It's Good to be the Don
IT’S GOOD TO BE THE DON
A Whateley Vignette
by Bek D Corbin
Edited by Holly Logan
Sebastiano Lorenz Valensuera y Ramirez woke up feeling good. And why shouldn’t he feel good ? It was HIS year. That bitch Freya was finally gone, and he was THE Big Man On Campus. He had one of his arch-enemies, Stormwolf, on the defensive, and the other, Cavalier, waiting on him hand and foot. It wasn’t as good as it would have been if Hekate’s spell to turn Stormwolf into a werewolf like freak, who would have had to be kept under lock and key, had worked. But, it was still good. He had one of Melville’s ‘Executive’ suites all to himself as a technical double, since Cavalier slept on the floor. He even had Skybolt putting out for him, whenever, wherever, and however he wanted. Strange, having it be that easy took some of the fun out of it.
He got out of bed, stretched, and began his morning warm up exercises. Well, Cavalier and Skybolt were old news. It was time to rise to new challenges. He sent Cavalier to get a shower ready for him. As he undressed for the shower, it occurred to Sebastiano that Cavalier was showing an unexpected talent as a valet. A personal servant, who knew what you wanted without having to be told, knew where everything was no matter how recklessly you threw things about, and could pick things up from across the room. He was even developing a talented mouth. The only way that he could be any better was if he had a pussy and tits, and even then, the House Mother wouldn’t allow it. Maybe he should begin working on Dale ‘Mindbird’ Townsend, with an eye towards making her Cavalier’s apprentice, for after Graduation. Ah yes, the perfect handmaiden, to join the perfect valet.
The shower was the perfect temperature when he got there, and by the time that he was finished, Cavalier had set out his clothes. As Cavalier helped get him dressed, Sebastiano said, “Have you finished those research notes on those idiot Poe freshmen?”
“Yes, Sir, though they’re not as comprehensive as I’d like. For some reason, many of the members of Team Kimba appear to be quite resistant to my probes, and there’s a surprising amount of resistance to probing into Poe Cottage entirely. The inmates are … confusing…”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Sebastiano muttered. “Lunatics maldecio Di o … So how comprehensive are your notes?”
“General overview of their tactics and strategies, such as they are, personality analysis, and what I could dig up as regards their backgrounds. The security is unusually tight on these cases for some reason.”
Sebastiano nodded. “I know. Again, the security around Poe cottage in general is rather strict. Might be worth looking into to find out exactly why. Well, leave me, I won’t be needing you for a while.”
Cavalier regretfully took leave of Sebastiano as his master sat at his desk, and called up the files.
Sebastiano’s real interest in Team Kimba- ‘Team Kimba’, what a name! He wondered who had come up with it- was the one called ‘Fey’, Nikki Reilly. Ah, yes! One of the problems with being Don Sebastiano in a school full of gorgeous girls was that you got jaded, and they didn’t mean as much to you anymore. In any other place, he would have been panting after that little slut, Solange. But, as it was, the only real joy that he got out of her was her delicious disgust and self-loathing as he was sticking it to her. But then someone like Nikki Reilly came along, and reminded you of why you chased girls in the first place. The pretty girls at Whateley were like marzipan angels, which melted in your mouth, and left nothing real. But Nikki Reilly! Yes, she was gorgeous, but she was so much more!
Adding Nikki Reilly to the Alphas would be a masterstroke, even surpassing what he’d done to Cav and Sky. What he’d done to them earned his position as the Alpha Alpha, but it was a position created by, and held onto, only by the fear of him by those below him. However, with Nikki Reilly as his queen, he would rule by divine right.
Hekate said that ‘Fey’ held great magic. Hekate wanted Nikki Reilly in the Alpha’s camp for some reason. That alone would be reason to bring her in. But care had to be taken. Even Bluejay, who didn’t fear to ratsass The Don to his face, hadn’t played a prank on her- yet. The Don distrusted magic; it was … complicated, in ways that he didn’t understand.
Yes, great care would have to be taken in handling Nikki Reilly. None of the usual psionic mind-tricks. Maybe a few careful ‘tastings’ of her fears and passions. But nothing overt. No, he’d have to rely on more conventional games: Divide and Conquer, Confuse and Mislead, Undermine and Re-educate, Isolate and Turn.
But you couldn’t play those games all by yourself; you needed allies, even if they didn’t know that they were your allies yet. Indeed, unwitting allies were usually the best; they couldn’t betray you. And the best unwitting allies were usually found among your enemies. First, he’d have to get Team Kimba to self-destruct. It shouldn’t be that hard, most people were pretty self-destructive at the best of times. And with a few pokes and pushes, you could get people to cut off their own noses to spite their faces with a chainsaw. The trick was to drive a wedge between them, even an imaginary wedge, and get them to tear each other- and themselves- apart.
So, pick and choose the sides for them. Bona Dio, you can’t expect them to do it for you. Chose an in-group and an out-group, and make the schism as nasty as possible. He’d have to choose one or two of Team Kimba to come over to the Alphas, so that Nikki wouldn’t feel like a traitor. Besides, groups make for so much nastier feelings, what with the ‘us/them’ dynamic. But, that meant that he’d have to let more than one of those lunatics into the Alphas.
The obvious place to start would be her roommate. According to Cavalier’s notes, her roommate was the negrita called ‘Chaka’, who was also a member of Team Kimba. Indeed, according to Cav’s notes, Chaka had been the one barking orders during the fight at the Crystal Dome. If Chaka was- or at least perceived herself as- Team Kimba’s leader, then her defection would be that much more devastating to those that remained. Of course, if she just thought that she was the leader, then that could make the break-up even nastier; either way, he could work with it. Let’s see: Chaka was an Exemplar. Good, good- The Don always liked having attractive women around. On the down side, she was rumored to be the sort of head-case that gave Poe Cottage its reputation. On the other hand, she was also the one who took on that Twain oaf ‘Montana’ in a one-on-one combat and beat him out of hand. According to Cav’s notes, the Martial Arts teachers were very interested in her for some reason. Another reason to bring her into the Alphas. Ah, apparently, the Tigers were also interested in her. Anything that got up N’Dizi’s nose had to be good. It might also blunt a few of those accusations of racism as well. So, Chaka would be wooed along with her roommate.
From there, The Don went alphabetical. The first listing was for ‘Bladedancer’. He spaced on that one. Oh, according to Cav’s file, she was new. Interesting, according to the notes, while she had a raft of ‘mutant classifications’ she wasn’t really a mutant. She apparently had some sort of magical sword, and they thought that that merited being brought into Whateley. Really! Standards were slipping! He had to start the ‘out-group’ somewhere, and this ‘Bladedancer’ was as good a place as any to start. Poor thing must feel so inferior, being a Baseline in the middle of all these superior mutants. He’d have to make sure that it became a complex. A brief twinge of greed struck him, but he resisted it. If they were letting her keep the fool sword, then they had their reasons. Far more to the point, they were keeping an eye on it, and anyone stealing it would have to deal with Carson, who had very old-fashioned ideas about that sort of thing.
The next listing was for ‘Camilla’. ‘Camilla’? Ah! Of course! Sara Waite! What, they didn’t want a code name: ‘Demon Princess’, or ‘Puppy-Eater’ on the files? The Don shuddered. There was a weak spot if there ever was one! Yes, Team Kimba didn’t just have a weak spot, it had an oozing open sore, and it was the Demon Princess. If ‘Fey’ was as sensitive as Hekate suggested, then she must regard being forced to endure the Demon Princess’ meals as some sort of penance. She’d thank him for getting her away from that abomination. From Cav’s notes, Reverend Englund was both on the warpath to get the Hell-thing out of Whateley, AND he had some sort of interest in Nikki Reilly as well. Right along with every other red-blooded male in a fifty-mile radius. So, getting Nikki Reilly out of her clutches might do him some good with the Reverend. Yes, she was definitely the wedge that would drive Team Kimba apart. The downside, was that a demon like the princess might have some sort of mental control over the Kimboids. If she did, then he’d be in a position to prove it, and give the Reverend the ammunition that he wanted.
According to Cav’s notes, the next one listed as being associated with Team Kimba was called ‘Feral’. Feral? He didn’t remember anyone called ‘Feral’ as being part of the ‘Breakfast Brawl’. He peered at the file. Oh. She was also new, she hadn’t been around for the showdown at the Crystal Dome, and he, The Don, could hardly be expected to keep tabs on every new face on campus. She was a shapeshifter of some sort. Out-group. According to Cav’s notes, Hartford had tried to get her chucked into Hawthorne for some reason. Ah, ‘Dangerous to others’. The Don grinned. Oh yes, definitely the out- group; there were so many ways to influence someone to violence, especially when tempers were flaring. What’s this? This was the frosh that Imperious was so interested in? Imperious had arranged for some sort of meeting with her and his little clique of weirdizoids. No information on what they’d talked about. Still, if Imperious was interested in her, there was no way that he was bringing her into the Alphas. No, stick her in the ‘out-group’ and if she got covered in shit by what went down and it splattered on Imperious? Well, was that only just and proper or what? Yes, The Don definitely saw some temper issues arising in ‘Feral’s’ future.
Next was ‘Phase’. Don Sebastiano curled his lip. The Gender-bender. That Whateley Academy, Poe Cottage even, should stoop to admitting that kind of trash! Yes, definitely, the ‘out-group’. And what’s this? It’s a Goodkind? As in the ‘We Hate Mutants’ Goodkinds that fund half of Humanity First!’s functions? Turning Nikki and her roommate against this one would be easy. If anything, the only problem would be keeping Kodiak and Aries on a leash, so that there wouldn’t be any protective backlash.
The file for ‘Generator’, as the kid of the team was known, was quite confusing. According to Cav’s notes, ‘Generator’s’ file was irrevocably linked with another’s called ‘Shroud’. Precisely what that link was, wasn’t clear. Was this ‘Shroud’ ‘Generator’s’ sister? A devisor construct? A ghost of some sort? Well, it didn’t really matter- whatever the spook was, she was a package deal with the kid, and the Alphas didn’t let pre-pubes in. Yes, the ‘out-group’, definitely. Besides, playing kids like that was so easy, he could just…
No. No, that was peon thinking. The problem with picking on little kids is that it may be easy, but it can backfire on you badly. Generator was exactly the sort of little angel that caused people to feel all protective and big-brotherly. Look at the way that Team Kimba rose to her protection, in that bizarre incident when Solange gobbled up that spirit-construct-ghost-sister-whatever-it-was called ‘Shroud’. No, he wouldn’t target Generator… but, what if the ‘out-group’ thought that the ‘in-group’ had? It was a definite tactic.
Generator would still go into the ‘out-group’, along with her eerie ‘sister’. But he’d leave her strictly alone. Or, at least, he’d make it look like he was.
Next was the only boy in the group, ‘Lancer’. The only boy in a group of lovely girls; Lancer was either to be envied or pitied. Let’s see: your basic ‘PK superman’ package, and an Exemplar to boot. Hasn’t picked up any tricks for dealing with telepathy. Yessss… he was the one that took Kodiak out of the fight without even really trying. He might just do as the second member of the ‘in-group’ that he was trying to form around Nikki. If Sebastiano left him in the ‘out-group’, he might become the leader around which the others could gather. And if the only boy in the group left, well, that would only make the rancor worse, now wouldn’t it? And, he might even make a decent Alpha, with the proper cultivation. Yes, put Aries onto teaching the boy the finer points of pranking, and the kid should come over nicely. Lancer was definitely part of the new ‘in-group’.
According to Cav, the one called ‘Tennyo’- and que perdita kind of name was ‘Tennyo’, anyway?- was dangerous. His investigation of Solange’s pathetic attempt at slapping that one around had uncovered strange things. Hartford had tried to get this ‘Tennyo’ stashed away in Hawthorne as dangerous. And while Hartford might have a stick the size of a telephone pole up her ass, she was usually pretty good about things like that. During one of the power drill exercises, she’d almost been blown in half by an energy weapon- and she was all better in the morning. She’d blasted her way out of a laser range trap, and cut through a thick door. After Chaka’s fight with el monstroso Montana, she’d had to have been physically restrained from attacking the hairball, when he’d cheap-shotted the little bitch from behind.
Hartford was right. This one was dangerous.
But, she had a hair-trigger. That could be useful. Push her buttons a little, by remote control, and send her over the edge. Get her to really hurt someone. Arrange it so that she gets chucked in Hawthorne, where she belongs. Make it so that Nikki was a material part of that arrangement. There’s nothing like offering refuge from a dangerous monster to put a delicate young flower under one’s thumb. Yes, this ‘Tennyo’ could be most useful.
But Team Kimba didn’t stand alone. There were others in Poe cottage who might be factors in the equation. Cav listed a ‘Riptide’ and a ‘Bugs’, who were supposed to be ‘associated’ with Team Kimba, but were routinely assigned to other training squads. They were roommates, but that was all that Cav had on them at the moment.
But Riptide and Bugs were just Freshmen; he had tougher nuts to worry about, like Poe’s resident ‘Fixer’, Zenith. He often wondered why Zenith had gotten stuck in the Loony Bin; it’s not like she was a whacko like the rest of the Poesies. And, she’d helped keep the ‘Tennyo’ nutcase out of Hawthorne, over both Hartford and Englund’s screaming objections. Zenith … worried him. This wasn’t a physical battlefield, where super-strength or power-blasts were key, it was a psychological battlefield, where wits and perception were the weapons. And Zenith was well stocked with both. He could get around her, but it would complicate things and in a mind-game, complications were best kept to a minimum. But he already had a solution in place. He smiled. Sahar. Lovely, wicked, treacherous Sahar. He didn’t know WHY Sahar was going back for seconds with Zenith. He’d LIKE to know why, but Sahar was one of the few people on campus that Sebastiano actively respected. Anyone who could play the mega-bitch Freya like a fiddle and walk away, was someone that he handled with kid gloves. He’d have Tansy arrange a nice quiet meeting, and he’d let Sahar know that he’d appreciate it if Zenith were … distracted while he worked Team Kimba. And, in the meantime, he’d arrange for a few ‘open ears’ as to whatever Sahar was cooking. He wouldn’t pry, but if someone were to casually notice …
The other loose cannon that he had to worry about was a loose cannon in almost every sense of the word: Beltane. Freya had really missed a bet when she’d passed on rushing the giddy little Brit. Sebastiano chuckled as he remembered the scene with Farago and his crew, standing half-naked behind Headmistress Carson, chanting like a bunch of bad comedy-skit savages. Beltane definitely had the touch. Beltane was connected to Team Kimba, and he couldn’t trust her to stay out of it while he worked. He’d have to deal with her. But, he couldn’t let it look like he was dealing with her. Farrago? No, the boy had had his shot, and Beltane had run rings around him and his crew. Shadow-wolf’s new crew? No, they were too new, too hungry. He sighed. It was time to bring out the big guns. Hekate. Hekate wanted Nikki Reilly in her sphere of influence? Then she’d have to have to help out by turning Beltane from a liability to an asset. Indeed, Beltane could be a vast help. Or, at least, there were all sorts of ways of making it LOOK that way …
Beltane was as far afield as he needed to go. He’d separate Fey, Chaka and Lancer from the rest of Team Kimba. They would be the anointed ones, the recipients of the Alpha’s favors, while the others were pointedly kept out of the limelight. He’d play the others’ resentment to the point where they’d drive the select three out, out of pure spite. Misunderstandings always happened, and they could be cultivated into near-war, with the proper touch.
Don Sebastiano closed his laptop with a sense of accomplishment. He had his plans. Now all that he needed to do was to put the cat among the pigeons, and see how the feathers flew.
Sebastiano gathered his crew, and they made their way to the Crystal Hall. Aside from a minor accident between a Whitman girl and a Dickinson girl, which The Don ‘nudged’ into a relatively amusing cat-fight, breakfast was pretty boring. But then, it was easy to get the two girls’ dorms to go at each other.
The Don finally caught up with Hekate and her two flunkies, Conjure and Spellbinder between Second and Third periods. “Well, Kallista, today we finally begin our, ah, ‘acquisition’ of the beautiful Fey- do you have any predictions or insights?”
Kallista ‘Hekate’ Thesellarean raised an arch eyebrow over a cold green eye. “You want a prediction? Here? In the stairwell?”
Sebastiano waved aside her objection. “I don’t really expect that much- opening gambits, first overtures, that sort of thing; all that I really want to know is if there’s something major that I don’t know about looming over- oh, say, Lunch period. I want a nice, calm setting for my first moves, and I don’t want inter-dimensional portals opening up and hoards of Atlantean Elvis impersonators pouring out, or that sort of thing. Anything that big, you should be able to see without the whole High Rite rigmarole.”
Hekate sighed, “Sebastiano, what you don’t know about magic, let alone Fate Magic, would fill entire stadiums. Still, I can do a lesser Seeing for you.”
“I’d especially like to see if I have any problems with Zenith, Beltane, or Sahar in the near future.”
Hekate sniffed dismissively at the mention of Beltane, and imperiously held out a hand. Conjure filled it with a large, leather-bound book, the sort that strapped shut with buckles. She opened it, and the pages automatically flipped to a double-page spread of a blank astrological chart. Hekate half-shut her eyes, as her finger traced over the chart, jerking across the diagram. Don Sebastiano was vaguely aware of forces that he couldn’t really comprehend at work. Then her eyes snapped open wide. “Interesting …” she muttered, half to herself.
“You saw something?”
“Yes…” Hekate said cautiously. “Your plan is essentially sound, and you should have some initial success. But there is something … no, someone who blocks your path, even though she doesn’t know it. The little one, the one who looks like a child …” Hekate snapped her fingers, trying to remember what she’d thought a triviality.
“Jade,” Offered Spellbinder.
“Yes,” Hekate agreed, “the little girl with the ghostly … conjureling?” she looked at her lackey, ‘Conjure’.
Conjure shook her head. “Not like anything that _I’ve_ ever seen.”
“And Conjurations *are* your specialty. Do you-”
“Excuse me?” The Don interrupted, “But how is the little gadgeteer going to stop me?”
“I’m not sure,” Hekate admitted. “As near as I can tell, she’s just going to BE there, and that will somehow be enough.”
The Don smiled broadly. “And THAT, is precisely the sort of thing that I wanted to know about. I simply arrange it so that she’s NOT part of the discussion, and she ceases to be an obstacle.”
“And how do you intend to deal with her?”
Sebastiano waved the topic aside grandiloquently. “She’s a gadgeteer! They frustrate so easily. Behold!”
He gestured at a tall rather gangly boy of their age who was walking down the hall wearing a long black lab coat tricked out with bits and pieces of electronic gear and silver death’s heads. He was followed by a bizarre-looking contraption, which vaguely resembled a squid with long plastic tentacles descending from a boxy body.
“Mega-Death, the Tech-geek’s idea of a tech-geek. So?”
The contraption was walking on its larger, load-bearing tentacles, and carrying his books and other stuff in its smaller tentacles. “That thing operates by a principle called ‘plasmic expansion’,” Sebastiano explained. “A combination of hydraulics, and a liquid that expands by as much as 128 times when stimulated by magnetic fields. The liquid is forced into the spongy plastics of the limbs, and either expands or diminishes, according to the magnetic fields that each cell gives off.”
“Fascinating,” Hekate said dryly. “And WHY would you bother to learn all that?”
The Don smiled nastily. “You have to understand how something works, if you’re going to break it intelligently, No?”
He gave a subtle gesture, and Aries zipped down the hall, barely noticed by the other students. When you go to a school that has multiple super-speedsters, you learn to ignore them. Three of Mega-Death’s octobot’s tentacles were now stuck in the back of the panties of three girls who had been passing by. On another cue, Skybolt sent a magnetic pulse at the tentacles, which grew to eight times their default size. The three girls, who hadn’t noticed the tentacles, because Don Sebastiano had influenced them into being completely wrapped up in their gossip, each suddenly noticed a large throbbing, fleshy thing stuck in their panties.
As one, they shrieked and pulled the tentacles out of their drawers. In unison, they scowled at Mega-Death in pure virginal outrage. “Why you Pervert!” one of them screamed at him.
“What? Are you seriously accusing ME of this?” Mega-Death shouted back (as he switched on the protective force field projector conveniently mounted on one shoulder, “*I* am Mega-Death! I am the greatest genius that Whateley- yeah, the World even!- has ever SEEN! Mine is the irresistible intellect that will crush all opposition! Do you think that *I*-”
As the three girls battered ineffectually at his force field, the boy ranted on while the rest of the student body milled past. You couldn’t be at Whateley for a month without hearing Mega-Death or some other Deidrick’s case yapping away; you got used to it after a while.
Hekate giggled under her breath, but The Don tutted her. “Wait for it.” He made another gesture, and Blue Jay disappeared, only to re-appear behind Mega-Death’s back. He inserted a screwdriver into the body of the octobot and twisted. “BJ has just disabled the hydraulic pump’s regulator. Sky?”
Skybolt silently sent another invisible pulse of magnetic energy at the octobot and Mega-Death, overloading his force field projector. The construct shuddered, whined, and then the tentacles all ballooned up to over fifty times their normal size. They trembled, and suddenly a hatch in the ‘bot’s main body blew open, gushing everyone in the hallway with a sticky green liquid.
Mega-Death paused in mid-rant, noticed that he was drenched in green syrup and said, “What?” He tried to examine his robot in the hallway, but the three girls still had a bone to pick with him.
Hekate pulled herself back into the stairwell and openly laughed. Don Sebastiano followed her. “And that is how I will deal with the little girl, should she prove an obstacle. And speaking of obstacles …” He took Kallista by the arm and started selling her on running interference with Beltane.
After Mega-Death, Sebastiano’s only real amusement was setting up a girl called ‘Coreolis’ for a seduction. Coreolis was an attractive enough girl, but she wasn’t an Exemplar, and she felt overshadowed by the beauty all around her. She needed to feel beautiful, and he’d help her do that. Until he had his way with her and dropped her cold. It was an old game, but Sebastiano had a deep appreciation for the pain caused by a broken heart. But that was just the romantic in him.
When lunchtime rolled around, Sebastiano had Skybolt get his lunch as he and his Inner Court took their seats at their favorite table. Looking around, The Don said, “I’m making a move; everyone, back me up. Cav, wait for them all to be seated at the Kimba Table, and bring Fey, Chaka, and the boy called ‘Lancer’ over here. I want to have some words with them.”
Cavalier nodded, and the Alphas got themselves ready for the little play. Several of the Kimbuffoons were already at their table, including the Demon Princess.
“You’re not gonna try to pull something on the She-Devil, are you, Sebastiano?” Kodiak asked.
“Just sit back and watch a master at work, little man.”
Then Sebastiano saw a glorious head of red hair at the lunch counter. Nikki Reilly was walking along with her roommate Chaka, but the negrita was holding up more than her fair share of the conversation.
“What _I_ really don’t get-” Toni nattered on as they approached Team Kimba’s usual table at the cafeteria. Nikki calmly walked alongside her, listening with one ear, as she usually did when Toni was on a tear like this, “-is WHO they are supposed to be cheering? I mean, cheerleaders are supposed to cheer on school teams as they play against teams from other schools, right? But Whateley doesn’t even PLAY against any other schools! I mean, we could field a Front Four that could pave over the entire NFL at once! So, who are we supposed to play? The Yama Dojo? The only sports they do are Martial Arts, and I am NOT gonna let those pom-pom waving bimbos cheer ME on! So, why do they let those bitches go traipsing around in those cheerleader outfits, calling themselves the ‘Whateley Martial Arts Cheerleaders’?”
Nikki sat down and started eating without missing a bite, while Toni maintained her tirade.
Sara leaned over and asked Nikki, “What’s got HER wound up this time? Someone slip some real sugar in her tea?”
“Oh, that bitch ‘the Yellow Queen’ and her flunkies were talking trash in the halls, just after Powers Theory.”
“And they actually got the better of her?”
Nikki waggled her hand in a ‘so-so’ gesture. “Actually, it was more of a hit-and-run dissing. They got in, talked shit, and got right back out, hooking up with a teacher as they left.”
“Ooohh- Guerilla Bitch tactics! Nasssttteee…”
Before the conversation could go any further, the lithe form of Cavalier walked gracefully up to the table. He looked at Nikki. “Don Sebastiano wants to have a few words with you.”
Tennyo stood up, “Well, it’s about time! I’ve had a few things that I’ve wanted to say to that-”
“Not you,” Cavalier corrected her smoothly. “Her.” He pointed at Nikki. “Her” He pointed at Toni. “And Him.” He pointed at Hank.
“Well, you can tell his ‘Heinie-ness that-” Toni began angrily.
“-That we’ll give him a few minutes of our time,” Hank cut in, “as long as he understands that even if his time doesn’t mean anything, OURS does.”
Cavalier blinked at Hank, but didn’t say anything. As they got up, Toni said to Ayla, “If we’re not back in an hour, open up with the heavy artillery, send in the armor and follow up with infantry.”
Hand, Toni and Nikki made their way to the Alpha’s table, all too aware that there were more eyes on them than such a minor event warranted. “Hank,” Nikki whispered, “what are we DOING?”
“We’re just seeing what the man wants. If he’s lookin’ to call a truce, it’d be downright RUDE to ignore him. We listen to what he has to say. If he says anything intelligent, then we wanna hear it, right? And if not, we tell him to go polish his buttons, and no one can say that we didn’t hear him out.”
“You don’t you honestly think that he wants to admit that a bunch of FRESHMAN got the better of his ‘elite troops’, do you?”
“Oh, HELL No! But there are certain niceties that have to be observed.”
Adam Ironknife nudged Dale Townsend with his knee. “Case Amber: something’s going down at the Alpha table.”
“Might not be anything, Adam.” Dale said mildly, but she still got up and gestured to the others. “Maybe Don Sebastiano wants to cut his losses and save as much face as he can?”
“Even IF I trusted Sebastiano to play it that straight, I can’t trust them to be smart enough to just take the olive branch and run. Get everyone into position.”
As they walked up to the table, Nikki paused to wonder what the big deal about the ‘Alpha Table’ was. The seats weren’t any different than chairs at any of the other tables. There weren’t any special ‘Alpha’ sideboards with rare gourmet food. Indeed, the only attraction for the table seemed to be the presence of the Alphas themselves. And what kind of attraction was THAT?
Don Sebastiano played the old wheeze of making them wait as he bull-shitted around with Aries and Bluejay. The three waited a bit. Toni made a production of looking at her watch, then picked up some flatware from the table and threw them so that they poked out of the table between The Don’s fingers. The Don jerked his hand back and snapped “What do you think you’re DOING?”
“You wanted to say something, Sebastiano?” Hank asked blandly.
“DON Sebastiano,” he corrected peevishly, rubbing his fingers though none of the utensils had even grazed him.
“Okay, Donny.” Toni said smiling insolently, “You want?”
Don Sebastiano smiled graciously. “I think that this ridiculous ‘feud’ has gone far enough. You’ve proven that you can handle yourselves quite well, and we’ve proven that nobody crosses us easily. Worth has been proven on both sides, and all that.”
Hank folded his arms across his chest. “Hey, WE didn’t start this. It was YOUR GIRL, Tansy, who crossed US by kidnapping one of ours, and all but eating her alive. And when we tried to call her on it, YOU sicced YOUR boys on US.”
Sebastiano nodded. “Yes, I admit that. But look at it from MY point of view- I am all set to go out on a nice little picnic with a pretty girl and my friends, and then some little kid that I don’t know comes up and starts talking crazy. What would YOU have done in my place?”
Toni nodded- when you looked at it from the outside, Jade standing there screaming at Tansy DID look pretty nutzo. Maybe they’d over-reacted to the Alpha’s moves? Maybe they were just gonna sort of set her to the side, so they could get on with their day’s plans? But still— “And what about those Detentions? You expect us to think that you’re going to just forgive and forget the fact that your best and brightest had to do a week at Hawthorne?”
Sebastiano shook his head. “Of course not! It’s just that when we found out that Tansy not only really HAD *ahem!* ‘taken’ your friend’s Spirit, but had CONFESSED to it to Security, without letting US know about it, well, I’m not going to punish a group of innocents. Instead, we took our displeasure out on the ONE individual who was the cause of ALL our discomfort and embarrassment.” He glanced over at a table several tables over, where Tansy Walcutt was seated with a few friends from Venus, Inc.
As if sensing that she was being watched, Tansy turned to meet Sebastiano’s gaze. Sebastiano pulled a dry washcloth out of his blazer pocket and rubbed at the tabletop. Tansy saw this, and her face automatically went blank with horror. She stiffened and the corner of her mouth began to tic. It was small at first, but then it got larger, and began to spasm uncontrollably. Her entire body began trembling. “Puh—LEEEZZZeee- Don’t- make- me- kuh-leeeen- Can’t- Kuh-LEEEN- Won’t- get- Kuh-LEEEEN…”
Sebastiano put the rag away, and Tansy seemed to get a tad better. “A Post-Traumatic Stress Reaction, a little souvenir of her stint cleaning the toilets at Hawthorne. ALL of the toilets. EVERY day. So, as you can see, Justice has been served.”
Nikki smiled. It was nice to see that the snotty little blonde getting some of what she usually dished out.
“Okay, now that we have that settled,” Sebastiano resumed, “Let’s see if we can’t repair a few fences. I mean, really, our two groups aren’t that different.”
“I don’t see how you figure THAT,” Toni growled as she crossed her arms.
“Well, for one thing, neither of us are willing to take any shit that we don’t absolutely have to. Someone leans on one of yours, you do something about it; when someone leans of one of ours, WE do something about it. Which is sort of how this all started. Another thing that we have in common is that there are a lot of people who would love to see either one of our groups- or both- take a fall.”
“Maybe in YOUR ‘cause it’s all the people that you make a hobby out of feel like shit.”
“What IS this? ‘Saved By The Bell’? Maybe you think that this is some little sit-com with the stereotypical mean ‘popular kids’ going around pushing around kids for the fun of it? Get real! We’re just a bunch of kids, like you, who hang out together! No big deal. We get things done. We make fun stuff happen.”
“Fun stuff like setting people up, so that they look like idiots in front of everyone,” Toni pointed out.
“Okay, I admit that a few jokes went way too far. Gimme a break, I’m only human. Besides, some of those jokes got blown way out of proportion. But then, the fact that we had a hand in it tends to make some people get their knickers in a twist.” Sebastiano turned, looked at Stormwolf glowering at him from a few tables over. “Case in point. What a stiff. He’s been pushing that ‘Boy Scout’ routine of his from the first day he got here. Cav here used to be like that, but both he and his girlfriend got over themselves, and now they’re fine with it.”
Nikki cocked an exquisite eyebrow at him. “All I know is, there are a lot of people who say that you’ve shafted them.”
“Hey, it happens! It’s the called ‘Daisy Principle’- as soon any one daisy sticks its head above the others, there’s someone who comes along and tries to cut them down. The second that you don’t settle for being mediocre, there’s going to be some mediocrity who’s pissed off at you, because HE thinks that you’re better that he is.”
Internally, Sebastiano smirked, though he never let it show on his face or in his voice. This is how you do it; tell them what they want to hear. Get them listening. Give them a little ‘buy-in’. And when they’ve committed to something, use that as your lever.
“I mean, look at you! You start off the year doing what no one else has done, gathering all sorts of glory for the school, and what does it get you? Vile rumors and jealous snipes. And on top of all that, despite the fact that you already have a full team, the Administration dumps that THING over there in your laps.” Sebastiano spared a withering glance in Sara’s direction.
“Hey, watch your mouth-” Hank bridled.
“Ah loyalty- a lovely thing. Pity that it’s so misplaced. Come on, you three- she’s a fucking demon! She has her own Cult, following her around, for the love of God! You can’t tell me that you’re comfortable with that!” Don Sebastiano paused. “Be honest- are you REALLY comfortable eating with her? You don’t feel a pang every time that some living creature gives up the ghost just as you’re about to put some real food in your mouth?”
Nikki paused, just as she was about to launch a spirited defense of Sara, and looked Toni and Hank in the eyes. They all had their reservations about Sara. And how could you NOT flinch, when you felt a living creature not only DIE, but completely fade from the tapestry of creation?
Internally, Sebastiano smiled. One treason, all he really needed was ONE little bit of treachery. The Ghoul-girl was the weak link in Team Kimba’s chain. She was the one that would break their loyalty to their team. All they had to do was turn their backs on her, and he was in. From there, he could sink in his claws as deep as he wanted, and pare these three off from the rest. He flickered a glance over at Mindbird, watching them oh, so intently. Keep watching, bitch. Don Sebastiano had mastered the art of making his probes invisible to other pyschics back in his first year.
“Indeed,” Sebastiano continued, “you’ve done a remarkable job with that crew. Personally, I wouldn’t have fought so hard to keep the Anime chick out of Hawthorne. They generally know what they’re talking about when they decide that a student’s dangerous. I mean, can she really control that much energy? And what happens, if she goes Runaway? It does happen y’know. Energizers who THINK that they’ve got it all under control, and then, BAM, something goes wrong, and they have to spend a small fortune rebuilding a wall.” Hank looked at Nikki and Toni. It wasn’t like they hadn’t had those worries either.
Silently, Sebastiano gloated. He was in. They hadn’t really SAID anything, but that rock-hard certainty was gone. He pressed his mental control in as far as he could with the boy and the black chick. He knew better than to do it to the Elf-girl, she was simply too powerful. But the other two? The black chick was her roommate, and she probably had one of those delicate unspoken feelings for the boy. They were his handle on the redhead. The redhead was the one that he really wanted. She had the beauty, she had the innate presence, she had the raw POWER---
“And the punker! How do you put UP with such an obvious pervert?”
“Not her fault. That’s just the hand that we was dealt.”
“Hey, YOU may have to believe it, but the rest of us don’t.”
Well, Toni did have to admit that Ayla DID sort of broadcast it, and it was sort of an open invitation to a Fag-bashing. Indeed, she sort of wondered why no one had tried anything with Ayla. Maybe it was that In-Your-Face attitude of her.
And Jade was such a little clinging-vine tag-along, always-
‘HOLD THE PHONE!’ Toni blinked. ‘Why the hell am I dissing Jade in my mind? Worrying about Sara or Tennyo is one thing, and well, Ayla is sort of iffy, but JADE? Jade has more guts in her little pinky that most people do in their entire bodies! I wouldn’t think those sort of things about Jade- or Ayla or Billie, for that matter, not on my own. Don Sebastiano is playing games with my head.’
Toni spared looks at Nikki and Hank. Nikki looked okay, but there was a kind of glazed look in Hank’s eyes. ‘So, Donny-boy is using me and Hank, to get at Nikki, hunh?’
Toni forcefully closed her brow chakra- and clamped down hard. Don Sebastiano, paused in mid-sleaze and gave her a quick look in the eye. Toni realized that she hadda get Nikki and Hank out of there, or Donny would just come at them from another angle.
Toni may not have had any psychic powers, but she did have one trick up her sleeve that she’d intended to use on Hartford, but never got the chance. She figured if she ‘charged’ a word or two with Ki, and sent it at Sebastiano, that he might reflexively react to it, sort of like the ‘Bene Gesserit Voice’ out of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
She grinned widely and said “Oh, Donny-” she paused and charged her next word, “*Stop* it! Who d’you think you’re foolin’?” Toni flicked her eyes over to Hank. The glazed look was gone, and Toni got the impression that Hank knew that someone had been fooling with his mind. Toni grinned even more widely and really started to cut into Don Sebastiano. “Is THIS your best mind-fuck? Wow, talk about getting by on your Rep!”
Nikki watched this, not really sure what to make of it. Toni pulled out a chair and made a production of taking a seat. Don Sebastiano pulled out his ‘I’m wounded’ act, to which Toni replied, “Oh get real, Donny! Screw TV, I’ve seen YOU before- you’re the piddling little non-entity that’s in every school, who thinks that they make themselves bigger by tearing everyone else down. The reason that you called us three over, is that you’re afraid of handling us all. ‘Cause we’re a TEAM, and all you got is a pack of lackeys. If any of US fell on our faces, the others on OUR team would be at their back to help them; the second that you slip, Donny, THESE jackals,” Toni gestured at the other Alphas, “will rip you apart.”
Don Sebastiano raged internally; how could this mouthy little negritahave slipped his control? How DARE she speak to him that way? Well, subtlety may not work, but raw POWER would! He picked up the slender thread that still penetrated her defenses and sent everything that he had through it.
Don Sebastiano smiled. “Really, honestly, is that any way to talk? I invite you over to try and settle this thing, and you insult me?”
“You call what I’ve been saying an insult? Try THIS on for size! Is it true that you only have a teenie weenie?”
Adam Ironknife snarled silently. He knew that the ‘Chaka’ girl didn’t have any subtlety, but even SHE should know better than this! What was she trying to do, start a fight right here in the cafeteria?
Dale Townsend was watching what was going on with no small interest. Chaka was obviously playing some sort of game with Don Sebastiano, but she just couldn’t get the gist of what it was. Maybe Chaka was trying to goad The Don into some sort of attack?
Chaka could feel the raw power of Don Sebastiano’s mind battering away at her chakra. For all the energy that he was pumping into the assault, he looked like he was perfectly relaxed, maybe even bored. She stopped being flip and snarled, “I’m only gonna tell you this ONCE, Donny- get the fuck out of my head.”
“Why what are you talking about?” Sebastiano breezed back. But, if anything, the onslaught increased in fury.
“I SAID-” Chaka yelled as she bolted up out of the chair, “-GET OUT-” she leaned across the table and slammed the palm of her hand into Don Sebastiano’s nose “- OF MY HEAD!”
‘Oh, Shit!’ Adam muttered to himself, ‘Of all the Wrong Ways to handle it!’ “GO IN- NOW!”
Don Sebastiano went flying backwards, falling out of his chair. Bluejay teleported behind Chaka and got himself an elbow in the stomach for it. Aries zipped in and hit the brick wall that was Hank. Cavalier was just getting his PK sword out, when Stonebear popped out of nowhere, grew to 25 feet tall and immediately put himself between them. Ironknife stormed up, “What happened here?”
Don Sebastiano clambered up from the floor. “You saw it! You were fucking watching! She just came out of nowhere and attacked me! She’s NUTS!”
Chaka snarled as Townsend and Ritter held her by the arms, “He was fucking around inside my head! I TOLD him to get the fuck OUT of my head!”
“Oh, THAT sorry old excuse? There I was, TRYING to be the civilized one, TRYING to be the peacemaker and mend a few bridges, and BAM!” Sebastiano waved at the blood coming out of his nose.
“He was TRYING to mess with our heads!” Hank offered, though Stormwolf was holding him back with one hand.
“Look, Chaka,” Mindbird began, “I know that you think that Sebastiano-”
“-was trying something, but you can’t-” Reflexively, not really expecting anything Dale shifted her perceptions to check for any lingering traces. Not that Sebastiano was crude enough to leave anything. Wait a minute! There, imbedded in Chaka’s furiously clenching Brow Gate, was a faintly glowing ‘thread’ that denoted a psychic link. The ‘thread’ went from Chaka’s forehead-
-right to Don Sebastiano!
He did it! He finally did it! He finally slipped up! This must have been why Chaka was baiting him, and why she hit him like that! It must have totally slipped Sebastiano’s mind that he had this link! He must have been firing away at Chaka with everything the he had to energize the link to the point where it could be seen, seeing as how he was always so careful to ‘stealth’ his probes before.
She had to get these two to Doctor Carstaires, and pronto. No one would believe her if she said that she saw the link. Dr. Carstaires, on the other hand---
She positioned herself between Chaka and Sebastiano. “Okay, lunch is over, we have to go see Dr. Carstaires.”
“WHAT?” Sebastiano exploded. “SHE attacks ME, in full view of everyone, and I’M getting called onto the carpet for it?”
“It’s SOP, Sebastiano,” Adam told him as he took him by the arm, “you know that. Any accusation of Unwanted Psychic Intrusion is immediately investigated by the Psychic Arts department. You’ve been through this a hundred times.”
“DON Sebastiano.” Sebastiano pulled his arm free. “That doesn’t mean that I have to like it.
“Look at it this way- if you skate on this, then you have another charge to level at her.”
“How true.” Sebastiano brightened, finished wiping the blood from his nose and straightened his uniform blazer. “Very well, the sooner we get this slander put to rest, the sooner that I can get back to my lunch.”
Mindbird tactfully allowed Sebastiano to assume a ‘royal’ lead, since it would put Chaka well behind him, and out of sight. She gave Adam a mental nudge to keep Sebastiano talking. If he were talking, he might not think about cleaning up after himself. And Sebastiano did love to talk.
Very quietly, Mindbird said to Chaka. “Well played. Very well played. Keep that Gate shut, just as hard as you can. How did you know that cord was stuck in your Gate?”
“What are you talking about?” Chaka whispered back. “I was waiting for you yo-yos to jump in when he started blasting away at me! Why didn’t you DO anything? Aren’t you supposed to be psychic or something?”
“Oh.” Dale paused and looked aside at Chaka. “So, you didn’t slam him like that, to rattle him enough that he’d forget that thread?”
“I did it, ‘cause it was the fastest way to get the fucker out of my HEAD!”
“Oh well --- at least it should turn out well.”
Don Sebastiano amused himself on the walk to Kirby Hall by loudly speculating on what punishment was awaiting Chaka. He suggested that she be put on duty cleaning the toilets at Hawthorne.
Theo Waller had teleported ahead, so Doctor Carstaires was waiting for them. Carstaires was a tall thin, intense looking black man who wore tweeds as much for the warmth in the New Hampshire autumn as for the academic associations. “Well,” he opened in deep Baritone with an Oxbridge accent that didn’t conceal the Jamaican lilt, but rather gave it a rare polish, “What’s the story THIS time?”
“WELL, Doctor,” Sebastiano took the initiative, ”I was savagely assaulted in the Crystal Hall, and this vicious little thug, who has a history of unprovoked attacks, is trying to use the fact that I’m a known telepath to justify her attack.”
“The Sunuvabitch was messing around in our heads. ” Chaka snarled. “He got two of my friends and me away from the rest of our team, and he was playing fooly-fooly games with our minds. I think that he was trying to break us up, or at least set us against each other, or something. I told him to get out of my head, and he just shined me on. So, I got him out the old fashioned way.” Chaka finished with a snide grin at Sebastiano.
Carstaires began to say something, but Dale cut him off. “I, ah, really think that you should LOOK INTO THIS, Doctor Carstaires.”
Carstaires paused, looked first at Sebastiano and then at Chaka. He paused and looked back at Sebastiano. Then he sighed. “Very well. Sebastiano-”
“Sebastiano, for the record, how do you answer to this girl’s charge that you had entered her mind without her consent and were exercising undue and unwarranted influence on her?”
“I am entirely innocent, Sir!”
“You DO understand the Whateley Canon of Telepathic Ethics, don’t you?”
“Sir! I got an ‘A’ on the Canon of Ethics exam!”
“You DO understand WHY the Canon of Ethics is in force don’t you?”
“Of course I do! The Right of an individual to the sanctity of their own minds is a paramount concern for all Telepaths!”
“Oh? Then HOW-” Carstaires walked over to Chaka and touched the ‘thread’ that emerged from her brow, causing it to shine briefly. “-do you explain THIS?” He followed the cord to Sebastiano.
Carstaires smiled as he watched the sweat break out on Sebastiano’s brow.
Chaka got the distinct impression that Carstaires had been waiting a long time to catch Sebastiano with his pants around his ankles.
Chaka came walking back into the Crystal Hall whistling a sprightly tune. Team Kimba immediately got up and clustered around her. ‘What happened?’ was the general question.
“Oh, I got an afternoon of Detention. No Biggie, I was gonna drop in on Diz anyway.”
“What about Don Sebastiano?”
“I’m not exactly sure. When I left, Donny had a week of hard Detention at Hawthorne, and he wasn’t happy about it. He was screaming so loud that I heard him down the hall as I was leaving, so I’m guessing that he’s got at least a Month of Detention by now.”
Just then, Don Sebastiano came storming into the Crystal Hall and marched over to the Alpha table. Toni got up and shouted, “HEY DONNY! SEE YOU IN DETENTION!”
Jade and Fey came along with Toni as she walked up to Hawthorne. “Hey, guys, I don’t really need any backup, y’know.”
“So, who’s backing you up?” Nikki responded. “I’ve been wanting to talk to Fubar about some of these weird dreams that I’ve been having. He’s supposed to be one of the best there is at Dream-Walking.”
“Yeah!” Jade chirped, “and I thought that I’d drop in on Jello. Poor thing doesn’t get out enough. Tennyo wanted to drop by as well, but we didn’t want it to look like we were ganging up on that Sebastiano jerk.”
“Aaannnddd- Heeerrre’s Donny!” Chaka quipped as Sebastiano was frog-marched up to the steps of Hawthorne between Adam Ironknife and Theo Waller.
“This is an OUTRAGE!” Sebastiano sputtered, “I will NOT be dragged into that--- Pit and be forced to-”
“You’ll do it, Sebastiano.” Adam growled at him
“You’ll do it- you got caught fair and square. You’ve gotten away with a LOT, Sebastiano, but this time you’re not weaseling out of it. You’re going in, and you’re doing your detention, all three weeks of it.”
“Only three weeks?” Chaka asked, feeling disappointed.
“First offense. You’re going in, Sebastiano. Don’t make us drag you, ‘cause we will.”
“Oh, make us drag you, Bassy!” Diana Ritter said brightly, “I’ve always wanted to drag you down into the lowest pit of Hell! And well, Hawthorne isn’t THAT bad--”
Sebastiano did struggle, but the Wild Pack managed to get him in the door. Mrs. Cantrel came swooping up in her chair. “Well, well, well. Don Sebastiano- we HAVE been waiting for you, Hon.”
Sebastiano looked in sick horror at the huge mound of a woman looking at him with such barely constrained glee. Chaka grabbed him by the arm and hauled him into the main floor living room. “Now, now, don’t be shy! Come and meet all the other kids! HEY GUYS! Listen Up! I’d like you all to meet Don Sebastiano! Yes, THAT Don Sebastiano! Now, he’s gonna be coming in here pretty regular for the next few weeks, so you’re gonna be seeing a LOT of him!
“Now, I’m sure that you’ve heard a lot about him, and I KNOW that he’s heard a lot about YOU. So, I want you all to just let him to get to know you all, and make him feel-” Chaka pulled Sebastiano’s limp body next to hers in a fierce hug “-like he BELONGS here!”
A rash of nasty grins and low-pitched chuckles ran across the room. Chaka let go of Sebastiano as he looked weakly around the utterly unsympathetic room. Chaka tucked her hands in her pockets and turned to the Hawthorne House Mother. “So, Missuz C., what needs doin’?”
“Well, the Second and Third Floors always need a good mopping, and the back stair could use one as well. But, past that, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t spend your Detention with Diz.”
“Kewl!” Chaka bounced on her toes and headed off for the cleaning closet.
“As for YOU.” Mrs. Cantrell spun her chair and regarded Don Sebastiano with a purr. “I’m thinking TOILETS.”