Poe Cottage, Friday morning, Sept 9th, 2016
There are few sounds in the world as unwelcome and annoying as that of an alarm clock going off in the morning. However, this morning, I was actually thankful for the interruption of my less than restful sleep.
I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, and tried to shake the cobwebs from my thoughts. I couldn’t remember my dreams, nor could I escape the feeling that they’d been bad. Of course, that was no surprise since almost all of my dreams seemed to be bad anymore. Ever since… I winced as an image flashed through my memories, one with the bodies of my entire family spread out on the floor in front of me. And as much as I wished otherwise, that hadn’t just been a nightmare.
“Ugh,” I muttered with a deep grimace. “Stupid dreams…”
“Oh God, is it morning already?” my roommate grumbled as she sat up in bed. After a few seconds and a loud yawn, she looked at me. “Bad dreams?”
My roommate was Morgana, a beautiful but odd looking girl with mostly golden eyes, red hair and small horns, which made her look like some kind of devil girl. Of course, I wasn’t one to judge since I certainly didn’t look normal either. After all, my skin and hair were pure white…like freshly fallen snow. The truth was, I stuck out even more than she did.
I responded with a sigh, thinking of some of the odd noises and moans she sometimes made in the middle of the night. I could sympathize though, because both of us had more than enough reasons for bad dreams.
It was strange having a roommate, and not just because I’d never had one before. It was strange to be sharing a room with a hot looking girl, not to mention, one who could burst into flame at a moment’s notice. But again, it wasn’t like I could judge. Morgana probably thought it was weird sharing a room with me too.
After a minute of sitting on the edge of my bed, I finally got up and began to stretch. Neither Morgana or I said anything to each other as we staggered around, getting our things ready to start the day. It seemed that neither of us were morning people. I grabbed my white bathrobe, slippers, and shower caddy, then hurried down the hall to take my shower before the line got too big.
As soon as I stepped into the girl’s showers, I was greeted with, “Morning, Bianca.”
“Morning,” I responded to the blue skinned Laura, who was one of my new friends.
At the moment, Laura was completely naked, having just gotten out of the shower and being in the middle of drying herself off. She was doing so in front of several other girls, without any apparent shame or embarrassment. If anything, she might even have been showing off a bit. For a brief moment, I actually resented her for being so comfortable and happy in her own skin.
It had only been a month and a half since my grandmother had died and I’d unexpectedly inherited her power…and the form that came with it. In that time, I’d learned how to act feminine, how to put on a mask and play the part of a proper young lady. However, what I hadn’t learned, was how to feel comfortable with my new body…how to feel…normal. Sometimes, I doubted if I ever would.
As soon as the next shower stall opened up, I took my turn, trying my best to ignore the fact that I was in the girls shower room…and was surrounded by naked girls. Before my change, that had been something of a fantasy, though the reality was a bit less titillating. It was hard to get excited about girls who were shaving their legs, spraying deodorant under their arms, or who were checking for pimples. So far, I hadn’t seen a single naked towel fight, but I was holding out hope. After all, school had only just started.
Once I finished showering, I stepped out of the stall, fully aware of the fact that the girls…other girls could see me. I was extremely self-conscious about this fact, especially since I knew some of them would be checking me out, though I tried my best not to show it. I was getting good at putting on a mask and at least pretending that I didn’t care what other people thought.
“Hey, where did you get those tattoos?” Bailey blurted out, making me even more embarrassed.
My skin and hair was pure white, though I had a number of tattoos scattered about my body. More accurately, I had fifteen runes on my body, each one looking like some kind of shiny watermark on my skin, but instead of being tattoos, these were magical marks…each one representing a part of the magic that I was bound with. Some of the runes represented the specific spells that had been cast on the first White Lady, while others represented the spells that tied those ones to each other…and to me.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to look at Bailey, though I kept my voice calm and steady as I answered, “The same place I got my skin color and figure…”
Though I was embarrassed to have anyone know about the fact that I used to be a boy, nearly everyone in Poe already knew that. There was a certain comfort and relief in being able to be honest, at least about that. There were definite limits as to just how honest I could be. They might know that I used to be a boy, but there were a lot of other things that they didn’t know, and which I could never let them find out.
“Well, they certainly look…unique,” Chessa commented appreciatively.
I smiled faintly at that, though it was a little forced. “They are rather unique,” I admitted.
With that, I mentally reached out to the five elemental spells that were a permanent part of my power, or at least, to one of them. Suddenly, all of the runes on my skin began to glow blue, as did my eyes. And at that moment, I could feel a cool tingling in my right palm, which told me that a sixteenth rune had just appeared there, one that only appeared when I activated my elemental powers. Without even having to look, I knew that the glowing blue rune was the one for ‘water’.
At that moment, I could suddenly feel all of the water near me. With only a little concentration, I was able to pull all the water out of my hair and off my skin, then I turned around and gestured towards the shower stall that I’d just left. All the water went splashing into the stall where it could go down the drain, while I was now completely dry. Normally, I reserved my elemental powers for when I really needed them, but long hair was really annoying when wet, not to mention an enormous pain to dry.
“Very nice trick,” Bailey said, looking amused. “Do you think you could dry me off too?”
“Sure,” I responded, feeling a little more confident now that I was showing off some of my power. I reached out to Bailey and pulled the water from her hair and skin the same way I had my own.
“Now me,” Chessa exclaimed excitedly.
I nodded and dried Chessa off the same way, but just as I was pulling it towards the shower, my elemental power abruptly cut out and the water all dropped to the floor in a splash. Chessa let out a squeal of surprise, then glared at me while Bailey laughed.
“Sorry,” I said with a wince. “My power ran out…”
“How long does it take you to recharge?” Bailey asked me curiously.
“An hour or two,” I admitted with a shrug.
I didn’t really like other people knowing so much about my powers, and I usually tried keeping my weaknesses quiet, but I’d gotten a bit carried away, much to my embarrassment. Still, most of the girls present seemed impressed, or at least, jealous that I could dry my hair so quickly and easily. After this, I quickly finished up my business and hurry back to my room.
When I got back to my room, I found it empty, which wasn’t a surprise. Morgana had probably been in the middle of taking her own shower at the same time I’d been showing off. But that meant, for the moment at least, I had the room to myself. I was happy about that since I could get dressed without having to feel self-conscious from having my roommate there.
Classes had yet to start, which meant that I could get away without having to wear a school uniform yet. However, I still chose to wear a nice pair of slacks and a long sleeved blouse that covered my arms, as had become my habit. Just because all the girls in the showers knew about my tattoos, that didn’t meant everyone in the school needed to. Once I was dressed, the only tattoo that wasn’t covered, was the one on the back of my right hand.
I had just finishing getting dressed and was beginning to brush my hair when Morgana returned to the room, her wet hair and bathroom caddy confirming my guess about where she’d been. As she began to get her own clothes out, she gave me a curious look and grinned.
“I heard you did a little demonstration in the showers,” she told me with a chuckle.
“A small one,” I admitted with a blush, which probably never reached my cheeks. My unusual skin coloring tended to hide things like that.
“I thought about using my power to dry my hair,” Morgana told me with a wry smile, “but I didn’t want to set off the fire system…”
I smiled faintly at that and told her, “Probably a good idea.”
While I continued to brush my hair, something which I alternately found annoying or relaxing, I slowly looked around the room. I’d already drawn a couple of protection runes in chalk, right on the wall beside the window and door, but I could definitely do more. I had some runes that would help protect against scrying and spying, and I definitely needed to add more of those. I frowned thoughtfully as I began to mentally list the extra protections that I’d need to put in place to make the place more secure.
“What in the world are you doing?” Morgana asked.
“What?” I asked, a little startled from the distraction.
“You were staring at the wall,” Morgana pointed out, giving me a look as if wondering whether or not I was crazy.
I gave her a wry smile before explaining, “I was just thinking about some protection spells I could put in here…”
“Go on,” Morgana encouraged me to explain.
“Well,” I mused with a grin, “I know one rune that can make things fireproof…and put out fires as soon as they start.”
Morgana looked a little self-conscious before admitting, “That might be useful…”
“And I know another one for soundproofing,” I joked. “Just what I need for your snoring…”
“I do not snore,” Morgana protested with a glare.
I didn’t bother to argue with her since she knew the truth, even if she didn’t admit it aloud. And with that, I looked around the room, considering the feasibility of my soundproofing spells.
I could draw some runes on the wall and door, which would keep us from hearing any noise from the hallway or neighbors, but that might also make it difficult to tell if someone was knocking on our door. I could also put some runes around the room so that I didn’t have to hear Morgana’s snoring or odd noises in the middle of the night, but that could make it difficult to have a conversation.
“Maybe if I put a single rune between our beds,” I mused aloud, “and charged it before bed, just long enough to last most of the night…”
“So,” Morgana asked. “What do you have scheduled for today?”
“Power testing,” I answered grimly, though I was definitely not happy about it.
“Ouch,” she responded with a visible wince, reminding me that she’d gone through that very same thing yesterday. She’d complained about it, in horrific detail, last night at dinner. “Sorry to hear it.”
“I don’t see the point,” I grumbled. “I already went through power testing back in Chicago…”
However, what I didn’t tell Morgana was that Marcus and Tessa had gone through a lot of trouble and expense to make sure that certain things were kept off my official record. The last thing I wanted was for one of my enemies to look at my MID and see how to beat me. Unfortunately, I doubted that the Whateley testers would care about my personal security that way.
“This is just going to be a waste of time,” I continued grumbling, silently adding that it would also be a waste of all the money that we’d already spent keeping the official results trimmed down to the bare basics.
“Just wait until they do the regeneration tests,” Morgana teased me. “They’ll cut off the tip of your finger and see if it regrows…”
I just gave her a flat look and wryly pointed out, “Then it’s a good thing that I already know I can regenerate…”
Morgana gave me an odd look, as if trying to decide whether or not I was teasing her back. However, she seemed to realize that I was actually worried, though I doubted that she had any idea as to why I was really worried about my testing.
"Hey, don't worry,” she tried to reassure me, “It's not as bad as all that. More embarrassing than anything. And it is necessary." She stopped talking for a moment as she put on a t-shirt. "At least you can control your powers, so you probably won't ruin more of their kit."
Power Testing Lab, Friday afternoon, Sept 9th, 2016
I was tired, hungry, and more than a little irritable from having wasted most of my day on power testing. It would have been one thing if I’d really needed it, but I hadn’t. I’d already been through the testing in Chicago.
Of course, I had to reluctantly admit, that the testers here at Whateley were a lot more knowledgeable than the ones at the MCO testing office, and their tests were also more thorough. In fact, they were thorough enough to even catch my limited elemental abilities, and the one that let me read nearly any language.
What really concerned me, was that they knew I was not hosting a true spirit, like what other avatars had, but an artificially created one. And to make it even worse, they’d been excited about my family legacy, which they called an ‘anomalous spiritual being’ and a few other things I couldn’t remember. I had a bad feeling that this interest in my spirit meant that there would be even more testing in my future.
“But not for now,” I reminded myself, letting out a sigh of relief.
In spite of the fact that I wanted to run away from the testing facilities, I remembered my lessons in decorum and presenting the proper image. So instead of running, I neatened my clothes a little, then calmly walked away, trying to act as though I was confident and in control. I was getting pretty good at wearing that mask.
Now that I was done with testing, at least for today, I wanted to go get something to eat. Unfortunately, it was still a little too early for dinner, and even more importantly, I had another appointment that I had to get to shortly. I was supposed to meet up with my faculty advisor so I could get my class schedule.
With a sigh of annoyance, I started walking to Schuster Hall. It would have been easy to let my mind wander, because I certainly had more than enough things to think about. However, I couldn’t afford to do that, or at least, I couldn’t afford to get so distracted that I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. Even as I thought about the testing that I’d just gone through, and the appointment that I was heading towards, I carefully watched my surroundings. As I’d learned the hard way, you never knew when someone might attack without warning.
There were a lot of students wandering around, many taking advantage of the fact that the real classes had yet to start. A lot of those kids looked perfectly normal, yet others were unbelievably attractive or disturbingly odd. A couple students gave me odd or curious looks, but no one stared too obviously, nor did anyone approach me…much to my relief. I saw one guy, who looked like some kind of anthropomorphic warthog, and realizing that compared to someone like him, I was barely worth noticing.
I felt a certainly degree of comfort and familiarity at being able to just disappear into the crowd like this, something that I hadn’t really been able to do since I manifested. In Chicago, I was the White Lady, which meant that I was the center of attention...for good or ill. As the figurehead for the Family, it seemed that everyone wanted to manipulate, protect, or kill me. And then, in New York, I’d been a freak to be stared at. But here…at Whateley…I blended in. Here, I wasn’t the White Lady…I was just Bianca…just one student among many.
Even as my eyes continued to sweep my surroundings in search of any threats, my thoughts drifted back to a time when I’d always been invisible and ignored...even by my own family. I thought of Mom and my sister Paige, then suddenly winced as I remembered their last moments and pictured their dead eyes staring at me.
I grimaced and let out a gasp, then closed my eyes for a few seconds, regardless of how dangerous it was to lower my guard like that. It was like my memories had touched on exposed nerves, giving me a sharp emotional pain. I quickly forced my thoughts in a new direction, a much less painful one, though tears had already started to form in my eyes. I quickly wiped them away, hoping that no one had seen.
When I arrived at Schuster Hall, I went to the room that was listed on my appointment sheet. The door was wide open, but I paused at the entrance to knock anyway, and called out, “Hello. I’m here for my appointment…”
A moment later, a woman’s voice called out, “Welcome. Enter freely and of your own will.” As a fan of the classics, I immediately recognized the line from Dracula. That didn’t do anything good for my nerves.
I was nervous as I stepped through the door, though I thought I did a good job of not showing it. I quickly looked over the small office, which had several paintings on the walls, though my eyes stopped on the woman behind the desk. She had dark hair, a pair of small black horns sticking out from her forehead, and tiny black scales that covered the top part of her face and almost made it look as though she was wearing a mask. She stared at me with a pair of slitted yellow eyes, which were just a little scary.
“Um…hi,” I said awkwardly, losing my cool façade.
I looked away from the strange looking woman so that she didn’t think I was staring at her. Instead, my eyes settled on the name plaque that sat on the front of her desk. It said ‘THE Imp’, with the ‘THE’ part of it actually being entirely capitalized.
“I’m Bianca St. Claire,” I continued. “I have an appointment…”
“Close the door and have a seat…” The strange woman said as she gestured to the chair across the desk from her.
“What do I call you?” I asked nervously, glancing to her name plaque, which was obviously some kind of joke.
“I am THE Imp,” she answered with a grin as she stood up and posed in a dramatic fashion. A moment later, she continued in a sort of sing-song voice, “I am the one and only, genuine, original, fabulous Imp…” Then, she gave a sweeping bow and smirked before taking her seat again. “But I’m not that particular about titles, so you can just call me Imp or Ms. Imp. I’m not picky.”
“Okay,” I responded a little awkwardly, a little confused about my faculty advisor’s behavior. “Ms. Imp…”
“Let’s see,” Imp mused, becoming more serious as she turned her attention to her computer monitor. “Bianca. St. Claire. Codenamed Glyph. Wiz, avatar and regen…a very useful ability to have. And it says that you’re from Chicago…”
“Yes, ma’am,” I agreed.
Imp stared at me for several long seconds before commenting, “You know…you have an uncanny resemblance to an old business associate of mine from Chicago.”
I suddenly froze, seeing the knowing look in her eyes. She knew who I was. I thought that when I came to Whateley, that no one would know I was the new White Lady…that I could escape some of the pressures that came with that title. However, my new faculty advisor had recognized me almost immediately, which made me worried that I wasn’t going to be nearly as anonymous as I’d hoped.
I straightened up in my seat and carefully pulled on the calm and confident mask of the White Lady. “You knew my grandmother.”
“The White Lady was a class act,” Imp said with a frown and a faint shake of her head. “I heard that she’d been killed…and that her replacement was both a teenage girl and a mutant. I can’t say that I expected to see you here at Whateley…”
“It…seemed like a good place to continue my education,” I said carefully. “How did you know my grandmother?”
“Before I began my career in education,” Imp answered with an amused look, “I used to be a specialist in...acquisitions. She was one of my clients.”
I blinked at that, suddenly having a lot more questions. “I see,” I started.
Before I could ask my next question, Imp cut me off by announcing, “But we aren’t here to talk about your grandma, or about me. We are here, Bianca, to set up your class schedule…”
I found myself nodding in agreement, as well as relief at the change of subject. “Okay…”
“Let’s see,” Imp mused. “I’m sure that you’re eager to pad your schedule with all sorts of fun electives, like sculpting, drawing or painting, but unfortunately, it isn’t going to be that simple…”
“It never is,” I responded wryly.
“As unusual and impressive as Whateley is,” Imp told me with a shrug, “it is still a high school. That means, there are certain requirements, and as you are a mutant, some of those requirements will be a bit more exotic than at other previous schools.”
“What kind of requirements?” I asked suspiciously.
“Along with the usual reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Imp explained, “there are certain power related classes that you’ll need to take, along with a few things that will help with your general survival. Trust me, when the dookie hits the fan, you’ll be happy you took those.” She gave me an apologetic look and added, “Most freshmen, especially ones in the magic or tech tracks, are so busy with their core classes that they don’t have a lot of time in their schedule for extra electives in the first year or two…though we’ll try to see what we can do.”
“As a magic user,” Imp said, looking at her computer monitor, “you’re going to need Magic 101, both theory and lab. That’s two class periods…”
“Two?” I blurted out in surprise.
Imp just shrugged. “I’m not a finger wiggler, but I can tell you that magic is complicated to learn. In addition, you’ll need Power Theory, which is pretty much mandatory for all students, but it will fill your science requirement.”
I stared at my faculty advisor as I protested, “That’s half my classes…”
Imp nodded at that. “The downside of having powers is that you need to learn how to use them. And that reminds me, there is one more mandatory class…” She looked at the monitor and added, “We STRONGLY recommend that all students take either martial arts or Survival, but there’s a note in your file that you’re to take BMA instead of Survival.”
I groaned as I remembered New York, and specifically, Mrs. Dennon. While chewing me out for my part in fighting with that supervillain, she’d told me that I was going to be taking a martial arts class. It seemed that she hadn’t just forgotten about it.
“I’ll tell you what,” Imp said, giving me a grin. “If you’d rather take Survival, I’ll sign you up for that class. Never underestimate the value of escape and avoidance when it comes to trouble.”
“Survival sounds interesting,” I admitted, having read the description of the class in one of the pamphlets that I’d been provided.
According to the pamphlet, Survival class was all about how to deal with dangerous situations, with as little direct confrontation as possible. Seeing signs of danger, running away, and how to escape when caught, were some of the things that had been listed. And though those would all be useful for me, I knew that I couldn’t earn the respect of the Family by running away…nor would I have been able to stop the Messenger.
I looked directly into Imp’s yellow eyes and stated, “I want to take martial arts. I want to learn how to fight.”
Imp didn’t question my decision. She just nodded and said, “Okay. This leaves us only two class periods for the normal school requirements…things like Math, History, and English…” She made an exaggerated roll of her eyes and added, “For some reason, the state insists that we teach boring things like that to balance out all the cool stuff.”
Imp showed me a list of the various ‘normal’ classes, and I let out a disappointed sigh. “There isn’t a lot to choose from…”
Of course, there were actually a lot of classes available, but as Imp had pointed out previously, I didn’t have room in my schedule for a lot of electives. Instead, I was stuck having to pick from a much shorter list of classes that I needed for my basic credit requirements.
“Once you get some of these power classes and prerequisites out of the way,” Imp told me with a sympathetic look, “you’ll have more room for other things, like art.”
“I was kind of hoping I could take this Costuming class,” I admitted.
Ever since Laura had shown me how to use makeup to hide my skin coloring, I’d been thinking about disguises and how I might be able to go out in public without drawing attention. From what I’d read in the pamphlet, Costuming class sounded like it would be useful for that, among other things. After all, one of the things the pamphlet noted, was that the class would teach how to control the kind of image you present, which was something Tessa was always talking about.
Imp gave me a knowing look and nodded her head. “Costuming would probably be quite useful for someone in your position…” She gave me a thoughtful look. “A lot of students who plan on going into the business…on either side…like the class, because they can design their own uniforms and learn how to make them practical as well as stylish…”
I didn’t bother to point out that I had no plans to go into ‘the business’, because I’d learned the hard way that the world had absolutely no concern for my plans. And unfortunately, as the White Lady, I was probably going to have to deal with both heroes and villains, in one fashion or another.
“There is a Costuming class scheduled for Saturday mornings,” Imp abruptly said, giving me a questioning look. “If you’re interested, I can sign you up for that one…”
For a moment, I just sat there, considering whether I really wanted that class. After all, that class would probably be useful, but it would be on Saturday, when I’d be much happier either sleeping in or doing something else. However, after reminding myself of why I’d come to Whateley in the first place, I made up my mind.
“I’ll take that one,” I said.
“There are other classes available after hours and on weekends,” Imp commented, “but you don’t want to overload your schedule. Trust me, you’ll have more than enough to do already…”
“Actually,” I pointed out awkwardly, “there is one other class I need to take…” At Imp’s curious look, I explained, “I brought a firearm that security is holding onto, and they said that I can’t use it until I take Firearm Safety…”
Imp nodded her understanding and looked at her computer again. “Let’s see,” she mused. “The afternoon class is already filled up. There is a Saturday class…but it looks like it overlaps Costuming…” After a few more seconds, she looked at me and said, “If you want Firearm Safety, your only options are to take it on Saturday instead of Costuming…or take the evening class.”
“I’ll take the evening class,” I said with a sigh.
A minute later, Imp finished signing me up for my classes, then printed out my schedule. I carefully looked it over, then nodded my acceptance. It wasn’t my ideal class schedule, but it wasn’t really bad either. After all, I had classes to learn magic, and that was a whole lot more interesting than some of the subjects I didn’t have room for.
“Once you are able to fit in some more electives,” Imp told me with a look of amusement, “you should consider taking some art classes. I have it on good authority that this school has the best art teacher anywhere…”
“Um…thank you,” I said, having noticed that she’d mentioned art classes several times. I glanced to the paintings on the wall and then my faculty advisor, suddenly having a pretty good idea of who the art teacher was. “Is there anything else?”
“I don’t have anything else for you,” Imp told me cheerfully. “So, unless you have any questions or something else you want to talk about, you’re free to go…”
“Thank you, Ms. Imp,” I told her again as I got up to leave.
As soon as I stepped out the door, I let out a sigh of relief, thankful to finally have my schedule in hand. I was also glad to get away from my faculty advisor. Imp wasn’t nearly as intimidating as she looked, though she still made me uncomfortable, for the simple fact that she’d immediately recognized who I was. Still, she hadn’t made a big deal out of it, so that was a good thing.
Just then, my stomach grumbled, reminding me of something that I’d been trying to ignore…the fact that I was hungry. After everything they’d put me through in power testing, I was hungry enough that I might even be able to match Morgana for how much I could eat, or at least, that was how I felt at the moment. I was pretty sure that when put to the test, I wouldn’t be able to actually keep up, no matter how hungry I felt. However, since it was finally time for dinner, I started towards Crystal Hall, determined to find out once and for all, which was larger…my eyes or my stomach.
Bad Seeds Clubhouse, Friday morning, Sept 9th, 2016
Gideon Crawford, more commonly known within the walls of Whateley Academy by his codename of Esquire, had arrived late for the scheduled meeting. Of course, his late arrival was intentional, all part of his plan for a dramatic entrance.
Esquire was a slender young man with angular features and piercing dark gray eyes. His dark brown hair was neatly combed back, and he wore a well-tailored suit, which was his preferred fashion. As he walked into the clubhouse, the sound of his metal cane tapping against the floor, echoed ahead of him and announced his arrival.
The young mutant did not require the cane to help him walk, but in spite of what others assumed, the cane was less a matter of affectation and more an excuse to carry a weapon in plain sight. For a ferrokinetic like himself, the hollow metal cane and all of the ball bearings hidden within, were a virtual arsenal.
As Esquire expected, most of the other Bad Seeds were already present and sitting around the meeting table. He noted that several of the senior members were missing, probably because they were too busy to concern themselves with the current topic of interest.
“I have arrived,” Esquire announced in a tone that matched his arrogant expression.
“About damn time,” Hammer grumbled.
At the same time, Racoon commented, “Too bad. For a minute there, I thought we’d get something productive done.”
Esquire glared at his fellow Bad Seeds, though neither of them seemed intimidated. So with a dignified scowl, he held out his cane, which floated across the room and settled into the corner. Then, he carefully took his seat and looked around the table.
Racoon, whose real name was Tyler Voight, was leaning back in his chair and had the usual easygoing grin plastered on his face. His shaggy brown hair looked like it was in bad need of a cut, as usual, much to Esquire’s annoyance. He preferred things to be neat and tidy, while Racoon was anything but.
Unlike Racoon, Hammer had a deep scowl on his face and was giving Esquire a look of impatient annoyance. Of course, that was no surprise since this was the same expression that Hammer normally wore around him. Hammer had never given Esquire the respect that he knew he deserved, and reacted to his clever plans with contempt.
Hammer was a large boy, not so much in height, but in musculature. He radiated a certain sense of physical power, along with a willingness to use it. However, when Esquire looked at Hammer, there was one word that immediately came to mind. Thug. Hammer was a thug, who solved all of his problems with his fists, and was about as subtle as his name suggested.
Snake-eyes was leaning back in his chair, watching Esquire with a pair of pure black eyes and looking somewhat bored. Esquire took note of that since it wouldn’t be good to let him get too bored.
Sitting beside Snake-eyes was his partner, Revel. Regan Rouvier was quite attractive, which was to be expected from a high level exemplar. She had striking grey eyes and brown hair that was cut to her jawline, and of course, she wore her accustomed smirk.
Sister Secret, like Revel, was a Junior, and was tied for being the most senior Seed currently present. She had long black hair that was pulled back into a high ponytail, an olive complexion, and a pretty face that was adorned with a pair of round ‘John Lennon’ vanity glasses.
And then there was Dragonblade, AJ Blackstone, the son of the infamous Witch Queen and one of the two newest members of their club. AJ had only joined the Bad Seeds a couple days earlier, so he had yet to prove himself. They were still trying to get a feel for how he’d fit in.
Finally, Esquire turned his attention to the last person sitting at the table, who also happened to be the youngest of the Bad Seeds. Michelle Jarrowitz was twelve-years-old, and was the only junior high student among the Seeds, which meant that the others were quite protective of her. And though her codename was Tek Witch, nearly everyone called her by the shortened version, Twitch.
“Twitch,” Esquire greeted the girl, softening his voice a little.
The girl was currently focused on her violet witch hat, which was sitting on the table in front of her. She looked up and her blonde pigtails bounced from the sudden movement.
“Huh?” Twitch asked, giving him a blank look.
“This probably won’t be of much interest to you,” Esquire told the girl.
“You’ll probably have more fun hanging with one of your new friends,” Racoon added.
“Nah, I’m good,” Twitch responded, holding up the small circuit board that she’d been fiddling with and sticking it inside her hat, where she plugged it in. Once she was satisfied, she put her witch hat back on and grinned proudly. “I’m a Seed too, you know.”
“Let’s get on with this,” Hammer said impatiently.
“Now, for the reason why we are here,” Sister Secret began.
“We all know why we’re here,” Racoon commended with a roll of his eyes. “We’re here to talk about the incoming freshmen, or at least, the interesting ones…”
“Interesting ones?” Twitch asked curiously.
“Yeah,” Racoon answered with a broad grin. “You know, kids who might be problems for us…or allies…or maybe just possible marks.”
Esquire gave Racoon a look of annoyance, though he nodded agreement. Racoon was correct in that they’d scheduled this meeting to discuss some of the incoming freshmen.
“Then we should begin,” Esquire said, trying to establish his place in the meeting.
“About damn time,” Hammer said.
“We could have started sooner,” Snake-eyes pointed out wryly, if someone hadn’t been late.
“We have the usual mix,” Revel said, looking almost bored. “There are a couple kids who look to be interested in joining the Cape Squad or Secret Squirrels, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them. And my sources tell me that the Masterminds have their eyes on someone too…”
“I think we should begin with the students involved in the New York incident,” Esquire said.
“Which one?” Racoon asked wryly. “I mean, there were two different incidents…” He gave a knowing look at AJ, who’d been involved in one of the incidents.
“If you’re asking about Nick, ”AJ responded, though Esquire couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or amused. “He’s cool.”
“Is he that horsey guy you’re friends with?” Twitch asked with an excited grin. “Like, from that TV show…?”
“Yeah,” AJ answered with a grin of his own. “He’s an Animan, and his dad is head of Paradise Island Defense Force. But like I said, Nick is a friend, and I don’t want anyone messing with him.”
Esquire frowned slightly as he held out a folder and opened it, revealing some pictures that he’d had an acquaintance take. “I was speaking of the other group.”
“Well, go ahead then,” Revel said with a smirk, clearly suggesting that the older Seeds had given him plenty of rope, and now she wanted to see if he’d hang himself with it. “I assume you checked these kids out.”
“Of course,” Esquire answered stiffly. “Upon arrival at Whateley, they immediately registered as a training team…”
“But, they’re freshies,” Snake-eyes protested, looking a little more interested than he had earlier.
Esquire nodded, not needing to point out how unusual it was for freshmen, who’d only just arrived on campus, to form a training team. Even if they hadn’t been involved in fighting a supervillain in New York, this unusual behavior would have been enough to make them targets of interest.
“I haven’t been able to learn much about them YET,” Esquire continued, pointing to one picture, of a girl with rabbit ears. “With some exceptions. This one is actually somewhat famous…”
“She has BUNNY EARS,” Twitch exclaimed, her eyes going wide in delight. “That is so CUTE!”
“I know her,” Racoon said in surprise. “She was in the news… If I remember right, she used to be a guy until he cheated on his girlfriend. Too bad for him, she was a devisor and turned him into some kind of bunny girl.”
“Lucretia Del Bosque,” Esquire said, nodding in agreement. “Formerly Lucas Del Bosque. From what my sources indicate…”
“You mean the news,” Racoon pointed out.
Esquire continued as though he hadn’t been interrupted, “She’s merely an exemplar one, with GSD and no additional abilities…”
Hammer snorted at that. “So, he gets turned into some kind of rabbit chick and doesn’t even get any real powers. Sucks to be her…”
Twitch protested, “Well, I think she’s cute…”
Hammer pulled a picture out of the pile and held it up, showing an attractive girl blue skin. “Who’s the smurf?”
“My sources say that her name is Laura,” Esquire answered, “and that she might be using the codename Cerulea. They also say that she is a devisor, and is assigned to Poe.”
“A head case then,” Racoon said with a look of amusement.
“So far,” Revel said, giving Esquire a flat look. “It looks like you’ve gathered some rumors and hearsay, without much serious intel.”
“I’m afraid that the intelligence gathering is still in progress,” Esquire admitted before continuing.
Unfortunately, he had to admit that Revel was correct, and that most of what he’d learned so far had been from rumors around campus. However, if they determined that these freshmen were worth the effort, he could have his people dig a little deeper. Of course, if they were worth the effort, the other Bad Seeds would direct their efforts to learning more about them as well.
After a few minutes, Esquire held up a photo of a girl with white skin and hair. “This is Bianca St. Claire,” he told the others. “Also known as Glyph. I don’t know much about her as of yet, other than that she is apparently a magic user, and one of my contacts overheard her saying that she’s from Chicago.”
“Hey, Hammer,” Racoon announced, grinning to the other boy. “That’s your neighborhood…”
“Yeah,” Hammer responded, taking the photo with a faint sneer so he could take a closer look at it. “So what…?” Then he paused, his eyes widening and the sneer being replaced with a look of surprise. “No way… That can’t be her…”
“Do you know her?” AJ asked curiously.
“No,” Hammer started, only to scowl. “Maybe…”
“Okay, tough guy,” Racoon urged him. “What’s up?”
Hammer was silent for several long seconds as he merely scowled at the picture. Finally, he said, “You know who my old man is…”
“Your father is Anvil, Esquire said, raising an eyebrow and giving Hammer a curious look. “An enforcer for the Outfit in Chicago…”
“Yeah,” Hammer agreed, still looking just a little startled, though he quickly covered it up and scowled. “My old man told me about someone, and I think this girl might be her…” He paused for a moment before asking, “You guys ever hear of the White Lady?”
“The name sounds familiar,” Racoon admitted.
“The White Lady runs the Family,” AJ supplied. “They’re based out of Chicago and control most of the magic smuggling and protection rackets in the Midwest.” He shrugged at that. “My mom does some business with her occasionally, and took me along once when I was a kid.”
“A tough broad,” Hammer grudgingly admitted. “Hell, the heroes have been trying to nail her for decades, but they couldn’t lay a finger on her. But a couple months ago, someone put a hit on her. Took out her…and a bunch of her family…” He scowled with a look of strong disapproval.
AJ had a look of surprise. “I hadn’t heard…”
“Anyway,” Hammer continued, “my old man told me that the new White Lady is her granddaughter or something… Apparently, she’s about our age…and also happens to be a mutant.”
“I see,” Esquire mused as he gave the photo a thoughtful look. “I am not a large believer in coincidences…”
“Nor am I,” Sister Secret mused.
Hammer nodded at that. “I’ve seen pictures of the old White Lady…and this girl looks just like her.”
Twitch had been staring into what looked like a small crystal ball, but she looked up and asked, “What does that mean?”
“What it means,” Esquire answered with a hungry smile, “is that Glyph is the granddaughter of a supervillain, has connections to an influential organization, and she belongs with us…”
“In other words,” Racoon announced with a grin, “we may have just found a new Bad Seed.”
Poe Cottage, Saturday morning, September 10th, 2016
I was in the cottage dayroom, spread out on a couch, with a good book in my hands. I could have read in my room, which would have been more private, but it wasn’t as cozy and comfortable as Sanctuary had been. Since I couldn’t have Sanctuary, I made due with a comfortable couch instead.
My current book was the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, written in the original Scandinavian. One of the advantages of my power was that I could read in any language, even if I couldn’t write or speak it. That small ability might not seem impressive compared to some of the other things that I could do, but it really opened up my options as far as reading material went.
Just as I was really getting engrossed in the book, a girl asked, “What are you reading?”
I looked up at the girl and saw that she looked about a year or so older than me, and that she had dark hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. She was very pretty, though she wore a pair of thick glasses and was dressed even more conservatively than I was. In fact, this girl almost screamed out ‘librarian’ or something of the type.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoos,” I answered, holding up the book so she could see the cover. Then I gave her a self-conscious smile before saying, “Hi… I’m Bianca…or Glyph.”
“Jessica,” she responded with a shy smile of her own. “But everyone just calls me Façade.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said pleasantly.
Façade gave me a curious look, then adjusted her glasses before asking, “You’re one of the new changelings, aren’t you…?”
I froze for a brief moment at that simple comment, even though I knew it was stupid. After all, I was in Poe, where everyone already knew about my gender change, or at least, where it wasn’t considered any kind of a secret. “Um…yeah,” I admitted awkwardly. “Are you…?”
“No,” Façade said with a bright blush. “I’ve always been a girl…” Then she gave me a faint smile. “I wish I had time to stay and talk to you about that book, but I have to get going…” She adjusted her glasses and said, “I’m supposed to meet someone in the library. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy of that book when I’m there…”
Once Façade left, another girl commented, “I see that Façade is going for the frumpy look today…”
“Huh?” I responded, giving her a curious look.
The girl had long blonde hair and looked vaguely familiar. It took me a moment to remember that I’d been briefly introduced to her the other day, though I couldn’t really remember much about her. What I did remember was that she was a Junior named Decibelle…or Deci for short, and she had some kind of sound based power.
“Façade,” Deci said, nodding in the direction the other girl had gone. “I wonder how long she’ll keep this look…”
I was a little curious about the comment. “Well,” I said awkwardly, “she seems nice…”
“Seems is the right word,” Deci responded with a chuckle. “I guess it depends on her mood…”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
“With Façade,” Deci answered with a shrug, “nearly everything about her is only skin deep.” At my blank look, she gave me a wry smile. “You’ll see…”
I nodded at that, though I really didn’t understand at all. Then again, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get caught up in a bunch of cottage gossip. Gossiping about other people was the kind of thing that my mom liked to do…and my sister Paige. Of course, mom would just call it ‘gathering information’ or something else along those lines, but spreading rumors about other people behind their backs never struck me as being very polite.
After a minute, I put my book away and decided to go out for a while. I wasn’t sure what my friends were up to at the moment, and decided that this would be a good time to take a walk and explore the campus on my own. Unlike back in Chicago, I could actually do that kind of thing here without having to worry about bodyguards and security.
I had no specific destination in mind as I began walking around, however, it didn’t take me long before I remembered that there was supposed to be some kind of small lake on campus. With that in mind, I went in search of it and soon found what would more accurately be described as a pond. It wasn’t nearly as nice as where I used to go fishing, though I did wonder if it was stocked, as well as whether fishing was allowed.
“I wonder if there’s a fishing club,” I mused, feeling excited for a moment, until I remembered that I couldn’t go fishing. Or at least, I might be able to go fishing, but I shouldn’t. It didn’t fit with the image I was trying to present.
I let out a deep sigh at that, feeling the weight of everything I’d lost pressing down on me, threatening to crush me. As horrific as the loss of my family was, the loss of my own identity was nearly as bad. I didn’t look like the old me anymore, could no longer use that name, and I couldn’t even do the things that I liked. Or at least, I couldn’t do some of them.
“At least I can still read,” I said, thankful that I could still enjoy one of my passions. In fact, the nature of my powers actually encouraged me to read even more now. “But no one knows who I am,” I whispered to myself. “No one would know if the White Lady did a little fishing…”
However, I silently reminded myself that there was one person on campus who did know I was the White Lady. That was my faculty advisor, the Imp. So far, she hadn’t made a big deal out of it, and I had the feeling that she wouldn’t go telling everyone, but she still knew. I’d still have one person watching me...judging me by what the White Lady was supposed to be.
I stared out at the water for a few more minutes, then with a disappointed sigh, I turned and walked away. I wasn’t sure why I was so disappointed about not being able to go fishing. It wasn’t like I’d ever been an especially passionate fisherman, but it had been something that I’d enjoyed. It had been something that had been my own, and time that I’d been able to spend away from the pressures and stresses of my family.
“I wish they were still here,” I whispered with tears coming to my eyes.
Mom had always been overbearing, and to be honest, she’d been a bit of a bitch. Just like Paige had been a spoiled brat. However, I missed them both, just like I missed Aunt Clarice, my cousin Nicolette, and my grandmother.
“And Bryan,” I quietly added. “I miss him too…”
As I walked away from the pond, I wiped away the tears and did my best to think of other things, to take my mind off these depressing thoughts. I began to mentally go over every rune that I’d already memorized, knowing that I still had a lot more to learn. Fortunately, Whateley seemed to be the place for that. I just hoped that the magic classes were as good as I’d heard.
A short time later, I found myself arriving at the Quad. The Quad was a large open courtyard, which was marked by having large concrete flagstones on ground, along with numerous benches and table. From what I understood, it was a pretty popular place for students to gather and hang-out…as long as you liked sitting out in the open. Since this was New Hampshire, I suspected that in just a month or two, once the weather turned cold and wet, this entire area would be empty.
I slowly looked over the Quad, silently taking in nearly every detail, looking for anything or anyone who might be a threat to me. So far, everything looked good. Then again, security at Whateley was supposed to be really good, and almost nobody knew I was here, which meant that I probably didn’t have to worry about being attacked by another of Scorn’s assassins. Probably.
Once I had looked over the Quad, I turned my attention back to the one thing that caught my attention. A girl. This specific girl didn’t look like anything special. In fact, she was short, maybe 5 foot 1, with a slender build. She was cute but not gorgeous, with brown hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. However, it wasn’t the girl herself who caught my attention, but what she was doing.
The girl was in the middle of setting up a chain of dominos. A very long and complicated one, with multiple paths that went off in different directions and appeared to have been set up to create spirals and patterns. Some of these paths went up small steps and obstacles that she’d placed, and the whole thing had obviously taken a lot of time and effort to set up. However, the dominos weren’t the only things that she’d set up.
There some kind of frame set up near the beginning of the chain, with all sort of rails, ladders, and other things I couldn’t quite make out. It took me a moment to realize that this was some kind of Rube Goldberg device, which when triggered, appeared to set off a chain reaction, that ended with the first domino being knocked over. From what I could see, it looked like it started with a simple marble.
I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only person who was interested in the girl and this whole thing she’d set up. Two boys approached her, though they seemed much less impressed by her work than I was.
The first boy was short, about 5 foot 2 at most. He was a ginger, with unkempt and messy reddish orange hair, along with a heavy splattering of freckles on his face. If he’d been wearing green, I probably would have said that he looked like a demented leprechaun.
Beside the leprechaun, there was a skinny black kid, who not only wore a pair of thick looking glasses, but he also had a set of goggles on his forehead. He wore some kind of lab coat, but it was open so I could see that he was wearing several harnesses and belts beneath, which looked a bit high tech. Both boys had the kind of look that cried out ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’, but not in the complimentary way.
“What is this?” the leprechaun demanded, kicking some of the dominos and sending them sliding across the concrete.
“Hey,” the girl protested, glaring at the leprechaun. “I was working on that…”
“If you were a real inventor,” the leprechaun responded in an arrogant tone, “you’d be in the labs, making a real invention…like my multi-gun…”
There was a clear note of pride in the leprechaun’s voice as he held up a strange looking weapon, which looked like it might be some kind of energy blaster. I’ve seen energy blasters before, but not one that looked quite like that.
“Elliot,” the boy with the goggles addressed the leprechaun, “you’re starting to get redundant. If you’re not careful, people might start assuming that you’re a dumb jock…”
“I told you to call me the Weaponeer,” the leprechaun…Elliot told goggles with a look of annoyance. “How many times have I told you that, Marty?”
Goggles…Marty gave Elliot a look of disdain. “Well, if you’re going to insist on using codenames, then you know quite well that mine is Photech.”
While the two boys were having their exchange, the girl ran to get the dominos that had been kicked away. However, the movement seemed to draw Elliot’s attention, because he suddenly snapped around and fired his gun…sending a blast of flames into the middle of the domino chain. Then he giggled.
“From your demonstrations so far,” Marty said, “we are not impressed. Your gadgeteering skills are clearly lacking, and I would hate for you to waste our valuable lab resources with these…toys.”
“Leave my stuff alone,” the girl demanded, giving a worried look at her melted dominos and the ruined chain that she’d obviously spent a lot of time working on.
“We don’t need your kind of fake gadget girls in our labs,” Elliot told her. “You understand that Tinker…” He placed a lot of condescension into the word ‘Tinker’. “Everyone will be a lot happier if you drop the lab classes from your schedule…” Then he pointed his weapon at the Rube Goldberg machine.
“NO,” the girl…Tinker exclaimed in horror as she began to sparkle and floated a foot or so into the air.
I was tired of watching those two boys bully Tinker, and the look of anger, fear, and frustration on her face made me want to do something to help. Then, it suddenly dawned on me that I actually could do something to help.
Elliot pulled the trigger on his gun and flames started to come out, though they immediately vanished. He stared at the weapon in surprise, clearly wondering what had just happened.
“I don’t think so,” I announced, coming closer. I knew that with the way my eyes and tattoos were glowing reddish orange, that I had to look pretty intimidating at that moment. “You’re being quite rude, so I think you two need to leave…”
“And who might you be?” Marty asked.
Elliot glared at me, and I saw a flash of fear in his eyes, right before he pointed his weapon at me and fired. This time, instead of making the flames go away, I used my elemental power to pull the flames towards me, and gather them all into a single ball of fire which just hovered there. Elliot’s mouth dropped open.
“I’m called Glyph,” I announced, keeping the full White Lady mask up so that I looked calm and in control. The truth was, I was scared, but I knew better than to let them see that. “You’re just lucky my roommate isn’t here, because she’s even better with fire than I am.”
“Well, how do you like ice?” Elliot demanded, firing his gun again.
This time, instead of flames, some kind of frost blast shot out. The ground in front of me was suddenly coated with ice crystals, and the demented leprechaun was smirking as he raised the gun and brought the ice closer to me, obviously intending to make me back off and run away. However, I flung the ball of flames into the frost blast instead, and suddenly there was an explosion of steam.
While this was happening, Marty jumped back and threw something onto the ground. Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of light that blinded me for a moment, and when it cleared, I suddenly found myself facing a giant troll…with green skin. He was HUGE, at least 8 feet tall and bulging with massive muscles. My immediate reaction was to use every last bit of fire magic that I had left, and unleash it into a single burst of flames…which hit the troll but did absolutely nothing.
I gulped, wanting to say something snarky and clever, but nothing came to mind. Actually, what I really wanted to do was turn and run in fear, but I couldn’t do that. I wished that I could have said that it was courage, but the truth was, I was just too stunned by the massive green monster in front of me.
Suddenly, I noticed a couple important details, which I’d been too shocked to consider a moment earlier. For one, Elliot and Marty were both standing there with smirks on their faces. For another, the big green troll was wearing shredded purple pants. I might not be a comic book fan, but even I recognized the Hulk when I saw him…at least after a few seconds. And right in front of me, that was exactly what I saw…the Hulk…as impossible as that was.
“Photech,” I whispered as I remembered Marty’s codename. Now it made sense. This was some kind of illusion.
I clenched my fists, now feeling embarrassed and angry instead of afraid. A moment later, I mentally reached out for my elemental powers, activating the one that was normally the least useful. As soon as I did that, my eyes and tattoos began to glow with a golden light. Without having to look at my palm, I knew that the new rune which had just appeared there, would translate as ‘light’. However, the meaning of this symbol was deeper than just the light that you saw with your eyes. It also meant a spiritual light. The light of truth. The light of revelation. And at the moment, that was exactly what I needed.
I held my hand out and released a radiant light in all directions. Previously, the only other time I’d unleashed this particular element, had been to test it in a dark room. This time, the effects were a little different. Any normal light could chase away the darkness, but elemental light could also chase away any illusions. Almost instantly, the Hulk vanished. Instead, there was a metal cube on the ground, which was obviously the source of that illusion.
“My hologram,” Marty blurted out in surprise.
“Let’s get out of here,” Elliot said, giving me a worried look before he backed away.
“I’m not abandoning my emitter,” Marty protested, before he quickly grabbed the metal cube and hurried after Elliot.
I let out a sigh of relief and released my light power. If Marty had tried to use another illusion…hologram on me, I wouldn’t have fallen for it again. However, if Elliot had used that gun again… I shuddered at the thought, because my fire was all used up, and there wasn’t much I could have done. Somehow, I doubted that he would have given me the time to draw a fire protection spell around me. I was definitely going to have to figure out a better way to handle situations like this, because I couldn’t keep relying on my elemental powers.
“That was amazing,” a voice exclaimed from above me. I looked up and saw Tinker, floating about ten feet above the ground. Then, as I watched, the slowly lowered herself back down, until her feet touched and she stopped sparkling.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Tinker responded, looking at her dominos and wincing. All that work she’d done had been ruined, and a lot of the dominos had been melted by the flames. I could see the hurt and disappointment in her eyes, especially as she was clearly fighting back tears.
“I’m sorry about your stuff,” I told her awkwardly. “It looked like it would have been real cool to see go off…”
“Thanks,” Tinker responded, giving me a self-conscious smile. “But you stopped them from ruining the rest of it, and I really appreciate that… No one has ever saved me before.” She giggled at that. “Now, I feel like I’m some kind of damsel in distress…”
I chuckled at that, feeling a little self-conscious myself since I wasn’t used to playing the role of her. In fact, I still didn’t feel like a hero, not for that. “It was no problem…”
“I’m Janine,” she said with smile. “Janine Belle…but my codename is Tinker.”
“Bianca St. Claire,” I told her. “Glyph.”
“Well, thank you again, Bianca,” Janine said, staring at me for a moment and then quickly looking away and blushing. After a few seconds, she turned her attention to picking up some of the dominos, commenting, “At least they didn’t ruin all of them…thanks to you.”
“I didn’t do anything that a fire extinguisher couldn’t,” I responded awkwardly. I wasn’t really used to people thanking me and showing gratitude. For most of my life. Mom just ordered me to do something, and expected it to be done without hesitation. “So, what was up with those guys anyway?”
“They’re just a couple jerks,” Janine said with a snort.
With a knowing nod of agreement, I wryly replied, “I gathered as much.”
Janine chuckled at that. We shared a faint smile, then I bent down and began helping her pick up her dominos. She had a large box that she carefully put the good ones into. The ones that had been ruined, she set into a pile on the side to throw away.
“A couple days ago, some of us freshmen gadgeteers and devisors got a big tour of the labs. Those two jerks are sophomores, and they were there setting up some of their equipment…” She shook her head and said. “At first, they just sort of badmouthed girl inventors…saying that we didn’t belong in the labs because we’d just distract the REAL inventors…” She rolled her eyes at the word ‘REAL’.
“Yeah,” I commented with a shake of my head. “Definitely jerks.”
Janine nodded as she continued. “Then, Elliot…the one with the red hair…started hitting on me. I mean, one minute he was insulting me, and then the next, he asked me out.” She gave a visible shudder at that and then stuck her tongue out with a look of disgust. “No thanks.”
“Not exactly Don Juan material,” I commented, earning a giggle from Janine. “And let me guess. He took it personal.”
Janine nodded again. “It doesn’t help that I’m such a weak gadgeteer,” she admitted after a few seconds, looking embarrassed as she did so. “I mean, I’m really good at troubleshooting and fixing machines, but not so good at making my own.” She gave me a self-conscious smile as she gestured to the Rube Goldberg machine that was still set up. “I am really good with mechanical sequences though, so this is the kind of thing I usually make… Not real impressive, I know…”
“It’s a lot better than anything I could do,” I assured her. “And the whole domino thing looked pretty cool.” I scowled again, wishing that I could have seen it completed, and going off the way she’d intended it to. “I mean, this whole setup would have been awesome to watch…”
Janine beamed at that, obviously pleased by the compliment. “I used to do this kind of stuff back home in Boise, all the time.” Then she looked a little depressed as she muttered, “I just wish I had room to set this up in my dorm. I mean, those jerks never would have been able to mess with me in Dickenson.”
“You said that you were a gadgeteer,” I commented, handing another stack of dominos to Janine. “So, what was that floating thing you were doing…”
“I’m a PK too,” Janine answered with a grin, though it quickly faded. “But not a real strong one. All I can do is levitate…and fly real slow.”
“Well, flying sounds impressive to me,” I assured her, trying to cheer her up.
Janine grinned at that, then pointed out, “But you did that thing with Elliot’s fire gun…and Marty’s hologram… That was so cool.” She stared at me with a strange look of amazement. “Are you an energizer?”
“Magic user,” I answered, which only made Janine’s eyes go wider.
“I’ve never seen real magic before,” she blurted out excitedly. “What else can you do?”
“Well,” I started with a faint smile as I reached into my pocket for the piece of chalk I always carried with me. “I might be able to show you something else…” But just then, I suddenly noticed three people in Whateley security uniforms walking straight towards us. With a groan, I muttered, “Or maybe not.”
Whateley Academy, Sunday Sept 11th, 2016
“Come on,“ Morgana grinned. “Everyone is doing it…”
“Forget it,” Laura responded with an obvious roll of her eyes. “I’m not going to pick a fight with someone, just because you and Tanya got into fights already…”
I looked at my roommate and shook my head. On Thursday, Tanya got into a fight with another girl, and then yesterday, Morgana got into it with Stahlfaust. And unfortunately, that little incident with Elliot and Marty, put me onto the same list.
“Even Bianca got into a fight,” Morgana continued, giving me an even wider grin.
“Leave me out of this,” I said with a sigh.
At the moment, Morgana, Laura, and I had just left Poe Cottage, and the three of us were on our way to Crystal Hall for lunch. Hopefully, we’d be able to meet up with everyone else at our table, but if we didn’t, we could always catch up at dinner. I also hoped that Morgana would be done with this topic by the time we arrived.
“Besides,” I added with as much dignity as I could. “It wasn’t even a real fight…”
Morgana just looked innocent at that, as though I’d offered the perfect opening. “You mean those guys were that easy to beat?” She looked to Laura and added, “Bianca here fought with two guys at once...and the Incredible Hulk.”
I let out an exasperated sigh, wishing that my roommate would let this go. “All I really did was put out a fire and make an illusion vanish. Even security agreed that it wasn’t a real fight…” I was grateful for that, because I got off with just a warning. If I’d actually used my powers against Elliot or Marty directly, then it would have been a different story.
“Well, someone in our group needs to stay out of trouble,” Laura pointed out with a faint smirk.
“Party pooper,” Morgana teased.
We had nearly reached the Crystal Hall when someone called out, “BIANCA! Wait up…”
I looked over and was surprised to see Janine running towards me. However, she wasn’t alone. There was another girl with Janine, though she was walking at a leisurely pace and was quickly being left behind. That girl had short blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and a perky nose that made her look quite cute. She was also watching Janine with a look of amusement.
“Hello,” I greeted Janine, and as she came to a stop, I looked over to Morgana and Laura. “This is Janine…the girl I met yesterday.”
“Um…hi,” Janine said to them, suddenly shrinking down and looking a little self-conscious. She gave Morgana a wary look, probably due to her horns. “I’m Janine…or Tinker.”
“Nice to meet you,” Morgana responded, giving her a curious look. “I’m Morgana.”
“Laura,” Laura said politely.
Janine still looked a bit nervous, but she gave me a smile and gestured to the other girl, who’d finally caught up. “This is my friend Giggles…”
“Giggles?” I asked in surprise.
“Don’t ask,” the blonde girl said with a wry smile. Then she slowly looked me over and her smile broadened. “So, you’re the one who helped Tinker out yesterday. Thanks for looking after her…”
“Hey,” Janine protested, giving Giggles a glare. “It’s not like a need a babysitter or anything…”
I chuckled at that while Giggles just shrugged. Then she looked over at Laura and asked, “You’re a gadget girl too, aren’t you?”
“Gadget girl?” Laura asked, looking a little confused.
“You know,” Giggles responded with a cheerful grin. “Gadgeteer. Devisor. General lab geek or inventor of the female gender.”
“Yeah,” Laura responded before proudly adding, “Gadgeteer AND devisor.”
“Wow,” Janine said, looking impressed.
Giggles just nodded. “Cool. I thought I saw you checking out the labs… It looks like we’ll probably be having some classes together then…” She gestured to Janine, who nodded agreement. “I’m strictly a gadgeteer…well…gadgeteer and energizer.”
With that, Giggles took off her jacket and flipped it inside out, then revealed some wires and high tech components that were hidden in the liner. Laura immediately bent over to examine the components, making little ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ sounds as she did so. I wasn’t sure if she was impressed or not, though it clearly caught her interest.
“I’m working on a built in protection field,” Giggles explained. “So far, it’s a work in progress…”
“I don’t see a power source,” Laura pointed out curiously.
Giggles just grinned. “I’m the power source.” She held up her hand and sparks jumped between her finger and thumb. “Energizer.”
As they continued to discuss Giggles’ jacket, in increasingly technical terms, Morgana smiled at me and asked, “Do you understand what they’re saying? I may be a nerd, but their technobabble left the building a few sentences ago.”
“Not a word,” I replied. “My background is more magical than technical.”
“About that,” Janine said, reminding me that she was there. She’d been so quiet since Giggles began showing off her jacket, that I’d almost forgotten she was there. “What other kinds of magic stuff can you do?”
“I have a few other tricks,” I admitted, though I was reluctant to show off and reveal everything that I could do. However, I quickly realized that there were a few simple runes I could show her, which might satisfy her curiosity without giving away too much. “Maybe I can show you something after lunch…if you show me more of what you can do. I never got to see your contraption go off…”
Janine’s eyes lit at the mention of showing her some of my magic, and even more so when I asked her to show me what she could do. However, she quickly seemed to deflate and was almost apologetic as she said, “My stuff isn’t very impressive.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so instead, I gestured towards Giggles and asked, “So, have those guys from yesterday been bothering her too…?”
If those two geeks liked to harass any girls in the labs, then I was afraid that they might mess with Laura too. If that was the case, then I wanted to give my blue friend a little heads up.
Janine shook her head. “Not really. Her stuff is a bit more impressive than mine, and to be honest, I think they’re afraid she might drick out on them or something…”
“Drick out?” I asked, giving Giggles a wary look.
“Enough with the chit chat,” Morgana exclaimed, perhaps annoyed at being ignored. “I’m hungry, so let’s go…”
Morgana’s call to lunch was enough to make Laura and Giggles break off their technical talk, and the five of us continued into Crystal Hall together. Food at Whateley, was much better than at my old school. Not only was there a much bigger selection, but the food was of a higher quality, and you could even get as much as you wanted. That was absolutely great for people with appetites like my roommate, though I still preferred a more modest approach.
I looked over the selection of pizza that they had set out today, making a silent note that it didn’t look nearly as good as what I could get back home at Mama Carlotti’s. But as Marcus had once told me, ‘Even bad pizza is still pretty damn good,’ so I put two slices onto my plate.
Once we all had food in hand, I started to follow Morgana and Laura to our regular table, while Janine and Giggles began to head in a different direction. But then, Janine hesitantly asked, “Bianca…?” When she had my attention, she nervously continued, “Do you want to eat lunch with us today?” She gave me a hopeful look, which reminded me of ‘puppy dog eyes’.
“Go on,” Morgana told me with a grin. “Eat lunch with your fan club…”
“Funny,” Giggles responded with a wry smile. “I don’t remember joining any fan club…but you’re more than welcome to eat with us anyway…”
Before I could even answer that, Janine had grabbed my arm and said, “This way…”
We found a table pretty quickly, and soon we were in the middle of eating. However, it didn’t take long for Janine to bring up the subject of my magic again. “It was really cool,” she told Giggles. “Bianca took Elliot’s fire blast and threw it right back at him… You should have seen the look on his face…”
“That would have been nice to see,” Giggles agreed with a grin. “I mean, what a sexist and patronizing jerk…”
I nodded at that and then glanced to Janine. A few seconds later, I let out a sigh and reached into my pocket for the piece of chalk. I had promised Janine a demonstration, but I wasn’t about to unleash any of my elements here in the cafeteria, at least not unless I had no choice. After the incident yesterday, I was reminded of how important it was to keep something in reserve, just in case of an emergency. For now, I should be able to get away with something a little less flashy.
As soon as I began to draw a rune on the table, Giggles asked, “What are you doing?”
“I do rune magic,” I explained, giving a self-conscious smile. “Writing.”
And with that, I finished the rune and charged it with essence. Suddenly, it began to glow with the brightness of a small light bulb. It wasn’t a very impressive display of power, but it wouldn’t get me in trouble, and it wouldn’t give away too much about my capabilities.
“Cool,” Janine gasped, staring at the glowing symbol, which slowly began to fade as the essence was used up. She looked impressed at that small display, so I couldn’t resist showing off a little more.
“Here,” I said, quickly drawing another rune on the table. I hadn’t practiced this one quite as much, so I had to go a little slower to make sure I had it right. Once I was sure it was perfect, I charged it with essence. It didn’t look any different, and unless you were sensitive to magic, you never would have known that it was charged and ready to go.
“So,” Giggles asked, giving the rune a skeptical look. “I guess that one was a bust. What was it supposed to do?”
I just smiled at that, then I reached over for the apple on Giggles’ plate, and set it right down in the middle of the rune, which activated the magic. “There.”
“Hey,” Giggles protested.
“Go ahead,” I urged her. “Take it back.”
Giggles gave me a suspicious look, then reached over for the apple. However, it didn’t come up from the table. She had a look of surprise and blurted out, “It’s stuck…” She stood up and tried pick the apple back up, but still couldn’t.
“Think of it as magical glue,” I told her a little smugly. “That apple is going to be stuck there for about a minute…”
“Awesome,” Janine blurted out with a look of awe. However, the look in her eyes quickly turned to a thoughtful one, and she pulled out a notepad and began drawing something. “If I used a fulcrum here, moved by the right amount of force…”
“Janine?” I asked, just a little confused.
Janine paused and blinked. “Sorry,” she apologized sheepishly. “I was thinking about how to move the apple, and I guess I kind of got carried away…”
I looked at her notepad, and after that explanation, I realized that she was drawing plans for some kind of Rube Goldberg machine. It didn’t look like she’d gotten very far into it before I distracted her.
“Well, it shouldn’t be necessary anyways,” I said, picking up the apple and handing it back to Giggles. “My spell doesn’t last very long.” Or at least, that particular version wouldn’t, not with that amount of essence.
“Interesting,” Giggles agreed with a smile. “But I bet I could invent a pair of gloves that could stick to things just as well…” She had a thoughtful and somewhat distant look in her eyes, similar to what Janine had just shown. “In fact, I should be able to make an outfit that lets me climb walls like a spider…”
The rest of lunch was interesting, because Giggles had taken Janine’s notepad and continued making notes about this new invention idea that she had in mind. Janine appeared to have dropped the idea of that Rube Goldberg machine, so the two of us chatted while Giggles made notes, muttered to herself, and absently ate.
As soon as we were all done eating, Giggles excused herself and then rushed off, probably to continue working on her latest project. Janine, however, came along with me, though I wasn’t sure if she intended to follow me back to Poe or what. Before I could bring that up, I suddenly realized that there were three people who were not only walking straight towards me, but that their attention seemed to be fixed on me as well. Well, they could have been interested in Janine, but with my luck, I was betting otherwise.
The first one was a boy, who stood about 5 foot 9. He had messy brown hair, tanned skin, and a slightly large nose, and from his features, I guessed that he was partially Asian. And though he had a look of amusement on his face, there was nothing especially hostile about the way he was looking at me. That might have made me relax my guard a little, if it wasn’t for the boy beside him.
Walking beside the first boy, was one who stood about the same height as the first, maybe an inch taller. He wore an expensive looking suit, had his dark hair that was slicked back, and he carried a polished chrome stick cane. Between the suit, the cane, and the arrogant expression on his face, he reminded me of the Messenger. And whether it was fair or not, I immediately disliked this boy on sight.
I clenched my fists and braced myself for a fight, even preparing to reach for one of my permanent spells. A nice burst of fire might be useful, or a powerful blast of wind to knock them back. However, it was the third person in this group that made me take a deep breath and relax, at least a little.
The girl looked like she was eleven or twelve, and was probably one of the junior high kids. She had dark blonde hair that was pulled back into a pair of pigtails, and she was currently wearing a violet witch hat. But even though she didn’t really look dangerous, I knew that looks could be deceptive, especially when mutants were concerned.
“Glyph,” the boy with the messy hair greeted me with an easygoing smile.
Then, the boy with the cane looked me over and smiled faintly as well, though his was somehow more forced and less friendly. “Or would you prefer White Lady?”
I instantly froze at that, feeling a cold chill of dread spread down my spine, while a surge of panic stabbed me through the heart. How did they know? Did the Imp tell them? Were they here to attack me? I quickly scrambled to put on my mask, to act calm and in control, just so that they didn’t see how I really felt.
“Don’t call her names,” Janine blurted out in my defense, looking defiant for a moment, until the boy with the cane glared at her. Then she stepped back, becoming much more nervous. “You shouldn’t make fun of people’s skin color…”
“Who are you?” I demanded, keeping my voice calm and even. “What do you want?”
“We’re not here to mess with you, if that’s what you’re thinking?” the boy with the messy hair said, holding out his hands to show he was unarmed. “We just wanted to talk. I’m Tyler…but I go by the handle of Racoon.” He gestured to the other two and added. “This is Esquire and Twitch.”
“Hi,” the girl exclaimed with a grin, giving me a brief wave.
“We represent a school club,” the boy with the cane…Esquire announced. “We, and several other members of our club, would like to speak with you…” He glanced over to Janine and added, “In private.”
“We just want to talk,” Tyler quickly assured me. “We might be able to help you.”
I hesitated for a moment, looking back and forth between the three of them. If it hadn’t been for the girl…for Twitch, I might have just turned around and walked away. However, she at least, seemed pretty harmless. And then, there was also the fact, that I wanted to know how they knew who I was…and what they intended.
“All right,” I carefully answered. “I’ll talk with you…” Since they knew who I was, and I didn’t want word to spread, I turned to Janine and told her, “I’ll see you later…”
“Okay,” Janine responded a little hesitantly. She gave Esquire and Tyler suspicious looks before grudgingly saying, “I’ll see you later…”
“This way,” Esquire announced, pointing towards the Quad with his cane. “Some of the others are waiting.”
I quickly looked around, both hoping to see some of my friends so that I’d have some backup in case things went bad, and afraid that I would. They knew me as Bianca…not the White Lady, and I wanted to keep it that way. After a few seconds, I followed Tyler, Esquire, and Twitch the short distance to the Quad, and to a table where three other people were already sitting.
One of the people at the table was a girl, who was a couple years older than me, and who I assumed was either a junior or senior. She was attractive, with dark skin, black hair, and what I took to be Hispanic heritage. Since she seemed to be the oldest one there, and radiated a certain confidence, I took her to be the leader of this little group.
The second person at the table was a boy with short hair, who looked pretty muscular, and was watching me with a grim expression that made me nervous. I’d seen that same look from some of the men in the Family, usually on guards and those who were most likely to use physical violence.
And then, there was the last person in the group, a boy about my own age. He had a lean and wiry build, with close cropped hair, and a narrow face. And though his body language and expression were calm and relaxed, his eyes were carefully watching me, as though he was taking in every detail and memorizing it.
“Hello, Glyph,” the girl at the table said, giving me a somewhat friendly smile. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. “Or would you prefer to be called the White Lady?”
“Who are you?” I demanded, keeping my voice calm and steady. I looked around at all six of these people. “And how do you know who I am?”
“We are called the Bad Seeds,” Esquire answered, looking rather smug. My eyes darted to his cane, and I half expected him to pull a sword blade out of it. “Perhaps you’ve heard of us?”
I nodded carefully at that, feeling like my heart was coming up into my throat. “I’ve heard of you,” I admitted. “Your parents are supervillains…”
“As was your grandmother,” the girl at the table responded with a faint smile of amusement. “And as are you. We wanted to talk to you, because you are in a very similar situation to the rest of us.”
“Our club was formed for mutual protection,” Tyler told me with a shrug. “We all face certain social…issues because of who our parents are, so we look out for each other…watch each other’s backs.”
I looked around the group, suddenly realizing why they wanted to talk to me. “You’re trying to recruit me,” I blurted out in surprise, though I quickly tried to regain control of myself.
“That is our intention,” Esquire agreed.
He looked like he was about to say more, but I held up my hand to silence him. I was shaking at this news, as well as what it meant. They knew who I was. I’d come to Whateley to get away from being the White Lady, and now this whole group somehow knew about me.
Though I was more than a little shaken, I was still clear headed enough to consider what I had to do. I reached into my pocket for the piece of chalk, then began to draw something on the table. It wasn’t a single rune, which is what I normally drew, but several runes that were all tied into each other. This was the most complicated spell that I’d memorized so far, and Tessa had made me practice it to perfection before I’d left for Whateley. Once I was done, I charged it with essence. There was no visible change, but I had no doubt that it was working.
“What was that?” Esquire demanded.
The boy who’d been watching me in silent scrutiny, answered, “A spell…”
“That’s magic?” Twitch asked excitedly.
“Protection from eavesdropping,” I answered carefully.
It wasn’t the most powerful of spells, and could be overcome by other mages with enough raw power or skill, but that kind of thing would take time and effort. From what Tessa had told me, it would normally be sufficient for conversations of this type.
“A smart precaution,” the girl at the table said, nodding in approval. “We’ve already taken similar precautions.”
“I’m jamming any bugs,” Twitch announced proudly, reaching up to touch her hat.
“Perhaps we should introduce ourselves,” the girl at the table said, giving me a faint smile. “I am Milena Tarkisian, but my codename is Sister Secret. I am both an RA and a fixer in Dickenson, and my father is Mister Secret.”
Tyler announced, “My mom is Madame Midnight…” Then he paused with a smirk before adding, “And my dad is a ninja…”
“You don’t know who your father is,” Esquire responded, giving Tyler a flat look before he turned his attention back to me. “My mother is the Iron Belle.”
“Tek Knight is my dad,” Twitch proudly exclaimed. “He’s awesome…”
“I’m Hammer,” the muscular boy stated. From the tone of his voice, it sounded like he was silently adding, “And I could kick your butt if I wanted.” However, a couple seconds later, he actually did add, “My old man is Anvil…”
“You may have heard of his father,” Sister Secret pointed out. “He works for the Outfit in Chicago.” That suddenly got my attention since the Outfit was a rival organization to the Family, and I stared at the boy, who now looked somewhat smug. “Hammer is the one who recognized who you are…”
Esquire immediately followed that up, adding, “And we verified that you really are the White Lady, before we approached you.”
I scowled, wincing slightly every time that they called me the White Lady. “I’d prefer to be called Glyph,” I pointed out.
“Keeping a low profile,” Tyler said, nodding his understanding.
Sister Secret gestured to the last person, the boy with the watchful eyes and casual body language. “AJ…codenamed Dragonblade…has just joined us last week…”
“Hello,” AJ greeted me politely. Then, because it was obviously expected, he said, “My mother is the Witch Queen.”
“The Witch Queen?” I repeated in surprise.
I’d met the Witch Queen once before, or at least, I’d seen her from across the room. Back when I’d been a kid, the Witch Queen had come to Chicago to do business with my grandmother, and she’d even been invited to one of my grandmother’s parties. That had been a long time ago, and I remembered the Witch Queen mostly because she’d come with her son Lex. Lex and I had spent most of the party together, hanging out and avoiding the adults.
I stared at AJ for a moment, then blurted out in surprise, “Lex?”
AJ’s eyes suddenly went wide, right before narrowing suspiciously. “Do I know you?”
“We met once before,” I answered, trying to cover up my surprise, as well as my mistake in revealing my recognition. “When we were children, you came to one of my grandmother’s parties. We were briefly introduced.”
“I’m afraid that I don’t remember you,” AJ responded, still watching me carefully.
I gave a wry smile and pointed out, “I had more pigmentation back then.”
AJ smiled faintly at that. “I see.”
“Now, as we were saying,” Sister Secret said, “due to who our parents are, we face certain…challenges.”
“Like meanies, and bullies, and jerks,” Twitch blurted out with a look of annoyance.
Tyler just grinned at that. “I’d phrase it differently, but yeah. There are some guys…and girls…who have grudges against our parents and want to take it out on us…”
“And then,” Esquire added with a sneer, “there are the fools who think that they are the next generation of hero, and who are determined to interfere in our business…”
“The Bad Seeds,” Sister Secret said, gesturing to everyone around the table. “Those here, and the rest of our club, look out for each other, and provide something of an alliance for mutual assistance and protection.”
“And it gives us people to hang out with,” Tyler added, “who have similar backgrounds and issues.” He shook his head and added, “Trust me, most people in this place could never understand the things we have to worry about.”
Hammer nodded at that, though he was still scowling. “It’s always good to have people watching your back.”
“And we would like you to join us,” Sister Secret said with a smile. “If you were a Bad Seed, we’d watch your back and we’d expect you to do the same for everyone else.”
For a moment, I just stood there, staring at Sister Secret, and then looking around at everyone else. They were watching me with expectant expressions, though there were variations. Twitch looked excited, as though she was about to start jumping up and down in celebration of my answer. Hammer had a faintly sour look on his face, which I could understand. If he was associated with the Outfit, then he might see my joining their club as a potential conflict of interest. Tyler had an easygoing grin on his face, and Esquire an almost hungry expression, while AJ and Sister Secret were both hard to read.
“Thank you for the invitation,” I finally answered, making sure my metaphorical mask was firmly in place. I kept my voice and expression calm and even, though I was still shaking inside. “But I am afraid that I have to decline.”
“What?” Tyler asked in surprise. “Why?”
“As you noticed earlier,” I responded carefully, “I am trying to keep a low profile. If I joined your club, then I would effectively be announcing to everyone who my grandmother was…and who I am.”
“A reasonable concern,” Sister Secret admitted.
“You belong with us,” Esquire snapped, suddenly looking angry.
“Chill,” Tyler told him. “If she says no, then that’s her choice.”
“Indeed,” Sister Secret agreed. She stared at me for a moment, and if she was disappointed in my decision, she didn’t really show it. “If you should change your mind, the invitation remains open.”
“Thank you,” I told her politely, deciding that it would be a bad idea to antagonize them by being rude.
As I turned to walk away, I heard Hammer saying, “We didn’t need her anyway…”
Once I was far enough away, I let out a sigh of relief that the meeting was over, and that we had ended it on good terms. However, I was definitely not happy about the fact that they knew who I was, especially not after I’d come to Whateley, just to avoid that kind of recognition.
For a moment, I wondered if I’d made the right decision in turning them down. After all, it might be nice being able to talk with people who knew about the Family, and who understood what it was like to have that kind of criminal background. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I could trust them.
“Besides,” I mused to myself as I started back to Poe, “I already have some friends to watch my back.”