THE BIG FIGHT: September 21st Thursday/ September 22nd Friday/ September 23rd Saturday
Toni got into it too. I guess she noticed me come in. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted that I tell her everything about what had happened. She was also upset about how I had lost my job over it. I was mad at Montana for starting it, but there wasn’t much I could do about it either. Anything I did to let Monty know how I felt about it would only get me in worse trouble.
After she got the story and my take on what I could do about it, which was nothing considering what a short leash I was on, she jumped up and headed out. She said something about setting things right where Monty was concerned. I wondered what she meant.
Not long after that the rumors started to pour in. The only certain thing was that Toni had called Montana out for a duel. After that we couldn’t be certain of anything. We finally got a chance to ask Toni herself in the morning. She confirmed that she was going to fight him and that Mirror and Zenith were taking care of the details. I didn’t like it one bit, but as she pointed out, it had to stop somewhere and she wasn’t going to let me stop her either. I just hoped that Toni’s confidence was based on reality.
I tried to convince her one more time before the match as she warmed up. She gave me a run down on Gloria Conrack, Gideon Thorne, and what happened around them at that time, and how it applied to us now. She wanted to stand up for me and show everyone that the team couldn’t be harassed or pushed around without consequences. She pointed out that if we backed down now, there would be all sorts of trouble, not just for us, but everyone else in the team. I couldn’t argue with that.
Many people were supporting us too. Even Hippolyte. Is that scary or what?
When we got there the place was full of people. This was going to be a big event. And just about everyone who had something to do with us was there and then some. Zenith pointed out the larger groups that had come to see the match. Both Poe and Twain, Dragons and Tigers(rival martial arts groups), and several others who could come up with some reason to see it were here.
The rest of us moved over to the Poe area to watch the match while Toni prepared. It was then I realized that Hazard was taking bets on the fight. She was giving odds of 7 to 9 against Toni. I had never bet before in my life, but suddenly I felt a thrill at the thought and before I came to my senses I had put the twenty dollars I had on me towards Toni winning. I thought about withdrawing it but then figured I had to show solidarity. Really! Toni had to win now.
Montana and Toni moved onto the mat. Ito Sensei was going to referee the match. I’d seen enough of what he could do to feel that Toni at least had a better chance of surviving. But as we watched them prepare I began to have my doubts. He was even bigger than I remembered. Finally the match started.
I could bore you with the blow by blow, but essentially, the match consisted of what looked like Toni bouncing all over the place while Montana tried to swat her like a bug. Not that this bug couldn’t bite. Montana’s nose was bleeding before the first ten seconds were over. Time after time Montana would seem to corner Toni and Time after time Toni would avoid him and turn his attacks against him. I was really starting to want a chance to spar with Toni, she was amazing. I was sure I could learn a lot from her, if she survived this. Then she did something to his left shoulder and the match went downhill for him after that. Soon she had him pinned and Sensei called the match in Toni’s favor.
We all started to cheer, and along with that came a strange thrill, not only had Toni won and avoided getting splatted all over the place, but I had won the bet! Wow!
Toni stepped back, bowed to Ito Sensei, then to Monty who was still on the ground, and then she turned to talk to Mirror who was on the Twain side of the mat. I didn’t believe it as I saw Monty spring up and throw a punch at her back. At the last moment she seemed to become aware of him and started to turn, but he still caught her pretty solidly in the side of the head. Describing the feelings of that moment are nearly impossible. There were so many so fast that I was paralyzed for a moment. Anger at his audacity, a very terrible fear for Toni, guilt that I had gotten her into this, and a sinking feeling in my stomach that I could have done something to stop this.
All this came together after that paralyzing moment into a terrible cold anger. Even as Sensei Tolman threw Monty to the ground and pinned him I decided that he was dead. The whole place was in chaos. No one would be able to stop me in time. Then a small body latched onto my right arm. Then another on my left. I almost swept them aside when I realized that they were Jade and Jinn.
“Tennyo. No. Please!” They spoke simultaneously in that weird way of theirs.
For another few moments I struggled with the idea of just tossing them aside and killing Monty anyway. But by the time I could make up my mind, the more senior students and Senseis Ito and Tolman started to bring some order to the chaos. I might still make it, but I would have to hurt a lot of people that I didn’t want to. This delay gave me a chance to get control of the homicidal tendencies. I turned to the two who were holding my arms.
“Give me one good reason that I should allow that slimeball to live one moment longer?”
Jade thought a moment. “Causssee... Uh... Toni looks like she could use some medical help right now, and if you kill him, you might delay the medical attention she needs?”
I thought about it for a moment and realized she was right.
“Crud!! Why do you have to be so smart? You know I really want to kill someone right now.”
“Yeah. But that won’t help Toni at all. Look, Dr. Tenant is checking her.”
We watched as Dr. Tenant checked her out. Soon the word was passed that Toni was alive and that Dr. Tenant wanted to get her to the hospital right away. Nikki moved up close and talked to Dr. Tenant. Then she came back to us and let us know that the doctor thought she would be alright.
I looked over at Monty, but he seemed to be in good hands for the time being. I felt a small regret that quickly faded that I hadn’t killed him when I had the chance. I knew Toni wouldn’t approve.
There was a tangle at the door of the dojo and I realized that the EMT’s would have a hard time getting in if they didn’t clear the way. Everyone seemed to be trying to get a look at Toni, Monty, or both. I floated up to the door.
“ALRIGHT!! Clear the way here! Let the EMT’s through!”
Someone in the crowd, I didn’t see who yelled back.
“Bug off! You got no authority here!”
I let everyone below me get a good look at me glaring back at them. I could feel sparks dancing around me and the guilt I was feeling was rapidly becoming anger.
“I am having a bad week! I’ve lost my job, TWICE! My friend is hurt! And if you don’t move your sorry butts out of the way so my friend can be taken to the hospital and get treated, I will kill you! CLEAR!?”
Everyone moved out of the way and I hovered there to be sure that there would be no interference as Toni was moved carefully out. I followed along to the hospital to make sure Toni would get there alright.
I didn’t eat much, I was a total klutz in dance class and I had a hard time sleeping. Finally, on Saturday, we got the word that Toni would be okay, but would have to rest for a while to make a complete recovery. I don’t know if I have ever felt so much relief ever in my life. I determined to make sure that Toni wouldn’t have to worry about a thing until she was okay.
At least Jinn had the presence of mind to pick up the small winnings I’d made on the outcome of the fight.
IN THE HALLS OF ACADEMIA: September 23rd Saturday
Sometime every month, the department heads got together to discuss what had happened in the last month and decide if there was anything that needed to be attended to for the coming month. The start of school always produced some of the more interesting ones.
Normally, Chief Delarose would be fairly bored by the proceedings. But this month was kind of special. He was asked to report on the many incidents that had occurred in the last few weeks. For many of them he had personal observations to include. Team Kimba and its members figured prominently in many.
After everyone had a chance to report, make observations, and resolve as many of the issues as possible, there was usually a round robin brainstorming segment to the meeting. This was where any unresolved problems could be put out for everyone to look at and hopefully find some kind of answer for them. Chief Delarose almost never got into these as they could sometimes get pretty hairy.
This time, however, he had a problem he was hoping the others might be able to help him with. Mrs. Carson was chairing this meeting and started the problem solving session with a general announcement.
“Very well. We will now open the floor for any unresolved problems, that we as a whole may better be able to handle rather than on our own.”
Chief Delarose raised his hand and cleared his throat.
“Chief? We don’t often get the pleasure of your participation in this part of the meeting. What is it that you wish to bring before us?”
“If it would please all of you, I would like to bring the matter of the future employment of the student Billie Wilson, also known as Tennyo, before you.”
This started a round of loud muttering from everyone else. Mrs. Carson spoke up.
“Could you be a little more specific please Chief?”
“Yes Ma’am. It has come to my attention, that through no particular fault of her own, Miss Wilson is having a hard time finding suitable employment.”
Mrs. Hotchkiss, in charge of the Food Services spoke up immediately.
“Surely, you aren’t suggesting that we allow her to return to work in the cafeteria are you?”
“No Ma’am. I wouldn’t think of it. The risks would be too great of a repeat of the last incident.”
Mr. Duncan, in charge of Maintenance and Physical Plant, spoke up next.
“You will not get that walking disaster anywhere near my areas of responsibility. So you can just forget it. We will have nothing to do with her after the last bit of disobedience.”
“My understanding of the situation was that she was led into that rather dangerous situation by two reasonably knowledgeable members of your staff.”
“Let’s not bring that up Chief. They have been disciplined and she was the one who recklessly set off that explosion.”
“Oh? A reprimand was severe enough for them but she got fired? As for the explosion, the jury is still out on that. There is some evidence that the explosion was set off by an outside element and not Tennyo at all.”
“Ha! That so called ‘Ghost’ is it? Your just too gullible Chief. We’ve seen what that ‘girl’ can do.”
“Besides myself, I believe that two of your own employees believe her too. And I respect their opinions too much to just ignore them.”
“Stan and Morrie work under difficult circumstances. They do such good work that we tend to overlook their idiosyncrasies, but we don’t have to accept everything that they say as gospel either. I think the simplest explanation is the best and don’t see any reason to change my opinion at this time. Besides, letting her come back to my department would cause problems that I don’t feel like dealing with at this time. Keep little miss ‘Disaster Dame’ away from me.”
“I guess you do have to deal with the personal problems of your employees. Far be it from me to try and tell you how to do your own job. Still, I believe that the best course of action is to find gainful employment for this student, and quickly. As you mentioned before, you have seen what she can do. I think we need to direct that talent into more constructive avenues, before she finds her own. Will anyone else help with this.”
There was a great deal of quiet muttering, but that was all until Miss Henderson, the head of the Library Department spoke up.
“Mr. Delarose, I may be able to help in a temporary way, unless the school could see about raising my allocation for employees?”
Mrs. Carson spoke up.
“I’m afraid that we cannot at this time. We are already somewhat above the projected costs for this time in the semester due in some small part to the actions of the young person we have been discussing.”
“Very well. My department has been allocated a paid position for a student who has not arrived as yet. We are anticipating a longer delay than originally believed would be the case. I feel that my department could take on this student for the time being. At least until the other student shows up, or you agree to extend my allocation.”
Mrs. Carson spoke again. “Thank you Marion. We appreciate your help in this and I will see what we can do to increase your allocation. Will this be satisfactory for you Chief?”
“I couldn’t ask for better. Thank you Miss Henderson.”
She nodded back to him and the meeting moved on to other things.
Sunday morning Billie Wilson would receive a notice to report to Miss Henderson in the library and be told what her new responsibilities would be.
MORE TESTS, JUST IN TIME: September 23rd Saturday
“Billie, we need to talk.”
Jade had just let Nikki into the room. Now they were both facing me and I knew I couldn’t avoid them now. So I sulked a bit on my bed, but acknowledged them anyway.
“Jade tells me that you just about killed Monty back at the fight and that you might still be considering it now.”
I wasn’t very comfortable talking about this. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how I felt about it right now other than the fact that it was easier to stay angry than thinking it through. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that.
“Thanks a lot Jade.... So? He deserves it.”
“You would be making a big mistake. Not only would you ruin your own life by killing him, I don’t think that we have all the facts yet. There is something seriously wrong with that boy and I don’t think killing him will solve anything.”
“Yeah, he’s a class A jerk and stupid to boot. Let me knock some sense into him and we’ll see how long he stays stupid.”
“Your wrong Billie. I think that he is a better person than he has been acting like. Something has happened to make him the way he is, but he doesn’t want to be that way, I can tell.”
“You can tell? How can you be so sure?”
“The same way I can tell what you are feeling right now. You aren’t just mad, your feeling guilty and that is what is making you so murderously mad.”
She was right, and I didn’t know how to respond to that. I could feel tears starting to well in my eyes. Nikki moved over next to me by the bed and sat down. She put her hand on my shoulder. Jade moved to the other side.
“C’mon. You know I’m right, don’t you?”
I couldn’t control the tears and they started to slip out.”
“But... It is my fault. None of this would’ve happened if not for me.”
“Billie. You don’t know that. Something else could have happened even if you weren’t involved. Toni can take responsibility for herself and her own actions anyway. You aren’t trying to say she can’t are you?”
“Alright then. I’m not joking about something being wrong with Monty either. He felt really bad about what happened to Toni. I’m not sure he had any kind of control over himself then and I think something may have caused it. I just don’t know what it could be. Promise me that you won’t do something stupid at least until we can figure it out .Okay?”
I sniffled a bit and thought about what she said. Then I asked her a question.
“Have you figured it out yet?”
“Then I can’t promise not to do something stupid.”
“But I will promise not to do something stupid where Monty is involved. Will that work?”
For a moment, Nikki stared at me, and then Jade started to giggle.
She’s getting pretty good with those pillows, even when they aren’t her own.
Things had settled down a little when a runner came to our door with a message that Dr. Polland wanted me to report to Area 91 ASAP for tests.
“Oh! I forgot! Sorry, but I have to go. More tests. Thank you and I’ll remember not to do something stupid where Monty is concerned, okay?”
“Okay, and Billie?”
“Try not to do anything else stupid as well, okay?”
“Wellll... I can’t promise anything like that, but I will try.”
I gave them both a hug and headed out.
Jade sighed. “She didn’t straighten out her face. People will guess that she‘s been upset.”
Nikki shook her head. “That girls got a lot to learn.”
“Yeah, but she’s still kind of fun.”
“You can say that again.”
“Yeah, but she’s still kind of fun.”
“Why you little...”
The pillow fight restarted and didn’t settle down until Nikki remembered that they were going over to the hospital to help Toni when she came back.
ON THE RANGE AGAIN: September 23rd
It took a while to clear security, but eventually they accepted the fact that I was supposed to be there and escorted me to where Dr. Polland and the others were waiting for me. They wanted me to fire several blasts a force field reinforced armor plate first. I tried to use varying levels of energy and told them what I was doing as I did it.
For the last one I decided to use up some of my excess anger and concentrated as much as I could into a small area. It was much like my sword, except that it was harder to hold together if I wasn’t touching it. Then, instead of just releasing it, I tried to hold it together as I pushed it at the center of the target. As I felt it hit the screen, I gave it a final hard push and let it go. There was a very bright flash that left everyone except me rubbing their eyes. The force field showed some disruption but was still there. There was also a 3 inch hole in the armor plate and a scatter of liquified metal sprayed out behind it.
We all stared at that for a moment and then turned to Dr. Shandy, who was handling this part of the tests, so he could observe my offensive abilities first hand. He was glancing from the computer console in front of him to the armor plate so fast that I thought he might sprain his neck. Then he got a large grin on his face and turned to me.
“Tennyo. Would you please form your sword and go over there and see if you can chop that pole sticking out of the force shield generator in half. Please take your time and try softly at first, and then try progressively harder each time until you can cut it, if you can.”
That sounded reasonable enough. I went over, looked back to get his okay and then tapped the post with my sword. Sparks flew and I could tell from the feel of the energy pushing back that the post was protected by some kind of force field. I began pushing harder and harder against the field and I could hear some generator or something not too far away start to make more noise, as if more energy was being drawn from it.
“Tennyo. Please don’t push against it. Strike it with harder and harder blows.”
Okay. If that was what he wanted, I could do that. The pushing against it had given me a better feel for how my energy was reacting with the field energy and so I deliberately didn’t hit it very hard the first few times. I then hauled off and gave it a quick tap and pushed a little. There was a burst of sparks but the blade did not cut into the post.
“That’s good. Now just hit it a bit harder.”
“If I hit it much harder it’s going to cut it.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m sure it can handle just about anything you can throw at it. Go ahead and give it a good shot.”
“Go ahead and hit it. I don’t think you need to worry about it.”
If that was the way he wanted it. He couldn’t say that I didn’t warn him. I turned and gave the post a good blow with the sword and pushed at the same time. Not as hard as I could, but with some determination.
I felt the field try to resist as I pushed it aside. There was a bright shower of sparks, a loud popping noise, and for a moment the only light in there was the light of hot metal and my sword. Then the lights kicked back on and I looked at the bisected post and turned to look at Dr. Shandy.
“You didn’t have to go all out on that, Tennyo.”
Then he looked at his console and a smile broke out on his face again.
“Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!”
Dr. Polland asked the question for us.
“Think of what?”
“We’ve been thinking that Tennyo here is a warper and this is proof of that. We just didn’t think that she could do so much as a warper. That there should be some other explanation. But I’m beginning to think that we haven’t given her enough credit.”
“And your explanation of this would be?”
“Her control of her warping abilities is far greater than any we have seen to date. Usually they are limited to specific types of effects and not much else. Here we are seeing an exception. She is accomplishing many different things with varying applications of a warping ability. Maybe we have just never given others a chance or she is an unusual case. Especially considering the short time she has manifested them.”
“A little more detail might help here Doctor.”
“Oh. Yes. Well, as I was going to say, the energy blasts that she first started to throw were simply plasma charges that she was forming with some application of the warping ability and releasing in the direction that she wanted it to go. We have seen this before, so this is no great surprise.”
“But her sword, and the last blast she shot. They are different. She formed the plasma charges as before, but then she encapsulated them in a trans warp shield. In the case of the sword, she controls the shape and size. Apparently, the proximity to her has some effect on the degree of control she has on that, or at least the ease in which she can use it.”
“This is actually a totally different use of her ability. In a sense it is as different as her ability to fly. And it adds a totally new dimension to her attack.”
He waited for a moment to see if we had gotten his pun, and then continued.
“You see, the warp shield not only contains the energy so it isn’t dissipated, but it also moves it slightly out of sinc with its surroundings. This actually allows it to pass through screens to some extent and enter into the object it is hitting, in effect, this gives it an armor piercing quality that allows it to expend its energy directly on or in the target itself and not its defenses. Young lady.”
“I can’t stress enough the fact that you should avoid using these attacks against living targets. Do you understand me?”
“I... I don’t know why I would...”
The memory of what I had thought of doing to Monty was still very fresh and I wondered if they had heard about it somehow.
“You never know what is coming in the future. I just want you to be aware now just how dangerous these attacks of yours are. Before you get the idea of trying them on someone that crosses you. Have you understood me?”
“Yes sir. I do understand you. These attacks of mine could be fatal if used on someone.”
As if Monty’s attack might not have been fatal either.
“Your attacks could EASILY be fatal if used.”
Well, there was that.
“Yes sir. I understand.”
“Good. Just remember that please.”
“I’m done here. It will take some time to put this together but I have no more tests to run today. I’ll let you take her now so you can proceed with your own tests.”
“Thank you Doctor. We’ll proceed to the centrifuge now. Please let me know when you have your results organized. I’d like to see that.”
“Same to you. Good luck.”
We headed out again and eventually, we came to the centrifuge room and I was directed into a changing room where I was fit with sensors and a g-suit. Then they strapped me into the cupola.
When they closed the hatch all I could see was the inside of the capsule. The only connection to the outside world was the audio connection to the control center. They talked to me a bit about what was coming and told me to relax. Easy for them to say. I’d seen films of what happened in these things and wasn’t too reassured.
“Okay, Tennyo. Here we go. Were going to start out slowly and work it up from there. Don’t worry, we have you monitored and we will stop if anything gets too difficult for you. If you feel that you can’t take anymore, just yell. If you can’t yell, there is a panic button near your right hand. If you push that it will shut down the centrifuge. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir. I understand.”
“Okay. Here we goooo...”
The cupola started to move and I started to feel the building momentum. Nothing too bad. After about a minute, Dr. Hendricks asked me how I was doing.
“How are you doing Tennyo?”
“I’m fine. You can take it up higher. I’m not too uncomfortable yet.”
“Very well. Be sure to let us know if it gets too bad. Don’t be too brave. Okay?”
I wasn’t sure what he was worried about. It wasn’t bad at all yet.
About another minute and he was back.
“Tennyo. Tennyo. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. It’s still not too uncomfortable.”
I didn’t know if he knew something I didn’t. I couldn’t understand why he was uncertain about how I was doing.
“Yes sir. I’m sure.”
“Could you please check the leads and connections? We want to make sure that our monitors are correct.”
Monitors are correct!? Well, I checked the leads, and they seemed just fine. I even jogged them a bit to make sure. It was harder to move and took some effort but still wasn’t too bad.
“I just checked them sir. They’re fine on this end. Is everything fine on yours?”
“We’re fine here. Just checking. By the way, I have a few questions for you if you don’t mind.”
He asked me several easy mathematical questions and a few history ones also. Nothing to hard.
“Okay. You show fine here. We are going to take it up some more. Are you ready?”
“Yes sir. Anytime you are.”
“Here we go again.”
This time I started to feel more pressure. But it still wasn’t too bad. I could still move and breath okay. It just took more effort. Dr. Hendricks asked some more questions, and then after a while said that they were going to end the test. I felt the pressure slowly decrease until the cupola finally stopped with a jolt. Soon they were opening the hatch and had me go and get out of the g-suit and get dressed.
I joined them in the control room afterward. They were talking and pouring over some computer readouts. One of the interns was reporting to Dr. Hendricks.
“There is no mistake sir. All the sensors are working perfectly. I don’t think that there is any equipment error. We double checked everything again, just like you asked.”
I got Dr. Pollands attention.
“Is there anything wrong Doctor?”
“Uh. No Tennyo. Nothing wrong at all. Just checking the equipment to be sure.”
“Why did you end the test so soon? It never got to be like what I’ve seen on films. You know, the face stretching and stuff.”
“We recorded the whole thing and the test went the full extent as planned. Even ran a little over, wouldn’t you say Doctor?”
“Uh, yes. Everything was just fine.”
“Well, how did I do?”
They looked at each other for a moment, and shrugged. Dr. Polland answered me.
“Let’s just say that you probably won’t get the thrill out of a carnival ride most of us do.”
“What does that mean?”
“What do you know about centrifuges like this?”
“Not much. You use them to test how people react to g-forces or train them to handle them.”
“Exactly. This equipment is rated to do up to twenty gees for a short period of time. This time it actually got up to twenty two before we shut it down.”
“Ummm. It didn’t feel that bad. Are you sure?”
“We double checked. We’re pretty certain that we’re right about this.”
“Uh. How high do you usually go?”
“A healthy, normal, well trained, and equipped man can take ten or so gees for a short period of time without too much trouble. Can’t do much but survive though.”
“You said twenty two.”
“And you were still able to answer my questions, among other things.”
“What does that mean?”
“We think it’s another aspect of your warping ability. You can displace yourself enough so that gravity and centrifugal forces don’t have the same effect on you. If anyone was made for space, it would be you. Have you considered going into the space program in the future?”
“I haven’t given it much thought.”
“You might want to keep that in mind. Do you have anything else planned today?”
“Not that I’m aware of sir.”
“Then the rest of the day is yours. Have fun.”
“Thank you sir. Let me know if you need more.”
“Don’t worry. We aren’t done with you yet. Now get going.”
“Yes sir. Bye.”
BACK TO POE: September 23rd
I found my own way out and was headed back to Poe when I remembered that Toni was going to be back from the hospital. I hurried back as quickly as I could. Toni wasn’t alone when I got there. What seemed like a crowd was going in and out of her room. I waited my turn and finally had a chance to meet with Toni. She was sitting in her bed and no one was letting her get anything for herself. I was glad to see her well, and I was nervous at the same time.
“Uh. Hi Toni. How are you doing?”
“I’ve felt better. You?”
“I... I’m fine. I’m really sorry about getting you into this...”
“Can it. I got myself into the situation I’m in and I don’t want to hear anyone say otherwise. I’m a big girl now and I can take responsibility for my own actions. Okay? Besides, if you keep this up, it’s only going to make me upset, and the doctors have told me not to get upset for a while. You wouldn’t want to do that to me would you?”
I shook my head no. I couldn’t speak.
“Also. I hear rumors to the effect that you are planning to take Monty out yourself. I want you to know right now. If anyone gets Monty, it’s going to be me. Do you understand?”
“What about the team?”
“The team is fine. I am still able to do this myself. I don’t have the restrictions on me that you do. If I can’t do it anymore, then you can have him. But not before. Get it?”
“Now give me a hug girl. Your depressing me with that long face. Urrk! Not so hard! Not so hard! I’m still recovering! What you been doin? Workin’ out?”
“Thanks Toni! Just let me know if there is anything I can do for you!”
“I’ll do that. Just let go for now and let me rest. Okay?”
“Okay. You can keep the Cabbit if you want.”
“No thanks. I don’t need no whacky animals running around causing trouble.”
“But she’s no tribble at all.”
“Arrrgghhh! Out! Out! Before you kill me! Out and get some rest.”
“Okay. I’m going. Be sure to let me know if I can help.”
I moved out of the room. I felt a little better now that she was recovering. But I was still worried that if this kind of thing kept up I was going to get everyone into trouble sooner or later.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE LIBRARY: September 25th Monday
After my last class I quickly cleaned up and proceeded to the library where I was to meet with a Miss Henderson, the Head Librarian. I went up to the main desk and asked where I was supposed to go. The boy at the desk told me to go through some doors behind the desk and wait until I was called.
There was a small waiting room there and I sat down and waited. I looked at the magazines and decided to read the latest Newsweek. After about ten minutes, an older, grey haired woman came in. She was dressed in a floor length, black dress with white trim that had the Whateley crest above her left breast. She was very slender and taller than me. She held herself very straight and had small gold rimmed glasses way down on her nose.
“Are you Billie Wilson?”
I sprang to my feet.
“Yes ma’am, I am.”
“Do you know why you are here?”
“Uh, I understood that I was to report to a Miss Henderson and ask about what my duties would be.”
“Well, at least you know that much. I am Marion Henderson. I am the head librarian here and the person that you will be answering to as you perform or attempt to perform your duties.”
“Uh, pleased to meet you ma’am.”
“You at least have some pretension to politeness. Good, I believe that we may be able to work with each other. I must warn you that my budget for employees is small and I will expect you to work hard and not slack off. I have no room in my organization for people who can’t or won’t get the job done.”
“Good. Come with me and I will show you what I need you to do. Note, I said need, not want. You must be able to do these things well and accurately or you won’t be working here. Understand?”
She proceeded to take me through the entire library, showing me where everything was and telling me what my responsibilities would be in each area. She had me repeat what she had told me each time. My memory seems to be getting better as I could remember all of this accurately.
I was shown where her office was and next to that was a secure area that she took me into. Showing me where the keys were and showing me the combination to open this area at the same time. You couldn’t get in without both. In this area was kept the rarer books which could only be taken out under special release from Miss Henderson herself. With similar special permission you could come in and study the books but couldn’t take them out. This was done more often than allowing them to be taken out.
There was a vault area in this area that looked even more secure. Miss Henderson told me that certain special books and the like were kept there and no one could go in unless she was with them. Only she had the combination and key to this area. She did open it for me to look in. There were several books of varying sizes and age in separate containers throughout the room. There were several items that I couldn’t identify there also. She told me that some of these were alien books of one sort or another and that none of these was ever to leave this room under any circumstances.
She locked this up again and led me out to the more common areas and proceeded to test me until near supper. Mostly having me shelve books in proper order and seeing that I understood the manner in which they should be. All the time I had spent in the library at home stood me in good stead and I found that this was easy to do. She seemed pleased at my progress and told me when I should report back in. I was happy that I had gotten through my first day on the job without any mishaps or disasters.
The others joked a lot about not hearing of any new disasters and asked who I really was and where I’d hidden the real me. We all got a good laugh, and for the first time in a long time I ate without feeling too self conscious and enjoyed myself.
Of course, that didn’t last long. Jinn had gone off by herself to practice something and on the way back to Poe from supper, we found the clothing that she had been in. I wasn’t too sure that anything could happen to Jinn. That was one pretty tough cookie, but Jade got more and more worried when Jinn didn’t show up. In fact, she was getting really upset the longer this went on. I didn’t want to leave her like that but I did have to get to dance class. I asked the others to keep an eye on her while I was gone.
Dance was enjoyable and to my surprise, Mr Lodgeman wanted to come back to Poe with me and meet Toni. It seems her fame had grown and he wanted a chance to see her and thank her for standing up for me.
IF OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT: September 25th
Harry and Mr. Lodgeman escorted me back and Harry headed on to Twain after promising to talk to me tomorrow about our Powers and Theories Class project. We checked in with Mrs. Horton and headed up to Nikki’s and Toni’s room so I could introduce them. I had him stand to the side of the door and knocked. Jade answered the door. I blocked the door a bit just in case someone wasn’t decent.
“Hey Jade! Mr. Lodgeman is here and wants to meet the hero of the hour and be introduced to the rest of the team. Is everyone here?”
“Yes. Let me make sure everyone is decent, okay?”
“Decent?! Hey!! Isn’t Hank in there too!?”
She giggled and ducked back into the room. Mr. Lodgeman and I exchanged a glance as I heard talking in the room that I assumed was Jade telling everyone that Mr. Lodgeman was here. Shortly after that she opened the door again and bowed us in with a grand introduction.
“Ladies and Gentleman! May I introduce the Inestimable Mr. Lodgeman. Mr. Lodgeman, allow me to introduce Team Kimba!”
“You already know Billie who is known as Tennyo, This young lady over here is the hero of the hour, Toni. And this young beauty is the Great Fey whom we know as ....”
Jades voice tapered off as she realized that Mr. Lodgeman and Nikki were staring at each other. My head was snapping back and forth as I tried to figure out what was happening.
The look on Mr. Lodgeman’s face was a mixture of surprise, hope, and pain all at once. It hurt just to see it. Nikki’s face showed a similar mixture, but I suddenly figured that maybe hers was from her empathic ability and she was experiencing what he was feeling. Then he uttered a word.
Why would he say his wife’s name?
He spun around and left so quickly that it was almost like he had vanished.
Then something occurred to me. I didn’t know what had triggered it but it might be what the Tanakas had been afraid of and suddenly I felt a terrible fear of what might happen. Nikki was pale and looked like she was in shock. I had to do something. Now! Decision became action.
“Toni! Jade! Take care of Nikki! Ayla! Out back now and see if he goes that way! Hank! With me! MOVE PEOPLE!”
I saw Ayla go right through the wall on the way to the back of the building. I headed out of the room and down the stairs, trusting that Hank would be behind me. When I got to the bottom, only Destry and Diamanta were in the common area.
“Hey you two! Did you see a guy come through here?”
Destry shrugged and pointed towards the back door.
“Some jerk just went through that way. Something we should know about?”
“No. Thank you! C’mon Hank! Let’s move!”
I headed out the back as fast as I could and Hank was right behind me. We found Ayla there before us.
“He headed out towards the State Forest, but he was moving too fast for me to stop. What’s going on anyway?”
“I’m not sure myself, but I think that he might hurt or kill himself if we can’t get to him first. I’ll explain more later. Ayla. Go back up and have Jade call the Tanaka’s and tell them what happened. She knows where their number is. Hank. If we spread out we have a better chance of finding him. You fly to my left and we’ll see if we can find him.”
“Uh, Billie? One problem.”
“I can’t see in the dark.”
“Oh. Uh, go with Ayla then and help her. I’ll see what I can do here.”
I spun around and flew off in the direction Ayla had seen him go. I put on some altitude and hoped I would be able to spot him from above. Hopefully, he was still moving. I don’t think I had a chance of finding him if he wasn’t.
SOMEWHAT REMOVED: September 25th
There are still some places in the world where the mark of man is light to non existent. Some are that way because they tend to be inaccessible due to their place or nature. The bottom of the ocean and high in the mountains, places that by their nature are not known by man.
There are some others that are not known because they choose not to be. They use misdirection, illusions, empathic projections of their dislike to be disturbed, and if necessary, force. Sometimes, even when they are close to man, they remain unknown except to a few exceptional people who know how to approach them or have earned their respect. The Pine Barrens of New Jersey are one such.
Another, though not so well known, is a small section of forest in New Hampshire. Near a small town known as Dunwich and not far from a school next to a forest that seems open to all but conceals within itself the heart of a great anger for men and the destruction they have wrecked upon the land. This small grove of ancient trees harbors its anger and prevents intrusion of all except the few who know its secret and can enter without awakening its ire, or have the strength to face its rage and not flinch from it. These it can respect and accept on its own terms.
Others must flee or be dragged into their world where they can treat them as they will. These disappear, sometimes reappearing in odd times as warnings to those who would disturb the ancient powers. Sometimes never to be seen again.
Into this sacred place came The Shaman. Normally, he would only have come here prepared. Controlled and shielded, his emotions only those he was prepared to share with the tinderbox of power and rage that was the Grove. On those rare occasions that he needed the power that was here. This time he only came to a place that he believed would be safe from any intrusion. A place that he could be with his pain and not be interrupted. He didn’t give any thought to how the Grove would react to this emotional intrusion and the powerful broadcast of feelings so similar to its own.
ON THE WAY TO THE TOP: September 25th
Lt. Christian Reynolds was disturbed. He was pacing in his office, when he wasn’t, he would be shuffling papers around on the duty desk.
The officers had a desk to themselves where they could take care of the endless piles of paperwork that went with the job. That desk was enclosed by glass partitions that allowed for an illusion of privacy. But everyone in the security station could see and be seen. This could allow the officer to be aware of what was going on. It also allowed the security personal to get an idea of what mood their officers were in.
At 5' 8" and a slender 150lbs, the lieutenant tended to give the impression of a hyperactive squirrel rather than a leader of men. His mousy brown hair and pale complexion didn’t help. The same thoughts were bothering him today as they had many times in the past. He kept muttering to himself as he skittered around the office.
“It’s not fair. How am I ever going to prove just how good I am if they keep posting me to the least likely times for anything to happen?”
Not for the first time was he wondering why someone with his talents was being relegated to simple babysitting. Even if he was the newest officer, his attention to details and persistence in demanding the same of those under him should at least earn him a chance to prove himself in more trying circumstances. As it was, everyone knew that while night duty in the first two weeks was an uncertain time at best, the next few could almost be guaranteed to be uneventful. The initial shakedown was done and boredom wouldn’t set in for several more weeks. At least during the day you could train or entertain visiting bigwigs.
As he completed another round of his office, he was unaware that he was being closely observed.
Administrative Sergeant Clay Buxton was taking great interest in his new commanding officer. He had gone to great lengths and expense to see to it that this particular man was in the position that he was now. He needed an officer to cover for him, but that man had to stay ignorant of what was going on around him, or the mental types that seemed to come out of the woodwork around here would surely catch on. And if things went too far south, he would need a creditable patsy.
Others may have thought that they ran this place, but he controlled all the online betting and illicit flow of information from this school. He was a man that no one saw, but who controlled great power in his own right.
At 6' 1" and a slowly softening 210 lbs. He did not seem to be the man of influence that he actually was. Graying crewcut hair and a false friendly attitude tended to soften the steel hard determination to succeed at any cost attitude that was his. And now he had some work to do. He was wondering how he was going to distract his new toy when the alarms went off.
Reynolds came popping out of his office like a cork from a champagne bottle.
“What is it! What’s happening!?”
Mark Mathews, a 6' 3" 250 lb. Black man and ex marine from Chicago, the sensor tech tonight, replied in a slow southern drawl.
“Waal suh. If’in it ain’t a false reading. I u’d say that someon ‘as flown the coop und headed fer ta hills, so ta speak. Sort’a t’ords Secter Tango. Annd. Sumun else isa followin dem. Flyin like.”
“Huh? You mean to say that someone has gone into Restricted Area Tango and someone else is flying after them?”
“Yyupp. Thas wa I said, suh.”
“Wa’al suh, if’n ta sensers is workin cerrect, the fust was a Charlie Lodgeman. The secind was a Billie Wilson. Mista Lodgeman has clearance foa Tango, but Mizz Wilson don’t. It seems as if that would be why ta alarms went off, if’a you get maa meaning, suh.”
“What it means is that we have someone entering a restricted area without authorization, possibly being helped by one of the staff. I want a squad over there pronto and I’ll want anyone they find there picked up and brought in for questioning. Got that?”
“Yeah sah. Hackitts’ got two men short. But ah reckon he kin git ova theah right quick. Anyting else suh?”
“No. Not yet. Who does he have if he’s two men short?”
Sgt. Buxton had come up behind to watch. He spoke up before he had to put up with more of Mathews butchering of the English language.
“He has Green, Metler, Trews, and the new guy that just got transferred from day shift, Johnson.”
“Johnson? Why did he transfer out of day duty?”
“Some kind of misunderstanding with one of the students is what I hear. The Chief nearly fired him from the scuttlebutt.”
“So, he was sent here for me to straighten up. Well, he better not mess up on my watch or he’s out of here faster than you can say good night.”
“What is it?”
“We’s not allowed inta Secter Tango e’tha suh. What we do about that? Suh.”
“Huh? Oh! Tell them to not go in but arrest anyone coming out. Clear?”
“Yeh suh. Don’t go in at all. Juss catch em as they come out. Yes suh.”
Several minutes later, Hackitt reported that they were in the State Forest and according to their GPS they were just outside Area Tango. They would wait for someone to come out.
“Uh, rrroger that. Team Seven Will wait fer confirmation when they’s caught.”
“Mark? That you?”
“Sho nuff, Mike. Ain’t no one but us niggers he’ah.”
“Riiiight. Talk to you later.”
“Rrroger, Sergeant Hackitt, will do.”
“Were they laughing just now?”
The lieutenant had been listening in and was becoming somewhat upset at the lack of secure radio discipline. Not to mention Mathews poor vocabulary.
“Ah wouldn’t know suh. I didn’t notice ah ting. What the f...!?”
This comment was due to the alarms going off again.
“Four m.... Ah mean fowah mowah unknown people just appeared near Poe, suh!”
“How did they get that far without setting off the alarms?”
“Don’t know suh. They’s just appeared out ah nowhere, suh.”
“Where are they now?”
“Just entered Poe suh.”
“Who do we have ready?”
“Just Michaels and Daniels, suh. They was going to go help Hackitt.”
“Get them over to Poe ASAP, but tell them to wait for me. Hold down the fort Sergeant.”
With that, Lt. Reynolds bolted from the station and headed for Poe. Now was his chance to show what he was made of.
Mathews turned to Buxton and with no dialect at all asked for orders.
“Well Clay, what do you want me to do?”
“Get Michaels and Daniels and tell them if anything happens to my bird I’m going to take the replacement costs from their bonus. And what’s with this accent?”
“Just a little fun. The kid rubs me the wrong way.”
“Well drop it unless you want to do it all the time. And now that my little project is out of the way, I want you to put me through to that facilitator I was talking to before the LT showed up.”
“Sure thing. He’s been waiting patiently right along.”
Mathews turned back to directing the security teams that were moving and Buxton took his interrupted call.
“Okay, Slicer isn’t it?”
The reply seemed mechanical, but his probably did too, what with the new voice scrambling equipment they were using.
“Here’s the deal. I don’t want any connection at all to the defective AI we were sent a few weeks ago. None at all. Are we clear?”
“Very clear. As soon as we receive our payment we will be certain to get the job done.”
“Half has just been wired to you. The other half on completion as agreed, and for sweeteners, I’ll throw in that we found out that your associates are being held by Meta Force in California.”
“Good. It has been a pleasure doing business with you. Perhaps again in the future?”
“Do this well and you can be sure we will.”
“Very well then, Good bye.”
The line went dead and Buxton considered his options one more time. That AI deal had cost him a bundle. The suppliers deserved what was coming to them, and with all the concern over it, the less connection to him the better.
“Something’s going down in Area Tango. Seems Johnson has headed off by himself.”
IN A DARK, DARK GLADE: September 25th
I didn’t know how I was going to find him. I just knew that I better, and soon. I flew over the forest in the direction that Ayla had indicated that Mr. Lodgeman had gone. But how was I going to find him if he didn’t want to be found?
After flying slowly for about a minute, I became aware of something that I would have missed if Sensei Tolman hadn’t been helping me with protecting myself from mental attacks. It seems that there was someplace ahead that I really didn’t want or need to go to. Which was odd, since I planned on checking everywhere if I had to.
By changing direction a few times, I became aware that it seemed to be coming from a dark area of the forest, that got even more forbidding the closer I got. I was just guessing, but it seemed logical that if Mr. Lodgeman didn’t want to be found, he might try to direct people away from where he was. If that was the case, then the best way to find him would be to go to where the impulse to go away was coming from.
The impulses to turn and leave kept getting stronger, but the exercises that Sensei Tolman had me doing all the time were working. I could override the impulses and keep moving ahead. I had actually moved past it and was being pushed before I knew it. Flying wasn’t going to work well except to get me close.
I chose what looked like a clear area to get to the ground, and barely dodged a branch that tried to swat me out of the air. It was farther to the ground than I thought it would be. These tress were really old and huge. This concealed the fact that the ground dropped away under them a great deal so that these trees only looked a little bigger from the top.
After about a minute and a good bit of fancy flying, I finally got to the ground. There weren’t any more branches swinging at me and the ground here was covered in short grass and leaves. I also had a very definite feeling that I was not wanted here and should leave immediately. With a mental shrug I overcame that and moved towards the sound of someone crying. I was certain that I was close now.
Then something rose out of the ground in front of me. It must have been about ten to twelve feet tall and looked liked a cross between a tree and a stag deer. It towered over me and I felt a strange feeling in my mind that translated into words and a definitely hostile feeling.
“Leave this place! Leave or die intruder!”
I didn’t care how frightening it wanted to be. I needed to get to Mr. Lodgeman and this refugee from the scrap yard of life wasn’t about to stop me. I considered just blasting it to splinters, but decided that maybe Mr. Lodgeman wouldn’t like that and tried another track.
“The only ones doing any dying around here will be you if you don’t get out of my way so that I can get to Mr. Lodgeman right now.”
“Leave now insignificant mortal, or feel our wrath!”
Suddenly, it was like I had a ton of old leaf mold and dirt dropped on me. I could feel the age and decay of the forest all landing on me and trying to suffocate me with its age. And then something in myself woke up and responded to the attack.
It was almost like the time that I had caught fire, except it wasn’t so painful. A towering rage burned through me and I found myself responding in a fashion that I found a little confusing, even as I did it.
“Who are THOU to dare to stand in MY way!”
In response to the suffocating earth and age, I was projecting the clear depths of space and the fiery roar of stars that dwarfed the mere planets suspended in and around them.
“Begone before I lose my patience and leave nothing here to remind others of thine existence save the smoldering ashes of thy demise!”
The area around me was suddenly lit up by the streamers of energy flaring off my skin and the towering being in front of me flinched and backed off.
“What is thy purpose here stalker of the stars? Why dost thou disturb our slumber and rest. This is not thy place.”
The first message had been like the cracking of rocks. This was more like the groaning of a large tree stressed to the limits by forces that were trying to break it.
“I seek the one who came before me. I have a need to speak to him and I will not be denied this.”
“Thou wishes him no harm? Then why is he in such pain? Art thou the cause of this?”
“I am not and do not seek his pain. I only wish to discover the cause and help him if I may. He is a friend to me.”
“Very well then Star Stalker. But know this. We will not rest if thou harmest this one in any way. Even if it destroys us we will bring to thee whatever doom we may.”
“I understand and respect thy wishes in this. Will thou lead me to him then?”
It turned and headed into the darker parts of the forest. From this direction I could also hear the fading sounds of a man crying. Soon we entered a clearing under the largest of the trees. Large stone pillars were scattered around the base of the tree and leaning against one was the man I had been trying to find. A strange light like intense moonlight filled this glade and in this light I could see the emotion wracked face of Mr. Lodgeman. I moved to within a few feet of him and squatted down to wait for him to be willing to talk to me.
This place was timeless and I was uncertain how long it was before he turned to me. Tears still glistened on his face. He had been crying and his voice was rough with his spent emotions.
“Billie. What are you doing here?”
“I came after you.”
“Why? Don’t you know how dangerous this place is?”
“I needed to be sure that you were alright. I don’t know what happened but I have to make sure that you are going to be okay.”
“How did you get here?”
“Flew, most of the way and then I walked. After I convinced one of the guardians that it would be a bad idea to try and stop me, he brought me here.”
“They don’t just let anyone come here.”
“I’m not just anyone. I can get where I want to go.”
As I said this I stood up and moved over to him.
“And if I tell you to leave now?”
As he said this, he seemed to grow and I could feel the pressure of his will, trying to make me do just what he said. The fire came back and I faced him down.
“I leave when ‘I’ want to. And not a moment sooner.”
A look of surprise crossed his face for a moment and his eyes lost focus. A breeze floated through and for a moment I felt sensed the moldy earth again. Then it was gone and his eyes focused again.
“So that is the way of it. Why aren’t I surprised?”
He seemed to shrink down somewhat and the look of grief came back. I had to try and find out why.
“Can you tell me why you ran away. It hurt Nikki you know. She’s a strong empath and I think she got what you felt full bore and both barrels.”
“She’s an empath too?”
“I don’t know why that should be important, but yes, a very strong one.”
“Isn’t it obvious? Don’t you remember my wife?”
“Why should I? She went by the name of ‘Cirque’ and her name was Sherry. She died of catastrophic burnout some time ago. That’s all the Tanakas really told me about her.”
The look of surprise was back.
“You mean that they didn’t tell you more about it? But I assumed that you would know. Why else all this secrecy about why they are helping you. Someone who isn’t family?”
I suddenly had a fit of conscience and decided that it couldn’t do any harm to try and clear everything now.
“It’s... It’s how I became the way I am that had them worried. They thought that it would remind you too much of the past and... and cause you to run away again..., Or worse.”
“What about the way you became the way you are could possibly have any bearing on how I feel about Sherry?”
“The.. The stuff my brother used. It..it was Ultra-X-Amine.”
“WHAT!?! You can’t be serious! Are you sure?”
I could only nod. For a moment he just stood there speechless. Then he finally spoke.
“Tell me everything. And I mean EVERYTHING!”
So I did.
He just stood there for a minute after that. An odd look on his face. Then he focused on me again.
“So, you really are family.”
“Don’t you see? You are now part of a very exclusive family. We are pretty lonely in this world. It’s not every day we get a new member. I can see why they are so supportive of you now.”
He stepped forward and gave he a hug. I felt very strange as he did so. I wasn’t sure yet I wanted to become a part of this family. But, it didn’t seem like I had much of a choice. And it could be a worse family. I liked them all and that had to be something.
“Can you tell me why you ran when you saw Nikki?”
He sighed deeply. “It only seems right that you get the full story. I don’t think it will make sense if you don’t have the facts. But, I must ask that you keep the details secret.”
“If I can, I will. But I reserve the right, as I did here, to use my judgement. Will that do?”
“One of the best answers I’ve heard in a long time. Especially in this place. I think you have earned some extra credit. If I can find some way of giving it to you without giving the secret away.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“Okay. I’ll get started. Let’s see, first, are you aware that your friend Nikki looks just like my wife, Sherry?”
“Yes. Almost exactly. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”
“Well, She didn’t start out that way, some of the more recent developments have been very recent, and to tell the truth, I’ve never even seen a picture. I knew that she was one of the Fey type magicians, but that was all I knew.”
“I’ll have to show you some pictures when I get a chance. I think you will be surprised. Your Nikki could be a twin sister to her.”
“Well, that would explain your reaction to her. I’m sorry I didn’t know. Maybe I could’ve introduced you in a better way with more warning. I think that was what Mr. Tanaka was worried about.”
“Eric always was a worry-wort. It made for a good brake on some of our more dangerous endeavors. Maybe if we had listened to him, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t they tell you how Sherry died?”
“Catastrophic burnout, brought on by an experiment trying to find a solution for the problems that Ultra-X-Amine was causing for you.”
“That was a part of it. But not all. You see, Sherry’s powers had become erratic because of the experiment, but we were sure that given enough time we could solve that problem. It was the job we took on that put the nail in the coffin so to speak.”
“No one said anything about that.”
“I’m not really surprised. It wasn’t the brightest star in our illustrious history. And..and it ended badly.”
“We took a job for Reverend Englund.”
“Him!? Tall scary guy. A supervisor too?”
“The same. He was a lot younger then and you really shouldn’t be too judgmental of him. He’s accomplished some incredible things in his life, and paid some very terrible prices doing it. Of course, some of us have paid some pretty high prices too. So don’t trust him with your life or someone else’s either if you can help it. Especially you.”
“Me? What does he have against me?”
“I can’t go into too many details, but let’s just say that he has a hard time with anyone who isn’t as down to earth as most of us are.”
“Down to earth?”
“I don’t think this is the best time to go into that right now.”
“You don’t think I can take it?”
“Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it.”
“I could kill you now.”
“That wouldn’t be a good idea. Especially after all the trouble you went through to save me. But really, I’m not sure about some of it and I really want to check out a few things before I shoot my mouth off and make more trouble.”
He said this with a silly smile and I was pretty sure that he was telling me the truth. I decided to not kill him just yet.
“Okay. But as soon as you know, I want to know too.”
We slapped palms on it.
“Now tell me more about this job you did that caused so much trouble.
“Okay. Sit and I’ll tell you.”
We sat and he told me a story of how they, The Mystic Six, were approached by Reverend Englund, A man who was known in the magical circles as someone with a mission to save everyone from some kind of mystical invasion. Most people tended to ignore him and his warnings, but he said that he had proof and that our help would be needed to save some innocent people. We knew just enough to know that some people were at risk and that was enough for us. Eric was concerned that we weren’t taking it seriously enough, but he was always that way.
“The job was down in Louisiana, in the bayous. An old plantation mansion where the people were being held. We went in expecting to face some black magic users at most. They called themselves the Children of Hastur and many people had been disappearing into their dark clutches and not being seen again. Just the kind of thing we did. Putting a stop to such things. Most of them had no idea what magic really is and those that did usually weren’t anywhere near our class. We were confident that we could handle them. Just remember that Black Magic tends to limit you so much that anyone with some talent and a good background in regular magic can run circles around you. And we were pretty hot stuff to boot. Especially Sherry. What little I’ve heard about your Nikki makes me think she has some of the same potential.”
“Anyway, back to the story. What we found there still gives me nightmares. They had tapped into some kind of dimensional gateway through an ancient artifact. They were using the life force of their victims to power it. We were only able to save one girl before we ran. She spent years in an asylum recovering. She works here now by the way. You might have met her, a Miss Henderson from the library.”
“I have met her. She’s my new boss.”
“Really? Your working in the library? How is it?”
“I like it. At least nothing disastrous has happened to jinx it.”
“Keep your fingers crossed.”
“Thanks loads for that voice of confidence.”
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t have talent.”
“The story? Is that it?”
“The story? No there’s more. You see, they used the artifact to follow us back to our remote hideaway. Ever since we had run from them, Sherry’s powers had kept getting more erratic. The horror that we saw there seemed to affect her more than us too.”
He paused and I could tell that he was feeling an old pain.
“You don’t have to tell me more.”
“No. I do. I don’t know why, but I’m finally able to do this and I’m not going to stop until I can get it all out. Just be patient with me.”
He took some more deep breaths and started again.
“Anyway. They had the artifact with them and with it they trapped us inside our own hideout. I was sure we were goners when Sherry got an idea to save us. She...she didn’t tell us that it would cost her life to work though.”
“You see, she released all the control she had on her powers. This gave her an incredible burst of power that ripped the shield up and allowed Lisa to teleport us out. But she knew that we would only be followed and her power was such that Lisa couldn’t take her with us when she didn’t want to go. She let the shield form again so we couldn’t get back.”
He was crying now and had to pause to breath some more.
“We tried. We tried so hard. But she had other plans too. She allowed them to bring the artifact in close in order to take it out. She did it in the only way she could. She knew that she could never bring the power back under control and so she arranged to let it loose deliberately... all at once. It... it destroyed the artifact and took out all their sorcerers too.”
“I... I never told the others, but as she died, I got this through the link we had. She had planned it when she knew it was the only way to end that horror. She wanted me to know that she loved me and wanted me to make the best of it. I... I kind of made a mess of that for a while. But eventually, I finally came to terms with it, or thought I had, and started over again. I made some new friends and got involved in more of what was happening.”
“This job at Whateley has been a Godsend. I think Eric knew what he was doing when he asked me to keep an eye on the school for them. It has given me more to do than I can always keep track of. It’s what I need to get back on my feet. I... I just wasn’t expecting this is all.”
“Okay, will you come back with me and explain a little of this to Nikki?”
He got a stricken look on his face.
“You really need to do this you know. To help her as much as helping yourself. Please, help my friend.”
“O...Okay. I’ll do it for you. But not everything. Just that she looks like Sherry.”
“That will do. For now anyway. You ready to go back?”
“I do have classes tomorrow and we should get this done before lights out. That is if we can get back in time. I’m not sure how long we’ve been here.”
“Don’t worry about that. We’ll get back in plenty of time. I’m sure of it.”
He smiled as he said this and I wondered what he meant. Then he got a distant look on his face again.
“No don’t do that. I know your upset, but don’t take it out on him. No. I can’t recommend that either. She just might do it and that would make a mess of things now wouldn’t it? Really? Well, Okay. A little, but nothing permanent. Let it go at that. We’ll be leaving now. There’s more out there? Okay, don’t mess with them. Just tell me where they are. Good, have some fun.”
“We can go now. Follow me and stay close. I think you startled them a bit and they are just a little touchy now.”
“The spirits that exist here and ward this place. They are somewhat anti human as you may have guessed.”
“They let you in, and me too.”
“We are special cases. I’ve known them for some time and they respect me and know that I’m an ally to them as long as it doesn’t involve mayhem. And you. Well, lets just say that they respect your rights too and leave it at that. I wouldn’t come here without a good reason though. Once they get stirred up it’s hard to settle them again.”
“Okay, if you say so.”
“Hmmm, more extra credit. You’ll go far here.”
“Just get us back in time to help Nikki and I’ll be happy.”
“Not to worry. Around here, time is what you need it to be if you know what you are doing.”
“Really. Stay close. We don’t want to get separated here at the boundary.”
A mist rose up around us and soon we found ourselves approaching Poe as it cleared.
The first thing I noticed though was the two security officers with a surprised look on their faces and their rifles pointed at us. And somebody yelling at us from behind.
TAKING THE INITIATIVE: September 25th
Derek Johnson was disgusted with the way he was being treated. Just because some little bitch of a mutie couldn’t take real life and the crap that came with it. He gets kicked back onto night duty with the worst squad available.
It had been kind of fun to see the look on her face when he realized that he had hit a nerve. Real people know how to take the knocks of life. These mutie types just don’t know how. The sooner people learn this and stop coddling them and put them in their place or just get rid of them the better.
They just don’t have the equipment to handle real life and to many good people get hurt because of it. Just look what happened to him. They should have let her run home, or better yet, sent her home when she returned. They should be thanking him for doing their job for them. Humanity First had the right idea. Stop them now before it became too hard to do it right. How many innocent lives were going to be ruined before the right thing was done?
He kept stewing about the injustices that had been heaped on him since he accepted the task of coming here to see what was going on. Sure enough. They were training up an army. Just as he had been told.
He didn’t even see Sergeant Hackitt talking on the intercom until that idiot turned and told them to get ready. One of the students was entering an unauthorized area and they were to go stake the area out and bring her and some other bigwig back for questioning.
Quickly gathering their gear, they rushed off into the nearby forest and took up positions to intercept anyone trying to come back their way. They had to spread out to cover the likely paths. It was then he learned that one of the targets was none other than the mutie who had gotten him into this mess.
Another idea occurred to him. If he moved forward and bumped into them before the others, who was to say that he didn’t shoot them by accident? Or they attacked him and he defended himself. He had combat experience and they wouldn’t have a chance against someone who knew what they were doing and didn’t rely on special powers to see them through. His leaders would understand if it got him fired. After all, that Lodgeman was high on their list of ones to be removed ASAP. He’d be a hero if he could do that. And it would teach them to not treat him this way.
Checking the others, he carefully moved forward. Unknown to him, there was a tracker attached to his rifle so that the older members of the squad could keep tabs on the new guy.
Gary Trews was just going through the motions. Another two years of this and he could retire. He had to admit that the benefits here were good, and the benefits of working with Sergeant Buxton were even better. Just keep his nose clean another two years and he would have it all, and the freedom only large amounts of money could get you. Tonight he had been assigned to the new guy. You never knew when someone was going to try and put a mole in and the only way to make sure was to watch the new ones carefully until you could be sure of them. Catching one had its own special rewards too. So, even though he wasn’t too keen on the job just now. The possibility of catching Johnson doing something stupid helped keep him awake.
As soon as Johnson started to move, Trews contacted Hackitt and let him know. His new orders had him tracking Johnson from a safe distance. When a mist arose to block even his assisted eyesight he stopped and relied on the tracker to follow Johnson’s movements. Without any more than a remote tracker to follow him, Johnson headed into the dark woods.
Johnson was starting to get a little nervous. At first, the brush resisted him and almost seemed to push him back. Then, as if by a miracle, it opened up and allowed him to move easily through the darkened paths between the huge trees. The lumber here must be worth a fortune. He wondered why it wasn’t being cut. Then he saw the light and headed towards it. There was an area under a huge tree, and sitting and talking were his two targets. He figured that he would shoot the guy first. He would be the most dangerous, and then finish off the panicking girl at leisure.
He had just started to take a bead on the guy when his rifle was jerked from his hands. Looking up he could see into the seething eyes of a troll like monster. A cross between a deer and a tree. It looked down on him with an ancient hate that buried his heart in tons of old moldy earth and froze his bones. His rifle thudded to the ground next to him and he prepared to scream his heart out. Before he could, a fist like a boulder struck him on his left temple and the lights flashed and went out. He didn’t see the fingers like great spikes raised to be driven through his unconscious body. He didn’t see the head raise up towards the light only a short distance away, and the regretful retreat that followed that. Nor did he hear the sigh of frustrated anger fade away as he was lifted up and placed where his squadmates would find him and remove his stained and beaten form from the edge of the woods.
Many people would remember his screams when he did wake up though. For a very long time.
BACK AT SECURITY: September 25th
Buxton had acquired a large and colorful vocabulary in his life and he used a lot of it now. If it wasn’t one thing it was another.
After he managed to settle down a little, he asked Hackitt for details. All he could learn was that Hackitt had been making rounds to make sure that his men were on their toes and found that Johnson was missing and that it was likely that he had moved into the forest. Hackitt didn’t think that he had gone anywhere else because the tracer that he had on him wasn’t signaling and it was pretty well known that this area had that effect on such devices. The previous two rhat they had been following had disappeared in the same area.
Buxton cursed some more. He was always careful to learn as much about anyone working under him as possible, and he knew more about Johnson than the man would have believed possible. He knew where Johnson’s loyalties really lay. Buxton swore to himself that if Johnson survived this, he was never going to work anywhere near here again. He also knew a bit about this stretch of forest. You never knew when this kind of knowledge would come in handy.
“Keep your distance from the woods there and search the perimeter. If he’s alive, you’ll find him somewhere there.”
“About as sure as I can be. Let’s hope he’s alive. I want to kill him myself. Do you have any idea how much paperwork this is going to create? If you find him, get him to the hospital ASAP and let them know where he’s been. They’ll know how to handle it.”
“Roger. Starting our search. If we find anything we’ll let you know.”
“Do that. Mark?”
“Do another scan of the campus.”
“Just do it. I have a hunch...”
“What the... How do you do it!?”
“The first two that we tracked into Area Tango. They just appeared near Poe. Almost on top of the LT, Michaels, and Daniels.”
“Crap! What are they doing?”
“Nothing. Not even moving...”
The lieutenants voice crackled over the radio.
“I just caught two more who just appeared out of some mist here. I’m sure they are with the others who came earlier. I’m going to keep these two with me and get the ones who came in before. Send someone over to bring them in after we take them down.”
“Sir, sensors report these two are the ones who we were after for going into Area Tango.”
“Really? Well, that’s a bonus. We already have something to charge them with. I’ll get back to you after we have the others. Out.”
“But.... Damn! One of them is a Supervisor. If he screws this up he’s toast and all that work and money is going to waste! Get Michaels and Daniels and let them know that I’m going to take a real dim view of their situation if anything happens to that dork. Got it?”
“Yes sir? Anything else?”
“Yeah. Get another squad out there just in case he actually happens to catch someone. And then say your prayers. We’re going to need all the help we can get to pull this off.”
THE WHOLE GANG: Septembe 25th
“Hold it right there! Michaels, Daniels. Don’t let them move or say anything. If they try take em down with your shockers.”
I would have said more, but Mr. Lodgeman motioned me to stop and the two security people I assumed were Michaels and Daniels tensed and brought their rifles to bear on us.
“That’s right. Do what we tell you and you won’t get hurt. I’m Lt. Reynolds of security and you are under arrest. Now move ahead of us and don’t make any trouble or we’ll be forced to shoot.”
I was pretty sure that I had a good chance against them. If nothing else, I’d learned that I was a lot faster than I used to be. They probably wouldn’t expect that. But Mr. Lodgeman motioned me to go along and I decided to let him call the shots for now. He had a lot more experience than me in these things. Besides, he seemed to be expecting something to happen.
They marched us into Poe. Mrs Horton was there waiting and strangely enough, no one else was visible.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
“You can tell us where to find the four people who came in here a few minutes ago. We need to ask them some questions.”
“If they are the ones you are looking for, we have four visitors having a conference with some of our students in room 215. You should be aware that I approve of these visitors and have no reason to feel that they are any threat to the students or the school.”
“They are unregistered visitors who bypassed our normal procedures and I will determine if they can be considered a threat here. Lead the way to room 215.”
Not even a please or ma’am. Mrs. Horton was obviously offended, but held her thoughts to herself and lead the way to Nikki and Toni’s room.
When we got there, I could see that no one was in the room. But some conversation could be heard from the common area. Reynolds motioned for us to move ahead and indicated that we were to not say anything. As we moved closer I could start to make out more of what was being said. I thought it might be Mr. Tanaka.
“So that is all we can tell you right now. We will have to talk with Charlie before we can be more certain but we’re moderately certain that we are correct.”
Someone I thought was Toni replied.
“But, how are we going to check with Mr. Lodgeman? He ran off towards the forest and Billie went after him. Do you have any idea where he or she might be?”
“There is only one place Charlie is likely to go in that direction and one of us can go and get him if he doesn’t come back on his own soon. Billie will probably get tired of looking for him soon and come back on her own.”
“You don’t think Billie will find him?”
“It’s unlikely given the ability of this area we are speaking of to conceal itself and anyone in it. The area is recognized as restricted also and anyone trying to enter it is likely to be picked up by security if they try. Only ones like Charlie or us who have permission and clearance to go there are likely to get in. I imagine she will get tired of trying to find Charlie and dodging security quickly enough to return and have one of us go and get him.”
“Well, if that’s the case.... Hey! Billie! Your back, and you have Mr. Lodgeman with you. Were have you been?”
Everyone turned to look at us. The rest of Team Kimba was there and the Tanaka’s with Lisa and Nathan. With that many people, it was easy to see why they had moved to an area with more room.
“I found Mr. Lodge...”
“FREEZE! None of you make a move or we’ll open fire!”
The two with the rifles had stepped to either side of the entrance so as to be able to cover everyone in the room. Lt. Reynolds stood just inside the entrance with his hands on his hips.
“Nobody move or make a sound.”
Nathan and Lisa were sharing a couch with Mrs. Tanaka and Nikki. Toni and Mr. Tanaka were standing nearby and appeared to have been talking to each other and the group. Hank, Ayla, and Jade were sharing another couch, and Jinn was hovering near Jade. Everyone had turned to look at the entrance, but nobody was moving or talking at this time.
“Okay, I want to know what is going on here right now.”
After about fifteen seconds, Lt. Reynolds started to get a little red around his collar and face. Then he pointed at Mr. Tanaka.
“You! You seem to have some idea of what is going on. I want you to tell me, now. And no funny stuff. I haven’t got all evening.”
Mr. Tanaka raised an eyebrow. Then calmly asked the lieutenant for some clarification.
“Should we introduce ourselves, or do you want me to give you just a description of what we have been doing since we arrived?”
“Don’t try to be funny with me. Who are you and what are you doing here without proper authorization?”
“Why didn’t you say so? Very well. I am Eric Tanaka, my lovely wife Aimee is sitting over there with Miss Nikki Reilly and our two good friends Nathan and Lisa Felder. I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to get everyone else’s names for certain, but over on the other couch is a Miss Jade Sinclair and hovering near her is her double, Jinn.” Next to her are Mr. Hank Declan, Miss Ayla Goodkind, and standing with me here is a Miss Toni Chandler.”
“The two missing people we were just discussing before you came in are Mr. Charlie Lodgeman and Miss Billie Wilson, who by the way have just entered with you.”
“As for why we are here. It came to our attention that Charlie here might be in some distress and we immediately came to help. We didn’t know where Charlie was when we got here, so we were asking the nice young people who called us if they had any ideas. They informed us of the direction they had last seen Charlie going and that Billie here was in hot pursuit. We had not made any plans as yet for how we were going to proceed when you showed up.”
“We are all board members of the Mystic Corporation along with Charlie there and I believe that we have all the necessary clearances to be here under any circumstances that we deem necessary. As for the students, they belong here I believe. In this very cottage if I’m not mistaken.”
Lt. Reynolds looked confused for a moment, then he seemed to get his thoughts together.
“Uh... That may be so. I’ll have to confirm all of that before I can let you go. However, This one was observed entering a restricted area and I will have to take her in.”
With that, he reached out and took my arm with his left hand.
Mr. Lodgeman spoke up then.
“Sorry to interrupt Lieutenant, but I think you will find if you check closely in your more recent computer records, that Billie and the others here have all received clearance for the area in question.”
He and Nathan exchanged a nod as he said this. All during this, Lt. Reynolds was getting redder in the face. Mr. Tanaka spoke up again with a smile.
“As for anyone going anywhere with you. I don’t believe that you have the authority under these circumstances to insist that any of us here go with you. Indeed, it is on our sufferance that we are allowing you to interrupt us now. Please feel free to leave immediately.”
Lt. Reynolds stood there for a moment with an incredulous look on his face. Then it screwed into a snarl of anger and he snatched his pistol from its holster. He didn’t see the look of mischief that crossed Lisa’s face as he did so, but I was in a position to see it and the small smile that followed it.
“I don’t care what authority you say you have. I don’t have a way of authenticating that right now. But I do have the authority of this...Banana!?!”
Instead of his pistol, he was holding a ripe banana, very much like he was going to try and threaten someone with it. The look on his face was priceless. Then the banana’s peel started to roll back and soon the Lieutenant was left holding a banana peel while the banana itself hovered in the air.
The rest of his comment was cut off as the banana launched itself straight into his mouth.
THWIP, THWIP, THWIP!
A slip of white paper, about two inches by six inches and with some sort of oriental writing on it appeared on each security guards face, attached to the forehead somehow. Also, in movements almost too swift to follow, Mr Lodgeman moved next to the Lieutenant and Mrs. Tanaka and Nathan did the same respectively with the other two security people. Lisa simply smiled as she sat on the couch and Mr. Tanaka held one hand in front of his face almost like he was saying a prayer. He was muttering something I couldn’t quite hear, though there was a strange feeling to the sound.
All three security people were frozen in place. Not moving, blinking, or breathing.
Mr. Tanaka stopped muttering. Mr. Lodgeman turned to him.
“How long is this going to last, Eric?”
“About five minutes. That should be plenty of time.”
“We should get going then.”
They were obviously getting ready to take off when I decided it was my turn to say something.
They turned to me and Mr. T spoke the question that was on their minds.
“What is it Billie?”
“I think Mr. Lodgeman owes Nikki an explanation and apology before you go.”
They all turned to him and he blushed a little.
“You’re quite right Billie. I... Ah, almost forgot in the excitement.”
He turned to Nikki, Who had watched the whole thing without moving from her place on the couch. She was staring at Mr. Lodgeman and for a moment I thought she was going to reach out to him. The look on her face was kind of odd, but I chalked that up to the shock and weirdness of what had been happening.
“Miss Reilly. I’m terribly sorry to have caused you any inconvenience or pain by my thoughtless actions earlier. As your good friend went through so much difficulty and risk to tell me, I really shouldn’t have run off like that. Especially without explaining at least.”
“I.. Well... It’s just that..You look very much like my wife who passed on a few years ago, and.. And it was just such a shock seeing you that I’m afraid that I acted badly and ran off. Please accept my apologies and I hope to be able to discuss this and other things at our leisure later, but I really must go now. I hope you understand and can forgive me.”
Nikki just nodded and it looked for a moment that she was going to say something. But the words apparently wouldn’t come and the moment passed. Mr. Lodgeman turned back to me.
“We really need to leave now. I’ll talk to you all later. And don’t worry about them. This will all be taken care of soon.”
They all smiled and waved as they stood around Lisa. Then they weren’t there.
The others turned to me and Toni spoke up.
“What was that all about? And where were you and Mr. Lodgeman?”
“Uh, It’s kind of like he said. He saw Nikki who apparently looks a lot like his wife used to and ran away. I followed him to this place in the woods that way called the Grove. When I got there, we talked a little and then came back here. That’s when Captain Peanuts here jumped us and dragged us in to confront all you dangerous types in the middle of your nefarious plots. By the way, what were you guys doing while I was gone?”
I was a little disoriented myself. I’d thought I was gone a lot longer than it looked like I had been.
“Well, let’s see. You ran out with Ayla and Hank. Nikki here was in some kind of shock and kept muttering something about knowing the guy who just left. I figure it was because you are always talking about him. She snapped out of it just about the time Hank and Ayla got back and told us that you had told them to get Jade here to call the Tanakas. We called them at the number you have in your room and they told us to wait for them.”
“About three minutes after that they come walking right in and after staring at Nikki for a moment start questioning us about what happened. Course, it was pretty crowded in there, so we moved into here and Mrs. Horton chased everyone out except us. We finally got around to deciding that they knew where Mr. Lodgeman was going and that you probably wouldn’t find him there when you and he just waltz right in with the county mounties on your tail. You were here for the rest.”
I’d thought I was gone a lot longer than that, but maybe that had something to do with what Mr. Lodgeman had been talking about when he mentioned that we would get back in time.
I turned to Nikki now. She seemed kind of pale and unusually quiet. So I sat down next to her.
She nodded, but didn’t seem particularly happy. I took her hand and felt a small shock. It seems she didn’t have full control of her energies yet.
“Uh, I realize that this isn’t the best time, but do you think we could talk privately sometime soon. There are some questions I need to ask your opinion on and I really don’t want to have to share them with half the world, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah. I have a few for you too. But where could we talk?”
“I spotted a good spot out towards the Grove that should work well. You don’t have any problems with hiking a little ways in the woods do you.?”
She brightened up a little.
“That sounds a lot like just what I might need. Tomorrow afternoon be okay?”
“Sure. I can meet you after the last class. Meet at your room and go from there?”
“Sounds good to me. I...”
Just then, there was a, ‘Piffft!’, and the pieces of paper on the security mens heads vanished in a puff of smoke.
“Ack! Hack! Cough!... What the hell just happened!?”
The banana and all evidence of its existence had disappeared with the paper that had stuck itself to his forehead. But his reflexive actions carried on after the stasis faded out. Then he realized that the situation had changed considerably, and that many of his prisoners were missing. Toni was still standing and he directed his questions to her.
“Where are they? And what just happened? Speak up now and we’ll be lenient.”
“Lenient!? What do you mean by that? We haven’t done anything!”
“Your obviously in league with those other trespassers and if you don’t want to be taken in and charged as accomplices you’ll tell us where they went.”
“I have no idea where they went and if I did I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”
“You are leaving me no choice. We’ll have to...”
“THAT... WILL... BE... QUITE... ENOUGH!”
It was as if suddenly Mrs. Horton had appeared, and was towering over all of us. Lt. Reynold shut up as if a switch had been thrown and just left his jaw hanging.
“No one is going anywhere except you. And I will thank you not to darken my doorstep again without a very good reason. You are far too disruptive to be allowed in here again. Leave now.”
“But... But.. What about the trespassing, the illegal entry into restricted areas, the loss of my pistol!?”
“There has been no trespassing because everyone who was here is allowed to be here or belongs here. As stated by Mr. Lodgeman, you must be in error about the illegal entry into restricted areas, and if I’m not mistaken, your pistol is in its holster where it should be. NOW GET OUT OF MY COTTAGE BEFORE I CALL SECURITY AND HAVE YOU THROWN OUT!!!”
At that, Lt. Reynolds and the two men with him spun and fled at speed for the stairs and the door.
She then turned to us.
“As for the rest of you. Lights out at ten o’clock, no exceptions.”
Then, as she turned away, I saw what could only be described as a small smile on her face as I heard her mutter.
“A banana eh? I’ll HAVE to put that one in the log.”
We were all silent for a few seconds. Then Jade giggled and we weren’t coherent for several minutes after that.
Eventually, we moved back to our respective rooms to do what study we could. Interrupted only occasionally by some giggles when ever the word banana came up.
FAR, FAR, AWAY: September 25th
Lisa took them all to Colorado first. Then she and Nathan disappeared again. Mrs. Tanaka headed to the kitchen to prepare a meal and Eric and Charlie sat down to discuss what had just happened. Charlie spoke first.
“I haven’t had a chance to thank you all for coming out to help me.”
“You know you can count on us to help you whenever you need it.”
“Yeah, and even some times when I don’t.”
“C’mon Charlie. We’ve had good reason to be worried and you know it. Things were just happening too fast and we had no idea just how well you could handle something like that.”
“I know I’ve given you guys some reasons to worry, but you should know me better than that by now.”
“I have to admit that you handled that a lot better than I thought you would. That Nikki kid was a shock, even for us. I have a hard time imaging what it must have been like for you.”
“It was... Not nice. In fact, I’m not sure I’m out of shock yet for all that it’s passed now. She looks so much like her. I almost started to believe in miracles there for a moment.”
“I know what you mean. There’s something special about that one. I’ve got a feeling that we need to follow up on this too. There’s something big going down. I can just feel it. And I’m pretty sure that it is connected to that girl in some fashion.”
“What about Billie? She seemed to be doing well, even with all that has been going on around her. I wish I could get a better grasp on her thoughts, but ever since I showed her how to damp down her projections a bit, it’s almost impossible to get a grip on what she is thinking.”
“There’s a lot more to her than you are thinking.”
“In what way?”
“She’s a lot more like us than you lead me to believe.’
“I’m still not convinced that it is the same. And until I can get more evidence, I’m not going to project much more into that equation.”
“It goes beyond that. I’m getting more convinced by the minute that she’s an avatar.”
“What!? I haven’t seen anything to make me believe that.”
“Really? What about her growing abilities? The rapid changes in her? The fact that the Grove tried to stop her and she came and got me anyway.”
“She got to the Grove? We had assumed that she found you on your way back. Do you mean to tell me she found a way past the Grove’s defenses and a way to find you there?”
“Not exactly. She found the Grove and convinced it to show her how to get to me.”
“That’s hard to believe. It takes major persuasion to get anywhere with that old stick in the mud botanical nightmare. It’s so old that walking by it ages you prematurely.”
“I know, but from what it told me, she’s got something to do with the Star Stalker.”
“Star Stalker? What’s that?”
“I was hoping you might know. Whatever it is, it’s really old. I got the impression that the Grove knows a little about it but that knowledge is from way back when and that it was probably before the Schism. And that it may not be connected with the Earth either.”
“Maybe, but not like some that we know about. And I got no impression of the Darkness. Only old and dangerous. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the Grove has a level of respect for what it thinks she can do.”
“Like it allowed her to be there, not because it thought she should be there, but because it respected her enough not to press the issue?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“I knew she was strong, but that adds a whole new level to it. Do you think she knows?”
“No. But she must be getting some kind of feedback from it by now. It can only be a matter of time before the barriers go down and it becomes obvious to her.”
“Some thing to think about anyway. And prepare for. What about this Nikki?”
“It’s pretty certain about her, being a fairy mage type. But I’m not yet certain about which one she is.”
“You don’t think....?”
“I don’t know what to think about that, and I for one am going to have to hold back a little there. I may be handling it now, but that was a close thing all the same.”
“Are you going to be okay?”
“As okay as I’m ever likely to be about that. Given the time that has passed, I’m going to just have to muddle through.”
“That’s all we can do for now then. I’ll do some research on the Star Stalker thing and see what we come up with. But if it is as old as you say, we’re not likely to get much in the way of reliable information.”
“Yeah. Anything else I should know about?”
The talk turned to other projects.
THE DARK FORESTS OF TIME: September 26th Tuesday
That morning, Jinn was back, but Jade was sure that this one wasn’t Jinn, but someone called Jann. We all discussed it over breakfast, but couldn’t come to any conclusions other than we just didn’t know for sure. Even Nikki was a bit confused. I was hoping to discuss it some more with her later.
It had seemed the simplest way to get some privacy. Head off into the woods and find a place to discuss things without interruptions and eavesdroppers. But that strange geek just wouldn’t give up.
“Alright Nikki. What did you call this guy? And why does he seem to feel that you and he have something going?””
“He calls himself Stalwart and I have no idea what gave him the idea I would have anything to do with him. I even put a foot in his face and zapped him a bit, but he just won’t quit. It’s really kind of embarrassing. And I can’t do much more without hurting him. Not a good idea with him being known as some kind of hero type and all.”
Speak of the devil and there he was. A ways down our trail we could hear him calling and slowly moving closer.
“Princess! Oh my Princess! Do not despair! I will find you and release you from the clutches of this terrible wilderness! Not all the demons of the underworld or endless stretches of primitive purgatory will prevent our joining and our love from blossoming!
Nikki got a strange look on her face and for a moment I thought she was going to puke.
“We’ve got to get away from this guy or I’m going to lose it and spend the rest of my life running from the law.”
“Do you think they would convict you if I testified that it was completely justified?”
“Probably. Just on general principles if nothing else. You aren’t supposed to solve your problems that way you know.”
“Oh? And what do you mean by that?”
“C’mon Billie. You know as well as I do that some of the time you are this far from stepping over some very important lines. And don’t give me the innocent little girl routine either. I was talking to Hipp the other day and she thought you were really going to kill someone the other day when Toni was hurt. And I don’t think she was joking either.”
“You know I’m telling you the truth. What is happening to you? You didn’t used to be like that.”
“I... I...d..don’t know. Really Nikki. It’s just that all of a sudden I feel like I could. It’s like my dreams. I could just kill them and get about what I should be doing. I really wish I knew why myself.”
“We need to do something about it soon. It’s getting kind of creepy at times.”
“Am... Am I that scary?”
“Sometimes. You’ve got to admit that sometimes you seem very serious about it.”
“But I don’t mean it. At least I don’t think I do.”
“Could fool even me sometimes.”
Just then, the sounds of our pursuer seemed to be getting closer.
“How does he do that? Every time I think he might move far enough away for us to make a break back to the school, He just cuts us off. Does he have some kind of tracking power, Nikki?”
“How should I know? I want to know as little about him as possible. Do you have any more ideas for losing him?”
“I don’t know.... Wait! I bet if we could cut through the Grove, we could lose him for good.”
“You can find the Grove? I thought Mr. Lodgeman said that it wouldn’t be a good idea for you to return there so soon?”
“Well, this is kind of an emergency, and it’s not so much that I know where the Grove is as much as I know where it doesn’t want me to be, If you get what I mean.”
“Whenever I get to close to the Grove, it tries to push me away, and I can find that.”
“You mean that when the Grove tries to keep you away, it only gives away its position.”
“It’s kind of like being blind folded. And some one who doesn’t want you to know where they are keeps trying to push you away. It gives away their position.”
“I see. And we’re that close?”
“Yep. I can feel it now. This way.”
BACK AT SCHOOL: September 26th
Sargent Buxton was watching the dejected figure of his new officer through the glass of the cubical. Lt. Reynolds had gotten quite the chewing out by Chief Delarose. It seemed that last night he had managed to piss of some of the biggest shakers, movers, and contributors to the school. And then to make matters worse, it was discovered that there must have been some kind of glitch in the computer.
Billie Wilson, who was believed to not have the authority to enter the Restricted Area Tango was found to have had that authority. The information had apparently just not been downloaded to the security computers as of the time of the fiasco. Lt. Reynolds was going to be paying for that mistake for a while, and if the rumors were true, he was going to have a hard time living down what had happened there too.
The alarms suddenly went off again. This time, much to Sargeant Buxton’s amusement, it took the Lieutenant several moments to get up the nerve to come out and see why. Buxton moved up to check what was happening.
“What is it today Mark?”
“There’s someone out by Area Tango again. That Wilson girl, a Nikki Reilly, and another kid, Paul Cambridge. We now know that the Wilson girl is okay. I’m not yet sure about the other two though.”
The Sergeant turned to the Lieutenant who was watching from the door of his cubicle.
“Is it that Wilson kid again?”
“Yes sir. What do you want us to do?”
“Turn off the alarms and forget it happened.”
The Lieutenant then turned and ducked back into his cubicle.
“You heard the man Mark. Turn them off and ignore it.”
“You sure about this Sergeant?”
“No. But we have our orders. Just do it.”
“Sure thing Sarge.”
“Keep an eye on it just in case, okay?”
“Yes sir. Roger that.”
Sergeant Buxton returned to his desk, wondering how he was going to get the Lieutenant properly motivated again. It wouldn’t do for him to lose all his gung ho attitude. Just enough to keep him out of trouble in the future. Maybe he could arrange for the Lieutenant to catch someone trying to sneak some beer onto the campus or something. Plots started to form in his mind even as he went back to doing the paperwork that needed his attention.
GREETINGS FROM THE PAST: September 26th
Billie just kept pushing towards the resistance that she could feel radiating from some point ahead of her. The brush here seemed to keep getting thicker and thornier.
“How are you doing Nikki? This is getting kind of thick here isn’t it?”
I looked over towards her and then realized that she didn’t seem to be having any problems at all. In fact, all the plants seemed to be moving out of her way as she moved forward. She had an odd look on her face, as if she was listening to something in the distance.
“Mind sharing some of that plant repellent with me?”
She slowly focused on me and the difficulties that I was having.
“What are you doing off the trail, Billie?”
“There’s a trail?”
“Yeah. Right this way. You know, I can feel something ahead of us. I think it’s where we’re headed. I wonder why I couldn’t feel it before? It’s really pretty clear now.”
“Hold on for a minute then and I’ll join you over there.”
I worked my way towards her, but as I got closer she suddenly got that listening look on her face again.
“There’s someone calling me up ahead. I’ll just move a little way down the trail and see if I can spot them.”
“Nikki! Hold on for a minute and I’ll come with you.”
“Don’t worry Billie. I’m just going a little ways. You can just follow the trail. I won’t go far.”
“Nikki! Hold up a minute!”
But she was already disappearing into the brush, which seemed to be parting as she moved forward and closing in tight behind her. I called after her a few more times but got no answer. She was out of sight now, but I had a pretty good idea of where she was headed. And the increasing resistence of the plant life was a good guide too. I kept pressing forward until I found my feet tied up by some vines. If I hadn’t been able to fly, I’d have ended up flat on my face.
“That’s it! No more Miss Nice Guy! GET OUT OF MY WAY!”
With that I formed a sword and proceeded to make my own path. It only took about a minute and I suddenly burst out into the open area under the huge tree again. Strangely, it was lit the same way as it had been during the night. Like very bright moonlight. Nikki was standing there talking to the Troll Tree. They turned to me as I burst through the brush and into their presence.
“Nikki! Are you okay?”
The guardian answered first.
“Oh, It’s you again. Must you always be breaking in where you are not wanted?”
Nikki wasn’t far behind.
“Billie! What are you doing!? You can’t come bursting in like that. Someone could get hurt!”
“Someone IS going to get hurt if you don’t convince me real fast that you aren’t trying to hurt my friend!”
“None here would think to hurt the Queen of the West. You insult us with your accusations! You are not welcome here. Why can’t you stay away?”
“I’ll stay away if and when I’m sure that someone I care about isn’t in any danger Treebeard. Trying to separate us like that, doesn’t help my confidence in your intentions any either.”
The tension between the two of us was getting pretty thick, when Nikki lit up and stood between us.
“That will be quite enough from both of you! Billie! Behave yourself! I’m in no danger here so you can put that sword away and settle down. And as for you, I expect my friends to receive better treatment than this. There is no reason for us to be fighting.”
“Thou art friends with this? Dost thou even know what she is?”
“Hey! Those are fight’n words buster.”
“Billie! Down girl! I’ll handle this. Now go over there while I talk to our neighbor here and find out what’s going on.”
“As for you. Where do you get off telling me who I can have as a friend?”
"We would not dare tell you who should or should not be your friends." The Tree Troll answered carefully, then added as it gave me a woody glare from the knotholes it used for eyes. "But that one is dangerous, extremely dangerous, Milady Queen. Entire civilizations have fallen because of her. We only fear for your safety in her presence."
"I'm working on that temper with her, and she's my friend." Nikki tartly answered. "I am in no danger from her. In fact, she saved my cute little butt not too long ago, so let's not have any fireworks here on my account. And that goes for you too, Billie! No one in this place is going to try and hurt me."
I let out a long sigh, and nodded. Something about Nikki made a person really sure that when she made a pronouncement like the one she just had, that she fully expected it to be honored. Also, with firsthand experience at just how intransigent she could get about things, even in the short time I'd know her, and the results when people -- or whatever -- pissed her off, I wasn't about test those already churning waters with her.
"Ok." Nikki gave a sharp little nod, then returned her attention to the Tree Troll, giving it an expectant look.
"We will honor your wishes, My Queen." It said with a leafy sigh of it's own.
"Good. Now that we have that straightened out..." Nikki tilted her head as if listening, then grumbled. "I don't believe this! Stalwart is still trying to find me. Even in here!"
"We could easily eliminate this clumsy Human if he is annoying you, My Queen." The Tree Troll offered almost gleefully.
"You could?" Nikki's face got a thoughtful look, complete with that little pout that showed she was considering something important to her, then shook her head. "No, as annoying as he is, he's only trying to protect me in his own demented way. Could you just let him know that I'm communing with the powerful spirits of the wood, and that disturbing us would be a bad thing? Don't hurt him, just get him to leave the woods?"
"Done." The Tree Troll responded after a few moments of silence. "The interloper is satisfied that you are well, and has turned away from here."
"Good." Nikki smiled, then asked. "And what's with all this 'My Queen', and "Queen of The West' stuff?"
"It is who, and what you are, My Queen." The Tree Troll answered with what passed for a shrug of it's woody shoulders. “In times past you, and your sister defended the forests, and the land does not forget. You contested with Dragons, Giants, and The Great Old Ones to keep the trees safe."
"I didn't do all that!" Nikki protested.
“That which is in thee did, and is part of thee." The Tree Troll said quietly. "While ruling a great Kingdom."
"This Queen thing is getting old really fast." Nikki muttered, then suddenly sat down while pointing at the Tree Troll without the least hint of fear or awe. "We are going to be having a long talk about this."
"The spirits of The Grove are always at your service, My Queen."
I really backed off at that point. Nikki was in a mood and obviously didn’t need my help for the moment. I moved far enough away so I couldn’t be accused of eavesdropping and looked around a little. I still wasn’t willing to drop my guard yet. It had became very obvious that Nikki and the guardian were going to be talking for a while and I started to get bored. Then I saw a flash of white off to one side of the tree’s roots.
The two didn’t seem to notice anything so I decided to check this out myself. Leaving their conversation behind, I approached the base of the tree. I caught another glimpse of something white moving around it and decided to follow.
When I got around the tree I came to a small spring fed pool and next to it stood an oriental girl, about my height and build who had pure white hair and startling emerald green eyes. She was facing me and bowed as I approached. Her voice formed in my mind as I returned the bow.
“Greetings Lady Avenger. I had heard that thou wast near and had to come and see for myself that thou was indeed here on this world.”
“Uh, I think you my have a case of mistaken identity. I don’t know anyone around here by that name. My name is Billie Wilson, some people call me Tennyo. Maybe you were thinking of someone else on the campus.”
“I am not mistaken. Thou art as described in all the old legends. As seer for the Clan Corendel it came to my attention that thou had indeed returned from thy exile again. Our clan owes you a great debt of honor and we may finally have a chance to repay you. My name is Kitsunee.”
“Nobody owes me anything. I’m sure you’re mistaken. I’ll help you find the one your looking for if you want me to though.”
“That will not be necessary. I have found the one I seek. But, I may not stay here long. Please come sit by me here.”
She indicated a place next to the small pool, and on a rock near the edge was a small golden cup. She knelt down next to it and used the cup to scoop some water from the pool. Holding it in both hands, she stood and bowed in four different directions, mumbled something and drank from the cup. She closed her eyes for a moment, then looked at me and handed me the cup.
“Please. Do me the honor of sharing this cup with me. Take it, fill it in the pool, address the four cardinal points, and say a prayer of well being. This will help insure good luck in our future.”
I couldn’t see any harm in it and wanted to ask some more questions too. So I did as she said and then drank from the cup. There was a strange taste to the water and in a moment, I felt a disorientation come over me. I was afraid that somehow she had poisoned me. I turned to her and heard her say as the disorientation increased.
“We will meet again, Great Lady, but now our time is short. I wish thee good dreams. Until we meet again.”
A strange sense of lassitude came over me even as I felt panic trying to take hold of me again. When was I going to learn about accepting food and the like from people who might not wish me any good?
As my sight faded, I thought that she turned into a white fox with green eyes and then she vanished, along with everything else.
THE DREAMS OF WHICH WE ARE MADE: September 26th
The plan had gone off without a hitch except for one problem. Gorath had taken his part of the fleet off to pursue a rumored treasure on the planet below. He had wasted valuable resources and endangered the rest of the plan by weakening the flank he was supposed to be watching. Fortunately, the defenders hadn’t taken advantage of this lapse and the defending forces soon surrendered to my superior position and numbers.
Even though our weapons were outdated compared to theirs. We still had them over a barrel with most of their defending forces out chasing decoys. Soon, in exchange for their lives and planet, they would supply my forces with their newer equipment and the next stage of my plan would unfold. I could then pursue my real target. At least I could have if Gorath had obeyed my orders. It was time I did something about his constant attempts to usurp more control of this fleet.
“Navigator. Where is Commander Gorath now?”
“Lady. He is in the process of trying to open the vaults where he believes the treasure he pursues lies hidden. The defenders fought much more determinedly than expected. Indeed, if we hadn’t kept the others on the planet busy, I’m moderately sure that he would have lost.”
“This does not surprise me. Indeed, I believe he planned this from the moment he knew what the basic plan was. Where is his command ship?”
“It has landed near a fortress that put up more of a fight than the others. It is believed to be the center of the local resistence and the vaults under it seem like a good area to hide away what he is looking for.”
“He is a fool and has wasted resources on a fools errand. They are obviously not protecting what he is seeking. They would not be protecting it so desperately. Connect me with the command ship.”
“Yes Lady. Connecting now. Prepare for communication with fleet commander.”
The large communication screen lit up and the face of a com tech filled the screen. Behind him could be seen the activities common to a battleship control room. The tech replied in an insolent fashion.
“Yes command, we are receiving your transmission. Please be brief, we are very busy here.”
“Where is Commander Gorath?”
There was some confusion on the other side and then another scale covered face filled the screen.
“Lady. I am Sub-Commander Slicter. I’m afraid that Commander Gorath is out directing the opening of the vaults at this time. Is there a message I can deliver to him?”
“That would not be a good idea Sub-Commander. This message I will be delivering will have to be delivered by myself.”
“But... It will take some time for you to land on this planet. Wouldn’t it be better to wait for us to return to orbit?”
“Commander Gorath has wasted enough of my time and important resources in his pursuit of his own agenda. The overall plan and goals of this expedition are in jeopardy because of his actions. I will have an answer now as to why he feels justified in doing this.”
“I’m afraid that he will not be available for at least a few more hours. Shall I have him contact you as soon as he is available?”
“That will not be necessary. Simply direct me to where he is located now.”
The Sub-Commander spun around in shock as the control room went silent and still as the appearance of the Fleet Commander in their midst sank in.
“F.. Fleet C.. Commander! How!?”
“That is not important. Where is Commander Gorath?”
“But...Uh... He is with the men trying to open the vaults.”
“Another waste of resources and time. Is the site of this folly under observation?”
“Th..the field monitors are tuned to the operations on the ground.” He pointed to a bank of monitors. “But it would only take about fifteen minutes to reach the site from here. If you wish, I will summon some transportation...”
The appearance of the Fleet Commander at in the middle of the death and devastation that characterized a hand to hand combat site actually went unnoticed for a few moments. The wreckage and scattered bodies and parts of them littered the area. A large group of soldiers was gathered around a large armored door that showed the scars of the fierce combat and the deeper scars of the cutting lasers that were attempting to cut through the reinforced barriers.
Standing shoulders and head above even the largest of these soldiers was the imposing four armed figure of Commander Farrath Gorath. War Leader of the largest fleet segment under the Fleet Commanders’ rag tag fleet.
He had questioned every decision of hers and made it clear that he only did what he felt would gain him what he wanted. He was known to have said that the Fleet Commander would serve under him soon in any case. Decked out in his heavy power armor and armed with the largest and most powerful weapons his huge and strong frame could carry, few attempted to counter his designs, and those who had no longer stood in his way. He had lead the final assault that finally broke the defenders of this place. He had personally killed the Leader of these people with his armor reinforced hands.
The Fleet Commander approached without being noticed in all the confusion. Even as she stepped over some of the carnage and the mangled bodies she could see Gorath put one of his hands to the communication link of his helmet. His loud voice rose even over the confusion around him.
“What is that! She’s here? How? Well get moving and get the defenses primed. It’s probably some trick and she will try to use the fleet to take us. There is no way she could challenge me and hope to win. The others won’t support her if she tries to take me out any other way. Mark my words, today marks the day when everything changes for us. I’ll finally teach that jumped up whore who is the leader around here. And if she pleases me enough I might even let her live!”
His raucous laugh was interrupted by the spreading silence generated by the realization of many there that the object of his derision was standing a short distance away. As his laughter faded away, everyone else became aware of the unwanted intrusion.
“Gorath. Explain yourself.”
“My feelings about you and your leadership are well known little girl. I see no reason to risk the collection of any great treasure simply to keep you happy in your pursuit of the punishment of the Huran Emirate. You promised treasure and now I am collecting some of my share.”
“My happiness and feelings are not an issue here. You have seriously risked the successful completion of my goal with your intransigence and failure to follow orders. There will be plenty of treasure for all when the task is complete. Not before. Also, the weapons we need have now been expended in their attempts to fight us and our own reserves have been drained in the fight.”
“So? What is your point? I have to agree that your agreement with these planet slime allowed us to get closer and spring a surprise on them. But that is the end of its usefulness. We will get more weapons elsewhere. After we get the treasure.”
“We need the weapons and supplies we were going to get here, and the people of this world had already agreed to let us liberate their better weapons from them in return for the promise not to attack their world from our superior position. Your attack here has forced us to waste precious resources suppressing their defenses and wasting our armament and theirs at the same time. We will now have to go somewhere else to get the necessary weapons. The time wasted here and in the collection of more weapons will allow the Emirate a chance to better prepare themselves and possibly counter our attack plans. This is unacceptable. If you have no better reason for what you have done, I must insist that you turn command over to someone who will better be able to follow my directions.”
“Ha! You little bitch. Are you challenging me? Finally I can put an end to this farce. Submit to my command and I may let you live.”
The gathering soldiers quickly scattered for cover as the two antagonists moved into position. Since the Fleet Commander refused to speak to him anymore, he decided to end the face-off quickly. Leveling a pulse rifle that would normally have to be mounted on a vehicle to be used, he fired a rapid series of blasts at the unarmored figure in front of him.
The blasts were straight and accurate, until they reached the now outstretched hand of the Fleet Commander. Then they arced around and blasted several more holes in the vicinity around the combatants.
The surprise on the Commanders face was evident on the faces of all those watching from cover.
“More wasted ammunition. You leave me no choice.”
There was a bright flash of light from the extended hand. Another bright flash from the thorax of the Commander, and his surprised faced body toppled to the ground. A smoking hole in the center of his chest.
An even more startled Sub-Commander looked as if he was about to faint as he realized he was facing the Fleet Commander once again. The nearly casual killing of the strongest warrior he had known had shaken him to the core.
“Are you ready to take command of this portion of the fleet?”
“Then do so. I want your units loaded as soon as possible. Collect whatever workable weaponry can be loaded in a short period of time. We must prepare quickly to be able to catch the Emirate off guard. I must find another source of weapons for us. I will be disappointed if you are not ready quickly. We have wasted too much time as it is.”
“Yes M’lady. It will be as you command.”
“See that it is so. Carry on.”
Her crew in the command ship were getting used to her popping in and out. They had also expected her return after her summary challenge and execution of Gorath.
“Monitor the fleet and see to it that they are complying with my orders to leave soon. Notify me of any changes. And have a meal sent to my cabin.”
“Aye Lady. Initial reports show that Commander Gora.... Slicter’s fleet has broken off attempting to open the vaults and is in the process of picking up and leaving the planet surface.”
“Good. See to it that all commanders are notified of the change of commands, and also see to it that they collect as many weapons and ammo as possible in the time remaining before we break orbit. I will have coordinates before that time arrives.”
I was back into my stateroom in an instant. I stood before my mirror and looked to see if any gore or other unpleasant things had adhered to my uniform. I might have to change before I returned to the command center with the new jump coordinates, but for now I seemed to remain presentable.
Then I seemed to hear a strange voice, calling a strange name. The stateroom faded away, and the voice grew louder. Also I felt as if I was being shaken.
BACK IN THE GROVE: September 26th
“Billie!... Billie!... BILLIE!... Wake up! What’s happened to her? Why doesn’t she wake up?”
“It is the Waters of Memory. They can be dangerous for mortals and immortals alike. Though it is odd that she knew the ceremony to use them. Without the ceremony, they can be deadly.”
“You mean she could have been hurt?”
“When dealing with such forces it is always a possibility.”
“And you let this happen?”
“I was unaware that this was happening until the power was invoked. It can be very dangerous for those who are not familiar with the dangers here to wander off by themselves.”
The voices were strange. The one closest to me seemed concerned about someone named Billie. The other seemed disinterested. I decided to open my eyes. I was in a strange place. The light was unusual. My head and shoulders were being held off the ground by a very beautiful girl. Close enough to be the one concerned about me. The other voice must be coming from the strange tree like being. The girl turned to me and noticed that my eyes were open.
“Billie! You’re awake! What happened?”
Billie? Why did she call me that? And I was feeling so strange. I did not know how to describe what I was feeling. Pain, cold, hot, it just didn’t fit. And it was in me. Not outside. What was happening? I said the first thing that came to mind after that.
“The ship. Where is the ship?”
“Ship? What ship?”
“Command Ship. I need to plan...”
But I didn’t need to plan. It had been close, but I had led my fleet to an outpost fortress and caught them by surprise. We came in so fast that they didn’t get a chance to fight, and gladly let us take their weapons in exchange for their lives. They were even better than the ones I had originally planned to use. The Emirate had wasted their opportunity and warnings and were even less prepared than I had originally thought they would be. They would be life times recovering from the blow to their purses and credibility. My task had been completed and they had come for me and put me in... a .a .. place I didn’t want to go.
Those strange sensations again. Pain? Almost but not the same. And inside me still. What could they be?”
“Command ship? Billie. What are you talking about?”
She turned to the tree like being.
“Do you know what she’s talking about?”
“The waters can release even the oldest memories, or in rare cases show something of the future. It is difficult to know where the memories come from.”
“Billie. What happened?”
Why did she still call me that? But she was concerned about me. Something in me wanted to tell her. I thought I could trust her. Trust? Feel? Something was wrong. But what?
“Gorath. He mutinied. Was ruining the plans I had to take the Emirates treasure. Killed several defenders on the planet after they surrendered. Started the whole fight over again. Challenged my authority. Didn’t know much about me. Thought he could take me. Killed him. Got control of the fleet again.”
Those strange sensations were getting worse. The strange girl seemed somewhat startled by the information that I had just given her. The strange tree like being had a different reaction. I got the impression that it knew more about what I was talking about than the girl.
“You killed someone!?”
“Well done! Very well done. You deserve your reputation.”
“Billie! Talk to me! You killed someone named Gorath? On a ship? Where, when. You never said anything about that before.”
I was getting disoriented again. And those sensations were getting much worse.
“Stand up. Must get up.”
“Hold on Billie. I’m not so sure that would be a good idea...”
I struggled to my hands and knees. Those sensations were getting even worse. Like I was going to explode any moment. Then I saw the reflection in the pool next to me. I could see the girl, the tree being ,and.... Me.
Then it all came back. All of it.
Those sensations, feelings. I could feel again. My emotions were back. My memories too. Both the old and the new. And I remembered what I had done, and how. The sights, sounds, smells, and the lack of any feelings as I did what I did. Feelings I now had in abundance.
“Billie! What is it? What’s wrong?”
I struggled to a position where I didn’t get either of us as I emptied my stomach of all that had been in it and probably all that had ever been in it. Nikki held me while I did this. After a while I became aware that she was holding a wooden cup with something in it. Remembering what I had just gone through, I jerked back.
“Billie, It’s okay. It’s safe.”
As she said this she glared at the tree type standing there.
“There is nothing to harm her in the drink. It can only help her.”
I tentatively sipped it. It wasn’t water and I almost spit it out. But I swallowed it instead and it really did help my stomach.
“Billie? Can you tell us what happened?”
“I... I followed the fox girl here.”
“Yeah, her name was Kitsunee, and she said that her clan owed me some kind of debt of honor. And them she had me drink some water with her after we did a little ceremony. Then.. Then I was somewhere else and commanding a fleet of ships attacking a planet to get weapons to attack another planet. And some guy with four arms who was a commander of a part of my fleet had gone and attacked the planet against my orders which made it impossible to get the weapons I needed to attack the other planet. So I went to where he was and blew a... a... huge hole through his chest and killed him. And then I went back to my ship and looked in a mirror and was back here. But I didn’t remember you at first. It was like I was the one from the ship, and didn’t understand what was going on until I saw my reflection again.”
By this time I was starting to gasp again and starting to feel like I was going to hurl again. The memories were still very strong. The tree thing started to talk.
“So, it was Kitsunee? She is taking liberties I see. I was not aware she was here.”
Nikki was holding me and I started to cry.
“It’ll be okay Billie. It’s gone now, it was a bad dream, you’ll be okay.”
“Y... You d...don’t understand. I...I killed him and... and attacked t..that planet an..and I didn’t FEEL anything! Nothing at all! L...like weeding a garden, but... but not even like that. Nothing! I didn’t feel anything! I just did it.”
I don’t know how long I was sitting there sobbing, but finally, my emotions were brought under control. Nikki held me the whole time.
“Are you going to be okay now? Do you think you can go back to Poe?”
“Uh huh. I... I think so.”
I was still pretty shook up inside. But I was feeling stronger and I was sure that I could walk back to Poe. I just wasn’t sure that I could fight my way all the way out of the woods.
“By the way Billie. Before we go back, maybe you want to ask me the question you were going to before we got so rudely interrupted.”
“Uh... Oh yeah. It was about some dreams I’ve been having. I was going to ask you about the time when those Crystal types were bothering you. What was it like? Your dreams I mean. How would you tell if maybe someone was sending them. And.. Uh.. I was also going to ask you if you could help me work on my mental defenses. You know. Keeping people out of my mind and stuff.”
She looked at me for a few moments and I was starting to wonder if she was going to answer me.
“What are the dreams like?”
“Well, their like.... like ah... Like I’m someone else doing things and....”
“It’s a lot like the vision I just had! Not the same thing, just similar stuff.”
I realized at that moment that it was the truth. My dreams had been very much like the vision or whatever I had just had.
She thought about it for a moment.
“I don’t think they are the same as when those nuts were after me. It’s more like you are tied into some kind of memories.”
“Yeah, memories. Uh, I haven’t told you this before, but I’ve been having similar dreams too. They think that it may be tied to my condition, you know, the way I changed. Maybe there is something about the way we changed that’s causing this.”
“But, mine are so, well.. Horrible. I didn’t know why before but now I do. It’s like I have no feelings at all. Just going through the motions so no one catches on, but not really feeling anything. You don’t know how creepy that is Nikki. No feelings at all.”
“Well, mine aren’t all that nice either all the time. But I can’t say I’ve ever experienced the no feeling bit. If anything, I think there is a bit too much feeling in some.”
I shuddered. “Don’t, if you can avoid it. I still don’t understand all of it, but I hope I never experience something like that again.”
“Okay. From what I saw, I can believe that it would be best not to. As for mental defenses, Isn’t Sensei Tolman helping you with those?”
“Yeah. But, I still would like to get your input on this. Sensei Tolman is teaching me a lot. It’s just not the same as when a friend helps though. I trust you to take it a little more personally, if you know what I mean.”
“Okay, If I can, I’ll help out. I can’t promise you much, but I’ll do what I can do.”
“That’s all I could ask for. Thank you. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m sure you’ll be able to help me sometime in the future. Let’s go.”
She turned to the tree guy.
“This path over here, correct?”
“Yes, that one. As always, you are welcome to return at anytime. Please don’t feel like you have to invite your friend.”
“Grrrr... If I felt just a bit better...”
“That’s enough you two. C’mon Billie, let’s get out of here.”
She led the way down the trail and soon we found ourselves moving through a mist that faded away in a few minutes and we were right outside Poe.
BACK AT SECURITY: September 26th
Mark moved over to Sargent Buxton’s desk.
“What is it Mark?”
“The two girls are back at Poe. The other kid is still poking around the edges though and I haven’t found any evidence that he has clearance to be there.”
“You have a suggestion?”
“I was thinking that we might send Hackitt by there to warn the kid that he shouldn’t be there and have him clear off. I think he was looking for the girls and if he finds out that they are back already, he just might leave and save us some trouble.”
“I like the way you think. Just don’t tell the LT and send Hackitt out on the sly, Okay?”
“Got it Sarge. Hopefully, this will be the last for a while.”
“You said it. Knock on wood.”
CHANGING DIRECTIONS: September 26th Tuesday/ September 27th Wednesday/ September 28th Thursday
I was still a little unsteady, but I was able to get to the library and do the work that was waiting for me to do. Having something as mundane as shelving books helped settle me down. I still got a flutter in my stomach as I remembered Gorath’s face though.
After work, I headed to Crystal Hall for supper. Everyone was there and of all things, Jade had a pistol that she was carrying around. Some kind of linear accelerator with non lethal loads. It was nice to see her a little more animated. I thought for a moment that she was getting over the loss of Jinn, when it occurred to me that maybe she hadn’t, and that was why she had the pistol now.
We all had a lot of questions for her. And she was kept busy answering them and filling us in on some of the details of her new gun. That kept us busy into the night. It didn’t help that a group of school administrators, Dr Bellows, a goth like girl, and several bodyguard types made a point of showing up in the middle of the night. Jade spotted them first. I think the girl spotted us watching her, but I ducked down so fast that I wasn’t sure. I decided to sleep on it and see what happened in the morning.
The goth girl showed up for breakfast just before I was done with my breakfast. She didn’t seem to want company or anything, so I headed out to get ready for my first classes. I’d hear later that she had unusual eating habits. You know, the kind where babies get eaten and such. I had other things on my mind though and wasn’t particularly concerned. I learned later that she stood up for Jade against some bullies and that went a long way in my book to making her okay.
That morning I’d tried to joke with Jade a little about carrying a gun around, but she had become as stubborn as a mule where it was concerned. She was going to have it with her no matter what. And her attitude about the loss of Jinn hadn’t settled much either. I comforted her as best I could. If I found out that someone was doing this to my friend, they were going to pay big time.
The next time I saw the goth girl was in Martial Arts. Her name was Sara Waite and she was pretty good at the fighting thing, even if she did claim to not have any training or experience. She was really fast, strong, and those tentacles! She gave Toni a run for the money and that’s saying something. After class we were able to introduce ourselves. She seems nice enough, but a little shy. On the way to supper we ran into that creep Peeper and his sidesqueak. Sara showed some skill at manipulating him into a situation where I was able to take a little frustration out on him by flinging him into some bushes near Twain.
By suppertime Jinn, who Jade was now calling Jann, had come up with an okay costume that looked pretty spooky, and I had to admit that Jade’s idea to distract people from the truth about her powers was pretty good. I started to give some thought to the idea that I might be able to copy some of that in the future. I still was hoping that she would pull out of the funk she was in now. She was getting more worried and depressed, even if she was hiding it pretty well.
Sara also gave us a demonstration of how she ate. Kind of creepy, and sort of fascinating for some reason. Nikki was pretty weirded out by it. But then she could hear it happening too. Nikki being upset seemed to upset Sara too and she took off before the rest of us were finished eating. As near we could figure from what she told us, she’d managed to kill a few people before getting control of her powers and it was pretty obvious that she still felt pretty bad about it.
We were on the way back to Poe when Jade suddenly got excited and told us that Sara had been kidnaped by those Cheerleader wannabes. By the time we got there they were gone and we managed to alert the rest of the place to what was happening. We wanted to go out and look for them, but Belle told us to stay put while the older students and security took over.
We’d never been the best at minding authority though and when it became obvious that Nikki had a lead on where they were, we wasted no time trying to call in the grownups and rushed off to rescue Sara ourselves. Besides, we were pretty sure they’d follow us quickly anyway.
The place we found was an old hill and a sacrificial alter with Sara chained to it. There was some kind of disturbance that I could feel very strongly, but ignored for now because we had to take out some of these weirdos. This one little girl was giving me a bit of trouble until Jinn, I mean Jann, managed to distract her long enough for me to bop her on the head. She’d been too close to Sara for me to risk a blast and bopping her was the next best option to my way of thinking. I really didn’t feel like chopping someone into little pieces with my sword.
After that I flew down to help some of the others corral some of the other cultists. Next thing I know this butt ugly demon is rising up over the alter. I’d just managed to get clear of the rest of the free for all and headed back up to see if there was anything I should do about this demon when Sara tells us not to bother. This guy apparently was her long lost Dad. Oddly enough it made a kind of sense. I must be spending way to much time around weird people. Of course, I’m one to talk.
Soon that was settled and Daddy went home. At least I didn’t end up trying to strangle him like I did Nikki’s father. I must be getting better at this kind of thing.
Eventually all was settled and for once, other than a scolding for going it on our own, we didn’t get into too much trouble for it. Because of the excitement, the rest of the evening went by in a blur.
That night as we were going to bed I realized that Jade had been trying to hide the fact that she had been crying. I found myself holding her and rocking her to comfort her and let her know that I was there and cared for her. It was kind of like having a kid and comforting her. I remembered how Mom would hold and rock me and I found that there was something about doing this that just seemed so right. I was stunned to realize that I was thinking about what it would be like to have a baby of my own to hug and love. Even more disturbing to me was the realization that there was something in that thought that made me long for just that. I couldn’t have changed that much since just this summer could I?
The next day was even more of a surprise. Jann got a make up job that threw us all for a few moments. Until I noticed that Jann actually had breasts and Jade didn’t, I couldn’t tell them apart. I’m afraid that Jade didn’t appreciate the way that was pointed out to her. I really hope that her doctors can figure out a way to help her. As it was I found myself getting a little guilty that I wasn’t having those kind of problems. But then, I had a few of my own.
Still, I was beginning to wonder if maybe Jade was right and maybe some of the guys around here might think I looked cool enough to maybe want to date? But then I just figured that any guy who wanted to date me was probably a tape or two short of a complete OAV anyway. They’d have to be completely crazy wouldn’t they?
ALPHA PAINS: September 30th Saturday
We were told that there wouldn’t be a Flight Lab today and so I had a day off. Even with the problems that we had and Jade showing an unhealthy interest in all things firepower wise, things were pretty quiet. Until later in morning and my trip to our message box. I was hoping now that things were settling down a little that my family might start sending me some mail. But there was nothing for me. Just two unstamped letters for Jade. I took them up to her because I figured that she wouldn’t check her box until next month at the rate she was showing interest in anything besides the loss of Jinn.
Jade was trying to keep the world at bay with her pillow, so I gave the letters to Jann. I was looking for something to wear today when Jann let out a scream that was heard all around the cottage. Then Jann disappeared and Jade sprang out of bed yelling something about ‘she’s alive’. She was hoping around so much I had to grab her by the shoulders to get her to tell me what she meant.
The others came piling into the room to find out what was going on and soon we figured out that Jinn was still alive and being held by someone called Tansy Walcutt. It took a few minutes for us to settle to the point where we mostly agreed that this Tansy should die but hadn’t settled who was going to get the chance to do it first. Then Jade pulled the ‘Currently Most Hurt Card’ and preempted all our plans.
It was finally decided that we would all go and confront her and make her release Jinn. We at least had time to prepare ourselves a little. I realized that up to now, I hadn’t put any thought into a costume design. It was to late for that now, so I decided that for now I would go in my fishing outfit, which would allow me free movement and was pretty rugged. It would also be better than my bathrobe. So I was ready to go quickly in my jeans, red plaid shirt, and boots. Jade convinced me to wear a sports bra for appearances sake.
I’d seen the Alphas going to breakfast just as I was coming in so we figured that the best place to catch Tansy would be outside the cafeteria and out in the open. You’d think that a group like ours loitering around would draw a lot of attention, but then you wouldn’t know Whateley very well. Tansy walked right into us and the fun began shortly after that.
Toni had assigned me to crowd control. I was watching for trouble from there when the argument I heard behind me turned ugly. I only had time for a quick glance behind me where I could see that Tansy was down and Jade had her gun out. Then one of the Alphas moved towards me. He said his name was Aries and insisted on being a total butthead and tried to peel me out of my shirt.
He was incredibly fast and after the first grope I was pretty sure that I couldn’t match his speed. That left me with a few options. Quitting was out and I hated to think that I would have to rely on luck to hit him. I could just blow the heck out of this area and pick up the pieces afterward, but I was pretty sure that the results would not be consistent with Toni’s admonition to keep the damage down and I really didn’t want to risk using my energy abilities too much. They were just too dangerous to use recklessly.
The one that I settled on as the best option was to trick him close enough to be able to use my still considerable speed to get the drop on him and find a way to neutralize his speed. In our second engagement, he came in fast and I held back my speed a bit and let him get in a few cheap shots and tear away some of the buttons on my shirt.
One of the nice things about this new body of mine is the fact that it’s really very tough. He was a little stronger than me and his hits did hurt, but not nearly as bad as I tried to make it look like. Staggering a bit as he hit me and not trying to stop him until too late as he started to grab buttons and other parts of my anatomy.
I realized as this was happening that Jade’s idea of the bra was going to help out more than I thought. My breasts were a lot more sensitive than I remembered them being as a boy and the extra padding of the bra did help a bit. I was going to have to look into getting some kind of real protection in the future.
He backed off again and we traded a few taunts. One of his comments caught my attention as he mentioned that maybe I needed more of a challenge, insinuating that he was that challenge. He closed again and grabbed me around the neck with his left arm and tried to grab my bra with his right. My plan had worked! He must think I was either too battered or too slow to do anything about it.
Elbowing him for a distraction, I also grabbed his arm and locked it over my shoulder. With that done, I launched into the air. I could feel his shoulder stretching out in what must have been a very painful way. He started to scream and struggle as I got him about 50 feet off the ground. This also confirmed my idea that he couldn’t fly either.
I twisted free and started to pummel him and hit him even higher into the air. I don’t think I was doing too much damage, but the idea of a drop from this height was obviously taking up a large part of his attention.
Then I was hit with one of Toni’s special Ki shouts and for a moment I lost track of what I was doing. When my wits came back I could see Aries falling towards the ground and also some of what was going on down there. I got an idea and dived after him. I grabbed him and accelerated for the ground. This seems to have added just the right touch to panic him and even though he struggled like mad, he wasn’t coordinated about it.
I was able to get a good grip and hold onto him as I pulled out of the dive and slammed him right into Hamper who wasn’t expecting that at all. I ended up my flight right in front of Damper who recognized me and what I was going to do too slowly to prevent it. I think I’m going to make this a tradition. As he curled up on the ground I saw a chance to help out Nikki and got a good shot in on the one called Skybolt. She was so out of it that I got a clear shot and after that she was totally out of the fight.
After that, I pulled a Nikki. I saw some students that I thought were going to try and join in. I figured that a display of force would go a long way to keep them out of the fight and sent a bolt of energy into an ugly old iron bench near them. I was using one of my delayed blast types and the resulting explosion and shrapnel did a great job of convincing them to vacate the immediate vicinity in favor of some better cover. Unfortunately, most of the other bystanders had to also.
Soon after that the Betas appeared and it seemed like a good idea to stop the hostilities for the time being. You would think that the fact that we handled the whole thing without killing anyone would have made it obvious that we had been very restrained in how we had handled the situation. But, somehow Tansy managed to make it look like we had come in, guns blazing, and it was a miracle and the intervention of the Alphas that had kept it from being a bloodbath. And that wasn’t the worst.
Somehow in all the confusion, Tansy had kidnaped Jann too. Jade was unconsolable for quite a while. My heart hurt to see the bright young girl who trusted me enough to actually room with me in such pain. If I hadn’t had to work so hard to help Jade I think I’d have killed Tansy without hesitation if I’d seen her then.
Lieutenant Reynolds didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but he had to tell us that we would have to face disciplinary charges for what had happened today. He also managed to give us a warning that we would be facing Ms. Hartford. I’m not sure that he needed to tell us that, but when I got a chance to think it I was certain he did that so we would have a chance to prepare.
Afterward, we gathered together to discuss what had happened and what we could do about it. Toni had an idea how we could handle Ms. Hartford. It sounded like a pretty good plan. And Hank made a lot of sense when he insisted that the only way we would be able to keep our honor through this was to allow them to punish us and take our punishment with dignity. After all, we all agreed that we had done this pretty stupidly, even if we did kick the Alphas butts.
Of course, we could always try and influence just what kind of punishment we would have to take, and we could probably avoid getting expelled if we did this right. Hank made some more good suggestions for how we should start preparing ourselves better for the next time. What he said made a lot of sense. We really needed to get organized. Like he pointed out, while we had beat the Alphas, we hadn’t succeeded in freeing Jinn, we lost Jann, and the Alphas managed to make us look like fools on the political front.
That afternoon, Jade had decided to try for another Jinn. The result of this attempt was supposedly what she would look like when she reached seventeen. My little girl was going to be TALLER than me. It just wasn’t fair. But I was happy to see that she was going to fill out well too. That made Jades day, and after everything else that had happened, it couldn’t have come at a better time. It seems that there are more where Jinn, Jann, and Jeanie came from too. The three of us had fun working up a new costume for Jeanie. I’m going to have to put more effort into mine too. We were going to have to be careful about these things though. We’d decided that it would be a good idea to keep the fact that Jade could make more than one Jinn a secret. She even started to make up a weird story to explain Jinn. She should become a writer. She’s got the talent for it.
At supper, we discussed our weaknesses again. Seems we all could use some hyping up and preparations for surprises. Except me. It seems that everyone would be happier if I could tone down my attacks a little. I argued it a bit but at the same time I kept remembering how that bench exploded and I could start to see how it might be better if I could control that better.
Hank made a good argument for us to get more proactive in our approach to our next fight too. He made it sound very military, but then he would and it did make good sense. I wondered what I could possibly do to add to the new team effort we were talking of making. Seems most everyone else had something to add to this new approach. I hoped I would be able to do something for them. I was starting to feel that I wasn’t going to have much to add to our team if I couldn’t come up with something besides being a big cannon that everyone was afraid to use.
Later that evening, we got together and discussed how we were going to defend ourselves against the charges that were going to be brought against us. We decided that it would be better for Toni and Ayla to handle it and for me and Jade to keep a low profile. Hank came up with the Cooler King idea too. Something about an old war movie and Steve McQueen as this guy who was always getting put in solitary confinement because he kept trying to escape from this prisoner of war camp. Apparently he was all sorts of cool because he could take it and keep on coming. Just the impression we wanted to make. After that, I headed off into the rafters to think things over.
It is a nice quiet spot where no one comes to bother me and I can think things through. There’s just me and Poe. Oh yeah. I’d made an arrangement with Chief Delarose in the week that I lost my two first jobs. While we had been talking he mentioned that he figured someone would be targeting the bust again fairly soon. He figured that because the ninjas failed the first time that they might try again and that there were some other groups that might be interested in trying too. It seems that when we had stopped the first group we created a challenge that couldn’t be ignored.
I came up with the idea of putting a fake bust in place of the real one with a tracker devise and increased monitoring to catch the ones who tried. He asked me where we would put the real one and I suggested that he let me hide it and not tell anyone else. With just the two of us having any idea that the bust was a fake and where the real one was hidden, I was pretty sure that no one would get wise to it until it was too late and the original would be safer than even locked away in the vaults, which I was sure were being monitored by more than just security. Even if no one was going try and steal it from there, if they knew it was there, they wouldn’t try to take it either and we wouldn’t have a chance to catch them.
The next day he was able to get a fake bust to me and we arranged a time for me to switch it without setting off the alarms. From that time, I’d had the bust secreted away up in the rafters where it could look down on all that was happening. I’d used the bust as a sounding board for some of my ideas.. He seemed little interested in the more recent developments, but then, all he had to do was listen. I thought over what had been discussed earlier and tried to figure out what I could do to help. But I was too tired to think much right now and decided to sleep on it.
MORE TESTS AND QUESTIONS: October 1st Sunday
Early Sunday morning, a runner brought a message that Dr. Polland and Dr. Shandy wanted to see me ASAP in their lab area. Giving Jade what comfort I could, I hurried over to the area they wanted me to meet them. Security was tight and it took Dr. Polland coming out and leading me through to get in. He stopped in his office and had me sit down. He then sat at his desk.
“Well Billie, I understand you and the others have had some trouble.”
“Yes sir. Nothing we can’t handle though.”
“Want to tell me about it? I might be able to help you know.”
“I’m not sure you could.”
He smiled. “Tell me anyway, you never know when having an outside opinion will make the difference.”
“Okay.” I proceeded to tell him what had happened. I didn’t let him know what we were planning to do about it though.
“Well. I can understand why you did it and I can sympathize, but you do understand that we can’t just let things like that go undisciplined. If that was to happen we would soon have a lot of injured if not dead students.”
I nodded. We had been told that already and I believed it.
“Okay. As long as you understand that and the fact that we won’t stop you from receiving any kind of reasonable punishment, I’m positive that we can help out with some other aspects of your stay here. Dr. Shandy has come up with an idea that I think may revolutionize how we get power in the future. And you are a key to that, if you are willing to help us?”
“I’m willing to help. I just don’t see how I can help.”
“We have an experiment that we think will answer that question. It won’t take long and if it goes well, I think you will have an ace up your sleeve when dealing with the administration. It will be up to you how you use it though.”
“Like I said, I’m willing to try. I just hope you are right.”
“Dr. Shandy and I think we are. He should be ready for us by now. Let’s go see if we are truly ready for this.”
He led me down several hallways and through a vault door that would make Fort Knox envious. Inside the vault area was Dr. Shandy and two small devices that looked like ten gallon aquariums with lots of wires and dohickeys attached to them. There was a glow coming from one of them.
“Billie! It’s good to see you again. Won’t you please come over here and tell me what you think of this?”
Dr. Shandy motioned me over near the glowing tank. As I moved closer I could feel something in the tank. Something familiar. I passed my hands over it and could feel it inside, straining to get out, but held back by a barrier inside the tank itself.
“What is it?”
“You don’t know?” Dr. Shandy was watching my reactions closely.
“Well, it feels kind of like the energy I use to make the blasts and swords that I can form when I need them. What is around it though? I can feel that too.”
The doctors exchanged glances and Dr. Shandy continued to question me.
“You can feel what is around it? That’s a magnetic bottle. Inside of it is a small amount of anti matter in a vacuum. You don’t have any idea how much it cost to get that or you wouldn’t be touching it like that either.”
I snatched my hand back and looked up in time to see him grin.
“Oh. Will touching it hurt anything?”
“No. But I can’t resist joking about it a bit. It IS terribly expensive though.”
I gave a sigh of relief and relaxed a little. If he could joke a little about this it couldn’t be too bad. Dr. Polland spoke up. “Say. Billie?”
“Do you think that you could handle the anti matter in there?”
“You want me to try?”
“Do you think you could handle it without damaging anything?”
I looked at it and then I put my hand over the tank. I could feel it and I took hold of it like I was forming a delayed blast kind of bolt. Not with my hand, but with that extension of my will that I used to control and contain the energy when I called it up. I could feel it and I had a grip on it, but I couldn’t seem to move it at first. Then I gave it a twist and it came free. I turned to the doctors holding the glowing bit of energy. Then I could see the sweat on their faces.
“Didn’t you want me to do this?” I held the glowing point out towards them. Dr. Shandy spoke next.
“Ahhh... c.. could y..you please put it back now?”
I wasn’t sure what was making them so nervous but I went ahead and twisted it again and slowly released it. Some of the meters that were on the tank jumped a bit and leveled out. I heard what sounded like a sigh from the doctors.
“That’s it. Is there anything wrong?”
“Uh, what do you think of what was in there?” Dr. Polland was wiping his brow with a handkerchief as he asked that.
“It was kind of hard to move it at first, but if I twist it just right, I can lift it right out. When I have a hold on it, it is just like the energy I usually use. Or at least it felt like it.”
“Was it easy to put it back in?”
“There’s a kind of tricky twist to it, to get it past that bottle of yours, but after that, no real problem at all. Would you mind telling me why you two are suddenly so nervous? It’s creeping me out here.”
“Uh... Nothing! Nothing really. We just didn’t expect you to go quite that far with it. Did you say that you could put something like one of your bolts into a bottle like this?”
“I think so. Is that what you want me to try?”
“Just wait a moment while we prepare the other bottle. Doctor? If you would be so kind?”
“Ce... Certainly Doctor. It will only take a minute.”
Dr. Shandy turned some dials and flicked two switches on the other tank. There was a low pitched hum and the meters on that tank slowly settled into a similar position to the first. Dr. Shandy rechecked the meters and switches for about the fifth time and then nodded to Dr. Polland.
“It’s ready.” They both then looked at me.
“Uh... Do you want the same amount as I just handled or do you want more?”
They looked at each other again and Dr Shandy spoke again.
“The same amount if you can. Please.”
“Okay. I could put in more if you want.”
“Uh.. No. I think the same amount will be more than enough. Thank you.”
I concentrated on forming a ball of energy over my right hand. I held it until it had the same feel as the other. Then with a little experimentation, I was able to twist it into the second bottle. I released it slowly and after the same kind of meter jumping as before, it settled down and I was able to withdraw.
“There. Is that what you needed?”
Dr. Shandy bent over the tank and checked the meters again. He then smiled and pumped his fist. He and Dr. Polland began talking excitedly.
“YES! It’s exactly like we thought. It is anti matter!”
“Positive! And close to the same amount if not exactly the same.”
“Do you know what this means?”
“Power! Unlimited power! All we can use and then some.”
I stood back and watched the two scientists act like kids who had just won a $1,000 dollar toy store trip. Skipping around and high fiving each other.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Both of them jumped a bit and looked at me.
“No. That will be all for now. We have to make some preparations before we can do more. We’ll send for you when we’re set up to go to the next stage. Okay?”
“Uh... Okay. If that is what you want.”
“Please don’t tell anyone about this. We really need to keep this a secret for now. I repeat, don’t tell anyone at all. It’s very important.”
“Okay. But can you tell me what is so great about this?”
“Well....” They looked at each other again. And then Dr. Polland continued.
“Billie. What do you think is one of the most expensive and hard to obtain resources in modern experimentation these days?”
“I don’t know. Is it anti matter?”
“In a manner of speaking. It’s power. Power to contain, maintain, and energize our experiments. Anti matter is a wonderful source for this, but it costs so much to produce that it is prohibitively expensive to use.”
“Very expensive. You have no idea how much what you saw in here first cost. And that was only a few small fractions of a gram.”
“So, if I can make this for you, the school saves money?”
“Saves? With this kind of power, the school makes money. We can help supply power to the surrounding area. Like we aren’t already doing so. It’s just that we won’t be paying nearly as much to make it as before.”
“Do I have to do this for free?”
“What? No, no. We will see to it that you are properly compensated for this wonderful gift of yours. Scholarship, whatever we can do for you. Uh... Within reason of course.”
“Okay. I’ll have to think about this a bit, and there are a few trusted friends I might have to tell, but I will be careful about that.”
“Billie. Please be very careful about who you tell this to. It really is very important that this be kept a secret as long as possible. If some parties get hold of this information, there could be real trouble in it for you. And others around you too.”
“Okay. I promise to be careful. Should I go now? I’m getting a bit hungry all of a sudden.”
“Please. Please feel free to go and take care of that hunger. There are some things we have to do now. Have a good day. And be careful who to and where you talk about this.”
“Okay. Have a good day and let me know when you will need me again.”
I turned and headed out. I could hear them talking in low voices as I left. Dr. Polland was saying something to Dr. Shandy that I don’t think they wanted me to hear.
“Whew! Do you know how close we came to being blown off the face of the earth?”
“No. And I really don’t want to think about it right now, either.”
“I suppose that we have to tell Carson about this.”
“About how close we came to being in orbit?”
“No. About this new power source. It’s worth a fortune and then some. It’s bound to make a lot of waves in some circles and we better be ready to protect all this if someone finds out.”
They kept talking, but I was too far away to make more out. I hoped that they wouldn’t tell Mrs. Carson about the fact that I might have blown us off the Earth. I wasn’t sure how that could have happened, but then, they were the experts. I just wondered why they let me do it then, if it was so dangerous. There is no figuring scientists I guess.
OTHER INTERESTING PARTIES: October 1st
I was on the way past the last security checkpoint when Mr. Lodgeman intercepted me.
“Billie! Hold on for a moment! I need to talk to you.”
For a moment I considered running, but there was no place I could run to that they wouldn’t find me and I resigned myself to another recital of how stupid I’d been. So I just waited for him to catch up to me. I figured I might be able to cut down on the chewing out if I started first.
“Okay Mr. Lodgeman. I know it was a stupid thing to do, but they started it and I had to help the others out.”
The serious face he had on at that moment changed to one of confusion.
“I’m sorry Billie. I don’t think I understood that. I just got back from Colorado and the five of us wanted to talk to you about something very important.”
“You mean you weren’t going to yell at me for getting into that fight with the Alphas?”
“What fight? Billie, what have you been up to?”
“Uh... One of the Alphas kidnaped Jinn and we went to get her back. But they started a fight and we kicked their butts. But we have to go to Administration tomorrow to find out about our punishment for getting into a fight.”
“Wait! Hold on for a moment. Let’s wait until the others can hear it. Come with me to my office. The others are waiting for us there.”
He led me to the library and upstairs to the restricted third floor. His card allowed him to get onto that floor that our student cards wouldn’t allow us to open the doors to. Threading our way through numerous corridors eventually brought us to a locked door with lettering on it that stated that this room was the office of Charlie Lodgeman, Supervisor for MYSTIC CORP.
Mr. Lodgeman put his palm on a rectangular plate next to the door. A red line of light moved down the plate and them there was a buzz, and the door popped open. He motioned me inside and closed the door behind us. Inside of the office was a desk and several file cabinets and chairs were against the walls. In the chairs were the rest of the members of the old Mystic Six that were still living. Mrs. Tanaka popped up and hugged me and the others rose to their feet with smiles on their faces.
“Oh Billie! It’s so good to see you again!” Mrs. Tanaka was holding me at arms length and looking me over. I happened to be in one of my school uniforms at the time.
“My, but you do make a pretty picture in these clothes. They look like they fit you perfectly.”
Mr. Lodgeman spoke up.
“They should. Cecilia charged a pretty penny to make them for her. But I must say that she did a good job of it.”
“That she did. I really must make a point of visiting with her soon, I can think of several projects that would benefit from her expertise.”
“Now dear. Let’s get down to business, shall we?” Mr. Tanaka had come up and was shaking my hand as he pulled me with his wife to the one old couch that was in the room and sat me down between them. He continued as we settled down.
“Billie. We have some news for you.”
I almost jumped up. Suddenly, instead of facing the music for the fight it looked as if I was going to have to face something bad about my family. Mrs. Tanaka grabbed my arm and kept me from jumping up.
“Eric! Your scarring the poor girl to death! Sit still dear. It’s nothing to worry about. It’s just something you need to know about yourself. That’s all.”
I stopped trying to stand up and let my heart slow down a little.
Mr Lodgeman started to speak and Mrs. Tanaka shushed him.
“Now dear. We have a few questions for you. First, do you know what an avatar is?”
“You mean like Champion?”
“Yes, like Champion and many others that we could name. But he will do for a good example now.”
“Well, if I remember right, an avatar is someone who can control a spirit and use its powers to enhance their own or something like that.”
“That’s one definition. We prefer the one where the avatar is able to join with the spirit and share their powers. It’s better if it is a mutual thing all around.”
“What does that have to do with me? The tests they’ve given me so far haven’t showed anything like that I don’t think. But there seems to be something like that going on with Nikki. Is that what you are talking about?”
She patted my hand.
“This may be kind of hard to accept, but we think you are an avatar too.”
“Me!? I’m not an avatar! I mean, what kind of avatar could I be? Nikki I can see. She’s turning into an elf. But me? I’m a cartoon character! Your not telling me that there are really spirits of cartoon characters running around are you? And I just happened to catch one? Like a cold?”
“It’s not as simple as that dear and you would be surprised at some of the things we’ve seen. Don’t discount anything if you don’t want to be terminally surprised. And while I don’t think there are cartoon spirits, many of these cartoons are based on old legends and the like. We think that somehow the cartoon you seem to be taking after is one of those.”
“A cartoon about a space pirate? Where would that have come from?”
“Billie. There is a lot more out there than you think. And not all of it is explainable by what is on this earth. Take my word for it. There are aliens out there and there are alien ‘spirits’. Now I don’t want you to panic, but some of those ‘spirits’ aren’t very nice. Horrible would be a better description, but you aren’t like that, so don’t worry.”
“How would you know? About these spirits I mean.”
“We’ve met them before. Believe me, you don’t ever want to meet any of those.”
There was a haunted look in her eyes and a shudder that I could feel. Something in the way she said it made me sure that she was telling me the truth.
“But I didn’t check out as an avatar. Wouldn’t that have shown up in their tests?”
“There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about avatars. What we do know is mostly about the more common ones, such as Champion. There are different types. Like us.”
“You’re an avatar?”
“All of us are. Charlie over there has the spirit of a great shaman warrior. Sherry had the spirit of a Faerie Queen. Nathan over there has the spirit of a powerful earth elemental and Lisa has the spirit of either a air or lightning spirit, or maybe even both, we’re not sure exactly. And she won’t say.”
Lisa smiled and finger waved. “A girls got to have her secrets, you know.”
“And you and Mr. Tanaka?”
“Eric has the spirit of a great eastern magician/priest, and I have the companion spirit of a dragon.”
“Yes, another great spirit and really quite personable when you get to know her. I’ll have to introduce you sometime.”
“We are a little different from other avatars. We seem to have been closer in spirit, so to speak and have actually managed to become friends and allies to our spirits for the most part. We can sometimes even manifest them in such a way as to allow them some interaction with the world.”
“Just about scarred me out of a centuries worth of life the first time I turned around and there was Anglerista instead of my wife.” Chuckled Mr. Tanaka.
“Oh shush! You just about scarred her as much with your histrionics.”
“But you all look very human to me.”
“We can be different if there is a need. Sherry was a bit different from us though. She fused more totally with her spirit. And this brings us to you.”
“Yes. We believe that you are similar to your friend Nikki. She wasn’t picked up as an avatar by the regular tests either was she?”
“No. But there was conjecture that she was because of the change she was going through. No one would be too surprised to find out she was one.”
“We’re pretty certain of it ourselves. There are some differences with yours too.”
“Yeah! I turned into a cartoon. That would count as a little different I guess.”
“No. You may have turned into an alien life form. Not a cartoon, and a very powerful one at that. Have you been having strange dreams? Unusual feelings, sudden bursts of knowledge you couldn’t expect to have, like a foreign language that you understand?”
“Uh... Sort of. I mean since I got caught in the blast that shook up the Crystal Wavers, I’ve been having these strange nightmares. Ever since I drank some of the Waters of Memory, they have been much clearer and scarier.”
“Where did you get a drink of the Waters of Memory!?!”
Mr. Lodgeman had jumped forward and grabbed me by the shoulders. He started to shake me as he yelled.
“Don’t you have any idea how dangerous those are? If you don’t use them properly, they’ll kill or drive you insane!”
Mrs. Tanaka somehow broke his hold on me and pushed him back.
“Charlie! Behave yourself! Go sit down and let us handle this.”
“Let us handle this. She is obviously fine. Let’s find out about it shall we? Now Billie, where did you get hold of the Water of Memory?”
“In the Grove. Kitsunee tricked me into drinking some.”
“She was there when Nikki and I went back to get away from some guy who was making a real pest of himself. She had me do some kind of ritual with her and she drank first without anything happening so I thought it would be safe. Ended up having the scariest dream or whatever of my life. I mean it was me but not me in the dream. At least I was like me now, but different.”
“When was this?”
“The day after I found Mr. Lodgeman in there. Nikki went right on in. I was afraid she would get into trouble so I followed. Seems she was okay, but wanted a private word with the wood. So I moved off and found Kitsunee. She said something about her clan owing me a debt of honor. I hope that the trick with the water takes care of that. She disappeared right after that and I haven’t seen her since.”
“You went back after I told you not too?” Mr. Lodgeman was getting a little upset.
“You didn’t tell me not to go back. You said to be careful, and I have a right to look after my friends don’t I?”
“Billie! It’s dangerous! The Grove is no place for someone to go if they don’t know and understand the dangers. You could have been seriously hurt. And the Waters of Memory aren’t the only dangers there. You have to be very careful, and you don’t have any idea what is there.”
“That’s enough you two. Talk about that later. Now Billie, these dreams or whatever. Were they very realistic?”
“Like I was living them.”
“Can you describe them?”
I gave them a rundown on what I had gone through. They discussed this among themselves for a few minutes. They came to an agreement and turned back to me. Mrs. Tanaka sat down next to me again.
“Okay Billie. This is what we have. It seems that due to the way you joined with your spirit, you’re fused to a greater extent than most if not all of the others I’m aware of.. I’d have to say that there will be no way to tell where the one starts and the other ends.”
“Is that why my emotions seem so uncontrollable then? This spirit thing is affecting my emotions?”
“It could be. But it may just be the change you went through and you have to learn how to handle them all over again. You have some experience with that, but not in this body. Give it time. I’m sure you will find yourself getting more comfortable over time with your new sensitivities.”
“You mean that I’ll have better control of my feelings later?”
“Give it time. Your growing up all over again. Even with some previous experience, it’s going to be a tough road.”
“Okay, what do you know about this ‘spirit’ that is now a part of me? And what am I going to have to expect in the future.”
“I’m afraid that we don’t know much about it. That is something we will have to learn as we go. We just don’t have enough information now.”
“We don’t think you’ll have to worry too much about it taking you over as you seem to have fused totally in that respect. It seems to have some really impressive offensive and defensive capabilities as well. Why it would join with you is a mystery, but those things will only be discovered in time.”
“Take me over?”
“It’s alright. We really don’t think you are going to have that kind of problem. There are some situations where it has been known for the spirit to take over the host. Usually where the host and the spirit are at odds and the host is weak.”
“And you’re not afraid that this will happen to me?”
“Billie. We have studied you very closely and as nearly as we can tell, the two of you don’t just share that body of yours. You’re FUSED. Spirit AND body. There is no separation like we generally see in avatars. No fight for control. You actually have total control of that body as if it was your own. That isn’t the case with most avatars. There is almost always some disagreement between the two entities involved.”
“And all these crazy emotions and dreams?”
“Are just that. Emotions and dreams, or memories anyway, but not the result of the actions of a separate entity. This body of yours is obviously powerful, and the physical expressions of these emotions are equally powerful. Billie, you were heading into an emotional part of your life as your body started to mature before this happened. Can you remember how that affected you?”
I thought about it for a moment and then nodded as I remembered how my emotions had seemed to be getting more noticeable up until the change I had gone through.
“Well, the body you have now is actually more developed than you were before. The emotions are even stronger. You will have to learn to control them just like you would have before. It’s just that you won’t have the luxury of working into it gradually. You have to control them before they get you into more trouble.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Billie. You can do this. You know you can. We wouldn’t have brought this up at this time except there are dangers for those of us who are avatars that you need to be aware of.”
“You said I don’t have to worry about being taken over.”
“That’s true. Although the strong emotions might get you into as much or more trouble on their own. And there are some things that you need to know about that are dangers every avatar faces.”
“Yes. There are those in the world who feel that if they have a powerful enough spirit under their control that they can become more powerful than they currently are.”
“Don’t these spirits choose their hosts?”
“Not always. The avatar ability can be used to trap and hold spirits and even control their powers to some extent. It is a very dangerous thing to do and can get you in lots of trouble if you tangle with a spirit that is as strong or stronger than you. Especially if it is at cross purposes in what it wants to do.”
“People would do that?”
“Billie. You shouldn’t ever be surprised by some of the things people will do to get what they want. And something you need to know is that sometimes and under the right conditions, an avatar can take a spirit from a person who already has one. In essence, stealing it. To do this can sometimes require the person doing it to kill or nearly kill the one they are taking the spirit from. These are very dangerous people and you should be always be careful to keep the fact that you or someone you know is an avatar as secret as possible.”
“Like Nikki? And you?”
“Yes. Like Nikki and you too, as well as us. A slip of the tongue could get any of us in trouble. Even if we can handle it, someone could get hurt in the process. This is very important and we thought we should be the ones to tell you about this before it got to the point where you might slip up due to being ignorant of the problems involved.”
“So that’s why you wanted to talk to me?”
Mr. Lodgeman spoke up before anyone else could.
“Yes. That was what we were going to talk to you about. But since you mentioned a big fight, we’d like to ask you about that too. Seems we can’t leave you alone for long around here.”
“It wasn’t our fault.”
“Team Kimba, our team. Some girl named Tansy Walcutt kidnaped Jinn. Seems she is an avatar and is like some of those you just mentioned. Anyway, from the message that Jinn got to us it seems she was able to hold Jinn and use her powers to make herself stronger. It seems that being an avatar also makes it harder for telepaths to read and control your mind.”
“You can say that again.” Said Mr. Tanaka. “The combination of the two minds can be very difficult to separate.”
“What about me?”
“You can be even harder to read. It seems the combination of the spirit and your thoughts puts you on a level that is extremely difficult for even a good telepath to reach.”
“Then how do you know we fused?”
“Because your thought processes are so smooth. You are still hard to read. Your thoughts are on some other level, but, they are much smoother than what we usually find in an avatars head. That dissonance is why avatars are hard to read and is a trade mark of a sort. You also project clearer thoughts than most avatars. Generally, the dual nature of their thoughts will mess up projections too. Now you said something about a fight?”
I told them what happened and that we were going before Ms. Hartford tomorrow. Mr. Lodgeman started in just like I figured he would.
“Billie. You know that this is just the kind of thing that Hartford is looking for to use against you. Why did you do something like that?”
“She kidnaped Jinn! We couldn’t let her get away with that. We figured out afterward that there was probably a better way to go about it, but we thought we had to do something immediately. And we didn’t start it either. We tried to talk first and they attacked us. After that it was self defense.”
“But you beat them. That is going to look as if you went in prepared for and somehow started the fight.”
“Why? They were wimps. We screwed up and still beat them.”
“Yeah. We waltzed in without knowing what we were getting into. If they had done a few things differently, they might have done a lot better. Lucky for us, they screwed up too, and tried to just overpower us. That played to our strengths and they got creamed.”
“Still, can’t you see how that looks? You are just new students who shouldn’t be able to handle a far older and better trained group without the element of surprise, like an ambush. That is how people are going to tend to see that.”
“I’m not sure I can agree with your logic about us not supposed to be able to take these guys on. They didn’t handle themselves any better than we did this time. They were way too overconfident and that is what really made a difference in this fight. We took out several of them quickly because they just walked right into our punches and the like. After that we were able to concentrate on the rest and take them out from different directions at the same time.”
“That sounds as if you planned it that way.”
“No. It’s just how it worked out. We haven’t had a chance to really work as a team yet. But that doesn’t mean were stupid and don’t know how to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.”
“That sounds almost... Professional.”
“We discussed the fight afterward and those were the conclusions we came to.”
“You discussed the fight?”
“Yeah. We’re a team. It makes sense to look at these things and see where we messed up and where we didn’t so we can do better next time.”
They all exchanged glances. Mr. Tanaka spoke next.
“I think we may want to talk to the members of this team fairly soon. Billie?”
“What were the conclusions your team reached?”
I told them how we figured we had messed up and that we were planning on making a lot of changes in how we were going about it in the future to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. I didn’t go into a lot of detail, figuring that we should keep some of our information to ourselves, even with these people I trusted. If the Team wanted to ask them for help and opinions on the details, it should be as a team and not alone.
“You think that there will be more fights?”
“We think that it will be stupid to assume that we won’t have to fight again, either as individuals or as a team. We just want to be as prepared as we can when that happens so that we won’t be caught flat footed like we were this time.”
“What if they kick you out?”
“We’re pretty sure that we won’t get kicked out over this.”
“Because we didn’t start the fight, and showed a lot of restraint when we did fight.”
“You don’t think you should be punished?”
“No. We think that we should be punished, just not to the extreme of kicking us out. In fact, if they try not to punish us I think we would insist on it.”
“Why would you do that?”
“We were wrong. We shouldn’t have fought in public like that. It could get a lot of the students hurt or even killed if it happens again with us or someone else. If we are punished we can show that it was wrong and keep others from being tempted to do that again. And, if we accept the punishment like we should, with dignity, we won’t lose any face for what we did and the Alphas won’t be able to use it as a victory for themselves.”
“You’ve thought it through then.”
“We’ve thought it through, we’re a team, and we want to be sure that nothing more can go wrong. We messed up the first time, We don’t have to make it worse.”
They exchanged glances again. Then Mrs. Tanaka spoke for them.
“We are proud that you have learned from this and while we wish it had been under better circumstances, if you find that you still get kicked out, you can always come home to us. But in the event you don’t get kicked out, we hope you will think to ask us for some advice in the future, before you try and get into such trouble again.”
“Well, if it won’t be too much trouble, and if we don’t get kicked out, I was hoping we could ask some advice about how we should go about organizing some of the things we are planning. If we are going to be effective, we need to establish some things like a network for information and the like. At least we have talked a bit, but we still need some advice on the best way to get it done.”
“If, you don’t get kicked out, we will be glad to advise you in this. Contact us through Charlie here when you need our advice. Will that be okay with you?”
“That’ll be great! I’ll let the others know and we can put together some questions about what we need to do or if you think we are doing the right things.”
“Can you tell us a little about this team of yours. It is interesting how aware they are of the problems you are facing. And have you met Sara yet?”
“Okay. I’ll tell you anything that they have given me permission to tell you. If you want more, you’ll have to ask them. And yeah. She’s... Interesting. She probably would’ve joined in too but got distracted by some guy called Blue Jay or something and by the time she got free of him it was over.”
“Corrupting her already?”
“Give us a little time and she’ll fit right in.”
“Glad to hear she’s starting to fit in. She’s had a hard time of it. Please tell us what you can.”
I proceeded to give them a general rundown on who was in the Team and a little about them that could be found out easily from school records, which I assumed they had access to. The more intimate details they could learn by asking the others personally.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Lisa then spoke up.
“Yes! Girl talk! Guys....OUT!”
Mr. Lodgeman looked surprised for a moment, as if he were going to say something. Nathan was already on the way out and Mr. Tanaka was holding the door.
“Now Charlie. If there’s more you want to say, you can say it later. Get moving.”
Nathan turned to him.
“C’mon Charlie. I want to check up on what some of the others have to say about this fight. I’ve got a feeling that Billie left a lot out.”
“Just saying that they kicked their asses leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I’d like to hear Delarose’s take on this too.”
“Okay. That’s one conversation I don’t want to miss either. I will talk to you later though, okay Billie?”
“Good. I’ll see you later.”
The men left and closed the door behind them. Their conversation could be heard receding down the hall. Lisa had moved over with Mrs. Tanaka on the couch, and she motioned for me to join them. I moved over carefully, not knowing what to expect. Lisa seemed in charge of this part of the meeting.
“Sit down dear. We aren’t going to bite. But there are a few things that we’re sure that your parents didn’t go over with you before now.”
I sat down between them and waited for them to start. Lisa continued.
“Okay Billie, have you had sex yet?”
This was not what I was expecting and all I could do was stare at her.
“I’ll take that as a no. Okay, have you considered having sex, seriously I mean. Not just daydreams.”
“No again? Just what have you been doing girl?”
“I... I’ve been sort of busy...”
“Yes. We know that. But, no experiments at all?”
I’d never felt like I had much in the way of opportunity without someone looking over my shoulder all the time. I’d actually stopped thinking about it because there was so much else that I had been doing. I thought with some embarrassment about the few tame experiments that I had felt safe enough to try.
“So, you have experimented a little then. What did you think?”
How could she be so sure of that? It was almost as if she was reading my mind. Then Mrs. Tanaka spoke up.
“It’s okay Billie, Lisa here is a strong empath. She can sense some of your answers just by the way you feel about them.”
“Oh, kind of like Nikki?”
“Possibly. It is something that takes practice to use effectively, but it can be as or more useful than telepathy in some circumstances.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“It’s not that. But we can’t be certain exactly how you feel about some of this, and Lisa’s ability makes it easier to get to the important things that we feel you need to know.”
“Like the fact that while you haven’t given it much consideration yet, sex is going to become more important to you in the near future.”
I tried to speak but she motioned me to stop and she continued.
“I know that it may not be so important to you just yet, but it is going to have a big effect on you just the same, and I think we can be sure that you haven’t had much experience with your current viewpoint either.”
“You can say that again, but I don’t think you have to worry. I don’t have any intention of having anything to do with sex anytime in the near future. It just gives me the willies when I do think of it.”
Lisa spoke again.
“Billie. Sex doesn’t always involve boys you know. I detected a very emotional response from you when your roommate Jade was mentioned. Have you possibly experimented in that direction?”
The shock I felt must have been very apparent to her because she apologized before I could gather myself enough to say anything.
“Oh! I’m so sorry Billie. I realize that you haven’t done anything like that now. It’s just that it is a very strong possibility in situations like this and I thought it might be the reason you are so emotional about your roommate.”
“Sh... She’s my friend! I would never do... Anything like that to her! I just care a lot because she was so hurt by what has happened! I had to rock her to sleep the other night because she was crying, and she’s lost her mother, and she’s so worried about how her mutation isn’t....”
I stopped then because I realized that she might not appreciate having others know about her problems. Lisa was staring at me very intently.
“So you want to comfort and protect her. Sex has nothing to do with it?”
“No... I mean yes, but sex doesn’t come into it. She needs my help is all. She’s all alone except for us. The Team that is.”
Lisa started to sadly shake her head.
“OH, this is worse than I thought.”
Both Mrs. Tanaka and I spoke at the same time.
“Your mothering her.”
Mrs. Tanaka seemed to get what she ment, but all I could do was say. “Huh?”
“Billie, what do you feel when you are comforting your friend?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Do you hold or hug her when she cries?”
“Of course I do, but it’s not like I’m doing something other than that!”
“Do you hold her like a friend? Or like a mother holding a child?”
With a shock, I remembered how it had felt to hold Jade and rock her to sleep the other night. There hadn’t been anything like sex in it. I was just comforting her like I would have a child.
“Is that what you mean by mothering her?”
“Yes, I can feel it very strongly in you right now. You are going to have to be very careful how you handle this in the future.”
“Would you like being treated like a child by someone who isn’t your mother? Would you like to be treated like a child now, even by your mother? And I don’t think that the two of you are very far apart in age are you?”
“Well, she is almost as old as me, but she doesn’t look it. But if Jasmine is any indication, she is going to be bigger than me when she grows up.”
“Uh, kind of like Jinn, but I better let her tell you about that. She may want to do that herself.”
“Okay. We can respect that. But you do understand what we mean don’t you?”
“You mean not to treat Jade like a baby?”
“No. That too, but we mean that you need to control that mothering instinct of yours. I can feel it now. You have a very strong maternal instinct. You are going to have to control that or you could end up insulting your friends or possibly even finding yourself in a situation you shouldn’t be in because you might give in to it too fast for your own good.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Billie. Sometimes girls don’t get pregnant just because they make mistakes with their sexual partners. Sometimes they do it just to have a child of their own. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that there should be careful consideration and planning for raising a child. Your instincts might get you into a bad situation if you are not careful.”
“Pregnant!? Why would I want to do that? I couldn’t have changed that much so fast could I?”
“We’re talking about instinct here Billie. Don’t ever underestimate just how strong that type of impulse is. And remember. Your body is more developed than the records indicate. You are actually starting to enter the age where a girl really starts to consider those options. A large part of that consideration comes from the fact that the body itself is starting to prepare itself for that task too. Call it instinct or whatever else you want to call it, but it is a very real part of your life that you will have to deal with. It’s one of the major reasons we needed to talk to you. We were pretty sure that you wouldn’t know about this and should be warned.”
This was too much at one time. I couldn’t understand how I could do something like that and at the same time, when I thought about how I had felt holding Jade, I couldn’t help feeling that I wanted something like that too. Mrs. Tanaka took my hand.
“Billie. We understand how rough this can be for you. We want you to know that you can call us anytime you need help. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I... I think so.”
“Good. I think that will be all for now. It might have been better for your own mother to be here for this, but unfortunately, we have received news that the two assassins that tried to kill you before have gotten away and we don’t want to make their task any easier for them. Their sure to want some payback, but the defenses here should be able to keep them out of your hair. So don’t worry too much about it.”
“Don’t worry about some assassins!?”
“Yes. We are handling it. You really don’t need to worry about this. These assassins are not suicide types. They want to live long healthy lives. They don’t want to mess with Whateley. We can take care of this. Just keep your eyes open. They might try to scope out the area. If that happens and you see them, just give us a buzz, and we’ll take care of it from there. Don’t try to be a hero. You were lucky once. These are professionals, don’t expect to beat them twice that way. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I understand.”
“Okay then. We’ve delivered the warnings that we needed to. You should get back to what you were doing. Just remember that we are here for you. Let your friends know that we will be contacting them too.”
“Okay, I’ll do that.”
They both gave me a hug and escorted me out of the building.
“We better find the guys before they manage to get into any trouble. We’ll see you again. On Parents Day if not sooner.”
“Thank you. Is there anything I should be watching for in relation to what you told me?”
“Only if you start having a hard time controlling yourself. Other than that, you should be just fine.”
“You mean any more than normal?”
“Yes, Billie. More than normal.”
“Okay. I’ll be in touch. Bye!”
They waved and watched me walk away and then turned back to the building in search of the others.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: October 1st/ Monday October 2nd
I had a lot to think about and spent a large part of the rest of the day up in the rafters. I kept trying to see if I could figure out if there was another person in my head. I even tried to remember some of those dreams more clearly in an attempt to learn differences that I could use to figure out if this spirit was in there.
All I learned made me worry more though. Try as I might, I couldn’t separate myself from the memories. It was me, just without emotions. As frightening as that could be, I found myself slowly accepting it, and that worried me. Somehow, I was finding it less and less unusual to accept that this strange person was me. I couldn’t imagine being someone else anymore. At least not now. How could I accept this so easily? The only answer I had for myself was that I had apparently been this strange being for longer than I could remember or maybe even imagine for now, and only been Bill Wilson for sixteen years, and I couldn’t remember much of that as well as I could some of my other past.
The fact was that I had never felt so alive and aware before this and I had friends that went way beyond anything I had experienced before. The life that had been mine so recently was gone forever. And a new life, one filled with more than just duty, was now mine. I liked it that way. I really liked it that way. And that was so much more than I could say about both previous lives.
I’d been two separate beings before. But now I was Tennyo, something of them both, but no longer separate either. And with that I decided that I didn’t need to worry about anything more. I’d lost nothing and gained everything, and that was that. Later that evening, when Hank showed us The Great Escape, I found myself understanding Steve McQueen’s character’s strength and thought that it wouldn’t be a bad example to follow.
When we marched into the presence of Ms. Hartford, we were prepared. Toni and Ayla handled the whole thing like pros. It was almost an anticlimax when Mrs. Carson came out and told us that our punishment would be a week of detention, with the added labor of working in Hawthorne for a week, helping some of the students there. An added plus was finding out that, ‘Tansy’, had confessed to kidnaping Jinn and starting the fight. The Alphas would be joining us on detention, the week after we had it.
Life was sweet, if you weren’t an Alpha.