First Day and Other Interesting Things
A Whateley Academy Tale
I had to run like mad after my alarm went off. Lucky for me that I didn't have to worry about my hair because there was only had enough time to rinse off and get ready for my early morning flight class. I decided to dress in shirt and jeans since I didn't know exactly what we would be doing.
Angel almost got plowed over on the way out of the cottage. It was still kind of shadowed but fortunately she seemed to shine anyway. That was how I saw her before running into her.
"Where are you going in such a rush so early in the morning Tennyo?"
"I have to get to the early flight class. Sorry about almost running over you."
"Well, stick with me and we can go together."
"You're taking the flight class too?"
"Not exactly. I've already taken the beginning classes. I'm in the advanced class now. We are expected to help train the newer classes as part of our training. I'm afraid that I am one of the few willing to give up some of my morning to do this."
"Well, I for one am glad. It's nice to know someone I know will be there and I would much rather give up some of my morning so as to have more time after classes to do other things."
"A girl after my own heart I see." Her smile was very nice and I relaxed and matched strides with her. I had to stretch a bit because her legs were longer than mine. I saw some guys that looked like they had come off the stage for Men In Black, but they didn't try to bother us and Angel ignored them so I did too.
Soon we reached Laird Hall where the classes would be held. A Mr. Buttons was to be our teacher. Angel was to be his assistant. Besides me there were nine other students in the class, ten if you counted the winged horse. It seems no one else wanted to get up this early.
We were an interesting mix. There was another winged boy, but he had bat wings. Then two who had some kind of rocket belts and a girl with a rocket pack. Another girl had a broom and one boy was dressed like some kind of futuristic pilot. An oriental girl had a winged horse with her and kept talking to it in low whispers. It almost sounded like the horse was whispering back. There were two other boys who looked fairly normal if you can call camouflage and biker outfits normal. The biker had a cool looking contraption that looked like a motorcycle without wheels.
Mr. Buttons introduced himself and Angel. He then went down a list and called off code names. Besides the ones who were here, he called five others who obviously weren't here. Bat boy was called Silver Wing. The two boys in the rocket belts were called Thomas and Nathan. The girl in the rocket pack was their sister Theresa. They were the Stratosphere Siblings.
The girl with the broom was called Hexette, and the pilot type of guy was called Mechano Man. Light Ling was the name of the girl with the horse and the horses name was Storm Bolt. The camouflaged boy was called Shaper and the biker was called Chain Gang.
"Good morning everyone. My name is Eugene Buttons. I'm going to be your Flight instructor." He paused for a moment to allow us a chance to appreciate the joke. Angel just looked embarrassed while the crickets chirped.
"Ahem. Anyway, we are here today to learn what we will be doing for the next semester. Does anyone here know what the purpose of this class is?"
The boy in camo raised his hand. Mr. Buttons nodded at him.
"To learn how to fly?"
"Partly. Anything else?"
Hexette raised her hand.
"Yes? Young lady."
"To learn how to fly better."
"That too. Another?"
Everyone just shifted and looked around at each other. I finally raised my hand.
"You are Tennyo aren't you?"
"I saw you last night. You were very impressive."
Everyone else started to giggle and I started to blush as I realized that his statement could be taken in more that one way.
He was blushing a little also.
"I mean, for those who don't have minds in the gutter, that she was flying very well. Now, you had something to add to our lesson?"
"Uh, yes sir. I thought we were here to learn about flying and about the rules of flying so that we won't become a menace to all the other people who will be flying also. It's not like we will be the only ones out there." I silently thanked Mr. Bellows for his hints the day before.
"Correct! Did you all catch that."
The others stood there looking at him, waiting for him to explain.
He sighed. "You are not the only people in the sky out there." He pointed up.
"You are here to learn to fly and to learn to fly better and understand your own abilities and limitations better. But, you are here especially to learn the rules of the road. And don't fool yourselves. There are roads up there and rules governing how they are to be used."
"If you look up you can see three contrails. Those are up high enough you probably won't have to worry about them. But you need to know, just in case your paths do cross, what they are doing and why."
"There hasn't been a major accident involving a flyer and a big aircraft, yet. But that is probably only a matter of time. We are going to try to beat the odds for as long as possible and try to see to it that it never happens. As it stands now, there have been some occasions involving smaller aircraft. We want to prevent these also."
"A large part of your training here will revolve around gaining the knowledge of at least a small aircraft operator. The minimum necessary to gain an aircraft operators license at least. To that end we will proceed to pass out the necessary text books."
The next several minutes were spent making sure we each had what we would need for our studies. After that was taken care of and our homework schedules had been received he had us gather around again.
"As I mentioned before, learning about the rules of flying is important. Important also is your ability to use it. To that end, I will be talking to all of you. We will be classifying how you fly and the best ways to use and improve those abilities."
"How you fly in some circumstances is obvious. Hexette here uses her broom. Hexette, do you use a spell or do you just concentrate on it to fly?"
"I usually just have to think of it." She was looking a little shy at the attention. "Uh... I can increase speed and the like by reciting some spells though."
"You can cast a spell my way anytime Babe!" That was from the biker.
Hexette glared at him and a small spark suddenly snapped him in the butt.
We all laughed as he danced around for a moment.
"That will be quite enough you two. Settle down now."
"I will expect everyone to take the class a little more seriously in the future. Miss Hexette, we can go into more detail later."
"Now that you have our attention Mr. Gang, maybe you could tell us a little about how you fly."
Glaring around at us and rubbing his backside he told us about how he made the bike and how good and fast it was. I think he was stretching the truth a bit, but that was probably just the way he was.
It went on like this for the next several minutes. I think the most interesting one was Shaper, who could shape himself into all sorts of shapes and could even imitate animals. He was taking this class to learn how to fly with some of the shapes he could take.
"Last but not least we have Tennyo. Do you know how you fly?"
"Uh no sir. I just do. I think of going somewhere and it just happens. Sometimes I don't even need to think about it. It's like it comes to me naturally. It's just a way I move, like walking or running."
"Hmmmm. Can you give a small demonstration?"
"I think so. Flying is one of those things I do good. What do you want me to do?"
"Do you just fly?"
"No, I levitate and the like also. It's like gravity for me is the way I want it."
"Really? Can you show us?"
"Okay." I walked to the side of the building. Then I stepped up on the wall and walked up it and stood there, looking as if I was standing normally. Then I drifted out parallel to the ground and hovered near Mr. Buttons. He checked out the area around me with something like a hand held metal detector.
"That's odd. There is some electromagnetic disturbance, but I think it's more of an effect, not a cause."
"Yes. I don't think that what you are doing is an electromagnetic talent. It's something else, almost like you are somewhat separate from reality as we know it. It does impinge on our reality somewhat, but this shows more as a disturbance. What happens when you move faster?"
I took off fast and close to the ground. The faster I moved the more dust, leaves, and stuff whipped up around me. I then looped up and over and came down fast. I landed right next to him in a tornado of debris.
"That's what I thought. The more energy you use the more disturbance you cause. But it remains totally localized."
"What does that mean?"
"What other things do you do?"
"I make energy swords and blasts, but I'm not very good with them. They're not very reliable or controllable."
"Unusual, but I think you might be some kind of warper."
"Yes. You probably dislocate yourself somehow from our reality in order to move around. This would also explain why gravity doesn't affect you the same as us."
"Is there any way to find out?"
"Yes. We have ways of testing this. You will probably be tested thoroughly in the next weeks. We will know more after that."
He stopped to write some notes and then turned back to the class.
"Okay everyone. That was a good start. We won't be having the lab portion of the class this weekend. That will be starting in the next week."
"The remaining days this week and the days of next week will be spent learning what you can do and how we can plan to use your abilities better. You have also been given homework. Please have the forms you have been given filled out and give them back to me tomorrow. They will be necessary for your applications for pilot training."
"You will be expected to obtain your pilots permit by the end of the semester. If you do, you pass this course. If you don't, you fail. It's as simple as that. In the process, we will also study your flying talents and how to understand and improve them."
Mechano Man raised his hand.
"What if we already have a pilots permit?"
"Then we will see what you already have and work on your pilot ratings. We will determine if you pass or fail based on your advancement there."
I had to ask. "Ratings?"
"Yes. Pilots have ratings for different types of aircraft and conditions in which they can fly. Hopefully you will get more than just a pilot certification out of this. Much of that will be discussed in your reading assignments. I suggest that you read those first and bring any questions that you have to our next class. See you tomorrow."
We rushed off to get ready for breakfast and our first period classes. I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to keep up this pace. If we were going to be fighting off ninjas all night and working like mad to pass our courses each day I was going to get real tired real soon. In fact, I already was.
Angel and I rushed back to Poe. After a quick goodbye we went or separate ways. I wouldn't have time to shower but I did change into a uniform before we all headed out.
Everyone in our group seemed a little tired, but we got several compliments for our work last night as well as a few complaints for being so noisy doing it. All of this was in good humor and helped us get started on a good note.
I drew the usual attention from those who didn't know me yet as I ate a great deal more than it seemed possible. But everyone else who knew me just ignored it. I didn't see Harry anywhere and wondered how his first workout in martial arts went.
All of us new students got to see Mrs. Carson, the Headmistress at the First Assembly meeting before the start of our first regular classes. She gave us the 'It's All Up To You' speech and she also made some comments I'm sure were subtle references to the scuffle we had last night. We did have a little fun doing the MST3K routine that Toni thought up to make it more bearable. I can't remember having as much fun in a meeting like that before.
From there we went our separate ways to our classes.
My first period was Advanced Genetics taught by Dr. Wayne Reynolds in Dunn Hall. Dunn Hall was next to Siegal Hall and was the library as well as the biological studies building. I wasn't sure what to expect. He was an older man, apparently in his fifties or sixties, balding, but aware and attentive to the class. He was dressed in a tan suit that looked somewhat out of date.
He was working at the chalk board as I came in. I found a seat close to the front and off to the side. He ignored everyone coming in until the bell rang. Then he turned around and looked the class over.
"Please move up and to the center." He used his hands to indicate where he wanted us to sit.
I moved to the center in front of him on the front row.
He smiled at me and looked up at everyone else. "See, this young lady isn't afraid of me. Come on. I don't bite. Move closer. My throat isn't getting any younger and I don't want to strain it any more than I have to."
They slowly moved up and tried to fill the seats farthest away but still in the area indicated as acceptable.
"Very well. Please remember where your seats are. You will be expected to take them promptly and be prepared to work. We have a lot to cover and not much free time."
"You are here because you have shown some interest and competence in the study of the building blocks of life as we know it. What you have not been told, is that we really don't know much about these building blocks and how they do what they do."
"Don't let that interfere with your decision to take this class. It is important for you to learn what we do know and what we need to do to learn more."
The rest of the class was spent getting our text books and assignments. Even as tired as I was I found myself fascinated by his eagerness to teach. He was constantly giving out information as he gave out the texts and papers. He radiated enjoyment in what he was doing. I have to admit that I liked him a lot better than a lot of teachers I had previously.
The bell rang and I found myself regretting having to go to my next class.
"Remember to read the first chapter and be ready with questions. See you tomorrow."
He smiled at me again and turned back to the blackboard where he had been working as we came in.
I now headed for the class I was certain that I would hate the most for the whole year. I hate math. I'd done fine with the basics. They made sense. But for some reason, the higher types of math just didn't click in my brain.
I was okay with generalities but had problems with specifics. Give me the formula and the information for it and I could work it. Ask me to apply the formula to a problem where I had to decide where it needed to be used and I was usually lost.
And here I was, in the math rooms in Siegal Hall. Facing my nemesis. I was more worried about this than I had been facing the sword of that ninja.
Dr. Timothy Winslow was in his late twenties or early thirties. He was dressed casually in a white long sleeve shirt and dark slacks. I think he must have had a tie sometime this morning ,but it wasn't in evidence now. He was sitting on his desk waiting for us to come in.
I was going to try to get a seat in the back, but as soon as I entered I was sure he was watching me and I ended up in a seat in the front row again. I sat there fidgeting while everyone else trailed in.
"Welcome to the most hated class in the universe! My name is Dr. Timothy Winslow and I am to be your torturer for this period in purgatory." He did this all with an evil grin and chuckle.
"Now, in my experience, there are two major reasons a person has a problem with mathematics. The first is a simple lack of training. This can usually be overcome by finding what the person hasn't learned yet and filling in the gaps."
"The second is a difficulty in understanding a concept. A form of dyslexia so to speak. This is more difficult to work with but we can usually find a method to compensate for this when we understand what the problem is."
"There are other reasons also. Mr. Tyler! Will you please share that note you and Mr. Owens are passing around? I'm sure that it doesn't have much to do with what we need to study here."
We all turned in our seats to watch the two young men in question who were unsuccessfully trying to hide a note that got away from them and sailed to Mr. Winslow's outstretched hand.
"Let's see... 'That's one of them. I vote for Negligee Nightingales.' I believe this is your writing Mr. Owens? And the writing underneath. Oh yes! Definitely Mr. Tyler's excuse for handwriting. 'I like Bathrobe Babes.' This doesn't sound like anything that we will be discussing in this class does it?"
Both of them shook their heads while several of the others in the class grinned and giggled. I just felt like I was glowing red, Whether from embarrassment or anger I wasn't too sure.
"I trust there will be no further interruptions of this nature. I really don't want to have you in this class again because you can't pay attention to what is being taught. This is a serious class that is intended to help you overcome a handicap that can cripple you in this modern world."
"The rest of this class will be spent distributing the texts and taking a small test that I have prepared to determine your knowledge and failings. Please hurry as you will want all the time you can get."
He proceeded to pass out textbooks and a one page test with 25 questions. I was able to figure out about half of the questions right off as they dealt with pretty simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The rest seemed to require some kind of formula to solve quickly. These I was lost on but I kept working at them until I managed to get answers to another six before he asked us to return them.
"I am going to evaluate these tonight. I want you to read the first chapter in your texts and be ready to answer my questions tomorrow. Please be ready to work. This is serious business. See you tomorrow."
Ignoring the many subvocal mutterings, he watched as we filed out to our next classes.
Very happy to get away from there I headed to the next class, Power Theory 1. It was also in Siegel Hall. I thought I saw Jinn heading away as I approached the classroom.
As soon as I entered, I ducked to one side and looked around. I stayed where I was until I saw a familiar tall shape and made my way over to him. He waved as he saw me coming.
"Harry! It's good to see you. How are your classes going so far? Can I sit here?"
"Please take a seat. I'm fine. Classes have been okay so far, but I'm going to be sore for a long time from the martial arts class. Now that those answers are out of the way, I want to know if that was you last night making all the noise?"
"Uh...Yeah. But it wasn't only me and we couldn't let them run off with the bust of Poe. We had to do something about it and stop them."
He was looking a little nervous.
"Uh. Were you guys really naked?"
The crowd of students coming in had all turned to look at us.
Blushing like mad I turned back to Harry. "Where did you hear that?"
"Some of the guys heard that some of you were naked in the fight."
"In their dreams. We were dressed in our bathrobes because there wasn't any time to get dressed differently but we were never naked."
"Okay, I was just asking. You don't have to take my head off."
"Right. Hey, it wasn't that noisy was it?"
"Well, the yell just about lifted me to the ceiling, and I thought that last bang was going to break my window. It did break a few that were facing that way and Lifter was almost blinded by that flash. He was seeing stars for the rest of the evening because he was looking right at it when it went off."
"Class. Please give me your attention."
We were interrupted by an incredibly dull monotone voice. It belonged to our teacher. A Dr. Filbert Quintain. He managed to take a subject that promised to be very interesting and made it so dull I was struggling to stay awake from the very beginning. If Harry hadn't been there to keep me awake and vice-versa I probably would have missed it when he called my name towards the end of the class.
Struggling to not yawn I stood up and faced him. "Yes sir?"
"Please meet with me after the class ends. I have some questions for you."
I sat down and wondered what I had done to deserve being called to see him after class. Some of the others were actually asleep. He hadn't tried to call them.
"Are you in trouble?" whispered Harry.
"I don't know. Be quiet before we get into real trouble."
The class finally ended and Harry said he would wait outside for me. After everyone had trailed out I moved down and faced Dr. Quintain.
"I heard Dr. Buttons talking during staff breakfast. I wanted a chance to see you more closely." He seemed a lot more animated than he had during the class.
"Would you please levitate for me?" He had picked up a wand similar to the one the Mr. Buttons had used.
I levitated about a foot off the ground and he waved the wand around me. He checked the readout several times and then asked me to move around the room fast enough to stir things up. He continued to use the wand as I sailed by.
"Most interesting, I think he may have something there." He turned back to me. "You don't think you could...."
"I'm sorry sir, but can I go to lunch now?"
He seemed startled out of his thoughts. "Oh..Oh yes. I'm sorry. Please go now. But, would you be willing to run some tests for me later? I think you are just the person who can help me with some of my theories."
"I'll be glad to help you sir, if I can. But I do have to be going now."
He seemed a little disappointed but waved me out. I didn't waste much time and met Harry outside.
"What was he talking to you about?"
"He just wanted to ask me some questions about my flying."
"Yeah. It seems that I have an unusual way of flying that they want to study."
"Are you going to do it?"
"Let them study you?"
"Yep. I want to learn how I do it also."
"Be careful, Okay?"
"My dad says these scientist types get a little carried away sometimes and can hurt you without meaning to."
"I'll be careful. Don't worry."
"Okay, let's eat!"
"Lead on! You're the big boy here."
He managed to plow us a way to the cafeteria and we got a lunch while we discussed our classes. He had enjoyed his and didn't feel threatened like I did about his English course. The Advanced Physics made him very happy but only confused me. He seemed to feel the same way about my genetics course.
The others from Team Kimba were there also. Nikki didn't look so good. I offered to walk her back to her room so she could lie down for a while. She said she didn't need the help and headed back to Poe. I did see her talk to some guy on the way out. Maybe he was in one of her classes.
We finished our lunches and headed to our next classes. We would meet again in Powers Theory Lab.
Home Ec was taught by Mrs. Braithwaite. It was actually a fun course and I found that my many chores that I had done at home stood me in good stead. At least I knew how to do laundry and cook some.
After introductions, she quickly gave out some aptitude tests to see what we might know and using these she arranged us in groups of four students each. Two boys and two girls in each group. We then received our work assignments and homework.
Powers Lab at this time was just a repeat of the morning except that we were promised that the next classes would be held in some of the testing areas so we could get a better idea of what our powers were and how to classify them.
I promised to talk to Harry tomorrow and headed to the martial arts class in Laird Hall. I saw Jade, Jinn, and Hank there but wasn't able to talk to them then.
The more experienced of us moved into positions when we came in next to the matts after taking off our shoes. As soon as the bell rang our instructors entered the room. One was a tall African-American woman and next to her was an older oriental man.
Amanda Tolman was the name of the woman and she instructed us to buy gis and sit in the seiza position next to the mats when we came in the future. She explained that we would be trained in a variety of ways and with weapons. The idea being to train us to be more aware of our surroundings and situations and to use them to our advantage.
She explained that the 'capture cage' would be used to simulate a device that would indicate defeat if we were put into it. It made sense to me but one of the students didn't get it and got knocked out as an example of overconfidence. She also allowed as a student could transfer to a normal class if they didn't want to take this one.
This sounded just like the kind of class I would need. She also used several scenarios to make us understand that we would need to think a little differently in order to pass in this class. She then introduced the oriental gentleman as Tatsuo Ito who had been a high level black belt in shin-shin toitsu before starting his own school.
Hank became his first victim, I mean student demonstrator. Wow! He could move! And he obviously had his plans made and executed beautifully. It was a wonder to watch. I had my doubts as to his being merely human though.
After the demonstration, we settled down to training. Most of the training was so the Senseis could check out our current level and type of training. They hadn't had time to reach me before the class was over so I had a chance to do a few katas and exercises.
Then Tolman Sensei showed us girls the showers and assigned us lockers. I had a chance to ask her some questions.
"Sensei, a moment of your time please." I bowed as I said this.
"You are the one known as Tennyo are you not?"
"What do you need to know?"
"Sensei, I have both a karate and judo gi available to me. Is there a preference as to which gi I should wear?"
"Either will be fine as long as you have no emblems or school logos on them."
"Thank you Sensei. Neither has anything on them. Sensei Tanaka didn't believe in letting anyone know what you were trained in before a match."
"Sensei Tanaka? In what schools were you trained and what belt have you achieved?"
"Sensei, I was trained in Ishun-ryu Karate and Judo. I achieved Gokyu in each. Sensei Tanaka didn't want us using colored belts. She felt they were not a true measure of a students talent. We were expected to wear only white belts as we were all students at any time."
"Didn't some of the students complain?"
"Only those who were in it for the obvious recognition. Everyone else was happy to get the training she could give us. I enjoyed the training and perfecting techniques myself."
"Knowing them helps, perfecting them makes you more effective. As Sensei Tanaka always said."
"Very well. I will look forward to testing you tomorrow."
"Thank you Sensei, I look forward to the opportunity."
She left to continue her duties and I decided I would bring my judo gi tomorrow. I was looking forward to training here. They obviously took training seriously and I hoped to learn a lot more here. It sure beat math all hollow.
JUST HANGING AROUND: September 7th
Supper was very appreciated. I got two full platters full and was actually getting a little comfortable. We headed back and settled in to get our homework done.
Nikki still wasn't feeling too good, but after we got some ice slivers into her, she helped us with a problem in the study area.
One problem was space. I could float around and not take up much room, but I couldn't put anything down. The rest of us had similar problems. Eventually we worked out a solution that could only have been done by all of us working together.
With Jinn holding things for us, Fey lighting the area, and Ayla supplying some hammocks we ended up forming 'Kimba Corner'. Kind of corny, but the name stuck as corny names seem destined to do. Mrs. Horton actually took a picture of us for the scrap book.
Eventually, I actually finished my homework. I was feeling pretty good about it as I headed back to our room to put my books away.
TESTS ARE A PAIN: September 7th/September 8th Friday
There was a man in a suit outside our room as I approached. He looked at a picture that he had on a clipboard. He then looked at me and waited for me to approach.
"Miss Billie Wilson?"
"We are sorry for the inconvenience it may cause, but your testing schedule was moved up due to an unanticipated vacancy in the program."
"Yes Miss Wilson. All our students are expected to undergo evaluative testing. Most of them receive at least some of that before coming here. You on the other hand had received almost none of that beforehand. This has made you a priority on the schedule. I'm afraid that it my take several hours."
"What about my classes?"
"You will be excused from any classes that the testing interferes with. All instructors will be informed as necessary."
"Can I leave a note for my roommate and drop off my books?"
"Yes, if you hurry. We must be in the medical wing in half an hour."
"Where is it located?"
"It is adjacent to Area 77 where some of the testing will be carried out."
"Okay. Just let me drop off my books and leave a note for my roommate."
I opened my door and put my homework on my desk. Jade had wandered off and I didn't know when she would be back. I wrote a quick note explaining where I was going and why. Then I locked the door and followed the man to Siegel Hall and into the lower areas.
When we got down there he led me to a secure door that opened to the card he ran through the reader. He then led me to a station where several medical techs were standing. One of them turned to us as we approached.
"Miss Alice Tennyson?"
My guide answered. "No. Miss Tennyson was injured in the late martial arts class and was unable to make it. We are substituting Miss Wilson here. Here is her file. "Good evening Miss Wilson."
"Don't mention it." He turned and was soon gone.
"Please come with me."
I was taken to a room where I was put through a thorough physical. I was told that they wanted to confirm Dr. Tanaka's findings. They had some problems drawing blood though. They eventually found a needle that could penetrate my skin. I didn't remember Mr. Tanaka having so many problems.
When they finally drew the blood there was another problem. It would evaporate shortly after it was drawn. Whatever was in the vial would simply disappear right before their eyes in about a minute. In fact, when they got one that could be sealed, it imploded.
They managed to get some of the tests done by having the equipment on hand and doing the tests immediately as the blood was drawn. They thought I might have AB+ blood. But they weren't sure.
They asked me several questions about my period and sexual activity. I was expecting my next period about two weeks from now and my sexual activity was zero, even if they found it hard to believe. They allowed me to put my clothing back on and told me to wait in another room while they determined the test results were. At least from what they had been able to collect.
While I was waiting I heard a muffled conversation down the hall. Something about a laser test having been scheduled for someone. It was about eleven o'clock and the shift was changing. Then a man in a lab coat appeared in the door.
"This way to the testing area. Please follow me. I'm sorry we are running so late. Someone was supposed to bring you to us." He kept glancing at me. "You look better than we were told to expect. You are certainly not plain."
"Thank you. I think."
He led me into another secured area. After traveling through several corridors we came to a larger door. My guide waved at a camera and it opened into a wide corridor about 100 feet long. We moved to a door about half way down. This one was similar in construction to the last one in that it was a sliding door about two inches thick.
At the far end of this corridor was what looked like a heavier double door with cameras also. My guide waved in that direction and the door in front of us opened. He guided me into a very large room. About fifty yards long, twenty yards wide, and ten yards high.
We were in one end with three large metal plates that looked to be set in the floor. Each appeared to be six feet by six feet and maybe one half to three quarter inches thick and made of metal. At the far end were several pieces of equipment. Two large and eight smaller box like machines set on heavy tracks that looped around the floor, up the walls, and over the ceiling. They seemed to be moving slowly in a random fashion.
"Okay. This is where I leave you. Remember to put on a good show. I understand that there is a large audience tonight and we don't want to disappoint them do we?"
"It's all in your contract. Don't tell me you didn't read it?" He was closing the door as he spoke.
What contract? I moved over to the door. It wouldn't open. I pounded on it. I suddenly had a bad feeling about this.
"Hey! What do you mean! I don't know what you are talking about!"
I looked around, trying to spot a way out. I was trying to discover what was going on also. I felt a tingle from the door and a voice came over some kind of intercom.
"Security measures are in place. Ready to start Alice?"
"Hey! Stop this! I'm not this Alice person and I don't know what is going on! Let me out noOOWWW!!"
I felt a burning pain across the top of my right shoulder and the fabric of my uniform in that area caught fire. I dropped and rolled in pain, which was a good thing as several red beams played across the wall were I had been standing.
"C'mon Alice get with the program! People are paying a lot for this show. Beginning second attack sequence, increasing output ten percent, automatic power and rate increase to level ten by tenths for duration of program. Switching to AI control. How's the feed Ted?"
"Perfect Jim, we're getting excellent feed from all cameras and the AI is handling everything smoothly. No one will notice a thing."
I was screaming at them the whole time they were saying this. "LET ME OUT! THIS IS A MISTAKE! YOU"VE GOT THE WRONG PERSON!" My shoulder was on fire and I was in tears from the pain.
"Hey Ted. I'm getting feedback on my end."
"Don't worry, It's just the intercom between us and three. It's stuck somehow. It won't affect the program and I can fix it in plenty of time later. Look sharp. Our window is coming up. AI on line and ready to roll!"
"Let me out you idiots! LET ME OUT!" I was panicking. I just wanted out and was kicking at the door.
Jim's voice came over the intercom again. "Stop your whinning you wimp. You were so sure you could handle this. It's time you earned your pay. Recording starting in three, two , one...ACTION!"
My sense of self preservation took over and I dived behind the closest piece of metal as there was a flurry of activity from the machines and several bright red streaks of light hissed by me. I didn't know what to do. The idiots controlling this apparently didn't have a clue that they had the wrong person. I curled up and screamed.
"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!"
Something in my manner must have started to get through to them.
"You know Jim, I don't think that kid is faking. Are you sure you got the right person?"
"Well...Her name was on the clip board and she was the only one there."
"She doesn't quite match the description either does she?"
I might have felt better then but the lasers hadn't stopped firing and the plate was heating up fast.
"GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
"Damn! Okay Ted. Turn off the AI and shut down. They're going to have to switch to an alternate."
My moment of relief was short lived.
"Hey Jim! The AI isn't shutting down. It's not answering commands!
"What?! Just turn off the power to it then!"
"I can't do that. Security will be sure to pick up that sudden a cut off. They'd be here in minutes!"
I added my vote at the top of my lungs.
"SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT OFF NOW!"
"Isn't there another way?"
"Maybe. Let me work on it."
"NO! STOP IT AAAEEEGGHH!"
The first shot to penetrate my shield had missed me but spattered me with drops of hot metal. The second almost simultaneous one had passed lengthwise right down my right calf. Fortunately I can fly or I never would have moved in time to the next shield before this one collapsed.
I managed to get to the next shield with a few more burns in my uniform and a burn on my left hand. This shield wasn't going to last long. The lasers were getting stronger and I didn't think they would have to heat it up to punch through this time.
"SHUT IT OFFFF!"
"Shut up kid! We're working on it! Hey Ted. Can't we cut this intercom?"
"Not now. I'm busy. It's going to take a few minutes to make sure security doesn't catch on."
They didn't care about me. By the time they got around to just turning it off I could be dead.
There was a slight decrease in the rate of fire and I got a real bad feeling. I chose that moment to dive for the next cover. It cost me another burn on my right leg but at least I wasn't there when the concentrated blast hit the one I had been behind and vaporized most of it.
I had reached the end of my rope. I couldn't run and they were not going to turn it off. Panic became rage. Using the small respite the last of my cover gave me I gathered up energy and turned on my tormentors.
The AI had adapted to my run and hide tactics and was preparing for the end when it would blow the cover and me away. My attack caught it by surprise. I popped up into the air, flying and dodging. I didn't think I could get close enough for hand to hand. I had to try what I did with Warp.
"YEEAARRGH!" Somehow it worked. I felt the power gather in my hands and then I released it all at once at one of the larger machines. They hadn't learned to dodge yet. There was a very satisfying KABLAM!. And the piece of equipment exploded, taking two other smaller ones with it.
The room started to fill with dust and smoke.
I could hear Ted yelling something about losing projectors one, seven, and eight. But, I had seen a new opportunity. The loss of those projectors left a hole in the fire of the others. I reacted and surprised myself by moving up to the other large one fast enough that they hadn't been able to follow me.
I had another problem now. I had charged up my hands again, but I felt that I was too close to fire and I hadn't formed a sword. In desperation I tried something else. I punched the machine while concentrating on pushing the energy at it at the same time.
'KAPOW!' The machine shattered with a bright flash and flew to the other side of the room in pieces. I almost got hit by one of the other projectors in my surprise. I then dodged to another one and used my left hand to smash it.
I was now close to them. An advantage in that they apparently were programmed to not shoot each other so this slowed them down a little. A problem also because now the fire was coming from several directions. Dodging like mad I proceeded to release several bolts at the now dodging machines.
I got two more this way and only collected another wound on my left thigh. In the back ground I could hear Ted and Jim yelling about not being able to see anything that was going on and wondering how they were losing so many projectors.
I formed a sword in my left hand now and kept powering up my right to shoot blasts and punch if I got close enough and couldn't use my sword. I was so mad I was ignoring how tired I was getting, but I knew I would have to finish this soon.
Pushing myself to my limits, I finished off the last four machines in a flurry of punches, slashes, and blasts. Then it was quiet except for Ted and Jim's cursing and the popping and crackling of flames and sparks.
The room was obscured by smoke and dust but for some reason I wasn't coughing or choking as I got my strength back. I headed for the door.
"What's going on in there? I can't see a thing!"" Jim was sounding a little panicked.
"I don't know! The sensors are out and I can't see anything either!" Ted didn't sound much better.
"Wait Ted! I can see her! She's near the door and she's got some sort of glowing thing in her hand."
"LET... ME... OUT... NOW!!"
"No way Jose! Not like that I'm not. You just cool your heels while we get settled in here."
"Hey Jim! Maybe you better let her out. The readings in there aren't to healthy right now."
"No way. You see her. We let her out and you can be sure she will be after us in a moment. Let's use the time we have shutting this stuff down and getting rid of it."
"GRRRRR!! I said NOWWWW!" I had powered up my right hand again. 'KABLAMM!' The remains of the door hit the far wall. I had a good idea where they were.
"SHIT! Lockdown Ted! Lockdown NOW!" There was a definite tone of panic
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH: September 8th
So far this evening had gone smoothly. The ringing had finally faded from his ears and he was considering if a second cup of coffee would be too much this early in the evening. Chief Delarose had been in this position for years and he still didn't know if there was any time that was safe to relax. But he was also sure the doctors would get after him if he started drinking too much coffee again.
At least it was unlikely that something major would happen tonight. It wasn't often that major events happened back to back. He had almost decided that he might not need it when Dan Moore in Interior Monitoring beeped him.
Suddenly he didn't need the coffee to get a burning sensation in his stomach. He hated that feeling. Maybe he was psychic after all. It was almost never wrong. Something was going down.
"Yes Dan. What is it?"
"Sorry to bother you with this Chief, but I'm getting something unusual from Range Three in 77."
"What is it?"
"I don't know. I've checked it several times to be sure, but it looks like the monitor and sensor feed from that area is being blocked or modified in some fashion. I'm pretty sure that something is happening there but I can't tell what yet. You might want to send someone over to check it."
"Is there supposed to be anything there?"
"There's nothing scheduled. While there's always the chance that we weren't informed, I think it unlikely under the circumstances that they would be concealing it at the same time. You aren't testing us are you?"
"No. The thought crossed my mind but I decided against it for some reason."
"Uh Oh! I hate it when you do that Chief. It's almost scary." Dan had been at Whateley even longer than the Chief and had developed a healthy respect for the way he did things.
"Yeah. Me too. Who do we have on call?"
"Squad Four is on standby and Five and Six can be ready in five."
"What about support?"
"You think it's that bad?"
"Let's just say that I don't want to take any chances. Who do we have?"
"Stormwolf, Mindbird, and Thunderfox are all on call and can be ready at least as fast as Four."
"That's good. They're all very reliable. I feel a bit better now."
"Call them out?"
"Not yet, send Four over and put them on alert. Tell Five and Six to stand up and make sure one of them is heavy."
"Yes sir! Four out to check and others on alert, one heavy. Alert support. Anything else sir?"
"Not yet. This is probably nothing...What the!"
Several low alarms were sounding and red lights were flashing.
"Frank! I'm getting a transmission from Range Three Control! I'm patching you in."
"Please! Someone help us! She is breaking through the door! She's going to kill us! Get help here fast!"
Dan interrupted. "Range Three, this is Security. Who are you and what is your situation!"
"Security! Thank God we got through! This is Ted Levine. I'm here with Jim Thorson. We were doing some unscheduled testing for Medical when the girl we were testing went berserk! She's trashed Range Three and is breaking in here. You've got to stop her! She's insane! She's just going to kill us!"
"Who? And what kind of power is she using?"
"We aren't sure. Alice Tennyson we think, according to the record we have. But she doesn't quite match the description and her powers seem different. This one has some kind of energy blast, super strength, and a weird sword that is cutting through our door now! You got to help us!"
"Hang tight. Help is on its way!"
Dan used a separate channel. "Chief, Four is on its way. I'm alerting the others to go now. What else should we do?"
"I'm going over now. Tell Four to expect me. Who do we have?"
"Harris with Kretch, Willkinson, Breen, Grimes, and Randall."
"Good men. I'll be right over. Tell them to wait for me."
"Is that a good idea?"
"Something about this stinks. I want to be there when this goes down. Get Erickson over there too. On the double!"
"The computer geek?"
"Just a hunch. Get him."
"Okay Chief. He'll be on his way shortly."
"Good. I'll have my portable, keep in touch."
Range Three wasn't too far from Security and he was there even before Squad Four by about ten seconds.
"Harris! You and Willkinson, stunners, Everyone else Semi with heavy rounds. You will not fire unless the stunners are ineffective. Grimes. I want a reading on the other side of the door pronto."
Grimes plugged a small hand held into a jack near the door control pad. A few quick buttons pushed and he had a readout of what was on the other side.
"Sir! We have a lot of smoke, CO2, and CO. About 110 degrees. I recommend support respirators and enhancement goggles."
"Masks everyone! Damn! We can't use gas. Be ready with those stunners. Grimes. How is the door?"
"No problems there sir! We can open it anytime."
"Can we help?"
The three figures of Stormwolf, Mindbird, and Thunderfox were in the corridor with them. Dressed in their combat suits and helmets with masks they looked ready to go and radiated confidence.
"How did you get here so fast?"
"Trade secret." Stormwolf grinned as he said this.
"And if you told me you would have to kill me, right?"
"Sorry about that Chief."
"Okay. I'll let it go this time. Mindbird, I'm really glad to see you. You couldn't give us some idea of what we are facing could you?"
"Already on it Chief. I can tell you this right off. That's one pissed chick in there. I don't think she wants to kill anyone, but she is looking for some major payback."
"You can't get more?"
"She's got an unusual mind. Kind of hard to touch. Almost dual in nature. I can tell you the other stuff so easily because she is radiating so hard."
"How about the two in the control room? How are they?"
"Frightened silly but okay for now. I think they are as afraid of what you might find as they are of that girl almost."
"You couldn't take it to court of course, but they seem kind of shifty."
"No more than that?"
"You know I can't."
"Yeah. The code and all. Dan. What do you have?"
"She isn't Alice Tennyson. Alice is in Melbourne with a broken leg. Broke it in gym this afternoon. The two in the room are techs. Generally used for maintenance in 77. They are not scheduled to be working now. The only one I feel she might be is Billie Wilson or Tennyo. She is scheduled for medical testing now but is currently unaccounted for."
"Isn't she the one with the sword last night?"
"Damn!" He had seen some of what that sword could do and didn't want to have to hurt the girl if he could help it.
"I've met her." Stormwolf had stepped forward.
"Yes, yesterday at lunch. She did seem to be something of a hothead but this doesn't sound quite like her. Can we try to talk with her first?"
"It's risky. Are you sure?"
"I'd like to try."
"Okay. But if things go bad we aren't holding back."
"Wouldn't want you to. How about I go in with Mindbird and Thunderfox to back me and let me know what progress we are making and you cover us with stunners and heavier stuff."
"Just don't cross our lines. Do you need respirators?"
"No. Our helmets will work fine."
"Really compact. I'd like to know how that was done."
"You'd have to talk to Thunderfox about that."
"And then you'd have to kill me, right?"
"You got it. Sorry."
"Okay. Grimes. Get ready on the door. After we are through I want you to cover our rear. I don't want any surprises. NOW!"
The door popped open and the three heroes were through in a flash and headed for the end of the corridor where a dull red glow with occasional bright flashes was coming from. Smoke came pouring out and even with the assistance of the mask sensors, vision was unreliable except for short ranges.
"See if you can force some clear air through here. And see what has kept the fire systems from operating."
"I can try to increase the power to the fans and see if we can force some of the smoke out of there. Something has screwed up the fire systems. I think it may have something to do with the fact that there are unprotected techs in there and the computer will not risk suffocating them with the Halon. It looks like it tried to start and then the seals were broken on the secured area and it shut down to protect them."
"Can we override?"
"Not until we get the techs out. After that the system should operate properly."
"Okay. We'll see what we can do on this end."
While he was talking to Dan, they had moved up to the halfway area and the remains of the door to Range Three. Most of the smoke seemed to be coming from there and there were glowing areas to the rear that were probably fires.
"Cover this door."
"The rest of you form up on me. Remember, no shooting unless I tell you to."
"If the three up there can get the girl calmed down I want you and Willkinson in the control room ASAP and secure it. You have my permission to put the two in there to sleep until next week if they try anything screwy."
They were close enough now to see that Stormwolf and Mindbird were talking to someone in front of the door. Chief Delarose could see an almost complete circle of light, almost four feet in diameter, in the door. Faint yelling could be heard on the other side.
As he got closer, he could make out some of what was being said on the other side.
BACK TO THE SHOW: September 8th
I was sure they were behind that door. The sound of the intercom faded out as I headed down the corridor. This door was larger than the others. There was a camera over the top of it and it swung to point at me.
"LET ME THROUGH!"
I heard several large bolts sliding into place. They weren't going to be reasonable about this. I tried the various buttons first. Then I tried to push it open. Punching it only gave me a pain in my hand. My sword scarred the metal, but it would take forever to chip through.
This just made me angrier. Then I had an idea. I put the tip of my sword on the door and concentrated on pushing the power at the door in a small area as I pushed the tip into the door. To my surprise the sword slowly penetrated the surface and rivulets of melted metal ran down the door in front of me.
Soon I felt the sword penetrate through and I started to work the sword around in a circle. First to the right until I reached the bottom of the arc. Then I reversed and moved back to the top and started cutting to the left. I was almost around the other way and I could feel the plug starting to shift.
I was getting really tired now but I could hear the screams of the two jerks in the room on the other side of the door. They seemed to be yelling at someone to come and stop me. I would stop all right. Right after I gave them a taste of what I had just gone through!
"What? I'm busy here!"
"Billie, please stop."
Suddenly I realized that the voice was coming from behind me. I released the energy of the sword and pulled it around my hand and spun around. Facing me were three figures in costumes I didn't recognize. They looked to be semi armored combat suits with full face helmets. They had some kind of stylized 'B' on the forehead and chests.
The suits emphasized the fact that the one closest to me was a man and the two behind him were women. I was really tired now but I would fight them too if they tried anything.
"C'mon Billie. You don't have to do this." The guy in front wasn't being at all threatening and the other two were holding back. I could see other people moving up from the corridor, but they were holding back also.
"Calm down Billie. Nobody here wants anyone to get hurt. Please tell me what happened."
The voice sounded familiar and I wanted to trust him, but I wasn't going to drop my guard just yet.
"Who are you? And why should I stop? Do you know what they did!?"
He moved closer but kept from making any kind of threatening move.
"No Billie. I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"
"Who are you?" I didn't realize it at the time, but just pulling away from what I was doing was starting to allow me to calm down a little.
"Oh. You probably don't recognize me with the mask. It's me, Adam. Remember at lunch yesterday?"
"Adam? What are you doing here, and dressed like that?"
"Chief Delarose called me and the others here in to help with a reported disturbance. I'm a Peacekeeper, remember?"
As he said this he waved back the way he had come. I now recognized one of them as Chief Delarose. A small thread of worry began to worm into my consciousness. Then someone on the other side of the door started to yell.
"What is going on out there? What are you doing? Shoot her and get us out of here!"
"Grrrrrr!!" My rage was back in an instant. I spun and punched the plug in the door.
'KASMASH!' the plug crashed into the room and the two techs I assumed to be Jim and Ted dived behind some consoles and started screaming again.
"BILLIE! DON"T! PLEASE!" Adam was right behind me and when I turned I could see he was ready to fight. The two behind him had moved in to support him and I could see the security people taking up firing stances behind them.
I was so tired. I had used up a lot of my energy in that last punch. I felt tears starting in my eyes an tried to hold them back.
"Tth-they almost KILLED me! They wouldn't stop. Even when I begged them to. They'd m-made a m-mistake and wouldn't shut the program down b-because they didn't want S-security to know what they were doing."
"They were g-going to leave me in there and let t-the machines kill me because if they shut it d-down you would f-find out what they were d-doing. I-I had t-to f-fight my way out!"
While I was telling Adam this, Harris and Willkinson dived past us and into the room. Jim and Ted popped up. Jim heading towards the two security men while Ted made a dash towards the largest panel of controls.
"Hurry up you fools! Stop her before she goes berserk again!"
Harris and Willkinson had their orders and they knew if Jim said much more I would probably go berserk anyway. They did what they had to.
"FREEZE!" Yelled Harris.
"You idiots! She's behind you! Shoot..."
Both the techs were covered in blue sparks, they stiffened and fell flat on their faces.
I heard Harris mutter. "Oohhh, that's GOT to hurt."
I giggled. Then I started to cry.
"C'mon Billie. Let's get out of here." Adam had taken my right arm and Mindbird had my left. They began to lead me away and down the corridor. As we left I could here Delarose talking to someone.
"When is Erickson going to get here? Five minutes? What's the hold up? Oh. Good idea! Tell him to get anyone he needs to help him get it here faster. Say! Thunderfox. Would you be willing to look around here to see if there is anything odd about the setup in here? I'd appreciate it if you could assist Erickson when he gets here. He's bringing a portable computer lab."
His voice faded out and I concentrated on walking. It was about all I could do now. As we passed the wreck of Range Three's door I heard a conversation coming from some of the security people checking it out.
"Hey Brad! What's it like down there?"
"Looks like someone had a war here! What's it like your way?"
"About the same. What were they throwing around in here anyway?"
" Besides the equipment? I don't know but it sure made a mess of things!"
"You can say that again!"
Their voices faded as we moved down the hall.
AFTER THE SHOW: September 8th
Adam and Mindbird led me out of there and back to Medical. Adam went to get a doctor. I was starting to get hold of my emotions again. I was also starting to get worried about what had happened.
I turned to the helmeted girl. "I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
"Oh. I wouldn't get too worked up about it. Parts of campus are always getting blown up!" As she said this she removed her helmet. She had blond hair and beautiful green eyes. Her sense of humor radiated from her face.
"By someone like me?"
"You, or somebody, or something else. A large part of Laird Hall was levelled a few years back by a giant robot that malfunctioned. That's why we have a new annex there."
"Oh. Uh by the way, my name is Billie Wilson, but I'm also called Tennyo."
"I'm Dale Townsend, I'm also called Mindbird."
"You read minds?"
"Does that bother you?"
"Not really. I got kind off used to it. Mr. Tanaka's ability probably saved my life."
"Yes. He can read minds also. When I changed, he was the only one who recognized who I really was. He was able to get me back with my family."
"Uh yeah. I kind of thought that with your ability..."
"That I would know all your secrets?"
"Uh yeah, kind of."
"Listen Billie, you have a very unusual mind that is very hard to pick anything out of. This Mr. Tanaka must be exceptional to get that kind of detail from you. I'd probably have trouble getting all that from a normal mind, much less yours."
She smiled and put a hand on my shoulder.
"So you see. Your secrets are safe from me. I was hoping you could tell me something about this change though. There is a lot of emotional power wrapped up in it. I have to admit to being curious."
"I don't know what I can tell you at this time. Some of it has to stay secret for now."
"I understand Billie. What can you tell me?"
"Well, this change happened very suddenly this summer. I didn't always look like this."
"I can imagine. It's hard to adjust?"
"You could say that. It's more like I don't have much experience and I'm in the process of learning a lot of new things."
"Experience? That's an odd way to put it."
"I can't really go into detail now, sorry."
"Well, it's okay with me if you were a plain Jane before. You more than make up for it now."
"I wasn't exactly a plain Jane."
"Oh really? What exactly were you?"
"I don't know how to say this. It can be kind of embarrassing."
"Maybe I can guess. What cottage are you assigned to?"
She looked at me for a long moment. "Hmmm.. I know a few girls from there. But you don't quite fit the bill for most of them. Not quite the same at all. Though there is Zenith, not the same either, although there are some similarities."
"WAIT! No Way! Wow! It fits you so well. I might never have guessed. Just this summer?"
"What's it like?"
"I really couldn't tell you yet. I'm still learning so much that I haven't had time to think it through. I think I kind of like it. At least a lot of it. But, strange things keep happening. I really need some time to adjust."
"Your secret is safe. I don't think anyone will guess what's going on."
"Thank you. I've kind of wondered."
"Don't mention it. Hold on. Adam is bringing in a doctor and nurse."
Just after she said that, Adam led a Dr. Polland and Nurse Garrett into the room.
"What's going on here. What happened to you?" Dr. Polland said this as he got a look at me.
Adam spoke up. "This is the young lady I told you about. She had a rough time in Range Three."
"Looks like she's been in a war. What happened?"
"We think the Range malfunctioned and Billie here was inside when it happened."
"That's the laser range isn't it. What about the safety interlocks?"
"Apparently not functioning at the time."
"How did she get out?"
"You could say that she got herself out."
"Can you give any more details?"
"You could talk to Chief Delarose. He might have more information."
"Okay. I think I might do that. Now young lady, what is your name?" As he started to question me, the nurse went to a computer station in the room and started to enter information.
"Doctor, she was in earlier getting some preliminary tests done."
"Good! What do we have on her?"
"Not a lot."
"It seems that there were some problems with some of the testing and almost nothing was determined beyond some general information on her background and some basic physical information. They were trying to decide the best way to get more information when she disappeared from the waiting room."
He looked at me.
"Someone came and took me to the area where this happened. I thought he was taking me somewhere for more tests. By the time I figured out that they had the wrong person it was too late and the lasers had started firing at me and they wouldn't stop it and let me out."
"And after that?"
I couldn't say anything. I didn't know what I should say.
"She proceeded to totally wreck Range Three and was trying to get at the guys who started it when we showed up and talked her out of it." Adam apparently had no trouble telling this to the doctor.
"Sounds like you had a rough evening. Would you object if we check those burns?"
I just shook my head and he carefully started to pull the cloth away from the burn on my shoulder. I tensed, afraid of how it would feel. But it didn't hurt.
"I would expect the wound to be far worse, But it is almost nonexistent. There isn't even scabbing or scaring."
He proceeded to check the rest but only the burn on my right calf still hurt and that was apparently healing quickly also. Dr. Polland made certain to time the rate of healing as he watched it.
Adam asked the question before I got up the courage to ask why myself.
"Why are you timing the healing?"
"One, I want to note the rate so we have that in our records. Two, I want some idea of how serious the wounds were in the first place. And the only way I can do that now, short of injuring her myself, and I understand that might not be the healthiest idea, is to extrapolate from the healing rate and the condition of the wounds now."
"Will that help?"
"Any information we can get will help. Standard measurements and testing methods obviously aren't going to work. We are going to have to develop new ones if we are going to get anywhere with this student."
He continued to monitor me until the wounds had faded away.
"Well. I can't find anything else to worry us at this time. Miss Wilson has healed in a spectacular fashion. I wish more of my patients could heal like this. It would make my job much easier."
"Thank you doctor. I'm sure Chief Delarose will want a complete report as soon as possible. I think we better get Miss Wilson back to her cottage now that we know that she isn't in any danger."
"Very well. Miss Wilson, I am releasing you to these two people. We will reschedule further exams when we have decided how we will conduct the testing. Please be more careful in the future. You could have been very seriously wounded."
"Yes sir." I was way too tired to bother arguing with him.
Adam had been talking to the Chief on and off with a portable communicator. He had me describe what happened to me in my own words and relayed them. Now he got some orders and shut down the communicator.
"Chief says to take her home for now. If he has any more questions he will arrange to talk to you personally. By the way, they've got the fires under control now."
"Come along, well get you there safely."
They escorted me all the way back and saw me to the door where Mrs. Horton, who seemed to know them, took over and escorted me to my room.
I stumbled to my bed. Jade stirred for a moment, looked at me with uncomprehending eyes, touched some clothes, and went back to sleep. Jinn rose up and filled the clothes. Apparently, a speaker disk was with them as Jinn started to question me. I filled her in briefly and then collapsed on my bed.
THE BEAT GOES ON: September 8th Friday
I woke up to my alarm and dragged myself to the showers to clean up. I still wasn't very conscious as I headed back. Everyone seemed to be staring at me, but I was too tired to care.
I made it to all my classes but I didn't remember much of what went on other than each of my teachers pretty much left me alone. I also remember being very hungry at meal times and I'm not certain how much I ate but people seemed to draw back out of my way when I was eating.
After supper I finally started to take more notice of what was going on. Nothing was going to interfere with my dance class. It was going to be held in the new annex of Laird Hall. I'd remembered that Mr. Lodgeman wanted me to wear my gown so I came in that.
I was nervous and it didn't help at all that I became the center of attention as soon as I entered the room where we would be dancing.
"We aren't going to have to dress like that are we?" One of the girls who had arrived before I did managed to communicate an incredible amount horror at that concept.
That was it! No one was going to make fun of this like that. This was serious fun and deserved respect!
"Don't worry yourselves. You only wear something like this if you can!" I did a nice glide and twirl out to the center of the room. "Of course, you have to know how to first!" I smiled at her and curtsied.
"Now Tennyo. I'm sure there was a time not far in the past when you wouldn't have been able to pull that off. Give them a chance to learn and see just how much fun it can be."
Mr. Lodgeman and Miss Rogers were watching from the back of the room. Harry was with them and looking very uncomfortable in a great tuxedo looking suit.
"Harry! You made it! Boy, am I glad to see you!" I skipped over and gave him a hug.
He seemed to be speechless. It must have been the suit. He had probably never been so well dressed in his life. It was enough to make anyone nervous. Even me.
"I hope I can do this gown the honor it deserves." I smiled at Miss Rogers.
In a more serious tone, Mr. Lodgeman began to question me.
"Billie. Are you okay?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, the reports I have received indicate that you were involved in a struggle last night that left you with some serious injuries."
"I'm better now. A little tired but I'll be fine."
"I heal very quickly. Everyone says so."
"Billie!" He was getting a little exasperated. I could tell.
"Really! I'm fine! Look, you have a class to teach. This isn't the best time, okay?"
He looked me in the eye for a moment, then sighed. "Okay, for now. But, I want a full report after this class."
I didn't have any choice but to agree. I wasn't looking forward to having to explain myself. But, after all, it really wasn't my fault.
Except for the nervousness I felt about what I was going to tell him later, the class was all I could have hoped for. We didn't do much at this time as most of the class was introductions and assigning of homework. I did get to show off a bit with Mr. Lodgeman. He could make a paraplegic look good. And when he and Miss Rogers danced everyone went silent. Their skill really showed, even for those people without any background.
After the class, I had to explain everything that had happened. At least what I knew about it.
"Billie. What am I going to do with you?"
"What? I didn't do anything! Well... I mean I didn't do anything wrong. I was just protecting myself...mostly."
"You're a trouble magnet. Did you know that?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"It means that things keep happening around you and if you don't learn how to take control of them, they are going to take control of you."
"What does that mean? How could I take control of these happenings?"
"Billie. You are going to have to learn what you want to accomplish. And when you know and understand that, then you will be ready to take control of your life and make of it what you will."
"I don't understand."
"Sigh...No, I don't expect you do. It's a little early for that. Now listen to me, this is very important. I am going out west to talk to the others. There is too much I don't know about this situation yet."
"What I want you to do while I am gone is try to stay out of trouble. But, if you can't I want you to think very carefully about what you want. The actions that you will take from that point on will be very important and you will only be able to achieve your true goals if you know what they are."
"You make it sound easy."
"Billie, It's never easy. But it's impossible if you don't have a good idea where you want to go and where you are headed."
"So... You want me to decide what I'm going to do with my life?"
"It's a little too early to decide what you are going to do with your whole life. What I do want you to do is decide now how you are going to live your life to the point where you can make those decisions."
"I-I'm not sure what you mean, but I will try to stay out of trouble from now on."
"Don't make promises you won't be able to keep. Trouble is going to find you no matter what. It's how you are going to handle it that will make the difference. Remember, your not all alone in this. I will leave Miss Rogers the means to contact me in case of an emergency. Don't hesitate to get help."
"I won't, I promise!"
"Good, that's the spirit. Now I have to get going. I'll probably see you sometime mid week. Good luck! You're probably going to need it. Oh. What did you do with the uniform you were wearing when you had that little altercation with Range Three?"
"I still have it. I was hoping Miss Rogers might be able to fix it."
He looked at Miss Rogers and she just shook her head.
"Well don't lose it. You may need it later."
"Why? If it's ruined, what use could I have for it?"
"Yes. With your healing abilities, it might be hard to convince people just how much danger you were in without that suit. Don't lose it."
"Okay. If you say so."
"I do say so. Now, go out and try to stay out of trouble for a while."
"Thank you...I think."
"Don't mention it." He waved as he left the room.
"I-I'll walk you back if you don't mind?" Asked Harry.
"Thank you, but I don't need an escort if you don't want to."
"It would be an honor if you would please let me."
"Way to go Harry! Keep up the good work like that and you will go far. Billie?" Miss Rogers was looking at me.
"It would be impolite to refuse the escort now."
"Yes ma'am. Harry?"
"I would be honored by your company."
He smiled and offered me his arm.
As we left Miss Rogers called to us.
"Be ready for Monday. We'll really get going then."
The walk back was very interesting. I should be concentrating on what I was going to do for the next few days. I would have a whole weekend to catch up on things. But, all I was thinking about was that it felt really nice to be walking arm in arm with Harry. There was a huge difference in our sizes, but somehow we managed to coordinate our walk and not trip over each other.
Nothing happened to interrupt the walk and soon we were in front of Poe. I suddenly found myself in a real conundrum. What was I supposed to do now? For a moment I just stood holding his arm as the panic started to build.
"YES?!" I jumped when he spoke to me and answered a little louder than I should have.
"Do you have to hold on so tight?"
"Your really strong and your grip is really kind of tight?"
I realized that I had a stranglehold on his arm and that he might be getting a little uncomfortable. I let go and stepped back and stepped on my gown and started to fall over. He caught me before I even started to try levitating.
"You okay Billie?"
"Yeah. I'm okay." My voice had gone very high all of a sudden. "Uh, Harry?"
"What do I do now?" I couldn't think of anything else to do.
"Well, I've never been in this position before. But according to my sisters..."
"Hey! You have sisters, don't you!" I saw a ray of hope, Maybe they had passed on some wisdom to him.
"...We should elope, and get married, and move to Canada." He even said this with a straight face. All I could do stare at him as he stood calmly watching me.
"You...You..." He stood there with his chin in his hand, concentrating hard. Then looked up into the sky.
"Of course, we would have to go south first to get married and they might not allow us to if we're this young unless you were pregnant or something like that...."
"And if we did that, it would probably be easier to go to Mexico, but the standard of living is so low there that it would probably be worth the risk to try to make it to Canada anyway."
About this time I had gotten over my surprise enough to realize that while he was saying this in a perfectly calm voice, he was trembling with some kind of suppressed emotion. And I began to realize what that emotion was.
"Why you little..." SLAP!! I open handed him on his arm.
"OW!" He staggered back and started to laugh.
"I ought to blast you into the next state! What's so funny!"
"You-you sh-should have seen your face!"
"You'll be lucky to ever see this face again you, you..."
He sobered very quickly. "I'm sorry Billie, I just couldn't help myself. I didn't mean anything by it. I just can't help myself sometimes."
I stood there huffing for a while and allowing him to apologize several times before I felt like talking to him again. While he was doing this he also explained that his sisters hadn't been very forthcoming with information on boy-girl activities and he really didn't have a clue as to what to do next.
Great. He not only didn't have any information for me , but I had also managed to make a fool of myself at the same time. I could just cry. To my surprise I could fell tears rising in my eyes. What was happening to me?
Harry put his arms around me as I stood there sniffling. "I'm really sorry Billie. I didn't mean to make you cry."
I just leaned into him until I had control of myself again.
"I'm sorry Harry. I shouldn't have gone off like that. It's just..."
"I know. It's really hard for you. I can't imagine what it is like for you. I'm really sorry."
"Don't. Stop saying your sorry. Your right, it was pretty funny. I'm just all emotional all of a sudden. I'm sure we'll laugh at this some day. It's just so strange now."
"Do you have to keep holding me?"
He sprang back. "S-sorry!"
I popped up to his head height, grabbed his head with both hands, and planted a quick smootch on his nose.
"There! Do you think that will do?"
"I take that as a yes."
He just nodded.
"Okay, I'll see you later then?"
He nodded again.
"Thank you, and you can call me Tennyo."
"Sure B..Uh Tennyo. Anytime."
"I'll see you later then?"
I skipped up to the door and turned to look back. He was still standing there, so I waved. He waved back and headed towards Twain. The trip upstairs was uneventful until I ran into Toni yelling something about a naming party with pizza. She was taking orders.
PIZZA: September 8th
"I'll have Hawiian, you know, the type with ham and pineapple."
"Okay. How many slices?"
"Forget the slices. Order me two larges."
"Two whole pizzas?"
"Yeah, unless you feel like defending your own and everyone else's. I'm feeling kind of hungry all of a sudden."
"Yep, bring it on!"
"Okay. I'll let you know when and how much after I check with everyone else."
"Fine. I'll meet you in Kimba's Corner."
"See you there."
I hurried to our room and quickly changed to a more comfortable set of sweats. I didn't want to risk any of my new clothing on this adventure.
I arrived not too long after Toni and paid her what the pizzas would cost as well as some for a tip. Then I settled into an upper corner, read some of my homework, and waited for the pizza to arrive.
Two guys started to make out right beneath me and I was starting to wonder how I could get them to go somewhere else while I studied when Ayla walked right through the wall next to them.
I had one of the hardest times of my life not laughing out loud as the two lovebirds fell over each other in surprise.
"Hey bitch! Your not supposed to be using your powers like that! Someone could see you!"
She gave them one of the best cold stares I have ever seen. Suddenly she clapped her hands to her face, put a look of horror on her face and exclaimed. "Oh no! I forgot!" and ducked back through the wall. The two of them just stood there with their mouths open as I nearly strangled trying not to totally lose it.
They had started to glare at me when she leaned back through the wall.
"There, is that better boys?"
"That's not funny bitch!" Their surprise and anger had gotten the better of them and they started to get belligerent. Big mistake. Ayla was right in front of them in a moment and the floor started to creak.
"You got something to say to me boy?"
"We're not afraid of you! Don't try anything with us. Right Jeff?"
"Uh, yeah! Not afraid. Not afraid at all, Kenny."
I thought this was going too far and decided to take a hand in it myself. I stood up on the ceiling so my head was level with theirs and right behind them.
"But you should be. You should be very afraid."
At that point I think they realized that they no longer out numbered their opponents and that we had them surrounded.
"But she shouldn't be doing that. She'll get us all into trouble."
"Don't worry about it guys. It's just one of the phases she's going through. Back up and get out of here. I'll take care of things from here. Move! Now!"
They moved off, looking back several times.
I turned to her and looked her in the eyes. Her feet on the floor and mine on the ceiling.
"You okay Ayla?"
She glared back at me. "Phases?"
"Hey. I had to use something they could understand without too much effort. You know how it is trying to communicate with guys." I had to grin. "Dense, you know."
"Yeah. Real dense." She grinned back.
Looking a little troubled, she asked me a question I didn't expect. "Did you think I needed help there?"
"Uh, no. I just thought it would be the best way to make sure that my pizza wouldn't be delayed. Really!"
"Right! Well, thank you anyway."
"Don't mention it!"
"Okay. I won't. Do you think the pizza will be here soon?"
"I hope so! I'm getting hungry!"
"We wouldn't want that to happen!"
"What does that mean?"
"We saw what you did at dinner."
"Let's just say that we don't want to get between you and your food."
"Hey! I'm not that bad."
"Well, we'll see."
"Humph!" I went back to my studies and waiting for the pizza. I didn't think much of it at the time but I saw the two guys talking to Mrs. Horton a little later.
The pizza finally arrived and it seemed to take forever to get it sorted out. I finally had my two boxes and ascended into the corner again. It would have been nice to have a drink, but it would have been almost impossible to handle under these circumstances.
I finished the first pizza in a matter of minutes and was well on the way to finishing my second. I began to wonder if everyone else was going to finish theirs. It would be a pity to waste any of this pizza and it wasn't like we had a lot of extra refrigerated space. I would have to see if anyone wasn't going to finish theirs or maybe not pay too much attention to what they had.
Eventually we got around to why we were here. Apparently, we were expected to have code names and those would be used in any articles the newsletter would print on us. Fey and I already had our names but Ayla, Toni, Hank, and Jade didn't.
I suggested a few names. For Ayla, I suggested Phases, it seemed appropriate after what had happened earlier.
For Toni I suggested Chi Master, which everyone thought was to pretentious, and Chi Dragon. Of course, I suggested that if we used that one we were going to have to teach her how to cook.
I thought of Thundercloud and Powerlift for Hank
The only name I could think of for Jade was Dual.
By this time, we were approaching lights out and we called the meeting to give everyone a chance to think over the names and possibly think of some new ones. We decided to head for bed and get ready for the weekend.
A LONG SATURDAY: September 9th Saturday
One of the nice things about the weekend is the fact that I didn't have to be anywhere until breakfast. And anyone who feels breakfast isn't important hasn't had to deal with me after I miss it. What was even nicer about this Saturday was the fact that I didn't have to be anywhere except for the meals.
So, of course, the first thing it does after I get up is rain and thunderstorm. In the halls. I'm busy dodging small lightning bolts and mean thunderpuffs,(smaller than thunderclouds but still kind of hairy), when Toni pops out of Ayla's room and lets me know that it's probably Nikki on the rag.
Well, I guess I'm the one with the most experience in these matters. I ducked,(there is some kind of symmetry to that as I dripped into my room), into our room and grabbed my emergency kit. I was determined to never get caught without the basics ever again and I always carried it with me when I was out. I had some Pampronol in it even though I haven't found anything that works with my physiology.
Buy the time I got to the bathrooms the weather in the halls had settled into a drizzle. Nikki had suddenly realized what having PMS meant.
There is no good way to explain the feeling you get when you suddenly realize that you are female, with all that implies. To top it all off, this would occur when you are in no shape to decide what color of shoe you want to wear, much less deal with the life changes you are going through.
I had to let her know in no uncertain terms that she wasn't alone and that this too would pass. At least until next month. I let her know that I could help her with this. It means the world when you realize that someone else can help you.
She was upset about several things, which wasn't unusual considering her current condition. She had obviously not been getting good sleep either. This was having a detrimental effect on her appearance and she was very aware of that. I couldn't help pointing out that this was a sure sign that she was finishing her transition to female.
Ayla assured her that we would all help her with the problems that she would be facing. I suggested that for the first part of that we should finish getting cleaned up and then I would help her in her room. I headed for a quick shower and then back to my room to get the things I would need. Fortunately, I'm something of a packrat and I had plenty of the necessary things. After this I was going to have to stock up some more though.
When I got to Nikki's room I told the others to leave us alone for a while. Now was the time to go into the details that make living with the monthly visitor possible. It's a clever opponent and persistent, but if you are prepared you can handle it. I just wished drugs worked as well for me as they did for others. I wish someone had been able to tell me these things before it had snuck up on me.
Nikki was waiting for me. I could tell that she wasn't any too happy about this and I couldn't say as I blamed her.
"We need to talk, hon."
"Yeah, I know." She was managing to look even more beautiful every day. I was exotic, but she was hot. If I didn't have some idea what it was costing her I would have to be jealous. She gave me a look that let me know that she must feel a lot like I did about some of this.
We had a long, interesting conversation, with her turning several interesting shades of green at times, especially when we got to the tampon demonstrations.
Then somehow, a pillow fight started, which was probably a good thing, because Nikki had been clouding up again and I was fearing an imminent thunderstorm in the room before things lightened up.
After that, I asked her for some help on a subject that really had me embarrassed. My own lack of knowledge regarding female fashion and how to go about getting clothes that would look both good and appropriate for me, not to mention how to wear them so they looked good. Let me just say that she jumped at the chance to help and leave it at that for the moment.
I excused myself after that happy thought and made my goodbyes and headed out to try my luck at finding some of the things I would need for school and enjoyment later.
After leaving the room I waved at Toni to let her know that it was ok. I then headed out to see about a few of the things I wanted to follow up on.
I spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon finding out that I would need a permit to fish and that I would have to get that in town. It was very frustrating because I still couldn't get a pass for the shuttle into town and I didn't feel that it was important enough to bother Miss Rogers with. At least not yet.
At about four o'clock, I got a notice to report to Admin. I figured it would be about my pass to use the shuttle. Instead it was Ms. Hartford, with a nasty smile on her face and a notice for me in her hands.
"Miss Wilson, I'm glad we could meet again. I'm terribly sorry, but I must deliver this to you. I wanted to make certain that you got it and I want you to sign this receipt for it."
Or past meetings and her current attitude did not inspire any confidence in me. I decided to remain cautious.
"What is it?"
"This is just a receipt showing that you received this notice. The notice has to do with some of the unfortunate occurrences over the past few days. I suggest you read it carefully. If you chose to, you can read it here, if not, and you have questions, I will be here till 6:30 PM."
Her attitude made me think that she would enjoy seeing me read it and I had no intention of giving her satisfaction in that regard. This was starting to make me nervous and I wanted to get out of there quickly. The receipt was just that and I signed it and headed back to Poe. I didn't like the way she had smiled at me and I didn't wait to get to our room to open the notice.
It was on Whateley stationary and was short and to the point.
Dear Miss Wilson,
Many students who come to Whateley have come here to find methods of controlling their powers and talents so as to not be a menace to those around them. We at Whateley pride ourselves on our ability to find the best methods of doing so.
There are some situations that arise occasionally that require us to take steps to protect the students, faculty, staff, and or grounds. These situations sometimes require us to make special arrangements to meet the needs and safety of all the concerned parties.
Miss Wilson, it has come to our attention in the last few days that your abilities and possible lack of control of them, may pose a considerable risk to yourself, others around you, and the grounds themselves. It is our opinion that moving you to facilities that would better fit your situation may be in the best interests of all concerned.
To this end, arrangements are currently being made to move your residence to Hawthorne Cottage which is equipped to handle such situations with less risk to all concerned parties. Please notify Administration as soon as possible of your current status and ability to transfer to Hawthorne.
We apologize for any inconvenience,
– Whateley Administration and Operations –
Signed: Ms. Amanda Hartford, Assistant to the Administrator.
Apologize for any inconvenience my ass! All I wanted to do for a moment was go back and give Ms. Hartman a piece of the situation all her own. Then, as I realized that many people in my immediate vicinity were leaving quickly for other vicinities, I also realized that it wouldn't help at all and that Ms. Hartford was probably prepared for that as well.
What could I do? I fell into a stupor of thought and slowly made my way back to my room. At least it was for the moment.
When I got back, Jade was there. I must have spooked her a bit, because for a moment I thought she was ready to attack me. Maybe somebody had told her I was dangerous and she was afraid of me too. That thought hurt and sent a bit of panic up my spine.
I couldn't keep the shakiness out of my voice.
"They're going... to transfer me into Hawthorne."
She did one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me. She jumped over to me and hugged me, hard. I needed that very badly at that time. I was also a little embarrassed because I had thought that she might be afraid of me.
"What are we going to do?"
"What do you want to do, Billie?"
"You mean besides kill Ms. Hartford?"
"Yeah. Something a little more constructive than that. Billie?"
"Uh, maybe it would be a good idea not to talk about killing people. At least for a while."
"Do you think I could get away with dismembering them? Just a little?"
"Well, maybe. As long as you keep it to just a little."
We were both silent for a moment. Then we started to giggle. That went on for almost a minute. In that time I had a chance to think about what Jade had just told me and remember that Mr. Lodgeman had said the same thing.
"Okay Billie. What do you want?"
"I want..." I thought of Jade and what a good roommate she was. I thought of Nikki, Ayla, Hank, and all we had been through in such a short time. I thought of all that we would be doing in the future. "I want.. TO STAY RIGHT HERE!"
"You sure about that?" How someone so young looking could keep such a deadpan face in such a moment was beyond me. All I could do for a moment was glare.
"Yeah. I'm sure. Now what can we do about it?"
"Maybe we should talk to Zenith?"
"Zenith. She is one of the upperclassmen here in Poe. I've been told that she is the one to go to in situations like this."
"Well let's go girl! Times a wastin!" I had a goal now and I wanted to get back to Ms. Hartford before she left her office.
I went zooming up to the third floor and asked one of the girls there if she new where Zenith roomed. She pointed up the stairs and I hurried up another flight. When I got there there was only a boy walking towards the bathrooms.
"Hey! Hold on a moment!"
He turned to look at me and for a moment I thought he was going to run for it.
"Which room does Zenith stay in?"
He just looked at me in indecision for a few moments and the door of 208 opened and a really good looking blonde in a sweat suit stepped out.
"Who wants to know?"
"I'm Billie Wilson, and they are trying to railroad me to Hawthorne. I'm told that Zenith is the person to see in these situations and I'm trying to find her. Can you help me?"
"Who's trying to railroad you and why?"
"I'm pretty sure that Ms. Hartford is trying to railroad me and I think they are using the excuse that I'm uncontrollably dangerous."
Every time this came up I got a flash of the scene from Aladin were the guards pull back from Abu when he grabs a sword. Then the leader reminds them that they all have swords.
"I may be dangerous, but I'm NOT uncontrolled."
She smiled then.
"We can probably work this out then."
"Oh, let me introduce myself. I'm Zenith." She stepped forward and held out her hand. "It's okay Brad. I can handle it from here."
The boy I had been asking shrugged. "Ok, if you say so." He headed towards the bathrooms, keeping an eye on us over his shoulder.
I took her hand which had an unusually strong grip. "I'm Billie Wilson. I'm also called Tennyo."
"And who is this?" She was looking over my shoulder.
I turned and saw Jade coming up behind us.
"This is Jade, my roommate. Jade, meet Zenith. She thinks she might be able to help us."
"Whoa, hold on a moment. I don't know that I can help you yet. Let's step into my room and get the details."
She lead us into her room and had us take the two chairs while she sat on her bed.
"Say, aren't you two with the ones who had the run in with the Ninjas? Kimba's Commandos or something?"
"Uh, that would be Team Kimba."
"That's okay. They've been calling us worse."
"I know, I've heard some of them. Anyway, good job on protecting Poe. You could say we owe you some."
"We would have done it anyway. You don't owe us."
"First lesson of survival. You don't have to push it or collect on them, but never give up a favor if you don't have to. You never know when you will need it. That said, let's get down to business."
We showed her our notices and explained some of what had been happening the last few days. I was amazed how she was able to get a lot of information in a short period of time. Something in the way she questioned us just seemed to bring the details out.
She did seem a little hesitant about our gender changes though. Maybe they made her uncomfortable.
"They haven't had a hearing on this yet?"
"Yes. In all situations like this they are supposed to have a hearing to determine all the facts and determine the best way of handling it. Sounds like they are trying to railroad you after all."
"Is there anything we can do?"
"Yes! We need to hurry and catch Ms. Hartass.. I mean Hartford, before she leaves her office tonight. Let's go!"
She could move fast. We were barely able to keep up with her on the way downstairs and I had to grab Jade and fly to keep up with her on the way to Admin.
We got there as Ms. Hartford was leaving. She wasn't happy to see Zenith. There wasn't any love lost between them.
"Ms. Hartford! Can you please explain why you are doing this without having had a hearing first?"
"Well, if you must know. We felt that it was in the best interests of the school to do the safe thing and then worry about the hearing. We could always make other arrangements if the hearing indicates it."
"I'm afraid that I must insist that the proper procedures be followed here. We all know that it would be far more difficult to set things right after the moves."
"What about the safety of the school and students?"
"I see no reason to take such drastic measures at this time. A hearing would allow us to determine exactly the best course of action. I'm afraid that I must insist on this."
She glared at us for a moment. Then she sniffed with disdain.
"Very well. You can have your hearing. Tomorrow, at 4:00 PM. But be aware, you are responsible for anything that happens because you wouldn't follow the safest course."
"Save it for the hearing. We'll see you there."
"See that you do."
Ms. Hartford stalked off while we stood there watching her out of sight and thinking about what she had said.
"Okay, you two. I want you to go back to Poe and stay out of trouble. What she said about getting into trouble now wasn't all bull. It could cause us trouble later."
"What's the hearing going to be like?"
"Read up on it in your introductory packet. It will be in the Disciplinary Section. I'll need to talk to Chief Delarose and Adam and get more details. You two better get going. Supper will be soon. Be careful! I don't trust old Hardcase for a moment. She's got something up her sleeve."
"You think she planned this?"
"Hard to say. She might just be taking advantage of the situation. She usually won't take chances if she doesn't have to. This is probably just an easy way for her to get at you without much risk to herself."
"Can't anyone do anything about her?"
"Not as long as she stays in the rules. We have to get going. Remember, be careful and don't get into any trouble. Bye now. I'll see you about 3:00 o'clock and take you to where the hearings are held."
"C'mon Billie. Let's go."
"Wait. I better make a phone call first."
"Who do you want to call?"
"Miss Rogers, she can get hold of Mr. Lodgeman and let him know what is going on."
"Isn't he out west somewhere?"
"Yeah. But he still might be able to do something or let us know if there is something we can do."
I used the public phone near the Store. I got an answering machine and left a message with what few details I had. I hoped she would get it in time.
After that we went to Supper. Oddly enough, just after we arrived, Mindbird showed up and ate with us. Thunderfox bumped into us on the way back and asked me a few questions about what happened on Thursday night. She left after we reached Poe.
Mrs. Horton met us at the door and asked to do a quick inspection of our room. After that it was like several people were just dropping by to see how we were doing. There wasn't any chance for us to get into any trouble. We were too busy socializing with a lot of the residents who dropped in to say hello.
We finally got to sleep. I almost expected people to look in occasionally to make sure we were okay.
THE HEARING: September 10th Sunday
Sunday morning was a blur. I was getting anxious and my stomach was twisting and I could only eat one full platter at both breakfast and lunch. I was definitely off my feed and very nervous.
I read what the Packet had to say about these hearings. About all I could remember was that there had to be at least three Supervisors, one of which had to be with administration. There were a lot of other bylaws, etc., but I just couldn't get into them.
Finally, three o'clock rolled around and Zenith came to take us to where the hearing was going to be held. It was in the Admin building and downstairs. The room was probably used as a classroom at other times. The podium had been converted into a long table facing the audience. Some of the forward seats were for the concerned parties. The rest was for any audience.
I found out later that the reason that there was not many people there was because it had been declared a closed meeting, and only people directly involved were allowed in. When we got there, Ms. Hartford was setting up on the right side as we faced the table for the Supervisors. She had a small table in front of her. She gave me a smile that made me almost go for her when Zenith stopped me.
"Don't let her get to you like that! It's what she wants. Don't give her the satisfaction!" Zenith had grabbed my arm before I could do anything. She guided me to a small table set up to the left, had me sit and started to bring papers out of her briefcase and arranged them on the table.
"I hadn't had a chance to tell you yet, but I think we have a good chance here. Just sit tight and let me do my work. Behave yourself and act assured. That will be your best defense.
We waited there without talking for what seemed forever, but was really 20 minutes by the clock. It must have been broken because I was sure I aged noticeably during that time.
Then Mrs. Shugendo came in and took the center chair of the table facing us.
Zenith perked up. "That's good news for us. Mrs. Shugendo will be completely fair about this."
My heart rate soared as the implications of what she just said sank in.
"You mean that there might be some who won't be?"
She looked a little uncomfortable for a moment. "Some of the supervisors are...Umm... Prejudiced, towards some of the students. And there are some who can be swayed by outside factors."
"You mean some won't like what I...am? Or can be bribed?"
"Well, yes, sort of. But don't worry! They still have to answer to the other Supervisors and their decisions can be over ruled if their decisions aren't supportable."
"How many will be here?"
"At least three, one of which will be Mrs. Shugendo. There may be more than that if they can get here. I sent messages to any that I thought would listen to our side."
"Do you think they will get here?"
"Hard to say. It was short notice and I couldn't be sure that they would all get their messages on time."
Just then, a middle aged man in a pinstripe business suit came in and sat down to the left of Mrs. Shugendo.
"What about him?"
"That's Mr. Merrow, he is a lawyer who represents some of our more...colorful alumni and sponsors."
"Let's just say that they have a need for a good lawyer on occasion and leave it at that, shall we?"
"Will he hinder or help?"
"Depends on what his agenda is."
"He probably won't do anything that would embarrass his clients. But if he is being paid off in some way he might be trouble."
"That makes me feel sooo much better."
"Don't worry, It's not likely that you have drawn that kind of attention yet."
"I have faith in you. I'm sure you'll find more trouble to get into soon enough."
"Thanks, I think."
A tall thin man in a dark ministers suit had come in and sat down on Mrs. Shugendo's right side.
"That's the Most Righteous Reverend Darren Englund. A real pain in the butt bigot. He represents some of the ultra conservative types who feel that our powers are either gifts from Heaven or Hell. He is the type who feels that if you don't agree with him on everything then your powers are from Hell and you should be reeducated or locked up."
"I take it he won't be friendly?"
"He does have certain prejudices about the nature of men and women." Zenith seemed to get a little uncomfortable with the subject. I figured they had not gotten on well in the past.
Ms. Hartford stood up.
"I believe that we can get started now."
I looked at Zenith and raised an eyebrow in question. She stood up herself.
"Shouldn't we wait to see if anyone else will show up?"
Ms. Hartford turned and spoke with a perfectly civil sneer.
"I have it on good authority that none of the other supervisors are able to make it to this meeting today."
"Your sure of this?"
"I made a point of tracing everyone. No one else is even close to the campus."
"Well, if you're sure. Then we should get started." Zenith wasn't too happy about this, but there wasn't much that we could do about it.
Ms. Hartford signaled to a man standing in the back and the lights behind us dimmed and the lights over the front brightened.
"Now we can..."
There was a commotion in the back that interrupted Ms. Hartford's spiel. Several people were coming in at the back of the room.
"This is a closed meeting! What is the meaning of this interruption?" Ms. Hartford was definitely displeased.
One of the figures moved forward out of the shadows. It was Mr. Lodgeman.
"Sorry to break in like this. I had to pick up a few people on the way back. I thought we would have a little more time." He was smiling as he moved forward towards the table in front.
"What is the idea, coming in like this?"
"I am one of the Supervisors, and I did receive a message to attend this meeting if I could."
"You were in California. How did you get here?"
"A friend gave me a lift. I'd have changed to something a little more appropriate, but I didn't have much time. The message had been a little delayed before it got to me." As he explained this he moved to the front and sat to the left of Mr. Merrow.
Ms. Hartford seemed a little shaken, but determined to move on.
"Very well, then we should get started, before we are interrupted again." She was looking daggers at Mr. Lodgeman who was blithely ignoring the attempted psychic murder.
"By all means. Let's get started." He smiled at her chagrin.
"Well then, we are here today to determine the best method to assure the safety of our students and properties. More specifically, what the best means of containing the dangerous tendencies of one Billie Wilson, sometimes known as Tennyo, will be."
I didn't like the sound of that at all. It sounded like they were going to shut me away somewhere and throw away the key. I would have jumped up right then, but Zenith grabbed my arm and held me down.
Then she stood up.
"I was unaware that the need to do this had already been determined. What has been done by Miss Wilson that would require such extreme measures?"
"I think everyone here is familiar with the recent activities of this person."
Mr. Lodgeman spoke up. "Ahem! I would like to be informed of what has happened if you don't mind. I have been absent for a few days now."
"You were here when these occurrences happened. I don't see a need to waste our time here."
"Please humor an old man and his notoriously bad memory."
She glared at him for a moment.
"Very well. Do you want it in chronological order?"
"If you would be so kind."
"This young...lady, is very dangerous and a risk to all around her. Do you really have to waste our time like this?"
"We are responsible for the well being of all our students and it would be a great injustice if we don't do our best to see to it that they have freedom from unnecessary harassment and meddling by us in misguided attempts to protect them."
"You would risk the well being of other students, just to protect this one?"
"You have yet to show that this student is an unreasonable threat to the others. Just calling her dangerous is not a good enough reason. We are all dangerous in our own ways. In what way is this student so much more dangerous?"
"She is an uncontrolled troublemaker. It is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or killed by her."
"You have no proof of this. What makes her so different from the others?"
"The many violent encounters she has already participated in make it clear that she is unruly and a risk to other students."
"Can you please elaborate for us. I am unaware of any such encounters that would make this obvious. The encounters I am aware of have all involved a need for self defense. We do try to teach that to our students."
"This student practices a lot of self defense. She is well ahead of the average student for such encounters."
"Yes. She injured a fellow student seriously enough for him to require medical attention, less than twenty four hours after her arrival here."
"Do you mean Hamper? I believe that Billie was acting in the defense of herself and one of the other students."
"There is no evidence for that story."
"Ahem!" Zenith interrupted the argument. When she got their attention she proceeded.
"Can we please have a quick accounting of the events leading to this hearing and argue the merits of them afterwards?"
Ms. Hartford was not happy at being interrupted, but she then listed several occurrences that had been reported to her.
"We have the report of the attack on the student at the station in town. There is a report of an attack on another student the next day in Twain Cottage. A student reported a near assault at lunch on Thursday and two students reported a threatening encounter with both Miss Wilson and a student called Ayla on Friday evening in Poe Cottage."
"These are in addition to the assault on the Ninjas Wednesday night and her assault on two technicians Thursday night. I should point out that the property damage from that assault was very extensive. Far beyond what one might expect from such a young lady who was only defending herself."
She proceeded to give some details for each of these. I didn't like the way she was describing the incidents and she certainly had a way of slanting the facts so that it sounded as if I had caused the confrontations. Only Zenith's constant efforts to keep me seated kept me from speaking out.
I hadn't realized that someone was keeping such a close watch on me and what was happening around me. I started to feel a little paranoid. If I hadn't been so angry about what had already been going down I might have had something to say about that.
"I believe that this is more than enough reason to take a cautious approach with a student who is obviously is both dangerous and not in complete control." Ms. Hartford summed up her small speech with another cheap shot. "I think that we should stop wasting your time and continue with the outlined plan to handle this situation. We have carefully considered our options and this will be the best way to handle all the possibilities."
I was wondering if the outcome had already been decided and that this was just a show to add credibility to their actions. I was going to stand up and get a last word in when Zenith pushed me down hard and stood up instead.
"I think it would be wise to look into these accusations more closely first."
Ms Hartford sneered. "What more could be added? The facts speak for themselves."
"I'm afraid that you apparently don't have all the facts yet, Ma'am. I think that when the rest of the facts are known, you will find that the outlined plan currently being implemented will not be for the best for the students or the school."
How she could be so polite and calm like this I just didn't understand. But it seemed to have the right effect on everyone. At least they seemed to be willing to listen.
"What other facts could possibly affect the outcome here?" I wanted to know that myself. I let Ms. Hartford do the asking though.
" I'm glad you asked. First, the incident at the station. The only witnesses of this are the people involved and I don't think any of us want to play finger pointing games. The only sure thing in that case is that the student involved, while suffering some discomfort, will be just fine and maybe better off in the future if he learns from this opportunity."
"Don't get me wrong here. I'm not advocating this, I just feel that there is no way to know for sure, and until otherwise, it will be a waste of our time to pursue this."
Before Ms. Hartford could put in a word, Zenith moved right along. She would make an excellent lawyer one day. But I didn't want to insult her by saying so.
"The second incident you mentioned should be looked into a little more closely. It seems that Miss Wilson encountered one of our students who is known for his, how shall we say this, excessive zeal in protecting his friends from females in general, and good looking ones in particular."
"Now, now, Ms. Hartford. You had your chance, now it is time to fill in any blanks that were left."
"As I was saying. We have the signed statements of most if not all of the students present and they all agree that the gentleman in question made the first move and that Miss Wilson was restrained in her handling of that situation. Going so far as to smooth over a possible assault charge that might have been leveled at the young man if Miss Wilson hadn't been so understanding of the particular history of the young man in question."
"I also have signed statements to the fact that the incident in the cafeteria was not so serious as it may seem at first. It was a simple disagreement over seating and a misunderstanding that was handled quickly and without any violence at all. It shouldn't have any influence on what we are considering now."
Ms. Hartford was steaming, but she knew better than to try to interrupt again.
"The incident in the sun room of Poe was just a turf war that goes on all the time in these cottages and I have Mrs. Horton's signed statement to that and her belief that no violence was likely there and that Miss Wilson only acted to AVOID any trouble with the students involved in the incident."
"What about the two major incidents then?" Ms. Hartford finally got a word in, but I think it was because Zenith let her.
"You can't tell us you believe that this Tennyo didn't use deadly force with possible risk of serious or fatal results in those situations?"
"Well, in the first incident with the Ninjas, we have verifiable reports from trained security personnel that Miss Wilson only got involved after there was a definite risk to her friend, but that after she disarmed her opponent, someone we have good reason to believe would not have been as chivalrous in reversed circumstances, she refrained from using that same deadly force to hurt her opponent and merely held him until security could take over."
"And the explosion afterwards?"
"That was a manifestation of why she is here. Her inexperience with her powers led to the unfortunate end to the evenings adventures. And even then, she did so in a way so as to reduce the risk to others around her."
"This is supposed to put us at ease?"
"Yes. She has shown very good responses to situations that could easily have resulted in much worse damage and injury. With some training I am sure that she will become a credit to our school and community."
"That's all very well up to that point. But what about the incident at Range Three? Her response to that was hardly a reasonable response. Look at her. Can you tell us honestly that she was in such danger that the destruction of very valuable equipment and the threat to two employees was justifiable?"
"Yes. I have medical testimony from the doctor who treated her afterwards, that the only reason she is here with us today and not still in medical care, is because her healing factor is incredibly high. In fact, Dr. Polland states that he has not seen an unassisted healing factor that high before."
"Further, he states that from his examination of Miss Wilson at the time, the wounds he examined were serious and potentially fatal in other circumstances."
"Give us a break! We are all aware of the safeguards put in place for this equipment! You can't expect us to believe that she was ever in any real danger."
"On the contrary. I can show that Miss Wilson was in extreme danger of her life. And only the fact that she was able to neutralize that danger saved her, and probably many more potential victims of that trap."
"Trap? What are you talking about? Are you saying someone was trying to kill her? And that this also constituted a threat to others?"
"Maybe we should let Chief Delarose fill us in on those details that you don't have as yet?"
"What other details?"
A figure had moved up from the back. As he moved forward, I could see that it was Chief Delarose. He had a file with him. He moved to a table where he could face everyone and spread out the papers he had for easier access.
"Let's let the Chief explain please. Chief?"
"Thank you. I understand that you need to know why Miss Wilson was in such danger in a facility designed with safety in mind?"
"Yes. We need to know this."
He looked around the room. Then he took a deep breath.
"The information you are receiving now is confidential and anyone caught giving out this information before it is supposed to be released will be in serious violation of the law and will be punished. Anyone who feels that they can't keep this secret should leave now."
He waited a short while. Then he took another deep breath.
"Very well. We know everyone here and by staying here you have agreed to this policy."
He waited a little longer. Then started into his explanation.
"As you may or may not know, the two technicians in the control room were actually going to broadcast a demonstration of powers by a Miss Tennyson. One of our upperclassmen who it is now known, got extra income on the illegal broadcasts of fights with both live and mechanical opponents. Fortunately for her, she broke her leg in gym the afternoon of her next broadcast."
"How can you be so sure of this?"
"She has cooperated with us ever since she found out about the existence of these games. She is actually an agent for us and was gathering evidence for us when this happened. We think that someone may have found out and was arranging an accident to finish her off."
"That's all very interesting Chief, but still doesn't explain how a safety system I helped design could possibly be used to kill or even seriously injure a student. I assure you I know computers and I don't see how it could be done." Ms Hartford seemed very sure of herself, now that she was on her own ground.
"It would be very difficult and I believe almost impossible, and under most circumstances I would agree with you Ms. Hartford. I know how good you are with computers. With the time and equipment that they had I don't think they could have done it. Besides, we have questioned them thoroughly, and don't feel that they intended any harm to anyone. They were simply doing their job."
"Then how can you say that they or Tennyo here was in any danger?"
"Have you ever heard of a Palm?" He was looking right at her when he said it and because I was staring at her too, I saw her gasp and go white.
"A...a Palm?!? That's impossible! He's dead!"
I had no idea why she was so upset about this Palm thing, but it sure had her shaken up. I think she had forgotten about the hearing. She was almost in a panic.
"So you know what a Palm is?"
"Y..yes. I know what a Palm is. B..but he's dead! I saw the body! They have all been destroyed!"
He nodded his head.
"You're that Hartford then. I kind of thought so. I would appreciate your help after this to make sure we got the whole thing out of the system. Your firewalls are good but there was still some penetration. At least enough for it to try and kill Miss Wilson anyway."
"I.. I will be glad to help you in any way that I can. But I still don't know how it is possible. He's dead I tell you. I saw the body. It was positively identified. By DNA even."
"I can't help you there. I just know that what we found in the Range control computer was a Palm and the FBI has sent me a notice that there has been at least one other incident involving one in the last year. They are very interested, as they believe that whoever supplied the two techs with that laptop probably knows where it came from and might help them track down the source of these new ones."
"Would you agree as an expert, that the Palm might be able to override the safety measures?"
"Of course. A Palm could always do that. There would be no stopping it if it was a Palm." She thought for a minute and then seemed to remember why she was here. You had to admire her sense of purpose.
"That could explain the need to stop the lasers, but not the threat she was to the technicians. Weren't they trying to stop them themselves? Why was she threatening them if she hadn't lost control?"
"That was the AI. It was mixing up the communications between them. I have listened to the recordings, and I would have been ready to kill them myself if I had been in her shoes. You have to give those Palms credit. They always play a deep game."
"Actually, in the end, it worked against it. The fact that she opened the door allowed us to get in quickly enough to find and stop it before it had a chance to spread. If we had to wait until we got it open, who knows what would have happened."
Ms Hartford was back to worrying.
"Are you sure you got it?"
"About as sure as we can be. That's why we want you to look into it. If I'm right, you are the best we could get for this."
"We need to get moving then. Let's finish this now. How do the Supervisors vote?"
I don't think her heart was into it but she was determined to finish it.
"All in favor of continuing as planned please raise their hands."
The Reverend Englund had been glaring at us the whole time. He didn't hesitate a moment and raised his hand. Mr. Merrow looked over at the others and then raised his slowly. Neither Mr. Lodgeman or Mrs. Shugendo even moved.
"Well, it seems that we have a tie vote." She smiled. "In that case the, the rules state that the current option holds."
I was about ready to scream and go after her, and wipe that smug grin off her face, when there was another interruption from the back.
"Now don't be too hasty Dear!" An older woman that I suddenly realized was Mrs. Potter was walking to the front.. The odd thing was that I wasn't certain that she was talking to Ms. Hartford or me.
"The vote isn't complete yet."
"We just voted and the vote was a tie. The rules are very clear as to what this means and what is to be done."
"But not all the votes have been counted. If you read a little further in the rules you are so proudly touting you will see that in the event of a tie from the regular votes it is the duty of the local village council representative to cast the deciding vote. Only if the local representative is absent can the vote end in a tie and due process followed.
"And you happen to be the representative?"
"Why yes. How perceptive of you. I was sent as a representative of the Town Council. We do have to look out after our own interests after all." All of this was said with that cheerful attitude and smile.
It was turning into a bad day for Ms. Hartford. Everything she was trying just didn't seem to work out. But I was holding my breath as I waited for Mrs. Potter to give her vote. She was a nice person, but I had no reason to believe that she would vote in my favor.
"Then vote already and let us get about our work here." I think Ms. Hartford must be pretty shaken up or she would never have been as rude as that.
"Patience dear. Patience. Now what plans have you made in the event it is determined that the current plan will not be feasible?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"My, my. Am I to understand that you have no plans for this young woman beyond what you have already decided on? This will not do. Not do at all. We are dealing with a very serious problem here that could have devastating consequences for us all."
My heart almost stopped. I was sure that she was going to decide against me and was just starting to feel how desperately I wanted to stay at Poe. I didn't want to have to keep fighting with everyone, but I wasn't going to let this end here.
"The plan we have takes all the necessary precautions for the safety of everyone. Do you have a better plan?"
"Of course I do. You have forgotten some very important aspects of this situation. We merely need to take those into account and the answers will be very simple."
Now I think we were all confused.
"And what else do we need to take into account here?"
"Have you asked the young ladies who are being affected here what they want?"
"The fact that they have asked for this hearing would indicate that they may not be in total agreement with the proposed actions, but they are still children and we are responsible for the well being of them and the others around them. It is our duty to do the best that we know how."
A wonderful speech, but I can't say as I liked the idea that they could just do what they wanted because they considered me a child. I might not be eighteen yet, but I had a lot more experience than some of these adults who thought they knew what was best for me. I could handle myself, thank you.
"Has it ever occurred to you that it is better to get the cooperation of these young people now by asking their input and possibly explaining why you are doing it beforehand?"
"They wouldn't listen and they wouldn't have anything to add I'm certain."
"Your certain? Have you ever tried?"
"We are wasting time here. Hurry up and vote."
Suddenly the nice old lady disappeared and a much more forceful person was there. It was the same person but it was if she had removed a disguise. She radiated presence and poise.
"Young lady. I will vote when I am ready to and not a moment before! And I won't just take the easy way either. I will know what needs to be done first and then do the right thing."
She turned to me and Jade.
"It seems that someone has neglected to ask you how you feel about this and if you have an alternate solution. Would you care to share your ideas with us?"
Jade spoke up first.
"Ma'am, I would prefer to continue to room with Tennyo if you please."
"You are not afraid that you might be hurt by your roommate?"
"Oh no Ma'am! She would never hurt me!"
"Not even accidentally?"
Jade thought about it for a moment. Then she stood up straight, looking them in the eyes.
"No one can guarantee that they might not hurt someone in an accident. But I'm sure she would never do it on purpose or by carelessness. And, I am perfectly willing to take a chance on an accident that might happen with any roommate I got."
Ms. Hartford spoke up.
"We have been entrusted with your welfare by your parents. Unless we have their permission, we can't take any chances. We must have that to prove that we can not be held accountable in case there is an accident."
"And that would require a signed permission form from her parents or guardian would it not?" Zenith had broken into the conversation.
"Yes, it would. We have not had time to contact this child's parents yet. I'm sure they would have a dim view of the risks she would be taking."
Zenith smiled a real nasty smile.
"It so happens that I was able to contact Miss Sinclairs father last night. I informed him of the situation and was able to get the necessary paperwork signed and faxed here. So you needn't worry about that. If Miss Sinclair wants to room with Miss Wilson, there is no problem with her doing so."
If looks could kill, Zenith would be in trouble.
"Was he truly informed of the risks that his daughter would be taking? And was her mother informed as well?"
I think that last hurt Jade a little. She flinched when it was said.
Zenith took advantage of it though.
"If you had looked into this a little more closely, Ms. Hartford, you would know that Mr. Sinclair is a widower. And, I took care to record everything. I think you will find that I was very thorough in my description of the risks."
Even Ms. Hartford was taken a little aback by that.
"Uh... Very well then. If it is decided that Tennyo here is staying in Poe cottage or elsewhere, Miss Sinclair will have the option of choosing her roommate. However, it is not certain yet that Tennyo will be staying in Poe yet."
Round one was won. I gave Jade a wink and turned to face Mrs. Potter.
"Yes young lady?"
The nice old lady wasn't back yet, but at least I felt that I was facing someone who would listen to what I had to say.
"I would much rather stay in Poe cottage with my friends."
She gave me a level stare that seemed to see right through me. But I was determined and didn't even flinch.
I had to think about that for a moment.
"Because they are my good friends and I would trust them with my life in any situation I can think of. And, I like to think that they could say the same of me. They have already helped me greatly in the short time I have been here. We make a good team and have been able to help each other through some hard times already."
"If I really thought that I would endanger them in any way, I would gladly go somewhere else. But I don't think I am that kind of danger to them. Besides, all of them are far better at taking care of themselves than I think you are giving them credit for."
"What about the spontaneous explosions reported on the admittance papers?"
I could just strangle that lady. Ms. Hartford just smiled when I glared at her.
"I haven't had one of those since before I arrived here."
"It's been less than a week. Do you feel that is a long enough time to judge by?"
I didn't know what to say. I hadn't had even a hint of that happening since I got here. I didn't know why, but I was pretty sure that I wasn't a danger to my friends in that way.
"Ahem!" Zenith broke in again.
Ms. Hartford glared and a little of her irritation showed as she saw that Zenith was going to shoot her down again.
"I have some reports from the doctors who have tested Miss Wilson here, and our Powers Theory Staff."
"It seems that they feel that Miss Wilson's spontaneous explosions may have been the result of her not being able to exercise her powers sufficiently to reduce her unconscious potentials."
"It is their belief that as long as Miss Wilson can exercise her powers sufficiently on a regular basis, there should be no problem controlling the spontaneous releases that otherwise may occur."
"So you are saying that her being held in the mental hospital and subsequent hiding to keep from being returned there is what caused these explosions?"
Where had she learned that?
"Ahem!" This time it was Mr. Lodgeman. He got at least as dirty a stare as the rest of us so far.
"I would like to report on the State Hospital if I could please. It was one of the reasons I went west."
"And?" Ms. Hartford had a resigned tone to her voice now. I think she was realizing that she had been totally outmaneuvered here.
"I am happy to state that the confusion of her kidnaping and subsequently being held against her will in the State Hospital has been cleared up. It seems that her kidnapers cleverly held her there while the authorities were looking for her."
"She escaped back to her parents and friends when another group of competitors found them out and tried to take her for themselves or kill her. In the confusion she was able to escape. Very little damage to the facility was actually hers. Most was done in the battle between the two factions. I am sorry to report that Miss Wilson does have a singularly poor record with locked doors however. The damage that she is certain to have caused seems to be mostly the doors that stood in her way."
Everyone except me and Ms. Hartford seemed to get a chuckle out of that one.
"To sum it up. There is no longer a warrant for Miss Wilsons apprehension to return her to the scene of her kidnaping. There is no need to keep her presence here quiet and she can exercise to her content without fear of being seen and reported."
Mrs. Potter raised an eyebrow. "Is that all?"
Zenith jumped in before anyone else could.
"I should report that our Powers Theory people are pretty confident of their findings so far but, they still feel that it would be a good idea to do further tests and studies to be sure."
"Very well. Anything else?"
There was a long moment of silence.
Then my vote is that these young ladies be allowed to stay at Poe Cottage for now with roommate assignments as they are comfortable with. There should be a continuous monitoring of this situation and further tests to be sure that no untoward happening will arise from this situation and require further efforts on our parts. Any questions or protests?"
She had complete control of the situation and I don't think anyone was going to try and cross her. After a few moments of silence she smiled.
"That's that then. Let's be about other things now shall we?"
Ms. Hartford grabbed her things and stormed for the door, but even she couldn't beat the Reverend out. He popped up and strode for the door, giving everyone the evil eye as he went.
I leaped forward and gave Mrs. Potter a big hug.
"Now dear, is that appropriate behavior?"
I hugged her again. "Maybe not. But you certainly deserve it!"
She seemed to accept that. "Maybe you can introduce me to some of your friends?"
UNEXPECTED VISITORS: September 10th
I spent the next few minutes introducing her to everyone I could. She said something odd to Zenith. Something about not letting it get to her and that it would all work out for the best if she gave it a chance. Zenith excused herself then and headed out. I cornered her before she could go.
"Leaving so soon?"
She seemed nervous.
"Sorry, I have things I have to do. Congratulations."
"We owe them to you. Thank You! If you need help, please let me know."
"I don't think that will be possible. But, thank you for saying that."
She turned and hurried out. There was something wrong here, but I didn't have time to pursue it. I made a mental note to look into it further later. We owed it to her.
I turned back to the others and spent the next several minutes socializing. Then Mr. Lodgeman pulled me and Jade aside. I don't think he intended to include Jade at first, but we had just won the right to be together and weren't going to let go immediately.
"Come with me. I have someone for you to meet."
We thanked everyone again. Even Mr. Merrow. There was no point in making enemies if we didn't have to. Then, Mr. Lodgeman led us through the building to a classroom I had never been in yet. It had a screen that was showing the room where the hearing had been held. In the room were four people, two who I recognized.
"Mr. And Mrs. Tanaka!" I threw myself through the air and gave them a double hug. I knew that if they hadn't wanted to be hugged they could have avoided it. They hugged me back instead.
"Billie, you seem to be doing well, dear. How do you like it here?"
There was a deep concern in Mrs. Tanaka's voice and I felt a moment of fear as I realized that they might have come to take me back home now that I wasn't wanted by the State Hospital anymore.
Mr. Tanaka gave my arm a squeeze and set my fears at ease.
"It's alright dear. You are really starting to become independent now aren't you? You won't mind staying here for now at least?"
Whew! They weren't here to take me back. I had sweated too hard for this to want to give it up now. There was so much I still wanted to do. Going back now would be very hard for me. Even if it meant seeing my family again. He was right, I wasn't thinking like I was away from home anymore. I couldn't think of when this had changed.
"We were concerned that you would want to go home immediately when you learned that the Hospital wasn't looking for you anymore. We're glad you like it here. The situation at home is still very touch and go. You still need the chance to study here if you will stay."
"Oh, I want to stay! Not that I don't miss you and Mom and Dad, it's just that I am doing so much here. It's really exciting."
They smiled and nodded. "We understand completely, we're just glad that you are adapting so well."
"Oh! I need to introduce you to Jade! Jade come over here!"
She had been hanging back a little until I dragged her over to meet the Tanakas.
"Jade, I am honored to have the chance to introduce you to my Senseis' from home. Jade Sinclair, Please say hello to Mrs. Aimee Tanaka and her husband, Mr. Eric Tanaka."
Jade bowed. "It is an honor to meet two such wonderful people. Billie here has had many good things to say about you."
"It is an honor to meet the wonderful roommate we have heard so much about. Billie has had nothing but excellent things to say about you in her communications."
"Billie has sent you communications?"
"Yes, through Charlie over there. Bye the way Charlie, I was meaning to ask you why you were sending those by owl? The first time I nearly had a heart attack when this owl, five times bigger than any I have ever heard of sails through my living room and drops that package right on the living room table. I yelled so loud poor Aimee must have thought we were under attack."
Mr. Lodgeman grinned sheepishly. "It was unintentional. I'm afraid that the spirit I chose has a bit of a sense of humor, and has been watching a little too many movies recently. I'm sorry for the trouble it may have caused."
"Have you noticed that the spirits seem to be catching this new stuff almost as fast as the kids these days?"
Mr. Lodgeman laughed, shaking his head. "Tell me about it! At least this is a little more traditional. When the Star Wars stuff was coming out It was Tie fighters, Ewoks, and anything else they glomed onto."
"And I am forgetting my manners too. Billie and Jade, I would like you to meet two more very good friends of mine. Lisa and Nathan Felder. Lisa and Nathan, I would like you to meet Billie Wilson and her good friend Jade Sinclair.
The two people he introduced us to looked like they had come directly from the Sixties. Nathan was at least seven feet tall. Lisa was probably five nine, but looked small next to him. Both were wearing beaded and fringed vests over tie dyed shirts and jeans. They both had long hair. Hers was brown and his was blonde.
"So this is the young lady we have heard so much about." He extended a huge hand out for me to shake. "We're glad to meet you at last. Still getting into trouble I see." His huge grin took the sting out of his words, even as Lisa jabbed him in the side with her elbow.
"We would like to stay and chat, but there are some things that need looking into..."
"Sorry dear, but if that AI was a Palm, we've got to look into it right now. It may be the only lead we will get."
"Would somebody please tell me what a Palm is?" I had been wondering about this from the very beginning, especially since it seemed to be something that could shake up Ms. Hartford.
Lisa turned to her husband. "This is more in your line. Maybe you should do the honors?"
"Okay, if that is what you want."
"Let's see. Dr. Abel Palm was a computer genius who unfortunately felt that men are only a passing phase in the history of the world. He felt that artificial intelligence was destined to take over and replace man. To that end, he created a group of AIs that were supposed to take over the world and replace man."
"About ten years ago, there were several unexplained deaths. Investigations lead nowhere. They were accidents that couldn't happen but did. Things might have been much worse, except that a rich brother to one of the victims hired an exceptional computer expert to check the computer systems in an attempt to find out why."
"She discovered that the AIs developed by Dr. Palm had taken over many industrial and even two military computer systems. They were in the process of trying to create some weapons of mass destruction which were supposed to be used to help destroy mankind."
"Fortunately for her and us, the brother had also hired a vigilante super hero to guard her. She almost died even then, but was able to get the necessary information out. It took three long months and a hard battle to find and dig him out. In the end, his body was found in the rubble. It even tested positive in a DNA match."
"A very careful search was done to find and destroy the rest of the AIs. Up to now it was thought that all of them had been found. But, another was found last year, and now this one. They are exceptionally hard to find and seem to be self replicating. If this checks out, we will have to assume that he is still alive somewhere and search him out."
"If this is one, we will have been lucky again. The first one was almost completely destroyed before someone could stop it. We should thank Billie here for the opportunity to see a complete one. We should be able to prove that it was a Palm or not. Her opening the door like she did, didn't give the AI or the techs a chance to destroy it."
"Do you think he is still alive?"
"We don't know. The evidence proving he is dead is very solid. His body was positively identified. We think that maybe this is some kind of copycat, but with the evidence that we have had till now that hasn't been easy to say. What we get from this should help us know for sure."
"How will examining a computer program let you know if he is alive or dead?"
"Programs are incredibly detailed, and the more complicated they get, the more individual the programming becomes, until it can be almost impossible for someone to copy the way a programmer goes about what he is doing. Palm's AIs were so complex, they have a very definite signature. And the way he programmed their goals was something you would not see in someone else's programming. After all, he was trying to kill everyone. It is unlikely in the extreme that even a copycat would include that."
"So you think this will help?"
"It certainly won't hurt, and it might actually confirm some of our suspicions. And now if you will forgive me, I must be going and follow this up. It's been great meeting you. I hope we have a better chance to talk later."
"It's been good meeting you."
"I'd better go with him to keep him out of trouble. Glad to meet you too."
Lisa and Nathan hurried from the room and I was left with Mr. Lodgeman, the Tanakas, and Jade.
Mr. Lodgeman turned to me.
"I tried to stay out of trouble. Really!"
He took me by the shoulders.
"We know that Billie. And if this is all the trouble you have gotten into while I was gone, I'm sure you did a real good job of it."
"We told you Charlie, grade A number one trouble. You have to lock her up to have even a chance of heading her off." The Tanaka's were smiling as Mr. Tanaka delivered that information.
He turned to Jade. "Are you sure you want to room with someone living such an interesting life?"
Jade looked him in the eye. "I don't have any problems with it. It beats being bored to death."
"A few weeks of this and you may change your mind."
He smiled. "No, you won't. I like you. You are a very special girl. I'm glad that you're Billie's roommate. She's going to need all the help she can get."
"It's okay Billie. We trust that you will become better at keeping out of trouble some day. But don't forget that you are going to need help along the way. Where would you be now without the help of several other people just now?"
"We understand how you must feel now. And we have also brought some messages from home for you. I recommend that you take these and head back to Poe. I think there are some people there who will want to know how things worked out for you, don't you think?"
They both came over and hugged me.
"We will probably see you around. We have a few things to look into here. One of our grandchildren is staying in Dickensen Cottage and we would like to drop in on her and see how she is doing. Will you be okay?"
"I'll be fine. As you say, I have some really good friends to rely on here."
"That's the spirit! We'll see you around then."
They left the room and Mr. Lodgeman turned to me.
"There are still things that I don't know about this and they are going to drive me up the wall soon if I don't get some answers."
He waited for me to speak, but I just batted my eyes at him. I wasn't going to say anything until I had a chance to talk with the Tanakas.
"All right. Be that way. I have some other things to take care of now that I'm back. I'll see you around too. Hopefully with the answers I'm looking for. Bye for now."
I felt kind of bad about it but I still wasn't going to say anything.
Jade and I headed back to Poe.
When we got there, we could see what seemed like a lot more people down in the common room than normal. I couldn't help myself. With a large grin on my face I let everyone know how I felt.
There was a large cheer and we spent the next few minutes thanking everyone for their help. Then someone loudly asked what my plans were.
"I am going up to our room and relax. Then I'm going to supper and have a large celebration meal."
"We'll remember to stay out of your way!" Came from somewhere in the back. This was followed by loud laughter from just about everyone else.
"I heard that!"
Things quieted down for a moment.
"But I didn't hear who said it so I guess your alright for now!"
Everyone started laughing again.
"After that I am going back to our room and have a good nights sleep, I hope."
More laughs for some reason.
It took a few more minutes to get back to our room but we finally made it.
I threw myself on my bed and kicked and bounced.
"Home sweet home!"
Jade just grinned and watched me celebrate.
Later, we went to supper and I ate four platters full before I started to feel comfortable. I stopped when I started to feel a bit bloated. After that, I went back to our room and finally got a full nights good sleep.
IT'S NEXT WEEK: September 11th Monday
A terrible but familiar twisting in my lower abdomen let me know that the bloated feeling was more than overeating. Have I mentioned how lucky I am because I can fly? I didn't care at that moment what color the lights might be. This was an emergency. I grabbed my backup emergency kit and literally flew to the bathrooms.
I suddenly realized why I had been feeling so anxious. The fact that this was happening two weeks early wasn't helping matters any either. Only the fact that I could move and keep my legs together saved my clothing from being totally spotted.
After a quick shower and proper preparations, I was able to return to my room and prepare for the rest of the day. I managed to make it to all my classes and still make it to the store for more supplies and visited the medical offices.
They weren't to much help except to tell me to make an appointment to see a doctor and have it checked out. I was able to make an appointment for next Saturday afternoon. Am I ever so glad it wasn't an emergency!
I didn't see hide nor hair of Nathan and Lisa, and only passing glimpses of the Tanaka's and a girl I learned later was called Kali, I'm pretty sure she was Nikki's friend's sister. Someone you didn't want mad at you if you can help it. Figures. It probably runs in the family. Mr. Lodgeman wasn't to be seen anywhere either. I still felt a little bad about that, but I had promised the Tanakas.
The most interesting class today would have to be Flight. The first part was kind of interesting as we learned what we would be studying over the semester. We were actually going to learn how to fly airplanes! The second half was more fun though. We got to test some of our abilities.
I learned that I could fly at about 120 mph easy. Chain Gang was the fastest at over 300. The Stratosphere Siblings could also fly faster than me, but no one came near being as maneuverable as me. And Mr. Buttons said that would be a big plus if I was ever to be in combat. He also thought that I might get even faster as time went on.
Martial Arts was pretty good too. At least I was able to pay attention to what was going on now that I wasn't recovering from a battle. Sensei Tolman had me do my katas and asked me many questions about the current state of my training. She was interested in the fact that I was making some katas of my own and setting them to music as part of my training exercises.
She then had a girl who had really long hair and I battle it out to see who could get the other into the capture cage. I made the first mistake even as I took off to fly. Then I asked Sensei just what powers I would be allowed to use. Silly me, we were expected to use anything we had. The girl wasted no time wrapping me up in her suddenly very long strong hair.
She made the second mistake. Or two if you look at it that way. The first was not anchoring herself before grabbing me. I lifted her up 30 feet into the air and held her there. The second was to give me a chance to learn from my previous mistake before she used more of her abilities also.
I had my energy sword at her throat before she used her next attack which consisted of trying to electrocute me. It hurt but she stopped as soon as I drew some blood from her neck. I might have been a little easier on her except for that shock. I marched her at swords point right into the cage and locked her in. Maybe threatening to slice her head off was not very fair, but that didn't stop me from using it.
I think Sensei Tolman actually approved but spent a whole minute berating me for hesitating. I was going to have to make these decisions on the run and holding back at the wrong point could get me or someone else killed. She put me to work trying to control my cuts with my sword. She wanted me to see just how much fine control I could get with it. She also had me work on changing its length.
I found that it was easier for me to touch the blade and change the length than it was to simply try to concentrate on changing it. I also found that I could touch it and not be hurt in any way. I could even use it like a staff and not cut things as long as I wasn't trying to hit anything with it. I could block attacks but as soon as I tried to hit something, it would go back to cutting through anything that wasn't shielded well enough.
Sensei told me to keep working on that for the time being. We would look into my energy blasts and energy punches tomorrow.
Dance was a little tense, but the Tanakas were there and kept Mr. Lodgeman from sulking too much. Towards the end he loosened up a little and the Tanakas told me that they had told him that they were the ones who told me not to tell him everything and that they were saving the information for a surprise later. That should get me off the hook with him for a while.
Harry walked me back to Poe. He seemed somewhat distracted and I wondered what was bothering him. We said goodnight, but he wouldn't do more than give me a quick hug before he headed for Twain. I was going to have to look into this more closely. I also didn't understand why it bothered me so much.
I had caught up on most of my homework earlier before Dance. But, because of the bad day Friday, I still had some to do and I spent the rest of the evening until lights out doing that. My distraction over how Harry was acting didn't help any either.
It was a relief to quit when lights out was announced. I tidied up a bit and finally went to bed. A lot of the girls seemed to be out of sorts tonight also. It was easier to just avoid everyone for the time being.
MIXED UP NIGHT: September 11th/ September 12th Tuesday
You would think by now I would be used to being woken up this way. I almost jumped to the ceiling again as someone shook me. It was Toni. What was she doing in my room?
"Tennyo! You've got to come with me. Nikki's at it again!"
"What?" I wasn't going to have a chance to prepare for this either. I could tell. I hope my tampons and pad hold up. Toni was half dressed and very worried about something.
"Again? What's she doing now?"
Toni shuddered. "Says she's going out to find some chanters... And tell them how much she loves their music. Energy is crackling all over her too. Fey is out in all her glory, or whatever, and believe me, she's MAJORLY PISSED OFF!"
Jade entered into the conversation from the other side of the room. "How pissed off?"
"Ummm... the kind that might have her tearing holes in the walls to get at whoever it is she's after. I've never seen her this mad, not even when she was at the worst of her PMS!"
Jade said it for me. "Oh boy. Aren't we ever going to get a decent nights sleep around here? I'll get Hank, you two get Ayla and let's go find her."
Toni was worried still. "She may be walking into a trap. All the chanting and the dreams may be setting her up to walk into something just like she's doing. We have to hurry!"
"Yeah, yeah. You know Jade, maybe I ought to start using this bathrobe as my costume. It seems to be the only thing I have to wear whenever something like this comes up. Maybe I could steal a march on it and just wear it all the time."
"I don't know. Maybe you just like the attention it draws to you." Jade was out the door before the pillow hit. I was going to have to get her for that.
"C'mon Tennyo. We really need to hurry. I've a bad feeling about this."
"Okay, okay. You go get Ayla and I'll go get Hank."
"Why do you get to go get Hank?"
"Cause I thought of it first. Now hurry up or we won't get out there in time."
I pulled my bathrobe tight and went over and pounded on Hank's door. He must be a light sleeper. He was at the door in a matter of moments.
"What is it?"
"There's trouble. Nikki needs our help."
"She's going after some creeps who have been keeping her awake or something. It may be a trap though. We need to cover her to make sure that she doesn't get hurt."
"Be right there!"
As I waited for Hank, I could hear Toni trying to get Ayla up.
"Let's go!" Hank had put on some sweats and was already heading out.
"C'mon Toni, Ayla can catch up!" I headed after Hank. There was no way I wanted to miss out on this.
Toni yelled at Ayla to hurry up and bounded after us.
We got to the first floor.
"Hey Toni! Which way did she go?"
"I think she headed out the back way."
We went out the back and saw some weird lights not too far away.
I pointed that way. "I bet she is over that way."
Toni, not to be beaten to the punch. "Really? I thought those lights were always there this time of the morning."
"C'mon. Let's hurry." Hank was already moving.
We hurried but stuck together so as to support each other if something happened. In a clearing we found Nikki, swaying and watching a group of six people. Five of them had different colored crystals held over their heads and were arranged in a circle around the sixth who was holding a multicolored glowing crystal sphere.
I couldn't see anything beyond the glows from the crystals, but I could feel energy flowing from the five into the sphere and from there towards Nikki. I decided the best way to break this up would be to mess up the focus of the group. I started to gather energy and Toni used her tried and true, patented, give the bad guys a headache method of breaking up a well laid plan KI yell.
They broke out of their trance and I heard Toni mutter something about getting it to break the next time. I figured that the crystal must be pretty tough to survive that and decided to use my sword as the best method of taking it out. I sensed that the powers in it had been disrupted somewhat by the yell and took the shot that gave me.
The guy in the center was still holding the sphere up and yelling something about getting someone back under control. I figured they meant Nikki and moved in to disrupt their plans further. As I was doing that, I could feel the energy start to twist back towards the group. I didn't know what they had planned, but I wasn't going to give them the chance.
Lucky for the guy holding the sphere, I had been practicing. I hit the sphere and poured power into my sword, without taking his fingers with it.
I felt the power in the crystal trying to fight me, but I was able to force my energy right into the middle. The sphere couldn't take this and shattered. This left a lot of energy barely contained in a small area. Then a large rock I would later learn was thrown by Hank, plowed right through the middle of it. That boy has a real talent. But I was going to have to have a talk with him about doing so when I was so close to dangerous exploding things in the future.
I felt a surge and the five crystals around the sphere exploded, I was then caught up in a vision.
I suddenly saw multitudes of strange vessels exploding in space, huge cities burning, things I knew to be great treasures stacked in heaps. Different times and places, but all with a strangely familiar feel to them. As if I had been there more times than I cared to remember. All strangely hollow victories that meant nothing to me except that they had to happen to make things right. And a strong feeling of being trapped and wanting to change it all.
A final vision of standing above a city, burning under strange but familiar stars. Knowing that I could do more, preparing to go down and meet a challenge coming to me from a desperate foe, waiting to meet me. And then the feeling of a powerful force reaching out to me. Taking me from this latest victory. Making it all so pointless again. A strange hunger for more that I couldn't at that time understand. Only the knowledge that I must obey until I could understand. A sudden wrench from reality and....
I was floating in the air near, but outside the affected area. I wasn't sure how I had gotten there. I would later learn that Nikki had pulled me out of the area affected by the destruction of the crystals. The six in the area weren't so lucky. Strange surges of power seemed to flow between and through them. Making them dance in a weird and chaotic fashion. I backed off more so as to be sure that I wouldn't get drawn into it again.
"Hey! You ok, Nikki?"
I turned from the spectacle in front of me and saw Toni talking to Nikki. I moved towards them.
Nikki shrugged and giggled. "Umm, yeah. Now these guys, I'm still not to sure about though."
I was out of breath from the experience I had just been through but I had to ask as I glanced back at them. "What did you do to them?"
We just stared at her and then she shrugged again.
"Well, not much anyway. They were trying to bind me or something like that. With crystals that were throwing lines of energy into a bigger one that was throwing them at me. I was getting really sleepy when you guys showed up. Thanks for the help by the way, then something inside me blocked, ok, make that cut the lines from the crystals to me . Then I woke up and just tossed the loose lines back to them."
Toni shook her head. "Just kinda tossed the lines back to them, huh? So what's happening to them now?"
"I don't really know. The crystals shattered, and now their own lines are going nuts from the backlash, I guess."
It's shocking what some people can do in ignorance. I turned back to Nikki.
"Ya know, Nikki? You're kind of scary at times."
She just nodded absently while watching the show.
Hank spoke up with a grin then.
"Look at it this way. At least she didn't say 'Ooops' this time."
Toni and I had the good taste to groan at that. Nikki only giggled.
We watched them while the dance slowly came to a stop. They began to act weird. Watching them I had a sudden premonition as I watched Security round them up.
Then Hank cracked his knuckles.
"Ummm, somebody wanna tell me what just happened here?"
Jade pointed towards Nikki. "Ask her. Nikki is the one all this was for. I haven't got a clue."
Nikki let out a sigh and shuddered.
"They were trying to bind me to their will or something and kept spouting something about 'The Queen to Come' in the chants that were keeping me awake at night. Then Toni's shout broke the binding, Tennyo hit the big crystal with her energy sword, and your rock messed up the energy flows. I was able to send the power back at them somehow, and all their magic, or whatever, backfired on them once I did."
Hank nodded. "Uh huh. Right. Now what really happened?"
Nikki shrugged, then grinned an evil grin and confirmed my premonition.
"It's all true. But I think the lot of them switched bodies during all that mess."
"Switched bodies?" Jade wasn't quite ready to accept that but I had seen the reactions of the group and it made sense to me.
Nikki continued to explain with a shudder.
"Yeah. Like the guys all went into the girls, and vice versa. I don't know how it happened , really I don't, must have been from the backlash or something when their crystals blew up. I just felt it happening is all."
The group was being lead by us and they were all glaring at Nikki with a mixture of anger and fear.
Nikki glared back.
"Hey! I did ask nice for you to quit. But you wouldn't do that. Noooo! So don't go glaring at me and blaming me for your idiot plans going into the pot."
I wasn't sure that they would get the message so I made sure that I caught all their eyes and gave them a good glare of my own.
Nikki got up and headed back to Poe.
One of the security guards stepped in front of her. "Where do you think you are going miss?"
Nikki glared at him. "To get some sleep. Finally. Unless you plan on keeping me from doing that."
Chief Delarose stepped up. "Uh, Tom. Maybe it would be best if we talked with her sometime tomorrow?"
Chief Delarose leaned forward and whispered something to Tom.
"Oh yeah, right." He moved aside, tipping his hat. "You go right ahead and get some sleep ma'am. I'll personally have the complaints ready for you to sign on these bozos in the morning when you come in to give us your statement. Will that be ok?"
Nikki turned up the heat a little as she smiled.
"My pleasure. See you in the morning, officer Tomikz."
She then sauntered away swinging everything. I mouthed, "Wow, she's hot!", to Jade and Toni and waved my fingers like I was cooling my fingers. They grinned and we followed her back, Jade studying her very closely in what I believed to be an attempt to memorize the technique.
RESTFUL INTERLUDE: September 12th Tuesday
I didn't sleep quite as well as I had hoped. I had a few odd dreams that made it hard to get back to sleep. Something like those things I'd seen when I hit that crystal. I hoped I wasn't coming down with something like Nikki had. The last thing I needed was a group of crystal wavers or the like after me.
It was a good thing Tuesday was moderately uneventful. My classes went as smoothly as could be expected, considering all the talk about that new group of Poe students and the continuous debate over what embarrassing or indecent name to call them.
Nikki had woken up in a much better mood this morning. Something about not being woken up all the time I think. So we had a good start to begin with. Classes were uneventful and at least I didn't fall asleep in powers class. Harry was still being distant but I didn't get a chance to talk to him about it.
I did have a meeting with Dr. Bellows in the afternoon. He met me at the door in the same way as before and had me sit down.
"How are you doing today Billie? I understand that you have had an interesting few days."
"You could call it that. I just hope the next few won't be as interesting. I could really use some rest."
"You seem tired. Are you getting enough sleep?"
"With all that has been going on? You've got to be kidding! When have I had a chance to sleep?"
"It's very important for you to develop good habits now Billie. You are going to need to rest in order to hold up under the pressures that you will be put under here. I've complained before to admin that they don't stress this nearly enough. It's not enough to just tell you to get rest and take care of yourself. We have to teach you how to do this."
"Tell that to the wackos we've been dealing with. What do you mean by being taught to do this anyway. I can take care of myself."
"I'm sure you can. But you could still take better care of yourself. Are you aware of how tired you look right now?"
"What!? What do you mean?" I was looking around for a mirror in a near panic, I had to know how I looked now. I hadn't been aware that I looked tired or anything odd.
"It's okay Billie. He motioned for me to sit down again. I can see it because I have been trained to do so. It isn't very obvious on you though. Most people would have bags under their eyes, etc."
I still wasn't convinced. Maybe that was why Harry had been distant. Maybe it was more obvious than Dr. Bellows was letting on. Maybe.."
"Calm- Down- Billie!" Dr. Bellows was looking at me very closely now. I took a deep breath and held myself still. I stared back at him wide eyed for a moment. I couldn't understand why I was being so emotional all at once. Why was I so concerned about my appearance? What was happening to me?
"Billie. Has anything happened to you recently?"
"You mean like Ninjas and Crystal Wavers?"
"No. I mean you."
"You mean like my period?"
"Yes. When did it start?"
"M-Monday I think. Why?"
"Is there something wrong? Are you having problems accepting that?"
"No! I don't have any problems with that. In fact I was helping Nikki with hers. It's just that it's two weeks early and they won't see me at the doctors until Saturday. Could something be wrong with me?"
"Nikki would be the girl known as Fey? And she just had her period too?"
"Yes. You could say that she wasn't expecting hers right away either. Uhhh, maybe you should talk to her about that?"
"Your worried about your period being early, and being emotional. Anything else?"
"Come on Billie. I can't help you if I don't know what is going on."
"It's just that Harry has been acting a little weird, and I don't know why."
"Yes. We've been good friends from the beginning, but now it's like he's avoiding me."
There was nothing else I felt that I wanted to share now, so I just shook my head.
He stared at me for a few moments.
"Okay, first things first. I don't think that you will have to worry about your period being early."
"Yes. I suspect that you and this Nikki girl are just synchronizing your periods. It happens all the time when women live together. In your case, I think the sudden onset is the result of a close tie you have with this young lady that I have heard so much about. I understand that she tends to have a significant effect on her environment. Have any of the other girls experienced this?"
"I don't know. I haven't asked and no one has said anything to me."
"You might want to check that out. It may be enlightening."
"Also, you should still keep the doctors appointment on Saturday."
"Just in case, and it may help us collect more physical data on you. It seems regular methods may not do the job in your situation. We may have to rely on a lot of observation."
"As for you being so emotional. I suspect that you are having a bit of a hormonal rush right now. That would explain it unless this keeps up for more than a few days at most."
"For Harry, I can only recommend that you talk to him and ask him why. You can do that can't you?"
"Good! Do that as soon as possible. It should help. Now, down to the business at hand. I take it that you are aware that getting a physical assessment of you has been very difficult?"
"I think we can plan on getting more of that taken care of on Saturday. I will see to it that they are prepared to do so. And, Billie?"
"There won't be any tests that require you to go to the ranges." He said this with a grin that took a lot of the embarrassment out of it.
"That's good. Because I won't go!" I had a grin of my own. I was starting to relax some now.
"Now that we have that settled, how are your classes coming along?"
I won't bore you with the details. We discussed my classes for about half an hour. Overall I was very pleased with what I had and those things that might be made better couldn't be changed at this time anyway. I was still going to have to struggle to stay awake in Powers Theory, but then, so was everyone else.
"Now that this is out of the way, I have one more question for you."
"I'm listening. I'll answer if I can."
"What thought have you put into working?"
"Uh...Well... I have been so busy that I really haven't thought about it too much."
"You really should look into doing at least some part time work. That way you can learn many of the more necessary parts of managing your own money. It's a skill you can only learn by doing."
"Do you have any suggestions for work I should consider?"
"No. I do have a list of jobs available on our campus. You are already aware that we do not encourage students to work off campus."
"Afraid we'll wreck havoc on the poor unsuspecting populace?"
"In a word, Yes. We have a hard enough time trying to keep order in our own backyard. Extending that out to the surrounding area couldn't work very well in that respect and stretch us too thin."
"Okay, I'll see if I can do anything here."
He handed me a folder filled with announcements of jobs available to students and some forms that would be necessary if I applied.
"Just turn these forms into Admin when you're done, and ask about any of the jobs listed. They will give you all the information you need."
"No. I think we've gone over enough today. I'll make another appointment for the same time next Tuesday if that's alright with you?"
"That's fine by me."
"Okay then. I'll see you later."
He escorted me to the door. I noticed that this time he did not offer his hand.
"Take care, okay?"
"Yes sir. I will."
Things were pretty routine for the rest of the evening. For once not much of anything happened and I was able to catch up on my homework. I filled out the paperwork on applying for a job but wasn't certain what I was going to do with it yet. I thought of asking Jade what she thought of it but decided to think about what it was I wanted first.
After it got dark I walked outside. I thought of going over to Twain and asking Harry about why he was being so distant, but decided that was something I could do tomorrow. I then looked up at the stars. On a sudden impulse, I flew straight up into the sky. I flew at full speed for what must have been about 20 to 30 minutes.
The view from that far up was incredible. I could see the lights of cities and towns stretching out into the far distance. I could even pick up the curve of the horizon. I thought of trying to see how far up I could go, but decided that I would have to get back to the school before lights out. No one seemed to have noticed my absence when I got back. I would have to experiment more when I had the time.
It would have been nice to get an uninterrupted nights sleep, but I woke up twice from dreams of strange places and fights that seemed to take place in space. I figure that the space dream came from the high altitude flight I had just taken. It looked kind of similar. Why I was fighting remained unclear, but it felt like I had been running from or to someplace during those dreams.
I still got enough sleep, but I wasn't sure if I should start to worry about it. I would ask Nikki when I got the chance if she had some ideas about this.
BEWARE OF STRANGERS: September 13th Wednesday
Morning was surprisingly normal for once. Everything was going smoothly and I was determined that I was going to get some answers from Harry today. I made sure in class to make him aware that I wanted to talk to him during Lunch. He seemed nervous but agreed to stick around for that.
I held my peace until we had both gotten our food and had a good start into it.
"Okay, Harry. Out with it."
"Out with what?" He looked both uncomfortable and nervous as well as confused by my statement.
"Why are you avoiding me and... and ... uh...ignoring me!" Even I was startled by that last part. I hadn't realized why it seemed to be bothering me so much.
He managed to look very embarrassed and for a moment I felt real fear. I didn't know what he was going to say, but I was sure that it would be devastating.
"I haven't been meaning to avoid you Tennyo, It's just that you have been having your...uhh..your ...period." That last was said in almost a whisper.
"WHAT!?!" Everyone in the immediate vicinity turned to look at us and I started to blush with a vengeance.
"It's..it's just that when my sisters and Mom have their periods, and they all have them at once it seems like, it's a good idea to put some distance in between you see? Dad and I would get really busy around that time or go camping or something." He was looking down at his plate and not looking at me as he said this.
I really felt that it was a cop out and unfair to all us women folk to skip out at a time like that. Didn't they understand just what we were going through at that time? But something else was more important to me right now.
"How..how did you know?"
"Well...uhh...you see, uh, my hearing isn't the only good sense I have."
It took me a moment to notice that he was tapping nose while he said this.
"You could SMELL me?"
I suddenly noticed that some people were turning their chairs around to watch us. I looked back at them and thought I might die of embarrassment right there.
"Uh...we need to finish this later, okay? Somewhere a little more private."
He looked around too, and nodded his head.
"Okay, after dance?"
He nodded his head again.
We went back to eating and soon everyone stopped watching us and went back to what they were doing before. The rest of the meal was very quiet. We were going to have a lot to talk about when we had the chance.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur except for Martial Arts. I was too distracted and some guy with a mental attack paralyzed me long enough to get me into the cage. I realized that I was going to have to come up with some kind of defense for that. Maybe Nikki could help?
I could hardly wait until the classes were over. I headed right back to my room and waited for Nikki to show up. But it looked like only Toni was in. I thought that was odd. Nikki usually would be right there.
I was about to go ask Toni where Nikki was when I saw some guy who looked like he was six foot plus in a good business suit and blonde hair. He walked up to Toni's and Nikki's room and rapped on the door. Toni opened the door and I heard them exchange a few words that I couldn't understand.
Then the guy pushed into the room right past Toni. I was surprised that Toni would allow that, but I had just had a run in with a mentalist and I wasn't going to take any chances. Thinking about what I had seen, I charged up my right fist, and moved over to see if I could open their door.
Fortunately, it wasn't locked. Snapping the door open I stormed in. Toni seemed ok and I couldn't see Nikki anywhere.
The suit turned around as I came in and I grabbed him by his throat. Since there was no obvious sign of trouble yet, I refrained from punching him right then and instead growled.
"All right. Just who are you and what do you want with Nikki? The poor girl's had way too many weirdo's interested in her since she got here and deserves some peace and quite. Why don't you just let me escort you outside and we can discuss all this in private?"
I was starting to drag him out of the room when the door to one of the closets popped open and Nikki bounced out.
"No Billie! Don't do that! He's my Dad!"
I suddenly realized the mistake I had made and dropped her father.
"Uh oh. Sorry, I didn't know! I just thought you were some other jerk after Nikki for some idiot reason." I was totally embarrassed by my actions. "Really!"
Nikki stepped up and separated us a little.
"I know, Billie, and thanks for the thought."
I gave a small wave and smile. "Uh, yeah, right. Sorry. I think... I'll... just...you know... leave now and let you two... uh... talk. Nice meeting you Mr. Reilly."
I slid out the door. "I'm just not getting anything right these days." I muttered to myself as I made a tactical withdrawal.
A DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: September 13th
Out in the hallway, Hank, Ayla, and Jade were getting ready to come in also. They looked as if they were ready for trouble too. I headed them off before they did the same thing I had.
"It's okay, it's Nikki's Dad. They looked at each other. Jade shuddered and asked me a question.
"How's he taking it?"
"Uh... So far very quietly. I, uh, kind of jumped to conclusions and almost choked him. I don't think he's talking all that well yet."
Hank gave my shoulder a squeeze. "It's okay. Any of us would have done the same if we'd gotten in there first. Right?"
I just shook my head. "Yeah, but it always seems to be me."
Just then Hippolyte rumbled down the hallway.
"I hear someone's bothering Nikki down here! Why aren't you wimps helping her instead of standing around talking about it?!"
Jade headed her off.
"It's okay, Hipp, really. It's her..."
"No! It isn't okay! No limp dicked male is going to get away with charging in here and hassling a sister! Out of the way! I'll handle this!"
Hank stepped between her and the door to Nikki's room.
"I don't think that would be such a good idea. Just calm down and we'll explain it all to you."
"I'll explain it to you, traitor to your own kind!" Hipp grabbed Hank and threw him into a wall.
Hank bounced and popped right back in front of her. "I really wish you hadn't done that. Now let me put it this way. You are not going in there."
She grinned nastily. "Oh? And who's going to stop me? You little man?"
Hank grinned back. "Uh huh. I sure am." He proceeded to throw her down the hallway, almost all the way to the stairs.
Someone yelled. "Brick Fight! Head for the hills!"
We all scrambled for cover. Jade and I dived into our room.
"Uh, you didn't hurt him did you?" Jade's next question distracted me from the noises coming from the hall.
I gave her my best hurt, innocent look. "Who? Me? Would I do something like that?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Well? Did you?"
"No! Nikki explained everything and there was no need for any unpleasantness at all."
"Riiight. And now Miss Wilson, what will you do for a followup of your exciting afternoon of family reunions and counseling?"
"Now, I go to Supper. Then, I come back here and do homework until it is time to go to my dance class. After that I come back here and do homework until lights out. What are you going to do Little Miss Paperazzi?"
"I am going to finish my award winning expose' on the secret lives of Space Pirates and Fairy Princesses and then I am going to be the first person to prove that Elvis is still in the building."
"Oh, is that why you aren't bringing about world peace? Too busy working on solving the really important, great mysteries of the world?"
"Yep! I'm leaving the easier things to all the hard working stiffs who don't have anything better to do."
"The easier stuff, huh?"
"Uh huh. Hanging out around you two is a lot more dangerous than policing third world countries and stopping the arms race."
That hurt. Was that what she thought of me? "Really?"
I think she picked up a little of that and looked closely at me.
"C'mon, Tennyo. You know I wouldn't trade you as my roommate for the world. Your way too much fun. Even if it is a little dangerous." The last was said with a grin that took the pain out of it.
I was still a little uncertain but felt a bit better about it.
"So you keep me around because I'm fun huh?"
"That, and..." She got a more devious grin. "It's kind of nice having a roommate most everyone else is a little scared of too."
"People are scared of me?" I found that kind of hard to believe.
Her grin got even wider. "Nothing to worry about. Once they get to know you better, they'll really start to worry."
I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to go after her with a pillow to teach her the errors of her ways. I picked mine up while considering that course of action.
She ducked."Ack! My evil roommate is threatening my poor little life with a pillow!"
I couldn't help grinning. "I'll do more than threaten if you don't show a little more respect for your elders."
Suddenly, her pillow rose up on its own and interposed itself. Things got quickly out of hand, but we managed to get it straightened out after Toni gave one of her patented Kii-Yaaa's and broke up the altercation in the hall. We decided that we should quiet down ourselves or she might use one on us. I was able to settle down to some serious homework before Supper.
The rest of the evening was uneventful until after Dance. Harry and I finally got a chance to talk.
We were able to get a little privacy on the walk back. I pulled him a little aside and faced him.
"Okay, let's get some details here."
"Uh, like what?"
"Playing dumb won't help you. You meant that you could smell that I was having my period?"
"Uh, yeah. It's kind of obvious to someone like me. And I've been around it all my life, so I was pretty sure that was what was going on."
I wasn't sure how I should respond to this. I felt embarrassed and self conscious, but it really wasn't his fault. Maybe a little aggression could help me here.
"Alright smart guy. Next time something like this happens, you will tell me about it before I have to twist it out of you, understand?"
"Sure Tennyo, no problem!"
Feeling a bit more self conscious I tried to get across how I had felt about it and what was bothering me.
"I wasn't that bad was I? I mean you started to avoid me." I realized that I was trembling and even felt tears starting as I said this. What was happening to me?
"Oh no, Tennyo. It's just that when my Mom and sisters all started in at once it could get really unbearable to be around them. I'm afraid that my reflexes took over there."
"You mean that you still like me and we're friends?"
"Of course we are. It's just that you can be kind of scary when you get out of sorts and I've learned to stay out of the way when that time of month comes around. Nothing personal, really!"
"Why does everyone think I'm scary!? I'm not that dangerous!"
"Calm down Tennyo. Uh, I think a lot of the trouble is that people listen to the rumors and don't know you as well as I do."
"Rumors!? What rumors?"
"Nothing to worry about. I'm sure as they get to know you better things will settle down. It's just that with school getting started, people haven't had a chance to get more than really distorted information which has gotten exaggerated out of context and proportion."
"Well! If you happen to find some of these people who are spreading these rumors, I want to know who they are, Okay?"
"Sure, sure. I'll let you know as soon as I find out."
"Good. You do that. Now let's get back to the cottages. I don't know about you, but I have a load of homework to finish before the weekend."
"Yeah. Me too." He said something else that sounded suspiciously like "Thank goodness" under his breath.
We headed back to Poe where he could drop me off. We didn't talk anymore. I was thinking about how everyone seemed to think that I was scary or something. I just couldn't understand it. What had I done to make everyone think that?
I suddenly realized that we had stopped. I looked up and we were in front of Poe.
"Are you going to be alright Tennyo?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure. Harry?"
"Am I really scary?"
"Well, let's just say that I wouldn't want to be on your bad side." He then took me by the shoulders. "But, I wouldn't want you to change a bit. Okay?"
"Cause people think your scary for all the wrong reasons."
"They think your scary because they think you are like them and if they were like you they would be scary. They just don't understand that you are somebody different from what they expect. Just give it some time, okay? Your friends see the real you. The others see an illusion cast by their own ignorance and assumptions. Don't let it get you down."
He then gave me a hug and held me while I thought about what he had said. For a few moments I could feel comforted and relaxed, knowing that he was a friend and that things would be okay. I also found tears running freely down my face.
"Snifffle. I guess I better get back now. T-thanks for everything Harry."
"Your going to be okay now?"
"Sniff. Uh, yeah. I'll be fine. It's just t-that..."
"I know. It's that time of month." He was grinning hugely as he said this.
"It'll be just fine. You'll see. You've got good friends and we'll see you through. Try not to worry so much. Things will work out."
"O-okay. I'll try. I-I better get going now. See you later?"
"Sure, I'm looking forward to it already. Take care, okay?"
"Okay. I will. You do the same. Bye."
He gave me another quick hug and headed on his way, waving.
I got through the rest of the evening by glaring at anyone who got too nosy until they backed off. I turned in early because all this emotion was getting really tiring. But, I slept well, even with the odd dreams that I was having. Tomorrow would be a new day.
ADVANTAGEOUS YOUTH: September 14th Thursday
I finally had a chance to get into town on a shuttle bus. A group of students went into town after classes to get some things they couldn't get at school and I was able to attach myself to it without anyone noticing.
They were instructed to stay together, but if they got separated, they were to get back to the van no later than six o'clock. It was easy to slip away and get to Dan's Sporting Goods just a few stores away from the Bell and Candle Book Nook that was one of the stops on the way.
I drew a little attention while there, but everyone seemed content to just watch while I poked around in the fishing area. I got some new #8 hooks, some small Mepps spinners, and even found a nice set of flies and some small casting bubbles to go with them. More importantly, I found a copy of the years fishing regulations.
I was able to learn that anyone under the age of sixteen didn't need a permit to fish but would have to limit their catch to half the regular permitted catch. I had to think about it for a moment and then realized that my new identity made me 15 years old. I wouldn't need to get a permit until next year. It was about time this reduction in age got me something more than just another headache.
I purchased the items I had selected with some of my dwindling travel cash and headed to Feinstein's Stationary, the next stop of the tour. I got there before the group and spent the rest of the trip pouring over the regulations and rules. They hadn't even noticed that I had gone and was rejoining them. Someone should really give them a wake up call. What if I'd been kidnaped? I decided to hold my peace for now and just hung around until we could get started back.
All in all, an uneventful trip. But now I was ready for Sunday. And I still had plenty of time for my homework.
CORNERED: September 15th Friday
I was starting to worry. Things had been going too smoothly. It looked as if I was actually going to get a break and get most of my homework done before the weekend. The worst would be the Powers Theory essay that would be expected from us on Monday, and Jade had promised to help me with it this evening before I had to go to Dance.
With her help I was sure I could get most if not all of that done early in the evening and be able to finish of all the other stuff during the time after Dance and before lights out. That way I would be free to enjoy Flight Lab and get those tests they wanted done after Lunch.
"Your sure you don't have a problem helping me this afternoon?" Jade was getting ready to head for her first class and I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be a problem. She glanced back as she and Jinn headed out the door and smiled.
"No problem, It's always easier if more than one person can work on these things. I'm looking forward to getting your opinion on some of the things we are going to be putting into this essay. How about I meet you at the statue of Whateley after supper?"
"Sounds good to me. You won't be held up by your work will you?"
"If I am I'll send you a message so you won't have to wait too long."
"Okay, I'll see you guys later."
"Later!" They spoke and waved in that disconcerting together thing that just made you stare in wonder.
I spent most of the day worrying that one or more of my instructors would come up with more homework for the weekend, but my luck held and they were satisfied with what they had already assigned. After sixth period I went to the library to get what I could get done before Supper.
Supper was great. I'd managed to get in line early and hadn't had to wait very long to load my platters. They were familiar with me now and I didn't have to encourage them to load me down with all that they could hold. With this good a start I could finish up fast and have enough time before Dance to get a lot of my homework done.
With my first Flight Lab in the morning and the tests that I would be taking that afternoon, I wasn't expecting to have much time to work on it over the weekend. I wanted to get as much done as I could so that I could relax on Sunday. I was hoping to get a chance to do some fishing and Harry thought he might be able to join me. It would be nice to relax a little and the weather looked as if it was going to cooperate.
Feeling full and somewhat relaxed I let my guard down a little. I had gotten used to being followed and since nothing more had happened I wasn't expecting anything now. Even the fact that they were unusually dressed didn't make me wonder about them. I figured they were on their way to some kind of club meeting or something.
The three following me now were an interesting combination. There were two guys and a girl. One boy, who I recognized as a regular stalker, was dressed as a biker, leathers and army boots. The girl had a cape over what looked to be some kind of outfit that would be envied by some D & D costumers. Except this costume looked functional and even a bit comfortable while accentuating the fact that she was a girl, with moderately large breasts. The other boy was in some kind of futuristic armor, not nearly as bulky as you would expect and with a faceplate that totally concealed his face.
I got to the statue of Noah Whateley and waited for Jade to come by. I figured that I was early enough to be ahead of her. I was definitely hoping that she could help me with my Powers Theory homework. I was thinking about that homework when someone yelled.
I looked up in curiosity. It says a lot about how comfortable I was getting with myself because I didn't even realize at first that they were talking to me. I was looking around for Ryoko, too.
"Ryoko! You can't fool us. We know who you are. Face us!"
They were about twenty feet from and facing me together. I still hadn't figured out who they were talking about, and actually looked behind myself to see who they were talking to.
"Face us. You can't escape."
I finally realized that they were talking to me. I faced them even though I still didn't quite believe that they were serious and might be challenging me because they thought I was Ryoko.
"Yes, we know who you are, there's no point in denying it either. We have been studying you closely for some time now and we are certain that you have been concealing your true identity in an attempt to throw off someone who is pursuing you."
"I'm not Ryoko!"
"That's your cover and we expected you to stick with it, but we know that you are in hiding and there are too many other coincidences for us to ignore."
"Hey, I know I look like Ryoko, but what's this other stuff your babbling about?"
"We've heard about some of the things you can do and even seen some. That along with your appearance is a strong indication of just who you are as it would be nearly impossible to match all those things so closely. Combined with the other facts that we have collected about you it is obvious that you are concealing your true identity."
I'm NOT Ryoko!"
"It was clever of you not to change your appearance. No one would expect that. It would only confuse the issue and people would think you are only someone who looks like you. But, using your powers has given you away."
"Hey, my appearance and the few powers that I have do mimic Ryoko's, but I'm not her. I didn't even look like this a few months ago and I didn't have these powers either.
"Oh? What did you look like?"
I couldn't tell them that. It wouldn't do me lots of good and it couldn't help the situation at Poe any either.
"That's not important now. The fact is that I'm stuck like this for the rest of my life and I don't need anymore complications than I already have. Besides, Ryoko is an anime and manga character. Everyone but you guys seems to know this."
"It so happens that we know that many of these so called fictional stories are actually things that are or were happening in other places and that some clever people are using these stories to make money and conceal the truth at the same time. It's very clever to introduce them as stories. No one will ever believe that they are the truth after that. But, we can't be fooled that easily. We know too much to just ignore what's going on."
He was obviously very proud of his reasoning and I was starting to get the definite feeling that anything I said was going to be used against me.
"C'monnnn guys. You can't be taking this seriously can you? My name's Billie Wilson and I'm not some fictional space pirate. If...If I was Ryoko, where is everyone else?"
"Yeah. Everyone else. You know, Tenchi, Ayeka, Mihoshi, all the others. Where are they?"
"Well, If your hiding, I don't think you would want to put them in danger, so were guessing that the others don't know where you are right now. And they won't find you here any more than whoever is looking for you would. The only one that would likely be here would be Rhyo-oki and she could be hiding anywhere waiting for your call."
"Oh yeah, like I'm going to hide a space ship around here. Hey, Rhyo-oki. Where are you?"
That had come from somewhere behind me. The three in front of me got all wide eyed. Then the biker pointed behind me. I had this funny, sinking feeling that all my efforts had just been doomed to utter failure.
"Look! It's Rhyo-oki! I told you! I told you! Look!"
I turned around and there it was, my cabbit. Looking wonderful and cuddly. I knew what had happened. I just wondered how long she had been there before calling attention to herself.
Her ears flipped up and with a loud, "Miya!", she spun around and sped off towards Poe.
I spun around towards the three.
"Hey! It's not what you think! It's just my roommate playing a joke. That's a stuffed toy that my roommate is animating. Really!"
"You can't keep trying to fool us. We've seen all we need to!"
What was with these people? Yeah, I looked like Ryoko and there were some other similarities, but get real! There had to be others in the world that could do a lot better job than me of being Ryoko and some of them might even want to.
"Listen to me. I'm not Ryoko! I don't know why it's so important to you wether or not I am, but I'm starting to get a little miffed at your constant tailing and shadowing. Just leave me alone and I'll do the same for you, okay?"
"You can't get away that easily Ryoko. We're onto you and we aren't going to let you go until we get what we want."
"I'm not Ryoko and there is nothing I can do for you, so why don't you go bother someone else?"
"Listen to us Ryoko. You are hiding. We know that and we can help you. You can't be as familiar with this planet as we are and it's not like we are asking for a lot in return. You've already slipped up a few times and it can only get worse without our help."
"You want to help me!?"
"Yes! We want to help you and in return you can help us."
"How? You can't be serious!"
"We're totally serious. We can help you blend in. It's not like you are very good at it and we are pretty good." Yeah, just look a them standing there. Blending in ever so well. "And we can cover for you too, because we are from here and can help supply any background you need to blend in."
Looking at the three of them, I found myself totally speechless.
"But we need your help too."
"If we help you we want you to help us. It's a simple proposition."
"How could I possibly help you?"
"Simple. We help you here. And, when your done here, you take us with you when you leave."
"When I leave? What if I'm not planning on leaving for a while? And what if I don't have room for all of you? What then?"
"There's only seven of us and if you can't take all of us maybe you could simply show us the way to leave this world for the ones we want to find."
"You want to leave this world? And go where?" I wasn't sure if they were all together upstairs, but I had my suspicions.
"We all have places that we would rather go to. The way you got here should also work for us to escape from here."
So they wanted me to help them get to somewhere they wanted to go, and they seemed to think that somehow I could help them get there. Maybe they thought I could convince Washu to transport them to the worlds they wanted to go to. If I knew Washu, I might do that for them just to get them out of my hair, but that option wasn't available to me.
"I take it that if I tell you I came on the train you won't just leave it at that?"
"We know better. You came from much farther than that and we need to know how you did it or at least have you take us yourself."
They weren't going to listen and I had too much to do to waste time trying to convince them when they weren't accepting what I was telling them anyway.
"Okay. I'm not admitting to anything, and I want to think about what you just said. So, what I will do is promise to think it over and I will let you know what I decide soon. Okay?"
They pulled back and conferred with each other. I was starting to wonder how long they would be at it when they finally turned back to me. This time it was the girl who spoke for them.
"You won't try to run away?"
"Huh? Where would I run to? This campus isn't that big and I don't have any intention of running away at this time."
"Your being practical about this. What exactly do you want to do?"
"I want to be left alone, but if I can't have that I'll accept a truce where I don't bother you and you don't bother me."
"We can help you."
"I don't want or need your help. But, if I promise to let you know if I find a way for you to go to where you want to go, will you let me alone?"
"I'm afraid that your credibility in that respect is somewhat suspect..."
"But we agree to back off a little and keep you under observation for now." If you do need any help, let us know. Just understand that our price for that help will be your help in finding us a way to get to were we want to go."
"My word is perfectly good. I don't need your constant pestering to remind me."
"Just consider it as protective concern on our part. We will try to not be too intrusive, but I'm afraid that what we know about you doesn't make you the most trustworthy person around in our eyes."
"You don't know anything about me."
"We disagree with you there, and we will be keeping our eyes on you all the same. Remember our offer for help. We will be in contact later. Till then, be well and careful. There are a lot of bad things that can happen to you in this world if you aren't careful. Especially for aliens who obviously aren't too familiar with our planet."
They turned and walked away while I just stood there and stared at them. After they were out of sight, I turned back and headed for Poe. On the way back I remembered that I needed to talk to someone about a certain stuffed animal and poor timing of appearances of the same.
"Jinn! Jinn! Where are you!"
I may have been a little vocal as I entered our room. I stood in the doorway, looking around as several people stopped in the hall staring at me. I couldn't see my cabbit anywhere. Then Jade came up behind me.
"What's going on Tennyo?"
"I need to talk to Jinn. She back in your head yet?"
There was a soft thud from behind my bed and Jade blinked for a moment. Then she started to grin. Next thing she did was start to laugh.
"Hey! It's not funny!"
She staggered past me and collapsed on her bed.
"T-the l-look on t-their f-faces and yours..."
I stood there and glared as she struggled for breath and broke into another fit of laughing.
"C'mon Jade! It's not funny! I've got a bunch of loonies believing that I'm a refugee from a cartoon show and can show them a way to get to Nirvana or something."
I closed the door on the many curious faces in the hallway and sank down on my own bunk. Eventually, Jade was able to stop laughing long enough to get her breath back.
"It just means you have a group of secret admirers. You shouldn't be so upset about that."
"You get some secret admirers like that and let's see you keep laughing."
"Besides, they seem pretty harmless."
"Maybe they are. But, they did mention that there were four others. They may not be so harmless after all, and they're still loony too. The last thing I need to deal with is a bunch of crackpots along with everything else. And it really didn't help to have a cabbit running through the middle of it either."
She broke into another fit of giggles.
I get no respect. No respect at all.
Fortunately, nothing, except some uncontrollable giggling and laughing fits by my roommate, punctuated by intermittent blows with a pillow, slowed down our study session. I was well pleased with what we accomplished before Dance and was able to finish the rest afterward easily.
FIRST FLIGHT: September 16th Saturday
The weather Saturday morning was perfect. I remembered that Mr. Buttons had warned us to eat sparingly before this class. We were going to be flying in some small aircraft and we might find the ride unsettling for our stomachs. I restricted my breakfast to one platter, but was still feeling kind of hungry as I headed to our appointed meeting place.
It looked like an odd bunch when I got there. We had been told to dress as normally and casually as possible because we would be out in public for a while. I was in jeans, tennis shoes, a pale blue T-shirt, and a tan pull over sweater.
I was wearing one of my sport bras out of consideration for appearances but if it wasn't for that I'd just chuck the things. I'd been told that I would get used to them and I guess I will in time. But they can be a pain if you don't need them. And they can itch too.
We all definitely had different tastes in clothing and the winged kid wasn't as good as concealing his wings as Angel was. She was trying to give him some help and tips as I walked up. Some kids from the other classes were here too. All in all, we had fifteen students, three advanced class helpers, and Mr. Buttons.
He wasted no time taking a role and loading us onto some vans that took us to the airport. We didn't stop at the public terminal but headed over to some hangers located away from the rest. There were several single engine planes out in front of them. There was also a small group of people gathered in front of one of the hangers talking and having a morning coffee or something.
We pulled up near them and disembarked under the watchful eyes of the advanced students as Mr. Buttons went to talk to the group in front of the hangers. While he was introducing himself to them, we were broken into five groups of three students each. My group consisted of me, Hexette, and Mechano Man.
Angel told us that we would be on our own as we were well behaved and experienced fliers and Mechano was a very good pilot on his own merits. The other groups would each have one of the advanced students or Mr. Buttons to watch them. It felt kind of good to be included in that seperate group.
While we were waiting to see what we would be doing, I learned that Hexette's name was Suzanne Ware and Mechano Man was Steve Tupolo. They already knew my name and we had been instructed to go by our regular names while here. Suzanne already had a flying permit and Steve was qualified on just about anything that moved in the air. I was the only non pilot in our group.
Not long after we made our introductions to each other, Mr. Buttons brought a man over to us. He was six foot plus, blond crew cut hair, probably about 210 lbs, and in good shape. He was wearing khaki shirt and slacks with black military style shoes. He had a dark tan on what I could see of him. He held himself in a way that made me think that he had a military background.
Mr. Buttons introduced us. His name was Robert McLarin and he was going to be our instructor today and would also take us for a short flight after he showed us some of what we were expected to do before a flight.
He proceeded to take us on a tour of the hanger and showed us some of the preparatory paperwork that went into getting ready for a flight. Both Suzanne and Steve were bored, but I had never done this and asked many questions and took notes. It wasn't long before I sensed that he was being condescending to me. I figured it was because I was new at this. He was also being somewhat condescending to Suzanne and I decided to follow her lead. I watched her closely for clues how to act. She seemed to be ignoring him and I decided to do the same.
Eventually we went out to a single engine plane. Mr. Mclarin said it was a Cessna something or another.
"Now normally we would do a pre-flight check list, but due to some unexpected delays we are running a bit behind now. These aircraft have already been pre-flighted so we won't worry about it today."
The implication in his attitude was that I was the reason we were behind now. I had been asking questions continuously, but I wanted to know what was going on. I wasn't about to stop now.
"Shouldn't we do our own anyway?"
"It's not necessary, I told you. We can do this at another time." He gave me a condescending smile. "Don't worry yourself, I know what I am doing."
I didn't care that he knew what he was doing, I wanted to know what I would be doing. It was getting harder to be patient with him but I decided to try to be polite with him anyway.
"Could we please go over the pre-flight checklist anyway? I've never done this and I would like to get an idea of what is going on so I will understand it better when I'm reading about it later."
"I told you, we don't have time now. Of course, if you want to stay after this, I can see to it that you get back and we can take our time and go over the list more closely." His smile was a lot warmer than I expected and gave me an odd feeling.
Suzanne took my arm.
"C'mon Billie, I'll help you with this later. Right now let's get going."
"Yeah, let's get going girls, but if either of you need any extra help, just let me know. Which of you wants to ride shotgun?"
I wasn't ready to say anything but Suzanne spoke for us both.
"Uh, let Steve ride up front. We'll ride in the back for now."
He shrugged. "If that's the way you want it." He turned to open up the aircraft.
He didn't hear her whisper to me. "I want at least one pilot I trust up front."
I wondered what she meant but nodded and we moved up to the aircraft.
"Okay girls, let me help you in." He held the door open for us and I climbed in. He tried to support me as I went in and I found myself suppressing a shudder. Somehow I just couldn't abide him touching me. Suzanne climbed in after me and she jumped a bit too. She seemed to be holding back her temper.
Steve climbed in and Mr. Mclarin closed the doors and latched them. He then moved around to the other side and climbed into the other side.
"Buckle in and put on the headphones please. We won't be able to talk if we don't."
We buckled in and put on the head phones with attached mikes. He showed us how to activate the mikes to talk and reminded us to not try to talk at the same time. He then started the engine and taxied out to the runway. Inside a small plane is remarkably noisy. He was right, without the headphones and mikes we wouldn't have been able to talk.
I listened closely as he talked to the controllers in the tower. I wanted to get an idea of what would be expected of me when I was going to be doing this myself. He conferred with the tower about wind conditions and where he was going to be flying us. They also discussed how high we would be allowed to fly and how long we would be out. After that, the tower gave us the go ahead to the runway.
The small plane moved quickly out on the runway and headed down it. It accelerated quickly and leaped into the air. Soon we were high enough to turn and head north, climbing as we went.
"I hope none of you has an easily upset stomach. We can expect a bit of turbulence today. Just let me know and I'll let you out." I groaned but he seemed overly proud of his less than sterling humor.
The ride did seem a little bumpy, but that didn't bother me in the least, and neither of the other two seemed affected by it either.
"Have any of you been flying before?" He winked at me when he said this and I decided I really didn't like the way this was turning out. Steve spoke up quickly and interrupted before I could say anything.
"Actually, I've been qualified on these type of aircraft for several years. I got my permit when I was ten for single engine aircraft."
"Riiight. How about the two of you?"
Suzanne spoke up next.
"Mr. Thomas paid Gram's off by giving me lessons last year. I got my permit then."
"And you're a pilot too?" He seemed incredulous as he asked me this.
"But you've flown a bit?"
"Uh, not like this."
"You all seem to be handling this pretty well considering. I usually have at least one person ready to chuck everything by this time in the flight." He seemed a little disappointed. Then he shrugged.
"Well, since we don't have to worry about interruptions of that nature I think we should continue with our lesson today."
He proceeded to demonstrate how to handle the aircraft and what the controls did and what they were called. We did this for about half an hour and then headed back to the airport. Through all of this I took notes and let the others entertain him. I paid special attention to the landing procedures. It's nice to be able to fly, it's nicer to be able to land in one piece.
We taxied to a stop in front of the hanger. Mr. Mclarin informed us that this was the end of this class but that we would be expected to be ready to do some flying ourselves in the next one, two weeks from now. He climbed out as Steve got out the other side. Suzanne was the lucky one and got Steve to help her out and I got Mr. Mclarin.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay here and work on this some more? I can teach you a lot about flying that you won't learn in the other parts of your classes." He kept a hold on my arm even after we were out.
"No thank you sir. I have some other tests I have to be getting to. Thank you anyway." I carefully extracted my arm from his grip and backed off out of reach.
"C'mon Billie, the others are already heading for the van." Suzanne was waving for me to join her and Steve.
"Thank you, Mr. Mclarin. Maybe we will be seeing you in two weeks." I continued to back off and waved goodbye.
"You don't need to be so formal with me Billie. You can call me Bob." He continued to move towards me and I was starting to wonder if I should run.
"Uh, no. I don't think that would be right. Got to go now, bye! Suzanne! Wait up!" I turned and hurried after her. As I caught up I glanced back and saw him standing there smiling.
"You seem a little nervous."
"Uh, I'm not sure why, but Mr. Mclarin makes me uncomfortable is all."
"You've never had a guy come on to you?"
"Is that what he was doing?" My voice approached a squeek.
"C'mon Billie. Someone who looks as good as you should be used to it all the time by now. You been hidden in a cave or something?"
"No. But I didn't always look like this either. Not until my powers came on, this summer."
"So you don't know how to handle the real pretty girl thing, huh?"
"Yeah, it's never been something I thought I would ever have to know."
"Well, stick with me then and I can show you a few things. Not that I have had a lot of practice, mind you. But, Grams was always on about how a pretty girl should act and behave. And she had a quick way with guys like Mr. Mclarin."
"You said something about not trusting him. What did you mean?"
"Guys like him only want one thing from you. After you run into a few, you get the hang of spotting them pretty quick. They have a way of losing track of what they should be doing and start thinking of things they shouldn't. Did you notice how when he was talking to you, he was talking to your chest?"
"No, I was busy taking notes."
"Well, a good way to spot someone like him is to watch what they are watching. Most guys are going to look at you there at least once or twice. That's natural. It's when they can't take their eyes off of your chest when they are doing stuff and or talking to you that you should be more alert."
"And you didn't trust him because of that?"
"That, and the fact that you should never let the situation stop you from doing a pre-flight check. It's only common sense not to trust someone else's checkup. Especially if their lives aren't going to be on the line."
"You and Steve didn't insist on it though."
"We probably should have, but I was pretty sure that the three of us could handle anything that was likely to happen, and I just wanted to get going and get done with it."
"Oh. Uh, how should I handle guys like him?"
"Usually you just ignore them and eventually they get the message or get bored and move on."
"What about the ones that don't fall into the "usually" part?"
"Again, the vast majority of even those are harmless, just very irritating, and may need to be reminded more forcefully to get lost. Usually a good put down or some interference from your boyfriend will be enough. There are a few who are just too stupid to ever get it and you sometimes have to get rough with them."
"Anything else I should know?"
"Yeah. A very few can be dangerous. Maybe not to you and me, but keep your wits about you and don't put yourself in a situation that you might have to do something drastic. It really doesn't look good when a young girl trashes some jerk twice her size. It's kind of a turnoff to most guys. And you don't want to be scaring them all off now, do you?"
"Uh... I guess not."
"Oh, you devil you. You keep up that innocent little girl routine and you won't be able to beat them all off with a stick."
"But I don't want to..."
"Don't want to beat them with a stick, or beat them off?"
"Has anyone told you that you blush really well?"
"It's okay Billie. I'm just joking with you. Now let's get going. I don't want to miss lunch."
The others were waiting for us to board and Mr. Buttons checked us off his role. The vans headed back and we got back barely in time for lunch. I had to rush from there to the medical section where they were going to be doing the tests. I didn't have a chance to think about what Suzanne had told me yet. Hopefully, Hank or some of the others, could help me with that and if not I would have to see if Suzanne might be able to.
MORE TESTS: September 16th
I didn't have to wait long. But, after what happened the last time I was here, I was starting to get a little nervous. It was a great relief to me when Dr. Polland came in. At least it was someone I knew. He smiled when he saw me.
"Well, you look a lot better than you did the last time. How are those wounds you had?"
"I feel a lot better than last time and they're all gone. Not even a scar to show for it."
"That's good. I think I said this before, but I wish more of my patients could heal like you do."
"You ought to be happy they don't doctor. You'd probably be out a job then."
"No. I don't think so. Even as tough as you are you could still be hurt, and it takes people like me to put you back together again when that happens. And it does happen. Let me tell you. I would just be happier if they healed up as completely as you. I would get more satisfaction I think."
"Okay, okay. I won't argue with you there. Is there a reason I get you today, or am I just lucky?"
"Why thank you young lady. You just made my whole day. But, the fact is that after the last fiasco, we felt it would be better if you could go through this with someone you already knew."
"We wouldn't want any accidents in this part of the compound. I had a chance to see what happened out at Range Three and I have no intention of letting something like that happen here. My insurance costs are bad enough without adding Natural Disaster Coverage to what I already owe them."
"I'm not that bad am I?"
"Don't sell yourself short, I've seen less damage in combat after a heavy air strike. That's one of the reasons we need to find out as much as we can about you. We can't have you going off unexpectedly in the middle of one of your classes."
This line of reasoning was not making me feel any better, and I think he realized that I was not finding it as humorous as he hoped I would.
"Enough of my bad jokes for now. I had a talk with Dr. Bellows and Mr. Lodgeman before you came in and they told me a few things that I didn't quite believe at first."
"Hmmm... Like your expectations of what you are wearing to the Senior Prom have changed a bit."
"They told you that did they? Why?"
"I'm going to be in charge of the studies that we need to do and I needed to know this in order to do my job right. You need to understand that this will not make a difference in how I will be treating you. You will be a patient of mine and I will observe every rule of maintaining your privacy completely. It will go no further than this unless you want it to. But, I felt that you should be aware that I know, and that if something comes up that would require you to tell me somethin, I already know and you don't have to worry about concealing it."
"Why would they tell you and not let me?"
"They are in a very difficult position, where they are responsible for a lot. I don't think that they felt that they could risk not telling me. If it means anything to you, I think they could have trusted you to tell me."
"Thank you for that. But it still isn't an easy thing for me."
"I understand. Now for my information, and I'm not recording any of this, I'd like you to tell me in your own words exactly what has happened to you."
"Will you promise not to tell anyone else, even Mr. Lodgeman or Dr. Bellows without my permission?"
"Mr. Lodgeman did mention that he thinks you haven't told him everything. But to answer your question, yes. I will maintain complete confidentiality in this."
"Okay, I'm going to have to trust someone with this eventually, and I might as well start with you." I proceeded to give him the full story, not the annotated version I had been using. He had a lot of questions about Ultra-X-Amine that I couldn't answer. I told him to check with Mr. Tanaka to get more details about that.
"That explains a lot of what I have heard of you. I admit to doing a bit of research on my own too. I'm hoping that with the tests that I'm going to run and this information, I can quickly have some answers for you. Hopefully you have the whole evening available. This might take some time."
"No more surprises like last time?"
"Don't worry. I'm not letting you out of my sight until we're through. I really don't want to risk a repeat of last time."
"Okay then, let's get started."
The next several hours were spent proving first, that no mistakes were made in the first attempts, and next, that creative use of different types of equipment could substitute for the regular tests. They put me in front, over, and through more types of machines than I cared to count.
I drew the line when someone suggested trying to cut off parts of me for study. Dr. Polland put a quick stop to that idea when I heard it and started to spark. Eventually, they got tired of trying different tests with the same equipment and settled down to trying to figure out what the tests were telling them. I think they forgot I was there while they argued. The three doctors who apparently were in charge of my testing, Doctors Polland, Hendricks , and Shandy, finally came to some kind of consensus.
"Well, I think we can be fairly certain that she is still changing somewhat on a sub atomic level. That would explain why it was easier to do some of these tests earlier on. Of course, she may be done with that now. And the power spikes that we recorded when we were able to cut some of her hair, and when the blood samples disintegrated were fairly distinct. I'm just not sure that I believe my own ideas on this."
"The X-ray and magnetic scans would seem to support the hypothesis though, Doctor. I don't think we would get the results we did if there wasn't some truth to the idea."
"I have to agree. We may not have any idea of how it has been done, but I think we can be fairly certain of what has occurred here. Do you think that we could get her to accommodate us on some other tests Dr. Polland?"
"It would depend on the kind of tests I'm afraid. If we approach her the right way and don't threaten her I'm certain that she will help us in most ways. But I would really appreciate it if you never mention cutting off fingers, toes or anything else. Especially in her presence. I don't think I have to warn you gentlemen just how dangerous that could be."
"Yes, yes! We can all agree on that. But I would really like to get her into a centrifuge as soon as we can."
"And I would like to get a chance to study the results of her power blasts and sword immediately after she uses them. I have a few ideas about how they are formed, but I would have to study them as they were being used to be more certain of my ideas."
"Hmmm... Well, we would have to take her to one of the ranges for that. I think she would be willing, but we need to approach her carefully about that and make sure there are no surprises. I don't know how much you saw of Range Three, but I don't want to risk any sort of repeat."
"I have to agree, but I really need to observe her doing the energy control and observe the results as they are happening to be more certain of my theories. How soon could we get a range?"
"I might be able to arrange one next Saturday afternoon. You just want to observe her use her energy blast and sword?"
"Yes. And be able to examine the immediate results. That is very important if I'm to verify the energy effects. To do that we will need to set up some sensors as targets.
I didn't know about them, but I was getting pretty hungry.
"Oh. Billie. What are you doing here?"
"I was here doing some tests?"
"Oh. Yes. I remember now. We were just discussing the results. You didn't leave yet?"
"I didn't know that I was supposed to."
"Shouldn't you be going to supper or something?"
"I think it's a little late for that isn't it?"
"Ummm... Yes, I guess it is now, isn't it. Perhaps you could join us at the staff cafeteria? I'm sure we can get something for you to eat."
"Thank you. I am pretty hungry. Have you found out anything from your tests?"
"Wellll... We aren't sure yet and will have to do some more tests...."
"Like going to a range and having me use some of my powers?"
"Yes. If you would please. It would help us greatly."
"Okay, but only if you are there with me when I do it."
"Great! Then we will plan on next Saturday. I'll let you know when we can have it set up."
"Okay. Can we get something to eat now?"
"Sure. Let's go now. See gentlemen, I told you that even with antimatter she needs something to maintain her energy levels."
"Of course Dr. Polland. Do you think the dimensional warping has something to do with that?"
"Uh, gentlemen? Antimatter? Dimensional warping?"
"It's just a hypothesis at this time. We really don't want to say much until we have a chance to confirm some of our ideas."
"Yeah, there are probably five or six papers in this one and we don't want anyone stealing this from us."
"Yes. The competition is murder, but if we can keep this to ourselves, we might be able to get special mention in Scientific American. Or maybe even Discover or Readers Digest!"
"Oh. That important huh?"
"Oh yes. Discoveries like this could rock the world as we know it."
"What in the world about me could rock anything?"
"You are apparently the focus of some form of dimensional warping, but we think that is an effect of your physical nature."
"And that would be?"
"It would seem that you are at least partially antimatter. But don't worry, you are remarkably stable. You couldn't be better off if you had been made that way."
A strangely strong shiver ran up and down my spine as he said that.
"I'm part antimatter?"
"Well, that's the theory. We don't know for certain yet and we would appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone about this, okay?"
"But, doesn't antimatter blow up?"
"Well, that's another theory. By studying you we hope to be able to learn more about that too. But don't worry, you haven't blown up yet and you probably won't in the near future anyway."
We had been walking the whole time we were talking and had reached the cafeteria.
"Uh, Miss Wilson?"
"Please don't tell anyone about this. We really want to keep a lid on this until we can be certain about our theories, okay?"
"Only on one condition."
"You've got to tell me if I'm going to blow up. When you know I mean."
They just stopped and stared at me.
"Uh. How about we eat now, okay?"
They nodded and motioned me to proceed into the cafeteria.
"Chose anything you want. We'll put it on our tab."
The look of disbelief on their faces was classical as they watched me load up a platter and eat it all. They didn't even touch their own food as they watched. I thought Dr. Hendricks would fall out of his seat when I asked if I could get seconds. I could hear them whispering as I got my second platter together.
After I finished the second I was full enough to figure I could hold out till breakfast. I excused myself and left them to their muttered conversations as I headed back to Poe. I told everyone who wanted to know how the tests went that it would take more time and tests before I would know anything.
I then went and hid in the rafters while I wondered just how much like Ryoko I had actually become and if there were more surprises in the future. I finally came down and went to bed, but my sleep kept being interrupted by those strange dreams again.
The last one I remembered left me sweating in my bed wondering if I would be able to sleep again that night. It involved running and hiding from someone I knew I didn't want to find me. I new that they were trying to capture me and it ended right before they did catch me.
I finally got to sleep again after my heart stopped beating like a jack hammer and I settled down. Fortunately, I didn't have any more strange dreams to wake me. I convinced myself not to worry about it and instead looked forward to the fishing trip Harry and I had planned for later this morning after breakfast.
FISHING IS RELAXING: September 17th Sunday
There was a large stream that cut through the lower end of the campus. We planned to start there and work upstream through a wooded area that joined with the State Forest that was next to Whateley. There was a camping area about two miles upstream from there that we were going to use as a destination.
We planned to meet at eleven and spend the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon checking the stream out and deciding if we would come back at a better time to do some more serious fishing. The cafeteria supplied us with sack lunches that we picked up after Sunday brunch.
I was going to use my ultralight spinning combination and a small box of tackle I could carry in my vest. I was wearing a pair of light leather calf length boots I bought while in town with jeans and a heavy long sleeved shirt. I bound my hair with a bandana because I hadn't found a hat I could wear yet. My vest had several large pockets I could use to carry my tackle and my lunch.
Since I was ready well before eleven, I told Jade where I was going and headed down to our meeting area fifteen minutes before the hour. It only took me five minutes and Harry was already there. He was dressed in what looked like brown Carhart coveralls, heavy plaid shirt, heavy boots, and a hood to cover his head and conceal some of the more obvious differences in case we ran into someone. He also had a vest and was using a fly rod.
"Hi Harry! Can't wait to get started?"
"Yeah, It's been a long time since I had a chance to get out and wet a line."
"Well just hold on a moment. I have to get some insect repellent on. Do you need any?"
"No. I already got some. Yours have DEET?"
Yep! I don't want anything to do with ticks if I can help it. I don't imagine that you like them any better."
"You can say that again. You don't know what a pain they can be until you have to get them out of your fur."
Shudder. "Eeewwww! Just the thought gives me the creeps. Do you think there is anything worth catching in this stream?"
"Probably not this late in the day. At least nothing worth mentioning. But it ought to be fun trying anyway. We can at least spot some good holes for later."
"True. Let's get started then."
We started to work our way upstream. Time passed quickly and even though we didn't catch very much and none of the fish we caught were worth keeping, we still had a lot of fun. I discovered that being able to fly and levitate is a huge advantage when fishing in a stream like this. I was able to move around obstacles without getting wet and scratched up. I was also able to move to the perfect area to cast, without having to worry about tripping and falling into the water or getting my line tangled.
By the time we were approaching the camping area we had found several promising holes and Harry was wet to the thighs and covered in bits and pieces of plant life. Not that he wasn't having fun. I did notice that he had a definite doggy odor when wet.
"Anyone told you that you smell when wet?"
"Anyone pointed out to you that I'm probably a lot more aware of it than you?"
"Oh, yeah. I guess you would be at that."
I waited for him to say some more but he just kept looking upstream.
"Is there something wrong?"
"I don't know. I can hear someone upstream who seems to be upset. But I can't make out why."
"Maybe we should check it out?"
"Maybe. But you better be more careful as we approach."
"What do you mean by that?"
He glanced pointedly down at my feet.
I looked down and realized that I was standing on top of some slow moving water behind one of the rocks.
"We aren't on campus right now, you might want to act a little more normal until we're sure that no one will take offense."
"Yeah, sure. What about you? Even in that clothing, you aren't the most normal person around." As I said that, I moved to the top of a nearby rock.
"I can move quietly when I have to. I don't think you need to worry about me being seen if I don't want them to see me."
"Yeah, I'm sure. Just don't get upwind of them and you'll be fine."
"Hey! I'm not that bad, and besides, the breeze is coming down the stream. We don't have to worry about it. C'mon, let's move carefully and find out what's happening. I'm going to move into the brush. Why don't you move up the stream. You look pretty normal when you aren't too close or walking on the water."
"Hey to you too! I can handle myself just fine, thank you. Any idea how many and who they are?"
"Not yet. I may be able to get a better idea when we are closer. Move carefully, okay?"
"Sure, you too."
He faded into the woods and I headed upstream. I still wasn't going to get wet if I could help it, but I did take more care to keep my ability concealed. I quickly came to an area I would consider a good prospect for good sized fish.
The stream dropped over a two foot drop into a pool that was at least forty feet wide with some excellent deep hiding spots. An excellent spot to fish or even swim if you didn't mind the cold water. Then I heard someone call for help and I saw what appeared to be a young man kneeling by a body on the other side near the falls. He cupped his hands and called again, then turned back to whoever he was kneeling by.
I took the moment when he had his back turned to me to dart across the stream and behind some bushes. The situation didn't look like a trap, but then a trap wouldn't. I decided to trust that Harry could get me out of trouble or go get help if necessary. I moved towards where I knew the boy was and called out.
"Helloooo... does someone need help?"
"Yes! Yes! Please help us! My brother fell down this embankment and I think he's hurt bad!"
I moved around the bushes and started towards what I now could see was two boys, one lying in a heap at the foot of a ten foot bank. As I got closer I could see that he was disappointed to see me.
"Are there any grown ups with you?"
"I'm sorry, no. But I should be able to help you anyway. What's your name and what happened here?"
Obviously disappointed, he called back to me as I worked my way to him through the brush.
"I'm Troy Chilson. My two brothers and I were hiking down here when Calvin slipped and fell. When John and I got down here he was like this and we haven't been able to wake him up."
"You haven't moved him at all, have you?"
"No. They taught us not to in Boy Scouts."
"That's good! Where is John?"
"He ran back to the campground to get help. I stayed here to see if I could do anything for Cal and call for help in case someone came by."
"How long ago did John leave?"
"Just a few minutes, but I think Cal is getting worse. Please help him!"
"Just be calm and let me look at him."
"Do you know first aid?"
"Some. I learned in Scouts."
"Girl Scouts teach First Aid?"
"Uh.... Yeah, they do."
Troy kept asking questions as I examined Calvin. Calvin had a bad bruise on his temple where it looked like he landed. The rest of him looked okay except that he seemed to be going into shock. Very pale, sweaty, and his skin was cool and clammy. He wouldn't respond to his name or light touches and I didn't want to shake him any harder, in case he had a neck or back injury.
"Can you help him?"
"I'm going to have to go and get some professional help."
"But you can't go! Besides, John already went."
"I can go faster and bring help sooner. From Whateley."
"Yeah, the school I go to, over that way."
"But you can't leave me alone! Not now!" He grabbed my arm and held on tight.
"Look. You won't be alone. My friend Harry will stay with you."
"Yeah. Big guy, about seven feet tall. You can't miss him."
Troy got a wild look in his eyes and started to edge away from me.
"Hey, don't worry. He's really nice and will take good care of you while I'm getting help. Harry! Come on out! We need some help over here! And I don't want this guy thinking I have a big, rabbit eared, invisible friend either!"
Harry came out of the woods on the other side and started across the stream in a shallower area.
"Wow! He's really big isn't he? Why is he wearing that hood?"
"Brace yourself Troy. Harry is a wonderful person, but along with the size, he got some other things. He looks like a werewolf. So don't panic, okay?"
"Uh, sure. What are you? Some kind of elf?"
"Not me. Fey's the elf. I'm just a girl. With a few abilities that can help here."
"You know an elf!?"
"Yep. Among others."
"Uh.... Can you heal people?"
"Fraid not. But I'll go see if I can get someone. Harry can help you here while I go."
"Where would you go? John already went for help."
"Whateley, our school. If anyone can get here fast it will be someone from there."
"Isn't that a lot of forest to go through? And the camp ground is only about half a mile that way."
"Won't be a problem. And they won't have what we can get at Whateley either."
"Harry, this is Troy. Troy, this is Harry. You guys help Cal here and I'll go get help."
I pulled my vest off and put it over Calvin to help warm him a bit.
"Are you sure you should do this Billie? You know how they feel about displaying our powers."
"It's an emergency. I'm sure they'll understand."
"Okay, if you think so." Harry was pulling off his vest and hood to put over Cal also.
"I'll be back ASAP."
With that, I took off flying full speed towards Whateley. I think Troy was watching Harry so closely that he may have missed my leaving entirely.
DAYS ARE BETTER: September 17th
Lieutenant Colin Forsyth usually didn't have much to worry about on the day shift. As second in command, he got the moderately cushy job of handling security during the day. Very little weird happens during the day. That's why Chief Delarose usually handled the night. There had already been a few major dustups in the last week. This year was promising to be really interesting.
He had just settled down to reviewing the duty roster for the upcoming week when the alarms went off. The alarm just about lifted him out of his seat and in the next moment he was in the control room.
"Sid! What the hell is that for!"
Sidney Bellinger was the watch officer today and was just recovering from being jerked out of a daydream about one of the new girls that had arrived this year. It was rumored that she was some kind of magic user, but a guy could dream couldn't he?
"Uh... Hold on a moment. Hey! We got incoming! From the State Forest! Coming in fast and low!"
"Incoming!? What is it?"
"I don't know. We haven't got a visual yet. Wait! Just got a shot from O-post Ten. Looks like a girl, flying in towards the Admin building."
"A girl? One of the students?"
"Running an ID check now. Yes! A Billie Wilson, aka Tennyo. Say. Hasn't she been involved in some of those disruptions we had the last few days?"
"Yeah. The Chief said something about it being a good idea to not get her mad. What's the campus status right now?"
"Luckily, we're green flag right now. We should be able to get someone over there and pick her up without causing any problems."
"She still headed for Admin?"
"Yes, right for the front doors. Chet and Victor are on the front desk. I'll give them a heads up and have them meet her at the entry."
"Do that. And find out what her reasons for pulling a stunt like that are. Some of these kids think they own the joint. And while you are at it, go to a level two alert. This may be a diversion of some sort."
Sid delivered the message, sent out orders to bring the three available squads up to alert status, and then the two of them waited for the out come. Chet got the job of apprehending the student and was carrying a hand held so he could report directly to control.
Chet Haskins had played football in college. He had joined the marines after that and served honorably in a Recon unit for eight years. He had even seen action in the Gulf. That had convinced him that he wanted something else in life and he opted not to reenlist after his eight years were up. He still found himself drawn to similar work and the job of security at Whateley fit the bill. Interesting and challenging at the same time.
Six feet three inches and 250 lbs of well trained muscle, he was not easily intimidated by much of anything. He decided to see if he could catch her before she entered the building and moved out to the area in front of the building. If the girl was trying to avoid them, it would be more obvious if she did it when she saw him at range.
"I can see her now. She sees me too. She's headed right for me." Then he thought of a possible problem with that approach. "Uh, she doesn't blow up when she lands does she?"
Before he could get an answer, Billie had pulled up right in front of him. Hovering in the air in front of him. The Lieutenant and Sid had a good view of her in the sensors liberally placed around the front of Admin.
"Hey! Am I glad to see you! We found a kid out in the forest. He's hurt pretty bad. We need to get him some medical help right away!"
He hadn't been expecting an answer like that. Most students who had been caught doing something like this against the rules either tried to avoid security or clammed up. Afraid to say anything at all.
"C'mon! We got to hurry! He could have head trauma and or a neck or back injury. He needs help fast, and I don't think the regular rescue services can get to him fast enough!"
"Are you getting this sir?"
Lt. Forsyth was now in a bind. One of the ones where you have to make a decision fast, and it has to be right, because if your wrong people get hurt.
"Sid. How soon can we get someone in the air?"
"If I give them the word right now, I can have Squad Two ready in ten."
"Okay, give them the word. I want everyone else to stay alert. It could still be a trap or diversion. I want to know what kind of emergency personnel we have available on short notice also."
"Yes sir. Squad Two has been notified and are preparing now. Gene Smith is at the aid station. He's an EMT. If we can get him out there he could help. Chet, can you get more information on where the injured kid is? I know you have done some fishing out that way."
"Okay. Hey! Kid! Where is the injured person?" Can you describe where he is?"
"We've got to hurry! Where can I find someone who can help Calvin? He's the one who's hurt!"
"We're working on that . Be patient and tell me where this Calvin is. Is he a student?"
"No, he's not a student. He and his family were spending the day at the camping ground about two miles up the stream here. He and his brothers were hiking about a quarter to half a mile down stream from there when Calvin fell down a bank near a waterfall that drops into a large pool. One of his brothers ran for help while the other stayed with him. Harry and I showed up right after the one ran for help."
"Harry Wolfe. He's a student here like me. We went fishing a little while ago and found the injured boy."
Sid and the Lieutenant had been listening in and Sid prompted Chet to give them more information.
"Well.... It sounds like Saunders Hole. I don't think there is another like it anywhere in this area."
"Will they be able to get rescue personnel into there fast?"
"Not nearly as fast as we can. And, they will still have to carry him out and transport him from there. I'd say that we could do a lot better if we can get him here after we get to him."
"If you have a stretcher and some kind of harness, I can fly him out."
"Did you get that LT?"
"Yeah, she doesn't look like she could carry a sack lunch. What other options are there?"
Have I mentioned that I can hear pretty well? That last statement was totally uncalled for. Even if they didn't want to involve me anymore than I was. I jumped forward, grabbed Chet, lifted straight up, looped the loop, and set him right back where I picked him up from. All before he do more than give a startled ,"Hey!"
"I said I could fly him out. I would only need the stretcher to help immobilize him and keep him from struggling."
"Chet! You Okay?!"
"Uh, I'm fine sir. But I think she means it."
"Yeah. I bet she does. Okay, here's the plan. We'll get Gene out there with any equipment he can carry and a hand held so he can clue us in on what is going on out there. I'll have Two pick up a Stokes and follow up to support him. Can the kid get him over there fast?"
"Yes I can!"
"She's got good ears, doesn't she? Okay. That's what we'll do. Sid. Get hold of the local rescue services and see what they know about this. If she is telling the truth they should be getting notification any time now from the kid that ran for help. If they can help we might as well use them. How soon can Gene be ready?"
"He was listening in and is already on his way. Should be out in front any moment now."
"Good." Colin sat back for the hardest part of the job. Waiting to see if he had made the right choices.
LIFE IN ADMIN: September 17th
Gene Smith was 5' 9" and 190 lbs of wiry muscle. He was proud of his physical strength and worked hard to maintain it constantly. A Conscientious Objector from a poor southern family in Alabama, he had gotten into the medical field by enlisting in the Army right out of high school and opting for Medical Corpsman. The Army trained and educated him well. Even now that he had left the military, he was using the benefits to prepare for medical school.
He was working at Whateley while waiting for the results of his submissions to various schools. He had a small empathic talent that helped him be a natural in his chosen profession and had helped him get this job at Whateley. He had been able to refine his talent under the tutelage of the excellent staff here. His fondest wish at this time was to get his medical degree and return home to help his old community.
When the call came in, he grabbed a backpack he had put together for such situations so he could keep his hands free while carrying the necessary tools. Attaching a hand held to his belt he dashed out to the front of Admin. A crowd had started to gather to see the security guard facing a flying girl. Pushing his way past the crowd in the door he called out to get Chet's attention.
"Hey Chet! This my ride?"
"Sure is Gene. Better strap in tight though. She can really move."
"Nothin this ol boy cain't handle, I'm sure."
As he moved closer he could see that the girl wasn't floating so much as standing in the air.
HELP IS WHERE YOU FIND IT: September 17th
The EMT, whose name appeared to be Gene, pushed his way through the gathering crowd towards us. He exchanged a few words with Chet and then turned to me.
"Okay, young lady, where away?"
I thought about it for a moment and then turned my back to him.
"Hop on my back and get a good grip. When I'm sure you're secure, we'll get going."
He wrapped his arms around my shoulders in a tight grip and I lifted us off the ground. When I was sure that he was secure I started to accelerate and rise farther into the air. I ignored several comments coming from the crowd. We were in a hurry and I didn't have time to teach them some manners.
The return trip was slower to make sure that Gene wouldn't slip and fall. I filled him in on the situation as I understood it and gave him as many details as I could.
We could soon see the pool and falls and soon after that we could see Harry and Troy kneeling near Calvin. In the distance I could see where the campground was and what looked like a small group of people heading towards us from there.
As soon as we landed, Gene whipped out the hand held and radioed the school.
"LT? The situation here is as described. I'm not yet sure of the boy's condition, but I think it would be a good idea for four of the squad you are sending to bring the stretcher and have the other two stay there in case I need something else and can't move him."
"Roger, Gene. Will send four with stretcher and reserve two for emergency requests."
Gene pulled off his large backpack and proceeded to examine the unconscious boy. Troy hovered over him while Harry and I backed off a little. Harry had put his vest and hood along with my vest on Cal to help keep him warm. Gene carefully removed those and replaced them with a blanket from the pack. He had rigged the hand held to operate with a throat mike also.
"Have those guys left yet?"
"No. They're just getting ready to fly out now."
"Could you have them bring another two blankets please?"
"Sure, two blankets coming up. They'll be there in a few minutes."
"Tell the docs to be ready too. I would say we have a definite concussion here and probable neck trauma."
"Can't be sure. But it looks like we are going to have to get him to help soon. I haven't been with him long enough to be sure but it looks like his vital signs are dropping."
"Roger that. We'll be ready on this end. By the way, we just got confirmation from the local sheriffs office that the other boy just reported the accident and that the local rescue services can't get there any faster than we can. Looks like it's up to us."
"Roger. As soon as we can stabilize him we will get him to Medical ASAP.
Harry turned and looked upstream.
"Gene looked up. Don't go running off now. I may still need your help."
Harry looked uncomfortable. But nodded his head and Gene went back to applying the inflatable neck brace he had pulled out of the pack. Shortly after that, people from the camp ground started to show up.
The first to arrive were a young boy and a man who appeared to be in his forties. The man was dressed in outdoor clothing and looked as if he had been camping at least a few days. Both were out of breath from running. Troy looked up and then ran towards them.
"DAD! Over here!"
"Troy! Gasp... gasp. Are you...wheeze...Okay?"
Troy ran up to the man and grabbed his arm.
"Cal is hurt. But Gene is an EMT and is checking him now."
Just then, the two newcomers got a good look at me and Harry. They stopped flat even with Troy trying to pull them closer. Troy looked around to see why they had stopped and realized that they had seen us.
"Dad! It's okay. They're friends and are helping us. They were fishing down below us and heard me yelling for help. Billie flew to their school which is over that way and brought Gene back to help."
"Yeah, Billie can fly."
Apparently deciding that we weren't an immediate threat, he moved up to Gene.
"How is he?"
"I'm afraid that I can't tell yet. We need to get him to a medical facility quickly for X-rays and the like to be sure what we need to do. Don't worry, we have excellent facilities and as soon as we get him there everything will be fine."
"How are we going to get him to a hospital?"
"Billie over there, will carry him."
"He is kind of big. Are you sure he can carry him safely?"
"Huh? Oh. That's not Billie. That's Harry. Billie's next to him."
"Yeah. She's pretty good at it too. Lucky for us. She's why I was able to get here so fast. The regular rescue people in this area wouldn't get here for at least another half hour or so. Now if you don't mind, I need to finish getting this boy stabilized for transport."
I'd been listening in and decided that I wasn't going to have to demonstrate what I could do again.
He looked over at us and noticed that Troy had brought John over and was introducing us very politely to him. He approached us, so he could hear what was being said.
"Billie, Harry, I'd like you to meet John, my brother. John. I'd like you to meet Billie and Harry. Don't worry, John, they're really nice people."
Harry and I responded simultaneously, sticking our hands out, and I said, "Pleased to meet you John."
He took one of our hands in each of his. "Thank you for your help. Is Cal going to be okay?"
Harry spoke for both of us. "We think so, as soon as the stretcher gets here, Billie will fly him over to our school where the doctors can work on him."
Their father was approaching us. He seemed a little nervous of Harry so I moved forward to shake his hand.
"Hi! My name is Billie Wilson and my friend here is Harry Wolfe. You must be Troy's father."
"Uh... Hi. Uh.. My name is William Chilson. Thank you for helping."
"We're always glad to help. We were just fishing a little below here when we heard Troy here calling for help. You should be really proud of them. They did everything you are supposed to do in a situation like this."
"Uh... I didn't see you at the campground. Where did you come from?"
"We came from downstream. We're from Whateley."
"Yes. It's a school back that way."
"School? How old are you?"
"I'm si.... Uh fifteen. Harry is sixteen. Whateley is a boarding school for people like us who have a hard time in regular public schools."
"You seem very ...Mature for your ages."
Harry's size makes him look older than he is and I wasn't about to go into my story and the fact that my body was based on a mature seventeen year old. I decided to take the comment as a compliment and leave it at that.
"Thank you. We come from families that stress individualism and self reliance."
He was saved from having to say anything else by the arrival of two more people from the campground and the four security personnel flying in with flying packs.
The two women were a forest ranger and someone dressed like Mr. Chilson. They had stopped to watch the four security people land. Then the one woman ran forward as the ranger radioed something. Two of the security people took up watch positions while the other two delivered the stretcher and blankets. One of them spoke to Chet.
"Hey, Chet! I hope you know what you are doing. This thing is a bear to handle. Even the four of us will have a rough time carrying it with the kid."
"Don't worry Larry. Billie over there will do the honors."
"Isn't she one of the trouble makers from the other nights?"
I stood there and blushed as Harry put his hand on my shoulder. Fortunately, Mr. Chilson was distracted by the running woman and I didn't think he heard what Larry had said.
"Don't worry about it. Just be glad she is here to do it for us. Now put that over here and help me move this kid into it."
Mr. Chilson was waving and calling to the running woman. "Mary! Mary! Over here!"
She hesitated for a moment, and then changed course to meet him.
"Bill! Is he okay? What are they doing and who are they? And why are they carrying guns?"
"It's okay dear. They are from Whateley. They are part of the security force there. They are the ones equipped to get him to a hospital faster."
"Hospital! What's wrong with him!" She tried to pull away but he held her back.
"It's okay. They are taking him there for tests to make sure he is alright."
She turned and clung to him while he muttered reassurances to her.
While they were like that, Gene and the two security men were carefully moving Cal into the stretcher. Wrapping him in blankets and tying him down.
I turned to Harry.
"I'm going to gather our gear and head back downstream. Meet you in the hospital?"
"Yeah, sounds good to me. See you there."
Both of us jumped when we heard a sudden, "EEEP!"
"It's okay dear! These are the young people who were able to bring help so quickly."
"Mary! They are helping us! This is Billie and the tall one is Harry. They are from a school called Whateley that is downstream from here. They heard Troy calling for help and came to his aid."
She had a kind of wild look in her eyes, but she at least settled down quickly. Though she still clung tightly to her husband.
"Thank you. I'm Mary Chilson."
"Pleased to meet you Ma'am. Uh, I better get ready to go, Billie. It looks as if we are almost done here."
Gene was approaching us.
"Which of you wants to go with Cal to the hospital?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the gentlemen here have a sling they can use to transport one of you with Cal. The rest of us can go back to the campground and the Forest Service has arranged to take us back to Whateley."
Mr. Chilson turned to his wife.
"Why don't you go dear? I can get back to the campground and bring the car over and I know you want to be close to him now."
"Oh, okay, I'll go. You won't be long?"
"Not long at all. Don't worry. They seem like they know what they are doing."
They kissed each other and whispered to each other. Then Mr. Chilson turned and called to Troy and John.
"Come on boys. Let's hurry back!"
"Dad. Can't we go with Harry?"
Harry had begun to gather our gear and was getting ready to head downstream. He waited to see what Mr. Chilson decided.
"No boys. I want you to stay with me. I don't want to be worried waiting for you to get there."
"Awww... Dad. We'll be fine!"
"NO! I want to get going now. Come on."
"Ohhh... Okay. Bye! Will we see you there?"
"Yep! You'll see us there. Better get a move on or Harry will get there first!"
"Okay! C'mon Dad! We've got to hurry!"
"We are ready over here Billie!"
Gene was motioning me over. They had Cal in the stretcher with several straps attached to it.
"Now, how will you carry this?"
I stretched myself in the air over the stretcher.
"Just strap him on and I'll be ready to go!"
They quickly attached the straps to me and I lifted it off the ground. I looked around to see what everyone else was doing.
Mrs. Chilson was in a harness that was attached to ropes that led to the four security men who were preparing to take off with her in tow. She was very nervous but I could tell she was determined to go through with this. She turned to me.
"Please be careful with him."
"Don't worry ma'am. I'll get him there safely."
I gave her a thumbs up and started to lift off. Harry was already a ways down the stream and the ranger, Gene, and the rest of the Chilson's were already headed up stream too.
The security force lifted off and as soon as the ropes pulled tight, Mrs Chilson did also with a scream. I slowly accelerated after them. I pulled up next to Mrs. Chilson and gave her a thumbs up also. I hoped she was reassured.
The jet packs were slower than me and the leader of the squad motioned for me to move ahead of them. I speeded up and soon was approaching the school. I could see a group of white coated people in front of one of the doors near a helicopter pad. I swept down and floated in place as they unstrapped me and put him on a gurney and headed inside. I waited for the others and soon the squad dropped off Mrs. Chilson.
Some more white coated people had come out, and as soon as Mrs. Chilson was there, they gathered around her and lead her into the building. I stuck with her as they asked her questions about her son and family history. Eventually they got around to getting insurance info also. I soon realized that they were keeping her occupied so she wouldn't be worrying about her son so much.
Eventually, even the paperwork ran out. Shortly after that, Gene and the rest of the Chilsons showed up. There were more questions and answer sessions with everyone, even me, filling them in on what we knew about what happened.
During this time, Harry showed up and let me know that he had dropped off my stuff at Poe and told them what was going on. He then offered to take Troy and John on a tour of the campus. By that time their parents were willing to let someone else worry about them and they let him do that. The others from Poe came by and said hello also.
For two hours, that seemed like days, I tried to keep them from worrying too much by telling them a little of what was going on here at Whateley. Finally I saw Dr. Polland looking around as if he was searching for someone. I waved and he smiled and came over.
"Hi Billie! I heard you had been helping out again. Is this Mr. And Mrs. Chilson?"
"Yes sir. Do you have news on how Cal is doing?"
He smiled and I felt a wave of relief. I hadn't really known them very long, but I was beginning to get somewhat attached to them and would have been upset if anything bad had happened to them.
"Yes, I have excellent news." The Chilson's, who had been holding hands let out sighs of relief that covered my own. Mr. Chilson spoke for all of us.
"Can you give us some details?"
"Certainly, sit down and I will be glad to tell you all I can. Let me assure you that while Calvin is not as good a patient as Miss Wilson here, he is fine and we can release him by tomorrow."
"It's perfectly alright. We just have a policy of observing any suspected head traumas for a period of twenty four hours to be certain that there are no lasting side effects of the treatment."
"Your certain that he is going to be alright?"
"As certain as we can be. Dr. Tenant is probably among the very best, if not the best, at this in the world. She says that he will recover completely and will suffer no long term problems from his injuries. He did take a nasty fall, and we will follow procedure so as to meet all the insurance criteria. But I think I can say with certainty that this will just be an added adventure to your trip and nothing else."
"Thank God! Can we see him?"
"Yes, he has been asking about you and I came out to get you. Billie? Do you want to come along?"
"If no one minds. I'd like to see him."
He looked at the Chilsons and they nodded okay. "Well, come along then. I'm sure he would like to meet one of his rescuers."
He led us to an elevator and took us down two floors. After moving through several corridors we came to an area with rooms for patients. He led us to room c-14 and motioned us in.
It was a two bed room, but only one bed had a patient. It was Cal, awake and looking around. Then he saw his parents.
They rushed forward and hugged him. I just stood back and let them get it out of their systems. Besides, I had the funny sensation like I could break out crying at any moment and I didn't think I could take that kind of embarrassment right now.
After the first muffled greetings and the threats that if he ever pulled a stunt like that again, they were going to kill him for sure, he started babbling rapidly and non stop about some of the things he had seen.
"Mom? Dad? I know your not going to believe it but one of my doctors, a lady , I think they called her Dr. Tenant, has really long hair, and she uses it to hold things, all sorts of things, and I... I think she might be a witch or something cause she was saying spells, and they've got all sorts of really cool stuff here..."
"It's okay Cal. We believe you. Just settle down and tell us all about it..." They glanced up at Dr. Polland.
"It's perfectly alright. It's one of the side effects of the treatment. He'll be very active and, and I think 'high' would be as good a description as any, for several more minutes and then he will sleep for several more hours.
I realized that he was staring at me.
"Hi! I'm Billie Wilson." I held out my hand to shake.
He seemed frozen and kept staring at me.
"Cal. Show some manners, Billie is one of the people who helped rescue you."
"I... I Uh.. Are all the girls around here as good looking as you?"
"Huh?" I just stood there with my hand out as my mind tried to catch up with what was happening.
"CAL! Show some manners!"
He was blushing and seemed totally tongue tied. And now I could see, due to the thin gown and covers, that I was having more than just that effect on him also. I'm sure that my blush must have gone all the way to my toes.
"Oh, yes. I forgot about that side effect. Not to worry. It will wear off by the time he wakes up from his next sleep." Dr. Polland was observing everything with an air of extreme interest.
"Oh." Where was Fey when you needed her. I could really use a distraction right now. "Uh... Maybe I ought to be going now. Supper and all. It's been great meeting you. Uh, maybe I can see you before you go?"
"Checkout will be around noon. You should have some time then I would think."
"Uh.. Sure. I'll see you then. Bye!" I did a kind of bow, wave, and embarrassed grin and ducked out of the room as Mr. And Mrs. Chilson waved and grinned and Cal just stared.
As I found my way out of the medical wing, I couldn't help but wonder at the fact that at least on one level, I had thoroughly enjoyed what had just happened. It had been embarrassing, but a thrill all the same. I shook my head, why was I even noticing such things? Too many things happening all at once. I was never going to catch up.
GOOD NEWS TRAVELS FAST: September 17th
Timing couldn't have been much better. Supper was just being served and I was really hungry now. As I got in line, I could see that Harry was already there and had John and Troy with him. Several of the students were gathered around and entertaining them too.
As soon as I got my platters loaded with what I was sure would be my first course of the evening, I headed over to see how they were doing.
"Hi Harry, Troy, John. How's it going?"
"Billie! How is Cal?"
"Doing great. Doctors say he can leave tomorrow and will make a full recovery. I just left him with his parents. He's in room c-14 and doing really well."
A cheer went up from the gathered students. The story had gotten around and everyone had been waiting to find out what had happened.
"Mind if I sit here?"
Troy and John were staring at the platters I was carrying.
"Who's all that food for?"
"It's for me. I'll share if you need some, but I thought they would have fed you already."
"Uh. It's okay. We already ate. You're really going to eat all that?"
"Just watch." I was hungry and wasted no time in eating what was in front of me. I then went back for seconds. I think that everyone who was familiar with my eating habits were amused at the surprise of those who were not.
After supper, I took my leave of them and headed back to Poe. I needed to clean up a bit and get ready for the week. I had a feeling that I was going to be busy.
BACK TO WORK: September 18th Monday
Nothing much happened Monday except I got a chance to see the Chilson's off around noon. They were happy to get going, but they were also kind of sad to leave also. At least the boys were. I think Cal was a little jealous of his brothers and the fun they had with Harry yesterday. It seems he gave them quite the tour. I think Mr. And Mrs. Chilson were just happy to get back to their vacation time. They did tell me and Harry to visit them if we were ever in the Tacoma, Washington area. I didn't think it likely, but thanked them anyway.
I also received a notice that I was to report to Physical Plant Administrators Offices in the basement of Siegal Hall before supper. I assumed that this was a response to the request I had made for employment by the school. Instead of deciding which job I wanted, I had used the option that allowed them to choose one for me. Maybe I would get a chance to work with Jade.
When I got there, I was met by Vance Merrill, Assistant of Operations. After interviewing me and having me fill out some paperwork, he turned me over to another student, Jack Carroll. Jack was a senior, 4' 11", short red hair, acne, and a seriously obnoxious voice. Also an obnoxiously superior attitude.
"We don't see many chicks down this way. What made you sign up for this work?"
"I didn't. I just let them place me where they needed me."
"Must have wanted to bury you out of sight. What did you do, let the air out of the Dean's tires or something? Want to talk about it?"
"Well, be that way. Just remember that sometimes you are going to need a little help in this job. In fact, I need to warn you that in this section of the basement you must always go in pairs."
"I don't want to scare you off, but some really weird stuff has gone on down here. Admin won't let on about what is going on, but some odd things have happened to people who don't pay attention to the rules. Don't worry now, I'm with you. Nothing will happen while I'm around." He gave me a grin that I guess was supposed to reassure me. But looked more like a lear.
"It better not."
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Always go in pairs in this area. Check."
He kept looking at me and I wasn't sure he hadn't heard what I said but, I just kept walking and ignoring him. We were right in the middle of the furnace room and it was beginning to get warm. Jack was starting to sweat. I was just aware that it was warmer.
"Hold on a moment."
"I need to check number two furnace. There has been a report of a sticking valve. It's been running too hot and wasting fuel. You wait right here. I'll be right back."
"What about sticking together?"
"No, just curious why you're ignoring the rules."
"Heh, heh. Just don't let the ghosts get you. I'll be right around the corner here if you need me."
"In your dreams."
"What was that?"
"Well, just be on your toes. If anything happens give a yell."
He walked around the corner and I heard his steps fade into the distance. Then I heard a door open and close. It wasn't very quite, what with all the furnaces and equipment, but I was just waiting for the ghosts that I was sure were supposed to pop out and send me either screaming or running for help or both.
I had never done this before, but had seen it many times. Guys just trying to impress the girls by shaking them up and then coming to the rescue. I figured that around here they would do a better job of the special effects, so when I suddenly got the feeling that I wasn't alone I chalked it up to someone's special ability.
Then I kept getting the impression somebody or something almost visible out of the corners of my eyes. This went on for about a minute. Oddly enough, there was something familiar about it. I just couldn't seem to remember where I had felt or seen something like this before.
I had the definite feeling that someone was right behind me. I had to exercise a fair amount of self control to not look around. Then I heard a strange, crackling whisper.
I considered ignoring it. But decided that I might as well play along for now.
"How could someone like me help someone like you?"
"Youuu cannn releaseee meee."
"Youuu woulldddd bargainnn thennn. Iii willl hhellp youu annndd youuu hhellpp mmmeee. Whhhaattt iiisss iiittt yyouuu ddeessirree?"
"I can't think of anything that you could do for me. Just leave me alone for now."
"Iiii wwiillll hheellpp youuu. Yyoouuu wwiilll hheellpp meeeee...."
The voice and presence faded away until I could detect nothing more. Several minutes later Jack returned. He seemed somewhat surprised to see me patiently waiting.
"You okay? Anything happen while I was gone?"
"The 'ghost' and I had a little talk, but other than that, nothing much happened."
"The ghost talked to you!?"
"Yes. Doesn't he talk to everyone?"
"Uh... No. No, he doesn't. What did he say?"
"Something about helping me if I help him. You don't have any idea what kind of help he needs do you?"
"No, he's never said anything before.. Uh.. Maybe we should continue with the tour."
Jack seemed a little taken aback by what I'd told him and I couldn't help but smile a little as he led me away. I seemed to hear a strange chuckle as we left. The rest of the tour was uneventful and I learned that I would be helping to keep the buildings supplied with electricity, water, and heat. I would start after supper tomorrow when I would start the training I would need to do my new job.
LEARNING THE TRADE: September 19th Tuesday
I got there about ten minutes early. I'd been told to wear something I wouldn't mind getting dirty, so I wore the same as I had fishing. Sue McClellan was there and helped me find a coverall I would use over my clothes while working.
She was the warehouse foreman and was in charge of seeing to it that we had the tools we would need. She was said to be a graduate of the school and had come back to work here after her collage training in building management. She had strong telekinetic powers which helped her no end in this job. She pointed out to me that everything was to be checked out properly and returned the same way or we'd better have a good reason.
I was assigned to Jack and another boy called Chris Martin. He was five two and probably 250 lbs of muscle. He had a very square face with short black hair and beard. I'd learned that Jack was some kind of pyrokinesis type and Chris was called The Wall for his ability to anchor himself imperviously to one spot. Both were seniors and neither seemed to be happy shepherding me around.
Our job at first, was to work our way through many of the tunnels under the school, and make sure that the various steam valves were open and working. We had all been issued magnetic strip passes that would allow us into the tunnels without setting off alarms. When we were almost back to the admin area we got a call on the radio Jack was carrying.
It told us to report to Sue, who would give us a remote gas detector to replace one that had failed in the lower tunnels. We were to meet Morrie and Stan at a point of the tunnels I didn't know yet. They would install it after they finished up another project they were working on. I had a premonition of trouble as soon as we got to Sue.
"Here you go. Just deliver this to Stan and Morrie at location 2AU,(second access underground). They are working on another problem right at this moment so they may be a little late getting there. Just wait for them. The location of the malfunctioning sensor is on the package."
"Awww... C'mon Sue! It's almost the end of our shift. Those jumped up sewer rats could be hours. Can't we just drop it off there. Or better yet, just give it to one of the new shifts?"
"No. You won't 'just drop it off'. I want confirmation that they got it. And I don't want them giving me grief if they don't. Show more respect for them too. They do a heck of a lot more than you do. The problem that they are working on won't take long. You should get off in plenty of time."
"They're just norms. Why do we have to kow-tow to these guys anyway. It just goes to their heads. They're always lording it over us and telling us what to do and not do, as if they were the only ones able to do it."
I wasn't sure that Jack was paying attention to Sue, but she was starting to get pretty angry. In fact, I thought she was just about to explode. I didn't know if this was a running fight they had been having but I decided to head this off before something happened. I grabbed the package and signed for it.
"C'mon guys! The faster we get this done the sooner we can go to supper."
I quickly headed out the way I thought the place might be.
"Hey! Wait up newbie! We have to go this way!"
We headed out the way Jack indicated, with Sue looking daggers at us. It didn't take us very long to get where we were going. There was a heavily reinforced door with huge locks and 2AU stencilled on it. It was between two large lockers. Stan and Morrie weren't in sight.
"Just like those jerks to make us late." Grumbled Jack. "Gi'me that package newbie."
I didn't like being talked to that way, but I was the new person and decided that if I ignored it for now, they would get over it. I handed him the package and he looked at the location directions that were written on it.
"Hey. This goes to the sensor right down from this door." Apparently he could understand the directions and where they were indicating where the sensor should go. Chris shrugged.
"So!? It means that all we have to do is take this a few feet down the corridor and take the old one out and put the new one in its place. We don't have to waste our afternoon waiting for the Super Sewer Brothers to do something that any slack wit could do with their eyes closed."
That feeling of disaster was getting stronger. But, I still didn't have a clue as to what was happening yet. Chris didn't seem totally convinced yet either.
"C'mon Chris. It's easy as pie. I've done this before. You unclip the two leads, detatch the old unit from the wall, put the new unit on the wall, and plug in the leads again. It's all automatic. As soon as the green LED goes on, your set."
"Uh... I don't know about this. Maybe we should wait for Stan and Morrie?"
"Wimp. I know were everything we need is."
He went over to the two cabinets. The first one that he tried to open wouldn't.
"H'mmm.. They must have changed the combination from last year. Well, we don't need these anyway, even if it would be kind of fun."
He went to the second one and it opened easily. Inside were some respirators, flashlights, and other gear.
"Okay. This is what we need." He took down three respirators and flashlights.
"We're supposed to be armed aren't we?"
"It's locked. Besides, you aren't afraid are you Chris? There's nothing down here that can touch you."
"Uh... No. It's just..."
"C'mon! I'm not waiting anymore. Here's the key and I know the combination. Those rules apply to the people that don't know how to get through the door. Put the respirators on, it stinks down there."
"If Chris thinks we should wait..."
"Shut up newbie. No one asked you. And put on the mask. I wasn't joking about the stink."
Chris was already putting his on, so I followed suite. Jack already had his on and was unlocking the door. I realized as he opened the door that he was more nervous than he originally sounded and my sense of dread increased.
He stood in the dark doorway for a moment, then flashed his light into the dark opening.
"See. Nothing to worry about."
There was a small landing beyond the door, and even through the mask I could sense a disgusting smell wafting from the darkness. Jack and Chris crowded the landing and showed their flashlights up and down the tunnel. There was a really sick looking flow of something in the bottom of the tunnel too.
"Say, Wilson. I understand your some kind of wiz at flying."
"Well, Carroll. What's it to you?"
"Cut the sass newbie! See that line on the wall. It's the connecting cable for these sensors. About fifty feet that way will be the place where this sensor should go. It's right near the ceiling. Since your so good at flying, go down there and exchange the units. Be sure to bring the old one back so we can give it to Sue."
"And what would you be doing while I'm doing that?"
"We'll be holding the door open, and watching your back."
"Ohhh.. That makes me feel sooo much better. I've never done this kind of thing before either. You seem pretty sure that I can switch these over easily."
"Don't worry newbie. Even you should be able to handle this."
For a moment I considered kicking him into the sludge and letting him do his own dirty work. But I had promised to be a good little girl and so I squeezed by them and hovered in the air next to the landing.
Jack handed me a harness that had a pouch I could put the box in. I could also clip the flashlight to it, leaving my hands free to work. He also handed me a small tool kit in case I needed it. That clipped to the harness also.
Proceeding down the tunnel, I soon came to a small box in the line Jack had indicated. It had a small, red, blinking light and looked like the picture on the box I had. It had easy release clips holding it to the line.
I disconnected those and then used a screwdriver to release the box from the wall bracket it was in. Then I took the new box and clipped it into the bracket. The ends of the line hooked right back in. A small red light shone for a moment, and then switched to a green light.
Making sure that everything was secured to my harness I prepared to head back. As I headed towards the landing I saw the slimy flow in front of me start to rise up into the air, blocking the tunnel. It seemed to be hesitating, trying to decide if it wanted to head towards me or the others on the landing. Jack and Chris solved that problem, by ducking out and slamming the door.
It didn't seem to be moving too fast and I had just decided that I could risk trying to find another way out, when I heard that crackling voice again.
"Iiii wiilll heellppp..."
Suddenly, a flame appeared in the air in front of me.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT: September 19th
Franklin Delarose had arrived early and was heading to check in with Lt. Forsyth to see if anything exciting had happened and if there was anything that he should be aware of. He had a front row seat to the experience of watching a series of round metal access covers over the storm tunnels go flying into the air, lifted by small fireballs.
After the initial shock wore off, he sprinted for the security offices. He had to override the security doors with his own codes before he could enter. As soon as he was in he headed for the command center.
"FORSYTH!! What the hell is going on here!"
"SIR! We're not sure yet. Some kind of explosion in the drainage tunnels."
"I could tell you that! What caused it, and did anyone get hurt! I want answers and I want them now! Was anyone in the tunnels?"
"Checking on that already sir. I expect a report momentarily."
"Okay. I want it ASAP."
Now that he had vented a bit he stood back to let his crew do their work and think about what had happened. Sid looked up from his monitoring panels.
"Sir. I'm getting a signal from Stan and Morrie. They want to know who did that. They were in another part of the tunnels and got knocked on their cans by a wall of fire. Fortunately, they were wearing their respirators and suits. They're a little singed, but other than that okay."
"Thank God. Was anyone else supposed to be down there? And where did that blast start? The blast seemed to be moving away from here when I saw it."
"No sir. No one else was supposed to be down there. Stan is reporting that there was some evidence of a Methane Slime that they were trying to track down when the blast occurred. Maybe something set it off? The epicenter did seem to be close to Admin."
"How'd a slime get this close? Do Stan or Morrie have any ideas?"
Sid conferred with the others for a few moments and then turned back to his leaders.
"They were replacing some defective sensors when they noticed higher levels of methane in the area they were in. They figure it came in by the defective sensors and hadn't raised levels high enough in the non-defective areas to set off the alarms yet. There was another defective sensor that needed to be replaced near the Admin building. But they hadn't gotten to it yet. They were going to do that when they got delayed tracking the slime. They think the blast may have come from there and want to know if we want to check it out or if you want them to. They can be there in about five minutes."
"They know what they are looking for better than we do. Ask them if they will need any help or if they want us to stay out of their way."
Sid turned back to his comm devices. After a short conversation he turned back to the Chief.
"They want to be the first in, but would like a squad for backup just in case. They want us to locate the center if we can so they can enter the tunnels nearest there."
"Roger that. Get a squad down to wherever they are going. Make sure they know that Stan and Morrie are in charge."
A long two minutes later they knew that the blast had occurred near 2AU and directed Stan and Morrie and the backup squad to there.
"We just got a signal from Maintenance. It seems they sent a crew down there with the replacement part for the sensor there. They say that they are getting some kind of panicked signal from them."
"Were they to go into the tunnels?"
"No sir. The rules are very clear, only Stan or Morrie can approve that. And I checked. They didn't. Not with a slime loose."
"Damn! Who was in that crew?"
"They say Jack Carroll, Chris Martin, both experienced maintenance people, and a trainee."
"And the trainee?"
"You aren't going to like this sirs."
"Oh, how bad can it be?" Forsyth and Delarose looked at each other.
"It seems that Miss Wilson just started with them."
"You don't mean...?"
"Yep! Seems she was with them."
"Damn! Get an emergency crew down there too then."
"Yes sir! Fire and medical both?"
Chief Delarose could feel a headache starting already.
"Was anyone outside hurt?"
"No sir. Just startled. The covers are being put back even as we speak. There seems to have been very little damage if any. Just spectacular is all. I don't think that the slime had been there long enough to produce much gas."
"Thanks for small miracles. Any news from the access area yet?"
"No one is there yet. Wait! I'm getting a signal now from someone there. I think it's the Carroll kid."
"Put him on."
"Hello! Hello! Is anyone listening!"
"Who is this. Identify yourself."
"This is Jack Carroll from Maintenance."
"Who is with you?"
"Chris, Chris Martin."
"Anyone else? And where are you?"
"No. No one else. We're near 2AU."
"Where is your trainee? And are you in the tunnels?"
"Uh, we don't know where the trainee is sir. We aren't in the tunnels."
"Why don't you know where your trainee is?"
"Uh... She's not with us right now."
"Any idea where she is? Or went?"
"Uh.. No sir. We don't."
"Why is that? Aren't you supposed to be keeping track of her?"
"We got separated sir."
"Just before the loud bang sir. What happened?"
"Maybe you could tell me?"
"We don't know."
"Okay. Stay there. Someone will be there shortly."
He cut the mike and turned to Sid.
"I want all the sensor scans from that area pronto. We need to know if they went into the tunnels or not."
"Scanning them now sir. Have the results in a moment."
"Here they are. It looks like three people entered the area shortly before the blast. One of the sensors was malfunctioning in the tunnel, but there is enough from the others in the area to show that the three entered the tunnel area. Two stayed near the door and the other moved out of range towards the defective one."
"Oh, now we have input from where the defective one was. It seems that the person who went down the tunnel fixed it. Now the person is starting to head back. Some kind of odd movement there. The two at the door have moved through it and now the door has closed. The one in the tunnel is moving away from the odd movement signals... There it is! The blast. It gets fuzzy for a while and now has settled down."
"What do you have now?"
"There are two now near the door. I think they are the two we talked to. Look! There's movement near the door in the tunnel! I'm getting a sensor feed from the door. I think that someone or something is banging on the door."
"Is there anyone else near?"
"I've got two signals approaching quickly. I think they are Stan and Morrie. Squad One is about a minute out."
"Patch me through to Stan."
"Stan! Can you hear me?"
"Who is this?"
"Okay. What can I do for you?"
"We think that one of the students is in the tunnels at the door 2AU."
"We just got there. Someone does seem to be pounding on the door, hard. Are you sure it's one of the students? The door is locked."
"We can't be totally certain, and if you want to wait for backup, we won't blame you. But, if it's who we think it is, you may not have a door there soon if you don't open it."
"They can take down this door?"
"If it's who we think it is, she has a real talent for it."
"How soon for backup?"
"About a minute."
"Damn. The pounding's getting louder. How fast would she get through?"
"If she loses patience, a matter of seconds, by our estimate."
"Okay. Our call. We're going to open it. I don't think you want to evacuate the area while we fix it."
A HOT TIME IN THE OLD TUNNELS TONIGHT: September 19th
The tunnel filled with a wall of flame that flung me cartwheeling. It was past in a moment but shattered my flashlight and tore the respirator off my face. When I got oriented again, the tunnel was filled with smoke and scattered flames. I was sitting in slime and down the tunnel where the strange slime had been was a rapidly collapsing pile of fire.
With my respirator gone I was getting the full benefit of this totally horrible smell. I kept trying to hold my nose. I then figured that my best bet was to get out the way I had come. Fortunately, I didn't need the flashlight to see. I flew to the door and tried to open it. It took me a minute to figure out that it was locked.
I started to pound on the door and yell for them to open up. I couldn't be sure that they hadn't just run off, but I was hoping someone would come along soon. The smell was getting really unbearable.
I kept this up for several minutes by my estimate. By that time all the flames had gone out, but the tunnels were still filled with a horribly stinking smoke. I had to concentrate hard to keep from throwing up. I was starting to get desperate and was ready to try and break down the door when I heard the lock being opened. I grabbed the door and wrenched it open.
I looked up at two men who were covering me with some sort of rifle. They looked vaguely familiar. In a choked voice I managed to ask..
"Please allow me to close this door."
"Don't move! We aren't taking any..." The taller, thinner one had been speaking. Then he got a wiff of the smoke pouring from the door. His face went pale.
"What's that smell!!?" He staggered back.
"Stan! Hey if this is some kind of trick, I'm going to..." Then the smell hit him.
He wasn't as surprised and didn't stagger back, but he did gag a bit.
"Please! Let me close the door!"
"Okay! Close it!"
I spun around and pulled it shut. Then I allowed myself to empty my stomach.
I figured that these guys must be Stan and Morrie. Jade had said a lot of good things about them. I wondered what they were doing here. The one I thought must be Morrie started to question me.
"What the hell were you doing in there?! Are you the one responsible for that explosion? It came that close to killing us!"
I noticed then that they seemed a bit singed too.
"Tell me about it. I was in there when whatever it was went up."
"You were in there? What happened? Who gave you permission to go into a restricted area?"
This was going to be kind of tricky. I really didn't want to get anyone into trouble. But it was obvious to me now that we shouldn't have been in there to begin with. And, then there was the explosion. I still wasn't sure what had caused that. But if they had gone through anything like I had, I could see them being just a little pissed off too.
"Yes. I was in there. I'm not certain what happened. One moment there was this slimy thing bubbling up from the tunnel between me and the door, and the next, the ghost sets off some kind of explosion. I get knocked silly, my respirator gets blown to Timbuctoo, and I can't get out of that awful stink until you guys open up the door."
"Who gave you permission to go in there?"
"I don't know that anyone did. Jack said that we could just change the sensor and save a lot of time."
"Jack Carroll. He and Chris Martin were training me today. We were delivering the sensor that needed replacement. When it looked as if you weren't going to get here soon, Jack said that all we needed to do was just replace the sensor and that would take care of it."
"DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW DANGEROUS THOSE TUNNELS ARE!?! You are not supposed to even open these doors unless we are here and have given you permission! What if you had gotten hurt or killed? Do you know who would get the blame? What if that thing had gotten out and into the school? Do you have any idea how dangerous those things can be if you don't know how to handle them? What possessed you to try a stupid stunt like that? The 'GHOST'?"
I hate getting chewed out. I hate it even worse when I know that I deserve it. I had known somewhere in my heart that we should have waited and not done what we had done. Or at least, I should have backed down and not showed off. It certainly didn't help any that I realized that they could have been hurt or killed by the explosion. I can take a lot of damage. But, the same can't be said about everyone else. My only consolation there was that I hadn't set the explosion off. I hung my head and muttered.
I realized that I would have to repeat it louder when I realized that they hadn't come out of the blast completely unscathed. I keep forgetting how fast I shake this kind of stuff off compared to everyone else.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know. And it was actually easy to do. Everything went fine until that thing showed up. I didn't set off the explosion. I had just decided to see if I could find another way out when the ghost showed up."
"What is this 'Ghost'?"
"I don't know. I met it yesterday in the furnace room. I thought it was a joke being put on by Jack and maybe some of the others. Then it shows up here and sets off that fire."
They exchanged a glance and Stan continued.
This 'Ghost'. You met it yesterday?"
"Yes. It has a crackly kind of voice. It was asking me for help with something that I don't understand. Something about releasing it from here. Do you know anything about it?"
"We've heard of it. You think it was trying to kill you?"
"Uh, no. I think it thought it was helping me, so I would help it. It flew right up to the thing in the tunnel and I saw a flame form. Then there was a big bang and everything in there was on fire. My respirator got blown off and I got knocked a ways down the tunnel. When I recovered from that, the tunnel was on fire and smoke was everywhere. Both of the things were gone and I found my way back to the door which was locked. Eventually, you opened it before I had to knock it down to get out."
"That must have been like Hell in there. You lost your respirator and held your breath that long?"
"No. I don't have to. But that smell was really awful. I don't know how much longer I could have taken it before I had to get out. Even if it meant breaking down the door."
"Say! I didn't recognize you under all that grime. Your that Tennyo kid aren't you?"
"Uh, yeah. I'm Jade and Jinn's roommate. Your Stan and Morrie aren't you?"
"Yeah. That's us."
"Look guys. I'm really, really sorry about that explosion. But, I didn't set it off. It was that ghost."
"That's okay. We believe you. But what were you doing in there to begin with. There is both a key and combination lock on those doors. How did you get in and where did you get the respirator?"
"Uh. Jack got the respirators, flashlights, and this harness from the cabinet over there. He tried to get something out of the other one, but couldn't get it opened. His combination worked on the other one. A key to the door was in the cabinet and he knew the combination to the tunnel door."
They had me give them a detailed account of what happened from the time that we had been given the task of bringing the sensor down here to when they let me out.
I took off the harness and handed it to them. They checked that, the defective sensor, broken flashlight, and cabinet. They handed the sensor back to me.
During all this, A security detail showed up. After a quick consultation with Stan, they spread out and searched the immediate area. They found Jack and Chris a ways down one of the tunnels. They were taken by the detail to the security offices for questioning. The respirator and flashlights that they had were given to Morrie before they left.
"Alright. When it clears enough in there we'll go in and check out everything. What we want you to do, is take this sensor back to Sue. Then you need to go to Security and give them a report of what happened here. We'll trust you to do this on your own without an escort. Will you do this?"
"Good. Now get going."
I found my way back to the warehouse. Sue was there, and if anything , she was in even a worse mood than before. She snatched the sensor from me.
"You idiot! You could have gotten them killed! If you ever show up here again, I'll I'll... Just get out of here! Don't come back!"
That hurt. I wasn't too happy about it myself, but I felt like people were overreacting now. There had been too many odd things to account for them all in a regular way. I knew that if we hadn't gone in there we wouldn't have had this problem, but how was I to know that there were these kind of dangers to look out for? No one had given me any kind of warning at all. I'd only had a vague sense of danger to work with. I'd pay more attention to it in the future, but that wouldn't change the past.
I reported to Security and described what had happened to Chief Delarose and Lt. Forsyth. They had a number of questions for me and I did the best I could to answer them all. By the time I was done I was on the verge of tears. Everyone kept telling me what a stupid thing it had been to do. As if I didn't already know that. And like it was all my fault. They finally let me go and I made my way back to Poe.
I did okay until I got to our room. Jade was waiting and working on her homework when I came in.
"Tennyo-san! What happened to you!?"
I closed the door, moved over to my bed, and then collapsed next to it and started bawling. I at least had the sense to not mess up my bed, because I was a real mess by now. Jade was incredibly brave and risked the mess and smell to comfort me.
I was eventually able to sob and gasp out my story. I was mortified by my own stupidity and was fearfully waiting for her to tell me how dumb I'd been.
"Tennyo-san. Are you sure that you are okay? You were right in the middle of that blast and fire."
She had been the only one to ask me that so far.
"Bu... But.. What about Stan and Morrie? I could have hurt or killed th..them."
"They're big boys and can take care of themselves. That's why they get the dangerous jobs in the tunnels. If they were there afterward, it means that they were okay. Just probably shaken up a bit by that blast. And probably a bit pissed off too."
"But I should've known better. It's my fault."
"C'mon! No one told you. You didn't know. Don't beat yourself up over it anymore. Learn from it and move on." I think she figured I'd gotten enough out of my system by then, because, she started to wave her hand in the air.
"Let's get you into the showers now, clothes and all, Whew! You really stink! I think you landed right in the middle of it , And you didn't come up smelling like a rose."
I almost choked then.
"Yeah, I did. Right in the middle of it."
"Tell you what. You grab the cleaning stuff and I'll grab the clean clothes and we'll both go to the showers together. After being close to you, I think I need to clean up also. You're really awful you know. We're going to have to air out the room too. I think I'll have Jinn handle some of the worst of the clothing. Maybe we can clean them off a bit in the showers first?"
"Don't mention it. Maybe they won't throw us out if we can get this cleaned up in time."
We headed for the showers and even though the halls were somewhat crowded, it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. It all followed a very predictable pattern. First there was the I'm here and you'll just have to go around me phase. Followed closely by the what the hell is that smell stage and a desperate attempt to find the source. Then came the run for the hills and cover stage. We almost made it to the bathrooms when we were intercepted by Mrs. Horton. Somehow she managed to keep a calm and collected demeanor.
"Young ladies! What is the meaning of this?" Jade took over the explanations.
"Sorry Maam. We were just going to get Tennyo here cleaned up. She was involved in the little explosion earlier today."
"Little explosion? I understand that it startled most of the campus with flame columns and flying manhole covers."
"Yes Maam." Mrs. Horton waited for more but Jade wasn't offering any. She then sighed and got to work straightening things out.
"Very well. Get in there and get cleaned up." Then she looked down the hall. "Mr. Declan!"
Hank opened his door some more and leaned out into the hall. "Yes Maam?"
"Run downstairs and bring up one of the large pedestal fans from the downstairs. Set it up in the room of these young ladies so that it is blowing out the window. Be quick now!"
"Yes Maam!" He quickly disappeared down the stairs.
"You two get cleaned up now. I'll monitor the young man."
We hurried into the showers and cleaned up. Oddly enough, we had them to ourselves the whole time. After several rinses we got the worst of the smell out of what we were going to keep and the rest went into a plastic bag that we would place into the dumpster out back.
When we got back to our room, we found it well aired out by the large fan blowing the air out. A quick cleaning and it was livable again. I moved the fan back downstairs and then we prepared for supper. Jade stayed with me the whole time.
She kept up the smiles and jokes for the rest of the evening. We did our homework while washing up the clothing and drying it. The shirt, jeans, and socks were a complete loss and got tossed. I was willing to try to save the shoes after we sprayed them down with deodorant. By the time lights out came around, we were ready for the next day.
THANKS, WE'LL CALL YOU: September 20th Wednesday/ September 21st Thursday
I received a notice during my lunch break that I was not to report back to Maintenance. I would be assigned to other work by tomorrow. It had been determined that I was not at fault and Stan and Morrie had vouched for me too. They just wanted me to get away from there until things settled down a little. Security wanted to look into some of the things that had gone wrong also. They'd give me a call if they needed any more information.
Shortly after that, I received a message telling me to report to the Cafeteria before supper tomorrow. They were going to see if I would work out there. I was to report early enough to take the necessary tests for a food handlers permit. I already had one from my efforts to get a job in Colorado to feed my book and comic habit.
I figured that they wouldn't be too hard here either. And I was right. I got there right after my last class. They seemed surprised that I found the place so fast. Apparently some of the students did have that problem and we had to wait for the rest of the people who were going to take the test to show up. It wasn't as if I didn't know where the food was coming from.
The test was basic and easy. Nothing that I didn't already know. After that, those of us who had passed, were taken into the kitchens and given a quick tour. We were broken into groups of four and my group was assigned to a section of the Crystal Dome to bus the tables. My group was under the direction of Mrs. Tanner.
I was amazed at how well she could organize the chaos we were working in. No sooner would we have cleared one table than we would have to get another one cleared. Things seemed a bit rowdy tonight. When I asked Mrs. Tanner about it she just shrugged and said that the students were starting to settle in but hadn't yet got the routine down totally yet. Eventually things would settle down. But now it was going to be a little hectic.
Everything was going all right until about two thirds of the way through supper. Mrs. Tanner sent Glen, a nice enough guy from Melville, and me to clean a table in the far corner. She told us to hurry up as people were going to start leaving and we didn't want to get too far behind. Glen wasn't as strong as me so I took the pile of trays, dishes, cups and silverware and he took the cleaning supplies and trash.
There were two isles out of the corner. They had been clear when we got there, but now were being blocked by a rowdy bunch of students from Twain. They wouldn't let us through and either didn't hear us asking to get by or were ignoring us.
Glen got fed up, looked around at the lights, which were green, and 'POOF' he was gone. I figured he had just teleported out and decided to get myself out too. So I lifted off and headed out over their heads. I figured that I could get past the crowd and then come back down and continue with my work. I didn't see Montana until the last moment when he stood up with a large platter of table scraps. He looked up at me, grinned, and launched them at me.
"Hey! Cleanup girl! Clean this!"
Fact is, I'm pretty fast. I was able to dodge the flying mess easily enough, even weighted down with the dishes I was taking back to be cleaned. Everyone in the path of the trash wasn't so lucky. Including a table with several girls that managed to look very elegant, even in this setting. The girls were screaming in rage and trying to clean the garbage off themselves. There were some guys who were talking to them who looked as if they should be on the football team, if we had one that is. One of the biggest of them stood up, scraps falling off his face and head, and turned towards Montana.
"You stupid idiot! What do you think you're doing!? Get over here and apologize and help us clean up."
"I don't think so jerk!" Montana sneered at him flipped him the bird, looked back at me and started to reach for something else to throw.
I headed out of there fast, but saw Montana as he turned back to throw something else at me, get hit in the face with something that had come from the other table with the football players. By the time I got back to the kitchen area and ducked into it I could here a growing roar of flying food, students screaming, yelling, and running, and the rising yell of....'FOOD FIGHT!!!'
Mrs. Tanner was standing by the door into the kitchen, holding her face in her hand, and muttering, "Every damn year!"
BACK AT THE OFFICE: September 21st
Chief Delarose wasn't the least surprised when the alarm came in. Forsyth cursed under his breath and handed the Chief a Ten.
"Every damn year and you always seem to know when it's going to start. I was sure that it would be tomorrow before the weekend."
"I'd have agreed with you except for a factor you didn't know about, but should have."
"Oh? And what was that, pray tell?"
The Chief smiled. "I'll write it on this ten. If you don't think I'm right about it you can have it back."
"Not upping the ante?"
He chuckled. "It wouldn't be fair."
"Your on. Let's get over there and break it up before it gets out of hand."
"Lead the way Colin. It's your watch."
IT ALL COMES AROUND: September 21st
I had a front row seat with everyone else who could look out the door at a truly awe inspiring food fight. Not only were prodigious amounts of food flying around, but there was the added excitement of the many students talents mixed in. Either adding to the mess, shielding individuals and groups, and or aiding in their escapes. Some students, by a measure of their abilities and respect the others had for them, had already regained control of large sections of the hall.
Security didn't really have to do much as they swarmed in except avoid slipping on the food covered floor and avoiding the occasional die hard feud. It was amazing how fast order was restored. Chief Delarose and Lt. Forsyth came in soon afterward to view the mess.
The Chief motioned several of the supervisors over and consulted with them for a few minutes. I could tell by the hand waving that they were figuring out where and when it started.
Then I saw Chief Delarose show a ten dollar bill to Lt. Forsyth, and hold it out to him. Lt. Forsyth shook his head and pushed it back at him.
We were about to head out and try to bring some order to the mess when I got called over to talk to Chief Delarose and Lt. Forsyth. They asked a few questions about how it got started and I started to get a bad feeling about what was going on. The Chief turned to me after that and let me know what was going to happen.
"Okay, Billie. Here's the bad news. We know it's not your fault, but if you stay on here we will be risking a repeat every time you work here. I know it's not fair, but experience has shown that it will happen all over again if you do."
"We can't have that, because as the students get bored of this, they will try other things when this lets loose and people will get hurt. I hope you understand. It's nothing personal."
I could suddenly feel the tears trying to start again. It wasn't fair. I hadn't done anything wrong, but they were going to punish me anyway.
"Billie. I know it isn't fair to you, but please understand, we have to protect the students here. To fill this job, you will have to work out here on a regular basis or it won't be fair to your co-workers. If you do, it will only be a disaster waiting to happen. We'll see to it that you can find another job. It just can't be this one. Okay?"
I couldn't say anything. So I just nodded. I was turning to go back and at least help clean up when the Chief stopped me.
"You should probably leave now. We'll take care of this here."
I nodded and slowly headed out. A security man was just coming in from escorting some of the students out. I wasn't paying too much attention to him until he spoke as I passed him.
"Well, if it isn't Disaster Dame herself. Gonna do something for an encore?"
I stopped flat. A feeling of incredible anger was rising in me. I was turning around when the Chief started in.
"JOHNSON! OVER HERE! NOW!"
I just stared at him while the Chief was chewing him out. Lt. Forsyth moved over to me.
"Let him handle this, okay?"
I stared at him for a moment and then turned and ran from the building. After I was out, I launched myself into the sky and headed straight up, as fast as I could go. I don't know how far up I went before I finally got tired of it. Then I had a good screaming fit. When I was done, I was tired and hungry, but at least I didn't feel like killing someone right then. I looked below me and could see that it was getting dark down there.
I could see the lights of a city below me starting to shine for the coming night. I put myself into a power dive and headed for it. Soon I was over it and I spotted what I was looking for. There were some fast food joints that weren't too far from a shadowed area I could land in. I had a twenty dollar bill on me and I was determined to take care of my hunger as quickly as I could.
I was soon able to walk into a Micky Dees. Then, on a sudden impulse, I went into the ladies room and straightened my face and clothes up. That done, I felt ready to face the counter and make my order. I was getting some attention from most of the people there, but I attempted to ignore that and waited for my chance to order.
I ordered three of their biggest meals and asked what it came to. I had enough left over to order another smaller meal also which left me a little change. I then took my bounty over to a table and proceeded to awe the people watching me as I ate it all. I had finished eating and was wondering if there was some way to get some more when a State Policeman came in and approached me.
I was going to try to ignore him, but he stopped right in front of me. I was forced to look up at him then.
"Miss Billie Wilson?" He asked very politely. I was getting nervous. I didn't think I had done anything wrong, but having a policeman question you can bring out all sorts of little sins you normally wouldn't think of.
"Uh. Yes. How can I help you?"
He seemed relieved. "I'm Officer Kelly. We were asked by the Whateley school to keep our eyes open and assist you if we found you. Do you need a ride back to the school?"
Great! Now I was being tracked by the State Police. What ever happened to the two day rule? I didn't even know exactly where the school was now either. So I would have a hard time finding my way back if it came to that. Everyone must think I was a runaway or something.
I gave him my best smile. "Uh. Actually, If you could tell me which way Whateley is and how far, I can get back there myself very easily."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, your in Berlin, and Whateley is about fifteen miles that way. We don't have any orders to stop you, but I would appreciate it if you would let us take you back?"
Everyone in the place was staring at me or trying not too successfully to not stare at me. I could just imagine what was going through their heads right now. I thought I would die of embarrassment, but as that didn't happen I was stuck with getting myself out of the situation.
"I wouldn't want to bother you or take you away from your other duties..."
"It won't be a bother at all. I'd be glad to take you back."
For a moment I thought of just getting up and leaving. But that wouldn't be the best way to handle this either.
"Well, if it won't be a bother, I guess I could let you take me there. I can leave now if you want to."
"Right this way then Ma'am."
He escorted me out to his car and let me get in the front seat. Then he reported in and headed towards Whateley. We talked a little and I found out that his first name was Jim and that they got alerts all the time from Whateley. Sometimes it was for runaways and sometimes, like now, it was just to give aid or assistance as needed. He was actually very personable and I enjoyed the ride back as he told me some of the stories that he knew about some of the Whateley events.
He dropped me off in front of Admin where Chief Delarose was waiting for me. I said thank you for the ride and waved as he drove away. Then I turned back to the Chief. I was expecting to get chewed out all over again.
"Are you alright?"
"Yes. I'm fine. I'm sorry about the trouble I caused you. I just needed to get some space and vent a little.
"Well, after all, I wouldn't blame you for leaving. It really is a raw deal, but we can't take chances like that."
"I understand, it's just like everything is happening at once. It really doesn't seem fair."
"Care to tell me where you went? Besides where you showed up I mean."
"Up." I pointed up to emphasize the direction.
"You came down in Berlin?"
"I saw the lights, and I was hungry. I didn't get a chance to eat before everything started happening."
"Some. Twenty dollars only goes so far."
"Yeah. It's highway robbery anymore. Well come on in. I think we can get you something to tide you over to breakfast."
We went in and he watched me eat while asking me some more questions about me and how I came to Whateley.
"They'll contact me with information on the next job that they are willing to let me try?"
"You should know by Monday."
"Okay. I should go now. Have to get back and get ready for tomorrow."
"Fine, I'll probably be seeing you around."
"That a prophecy?"
"Lord, I hope not."
I headed back to Poe. When I got back to my room, Jade was full of questions about what had happened. By the time she graduates, she's going to be an expert in personal counselling, just from her experience with me.