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Jane will be writing up my statement based on the things I told her in the car. Which saves me from having to do it and means Donna and I are free to make our way across campus by the tunnels and into Sara's room to just have family time together. I'm not sure she's had a chance to come here in person before. Sara greets us both with hugs, and I find a space to collapse on her bed and let the shakes go. I end up curled up on the bedcovers with both of them stroking me. "D...Donna, you can let go too." I say. "Don't wanna hog the attention."
She sighs. "Petting you is helping me cope, love."
"Is Paige around? She's the best to pet", I say, "She purrs."
"Haven't seen her in a bit", Sara says. Then on the Pack group, "Paige, are you busy at the moment?"
My shakes stop instantly as adrenalin dumps into my system again with a feeling of cold sweat. "Even if she's sleeping she should hear you."
"What is it?" Donna asks, so I pull her into the group. "Everyone, this is Donna, my adoptive mother and trusted ally. Does anyone have an idea where Paige is?"
We get various answers, but the most recent saw her a short while before enormous numbers of staff suddenly took off flying.
I open a line to the Head. "Headmistress, apologies, Paige is missing and link deaf, and that shouldn't be possible if she's conscious. She was last seen soon before the staff took off to come to my emergency call."
"Yes, I'm a little busy right now, but her room was raided. Stay off the line please."
I pass that on, and Sara and I rush across, with Donna in tow. From talking to people who saw it, a small number of soldiers in snow gear with covered faces and no insignia broke into Hawthorne shortly after the school had emptied itself of high level supers, cut a path of devastation to Paige's room, stunned her, and teleported out. Thankfully, they didn't kill anyone, but there's a few kids over in Doyle getting treated for electricity burns from stun rifles. Soon enough the rest of the Pack gather up, and I pass it on to the Kimbas too. They're all over doing their own things, but Billie gets there quickly, and gives me a hug. We all gather up in Sara's room.
Sara leads business, as I'm feeling drained. "We get the same results from the links and from my mark, they've got her deeply unconscious but she isn't dead. Obviously, the school is going to call in all their favours on this, and they're doing their own things to find her. So we'll be working with the staff, not going behind their backs. Does anyone have ideas or suggestions?"
Jet says, "We need to check on Petra."
Sara nods. "Good thought, but I've already checked, she's fine. We've moved her into daddy's realm as a precaution. I don't imagine they can raid that. She's looking to see if our raiders left any traces on the internet, but so far no obvious sign."
I should have thought of that, but my mind is a fog of self pity. Okay, enough moping. I set a heap of my parallels to sleep and get the rest I clearly need, while setting others to clean out the fuzz in my head. I can be traumatized later. Blinking and feeling a bit clearer headed, I say, "when she wakes, if she wakes, we can ask her where she is, if she has any clue. But I can also follow her link, physically."
This causes some surprise, but I explain how I jumped to Donna's place earlier. It won't matter if they've got her under a mile of rock, presuming they let her wake up enough to send a room image.
Billie says, "I know this is hypocrisy on my part, but against a base of soldiers, I wouldn't recommend just charging in and attacking them alone. Even with lots of bodies."
"I was thinking of sneaking in a beacon", I say. "Then the cavalry can come and pound on them, while I pull her out."
"If they see she's gone, they're liable to just evacuate the place", Donna says. "They'd vanish back into the deniable long grass. Ideally, we need them to think they still have an asset to protect."
"Getting her out is a priority", Sara says. "But I have an idea. Jules, you have a fresh snapshot of her, don't you?"
I grin. "Pull a switcheroo? I like it. I can leave a body where she was, grab her back and they're none the wiser."
Sara nods. "Alright. That's our plan if she wakes, and is unattended for long enough."
"I can jump in camouflaged, and my teleports are silent", I add. "They'd have about half a second to spot me as a messy blur before my photophores adjust. Assuming I evade notice on entry, it wouldn't even matter if they had guards in the room. I can jump her out and create the duplicate in situ, a very brief flicker. Then they'll just be guarding the duplicate."
Sara nods. "So, what do we do if they decide to leave her on a knock-out drip for the foreseeable future, and she doesn't wake up?"
I wince. "Worst case, I can lifeboat her, although that means cutting her existing body loose."
"Which saves her, but at considerable emotional cost, and doesn't help find our enemies, leaving them free to strike again", Sara nods. "Okay, that's our worst case. Anyone have better ideas?"
While they're debating, I get a nudge from the Head. "I know you well enough to know that you and the others are hatching plans as we speak. I also know you'll want to share them, but I can't spare the time right now. I'm giving lieutenant Forsyth a link, you can discuss plans with him, and he'll pass them on to me."
I tell the others. And we bring him into our little council of war group and he gets told our plans so far, which he likes. He confirms our suspicions, that it looks like the raiders were waiting for the school's defensive capacity to empty out, which suggests we're fighting precogs, an unwanted complication. After a little bit more discussion, it's clear we're not getting any further new ideas. So everyone breaks up for now.
And then finally it's me, Donna and Sara left together again - the others can see we're in need of alone time. We end up snuggling together on the bed in a hug pile, me in the middle.
"You know, I never knew how much trouble I'd be getting into when I fell in with you two", Donna says, "But I wouldn't miss it for the world. A cute daughter and a wonderful lover, I am thoroughly blessed. Even if you do end up having to fight for me - and for your other friends."
I snuggle against her. "Darrow's thoroughly gone. Draw a line under him, that chapter's over. But I'm honestly tempted to get comparably drastic with our presumed friends in government. They need to learn where the line is."
"I'd rather you not", Donna says sternly. "Not because you aren't in the right, but because of what it would do to you. I've seen how it weighed on your heart to kill those men, today. Tough girl bravado doesn't work on a mom, dear."
"I keep running back over it in my head", I say, because she isn't wrong. "They weren't expecting a thing. They hardly had time to feel it, I imagine. Just a purple blur and done. I didn't give them a chance."
Sara says, "They started it when they took Donna hostage. You're a sweetie for caring, but your judgement was right. Those two were very dangerous, they've fought on equal terms with many famous capes. But because you moved immediately to kill, they had no idea they were in a fight."
"It would be different with a base full of soldiers", Donna says. "Many of them out of uniform, men and women some not too different from me, not threatening. Your conscience would never accept it, dear. Even if they were working for kidnappers, you'd see the human in their eyes."
I sigh. "You're right, but it bothers me. They can't be let to think it's okay."
Sara says, "Let Paige take her own revenge, dear. She's what they fear, let them learn why."
That idea has appeal. "Okay, okay. Render unto Paige that which is Paige's, and about to regret it ever owned an internet connection." Which makes the two of them giggle.
To tease Donna for ganging up on me, I use my flight to pop up and quickly behind her and roll her into the middle place, making her go 'eep'. "Your turn in the middle, Donna-mama."
"Super-kids", she pretend-complains. "Little nightmares."
I snuggle up against her and send her love down the link. "Are you sure nightmare is the right word?"
"Mhm, beloved wonderful nightmares", she's a tease, but she's also clearly being distracted by what Sara's up to. I just snuggle up against the back of her and let Sara do her thing. Blending the kinds of love like this is so fun. So is feeling Donna's ecstasy through her laboured breathing and squirming, and finally, stifled cries, biting her own fist. Shy mama.
A few minutes later she's sat up on the bed, grumbling about messed up clothes. Which to be honest, what with getting stabbed and all, they've seen better days.
I say, "How about I jump you back to your bedroom, and you pick out replacements so you can stay for dinner?"
She shakes her head. "Jump me back, yes, but leave me over there, I need to get back and tidy away the mess all the police and people made, and sweep the snow clean outside. I'm feeling better dear, between the two of you you've got me all but humming a tune. And it feels like you've got your hands full. I don't doubt ARC will be collaborating on this, so I should check in and see if they have work for me."
So, with regret, many kisses, and promises to link us if there's the least sign of trouble, we have to let her go, a short jump carries us both to her room, and then she gives me a last kiss and a "thank you, dear, despite everything it was a good evening", and then I have to jump back.
Dinner is subdued, with an announcement by the Head, who sounds tired. She explains the raid, and that the school is on something like a war footing. Any pupil may leave and go home until the matter is resolved, and their grades won't be impacted. Considerable numbers of allied supers, parents, and alumni are expected to arrive tomorrow, not all of whom are heroic. If you can't handle this you are, again, free to go home. Please do not start fights with the visitors. They are here for your protection. Lessons will continue to schedule as far as possible, but may be interrupted. Please do not leave campus for any other reason.
I wonder who will be coming? And also, where they will be staying? But she doesn't say.
It looks like, temporarily, we're going to be a bit of an Autonomous Zone out here. The writ of the government no longer runs in these parts, at least until negotiations - and rescues - conclude.
Meanwhile, I've been sending love to Paige down the links, and I'm beginning to feel a slight response, sort of snuggling up against the warmth.
Maybe I can teach her to be nonphysical like I can, and be conscious when her body is not? That would improve our options.
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It turns out, "tomorrow" is more like a guideline; quite a few of our visitors are evidently not inclined to wait, as witness the orange gleam of rocket exhaust visible high above through the Crystal Hall windows. My g-sense tracks several large, dissimilar objects on inbound trajectories from very high up.
"Shit just got real", Toni says, sounding unusually subdued.
Ayla nods, looking worried. "It feels like the prelude to war."
"Let us hope cooler heads prevail", Aung, weighing in.
Billie shakes her head. "I don't want a war either, but let us also hope that we kick their asses, because you realise that the status of this place as a sanctuary is what we're playing for, here? If they can grab Paige, they can grab me, they can grab you, we're a candy bowl and it's their turn to pick. Okay with us they might have more of a fight on their hands, but we don't want them seeing it as a tactical problem. We want them seeing it as a strategic thou shalt not."
"I said they'd launch a nuke", Ayla says. "I can see them thinking that a surgical snatch is so much less messy."
I say, "My suspicion is they won't think that when we're done."
Looking at the descending rocket plumes of a drop-ship, passing out of sight behind buildings, throwing strange wavering shadows and then winking out, Ayla nods. "I believe you're right."
Meanwhile, I've had an idea. "Lieutenant Forsyth, got a minute?", I ask over the link.
"Yeah sure, what do you have for me?"
"I've got something we could add into the tactical planning. You know how I can follow the link and get to wherever they're holding Paige?" He nods. "Okay so, once I've been there, I'll have the coordinates, I can go back and forth as often as I want. Now add to that, I should also be able to use my gravity sense to find the empty space of the sky above, and blind jump a copy there, that will give me usable coordinates up there where there's lots of room. Thinking about the spaceships we've presently got visiting, I was nudged by a memory of those detachable warp sleds they use in various sci-fi movies. I can carry people with me when I teleport, at least one, maybe more than one. And I have as many bodies as I please, enough for everybody. The warp sled is me."
There's a pause as he thinks it through, then a feeling of awe. "You can carry a whole army, and drop it at their door."
"Jump them all right in, up in the sky above and a team directly inside below to pincer their defence. I let the flyers loose to enter aerial combat, and carry the non flyers down to ground level. And then cue the ass kicking."
He grins. "Okay. I will pass that on, because that sounds like a breakthrough. Good thinking, kid."
Initially when I got back, I was thinking of telling Billie I had to cancel the flying practise we talked about this morning. But now I'm feeling kind of fired up to. So as we head out of the Crystal Hall, I tell her my ideas. "How about this. Rather than just shove myself through the air on a gravity gradient like I've been doing, I part the air ahead, like opening a zipper, and pull it together behind, so I'm basically free-falling at vacuum speeds in a bubble of still air. And rather than doing turns by thrusting, I do them by bending the space and keeping my momentum."
She looks curious. "I suppose with me it's always just been wish and go, as easy as moving my hand. But hmm. I could try that trick with momentum, although I'd do it a different way. That sounds fun to try. Maybe we can pull some really tight turns like that."
"And without air drag, some really fast stops and starts too, on my part. You know, you should try and see if you can extend your bubble of 'what is gravity' outwards?"
"I've never tried that", she says.
"Gotta be doing it at least a little, or you'd leave your clothes behind when you pull high gees."
"Huh, point. And you reckon I can do this slipstream kinda thing too?"
"Wouldn't hurt to try. Even if you can just extend your ignore-gravity field out in like a pointy shape around you, it should cut air resistance. But if you can grab and move the air, you should be able to go supersonic without a boom."
"Probably best to avoid that over the campus right now", she grins. "But we can try the principle."
Getting outside, it's obvious how busy things are. Several ships have landed, some sprouting habitation modules, techno-yurts, inflatable domes. Not really a place for casual fast flying, but floating a couple feet up works for the thing I'm trying to do. Turns out it isn't that hard to separate the flow of air around me, and guide it back together. Might get harder if I go fast. But I pick up quickly on another problem when I start getting warnings from my life sense - I'm hypoxic! I drop down to the ground and squat, getting my breath back. Billie floats over looking concerned. "You okay?"
"Yeah... I will be", I say around deep breaths. "Forgot... gas exchange."
"Oh yeah, point", she says. "That doesn't seem to affect me. But it's stale air, isn't it?"
I nod. "I'll have to see if I can't resupply it. Or resupply myself directly, I should be aiming at vacuum capable, I think."
"Planning on spaceflight?"
"Planning on not having limitations where someone can sit over my head, blow raspberries and drop rocks on me."
That brings a laugh from an unexpected direction, an adult man who has evidently been listening in. "An answer after my own heart." He has a red wrap-around jacket on, greying red hair, and two pointy 'horns' of white hair that stick up. Yeah, I know this guy.
"Welcome to Whateley, sir", I say, "and thank you. I'm Parallel, this is Tennyo, we were practising a new idea for flying. Am I correct I'm addressing Dr. Diabolik?"
He nods, "So they call me. I enjoyed your radio broadcast yesterday. Thank you for your answer to Jadis."
I smile. "I was worried in the way she was, when I first discovered what was going on. But reassured by how it was affecting my friends who weren't sexual. I'm glad I could allay her fears."
He looks thoughtful, and nods. "Why did you choose to make the particular enhancement you did, focusing on love? And not, say, intelligence?"
"I'm not sure it won't affect intelligence, it's early days. It's a tropism towards complex order, and intelligence is order. As to why, that was the gap that needed filling. Life laws did let us evolve intelligence, but more by fluke than anything else, and they used to do nothing to prevent it diverging or being overrun. It should hold together now, and tend to increase, although with mutualism folded in. Intelligence without preservation of values gets you nowhere good."
"You may have done my project more good than I knew, then. Have you heard of the Smile agenda? It stands for Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension."
I shake my head. "Haven't heard it before, but that sounds like something I can get behind. Kind of close to my own agenda although with a different slant. I'm intending to pull humans closer to Great old Ones. That's protection, as well as enhancement. It should definitely make you all a lot harder to kill permanently. Should improve your chances for space travel too."
He makes a small grimace, kinda frown, kinda disgusted. "I wish it were so simple as having humans suited to the rigors of long travel. Look around this field and tell me what you don't see."
I look. Various craft, I recognise the Amazing Three's Techno Trike from when it picked up Jade before. I don't know the others. But I can take a guess what they are from the size and design. This one is a drop-ship, that one is suborbital, and so forth. Given they form a pattern, what is missing? It takes me a moment, and I'm cued by his word, migration.
"What I don't see is true spaceships. Hoppers and droppers, yes. Nothing designed to go and stay. Cars, not wagons."
Billie looks around. "Huh, I guess you have a point there."
"Good eyes. Yes." He chuckles. "I'm overdue now, and I must be on my way. But I suggest you consider that gap, what is causing it, and what that means for both your plans and mine." He gives a bow, which I return in kind, and heads off at a walk, looking perhaps a bit happy. Hmm.
Billie waits until he's out of earshot and says, "I wonder what he's up to? It feels like he was trying to steer you."
"He did steer me", I say. "He's implying someone's got their thumb on the scales. And corollary, someone big enough *he* hasn't been able to make them stop."
Billie winces at that. "I see. And they're likely to be trouble for you."
"To the extent my agenda aligns with his, they already are."
Later, as I'm lying in bed, for the first time over here I find it hard to sleep. Poor Paige! I know she's safe from death, but she doesn't deserve this trauma. Pushing myself to rest, I decide to use my dreams to try and get as close to her as I can, and see if I can encourage her to extend herself into the nonphysical. Dreams should be more similar to unconsciousness than waking mind is. Maybe that is the bridge I need.
Slowly, gradually, I find I can pick out her sensations down the link. It feels like the occasional slight murmuring and shifting of a deep sleeper. So, let's try communicating with images. I'll start with something deliberately simple. A world of endless sunlit, windblown tall grass on gently rolling hills, blowing in great waves off to the horizon. Sending it to her over the link, and then it feels like I'm somehow pulled closer into connection with her, and it's not over the link any more, she's *here*. Asleep on the grass, in her full were form, twitching and kicking her paws gently, with me sat next to her cross-legged. Am I dream walking?
"Yes you are, dear. Nice world, by the way." Guess who.
I grin, as Sara drops into a cross-leg sit beside me. "Thanks. Got ideas how we should do this?"
"Why don't we go with your instincts. This is your world, after all."
What are my instincts telling me? They're telling me Paige is very cute, and that I want to pet her. So I do. Her fur is soft and deep, much fluffier and finer than the bear I petted yesterday, if not quite so lose-your-hand-in-it deep.
Speaking of deep, there's a deep rrrrm, rrrrm sound, that it takes me a moment to place.
Sara joins in, and we stroke her, quietly enjoying the purr, in no hurry. Time passes here without much sense of it passing.
And then, with no fanfare, Paige shakes herself, stretches, yawns, bounds up, and trots off to chase ripples and waves of grass, ignoring the two of us entirely.
We watch, she's very cute. I add in some colourful butterflies to give her things to run after and pounce upon, which she happily does.
"Thoughts?" I say to Sara.
"Don't overthink it", she says. "I've found that the best way to work in dreams is to go with the flow, steer very lightly, trust your feelings. We already have a breakthrough. Now we just gently widen it." She has a stick in her hand. "Catch!" And Paige bounds after it.
I grin as she returns with the stick, looks around a bit confused, drops it. Sara picks it up and throws again, and Paige is off in a flash.
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The hearing is briefly noisy after the lawyer's demand, which hides my grim look, and then the shock on my face as Dyffud rubs my face in my mistake on the other side. Tansy notices it though, and puts her arm around me, which helps.
Ms Hartford stands up. "Quiet please! As deputy headmistress, I need to make it clear that the school does not take instructions of that sort from parents, nor from their lawyers. Not in regard of their own children, and most certainly not in regard of other third party children the parents don't like. They may take their child out of the school, or they may accept the administration's judgement. If we started we'd never stop, you all know that."
She takes a moment to look at each of the supervisors, to underscore that point, then continues. "That doesn't mean that a valid issue hasn't been raised, though. Has Miss Parallel done harm to Tansy? We do take a broad view on consent here, our students are old enough to make their own choices, but a child cannot consent to be harmed. Some have described what was done as equivalent to a lobotomy. I hope for humanity's sake that isn't so. But Tansy has been a protegee and a student of mine, and I find myself wondering if her abilities are now crippled."
Tansy puts her hand up, and Mr Lodgeman nods to her. "Alright, thank you Ms Hartford, and before I go on to answer you, I would ask that this hearing removes this man", gesturing to the lawyer, "We have just heard how he has no place here as a representative of my father, and myself I disown him. Please have him ejected from the proceedings, since he clearly only intends to do mischief."
The lawyer puts on maximum smarm. "I am here to represent you, Miss Walcutt. I ask that this hearing recognises that you are non compos mentis and that I am your rightful representative."
It is, surprisingly, Mr Merrow who replies, the first time he's said anything other than in self introduction. "You are both asking us to assume the conclusion you would prefer and then act on it. But it remains unproven."
That gets a nod from Mr Lodgeman. "I agree that this hinges on whether Miss Walcutt has indeed, been lobotomised, or if she is still capable of representing herself. So far, I have not seen anything to make me doubt her intelligence. So, Miss Walcutt, please proceed with your answer to Ms Hartford. The hearing will take both your requests under advisement. I find myself interested to understand what this claimed influence does."
Tansy nods. "Alright, I can accept that. It has been two full days, roughly, since Jules changed me. That's a short time to explore a new mind, but I can tell you what I've experienced so far. I am unable to be dishonest with myself. My empathy is deeper and more intense than it ever was before, and my conscience has very sharp teeth. I have been forced to face my previous actions, and I have cried over their harmful consequences. I have also been forced to face my own rejected self, who ironically is what you might call my nice side. Previously I pushed that down and pursued power. Now I find joy in kindness, and in sharing love. I am blessed, that Jules and her friends accepted me into their circle so readily." She looks at Ms Hartford. "I suspect what you're wondering is, am I capable of being sneaky? Am I capable of being a spy, or some other sort of undercover operative? Because yes, it's obvious what you were training me towards. And the answer as far as I can tell, is 'it depends'. Am I capable of doing something horrid and completely against my conscience? No, I am no longer capable of that. Am I capable of sneakiness in pursuit of good ends? Yes, absolutely. Ironically my teacher here has been Jules, who is very sneaky herself, when she is planning to help or heal someone, or take down someone causing harm."
That gets a grin from me. Ms Hartford looks thoughtful. She asks, "So, do you no longer care about power? You've walked away from the situation with the Alphas, it appears."
Tansy shakes her head. "I think I might enjoy it if I obtained it honestly. As myself, by my effort and my merits, yes, I would like it. I liked it before, and that part of me hasn't changed, but back then I thought it could be mine if I obtained it without earning it. Now I recognise that as impossible. The lie would own the power, and I would end up running around serving the lie. That was the trap I was in, before. With Jules's influence, I gained the honesty to let that candy go, and then I could pull my hand out of the jar. But maybe some day I will have power truly of my own, and I think I would luxuriate in it."
A curious look from Mr Lodgeman. "You wouldn't feel the need to be modest about that?"
"Modesty is one of the things that goes away, I think", Tansy says. "When I have gained something in a way that my conscience is flipping joyful somersaults over, why would I be modest?"
Englund asks with a sneer, "No modesty. Does this mean you plan to act like a hussy around school? I have heard you already dived into a sexual relationship with Miss Parallel."
"What's a hussy, Reverend?" Tansy looks amused. "I'm having lots of enjoyable sex, and will happily admit to it, but I don't plan to do it in public. Or are you asking if I plan to go around school naked?" She considers that. "It might be fun when the weather's warmer. Although I recognise it's against rules now, I don't expect that to last."
"And you are really shameless about this?" He sounds disgusted. Personally I think he's hamming it up, because this is the first thing Tansy has admitted to that might scandalise the others.
"I feel shame when I have done something harmful, unkind, cruel", Tansy says. "I've done enough of them to know that from bitter experience. But I would feel no shame for being naked. I know that I'm beautiful. Sharing it would be a kindness." She pauses, takes a breath. "I recognise that doesn't match what your religion teaches, but Reverend, this is not a religious school. It is a difference of opinion and my position is not forbidden by rules." Reminding him he isn't here in his religious capacity, but as a supervisor of the school.
That gets a harrumph from Englund, but before he can press the point further, Mr Lodgeman says. "I move that we vote on whether to consider Miss Walcutt compos mentis, given her testimony. And I will vote yes. She has amply demonstrated reasoning and thought, and if she is changed, it does not seem to be in a harmful way."
"And I vote no", Englund says, with ill grace. "She has clearly been turned into some sort of wanton slut, and should be placed in care."
The two look to Mr Merrow. And he says, "She has demonstrated the ability to drive you into a corner with her understanding of rules, Reverend Englund. She speaks clearly and does not seem harmed by the change. Her personal proclivities are of no consequence. I vote yes. And move that the hearing accede to her request."
"Seconded", Mr Lodgeman says. Then speaking to the lawyer, "You have been dismissed by your client, and must leave the room, and the campus, please."
The man goes, with a look of disdainful wounded dignity. And I doubt we've heard the last of that business. I wonder how hard it is to get someone emancipated from a bad father? We may need that ARC income for Tansy after all.
Mr Lodgeman picks up by saying, "Given that we have ascertained that the events were consensual, and given that we have not found that Tansy was harmed, I believe this hearing is now over. Do you agree?"
Englund looks grim, but he sighs and nods. "I recognise myself as outvoted. I can do nothing further here."
"I am satisfied", Mr Merrow says. "I do not believe we should waste further time on this."
"Then done. Miss Parallel, you are exonerated, and you may go."
That gets a cheer from me, Tansy, and Jade. Hartford looks thoughtful. Englund, frustrated.
It's the cusp of third period, which means all change in classes for me. I've relayed our victory to Sara, which got me a joyful hug and kiss, and to Dyffud, which got me an amused smile. Although myself I found myself thinking of the violence I had nearly done, over there. Something to speak to the doc about, after lunch.
In devisor lab, my linked phone prototype works well enough I was able to call Cecilia and arrange the exeat, which will be at lunch time. As a design, it's not exactly finished though, since I really want something capable of acting like a call center, taking new calls while I'm already in a call, and making many calls from the same origin. That may be impossible though, since I think it would require special arrangements with the phone company. Or at least it would be expensive. But at least I'll add the hardware support.
Costume design looks like a breath of calm and fresh air after a fraught morning. The me with Sara can go there. I'll vanish the sweaty body with Dyffud. Tansy and Jade have classes to go to, now that they aren't stuck in the hearing. Which leaves me a little at a loose end. Maybe I'll go for a walk to celebrate?
As I'm heading outside, I find myself joined by someone. Mr Lodgeman. "May we walk together?"
I say, "I was heading outside, thinking about just going for a walk to let off the tension. You're welcome to come with me, if you want. Um, it's cold out. The cold doesn't affect me but do you want to stop off for a coat?"
"Thank you", he agrees. "The cold doesn't affect you, hmm?"
"I generate heat."
He nods, as we head for the staff cloakroom area. "It sounds like there might be a story behind that. You know, part of the reason I came here was that hearing, but another part was that I wished to meet you. I've been hearing interesting things about your powers. Particularly, about your ability with song. I find myself professionally interested."
"It's a new thing, and I'm still working out what it can do", I say. "I seem to be able to find the song of things, so far, places, buildings, and stars, but who knows what else. When I sing it, they are... reinforced. I am told it's like creating them, but as what they already are, only more so. They are woken up, and become more aware. A side effect is the creation of essence. And I've found I can weave that essence into a sorcery spell, and avoid the tainting side effect."
"Which you disapprove of?"
"It's inconvenient. If I do a big sorcery then it messes the place up. I already owe Nikki one favour for having to do that and then getting her to fix it."
As we walk outside together, the sky is very blue, and the snow is bright. Thankfully well within the capabilities of GOO eyes. Mr Lodgeman says, "The one who invented sorcery, he did not see the taint it causes as a mess."
"He and I are on opposite sides", I say. "Sorcery is an us thing and it suits me, but I do have plans to find ways it can be gentled. Song seems to be one of them."
"Opposite sides in regard to what?"
"Humans. I'm for them, he's against."
"Ah." And we walk quietly together for a bit.
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"You know, I came here today to sit as a judge at that hearing, but I also came here to meet you." Mr Lodgeman looks at me, as we walk. "I've been hearing lots about you. I see myself as something of a protector of this place. I was involved in founding it, you know? And I often work with Darren Englund, who also sees himself as a protector. But we also have our differences. He seems to have decided you're the very spawn of hell itself. Me, I'm undecided."
I say, "He has a thing against me and Sara both. Since I met him, he's tried to talk me away from her, he's tried to take my guardianship with trickery so he could force us apart, and then by sending his minions to kidnap me, and since then he's undermined me and tried to sow doubt about me at every step. He does seem to run his classes fairly, though, that I can say for him."
"But he was not fair at that hearing", Lodgeman nods.
"It felt like he was desperate", I agree. "That was some bad over-acting. And he went and painted himself into a corner with Tansy, the school isn't founded on religious principles and he knows it. It's like, he wasn't thinking straight, he should be smarter than that."
"He needed to see Tansy as having been harmed, I think, because of her contact with you. And she *is* changed, in ways that don't meet his ethics, but seem to fit nicely with yours."
I ponder that, and the implied accusation. "When I wrote the change into the life laws, I wanted to go for something that would protect the future of all life. I couldn't afford to impose my own standards when it would apply as much to amoebas as humans. This wasn't 'be good in the ways I see good', it was, seek beneficial mutualism, seek complex beauty. Those were the gaps in the original laws. But I'm aware that itself was a values choice. And... I suspect that something of my nature, and my values, have spilled into it, and guided the form it takes."
"If I understand it, you made yourself the living embodiment of the new law", he says. "It seems reasonable that it should follow your lead. But it leaves us humans wondering what that will mean for us, and how we will be changed."
"You heard my radio interview?" He nods to that. "Then you know about as much as I do. Since then, Tansy is the only example of someone who's been influenced all the way. And you saw some of how she was changed today. That's all I have too, observations and inferences."
"And what would you do if I asked to be fully influenced, myself?"
"Take it to the Head for pre-clearance. You're an adult, but I gave her my word. If she says yes, then I'd do it. Do you actually want that?"
"At the moment, no."
I smile. "You're testing my responses, then?"
I say, "Well for what it's worth, I'm being straightforward with you." A moment, while I consider whether to say it, then I decide to take the plunge, "Um. To be even more straightforward, I kind of need to add a bit to what I said about Reverend Englund. I know he's your friend and I know I've only got circumstantial evidence so far, but, I have a suspicion that something has its claws in him. I'm not sure if that relates at all to his problem with me. Only that he blanked out in kinda telltale ways, and his anti-influence routine has a gap in it, which he conspicuously fails to notice."
He gives me a sharp look, followed by a thoughtful pause. "I've had my own suspicions", he finally says. "It's nothing I can act on, yet." Which is interesting.
"It may not even matter", I say. "So long as he keeps his hands to himself, I'll leave him alone. He seems to mostly do good."
He nods. Then says, "I've heard about that, your neutrality between heroes and villains. Is there a reason you've chosen that particular stance?"
"Several. I need to focus on the larger picture. Villains are also human, and all humanity, all life, is what I'm trying to protect. Also if I went around forcing people to be good I'd become a tyrant, with everything bad that entails, and I'd provoke a backlash that would be completely counterproductive. I prefer to simply be myself, and they can follow my example if they choose. And also I know villains I like and trust, and heroes I don't. So I try to take people as I find them. My rule is, I protect myself, my family and friends, the school, anyone I feel is mine to look after. I'll stop evil if it happens in front of me. But otherwise I don't go looking for fights. And I hope that if people know that, they'll approach me without fear. Whether they're villains or not."
"Then the Necromancer..."
"Was afraid of me. He came after me pre-emptively, lost, couldn't let it go, came after my people, and I destroyed him. I... think maybe I was guided to do that. He certainly did deserve it. But it's the kind of thing I'd like to see less of."
That gets me a thoughtful nod.
I'm having quiet fun in costume design, trying to make more 'heroic good' variants on my costume, although I like the simplicity of the present one. Tansy's busy and can't multi-mind yet, so I'll have to put off checking in with her until lunch, but I can check in with Donna. So I tell her how the hearing went, and fill her in on my worries for Tansy. She's glad I'm okay, and Tansy is too, and she agrees to check into what's needed to get someone emancipated, in case the father (or his lawyer, who I really didn't like) becomes an issue.
She also fills me in on the latest fallout from the business with Darrow. It seems the local police have confirmed that I won't be charged for any of the three deaths, they apparently rate it as 'necessary, prudent, and in good faith', which is what a vigilante action has to be if you're using powers, for it to be legal. There's consideration of giving me a medal in various places, but a lot of the bigger jurisdictions are worried that his friends at 'the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom' would crash the party. Yes that really is the name, it seems magical villains are short on senses of irony. So I may have to go without my ticker-tape parade. Oh woe is me. Seriously though, I reassure her that it's fine, and I really don't want a medal anyway - certainly not for killing someone, because that's a bit of a tragedy whichever way you slice it. She calls me sweet. I call her sweet back, it devolves into throwing the sensation of being hit with a pillow at each other, and we end up giggling like mad things. It's nice to let off tension.
In the lab, I'm finishing up my phone. I gave up on the call center idea, because I'd need to pay a lot extra for it, but I did make it able to take multiple SIM cards and act as independent phones. I ran into another problem when I considered how it would handle addition and deletion of bodies. Cell networks don't like it when one phone is in multiple places. That would probably get me blocked for SIM cloning. In the end the solution I worked out was to make the thing in a sort of unassuming puck shape and store just one of them in my room in Poe. It's on the links, so I don't need to be near it. All it needs is to be somewhere with reception.
As I'm finishing up, Bunny comes over to look. "Whatcha making?"
"Phone. One I can use over the links." I vanish the cladding to show her the workings.
"Oh kewl, there's like, practically nothing there."
"Antenna and SIM stuff needs to be this side. The rest of it is soul side. I've got one of those gate chips I figured how to make, connecting them. Mini version of a generator for the power, and that's all there is to it."
"Yeah, that's gonna change stuff alright." She looks thoughtful. "You know, I kinda almost understand that math you dropped on me? It took a couple nights of nasty dreams, mind you."
"Sorry", I look sheepish. "I didn't realise it would be that bad."
"Water under the bridge", she waves it off. "What's weird is I... think I'm feeling what it's connecting to. It's like I'm able to see in another direction now. And I don't know if that's real or I broke my brain."
"Want me to help check?"
"Oh kewl, can you? Um, if it isn't dangerous, that is."
That makes me consider. "I don't think so? It might make you stretch yourself a bit further outside human norm. If you really are getting in contact with your soul part, you might be able to start offloading mental processing to that part of you too. Paige already can, and she's learning to do more than one concurrent mind in there."
She grins. "You're changing us, aren't you? All of us humans around you. Making us more like you. But I don't hate the thought of being able to think more than one thing at once, it sounds useful."
"It's very useful", I agree. "Okay, so if you want, what I can do, is soul dive with you, and then you can see for yourself if your new direction is what you think it is. We need some place to sit down, so nobody falls over."
Luckily the lab has a more than slightly dinged up sofa, which we can use. The thing looks like people blow stuff up on it for funsies. And also spill their chemistry experiments, although that may be devisor coffee. Poor sofa! But it will suffice.
Bunny says, "Okay, so I do what? Just sit down?"
"And I sit beside you and hold your hand or something. Physical contact makes finding your soul a lot easier. I could use links, but it's just less fuss when you're right there."
"Okay but like, totally platonically."
Which makes me giggle, and I'm still snickering when I hold my hand out for her to take. "Don't worry, I don't bite. Much. Unless asked nicely."
"Oh you!" She laughs. "Alright, alright. Here we go."
We dive together, me pulling her along, and a few moments later her soul comes into view. Which gets an "oh wow" from her.
I say, "Look over there, that bit is a bit stretched. But it doesn't look harmful to me. Does this feel familiar?"
"Yeah, I mean, you kind of make it into pictures, and I'm looking at it from math, but it... feels kinda the same? Like, it proves that I'm seeing my actual soul, which is weird."
"I think I do math at lower levels and just translate it automatically", I say. "I'm beginning to suspect a few of my powers are kinda hiding the workings that way. But yeah, this is you. Surface layer of your soul, there's deeper layers, if you go a little deeper you'll see your other-selves, which is like, reincarnation except concurrently."
"And the links is down here?"
I point to it. From this perspective, it looks like a busily spinning ball of complicated runic squiggles on interlocking orbits, and there's lines reaching out from it. "That's the control code, and you can see the connections. You've only got a few lines out, but it uses mesh networking so that you can reach anybody. Don't try to peek the source code while it's running, you'll give yourself a splitting headache. I can teach you the workings in a more easy to follow form, if you're curious?"
"Very. Very very curious. My goodness. This is like another new world." She grins. "Oh I cannot wait to get good at this, there's so much potential."
"I'm definitely happy to help, whatever you want."
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**18th January, Whateley, lunchtime**
I've been looking forward to lunch. It'll be my chance to catch up with Tansy properly, and I'm headed over to Cecilia's to get my dress made.
Calling her up on my new phone, I say "I'm ready to jump when you are, is the store clear of looky-loos?"
I decide to throw a new body over to the coordinates I remember, since it won't be starving for lunch like the existing bodies. So I appear there, and smile a greeting. "Hey there."
"Hey you too. So if I understand it, you're here for a formal dress? Something for Miss Dennon's class?"
"Yeah. Although I thought I'd also ask if you can do me a sim suit like the ones Ayla got? And also I kinda wanted to talk about what happens if I decide to change shape, or if, well, I just naturally do on account of growing."
She grins. "Up to a point, I can adjust what you've got. Add in panels, extend the legs, and so on. The tailoring will suffer, slightly. After that point, or if you want a precise fit, you'll need to get refitted and I make it from scratch. Downside of being a teenager, sorry. You'll be relieved to know it mostly stops being an issue after you hit eighteen. Then you need refits, like, every decade or longer."
"Very likely longer for me, I won't age."
That gets raised eyebrows. "I should be so lucky."
"If you'd like, I can patch you that way. I'm not supposed to do medicine, but this is preventative, not curative. I've already done it for Doc Bellows at school, and Donna."
"The Donna I've met?"
"The same. If she doesn't have an unfortunate accident, she'll still look as good a century from now. And fit in that gimmicked suit."
There's a pause as she assimilates that. "Okay, that's heavy business, give me time to think that through. Meanwhile, clothes, I know. So lets get you checked over to see if there's been any alterations since last time."
The me who was out walking has headed back towards school, and after thanking Mr Lodgeman for his company, I vanish that body. So the me from devisor lab and the me from costume class head towards Crystal Hall, one for each table, as usual. Vamp seems to have joined the Pack table, which is nice. Tansy isn't sitting down yet, but I can see her in line. One of me goes down a few in the line to join her.
"Hey there." She gets a hug from me.
"Hey you. So, they think I'm okay, huh?"
"I think you're more than okay."
"Tease." She snuggles against me. She switches to talking on links so half the school doesn't overhear, "Some of what I said there surprised me. I'd really be okay being nude in public. I wouldn't mind the eyes on me at all. To be honest, I'd probably be okay having sex in public, if it wasn't for worrying about how it might upset other people who didn't choose to be there. I really just don't seem to have any cares about showing it all off, any more. That's not how I'm used to feeling at all."
"Maybe we can go half way, and let the Pack watch you", I send the feeling of a teasing smirk while keeping my outside poker face. "I bet they'd enjoy the show. Maybe you'd enjoy being the show, too."
That gets a ferociously red blush from Tansy. "I... would. Oh god, I didn't know that, I really am the world's biggest slut."
"Unlike some people, I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all."
"You wouldn't", She gives me a punch in the arm. "Ass. Cute ass. Damn, but I want to grab your ass. Um, I have a free period after lunch."
"I'll ask the others when we get to the table", I grin. "I'm sure some of them can come and watch."
She just blushes and looks down, which is the cutest thing ever.
And then I think of the kicker. "Want me to invite the Kimbas too? I mean, most are gonna say no, but I bet a few would be interested."
I didn't think she could blush harder, but she manages it. "Um. God. That would be humiliating."
"Which is not a no."
"It's... not a no. What the fuck am I turning into, that I want them to watch?"
"You aren't turning into anything, Tansy-beloved."
She finishes that off. "I'm just finding out who I really was all along. That's the strangest feeling. But it's freeing too, you know? I like the damn humiliation, I admit it, I accept it. And yes, I liked you watching me with Cody, because it was so damn humiliating. Even while I was trying to stand on my dignity, with a dick up me."
"I could taste that in your orgasm that you threw me", I grin. "We're going to have so much fun together."
"God help me." She has a grin of her own. "I think we genuinely are."
Cecilia has apparently had to make some slight adjustments to my stored model, because of the edits I've done since. I didn't change enough to make things not fit, but they could fit with a slight bit more perfection. So the dress will be the first thing off the new model. We go with a halter neck design that makes the best of my form, with the soft silky fabric over the nipples (and my conversation with Tansy) making them stand up like little peaks. One doesn't wear a bra with these things, it would be spoiling the fun. But the intensity of my response gets curious looks from Cecilia. None the less, we continue, and she has a couple of them made, one in silk as white as my hair, one in dark claret that brings out the glow of my eyes. Plus matching heels.
"Your choice if you want patches over the nipples to make them show a little less."
"Let's not. If push comes to shove, I can force-override that reflex. And in normal circumstances, I don't mind a little showing off."
"Your funeral." She grins. "All right, on to more mundane matters, you wanted a sim suit? I think we're going to have to do some testing with that, because your powers come from odd places, and I'm not sure I can intercept them all and send them through the suit."
While we're testing suits over in Dunwich, one of me already has her tray full and is heading to the Kimba table. I touch in, and get various grins. Billie says, "Hey there Jules, congratulations on the hearing. Nice fight too."
That surprises me. "You got to watch that?"
"They let us watch it in team tactics. I suspect that video will be doing the rounds of the school", Ayla says. "Evidently Dyffud thinks you're a lesson to us. I'm no martial artist, but I could see how fast you were learning there."
Toni nods. "Every time they used a move or a counter, if you didn't know it before, you knew it after. You were passing their level over and over, he had to keep dialling them up. Some of that stuff even has me thinking of how to apply it. You're not bad at all. And I definitely want a rematch, this time by the book."
"Happy to", I grin.
Me on the other table takes her seat beside a very red Tansy. Which gets some odd looks. "Jules, what have you said to her to get her to glow like that?", Paige is the first to ask.
"If you want to find out, and you don't mind hearing about sex stuff, group up on links." In the end we get everyone, Vamp and Gypsy included. "Okay so, Paige you probably watched the hearing?" That gets a slightly guilty nod. "The rest of you probably only heard I won it. But what we covered there was how she'd changed and whether it was harm or not. One thing Tansy found when she was asking questions was that she wouldn't mind being naked in public."
"Let me be the first to support that", says Vamp, sounding amused.
"Then you're gonna love what we just talked about in line", I say. "She said during the hearing she didn't plan to have sex in public. She said just now, that was because she'd be worried the people seeing it wouldn't have consented. And when I offered to go half way and just invite the whole Pack to watch... she said yes. And that she has a free period after lunch. Invitation's open."
"I'm in", says Paige. "Me too", that's Erin. "Me three", Vamp. "I'm going to enjoy this", from Jet. Hippolyta considers, then nods. "I will watch." Jamie scrunches his face up thoughtfully then nods. "I'm curious, I'll watch." And Gypsy, who I hadn't expected to, says, "I will watch." Sara of course is enthusiastic. "And I'd love to, dears. Thank you Tansy, that's a lovely offer."
"I haven't even finished what we talked about", I grin. "I'm proposing inviting the Kimbas too. I'll make sure they know the rules, and I won't let them make it weird. But it seems our lovely Tansy here likes a pinch of humiliation in her exhibitionism." Which makes Tansy lean up against me and look down and blush harder.
That has them looking at each other. After a moment, Paige says, "Still in", and that gets a chorus of the same.
I give Tansy a kiss. "There we go then. Our little private, public celebration. Now we'll just have to see what the Kimbas say."
Playing with sim suits, I've found I can make my GOO powers cooperate, but I have to choose to do it. So long as I don't make any slips in anger, like I did with Dyffud, it should be okay. I'll have to watch myself carefully. As Cecilia and I were talking about powers, I had a chance to bring up links. The whole truth up front, including the bit about not dying. Which got her thoughtful.
"So if you upgrade my body, you can make me ageless, and if I'm on links, and you have a snapshot, you can catch me if I die, and bring me back?"
I nod. "Yup. Want it?"
She takes a moment, then sighs and says, "Yes, I do. What do I have to do?"
So I explain how links can be passed on, and for a snapshot and upgrading her physically, I'll need skin contact and a couple of minutes. So she gets a link, and then I hold her hand, and clear up the (extremely small) amount of existing age damage, and patch her with the fixes that will maintain it. "And there you are, done."
"I don't feel any different."
"Tell me that again a century from now", I grin.
She nods. "I'm gonna get this verified. But if it's true, the dresses and the sim suit are free. You already more than covered the bill."
"Glad to be of service."
On the Kimba table, they're listening aghast as I explain the plan with Tansy. I did warn it was sex stuff, but they told me to go ahead.
Ayla summarises, "So basically, you're offering for us all to come and watch you fuck Tansy, and she's into it, because it would be humiliating to have us there?"
"She's into it because she likes to be watched", I say. "But she likes the humiliation of being seen by her former enemies too. Think of it as an extra apology, perhaps."
Jade says, "We're in. All of us. Even if we aren't sexual, because it's her." That gets nods all round. Although I think Nikki and Toni are a lot more into it than that, going by the blush.
I say, "There'll be other people there doing stuff. Some of the Pack are sexual with each other. The option will be open to you too, but consent is the rule. If you're asked, it's okay to say no. And don't try anything without asking, but do feel free to ask, it won't be taken badly. And if you're just not into any offers, tell them beforehand, and you won't get any. But if you can't stand seeing it at all, or seeing each other's sexual sides, now is the time to back out."
Nobody backs out.
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Lunch break is not quite over as the whole lot of us, Pack and Kimbas together, and two copies of me, make our way over towards Sara's room. Tansy doesn't look nervous but she's holding my hand, and I give it a squeeze.
As we walk I take the chance to check in with Sara on something that was worrying me. "We've got combat movement after the break, you had to beg off a couple days ago when we were worried about Tansy, are you going to have to do it again? I plan to split, but..."
She grins. "Secrets, dear. Wait a little while, all will be revealed."
When we all get to Sara's room, it has made itself noticeably bigger. Beanbags are strewn around. Everyone fits in without crowding.
Sara immediately takes the opportunity to grab attention. "Alright, before the main act, I'm going to rotate the room, because I have a secret to discuss. I trust everyone here, even if you don't all trust me completely. You'll understand in a moment why I have to keep this under wraps."
The outside door vanishes as the room becomes private. "Alright, here we go." She holds her hands out, and between them a ball of black tentacles forms in the open air. It expands rapidly, tentacles sliding over tentacles, as if it was pouring out from an invisible vent. Forming a column, contracting into the shape of a body, and suddenly its surface is skin - it's a perfect bare-ass naked copy of Sara. And it opens eyes. "I don't have more than one mind, like Jules, yet", Sara says from her original body. Then the second one picks up saying, "But I can manage more than one focus. Two, for now. I expect to expand that." She walks over to her closet, and starts getting dressed in a spare uniform. "I think you can all understand why I don't plan to noise this around?"
It's Ayla who ends up speaking for everyone, "I can see why you don't want the anti-Sara faction getting wind of that. Not least because of the way you do it. The, um, tentacles rather put a hole in the nice safe miss demon image."
Sara-copy nods. "Quite so. Now then, I need to be off to class, so that I can also stay here and enjoy the fun. Opening the room up again now, no more secrets please." Grabbing a sports kit bag, she gives a wave and a grin and heads out with one of my copies.
Sara-here says, "All right! grab beanbags, people."
Right now I'm making my way to combat movement, to Doc Bellows for my twice-weekly appointment, and down to the testing labs to meet Doc Hewley. I hope whatever he has planned for me doesn't interfere with my concentration up here.
I grab a seat on the bed and pat the place next to me for Tansy to sit. Sara sits down on the other side of her. I make another copy to go sit with the audience to check everyone's okay, as Sara says "You know, there's no obligation in this. You can back out now if you want to."
Tansy shakes her head. "I'm a little nervous with all the people, but honestly, I don't mind it. Which is weird, I've never felt this way before. I suppose I should try and get used to it."
Sara nods. "And do you want me to close the door, like I did just now?"
"We aren't breaking rules, right? Everyone here is consenting."
"We aren't", Sara confirms.
"Then there's no need. If they hear, they hear."
I think Tansy is being a bit brave, and hug her. She leans into the hug. Then the hug turns into a snuggle which turns into a kiss.
Vamp is looking a bit shocky, so the me in the audience grabs a beanbag beside her. "First time for real, huh?"
She nods. "This place is insane. I'm not complaining but... how are the rest of them so blasé?" She looks at me. "Weird enough to have you here and up there too."
"I'm not sure they are, really", I say. "I'm going to go around and check. But they've had longer under the new rules than you, and been close to me for longer." And I grin. "As to me being in lots of places, you get used to it."
"Makes sense, I suppose", she sighs. "Thank you for checking. I mean... I've not led a normal life, I've seen a lot of nasty stuff, and I've been around hookers. But it was never personal, you know? And now I get invited to watch, and maybe I'm getting some myself. I'm not sure what to do with it."
"If you aren't ready, say no", I say. "Nobody here will take offence. And there will be many other chances. If you decide to try it, say yes. Or ask. And it's okay to tell them to go slow."
"Gah. I shouldn't be needing all this 101 level talk, but thank you anyhow, it's reassuring." She takes a closer look at me. "So what would happen if I asked you to suck my dick?" Getting back a bit of the old sparkle with her grin.
"If you ask nicely, I might well say yes." I grin, showing the pearly-whites. "If you don't mind the teeth. They don't get any blunter than this, but I know how to be gentle."
She smirks. Then looks down and back at me. "I, um, since I got here, you've been kind to me. Took me under your wing, smoothed things over with the Kimbas, got in a goddamn stand off with a light saber to save me, even. You're hot and scary, including the teeth, but in a good sort of way, and I think I like you. I wouldn't hate you being my first, um, for real. Please?"
"Then yes, sweetie, I'd love to." I smile. "Whichever way you'd like. I have full control over my fertility, and I don't catch or carry STDs. So we can play whatever way you'd enjoy. No consequences except fun."
She looks up at the bed, where Sara, Tansy and I are now topless and playing fun games of titty caresses while we swap kisses. "Um, may I, um..." She looks at me, "I'd like to see."
"You're welcome to see, and to touch." I make the top half of my uniform vanish. And squirm over in easy reach, on my beanbag.
She wondering reaches a hand to caress, the pointed nails tracing over me. "You're um, the others here, they're um, bigger."
"I can control the size. I picked something that wouldn't bounce around and thwap me in the face." I smirk. "Want 'em bigger?"
She shakes her head. "How you are is fine. Mine are even smaller, if I don't force it."
"You've got an intersex body, right?", I ask.
"Yeah. Right in the middle. Both bits work, and what I look like, that depends a lot on how I spin it with clothes and stuff. But I've kinda picked looking like a girl, while I'm here. And I um, hear you're intersex too?"
"Wanna see?" I grin, which gets a nod, so bye-bye goes the skirt, and I've got a very happy pole showing that I enjoy the scrutiny. "And yes you may touch."
While I'm playing over there, I decide to make a new self to wander over and check in with Jade, who's snuggling against Billie. "Everything okay, senpai?" Which makes her giggle.
"Yeah, I'm good. We both are." She looks up at Billie. "I think we both kinda got our 'ew, cooties' nonsense worn off. So it's just nice to watch our friends play, even if it isn't our game. Look at you though, a face full of Tansy on one end and Vamp playing with you on the other, doesn't it get confusing?"
"Nope, just fun", I grin. And with a glance over at Jet and Paige playing together, "Looks like you're making some memories yourself."
"Frustrating that I can't get at 'em", she sighs. "But more fun for later, I guess."
I nod agreement with that.
Other me has arrived at the testing lab, and been shown right in, Doc Hewley is there to meet me. "So, I hear that you had an encounter with this sword, Monday two weeks ago?" It's the same orichalcum blade, in its wooden case. Evidently Englund realised he hadn't heard about it.
I nod to the question. "Yeah. Burned my hand back then, but there were special circumstances."
"And you didn't tell me about it since. Naughty." He chuckles. "We do have our ways of finding out, though. Let's just begin by seeing what happens when you grasp it, like last time."
Pulling my timebase up high so I can try and figure out the effect, I move to reach for the hilt. There's definitely something going on at the chi level. The sword is ridiculously yang, like standing next to the sun, and it's pulling my yin to the surface - and my GOO side is very yin. And I think, if I touched it, it would blast that away, and that's why it burned me before. But I'm a little more capable that way now - what if I pull back on my yin and fill my hand with yang? Takes some doing, but it's possible. And my hand closes. No burn.
Timebase back to normal and I pick it up. Wave it around a bit. Dyffud's right, the real thing has a weighting completely different from my sabers. I probably should get some practise with them.
Doc Hewley is looking disappointed. But then he gets something in his earbud, I can hear it chatter, and he says, "I'm told you went fast there for a moment. Did you do something?"
I nod. "Figured out how it works. This stuff won't harm me any more, I think."
He sighs. "Figured it out in an instant and closed the weakness. You know, quite a lot of people have expressed worry that you don't have any weaknesses on your MID."
"I'm weak against soul level attacks from something bigger than me", I say. Then thinking of earlier, "I'm susceptible to magic if you can sneak it past me, but that shouldn't be easy. Still, Circe managed it once. And I'm basically wide open psychically if you're able to tolerate a class X mind."
He nods. "None of which helps us much. The most practised wizard on campus slipped a spell past you one time; I gather you don't expect her to be able to do it twice?"
"Not the same way. But she has a three thousand year start on me. Experience beats untrained power."
He nods. "And your other vulnerabilities require inhuman abilities to even access."
Thinking of Bunny, I say, "Probably more humans are going to be able to access the soul side soon. And Foob can read me like a book. Appearances to the contrary, he's still human."
"He hasn't tried, I don't think? Other than his visual projections. But I doubt it would be easy. I'm not really organised like a human mind any more, and my selves cross check each other."
He nods, and makes notes.
In combat movement, we're running an assault course outside. It's cold and slippery, neither of which bothers me. Both Sara and I are nimble and can lift several times our own weight, so the obstacles are pretty trivial even without using claws or tentacles, and I'm concentrating on proper form, getting the evasive running technique right, minimizing how long I'm skylined, and so forth. Molly, Chou's girl, is two ahead of me. She goes up the tic-tac really well, I'm impressed. I'm waiting my go at the tic-tac and watching her dashing down the length of the wall - and then she stumbles, and jumps bad. Oh heck. She hits the platform on the other side boob first, which has to hurt. And then she's just holding it by her fingers, and falling, and I skip my turn and dash around to try and help, but I'm too late and I hear the thump of her impact on the ground. Damn, I should have slipstreamed or something, feet are slow! Even with claws punched out of the front of my sneakers. Mr Anderson is already there. "Don't get up, Molly. We don’t want you to hurt yourself more. Help is on the way."
I say, "I'm a healer, I'm allowed to do first aid, may I help?", and meantime get Chou on links. "Molly's hurt! Nasty fall. Probably not serious but she might want you for comfort."
That gets a quick "On my way."
Mr Anderson gives me a nod.
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Memories of my first aid lessons in another world. I run through the checklist. Danger? None except the puddle of puke. She's unconscious, but breathing, she turned to the side before she vomited, so she hasn't aspirated any. No visible external bleeding. No visible broken bones. Pull her arm near me out, other hand over her face, lift the knee furthest from me and pull to roll her onto her side. Recovery position, safe from choking if she up-chucks again. And then I can take a look at the internal stuff.
Fingertips on her cheek, and my awareness spreads through her body. Priorities first, any brain injury? Doesn't look like it. No torn blood vessels, no serious concussion. She'll have a headache and probably puke again, but that's it. No internal bleeding. She bumped her boobs something nasty, and she'll be black and blue all over, but no bones broken. A few strain micro-fractures that will heal themselves, but I give them a nudge to speed it up. Pulled muscles and tendons, micro-tears, nothing serious.
"She's lucky", I say. "Bumped and thumped but that's about it." I can see Chou jogging over from one direction, and a medical team from Doyle from the other, with some sort of hover-stretcher bobbing along behind them.
Mr Anderson nods. "Thank you. You got here in a rush", indicating the large divots where I kicked up icy turf trying to dash here. "What were your intentions?"
"I was trying to catch her" I say ruefully. "I should have thought and used slipstream, it's much faster. And if she fell bad, I could do emergency repairs."
He nods thoughtfully. "I heard about yesterday morning. You could have saved her if she was fully dead?"
"Rebuilt and reattached, yes. But I'd prefer to avoid her having the trauma."
He nods. "Well, thank you again, but I think your services here are no longer needed, and you should make space for the medical team, and if I'm not mistaken, her girlfriend?"
I grin. "I called her over as soon as Molly fell."
"Convenient", is his assessment. Then as I get up and step back out of the way, he says, "It's obvious you don't need today's run as training. So could you please TA the class for me, while I handle this? The rest of them can stop their run at the tic-tac, and just come down off the wall."
"Of course", I agree.
Chou's sudden departure from Sara's room gets worried looks from the others, but I explain "Molly fell", and then a few moments later, "I've checked her over, no serious injuries", which relaxes things back down again.
On the bed, Tansy cuddles naked against me. "Isn't it confusing, being there and here?"
I think she knows the answer and it's just idle musing, but still, "Not for me. That me and this me are separate enough we don't share our focus, and we don't distract each other." I grin over at the third in the bed, my beloved Sara, "Got to wonder how miss spooky tentacles is doing, though, she's new at it."
"I'm doing very well, thank you very much", Sara grins, winding a twist of Tansy's pretty blonde hair around her fingertip. "You know, you're hardly going to distract *me* with lust. Lovely as you both are."
"So if we wanted to distract you?", I tease.
"An interesting problem in mathematics, perhaps."
Tansy laughs, "Mathematics she says", and rolls over to give a mock-pout and then a kiss to Sara.
Giggles from the bed make Vamp look up from her fascinated exploration of my parts. "Um, sorry, I wasn't ignoring you. Just kinda focused. I mean, I've. you know, with my own, but..."
"It's different when it's someone else?"
She nods. "You can see more, feels different too." A pause, then, "You aren't quite the same arrangement as me, no balls, why?"
"I never liked the aesthetic. I figure that preference told my BIT what to do. They're there, but they're up inside, next to my ovaries. Not as effective fertility wise, but it means I can get kicked between the legs without having to do the curl up in a ball and go ouch thing. And I control my fertility anyway, now, so no real downside."
"Huh. You know, I could shift myself around like that? But I'd need to drain someone first, and I'm getting the feeling that might be hard in this school."
"Definitely best to ask first, if you don't want detention. But there's probably people who could be a volunteer donor and not feel the loss. Chou, perhaps, although you two have history. Nikki. I'd offer, myself, but it would need to be super slow and carefully monitored."
"Worried you'll blow my socks off?"
"Or melt you into a puddle of grey goo from class X exposure. I'm really not very human and I can't be sure that my energy is at all safe." A smile to soften the seriousness. "Besides, I have other ways to blow your socks off. If you wanna?"
She grins, then looks thoughtful. "Nah, leave it at this, for today."
I nod. "Works for me."
She leans back on the beanbag, looking at the ceiling. "You know, I haven't felt this much like a blushing virgin in, I dunno, ever. Thinking about a thing's just thinking." She sits up and looks at Tansy, who is gasping, open mouthed, arching on the bed in ecstasy. "Seeing makes it real. There's parts of me, wants to be that much out of control, and there's parts of me that want to run a mile."
"When you get a chance, and I bet they'll offer it, say yes to the counselling services here", I say. "I'm with Doc Bellows, he's nice. Literally with, right now, one of me is over there as we speak. They kinda know how to handle the fuckery that mutant kids get put through."
She nods, although looking reluctant. "Maaaaybe. I'm not sure I want someone poking around in my head like that. There's monsters down there I wouldn't wanna wake back up." Which I can understand.
This time around, Doc Bellows and I have been talking about the hearing, and how I went berserk for that one moment in the sims. We've talked through what happened, and how it shocked me.
He's looking thoughtful, just pausing for a moment with steepled hands, and then he says "You know, I think he set you up. There you are, being stood up in public and judged, worried for yourself, heartsick about the danger to Tansy, and he knows you're going to feel any injustice there like a knife in the heart. And at the same time he has you fighting, probably harder than you've ever fought in your life, against not one opponent but several, with abilities and skills that stretch you to your limit. No space left for conscious thought."
Which makes a lot of sense. "He wanted me to kill."
"To lose control and lash out, because you are normally very controlled, and he wanted you to meet what lies underneath."
Which is not exactly exoneration, but still. "He wanted me to meet my dark side."
"For lack of a less dramatic term, yes."
I sigh, and lean back on the chair. "I guess he succeeded. My dark side is angry with mean people, and could kill as easily as breaking a twig. I'm controlled because I can imagine what that would be like." Mountain of raw corpses, bloodied hands with claws out, screaming anger and violent death at a red moon. "There's a level of myself where I'm a rage-monster like something out of an anime."
"So why don't we start taking a look at where all that anger's coming from?"
And we're back to the reasonable world of counsellors and coffee. "Yeah, seems like a plan."
Keeping an eye on the combat movement class is definitely easier with being able to park a body next to each obstacle. I'm not the teacher, so I limit myself to giving encouraging pep talk to the kids who are struggling. And of course, telling each of them to just come off the wall after the tic-tac, don't try the jump. They've got Molly loaded onto the floating gurney, and then off she goes with the medics and Chou to Doyle.
"Going well?" Mr Anderson is finally able to turn his attention back to me.
"Nobody's dead yet", I grin. "They're all doing pretty okay, although a few of them got spooked by hearing somebody fell. I had to tell them stuff like, you'll be scared when it's serious, too, so keep on moving."
He nods. "I know you've not been in this class long, but I'm thinking of just passing you. Don't think that makes you special, it's pretty normal for the exemplars to test out. But I'm wondering if you could stay on as a TA?"
Unexpected, but I can live with that. "Sure, I'd love to."
He smiles. "Great. When they're all through, herd 'em up, and we can talk about how they did."
With the bell having gone for end of fourth period, I'm headed out of the mental health annex at Doyle. As I walk through the entrance, I notice someone pretty obviously loitering. Jadis Diabolik, at a guess, recognisable by the white hair with horn-like forelocks. "Miss Parallel, could I have a moment of your time?", she says.
"Sure." I'm curious what she wants.
"Shall we walk? I've got a free period, I know you're headed over to psychic ethics."
I nod. Evidently whatever it is, is not something to be discussed inside where ears might be listening.
Once we're outside, she says, "So, I gather you know me?" I nod. Beside the time she called in to the radio station, I've read about her, and seen her around. She continues, "I'm something of a fixer, I'm someone people come to when they want something arranged. Or when they want a go-between."
"Someone wants my help, but they don't want to approach me directly."
That gets a nod from her. "That person wants a thing done, but they want to keep it confidential. They couldn't just come over and talk to you at lunch, because it would draw attention. Are you willing to promise to keep this in confidence, sight unseen, whether you agree to do it or not?"
That's interesting. It implies a lot of trust. "I give my word that I won't reveal it, unless it's harmful or seriously unethical or puts people at risk."
"None of the above, it's just embarrassing. Alright. It's Jobe, he wants to meet you."
Which brings back amusing memories. Not that I'll say what I think, I don't plan to reveal my reading to Jadis. "I'd be happy to meet him, at a time and location of his convenience. What does he want me to do?"
"He's infected himself with a serum he made, that's turning him into a female drow elf. I'm told it uses regenerator cells. He wants it stopped, and the changes undone."
As I thought. "I'll take a look. No promises of results. And if I take action, I may need to bring others in on the problem, including staff."
"Acceptable, subject to his option of refusal. He also wants to know what it will cost."
That makes me think a moment. "He probably won't trust this, but the answer is, no cost. I'm someone who doesn't hate him, I'm willing to come and take a look and see if I can use my abilities to help. If he wants to see it transactionally, he can see it as a favour. But I'm neither a flunky nor a hireling."
She winces at that. "I'll tell him. He won't like it, but I think he'll take it."
I nod. "He has my email. He can contact me to meet, anytime, anywhere that I can get to without an exeat."
"Which does simplify things. Alright, thank you, and pleasure doing business."
I smile. "Any time."
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