The Bear, The Bitch, And Everything (Part 4)
The Bear, the Bitch, and Everything
A Whateley Academy Story
E. E. Nalley
Where dark roots hide secrets
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago
I will read every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle's scream
June Fowlis, Touch the Sky
September 11th, 2007
Room 311, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Tansy awoke to a dull ache in her side and the soft, metronome like tone of a cardiac monitor. Her eyes didn't want to focus at first, and she could only make out a vague shape sitting in the chair next to the bed, reading from a PADD. Her brain didn't seem to want to work, and it was abnormally difficult to clear the mental cobwebs from her mind. "Mom?" she asked, bringing up a hand to wipe her eyes. "Mom, is that you?"
The blurry figure stood immediately, and came over to the bed, laying her hand on top of Tansy's. As the face came into focus, Tansy's mind filled with the emotions of worry, deep concern for her safety, along with guilt and remorse for being responsible for the situation. Amelia Hartford's face had worry lines and bags under the eyes from lack of sleep and an expression Tansy had never seen on that face before, something between contrite sorrow and heart wrenching motherly worry. Tansy blinked several times to be sure she was awake but a second hand joined the first and the mental context of emotion was redoubled. The administrator had not left her bedside all night and was consumed with guilt and worry, none of it about her own position or consequences against her; she was solely worried about the health and well- being of her protégé. "How do you feel, Tansy?" Amelia asked.
It took several moments for Tansy to process what she was feeling from the teacher. She had only experienced emotions like these, concerns of someone else about her, from Elaine or Wyatt or Kayda, but there had always been a sexual undertone to those feelings, the concerns of a mate to another. There was none of that in the emotions of Amelia Hartford. The closest it came to anything she had experience with, was the feelings of motherly love Grizzly had helped her remember. That her mentor would actually care about her personally and not just what use Tansy could be to her was an epiphany on par with what she had experienced with Banned-Aids at Hundred Year Oak. "I… My side hurts," she managed.
Ms. Hartford smiled and for once there was nothing disconcerting about it. "You cracked two ribs and had some nasty bruises, though I imagine your exemplar regeneration has dealt with the cracks by now." She reached out of Tansy's line of vision and came back with a jug with a handle that rattled with ice, and she held the flexible straw to the girl's lips. Tansy drank greedily of the cold water which cleared the remaining cobwebs from her mind, but as it splashed in her stomach she became aware of how empty it was as it growled in complaint.
Ms. Hartford put the jug on the nightstand next to the bed within Tansy's reach, and then she crossed the room to a table on rollers next to a hotbox. From the hotbox she produced a tray of food, and the smell of eggs, bacon, and hot coffee doubled Tansy's stomach's complaint. "I… I suppose you're mad at me because I failed the quiz," she asked morosely.
Ms. Hartford wheeled the table over to the hospital bed, then raised the bed's back so that her protégé was at roughly a sitting position. She took the lid off the plate, revealing a king-sized portion of scrambled eggs that set the young blonde's mouth watering. "What makes you think you failed?" the Assistant Headmistress asked softly. "Do you even know what you're being tested on?"
Thoughts of ladylike decorum were pushed aside in Tansy's mind and she tucked into the eggs with a will. Her mouth full, she chewed and looked up at her mentor's amused face. Finally Tansy shook her head. Hartford settled down in the chair next to the bed and began to count off her points on her fingers. "Every objection you raised to the scenario was legitimate, on point, and tactically astute. That you raised them shows you won't blindly follow orders and are not shy about making those above you aware of valid points."
Hartford smiled a sardonic smile and glanced sidelong at her protégé as she ate. "You could, however, work on the respectful tone when making those above you aware of valid points."
Around a mouthful of eggs, Tansy replied, "I thought sarcasm was a part of my edgy and endearing personality."
The Assistant Headmistress declined to comment on her protégés witticism. "You're flexible enough to be able to deal with a bad situation and make the best of it. But most important of all, while you'll defend yourself when pushed hard enough, you're not a killer." A shudder passed down Tansy's spine as she paused eating as a concerned look crossed her face. "Don't worry," Hartford assured her, "you have enough chlorpromazine in your system that I doubt you could throw up if you drank a whole bottle of syrup of ipecac. That's why your eyes are blurry - it's a common side effect; it will pass."
Tansy shivered again and found she had lost her appetite. "I didn't mean to kill him," she whispered. "I thought it was my force pistol."
Ms. Hartford picked up her coffee cup from the side table and took a sip. "Why did you hesitate?" she asked softly, keeping her voice soothing and without demand. "Why didn't you fight back sooner?"
Walcutt stared at the eggs on the plate. "Montana… Montana tried to kill himself over what I did to him. I… I guess… I guess some part of me felt like I deserved it."
Amelia leaned forward and placed her hand on Tansy's arm. Once more the young woman felt the love and concern from her mentor and despite feeling terribly unworthy of love basked in the feeling of it. "Unfortunately, my dear, it is a fact that one of the pitfalls of being a bitch is collateral damage." She rubbed the girl's arm in encouragement. "Professor Geintz suspected, and I had my own suspicions, but your performance does show a certain amount of self- destructive behavior on an unconscious level. Mrs. Carson and I want you to speak to Dr. Bellows, or one of his staff."
Tansy looked up, somewhat startled. "Mrs. Carson?"
"She's just as worried about you as I am," Hartford told her. "It's not an order, but consider it a strong request. You have worth, Tansy. Not as an operative, not as my protégé, but as a human being. And as a human being we all make mistakes, Dr. Bellows can help you come to grips with yours."
Tansy locked eyes with her mentor, a confused look on her face. "Ms. Hartford, why do you care?"
An expression of concern draped itself over the Assistant headmistress's face, and through her hand Tansy felt the intense, complex melting pot of emotions Amelia Hartford felt for her. "Tansy," she said softly. "I was you. While your mother suffered from Munchausen syndrome and hypochondria, mine was a garden-variety alcoholic. I'm not sure what wife number my father is on, and I frankly don't care. When I attended this school, my reign as the Alpha Bitch Queen would put your exploits to shame. And when I graduated, I was determined to get my revenge against my psychotic father for turning my saintly mother into the drunken sot she'd become, or so I believe at the time. And…" she looked away for a long moment before turning back to meet her protégés gaze, her eyes steely. "And I came within seconds of a judge's gavel declaring my life officially flushed down the toilet. Then, the last person in the world I expected to see walked into the courtroom, and Elizabeth Carson gave a speech about someone I didn't even recognize as myself. Elizabeth Carson saved my life, and I am paying it forward to save yours."
She stood and wheeled the tray off to the side and went back to the chair in the corner, dimming the lights except for the one she was reading by. "I care because I was you, and I'll do everything I can to keep you from making the same mistakes I did. Now, get some sleep. I'll be here if you need me."
Tansy forced a smile. "Ms. Hartford? Do… Do we bitch queens get happy endings?"
Amelia Hartford smiled as she held up her left hand and showed off the magnificent ring that had recently begun to grace her ring finger. "If you work at it hard enough," she told her protégé. "We even get Prince Charming. Now go to sleep."
September 11th, 2007
Room 210, Poe cottage, Whateley Academy
Grizzly was becoming concerned. Through her host's ear she could hear the alarm clock going off, but Elaine didn't stir. Even in her dream space, she was somnolent and listless. The healer knew a large chunk of her host's soul was missing, and she clicked her teeth in disapproval of the reckless maneuver. She was becoming distressed at how long the two had been separated; action was called for.
Projecting herself into the real world, Grizzly took on the form of a powerful woman, well over six feet tall with the physique of an Amazon, yet still managing a very feminine, motherly form. Her wild mane of reddish brown hair was kept in place with a headband and a braid that hung down her back. She dressed herself after the manner of the last nomadic, tribal peoples in the Americas - a motorcycle gang member, wearing a T-shirt imprinted with a dream catcher over which she wore a black leather vest, the back of which was emblazoned with a winged, stylized pair of A's around which was declared Atlantis Amazons. Leather jeans and motorcycle boots completed the ensemble which was accessorized by heavy steel chains that innocuously held a key ring and a wallet, but anyone with sense realized they were disguised improvised weapons.
Grizzly knelt by the bed and laid a hand over her host's eyes, transferring some of her energy into the sleeping body to help it cope with the missing fragment of her soul. Finally, Elaine stirred and sat up. Looking up at her spirit's eyes, the redhead asked, "Grizzly?"
The manifested spirit smiled down at her host. "You rest, honey. I'll bring you something to eat." Elaine nodded as Grizzly stood and walked out of the room. Even though the hall was crowded with students coming and going from the showers and bathroom or on their way to the Crystal Hall for breakfast, as the big spirit stepped out of the resident advisers room, the commotion of the hallway stopped and the students parted like the Red Sea before her.
One of the children whispered, "Daaammmnnn…!" as she passed, but Grizzly only smiled and made her way downstairs to the house-parent's apartment. The Dutch door was half open when she arrived, but Mrs. Horton was not standing in it.
Peering in, the spirit called, "Mrs. Horton?"
"Just a minute!" The house-parent's voice drifted from deep in the apartment. After a moment she appeared around the hallway corner, coffee cup in hand, a puzzled look on her face as she saw who was at her door. "May I help you?" she asked.
"I am the Spirit Grizzly, First Shaman, Medicine Woman, Pipe Holder of the Council of Spirits, Spirit of the Land of the People," she told the shocked Druidess. "I would speak with you about my host."
Mrs. Horton's mouth opened and closed several times before she could overcome her shock, then she opened the bottom half of the Dutch door and ushered the spirit inside. Closing the upper door, she demanded, "What's wrong? Is Elaine all right? Why are you manifested in the real world?"
Grizzly crossed her arms over her ample bosom. "In order, my host is missing a good chunk of her soul, no, her body is having a difficult time with missing such a large portion, and I'm here to demand what you are doing about it!" The spirit sighed and made a gesture in the direction of the ceiling where her host body was. "I've shared more of my energy with her to stabilize her condition, but this is a patch, not a solution. Why have you not rejoined her soul?"
Bella sank into one of her chairs and shook her head. "Because as near as I can conjecture, Coyote somehow manifested the Laneth portion of Elaine's soul into the real world."
"What?!" Grizzly demanded.
"I have a material link to her astral form, a cutting of hair. But no matter how hard I summoned, she never returned to my circle so I could reintegrate her with Elaine," Mrs. Horton admitted. "The only way she could not be summoned was if she were already here in the real world. Yesterday I had security inquiring about Elaine assaulting one of the guards, but since I could prove she was here, I've been able to keep things quiet and I have security already looking …"
Grizzly shook her head, the long ponytail down her back writhing like a snake. "That isn't good enough!" she declared. "If Coyote projected Laneth into the real world, he would have to use some of his own energy to stabilize the projection. I doubt he would use up such reserves for more than a few days. And once he stops stabilizing the projection …"
Bella nodded. "I'm doing everything …"
"Involve Lady Astarte," Grizzly demanded. "We do not have time for you to avoid having your ego bruised because of your poor judgment! I will bring food to my host and keep watch over her. Inform whomever you must she is ill and will stay in her rooms until this is resolved."
The house parent nodded her agreement. "Give her a quick meal from the kitchen, I'll see to it meals are delivered from here out."
September 11th, 2007
Room 311, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Danny knocked on the door softly so that he wouldn't wake the occupant if she were asleep. But immediately the occupant's dulcet soprano called, "Come in." The young man walk through the little foyer made by the bathroom next to the door and entered the room proper.
She was sitting up with the bed bent up to support her, a tray across her lap with a plate of food. She was just wiping her lips with a napkin and the young man was struck by how she was able to make a hospital gown flattering. Her hair was unkempt and her face un-made, but even so, she was still desperately beautiful. Tansy caught sight of who her visitor was and her smile lit up the room. "Hello, Danny!" she greeted, gesturing to the chair by the bed. "Won't you come in?"
Danny felt his cheeks turn warm as he blushed and produced the bouquet of a dozen roses he'd been hiding behind his back, extending them to the beauty in the bed. "I…uh… I brought you some flowers, so you'll feel better!"
"How thoughtful," Tansy replied as she inhaled the delicate scent of the roses. Gesturing across the room to the sink, she asked, "There's a vase on the counter over there. Would you mind putting some water in it and bringing it here?"
"Be happy to!" the boy enthused as he rushed over to fulfill the request.
Tansy removed the roses from the cellophane wrapper to protect their stems and placed them in the vase. "They're beautiful!" she gushed. "Thank you so much!"
He sank into the chair she had indicated and made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, it was nothing. I'm glad you like them. How are you feeling? Getting better?"
Tansy smiled and winked at the young man. "Oh, I zigged when I should have zagged," she replied. "But I’m getting better. They're talking about letting me go in time for lunch."
Seeing an opportunity, Danny seized his chance. "That… That's great news! Would you like to have lunch with me?" he asked in a rush to get it all out before he lost his nerve.
Tansy picked up a French fry from her plate and nibbled on it. "Is Dump Truck still giving you a hard time?" she asked consolingly. "Or are you just looking to score some points with your friends by being seen with the most beautiful girl on campus?" she added with a wink. Danny's face went crimson and he hoped that his tan from all the summers working out in the fields covered it. Tansy smiled and good-naturedly lightly punched the young man on the shoulder. "Either way," she said, "I couldn't ask for better company! It's a date!"
Danny's heart was thundering in his chest so hard he was wondering if he should go and see the nurse about it. Before he could say anything, there was a knock at the door which opened and one of the nurses came in. "Miss Walcutt?" he asked, pushing in a wheelchair in front of him. "Dr. Tennant is wanting another x-ray to make sure those ribs are all right."
Tansy rolled her eyes as she pushed the tray away from the bed, stood carefully, and pulled on a bathrobe. "Duty calls," she said glumly. "You," and she speared him with a finger. "Get to class before you're late. I'll see you at lunch time." She sat down in the wheelchair and was led out the door by it.
September 11th, 2007
Room 210, Poe cottage, Whateley Academy
Elaine rubbed her face after staring at the same sentence of the story she was trying to write for ten minutes. She'd been keeping a journal of all of the past life incursions she dreamed of, and she was beginning to get a feel for the Picts and their society. She had tried to string together the images into a narrative, but she was so tired she realized she was wasting her time sitting at her desk. As she stood, Grizzly looked up from the chair in her reading nook where she had been reading a medical text. She still wore the body of the Amazon, though now was attired in forest green surgical scrubs. "Dear-heart?" she asked as she saw Elaine stand.
"Ah want to lie down, Griz, Ah'm so tired."
The spirit immediately put the text down and stood to help her host over to her bed. Once she was comfortable, Grizzly lay down next to her, taking the young girl into her arms and making a pillow of her ample bosom. "Griz?" the redhead whispered. "Since Mrs. Horton pulled Laneth out of me, why do Ah still dream about her?"
The spirit smoothed her host's hair with a hand and smiled. "It's very complicated, dear. Let me see if I can explain this without getting too metaphysical. In the strictest of senses, Elaine, Mrs. Horton couldn't take Laneth out of you because you were Laneth and now you're Elaine. While there is a fragment of your soul running around believing itself to be Laneth, she really is just a ball of your spiritual energy with a squirt of Laneth's personality for flavor. But sweetheart, all of your soul was that Pict warrior. And all of your soul is now Elaine. So even the piece that thinks it's Laneth has a good bit of you in her. Which I'm sure is very confusing for her. Does that make sense?"
A soft snore was the answer Grizzly received from her host as her body relaxed into slumber and her mind slipped through the ether to the March of Dreams. Grizzly chuckled and kissed her host's forehead. "Pleasant dreams, my fierce banshee," she whispered
September 11th, 2007
Data Center, Action Tactical, Inc. headquarters, Blue Ridge Mountains
On the screen, a computer simulation played side-by-side to a video of a ransom demand. The simulation wore the face of a dead young man, and a transparent hood was laid over him which lit up every time the boy's face came in contact with it. The animation was a little crude and the revulsion effect of the so-called 'Uncanny Valley' was high, but Mr. Lewis was very pleased with his tech team's work.
"Outstanding, gentlemen," Mr. Lewis praised his team. "I'm satisfied with your theory that the boy was under the hood. I notice you have his lips moving. Do you have any idea what he's saying?"
The lead tech nodded as he tapped at the keyboard. "Yes, sir," he answered. "We're fortunate that Bob Tanner in accounting is hearing-impaired and is an expert lip reader. Once the animation team was certain we had the lip movements correct, we had Bob come in and write a transcript of what he seems to be saying. Now, there's a lot of conjecture at this point, because the transcript didn't make sense with the body motion of the demand. So we have a best guess of what either the cameraman or some other 3rd person off-camera is saying to him. Everything that he says we're certain of, but the other voice is best guess. I'll run it again with the voices added."
The simulation sat for a few seconds as the boy looked at someone out of camera range. A computer-generated voice ordered, "If your hands come off the table, I'll kill you.”
“Please don't hurt me!” the simulation begged. “I'll do whatever you want!”
“Read the script!” the off screen voice ordered.
The hooded figure shuffled a paper on the desk in his hand. “I can't see it! Please!”
“Don't kill me! Don't kill me! Please! Please!”
The simulation stopped while Mr. Lewis rubbed his chin. "I presume you chose the opening line because his hands never leave the table?" The technician nodded.
"It was the only thing that made sense from the transcript we had. It would appear that our principal went to the kid's home, took the video from his phone, shot this ransom demand, then killed him."
Mr. Lewis allowed himself a rare smile. "Excellent work, Jim. My compliments to you and your team." Turning to his cyber specialists, Mr. Lewis asked, "Mark, what have we been able to learn about these mysterious calls to Goodkind International in New York?"
The heavyset computer specialist shook his head. "We were able to penetrate their phone network discreetly and pull the logs of their phone switch. There is no record of any calls inbound from the number Verizon has on record for the kid. If the phone recovered from the scene called Goodkind International, it did so on a different SIM card than what is in it now. The crosscheck of the logs of the cell towers that have line of sight to the boy's house with the phone switch intrusion also show no matches. It is possible the calls were made before the phone was planted, but there's no way of knowing what towers it may have been talking to, without knowing the original SIM phone number."
"Isn't there a unique FCC ID for the phone?" Mr. Lewis demanded.
"Yes sir, but that was cloned from the boy's original phone. Our principal was very thorough."
Mr. Lewis sighed and drummed his fingers on the conference room table for a few seconds before turning to another man. "Andrew? What news from the drop?"
Andrew, produced a photograph and passed it across the table to his boss. "Black ops disguised an undercover operative to pass for Mr. Walcutt," he said. The photograph showed a picture of two distinguished looking gentlemen wearing fedoras, expensive looking topcoats, and sunglasses. Mr. Lewis knew that one was Theodore Darryl Walcutt, and the other was one of his undercover specialists, and he only knew which was which because he recognized the topcoat the real Walcutt wore.
"The package of the demanded amount was delivered to the drop point. The bills had all been photographed, as well as a micro dot Wi-Fi squealer embedded into each bill near the security chip. Whenever any of the bills were exposed to a Wi-Fi signal, they would squawk their position through an encrypted drop across the Internet. We kept up a surveillance of the drop site for three weeks, making sure to swap out personnel on a random basis. The package was eventually picked up by a homeless man. A team accosted him, but he had merely seen the package on his own and investigated. Our team picked him up at a liquor store and a psyche probe showed no implanted commands or suggestions."
Mr. Lewis sighed and met his team each in the eye. "And our employer has confirmed they received no further contact, or demands. Gentlemen, the trail is getting cold. We need to redouble our efforts."
"Yes, sir," they chorused.
September 11th, 2007
The March of Dreams
As her father had predicted, Drest mac Talorgan was crowned King of the Picts after a long night of horsetrading and shouting, though at the end of it there was precious little time for celebration. Large Brittonic gangs, too small to be an army but too large to be normal raiding parties, had swept up through the kingdom of Fib and were threatening the southern border of Circinn. The Army of King Drest the 5th had set out to the south the very next morning. Every ship available was commandeered to move men, horses, supplies, and the other implements of war.
This rapid mobilization had been the price of Elaine's father support. Morlock was the principal port on the southern border of the kingdom of Circinn, literally just across the bay from the kingdom of Fib. It was the next logical choice of attack.
The Britons and the Anglos were being pressed hard by the Saxons invading from the south, and were becoming desperate enough to provoke the legendary ire of the Picts. Elaine, who was now technically Lady mac Óengusa, was overseeing offloading her black charger Stomper from the boat in the midst of organized chaos that was the harbormaster desperately trying to get each Longboat unloaded as quickly as possible, when her sharp ears caught raised voices over the din of the unloading. Taking her horse by the reins she walked down the pier to find her father arguing loudly with his new King. "I won't have it!" he shouted. "Risk your own children…!"
"Lady mac Óengusa has ridden these hills since she was old enough to ride!" Drest roared back. "Look me in the eye and tell me there's anyone better who knows these hills and can scout the enemy without being seen! She is a banshee! She has sworn the oaths…!"
"What's all this, then?" she demanded as she arrived at the two men. "Who questions my oaths?"
Her father didn't take his eyes up to King. "This does nae concern ye, lass! See that your sisters are well settled on the battlements…"
"I didn't come here to be besieged!" Drest told him forcefully. "I mean to catch these raiders in open battle, and to do that I need to know where they are!" The king turned from her father to face the banshee directly. "Do any of your sisters know these hills better than you?" he demanded.
Elaine laid her hand on the saddle and with a hop mounted the huge charger. "I'll find them for you, Majesty, and my father can dicker the cost of the service!" She turned in the saddle, her eyes seeking her husband. Meeting his gaze she pressed three fingers to her lips and gestured towards him, seeing him catch the kiss and press his fingers to his lips.
With a cry, Elaine dug her heels in the massive horse's sides, and Stomper took off like a cannon shot, picking his way nimbly through the crowds and opening up a full gallop once he had cleared the fortified town. As the horse thundered down the road into the deepening dark, the Pict banshee dipped her fingers into an oilskin filled with woad to smear the blue mud across her eyes from temple to temple, making herself ready to go to war.
September 11th, 2007
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Danny had seen Tansy in her combat armor, at least on video. At the headquarters of the Sioux Falls League, he had watched in fascination as he heard the fantastically beautiful woman stand by the TV and give an unblushingly frank appraisal and blow-by-blow commentary on the simulation. On the screen was that same woman in a black leather like armored outfit that not only let her look like a complete badass, but it left nothing to the imagination that the woman wearing the armor was every bit as devastatingly hot as she was lethal.
She had moved and done things that action movie femme fatales only wished they could do. Fantastic beauty, razor-sharp wit, and stone-cold competence made for a boner the boy thought would never go away.
That was then.
Danny had never seen the blonde goddess actually wearing the outfit in person. As she had been brought in to the hospital directly from the simulator wearing it, that's what she had to wear to leave. Danny walked up behind her admiring the way the pants perfectly shaped and supported her ass cheeks, while the material had a slight gloss and reflected the light overhead in a way that hadn't come through on the video. It was easily the sexiest thing he'd ever seen.
And then she turned and revealed that she had not zipped the top all the way up, and the generous swell of each breast was visible as the armor worked something like a corset, lifting the breasts and creating a deep valley of cleavage hugged in the leather-like material. All of the blood from the top of Danny's body flowed below his belt and he nearly passed out from its loss. Danny couldn't help but wonder if this weird, anime-inspired body of his reacted the same way, and so brought a hand up under his nose to see if it was bleeding.
Unfortunately for the young man, Tansy Walcutt was 5'11" tall and he was 5'6" tall. With the inch and a half of the thick tread of her combat boots, Tansy was a full half foot taller than he was, which made her decolletage almost exactly eye level for him. He stood, stunned, hopelessly aroused, and in complete awe of her, then he felt her finger under his chin, which both closed his mouth which he only just realized was hanging open and brought his eyes up to her immense, endless blue eyes which were smiling. "Is that a rocket launcher in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" she asked with a mischievous smile. Danny's cheeks burned with embarrassment and he tried to stammer out an apology that she only waved off with a grin.
Linking arms with him, she began to lead him out of the hospital. "I'll let you in on a little secret - while every woman appreciates reactions like that, they don't want to be embarrassed in public. So, stud, pro tip: always look a girl in the eyes. Notice, approve, that is why we invented the push-up bra, but don't stare too long."
"Miss… Miss Walcutt, I'm… I'm so sorry!"
"Nothing to be sorry for." she replied laughingly. "And it's Tansy, remember?" she scolded him lightly, then lowered her voice several octaves and in a most lamentable impersonation of Ian McDiarmid said, "Listen well, my young apprentice, and a powerful stud Lord you shall be!"
Danny burst out laughing and shook his head, the tension finally broken. "Well, that certainly put a creepy new spin on the whole Anakin-Emperor relationship!"
"Oh, please!" Tansy replied chortling. "You can't tell me that wasn't a total bro-mance!"
They were both laughing as they left the Medical Center, making their way up the hill towards the Crystal Hall, when suddenly a snowball that was more rocks and ice than snow appeared from nowhere and flew into Tansy's face. The blonde rocked sideways from the impact, more from surprise then actual pain, which was the second unusual thing about the attack. The first being, there was no snow on the ground, nor had there been any snow yet. Incensed, Danny looked around at the various students who were looking up in surprise and shouted, "Who did that?"
He would have pressed the issue, but Tansy had recovered from wiping her face and laid a cautioning hand on his arm. "Forget about it, she told him quietly in a resigned tone of voice. "Small things amuse small minds; don't give them the pleasure."
September 11th, 2007
Room 210, Poe cottage, Whateley Academy
Tansy felt badly that she had been so morose during lunch. She felt that she was doing Danny a disservice by not being better company. Truth be told, the young man had been ecstatic, and the perfect gentleman; carrying both his tray and hers to the table, pulling out her chair for her. It was all very sweet. And while she was discrete so that Danny didn't realize she was looking, she noticed that neither Wyatt, nor Kayda, nor Elaine came to lunch.
From his antics on the walk to Poe cottage, it was apparent that Danny was thoroughly enjoying their evening together, which brought a smile to Tansy's face and lightened her mood considerably. They parted company at the foyer, so Tansy could go to Mrs. Horton's apartment and check in. Danny practically strutted like a rooster up the stairs to his room. Tansy considered the shy, withdrawn young man she had met over the summer to this evening's accomplishments and considered her little project coming along very well indeed.
The Dutch door to Mrs. Horton's apartment was half-open as she arrived and began to sign into the visitor log. Mrs. Horton was in her living room within sight of the door reading a book that she was in the process of putting down on her coffee table. "Tansy!" she greeted with a smile as she rose and walked over. "I was hoping you would come over."
"Is everything all right, Mrs. Horton?" the blonde asked. "I… I was a little surprised Lanie didn't visit me in the hospital."
Mrs. Horton brought the two halves of the door together and pulled it shut behind her. Taking ahold of Tansy's arm, she guided the young woman towards the elevator, but through the touch Tansy felt the worry that was plaguing the house-parent's mind. "Elaine is ill," she replied.
"Why isn't she in Doyle?" the blonde asked, confused. The elevator car arrived and opened, letting the two enter.
"There isn't anything the doctors at Doyle can do for her," Mrs. Horton replied. "Elaine's issue is magical in nature. Don't be alarmed! We're doing all we can, and I'm certain she'll recover, but she could use watching over, if you don't mind?"
Tansy blushed fiercely and was alarmed when the older woman noticed and smiled. "Don't be embarrassed," she told the younger woman. "You recall the conversation we had last evening?" Tansy nodded, recalling how her mind had practically been blown by being let into the secret of Poe. "The reason I am the house-parent of Poe is because I did a bit of switch-hitting in my youth as well."
This revelation rendered Tansy almost speechless and her eyes goggled as she looked at the chuckling, motherly figure in the elevator with her. "Don't look so surprised!" the older woman chided. "Why does every generation think they invented sex?" she asked of the air. The elevator arrived at the floor, the door sliding open. Mrs. Horton led the way around the corner to the left. At Elaine's room she swiped the card and then pressed her thumb to the reader waiting for the device to blink green, and then turned to Tansy. "Press your thumb to the pad, dear,” she instructed.
Walcutt blinked in confusion for a moment, then her eyes widened as she realized what the house-parent was doing. Sternly, Mrs. Horton told her, "I trust you will not abuse this privilege…?"
Tansy pressed her thumb to the pad and it beeped. "No ma'am," she promised.
Mrs. Horton knocked softly on the door then opened it, revealing a nurse in the process of rising from Elaine's bed. When she finished standing to her full, impressive height, Tansy suddenly realized it was Grizzly in her human form. "What's this?" the spirit asked.
The house-parent made an introductory gesture. "Grizzly, I presume you know Miss Walcutt?"
The Amazon like spirit smiled a warm smile. "Of course. Hello Tansy."
"I know projecting yourself into the real world is taxing. I thought you would like a break," Mrs. Horton continued.
"That's very considerate," Grizzly replied. "Join me in Elaine's dream space once you're settled, Tansy." Walcutt nodded and the spirit faded away.
Mrs. Horton smiled and patted the young woman on the shoulder. "Call me if you need anything dear." She let herself out and pulled the door shut behind her.
Seeing the sleeping form of the redhead on the bed, Tansy smiled and stripped off the armor she was wearing. Once it was folded, the weapons put into a safe state, she opened the closet door and rummaged for a bit. While Elaine was bustier then she was, the two girls were exactly the same height, and for the most part the same size. She found an oversize T-shirt emblazoned with the Ford logo that hung to her mid-thigh, which she pressed into service as a nightgown, then climbed into the bed next to her lover. As if sensing her presence, Elaine immediately rolled and nudged her way into Tansy's arms, her head resting on her breast.
Tansy kissed Elaine's forehead, then closed her eyes and whispered, "Mustang," whereupon she was immediately pulled into the dream space.
September 11th, 2007
The March of Dreams
Elaine came awake slowly, her head aching and the throb of a painful bruise just behind her ear. Her memories were in a jumble as she fought to clear her head. She remembered sighting the enemy encampment, then jumbled memories of the chase as she had been seen by the sentries of the camp. She'd been able to launch a flaming arrow skyward to warn the king and her father as she raced to return to Morlock. She'd been twisted around in the saddle, shooting at her pursuers, and then there was only blankness. I must've been knocked off of Stomper, she thought to herself. She looked around, trying to gain her bearings, but the room that she was in looked nothing like any of the rooms in her father's house. She tried to sit up and found herself tied securely to the bed.
The panic of being bound cleared the fog of her brain and she realized she must've been captured by the enemy, not recovered by her own people. She strained at the ropes about her hands and feet, one to each limb and tied off on the bedpost so she lay spread eagle. As she tried to loosen her hand, it went under one of the pillows, and there found something hard. Carefully feeling it, she realized there was a dagger under the pillow, doubtlessly the possession of the paranoid Lord of the castle whose bed she was tied to. She worked the dagger in her hand and quickly began to saw at the ropes.
The dread that filled her mind when she realized where she was gave urgency to her motions, and after what seemed a small eternity her hand was free. She brought the free hand around to begin to saw on the rope of her other hand when she heard voices in the hall. Elaine quickly evaluated her situation; with only one hand free she stood little chance of killing whoever was coming quietly. So she put the dagger in her still bound hand to quietly saw on the rope, then returned her free hand under the pillow and grasped the broken rope to make it look like it was still held taunt.
It seemed like an eternity went by as she sawed on the rope and listened to the voices in the hall speaking a language she didn't recognize. As the voices began to recede she thought, for a brief moment, she might have a reprieve, but the latch on the door opened and in strolled the man she was most afraid of seeing, Algar, the Saxon Duke of North Umbra.
He was a thin, horse-faced man whose pallid complexion was pockmarked with scars from smallpox. But behind his ugly visage dwelled the truly monstrous and cruel mind of a man who delighted in causing pain and torturing others. Elaine knew him from a bride hunting visit to her village thinly disguised as a trading mission. For reasons she could not understand the man was obsessed with banshees and greatly desired to take one as his wife.
Elaine and her sisters had mocked and spurned his advances, for in addition to his laughable physique and off putting features, some sense all of them possessed but none could define told them the man was a coward and the only blood he spilled was in a dungeon, not a battlefield. "Well, well," he purred in a nasally Latin which was the only language they had in common. "What a gift Odin gives me! Not just any banshee, but their own princess!"
"If you think me a gift, the giver was no friend of yours!" hissed Elaine through clenched teeth. "What are you doing in Fib, Algar?"
The Duke allowed himself an evil chuckle as he reached up to unbuckle his belt and lay it with its sword by the door. "Fib? Dear lady you're in Lothian, well, what little time it has left as Lothian. But to pay you the courtesy of answering your question, I am here expanding my kingdom. I pay the foolish Angles to expend themselves against your people, reducing you both. Then as you stagger from killing each other, I pluck you both into my lands like overripe fruit." He pulled his tunic over his head revealing the smallpox scars covered his entire body, not just his face.
"I am a married woman, Christian baptized and oaths given under the eyes of God in His own church…!
Algar smiled a completely unpleasant smile. "Do you think I care what fairytales the peasants cower to? Christ? Odin? Jupiter? Just names to frighten the foolish and keep the rabble in line," he declared walking over and fumbling with the drawstring of his trousers. "Submit, call me master, and you will have all the treasure and bobbles a whore could want…"
Elaine spat at him, but he was too far away and nimbly side stepped her spittle. "If you think you're man enough to conquer me," she hissed at him. "Come try your luck and see what it gets you!"
The grin on the Duke's face was thoroughly evil. "Yes, fight! It's better that way…!" His trousers dropped to the floor and he mounted the bed.
September 11th, 2007
The Dream Realm of the Spirit Grizzly
Tansy found herself in the most beautiful gilded hallway she'd ever seen. It was easily two or perhaps even three stories tall, richly veined white marble walls, and the exquisite, mirror polished black marble floor. Around her in the hall were dignitaries making their way to and fro, and the most amazing sorts of people; they were obviously elves both similar to and yet nothing like what she had seen in the Lord of the Rings movies, there were the spirits of plants and animals and things she had no name for.
And every dozen feet or so stood a werewolf, out of the way next the wall, wearing what was obviously a liveried uniform, holding up a pole arm. They were magnificent to behold, intimidating the way a guard or a soldier should be, but they were not animalistic and the spark of intelligence lit their eyes, and so they were not terrifying.
Looking down, Tansy found herself dressed not in the Princess garb of her normal dream self but in a flowing white diaphanous toga for lack of a better word. It gathered up on her left shoulder, leaving the right bare, held in place by a gold cord that wrapped around her body in such a way that the dress hugged every curve, putting her beauty on display but still managing to be completely modest.
Next to her stood Mustang, once again wearing his minstrel attire of a gold linen shirt with billowed sleeves held close on the forearm by vambraces that were charcoal gray. The wrap pants he wore matched the braces and the shirt was held down by a wide black leather belt. The Mustang was not fully human, but a cross between human and horse that reminded her of an Animan.
Before the two of them could truly catch their bearings, the door they were standing next to opened revealing Grizzly, who like Mustang was an odd mixture of animal and human, wearing a gown of a similar cut to Tansy's, but in a rich forest green. "Hello Tansy, Mustang, won't you come in?"
"What is this place?" Tansy breathed as she was led into a large, airy space that opened onto a balcony closed off by diaphanous curtains that swayed in the gentle breeze. Off to her left on a small dais was a bed that looked like six people could make use of it at once, and the space in between held a scattering of elegant-looking chairs and chaise lounges, small tables all adorned with brass or other metallic dishes overflowing with fruit.
Grizzly sighed as she closed the door behind them and led them to a small cluster of chairs and lounges to make themselves comfortable on. "This was our home, Kodiak's and mine. Atlantis. I thought you would like to see it and get a better understanding of the enemy that destroyed it and a feel for what was lost."
Tansy couldn't resist the smell of the apple in the dish closest to her, so picked it up. Its fragrance was almost intoxicating, but she maintained enough self-control to stop and turn to her hostess. "May I?" she asked, relieved when Grizzly smiled a warm smile and nodded. She bit into the fruit, surprised by its juiciness, and found it was the most perfect apple she'd ever eaten.
"Please make yourself at home," Grizzly said as she helped herself to a bunch of grapes from a dish near her. "I don't come here often, as the memories make me melancholy."
Between mouthfuls, Tansy asked, "What can you tell us? There is so little known about Atlantis! What year is this? Where on earth are we?"
The Bear woman smiled an indulging smile as she savored the grape she ate. "There is very little I can tell you that will make sense to you. Time itself was shattered when the Bastard was imprisoned. The flow of manna stopped for nearly a century. Or 10 millennia, depending upon your point of view. We are at the center of Pangaea, the great continent of earth, which your mind will say is impossible because you saw human beings in the hallway."
"And no dinosaurs," Tansy admitted. "I want to ask how badly fractured was time, but you couldn't give me an answer that would make sense to me, could you?"
Grizzly shook her head. "Time, space, energy, matter; these words describe concepts that are as mutable to me as changing the recipe of your favorite soup is to you. You see a gilded hall, which Atlantis was, but I see a jungle clearing with the growls of predators and prey in the tree line, and we are both right. The march of time towards entropy is inexorable; here we are closer to the beginning and things are fluid, easily changing as our minds fancy the change. Your reality, Tansy, is harder. Things have substance, structure, and solidity, but you can still touch the astral world where things are what you make of it. Further along those worlds will be closed off and the universe will end, solid, cold, and unchanging."
Tansy finished the apple, and began looking for a waste bin to place the core into when she found her hands empty, clean of the remaining juices of the apple, and the apple itself whole once more in the dish she'd taken it from. "What just happened?" she asked astounded. "Did I eat the apple?"
The Bear chuckled as she placed her sprig of grapes back in the dish. "Yes, you did eat the apple, you will eat the apple, you have already and yet have not; this is the nature of this place. Your belly is full, you have nourishment and energy from it, and will have more if you need it."
"Energy!" the blonde exclaimed. "I'm worried about Elaine - she's so listless and without energy! Can I give her some of mine?" Grizzly cocked her head to one side as if trying to decide if Tansy was sincere or not.
"There are ways that will work even in the solidified state of your present. While they can be dangerous, I think you know your limits, and with the fruit of Atlantis within you, the excess would probably help Elaine."
Tansy beamed and leaned forward. "Perfect! What do I have to do?"
Grizzly licked her lips and scratched behind her right ear with a claw. "I didn't bring you here to teach you this, but perhaps it's best that you do learn. What do you know about Tantric sex…?"
Wednesday, September 12th 2007 - After Classes
Room 210, Poe cottage, Whateley Academy
Elaine's teeth threatened to draw blood as she bit down on her hand in a desperate attempt to keep from screaming. She had woken from the horrific nightmare of her ancestress's assault to find herself in the arms of Tansy, who woke the instant she did. Elaine had felt the nausea bubble up in her throat, threatening to spill out, but the blonde had soothed her inner voice, and her caresses were comforting enough to suppress the bile, and the nausea passed.
While upon waking Elaine thought she would never want to risk being intimate again, having suffered through with her ancestress what she had, Tansy's gentle, coaxing touch cleared away any thoughts of that and aroused her in a way she never had been before. In their playful games, Elaine had been the experienced one, teaching her new lover how women made love to each other, but suddenly Tansy was the expert and her expertise was world changing.
They had started making love in the bed, then somehow ambled across the floor, and now they were in her shower, both girls body soaked with warm water from the multiple nozzles as Tansy did things to Elaine that she had never even read about, and the redhead was particularly well read. She bit down on her hand to keep from screaming as the orgasm that seem to have started on her bed and followed them into the shower and didn't seem to end but just got better and better and better. It was almost like the experience at the beginning in the sweat lodge with Kayda, before the fear had begun to set in that neither of them could be satisfied.
Then suddenly Tansy did something with her hands, laying her fingers along Elaine's torso just by the tips, and for the briefest of moments, the universe opened up and there was no division between Tansy Walcutt and Elaine Nalley, then she was back within her skin, propped up in the corner of her shower, shivering with overworked muscles as she came down from the high.
It was without a doubt the single greatest orgasm of her life.
Tansy stood, her hair slicked back against her head, an immensely self-satisfied smile on her face as she took Elaine into her arms and kissed her. “How was that?” the blonde whispered breathlessly as their kiss ended.
“You have got to teach me that!” Elaine panted, desperately trying to catch her breath. “Ah have to show you how that felt!”
“Not in my cottage!” Mrs Horton declared from out in the room. The two girls yelped in surprise and looked at the door out of the bathroom, but saw no one. "Get dressed and come out here before someone sees you!" the house-mother ordered.
The two girls flipped off the shower and scrambled to obey, quickly drying and dressing to find the house parent sitting on the bed, purposely out of view of the bathroom, waiting on them. "Ah'm sorry Mrs. Horton," Elaine began, blushing from toes to her fore head. “Ah didn't mean to make noise..."
The look on Mrs. Horton's face was comical as she arched an eyebrow. "You'll find, Miss Nalley, that these rooms are remarkably soundproofed, and that is not a challenge for you to try to exceed." She sighed and squirmed a bit on the bed. "You were loud magically, and I'm certain every magically active girl, and boy for that matter, in this cottage 'overheard' the two of you and is dealing with the consequences! I imagine there are going to be a number of cold showers in this cottage for the next few hours! I don't see that either of your wells are lit, so how are you experimenting with Tantric sex?" she demanded.
Tansy blushed and raised her hand. "My fault, Mrs. Horton. I wanted to help Elaine and give her some of my energy, so Grizzly showed me…"
Mrs. Horton squirmed again. "Believe me, my dear, I know exactly what she showed you." The blonde and the redhead continue to blush for a moment before the house-parent chuckled and let them off the hook. "I was coming to let you know that Miss Franks will be along shortly to relieve you, Miss Walcutt. So the rest of your day is yours."
"Oh, thank you," the blonde replied. "I guess I'll just hang out with Lanie…"
Mrs. Horton stood and took the blonde by the elbow. "Oh, I think you've hung out with Miss Nalley quite enough for one day! Miss Franks will be along in a moment, dear," she added over her shoulder to Elaine. "Will you be all right by yourself for a little while?"
Elaine grinned a truly silly grin and sank into the chair at her desk. "Oh, don't worry about me, Mrs. Horton," she said, booting up the computer. "Ah feel great!"
Wednesday, September 12th 2007 - After Classes
Stables, Whateley Academy
The smell of the stables always brought a smile to Tansy's face as some of her happiest memories in an unhappy childhood had been around horses. Before Elaine, the closest she had come to having friends have been her teammates on the Liliuokalani Academy for Girls' polo team every summer, and of course Tango herself. The 7-year-old mare was Tansy's prized possession, one of the last foals sired by Triple Crown winner Affirmed before the stallion had died in 2001, Tango was a perfectly uniform chestnut with a white blaze down her nose and muzzle.
Her stepmother at the time, and she forgot which number she was, had thrown a fit over the stud price, but in one of his rare moments of seeming to care about his daughter, Theodore Walcutt had replied coldly, "My daughter is worth the best!" It wasn't much past Tango's birth that she'd been shown the door and her father was already dating - and banging, no doubt - the woman who would become her replacement.
Tansy knew now that she begun manifesting her mental abilities far before her exemplar activation began triggering her weight loss. She never had a name for the feeling of being connected to the horse but the two had bonded so closely that when her father insisted she break the horse herself, Tansy had been able to communicate her intentions and keep the horse calm so that she meekly accepted the saddle and began to learn what was expected of her without complaint.
It was another of the few moments that her father had been astounded and proud of her, and Tansy smiled a rueful smile that all of her pleasant memories with her father seem to revolve around horses. Tansy waved to Mr. Harrington, the stable master, as she passed his office and caught the apple he tossed her as a treat for Tango.
Tango had caught the scent of her mistress and ambled to the front of the stall to greet her. “There's my pretty girl!” Tansy said with a smile, offering up the apple which the mare quickly gobbled up and crunched noisily. Her power sensed the blonde's favorite subject and reached out, giving her feelings of boredom. “Want to go for a ride?” she asked and the mare immediately perked up and her emotions became excited at the prospect of a good run. Tango followed Tansy over to the stall door.
Too late, Tansy felt an odd resistance to the door and with a loud snap of a spring being released something struck the mare's leg just above her ergot on her right cannon. Tango screamed in surprise and pain, stumbling back and away from the door and favoring her right front leg. “Mr. Harringtion!” Tansy shouted in fright, rushing to her horse's side and comforting her with waves of soothing emotion.
The stable master came running in at her shout, a medical bag in his hand. “What happened?” he asked as he entered the stall and began to comfort the mare.
“I don't know!” Tansy cried in anguish. “Something hit her leg...” Tansy trailed off as she looked back at the stall from the inside. Attached to the wall of the stable was a massive rat trap that had some kind of miniature baseball bat attached to the kill bar. There was a broken string between the bait trigger and the stall door where anyone entering the stall would have been struck just below the knee if the horse hadn't been standing there in the way.
“It's not broken,” Mr. Harrington was saying as he gently applied an anesthetic gel to the leg and prepared to wrap it. “You should let her take it easy for a day or two.” The teacher's voice seemed to fade away as Tansy met her horse's gaze and looked into her mind. In her memory she saw a girl appear in the stall. Tango had sniffed at her in amazement, but she just smelled like human. She attached the weird new thing to the stall and vanished again, but not before she looked up at the horse and thus stood out in her memory. Tango had never seen a human with purple hair before.
Tansy's vision went red with rage. With a final command for her beloved horse to be still for Mr. Harrington, Tansy stood up and grabbed a bucket of manure that hadn't been taken to the compost heap yet and stormed off in the direction of the Crystal Hall with it.
September 12th, 2007 - Dinner
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Tansy stormed through the door to the Crystal Hall, a five-gallon bucket in one hand and an expression of fury on her face. Even the freshmen in her path were wise enough to clamber out of the way as she made a beeline for a table of one of the freak shows. The table was full of a mixed bag of normal-looking kids and GSD cases that had been mid-year arrivals last year. Murphy was sitting at one end of the table with her back to Tansy and so didn't see her approach. Before anyone at the table could warn her, Tansy upended the bucket. As she dumped the bucket over the rainbow-haired girl's head Walcutt shouted “You're a piece of shit, Gunnarson, so smell like one!”
Joanne and her closest table mate and both of their food trays were splattered in the leftovers of a mucked-out horse stall. Murphy screamed in surprise and disgust before she scrambled out of the seat to face her attacker, covered in dung. That didn't seem to bother Tansy who slapped the other sharply across the face. “You bitch!” Tansy screamed. “Your little stunt almost broke my horse's leg! You come near Tango again and I'll...!”
The Crystal Hall went deathly quiet as Murphy literally shook with rage. “Your ... fucking ... HORSE?!” Murphy screeched. “After what you did to me, you're worried about a god damned animal?” Murphy snapped, lashing out and punching Tansy, causing the girl to vanish with a pulse of space, right before a second erupted, and Murphy left too.
Tansy found herself standing outside the Crystal Hall, shaking her head slightly. The punch hadn't hurt much, but the disorientation of the abrupt change of location was jarring. It only got worse as a shit-covered harpy ripped into existence next to her, grabbing her while she was still off-balance and pushing her through what felt like a rapid-fire series of pressure waves that caused the landscape to change violently, several times. Tansy realized that the latest one was in the air, falling, with the dung-monster on top of her, somewhere about a hundred feet up. She snapped a hand and put Murphy's wrists in a painful grip and held on for dear life.
Murphy began to teleport in a series of rapid, almost spastic changes, trying to disorient the blonde and shake her loose, but Tansy had been a diligent student and knew how to deal with a teleporter. With a death grip on Joanne skin, every time the girl teleported Tansy went with her because of their auras combining by the skin to skin contact. "Let go!" Murphy screamed, but Tansy was an accomplished swimmer and the air was just close enough she instinctively reacted as if it was water and the swam through the air to wrap herself around the other girl, establishing a submission hold while still keeping skin to skin contact.
"I'll survive a fall from this high," Tansy screamed in her ear. "Will you?"
She wasn't prepared for the snarled, "Yes," as the ground reached up to smash them both.
The impact stunned Tansy a bit, and she heard the cracking sound of bones in the other girl, and the distinct popping of bones coming out of socket. Murphy teleported away, because the fall had broken their contact, but Tansy immediately lashed out with her empathy, sending out waves of terror, self-doubt, hesitation, and inability to act. Murphy reappeared in the process of landing a kick, despite her bones sickeningly and rapidly popping back into place, when the emotional onslaught paralyzed her for a moment. Tansy grabbed her leg and threw her to the ground with it. The fall cleared the purple-haired girl's mind for a moment and Murphy kicked out, shouting, "Get out of my head!"
Tansy rolled with the kick and spun away even though the other girl didn't have the strength to do much serious damage, giving Joanne a chance to teleport again. Scrambling to her feet, Walcutt again concentrated on sending out her power and shouted, "What is wrong with you? What, the fuck, is your problem with me?"
Murphy reappeared, well out of arms reach, visibly seething and shaking side to side with rage. "You have the gall to ask me that?" she shouted. "After what you did? After what you tried to do?!"
Tansy had to give the lunatic warper credit. She was a lot faster than most other teleporters in doing her thing, almost able to flicker in and out as fast as she could strike, but her fury was by-and-large impotent, and in the confusion, Tansy landed a punch squarely in the center of Joanne's chest harder than she actually intended, causing several cracks, and the suddenly-paralyzed warper dropped to a knee gasping for air as she suddenly discovered the joys of flail-chest. Again.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Tansy returned. "So I pranked you a few times! You won! Get the fuck over it!"
Joanne's eyes literally went red with rage. "Pranked? You call attempted rape and attempted murder pranks?!" Murphy stood up as her chest popped back out, and the world seemed to scream around Tansy as Murphy spatial-shocked her, distorting the area she was in horribly and causing her to feel pain for the first time since they started fighting. Tansy rocked back and forth from the blows until purely by luck one of her elbows smashed into Murphy's face and with a crunch broke her nose. The sudden intense pain blinded Murphy for a moment, and she faltered which was the only opening Tansy needed.
Wheeling around Tansy grabbed a hold of Joanne's wrist and locked it up behind her back with an arm across her throat. She stomped her foot down hard where Joanne's calf met her knee, collapsing her leg and causing her to fall to her knees. As the blood streamed down Murphy's face and on to Tansy's arm, the blonde demanded, "What the hell are you talking about? Rape? Murder?"
As she struggled to try to free herself, Joanne was able to get her head around sufficiently to get one blue eye to meet Tansy's gaze. Through clenched teeth, Murphy hissed, "Don't try to deny it! I know you sent Hamper and Damper! They tried to murder Elaine and were going to rape me!"
The accusation caused Tansy to listen to the emotional scene Murphy had almost been mentally screaming at each contact. In her mind's eye Tansy saw through Joanne's eyes Damper unholster Murphy's pistol, mocking her for a few seconds before callously raising it and shooting Elaine in the stomach. Listened to her cat's paws describe in cold and horrifically careless detail the rape they were about to commit. For a brief moment guilt and the overwhelming horror that her weapon had been the cause of her friend's death provoked a rage that was hand-in-hand with a death wish unlike anything she'd ever felt. The emotional onslaught almost blew Tansy off Murphy, and she stumbled backwards as if she had been struck. "What?!" She shrieked. "I didn't tell them to do that!"
Joanne sullenly wiped the blood from her face. "Oh?" she sneered. "Did they get it backwards? Were they supposed to kill me and rape Elaine?"
"No!" shouted Tansy. "I would never do that! What kind of monster do you take me for?"
Murphy slowly got to her feet, wiping again at her lips but only smearing the blood. "There aren't names for the kind of monster you are!" Murphy growled. "Do you think your little innocent act is fooling anybody? Damper tried to murder Elaine with my gun! I lost my pistol privileges because of it, and I haven't gotten it back from security because I don't trust myself to not shoot you and your thugs on sight!"
Tansy grabbed her hair at her temples and screamed, "I did not tell them to do that! They were just supposed to harass you and see that you got caught by security!"
Murphy pointed out with her arm straight like Blind Justice herself laying judgment. "You turned the dogs loose! You're responsible! I'll deal with those two shits in my own time!"
Tansy got to her feet, her hands clenched in fists and her face a mask of righteous fury. "You can have what's left!" she declared. "Because as soon as I find them, they're dead men!"
Joanne crossed her arms across her chest, her entire body dripping disbelief. "Yeah, right," she drawled, her voice heavy with sarcasm. "I'd call you a viper, but I think I'd be insulting Diamondback. I don't know what you did to put one over on Elaine, but I don't believe you!"
Walcutt's eyes widened in shock and she pointed her own accusing finger. "Like you give a shit about Elaine!" the blonde screamed angrily. "After you sided with Becky Corbin and the rest of those two-faced bitches…!"
Gunnarson stomped over to get nose to broken nose with Tansy. "I sided…? Maybe you haven't been paying attention to who I sit with over the last few months, you daft, perfumed-addled idiot! Elaine manifested her bear like she was going to attack! You think I'm going to pick sides…? Between friends? I'm not you!"
"Then why won't you talk to her?" Walcutt demanded. "Why do you teleport away when she tries to talk with you! I'm the one holding her when she cries because all of her friends abandoned her! Maybe you didn't notice that Wyatt, Kayda, and I are the only friends she has left, so put on the bitch shoes, honey, they fit you!"
With a horrific sounding wet snap, Murphy's nose regenerated itself and the bleeding stopped as the girl grabbed it and wrenched it back into place. She wiped what was left from her face and rolled her eyes and twisted her leg back fully into the correct direction. "Right, Miss Perfect, you've never done or said anything you can't take back? The fuck am I supposed to say, huh? Tell me, Miss Miracle! Shower me with your wisdom!"
Tansy's eyes filled with tears but her emotions were wildly swinging from grief, to shame, to rage and disbelief. "You … you caustic bitch! You want to know evil? I humiliated a boy so badly he tried to kill himself! All because of me! I'll carry that to the day I die! Because I was humiliated and teased and tormented my whole life! Because my family is so fucked up and my own father whored me out to one of his business rivals so I could read his mind for him!"
The dam broke and the tears began to stream down Tansy's face. "Fuck you!" she screamed. "You can't hate me more than I hate myself!" Tansy fell to her ass in the mud, sobbing, not caring if the other girl attacked her again or not.
Joanne looked down on the blonde as her anger cooled, and she realized no one could fake being that upset. Murphy sank to one knee and put a hand on the blonde's shoulder. "And you took it out on the rest of us," she said softly, even though Tansy could feel the anger and other things behind the quiet words. At the touch on her arm, Tansy saw and felt the intense shame Joanne held over the mistakes she had made with Elaine. From hearing the report of the handgun over and over in her dreams and watching Elaine fly backwards from the bullet strike, to misinterpreting the manifestation of Grizzly as a way of dealing with her anger as opposed to an imminent attack like Murphy thought was coming. She saw Elaine's heartbreak through Murphy's eyes after she'd slapped the bear hard on her nose and Elaine realized she had lost all of her friends. Tansy looked up from her sobs just as Murphy allowed a ghost of a smile to pull at the corner of her lips. "And, yeah, caustic bitch sounds about right. At least it's an honest description." She shrugged as if accepting the description and making it her own. "I was going to try and make things right with Elaine first day."
Tansy sniffed mightily to try to clear her sinuses and got out her handkerchief to clear her eyes of tears and smeared mascara and things that had splattered off of Murphy onto her. "Why didn't you?" she sniffled.
Suddenly Murphy couldn't meet the blonde's gaze and looked over at the bleachers by the track. She gave a little shrug and admitted softly, "I … I saw her … hugging you outside Poe. And, I shut down, my ability to think and be rational took a vacation, and it took everything I had not to come at you right there." The rainbow haired girl turned back, a contrite expression on her face. "I … I didn't mean for anything to happen to your horse. Is she okay?"
Walcutt nodded, "Mr. Harrington says she should be fine in a couple of days …" and she trailed off as she caught sight of something over Murphy's shoulder. "Oh, shit." Joanne turned to see a golf cart coming towards them being operated by even at this distance she could tell was a very irate Mrs. Carson.
The car came to a stop next to the two girls, the headmistress's face stony and her lips in a thin, angry line. Seeing the blood on both of them she visibly calmed herself and asked, "Do either of you need medical attention?"
"No, ma'am," the girls chorused, rather mutedly.
She stared at them for several moments then declared, "Normally, I would order you onto the cart and back into my office before we had this talk. But seeing as you are both covered in mud and horse shit, and I feel like cleaning neither off my cart or my office furniture, we'll have this discussion here and you can walk back. Do I even want to know what the two of you have been fighting over?"
Tansy got to her feet and held her hands in front of herself, her head bowed in shame. "I used my power last year to plant a suggestion into Hamper and Damper. It was my intention that they harass Elaine and Joanne and get them caught by security. Instead, they tried to murder Elaine with Joanne's gun and threatened to rape her."
Mrs. Carson turned to Murphy. "This was in January," she declared flatly. "When you were hospitalized for total cellular starvation, was it not?" Murphy nodded sullenly, as she stared at Tansy in frank amazement that she had so readily admitted her guilt. "And why didn't you tell me this that night at the hospital?" Carson thundered. Murphy flinched as the anger radiated off the headmistress. "What were you possibly thinking of, Miss Gunnarsson that would justify allowing an attempted rapist and attempted murderer to run free on my campus just so you could have your revenge!"
The manure-covered girl looked like she was about to say something, and her mouth just... stopped, and she took a deep breath and let her head fall without voicing whatever it was that she had to say. Murphy couldn't meet the headmistress's gaze and stared at the tops of her shoes. "I… I have no excuse, Mrs. Carson. I'm very sorry."
Tansy would have paid a lot of money to know exactly what it was that Joanne had been about to say at that moment. She never would have expected the purple-forelocked belligerent to be able to take a dressing-down quietly any more than Joanne would have believed that Tansy herself could take responsibility for her actions.
"Will your sorrow console any other victims those two may have had?" the Headmistress hissed. "Do you have any idea how much harder you've made it for me to prosecute these crimes? Nine months after the fact! A hopelessly corrupt crime scene where no forensic evidence can be gathered! Your words against theirs! God above! Having circumstantial evidence would be an improvement!" With visible effort Mrs. Carson calmed herself and speared the two with her supreme gaze of authority. "First, you are both to go directly to your cottages, shower and put on clean clothes and report to my office to give sworn statements, truthful in every detail as to exactly what occurred and when. I will let the school's lawyers determine whether or not criminal charges can be brought, or if there is sufficient evidence to pursue expulsion if not."
In a whisper, Tansy asked, "Am I being expelled?"
Mrs. Carson's eyes narrowed. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel of the cart for a moment, then declared, "Miss Walcutt, you will submit yourself to a psychic probe by Professor Geintz, and if he informs me you are telling the truth and they acted beyond your mental suggestion … despite being sorely tempted … no, I will not expel you. This happened significantly before your change of heart, and while I am frankly appalled that you would consider, let alone act on such a deed. I am sufficiently satisfied of your progress since."
"I … I wasn't a very nice person, Mrs. Carson," Tansy replied. "And I'm sorry for that."
The upwelling of instinctive snide from two feet to her right corresponded with the expression Joanne had right before she clamped her teeth firmly down upon her tongue. For once, mercifully, the loudmouthed Warper decided to shut the hell up. The look of confusion at the admission would have been priceless under almost any other circumstance.
"As for the fight," the headmistress continued, "since the two of you seem to enjoy rolling around in mud and dung, I'll tell the stable hands they get next week off and you two can muck the entire stables every day next week."
"Yes, ma'am," the girls chorused.
"Go get clean," she ordered. "I'll expect you both in my office in exactly one hour."
September 13th, 2007 - Predawn
The March of Dreams
Elaine sat by the fire in her house staring at the pewter tankard on the table. It was full of a noxious-looking broth that gave off a sickly-sweet smell that already was turning her stomach. Every time she reached for it, something held her hand, and it dropped back to the armrest of the chair so she continued to contemplate the decision. She forced herself to remember her attack, trying to build up a rage, but no matter the murderous fury she built up, as she reached for the cup some part of her mind cried for mercy of the innocent.
As she tried once again to force herself to relive her violation, the door to her house was thrown open and Domnall was framed in it. “When Stomper came home without you we were warned ... I ...mourned you. Then I hear the rumor that you live ... that you were home, and I ran ....” He stood, the cold wind blowing past him in the doorway, his eyes wild with grief and rage and his body covered in mud and blood and worse, proving he had come straight from the battlefield. His sword slipped from his hand as he stepped in and pulled the door shut. As he came inside, he stripped off armor and furs caked in the offal of the carnage, but it was Elaine who felt filthy and unclean. “Tell me you are no ghost, no will-o-the-wisp deceiving me ...” he whispered as he sank to his knees before her.
“I am real,” she replied softly, then her own sense of honor demanded she add, “and defiled.”
His face flushed scarlet and in his eyes burned a murderous rage as she had never seen in any man, even those she had killed herself, face to face and blade to blade. “Name the dead man who touched you...”
“I killed him myself,” she declared proudly. “I watched the life leave his eyes and spat on his corpse, but the fact of my defilement remains and you are within your rights to divorce me.”
He laid his head in her lap and wrapped his arms around her waist. “I would sooner cut off my own arms than allow these filth even that small of a victory! We fell upon them in the dale and the king raised the Black Flag. With a glee I should be ashamed of, my beloved, we slaughtered them all to the camp followers and the boys with the luggage, till the river ran red with blood.”
Elaine ran her hands through his filthy hair, some part of her feeling she should be appalled by his words, but felt only a fierce and burning satisfaction. “Then I am avenged,” she whispered, “but for one last life to take.” She made to reach for the tankard, but he stopped her hand and rose up on his knees. Lifting the tankard to his nose he sniffed at it and made a face.
“What is this poison?” he demanded. When the silence stretched out his face became set and stern. “Is my lady's hearing defective tonight?”
Elaine found she could not meet her husband's gaze. “It is nae poison, but a tonic of cow bitter my aunt made for me. To flush clean my womb which is yours by right three times.”
Domnall stared at his wife, his knuckles white on the tankard as he mastered his impotent rage, wishing he had a charm to resurrect the monster who had defiled his wife only for the satisfaction of killing him himself. “Can you be so certain? It's only been...”
Elaine looked up into his face and smiled weakly. “I know my body, husband and it was my time. I am as regular as the tide and within me grows insult to injury.” She reached for the tankard. “Do nae taunt me, 'tis hard enough...”
In a single motion Domnall turned and flung the liquid onto the fire causing it to hiss and spit for a moment, then he sent the tankard to join its consumed contents in the hearth. “Never again is tonic of tansy to come under my roof!” he declared with a voice of thunder from the heavens. He reached up and began to unbuckle his belt. “If my lady is willing, I'll game my seed against any Saxon bastard and even if won out, the fruit of your womb is a part of my beloved wife and I swore no harm would come to her!”
She stood slowly and brought her hand up against his bearded cheek. “If you do this, husband, I can nae swear on my honor the bairn is yours.”
“I will swear it,” he told her, “because I will raise it, I will love it as I love my wife, and we will not speak of this again.”
Elaine reached up and pulled free the broach at her shoulder. Her dress slipped off her into a puddle at her feet and she stood before him nude and proud of her bruises. “I disavow our contract,” she declared, “and offer my oath that every child you sire on me I will bear though I die in the attempt.” Through the tears that flowed freely from her eyes she held out her arms in offering. “See to your wife, husband mine, and plant yourself within me!”
He picked her up as if she weighed nothing and carried her to their bed.
September 13th, 2007
Office of Dr. Bellows, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Dr. Bellows took the reading glasses he found he was needing more and more off his nose and rubbed his eyes, cursing the march of time. He had been staring at his computer screen for the better part of three hours, preparing his notes for the department's midterm meeting. When he had first come to Whateley, he had been excited over the number of interesting cases he would be able to study, and by a genuine desire to help the young people coming up through the Academy. As time passed, he became more and more concerned about the future and that so many individuals with awesome powers did not seem to be particularly stable. He worried about his world and could not help but wonder if he was making a difference.
A look at the clock confirmed the rumble in his stomach that it was past time for supper. He saved the document he was working on and began to shut down the computer. "Enough," he told himself. "I've saved the world as much as I can today."
He began to pack his briefcase when a soft knock on the door caused him to chuckle. Spoke too soon, he thought to himself. "Yes?" he called, missing young Banned-Aids who had been such an able assistant, but the senior had graduated last year.
The door opened and a head crowned with a magnificent halo of scarlet hair peeked around the door. "Dr. Bellows? Am Ah intruding?"
The doctor smiled his welcoming smile and beckoned the young girl towards one of the seats that faced his desk. "Not at all! Miss… Nalley, isn't it? Please, come in. Sit down. What can I do for you?"
The lovely young woman entered the office, shutting the door behind her. "Ah don't want to take up too much of your time, but if you don't mind, Ah could use some help coming to grips with something."
Suddenly her spine straightened and her posture went from hesitant and solicitous to an open, commanding stance that radiated confidence. An expression of annoyance hung on her face and even the accent in her voice changed from a dulcet Southern Belle to a guttural Celtic accent of some kind he wasn't familiar with. "This is a complete waste of time!" she declared, but she did not appear to be talking to him.
She slouched again and turned her head to one side. "Maybe you're over it," she declared, again not to him, but as if she was talking to someone unseen, "but Ah want to talk to somebody!"
Dr. Bellows was glad he had not had his pipe in his mouth because it would've fallen to his desk as his mouth opened in complete astonishment. Never in his life had he seen multiple personality disorder so flagrantly displayed in front of him. "Miss Nalley?" he stammered, utterly flabbergasted. "Who were you talking to?"
The redhead smiled as she came to the chair he indicated and slid into it. "Ah guess they haven't told you," she said with a weak chuckle. "Don't worry, Ah ain't crazy. Evidently Ah have a very old soul, and in a past life Ah was a Pict banshee, and the memories and personality of that life have awakened in me and we're in the process of reintegrating ourself. That's who you heard just now. And something that happened to her is what I want to talk to you about."
The psychologist chuckled to himself. "Dr. Carson wasn't lying when she told me this job would never be dull. So, let's make sure we’re on the same page. The Picts were a proto-Scottish people if memory serves?"
Her demeanor changed again and she seems slightly less annoyed and a bit curious. "I din nea know what you mean by 'proto' and I've never heard of any people called Scot, but as I understand it my homeland which was called Pictland is now part of what you call Scotland."
Utterly fascinated, Dr. Bellows replied, "Proto is a Greek word meaning before, so literally translated I would be referring to the people before the Scots. Whom do I have the honor of addressing?"
She sat up straighter in her chair and raised her chin slightly. "I am … I was ... Laneth, daughter of Joan, chieftain's daughter of the village of Morlock, bean sìth. You are a scholar and a healer? Non loqueris?”
"You'll have to forgive me," the psychologist replied with mild astonishment. "My Latin is rather rusty. Miss Nalley, do you speak Latin?"
"No, sir," the once again southern girl replied. "But she does, also Pictish, Celtic, Welsh, and Gaelic."
The doctor took out a tablet and pulled a pen from the cup on his desk to begin to take notes. "You were obviously a very highly educated woman, Miss … Mrs .…?"
"I din nea ken if I would still be considered a married woman," the banshee replied. "My marriage contract stipulated to the death of either party, and I have died, but when I was alive I would have been addressed as Lady mac Óengusa." She thought for a moment then nodded to herself. "You may address me as Laneth."
The psychologist smiled at the spirit of the Iron Age warrior. "I'm deeply honored. Tell me, my lady, do you know the year in which you died?"
"I died in the second year of the reign of Talorgan son of Onuist, King of the Picts. I'm told by a spirit it would be 784 CE as you count the years."
The pen danced across the pad as the doctor couldn't write fast enough. "Amazing! Absolutely amazing," he enthused. "Now, I understand from what I overheard of your conversation with Miss Nalley, that there is an event that she wishes to talk with me about that occurred in your life. I wonder, if I may be so bold, as to hear your telling of the event to have a better perspective to help her?"
The young woman crossed her legs and leaned sideways in the chair to be more comfortable. "What remarkably comfortable chairs you have," she observed. She looked up as if something profound had occurred to her. "Maybe that's why you're so soft, as a people I mean. You surround yourselves with luxuries and comforts and you marvel that anyone could put up with the slightest bit of discomfort."
Dr. Bellows rubbed at his goatee on his chin. "Truly, that is an interesting perspective. I would imagine that our camping gear which we even refer to as 'roughing it' would seem almost magical from your perspective. I hope that you and I, my lady, can have a more pleasant discussion about this topic, Miss Nalley willing of course."
"I have no reservation," she replied. "Unless Elaine has other plans."
He smiled and nodded, obviously pleased. "Thank you, very much! Now, I wonder if I might impose on you to ask your side of this event that is troubling Miss Nalley?"
She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "A lot of fuss and nonsense over nothing if you ask me, but it's not my opinion you're after." She sighed in a manner that suggested that she felt very put-upon. "Elaine," and she drew out the girls name as something of a tease, "is upset because while I was scouting the enemy of my King, I discovered their camp, but was in turn seen myself. On my escape, I was shooting arrows at my pursuers and so did not see the tree branch my horse ducked under and was struck on the back of my head and dismounted. I awoke in the bedchamber of a Saxon duine aig a bheil feise le coin who raped me before I could free myself."
Dr. Bellows dropped his pen and looked up, horrified. "My lady, I can't tell you how sorry I am…!"
Laneth frowned through Elaine's face. "What under the name of God are you carrying on for?" she demanded. "Women are raped," she declared flatly. "It has been so from the dawn of time and will be so to the end of it! Do you think I, chieftain's daughter, bean sith in my own right, would fall to pieces over something so trivial as to be put to the use of a woman? Even if I were the lowest washerwoman of my village, I would but go before the chieftain and have a Note of Bastardy sworn out - assuming I didn't kill the Blackard myself; which I did! My only concern was my husband would be within his rights to divorce me; which I'll have you know, he did not, God bless his memory!"
"Forgive us, my lady, as a people we are not so cavalier about so horrific a crime," Dr. Bellows replied softly. "In our time, I'm sad to say, there are women who never recover from such an ordeal."
Her demeanor changed and Elaine sat a bit more properly in the chair and smiled a shy smile. "Amazingly, Dr. Bellows, that's not what Ah'm bothered by.”
"I must admit to being confused, Miss Nalley," Dr. Bellows admitted. "What is it that you are bothered by?"
Elaine looked down at her hands, unable to meet his gaze. "When… When she woke up, she was tied to the bed, spread-eagled. And as she was testing the ropes, her hand went under the pillow and found that the Saxon Lord was a little paranoid and kept a dagger under his pillow that his men didn't know about. She was able to cut one of her hands-free, and was working on the other when she heard them coming."
The pen scribbled on the page at a pace that threatened to set paper on fire. Looking up, Dr. Bellows gave her an encouraging smile. "Take your time," he assured her. Elaine worried her hands further, trying to come up with the courage to finish the tale.
"She… She knew she didn't have time to cut the other hand free, and with her legs still tied at the ankles, he could just shout for help and she'd be back where she started." Elaine licked her lips and raised her gaze to the doctor. "She knew she had to lure him in, so she put the knife in her other hand and kept working the rope, then she put her other hand back under the pillow to hold the rope. Then, he…"
Dr. Bellows stood from his desk and walked around to the other chair. Sitting down next to her he offered his hand and held hers when she accepted. "It didn't happen to you," he assured her.
Elaine forced a smile and laughed an uneasy laugh that sounded false even to her ears. "Well, technically, Laneth and I are the same soul so…"
Dr. Bellows rubbed her hand. "That may be, but it wasn't this life. I know that was a difficult thing to remember, to relive…"
She shook her head and squeezed his hand. "No, sir you don't understand! She didn't just lie there! That would've been bad enough! But she knew she would only have one strike and she had to get him completely off his guard so, she put up just enough of a fight at first because he expected it! And then…" Elaine's eyes filled with tears, before she could cry a certain hardness settled about them and Laneth carefully removed her hand from Dr. Bellows and dried her eyes before she leaned forward.
"And then, healer, I made him think I enjoyed it! That he had won me over and conquered the fierce banshee! Because he had lusted after a Pict warrior woman his whole life and none of us could stand the sight of him! And when I told him I loved him, he believed me, and I felt him finish just as I grabbed the side of his head and shoved his own dagger through his ear! As I twisted it into his brain I watched the light go out of his eyes and spat on his corpse when I was free!" She leaned back and nodded at Dr. Bellows. "Now that you know I did what I had to do, you tell her to grow up! Because coddling her won't help and the world doesn't care."
Dr. Bellows leaned back in the chair and considered the Iron Age warrior seated next to him. "I will help her," he assured her. "But what you have to realize as well is that Elaine's life is very different from yours. It is admirable that you were able to put this behind you so firmly. I commend you for that. And I promise I will do everything in my power to help Elaine reach the same place you are at now. In a way that will help her and she understands, even if you can't. Does that seem fair, my lady?"
Laneth sighed and looked away for a moment. "I take your meaning, healer. And I commend you for your dedication."
Psychologist stood and put his notepad and pen into his briefcase. "I appreciate that. Perhaps I might be so lucky as to ask the company of two such lovely ladies as yourselves to join me for supper? And maybe we can discuss this discreetly and be of help?"
Elaine looked up and smiled. "Ah…Ah'd like that, Dr. Bellows."
He closed his briefcase, picked it up from his desk and offered an elbow. "Well then, let's be on our way!"
September 13th, 2007
Headmistress's Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
The Kenner twins squirmed under the massive hands of Melvin Donner. They weren't entirely certain why the massive shop teacher had pulled them out of their class, taken them by the scruffs of their necks, and frog-marched them to Schuster Hall. Whenever they tried to ask the teacher what was wrong, he had roughly told them to shut up. Arriving at the headmistress's office, the teacher had not released either boy, but roughly ordered, "Knock."
James complied and the headmistress's voice, tightly controlled, replied, "Come in."
Bradley opened the door and Mr. Donner kicked it shut after all three of them were through. Mrs. Carson was sitting behind her desk, which was bad enough, but Mrs. Shugendo was also present along with two men in suits neither boy recognized. One thing both boys were sure of, was the smile on the headmistress's face that made them distinctly nervous. "Mr. Kenner, Mr. Kenner," she greeted, her tone flat and tight with suppressed emotion. "Allow me to introduce Alan Ivers, assistant district attorney for the State of New Hampshire, and Special Agent Derek Laughton, with the Department of Paranormal Affairs," she said indicating the two men in suits.
Mrs. Carson held up three official looking documents that were sitting on her desk. "Gentlemen, I have here a pair of sworn affidavits alleging that on the morning of January 14 of this year, at approximately 12:15 AM, in the parking lot between Schuster Hall and Kane Hall, the two of you accosted Elaine Nalley and Joanne Gunnarsson, instigated a brawl with the girls whereupon, you, Bradley relieved Miss Gunnison of her pistol, fired a round into the abdomen of Miss Nalley attempting to murder her, and then you both threatened, with great detail I might add, the rape of Miss Gunnarsson. What do you have to say for yourselves?"
"We were both," James declared.
"In our room," Bradley affirmed.
"All night," they chorused. "Check the logs!"
The Cheshire cat's grin settled on Elizabeth Carson's face. "Oh, we did," she assured them. "And both of your IDs stayed in your room all night." She reached up and turned her monitor where the two could see it. On it there were a half-dozen windows open showing loops of security camera footage. "But as you can see, we don't just rely on the ID cards. Here's the two of you leaving Melville cottage and walking in the direction of the quad. Here you are passing the corner of Beck Library. Here's a shot of you passing the corner of Schuster Hall, and the front door, and here's where it gets interesting because the camera that watches the north corner of Schuster Hall in the parking lot and the camera that watches the south west corner of Kane Hall both mysteriously failed for an hour and a half right when this was happening."
"So you can't…"
Mrs. Carson held up an Imperial index finger of her right hand. "I'm not finished, gentlemen. Here you see Miss Nalley and Miss Gunnarsson exiting Schuster Hall and moving in the direction of the parking lot out of the cameras. And then after delay of 15 minutes or so, just enough time for this altercation that is alleged to have taken place, camera 276 picks up one of you running north in the direction of Emerson cottage, and camera 17 picks up the other running south towards Melville. So I have proven the two of you were in the location alleged at the same time your victims allege you were there. That's called opportunity. I have another affidavit here from Miss Walcutt claiming that she traded sexual favors for the two of you to harass Miss Nalley and Miss Gunnarsson and see to it that they were picked up by security. That's called motive. And finally," she paused, opened her desk drawer, and removed a large bag containing a pistol. It was locked open and a cable lock run through the ejection port down to the empty magazine well.
"I'm sure you both recognize this," Mrs. Carson declared. "This is Miss Gunnarsson's pistol which has been held in evidence by the security department since the incident. Would either of you care to explain to me how your fingerprints found their way onto it that somehow proves exculpatory to the scenario I just laid out?"
The twins looked at each other and swallowed. "We want a lawyer!" they declared in chorus.
Mrs. Shugendo sighed heavily. "You'll need one," she told them. "A good one. In accordance with the school charter, the documented rules of student behavior and conduct, and the Treaty of the Medawihla Tribe and the Foundation Trust for Whateley Academy, I find sufficient grounds to expel you, James Kenner, and you, Bradley Kenner, permanently from this institution of higher learning."
"Put your hands behind your backs," Mr. Donner ordered, never taking his hands off the boys' necks.
The DPA agent stepped forward, producing two pairs of exemplar-rated handcuffs. "James and Bradley Kenner, you're under arrest for the attempted murder of Elaine Nalley, the assault and battery of Elaine Nalley and Joanne Gunnarsson, and the utterance of terroristic threats during the commission of a forcible felony." The handcuffs were clicked in place and Mr. Donner assisted the district attorney and the DPA agent in manhandling the two former students to their vehicle, while the agent and the DA continued to read the two their rights as they went.
September 14th, 2007
Office of Senior VP (currency exchange) Theodore Walcutt, Chase Building, New York New York
"That concludes our final report, Mr. Walcutt," Mr. Lewis finished, presenting the executive with a discreetly bound summation. "I apologize that our best efforts have come up empty, but whoever decided to try this has evidently gone to ground."
Theodore Walcutt looked up from flipping through the bound report, his eyebrows lifting in surprise. "There is nothing to apologize for, Mr. Lewis," the executive assured him. "I'm completely satisfied that your efforts thwarted a first move in a more elaborate game someone wishes to play with me. I would like to put your group on a more permanent retainer to deal with this, to flush whoever did this out into the open and to see that he's dealt with."
Mr. Lewis took a sip of the excellent Scotch in his glass and sat back to regard his employer. "You're certain of that, sir?"
Walcutt smiled and handed the bound report to his secretary who put it with her steno pad that would be secured in the safe in his office. "Call it a hunch," he assured the professional. "They've made the first move, and I've countered it. The ball, as they say, is back in their court. No one brave enough to try once can resist trying again, especially since they weren't caught. I intend to be ready when they make that mistake. I want you to insert an operative at my daughter's school. They seem to like coming at me through her, and they're likely to try that again."
Mr. Lewis raised his glass and drained the scotch. "Consider it done, sir."