Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice (Part 4)
A Whateley Academy Story
Absinthe 2: The Absinthe of Malice
Tuesday, late morning, Nov 6th, 2007
Lunch was strangely quiet, or at least it was at my usual table. The rest of Crystal Hall was just as noisy and crowded as usual, though the absence of Collin during lunch was quite a noticeable one for me. I glanced to his empty seat, then turned my attention to eating in silence.
Neither Fixx or Porcelain were eating with me today either, but that was nothing unusual as they only ate at this table half the time anyway. Still, when I’d talked to Fixx earlier today, he’d been friendly and hadn’t seemed to blame me for what happened with Collin. In fact, he didn’t seem to really know what was going on, only that Collin and I had some kind of fight. Thankfully, he’d simply declared himself to be Switzerland and refused to take sides.
To my surprise…and intense relief, Fixx hadn’t shown any signs of knowing that I used to be Adam. In fact, it seemed that Collin hadn’t told anyone, or at least no one I’d noticed. One of my greatest fears was that I’d come to class today and have all the other students pointing at me and laughing. I wasn’t sure why Collin was holding back when he had such a dangerous piece of information to use against me, but I was thankful that he was.
Are you okay?” Jinx asked me with a concerned look.
Just peachy,” I responded, looking around the table at the Poe girls who were trying to give me support.
Dana and Jinx were at my table, as they normally were, but they weren’t the only ones. Today, I was also eating lunch with Lina, Cindy, Breakdown, and even Downpour. Other students from Poe kept stopping by to check up on me, having heard about my secret being blown. I knew a lot of them were worried about Poe’s secret being blown open because of this, and though a couple Poesies seemed to blame me, most had offered their support instead.
Hey, how are you doing?” Zenith asked as she came over.
Not too good,” I told her. Then I gave her a weak smile and added. “So far, no one else seems to know about…” I paused at that. “But I keep expecting the other shoe to drop.”
There are…actions we can take,” Zenith said carefully. “Several of us are considering our options.”
I gulped at that, then pleaded, “Don’t hurt Collin…”
Zenith just gave me a faint smile and a pat on the shoulder before she wandered off to join a girl with dark skin and hair, her girlfriend Sahar. The two of them talked as they walked off together, making me a little worried about what they might do to keep Poe’s secret.
Did you hear?” Dana asked with a grin. “Stoppable has been hanging out with Stinky.”
I smiled faintly at that, pleased with the knowledge that Centurion was quickly developing a new reputation. Thanks to that stink illusion I’d cast on him several times now, a few people were already avoiding him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really in the mood to properly enjoy the suffering that my actions had been inflicting on Centurion.
Then Dana gave an exaggerated sigh and said, “It’s not fair.”
What isn’t?” Jinx asked her curiously.
Gwen and Fixx both have arch enemies,” Dana said with mock pout. “It’s not fair. I want a nemesis too…”
I thought you already had one,” I said, thinking of the MCO agent Owens who’d caused her so much trouble.
Yeah,” Jinx agreed with an amused look. “Monday mornings.”
Dana brightened at that and then jumped to her feet, exclaiming, “Curse you Monday mornings. I will be avenged…” Everyone at the table burst out laughing, except for Downpour and myself. I at least gave it a faint chuckle.
With that, I reached out through one of my faeries, the one I was using to keep tabs on Centurion during lunch, and hit him with a renewed version of the spell. I smiled as I remotely watched everyone at his table scoot away from him. This actually was pretty good at picking up my mood.
When I finished eating, I started to get up to leave when Downpour put a hesitant hand on my arm to stop me. “I hope things work out,” she told me quietly.
I gulped, wondering how my life had gotten so bad that Downpour of all people would feel sorry for me. “Thanks,” I told her, appreciating the sentiment though. With as bad as things were for her, it said something about her that she was still able to care about other people.
And if you need his ass kicked,” Lina said with a grin. “We’ll be happy to help.”
Damn skippy,” Dana agreed.
Well, I’ve got an appointment to get to,” I told them with a sigh. “I’ll see you guys later.”
With that, I mentally touched each of the faerie scouts I’d sent out to keep an eye on someone, making sure that none of my targets were close to me. Peeper was currently head first in a garbage can, courtesy of a girl he’d annoyed too much. Centurion was now eating at a table by himself, and Collin was sitting on a bench just outside of Crystal Hall. I made a mental note to take a different way out.
I said goodbye to my friends, then started towards Kane Hall where I had another appointment to act as an intermediary between the MCO and a student. Unlike the last time where I knew both parties, this time I was nervous. I didn’t really know anyone involved this time, but Dad and Mrs. Carson had asked me to help out so I was going to do my best.
As I reached Kane Hall, I mentally reached out to the faerie lookouts that I’d left behind, planning to remotely destroy them as I usually did. When I checked on the one that was watching Collin, I was surprised to see Dana come over and sit down on the bench beside him. Because of that, I stopped walking and paid more attention to what was going on with them.
What in the world did you say to Gwen?” Dana asked Collin in a deceptively pleasant tone. “I mean, last night she was so upset, she ran into the forbidden forest…”
What?” Collin responded in confusion. “Forbidden forest?”
You know,” Dana told him with a scowl. “The grove that all the students were warned away from. The one where we were told never to go because students sometimes disappear there?”
Wait,” Collin blurted out, looking surprised. “Gwen went in there?”
She came back...obviously,” Dana told him. “But she was crying for half the night.” I had cried a little after returning to Poe, but not for half the night. “So what did you say to her?”
Collin scowled, starting to look angry again. He gave Dana a flat look before saying, “I found out that she’s been lying to me and I called her on it.”
What did she lie about?” Dana asked quietly. She watched Collin with an intense look.
Collin was silent for several long seconds, then he answered, “You’re her roommate…so you probably have a right to know.” I gulped at that, wanting to tear my eyes away from the scene but I couldn’t. I had to keep watching. Then he continued, “But you’ll have to ask her yourself. It’s not my secret to share.”
I let out a sigh of relief at that, though I was a bit surprised as well. Even though he was pissed at me, Collin still hadn’t told anyone about who I used to be. I couldn’t help but respecting that. Dana nodded and visibly let out a breath she’d been holding. I suddenly wondered what she would have done if Collin had revealed I used to be a boy. Would she tell Zenith and everyone else that Poe’s secret really was in danger? Was there someone else nearby, ready to take action if she did?
Gwen was just using me,” Collin spat out angrily. “She was just getting close to me so she could get even for…for something that happened back in Seattle.”
Dana stared at her for a moment and then burst out laughing. “Do you really think Gwen was trying to hurt you by kissing you?” She snorted at that and shook her head. “I know for a fact that she was doing it because she liked it. Hell, I had to listen to her complain about feeling guilty for liking it so much.”
What?” I blurted out, blushing in embarrassment, hardly able to believe that Dana was telling him that.
This is Gwen we’re talking about here,” Dana continued, smirking as she did so. “If Gwen really wanted to go after you, how do you think she’d do it?”
Collin sat there for several long seconds with a thoughtful look on his face before admitting, “She’d probably do something like use an illusion to make herself look like me, then go find the biggest and meanest guy she could, then insult his momma and his manhood… After that, she’d probably just sit back and watch as he pounded me into the ground.”
Yeah,” Dana agreed with a laugh. “That definitely sounds like Gwen.”
I nodded at that, musing, “That’s a great idea…” I just wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing that for Centurion. Then again, I might have if I hadn’t already decided on simply using him as a guinea pig.
Then it certainly doesn’t sound like she’s out to get you,” Dana told Collin firmly. “If she was, she could have just let the MCO have you back in Seattle.”
Maybe,” Collin admitted grimly. “But she still lied to me. There’s something you don’t know, and…” He paused at that to shake his head.
Dana stood up from the bench and let out a very unfeminine snort. “Are you saying that you’re perfect and never make mistakes?”
No,” Collin started.
He was about to say something else but Dana cut him off. “So, you’re just mad that she didn’t trust you with her deepest and darkest secrets?”
That’s not what I’m saying,” Collin snapped.
Didn’t you think that maybe she had a reason for keeping her secret?” Dana asked. “A reason that doesn’t have anything to do with you?”
It doesn’t matter,” Collin said as he got up and started to walk away. “Gwen is just an illusion, like everything else she does.”
If you can’t accept her for who she is rather than who she used to be,” Dana said grimly, “then you probably don’t even deserve her.”
Collin paused to give Dana a look of surprise, but she turned and walked away. I gulped, tearing my attention away from that faerie and ordering it to self-destruct. Tears were starting to run down my cheeks again.
Not now,” I said, wiping the tears away and trying to control my emotions. I was good at putting my fear and worries aside when I was fighting, so why was it so difficult any other time? “Stupid girl hormones.”
I remained standing where I was for a few more minutes until I got myself back under control. I felt embarrassed, but it helped to remember that I actually had a job to do, a job that my dad had actually trusted me with. The fact that he trusted me to do something like this meant a lot and I wasn’t going to let him down.
Once I was calm and in control, I continued to Kane Hall where the interview was scheduled to take place. I arrived in time to see that the two MCO agents were already there, both wearing dark suits and looking rather grim. One was tall and slender with thinning hair while the other was shorter and stockier, but both had expressions that made them look like they were sucking on lemons.
I can’t believe these so called security people took our weapons,” the stocky MCO agent told the thin one. “How do they expect us to interrogate a dangerous mutant if we aren’t even armed?”
Don’t worry,” the thin one responded quietly. “I have a backup piece in case we need it.”
I had been about to introduce myself to the two agents, but instead I sat down in a chair in the hallway, close enough that I could listen in on them and far enough away that I wouldn’t be too noticeable about it. I pulled out my cell phone and fiddled with it for a moment before putting it back into my pocket. Then I looked around, noticing that a man from Whateley Security was also nearby, keeping an eye on the MCO agents without appearing to be doing so.
What I’m concerned about,” the thin man commented with scowl, “is that Agent Winslow insisted that if we were going to operate in this jurisdiction, we have to allow one of the local field office’s interns to sit in.”
Well, it should be educational for him,” the stocky one responded with a faint chuckle. “Remember, we were both rookies at one time too. Maybe we teach the kid a few things, show him the ropes and all.”
If he even shows up,” the thin one pointed out, looking at his watch. “The intern is late…and so is our suspect.”
I frowned as I silently watched the MCO agents, waiting for the witness to arrive. I hadn’t even officially met these guys yet and I could already see why dad had been concerned about them. When they looked down the hallway, their auras were tense and wary. And when they caught sight of me, their auras both flashed with instant suspicion and hostility. From what little I could see, they were cast from the same mold as Agent Whells and Dana’s friend Owens. They seemed to think that all mutants were enemies and that they were soldiers in some kind of race war.
A minute later, a woman from Whateley security arrived with the witness, a sophomore boy named Grit. Grit was a bit chubby, with a bald head and grayish tan skin that had the look and texture of rough sandpaper. I’d never actually met the guy, but I’d looked up his MID last night and knew that he was a low level terrakinetic, able to move very small pieces of stone around at will. Basically, he could move and control sand, but no more at one time than what would fit inside a beach bucket.
This is Grit,” the woman from security told the MCO agents. “As you already know, we’ve set aside a room for you to use during your interview.” She gestured to a doorway near where they were standing.
The agents both stared at Grit for a moment, their expressions almost unreadable. However, I could see their auras at the same time and immediately noticed flashes of fear, suspicion, and hostility. These guys might appear to be professional on the surface, but it was clear that they definitely had their issues with Grit. After a moment, all three of them went into the room. I took that as my cue and got up to follow them.
Once I was in the room, the woman from Whateley security went back into the hall, closing the door behind her. The MCO agents and Grit all gave me a look of surprise, obviously wondering who I was and why I’d just walked into their interview.
What do you think you’re doing?” the stocky agent demanded of me. Then with a faint smirk, he said, “Unless you’re an MCO agent, you can get out of here right now.”
I’m not an agent,” I responded with a cheerfulness I didn’t really feel. With that, I held up my MCO employee ID card and said, “I’m just an intern.”
Grit and the two agents both stared at me in surprise but it was the stocky agent who blurted out, “But you’re a mutant…”
Yep,” I agreed with a grin. “The MCO is trying to recruit more mutants to help with the whole public image thing. As you can tell, they’re trying to get us young.”
YOU work for the MCO?” Grit gasped, obviously confused.
I’m just an intern,” I pointed out, then turned back to the agents and explained, “Agent Winslow asked me to observe your interview. She said it would be really educational for me to see how a couple of experienced and professional agents operated.”
But you’re a student,” Grit blurted out, obviously noticing the fact that I was wearing a school uniform.
A freshman,” I agreed, giving him a smile. Then I introduced myself to the MCO agents. “I’m Absinthe. I’m really happy you’re letting me be here. Agent Winslow said I could learn a lot from you.”
In spite of the fact that neither of the agents was happy to see me, the stocky one puffed up a little at my compliments. Of course, I’d been flattering them intentionally as part of my plan to smooth things over. I might be having some personal issues right now, but focusing on doing this task I’d been given to the best of my abilities had already proven to be a good way of distracting myself.
The room didn’t look anything like what I would have expected of an interrogation room. It was well lit and had carpet instead of a concrete or tile floor. There was a round table in the middle of the room with a half dozen chairs set around it. A single look was enough to show that this was a conference room rather than an interrogation room, which was probably why security had given this room to the MCO agents to use.
I took a chair and set it back from the table, so that like with my interview with Grace and Dana, I’d indicate that I was an observer and not a part of the interview. But before I actually sat down, I noticed the coffee pot in the corner and smiled. A moment later, I was getting coffee for everyone, which seemed to confuse the MCO agents even more. By the time I did sit down, it was obvious that I’d confused them and had broken the menacing mood they’d been planning.
When the interview finally began, the thin man told Grit, “I am Agent Jones and this is Agent Smith…”
Excuse me,” I interrupted, giving my best confused look. “I’m sorry, but there must have been some kind of miscommunication. I was told Doug Harlin and Eduard McCormick would be the ones doing the interview…”
Both agents paled as I gave their real names and I could see their auras flush with annoyance and frustration. However, neither of them responded to my comments and instead went into questioning Grit on the things he’d witnessed. Grit told the story of how he was at the mall with his friends when a mutant who called himself The Walker appeared and began killing people. The thin agent…Harlin and the stocky one…McCormick, kept interrupting Grit and asking apparently unrelated questions.
And after killing all those people,” McCormick asked, “he just happened to let you walk away…?”
Grit was shaking and in tears after telling his story. “He said that because I’m a mutant, I don’t deserve to die like the baselines…”
I think that you were his accomplice,” Harlin said. “I think you were helping him in this attack…”
Grit looked absolutely horrified at that and blurted out, “I lost friends to that bastard… I want you to catch him…”
We’re going to need to take you to our office for further questions,” Harlin said grimly.
Only if you agree,” I told Grit, which seemed to surprise Harlin and McCormick.
He doesn’t get a choice about being arrested,” Harlin pointed out with a look of contempt.
Instead of cowering back and being intimidated like he intended, I gave him my best grin and exclaimed, “Oh, I get it. You’re testing me. You guys are both really experienced agents, so of course you both know you don’t have the authority to arrest anyone here at Whateley. I mean, Grit is only here because he agreed to talk with you, and he could get up and walk out any time he wanted…”
What?” Grit asked, looking at me in surprise.
And if you did try taking him out of here against his will,” I continued cheerfully, “that would constitute kidnapping and the Whateley security people would act accordingly.” Then I gave the agents my best innocent look as I asked, “Did I pass your test?”
Of course you did,” Harlin responded with a forced smile, though his aura was flashing with anger and frustration that I’d called him on his BS. “Very astute of you. I’ll make sure to tell Agent Winslow.”
Since I’d reminded Grit that he had more control over this interview than he’d thought and that he could end it at any time, he became a bit more confident. Harlin and McCormick, on the other hand, were forced to be more calm and professional if they wanted it to continue.
I just sat back, flipping through a couple note cards that I’d brought with me, each making references to several MCO rules and regulations. Dad had sent me a file with some of these rules and regulations that he thought would be relevant to the interview, and part of my job here was to make sure Harlin and McCormick didn’t violate them. I felt like a hypocrite for quoting rules and regulations and knew that my dad was probably laughing his butt off.
I didn’t think we could do that,” I commented, again trying to act like I had no idea of what I was really doing. “I mean, doesn’t regulation thirty-four fifteen specify that…”
McCormick scowled at that and shook his head. “Yeah, you know your regulations… I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”
The interview lasted for a couple hours, and by the time it was over, Grit had told Harlin and McCormick everything he knew about the incident…multiple times. Harlin and McCormick had gotten all the information they’d come for, but they were both frustrated by the way I’d blocked their methods. Of course, I suspected that what they’d really come here for had been a scapegoat they could take into custody, and I’d prevented that entirely.
Thanks for letting me sit in on that,” I told the agents as they were leaving. “I really learned a lot.”
It was nice to meet you, Absinthe,” McCormick told me with a forced smile. “I’ll let Agent Winslow know that you were really on top of your regulations.”
You certainly are,” Harlin added, giving me a thoughtful look that made me think he’d finally realized my real purpose for being there.
Once Harlin and McCormick were gone, Grit stared at me for a moment and said, “Thanks…for all that.”
I was just playing mediator,” I told him as I pulled my cell phone back out.
Grit snorted at that. “I’m not stupid. If it hadn’t been for you, those guys probably would have arrested me…”
They might have tried,” I admitted. “But security wouldn’t have let them. I was just here to make sure everything went as smooth as possible.” Then I held up my phone and grinned. “And to make sure they didn’t try anything. I’ve got the whole interview recorded, and if they’d gone too far, the whole thing would have gone to Whateley security and MCO internal affairs.”
Shit,” Grit exclaimed, staring at me in surprise. “And you really work for the MCO?” After I showed him my employee ID, he shook his head and muttered, “I never would have believed it… A mutant working for the MCO.”
After this, I started back to Poe, deciding that it was too late to catch any of my afternoon classes. The interview had lasted even longer than I’d expected, much to my annoyance. I’d actually been looking forward to catching my afternoon magic class.
I had nearly reached Poe when something suddenly slammed into me from behind, driving me face first into the ground. The impact with the ground hurt, but I was immediately hit again with what felt like punches to my kidneys. I screamed out, only to hear someone laughing.
Gotcha now,” Switchblade exclaimed from above me.
Bastard,” I spat out in pain, knowing that he’d hit me from behind with his enhanced speed, making sure to take me down before I’d even had a chance to see him coming.
With a thought, I sent my faerie to slam into him with a full dose of glamour while I struggled to get to my feet. He staggered and began swinging his fists as something only he could see, but before I could take advantage of this, I suddenly found myself being grabbed from behind by someone with a very strong grip. Even before looking, I already knew who it was.
I’ve got you now, you cheating bitch,” Centurion exclaimed.
I was already feeling pretty sore from Switchblade’s attack, but I had plenty of training in how to deal with being grabbed from behind like this. I squirmed to get loose, elbowing him in the stomach and kicking him in the shin. Unfortunately, he was powered up and too tough for that to have much of an effect. But of course, this was why I had some stored spells, like the one that gave me a slippery field. I activated that and then slipped right out of his grip.
Before I could do more than move a step, I was suddenly hit with a blast of force and sent flying, courtesy of Slingshot. She came running up with a smirk on her face while I was trying to get off the ground. My entire body felt bruised from her force blast.
I bet you didn’t think I’d find out about that curse you put on me,” Centurion snarled angrily. “People were laughing at me because of you…”
He smelled like shit,” Slingshot exclaimed, looking as offended as if I’d done it to her. “It was disgusting…”
You’re too big of a coward to fight me straight on,” Centurion stated as he came towards me. “You have to cheat…just like you always do.”
And jumping me from behind with three people isn’t cowardly?” I asked sarcastically
I don’t like beating on a girl,” Switchblade admitted, looking rather uncomfortable.
I don’t usually like hitting girls either,” Centurion responded grimly. “But I’m making an exception for this bitch.”
With that, I unleashed my two remaining stored spells at once, creating a burst of light to blind them as well as a couple illusion copies of myself. And while they were distracted, I reached behind me to pull out Needle. But just as I drew Needle from its sheath, Slingshot fired another blast of kinetic energy in my direction, sending me flying.
I’m all tapped out,” Slingshot told her friends.
Centurion rushed over and kicked me, apparently noticing that my illusions didn’t go flying from Slingshot’s blast the way I did. I screamed as my ribs cracked under the impact, and I tried to slash at him with Needle, only to have him grab my arm and twist. I felt the bones break with a massive surge of pain.
I know all your tricks now,” Centurion bragged. “I’m not falling for them…”
I screamed in agony, terror and rage, unleashing all the raw magic I could. Dozens of faerie popped into existence around me…hundreds. Waves of glamour rolled off of me, washing over my three attackers. Slingshot immediately began screaming about bugs and then ran away as though being chased by her worst nightmare. However, Centurion just snarled and kicked me again, sending me flying. I lost consciousness before I even landed.
Friday afternoon, Nov 9th, 2007
The courtyard which served as a throne room was large and impressive, framed by trees that had branches which grew entwined together, forming intricate and artistic patterns. I stood in the middle of the courtyard, flanked by two armed guards who were to ensure I didn’t attempt to escape. However, my attention was on neither the impressive décor nor the guards, but instead on Queen Aunghadhail, who stood in front of her throne, glaring down at me.
Queen Aunghadhail was furious at me and her fury radiated with such power that the very weather trembled as a result. The sky, which was clearly visible above, was darkened with storm clouds. Lightning flashed and the thunder boomed. However, it was not the storm which held the source of my fear, but the queen who was causing it. At her full strength, Queen Aunghadhail was a force of nature which could not be escaped or defied. Her power slammed into me, past all my wards and shields, filling me with terror and making me want to simultaneously run away and drop to my knees to beg forgiveness. I did neither, using all the strength of my will to merely remain standing.
The small part of me that was aware of the fact that this was a dream remembered having this same dream before, though this was the part of the dream where I’d previously woken up in a cold sweat. This was the same dream that had sent me running away in terror the first time I met Nikki, the one still sent chills down my spine at the very mention of Aunghadhail’s name.
“You disobeyed my order,” Queen Aunghadhail said. She spoke in a cold tone at a conversational volume, but her voice easily carried across the entire throne room. “You interfered with the Artificer.”
I didn’t say a word in my defense as I braced myself against her presence, knowing that it would do no good. My thoughts turned to my crimes, to the way I’d tried helping Ashtea. For two moons, I’d come to see Ashtea every day, playing music or merely speaking to her. Once, I’d seen a spark of her soul, and since then, I’d done everything within my power to awaken her soul…to draw it back out. I tried to make her laugh, to make her cry, and even to make her angry. None of those had elicited a response. In the end, I’d actually interfered in her work, hoping that if anything would draw forth her emotions, that would be it. And though my actions still didn’t have the desired effect upon Ashtea, they did serve to get me caught.
In my attempts to free Ashtea, I’d not only disobeyed my queen but had committed an act of treason in the process. And to my shame, even that had been for naught. Perhaps everyone else had been correct and I had merely imagined the spark of a soul. Perhaps the Artificer truly was nothing more than a construct.
Queen Aunghadhail gathered control of her emotions and power, halting the storm in the process. Her power stopped radiating out from her so forcefully, though I held no doubts that it was still there, just as strong as ever. With a mere gesture from the queen, my guards turned and left the throne room, as did nearly everyone else. The only one to remain besides the queen and myself was one of her advisors, an ancient Sidhe of great wisdom.
“You disobeyed the order of your queen,” Queen Aunghadhail stated, her voice no longer filled with fury but with sadness instead. “This is a crime that must be punished lest others think they can defy my authority as well. No one can be allowed to disobey my orders, not even you. I fear you have left me no choice but to banish you from Court of the West.”
My heart ached at the sentence, as though a dagger had been driven into it. I had known my punishment would not be light, but I had not suspected it would be so cruel.
“Your majesty,” the advisor said, pleading on my behalf. “Vauldrene has served the court well, and her skills are such that they may still be of use. With the growing threat we face, it might be wise to make use of every asset available. Might I suggest a partial banishment, an exile to our furthest territory where she be tasked to guard our borders?”
“Let it be so,” Queen Aunghadhail announced, revealing a sense of relief for those who knew her well enough to see the signs. Then she looked me in the eyes and sadly said, “I truly regret having to pass such a sentence upon the only child of my sister.”
I awoke to find myself in a hospital room, the same one that I’d briefly found myself in several times before, though I’d quickly returned to sleep each of the previous times. My mind was still caught up in the various dreams I’d had, some of which were THOSE dreams while others had been the normal variety. I was pretty sure that the dream with the polar bear chasing after me and trying to take my ice cream cone had never actually happened, not to me and not to the ancestor who’s memories I was sharing. However, there had been another dream where I’d been a Sidhe child…a little girl…
Though I’d been slipping in and out of various dreams, there was one dream that stuck with me with a stunning clarity. This was the last dream that I’d just awoken from, the one that had previously filled me with fear of Aunghadhail, but which had now answered some of my questions. After all the times I’d dreamed of my ancestor’s life, I still hadn’t even known her name, not until now.
Vauldrene,” I whispered, feeling an even stronger connection to her than I had before, if that was even possible.
It had bothered me that I’d shared her appearance, her powers, and even her memories, but until now I hadn’t even known her name. I could have asked Nikki if Aunghadhail had ever mentioned having a sister or niece, but that would have been quite an awkward conversation. Then again, any conversation with Nikki was awkward, and I now knew why.
After awhile, I sat up in bed, only to wince in discomfort as I did so. My entire body felt pretty sore, though admittedly, not nearly as much as I would have expected. Obviously, someone had been at work with some healing spells. And considering that I’d been worked over by someone with enhanced strength, they’d probably been some pretty powerful ones. Most of my injuries appeared to have been dealt with, though I still had some healing left to do.
I settled back into the bed, then noticed that there were magical wards all around me. I stared at them with my mage sight, taking a moment to make out how the magic was formed. It was a shield to contain my glamour, and a pretty strong one at that. I could probably have blasted out with my glamour at full strength and someone standing right next to me wouldn’t have felt a thing.
Thinking about my glamour made me realize that I didn’t have a single faerie currently in existence, which said something about how long I’d been out of it. I frowned at that, having grown so used to having my faeries around that I almost felt naked without having at least one of them present. With that, I released a small surge of magic, just enough to make one of them appear. And though the wards around me served to contain my glamour, I still began sending my glamour to the faerie just out of habit. Strangely enough, I seemed to be generating a bit more of it than before.
Then my thoughts turned to how I’d ended up here. I grimaced, growing angry as I thought of the way Centurion and his friends had ambushed me. It reminded me far too much of the way things used to be, of the way bullies used to make my life a living hell. They used to jump me after school or even between classes, beating me up simply because they could, because they found some kind of twisted amusement or sense of power in being able to do that to another person.
I’d begun taking self-defense lessons from Doug so I could protect myself from those kinds of attacks, and I’d gotten into free running so I could avoid them entirely. Now, it almost felt like everything I’d learned in the last two years had been for nothing. I was right back where I’d started from.
That bastard,” I whispered, feeling angry, frustrated, and humiliated.
I never felt the least bit ashamed when it came to running away from a fight, but I certainly did now. I felt vulnerable and helpless, things that I hadn’t really felt in a long time. I’d hated feeling like this back then and I hated it even more now. What was the point of being a mutant or having magic powers if I still ended up like this?
With a grimace, I promised, “He’s going to pay for this.”
I’d never been a big believer in revenge, thinking that it was usually kind of pointless. After all, why go looking for more trouble than what you already had? Admittedly, after Centurion had broken my arm, I’d taken it personally and had gone after him in revenge. And as if to prove my usual philosophy, that had merely provoked him to his more recent attack, or at least, that was what he’d used to rationalize it. But in spite of that, I fully intended to go after Centurion and his friends for this. If I let him get away with this, then I’d feel this weak and helpless again every time I saw him, and I absolutely refused to live like that.
Eventually, Dr. Tenent came into the room and smiled when she saw I was awake. “How are you feeling?” she asked me cautiously.
I feel like I got run over by a bus,” I complained, though I gave her a weak smile as I did so.
I’m not surprised,” she responded with a faint smile. “You were in pretty bad shape when you came in. We’ve healed you as much as possible, but your body was under a lot strain.”
How bad was it?” I asked, half afraid of the answer.
Dr. Tenent was silent for several long seconds, then her tone turned almost clinical as she stated, “Three broken ribs, a compound fracture in your right arm, a cracked collar bone, as well as a concussion, severe contusions over half your body, and some internal bleeding.”
I stared at her for a moment as I absorbed that, then gulped. “Ouch… No wonder I feel like this…”
You also entered burnout,” Dr. Tenent stated grimly, making me gulp again. Burnout could be even worse than all those injuries combined. Then as if hearing my thoughts, she admitted, “You came close to dying.”
I was shaken by that revelation but didn’t know what I could say to that. This wasn’t the first time that I’d been attacked by mutants and then ended up in the hospital with burnout afterwards, and I definitely remembered the last time. After all, the last time this had happened, I’d woken up as an elf girl. With that, I held up my hand, relieved to see that I hadn’t grown scales or anything else like that while I was out. As far as what I could tell, I hadn’t mutated any further.
Between your glamour and the army of hobgoblins,” Dr. Tenent told me with a faint smile, “I was told that it was difficult even getting you here for treatment.” Then she began looking me over and gave me a quick examination before saying, “Most of your physical injuries have been healed, but your body still needs to finish recovering. We’ll keep you here for another couple days so we can make sure there are no complications from your burnout.”
I groaned at that, definitely not liking the idea of being stuck in the hospital for a couple days. If I was going to be stuck in bed, I’d prefer that it was at least in my own room where I had a bit more privacy, not to mention, where I had all my stuff at hand.
Now then,” Dr. Tenent told me with an amused look. “You have some friends here who have been waiting rather impatiently to see you. I’ll let them in, but they can’t stay for very long. You need your rest.”
Dr. Tenent left the room and a minute later, four of my friends rushed in. I burst out laughing as there was a bottleneck in the doorway when they all tried coming in at once, resulting in them tripping over each other and then falling onto the floor. I absently wondered if Jinx’s presence might have caused the free entertainment, perhaps arranged subconsciously in order to improve my mood. Seconds later, Dana, Jinx, Lina, and Cindy were all standing around me.
How are you feeling?” Dana asked with a worried look.
I feel like someone with enhanced strength beat the crap out of me,” I answered with a wince. Then I joked, “And how are you?”
Oh, not bad,” Dana responded with a faint grin. “I’m starting to get used to having a room to myself. If you’re not back soon, I’m gonna have to steal your closet space.”
And she’ll do it too,” Jinx added with a faint smirk, sticking her tongue out at Dana. “For someone who was born a boy, she sure has a lot of clothes…”
I can’t believe that fucker did this to you,” Lina said with an angry look.
Cindy nodded agreement, a glass sword forming in her hand. “I can’t believe they got away with it…”
WHAT?” I gasped, only to wince in pain from the sudden movement.
Everyone knows who jumped you,” Cindy told me with a scowl. “But they don’t have any evidence…”
Dana snarled, her golden eyes looking furious and a faint golden glow formed around her body for a second. “Apparently, Centurion and his buddies got something from one of the devisors that knocked out all the security cameras in the area.”
But witnesses,” I started as my throat started to feel dry.
A couple kids saw everything and one of them said he came over to try helping you,” Jinx said uncomfortably. She didn’t look me in the eyes as she said, “But they were hallucinating so badly, security said their testimony wasn’t reliable enough.”
Well, one of them was yelling about the Martian invaders,” Cindy pointed out with a shake of her head. “No offense, but your glamour is some potent stuff.”
So I’ve been told,” I responded wryly, thinking that Ripple and the rest of the Dylans must be extremely disappointed that they’d missed out on the free acid trip.
Jinx nodded at that, then said, “Anyway, Dana tried going after Centurion for you…but security broke it up.”
Mrs. Carson gave me detention,” Dana muttered with a scowl. “In Hawthorne…for a week.” She shook her head at that, then added, “And on top of that, she gave me a lecture on being a vigilante. Jackie is never going to let me live that down…”
Sorry to hear it,” I told her, though I actually felt pretty touched that she’d go after Centurion for me.
After the initial greetings were over, my friends filled me in on what had been happening over the last two days while I was out. Most of what they had to tell me dealt with my attack and how different people were reacting, though there were a few other things. I had to bite back a laugh when I heard about Jade’s latest prank, though I wondered how she could have possibly gotten a freeze ray and penguins into Beltane’s room.
There is something else,” Dana said awkwardly, looking just a little uncomfortable.
What?” I asked, letting out a loud yawn as I was getting tired again already. “Did Jade decide to target our room too?”
No,” Dana said, giving me a wry smile. “But this isn’t good…at least not for you.”
Stop beating around the damn bush,” Lina told her with a roll of her eyes. She looked at me and said, “Pretty much everyone on campus knows you work for the MCO.”
What?” I gasped, only to wince in pain again.
Someone spread it around,” Cindy told me, giving me an apologetic look.
It was a guy called Grit,” Jinx added sympathetically. “I just happened to overhear him telling someone in the cafeteria.”
I closed my eyes at that, feeling hurt and betrayed after what I’d done for him. I’d protected him from Harlin and McCormick, and in return, he went and told everyone I worked for the MCO. And in a school full of mutants, that was bound to cause me trouble.
I think he was actually trying to talk you up,” Jinx told me, as if that made a difference. “He was talking about how you pulled your MCO badge on these agents, then made them look like idiots by quoting their own regulations at them.”
Dana snorted at that. “This is Gwen here. I have a hard time believing she’d ever quote any regulations.”
And I don’t have a badge,” I said defensively. “Only an employee ID.”
You still have to tell us all about it,” Lina insisted.
Just then, Dr. Tenent said, “But I’m afraid that will have to wait for another time.” She stood at the doorway, gesturing for everyone to leave. “Visiting time is over for now. Absinthe needs her rest.”
There were a few quick goodbyes, then everyone started for the door. Dana, who was the last one to go, had barely made it out the door before I closed my eyes and quickly drifted back to sleep. This time, there were no dreams that I could remember.
After I woke up a couple hours later, I had a few more visitors stop by. Breakdown, Shawn, Alyss, and Downpour came by to see if I was okay, though Downpour seemed pretty nervous about being there.
I really don’t like hospitals,” Downpour told me quietly, almost as if admitting a secret. Then she added, “Too many bad memories.”
Ditto,” Alyss commented wryly.
I nodded at that, then told them, “I really appreciate you coming anyway.” I looked at the others and added, “All of you.”
Maybe we should bring Danica,” Downpour said, getting my attention. She looked self-conscious as she admitted, “Petting the kitty girl always makes me feel better…”
Yeah,” Breakdown agreed with a grin. “And a laser pointer to tease her with. You might have fun playing with the cottage kitty.”
I just chuckled at that. “Somehow, I don’t think the kitty would appreciate that as much as you do.”
They didn’t stay long before leaving, though almost immediately, they were replaced with one more visitor. Nikki came in and stood by the door for a few seconds, looking hesitant about coming closer, almost as if afraid she’d make me nervous or uncomfortable. And considering how I’d behaved towards her in the past, those were some very legitimate concerns.
Hey,” I greeted her with a weak smile. “Thanks for accepting my invitation.”
Nikki smiled at that and came closer, responding, “How could I refuse?”
Pretty easily,” I admitted, feeling just a little guilty. “I haven’t exactly been the friendliest person to you.”
Nikki nodded at that, then told me, “True, but I can understand why.” She paused at that, then said, “You don’t seem as freaked out anymore, though.”
I’m getting over it,” I responded with a faint shrug. “I just don’t know why you keep bothering with me after the way I kept freaking out.”
We have a lot in common,” Nikki told me, giving me a wry smile. “One of the things I’ve had to deal with is the idea that since I’m Sidhe, I might very well outlive almost everyone I know and care about. Usually, it’s easier to just not think about that and to just enjoy what I have right now. But you’re in the same boat as me, and I thought it would be a shame if we weren’t even on speaking terms when we might both be around for quite some time.”
Oh yeah,” I said with a sigh. “The Sidhe lifespan. I’ve been told I might live a long time, but I have a hard time really absorbing it. I’m having enough trouble just getting used to being a girl.”
I know what you mean,” Nikki agreed.
We were silent for several long seconds before I cautiously said, “I’ve been having more dreams…about what happened back then.”
Oh?” Nikki responded, giving me a curious look.
I remembered the sentencing,” I said quietly, staring at the ceiling rather than looking at Nikki. “I remember when I…when Vauldrene was banished.” Then I paused, licking my lips and taking a deep breath before adding, “And I remember what Aunghadhail was to her before then.”
Vauldrene?” Nikki asked. “And what do you mean about what she was to Aunghadhail?”
Vauldrene,” another voice said from the doorway. “That is a name that I haven’t heard spoken aloud for a very long time.”
My eyes went to the doorway where two newcomers were entering. One of them was a tall and muscular boy, who looked old enough that he had to be a senior, though since this was Whateley, that appearance could be misleading.
However, the second person to come through the doorway, and the one who’d spoken, was much more surprising. He was an anthropomorphic bear, who was standing on his hind legs, and wearing some old-fashioned clothes, which probably would have looked appropriate during Shakespeare’s time.
Who…?” I started to ask, then paused as I took another look at the bear, using my mage sight. There were a lot of kids around this school with GSD, but to my mage sight, this bear appeared to be made entirely of magic, and was heavily connected to the boy.
This is Wyatt Cody,” Nikki said, indicating the boy. Then gestured to the bear and continued, “And this is his spirit, the Kodiak. I asked them to come take a look at you. They helped to heal you while you were unconscious.”
The bear, who Nikki had called the Kodiak, gave a bow. “As Ms. Reilly said, I am the Kodiak, spirit of the untamed Earth, Duke of the Court of the Center, Master Healer and Court Physician to her Majesty, Gaia, High Queen of the Natural Realm.”
No need for listing all your titles, Baloo,” Wyatt said with a chuckle. Then, he looked at me, musing, “So, you’re the girl I’ve been hearing about lately.”
The Kodiak seemed to ignore Wyatt as he as he straightened up and added, “I was also an associate of Aunghadhail.”
That last bit made me nearly jump up in bed, though the aching through my entire body prevented it. Still, I watched this bear, who was obviously much more than a bear, or even a mutant.
You know about Gwen’s ancestor?” Nikki asked, looking surprised.
Indeed, I do,” the Kodiak responded, watching me with a thoughtful expression. “Though I never met Vauldrene, Aunghadhail spoke of her on several occasions.”
My throat seemed to seize up at those words. It was difficult getting my throat to work again, enough to ask, “She did?”
The bear nodded at that, which was a strange sight. “Aunghadhail once told me, that circumstances forced her to exile a young Sidhe named Vauldrene, who had been the daughter of her sister.”
What?” Nikki gasped, now staring at me in surprise.
An adopted sister,” the spirit corrected. “Not one of birth.”
Nikki looked a little relieved at that. “That’s still…surprising.”
She regretted that need,” the Kodiak continued, “and intended to have the girl pardoned and returned, after only a century, but Vauldrene died before this could be done.”
For a moment, I just stared at the bear, remembering my dreams and knowing that I…that Vauldrene had no idea that her exile would ever end. She’d thought it was permanent, especially once she fled from that corrupted bear creature. I couldn’t help but feeling bad for the tragedy her life had become, especially since it had all happened because she’d tried doing the right thing.
Tell me how she died,” the Kodiak said in a gentle tone. He gave me a curious look. “Aunghadhail knew of her death, but not how it occurred.”
For several seconds, I just stared at this bear, wondering why I should tell him anything. After all, I didn’t know him or Wyatt, and I barely even knew Nikki. However, he said that he knew Aunghadhail, and he might be able to answer some of my questions too.
She and her scouts were ambushed,” I started quietly, feeling a cold knot in my stomach as I remembered the dreams. I knew intellectually that these events had happened to someone else, but there was still a part of me that felt like this was my own history. “By a creature…a...demon bear.”
I can assure you,” the Kodiak said, “that bear was not me or mine.”
I couldn’t bring myself to look at anyone as I told the story of how the corrupted bear creature had killed all the pixies, including X’rxi, and how it had also torn off Vauldrene’s arm. I told them about how Vauldrene had survived the attack and escaped, only to spend years running until she found sanctuary with a tribe of humans. I even told her about how Vauldrene had lived in shame and loneliness, and eventually died while protecting her baby.
Other than the Kodiak’s brief comment, nobody said anything while I was talking, and once I was finished, Nikki just stood there with a sad expression while the Kodiak had a thoughtful look on his face.
Thank you,” the bear told me. “Aunghadhail had always wondered about Vauldrene’s fate, and I know that if she was still here, she would have appreciated the chance to hear this.”
If she was still here,” I admitted quietly. “I’d probably be too freaked out to talk to her.”
With that talk of Aunghadhail, I stared at Nikki, remembering that Nikki had hosted Aunghadhail inside of her, almost like an avatar hosting a spirit. I wondering what it was like to share your mind with another person like that, especially one so old and powerful, and what it would have been like to lose them after that. I had a hard enough time just dealing with the dreams I’d inherited from Vauldrene.
It can’t be easy sharing those memories,” Nikki told me sympathetically.
I nodded at that, then admitted, “But I do get some good ones along with them. I mean, how many people get to have memories about dancing with pixies?”
That does sound pretty wild,” Wyatt said. For the most part, he’d been standing back, just watching and listening. Then, he looked to his spirit. “So Baloo, what do you think?”
I think that this young lady is in a very unique situation,” the bear responded.
Unique?” I asked skeptically. “I’m hardly the only person on campus who turned into a Sidhe.” I gestured to Nikki.
What I mean,” the bear said, giving me a thoughtful look, “is that humans and Sidhe are unable to interbreed. Their DNA is too incompatible…”
My dreams say otherwise,” I pointed out.
But they also provide an explanation,” the Kodiak responded, sounding a little smug.
The shaman’s spell,” Nikki said. “Gwen said that in her dream, the local shaman cast a spell that let Vauldrene have a baby with a human.”
Indeed,” the spirit responded. “I have heard of this spell, but have never personally seen it performed.” Then he paused for a moment, before musing, “I think I know a spirit who MIGHT know more about that spell. She might even be the one who taught the shaman…”
Nikki looked up at the strange spirit and said, “I wouldn’t think that a spell to make a woman more fertile, would be that rare.”
If this is the same spell that I believe,” the spirit explained, “then it does more than merely making a female become fertile. It takes two completely dissimilar and normally incompatible races, and allows them to breed. It does this by removing the DNA of one parent, so that physically, the child is merely a clone of the other. As the shaman was human, it makes sense that he would choose the human DNA to be the one present.”
This explanation confused me a bit, since if Vauldrene’s DNA had been removed from the mix, then she wouldn’t actually be my ancestor, and I wouldn’t look like I do now. However, before I could voice my questions with this, Nikki beat me to it.
Then that sounds more like cloning one person,” Nikki said, “than allowing two people to breed…”
Physically,” the Kodiak explained, sounding just a little impatient at having to explain this, “the child takes after one parent completely. However, on a mystic level, the other parent retains their place, and all their suppressed DNA remains stored. Any spell used to identify the child’s parents, will identify both, even if on the surface, the child only takes after one of them.”
I took a moment to absorb that information, though I was still a little confused. “So, I look like Vauldrene because…?”
Since I have not examined the spell that was originally used,” the Kodiak answered, “I cannot be certain. However, I believe that Vauldrene’s marker was passed down through her bloodline, to all of her descendants, until your mutation somehow unlocked it and her DNA.”
Wait,” Nikki said, staring at me again. “You make it sound like her power somehow reversed the original spell…”
Her mutation may very well have interacted with the original spell,” the spirit responded. “Or with whatever echo of it remained. Without having seen the original spell, or having examined Absinthe before her mutation, I am unable to say for certain. What I do know, is that Vauldrene’s DNA appears to have become dominant and replaced what had been there.”
My eyes widened at that. “So,” I said, now understanding what the bear had been saying. “Basically, I’ve turned into her clone…”
That is one way of looking at this,” the bear agreed. “I believe that you’ve inherited your ancestral DNA and memories, due to how your mutation interacted with the remnants of that original spell.” He paused at that, giving me a thoughtful look before adding, “It seems that you’ve become Vauldrene’s tsievra kol, which means true heir, or one fated to inherit her powers.”
I collapsed back into my bed at that, now more emotionally stunned and exhausted than I was physically. That was a lot of information to absorb, and I was glad that I’d shared some of my dreams, since I’d been able to learn this in return. I finally had some answers about what had happened to me.
Just then, one of the nurses came into the room and smiled. “I’m afraid visiting hours are over for now. Absinthe is going to need a little more rest.”
Though I wanted to argue with the nurse, I let out a loud yawn instead. I was definitely still feeling tired, and after my visitors said goodbye and left, I quickly went back to sleep. A short time later, I was firmly ensconced in a dream where I was a little Sidhe girl.
Sunday afternoon, Nov 11th, 2007
I was sick and tired of sitting around in a hospital bed, which is what I’d been doing for the last forty-eight hours since I’d woken up here. And since I’d spent the previous three days here while unconscious, that was five days total, which was far too long for my tastes.
After letting out a sigh, I closed the spellbook that Dana had brought from our room. Between the books and my laptop, I’d been able to keep myself occupied, but I was still pretty bored. I was still a bit sore and tired, but at least I had recovered enough that I wanted to get up and go do something. Or at the very least, recover the rest of the way in my own room.
Of course, there had been a few other things to occupy my attention besides my reading and surfing on the internet. There had been the several exams from the doctors, not to mention the various visitors.
This morning, Fixx, Porcelain, and Vulpine had all shown up, as well as some of the girls from Poe. However, there had also been one particularly noticeable absence from my visitor list. Collin. Dana told me that he’d been in the waiting room while I was unconscious, but since I woke up, there hadn’t been any sign of him. I didn’t know why I felt so hurt by that, especially when I should have expected it.
Fortunately, Dr. Tenent said that I was doing well enough that I could probably leave the hospital tomorrow morning. As far as I was concerned, it couldn’t happen soon enough. Even with my spellbooks, laptop, and visitors, I was still bored out of my mind.
Just then, there was a knocking on the door, which was wide open. Grace stood in the doorway, giving me a smile before coming in and looking me over.
How are you doing?” she asked me, looking as though she couldn’t quite decide whether to be worried or relieved. “They told me you were hurt pretty bad.”
Just a half dozen broken bones or so,” I responded with a smile, trying to sound as though it wasn’t a big deal. “Plus a concussion, serious bruising, internal bleeding, and a small bout of burnout.”
Grace winced at that as she came in. She gave me a steady look and said, “Whateley security wouldn’t tell me who attacked you.”
I hesitated at that, knowing full well why they’d kept it quiet. This was Whateley business and they didn’t want the MCO involved. That they’d called Grace at all was simply due to the fact that I’d had her listed as my local contact in case of emergencies. Of course, they’d called Mom and Dad as well, but they’d been assured that there was no need for them to fly all the way out here. In fact, my situation had probably been downplayed in order to relieve their fears.
Just a squabble with another student,” I told her grimly, deciding that I didn’t want her involved in this either. It might be rather satisfying to send the MCO after Centurion, Slingshot, and Switchblade, but that kind of thing was a HUGE no-no here at Whateley. I might have a dislike of rules in general, but even I wouldn’t break that one. Then I gave her a grim smile and added, “I’ll deal with this one on my own.”
Grace stared at me for a moment before nodding. “Understood. You might be interested to know, we’ve started putting together some evidence against Whells. We don’t have anything to connect him directly to the attack on you, at least not yet, but it’s only a matter of time. As it is, we’ve already tied him to several leaks of information to Humanity First.”
Good,” I responded.
Oh, I also brought this,” she said, holding out an envelope. I opened it up and saw that it was a ‘get well’ card, signed by a few people from the field office. “Marlene wanted to send a cake that said ‘get well’, but she left it unattended in the office and a few people got into it…” Then Grace chuckled. “I did bring you a piece though…”
I laughed at that, then said, “Tell her thanks anyway.”
How are you feeling?” Grace asked me, looking me over.
A lot better,” I assured her. “They used some pretty strong healing spells on me, but it still put a lot of stress on my body. The doctor said I just need a lot of rest, but I’ll be out of the hospital tomorrow.” Then almost conspiratorially, I added, “But I was well enough to leave yesterday. I think they’re keeping me here a bit longer just so they can milk the insurance company.”
Grace chuckled at that. “With most hospitals, I wouldn’t doubt it.”
I just want to get out of here,” I admitted with a sigh. “It’s frustrating being stuck here like this…”
After this, Grace and I just made small talk for a bit, with her asking how Dana was doing while I pretended to be interested in a visit she had with her niece. It was polite conversation that didn’t have much real flavor, the kind you use to fill space when you wanted to talk but weren’t really sure what to talk about.
Since Miles didn’t get a chance,” Grace finally told me, “I wanted to thank you for your help a couple days ago. Agents Harlin and McCormick sent me an email commending you for your dedication to following the rules.”
Oh God,” I groaned at that. “Dad must be loving that…”
Grace just started to laugh. “He did find it rather funny. You must really have annoyed those two.”
At least that part was fun,” I admitted with a chuckle.
You did a good job,” Grace assured me. “Mrs. Carson even called to compliment you on how well you smoothed things over.”
Those guys would have run right over Grit,” I said with a shake of my head. “I was glad I could make them behave.”
You know,” Grace told me with an amused look. “I think you and your father are a lot more alike than either of you would like to admit.”
No way,” I protested, thinking about how Dad loved having rules for everything. I doubted he could even function unless he had some rules to follow. “We aren’t anything alike.”
Grace just smiled at that, not actually saying anything. We talked for a little longer, then her cell phone began to ring. After she answered the call, she apologized to me and then hurried off to take care of business.
Once Grace was gone, I turned my attention back to the spellbook I’d been reading. This wasn’t the one full of illusion spells, which I’d already half memorized. This was one that dealt with practical theory and had a lot of low level basic spells. I was hoping to expand my repertoire so that I’d be able to do a few more things besides just illusions.
I hadn’t been reading for very long when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone. Someone was standing at the doorway watching me. And when I looked up, I was startled to see that it was Collin. He looked like he’d been about to turn and walk away until my eyes settled on him.
Hey,” I greeted him awkwardly.
Collin hesitated a moment and then came into the room. He gave me a weak smile and joked, “I guess I’ve got you cornered so you can’t run away.”
It certainly looks that way,” I responded with a faint smile of my own.
How are you feeling?” he asked, looking as though he probably couldn’t think of anything else to say.
About how you’d expect,” I told him with a shrug. Then I joked, “Besides, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve gone through this.”
Collin gave me a curious look at that, then half joked, “So, you’ve been put into the hospital by mutants before…?”
More or less,” I responded with a sigh. When he stared at me with a questioning look so I let out a sigh, deciding that he deserved to know. “I was walking home from school when I got jumped by Slippery, Vindigo, and Spot…”
Oh shit,” Collin exclaimed, staring at me in horror. “I remember them saying that they went after Adam…you…but that you got away.”
I just nodded at that, scowling as I did so. “They thought they’d send a message to my dad by killing me.” Collin winced at that, obviously remembering that he used to bully me because my dad was with the MCO as well. “But I…ran away. Eventually, they caught up and surrounded me…” I gave him a wry smile as I continued, “But I was already starting to manifest, not that I knew it at the time. I just knew that people around me were getting sick and hallucinating…and that I kept seeing a green faerie following me around. When they caught me, I lashed out. Suddenly, there were faeries everywhere and all three of them were tripping out. I took advantage of the distraction to get away.”
That must have been funny to see,” Collin commented with a chuckle.
I nodded at that, then said, “Yeah, but it caused me to go into burnout.”
Collin gave me another look of sympathy, then asked, “What happened next?”
I woke up in the hospital,” I answered quietly, not able to look at him as I added, “Looking like this.”
Collin was silent for several long seconds before starting, “Adam…”
Don’t call me that,” I snapped at him. “I’m not Adam anymore. I’m Gwen.”
Collin nodded at that, scowling faintly as he did so. He finally asked, “Why did you lie to me?”
I didn’t lie to you,” I answered awkwardly. “I told you I’m Gwen…and I am. Sure, I used to be someone else, but this is who I am now.”
And why didn’t you tell me that?” he repeated, looking a little upset. “Why did you let me think you were Adam’s sister?”
I stared at Collin for several seconds before pointing out, “Because at first, we weren’t exactly friends.” He winced at that, looking vaguely guilty again. “And the first time I saw you after I changed, you were buddies with the people who’d tried to kill me.”
I’m sorry,” Collin started to say but I shrugged it off.
I told you already,” I said, interrupting him. “I never blamed you for that. I mean, having you mess with me was annoying, but I kind of thought of it like a game too. I mean, if I’d really wanted to stop you for good, I could just have told my dad that a dangerous mutant was chasing me…” Collin paled at that as he suddenly realized the danger of trying to bully someone whose dad was with the MCO. I probably could have had him arrested in nothing flat, if I’d actually wanted to do something like that. “And when push came to shove, you saved me from Slippery.”
But you didn’t trust me,” Collin said quietly, giving me a wry smile. “And you obviously had good reason.”
By the time I did trust you,” I told him with a sigh, “you just thought of me as Gwen. We’d become friends and I didn’t want to ruin that. And I guess…I was just really embarrassed. This isn’t exactly easy to get used to…”
I’d imagine not,” Collin admitted wryly. Then he stared at me with an odd expression before cautiously asking, “But when we kissed…”
I kissed you because I wanted to,” I admitted, knowing that I had to be blushing brightly. Then I got a bit defensive and reminded him, “I’m a girl…”
Collin’s eyes went wide at that. “Are you saying you were gay?”
No,” I answered him, blushing even more if that was possible. I couldn’t bring myself to look at him as I quietly said, “I used to like girls. Now I prefer boys.”
Wow,” Collin said, looking a little surprised. “That’s…sort of weird.”
Try it from my perspective,” I responded with a snort. Then I sighed and told him, “I wasn’t trying to mess with you or anything. I came to Whateley so I could learn how to be…me. I just wanted to focus on who I am now, not on who I used to be.”
I think I get it,” he told me with a faint smile. “I think that if that happened to me, I wouldn’t want everyone to know either.”
It is pretty embarrassing,” I admitted wryly.
Collin nodded in understanding, then abruptly asked, “Dana knows…doesn’t she?”
I hesitated a moment before answering. “Yeah, she kind of figured it out. I mean, we’re roommates so she saw all the clues, what with all the girl things I don’t know. And when I had my first monthly visitor and freaked out…”
I could see Collin recoiling a bit at the very idea, which would hopefully turn him away from the topic. However, instead of dropping the subject like I’d hoped, he said, “So she knows your secret and you know hers.”
Her secret?” I asked in surprise, suddenly feeling very worried.
That she’s a lesbian,” Collin said with a smug look. “She and Jinx are a thing. It’s pretty obvious from their body language.”
Oh,” I responded, relieved that he’d missed her real secret, though I was still a bit worried that he’d come so close.
Come to think of it,” Collin continued with a thoughtful look. “I think Peacock and Cinderella might have a thing going on too…”
I laughed at that, though it probably didn’t sound quite as genuine as I would have liked. “You’re obsessed,” I teased him. “You’re seeing lesbians everywhere…”
Collin chuckled at that, then admitted, “You might be right. But I’ve seen the way they look at each other. And then there’s that boy from Poe in Powers Theory… He’s so flamboyantly gay there isn’t any hiding it. There’s that native girl, who everyone knows is out of the closet… And Phase… I’ve heard people say that in spite of what she looks like, that she’s really a guy with some weird GSD…”
My heart nearly jumped into my throat as Collin began to pick apart Poe’s secret. It was one thing for him to know about me, but quite another for him to learn about everyone else.
You’ve heard about Reach and Jobe,” I abruptly said, desperately trying to distract him. “They both used to be guys until they both had lab accidents last year…unrelated ones at that. If there was some kind of conspiracy to keep people with gender issues all in one cottage, don’t you think they’d be in Poe too?”
Good point,” Collin admitted with a chuckle.
And besides,” I continued, feeling a bit relieved. “Have you seen Lancer? That boy likes girls WAY too much to ever be gay…”
Collin grinned at that and responded, “Okay. But I still think there are a lot of kids in Poe who like to play with their own team.”
I gave an exaggerated roll of my eyes at that and said, “I think that says more for your own imagination than it does them. You know, the way you and Mike used to hang out together all the time…”
After I managed to steer Collin away from Poe’s secret, we just talked and joked around the way we had before. It was nice, almost as though we’d never had our argument. However, he obviously hadn’t forgotten about it entirely.
I’m glad we can still be friends,” Collin told me, just a minute after saying he would have to leave. He stared at the floor awkwardly, unable to meet my eyes. “But I’m not sure I’m comfortable with… I mean… Now that I know you used to be a boy…”
I understand,” I said, my voice catching in my throat.
I guess I’ll see you later,” Collin told me, just a little awkwardly before he left.
After Collin had gone, I just remained where I was in my hospital bed, feeling shaken by the encounter. On one hand, I was happy that we were talking again…that we were still friends. But on the other hand…his final words hurt. I should have known that he wouldn’t be interested in me now that I knew who I used to be, but it still hurt anyway. Without a word, I rolled over and began crying into my pillow.
Monday late morning, Nov 12th, 2007
I was incredibly relieved to finally walk out of Dunn Hall, having been given a clean bill of health by the doctors. It was the morning of a school day and classes were already in session, but instead of rushing to arrive in the middle of Powers Theory, I went back to Poe instead. Before I dealt with classes, I wanted to at least get a nice shower and a chance to change into my school uniform.
When I arrived back at Poe, Mrs. Horton greeted me with a concerned look, asking, “How are you feeling?”
Better,” I told her honestly. My muscles ached a little, as if I’d gotten in a really intense workout yesterday, but all the pain was gone. I was still a bit tired, but that might have been because I’d spent the last four days in bed. “The doctors just told me not to overdo it for a couple more days.”
You’d better make sure you don’t,” she told me, giving me a look that suggested she’d be watching me to make sure I didn’t.
I went to my room, only to find that Dana had left it a bit of a mess, leaving some dirty clothes on the floor and a bra hung over my chair. I rolled my eyes at that, thankful that I hadn’t been away longer or I would have come back to a dump. As it was, I suspected that before long, I would have had to fumigate the place.
What a slob,” I muttered, gently kicking the clothes she’d left on the floor until they were all piled up next to her bed. “I wonder how Jinx dealt with this for so long…” Then I paused, suddenly wondering if Dana being my roommate might have been one of those situations that had been manipulated by Jinx’s powers. With the way her powers worked, it could be hard to tell.
After taking my shower and getting dressed in my school uniform, I settled down in my room to practice a few spells until it was time for lunch. I was more than tired of hospital food and was hungry enough that I suspected I’d be able to give Dana a run for her money. So when lunch finally arrived, I made sure to reach Crystal Hall before classes ended so that I’d be able to beat the rush.
I was already sitting down and eating at my usual table when my friends started to arrive. Cindy was the first to take a seat, saying, “I’m glad to see you’re back on your feet.” She formed a glass knife in her hand and began cutting her hamburger in half, absently commenting, “You know, a few of us poesie freshmen are taking bets on how you’re going to deal with Centurion…”
I’m not even sure she will,” Lina commented as she took a seat beside Cindy. She gave me a wry look before telling her new girlfriend, “She still hasn’t retaliated against Beltane for that prank she played on us…”
Who says I haven’t?” I responded with my best innocent expression, which earned me a couple of curious looks.
It was Lina’s eyes that went wide in realization first. “Shit,” she exclaimed, staring at me in disbelief. “You’re the one who started that thing between Jade and Beltane…”
Shhh,” I shushed her, glancing around to make sure we weren’t overheard. “I can neither confirm nor deny that I had anything to do with that.”
Lina and Cindy looked at each other and began snickering. “I’ve seen what she can do,” Lina told Cindy with a smirk. “Centurion and his asshole buddies are in deep shit.”
Let us know if we can help,” Cindy told me with a grim look.
Ditto,” Dana announced as she and Jinx joined us as well. She gave me a serious look and added, “And I mean it. When you go after Centurion, I want to help.”
Thanks,” I told them, appreciating the offer. “I’m still not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I’m not going to just let this go.”
Jinx nodded at that, then said, “Just be careful. Security will probably be watching you in case you do go after him.”
Collin, Fixx, and Porcelain all sat down as well and listened to the conversation for a few minutes before Collin pointed out, “Gwen isn’t the kind to go after him directly, not unless cornered. She’s more likely to be sneaky about it.”
You will need to deal with him in a manner than cannot be attributed to you,” Porcelain pointed out thoughtfully. “That requires discretion and careful planning.”
I think she has that kind of thing covered,” Lina pointed out before she and Cindy looked at each other and began snickering again.
We only talked about my grudge against Centurion for another couple minutes, then we changed the topic in case someone happened to be listening in. After all, I’d spied on other people with my faeries often enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else was doing it to me. However, that did make me realize that I was going to have to take precautions against that kind of thing in the future. I wondered if there was some kind of spell I could use that could ward me…or even our whole table from being listened in on that way.
Dana finished the large cup of coffee she’d brought with her to the table and let out a sigh. “You have no idea how much I miss having a good espresso stand… I mean, having my own machine is great, but there’s only so much I can do…”
Just yesterday,” Jinx told us, giving Dana a smug look. “I caught her looking through the full class registry, trying to see if Whateley offered any barista classes…”
Well?” I teased Dana. “Do they?”
Dana hesitated a moment before shaking her head. “No, but Chef Marcel offers a cooking class every winter semester, and he told me that he teaches gourmet coffee preparation as one of the subjects.”
At least you’ll have a career lined up after you graduate,” Collin joked.
Jinx just laughed at that, then said, “And here I thought she was gonna be a super villain…”
No way,” Dana responded with a look of annoyance. “Some of my best friends are villains, but I don’t exactly want to go into that line of work.” Then she grinned and asked, “Have you guys tried any of that devisor coffee? It tastes like crap but damn does it have a kick…”
I chuckled at that, knowing that it really did have to have a pretty strong kick for Dana to feel it. Since she was a regenerator, she’d built up a tolerance to caffeine and it no longer had any effect on her at all. And as she’d complained while having her period, her powers also made pain medications useless.
When we were done eating, Cindy and Lina hurried off together while Porcelain left on her own. Those of us who remained began gathering up our trays to leave as well, but as we were doing this, three girls walked past, with two of them glaring right at me with looks of severe disgust on their faces.
That’s her,” one of the girls whispered to the others as they walked past. “She’s that spy for the MCO…”
I froze at that, listening in as the second girl added, “I hear Centurion put her in the hospital…”
Then the third girl responded, “Good for him.”
I winced at those words, growing angry. Suddenly, Jinx had a comforting arm around my shoulder and was saying, “It’s okay…”
No it isn’t,” Dana stated, glaring at those girls with an angry look on her face.
Not in the least,” Collin agreed with an angry expression of his own.
Fixx shook his head, then said, “It ain’t right that Centurion and his buddies not only got away with doing that, but that these idiots are cheering him on…” He looked at me and said, “I mean, there are students here who openly work for the Syndicate, who actually attacked the school last year, and no one seems to have a problem with them.”
Yeah, but the Syndicate is known for being a big employer for mutants,” Jinx pointed out grimly. “And just about everyone has had a bad encounter with the MCO, or knows someone who has.” She gave me a sympathetic look and said, “It certainly isn’t fair, but they’re using you as the scapegoat.”
I still can’t believe Centurion and his friends are getting away with this,” I complained bitterly.
All the security cameras were knocked out,” Dana reminded me with a scowl. “And the witnesses were basically tripping out on your glamour… I mean, everyone knows, but no one can prove anything…”
I shook my head, cursing the fact that my own powers were playing a part in letting them get away with this. If it hadn’t been for my glamour being out of control, at least the witnesses would be credible enough to take a statement from and security might have been able to do something. As it was, one security guy came to my hospital room to take my statement, but since it was my word against theirs…and I had a concussion, there wasn’t much they could do.
If I didn’t know better,” I muttered, “I’d think security was just letting them get away with this because I work for the MCO.”
No, I’ve seen other people get away with that kind of thing,” Jinx said, not looking happy about it. “I think it’s because half the Whateley donors are villains and they don’t want the school to expel all their future recruits.”
That would explain a few things,” Collin said with a sigh.
After this, Jinx and Fixx left while Dana, Collin and I continued to martial arts together. It was nice having Collin as a friend again, even if he wasn’t comfortable with being anything more than that. Of course, I wasn’t fully comfortable with that either, so I should be kind of happy to have this pressure removed. However, I wasn’t happy about it at all.
In martial arts, Centurion smirked as soon as he saw me, but he made no moves in my direction. I grimaced, fighting back the very strong temptation to hit him with everything I had. But as much as I wanted to hurt him, this wasn’t the time or place. However, if I was asked to spar against him today, I wasn’t going to hold back anything at all. But Ito and Tolman seemed to realize the situation because they kept the two of us well separated during the class.
I was still a bit weak and hadn’t fully recovered, so instead of having me spar against someone else, Ito had me practice forms. It was actually a relief since it gave me something to focus on and kept me too distracted to dwell on the fact that Centurion was right on the other side of the room. When class was over, I let out a sigh of relief, took a shower and changed, then hurried to my next class as quickly as I could.
The last couple classes of the day were strange, with some of my classmates being sympathetic about the attack and asking me if I was all right, while others gave me dirty glares, including some who I had thought of as friends. There were definitely mixed reactions in how I was welcomed back by the other students, and though no one said anything to my face, I overheard whispers of ‘MCO spy’ several times.
When the last class ended for the day, I started out of the classroom, only to get shoved from behind. I hit the ground face first and heard several students laughing. “Watch it,” I snapped in annoyance as I got back to my feet.
Or what?” one boy exclaimed with a sneer. “You’re going to report me to the MCO?”
I don’t need to,” I responded with a snort. “They already know who you are.”
Even as the words left my mouth, I knew that I really shouldn’t have said them. But I was in a bad mood and had snapped out with the first thing I could think of. His eyes went wide and he hurried away. I just shook my head and started for Poe as quickly as I could.
As soon as I was back in my room, I changed out of my uniform and into something a little more comfortable. I put on some jeans and an old Seahawks jersey, the only piece of clothing I’d brought to Whateley that I’d owned back when I’d been a guy.
I was angry and frustrated and needed a way to cut loose, so I took Needle and went down to the basement. I was just thankful that Centurion and his friends hadn’t grabbed Needle after they’d taken me out. Then again, if they had, having Needle in their possession would have given security enough physical evidence to do something about them.
I activated the magical switch that turned Needle into a spear, then began practicing the spear forms that Ito had taught me. I did that for awhile, then began to practice some of the other spear moves that I remembered using from my dreams.
After I’d been practicing for about half an hour, I suddenly heard someone clapping. I snapped around and saw Toni watching me with a grin. “Nice toy,” she exclaimed cheerfully.
Yeah,” I agreed with a grin. Caitlin had definitely created something awesome when she’d made Needle.
Can I see it for a moment?” Toni asked.
I hesitated a moment, then handed Needle over to her. She immediately spun Needle around in her hands like it was some kind of baton, doing it with an ease that suggested she was an expert in using weapons like that. However, this only lasted for a couple seconds before Needle returned to its normal dagger size. Toni grinned and handed it back to me.
Do you want to spar?” she asked me cheerfully. “I can show you some moves.”
Sure,” I responded, trying not to show how eager I was for that. After all, Toni was some kind of super martial artist who was supposedly an expert with just about any weapon.
Toni went to a corner of the basement where there were some weapons stored, apparently by her. She took out a bo staff and spun it in her hands the same way she’d done Needle.
You can use a lot of the same moves as you would with one of these,” she told me casually.
With that, Toni began showing off with her bo staff, swinging it around with an unbelievable ease that made me think that she must have been practicing with one for years. Once she was done showing off, she began showing me a couple easy moves, slowing down enough so that I could make out what she was doing.
Toni gave me lessons for awhile, then we moved to sparring. She obviously outclassed me a great deal, but she went pretty easy on me so I could at least pretend that I could keep up. She seemed to be having fun as well, which made it a bit more interesting for me.
I got tired a lot faster than I would have liked, which was a clear reminder that I still had a bit more recovering to do. Still, by the time we stopped, I was happy at having learned a few new tricks.
I can’t wait to use that in class,” I said, wondering if I could catch Rapier by surprise with that last move she’d shown me. “Thanks for showing me.”
No problem,” Toni told me with a grin before she hurried off.
I returned to my floor and was about to go back to my room when I heard a commotion from the common room. Out of curiosity, I went to see what was going on, only to find Breakdown and Hardwyrd going at it.
I can’t believe you destroyed my quantum discombobulator,” Hardwyrd exclaimed in obvious anger. “Do you have any idea how long it to build that thing?”
Then you shouldn’t have left it lying around,” Breakdown responded, not looking the least bit guilty. “I just wanted to see how it worked…”
But you RUINED it,” Hardwyrd yelled at her.
Breakdown rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner, then said, “Nonsense. I can put it back together…I think.”
I’m sorry to interrupt,” Phase said as she came into the room and watched the two. “Breakdown, I was hoping to have a word with you about that project we were working on.”
I’ve got the notes in my room,” Breakdown told her. Then she looked at Hardwyrd and told him, “Look, I’ll try putting your device back together. If I can’t, you can yell at me then.”
You’d better,” Hardwyrd told her with an angry look. “You know I can never build the same thing again, so if you can’t fix it, it’s gone for good.”
I’ll be back in a minute,” Breakdown told Phase before hurrying down the hall. Hardwyrd shook his head, then left as well, muttering some profanities under his breath.
Suddenly, Iron Rose came charging into the common room, yelling, “There you are, you green haired bitch…”
What?” I asked, jumping as she transformed into her metal form and continued coming towards me.
You’re a damn MCO spy,” she accused me angrily.
Phase suddenly stepped between us and told Rose, “Calm down, Rose.”
I’m not a spy,” I protested angrily, sick and tired of hearing people accuse me of that.
Bullshit,” Rose said, not changing out of her armored form but not attacking me either.
Yeah, I work for the MCO,” I admitted, looking her right in the eyes. “They’re paying for my tuition, and in exchange, I work part time as an intern.” I snarled as I spat out, “My job is to pour coffee for those guys…not spy for them.”
Bullshit,” Rose repeated.
It’s true,” I insisted, glaring at the metal skinned girl.
Phase looked at Rose and told her, “I think she’s telling the truth. A couple MCO agents came to the school to interview a boy, and she kept them from trying to arrest him. If you want to know what happened, perhaps you should ask Grit instead of listening to rumors.”
Rose powered down at that, then she snorted before turning and walking away. I let out a sigh of relief, thankful that Phase had been able to stop things from turning violent. I’d already had one rough encounter with Rose and didn’t want to have another.
Once Rose was gone, Phase gave me a sympathetic look and said, “It isn’t easy going to a mutant school when everyone assumes you’re some kind of mutant hater.”
I nodded at that, realizing that she must have a pretty good idea of what that was like. “I’d imagine that you get a lot of that with a last name like Goodkind,” I told her wryly. “Even if you aren’t one of THOSE Goodkinds.”
Phase nodded at that and smirked faintly as she responded, “It’s even worse than that. I actually AM one of THOSE Goodkinds.” At my look of surprise, she added, “Needless to say, most of my family hasn’t taken well to my being a mutant.”
Wow,” I said, not sure what I could possibly say to that.
I’ve got them,” Breakdown exclaimed as she rushed back into the room, waving a stack of papers. “I’ve got my notes…”
I’ll be with you in a minute,” Phase told her. Then she turned back to me. “There are a lot of idiots who are willing to believe the worst, but don’t let them get to you. Not everyone believes the rumors.”
Thanks,” I told her.
Phase went over to talk with Breakdown about their project, whatever it was. Then she paused to look at some of my faeries before commenting, “I see that you’re starting to vary their coloring.”
What?” I asked, looking at my faeries.
My faeries looked the same as always, but then I noticed two of them that didn’t match the others. One of them had green hair that was a shade or two lighter than the others, and she had brown skin that was the color of tree bark. The other faerie that didn’t match had the skin color of a caucasian human and violet colored hair.
Pixies,” I said in surprise, recognizing them as two of the pixies I’d encountered in the grove.
The pixie with the violet hair giggled mischieviously and then stuck her tongue out at me before both of them flew off. I just chuckled at that, wondering how long the two of them had been following me around without my even noticing it.
Between Phase’s pep talk and the pixies, I was in a much better mood than I had been. With that, I went to go see if I could find my roommate so we could go to dinner.
Wednesday afternoon, Nov 14th, 2007
It had been a long and tiring day, and unfortunately, it wasn’t over yet. Ever since I’d gotten out of the hospital a couple days ago, I’d had to deal with the fact that a lot of other students now had a grudge against me because of my connection to the MCO. Most of the time, they were satisfied with giving me the cold shoulder or a few verbal insults. There had even been a few incidents involving me getting pushed and tripped, which were annoying but not too bad. And then there were those who actually wanted to attack me.
Not again,” I muttered with a sigh.
I had a dozen faeries currently spread out overhead, acting as scouts so that I could look for incoming threats. Just a few seconds ago, I noticed a few students had positioned themselves ahead of me in a way that suggested that this was an ambush. Someone had tried this once yesterday as well, but I’d also seen that one in plenty of time to avoid it.
All I want to do is get to dinner,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
With a sigh, I slipped off to the side where my would be ambushers wouldn’t see me, then I created a quick illusion that looked just like me. Once that was done, I sent that illusion off into their trap while I cast another illusion on myself, making me look like some other student entirely. A minute later, three girls began to surround the illusion while I just calmly walked right past. My illusions didn’t last more than a few minutes, but it was more than enough time for me to avoid the situation.
I made it the rest of the way to Crystal Hall without a problem, but then I saw that Peeper had Vulpine cornered. She seemed so shaken by the camera he was sticking in her face that she didn’t appear to even think about walking away.
So Peeper,” I asked cheerfully. “What’s your favorite color of bikini?”
Peeper took one look at me and paled a little before he hurried away, obviously not wanting another repeat of what happened the last time he’d harassed me. Vulpine let out a visible sigh of relief, then told me, “Thanks. But how’d you get him to leave like that?”
Peeper and I have an understanding,” I told her with an evil grin. “He leaves me alone and I don’t humiliate him in front of the entire cafeteria.”
Vulpine laughed at that, then gave me a grin. “I’m going to learn how you do that…”
He’s obviously afraid Absinthe is going to turn him in to the MCO,” one boy who was standing nearby exclaimed. He gave me a cold glare, adding, “Damn traitor to your own kind…”
I grimaced at that, more than annoyed with that kind of talk. I’d been dealing with it for the last couple days, usually from people who didn’t even know me. I was getting very tempted to start hitting people with a good dose of glamour.
But before I could say anything, another boy snarled, “Shut your pie hole, asshole.”
The newcomer was tall and skinny, almost to the point of being gaunt. Between that, his very pale skin and red eyes, he looked just a little scary. The boy who’d been calling me a traitor gulped visibly and took a nervous step back.
You shouldn’t judge people based off gossip and rumors,” the gaunt boy said, glaring at the other boy with his glowing red eyes. “Especially when you don’t have any fucking idea what you’re talking about.” The other boy immediately hurried off, much to my relief.
Thanks,” I told the gaunt and scary looking boy who’d come to my defense.
No problem,” he responded, holding out a hand which had clawed fingers. I only hesitated a moment before I reached out and shook his hand. “I’m Boojum,” he told me with a grin, which somehow didn’t look intimidating in spite of his mouth full of sharp teeth. “Grit is my roommate and he told me all about what you did for him. Thanks a lot. If it hadn’t been for you…”
Then security would have stopped the MCO from doing anything anyway,” I told him with a sigh. “I was just there to smooth things over and make sure that they didn’t even try anything.”
Boojum gave me a skeptical look, then said, “Well, Grit certainly appreciates you being there on his side…”
I nodded at that, then let out a sigh. “Yeah, but I wish he hadn’t told everyone…”
Boojum nodded in understanding. “He didn’t mean to cause you any trouble, but unfortunately, things got out of hand and people only hear what they want to.”
A moment later, Boojum waved to one of his friends, then hurried off to join them. Vulpine gave me a curious look, then said, “Okay, you’re going to have to tell me what really happened. I mean, I keep hearing rumors about how you interrogated some kid, but that doesn’t sound like you. And then what he said…”
Not much to say really,” I told her with a shrug. “A couple agents from the MCO wanted to come and talk to a witness, so Mrs. Carson and my dad asked me to sit in on the meeting and make sure they didn’t get carried away.”
What does your dad have to do with it?” Vulpine asked me curiously.
He’s with the MCO,” I told her with a sigh. Now that everyone knew I was working for the MCO, there was no reason to keep that a secret. “He’s in their internal affairs division and didn’t trust those guys. He was afraid they might try something with Grit, so he called the school to give them a warning.”
Wow,” Vulpine said, looking at me in surprise. “I didn’t think the MCO even had an internal affairs… I mean, with everything you hear about them…”
Which is why they REALLY need one,” I told her. “In fact, that’s the whole reason I’m with them. I’m part of a program where they’re trying to recruit more mutants in order to help fix those problems. Mostly they just pay my tuition and I occasionally go in to pour coffee, but it gives people in the office a chance to meet a real mutant and see that I’m not some kind of scary monster.”
I guess that makes sense,” Vulpine told me. We talked about this for another minute before she walked away with a thoughtful look on her face.
A short time later, I sat down at my normal table, finding that due to my multiple delays, I was the last one to arrive. Dana had the day off from working in the kitchens and had her usual pile of food sitting in front of her. Jinx, Collin, Fixx, and Porcelain were already sitting and eating as well, though their plates were far more empty than Dana’s. Lina and Cindy had already warned me ahead of time that they were doing a romantic dinner for two off on their own.
There she is,” Dana exclaimed with a grin. “I was afraid you’d gotten lost.”
No, I just had to beat my way through my horde of admirers,” I responded with a wry smile.
Fixx nodded to me and said, “Hey, glad you made it.” He had several forks and spoons in front of him as well as a few paperclips and rubber bands. At the moment, he seemed more intent on playing with his utensils than he did on actually eating.
No one jumped you again, did they?” Jinx asked with a worried look. Collin grimaced at that, suddenly looking angry.
No,” I responded with a shake of my head. “At least not successfully.”
Since Centurion and his friends got away with their attack,” Porcelain said in her muffled tone, “it sends the message that others may attack you without consequence as well.”
Dana snarled and slammed her fist onto the table. A normal table would have cracked or dented under the force of her enhanced strength, but the tables in Crystal Hall were specially made to handle the kind of damage that many students could cause merely by accident.
We’ve got to send a message,” Dana exclaimed. “We have to make it clear that no one gets away with attacking us…”
But how do we do that without getting in trouble?” Collin asked thoughtfully. “No offense Gwen, but I’d rather not get expelled.”
None taken,” I responded, watching Collin for several long seconds and blushing as I did so. I really wanted to kiss him, but we hadn’t done any of that since he’d found out who I really was. We might be friends again, but things were still rather awkward. “I have been playing around with some ideas of what to do…”
And training,” Dana pointed out. “I mean, I’ve seen you practicing with your switchblade spear…” Then she grinned to Collin, Fixx, and Porcelain and explained, “That Chaka girl from Team Kimba has been giving her a few lessons.”
And wasn’t Fey trying to teach you a spell?” Jinx asked.
I let out a sigh at that, thinking that even though we were on speaking terms, it was still a bit weird talking to Nikki. After all, the history between the voice that used to be in her head and the one still in mine, was pretty complicated. And then there was the fact that I’d run away screaming the first time I’d met her.
Nikki was trying to teach me a couple easy spells,” I said wryly. “With mixed results.”
What do you mean?” Collin asked.
I hesitated a moment, then admitted, “When it comes to illusion magic, I can do those spells really easily. But when it comes to a lot of other things, my spells kind of…twist. Nikki was trying to teach me how to make a fireball so I’d have an offensive spell…but they literally blow up in my face instead.” I shook my head at that. “It’s frustrating.”
Rough,” Fixx told me with a sympathetic look. Then he grinned and added, “But you’re awesome with that illusion stuff. And I bet that if you stick with it, you’ll get those other spells too.”
Maybe,” I responded with a shrug. “I mean, illusion magic is almost like second nature to me, so maybe I’m just spoiled with those spells being easy.”
I remember you were having difficulty with the force field too,” Collin said thoughtfully.
I groaned at that. “And I still can’t get it.”
No,” Collin agreed. “But you were able to modify it so it did work for you…”
I chuckled as I remembered the slippery field spell, which I actually had stored in one of my faeries. It was one that I’d found quite useful when it came to martial arts class. It was hard for other people to fight me when they couldn’t get a good grip, which was one of the things that had made Slippery so difficult to deal with.
Maybe you can modify some of these other spells too,” Collin suggested.
I nodded at that, wondering what I could do in order to make a fireball actually work for me. As it was, every time I tried casting one, it was more of a threat to me than to whomever I was using it against. It seemed that the spells I had the most difficulty with were any of the ones that focused more on force than subtlety.
So,” Dana abruptly asked, pausing to take a big bite from her plate of spaghetti. Once she had finished chewing it, she continued, “So, how did your testing go?”
Oh, that’s right,” Fixx exclaimed, giving me a curious look. “You were going to do power testing today…”
I just let out a sigh as I thought of the long hours I’d spent doing power testing today, repeating almost everything that I’d done back when I’d first been tested by the Seattle Supers. Unfortunately, I’d just gone through a bad case of burnout, and one of the known side effects was that a burnout could sometimes have an effect on your powers. Sometimes a burnout could damage your powers, temporarily making them weaker or sometimes even doing it permanently. And at other times, going through burnout could strengthen your powers, or at least, that was the apparent effect of burning your power channels open wider. Because of that, once I’d fully recovered, the school insisted that I go through power testing all over again.
Well,” I admitted with a sigh, “I’m generating about twice as much glamour as before.” At the blank looks, I explained, “If I wasn’t sending my glamour to a faerie, then people around me would get dizzy and start hallucinating in about half the time. As it is, this just means that I need to switch out my faeries a little more often.”
That’s not so bad,” Jinx said, looking relieved.
So, did you get a boost in your magic?” Dana asked me almost eagerly.
I shook my head at that. “Nope. I’m still a Wiz four. No change there.” Then I grinned as I added, “But I did get one change in my official ratings. The first time I was tested, they said I was esper sensitive, but was just under the threshold to be considered an esper one. Well, I’ve crossed that threshold and am now officially an esper one. They aren’t sure if it was my burnout, if I just naturally got stronger on my own before this even happened, or if my original test results weren’t accurate.”
Cool,” Fixx said with a cheerful smile.
He leaned back and showed the contraption he’d been building during our conversation. It was a catapult, made out of eating utensils, paper clips, and rubber bands. It didn’t look all that complicated, but it was a reminder that he was definitely a gadgeteer and devisor. Since he didn’t wear a lab coat or carry around the high tech devices that a lot of other devisors did, it was easy to forget that fact.
Then as Fixx used his new catapult to fling a piece of broccoli at another table, he asked, “So, what exactly does that mean as far as what you can do?”
Not much,” I admitted with a shrug. “It just means I’ve got really good intuition. I mean, I named Needle before I even knew it could turn into a spear, so I think my power may have told my subconscious about it.”
You’re getting better with your faeries too,” Jinx pointed out, gesturing to the little violet haired pixie that was sitting in the middle of our table, eating a cherry which was about the size of a basketball for her. “I mean, you’re making some of them look unique, and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a real pixie.”
Funny how that is,” I said wryly while the violet haired pixie stuck her tongue out at me.
Over the last few days, I found that a couple real pixies kept joining with my hobgoblin faeries and following me around. I wasn’t completely sure why they were doing this, but I suspected that they thought of it as some sort of game. I also suspected that they were using my faeries as a way to travel around campus and do a little sight-seeing while hiding in plain sight.
She certainly is lifelike,” Collin observed.
You can say that again,” Fixx agreed as he used his catapult to launch more food at another table.
Dana just smirked and repeated, “You can say that again...,” which got her several groans from around the table for her efforts.
Suddenly, someone at another table jumped up and yelled, “Who threw this at me?”
Without saying a word, Fixx pulled a paperclip out of his contraption and the whole thing collapsed back into a pile of utensils which no longer resembled a catapult at all. He sat there with a cheerful grin on his face as he began organizing his utensils. Everyone at our table burst out laughing, except for Porcelain, and I thought I might have heard a muffled snicker from beneath her porcelain mask.
Two nearby tables suddenly erupted in a food fight, which they each blamed the other for starting. I just watched with a smirk, feeling a little surprised since I didn’t think Fixx had it in him to start something like that. In fact, this kind of thing was usually more my style than his, so I definitely had to give him brownie points.
I thought that might pick up your spirits,” Fixx told me cheerfully. “Collin told me that you’ve been a bit depressed since you were outed…”
Outed?” I asked, staring at Collin in surprise. I couldn’t believe that he’d told Fixx I used to be a guy…
As working for the MCO,” Fixx added, letting me relax a little. “I can’t say I approve of the MCO in general, but I sure as heck ain’t about to blame you for what other people did. And honestly, I think it’s a good idea to get more mutants in there. Maybe that will get more of the dipshits out.”
When we were finished with dinner a short time later, we all got up to leave. I noticed someone waving at me from another table and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was Thrasher, from the Hooligans. I waved back, remembering that he’d come to my defense during lunch when someone else had tried bad mouthing me. Then again, his dad was apparently some kind of super villain, so he wasn’t much to judge. However, Thrasher certainly wasn’t the only one who had my back.
Yesterday, Caitlin had asked if I needed any help dealing with Centurion, and there had been a pretty intense look in her eyes. If I’d accepted her offer, I had no idea what she would have done. However, I’d turned her down, though I’d thanked her for her offer, saying, “I need to deal with Centurion on my own. Besides, you’ve already helped me more than enough when you gave me Needle.”
My friends and I were just starting to leave Crystal Hall when I noticed something from one of my faeries. I grimaced and warned everyone, “We’ve got trouble up ahead.”
What do you mean?” Collin asked, only to pause as he saw Centurion and his friends standing a short distance ahead of us.
Centurion had Switchblade and Slingshot with him as he frequently did, but this time he had two other people by his side as well. Stoppable, as everyone had begun calling the former Unstoppable, had recently begun hanging out with Centurion and his crew. I wondered if maybe that had started out while sharing complaints about me and my own friends. After all, I knew that Stoppable had a real grudge against Fixx, the same way Centurion did against me.
The other new member of their group was a petite girl, who I’d never met before, though I knew who she was. This was Balderdash, who was Slingshot’s roommate. She was also a devisor, and I was pretty sure she was the source of the device that had killed all the security cameras during the attack on me.
Stoppable stared Fixx for a moment, then at Porcelain before grinning evilly and announcing, “Hello little dolly…”
Leave her alone,” Fixx said, stepping forward so that he was between Porcelain and Stoppable. That just seemed to amuse the large boy, who had obviously been trying to mess with the usually easygoing Fixx.
Damn MCO spy,” Switchblade spat out, giving me a cold glare.
I’m surprised you’re even showing you face around here,” Slingshot added with a smirk. “I mean, no one wants you here at Whateley…”
Then you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dana commented with a snort. “But that’s nothing new.”
Aren’t you afraid she’ll report you to the MCO?” Balderdash asked her friends as she gave me a nervous look.
Centurion laughed at that. “She’s too much of a coward to do something like that.”
I snarled in anger, then spat out, “You’d know all about cowardice. I mean, you not only jumped me from behind, you did it three to one… Talk about being a chicken shit…”
To be honest, I didn’t really have any problem with the tactics of jumping someone without warning or outnumbering them, at least not in theory. What made me angry was the fact that he’d hurt me, not how he’d managed to do it. And what really pissed me off was that he was trying to pull this hypocritical attitude about calling me a coward while resorting to those kinds of tactics.
You little bitch,” Centurion exclaimed with a flash of anger. His skin shimmered, showing that he’d just activated his powers. “I already gave you one warning. Leave Whateley or I’ll be forced to give you another…”
Balderdash looked a little uncertain, then told Slingshot, “I don’t know if it’s right to make someone leave like that…”
Slingshot looked annoyed, then reminded her roommate, “She’s with the MCO. We don’t want one of THOSE people around school. She’s probably plotting to have them kidnap us or something…”
I grimaced at those accusations, but I did see a weakness I could exploit. “Except that you guys attacked me before you ever knew I had anything to do with the MCO. Make up some other rationalization. The truth is, I hurt your pride and you didn’t like that…”
Is that true?” Balderdash asked, looking just a little surprised.
Look,” Slingshot told her in annoyance. “We’re friends, so you have to trust me…” Then her eyes narrowed slightly and she asked, “You do trust me? Don’t you?”
Of course I do,” Balderdash insisted, nodding emphatically.
Enough of this nonsense,” Centurion exclaimed, glaring at me. “We won’t let you and your MCO friends hurt anyone else.”
I rolled my eyes at that, knowing full well that this had absolutely nothing to do with the MCO. My working for the MCO was merely the latest excuse he was using to rationalize his own behavior. This was about ego, pure and simple. I’d embarrassed him and he wasn’t going to forget that. If I’d apologized to him right after our first sparring match in martial arts, he probably would have forgiven the whole thing. But now it had built up more and more.
Stoppable was probably here for the same reason, his own ego had been bruised as well. Maybe he wouldn’t be so touchy about it if everyone in school hadn’t made fun of him for his humiliating defeat at the hands of an Underdog, but they had so it obviously bothered him a great deal.
For Centurion and Stoppable, this was definitely all about their egos, and perhaps even for Slingshot as well. After all, she’d been giving me jealous looks the first time she ever saw me. For Switchblade, he was just standing by his friend, regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do. If nothing else, at least I had to respect his loyalty, if not to whom he’d given it.
You’ve got that right,” Jinx announced, rolling her own eyes. “Enough of this nonsense. You idiots are nothing more than that. Idiots. Now go away and leave us alone.”
With that, a bird dropping suddenly fell from the sky and hit Slingshot right on the head. She reached up to feel what hit her, and when she pulled back her bird poop covered hand, she let out a loud scream. A moment later, Slingshot gestured at Jinx and released a blast of kinetic energy, which would have hit her if a golden force field bubble hadn’t suddenly appeared around her.
You bitch,” Dana yelled, dropping the force field bubble she’d placed around Jinx. Another bubble suddenly appeared around Slingshot, then the bubble flew back, carrying Slingshot with it.
Bekka,” Centurion cried out in obvious fear and anger.
And with that, Centurion charged straight at Dana, clearly intending to punch her. However, before he reached her, she formed a golden bubble around herself, though he hadn’t even gotten that far. His feet were suddenly stuck to the ground, courtesy of Collin.
Switchblade suddenly had a glowing blade in his hand and started to move towards us at an amazing speed. However, it was at that very moment that Balderdash tried to run away, only to get right in Switchblade’s path so he ran right into her.
Stoppable seemed amused by what was happening to his friends, though he apparently decided that this was the perfect opportunity to go after Fixx. He started towards my friend, only to get hit with a faerie full of glamour.
Without a word, I pulled Needle out and prepared to throw it, though I also called several of my faeries to come closer. I wanted my stored spells close at hand because I was probably going to use all of them very soon.
You fucking bitch,” Slingshot cried out as she came racing back towards us, yelling to Stoppable, “Charge me up…”
Without saying a word, he turned and hit her, though she didn’t go flying or seem hurt in the least. Due to her power, I knew that instead, she’d just absorbed the kinetic energy from the impact and was storing it to use with her force blasts.
The zombies aren’t really there,” Stoppable said, more to himself than to anyone else. I could only assume that this was what he was hallucinating. “I’m just seeing them…”
Take out Flytrap,” Centurion ordered Slingshot, obviously thinking that neutralizing Collin would free him from Collin’s powers.
You’re going down,” Slingshot stated, about to blast Collin.
Suddenly, a woman’s voice yelled, “Whateley security. Everybody freeze.”
I snapped around and saw the female security officer, a blonde girl who didn’t really look any older than any of the students. In fact, the only reason I knew that she was with security was the fact that she was wearing a uniform. Two men in uniform trailed right behind her.
For a brief moment, I thought that Stoppable was going to attack the security officers, but he stopped and glared at them instead. However, his eyes kept darting around as he looked at things that only he could see. I couldn’t resist smirking faintly at that, hoping that whatever he was seeing would give him nightmares.
I’m officer Samantha Everheart,” the young woman announced as she looked at all of us with a grim expression. “And you are all in a lot of trouble.”
A minute later, all of us were being marched to Kane Hall by security. Most of Centurion’s crew glared at me and my friends, though Balderdash looked really shaken and afraid.
I overheard Switchblade whisper, “Think they’re going to kick out the MCO spy?”
This isn’t fair,” Jinx complained. “They came after us…”
I just walked in silence, glaring back to Centurion and silently cursing the fact that security had chosen this time to interfere. “Where were you last week?” I demanded of officer Everheart.
Everheart scowled, then in a quiet voice that wouldn’t carry to the others, she said, “We were keeping an eye on Centurion in case he tried anything again.”
I was a little startled at that, and I couldn’t help but feeling relieved. It was too little too late, but at least security hadn’t just written the entire incident off just because they didn’t have any witnesses or evidence they could use at the time.
A short time later, we were all in Kane Hall where we were ushered into a room to meet Chief Delarose, the head of Whateley security. Anyone who could manage a job like that in a school full of mutants definitely had something going for him, especially since he didn’t seem to be a mutant or have any powers.
The other security people left, except for Everheart. She stood back out of the way, easily watching the entire room without drawing notice. Something about her was definitely off, though her apparent young age was a good indication. I was just relieved to see that the real pixies had taken off when the trouble started because I didn’t know what they’d do in this situation.
We can’t allow students to have open brawls on campus, “Chief Delarose announced, slowly looking around the room so that he met each of our eyes. He scowled intently as he added, “You’re all just lucky that officer Everheart intervened when she did. If your confrontation had gone any further, I would have had no choice but to refer this to Mrs. Carson, and she is justifiably proud of her ability to assign creative punishments.”
Ugh,” Dana exclaimed with a shudder. “I’ve already spent the last week doing detention in Hawthorne. Do you have any idea how disgusting it is to clean snot off Achoo’s walls?”
Centurion shuddered at that, reminding me that he’d also been given detention after his fight with Dana. Unfortunately, it was just his attack on me that he hadn’t been punished for. Centurion watched Delarose with a look that seemed to be a mixture of nervousness and relief, probably wondering what else he’d be dealing with.
It’s all HER fault,” Slingshot exclaimed, pointing to me and giving me a glare for good measure. “She keeps harassing Centurion…”
You JUMPED her,” Collin nearly yelled, jumping to his feet. However, a cold glare from Delarose made him gulp and sit down.
Delarose looked around the room again and asked, “Who started the confrontation today?”
She made a bird poop on me,” Slingshot immediately accused Jinx, who sat there with a faint smirk.
Just because you have some bad luck, that doesn’t immediately mean it’s my fault,” Jinx responded, using her usual argument for whenever someone accused her of something. The nature of her powers made it difficult to prove that she was actually responsible for anything, but it also made it very easy to accuse her of just about everything, even when she had nothing to do with it. In fact, whenever anyone on our floor had any bad luck at all, they tended to automatically blame her.
Who threw the first punch?” Delarose asked in a calm voice. His eyes immediately went to Slingshot, which made me think that he already knew the answer. Then again, I didn’t think the security cameras had been messed with this time so security had probably gotten a good look at everything that had happened. And Everheart had said that they’d been watching Centurion in case he tried something else.
But she started it first,” Slingshot protested.
Balderdash just sat in her seat, crying a little and looking terrified. Porcelain of course, had no visible expression at all. She just sat motionless in her chair, not saying a word. I would have forgotten she was even there if Fixx hadn’t kept glancing to her to see how she was doing.
Delarose turned his attention back to Centurion, his eyes becoming cold and very hard. “First degree assault and battery is a very serious crime and the only reason you aren’t facing the very serious consequences is that we don’t have the physical evidence. However, you can be assured that if there is even a HINT of a next time, you WILL be facing those consequences.”
Centurion had a faintly smug look at the start of that, probably because he knew Delarose couldn’t do anything without evidence. However, by the time Delarose finished, Centurion was looking very uncomfortable, as were Switchblade and Slingshot. Stoppable didn’t seem bothered at all, but he hadn’t been involved in the attack on me. Balderdash, on the other hand, was now openly sobbing.
A moment later, Delarose fixed his attention on me, making me squirm a little in my seat. Suddenly, I felt like I was in the middle of getting a lecture from my dad when he was at his worst. “And we will also not tolerate the kind of physical retaliation I suspect you have planned.”
But…,” Dana started to protest, only to go silent as soon as Delarose glared at her.
Your feud has been escalating,” Delarose stated, looking back and forth between Centurion and me. “You’ve even involved your friends in it. I don’t want to know how bad things could get if I let it continue, so it ends NOW. There will be no more attacks or retaliations. NONE.”
I grimaced at that, not looking at Centurion directly though I glared at him through the eyes of one of my faeries. It was bad enough that security wouldn’t do anything to Centurion and his friends after they attacked me, but now they were actually protecting him too. In spite of what Delarose said, I wasn’t going to just let Centurion walk away from this just yet. All this meant was that I’d have to be a lot sneakier about how I did it.
I’m not so naive to think that you two will shake hands and forget your grudges just because I forbid you from acting on them,” Delarose stated grimly. “So I’m going to give you both an opportunity to resolve your differences in a more controlled environment.”
What?” I asked in surprise, certainly not expecting that.
Delarose let that settle in for a moment before he continued. “None of you are simulator rated, so I am going to arrange a match in one of the arenas.”
I stared at Delarose, realizing that this made a lot of sense. Whateley had several arenas which had been built to train and test students in, so one of these would be the perfect place for us to go at each other. School property wouldn’t get damaged, no one else would get hurt, and there would be official supervision to make sure things didn’t go too far.
Since your friends are already involved,” Delarose said as he looked around the room, “we can make this a team match.”
I don’t want anything to do with it,” Balderdash said with a cringe and a guilty look at Slingshot.
This is gonna be fun,” Stoppable exclaimed with a smirk, probably just looking forward to an officially sanctioned chance to fight. As far as I knew, he didn’t really have anything personal against me. Now Fixx on the other hand…
Switchblade, Slingshot, and Centurion all had satisfied smirks of their own, making it quite clear where they stood on the idea of this challenge. They were also obviously quite confident about their chances.
I’m in,” Dana said immediately while Collin nodded agreement.
Definitely,” Collin stated, giving me a quick glance.
Jinx hesitated, then gave me a guilty look as she admitted, “Fighting isn’t really my thing, but if you really need me…”
Dana gave her a reassuring smile and told her, “It’s not a problem…”
We’ll manage,” I told Jinx, not wanting her to risk herself if she wasn’t comfortable doing so. If anyone knew the value of avoiding an unnecessary fight, it was me. “Three against four is still good odds for us…”
Four against four,” Fixx corrected me with a grim look. “I’m in too. I don’t like bullies and especially not people who put my friends in the hospital.”
I was a little surprised at that since I hadn’t thought Fixx was the kind to fight either. However, I remembered the way he’d dealt with Stoppable before and wasn’t about to turn down that kind of help. And as I remembered what he’d done with Stoppable, I couldn’t help but being curious about what else he could do.
Porcelain didn’t say anything during this whole exchange, though I certainly hadn’t expected her to help. I liked Porcelain, but she was even less of a fighter than Jinx was. In fact, I was thankful that she hadn’t volunteered because I would have felt horrible if she’d tried helping and got injured because of it.
Then I’ll give your teams until Sunday to prepare for your match,” Delarose told us, his aura showing that he was relieved that things were going as intended, though his serious expression showed no hint of that. “If there are ANY further incidents outside of sanctioned matches in the arena or sims, then the head mistress will have to get involved. And I can assure you, Mrs. Carson will be far less understanding about this than I am. You’re dismissed.”
To Be Continued