A Dragon Abroad (Part 1)
A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story
A Dragon Abroad
Tuesday September 6th, the Bus to Whateley
I'd found myself enjoying the bus trip from the station more than I had originally feared. The scenery we passed through had been impressive, and despite my initial worries the boys on the bus hadn't been paying too much obvious attention to me. Sticking together with my new friends had probably helped with that. Granted, there were a number of obvious GSD cases, but I was slowly starting to become accustomed to them. They were all minor, but right now I was a bit sensitive about noticing such things - the guy who looked like part warthog was scary. The most annoying thing had been the poor quality of the ride - a school that could train up super-powered mutants could surely at least fix the deplorable suspension on the school bus. Given the fees they charged, they could probably have gold-plated it. The mundane quality of the trip had only been broken for me when the bus pulled in through the school gates; there had been two odd, faceless gargoyles atop the gate pillars, and they had glowed the weird blue-purple colour I was beginning to associate with magic. The colour that I absolutely refused to even think about labelling octarine. That and the worrying feeling that somehow they were examining and evaluating me definitely differentiated them from the sort of gate gargoyles I was familiar with. I hadn't mentioned the fact to my seatmate; Tanya had been enthusiastically pointing out things, and I hadn't had the heart to interrupt her bubbling excitement with tales of bizarre occult stonework. Besides, having someone so obviously happy at arriving at a new school was reassuring.
When I got off the bus, I instinctively stayed in a group with my new friends. While I hardly expected any danger here - after all, Whateley was a school, not a combat zone - the milling group of new kids that had joined us at Dunwich had me gripped in the normal 'kid-at-a-new-school' syndrome, and sticking with my new friends made that a lot more bearable. It also protected me from worrying about boys looking me over, by talking to my friends I wasn't fixating on seeing who was watching or talking about me. I was sure that one of the things the boys were doing was checking out the girls - after all, it was what I'd have been doing a few months ago, and to be fair some of the girls were really attractive. There were a number of older students hanging around, pretty obviously some sort of welcoming party, so I took the time to look around me and try and get a feel for the place while the powers-that-be decided to get something sorted. I was surprised - and more than a little worried - about the sort of equipment the security guards were carrying, but maybe this was normal for America. After all, everyone here had guns, didn't they? I didn't quite want to admit to myself that it was actually the batons they carried that were making me uneasy.
Most of the rushed tour of the campus was about as I'd expected - school buildings and classrooms, yay, how exciting, be still my beating heart. The display gallery had been a different matter. First, all the stuff on display had been fascinating - even if a lot of it showed how bad the taste in costumes had been in the past - and I'd have been happy examining it if my guide-in-a-hurry hadn't used the secure nature of the gallery to tell us about the real nature of the kids assigned to Poe cottage. I'd done my best to be polite and not to show any obvious fascination with the other kids, now I knew they were, at least partially, in the same situation as I was. While I'd been told before I left for Whateley that my condition wasn't unique, finding you were going to be living with a group of changelings had been a surprise. I couldn't make up my mind if it was a good or a bad thing. From the fact that the school had decided to group us together, the administration obviously thought good, but I had reservations that the school's idea of what was good for me and my own ideas might not be entirely in agreement. From the guarded looks on my friends faces, it was pretty obvious they needed to think it all over. Apart from Laura, who's barely-concealed smirk suggested that she'd worked some of it out already. I made a mental note to ask her later what had given me away, and find out what I needed to do to stop being so obvious.
I'd been wondering for a while, as the tour wore on, what the food at the school would be like - while our guide had stated it was wonderful, long experience with what schools laughingly called cuisine had left me somewhat dubious, and I was rather expecting a choice between mystery meat A or B. We didn't get the chance to try it, though - as we arrived back at the Crystal Hall, our little group was intercepted by a group of security guys. Who insisted on marching those of us who'd been involved in our little calamari episode off for interrogation.
I'd used some of the time on the train to check the Whateley rules on this sort of thing. I figured it was always best to know what would get you into trouble, so you could prepare your excuses in advance. So I knew that technically the school couldn't actually punish us for what had happened. Of course, Ms. Dennon had chewed us out, but I wasn't actually that worried about that - she was a teacher, all her points had been accurate - if embarrassing - and trying to make sure we'd stay out of even more trouble seemed a reasonable thing to do. But these clowns didn't have that excuse.
It didn't help my reaction when the first thing their sergeant did was yell at us to sit down and shut up. I didn't want to get all of us in trouble, though, so I sat back and watched his performance. Inside I smirked. This guy was trying to scare us with what they could do to us, and what our parents might say. Yay, big deal. Over the last couple of months I'd been pressured by people far more brutal, more powerful, and with no compunctions about doing whatever they wanted to me to get me to do as they wanted. This guy was amateur night by comparison, it was like being savaged by a dead sheep after what I'd been through. Some of his men weren't that good at hiding their amusement, either. If Security was in the habit of trying to bully the kids here, I could see myself having issues in the future.
I wasn't the only one who had spotted the rather blatant attempt at pressuring us - Bianca exchanged a look with me, but some of the others were looking worried as we left. At least we finally got to the food line, and I was more than pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food - it made up for a lot of the security theatre. The only drawback was being told to sit under a cold air-vent while we ate. When I went to get my third helping I wondered where it would be possible to sit that was more comfortable.
When our guide had asked us about ourselves during the tour, we'd kept it short. Really short, as I could tell by the exasperated look on her face. After we got back to Poe, we'd been dragged into a meeting with the other changelings they had in Poe, and made to open up with at least a more functional storyline.
I hadn't really enjoyed having to tell my story to a group of people I didn't know, but it seemed the thing you had to do in Poe, and when it came to my turn everyone had been looking at me expectantly. Of course, I hadn't told them much more than the minimal basics, not only was it embarrassing, there were still things I didn't want to think about , let alone talk about. As it was, the stories from the other Poe girls had been a revelation. I knew, intellectually at least, that changes like mine happened to other people, but to find so many in one place was startling. It wasn't just the girls I already knew that I'd found out about on the tour, there was a whole corridor of kids with sexuality issues as well as all the problems of manifesting as a mutant. I couldn't quite make my mind up if it would help me work through my condition, or just make everything really complicated. Having people to talk to who were in the same boat could be helpful, but it also meant I had to think about what had happened to me. Which was something I didn't want to do just yet, even if I knew I couldn't put it off indefinitely.
"Are you coming to the movie?"
I thought about it for a second, then barely managed to cover my mouth in time to cover a huge yawn.
"I think maybe I'll get an early night. The timezone change has finally caught up with me, and if I went I'd just fall asleep during it."
Bianca nodded with a slight smile. "It must be tough. I think I'll go, but I'll try to be quiet when I come back."
This time the yawn was so wide I could almost feel my jaw crack. "I don't think you need to worry too much about that." I watched with a slight tinge of envy as Bianca stood up gracefully. There was something about the way the girl moved that spoke of being a lady, rather than a teenage girl, and given her origin I wondered how she managed it.
"Bianca? Before you go, there's something I should show you." Well, better to get it over with, after all I could hardly hide it from my roomie. Bianca paused, looking at me curiously as I stood up, sliding my t-shirt up over my head, as I turned around. "My back. I didn't want it to startle you."
I held that pose - and my breath - for what seemed like ages, then slipped my t-shirt down and turned back to face my roommate. Bianca was standing looking at me, with what I was starting to think of as her closed look - the one she wore when she didn't want to show what she was actually thinking. That worried me more than the shock my friends in the hotel had registered. Had I upset my roommate already?
"I'm sorry, Bianca, but I can't keep it hidden, and I didn't want you to be surprised by it." I tried my best to hide the worry that I'd made a mess of this.
Bianca seemed to think for a moment, then nodded. "No, I understand. You're right, it would have been a shock." The girl pursed her lips in thought. "When you said you hadn't been treated well, I didn't think you were understating things quite that much."
I sat back down and shrugged slightly. "I'm trying not to make too much of it; it's done, it's over. But they told me that while they healed all the damage, the scars will take another week or two for my body to heal. So people are going to see it." I shivered slightly. "The showers here are communal, I guess I'm a bit scared about how the other girls will react."
Bianca looked thoughtful. "You're right. Hiding away and not taking showers and stuff with everyone will just get you talked about more. Best to let everyone know."
I bit my lip. "You don't think they, well..." my voice trailed off uncertainly.
Bianca shook her head, then smiled. I realised I hadn't seen Bianca smile that much, she should, I thought to myself, she has a nice smile. "No, I don't think they'll get upset. Well, not in that way. I think most of us haven't had the best experiences so far, yours are just worse than most. Laura's already seen it, hasn't she?"
"Yeah, I couldn't hide it from her and Tanya yesterday in the hotel room."
"And how did they react? They weren't nasty or anything, were they?"
I shook my head. "No - they were a bit shocked, but they were sympathetic."
"Exactly. I think the rest of the girls here will be the same. And any who aren't - well, they aren't the type of person I'd like to know."
I smiled my thanks, grateful for the words and the firmness in Bianca's voice. "I guess I'm a bit sensitive, you know...this is all so different, I don't want to start off making a bad impression."
"You aren't going to eat crackers in bed, are you?" I blinked at the completely unexpected question derailed my thinking. "Er... no, I didn't have any plans to, why...?"
Bianca smiled again as she opened the door. "Well, you haven't made a bad impression so far then!"
I looked thoughtfully at the closing door. Bianca was obviously far more than just the reserved, cautious girl she'd mainly seemed to be so far. Rooming with her looked like it would be interesting.
Once Bianca had left, I lay back on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. It had been an interesting day, but I should get ready for bed before I fell asleep in the middle of the room. That would get in Bianca's way - it already felt odd sharing a room so closely with someone, especially when that someone was a beautiful, if white, girl. So I got ready for bed as quickly as I could, while texting Tanya as I'd promised earlier. I hoped she was getting along OK in Whitman, I knew she'd rather have stayed with us. But after learning Poe's secret, it was clear why she wasn't with us.
I was just falling to sleep when I had an odd thought. Most of us who'd arrived early (or at least, had supposed to, if not for the airline panic) were changelings or had obvious long and difficult travel times. But Tanya had only flown up from the southern USA. Did that mean she had some sort of unusual problem too, or was it just a coincidence? I fell asleep wondering what it might be.
Wednesday September 7th, Poe Cottage first floor female washroom
Normally, taking a shower with a group of girls, most of whom could easily lay claim to being hot enough to grace any men's magazine, would have been the stuff of dreams. This morning, I wasn't so sure. Not because of all the bare skin on display, but because I was worried about what they'd think when they saw my back. I dithered in the washroom for a couple of minutes, until a shower came free. then slipped off my robe and hung it up. I tried not to look around as I walked with the appearance of calm to the shower and slipped inside, even though I could hear at least one muffled gasp as someone got a good look at my scars. I think it was Chessa, but I wasn't certain.
Fortunately the sound of the shower drowned out any comments from the girls in the bathroom. As I worked soap into my hair I wondered if I was just being paranoid imagining it was going on. It wasn't until I finished I realised I'd made a mistake. My mane of hair was soaking wet, and I hadn't had a chance to buy a drier. Which meant I'd have to use the public one outside rather than making a run for my room. Damn. Well, no point in putting it off, I couldn't walk around with dripping hair for the next hour while it dried. Well, I could, but that would have gotten me even more attention I didn't need.
So I tried to look unconcerned as I pushed the shower door aside, and wrapped my towel around me. A couple of the girls waiting gave me odd looks - almost as if they wanted to say something, but weren't sure how I'd react. I was grateful for the silence and the fact I didn't want to explain things I felt really unhappy about explaining.
I tugged my towel tight and smiled at Laura's cheerful greeting. The blue girl was obviously waiting for a shower to become available, and I was a little surprised to realise she seemed to be casually eyeing over the other girls. Since we were in a mix of robes, towels and in at least one case naked, it wasn't hard. She even gave me a long, appreciative look, at which I stopped and raised an eyebrow, receiving a broad smirk in return. And here I thought taking a shower would be boring. Mind, I could hardly fault her, a lot of the girls here were really hot, and if I hadn't been worrying about my back I might have been tempted to join her.
I jumped slightly as my roommate pushed past me on her war to a shower. I think Bianca said 'morning', but it did sound rather like 'bleearg'. I grinned and let her past. It looked like neither of us was a morning person, which probably would work out better than one of us bouncing up at 6am like an energiser bunny. People would talk if you had to kill your roomie so early in the term.
Wednesday September 7th, Whateley Power Testing Labs
For someone who'd only been at Whateley a few days, I'd heard a surprising amount about Power Testing. Most of it either bad, scary, or preferably (from the point of view of the raconteur) both. Indeed some of the older students had described some of the things that it involved with the ghoulish relish of people describing a car crash. Lovely. While I took a lot of it with a grain of salt - actually, in some cases, a whole salt cellar full - I was a bit worried that there was some truth behind all the stories.
"Now, Morgana, before we start there are a few things I should explain to you." Dr. Tennant paused for a moment to consult her pad. "We have the details of the tests they did in London, but we are still going to do a complete new set - that way we can also see if there have been any more changes over the last few weeks. We will start off with the medical checks, then go on to the power testing proper - which in your case will also include some detailed tests by the magic department. All clear so far?"
I nodded, trying not to show how worried I felt. The doctors accent was distracting as well, she kept saying Ah instead of I, it sounded odd to me. "Yes Doctor. Uhh... did those notes say anything unusual about me?"
Dr. Tennant smiled to herself. She'd seen something like this from so many changelings.
"Now you need to understand, while you are at Whateley I am your doctor. So the usual patient confidence applies, and nothing the medical department knows gets passed on. So yes, I know about the fact you are a changeling. I handle all of you that come here, so I have a pretty good idea about your - unusual - issues."
I gave a quirk of my lips - I couldn't quite manage a casual smile right now. "That's a diplomatic way of putting it. OK, I understand my doctor needs to know, but do all the staff know about it?"
"Oh no, only a few. There is a note in your file that the Headmaster can access, and of course Mrs Horton knows. Since you are seeing Dr. Bellows, he had to know in order to work with you, but no-one else gets to know unless you decide to tell them."
I felt relieved - that was better than I'd hoped. My releif was too brief, though, as Dr. Tennant continued. "And of course, that means I will be explaining a few personal medical things to you that you might not be familiar with yet, as well as what a pelvic examination is..."
I gulped. Hard.
"Now, from here on we only use your codename, for security purposes. You've already chosen DragonsFyre, right?"
I nodded, trying to sit still as the nurse took my blood pressure. Which only gave me a far too detailed look at the array of syringes laid out on the nurses table. The nurses smile and comment of 'Don't worry, we only need an armful' didn't reassure me in the slightest, there were far too many long sharp pointy things on display.
I was trying to ignore the puncture marks on my arm. They itched, even if they had stopped bleeding almost immediately, and I kept wanting to rub them, which the nurse had already told me not to do. So to take my mind off them, I watched the nurse curiously as she slipped the sanguine vials into a remarkably normal-looking analysis device. Given the nature of Whateley I'd had an expectation of something with way more flashing lights, and probably going *beep* at regular intervals. Or maybe *ping*.
"Now we need to get some scans of you, DragonsFyre." I followed the nurse with a resigned expression on my face. I'd rather expected this, given that I'd been made to wear the same sort of drafty, inconveniently ass-exposing hospital gown I'd been made to put on in London. Obviously the need to humiliate their patients was an international medical conspiracy. At least the table I had to lie on wasn't as cold this time, now I just had to endure the humming and whining as the apparatus moved me slowly back and forth through the sensor ring.
"Doctor, have you many more tests to do?"
Doctor Tennant finished fixing a small device on my forearm. While it looked innocent enough, I didn't like the way the doctor had first sprayed my skin with a local anaesthetic. "We're nearly done with the medical ones." She turned to press a few buttons on her computer, and I felt a small sting on my arm.
"Now come one, that didn't really hurt, did it?"
I gave the doctor a dirty look. Yeah, just like dentists, it was never going to hurt THEM. "What was that for, anyway?"
"It's just a little device to see how well you regenerate, DragonsFyre. You aren't a true regenerator, you don't have the markers in your blood, but most Exemplars as well as some other types of mutants have some degree of improved healing. This just makes a small cut on your arm, and measures how fast it heals."
I eyed the little device with a worried expression. I wasn't happy about having something like that attached to my arm. "And just how long do I have to have it stuck to me?"
Dr. Tennant was busy putting on a pair of latex gloves, which was starting to worry me. "Oh, just half an hour. It probably won't have fully healed by then, you aren't that high an exemplar, but it will measure how fast you do heal."
"Um. OK." I eyed the doctor nervously. "And the gloves?"
"Ah yes. Remember that pelvic examination I mentioned."
Yeah, I hadn't forgotten, but there was always the hope the doctor had. Fat chance. "Oh hell. But won't the scans tell you everything you need to know about me, well, internally."
The Doctor smiled at me in a way I presumed was supposed to be reassuring. It wasn't working. "Well, yes it does. But you will need to have these every so often from now on, so we feel it's best to give you your first one now so you know what's involved."
My face fell, shoulders sagging at the realisation this was the first of many fun-filled experiences to enhance my life in the future. "Oh yay."
Oh well, thought Ophelia, at least she isn't throwing things at the wall just at the idea of one.
"Can I put my clothes back on now? This stupid gown is draughty in all the wrong places." OK, I was whining a little, but I felt I had cause.
The nurse looked up from her computer. "Ah, in a minute. We just have to wait for Dr Tennant to sign off the medical part of the tests."
As if on cue, the doctor opened the door. "Ah, good, DragonsFyre, you haven't changed yet."
Yet. That didn't sound good. "But...haven't we done all the medical tests yet?"
The Doctor looked down at the pad in her hand. "Well, yes and no..."
I gave the medic an exasperated look. "No? What's left, a post mortem?"
"No, it's to do with the notes on your file about your shape-shifting. As I understand it, there are physical changes involved?"
I gave a deep and heartfelt sigh. It was already obvious to me where this was going to go.
"Yes, Doc. You want to do some more tests in my Dragonform, right?"
At least Dr Tennant had the grace to look a little embarrassed. "Well, we need to repeat all of them actually."
"ALL of them!" I gave her a look of sheer unadulterated betrayal.
"I think we can probably skip a second pelvic exam, depending on the results of the scan. But yes, all the others." She looked at the row of red dots on the girl's left arm. "Now if you can just change form for us, I think we'll take the next samples from the other arm."
"So, Doc, what do the tests say?"
Dr. Tennant flipped through the notes on her pad. "Well, there don't seem to have been any major changes since you were tested in London. There are some small changes, but that seems mainly to do with you recovering from what was done to you, nothing unexpected. So, as we thought, your physical change is probably stable now. You're fully female, so you don't have to worry about further changes in that area." She flipped another page. "Hmm, it's been what, about two months since you manifested?"
"Yeah, about that long. Why?"
"It says on the report from London you hadn't had a period since you changed? Is that still the case?"
I blushed a bright red that would have made the typical traffic light envious. OK, I knew about periods - I had an older sister, after all - but I'd always been able to think of them as something unpleasant that happened to someone else. Preferably someone a long way away from me.
"Uh...yes. I still haven't, er..."
Dr. Tennant smiled as I trailed off in embarrassment. "Don't worry dear, despite what you may have read a lot of girls have irregular periods. We don't actually know if all your internal changes happened when you manifested - it can take years for some changelings. Being starved after is another reason - you're body economises as a result, and periods often stop until you are recovered."
I didn't feel at all reassured. "Does that mean I'm going to have them now I'm feeding properly?"
"Very probably, but exactly when we can't say. I'll email you some of the literature we have, so when it happens it won't be too much of a shock. When you have one, come in and we'll check you out and see if you need any medication to help with them."
From the look on the girl's face, she'd already had all the shock she wanted to take in that particular area of being a girl. Not sure if she should classify it as 'rabbit-in-headlight' or 'sheer utter terror', the doctor moved on.
"Now, unless something happens to you, that's all the medical stuff done for now. We'll call you back in about six weeks just to check you're stable, but that's just routine."
"Is there a reason why I have to wear this costume?" I felt that I was justified in complaining, it had taken me a good ten minutes to slide, wriggle and squeeze myself into the skin-tight leotard and get the instrumentation built into it connected up.
I obviously wasn't the first test subject to complain about this, as Dr. Shandy's voice held the tone of someone reciting a well-practiced standard spiel.
"Now DragonsFyre, we need that to get proper measurements when we test your powers. It's most important we measure everything to get a proper reading on them."
I looked down at myself. I'd seen how I looked in a mirror, and it wasn't as if the outfit left much to the imagination. <I look like something out of a cheap porn movie>. Actually what annoyed me a lot more was how it felt on my skin. I didn't know what the thing was made of, but it felt slick, and really weird, like wearing a full body coverage latex glove. Not that I'd ever had that particular kink, but if I had I was sure that this is what it would have felt like.
"Now, we'll start with the simple physical tests first. We have the data they sent us from London, but I want to tie down what level of Exemplar you are first. Oh, and when we've done that set, we'll do it again in your other form so we can tie down the differences. After that, we'll go through the tests for Psi and similar talents like Devisor and Gadgeteer. We already know you're a mage, so you're scheduled for a set of tests by our Magic department after I'm done."
He looked so cheerful at the idea of having to do two lots of tests I felt like saying something really rude about me NOT being a laboratory rat. Oh well, knowing exactly what the differences were when I changed would be useful. At least they didn't look like they were going to poke more holes in me. Mind, the range of equipment in the test lab was certainly eclectic enough, ranging from the usual sort of things you'd find in any gym - although some of it was seriously oversized - to some I couldn't even guess, from the way it looked, what it was for. I'd used some of the more conventional kit when they'd given me preliminary tests back home, but some of the other stuff was just weird. Maybe some of it would poke holes in me, I thought pessimistically.
Dr Shandy looked pleased with himself as he flicked through his results. "Now this is only provisional, of course - we'll do a really detailed analysis later - but so far you seem quite consistent. There are a few small changes from the ones they logged in London, but it's quite common to have your abilities change a little over the first months as they stabilise and settle down."
"So can you tell me, or is it a big secret?"
"Hmm? Oh yes, of course - I'm sorry. Well, you're definitely an exemplar-3 physically in your normal form. Some of your mental abilities were a bit above average, but cross-checking with your school records means that it is likely just because you were above average before you manifested - these things often carry over, you know. The only unusual thing was your exceptional vision and night vision. Now when we measured your - Dragonform, you called it?"
I nodded patiently - it was a lot more fun watching someone geek out when it wasn't the results of your own testing he was doing it over.
"Ah, good. Now those readings were certainly a lot different. As London suggested, in that form you seem to manifest energiser-type abilities, but ones mainly geared to physical rather than some of the more classic energiser traits. It's tied in with your magic, so we'll need the results of your magic testing before we tie you down more accurately. You have much enhanced strength and toughness, basically a low-level energiser superman package. We aren't quite sure yet what the different physical appearance means, but we may get some more data on that when we've done the magical tests.
However..." he paused to flick through a few more pages "there's a power here that was mentioned in your earlier data - it says you can manifest fire? It doesn't say if that's an energiser trait or a magical one."
I looked at him uneasily. I really didn't want to go where I was certain he was heading "That's because they didn't actually test it, Doc. It's something that happened to me when I escaped. They didn't have the facilities at HERMES to check that out safely, and there wasn't time to send me over to their main facility." From the delighted expression on the man's face, it looked like he thought Xmas had come early. With sprinkles on his donut, yet. Oh well, I supposed it was a good thing they were happy in their work. It was just a shame their work was me.
"Oh, that's fine, we have all we need to test it out here! Fire is a fairly common power. Do you know if it's physical, or is magic involved as well?"
I guess I looked even more upset at the happy expression on his face, which didn't begin to express just how I was really feeling. "Doc, it's something I can't control! When I used it before, I just did it, I couldn't stop it or anything. And I have no idea if it's magic as well."
"Now DragonsFyre, don't worry yourself about that. We have all we need to test out things like this, and we can see how well you can control it at the same time."
I looked at the meta-ceramic circle on the floor with enough reservations to fill out the Superbowl. "Doc, are you sure this suit can handle the heat? I don't know how hot the fire was before, but they told me it seemed pretty intense." I'd had to change from the usual test suit to one that they claimed was fireproof, as well as covered in some fancy sensors, and if anything it was even more uncomfortable than the faux-latex one, not to mention the sheer unalloyed fun in getting one skin-tight suit off and wriggling into another. Didn't these people believe in zippers?
"Oh, it will be fine." Dr Shandy seemed to think it was his job to calm down a girl obsessively worrying over nothing, while his two assistants sorted out the test rig. "The suit is a special material; it's rated to 2,000 degrees centigrade. Just stand on the circle, and when I give you the go ahead start off slow, see how well you can control your fire."
I'd given up arguing by this point. I'd told them repeatedly that I couldn't control it properly, but once I'd mentioned that my own fire hadn't affected me at all, they had brushed my arguments aside. So I stepped into the circle as instructed.
"Ok, now start off easy, and we'll see how it goes."
I looked at my hand, and concentrated. I'd had to take Dragonform to do this, and I was a little surprised at how easy it was to make fire flow along my fingers. I could feel something stirring inside me, and tried to keep it increasing slowly, as the fire brightened and grew more yellow than red. It looked so pretty and natural I had to be told twice to increase it, the look and the feeling of it kept distracting me. That wasn't such a good idea. As the fire brightened, the feeling inside me not only grew, it got more and more unstable. Like trying to juggle too many balls of water at the same time, except it almost felt like there was something not under my command pushing it where I didn't want it to go.
"Doc, I think I should stop, I'm losing it..."
"Don't worry, just see if you can get it a bit hotter."
Well, I did try to make it hotter. Only too successfully, as the fire flared up, running along my arm, then outlining my entire body until I must have looked as if I'd been dipped in liquid flame, the fire growing hotter and brighter almost exponentially as the light made flickering patterns across the test room walls.
Then I lost it completely, as the fire bloomed up in blue-white splendour, the flames illuminating the room in stark clarity as I felt power flow both through and out of me. I barely noted the deep hum as the force-field generators protecting the operators spooled up to full power, my body glowing with energy until all I could do was fall to my knees. I was barely able to keep conscious, small black sparkles cascading across my vision as the flames flickered and faded to nothing. Finally it stopped, and, very shakily, I got to my feet, realising that nothing was also a pretty good description of what I was now wearing. Whatever that costume had been made of, it was now just a few dark streaks over my skin, and the instrumentation was either the few molten spots cooling on my body or the still-glowing puddles on the floor. At least whatever the ceramic circle was had survived, although it too was still glowing brightly. I turned to the crew operating the instruments with a heartfelt sigh. "I TOLD you I couldn't control it, but would you listen?" It took me a minute to realise that the two men were blushing and trying not to look at me, while the female member was just looking embarrassed.
"Ah, Janet, would you get DragonsFyre a blanket. One of the fireproof ones, in case she's still hot."
I just rolled my eyes. Geez, hadn't they ever seen a naked girl before? Given my time in the Cult's cells, I just found it faintly amusing now.
"Sorry, Doc, I'm afraid I ruined your test gear."
I was still wearing the blanket when my doctor and another woman approached me.
"Ah, Morgana. I see the Power Testing staff have finished all your physical tests?"
I examined the woman, who if she hadn't been dressed in normal clothing could have stood in for Morticia Addams, as I tried to make the itchy blanket more comfortable. There was a distinct undertone of amusement in her remark.
"I hope so."
"Good. My name is Ms Grimes, I teach magic here and I'm going to do a few preliminary tests on you so we know what we're dealing with when you start classes. As your power seems connected in some way to your body, Dr. Tennant will be assisting me, she's also a mage. So hopefully we can establish how your powers work in your different forms"
"Uh..I don't suppose I could get dressed first? This blanket itches..."
To see a smile on 'Morticia's' face was unsettling. "Ah yes, it mentions you can create fire. I take if the testing got a bit...exciting?"
I didn't answer, just making a rueful face, as Grimes continued. "You clothes won't affect the tests, why don't you get a quick shower and dress while I check through my notes."
"Thanks Ms Grimes." I headed with eagerness to the changing rooms. Not only did I have bits of once-molten metal sticking to me in unfortunately intimate places, I was getting really tired of having to walk around freezing my ass off.
I had no idea what the testing actually involved - unlike the physical tests, I didn't recognise any of the 'equipment' in use. Well, some of it I'd seen before, when I was tested in London, but they hadn't explained what the stuff did then, either. It seemed mainly to involve standing in various inscribed circles while Grimes played with a crystal, a wand, and a few other magical bits and pieces. About all I could tell about the circles was that they were far less complex than the ones Thulia used, and that the symbols stayed put and didn't wriggle. Each time I had to go through a series of exercises, while the woman made notes on her pad. The only thing interesting was the occasional coloured glow in the air, or sometimes when the writing on the circles brightened. For such an esoteric operation it was remarkably boring. Grimes was doing the tests herself, Dr. Tennant seemed mainly concerned in recording stuff on her pad, occasionally making a comment to her companion about the results. Something magical was obviously going on - I could see the purple glow brightening and fading, but that didn't help at all at actually knowing what was involved. Although Ms Grimes did seem quite interested that I could see the magic so easily, and in monochrome not colour. It took a lot longer than I'd expected, mainly because, like the testers, they'd done a second set with me in my dragonform.
One thing they did, that I hadn't done before, was to check me out while holding a series of small metal bars. I wasn't sure what they all were - I was pretty sure they included gold, silver, copper and iron, they were easy to identify, but the rest were odd. The only thing I noticed was that Ms Grimes was looking at me very intently when I held what I thought was iron, but she didn't make any comment.
The only really interesting part had occurred at the end. Ms Grimes had handed me a small ball, and told me to try and push my magic through it. My first attempt had been - well, interesting. The ball had glowed white, brightening until it was so radiant it was reflecting off the walls.
"Ah, very good DragonsFyre. The ball is sensitive, making it glow shows you can use and manipulate your magic already. The intensity gives me an idea of how powerful you are."
I stood there looking at the ball in my hand, a smile on my face - making the ball glow, basic as that was, had felt so cool - as Grimes continued. "Now, I'd like you to change form, and do it again. I want to see if there are any differences."
I nodded, feeling the change in myself as I altered my form, then concentrated on the ball as before. With rather different results. The small sphere started to glow, but not white, more the reddish yellow of a fire, flickering and getting brighter in spasms, as I looked at it with wide eyes. Then it flared up through the spectrum, and without a sound exploded into nothing, leaving me staring blankly at my palm.
"My, that's unusual."
I turned to look at the doctor, complete confusion on her face despite the surprisingly noncommittal words. "What happened, it just blew up, or disintegrated, or something! It isn't supposed to do that...is it?"
Grimes was busy making notes on her pad, taking a moment before she responded. "No, it isn't. It seems you have some, well, issues with the control of your magic in this form." She finally stopped writing to look up over her pad, a severe expression on her face. "Until I can do some more tests, please don't try and cast or practice any magic in this form. It could be quite dangerous."
After my recent testing, I was preternaturally sensitive to the 'more tests' comment. Especially as Dr. Tennant was looking at me with considerable interest. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that having the power testing team looking at you with interest wasn't necessarily a good thing. Given what I'd already found my fire could do, I wasn't too thrilled by the 'dangerous' bit either.
"Morgana, we are going to take a look through the results, and see what they tell us. If you'd like to wait outside, there's a vending machine if you're thirsty. We won't be too long."
I'd finished my second cup of something the vending machine claimed was coffee - well, it was warm and brown and it came in a cup - before 'not too long' was over and Ms Grimes called me in again. Both women were looking extremely thoughtful, which worried me again. I was getting in a lot of practice at feeling worried today.
"Morgana, when they tested you in London, they rated you as a Wiz-4 and a faux-energiser, didn't they."
I looked confused. "Yes ma'am, but they didn't do nearly as many tests as you did. I think they were more concerned about having something they could put on my MID. They said I'd get thorough testing here, so a provisional result would be enough."
Grimes exchanged a glance with her companion. "I see. Well, we've had an initial look at your tests, and they are very interesting indeed." My heart sank at that - I recognised the 'goody, a new lab toy' phrase when I heard it.
"Let me explain. You are actually displaying three mutant traits, not two. The physical, exemplar one, is pretty normal. How it was affected by your particular manifestation, we can't tell, but it seems to be a fairly standard Exemplar package. But the strength, and the fire effects, appear to be a true energiser trait, not a false one." She flicked a few pages further through her notes. "It seems to all be tied up with what exactly the power is you are channelling, and what you do with it. You also have a Wiz talent, but that's not at Wiz-4 level. And how you handle it is somewhat different in your two different forms, which is probably why you had the problems with the test ball."
My brow furrowed as I tried to follow all this. "I don't understand about the power bit - I thought I was channelling power from the plane of fire, at least, that's what I was told?"
"You are, but it's not just a simple power draw. Judging by our tests - and some of the physical ones you did earlier - it's made up of at least three components. Real fire, magic fire, and essence from the fire plane. Which is rather different from the essence you normally store in your well."
Ophelia Tennant smiled. "I realise this is quite complicated, and we only have a provisional theory right now. But don't worry, we don't see this as being dangerous, as long as you take a few precautions."
I thought about that for a minute. "Doc, does it explain why it seems to act differently when I'm in my Dragonform?"
"Yes, Morgana, it does. You see, you can't really use the fire essence directly in your well, it's - well, I'd say tainted or contaminated, but in this context it doesn't mean what you probably think. In order for you to use it properly, it needs to be, well, filtered is probably the best analogy. Now when you are in your normal form, you seem to be doing that, but only to a lesser degree, and so it seems to be much more under your control. As I said earlier, you also have a more normal Wiz trait, not terribly strong, that seems to be controlling the amount of energy you draw down, rather than gather essence as the Wiz trait usually does.
At the moment, the net result seems to be roughly a Wiz-2, when you aren't in your Dragonform." She smiled as she saw the disappointed look on the girl's face. "Don't worry, that's more than enough to help you with your classes, and with experience and training I see no reason why you can't increase the amount you sanitize from the fire essence."
I frowned. "OK, I can sort of understand that, but why all the differences in my other form? And why didn't they spot I was an energiser before?"
"Ah, now there is where it gets interesting. You seem to be drawing the fire essence almost instinctively, into your body. That's what makes you an energiser - it's a very unusual way of powering that ability, but not unknown. The reason they didn't spot it before, is that normally an Energiser of your power level has physical changes to store and handle the energy. Well, so do you, but it's all at the cellular level, rather than at a gross physical level. They probably looked at the amount of essence being drawn and made an understandable mistake. Anyway, that's all fine, you can probably benefit from training and control, to do it more efficiently. But doing that seems to affect your use of the essence in your well. Sanitising fire essence in your other form seems to cause problems" - the doctor turned to Grimes, obviously looking for help in her explanation. The other woman smiled. "While it's only an analogy again, think of it as causing turbulence in your well essence. That makes it much harder to use it smoothly, which is why you blew up my test ball. Actually, even in your normal form there was some variance, but inside the safe limits. Having your body fully energised does seem to make it a lot worse, though."
"Oh. So I can't use magic at all in my Dragonform? "The look on my face must have made it obvious that I felt that sucked big time.
Grimes looked at my expression, and shook her head. "Not quite, it means you can't use magic in that form yet. While not due to the same source, we have had students in the past with similar control issues. With training and practice, you should be able to smooth things out and use your essence. Although it's likely you will always find it much easier in your non-energised form. I suspect you will also find it makes it easier to do fire magic - and harder to do non-fire magic, especially when energised. You'll need to spend more time on practice and meditation than the usual student, I'm afraid. But it's all achievable if you're prepared to put the work in."
"I don't mind the work, ma'am, as long as it makes me safe."
Tennant chuckled. "As long as you resist the blandishments of our power testing team to see how far you can push things, and take it step by step, I think that will be OK. We will arrange to check your progress separately from your normal coursework - will that be all right, Elyzia?"
Grimes nodded. "Certainly, I'll give Morgana some starting exercises now - the sooner she starts, the better - and I'll check you out on them once a week until we can see how you are doing."
"Meditational exercises, Morgana. We give these to all new students, in order to control their well properly, and eliminate leakage - don't worry, we'll teach you all the theory in class - but I will also give you some to help you smooth the way you draw energy and help you with sanitising it. It will take time - I'm not talking a few weeks here - but the more you work at it the easier things should be for you. However it will be better at first if you stick to using magic in your normal form. Once you seem improved enough, we will see how you get on in your energised form. They should also help you in general, you need better control of your fire manifestation as well."
Dr. Tennant looked at her pad. "I think we'll need to amend the power classification. For the time being, I think I'll put you down as an Ex-3, En-4. But that's might change as you get better control - you may turn out to be an En-5, but let's stick at 4 for the time being. I'm still not sure how to classify your change in form when you energise, whatever you're doing, it isn't a shifter ability as such, but we'll look into that later. "
"What about my MID, Doc? Do I need to get that changed too?"
"Hmm. You'll only need that if you fly, and you'll get a new, permanent one before Xmas, so let's not bother yet. "She looked at the girl, who still seemed to have something troubling her. "What's the matter?"
I looked down at my hands as I tried to put it into words. "Well, I don't understand how Thulia got me so wrong. I mean, she did a lot of tests, and she certainly knew what she was doing. Why did she think I was more powerful that I am?"
Grimes tapped her pad thoughtfully. "That's a good question. I know you didn't understand her tests, but judging by the reports you gave, she should have noted what we did. Ophelia?"
"Actually, Elyzia, I may have a theory. Morgana, you said she had complete control of her abilities, yes?"
"Oh yes, Doc. And I think a lot more power."
"Yes. I think it's likely her own control is perfect, and probably completely unconscious. She might have not realised that you would have to learn to do what she does without even thinking about it. So her estimate of your power could be reasonably correct - when you have taught yourself that same level of control."
"That's going to take a while, isn't it?"
Tennant nodded. "I'm afraid so. Being honest, we are talking years before you get to that stage. But at least training should show you a steady, if slow, improvement. We'll keep a close eye on you."
"Oh. So a lot more tests?"
Grimes nodded. "Oh yes. You're an interesting case, and once we've finished the initial testing of the new students, I want you to come back for some more detailed study here. Don't worry, we'll find out exactly how you do what you do so we can teach you to control it."
I scowled slightly. Wasn't there anyone in this crazy lab who didn't consider me a walking talking test toy? Grimes had obviously seen that look before, I could hear the smile in her voice as she continued.
"We need to tie down exactly how it all works, for your own safety as well as that of the people around you."
I looked over at Dr. Tennant, who was just looking up from her pad. "There's one other thing you should be aware of. You remember what happened when the lab tested your fire?"
I couldn't help making a face. "Yeah, Doc. I melted their kit."
"Oh no, that's not the problem. It's the way you almost passed out." She must have seen the worried expression on my face, as she carried on quickly. "Now, the good news is that it wasn't - despite the general appearance - a burnout. The medical data is quite definite. Basically you just did the energiser equivalent of over-exerting yourself until you nearly passed out."
Well, that was a relief. Even in the few days I'd been here, I'd heard about burnouts. Even given the normal teenage ghoulishness, they seemed to start at Really Bad News and went downhill from there. The Doctor waved an admonishing finger at my obvious relief.
"That doesn't make it a good thing, DragonsFyre. Straining yourself like that isn't good for you, and if you do it frequently it could have adverse effects. Please try and not push yourself like that."
"Ah, Doc? Truly, immolating myself and destroying my clothes isn't really there at the top of my list."
"Even so." She shared a quick look with Grimes. "Just be careful. When we have more time, we'll look into your power use in more detail, and see what the safe limits are. Until then, just be careful."
Dr. Tennant watched the girl leave, a thoughtful expression on her face.
"OK, what didn't you tell her?"
"Am I that easy to read, Elyzia?"
Grimes grinned. "Not really, but after all the examinations I've helped you with the signs are pretty obvious."
Ophelia nodded, looking down at her pad, then flipped the display a few pages. While Elyzia wasn't a doctor, her work with Doyle, especially with the magic-affected students, had given her a special status there. And she'd signed off on the medical secrecy protocols. Besides, she trusted her and all her instincts were telling her that Morgana was going to have medical issues related to her magic. Hardly surprising, given what she knew about the girl's origin.
"There are some odd abnormalities with her internal scans. I'm not quite sure yet what they are, and they aren't directly tied in to her access to magic, but I have a gut feeling there is something odd we haven't recognised yet."
Grimes considered that for a moment. "Serious?"
"Not...yet, anyway. I really want to go through them in detail, and then do some more examinations. But we have a busy month ahead, and all the new students to examine. I want to bring her in again after we've finished with all that - that way I can get an idea of whether anything is still changing."
"And by then hopefully she won't be as worried as she would be if we'd kept pushing her through tests right now."
"That too." Ophelia took another look at her notes. "But if you can keep an eye on her in magic classes, that would be a help, just in case."
Grimes snorted as she started to pack up her tools. "I will. If only to avoid what happened in her power testing!"
"What, you mean you haven't fireproofed the labs yet?"
"Hah bloody hah. I can't fireproof the students, can I?"
"You do have a point there..."
Thursday September 8th, Poe Cottage
"Bianca, I know I played up how bad Power Testing was yesterday, but really, it isn't all that bad. OK, the medical bit is embarrassing, but that's all."
My roomie didn't seem at all convinced. In fact, she'd been working herself up ever since she got up about her coming ordeal, and I was starting to wonder if there was a reason she wasn't telling me that was making her so worried. She'd been arranging and rearranging some of the adventure thrillers she'd brought with her on her bookshelf for a good fifteen minutes. Maybe talking about something else would help.
"Did you get that e-mail about all the stuff we needed for Magic Lab?" Bianca nodded, so I continued. "I haven't much on today, so I'm going to go down the store and get mine. Would you like me to pick up yours as well?"
Bianca frowned a little. "I don't want to impose...."
I waved it away. "Don't be silly. You're busy, and it's as easy to get two of everything as one. "
My roommate thought for a moment, then smiled slightly. "Thanks, it would be a help." Then she went back to working herself into a tizzy over her upcoming testing. Oh well...
It was a bit overcast as I made my way down to the store, and I made a mental note to get something suitable for bad weather - the lovely September weather we'd been enjoying so far had rather lulled me, but it seemed that later in the year it got a lot worse. While there was the tunnel system, it didn't cover everywhere, and besides I preferred to walk in the open rather than in the confining tunnels. I'd called Tanya earlier, and she'd agreed to wander over in a bit and help me shop. I hadn't mentioned that was because I was going to try and subtly pick her brains as to certain suitable stuff.
The store wasn't too busy this morning, most of the activity seemed to be in the book section, presumably kids getting the coursework for this term. I grabbed a trolley, and headed for the magic section - yes, the place was big enough to actually have a whole area dedicated to magical stuff. I did get sidetracked on the way - I hadn't realised till I'd got my course requirements that I needed a Gi for BMA. Then I headed for what I needed - and got sidetracked again. I'd just had an evil thought, so I made a detour to the food section and bought something I'd noticed on my previous visit. Then it was on to finding all the sometimes mundane, sometime weird things we needed, before I let the sheer number of things here get me distracted again.
I was most of the way though my shopping list when I realised two girls were staring at me. That was odd, I was looking pretty normal today, the only thing giving me away was my ears. It was a yellow-flag day, and I'd put my hair in a braid for convenience.
So what was so fascinating about me? I tried to pretend I hadn't noticed, but after a minute or two there were still staring - glowering, really. Was my shopping style really that offensive? Maybe I was breaking some sort of unknown American female shopping rule or something.
I kept on trying to ignore them, until they started to make comments. About me.
"They'll let anyone take magic classes nowadays, won't they?"
"Yeah, all the freaks should be in their own class, not put in with us."
"Looks like she's in the mindless fighters class, as well. A real mage doesn't need to know how to hit people."
I toyed with the idea of changing and showing them just how much of a freak I was, but it was a silly idea, really, even though the stream of disparaging comments was starting a slow burn. Besides, it wasn't a Green Flag day, and I wasn't sure if the store counted as outside or not. I'd seen a couple of adults - obvious parents - going around with their kids and buying stuff. So I just tried to keep my temper in check. Hitting people over the head with a shopping cart would likely get me talked about. So instead I pretended I didn't hear them, which of course had absolutely no effect whatsoever.
"Oh look, she's getting books on magic! Do you think she's going to get someone to read them to her?"
I growled under my breath as I tried to keep my temper under control, adding a few more books to my cart. Then I turned and gave them by best glower. Sadly it wasn't nearly as effective without the fangs and horns, and one of them - the one with the French accent - just turned up her nose even more as she turned to her smirking companion. "Come on, I want to ask the assistant where the advanced books on magic are - after all, we don't need the baby beginner's books, do we Hermione?"
Hermione? Geez, was she a Harry Potter fangirl as well as a bitch? That was all I needed, maybe they'd start on Hogwarts jokes next. It was with a huge sense of relief I saw Tanya - accompanied by Vic - heading my way, the purple-haired girl waving enthusiastically. At least the distraction caused the two bitches who'd been aggravating me to go somewhere else. I sighed. Was this the sort of thing girls did to each other all the time? If it was, there had to be some way of handling it. I'd have to ask around at Poe.
"Hey DF, how's the shopping doing?"
I grinned at Tanya, and gestured at the rather large pile of books and equipment in the cart. Her eyes widened. "That's a huge book load!"
"It's not that bad, Tanya - I'm collecting Bianca's stuff as well, she's enjoying the tender mercies of the Power Testing dweebs today."
Vic frowned slightly. "Is testing really so bad?"
I thought about it for a minute, then shrugged. "Not really, just that they are agonisingly thorough. But Bianca was worrying a lot, maybe I laid it on too thick yesterday."
Vic shrugged, while Tanya looked a bit concerned. I already missed that, being able to shrug stuff off. It seemed like girl's weren't allowed to do that. So I decided to try out the little surprise I had arranged.
"Oh, you should see all the magic supplies they have here! It's amazing." Then I dug into my cart, picking out a jar full of greenish spherical blobs with a black dot in the centre. "They even have Newt's eyeballs in a jar!" I twisted off the top, then cheerfully popped one into my mouth."Want one, they're good?"
I had to work hard not to laugh so hard I spit it out at the expression on Tanya's face, not to mention the slightly green colour it had taken on. Vic, though, gave me a calculating look, then took one. "Mmm, you're right, they are pretty good."
Tanya's face had taken on a rather alarming colour by now as she watched Vic chew thoughtfully, so I thought it was best to relent. Showing her the jar, I moved my hand down from where it had been covering the label. 'Best jelly 'Newts Eyeballs' candy'. She looked at it, then at me, and finally at Vic, before spluttering helplessly. "Oooooh, you....!!"
OK, neither of us could help laughing now at her aggrieved look.
"It's OK, Tanya, I would have fallen for it too except I'd seen that candy when I went shopping yesterday."
Vic's statement did seem to mollify Tanya a bit, though she was still giving the jar of candy a baleful look. So I decided to move on, amusing as it had been.
"Actually, Tanya, I'm glad you came. I need some advice."
"Advice? Sure, on what? As long as it isn't on candy."
I looked a bit embarrassed. "Well, you're a brick, and you hang out with a super team, right? So you know about the sort of equipment they use."
I carried on as she looked puzzled. "Well, you see, my alarm woke me up this morning...and I leant over and slapped it to shut it off. It sorta..broke."
For some reason the image of me hammering an alarm clock flat caused acute hilarity to my two friends. Finally Tanya managed to get some words out.
"Oh dear, you mean you smashed a completely innocent little alarm clock?"
"Hey, it wasn't innocent! It woke me up from a lovely sleep! it deserved to die!"
Saturday 10th September, morning, Poe Cottage
Greta scowled as she thought about the fake girl she'd almost invited into her group. She knew that despite whatever physical changes had been done to them, they were still boys inside, and didn't deserve to be near the Amazons. They shouldn't even be anywhere near Whateley. This wasn't the first time something like this had gone on, but as the group leader she was going to make sure that THIS time there wouldn't be any suggestion of them coming near them. Her scowl changed to a very nasty smile as she considered her options. Yes, making an example of one would work. That red-haired English bitch would be a good candidate - after the little altercation at the party, she could easily get her blamed for starting something.
Eurydice looked up at her friend. While Greta was a good, forceful leader of the group, her intentions were very often obvious, especially to those who knew her well.
"So, who are you planning to get at this time?"
Greta gave a nasty smile. "That British ladyboy, Morgana. She needs a punishment, and I'm just the girl to give it to the little faker."
"What did you have in mind, then?"
"I'm going to lure her somewhere nice and private - one of the spots we know about where security coverage is poor or easy to stop, and give her a good beatdown. After that, maybe she'll learn no to pose as a girl when she isn't one."
Eurodice sighed. "And the fact she knows who you are and will report it was you after? She may not be terrified enough to let it go, you know?"
Greta scowled deeper at the comment. She'd already set her heart on beating the frosh to a pulp.
"Greta, its not a bad idea, but we need to approach it with a bit more subtlety. Now I have an idea. I still have that psychic illusion devise, you remember , it lets you look like someone else?"
Greta's face brightened. "Oh, right! So I look like someone else while I attack her?"
Eurodice sighed quietly. Her friend still didn't get the idea of plausible deniability. "Not quite. No, what we do is to get one of our other girls to disguise herself as you, and deliver the beating. While making sure you have a very solid and public alibi. Then when the girl reports it, she'll just look stupid for reporting it as you when it couldn't possibly be you, so it's worse for her, they'll just think she's trying to get you into trouble."
"I...rather like that! She's going to look so stupid after, it will really grind the humiliation into her. "But ... I wanted to punish her myself!" Greta sighed, knowing that Eurydice was right. "I suppose that's better than nothing.Now who do we have that can do the job?"
Eurodice ran through her mental list of Amazon members. "How about Kammie Ovellette? She's strong enough to beat up a frosh, and we can lend her some of your holdouts."
"I think she'd work, yes. Lets get hold of her, then we can set this up and get her fitted out. While we're waiting, I'll dig out some holdouts just to make sure."
Saturday afternoon, Picnic by the Lake
I was idly eating a hot-dog as I watched the kids having fun in the lake, trying not to get too much grease on my fingers. I'd have liked to have joined them in the water, but the last thing I wanted to do was to show off the state of my back. It was bad enough having the girls on my floor see it, even though so far they didn't seem to have spread it around - in fact, they'd been great at realising I didn't want to talk about it. The idea of a horde of strangers seeing it though...no, wasn't going there, no matter that I enjoyed swimming. Still, it was a nice day, loads of free food, and despite the rather daunting number of kids swarming around, I was having fun. So I watched Tanya's back as she queued for yet more food - I really wasn't sure where she was putting it all - while thinking about which of the groups we'd visited I was going to join. Wondercute NOT being included in that list. Not unless that list was titled 'Kill it, Kill it with FIRE!'.
"Excuse me, are you Morgana?"
I turned quickly to see who'd spoken to me. Sloppy of me, I hadn't even realised someone was approaching. The girl was tall, well built, and smiling, a typical exemplar really. I was able to pick them out now, being around so many made the little traits and details obvious.
"Ah, yes?" I didn't have to act puzzled, I was puzzled. I'd never seen her before, maybe she was from one of the clubs?
She just nodded at me and held of a folded piece of paper. "I was asked to give this to you. Bye!"
With that she was off, slipping away into the crowds while I looked in confusion at the paper. Why would someone send me a message on paper? Everyone I knew had my phone and e-mail. Who sent notes on paper any more?
I was still turning it over in my hand when Tanya reappeared. "What's that, DF?"
I shrugged. "It's a message, I was told. On paper."
"So what does it say?"
"Uh..I guess I'd better open it, hadn't I?" Tanya nodded and grinned, already starting on her new plate of food as I looked at the note and unfolded it.
<DragonsFyre, I need to talk with you privately about the Amazons and some other matters. It's urgent and confidential. I have some information which will be very important to you. Please meet me as soon as possible, the directions are included. StahlFaust>
OK, this was just weird. StahlFaust had laid into me last night at the Poe party, and been really nasty about it. Why would she now want to speak with me privately? The tone implied that last night had been some sort of a ploy, but I couldn't work out how that made sense. Setting herself up as an adversary in front of Poe? Who would she be trying to fool? Maybe I should go and find out.
"It's a note asking me to meet StahlFaust privately, Tanya. I think I'd better go and find out what she wants."
Tanya nodded, waiting a moment to answer as she devoured yet another hot-dog. "S'OK, I guess we'll see you later."
"Sure, I don't think this will take too long. Anyway, I can always call you. Don't eat all the food while I'm gone."
Tanya gave me a look of hard done by innocence at my final remark, which just made me grin as I headed off.
Greta's directions weren't the best I'd ever seen, but they were adequate. Pity she couldn't have just sent me a Maps location. I'd taken a couple of wrong turnings along the way - hey, one bush looks pretty much like any other bush, it wasn't as if they had labels on them. It was a rather out of the way area she'd sent me to, which reinforced my suspicions that there was something fishy about all of this.
I finally reached my destination as I stepped into a small clearing. Well, given that Greta was idly leaning against a rock while giving me an amused look made that pretty obvious. I gave her a suspicious look, one hand holding my phone obviously. I'd keyed up a message to my friends, just in case, and it only needed the press of a virtual button to warn them.
"I got your note."
She smirked as she stood up. "So I see, little boy."
Well, that showed she wasn't likely to be here to cuddle and make up. Not that I had really thought that was the reason for this meet, but there had been a chance.
"So what did you want to talk about?"
Her smile widened. Not in a nice way. "Why, I wanted to show you why little fake girls like you should know their place. Which isn't pretending to be a REAL girl."
I held up my phone. "Try anything silly, and I'll call for help."
This time she actually laughed. "Oh, go right ahead and scream for help. Your phone won't work here, I've made sure of that, and the security cameras just happen to be out as well. This is all nice and private.
Damn. Oh well... so I pressed the button anyway - she might just have been trying to bluff me, after all - and exactly nothing happened. I looked at the screen, where it was cheerfully showing me there was no signal here. The smiley face wearing a Whateley t-shirt and holding up a sign saying 'No connection' did make it fairly obvious. OK, so Plan A hadn't worked, time for Plan B. It wasn't as if I had any interest in fighting her for the sake of it, as far as I could see if I won I'd get into trouble, and if I lost I'd get into trouble. Especially as this whole thing was SO obviously a setup. I just slipped my currently-useless phone into my pocket and spun on my heel to run away.
"Oh no, you don't get away THAT easily!"
I ignored Greta's shout, but couldn't ignore the whip-like cable that wrapped itself around my ankle and yanked me to an abrupt halt, face down on the grass. Greta smirked as she gave the device strapped around her wrist a sharp tug, flipping me around as well as pulling me much closer to her. She twisted her wrist and the cable let go, and her hand grabbed the front of my t-shirt, lifting me off the ground. I snarled, and instinctively changed, horns curling from my head just in time to meet the punch I hadn't seen coming. Judging by Greta's outraged shout of pain as her fist met my horns, she hadn't expected that, shaking her hand in pain as she glared at me.
"Oh, so it's true, you aren't just a fake girl, you're a monster too!"
I glared at her as a crouched. Given that she was the head of the Amazons, who I already knew were into fighting, I was sure she was far more skilled than I was. Hence my original master-plan to run away like a scared bunny. It didn't look like that was going to be an option any more.
It only took a few blows for me to realise how outclassed I was. She was stronger than me - I guessed she was about as strong as Tanya - and far more skilled. All I could do was try and retreat as much as possible while taking her blows on my arms, the couple of times I hit her didn't worry her much. I wasn't even sure if she'd let me hit her just to show me how helpless I was. I took a blow to the cheek that rocked me back, and she just let me recover. Yes, she was playing with me. I needed to do something that gave me the chance to escape.
The thing with being called a monster is that it means you have accessories like claws. So I extended mine. I didn't know if they would work on her, but it seemed reasonable that sharp claws might do more than just my hands. So the next time she struck at me, I slashed my claws hard down across her arm. She hissed in pain as shallow bloody tracks showed down her forearm, drawing back as she paused to assess the damage.
"So the little boy has claws, does he? By the time I'm done with you, you'll wish you'd kept them to yourself!"
Oh sure, like she wasn't going to beat me up anyway, I was already nursing some nasty bruises and she'd only just started.
"Hey, Tanya? What did you do with Morgana?" Erica sounded slightly amused, as if suspecting Tanya had got rid of the competition for the available free food.
Tanya turned to look at her friends. Erica, Bianca and Laura had wandered over to where she'd been scarfing down another hot dog.
"Oh...she went off to see someone. Uh...StahlFaust, I think it was. You remember, she was talking to us the other day about joining the Amazons? I guess that's what she wanted to speak to Morgana about."
Bianca and Laura exchanged worried glances.
"Are you sure?"
Tanya looked confused. "Pretty sure, why? Is there a problem?"
Bianca frowned."Well, you wouldn't know, but StahlFaust had a big confrontation with Morgana last night at the dorm party. She really laid into her for some reason."
"What? Why would she do that?"
Neither Bianca or Laura could actually explain that to Tanya, of course. Not without giving away the whole secret of Poe Cottage.
"Uh... it may have been some sort of British-German thing, or something else. We don't really know, but she turned up and went on at Morgana pretty badly."
"Oh. Then maybe she wanted to speak to her to apologise or make up or something?"
Bianca sighed to herself at Tanya's naivety.
"I think that's unlikely, she seemed really annoyed at Morgana yesterday. What exactly did she say when you saw her."
"Well, I didn't see her..." Bianca and Laura looked even more worried at that. "It was another girl, she brought a note saying to meet with StahlFaust."
Erica had been watching the faces of the the Poe girls, and it was obvious there was some sort of problem here. "Tanya, do you know where the meeting was to take place?"
"Mmm, I think so. Roughly, anyway, the note included directions. Why?"
Laura looked at Bianca again, who nodded. "I really think we should go check up on them. It might be nothing, but...it might not." The devisor held up her heavily-modified phone. "If we can get closer, I can track Morgana's cell signal."
Tanya nodded and put down her empty plate. "Well, OK. I guess it won't hurt, even if it's all innocent."
While my claws had enabled me to give Greta a few nasty slashes - mainly, if I were to be honest, by accident - it was rather self-defeating as she just took more care in her calculated beating. My main aim now was to get away, and I kept looking for an opening to make a run for it. I figured that if I did, she'd use that cable device to drag me back again, but I had a plan for dealing with that.
So when she left an opening, I dived right past her, rolled and kept running. I heard a curse in German, and as expected the cable wrapped around my ankle. This time I was ready for it, as I Iet it twist me around, slashing my claws as hard as I could across the taut line. There was a snapping noise as the cable parted to the sound of another curse. Sadly that was the last bit that worked to plan. I scrambled to my feet to run again, but not fast enough for Greta to catch me. Twisting me around, she hammered my knee with some sort of fancy move, and I almost fell over as a spike of pain ran through it. She let me go, smirking at me as I straightened up, realising I wasn't going to be running anywhere for a while.
Giving me a calculating look, she dragged a baton out of her belt, snapping it open to its full length. I jumped back as I saw the metal baton, but not fast enough as my knee betrayed me. The titanium rod slammed against my elbow, causing me to gasp at the pain and the sudden numbness down my arm. StahlFaust didn't hesitate, just smiling nastily at the reaction she'd got, as she pressed a button on the hilt. My eyes widened in shock as I saw the tip of the shaft crackle with electricity, and my mind spun into chaos.
< I was in my cell again, naked and freezing as I pressed myself back against the rock, only to scream as one of the guards smiled viciously and forced the tip of his shock baton against my flesh, making me spasm in agony as my flesh sizzled and burnt from the contact>
I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing. My vision had blurred, and all I could see clearly was the sparking tip of the baton heading for my skin. I screamed inside, and without thought grabbed the shaft, my hand flaring white with fire.
StahlFaust's eyes widened, and instinctively she made the mistake of holding on to the handle and trying to pull it back instead of dropping it. The metal glowed red, then yellow as the hollow rod collapsed, and the pain in her hand made her realise that she was grasping glowing-hot titanium, dropping it with a loud curse in German. Morgana stood there, eyes glowing flame-red as the glowing baton drooped and fell to the ground, burning the grass around it. The girl's hand was still flaring, the fire starting to creep up her arm, as StahlFaust retreated.
My muscles locked as I tried to contain, to control myself. The fire felt so good, I should just let it out and burn my assailant into charcoal. I could feel something pushing inside, tempting me to enjoy the thrill of fiery destruction. But I couldn't do that. This wasn't a killer, a villain. This was just another student, I had to stop now. I shouldn't even have let it get this far, even if it hadn't been my conscious decision. Shuddering, I got myself under control, the flames dying back as my eyes ceased their hellish glow as I forced the fire inside me into relative quiescence again.
Unfortunately the time I had taken to get myself under control had given my opponent time to recover from her surprise, and when I looked at her StahlFaust was holding some sort of fat-barrelled weapon. She snarled, pointing it close to my head as she activated it. There was a horrible noise, as I gave a wailing scream, clutching my ears as I sank to my knees under the sonic attack. Not stopping, StahlFaust pushed closer, as I shuddered, blood trickling from my ears as I almost collapsed. The German girl gave a nasty smile as she slipped her holdout away, kicking her opponent hard in the ribs, knocking her sideways as she made futile attempts to get up.
"Now, little pervert, I'm going to show you what a real girl does to a freak like you!"
I shook my head, trying to clear the blurred and double vision, and instantly regretted it as a spike of raw pain slammed through my head. There was something wrong with my muscles, they weren't responding properly as I managed to get up on my knees, just in time for a knee to slam into my nose, flattening it as blood sprayed onto the grass. It also knocked me back off my feet, and despite my efforts all I could really do was curl up a bit to protect myself.
Bianca had been getting more worried as their search went on. Not only were they heading for a fairly empty-looking part of the campus, with lots of trees and bushes that didn't let you see very far, but Laura had lost their friends phone signal a few minutes ago. To Bianca, that implied something deliberate, it was far too convenient a coincidence otherwise. She looked around, the only sign of activity being a squirrel sitting on a branch and regarding them with a bored expression while it played with one of its nuts.
"Laura, any ideas? I really think we need to find out what's going on."
Laura looked uncertainly at the map currently displayed on her phone, bit her lip and pointed to her left, at a thick stand of bushes and assorted shrubbery. "I'm sure her signal came from over there somewhere before I lost it."
"OK, let's see what's on the other side then. " With those words, Erica started to wind her way through the shrubbery. She'd only made a few feet when she clutched her ears. "Ow, what the hell is THAT?"
The other girls could hear a hammering whine, but only Erica seemed sensitive enough to find it physically painful.
"I think we'd better see what that is, it doesn't sound good." Tanya glowed purple as she rose a foot in the air, then pushed her way through the vegetation, followed by her friends. Erica sighing in relief as the abrasive sound cut off abruptly.
The screen of foliage wasn't very deep, but as they worked past it, the group stopped for a moment in shock. Morgana was on her knees, StahlFaust standing in front of her with a very unpleasant grin on her face, before she slammed her knee forward into Morgana's face. The girl fell over, moaning as crimson sprayed from her flattened nose, and StahlFaust kicked her in the ribs, hard. Even from where they were, Erica could hear the ugly sound of a rib breaking.
"Stop that right now!"
Erica was already moving as Tanya shouted, the other two girls spreading out behind her. She could hear Laura speaking fast into her phone, but the conversation didn't really register. StahlFaust turned at Tanya's shout, glaring at them. "Stay out of this, or you'll get the same!"
Tanya was already flying fast at the girl, intending to push her away from her prone friend, but never got to her. Bianca had taken a stance, her hand outstretched as she concentrated, and a howling blast of wind struck StahlFaust. Not concentrated enough to hurt the brick at that distance, but enough to force her to stagger helplessly back in surprise. She shook her head in rage, pushing her windblown hair out of her face as she glared at Bianca. Tanya settled to the ground between her and Morgana, who was mumbling as she tried, without success, to get to her feet. Tanya winced as she realised blood was trickling from Morgana's ears.
"Little witch, I'm going to show you how a real girl deals with something like you!"
Erica's eyes narrowed at StahlFaust's scream of rage - the girl clearly looked she was losing it - as she stopped next to Tanya. "You'll have to deal with us first!" Tanya just nodded firmly, her purple glow brightening.
StahlFaust's sneer widened. "Two pitiful little froshes? You won't even slow me down."
"They won't have to."
StahlFaust's eyes widened as she saw Laura behind her friends, some sort of devise pointed at her. All sleek plastic and chrome, it bore considerable resemblance to a phaser pistol from a well-known tv show. "My neural inhibitor took down a supervillain, this devise won't have any problem with you."
The girl scanned the area. Devisors were a problem, but not if you closed with them. But Laura was a good distance behind the two bricks, and Bianca was pointing her hand at her again, obviously ready to defend any attempt to get close to the girl with the gun. Any ideas in her mind were cut off abruptly as two large security drones swept down over the clearing, fans buzzing loudly, blue strobe lights flashing on top.
"Stay where you are, and stop fighting immediately!"
The drones cameras were pointed at the group, and some sort of weapon, slung under the streamlined bodies, were pointed at them as well. Laura froze for a moment as she tried to work out what sort of drones they were, then shook her head and concentrated on the situation in hand.
Kammie cursed to herself. This had all gone wrong so quickly, she'd nearly finished the job and been ready to get away when these froshes turned up. Now she needed a way to escape for long enough to turn off her psychic gimmick and vanish into the crowd. As she saw the drones hovering attentively, and heard the familiar sound of security vehicles approaching, she was wondering if that was going to be possible.
"Sarge, we have a fight going on. Sounds serious."
Sergeant Clauser sighed and stood up, gesturing to the ready squad. "Where is it?"
"Uh...it's in a pretty secluded spot." He manipulated his map controls as an icon appeared on the wall display. "We have a couple of drones in a holding pattern, but it will take a few minutes for us to actually drive over there."
"OK, get the drones over, try and stop whatever it is with them, and we'll head out. Get your gear together and let's get going."
The first vehicle was already tearing enthusiastically up the road when Lillian Dennon stopped the driver of the second. She'd been hanging out in Security to go through some of the summer reports - the ones that, while they hadn't involved any official action at the time, did need comments and filing - and was totally bored. So when the active squad got a report that actually got their backsides out of their comfy chairs, she decided to look into it. Any excuse to get away from the paperwork, especially as the student involved was one of the ones she'd been asked to keep an eye on.
"What's going on?"
"Some sort of fight, ma'am. Reported in by a student, we have a couple of drones there keeping an eye on things."
Lillian nodded and slid into the back. "I'll go with you then." As the driver hesitated, she waved him forward. "Go, go! What are you waiting for?"
The man shrugged and got going, trading a 'what the hell' look with his companion in the front seat.
The Security team spread out with practised skill as they found the fight - the two drones had intimidated the students into stopping anything other than glaring at each other, and the only thing of note that had happened was that the white-haired girl had manifested some water over a patch of burning grass. Seeing the half-melted baton in the middle of the charred patch, no-one worried too much about that.
Sergeant Clauser scowled at the girls as his men moved to separate them and make sure the kids didn't try anything stupid. "You lot again? Didn't you listen the first time when I told you no fighting on campus?"
Laura glared at him from where she was helping Morgana to her feet. The redhead was clearly not with it, shaking her head and only able to stay up because Erica was supporting her, looking worried as she noticed the unequal sizes of her friends pupils.
"We weren't fighting! We found her beating up our friend, and we broke it up! While we waited for you to take your time in turning up!"
He curled his lip at the blue girls angry retort. "Yeah yeah, that's what they all say. " He didn't notice the second runabout arriving behind him, a scowling Lillian Dennon jumping out to head for the group, as he turned to get his men organised. One of his rookie officers stepped up to the pale, and obviously shaken, Morgana. "I knew you were going to be trouble, now tell me what's been going on, right NOW!"
Laura opened her mouth to protest loudly again, but never got the chance.
Morgana managed to look at the angry officer pushing his face almost into hers, as she went even paler, trying in vain to focus on him. She tried to say something, only managing a mumble, then bent over abruptly and vomited helplessly and copiously. All over the officers polished boots.
Everything went very quiet for a long moment. None of the security guards said a word, although Bianca did notice a couple of rapidly-hidden grins on a couple of them. For his part, Sergeant Clauser just looked over at his officer, shaking his head sadly, before raising his head slowly to look at Morgana. Laura was about to make a voluble protest, when a dry voice cut in with no trace of humour.
"And just WHAT do you and your men think you are doing, Sergeant?"
Sergeant Clauser - and everyone else in the group - turned to look at Ms. Dennon, who was standing a few feet away with a thunderous expression on her face. He opened his mouth to say something, then rapidly closed it again as he saw the teacher's face. For her part, Ms. Dennon simply pushed past him, looking closely at Morgana. Ignoring the near-apoplectic officer, who was still somewhat fixated on his boots, she nodded to Erica and Tanya.
"Help her into the cart, she needs to get to Doyle straight away."
With a hurried "Yes ma'am" the two girls started to help their teammate to the cart. Even so, Erica kept casting glances behind her, wanting to see what was going on.
Ms. Dennon gestured to the Sergeant, who moved away a few paces to follow her.
"Sergeant, the next time you allow one of your men to rant on one of my students when she's very obviously concussed and unable to look after herself, I will be unhappy. Very unhappy. With you, personally. I don't care if he's a rookie or not.Do I make myself clear?"
Despite the whisper she was speaking in, the man nodded obediently. Ms. Dennon had a reputation, and he really didn't want to cross her. Not if he wanted to continue his well-paid job at Whateley.
"Uh..yes ma'am, I understand. It won't happen again. I'll have words with him once we get this all sorted away. He's still a bit new." Dennon gave him a considering look, which made him wince again. "Make sure it doesn't. Now go and get you men sorted out, I'll handle the students."
Wisely, he just nodded and walked off, face set. The remaining guards were busily sorting out the various students involved, and quite clearly far too busy to have seen what was going on between him and the obviously angry teacher. He did take a moment to glare at his offending officer, who paled at the obvious 'I'm your NCO and you are in deep shit with me' look. Rookie or not, the idiot had to learn the difference between handling teenagers and handling army recruits.
Doyle Medical Centre, Saturday afternoon
"Sit down, all of you."
Lillian waited as the four girls sat, watching them carefully. None of them looked guilty, just upset and angry. Given what had just happened to their friend, that was a normal reaction. They also all looked fed up with having to go through everything that they'd seen to fill out the Security staff's reports.
"Now, I want to know what you saw and did - no conjectures, please, I just want to know what you saw."
Despite her words, it took a while to patch the various statements into a coherent whole, but it did seem very straightforward.
"So. None of you actually saw anything of the fight until after the sonic device went off?"
Laura shook her head - somehow she seemed to have been designated at spokeswoman, she wasn't quite certain how. It wasn't like she'd put herself forward, it was more like the rest of her friends had somehow edged backwards while she wasn't looking."I'm sorry, ma'am, we didn't."
"And there is no trace of the note Morgana claimed to have received?"
"We haven't got it, ma'am. Didn't the security team collect it?"
"No, Laura, they didn't. A pity, since it was evidence in this case." She didn't say what sort of evidence, just in case it gave them ideas. It would have helped show StahlFaust had planned the fight, but with it apparently vanished there was nothing she could use. Quite clever to use a method with no electronic trail, though.
She eyed the four girls. "Very well. Now, I need to consider your actions concerning StahlFaust."
"Ma'am, all we did was to stop beating our friend, while calling for help. It wasn't like it was a fight, Morgana was helpless and she was just beating on her."
Lillian nodded to Laura. "Yes, and in general you behaved responsibly. Bianca, were you trying to hurt StahlFaust with your spells?"
"Oh no, ma'am. My air attack is pretty harmless, especially against a brick. I just wanted to push her back away from Morgana."
Lillian regarded the pale girl thoughtfully. "Very well. While technically you did assault her, you used the minimum force necessary to separate the combatants, and your action was quite reasonable under the circumstances. However..." she turned to frown at Laura. "The weapon you threatened her with doesn't seem to be registered - and the records show your neural weapon is in custody until you show you can use it safely."
Laura fidgeted and blushed. "Well, you see ma'am, it wasn't a weapon. I just thought she'd assume it was."
Lillian looked blankly at the blue devisor. "Then what WAS it, and why were you carrying it around - no, just what was it, you devisors are always carrying a bag full of junk around just for the fun of it."
Laura blushed a deeper blue. "It's my new prototype hairdryer, ma'am." Seeing the expression on Lillian's face, she hurriedly continued. " You see, some of my friends have really cool ways of drying their hair with their powers, and I don't, and I thought I could build something to do the same for me, and..." She trailed off at the expression on Lillian's face.
"So you bluffed her with a hair-dryer?" Lillian had to fight to stop from smiling. She'd have to keep an eye on this innocent-looking blue girl. "Well, I'm pretty sure there is nothing in the rules against pointing a hair-dryer at another student " - she frowned sternly - "as long as it isn't weaponised. It isn't a weaponised hair accessory, is it? Despite the fact you made it look like a Star Trek Phaser."
Laura was in a hurry to reassure the teacher. "Oh no, I mean it's for me and I'm not a brick or anything."
"Good. Just remember, anything you build that can be used as a weapon has to be registered." She looked at her watch. "I still need to talk to DragonsFyre, but if you want to wait, I think the medics will let you have a chat with her later."
The girls exchanged quick glances., then Laura nodded on their behalf. "Yes please, ma'am, we'd like to make sure she's alright."
"I'm sure she will be, the doctors here are very competent. You can wait out outside, I'll get someone to let you know when you can see your friend."
Lillian leant back in her chair as she examined Kammie critically. The girl showed no sign of remorse at what she'd done, she just seemed resentful that she'd been caught. This was by no means the first time the girl had been in this sort of trouble, although delivering this sort of premeditated beating to a new student was a first. Lillian took a few breaths to calm herself, reminding herself that she was a teacher, and it was her responsibility to administer punishment without bias and to ignore her personal feelings about what had really happened. Even though she didn't believe Kammie's excuses for a moment.
"So, Kammie, you say that Morgana found you and was spoiling for a fight. That she attacked you, injured you with her claws, and would have burnt you badly if you hadn't been able to fend her off and put her out of action. "
The girls head nodded, her face expressionless. "Exactly, Ma'am."
"And, oddly, the surveillance camera in the area don't seem to have recorded the incident thanks to it being covered in bugs, and it was a dead zone for normal mobile phones. How... convenient."
This time the biting irony in Dennon's tone brought a flush to Kammie's face. "She must have chosen the site with that in mind, ma'am."
"Really? That seems formidable foresight and knowledge for a new student - it's more what I would have expected from, say, a Junior."
Kammie bit her lip but had the sense to keep her mouth shut.
"And I suppose it was just a coincidence that you had your holdouts along - including one very illegal sonic weapon?"
"They just happened to be on me at the time, Ms Dennon."
"I see." The flat tone of Lillians voice made it very clear what she thought of the explanation.
"I had no choice, ma'am - I tried to keep her off with my baton, without hurting her, but she melted it, I thought she was going to burn me!"
Lillian gave her a flat look. "And I would love to hear your explanation of why you were disguised as another student when you did all this."
Kammie looked seriously worried for the first time. "Uh... I had it on me, we'd been trying it out. It must have got turned on accidentally during the fight." Even to her it sounded weak, and she knew Dennon wasn't buying it for a moment. But there wasn't anything that could actually prove she was lying. The only thing that had had StahlFaust's name on it was the note, and it seemed that the ink had vanished and the paper itself dissolved.
Lillian sighed to herself. She knew she wasn't going to get anything more truthful out of Kammie, and from previous experience trying to would just be a waste of time. Given the circumstances, and the medical report on Morgana's injuries, she had a good idea of what had really gone on, even if she couldn't actually prove it. While Morgana's friends had witnessed the end of the fight, they hadn't seen it start and that made it impossible to prove Kammie was lying. She was certain that StahlFaust was mixed up in all this, the idea that she'd have lent Kammie most of her holdouts just for fun was straining any sort of believability.
"Very well. As there is no recorded proof of who started the fight, or why, I have to punish both participants. However..." she paused long enough to see the look of worry on Kammie's face. Good. "You have a year of martial arts training - Morgana has none. You are stronger than her, and you used holdouts, including an illegal one. Finally the testimony of the girls who discovered you show that you weren't simply holding Morgana off, you were deliberately beating her." She held her hand up to forestall the girls angry protest. "You will do two weeks detention." she paused for a moment before continuing "in Hawthorne. One week for the fighting, and the second for using a sonic weapon. Your room is being checked for holdouts as we speak, and any illegal ones will be confiscated and destroyed. And if I see you here again this term, that punishment will seem mild. Do you understand?"
Kammie looked like someone who wanted to vent her feelings in a rant, as Lillian smiled sweetly. "Is there something you wanted to say?"
Kammie managed to get herself under control after a few deep breaths. "No, ma'am." Inside she was seething - Stahlfaust and Eurydice were going to owe her big time for this!
"Good. Then get out, you will report to Hawthorne at 5pm tomorrow. They will be expecting you."
She watched the girl walk out, back stiff with rage, and shook her head. Such a pity Fubar wasn't still in Hawthorne, he had always had a way of making the detentions at Hawthorn fit the person that really drove the lesson home. Still, she was sure that the experience would be as...interesting...as ever for Kammie.
Lillian looked thoughtfully at the student sitting apprehensively in front of her. The medical people had finished with her for the time being, and she was wearing one of their robes. Lillian cast an expert eye over her; despite a healing, she was still favouring her damaged ribs and shoulder, and looked like someone who had just been badly beaten. Which was hardly surprising.
"I do hope you realise, Morgana, that getting into fights is a serious matter, and that means you will be punished for it?"
The girl nodded miserably. "Even though I didn't start it?"
"Who started what isn't the point. Fighting is forbidden except in a formal setting - it has to be, some of the students have dangerous powers. As I am sure you are aware."
Morgana blushed. "Ah...yes ma'am, I understand."
Lillian looked at her closely. "Now I've read the report you gave to security. There is a point in there you didn't clarify, which is why you manifested your fire. I need to know why, and if it was deliberate."
The girl blushed. "Uh...well, ma'am, it was sort of accidental."
Lillian raised an eyebrow. "Really? Morgana, I've seen your power testing report. Fire at the level you can manifest it is extremely dangerous, did you feel it appropriate to use it on another student, even in a fight?"
Morgana looked down at the ground, and shook her head. "I didn't mean to, ma'am. I know it's dangerous. But when she..." the girl stumbled to a halt, looking miserable.
"When she what, Morgana? I need to know, if you can't control this we may need to take measures to insure the safety of people around you."
Morgana looked more than a little desperate. "Ma'am, I did control it! Really I did, once I realised what I was doing, I brought it under control and stopped it. Then while I was doing that, she hit me with that sonic thingie." There was a certain amount of frustration in the girls' voice, as Lillian took in her body language as well as her words and tone.
"Did you lose your temper?"
Morgana just shook her head, refusing to answer. "Then what, girl? You need to be honest with me or I can't help you." She could see the tension in the girls' shoulders, before she finally raised her head to look at her.
"Ma'am...if I tell you, will you promise to keep it to yourself?"
Lillian looked thoughtful. That wasn't quite the response she'd been expecting.
"That depends on whether it's important for the safety of others... however unless that is the case, very well, I will listen."
The girl sat up straight, breathing deeply, and Lillian was interested in her expression. This wasn't someone who was going to make up some excuse, this was a girl barely able to make herself speak. Interesting.
"I don't know how much of what happened to me when I manifested is on my record, but from what Dr Bellows said I don't think they went into details." she took a deep breath, then continued in a monotone. "After I manifested, I was held in a cell and tortured. They didn't feed me, but every so often the guards came by and gave me water. When they did..."
She stopped for a moment, her face working. Lillian kept very quiet, her face expressionless, as the girl managed to continue.
"They had batons. Shock batons. I was chained up, and they used to amuse themselves by using them on me, pressing them on my skin, burning me. I couldn't do anything about it. When we were fighting, and she charged her baton, I had a flashback to that. All I could see was the baton, sparking just like the ones they used on me. But this time I could do something. I wasn't thinking, I just reacted and grabbed it and used my fire on it. I didn't realise who was holding it until she dropped it, I guess it must have burned her hand. I wanted to hurt her, burn her, but I knew I shouldn't - she wasn't one of those guards. So I managed to get my fire under control and stopped it."
Lillian regarded the girl closely. She hadn't read her manifestation report, but she sounded authentic - at least, if she could fake this level of upset reaction, she was missing out in a career in an actress. And she was being seen by Alfred Bellows, which certainly implied some trauma. So...she'd take this as the truth until she could check the facts.
"I see. That does explain why you reacted as you did, although that doesn't absolve you of blame. I will need to look into your reaction further, we cannot allow a student to react in so dangerous a fashion. But I will have a word with Dr Bellows, as well as checking on the truth of your statement. Any further action will depend on what I find out. Is that clear?
The girl nodded miserably, so Lillian carried on briskly. No need to let her sit there feeling sorry for herself.
"One thing I did notice. When you met her, why didn't you set your phone to record? Having a record - even if was only audio - helps a lot in the reconstruction of what actually went on."
Morgana looked at the teacher, then blushed deeply. "I just didn't think about it ma'am."
Lillian smiled. "Well, it's something to bear in mind." She deliberately didn't say 'the next time something happens', that would just be tempting fate.
"Now, as to your punishment. At Whateley, we don't believe in just letting you hang around a classroom for a few hours. When we give detention, it's to make you do work. Sometimes unpleasant work, depending on the seriousness of your offense. Now since both of you girls are in Poe, I could ask Ms Horton to assign you a week of extra work. However in this case, I don't think that's a good idea. Instead I will decide on what to do."
She gave the girl another long look. "Now. I organise a set of evening classes for some of my brick students. You will attend them as a gopher - help set up, help around, help clear up. You will do this for the next week as your punishment time."
Morgana was looking more than a bit confused as she tried to work out exactly what sort of weird detention this was going to be, as Lillian continued.
"Don't think you will be able to slack off - I'm not there for all the sessions, but I will make sure some of my senior students know to keep you working hard."
"I understand, ma'am."
"Good. You may go, the first class is on Monday at 5pm, make sure you are there before the start."
Morgana nodded and stood up to leave.
"Oh, and one more thing. You enrolled in BMA as I instructed, didn't you."
The girl looked confused again, and Lillian smiled to herself. "Yes ma'am"
"Make sure you bring you Gi to my class." Lillian gestured in dismissal, as the now thoroughly confused girl made for the door. Lillian rubbed her chin thoughtfully as the door closed. She had an idea, that might be good. But first... she pulled up a number on her cell phone.
"Alfred? Sorry to trouble you, but one of the kids your looking after has been in a fight, and I wanted a word about whether an idea I had for her punishment would be a good idea or not. I know you can't tell me how you've been working with her, I just wanted to check this wouldn't be a bad idea."
Tanya stuck her head around the door, then smiled and opened it for the others to follow her.
"You're looking a lot better."
I looked up and smiled back as the four girls slipped into my room. "I am feeling better. And I owe you all thanks for finding me, if you hadn't..."
Laura waved a hand dismissively. "Hey, we look after each other, right?" The devisor girl looked curiously at the readouts over the bed where they were monitoring me. "You are OK, aren't you?"
"Pretty much, yeah. They patched me up and gave me a healing, I'm just a bit sore." Well, actually I still hurt more than that, but didn't want to worry them. "But they still want to monitor me overnight, they diagnosed concussion."
Erica nodded. "Yeah, that was pretty obvious when we found you. Especially after what you did to the officer's boots...."
I looked at her, wondering why she looked amused. "Boots? What have boots got to do with anything?"
So they told me. It took a while, mainly because all four kept having to stop talking due to laughing, and Laura apologising for not having taken photos.
"Oh. He's not going to like me for that, is he?"
Bianca looked thoughtful."Probably not, but I don't think he's foolish enough to do anything about it. Not after Ms Dennon had a few words with him, I don't think she approved of the way he was acting."
We would have continued chatting, but a nurse stuck her head around the door.
"OK, girls, times up." She saw the expressions on their faces and smiled. "Really. Your friend needs to rest, and I have a sleeping pill for her. So unless you want to sit here and listen to her snore...?"
I sat up straight in annoyance. "Hey! I don't snore!"
The nods and 'of course you don't' from my friends as they left would have been more believable if they could have stopped snickering.
Lillian paused from getting her coat to look at her phone.
< Still up for dinner?>
Oh, right. She'd almost forgotten with all the hassle this evening.
<Sure, I got dragged away from the party. I'm just leaving Doyle now>
<OK, I'll meet you outside and we can walk over>
"OK, so what happened?"
Lillian sighed as she looked at her grinning friend. "One of the juniors decided to ambush and beat up one of the new froshes. And then some of the Security guards were being assholes about it. I wish they'd stop trying to impress the new Headmaster with their dedication at the expense of the students."
The Imp frowned. "Early in the term for that sort of thing. Do you know why?"
Lillian shook her head. "Not yet, although I do have some ideas. Unfortunately - and very conveniently - there weren't any witnesses to the start, so I can't just blame it on Kammie, I really suspect StahlFaust, but there isn't any actual proof."
The Imp made a face. "Oh. Right. I assume she blamed it all on her victim again?"
"Of course. Since she managed to 'accidentally' hit her with a high powered sonic weapon as part of the fight, you can imagine how much of that I believe."
"Ouch. How is her target?"
"Not wonderful. Concussion, broken nose, ribs, multiple bruises and contusions and so on. Luckily she's pretty tough. She's resting in Doyle now."
"I assume that despite being innocent, Kammie is quite unharmed?"
Lillin grinned at her friends dry tone."Oh, not entirely. She has a few claw marks to remind her - DragonsFyre claws seem more impressive than their size would indicate - and she had a rather nasty burn on her hand."
The Imp snorted. "Serves her right. I doubt it will stop her antics, though, she seems incapable of learning. So this girl - DragonFyre? - has claws and fire? That's an unusual combination."
Lillian gave her companion an amused look. "She's an unusual case. She also has horns, claws and fangs some of the time. No tail, though"
"Really? The Imp grinned, twirling her own appendage. "Well, she does sound more attractive than most of you mundane types. Pity about the lack of a tail, but then few girls can be as attractive and talented as me..."
Lillian just snorted. "Yea, right. You left out modest and unassuming."
"Of course. That goes without saying."
To be continued...