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- A little story about Max, the gardening tool wielding maniac!
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A little story about Max, the gardening tool wielding maniac!
“What the hell was that, boy?” The figure of Gunnery Sergeant Oscar Bardue seemed to tower over the sniffling student.
“That was pathetic, just pathetic! You didn’t even try to defend yourself, you just ran away, pathetic!”
The boy, Armor, sniffled again.
“It’s...It’s not my fault, the guy’s crazy, he’s insane. Everyone knows that! He came at me with a fucking chainsaw!” Armor nearly screamed the last part.
“Mind your language, Armor.” The calm voice of Sensei Tatsuo Ito broke through the argument.
Armor flinched slightly before shrugging apologetically.
Gunny Bardue brought up Armor’s MID on the screen in the debriefing room.
“Son, what does your MID say your powers are?”
Despite already knowing it by heart, Armor looked at it for a second and read it in a trembling voice.
“Uh...Exemplar Five, PK Four A…” He looked back at Gunny Bardue.
“That’s right, Son, You’re a PK Superman! Now, what does D.E.M.’s MID say?” Gunny Bardue brought up the other student’s MID.
Armor read it over once more before responding.
“Wiz...uh...Wiz 2, Warp Five P…He’s...He’s a probabi...mangl-”
Before he could finish, the other student spoke up.
“That is an outrageous accusation! I do not “mangle” anything! I resent-” He too was interrupted, this time by Gunny Bardue.
“Shut up boy, I’ll get to you in a moment!”
D.E.M. Held up his hands, still holding the chainsaw in the left one.
“Now, son. As a PK Superman capable of punching with almost two tonnes of force and withstanding direct hits from heavy caliber firearms. And you ran from a guy with a chainsaw? A guy who doesn’t even have enhanced strength, durability or speed?
“Mind explaining that brilliant strategy to me?”
Armor did his best to not look Gunny Bardue in the eyes, he knew he had messed up.
“It’s just...It’s just that, he came running with that chainsaw and I...He’s crazy, you know that, everyone knows that. And they have pigs on his farm!”
“Pigs? What of it?” Gunny Bardue asked.
“I...I thought he was, uh, I thought he was going to chainsaw me into little pieces and feed me to his pigs. He’s crazy!”
Gunny Bardue shook his head.
“Sit down, Armor. And you, D.E.M. I’ve seen you lug that piece of junk around all semester, but not once have I seen you turn it on. What’s the deal with the chainsaw?”
Deus Ex Maximus, or just Max like he preferred to be called, merely shrugged and held up the chainsaw.
“You mean the Vice President here? Well-”
“You call your chainsaw the Vice President?”
“Sure, Dick Cheney, chainy. Chainsaw. Anyway, it was all part of the plan really. I figured that, well, okay. I believe it was our dear departed Mr. Mahren who said in the first Firearms Safety class that a firearm carried with it a universal threat of violence, right?”
Both Gunny Bardue and Sensei Ito nodded.
“Corporal Mahren did say that, yes. What’s the point?” Gunny Bardue asked.
“Well, Gunny, Sensei. A known deranged lunatic screaming like a maniac running towards you swinging a chainsaw carries with it a universal threat of, like Armor said, “Oh God, he’s going to chainsaw me into little pieces and feed me to his pigs”. That’s really all there is to it, about the Vice President.”
Both Gunny Bardue and Sensei Ito looked at him, surprise on both their faces.
“Maybe we should take that chainsaw, the Vice President away from you, until you’ve talked with Doctor Bellows, that is.” Gunny Bardue suggested.
“No no, that really isn’t necessary, Gunny. You see, since the beginning of the term I’ve been steadily cultivating a reputation for being somewhat odd, possibly even crazy up to the point that the entire school, including the faculty, thinks I need professional help.
Hell, Mr. Forrest even suggested I see Dr. Bellows or one of his henchmen. Anyway, combine that reputation with a little white lie about growing up on a pig farm…”
Max indicated Armor and his soiled uniform.
“Voila! One scared opponent and a win for me!”
“Wait, are you saying you’re not crazy, boy?” Gunny Bardue asked, a mixture of disbelief and astonishment on his face.
“Like Tom Gump said, “Crazy is as stupid does!” D.E.M. answered with his wide smile all over his face.
Gunny Bardue pinched the bridge of his nose. Despite himself, Sensei Ito slowly shook his head, not sure if he liked the boy’s logic, but understanding it all the same.
“But D.E.M. The Gunnery Sergeant has a point, Armor is PK Superman. What would you have done if he hadn’t reacted as he did?”
“Well, it was a calculated risk, besides, I do have other holdouts on me. But they are difficult and time-consuming to make, so I’d rather prefer not using them.
As it turns out, it wasn’t necessary anyway, because Armor here reacted exactly as I wanted him to.”
“So, your entire plan basically hinged on a guess?” Gunny Bardue asked.
“Well, not entirely, like I said; A calculated risk combined with what basically amounts to psychological warfare conducted against the entire school. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, that I’m exactly the kind of person who’d take a chainsaw to another student.
But yes, a bit of guesswork, I admit, but at some point, you just have to throw the crazy guy into the pool and hope he’ll chainsaw the water to pieces.”
Gunny Bardue ran his hand over his pate, clearly thinking things through.
“Armor, you failed to achieve the goal of the exercise despite having a clear upper hand, plus you allowed yourself to be intimidated by rumors and hearsay. I’m afraid we have to give you an F.”
Armor jumped up.
“But that’s not fair, the manual doesn’t say anything about chainsaws being allowed! He cheated!”
“It also doesn’t say anything about chainsaws not being allowed.” Max said with a smile.
“I’ve been carrying the Vice President around since I enrolled, just for this purpose.”
Sensei Ito held up a hand for silence.
“Enough, D.E.M. Despite them being unusual and unorthodox, your methods were clearly effective and well thought through. An excellent application of The Art of War, well done. You get an A for the Final, and a weeks detention in the sewer for threatening a fellow student with a chainsaw!”
“Hey, thanks Sens...wait, what?”
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I'm working on my Starlight story, not that anyone would remember it, or me, but that's fine. It's slow going anyway.
D.E.M. is a part of that story and he's slightly odd, so I had this idea for his 2006 combat final and I just couldn't get it out of my head and had to write it.
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Max was sitting at his and his friends usual table during lunch. He was currently looking around while fiddling with a shipping envelope. Seeing what he was looking for, he snickered out loud.
“What’s that you got there, Max, mi amigo?” The red-headed Devisor asked through his burger, though he barely looked up from his notebook where the pencil was scribbling across the page by itself.
“Dude, New Mexico, not regular Mexico. And it’s a massive sticker of a yellow smiley face, I’m going to put it on, well, you’ll just have to wait and see.”
Max gave Gary, aka Toolbox, a sinister smile, which made the Devisor hesitate a moment, thinking his friend was up to something.
“Play along.” Max mouthed to him.
Right at that moment, the sticker was yanked out of Max’s hand and the familiar voice of Patrick Dempsey, aka Dreadthought, Max’s nemesis, spoke.
“Aww, is the widdle Micro playing with stickers? That’s sooo kewt, you should join Wondercute!”
“Hey, that cost me five bucks, asshole, give it back!” Max grabbed at the sticker again, but was too slow for the practiced martial artist.
“Too bad widdle Micro, it’s mine now, what are you gonna do? Cry? Cry like a widdle baby?”
Max jumped up and advanced on Dreadthought, who threw up his fists in a mock defense. Before the first punch could be thrown, however, the imposing figure of Philippe Apostolos, Spartan, stepped between them, looking down on Max.
“What are you going to do, little man? It’s just a sticker, sit back down before you lose something really important!”
Max glared at both of them, but sat back down and turned his sight to the table in front of him. Dreadthought laughed out loud as he and his friend went up the stairs to the second level in the cafeteria.
“What a fucking loser!”
Gary, who had been watching the entire encounter, shook his head.
“Max, dude, you need to do something about that soon, or we’ll end up seeing DT walking around in your clothes, and you in a barrel, or something.”
Max ignored his friend for about a minute before he slowly raised his head, smiling his trademark evil smile.
“Gary, mein freund, wait till you get a load of this!”
Max pulled out a book from his backpack and slammed it down on the table.
“Remember when last year I read those bookbinding manuals? Behold, my very own homemade book in all its glory!”
It was a voluminous book bound with leather and extra thick paper. Each page had runes inscribed along the edges and a woven piece of red velvet cloth stuck out from the top served as a page marker.
“Whoa, you made that?” Gary asked.
Gary had a surprised look, until Max spoke again.
“Actually, no, I gave up on learning how to bind books, it’s really hard! I bought this over the Internet, somewhat expensive too, but it’ll be worth it, because this, Gary, oh roommate of mine, shall be the instrument of our dear friend, Patrick Dempsey’s downfall! Soon, his vaunted spellbook shall belong to me!”
Looking rather skeptical, Gary asked;
“Uh, how...how are you going to do that? I mean, you said he never lets it out of his sight?”
“Gary, last year? First week of classes where you fixed my laptop with that remote desktop access thing? Well, I have devised a way to do the same, but with books and magics!”
Max wiped away a fake tear, pretending he was crying with happiness.
“It’s so beautiful, it’ll be my masterpiece. Nothing can go wrong!”
“Uh, yeah, but how?” Gary asked again.
Max lifted the cover of the book, showing the inside to Gary. A large smiley face sticker sat on the inside.
“You see, the Powells and the Dempseys have known each other for generations, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Patrick is neither as slick, nor as smart as he thinks he is.”
Max took a breath before continuing.
“Right now, he’s sitting up there at his table with the rest of his idiots and that girlfriend who’s much too hot for him and thinking about what he’ll do with my sticker. He’s not going to ruin it, or throw it out. Certainly not after I mentioned I paid money for it. No, he’s going to put it somewhere he thinks will really irritate me. The inside of his spellbook. Definitely not on the outside, that book of his is from Henckley & Sons in London, as is this one. Which is really expensive! And, he’s going to put it the same place I put this one. Because he thinks it’ll piss me off, especially since last I year I might have spread the rumour that I was jealous of that book.”
“Don’t you mean envious?” Gary asked.
“Whatever! What matters is that these two stickers both carry an enchantment that’ll transfer to his book and copy everything in it to this book, and anything I change in mine, will be changed in his.”
Max paused to savor the moment.
“Gary, my friend, it’ll be the screw-over of the century!”
“Don’t you think he’ll notice that?”
Max merely waved away his objections.
“Nah, like I said, he’s not as smart as he thinks he is, and he certainly won’t believe that I could possibly outsmart him.”
“Yeah, but what about Chant? Isn’t he a high powered PDP? Surely he’d-”
“Chris Wakowski, that bozo, might have strong telepathy, but he would have to know something was up before he could do a thing about it. And that would take too much of his time and energy. Besides, while he and Dempsey may be friends, he and I are not exactly on unfriendly terms. He’ll probably think it’s funny.”
Max was about to close the book when it suddenly vibrated slightly.
“Already? Hah! Oh, this’ll be fun. Now I just need that pen from Fey, you see her yet?”
“Uh, yeah, she’s standing in line with some of her Kimbettes.”
Max looked and saw that Gary was right. He got up and went to stand in line, but was interrupted by Gary before he could leave.
“Wait, why don’t you just make your own pen?”
“Think of it like this. The pen is powered by batteries of magic, but the enchantment on the pen needs more power than any battery I can make, because mine are small and she’s got really big ones, so I asked her to…”
“Yeah she does!” Gary said around his hamburger.
“Yeah, yeah, sure. But, although technically true, that is not the point I was trying to make!” Max pointed out, waving away Gary’s comment.
Still, a little red-faced from embarrassment, Max slowly shook his head. He always seemed to end up in these situations, though, it wasn’t as bad as last year, at least not yet.
“Anyway, I asked her to make a pen for me that I could use for this, so I’m going to talk to her and her large batteries now. Talk to you in a few.”
Gary rolled his eyes and returned his attention to his burger and notebook and muttered
“I sure hope it doesn’t end up as another Charmer situation…”
Once at the lunch line, Max squeezed himself in between the red-headed beauty queen of Whateley Academy and the terrors that were Generator and Chaka.
“Sorry ladies, gotta talk some business with Fey here.”
His comment earned him only a raspberry from the tiny, terrifying Asian girl and a sharp poke to the ribs from the Martial Arts wizard.
“Ouch, et tu Chaka? Anyway, Nikki, about that pen I asked you to enchant, finished it yet?”
Nikki rolled her eyes, she never really liked Max’s familiarity with her, it wasn’t like they were friends or anything. Still, he’d done her a small favor before, so putting up with his idiosyncrasies was only a small annoyance.
“Sure, I’ve got it right here.”
Max gave her a goofy smile while rubbing his hands before he accepted the pen.
“NicknicknikkitynicknickNikki, you’re the best! Oh, and while I have you. I’ve been meaning to ask you, but I just keep forgetting. Do you still have my Awesome Machines Vol. 2? And if so, can I please have it back?”
Nikki let out an “eep” and the tiny Asian, noticing her friend's distress quickly changed the subject.
“Hey Max, what’s the deal with the shears? Where’s Cheney?”
Max turned to Jade with a big smile.
“I am so glad you asked! I had a vote over the summer and decided that the Vice President should be voted out of office. Frankly, the whole chainsaw thing? So last year!”
He held up the big hedge shears.
“This puppy is a Norton’s 3 lbs. 2oz. 26 inch, heavy duty shear. It’s got high-grade aircraft aluminum handles, with a center oiler bolt, for enhanced performance! A handy tool for when you want to take just a little bit off the top of your enemies. I call her Britney!”
While Chaka gave Max a worried look, Jade provided a gleeful grin.
“Britney? Dare we ask why?” Chaka asked.
Before Max could answer, Jade practically shouted; “BRITNEY SHEARS! I love it!”
Jade shook her little fists eagerly, clearly following the airtight logic.
“But why not go with an axe then?” Chaka asked, “They’re more handy in a fight!”
“While I respect your expertise when it comes to fighting, an axe is just too obvious. Suddenly everyone will just think I’m some sort of crazy axe murderer, which and they’ll be like; Uhhh, look, an axe murderer, that’s sooo scary.
“People are not going to give a guy with an axe another thought because it’s been done to death. But carry around a pair of hedge shears, and they’re going to start wondering what the deal is. And when they can’t figure it out, some of them, not all, but some, are going to get just a little nervous.”
Max gave both of them a nod, satisfied that he’d explained his new weapon and turned back to the red-headed elf.
“So Nikki, about the pen, and my boo- Where’d she go?”
Nikki had taken the distraction provided by her friends to slip away unnoticed.
“You guys know where she went? I still need my pen, and I’d really like my book back.”
Jade was busy examining Britney while Chaka just smirked at Max.
“Dude, Nikki is a refined girl, she doesn’t read Awesome Vehicl-”
“Awesome Machines, volume 2, and yes she does!” Max interjected.
“Dude, you’re crazy, everyone knows! You’re crazy and you don’t know what you’re talking about. I got your pen here, so don’t bother Nikki with your nonsense anymore, now skedaddle!”
Max accepted the pen and gave Chaka and Jade a semi-stinkeye.
“Suuure, okay. Just, just tell Nick I’ll get her the spell I promised when I’m done with it.”
Max went back to his and Gary’s usual table. Gary looked up as his friend sat down.
“So, are we having a new Charmer situation? Because if so, I’d like to know in advance. I can handle your weird ideas and feuds. But you crushing on a girl? It’s just too much, man.”
Max gave him a confused look until finally, comprehension dawned.
“What? No! I just want my book back, but she slipped away while tiny Generator distracted me. Anyway…”
He held up the pen and grinned evilly.
“Let’s see if we can’t find a chink or eight in Dempsey’s spellworks.”
Gary shook his head again.
“This is not going to end well, is it?”
“Not for Dempsey it isn’t!”
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Same day, after classes.
After his final class that day, Max had immediately gone to his customary table in the quad to study his new spellbook, Dreadthought’s spellbook!
To his surprise, he had actually found a few rather intricate pieces of spellwork. Certainly intricate enough to make him doubt that Dempsey had created them himself.
“Dude, Dempsey, you’re not supposed to have a spell like this, it’s restricted.” Max muttered to himself with his usual mischievous smile, “and what the hell is this…” He mumbled a few words under his breath and quietly shaped a small amount of his essence around them.
“Hah!” He said out loud as his spell allowed him to look over the spell in more detail.
No, they reeked more of one of his older siblings, or even his parents. Two of them, especially, would serve Max’s purposes just fine. More than fine, in fact. He almost felt sorry. He made a note of them, meaning to further study them later.
The rest of the spells in the book, however, were standard Patrick Douchy! They were probably good enough for Ms. Grimes’ Spellworks class, this was just high school after all. But Max shook his head.
“Amateur!” He muttered out loud. The level of Dreadthought’s spellcraft was horrid. It actually offended Max’s sense of artistry.
“BOO!” The loud voice of Chris “Chant” Wakowski rang out as he slammed his hands into the table.
Max jumped, he hadn’t even noticed he wasn’t alone. And what’s worse, it was Chris, Dreadthought’s teammate and friend.
“‘Sup Max? What are you working on there? Finger wiggling? Or is that waggling? Masturbation manuals?”
He sat down and unwrapped a small package of his own, inside, a couple of sandwiches. He held out one, implying Max should take one.
“No thanks, Chris, not hungry yet. What brings you here? Where’s your squad of goons? Out Alpha-ing it up with Don Se-douchetian?”
Chris waved his hand dismissively.
“Nah, the so-called Don is too much of a chump. Besides, I think they’re over at… Y’know, I don’t really know what they’re doing, though I’m hooking up with Apex at the library later.”
“Apex? Isn’t that Dempsey’s gf? Ohhh, yeah, I get it. She’s super hot. Good for you. Also, chump? Isn’t Don Douchay some sort of powerful telepath and a master manipulator?”
Chris just gave his usual smug smile; “Yes, she is hot! Exemplar babes, man! Can’t help myself. And he is a chump, he’s just a psi-3. That may impress the baselines, but to me, he’s nothing. Certainly without Hekate.
“And what’s this “master manipulator” bs coming from you, of all people.”
Max shrugged; “Hey, that’s just what they tell me.”
“Yeah, whatever. What about you, Max? I saw you talking to Fey. Are you moving in on Stalwart’s girl? She’s in Poe, y’know? They’re all head-cases over there.”
“Chris, I am the head-case in chief, you know that, everyone knows that.” Max emphasized his comment by putting his heavy-duty shears, Britney, on the tabe. Chris picked it up and studied it, pretending he was shearing...something.
“Also, no, I’m not. It was purely business. I needed a favor, and she provided.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of favor? Anything juicy? You think your new business dealings can get me in with some of those hot Poe girls?”
Max shook his head, but couldn’t help but laugh at Chris’ perpetual horniness. The guy really needed to either tone it down, or get laid.
“Didn’t you just say they were head-cases? Didn’t you yourself say never to dip your, uh, in crazy? In any case, no. Also, it was “finger wiggling” business, so I doubt you’d care, or even understand.”
Chant gave a shrug.
“Fair enough, I guess. It’s okay though, you can say penis to me. Oh, sorry about that sticker, but Patrick put it in his spellboo-
And now I realize that that was your plan all the time. Fuck, you’re a devious bastard! What does it do?”
“Chris, you’re just going to have to sit back and enjoy the show the next couple of months. But if you really want to know, you’re going to have to play along.”
Chris laughed out loud; “Shouldn’t you join the Masterminds or the Spy kidz?”
This time, it was Max’s time to laugh out loud; “They’re sooo edgy. I’d rather join Wondercute!”
“Yeah, I’d give that comment more weight if you hadn’t actually tried to join Wondercute last year.
“Anyway, I’ll play along, sure. Just make it good, okay? Okay!”
He nodded down the quad.
“Heads up, company’s coming your way, and it is looking good!”
Two Poesies were walking towards Max’s table, Phase and Zenith. When they got there, Chris got up, gave them the elevator look and then nodded to Max.
“Ladies, just in time, Max here is suffering from a terrible case of virginitis and you two are both eminently equipped to deal with that!” Chris gave both of them, and especially Phase, his trademark player smirk before he said his goodbyes.
“I’ll talk to you later, Maxi-pad!”
“Piss off Wakowski!” Max responded.
The Poesie sophomore, Phase, studied Chris’ retreating back, practically drilling daggers into him, before she finally turned her attention, along with Zenith, to Max.
“Max, If Chant is harassing you should consult your house-parents! Also, can we talk?”
“Ayla, Zoe, hi. No, Wakowski isn’t harassing me. Also, sorry about his, well, his general perviness. Anyway, what brings you to my neck of the quad?” Max asked, indicating to the two Poesies to sit down.
This time, it was Zenith who talked. “It’s Zenith and Phase, please, D.E.M.” She gave him the kind of disapproving look that only a Senior could give. “We’d like to talk to you about something you said and might have misunderstood, earlier today.”
“Sure thing, Zoe, What did I say and what did I misunderstand?”
“Because I’ve always been such a slut for formalities!” Max interrupted with a snort.
Zenith grimaced, clearly the rumors, and Phase, were right. This guy was annoying, and intractable.
“Right, whatever! When you were talking with Fey today, you asked about a book, right? You m-”
“My Awesome Machines. Vol. 2! Yes.” Max nodded happily, thinking he was going to get it back.
“Yes, you seem to be, uh, what makes you think she has it?”
“Because I loaned it to her?” Max answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Now, both of the poesies sat down across from Max.
“And when would this “lending” have taken place?” Phase asked in a professional, albeit slightly distrustful tone, her green eyes fixed on Max’s browns.
“Oh, that would have been back in ´04, when she stayed at my uncle’s inn in New Mexico with her parents and brother.
Zenith and Phase shared a quick look, clearly communicating silently.
“Are you sure?”
Zenith put a hand on Phase’s shoulder; “Hang on, Phase, just a second.
“Listen, Max, there are some things you’re not privy to, and I’d apprec-”
“Like how you used to be a guy?” Max interjected, leaving Phase speechless and Zenith almost sputtering in denial.
“I, no, what the hell are you talking about?” She said, a little quickly.
“Got you a bit flustered there, don’t I, Zoe?” Max asked with a smile. Before either of the poesies could respond, Max held up a hand, gesturing for patience.
He pulled out his phone and hit speed-dial.
After a few seconds, the other end answered.
“Yeah, Desi, it’s Max. Hi. How’s tricks?”
Max nodded a few seconds, uttering a few audibles here and there.
“So listen, you remember Zoe, Zenith? Yeah, super hot exemplar babe. She’s a senior now. Yeah, you told me that.
“Listen, she’s sitting across from me with her fixer-in-training, trying to convince me that there’s no conspiracy in Poe. Uhuh, uhuh. Yeah, okay.”
Max held out his phone for Zenith; “It’s for you.”
She took the phone, hesitantly; “Hello? Freyshiar? Hi!”
As Zenith continued the conversation with Max’s older sister, he turned his attention to Phase.
“Listen, Ayla, I didn’t get to thank you for setting me up with the Barrettes, you’ll note the fruits of that particular endeavour right here.” He indicated the book.
Phase nodded; “You’re welcome. Who is Zenith talking to?” To her credit, unlike Zenith, Phase kept her cool.
“My sister, she was in Poe too. She’s like Zoe here, except, y’know, not an exemplar. But cursed. Yeah, magic can be a bitch sometimes. But I guess you know that.”
“Cursed? There’s a story there, I think.” Phase said, raising just an eyebrow.
“Family curse, infects all of us. Except me, because I’m awesome!” Max said with a smile.
“Sure you are, though I’d like to hear that story sometime, when there’s opportunity for it.”
Max chuckled. He wasn’t going to tell her. Not the truth anyway, family curses were serious and private things. “Well, it’s an episodic story, but it’s not meant for you, outlander.”
“Outlander? Max, I-” Max interrupted Phase before she could finish.
“Ayla, there are a lot of secrets in this school. Poe, Hawthorne, New Olympsies. Hell, my family curse is just one small one. But like most secrets, it’s not for the uninitiated. But if you really want to know, ask Songstress to tell you, she was affected by it, I wasn’t.”
Finally, Zenith handed the phone back to Max, who quickly said goodbye to his sister.
“So, Zoe, what’s the verdict?” he asked with an expression on his face that told Zenith that he already knew what Freyshia had told her.
She waited a few seconds before responding; “How did you find out about Nikki?”
Her question startled Phase, who turned to her with an astonished look.
“Like I said, she visited my uncle’s inn a few years back. But for how I otherwise knew? That really isn’t any of your business, but you’re both smart, figure it out.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I’m kinda in the middle of something here and I’d like to finish before it gets dark.” He indicated the book in front of him.
Phase was about to complain when Zenith put a hand on her shoulder and shook her head with a slight grimace.
“No, Phase, there’s no point. Freyshia vouches for him, and even if she didn’t, there would be nothing legal we could do about it anyway.”
As both of them turned to leave, Max spoke again; “See ya both later, also, I’ll be visiting my younger sister, Songstress, in a few days to give her some stuff, so I guess we’ll see each other soon.”
“If you can get past Mrs. Horton, sure.” Phase said.
“Mrs. Haitch? That old bag o’ bones loves me, not a problem. Besides, after the renovation, I’d like to see what’s changed inside Poe.”
“As far as I know, you haven’t been inside Poe either this or las-” Again, Max interrupted Phase before she could finish.
“Parents day, three years ago. Desi showed me and my uncle around, also, Millie.” At this point, Max’s smile and attitude had become aggravatingly annoying.
Zenith sighed. “I remember that year, Desi did say her annoying brothers had come to visit, I guess she meant you?” Max didn’t bother answering, his smile was all the confirmation either of the poesies needed.
“Right, bye, Max,” she said and left for her cottage, Phase followed a moment later. Max watched them leave for a few seconds before he chuckled to himself and turned his attention back to destroying his arch-nemesis.
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Crystal Hall, Saturday, a few days later.
Having spent his morning in further studies of his new spellbook, Dreadthought’s, Max finally made his way from Melville to the Crystal Hall for lunch, whilst whistling a merry tune. As usual, the students who were only familiar with his reputation he encountered on his way passed around him in a wide arc. Even the more powerful students made sure to not catch the attention of the crazy magician. Not a few of them gave his hedge shears a wary glance. Some of the freshmen, especially, avoided him, having been subjected only to the vastly exaggerated stories of his exploits.
Max only smiled to himself and continued whistling his nameless tune while thinking how good it was to be crazy. Or at least considered crazy. It was nice that his efforts to appear as such paid good dividends.
Of course, there were a few who waved at him without suspicion. Those were the students who had either looked through his charade, or those with whom he was on friendly terms.
If you asked Max, of course, he would claim he was on friendly terms with everyone aside from Dreadthought’s group, Chant not included. And that was only because they were friends with his arch-nemesis, he’d harbor no ill will against them if they weren’t.
He was even friends with the school bullies. Or so he said, theorising it was easier to get away with humiliating someone if he could claim they were his friends.
In the end, though, he really only had a handful of actual friends at Whateley, first among them his roommate Toolbox whom he was going to meet. Toolbox, or Gary Geselle, was one of few so far who was, really, willing to put up with him and his antics. Then again, they had many of the same interests, and Gary had his own idiosyncrasies that Max had to put up with.
In the end, it evened out, Max liked to think.
Inside the Hall, Max stopped to take in the aroma of freshly cooked food. It smelled nice, so he got in line behind a few seniors, who both threw a quick glance at him before turning back to their conversation about something Max neither cared about nor understood. Gary would have understood it, but he was a devisor and a tech geek long before he was even that.
Moments later, another boy joined the line behind him and Max turned to see who it was. His smile became even wider.
“Armor, dude! How’s it going?” Max greeted his, in his mind, “bestest” friend in the whole world. Mostly because it was Armor who had had the questionable honor of being the first victim of Max’s semester long psychological warfare scheme.
Armor took a step back. It wasn’t that he was afraid of Max, no, but the guy was crazy, there was no telling what he would do, even if he didn’t have the chainsaw anymore. Instead he had a…
“Uh, Max, hi. Are those hedge shears?” He inquired.
“Indeed they are, this is Britney. Because, you know, Bri-”
“Britney Shears, yeah, I got it. Okay, uh. You know, I’m not that hungry, I’ll see you later.” Without waiting for a response from Max, he quickly headed for the exit.
“Huh, rude.” Max said to himself before turning back around, waiting for it to be his turn.
Finally, he arrived at the food and started piling on his plate. He wasn’t an energizer, so his appetite wasn’t way out there, but he was a growing boy, in need of sustenance.
“Bacon, bacon, bacon, and a little more bacon, eggs. Another egg...Wait, is brunch for lunch just lunch? Sure, why not.
“Potatoes, delicious, and a whole pile of sausages, thank you very much.”
The seniors ahead of him both rolled their eyes at the crazy guy talking either to himself, the food or his plate. Max simply continued his commentary of his choices of food. Once finished, he grabbed a few pieces of fruit, swiped his card at the register and headed for his and Gary’s usual table.
They were on the ground floor. Neither of them had bought into the fallacy that being on a higher floor in the cafeteria brought with it any inherent prestige. No, they had chosen a table on the ground floor, closer to the food and none of the hassle of fighting for some imaginary status that wouldn’t last past graduation anyway.
At the table, Gary was busy eating and using his telekinetic tools to assemble what appeared to be a small army of robots.
“Gary, what the hell are you doing? Why did you bring your bots up here?” Max asked as he sat down. “And where’s Trixie and Firestarter?”
Gary nodded his greetings; “Yeah, sorry, I was supposed to pitch mine against a few of the other bot-makers, but they cancelled on me. So now I’m just making some modifications.
“And don’t call Electrix “Trixie! There’s a freshman girl who has that codename. Anyway, they’re out looking, yeah, they’re out looking at girls.”
“I guess I can relate to that.” Max said, then nodded at Gary’s hands off building; “Must be nice not having to use your hands for that.” Max said between bites.
“Yeah, telekinesis is fun. Can’t fly with it though.” Gary’s telekinesis allowed him to lift a plethora of smaller objects, but no larger than about thirty or, maybe, forty pounds. He did have excellent control, capable of assembling micro parts without having to concentrate too much.
“No, but, hmm,” Max hesitated for a moment with thoughtful look. “Yeah, I got nothing. But hey, at least it’s suitable for your purpose.
“Anyway, if you’re not going to fight whomever, what are you going to do then?” He asked, as he fished out his own notebook and began scribbling something, to outside observers, illegible.
“Oh, I’m not sure, maybe an impromptu demonstration for potential buyers? Or something.” Gary frowned and looked around, none of the money people at campus seemed to be at the Hall at the moment. Not on the ground floor anyway.
“I can provide a rival army, if you like?” Max suggested, one hand scribbling away, the other wielding a fork scooping potatoes into his mouth.
“You know someone with a suitable bot army then?” Gary asked, curious about what his friend meant.
“No, no. Nothing of the sort, I’ll just conjure up some hobgo-”
“Hell no! You can’t control those things, they’ll trash the cafeteria. Not to mention, they’re seriously creepy!”
“They are not! And I absolutely can control them, I’ve contrived a bulletproof technique since the last time.” Max protested. To illustrate his point, he put down his fork and pen, got up and cracked his knuckles and stretched his neck out.
“It’s important to limber up first. Let me just get this away first.” He put his notebook and plate at the end of the table and reached out for his essence.
“It’s not that difficult to actually summon hobgoblins on purpose once you know what you’re doing.”
With a small pop, a hobgoblin appeared on the table. It wasn’t much bigger than than a barbie doll, though aside from its humanoid form, it looked nothing like Barbie. Instead, it was a small copy of Max. Another pop and a second one appeared, and another, and another.
Finally there were 23 little barbie sized copies of Max standing on the table looking around, clearly looking for something to play with.
While Max reacted with his usual goofy smile, Gary was less enthused, remembering the last time Max had experimented with controlling hobgoblins. It had not gone well.
The little hobgoblins looked around and some immediately started towards Max’s food. An arm slamming into the table stopped them and Max almost yelled at them; “Get back in line you little farts!”
The hobgoblins jumped back amongst the rest of the group which started what appeared to be a small scuffle.
“Alright, shut it and listen up, you miserable little shits! We’re going to play a game with our friend Gary here. He’s got an army of small robots, and you’re going to fight them. Now get ready and stop this bullshit you’re doing.” Max said, loudly and firmly.
The hobgoblins all stopped and listened, though still with a few pushes and punches shared between them. One of the hobgoblins was pushed forward by the others, it spoke with a high pitched, slightly nasal and very whiny voice; “Screw you, we’re not doing this, how are we going to fight? You can’t tre-” Again, Max slammed his hand into the table, this time right down on the hobgoblin speaking to him, popping it out of existence. The rest of them jumped back in a manner that appeared to be horror.
“You’re doing this, because I’m telling you to, or you can all join your friend here in not existing any longer. Any questions?”
To a hobgoblin, they all shook their heads in the negative, another of them stepping forward speaking in the same voice as the first one; “Sure thing, you’re the boss, boss. We’ll destroy those robots the red-headed german makes and then have some fun in the cafeteria.”
The army of tiny Max replicates stormed the robots and were promptly torn to pieces. Max observed the massacre of his tiny clones with a too happy grin on his face whilst Gary rested his shaking head in his hands.
“That was your “bulletproof technique?” Bullying them into obeying?
“Max, I’ve heard the other finger wigglers talk about how hobgoblins are impossible to control and how they’ll run crazy and destroy whatever they get their hands on! And you just threaten them?”
“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Max held his hands out in a snake-oil salesman manner. “Besides, you can’t complain, you didn’t even lose a single bot.
“Yes, threatening my hobgoblins will work at least one out of three times!”
Gary glared at Max with a look of disbelief; “One? Out of three times? Are you even serious?”
Max nodded vigorously; “Yes, yes, I’m very serious. It’ll work one out of five times!”
“You just said one out of three times! Now it’s one out of five? Max! You’re the worst!” Gary angrily started packing his bots away as their argument attracted attention from the other students in the hall.
“Oh come on, Gary. One out of three times, one out of five, who cares? What matters is, it worked, and it’ll work at least one out of ten times.”
Gary gave Max a look that, in all honesty, should have killed Max, if Gary had that superpower. Fortunately he didn’t, and before he could respond, Max held up his hands in a disarming manner.
“Listen, Gary, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again. Besides, your bots did massacre my mini-mes. In any case, we have business up top!”
His friend’s angry expression didn’t fade right away, but he still sat back down; “What business?” He finally asked, “any money involved?”
“Sure, plenty of money, lots of money, many monies!” Max held up the long wooden box he had brought with him. “This is for Caveman, the weapon he ordered.” Max got up and gave Gary a punch on the shoulder; “Cheer up, Toolbox, my German friend! It’s payday!”
“Urgh, fine!” Gary packed his small bots into the box and pulled the strap over his shoulder. “Where did you say we were going?”
“Gary, my best friend in the world, we’re going to ascend to the very top. I hear that Caveman and his fri-” Gary interrupted him.
“Dude, don’t call him caveman to his face, you know how pissed he gets.”
“I wasn’t going to! Not to his face at least. Behind his back though? All the time, totally. In any case, “Cro-Magnon” and his friends, Fused included, has snagged a table on the top floor. How did they manage that, you ask? Wooooo, I have no idea. Nor do I care.
“Anyway, up up and away we go.”
With that said, Max hefted the box under his arm and started up the stairs, Gary followed after a few seconds.
The top floor in Crystal Hall, where all the, in Max’s words, “cool” cliques and people concerned with high school politics ate their lunch, was packed with the very same cool cliques, high school politicans and “movers-and-shakers” of Whateley Academy and all their scheming.
The New Olympians with Imperius and Majestic’s haughtiness practically oozing off of them. Kodiak and his so-called reformed Alphas, the Kimbas and their uncharacteristic chatter about girly magazines, and so on.
And Cro-Magnon and his group.
The quite large and brutish looking Cro-Magnon was grunting through his meal, his primitive form of laughing. Regaling him, and the others at the table with a dirty limerick, was Melvin Little, also known as Reset. Laughing along with Cro-Magnon was Batter-Up, Misc, Glaive, Mere, a winged freshman by the name of Win-Girl, their fearless leader, Eschutheon and her younger brother Flange. And with them was the fearless leader of Max and Gary's group, Fused.
“Ladies, gentlebeings, how are we all this fine lunch hour?”
All of them, juniors, sophomores and freshmen alike, even Fused, gave Max the stink eye.
“Et tu, Fused? I come bea-” Both Fused and Cro-Magnon rose from the table.
“Toolbox, you’re always welcome at this table, but really, Max? We agreed that you’d keep yourself and your stin-” This time it was Max who interrupted by dumping the wooden box on the table.
“Enough unpleasantries! To business!" Max shouted.
“Caveman, your order is up! One super awesome and badass stone club, infused with runes for extra strength and durability. As per your request, it’ll also help you disrupt magical constructs and attacks. All you need to do now, is provide proper payment. For myself, obviously. For my business partner Toolbox here, and for Firestriker for providing the, you know what? Nevermind what he provided.” Max removed a small stone from the box and instantly the table started groaning under the weight of the club.
“Yeah, it’s pretty heavy, but you asked for that, yes?” He said, shrugging.
Cro-Magnon opened the box and pulled out the club, hefting it in his right, over-sized, hand.
“Yes, yes, little chaos maker, this will be nicely. Also, I am not caveman, I am Cro-Magnon. Remember this, or I hit you over the head with my club!
“Escutcheon, my laptop, pay the chaos maker his money.”
Max smiled brightly as the elf-eared powerarmor driver pulled Cro-magnon’s laptop in and transferred the money.
Max and Gary left, Max with an even wider smile and Gary with a feeling of accomplishment, though he wondered why he was getting paid, he hadn’t done anything.
“Okay, Gary, twenty percent for you, ten for Ron and the rest for me. Sound good?” Max asked while rifling through the contents of his backpack.
Toolbox nodded through another sandwich he had procured for himself at Cro-Magnon’s table.
“Yesh, ifs’h fon.” He quickly swallowed; “Yeah, that’s fine. Uh, wait, where are you going? I thought we’d work on the next project?”
“Meine kleine Freu-” Max began, but was immediately interrupted,
“I’m taller than you!”
“Whatever. As I was saying, I’ve got a fresh faced sister here at Whateley, ready to receive the fruits of my wisdom and vast experience, so I’m off to Poe! Besides, I gotta try Nikki one more time, want my book back!”
“I weep for the both of them!”
Gary was skipping up the path towards Poe. Skipping wasn’t something he usually did, but he’d seen one of the froshies, a girl who’d age regressed to around ten and dressed like a goth lolita something, skipping and he’d figured why not?
Once at the front door of the newly renovated cottage, he headed inside and was about to knock on the house mother's door when it opened to reveal Mrs. Horton.
“Mrs. Haitch! you lovely old...I mean, good afternoon, how’s your day?”
Mrs. Horton, to her credit, merely gave Max a mildly annoyed look. “Maximillian Powell, to what do we owe the dubious pleasure of your company?”
“Here to see Millie, erh, Millicent. You know, my sister, Songstress. I’m giving her the official Powell slash Whateley welcome package. And I’m also going to badger Nikki about my book.
“Which way then?”
Now, Mrs. Horton sighed and shook her head; “Mr. Pow-”
“Call me Max!” Max interrupted.
“Mr. Powell, today is not a good day, we’re expecting company in an hour. I’m afraid I can’t-”
Again, Max interrupted; “Shan't even take ten minutes and I’ll be out of your hair. Don’t worry, it’s not like you’ve got secrets here I don’t know about.”
“That is unfortunately correct. Very well, just don’t step on any toes, do you understand, Mr. Powell?”
Max gave Mrs. Horton a broad smile and held his hands out in a, to his mind, disarming manner; “Mrs. Haitch, you know as well as I that I’m the master of discretion.”
He turned and headed up towards the freshman floor. Behind him, Mrs. Horton skeptically muttered to herself; “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
“-but that’s just another way of saying she doesn’t want to teach me how to do that. But then again, I just thought I could persuade her and her friends to perhaps give me some particulars about what kinds I should buy? But I guess it’s somethi-”
“MILLIE! My newly minted baby sister!”
Millicent Powell, aka Songstress, froze with a look in her eyes not unlike a deer caught in the headlights; “Is...Isabel? Is there a blond, annoying looking guy smiling the most aggravating smile you’ve ever seen standing behind me?” She asked the tall and utterly gorgeous blonde in front of her.
Before Isabel could answer, Max threw his arms around his sisters’ shoulders. “Oh, you love me, Millie, and you know it.
“Hi, Isabel is it? I’m Max, this one's totally awesome older brother.” He held his hand out to the girl, who shook it with a grip like a vice.
“Ouch, damn that’s some grip you’ve got there. If I couldn’t already tell you’re an Exemplar, that’d do it.”
“D.E.M.? Huh? I’ve heard about you, not a lot of it good.” Isabel responded, giving him an appraising look.
“All lies, I’m certain. Anyway, charmed, pleasure to meet you, and etc. Millie here and I have business to discuss, Mrs. Haitch wants me gone in ten minutes, plus I gotta harass Nikki as well.
“This your room, Millie?” Max pushed the door open and invited his sister inside; “Step into my office, please. Isabel? I hope I see you again.” Isabel rolled her eyes and headed down the corridor in the opposite direction.
“What do you want, Max?” Millie asked, arms across her chest.
Max opened his bag and pulled out a number of envelopes. “Please, Millie, less hostility, if you please. And PLEASE tell me Isabel is your roommate?”
“She is, now what do you want? What are those?” she indicated the envelopes.
"Hot damn, I have to stop by more often if that's your roommate, yowsa! Anyway,
“these, Millie, are your inheritance. From Mom and Dad.” He held them up for her to see properly.
“From...From Mom and Dad?” Suddenly Millie’s voice was less annoyed and more sad.
“Indeed, this first one here, is an invoice! Mom and Dad are the only parents in the world who’d leave their children bills in their wills.
“Fortunately, you’ll note it’s an invoice for your Whateley tuition, paid in full.”
Millie accepted the envelope, looked it over briefly and put it aside; “Okay, what’s in the others?”
Max held the others up; “This fat one here, is filled with cash. Loads of cash, tonnes of cash. Okay, not that much cash. It’s for your school expenses for freshman year. You’ll get another one next year and one each year until you graduate.”
Max’s voice took on a more serious tone that made Millie pay more attention. Max was hardly ever serious; “This is not money for fun! You can keep whatever’s left over, but this is for expenses first. No skimping, or I will know, and if I know, Desi knows. And if Desi knows, well, you know, they all know. And frankly, our older brothers and sisters all have great big sticks up their collec-”
“Yeah, sure, okay. But, Max, I’ve already bought-”
“Then there’ll be more cash leftover, win-win!” Max exclaimed. “Okay, this one, is a debit card which represents a significant portion of your inheritance. It’s not much, but it’s still something. You will not be getting more until you turn twenty one. I won’t either, so don’t bother asking. If you want more money, find a way to make some! Also, I’ll be holding on to this until after you’ve bought all your supplies. Desi did the same to me, so again, don’t bother asking.”
Max gave her the final letter; “This is from Mom and Dad.
“And this! Laptop!” Robert got you this, I got one myself, though I think this, yeah, this is the newer generation.
“maybe I should give you mine and take this for my-”
Before he could finish the sentence, Millie yanked it out of his hands and gripped it tight.
“Mine! So, how much money’s on that debit card?”
“Plenty, not much, but plenty. Mom and Dad weren’t exactly billionaires, but they were well off enough. That’s a personal letter to you, so read it in private, okay?”
“Sure, Max. Uh, Max? I have to ask, what’s this about you carrying around a chainsaw last year?”
“Oh? Yeah, that. Uh, some people are probably going to ask you if I’m really crazy, and they’ll probably also ask you about some pigs. Just do me a favor and go with it, okay?”
“...Sure…But why the hedge shears?”
“Just changing thin-”
“Changing things up, got it!” Millie rolled her eyes. Despite him constantly “changing things up”, as he said, Max hadn’t changed, he was still the same he’d always been. “Wait, why are you going to harass Nikki? I’ve met her, she’s nice. She doesn’t deserve you inflicted upon her.”
“Of course you’ve met her. Back in ‘04 when she and her family vacationed at Uncle Billy’s ranch.”
Despite her intelligence, Millie didn’t leap to the obvious conclusion; “Uh…? No, that was-”
“Millie, you live in a cottage where at least half the inmates are boys turned girls, hell, two months ago you had a penis of your own. Do the math!” Max got up and stepped out into the hall; “That way, up the stairs?”
It took a few moments before it clicked with Millie, but finally; “Whoa, are you serious? Nikki’s Nick? Seriously?
“Wait, she’s got my Awesome Military Machines!”
Max made his entrance to the usual Kimba common room. “Ladies, greetings!” He gave both Phase and Lancer a quick glance; “Close enough. It is I, Max. How are we all?”
The reactions from the Kimbas were varied. Phase and Lancer rolled their eyes, Chaka idly threw a balled up piece of paper and hit Max between the eyes. Tennyo more or less ignored him and Generator’s eyes went straight to Britney whom Max had hanging from a strap around his shoulder.
Fey’s reaction was the colder of the group, turning her back on him and heading for her room.
“Nikki, we gotta talk about this, you can’t just ignore me until I go away, because like my grandmother used to say; I ain’t gonna!”
The red-headed elfin queen turned around and gave him a stare that quite possibly could kill people, given who was delivering it. “What do you want, Max?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can make you leave,” Chaka said, “not to mention Generator or Tennyo.”
Max looked at the two of them; “That's a good point you’ve got there, Toni, best I introduce a little anarchy to keep you occupied.” Max gave Chaka a sinister smile and unhitched Britney from his shoulder strap and placed her in Generator’s tiny but overly eager hands; “Here, entertain yourself and your friends with this.”
“Yeeeees, you have chosen well, Max-san!” Immediately, Generator did a few practice cuts which caused Phase to go solid, Lancer to slowly back away, mumbling something inaudible. Tennyo sprung up, “Are you nuts?” she asked, jumping after her roommate who furiously introduced Britney to a stack of papers.
Suddenly the action stopped as Generator gave Max a rather cruel smile; “You realize you’ve just given me the perfect tool to make you go away, right?”
Max pshawed loudly; “Britney would never hurt me!
“But seriously though, Nikki, I’d like to talk to you, in private if possible.”
Nikki just turned again and headed for her room; “Whatever.”
“What do you want?” Nikki asked, arms crossed over her chest.
“Can I hav-”
I DON’T have your book!” She immediately interrupted.
Max sighed, “can we just skip the whole denial part? Ayla and Zoe wouldn’t have tried to “talk” to me in the quad the other day if I’d been wrong.
“Really, Nikki, there’s nothing here for you to be afraid or ashamed of. So you turned into a girl, and a hot one at that, so what? I got eight brothers and sisters, they all changed sides as well.”
“Eight?” Nikki asked, forgetting herself for a moment at Max’s revelation.
“Yes, eight. Hell, Songstress on the other side of the building is my baby sister. She asked me to ask you for her Awesome Military Machines!”
Nikki gawked at him for a moment, not certain what to believe or even how to react. Finally; “Uh, I’m not sure…” She grimaced, or at least her face twisted into an adorable version of a grimace and her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“How did you figure it out?” She asked, a bit mutely.
Uncharacteristically of him, Max’s smile was comforting instead of taunting. “Nikki, I could probably tell you about how I’ve known about Poe for almost all my life or about how I’ve been here several times before you even manifested. But the truth is, I hadn’t actually thought about it until you told me yourself.”
“What, how? When?” Nikki asked in protest, practically sputtering the words.
“Did I ever tell you how I had a thing for Charmer last year?” Max asked. Through her outrage and surprise, Nikki managed to chortle out a small giggle; “No, but I think everyone noticed.”
“Oh, good. In any case, like everyone else, I also had a thing for you. Don’t bother protesting, the entire school is pretty much head over heels in love with you in one form or another.
“Though I was less in love and more...nevermind that. Anyway, like I said, you told me yourself. On parents day, last year.” Max sat back and waited for the response and, despite himself, enjoyed watching Nikki put two and two together.
“Son of a bi…”
Parents Day, 2006.
Nikki, along with her Mother on one arm and Father on the other and her brother Troy trailing behind, headed down towards the reception area where the busses were ferrying in the families of the freshmen students.
“That young man looks familiar, though I can’t quite place him.” Her mother commented, indicating a gangly boy with blonde hair and a chainsaw hanging from a strap around his shoulder.
Nikki took a moment to check him out; “Yeah, that’s Max, we’ve got a couple of classes together. He’s, not exactly sane, I think. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s crazy.”
Her parents nodded, not in agreement, but at her explanation. It was her father to ask next; “Is he carrying around a chainsaw? Does the school really allow that?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but students can carry guns, so I don’t see why not?”
The family walked up to him and he turned his attention away something only he could see and towards them.
“Hello Max, waiting for your family?”
“Nikki! Hi. Yeah, I’m just waiting for the biggest sis and the biggest bro. Don’t know when they’ll be here, but that’s okay. And I’m not crazy! I’m just not user friendly.”
“Young man, are you allowed to carry that around?” Nicholas Reilly sr. asked, pointing at the chainsaw.
Max held it up for inspection; “Oh this? Sure, I call it the vice president. Because, you know, Cheney…”
“Yes, that does…” Nicholas hesitated, Lucy was right, he did seem familiar. Or maybe it was just the look he was giving Nikki, something Nicholas had yet to get used to. Though the young man’s expression seemed more skeptical than admiring, which was odd.
“Uh, anyway, we’ve got to get going, have a nice, okay Max?” Nikki said and dragged her family along with her; “Toni!” She called out to her roommate.
Max watched the Reilly family for a moment before whispering to himself; “Nick Reilly, huh? You certainly turned out hot!”
“Oh Goddess! I did tell you! Urgh, I feel so stupid now, it was so obvious.” Nikki said, a note of anger in her voice. Max merely shrugged as Nikki continued; “My Mom and Dad did say they thought you looked familiar, but I don’t understand why I didn’t recognize you.”
“Well, I figure that with turning into an elf queen, and-”
“Sidhe! Not elf.” Nikki interjected.
“Whatever, that’s the same thing. Anyway, with everything that’s happened to you, and me having grown almost a foot in height since then. It’s no surprise, really. Besides, it was only two weeks.”
“Yeah, but still. It didn’t even occur to me...You set your dad’s barn on fire! I remember that, you didn’t have any hair, not even eyebrows because you burned down that barn just before I got there!”
“Hey! I did not set that barn on fire, there were totally extenuating circumstances! And besides, you can’t prove a thi-
“We’re getting off track here. We’re agreed that there’s no point in your continued denial, right?”
“Fine. Yeah, I suppose you’ve got a point, it’s just isn’t easy, you know?
“Uh, I guess you don’t...” Nikki shrugged. Then, in an effort to change the subject away from the embarrassing topic of her origin, “how are your parents, by the way?” Nikki immediately regretted asking as she couldn’t help but pick up the dark shadow that fell across Max’s aura.
Max fell quiet a minute before talking again; “It’s okay, you’re an empath, you can’t help it. No, uh, they died… Two years ago.”
“I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Nikki apologized, her mood turned a little sad, and frankly a little wary at the level of darkness that had passed over Max. It quickly receded though and Max smiled again; “Like I said, it’s okay. Besides, how would you know?, It’s not like we’re actually friends or anything.”
“We’re not friends?” Nikki asked, a little confused again. Max always seemed like he thought he was friends with everybody.
“What? I, uh, sure, I mean, yeah we’re…God damn you’re good!” Max flustered a bit at her adorably confused look. “That’s not what I meant. Sure we’re friends. But we don’t hang out, we’re in different social cir...cles...You know what? We’re getting off track again!
“I want my book back! Please tell me you still have it?” Max crossed his arms in pretend anger and seriousness.
Nikki shook her head, so much trouble for such a lousy book. “Sure, it’s back home, I can have my mom send it.”
“With Millie’s book as well, right?”
Max stood up and opened his backpack. From within he withdrew a scroll which he handed to Nikki.
“Payment for the excellent pen you made for me. You’ll note that the spellwork should be suitable for your type of magic.” She accepted it and gave it a quick glance before putting it on her desk as Max slung his backpack over his right shoulder and headed out the door.
“You’re not supposed to be able to use my type of magic!” She said, looking at him questioningly.
“True, and I can’t. Well, not directly anyway, but like everything else, magic is a system. And all systems have flaws that can be exploited. I’m not ashamed to say I’m very good at finding that little errant thread that lets you break the tapestry.
“Still can’t touch the ley lines like you do, though, if I do; ZAP! See you later, Nikki. Actually, I think I’m going to call you Nixiestick, okay?”
Nikki’s expression told him exactly what she thought of that idea; “No, not okay! You’re not my boyfriend, you don’t get to give me a nickname!”
“That’s okay, but I made you say ´nickname´.” He gave her a quick wink.
“Huh? Oh, haha, very funny, go away!” She gave him a push, though her physical strength wasn’t what it had been. Max didn’t resist though, and in the corridor he stopped and turned back towards her, his taunting smile back in place as he gave her a look she knew exactly what meant.
Max threw his arms up and out and shouted at the top of his lungs; “The lady has been conquered! She has thrown her undying love at my fee-”
“No! No I most certainly have not! Get out Max! Goddess, why did you have to do that?”
Max patted her, just a little bit condescendingly, on her head; “Because it’s fun to keep up appearances. I’ll see you around, Nikkiname.”
“NO NICKNAMES!” She shouted after him.
He turned around and faced her again, snapped his fingers and pointed at her; “Made you say it again!” He winked again and then headed down the corridor once more. Nikki stuck her tongue out at him as he yanked the Hedge Shears out of Generator’s hands with a “Mine, gimme!” to which he promptly received a kick over the shins and a hailstorm of paper balls to his head and Generator shouting; "Yeah? Well, I'm going to get my OWN pair of hedge shears and call them Jessica Simpson!"
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Gary was sitting at the group’s usual table, not that it was “their” table, it was just the table they usually chose. There was no real attachment to it other than perhaps the great view of the lunch line. His friends, Max, Fused, Firestriker, Electrix and the newcomer, Bawamba, were off doing their own thing. Gary, however, was once again feeding his ravenous appetite with a small plate of sandwiches and a pitcher of apple juice while simultaneously working on his current project.
A soft voice broke his concentration and brought him out of his reverie. “Hello, it’s Toolbox, right?”
Gary gave a small jump in fright and looked up, a vision of stunning beauty greeting him in the form of Dale Townsend, AKA Mindbird, the package deal psychic and, unfortunately, the object of Gary’s secret fantasies.
It took him a few seconds to remember that she was, in fact, a package deal psychic, and a few more seconds to wrest back control of his thoughts to more safe-for-pdp’s thoughts. Not fast enough though, to stave off humiliation and sparing Mindbird from his reflexive dirty thoughts.
“Ahhh….Mindbird? Ah, um, you, ah, you scared me.” Mindbird grimaced, not at what Gary said, but obviously at what he was thinking, “ah, sorry about that…” Gary apologized sheepishly.
Mindbird sat down across from him, “that’s...quite alright.” She said, hesitatingly, her posture telling Gary that she wasn’t really okay with it.
“Sorry…Uh, what...did you need something?”
Mindbird took another moment to look at Gary, she didn’t know much about him, other that he hung out with some of the sophomores and the object of her current concern, D.E.M. Or Maxwell Powell.
“Yeah, I wanted to ask you a few questions, Toolbox. Your friend, Max?”
Typical, one of the biggest babes at Whateley wanted to talk to Gary, and what did she want to talk about? Not Gary, but Max. It was always either Max or Fused. These days, it was usually Max.
“Uhm, that’s okay, Mindbird, you can call me Gary, er, Garrick. That’s my name. So, uh, what about Max?”
Mindbird actually gave Gary a look of sympathy at the thoughts he was projecting, though she almost immediately changed her expression as she noticed his thoughts changed to resentment at being pitied.
“In that case, Garrick, you can call me Dale. And don’t worry about...it. Anyway, my group and I has noticed that your friend Max’s feud with Dreadthought seems to have escalated somewhat? I was wondering if you could tell me about that?”
“Oh, that. Well, there’s not really all that much I can tell you about it. For some reason, Max doesn’t like Patrick and he won’t tell me why. Though I do get the feeling that, despite his nonchalant attitude towards it, it’s a bit more personal than he lets on. I mean, if you ignore the whole Charmer thing from last year, he’s focusing almost exclusively on Patrick. There’s really only a few times where he worried about other students.”
Mindbird chuckled a bit, she did indeed remember the Charmer thing, and about how Max had even tried to serenade the mage from Monaco on Valentine’s day.
She thought it was funny, embarrassing, but funny. And despite herself, Mindbird admitted it also was just a little romantic. But mostly it was just funny.
“Okay, you’re not worried that he might have bitten off more than he can chew. After all, he is just a wiz 2 while Dreadthought is a wiz 5. Probability manipulation not withstanding.”
Gary raised his eyebrow at Mindbird, “Worried? About Max? Are you kidding? We’re talking about a guy who laughed at Sebastiano and Hekate, to their faces. And when they retaliated, he made Hamper and Damper piss their pants. Y’know, the whole thing about his army of hobgoblins with tiny chainsaws?
“Max is the kind of guy who’d sit down at any of the big group’s tables upstairs and, when they’d complain, would give them that goofy smile that both tells them he’s nuts and invites them to jump, ass-first, onto his chainsaw and go Vroom!”
Mindbird snorted, if only to keep from laughing at Garrick’s outrageous suggestion.
Gary continued, “And to that, he’d probably add something about whether we’re being territorial about that kind of thing.
“To answer your question, sure, I’m a little worried, but there’s nothing that you or I can do about it. Max is going to do whatever he wants to do, regardless of what we think. And before you suggest that Dreadthought might take it out on me or any of our friends, that’ll only make Max even more stubborn.”
Mindbird thought it over, that certainly did sound like what she’d been told by Firestriker and Fused. Though they had both told her to go to talk to Garrick.
“Garrick, please, understand that I’m just trying to help, to help Max. What if Dreadthought then decides to involve his friends, like Chant. He’s a really strong-”
Gary interrupted Mindbird; “-Possibly as strong as you, yes, I know. Chant is really strong, but I think that he and Max have some kind of, if not friendship, then at least mutual agreement. Besides, Max has already said that he’s not afraid of Chant, or any of that group. Did you miss the part where I told you he laughed at the Don and Hekate? To their faces?”
Mindbird thought it over a moment and then smiled and nodded, “Very well, thank you for your time, Garrick, and don’t worry about...it. I suppose it’s somewhat...Anyway, have a nice day.”
She got up and left, certain that he was enjoying watching her leave.
Gary, to his credit, was not enjoying watching her leave, he was more awed that Dale Mindbird Townsend had actually deigned to talk to him. With a sigh, he picked up his sandwich again and returned his attention to eating it and scribbling in his notebook, with a slightly uncomfortable shifting in his seat.
Elsewhere, the same day.
“Hey Spartan? Have you ever noticed how Chant’s attention is always elsewhere when we’re having a group meeting?
“I mean, I’d be tempted to say it’s disrespectful.” Dreadthought asked his teammate and friend, Phillippe Apostolos, or Spartan.
At first, Spartan didn’t say anything, realizing that the question was meant for Chant and not for him. He performed a few more reps with the dumbbells before putting them down. Training was important for him, especially because he wasn’t an Exemplar and the only two girls on the team both were. It didn’t sit right with his male ego.
“His attention has indeed been a rare species of animal since he, acquired, that copy of the Venus Inc. portfolio.”
“It has indeed. You think we should take it away from him?” Dreadnought asked, this time directly to the members of the group currently present, all but Apex and Ignite, the two girls.
Without looking up from his newly acquired favorite thing in the world, Chant responded with a chuckle; “I am currently looking at a picture of both Poise and Solange in bikinis. Previous page was Heartbreaker in a skim-”
“Isn’t she a total bitch?” Kyber, the team’s Gadgeteer and Devisor asked. The rest of the boys, save Chant, rolled their eyes at the naive question. “That is adorable, Kyber, but chicks don’t need to be saints for you to partake in their pleasures.” Dreadthought responded. Stryfe, the team empath, nodded vigorously.
For a moment, Chant put down the portfolio. “Don’t listen to these ingrates, Kyber. They might be right, technically, and I certainly wouldn’t push her out of bed. But yeah, she’s a bitch, and if you find that unappealing, that’s cool. You do you, man!” He gave Kyber a closer look, specifically his right arm. “You need a hand with that?”
“It just needs to be recalibrated. I can handle it.” Kyber held up his cybernetic arm for all to see before continuing his work.
“If you say so, but I can hook you up with Fused and Toolbox, they’re pretty good with that shit.” Chant suggested, his nose once again buried in the Venus portfolio.
Dreadthought held his arms out in disbelief; “Hey, they’re Powell’s friends! Don’t let them inside the circle!”
Chant shrugged; “Really not your decision, DT, you’re not the one gradually losing all his fleshy bits and replacing them with some weirdass ridiculous metal.
“Speaking off, we really need to find you a girlfriend, Kyber, gotta lose that virginity before your dick falls off.”
“It is simply amazing, Chris, how one minute you can be supportive and friendly and then the next you’re a total dick.” Ignite said from the door, Apex right behind her. The two Exemplar girls entered the room and sat down, Ignite next to Kyber and Apex pushed herself onto Dreadthought’s lap; “Hey baby, sorry we’re late, but it doesn’t seem like we missed anything.” She gave her boyfriend a quick kiss and put her arm around his shoulders.
“DT, dude! It’s your girlfriend! In a corset!” Chant held up the portfolio, turned to a page with Apex clad in a black corset. “I think I need some private time!”
“Seriously? Chant, you’re such a dick, fuck you!” Dreadthought almost shouted.
Chant held up his hands in surrender; “Okay, okay. I give up. Apex? You’re a wonderful and classy woman, I respect you.
“Kyber? I’m not sorry for suggesting we find you a girlfriend, I was actually serious about that. Anyway, what are we talking about?” He put the portfolio aside and sat down at the table. “Oh, and by the way? DT? They might be “friends with the enemy”, but Fused and Toolbox are cool. This whole thing is between you and Max, so since that’s what we’re spending most of our time talking about anyway, where are you with that?”
He looked at Dreadthought, who was still looking angry.
Stryfe spoke up; “Yeah, stealing stickers is small time. The guy is disrespecting you behind your back, and by extension, the rest of us. What’s the plan, boss?”
Dreadthought whispered something in Apex’s ear. She reached behind him and took the intricately decorated book from the desk behind them and placed it on the table. Dreadthought opened it, chuckled a moment as he took a look at the big yellow smiley sticker, and then turned to a specific page.
“So, word on the street is, lil’ Micro’s got a baby sister in Poe...
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Breakfast, in the Crystal Hall, was more or less the same as usual. David, or Fused was sitting with his usual confident look, his perfect hair, square jaw and easy muscles. He was leaning on his left elbow, eating an apple with his left, prosthetic arm flat on the table, casings open. Instead of focusing on the arm though, he was sharing looks with an Exemplar girl sitting amongst her friends at the next table.
Ronald, Firestriker, was digging through his voluminous breakfast. The size of his breakfast wasn’t just because he was the largest of the group by far, closing in on seven feet tall. It was also because of his fire based powers. So obviously he was gulping down eggs, bacon and sausages like there was no tomorrow all the while participating in the round table discussion.
His intake of food was only matched by the freshman at the table, Bawamba, Denver. The somewhat round-ish regenerator who’d been brought into the group by Max after a demonstration of his virtual indestructibility by some of the academy bullies, was digging through a sizable bowl of sugary cereal. A couple of days earlier he had told the group about how his impressive regen rate was mostly powered by sugar, requiring him to eat copious amounts. The others had been hesitant about him at first, but he had quickly shown he could keep up with their discussions and nerd knowledge.
The third gadgeteer of the group, Paul, Electrix, Benton was ignoring his breakfast. Instead, he had his nose, along with tools and a multimeter, buried in Fused’s prosthetic arm. He was still participating in the discussion though, offering tidbits of opinion and insight from time time.
Toolbox also had a pile of food in front of him. Not because he had powers that required it, he merely had a high metabolism. As usual, a small collection of parts were floating in front of his plate slowly assembling into a small piece of equipment that Electrix plucked out of the air once it was done.
It was all really very regular, Gary thought, except for the fact that Max, the groups most prolific talker, had been uncharacteristically silent. In fact, he’d been unnaturally subdued, quiet and even considerate of others for several days. As if someone had managed to rattle him, the one guy who didn’t rattle.
Clearly, something had to be done!
Gary caught the eyes of Firestriker and Electrix and indicated Max. They both looked at Max, then shrugged; “What?” Firestriker asked.
Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Gary frowned heavily at his friend.
“What?” Firestriker asked again, “what’s the matter?”
Electrix looked at both of them, then at Max again before returning his attention to the prosthetic attached to his friend.
“Seriously? We’ve all been sitting here talking trash about all the stuff Max cares about, and he hasn’t said anything beyond “okay” and the occasional grunt!
“And all you can ask is what?” Gary chastised his friend; “But hey, let’s just sit here and fiddle with David’s bits and pieces!”
Fused turned away from the Exemplar girl he was flirting with, “hey, what the hell did I do? So Max is being quiet and not annoying us with his nonsense? Enjoy it!” His piece said, he turned back to the girl, but didn’t stop talking; “And you both agreed that you’d help me with this upgrade for today. So don’t blame me, or Paul, just because Max-
“You know what? Whatever. Max isn’t talking and that’s fine with me!”
Gary shook his head and muttered; “Dickbag!” before turning to Firestriker and Max.
“Max? Come on, what’s bothering you buddy?” He asked while Firestriker fished a few pieces of bacon off Max’s plate.
“Uhuh, yeah, that’s fine.” Max answered absently, clearly not paying attention.
“What are you looking at?” Gary turned around in the direction Max was facing. He pretty much had the entire ground floor of the Hall within sight. “Max?”
“Uhuh, sure, I’m good with that.”
This considered a few more minutes with Gary getting frustrated until, finally, Firestriker lashed out with his fork, stabbing Max pretty deep in the shoulder; “Buddy, wake up, we’re talk-”
“I gotta go talk to someone!” Max pretty much shouted as he stood up, ignoring the fork stab. He picked up his tray, gave Firestriker a look that told him not to take his bacon in the future and headed over to another table.
“There you go, back to his annoying old self. Happy now, Gary?” Fused asked.
With a determined look and a plan, Max walked over to a table of freshman girls. Once there, he put his tray between two of them and sat down; “Scooch over, will ya?”
The two girls reacted like most people do when a stranger pushes himself in between them, they moved. All the girls had confusion written over their faces, though one of them quickly recovered.
“You’re Max, right? Songstress’ brother?” Isabel asked
“Millie’s most awesome older brother, that’s me. But before yo-” Max answered Isabel’s question with usual gusto, but was interrupted by Sarah picking up the reins.
“That’s great, what do you want? Don’t you have your own friends or something? I mean, it’s probably cool for you to hang with us, but I think we’d like to get the opportunity to actually, you know, invite you!”
Max nodded along with the rest of the girls around the table; “Yeah, I can see where you’re comin...Holy shit! Twins!”
“Yeah, so?” Sarah asked. Isabel rolled her eyes at him and the rest just laughed.
“Oh, well, it’s just that...It’s a guy thing, you wouldn’t understand!” Max winked. He knew full well what, if not all then most of them, were. “Anyway, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself, I am Maximilian-”
“Powell, yes, we know.” Sarah finished for him, “you’re the guy with the marshmallows and the state of emergency!”
Instantly, Max’s expression turned from his usual happy grin to deer caught in headlight; “Millie really needs to keep her mouth shut about things she knows nothing about!
“That whole story has been blown completely out of proportion, all I did was roast some marshmallows! What happened after that has nothing to do with me!”
“I heard that the Albuquerque Super Sentinels, the Knights of Purity and the MCO-” Sarah taunted, but Max immediately broke in;
“That is not true! That is NOT true! It was not the MCO, it was the local Sheriff who just happened to be an MCO deputy. The Knights of Purity were there for a completely different reason and it was only two ASSes. Like I said, completely out of proportion.”
“What about the state of emergency then? Wasn’t that also in Arizona and Texas as well?”
Man, those girls just wouldn’t relent, their assault was vicious.
“There was a huge storm! I don’t have weather powers, there’s just no way that could possibly be my fault!”
“I saw it on TV, it was a hurricane, out of season.”
Max harumpfed, “like I said, I’m not a weather wizard mutant, you can’t blame me for that part!
“What about the state electrical grid cras-”
“I said anyway! I didn’t come here to talk about something that wasn’t my fault! So can we please get back to the topic at hand?” Max sighed heavily, these girls were cruel.
The red headed girl with the mildly amused smile shook her head and chuckled; “Sure, Mr. Powell, what can our little assembly do for you? And please don’t say you’re another dumbass here to hit on Sarah, Isabel or worse, myself or Elisha?”
The tall dark haired girl with the indigo eyes gave the red head a slightly outraged stare; “Hey, what about me? Why wouldn’t they hit on me?” She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms with a pout.
The redhead chuckled again and shook her head slowly, and then looked to the others for help.
Sarah responded; “Because, Jordan dear, you’re tall and scary looking. You’ve got that whole Woman of Power look going.”
“I think she’s hot, I’d hit on her…” Max threw in as an offering of appeasement.
Jordan, the tall dark haired girl gave him a beaming smile; “Thanks, that’s so nice, but you’re not really my type.” Her smile seemed genuine though.
“I’m Jordan, or Striker Indigo, if you want my codename.” She held out her hand to Max, who shook it with his usual eager temperament.
“Indigo like your eyes then?” Max asked, having noticed her striking eye color. In fact, all the girls at the table had striking eye colors. But that wasn’t unusual with mutants, and certainly not with exemplars. He’d also noted that both Isabel and Sarah had the exact same color, rather unusual.
Jordan shrugged and returned to her food; “Well, that, and because my powers manifest with an indigo color. I would have called it blue, but my mother insisted it was indigo. She’s an interior designer, so I guess she knows what she’s talking about.”
“Your mom’s right, you should listen to her. By the way, what about the rest of you? What’s your codenames? I know yours already!” Max nodded to Starlight who had remained silent, except for the occasional giggle, throughout the exchange. “Oh, and no, I actually hadn’t thought about hitting on any of you. I can, no doubt, but that wasn’t why I came over here.”
The girls shared a few stares between themselves before Sarah answered; “Well, I’m Bungie, my sister Isabel is Dancer. Jordan and Elisha, as you know are Striker Indigo and Starlight, Fitzy is Killjoy-."
"I'm Felicity," the redhead, Killjoy, said.
"Right," Sarah continued, "and the quiet mouse there is Ender” Sarah pointed to the one member in the group who hadn’t said a sound the entire time. An average sized girl whose face Max couldn’t see due to the pulled up hoodie.
“Well, hello ladies. Like I said, my name is Maximilian Powell, and I would like to introduce myself to yourselves, and to the young lady here.” He nodded to Starlight.
“My reasons for this are twofold, though one is really only to satisfy my curiosity.”
Starlight winced. She’d been hit on quite a lot in the ten days she’d been back at Whateley, she really wasn’t interested in another one, especially since, from her perspective, she still wasn’t over her ex-boyfriend. Though that was ten years ago from everyone else’s point of view.
“Uhm, me? Why, uh, is there something you need?” She asked, hesitantly. Her friends and cousins all waiting patiently. Even Ender had looked up from her breakfast and was squeezing Starlight’s hand under the table.
Max, ever perceptive, noticed her reluctance immediately and decided on a light approach. He was totally considerate like that!
“Why sure, there are lots of things I need, a billion dollars, a marching band following me around, and so on. But from you?” He pulled a fist sized shard of crystallized something from his backpack and put it on the table in front of her, “I was wondering if you could tell me about this?”
Gingerly, she reached for it, but pulled back before picking it up; “What about it? It’s...just a crystal, right?” She asked Max, already knowing it wasn’t “just” a crystal. It had a strange, yet at the same time familiar feel to it. As if it was somehow related to her, or at least her power.
“Just a crystal, huh? I guess you could call it that. I found it out in the forest near the end of August near a recently de-restricted...is that a word? Class X site.
“For the uninitiated around the table, a class x site is restricted for students because it’s supposedly dangerous to go there. You’ll have heard that in your welcome speech, right?
“Anyway, the day you got here? You know, with Mrs. C, Mr. D and, I assume, your parents, we met outside Poe. Remember? I had the crystal in my pack and I could feel it heat up through both my pack and my jacket.”
Max picked up the crystal again and held it in both hands; “It’s heating up now, ow, better put it down. Anyway, here’s my question, what’s the deal?”
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- Independent Fiction: Tunnels
- Posted Stories: Fabrication Lab
- A little story about Max, the gardening tool wielding maniac!