Imp 5: Head over Tail (Part 2)
A Whateley Academy Story
Imp 5: Head over Tail
Monday morning, Oct 1st, 2007
I woke up with my alarm going off on the other side of the room, while a set of drums pounded along with it inside my head. I got up and turned off my alarm, which helped the throbbing inside my skull, though it didn’t fade entirely. It felt as though Mister Migraine had zapped me with one of his brain blasts again, which was something I hadn’t experienced in over twelve years. Still, some things, you never forgot.
“What the fahrvegnugen?” I grumbled as I rubbed my temples. Then it dawned on me.
Last night, I’d decided to sample some of Shine’s strongest, which turned out, to have a lot more kick than I’d expected. As a regenerator, alcohol normally had very little effect on me. It usually took a lot of booze to give me even a bit of a buzz, and my regeneration had always taken care of that pretty quickly. But Shine’s stuff, which was devisor booze, had completely ignored my regeneration and got me drunk, before I’d even realized it.
“I’ve got a hangover,” I said in vague surprise. This was the first time in my life that I’d experienced a hangover, and after a moment of consideration, I decided that I could have done without this particular experience.
After a few seconds, I went to my kitchen and poured myself a glass of orange juice. Now that I was up and moving, and was putting some liquids back into my body, my regeneration was finally doing its job. Within five minutes, the throbbing on my head was completely gone, and I was starting to feel like my usual self.
“Devisor booze,” I mused, considering how much was still left in the bottle. That stuff could get even a regenerator drunk and hung over, which meant that the practical joke applications were enormous. I knew a few stuffy brick heroes, who could use a little lightening up. “And now, I know what to spike the punch with.
A short time later, I was cleaned, dressed and stepping out of my apartment. Maria still hadn’t emerged from her apartment next door, so I knocked on her door, then waited patiently…for about five seconds.
“Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey,” I called out. “Don’t make me crow like a rooster…”
“I’m up. I’m up,” Maria’s voice came through the door. However, when she cracked the door open, her sleep filled eyes and bed-head hair, strongly suggested that she’d just crawled out of bed. “I’m running a little late…”
“I can see that,” I responded. “Rough night?”
I thought of my own night, and wondered if she’d gotten her hands on some of Shine’s booze as well. However, she shook her head. “No. Broken alarm clock. You go ahead to breakfast without me. I’m going to shower, then head straight to class.”
“Have fun,” I told her, giving a wave as she closed the door.
When I turned to start walking towards the faculty cafeteria, and my breakfast, I suddenly found someone else walking beside me. Louis, better known as Fubar, for a damn good reason, was really good at appearing out of nowhere. Then again, that shouldn’t have been any surprise, since he was just a psychic projection. His real body was in an oversized fish bowl, underneath Hawthorne Cottage.
“Good morning, Christine,” Louis greeted me. “How are you this morning?”
“Not bad,” I responded, looking him over. He was impeccably dressed, which was also no surprise, since he could make himself…and his clothes…appear however he wanted. That was one of the advantages of being a psychic projection. “You’re looking dapper as always.”
“Why, thank you,” Louis responded with a smile. Suddenly, he was wearing a bright yellow, lounge lizard suit, from the 70’s. “I do my best.”
“So, what’s up?” I asked curiously.
Louis gave me a friendly smile. “I just wanted to see how you were doing, after last night.”
“I’m doing fine,” I responded, remembering that Louis had shown up while I’d been drunk, and that we’d talked for a bit. “Why wouldn’t I be? I didn’t do anything worthy of good blackmail photos, did I?”
“Of course not,” he responded with a chuckle. “People expect you to act a little…odd. The only way anyone would have gotten pictures worth blackmailing you over, was if you’d been dressed up and behaving responsibly.”
“Naw,” I told him with a broad grin and a swish of my tail. “That will never happen…”
Then Louis grinned at me with a twinkle in his eye. A literal twinkle. “Of course, you do have a knack of surprising people. In fact, I bet most people would be absolutely shocked if they knew that one of your most prized possessions, used to be an autographed poster of Ms. Might…”
I froze at that and felt a cold chill of dread spread down my spine. With those words, I suddenly remembered exactly what Louis and I had talked about last night, while I’d been completely plastered. I’d told him a little about my childhood, from before I’d manifested, which was something I never talked to anyone about. And of course, I’d admitted something that I never would have while sober.
“That was a LONG time ago,” I said, fixing Louis with a steady gaze. “And if you ever say one word to ANYONE about that poster, especially Carson…I’ll fill your pool with a ton of Jello mix.”
Louis laughed at that, then promised, “My lips are sealed.”
Then, he ran his finger across his lips, and a zipper literally appeared and zipped his lips shut. Another advantage of being a psychic projection. For a moment, I actually felt a little jealous, as I considered all the amusing possibilities such a thing would allow.
Louis continued walking with me until we reached the cafeteria, then he said, “I’ll see you later, Christine,” and simply vanished. Since that had just been a psychic projection, and his real body received a steady diet of fish flakes, there wasn’t really any reason for him to continue.
I sat at my usual table and ate breakfast alone, though I did share a few polite words with other teachers who wandered past. However, when Barney showed up, he gave me his accustomed glare, as if trying to kill me with his looks alone. I just smiled and waved back, simply because I knew it pissed him off. Then with our usual exchange out of the way, I was able to eat the rest of my breakfast in peace.
As soon as I was done eating, I hurried to my official classroom, where I greeted my first class of the day. Since this was the class with Melissa, Monkeywrench, and Alicia, some of my very favorite students, my mood was immediately brightened up again.
“All right everyone,” I announced once the starting bell rang. “You all turned in your class projects on Friday, and I spent the weekend looking them over. Now, I imagine that you’re wondering what grades you’ve earned…”
“You can say that again,” someone muttered, sounding just a little worried.
I silently thanked the student for giving me such a great setup, and repeated, “I imagine that you’re wondering what grades you’ve earned…” That earned me some laughs from my students, as well as a couple groans.
“So, tell us already,” someone blurted impatiently.
“You get an A,” I exclaimed, pointing to the student who’d just spoken. Then, I pointed to another student at random. “And you get an A. And you get an A. And everybody gets an A…” I paused at that, to muse, “So, this is what it feels like to be Oprah.” However, I quickly became more serious as I added, “Except for the one person who didn’t turn in your project. You know who you are.”
One boy leaned over to the one beside him and said, “I told you this class would be an easy A…”
“Art is subjective,” I said, looking around the room. “As long as you turned in your projects, and made an honest effort, I gave you credit for it.”
“Mine kind of sucked,” Monkeywrench responded with a chuckle.
“Technique and style can be developed with practice,” I pointed out. “I don’t expect any of you to be experts just yet. Now, that being said, there will be other tests and projects, where you will be graded based on more objective goals. I will warn you when those come up.”
“I can’t wait to tell Dad I got an A in art,” Mischief exclaimed with a broad grin, which made me chuckle.
“For now,” I said, looking over my students with a grin on my face. “We’re going to start something new…”
Monday Oct 1st, 2007
Stepping into the cafeteria, I looked around and quickly spotted Maria, sitting at our usual table. I grabbed a plate of food, then went to join her. When I saw the hamburger and fries on her plate, one of the gourmet ones that were being served today, I grinned.
“Robble robble,” I said in my best Hamburglar impression.
I reached for Maria’s lunch, to try swiping a couple fries, but she slapped my hand away with a, “Bad Imp.”
“Curses, foiled again,” I announced as I took my seat across from her.
“Poor Imp,” Maria told me. “It makes me wonder how you ever lasted so long as a thief.”
“Yes indeed,” a new voice said from a short distance away. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen…”
I looked up and saw Tabby Cat, or Tabby as she’d asked me to call her. She had her own tray in hand, and without waiting for an invitation sat down at our table.
Maria gave her a look of surprise, then glanced to me. “Is there going to be any trouble?”
“Do you have that game?” I asked with a grin. “I always like popping the Trouble bubble…”
“I used to play that with my daughter, when she was younger,” Tabby commented with a faintly amused smile.
Maria glanced back and forth between us again. “So, I take it that you two aren’t going to start fighting…”
“Oh no,” I corrected her. “We’re gonna fight like cats and Imps.”
Tabby gave me a curious look. “And exactly how do Imps fight?”
“With snark fu,” I answered proudly. “I have a black belt.”
“Of course you do,” Maria said with a chuckle.
I took a bite of the panini I’d grabbed, and gave Tabby a curious look. “I’m surprised you’re still hanging around here…”
Tabby looked amused at that. “I’ve been training a couple students on the hero track, and generally offering the benefit of my experience. I’ll be here at Whateley off and on.”
I just watched Tabby for a moment, still feeling just a little surprised at how well I was hitting it off with a hero. With an active hero. However, she wasn’t like most of the heroes I’d met. For one thing, she wasn’t all self-righteous and judgy. And for another, she actually appreciated everything it took to pull off a good heist.
“You know,” I mused, still watching Tabby. “It’s almost too bad that I’m retired, because I bet it would be fun to dance with you…”
“Dance?” Tabby asked, before she seemed to understand what I really meant. She gave me a strange look and nodded agreement. “We can always spar sometime.”
“Or go into the sims,” Maria offered.
“That might be fun,” I said, with my tail swishing back and forth.
Playing in the sims would offer a whole slew of new possibilities. Just because I was retired, that was no reason that I couldn’t still keep in practice. And going against a hero like Tabby would definitely keep things interesting.
While I’d been watching Tabby, she’d been watching me too. “You know,” she said with a look of amusement. “Before I approached you the other day, I talked to Carson about you. She told me that you’d already retired, before she even approached you…”
“I was in the game for a long time,” I responded with a shrug. “I got bored and decided to try a new game instead.”
I didn’t think that Tabby completely believed me, but she nodded along. “She said you were good with the kids.”
“She practically is one,” Maria pointed out.
“Look who’s talking,” I responded with a smirk. She’d been a student here herself, not that long ago. In fact, there were a lot of students around, who remembered her being one of them.
We continued chatting as we ate, and I soon found myself telling a story about one of my jobs, or at least, about the employer for the job. The guy had been really into the whole mob thing, or at least, into some weird romanticized version that he got from the movies. And in addition to that little quirk, he also wasn’t very bright.
“Well, I told him that if he stiffed me on the job,” I said, while Tabby and Maria listened attentively, “he’d end up sleeping with the fishes. Well, he stiffed me…”
“You didn’t,” Maria gasped while Tabby gave me a very serious look.
“What?” I asked, grinning at both of them. “You think I’d confess to something like a murder, to an active hero?”
“Why not?” Tabby asked. “You’ve confessed to plenty of other things.”
I just waved dismissively. “As I was saying…” I grinned evilly, and my tail swished back and forth. “Well, I promised him that he’d sleep with the fishes, so I slipped into his bedroom one night and covered his bed with sardines and mackerel.”
“You didn’t,” Maria gasped again, her look of surprise turning into a laugh.
“Of course she did,” Tabby commented wryly.
“He got the message,” I said with a smirk. “And it worked even better than a horse’s head… Much less messy…at least for me. The next day, I got my payment in full.”
Tabby just chuckled and shook her head. “Thank you for letting me vicariously live out some of my old dreams through you.”
“My pleasure,” I responded. “But unfortunately, I have to cut our lunch short. I’ve got something to take care of.”
Maria gave me a curious look. “What’s that? Putting a tack on Williams’ chair?”
“No, but that is a good one,” I told her with a grin. “I’m off to go see a girl about some real estate.”
Monday late afternoon, Oct 1st, 2007
Roland Williams was a large and stocky man. And though he was no longer as muscular as he’d been in his youth, he compensated for this by using his size warper abilities, to increase his size just a little. Not enough to be obvious, but just enough to make him a little more imposing.
Ace and A-Plus stood in the middle of Mr. Williams’ classroom, facing the gruff teacher’s displeasure. A-Plus was clearly nervous about the situation, and though Ace was as well, he did a better job of hiding this.
“I originally contacted the Intelligence Cadet Corps,” Mr. Williams stated, “because your club is supposed to be focused on law enforcement and investigation. I’d thought that you would take this threat seriously.”
“We do take it seriously,” Ace protested. “The Imp is just sneakier than we expected.”
“But we won’t underestimate her again,” A-Plus promised.
Mr. Williams scowled as he looked back and forth between them. “Someone like the Imp, would never retire and become a teacher, and I have a hard time believing that Elizabeth Carson would fall for this act. Imp is here for a reason, and I need you to help find out what it is.”
“Of course, sir,” Ace responded. “This is what we do.”
“It galls me to rely on students for this,” Mr. Williams admitted, “but I have no choice. Carson ordered security to keep away from the Imp, and I want to know why. What does that freak villain have on Carson? What kind of leverage does she have, to make our headmistress bring her to Whateley, and protect her the way she has?”
“We’re close to breaking this open,” A-Plus stated.
Ace nodded at that. “This afternoon, she met with She-Beast, so it looks like whatever she has planned, the Bad Seeds are involved.”
“Of course,” Mr. Williams commented. “That lot would be easy to tempt.”
“We also found her lair,” Ace continued, “and gathered some important clues. We’re in the endgame now, and should complete our investigation at any time. Unfortunately, we learned that she’s onto us, so we’ll have to be quick about it…”
“And we learned that she has a mole in our club,” A-Plus spat out angrily, earning a glare from Ace, who hadn’t wanted to reveal that specific information.
With a grimace, Ace said, “We’re compartmentalizing our operations to limit any damages.”
Ace scowled even more deeply. Though he had a hard time believing that any of the Cadets was a traitor, it was hard to deny the evidence he’d seen. Someone was secretly working for the Imp, sabotaging their investigation from within, and he had no idea who. That was why he’d only brought A-Plus to that meeting, and why he was going to have to play everything else close to the vest as well.
“We’re going to find our mole,” Ace promised. “And we’re going to stop the Imp, whatever it is she’s planning.”
“Good,” Mr. Williams said, looking almost pleased. “And remember, once we stop this villain, your entire club will benefit from it. You’ll redeem your club’s reputation after the...embarrassment of last year.”
“We haven’t forgotten, sir,” Ace responded with grim determination. “And the Intelligence Cadet Corps won’t fail.”
Tuesday, Oct 2nd, 2007
Geist felt self-conscious and uncomfortable as she looked around the table. Normally, lunch with her club, the Intelligence Cadet Corps, was interesting and exciting, but today, things were different. Today, the tension was nearly thick enough for her to choke on.
Ever since they’d learned that one of them was secretly working for the Imp, the entire mood had changed. Now, everyone kept giving each other suspicious looks, wondering which of them was the mole. And as awkward as that was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the accusations.
“That looks pretty expensive,” Holdout observed, staring intently at Kew’s latest invention.
“All those holdouts you have must be pretty expensive too,” A-Plus pointed out.
“Where’s Reach at?” Interface asked. “He…she should be here with us.”
Holdout scowled as he responded, “Reach hasn’t been the same since that accident last year…”
“You think Harley is Morocco?” Kew asked in surprise, though her expression became thoughtful and suspicious.
“It could be the rookie,” A-Plus said, looking straight at Geist. “We didn’t have any moles until she joined…”
Geist gasped at being accused, and immediately protested, “I’m not the mole…”
“And that’s what a mole would say,” Rez pointed out.
Geist looked to Ace for support, but he seemed lost in his own thoughts. “Ace,” she called out to get his attention. “Tell them I’m not the mole…”
Interface scowled, then in what seemed to be an attempt to change the subject, he said, “Last night, when I was on Imp duty, I caught her hanging around the Homer Gallery.”
That suddenly got everyone’s attention, though Ace glared at Interface. Ace had been pretty secretive since they found out that they had a mole, so Geist figured that he hadn’t wanted Interface to spread that around.
“We shouldn’t talk about this in the open,” A-Plus said.
However, Kew shrugged and pointed to a devise that was sitting in the middle of their lunch table. “My portable cone of silence will keep anyone from overhearing,” Kew said. “And it jams bugs too…”
“So,” Holdout asked, looking to Ace. “Were you going to brief the rest of us on that?”
“I was just compartmentalizing information,” Ace said defensively, glaring at Holdout and then everyone else, as if daring them to argue with his decision. After a few seconds, he let out a sigh. “I’ve been thinking it since Interface reported in last night. I’m pretty sure that I know what she’s after now.”
“What’s that?” Rez asked.
“She’s a little too interested in the Homer Gallery for my tastes,” Ace said. Then, in a dramatic tone, he announced, “I think she’s going for the gold.”
Geist’s eyes widened as she remembered the big pile of gold that she’d seen in the Homer Gallery. A ton of gold would be a tempting target for anyone.
“You figured out what she’s after,” Geist exclaimed. “That’s brilliant…” Ace looked rather pleased at that, while A-Plus glared at Geist.
“Shouldn’t you be keeping an eye on Mischief?” A-Plus asked with a note of hostility in her tone. “Who knows what the Imp’s henchgirl is up to.”
Ace nodded. “Good idea.”
“I’m on it,” Geist eagerly responded. “You can count on me.”
With that, Geist hurried away from the table and went in search of Mischief. She’d been following the blonde girl around enough to know where she usually ate, so it didn’t take long to find her.
Then, when Mischief got up and began to walk away, Geist smirked to herself. “Whatever she’s up to, I’m gonna find out, and then she’s really gonna be in trouble.”
Geist took a moment to check her energy level, making sure that she had enough of a charge. As an energizer, she could store ambient electromagnetic energy, which made her as strong, fast, and tough as an exemplar 3. If she really pushed it, she could become the equivalent of an exemplar 4. Of course, that wasn’t the aspect of her power that she needed at the moment.
A couple seconds later, Geist tapped into her energy reserve and activated her other power, displacing her image. In an instant, she was completely invisible, while an image that looked exactly like she did, appeared about five feet away. She would have preferred if it was further away, but she couldn’t always control where it appeared.
“Now, to get to work,” Geist said as she began to follow after Mischief, who had no idea she was there. “And I’ll prove I’m not the mole.”
Tuesday afternoon, Oct 2nd, 2007
Classes were finally over for the day, much to my relief. I enjoyed teaching art to kids, but I had several projects in the works, and I needed to get to work on them. But first, I had a few details I had to take care of.
One of those meddling kids was following me around again, thinking that I didn’t know she was there. A-Plus was the one this time, and in spite of having the common sense of a gopher, she was also pretty sharp. That meant, this was going to be fun.
I palmed the tracking device that one of her friends had slipped on me earlier today, then slipped it into the pocket of a random student as I walked past. Now, to lose my tail, and not the one coming out of my backside. That would hurt.
A few seconds later, I turned the corner around the Beck Library, getting out of A-Plus’s sight long enough to pull my vanishing trick. I crouched down, remaining low and hidden as she came around the corner to follow me.
“Where’d she go?” A-Plus asked aloud.
She looked back and forth with a frustrated expression that tempted me to jump out and go ‘boo’. However, I restrained myself.
After a few seconds of looking around for me, A-Plus pulled out some doodad, which was obviously locked onto the tracking device. A moment later, this was confirmed, as she changed direction and began following the student I’d slipped the tracker onto. I wondered how long it would take for her to realize that she’d been tricked.
“Too bad I won’t be able to see the look on her face,” I mused with a grin.
I gave C-Minus time to get further away from me, then I came out of hiding and continued on my way, deciding to take a nice leisurely stroll around campus, so as not to leave a clear trail. I didn’t have any particular destination, and was actually more interested in stretching my legs and taking advantage of being able to do that out in the open, than I was in losing any tail. However, I was amused to consider, that if someone was mapping my path, it would probably end up looking like something from a Family Circle cartoon.
Then, shortly after I finally started heading back towards my apartment in the Village, I noticed two women who were walking towards the main campus parking lot. One of them was a mousey looking brunette, while the other was a tall and somewhat statuesque redhead. The redhead also happened to look quite familiar, so I moved closer and got a better look at her.
As soon as I recognized the redhead, I grinned broadly and called out, “Hey, Hamsterball.”
The redhead, whom I knew by her professional name of Pinball, turned and stared at me in surprise. “Imp? What are you doing here?”
“I’m working a job,” I answered with a broad grin and a swish of my tail.
Pinball gasped at that, then quickly looked around, to make sure no one would overhear us. Then, she turned back to me and demanded, “Why would you pull a job HERE? Do you know what the security is like? What the consequences could be? Are you insane?”
I just laughed at that. “Yeah, I thought it was pretty crazy too, but my employer made me too good an offer to pass up.”
“And who would be crazy enough to hire you for a job HERE?” Pinball asked, looking a bit concerned.
My grin just widened. “That would be Lady Astarte.”
“Lady Astarte?” the brunette asked in surprise.
“But she’s…,” Pinball started to respond, then paused as realization flashed through her eyes.
“I’m the new art teacher here,” I explained in a pleasant tone, while Pinball just stared at me as though I’d suddenly grown horns…or at least…another pair.
Pinball blinked several times, as though she couldn’t quite process that information. “You? A teacher?”
I nodded at that, enjoying her reaction. Then, with a sigh, I turned a little more serious. “I retired from the business a couple months ago…shortly after the whole Mauler thing. Then one day, Lady Astarte comes knocking on my door and asks me if I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t have anything else going on, so…” I shrugged.
“But you…,” she started, still looking a bit confused. “A teacher…”
“I know,” I responded with a chuckle. “I certainly wouldn’t have imagined it.”
Just then, Pinball’s companion went “Ahem,” doing the whole fake cough thing.
“Oh, sorry,” Pinball said, giving the brunette an apologetic look. “Imp, this is my partner, Emily.”
I was pretty sure that when Pinball said ‘partner’, she didn’t mean the business type. But since I already knew that the statuesque redhead preferred the ladies, this wasn’t much of a surprise.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, giving Emily a friendly smile.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Emily said, looking amused. “It’s nice to finally meet you too.”
“So,” I said, giving Pinball a curious look. “What are you doing here? No offense, but you look a little too old to be enrolling…”
Pinball chuckled at that. “Actually, I graduated from Whateley a few years back.”
“We both did,” Emily added.
I gave Pinball a look of surprise, then a look of mock hurt. “So, you knew that there was a school for mutants, and you never told me…?”
“You didn’t know about Whateley?” Pinball asked, seeming surprised by that.
I shook my head. “Not until someone came knocking on my window, begging me to come teach here…”
“Of course, she came knocking on your window,” Pinball said with a chuckle, which showed her skepticism of my claim. “Somehow, I have a hard time imagining that.”
Emily gave Pinball a look of amusement as she said, “Stranger things have happened.”
“You don’t get much stranger than the Imp,” Pinball joked.
“Thank you,” I said in my best Elvis voice, doing a quick Elvis dance move and then bowing. “Thank you very much.” Pinball and Emily both laughed at that.
“Actually,” Pinball told me a few seconds later, “The reason we’re here, is to drop off my little sister.”
I blinked at that. “Your little sister?”
Pinball and I had worked together a few times, and we got along great. In fact, I considered her a friend, and those were hard to find in my business, or at least, in my former business. However, she’d never talked much about her personal life, and especially not her family. I’d always had the feeling that there were some tender feelings regarding her family.
“She just manifested,” Pinball explained. “And unfortunately, she immediately ended up on the MCO’s radar…”
“Not good,” I said, nodding sympathetically.
“No, it isn’t,” Pinball responded with a shrug. “But it is what it is. So, I brought her here, where she’ll be safe from the MCO, and she’ll get a good education.”
“A two-fer deal,” I said, nodding my understanding. “So, does chibi Pinball have a name?”
Emily snickered at that, while Pinball just grinned. “Actually,” Pinball told me. “I’ve been calling her mini-me.”
“Good name,” I said, nodding my approval.
“Her codename is Sphere,” Emily said. “And you won’t be able to miss her. She looks like a younger version of Jackie.”
I glanced to Pinball, having noted that Emily referred to her as Jackie. When we’d been in Vegas a few years back, dressed in civvies, she’d used ‘Jackie’ as her alias. At the time, I’d assumed that it was just a made-up pseudonym, like the name I’d used, Imogen Prentiss. Apparently, it hadn’t been.
“Since you’re a teacher here,” Pinball said carefully. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep an eye out for Dana.”
“I can do that,” I agreed.
“And don’t go dragging her into any trouble,” Pinball told me.
Before I could respond to that, Emily smirked. “She’s good enough at finding trouble on her own.”
“True,” Pinball admitted with a chuckle. “Very true.”
Gesturing towards the visitor parking area where I’d seen Pinball and Emily walking towards, I asked, “Were you two on your way out?”
“Unfortunately,” Pinball said with a sigh. “I wish I could stay long enough to get Dana settled in a bit more, but we need to get going before some pests show up.”
“The MCO?” I asked.
“Worse,” Pinball responded with a scowl. “Heroes. And one of them has a personal grudge against me.”
I gave her a sympathetic look. “Ouch. Do you at least have enough time to catch up over a beer or two? I mean, the bar here is no Black Mask, but it’s not bad.”
“I think we can spare the time,” Emily said, giving Pinball an amused look. “Besides, Jackie told me about a couple of the jobs she pulled with you, and I’d like to hear a little more about them…”
“This could take a long time,” Pinball warned. Then, she looked straight at me and grinned broadly. “You know, I’ve got a few stories I can share about you too… Now, where’s that beer at?”
The Quad, Wednesday, Oct 3rd, 2007
The Quad was one of the most active areas on campus, at least when the weather was decent. This was probably the most popular area for students to gather and socialize, outside of the Crystal Hall itself. And unlike the Crystal Hall, which was primarily a glorified cafeteria, the Quad was outside and provided fresh air.
Since it was lunch time, and the weather was cooperating, the Quad was currently busy. Students gathered around in clusters, chatting among their friends. The luckier students had even been able to claim some of the tables and chairs, though even those without, managed to claim their own small pieces of territory, at least for the moment.
I took my time, walking around the Quad and simply enjoying all the energy and activity. I also enjoyed seeing how many students with GSD were out and in the open. Even after a month teaching at Whateley, that still managed to amaze me.
My attention was drawn to one girl, who was sitting by herself, and was assembling a large jigsaw puzzle on the ground. Between her looks and how fast she was assembling the puzzle, I assumed that she was an exemplar. However, what caught my eye wasn’t the girl herself, but the picture that was quickly coming together. I knew that picture, and I knew it well.
“That is a nice picture,” I commented to the girl, gesturing to the nearly completed puzzle.
The girl looked up at me, then down at the picture. “I just got it last weekend,” the girl said, holding up the box that the pieces had come in, so I could get a better look. “It’s from an artist named Candice Kade.”
A grin immediately spread across my face, and my tail swished back and forth, further revealing my excitement. A couple months ago, I’d licensed a few of my paintings to be made into prints, puzzles, and other things, but this was the first time that I’d actually run into someone who bought one.
“I’ve heard of that artist,” I said. “Let’s just say, I’m her biggest fan…”
“I’ve never heard of her before,” the girl admitted. “But I really liked this picture…”
Those words went straight to my ego, and I puffed up just a little. There was nothing better than a sincere compliment of my work. It was even better than chocolate, though admittedly, not by much.
“You know,” I told the girl, with barely contained glee. “I’m pretty sure that she has a few more prints and puzzles for sale…”
The girl smiled at that, looking interested. “Thanks. I’ll have to check them out.”
After that, I left the girl to her puzzle and continued wandering around the Quad. But just a couple minutes later, something else caught my attention, or more accurately, someone else.
Three girls were walking across the Quad, chatting with each other as they were obviously looking for a place to sit. I immediately recognized two of the girls, not from any of my classes, but from the times when I acted as a substitute in Anderson’s fifth period survival class. The girl with the blonde hair was Jinx, and the one with the brightly colored peacock hair was, appropriately enough, named Peacock. However, it was the third girl, who I was interested in at the moment.
The third girl was tall, athletic looking, and had the kind of build that just wasn’t quite natural for a girl that age. She practically screamed ‘exemplar’. And then, there was the fact that she had long red hair, with a golden lock in the front. This girl looked so much like Pinball, that there was no mistaking who she was.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” I asked as I approached the three girls.
“Um, hi, Ms. Imp,” Peacock greeted me.
“Hello girls,” I said, nodding to her and Jinx. Then I turned to the redhead and grinned. “And you must be Dana.”
“How’d you know?” Hamsterball Junior gasped in surprise, though her eyes quickly narrowed in suspicion.
“I’m the fabulous Imp,” I introduced myself with a grin. “Art teacher extraordinaire…” Then, still smirking, I added, “And Jackie told me about you last night.”
Dana’s eyes widened at that. “You know Jackie?”
“We’re old friends,” I assured the girl. “We used to work together, on a few occasions, until I retired from my old career.”
“Old career?” Dana asked, giving me a suspicious look. “You’re a supervillain…”
“Former supervillain,” I corrected her cheerfully. “Or as I prefer to think of it, a brilliant and daring liberator of valuable artworks.”
Jinx laughed at that, then told Dana, “Ms. Imp sometimes teaches our survival class…” She gestured to Peacock, who nodded confirmation. “She’s a pretty fun teacher…”
“Thank you,” I told the girl. “I do try.”
“Jackie never said anything about you,” Dana said, giving me a curious look.
I just shrugged at that. “She probably didn’t want to overwhelm you with stories of my magnificence…” Dana looked a little startled at that, while Jinx and Peacock both giggled. I flashed the redhead a grin. “Honestly, Hamsterball didn’t know I was at Whateley, until I ran into her yesterday. But I didn’t know she had a sister until then either, so I guess it all balances out.”
“Well, it’s…nice to meet you,” Dana said carefully.
“You too,” I responded. “But if you’ll excuse me girls, I have some other people to go bother…I mean teach.”
I nodded to the girls, making a mental note to keep an eye on Dana. If she was anything like Pinball, then she’d end up getting in trouble before long. If she did, she might need someone with my experience to help her get out of it. I owed that to Pinball, if nothing else.
Now that I’d introduced myself to Pinball’s little sister, it was time to deal with some rodents. Squirrels. Specifically, of the secret variety. Three of them had been watching me as I walked through the Quad, and they’d slowly been trying to sneak up on me. That was why I’d cut short my conversation with Dana.
The boy named Ace came up and stopped in front of me, while Kew and A-Plus positioned themselves to my sides, as if they were boxing me in. I noticed that the rest of their little club was absent at the moment, which was no surprise. I’d been keeping an eye on them, and over the last couple days, these so called Secret Squirrels had been fighting amongst themselves pretty badly. I smirked at that.
“Imp,” Ace said, standing there with the same arrogant and self-righteous body language as so many of the heroes I’d met over the years. “We know what you’re up to, and we’re going to stop you.”
“Do you?” I asked pleasantly. “And are you?”
“Yes we are,” A-Plus blurted out.
“And who are you?” I asked, pretending that I had absolutely no idea who they were. I imagined that would annoy them a little more.
“We’re the Intelligence Cadet Corps,” Kew exclaimed.
“As you well know,” A-Plus added, looking offended.
“We’re here to give you a fair warning,” Ace told me. “The Intelligence Cadet Corps are on the case, and we will take you down…”
I burst out laughing, which made all three of those kids look offended. “Threatening a teacher,” I finally said, grinning at Ace. “You’re ballsy Deuce. Stupid…but ballsy.”
“But you aren’t a real teacher,” A-Plus exclaimed. “You’re just a villain who infiltrated the school.”
“My paycheck says differently,” I pointed out, still amused by these meddling kids and their attempts to throw me off my game and intimidate me. I let out a sigh, then announced, “You know, Secret Squirrel is a great cartoon character, and you kids have proven that you don’t deserve the honor of being named after him. So from now on, you’re the Teletubbies instead.”
“Teletubbies?” Kew asked in confusion while Ace and A-Plus just looked angry and frustrated.
“And speaking of great cartoon characters,” I commented with an evil grin. “Exit, stage left even…” And with that, I threw down a smoke bomb and did my disappearing act, leaving three stupefied Teletubbies behind.
Wednesday afternoon, Oct 3rd, 2007
Ace stepped into the Cadet’s clubhouse and paused, staring in surprise as he watched Kew run back and forth like a mad woman. Rez and Holdout were the only other two people there, and like Rez, they too were scrambling about, looking in every corner.
“What the Hell is going on?” Ace demanded.
“She got in here,” Kew blurted out frantically, holding up a bug detector. “Imp bugged our clubhouse…”
“Impossible,” Ace responded. “Our security is…”
Kew held out her hand, revealing nearly a dozen small listening devices in her palm. “I was performing our usual sweep, when I started finding them… They’re all over the place…”
“The whole clubhouse is infested with bugs,” Holdout said.
Ace stared at Kew for a moment, and then at the listening devices in her hand. His thoughts immediately turned to Morocco, Imp’s mole within their club. Whoever Morocco was, they’d probably been the one to plant these bugs. They had to find the mole and soon.
“And the worst part is,” Kew exclaimed in frustration. “These are MY bugs… These are the ones we were using on the Imp.”
“I found another one over here,” Holdout announced.
That was followed seconds later by Rez. “I’ve got another one too…”
When A-Plus arrived a short time later, and said nearly the same thing that Ace had, he was forced to admit, “Our base of operations has been compromised…”
It took nearly an hour to find and deactivate all the listening devices, and once they had, Ace could only stare at the pile they’d discovered. There had been several dozen of them, hidden all through their clubhouse. Holdout had been accurate, when he’d said that they were infested.
“I think we have them all,” Kew announced, though she didn’t sound as confident as Ace would have liked. “But just in case…” She began setting up several bug jammers, and her portable cone of silence. Finally, she announced, “We’re good now. No one can eavesdrop.”
“Like that does any good when we’ve got a mole,” Interface pointed out, looking around at the other members in suspicion.
“Where’s Reach?” Holdout asked. He was the only member of the Cadets who was still absent.
“He’s been spending too much time with his girlfriend lately,” A-Plus stated in annoyance, “and not enough helping with this investigation…”
“I’ve been doing my part,” Reach announced as she came into the room. “In case you all forgot, I was on Imp tailing duty…”
“Well, you missed her sneaking in here and bugging us,” Holdout grumbled, as though it was all Reach’s fault. “Or did you just let her in?”
Reach glared at Holdout. “I had our suspect firmly in sight, until she went to the Village. I wasn’t going to get caught sneaking around there, so I came back here instead, so we can plan our next move.”
Ace looked around the group, seeing all the suspicious looks. He suddenly realized that with all their infighting and accusations, they were doing the Imp’s work for her. As much as he didn’t like it, that meant keeping the others in the loop, at least enough to show that he trusted them. However, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be keeping a close eye on each and every member of the Cadets. Sooner or later, the mole would slip, and he’d be ready to catch them.
“Geist,” Ace said, looking at their newest member. “You’ve been on Mischief duty. Is there anything to report?”
“I keep losing her,” Geist admitted, staring down at the floor shamefully.
“We can’t expect the rookie to deal with such an important responsibility,” A-Plus said.
Geist glared at the older girl. “Mischief can teleport, and walk through walls, and turn invisible…”
“Enough,” Ace said. “Geist, did she do anything of note when you did have her in sight?”
“I saw her going into Imp’s secret hideout,” Geist said. “But most of the time, she keeps disappearing on me…”
Kew raised her hand for attention, then announced, “I got the results back on that candy we found…”
“What’s in them?” Ace asked eagerly. “Narcotics? Poison?”
“Nothing,” Kew answered reluctantly. “There’s nothing in them. It’s just…normal candy.”
“No way,” A-Plus exclaimed almost angrily. “Why would she put normal candy in a safe? There’s obviously more to it than that…”
“This is the candy you found in the safe?” Reach asked as he picked up the bag.
Ace gave him a warning look. “Careful. That’s evidence…”
“This is red herring,” Reach blurted out incredulously. “Literally.”
“What are you…?” Interface asked.
Reach held out a handful of the red gummy candies so that everyone could get a good look. “Swedish Fish. Each one is a red herring…”
“But that’s…,” A-Plus started to protest, before pausing, with her eyes going wide in realization.
Ace facepalmed, wondering how he could have possibly missed something so obvious. They’d been so intent on finding out what the candy had been made of, that they’d completely overlooked the fact that each piece of candy, was a red gummy fish. They’d missed the obvious. He’d missed the obvious.
Reach stared directly at Ace. “And this was in the same safe as the evidence about the mole?”
“Imp knew that we were coming,” Ace said, grudgingly admitting what each of them had just realized. “We’ve been played.”
Crystal Hall, Thursday late afternoon, Oct 4th, 2007
Melissa stared down at her dinner tray, focusing intently on her dessert. Chocolate cream pie was her favorite, followed by banana cream, but apple was good too, so she wasted no time in eating it. Only when she’d finished, did she turn her attention back to her friends, who were also sitting at the table with her.
Maxine was Melissa’s roommate, a very pretty girl with long maroon hair and pointed ears like an elf. However, Maxine said that she wasn’t an elf, and that she just had some minor GSD. Melissa was disappointed by that, because she thought it would have been really cool to have an elf for a roommate. Still, Maxine wasn’t a bad roommate, even if she wasn’t really an elf.
Sitting directly across from Melissa was Trixie, a petite black girl, with her dark hair pulled back and braided into two pig tails. Trixie was a gadgeteer, but not a very powerful one. However, she specialized in making practical joke stuff, and Melissa had been able to see most of it first-hand, since the two of them had been pranking each other since they’d arrived at Whateley.
The last person sitting at the table was Jenny Merrowitz, also known as Fairy Girl. She was a cute girl with blonde hair, which had pink ribbons tied into it. Jenny was also really into the whole magical girl and fairy princess thing, but so far, didn’t seem interested in joining Wondercute.
“Have you tried it yet?” Trixie abruptly asked Melissa, with an almost maniacal grin.
“Not yet,” Melissa answered.
Trixie gave her a disapproving look. “But I gave it to you YESTERDAY. It’s my new and improved version, and I need it tested…”
“I know,” Melissa responded. “And I am gonna test it for you, but Imp told me I need to wait till just the right time, and that’s what I’m gonna do…” Then she let out a sigh, deflating a little before grumbling, “But waiting is so hard…”
“I don’t think that this is going to end well for anyone involved,” Maxine pointed out calmly.
Melissa gave her roommate a look of betrayal. Maxine was a bit of a party pooper, and wasn’t really interested in having fun like Melissa and Trixie were. However, Melissa had to admit, that Maxine was probably right. If she actually listened to Maxine more, then she probably wouldn’t get into so much trouble…or have as much fun.
“Well, it should be interesting, if nothing else,” Jenny said cheerfully.
“Totally,” Trixie agreed with a broad grin.
Melissa nodded her own enthusiastic agreement, then reluctantly announced, “I’ve gotta get going. I’ve got stuff to do.”
“Have fun,” Trixie said with a giggle. “And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…”
Melissa stuck her tongue out at Trixie, then made a show of turning and walking off. However, she hadn’t gone far when she noticed that she was being followed…again. Melissa giggled at that, and tried hard not to look back at Geist. It wasn’t easy, but she managed to control herself. After all, this was totally going to be worth it.
A few minutes later, and Melissa was nearly back at Whitman, where her room was. However, in spite of living in Whitman, that wasn’t her real destination. Instead, she stopped at a tree and a cluster of small bushes beneath it, and pulled out the weapon that she’d hidden there. Geist had been following her all week, and now it was finally time to do something about it.
With her weapon in hand and a broad grin on her face, Melissa suddenly turned around and teleported, reappearing right beside Geist. “Surprise,” Melissa cried out, right before she smashed the cherry pie right into Geist’s face…or at least tried to. The pie went right through Geist’s face as though she wasn’t even there, and so did Melissa’s arm. “What the…?”
“Surprise,” Geist’s voice called out from about twenty feet away.
Melissa snapped around and glared in the direction that she’d heard Geist from, realizing what had happened. She’d forgotten about Geist’s powers, and had attacked the decoy instead of the real one. Of course, she couldn’t see the real Geist, and realized that this must be what it was like for other people when she was the one who was invisible.
“I definitely prefer being the invisible one,” Melissa muttered to herself, quickly adding, “Now, what would Imp do?”
Of course, Melissa already had a pretty good idea of what her mentor would do, since Imp had already given her some advice about it. With that in mind, Melissa stuck her tongue out in the direction she believed Geist to be in.
“Stop following me,” Melissa demanded.
Geist immediately responded, “I will if I want to, and you can’t stop me.”
“You stink,” Melissa called out. “And your clothes are totally ugly…”
“Now it’s my turn,” Geist exclaimed.
With that, Geist’s image ran away from Melissa, in a way that seemed pretty weird. Suddenly, the remains of the cherry pie were picked up from the ground and hovered in the air for just a moment before it blurred and vanished. An instant later, Geist’s image now held the pie tin, and had a nasty smile. Melissa knew what was coming, so when the pie was flung at her, reappearing from thin air, she was already intangible. The remains of the pie went right through her, just as easily as it had Geist’s image.
“You suck,” Melissa said with a grin. “My grandma can throw better than that, and she doesn’t have any arms…” Of course, her grandmother was dead, and she’d possessed both arms at the time of her passing. However, accuracy wasn’t important in this kind of thing.
“I’m gonna get you, you...henchman,” Geist snarled. “You’re gonna go to prison, and I’m gonna laugh at you…”
“I’m an apprentice,” Melissa corrected proudly. “Not a henchman, henchgirl or minion. And as for going to jail, you’ll have to catch me first…”
With that, Melissa turned and ran, knowing that Geist would follow after. When she glanced back, she saw that she was right. Geist’s image was indeed following, which meant that the real Geist was too.
“You can’t outrun me,” Geist yelled from behind.
“I can certainly try,” Melissa responded with a grin. However, she knew that Geist was right. Geist had that internal energizer thing going for her, which gave her a big advantage.
Melissa found the nearest entrance to the tunnels, then ran down into them. When she glanced back, Geist’s image was still following her. The sight made Melissa grin. As soon as they were far enough into the tunnels, Melissa reached into her pocket and pulled out her secret weapon. Hitting Geist with the pie would have been totally awesome, but Imp told her that she needed a backup plan, and this was it.
“Hey, Geist,” Melissa called out as she came to an abrupt stop. “Catch…”
Melissa threw the small canister down the hallway, towards Geist, where it hit the ground and exploded in thick smoke. An instant later, Melissa teleported further down the hall, away from Geist, and immediately began holding her nose. At the same time, Geist’s image vanished, while the real Geist suddenly reappeared, though she dropped to the her knees and began coughing and gagging.
“I told you that you stink,” Melissa exclaimed with a giggle, that she cut short as she caught just a whiff of the stench that was overwhelming her classmate. “And I warned you not to follow me…” Then, Melissa turned and ran further down the tunnels as quick as she could, eager to get away from that foul smell. She giggled as she did so, and announced, “Trixie makes the BEST stink bombs on campus…”
The Village, Thursday evening, Oct 4th, 2007
I was outside, sitting at one of the tables near my apartment building. At the moment, I was smoking a cigarette while drawing in my sketch book, just taking the opportunity to relax in general.
The sketch I was currently working on, was a picture of Melissa. I was feeling pretty proud of my apprentice, especially since she’d managed to deal with Geist mostly on her own. Sure, I’d given her some advice, but she was the one who figured out the details and pulled it off.
“A stink bomb,” I said with a chuckle and an evil grin, wishing that I’d been there to see it myself. “In an enclosed space no less.”
There was no doubt in my mind that Geist would remember this incident, and would hold it against Melissa. I did feel a little bad about Melissa making an enemy this way, but Geist was already the type to go after her, so all Melissa really did, was give her a better reason to do so.
And of course, Melissa had begun the first steps to building her own reputation. Whether she went the hero or villain route, a reputation would be important. However, exactly what that reputation would eventually end up being, would only be revealed in time.
I took a drag of my cigarette, then went back to work on the sketch. I was pretty sure that I was capturing Melissa pretty well, especially the mischievious gleam in her eye.
“Imp,” a voice suddenly called out, making me lose my focus.
“Tabby,” I said, greeting the woman who was coming towards me. And beside her, was Louis. I nodded to him. “Hey, Foob.”
“I just heard about your game with the Secret Squirrels,” Tabby commented with an amused look.
“You sound like you approve,” I said curiously. I wouldn’t have expected a hero to approve of what I was up to.
“Back when I was a student here,” Tabby told me, “I had a few dealings with their predecessors.”
“Did you know,” Louis asked me, “that several faculty members have wagers on this?”
“Nope,” I answered cheerfully as I put out my cigarette. “But I’m not surprised.”
“So, what started this little game?” Tabby asked, taking a seat at the table.
“Just some meddling kids, who decided to challenge me,” I answered with an evil grin. “If they didn’t want to play with me, they shouldn’t have kept bugging my classroom.”
“Don’t you feel guilty though?” Tabby asked me. “They are just kids.”
With a chuckle, I pointed out, “Well, I am a teacher, and I’m in the process of teaching them a valuable lesson…”
Louis smiled at that and commented, “I imagine that it is the same lesson you recently taught Samantha Everhart.”
Tabby reached out for my sketch book and stared at it for a moment. “This is pretty good,” she said. Then she flipped through the pages. “They’re all pretty good.”
“Thank you,” I responded.
“I know you’re an art thief,” Tabby said, “but I never would have pegged you for an artist yourself.”
“Imp is full of surprises,” Louis said, giving me a knowing look and a smirk.
“I was wondering,” I asked Louis in response. “What’s your favorite flavor of Jello?”
Louis chuckled at that, then told Tabby, “Imp is quite a talented artist. If she hadn’t gone into her previous career, I believe she could have had quite a career in making art, rather than stealing it.”
“But stealing it is so much fun,” I responded with an evil grin and a swish of my tail.
“I imagine that stopping you from stealing it would be amusing as well,” Tabby added with a smirk.
“You’re just jealous because you’re not allowed to break into places and steal the shinies,” I told her smugly.
Tabby rolled her eyes at that. “Neither are you…not that this seems to have stopped you any.”
“I’m curious,” Louis said, drawing my attention again. “How much longer do you intend to play with those children?”
“As long as I need to,” I told him with a broad grin and a swish of my tail. “But the game is about to pick up the pace. Now, the real fun begins.”