A Whateley Academy Tale
by Babs Yerunkle, Bek D. Corvin, ScramblerJ, Starwolf, and Maggie Finson
Whateley Academy September 7, Thursday
You can look forward to it, you can dread it, but no one can escape the First Day of School. Toni woke up feeling pretty good. The night before, Toni and her crew had managed to stop a team of ninjas who had tried to steal Poe Cottage's mascot bust of Edgar Allen Poe. At the time, they thought that it was some upperclassmen from another cottage trying to score points on Poe. Well, they were partially right, it was a status thing, only it wasn't from another cottage, it was from another school, some place in Japan. Apparently, one of the things that they do is send in teams to 'count coup' on Whateley, and this is the first time that anyone's ever caught them at it. So, 'Team Kimba', as they were gonna call themselves, were off to a pretty good start.
It was early, and most of the cottage wasn't up yet, so Toni decided to go for a jog around Campus. She slipped on her red jogging outfit, slipped some Macy Grey into her DVD player and was out the door before anyone could tell her that she couldn't do it. It was six-thirty in the morning in early September, high in the Presidential Mountains, so it was pretty nippy and the dew was thick on the ground. In other words, perfect jogging weather.
Now, Toni was not a 'morning person', but she had to admit that there's something weird about going around in the early morning. Nice weird, but still weird. There's that sense of being all alone, like the entire world is an empty theater. If she hadn't been tripping on that, no one would have snuck up on her like that.
A guy in a black bomber jacket and chinos popped out of bush. "Chaka!"
She broke out of her stride and reflexively went on guard. "That's me. And you are?"
"Nobody's ever caught any of the Yama Dojo teams before."
"The Devil School isn't exactly known for a 'better luck next time' mentality. And they're patient. They can wait for years, decades even before they arrange a suitable death."
Okay, a little too 'bad ninja movie', Toni said to herself but then the whole 'breaking in to steal a token prize' was a tad 'manga' as well. If there's one, there's sure to be more. She broke out of her stance into a backwards handspring roll, and then broke into a run. She didn't want to be handling this guy until she had a sense of where his backup was. Then she spotted him: black bomber jacket, chino pants, cheesy sun glasses- and an aluminum suitcase. Somehow, Toni didn't think that he was carrying the details of a health plan in there. More likely, it was the Yama Dojo's ace-in-the-hole gizmo, and she didn't want to find out what it was first hand.
She did a power-leap over him, and ran up the side of the building, across the roof and dropped down to the ground-
-right in front of yet another guy in a black bomber jacket and chinos. He was carrying something that required a portable power generator. "Stop!"
Yeah, right, like that was gonna happen! Toni lit out, and almost ran into the first guy. She did a quick ninety-degree angle turn and discovered that her exit was blocked by the guy with the aluminum suitcase.
It turned into a nasty game of Go, with the three operatives masterfully herding Toni into a covered loading dock. She was penned in, with no way out. The first guy said, "Finally! Now we can get down to business!" He reached for the aluminum suitcase.
Well, Toni hadn't wanted to get violent, but these bozos weren't giving her any choices. Before Bozo #1 could open the suitcase, Toni lashed out with a sweeping kick that knocked the first two off their pins. The third guy dropped his gizmo and tried to restrain her, but Toni was too quick for him. For the rest of the fight, Toni kept the three men, who were obviously very well trained in unarmed combat, bouncing off the walls.
Finally, the last guy went down for the count. Toni gave a deep breath to calm herself down. Well, so much for that, she thought. I wonder how they got through security. So, let's see what laughing boy here was so eager to get to. She carefully opened the case.
"It was what?" Nikki asked incredulously.
"Recruiting materials." Toni passed glossy brochures to the rest of 'Team Kimba' as they sat together at breakfast. "It seems that I spent my morning beating up a bunch of recruiters from the CIA." She held up one brochure. "Hmmm... Health and Dental Plan. Yeah, they had materials for their whole 'sales pitch' in the suitcase, and the other gizmo was a portable slide projector."
"You know, I thought I saw some guys like that earlier going to and from flight class. But Angel was with me and maybe they didn't want to try anything with someone else there." Tennyo told the group. Everyone turned and looked at her.
"Hey! Don't look at me! My parents may be in the CIA, but they told me before I left that it wasn't the best career choice to make and that if I was approached by anyone to think it over really carefully before agreeing to anything."
"Your own parents said that?" Ayla asked.
"Yeah. Said it was okay if you're single, but when you want to try and settle down, it can really suck."
"And you want to settle down? Did you have someone in mind?" Asked Jade. Tennyo just blushed as the rest of the group giggled.
Then Beltane walked up. "Morning, Children of the Hour! I understand that you had a busy night last night!" She sang cheerfully. Then she spotted the brochures. "Oh, you've been rushed already? My, someone IS on the ball!"
"Rushed?" Ayla asked as she looked up from a brochure that made working for the CIA look like one long James Bond movie
"Rushed into what?" Nikki questioned while peeking around Ayla to see the brochures. "Those look like some kind of sales pamphlets."
"They are." Belle grinned. "The CIA is trying to recruit whoever these were for. This bunch seems to be a little sharper than the team they had sneaking around here last year if they've already cornered one of you for that."
Toni shook her head. "Well, they may think twice before trying again. I kinda beat the you-know-what out of them. I thought they were some secret hit squad backing up those Ninjas from last night."
"Not to worry." Belle chuckled. "All that is going to do is make them even more determined to recruit you. Their advance teams are tough because there is always the risk of something like what happened this morning going down. Trust me, your stock with them just went up about twenty points. How many of them did you see?"
"Ahh, then one was hiding somewhere to observe in case something like what you did happened. He or she will probably have a great time needling the others about getting beaten up by a freshman girl."
"You mean I can expect them to be jumping out of the bushes at me again?" Toni shook her head.
"Count on it, dear." Belle nodded with a wide grin. "They aren't allowed to do it openly, like a job fair or something until you're in the last part of your senior year, so they tend to sneak around and try to pounce on likely prospects early, to get ahead of the competition you know."
"Oh wonderful." Nikki frowned. "We're still jumpy after last night, and we can expect that kind of thing to happen to all of us?"
"Maybe not all of you, but I'm sure most of you will be RUSHED before too long." Belle answered. "That showing you kids made against the Ninjas is going to impress a lot of people."
Nikki mumbled something that sounded like. "I knew I should have stayed in bed last night."
Before the first class, there was the equally inescapable First Assembly. In preparation for this, all the new students were gathered together in each of the cottages and led to the large assembly area in Schuster Hall.
As she juggled her books, Toni asked Nikki, "So, y'wanna sit together?"
Nikki quirked a half smile at her roomie. "What's this? Little Miss Kung Fu afraid of sitting next to a boy?"
"Nah, I just want someone to play MST3K with."
"Y'know 'Mystery Science Fiction Theater Three Thousand'? The syndicated show where they play crappy old horror movies and the 'hosts' heckle them? We could sit together and make snarky comments about the corny 'we'll all become one big family' speech'."
"What makes you think that the speech will be corny?"
"Hey, it's a school- they do all that doofus cornball crap 'cause if they don't, the PTA crawls all over their asses. Hey, it's a formula- the Headmistress says 'Hi', lays some kind of mind game on us where she basically says that if we don't make lots of friends and get good grades that it's OUR faults, and then says that everything'll be peachy as long as we do things their way."
"Optimist." Nikki favored Toni with a crooked little smile. "Opening day speeches are never good things to sit through and what you just said is something we could at least sleep through. I have the sinking feeling that any speech around here isn't going to be nearly that simple, or restful."
"Yeah!" Jade piped up. "She's the Headmistress! And look how much has happened already, and we haven't even started school yet! I'm sure she's going to have tons to say! Important stuff, like how to have proper superhero fights and stuff."
"Nah," Ayla groused, "I've been to a buncha these schools. They *never* just come out and tell you the really important stuff. The thinking is, if you're smart enough to understand the really crucial lessons, then you'll figure it out on your own. If you have to have them spelled out for you, then you're too dumb to bother with. To be honest, they just throw in the stuff about the sciences and humanities to keep you busy while you're being trained to be part of the machine."
"Well, I dunno about that," Hank mused, "But Ayla's got one thing right; 'getting with the program' is what they really teach you at boot camp. Everything else is nice, but if you don't get into the army headspace, the rest is just wasted effort."
"Oh, yeah!" Tennyo sneered, "I can just see what the academy motto probably is: 'be all the mutant that you can be'! I just hope that she gives us the 'one big family' speech, and not the 'with great power comes great responsibility' speech."
"Oh, yeah," Ayla agreed, "I've heard my share of those, too. Especially at places like Chilton, where they really push the 'we are the elite' deal. Oh yeah, at Chilton they were very big on the idea that you had to learn Cato the Elder, so that you'd be better than the unwashed masses."
Toni looked askance at Ayla. "Y'mean, they really think like that?"
Ayla shrugged. "Oh, they never come out and SAY it, but from day one, you know that that's what they really mean."
Toni needn't have worried about sitting next to Nikki. The new students filed into the Auditorium by cottages. The Poe Cottage students came in after Twain, Whitman and Hawthorne, but before Melville, Dickinson, and Emerson. This placed the 'weirdoes' towards the front of the Auditorium, Toni couldn't help but wonder out loud.
"Is someone trying to say something about the various cottages?"
"Oh, they probably want the really weird ones up front where they can keep an eye on them." Nikki giggled, blushed at the sound that had escaped her mouth, then shrugged. "Us."
When the last of the Hawthorne students filed in, a line of eight adults mounted the stage. Seven of them took seats behind the podium, as the eighth stepped up to it. She was handsome looking woman in what appeared to be her mid-thirties. She was tallish and appeared fit and trim under the business suit. Long, carefully dressed blonde hair framed a long face with regular features. She took a long look out at the assembled first time students, sighed and started.
"Good morning, students! I am Mrs. Carson, the headmistress here. Welcome to Whateley Academy. Don't worry, I'm not going to give you the 'one big happy family' speech, or the 'with great power comes great responsibility' speech, or the 'learning can be an adventure' speech."
"Wow!" Toni whispered in an aside to Nikki, "We missed one!"
"I knew we were leaving something out." The redhead whispered back.
"Instead," Mrs. Carson continued, "I'm going to give you the 'it's all up to you' speech. You probably haven't heard it before. Most schools in North America and Europe tend to run on the 'assembly line' principle, where students are moved along a very slow conveyor belt from one class to another, where the teachers regurgitate facts all over them, in the presumption that at least some of the facts will fall into open ears."
Jade shuddered at the picture these words brought to mind.
"Ewww! Gross! I feel like I need a shower!"
Tennyo added, "Ugh! Where are the Q-tips?"
"At least they could supply airsick bags for the teachers." Nikki quipped.
"We can't afford to do that here."
Jade and Tennyo looked at each other in horror. "No shower?!"
"Or airsick bags? Ewww!"
"The majority of students here, and a good number of the faculty and staff are Mutants."
Tennyo grabbed Jade's arm." I KNEW it! I told you there was something strange about this place!"
Jade grinned. "I thought you said we would fit right in?"
"Well yeah, but it's still strange."
"Along with the usual classes in the Arts and Sciences, you will receive training in controlling your individual abilities, physical training, and even some combat training."
Tennyo whined nasally. "But Sensei. When are we going to get to fight with pointed sticks?"
"However, there is only so much that any of our teachers can do. You can't just sit back and 'be taught'- you have to actively Learn!"
Then Tennyo turned to Toni. "You were right. It IS our fault!"
"Here at Whateley, we won't try to make you learn, mostly because we know that it's a waste of time and effort, no matter how well intentioned. We can't control what you'll become during your stay here- only YOU can decide that."
"What're we going to do tonight Nikki?"
"What we do every night Tennyo. Plan to take over the WORLD!"
"_But_ there is one very important thing that we WILL demand from you: that you be responsible for your actions. In order to keep operating without having legions of militant mutant-haters storming our gates, we have to keep as low a profile here as possible."
"Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" Groaned Tennyo.
"So much for planning to rule the world tonight." Nikki sighed.
"So, we can't have you flitting around using your mutant powers while there are people who aren't 'in the loop' on campus.
"Hey! I DON'T flit. I FLY.... With STYLE!"
"In order to learn, you and the other students have to feel safe, so you can't go around threatening everyone with your power, just because they tick you off."
"Well, he WAS a jerk."
"And, while we know that accidents happen, and sometimes your powers can run away from you,"
Hank whispered. "Did I just hear Nikki say Oops!?"
Ayla followed with. "Tennyo! Where's that cabbit of yours?"
"You have to understand that repairing the damage from using your powers is very expensive. We simply can't afford to keep rebuilding the cottages every time that someone loses their temper."
"Oh, He..ck!" Jade whispered, sliding lower in her seat. "I knew it! She's talking about us! It was such a big mistake to blow up campus last night!"
"Hey! Nobody told me that stuff in the balloons was Nitro!" Nikki shot back.
"It is dangerous for you and all of us around you if you won't control the powers and abilities that have been entrusted to you by fate. Please believe me when I say that the damage to our properties is insignificant to the loss we experience when one of you is injured or killed."
"Imagine how WE feel about that."
"As some of you have already found out, there are many enemies, both groups and individuals, who desire, and hope, and work to make your time here and in the future, unpleasant, short, or both. Some do it because they fear you, some because they DON'T fear you. There are those who want you to sacrifice yourselves for their purposes and those who fear that you will block them and the desires that they seek."
"Many of you will be at risk all your lives. Those that are your friends will also be at risk. Simply because they will be a part of what you will be attempting to accomplish in this life. Whether that will be good or bad is not for us to decide. We are here to help you develop the skills that will make it possible for you to make your way in this difficult world. And hopefully, survive to see what you are attempting accomplished."
"Oh good." Nikki whispered. "We can still take over the world. Only later. Ok."
"But maybe you think this doesn't apply to you. You won't be running any clever plots or fighting for a cause you believe in. Instead, after graduation, you plan to just head out somewhere and mind your own business. You'll never be bothered by suspicious neighbors, or religious extremists, or simply the common rabble that might see you as a deadly threat to everything they hold dear."
"If that's the case… FINE. We'll wish you luck. We honestly want every mutant to lead a successful and fulfilling life."
"But you might want to know that of those that try this approach, over half fail. Their cover is blown, or the unexpected happens, or any of a dozen other things. And then, you may be suddenly wishing that you'd paid a bit more attention in class. If we can take any lesson from the tragic case of Shep Packard, I'd like to think that might be one of them. Shep tried to live the quiet, inoffensive lifestyle. Perhaps… maybe if we'd just tried a little harder, he wouldn't have been burned at the stake, there in the back hills of Kentucky. A victim of a senseless witch hunt."
Hank whispered, "What do WE do with witches?"
Jade, Toni, Tennyo, and Ayla whispered back, "We BURN witches! Opps! Sorry Nikki."
"I know even now, many of you are not taking this seriously."
A group, "Eeeep!", Followed by a short silence.
"We can only hope that learning just how seriously we mean this will not be too severe a lesson for yourselves and your friends. Remember, only YOU can make the decision to learn and accept what we, through long hard experience, have come to place before you."
Then she ran through the 'Flag Rules': When they fly a School Flag with a red border, lay low and don't use your powers openly; when there's an amber border, watch out before using your powers; when there's green border, you can use your powers openly, just keep the property damage down.
Then she pulled out something that looked like a rather bulky laptop. "Very well, pay attention- this is a laptop computer that will be issued to each of you. We realize that there are a lot of you that for one reason or another aren't familiar with these things. Don't worry, we will have workshops to help you get familiar with them. Also there are some of you who might not be able to use the keyboard for one reason or another."
"Like great whopping big fingers." Toni whispered aside.
"For you, we can arrange alternate input methods. Now these things were specially made for Whateley. The exterior case is made of a biomimetic 'clamshell' ceramet compound- which means that it's very tough, and fire and shock resistant. But it is NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE! Please, Do Not try to use it as a shield, or God forbid, a weapon! The interior has been water and shock proofed as best we can. It has ports for most peripherals, and we're converting them over to wireless. If you didn't follow all of that, just take the workshop. Now, these things are for schoolwork. If we catch you playing games on it, we will erase that game, and confiscate the discs. These are school property. There is an irremovable 'Property of Whateley Academy, not for resale' tag right here on the casing. Also, everyone in Dunwich knows all about these things, and if you try to sell one to them, the first thing that they'll do is call us. These things are expensive; they are being provided to you free of cost. BUT, if we have to replace the unit that we give you, whether you sell it, lose it, break it or whatever, the cost comes out of your pocket. And they are being issued and registered to YOU personally, so don't try to cover yourself by swiping someone else's laptop. And, as I said, these things are expensive. Lastly, when you leave Whateley, we will expect you to turn it in. Most of these units were used by a student who graduated last year. They may have been upgraded, and the students are supposed to wipe their hard-drives clean before they return them, but I'd still suggest that you clear the hard-drive and re-boot the system from scratch. Seniors tend to think that leaving nasty pranks for the incoming Freshmen is a tradition."
"Please learn. And, PLEASE, try not to destroy everything around you as you do this. We wish you the best. And now we recommend that you start this journey by getting to your classes on time. Dismissed!"
As the students started to file out to go to their classes, the group gathered together before heading out.
Jade asked the others. "Do you really think that she was talking about us?"
Tennyo replied. "Naww! Just because just about everything she mentioned could apply to us doesn't mean a thing."
Toni pitched in. "Yeah! What she was saying could apply to any of the students in there. Don't you think so Nikki?"
"There! You see Jade. Nothing to worry about. Now go out there and show them what you are made of. Or, Maybe not where Jinn is concerned."
Waving to each other, they each headed out into the new world that was waiting for them.