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Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!

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4 years 2 months ago - 2 years 2 months ago #5619 by Greatdingo
Greatdingo created the topic: Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!
Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]
Last Edit: 2 years 2 months ago by Greatdingo. Reason: Spoilered for rewriting, but not deleted for sentimental reasons.
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2 years 2 months ago #50070 by Greatdingo
Greatdingo replied the topic: Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!
Twinkle, Twinkle...

“Yess, this will do nicely, yes it will.” The huge blob handled the smoking decanter with an almost tender care that didn’t seem possible with it’s overly fat, acidic, pus-dripping arms. The blob turned its head towards the figure hanging from a pair of rusty chains.

“You’ll like this, our sweet pet, yes you will. This will make you experience feelings you never even knew existed.” It reached out with a clawed hand, this one attached to a more muscular and healthy looking arm, and grabbed the figure around the jaw and forced open the mouth. Quickly, and with much less care than it had handled it before, the creature poured its draft down the throat of the figure, a young woman.

“Yesss, it shall be interesting to see how this will affect you, yes, so interesting. Do you think you’ll finally succumb?”

The girl screamed, or at least attempted to do so. But the roiling poison forcing its way down her throat had already melted her tongue, vocal cords and was well on it’s way to tearing apart her esophagus.

Still, it wasn’t long until sound returned to her voice and her anguished screams sounded through the demon’s laboratory.

“Oh no, again? No, no no no, this won’t do. Poor little girl, how many times must we educate you? You have to give our potions time to work properly, yes you must!”

The demon, with its regular arm, picked a wicked-looking knife from a rotten wound on its own body and stabbed the girl directly in the stomach, piercing her abdomen all the way through to her stomach lining. After a few twists, the demon withdrew the knife and held it at what appeared to be a mouth on it’s own stomach. A tongue slithered out and licked the blade clean.
“Mmm, yes, you are just so delicious, yes you are! We’ve told you this before, yes we have. Yes, yes we have indeed.”

The demon inspected the wound it had inflicted, the girl was leaking pus and demonic ichor, acidically burning away her flesh.

Yet, despite the wound dripping poison and acid, it started closing up, leaving a new scar on her already completely scarred body.

“Yes, yes, good girl, yes. We think soon we shall have the right concoction. Yes, soon, we can move forward, yes we can. And you, our dear pet, you will have made it possible, oh yes you will. Yes you will. Pretty little girl, and to think you were so hideous before you were given to us. So hideous, yes you were, no scars, no boils, no anything.”

The demon ran a scabbed hand over her body, a tongue slipping out between the folds in the palm licking the sweat and tears from her.

“Mmm, yes, so delicious, yes you are.”

Reluctantly, it seemed, the demon turned back to the worktable and started mixing a new concoction.

“Mm, yes, this next one, yes, oh yes, this next one, we really think this one will be the one to do it, yes we do and yes it will.”

For a while, the demon mixed the poison while muttering to itself until, suddenly it stopped. The girl, it seemed, had said something.

“Mmm, odd, little girl, you never speak to us anymore, why not? And why now again? What do you have to say to us, little girl? What would you like to share? Did you like our lovely mixture?”


The demon turned around again to face the woman until it had to take a step back, pushing over its table and spilling the ingredients. The woman’s eyes were glowing with a small light. A light that seemed to burn the demon’s skin.

“No! No! No! Noooooo! No, silly little girl! You are ours, you were given to us, you belong to us! We have told you, told you to not waste your precious strength on your ridiculous little power. No! No! We don’t like it, we don’t want it, we hate it, you must save your strength so you can purify our mixtures. No! No! We don’t like it!”

Through its tantrum, the glow had spread throughout her body, where, it seemed, it was burning off the demon’s tainted brew. The glow only increased in intensity until, suddenly, for the first time in years, the girl raised her eyes and met the demon’s gaze.

“Die...” Her raspy, tortured voice whispered, to the demon’s dismay.

A massive surge of light erupted from the girl, enveloping the entirety of the demon’s workshop, its fortress and finally, its realm.

“No, little girl, don’t you like us anymore? No...No...pleas…”

With its first ever plea for mercy, Spuoxoch’Rabobaozur the Demon Lord of Pestilence, Disease and Suffering, Hound of Ruin and Violator of Souls, burned to nothing, leaving only a realm of ashes and silence. Of his pet, it seemed nothing remained.


----

The three security officers had gathered around the guard room table, one dealing cards, the other pouring drinks and the third fiddling with the music choices for the night.

“Alright gents, here’s to a quiet night and, more importantly, a quiet summer.” Officer Sydney Bellinger raised his glass, his two comrades doing the same in response.

Chet Haskins emptied his drink and put it top down on the table with a snort of derision;
“It’s just not the same!”

“What? You’re going to get bored, Chet?” Sydney asked, not bothering to even take his eyes off his cards, a Jack of Clubs and a Seven of Diamonds.

“No, we’re playing poker and there’s no booze, or stogeys, hell, we’re not even playing for real money, it sucks!”

Victor chuckled, not necessarily disagreeing, but still thinking it was funny.

“Sure, let’s get a drink on, smoke some big cigars and play for some real money. And when the Lt. finds out, he’s going to tear us all a collective new one for doing so on the job and on campus grounds. Then Everheart is going to tear our new one an even bigger new one!”

Despite himself, Chet laughed.

“Yeah, and Lady Astarte is going to dropkick us from here to Alaska.”

“And then the Chief is going to fire us!” Sydney finished.

They all laughed again.

“Okay, let’s get this game started, uh, five hundred!” Sydney threw a five hundred jeton onto the middle of the table.

Chet shook his head.
“Big money, already? Sure, I’ll see those five hundred and raise you another...let me see, another thousand.” He added his bet to the pool.

“Gentlemen, what’s this? Gambling on school grounds? Drinking?” Admiral Samantha Everheart’s voice rang out. The three officers around the table all jumped in surprise, none of them having heard her come in.

“Shit, Sa...Admiral, isn’t this your night off?” Sydney blurted out.

Admiral Everheart looked at the table and the bottle.

“Christ, boys. Non-alcoholic? If you’re going to break the rules, can’t you at least put some effort into it?”


Chet was the first to sit back down and pick up his cards.

“What do you want from us? The others are out on patrol, we’re all caught up on paperwork, all the troublemakers are either home for the summer or sleeping happily in their beds.”

Sydney took over for Chet as he too sat down.
“Yeah, and there’s literally nothing worth watching on television. So what gives?”

Victor sat down too and poured a new glass for the young woman.

“Yeah, besides, it’s summer. Nothing ever happens during summer break. What, you think we look forward to summer because of the weather? No, most of the students are gone and our jobs usu-.”

Before he could finish, the perimeter sensors, along with the alarm from one of the more sensitive sites close to school grounds, sounded. All four of them looked at each other, before they finally sprung into action.

“Fuck, why can’t we just have a nice quiet summer like last year?” Victor complained as he quickly brought up the alarms triggering on the main screen.

Sam Everheart looked at the readings, letting Hive, her internal computer, analyze and evaluate the potential problems.

“Can we get cameras pointed that way?” Sam pointed at the map.

“We need to see what’s going-.”

“What the HELL is going on?” Lieutenant Colin Forsythe stormed into the room, shouting.
“What idiot among our leftover students is causing problems now?

None of the three guard officers responded, merely continuing their work.

Instead of waiting for the cameras to send their video to the security room, Sam had instead opted to connect to the cameras directly,through Hive. Going through the footage faster than the guards could type, she transferred the image to the main screen.

Outside the school perimeter, right on top of one of the restricted sites, a huge explosion of...something had levelled a not insignificant area of the surrounding woods.

“Is that...Are we being...Are we under...What the hell is that?” Officer Haskins spoke out loud.

“I have no idea, but contact the others and suit up for maximum response. Everheart, put a call in to Whateley House and notify the Headmistress. Alright, let’s move, gentlemen!”

Sam Everheart picked up her phone and hit the third entry on speed-dial while the others sprung into action.

---

In the crater, covered in ash, a girl slowly tried to climb back on her feet. And failed, repeatedly. She looked around with the same amount of success, her eyes still stinging from dust and ash. She was in a- a place. She didn’t recognize it, but she was in a crater with limited line of sight. So, she looked up at the sky and lay on her back.

She didn’t know for how long she had been lying there, but she didn’t move again until she heard shouting from approaching men.

Slowly, she tried to crawl towards the voices while failing to call out through her ash-filled mouth.

---

The two patrol SUVs sped down the path towards the site, officers inside making final equipment checks and looking over what little they knew. An explosion of unknown origin had happened without warning, creating a crater of the entire site and melting it into glass.

When they pulled up and jumped out, Lieutenant Forsythe got his first look at the damage. Trees closest to the crater seemed to had been vaporized, or at least blown to splinters. Further out, they had been toppled and scorched. Many were still burning. The crater itself, seemed to be at least two hundred and fifty feet wide.

“Haskins, what’s the situation? Anything on scanners?” he called out.

Officer Haskins didn’t respond right away, still trying to interpret the readings his handheld scanner gave him.

“Haskins!”

“I don’t know! The scanner isn’t telling me anything! There’s definitely something, but it’s registering as unknown. I’m going to reset.”

“Think, boys, is it magic? Technological? Whatever?”

“It’s definitely not magic! I mean, I don’t think so... The crystal isn’t giving a clear read!” another officer shouted back.

“What the hell did this, people? This is a restricted site, file says Class X. If something is loose, we need to know what we’re containing! I want answers!” Lieutenant Forsythe shouted, before calling to Sam Everheart.

“Everheart, can Hive tell us something?”

The blonde officer didn’t respond, instead choosing to advance on the crater, having noticed a glowing light from within.

“Whatever it is, Officers, I think there’s still something here.”

Almost as one, the rest of the trained squad turned towards the crater and advanced.

At the bottom, slightly towards them, Lieutenant Forsythe saw a person, it looked like a girl, or a young woman.

“Stop! Do not approach!”

From behind them, one of the faculty members from the Magics Department, Elyzia Grimes, shouted.

“Ma’am, we need to assess the situation, we can’t wait on formalities!” Forsyth said, moving to direct his men forward again.

“Lieutenant, this is for the safety of you and your own men. This is a Class X site, there could be residual taint! Just wait a moment while I check.”

Forsythe frowned at this, losing his usual position as the leading authority, but he waited for the mage to perform her, to his mind, finger-wiggling ritual.

Seconds later, Grimes cursed out loud.

“This is not possible! This is a…”

“Ma’am!” Forsyth interrupted; “Are we clear? Is it safe to approach?”

Grimes spoke the spell again, then a third time. Then a fourth.

“There’s nothing…” She muttered, not understanding.

“Right, that’s it. Officers, move forward!”

The group moved forward, into the crater. Everheart called out to the glowing figure.

“Student, identify yourself!” she shouted.

The girl saw the approaching people, they were armed, and there were a lot of them.

Again, she tried to call out to them. Again, no voice came out. She tried to spit out the ash and then tried again.

“I...Hel…”

She reached out towards the closest of them.

Inside her, she could feel a flowing build up of energy. The glow increased in intensity and the energy began to take shape.

“She’s attacking!”

Forsythe didn’t know who shouted, but he responded immediately.

“Stunners, now! Open fire!” He pulled the trigger and fired the stun charge along with the rest of the squad.

Four of them hit dead center and the girl shook as the electrical charges tore through her body.

Thankfully, she lost consciousness, not feeling the full brunt of the electricity. Her glow seemed to die down, though not disappearing completely.

“Target down! Check her!” Forsythe motioned two of his officers forward.

After a very quick search, it was determined that she was wearing nothing but burnt, flimsy rags that barely covered her body, her modesty preserved only by the ash.

“Everheart, she’s a student, do you have an ID?”

Everheart remained silent for a minute before finally answering.

“Her image is on file, she’s a student alright. But...What the hell?”
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2 years 1 month ago #50674 by Greatdingo
Greatdingo replied the topic: Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!
“Tamzin, Elisha J. Codename: Starlight. From San Francisco. Mother is Denise L. Tamzin. No record of a father.” Admiral Everheart read from the file they’d dug up from the archives while the doctors in Doyle had been busy checking out their newest patient, and Security’s newest detainee.

She continued.

“Enrolled at the Academy in, damn, I’ve seen some strange things since coming here, but this?”

The others, Security Chief Delarose, Lieutenant Forsythe and the Headmistress, Elizabeth Carson all waited patiently for her to continue.

“Enrolled in August, 1997. Poe Cottage. Sponsored by Empire North Industries. Killed by cottage mate, Chantal Bonnaire, codename: Mauvaise Sorcière, in an apparently Satanist ritual.
“It’s shit like this that makes me miss the navy!” Everheart finally exclaimed.

Mrs. Carson shook her head and frowned, her blue eyes focused directly on the unconscious girl behind the glass, lying on the hospital bed where Doctor Ophelia Tenent applied her craft.

“I remember Starlight, the last few weeks she had here were not pleasant for her, I’m afraid.
If it is her, and I stress if, given the nature of her murder, this presents a worrying problem.”

Mrs. Carson kept frowning while Chief Delarose spoke next.

“True, we may need to inform both the DPA and ARC, they’ll have the full case file. And in any case, if she isn’t Starlight, but some something with her face, we don’t have the facilities to both keep and properly investigate her.”

“It doesn’t matter if it is her or not, the DPA will want her to transferred away from school grounds and to ARC anyway.
“What else does the file say, Sam?” Mrs. Carson asked the security officer.

“There’s not much else, most is redacted and what’s left is only a few family contacts, her MID and some pictures.
“May I ask why she was killed?” Everheart finally asked.

Mrs. Carson and Chief Delarose shared a look.

“Lieutenant Forsythe, please arrange for a transport to ARC. The Chief and Officer Everheart will keep an eye on things here and keep you informed.” Mrs. Carson said, giving the lieutenant a pointed look, telling him all he needed to know.

Nothing.

Once he had left, Mrs. Carson spoke again.

“There were a few different reasons, but the main one was probably petty jealousy. You’re aware of the primary purpose of Poe Cottage, of course.”

Everheart merely nodded her assent.

“The nineties had a low intake of changeling students, the last from the earlier years graduated in the summer of ‘97. The following semester we only had one changeling. Starlight. She arrived a few days later than the others, but that’s not what was unusual. What was unusual was that she was the only changeling at the academy. Bella Horton did her duty and introduced her to the other students at Poe, stressed the importance that the other girls teach Starlight what she needed to know.

“And for the most part, they did. Except for Chantal Bonnaire.”

Everheart flipped through the second file she had, Chantal Bonnaire’s.

“Says here she had self-esteem issues, did those play a part?” she asked.

“In a sense. Chantal came from a school where she had been the popular girl, the pretty girl all the boys sought after. Then she manifested as a mutant and was enrolled here at the academy. And, as invariably happens, when someone like her, who then doesn’t manifest as an Exemplar, enrolls here, she’s introduced to the very real fact that she’s a very small fish in a very big ocean.

Mrs. Carson paused a moment before continuing.

“Then Starlight came, a boy who became a girl.”

“Okay? I’m not following.”

Mrs. Carson pointed at the girl on the table in the examination room.

“Look at her, Sam, what do you see?”

“Uh, I see a young girl, very pretty, blonde, blue eyes...I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You’ll agree she’s not just pretty, but in fact very beautiful? I believe it’s called ‘blisteringly hot’, now?”

“Sure, I guess.”

“The former beauty queen gets upstaged by a boy who turned into a girl. And so jealousy abounds.” Mrs. Carson removed her glasses and pinched the bridge above her nose, a sharp headache from the bad memories running through her head.

“Okay, but surely there would have been plenty of exemplars that Ms. Bonnaire couldn’t measure up to?” Everheart asked, pointedly.

“Yes, but they were all natural-born girls. As you can see from her file, Chantal had self-esteem issues stemming from a self-loathing of her sexuality. Of course, you must understand, gay-bashing at the school might be a problem today, but it was much worse in the nineties.”

It was Chief Delarose who continued from there.

“Chantal Bonnaire was very envious of Starlight, her popularity, the fact that she quickly became the most sought after girl on campus, and everything else about her. Ms. Bonnaire couldn’t take it, so, three weeks after she arrived, Starlight was outed to the student body, by Ms. Bonnaire, as a changeling. The school turned against her overnight, both students and teachers alike. Her boyfriend especially did not take it well. Two weeks after that, in October, Chantal Bonnaire killed Starlight in what can only be described as a ritualistic fashion.”

Chief Delarose took a breath before continuing.

“She wasn’t working alone, but while the co-conspirators were arrested and turned over to the MCO for prosecution, we were satisfied that right up until the murder itself they believed it was just a prank. Ms. Bonnaire, on the other hand, managed to escape and has been at large ever since.”

“Shit.” was Everheart’s only reaction.

Mrs. Carson took over again.

“The students, while not overly sympathetic towards Starlight once she had been outed, became rather shell-shocked, especially the ones who discovered her body. Bella, of course, was distraught.”

“I can imagine. Murder under your own roof? How did Bonnaire manage to escape?”

Chief Delarose gave her a stern look.

“Incompetence on behalf of the MCO, pure and simple. They hadn’t accounted for her magical abilities and declined our assistance in containing her. Once she was free of Circe’s ability to cut off her access to magic, she merely bided her time and escaped. Right from under their noses.”

“It surprises me that she didn’t out the entire cottage.” Sam wondered out loud.

“Not so much actually, since she was very hung up on what she considered her own deviant sexuality. Outing the entire cottage would have meant outing, and ostracizing, herself as well.
“So, Sam, why do you think we take such precautions when it comes to keeping our secrets? Starlight, well, she was just one dead student too many caused by our own failure to grasp what was happening and act in time.” Mrs. Carson explained, regret evident in her voice.

“Was expelling Bonnaire not considered after she outed Starlight?” Everheart asked grimly. Neither Carson nor Delarose failed to detect the hint of disapproval in her demeanor regarding the way the school had handled the matter.

Carson frowned, raising a finger to forestall Delarose from commenting.

“Expulsion was considered, yes. But the damage was already done, everyone knew. Instead we gave Starlight a security escort and an armband. What else could we do?

Ms. Bonnaire hadn’t technically done anything illegal, so turning her over to the MCO or the police was out of the question and since we couldn’t prove that she had outed Starlight with malicious forethought we eventually agreed that we couldn’t expel her. Instead she was given detention.
Two weeks later, Starlight was dead and we were all wishing we had expelled Ms. Bonnaire. But we didn’t and we had to resign ourselves that what wasn’t done, wasn’t done!”

“Except for administrative matters, Mrs. Horton didn’t talk to either of us for, well, for quite a while. She was fond of the girl, and didn’t take her death very well.” Delarose offered,

“We did what we could, it was the school’s own rules that prevented us from doing more. Needless to say, they were reconsidered following this catastrophe.”

It was obvious to Everheart that this incident had opened old wounds with both Carson and Delarose, causing them to beat themselves up about it. Despite her wanting more answers, she decided to let it go for the moment and instead changed the subject.

“Aside from the DPA, ARC and the family, should we not inform Mrs. Horton as we-.”

“Absolutely not! And we’re not informing the family either, not at first. At least not until we verify the girl’s identity. No need to rip open old wounds if this is just some hoax.”

Carson picked up the phone on the table and dialed the number for the Department of Paranormal Affairs.

“May I speak with Secretary Atley, please. This is Elizabeth Carson.”

Roland, it’s Liz, I’m sorry to wake you, but we’ve had an incident regarding a ten year old case.”


The switch came on and the rows upon rows of shelves holding file boxes were revealed in the flickering fluorescent light. It was a dusty room, clearly, despite management’s insistence that the files get digitized, no one had been in the room for a least a few years.

“Christ, why me?” Chris asked no one in particular, despite having a pair of interns and a security guard with him.

“Alright, Li, you take that row, Wurthe, the next. Mitchell, you know the drill. Okay, we’re looking for file EXI275-363-X, codename Starlight.”

“Do we at least know if it’s a box or a folder, or something?” Wurthe asked, not happy having been woken up hours earlier than he was used to.

“Absolutely no idea, all of these files should have been digitized a long time ago. Especially since after the great ‘computer meltdown’ of ‘04. Now, let’s get to it.”

With an affirmative, the interns and the guard went to it and Chris, too, started flipping through folders and check box labels.

“Oh, and if you do find it, don’t read it. Just let me know and I’ll take care of it!” he shouted over his shoulder before he returned to his search.

All of them soon realized that file room was of significant size and the search took longer than they had realized it would, especially since they quickly discovered that there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the temporary system. Eventually though, Li shouted and held up a thick file, indicating he’d found it.

Chris was quickly at his intern’s side and checked the file.

“Let’s see, EXI275-363-X, codename etc. You got it, good work. All of you. Let’s get this to… Hang on a moment.”

He noticed the box next to the pile and compared the file names.

“Right, let’s get to work, Wurthe, grab that box. Don’t open it!”

With that said, he led the group back out of the room, flipped the switch to turn off the light and closed the door shut. To the guard, he said;

“Thanks for the help, Greg, and sorry for the inconvenience.”

“No problem, Chris, you’re going to send me that package later, right?”

“A deal’s a deal, Greg. Now, I need to get work on this, they’re bringing in some...I don’t know. Anyway, I have to go.”

Once back in his office, door locked behind him, he sat down and opened the file and quickly read through it.

“Okay, Starlight? Why are you in a Whateley hospital bed instead of dead?” He muttered to himself, skipping past the various paragraphs he quickly deemed irrelevant.

Finally, he opened the box and found only a sealed murder weapon in the form of an old crystalline kitchen knife.

“Hello? Aren’t you supposed to be in the closed section?” Certainly, the object was marked with a “Restricted” label. Another victim of the great meltdown of ARC’s archives in 2004. Fortunately, it was sealed from touch.

A little while later, and still studying the file and the box, the phone rang.

“Summers? Yes? Oh, they’re here already? Okay, put her in the new containment unit, I’ll be down momentarily.”

He hung up the phone, put the file and the sealed knife in the box, took the box under the arm and hurried down to the containment intake level.

---

Elisha opened her eyes, and realized, for the first time in... she didn’t know for how long, there wasn’t any pain or anything.

Just a white, sterile roof, with fitted lamps above her, and plaster walls. Except for one wall, which was a full glass window.

The room had a table with a pair of chairs, a white couch and a raised bed she was currently sitting on. There was a lot of white.

She looked down at herself, she was dressed in a white and red bodysuit and a pair of red rubber shoes.

She turned her hands over and looked at the back of her hands and then her palms again. There was no scarring. She could feel no scarring on her face either, and she appeared to have a full head of hair, even longer and thicker than she remembered.

She wasn’t sure why, but she felt pretty sure that she should be covered in scars, burns and sores. But she wasn’t, she was healed, smooth all over.

She also discovered that she had metal bracers around her wrists and a collar of some sort around her neck.

She tugged at the collar, trying to find a way to take it off, but it appeared to be locked in place around her neck. At the back of it sitting at her neck she could feel a pair of cables about as thick as her fingers.

“In case you’re wondering, the collar and the bracelets are for containment. Should you attempt to escape or use your powers, the collar will release an electrical shock that will paralyze and knock you unconscious. I’m sorry, but it’s standard protocol.”

She hadn’t noticed the group of people standing on the opposite side of the glass wall in what looked like a fair sized laboratory. She didn’t recognize any of them at first, and certainly not the man who had spoken to her.

Except, looking again, she did recognize one of the men. He looked like the security chief at her school, albeit older looking, Delarose. And that was Mrs. Carson next to him.

Before she could say anything, the man who had spoken first continued.

“Young lady, may I please have your attention?”

Elisha reluctantly turned her attention away from the only two faces in the crowd she recognized, and looked at the man. Chris Summers, it said on his nametag. His demeanor didn’t seem hostile, but he did appear cold and clinical.

“Good. Now, I’ll be asking you a few questions, and I’d like for you to answer them as truthfully as possible. Can you do that for me, please?”

She jumped off the bed and walked the four steps to the glass wall and put her hands on it. She nodded to Summers, responding with:

“Okay. But, uh, where am I?”

Chris made a note on his clipboard, nodded, and replied:

“Please, hold your questions until we’re finished. Now, can you tell me your full name and codename?”

She had no clue as to what was going on, but she answered anyway.

“Uh, my name is Elisha Jade Tamzin… My codename is, uh, Starlight?”

“Are you telling me, or asking me, Elisha?”

Elisha flinched slightly, it sounded like he was accusing her, to her ears.

“I’m, uh, I’m telling you.”

Again, Chris nodded and made a note.

“What was your original name before your change?”

Instantly, she froze, uncertain. This was just like, how long had it been? It was just like when Chantal had outed her to the entire school. She absolutely remembered that and didn’t want to experience that again.

“I, uh, I don’t…”

She stammered, memories of fear and anguish welled up in her, and he simply asked her again in his clinical tone of voice.

“What was your original name before your change, Starlight?”

Before she could stammer out a refusal to answer, Mrs. Carson interrupted.

“It’s okay, Starlight. Tell him.”

Mrs. Carson then nodded encouragingly, yet, Elisha felt she had a rather hard expression on her face.

Finally, she muttered quietly.

“Er.. .Eric… Jones.”

Again, Chris merely nodded and made a note of her answer, but this time, Elisha was a bit more nervous than the first time.

“I. What’s going on? Where am I?” Elisha asked, a hint of fear in her voice at being locked inside.

“Please, refrain from asking any questions for the time being.” he said, still with his monotonous and clinically cold voice.

“No, I want to know where I am! Mrs. Carson, where am I? What’s going on?” Elisha had started yelling by this point.

“Please, refrain from asking any questions for the time being!” Chris said again, in a somewhat harder voice. He turned around and said something to both Mrs. Carson and Chief Delarose.

Elisha couldn’t hear it, but they both turned around and left, both with a look of regret on their faces.

Once they were gone, he continued his questioning.

“Are you a mutant?”

Elisha looked after Mrs. Carson and Delarose even after they were gone, tears started running down her cheeks.

“Are you a mutant?”

Tears were now streaming down her cheeks and she barely managed to stammer out:

“Please just tell me where I am?”

Chris sighed, showing a bit of emotion for the first time since starting his questioning.

“You are being detained at the Arkham Research Consortium! Now, are you a mutant?”

“Arkham Research? ... What, what’s that? Is that… ARC?!”

Chris grimaced, this clearly wasn’t going the way it was supposed to. He took a few moments to think and then decided on a different tactic, despite ARC’s standard procedures. He moved a chair to the glass wall and sat down and looked her in the eyes, waiting for her to settle down herself.

“Listen, Elisha, my name is Chris, and I’m a therapist here at ARC. Yes, you are being held at ARC because we need to determine what happened. Do you understand?”

Elisha nodded, despite clearly not understanding.

“Now, I know this will be hard to understand or accept, but you are dead! Or at least, you were dead. A funeral was held, your body was buried, you were dead! Do you understand?”

Elisha flinched, she definitely remembered being dragged into the woods by her supposed friends. What had happened after that, she couldn’t recall.

“I, yes, I remember they attacked me, but, I don’t know what happened after that. What… What happened? What did they do… to me?”

“Elisha, do you know how long ago that was?” he asked, in a more gentle voice.

“I, but, that was… I don’t…”

Elisha stammered, still not understanding what he was going at.

“Today is July 12th, 2007. You were last seen alive Sunday, October 5th, 1997. Ten years ago.” He stopped a moment, to let it sink in.

Elisha gasped, ten years? She could clearly remember doing her homework just hours before, watching Men in Black the day before. But still, it also somehow felt like it had been a long time ago.

When she spoke again, her voice came broken in between sobs and cries.

“But, but my mom, my friends… They, but it was only, I…”

Chris gave her a sympathetic look, understanding that she felt distress, but not really how she felt.

“Okay, Elisha, take a moment, okay? But then we should try and get through these questions, it’s important.”

He gave the others, the technicians and doctors a nod, indicating that they should step back a moment. He soon joined them.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Michaels, was the first to speak, Chris knew well that the doctor could be impatient and rather cold.

“So? What was that? We don’t even know if that is the real Starlight and you’re sitting there practically holding her hand, stroking her head and telling her it’ll all be okay and that she’ll be able to go home tomorrow!”

Chris grimaced and nodded, he knew it wasn’t procedure, but he couldn’t help but feel for her. Besides, there had been a problem he also needed to discuss with the staff.

“You’re right, of course, but I have a problem. If you take a look at her file and her MID. Specifically her abilities. What do we see?”

He took the file out of the folder and laid them out on the table. The group perused them for a few minutes. Dr. Michaels shrugged, as if it was the most mundane thing he’d been reading.

“They’re not overly impressive. Exemplar1, energizer2, esper3. Nothing special. Where are you going with this?”

“Her files specifically state that she was receiving psychic therapy after she had been outed to the school. There’s a progress report of three sessions before she was murdered, the therapist writes that she was making little progress, but progress nonetheless.”

Again, Dr. Michaels, merely shrugged.

“Yeah, so? So she had therapy with a telepath, we know this, that’s one of the reasons we decided you should run point on this.”

“Maybe that was a mistake. The whole time I was talking with her, I was trying to get a psychic read on her, trying to get her to talk to us, to open up. I couldn’t even feel her. If I wasn’t looking at her with my own eyes, I wouldn’t even be able to tell she was there.”

The silence was telling. Dr. Michaels looked at Chris with incredulity. The technicians, with mere skepticism.

“What, are you sure?”

Chris nodded. It was rather unnerving not being able to at least get a surface read of someone. But there it was, it was like she wasn’t even there. It, along with her otherwise obvious distress, had prompted him to attempt a more engaging approach.

“Well, I guess that complicates matters. But we do need to verify the girl's identity, perhaps an amplifier? Perhaps we round up a few other mindreaders, a concerted effort?”

Dr. Michaels scratched his head, clearly thinking hard on what else to do.

“Aside from that, what other options do we have?” Dr. Michaels inquired to the team.

Chris shrugged, uncertain. The technicians looked through various other options on their screens.

“Well, it might work, with more telepaths, I mean, but we may need an Esper as well, or… Well, I don’t know. How about the fingerwig.... Magic-users?”

“She only just got here, let’s not expose her to the magic department just yet. Also, don’t let them hear you call them that, they get a little defensive.”

One of the technicians snickered and muttered that it was completely true under his breath.

Dr. Michaels gave him a glare to silence him.

“In any event! Right now we need to continue. Chris, continue with the list and keep trying to get a read off of her. The rest of us will research further options.”

Chris nodded and returned to his seat. The girl was still crying, but it had progressed to a silent, tearful sobbing.

“Elisha? Are you ready to continue?” Chris asked.

The girl nodded.

“Okay, let us continue. Are you a mutant?”


---


Liz Carson and Franklin Delarose exited the laboratory and stepped into a small briefing room. Delarose chose to take a seat while Carson, uncharacteristically, started pacing back and forth.

“I would make a comment about not walking a trench in the floor, but I reckon now would be an ill time for a poor joke.” Delarose said, ironically, joking.

“I’ve done quite a bit of pacing in my life before, Frank. But yes, I’m not really in the mood for jokes, especially considering…” Carson grimaced.

“Yeah, I don’t really think I’m in the mood either. All the more reason we might need one.”

Carson gave him a glare with a mix of anger, hesitation and hurt.

“Liz, right now, there’s really nothing more we can do. We might as well go home, both of us.”

This time, it was Delarose who grimaced.

“Well, I say both of us when in fact I mean just you. I still have reports, statements from my officers, all that bureaucracy bs to do. Though hopefully Forsythe has taken care of most of it.”

"I suppose, but you’re not exactly right, there is something I can do.” Carson said, fishing out her cellphone.

“Liz, we agreed, no contacting the mother until we verify the girl’s identity!”

She gave him a tired and impatient look.

“I wasn’t going to contact her mother!” She gave him a look that told volumes.

Delarose went quiet for a few moments until he sighed out loud.

“Oh.”

“Oh indeed.” Carson dialed the number she still had programmed in her phonebook.

“Isn’t he sleeping at this time?” Delarose asked.

“Ford always answers the phone, no matter the time. Comes with being a-”

Carson was interrupted by the call being answered at the other end.

“It’s five in the morning, this had better be important!” The voice at the other end sounded grumpy and tired.

“Ford, it’s Liz Carson, I need to talk to you about something, it’s… It’s Elisha, she’s-”

“What? What about Elisha?” In an instant, Ford had gone from tired and grumpy to alert and demanding.

“You need to come to ARC in New Hampshire immediately! She might be alive again.”

For what seemed like an eternity, Ford remained quiet, letting Carson’s last statement sink in.

“I’ll be there in four hours!”


---


“I don’t like that you called Rutherford Jones, Mrs. Carson. You entrusted the girl to us, and thus also the responsibility and authority to decide when to inform the family of her resurrection, if it really is her.” Dr. Michaels’ attempt at a rebuke didn’t much sting Carson, she had received far worse from far more intimidating people throughout her life. Still, he wasn’t entirely wrong, merely not in possession of all the facts.

“First of all, Dr. Michaels, he’s one of ARC’s major contributors. With your propensity for keeping your cards close to your chest, he would have found out before you would have decided to tell him.”

Carson didn’t look at him, merely kept her gaze on the car coming up the path towards one of the smaller entrances to the ARC facility. She continued.

“You weren’t on the receiving end of his anger ten years ago. I was. The school lost a donor that day. I’m sure the board here wouldn’t want the same to happen to it, just because you feel slighted that I went over your head. Besides, while often an infuriating man, Rutherford Jones is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and a man who cares very deeply for his family. He’ll be highly motivated to sort this out.”

“I still don’t like it! We need to contain this. You may well have cost us the ability to do so.” Dr. Michaels’ rebuke didn’t stop there, but it was clear to Carson that she had hit the nail on the head, leaving Dr. Michaels’ rebuke irrelevant.

“No matter, I called him. It’s done, there’s no point in complaining.” Carson gave the doctor a flat look before quickly turning her attention back to the man now stepping out of the leased car.

The man, a tall, well-built man in his late forties with slightly greying, but still mostly dark, hair, and warm brown eyes that easily hid the force of will behind them, walked up to them from his car. Rutherford Jones shook Dr. Michaels’ hand before turning to Carson.

“Hello again, Liz. You look well.” He gave her a light kiss on the cheek, which she impatiently accepted, knowing full well that the formalities would end soon enough.

“Ford, it’s been too long. I hope your flight was-” Not for the first time that day, Elizabeth Carson found herself interrupted by events.

Out of Rutherford’s car stepped two girls, late teens. Both of them looked at Liz with surprise, as if they knew her. She certainly didn’t know them.

Ford noticed her attention and turned to introduce them.

“My two daughters, Sarah and Isabel, and the gentleman behind the wheel is Mr. Jason Scott, one of my associates with MSG. Now, Liz, enough with the formalities. Show me!”

Dr. Michaels responded before Carson could.

“Of course, Mr. Jones, if you’ll follow me. Your daughters, along with Mr. Scott can wait in the common room. This way.”

Ford followed, with a short, sharp comment in direct contradiction of his friendly greeting.

“This had better not be some sick joke!”


---


Ford looked at the girl in the containment chamber through a one way mirror from outside the laboratory. He studied her intently, taking in every facet of her, looking for signs she was whom she appeared to be.

After several minutes, he finally spoke;

“Huh.
“So, what is she? A simulacrum? Clone? Shifter? What?” He enquired in a calm voice.

Dr. Michaels scratched his head, thinking about how to tell the high value donor that they couldn’t really answer a single one of his questions, and then decided on an answer.

“Well, it’s difficult to say. We’re running various tests, physical, psychic, scans, etc. None of them have really told us anything. There’s no evidence of cloning, and there would have been evidence if she was one. Likewise with shifting. There’s nothing to suggest she’s a simulacrum, her responses are much too human for that. We’ve been talking to her, she insists that she is who she appears to be.”

Dr. Michaels took a breath and continued.

“But, people are not known for coming back from the dead, and even those who did, did not do so in such a spectacular manner. So, frankly, we’re a bit stumped.”

Ford nodded idly as he listened to Dr. Michaels continue listing the various methods they’d used. Molecular scans, Esper scans, telepathic scans. Even magical scrying. Finally, Ford interrupted.

“She seems to be using her powers, yes? The glow!” Ford pointed out that the girl appeared to be glowing, seemingly from within. It was easy to see, considering that the lights in the containment cell were all turned off, making her glow, the only light visible.

“Ah, yes. Well, to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what that is yet. We have several sensor systems targeting her and none of them indicate that she’s using her powers. For now, we’ve been operating under the assumption that, since it doesn’t really do anything, it’s just a passive effect. Or perhaps an energy bleed. It did get rather glaringly bright at one point, when she reacted angrily to some of our questions. This leads us to believe that it might be affected by her emotions. But, as I said, we don’t really know.

Ford gave him a quiet look;

“A passive effect? Energy bleed? Emotions? Explain!”

“Ah, well, as I said, we’ve been unable to determine whether she’s using her powers or not. When a mutant actively uses whatever power they have, there’s a physiological and mental signature. We’ve detected nothing like that with her. But we have been able to detect an energy… type… within her. Though we can’t identify exactly what type of energy it is, specifically, that she’s radiating. It’s completely unknown to us.”

Dr. Michaels frowned, but before he continued, Ford demanded:

“Alright, open the door, I wish to talk to her!”

He indicated the door and stepped towards it.

“Ah, Mr. Jones, I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that. It’s protocol, you see.”

“I don’t care, open the door, now!” Ford’s mood now came across as someone who clearly expected to be obeyed.

Dr. Michaels hesitated a moment before he finally acquiesced.

“Of course, Mr. Jones, immediately. But for the record, would you state that you have been advised against it?”

“Just open the door, doctor, I’ll sign whatever waivers you deem necessary when I’ve talked to my niece!”


---


Not just impatient, but bored out of her mind, Sarah Jones was lying on her back on a lowest-bidder couch in the ARC common room, decorated by someone with zero taste or knowledge about interior decoration. Not that Sarah knew all that much about it herself. Though she did know enough to recognize bad taste when she saw it.

Very early in the morning, her father had stormed in and demanded that she and her sister get dressed immediately and follow him to the car. A short drive, a helicopter flight and another drive later they had arrived at the Arkham Research Consortium, one of her father’s business partners. And one he contributed a rather large amount of money to.

And still, no one had told her or her sister, Isabel, why they were there. Her father had just left them in Jason’s care. Both sisters had prevailed upon Jason’s own hunger and persuaded him to go on a food run a couple of times during the day.

Her phone wasn’t much use. While it was a next generation smartphone from her father’s tech division, one could really only browse the web for so long. Especially considering the less than stellar cell coverage inside ARC.

She had already browsed through the various magazines and books in the room. It was dentist waiting room level boring!

By far, the only interesting time of the day had been when Liz, one of her dad’s old friends, had stopped by the common room. That had caused Sarah some nervousness as she had undergone some rather drastic physical changes since last she had seen Liz. Which was unfortunate, as while she absolutely loved it, it still wasn’t something she wanted people outside her family to know.

But despite the fact that Liz had to know, she hadn’t said anything. She had just spoken a few words with Jason, briefly greeted Sarah and given Isabel a scrutinizing gaze that had made Sarah even more nervous. Fortunately she had asked no questions about her.

Sarah didn’t like it when people asked about Isabel.

Isabel, of course, had taken the experience in stride, with her usual slightly cold demeanour.

Now, it was evening, around nine. And still Sarah had no idea why they were there. She hadn’t seen her father or, really, anyone else besides Isabel, Jason and Liz for a few seconds. And Jason, with his stoic military personality, was not what could be called entertaining company. And Isabel? Intense, quiet and reserved as always. Sarah loved Isabel, but she, like Jason, was also not a good source of distraction.

“I gotta pee!” Sarah declared and got up and went for the door. Jason just nodded and Isabel barely reacted at all, shrugging only lightly.

Out in the hall, Sarah went in the opposite direction from the toilets. Her little white lie had worked!

She headed down the hall, turned a few times and ended up at the door where she had last seen her dad.

A glass door. Exactly the kind that might as well not even exist where Sarah was concerned. A small thought of space bending around her and an instant later she was past the “obstacle”.

Bypassing another such door, it quickly became clear to her that she was in a restricted lab area of the large building. The few people she did see only barely glanced at her as they were busy with whatever it was they were doing. Besides, whenever there were too many people for her to just pass by unnoticed, she simply bypassed them. Next to her wonderful change and Isabel, her manifested ability was the greatest thing in the world to her.

As she was about to step around a corner, she heard her father’s voice. It sounded like he was in a heated argument with the doctor she had met when they had first arrived in the morning and a few other voices she didn’t recognize.

Quickly she stepped back up against the wall, waiting for them to leave, which they did, but by heading in her direction.

She counted a few seconds and quickly bent space around her back to another place. There, she counted a few more seconds. Then a few more after that, for safety, before she again bent space to return to the corner.

Her dad and the doctors were gone.

Down the hall, she looked through the door into the lab. At first, she didn’t see anyone in there until she looked at the bright light behind a glass wall at the back of the room.

It was a girl. An eerily familiar looking girl.

She bypassed the door and walked up to the glass wall where the girl she recognized was sitting with her side to Sarah.


---


Her uncle, Ford, had actually been here the entire day. She wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but she had been glad to see him, despite his distant coldness. Apparently even he wasn’t sure if he believed that she was who she said she was.

Besides, he had warmed up to her during the day.

She had always liked Uncle Ford. Hell, she had babysitted his son, Soren, on several occasions. Both before and after she had manifested as a mutant. The little shit had been completely unable to understand that his male cousin Eric was suddenly his female cousin Elisha.

That was unfair, she thought to herself. Soren had actually been really nice and fun to play with. And she had enjoyed babysitting him.

He would actually be a year older than her now. Uncle Ford had changed the subject the few times she had asked about her cousin, clearly unwilling to discuss anything aside from Elisha herself.

She wondered what Soren looked like now. He’d be in high school. Maybe he too, was a mutant. Maybe he was at Whateley. The tuition wouldn’t even put a dent in Uncle Ford’s money.

Maybe-.

“No way! No. Way!” A soft voice, almost whispering, interrupted her thoughts, making her jump in surprise. Especially since Uncle Ford and the doctors and technicians had all left the lab, leaving a locked door in their wake.

It was a girl. Blonde, a little taller than Elisha, putting her probably at about five feet and seven or eight inches. Clearly, the girl was an exemplar, as, while she did appear to be in her late teens, she was shaped like no teenager had any business being shaped, and was ridiculously beautiful.

“No friggin’ way! Cousin Elisha? That… That can’t be you!”

After pausing for a short while, leaving no time for Elisha to get a word in, the girl spoke again.

“Is it really you?”

Elisha remained quiet, shocked and not knowing what to say.

After a long bit of silence, finally, Elisha answered with a series of questions.

“Who… Who are you? You’re not one of the doctors?”

The girl had called her “cousin Elisha”, but she had no idea who the girl was.

“Oh? Duh! Of course, you wouldn’t recognize me, not now. I, well, I’m your cousin, Soren. Sarah now.”

That shocked Elisha even more than the initial surprise. The girl actually claimed to be Soren, the sweet little, but annoying boy she had just been thinking about.

Sure, it wasn’t impossible, she had to admit. She herself was evidence that it was possible. But despite assurances that she wasn’t alone, she had never met any gender changed mutant that she knew of.

“Soren?” She asked, hesitantly, as she got to her feet and turned towards her.

The girl nodded, mouth and eyes wide open in what appeared to be disbelief.

“Uh, yeah. I guess I changed, just like you.” She said, though Elisha still wasn’t sure.

“I… guess you did. Are you really my cousin, Soren? Really?”

Sarah held her hands out with a small smile.

“No, I’m not. I’m your cousin, Sarah.”

Sarah’ smile grew, happy and excited; “Yup! In all my glory, turned mutant about a year ago. Exemplar and warp turned me girly. I can teleport and a few other fun things.

“It’s me, Elizer, really.”

Elisha looked the girl over again. She wasn’t certain. But maybe it was a family thing. After all, her mother and Uncle Ford were siblings.

“My cousin… Sarah. Why Sarah?” Elisha asked.

“Why Elisha?” Sarah asked back.

“Um, mom chose that, she… Is, is she here too?” She asked, suddenly, a hopeful glint in her eyes.

Sarah shook her head, Elisha’s mom hadn’t arrived with them.

“I don’t think Aunt Denise knows. This is ARC, dad says they’re not really concerned with letting families know they’re holding their loved ones. I wouldn’t even have been here if Mrs. Carson hadn’t called dad and told him.”

“Could, uh, could you tell her? Or ask uncle Ford to tell her?” A few tears were starting to run down Elisha’s face. She sniffed a bit before continuing.

“I want to see her, and get out of here. Wait, you said you could teleport? Can… can you do that with me?”

A forceful voice interrupted their conversation.

“She could! But she most definitely will not!”

Unnoticed by Elisha and Sarah, Rutherford Jones had entered the room, accompanied by Sarah’s sister, Isabel.

Sarah was the first to speak;

“Dad… I, I was just… Um…” She gulped, rather loudly.

“You were just leaving! Isabel, please take your sister back to the common room. Sarah, we’ll discuss this later!”

“But, dad, I-”

“But nothing! Isabel. Now, please.”

Isabel took Sarah’s hand and nodded towards the exit.

“Come on, S, let’s go.”

Wanting to object, but also not wanting to further antagonize her father, Sarah looked apologetically at Elisha and grudgingly let Isabel lead her back to the common room.

Elisha, after composing herself from the shock, gave Isabel a curious look before she left, then turned her attention to her Uncle Ford.

Ford, however, waited for his two daughters to leave the room before he met Elisha’s eyes with a nondescript expression.

“She should not have come here, and given your situation, you should not have spoken to her.
“It’s complicated.”

“But, Uncle Ford. You, uh, you don’t have… Who was the, uh, the other…?”

Ford looked back at the door his daughters had left through moments earlier. He smiled a bit, thinking about Isabel’s origin.

“Like I said, it’s complicated. Needless to say, I had a son, now I have two daughters. I’m hoping that I’ve gotten back the niece I lost, but, and you have to understand this, right now we can’t be certain of that. I’m sorry, but until we can, you have to stay in there.”

“But-” Elisha started.

“-If you really are the intelligent young woman I knew, you'd understand that I’m right. Don’t worry, we’ll sort this out.”

“But-”

“-But nothing, I’m sorry. I know this isn’t fair, but this is the way it is, and it’s not going to be any other way until the DPA says otherwise.
“Get some rest now, there’ll be further tests tomorrow.”

With that, Rutherford left the room, reluctantly ignoring Elisha’s protests.


---


Sarah and Isabel had returned to the common room, but hadn’t exchanged words, the silence prompted by Jason’s angry frown.

Finally, when Rutherford entered the room, Sarah jumped out of the couch.

“Dad, that was-”

“-I don’t want to hear-”

“No! Dad! I’m not going to shut up. That was Elisha in there! In a cage! IN A CAGE!”

Sarah shouted.

Isabel got up and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder, but she quickly shook it off.

“No! I will not calm down, Isa. She may not mean anything to you, but that is my dead cousin down there, in a cage! Alive!”

Sarah had grown a couple of inches, having been a scrawny kid, during her manifestation, she still had to look up at her father, though she did so with a fierce determination.

Ford grimaced, knowing full well she got that stubbornness from him. “Sarah, sit down please.”

“No, Dad, I-” Before she could continue, her father cut her off again. “No, Sarah, sit down and listen for a change.” Despite her protest and defiant scowl, she let her father push her into a chair.

“Why is she in a cage?” Sarah asked, “and why is she...she died! I remember the funeral, what the hell is going on?”

Her father sighed, and sat down in front of her. “Well, I don’t know. Really, I don’t. She was dead, and now it appears she is not.” He gave his daughter a level gaze,

“That, is not possible! Do you understand? People just don’t come back to life. So for the time being, we have to keep her quarantined from others, in order to ensure she is who she appears to be. And even if she is, she might still be a danger to other people.”

“But, dad, I-” Sarah stammered out.

“No, Sarah. Listen, she’s emitting a completely unknown type of energy, and while it doesn’t appear to be dangerous now, we don’t know that it isn’t.

“I guess I shouldn’t have brought you here. That was my mistake. Jason will take the both of you home now. I’ll come home when I know more.”

“NO! Dad, I want to stay here! She might-”

“Enough, Sarah! You’re going home, now! Jason, Isabel.” Both Jason Isabel got up, with putting a hand on Sarah’s shoulder and Isabel taking her hand.

“I’m not doing it, you can’t mak-”

“No more objections, Sarah! Take your sister and Jason home, now.” Seeing that she wasn’t being particularly cooperative, Ford leaned in to whisper; “Don’t worry, Sarah, I’ll let you know when you can meet your cousin again.”

They held each other’s a moment, then a sharp crack sounded and Ford was alone in the common room. He sighed and headed back to the laboratory.
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2 years 1 month ago - 1 year 10 months ago #50802 by Greatdingo
Greatdingo replied the topic: Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!
Saturday, mid-September!

There was nothing to it. Nothing at all. Just tell her to continue, to drive up to the gate and through. Or conversely, turn around and head back to ARC.

Not that she wanted to go back to ARC. It was boring there, and creepy. The school didn’t seem like it had gotten any more inviting either. At least the gate hadn’t. Still the same gargoyle adorned gate with a bronze plaque stating where you had come to. The guards were different, but it had been ten years, so that was to be expected.

But still, despite having both her uncle and her mother with her, the gate seemed even more daunting than the first time she was here.

Of course, back then she didn’t understand what was awaiting her behind those gargoyles.

It seemed like they were looking right at her. Scowling, sneering. As if they were telling her that she had been… Well, that she didn’t belong here. That she was an impostor, a fraud, fake!

That had been the word they called her. Fake. What she had called her. Fake. That she wasn’t really a girl, that she was just some gay boy pretending at being a girl.

Nevermind that she was one hundred percent biologically female.

Fake.

And the gargoyles were looking at her, they knew it.

Her mother’s voice brought her out of her reverie.

“Elisha, are you alright?” Both of them, her mother and uncle, were looking at her,.

She mumbled something neither of them heard, averting her eyes.

“It’s okay to be nervous, but we’ve talked about this. You have to go to Whateley again.” Her mother said, just a little scolding. “Besides, you can’t stay cooped up in ARC forever, and the DPA would only allow you to leave if you came here.”

“I know,” she answered, quietly; “I’m afraid…”

“Elisha, you’ll be okay, Sarah and Isabel will meet us there. You will not be alone.” Her uncle Ford said, “besides, with Sarah there, your mother will only be seconds away.”

Elisha said nothing, staring instead intently out the car window at the forest, her hands folded in her lap to keep from shaking.

“Elisha?” Her mother asked, but her daughter didn’t respond. Instead, Ford pushed the ignition button and pulled out on the small road once again; “Okay, we’ll drive up to the cottage and then we’ll see, okay? Okay.”

The vehicles from Arc in front and behind pulled out as well and the trio proceeded through the gate to Whateley Academy, past the guards and up the small path, usually vehicles were not allowed on the small paths. But the school had made an exception, given the circumstances. Finally, they came to a stop in front of Poe Cottage.

Elisha didn’t look at the building at first. But after a minute, with her mother and uncle waiting patiently, she turned and looked at the new and improved Poe cottage.

From her vantage point inside the parked car outside the front entrance, she couldn’t see the improvements, and aside from some cosmetic changes, it still looked like good old Poe. The headmistress, Mrs. Carson. Security chief Delarose and the dean of students, Mrs. Shugendo were waiting outside.

Her mother and uncle both stepped out of the vehicle, with her mother opening the backdoor.

“Are you ready, sweetheart?” She asked holding out her hand.

Hesitantly, Elisha took her mother's hand and stepped out of the car.

“It doesn’t look much different…” She said, getting a closer look at the cottage. She looked over the building, looking for her own, old, window. The cottage was, she could see, still surrounded by a faint shimmering field, though it was slightly different than she remembered, connected to the lines of energy that permeated the world. She remembered Mrs. Horton telling her about it, how it was a construct of magic designed to protect the cottage and it’s secrets.

Mrs. Carson approached her with the two others behind her with, uncharacteristically, a warm smile; “Hello, Elisha, welcome back to Whateley Academy. I’m very happy to see you again.” She held out her hand, which Elisha nervously took.

“Um, hello, Mrs. Carson. I guess, um, I’m glad to be back, I guess.” Elisha tried to meet Mrs. Carson’s eyes, but ended up averting hers instead, hiding her hands under her arms in a doomed to fail attempt to hide her shaking hands.

“Indeed you are and I can assure you, I could hardly be any happier with having you back.” She turned to the two others; “You remember the school’s Chief of Security, Franklin Delarose.” Chief Delarose smiled, warmly, and shook the hands of Elisha’s mother and her uncle Ford.

“Welcome back, Starlight. While your last visit here ended up being a very welcome one, I’m happy your official return to the school is less dramatic.” He said, with a wink, letting her know he was being sincere.

Mrs. Carson turned to the dean of students; “And of course, Michiko Shugendo, the schools Dean of Students.”

Mrs. Shugendo also smiled and greeted Elisha and her family.

“Um, I guess, uh…” Elisha stammered, she was still afraid of coming her, that she’d be an outsider again. Never mind the countless times her family had insisted it wouldn’t be that way the second time around.

Her mother, still a little anxious at having her daughter back where she lost her, put a protective arm around Elisha’s shoulders and greeted the three school officials.

“Mrs. Carson, I’m very happy to meet you again, and I know Elisha is too, but of course, she’s still a bit nervous at being back here, you understand.”

Mrs. Carson nodded her understanding and waited for Denise to continue.

“While I would prefer Elisha to come home with me, I recognize that neither ARC nor the DPA-” Mrs. Carson held up her hand, prompting Denise to stop.

“Ms. Tamzin, Denise, this is something we really should discuss someplace else, and not-” She pointed behind her at the cottage where several heads were peeking out of windows and more were looking out the building’s front door, at the spectacle outside.

“-with such an audience. Please, let’s step inside and welcome Elisha back properly. Elisha, your cousins are also waiting inside, but I reckon you’d like to say hello to Mrs. Horton first.”

Mrs. Carson invited them to follow her and followed behind. The procession, however, was interrupted by a young man barging out of the door through the throng of students.

The boy muttered something and then looked around at the three vehicles, and then the school officials; “Chief D! Mrs. S!” He held out his arms as he turned to Carson; “Mrs. C! You old b...You lovely lady, you! How are you doing? And who is this...immensely enchanting young lady, who has a picture hanging on the wall inside, with you?”

Carson sighed, and it was going so well. But D.E.M. just had to demonstrate his enormous ability to cause social mayhem.

“Maxwell Powell! What, pray tell, are you doing here? This is NOT your cottage!” Mrs. Carson asked, having temporarily returned to the stern persona of Headmistress Carson.

Max spread his arms, “Mrs. C, I was just harassing Millie, oh, and Fey! What about you?”

“Mister Powell, please leave, immediately!” Carson pointed down the path towards Melville.

“Sure, sure, nice seeing you, Mrs. C.” Max headed down the path, though not before taking a good look at what could very well be serious competition for Fey, a girl that appeared to be shining. She was certainly radiating an interesting energy, one that seemed to resonate very well with the small crystals he had in his bag.

Carson sent a few glaring daggers after Max before turning to Elisha and her family; “I’m sorry about that. That was D.E.M. He’s, well, he’s a little weird with an uncanny ability for sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. Don’t worry though, he’s otherwise relatively harmless.”

“Uh, he was carrying a pair of hedge shears…” Denise said, perplexed.

“That would be Britney Spears, don’t ask.” Carson answered.

While Denise only looked more confused, Ford chuckled lightly and Elisha just looked at the retreating Max; “Who’s Britney Spears?” She asked.

“Trust me, honey, you’ll find out, though you’d be better off not knowing.” Her mother said, before they all went inside, with Chief Delarose dispersing the students gawking at the group.

Inside, in the entrance hall, the renovations to Poe Cottage became more readily apparent. Elisha looked around, but her attention was quickly caught by the middle aged matron with her hands folded in front of her and a happy grin on her face.

Elisha gulped. For a moment she wasn’t sure whether to seek refuge behind her mother and uncle, or instead greet Mrs. Horton.

Finally, she stepped forward and held her hand out with her eyes everywhere but on Mrs. Horton.

“Hello...Mrs. horton, I, I guess I’m back…uh.”

Bella Horton, to her credit, held her composure. When Carson had first told her just a week before, that the big explosion in the woods surrounding the school had actually been Elisha, Starlight, somehow coming back to life, she couldn’t believe it. Memories of one of her biggest regrets and failures had flooded her mind. Not to mention, she didn’t believe Carson. She had refused to believe it. Yet, Carson had insisted that Starlight would come to Poe Cottage, and the two new girls, Sarah and Isabel Jones had insisted that the headmistress had spoken the truth.

Yet, Bella hadn’t believed it, until now, when Elisha Tamzin, Starlight, was standing right in front of her, alive and well.

The otherwise stern and strict house mother couldn’t help herself, a couple of tears of joy ran down her cheeks as she looked at the beautiful girl in front of her. The girl was different, true, it was like she was shining with light, making her all the more breathtaking. But the face was the same, the eyes, the hair, the body, even the shy posture. Yes, this was definitely Starlight come back to life.

She whispered; “Yes, yes you are.” It took her a few moments to build up the courage to believe it, and then a few more to reach out and envelope Starlight in a hug when the girl reached out her hand.

“You’re really back, you utterly amazing and unbelievable girl!”


Elisha looked around at Mrs. Horton’s cottage apartment. It, along with the rest of the cottage, had changed. It was still warm and cozy, though it didn’t have the same feeling of worn comfort the old apartment had. That didn’t mean it wasn’t nice though.

The couch she was sitting in was the same couch she had back when Elisha first sat in it. She even sat in the same spot she used to sit in. But the room itself was more spacious and bright, made more so by Elisha’s shine.

“Please, sweetheart,” her mother said, “could you turn that down a little, it’s a bit bright.” Elisha mumbled an apology and focused on keeping in the light, a technique Chris Summers had taught her. Draw it back, keep it in, he'd said. Can't believe I actually have to spend energy on not using my powers she thought to herself.

With her was of course her mother and her uncle. Mrs. Horton was there, sitting across from her with Mrs. Carson and Chief Delarose on the sides. Mrs. Shugendo had left to take care of an issue that had arisen. Mrs. Carson had said that school business unfortunately waited for no one.

They had been talking about nothing and everything. Elisha knew what they were doing. They wanted to make sure she didn’t freak out once they re-introduced her to the rest of the cottage.
They kept assuring her that the cottage was practically stuffed with changelings with more and more having arrived since she had first been there.

Rationally, she knew they wouldn’t lie to her, but she just couldn’t get herself to believe it. Sure, her cousin Sarah was there, she was a changeling whom Elisha had been told she’d be sharing a room with. Sarah had insisted that her sister, Isabel, was a changeling too, although she had avoided answering questions about who Isabel actually was, merely commenting that she was stray cat Sarah had picked up somewhere.

But they kept saying that there were many more changelings. But memories of how her final weeks before she had been attacked had been kept haunting her. The memory of how pretty much the entire school, along with a sizable handful of the faculty had turned on her from one moment to another still rang clear in her mind.

It filled her with fear then, and it still did now.

“So, like I was saying,” Mrs. Carson’s voice broke through her thoughts, “I’m afraid you’ll be starting out with more testing. I know you’re probably sick of it by now, but ARC has always been notoriously stingy with sharing knowledge, and in order to better help you, I and my staff really need to better understand your, for lack of a better term, power.” Mrs. Carson indicated her uncle Ford, “Your uncle has generously provided the school resources to help us better understand.”

Uncle Ford put a small box on the table, “Of course, Liz, I could do nothing less. However, Elisha, to that end you must wear this at all times,” he opened the box revealing a rather stylish ladies wrist watch, “it’s a scanner. It’ll monitor your energy output and alert myself and the school if your control slips. I’ve tried to make it look inconspicuous.

“Only take it off when you’re showering or sleeping. The school will put up a small scanner over your bed for when you’re sleeping.”

He pushed the box towards Elisha, and she hesitantly put on the watch.

“Excellent. Oh, and don’t worry about Basic Martial Arts,” Mrs. Carson said, “I’m afraid we can’t, at this time, allow you to take that class. The smoking crater back at ARC should serve as ample evidence for why that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“But...but that wasn’t...it was a mimic, and, and you all said it wasn’t my fau-” Elisha stammered out, her general anxiety about being back at the school and the memory of how disastrous some of the tests they had done on her had turned out.

“Don’t worry, Elisha, you’ve done nothing wrong. And let’s not worry about that now. Today is supposed to be a good day. You’re out of ARC, and while you’re not home, I do remember you telling me you liked it here, at first.” Mrs. Horton said, her warm voice calming the anxious teenager just a little bit.

“Yeah, but-” Elisha began.

“No buts, young lady!” Mrs. Horton cut her off with the same warm voice, but with a hint of firmness. “Poe Cottage is a different place, I know, I can practically feel you don’t believe it yet. But you must trust us, it will be fine.”

“Mrs. Horton is right, Elisha,” Mrs. Carson continued, “the cottage received extensive expansion and renovation over the summer, and it’s already practically filled with students, many of whom are like you.

“Now, we do have a few other things to talk about before you meet them. Here’s what we’d like to talk to you about.”

----

A knock sounded from the door to Mrs. Horton’s apartment. Outside in the hallway, Sarah stuck her head through the crack. She gave Elisha an eager wave and a large smile.

“Um, Mrs. Horton, everyone is here, uh, well, I guess some are doing other things. But-”

“Yes, thank you, Sarah, we’ll be right there. And please wait until acknowledged before you just stick your head in.” Mrs. Horton answered, and shook her head as the girl “eeped” and retreated back to the hallway. It was the same story every year, unruly boys and girls needing proper education in how to behave, made immensely more complicated by the fact that many of them had changed genders.

“Now, Elisha, come along, the rest can wait until tomorrow, let’s go meet your cottage mates. Mrs. Tamzin, Mrs. Carson, would you care to join us? Mr. Jones, you and Chief Delarose will have to wait here, or outside.”

“I do have two daughters in your care, Bella, it’s not like I don’t already know what the deal is.” Ford protested with a wink, smiling as he poured himself another cup of coffee, he held out, inquiring if Chief Delarose would like another cup and then poured anway.

“That’s all well and good, Mr. Jones, but please remain here regardless.

“Come, Elisha.”


The group left the small, but cozy, apartment, leaving only Ford and Chief Delarose. Both of the men looked at each other for a few minutes, neither of them speaking.
Finally, Chief Delarose cleared his throat and spoke.

“So, Mr. Jones. Despite all this activity, you and I haven’t actually really met since October, ´97.”

Ford nodded, they had briefly shaken hands at ARC, but hadn’t talked more than a few courteous hello’s and good day’s.

“True, but then, it’s not like we’ve had a reason to meet, right? And our last meeting, well, it was rather loud.”

Delarose nodded as well. “I remember, you were screaming pretty loudly at both myself and Elizabeth.”

“I was, yes. If you expect an apology, you’ll be waiting a long time, I had good reason, as you well know.” Ford continued, as if this was the simplest conversation.

“I guess you’re not entirely wrong. But-” Ford interrupted Delarose before he could finish.

“Do you think, Franklin, I can call you Franklin, right? Do you think we could just, in light of recent events, let that argument stay where it belongs?
“The school failed, miserably, at it’s duty, there’s no point in denying that or even trying to mitigate it. But today’s a joyous occasion, in more than one sense. Your failure has been, essentially, rectified, erased. It is no more. My niece, for whatever reason, is alive again. Despite my reservations, she’s back at Whateley, back here at Poe. I’m not going to assume this is the end of the matter, we should be so lucky, but looking a gift horse in the mouth is not my style.”
“If it indeed is a gift horse.” Delarose said, then nodded again; “But I suppose I agree.” He said with a sigh, not one to let old grudges needlessly continue. Besides, Rutherford was right, the school had failed, he had failed. In the most spectacular way. And now they’d been given a second chance.

“Good, there are a few things I’d like to discuss with you. I’m sure a lot of the students have had run-ins with the MCO, my daughters are no different. However, I’d-”
This time, it was Delarose’s time to interrupt.

“Yes, your daughters. I’ve of course interviewed both, but there are some discrepancies, I think we should discuss those before we start tackling other matters.” He pulled out his notebook and flipped through it until he reached the relevant page.

“What you mean to say, is that you’ve talked to Elizabeth and she has impressed upon you the fact that I only have one child?” Ford asked.

“I have, and she has, yes. Both of your “daughters” clamp up whenever that topic is brought up. Sarah, I assume she’s your original child, especially seems to hide something.
“Rutherford, I can’t protect them, or the rest of the students, unless I know everything there is to know.”

“Well, Franklin, it’s a long story, and not really one I’m comfortable sharing at this point in time.
“Isabel is my daughter now, that’s all there is to it. I’ve allowed your Dr. Bellows to know what’s what, because he’ll be taking over for Isabel’s former therapist, but I will not tell you, or Liz, or Mrs. Horton even, why.
“It’s not because I harbor any doubts about your trustworthiness, Franklin. I can assure you that if I did, I would not for a second have allowed them, or Elisha, to come here.”

“Wouldn’t that be Elisha’s mother’s decision?” Franklin asked, an eyebrow raised.

“Technically, yes, but in this matter, Denise trusts me to make the decision, especially since, well, I think we just agreed we’d let that stay in the past.
Suffice it to say, at this point, this is not something that I feel you need to know. I have my reasons, and I know I’m not exactly inspiring confidence here, but I need you to accept that they are good reasons.” Rutherford took a sip of his coffee and leaned back in the chair again, fiddling idly with a loose thread.

“Rutherford, I really thi-” Franklin began.

“No, Franklin, I’ve made my decision. As I said, I need you, and Elizabeth, to understand that.
“I might tell you eventually, but until then, please understand that Isabel is a nice, quiet girl, albeit a bit troubled. Hence the therapy. While capable of being extremely dangerous, though I believe you call that Tuesday at this school, she’s not one to instigate a fight.
“Doesn’t mean she won’t if she’s got a good reason.” Rutherford kept his eyes levelled on on Franklin.

Franklin sighed, “I can’t make you tell me, I know that. But you should know, we did do a physical exam on both of them. Their DNA is almost one hundred percent identical. The only differences were something environmental effects could account for. Identical twins are not that similar. Is she a clone? And aside from that, what were those exotic particles in her blood?”

“Again, like I said, I won’t say I can’t tell you, Franklin, I just don’t want to. But no, she’s not a clone.”

“Will she need an armband?” Franklin asked as he was beginning to realize what Elizabeth meant when she called Rutherford Jones an “intractable and infuriating man”.

Rutherford sighed, thinking about the incident with Agent Valance and the MCO. He grimaced before talking; “I shouldn’t think so, her anger is not of the rager variety. Though, for your peace of mind, I will tell you this. If she does get angry, you can be certain that anything she does, she will have meant to do.
“She understand that actions have consequences.”

“Elizabeth was right about you, you know, Rutherford? You’re a real piece of work!”

“I take it as a point of pride to take that as a compliment.”

---

Outside, in the hallway, Elisha was immediately jumped by her cousin, Sarah, who latched onto her arm and dragged her down the hall towards three girls, all taller than Elisha, in the hall.

Sarah pulled up before the three. “This is Zenith, she’s a senior, so she’s up on the top floor where we regular mortals are apparently not allowed to go. She’s also the cottage fixer, and importantly, she’s like you and me!” Zenith held out her hand and Elisha numbly shook it, shock from having now met a fourth like her.

“Hi, you can call me Zoe though. Welcome.”

“This is Phase, he’s a sophomore. Yes, I said “he”. Phase here’s a boy, despite the curtain. But close enough to be just like us, right? He’s Zenith’s apprentice, or something.” Again, Elisha was shocked, a fifth…?

“Ayla Goodkind, pleased to meet you. Yes, one of those Goodkinds, please don’t hold that against me, I try not to bite all that much.” Phase gave Elisha a friendly smile. Elisha mumbled a tiny hello.

“Yeah,” Sarah continued, “that was a bit of a shock. Can you imagine? A Jones and a Goodkind in the same cottage, I mean, both our dads pretty much hate each other. Oh, that reminds me. Phase, my dad is here, so you probably shouldn’t introduce yourself to him by name. Not that he’d try to do anything against you, but he’d definitely lord it over your dad for several years to come. Yeah, I love dad, but he gets a bit...yeah.

This is Angel. She’s my, and that mean ours, RA. She’s not as cool as us though, having been born a girl. She’s got those wings though, that’s super cool. Also, watch yourself around her, she’s, well, she’s-”

A girl came running down the hallway past the group and shouted on the way; “She’s TOUCHY FEELY!” Seconds later, she had disappeared down the hallway.

“Uh…” Elisha began.

“Don’t worry, that was Jade, another sophomore, and a royal pain in the butt. Very nice though.” Angel said. “But she’s not wrong, I can get a little touchy feely. Please feel free to just tell me off if it gets too much, I won’t be offended.”

"Uh…” Elisha began, though it ended with a blush.

“So, Elisha, or do you prefer Starlight? It’s not often that a new arrival gets introduced to the school by Mrs. Carson herself. Can I ask why that is?” Angel asked, curiously.

“Let’s take the dime tour later, shall we?” Elisha’s response was preempted by Mrs. Carson as she, Mrs. Horton and Elisha’s mother caught up with them.

Mrs. Horton nodded her agreement and Angel merely shrugged. Mrs. Horton then lead the way down the hall towards the common room; “Come along now, let’s go meet the others. Despite the joy of having you back, Elisha, they do have homework to do.”

Mrs. Horton lead the group into the common room where they were greeted by an assembly of high school age teenagers; “Well, here we are Elisha. Meet everyone. Everyone, meet Elisha, aka Starlight.” She said with a small sweep of her arm.

“Uhm, uh, he..hello?” Elisha stammered out, a bit overwhelmed by the sudden large number of people. Notwithstanding the memories of the last time she was in a group assembly like this in Poe. An assembly that had lead to her death two weeks later.

“Oh, come on, it’s not so bad! Here, I’ll introduce you to the folks,” Sarah said, eagerly. “Okay, we’ve got Isabel, obviously. Miss itty bitty there is Alyss, though she goes by Ribbon.”

Sarah’s comment was met by the small girl rolling her eyes.

“That tall drink of water there, is Jordan, she goes by Striker Indigo. Next to her is Martina, or Knockoff.

“Then we’ve got Milliscent, or Songstress. She’s rooming with Isabel. Oh, right, you’ll be rooming with me! We’re over in boy town, because girl town is packed. That’s Cecile, she’s the Crimson Comet…

Sarah’s introduction continued until it was cut short by one of the upperclassmen, a brunette in a white lab coat and glasses yelling; “Hey, you look exactly like the girl I read at the last memor-”

She in turn was interrupted by the blonde fixer, Zenith; “Hey! Shut your mouth Delta! Not now!”

The brunette, Delta, sat back down with an embarrassed flush on her face. Mostly from the disapproving gazes she received from both Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Horton.

Both Elisha and Sarah gave Zenith a confused look before Sarah gathered herself and continued with the introductions.

When, a few minutes later Sarah was finished, Elisha looked at them, apprehension and a little fear clearly written on her face. She was about to speak when Sarah blurted out; “OH! I completely forgot. These are all changelings, like you, me and Isabel!”

“So many?” Elisha practically whispered.

“Yup, a whole bunch of mutineers. The majority is male to female, obviously, because we’re the best, but there’s a few ftm’s as well. But clearly, they’re not as awesome as we are!” The last part, Sarah had said with a rather hard finality.

“But, so many? I...I was the only…” Elisha began, with a few tears running down her cheeks when Mrs. Horton took over from Sarah.

“Yes, child, this many, and more, as there are those are busy with school work today. As you can see, you are definitely not alone, and I can assure, there has been serious changes in the past ten years.” Mrs. Horton nodded to Zenith. “Now, I believe Zenith here has a matter of some grave importance for all you little changelings. So, Elisha come, have a seat.”

Elisha let herself be seated on a couch off to the side, between Isabel and the girl Martina as Zenith stepped into the middle of the room, holding up a small box of cards.

“First, if you don’t mind, Mrs. Carson, Mrs...Miss? Tamzin?” Zenith inquired of the school’s Headmistress and Elisha’s mother.

“Miss Tamzin, but you can call me Denise if you like.” Denise answered.

“Great, Mrs. Carson, Denise, this is something Mrs. Horton suggested, and it’s kinda private. Meaning, it’s just for the TG students, so if you would please wait outside?” Despite her cool attitude and confident demeanor, it was clear that Zenith wasn’t entirely comfortable sending the Headmistress of Whateley Academy out of the room.

“Of course, Zenith, I know what you’re talking, Miss Tamzin and I will wait in Mrs. Horton’s quarters.” Mrs. Carson invited Denise to accompany her back, “come, Miss Tamzin, we can discuss a few issues while we wait.”

----

The tall and blonde Exemplar in middle of the common room held up the small pack. Showing it to everyone. The Freshmen looked as confused as Elisha did, but the sophomores and upperclassmen knew what it was.

“This box is something we pull out once a year, those of you who were here last year know what they are, Freshmen? You’ll find out now, a bit earlier, to do the extraordinary, but quite happy circumstances. Occasionally, we unfortunately have to add a card, but today, for the first time, we’re taking a card out and burning it!

“Elisha, Starlight! As Delta Spike over there blurted out when she so rudely,” Zenith rolled her eyes at Delta Spike, “interrupted Sarah here, she was the one who read your card for the memorial we hold every year for the changelings who’s been killed for being who they are.

“Like you were.”

Elisha flinched when Zenith mentioned her murder, but Isabel held a tight grip around her shoulders, and Martina, the girl next to her reached out and squeezed her hand in support.

Zenith held out a card, text written on the back with a picture of Elisha taken ten years ago on the front. “This is your card, Starlight, and today we burn it!” She put a small metal bucket on the floor and dropped the card into it and pulled out a small box of matches.

“No, wait!” Elisha practically shouted and jumped up from the couch. Zenith stepped back with a raised eyebrow, but waited for the young girl.

“I, I want to see it first.” She picked up the card and studied the picture. It was her, definitely, but the picture was clearly a bit old. She flipped it over and read it. Once she had finished it, she held it up.

“I...It was, I don’t know if you’ve been told, but it was another, erh, Poesie who, um, did this...to me.” A few of the girls and boys gasped, clearly they hadn’t been told. The rest, upperclassmen all of them, nodded. They didn’t know, but there had been a rumor here and there that had survived the ten years.

Elisha dropped the card back into the bucket, “I’m not really allowed to use my, uh, my full...power. But, I can do a little bit of fire. Um, if you, if you don’t mind?” She asked.

Both Zenith and Mrs. Horton nodded, encouragingly.

With that, Elisha Jade Tamzin, called Starlight, raised her hand and a small blast of light shot into the bucket, to the enjoyment of everyone in the common room accompanied with shouts of approval, and set the card alight.

“Suck it, Grim Reaper!”
Last Edit: 1 year 10 months ago by Greatdingo. Reason: make story better?
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1 year 6 months ago #56879 by Greatdingo
Greatdingo replied the topic: Twinkle twinkle little Starlight!
Elsewhere, the same day!

The car came flying through the air straight at him. Any normal human would have had their lives flash before their eyes as the car crushed them against the asphalt.

That’s what Clasher thought, while at the same time he was wondering why he would think that. He was not a normal human being, he was a brick! And for a brick like him, a thrown car really shouldn’t pose much of a threat.

That thought ran through his mind just before it hit him and knocked him into the road beneath him, creating a small crater and, temporarily, knocking his shield out. Fortunately his suit was lined with a special fire retardant material, or the burning petrol from the ruptured fuel tank could quickly have become a problem for him.

Wait? What was he thinking? He wasn’t some second rate underdog! He was Clasher! Superhero! Fire wasn’t a problem for him, and that thrown car just caught him off-guard.

With just a little trouble, totally caused by the weakened structural integrity of the asphalt after the impact, he scrambled to his feet, tripping over only once. Okay, twice.

He reactivated his PK shield and jumped into the air, just above the smoke to get a better view of how the fight was going. That’s what Castigator always said was important. And Clasher had to admit that the team’s strategist and leader was, as usual, right. Luckily, Clasher could provide his own vantage point as he floated above the street.

Whoever this guy was, he had brought a lot of firepower. And not just in the form of henchmen with guns, but also henchmen with actual superpowers. Clasher wasn’t sure which one of the villains had thrown the car at him, but it was clearly someone who needed to be taken out of the fight sooner rather than later.


“Castigator, can you identify the beegee who threw the car at me?” He asked over the team’s comms net. Clasher surveyed the theater, attempting to ascertain superpowered henchmen from mere armed henchmen.

Finally, his leader’s reply came in the usual calm voice of an experienced commander; “Don’t worry about whomever attacked you and just carry on with your mission. Evacuate any and all civilians caught in the crossfire and then proceed to screen emergency services from attack. Get to it!”

Just typical, Clasher thought, a big fight going on and he had to play babysitter to civilians and medics. Sure, he knew it was an important job, but it just wasn’t particularly superheroic.

He took another moment to check the area. He didn’t see any civilians so instead he decided to proceed straight to the firemen attempting to put out the fires started. A job made dangerous by the fact that they were under fire from beegees armed with assault and heavy weapons.

Choosing his plan of attack, Clasher swooped up in a curved pattern and, when he reached the zenith of his ascent he stopped and dropped straight down onto two exo-skeleton armed beegees homing in on the firefighters.

Their suits would have been powerful against regular police or even lower tier mutants, but his PK shield effortlessly absorbed their attacks and a couple of quick punches for each, they were out of the fight. Deciding on using just a bit more flair than sense, Clasher then picked up one of the beegees and mimicked whomever had thrown the car at him, sending his improvised throwing weapon flying straight into a third henchman. The guy went down, hard, and if Clasher had had senses capable of penetrating the loud roar of combat, he would have heard the sickening crunch as well.

Instead he jumped at the rest of the beegees who had now turned their weapons on him. It was the same story as with the first four. They went down hard and fast. Perhaps a bit too hard, which he would no doubt hear about later from Castigator. But that was, he thought, indeed for later.

From behind the cover of the fire engine, the firefighters poured out, one of them giving Clasher a thumbs up, and proceeded with their efforts. Despite having the opportunity to help them, Clasher instead once more looked at the battle going on. He quickly noticed an obviously superpowered beegee picking up a piece of fallen debrief from one of the nearby buildings, “gotcha!” He smiled and took off straight at him.

Before the beegee could throw the debris, Clasher knocked him out from under it and into the ground.
Best to always knock them into public property and not risk getting sued by private citizens he thought. Further thought was interrupted as the guy got up again and charged at him. They exchanged a few blows with neither of them getting the upper hand.


“You must be new to the do-gooder brigade then? Haven’t seen you before! I’m Rockfist!” His hands pulsed with a dull light and was soon encased in what looked like giant rock boxing gloves.
“The name’s Clasher, and-”

“Clasher? Ricky?” Rockfist took a step back, lowered his hands just a little. Clasher also took a step back; “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Now surrender before I get really angry!” He then took a couple of steps forward again to emphasize his threat.

Rockfist, for his part, stepped back in concert; “You’re Ricky Berk! Since when did you join the capes, Berk?”
He had to admit, Rockfist’s voice did sound familiar; “Wait, Tobey? Tobey Trainor?”

“Dude, supervillain here, best not say my name out loud!” Rockfist chuckled, “how long has it been? Five years? Six? How’ve you been?”

Clasher lowered his hands, though he kept his shield up. “Then don’t say mine out loud either!
“Class of ‘01. Rockfist, huh? Where’d you get that name? Got tired of your old codename?”

“No, no, I still have my old name on my MID, but why should I care about that? I’m a supervillain, I choose my own way!” Rockfist stated, with a little more venom in his voice than before.

“Okay, about that, I guess we should probably get back to fighting, I am a superhero, after all, and you’re the villain!” Clasher said with a smile, thinking to himself how much easier this just became.

Rockfist raised his fists again; “Agreed, though I should warn you, for old times sake, I’ve grown more powerful and more skilled since last we met!” Clasher shook his head, he recognized that nerd culture references right away, even if it was a bad one.

“Good thing, I’m not your old master then, let’s do it then!”
Both hero and villain went at each other, exchanged blows and feints for a no more than a minute until Rockfist, to his dismay, discovered that his bravado could not make up for the disparity in power between the two.


“Castigator, this is Clasher, I’ve secured the firefighters and taken down beegee Rockfist! Old classmate of mine, actually.” He looked around, the fight was pretty much over by then, mostly due to the arrival of the Empire City Guard, creating an overwhelming gap in power levels between the heroes and villains.

“Well done, Clasher, pack him up and bring him up to the ECG’s wagon, they’ll be taking care of the prisoners for transport, ou-

“Wait, did you say he was a classmate of yours? At the academy?”

“That’s an affirmative, cleaned toilets with him in Hawthorne a couple of times even. Hell, I could probably tell you lots of-” Clasher started, memories of the friendly rivalry he had with Geo Node, or Rockfist as he called himself now.

“-Stop, Clasher! Not over comms, hang on a second.” Castigator went silent for a minute before continuing, “okay, Clasher, take your prisoner to the War Wagon! I’ve made arrangements with Dr. Thunder that you’ll escort them to lockup. Try and make him talk, okay?”

Okay, that was new, Clasher thought to himself. He got to ride with the Empire City Guard! There was just no way that could be bad for his superhero cred. He was definitely going to make it now.

“Clasher, do you copy?” Came the demanding voice of his team leader over the comms again.
“Yes, Castigator, I copy, will do!”


Monday, September 17th.

The morning was quiet, still, with only a few snores heard in boy town from a couple of the rooms. Other sounds came from down the hall, where some of the girls had already climbed out of from under the covers. Complaints mostly, of how cold it looked outside and how this or that teacher was being totally unfair with assignments.

The evening before had been a bit hectic for Elisha. After the group introduction she had been introduced to several of her new cottage mates more personally. And, apparently, in Poe cottage, that meant several hugs from an onslaught of girls wanting to show their solidarity.

Suddenly, the quiet in boy town was interrupted by a loud, and a little whiny, complaint from one of the few rooms occupied by girls; “Nooo, Five mo’ minutes!”

“God! Get UP, Sarah, I don’t want to go alone! Get up, or I’ll get Isabel to come and pull you out!” The shining girl with the long and golden halo of hair futilely tried to pull her higher level exemplar cousin out from under her blanket.
“Noooo!” It was no use, Sarah didn’t want to move and was holding on to the frame of the bed, her cousin Elisha was not strong enough to pull her out.

“Fine, have it your way! But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Starlight grabbed her morning basket of toiletries her mother had left her with the day before. She had been grateful, but otherwise hadn’t thought much about it until some of the other girls in the cottage had pointed out that the products were some of the rather more expensive brands. While her uncle could have easily afforded to buy them, when last Elisha needed her own toiletries, her mother’s business hadn’t been particularly successful. That had obviously changed in the previous ten years.

It also didn’t sit well with her, but the others had assured her that she should definitely use them, and let others borrow them as well. She had quickly agreed to that, thinking that if she shared the expensive hair and skin care products, she’d be less at risk of a repeat experience of her first stint at Whateley. Despite the assurances of everyone, including Mrs. Horton and Mrs. Carson, Starlight had yet to rid herself of her anxiousness at being back.

Which was why as she headed down the hall in her bathrobe with only a quick nod to the one boy who had woken up, Lancer, she gave off a slightly flickering yellow light.

She stopped outside Isabel and Millie’s room and listened for a moment. When she heard the slight noise of movement from within she knocked lightly and waited for a response.

Only moments later Isabel opened up, still dressed in her shorts and t-shirt; “Oh, good morning. You need something?” She quietly asked, the light and steady breathing of a still sleeping Millie coming from inside.
“Uh, sorry to knock so early, but can you help me with Sarah? She won’t, uh, she won’t get out of bed and I’d prefer not to, uhm…” Elisha blushed a little, it was stupid, but here she was.

“Oh, yeah, despite being an exemplar, she is not a morning person. Don’t worry though, you just need a delicate touch. I’ll get her up.” Isabel quickly undressed and put on her own bathrobe, a blue one, and handed Starlight her own bag of toiletries. Hers were somewhat more utilitarian, but still of good quality. Isabel wasn’t much of a girly girl, Starlight had to remind herself, certainly not like Sarah.

Isabel swept past Starlight and headed back to her room with long steps, leaving her cousin behind. Moments later her rather loud voice could be heard down the hall; “All right! GET UP! No arguing, get up and get your shit or I’ll throw you under the cold shower!”

In between could be heard Sarah’s protests and whines at being forcibly dragged out of bed. Her strength may have been too much for Starlight’s, but it was like a baby’s compared to Isabel.

A few doors opened slightly with sleepy heads poking out; “Wuzzat?” One of them asked, Starlight shrugged apologetically and tried to hide herself as much as possible. A task made difficult due to the lack of hiding spaces in the straight hallway.
Moments later, their resident advisor, Angel came out from her room and, of course, immediately noticed Starlight as she was the only one currently standing in the hallway.

“Uh, what’s going on? Is someone...What’s going on?” She crossed her arms and flexed her wings a little. It was probably just to work out the sleepiness still plaguing her, but it seemed a bit intimidating to Starlight.

“It’s, uh, it’s just Isabel getting Sarah out of bed...Apparently that’s a bit of an issue…” She stammered out, a bit nervous at already being in the RA’s searchlight.
Angel just nodded after a moment’s thought, as if it really wasn’t news to her. She gave Starlight a reassuring smile, then a yawn.
“Yeah, Bungie has certainly demonstrated that she’s not a morning person, and don’t I know it! I’ve had to pull her out myself a couple of times during the week. Maybe I should just delegate that to Dancer then, she seems to have a handle on it, oh, here they are.”

True enough, a pouting Sarah dressed in a white cotton bathrobe, clutching her toiletries, was being pushed down the hall by a smugly smiling Isabel who gave both Angel and Starlight a much too satisfied look before she plucked her own bag from Starlight’s arms.

“Time to get up, boys and girls, early bird gets the worm!” She sang happily, much to the dismay of her sister.
“I hate you, you’re disgusting!” Sarah just grumbled and continued pouting as she headed into the girl’s bathroom.
Starlight couldn’t help but giggle just a little at her roommate’s adorably angry pout. “Thanks, Isabel, you’re the best.” She followed the both of them into the bathroom and got in line behind her cousins.
Fortunately, the wait wasn’t long and she soon found herself in a stall, looking at the
futuristic contraptions that made up the showers.

“Uh, what’s this? Am I supposed to know how to use this? Are there three seashells as well? What?” She stuck her head out of the shower, looking for help, “There’s even a warning label, is this thing safe to use?” She looked up at the girl who had come in behind her. A tall girl with long dark hair who was one of the changelings still in the process of actually changing, made evident by the extra package that was unfortunately sticking out from underneath her bathrobe. Starlight would have claimed that, having had one herself, she wouldn’t be embarrassed by the sight. But, blushing furiously, she clearly was.
“Um, hi…Jordan, right?” She asked, keeping her eyes fixed on the other girls face. Her shine quickly changed from the flickering yellow to a glaring orange with, some would claim, a ray of light green here and there.

The girl, Jordan, shifted her position and blushed herself while muttering an apology under her breath; “They’re the Hydroflux, she’s a senior I think, shower system. Uh, maybe get…” She blushed even more, “maybe get...uh…” Behind her, a row of “fresh faced” girls entered and she quickly grabbed the first one, Jinx; “Uh, great, can you guys show Starlight how the showers work? I, uh, I...I’ve got a bit of…” Instead of finishing, she just hurried into the stall Isabel came out of, drawing the appreciative attention of quite a few of the girls who just entered.

Still sleepy herself, Jinx took a few moments to realize what was going on, but turned to Starlight; “Sure, what’s wrong? No one’s shown you how to use it?”

She shook her head, embarrassed, but Starlight held the curtain aside, using it to cover herself and pointed at the panel; “What the heck is this? Whatever happened to a simple knob to turn?” She shook her hand at the advanced systems and various shower heads in disbelief.

Jinx rolled her eyes, much ado about this girl. Still, she had seemed nice enough when they had talked briefly the evening before. “It’s not difficult, really, just input your name here -that’s your profile- and then you can experiment with temperature, pressure, mist, etc. Only, if you’re going to, uh, you know, you can, and must, activate the noise cancelling system, also, you can’t use that feature in the mornings! House rules.” She quickly showed Starlight how to use the system, which seemed far too complicated to Starlight’s nineties’ tech level.

A few minutes later, Starlight was drying herself off only to find herself the object of several of the girls’ attention. She gulped, covering herself with her fluffy towel as best she could while deciding what the best course of action for her would be.

“Damn, Star’ you look good enough to eat. You always look this good?” Cinderella asked with a bright smile plastered all over her face.

Starlight didn’t respond right away, only gulped again and tried to cover herself up even more.

“Relax,” Sarah, having finally woken up, came to her rescue, “some of these girls will make fun of you all day long if you let them, it’s just petty jealousy! Not our fault we make better girls than they do.” She stuck out her tongue at them, which they with grace and elegance promptly returned. One of them rolled her eyes and suggested, clearly as a joke; “Oh yeah? Not our fault that you’re just faking being a gir-”

The bright flash of light, however, told them that Starlight hadn’t taken it as a joke. She was gone in the blink of an eye before the girl could even finish talking, leaving them with confused looks.

“Uh, what just happened?” A few of them asked. Sarah grimaced, and then again as Isabel clobbered her one over the head followed by a “Dumbasses!” to all of them.

“I think we...I may have messed that up. She’s still a bit skittish, understandably enough, I guess. We probably shouldn’t use the “F” word around her though.” She hesitated a moment, “don’t worry, I’ll go apologize.”


Sarah let herself into hers and Starlights room and found her roommate sitting on her bed, shivering a little. Not from cold, her cousin had already told her how she just didn’t get cold, something Sarah could understand as the girl practically radiated heat all the time.

“Sorry about that, I guess I forgot for a moment there,” Sarah started as she sat down next to Starlight, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders while trying to ignore the stark light shifting from dark yellow to dark blue and back again.
“I’m not fake!” Starlight whispered through her tears. First real day back at Whateley, and the others had already called her a fake. She knew it! She knew it before she even came here that it was going to be just like last time. They were going to make her miserable, she just knew it.

“‘Lisha, you’re not fake, they know that. It was a joke. A stupid one, but still, just a joke. No one here thinks you’re fake. Besides, if you’re fake, then I’m fake as well. And everyone knows I’m, if not the most, then at least top three girly girl in all of Poe.”

“It wasn’t funny!”

“Well, in context it kinda was. You have to remember that these girls don’t really know what happened to you. They’re weren’t trying to be mean girls or anything.

“We were joking around, sometimes words just slip out, especially when they don’t know your limits yet.” Sarah nuzzled her chin on Starlights shoulder and reached around her with her other arm, fully encircling her cousin.

After a few long seconds when Starlight seemed about to say something, Sarah blew a loud raspberry right in her ear.

“Bluergh...What, what are you doing?” Starlight sputtered, surprise all over her face, a bit of outrage as well.

Sarah pouted a bit; “Damn, that always works on Isabel.” She got up and threw her robe over the back of her chair and got dressed in her underwear and school uniform.

“I think you need some food in you! The Chef’s have this really disgusting bacon and eggs sandwich filled with all manner of unhealthy..

“It’s delicious is what I’m trying to tell you, so get dried up, dressed up and if you want, made up.” Sarah quickly finished dressing and opened her makeup box and proceeded to apply it.

“I’m not ma… Oh.” Starlight sat still, despite her shiver, for a few more seconds before she finally relented and finished drying up.

There was a small knock on the door with Angel sticking her head in after a few seconds; “Sorry, but Cinderella told me that there was a small misunderstanding in the bathroom?”

Sarah gave her a quick smile; “Just a misplaced joke that wasn’t as funny as intended. It’s okay.”

“If it’s okay, why are a couple of the girls insisting they need to apologize to Starlight?” Angel asked, “they’re saying they may have said something unintentionally hurtful.”

Sarah peeked out in the hall and smiled at the girls standing there; “It’s okay, really.” She turned back to Angel; “Really, it was just a misunderstanding. They didn’t know, nothing to apologize for. We’re good,” She looked back in the room at Starlight, “right?”

“Starlight grimaced for a moment before letting out a sigh; “Sure, I know they didn’t mean...It’s okay.

“It’s okay.” She gave Angel a weak smile.

“It doesn’t look okay,” Angel said, “but if you’re sure?”

Both Starlight and Sarah nodded.
Angel nodded and turned away from the door and towards the girls in the hallway.


Later in the day, after breakfast and a sincere apology from some of the girls, Starlight was sitting with her faculty advisor,

Mr. Paulson.

“Now, I know you’ve technically been excused from both Survival and Basic Martial Arts, but I seem to remember that you took it the first time around, and Sensei Ito believes that you will benefit greatly from what he calls the meditative effects of martial arts discipline. Mrs. Carson agrees, so we’ve decided that you’ll try it out on a sort of trial run. How does that sound to you? If you like it, and benefit from it, it’ll be easier to convince your mother that this could be the best course of action for you.”

Elisha shrugged, a little meek from being alone with one of the teachers who, although he too had apologized as the first thing, hadn’t supported her ten years ago.

“I...I suppose, if you think it’s best. I liked Sensei Ito, but, erh, does he still require people to war those-”

“-The Gi?” Paulson interrupted with a smile, “I’m afraid he does. I understand why they’re required, but between you and me, I’ve always found them to be a bit too theatrical.” He chuckled, and Elisha couldn’t keep a small giggle down either.

“Excellent, Basic Martial Arts it is. If I recall, you’re an exemplar one, so we probably shouldn’t put you on the team with the heaviest hitters, fortunately there’s a more “down-to-earth” class. We’ll put you in that one.

“Okay, I think that’s it then. Do you have any questions?” He asked, looking at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Is there a flying class this year?” Elisha asked right away. “I can fly, I’d like to, uh…”

Mr. Paulson hit a few keys and looked through the registries. “We’ve got flight I every Saturday, as usual. I remember we didn’t have that class in 97. Not enough students. But these years, you can barely see the sky from flying students.” He hit a few more keys and then with finality, he hit print. “Excellent, Flight I every Saturday morning then. Here’s your schedule. Better hurry though, you’re starting out with Basic Martial Arts, and Sensei Ito hasn’t changed his opinion of tardiness.” He smiled at Elisha and gave her a note.
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