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- Some Days It Isn't Worth Chewing Through The Straps (Completed)
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Some Days It Isn't Worth Chewing Through The Straps (Completed)
Previous appearances can be found among the Micro-Scenes:
- Underwater Basket-Weaving
- Clarity in explanations is a good thing for all concerned.
- Curiosity may not kill only the cat
--- Friday, August 10, 2007 ---
Although the morning had started off cool, the weather forecast promised another dry, sunny afternoon for this part of New Hampshire. To Thomas Jensen's mind, it was a bit cruel to promise such a nice day for flying, or whatever else people here enjoyed, when his best friend and partner in crime was still in a medically-induced coma. Nonetheless, he mustered up a smile for the cameras, and walked in to Doyle Medical Center to see what probably hadn't changed.
Entering the room, he checked on the various details that were becoming all too familiar. No spirits hovering about, malign or otherwise. Various wards intact, even though they weren't configured as he was used to. Various diagnostic and monitoring devices beeped, or flashed, or made green tracers on black scopes. The IV had been recently changed, and the urine collected looked like any other mammal's. The psychic dampers were holding up well. It was annoying that so many of the locals were telepaths and empaths, and smug about it. If this goes on much longer, he mused, maybe they deserved to have Mads' nightmares inflicted on the campus.
"That's a bit harsh, don't you think?" asked the apparition suddenly in the room with him.
"Him getting stabbed was bad enough. It's been nine days since the first operation. Since then's been enough nightmare for me," the young man replied.
"As we've told you before, assuming that the medical records he was carrying on him are more legitimate than the faked IDs, Mads is going to have a slow recovery ahead of him," Dr. Tenent pointed out as she entered the room and joined the budding conversation. "ARC is still examining the dagger he was stabbed with, so we just don't know if or how that's complicating the healing process."
"The burnout as you all call it, probably didn't help either. I know that the treatment may have lowered the risk from whatever toxic enchantments were on the blade ... but still."
Dr. Tenent decided to ignore the implied criticism; the test results backed her position up, not the impatient teen's. "It probably did more to save his life than the surgery. In the long run, that may be what allows him to stay alive."
"So ... what else haven't I been told because I'm not legally 'next of kin' or anything else in this country?" Thomas figured that that would be one of the many things to set Mads off once he awoke. He could have told him that already, but he wasn't in the mood to lessen the fallout for the folks in charge.
Louis Geintz had been about to leave the two for their daily 'discussion', but something was on the doctor's mind, "Thomas will be involved in Mads' therapy, and for that matter, Mrs. Cantrel and I need to know if any additional measures are needed for for his room once he moves to Hawthorne."
The doctor closed the door in the hope of retaining some patient confidentiality, "Mads' lungs were scarred badly enough from past traumas that they wouldn't be able to keep up with oxygen demand as he grew into adulthood." Okay, that was officially bad. "The records we have show his doctors planned on an clonal transplant once the deficit became notable." She called up a handful of films on a wall display to illustrate what she was about to say.
"In the past week, it does appear that his body has been reconfiguring his respiratory system, skin, circulation, and gills to cope with future oxygen demands. He now has something similar to an air bladder encasing his lungs. That and the bronchial tubes, here and here, now have valves similar to the epiglottis. Open one set, and he breathes air in and out as normal, the bladder collapsing around the lungs. Open the other, and water can be drawn into the bladder, partially collapsing and/or closing off the lungs, the water being expelled through the newly developed lateral gills. We'll all need to be aware that the structural changes to his skin may make him more susceptible to dehydration and to contact toxins. We also expect that for the next few months he'll need a few hours each day submerged - at least until his body gets used to these changes."
"I take it that that will require a water tank and filtration system in place of a bed? Freshwater or saltwater?" asked Louis.
"Freshwater at first. Absolutely no chlorine- or bromine- based sanitizers."
"Facilities can have that in place by Monday. The additional weight does mean his room will be in one of the basement levels."
"You'd want to do that anyway," sighed Thomas, his mood visibly darkening, "Even on a good day, he's supposed to stay on a ground floor or second story at most."
"What about a 'bad day'?" asked the doctor.
"He's been known to jump. Opening a window first? Optional," the boy paused in thought, "Sometimes the nightmares he can't remember in the morning are the worst."
"We usually don't place at-risk students in a single, and no, we wouldn't place you both in the same room in Poe," Louis didn't look happy with either option as he mentioned them to Thomas.
"Finding a different roommate wouldn't be simple," Dr. Tenent went on, "The pheromones he's putting out induce a 'fight or flight' reaction in most animals, so that excludes students with familiars or service animals. We don't know yet, but that may include students with animal-spirit avatars as well. He also has some sort of glamour - one that drives people away, while failing to bother other people. Then there's the PTSD, and the fact he doesn't have to be armed or awake to hurt someone if surprised or awakened suddenly."
"He recognizes me, even when he can't wake up," Thomas pointed out.
Louis looked at him, "As I understand it, you wouldn't be sleeping well either?"
"Nope. It's less harrowing for all involved if I can help him snap out of it. That's not something that can be phoned in."
"There is a spur tunnel from Poe to Hawthorne's main tunnel. If the two of you behave yourselves," the teen's mentally rolled eyes warned the psychic that he wasn't talking to the poor role model here, "we could arrange permission for you to come over."
"And that requires shortstop there in bed to wake up in the first place." Obvious, yes, but the adult humans may have missed that planning step.
Dr. Tenent frowned at that, "We discontinued the meds keeping him unconscious yesterday. He should be awake. Groggy maybe, but conscious."
"Did you tell him that?"
"What?" Both adults were surprised. Good. They'll need the practice.
"You have mages on campus, right? And at least one psychic who can astrally project back into the material plane better than either of us can materialize? And yet, no one thought to tell 'Mr. Shadowfalls Keep has a nice ring to it' to return to his body?"
"That's too many 'and's, dear. You'll meet Beltane soon enough. In any case, there are strict guidelines for the use of psychic abilities, even for what you're suggesting we do."
"Do they really preclude following his astral cord out to the spot in the Otherworld where he's playing amateur stonemason? Or chasing fish. To inform him that it's possible to return to his body?"
"No. I see. That's usually not an issue."
"I'll take care of it. He should be up and bouncing off the walls by the afternoon," the young man's sideways grin promised mayhem for which he'd be accepting none of the blame.
--- Saturday, August 11, 2007 ---
Surprise! The patient wasn't bouncing off the walls. One ugly bruise and a series of blood tests later, it became clear why his copper levels had stayed in the toilet. His body was circulating hemocyanin through the lymphatic system, and needed a lot more of the red metal to pull that off.
Note: The patient says he'd like to continue (?) using Paso Doble for a codename. We've passed that on to the Security officer tasked with resolving which set of his identity records are valid.
P.S. The British Consulate is quote - Not Amused - unquote.
Scribbled comment (lined out): Does that mean we can send him back?
Comment in neat, block letters: They're our allies, remember?
--- Sunday, August 12, 2007 ---
It's commonly held that medical professionals make the worst patients, even when compared to patients who've spent more time in a hospital bed than some professionals have spent around one. Then there are those patients who live at the intersection of these two hells.
Observation: The patient has begun using the inhaled-water evacuation technique appropriate to his revised respiratory structures.
Comment: Did he show you how he used to do it? That was disturbing. It's even worse when you consider that he used to live on or near Lake Erie.
Second comment: That was even more nightmare-inducing that one of Rev. Englund's sermons. Congratulations. Slow clap.
--- Monday, August 13, 2007 ---
As far as Ophelia Tenent and half of the nursing staff were now concerned, Toby Keith's lyrics should have been "Beer for my horses, Ritalin for the kid."
On the bright side, Denmark's agreed to issue a passport with a matching cover identity.
Proof that every silver lining has a cloud: P.D. has been practicing Danish. On the staff.
He needs more Ritalin; we need more ibuprofen.
Did anyone know before now that there are Danish rock bands, let alone one named Nephew ?
--- Tuesday, August 14, 2007 ---
What do you mean, the room in Hawthorne is still not ready?
--- Thursday afternoon, August 16, 2007 ---
Standing outside the Hawthorne Cottage, Mads Christian Jensen stopped to look around his new home away from home. There was still construction in progress. Based on the way the newer structural sections fit into the older, he guessed that it was an expansion project. Based on what he'd been told the cottage's purpose was, that was much less heartening than it should have been. Still, it had to beat living at ARC. Or, for that matter, having your blood drawn out of you, while eldritch creatures gnawed on your bones and muscles and organs and whatever else alive.
The path back up to Doyle and the Crystal Hall, and the rest of the campus looked twice as steep as it had looked going down. He'd already been told during UV check-in, also at the top of a hill, that between his "critter spook" effect and glamour, he'd be expected to use the above-ground paths as much as possible on red-flag days (He could swear someone had said "unlike the other freaks".) At least there was supposed to be an option to attend classes via teleconference.
n the other hand, the forest to the south looked interesting. He'd also been warned to avoid the Grove, like that would be the first wild landscape that had tried to kill him. Forests often include rivers and streams with tasty fish, he'd even been able to keep his knives!, so that jumped several notches on the "To Explore" list. Until then, nothing to it but to do it, so he climbed up the steps to the entrance.
"Oh, lord. The new school year hasn't even started and the Uvie kids are getting detention!" exclaimed the fairly large woman heading his way on ... a grav sled? Hover chair? Maybe he could rebuild his hoverboard with local gear? "Ahem. Do I have your attention now? As I was saying, with all the construction going on, the best thing we could have you do is to mop the floors. Some of the kids here have trouble breathing and the dust doesn't help."
From the common area behind the woman someone called out, "See? The pretties don't even think they need to listen to the House Parents"
Unfortunately, that caught Mads' attention instead, "Pretty? Flattery will get you just about anywhere!" he winked and aimed a thumbs-up at the speaker, "As long as my boyfriend doesn't object." He paused for a moment in thought, and said, "errrr, actually he may be objecting any minute now. I didn't get the note about waiting for him."
"So, Mrs. Cantrel. Where did you say the mops and dust masks are kept? If I get started now, maybe you could tell him that it was all 'missed connections' or something?"
"Has that ever worked for you in the past?" The boy had been certain that there was no one that close behind him, but sure enough, there was Mr. Geintz.
"Not really ... "
"Good. I've just informed Thomas, and Ophelia, that you will stay right here and wait for them for the room walk-through."
"Louis?" Mrs. Cantrel could put a whole question behind just a name. The look on her face suggested the answer was more an omen of things to come than a simple fact. "Right." She turned in her chair and addressed the kids who were, frankly, gathering to watch what promised to be entertaining, "Folks, let's say hello to our newest resident, Mads Jensen. One who I happen to know still needs respiratory therapy." Half growled, that last part promised retribution for the aborted getaway stunt.
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Pausing on a Sunday"
Stephen Sondheim, "Sunday"
Sunday, August 19, 2007
South side of a hill, overlooking Poe and Hawthorne Cottages
At first glance, up ahead would be just another carefree young man, perhaps a bit short and slim for his age, lazing about on a grassy knoll and soaking up the late summer New Hampshire sun. The only shade was a cap and blacked-out sunglasses half-shading his face. The lack of earbuds, a gameboy, or a girlfriend irritated at her boyfriend unwisely dozing off (or playing some stupid game!) seemed the only things out of place. The boy's fair hair and the fair skin showing on arms and legs awkwardly sprawled out from under a light t-shirt and shorts were sure to be a much redder shade soon enough.
The teen walking up to him could almost have been designed as a 'West meets East' counterpoint: short dark hair, black almost to the point of being highlighted in blue and purple, height a good couple of inches taller even without the boot heels, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, and just enough of a tan to greet the sun as an old friend instead of a hostile enemy.
"So. Are we working on a sunstroke, or planning on playing straight to cancer from UV exposure? 'Do not pass Go, Do not collect 200 nuyen'?" he said to his friend.
"Naw. Would you believe there's a functioning ozone layer up there? Between that, and some ess-pee-eff 80, I've got plenty of safe stay time," the other smirked, hardly moving more muscles than necessary. He finally tried to sit up, thought better of it, and reached up with his left hand. Only Thomas, and maybe the poor sod soon to be assigned as their therapist, knew how much trust lay behind that simple gesture. Both were used to seeing the guy armed with a pistol, holstered for a left-hand draw. "Thanks. Penny for your thoughts?"
The darker-haired teen thought about that, then looked around before sitting down. That he also took the time to be scanning the area for threats had long since become second nature (I'm not even the suspicious one here!) "For you, ten percent off. I gots mouths ta feed here," he joked. More seriously, "I thought you were planning to go to church? Next thing I know, you're spooked and skipping lunch out on the grass here."
Simplest things first, "Nah. I've been keeping a couple of those sludge bags with me, just in case. How did they manage something even worse than MREs or even soy paste? That's one thing I'd like to know."
"That's something you'll probably deeply regret finding out. But, so long as you can keep it out of your nightmares, knock yourself out. Church?"
"Meh. So, northeastern U.S., lots of Protestant bible-thumping tradition, old school, of course there's that Dillon Chapel on campus."
"There I was, checking out the messages board for sleeping, er, sermon times ..."
"You'd make a bad Christian anyway."
"Oy! I attended chapel services when I was in school before!"
"It was a military academy prep school, and attendance was mandatory."
"Anyway, the place looks deserted even for summer school, so no need to be shirt-n-tied."
"Did you expect a bunch of kids, mutants, stuck at school because they cannot go home, to be enthusiastic about religion? It's a miracle the place wasn't boarded up."
"There is that," acknowledged the shorter boy. "Still, that's not the wierdest part. Ever see threshold markings like this?" He passed a display over to his friend. "Also, the building's wards weren't like anything I've dealt with. If the place isn't being used, I'd rather not be on the wrong side of some trap left behind."
"Er, no. The symbols could be personal to the magician. I assume you've already checked your references?" The other nodded his reply. "So, not corporate security ... I got nothin'. The library here's on reduced hours, but you could try that. Want me to see if I can scare something up next weekend, when I head out to Shadowsfall for your gear?"
Thomas frowned at that. "Yours. Don't pretend you expected both of us to end up in this situation."
"I already had spares for some things," Mads shrugged, then pointed out, "in case you ever had to cover for me while I was 'out'. There's a long weekend following, so if you run short on time ... Hm, you've got the Corporal's pack too, right?"
"Key point being it's his."
"No. The key point being he resents having that part of his past around. The uniforms shouldn't fit, but some things you should keep, others can go toward your sponsors' smokescreen covering the circumstances of his death. Both you and Thom are running a bit short on closure about that."
Mads looked down and fidgeted with the grass. Of the three involved, the former air spirit had had the least time to deal with the situation leading to his corporeal status here. Ironic maybe, but certainly not fair. No news there - it had to be a certain kind of hell to be stuck with damaged goods like himself. No telling why T stuck around when he could maybe walk away now, though the boy was sure that it would kill him if that happened, pact, or no pact.
For a brief moment, Thomas had felt something like jealousy over his namesake, "We'll see. Okay?" That said, he felt an underlying worry through their link, not that he needed help to see the poorly-hidden guilt and self-recrimination in the other's darkening expression. For a few minutes then, he just sat and mused at how nice the sky does look without acid rain and ashfall. Wouldn't it be good, to learn how to see the clouds from this side, now and then? Not alone, though.
"As long as they don't wear you out too badly with placement tests and powers testing," Thomas paused to take a chance on one of those odd human gestures he was adapting to, and reached over the other boy's shoulder to hold him in a side-hug. "We can take advantage of the long weekend to try our luck with the libraries at Bristelùchairt. I'd rather you be the one talking there."
Mads looked up at that, ghosting a smile as he pushed his cap up. He should do that more often. "That's a surprise! What for?"
"For one, you think much the same way the Court does. Second, they can smell the daoine sídhe in your blood from a league away."
"I do bathe on occasion, if that's what you're implying. Just because I do reside underground ... " Mads still grinned before pointing out "Don't forget we have a joint tenancy."
Thomas held Mads' shoulder a bit tighter before letting go; the rainclouds seemed to be parting, "I haven't forgotten anything. Just want you with. Good enough?"
"I've heard worse plans, even executed a couple of them." Time to change the subject! "By the way, what's it like over at Twain? I heard that that one, Whitman, and Hawthorne are the only cottages left open for us summer rejects, while the others get refurbished." Veiled insults, Mads could handle. Tact, on the other hand just wasn't his strong suit.
"It's nice enough for what it is. With all the construction and red-flag days, the kids with GSD are stuck using the tunnels. I'm not sure that it even matters who ends up where." Thomas stopped and chuckled a little as a thought struck him, "Most of the guys there would be much less alone, and a whole lot happier, if they ever realized that the 'female of the species' isn't completely an alien entity."
"Where'd you hear that?"
"The girls over in Whitman. While we were studying. Don't give me that look!"
"Heh. Studying. Biology?"
"Enough sunshine: you're overheated. Well. Time for my good deed of the day, turning you over to the authorities to lock you back in your cell."
"Aw, man!" mock-pouted the smaller boy.
It only took a minute or so to gather up and repack everything laid out on the ground, from the reddening teen to his gear. They were met at the Hawthorne cottage steps by a man dressed in a khaki sheriff's uniform with a large ring of old-fashioned keys at his hip. Back to a cell, indeed.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Geintz! Time for this one to come home," announced Thomas. There was just a slight hitch in the teen's jocular greeting, as he turned to catch the other's elbow barely in time to prevent a misstep.
"Thanks for catching him," whether the psychic meant hauling Mads in from escaping his cell or just then, he declined to say.
The subject of the conversation felt a little left out, "Had a nice trip, see ya next fall?"
"Let's not," Thomas and Fubar chorused.
The sitcom sheriff continued, "The coast is clear for you two to head on down, and Thomas?"
"Outside of classes and official functions, I really do prefer to be called 'Fubar'"
"I'll try to remember that, sir."
Fubar just shook his head at that. It was still too easy for the boys to slip up. At times, borrowed memories left Thomas reacting more as the late Corporal Thomas Jensen, CDF, than as a school-aged military dependent that merely happened to have the same name. Moreover, Mads' attitude almost reeked of a police or paramilitary upbringing. Maybe he should bet Eldritch how long it would take for Security or the Range Crew to stick the boy with a more suitable code name?
"Fine! I'll try some aloe gel later. That stuff's almost as bad as sunscreen for trashing a shirt," the local inmate was in a full-blown whine. Was sunburn that much of an issue? Really? Thomas decided that if drinking a couple of full glasses of water and cooling down didn't help fix the attitude soon, someone was going to be hooked up to an IV before the evening was out.
"That's at least a start. By the way, I didn't want to mention it in case someone overheard, but you should try wearing headphones and playing music to hide your zoning out in VR or projecting."
"Couldn't hurt, unless the music sucks."
"Avoid Brass Monkey in that case."
"Noted. Want to grab some food later?"
"Take a shower first, though." Mads promptly went for the stereotypical male armpit check.
Thomas looked down to hide a grin. Some incorrigibles do not need encouragement. Agreed. "No, you don't stink. But you already know how much some folks have complained."
"While we're at it, we should start looking over the course offerings. "
"Yeah. Shower, nap, clothes, food, and if you don't behave, we'll visit your friends at Doyle."
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But it gives bullies like Centurion and Switchblade a reason not to go after a couple of the freshmen: self-preservation.
Two Micro-Scenes occur after this:
"Step inside! Hello!
We've a most amazing show
You'll enjoy it all we know
Step inside! Step inside!"
-- "Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Part 1", Greg Lake, and Peter Sinfield
Monday, August 20, 2007 - Morning
Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
Joshua Green didn't mind being assigned front desk duty. The variety of people coming in for a variety of reasons gave him ample opportunity to earn a second paycheck for giving the right people a heads-up. Among other services. The blond-haired kid who just walked in was dressed more for the part of "small fish about to be dropped into the lake that was Whateley". There were plenty of his sort each year: straight A nerds freshly-cleaned up a little by their mutation, naively thinking they'd finally be top of the heap at the new school. One of Security's less pleasant duties over the school year would be to escort them to Doyle after reality set in and they crashed and burned. On the other hand, even those kids weren't eager enough to be on-campus an extra week early. Nor did they scope out every camera trained on the entrance.
So. We have either a student who's a menace to himself, or just a menace. Not a professional. No one familiar with the school would send in someone to scout the place out with an "ultraviolent" band on.
"Good morning! Who do I need to see for check in?" asked the kid once he'd sighted the desk and walked over. The cap he was wearing didn't come off or even get pushed up. Right. Cameras.
"Check in? Son, that's not until next week."
The boy nodded, "Right. But I was told I needed to check in with Security periodically because of this," he pointed to the UV band. "Listed by code name, right? I've been thinking about going as 'Paso Doble'"
That rung a bell, but only because the name was added recently, and it sounded gay. At best. "Metler? Green. We've got a 'Paso Doble' here for a white band check-in. Need a twenty-five, or pulling up the twenty good? Right. Thanks."
"Looks like you're good to go." False alarm, but around this place that was a relief. Mrs. Green didn't raise her children to be stupid.
"Wiz," the kid then pulled out an administrative note, double-checked it, and smiled. "Also, I've a 0800 meeting with Chief Delarose. Not sure what I did bad enough to be called in right at shift change." That was interesting, Green thought, then crossed 'telepath' and 'projective empath' off his internal powers checklist. This kid had one of the worst "I'm innocent" expressions he'd seen in some time.
Green punched in a different line, "Chief. Green at the front desk. Your oh-eight-hundred appointment? He's here. Will do," He hung up and turned to call one of the officers, "Daniels? Need an escort, Chief's office." "This is Officer Daniels, he'll take you back there.
"Thank you, Daniels. Would you close the door?"
Aside from just looking professional, the security chief obviously treated hit personnel with courtesy, and judging by auras and speech, the two that Mads had met so far respected the man in return. That was a good sign. Aside from that Chief Delarose had just a little too much of that "don't notice me unless I want you to" thing going to have had a career strictly in law enforcement.
Mads figured professional courtesy would be in order, so he stepped forward and reached out a hand to the officer while maintaining eye contact, turning just enough to keep the female officer present in view. "Good morning." A slight hesitation in returning the handshake told him that the Chief had been briefed on a few things. Probably things he'd rather forget. Hopefully not any of the fiascos involving hookers.
"I believe you know Officer Everheart. She handled your background checks, along with Thomas'." Everheart nodded. "You can sit down. This isn't an inquisition, this time." Which only means such things can and do happen.
"What can I do for you, Chief Delarose?" Let's get down to business, shall we?
"I don't know if anybody's gone over the school's curriculum with you yet, but Whateley puts a great deal of emphasis on teaching students how to survive past graduation," Delarose paused to see if the young man was following.
"No, but that's a goal I can wholeheartedly support."
"Good enough for now. Aside from standard high school classes, and classes on how to control and make use of various paranormal powers, you would also be expected to participate in practical courses relating to self-defense,"
"I think we can all know I need to work on that," Mads grimaced.
"... weapons proficiency, small-unit tactics, amd some aspects of law enforcement as it applies to prospective heros, villains, career criminals, and to extra-legal or irregular forces." No doubt about it. Everheart had gotten hookers, blow, and the fires and explosions from files on his commlinks. Berlin was so not his fault.
Mads soldiered on. Seeing as how he was still breathing and not handcuffed, no sense in self-incrimination at this point. "Which brings us to today?"
Everheart spoke up, "Whateley isn't your public school in the burned-out section of town. Instead, this is a college-preparatory academy, albeit one incurring additional scrutiny of the students for their potential abilities, amongst other points of interest, meaning"
Mads finished for her, "Even with the best paper hanging I'll stick out like a sore thumb. Security's interest?"
Delarose smiled, the boy could follow if carefully led. "Our interest is to forestall trouble. As you can guess, many students haven't yet figured out that they aren't 'all that'. Some do get cocky, mouthy, even back-talk staff or armed security." Mads was pretty sure he didn't like where this was going. "Your records indicate that that's a potential trigger for you, which would be odd for a person with your background." Correction. Entirely certain this wasn't a direction he was looking forward to. "So we do need to certain that when people do start asking questions that could undermine your identity, they get the answers we want them to have. Officer Everheart has suggested that we include you in the indoctrination and refresher training scheduled for the current break."
Everheart chimed in at the cue, "Some of the Clinic staff were concerned that you wouldn't have enough activities to keep you occupied until the term starts."
Ouch. But why would senior staff need to brief me? Oh. This isn't just for my benefit. "I take it that students aren't the only ones whose mouths have written checks their asses can't cover?"
"You'd be surprised. As far as Second Platoon and the new guys are concerned, you'll be serving with Security as part of your detention for comparing Sgt. Buxton to a doughnut-chomping, lard-ass flunky," That sounded curiously specific, and insulting. Neither officer missed the slight clenching of neck and jaw muscles at the implied insult to police. Given a chance, too many exemplars, let alone empaths, would catch that tell.
The Chief continued, "You'll be accompanying them through classes and training exercises as scheduled. Training starts at 1300 on Range Two, goes through the weekend, and includes some evening patrols. You will be paid a stipend as a student auxiliary. All by the book." Delarose looked up and waved an approaching security officer in, "Sargeant Buxton here will take you back to the cage to draw your gear, and to get your stories straight. Now. I have work to do, and so do you."
After the slightly shellshocked freshman left with the sargeant, the two senior officers continued their discussion.
"Sam, Westmont's expected back by Thursday, right?"
She nodded. "We'll give him a chance to observe Jensen in action, to see if the kid really is this Matthew Nelson he remembers. We have seen stranger transformations through magic, mutation, or other means. At some point, he should wind up exhausted enough to make a mistake that we can catch on tape. Louis, your thoughts?"
The psychic arts teacher appeared, shaking his head, "Nothing in his surface thoughts, dreams, or memories has Nelson as anything other than an ID to be used and discarded. Even if he were MI-6's defector, de-aged, etc., too many people have mucked with the boy's psyche to say that anything of Nelson has much chance of survival. I'd say there's nothing for them to be concerned with."
Sam chuckled, "You're assuming Sir Wallace reports 'nothing to see here'. He could recommend adding the boys to their recruitment list."
"Is that likely?" Frank Delarose suddenly had visions of more recruiters duct-taped to a flag pole.
"Anything that can go wrong, will." came Sam's reply. Then she remembered something far more amusing, "He could recommend Jensen and Jensen to the Spy Kidz." The Intelligence Cadet Corps had a reputation for being deadly earnest about their 'missions'; not so much of a reputation for being effective. For a brief, guilty moment, retired Admiral Everheart wanted to see the look on Ace's or Sir Wallace's face on being presented an After-Action Report in the form of a pop-up book colored in crayons. Fubar just smiled.
"Great. Let's not suggest that." Monday mornings did not need more catastrophe to dwell on. "By the way, Reverend Englund's on the warpath again. It's been less than 24 hours, and he's already got a wild hair about some student - looking suspiciously like the trouble-magnet that just walked out - who couldn't pass the Chapel wards to attend services."
"We're dealing with two very paranoid people on a collision course there," Fubar noted. "If Mads doesn't tap out by Friday afternoon, you might need to warn your personnel to expect a 'bug hunt' Saturday or Sunday night. I'd guess that it will just happen to be big enough to pull in your trainees for 'educational purposes' or backup."
"He would do that. Again. Definitely this weekend, so it doesn't risk his students or Miss Reilly." The security chief could already feel the birth of a new ulcer. "It'll be something lethal too, if he decides the kid has been Mythos-tainted."
Sam needed to know, "Is he?" That was all they'd need, the rabid preacher trying to pit one monster against another at the very start of the term.
Louis smiled sadly, "No. But he's assigned to Hawthorne with the rest of us 'monsters'."
"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!"
-- "Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Part 2", Greg Lake, and Peter Sinfield
Tuesday Morning, August 21, 2007
Range 2, Whateley Academy
"Ready on the right?"
To Mads Jensen's mind, too many people, not just "civvies" Did I really have to say that out loud yesterday? found the rules of a supervised weapons range to be an unnecessarily complex pain in the hoop. Instead, he found the discipline of breath and action amidst routine to be one of the more restful forms of meditation he'd been taught. Even Thomas agrees with me on that, and that's ... less common than I'd like.
Speaking of agreements, he had to agree with Everheart's plan for reconciling his skill sets, cover story, and class schedules. That still didn't make him a rifleman, as seen . Today he was looking forward very much to qualifying with pistol, so he could get back to carrying his Predator IV full-time.
"Ready on the left?"
Caitlin Bardue had been mildly surprised that the recently-injured boy had been thrown into this training. However, she wasn't there just to watch "that P.D. brat from the UV list" shoot. Weapons inventory, including impounds, that was her responsibility. The catch was that neither of the kid's firearms belonged on an inventory. Hell, "Ares Arms" didn't even exist. The idea of Hawthorne's latest lunatic inmate with a pistol in his hands wasn't a very comforting thought, but having these sidearms accidentally walk off with Third Platoon was less of a comfort.
"Ready on the firing line."
Caitlin's first hint that something was up was when Mads set foot onto the range. Gone were all traces of the teen goofball desperate to get out of his hospital room last week. Little details about his posture and bearing, and the way he wore the borrowed (Not issured. We can't be that short-handed!) uniform started rearranging themselves. The second hint clicked in her brain as she watched the boy set up his station. Even Security and the Grunts relied on the ranges' fully-stocked cleaning gear and supplies, but not Jensen. So what had he been up to that he was used to cleaning his weapons in the field?
Mads planted his feet, squared his shoulders, and went to work sighting in. Just another range day, like any other since he'd turned five.
Caitlin overheard some grumbling from a late arrival, "What I want to know is whether 'PD' really stands for 'Paso Doble', or 'Police Department'? The kid shoots like a cop."
"He's got a slight accent. Bet his dad's Metro PD and he was a cadet before this summer. That'd explain why Burlington-Smythe hasn't given him the boot."
Maybe, but something wasn't adding up.
Another chimed in, "The runt's got range procedure down cold. At least he won't be shooting in the wrong lane, unlike some people I could name."
"By the way, word is that he mouthed off to Buxton" "Really? Couldn't happen to a nicer guy." "Shyeah. So the Chief's putting him through the ringer to teach him a lesson. Metro connections or not."
Figuring he'd warmed up enough on the first set of targets, for the rapid firing and any following parts Mads switched to his baby. Caitlin was interested in seeing if there was much difference beyond clip capacity.
Nope. That sidearm is not going back to the cage to get 'lost'.
"Clear and lock weapons"
"Clear on the left"
"Clear on the right"
"The firing line is clear"
There had been a window of time during which the 'Metro' nickname could have died a quiet death. Figure the odds on that working out.
"Son, where'd y' learn t'shoot like that?"
"When I was at Academy, Sargeant-Major. A bi' 'ere and there thereafter." Clearly the morning meds had worn off in time to start echoing the wrong accent.
"Hereford, was it?"
"Wha'? No! Lo- Sorry. Wasn't thinkin'. Public school in the States - you'd never've heard of it. I did get some time in on a range, last time I was in London."
"Laddie, yer in the States. Aye?"
"Oh, never mind. Off wit ye. You sorry lot have enough things to do, yeah?"
"Yeah, yeah. What've we got next?"
Caitlin turned to her fellow range nazi, Ryan Wilson, who'd walked up to snark at the trainees. "Police brat. You think that that's his story?"
Wilson shook his head, "Hell no, but the alternatives will give me nightmares. At least he doesn't seem to act like he has PTSD."
"Tenant upped his meds twice last week. They've installed psi screens in his room, and there's a 'Do NOT Wake' sign by the door."
"I did not need to know that. Nightmares it is."
Wednesday Morning, August 22, 2007
PT sucks. So does journaling.
In other news, there are ways to screw up forced entry that I have never seen before.
Friday Morning, August 24, 2007
PT still sucketh greatly.
Sunday afternoon, August 26, 2007
"Graduation" briefing: It turns out that this Earth has its own share of toxics and shadows.
If it's just a "bug hunt" as they say, null sheen all around. But if it were my lair, I'd have more surprises set up for anyone poking around.
The plan is to hold any of us n00bs for backup. Yeppir. So here's hoping Thomas comes back soon with my AK-98. The .308's nice, but the '98 is rock solid. Plus, there's all those grenades I haven't had a chance to use yet. There aren't many things with a nervous system that can shrug off a jungle load of Hi-Ex, Frag, and Gamma-scope.
"We would like it to be known
the exhibits that were shown
were exclusively our own,
All our own. All our own."
-- "Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2", Greg Lake, and Peter Sinfield
Monday, August 27, 2007, go-frag-yourself A-frickin-eM in the morning
Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
It would be charitable to say that the crew dragging themselves in looked like death warmed over and, to be honest, smelled worse. Only two of his men needed to be dropped off at Doyle for minor injuries, so Frank Delarose considered that much a win. Fubar had been right - the intel had been crocked just bad enough that he just didn't want to think about what could have happened, but not badly enough for the fire-and-brimstone preacher to shoulder any of the blame if the operation had gone sideways.
"I'd rather have been wrong, you know," Louis "Fubar" Geintz quietly told him. His projected image sat down across from the security chief. Even he looked tired. Not all of the fight had been on the physical plane.
Delarose decided to address one elephant in the room, "Who was the real target?" "Excuse me?" "This was a trap set to spring at any time someone poked at it the wrong way. Who was he saving it for?" This night could not be over too soon.
"I'd like to know that too, gentlemen." A clear alto carried across the small office, as the door was firmly .shut. "I'd also like to know the reason that two of my students, one of whom was on a full week's detention that I previously did not know about, were involved with something that was clearly a long-standing Dunwich matter." Liz Carson was not loud, nor needed to be, and was not at all happy.
"You cannot be asking me to probe the mind of one of the regents, much as I might like to?"
"Louis, what if we hadn't had Westmont on-hand, or that channeller that dropped in from nowhere? I don't suppose we could hire him on to beef up astral security?" Carson stopped to collect her thoughts, but then remembered, "And who the hell gives a Kalashnikov to a kid that age?"
"The assault rifle did already belong to Metro."
Also about to not be helping was the knock on the officer door. Delarose stifled a groan before calling out "Enter!" The fire in his boss' eyes announced that this would be a very temporary reprieve.
"Chief! My apologies Ma'am, Louis." The young man stepping into the office was a full five foot, four inches, and Ophelia is going to be on the warpath later if those present were guessing his weight right, of battered but cleaned up warrior.
Sigh. "Mrs. Carson, may I introduce Mads Jensen, code-named Metro?" An eyebrow quirked at the unfamiliar codename and its doubled meanings, "Mads, this is Mrs. Elizabeth Carson, Headmistress of Whateley Academy."
"Oh! Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Carson. Again, my apologies for the interruption, I just needed to check out with Chief Delarose. Er, yeah. So. Lesson learned, right? Should I turn in my gear now, or ... it can wait until next shift can't it. If there's nothing else, I'll be on my way. Right." One could tell that exhaustion was taking it's toll in those glazed green eyes.
"Check the Second Platoon schedule for your work shifts. Auxiliary positions do count as work/study jobs for those on scholarship. Also, there's coursework you'll need to complete. Sooner is better."
"Yes, sir. If that will be all sir?"
"Yes it will. Consider this your Monday check-in. Get some sleep."
"Again, good morning to you Mrs. Carson, Mr. Geintz."
One good thing about the guy, other than his terrible sense of social timing, is that he realized that the sooner he was out of Lady Astarte's line of sight, the safer they'd all be.
"That. Was. Inexcusable."
"Liz, after tonight's firefight, do you really want to tell those men and women out there that you're taking away one of the few students who'd have their backs in a stand-up fight?"
"That is not the point. That's a child."
Louis broke in, quietly, "He was a child, some time ago. And when he's out of a uniform and not on a mission, he is trying very hard to figure out the parts of his childhood that he's lost along the way."
"He's also the channeller you wanted to hire. Care to wrestle for it?"
Carson looked back at her chief of security, then over to the head of her Psychic Arts department, and decided everyone still present needed less arguing, more sleep.
"Get some rest gentlemen, this isn't over, but it will keep for now."
Monday, August 27, 2007, later in the morning. Seriously?
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Thomas Jensen turned to glare at the irresponsible, infuriating idiot addressing him before he could wake up.
"Thank you for making it back early. Needed you. Like always. But, you know. Thanks."
"I," Thomas paused, then frowned, taking in the sight of his exhausted friend. Judging by the shadows interlaced in his aura, Mads was more than a little hurt. "You're welcome. Sit down, eat something."
"Yeah. I could do that."
By the time Thomas got back with a mug of coffee and a couple of pastries the other should be able to eat, the schmuck was asleep at the table.
There are limits to charitable behavior at that age.
Thomas was halfway back to Twain before Mads' doctor found out he had been dropped off at the clinic.
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Things Which Metro's Author Is No Longer Allowed To Do
- It will NEVER be the underage magician's turn to pick the bar. Ever.
- Concerts and shows are meant to be rated by entertainment value and artistry, not by stun damage, physical damage, bruises, and/or broken bones.
- If the players and GM cannot identify a distinction (other than clothes and face paint) between the PC team of runners and the same number of Halloweener gang members, everyone makes new characters.
Into The Pit: A Prelude Scene
Flashback: March 2075, Sixth World / March 2007 Whateley Universe.
Cronus' Neighborhood Joint, Seattle, UCAS
First things first though. Time to point the little lost breeder kiddie, who just showed up, back Topside before the 'rents start rage-dialing the badges.
Seriously. If the round ears, and missing horns and tusks, weren't enough of a hint that one of these things is not like all the other reindeer, Turlough was unhappily aware of the fact that the kid's head was just about level with his own family jewels. That was so very wrong. Almost as wrong as a rock venue needing a "You must be this be this tall to ride this ride" sign out front. Damn.
"Tourist Town's 'bout closed up kid, do your next-of-kin know where you are?"
The kid looked The Tourbus in the eye, somehow, and smirked "Just my vrukart, and he's more into the tribal scene. I hear the main act is aces tonight? "
Turlough shook his head at the oblivious optimism, "In case you didn't notice, we, um, cater more to," This was getting more uncomfortable by the minute!
"You were expecting someone taller?"
"More like expecting everyone to be a lot taller."
The kid chuckled at that and said, "It wouldn't be the first time. Oh yeah, Mika, that's my editor, Mika's going to blow safeties on me if I don't come up some newsfeed on the show. So ... could you point me to Vriska? I'd like to make sure I can either dupe the club's A/V feeds or rig a couple of my own without getting in the way or having them shot out of the air. We good?"
The bands, and of course the mosh pits, were nova-hot tonight. The audience, right down to the out-of-town reviewer, was stoked.
"Oh my gawd. Dude! You nearly killed that guy!"
"Just got the wind knocked out of him! Cracked rib at worst."
"It's truth. I got 50 says he gets back up."
"Oi! Make a f**************** hole."
"Why does that not make me feel better?"
"Two cracked ribs, an' he's still walking. Pay up."
"... let's hear it for the bands that opened the show tonight. Blades Dancing and Agitprop Orange! Mad props out to 'Baby Devil' over by the bar. Shortest damn troll I ever seen! But we can't do any of this without all of you, our friends, and our fans."
"I'm Kat o'Nine Tales, this has been Grim Aurora, Good night, Seattle!"
"So, 'Matt'. What did you think, about the show and all?"
"Let's see. The venue pulled in a helluva good crowd - haven't seen the like since I was in London last year. All of the sets were tight. Hm. I'm a little ashamed at being surprised by your new material feeling, well, new. Either I missed the last couple of tour dates, or you just haven't hit backwaters like the Midwest recently."
"Where in the Midwest?"
"Detroit. Born in Bug City, but raised a Motor City boy."
Kat looked down into her drink, "We try to avoid playing in cities that randomly catch fire and explode - like Detroit over the last year or two." Looking up, directly into his eyes, "For the record, I'd like to see my hometown, Seattle, stay out of that category as long as it can, Al1ce."
"I agree with the sentiment, but I think you've got the wrong person."
"Then, hypothetically speaking, if the 'Motor City Wrecking Crew' were to move in, please convey to whoever you might know who might be concerned, that the local situation requires far more discretion and far less destruction than they are alleged to be known for."
She continued, more playfully, "What? Didn't you think someone might think to run a background check on the only changeling wizkid in a bar filled with trolls? When the horns came out, you scared the pants off some of those punks."
Kat reached out and tussled the young shadowrunner's hair a bit. "I recognized you. You were one of the rowdiest guys in the pit at that dive we played in London last year. If I remember correctly, you were also a lot more beat up that night. Not judging." Her smile shifted from reminiscence, to something more predatory. "Tonight, it now seems that a certain loudmouth owes me money for betting that Interpol would catch the gunrunners lost by the Gardaí back then. The night just keeps getting better. Give my regards to Mika, will you?"
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"I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee"
-- "Tom's Diner", Suzanne Vega
There should be a rule against having a "First Assembly" on a Saturday morning at the start of an extended holiday weekend. Mads Jensen was even less impressed on learning about the "tradition" of marching the students in by house, with Hawthorne up front and center. First in, last out. If that didn't emphasize to the student body that the cottage's residents were officially intended to be at the bottom of the social order, nothing would.
Then there was the follow-up message, in which he was informed that he'd be "allowed" to attend the Assembly by remote video feed from his room. For the health and safety of your fellow students.
"I get those notices too," commiserated Phlegm when Mads had mentioned it at breakfast. "But what they really mean is that they don't want me mucking up the upholstery. At least I never came close to driving the powers testing staff out of their own labs!"
"And he fills it
I even argue
He is looking
Out the window
Crystal Hall, late morning
The weather cooperated beautifully with the planned "meet and greet" picnic out on the quad. Sunny, breezy, cool: "Chamber of Commerce" weather as some would say. The Crystal Hall staff had set up a professional array of outdoor event food prep stations, and the sweet smells of smoke and barbecue competed with condiment stands, soda, Student Organization tables, and a riot of color and music as different groups took the opportunity to show off their various styles. The "yellow flag" day may have dampened some of the students' powers displays, but not much of the enthusiasm.
When Mads and a group of other Hawthorne kids got out of the elevator at Crystal Hall, they were greeted with a large "Picnic! OUTSIDE!!" sign. The dining facility itself was mostly still set up for between-meals cleaning, although a few tables had been cleared by earlier-arriving kids from Twain and Whitman.
"If you want to eat lunch sometime today, you'll need to send one of your prettier friends out with your ID to get it from one of the food lines," one of the boys volunteered. Judging by the bat-like wings he was sporting, he had to be from Twain. "If you need something from 'special meals', you might be able to catch one of the kitchen staff when they come back in to re-stock the grills," another added.
A few minutes of adjusting hoodies, caps, other things, and swapping meal cards found another group of students working around the oversights. It would take a couple of trips, even with an illusion cast on Jello, but that wouldn't be too hard to manage. Metro had only been through the line twice by the time Antenna had been able to snag his lunch for him. He still ended up stuck at a table by himself. Between being a "pretty", wearing a "UV" band, and eating lunch from a well-marked foil package (might as well be a sippy cup), he was finding open seats at occupied tables to be rather scarce.
To no one's surprise, Faction 3 remembered to show interest in the GSD kids stuck inside. Most of them, but emphatically not all. After dumping his emptied meal pack into one of the hazmat containers, Mads decided it was time to take a hint and head outside for some fresh air. The arrangement of the club tables were just a bit revealing of various social divides. For example, there appeared to be no less than three martial arts groups on-campus, and none of them wanted anything to do with the others. "Whateley Martial Arts Cheerleaders" - did the school even HAVE sports teams? - probably was not for him. "Dragons"? No, just no. Even if there weren't real wizworms running around. That made his first stop The Tigers.
"'It is always
Nice to see you'
Says the man
Behind the counter
To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
The Quad, late morning
By a process of elimination, Stunner and Damballah were left manning the fort for the Tigers. While it was one thing to have someone at the table to "represent" (and to avoid pointless vandalism), it would have been another to have some of the more political members as the public face of the club. They wanted the African Diaspora students to feel welcomed, not chased off before they could meet anyone else. That didn't mean the sawed-off piece of europrivilege headed their way had to be welcomed, now did it?
"Take it easy, sister. Cold Brutha say he knows this one." The Jamaican sophomore's voice held equal parts warning and humor.
"How does, no, wait. Do I want to know how he knows that kid?"
Damballah chuckled, "You're learning. That's good." Then he called out to the freshman walking up, "Good day, cousin!"
"Good day to you too! For some reason, I'm sure I know you from some place," he scratched his head in puzzlement, then brightened up, "I'm Mads Jensen, going by 'Metro' here. Pleased to meet you?"
The Tiger signalled for a moment's pause, and then a large bleached-bones white snake came slithering out from his mouth to take an honored place on the boy's shoulder. "We are Damballah. This is Cold Brutha and I am Warm Brutha. And the lovely young lady sitting next to us is Daphne Bosworth, also known as Stunner."
"A Stunner indeed, but where are my manners?" Just as Stunner's companion's voice had changed, there was a change from tenor to contralto in the freshman's voice as his accent shifted from London to Dublin, "Cheers Cousin, how's it been hanging? Don't mind Madsy, he can be an arse, but he's family from way back." In a more normal tone, and directed to the snake, "Duty calls, I suspect. But I think Brigitte's glad to see you taking an active interest, regardless of what it may foretell."
"Yes. Likewise, little ghede. Interesting days ahead."
As the snake returned to its place, Daphne took a closer look at "Madsy". The kid's skin was nearly as white as the snake, and by a trick of the light it almost looked like he was wearing a black suit, trimmed in bloody red and icy lavender. If the wind had blown from his direction, the ancestral parts of her brain knew the scents of funeral pyres and marsh-drowned cemetaries would taint the air. The moment passed and all there was was just a blond-haired boy, slight and pale, with a crooked smile before her. "Sorry to have bothered you all, I just felt a need to say hello before my other half finds me and drags me away." He nodded a slight bow, and headed off to annoy one of the other clubs.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"This never happened?"
Not to see them
I pour the milk"
Some Christian Paranormal Fellowship or something, had the positive feature of investigating paranormal threats. The negative features involved one Reverend Darren Englund, and the distinct impression that some of the members had been handed Mads' picture as a paranormal threat to lethally investigate.
Note to self: those sigils on the Chapel entrances still need researching.
Up the paper
There's a story
Of an actor
Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of
And I'm turning
To the horoscope
For the funnies
When I'm feeling
Someone watching me
I raise my head"
Being thoroughly dismissed by The Future Superheroes of America was almost refreshing. Among Metro's numerous faults:
- Failure to manifest as an Exemplar
- Barring that, failure to manifest as a "PK Superman" or a "Package Deal Psychic"
- Having the horrific bad taste to manifest any measure of GSD
"Somehow, I just cannot picture you as some selfless hero swooping down out of the skies to save a village. Burning one down? That's a different story. Berlin comes to mind."
"Love you too, Thomas," Mads smirked back at the taller, dark-haired boy who'd walked up behind him. "And Berlin was entirely Not My Fault. See any clubs you can stand, other than the role-players?"
Thomas thought about it, "The Nations seem like they're getting things together. Neither of us are formally tribal members, so that's a hard sell. Watch out for Bluejay, he sees a lot more than he lets on."
Mads looked over, "Which one's that?"
<The handsome and intelligent one, blue hair, standing right behind you!>
As Mads struggled to get both hearts back down from his throat, Thomas Jensen demonstrated his maturity by laughing at his friend's near-panic.
<Payback is mine, Blue Boy, and it shall be glorious.> "Maybe I should fill your iPod with recordings of love songs, sung by Thomas here, in Tlingit?"
The blue-haired Alpha waggled his eyebrows suggestively as he bent down a bit to face the tow-haired freshman, "Maybe I'd enjoy that?"
Thomas drawled out, "More than you'd enjoy hearing Mads mangle Dansk."
"I'm working on it!"
"And I'll be waiting on those recordings, or maybe more entertaining payback, wink, wink, nudge, nudge." With that, Bluejay popped back over to the Nations' table.
"There's a woman
On the outside
Does she see me?
No she does not
Really see me
Cause she sees
Her own reflection
And I'm trying
Not to notice
That she's hitching
Up her skirt"
That didn't leave too many of the special-interest clubs.
The "European Promotional League" didn't seem too popular. Their table was set up next to one labelled "Intelligence Corps of Cadets", so their could be some membership overlap - two unpopular clubs for the low, low price ... According to his commlink, cell phone, whatever, they still had some time before catching a bus into town.
"'European Promotional League'. Has the joke about how could a continent need promotion ..."
"Three times already. Un fois en français." The sophomore manning the table looked resigned to the prospect of more lame jokes at the club's expense. She was cute, in a Gallic sort of way. If even her boyfriend wasn't hanging around?
Oh boy. "What's with the table? I would have thought"
"... that the Administration would think to provide a proper list of foreign students to invite? But no. By the time we get to meet many of our fellow Europeans, they've already become immersed in the other clubs, and then it is too late to make a good impression. For example, two incoming freshman are named 'Jensen', but one is Canadian and the other Danish. Which is which?"
Mads suggested, "The Danish one probably answers to 'Jensen', instead of 'Jensen'", pronouncing "Yensen" and "Jensen" differently.
"Oui, but on paper ..." the French girl agreed, before changing to a more positive tack, "I'm Adalie Vitesse, code-named Charge, and you are?"
"Mads Christian Jensen, and this is my good friend, Thomas Jensen." Mads jerked a thumb back toward his friend, "He's from British Canadia." That earned a spit-take from the next table. Ontarian or Quebecois? "Or, Metro and Valravn. I'm guessing the code names didn't help tell us apart."
"Non. Would you be interested in our club? At least give us a chance to show you what we are about?" Charge looked hopeful, for what was probably the first time since she'd been abandoned at the table by her friends.
"I'd like that, but I have to admit up front that while I have European citizenship, from Kongeriget Danmark and the United Kingdom, I've lived most of my life in Detroit. I may know less about European cultures than many of the other students here."
That brought on a scowl, "That would be more difficult than you could imagine."
<Worse than my ####### french? Impossible.>
"That, that ..." It seemed that Ms Vitesse had led a more sheltered life than otherwise.
"That is what happens when you take a crash course from a former Legionnaire."
Thomas chipped in, "Speaking of crash courses, he learned to drive in Cairo. Not pretty. Very much like his French."
"I'm fairly certain that no one asked you your opinion of my driving skills," the mood whiplash was even more exaggerated as Mads' accent veered a bit more towards Received Pronunciation. The accompanying miming of tie-straightening with that nose-in-the-air stiff upper lip sold it.
Thomas rebutted, "Quite true. The exact wording was "He'p me, Jesus!", before the prayers started in earnest." Even the euro-snob in Adalie's head gave up at that, and she started to laugh. He managed a few more jobes at his friend's expense to keep the conversation from plunging back into a toxic silence, even getting the 'Intelligence Corps Cadet' to introduce herself. Soon enough though, "Dude. The time."
"Ah! Oh, right. The comedian and I need to catch the next bus into Dunwich. It was good meeting you, if you email me the meeting times I can see if I'm overcommited yet or not, yes? Au revoir!"
As they watched the two head off in the right direction to catch a bus, Kew leaned over to Adelie, "You know he's trying to pull the wool over your eyes?"
Charge smiled an 'I know something you don't' smile, "Per'aps, per'aps not. I recall seeing both of them at drill with the other ROTC cadets yesterday. Some of the cadences the short one attempted were ... très intéressant. The sergeants had much to say about that."
"I'll bet. How was the view? Should we inform Phase that you'd love to see a guy in a uniform?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe for Halloween? I never thought I'd say this, but I may suggest whatever he wears have room for holdouts."
"You wouldn't be the only one thinking that, Charge. Not the only one at all."
"And while she's
Straightening her stockings
Has gotten wet
Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I'm listening
To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice...
And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began..."
Thomas Jensen didn't need their link to tell that Mads was happy to get to go some place, nearly any place, that wasn't on-campus. The guy was almost as wound up as a six-year-old devisor mainlining pixie sticks and coffee. No wonder that after recovering from the abduction and all the surgeries afterward a few years ago, his doctors had been willing to let the kid escape into the Detroit streets for a while. Tailed the whole time, but otherwise uncaged.
It wouldn't do to let the excitement over heading into some little podunk town become too infectious, but Thomas did let a smile sneak onto his own face. If it overpowered his own last memories of the place, being called away while his soulmate stumbled to a bench, bleeding, so very much the better. "It wasn't your fault. Try to remember that," he half-heard, half-felt as he opened his eyes (When had he closed them?) and looked into two hazel orbs shadowed in concern.
"I'll take that under advisement. We there yet?"
"Just about. Do I need to remind your friends on the Dream Team that you need to get enough sleep too? Maybe I should sic Cadeucis on them?" Sometimes it was hard to distinguish concern from mayhem in his magician's screwed-up mind.
Soon enough, the boys found themselves at the door of the fabled Rogers' Fabric Boutique. "We could be a few minutes early, but if we stop to do anything else we'll just be late." Thomas figured that with their luck, 'late' wouldn't even begin to cover the potential outcomes. He also knew that saying so would be to openly tempt fate. He settled for following Mads inside.
A pleasant feminine voice rang out from the back, "If you could have a seat, I'll be out shortly!"
"That's fine. We're a few minutes early I think!" Mads replied, and promptly forgot the 'have a seat' directive to inspect some of the fabrics on display in the front of the store. Something something worrisome in the planning works comes. Hopefully, these fabrics are largely fireproof.
The wait wasn't very long at all before a young woman in a shop coat, who had to be Miss Rogers, led one of Whateley's more stunning students to the front to settle accounts and deliveries. Thomas found himself staring. Then he found himself being stared back at, with more than a little exasperation. Three, two, one ... *ahem* "That's MY boyfriend, mister. Back. Off." Mads Jensen, the diplomat, not.
Oh, my. There were very "male" energies playing through the student's aura, but the hair style, breasts, hips, and leg proportions were very clearly "female" ... and the person inside it all was badly embarrassed. Thomas mentally stepped back and pictured a more androgynous outfit on the young, man, then realized.
"Ayla! I didn't recognize you dressed up. erm, Mads? Down, boy. This is one of the TAs for Poe Cottage."
"Excuse me? Do I know either of you?"
"Mads Jensen," at least he was offering a handshake instead of assault, "and you would be?"
"Ayla Goodkind, yes, one of those Goodkinds." Phase got through the first part of a litany before realizing that the Jensen boy in front of him had no clue what a Goodkind was supposed to be. "But I'm a student at Whateley, as I gather both of you are."
"Ayla. Goodkind. At Poe." It was surprisingly cute, watching the young mage mentally grind gears, "You're Melissa's cousin? Melissa from upstairs?"
"If you mean Melissa Thurber-Goodkind, then yes. Otherwise, no. If she's upstairs from you that would place you in Hawthorne as well, correct? You don't look like you'd have much need to be there."
In response, Mads motioned for the other to wait, pulled off his hat, revealing two blue-black horns, or possibly antlers, and handed the hat off to Thomas. That was followed by his tie, and once he unbuttoned the shirt's collar button, a pair of purplish slashes across both sides of his neck became visible. Ironically, the gills that looked so much like a slit throat actually were supported by cartilage that made effective throat-slitting less effective. Ayla looked suitably ill.
"Would you like to see more? There are four more pairs of thoracic gills under my shirt. That's one of the reasons it was recommended that I seek Miss Rogers' help. She's one of THE experts at tailoring around metatraits like that."
"They don't seem to be posing much problem for you now. I'm surprised you're in Hawthorne."
Mads shrugged, "Problems are all about how you deal with them. I still have a few months of hydrotherapy ahead until the doctors are happy with my oxygen levels while asleep. Even then, let's just say that finding a roommate for me will be a challenge."
Miss Rogers, sensing Ayla's mounting discomfort, stepped in. "Well then, Mister Jensen, since you've already started taking your clothes off, why don't you step into the measuring cabinet over there. Once in, follow ALL the instructions, please."
"I should be leaving if I want to catch the next bus back. Cecilia, thank you again for seeing me. As always, I look forward to doing more business with you," turning back to Thomas, "I'm sorry. I don't think I ever got your name?"
"Thomas Jensen. Valravn. I'm over in the boys' wing. And, yes I am," smiled Thomas, letting implications sink in, "Don't worry. You didn't offend him by asking instead of assuming."
After Phase had left, and Thomas stepped into the measuring cabinet, the human monkeywrench struck again. It seemed he wanted something made from something he had on hand that he didn't want Thomas to see yet. Miss Rogers looked reluctant to have anything to do with it. Smart lady.
"Mads, if she knows enough to be worried, chances are she knows enough to keep a confidence or two. So where'd you get the dry goods?" Thomas said, taking in the developing scene.
"I might have exchanged some goods and services while I was out, for some end-pieces a certain Lady Angharad was interested in parting with. Before you ask, yes I did thoroughly examine what I received, before and after."
"So, Tír na nÓg. It's not like clothing is an unknown thing there." Turning to Miss Rogers, Thomas clarified, "We both do know better than to pull goods from some person's grave."
"There are some really good curses for that, by the way." Thank you so much Mads, for Not Helping. "But that's what I've been trying to say, that these are the products of a free and unencumbered exchange."
"Nonetheless, I want to have the fabric checked out by someone I trust before going any further with them. That's final." Miss Rogers took the wrapped package to the back. One can only assume she had some means of storing enchanted or other unusual fabrics. Whateley wasn't far away after all. Or Miskatonic U for that matter.
When she returned, it was back to work. Unfortunately, when an expert on all fabrics and their uses is teamed up with a scion of a major munitions and security services corporation to discuss uniforms for a school that literally has combat finals ... Thomas found a couple of magazines to read.
The sound of fingers snapping woke Thomas up. This time he was prepared for the extreme invasion of personal space. At this distance, he could count the veins in Mads' eyes. "Yep. I'm going to have to have a few words with some folks about keeping certain other folks awake at all hours." He barely had time to register that his friend had changed clothes, before he was "helped" up. "We need you to check the fit on some of these garments before Cecilia goes to work on the rest."
Thomas made a mental note to thank his namesake for his memories as a full dress uniform was hung over one arm and he was herded behind a standing screen to change. From those he knew what went where, and whether all the insignia were correctly placed. The need to check the garment's fit quickly became apparent, as some of the accessories were NOT normally part of a cadet's uniform, unless the cadet in question was very, very paranoid and really did have enemies.
Once dressed, Thomas was guided to the shop's dressing mirrors. Well, now. He did look sharp, no doubt about that. But who the hell was that behind him, suit-and-tied, leaning against the counter, and staring at him like a present to be unwrapped? The effect was ruined when the stranger handed Miss Rogers a twenty, "I knew where to look and I still can't pick out the knife sheaths from here."
Mads walked up with another bundle of clothing. "Here. Since everything there fits, you can change into these. Cecilia's been good enough to put together enough basics to carry us through to classes. I'll wash what we've borrowed from the school's Goodwill stash and return what's wearable." The newer set of clothes was in a casual Western style - someone liked playing 'dress up the air spirit' - but the fabrics all had that feel of very high-end performance synthetics. You can take the kiddie from the Corp, maybe, with enough firepower, but you can't take the Corp from the kiddie.
Miss Rogers noticed the attention Thomas was paying to the clothing, and tactfully ignored the attention Mads was paying to Thomas, "The fabrics have been treated to make them as stain-, sweat-, and tear- resistant as feasible without making them unwearable. You Whateley students are pretty rough on your clothes, some far more than others."
Mads explained, "I didn't want to say anything in front of Phase, but our sponsors, as well as Doyle Medical, and Security, had already contacted Cecilia about expanded safety requirements. For both of us. Because, well, you know." Sensing he was about to add more than he wanted to say, the boy looked down at the suddenly interesting toes of his shoes.
Miss Rogers picked up the dropped ball, "You can expect the rest of the clothing and uniforms by the end of the week or so, since I don't plan on working through the holiday. The packages will also include mailers. If any of my garments fails, or needs repair, you can use one of those to send the damaged items in for repair. Here are a couple of my cards. I can always use new business or new challenges, as the case may be. And boys?"
"Try not to get yourselves hurt or killed. There will be a number of formal dances throughout the school year, and it would be refreshing to see more young men NOT afraid to take part."
"We'll give it the old College try!"
"I don't think that Miskatonic counts"
"I finish up my coffee
It's time to catch the train"
-- "Tom's Diner", Suzanne Vega
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-- Diamond's are a Vamp's Best Friend or: Brouhaha at Tiffany's by Bek D Corbin
Sir Wallace Westmont had honestly worked at his public image of the dapper gentleman in service to Queen and Country, one of sufficient means and unimpeachable character (or perhaps a roguish loyalty to the Crown) that neither bribery nor blackmail would cross a competitor's mind. If he had a well-known "weakness" for beautiful and strong women, well then, they'd have to measure up to his dear Suzanah, wouldn't they? Where he stood today was a far cry from a certain young Lincolnshire farmer's son who dreamed of a more exciting life than a bit of trade school, maybe a hitch in the RAF, and then back to work the soil he'd be buried in. Each episode he'd managed to see of "The Saint", "The Prisoner", "Mission: Impossible", and the like, but John Steed was his hero.
If learning a bit of sleight-of-hand impressed his schoolmates, or combining a bit of card manipulation, tarot, and cold reading impressed his dates, so much the better toward his pursuit of that small amount of spycraft he could take hold of. But farms and the families they support thrive or falter on the wind, the rain, the weather. Out of necessity, he'd paid very close attention to the underlying signs and patterns behind those cthonic forces. Sometimes he fancied he could influence them after a fashion, much like a pack of cards or a willing, "if-only-they'd-ask!" prospective date. Seasons turn and sometimes young lads do grow to see their dreams (and a few too many nightmares) come true.
That being so, he of all people could understand young Mr. DeWitt's fixation on the fictional Harry Callahan. That did not mean that there were never times he'd been tempted to drop-kick the Winnipeg Junior into Saskatchewan. Judging by the letter sent to Whateley Academy from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ths summer, the RCMP would be ever so happy to punt Mr DeWitt and Miss Pollard to Alberta, if there weren't a good chance that Prairie Sun and Fly By would return them to sender. He'd have to keep the document for future reference, as it was a masterpiece example of "scathing." At least Miss (and sometimes Mr.) Sawyer and Miss Etincelle managed to make less of an impression on the French MCO than certain other young travellers to that part of Europe.
But summer inevitably gives way to autumn, students come back to old haunts and old habits, and it was soon taking much his training as an impartial third-party observer and as a wizard to prevent his migraine from unleashing itself as a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. The notoriously snobbish "Beret Mafia" had somehow managed to draw some student interest at the start of the term. That the Intelligence Cadet Corps was not so successful in drawing new students to the "cause" (of harassing the Bad Seeds, Masterminds, Venus Incorporated, the Workshop, among other student groups) was somehow deemed to be proof of the criminal machinations of said targets. Jesus wept. The cause of this new rivalry was that ONE European JROTC cadet had chatted up the Euro-Promotional League and pretty much ignored the ICC. This was taken as an indicator that the freshmen in the JROTC program needed careful vetting by the Cadets before the military elements on campus could teach them how to avoid such scrutiny. The idea that matters touching on national security were best left to the respective military intelligence units (Thank you, Reach and Rez!) fell on deaf ears.
Too soon enough, someone got the bright idea of flying a functioning, recording surveillance drone around a Sidhe wizard who not only had been enhanced with classified military technologies, but was still jumpy over being abducted by a "rogue" CIA operation months prior. Luckily, Whisper had excellent aim, and no one was hurt. The excuse of "I'm in Whitman too! I was just testing it out here instead of going somewhere else." fell as flat on his ears as it had Whitman Cottage's house mother, Trish Savage. He'd concede that it was more plausibly deniable than bugging Hagarty's bra, but not much more.
Sir Wallace should have seen the next escapade coming, given the detention given. Perhaps he could blame it all on a migraine?
Because the nefarious Mastermind, Jello, resided there, in addition to Phase's frequent visits (to her own cousin), it was decided among certain circles that Hawthorne Cottage was in need of more electronic surveillance. If nothing else, the potential connection to a Danish JROTC cadet could not be ignored - as an expression of international cooperation! The idea that Denmark might not want their citizens surveilled by a group of American and Canadian high schoolers somehow was missed in the planning stage. Likewise, the reality that the Cottage currently hosted no less than four students on Security's UltraViolent List, three of them known to have body counts in their past, also was omitted from the planning.
Jimmy Trauger smashed the few devises he came across. Eldritch fried a few and took some of the more uniquely-sourced bugs to Chief Delarose. Cyberkitty sent a cheerful email promising to have "fun" with the next batch. The fourth UV student opted for a more personal touch.
"Sir Wallace? Mads Jensen. I'm given to understand that you're one of the Mystical Arts instructors as well as a faculty advisor for a campus club. Might I have a moment of your time?"
"Certainly. Do sit down, please." Because it's usually more difficult to draw your pistol while sitting. "Is this about some class homework you need help with, or does this have to do with my other academic duties?"
"A bit of both, perhaps."
"Do go on."
"I'm in Dr. Tenent's 6th period Magical Theory class, and one of the topics we've covered has been various 'laws of magic'. Dominion, Definition, and so forth."
Sir Wallace had heard quite a bit about that particular class already this year, and this was already sounding like something he did not want to hear about. "Right. Under some conditions, those could be considered principles or maybe only rules of thumb. How binding or effective they are often depends on the magician or their tradition - if they have one - as much as they'd depend on anything else."
"So I've gathered. Hypothetically speaking, how might one expect the effects of the Laws of, say, Nemesis, Similarity, and Contagion, possibly Intent, to interact with a technological devise?" the freshman mused.
"Hypothetically, given the concentration, skill, and intent with which a devisor crafts their devises, there could be a link between the creator and their works. Such a link could even be used against the devise's creator."
"In that case," the boy stated, very carefully in case of recording, "perhaps you might convey that information to the members of the club you sponsor."
The boy then dropped a small, shattered pile of electronics on the instructor's desk. "That is, if they do not contact you themselves. You see, while your charges may not consider foreign objects lodging themselves in the water tank I need to sleep in, in order to breathe at night, to be a matter of concern, I do. Should such activities persist, I will be contacting Security and Administration for their legal opinions on the matter." Jensen rose and said "Thank you for your time. I do hope for an amicable resolution, although I understand that I am in no position to dictate such outcomes." The boy paused, and then gestured as if using a computer screen before continuing, "Erm, judging by the feedback I'm picking up, you may wish to answer the incoming call. No, on the tapped phone line."
"Miss Quenton, what a surprise. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Is that so? Out of curiosity, how many devises in total 'just' broke down?"
"I see. You weren't using your school laptop to monitor them, were you?"
"Why yes, I do believe that you should bring it to me. In turn, I'll take it to the Mystical Arts department for evaluation."
"Come again, who do you think is responsible? Now why would he be involved in the Intelligence Cadet Corps' business?"
"In an aquarium? You don't say. All things considered, I think that you should meet me at Doyle Medical Center, in Dr. Tenent's office, I will be there in ten minutes, and expect you to be there as well."
"My dear, I assure you that it is indeed in the best interests of your continued health."
"In ten minutes, Miss Quenton."
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Tuesday, 4 PM, Doyle Medical Clinic
Wondering why she would need to meet the Spy Kidz' faculty advisor at the clinic, Kew managed a bit more haste than she normally would. So it was that she was a little out of breath when she knocked on the doctor's office door.
"Come in, Miss Quenton. You know Sir Wallace, of course. Have you met Dr. Guiterrez?" Turning, Dr. Tenent continued, "Doctor, this is Miss Emily Quenton, codenamed Kew. Emily, did you bring the equipment you believe was damaged by Mr. Jensen?"
"Yes, ma'am. I was wondering why I needed to bring it here?" the student answered, as she dug into her backpack for the laptop.
Dr. Guiterrez replied, "You did say that it was one of the Mystical Arts students that could have caused the damage, and there can be physical risks from being too close to a destructive spell of unknown type and origin." Usually hypochondria was left hinted at. However, how long have you had a problem with being out of breath? Has it been an ongoing thing, or is it more recent? Just set that on the desk."
"Um. Not that I know of. Sure, I get a little out of breath now and then, but it's not like I'm sick or anything."
"I've been told that by any number of cardiac patients and anemics. I think we ought to add a CBC and metabolic panel to the requested tests, just to be on the safe side. Now, if you'll come along with me, we can get started with the examination. Radiology will let us know when they're ready for you."
Doctor Guiterrez asked her colleague, "Doctor, you're certain we won't need to ask the technicians in Lab W to stay over?"
"It shouldn't be necessary unless something unusual is found in the MRI. Given the young lady's listening habits, I worry more about the audiogram."
"Wait! Don't you want to know what the jerk did to me, first?"
"Miss Quenton, that is what we are looking into. Meanwhile, I strongly suggest you cooperate with Doctor Guiterrez."
"Come along, Miss Quenton. I'm sure you don't to be here any longer than you have to be."
With that, the anxious student was led out of the office.
Westmont spoke before the silence could become tense, "Your initial impression, Doctor?"
"She doesn't show any indications that she could have cast such the spell. She also doesn't show any obvious indications of being under a curse."
"I'd agree with both assessments."
"What I do see is a rush to judgement - of a boy whom I'm not even sure she's met. One of my chief concerns is that I could be in surgery right now, trying to extricate one of her devises from the boy's chest cavity and she would still be attempting to put the blame squarely on the boy."
"Isn't that a bit harsh?"
"Sir Wallace, you'll notice that she didn't bring any of the other damaged equipment, so she's aware that she's been doing something that would get her in trouble. I'm more worried that I'm not being harsh enough." Ophelia sighed. "Next on the list of hypothetical 'suspects', you can exclude She-Beast, Nacht, even Nephandus. They wouldn't have left traces of a spell on something that would be brought in for examination. Dragonrider? If she's capable of this, I've seen no indication of it in her schoolwork. Exclude Valravn too."
"I agree, but might I ask why the last one?"
"She's still walking and breathing. Both boys are violently over-protective of each other."
"I ... see."
"So? Up for a little forensic magic? We might get lucky and find out that Metro meant to send a message."
"Lead on, dear lady"
Elsewhere on Campus
Roughly an hour later, Maintenance called in to report that a Spy Kidz Special was found jammed in a critical water pump. That and a damaged spycam that had no business being pointed at a kid's bed were being sent to Security tonight. Tomorrow they'd be draining the system for a tear-down, inspection, cleaning, and rebuild. Maybe it could be finished faster with a work pass for Shroud? Speaking of which, they were very happy to be stuck with this instead of conducting a fact-finding in a student's death.
"Guys? Is anyone planning on going over to Hawthorne after dinner?" Jinn called out over the Kimba spots.
Toni was the first to respond, "What? You need someone to help you beat Diz at Scrabble?"
"No. Metro had a close call this afternoon, so everyone's kind of upset. It's not the sort of gossip that needs to go around at dinner."
"What happened?" While the whole team had friends in Hawthorne Cottage, Ayla had family there as well.
"Someone was playing spy games and jammed a recirc pump up with a listening devise. No one's hurt, but he's stuck using one of the tanks at Doyle until it's fixed."
Lancer chimed in, dreading another runaway spot conversation, "That's the second JROTC cadet I know of that's been targeted. Metro's bravo-foxtrot is also JROTC, and in Poe. Nikki, any chance you can sweep my room and Val's?"
"Sir Wallace added that to my homework. Both rooms are bug-free, if not exactly clean."
"No offense, Hank, but Danny could learn a lesson or two from you."
Tuesday, 6 PM, Doyle Medical Clinic
Sir Wallace was impressed by the number of tests that could be run against a mostly inert piece of modern electronics. On the other hand, the number of tests that needed to be run to rule out various possibilities was a testament to teenaged ingenuity and youthful knacks for destruction. "So. What have we learned here?"
"That one of your students plants listening devices by reflex, even in places where she should know better?" That would be a low blow if the girl hadn't done just that.
"Or that one of my problem students actually paid attention in class?" So the doctor could find some levity in the situation. "Sympathetic magic to link the targets and broadcast the spell effects, contagion to limit them to the linked electronics. The signature of the residual energies looks too much like spontaneous magic to pin it on any one culprit."
"Moving on then, scrying the last display image demonstrates that Kew was surveilling Metro, demonstrating that he had motive and opportunity." The doctor dragged her hands down across her face before continuing, "He also had a damned good reason to do more than to tag Kew with what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Most practicing mages would have been much more vindictive, not that I think it will be seen that way. How do you plan to keep the rest of the pack from retaliating?"
Westmont unhappily replied, "I'm open to constructive suggestions, myself."
After almost two hours of testing, Dr. Guiterrez returned with her charge. "Here we are, back where we started. After you, young lady. Doctor, you'll no doubt be happy to know that aside from spending far too much time indoors with headphones on, and not enough exercising, our Miss Quenton is perfectly healthy for a young woman her age. The audiogram showed elevated hearing thresholds near 4,000 Hz but the ears may recover if they're treated better. The other patient?"
"Not so good. It looks like Miss Quenton will be paying for a replacement laptop from this semester's lab allowance."
Kew's response wasn't entirely unexpected, "What? No way! It was Metro's fault. He did it!"
Ignoring the outburst, Dr. Tenent asked, "Doctor Guiterrez, do you recognize the equipment in the lower left corner of this view?"
"Ophelia, why the hell is there an overhead picture of that boy's water tank and aeration equipment here? Isn't filming another student's bed a suspension violation"
"Maybe we should ask Miss Quenton, since this is a silver-print image of the last screen viewed before her laptop was damaged. Miss Quenton?"
"I was working on my history homework. I've no idea how anyone could have added that on-screen."
"That's because it wasn't added. I personally performed the necessary forensic magics on your computer, and the entire procedure was witnessed by Sir Wallace Westmont here. It may not be admissable in most courts, but there is still no mistake that that is what was being displayed when the laptop was damaged."
Continuing, the doctor asked, "Regarding your homework efforts, should I bring in your history teacher, Mr. Williams, to see if he will recognize anything on-screen as homework for his class? We can do that."
"Well, then. I would also like to know what further proof you have that Mr. Jensen damaged your computer. At the time the computer was damaged - see the clock, shown here - he was in Sir Wallace's office."
"I don't need to show proof! He destroyed my gear, so he should pay for it!"
Dr. Guiterrez stepped in, "Ophelia, what aren't you telling the rest of us yet?"
"What is known is that she was illegally recording another student's room, including an overhead view of where he would otherwise be sleeping tonight with sabotaged life-support equipment."
"Don't. you. dare. take that tone with me, young lady. Maintenance found one of the listening devises that you provide to your club left in the recirculation pipe, jammed in one of the pumps. That IS sabotage. Without reliable flow through the forced aeration system, even a sleeping person would rapidly exhaust the oxygen available to them."
"Furthermore, there is the matter of a separate transducer-based devise left unsecured in the tank. One with corners and edges. If that had caught in the boy's gills, he could have bled out in the tank before hypoxia killed him. If it got past one of his thoracic gills, he would have died of pneumothorax and/or drowning. Once the corners started dragging across and into his lungs, he'd be in so much pain that his panicked attempts to breathe would finish the job."
"What we do know is that - whichever outcome was intended - a camera of Miss Quenton's design was well-placed to record the entire process for her and her friends in the Intelligence Cadet Corps, and in fact was streaming to her laptop at the time that the laptop and camera were damaged. What we also know is that if Mr. Jensen had not complained to Sir Wallace this afternoon, then by this time tomorrow we would be involved in a manslaughter investigation, although a very damning case could be made for murder."
The irate doctor finished, "Yet you expect him to pay for damages incurred during your pursuit of unauthorized surveillance?"
"It wasn't unauthorized! Ace and A-Plus,"
It was Sir Wallace's turn to point out. Again. "They have absolutely no authority to authorize what you've been doing, not on this campus, nor in any United States or Canadian jurisdiction. All of you have been reminded of that on more than one occasion." He paused to allow the girl some thought as to what she could have done, "Furthermore, were you thinking you could escape home to Canada to fight extradition if things had turned out badly, I can assure you that that would have been a mistake."
Shocked, Dr. Guiterrez turned to Kew and asked, "What has that boy ever done to you to deserve this treatment?"
Paling at the unjust accusations, all Kew could come up with was, "We just wanted to find out whether it was the Bad Seeds or the Masterminds that had infiltrated the JROTC program to turn potential Intel cadets against us." It had sounded so much more reasonable at the last meeting, what with Phase in so deep with the criminal clubs, and tight with The Grunts using Lancer.
Westmont countered, "That doesn't even begin to explain the equipment found by three other Hawthorn residents."
"Not only does Jello live there, but Phase and the other Kimbettes are always over at the Freak House. Plus, why else would an incoming military-oriented freshman thumb his nose at us and accept an invite from the Beret Mafia? The other cadet with him did the same."
"Excuse me. Is that what this is all about?" Dr. Guiterrez hadn't heard such pettiness in a long time. "You felt snubbed?"
"Are we even talking about the same person? Metro's a Danish citizen. Of course he might have an interest in the Euro-Promotional League,", albeit briefly, from what the staff had heard. "It wouldn't make near as much sense to rush the ICC, as it is one of several clubs that in practice refuse to accept students with GSD, regardless of their charters."
"He's probably only in the Freak House until his powers are under control. Not GSD."
"Then what exactly would you call the small pair of antlers sticking out of his head?" Dr. Tenent hoped that maybe if we ignore him calling them horns, he might stop doing that to irritate the doctors and powers testers. That Raul had bet otherwise had nothing to do with it. The nursing staff has a red nose stashed away for one of his December visits, and a betting pool on the date.
"If they're that easily hidden, it's not really GSD." Trust a teen to take denial to an art form.
Both doctors were certain that the girl hadn't seen the boy, maybe any boy, with his shirt off. Dr. Guiterrez was worried about her colleague's blood pressure, but some things remained to be said, "So in your judgement as a medical professional, the fact that the freshman we are talking about must spend a portion of every day breathing clean fresh water has nothing at all to do with any structural changes to his body?"
"I didn't say that!"
"Sir Wallace, if you would see Miss Quenton safely out?"
"That would be a good idea. We'll talk more later, I'm sure."
"Young lady, I suggest you stick to your actual coursework for the next few days while the school's Administration decides what to do with you and your accomplices."
Dr. Guiterrez added, "Remember what I told you. You still need to spend less time listening to anything over headphones or earbuds with the volume on high. At your age, your ears may recover, otherwise those elevated hearing thresholds near 4000 Hz will become deafness later in life. I'll also be recommending that Sir Wallace's colleague, Ms. Hagarty, develop an after-hours exercise program for you and the other club members. It never hurts to make fitness and the discipline behind it a habit, even for exemplars."
Wednesday, 12 AM, Doyle Medical Clinic
"Good evening, Nurse Lipton. Graveyard shift again?"
The nurse smiled, "If it isn't Jensen and Jensen! To what do we owe the pleasure?"
"Someone dumped a toy down the drain and jammed a pump, just my luck. The docs won't let me sleep with the fishies, so here I am!"
That killed the mood.
"Goddammit, Mads. You know what that phrase means."
"But I like fishies! I used to be able to just hang out under the pier if the water wasn't too cold."
"Oh, yes. I can't blame folks for worrying about him passing out, but please tell me there's an order in to counteract it?"
"There is. Let me get vitals for now, then I'll come back with the meds. OK. Go ahead and get the temperature set."
"Same old routine, yeah?" Mads hated being the patient, but Thomas was looking unhappy, so less whining more jokes.
"A toy down the drain. You owe me an explanation." Yep. Grumpy air spirit is grumpy. Still cute, but grumpy-grumpy.
"The Secret Squirrels got a little ambitious while I was in class earlier. Someone mistook the water tank for an aquarium, and got sloppy with mic placements. Now, if we had more aquaria with meal-sizes fish, we might not have that problem: Fish? Aquarium. No fish? Someone's thrice-bedamned oxygen supply."
Thomas wasn't exactly comforted by that, "I trust you didn't leave it at that? Just like any other bullies, they'll just keep at it if you let them." Unlike other bullies, you can't just set them on fire.
"Nah. I need to show you the cool variation of 'shatter' I came up with. But first, we need to sweep your room at some point."
"I do know the basics. Maybe I'll ask Fey to double-check in case the Spy Kidz are equal-opportunity offenders."
"That works. Oh joy. Is this for me, Nurse, or is there an elephant in need of meds?"
"I could always check to see if the pharmacy has the same dosage in suppository form."
"Nope! I'm good!"
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The plan itself was simple. Wait for the perp to show up for lunch, and then the Cadets would invite themselves to sit with him while explaining the errors of his ways. He had BMA fourth period in Laird Hall, so if he chose to stonewall them, he'd be stuck explaining his tardiness to Senseis Ito and Tolman. If he managed to slip away, there were any number of glitchy security cameras, and he'd still be late to his next class.
Kenya 'Rez' McAllen was surprised to see Killstench walk over to the meal line where their target was waiting for food. "What is up with that?" she asked, nudging Darren 'Holdout' Colm. The school's #3 UltraViolent wasn't known for being a social person outside of Bloodwolf's crew. She refused to reflect on the extent that that could be said of some of the other Intelligence Cadet Corps members. Come to think of it, Ace's "my way or the highway" leadership style and rejection any laws that get in the way of his vendettas wasn't all that different from N'Dizi's. Both had excellent skills for use in isolating their little fiefdoms from the rest of the school. Swap Alakazam for A-Plus, and Kenya was very glad her telepathic gifts extended more to machines than people.
"What?" her boyfriend looked up from his lunch, "Huh. Maybe our boy's torqued off some of the other uvies as well? Going by what Andy and Emily had to say last night, that would not be a huge surprise." He had a nagging suspicion that they hadn't been given the whole story, but with tempers flaring as they were, taking action on that suspicion seemed likely to make Ace and Kew dig in with even more resolution. What he wasn't going to do was let Rez get pressured into skipping out on her own classes for something that could wait until the end of the day or better yet, once the rest of the team calmed down.
Of course, he'd totally let Ace and A-Plus think the assignment leaving them on the ground level was a social hardship, but sitting with the beautiful young woman next to him more than made up for it. Still, this bit with Killstench and Metro was an anomaly that could affect the op, so he called it in as he watched the two exchange a few words peacefully before the Twain resident headed back to his seat.
Metro was actually surprised to smell Killstench walking up, the hint of CS on the boy's clothes provoking fond memories. (When you're practically born to work for a major arms manufacturer, the oddest things can end up linked to positive memories. That's what some of his therapists had claimed.) "Killstench, what's up? I didn't think you were a 'special meals' guy."
"I'm not," Killstench replied, glad that he wasn't, "Just a friendly warning. Chili is on the menu today."
"That sucks. Thanks! I'll see if I can scrounge a spot upstairs - whatever it takes to herd Miasma to the vent fans." His turn coming up, he thanked the cafeteria worker for his meal ... package. Looks like someone upped the supplements.
Killstench stared at what constituted a 'special meal'. That was way too many poison warnings for a person to call food. "We would all appreciate it," he said before departing. Be polite, and maybe he'd be able to graduate before the monster shows its true colors.
Crystal Hall, Mezzanine
Metro grabbed a large coffee before heading up to the second floor. Fidgety skunk avatars make for a bad meal for everyone, and Miasma would almost sooner sit next to Bloodwolf than him. The boy code-named Miasma had been only fidgety around him before the Skunk Incident. Exactly how the avatar spirit found out and blamed him was uncertain, but the resulting 'pucker factor' had the Underdogs ready to obtain a restraining order against the freshman. Who to sit with? Maybe that agreement with Thomas, to eat lunch separately to deflect attention from the Poe 'secret', was one of his dodgier ideas? Mads didn't have a lot of friends in the top tier, or even mezzanine crowds.
"Est-ce le chile con carne est au menu à nouveau?" The twinkle in her eyes suggested that either Adalie was teasing, or she'd been 'studying' a bit with Ayla recently. Maybe both?
"Selv Killstench bad mig gå væk før Nate ankommer"
Rorsmand tagged in before Kismet could complain, "Jo binne dogge it publyk in tsjinst!" Odd considering her codename, but annoying Korrende seemed the right thing to do at the time. Not that it took much effort to annoy the Belgian girl.
The young magician decided to switch back to English before he ended up completely lost. Later on he'd have to replay what Kristian had said. Some Germanic language?
Anyway, something looked off. "Geneviève, is Reach sick? I don't think I've seen you much without them around," the boy stopped to pull off a fairly good Groucho Marx eyebrow wag, "... but if you're in the market for someone a little shorter, maybe we can work something out?"
Three out of seven teens struggling to avoid a spit take: life is good. While everyone else tries desperately to erase that mental image, he could commence the struggle to get today's Nutritionists' Surprise past the tongue and down the hatch.
"Non! I mean, no, definitely not. Il ç'est en mission pour le Corps des Cadets de l'Espionnage. Ç'est tout."
"That's too bad", Too bad that someone's BFF isn't around to head him off., "By the way, have you given any thought to testing one of your suits out on non-psi's? I was thinking that much could be accomplished with, for example, an electrical energizer if the voltages could be stepped down."
"Ç'est possible ... I would need to think more on that before committing."
"Would that example perhaps be a Canadian energizer who happens to not be at the table?" Kristian did not need to have been born a girl to see how smitten his countryman was. You know it's serious when they start shopping for armor. Very closely fitting armor.
"Eh, why not? I'm interested in one for myself. There's a theory that psi and magic aren't too dissimilar." Taking note of the Euro-note signs in Geneviève's eyes, Mads took a bit of a risk and pulled up his shirt and coat sleeves. A form-fitting, gray, base layer could be seen by those close enough before he let the sleeves fall back. Tapping his arm, "What I have now is carbon-fiber based, but it's already failed to stop one knife."
"Oh. Oh, no! How did that happen?"
Mads went with the Official Story. "I was making a delivery, when some creep came up out of nowhere and stabbed me in the gut. Next thing I know, I'm waking up in Doyle being treated for an abdominal wound and burnout."
It wasn't the entire story that Rorsmand had been briefed on. Picturing the tow-headed freshman out delivering newspapers or something hurt his head enough without trying to imagine how events really played out. Maybe that was the point?
"I see." Remembering that the Danish mage was enough of a typical boy to try showing off the scar, Geneviève hurried to change the subject back, "I think that designing a hood that wouldn't be caught on your horns would be difficult."
"But everyone likes a challenge, non?"
Ace was in a prime Harry Callahan mood, "What on earth is he up, moving in on Reach? First Kew, now this. on top of it all he's buddy-buddy with a freak like Killstench. This punk needs to be taken down a notch before more decent people get hurt."
"Ace, you might as well eat. Reach would have been at that table, in position to hear what was being said, if we hadn't called him away to put him on point. Are you sure the guy's going to use the tunnels to get to class today? No one else would."
"That was the pattern Kew was getting before Metro wrecked her rig. Unless Killer down there tipped him off, he should stick to routine."
A-Plus wasn't happy to be sitting with someone who would be practically ignoring her for the next hour or so, but that's how the intel business goes. Speaking of which, they'd have to make up for leaving Darren and Kenya stuck below. Chasing their rabbit up to the mezzanine would have risked tipping him off to the surveillance, but considering the traffic, noise, and groups that usually eat down below it had to be a pain.
Mads: I'm getting two pairs of hits, and Spark's here alone. Trail?
Thomas: I haven't seen their techno. Positioned ahead of us? Green flag day.
Mads: I'll send invites once I hit the tunnels.
*yawn* "I best head over to BMA. The senseis don't like late students."
Kristian shook his head, "No. I think it's just you they don't like."
Mads demonstrated his superior maturity by rolling his eyes and sticking his tongue out at the other boy.
Crystal Hall, Ground Floor
Heading down to the ground floor, the enemy detection spell he was maintaining resolved to a female technopath and a male mutant. Metro figured that that should be Rez and Holdout on watch. Too many different kinds of mutants for all the details to be interpreted, but that's what practice is for: turning best guesses into practiced information. In any case, he had a class to attend whether his concerns about an ambush were correct or not. Beyond that, if this nonsense with Kew has a risk of turning into an ongoing feud, he'd want to check out what Security has on the club members. Enough borrowing trouble! Going down?
For most of the school's students, a "Green Flag" day in good weather meant that the above-ground paths would be in use by everyone who could avoid the tunnels. For Metro, it meant taking the tunnels to classes in order to avoid spooking others with his glamor and pheromones. When the flag system and weather sent everyone scurrying to use the tunnels, he'd been "advised" to either cover up and hoof it to class topside (No visible hooves though!) or stay in his cell and attend class via teleconference. Some of the other kids had wicked teeth and claws, so, yeah. Staying in one piece was a priority of his. Most days. Some nights.
Sighing, he called on a water spirit to channel, and sent out electronic invites to his tactical net. Connecting to Security's sensor net was a potential vulnerability, but he'd paid for decent ICE, and he could often use the coverage and the practice.
[Cyberkitty @Shortstop: Expecting trouble? We usually only see you up when working security.]
[Shortstop @Cyberkitty: Maybe. Kew's friends were watching for me at lunch.]
[Cyberkitty @Shortstop: O rly? I've got class too, but dupe me your mics to the addy I'm sending.]
[Shortstop @Cyberkitty: Wilco. You can always delete it if it's no use.]
[Cyberkitty @Shortstop: Delete data??? Heretic!! ]
Tunnels, near Laird Hall
A few minutes later, Metro's spell picked up intermittent attention ahead, two distances, and it felt like Ace and A-Plus had leap-frogged Rez and Holdout behind him. Valravn started off loitering behind both couples, flagging the back two on the net until Rez broke off to get to class, putting Holdout in trail. That made sense. Getting to and from the Workshop took enough time that many of the tech-tracked students avoided doing that more than necessary.
So far, the sensors were still reporting his UV band's tell-tale, but it was a good time to start analyzing for anomalies and to put on some music.
Oh look. Several cameras just went out of commission. Maintenance announces they are so sorry for the inconvenience, etc. Sorry enough to include a self-delete attachment. We'll just disable the data bomb and store it elsewhere for now. Paige could use a laugh.
Someone in high-grade camoflage just dropped out of the overhead space ahead of Metro, and the footsteps behind him picked up pace. Paranoia? Not when they are out to get you!
Thomas: Security checking downed cams. Move up?
Mads: Wait one
Ace's voice rang out from behind, "Metro! Hold up, frosh, we want a word with you."
Metro stopped and turned, recognizing that while the deadlier opponent might be the one now behind him, these guys had put so much work into the trap it wouldn't be fair to acknowledge such things. "And what word would that be?"
A-Plus soothed, "There's no need to be so defensive. We're only here for a friendly discussion of some things you need to be aware of."
"Really? Call me old-fashioned, but having one of your friends sneaking up behind me while you two call me out doesn't seem friendly to me. Oh. Sorry. The three of you."
Ace snapped, "That's a hell of a lot more friendly than the way you bushwhacked Kew yesterday."
"Bushwhacked? First I've heard of it. If she's been attacked, isn't that a matter for Whateley Security?"
Mads: Correction. Make the call. This is getting ugly.
"Listen here, you little punk. We know what you did!" Naughty, naughty, Ace-me-boy. Steering a person's surface thoughts is a sneaky but legal psi trick even he'd heard about weeks ago.
"Ace," A-Plus warned, but didn't move to hold Ace back. Stalling for position? That put Reach and maybe Interface ... where? "Kid, we have all the evidence needed. But it should go easier for you to come with us to Security to record your confession."
"That is, if you don't have too many offenses on your record yet ...", Ace snarked, before going for the dig, "But wait, that UV band says you do already. Too bad. Maybe they would have let you pay for Kew's laptop and the surveillance gear you wrecked without further punishments."
"That's what this is about? A shakedown for cash?"
Mads had spent enough time on South Detroit streets to know that when it's five-on-one day and the retail price is money that you don't have, it's a pretext for a beating. Or worse. He twitched the arm with the UV identifier inward, pressing a hidden button. He had promised he'd leave bullies to Security if they showed up in time. About now, an alarm should be going off in Kane Hall, unless it was blocked. He supposed that that would help in later investigations. Not that he didn't have a spirit with him that had been interested in helping out.
Mads: I could use and would appreciate whatever help you can lend to defend me. Us really. No unnecessary killing, if possible.
I wouldn't dream of doing that. These are children. But if they want to play it cold, who are we to argue?
Mads: Cold aura? Good idea! No ref, no hit, no foul.
I think you would love hockey! Teeth are replaceable.
Ace wasn't taking the bait, "No, punk. It's about you making a big mistake. You see, the thing about the Intelligence Cadet Corps? Mess with one of us, you mess with us all."
"Just to be clear then. You don't have any actionable evidence to take to Security. Just me. That could be a problem."
A-Plus pouted, "If you would only stop to cooperate, that wouldn't be a problem."
Nice rack, but I can tell you're not interested.
Mads: She isn't either. Check the aura.
Metro needed to keep talking now. Response time's not great around lunch. "But it does seem we're running out of time for that, as I need to be in class in a few short minutes. Don't any of you have classes to go to?"
"So?" Just a little bit further, he could grab the kid, let clairvoyance do the rest. Or the kid backs up into Reach's arms. Either way works.
"So? Am I being detained?"
"Then please stop impeding me on my way to class. That is, by the way, a violation of school regulations."
Thomas: No got. Close, maybe.
"We're not barring anything. The tunnel cameras aren't recording anything, so we're not here. Your word vs ours. Who do you think will win that?" Ace could give a damn about the twerp's class or his. Keep the eye on the prize.
"If I recall correctly, interfering with cameras provided by Security for student safety is also a violation of the school's regulations. If you are doing so, I must request that you cease doing so, before turning around and going about your business."
By this point, the entire crew was showing signs of impatience. Truth to be told, most of them did need to get to their own classes.
Thomas: Confusion up for one behind you. Supposed to be boy?
Mads: I dunno Seeing the mood shifts in front of him, Metro decided to call it. Showtime!
Mistaking the shapechanger's action for hunching down to tackle the kid, Ace lunged to get a grip on Metro's arm. If the noid had any special skills, they'd soon be equalized. Not that some punk freshman like this had much chance against a seasoned investigator. There was just one problem: Ace really was the better hand-to-hand fighter. The boy had zero chance at avoiding the grab.
From his position in a doorway hidden by one of Holdout's collapsible panels, Interface tried 'interfacing' with the kid's mind. This would be the best time for it. Maybe he could calm the boy down, or break his concentration?
In retrospect, making sure the security cameras had stayed the way he left them would have been the better idea.
Metro shouted "Take your hand OFF OF ME!" and jerked his arm back. Normally, the boy could lift 45 to 60 kilos without much bother; he just didn't look that strong. But he had been headed to Basic Martial Arts, and so he was now channeling a spirit strong enough to max his lift out to 275 kilos or so. Some of the other students in the class had real powers! Not that he didn't need the practice.
Ace tried to release his numb grip on the boy's upper arm. If he could have still felt his right hand that would have kept him from being yanked into his opponent's incoming right-handed strike. He stumbled back just ahead of Reach plowing into the biggest thing directly in front of him. He would later thank Anne for knocking him out of the incoming train wreck without throwing him into the wall. That would have hurt. Maybe even more than the layers of skin that were left behind on the punk's jacket.
Ever notice how the folks in the back always get left out? That's always been perfect for giving Holdout enough room and time to unshrink and power up a BFG. If only the hotheads would either subdue the target or get out of the way. It sounded like some kid behind him was calling Security, so Delarose couldn't yell at the team for not calling in. The tunnel was wide enough that cutting left should give him a shot.
With Reach closed on Metro, and A-Plus now in the way, maintaining Confusion was becoming a dicey proposition for Valravn. Time for some more misdirection (Mads' bad influence was rubbing off on him.) One of the other Poesies had made for him a realistic-looking taser. The 'charging system' was just there for show; he provided the charge. That's what Holdout deserved for turning his back on one of Thunderbird's kin.
With Ace safely out of the way, A-Plus was more than capable of stopping a bull-rushing Reach, along with the freshman on his cow-catcher. So she did. Three hundred pounds between the two of them? No problem. Having the one covered in hoarfrost being shoved straight into her chest? That was a problem.
It should be noted that the Spy Kidz' "uniform" was basically a black set of turtleneck, cargo pants, sneakers, and thin fingerless gloves. That fingerless part wasn't suited to Arctic cold. Just ask Ace. The turtleneck wasn't much protection either; scant seconds after colliding with the boys, A-Plus' breasts were very unhappy both about her position and about her life choices involving underwire bras. She opted to do the smart thing, and rolled out from under the two-boy pile-up.
Mads: Freeze? Really?
Thomas: Works for police
Metro crawled out from under a shapeshifter whose supersuit was having a rough day coping with the kind of cold it had been in contact with. Pausing to snark at his partner put him too close to a clairvoyant busily trying to copy his current skills and wishing she hadn't. Another Bad Idea, brought to you by Jensen and the other guy who wants no 'credit' for this.
A-Plus' telepathic knack did manage to get for her everything Metro had learned from "How To Get The Best Prices For Your Enemies' Unused Parts In Two Stops Or Less" and "Adventures in Handy Handicapping: How Old's the Stiff?"
We'll want to keep the cold aura up until you're ready to deal with that. Ironic that she had chili for lunch, isn't it?
Mads: When you put it that way? Yes. Yes, but ewwwww.
Having lost control of the tunnels sensors to a much better cyberpath, Interface found himself busy fighting to regain control for a change. What little he was picking up from the shorter boy was setting new standards for unpleasantness, before, during, and after Anne yarked all over him. Mistaking the shout to freeze for the Good Guys arriving, he stepped out from behind his hiding place and into the younger students' gunsites.
"Gentlemen, Ladies, we are all going to stay right here until Security arrives. I recommend that those you able to place your hands on your heads, please do so now. As I could have told you all earlier, had you remained peaceful, if I have to handle you you will end up with frostbite. Any questions? No? Good."
[Cyberkitty @Shortstop: U owes us popcorns Shorty. That was over 2 soon! ]
Wednesday, 2 PM, Kane Hall
By this point in their careers, the Intelligence Cadet Corps didn't need much help to find Conference Room C, but Lt. Reynolds' men were taking no chances. It was humiliating to end up needing healing from the freak they'd planned to frog-march up to Security, but regenerating frostbitten flesh the old-fashioned way would have hurt much worse. Someone from Doyle Medical even threatened to bring a bottle of iodine if they failed to cooperate. Doyle Midieval, more like it.
The platoon's student colleague, Mads Jensen, was sent straight to the locker room clean up as best as he could, accompanied by laments that no firehoses were available. The combination of death-laced fairie glamor, 'predator' pheromones, greasy sweat, a bloody nose, and half-digested chili was judged, hands down, "worse than that goddamned skunk".
After sufficient scrubbing, Metro was allowed to fill out his own incident report, at the most remote station available. Valravn was questioned as separately from his other half as could be managed, by the simple expedient of asking someone from the Mystical Arts Department to interview the water spirit at the same time. Once their audio and video records were copied, cross-referenced to what had been sent to Cyberkitty and to Security's own data files, the two were sent away to clean up some more, and then go to their sixth period class. The one taught by one of the boys' doctors.
Very funny, kid. No, they couldn't opt for a chewing-out by Mrs. Carson instead.
She had other students to talk to.
The video clips of a certain auxiliary being bad-touched AND crashed into hello was already nominated for the platoon's annual "Best Of" reel.
The same auxiliary groggily shaking his head and sitting up straight "into the line of fire" was being spliced onto the clip labelled "Skunk!!!" as they spoke. Oh, the look on his face!
Epilogue, The Workshop
There were many things that could be said about Harley, sometimes Harlan, 'Reach' Sawyer. They were easy-going, persistent, and very much in love with their 'Jenny', Geneviève 'Spark' Etincelle. So it was that when they stopped by Spark's lab one evening and found her in deep discussion with Mads 'Metro' Jensen regarding ideas for suit testing and upgrades, they considered taking the high road with the freshman and butting in. Really, they did. Judging by the boy's 'deer in the headlights' look, it was too late anyway, so they took the incoming phone call instead.
"Harley? Hello. Thomas Jensen. We met the other day, when your pal Ace decided that BMA is attendence-optional." That sarcastic son-of-a ... "Are they still at it?" What?
"I take it that you're referring to Jenny and the Jensen fellow?" In a low snarl, Harley asked, "And at what, precisely do you think they would be up to?"
"First off, his surname is pronounced Yensen, and his given name is Mads. Descriptive in more ways than one."
That was a clear 'Mine! Back off!' vibe. Kind of like the same vibe between Jenny and Mads when Harley walked in.
Thomas continued, "As far as what they are up to, she's a devisor and he is a gadgeteer with a background. in. munitions. Could you do EVERYONE a favor and point him towards his check-in at Kane Hall?"
"I can do that." Louder, "Kane Hall was it? Jenny needs to take a break for food anyway."
"Thanks!" The phone clicked.
"Oops. The time! Geneviève, you've got my email, right? We'll have to talk more about the project later. Harley, could I speak with you for a moment?" The head tic toward the door implied, 'privately'.
Harley set down the 'Devisor special' on a bench before stepping outside with the pint-sized mage.
"Sorry about that. We were talking shop and it somehow ran late. About the other day ..."
Harley didn't like this at all. "What about the other day?"
"Erm. I'm given to understand that there was more than one video of a tackle being recorded."
Less liking, all the time. "And?"
"While I can trust Spark's discretion with the data, and Thomas is more likely to forget the heat-death of the universe first, as far as anyone else not present is concerned? That. Never. Happened."
Harley could imagine how being tackled by, oh hell, someone nearly Mads' "type" would look. Between, Rorsmand and Charge, there was even a mutual assured destruction option. She smiled and with her best Bluegrass drawl, "Something happened recently? Whenever could that have been?"
"My mistake, Miss Sawyer. Well then, I shan't interrupt your social call to Miss Etincelle any further." Mads tipped his hat to Harley, "Have a good night!"
Epilogue 2, Kane Hall
"Ace, I think you should carefully reconsider this." Anne 'A-Plus' Pollard loved the guy. She did. But there are times like this, when he got his mind set on a questionable tack, that she could wring his neck.
"All we are doing is enquiring about the background of a student who's displayed a skill set consistent with criminal activity."
"That could honestly be said about every one of us. That's one of the reasons we're not popular with Security." Only one. The Spy Kidz had long had an extensive record with the department.
"It's a reasonable line of enquiry. The worst they can do is refuse, which then tells us that they do know of a criminal past."
"I still say it's a bad idea."
Nonetheless, the two continued in to Kane Hall. The majority of Security personnel being male, it would only be helpful to the investigation for one of the Intelligence Cadets to be an Exemplar-3 knockout. Or it would have been, if Officer Samantha Everheart hadn't stepped up to see what they were about.
"We have some questions about the possible criminal background of a person of interest, but all we have to go on is the code name, 'Metro', is there some way that you could help us out?" Well, it wasn't exactly a lie. More of a 'Dirty Harry'-ism.
"'Metro'. Do you mean the one listed up there?" Not one of the top UV students on campus, but that was definitely someone Security had to be keeping tabs on.
Anne wondered about the story behind the crossed-out "Paso Doble" and the crossed-out and underlined "P.D."
"Yes. I seem to recall seeing him wear a UV warning band."
"You should, after that incident near Laird Hall, not long enough ago."
Everheart called back to what had to be a student auxiliary. Good. With a few exceptions, like the Betas, and STAR League Jr and every othe group they'd targeted for 'investigations', student workers were an easier mark than regular staff. "Jensen? These two students here have some questions. Got time to handle that?"
Ace heard A-Plus mutter under her breath, "For the record, make that a very bad idea."
"Sure. Just catching up here." The teen stood, grabbed a note pad, and walked up to the Spy Kidz. Something about the way he looked at
them gave both wannabe operatives the impression that not only had the student officer just inventoried their gear, but that Andy had obliviously chosen the wrong bait for this one. "Right. Student auxiliary officer Mads Jensen, and you are?"
We are Screwed. Royally. Screwed.
"I'm Andy DeWitt, codenamed 'Ace', and this is Anne Pollard, codenamed 'A-Plus'. I don't think I've seen you in my classes, are you a sophomore here or a junior?"
"No. Just a freshman, as both of you already know," the kid smiled a 'nice try though', "So. What can I do you for?"
Ace smoothly continued playing his San Francisco PD riff, "We're conducting an enquiry regarding one of the Ultra-Violents. His code name is 'Metro', but we haven't gotten much more information than that from eyewitnesses." ... for certain values of 'eyewitness' that don't involve an actual crime.
A-Plus was almost entranced by the train wreck happening in front of her. Beside her, Ace was doing his best to bluff the very person he was asking about, simply because his pride rarely let him back down. In front of her, her telepathic knack reminded her that she'd met less well-trained beat cops. Her memory of a horrific taste in reading materials hinted at CSI. In a JROTC cadet with an apparent age of 14, that totalled up to 'from a family line of cops'.
"Ah. Yes. We see quite a bit of him here. Hardly a day goes by," he turned to glower at one of the officers having a coughing fit toward the back, "that he doesn't end up here, or at Doyle. What would be the exact nature of this enquiry? I don't think we've received a specific complaint about him since that incident with a skunk. Or, for that matter, with the two of you."
"Yes. Even Admin chose to express their, erm, displeasure." The coughing now sounded more like choking. "But if you could be more specific, I'm sure that we could find a way to help you, as long as the means aren't at cross-purpose with existing laws and school regulations." Jensen smiled an entirely professionally expectant smile that ended a good ten clicks from his eyes.
"At the moment, we're still in the initial stages of investigation, so we can't yet come forth with a formal complaint. We need to know the perp's" Andy, are you an idiot?, "known criminal skills and methods."
"Would those methods by any chance include social engineering?" Strike One.
He shrugged, turning toward the distaff Spy Kid.
"Maybe sexual politics as a means of distraction or suasion?" Strike Two.
Regarding both espers, "Perhaps psychic and/or physical assault towards the goal of a coerced confession?" Strike Three.
"Of course, those are hypothetical examples. You see, without knowing what's being investigated, it's difficult to pin down the relevant details to search for. Otherwise, Mr. DeWitt, Miss Pollard, I'd suggest pending this line of enquiry to a later date." Yer Out!
"I see that it will be difficult to make headway tonight, but you can be sure that we will be back, with more specific questions as things develop." Ace hinted at the possibility of repercussions to the freshman's position, as direct intimidation had worked so well so far.
"Very well, then. Good evening to the both of you." If the delivery were any colder there'd be frost forming on the kid's glasses. Based on past experiences, neither student was in a hurry for a repeat of that.
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Slightly surprised by the knocking on his office door, Mr. King paused from revising his lesson plans for the next round of classes. Most of his students already knew he wasn't so formal as to insist on waiting for an invitation to enter - he wasn't the staff vampire! Looking up at his autographed portrait of The King for inspiration and patience, he called out "Y'all come on in!" in his own rich baritone.
Two freshmen, by the look of them, the blond a bit on the scrawny side, the other one dark-haired and taller, bounced or trudged in. *sigh* The term had been going so well without some underclassman conned into asking if he really was Elvis in disguise, who or what he stored in his afro, or heaven alone knows what else. "Good afternoon, fellas. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Mr. King, we were told" Here it comes "... that Whateley actually has a professional recording studio, and that you were the person to talk to to see about using it!" Sweet Mama, a new question!
"And the two of you are?" the school's music instructor paused for a more civil introduction.
"Jensen. Mads Jensen," the short kid reached out for a handshake, "and this is my compadre Thomas Jensen, the one who lost a be-et!" the kid finished with a high tenor sing-song.
"Just 'Thomas Jensen', sir," the other boy stepped up to shake hands, shooting an irritated look at the first.
"What you're asking about is some very expensive equipment, not toys. Do I want to know what kind of bet is behind the sudden interest?"
"Nothing illegal, but the penalty is for him to sing a selection of love songs, in Tlingit, to be carefully placed on an upperclassman's iPod playlist (which you need not worry about)."
"Ehhhh, it was the first thing that came to mind. I think Bluejay's actually from one of the Algonquian nations. So, yeah."
"Or maybe he used Anishinaabemowin because your English is dodgy?"
"Boys. If I agree to this, and I'm not saying I will, but if I do, I want one of the other teachers here present to make sure you're not poking fun at the boy's people. Do you get where I'm coming from?" Mr. King hadn't seen two looks that blank since the time he asked Tina and the Turbines to strut their stuff.
"Why would we ... ?" shortstop turned to the other one.
Thomas jumped in for the save, "He means he agrees. Yes, you do, Mads. That goes for both of us, sir."
Mercy! thought Mr. King, the kids honestly did understand some of what went into making a recording. Some club in Kansas City? That was a bit hard to believe, as there was no corn in either of those boys' accents, but they'd had some experience, somewhere. Figuring in Thomas' idea about a little payback, this might turn out to be an interesting recording session.
"Mads? Son, how about doing us a favor? You know a few of these songs, right? If you can just run through a couple, we can get the drummers warmed up, and the sound mix dialed in a bit on the board. Most of all, that gives us time to go over the lyrics back here with my good friend Charlie."
"Ummm. I don't know Thomas' set that well, just some songs Mama taught me."
The kid looked more the product of a couple of short Vikings (not even on the same ocean as Hagar and Helga) than anything else. From the stares the drummers from The Nations gave the boy, they'd come to much the same conclusion. They came to play, sink, swim, or float, and sonny boy, they'd be getting ALL of this on tape.
" Ya Ha Way Ya
Ya Ha Way Ya
Ya Way A Hay Ya ...
... Manitou-makwa caa-bee-naa-go-zit
Manitou-makwa peesh-a-way-na-mishi-nam ... " ***
Seeing jaws drop in the studio's control room, Thomas quietly informed the two instructors, "His foster mother, Dr. Evelyn Beaulieu, follows Makwa. Even before the adoption - and make no mistake gentlemen, she's more his mother than the one who bore him - Even as her patient, she must have sung that and other songs for him, whether he could even form the words or not. These, here," he pointed to the pages in their hands, "are for the prank," pointing to the other Jensen, "that's for the heart."
A few days later, a bleary-eyed Jay Blue Lake wandered into the Library to get the turnover for another graveyard shift. At this rate, it would only take a minor miracle for the caffeine to kick in before his second or third class. He left his iPod 'buds in while he scanned the Map and waited for his thoughts to become more coherent.
Most of the people and things that were meant to be shown on the map were in their usual places. He noted a roving Security patrol, oddly shy a person, but nothing too risky on a quiet night. Covering the map back up, he clicked forward past a pop song he'd heard way too many times, to something he thought he still enjoyed.
Well, that's what he thought he was fast-forwarding to.
The apprentice Lore-keeper almost choked on his coffee, as the spirit also known as Bluejay cranked up the volume on a song that he knew had not been on that playlist.
[Bluejay: I approve this song!]
Mr. Lodgeman caught the distracted boy's attention by placing a weathered hand on his shoulder. "It's in a Dené language other than Tlingit, but some friends of yours couldn't resist slipping in a Bluejay song. Think of it as a reminder to not get so caught up in watching out for the world that you forget why it's worth defending."
*** " Spirit Bear Song ",
(Originally recorded by Red Shadow Singers)
"... The spirit bear is coming
The spirit bear is coming to love us."
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Not being ones to rush headlong into a project, Sir Wallace Westmont and Ms. Suzanah Hagarty had given their errant Cadets a couple of weeks to finish their various detentions before moving on to new business. That also gave them time to review various deficiencies in the way they'd handled their last manufactured "case".
In addition, the Intelligence Corps cadets had also needed to start entirely new rounds of innoculations as a result of their inexplicably lost shot records. Sir Wallace had been told years ago, back when he was a lowly airman, never to torque off the persons in charge of giving shots; now a new generation was testing that old adage and finding it true.
Word also had it that the Assistant Headmistress had taken a special interest in the completeness of the innoculation effort once a certain Mr. Welles decided to complain to her about such things being beneath his upperclassman status. In general, it should be noted that Ms. Amelia Hartford is another one not to torque off, ever. She managed to find a few biowarfare-related innoculation series that even the Clinic hadn't heard of. The most appalling thing about that was that two freshman mages and the entire Drow Collective signed up for the remainder of the vials ordered. The British operatives had a long discussion regarding whether Hartford knew something they didn't (far too likely), or the other students being that meticulous regarding bio-agent risks. They erred on the side of meticulousness, but it made for a sleepless night, nonetheless.
And yet, and yet, a new camera of Kew's design, well, mostly of her design - it was suggested that Montana not be given a look at the schematics, had again found its way into the Venus, Inc. dressing room. It was then decided that if the Cadets have time left over for that sort of hijinks, they have sufficient time for more serious work. On consultation with Administration and the Physical Education department, it was agreed that this assignment could be completed to the Spy Kidz credit, or to their considerable demerit.
A few minutes before the meeting time, Sir Wallace addressed the assembled Cadets: "Reach, Rez, Holdout, please refresh my memory. Did the message that we sent out specify that this meeting was optional?"
"No, sir." "No?" "No, Sir Wallace."
Suzanah Hagarty then asked, "Have the other members of the Intelligence Cadet Corps indicated that they were quitting? Perhaps the possibility of being tasked with actual assignments is too burdensome?"
More shaking of heads and a couple of noes.
Sir Wallace: "Would you then care to remind your friends that unless they are physically present to receive this assignment, they receive 0 points credit against the ten that's been pre-deducted from their combat finals, no matter what they turn in? We start in five minutes, on the hour, as you all were directed."
The next five minutes were a scramble of comm calls and cajoling. The worried look on A-Plus' face, Kew's breathlessness, and the swagger in Ace's entrance, bare seconds ahead of the deadline, told the two professionals nothing pleasant about how well these kids would perform outside a controlled classroom environment. However, they persisted in their claims that real world professions were what they were aiming for. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.
As Ms. Hagarty passed out manila envelopes, Sir Wallace sketched out the operation.
"By my estimates, this will be one of the Intelligence Cadet Corps' most difficult assignments to date. Each of you has a certain number of targets on whom to conduct background surveillance. Please note that for some there are items of particular interest to be addressed. You've been afforded three weeks. It could have been four or five weeks if you hadn't made yourselves unavailable."
Ace growled, "How do you figure we made ourselves 'unavailable'? We've been here at school the entire time."
Ms. Hagarty, unimpressed by the Eastwood wanking, fielded that question. "Whether you're laying low until the heat from your last job dies down, in jail, in hospital, or on detention, out in the real world as you lot like to put it, no one cares what the excuse is, unavailable for new work is unavailable for new work. The primary considerations to a client or supervisor are what personnel are available at that time and what skills they bring to the table. Those skills include the ability to present onesself as a professional. What kind of professional I leave to you. You can decide to meet the deadlines given, or you can pass on the job."
Sir Wallace said, "Take note that being caught, named as a party in valid complaints, or just tipping your respective hands over the course of the assignment counts against the grade for your work. You will not be warned of the risk of failing your assignment until after your assignment is completed. Again, in that Real World of yours, you won't automatically know if you've been compromised. In some cases, entire operations have been brought down by one idiot getting a parking ticket. Do not expect an extension if you happen to be unavailable to turn your work in yourself."
A-Plus didn't look like she wanted to ask the question, but persevered, "What if something completely unexpected happens, and we cannot make it back in person with the files?"
Ms. Hagarty said, "Most clients understand force majeure quite well, Ms. Pollard, and would expect a timely notification of unexpected circumstance. Adapting to conditions, such as arranging an alternate delivery that is acceptable to their needs, is all part of being a professional." She left, 'without compromising yourself with, or to, the others' unsaid as part of the exercise.
The instructors had laid out the outline of the job and bounding criteria. They now watched the Cadets' reactions, ranging from surprise at being given an assignment, to a surly outrage that they were being given an assignment. Both Westmont and Hagarty had to surpress their own amusement at how much the kids reacted like any newbie team on their first paying gig. There was one minor difference: hardasses that tried to intimidate the negotiator weren't being shot for their cheek.
In or out, boys and girls? And what's your price? Tick. Tock.
"Any more questions? No? Then that ends the meeting. Three weeks, gentlemen, ladies. That's not much time as you might think."
4PM, September 19, 2007, Schuster Hall
What neither instructor had told the Cadets is that roughly the same mission had been handed to an 'independent contractor' the day before. The initial premise behind that had been that they needed some way to accurately gage what constituted entry-level work in the present environment. Realizing that one or more of the Cadets still had a nasty habit of surveilling the instructors for no discernable reason at all, there would be a decoy assignment given out to another 'independent'. This term it would only cost them double for playing at double agency. Also, a couple of "missions" would be changed mid-course through the assignment, just like a homicide detective being reassigned a higher-priority case, or as a check for in-house leaks.
Sir Wallace had felt slightly guilty for adding a decoy, Ms. Hagarty much less so. However, not only did Gunny Bardue and Sensei Ito both think it fitting, they'd made a note to add something similar to the pool of Combat Finals crash scenarios. The contractor had merely shrugged; if he was being tasked to backstop the decoy he would have appreciated more lead time, but would settle for an increase on the bonus option. Mid-course corrections were his suggestion, because quote: everyone needs that "go here, no, there, I mean, over here!" experience. It's not like the Spy Kidz would be getting diverted to different continents, right?
When asked later, the person who'd recommended the contractor helpfully reminded Sir Wallace that starting to drink heavily earlier in the day was how several of said contractor's therapists ended up in Rehab.
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