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Walking With Mythical Beasts
Sunday February 25, 2007
All Weather Road
Dunwich, New Hampshire
The eight youths originally from Mufresbro couldn't believe that it was finally happening, after a month they were almost here, the
The entire time Sophia never took her eye off her old friend, while it was true that each of them bore scars that needed healing. It was thanks to Madam Eventide's efforts in the shadow of Mount Etna the only ones that remained were on the inside, but Meradee's were beyond even the sorceress's magic’s to heal. Since she was rescued, Meradee had remained submerged within her own mind, and had yet to see the light of day- instead three aspects of her personality traded off guiding Meradee's body through life.
If it was true that the eyes were the window to the soul then Meradee's told who was behind the wheel. At present, her slit pupils told Sophia and anyone else who knew, that Jackie was in charge obviously carefully observing and taking stock of her surroundings, this was hardly surprising given that they were going to be in their new home away from home until summer vacation. Still it was probably taking all of the reptile's force of will to keep Cleo from leaping to the forefront and bouncing around like a caffeinated kitten.
As for Sophia herself, she was interested to be learning more about the mystic arts. While she didn’t get much of a chance to go over the few tomes that Madam Eventide kept at her Sicilian Villa (a difficult prospect given that they were all in Latin), and even less while staying under the protective wing of Erzabet Scratch’s group she knew enough that she wanted to learn more about her own mystic abilities.
As Sophia looked around it was blatantly obvious that she wasn’t the only one on this bus with a Wizard-trait as it was called, really who else would be going around on a bus bound for a private boarding school dressed like he was expecting to be attending Hogwarts, it was almost laughable. She wondered just how much she'd learn before she returned home to New York during the summer, maybe there were some members of the Mystic Six teaching here.
Meanwhile Sophia’s twin brother was almost vibrating with excitement, okay so being a mutant meant that his dreams of joining the NFL back in Cincinnati were DOA, but after going over the in-depth literature for Whateley’s various clubs, he was stoked. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined going to a school with a legitimate club referred to as the Future Superheroes of America, and according to his adviser with Axcel Incorporated the famed Falcon of Star League, as well as Merrimac, Mockn’bird, and Blankslate of the Justice Battalion and two of the Champions were all alumnae of the club.
Okay he was going in as a frosh, but still if he stuck to his guns he was sure he could get in. Richard smiled, as he knew that several good references, just a couple of weeks ago he had fought Professor Id’s minions alongside Mock’nbird, Merrimac, Doctor Thunder, and even living legends like the Valkyrian, and Doctor Quasimodo. Teaming up with one or two was probably a huge notch in his belt and he had already teamed up with several at once, maybe they would even be willing to overlook the fact that a mega-villainess like Madam Eventide saved him from the MCO.
For Candace things were less than exciting, okay she had initially been excited at first, a school for mutants that meant the place would be full of hunks and babes. Then she found out that the school was in the boonies of New Hampshire, everyone knew that the only places with an actual Nightlife in New England were Boston and maybe to a lesser extent Hartford and Portland, everything else consisted of sleepy vacation towns full of bed and breakfasts and people who couldn't take the hustle and bustle of a big city.
The sad fact was that the closest town to the school was a dinky one zip code place that if you sneezed you could drive past it without even knowing that it was there. Although she had heard, Dunwich was also a place that existed in symbiosis with the school itself, given that a number of students and even a few alumni worked there. She hoped there was some cool clubs she could join or at least something to do on campus, because anything off campus would be boring to a girl that had grown used to the nightlife in and around the Windy City while living with her aunt. Of course there was another reason she had to live in the now, if she allowed herself to slow down that meant that she gave herself time to think and that meant the past could catch up with her.
Arnold meanwhile was so excited that he was vibrating in his seat; his family honestly hadn't done too bad after leaving the Rust Belt for the Bible Belt. Indeed Memphis while brutal during the summer was the place to be for anyone who fancied themselves a grease monkey, and here he was going to a school that produced a tech genius like Gizmatic.
Okay bad example, the guy may have been a USDA Grade-A nut job but he was also an unparalleled tech-genius and this school was where he and scores of heroes, villains, and non-capes learned to apply their gifts for all things tech. The sheer scope of the possibilities for him was mind-boggling, classes for robotics, high-energy applications, vehicular engineering, and all of it at his finger-tips before he even got his high school diploma- not to mention a great place to pad his resume.
Rex was having mixed feelings about this whole experience since they left New York. On the one hand he knew that Berlin and Dunwich had no night life and that meant that he could pursue Candace, the girl who had captured his heart back when the two of them were kids, he had always known that she was the one for him. The problem was that Whateley was bound to be full of guys that could catch her eye in a New York minute, guys with physiques that he could not compete with. He had always been lucky that she was never interested in Richard but this school would have a ton of Richards who would not hesitate to hook up with a hot babe like her.
Sonia meanwhile was laying in her nearby seat curled around her new boyfriend Max, the two of them had played together when they were kids and still stayed in touch after Sonia's family moved to Philadelphia and Max's moved to Pittsburgh. Still their experiences following their abduction and confinement served to cement a bond between the two of them, in a way they had become a couple even despite their metamorphosis.
Well it was a little disappointing that she didn't look as human as the others, you couldn't even tell by looking at her anymore that she was African American, then again these days you couldn't look at her and tell that she used to be a skilled ballerina either. Sonia looked down at the tail that had taken the place of her once graceful legs with an ounce of regret she didn't mind losing her former complexion for a reptilian appearance, mainly because she probably wouldn't be called an oreo anymore by the gangsta rappa wannabe's that lived in her neighborhood in Philadelphia. Why anybody wanted to emulate those idiots was beyond her, didn't they know that most of that was a stage persona that the performers used to create street cred.
Max meanwhile was taking the situation in stride, unlike the others he looked perfectly normal unless he had his powers active- at least as long as he was wearing shades and kept his mouth shut. The one thing that sucked was he his near constant insomnia, it wasn’t he had difficulty sleeping, more like he didn't need to anymore. At least he kept the others from finding out, if there was one thing that he didn't want to do it was worry Sonia, she had enough on her plate already. Yes sir if there was one thing that his dad made sure to drill into his head over the years it was that a real man never gives a lady an unnecessary reason to worry… well that and save the navy talk for when anything heavier than fifty pounds drops on you foot.
Before long their bus left the all weather road and passed through the wrought iron gates of the Whateley Academy campus, everyone on the bus was amazed. They expected the place to be big but the school's scope seemed less like a boarding school and more like a small town university complete with the statue of the school's founder. You couldn't tell just from visiting that this was a school for mutants, it looked like a place for blue-blooded elites.
As the bus finally came to a stop on the side of the school road south of the statue alongside what must have been the main administrative building. Standing right outside there were six students, likely juniors or seniors lined up each with a clipboard, along with a woman who was likely one of the academy's administrators. Sophia also could have sworn that she saw someone on the roof, although it probably some of the other students here to have a peak at the new arrivals.
Once their group and the others that were on the bus, including one person who looked more like something that a mad scientist would put together than a person, they patiently waited with the others as the others formed into rows. Meanwhile the limo that had been following the buses pulled in, Titus Banon and Madam Eventide's daughter and niece stepped out, along with a man who looked like he was cos-playing for a Stargate fan convention who was obviously going to help them with their luggage.
That was when everything went to hell, someone shouted aloud in a language that none of the group recognized, while firing a bolt of lightning at group by the limo. The man with the animal-esque helmet dropped to one knee sparking, while the youths with him glared at the platinum-maned male model who had just tried to kill them.
"Mister Stratholm what is the meaning of this?" The lady who had been standing with the six students demanded to know as she charged over to the boy like an army battalion charging an enemy stronghold.
For the first time in a while Candace was separated from her friends, as they found out from the seven lines earlier, they were to separate the students out into the seven cottages that were peppered around the Whateley. The guys were all put in Twain; apparently, the single gender Cottages were separated by degree of GSD, and Twain was the male GSD cottage.
We found out later that under ordinary circumstances Max would have been sent to Emerson, but the Dean of Students decided that our experience as a group meant needed to stick together as much as possible for mental health reasons- the guys especially. Sophia, Sonia and Meradee all went to Whitman, which was apparently the ladies' equivalent of Twain, as she learned not to long ago the girl's answer to Emerson- Dickinson Cottage was even more picky about flaws than their counterpart was.
Melville was supposedly a co-ed dorm for people with some serious connections, the big movers and shakers lived there, while Hawthorne was for those with personal needs for a variety of reasons. As for Candace herself, she was in Poe or as it was known the head-case cottage, at first that didn't make sense, Meradee was the head-case of their group. Okay Candace admitted to herself she did have a few issues, she never knew her father and her mother was killed by a drunk when she was six, then sent to live with her aunt when her grandfather was downsized prior to the plant shutting down. Still all of this was fairly normal and happened to a lot of kids, maybe not all to the same kid but it still happened.
There weren't too many new people to arrive it was just her and a girl who called herself Ceecee. "Now as you know the fact that Whateley is a refuge for educating mutants to survive in the outside world is unknown to all but a relative few," The housemother Bella Horton began to explain. "However within the Whateley Academy Poe Cottage is a refuge to other groups just as persecuted; the groups being Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders. Now remember because this rule is sacrosanct to those who live here and call this place their refuge from less tolerant individuals, the rest of the school must never learn the truth about Poe Cottage. Keep this in mind when around outsiders because just as we of Poe protect our own, many of us are also not afraid to admonish any who threaten or out another of our cabin to the general student body."
Okay the other shoe had finally dropped; this is why she was separated from the other girls in my group. Granted to them it was no secret by now that she played both sides of the fence, hell it was probably one of the reasons that Rex was hot for her, he was probably hoping for a ménage à trois further down the line... although if he brought his power into play just what would you call that? Still this meant that she was in a co-ed cabin where the girls liked other girls, talk about having your cake and eating it too.
"Now normally we partner up girls of similar orientations together," Mrs. Horton explained for a second. "However right now we have an odd number of first year students; Ceecee as someone whose undergone a gender transformation due to your Body Image Template we are going to let you room with another of our male-to-female transformees who started here last fall Chou Lee."
"As for you Candace you will also be rooming with a transformee who arrived this winter." The dorm mother continued to lecture. "We do not normally do this; however we will be partnering you up with Randi Bridges, also please remember that the campus rules frowns untoward relations between students. Now Ms. Fordes, if you will be so kind, please show these ladies to their rooms."
The upper-class woman who Candace later learned was named Beltane and also a male-to-female changeling as they were called around Poe, as well as the most notorious prankster in the cottage. After they walked up the stairs to the second floor, apparently, the only things on the first floor were Mrs. Horton's apartment and special use rooms; she gave Ceecee her key and told her that her roommate was currently spending winter break elsewhere.
After the two of them navigated through the eastern sun room, sort of a lounge for the freshman girls in Poe, they entered the Northeast hallway. "Here's your key although it should be unlocked since Randi's still here for winter break, apparently a mob stormed her home while she was here this winter and wrecked the place."
"Yikes," Candace winced that the picture that statement conjured in her mind. "Are her folks okay?"
"Yeah, Randi's little sister is a warper with a transportation talent so everyone got out in time and the mob was arrested." Belle said as a bittersweet smile appeared on her face, "Evidently that was the second house that they stormed that night, and while they were busting into that one the neighborhood watch called the cops while the other guy's alarm told them to respond."
"Well at least no one was hurt," Candace said in relief. "Still I can't help but wonder what that would do to her if she knew that she wasn't there to help her family."
While pondering that information the fox girl opened the door and saw the occupant of the room cleaning and polishing a rather large knife while what she thought was a raven loomed nearby, the two of them turned towards that door and the girl asked. "Yes, can I help you with something?"
Candace blanched at the sight before her, backed slowly out of the room and turned to Belle. "Please tell me there are other available rooms, it's scary in there."
Belle shook her head as she reopened the door, "Randi what did you do to traumatize your new roommate?"
"Hell if I know?" The girl named Randi stated as she set the knife down, and stood up while the bird hopped onto her left shoulder. "I was just maintaining my equipment like I do this time every week, and she just freaked."
"All I know is that I walked into a room with someone making a scary face holding a knife and a creepy bird was staring at me." Candace stuttered. "What is that thing doing in here anyway; I thought that we weren't supposed to have pets here at Whateley?"
"Madam I am no pet," the bird said as it spoke like a cultured lady. "I am young Randi's familiar, a storm crow in fact, and as the case with all familiars of students studying the mystic arts I am allowed to stay both on campus and in the dorm of my charge."
"A bird is talking to me," Candace said as she leaned against the wall. "Okay I thought that the ton of gold in the gallery and the giant robot on the tour of the underground lab were weird enough but this takes the cake."
Randi walked up to stand next to Belle and whispered, "If she thinks that this is weird wait until she means Jimmy Trauger."
"Are you kidding Randi," Belle whispered out of the side of her mouth as she looked at the poor girl. "The way things stand I don't even think that she's up to meeting Jericho."
Randi considered for a minute, and nodded in agreement with a weird look on her face.
"You kind of look familiar, have we met." Randi pondered as she approached Candace scrutinizing her for a bit before she spotted the girl's tail. "Now I remember you were that girl who was hitting on me during the awards ceremony last Monday in New York."
"What? No way, that was you!" Candace exclaimed, as she was honestly shocked. "How come I didn't recognize you from before? I didn't even know that you had a tail too. Wait, so that was one of the birds that fried those artillery vending machines the bad guys used to try and convince everyone to start shooting at each other."
"It is called a disguise for a reason you know." Randi looked at Candace with a deadpan expression that said something of the girl's naivete.
"I do have a name for your information," Jane commented in a frosty tone that literally caused the temperature in the room to dip.
"Still saving the French President and Ambassador at your own medal ceremony while thwarting the schemes of number three on the international most wanted list," Candace said remembering that night. "Talk about a major feather in your cap."
"Yeah too much of a feather, apparently my group did a little more there than we should have," Faolan mildly groaned as admitted to her chagrin on her actions that night. "In between my sister's getting rid of the fire-arms that were stashed under the tables, Jane and her mom frying the vending machines, and Kerry and I breaking through the barrier on the door we made way too much of a show."
"Morrigan seems to think that the lot of us might wind up receiving the Legion of Honor, just because we preventing a fire fight that would have endangered the French President's life and got everyone out of the room to safety. If that happens Headmistress Carson's going to think that I want to make myself as much of a nuisance as Team Kimba, I just know it!"
Candace looked at her new roommate with confusion before Belle explained, "Miss Carson prefers that students not do anything that makes people too suspicious about young mutants being so well trained, and it might let the wrong sort of people begin hunting around for the existence of a mutant training facility. Fortunately since Randi and her sister's code names are on record as being mentored by members of the Dallas Defenders we hope that means that such people would likely be looking around halfway across the country rather than here in New England for such a facility."
Like with Candace, Meradee was also left with the situation of not rooming with a member of their group, although she still had Sophia and Sonia as neighbors given that they were in the next-room. No Meradee had the distinction of having the most- unique roommate situation since the school's administration left paired up Jericho and Razorback, her roommate was a transplant from ARC who had arrived stateside a month and a half ago named Fulanah AlFulaniyya or as the girl called herself-
"Atavis," The bizarre dragon-cat-bird-girl said in her calm tone. "the doctors who were working with me over at the Arkham Research Consortium since my body shifted into this state said that I presented a number of biological atavisms, so I decided to call myself Atavis."
"Is there some reason that your parents decided to give you a name so identical to your family name?" Jackie, Meradee's more cautious and inquisitive personality inquired, after all the strange looking girl couldn't be any more of an unknown if she tried. "Does it have some cultural significance or is it a family thing?"
"Actually it is the Iraqi term used for a Jane Doe," Atavis began to explain. "I was found by an United States Army patrol after I absorbed the energy from a car bomb; apparently that incident was also what triggered my metamorphosis but the trauma left me with what the doctors at ARC called retrograde amnesia. They don't know when my memories will come back; some of the scientists even suggest that due to the vast extent of my internal changes and the shift in neurochemistry necessary for me to control my new body that the memory loss might be permanent."
"Oh you poor dear," Meradee said while Mary took the helm. "To be in a strange country all alone, and not even know who you are or where your family is, it must be horrible. If you need anything don't hesitate to tell me."
"I don't consider it too much of a problem," Atavis explained as she preened while looking at the mirror to make certain that she did it right. "After all how can you miss something that you don't even remember? Besides the Military Police who took me into protective custody said I was so covered in dirt that I was probably homeless, which is hardly surprising given that the entire country is a war-zone. Tell me why do you have three names hovering around you and what looks like the faint image of a fourth?"
"Wait you can see names?" Jane said as she came to the forefront in control of Meradee's body again, after all this could be dangerous.
"Yes, I can see all kinds of things." Atavis said in a matter of fact manner. "I can see energy moving around, even if it's in wires behind metal walls. I can see what people are feeling and when they are lying, and as you already know names. It's weird the Mary one was glowing earlier, but now the Jane name is glowing."
"It appears that it's my turn to tell you something," Jane sighed as she knew that she had to come clean, with the girl's abilities she could not keep her secret for long. Not that she would have been able to keep her condition secret for long in a school full of who knows how many telepaths, empaths and super-hackers. "My friends and I were abducted by the MCO over winter vacation and taken to a secret facility for...testing. The acts that they performed their and the tests that they ran on us were beyond illegal, fortunately a super-villain learned of our plight and rescued us while decimating the facility, unfortunately the damage was already done."
"While the other members of our group’s damage was mainly on the outside and this Madam Eventide was able to blur our memories of the ordeal in order to reduce the trauma using magic, she was unable to undo the damage that had been done to me." Jane closed Meradee's eyes and tried to center herself before she continued. "I have multiple personality disorder; the horrible part is that none of the three of us is our real self. Meradee the real us, hasn't been awake since we manifested. We can feel that she's there, but the problem is that we just can't get her to wake up- so the three of us are taking turns until she finally decides to so that we can start getting back to normal."
Now it was Atavis's turn to offer her comfort to Meradee, suddenly and without warning, the cat-bird-dragon-girl curled around her in a hug of smooth scales, warm fur and soft feathers. I was odd, but Jane felt herself relax as Cleo took the helm of Meradee's body, yet Jane and Mary both shared in the sensation as the feel of the heavily GSD'd girl embrace seemed to fill them with a soothing energy.
"I can't believe that the FSA's club house wasn't part of the tour." Richard huffed as he raced to put away his things. "Don't they know how many students would love to see that?"
"It can't be helped Rich," Arnold said as he began to put away his own things in the room the two of them would be sharing for the rest of their first year. "They probably don't want anyone on the villain track to leave spy devices lying around. At least they had a decent hero exhibit in the Homer Gallery all of that stuff on the Champions, not to mention that suit of steampunk armor who was that guy Iron Steed."
"Iron Horse," Richard corrected his friend. "It's wild west slang for a steam train, I can't believe the bad guy who did that is still on the loose. At least you got to see the workshops for all of the gadgeteers and devisors."
"I know that equipment was beyond bleeding edge," Arnold said with stars in his eyes. "And did you see that giant robot; I wonder what kind of power source that thing has?"
"Maybe its Nerdgasmic Fusion generated!" Richard remarked with a sly grin, "You were certainly drooling enough over it."
"I was not," Arnold shot back indignantly as a knock was heard on their door. Richard opened it to see their friend Max looking rather annoyed.
"Does either of you two want to trade rooms?" Max asked with an air of frustration to him. "Rex found out that Candace is in a co-ed dorm and he's beside himself with jealousy...literally."
Arnold and Richard stared at each other and then at Max and responded with a simultaneous, "NO!"
"Well does either of you have anything to calm them down with?" Max asked the two in sheer desperation. "They are driving me crazy, and I don't want to have to put up with this all night."
The two of them thought for a second, then Arnold went over to his tool bag- took something out and handed it to Max. "There this stuff can solve any problem if you apply it correctly."
Max looked at what Arnold handed him and then smiled evilly. Arnold saw this and simply stated, "As the old saying goes when in doubt, duck it." Max soon left the room with Arnold spool of duct tape and the gadgeteer stated as his friend looked at him with an odd expression. "Well what are you standing around like that for, we have that match to go see at Area 99."
"Are you sure that we need to see this?" Richard asked while he checked his drawers to make certain that he put everything away correctly, as the two of them heard a good deal of commotion next door.
"Are you kidding?" Arnold asked him in shock. "This Lord Khamsin is supposedly part of the same organization as Madam Eventide and Erzabet Scratch, and this Imperious is a real heavy hitter among the students. Why would you want to miss a chance to see one of the ancient heavyweights show what he's made of?"
"Good point," Richard replied as he shut his drawers and then the door to his closet. The two of them exited their room to see Max do the same with a very relieved look on his face.
"Thanks for the tape Arnold," Max smiled as he offered the rest of the spool back, that was almost entirely spent.
"Ah keep it but from now on get your own," Arnold said with a once of trepidation in his voice.
"Alright," Max said as he tossed the spool back into the room and shut the door. "Let's get to this thing; I want to compare notes with Sonia anyway."
"Are you sure that Rex will be alright in there?" Richard said as he stared at the door to the room that the aforementioned youth shared with Max.
"Oh he'll be alright," Max said in a matter of fact manner. "It's not like he doesn't have company in there."
While the trio made their way to Arena 99, inside the room Rex shared with Max, he and his duplicate were realizing another dilemma. The dilemma being that they really shouldn't have drank that one liter bottle of Peach Brisk on the ride over.
"Man Soph could you believe it," Sonia proclaimed as she slithered up to her dresser to change into her nightgown. "Not only are you get to learn from Flower Child but I have a chance to candy stripe at a school clinic that's as state of the art as a modern hospital! If you told me something like this would happen back in December I would have thought that you were nuts."
"If I thought that anything that happened to us over the last two months would was going to happen then I would have either needed to get my head examined or be power tested for precognizance." Sophia retorted with a wry grin, "At least everyone is happy here so far. My brother has the chance to try his hand at learning how to be a super-hero, and Arnie got a tech workshop to play around in that would makes MIT look like ITT. Meradee's personalities also seem to like their roommate Atavis, and Candace told me at dinner that she's rooming with that Faolan girl from New York."
"Yeah Max even heard around school that there are two martial-arts clubs so he's trying to figure which of them to try out for when classes start up." Sonia explained while she curled up to the bottom bunk, "Rex doesn't seem too happy when I saw him at dinner though, he looked downright pissed off about something."
"He's probably upset that Candace is in a co-ed dorm," Sophia said as she unbuttoned her blouse and prepared to step into her own nightgown that was on the floor. Having wings and flying might seem like a neat thing but it often made it more difficult to get dressed and severely limited her choice of outfits, at least the school had uniforms that were tailored to button with a low back for students that had wings. "Can you imagine for her it must be like being a kid in a candy store."
"The guys in her dorm might not mind but I doubt that the girls will take too kindly to her hitting on them." Sonia observed as she stared at the bottom of Sophia bed. "At least we have a week to settle in and get to feel our way around campus before classes start. It shouldn't even be that crowded most of the students are headed out for winter break, we might even get to spend some time in Berlin."
"At least it gives us the time to find some place to work here on campus." Sophia stated as she climbed up to the top bunk. "Our scholarships might cover our tuition but we still need to earn some money for miscellaneous expenses, but let's worry about that tomorrow. Goodnight Sonia!"
"Goodnight Soph!" Sonia said as she literally curled up under her sheets and went to sleep.
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Monday February 26, 2007
For the first time since they had arrived at Whateley the Mufresbro Eight were gathered together, technically they would have done that yesterday as well while watching the match between Lord Khamsin and Imperious in Arena 99, but Rex being rather tied up prevented this. As for dinner last night, they weren't able to sit together given how crowded Dunn Hall's Dining Room was given the fact that several students had either yet to leave for Winter Break or had opted not to do so.
"So Candace, Meradee, we didn't have a chance to ask you last night," Arnold brought up now that he'd sat down with his bacon and scrambled eggs. "What're your roommates like?"
Meradee turned with Mary glaring out her eyes. "She's a very kind young lady, honestly I wish that I was as good at coping with life as her, I found out that she's from Iraq and lost her memory after getting caught in a car bomb. Remember that girl on the bus that looked like she was part cat, part bird and part dinosaur, that's her, apparently her body soaked up all of the energy of the bomb's blast and changed her into that. She's spent a couple of months at the Arkham Research Center to make sure that she was physically alright, but other than not knowing who she really is or if she has a family Fulanah is perfectly fine."
"As for my roommate, well you guys aren't going to believe this, but most of you've already met her." Candace said but refused to go into details.
"At least they aren't letting her room with a guy," Rex grumbled as he continued munching on his bowl of Goodie-O's.
"Well don't leave us in suspense," Sonia stated as she eyeballed the foxgirl speedster. "Just who is it?"
"That girl Faolan from New York who was receiving the award at the party we went to at the Waldorf." Candace explained. "And Apparitia the other recipient is her younger sister and is over in Dickinson."
"Wasn't that the girl you were hitting on after the fight with those Quick Clones dressed up like Syndicate Tiger Guards?" Sonia asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah," Candace readily admitted, "turns out that she looks about as much like a wolf as I do a fox, and one of those birds that fried those vending machines is her familiar Jane."
"Small world isn't it?" Max mused as he sipped his OJ. "I wonder if we'll run into anyone else that we know here?"
Elsewhere in the cafeteria, Imperious was fuming, less than a day had passed since some mortal sorcerer had bested him in front of the entire student body. Also lately, his plans had been thwarted one after another embarrassing him in the eyes of his fellow Olympians, which amused Judicator and Majestic to no end.
Still these were not things to celebrate; they had lost their chance to regain control of the Artificer Galatea's modern incarnation. Counterpoint remained incapacitated in Doyle after he being injected with two vile concoctions crafted by that egotistical mortal mad scientist Jobe. Their efforts to gain the Fount of Power that Seraphim represented had be thwarted by her acquaintance with this new Galatea that called herself Eldritch, as well as the faerie mongrel that hung around her Faolan. Moreover, just the day before they discovered that bastard Typhon was now free and on the campus grounds, and from appearances he had already created alliances of power that would benefit him in the modern world.
Imperious knew that he had to remedy this, he needed information, and fortunately he had indirect access to a decent source. "My dear Elisabeth would you do your father a favor? I know that you have an arrangement with that mongrel girl who has been keeping Seraphim away from us, something about an information exchange."
Judicator looked up from her meal at her father as her eyes narrowed, as the former Greek Goddess of Wisdom, she should have known that eventually her father would seek to use her connections to gather intelligence from her sources. "She has given me information in the past because she felt that she owed me for helping her deal with the minor Celtic deity that possessed Solange, faerie are very particular about not leaving debts unpaid. That also goes with injuries as Counterpoint found out when she put that curse on him for attacking her unprovoked. When she gave me that intel on that creature that dislocated Counterpoint's arms and legs that debt she owed me was paid in full, if I want to learn anything from her I would need to pay in kind."
"Now, now my dear Elisa I am certain that we could easily compensate her for her troubles," Imperious stated as he began to ooze charm and charisma to try to compel Judicator to cooperate.
"That never worked on me in the old days," Judicator glared at Imperious in a manner as frosty as her tone. "What makes you think that it would work on me now? Nevertheless I will see if the two of us can work out the terms for the information, however you had best remember that you will have to compensate me for this deed in the future."
"Very well, it should be very easily done," Imperious stated still beaming with confidence, despite his attempt to assert his power having failed. It was a minor setback at best he would eventually gain the power of Seraphim's fount through his own charms; after he accomplished this eliminating Typhon would be easy. Then he would use his renewed godhood to claim Nikki Reilly as he had many maidens of old, before razing the Foreigner's order and reestablishing his own rule from atop Olympus.
"Speaking of Typhon," Cytherea commented after finishing a dainty spoonful of her yogurt and politely wiping her mount. "Have you noticed that group of new students over by the door? It appears that Echidna was not the only one he arrived with."
Imperious turned his gaze to where Cytherea indicated and his eyes widened in shock, there in human form were eight of the ten beast created by the union of Typhon and Echidna. "So his spawn are here as well, I notice that neither the sow nor the dog that I gave Stygian are here."
"If the one known as Morrigan is to be believed, Cerberus is currently within the Tartarus of the Foreigner's Other." Majestic said as she relayed a piece of what to her was old information. "She claimed that Dionysus traded him for a crown in one of the realms of that land after he betrayed us to The Foreigner- something about a throne in the hell representing the sin of gluttony."
"An obvious lie," Imperious scoffed at the very idea. "No son of mine would sell out the family for so minor a prize."
"He would if he felt that if it was the better alternative, besides treachery is a staple of this family if you would do well to remember, especially if it includes the disposal of the prior generation." Judicator explained as she prepared to leave the group. "It also left him with something more substantial than the mortality that welcomed the rest of us upon our return. Also the faerie do not lie if it is to repay a debt; they might keep secrets, omit facts or speak in generalities but they never outright lie when it repays a debt, such an act goes against their very nature."
"So does anyone have any plans for before classed begin in a week?" Max asked as he looked at his friends.
"I'll be looking for a job on campus and looking over my textbooks." Sonia explained to the others. "Since I'll be studying magic getting a head start on the reading will be a must."
"I don't know about the rest of you but I need to find something to do." Candace said as she stood up. "I need to some entertainment around here or I'll go insane, if you need me I'll be going for a run around campus."
As Quikvix dropped her dishes and silverware off at the wash station, the rest of her friends looked on as she departed as normal speed before she became a russet blur after seeing the green flag. "Looks like she still hasn't gotten over it," Sonia stated as she saw her friend run off. "Not that it's surprising, but she really needs to see a therapist about that."
"I doubt that she ever will unless someone forces her to do so," Sonia said as she sipped her milk. "Candace obviously doesn't want to let herself think about that, her need for entertainment is an obvious search for a much needed distraction so that she can escape thinking about the matter."
"I don't know how I'd handle that," Arnold mused for a second as he poked at the last of his scrambled eggs. "I mean if I lost my mom I don't know what I'd do, losing dad was hard enough but that was an accident, I'd never know what I'd do if I lost them both."
"Still back to our earlier topic," Max interrupted trying to get everyone back on the same page and away from the gloom and doom. "We all know that we need to find something to do here on campus in addition to any clubs or activities that we might want to join."
"I'll probably try working in the accounting department," Sophia stated as she let her thoughts drift. "Working with numbers always did help me focus, and if there is one thing that I'll need to have when studying magic it's focus."
"I'll see if they need any help with the school's motor pool," Arnold stated as he mused for a second. "I wonder if Whateley has an auto club?"
"Well after looking into the martial-arts clubs I plan on seeing if the grounds crew needs any workers." Max explained as he stared out the window. "I'm a lot more agile than I used to be after all."
"I still plan on trying out being a candy striper, with a medical clinic that size they probably need as many hands as they can get." Sonia explained as she gestured in the general direction of Doyle.
"I'll probably try joining the maintenance crew," Richard explained. "When dad took over as our building's super for our apartment building back in Cincinnati he needed all the help that he could get. I've seen almost as many pipes as a Mario brother at this point, not so many turtles though just rats."
"I doubt that they'll trust the three of us to handle anything." Meradee stated with Jackie's slit pupils showing all that the cool reptilian was in command. "Given our state they almost placed us in Hawthorne, if our paperwork did not state that we were not dangerous I doubt that we would be allowed to leave our room."
"I'll probably try the janitorial crew." Rex explained as he divided releasing his alter-ego Lucky. "After all we can do twice the work."
"I wonder if that means that we'll get double the pay rather than just finish in half the time." Lucky said bringing up an excellent point. Still there was a matter of their missing member, just what would be the right job for someone who hated to stay still.
Whateley South Campus
As she rounded the bend along Hawthorne, Candace let herself get lost in the scenery. Yes, this was the best, don't stop- keep running, don't take time to think about...that. Blasted that was almost ten years ago, well over half of the life that she had lived why did that memory still haunt her? Why did she still think about that night and the days that followed, the memories had come even more frequently since her time under the thumb of the MCO, why couldn't she just let it go?
That was when Candace noticed that she wasn't the only student out for a run this morning, a man that was built like Richard and seemed to be groomed like a army soldier was leading a group of students around campus. Most of them looked about as normal as she'd expect, granted that there were a lot of lookers from both sides of the gender gap. The most unusual of them appeared to be a girl with what looked like tattooed marble skin and metallic-black hair was leading a group of other students as they used the school itself like and obstacle course. Hold on a second those weren't random moves this was parkour, these students were free-running, a smile crossed Candace's face as she went back to the fond memories she shared of the pastime with her ex-classmate Chandra Defrank. Suddenly this school wasn't looking so bad, the vulpinesque speedster thought to herself as she slowed down and veered off the course that she had been running to follow the pack of students.
The reasons for this were two fold, while she was no real greenhorn at parkour, she and Chandra hung out with a group of students that practiced it near the University of Chicago known as the Maroon Maniacs. She was still unfamiliar with the Whateley Academy's campus, these students obviously knew the campus well, and she hoped that she could pick a few things up by observation. The other major reason was Candace hadn't really practiced any of these moves since she manifested, she would need some time to deal with the addition of speedster powers, not to mention her big, fluffy tail.
She moved along following the pack from a discrete distance all the while taking note of their path and use of moves to navigate the environment. Still as they moved along Candace gradually stopped observing and without being aware began to participate from a distance. Her old reflexes began to take over while her body compensated on its own for her new physique, even her tail curled out of the way, as she rolled over one obstacle. Eventually Candace was no longer watching from a distance she had joined the rear of the pack and was next to this girl who for some reason looked at her with a nervous expression.
Eventually the pack came to a stop and the army man wannabe spoke up, "Well it looks like we picked up another new member, must be one of the new students because I don't remember seeing you around before." The young man extended his hand to Candace, "Most folks around school call me Breaker, you seem to have some decent moves there, and I take it that this is old hat to you."
"Well I used to with a group of students at Chi-Town U before I manifested and grew this feather-duster." Candace said as she swished her bushy tail behind her. "I'm just glad that I've gotten used to the other changes so that they didn't throw my center of balance for a loop, then again the tail probably helps me compensate."
"Hey aren't you one of the new arrivals in Poe?" A girl who had to be a solid ten in any other school said as she separated from the group to look her over.
"Yeah, I go by Quikvix," Candace said as she shook the other girl's hand. "I just got here yesterday. Talk about the dramatic first impression, not a minute after I get here another student attacks a super-villain and then gets beaten into the ground by him right before dinner in front of the entire student body."
"Yeah, it's going to take Imperious the walking self-proclaimed god's gift to women, a while to live that one down. Still I hope for his sake that he doesn't try to get even, I'm not too familiar with this Lord Khamsin guy but the girls in that limo were supposedly Madam Eventide's daughter and niece. Anyone that she'd trust with those two is bound to be a heavy-weight in and of themselves- probably in the same weight class." The girl grimaced at the memory of what Sahar told her as she shuddered. "Anyway I'm Zenith, Poe's resident fixer, so if you ever need anything just ask."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." Candace said as she immediately asked. "Um do you guys mind if I join you, if that would be alright I mean?"
"Sure," The girl with the tattooed marble skin and the metal hair stated. "the Parkour Hooligans can always use another runner, provided you can keep up of course."
"I doubt that will be a problem," Candace smiled with mischief in her eyes. "I'm many things, but a slowpoke is not one of them."
Whateley West Campus
Much to Judicator's chagrin finding Faolan, after she left the dining hall was much easier said than done now that classes were over until next week. This was especially true given that the girl did not carry a cell phone. After a solid hour of searching, she was just about to ask Tracer to look for her when she spotted that object of her search coming out of Laird Hall.
"Miss Bridges," Judicator stated as she walked over to the girl. "Just the person I was looking for, I need to talk with you about something."
"Let me guess Athena, your father of a lifetime ago wants to know about Typhon's new friends?" The faerie wolf girl said in an even tone and a hard look. "I warn you now that the knowledge you seek will likely cost you far more than would be willing to pay."
"I am told to try," Elisa stated as she locked eyes with the young fighter. "What is the price that you ask for everything that you know of this Lord Khamsin and those that he is associated with?"
"That shall be most costly indeed," The faerie scratched her chin as she weighed just how much she knew about the subject. "I think that the Linothorax of Metis would suffice."
"What?" Judicator said as she recoiled in shock at just the girl demanded of her. "How could some information bring such a high price?"
"This is information that few know, and should you become one of those that do will grant you time to prepare for a possible foes that you have yet to meet or even learn exist. Not to mention that there might be those who count Lord Khamsin as allies yet do not consider either an enemy or a threat, this would let you attack them unawares with many of their weaknesses." Faolan said as she outlined her reasons, "As I am rendering another vulnerable to you, you must surrender unto me that which protects you from harm."
"But the source of the armor that I manifest," Judicator said as she was still in shock over how steep the price she was being asked.
"Your personal safety for the identity of a nest of powerful potential foes and what I know about how to fight them, Pallas this is what I ask as my price." Randi Bridges said in an even tone as she laid down her price in layman’s terms. "Two pieces of advice for free patron of wisdom, point one you may discover a great deal of this information on your own if you search diligently enough, and point two this also may be one can of worms that you would best leave unopened."
"I think that I shall follow your first piece of advice," Judicator stated as she began to walk away from the odd freshman from Poe. "There are some short cuts that are just not worth it."
"Very well, suit yourself," The wolf girl said with a straight-laced tone. "Just don't be too hasty in your actions before you have all of the facts, there are some mistakes that once made cannot be undone especially when it involves the Circle that Lord Khamsin counts himself a member."
Stuck midway between breakfast and lunch Arnold decided to kill time by wandering the devisor and gadgeteer workshops. While it was true that those which had been claimed by certain students as their private labs and workshops, the public general use workshops and garages were open to all students once they read and signed the safety waver- which Arnold had done after breakfast.
Okay granted this place was amazing but to be honest he wasn't one for building power armor or ray guns- okay a jet pack may be neat but that was it in the sci-fi department. Arnold had grown up with his mom who was a grease monkey after her father's heart, they both loved cars and engines, oil and grease, some of these work places were far too sterile for his taste- it was as if they had no personality, no soul to them.
The bird boy kept wandering through the labs and workstations as the mystic kept peeling off this place more and more, that was all until he beheld a thing of superb beauty. Right before him was an honest to god 1969 Ford Mustang, one of the First Generation of The Original Pony Car was sitting right there before him, he did all that he could to avoid weeping in joy.
"Who are you and what are you doin' droolin' over mah' car?" Arnold turned around to see a redheaded Georgia Peach glaring at him.
"What!?! a guy can't admire a classic?" Arnold said as he turned his eyes from the girl back to her car. "Seriously this was part of the generation when people were finally beginning to get a clue that you could get the power of a muscle car without the obviousness. Really when they got out of the stupidity of the 50's and got the idea to combine power and class, not to mention how they could be customized by anyone with the know-how and the elbow grease."
"So you think that you know a few things about cars," the lady said before extending her hand. "Name's Loophole, Ah’m part of the Gearheads and one of the Alphas." Noticing his eyes widen when she mentioned that she continued. "I take it that ya' heard of us."
"Yeah I heard that they're the movers and shakers on campus...among other things." Arnold met her handshake. "My name's Strato, and I should hope that I know a few things considering how much time I spent helping my mom and grandpa after school in their auto garage in Nashville."
"Nashville Tennessee." Loophole said as her eyes widened, "As in Fairgrounds Speedway, former home of the Winston Cup, that Nashville?"
"Yup, Music City herself, granted I just moved there with my mom when we were ten after the GM plant in our in Pennsylvania factory town shuttered." Arnold explained. "Still I'm glad, do you know how much NASCAR scrap there is in the junkyards to pick through, I plan on taking a little of what I learn here and some parts from the yards over there and finishing this custom job that I've been building myself over the summer. Of course even after I slap together a wrecking yard Frankenstein it still wouldn't compare to a classic like this, what kind of engine to you have under the hood?"
"It's mah own design, ya' won't find it on the market fo' a year or two." Loophole explained with a hint of pride in her voice, "Mah baby here's even street legal in Cali."
"I take it that the Gearheads are the Whateley Academy auto club?" Arnold asked, and after taking note of Loophole's nod of affirmation inquired. "Would you mind if I join?"
"Well you can ask me all you want but Dashboard is the club's president; you'd need her okay first." Loophole said as she mulled the matter over. "But I do know how you can get a good word in to join. One of the Groundskeeper's trucks was totaled last week by Bravo and his doofus brigade, we haven't got around to fixing 'er yet but if you can get 'er running she should earn you some major brownie points."
"Roger dodger ma'am," Arnold said as he ran off to find the school's motor pool and get started working on the vehicle in question.
"Nice kid," Elaine said as she watched him run off. "still would be good to have someone join otha' than to have a car on campus."
Sonia crawled out of the freshman showers, not so much having just showered but more of having brushed the dust from her scales. That was one of the major problems with having a serpentine lower body; you picked up dirt like car tire. "This is getting to be annoying, maybe I should ask Arnold if he can invent a sonic-scrubber or a static-dirt magnet, something that can make this quicker."
"Tell me about it," Another serpentine girl said as she slithered up to Sonia. "The five thousand meter daily belly crawl makes you pick up a ton of dirt and debris, I'm just glad that Jericho already made one for me. Oh, where are my manners? My name's Sandra but most just call me Diamondback for obvious reasons. You must be one of our spring transfer students, well welcome to Whateley and Whitman."
"Thanks," Sonia said as she shook Sandra's hand. "My name's Sonia although I also go by Asklepian, and before you ask it has nothing to do with pole dancing."
"Oh I have got to tell Jericho and Razorback that one, better yet maybe you can tell them yourself." Sandra said to the newcomer with a smile. "Something tells me that you'd fit in well with those two."
"Well actually I came here with a bunch of other kids that I've known for a while, but it never hurts to make new friends." Sandra as she tousled her dreadlocks.
"Speaking of new friends," This yellowish devil girl said as she inserted herself into the conversation. "You need to make sure to come to the next Faction-3 meeting; after all we GSD cases need to protect each other from the Pretties, and not turn our backs on each other." The devil lady said as she glared at Sandra with a smoldering hate before making her way down the stairs to the first floor.
"What did you do to piss her off like that?" Sonia asked more curious about the mystery girl than her invitation.
"That's Tisiphone and the crazy attitude comes standard with her, she hates me and my friends because we fail to fit into her narrow view of the world." Sandra said with a serious tone to her voice. "She used to be one of the pretties that she now despises, she went by the codename Fireball back then, that was before she bit off more than she could chew and tried to kill Phase from Team Kimba, Phase used her warping powers to KO Fireball and wound up shredding Fireball's BIT by accident. Ever since, she's called herself Tisiphone, and became a whole new kind of crazy. Faction-3 is totally optional by the way, its mostly one giant pity party for GSD students."
"Then thanks but no thanks." Sonia said as she shredded the card. "My life might be a bit of a pain right now but I make me who I am, not what I look like. Besides there are worse things in life than looking like a monster, at least I'm not a real monster."
Sandra smiled as she patted her fellow snake girl on the back. "I think you'll fit in just fine with the other members of Outcast Corner. Swing by later with a friend or two and you can come party with us down in the tunnels between Whitman and Twain around seven, we love an audience when we're jamming, just try not to stare too closely at what Jericho's wearing- you might accidentally hurt yourself."
"Sure thing," Sonia said as she slithered for the stairs trying to decide which of her friends would like to be invited to this get together- other than Max of course.
Underneath Holbrook Arena
Walking out of the Dragon's Studio and feeling satisfied with the talk that he had with the current Master of Dragons, it was when he crossed the hallway when he was confronted with a couple of African American students radiating pure attitude.
"Oh great, those dragons are attracting more kung-fu wannabee's," The male of the duo said while sounding so inner city that it seemed forced. "So White-bread how long have you been doing chop-socky one maybe two years."
"Try nine," Max said in an even tone, he had enough of jackasses like this back when he and Sonia used to hang out together in elementary school. Mainly having them call her oreo, while at the same time accusing him of trying to co-opt a sister. "And it's karate not chop-socky."
"Well- well this cracker's got a lip," The lady of the pair said while egging her boyfriend on. "Are you gonna let this white fish talk to you like that N'Dizi?"
"Young Mister M'Shulla had better, that is unless he wishes to give me a reason to reevaluate his club's charter." A tiny old Asian man said as he walked into the conversation, he didn't look like much but Max knew enough about how to read people to know that crossing this old man would mean trouble.
"No Ito-soke, we were just leaving," This N'Dizi said as he shot Max a look that told him he had just made the a-hole's personal shit list.
Once the two were gone, Ito-sensei turned to Max and told him. "You would do wise to watch yourself around this school, you can make enemies easily if you are not careful."
"No offense Ito-sensei, if I may be so bold as to call you that before I have my first class with you, but I have met his kind before." Max said which made Ito's eyes narrow. "I would have made his list before too long anyway."
"It is Ito-soke, and would you care to tell what kind is that?" Tatsuo Ito asked in a tone so lightly frosted that it might as well have been thin-ice.
"Basically someone so full of ethnic pride that it has started to transform into racism," Max said as he shook his head and sighed. "It's sick to think that some people are so full of blind anger that they don't even recognize that they're doing the very work of those that they claim to be fighting against, of course most of their ilk think that just because their group is a minority that they can't be racist. I've dealt with them before especially since my girlfriend is African American, albeit a scaly one right now, then again their type also bad mouths her because she doesn't conform to their ideals and wants make her own way in life."
"There are always those who belittle others for wanting to make the most out of their lives," Itou said with slight smile. "I look forward to seeing you in class next week..."
"Gillison," Max said as he bowed. "Max Gillison, and I look forward to learning what you have to teach me about myself Ito-soke."
This actually had the infamous evil old man of Whateley smile- a small one- after he had already turned his back on the boy and began walking for the exit. After all, it was rare that he had a student come to him who realized that he actually did have a lot to learn, it usually took him a while to beat that into them. This would prove most interesting year indeed.
Whateley Tunnels - Between Whitman and Twain Cottages
"I have to admit Sonia you found a nice spot to hang out, seems a lot more lively than that Faction-Three meeting that Tisiphone girl invited me to," Sophia said leaning forwards in her chair and enjoying watching The Outcasts go to town, "That girl made Meredith look stable, no offense Cleo."
"None taken Soph," Meredith's party girl personality said while rocking to the beats. "That girl yelled at me something fierce when I asked if I was invited after she extended an invitation to Fulanah, said that those who were suffering had no need of the pity of pretties like me. I think that it's pretty ironic if you ask me, aside from the amnesia thing Fulanah is the most well-adjusted person that I've ever met. She even turned down the invitation right afterwards, telling little miss hot-head that if she was any indication what Faction-Three was all about that she wanted no part in it."
"Is that why your here Fulanah?" Leo said as he turned to ask the chimeric mutant.
"Oh no," The lion, dragon, bird said as she waved off with her paw-like right hand. "Razorback invited me during dinner after I struck up a conversation with him about his aura. Well actually I was the one talking, but fortunately I learned sign language to communicate before I became used to my mouth."
Arnold noticed for a minute how Rex's split forms were arguing which of them was Candace's date then noticed something on her table. "Candace put your top back on!"
Naturally, the two Rex's turned to ogle them only to find the vulpine from Poe fully clothed. "Geez Arn," Candace huffed. "Why do you care that I don't have the lid on my soft-drink?"
This little display actually caused The Outcasts to stop playing for a moment as they busted a gut with everyone else in the room- well except for Atavis who didn't understand the joke.
Melville Cottage - New Olympus
"So you see Jason the information was simply too expensive, however Ms. Bridges did give me a few ideas on where to start looking." Judicator said as she stared across the table at the room the New Olympians had taken over last fall semester in Melville.
"Why don't I just go talk with her," Imperious stated as he began to turn on his charms. "I am certain that she will forthcoming very soon."
"If you remember Jason that last time you did that it proved most unsuccessful," Feral said as her animalistic gaze leveled at the progenitor of the spirit with whom she had found a balance of herself. "I also heard her around Poe stating that if you ever tried it again that she would castrate you with the same blades she used to skewer Counterpoint."
"Also think of what that faerie could do to the mighty Jove once she had his blood," Majestic mused aloud, "Maybe she might even cast a curse of impotence upon you or something even more horrid- like fidelity."
"I can scarcely deign to laugh you shrew." Imperious said in a bitter tone as he cast a withering glare towards the reincarnation of his wife. "Still we must do something about Typhon and Echidna, not only are they here amongst us but they have most of their children here as well. Does anyone have any valid suggestions?"
"Well as our dear absent sister Demeter would say, 'If you have a weed problem start with the small ones first to learn just what you are dealing with.'" Majestic stated with an evil smile. "I think it time that we remind the Mother and Father of Monsters of whom controls the fate of their children."
Elsewhere in the room Judicator's faction looked worried, they knew deep down that they might be starting something far too early without the requisite knowledge. As for Stygian he remembered his earlier deal with Mister Domino, who had from what he had seen delivered on his promise, he had to keep his part of the bargain and warn the reincarnations of Typhon and Echidna.
"Still we must do this subtly," Cytherea said throwing in her two drachma. "We can't do anything that can overtly be traced back to us, so leave the actions to Imperious and myself."
"Very well Victoria dear," Imperious said before he stood up. "Before the sun sets tomorrow the reborn spawn of Echidna shall know that they cannot hide in my new domain."
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Tuesday February 27, 2007
Another day and still he barely get to spend any time with his beloved Candace, he still remember the first day he saw her back in kindergarten in Mufresbro. His folks had come into town from Detroit to bring the local plant up to date with the new codes that had been handed down by the corporate office, and had brought me along for the ride since it was going to be a long-term assignment. He knew it hardly seemed fair to him at the time he was new in town and starting at a new school halfway through the year, he would probably never see any of his old friends ever again.
Apparently, most of the other kids had heard their parents talking, he was the son of the new big wigs that would be changing the plant and laying folks off, that meant he was to be avoided like Kenny 'The Cootiefiend' Cloland. This isolation went on for a week, until his fiery-haired angel arrived; apparently, she had missed the first few days after winter vacation ended because she came down with the chicken pox over the holidays.
Candace saw him sitting all alone on the playground and dragged him into a game of tag with the other students, it was like a god send. From then on the other students warmed up to him and he was no longer an outsider, he never forgot what his fiery angel had done for him. Not long after Mufresbro became a home for him almost as if he was returning to somewhere rather than merely going there, ironic considering his mom and dad stopped by there to inspect the plant before- about nine months before he was born.
Rex remember being there for her when she cried on his shoulder when he was seven after her mom died, it ate away at him inside to see his vibrant friend who was so full of life so torn up inside. She changed after that moment, it seemed like she was always running away from her pain no matter what he did to try to help her.
Of course, he never really got the chance, when they were ten years-old the plant's phasing out had begun and his folks got their orders to return to Detroit, he always regretted not being able to really help her like she needed. He found out from Arnold that her grandfather was laid off two weeks later and Candace was sent to live with her Aunt in Chicago.
Rex never saw or heard from her again until Rich arranged our little class reunion in Phili last winter, man had she changed, the redheaded firecracker that he had known had blossomed into a vibrant crimson-maned athlete with a lean and sleek physique. He spent the entire trip trying to get her to notice him, but it seemed like she was avoiding him for some reason. Once again, fate intervened before he could break the ice, this time in the form of the Mutant Commission Office.
It turned out the Max, and Meredith had begun manifesting as mutants before the trip and the MCO were determined to see if there was a connection given their common history. As it turned out seventeen of us tested positive for the Mutant Gene Complex and within a week of our capture six more of us began manifesting, they began putting everyone through tests that were so horrific that they had to be drawing them from Doctor Mengele's playbook. This torment went on for what seemed like forever until they were rescued, ironically it wasn't one of the super-heroes who saved their bacon it was a villain.
Madam Eventide as they later learned was a part of a very old order that helped found the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom, the Obsidian Circle. Now if you've read the classic Doctor Quasimodo novels you probably know the names of half of these folks, as it turns out the books toned them down a lot these were all power houses, Madam Eventide for example turned the MCO guards and the scientists experimenting on us into earthworms.
She had her men smuggle the others home, and took the eight of those who manifested to her private villa in the Mediterranean. As Madam Eventide explained it to them later she was worried about the long-term effects of the trauma that the MCO visited on us and how it might lead to Burnout, so she used some obscure esoteric magic to heal their bodies and let them adjust to them so that the chance of natural burnout was pretty much non-existent.
Of course, as it turns out she had an ulterior motive for helping them, her daughter and niece had manifested along with her daughter's boyfriend, they would be attending some special school in the spring and she wanted them to accompany them and help them out if they asked for it. Soon after they were smuggled back stateside and into the care of another member of the Circle- Erzebet Scratch who as it turns out has a very large organization of her own.
The eight of them spent a few weeks having fun in Dallas while helping out at one of her orphanages, (turns out there's a reason she sees most of her agents as part of the family). That was until a stink happening the next county over made decide to Scratch send them to a safe house in the Big Apple for our own safety. While there they got to attend an award ceremony of a couple of mutants their own age, and even fight off some minions of The Professor Id alongside some big names. That incident was also, where Candace met her current roomie, and this brings him to the heart of the matter. The girl that he have had a crush on since kindergarten is in a co-ed dorm on the other side of campus, surrounded by exemplar-grade beefcake tempting her at every turn, while he was stuck here rooming with Max... man his life sucked.
Meanwhile Max is closer to Sonia than he ever was before, during the inhumane captivity that they suffered at the tender mercies of the MCO they clung to each other like life preservers. When Sonia's legs fused into her currently serpentine lower-body he was there every minute that those barbarians allowed him to be, he wish that he could have been able to do for Candace what Max has done for Sonia, maybe then she'd appreciate just how he feel about her.
"You know Rex it isn't so healthy to obsess over someone like you do." Max said as he came back into the room fresh from the shower. "Candace is a free-spirit to her very core, always has been, the more you cling to her like you do the more that she's going to keep her distance."
"Like you know anything," Rex all but growled at his roommate and his suggestion. "You'd be the same way if you and Sonia were separated like this."
"Sonia is a lot more stable than Candace; it was tougher for her than you can imagine. The only presence that her dad ever had in her life was the child support checks that the Steelers sent her way to keep her mother from talking to the press." Max said shaking his head. "The only man who was ever a consistent presence in her life was her grandfather, and when he lost his job after the factory closed even he had to send her away since they couldn't support her anymore. Mark my words Rex you can't be the knight in shining armor that slays that girl's demons, she has to do that job herself."
"We'll just see about that," Rex snapped as he stormed out of the room and over to Dunn Hall.
As Max stared at the door Arnold peeked into the doorway. "Rex still upset about Candace?"
"Yeah and if he doesn't start cooling down he'll lose any chance that he ever had with her." Max sighed in resignation as he shook his head and left the room to go get breakfast.
"So I have my tryout with the Hooligans today during the morning run," Candace said in-between sips of her protein shake. "Most of the members seem nice enough, well Eldritch is a little weird but everyone seems to think that she is just the type that acts like she's a lot older than she is."
"I'm going to be getting back to work on that truck in the motor pool today, another day or two and I should have it back in one piece." Arnold told them about his progress so far. "Of course some of the body is a little bent out of shape, Rich do you mind stopping by with me after breakfast and seeing if you can bend it back into shape? I hate to ask you this since it's supposed to be my job, but the fact of the matter is that I need to see if the frame is beyond repair then I'll have to call it quits and explain to Loophole that all I can do is part the thing out."
"Not a problem Arnold," Rich said with a usual smile. "It's least that I can do for a friend, so do you have a crush on this Loophole girl?"
"What?" Arnold said as he recoiled in embarrassment. "No she just gave me the truck as a project to try and get into the Gearheads. Besides she's an upperclassman and one of the Alphas, that girl is so far outside of my league that it's not even funny."
"Ah don't sell yourself short Arn; you'll meet someone here before you graduate." Rich said as he ribbed his roommate. "You never know when you just might meet that special someone."
"Too true," Max said as he and Sonia locked eyes. "After all Sonia and I have known each other for the long side of forever, who would have thought that we'd end up in a relationship."
"You have that correct." Sophia said after taking a sip of her milk. "Usually something like that lands you firmly in the friend-zone, and once that happens there is usually no escape."
This bit of information caused Rex to sag into his seat, someone had just voiced his greatest fear, being assigned permanently in the friend-zone. It would only be worse if Candace told him herself that she wanted to 'Just be friends' to his face, thankfully something like that had yet to happen, it would be almost as bad as her coming to the attention of one of the resident ladies men.
"That reminds me Judicator you never did tell us just what you learned from that faerie girl." Imperious stated while cutting into his Eggs Benedict.
"The price for that information was far steeper than I'd want to pay, all I received from her was a warning that this matter would best be worth avoiding." Judicator explained knowing the energizer's likely reaction well.
"Then I guess that I'll just have to persuade her to tell us more." Imperious stated as he prepared to get up.
"Yes dear," Majestic mused with a wry grin upon her own face. "Go right ahead and attempt to persuade a girl who not only proved immune to your charms once, but promised to castrate you with those rather sharp knives in her possession if you ever tried to do so again. Come to think of it isn't her familiar a storm elemental, correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't that mean your lightning is next to useless against her as well."
"Wise men of the past have always explained that the faefolk were best avoided when there was risk of incurring their wrath," Tracer stated in a bemused tone. "Naturally there are several more faerie on campus that could be asked just the same, but the most likely candidates to know anything useful would still be Faolan and her mentor the Morrigan. You know the same Phantom Queen who for the most part despises us, what did she call you back in the old days Jason?"
"If I recall it was the Self-aggrandized God of Date Rape." Knick-knack shot back drawing a scowl from the leader of the core group. "Come to think of it when you tried to jump her during the Boudicca Incident her husband used that club of his to send you flying, where was it that you landed again?"
"The Dead Sea," Judicator stated as Imperious's mood darkened even further. "Can you imagine how all that super-salinated water must have felt to the wound that club gave him, especially considering a direct hit from it is enough to kill a hundred mortals?"
"Enough," Jason snarled as his eyes looked around the table and noticed an absence other that Prism, who was currently on holiday in Aspen with his human family. "Where is Stygian? His powers would be perfect to begin the persecution of Typhon's brood."
"He said that he had something to take care of with the Bad Seeds." Cytherea explained with an air of indifference while mixing up her yogurt parfait to distribute the berry juice far more evenly. "Maybe he thought to inquire with them about that Lord Khamsin fellow; he seemed like the super-villain type. By the way Imperious have you begun the festivities yet?"
"Almost," Imperious stated regaining his composure. "I just had to send out a few invitations to a few lucky ladies who will be helping make Typhon children's first week at Whateley very eventful indeed. Speaking of which, Tracer I need you to find out their interests, we need to make certain that they are thoroughly isolated."
"Fine," Tracer said as he got up from the table. "but mark my word Imperious, I can see this won't be ending as you are intending."
"Like the messenger knows what is really important, he was always coming and going too much to be invested in what was really important." Imperious stated as he regained his composure, after all he was lord of his domain, so what if no one else was aware of it just yet. Still at this rate his strike against Typhon and Echidna's brood would have to wait until tomorrow to begin in earnest, oh well the wait would make his victory prove all the sweeter.
"Well- well- well," The now feminine faux-drow Jobe Wilkins mused at the scrawny young man to approach the Bad Seeds table in the Dunn Hall Dining Room. "What does one of those who think of themselves so highly doing approaching we mere mortals? Is it revenge for Counterpoint's current predicament? Or has Imperious deigned to try and sample the flesh of my masterpiece?" The gene-gineered drow said as she indicated her ebony form.
"Get over yourself Jobe," Naucht stated as she gave Jobe a harsh glare. "Unlike most of Imperious little group Stygian is anything but arrogant. You do know what he tried to get the Kimbas to do to him when Makeshift and Overclock high-jacked their Sim right?"
She-Beast as a long time acquaintance of Phase and one of the campus's major information brokers knew all too well, she also knew that Stygian seemed to be trying to get up the nerve to say something as he stared at two of the newest additions to their table. Those additions being the daughter and niece of the infamous spell caster of the Grand Hall, Madam Eventide- hold on- it looked like he was staring at Serenity with that puppy dog look. Probably for the best, she already knew that Lamia arrived with a steady boyfriend in tow, probably best that she tried to get the ball rolling. "So Stygian, just what did you want to talk with us about?"
"Um actually- I um am here to drop off a message," Stygian explained as he produced a sealed envelope and gave it to Lamia. "Here."
The moment he gave it to her, he made himself scarce, and left. "Well that was odd?" She-Beast stated as she looked at the retreating youth. After thinking about it for a minute she concluded that he was probably too shy to ask Serenity directly, maybe he intended to ask Lamia for a little help on setting up a date between the two. Well at least it was a major step up in the right direction from trying to commit suicide by Team Kimba.
Whateley Motor Pool
"Rex, Rich, thanks for helping me out with this," Arnold said as he peered under the hood of the mostly totaled jeep. "I really appreciate this."
"De nada mi amigo," Rich said as he used his strength and aura to try to straighten out the panels that they had removed earlier. "After all, what are friends for?"
"Helping their bro's out with their lady troubles would be nice," Rex one said from behind the wheel in a grumpy tone.
"Yeah, where's the help when we need it?" Rex's double Ace asked as he sulked next to the tool box.
"We keep telling you to let her go Rex," Arnold sighed in annoyance, "if Candace wants to go out with you that's her call, if you chase after her too much you might risk losing her friendship too. Okay the hoses are intact and the wiring is properly connected; now Rex I need you to turn her over and then gun it a few times when I tell you."
"Fine!" Rex replied as he turned over the engine that failed to start the first time, but caught on the second. Already they could hear a very rough idling accompanied by an odd rattle; Rex looked up in concern before he asked. "Is it supposed to make that sound?"
"Ideally no," Arnold replied with a touch of trepidation to his voice. "I need you to gun it, I have a suspicion but I need to verify it."
Rex did as he was asked and pressed the gas a couple of times to hear a weak wrrrr emanating from under the hood. Arnold shook his head and told Rex, "Shut it off."
His friend complied while Arnold said in resignation. "I was afraid of this, the body isn't the only mess, there's something wrong with the engine."
"Well can't you fix it?" Rex asked out of curiosity after he put himself back together. "I mean cars are your thing right?"
"This is more than a minor issue Rex, I need to hook it up to a professional diagnostic machine, and even then engine repair is tricky." Arnold began to explain the complexities of the job. "Even after I find out what's wrong I need to find the right parts to replace the faulty ones in as close to the condition as the rest of the engine as possible. Of course, if that noise is the sign that there are micro fractures in the block then I might as well replace the whole thing now and be done with it. You have to understand once the engine block begins to crack then it's only a matter of time before the block cracks, and after that happens you could risk a fire or an uncontrolled explosion under the hood at any time."
"So you don't need us anymore?" Rich asked with a hopeful tone to his voice, "Not right now- maybe later, go on, have fun."
After his friends had, left Arnold looked at the vehicle and the pile of body panels in resignation, his membership to the Gearheads was looking more and more tenuous. If he couldn't fix this jeep he didn't know what else he could do. "It had to be the engine, what else can go wrong?"
"W-w-what do you want to talk to me about Imperious?" Sarah alias Nightbane said trying desperately to keep her wits about her as she was inundated in the aura of influence that the reincarnation of Zeus radiated from his very being.
"I wanted to talk to you about some monsters that are infesting this campus." Jason said while he dialed up his charms to eleven, after all he did not want her to think as he worked his magic.
"W-why would I have anything to do with monsters?" Nightbane blushed as the Olympian's charisma oozed into her while she desperately tried to maintain her cover.
"Oh come now Sarah, it is hardly a secret anymore since Halloween that you and your friends are the good Reverend's personal monster fighting troupe." He said as he cupped her chin and stared into her eyes with a dazzling smile. "It was admirable how you tried to rid the campus of that demon spawn, it wasn't your fault that Chess Master and Death-List used your plan to carry out an attack on the school for their own personal vendetta."
"Thank you," Sarah said as her thoughts now moved at the speed of syrup now that she was thoroughly under the influence of Imperious's charms.
"The problem is that there is another threat on campus now just as grave, and this demon spawn has arrived with a small army and the means to make it grow." Imperious smiled even wider content in the knowledge that he was now playing her like a fine violin. "The ancient monster Typhon has come onto campus in human form, which is who I was trying to attack the other day, he has arrived with Echidna the mother of all monsters and most of his spawn all in mutant form. I will take care of Typhon and Echidna, but if you can assist me with their spawn I would be most grateful."
"How can I help?" Sarah asked in a dreamy tone as Imperious reigned in a little of his influence so that she would consider this was her own conscious decision later.
"By slaying Typhon's spawn like the heroes of ancient Greece, their weaknesses are all known if you do your research, and I am certain that you can succeed if you try." Imperious told her as he laid the final stone in his path to engineering the deaths of Typhon's spawn, just as he did in days of old once they had outlived their usefulness. "They are the Chimera, the Sphinx, the Hydra, the Nemean Lion, Orthus, the Colchian Dragon, the Caucasian Eagle, and the Cadmean Vixen. I am certain that you can succeed, but do not be afraid to take help along when you do so, and do not attack to early or unprepared. Remember this time the monsters are not separated, if you attack too soon they will be aware they are being hunted and at this Academy there are likely those who will foolishly try to defend them."
Imperious left the young monster hunter content that the last seed of his plan had taken root, he need only wait for the others to do their part, then sit back and prepare to defeat Typhon once more. Although just where he was going to find an active volcano in New England would be the tricky part, Imperious was certain that he could find an adequate substitute, and then Majestic could repeat her prior assassination of Echidna. Although they still needed knowledge of the pair's new allies; still he trusted Judicator to find an answer for him soon.
Morrigan glared at the target down the sights of her revolver, careful to line up the shot just as she had countless times before. Then again, she was a decade and a half out of practice; it was so nice to have her body back, especially at night and on the weekends now that she and Dagda were back together again. She slowly let out her breath and pulled the trigger, nailing a perfect head shot.
She was about to go for a shot to the heart when she felt a familiar presence behind her- and aimed a bit further south before pulling the trigger again.
"Ouch- I guess that you could tell that I was coming even with the ear-muffs on," Judicator remarked as she noted the bullet holes position, two-inches above where the legs met.
"I'm the chosen representative for every faerie who doesn't want to get caught in the power struggle between Winter and Summer," Morrigan stated as she took aim again. "I have to remain alert at all times; there are hundreds who would seek my life in a heartbeat if they thought that it would be an easy chance to gain status. Not to mention countless individuals whose plots I've helped to foil over the years, taking all of that into account I can't afford to be careless."
"That's why she has me to watch her back," Badb explained as she sauntered up to the pair wearing a Catholic schoolgirl’s outfit. "So tell me Ms Hootie, just how many licks does it take to get to the center?"
Judicator rolled her eyes at that remark while Morrigan lined up another shot, "Let me fancy a guess Miss Masa, young Mister Stratholm wants to know more about the opponent that he fought last Sunday and his connection to his age old foe from a lifetime ago?"
"As astute as ever Morrigan," Judicator sighed in resignation, as she knew what was coming. "I also know that given your nature such information is bound to come for a hefty price, and since you obviously would know far more than your protegee if I asked for everything that you knew about them it would likely be far more than I would ever be willing or possibly able to pay. So instead how about you tell me the basics about what you are willing to pay concerning this Lord Khamsin and how he relates to those two individuals, what price would I have to pay for that information?"
After emptying the last chamber of her revolver into the left lung of the target, Morrigan ejected the spent casings and set down her gun before pressing the button to retrieve her target sheet. Two head-shots, one in the heart, one in the lung and one- in a very sensitive area that she shot on a whim, not a bad foray with her old piece. Still she needed to answer Judicator's question, "Let me consider this, I will send a message to your email box later on where to meet me when I have deliberated your answer. Just remember Miss Masa be careful when you deal with the Fair Folk, for sometimes the price you pay is far more than it seems on the surface."
Judicator had been left pondering that tidbit while Morrigan left with Badb to turn in her personal side arm and the target sheet to the range master.
North of McFarlane Auditorium
Lunch was over and dinner was still some time away, in the middle of the Academy Grounds one of the school's known thugs Buster was milling about. He had a note left for him with Mrs. Tolliver, to meet someone in the trees to the north of the auditorium for something important. Ordinarily this might not be a problem, since for all Buster knew there might be money involved but whoever wanted him to be here was running late. He decided that he'd give them a few more minutes and then whoever it was would either pay him for wasting his time or pound them into a pancake. After two more minutes had passed he heard footsteps approaching him, so Buster turned to give this loser a piece of his mind- when he saw who it was he never uttered a sound.
"I am ever so sorry that I made you wait so long Benjamin." Cytherea said as she approached the known thug with her glamour on full blast. "Do you mind if I call you Benjamin?"
"N-n-no," Buster responded to the blonde bombshell that had just approached him.
"Good, you see I have a little problem that I think you can help me with." Cytherea said as the fingernails of her right-hand traced a meaningless sigil across Buster's chest. "An enemy of my group arrived here with the spring students and he arrived with a small army, I need your help taking that army out for us. Now I don't have anything to offer you at the moment, but if you help me I'll be very grateful."
Buster didn't need any more convincing as he replied, "I'll do it, whatever it is I'll do it!"
"Good," Cytherea smiled; as she knew from three lifetimes of experience how to play people like Buster as if they were a dollar store harmonica. "Here is the list and try- your best."
Buster took the list with a dopey grin smeared across his face, "Oh I'll do my best alright, and give them my worst."
Buster ran off right away to accomplish his task, leaving a very pleased Cytherea behind. "It's always nice to know that goddess or not the little boys still worship me- as they should."
For the second day in a row Sophia was left to her own devices since arriving at Whateley, she had already spent plenty of time prior to her arrival at the Academy familiarizing herself with the textbooks for her courses over the coming week and she found herself in a strange yet familiar place between the bookshelves.
Sophia couldn't remember how many times that she spent her afternoons after school wandering the rows of the Bustleton Library, but Beck was far larger more like a University's library well maybe one for a small town. Still this had that weight of years feel to it, she honestly didn't know where to start.
"Hello can I help you?" Sophia turned and saw a girl with long spiky blue-hair and gold eyes was addressing her.
"Oh I'm sorry, I just got here a couple of days ago and I just don't know where to start." Sophia apologized to the girl.
"It's no problem, my name is Billie Wilson," the girl said while extending her hand. "I'm one of the assistants on duty here if you have any questions feel free to ask myself, one of the other assistants on duty or Ms Henderson. If you tell me your course of study pertaining to your power-set then I may be able to direct you to a relevant area, unless you're just browsing for recreational reading."
"Well I have a wizard trait, so I'm going to be taking classes in the Mystic Arts Program." Sonia replied still wondering what the girl put in her hair to get it to stay like that, not to mention how much time it must take her to do so.
"Aw let me guess Intro to Mystic Concepts with Mrs. Chulkris," Billie stated as she mulled over her options for a moment before guiding her down the stacks. "Maybe one of the introductory texts on elemental channeling might be a good place to start, I understand that it doesn't have anything too heavy it is manly about harmonizing with external mana sources."
"Thank you that sounds like a good place to start," Sophia explained. "By the way I'm Sophia Riddle, no Harry Potter jokes please. I'm also taking that and Intro to Magical Arts with Ms. Grimes."
"My friend Nikki's going to be the TA for that course, I'll ask her if she recommends anything just stop by tomorrow." Billie explained.
"Alright I will and thank you for your help." Sophia said with a smile.
"It's nothing," Billie replied. "And please enjoy your time here at Whateley."
Whateley Tunnels - Close to Whitman Cottage
"Alright Morrigan here I am," Judicator stated as she approached the bend in the level of the tunnels below the ones normally used by students. "I also left the messages saying that I'll be away and unreachable for a few days. So what is the price you want to ask for your information?"
"Yes," Morrigan stated as she tossed an oddly ornate cubic box to Judicator. "I want you to test this out for me, it was meant to be a trial for my protégé however we separated earlier than I intended. She was supposed to receive my gift last after that of my colleague, but the circumstances with Macha and Nemain threw a wrench in that plan."
"This looks like the Lament Configuration from Hellraiser," Judicator said somewhat wary of the box.
"I drew a little inspiration from the original story, but this doesn't open a portal to hell, it just draws you inside the box." Morrigan began to explain to Miss Masa. "Once inside you will be tested to your very limits, and possibly beyond them. If you succeed in overcoming the trials that lay within, then I will share with you that which you seek. If you fail then you will be ejected from the box and will have wasted nothing more than your time, so will you brave this challenge?"
"Just what is inside here and will it take anything from me?" Judicator asked as she shook the box at Morrigan.
"Nothing more than you take in there with you child, nothing more than you take in there." Morrigan explained in a nonchalant manner. "As for what it will take from you, other than the time that you take to participate in the trial that lay within, no more than you let it take from you or that you decide to leave behind. You also need no supplies, mundane sustenance can be found within if you put in the effort."
"Alright then I agree," Judicator agreed to Morrigan's proposal, the moment that she did so a cylinder rose from the center of the box and flared in a blinding flash of light.
When the flash faded Judicator was nowhere to be seen, and the box had fell to the floor. With a gesture of her hand, the box floated over to rest in Morrigan's right palm, "Goodluck Athena, you will need it. Well that should keep her busy for a few days, I hope she succeeds though, we could really use someone like her. Still at the very least it should throw a spanner in that horn dog's plans not have his main intelligence asset for a few days." Morrigan began talking to herself as she walked down the tunnels to her last appointment of the day, she still had Randi's training to take care of for the evening after all.
Whateley Tunnels - Near The Lair
Outside the clubhouse of the Bad Seeds which they called The Lair Nicoletta Sera, the daughter of Madam Eventide, awaited the arrival of the New Olympian known as Stygian. Of course Nicoletta or as she had chosen to call herself Lamia was far older than her body's sixteen years, her mind alone went further back than even Imperious. Unbeknownst to her new acquaintances The Bad Seeds she was Echidna reborn, the drakaina known to the ancient Greeks as the Mother of All Monsters and her mother in this life Madam Eventide was actually none other than Hecate Titan Goddess of Sorcery and prior to the birth of Artemis the Moon.
Now under ordinary circumstances, she wouldn't hesitate stomping Stygian into dust, as she would any of his fellow New Olympians; however Titus urged her to exercise caution and she knew that he was right- at least this time. She didn't have a quarrel with all of the Olympians for abusing her children and turning them into killers, the fault for that mainly lay on Zeus and Hera, and to a lesser extent Dionysus and Ares.
Still at present Ares or as he was now know Couterpoint had been struck low, the folly of underestimating a mortal opponent's craft, taking her revenge on him would be needless. As for Dionysus her mother's colleague Mistress Nyx informed her that he was now a Baron of the Christian's concept of Hell having traded several monsters to the fallen one for the title, including her own son Cerberus.
Cerberus was also one of the reasons that she was giving Stygian a piece of her valuable time, unlike the others Hades treated her noble son as both a trusted companion and an integral part of the Underworld giving him the post once held by the drakaina Kampe. Charon might have guided the souls of the dead to be judged; however it was Cerberus who kept them from returning to torment the living, this was the reason that she had granted this meeting- well half of it.
While she remembered all of her last life, Nicoletta had learned to enjoy this one, especially now that Typhon had a permanent body (rather than a golem body that wore out in a year), it was nice to live a semi-ordinary life, and have a family without a history of patricide. Part of that family was her cousin Flora, when her mother had arranged to be reborn into this world she laid the seeds for the rebirth of the Olympians Demeter as her twin followed by Hestia as a younger sister.
While Hestia, or as she was in this life her Aunt Arazia, had chosen to enter a nunnery and taken the name Sister Maria Aquinata, her Aunt Rosa had attracted the fancy of a fisherman's son from the nearby port of Acireale and Flora soon followed the reborn Persephone. Like Hades, she had nothing against Persephone; the goddess of nature treated her son like a part of the house that she held there with Hades.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me Miss Sera," Stygian said as he nervously crept around the corner.
"Speak of the Devil and he shall appear," Flora said with a smile before adding. "Although I was only thinking about you and you were hardly the Devil, oh and catch." Flora finished off tossing a crystal prism towards Stygian who caught the bauble that briefly glowed.
"Thank you for realizing that Miss Sera," Michael said as shuffled towards her. "Unlike a great many people think I was just doing a job that needed doing back then; I assume that this is a privacy spell?"
"Of course Hades, so what do you wish to talk about Zeus and Hera's obvious plot against Typhon, myself and our children or Persephone?" The stunned reaction on his face was to die for, "Come now Hades, Zeus is nothing if not predictable and Hera is the same the moment she perceives any threat to her station. I wonder how the Hebrews would have felt had they known that those children they thought to be victims of Lilith, who did not fall to natural afflictions, were actually the children of her husband that had received a visit from her serpents."
"It was too many," Michael, said shaking his head. "My brother never learns, it is as if Athena received all of his self-restraint when she was born- not that Zeus had much to begin with. Of course Zeus doesn't have us nearly as united as he thinks, only Ares and Aphrodite really follow his faction while Hera is just along because she wants to be Queen of the Gods again. The others all follow Athena and don't really want to be worshiped anymore, maybe transcend mortality again but not godhood."
"Fat chance," Nicoletta laughed in an almost lilting tone. "Those days are come and gone, even if they find a fount again they might not like where it leads. Still the question is where do you stand Hades first-born son of Cronos and Rhea?"
"Up until a month ago I was with Zeus simply because I didn't care anymore," Michael begrudgingly admitted to the reborn mother of his guard dog. "That was until I received a visit from Loki, along with the news of Persephone being alive and free in the mortal world. He promised we could possibly reunite if I helped Typhon while he was here."
"He was telling the truth for once, Flora is Persephone just keep in mind that she has no memory of her last life; although given how you met her that might be for the best." Nicoletta mused for a moment.
"One question if you two are cousins by your mothers, then how come you have the same last name?" Stygian asked out of curiosity.
"My father took my mother's last name so that we could keep our villa within the family, as for Flora that is a long and sad story. Her father Silvestro Armetta was the son of a fisherman from Acireale, it was normal enough he and my aunt met and fell in love, he even asked for her hand in marriage on Saint Valentine's Day. They planned to wed in May, unfortunately that in March while he was helping to haul the nets with their catch a gale force wind hit and tore a line lose, the tackle attached to that rope hit him in the chest so hard it collapsed his ribs." Flora said as she closed her eyes at the pain the event still caused her aunt.
"He suffered for a week and a half before he succumbed to pneumonia, by then Aunt Rosa was expecting Flora, evidently she was a little too enthusiastic in accepting Silvestro's proposal. Our families begged the local priests to perform the ceremony by Silvestro's hospital bed; however, the local Bishop intervened and refused to let them saying that a marriage ceremony had to be performed in the house of the lord."
"When poor Silvestro finally succumbed to his injuries mother struck the sanctimonious ass with the worst case of chronic hemorrhoids that she could manage for ensuring that her niece was born out of wedlock, I don't even think that the man is even able to sit down any more."
"Ouch, Hecate doesn't pull her punches these days does she?" Michael mildly chuckled in amusement. "The rest of this Circle must live in fear of her and Loki."
"Not really some are just as dangerous as they are, she also counts Set and Lilith among her group as well as my dear Typhon who has learned a great deal during his imprisonment from his father." Nicoletta stated enjoying Stygian's growing shock with every word. "Still there are pure mortals amongst their number who are every bit as dangerous... possibly even more so."
"It would probably be best if I didn't know too much," Stygian said as he steadied himself. "Zeus's faction may not be as powerful as they like to think that they are but they can still find their way to extract information from me. Can you arrange for She-Beast to gather what she knows about the group that your mother is a part of, then I can use the delay to squeeze the funds needed out of Jason."
"I could probably get that info for you for free." Nicoletta stated aloud before asking Michael. "Just what will you are using the money for if I may be so bold?"
"Zeus's stubbornness ruined my marriage, the least Jason can do is front the money so that I can begin to build it anew by courting your cousin." Stygian stated before informing Nicoletta. "Still while Zeus and Hera want to take you and Typhon out yourselves in their own time, they want your kids to suffer first for intruding on their domain. I don't know the names but I expect Zeus and Aphrodite will be using their mojo to sick the campus trouble makers on your kids."
"We figured as much," Nicoletta sighed in resignation. "Still unfortunately for Zeus my kids have no memories of their lives as monsters, as far as they know they are just kids born in a now defunct factory town in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt. That means that ever since they got here they've been doing what comes natural to kids when they come to a new school, they've been making friends."
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Eliza turned another corner within the odd labyrinth which Morrigan's mystic creation had sent her; well that or she had been sucked inside the thing and shrunk to fit, still she couldn't help be simultaneously weirded out and amazed by the surreal yet disturbingly organic architecture. "M.C. Escher meets H.R. Giger," Judicator commented to no one in particular. "Morrigan if you designed this thing then I want whoever produces the next film in the Alien franchise to hire you on as a set designer, even if the script was awful at least the visuals would be great to look at."
Granted such talk was unlike the host of the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy; however, she felt like she had been wandering this bizarre and enigmatic labyrinth for what felt like hours, and still she had no clue on just what she was supposed to do. After a while, she began talking to herself just as a way to keep from going crazy.
Okay every once in a while she thought that she heard the sound of a woman weeping, but no matter which corner she turned or how close she thought she got to the source of the sound Judicator moved no closer to its source. "Just where is that noise coming from? Maybe this is the purpose of this maze; it's supposed to test my sanity and willpower."
Judicator mulled over this observation as she continued to walk the corridors and stairways of this impossible place. "Yes, that might make sense, Morrigan claimed that she originally designed this place to test her protégé, it must have been a test of Faolan's mental fortitude. She did tell me that all there would be in here was what I brought with me, could that be the answer? No, a faerie's words are seldom so straightforward, they often have less obvious double meanings so what am I not seeing?"
Suddenly Eliza heard the weeping and wailing of the unknown woman once again, this time closer than ever she rounded the corner. What she found was a very spacious room in Greek style pooling with fog, at the center of this room was a young brunette in torn robes wailing in a fetal position.
As she approached the young woman, Judicator couldn't help but feel something very familiar about this scene, something about it reeked of the feeling commonly known as déjà vu. Soon as she got closer, she could hear the lady's words.
"Why my lady? I gave up so much to serve you faithfully, why did you do this to me?" The mysterious woman asked as she continued to wail in agony.
"What happened was not my fault! I was just serving you as one of your faithful, I never sought to wrong you." The woman continued to wail as Judicator drew closer.
"You are Wisdom, you are Law, you are Justice; why do you punish the victim?" The woman asked as her tone changed from one of sorrow to one of rage, "Why did you turn me into this Athena?"
Suddenly the woman's hair began to fall away from her head and drift two the floor as asps sprang forth to take their place, and the fog vanished. That's when she recognized this place, she was in inner sanctuary of her greatest temple and the crowning jewel of her city-state of Athens- The Parthenon. That was when she finally recognized the weeping maiden; she was the priestess Athena punished for desecrating it after the woman was raped by her uncle Poseidon.
She was witnessing when she turned Medusa into a monster- a hideous gorgon, which is when the truth of The Morrigan's words hit home, what she brought in here was not her impatience. No what she brought in here were the acts that Eliza committed when she was Athena, she brought her transgressions upon others in here- her sins of divine arrogance.
Judicator did not wait for Medusa to get up and turn her dreaded gaze upon her, something which none were immune, no instead she ran out of the room as if she was fleeing death itself- which was certainly the case. After all even back in the day Medusa's gaze was enough to petrify anyone God and Mortal alike, and despite Morrigan's assurances that nothing in here could kill, Judicator wasn't going to take her chances. Besides she wanted to have that information even if it didn't turn her to stone- looking Medusa in the eye was bound to be the end of her time in here.
Wednesday February 28, 2007
Cleo opened Meradee's eyes and bounded out of bed. Once again another day full of possibilities, she was stoked and why wouldn't she be? After all this campus was huge, and there was still a lot more of it to see that she could without going into the areas that were off limits, and so many possibilities once she was there.
Soon enough her stirring on the top bunk woke up her roommate, as the bizarre and colorful chimera from Iraq crawled out of the lower bunk. "You know it must be nice not having to shower all the time." Cleo said almost without thinking.
"Even if the cottage showers had the specialty sprayers that I need I still cannot do it every day because my fur and feathers would lose their oils." Fulanah stated as she began to brush her fur and preen her feathers like she did every morning. "I also need to take care that my scales do not dry out, I do not look forward to shedding and molting for I am bound to suffer from both due to my nature."
"Maybe you could ask Diamondback," Cleo said as she started to stretch before she headed to the morning showers. "She was giving Sonia some tips earlier about how to take care of that problem."
"At least my friends at ARC helped me develop a routine to care for my unique anatomy." Fulanah laughed in an oddly musical tone. "I would be scared to see the sight that I would be without their assistance in caring for my appearance. Indeed, I would probably seem more frightening than peculiar should that have happened."
"Wel, I guess that it's a good thing that the GI's sent you state side when you began to manifest." Jackie observed as she took the reins of Meradee's body over from Cleo. "I would not have wished to see how the people of Bagdad would have reacted to seeing you slowly metamorphose from what you used to look like into how you appear today."
"I am grateful as well," Fulanah explained warmly, "the administration made a special exception for the dress code as all of my fur is warm enough to not need additional clothing, I would hesitate to guess what it would feel like in my condition under a chador."
"Also the sight would likely look quite ridiculous as well," Jackie stated as she explained. "That is given you're predisposition for walking in a quadrupedal manner rather than in a bipedal one."
"I know," Fulanah said as she put on her one of her usual neck-fastening halter-tops, "it would likely appear that someone decided to hide a lion under a bed sheet."
"I doubt it," Jackie stated after thinking for a moment. "Your wings would probably look like a hump or something."
"You might be right," Fulanah pondered for a moment then she threw her bed sheet over herself, put on a fierce expression and began stalking towards Meradee. "Grrrr, beware of the terrifying Arabian Camel-Lion!"
"Only on the Sci-Fi Channel," Cleo remarked taking the reins back from Jackie.
"Cam showed me some of that station while I was at ARC," Fulanah all but groaned. "From what I saw with them it will likely happen eventually."
"It would still have to be better than Bears On a Submarine," Cleo groaned as she shook her own head. "We watched the whole trilogy on a bet after we bet Max to read Twilight from cover to cover... we still don't know who lost that bet."
"He actually made it all the way through?" Fulanah asked knowing of the book's reputation herself although having yet to read it; the series was still on her to-read list.
"He said it made his brain want to throw up," Cleo elaborated before shrugging, "but a bet was a bet."
Candace was brushing the tangles out of her hair when Randi returned from the shower, "I don't get why you do that before taking a shower and after."
"Geez Randi you really did use to be a guy," Candace giggled at her roommate's comment. "It's always better to try and get the tangles out before you wash your hair then after, then again some of us don't have faerie blood to keep their locks from getting snarled."
"You're just looking at the pluses," Randi said shaking her head as she started to get dressed in her usual tomboyish attire. "There are drawbacks you know."
"Yeah but you, Nikki, and Selkie still make it look so appealing." Candace smirked as she sneaked over and stroked Randi's tail.
"Gaah! Candace, warn me before you do that!" Randi shrieked in embarrassment as she finished getting dressed.
"But that takes all the fun out of it," Candace said as she pouted then moved to rapidly grope Randi. "besides can I help it if you faerie girls are so attractive, geez do you even need a bra?"
"Yes," Randi said as she moved Candace's hands off of her, "you're a speedster; you know how much a hard bounce hurts."
"No kidding," Candace said while grabbing her shower kit. "I want to kiss whoever invented the microfoam kinetic cushioning bra- I might even use tongue."
"At least you can wear those things, they give me this annoying rash." Still before Randi could finish her sentence, Candace was already halfway out the door, "also I'm pretty sure the lady who did is straight. Honestly I swear Jane, I know that she's a speedster but from the way Candace is you'd almost think that she was running from something."
"Who knows Randi, you might be correct." The British Storm Crow mused aloud. "Still Morrigan will be glad that you are getting better at reading people, it won't be too much longer until your father will have to make subtle threats to the boys that you bring home to meet your parents."
"Give me a break Jane; you know that I don't like guys that way, faerie genetics or not." Randi responded just as embarrassed by her familiar now as she was by her roommate earlier.
"Really Soph, I think that looking around for some clubs to join would make us feel more comfortable." Sonia stated as she slithered along the hallways of Whitman. "Just look at Candace, Max, and Arnold they've found ways to occupy their time, and your brother wants to join the FSA."
"Yes but remember that is a prestige club," Soph corrected her friend. "They ask you if you want to join."
"Speaking of joining. what good reason did you have for daring to spit on my invitation?" Tisiphone steamed as she accused Sophia and her friends of purposefully snubbing Fator-3.
"We didn't snub you Tisiphone, Diamondback and Jericho invited us to listen in on their jam session and we accepted.
"Your little group needs to understand the ways of Whateley," The borderline psychotic pyro explained, "the school is divided between the pretties on both sides of the fence and we inhuman mutants are left to get caught in the crossfire; the sooner that you understand that the better."
"Unless of course you intend to cozy up to the pretties, the signs are already there as plain as day." Tisiphone said as she glared at Sonia accusingly. "After all your boyfriend Max is obviously there to take pity on you and your situation, and then there is your friend Meradee."
"What about us Tisiphone?" Meradee walked up speaking in Jackie's cold and even tone her slit eyes promising trouble if the self-proclaimed Fury wanted to ignite her flames.
"Don't think that I haven't figured out what you're about you conceited bitch." The fury snarled as the air around her began to spark. "I know that you're just stringing these kids along to make you feel better."
"Think what you will Tisiphone," Jackie shook her head at the hellion, "but never expect reality to force others to conform to your wishes."
This was the last straw to the apparently unstable pyrokinetic who prepared to roast the pretty where she stood. Only to have the flames extinguish themselves as the heat left them entirely.
"Yay, now the cottage is a little toastier- it feels a little more like home already." Fulanah explained as she sauntered up humming a nameless tune. "Thank you for helping me warm the place up a little Tisiphone!"
Tisiphone stood in shock as she starred at the chimeric girl who had mysteriously extinguished her attack in a way that she couldn't even fathom, how the hell did she just do that- oh who cared she'd teach those traitors their place soon enough. While the self-proclaimed Fury was pondering what in the world just happened Meradee, Sophia and Sonia joined Fulanah and headed for Dunn Hall and what they hoped was a breakfast worthy of a school of Whateley's caliber.
"So Candace, Mary, how are your roommate situations working out so far?" Sonia asked concerned with the only two member of their group that had to spend time separated from the rest of the group.
"Fulanah is wonderful," Mary spoke from Meradee's body, "it's great getting to know someone from another culture and another part of the world. Not to mention meeting someone as strong as she is inside, it gives us hope that someday we can be Meradee again."
"Faolan's pretty nice too, a little weird but nice but that might just be from the fact that she's not entirely human anymore, or what goes for human around here." Candace began to explain to her friends. "That bird of hers is also super polite; at least she's not trying to teach me proper manners."
"You- learn proper manners; I doubt that anyone has what it takes to teach you that Candace." Soph tried hard not to laugh at the picture of a well-mannered Candace in her head. "Honestly it would take the patience of a saint to try and teach you proper upper-crust etiquette."
"Are you saying that I'm that unrefined?" Candace shot back as she took a mild bit of offense to her friend's observation.
"Not completely," Soph waved off her friend's hostility. "Rather the idea of you slowing down in order to exercise proper decorum would be so unlike you."
"Yeah, you have a point there." Candace deflated as she began to laugh, not showing how the idea of slowing down actually made her feel.
"I have the diagnostic scanner reserved for today to take a closer look at the engine from that jeep," Arnold broke into the conversation to give his own plans for the day. "Once I find out what's wrong with the engine block I can see if it can be repair or needs to be replaced. Fortunately the rest of the mechanical issues were less serious, just broken hoses and frayed wires that I need to replace."
"Do you need any more help with the body work today?" Rex asked out of curiosity. "I was going to go to the range and sign myself up for the safety course that begins next week to fill up my last slot."
"I don't know yet, it depends on what I find when I scan the engine." Arnold explained in mild annoyance. "If it's minor I might be able to manage to get some body work done later today, if not I'll need the rest of the day to repair the engine after I find out what parts I need and get a hold of them- provided they're in the right condition."
"What's the difference?" Rex asked not understanding the big deal with them being in the right condition. "Isn't it better to use something new anyway?"
"Maybe if I want the engine to break, new parts are too rigid for a worn-in engine, if I replaced what's broken with something without a similar amount of wear to it the strain would cause serious problems." Arnold said as he shot Rex a look of disbelief as he was beside himself over what just came out of his friend's mouth.
"It's a structural resonance thing," Max chimed as he began to offer a layman's explanation. "If Arn did what you were suggesting then the engine would literally shake itself to pieces over time."
"Like I know about that," Rex said in frustration. "The only thing my folks know about cars is checking the oil and the radiator."
"Well high school’s a great place to learn," Arnold said with a smile. "I'll teach you a thing or two about how to poke around under the hood to make'em purr just right."
"We are still talking about cars right?" Sophia asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Where is Judicator?" Imperious asked impatiently while drumming his fingers on the New Olympian's table. "She should be here with the information that we need to finish off those two once and for all."
"She left me an email telling me that she was doing Morrigan a favor beta-testing a creation of hers in exchange for the information that you want." Knick-knack explained to the increasingly impatient energizer. "From the way she said it she'd be out of touch for a few days."
"That is most unacceptable!" Imperious rumbled before turning to Stygian. "Now my old friend, I noticed that you were talking with the Bad Seeds earlier, so tell me what did you learn from She Beast?"
"Not much," Stygian explained while trying not to let his poker face slip. "Evidently Lamia's mother is a member of a faction within the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom called the Obsidian Circle, she doesn't know too much about them off hand and will have to do some digging for anything more concrete. Even with her father's network, she told me that this might take a day or two, and it won't be cheap. She wants five-grand as a down payment and said if you try and come near her then the price triples."
"Blast, I'll give you the money to give to her sometime in the afternoon." The Lord of New Olympus seemed to deflate without losing his decorum. "Still it looks like our pawns will be going in blind, no matter we were never without a source of eager young fools out to earn our favor in the past and today is no different."
Knick-knack and Tracer tried not to shake their heads at that comment, the New Olympians were already down on direct assets, and Imperious wanted to start the opening salvo in a war against the reborn Typhon and Echidna. Counterpoint was still in Doyle, bedridden as he slowly recovered from the wounds (and other things) inflicted upon him by Jobe and Belpheobe, and Feral preferred to spend her time more with Carmilla's group than the New Olympians.
Then there were those who were missing; first Prism took off to spend the Winter Break with family over in Aspen and wouldn't be back till next Sunday, and now Judicator was off on some quest to earn knowledge from the Phantom Queen of the Faerie. There was also the matter that they had still yet to learn the identities of the reincarnations of Poseidon and Hestia; at least Morrigan told them that Poseidon was already at Whateley. Tracer knew that he was only a messenger by nature, but they were in a bad position to start a war, if only he was in a position to serve as an advisor to stop a mistake before it was made.
Rich and Arn did their best to cart the full engine block from the jeep to the other side of campus, but there were a couple of issues. For one the cart that they picked kept steering itself into the wall, and for another the diagnostic scanner was in an adjacent hallway. Ordinarily this wouldn't have been a problem except the closest connecting hall was closed for a bio-hazardous spill, the cleanup crew said that it could be anything from three-month old meatloaf to a pet project of Jobe Wilkins, and given what they had already heard about Gizmatic's son made them all too happy to take the long way around.
"Hey Arn, didn't they have a scanner in the vehicle workshop?" Richard asked trying to make since on why they were carting an entire engine around on a wasted trip; they even had a tarp thrown over it to keep out stray dust and debris.
"Yeah they do but it's only a basic scanner." Arnold began to explain as he reoriented the cart that was again veering into the right-hand wall. "The one in the Gadgeteer Labs is a lot more complex, with this one I can check for micro-fractures, metal fatigue and judge the full wear and tear on the engine. It should also help me see what I need to look for in replacement parts should matters come to that."
As they rounded the corner, they found their path blocked by someone in what bore similarities to a medieval suit of armor. The student pointed his sword in their direction, "Halt vile varlots of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom, I have heard of your true affiliation and your intent. There is no way that I shall allow you to abscond with the endeavors of my fellow pupils of this fair institution, have at you!"
Richard and Arnold didn't even have a chance to utter a single word in their defense when Stalwart began his assault, thankfully while Stalwart's attack may have left them no room for a verbal defense it left plenty of time for a literal defense. Stalwart was soon to note this as his variable sword, currently set on kinetic impact met with Palleon who had his golden aura up and was thus unaffected by the blows and the blade's properties.
"Dude, what's your damage?" Arnold shouted at as he back peddled the cart. "We're just taking the engine from that Jeep that Bravo and his crew totaled last week to the diagnostic scanner."
"You shall not fool me with such bald-faced deceit," Stalwart stated as he changed the setting on his blade before renewing his assault. "as a Gadgeteer myself, I know with due certainty that the advanced diagnostic scanner is in the direction from whence you came. If your alibi had proven veracious then I would not have encountered you scoundrels on the path towards the freight elevator."
"Are you joking," Palleon snapped back as he parried the sword with his right forearm that now sent sparks along his body that made his body tense a bit. "With a school this big I'm not surprised that there would be ten freight elevators."
"Yeah besides the cleaning staff is doing something about a biohazardous spill the other way," Arnold tried to explain. "And since they have no idea what it is or where it came from I'm not going to take any chances."
"Five bucks says it's just rotten leftovers from the cafeteria," Rich chuckled as Stalwart struck again with his now electrified blade.
"Another transparent fallacy," Stalwart stated as he denied the pair's claims. "I will not let your theft from this Academy to unpunished."
"Come on if we were going to steal something wouldn't steal something a little more substantial than a used V6 engine." Arnold who finally had enough with this removed the tarp and showed Stalwart their cargo. "Because I need to see if it still works before I start the internal work on fixing the Jeep (as part of my initiation into the Motorheads); if the engine's kaput and I can't find the right parts to fix it then it's better to tell the school that it's totaled and needs to be parted out."
"I see," Stalwart said as he stood down seeing the logic in Arnold's argument, "pardon me for my transgression, I received word that two brigands of the Grand Hall were trying to abscond with a secret project, and take it to a drop off point on the East side of campus. I apologize for delaying your endeavor, is there anything that I can do to assist you?"
"No, you were just doing what you thought was the right thing." Arnold sighed at the delay. "Someone just gave you some bad intel that's all, fortunately nothing was damaged."
"Speak for yourself Arn," Richard stated somewhat uncomfortably as Arnold replaced the tarp over the engine. "I think his sword melted the elastic waist-band in my boxer-shorts."
"Just be grateful that you weren't wearing the kind with the metal snaps." Arnold remarked in a snide tone that made Rich winch at the thought of what would have happened as they began to move past Stalwart. The pair made it ten feet and Stalwart had begun to go his own way when a figure in a white and red costume bearing the emblem of a maple leaf came running towards them. With a shout, he took a running leap and descended on the now hidden engine with a hammer blow that caused a very audible sound of metallic crunching.
Arnold, Richard and even Stalwart, who had returned to hear the source of the noise, stood in disbelief to stare at the figure that stood proudly in triumph at the destruction that he had just caused. "Ha your villainous plot and ways of subterfuge is no match for the majesty of the Great White North. I Captain Canada have foiled your vile deeds through the tactic of victory by denial. I will give you a moment to reflect on the failure of your intended malfeasance before I put you in your place and now what say you that you foul fiends?"
The only one of the duo who responded was Richard and it wasn't verbal, while Cerebrex was standing smug in his <i>victory</I> Richard resummoned his golden mantle and nailed the Vindicator knock-off with a nasty right-hook. Now Cerebrex might have super-strength when he psyches himself up on Canadian nationalism, but he certainly didn't have the invulnerability.
Once the self-proclaimed defender of the Great White North was stunned, Arnold shoved him onto the ground chest first, sat on his legs, and hooked his arms in a full nelson. Naturally, once Cerebrex shook off himself out of the dazed feeling he began to struggle with every ounce of strength that he could muster. Without having to be told Stalwart took off, to go get Security to help deal with the situation before Cerebrex managed to shake himself loose.
While all of this was happening, Arnold looked at the jeep's engine in shock, it was completely totaled and beyond repair. In a single blow Cerebrex had smashed the cylinder head, crushed three pistons, visibly cracked the engine block itself, and he was sure with it his chance to get into the Gearheads. Arnold hadn't even been at the Whateley Academy for a week and he was fairly certain that his school career was ruined.
"I don't know Candace, finding out that Lady Ravenheart is teaching here is one thing, but asking for private tutoring in magic from her feels like- cheating." Soph said as they approached Kirby Hall, "Besides she's probably going to be teaching the advanced classes and from what Diamondback told me the entrance to that portion of the building is enchanted, it's supposed to be a rite of passage among the Mystic Arts students to find it. Also from what I hear it's forbidden to take people who can't find it themselves in there."
"Come on Soph just think of me as a locating tool that you're using to find it." Candace reasoned to her friend trying to get her to go along with her plan.
"No, this feels wrong; I haven't even had any classes here yet." Sophia said as she went with her better judgment and decided against the plan, "Getting in past the beginners stuff was one thing but I'm here to learn the mystic arts, there are no short-cuts to that."
"Oh yeah," Candace scoffed, "My roommate has a gun that she made which fires spells, how is that not taking a short-cut to the mystic arts?"
"She made it and likely had to do careful research before doing so," Soph explained trying to puncture holes in the logic of Candace's argument. "She would have also have had to take a lot of time and effort to learn how to use each spell like that, have you ever asked Faolan what she needs to do to be able to use spells like that? She probably has to go to a lot of careful research to do it, and why use something the size of a rifle- maybe she doesn't even know how to handle it with something of a smaller size yet. You have to remember Candace speed isn't the answer to everything, sometimes you have to slow down to learn something."
"Ha, I'm a speedster Soph the only time I stop moving is in my sleep and even then my mind is racing," Candace boasted to her comrade as she was stretching and getting ready to take off. "Now if you excuse me, if you don't need me here it's a green flag day today, so I'm gonna go run high-speed laps around campus. So later I'm ou-aaaaggghhh!" Suddenly Candace fell over screaming as she clutched her head.
"Candace," Sophia rushed over to her downed friend in concern shaking her to try to get her attention. "Candace, Candace what's wrong? Candace, please answer me!"
The answer to Sophia's inquiry was hiding in a tree branch to the South of Kirby Hall and staring at the two girls through a pair of binoculars, an unassuming junior named Cody Teed who went by the codename Shellshock. Cody wasn't much to look at and his powers were really relatively weak for a mutant psychic, but when his skill took hold it was something to behold. He had been hired by Majestic because a group of eight new freshmen had gone through a terrible event with the MCO and obviously needed his help to work through the trauma, they were obviously repressing- he had been trying to help them all day.
One by one, he tried but strangely, whatever it was none of them had suffered enough in life for his ability to work; he was beginning to think that unlike others on campus these eight had obviously received proper therapy before arriving at Whateley. He was about to give up when lo and behold the eighth time was the charm as he beheld the twitching fox girl.
He took out his scrambled cell phone and popped a call to Majestic, "Hey one of them finally felt it, and her healing can now begin. Now remember please deposit the other half of my therapy fee in the account that I gave to you. Oh no, I was glad to helping the girl get over her problems, it was nice of you to be so concerned with a new student. No it was a pleasure doing business with you your majesty."
Tunnels near Holbrock Arena
"I hope Rich doesn't get in too much trouble," Sonia said as she slithered along next to her boyfriend. "I mean punching and physically restraining another student then being escorted to Security, it might hamper his chances in getting into the FSA."
"He probably won't get in too much trouble," Max said as he tried to lay down the full logic of the situation. "This Captain Canada from what I heard suffers from Diedrick's Syndrome and people with that sometimes go into a hyper manic state where they become almost uncontrollable when they lose themselves in their delusions."
"From what Jericho told me Cerebrex does this on purpose to power himself up, once that happens you can't reason with him." Max explained from what he had learned about the student who assailed their friends. "The fact that <I>Captain Canada</I> stated he was going to physically assault them after destroying about five-thousand dollars in school property should help his chances."
"I hope so," Sonia said as she and Max approached the Dragon's Dojo. "Richard would be crushed if this blackballed him from joining the Future Super-Hero's of America."
"Why should you care that some cracker gets banned from a club of wannabe's that do nothing but kiss up to <B>The Man</B>?" A young African-American girl shot off as she teleported into sight accompanied by a boy of the same ethnicity who carried himself as if he was god's gift to women. "For that matter why are you hanging around so many damned crackers, do you have any pride or are you just another damned oreo."
"Now- now Salima dear," Mister Smooth-operator said while trying to sleaze his way closer to Sonia, "the poor girl is probably just confused, the trauma of her mutating into something so reptilian has probably caused her to latch onto people whose pity she's mistaken for concern."
In one flawless move he set his hand on Sonia's shoulder and whispered into her ear, "How about it, care to wrap a real man in your coils?"
"I have a real man thank you very much," Sonia explained vehemently as she peeled his hand from its perch on her shoulder with her very sharp nails. "I've known him for years, and he's supported me while I've had to deal with people like you call me a sell-out just because I want to get ahead in life rather than whine about how nothing goes my way because I didn't put in an ounce of effort."
"So you are a traitor," Salima shot back, "nothing more than some uppity sistah trying to act white."
"No, I'm a young woman who's not afraid to bust my butt and make use of the opportunities that I have available." Sonia shot back now that she was really in rare form against Alakazam whose would-be Casanova attitude royally pissed her off. "Opportunities that my parents and grandparents made possible by busting their own butts, all the while dealing with people as proud as you are who were trying to bust their heads or worse."
"Now try and drill this into your head, I like working for what I want, hanging out with the people that I want to hang out with, and aiming as high as I can to make the most of my potential. So excuse me if I would rather do that than being some slothful caricature whining about how nothing is fair because I didn't put in the effort to make it a reality."
"Are you saying that your people are lazy!" Salima said as she became smoking mad.
"Change happens because people work hard to make their dreams of the future a reality. Simply complaining because things don't work out the way you want is not the way to change things, still the real problem for <I>our people</I> as it were is the same problem that the group that you are so vehemently against have." Sonia said spelling it out for all to hear, "They are idolizing clowns that are being mass-manufactured by the music and entertainment industries who have all of the substance of a postage stamp, celebrities that have no real business being role models what-so-ever especially with the shallow personas that they wear for their marketed audience. As for African Pride, there is a point when racial pride easily turns into racist pride and most that are already there are sadly too blind to see it."
"That's it you cold-blooded snake-bitch," Salima said as she saw read. "I've got your number and just remember you started this shit."
Alakazam took that moment to storm off tailed closely by Mace, as they departed they did so leaving Draco and Asklepian to wonder just what it was that this confrontation set in motion.
At the spot near the edge of the dining hall that had been claimed by the Mufresbro Eight, everyone present was in a dire mood. "Soph, how could you let something like that happen to Candace?" Max cried out breaking the silence at the table. "How could you let something like that happen to her?"
"Max there wasn't anything that Soph could have done," Mary said from within Meradee. "The doctor's agree that it was a psychic burst that triggered her episode, they claim that they have seen similar things happen over the last couple of years but the people always recover."
"So they're just going to do nothing?!?" Max said as he was now literally beside himself. "How could they, so what if a few other kids came out of it, they don't know who did this. Someone out there hurt my Candace and they're going to pay for it!"
"Calm down Casanova," Max said trying to reel his roommate's flared temper in. "Something is going on here and I have a feeling that this is only the beginning. First Rich and Arnold were attacked in the tunnels by two zealous amateur heroes, after a strange spill forces them to take an alternate route, and considering that Stalwart and Cerebrex were waiting for us along the route, that means that whoever told them we were going to steal something was likely behind the spill."
"Not to mention me saying goodbye to being in the Gearheads," Arnold muttered around the bowel of cheap soft serve that he was drowning his woes in with fudge. "Loophole was depending on me to fix-up that jeep but after Cerebrex turned that engine into a junk pile, the jeep itself is just a pile of spare parts, a new engine for a car that old would likely be worth more than the car itself."
"Not to mention not only did I get two days detention for punching Cerebrex, now it's going around campus that we have past ties to the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom." Richard said as he hung his head at the thought, "I'm pretty sure that my chances of joining the Future Super-Heroes of America just went up in smoke."
"Also someone told the psychic who attacked Candace her and Sophia's itinerary." Max said laying the facts of the attack out there, while trying to draw Arnold and Richard out of their growing depression. "Whoever it was knew that they were going to be there and when, so they were waiting to ambush you."
"And when I find out who did it we're going to take turns pounding him." Both of Rex's bodies growled in righteous fury.
"Also last but not least someone told The Tigers, who are apparently a African Pride martial-arts group here on campus, that prior that beneath her serpentine veneer Sonia is African-American." Max shook his head at this last bit of information.
"FYI a lot of people who are big on Ethnic Pride can't stand the idea of inter-racial couples and relationships." Sonia explained as she fumed at the thought, "As if it's really their business who I'm friends with and who I date, that business is between me, whom-so-ever I choose to associate myself with and no one else."
"Still it is obvious at this point that we're now being targeted," Max explained the conclusion that he had drawn from these events. "I don't know who has a grudge against us or why, but someone is coming after us; so everyone keep on your figurative toes, because something tells me that what's happened so far is only the beginning."
It had been hours of running through the twists and turns of this eternal labyrinth; however Eliza was certain that she had finally lost Medusa. Stopping to breath for a moment, Eliza began to reflect on the gorgon's accusations.
Medusa was a demigoddess who had cast away glory, suitors, and everything else in the world to serve as a temple maiden of Athena at a very young age, the girl had barely been a woman when she approached the steps of Athena's first temple in Athens a structure that proceeded the Parthenon by centuries. The girl had grown into a woman under the sisterhood of her priestesses and had served contently and oddly enough for the emerging woman's beauty, complete faith and humility.
At least that was how Eliza remembered it from the part of her that was Athena, that was what happened or was there something else about Medusa, wasn't she really... no she was Athena's priestess, just where had that thought come from?
Still this beauty had caused the men of Athens to repeatedly beg for her hand in marriage, they implored that she leave the Sisterhood of Athena and enter their house through marriage promising her wealth and a life of luxury. Still despite their tempting overtures Medusa would have none of their offers of opulence, she was more than content with serving the Temple of Athena.
This all ended when Poseidon paid a visit to the inner sanctum of Athena’s Temple and in a fit of primal lust raped Medusa. Naturally, since Poseidon was one of the Three Brothers, each of whom ruled one of the three realms which man could never rule as their personal domain, and as an Olympian who was of the previous generation she could not punish him for this transgression. Still she could not simply let the incident go unpunished so she naturally turned her wrath upon the one who incited Poseidon's fit of lust; she punished Medusa by turning her into a fearsomely hideous gorgon and gave the creature her petrifying gaze to isolate her from the rest of humanity.
As she stood up deciding to cover more ground, lest the gorgon in here stumble across her again; Eliza could admit that she had been consumed with rage when she made that decision, after all the inner-sanctum of her Main Temple had been defiled.
Still in that bought of anger, she made the curse upon Medusa too powerful, Athena could not lift it herself as it had become anchored to Medusa's essence, this meant that her head itself could become a weapon. She had intended it to isolate her and give Medusa time to reflect; instead, she cursed the woman to remain in isolation until a mortal came along to turn her head into a weapon. She wondered how Medusa would appreciate the irony considering that the one to do so wound up using it to protect a woman, Princess Andromeda who was to be killed for her mother's verbal slight against the nymphs of the sea who dwelled in Poseidon's court.
Still it wasn't like she had struck many mortals with such a fate, Zeus's wrath alone was as legendary as his lust. She had been thinking of another such incident when she walked through a wall that was actually two pieces of cloth; she looked around to see that the walls of the chamber were adorned with several very beautiful and very familiar tapestries; including the one that she had walked past which had been cleaved in twain.
At the center of the room was a woman who was wracked in pain from a cut on her face as she clung to a broken Bronze Age loom, "How could you do this to me patron of crafts?" The woman screamed in agony as her body writhed in agony.
"Were you like your brother Apollo and too proud to admit that another could be your equal in a chosen craft?" The woman asked as pain raked her body. "Were you like Hera and envious that a mortal succeeded where you could not?"
"What reason could you have for doing this to me?" The woman cried out in pain and rage as she as Medusa transformed, this though was far more cruel. The growing body of a giant spider burst out from under the woman’s skin and except for her slashed face, which was now stretched over the head of her new body. Arachne now turned her attention to Eliza, her inhuman body filled with fury as she leaped with savage speed towards the source of her suffering.
Eliza had barely made it out of the room, once more she was running for her life, for some reason her powers didn’t work in here, and once more she was confronted with a deadly foe of her own making. Just how was she supposed to pass this test? How was anyone to do something so impossible? To think that the Phantom Queen of the Wild Faerie intended to inflict this place on her apprentice as a rite of passage, how had she ever expected Faolan to solve the impossible enigma that she was now trapped inside?
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Thursday March 1, 2007
Doyle Medical Center
In a bed up on the third floor, Candace Reynard lay unconscious and unresponsive; the doctors and nurses on staff at Whateley wished that they could claim that this was an isolated incident, but over the last two years, they had seen it over a dozen times. Thankfully, each time the student in question recovered within a couple of days no worse for the wear, but the exact cause was a mystery although the school staff knew that it was psychic in nature.
Still, what the staff did know was that the students that had suffered these attacks in the past; although they were unconscious they were not comatose. No, for those who had been helped by Shellshock were in fact trapped within their own memories, they were constantly reliving the most traumatic moment of their lives on infinite loop and like those before her Candace was experiencing hers.
As the Psychic Arts Department wanted someone to document the phenomenon and see if they could do something to speed the victim's recovery, they routinely assingned a member of their faculty to observe the afflicted. This was the reason Fubar was projecting himself into Doyle at the moment, and once again observing the horrible dreams of a victim of this horrible phenomenon.
Once again, Candace was seven and asleep in her bed in the home she and her mother shared with her grandmother Cathy and her grandfather Ralph back in Mufresbro, it was an old place that showed every year that it had been occupied- the kind of place that anyone could honestly say earned the word home. Suddenly Candace woke up to a sound that she had never heard a day before in her life, her grandmother was crying in a way that she didn't know people could cry.
Out of curiosity Candace climbed out of bed and walked to the front door, her tiny eyes still bleary from her interrupted sleep. Once she left her bedroom and carefully climbed down the stairs, she saw her grandma clinging to grandpa and wailing. At the door was Mister Roark, her mom's boss from the bar where she worked, a man who scared her sometimes but more because of how he looked than how he was. For some reason the gruff old man looked even older under the porch light- as if there was something weighing him down even more than time.
"Grandma, grandpa what's go'in on?" Candace felt herself asking in a voice that she hadn't used in eight years. "Why's Mister Roark here? Does mommy have to work late tonight?"
When she heard this grandma Cathy turned and hugged Candace as if she was afraid that the girl was going to turn into smoke and disappear. "Don't worry child nana's here!" Cathy choked through her sobs with her eyes still flooded with tears. "Nana's here and she's not going to let anything happen to you!"
"Grandma what's wrong?" Candace asked as she turned to look at the clock. "Why's Mister Roark here? Where's mommy? Shouldn't she be coming home soon?"
"Your mommy's is going to be going on a long trip dear," Grandma said trying to choke back her tears. "She's real sorry that she can't take her with you, so she's leaving you with us."
"Why grandma, why does she have to go without me?" Candace cried upset at what she heard. "Can I go to where mommy is?"
"Not for a long time dear," Grandma said obviously trying to keep from falling apart. "Not for a very long time."
This had been the third time that Louis observed this part of the memory, but each time was just as heart breaking as the last; he needed a break from this he'd report his findings and come back again in an hour or two. Besides the next part of this sequence of memories was far worse, and he didn't want to have to see Miss Reynard reliving that moment anymore than he had too.
Doyle Medical Center
Just like yesterday Rex Hallenbeck was waiting in the reception room at Doyle waiting to visit Candace. It didn't matter to him if she was still unconscious and probably wouldn't know that he was looking out for her, he still felt the need to check on her. "I'm sorry sir, the lady at the desk told him, but without the patient's immediate consent we can only allow one visitor at a time."
"Just who's visiting?" Rex asked in desperation at learning the identity of the person standing in between him and spending time with Candace.
"It says that her current visitor is Randi Bridges." The nurse on duty said as she looked down at her log.
This bit of news made Rex's heart sink, less than a week here and Candace had already met a guy. He had never even heard Candace mention this Randy Bridges before and he was already close enough to her to check up on her now that she was in the hospital. Rex shook his head, he knew that he needed to clear his thoughts; thankfully his certification had cleared the pistol range since legally Whateley Academy's Security Department had to recognize his ATF firearms safety permit, especially since they rush quizzed him to make sure that he knew his stuff. Maybe some time at the pistol range would help him clear his head.
Five minutes after Rex Hollenbeck left fretting about his non-relationship with his childhood crush Candace Reynard, the girl's aforementioned roommate Faolan aka Randi Bridges came down the elevator to check out at the front desk.
"Hello Miss Bridges I take it your roommate's condition is unchanged?" The nurse inquired as Randi checked out at the front desk.
"Yeah no change, just like the Doc told me yesterday," Randi sighed having been the victim of a mental intrusion for most of her life she could sympathize with her now unconscious roommate. In fact knowing that a psychic ambusher was dwelling on campus made her wish that she was better at glamour's, that way she could just wear her mask around outside of Poe all the time.
At least she had a full day today; she had to drop off some paperwork at Laird to schedule an evaluation of her combat skills with Sensei Ito so that she could keep up evening training with Morrigan. Part of her wondered how whoever they had her spar with next week would react if they knew that Morrigan's temporal compression spells let her get in a week's training over the course of an hour. Then she had some time scheduled at Range 2 to practice with small arms with Mirabel, while it was true that her mana rifle worked just fine but she wanted to make something for more close range situations.
After what had happened, yesterday Meradee and Sophia were understandably apprehensive about taking the Tunnels; however today being a Red Flag day due to the New Hampshire state building inspector performing the final safety checks on Crystal Hall. The pair was understandably wary, two of their group had been attacked down here twice in a matter of minutes, and Rich was looking at one weeks' worth of detention for assaulting one of their attackers instead of alerting Security. Granted because his opponent did attack first, issue a verbal threat and was a known Dricker his sentence was relatively minor but still he was only defending Arnold and himself.
Diamondback had explained that it was school policy that anyone who started a fight on campus or participated in a fight had to be punished; otherwise, it would look like the school encouraged vigilante behavior. This sort of made sense to them as one the members of the Board of Trustees, Lord Paramount, was an Eastern European Dictator who seized control of his country by using his powers. Lord Paramount was far from the only one, there was also Gizmatic and who knows how many others.
Still a week of working on the maintenance crew was a little harsh; Assistant Headmistress Hartford also told him that if the crew chief caught him slacking off he'd be put on call for emergency grounds repair for a month. Stalwart for not notifying security right away had received a week's worth of clerical duty in administration, he would have gotten Hawthorne duty for unprovoked assault however considering that he alerted Security to Cerebrex's attack and turned himself in for his own transgression they gave him a break.
At least they were somewhat mollified by the fact that Cerebrex had been hit hard with a month's worth of alternating detention all over campus, from what they heard today he would be the kitchen staff's errand boy while they prepared to set everything up in Crystal Hall for the planned reopening tomorrow. He would also be cleaning it up after every meal until classes started up again, that was when Stalwart and Rich would also begin serving theirs as well.
Still when everyone's detentions started next week when classes began, he would be assisting the Grounds crew in hand fertilizing the campus. That crappy job would be followed by one week's worth of sewer duty, then janitorial detail in Doyle and finally a week of cleaning duty at Hawthorn. From what Diamondback told her some of the restroom facilities there required full hazmat gear; Sonia shuddered to think just what that would mean.
But all of Cerebrex's suffering meant little to one member of their group- Arnold was devastated, he had been psyched at the prospect of joining the Gearheads ever since he learned more about them and with the engine now beyond any hope of repair there was no way that he'd ever be able to fix that jeep. He told them this morning that he wanted to spend the morning finishing the body work on the jeep itself, after than he planned to get in touch with the club's president Dashboard as well as their advisor Melvin Donner to ask if they wanted him to go ahead and part the thing out.
Richard was still helping him out until his detention began next week, as Ms Hartford put was, "We don't ease up on first time offenders, if we give you detention you will have to juggle it with your classes." It sort of made sense given that classes hadn't started yet, and though they could probably get more work out of the students during a break, the lesson that they were trying to teach said students themselves likely wouldn't sink in as well if they had an abundance of free time. At least Arnold wasn't alone right now, after yesterday everyone in their group except for Rex was never alone, Rex being the exception given that he could manifest a duplicate himself once.
It probably didn't help that the campus was mostly deserted today, even more so than yesterday. Since it was Winter Break, a number of students who could afford to travel had chosen to do so earlier in the week and head off somewhere, however there were still a number of students on campus that either could not afford to do so. These students instead opted for daytrips or overnight trips to more local destinations to like Boston, Manchester or Portland, this way said students could use the inexpesive regional buses and trains and not have to mess with airport security and the MCO. This meant that you were less likely to run into students on campus, even less likely than the tunnels, but for Sophia, who had been with Candace yesterday when she was attacked, this only served to heighten her tension.
Still they did pass by the occasional student in the tunnels, and when the pair turned the corner, they were sure that they had come under attack. In front of Meradee and Sophia was a dinosaur and an African American kid who was obviously using his clothes for some sort of psychic assault, "Get back Meradee!" Sonia said as she began to weave a spell in her odd way. "I bind that which is sundered and make what is two become one."
Suddenly the pair struggled to remove their feet from the floor, and the raptor began to chirp angrily in between growling at her. The psychic assailant turned to his partner as if answering the chirps, "You said it buddy, hey what's the big idea?"
"Jericho is that you?" Soph said as her cheeks colored and she unwove her spell in embarrassment. "Sorry I'm a little jumpy after what happened yesterday, I thought that you were some psychic or devisor using a clothing based attack on us."
Razorback heard the comment, slowly turned to look at Jericho, and dropped to the floor as he began to roll back and forth with a chirping laughter. Jericho was also having a good chuckle of his own, "Well I suppose the canary yellow top with the hot-pink leggings and the lime green stripes were a little too far, but you and your friends come to our jam sessions all the time. How come you didn't know it was me?"
"I never take a close look at your face," Sophia blushed in a deeper shade of red as she admitted her embarrassment. "Those Funk outfits that you wear give me a migraine if I stare directly at them for too long."
"Yes," Cleo said as she was currently in charge. "We must not look too long at the polyester lest it steal our souls and turn us into disco zombies." This remark had Razorback laughing so hard that he had to gasp for breath.
"I see that there are others of those in this school that know the dark side of the shorts," Jericho said as he smiled a toothy grin at Mish-Mash.
"Yeah," Cleo said as she shuddered all over. "Candace also warned us about Jade Sinclair's repeated attempts to subvert the campus to the ways of the equally foul feline demoness of Sanrio."
The mention of that manufactured mascot had Jericho seeing green and sent Razorback into dry heaves. "I know I was attacked by her and the rest of Wondercute last month- it will haunt me for the rest of my days."
"Let me guess, Sandra took pictures." Soph deadpanned at what the possible darkness was preserved that day. "I swear some people are so obsessed over their favorite shows that it's sc-AAAGGGHHH!"
Before Sandra even finished her sentence, she fell over clutching her right side, a side that was currently bleeding profusely as if some unseen assailant had stabbed her. Everyone stared in shock for a moment before Razorback began snarling, and sniffing the air to pick up the attackers trail. Meredee wasn't far behind the raptor, she engaged her shifting ability and transformed into a bizarre combination of polar bear, rattlesnake and black rhinoceros with the head of each easily seen and obviously pissed off.
Now the assailant whoever they were obviously had the advantage of invisibility; unfortunately both of the attacker's bestial opponents had other senses to rely on. Razorback, as many students already at the school knew, had an excellent sense of smell and at this very moment, he wasn't the only one.
Meradee or as her codename went Mish-Mash didn't just shift at random each of her personalities had chosen an animal with a purpose. Cleo had chosen a polar bear not simply for size and strength; they were animals that had the ability to detect prey by scent from miles away. Mary had chosen a black rhino not just for their solid body and thick hide, but also because their senses of smell and hearing were both very keen. Jackie as a rattlesnake had not only the infamous poison and jaw, but also the ability to detect body heat that all pit vipers possessed. All three of them were also coordinating between the three of them at the speed of thought, there was nowhere at the person who attacked Sophia could hide.
There they were as the trio senses mingled they could detect their prey, she yes they could tell from the scent that the attacker was female. By the way, the girl's body heat began to rise as Mish-Mash and Razorback stalked towards her and from the increasing hint of salt and ammonia hit the air, it was obvious that her Adrenalin was spiking causing her sweat to kick in to cool her off, whether it was for fight or flight that remained to be seen. Although Mish-Mash could detect her opponent there was no telling what her abilities were, and what else she would bring to the fight.
As the raptor and the bear-rhinotaur-with the snake tail stalked forward, the mystery woman inched back, and then she acted. When Razorback and Mish-Mash were almost upon her, the invisible attacker tossed a sphere to the ground that began spewing a noxious smoke that overwhelmed the enhanced senses of her attackers. The pair fell over gagging while the attacker made her escape, but not before Jericho (who had been attending to Sophia's wounds and alerting Security) shot something her way.
As the smoke cleared and Mish-Mash belched out a few flames to deal with the lingering smell, using the old lit match method, Security arrived on the scene. "Dammit Jericho did you buddy attack another student again?"
"No officer," Jericho explained as he continued to apply pressure to Sophia who had sense lost consciousness. "We had just ran into each other in the tunnel and were exchanging some jokes when Sophia here fell over and I began to smell blood.
"She was attacked," Jackie said taking control of Meradee's body after the trio shifted back to human form, "we didn't see who it was, they were invisible at the time. We do know that the attacker was female, but after the gas grenade she used to cover her escape, we could possibly identify her by scent but that is a faint possibility.
"So you are willing to testify that the attack was possibly unprovoked and that the assailant was not Razorback." The Security officer stated, "Do you mind filling that out in a report- after of course we get your friend over to Doyle?"
"Of course officer," Cleo stated as she seized the reigns. "As long as it helps you find the monster that did this."
While Jericho and all three of Meradee's active personalities were conversing with Security as they transported Sophia to Doyle, several bends of the semi-labyrinthine tunnels away the mystery assailant disengaged the invisibility charm that she had been using. 'How could I be so stupid?' Nightbane chastised herself for her own stupidity. 'I should have waited to make sure they were alone before I attacked, then I would have gotten them both in one shot. I may have gotten the Sphinx but now the Chimera probably has my scent, if only Razorback wasn't there I could have probably gotten her with the lead pellet.'
Dissatisfied by her partial victory, Nightbane made her way back to the Goober's Clubhouse below Dillon unaware that she was taking back something that she didn't intend to with her.
It had taken Rex some time to arrive at Range 2, mainly due to the fact that he was still getting used to campus and had only been here once before. Still although he was still new to Whateley, he knew his way around a shooting range thanks to his parents. Part one of the rules was to always listen to any special instructions from the range master before signing in, not surprising since sometimes the range master had their own special rules.
Surprisingly the range master on duty, one Staff Sergeant Ryan Wilson, had rules that were pretty bread and butter. Although as standard as the rules he laid out right up front were, the range master warned that in the academy's history only one student ever managed to get their range privileges restored once they had been revoked- and that student had to jump through more hoops than a dolphin in a marina. Once he finished laying down the rules he had Rex sign in (Last name and first initial) while he went for the student's equipment, that's when Rex noticed Bridges, R, Candace's boyfriend was using the range.
Rex looked around and Range 2 was deserted except for someone in a ball cap with a young girl that had to be this Randy Bridges and knowing that made his blood boil. This Casanova already had a great girl like Candace, but because she was unconscious and in the hospital he was deciding to put the moves on another girl. To add insult to injury, this one who was obviously in junior high, what a massive pervert- he would...
"Do nothing," Rex said to himself he knew that he had to calm down, a pistol range was no place to lose your temper, hell it was the worst place possible. He would talk to this cad after the two of them were done, in fact now that he was thinking a little more clearly he had an idea.
Rex waited patiently for the Staff Sergeant Wilson to return, when he finally did with the box containing the firearm in question, practice ammo, range glasses, and headphones. "Sir I noticed someone is using the range that I need to talk with about another matter, would you mind if I left a message for them here for when they check their equipment. After all you should never interrupt or risk surprising anyone on a firing range."
"True- just don't make a habit of it," Sergeant Wilson stated as he said with a slight smirk. "I know this is high school, but I don't want to have to play cupid if I can avoid it."
"Understood sir, and actually this is about a friend of mine that got hurt the other day. I noticed they were visiting her in Doyle and I want to know if they could be aware of any reason someone would have to attack her." Rex said as he got out a notepad and jotted down a quick note for Randy Bridges to wait for him by the entrance to Range to talk about Candace, after all obvious pervert or not he deserved to have a chance to verbally defend himself.
"This better not lead to an assault on another student," Sergeant Wilson said as his eyes narrowed glaring at the boy.
"No sir, if I come up with any answers they go right to Security." Rex replied to the Range Master's inquiry.
"Good, we don't want any more kids getting stupid and playing hero on campus," Sergeant Wilson said as he took the note. "Especially while a state official not in the know will be on campus all day today."
"Understood sir," Rex said as he gave the pistol a standard M9 Beretta a careful inspection, with the safety on. Satisfied that the pistol was unloaded and in working order, he returned the firearm to its case and walked over to the stall that he had been assigned.
Once in the stall after making sure that the glasses and headphones were properly in place, Rex carefully removed the Beretta. Now taking aim at the far wall, he slid the clip into place, took careful aim, disengaged the safety and opened fire at the target.
After taking his time on the firing range Rex checked his score from the three target sheets, obviously his pending confrontation with Candace's boyfriend was affecting his aim- as was the thought of Candace herself lying unconscious in that hospital bed. Not wanting to put things off anymore, Rex flipped the safety back on ejected the clip and worked the action to make sure that a bullet wasn't still in the barrel.
Once he was satisfied that the weapon itself was empty, Rex returned it and the spent clips to their case along with the earphones and sunglasses, before taking everything back to the Range Master's desk and ringing the bell.
After a minute or two Sergeant Wilson returned from where he had been at the desk, "Done already kid, here let me check you out." Sergeant Ryan grumbled as he checked over my gear, "Well- what do you know, everything's regulation, now understand this kid usually we require a special class for Range use but there are a few exceptions, you were fortunate enough to exploit one of them, but that just lets you use the Ranges. Anything else like listing a weapon as a holdout requires you to pass one of our Range Classes and receive special permission, is that understood?"
"Sir, yes sir," Rex replied with a minor salute to the Staff Sergeant and Range Master.
"Sign out wise guy," Sergeant Wilson stated giving the kid a glare that would make Greasy lube himself, "Oh and the kid you were wanting to talk to is waiting at the entrance over there." He said indicating the clod who was dressed in a navy blue flannel shirt, jeans and an old leather army jacket, topped off with a Cowboys ball cap. The junior high girl that he was using to fill Candace's vacancy was still there as well.
The cad called out to Rex as he tromped up to him, "So you must be Rex, you said that you wanted to talk about Candace. Wait a minute I recognize you from New York, Deuce the splitter right?"
"Wait a minute how do you know that?" Rex asked clearly baffled because he hadn't recalled meeting this effeminate young man before, what was it with girls and the Decaprio types. "I don't think that we've meet before, I don't recognize you at all."
"Um you probably wouldn't, we were in costume remember." Randy replied as he, wait scratch that she took off her ball cap revealing that she looked like a tomboyish brunette who looked a little like Candace thanks to her ears. "Faolan remember, and this lovely young lady is Nightingale."
"A pleasure sir," the junior high school girl who he now remembered had taken down three of those faux-Tiger Guards in that ballroom using hand-to-hand combat only.
"So you were asking about my roommate," Faolan stated curious just where the conversation had been headed.
That was when Rex began to laugh, noticing the pair's odd reaction to his behavior he began to explain. "Oh man this is embarrassing, I had been thinking that you were a guy and Candace had already scored a boyfriend. Then I saw you hanging out with a junior high girl giving her tips at a gun range and I just thought-"
That was when Mirabel joined in the laughter too. "Oh man Randi, I knew that you're a tomboy, but you might need to dial it back a bit if guys are starting to think that you're a guy from a distance."
"Oh- ha- ha," Randi stated with her arms crossed under her bosom that now Rex could clearly see.
"Yeah and to think I thought that you and Candace were in a relationship," Rex said trying to catch his breath.
"Not from her lack of trying," Randi began to explain her experience with her new roommate. "She might be many things but Candace is not subtle, not to mention how touchy-feely she is, honestly she's been here less than a week. I know that she's a speedster but that girl moves fast."
"Are you saying that Candace is-" Mirabel began to say not sure how to get the word out, after all her mother was a traditional Georgia woman and the subject was a little weird for her.
"Who knows kid, sometimes girls like to experiment when they get older." Randi said skirting the issue with common logic and thus doing her best to maintain the secret of Poe. "Or she might just want a safe relationship during high school, getting too serious with guys in high school does have its consequences. My older brother told me that three girls in his graduating class had to drop out because they were due before finals."
"Yikes, why can't some girls just, um Randi," Mirabel said noticing an odd expression and blank look on Rex's face. "I think that something's wrong with Deuce."
"No Mirabel," Randi chuckled with an impish smile on her face. "He's been lost in his imagination ever since I commented about me and Candace, it's perfectly normal for a lot of guys- especially at an age where their hormones are like a mad scientists laboratory. Don't worry though there are dozens of ways to snap them out of it, like so. Hey Deuce, you're fly's down!"
Those words sparked a flurry of activity for the multiplier, "Oh man, I am so sorry, I swore that I...hey!"
"Sorry Deuce, but you were in la- la- land and I had to snap you out of it." Randi said as she rolled her eyes. "Besides I didn't want you getting any ideas about me and your dream girl, nothings happening Rover."
"He ain't nothing but a hound dog." Mirabel sang as she started giggling as the group began to move away from the area under Kane Hall and back towards the center of campus.
Mirabel and Randi planed on hooking north to meet up with their respective friends at Holbrook, today they were going try their hand at mixed doubles on the tennis court, while Rex was going to hook south, and head to the basement entrance underneath Doyle. What neither group counted on was one of the school's main bruisers deciding to play human barricade.
"There you are Fido," Buster smirked while cracking his knuckles. "Usually I do this for fun, but today the name of the game is business and pleasure. Now you two toothpicks had better make yourself scarce," He said glaring at Faolan and Nightingale. "This is going to get ugly real fast!"
"It already got ugly the moment you showed up ya knuckle-dragger," Mirabel shot back as she slid one of her hands into her jacket pocket before joining Randi in a combat stance.
"That's it! You bitches are going to join poochie her at the vet!" The thug launched into action as the three scrambled to avoid his blow.
"Rex don't hit him," Randi shouted to the male of the assaulted group as they struggled to avoid the exemplar's attacks. "This goon absorbs any attack you hit him with and uses it to make himself tougher and stronger, you have to avoid directly attacking him at all costs."
"Hold the phone! Just how do you fight a bruiser you can't hit?" Rex called out as he dodged a blow that would have knocked him senseless.
"You have to fight using your head," Randi replied while ducking a roundhouse kick, "because this mook certainly doesn't!"
"Nobody calls me stupid and walks away from it!" Buster roared while his face turned red in rage; he was now going after Faolan with intent to rip her apart like a ragdoll. Even as Security personnel arrived and tried to assess what to do about the situation, what surprised everyone was when Nightingale jumped onto the brute's back and Buster suddenly hit the ground unconscious to the world.
"Young lady," Officer McGraw said mystified. "Just how did you do that?"
Mirabel smiled and performed the Vulcan Salute, "Live long and prosper."
Everyone else present was clearly baffled, except for Randi of course who knew that Mirabel used her power to make Buster go nighty-night. She also knew that said ability worked best when the target's adrenaline was surging so that the resulting crash was even harder, and with how much she'd wound Buster up Randi wouldn't be surprised if he ended up sleeping through dinner.
Vehicle Lab - Beneath Kane Hall
With a somewhat somber attitude, Arnold and Richard went about finishing up the bodywork on the school's jeep. The pair had already checked under the hood and all of the wiring and other components had been either intact or pulled since this morning, Arnold had made a list of what needed to be replaced as they had worked under the hood yesterday. It appeared that whatever wrecked the jeep had cracked the radiator and broke the water pump, they might also replace the pump line while they were in there those things never lasted long. The hood was also too crumpled to hammer back into shape so it would have to be replaced altogether, still that wouldn't be too expensive this model was common enough that replacements were relatively easy to come by if you knew the right scrap yards. Of course, primary on that list was the engine itself, which thanks to Cerebrex was totaled beyond all hope of repair.
Arnold was bummed beyond belief certain that his time with the Gearheads was over before it began, and he was sure the custom car that he planned on finishing during summer vacation was going to be languishing in a garage until he graduated. Richard his friend and roommate was equally as depressed, he was certain that there was no way that the Future Super-Heroes of America would want him now. Rich already knew that he was on shaky ground, what with ties to a major operator in the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom like Mistress Nyx laying there in his past. After this fight, he was certain that the club would black list him for good.
Still the duo did what they could in finishing up the nicks and dings, holding off on a paint job until Melvin Donner and Dashboard arrived to give their final appraisal. They didn't have to wait long before the club president and their faculty sponsor to arrive with Loophole in tow, Arnold already felt like he wanted to lose his last three meals on the duracrete.
"So you're Strato, Loophole said you wanted to join up, course admin told us yesterday what happened to the engine block." Dashboard said as she sized Arnold up before moving onto look at the jeep. "Not that she had to; Lemure won't shut up about how unfair it is that syrup-for-brains is getting a month long punishment for doing what she did. Heck if you ask me he got off light for trying the whole victory by denial bs, if I had any say in the matter he would be getting it for the rest of the frick'en semester not just a month."
"Still it looks like you did a good job with the repairs and the bodywork," Dashboard observed as she cased the jeep. "I 'sume that the hood was a wash, so anything else we need to know?"
"Yes ma'am, here's a list of the needed replacement parts. Some were too broken to properly repair; while others showed so much wear-n-tear that I felt that it was a good idea to swap them out while I was in there." Arnold explained still feeling like he was going to blow chunks with every word. "Still given that the engine is now a modern art project, I thought it best to await your final approval before I began to do any further repairs."
"I know what you mean kid, it seems a shame too, this baby isn't really all that old and she had a lot of life still left in her." Dashboard mused as she gave Mister Donner a sideways glance to ask for his silent approval, which he gave. "Still a vehicle without an engine is a lawn ornament to most people, course we're not most people. As the saying goes one person's trash is another person's canvas, say Loophole do you feel that it might be profitable to develop a V6 heavy-vehicle alternative to the V8 you have in your Mustang, say before someone with very little conscious in Detroit reverse engineers it behind your back?"
"Why Dashboard, Ah'm shocked that you would think of yah'll hometown heroes like that!" Loophole humorously reeled in faux shock at Dashboard's question as she poured on her Georgia accent as thick as she could in response, "Or thought that Ah may not possibly already have a blueprint laying around somewheah foah just such an engine. So Ahnold since you were ever so kind to get started, do you mind taking ovah some of my duties with the Gearheads while I get started?"
This caught Arnold like a bolt from the blue, "Does this mean that I'm in?" He asked hoping that they were throwing him a bone.
"Yes Mister Fletcher you're in, welcome to the Gearheads." Dashboard replied although she didn't know just what to say when Arnold fainted with a goofy grin on his face, thankfully Richard caught him before he hit the floor.
Loophole then turned to look at Dashboard and Mister Donner with a predatory grin on her face as she held up her right palm. The pair begrudgingly forked over ten bucks each to the waiting gadgeteer from Atlanta.
Holbrook Arena - Near Dragon's Dojo
Fresh from a post workout shower, Max walked out of the dojo side-by-side with Sonia, granted she was slithering beside him rather than walking. Unfortunately the pair found themselves, like yesterday confronted with Alakazam flanked this time by Phalanx, Spinner and Stunner.
"One last chance oreo," Alakazam glared at Asklepian promising that she had better like the snakegirl's answer- or else. "Ditch the cracker and take some pride in who you or see if black and blue goes well with green."
"So let me get this straight, you're saying that if I don't fall in line and stick to my race that you'll beat me into submission." Sonia said as her serpentine eyes narrowed into slits while she shot Alakazam a venomous glare. "All you're missing are the white bed sheets, and you'd be just like them. Still you might want to quit now before you come to regret this."
This was the last straw for Salima, who let the smoke fly giving the others with her the signal to attack. Spinner and Phalanx began to double team Draconis while Stunner reluctantly joined Alakazam to deal with Asklepian, to tell the truth she didn't even want to be here. The truth was that lately she had been on the receiving end of a lot of flak for being friends with Phase and was railroaded into giving Alakazam back up, at least use her zaps to make sure that the couple didn't feel any pain from the beating that her less merciful teammates were about to give them.
Still much to Stunner's shock her attempt to zap Asklepian was less than successful, the snakegirl still remained upright as she dodged Alakazam's repeated attempts to swipe at her with two pairs of clawed smoke hands. Meanwhile said snakegirl's paramour was dealing with growing army of duplicates that Phalanx was sending his way, all the while dodging Spinner's attempts to snare him with her manifested webs from her place on the ceiling. Still he could only dodge the nets for so long before one of Phalanx's dupes put him in the right place to trap him.
"Face it white-bred between the two of us you can't last for long, we'd wear you down eventually no matter how good you think that you are." Spinner boasted from where her spider legs held her on the ceiling. "So just be a good little boy and stay there taking your licks like the man you're pretending to be for your girlfriend."
This actually made Max crack a grin, "You know funny thing about me and wearing down," The manifestor said as he called up his reptilian hide that disintegrated the web over him as it appeared. "You see while I'm like this, I don't get tired I can keep this up for hours. So are you two ready, for round two?"
As Draconis began to knock Phalanx's dupes around with greater accuracy than before, Alakazam was growing more and more frustrated. Despite her smoke hands moving through the air with next to no resistance, she was unable to get a grip on the snakegirl. She was finding out the hard way that Asklepian despite her size, was every bit as slippery and agile as the serpent she resembled, not to mention fast once or twice she had even managed to slip in and tag Salima with her rather sharp claws.
After about the third such attack Alakazam decided to respond in kind, she waited for the serpentine girl to tag her again then 'ported out of the way and use her own smoky claws to slash at her opponent. This time the tactic proved effective, Salima briefly dissipated her vapor as she moved closer to the wounded Sonia to gloat, "See what dating that cracker's got you girl, nothing but pain."
For good measure, she backhanded one of the bloody wounds to emphasize her point, and then began to walk away before she stopped as she felt her hand begin to go numb. Salima had brought it up briefly to inspect the extremity- before she mean to scream like crazy. It was as if her entire hand had been soaked in diesel fuel then lit on fire.
Sighing Asklepian got up off the floor, the wounds that she had received clearly healed. "As I was saying you would regret this, I might be a healer but my blood contains a rather potent neurotoxin. Not only is it potentially fatal if it gets in the blood, but physical contact with it causes every pain receptor in the immediate vicinity to light up like a Christmas tree."
Stunner who had long since given up the fight, and was merely on the sideline waiting for her surprise to manifest; hit Salima with one of her bolts divorcing her briefly from the pain surging into her. This sudden relief also caused the only thing keeping the Tiger's Queen conscious to end allowing her to pass out. Seeing this betrayal of their fellow Tiger, Spinner and Phalanx moved in to attack when they were stopped by a shockingly familiar shout of "YAME!"
Phalanx and Spinner stared as they blanched at the sight of Itou-soke, flanked by both Zhong Lau and N'Dizi (who was looking very pissed to be here). "This sparing match is over!"
"Sparing match?" Phalanx asked in a perplexed voice as his duplicates vanished along with Spinner's spider legs.
"Yes, the sparing match between the Tigers and the Dragons." Itou-soke said in his evil old man voice. "The match that Stunner asked me to authorize for your clubs, you were informed correct because I would hate to think what the Headmistress and the Chief of Security would think if they heard that she second in command of the Tigers arranged for an attack because she disapproved of an interracial relationship."
"Why the fallout from such on accusation might cause the Tigers club status at Whateley to be revoked, and might possibly lead to legal action against Miss Al-Kazzan- even expulsion. Thankfully this was simply a full contact sparing match, so all who are able to- sensei ni taishi, sensei ni rei!" On the command of Itou-soke both groups bowed to the head of the Whateley Martial Arts Program, with Sonia mimicking Max since she was only passing familiar with karate, who then barked out. "Otagai ni taishi, otagai ni rei!" On command, both groups turned to face each and bowed. "Kyakka!"
Neither group questioned their good fortune with the Tigers avoiding detention (although Itou would likely be planning a very painful lesson in class for most of them in the future), and Max and Sonia having an opportunity to leave before the fight escalated even further. Both groups hit the tunnels as fast as they could and didn't look back- least Ito-sensei change his mind.
Judicator was exhausted, spending her time avoiding Medusa was one thing but being hunted by Arachne while she was avoiding the gorgon as well was another thing altogether. The pair were relentless in their pursuit of her their endless rage at her for their allotted fates and suffering fueled them in their pursuit. Thankfully, that same narrow-minded rage blinded the pair to the possibility of cooperating with each other to overwhelm her, which was fortunate since the nature of this faerie fabrication was suppressing her powers and thus leaving Eliza unarmed and unarmored.
She ducked into a nearby room to avoid her pursuers and suddenly found herself in a grassy meadow, 'I know this place.' Eliza thought to herself although the memory itself was hazy and ephemeral, there was something about this faerie's construct that was affecting her memories. Nearby she could see two young girls both of them familiar engaged in friendly sparring albeit with actual swords, suddenly one struck the other accidentally in what would have been a fatal blow, but her blade was repelled. "It seems that Zeus almighty is favoring our sport this day so that the two of us shall not come to harm." One of the girl's said having grown emboldened that she was not struck down. "Let us use the rarest of opportunities this gracious gift has afforded us to truly test our mettle."
"If you insist my sister," The other girl said in with a modicum of concern as the pair crossed blades again, their dance growing faster and more serious until this time the other of the girl's was dealt a mortal blow. However, unlike her friend this girl was not saved by the intervention of Zeus and was cut down.
"A-athena, how could you deceive me thus, we were like sisters," The girl said betrayed as blood poured forth from her wound and her mouth. "Curse your honeyed tongue!" The girl then arose and was transformed into a wooden statue, the Palladium, she was reliving the day she accidentally killed her good friend Pallas. Then by the droves similar young girls gathered around the statue fighting and dying over and over as if recreating the battle Judicator had just witnessed over and over until there was a massive mound of corpses.
Eventually the battles ceased leaving only the statue and the hill of death, Eliza stared aghast at the sight. Then to her horror, the wooden statue exploded revealing the twisted cadaver of the girl Athena's younger self-felled, the cadaver pointed her blade at Athena and shrieked in rage. "First you steal my life, then my name and now you command others spill their blood in a mockery of my tragic death. We were together in life now let us joining each other in the hereafter!"
As her scream echoed the sky turned red and the mountain of corpses began to shift, the slain girls arose one by one arming themselves, bemoaning their fate and insisting that they died as pure as they were born. Again, it was time for Judicator to flee except now the number of her pursuers had grown several fold, it was going to be near impossible to hide now.
Doyle Medical Center
Finally, the sedatives had worn off and Sophia began coming too, she took note that she was now in a hospital bed obviously Doyle and could feel the stitches in her side as she tried to get up. "Easy Miss Riddle," A nearby man in a tweed suit explained, "That was a rather nasty cut you took. You wouldn't want those stitches coming out before they've done their job. Still a few sessions with one of the school's many healers and you should be as good as new without even a scar to show for your troubles. At least you are in familiar company," He said indicating Soph's friend Candace who was still unconscious in the next bed.
"How is she?" Sophia asked out of concern staring at the unconscious foxgirl.
"She keeps having the same dream over and over; she's a little girl who's woken up by her grandmother crying and finds her grandparents at the front door with her mother's employer." The man began to explain, "You wouldn't happen to be able to explain this would you, oh pardon me for not introducing myself, Louis Geintz of the Psychic Arts Department. I would shake your hand however I am only a psychic projection myself."
"Unfortunately I think I do know the answer to your question," Soph said as she looked at her friend with a sorrowful expression. "That was the night her mother died, she was a barmaid at a local dive in Mufresbro, Pennsylvania called The Rusty Tap. You see one night one of the bar's regulars from the auto manufacturing plant was in a real foul mood, and was acting more erratic than usual. When she cut him off and asked him to go home he let her know his displeasure- by smashing her with the rather large beer mug he had in his hands before beating on her. By the time the owner and the other patrons pried the drunk off of her she was already dead, Candace was never really the same afterwards."
"What about her father?" Louis asked out of concern, "Why didn't he help her cope?"
"She never met him; near as anyone knows she was conceived sometime around the time of her mother's the senior prom." Sophia said with a hint of pity over the brutal truth of her friend's past. "All she's ever know about him is the child support check that her guardian's receive curiously of a legal firm that he hired to protect his anonymity. A law firm that I might add added a clause that if they ever catch her or anyone on her behalf digging into the identity of their client will not only stop sending her said child support, but also sue her on behalf of their client."
"That sounds like something that is more designed to scare someone into settling out of court," Louise mused for a second wondering if Whateley's own lawyers could help the girl. "But that matter is for young Miss Reynard to decide on when she wakes up, along with the therapy sessions that I'll be scheduling. In the meantime thank you for the information, and do please relax it can help speed the recovery."
Louis true to his word vanished without a sound as Sophia shook her head, "This school will certainly be an interesting experience alright."
Whateley Tunnels - Near Whitman Cottage
As she approached Whitman, Nightbane slowed her breathing. She knew that the Sphinx still lived thanks to the misinformed but well-meaning medical staff, no matter she could take care of both her and the Cadmean Vixen while they were incapacitated, heck if she got creative she could even make it look like an accident. Now though it was time to access her remaining opponents, after all over half of them were still free on campus.
Orthus and the Cadmean Eagle would both be easy enough; both were such lightweights that each were only footnotes on the course of the Labors of Hercules. She knew right away that the Nemean Lion and the Colchian Dragon were both way out of her weight class, one could only die via strangulation and the other had to be drugged and bewitched to make him vulnerable.
That left the two opponents she was waiting for right now, the Lernian Hydra and the Lycean Chimera both of whom were lethal in and of themselves in a number of ways. Fortunately their vulnerabilities were well documented, as were their dangers and she was prepared for both. Razorback may have stopped her earlier from force-feeding the Chimera the lead pill that she carried, but she still had it handy, for it was by the lump of lead on the tip of his spear that Bellerophon poisoned the Chimera.
As for the Hydra, its biggest danger was the creature's venom, that's why she was here in a biohazard suit still cloaked by her invisibility charm. Moreover the Hydra was vulnerable to fire, and she had a blade that had been crafted by Ecto-Tech a long time ago with a very unique feature- it cauterized as it cut so that with one fell stroke she would slay the Hydra. She would deliver both blows while the beasts slept; fortunately, for her with the Sphinx in Doyle the venomous serpent was alone. All it would take would be a quick swing of her sword and no one would be the wiser until morning.
The Chimera's roommate however would be a problem, although Atavis looked just as monstrous herself, the amnesiac Iraqi was innocent in the whole affair. She just needed to knock her out, bind and gag the girl, and stash her somewhere no one would find until after she was done. Being a monster hunter was dirty work, but someone needed to do it for the good of humanity; now where was that...
"Hey Sarah what are you doing there?"
"Gaah," Nightbane turned around and too her shock found her quarry staring right at her, the plan was ruined it all stemmed on no one knowing that it was her. Hell everyone thought that she left campus to go to Maine yesterday, wait a minute, "Fulanah I'm under a cloaking talisman, just how can you see me, for that matter how do you even know who I am?"
"Oh that's easy I see things differently than normal people do," the dragon-bird-catgirl explained. Did you know that it's impossible to keep a secret identity around me? It turns out my weird vision let's me see people's names and identities."
"Then you know that your roommate is the monster known as the Chimera," Nightbane stated firming her stance, maybe she could convince the girl to help her.
"Is that what that one say's," Atavis mused for a moment. "It's really hard to read that name cause it's kind of smudged and blurry, almost like it's not all there or barely applies to her. Come to think of it her friends are all the same way, I wonder what it means?"
"Could it be that they're in a different language," Nightbane speculated growing more determined to get the aide of the girl who for some reason was diffusing her resolve. "Like maybe Greek or a dead language?"
"No I see everything as I can read it silly," The girly creature giggled. "It's really like that name means so little to them that it's barely attached. I've seen something similar with that Jason Stratholm and most of his friends, except with them it's loud and clear."
"Speaking of Jason, you have something of his on you," Fulanah touched Sarah and pulled this stand of odd energy off her as if it was a loose thread on a shirt. Sarah reeled in horror, just what had she been doing. Why hadn't she verified any of this with Reverend Englund first? Just what had she been trying to do?
While Nightbane was wallowing in the horror of her now unclouded mind, Fulanah simply said, "Oh well, see you around Sarah!" Then padded off leaving the Goober slumped in the tunnels- invisible to the judgment of anyone but herself.
Within the third floor lounge of the exclusive Melville Cottage, Titus Banon and Nicoletta Sera were enjoying a nice conversation over tea after their dinner had settled. Both enjoyed their evening meal with their fellow Bad Seeds well enough, despite none of the children of said super-villains they were eating with being aware of either secret that Titus was keeping from them, one ancient the other going back less than two decades. In fact, if it weren't for the privacy crystal on the table with them, a going away gift from Nicoletta's mother, their conversation would have the local plotters laying plans for the two of them.
"Honestly my dear, we have been here less than a week and Zeus and his Bronze Age bores are already picking on our children by proxy," Nicoletta fumed over what she knew the nice little tidbits their spy Stygian had been feeding her. "Why don't we just put those thugs in their place and wake them up to the simple truth, they are no longer the godlings that they once were and if The Circle has any say they will never be again."
"Patience my dear," Titus said having set down his cup of Darjeeling to pat his fiancé on the hand. "I have made an appointment with Deputy Headmistress Hartford tomorrow to peel back the first layer of my cover, before the week is up that libido-driven jackanapes' will wish that he took the hint Lord Khamsin gave him and left well enough alone."
Titus paused to take another sip of his tea before setting it down with a dark smile. "Especially once he realizes that I have been preparing for this rematch ever since he sealed my real body under Mount Etna."
"Hmm, I wonder if I could arrange something similar for Hera and myself," Nicoletta mused for a moment. "I still owe that self-important drama queen for having that giant, walking cornea factory Argus murder me in my sleep."
"All things in due time my dear," Titus stated in a calm voice, "All things in due time."
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Eliza stopped for a second to catch her breath and started to run again, it was official Morrigan was a damned sadist. Here Judicator was without her powers and trapped in a maze with damned realistic beings that she knew from a lifetime ago, all of whom wanted her dead- or worse. No matter where she turned or tried to hide one or more of them were too close to where she tried to take shelter, Medusa and Arachne may not have been cooperating with each other but Pallas and her undead horde were working like a hunter and an army of bloodhounds- bloodhounds armed with bronze age weaponry.
The novelty of Morrigan's promise that nothing in here would kill her felt like another load of signature faerie half-truths, especially considering that Medusa's gaze was petrifying not fatal like that of the infamous Basilisk. Eliza shuddered when she considered what Arachne's venom could do to her without her mutant abilities to protect her from the spider-woman's bite. As for Pallas and her army of sacrificial victims, who knows how wounded that lot would leave her when she finally left the puzzle box, maybe she would be left a paraplegic from the experience.
Still Eliza was so paranoid and concerned about avoiding her pursuers that she had failed to notice when she stepped into yet another room, a room much like those which had unleashed these nightmares upon her scent in the first place. Still that lack of awareness did not last for long, "What the, it's another temple. Wait a moment, just whose style of architecture is this? It's not Greek, but there are similar elements, maybe Mycenaean- no the architecture was less Cycloptian and brutal for it to be their work. Still it looks familiar, like I've been here before..."
While examining the temple around her another figure came into view, like Medusa it was obvious that she had suffered the fate of sexual savagery, but like the architecture of the temple, the woman's clothing while familiar was unknown to her. "Why Anatha?" The woman cried as she stumbled with her body feeling every bruise and injury. "Why have you not avenged us, when you were once a part of us?"
This mystified Eliza, as they were the only two in the room, unless one of her pursuers was hiding in the shadows until the scene played out. "Why do you comply with the one who brutalized us," The woman said crying out at the unfairness of her experience.
'Just who was this?' Eliza asked herself as she furrowed her brow trying to pry the truth from Athena's past, 'Why does she feel so familiar? Moreover why is she calling me Anatha?'
"Has his attack made you forget the truth?" The woman asked as she looked up at Eliza with tear-stained eyes. "Have you forgotten this place and who you are?"
As the mystery woman asked that question, a statue arose from the stone that comprised the floor. It was similar to the totem that Pallas had been turned into, the one that all of those maidens had been fighting around; now that Eliza thought about it their battle attire was not that of Greece either, nor were their weapons similar to those used at anytime during the history of that land.
Eliza carefully approached to get another look at the statue, it was clear that this was not in the style of the Greeks, but the resemblance to the battered woman was uncanny. Still the was more to this, the reborn Athena circled the statue to the right, and noticed that there was another statue attached to this one. It was Medusa- hold on that woman can't be Steno or Euryale neither of them were ever raped, the statue of Medusa also made the gorgon look old, like she had been transformed as an old woman not the ravishing beauty that she had been.
It became obvious that there was a third statue adjoined to the other two, when she moved and gazed upon the final statue she was once again shocked- even more so than Medusa's goddess statue. This final statue was obviously her, well her when she was Athena and in the same style as the others clothing included. 'Hold on this is a triple goddess statue, three statues representing maiden, mother and crone. But I was never a triple-deity, that was more Hecate's territory, and since when was Medusa ever worshiped?'
That's when some of the offerings to the temple caught Eliza's eye, especially one in particular. It wasn't anything fancy, just a simple clay sculpture of a lamb, something that no one would really notice as odd for Greece except for one key detail. The lamb already had horns, this temple wasn't in Greece, this was a Libyan Temple- a Libyan Temple dedicated to her, Medusa and the woman.
"Metis," Eliza half whispered under her breath as the memories of this place flooded her mind, while those who had been pursuing her for the last few days flooded this room. "This is the Temple of Anatha at Lake Tritonis; this temple was where we were worshiped by the Machlyans and Auseans, the tribes who called this land home."
She now remembered being born from Lake Triton a daughter of Water and of the Earth, she remembered the times she spent among the djinn of the Court of the Blazing Disc, how she briefly had a lover in Khnum the royal potter spurred by their mutual love of the creative arts. She recalled how Amun made her an honorary member of their people granting her the name Neith for her skills in weaving and warfare, the latter of which she often honed in games of battlefield strategy with Wepwawet.
She remembered the coming of the Myceneans, the Peoples of the Sea, who brought with them their god Diwe known to later generations as Zeus. The Mycenaean's were as fiercely Patriarchal and regarded a female dominated society centered on a mother goddess as something not to be tolerated, so not long after their raids of Egypt, they razed her lands stealing her sacred treasures and defiling her sacred maidens. This was also when Diwe raped and then devoured her in her guise as Metis, still thanks to the extended campaign that the Mycenaean's fought in Libya eventually they adopted her incarnation of Anatha, renaming her Athena the daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Metis.
"Medusa," Eliza said staring at the Gorgon's feet, "You were never a demi-goddess and our priestess, you and Metis both were worshiped as a part of us." As soon as she said this a mask landed upon the ground, and Judicator looked up to see the graceful old face that a was worn by a part of her that no longer was within her thanks to the machinations of Zeus and the power of his followers beliefs.
Metis and Medusa both were now gone, now Eliza's eyes wandered to Pallas and her army of victims. "Pallas you were a totem used by my followers to represent the sacred power of the maiden, and these women died in ritual combat that they fought fairly to demonstrate that power. The sparring session between us never happened my palladium. Pallas now turned back into the wooden totem that she had been briefly and the woman momentarily turned into specters of the women they were before they died. The group prostrated themselves out of respect for their divine maiden as they faded into aether.
This left Judicator alone and unarmed against the accursed weaver Arachne, "As for you Arachne you are the sorriest story of them all, for you never existed as this mockery." The spider woman now backed away out of fear and pain, for unlike the others she had no grand fate. "Indeed your story comes not from the time of the Greeks but from the time of the Romans, the reign of Octavian who called himself Augustus Caesar."
The spider continued to snarl as she recoiled in pain as the harsh truth of her fiction washed over her. "The Romans had long since conquered the Greeks but there was still the matter of subjugating them to the Roman way, I was a problem since the Romans saw me as a threat to their patron Mars's worship as the deity of warfare, and being too much like the warrior goddess Merva who was worshiped by their subjugated Etruscan neighbors. Therefore, the Roman author Ovid spun your story from his imagination in order to weave me into being a petty goddess of home crafts who cursed anyone who outdid me in my area of patronage. The original story had you committing suicide and me turning you into a common spider so that you could continue your beloved weaving, which was merely a tale that the Greeks used to explain spider's skill at weaving their webs.
With a scream Arachne faded into a few loose pages of dusty vellum that crumbled into dust as soon as they hit the floor from which a common house spider crawled away, safe at last and exhausted by her revelations Eliza feel back and took a deep breath to absorb all that she had just learned. Unfortunately, for Judicator respite was not on her menu as the entire room began to revolve, rotate and turn at such high speeds that everything around her began to distort into one giant blur.
Friday March 2, 2007
Hidden Room in Whateley Tunnels - Close to Whitman Cottage
Shakily Eliza came too in the same room that she had been taken into the puzzle, the puzzle that was near her feet. Weary and struggling to keep her eyes open, Eliza looked up and observed the skeletal figure in the black hooded-robe; her heart skipped a beat as her vision briefly blurred. Judicator hoped that she was wrong but then she saw the large gnarled scythe with a very real blade attached.
The skeletal figure glared down at her and then asked in a hollow tone of voice."PARDON ME, BUT ARE YOU ELIZABETH MASA?"
That was too much for Judicator to take as she passed clean out on the floor. Right after she laid still and unconscious Badb stopped hovering and stepped out from the hooded figure's robes wearing a voice modulating headset. "WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?"
300 Miles North of Iles Marquises
12:07 AM UTC−9
Ferdinand Diego looked out at the crew of his container ship, now at long last the mission that they had set out on three years ago was coming to fruition. Three years of blood, sweat and nervous anticipation was all going to pay off for the crew, soon their nightmare would be over allowing them to return to their homes and families; at least the homes and families that those among them had left to return to from many of them had lost their homes forever.
"Men, we have worked alongside each other these three long years in anticipation of this very day." Diego began to address his fellow men with ironclad determination. "Many of you have had your homes and families destroyed by the horrors this monster's clients unleashed upon you, have faith for soon justice shall be ours. Many of you have sailed with me on this very vessel as we established our presence in these waters as an ordinary cargo freighter; others among you have been fighting and training as mercenaries while accumulating arms in anticipation for the fight ahead."
"No matter the role that you played in making the events to unfold the day after tomorrow know this, all of you have done your part now rest up for this trip will be a slow one. We cannot approach our target too rapidly or directly, remember we are supposed to be weighed down heavy with cargo bound for America. So rest well for as the sun rises tomorrow we shall land upon the beaches of Isla del Monstroso and before it sets the merchant of death who calls it home shall lie dead at our feet."
All before him in a dozen languages, his crew began to cheer as they called for the death of their hated enemy, the man who had supplied the dictators and cartels who reigned over their homelands with weapons that were surely the idea of the devil himself. Still Diego would hear none of this, he had stepped back to stare at a picture in the cover of his great-grandfather's pocket watch- his wife who was turned into a horrific man-eating monster by this beast's weapons who he and his neighbors had to kill to protect their homes, his daughter who awaited his safe return to their village in Columbia.
True the drug cartels would still be a problem back home, they had been for decades but at least without this monster's weapons his people stood a chance at survival. Just like his men Diego's determination was set, the monster had to die, and once he did they could return to live their lives and rebuild their homes.
Hidden Room in Whateley Tunnels - Close to Whitman Cottage
6:04 AM EST
Some time had passed before Eliza finally returned to consciousness, she found much to her relief that she was still alive and that the figure that she regarded as the grim reaper was no longer present. Although the infamous collector of souls was now absent, another figure associated with death was present- the Phantom Queen Morrigan.
"I see that you passed the test of my little construct," Whateley's newest teacher said with a hint of pride and amusement in her voice. "Should I presume that you learned a great deal from the experience?"
"Yes, despite being gods who lorded over a portion of mankind, it is amazing how their collective belief molds and influences the very essence of our being." Judicator explained as she climbed to her feet noticing that she wasn't the least bit tired and was even feeling a little different. "It's odd though, despite remembering every past faucet of my being I feel like somehow I am more than merely the amalgamation of all these pieces. Just what happened to me?"
"In a word... enlightenment," Morrigan explained as she sat in a chair that appeared seemingly from nothing. "By breaking free of the restraints imposed upon you by both mortal belief, and individuals such as Zeus, you have elevated yourself to a higher point of being as well as a more complete one. You have taken your first step into a greater world, and thus are ready for the knowledge that you now seek."
Eliza shook her head at that statement, "There is no need, I realize now that Lord Khamsin is Set, the Djinn worshiped by the early Egyptians as the God of Storm and Desert and by the later civilization as the God of Chaos and Darkness. Your protégé also warned us about Loki and Hel after the former's visit this past winter left Counterpoint needing to have his arms and legs forced back into socket."
"True but I promised you all I know regarding them and their allies and as you know the faerie must keep such promises, especially with the ordeal that you went through to get that information. The simple fact that you evolved into a higher state of spiritual being in the process is a consequence of your own actions, it was also the purpose of the puzzle in the first place. Granted being a far younger being than yourself, Faolan's experience would have been far less traumatic, but circumstances with the Morigna forced her to accept my gift early; unfortunately because of those circumstances she must endure a far worse trial than this simple device to become complete."
"Very well Morrigan, out of curiosity how long was I really gone for?" Judicator asked out of both curiosity and concern for her grades with the new semester beginning the following week.
"You were in the puzzle box itself for a little over two days, you completed it far earlier than I anticipated but that is the wisdom of Athena for you." Morrigan mused aloud to the fixer of Whitman Cottage, "Still you were out cold soon after Badb found you, but then again I suspect how you found her could not have helped matters any."
"Yeah sorry about that," Badb in her human form rocked on her feet, the stormcrow's face red in embarrassment. "I was prepping something that I borrowed from the Prop Room at the Jennifer Stevens Playhouse for a prank when you popped out. Man you were out cold for a week."
It felt like ice water shot through Eliza's veins, she had been missing for a week that meant that she had probably missed most of the first week of classes, catching up would be hell. Not to mention explaining her unexcused absences to the Academy's Administration.
"If you're worried about how long this nap of yours took- then don't." Morrigan smiled at Judicator, as she stood up somewhat confused. "I have a spell for temporal compression and another for state preservation, I've been using them a lot lately to train young Faolan in the ways proper ways of combat- as well as many of the improper ways. I used it when I got here and nullified it when you awoke, it's only a little after six in the morning the same day you got out of my puzzle, you still have plenty of time to get back to your room and get ready for breakfast. As for your payment," Morrigan tossed Judicator an ornate key, "Bring this and meet me at the foot of the west side of Dickinson Hill at six-fifteen tomorrow and I will answer all of your questions and more, don't be late or you will have to wait."
Judicator looked at the key, which was turning from a golden luster into a deep crimson in her hand. She decided to leave the key as a mystery for later she left for her dorm room in Whitman, part of her wondering just what the hell she had gotten herself into and was it worth the price of admission.
To the group who had started to call themselves the Mufresbro 8, the continued absence of one of their number was wearing on them. Even having Sophia, now fresh from her recent stay in Doyle from a rather nasty knife wound (thanks to Sonia's healing abilities) and Arnold's acceptance into the Gearheads, had done little to cheer the rest of them up. All of them had been attacked in one way or another over the last several days and they still had no clue on who was behind one of them, even their brief association with Madam Eventide didn't explain the brutality behind these attacks.
"Let's put it all on the table, it all started when someone let a rumor spread on campus that Arnold was stealing something from the workshop for the Grand Hall. That causes hero wannabes like Stalwart and Cerebrex to try to stop us. Since they were the only ones I doubt that the rumor spread far." Sophia stated as she began to lay out the facts of the attacks that had been made against those of their group for everyone to examine them. "Not long after that Candace was attacked by an unknown psychic, evidently someone whose been doing this around campus for the last two school years."
"Not long after we suffered a friendly meet and greet with the Alakazam the Tiger Queen and one of her goons." Sonia explained with an even tone to let all know how much she liked that experience.
Then the day after someone invisible stabbed me in the tunnels while Meradee and I were talking with Jericho and Razorback." Sophia took over again outlining the events of their attack."
"Yeah and then when I was talking with Faolan and Nightingale outside of Range 2, Buster showed up and tried to pound all three of us into paste." Deuce stated his own explain his own encounter. "From what I've heard he's mostly just a standard bully who goes after what he wants, he also mentioned that someone wanted me hurt."
"Then after that incident Alakazam led three of her fellow Tigers into an unauthorized sparring session with us outside of the Dragon's Dojo." Sophia said further outlining her growing displeasure with the African-American Pride Group / Martial-Arts Club. "At least it's good to know that some in their little group doesn't have their head permanently jammed up their rear entrance."
"Now now Sonia, there's bound to be plenty of others on campus who haven't decided to drink the Kool-Aid." Max said gently touching his girlfriend's hand. "Besides if the rest want to be haters I doubt we can change their minds."
"Still someone set all of this up, but I can't help wonder why?" Sophia said mulling over the matter, "I mean I doubt the Tigers would have given you and Sonia any grief if they didn't know she was African-American and in a inter-racial relationship with someone that was in the Dragons. Whoever's behind these attacks on us must have told them, from what I've heard they've been riding this girl Chaka over in Poe to ditch her training team and join up with them."
"If they don't like people that are a part of their own racial category not being a part of the Tigers and hanging out with other groups, how much do you think that they'd like to find a girl in said group was dating a member of the rival martial arts clique?" Arnold asked everyone present to consider the matter. "The real question is why would anyone go to all this trouble for us, we've been here less than a week and already they steer people at us who they know have what it takes to take us out."
"I might be able to clarify," The group turned towards the speaker to see Titus Bannon standing nearby patiently. "I thought that you might be curious about what's been happening so I paid Greasy to slip a bug on young Richard's clothing when he was leaving Twain this morning. I've been waiting for you to ask the right question, now if you wish to learn a possible explanation and who is behind all of this then I suggest joining me in Shuster at nine, I'm certain that you will find the experience enlightening."
"Ah Judicator, how nice of you to finally join us," Imperious observed as the long absent head of the other half of the New Olympians joined the group after an absence of two days. "I was just filling in Prism here about our visitors given how he had finally returned from Aspen."
"Yes Jason, although you left out the part about getting your tail kicked in front of the entire school." Tracer remarked with an impish grin earning him a hostile glare from the aforementioned junior.
"He didn't have to; I saw it on the Mutant Deathmatch Broadcast." Prism said trying to contain his laughter at the affair. "Although that wasn't so much a match as a massacre; honestly Jason I've heard of overconfidence, but how on earth did could you overestimate an opponent so badly."
"Lack of intelligence on said opponent," Imperious begrudgingly fessed up to his own oversight. "However that is soon to be corrected; tell us Judicator just what had the Phantom Queen of the Fae told you about my opponent?"
"That you have really stepped in it Jason," Eliza began to explain while doing her best to hide her own anger now that she was liberated from the roles that she had been shoe-horned into by those who worshiped her various incarnations over the ages. Taking a moment to test Majestic's spell of privacy, she continued. "Lord Khamsin is really Set the Ancient Egyptian God of Storms and the Desert, apparently he was never forced to flee by The Foreigner. He's spent the last two-thousand years gaining strength and allies like Typhon; even working his way back into Horus's good graces since he was out in the daytime. Morrigan promised me more information tomorrow, she said that she had to get a few things together first but said that it would be worth the wait."
"Very well," Imperious said somewhat mollified by the fact that his defeat came at the hands of a powerful deity from another pantheon, rather than a mortal sorcerer, still there were others who had information about this potential problem. "Now Stygian, since I gave you the second half of the money for She-Beast I presume that you have the intelligence about the group Set and Typhon count as their fellow conspirators?"
"Yes and Judicator is right- we really stepped in it, even more so if Set counts this lot as equals." Stygian explained as he turned a folder over to the leader of the New Olympians. "They're called the Obsidian Circle, as it turns out they are one of the groups who founded the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom in the first place. Each of them is close to a hundred years old; most of them are even older than that. Lord Khamsin who we now know as Set, founded a Chapter House in Los Angeles; although it was later abandoned when for some reason he faked his death, although from what we gather really happened was that he moved his operation to a new Chapter House that his minion Greygus built in the emerging city of Las Vegas. As it turns out using Greygus as a proxy he was also a silent partner of the Cosa Nostro; a good deal of the money used by Bugsy Siegel to develop the Las Vegas Valley was fronted by Set during his days as Lord Ataxia through this Greygus."
"Wonderful and Ancient Egyptian Deity with mafia connections, and a key factor in founding the Grand Hall as well," Feral grumbled over the facts, "Need I remind everyone here about the dangers powerful and well-practiced magic-users could pose to us, or are we just going to go around kicking ant hills until we get the hell bitten out of us?"
"Mister Domino, whose servant beat Counterpoint into a pulp, is also a member of this group." Stygian continued to read off his findings keeping the true source secret. "Now we know from the intel Faolan gave Judicator after that little incident that Mister Domino is the Norse God of Mischief Loki and that his brute Carcharoth is none other than the Fenrir, the Wolf of Ragnarok. In this guise, Loki was responsible for founding the New York Chapter House of the Grand Hall that served as the benchmark for almost all of the other chapter houses ever since. There's apparently a rumor that he almost came to blows with Lord Ataxia over this one since they both wanted the city; they actually settled it with a coin toss."
"It does not sound that odd," Majestic looked at the increasingly ashen Imperious with a wry smile, "Especially when you factor in that we decided the ownership of the Sea, the Heavens, and the Underworld by drawing lots."
"Oh it just keeps getting better," Stygian deadpanned. "Echidna's reincarnation is the daughter of another member Madam Eventide, who founded a branch in Sicily because she didn't want to put one directly in Rome. Doing that would have meant that she'd had to deal with the Knights of the Church more often and the swarm of spies that circle Rome itself like desert vultures. In fact Mister Domino's visit last month was to arrange for her transfer here, and to present the school with some morbid trophies Set and Baron Impié harvested from the high-priestess of the Cult of the Black Madonna."
"I take it that the exact nature of these trophies is not a suitable conversation for mealtime?" Cytheria inquired of Stygian to sate her growing curiosity.
"That is a massive understatement; of the remaining members the only one we know anything about is Dame Höllenfeuer who is Loki's daughter and Fenrir's sister Hel, the Norse Goddess of the Underworld." Stygian deadpanned again as he concluded his report. "The remainder includes Conte Enigma, Baron Impié, Mistress Nyx, Bishop Brimstone, and most recently Erzebet Scratch."
"That shouldn't prove too much of a secret for long," Judicator smiled as Jason was realizing just what a mess he had narrowly avoided. "I should have learned all that she knows about them before the reopening ceremony at Crystal Hall tomorrow."
"I can already tell you a little about Erzebet Scratch," Tracer stated surprising everyone present. "With all the fuss about Hekate lately, Feral and I were wondering about who taught her so we did some digging into the Grand Hall's heavyweights especially around the area Fey was attacked over the Holidays. Apparently, Miss Scratch runs the Grand Hall in her territory like a sort of mystic mafia, a mystic mafia whose territory divides the country in two with a three-state-wide boundary separating both sides. Also she's not Hekate's mentor, apparently while Loki was here Scratch sent her Lieutenant to get their version of the events that happened and compensate Fey and Generator with wereguild for their trauma, she also learned enough about Hekate to put a hefty price on her head."
"Wait a moment; are you saying that Fey lives right in the territory of a Grand Hall Heavyweight?" Majestic asked with an almost malicious gleam in her eye. "That could prove useful should she become our enemy."
"Now Majestic there is no need to worry about Fey," Imperious stated as his pride and primary motivation came to the fore. "I am certain that I can make her see things my way."
"That might be a possibility but getting Scratch to try and take out Fey would take some doing." Feral began to explain. "The reason that Scratch is after Hekate's head isn't only her running an operation in Scratch's territory with Syndicate resources and sending her the bill. The spell that she put on Skybolt and Cavalier required the sacrifice of an innocent; she kidnapped and killed a child to put it on them. Then when it was time to renew the spell a year later, she tried to do the same thing to Fey using Generator as the sacrifice- she likely failed to take Shroud into account as a problem and it cost her. To make matters worse for our former classmate Scratch apparently has a soft spot for kids, most of her subordinates see her as either their foster mother or family matriarch, thus by proving to have killed an innocent little child and showing the intent to repeat the process in Scratch's backyard Hekate made a dangerous enemy that she has never met."
"I wish the woman all the luck in the world in catching her, such foul magic is an anathema." Prism said with a straight face. "Judicator I hope that you tell us more about this group once Morrigan fills you in on them."
"I will, I just hope that no one did anything over the top while I was gone." Noting the silence at the table Judicator began to cuss a blue streak in her head. Typhon alone was bad enough but allied with Loki, Set, Hel, and those were only the ones that they knew about; it just showed that the moment Wisdom was out of the picture- someone decided it was a good idea to start throwing rocks at a hornet's nest during her absence.
It wasn't as if they distrusted Titus, but after the attacks over the course of the week they were erring towards the side of caution. Therefore, they sent Sophia and Max as their representatives, Soph because she would be sure to catch all the important details and Max because he was the most reliable at keeping her safe if anything went south afterwards. The two of them waited with Titus outside of Headmistress Carson's Office for the final two arrivals namely Chief Delarose of Whateley Security and Mrs. Shugendo the Academy’s Dean of Students. After waiting for several minutes in an almost uncomfortable silence the staff members in question arrived and Headmistress Carson showed the group into her office where a man who just screamed attorney was waiting for them.
"My name is Patrick Shepherd I am an attorney that young Mister Bannon's family has on retainer. Before anything is discussed in this room, I need you to read and sign these affidavits that hold you legally liable for speaking directly to members of the press about what is discussed nor shall you volunteer any of this information to any authorities directly unless you are directly asked under oath in a court of law." The attorney stated as he handed out the affidavits to everyone present, who after reading the information in question signed the documents with Mrs. Shugendo acting as the notary.
"Mister Bannon, while I am glad for once to see a student in my office for once when they are not in trouble you will find that my time can be a luxury." Elizabeth stated as she stated at the young man, "So if this matter is unimportant I am certain that I can find you a more constructive uses of your time elsewhere on campus."
"If only it were a waste of time Headmistress," Titus said with a sigh. "You see it has come to my attention that eight of the students who arrived this week have come under attack, and I am afraid I am in a manner of speaking indirectly responsible for the attacks in question."
"Mr. Bannon you will find that playing the martyr does not work quite so easily on this campus," Chief Delarose stated in a voice that cute like a knife. "One member of this group was attacked with a deadly weapon, while another suffered a suspected psychic assault- if you are saying that you instigated the attacks in question you shall find the consequences of your actions very serious indeed."
"Chief Delarose what I meant was that someone was trying to get to me through them, not that I had anything to do with the attacks themselves." Titus explained sewing curiosity throughout the room as to the meaning behind his confession. "As you know Mister Gillison and his friends were rescued this winter from their illegal imprisonment by the Mutant Commission Office by Madam Eventide, my girlfriend Nicoletta's mother and they spent some time on her villa recuperating while their mutations stabilized."
"Yes Mister Bannon, all of that is a matter of their school record's, but that does not explain why you would be targeted through them." Mrs. Shugendo stated indirectly asking him to clarify the matter.
"You see I know who arranged for the attacks to happen and a possible reason why." Titus said clearly reluctant to say what he needed to the group. "You see my legal name and birth name might be Titus Bannon, but I was christened Michele Soranno by my maternal grandfather Antonio Soranno marking me as his intended heir."
"The reason I have spent so much time in Sicily rather than here in the states where I was born, is because he saw my potential (granted not my mutant potential), when I was younger and he has been grooming me to take over for him in the family business when he retires." Titus then said with a wry smile, "In an odd way unlike Sebastiano Lorenz Valensuera y Ramirez I actually have a legitimate claim to being called The Don, as I am the legal heir to one who holds such a title."
This admission shocked everyone in the room to think they were currently in the presence of someone who admitted to being the heir to a crime boss of the Sicilian Mafia. "I take it that there is more to this story than your inheritance Mister Bannon?"
"Yes you see among other things my nonno is responsible for protecting local business interests, sort of like a local leader for labor unions. If a new business moves in that threatens local interests or endangers their livelihoods others look to him to intercede on their behalf." Titus explained before elaborating the core problem. "Two years ago the locals in the port city of Catania were having trouble with a foreign shipping magnet who was trying to buy their homes and businesses out from under them, that was after a mysterious string of fires damaged the nearby docks. This company Stratholm Shipping was trying to acquire seafront property in Sicily to create a centralized shipping depot in the Mediterranean, and after the string of fires had approached the local politicians to invest in revitalizing the damaged area in exchange for their help in creating their shipping center."
"So you are saying that our own Jason Stratholm's father might have had something to do with the fires." Chief Delarose who was still in the room said drawing a conclusion from the evidence.
"As it turns out one Ivan Kaczmarski, a former member of the KGB suspected to have turned mercenary since the fall of the USSR, was found to be in the area working under an alias with a forged passport. Mister Kaczmarski as it turned out had extradition warrants in six countries linking as a subject of intrest in several cases involving arson and industrial sabotage, now there was nothing official to link him to Stratholm however local suspicion was enough to make the any business deal with him too sour for the local politicos to get involved with."
"This development likely cost Strathom Shipping a tidy sum both in money that they already lost in bribes to the local politicians and city planers, and in what the shipping center would have saved them in operating costs. It also would have cost them a tidy sum of money to keep the story properly suppressed, just think of how it would have colored potential investments if the implication came to light." No one in the room had to imagine how such rumors could hurt a company, commonsense told them plenty. "Now since coming after me could cause him problems down the line given my familial connections, moreso given how last time he blasted Lord Khamsin instead of myself; he instead decided to punish a group of innocent students who were indirectly connected to me as an example."
"He certainly couldn't attack your girlfriend," Sophia said to add a little insight to the situation. "That would likely be as suicidal as trying to hurt one of Doctor Diabolik's kids."
"I do admit the logic is shaky, but when pride is on the line logic rarely applies." Max added to the discussion.
"Unfortunately if there is one thing that Imperious has in spades its pride; however we lack evidence to do anything about this." Elizabeth Carson sighed shaking her head.
"Which is why I want to make a proposal for a means that young Mister Stratholm might try and get at me without feeling the need to punish others by proxy?" Astio said while internally smiling with a thousand mouths of predatory teeth. "I understand that matches in Arena 99 can be used to settle such grievances in a way that would let both parties work out their frustrations, now given that I am still coming to grips with my abilities and have yet to take a combat class it would be foolish to give him the chance right away. Still I would like to leave the option on the table and let him know that say in two months time I would be willing to accept such a challenge- as a matter of civility of course."
"Quite the mature suggestion from such a new student," Elizabeth Carson looked down her nose at the student across from her. "I shall be needing to keep an eye on you Mister Bannon."
"Please Headmistress, I think that given some of this news will be making rounds." Titus said as he picked up what looked like a small shirt button from the underside of the arm of his chair, let it fall to the ground and stepped on it with an audible crunch. "Now if I have answered what questions you may have had about the events on campus as of late, I believe that you need to call an exterminator of Mister Delarose's to have a look at the room."
Doyle Medical Center
Still locked within her psychic coma and being fed intravenously Candace was still oblivious to the world around her, as well as to the events that had unfolded over the last several days. Still her mind was not inactive, although she might have wished that it was given that what was going through it was far from pleasant.
Candace sat in silence; her grandparents had finally explained to her about her mother as best they could, she now realized her mother was dead. Never again would she be there to hug her when she woke up from a bad dream or cheer for her on track and field day. It seemed unreal to her how her mother who had always been so full of life could just be laying in that box so still.
"It was just her time child," Grandma had told her when she was wailing like a banshee when she discovered why her mother would never be coming home again. "None of us will ever be here forever, we all have to leave sooner or later, and it's just up to us to make the most of what little time we have."
Those words stuck to Candace like glue, no matter what everyone left eventually. Part of her wanted to deny this, but when the local assembly plant closed down it became more than obvious, Rex was the first to leave her as his parents were called back to Detroit and he left with them. Soon after Mister and Misses Tanner divorced separating Richard and Sophia, whose mother and father left for separate cities. The worst though was when her grandfather passed away while she was living in Arlington Heights with her aunt, she didn't even get a chance to say good-bye.
This was when her resolve was firmed up; she couldn't slow down there were just too many people passing in and out of her life to take this slow. She knew that she had to keep moving, otherwise if she couldn't keep running the cold cruel hand of time would be there to take everyone away- just like it took away mom and grandpa.
Back in her Hospital Room, the psychic specter of Fubar kept a silent vigil over the victim of this latest psychic assault. It was too much to know that this unwarranted assault came upon yet another student of the school's, but that again he had been unable to prevent it from happening. "I wonder if this was how Circe felt when the truth about Hekate became known." He asked himself; still no one was there to answer his question.
Sophie just didn't know what to say, just a few months earlier she was an ordinary girl living in New York with her mother- who was now an interior designer. Now she and some old friends that she had from grade school were mutants at a semi-secret school in New England where they had come under attack because they now had an indirect connection to someone who was essentially a mafia prince- it was like something out of a bad HBO pilot.
It would almost be entirely unreal, that was if at this moment she hadn't just been perusing the stacks of said academy's library for supplemental material for a mystic arts class that she was starting on Monday morning. Granted that she now had what she had been looking for and had since drifted over to the travel books on Europe. She could see flying overhead another student with long spiky blue hair carrying a shopping basket diving down between the stacks returning with books to the front desk, likely items that students or instructors had reserved for the coming week. Yes, it went without saying that beneath the veneer of age, there were a great many things about the Beck Library of the Whateley Academy that were different from those of other buildings of such age.
Some things were slightly surreal such as a crow having a quiet conversation with the stereotypical librarian at the main desk, from what she could make out it was about England after the Blitz. Still Sophia had other things to consider there was one book that she just couldn't find, all Titus's talk of his connections to Sicily made her curious. There was something else about the island that had to be important that she just couldn't put her finger on- something that would make a family like that of Madam Eventide's call it home and invest so heavily in it.
"Are you looking for something?" Sophia turned toward the direction of the voice and found a student, a dark young man only a scant few years older than herself holding a book on Greek Mythology.
"Yes I recently heard something that made me curious about Sicily," Sophia admitted with an air of caution, the still tender injury of her arm that was still in a sling saw to that. "It's like I half-remember that there was something that was very important about that island."
"Yes, fascinating island Sicily," The still nameless young man said in a hushed tone. "It was of great importance even back during the days of the Minoans mainly for sulfur and other volcanic chemicals, still it's not that surprising Mount Vesuvius in Naples might be the most famous volcano in Europe but Sicily's own Mount Etna is the most active even back then. Come to think of it the Greeks had the most fascinating myth on why that was; you might consider reading that story." The man said while handing her the book before he began to walk away.
"Wait a moment, are you not going to introduce yourself?" Sophia said as her curiosity at this sudden meeting was now stirred.
"Very well," The boy said with a slight bow. "I am Michael Weatherson although I also go by Stygian, if you want to talk again I am easy enough to look up on the Academy's email server." As Stygian walked away Sophia already knew that, he knew far more than he was telling, and if there was one thing that she couldn't stand it was a riddle.
Main Dining Hall - Chalet Noir
Isla del Monstroso (2000 miles due east of Hawaii)
7:10 PM AKST
Within a dining hall that evoked the quiet elegance of the Victorian period, a couple dined on a carefully prepared dinner. While they could easily afford the rich affair of exotic affair of kings, their meal was something that would not be seen as uncommon outside of the British Isles although it was prepared with the skills of a master chef.
"Tell me my dear, is tonight's repast not to your liking, you look like something troubles your, shall I have the chef brought before us to plead for his life?" The man said to his paramour sitting opposite himself on the table.
"It is not that my love, I have news to tell you." The woman announced with a wry and bemused tone. "You see it appears that we brought back one more gift from our trip to the self-styled cosmopolitan capital of the modern world than we intended. My magic's have shown me that soon we shall have something more to further cement our union to one another."
The man across from the woman cracked a smile and belted out a laugh of dark joy. "Wonderful news my dear, simply wonderful and I know just who will help us spread these tidings to the world. You see we shall have guests at our shores as the sun rises in the east tomorrow, they intend to leave with my head as a trophy, and instead they will spread our joy to the winds in hushed fear-filled whispers."
"Why do these guests who are coming have anything to do with our current guest?" The lady asked her own curiosity piqued at what her husband had been keeping from her.
"Yes I intend to let it be a most interesting surprise for them," The man chuckled again. "Yes a most interesting surprise indeed but far from the first or the last."
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Saturday March 3, 2007
The Western Foot of Dickenson Hill
6:11 AM EST
As the Phantom Queen told her yesterday, Judicator waited for Morrigan at the Eastern Foot of Dickinson Hill; she brought nothing with her other than the clothes on her back and the key that she kept turning over in her hand. She stared at the thing, it was intricate and yet obviously designed to serve its purpose the only question was just what kind of door would she find to open with this thing.
"Well are you ready child," Morrigan stated as she had approached as silent as if she was death itself.
"As ready as I can be," Elisa stated. "Why did I have to wait a day?"
"Those that I contacted were asked to be ready this morning and you actually solved my puzzle a day early." Morrigan explained with a touch of pride in her voice. "Now hold the key against the surface of the hill, the pale of dawn shall reveal the way."
Judicator did as she was told, and as the sun began its slow accent across the eastern horizon an intricate door of delicately, shaped wood appeared with her key already before the key port. Without command, she inserted the key into its hold as if she was returning a sword to its rightful scabbard, as the key was turned the door transformed into an intricately crafted entryway down a path warmly lit by glowing moss and dancing fireflies. She entered flanked by Morrigan and the part of her that was Elisa took in the enchanting view as if it was a thing of her childhood fairytales and fantasies made reality. While Elisa looked in wonder the part of her that was Athena was cautious after all the faerie were tricky folk to deal with and even the most beautiful rose had its thorns.
Still even Athena had to admit that this was a site to behold, a path woven of natural and living beauty without the necessity of destruction to make it possible. "Just what is this about?" Judicator asked as she walked along the path, "Who are we meeting?"
"You wanted answers child and I am giving them to you," Morrigan began to explain. "This is your path to the meeting hall of the Grey Barrow, your path and no one else’s. That is your key and from this point forward all you need to do to gain entry to this path is hold it against the ground; although I recommend that you keep this a secret from your fellow Olympians, you know well of their jealousy."
"You need not explain this to me Mrs. Redstag," Judicator said as she rolled her eyes. "I lived with them for a few thousand years after all."
"Indeed, now that key is your invitation into the Grey Barrow should you choose to make it official you need only accept it with two current members to bear witness." Morrigan continued as they walked to their destination. "You are about to meet my fellow member and learn about both the Grey Barrow and the Obsidian Circle."
Soon they stepped into a room around which a number of individuals were seated, one of whom surprised here. "Mister Lodgeman, you're a part of this too."
"For longer than Whateley has served its current purpose Miss Masa," Charlie Lodgeman said with a mild chuckle. "I trust that she passed the test Morrigan."
"Early and with flying colors Chuck." Morrigan responded as she took her seat and Judicator followed taking the empty one at the table. "Now Judicator my dear, I am aware that you currently know Totem the First Shaman, but now is the time to introduce you to the others of the Grey Barrow. This is Takehaya Susanoo-no-Mikoto currently also known as Arashi-sensei the current Headmaster of the Yama Dojo."
"Hello Athena, welcome to this house of dreamers and mad geniuses," The Shinto God of Storm and Sea currently attired like a tourist at the beach- complete with a gaudy Hawaiian shirt. "Glad to see you made it too, I was worried that this place was about to become a regular sausage festival."
"Morgan le Fey currently known as Harbinger, my god-daughter and the current Lady of the Lake," Morrigan continued as she pointed out one of the few women to greet their arrival at the oddly organic and symbolic round table.
"Don't believe everything you hear about me my dear, the French Romantics seemed to enjoy writing about femme fatals, they even stole the tale of my still very much alive and well, daughter from the story of your own Heracles death and ascension." The raven-haired demi-sidhe stated clearly, "I also hope my own faerie godmother wasn't too rough in her trail."
"No Lady le Fey it seems that I needed a rather rough shaking to get the cobwebs off of my mind." This elicited a roar of laughter from a rather stocky bearded man at the table with a cybernetic limb.
"The gentleman having a chuckle at your expense is none other than Tyr," Morrigan continued her introduction, "Although you may also know him as the Indomitable Fray of the Justice Brigade."
"Sorry about that, but it isn't everyday that I would expect another fellow war deity to show a little humility." Tyr said with a touch of embarrassment. "As Stormy said welcome among us Gray-eyed Lady of Libya, Greece and Rome I will be interested in testing out your prowess in the future."
"As will I you South-Pawed general of Asgard." Judicator said as she returned his jab leading to another row of laughter from the man.
"This is Sun Wu Kong better known as the Monkey King, Buddha of Youthful Vitality," Morrigan continued introducing the monkey man with his hand-feet propped up on the table and chewing on a long blade of grass."
"Wait let me see if I can remember," The Monkey King leaned back with an impish smile on his face. "Mostly smoky gray with lacy borders."
"That was you!" Judicator shouted as she arose to her feet in anger at the self-confessed panty thief from last fall that terrorized every girl in the school, that was until a golden aura calmed her and set her back down.
"You might be familiar with the Auralian as well; the creation of Professor Quasimodo, a man who like yourself has a standing invitation to join our number." Morrigan continued as she pointed out the golden man who Judicator knew like Fray was a member of the Justice Brigade.
"Sun Wu Kong did not mean that action as an offense to you personally Lady Athena," the Auralian commented in a calm tone. "It was his way of testing the Handmaiden of the Tao's current faculties and character although you might find his humor a bit of a chore to get used to- many find it thus." This elicited a raspberry from the aforementioned monkey king.
"Honestly," Morrigan shook her head before continuing, "this is Father Argent of the White Brotherhood."
The man in the hooded robes silently bowed, giving Judicator reason to wonder about their occupant or if there even was one.
"Now two of these chairs gathered around this table I should explain are hereditary," Morrigan stated as she motioned to the two chairs that were occupied by people that Judicator knew all too well- if by reputation alone. "Those being The Golden Mandarin-"
"I look forward to adding the true and unclouded wisdom of Athena to the Grey Barrow's endeavors young Judicator." The Mystic Guardian of the Golden State proclaimed.
"And the current host of the Magus Force." Morrigan indicated pointing out the third woman in the room.
"Greetings child today you take your first steps into a much larger world than you have ever known existed," the woman who currently held the title of Magus said with eloquence and respect. "I would also ask you how the Angel of Hell's Kitchen is doing under the umbrella of your Academy. You see I did not get the chance to talk with her when she was back in New York last month."
"Very well from what I see, although Zeus's current incarnation has unsavory designs on her; just like he does all women who catch his fancy and he thinks that he can control." Judicator responded as she shook her head at the individual who she knew was not truly the father of her last incarnation but rather her conqueror.
"Ah yes, the far-roaming eye of the god of date rape has set his sights of prizes that are likely far too dangerous for him to trap in his whiles." Morrigan explained now that she was done with her introductions. "He actually thinks that he can claim the Daughter of the Burning Oak and the Maiden of the West, possibly even the Hand of Gaea while he is making his rounds."
"Not that surprising," Tyr said in his gruff manner. "Get enough wine in that horn dog and he'd waste his time trying to knock-up a wood wife if she was good-looking enough."
"Pardon me I hate to speak out of turn, but I was wondering just what you do here?" Judicator asked out of curiosity not that she wasn't enjoying the flow of the banter among those who were already assembled.
Ah yes, the purpose of the Grey Barrow," Morrigan explained with a somewhat wry smile on her face. "The Grey Barrow exists you see to promote the prosperity and reunification of the Denizens of the Five-Fold Courts and all free-beings who call this sphere home. No doubt by now you are already aware of the faefolk of the Western Court and at least two colonies of the daemonkin of the Southern Court; well we do our best to ensure that they have a future, as well as the futures of the merfolk of the Eastern Court and the dragonkin of the Northern Court."
"So those gathered here cooperate to see that all those groups have a future," Athena said as she took in this bit of information. "Wait a minute I noticed that you failed to mention mankind, no you said Five-Fold Courts- let me guess the Fifth Court is a Center Court and what lives there is mankind."
"Among other things," Charlie Lodgeman chimed in with a fatherly tone, "but yes mankind is a significant portion of the Center Court. These Courts and most of their lands were lost in the Sundering, now most of them exist out of phase with our reality although they are not inaccessible if one knows how."
"One of the tasks of the Barrow is to seek out the means to reunite the Sundered Lands with the Earth and those who are able to utilize those means." Morgan le Fey explained as she took over the discussion. "Sometimes it's an artifact that needs to be destroyed like the Gordian Knot or properly utilized like the Sun Stone; some are not even physical artifacts but rather abstract concepts like the Dream of the Rainbow Serpent."
"What exactly do you mean by lost lands?" Judicator asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Haven't you wondered why nobody's ever found Atlantis?" The Monkey King asked in his nonchalant manner, "The real Atlantis not the one that people currently think of when they hear the name. The reason for that is that it sank in more than just the traditional sense."
All around the sight and wonderment that was the newly reopened Crystal Hall filled the Mufresbro 8 (sans the still absent Quickvix) with a sense of hope. If everything else held constant about the prior victims of this phenomenon, Candace would wake up today and hopefully with Titus, sorry Michele's challenge to Imperious of the New Olympians everything would begin to turn out for the better.
Sophia was still focused on the book on Greek Mythology that Stygian gave her and something began nagging at her. The myths on Typhon, the bastard child of Gaia and Father of All Monsters, was Jason Stratholm's narrow-minded strike against her friends merely an indirect assault at the heir of a business rival like Michele claimed- or was it something more.
Imperious was known to be the leader of a group known on campus as the New Olympians, some claimed that the title was just more of Jason's ego tripping- though there were rumors that it was something more. One rumor claimed that Jason was under the delusion that he really was Zeus and had convinced a bunch of fellow students that they were reincarnations of his court; others said he was either the avatar of or the reincarnation of the King of the Olympians himself.
If either rumor was true than that would mean that he could be operating under the delusion that Michele was likewise the avatar or reincarnation of Typhon, which was easily magnified by the fact that Michele's girlfriend Nicoletta was the daughter of a Grand Hall heavy-hitter. What was more disturbing though was the listing of Typhon's children- ten monsters of Greek myth although the list was a little nebulous in some areas, eight of the possibilities sounded like them. Sophia knew that she would have to talk with Stygian later- with Max and her brother backing her up.
"Well, according to the doctors Candace should be waking up sometime today." Rex explained to the assembled group. "So does anyone have any ideas for a get-well party?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Sonia replied as a mischievous smile spread across her face. "Still we need someone to delay her while we get ready, who's going to be the lucky party?"
"What about her roommate?" Arnold asked looking up from a notebook where he was jotting down some quick sketches. "She might want in on this and might want to speak with Candace when she wakes up."
"Good idea southern fry," Max said before ruffling his hair. "Keep that up and we might even be able to find you a girlfriend before you graduate."
"Whateley isn't like other schools Max," Arnold said as he gave the martial-artist an annoyed look. "In fact the club president of the Gearheads is a young lady."
"Yeah don't remind me just how it's like other schools," Richard said as he continued to mope about. Despite everyone's assurances that everything was going to be fine, Richard felt for certain that he'd blown any shot that he had at joining the Cape Squad.
"Hey Rich, since you aren't really doing anything why don't you go over to the table with the Mid-Winters and ask Faolan if she'd like to help with the party." Soph stated as she began to think of something that she could possibly do to drag her brother out of his funk- kicking and screaming if necessary.
Richard sighed as he got up and walked over to the table in question where Jolt and Seraphim were having an animated conversation with Faolan. "So how long till you figure Bloodwolf will come after you now that he knows you held him off with a bluff?"
"If he's smart never, he knows that I have the real deal on me and wouldn't hesitate to use it on a psycho like him." Faolan said as she replied to Jolt's inquiry, "Besides he should know better than to underestimate little girls after what Generator did to him last semester, I just wonder what Heather's going to do?"
"Um, Faolan right?" Richard said as he walked up to the group catching the attention of the table. "You probably don't know me but I'm one of Candace's friends."
"Oh right, that lion guy from New York right," Jolt said as he made the connection to the young man who helped defend the French Delegation from Professor Id's attack at the Waldorf=Astoria. "I remember when you got that fake Tiger Guard in that reverse-headlock then made him eat the floor face-first."
"Yeah, truth is before I manifested I was a tackle on my JV football team back in Cincinnati and was going to try out for the Wrestling Team too, before things changed." Rich said admitting he was a jock even before he went the way of the lion. "I was kind of hoping to join the FSA when I heard about them before coming here, but I doubt that they'd want someone with a detention record."
It started with a snicker from Jolt and graduated into gut-busting laughter from the entire table, this mystified and somewhat pissed Rich off. "Just what is so funny about me blowing my shot at the FSA?"
"You don't need a perfect record to get into the FSA." Seraphim said as she tried to control her laughter. "They've been trying to recruit Bladedancer who used to be with those odd-balls the Kimbas for a couple of months now, and she's been in detention close to half a dozen times since getting here."
"Then there's Winter who's a member of the Bad Seeds," Gina said as she was beginning to calm down. "She's Darkstorm and Firetrap's daughter, word is she committed a few genuine felonies herself with her folks before she enrolled; apparently she's wanting to do a heel-face turn for a while and they're rushing her."
"Yeah and I can't even tell you how many times Hippolyta and Mega-Girl have been in the doghouse." Faolan said still trying to contain her own laughter. "Anyway what did you want to talk with me about?"
"Well the doctors think Candace is going to be waking up soon," Rich explained while feeling a whole lot better now that he knew his dreams had not turned to dust. "We are going to throw her a little get-well party and were wondering if you could help keep her occupied when she woke up."
"I was going to have a talk with her anyway, although you might want to put off the party for a day." Faolan explained with a somewhat somber tone to her voice and a haunted look in her eyes. "You see she may be a little withdrawn after she wakes back up, it would help to talk with someone who went through something along the same lines."
"Well Elisa," Imperious said as he leveled a stare at Judicator. "I am waiting, what do you know about the Obsidian Circle?"
"Jason we are in over our heads this time," Elisa said with a sigh as she put down her fork. "The Obsidian Circle is not a hundred years old; it's several hundred years old and has a very firm power base. This is not going to be like it was with the Titans, this time we are facing an enemy that knows our abilities inside and out, and thanks to you they are aware of our intentions towards them."
"It is no matter we have faced far worse odds and once we have access to the font we will overwhelm them." Imperious said as sure as ever of his eventual victory.
"Jason we might acquire a font in the future, the Obisiand Circle has several right now as well as the armies to back them up," Judicator stated as she leveled a glare at the reincarnation of Zeus to tell of how serious she was. "This time you have nothing to fight them and no allies to do so. All of our allies in the past are either no more or have since found new homes and are no longer loyal to us; the centaurs, the Cyclops, the nymphs, the satyrs, the hekatonkeres- we need to face facts, time have moved on without us we simply need to accept it."
This statement caused Imperious and Majestic to launch into a diatribe of their usual dogma, and evidently, it was getting to be so much that Stygian even left the table. Try as Judicator might she knew that she would never get those the King and Queen of Olympus to wake up from their futile quest to recapture past glories, a fool's errand that Cytheria was all too happy to join in for the promise of being worshipped again; at least she had the ear of half of their group.
Near Crystal Hall
Now that breakfast was over Astio and Lamia were more than content to head back to Melville and their planned outing to Berlin this afternoon, a simple picnic date in a local park but one they were more than content to enjoy. Even if Stygian was going to be tagging along on the bus with them for his own date with Flora, it was nothing to dampen their mood- at least nothing until they found their path blocked by a familiar figure.
"Do not think that the ruse that you have perpetrated upon the academy will fool everyone Typhon," Nephandus stated as he called out Astio's true identity, "I for one am well aware of just who you are and what your real vocation is in the Grand Hall."
"Just what ruse is that I wonder?" Titus asked seemingly playing ignorant while palming something in his right hand that Nicoletta passed to him.
"That you are a mafia heir," Nephandus stated before he caught the privacy crystal that Astio tossed to him. "And I would like your assistance with gaining access to The Circle."
"That is no ruse Jay-Arm, merely an interesting story." Titus said with a touch of Nostalgia to his voice. "I really am Don Antonia Soranno's heir and I was born in Sicily almost sixteen years ago, or at least the first body of my current identity was."
"You see Jay-Arm my Grandfather while a traditionalist is not blind to the way the world is going. Every day he sees how those like your parents are encroaching in on territories and businesses that have long been held by the Cosa Nostra. He knows that the power of mutants and organizations like The Syndicate are overtaking the Mafia and how the way things were going they would have to adapt to survive- he knew all of this long before The Fools Fight."
"Grandfather also knew that he would have to take measures to ensure that his family legacy would survive in the era to come, more so because the days of Da Capos was gone and replaced by The Committee. He wanted an heir real power, but sadly the only child he still had alive was my mother and although my father was a man with the skills and talent for business he lacked the type of personality needed to run the family business- that is where dear Nicoletta's mother Madam Eventide came into the picture."
"The Dons of Sicily have long known about mother and our family's villa on Sicily and have helped keep its connection to her a secret for centuries." Nicoletta began to explain her mother's own history with the criminal underworld- at least the mortal criminal underworld. "In turn she has helped the local dons for quite a long time with obtaining supernatural assistance, and even acting as an impartial mediator for inter-family disputes; so imagine her surprise when Don Soranno comes to her with his dilemma."
"You see The Circle had been looking for the means to tap the power sleeping within Mount Etna, they just needed the body of an avatar powerful enough. When Bishop Brimstone joined our ranks he helped us with this dilemma of finding my host." Titus explained as he took over the story, "Of course even then the question remained of establishing a firm identity for me in this world; grandfather was more than happy to assist us."
"Now we did not expect for the body Titus was reborn into to survive into adulthood, what with the massive amount of power that he would exhibit when he manifested. So in order to offer an excuse to the spies from his own family as well as the others of my frequent visits to the Sera Family Villa, I was engaged to Titus in an arranged political marriage." Lamia stated as she took back over the story they were telling Nephandus. "Thus we provided him with more than enough of an excuse to visit frequently especially when he needed to exchange the short-lived golem bodies that he began using after his real body died from Level-Five Burnout when he was ten."
"When we acquired the Avatar body we had been waiting for thanks to Erzebet Scratch, it was decided that the two of us along with Nicoletta's cousin Flora to attend Whateley." Titus stated as he took over. "Mainly for the connections we could make here. Now despite your attempts to black mail your way into The Circle Jay-Arm, I don't have the authority to vet you on my own. You must understand become a member or even an auxilery any individual must be nominated by one seated member of The Circle, then seconded another, and after that put under a task of initiation by a third; upon completion of that task we put admission to a vote and if you fail to win that vote- well let's just say it gets messy. Still I am more than capable of nominating you as a potential operative and I can promise you that the path to gaining status contains far fewer risks and can be just as lucrative."
Nephandus smiled when he heard this, after all, he had plans to arise beyond the status of his parents and he was now laying the first stones along that path to power.
Isla del Monstroso
7:16 AM AKST
The sun had just crested the horizon as Ferdinand Diego and his rag tag army hit the beach of Isla del Monstroso, the home of the ruthless arms merchant Professor Id whose vile products had made the lives of millions hell for over a century- thanks in no small part to the unscrupulous clients who purchased them. The fury at their memory of his horrors was burned into their minds like a scar, his death was their holy quest and none would stop him.
Their armor piercing rounds made quick work of the guards on the beach punching into them like nails into drywall as they approached Chalet Noir the lair of the devil who dared to walk amongst humanity. Although their number counted as a scant hundred and forty, they moved with cold efficiency as they cut down his Dark Guard. Indeed, there was nothing on heaven or earth that would stop them from accomplishing the goal that they set out to accomplish three years ago, and no deed they would not do to ensure their surviving loved ones remained safe.
Finally, they had finished the approach to the Chalet a palace that was built not as a fortress but a palace to the comforts of the devil who dwelled within its walls. For a fiend rumored to be over a hundred years old he had far too much confidence in his guards, the army that was approaching his home would see to it that this confidence would be his undoing.
After a several moments had passed and several more shots were fired, his subordinate Zapata approached him. "Diego, we have the demon's lair surrounded. Whenever you order us to do so we shall go forth into this den to drag the beast to his death."
"Understood my friend," Diego squeezed Zapata's shoulder before turning to the others. "Cover the windows and exits, squads one and three come with me. Now remember silencers on, remember once we go inside no noise and shoot everyone not in our group on sight."
His men nodded in confirmation as they filtered into the building fanning out in groups of two. Each team went systematically from room to room with suppressed rifles ready, and taking out anyone that they found.
Ten minutes had gone by with no sound except the careful steps of the two of them and the occasional opening and closing of doors. Finally the two of them hit the jackpot in the main dining hall they found a number of unarmed wait-staff standing nearby while seated at a dining table a woman, a guest that he could not see appeared to be enjoying breakfast with their true quarry the infamous Professor Id.
"You're evil ends today monster," Ferdinand Diego cried in fury as he took aim with his rifle only to find out his weapon's safety was locked. Suddenly unseen forces pulled both his and his companion’s weapons from their grasp and to the floor, and then slowly drug them down as well.
"My dear Ferdinand Diego so good of you to finally join us," Professor Id chuckled as he raised his glass in a mock toast to the man. "I admit I was expecting you sooner but it appears that unlike the countless others before you, that you actually acted with care and caution. Three years to establish the container ship that you would use for your invasion as a normal presence in the Pacific that would pass in the presence of my home. Three years so that your comrades could gain experience in various mercenary outfits for this day that you would fail to take my life. Three years of living in silence away from your families, so that you would not put them in danger. Unfortunately for you there is no chance that an operation of the size needed to take me out happens in the underworld without my being aware of it, I knew about your little endeavor soon after you began this excursion."
"You see like countless fools before you Diego you made several mistakes along your path. Many of the mercenary companies that you sent your men to train and fight with are my clients, they supplied me with your faces and prints for me to obtain your identities. The weapons and body armor that your men purchased on the black market with your pay from serving with those companies, they were manufactured by myself and sold to you by one of my agents who was instructed to let them go for the lowest bid. The guns include several special features such as a shape memory alloy in the weapon safety that locks the weapon up when exposed to a specific short-wave frequency; those firearms and the armor are also manufactured using a special material that is currently holding you to the floor thanks to the electro-magnet beneath you."
"As for your final mistake that was assuming that all your men were fully loyal to your cause in the first place, men like your fellow Enrique Ortega."
"Enrique is loyal to our cause; the flame-throwers that you supplied the local cartel with burned his village to the ground." Diego shouted in fury at the monster who was calmly eating his breakfast.
"True, however the same chemical residue from the cheap accelerant that the cartel used in those flame-throwers also gave his wife cancer." Id stated before he devoured a piece of sausage at the end of his fork. After swallowing, he continued, "I made him an offer while he was undergoing his own training, I would treat his beloved Estelle's affliction and in return he would serve as my spy. You see Diego every man has their price even you and I believe that I have your price here."
One of Id's wait-staff took his master's cue and turned the chair where the unseen guest was seated; to Diego's horror, the guest was his beloved daughter Maria alive and unharmed but gagged and wearing some contraption over her ears. She was restrained within the chair by cuffs that he had not noticed when it was turned. At the same time, his squad mate Roberto Ruiz was taken and escorted out the door by one of Id's faceless Dark Guard.
"Maria, what have you done to her you monster?" Diego demanded to know full of fear and worry for his child's safety.
"Why nothing yet, you see her fate all depends upon yourself. As we speak your compatriots both on and off the island are all being apprehended, except for yourself and Enrique they will be put to fight in an arena for my enjoyment armed with poisoned blades- a paralytic poison but a poison nonetheless." Id explained as he continued his morning meal. "You see you lead these men here for glory or death, those who fail in the arena will certainly have no glory, instead their deaths will come as the result of the actions of the one who was responsible for them- namely yourself. If you refuse then I will use my means to transform your daughter into a towering monstrosity and unleash her upon a one of the cities of the world under the protection of the Knights of Purity, you have no doubt of just what her fate will be then."
Diego broke out in a cold sweat at this proclamation, as if seeing the fear and indecision in the prone man's eyes Id got up, walked over to Diego, and stated in a voice that he knew the man's daughter could hear. "Now Diego I will tell you plainly, I am not a kind man- I am not a good man- I am not a clean man, but you will find me to be a very honest man. If you go through with this dark deed then I promise that your daughter will live as long and prosperous a life as I can see possible."
Not long after he nodded in a puke green impish creature sauntered into the room, when he saw it Diego spat out in defiance, "I always knew that you were in league with dark forces monster."
"Actually this is my servant fair Diego," the woman said as she delicately wiped her mouth before speaking to her paramour. "I am sorry dear but my minions have returned with intelligence that they have been gathering on the children who interfered with our fun in Manhattan last month. I had my suspicions so I had my servants poke around for information, and they have just finished with their report. I shall try to be finished in time to see the show your captives will put on as they fight for their lives.
Mania kissed Id on the cheek before sauntering out of the room, before Diego had been wondering what sort of woman would possibly be enjoying the company of that monster Id. Now Diego had realized that if anything this woman was likely just as much of an abomination as the man his men had vowed to wipe off the face of the Earth.
Berlin, New Hampshire
"So then grandfather had to chase the goat who was dragging the clothesline for an hour before he could get it off of his horn." Flora said in amusement at that particular memory of life at the vineyard. "Still our work clothes might have been fine after another we washed them again and mended them a little, some mud is not going to hurt clothes that are made to get dirty. Now grandmother's good Sunday dress on the other hand that was a lost cause if we ever saw one."
Noticing her date silently looking at her Flora asked in concern, "I am sorry, am I being boring."
"Not at all," Stygian said with a wistful tone obviously enraptured by her presence as he was with her story. "Please tell me more."
"Well in addition to our wine and the cheese that we make from the goat's milk we also make wine vinegar to sell at the local market." Flora began another story of her youth growing up with her extended family on their ancestral villa back on Sicily. "Now we make vinegar like we make wine- the old fashioned way, for vinegar that means using this jelly like ring called a mother. On year right before Carnival the farm was in an uproar because the jar with the mother went missing."
Stygian continued to let the warm and fuzzy feeling that he felt from knowing that his life with Persephone was beginning again, and this time on the right track- without the kidnapping or trapping her in the gloom of the Underworld with him for half a year. He owed Echidna a great deal for letting this happen, a great deal more than he had given in return- and he knew just how to pay that debt.
Doyle Medical Center
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
1:24 PM EST
It had been an hour since Candace woke back up, her throat felt raw from lack of use and her limbs ached from being immobile for the last three days. It was still hard to believe, the whole thing had only been three days it seemed like the nightmare of reliving her mother's death and funeral had been an eternity. She couldn't help but start crying just like she had when she was little, no matter how fast she ran she couldn't out run a memory in her own head.
Candace heard a knock at the door to her hospital room that thankfully shook her from her melancholy, "Come in."
To Candace's surprise it wasn't her friends, it was her roommate. "Hey, stopped by to see how you were doing."
"Terrible, not that you would know," Candace said with a sour tone, "How could anyone know what it's like to have something reach inside you and do something terrible like that to you."
"Try having something come inside, taking up residence for several years and then the moment you manifest take your body for a nightmarish joyride." Seeing Candace's bafflement over her admission, Randi decided to go into more detail. "Up until a few months ago I've had a trio of spirits doing a time share in my body, and I don't mean since I manifested I mean my whole life. Granted two of them were friendly enough, but one was malicious in the extreme- every night he fought the other two to try and take me over."
"Yeah right, what kind of b.s. is this?" Candace said as she rolled her eyes at the absurdity of it all, after all that just seemed a little far-fetched.
"Ask Misses Redstag what kind of b.s. that was, she was one of the two who protected me," Randi said with a smug expression. "As for the monster, he's out and about in his own body right now working under the name Carcharoth. He was here last month and there's plenty of footage of just how nasty he is- although some of it you might need a barf bag handy if you want to watch it, if it wasn't surveillance footage it would qualify as a snuff film."
"Is that around the time that you...um...?" Candance tried to ask in a roundabout way without breaking the secret of Poe.
"Nope, that was a couple of months after that happened." Randi chuckled as she handed her roommate the glass of water she just poured for her and pouring one for herself. "Then again I guess that's the fate of us Posies, we live screwy lives at least if half the stories that I've heard around the cabin are true."
"You mean like that girl with the weird room in the basement being decapitated growing her head back, and treating the severed head like a pet." Candace almost chuckled at the absurdity of that statement, "Or the girls that would become Team Kimba teaming up for the first time to fight ninjas in their nightgowns. Ninja that had come all the way from Japan to steal that bronze bust of our cottage's namesake."
"Hey I had trouble believing that the Native American tribe whose land the school is on is full of therianthropes," Randi chuckled as she related her own experiences. "At least I did until the Chieftess of the tribe turned into a Cougar in front of my eyes and started to clean herself."
"Really, tell me you got pictures of that little episode." Candace said with a wry smile on her face.
"Sorry," Randi shook her head remembering her own first day at Whateley. "And she was all the way into a mountain lioness, besides I kind of had my arm in a sling at the time."
"Posies," Candace laughed with a smile back on her face, holding out the now half-empty glass. "To the weird lives we lead-"
"And the even weirder stuff that stumbles into them." Randi laughed as she bumped her cup with the fox-girl. "By the way Doctor Bellows, one of the school councilors, wants to start you meeting with him; he thinks that it will do you some good to work through your pain."
"I'll tell you what," Candace purred as she shot Randi a look like that cat who caught the canary. "I will if you go on a date with me."
"Candace we've been over this I'm not really ready to start dating yet." Randi sighed as she shook her head, "I'll tell you what, ask just me again in about a month and then I'll tell you, but in the meantime you really need to see Doc Bellows. Apparently everyone who's had these attacks have experienced some form of emotional trauma in the past, I go and see him for my own issues every few weeks."
"Alright I'll take that as a rain check, but remember I plan on cashing it in the future." The velocitious vixen said in a singsong tone, that caused the demi-fae wolf to nervously laugh in response.
Sonia along with Richard and Max careful as they made their way through the winding network of tunnels beneath the Academy grounds; although given the amount of times that they had been ambushed down here this week they were bound to be wary. That was also more than unfortunate since most of the true face of the Whateley Academy was actually subterranean. The tunnels were where the vaults, the clubrooms, the labs, testing rooms and most of the ranges were, and since most of their group had GSD then on Red-Flag days they might have to use the tunnels or just during bad weather.
Still they had something that they had to look in on, Stygian's little reading recommendation had sown the seeds of curiosity in her mind- Soph just had to know for sure if what she suspected was true really was the reason behind the attacks. Part of her knew the old saying that ignorance was bliss and in her case she might not appreciate the answer, but still what you don't know can harm you and in a school such as this knowledge can not only be forged into wisdom but into armor as well.
The time of the rendezvous was almost upon them, they only had a little further to go before they reached the place where Stygian had promised to meet them, granted that they had taken a very indirect route to get here- it looked paranoid but they knew that someone had been out to get them.
Sure enough Stygian had been waiting for them, alone just as he had promised. "I see that you brought guests Miss Riddle, not that I blame you, I don't exactly look like the most trustworthy person on campus."
"Looks can easily be deceiving Mister Weatherson." Max said as he leaned against the wall. "And if you wanted to tell Soph something that's not personal, then you can tell the rest of us too."
"Very well," Stygian sighed under the martial artist's reptilian glare, "Although I would wager that Sophia already might have guessed it herself."
"You mean that your group calling yourselves the New Olympians is more than just a clever choice," Sophia surmised from the information that she had gathered since the other day. "If it was then you would have offered an invitation to Tide Water of the Golden Kids to be your group's Poseidon. No, I'll wager that you're likely avatars of said deities, and Imperious's feud with Mister Bannon has more to do that then one of his father's business decisions going south."
"Correct," Michael admitted since Knick-knack's bug scrambler prevented any electronic eavesdroppers for twenty feet, "Although that is certainly not everything to this story."
"Typhon and his children, Titus is Typhon and my friends and I are the avatars of his children." Sophia stated as she laid all her cards on the table. "Within us are some of the greatest monsters of Greek Myth."
"Close- you are their reincarnations not their avatars, likely the work of Madam Eventide herself. Haven't you ever wondered just why she came to your rescue like she did, she was likely protecting her hard work rather than let the MCO dissect you and your friends." Stygian explained filling in the blanks as he saw them based on the evidence.
"Then why tell us all this, if I'm right you're the avatar of Hades, just what do you have to gain from all this?" Sophia commented while Max and Richard were suffering from shock over what they had just heard.
"Two reasons, Madam Eventide and the Obsidian Circle have reunited me with my beloved Persephone, a promise that Imperious has dangled in front of me like a bone in front of a starving dog for years." Stygian all but growled himself over the fact that he had been played as much of a fool by Jason in this life as he had by his youngest brother in the last one. "The second reason is that I know for a fact that even in your last life you were more than beasts if given a chance, your brother Cerberus was more than my guard dog he was a loyal and trusted friend. I didn't have to chain him or use magic to control him although Zeus did provide me with the means to do so; he understood how important his job was and did it with no small degree of dutiful loyalty."
"Then why haven't you approached Rex to strike up a conversation?" Richard asked out of curiosity.
"Because Rex is the reincarnation of the two-headed dog Orthus," Sophia stated clearly. "Just as I'm the Sphinx, you're the Nemean Lion and Max is Ladon, just where is Cerberus?"
"Actually your friend is the Colchian Dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece, Ladon was the son of Phorcys and Ceto. As for Cerberus, well if you want to believe Misses Redstag, then just like Dante explained in The Inferno he's in the Third Circle of Hell chewing on those guilty of gluttony." Michael explained to the group as he turned over a slip of paper. "I also do not know where the Crommyonian Sow is or if she was reincarnated at all. On this slip of paper is who was what, but just keep in mind you are who you choose to be not what you once were; Cerberus was never a monster- he was a guardian and a good friend."
"Very well Stygian," Sophia said as she stared at the former Greek god of the underworld. "I think we shall keep that in mind, just remember from now on call us the Etnaians for in a way Mount Etna's as important to us now as Mount Olympus is to your group."
Stygian nodded it a smile and both groups went their separate ways, soon after they were out of sight Judicator deactivated the stealth belt Knick-knack made for her. She turned to look in the direction where Stygian went and gave a warm smile, it was about time that Stygian began to emerge from under Imperious's thumb and the less support that egomaniac had in the long run the better.
Chalet Noir - Drawing Room
Isla del Monstroso
7:16 PM AKST
Ferdinand Diego was as white as a sheet when the Black Guard escorted him to the disturbingly cozy room where Id and Mania were holding his daughter, he had just returned from the sick battle royal in the sub-aquatic arena where his comrades sans himself and the traitor Enrique. Of the one-hundred thirty-seven men who arrived on the island with him, only twelve were going to live to see tomorrow, and all would die at the hand of the man who led them on this fool's errand.
Inside Id was standing patting Maria's head as Diego awaited the monster to tell him how his comrades were going to die, Enrique knew that he had to be careful because in a single swift motion the monster could kill his little girl who was trembling in her seat. "Well Diego, I assume that you want me to dispense with the formalities and tell you how you are going to kill your men, am I correct?" Id asked with a smile. "Well, you see your dear daughter is going to do it for you."
"What but you said that I would be responsible for their deaths?" Diego asked filled with horror and confusion at Id's proclamation. "Leave Maria alone you devil!"
"Now, now Diego I am no devil just a man, what I said was you would be responsible for their deaths and you are because you brought their executioner into this world. You see I am going to be a father soon as well to a strapping you baby boy, and that child will need a bodyguard for when he's away at school. Your daughter will do nicely with the proper training and enhancements of course, and every bodyguard will have to be taught about when to use lethal force, in particular when not to hesitate to take that shot."
"You promised that you wouldn't turn her into a monster," Diego shouted again in accusation struggling to escape the hold of the Dark Guard.
"All people are monsters Ferdinand Diego; we are just animals who delude ourselves with morality to dampen the natural survival instincts by calling then paranoia. I said that I shall assure her future prosperity and I am, she is going to be trained in a vocation and will be attending one of the world's finest school's alongside my son. But if you mean am I going to turn her into a snarling beast then no, you see I was instrumental in developing the foundations of the Third Reich's Volkshelden and Angsthandler programs, granted both suffered when I left from lack of consistancy in my funding." Id explained with an ounce of nostalgia to his voice. "Still, I have advanced my techniques a great deal since then; I can create a great deal."
"Even artificial avatars my dear," Mania said as she interjected into the conversation. "My spriggan spy has reported that some of those who interfered at the Waldorf=Astoria were the reincarnations of a particular family of Greek monsters, still I noticed a few absences and knowing of your plan I sent a shellycoat to a certain swamp in Greece to retrieve something."
"Ooh I just love surprises like this Mania my sweet," Id said with a ghastly smile. "Just what did he retrieve?"
"The remaining bones of the Crommyonian Sow," Mania said with a smile just as sadistic as she was. "How about using the to make the girl a true powerhouse?"
"Why do you do this now, your son is not even born yet, and shall not be attending school for years and my daughter is ten." Diego cried out at what was unfolding before him.
"That situation will be rather easy to rectify; I have several temporal compression chambers on the island. The two of them will be fifteen years old in a matter of weeks and more than ready to attend fall classes." Id stated stroking the head of the girl who was actually looking even more terrified than before. "Although your daughter will be coming out of her's more frequently; what to celebrate her birthday with her dear daddy and tell him what she has learned."
Id snapped his fingers to summon two more Dark Guard, "Please take Miss Diego to the Genetic Infusion chamber and tell the techs to prepare the sample that Mania's servant provides for the process." Id turned back to Ferdinand Diego and stated. "Now Diego I trust that you and your remaining men shall deliver my message to the United Nations, you do want to be back in a week to celebrate your little girl's eleventh birthday.
"Daddy help me," Maria cried out in fear and confusion when the Dark Guard took her away, Diego meanwhile fell to the floor and cried.
Meanwhile, Professor Id was deep in thought, the information about those children drew his mind back to the climax to his first meeting with Doctor Quasimodo over a century ago. Back then he had failed to get his adversary to embrace the monster that was his real self even at the cost of his wife, this news was a chance to address that prior failure. These children were monsters down to their core, they were closer to the true face of humanity than anyone since himself, all he had to do was get them to embrace that fact and his soon to be born son would help him do so.
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