- Independent Fiction: Tunnels
- Posted Stories: Fabrication Lab
- Songs of the Compass Roses - Arias of Life
Please use 1 and only 1 thread for a given story/project. Make revisions to existing posts instead of duplicating sections of your story. Do not post replies in other authors' threads.
Note that using the forums for stories is now considered for experimental projects or for new authors who want some feedback from other authors before exposing their work to the reading community. Of course, anyone is welcome to continue to post their material here... but we hope authors will take advantage of the site features for displaying their stories to more than just the forums community.
Songs of the Compass Roses - Arias of Life
Monday April 23rd, 2007
North of Dunn Hall - Whateley Academy
Dunwitch, New Hampshire
4:28 PM EDT
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West
Well here it begins my the first of my three weeks of punishment, working with the Whateley Academy Grounds Crew. One bit of consolation I had that despite the warning that I was given about the possibility of being called upon for the demonstration bouts in Arena 99 during Parents and Perspectives Day, a simple check of the calendar showed that by the time that ran around my time in detention would have ended by about a week and a half.
Granted as much as I was glad about Kerry warning me of that little caveat in the Academy's policies it was for the most part unnecessary. While I understand her intention for letting me know the stakes was both as the warning from a friend as well as the general reputation that Posies, I term that while I found it annoying, I was becoming increasingly numb to, had around campus as troublemakers.
Not that I intended to be a troublemaker during my time here at Whateley especially given my pending destiny that was lurking in the future, no I for one did not want to go seeking any trouble that I didn't have to while I was here...granted if trouble did come to my door that was another story. That of course was a matter for another time, now was my time to learn about the wonderful world of gardening and lawn maintenance, maybe if I was lucky, they'd have me picking up litter on campus.
Not likely Randy, Jane sent over our link, 'most student here actually use the trash bins and the bits that may fall by the wayside are usually taken care of by Jimmy Trauger.'
'Good to know Jane,' I tried to avoid reacting to those...implications. 'Good to know.'
Just trying to let you know what you are in for, Jane replied, 'I'm on to my own punishment, carrion disposal.'
'I'd say gross, but chances are I'm going to be eating some of that this summer,' I involuntarily shuddered at my coming lupine walkabout to get in touch with my wild side. Granted given the number of feral pigs in the south there was a chance that I could be living high on the hog without risking pissing of trigger-happy ranchers worried about another stray going after their herd. Which meant the chance of this Texas girl sinking her teeth into a nice piece summer barbecue at Tricoma's Annual August Master of the Pit, Grill & Spit Summer Fest was a no go.
Granted this also meant the potential embarrassment of showing my tail in public in Corpus at the beach after working waiting tables at the Lafitte for Nana Bridges not to mention the types of swimsuits said appendage would make me need to wear. I honestly don't think that I'm the type for a two-piece let alone a bikini, I wouldn't even need the sunburn to turn red just the thought of it...
"Hello Ms Bridges," a middle-aged man of Japanese descent stated as he walked up to men, "Don't worry about not meeting me at The Shed for your detention, for most students it is harder to find their first time than Ito-soke's sense of humor."
"Oh, I don't know," I rolled my eyes at my combat evaluation last week, "I would say that I found it last week just fine, I just thought that it was sick."
"Yeah Tatsuo-san does leave that impression," the man shook his head with a laugh before extending his hand, "Kasuo Miyamoto, I understand that you are going to be helping us out for the next few weeks."
"Randi Bridges," I shook his hand in reply careful on how I pronounced it as per Morrigan's training not that it mattered much since a person's given name isn't their true name as the knowledge of that language was lost a long time ago. "I have to say it is odd getting the friendly response since I'm here for detention."
"Sometime people have to do the wrong things for the right reasons," Mister Miyamoto explained as he began to guide me towards what I assumed was the Whateley Academy Grounds and Utility Building- or as most people just called it The Shack, "the administration understands that but they still need to enforce the rules even if you did know what you were doing- after all we can't have other students getting the idea in their head to be too reckless and winding up over their head."
"Whatever mental issues going on in my upstairs Mister Miyamoto," I remarked as I followed him to what was going to be my base of operations for the next few weeks, "delusions of invincibility are not one of them, I have had way too many near death experiences since manifesting thank you very much."
"An attitude that both Miss Carson and Mrs. Horton will no doubt appreciate," Mister Miyamoto observed as he came to The Shed's Door, "but just so you know sweet talking me won't reduce your detention."
"No but it may be an incentive for you to give me some know how on a project that my sponsor wants me to look into." I began my pitch to the head of Whateley's Grounds Keeping Department.
"And that would be?" Mister Miyamoto looked at me as his voice turned lightly frosty.
"If you could teach me what you know about tree splicing," I began to make my pitch, "Mrs. Redstag told me that it would be a skill that I would need sometime in the not so near future, and I figure better to take advantage of an opportune situation and learn what I need on the job."
"That I could possibly help you out with Miss Bridges," Mister Miyamoto warmed up from his earlier aura of intimidation. "For a moment I was worried that you wanted to know where the fertilizer was so you could dump it in another cottage's ventilation system."
"Did someone really try that?" I all but goggled at the implications of that statement.
"It has happened more than once," Mister Miyamoto sent me reeling with that little tidbit- gross. At least none of the crazier students tried to make explosives out of the stuff- then again here at Whateley they likely knew if they tried the school would sic all of the Chemistry Devisors on them for risking the school taking some chemicals out of the labs.
Private Practice Room - Laird Hall
I made sure the belt of my newest Kenpo-gi was tied tight, thank goodness I bought in bulk since these training sessions make me go through them at the rate of one a week. While it was somewhat embarrassing being a white belt again after earning my blue belt in Ti-Kwon Do, Morrigan had long insisted that her style only had two belts white and black and I was a long way away from the second.
"So, who will it be tonight, a Zulu warrior, a Mongol soldier, a Danish axe man or will it be a surprise?" I asked curious on who my opponent was going to be as my mentor activated the spell that stretched out the moments in this room.
"Wrong continent again young padawan," Morrigan replied as she seemingly glided over to her Jar of Form, "I have been hearing a few whispers around the faculty lounge and I thought that it was time that you had a little training from your own roots."
Morrigan worked her magic conjuring a spirit from the great beyond and channeling it into the Jar of Form. Soon I could see the ectoplasm within emerge and take form, as always, the form was blurry at first, I could clearly see the outfit as that of a Native American tribesman from the attire I would guess one of the Plains Tribe. As the moments ticked, I began to see the style of his garb was Caddoan, no wait... he was Pawnee- specifically a Skiddi Pawnee brave.
"Kind man of the Wolf Band," Morrigan inquired of the now materialized warrior whose name I already suspected by the sight of his necklace. "Might I ask your warrior's name?"
"I am Five-claws son of Broad-Knife a Brave in the band of Petalesharo." The brave answered, that clinched it I was right on the money for who she summoned. "And who might you be who summoned me from my rest?"
"I am known by many names," Morrigan began her own ceremony, "the master of the North Woods, the Chooser of the Fallen, Queen of Phantoms, Lady of the Battlefield, Mother of Flames, Washer at the Ford, or as you may choose to call me the Sister of the Wolf Walks Among the Stars- whose blood flowed in your veins."
This caused Five-claws to briefly recoil, "I knew the stories from my father, but we were only supposed to pass that on among our kin."
"I heard it from my brother a few years ago," Morrigan confessed, "granted this story has since been lost to your family- one of whom stands here now."
Bidden by her introduction I stepped forward, "my birthname would mean little to you as I was born outside the tribe, after both my great-great grandfather and my great-grandmother chose to take a separate path into the world of the White Men. But I have chosen a name since that means Little Wolf, a name that I am slowly earning."
"She is of your blood and I would ask you to train her," Morrigan began, "I know that women are not usually trained in the art of war or the hunt, but times have long since changed."
"Times were changing even in my time," Five-claws looked at Morrigan with a look that spoke only of knowing that their way of life had come and gone, "it was the reason when Petalesharo moved to end the Morning Star Ceremony among our band my family stood by him. An act that cost my father's life at the hands of a coward when the man tried to attack Petalesharo."
"I may not have many stories from the tribe, but I remember yours was one that they took with them," I interrupted, "you challenged the now nameless son of Stone-axe to a trial by deeds. Each of you were to collect a claw from a great animal chosen by a vision from the shaman, you both had to take a dew claw from a wolf, a coyote, a cougar and bobcat without killing any of them."
"Not an easy feat mind you, I had to approach them without fear or malice, and even then, it wasn't easy to convince them to part even after feeding them and bandaging their wounds. And the ones the nameless one took from first were far less trusting of my word" Five-claws then sighed, "The final claw though that did not come without death for it was to be from an alligator, a creature whom knows no such mercy and who lives in a place where man is not at home. What I did not know at the time was that the beast was targeted by both of us at the same time and it was this beast that was to be the final judge of our dispute."
"From what I heard his fear and impatience clouded his judgement and he went for the alligator too early," I repeated what I learned from grandmother Gertrude, "Then a day after the beast was sleeping off that meal, you came in bound his mouth with a strip of hide and took one of the beasts claws."
"I seared the wound with a hot knife and let the beast go, after a few days the water would have loosened the hide for the beast, I then earned my name and my father's killer lost his." Five-claws concluded the tale.
'Unfortunately, his younger brother Windstride never forgot, despite the chief's judgement they maintain the blood feud today with all their power.' I reflected on the part of the tale that extended into the modern day but kept it to myself, "But as nice as this little lesson in family history was, let’s see what you have, I look forward to passing what you have to teach me to my own siblings and to potential generations."
"I will endeavor to teach you as I did my own son Chipped-knife." Five-claws smiled as he took up a practice tomahawk tossing a second one to me.
"And I will endeavor to be as good of a student as he was." I replied as I mimicked my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's stance.
Second Floor Girl's Shower - Poe Cottage
Ugh, today was a beast, not only did I have to wake up early in order to squeeze in as much of my normal job as I could before Breakfast. Granted it help me beat the line for the showers and working Beck while it was work it was climate controlled enough that I really didn't work up enough of a sweat to warrant a second morning shower.
Then after classes I spent the late afternoon scraping gum off campus benches, okay to be fair they did let us use a proprietary solvent so as not to minimize damage to the wood's weather sealant. This also meant working with some pretty thick gloves too because the chemical burns would make you peal like an onion after a few days and risk messing up your fingerprints. The real issue was that the stuff reeked, I mean if my old Kenpo-gi which after a week smell worse than getting sprayed by a skunk, were a nine on the hall of fumes scale this stuff was at least an eight-point-two and given that my lupine traits gave me a boosted sense of smell that meant agony.
I mean think about it like this, people have been using domestic dogs for tracking for centuries and their sense of smell is actually weaker than a wolf's, at least after hearing this from me this got me a lawn mask of the deal instead of a painter's mask. Thankfully they told me that gum on benches was rare around campus as most students actually cared about the campus grounds, even the Dylans actually bothered to use ash trays and cigarette bens, this meant that I only had to clean up about seven wads of gum across the whole campus. What was weird though was that I was told to drop the bag off at Security, as it turned out they have a DNA analyzer and direct-billed the accounts of the students who left gum littering the campus (be kind and keep your wrappers folks).
I also have to do more traditional grounds keeping work like weeding the lawn, at least the weeds up in New England are less annoying than the ones that we had in Texas. Yup I'd rather deal with ragweed than dallisgrass any day of the week and the southwest lawn appeared to have the early signs of an infestation.
Granted Morrigan's choice of training partners for me today was interesting to say the least, Five-claws had a lot to teach me in that session and I hoped that I could talk Morrigan into calling him up again so that I could learn more of what he had to teach, especially in terms of survival skills. As I finished my shower, I made my way back to my room planning on double-checking my homework, when I heard someone calling my name.
"Randi- Randi Bridges, can I please talk with you a moment?"
I turned and saw the source of the voice; it was a girl of clearly Native American heritage. It took me a moment, but I soon recognized her as one of the newer faces around campus, Kayda Franks a recent transfer to the school. I heard during lunch that while my friends and classmates were busy with the havoc that The Necromancer caused to smoke Bea and I out to kill us in Boston, she fought and defeated a Class-X entity in Dunwich some sort of black serpent.
Come to think of it there was also a bit of drama around Poe a few weeks ago, apparently the now departed spirit of Queen Aunghadheil invaded the dreamspace of another student to talk with an important Lakota spirit. I had assumed that they were talking about Jaime given their propensity for hosting the full gamut of the Lakota spirit lodge at any given time, but I might have been wrong.
"Yes- but please make it quick," I began to explain feeling more nervous at every moment, I hate talking to new people, "it's been a long day and I want to double check my homework before lights-out."
"Well you see my name is Kayda Franks and I'm organizing a group on campus for students of Native American heritage to experience more of their tribal heritage," Kayda began her sales pitch and I was starting to like where this was going less and less. "As part of this Charlie Lodgeman gave me access to the student roles and I noticed that your great-grandmother was Pawnee. Normally tribal registries will only recognize someone who is one-eighth as being eligible for tribal membership, however the Pawnee nation extends this to those of one-sixteenth heritage."
Okay it was official I was liking where this was going less and less every minute, I know that I have an issue with tact, but I was going to have to give this girl a hard pass.
Miss Franks continued her pitch refusing to recognize my current feelings on the matter, "Now- with Mister Lodgeman's help we could assist you with applying for tribal membership easy enough and even extend membership to you for the Natio-"
"Pass," I turned around and began to make my way back towards my room.
"Now Miss Bridges," Kayda pleaded trying to make her case again as I wanted to go back to one of my few available sanctuaries, "there is nothing to be embarrassed about being of native heritage- I am sure if you would give us a cha-"
"I have more than enough on my plate Miss Franks," I put as much chill into my voice as I could, "now thank you for your consideration but I will decline your invitation."
As I continued to make my way back to my room, I ignored Kayda ramblings how dare Totem give my file to another student, I was going to take this matter up with Miss Hartford as first thing tomorr...
That was when Kayda did something that pushed my temper over the line, she grabbed my hand. Okay for those who don't know me- Hi I'm Randi Patricia Bridges aka Faolan, I am half-Faerie of a very mixed heritage and am also on the Autism Spectrum. Granted I am high-functioning autistic so many people may not know of my difficulties and hang-ups, I have a bit of a temper that I have been working on all my life. I am also a bit of an introvert which makes me feel very uncomfortable around people that I don't know and extra uncomfortable in loud confined spaces, again I am working to open up more and deal with social interaction (Bea, Candace, Jane, Heather and even Kerry have been helping me work with this in their own way).
My last hang-up, and this is a major one for me, is unwanted physical contact, I don't like being touched by other people especially without my say so. A few weeks ago I woke up with Candace hugging me and it was very nerve-wracking, granted it was mitigated by my hormones since she sleeps in the buff and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't find her physically attractive (I was also a wolf at the time) and I imagine that it looked more like a hot-freckled red-head hugging a husky which in all made that situation far more bearable.
However- Kayda Franks was for the most part a complete stranger to me (once again introvert), I was already annoyed that she was bringing up a bit of uncomfortable family history and not taking the hint to leave me alone. That alone had me feeling annoyed and had my temper set to a simmer, this was when she did the worst thing that she could have ever done in this situation... she grabbed my hand.
I will be honest here for one of the first times since I had gotten here at Whateley and became a girl- I lost it. Without meaning to I shifted right into my rage-wolf form, my vision began to tint red, and I was growling through a fanged mouth. "Listen here and listen good Franks, never touch me again, never talk to me again and if you ever- and I mean ever try to use my heritage like this again I swear I will make you regret it!"
After that outburst I retreated back to my room, not caring that I was still transformed, that my robe was now open, or that the hallways were becoming packed with my cottage mates likely wondering what the hell just happened. All I wanted to do was retreat to safety both from others but also for others, I might put on a tough exterior a lot of the time, but the fact was that I was scared of a lot. I was scared of heights, I was scared of crowds, I was scared of people judging me, but most of all I was scared of myself.
Now that I was back in my room I shrank into my wolf form and curled up on the floor to sulk as Jane looked at me in concern not saying a word or judging me just looking at me with concern and now that I was in a safe place and the adrenaline was starting to wear off I don't blame her. I knew it all too well that I had temper, for most of my life that had been because of Carcharoth's influence over my actions even causing me to alienate one of the few friends that I had growing up outside of my own family. For a while after being reborn I had been trying to do my best to deal with my issues- to be a better me but there were just things that were too ingrained.
I needed to be real with myself Carcharoth didn't give me my temper, he made it worse and gave me a bunch of unnecessary triggers, but the temper was all mine. I guess that it was a good thing that I had an appointment with Doctor Bellows the day after tomorrow, dealing with my death and rebirth wasn't the only issue that I needed to start dealing with.
Winter Transfers Table - Crystal Hall
I will be the first to admit, as much as having the ability to dream real dreams rocked the fact that also meant that I could have my own nightmares that didn't involve Carcharoth fighting Morrigan and Greyback to body jack me did not. I will admit that I didn't have many nightmares since Mrs. Redstag got her body back, the dozy that I had after my trip to Boston made me look forward to talking with Dr. Bellows. I will admit coming across those victims of The Necromancer's firebombs still weighed on me, I was glad that I was able to rescue as many as I did.
Last night's nocturnal terror though, that was nobody's fault by my own guilt and fear, it was like I was an ogre in my own body, and I was going after Kayda with all of the rage of my many times great-uncle Carcharoth. I was almost like what I imagined I looked like that day at Six Flags when he briefly did take over my body, it was all of my worst fears made real and if I didn't go to sleep as a wolf I would have likely woken up in a cold sweat from the affair. It was a good thing that I had wording my job hardwired into me at this point because I doubt that my head was really in the game at the library, 'Thank you again Jane.'
"No problem Randi," my corvid comrade replied back, "Looking out for you is part of my job as your familiar after all."
"Randi what's up," Jamal looked at me out of concern for my silence which was more than usual, "you haven't said all morning, is detention that bad."
"No- not really," I shook my head thankful that Jane was keeping quiet, "Mister Miyamoto and the rest of the grounds crew have been about as nice as they can. I think they appreciate that I'm willing to take instruction, do the work and not drag my feet over the matter."
"I'll tell you why she's like this," a voice that I recognized around Poe came from behind me in what seemed like a small group, "our friend Kayda offered to work with Bridges here to reconnect her with her tribal heritage and not only did Bridges shot her down she yelled in her face and threatened her."
I turned around to see Pejuta's friend and roommate Punch glaring at me flanked by a group of what I assumed were some of Miss Frank's other friends. "Now you are going to walk over to our table and apologize like a decent huma-"
"No," I interrupted Punch with a look that promised that I was not going to cede to her demands. "Your friend in her misguided effort to raise first nations awareness violated the privacy of my student record to learn information that is not publicly available and tried to coerce me into joining her group. I told her no several times and I owe her neither and explanation or an apology why, that is a personal matter and it was one that she should have never gotten involved in the first place."
"Kayda was just trying to help you connect with your roots," a girl who I didn't know tried to plead her friend's case, "just because you don't wa-"
"First of all, while I find it a good thing that Miss Franks has friends that are willing to help her the fact remains that this was a matter for my family that she tried to involve herself in." I interrupted the girl, "Second neither you nor she have any right to make assumptions about how myself or my family feel about our tribal heritage- we have our reasons and they remain our reasons unless we feel like discussing matters. Third I am not apologizing to Kayda about anything until she apologizes about violating my privacy, I would have thought that after what happened between her and Fey, she of all people would appreciate that. Finally, while I will offer her an explanation, this matter is between Miss Franks and myself-"
"Says who?" a boy among the group nudged himself ahead to stare me down- word to the wise do not try to intimidate a member of the faefolk like that- glamour works in ways other than attraction and despite the fact that I was neither a full-fae or a sidhe I still had enough to make someone trying to get in my face think twice.
"Says us," Kerry stood up and looked at him followed by the rest of the table, "it sounds to me like your friend tried to do something that she shouldn't. If Randi says that matters concerning her tribal heritage among the Pawnee are her family's business, then I would suggest that your friend respect that. If she wants to ask why that is after apologizing to Randi and I presume after Randi apologizes back for losing her temper-" Kerry looked at me asking a question without doing so to which I nodded in affirmation- "then she is free to do so. Now I would consider this matter settled unless you would want me to raise a concern with Miss Hartford about you trying to coerce another student."
"Fine," Punch accepted Kerry's olive branch before locking eyes with me, "but if you ev-"
Punch stopped her threat when I turned my glamour of intimidation back on and threw in a minor seeming that caused my eyes to glow a menacing gold. "Never lodge threats at a fae-blood Miss Chambers, idle or otherwise, we take oaths very seriously."
After the group dispersed and left earshot Jamal remarked, "Damn Randi, you scare me sometimes!"
"That makes two of us," I deflated chastising myself for almost losing it again, to which Jane responded by patting me on the head with her wing- a sight that made Steve, Rob and Baird bust a gut, and despite my attempt to resist the laughter proved contagious.
I was making my way out of Crystal Hall and to Freshman History, for the life of me I wonder why administration didn't let me place out of the course. Granted most of the History teachers back home were also coaches but I was fortunate in that while my World History teacher was also the Soccer Coach, he also really cared about the subject that was his to teach. Granted I had a Baseball Coach for my Seventh Grade Math teacher who also cared about teaching and wanted to make sure that we understood the material.
Randi, red alert, Jane queued in, We have a compulsioner headed your way.
Appreciating the heads-up from Jane as she watched perched in the awnings between the second and ground floor of Crystal Hall, I went into my routine. Ever since Morrigan and I became separated and other horndogs around campus heard that I had been able to say no to Imperious, a number of those with empathic, telepathic, or compulsion abilities had taken me for being a challenge. This was one of the reasons that when I was on campus and not expected to need my costume that I kept the Mask of Occlusion in my bag instead of in my choker with my costume.
After ducking behind a support column I slipped on my mask and with a simple seeming spell made it invisible so all anyone saw was my face and an spell of inconsequence on myself. Satisfied that my preparations were complete I waited for my quarry in silence- soon Darren Haskins aka Speakeasy walked past. After letting him look confused at having lost track of me, time to pounce, "I presume that you were wanting to talk to me Mister Haskins- you have three minutes I need to get to class."
After he briefly jumped in surprise Speakeasy turned to me and was obviously trying to turn on the charm, "Yes Miss Bridges, I was wanting to talk to you about Kayda Franks. As you know she claims to host a prominent spirit of the Sioux and ever since arriving on campus is clearly trying to claim dominance among students of First Nations descent."
"Save the sales pitch Darren and get to the point," I huffed clear that I was not affected by anything that he was trying to do, crossing my arms and tapping my right foot to illustrate my growing impatience.
"Well as one of Pawnee heritage no doubt you find it disturbing how a member of the Sioux nation is trying to consolidate power here on campus," Speakeasy then laid out his point, "I even heard that you had a shouting match in your own Cottage when she tried to coerce you just the other day."
"First of all Haskins, the topic of that argument is between myself and Franks. Secondly, I have plenty of ancestral animosity across various heritages- the relations between the Pawnee and Lakota nations have nothing to do with my decisions. Third whatever you are trying to pull- leave me out of it. And finally if you ever try to use your powers to rope me into something know this-" I glared at him as I began to extrude an aura of menace (a little trick that Fenrir unknowingly left me with), "you will learn what I am like when I decide to stop being cordial."
With that aura radiating off of me, Jane flew down to take her perch on my shoulder with a shrill caw for added effect as I left crystal hall. Making my way towards my class as I gradually dialed down the aura to nothing by the time, I was a few doors down just as Stormwolf moved to stop me.
"Miss Bridges I am here to talk with you about that display in the cafeteria just now, you do know that you have just begun your detention."
"Yes and that was me telling someone no," I removed my seeming and then my mask whose properties Stormwolf was well aware of, "I don't know if Haskins was trying to use his powers to compel me to do something or not but I was not going to take a chance and warned him that trying to do so would be a very bad idea."
"In other words, you threatened him," Adam Ironknife put his foot down, trying to illustrate his position as a campus security auxiliary
"I told him that I would not let him off with a warning," I smiled as I retrieved my notebook and history book from my bag, "there are plenty of ways to deal with such a situation without breaking the rules you know. Besides if that creep takes it as a warning of a physical nature he might just decide that I am better off left alone, that and after what happened with Cavalier and Skybolt if Miss Hartfort finds out about anyone trying to use mental compulsions on another student well- anything that he thinks I might do would be merciful by comparison."
I left him standing in the hall as I made my way to my usual desk, wondering if it was my imagination or did, I actually see Stormwolf crack a smile. Nah, it was probably just wishful thinking on my part the stick up that guy's but is bordering on redwood territory. I mean what are the chances that someone like me could get a smile out of someone more wooden then a British Beefeater.
West of Doyle Medical Center
I almost had to laugh at the situation, I was a half faerie loosely affiliated with a group collectively called the Wild Court, destined to venture into a forest that beings of civilization cannot set foot in to repair the broken branch connecting the world tree Yggdrasil to the Earth so that nature mana could work properly here. It was almost ironic with what was I doing for my second day of detention- I was climbing a white ash tree looking for dead branches.
"Just remember, you want to keep an eye out for any signs of the branch being broken, too covered in lichen, or just lacking in foliage." Charlie Hockelheimer explained from his own arboreal perch, "And keep an eye out for bark blisters too, every once in a while those damn flathead beetles make it on to campus and before you know it we have to get the chem devisors on board to wipe them out before their larva hatch and kill our trees.
"Got it," I replied as I took one of the plastic orange flags that Mister Hockelheimer provided me with to tie off a branch that I spotted a problem that I was all too familiar with back home- a spring of mistletoe. "Hey Mister Hockelheimer, are you sure that I can't break off the problem branches myself?"
"About seventy percent sure," the campus arborist replied as he continued to work hidden by the branches of his own tree. "Why? What do you see over there?"
"A mistletoe infection," I continued to inspect the afflicted branch, "There's a full spring of the stuff and no other leaves on the branch."
"No, just flag it," Mister Hockelheimer replied as he shimmied down his ladder, "I'll snip it off and the dead twigs then wrap the branch in black polyurethane later. That was if you caught it in time, we can kill the infection, if not I'll have to saw off the branch down to the trunk to save the rest of the tree. Just keep an eye out for other springs of the stuff, if you find too much of it on the same tree then we'll need to call in an expert."
"Understood, " I replied as I continued my way up the ladder searching for more issues like insect activity, and other mistletoe. "By the way when you take care of the mistletoe can you save the wood for me?"
"At least you didn't say the berries or the leaves," Mister Hockelheimer replied, "the American variety may not be as toxic as the European type but it's still dangerous and we have students every year wind up in Doyle from holistic medicine."
"Nope, not the fruit or the leaves just the wood," I continued to explain, "I'm wanting to practice warding magic and I know a very nasty creature who's vulnerable to the stuff."
"Alright," Mister Hockelheimer replied in return, "just as long as you're okay with us cleaning it first. I swear I will never understand you magic types."
"That may be a good thing sir," I replied back as I moved further up the tree, "while forewarned is forearmed in the case of things that go bump in the night sometimes too much information can be taken as a sign or an invitation or a threat."
"Ugh! Good to know," Mister Hockelheimer hopped off his ladder, "this one's good just a little snow-weight damage, but nothing some pruning, and summer TLC can't fix. How about you, any more issues?"
"I found another spring of mistletoe, but the branch still has leaves on it." I explained as I slid down the ladder, "It can probably be pruned off without any issues."
"Alright, I'll run letting you keep the wood by your adviser after we're done," Mister Hockelheimer continued as we moved on to other trees in the area, "Oh, and I got the notice from administration, "you won't be expected to make up your time for your appointment with Doctor Bellows tomorrow as long as he doesn't purposefully see you trying to stretch out your session to get out of your detention afterwards. If he sees that you are trying to do that you get two days tacked on to make up for the time that you are in your sessions."
"Understood," I nodded as I collapsed my ladder, "he'll be in charge of how the session will be conducted anyway."
First Floor Study - Poe Cottage
I looked up from my table in the study room as the door opened, I had asked Mrs. Horton for the use of the room and after explaining my reasons she agreed. Sure, enough the person who I invited was here Kayda Franks, "Before we talk just let me put away my homework first." I was careful in my system, each subject had its own color coordinated folder, with completed assignments in the right pocket and incomplete one's in the left and in the center secured in a cellophane sheet the calendar and syllabus for the course, the same system that I've been using since third grade.
Satisfied that everything was in its proper place I placed the folder and my Algebra textbook in my bag. "Take a seat Miss Franks, I thought this over and while it was unfair of me to blow up at you yesterday evening you need to understand that what you did concerning my student file was a violation of my privacy."
"I understand," Kayda sighed as she sat down somewhat guarded after witnessing my ragewolf form last night, "some people just don't like to acknowledge their native American heritage, like their ashamed of it."
"Who ever said I was ashamed about my native heritage," I retorted as I shook my head in disbelief, "My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Five-claws deeds are a point of family pride, we still tell his story till this day." I stated as I began to recount the trial by the wild that earned him his name.
"Damn," Kayda look shocked at the story, "Taking the dew claws of four beasts of the plains without a fight, that takes a connection with nature that is astonishing."
"We are descended from the Wolf Who Walks Among the Stars, the gift of the shaman is in our blood." I explained, "Unfortunately it was that contest that also lead to my grandmother's family being cast out of the Pawnee Nation. His opponent was the son of the tribe's leader of the hunt, when they were moved to Indian Territory this family started playing politics and eventually became chieftains of the Skidi Pawnee with relations among the other bands. Because of this when my great-grandfather Jacob Blackshoe went to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs he was kicked out of the tribe and removed from the registry."
"So, when I offered to get you registered, I opened an old family wound with a lot of nasty tribal politics behind it." Kayda conceded my point, "I'm sorry for rushing you with all of that Randi, I didn't know what was going on."
"Apology accepted Kayda," I tried to remember to smile, "and I apologize blowing up at you. But I still must decline your offer to join your student Native American studies group, I have a lot on my plate anyway."
"It still is too bad that tribal politics are keeping you from membership to the Pawnee," Kayda shook her head, "it's like they are making a wall to separate you from your native heritage."
"There is more to native heritage then tribal membership Kayda, I can talk with Greyback anytime I want about the ways of the Pawnee and thanks to Miss Redstag's training regimen and spirit summoning I've been getting combat training from Five-claws himself." I gave Kayda a peek into my world, "Plus that's only my Pawnee Heritage- John Blackshoe's wife Sarah Redfeather was Numunu, and I have their blood on my maternal grandfather's side as well due to the three bands who the settlers in Goodnight County gave shelter to during the push to civilize the west."
"Then why didn't Mister Lodgemen find those records at the Comanche's Oklahoma Tribal Registry?" Kayda asked as she began to pour some tea, whose reputation had begun making the rounds about campus. "You should at least be eligible through them?"
"Because those records are in Texas not Oklahoma," I explained as I took the cup Kayda offered me. "There are a number of Numunu living there registered with that tribal council, they just don't go with the reservation declaration because they consider themselves a part of the greater Tricoma community. That and the Quanah Parker Numunu Heritage Museum and Activities Center is partially funded by city money. Besides Chief Philip Bronze-feet offers membership to everyone of tribal heritage provided they pass a coming of age ceremony, mine is next year."
"Okay but I have to ask," Kayda inquired, "Bronze-feet?"
"When he was younger, he was a marathon runner," I explained one of Chief Philip's personal points of pride, "he'd run ten marathons from coast to coast before he turned twenty and never placed below third in any of them." I punctuated that with a sip of tea then trying my best to see how it worked with mana-essence conversion against what Morrigan and Greyback have taught me.
"Nice to know that I am not the only one with a unique family history," Kayda laughed a little at the thought.
"Tell me about it, I may be half-fae but I'm a bonified mythic mutt," I joined in the laughter.
"Anyway, thanks for the explanation but if you want to reconsider after your tribal initiation year after next feel free to talk to me." Kayda offered as she got up to leave the room.
Before she left though, I felt the need to speak up, "By the way I have a few suggestions on a way that you might improve your tea. Try adding a leaf of wild mint and a couple of springs of dandelion to the mixture and stir with a brush made of badger whiskers to harmonize your powder after grinding the mixture, it should better mix the result as well as align the energies with both the earth as well as the nourishing energies of the southern noon sky."
As I left the room, I could swear that I saw her staring at me like I had a second head, what can I say Morrigan learned a lot in her long life and teaching me combat wasn't the only thing that we did during our lessons. Besides like a sidhe who lived among both the Vanir and the Dadannians wouldn't know about herb craft and how to brew restorative teas and tinctures.
Wednesday April 25th, 2007
Dr. Bellows Office - Doyle Medical Center
"Miss Bridges," I turned towards the door, "you may come in now."
I did as he asked and passed Jade Sinclair on the way, the self-professed Ultra-Violent Pacifist of campus- not that I couldn't get the moniker Jade wasn't one to seek out trouble but when it came her way... well let’s just say Bloodwolf found out the hard way how dangerous that was. Fortunately I had a relatively cordial relationship with most of Team Kimba, Jade and her sister Jinn as well as her sister from her foster family Billie 'Tenyo' Wilson were fellow otaku in Poe, every once in a while I tried to introduce them to fansubs of newer series to gauge their reactions- I still regret exposing Jade to FLCL.
"Miss Bridges," Dr. Bellows observed me coming in before asking me to have a seat, "to be perfectly honest given your rather interesting history I am surprised that you haven't made an appointment sooner."
"I know Doc," I observed as I sat down at the couch while he turned to look at me. "To be honest I have been trying to figure myself out first before I decided to seek out professional help."
"And why might that be?" Doctor Bellows inquired opting to establish a dialog to learn about who I was and where I was at emotionally- at least he wasn't going for the usual diagnostic method of declarative questioning.
"To be honest, I am still figuring out who I am," I did my best to explain, "and I don't just mean the whole being a girl thing- I have enough of my dormmates at Poe to turn to on that front. I mean a bunch of other things, for starters I didn't change the old me actually died as in there was a body and everything- I literally cheated the reaper by having a magic back-up. I found out that a mythological monster, who it turns out I am related to, has been trying to take over my body since second grade and his influence likely caused me to alienate one of my few friends."
"Ah yes, I was informed about that," Doctor Bellows stated as he checked his notes, "however as a consequence you were able to warn said friend recently about him being asymptomatic for Innsmouth Syndrome; currently his mother and stepfather are looking into a support group."
"It still doesn't make me feel any less guilty about it," I deflated with a drawn-out sigh. "Then I found out about my crazy ancestry leading me to be the figure in some crazy prophecy, honestly I feel like a cork floating in the middle of the ocean. This even hijacked my summer vacation, apparently instead of working at my grandmother's place in Corpus Christie and enjoying the beach I have to go on a four-legged walkabout to be one with my wolf-self- it's all so overwhelming- I mean sometimes I just want to stop the world so I can get off and take a break."
"Unfortunately, life seldom allows for such pleasantries Miss Bridges," Doctor Bellow explained as he set his pen on his clipboard, "however you can take the time to appreciate the little opportunities that present themselves."
"Such as?" I inquired waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"The exhibition fights in Arena-99 during Parent's and Perspectives Day, while it is true that administration often assigns slots to students serving detention regular students can also volunteer and use it as a replacement for their combat final to get it out of the way and let them focus on finals exams." Doctor Bellows explained.
Chewing it over I sounded the proposal out, "So if I take that opportunity then I should have a little time to get some decompression in right after exams but before me having to leave for my walkabout."
"That is provided you pass the exhibition fight," Doctor Bellows warned, "if not it would at least show you where you need to improve for your actual combat final at the end of the semester- sort of akin to the PSAT."
"Thanks for the advice Doc," I relaxed a bit at this bit of potential good news, but we still had time on the clock for the appointment and I was far from done airing out my problems but for now at least things were starting to look up again.
Please Log in to join the conversation.
Tuesday April 24th, 2007
Work Room - Beck Library
Dunwich, New Hampshire
10:52 AM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East
Okay I will admit it, I am anxiously sneaking a peek at my watch at regular intervals here in the back room of the Whateley's library. I will say this as much grumbling there is around campus about Go-For Duty in Hawthorne or Patrol Duty in the Sewers rate as the worst possibilities to have as detention here at Whateley those students must not know about Collection Triage at Beck. I was stuck here in the back room with a stack of materials that I needed to examine to either sort them for sale, storage, auction, or recycling because of either age, low circulation rates, or general condition.
Fortunately, here at Whateley there is a device that handles checking materials for contamination. While it could be a legitimate argument that the Engineering Departments and the Mystic Arts Departments not getting along, due to many in the former field refusing to recognize that later field worked with legitimate forces and weren't just delusional psychics, they still managed to cooperate enough for to cobble together what Randi told me was affectionately called by library student employees The Miracle Machine.
Okay granted Randi told me that it had a much more specific name since apparently the student employee nickname was trademarked by Warner Brothers for some weird reason, but that didn't make this thing less real or any less useful to the Academy. No what the The Miracle Machine did was perform a multi-process inspection of all incoming books and divide them accordingly, there was an Electronic Nose that tested the books for the presence of mold, mildew, narcotics, and toxic and/or exotic chemicals, there was a multi-spectrum Geiger counter that tested the book for radiation and exotic particles, and lastly there was a crystal from the Mystic Arts department that tested them for mystic boobytraps, curses, compulsions and other nasty spells.
Along the conveyor belt The Miracle Machine deposited each contaminated book in an appropriate bin for disposal, moreover the sensors these books tripped compiled them onto a list of damaged items thanks to our library's books being RFID tagged. From there each bin would be processed accordingly, although I was somewhat concerned what they did with the mythically contaminated books. Those books that made it through The Miracle Machine without being withdrawn were mine to deal with, I had to look for frayed binding, staining, pages that were torn or stuck together, or just overly yellowed paper.
While thankfully I wasn't dealing with nasty moldy books, it was still a lot of work, I had to inspect each individual item. Doing this was dull- it was tedious- it made my body scream that it wanted to move, but unfortunately this was my detention for the rest of the week...possibly longer. I had already been informed that I was going to be doing this detention in two shifts with my self-study sessions sandwiched in between, and in between these shifts lunch over in Crystal Hall. One of three times that I was guaranteed to have a little freedom of social interaction with other students. Then after studying it was over to Doyle for physical therapy and the hope that Doctor Kimmel would finally approve for me to give up my wheelchair for a pair of crutches and maybe with matching leg braces, the fact that it would likely mean an eventual change in detention duties would also be a welcome bonus.
"Alright Miss Carson," Miss Henderson the librarian said as she came in to inspect my work, "let us see how you fared." In all for the last hour and a half I had only managed to inspect and separate about seventy books, about half of them were going for sale and some I had set aside for her to inspect prior to them going in with either the soiled books or the recycle bin. This was almost a bit insulting what had taken me nearly an hour and a half to sort Miss Henderson did in all of five minutes, eventually she had selected five items that she felt I had made the wrong assessment on to point out to me.
"Miss Carson, let's start with these. This Jackie Collins novel that you put in the to recycle pile can be easily rebound with some paste and book tape. This Math book that you put on the trash pile while it does have some notes in the margins can be sold as is, in fact many used book buyers prefer to by books in this condition as such notes can provide themselves or their children with insight on these topics. By contrast this ACT exam preparation manual cannot be sold because someone answered the sample questions in the book itself, a matter that actually lowers the desirability of the item in question, so this one will likely need to be recycled. Now these two books while yellowed are also from a series that is currently out of print so they are going to be sold not recycled, although I couldn't expect you to know this, either way you can use study room number 3 for your morning self-study period and by the way a message arrived for you from another student- try to remind them that they are to deliver messages to your Cottage not the site of your detention."
"Thank you I will," taking both the letter and my book bag, with the fanny-pack o'plenty from Sun Wukong being far too capricious for carrying around my school stuff, I wheeled my way through the building to the room in question which thankfully was a double-wide. I'd hate to scuff the finish on the woodwork. I got out my textbook and school laptop and began to get to work on my Chemistry work, really when it came to the subjects being taught in the modern age the only ones that really offered a challenge were the modern sciences- especially since Cythereia most of the time and let someone who was willing to put in the work do it for her and don't get me started on how she really passed tests.
No for me science was the real challenge, here were the processes that shaped the world as modern observation itself shaped them, processes that deities really brute forced with elemental and reality manipulation to achieve results without caring about the long term consequences- well except for Hephaestus, Athena and Asclepius those three actually did a lot of research into the world to find out why things happened instead of always relying on their abilities as Olympians.
As things stood in terms of the usual school classes here at Whateley that I needed to pass anyway for a proper High School Diploma: Mathematics were painfully easy given that I was around when most of them were invented in Ancient Greece and Rome, with the exception of Algebra and Calculus I knew the foundations of most of Math because I was around when it was invented.
Granted I absorbed it piecemeal due to the lack of interest Aphrodite and later Venus showed in education (I could only observe when she was present)- which was part of the reason that I was determined to learn as much as I could from the subjects. Which I later filled in when Victoria began to go through school, good thing that I was in her shadow and not her head so I got to observe all of the lectures she feigned attention, and believe me if there was one thing the reincarnated Greek Goddess of Love was good at it was faking it. Yeah unlike other academic subjects when it came to math, I was easily able to place out of everything bellow pre-Calculus- which I might just try taking a stab at once I become an ordinary student.
History was little problem given what little I didn't know about from being there or hearing about through Olympian Gossip, I learned from Victoria's schooling or listening to the news while she was waiting for either the gossip segments or the fashion report. What this means all that I had to do with History classes was hit the books and I was fine.
As for science though, it was fascinating all of the advances in understanding the world that have been made in the last two centuries alone. Through my time observing the world during Victoria's past live I have seen civilizations rise and fall, to the point that people had to start over from nearly scratch and as horrible as that may seem each time that also helped wipe away the previous civilization's preconceptions and political-religious dogma and just look at the world. Then when humanity eventually took a look at what amounted to a millennia old Egyptian toy someone had an epiphany and designed the first steam engine, a discovery that laid the cornerstone for the modern world.
While people were still trying to crack the puzzle on stable cold fusion (at least as far as I am aware Gadgeteers are pretty tightlipped on the whole thing) they were now obsessed with discovering the actual how and why of the world. And what has this curiosity lead to- geology, chemistry, biology. physics, mechanics, they wanted to push past the dogmatic because and start opening things up and taking things apart.
Nowhere was this curiosity more evident than in modern medicine, gone were the days of superstition, hoping to heal by the power of prayer and brandishing anyone who actually tried to move medicine forward as a heretic or an enchanter- these days work was done with experimentation and observation. I mean I had the ability to heal people with my powers, but I wanted to see other ways that I could help heal people and to do that I needed to understand the science that was the foundation of modern medicine. Granted the fact that modern medical practitioners tried to eschew the use of healing abilities like mine was also understandable given how some could be unpredictable or even make things worse if used improperly.
That meant learning about anatomy, chemical interactions in the body, and even kinesiology and the basis of those disciplines were found in the normal sciences that could be taught in any American school- granted the degree competency or enthusiasm of the teachers varied. That was where Whateley differed though the teachers here were usually the top of their field and most actually looked forward to teaching. For now, balancing chemical equations, let's see: Illustrate the combustion of Isooctane (C8H18) the reactant is Oxygen (O2) and the products are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Bihydrogen Monoxide (H20). Write the equation and solve to include the number of molecules of products produced from combustion as well as the number of molecules needed to sustain the chemical reaction. Remember to show all work.
As annoying as it was considering that I could do this kind of math in my head easily, they wanted to make sure that students were doing their own homework and after an incident with a student known as Oiler last year the school board was trouble shooting a graphology machine. That and sometimes making sure to doublecheck your own work prevented mistakes, which given the potential dangers of chemistry was a matter of better safe than sorry.
Underdogs Table - Crystal Hall
As I wheeled up to the table I noticed that Headrush was all but getting red in the face being dressed down by Trish of all people, "Really Alicia I can't believe that you let Punch rope you into that debacle this morning, I really thought that you would have known better!"
"You need to understand Trish, Kayda is a friend of mine I couldn't stand by and let Bridges get away with treating her like that," Alicia spoke up trying to cover for her actions which I was a bit out of the loop on. "Hey Bea, you know Randi Bridges right, maybe you can talk some sense into her."
"Hey- no trying to drag Bea into this," Rhi immediately came to her defense, "besides you heard Randi, this is between her and Kayda, honestly it was your own fault trying to rush her like that."
"Whoa, hold on a moment," I replied as I set my tray down at the table and then wheeled up, "first off I don't know what everyone is so upset about, and secondly did you and Punch actually try to force Randi into doing something?"
"Well it isn't like that," Alicia explained as she began to lay out the incident that happened this morning and the event that precipitated it last night at Poe Cottage between Randi and Kayda Franks. "So, you see Bridges clearly overreacted, honestly that girl is out of control."
I all but glared at Alicia telling her with my eyes that she had best stop right there before she stepped over the line. "Actually, from what I understand what this amounts to a perfect storm. Let me tell you a few things about Randi Bridges and they had best stay between us..."
Kamuro took that as a nonverbal que and pulled out one of the Privacy Crystals that the Faerie Queen Appreciation Society had made patterned after the one used by Team Kimba, after Alicia and I touched the thing our conversation resumed.
"All right let me hear what is so important about why your friend is such a jerk," Alicia retorted, "not that anyone has an excuse for being that mean and inconsiderate."
Talk about practice for diplomacy later on, time to tiptoe through a verbal minefield. "Randi doesn't do well with crowds, as is if she doesn't feel safe, she puts her guard up and if she feels threatened by a group of people, she is likely to lash out if she can't go to a safe place to calm down. She also hates it when people try to strong arm or coerce her, this is something that you and Kayda both likely tripped over- you may not have intended it to be that way but you can see how it might be perceived that way. You need to understand Randi is very introverted, it takes her a lot of effort to open up to people and even more to make friends, it is very likely that when Randi found out Kayda looked into her student file she likely violated her sense of privacy and her sense of safety while her guard was down, considering how for most of those in Poe view their Cottage as a second home - that was bound to hurt a lot."
Understanding what I was getting at Alicia backed down and the two of us touched the crystal again to deactivate it, "Okay, I'll tell Punch later."
"I know that you want to help Kayda, I heard that she went through some horrible things back home." I moved to provide a little further damage control, "But keep in mind that other students have their own pasts and demons, this is one issue that it would be best left for Kayda and Randi to work out. Remember, our Cottages have House Mothers for a reason and if it isn't to work things out when two teenagers lock horns then what could it be."
That eventually drew a snort of laughter from Anna that eventually proved contagious enough for that the whole table caught it. I couldn't help but smile at the results, it feels good to help others feel better.
Rehabilitation Room 4 - Doyle Medical Center
Once again, I made my way along the bars of the Rehabilitation Walk without slipping, or even losing my footing. I really hoped that today would finally be the day and from the pleased expression on Ruby Mullers face as she stood nearby ready to give me a hand or four if I needed her to do so.
"That will be enough for today Miss Carson," Dr. Gordon Kimmel stated as he marked my chart then motioned to a nearby camera, after a minute or two mom stepped in and waited while I cooperated as Ruby helped me get into my wheelchair although thankfully let me wheel myself over to the door. "Alright Ms Carson I will need to see you and your daughter in my office for an after-appointment consultation to discuss her continued therapy."
I followed the pair out of the Therapy Room towards Dr. Kimmel's office all but trembling with anticipation. I knew that there were only two options here either I was going to be in a chair for life or I was finally moving on to crutches and judging by my therapy as of late it was likely going to be the later. Then again as much as I hated to entertain the notion there was the possibility of the former being true, that no matter how hard I worked my legs would never be strong enough to support me outside of the water and I'd be the stereotypical Lori Lemaris for the rest of my life a mermaid in a wheelchair.
Granted I suppose that at least it is better than living the short life of the actual mermaid from Hans Christian Anderson's story. I sighed to myself, the people who watched that movie had no idea that the original author was a dark satirist who liked to do horrible things to his protagonists and even twisted the stories of others to insert tragic or sad endings.
My musings however were cut short as we arrived at Dr. Kimmel's Office who opened the door so we could enter. I remained silent as mom sat down and I wheeled myself next to her chair before locking my chair in place while we waited for the good doctor to shut the door before taking a seat behind his desk- I admit that my stomach was doing flip-flops every moment of silence that there was in the room.
"Ms Carson in regard to your daughter's therapy, I am glad that I can say that the progress that she has shown is remarkable." Dr. Kimmel began to explain, "Ordinarily this sort of progress would take months or at most years, to be honest at her level of progress in her therapy I would have suggested moving her over to lofstand crutches a week ago."
"Then why didn't you?" I asked curious about the matter of my therapy's lack of progress.
"Well for one you were planning to go to Boston and to be honest that level of walking would be tiring for someone who would still be building up stamina." Dr. Kimmel elaborated to justify his decision. "Also given what happened it was a good thing that you weren't tired and using unfamiliar equipment when it happened."
"Fair point," I conceded to the doctor's judgement, "plus when it comes to medicine better safe than sorry."
"Too true," Dr. Kimmel replied, "and the interim gave the manufacturing lab time to machine a pair of leg braces for you to wear. This is all a part of building that stamina that I was telling you about."
"Does this mean that my detention can be moved from the Beck Library to somewhere else on campus?" I turned and all but pleaded. "After all that does involve a lot of sedentary activity."
"I wouldn't have any say in the matter Beatrice," uh oh mom was using my full name, "Ms Hartford is handling your detention assignments, I cannot accuse myself of exerting favoritism when I comes to my daughter after all. That means any appeals for an early change of venue will have to go through her."
"I know but I had to try anyway," I grinned with a nervous laugh, that drew a smirk from her in response. "But I'll take finally being allowed to walk at least, no more wheelchairs or hoverchairs just sweet-sweet pavement and feet woo-who!"
"Also, on the subject of your children Ms Carson, Melita Guitterez informed me to tell the two of you that Shelly's incubation is almost complete- judging by her neural activity she should be waking up sometime tomorrow." Dr. Kimmel interrupted with even more good news, "your leg braces should be here from the engineering department any moment in the meantime we'll assign the two of you a couple of medical pagers to let you know right away when she wakes up."
"Wait you still have those things?" I asked somewhat perplexed, "I thought that the non-brick cellphones made those obsolete?"
"Hospitals still use them for staff that are on call in case of emergencies," Raul elaborated, "they're good to relay a quick message to report to a room with an emergency code and there isn't any problem with carrier or cell issues. That and a whole bunch can be purchased on a budget giving us more to allocate to needed equipment."
"Better make that three," I spoke up, "considering that my movements around campus are restricted as part of my punishment one will need to be assigned to my security detail tomorrow so that they can show up to escort me here."
"We will see to it Ms. Carson; in the meantime, I will give the two of you some privacy while I locate a pair of crutches to go with your leg braces." Dr. Kimmel explained as he got up and left the room.
For the first time in a while, I saw a smile on mom's face granted despite being at the same place the two of us rarely crossed paths. Mom was busy most of the time running Whateley and I was busy catching up on all of the work that I'd need to claim my class credits. Usually both of us saw each other sometime after my therapy sessions, although with my current movement restrictions it wasn't like I could go see her whenever I wanted anyway- but at least I made sure to call and tell her good night before Lights-out at Dickinson.
"Mom, about Shelly," I finally gathered the courage to speak up, "I have a question about us."
"Let me guess you want to know more about your sister?" Mom inquired trying to guess my question.
"That is my second question," I sheepishly replied somewhat embarrassed that this was the first thing that came to my mind. "What I was wondering is that will I be the little sister since technically Shelly was born the first time a long time before my pearl even arrived at Whateley, or will I be the big sister since this is her essentially being born again?"
"That is a good question, I'd still wager you as being the little sister though," mom weighed in on the matter, "Shelly was born first after all she's just been...lost for a while."
I breathed a sigh of relief at that decision, "Good, I'd hate to see where that bit of tension would come to a head, plus I don't think that I'd need the added responsibility of being an older sister right now."
"Come now Bea, do you think being an older sister would be that much of a burden?" Mom looked on concerned, "after all Shelly will be a little older than you physically when she wakes up."
"I know but there are still a lot of responsibilities of being an older sibling," I tried to lay out the reasons to mom as best I could, "Randi tells me all the time that there are all of these unwritten rules that you need to know and follow."
"Somehow I think those rules may just apply to Miss Bridges and her family," mom had an odd look on her face as she said that, "they are rather...unique after all."
"Yeah, isn't that the truth," I smiled back at mom, "any family that has three pantheons of European deities in it not to mention a couple of world-ending beings is bound to be a little odd."
"And I thought that the possibility of having to have a parent teacher conference with a Great Old One was the worst that I could have to deal with this year," mom actually rolled her eyes, "at least the Redstags are nice enough, honestly its odd how a couple of deities from what are seen as a barbarian pantheon are surprisingly civil."
"Well to be fair the Romans looked down their noses at everyone who wasn't a citizen," boy did this bring up some memories, "really their attitudes towards other cultures and willingness to exploit them sometimes made them as bad as the Imperial British. Trust this from someone who saw their civilization firsthand, Rome built its city on the foundations of those greater than themselves. Personally, I preferred the Macedonians to the Romans at least Alexander recognized the greatness of those from outside those from his homeland.
"Sounds like an interesting subject for a paper my dear," mom hinted at the matter making me want to facepalm for talking about it. "Might I suggest that you submit one after you complete your current round of self-study courses, I would be very interested in reading what you have to say."
"Ugh, I hate doing history research papers, it's hard to find scholars who actually have a clue about what really went on back then." I groaned, "I mean it, for all the work that most of the professors do to learn about Classical and Iron Age civilizations too many let the idealized lens that the Renaissance scholars and Hollywood place over that era color their biases. But enough about ancient history, what can you tell me about Shelly?"
"Before that dear I have some bad news about this summer," mom explained as her fingers began to dig into the chair's arm, "I just call a call from the State Department about our visit to Camp Alpha-"
Wednesday April 25th, 2007
Special Projects Room 3 - Doyle Medical Center
Sitting in a darkened room with the only witnesses to what was around her being a number of passive monitoring machines, a naked teenage girl who looked like she was made of stone floated in a tube of nutrient gel. The Tube and the equipment were designed to mimic the functions of the womb itself while allowing the occupant to grow within to a prearranged age which for the occupant was just a little over that of sixteen.
Was the situation that I woke up into, the last thing that I remembered my friends and I were going through a ritual to make ourselves normal. Don't get me wrong for the most part I was fine with being who I was, one of my classmates even dubbed me the ever-loving blue-eyed future idol of millions drawing parallels between me and a certain orange comic book character- not that I minded I rather liked the Fantastic Four.
Still my friends weren't so fortunate in being comfortable in who they were and wanted to be part of the mutant population who looked normal and had cool powers, I guess part of me did see where they were coming from being the daughter of Lady Astarte and everything. That was part of the reason that I went along with their plans, besides I doubted that this ritual could accomplish what people with a lot more training had failed to do in years of trying.
Too bad that spell backfired, I swear that I could still feel the echoes of the pain when my body was being shredded in that stupid ritual. Mom had always told me that no matter what others thought about me that I was perfect just the way I was, and I honestly believed it. I mean I was fine being a girl with a skin made of stone, hell a lot of girls wanted to be considered statuesque and I was halfway there without even trying. I still felt stupid for going through with what I did, I hope that the others were alright- still something felt different- maybe after all this time I was finally going to be able to see what comes next.
Some part of me hoped that Tom, Peter and Lindsey got spared what happened... that was when it happened. I remembered our ceremony, dying, being stuck, then mom and those girls found me- holy crow now I remember. Part of me wanted to laugh, but I was in a tube full of goo with an oxygen mask strapped to my face. I wonder if this was how Mark Hamill felt when they were shooting empire, stuck in a vat of lukewarm goop- at least this stuff was room temperature because considering that I felt naked and this stuck was everywhere if it was cold I would find out if stone-skin can get goosebumps.
Soon a door opened and a woman in a nurse's outfit walked in, great it looks like this show was about to get on the road. My mind was reeling after all that time I was free, come to think of it exactly how long had I been floating around in that weird room as a spook. From what mom sounded like it had been a while, the only problem given how her powers worked I had no way of knowing. I mean the students who found me said that I had MATD not GSD but breakthroughs in medicine happen all the time, granted since my friends weren't the ones who found me it had to have at least been four years since I croaked.
I wonder what all I had missed since my lack of a BIT goofed up the ritual, I mean for all I knew I'd come out and there would finally be hoverboards outside of the divisor's workshop. Maybe the internet would actually be what they promised us, come to think of it I wonder if they'd finally made a keyboard durable enough for me to use?
Eventually a woman came in dressed like an orderly, I guess that nurse's uniforms hadn't changed at all since way back when. She took one look at me and went to the phone on the wall- part of me was hoping that she was calling mom to let her know that I was awake although it was just as likely that she was letting the doctor in charge of my case know my condition.
A few minutes went by from what I could make out from the clock on the wall when another few people in orderlies uniforms came in and soon the top of my tube was opened, and I could feel some sort of contraption was entering the enclosure behind me. Sure, enough I felt my body being lifted out of the goo until I was entirely exposed to the world, while I did feel a little embarrassed about being naked in front of all these people at least I was being born again without the need to be spanked. Soon the orderlies brought in a hose and hooked it up to a nearby sink and began to hose the goo off of me while another brought in a pair of forceps and I felt a pinch in front of me, yeah at least I wasn't going to explain the away not having a belly button.
After I was degunked and my cord was pinched-off someone brought me a hospital gown and helped me and a few of the nurses helped me into a wheelchair. This was when I noticed that my stony body was currently only gritty, I guess that MATD really didn't take effect all at once; maybe there was somethi- no stop thinking about that. I am lucky enough that ritual kept me alive I am not going to waste it on something that stupid ever again.
"Welcome back to the world Miss Wells, my name is Melita Guitterez and I have been the physician assigned to your case by the Arkham Research Consortium." The woman admitted as she walked beside me while an orderly was wheeling us down the hallway towards the elevator. "Now just so that you know your family will be here shortly and, in the meantime, I will be escorting you to a room upstairs for a cursory examination to make certain that the cloning process went as expected.
Crud- it looks like it was examination time, hold the phone examination. I began to break out in a cold sweat (something that I could still do even when made of stone) by exam they mean checking everything, I really hope medicine advanced enough to mean pelvic exams were less embarrassing then I remembered them being.
First Floor Lobby - Doyle Medical Center
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East
I made my way inside the building as fast as I could and damned if I wasn't heaving, maybe I should invest in one of those water-bottle backpacks that cyclists use until my stamina is built up more.
"Miss Carson maybe it would have been better if you would have taken the wheelchair this once," Anu Newgrange (the name the last of the Morrigna had picked for herself), "As is it took you half an hour to walk from Beck and that is less than halfway across campus."
"No when I meet my big sister for the first time I want to do it under my own power," I snapped back, "I am not a quitter and I am going to keep this up until I don't need assistance to get around on my own two feet!"
"As good as it is for you to be so passionate about taking your rehabilitation seriously my dear, you might have decided to slack off just this once." Mom said more than a little cross about the fact that I had kept her waiting. "It has been twelve years since Shelly was with us and between you and the MRI that the doctors insisted on running this is aggravating."
"Speaking of aggravation," I asked with more than an ounce of trepidation, "since I'm here instead of serving detention does that mean it's going to be extended."
"No, I think I'll ask Amelia to make this a special exception just this once." Mom replied before observing me closely, "Why do you hate the library so much?"
"I hate to admit it but I hate being in confined places all alone,' I sighed, "I mean if you spend centuries looking at the world and never being able to touch it punctuated by centuries in darkness when your host doesn't have a body the idea of spending hours alone in a quiet room is a tiny slice of that hell."
"You know Miss Henderson isn't opposed to students listening to music when they aren't on duties that require listening to others." Mom took the opportunity to point out something that I wish that I knew days ago, "just remember to tell her and wear headphones."
Observation Room 5 - Doyle Medical Building
POV: Shelly Wells-Carson
After what had to have been two hours of being poked and prodded and fed through an MRI machine (thank goodness my stone exterior isn't heavy on magnetic ore) I was sitting down in a reinforced bed awaiting my first opportunity to talk to mom in the flesh in I don't know how long. And I mean I don't know how long, the doctor in charge of my case refused to tell me- something about such matters being reserved for family members and trained therapists.
Speaking of family, I remember from that weird time in the ritual room that mom was still at Whateley and was still the Headmistress, a position that she officially held since I was ten. Come to think of I remember them saying that my sister was coming to, but it was taking her a while, I wonder if they meant Miranda because Samantha and I were never that close. Who am I kidding of course we weren't on the best of terms, fist off she was my half-sister and secondly, she was old enough that she had kids who were my age back before I did something stupid?
Talk about weird, Miranda was only two years younger than I was and she was going to be having to call a girl who was still in high school big sis; I doubt that Hallmark made cards for this situation. Then again at this point there was no telling if I'd be called Aunt Shelly any minute now- oh well I'm sure if Miranda did have a few kids they'd be in school back where she lived, unless she was still in college at this point, ugh not being told what year it was is annoying, and there wasn't a tv in the room either, I guess that Doyle hadn't changed that much after all.
Soon the door opened, and mom stepped inside, she took one look at me and literally flew to my bed as the door slammed shut behind her- what was odd was that I swear that I could hear a cry of surprise from the other side.
"Shelly, it's been too long I can't believe that you are back..." That was when mom looked at me with a face that spoke of both love and fury, "Never do something that stupid ever again, I don't care what other people say about you, you are who you are and that is what matters most!"
That was when it sounded like someone was trying to open the door and a moment later a knock came from other side. Soon after a voice that I had never heard before came from the other side, "Mom can you please open the door, I think that you jammed it by accident when you bolted inside and it's stuck."
That was when mom began to shake her head and laugh as she disengaged our hug to walk over to the door, "I am sorry dear, Shelly allow me to introduce you to someone," mom all but pried to door back open to reveal someone on the other side, "you've new sister Beatrice!"
I saw her there, almost as old as I am- was- how does my age even work now. Anyway, my sister was a blonde beauty, but I could see mom in her face, except for her ears that looked like fins, and her sharp violet eyes. While I was feeling some pains of jealousy over her looks, that was when I noticed that she was wearing knee braces and walking around using crutches; damn now who was being superficial.
"I guess that I was out for a while if you got remarried and had another kid mom," I all but laughed at the absurdity, "Ah man I must be a terrible big sister, Beatrice, I guess that I owe you a mess of gifts for all those missed Birthday's and Christmases."
"Not exactly," mom explained, "you were only between lives for twelve years."
"Then how...?" I looked at my 'sister' wondering what was going on considering the dates did not match up."
"When handling potentially mystic artifacts be sure to use something a lot thicker than latex gloves," mom sheepishly admitted, "I was examining a pearl the size of a softball that appeared encased in a cyst in the side of another student it was surgically removed with the casing intact. What I didn't know was that pearl had an unfertilized mermaid egg inside along with a number of enchantments- she actually has centuries of memories from the past lives of the young lady whose body said pearl was removed from."
"Confidentially this one is my favorite since I can actually experience the world instead of observing it," my mermaid sister admitted as she walked over to me. Then threw her arms around me and hugged me like she didn't want to let go."
"Wha?!?" I all but recoiled wondering what brought this on.
"Sorry, but I haven't been able to meet with Samantha or Miranda, so this is the first time that I have ever gotten to hug one of my big sisters." Beatrice admitted as she was weeping tears of joy, "I'm so happy to have more people in my life."
"Okay Bea, do you mind if I call you that by the way?" I inquired and received a shake of her head as I continued, "I understand though, although there are bound to be some boys at the school that would be super jealous to hear that I got to hug a good-looking mermaid."
Bea actually responded by changing her form as her hair grew greasier, her teeth became shark-like, her hands became webbed, and her skin became a shade of blue highlighted by a bluer tail and purple fins. "Let them," Bea grinned with a look that was weird due to her triangular teeth, "this is a moment for families besides- you can count this as a late birthday present."
"From me or for me?" I asked my semi-aquatic sister curious about what she meant.
"Both," she replied as she continued to smile while mom joined in making it a Carson family hug-fest. Yeah, this moment would make a lot of boys and some girls around campus jealous but let them be this moment was for family only.
Eventually the hug broke although I didn't mind with how long it took, waking up to find that I was still an older sister was something that was going to take some getting used to. As Bea slide into the chair by my bedside and turned back to her human form I turned to mom and asked, "So what else have I missed out of family wise?"
"Well technically you are an aunt now," mom began to explain, "Miranda went into marketing after college, she works for Nordstrom's Marketing Department over in Seattle right now and her son Lucas is three and from what I remember the last time that I saw him the child was a rambunctious bundle of energy."
"Did Miranda ever...?" I began to bring up the unspoken question, wondering what all had went on.
"No, she never manifested," mom replied as nonchalantly as she could, "but suffice it to say that her connections through Whateley have worked well both for her and for us."
"And I trust Samantha's family is growing," I began to bust a gut and it appeared that the laughter was contagious, "have one of my nieces or nephews made you a great-grandma yet?"
"Not yet," mom shook her head, "most of them are too career oriented but there have been a few close calls."
"And what about how Joseph is doing? Has somebody finally dragged my playboy half-brother to the alter?" I asked dropping a name that made Bea blanch, as I turned to mom, she was blank.
"I am sorry to say that Joseph..." mom paused as she struggled to get the words out is no longer with us."
"What happened?" I could feel my jaw drop as my blood ran cold from the revelation, "Was it cancer? Was it that AIDS stuff that was going around?"
"It was a supervillain and former student of ours who goes by the name Deathlist," mom all but began to shake in rage as Bea put her hand on her arm, "he was a boy whose parents tried to murder him by drugging him and running him through a trash compactor. We helped save his life and gave him every opportunity to rebuild his life, eventually our school's connections were able to pool the resources to give him access to a cybernetic body- that was when we began to realize our mistake with the boy."
"I curse myself every day for how blind I was," mom grit her teeth as her eyes narrowed, "after graduating he went to work for the Syndicate and built up his standing even becoming the commander and trainer of their Tiger Guard and even creating an elite unit the Sabertoothes."
"But the worst thing is that he has spent every moment since becoming a cyborg dedicated to repaying every act of kindness and charity that he has ever received with cruelty," mom continued as her voice grew colder, "especially if he can make me watch him do it. He made his mark in April of '95 not long after you're...accident, he led a coordinated attack in Detroit that killed Wayne Sotherby."
I blanched further at that news, the world might have known him as fourth man to don the mantle of The Champion but my family had always been close to those who held the title since mom was a prior host to the Champ Force, I always remember Uncle Wayne visiting us for Miranda and my birthdays- he was always so dorky when he dropped the facade of the world's-greatest hero.
"While this was horrible, I accepted it as part of the path that he walked the same as I did when Gizmatic's actions lead to Steve Briggs's death." Mom was clearly trying to hold it together for us.
"Mom it's okay we can talk about this la-" I interrupted when I saw a wounded look in her eyes like whenever she talked about dad and knew that she had to get this off of her chest now that the dam's floodgates had been opened.
"His true intentions became clear later when he kidnapped Lyla Foster, the woman who helped him adjust to his original cybernetic body back when he was a student, he sent me the note daring me to come save her and the moment I arrived he tore her to pieces right in front of me and escaped by collapsing a building on top of me. I thought that was it for our feud, at least until Christmas two years later when he sent me Joseph's head in a jar of embalming fluid and a note telling me to enjoy Christmas with family."
"He had The Syndicate shield him at least until November of last year," Bea explained clearly wanting to let mom rest and regain her composure as she did her best letting our mother cry on her shoulder, "he took an operation to assassinate one of our students to Whateley and attacked the school during our Halloween Dance killing several staff members and injuring many students. They just finished repairing the damage caused during that operation."
"But I thought that Whateley was neutral grounds to most parties-" I asked wondering about a weird part of the story, "Why would The Syndicate risk the agreement to target a student in the first place?"
"Do you remember Reverend Darren Englund?" Mom asked as she recomposed herself to which I nodded in reply, the man always seemed reminded me of one of those TV-Evangelists but with a lot less of the sleazy exterior. "His fanaticism elevated to new heights when we allowed a fledgling demoness to become a student after being referred to us by ARC for observation. Apparently he has made several attempts on her life since and asked The Syndicate for assistance in eliminating her while only telling them they were going to assist his trainee demon-hunter's- if he hadn't had his blinders on he would have remembered the feud that Deathlist had towards me and that he was also the commander of The Syndicate's paramilitary force. Ever since Deathlist has been on the run from both the law as well as The Syndicate, although it doesn't help that he took the Sabertooths and their equipment with him when he fled."
"Please mom," Bea pleaded as she squeezed mom's arm, "while dark times have gone on since Shelly has been away it hasn't all been bad, plus she's back this isn't time for gloom this is time for celebration."
"You are just hoping to have a break from your detention aren't you Beatrice?" Mom gave my newest sister a stern look."
"I'd be lying if I said that it didn't factor into the equation somewhere," Bea smirked, "plus I finally get the chance to be a little sister, Miranda hasn't even had a chance to visit since I arrived on the scene."
School House Restaurant - Dunn Hall
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East
Our family time in Shelly's Hospital Room went on for well over an hour which was when the doctor's told us, that provided she promise to take it easy and come back for at least once a day over the next week for check-ups, Shelly would be released to mom's custody and could leave Doyle. To that end and considering that it was both late, as well as to spare Shelly the taste of hospital food, we opted to eat out as a family. Apparently though doctor's orders meant taking it easy and using a wheelchair both between rooms as well as buildings, not my old chair mind you, this beast was very reinforced.
Granted this was a private moment and considering that dinner would not be served in Crystal Hall for another hour, the three of us instead sat in a booth in the campus restaurant in Dunn Hall. Honestly this was actually the first time that I had been here, granted from what most of my friends informed me that Dunn was briefly used as a backup to Crystal Hall while the later was being renovated for the 2007 Class Project, a time that soured the perceptions of many students towards this place. Granted I could see the argument, this was meant to serve as a restaurant not a cafeteria, the place didn't have the floorspace to accommodate nearly as many students and the kitchen probably couldn't keep up with the volume needed meaning the chefs had to sacrifice quality for quantity.
Still whatever it once was the School House Restaurant was clearly back to being what it was intended to be, a more intimate alternate to Crystal Hall. The entire place was styled like a modest casual oriented bistro, a concept that I had seen a few times whenever an unfortunate young man tried to woe Victoria, an affair that usually left a boy heartbroken and light in the wallet within a week. As things stood we had a few students who were in the room and more interested in each other than the three of us, I even recognized a few couples such as Draconis and 3 as well as Zenith and Sahar, granted most of them were just have drinks (virgin cocktails, tea, coffee, soda, or water this place doesn't serve the hard stuff event to teachers) and light appetizers so that they could join their friends in Crystal Hall later for a light dinner.
As for me, there was no later I had called Rhiannon to ask her to let everyone know that I was having dinner with my family and told Mabel that I might be sleeping over in my mother's apartment tonight. Yeah- tonight was for family- tomorrow would be back to putting my nose to the grindstone and hanging out with friends but tonight was for family.
"So, sis," Shelly began still looking over her menu, "did I hear it right that you are actually in detention?"
"Yeah," I sheepishly admitted, "there was this...mess in Boston last weekend, because of it a bunch of students a few students got in trouble. Because of who I am though and the example that I have to set, I'm in detention for the rest of the semester."
"Who you mean to tell me that you actually got ten weeks of detention for a single incident?" I Shelly looked at me in surprise, "That has got to be some kind of record!"
"Well to be fair it was actually a series of incidents involving a few super-villain groups," I began to explain what had transpired leaving out the parts regarding prophecies and what happened with Randi and myself during our stay with the Obsidian Circle. "The rest- well- that is not for public discussion, but I still stand by my actions as necessary."
"And that my dear is part of why you are in detention for ten weeks," mom saw fit to point out why I was getting railroaded, "you might have saved some lives doing what you did but you still took unnecessary risks and put the lives of your fellow students in danger. As is you were untrained to handle the danger you were throwing yourself into, even those students you were with who were properly trained are getting punished for putting themselves in harm's way as they were not authorized to do so in that city."
"You need to understand that these laws, rules and regulations exist for a reason Bea, they aren't simply to keep yourself safe- they are also for the safety of those you are trying to save. As is in Boston you and so many others were extremely lucky, the amount of ways that things could have gone wrong are staggering and if not for the fact that The Necromancer's employer for the attack happened to have attracted both the attention and the wrath of the Obsidian Circle you would have been killed."
"Mom, I was born with a target on my back, " I did my best to dig in my heels a bit, "I have people who want me dead because of what I can do and there is nothing that I can do about dealing with this issue. However, I refuse to let these monsters and psychopaths make me live in fear; I am a healer and have existed for too long only seeing the world. I want to experience the world and I want to help as many people as I can, I know that I need experience and training, but I can't just turn a blind eye to the people that need help when I can help them- doing something like that would honestly make me die by inches."
"Better than having you die for real," mom shot back, "things out there are dangerous, and you really aren't ready for real heroics- unfortunately fate has other ideas."
"Is there something that I should know?" Shelly asked clearly concerned.
"Let's just say that sometime this summer I have to go somewhere dangerous and it looks like mom won't be able to come because she might create political problems by being in the area." Bea explained as she looked at mom.
"I received a call from the State Department, due to the instability in the region that Bea needs to travel to perform a ritual that will save a great many people, Lady Astarte cannot go to the region if the news would have gotten out that someone of my power-level was seen in that location it would lead to an escalation and possible military use of meta-humans and mutants by hostile powers in the region."
"Fortunately I have a few people that I can trust to come with me to help," I explained without naming Mister Redstag, Jaegersman and Hedgewitch, "as well as a few people who wouldn't be connected to mom that have offered their assistance pro-bono for the mission. A friend of a friend of mine offered a certain group assistance in an operation around the same time period and in exchange they will be lending me support."
"Also, the other day I received this letter," I reached into my fanny-pack o'plenty and pulled out the opened letter that I received the other day at Beck and handed it to mom. Mom pulled the letter out and frowned, "Are you really considering accepting her help with this?"
"She has had an axe to grind with the group that hired The Necromancer for a while now, and after what they pulled in New York last weekend she has been looking at a way to hurt them- badly." I laid everything on the table as I whispered, "She is offering her people's help to hurt the Order."
"Who is she?" Shelly asked to which mom replied by handing her the letter emblazoned with the Seal of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom and signed Erzebet Scratch, "Holy cow! She's still around?"
"And even stronger than she was when I fought her decades ago," mom admitted, "while I don't like this dear, this is one of the times that I could see her gift being one at face value. Especially if they embarrassed her in front of her new partners as I was told, if there is one thing that you can trust a super-villain to be honest about it is defending their reputation."
"Hey mom," Shelly asked as she returned the letter to me that I rapidly concealed, "quick question, are my things still around?"
"Of course dear," mom replied as she finally folded her menu, "I had it all brought from storage and is in my garage the Faculty Apartment Building, granted you might find your belly shirts a little out of fashion."
"What about all my D&D stuff?" Shelly pleaded, "I wonder if anyone around campus plays 2nd Edition or Advanced?"
"Actually its 3rd Edition now," I spoke up. "My roommate plays but I haven't met her group, but you might want to wait before getting back in- there is supposed to be a 4th Edition coming out soon."
"Even if it does chances are, they won't be playing it yet," Shelly explained, "you never want to switch to a new system mid campaign."
"Hello, my name is Candace, and I will be your waitress this fine evening. Are you ladies ready to order, or would you need more time perusing our menu?" the waitress asked as she came over wait was that Quickvix, "If you are staying then I would personally recommend the poached bass in lemon butter with ginger-glazed greens, we had some excellent fish from our farm this evening. Can I start you off with something to drink?"
"Yes, I'll have a bowl of potato soup with sharp cheddar cheese on top, wheat crostini and mineral water," Shelly stated, "doctor's orders I have to take it easy for a while."
"I believe that I will take advantage of your recommendation Candace with a Thai Tea please," I made my own selection drawing a look from Shelly, "what you thought that merfolk were vegetarians, do you remember what my teeth looked like?"
"I guess that I never put much thought into it at the time," Shelly sheepishly admitted as her face started to look like pink marble.
"And I believe that I will be having your Red Flannel Hash with a side of Corn Chowder, and to drink a Roy Rogers." Mom concluded our order before adding, "and bring the dessert menu by afterwards just in case. We do have a little to celebrate after all."
"But what about what the doctor's said?" Shelly asked clearly concerned that mom may be going overboard.
"They have a nice cinnamon custard that they added to the menu a few years back," mom explained, "it shouldn't be too upsetting on a delicate stomach. Besides this is a nice night out with my two little girls after all."
"Moooom!" Shelly and I groaned almost in unison before busting out laughing, and the night continued on the winds of that mirth.
Please Log in to join the conversation.
Monday April 23rd, 2007
Green Barracks - Dead-Zone's Training Camp
Pecos County, Texas
3:56 PM MDT
POV: Cadet Magnolia, aka Madeline Jacobs
By the time that I had my assigned gear organized and had made sure to properly store my rationed toiletries just in case of inspection, I took a moment to assess just where I was. I was in the training camp of Dead-Zone, the elite operative and who served as the drill sergeant and trainer for Shuffle's Sweepers. I had heard the tales about the man behind the myth from my parents, Dead-Zone was a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran who earned the rank of Sargent, a transfer the 75th Ranger Battalion Company K, the Fourth Infantry Division and later to the fledgling 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, aka Delta-Force.
Dead-Zone however was only able to serve two years when it became clear that he could not use the newer equipment that was being issued and neither could his squad, after a bout of testing it was discovered that he was in fact a mutant and a rare breed of one at that- he was an area effect power negator. While mutants serving in the military was nothing new, Dead-Zone's powers would only make his service problematic, so after some not so gentle encouragement he was honorably discharged without his consent. Sometime after Erzebet Scratch scooped him up and made him an offer, now he was here serving as the gardener of the Flower Bed as my parents informed me of the informal nickname.
Judging by the pressure doors and the lack of much to be seen above ground I can guess that most of our time was going to be spent underground, something that is known to be mentally taxing as is. Also judging by the fact that the elevator had an airlock I could tell that this subterranean facility was equipped with climate controls, this meant that they could not only adjust the temperature between hot and cold easily but also the air-pressure. Heck by the way my ears were popping in the elevator meant that they treated them like decompression chambers. This also likely meant that they kept the air-pressure lower than normal, from what I knew this would help build the stamina of those who trained here like how Tanzania trained Olympia athletes on Mount Kilimanjaro. I also saw on my uniform that there were hook-ups for resistance cables to impede movement while increasing strength and let the user learn how to move more efficiently.
Yeah, Dead-Zone wasn't kidding around, also judging by the way all of our stuff was confiscated on the way down including our watches this meant that we would have no way of telling time. This meant that it would be day or night when they told us it was, for all I knew there would be no eight hours of sleep here, not that this was surprising a boot-camp worked by breaking down recruits, shattering their egos and building them back up again- the only downside for me here, military bootcamps had to follow the law something Dead-Zone didn't have to worry about. This coupled with the fact that he had access to all of the legal and illegal technology available to Shuffle's Sweepers meant that my stay here was bound to be both cruel and unusual.
Given that I was dismissed for the day meant that I had the day to myself before lights-out, well except for Dinner which here I presume meant that everyone met to eat in the same Mess Hall. I took the time to look around although I had a bunk mate there were only four beds in here and including mine only two had names. One of those I noticed was my bunkmate who I assumed was Cadet Bluebell, hope that she didn't consider me easy pickings because I was a teenager. There was also a Cadet Alstroemeria in the other bed who didn't have a bunkmate, I assumed that the next arrival to Blue Sector would fill that bunk.
It was ironic that we were assigned bunks, there was plenty of room for everyone to have cots, but I assume like the fact that we were having to ration toiletries that this was to reinforce hardship upon us. While part of me wanted to explore Blue Sector a little more I had a handout that I noticed in my footlocker, deciding to make the most of things (as well as assuming that it explained whatever Corporal Weathers and Corporal Reverent felt wasn't worth their time to mention) I opened my locker back up and got it out before shutting the thing again. I took a look through the packet it included a list of most of my responsibilities, an inventory of the supplies that were assigned to me, a reiteration of the rules that Master Chief Dead-Zone and Corporal Reverent had drilled into us when we met, along with the current schedule for training.
0430 First Call (baring special orders)
0500 Morning Hygiene/Barracks Maintenance
0700 Morning Calisthenics
0900 Fire-Arms Training
0100 Hand-to-Hand Combat
1100 Intel Briefing
1300 Urban Combat Navigation
1400 Team Combat Training
1500 Practical Training
1600 Field Training (First Aid, Repair, etc.)
1700 Recon/Stealth Ops Training
1800 Equipment Maintenance
2000 Evening Hygiene/Personal Time
2100 Lights Out (baring special orders)
Flipping through the packet told me that I'd be expecting exactly what I thought that I would, I was responsible for changing my sheets and keeping a clean bunk, everyone in the sector was responsible for keeping the area swept. Our sector had its own sinks and restrooms however we shared a shower room with Green Sector although apparently a biometric forcefield kept us from going into each other’s quarters. Coincidentally everyone had to clean and mop the shower room every week, but each sector was responsible for their own sinks as well as restrooms. As an emergency addendum all plumbing issues were to be solved by that bunk... I had always wondered why mom insisted I learn how to use a plumber's snake.
Since I had nothing better to do besides acclimate to my surroundings I opted to do a little straightening up, I didn't know either of my roommates but I wagered that giving the room a little added TLC on top of yesterday being cleaning day wouldn't hurt giving me some brownie points from my senior cadets-after helping myself to a shower first. From the water that was already on the ground I could see that Geranium had already made use of the room. I surveyed the area and it was a communal shower of eight pipe columns based each with four shower-heads- "Almost like I never left junior high... okay scratch that this place gets cleaned every week still going to use those shower sandals though.
After drying back off I got redressed and changed back into my off-duty fatigues, I know since I had been wearing them for less than a day, I wasn't going to waste another set of clean clothes. I heard two voices coming from the same room that I entered through earlier followed by the pair who were to be my bunkmates. Both were either in their late teens or early twenties, and unlike me were probably legal adults, one I could tell was of Latin-American descent but more Latina than Hispanic, the other I could tell was a fellow American mutt much like myself- granted I couldn't place the accent- it didn't take long for them to notice me.
"I heard that we were getting a new crop in today, but I didn't think they were sending us a kid!" The Latina spoke up, "don't they know how brutal this place is?"
"Now don't go judging a book by its cover Bluebell," the other of the pair who by process of elimination must be Cadet Alstroemeria, "we don't know what her story, what she can do or even how old she really is- trust me it can get tricky with mutants. What's your callsign sprout?"
I sprung up from the bunk with a salute and stated clearly, Cadet Magnolia, reporting for bunk assignment Senior Cadet Alstroemeria, I will be joining Blue Sector starting today! To answer your prior inquiries, I am fourteen and here with permission to train and prove myself so that I can gain permission to attend The Academy, I am also an Exemplar/Gadgeteer although my levels have never undergone official testing since awakening! That is all of the information that I am allowed to give as per training camp regulations, any other information that I have concerning myself or other new arrivals is also classified as per training camp regulations!"
"Geez take the stick out kid," Cadet Bluebell shot back, "we aren't senior cadets and there is no reason to go overboard on the protocol in the bunks or the mess hall. We might be training to be henchmen but there are some things that you need to learn about the Sweepers first off Rule Three, Save the flexing for when its needed, keeping tense for too long will only hurt you later."
"Not to mention the Rule One," I relaxed and chimed in with a smile, "Backstabbing only leaves you with someone to watch your six, look after your teammates and they'll look after you."
"So, the kid's done her homework," Alstroemeria pondered the mater, "and judging by your age, that means that you have some connection to the Sweepers- probably either immediate family or a very close relative."
"A word of warning Mags," Bluebell whispered as she moved in close, "never play cards with Alst, she will see through you in a few rounds and then go in for the kill."
"Wait- cards?!?" I observed the comments, "How do you keep score?"
"Your supplies every week comes with a book of waterproof matches," Bluebell explained, "They are rarely used, and any excess supplies that you have left at the end of the week are yours to keep so we use them as chips."
"You can also trade in your unopened surplus for nonstandard issue items from the quartermaster," Alstroemeria elaborated, "I'm trying to score enough matchbooks so I can score enough nicotine gum to take over for these stupid patches." To further emphasize her point she rolled up her sleeve to show it to me.
"Stupid underground complex, if this place was so advanced, they could have one of those smokers’ lounges and I could take a damned drag every once in a while."
"I doubt they'd want you to," I chimed in, "from what I heard you need every advantage that you can get here and that includes lung capacity."
"That includes junk food and soda," Bluebell retorted, "No sweets and the closest thing here is fruit, speaking of which tonight we are getting watermelon balls- yay!"
Something told me that her enthusiasm here was genuine, I should have known going in that they would have us on a strict diet...damnit.
Tuesday April 24th, 2007
I was jarred from my sleep by the sound of 'Reveille' being played on a bugle echoing throughout the room, I should have known at a vet like Dead-Zone was a stickler for tradition after I heard 'Taps' being played before Light-Out which by the way was literal since every light but the ghost light in the lavatory turned off. It seemed that now was the time for my first day of torture by boot camp to begin...joy.
I jumped out of bed then after shaking the kinks out then making sure to straighten my sheets back out and tuck them back in for inspection, I took a look and saw that my bunkmates were already done and were headed to the shower, 'oh well I'll get faster,' with a shrug I shucked my clothes and deposited them in the laundry chute and donning my robe and followed Alst and Blue to the showers.
Now was the time to meet the other ladies of Green Sector, along with Geranium, there were two other women one of Asian descent and an African American woman the later of whom looked older than everyone else.
"Well-well the little princess graces us with her presence," Geranium decided to lay the attitude on me, "did you get enough sleep or was there a pea under your mattress?"
"You must be confused Geranium you aren't still in prison; this is boot camp." I quipped back, "and FYI you don't want to make enemies of your fellow cadets- if you want to be a Sweeper you want to remember Rule Two: Survival of the Fittest will only take you as far as the first bigger fish, cooperation is the best strategy for survival in the wild."
"Looks like the kid knows how to do her homework," the older lady observed as she came over to me, "I'm Amaryllis, call me Ams-"
"And I'm Dahlia," the Asian woman explained, "no nickname it's short enough. And just so you know the sector thing is just to distribute schedules and make cross training with the guys easier. There are no cross-sector rivalries or anything.
"Magnolia, so Mags, I guess. And I know it’s likely to prep us for field work in the Sweeper Squads." I shook Dahlia's hand, "supposedly one mark of our success is our modular teamwork and mission-based assignments, makes sense that they'd start with it in basic training."
"If you don't mind me asking you look a little young for the Sweepers," Ams looked me over, "one of your folks is likely on a team so- special deal?"
"I can neither confirm or deny," I stood my ground, "Let’s just say that this is a trial to see that I can keep my connections hidden under a long-term stressful situation. I pass and I get a partially-paid ride to The Academy with no strings attached."
"Makes since," Bluebell noted, "why else would the let a spout in here. Just be careful this means that we will have to help you stay on your toes by trying to get you to spill every once in a while."
"Fair enough," I nodded in affirmation as we hung up our robes and filed into the shower. As we got dressed in our training uniforms and prepared for morning inspection, I noticed that Alst was looking at me with a touch of jealously then at herself. Considering that I was still developing, on top of everything else, it wasn't fair given the fact that I am an Exemplar, and she is actually an Energizer without a BIT.
This made it a little awkward as Corporal Reverent inspected our room, "Okay you pass for today, go on to the Mess Hall and gas up. Once again when you hear the gong report to the elevator ASAP, we have morning calisthenics to loosen you up for the rest of the day followed by laps. Oh, and don't forget your canteen, if you need to rehydrate you do it during the activity.
We filed out of the barracks and back to the elevator to take us to the General Purpose floor, rejoining Green Sector as well as seeing Red and Orange sectors, who I hadn't had too much time to talk with last night at dinner although to be fair it seemed like nobody did much talking in the Mess Hall. From the packet that I received I also knew that this floor also held the requisitions office, mail office (there was a closet with a pneumatic tube envelopes pens and stationery in every bunkroom. According to the packet all letters were to remain unsealed for examination and screened for possible security leaks or coded messages, the mail room staff officer would seal them before sending them. This was also the floor with the infirmary, if anybody had prescriptions, needed a check-up or medical care this was where they had to go.
Granted the fair in the Mess Hall was likely a part of the lack of conversation, evidently Dead-Zone was a believer in the Spartan nutrition first enjoyment second military diet. Yesterday's dinner was turkey loaf, creamed carrot, and steamed lima beans with mineral water and a cup of watermelon balls. This morning's fair at breakfast consisted of beef hash, a hardboiled egg, an unpeeled orange, 2 slices whole-grain wheat toast, and a cup of cottage cheese. To drink everyone received a bottle of mineral water and there were two pots of coffee available for those who wanted it, but no cream (not even powdered creamer) or sweetener was available, this meant that everyone who wanted to get their morning caffeine fix needed to enjoy their coffee black.
Before long after everyone cleaned and returned their trays we filed back this time to an elevator this time a separate elevator from the one that we used earlier once again going down from what I estimated the General Purpose floor was the two floors below the underground entrance that we went to earlier, and the Barracks Floor was right below that. If I was correct this meant the floors where we were supposed to train along with all of the subsequent equipment were further down. The fact that these levels were only accessible through a separate elevator without an entrance on the Barracks Floor also meant that none of the cadets could gain access to those locations after hours, talk about extra security.
Training Floor Alpha
That morning calisthenics routine was brutal, I mean I had never even heard of some of those exercises before today burpees- L-sits- ugh, I was glad there was a station that we could use to refill our canteens in-between training sessions, Columbine and Geranium were obviously feeling it too. Added to this was the fact that Dead-Zone and our fellow trainers carried low-volt shock batons that they used to encourage slackers to 'pick-up the pace.'
This was brutal and the exorcise was only beginning, now we were sent to a track to run laps, and Dead-Zone was here with a whistle along with some odd equipment that looked like people were meant to drag it like a plow, "OKAY YOU MAGGOTS! I WANT FIFTEEN LAPS FROM EACH OF YOU, MAGNOLIA, GERANIUM, COLUMBINE, LARKSPUR SINCE YOU FOUR ARE NEW YOU DO BASIC LAPS FOR THE FIRST WEEK, LINE UP FROM INSIDE LANE TO OUTSIDE LANE YOU ARE TO START WHEN YOU HEAR MY WHISTLE NO SOONER.. GLADIOLIS, ALSTROMERIA, BLUEBELL, MIMOSA YOU FOUR GET INTO YOUR HARNESSES, THE TWOS WILL SET UP THE EQUIPEMENT. GLADIOLIS YOU WILL RECEIVE INSTRUCTIONS FROM CORPORAL REVERENT, EVERYONE ELSE IS TO DO STRETCHES TO KEEP LOOSE UNTIL THEY ARE CALLED. NOW MOVE IT- MOVE IT- MOVE-IT!
It wasn't easy but we went about our laps, granted even gym class back home wasn't this tough granted we were running laps at a lower air-pressure, similar to those found at higher altitudes which training at supposedly made your lungs more efficient and your body work harder. Yeah, I know if no pain meant this gain why didn't the Broncos go to the Super Bowl more often- but who knows the answer to that one...well other than their coach.
Eventually we were winded and took to the side to rehydrate while the next group went, that was when I saw what that odd piece of equipment was for, it was an electromagnetic generator. This was the equivalent of making an athlete pull a plow through dirt, everyone was having to do laps pulling an electromagnet set to their specific tolerances which could be increased later on as the individual made progress. I was shaken not only by the fact of how brutal this was but also by the fact that likely by next week I was going to have to do this as well.
Eventually everyone had gone and all of us were pretty winded, that was when the next gong sounded, and I remembered that the day was only getting started. Fortunately, the next regime was fire-arms training, and was bound to be much less labor intensive.
Range Floor 1 - Firing Range A
I hated to admit it, but the firing range was actually kind of interesting, then again, the Sweepers had a lot of interesting options in terms of firepower. Today was the proper care and use of an electro-stun rifle, a mid-sized weapon that fired a capacitor of that delivered a condensed burst of electro-static energy that would temporarily short-circuit the nervous system of most targets. Were in essence primitive automatons that began standing stock still and later on would move randomly around the room.
We had to score as many hits as possible before the time was up, and missed shots counted against us, the key here was precision. Score was kept by the fact that the capacitors were color-coded and remained in the pseudo-dermis of the targets and counted as a point (two if the target was in motion), those found on the ground later without their prongs deployed counted as a negative point, and if our hit lit-up the blub on the automaton's head that counted as an added point.
What was annoying was that if you weren't careful you could end the session in the negative, and as our instructor Corporal Snips explained scoring in the negative below a certain mark in three sessions counted as a strike. This meant that everyone tried to score as many two-point hits as possible before the targets started moving and then started to be more careful picking their shots once the targets started moving. Thankfully no-one crossed into the negative, granted Columbine was close ending the session in the single digits.
Combat Floor 1 - Sparing Room 7
Our current training was with Lance Corporal Moshpit, a mutant who I had heard was a multiplier, it was her job to train us in close-quarters combat. This was interesting in that she trained us all at once in separate sparing rooms, I had to admit that this made everything really efficient as everyone received one-on-one combat training and sparring between cadet could be done whenever it was needed.
I looked across the small circular room with foam-rubber padded walls at the Lance Corporal Moshpit assigned to me, soon she took a stand and shouted "Begin!"
I knew that as an instructor it was her duty to begin the match on the defensive, it was time to put the training that mom had given me since I was younger to the test. I took a partial defensive stance and slowly closed the gap between us occasionally circling Moshpit one way or the other, taking the time to carefully measure her reactions- before while on one circle once I was close enough I struck with a low-kick to her left shin.
Moshpit was ready though and she the kick with a low-block and a right-cross punch using the same motion. While I was ready to meet the punch with a block of my own, that was when I felt my leg and realized the low-block was a low-backhand strike. I tried to hop back to get some distance to go for my next attack when Moshpit grabbed my right-leg with the striking arm and used it to knock me on my back.
"Nice try with the attack sister," I heard her say inside my head before stating aloud, "Well-done for an opening move cadet, but you are still too green to use that tactics, you had a minor tell that telegraphed your intent before you acted. It had a good chance of working against a less experienced opponent though, if you work on erasing your tell you could use this as a foundation for a decent opening offensive."
'Crap does his count as blowing my cover?' I relayed over the link, "I shall endeavor to do so Lance Corporal Moshpit."
"No as a senior demi-succubus of the sisterhood I could tell even if I wasn't informed ahead of time, FYI Dead-Zone and Corporal Reverent also know." She continued with the public lecture, "See that you do cadet, at least I see a good foundation following our own combat techniques. You are a little inexperienced, but I will rectify these issues soon enough."
'Good to know, I will continue to try and live up to the Great-Mother's faith!' I then got up and returned to my stance, "I look forward to your tutelage Lance Corporal Moshpit. I am ready to resume my training session sir."
"I like your attitude cadet," Lance Corporal Moshpit proclaimed as she resumed her own stance, "Good luck and stick to it little sister, a dream is worth fighting for!"
Records Archive - Training Floor Beta
I wasn't the only one surprised by the layout of the next floor, "Why does this place look like a big library?" Magnolia asked only to wince as her voice seemed to echo.
"Because in a way it is," Our instructor Corporal Morse explained, "Around you are files that we keep on current operatives, potential targets, rival mercenary groups, members of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom and the Syndicate, as well as hundreds of criminal organizations and hero agencies. Part of your job as a lower ranked Sweeper agent will be to locate intel to assemble briefings on missions- 'Praemonitus, praemunitus' as the Romans would say Forewarned is Forearmed. Many times, a battle can be fought and won before the first boot hits the ground based on the intel that is conveyed to the field-leaders and the soldiers before mobilization."
"And speaking of being forewarned Cadet Magnolia speaking out of term three times in a week counts as a strike," Corporal Morse stated with a withering glare, "But considering you are here to learn about gathering intelligence I do let insightful and practical questions slide in here. Under me you will learn about how to assemble and prepare the materials for potential mission briefings how to assemble dossiers, pulling files on possible team members for mission selection, the likely additional intel to add to briefings that mission leaders might have forgotten to include on requests, all things that can aide a mission into being pulled off as smoothly as possible."
"So, information on all the Sweepers are here?" Larkspur asked as he looked over the shelves, "And all of the heroes too?"
"Only information related to their powers, abilities and training," Corporal Morse continued, "all non-pertinent information is classified and only available to those with Queen level clearance or higher. Also regarding heroes this only includes those who operate in a professional policy, we might have some information on free-agents, but only those who operate as reserve members of particular groups, solo heroes unless they warrant special attention are not located here, neither are those who only operate as special-deputies or security liaisons.
"You will also not find information about your fellow cadets here- at least not until they graduate from the camp. You will also not find dossiers about any of your instructors at the camp as we are not considered field operatives. You might however learn about the various Deuces that we have around camp and why they are serving this punishment; you might find a little enlightenment in their mistakes to learn what not to do."
As she was talking, I noticed that it was just us camp newbies here, everyone else had already gone into the stacks and were using devices that looked like a portable version of a star-trek screen. I also noticed that they were using their hands, it looks like someone thought of a new use for that electro-static sensor that Apple put on their MP3 Players.
"I see someone is paying attention to their surroundings, but I hope that you were not distracted young lady- or were you?" Corporal Morse inquired.
"Sir- no sir!" I saluted right away, "I heard your explanation on field dossiers and noted the information that you relayed concerning the content of the shelves. I was noting the senior cadets were already busy so I would wager this orientation is for ourselves prior to receiving the manner of assignments that you have already given them prior to our arrival."
"And Cadet Magnolia you would be correct, each of you will be given a task by the end of the week to create a dossier and presentation," Corporal Morse continued, "However there is no extra-credit here. Over the next few days you will be given assignments to locate particular dossiers in the archives to answer specific questions based on an individual. So today I suggest that you learn about how to use our electronic slate to search our cataloging system, and practice looking up files. I would suggest starting with a deceased or inactive individual, so to be fair I have some names in this Folger's Can Pick three and then use a pen and bluebook to write down a few facts from the dossier that you find interesting.
We passed the can around the table three times after Corporal Morse shook it up, each time drawing one slip from the can. By the end I had drawn Diablo Desperado, Gargoyle, and Professor Ohm. Using the device known as a slate took a little getting used to, but I was surprised how thorough the dossiers were. Apparently, the Diablo Desperado was an undead confederate war veteran whose execution had also led to the creation of The Hangman. Gargoyle's estate was actually partially garnered after his death when it was discovered that his armor was in violation of several patents as well as held stolen classified technology.
Professor Ohm meanwhile was interesting for another reason, aside from being a prominent member of the Justice Battalion the man was actually the son of Professor Quasimodo, THE Professor Quasimodo. I had always wondered if he was actually an undocumented gadgeteer because of some of his inventions, it turned out to be pure nature and nurture given that his father had probably fostered his love of science- something that I could relate to given the fun dad and I had making stuff down in the workshop. I briefly smiled at the time our remote-control override module let us freak mom out with a possessed vacuum cleaner this past April Fool’s Day- good times- good times.
"Something interesting in your reading Magnolia?" Geranium inquired, "No- just recalling a fond memory. Maybe I will fill you in after graduation- that is if you're nice and behave yourself."
Mess Hall - General Purpose Floor
Honestly I should have been expecting lunch from this morning, our faire Chipped Beef on Toast served with cream gravy, Garden Salad topped with a cup of oil and wine vinegar on the side, wild rice and pinto beans, a banana, another bottle of mineral water, and a decanter of tea on the side where the coffee pots were this morning. Granted food here wasn't meant to be enjoyed it was meant to serve as fuel, this would also serve to break anyone of a sugar habit since the only sweets that we had available were fruit, I guess Dead-Zone didn't believe in K-Rations.
As usual for the last two meals that I had here everyone was quiet, I guess the only real socializing that was allowed was in the barracks and the shower room. Now I was starting to understand what mom meant by this place being brutal, it wasn't only the training it was also the long periods between interaction that was allowed took a psychological toll on you as well. This was part of why solitary confinement was such a brutal punishment in prison, the isolation and the lack of stimulation there added to break the nerves of the prisoners.
Yeah, I could already see the day starting to affect Larkspur, I wasn't surprised how Geranium and Columbine were enduring this after all the pair had been in prison recently. Compared to that this training camp might actually be pleasant at times considering that from what I knew assaulting a fellow cadet here was actually punished by lashes from a mystic whip that could inflict the pain both of the event and the lingering aftermath without leaving so much as a scratch on the body. That and there was also no threat of sexual assault here, Shuffle took a dark view on such things that I didn't even want to know what she'd do to an offender in her organization especially since she had so many things to inflict on people that were far worse than death.
Anyway, I wish that they at least had given us some tabasco to use around here, from the hash this morning to the chipped beef this afternoon a little heat would have done a world of good. Oh well, at least they gave us oil and vinegar for our salad otherwise this would be even worse than it already was for everyone. That being said it was no wonder that we didn't have saltshakers here with the hash this morning and the chipped beef this afternoon we likely got more than enough sodium in our diet despite all of the workouts that we were getting.
While we lacked sauce to add to our mean or saltshakers at lead, we had pepper shakers to use, yes, I said shakers all of the pepper itself was pre-milled so no-one could swipe one and use it to make anything...creative. While the pepper helped cut the taste of the food some it did help that lunch and breakfast weren't overly heavy given that we had exercise heavy activities both after both meals, also why everyone was busy choking down both meals to give everyone's meals time to settle and us time to use the facilities before the next training regimen began.
Training Floor Epsilon
Once again it was time for us to be under Corporal Reverent in a large empty indoor stadium, "Now recruits what you need to understand about Urban Combat Navigation is that it is about more than getting from Point A to Point B. As part of a Sweeper Unit your job will entail staying in motion and keeping track of a target even when you are not part of the group that is actively engaged with them."
"You will be learning part of this task in your Recon/Stealth Ops Training in a few hours, but this training period will be about how to best move about the battlefield. While stealth in such scenarios is desired the most important thing here will be to follow an optimum path with efficiency, and while sustaining as little wear and tear to both yourself and your equipment."
"Some would call what you do here parquor, however the issue here isn't to navigate the field as fast as possible- well unless I tell you otherwise sometimes you will be ordered to retreat after all." Corporal Reverent looked around to make certain that no-one was laughing. "However, parquor is not done with the amount of gear that you will be required to use; I know that some of you will wish to use your own gear and some of you may have your own gear. With that being said you need to remember that until you are awarded the rand of 10 or higher, Sweepers are to use standard gear."
"Keeping that in mind while your gear may be standardized, you are most certainly not. Each of you are different in your own ways; you have your own bone and muscle structure, range of movements, and even prior training. It is my job here to help you work with what you have to best suit your style while following orders, I am here to help make you a better version of you, and yes that includes how to rapidly scale walls and jump between rooftops without seriously hurting yourselves. But as for looking cool while doing it, just remember this isn't Hong Kong there are no wires here to help you!"
"Notice that those who are your senior cadets are not here, that is because they are currently going through Recon/Stealth Training, you need this a lot more than they do though. This is why I want each of you to work on getting to a rooftop, one of the best ways to follow a fight and lend support to your team is having a good vantage point. Being on a rooftop not only achieves this but it also keeps you away from pedestrians, the fewer see you the less you will need to rely on cellphone jammers and other tech that may draw more trouble or even competition your way."
Before Corporal Reverent continued a city began to spring up around us, I could even here Columbine tell Geranium, "Holy cow, it's just like '99!"
Once the cityscape was in place, we found ourselves on a road in an inner-city urban setting. As we took stock of our surroundings our instructor continued, "To start I want each of you to practice getting to the rooftop of a building as fast as possible. To be fair you are starting with practice buildings with fire escapes and moving on to narrow alleys, by the end of the week I want each of you to be able to get to a rooftop using only the walls of a normal alley with full pack. Now move it you maggots- we're burning daylight!" Before blowing a whistle, telling each of us to pick an alley which we did with all the coordination and dignity of a Black Friday shopping horde.
Combat Floor 2 - Battlefield 1
It was time again to train with the Big Man himself, yeah it appeared that Dead-Zone would be overseeing our Team Combat Training, for team combat. I also noticed that our group of newbies had rejoined the other cadets, who were a lot less worse for wear the we were after bumping around on fire-escapes for the last forty minutes.
"THIS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON'T KNOW IS TEAM COMBAT," Dead-Zone began barking orders to us. "YOU SORRY LOT WILL BE SORTED INTO TEAMS AND PITTED AGAINST EACH OTHER. ONE TEAM MEMBER WILL BE CHOSEN TO LEAD, THE REST WILL FOLLOW THEIR ORDERS- THOSE WHO FAIL TO DO SO WILL BE GIVEN ONE STRIKE, AND JUST TO MAKE EVERYTHING INTERESTING, THE OVERALL LOSING TEAM WILL HAVE THE CLEANING BRUSHES IN THEIR BARRACKS REPLACED WITH TOOTHBRUSHES FOR ALL OF NEXT WEEK. ALSO IS ANY TEAM'S LEADER FAILS TO GAIN A SINGLE VICTORY BY THE END OF THE WEEK THEY WILL ALSO BE AWARDED A STRIKE."
"TODAY'S GAME WILL BE CAPTURE THE FLAG," Dead-Zone smiled as the world changed around us to have us standing in a mockup of No-Man's Land. On one side a blue and red flag made of horizontal stripes on the other a green and orange checkerboard. "TEAM LEADERS THIS WEEK ARE ALSTROEMERIA AND PANSY, BOTH TEAMS ARE TO GET TO THEIR POSITION AND EQUIP THEMSELVES WITH THE WEAPONS AND AMMO FOUND THERE AS WELL AS A SENSOR. I HAVE SET-UP TWO-FLASHPOTS ONE GREEN THE OTHER RED, WHEN THE GREEN GOES OFF YOU ARE TO BEGIN WHEN THE RED GOES OFF THE EXERCISE IS OVER- ALSO IF NEITHER TEAM HAS CAPTURED THE OTHER'S FLAG OR ONE TEAM'S SENSORS HAVE ALL BEEN TRIPPED THE EXERCISE IS OVER."
"NOW EVERYBODY TO YOUR TRENCHES PEOPLE, MOVE IT- MOVE IT- MOVE IT!" Dead-Zone concluded as we scrambled to our respective side.
Once we were all in our trench Bluebell began to distribute sensors while Cadet Jonquil distributed our weapons explaining, "These are E-27 Electro-sensory rifles known to the Sweepers as Lock-Jaws, when they hit the target experiences Involuntary Muscle Paralysis leaving them unable to move, when you get hit it will also register on your sensor. Word to the wise- don't get hit you do so it takes ten minutes to wear off and hurts like you rolled over a fire-ant hill."
Now that Jonquil said his peace it as time for Alst to shine, "Alright listen up everyone, remember although the exercise begins at the Flashpot that doesn't mean that we have to attack right then and there. We also have smoke grenades back here, we use those toss them thicker to the left side of the battlefield while our attackers go just right of center, newbies you will focus on cover fire, all other non-attackers focus on taking down anything coming towards our position. Oleander, Mimosa, Bluebell you will be our attackers- get past that line and grab that flag, also jump over the trench you do not want to be in that hornet's nest. Also, when I yell Rutabaga, Squash, or Melon you hit the dirt and our shooters will send a volley over your head."
Soon enough the green flashpot went off and we waited until the initial plan was underway as the smoke grenade was deployed and our runners went out. Peeking out from my place in the trench I took aim with my E-27 and surveyed the battlefield before laying down cover fire through the smoke where I knew that our people weren't going to be running.
"RUDABEGA!" I heard Alst shout I waited a moment for our people to hit the ground and fired. That's when I heard something that sounded like a Wilhelm Scream and as the smoke cleared, I found Pansy twitching on the battlefield in what looked like the Fetal Position with foam coming out of his mouth.
Training Floor Beta - Class Room
As it turned out Orange-Green Squad was deploying a similar strategy to our own albeit with instructions to keep low, this meant that instead of the bolt from my E-27 hitting Pansy in the shins- it hit him...well to be frank...alright it hit him in the freaking groin of all places. Part of me was worried that I was getting a strike, it turns out I actually made Dead-Zone crack a smile as Pansy was sent to the infirmary, I was told that this would be added to our Field Training on battlefield awareness. We still lost the match though; Larkspur ignored Pansy and grabbed our flag while everyone was busy gawking.
Corporal Morse was our instructor again for this one, so I doubt that Practical Training was combat oriented. "Hello once again Cadets, for those of you who this is your first day as you can guess by my presence and our setting this training is not combat oriented. As important as gathering and assembling intel for upcoming missions is, so too is to properly record the results of a mission or operation. This ensures that our Intel stays current and properly cataloged for our records as well as to note potential threats for future missions."
"This is why you are going to learn the skills necessary to properly submit those reports for our records-keepers. Also, to note we do not keep files on hard-drives here everything is stored on physical media here to prevent hacking or data going off sight."
"Isn't that a lot of wasted paper," Larkspur brought up, "I mean think of all those trees."
"Actually, our parent organization maintains underground industrial hemp farms," Corporal Morse. "It doesn't turn brittle, and since we're already a criminal organization who cares if we break the law behind industrial hemp manufacturing."
"Question," Periwinkle raised his hand highlighting that evidently none of their group had asked this question, "does that mean that we also grow marijuana? Because I could see our parent organization getting an edge in Cannabis pharmaceuticals."
I tried to hide my smile, we already had a number of cannabis derived pharmaceuticals, clear for human trials the moment our lobbying efforts made enough headway in congress to get Marijuana reclassified as a Schedule-2 Narcotic.
"Now enough of that class," Corporal Morse stated, "Now we are going to practice writing reports for today's class. For starters I want each of you to write a report of the mock battle that you all just participated from your perspective. To serve as an example I will be giving you all a completed report of a similar experience to serve as an example. These reports are the type that will go on to fill mission report findings, just to keep in mind that part of this class will be to also serve to fill in gaps that you might have in your own education to better serve as a member of the Sweepers."
"That means that Miss Magnolia you have the most to learn as you were in the tail end of Middle School prior to the circumstances of your being here." Corporal Morse stated singling me out, "Take those smiles off of your faces Cadets Geranium and Columbine- you are not much further than her as you both didn't finish high school- and Magnolia at least shows a desire to continue her education unlike the two of you who I am recommending in your file to take the GED once you get your new out of costume aliases."
"Huh," I could hear from the two of them.
"Once you join the Sweepers they usually set you up with a new civilian identity and cover give you a legitimate form of income outside of Sweeper missions," I turned to explain, "Even the 10's who choose to operate solo have nine to fives to help pay the bills."
"Cadet Magnolia is correct," Corporal Morse continued, "plus a touch of the mundane and the ability to operate in the normal world outside of costume is good for your mental health. That and being able to walk down the street or drive a car without being afraid of the police, or capes coming for you. Now let's get started on those reports."
Training Floor Beta - Field Room
Apparently now it was Corporal Weathers turn to train us, although when he walked in with a few dolleys being wheeled in by Deuces full of mannequins I had a decent guess on what the topic of Field Training was going to be. I also noticed how none of the seasoned cadets were here meaning this was a class currently aimed at new arrivals the topic of which they had already taken.
"As you know I am Corporal Weathers," the man reiterated, "over the next week and a half your group are going to learn the proper way to field dress wounds received during action. As not every team will enter the field with a healer-trait individual or a mage with healing spells in their wheelhouse you are going to have to learn how to properly dress wounds. This can literally mean life or death for a teammate of yours in the field or in the absolute worst-case scenario- yourself."
"To this end we will be using these medical mannequins to show how to effectively treat wounds, injuries and trauma to give your squad mates the precious time that they need for a proper evacuation. For recent arrivals we are going over something that a Sweeper member is very likely to have to deal with out in the field, broken limbs, to that end you will be learning how to properly apply a splint, a sling, and the worst case scenario a tourniquet."
"I know that it's nasty to think about but in some cases a limb can become so mangled that it sends micro fragments and protocells into the bloodstream that might lead to your immune system attacking your own body." Corporal Weathers stated his case as we continued, "For now we will focus on how to properly splint broken limbs and work our way up, not the key to properly make a splint after moving sure that the subject is not moving, is to find two or more solid straight items to serve as the brace, This is important to help immobilize the broken bones to further minimize the damage to surrounding blood vessels as well as muscle and nerve tissue."
Training Floor Gamma
Time for more training with Corporal Reverent, today's feature Stealth and Reconnaissance. "The most vital part in any operation is that other parties are not to be made aware that you and by extension The Sweepers are in the area conducting an operation. This extends from arriving in an area, conducting reconnaissance, surveillance, and keeping a look out- this is also the lengthiest part of any operation due to the fact that every slip-up risks not only the entirety of the operation but can also jeopardize your own cover in some cases."
"Also, unlike other components of operations- each stage of an operation prior to engagement is conducted differently. In the case of the arrival and reconnaissance stages of an operation you need to think about them as role-playing, you are playing a part that gives you a legitimate reason to not only be in the target city but if you are conducting surveillance to also be spotted in the target location."
"While this may not seem like a big-deal pattern recognition is something that federal agencies like the FBI and the NSA and private security contractors like the MCO pay attention to when looking for suspects. This is why if you are being sent to an area ahead of time by public means, you need to not only have a convincing cover but also to make certain to keep that cover consistent."
"To that end not only will this course be about how to conduct activities for the Sweepers, but it will also serve as an acting course, something that will be helpful when it comes time for you to be given your civilian covers. Not only do each of you need to keep a persona- you also have to keep that persona organic, we can only help you get a new identity so many times before you become a threat to the Sweepers as a whole."
"And loose ends are to be discarded or disposed of-," Columbine numbly remarked likely remembering all too well how their own boss Nicholas DuPraeve left himself and Geranium twisting in the wind when his plot to takeover and enslave the Whateley Academy went belly-up, landing the pair in juvie for a time and on the run for almost a year afterwards.
"Actually, we usually offer them a choice of either retirement from the Sweepers to a final civilian identity or expulsion from the organization entirely." Corporal Reverent corrected Columbine's assumption, "Either way you would have your memories of your time in the Sweepers edited or extracted, this is how we tie up loose ends. I know it seems a lot more complicated than eliminating a problem asset, but you never know when today's problematic rookie might one day return as a seasoned and valuable recruit, or might find a niche that they could serve our face in the public sector. A life is an expensive thing to casually discard, one never knows when a low-ranked card might become vital one in the future, to take one out of the equation entirely is foolish and the Sweepers are no fools."
Almost immediately Corporal Reverent switched gears, "But for now we are going to practice your role-playing because at the end of the week I want each of you to be able to pass so naturally through an airport simulation that no-one will be the wiser that you are on your way to commit multiple felonies."
Training Floor Beta - Field Room
While practical training was a lot like being back in school it was good to have a touch of familiarity and speaking of familiarity for field work, they were having us strip down and maintain equipment before reassembling it. I was getting to see the guts of the same E-27s that we were firing earlier, oh this was my jam.
"Let me guess." Geranium deadpanned at me as I was dismantling the weapon, "you're a Gadgeteer?"
"Yup," I replied as I continued my work, "but why did you guess Devisor?"
"Because you didn't pick up the parts to turn it into something crazier," Geranium responded, "Devisor's have a real control problem when their working, even worse if they're a Dricker. Hell, they made a new warning label for labs of that type."
"Let me guess a stencil of someone with their head thrown back in laughter?" Larkspur spoke up chiming into the conversation.
"No," Corporal Weathers chimed in as he came our way, "it’s a mushroom cloud coming out of a beaker, now please focus on the task at hand. If one of these rifles' misfires, we are going to have another cadet in the infirmary and this time the one responsible will be cleaning toilets bare-handed with a toothbrush."
We continued working on the E-27s in silence, I actually finished correctly second behind our bot-man Gladiolus and was allowed to chill out on the sidelines after Corporal Weathers cleared my work. Eventually all that was left was Geranium then in the middle of Corporal Weathers inspection we heard a bugle playing Retreat over the hidden loudspeakers, Corporal Weathers stood up immediately and announced everyone is dismissed- except for you Cadet Geranium you leave when my inspection is done.
Tonight's dinner feature was what looked like Swedish meatballs with egg noodles in gravey, with sides of steamed carrots and three-bean salad. Once again, the drink of no choice was bottled mineral water with a cup of yogurt mixed with blueberries as desert. By the time I was half done with my carrots and out of meatballs, Geranium came back in looking somewhat embarrassed when everyone turned to look at her coming in the door, at least it looked like she perked up a little to see that Columbine saved her seat and had her dinner waiting. I guess that no matter what I thought of them they still had each-other's back.
Maybe I should lay off of them a little, I mean what they tried to do at Whateley was awful but they were only the lackies to that incident DuPraeve was the mastermind of that affair. Granted the level of trust that I had for the pair was...sparingly measured at best but I should still reserve my final judgement for later. That being said they better think twice about trying to dig into my real ID or who my parents were, that was part of my deal with Scratch keeping secrets and I had plenty.
After my second shower of the day, after depositing my training clothes in the laundry chute I changed into a clean set of my night clothes from my trunk. From what I understood we only got a week's worth of training uniforms, undergarments, and fatigues every Sunday after inspection. Granted the lack of downtime meant that everyone was saving their fatigues for cleaning and R&R on Sunday.
"So, Mags," Blue called my nickname after strolling back into the room demonstrating that she was a looker despite being a baseline human, "how did you take your first day in Hell's Garden?"
"I'm not going to lie, it was brutal especially the long periods of silence," I fumed as I put my nightshirt on, "and I know that it's only going to get worse. I mean doing laps while dragging an electromagnet, climbing and scaling roof tops without ladders, and war games are bad enough, but some of what you learn you can never unlearn."
"I thought that the point of coming here was to learn that you have what it takes?" Alst commented as she returned to the room, demonstrating that she had been eavesdropping. "You do want to go to The Academy this Fall right?"
"Speaking of which I mean The Academy at your age," Blue looked at me in confusion, "aren't you a little young for WestPoint?"
"Not the WestPoint Military Academy," I stated at Blue before looking at Alst and nodding as we responded in stereo, "The Whateley Academy."
"Never heard of it...let me guess it's a mutant thing...right?" Blue responded with befuddlement.
"Yeah and it's not White Hat or Black Hat exclusive," Alst remarked, "it cranks out capes and crooks alike, along with some who fall in the middle. The Lady Astarte is the Principal, but Lord Paramount is actually on the Board of Directors."
"Last I heard the kids of Star League as well as Gizmatic and Doctor Diabolic are going there." I chimed in, "Yeah it is a bit of an open secret that Whateley exists but it's not that widely known. I actually wanted to attend once I manifested, but- well- I told everyone all that I can in the shower this morning- all that I have to do is pass while keeping my secrets and I can go with a little backing and no strings attached."
"So where are you from anyway?" Bluebell inquired.
"That would be telling Blue by the way you might want to work on speaking Standard American English," I comment before sliding under the covers, "I can't place the city but I can already tell you're a Cali Girl from the way that you talk. Now I'm sorry for cutting this chat short but its late and I'm beat." I closed my eyes while Alst and Blue continued talking, I wasn't trying to be anti-social, but I was still young and green, and today wiped me out.
Please Log in to join the conversation.
- Independent Fiction: Tunnels
- Posted Stories: Fabrication Lab
- Songs of the Compass Roses - Arias of Life