreed with a deep scowl. “I kind of figured that out too…”
The Quad, Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
Shades hurried across the Quad to where his best friend Beatdown was waiting for him. “I did it,” he blurted out excitedly. “I’ve completely dazzled her with my eloquence…”
“About time,” Beatdown responded with a shrug. “Took you long enough to build up your nerve…”
“These things have to be done right,” Shades told him a bit defensively. “You have to build up to it. Chocolate, flowers, and romance… Chicks love that stuff…”
“Maybe,” Beatdown admitted. “But Glyph isn’t like other girls…”
“No, she isn’t,” Shades agreed with a smirk. “She has money and influence… The kind that can get us set up for life…”
Beatdown snorted. “I still don’t think that this is the best way to do it. I mean, sure, things might be good as long as you’re dating her…but what happens when she gets bored of your ass and dumps you?”
“That will never happen,” Shades disagreed emphatically. “I’ll make her fall for me hard and get her completely wrapped around my finger…”
The larger boy didn’t say anything to this, knowing from experience that Shades wouldn’t listen. “You know, her sidekick is kind of cute… If this works out for you, maybe you could hook me up with that Tinker girl…”
“Maybe,” Shades told him. “But I think she’s already got the hots for me since she looked totally jealous when I flirted with Glyph. Still, I’m not gonna waste any time with her when I can get the White Lady herself, so you can have her.”
“Gee, thanks,” Beatdown responded with a loud snort and a roll of his eyes.
“Now, for the next step,” Shades mused to himself. “More flowers and jewelry… Damn, this is gonna get expensive…”
Crystal Hall, Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
I looked around at the small group of girls who’d gathered for the trip. We were all there and ready to go, with one notable exception. Our escort. Cherry Bomb had yet to show up.
“Where is she?” Morgana asked impatiently. “You’d think our responsible escort would at least be here on time…”
“If you wanted responsible,” Laura pointed out, “then you probably should have asked someone other than Cherry Bomb.”
“Anyone,” Janine agreed.
She and Laura shared a pair of knowing smiles. Since they were both geek girls…a gadgeteer and devisor respectively, they both spent a lot of time in the lab…and had more contact with Cherry Bomb in that kind of setting. The fact that they both agreed, said something about our chosen escort.
“Too late to change escorts now,” I pointed out, just thankful that we’d found someone in the first place. “Besides, considering some of our reputations, we were lucky to find ANYONE willing to come with.”
“She does have a point,” Morgana agreed, giving Janine an evil grin. “Darn you and your evil reputation.”
“Me?” Janine gasped in surprise before she realized that my roommate was just messing with her.
“Sure,” Morgana continued with a chuckle. “Between Willy Wonka…”
“HEY,” Laura protested, giving her a glare.
“The mafia princess,” Morgana continued, gesturing to me.
“HEY,” I responded, giving her my own glare.
“And my absolute perfection,” Morgana added cheerfully. “You’re the most normal and responsible person here…”
“And that includes our esteemed escort,” Laura pointed out wryly.
I just nodded at that, then looked in the direction of our cottage to see if I could spot Cherry Bomb. Nothing yet, much to my own annoyance.
Since it looked like we’d be waiting a bit longer, I wondered if I should touch up my makeup a little more. I held out my hands, which had a thin layer of makeup to make them look a little more ‘normal’. A long-sleeved hoodie hid the rest of my arms. I had similar makeup all over my face, though hadn’t bothered to do anything about my hair, beyond the hood on my hoodie. Pure white hair could be taken as a serious bleach job, but pure white skin was a bit harder to explain. But at least white skin made for a good blank canvas. Blue skin was a bit harder to cover up.
Laura was done up similar to how I was, with long sleeves to hide her blue skin, while her hands and face were coated with a heavier layer of makeup. Again, her blue hair could be explained as a dye job, so it didn’t need to be hidden.
And then there was Morgana, who didn’t have anything to worry about. She’d shifted back to her ‘normal’ form, which got rid of her horns, though she also had a hoodie on so she could hide them if she needed to change back to her dragon form for any reason.
And of course, there was Janine, who was the only one of us who never had any form of GSD that needed to be concealed. Perhaps, because of that, she was also the only one of us who wasn’t wearing a hoodie.
Of course, I’d made other preparations for this trip, besides the ones to hide my features. I had a couple pouches on my belt, which contained some of my spell cards. These were mostly the cards that I carried around on a daily basis, though I made sure that I had a few extra ‘emergency’ cards, just in case. I knew that Morgana and Laura had both made their own precautions as well.
“There she is,” Laura announced, drawing my attention to Cherry Bomb, who I could now see walking towards us.
“Finally,” my roommate muttered.
When our escort reached us, she flashed us a grin, adjusted the backpack that was slung over one shoulder, and asked, “Is everyone ready?”
“Just waiting on you,” Morgana told her.
I nodded. “We’re ready to go.”
“Awesome,” Cherry Bomb responded, gesturing for us to get in the bus. She gave Janine a grin and a nod. “Hey, its Tinker Bell. Looks like you get to ride the Poesie Express today.”
“My codename is just Tinker,” Janine replied a little self-consciously. “Belle is my real name… Janine Belle…”
“I know that,” Cherry Bomb responded with a chuckle. “I was just teasing…”
“Cherry Bomb,” I started, not happy about the way she was teasing my friend, though I couldn’t tell why it bothered me so much.
“Call me Cherry,” the older Poesie announced cheerfully. “Everyone does. Well, except for one teacher who keeps calling me Crazy Harry for some reason…”
I blinked at that. “Crazy Harry.”
“Or sometimes, Crazy Cherry,” she continued as she climbed up onto the bus.
“THAT, I can believe,” Morgana said from beside me.
“Now come on, girls,“ Cherry called out, “We don’t have all day…”
Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
A teenage boy sat hunched over on one of the campus benches, his baseball cap pulled down low. Anyone who saw him would have thought he was either texting or playing some game on his phone, though the truth was that he hadn’t even looked at the screen in several minutes. Instead, his attention was on something else, a group of girls who were gathered together some distance away.
There were four girls, gathered around beside the bus, obviously waiting. But waiting for what, he didn’t know. Eventually, a fifth girl arrived to join them and only then did they get on the bus.
Once the bus pulled away, the boy stood up and slowly walked away, being careful not to hurry or do anything that might draw attention to him. He’d already done everything he could to avoid that, and he wasn’t about to ruin it now.
Crysis waited until he’d gone at least a hundred yards, then he dialed a number on his burner phone. The moment it picked up, he announced, “She just left campus.”
Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
“This is it,” Mister Blank announced as he gestured to the cleaning closet.
“According to Tek Rider,” Miss Violet continued, “this is the entrance to her old lab.”
Carrie nodded agreement, not that she needed to. Still, she was part of the team and that meant being a team player.
“Cyber Swarm tried drilling through the doorway,” she explained unnecessarily since Perfume had already been briefed on this. “But he couldn’t get through. He said there wasn’t realty a door there.”
“Too bad Swarm didn’t come with us today,” Perfume said with a faint note of annoyance in her voice. “We could have used his drones…”
“Well?” Miss Violet asked Perfume. “Do you smell anything?”
Perfume stepped into the closet, her usual scent of perfume fading away. Carrie realized that Perfume was turning off her scent manifestation ability since it could interfere with anything else she needed to smell. One of her gifts as an exemplar was an amazing sense of smell. She wasn’t quite as good as a trained bloodhound, but she was good enough to actually track people down by their scent alone.
“Let’s see,” Perfume mused as she took several cautious sniffs. “I smell…grease. Engine grease and gasoline.”
“Motorcycles,” Mister Blank commented.
“The smell is old,” Perfume said as she took another careful sniff, “but still strong.”
“But what about Glyph?” Miss Violet asked. “Do you smell her?”
Perfume hesitated a moment before answering. “Yes, but very faintly. I can still smell faint traces of Tek Rider too…and she probably hasn’t been here for months.” She stepped back outside the closet and frowned thoughtfully. “Glyph has been here…but not often enough to be using a doorway.”
“So,” Carrie asked cautiously. “Does that mean she isn’t using Tek Rider’s old lab?”
“Maybe,” Perfume answered her. “Or maybe, she simply isn’t using this entrance…” She sniffed around the tunnel, then pointed. “I’m catching faint traces of her scent going this way…and its stronger than in the closet.”
The older girl walked down the tunnel just a short distance, pausing when she reached the first intersection. Perfume then circled the intersection, sniffing down each of the other tunnel segments before she abruptly began walking down one of them.
Carrie didn’t like this tunnel section. It was narrower than the last one and not as well lit. There were a lot of shadows along the walls, making the whole area all the creepier.
Mister Blank reached into his pocket and pulled out a flashlight, which he immediately began sweeping back and forth to light up the shadowed areas. “So we don’t miss anything,” be explained.
“Good thinking,” Perfume told him.
They hadn’t gone far before Perfume stopped again. She slowly turned around in a circle, sniffing as she did.
“Did you lose her?” Mister Blank asked worriedly.
“Her scent ends,” Perfume explained as she moved back a little further and then began to turn in a circle again. “Her scent is strongest here…especially on this side.”
Carrie barely even glanced at the wall beside them. There was nothing there. It was just a wall…like every other wall in the tunnels. It wasn’t even worth looking at.
“There isn’t anything here,” Mister Blank announced with a look of irritation. He swept his flashlight over the wall but didn’t bother to really look at it. “You must have lost the trail.”
“Um,” Carrie started nervously. “Glyph is a mage… Maybe she used magic…”
“A good point,” Perfume responded, giving Mouse a nod of approval. “It would make sense for her to use magical security…”
“Very true,” Miss Violet agreed. “There is no telling what manner of sinister spell she may have cast here.”
Perfume reached into her pocked as she said, “I may have something that can help…” A few seconds later, she pulled out a metal amulet that dangled on a leather chord. “I bought this from one of the senior mages, just in case. It can protect the wearer from some magical effects.” She hesitated a moment before adding, “Theoretically?”
“Theoretically?” Mister Blank asked suspiciously.
“I haven’t been able to test it yet,” Perfume admitted with a shrug.
With those words, Perfume slipped the amulet around her neck and suddenly froze, her eyes going wide. “Well, I’ll be… It works…”
“What works?” Mouse asked.
Perfume walked to the wall and put her hand against it, then pushed. The wall opened up, though Carrie barely noticed since she wasn’t paying much attention. However, the fact that Perfume put her arm through it was enough to draw Carrie’s eyes back…for a few seconds at least.
“A door,” Perfume triumphantly announced. “It’s pretty obvious…at least when Edward’s flashlight is on it. It blends in fairly well so it probably would have been hard to see without the extra light…and with this spell.”
“This is strange,” Miss Perfect said. “I know there’s a door there because I can see it… But I still keep thinking that there isn’t anything there anyway…”
“Magic,” Perfume stated simply. “One of their most common spells is one to make people just not notice them…”
“That could be useful,” Carrie said, thinking about how much she could do when she was small, just because nobody saw her. If she could get the same kind of effect while at her full size… Well, that would have to be even more useful.
Now that Carrie knew there was a door in the wall, this strange effect began to fade and it became easier to pay attention to it. She noticed that this door opened up into a small space…and another door. That one wasn’t hidden at all.
“A metal door,” Mister Blank mused as he looked it over. “And a keypad right beside it.”
“That should be no problem,” Miss Violet said. “No problem at all…”
“Allow me,” Mister Blank said as he moved to the keypad. “I will make quick work of this lock…”
Mister Blank began to examine the keypad, but almost as soon as he touched one of the keys, there was a burst of sparks and a yelp of pain.
Bus to Berlin, Sunday morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
“You did WHAT?” Morgana exclaimed with a look of surprise.
I quickly glanced to Cherry, who was far enough away that she hadn’t been able to hear our conversation…until my roommate suddenly increased the volume. I gave Morgana a warning look and she seemed to realize her mistake.
“I booby trapped the door to my lab,” I told her in a quieter volume. I still gave Cherry another glance.
This was not the best location for this conversation, but Janine had accidentally brought it up when Morgana began asking about my new lab. Since Janine and Laura both already knew about this little trick, I thought that it was only fair to share it with my roommate as well. After all, sooner or later, she’d be visiting me down there and I didn’t want her to accidentally get caught in it.
“There’s a dummy keypad,” I quietly explained. “It doesn’t hook up to the door at all…”
“I was wondering why you wanted me to make that keypad for you,” Laura said, looking rather curious. “When you told me to hook a taser up to it so that it would zap anyone who tried to use it… Well, I was wondering…”
“The door is pretty well hidden,” I half-bragged, so I’ll probably never get to use it for real…”
“But you’ll zap anyone who does,” Morgana said with a grin. She rubbed her hands together almost gleefully. “I wonder if we can trick those Spy Kids into testing it for you…”
“I can only dream,” I replied with a long sigh.
Janine cleared her throat, then suggested, “Maybe you can try it on Shades…”
“Now THAT would be a fun idea,” I told her with a chuckle of my own.
Morgana gave Janine a curious look. “I understand why Bianca doesn’t like Shades, but what have you got against him?”
Janine blushed brightly before stammering out, “He’s just a jerk is all…”
“He’s my secret admirer,” I reluctantly admitted.
“Ouch,” Morgana responded with a visible wince. “Talk about a worst case scenario…”
Laura’s reaction was more sympathy. “I’m sorry to hear it. I know he’s been a problem before.” Then she hesitated before suggesting, “Maybe he’s trying to make up for what he did before…”
I gave her a flat look. “You mean, beating people up and telling them that I ordered it?” I shook my head. “Somehow, I don’t think so.”
“He’s just…gross,” Janine insisted. “He reminds me of a used-car salesman or something…”
Morgana snickered. “I was going to say that he’s a weasel…but used-car salesman works too.”
“Now THAT is an insult,” I agreed with a grin of my own.
A short time later, we finally reached Berlin and were able to get off the bus. I was excited since this was the first time that I’d been off campus in several months, ever since I’d first arrived. And considering what had happened back in New York, I was still surprised that they’d let us go out in public again, even with an escort.
“Okay, girls,” Cherry told us. “Whateley students have a long and proud tradition of getting into trouble in Berlin…”
“I think you’re supposed to discourage the trouble part,” Laura pointed out.
“Fine,” Cherry responded with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Behave. Don’t get in trouble. Yada yada yada…”
“Why do I have the feeling that we’re gonna have to keep HER out of trouble?” I asked.
“But seriously,” Cherry said, her expression turning serious. “You all know the drill. Keep a low profile. Stay fairly close together…and that means fairly close to me. And if there is some kind of trouble, get out of the area fast. Don’t play hero or anything like that. I don’t know about Mazarin, but Carson really hated it when students showed off in public…and especially if they tried playing hero.”
Morgana leaned over and whispered, “Can you believe she said that with a straight face?”
“Not really,” I responded.
“I think that’s enough of the obligatory safety speech,” Cherry said with a grin. “The sooner we get going, the more shopping we can get done.”
I nodded at that, suspecting that this was going to be painful. However, I couldn’t say that I hadn’t asked for it. Back when I’d still been Bryan, I’d had almost no interest in shopping, at least, none that wasn’t in a bookstore. That hadn’t really changed since my transformation, though there were several items I needed to get. If it had just been me, I’d be in and out quickly, with the whole trip being done in under an hour. But with four other girls present…and some of them a lot more interested in shopping as a hobby… Well, it was going to be a long day.
“Now then,” Cherry exclaimed, pointing out ahead of us. “CHARGE!”
In spite of Cherry’s enthusiastic beginning, we actually took off at a leisurely pace. I guess that even she didn’t want to wear herself out too soon, for which I was thankful.
Berlin NH, Sunday late morning, Oct 23rd, 2016
“The target has been spotted,” announced the radio.
A few seconds later, the man who was only known as Hardcore by his subordinates and professional associates, responded, “Are you certain?”
“She fits the description I was given,” Miller answered from the other end of the radio. “And she’s with four other teenage girls, who also fit the descriptions of the target’s companions.”
“Keep eyes on the target,” Hardcore ordered. “Once the rest of us are in position, the operation will go active.”
“Yes, sir,” Miller responded.
Once the conversation was over, Martin Gills, Hardcore’s second in command, commented, “It would be a lot cheaper and easier to just take her down with a sniper shot.”
“True,” Hardcore agreed. “But our client specifically wanted a show. It has to look like she was caught in a random robbery and killed in the crossfire. They were pretty clear that it can’t look like she was the intended target.”
“Do we know who she is?” Gills asked, more curious or concerned, “or why we’re going through so much trouble for a kid?”
“No,” Hardcore answered simply.
The client hadn’t said and he hadn’t asked. The less he knew about those details, the better it was for everyone involved. Except perhaps the target, but she wasn’t the one paying him. His client was, and he didn’t even know who that was for the same reason.
“What we do know, is that she’s a magic user,” Hardcore explained. “And her companions are all likely to have powers as well. But that was in the briefing. Now, go make sure everyone is ready. I need to get dressed up for the show.”
Berlin NH, Sunday early afternoon, Oct 23rd, 2016
I stepped out of the small shop, wincing at the ache in my wallet. I’d just spent a lot more money on clothes than I was happy with, though only a couple items had been for myself. The rest, a half dozen shirts, had been gifts for Janine. Girl clothes were WAY too expensive.
“THANK YOU!” Janine exclaimed, suddenly throwing her arms around me with a surprise hug. “Thank you so much…”
“Um…,” I stammered, feeling her body pressed against mine. I could feel her breasts pressing against me, which made my whole body flush with nervous excitement. “You’re… You’re welcome…”
I was blushing brightly, or at least, I would be if my skin didn’t stay the same white color. Between that and the makeup I was wearing to hide my real skin color, there was no way anyone could see my blush. Thankfully.
Janine held on for a few seconds more, perhaps a little more than was really needed for a quick hug, then she let go and stepped back. Now, she was blushing as badly as I felt I was and looking every bit as self-conscious.
“Sorry,” Janine muttered in obvious embarrassment.
“Hey,” Morgana joked as she came out of the store behind us. “Get a room, you two…” That made Janine and I both squirm a bit more in embarrassment.
“I was just thanking her for the clothes,” Janine announced a little defensively.
“And those were just a thank you for everything that YOU have been doing for me,” I reminded her a little awkwardly.
Just then, Cherry said, “Yeah, you two are absolutely adorkable.” She pointed at a shop across the street. “But we were gonna hit electronics shop next…”
Laura brightened up at that, and a few seconds later, the two devisor girls hurried across the street to check out the shop. Janine, a gadgeteer, hesitated a moment before announcing, “Electronics aren’t really my thing…”
“But you still want to check it out,” Morgana pointed out with a chuckle. “None of you lab geeks can resist more parts…”
“Like you’re one to talk,” I teased my roommate. “You’re into all that high tech stuff too…”
Morgana nodded. "True, but I want to get something caffeinated." She pointed at a shop a couple of doors down from the electronics shop. "I'm going to see what they stock in the way of good coffee, and maybe get myself a drink while I'm at it."
I rolled my eyes at that. "Of course, you'd hit the coffee shop"
She grinned even wider at that comment. "One day, I want to visit Seattle, I her they have a coffee shop on every corner..."
Janine giggled at that. “Okay, I’m going to go peek in…just in case they have anything I can use…”
And with those words, Janine went to join Laura and Cherry, leaving Morgana and I to ourselves…for at least a few more seconds. True to her word, my roommate went to check out the coffee shop, leaving me out on the sidewalk by myself.
While everyone else was occupied, I began looking at the nearby shops. None of them really caught my eye, at first. After a minute, I noticed that one of the shops sold coats and jackets, something I normally wouldn’t have cared about. However, I’d recently been thinking about adding something extra to the costume I was designing in costuming shop, something like a jacket.
Some people might say that it was stupid…or very 90’s…to design a costume and then cover it up with a jacket. However, I considered that an advantage. A jacket could help hide any costume I wore, providing camouflage and saving me from some embarrassment at the same time. In addition, there were other uses for a jacket, ones that might serve my needs pretty well.
I was standing in front of the store, looking at the coats on display in the window when Morgana strolled up to me with a cup of coffee in her hand, along with a bag in the other, which I assumed contained coffee beans. Without a word, she handed me a small paper bag with a pastry in it. I peeked inside then smiled. Pan au chocolate…also known as a chocolate croissant. That was one of my favorite types of pastries while growing up.
“Thank you,” I told her.
Morgana gave me an evil grin. “No problem, as long as you don’t thank me the way Janine thanked you. I like you, but not THAT much…”
“Bite me,” I responded before taking a bite of my pastry.
My roommate chuckled at that. “So, what are you looking at?”
“Just trying to get some ideas for my costume,” I explained with a shrug. “I’m gonna go inside and see what else they have…”
I stepped into the shop, not worried about losing any of the others. My gadgeteer and devisor friends were only a couple doors down while Morgana remained outside to alert them to where I was, should that be necessary.
I had no intention of buying anything at the moment. I was just looking…getting ideas. I wanted to see what was available and what type of style might work for my needs. Once I had a better idea of what I wanted, then I could look to buy…or make it myself. After all, that was what costuming class was for.
Then I found something in the back of the shop, something which caught my attention. It was a women’s overcoat in a sort of trench coat style, and it was all white. It was nearly the same color as my skin and hair, which is why I’d noticed it.
“This wouldn’t do much for camouflage or disguise,” I thought aloud. “But it would definitely fit my costume…” And my color theme.
As I flipped the coat around and examined it, I became more certain that this was exactly what I was looking for. And once I tried it on…and found that it fit comfortably, I knew that I had to buy it. It was almost as if this coat had been made for me.
A few minutes later, I stepped out of the store with a new shopping bag in hand. Morgana glanced at the bag, gave me a curious look, and commented, “And here I thought that you hated shopping.”
“I hate wasting money on a bunch of junk I don’t need,” I countered. Then with a sigh, I admitted, “But between this trip and what I’ve paid Scrye recently, I’m just about broke.”
“So, what did you get anyway?” Morgana asked, indicating my new bag.
“Just a new coat for the winter,” I told her with a faint smile. “I’ll show you when we get back to our room.”
Morgana and I didn’t have to wait much longer before the others all returned from the electronics shop, each with new bags. I got a couple curious looks and some questions about my own new bag.
“I think there’s a toy shop down here,” Janine announced, gesturing down the street. “I’d like to go there, if nobody minds…”
“Why toys?” Cherry asked curiously.
I knew Janine well enough to guess. “Dominos.”
Janine nodded at that. “Now that I’ve got more room to set up, I need to get more dominos…and other things.” She was getting excited just thinking about it.
“I don’t mind,” Laura said.
“Me either,” Morgana agreed.
Cherry just shrugged. “Whatever.”
We all started in the direction of the toy shop, though hadn’t gone very far when I suddenly heard something from the side. I snapped around, only to see a van that was parked alongside the street, with the side door suddenly being flung open. A man hopped out of the van, immediately catching my full attention.
The man was wearing a costume, a green and grey jumpsuit that looked like it had some lightweight armor built into it. Shoulder pads, knee pads, and what could have been some chest plates. This suit covered his entire body, with a tight green hood that covered his hair and the back of his head. His entire face was covered with a grey metallic mask that was featureless except for the eye slits.
A second after I took in his appearance, I finally noticed his weapon. It was somewhere between the size of a pistol and a rifle, perhaps more the general size and shape of a sawed-off shotgun. However, it was obviously not any kind of standard firearm. Instead, it was a high-tech thing, the kind of energy blaster I might expect to see in some science fiction movie…or in the devisor labs.
And then, only after I’d taken all of this in, did I realize that he wasn’t alone. Two more men had jumped out of the van right behind him, identical in appearance to the first man.
“Oh no,” I gasped, feeling my heart jump into my throat.
More men began appearing further down the sidewalk, having emerged from another van. All of them wore the same costume…the same uniform. And though they all had the same identical energy weapons, I noticed that most of them had some kind of secondary weapon, though these varied a great deal, from pistols to what appeared to be a sword.
“Looks like we’ve got trouble,” Morgana announced.
“I just know I’m gonna get blamed for this,” Cherry exclaimed with an exasperated sigh. “I always do.”
“Wait,” Janine gasped, staring at Cherry in surprise. “Always?”
“How often does this happen to you?” I demanded.
Morgana just snorted. “At least they’re not wearing squid hats…”
I grimaced as I watched these uniformed men, preparing to call up one of my built-in spells. Fire if I needed to go offensive, though air could be used for either offense or defense. There appeared to be about eight or ten of these men, though they were spread out and I wasn’t about to take time counting them. Instead, I tried to focus on who I needed to go after first.
They were after me. They had to be. But if they were after me, why were they spreading out rather than just attacking me directly?
“NOBODY MOVE!” a loud voice suddenly boomed out.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the newcomer, who had just emerged from a moving truck that had stopped in the middle of the street. This was an armored figure about eight feet tall and in the same color theme as all the other men, though this one also had a little gold metallic trim.
I wasn’t sure if this was power armor or some kind of light power frame. Laura would know, though if I asked her, I’d probably have to sit through a long lecture about the subject and all the technical differences.
“They brought their big brother,” Morgana commented in a worried tone.
“I AM HARDCORE,” the armored figure announced as he came closer. “ALL WE WANT IS THE JEWELRY STORE. IF ANYONE CAUSES TROUBLE OR GETS IN OUR WAY, THEY DIE. STAY EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE AND DON’T CROSS US, AND YOU’LL LIVE.”
With those words, my eyes darted to the large jewelry store that we were just about to pass. The uniformed men were surrounding it…not us…at least not intentionally. We were just caught between them and their target. I let out a sigh of relief, thankful that this attack wasn’t aimed at me, though that certainly didn’t mean we were safe.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” I said, noticing that a couple of the uniformed men seemed to be looking at me. It was hard to tell for sure though with those masks they were wearing. “I think we need to get out of here…”
“Me too,” Cherry agreed, already having pulled something out of her pack.
Cherry held something out and my eyes widened as I saw what it was. She was holding a black metallic sphere, the size of a baseball, with a four-inch chord coming out of it. It looked like stereotypical bomb with a fuse, just like I’d seen in old cartoons and comic strips.
“Run,” Cherry told us as she tossed the bomb.
“You forgot to light the fuse,” I exclaimed as I turned to start running.
There was a loud ‘BOOM’ and I glanced back, only to see a thick cloud of smoke spreading out behind us. The uniformed men were caught in the smoke, making it so I couldn’t see them…and so they probably couldn’t see us either.
“It’s not a fuse,” Cherry responded with a grin. “It’s an antenna…so I can detonate it from a distance…” She held out two more of her bombs, one of them looking exactly like the last one, which she casually tossed behind us. This time, I noticed her pushing a button on her bracelet before it detonated into another burst of smoke. “And it works with my proximity signal so it won’t go off if it’s too close to me…”
“GET THEM,” Hardcore called out from inside the cloud of smoke.
There were several flashes of light as blasts of energy shot out from the cloud. One hit a wall and left a melted spot in the stone, several inches across. Another hit a car that was parked beside us, leaving another melted hole.
“THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US!” Janine exclaimed with a shriek.
“Come on,” I grabbed her hand and made sure she kept up. “Don’t stop…”
I glanced at Cherry, who had an almost manic grin on her face. “Time for some BOOM,” she exclaimed, laughing excitedly.
She held up the other bomb that I’d seen her take out, and I noticed that it looked almost identical to the previous ones she’d thrown, except that instead of being painted black, it was painted a bright glossy red while the fuze was actually green. This one actually looked like a cherry.
“My signature bombs,” Cherry explained as she threw the bomb back behind us. “They make great distractions.”
A few seconds later, there was another loud ‘BOOM’, but this time, there was no burst of smoke. Instead, there was an actual explosion that shattered windows and destroyed a parked car that was a little too close.
It was at this point, that I realized an important detail. “We lost Laura and Morgana…”
The smoke was spread out all over the place, making it difficult to see much of anything behind us. I saw no sign of Laura or my roommate and there was no telling which direction they could have gone in.
“We’ll have to meet back at the bus,” Cherry said, looking worried for a moment. Then she reached into her pack and pulled out two more of her red bombs. “Time to create more distractions so we can get away…” She still had that manic look on her face, making me wonder how much of this was a distraction and how much was her taking advantage of an opportunity to blow things up.
Janine leaned over to me and whispered, “I think she scares me even more than those guys do…”
“Yeah,” I agreed, giving Cherry a worried look. “Me too.”
To Be Continued