Whateley: Saturday,September 30th, 2006
My life is pretty complex.
I have all the problems you'd expect a seventeen year old to have. Well, ok, sixteen and a half, but that's only if you want to nit pick. My parents don't understand what I'm going through; come to think of it, they probably haven't understood anything since 1980 or so. For the longest time I didn't know what Mom and Dad did for a living, and now that I do, I wish I didn't.
It's not easy being the child of a superhero, let alone two.
On the plus side, my folks' love of their little team meant that my childhood friends and I never got separated. On the down side, yep, you guessed, their parents are on the team too. As if everything a teen has to deal with isn't bad enough, right? Let's toss in some spandex and a hefty portion of megalomania. Well, Mark, Ashley and Charles are an alright sort. We probably made an interesting little clique going through elementary and high school. Time was, the kids who got uprooted and traveled around felt alone. Now-a-days, the ones who don't are in the distinct minority. By the time we got to be freshmen in high school nobody we'd gone to grade school with was around anymore.
Truth be told, that's just about fine by us.
I found mom and dad's 'work clothes' when I was nine. Of course I told my three best friends and a bit of judicious pilfering later let us know our folks had interesting night lives to say the least.
I guess a bit of introduction is in order. Charles' parents are Lightwave and Soldier of Fortune. He's really grown up into quite a young man; six foot or so, classically tall and broad, pretty much the spitting of dear old dad. Poor kid practically grew up with one of his dad's crazy rifles in his hands, though he'd favored his mother in many ways. He'd inherited her lighter, milk chocolate complexion and, like her, wore his hair in dread locks. It's how he got his nickname; Dredz. For all that 'bling bling' he spouts, you'd think he'd be calling himself the Inner City Avenger, but I'm not busting any secrets telling you the closest he's ever been to downtown is flying over it.
Mark, on the other hand, is your classic sports kid; having parents like Linebacker and The Red Archer will do that to you. While Mark wasn't quite as tall as Charles, he excelled at just about every sport he'd played, until his powers started surfacing and the 'rents decided they couldn't risk it any more. Really took the wind out of Mark's sails too, he was really on his way to a solid position in the Jock clique. The boy band good looks and the yellow gold locks in the page boy didn't hurt either. Mark's real talent is getting into your head, and not just with the usual teen years mind games, either. Mom and dad aren't too happy about their son the mentalist, but Psymod is cool with it, and I stick with my boys.
And then there's Ashley, or Phoenixfire as she likes to call herself. Of course, I call her Miss Perfect, but it's really not her fault. Ashley's mom is Magma and Miss Perfect is the apple of mommy's eye. Of us all, she manifested her powers first, and they fell in near lock step to moms. The fiery aura, the super strength, yep, the whole smash; right down to the flaming scimitar she can manifest. Unlike the rest of us, Magma went looking for a bit of normalcy in her personal life and snagged herself a banker's son. With a body like hers, it's not like you can blame the guy. Ashley is a bit taller than me at five two and very quickly developed into a younger version of super mom, add to that shoulder length auburn hair, a devil-may-care attitude of life and C cups by eight grade then wrap the whole package up in a designer name wardrobe and you've got the Home Coming Queen in training. In a lot of ways it sucks being friends with the enemy.
That would leave me.
I don't suppose you'd let me skip that part, huh? Well, it was worth a shot. I'm Lily, pleased to meet you and all that. It's tough trying to figure out a way to describe yourself without drawing attention to all things you don't like about yourself, or over playing your own self perceived good side. I guess my best feature would be my hair, it is midnight black and if I'd let it down would probably get down past my shoulder blades. I don't, though, as, quite honestly, the pony tail thing is simple and quick. I like things simple and quick. I don't spend as much time in the sun as the others so my skin is really pale; translucent you might say if you were inclined to be kind. I'm five foot just barely and, even at seventeen, I'm still waiting on some regular 'woman' bits to arrive. If I was one twenty I'd be surprised.
Svelte. Svelte is a good word to describe my figure. I do have nice hips, but up stairs is being coy to be honest. I've spend most of my life hiding; hiding from my parents Falcon and Tabby Cat's collective reputation. I've been hiding from the embarrassment of not being able to invite any friends beyond Charles, Ashley and Mark over for fear of busting the 'rents secret IDs and, of course, hiding from their enemies. I've gotten so good at hiding I'm a real pro at it; I can generate force fields that can bend light waves around me. Yep, I really am the invisible girl. I toyed with Tiger Lily as a nick name for a bit, but Mom wouldn't hear of it. 'Your Identity is your greatest treasure,' she'd say over and over. 'Guard it with your life!'
So, let me introduce you to Wall Flower. Don't be upset if you don't see me. There aren't many who can.
It was our dabbling in the 'rents occupations that got us sent to Whateley. My powers had manifested when I was ten or so, like the rest of my posse as Charles insists on calling it. We started small, sneaking into our parent's Training Center to practice. By the time we were turning eleven I could stay invisible for hours at a time, Charles could make shots that would turn his dad sick green with envy and Mark quit asking us what we wanted for lunch.
Miss Perfect? She'd taken up juggling; with tanks.
It didn't take long for us to become bored with just training. Not even determined twelve year olds can keep a secret for very long. Once the 'rents got wind of what we were doing our fun time got to be another stint of working out. It didn't take us long to figure out we weren't nearly as good as we thought we were.
It would only take one of the 'rents to give us all a good thrashing.
But I will say this for those long, hard hours, it made us realize that by having fun, we weren't pushing ourselves. And, brother, let me tell you, the 'rents pushed us. They threw everything at us; robots, lasers, pit falls, traps, death traps, the works. Their sadism rewarded us with a much better feel for what we could and, more importantly, couldn't do.
Looking back on it, that was probably their mistake.
A good teacher will tell you, you can only ride a student for so long before he or she needs to 'win'. Otherwise the frustration gets so overwhelming that they give up and turn away from whatever it is you're trying to teach. So, our 'carrot' as it were was we had to sneak into the base, with all of our access codes turned off.
And we did it.
It was a close thing, mind you. More than once we almost got caught or tripped the alarms; but we knew that place better than they did. It made us very full of ourselves.
That night, we'd all tossed aside the plain leotards we'd been given and started making uniforms. We thought we had graduated and were ready to look evil in the face and make them blink. Don't ask me why, but for some reason I thought I was being clever with the whole Tiger Lily bit; faux fur bikini with this really cool tigeresque body paint thing going on. I had to pad the top pretty heavily, but I don't think I'd ever looked that good.
Charles had this outfit that I was sure was going to get us all shot. He was calling himself Ghetto Blaster and he looked like he had a pressing engagement with a 7 Eleven to knock over. We never really had a name for our little team or anything. We just got together Friday and Saturday nights and stroked our own egos thinking we were making a difference, I guess.
Nothing major, well, not at first. It was all stuff the cops could handle; liquor stores and gas stations, desperate people doing desperate things. But I like to think we saved a life or three in all time of running around roof tops in our underwear.
Of course, there was that one time where Charles nearly got arrested on the way to the robbery we were trying to thwart, but that's an entirely different story.
We just sort of worked our way up the criminal food chain, one stick up man or dope pusher at a time. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were starting to get in over our heads and each time we made it out alive and made that difference we wanted to so much, we realized it a little less.
So that's how we came to find ourselves on a roof top at midnight, cold, but excited on a very early Sunday morning. According to what we'd been able to figure out, the jewelry store across the street was going to be the target of an honest to God Super Villain. It never occurred to us to wonder why an honest to God Super Villain would be knocking over a jewelry store like a petty crook. We were looking to make our first major score!
"Man, this totally blows, yo?" muttered Charles as our little stake out took a turn for the worse; it started to rain.
"It's not like crime only happens in perfect conditions," replied Mark, his eyes and mind intent on the darkened store front below us. He laughed a hollow laugh. "What would your dad say now?"
Charles rolled his eyes. "Patience is a virtue no soldier can be without," he quoted mirthlessly. "Don't be tripp'n me with that whacked jive, Psy."
"Do people actually talk like that?" demanded Ashley as she did her best to find some shelter under the overhang of the elevator shed. The fire bird was starting to look like a drowned canary. With a ragged sigh I enveloped us with a force bubble that would keep us dry.
"Are you sure this is the right place, Psy?" I asked him, speaking a bit louder than I'd like to be heard over the soft hum of the bubble. Mark nodded.
"This is the time and the place…" he trailed off and started looking around, always a sure sign he'd sensed something and was trying to narrow it down. "We're being watched," he finally whispered urgently.
I quickly altered the bubble to bend the light around us, making us invisible, a split second before what looked like a beer can came sailing over the far side of the roof and exploded into a brilliant ball of light.
The sudden change in the level of light had me seeing spots, and, more importantly, was more than I could bend quickly. The bubble was painfully obvious to anybody looking at it, and then it collapsed under the blast of the grenade.
In between the spots were six black clad shapes that charged in, fists wailing. My legs were kicked out from under me and I was quickly pinned to the gravel of the roof. I tried to go invisible, or throw up a force bubble to throw whoever this was on top of me off, but every time I tried he'd hit me across the temple, just hard enough to rattle my teeth and shake my concentration.
Charles scrambled to his feet and whipped out this nickel plated, accessory clad thing that threw both a spot light and a laser beam on whoever was on me, instantly costing me what was left of my night vision. "Freeze, sucker!" he bellowed before one of the other shapes came out of his blind side, neatly disarmed him, locked up one arm and kicked his leg out from under him all in one smooth, fluid motion. The Ghetto Blaster met the gravel like I did, and poor Charlie got ridden down face first.
"Charlie!" shouted Ashley as she manifested that flaming sword of hers and made with a sweep that promised a closed casket funeral to the guy on his back. But the blow didn't land. Two of the forms grabbed each wrist and tossed her straight up. A third evidently had some kind of power of telekinesis as she was held up there. Denied any kind of leverage, she was as good as caught.
Mark was kicking for all he was worth in a karate sequence that would have made his sensei proud. The shape he was kicking was just better than he was. His foot was always a moment or two late, arriving where his opponent used to be. Finally he got wrapped up and a complicated reverse, assisted by the guy who was holding Charles on the ground.
Our collective goose was cooked.
And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. Dad flew down from the rain to land in the middle of us. He gave us all one of those stern, disapproving authority figure looks that only Falcon can before shaking his head. "Well, that was pathetic," he said finally.
The one on top of me growled as she yanked the balaclava off her head, leaving her features still obscured behind a domino mask. "Hi mom," I said softly.
It wasn't a cheery way to end the evening as we sat, wet and miserable in the Conference Room back at our Parent's base, watching our hot chocolate getting cold. I'm honestly surprised it could, as steamed as the 'rents were over our little stunt. Sitting on the sun would have been a bit cooler. "Of all the irresponsible, bone headed stunts you've pulled, Lily, this takes the blue ribbon!" thundered Falcon. "What on Earth do you kids think you were playing at?"
"Dad," I started, but it wasn't time for us to stammer out an explanation yet. They still had a lot of venting to do.
"And you, Charles?" rounded Lightwave on her son. "What possessed you to go out in public looking like a thug I should be beating up?"
"It's cool…" started a fearful Charles. Wrong thing to say.
"Cool? Cool!" she shrieked. "Well, color me stupid! All those years your father and I spent crawling out from that ghetto and seeing to it you got every chance we'd been denied was a complete waste of time! Pack your bags, honey! We can't be cool if we aren't illiterate, dope crazed gangstas!"
"You, young man," growled Linebacker as he towered over Mark, "are…"
"Grounded for a month, yes sir," finished Mark before he'd clued in on we should be letting them vent.
"Two!" spat the Red Archer. "Mark you're more intelligent than this! You could have all gotten yourselves killed!"
"And what in heaven's name possessed you to go trouncing out in that outfit?" Mom wanted to know. Ok, I'll admit it; I couldn't help it anymore than they could.
"It's one of your old ones…" I started.
"Don't change the subject my girl," she told me fiercely, her slightly emphasized canines making her look even more fearsome. "No daughter of mine is going about with that kind of skin on display!"
"But Mom," I protested. "I could make two of your uniforms out of mine…"
"You are not going to be seen fighting crime in that out fit, young lady, that's final!" she snapped. There was a long pause as what she'd said sunk in. She hadn't said I couldn't fight crime; just that I couldn't do it in one of her old outfits. As I looked up, real hope in my eyes, I saw her suppress a smirk as she turned to Dad.
"Well, we've gone on about what you did wrong, let's talk about what you did right," he said. "Following the leads we planted was well done. I'm honestly surprised you put that heist together so quickly and on the first try."
"Good spot to pick for the stake out, too," put in Soldier of Fortune. "Using your powers to stay dry was stupid though. There are plenty of devisers who can build gadgets to detect an active power."
"What I'm most concerned about is your lack of discipline," was Magma's entry into the conversation. "You used Charlie's real name, Ashley. You should know what a major no no that is. Did you even come up with hero identities? Or were you just raiding our closets for the fun of it?"
"I'm Phoenixfire," she said softly. "Mark is Psymod, Charlie is Ghetto Blaster and Lily is Tiger Lily."
"Not anymore!" snapped both Mom and Lightwave in chorus. "Your identity is your most valuable asset, Lily. You have to protect it." Mom went on.
"And no son of mine is going to be Ghetto anything," put in Lightwave. I couldn't keep in a snicker at his predicament.
"Told you, Dredz," I whispered.
Soldier of Fortune wiped his chin thoughtfully. "I don't suppose that would do any harm," he said after a moment and made a placating gesture to his wife. "The boy has to be his own man, love. We can be a little flexible here."
Lightwave crossed her arms and stuck out her lower lip. "Fine. I don't suppose I can complain about Dredz. Maybe I can get a refund on that tuition we paid for all that private schooling. Seeing as how the boy can't spell, evidently it was wasted."
"Which brings us back to the subject of you, young lady," said Mom with one her more fearsome cat eyeing the mouse stares. "Not only are you using one of my old uniforms, which ties you to me, but you put your real name in your secret identity. From now on, you are…" and she trailed off, obviously struggling for the right turn of phrase.
"Wall Flower," put in Dad with a rye grin. "I can see you were trying to be clever with your name, Lily. And, with your power set, that suits you while being clever. As to uniforms," he said, taking a remote control from his utility belt and pointed it at the trophy room safe on the far wall. It obligingly slid open, revealing four mannequins wearing identical uniforms.
They were all white and black, with matching peaks front and back in white while the sleeves and shoulders were black. The pants were black with a wide stripe of white on the outside seams that disappeared into black boots with white cuffs on the tops, knee high for the boys, thigh high for the girls. White mid forearm gloves and black domino masks completed the ensemble.
On the chest of each uniform was a gold four pointed star that was trimmed and encircled in black. "Welcome to S.T.A.R. League," said Falcon with great ceremony. Before we could run over and check them out, he held up a gauntleted finger. "There are some provisos before you get these, so you'd best listen carefully."
Soldier of Fortune walked over to the cases, four matching utility belts in his hands that he placed before each as he spoke. "These are all made from a version of Nomex I've altered in house. They've been impregnated with Kevlar and a micromesh of Titan Wire. They're completely bullet proof up to about .50 caliber or so, fire resistant to temperatures that will likely kill you before the suit is harmed and impervious to cuts and stabbing weapons." He chuckled. "I when through about 60 needles each making them. Phoenixfire, yours will allow your fire aura to pass through, as well as allow you to summon your Fire Blade. Psymod, I've coated the inside of your suit with biomedical relays that should make the suit a larger antenna for your mental powers. It should double your range on your telepathy as well as allowing your teleportation powers."
"Lily," he went on. "Your suit will not interfere with your force fields. It also has the leads built into that should allow you to direct your force fields better, making it easier for you to fly."
"The same goes for yours, son. As you picked up some of your mothers tricks with light, they'll pass through the suit harmlessly and you should find them easier to focus. The utility belts all have matching sets; radio ear buds, power inhibitors, plastic handcuff strips with a couple of other tricks; smoke pellets, tire deflator caltrops things like that."
"And a homing beacon that will tell us whether you're wearing them or not," finished Magma with a fiery glance at her daughter. "If you want to do this, you do it our way or not at all."
Falcon planted his gauntleted fists on his hips, subconsciously striking a heroic pose. "Our way has no exceptions. First off, if you're going to be super heroes, you're going to learn to do it right. We've taught you the basics, it's time for your hone what you've learned in a place that's set up for people like us."
"Whateley Academy," interrupted Linebacker. "You want to run in the big leagues, you start in the minors. The suits stay on all the time, except when you're asleep so we'll know if you're ducking class or taking stupid risks."
"They're keyed to your individual biopatterns too," was Soldier of Fortune's comment. "So don't try to be coy and get some of your classmates to help you cut out."
"Do we have a choice?" muttered Dredz. His dad only chuckled and took out a bracelet he tossed on the table. It looked like a wristwatch, but I was pretty sure it went way deeper than that.
"Of course," he said brightly. "These are power inhibitors. Pretty standard stuff the Feds put together for supers on Probation. They lock and nothing will get them off. It's either Whateley or you wear these till you're eighteen."
"So, no, we don't have a choice," said Mark softly. "When do we leave?"
For an organization as well off as S.T.A.R. League, it was rather surprising how we got to Dunwich. We took the train. It was only a couple of hours from Providence to Dunwich by Amtrak, hours our folks decided to spend with us individually. I don't know how the others trips went, but mine was a nightmare. Once Mom and Dad were sure we wouldn't be bothered again, they got that parent fidget that let me know something major was up.
"Lily," started Mom which pulled me away from admiring the New England Fall. I'd always admired Mom, in a lot of ways. Her own powers had affected her, making her more like her name sake than I think even she realized. She had her contacts in to cover the yellow cats' eyes that were her natural pair and if she was careful no one noticed the fangs her canines had turned into. For the trip she'd worn a black velvet sweater and pants that clung to her like a pelt. "Lily, the time has really come for you to know some things that we've kept from you."
I couldn't keep in a dry chuckle at that. "What could possibly be more upsetting than learning what you two do for a living, Mom?"
"I'll handle this, Tabby," dad told her. "Lily, The Power touches all of us in different ways. Some of us don't adapt well to what it does, but we keep going. Your mother and I want you to know that no matter what happens; we love you."
Ok, now I was worried. When the 'rents toss out the 'we love you' line, something major was in the works. I swallowed fearfully. "You're getting a divorce?" I asked hesitantly. Dad was taken aback.
"What? No! What ever gave you that idea?"
Mom rolled her eyes. "Way to go, Robert. Lily, this isn't about your father and me. It's about me and some of the things that I had to deal with that, well; you might have to as well."
Now that I could be relieved I wasn't about to go through the much dreaded D word, I could allow myself to be curious. "Like, what, Mom?"
"Lily, there isn't any way to say this, honey, but I'll do my best. When your father and I were at Whateley, we were in different cottages, what the school calls its dorms."
"I was in Twain," supplied Dad with some note of pride.
"As in the writer?" I asked hesitantly. Mom beamed, and with her teeth that's not always a good thing.
"You always were a good student, Lily. Yes, all the cottages are named after authors. Twain Cottage was where a good number of the A crowd hung out, and nearly all the schools male athletes were housed there."
"It's where I met Bill," Dad said, meaning Mark's father, Linebacker.
But this wasn't about Dad I could see. Mom's body language was really playing up her discomfort with the situation and its topic. "My cottage," she said softly, "Was Poe. This mustn't leave this car, dear, but Poe Cottage is a Coed dorm where the school houses all those whose powers or…lifestyle… choices meant they needed to be separated from the rest of the students."
This through me for a loop, I must say. "But…" I stammered. "You're not Gay…" I trailed off, suppressing the image of my parents making out with all my strength. "At least," I said, not sure what I could say to this new revelation, "I'm not Gay!"
"I wasn't Gay then either, technically," she said softly.
"Then I don't get…"
"Lily, when I first arrived at Whateley," she told me, over riding my protestations, "My name was Thomas, not Tabitha."
"What?" I shrieked. I honestly expected mom to get angry and tell me to keep my voice down. She didn't, she just looked like I probably did when I knew I'd let them down. And that made it awfully, terribly, real.
"There's more," she whispered. "What happened to me was actually more common that most realize. My powers were built around grace and agility, not strength and, what they tell me is in my mind's eye, I couldn't be graceful as a man, so…" she made a vague gesture at her figure.
I've always been a touch envious of mom's figure. It's true when they say there's almost no such thing as an ugly Super Hero. And mom's figure was dynamite; she curved in all the right places and she could be sexy just sitting and reading a book. I was getting frustrated waiting for some of those gene's I'd inherited from her to get busy on me, to be honest.
"We knew," said Dad, making a point of putting his arm around Mom and hugging her. "The odds of our child being a mutant were practically a sure thing. We hoped that we could give that child, you Lily, a fair shot at life. We were extremely careful while Tabby was pregnant."
"I went out of my way to be careful of using my abilities once I knew I was pregnant."
"We saw specialists," Dad told me. "We knew any number of devisors and just about every super science type and we consulted with all of them. Despite this, there were some complications with your birth."
I'd never given any thought to how ugly a word complication is. My heart was in my throat as I whispered, "What complications?"
"It's my fault," moaned Mom as she buried her head into one of Dad's beefy shoulders. He hugged her hard enough to pop her back and I began to get past worry and into real, honest to God terror.
After a moment, Dad said, "Lily, when you were born, the doctors really didn't know what to make of you. Back then, bilateral hermaphroditism was pretty rare."
"Wha…what?" I asked, feeling every more fearful and confused. Falcon is a pretty straightforward guy. Those were mighty big words for him to be tossing around and that had to mean bad things for me.
He sighed. "When you were born, honey, it wasn't really clear what your gender was. You had a vaginal opening and a penis."
Oh gross. I thought I was going to be sick. No, I knew I was going to be sick, but it just wouldn't start. I sat there, staring at them as I rasped, trying to will myself to throw up and make this nightmare go away. Dad soldiered on, being brave, far braver than I could be. "There were a lot of other tests, and they finally were able to determine with a sonogram that of your two sets of…reproductive organs…your uterus and ovaries were far more complete. We…you mother and I decided that it would be best for you to grow up believing you had had a normal delivery as a girl."
My temples were throbbing. This was more than I could deal with. "And what could possibly have changed your minds now?" I shrieked, hurt, fearful and betrayed.
"Your powers are manifesting, Lily," cried Mom. "It may well be that you'll have to go through what I did. I'm so sorry honey, I never meant…"
"No!" I shouted. "NO! I like being a girl! Ok, so my boobs haven't started yet but I menstruate, Mom! I have since I was twelve! Don't you remember?"
At this point, Dad tried to say something, but I couldn't take any more. My head felt like my brain was trying to drill its way out through my temples. I snatched open the compartment door and ran. After about two minutes I ran out of train, but that didn't stop me. I just opened the rearmost door and jumped.
I'm not sure how long I just hovered there, above the rail road tracks and wept. As if things could get any worse, right? Was I going to sprout hair in all sorts of disgusting places now? A shudder ran through me at the thought of having to shave my legs and my face.
So I just hovered there, about twenty feet above the tracks and I resolved not to let that happen. I didn't know what I'd have to do, but if I'd gone under the knife once, if the little thing grew back, I'd just do it again. It was the 21st Century for the love of Pete! Science had to offer some remedy.
Having a course of action made it easy for me to finally get my emotions under control and try to figure out where I was. It was pretty, where ever it was, hill sides covered in red/gold autumn in all its New England glory. My watch told me it was noon and my stomach rolled in protest of flying for this long on empty.
As I was deciding what to do about it, Dad's voice from above me brought me back to reality even as that gray and white costume of his dropped out of the sun. "How're you doing, kiddo?"
I sniffed. "Pretty good for having my life fall apart around my ears," I told him.
"I know we hit you with a lot back there, Lily. I'm sorry."
"I'm going to beat this, dad," I told him, my voice, normally so insecure in its contralto filled with something like iron. "They cut the thing off once. If it grows back, they can damned well do it again." He chuckled as he gave me a hug, mid air.
"That's my girl. We didn't want to tell you all that, Lily. But, as there's a chance of it, we thought better safe than sorry. Now you know what to look out for. There are some great doctors on the staff there at Whateley. We'll keep an eye on it and if we can beat it, we will. Whatever happens, we love you, sweetheart." He gave me a wink through his mask and touched his radio control on the back of his gauntlet. "Psymod, bring us home."
Mark had teleported me enough to make me ready for that sick sensation of being pulled along though my navel and suddenly we were in the train again as if nothing had happened. "Thanks, Mark," Dad told him with a clap on the shoulder.
He gave me a grin that spoke volumes. "Anything for a friend."
By the time Dad was back into his Armani double breasted jacket and turtleneck, we'd arrived in Dunwich. If I'd thought Providence was a Podunk town, I was in for a rude awakening. By comparison, Providence was metropolitan center of culture and learning. Dunwich was probably only about two square miles and from the looks of things, was very much stuck in the 19th Century.
I'll bet they rolled the streets up at nine, too.
"This is it?" demanded Ashley with a disbelieving smirk to her lip.
"Yes," Magma informed her. "You'll be able to come home for the holidays and such, don't worry. And there's always summer break."
"Dudes," proclaimed Charles with great formality, "We have officially died and gone to hell." A scathing glance from his mother let him know that silence was definitely golden just then. Further conversation was halted by the arrival of a young man in a black blazer whose breast pocket was emblazoned with a complicated coat of arms.
He didn't say much, and to be honest, the 'rents didn't seem to be in a talkative mood just then anyway. The porters took the bags to a minivan the young man was driving and we sat in silence for the ride to the school. Dunwich couldn't even support a stop sign, let along anything as modern as a McDonalds, but I noticed on the way in there were three drug stores. I suppose that says something about the Modern American way of life.
The covered bridge looked like it dated back to the days of Ichabod Crane and was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. It creaked like it was only standing from force of habit.
Bridges don't normally bother me, but I was certainly glad to be on the other side of it.
The country side was very picturesque, the kind of stuff you see in post cards bragging about New England and in full fall regalia you'd think there'd be more tourists on the road. As it was, we only passed two other vehicles and one was a horse and buggy. That power inhibitor bracelet was starting to look more attractive every passing second.
Eventually we turned onto a private drive, winding up a hill towards the school whose ivy covered facades I could make out. We came to a stop before the largest of the buildings that was watched over by a dour statue of a man in strange clothes holding a book. The famed Mr. Whateley I presume.
There was a woman waiting for us whose beauty shone through the tastefully conservative business suit she was wearing. She looked to be about mom and dad's age with yellow blonde hair and the bluest eyes I think I've ever seen. She offered a hug to all of our parents and was obviously on a first name basis with them. "Robert," she purred in a voice that bespoke a perfect pitch and timber. "It's been too long."
Dad, for the first time in my life, looked sheepish, even slightly unsure of himself. My dad has shared a platform with three Presidents, five royal families and at least six alien beings that I know of. Not once in all that kind of company did he ever look sheepish. "Mrs. Carson, it's good of you to make arrangements on such short notice."
"Anything for an Alumnus, Robert and you ought to know by now my name is Elisabeth." She switched gears and hugged mom. "Tabitha, you're looking wonderful dear. Welcome."
"Elisabeth," greeted mom around the hug. "You can't know what this means to us." The two women separated so mom could plant a hand on my shoulder to present me to the evident Queen of Whateley. "This is our daughter, Lily."
"Lovely," she told me, offering a hand shake that was warm, firm and yet somehow evaluating. I got the feeling I'd passed.
"Lily," Mom said, "This is Mrs. Elisabeth Carson, Headmistress of Whateley Academy." In short order the other members of my posse were introduced and all the 'rents seemed to have this strange love/respect/fear thing of Mrs. Carson. The introductions out of the way, she gestured to the young man who'd driven us here to collect our luggage and swept us all inside to her office.
What I had taken for a contemporary of my parents was, judging by her office, quite incorrect. Just from looking at some of the diplomas on the wall showed dates that would be impossible for someone as young as she appeared to be to have earned. And somehow I didn't think they were fakes.
She poured coffee for the adults from a sterling silver service on a low book case and passed the bone china cups with the air of a very competent hostess. Beyond the book case was a cleverly concealed dorm fridge from which she removed several cans of pop for us prospective students.
It was even grape, my favorite.
"So," she drawled, the queen secure on her throne behind the desk once more. "We have four, wonderful new students for our year." Mrs. Carson cocked her head at dad. "Sophomores? That's splendid and just in the nick of time. You'll have missed all that boring easy stuff in the beginning, ready to jump right into the heart of learning."
A quartet of groans filled the office.
"Oh, it's not as bad as all that," she admonished us with a musical laugh. "I don't have any dorms that have sufficient room for you all just now," Mrs. Carson mused thoughtfully, one perfect index finger pressed against her sculpted full lower lip. "And there are Tabitha's legacy considerations from Poe." She nodded, having made some decision. "It's probably best that you be split up for sleeping arrangements. You have the look to me of friends on the verge of being siblings. That's not healthy. Lily, you'll be staying in Poe Cottage, in honor of your mother's time there," she said softly, her voice full of secrets kept. "Charles, you have a legacy issue as well from your father so you shall reside in Twain Cottage. Alas, Bill, I know you would like to have young Mark take up your own legacy, but we haven't the room in Twain. I'll have him assigned to Emerson and we can work things out next year."
"Emerson?" he asked with some amount of dismay. "My boy with those egg heads?" Mrs. Carson's cornflower blue eyes narrowed ever so slightly. I'd never seen Linebacker back down from any kind of fight so I had a bubble ready to go, but, to my intense amazement, he just meekly said, "Next year then."
"Which brings us to you, Ashley," Mrs. Carson said, all smiles once more. "I have an opening in Melville and I think you'll do nicely there."
"If it's all the same, Ma'am," said Ashley and I had to give her credit; I sure didn't have the guts to speak to this Super Teacher. "I'd like to room with Lily." I felt my mouth open up in shock. Sure, Ash and I had been friends for a while, but to hear that from her made me feel warm all over.
"It's not all the same, dear, I'm sorry. Perhaps next year when you return we can work something out. For now, your parents and I have some exciting paperwork to fill out. You all will find some student guides to take you to your perspective Cottages and once you're settled, we'll get you all back together for dinner before they catch their train." There was something in her tone that didn't broach any kind of argument so, not sure what else to do we stood up and filed out.
There were four other students waiting for us; the most striking of which was an angelic figure of a girl who towered nearly a full foot over me. She smiled through the soft glow that seemed to surround her and held out her hand. "You must be Lily. I'm Mary, nice to meet you."
She had a nice handshake, but there was something off about her hands. I got the feeling I probably could pick her up with out too much effort. "Pleased to meet you," I told her, wondering which of the reasons for her to be in Poe Cottage had been her luck to draw. "These are my friends," I started but the other girl of the group gave me a withering glance and practically dragged Ashley out. "What's her problem?"
Mary only smiled. "Don't mind Cathy, it's just her time of the year." She glanced down at the black and white thigh high boots of my uniform I'd worn over my jeans and sweater. "Nice boots," she said making me blush a bit as I pushed the sweater's sleeves up to my elbows from habit.
"Not exactly made to walk in, but I'll get used to them, I guess."
The boys gave at least a civil nod to Mary with a pair of, "Catch ya later, Mary's," on their way as they led off Mark and Charles in opposite directions. That left me alone with Mary in the corridor.
She noticed my concern and laid a hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry; I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for me to meet your friends. For now, let's get you settled. I'm going to be your room mate," she told me as she led the way in the direction Cathy had dragged Ashley.
"Oh?" I asked a bit nervously. Her hand was back on my shoulder and it was becoming a little disturbing how 'touchy feely' she was.
"Mmmhmmm," she told me seemingly oblivious to my discomfort. "They give you a code name, yet? Mine's Angel."
"Wall Flower," I told her, taking what I hoped was a discrete step closer to the edge of the winding brick trail we were walking. "So, I'm guessing you fly."
"These aren't for show," she chuckled. "How about you?"
With a thought I bent the light around me. I became visible once more and held out my hand to form a bubble about the size of a gazing ball. "Force fields," I told her with a smile and a goodly bit of pride at the stability I'd been able to achieve.
"Neat," she complimented. "How big can you make it?"
"About six feet in radius is the biggest I've done so far, but it takes a bit out of me. Saved my friends and some people who got caught in a building collapse." Her smile became a knowing smirk.
"Oh, I see a Cape Squad member."
"Sorry?" I asked her, somewhat confused. She chuckled.
"The Cape Squad, it's one of the cliques around here. I think their official title is Future Super Heroes of America. They're really into the 'danger room' training and making costumes and all that."
"I don't want to be a Super Hero, I just am one," I told her with a shake of my head. "And my choice really has nothing to do with it. It's kind of the family business. Both, well, really, all of our parents are Supers." Mary tried valiantly to keep her chuckle from spreading to a full blown laugh.
"Wow, girl, I thought I had it bad. Don't let them or the Robins find out about that. You'll be flooded." She noticed the confusion on my face and nodded. "Robins are another clique; they want to be side kicks."
I felt my eyes roll in disbelief. They say there's nothing more cathartic then finding out about somebody who's worse off than you are. I felt much better. "Here we are," she told me, having arrived at another of those ivy covered buildings that seemed to be required by ordinance for schools in New England. She led me up several flights of steps to the building third floor to a door with 302 on a small brass plaque affixed to it. She opened the door to reveal a smallish room with a pair of beds on the left and right walls near the room's lone window. Between them on each side were a pair of smallish closets that faced each other and finally a pair of desks that faced the walls, framing the door.
My things were in a neat pile near the right hand of the beds.
"So," she started hesitantly as we stepped inside and she shut the door. "You know why you're in Poe, right?" I shrugged, more than a little nervous about the shift the conversation had taken.
"Mostly because of my mom," I told her. "When she was here her name was evidently Tom. Now it's Tabitha."
"I see," she said softly with more than a little concern for my predicament from the sound of her voice. "So, what did your name used to be?"
I turned, frowning a bit. "It's always been Lily." I didn't think I'd said it that forcefully, but she shrank back and her eyes got as wide as saucers.
"You're going to turn into a guy?" she demanded fearfully.
"God, I hope not!" I answered with a rueful chuckle. "Evidently when I was born I kind of had both bits, if you take my meaning. They got rid of the extras and I just found out about it today. Mom's worried something might happen so they put me here. I tell you what though, if something does start growing down there, I'm having it cut off."
The relief that washed over her was comical. "Thank God," she said with such religious fervor that, given her physical appearance, I was rather regretting I didn't have it on tape. "I'm allergic to boys," she told me as she crossed to her bed and carefully sank down, being mindful of her wings.
"So, you didn't used to be one?" I asked her somewhat hesitantly. She violently shook her head.
"No, I'm just Gay."
"I'm not," I replied with what I hoped was the right mix of firm and polite. I liked Angel and I had a feeling we could be good friends, unless she couldn't understand I wasn't interested that way. To my immense relief she smiled.
"No problem. If it will make you feel better, I can change clothes in the restroom."
"I wouldn't hear of it," I told her. "This was your room first. I don't mean to be rude, and I'd really like to be friends with you; just not that way. I hope that's ok?"
"To each their own," she said with a smile. "Let me help you unpack."
"Bowling for Soup!" she cried as I was getting my CDs unpacked. "You're into Bowling for Soup?"
In short order 1985 was blasting from her CD player as we unpacked and sang along, woefully off key. Yep, Mary was definitely a keeper.
That last meal with Mom and Dad was more than a bit surreal. Dad had taken to wearing this small gold pin on his lapel that evidently matched Charles' and kept casting these dour glances at some of the other kids who didn't have one. Maybe this was how he was in school; if so, I was more than a little curious as to what mom had seen in him.
I introduced Angel to the 'rents and they seemed pretty taken with her.
Evidently Miss Perfect had drawn the Bitch as a roomie as looking a little depressed about it. Well, I suppose if nothing else, Ashley would get a taste of how the other half lived for a bit.
We had the tearful farewell moment before Mrs. Carson whisked them off to the train station and us back to our dorms, each with our new schedule. My classes started at 6 in the morning! As I moaned about this to Angel she just shook her head. "Welcome to Whateley. That's Flight I, right? I'm the student assistant for that class. You fly?"
"Didn't I tell you?" I chuckled. "I better get right to sleep so I'm coherent in the morning."
"What's the rest of your classes?"
"English Comp, then Geometry and Powers Theory. Lunch next, followed by Powers Lab, French and then Martial Arts, wow, what a weird mix," I told her. I put the sheet on my desk before crawling into the surprisingly comfortable bed.
"We'll have Flight and Geometry together," she said, getting into her own before reaching up to hit the light switch that was thoughtfully put next to the beds. "I'll show you how to get to your other classes after Flight tomorrow."
I woke up the next morning with the feeling I'd had strange dreams all night. I don't remember my dreams in the morning, so I couldn't be sure. On Angel's advice, I wore my uniform to class, complete with my mask. "Skirt's aren't made for flying," she said with a chuckle so for the first time I would be heading out into public wearing the gift Soldier of Fortune had made for us.
It was remarkably comfortable, with a complete freedom of movement. Once I got used to the heels on the boots, it would be about perfect. But, then I could fly so the comfort bit of the shoes didn't matter as much as making that important first impression.
Putting on that much mascara on my eyelids so you couldn't tell where the mask ended and my eyes started was a pain, but that's how it goes with domino masks. That and the spirit gum; yuck!
Angel just wore a white dance leotard without a mask. "I'm just here to learn," she told me with a laugh. "It's not a career."
There was another girl in the Flight class from Poe that Angel introduced me to as we made our way to the field where the class was taught. On the way, while chatting with Angel and Tennyo my eye caught a young boy with tentacles for arms who was talking with another boy with dirty blonde hair and an un-put-together look that I found odd, considering it wasn't hard to get a uniform right. His tie was askew and his jacket had sufficient wrinkles to make me think he'd slept in it.
I wasn't going to give it a second thought when I saw a bolt of some kind of electricity arc from the first boy to the young man with tentacles for arms. It must have been the spandex, I didn't think, I just changed course and walked brusquely over, ignoring the furtive whispers from Angel behind me.
"Why won't you leave me alone?" asked the boy with the tentacles and that was all the info I needed. My hand snapped out and incased the blonde in a force bubble.
"What?" he demanded, turning around to see me glowering up at him.
"Why don't you leave him alone?" I demanded.
"What business is it of yours, panda girl?" he sneered at me.
I frowned a bit more as he brought up some kind of static electricity corona that honestly didn't help make him look any more fearsome in my force bubble. "The name's Wall Flower," I told him with a defiant lift of my chin. "And it's my business because we happen to be the same species, except maybe for you. Leave him alone."
"Or what?" he demanded and threw a pretty powerful bolt at me. The force bubble held and his disdain turned to worry.
"Or you'll suffocate," I told him smugly. "This bubble doesn't allow air to pass through and that corona of yours is using up what's in there pretty quick I'd think. And I can hold you in it for hours." He took a couple of nervous sniffs of the air and the corona winked out. "Now, apologize," I ordered.
He turned red, and not because of a lack of oxygen; I was bluffing about that, but he didn't know it. After a string of what I took to be profanity in what sounded like German, he turned to the other boy and very sullenly muttered, "Sorry."
My bubble winked out. "Now get lost," I told him. For a second I thought he might try something, but he just clinched his fists and stalked off. Once I was sure he was gone I turned to the other boy. "You ok?"
I don't think anyone had ever stood up for the poor boy before, based on the look of out right admiration on his face. "Yeah," he breathed, extending a tentacle that I took as a handshake. I shook hands, but at least some part of me was glad I was wearing gloves. "I'm Trevor," he told me. "Trevor Martin, Hawthorne Cottage, thanks so much."
"Lily," I told him. "Poe. This is Angel and Tennyo," introducing my new friends who had joined me. "Who was that?"
"Haywire," Angel told me. "He's one of the Masterminds, think of them as the opposites of the Cape Squad." She crossed her arms and shook her head. "First day here and you're already making enemies."
"If you're collecting enemies," Trevor said with a dry chuckle, "you can have mine. I've got plenty." Trevor had quite a sense of humor I could see and I found myself liking him. His face got a look of intense concentration and the tentacles slowly changed into what looked like normal looking arms and hands, if a bit more flexible than they should have been. "He's been picking on me since I got here. I can't seem to control my powers when I'm around him."
"You'll get it," I told brightly. "We've got to get to class, Trevor, see you around." He stood staring and waving as we walked off to the muted giggles of Tennyo and Angel.
"I think you just got your first fan," Tennyo told me with a wink.
"Or a side kick," laughed Angel. I rolled my eyes.
"Sorry if I got you two involved with something you didn't want. I guess it's the spandex, I just couldn't let him bully that kid."
"Don't sweat it," Tennyo told me. "I'm such a trouble magnet it was probably my fault." We had a good giggle for the rest of the way to the class, this morning being held in an open field, sheltered by several of the buildings from the casual observer.
Mr. Buttons was a dumpy little man with big eyes and bigger glasses, with a balding pate ringed by dark brown hair. Despite the look of him, there was a steadiness about his hands and eyes that made me think he was an accomplished pilot in some way. He seemed happy to get another student as I handed him my transfer papers for him to look over. "Ah, Miss Flower," he greeted, looking up from the papers. "You already have a pilot's license?" I nodded. "What is your FAA number and certificates?"
"SWF 23, sir," I told him. "I'm only rated for Visual Flight Rules at altitudes of less than ten thousand feet." The FAA had started giving permanent radio call signs years ago to mutants who could fly. Mine was S(uper) W(all) F(lower) and as there were twenty two other supers who had names with WF in them, my number was 23.
Mr. Buttons looked back at my papers then back up. "You have a passenger certification? Are you exceptionally strong?"
I raised my hand and encircled him with a force bubble. "Not especially," I told him. "I can just pull people along."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Mr. Buttons. "You'll be a great help to me, Miss. Flower." I suppressed a chuckle.
"It's just Wall Flower. Or Lily."
Mr. Buttons nodded. "Alright then, Wall Flower, your abilities will allow me to get the proverbial birds' eye view of our students. You are now my second Student Assistant." Yay me. "You'll bring me up to approximately one thousand feet and we'll get some approach and acquisition practice in. Do you have a radio?" I nodded. "Watch closely, class. Wall Flower, I'd like for you to contact MTO-NE, check into their net as a temporary sub controller and advise them of our operations. You'll be the voice for Whateley Field for the time being." Mass Transit Organization-North East was the FAA's regional air traffic control center, the traffic cops of the skies. The Centers name was Carmine-Gallo.
There are a lot of good things to say for spandex. First gives you this tremendous shot of confidence that, to be honest, if I didn't have this mask to hide behind I'd be terrified. Instead of panicking, I just got my ear bud radio from its case in the Utility Belt and turned it on. "FAA Master One," I told it, letting the voice recognition command program tune if for me. "Carmine-Gallo, Carmine-Gallo, this is Sierra Whisky Fox 23 checking into your net via Whateley Field, how do you read, over?"
After a pause a somewhat bored sounding male voice filled my ear, "Fox 23, this is MTO-NE, reading you five by five, over."
"MTO-NE requesting recognition for sub controller, VFR for pilot trainees at angels one triple zero Fox 23 is answering for Whateley Field, over."
"Roger your operations, Whateley Field, we have no traffic scheduled at your altitudes and you are clear for VFR, MTO-NE Clear."
"Whateley Field, clear," I said before turning back to Mr. Buttons. "We're ready, sir."
Mr. Buttons gave a quick lecture about everything I'd just said before I put him back in a bubble and got airborne. Lacking any kind of altimeter, which of course was why we were doing this under Visual Flight Rules, I could only guess at my height, but I'd gotten good at estimating it. Once the students and I were at about 1000 feet, we spent the next two hours trying to get them to not run into each other.
As I watched with no small measure of amusement I turned to Mr. Buttons and asked, "Have you not explained holding patterns yet, sir?"
"Twice," he said with a sigh of the long suffering. "It would seem we'd need a third time.
I couldn't agree more. Tennyo was doing very well, seeming to grasp the concept of aerial geography quite well. The rest, well, there was a lot of homework needed.
Angel and I only just had enough time to change into our uniforms and get to our next classes. I suppose there's something to be said for the Catholic School Girl look, but I wasn't sure what it was. The knee skirt and socks look had gone out with Truman if you asked me. Still, as I had pointed out already, a uniform was a uniform.
I had Mr. Lord for English Composition, a decidedly good looking youngish man in his middle to late twenties. He had the look of Joseph Finnes, the Shakespearean actor about him, tall, thin with dark hair a van dyke beard that nearly cried out for a doublet and hose instead of the Dockers and polo he was wearing. "Quickly, quickly," he called to a couple of stragglers in the hall. "Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen," he said with a flare that only a morning person can have. "I hope you will all join me in welcoming our new transfer student, Lily, to the class."
Now I didn't have a mask to hide behind and my cheeks burned with embarrassment. And being able to do it meant I couldn't wish to be invisible. "I trust you'll all help her get up to speed quickly. Lily, we're currently reading Othello and as we're in Act Two, I'd like you to read through the first act as quickly as possible."
"Yes sir," I muttered, doing my best not to bring further attention to myself.
Mr. Lord turned back to his desk with a flourish and started writing in bold, quick strokes on the blackboard. "This semester the school play will be Othello and try outs will be tomorrow. I expect to see everyone in this class there," he said after writing the time and location of the try outs on the board. "Shakespeare meant for his plays to be seen and experienced, not just read. I will not hold it against anyone who does not make the grade. Not all of us are actors. But, anyone who does make the play and gives a reasonably good accounting of themselves will be awarded extra credit."
He pointed at the girl I recognized as Ashley's roommate. "Cathy, would you start us off at Scene one, please?"
Now Cathy was a very lovely girl. Tall, fit with a nice figure and auburn hair that fell to the tops of her shoulders. If she didn't wear such a hateful expression all the time she'd be beautiful. Her voice was the kind of soprano that had me wondering why some music school hadn't snatched her up for Opera.
And with all that going for her, she couldn't read Shakespeare out loud to save her life. She halted, stuttered and generally made a fool of herself to the detriment of her mood. It was one of the most important scenes in the play, where Iago reveals himself to be the villain and begins his banter with Desdemona to ensnare her in his plot. It was supposed to be lively banter and innuendo and Cathy managed to turn it into see spot run.
I couldn't keep a heavy sigh to myself that Mr. Lord, evidently possessed of an excellent pair of ears noticed at once. "Just a moment, Cathy, Scott," he said. "Do you have an issue with Scott and Cathy's performance, Lily?"
Oh I felt about one foot tall and I could sense every eye on me. I just sat and considered bolting for the door. "Well?" growled Cathy and something in me snapped.
"I don't have a problem, except that this might be a bit above you!" I snarled at her, blushing furiously. Before a fight broke out, Mr. Lord quickly interposed himself.
"What makes you say that, Lily?"
"This is the most important scene in the play!" I told him as he nodded and played with his van dyke. I took his silence to mean I should continue. "It's through Iago's banter with Desdemona that we learn he's the bad guy and is plotting to turn Venice on it's ear for his own ladder climbing. If that isn't brought out, in this scene none of the rest of the play makes sense."
"Very passionately put," he said with a smile. "I think the Bard would be pleased and that is the message of this scene. But critiquing someone else is easy, Lily, doing it for yourself is an entirely different thing. Why don't you read Desdemona for a bit and see for yourself. Scott, we'll take it from 'Sir, would she give you so much of her lips…'"
Scott was a big boy, tall, and extremely well built. He had that first bloom of an athletic figure thing going for him, you could even tell it through his Whateley school uniform. His face was damn cute, too; long and regular with a straight nose and soulful blue eyes. His blonde hair was so light that it was almost white, and one lock of it fell over his face and across one eye. He had something of a Boy Scout look about him and his friends were giving him a bit of teasing over reading for the bad guy, but he was taking it in good spirit.
And he was good too, with a deep, resonate baritone with an excellent grasp of what he was saying. "Sir, would she give you so much of her lips as of her tongue she oft bestows on me, you'll have enough."
I couldn't help but cast a glance at the fuming Cathy as I tried to project how I felt in my fighting tongs into this performance. In a way, I guess they were very similar as I was being someone else. As our eyes locked, I put as much sultry into my voice as I could, and said, "Alas, she has no speech."
Scott just kept in a chuckle. "In faith, too much; I find it still when I have list to sleep. Marry, before your ladyship I grant, she puts her tongue a little in her heart and chides with thinking."
He and the other girl reading the part of Emilia, Iago's wife shared a moment of marital discord before my banter with Scott really got into high gear. There was a bit of rivalry as we really got into it, not reading the lines so much as having the argument there on the pier of Venice. "O lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband. How say you, Cassio? Is he not a most profane and liberal Counselor?"
One of Scott's friends stuttered through Cassio's line before he told me the revelation with all the hatred of a master villain at his arch nemesis's arrival. "With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Aye, smile upon her, do; I will give thee in thine own courtship. You say true? Tis, so, indeed. If such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry it had been better you had not kissed your three fingers so oft, which, now again you are most apt to play the stir in."
We were interrupted by the loud clapping that brought me back to who and where I was. And where I was, was on the far side of the classroom from my desk, having evidently stood at some point and walked over to be practically in Scott's face. "Very nicely read," complimented Mr. Lord as he finally stopped clapping and I burned with the embarrassment of what I'd done. "Your stage craft could use a little work, Lily, but your delivery is spot on. I'll look forward to your audition and yours, Scott. Well done indeed."
I fled back to my desk while doing my best not to look like I was fleeing. For the remainder of English I did my best to be invisible without using my power. Finally the bell rang and I was about ready to bolt for the door when Scott's voice brought me up short. "Lily!" he called over the susurrus of the other students enjoying being free for the next ten minutes or so. I knew I couldn't pretend to not hear him without looking like I was running for my life, so I stopped and waited for him to catch up. "Nice read," he complimented me and I felt myself blushing again. "You into Shakespeare?"
"Thanks," I told him. "My mom is, so I got a lot of it from her. Just can't stand to hear it butchered I guess. Sorry if I put you on the spot in there."
"Naw," he replied with an easy grace. "Most fun I've had in English all semester to be honest. You going to go out for the play, then?"
"We kind of have to…"
"No, are you going out for the play? If you want a role, I'm willing to bet you'll get one. I am, hope to see you there."
"Sure," I said and I felt a new feeling of warmth as he left with a cheery wave. Maybe there's a lot to like about being here.
It was fun seeing Angel again in Geometry, but it was also boring as only math can be. We got to chat for a minute or so before and after class and then it was Power Theory for me. I waved to Tennyo as I entered and got a pleasant surprise; Ashley was in this class with me. We hugged like we hadn't seen each other in weeks not a day or so and I quickly brought her over to introduce to my new friend. "Hey, Tennyo!" I called as we arrived where she was chatting with a young man who was built in the manner of a dancer or gymnast. I gave a gesture to Ashley. "This is my friend Ashley, Ash, this is Tennyo."
Tennyo nodded from her perch on the back of the desk and jerked a thumb at the dark haired, gray eyed gymnast next to her. "The real name is Billie, by the way. This is Hank or, as he's taken to calling himself…" and she paused for dramatic effect for the thrust she gave her hips. "…Lancer."
Hank blushed and gave Billie a good natured shot to the shoulder. "This is why I don't like to hang out with you guys," he said with good humor. "Pleased to meet you," he said to us, extending his hand.
"Hank, this is Lily, she's upstairs with Angel, and the professional name is Wall Flower."
"Phoenixfire," Ash told Hank when she shook hands. Hank gave me an odd look.
"With Angel?" he asked with more than a touch of emphasis.
"No, no!" I said quickly. "We're just room mates." I saw Ash look between me and Hank, put two and two together and wisely filed it away for later.
"I thought Go-Go was rooming with Angel?" asked Hank.
"You don't notice a thing," chuckled Billie. "Don't you remember Mrs. Horton coming up Friday and asking for a volunteer to open up a room as we'd be getting new students in?"
Something clicked in that and I put out a hand to stop her. "Wait a second. You guys got wind I was coming Friday night?" Billie nodded, her expression doing her asking for her. "We didn't even decide we were coming here until something like 0 dark 30 Sunday morning."
Tennyo was consoling. "Looks like your folks decided a lot sooner than that, Lily."
Ashley chuckled. "They probably were betting we'd pick Whateley over having our powers suppressed till we're 18." Now it was Hanks turn to do a double take.
"What? How would your parents suppress your powers?"
"Power nullifiers," I said. "They...uh…have access to a lot of law enforcement stuff."
"More than the cops do, evidently," said Hank. "There's no such thing as a Power Nullifier; that I know of anyway. Believe me, if there were, my folks would have slapped one on me in a heart beat."
Something was very rotten in Denmark, as Ashley and I figured out at once, she just found her voice first. "Those low down, conniving…!" That struck Billie as funny and she nearly fell off the desk laughing.
"Bad enough they tricked us with that fake heist," I groused.
"Then beat us up on top of it," added Ashley with a good bit of shared desire for revenge. Hank proved more observant than Billie gave him credit for as his eyes darted about in a visual display of the cogs turning in his brain.
"Fake heist?" he asked finally. "Beat you up?"
Uh oh. I wasn't seeing any kind of way out of this without flat out lying and we'd already gotten the things learned here, stay here, speech so I decided a bit of trust was in order. "Our parents are in the biz," I said softly, a bit conscious of making sure our conversation stayed between us. "They're in S.T.A.R. League." Hank and Billie's eyes went as wide as saucers.
"No shit?" asked Billie. "Which ones?"
"No shit," chuckled Ashley. "My mom is Magma."
"My mom is Tabby Cat and my dad is Falcon," I told them softly. "It's one of the reasons we're here. We kind of started dabbling in the 'rents biz and they caught on. Left us a string of false clues and then handed us our collective ass on a roof top in the rain. We got a choice that Sunday morning. Come here and learn how, or get our powers suppressed till we were eighteen."
"Except they were bluffing and you folded," finished Billie. "Damn, that sucks. Well, we're glad you're here, Lily. Look at all the new friends you get to make without worrying about 'outing' the parents."
"It's a first," I admitted. Further conversation was deterred by the arrival of a pair of teachers, one a short, balding man with dark hair who just looked like the sort who'll put you to sleep talking. The other was wearing a lab coat, significantly younger, but heavy set and more than a bit unkempt.
"Excuse me, Dr. Quintain," the younger one told him as he searched the crowd of students. "Miss Turner? Miss Strum?" Ashley and I raised our hands. "Come with me, please. Doctor, they want these two for their classification testing." Dr. Quintain nodded as he waved Ash and I out the door. We gathered our things and nodded a farewell to Hank and Billie.
The stranger led us at a brusque pace through the halls, not bothering to introduce himself. "Do you two have either costumes or school work out uniforms yet?"
"Costumes," I told him.
"Do you have them with you?" I nodded as he came to a stop at a woman's room. "Go change into them quickly. We'll be testing your powers to classify them. Don't dawdle; we're on a tight schedule." Ash and I exchanged glances and entered the women's room.
"What a creep," she told me as we hefted our book bags onto the counter and took out our Utility Belts.
"Yep," I agreed, and then had the more pleasant thoughts of playing with the cool toys Soldier of Fortune had given us. The Utility belts had a series of small pouches on them, about the size and shape of a couple of packs of cigarettes, at least on the outside. One had been especially for secret ID means, where he had generated a small worm hole and anchored both ends of it in the pouch. Thus, the clothing pouch, as we referred to it, was substantially bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.
I got the pouch folded open sufficiently to pull my boots and the uniform bottoms out of it, and put them on the sink counter. The top I had on and the gloves were down the boots. I quickly pulled off my school uniform, placing it on a hanger that had a matching hook in the worm hole. That done, I pulled on the bottoms, gloves and finally the boots. A quick dab of mascara and spirit gum and I was Wall Flower once more. I hung the book bag on its hook and closed the pouch before pulling on the belt.
Phoenixfire and I finished at about the same time as we shared a grin. "Handy," she complimented Charlie's dad in absentia.
"Yep," I agreed as we went back out to face The Creep.
"Where were you hiding those boots?" he wanted to know. I just smiled and patted his bloated cheek in consolation.
"Professional Secret," I told him. "Weren't we rushed for time?" He scowled and returned to his rapid pace through the bowels of the school. He led us through a number of doors that looked like they'd be more at home guarding a bank vault until finally we reached a large, circular room filled with all sorts of weird mad scientist looking computers and other props stolen out of a Black and White B movie.
From the depths of all this technology stepped a some what rotund man wearing a lab coat that was festooned with pens, note pads, at least three Personal Digital Assistants and collection of buttons on the lapels of the coat. As he got closer, I could see the buttons were the schools cottage buttons, as well as a representation of every officially sanctioned club or organization. "Good morning," he greeted us as he paused to place the clipboard he held onto a nail at one of the cubical between us and him. "You two must be Miss Turner and Miss Strum, yes?"
"Lily Turner," I told him as I offered my hand. "Although I go by Wall Flower in this fashion statement." I gave wave to Ashley. "This is my friend and partner, Ashley Strum, AKA Phoenixfire."
"Charmed," smiled the man. "I'm Richard Hewley; I'll be conducting your classification tests today." He gestured to a small office that had his name on the frosted glass a short distance away. "Won't you step this way?"
The office was neither generous, nor cramped, being simply big enough and comfortable enough for its purpose. He plopped down on a leather couch with a great sigh of relief and waved us into the matched pair of high backed chairs that faced the couch. "Forgive the weariness of an old man. Now then, ladies, in a moment I'll have a vampire come in and take some blood, so we'll need access to a vein. Are either of you thirsty? I have a small fridge in here."
"I'm fine," I told him as I took off a glove and worked the sleeve of my uniform up past my elbow.
"Alright," he said after Ashley shook her head. Dr. Hewley pulled a remote from his pocket and pressed it while pointing it at the ceiling. "This is classification interview, 1288, on Monday the 2nd of October 2006, subjects Wall Flower and Phoenixfire. Ladies, just so you are aware, this interview will be taped, please only use your code names from this moment forward and all aspects of the confidentiality agreement will be kept. Phoenixfire, I wonder if you'd mind telling me, in your own words, what your powers are and how you think they work?"
A nurse came in, carrying a small stainless steel tray that had the various instruments of blood extraction on it. As Ash started speaking, she busied herself with pulling several vials of blood from me. "Well, Doctor, my mother is a Super Hero and my powers work very similarly to hers. I can generate an aura of fire about myself that washes out to about four feet when I start it. Anything around me combustible will catch fire. My skin is very dense, as are all the tissues of my body. This makes me tough and very strong."
"How much would you say you can lift?" interrupted the doctor.
"I know I can lift a ton without any kind of effort," she answered. "The most my parents' equipment would go up to was five tons, and I can just barely lift it."
"I'll just go and get the adamantium needles," said the nurse when she was finished with my arm.
"I can also call up a scimitar made of fire that's very sharp, but it's tiring. If I get too tired, I can't keep it here and it fades away." Dr. Hewley nodded as he scribbled some notes on a piece of paper he got from his coat.
"How do you think they work, Phoenixfire?" he asked from his scribbling.
Ashley shrugged her shoulders. "You got me, Doc, I just know I can."
"Interesting," Dr. Hewley said after a few seconds. He turned his quite merry eyes in my direction. "And you, Wall Flower?"
I licked my lips to give myself a second to order my thoughts as I held the cotton ball against the crook of my elbow. "I can become invisible by bending the light waves around me. I can also generate force field bubbles of varying sizes; from a couple of inches to six feet in radius is the largest I've ever done. I can also fly."
Dr Hewley's pen was threatening to ignite his pad. "And how do you think your powers work, Wall Flower?"
"I…well; I think I'm doing something with the Earth's electromagnetic field. Somehow warping it both around me and using it to power and create my Force Fields."
"Which way is north?"
I pointed over his left shoulder. "That way."
"You're certain?" I nodded. "What if I were to blind fold you and spin you around?" I smirked.
"I'd probably throw up," I told him.
"And when you were finished being sick," he continued with a chuckle, "do you think you'd still be able to pick out North?" Again I nodded. "Yes, I think you might be right there, Wall Flower. It would certainly seem that your powers are magnetic in nature. Can you call things to you? Or push them away?"
"I can make a bubble around something and pull the bubble to me," I told him.
"Not strictly telekinesis, but close enough for our purposes I think. Are you invisible to cameras and electronic devices?" I vanished, bending the light around me. After a moment, a voice came from a speaker on the doctors' desk. "She's completely gone, sir, visual, infrared, ultraviolet, even radar."
"Can you see in this way?" asked Doctor Hewley. I became visible once more.
"You shouldn't be able to. Our eyes are basically light receptors that pattern the wavelengths of the light that enters them and sends that information to our brains. You seem to be encasing yourself in a magnetic field that is bending all the light around you. If it's doing that, none of the light should be entering your eyes; hence, you should be blind when you're invisible. Have you ever tried to see in the dark?"
"No, but then I've never thought to be invisible in the dark."
Doctor Hewley rubbed his chin in thought. "I'd be willing to bet you can. There must be some other sense you possess giving you the information. Perhaps you are 'sensing' the flow of the disruptions in the Earth's Electromagnetic field we generate and interpreting the data as 'sight'. It certainly bears further study." The nurse was finished with Ashley, finally finding a needle that would penetrate her skin and took the bottles away. "In a few minutes, we'll have your blood types and see if anything interesting is going on with your blood chemistry. For now," he said, retrieving the remote and clicking it once more. "Let's go out side and get a bit of a demonstration of your powers for some of the bigger equipment out there."
We followed him outside and for the next hour, Ashley and I were put through the wringer as far as our powers went. Ash was given all kinds of things to set on fire and pickup while my force bubbles were crushed, shot with lasers, pulled, pushed and just about everything in between. We found out that Ashley was A+ and I was O+ but there was nothing terribly untoward in our blood chemistry. It seemed that whatever let us do this wasn't something their machines could pick up.
We were pretty tired at the end of it and my stomach was growling so loudly I got some pretty curious looks from the techs taking the tests. Finally Dr. Hewley came back, a broad smile on his face. "Preliminarily, ladies," he told us, "we're going to classify you both as Exemplars, or more human than human. Ashley, you're an Exemplar level four, and Lily you are a one. You're reflexes and over all responses are better than an Olympic Level Athlete. Ashley you're also a Manifester, your sword seems to be some cross between coherent flame and something else. We've categorized you at a level three. The other thing you share in common is you're both Energizers, not the battery, but have the ability to generate and manipulate energy in ways a normal human cannot. Ashley, you're a one because of your fire abilities and Lily you're a three there. There'll be some further testing of course, but that's it for now, ladies. It's off to lunch for you and you'll probably want to stay in those outfits. I see you're both slated for Powers Lab after, you'll need them then."
Lunch was interesting to say the least.
It was half New England prep school lunch and half super hero factory. There were enough spandex types that Ashley and I didn't feel too self conscious eating in our fighting tongs, but it was surreal as evidently only a meal at Whateley Academy can be. Psymod and Dredz weren't in evidence which was a little worrisome, but since I had Ashley to kick around, I wasn't as lonely as I had been at breakfast.
What concerned me was the amount of food I heaped on my tray as I went through the line and I had a sneaking feeling I was going to finish it all. There were a couple of half whispered catty comments on the fact our uniforms matched that I let slide. Eating was way too high on my priority list just then.
Ashley had quite an appetite as well and we sat in silence for the first half, making complete pigs of ourselves. What was surprising was, half way through, Hank walked up with a tray. "This seat taken?" he asked me.
It took me a second to get my mouth clear in surprise as I waved him down. "No, by all means, cop a squat."
"Thanks," he said, laying down his tray, noticeably lighter than mine was still and sat down. "How's first day going?"
I shrugged. "So far, so Gouda," I quipped as I worked at keeping my bites small enough to be human. "Phoenix and I just got back from being classified."
"Oh? How'd that go?"
"Tiring," laughed Ashley. "I'm an Exemplar 4 Energizer 1 and a Manifester 3. Wall there is an Energizer 3 and an Exemplar 1"
"Which would explain those portions," laughed Hank, making me feel a bit self conscious, spandex or no. "Don't sweat it," he told me, picking up on my discomfort. "Most Energizers eat like that. Gotta have fuel for those powers."
Well, that made sense I suppose. I noticed he was among the spandex crowd today, wearing the black dance leotard with the schools' coat of arms on it. "Where are you off to next?"
"Powers Lab," he said with a grin. "Haven't figured out what I want to do for a costume yet. "I'm guessing you guys are too, then?" I nodded with a grin.
"Didn't make sense to change for lunch, then change again." He nodded thoughtfully around a bite of his beef tip salad. I watched him and Ashley share a glance that she seemed to pick up on as she finished off her tray.
"Lily, I gotta talk with the roomie real quick," she told me as she rose. "I'll catch you at class, k?"
It didn't really make a difference whether I was ok with it or not, as she didn't wait for an answer. I turned to Hank to comment on weird she was acting and noticed he was blushing. Oh. I felt my heart start beating like it never had while I was in a fight with some stick up man back in Providence. This was scary. "So," he said finally with more than a bit of hesitancy. "Wh…why are you in Poe?"
Typical guy; open mouth, insert foot. I felt my mouth pull into a smirk. "Well you already know half of why I'm not. You want the gory details or the short and sweet version?" His blush deepened to the point where I wasn't entirely sure he wasn't choking on a beef tip until he spoke.
"Well, I got there because I used to be able to wear a skirt in public," he said with great embarrassment. I couldn't stop myself from looking down and grinning.
"You still could," I told him. "You've got the legs for it."
He barked a laugh and scratched the back of his head from nervous habit. "Thanks, I think. It's just, well, with our cottage, you never really know, ya know? I mean, we all know because we got the first day lecture."
"Ah, and I'm the new question mark, right?" He nodded. "My mom was in Poe. She, ah, took a journey that was the opposite of yours," I told him to his sage-like nod. "I was born with some, well, extra bits if you take my meaning. I just found out about it the other day. I grew up my whole life thinking I was just like all the other girls. Guess I was wrong. They're concerned that, uh, mikey, might decide to grow back."
"So, you might be in the same boat as me, then?" he asked, feeling a bit crest fallen.
"God, I hope not," I told him. "No offense, I like the way I am, and I'm going to stay this way, come hell or extra parts. They cut it off once, they can do it again."
His face brightened at once. "Really? Wow, I mean, that's got to be pretty hard to deal with."
I shrugged. "Goes with the spandex I guess. I'm still menstruating, so unless that suddenly stops I'm not going to worry about it." I watched him work up his courage and finally ask,
"Would you…like to maybe get a cup of coffee or something?"
It was tough, but I resisted being a smart ass. "Well, I've never been one for the coffee first date," I told him and the poor dear practically deflated. "But, we could go statue-ing."
"Statue-ing?" he asked.
"Sure, you've never? Maybe it's a Rhode Island thing. Tell you what, I'll meet you after dinner at the Poe bust and fill you in. How's that?"
He beamed and, honestly, I felt pretty warm all over. Hank seemed like a nice sort and I was honestly curious as to why none of the other girls he hung with had grabbed him, yet. "Sounds good. I'm looking forward to hearing this. Are you going to make me wait until tonight to find out what you mean?"
"Weeelll, if I were in a mean mood, I suppose I might, but as we've both got Power Lab next, you can walk me to class and I'll show you what I mean on the way." I looked down at my watch and wolfed down my last few bites in a panic. "Speaking of, we'd better be going."
It didn't take us but a second to dump out our trays in the dish pit and start on our way to class. Along the way, I stopped at a bust of Homer that was in hall. "Statue-ing," I told him with great seriousness, "works like this. You find a statue, Homer here will do, and then you make up something he'd probably want to say. Here, I'll show you." The bust was a head and shoulders type that lacked even the outline of arms. Like most examples of the ancient poet, his eyes were completely smooth without details of his irises. I cleared my throat and dropped my voice as many octaves as I could and said, "This is Homer, your blind eyewitness, reporting to you live from Troy."
He snickered and nodded. "Ok, I get it, uh, I have to tell you that being blind and a lack of arms really makes my Playboy collection useless."
"Now you've got it," I told him with a smile.
"Interesting," he laughed. "Not something I would have thought of, to be honest. Should make for an interesting time."
My watch beeped at me. "Speaking of time, we better haul ass," I said as we suited actions to words.
Hank and I only just beat Mrs. Bohn, the Powers Lab instructor to the training simulator, one of the larger of the units the school had. But we did beat her, so that's what counts, based on the sly smile she gave me as she followed us into the room. Ashley was talking with Billie and another young girl I hadn't seen before, which was where Hank led us as Mrs. Bohn took attendance. I noticed she called both Psymod and Dredz's names, but they weren't here. They were most likely getting their evaluations like we had before lunch. I noticed that Billie seemed a touch nervous, but couldn't ask her about what as Mrs. Bohn was speaking. "Alright, ladies and gentlemen," she said, projecting her voice very well so everyone could hear. "We're going to do something a bit differently today, to get a better feel for how well you've been learning so far. If I call your name, step out over by me, please. Lancer, Phoenixfire, Tennyo and Wall Flower, come by me if you please."
We exchanged a few looks as we made our way over by Mrs. Bohn. She smiled up at us. "Alright then, what we're going to do today is what we lovingly call scenario based training. The four of you are, for the purpose of this exercise out on vacation, doing some window shopping in New York. Your goal is to react to the situation and deal with it as it progresses."
I couldn't help glancing at my watch. "Only two hours to shop in New York? Can I have a pass to be late to my next class?"
"Very funny, dear," she told me with a wink that spoke of promised mayhem. "The rest of you come with me to the control room and take notes. You're next." Well, that certainly sounded ominous. We watched the group mill out, following Mrs. Bohn for a moment before I turned to the others.
"I get the feeling we're about to have a crash course in team work. I do force fields, invisibility and flight. How about you two?"
Tennyo laughed. "Crash will probably be right," she said with a shudder. "You haven't been in one of these things when they break. You already know I can fly and I have energy blasts and an energy sword."
"Ditto on the sword," Ashley said. "Strong and nigh invulnerable, with fire aura."
"Strong, bullet proof and I can fly," Hank said.
I nodded. "Let's try to stay together and keep an eye on each other's back."
At that moment, the lights dimmed over head before changing to the brilliant hues of a late fall day. The air shimmered and suddenly we were in New York City, some where around fifth avenue if I had to guess. The shops were nicely upscale and, perhaps with the exception of Ashley, probably out of our price range. The passers by didn't give us a second glance, as though we were in street clothes, not skin tight black and whites. Well, Ash and I had white in our uniforms, Billie and Hank only had the school's coat of arms in white on their leotards. I felt the temperature drop uncomfortably, like I was actually outside. I could see my breath!
Ashley pointed in amazement. "Look! That's Taylor's! I've shopped there!"
Why am I not surprised?
The sense of depth in the illusion, however they were doing it, was amazing. Not only could you see yourself in the glass of the shop windows, but actually inside them where people were doing business. Hank had stopped at a men's clothing store and was checking out some tuxedos in the window. "We'll have to do this for real some time," he said with a grin.
"Uh, I think I'm going to want to pass on this next part," said Ashley as she pointed up the street. I followed her arm to a very ugly looking mob that used to be a demonstration. You can always tell a mob from a crowd. Their signs and placards were being used as clubs and from what I could read from here, this was definitely not a mob we wanted anything to do with.
A number of the signs I could see had the logo of Humans First! on them and based on what I could see of the crowd, they were half just people seeing what was going on and half bruisers looking for a brawl. "I think we should find somewhere else to be…" I started, backing up a bit.
"Since when does Humans First! organize riots in the street?" asked Billie.
"Since Mrs. Bohn pressed their button upstairs," snapped Hank, who looked seriously upset about this. File that away under figure out later. "We've got to get out of here!"
"Stay calm everybody," cautioned Ashley. "Look," she said pointing at our collective reflection in the window. "We're in street clothes. Let's just keep our heads and move slowly away. We take off running and they're sure to peg us."
I was about to agree with her when something I saw in the mob caught my eye. One of the bruisers viciously punched a young man with his back to me, knocking him to the ground. As he did, the force of the blow spun the boy around, facing us, and his arms turned into tentacles as he tried to stop his fall. Trevor.
"They've got a student," I said, trying to be discrete and not shake with rage at the situation.
"It's Trevor," breathed Billie.
"Someone help me!" called the boy from the ground.
"That tears it," I snarled. "Let's get him out of there and get out of here ourselves. Keep it soft, but it's us or them."
"Them," growled Hank with a gleam in his eye that made me wonder if he'd been on the wrong end of a mob before. "Wall, get their attention and one of your force fields on Trevor, we'll get the crowd on us and let you get him out of there." He pointed over my shoulder. "We'll regroup on that roof."
"Phoenixfire can't fly," I warned him. "But I'm on it."
"I'll get her there, go!" I shot skyward and fished a couple of Soldier of Fortune's special pellets from my belt as I went.
"Hey, assholes!" I shouted, once I had sufficient height to see Trevor. "You want some body to pick on? Come get some!" I heaved the pellets which exploded on contact with the ground, quickly enveloping the crowd in thick white smoke.
That gave me the cover I needed to snap a bubble around Trevor. I saw Hank and the girls wade into the cloud and judging by the surprised shouts of pain from inside it, I'm guessing they had a new worry. Nobody was minding Trevor any more so I pulled the bubble up to me. "Wall Flower!" he exclaimed, and I've got to give the program credit, what ever hologram or what ever made him had that same look of admiration on his face.
"Hey Trevor," I grinned at him. "We've got to stop meeting like this."
"People will talk," he finished with a grin.
The hangers on of the mob were running out of the smoke now. A full fledged Super Hero brawl wasn't something they wanted anything to do with. There came a couple of pretty loud bangs and crashes from the cloud and I hoped my guys were playing it soft in there. "Phoenixfire, hostage is clear let's be going!"
"Working on it," she grunted in my ear bud radio. "Lancer! We're clear, let's go!"
Two more shapes came up out of the cloud; one was Tennyo with a glowing sword in her hand that seemed to be completely made of energy, but tubular in shape, like those laser swords from long ago and far, far away. The other was Lancer with Phoenixfire in his arms. I fished out some more gas bombs, this time tear gas, and gave them a chuck below, just to add a bit of insult to injury and we cut sky to the roof.
I let Trevor out of the bubble and he seemed to gasp with relief. "Thanks," he told me with a grin. "I was worried I'd use up all my air."
Huh? The air shimmered and we were back in the simulator room, with fans diligently pulling the gas out of the room. But Trevor was still there. He grinned at me sheepishly. "Being a victim is good extra credit."
Mrs. Bohn had a number of good things to say about our performance. And a couple of real zingers about stuff we hadn't thought of. It would have accomplished the same thing for me to have bubbled Trevor, turned him invisible and have him walk to us instead of us going in and busting heads. There was a big lecture about use of force and lawsuits, the crazy facts of life in being a mutant in the 21st century, but on the whole, we aced our first run though.
From Powers Lab I had to change back into the School clothes to suffer through French before getting back into my fighting tongs for Martial Arts. Sigh. I think someone hates me and that person made my schedule.
There Hank introduced me to the rest of Team Kimba, as they called their little clique. There was Jade and Jinn, who were evidently the same person, but one was an astral form of some kind in clothing that was 'charged'. Interesting to say the least; but we weren't talking about mutants, what's normal? Of the two, Jinn was far more out going and it was tough to get Jade to say so much as hello.
The most interesting personality there was Toni, about fifty kilowatts of hyperactivity bundled in a cute dark skinned black girl about five inches taller than me. She had the easy grace of someone very comfortable in her own skin and a pretty sunny smile she wore often. "'Sup girl," she greeted me with an outstretched hand after Hank had introduced us.
"How you doing?"
She grinned and slurred her voice into a thick, New York twang while dropping her voice several octaves. "How you doing? You don't wait long, do ya? First day and you've already got the spandex thing going on? Nice mask."
"Yeah," I conceded. "Best I could do on short notice. My pajamas are in the wash," I teased her, noting the gi she was wearing. I'll admit I was gambling here, either she'd take the joke in fun, or it would become some kind of tit for tat thing that would get personal. Based on her overall demeanor, I figured there was a pretty good shot at the former.
She just grinned at my admittedly pretty tame zinger. "Oh, you'll fit right in." I could see she already had another shot lined up, but at that moment a frighteningly small little Asian man came in with that serene look about him as someone who feared nothing.
"Order," he called softly as he advanced to the center of the room and returned the bow we gave him. "Good afternoon students," he greeted before catching sight of me. "Turner-san, have you not yet been issued your school gi yet?"
"No sir," I told him hesitantly.
"I am not fond of the 'super hero' look. Have a gi by tomorrow."
"Supply and logistics are the bane of every bureaucracy," he said by way of softening his words. "What forms have you studied?"
"Um, nothing really formal, sir," I told him hesitantly. "My father has a friend who is a soldier who gave my friends and me some self defense stuff."
"United States Army?"
"I think so sir."
"Show me," he said, waving me to the front of the class. "No powers," was his stern command. "I will attack in real time. Defend yourself." Then he did the most un-Martial Arts Instructor thing he could have done, he launched a pretty quick right cross.
I was able to get out of its way, but not by much.
He immediately followed up with left led one two punch and I was giving ground at a rate that would have me at a wall shortly. Finally I got a small sense of his rhythm, ducked a right and grabbed his hand once it was past me and pulled it along. I'd meant to pull him off balance, but he neatly reversed my pull and twisted me around to throw me back into the center of the room.
Once I knew he'd win the pull contest I went with it, going further than he had intended to throw me and giving me some extra energy for a tuck and roll to get back to my feet. "Standard Judo motion transfer," Mr. Ito said as he padded softly back to the center. "Good. Did this friend of your fathers teach you any throws?"
"A couple," I admitted hesitantly.
"Demonstrate at half speed." Mr. Ito ordered. I walked up to a combative distance again where upon he began to throw another right cross, this time in slow motion. I stepped into his swing at the same speed, caught his wrist again and turned, planting my hip into his stomach and then finished by pulling him over my back.
He was on his feet before I had stood completely back up.
"The Army is fond of Judo in its' hand to hand training. There should be three strikes with that, did you learn those?" I shook my head.
"His emphasis was on divert and evade." Mr. Ito nodded once more.
"Turner-san you are woefully behind the rest of the class. Chandler-san," he called, bringing Toni up with a bow. "You will work with Turner-san. Bring her up to a basic proficiency with the forms before Thanksgiving break."
"Hai, sensei," replied Toni with a wink to me.
After that, Mr. Ito broke the class up into groups that he wandered, thoughtfully judging and offering corrections as we tossed each other around. Toni and I retreated to a quiet corner where we'd have room, but not be in the way. "So, you don't fight as good a game as your mouth, huh?" she asked me with a wink.
"I don't Judo as good a game," I admitted with a grin. "Fighting means powers and gizmos too. I get by; so long as I leave the little Chinese guys alone."
"Fortunately for you there aren't that many of those looking to take over the world, huh?" she asked before she locked up my arm and went for a leg sweep. I was glad of the matt as I came down on my shoulder pretty hard.
"More than you'd guess," I said as she helped me up and we came set again.
And that's pretty much how the rest of the afternoon went. In the banter department I gave as good as I got, in the Martial Arts department, well I learned a lot. Toni was, dare I say it, great. Far better than any of the crooks I'd tussled with thus far. I wasn't using any powers, but from what I could tell, neither was she.
She was simply better than me. A lot better.
I listened carefully as she walked me through each form, but in practice, once she was sure I had the form down and was trying in real speed, no dice. She was substantially faster than I was. Now, to be fair, she walked me through every reverse she used, but there was a dazzling array of them at her disposal.
Looks like I had a lot of catching up to do.
The walk back to Poe was fun one, me mostly listening to the others bantering back and forth. This was a tight knit group of friends. Hank took part a bit, but mostly seemed interested in walking with me. Which was fine by me.
The only down side to it was on the way I saw Haywire, the Germanic bully I'd stopped that morning. He was talking to three others, a tall, thin young man who was nearly perfectly his mirror; good looking, clean skin, dark hair and immaculately dressed and groomed. He had an odd forelock that was brilliant silver.
Standing with them was a smaller boy, thin with straw colored hair and rather large, wire rimmed oval glasses. He immediately put me in the mind of that boy wizard, especially in our school uniforms, but there was genuine cruelty in his brown eyes. The third was a young mixed race girl that seemed to be mostly Asian, she wore her straight black hair very short in a sever style that did nothing for her.
Their conversation stopped as we passed and their eyes never left me.
That didn't bode well.
"So, how was your first day?" asked Angel as I was laying out a number of different out fits on my bed, trying to decide what to wear to my first 'date'.
"It was ok," I told her with a grin. "Seemed pretty action packed, that's for sure. What do you think of the white sweater with the jeans?" I asked holding the two up for comparison.
"Too Miss Goody Two Shoes," she told me, rooting through the nine outfits I had on the bed. "The jeans are ok though. Yeah, Whateley can be like that. Still, seems like you're doing well. Way better than I thought you would, to be honest. How bout the red tank top?"
"Too cold," I answered. "It's an outdoor date. Why didn't you think I would do well?" I asked; putting my favorite pair of jeans on the pillow which we'd decided would be the keeper pile. They were hip huggers that flared out to boot cut at the bottom, nearly out to '70s bells. Very retro and I loved what they did for my figure.
"Not me personally," she hedged. "When we got the heads up you were coming, Mrs. Horton said you might have some difficulties. You had a real tight group of friends that you'd never really been away from. She said you might not adjust well. I think you're doing fine. A little shy maybe, but you're coping. This date is a good start, honestly. How about the black sweater with the leather bomber?"
"You don't think it will make my skin too pale?" She shook her head.
"Not that much, and it will give you something of a bad girl look. That's a good message for a boy scout like Hank. Speaking of, how serious are you?"
I shrugged. "It's a first date. Hell, it's my first date. Don't really know how serious. He seems like a nice guy. What shoes?"
"He is, probably shyer than you," she chuckled. "You, uh, know about him, right?" I nodded.
"And he knows about me. For now, we just are, I guess."
She smiled. "Good. As far as shoes go, I'd suggest your costume boots."
"The thigh highs? Really?"
"Definitely," she said, ticking off her points on her fingers. "You're going bad girl, right? Nothing says that like thigh highs, but, wear them under your jeans. He probably won't notice, but you'll feel sexier, and as they're four inch heels, you'll be taller."
"Taller is good," I replied with a chuckle. "I guess I should get used to them, too." Before I could go on our door opened and a thin, but lovely Hispanic girl let herself into the room. She was my height with an oval face dominated by strong cheek bones and, remarkably enough, orange eyes.
"Hey you," she greeted Angel.
"Juanita," said Angel with a smile. "You probably ought to knock from now on, but come on in. This is Lily, the new roomie. Lily, this is Juanita, AKA Go-Go, my old room mate."
"Hey," I said with a nod. "Sorry to cause the mix up."
She laughed a short, rapid laugh as she paced with nervous energy. "Don't sweat it, I volunteered. I got stuff out of it, anyway," she said with a wiggle to her eye brows that made me think she and her new room mate were getting along very well. She looked at the clothes spread out on my bed and her attention was caught at once. "Oh, what's this? Hot date?"
"Well, I don't know how hot it will be, but yeah."
"Who's the lucky girl?"
Suspicions confirmed. "Hank Declan," I said dryly.
"Oops," she chuckled. "Sorry about that. So, you're new to the sisterhood, huh? Welcome and all that. When was the first period?" I couldn't keep in a laugh as Juanita kept digging her hole a bit deeper.
"About four years ago," I told her around my mirth. Her skin flushed darker.
"Maybe I should come in again," she said, shaking her head. "Can we take this from the top, please?"
"Don't sweat it," I told her. "I'm…complex…" I gathered up the garments Angel had helped me pick out as I turned back to them. "If you ladies will excuse me, I'll just slip into something a little more bad girl."
"Go girl!" cheered on Juanita.
It didn't take long to get changed, even with being careful of the makeup I'd already done. I could wish that Victoria's Secret made a Wonder Training Bra, but I guess I'll have to make do. A least the sweater was a bit bulky. My simple and quick pony tail was ready to go and I was as ready as I was going to get.
I stopped by the room long enough to dump my old clothes on the bed with a quick 'Don't wait up!' to Angel before I was making my way down stairs. Hank was waiting for me by the bust of Edgar Allen Poe as we'd arranged, looking very high school hip in a pair of jeans that showed off how well developed his legs were, a red and white striped rugby shirt and the obligatory leather jacket.
I did a slow pirouette to let him appreciate his companion for the evening as he blushed and beamed all at once while laying a hand on the busts head. "Quoth the raven, 'What a hottie!'" he told me with a smile.
"Why thank you, Mr. Declan," I told him with a blush. "You're looking quite the high school hunk yourself. So, you know the campus better than I. Where's a nice bit of statuary?"
"Well, there are plenty between here and Schuster Hall," he said amicably as he held the front door open for me. "I thought we could stop there for a drink of something hot, not necessarily coffee, before round two."
"Thoughtful," I conceded. "Devious, but thoughtful. You're on." We started our evening at the statue of George Washington that was nearby Poe. It was a standing George, in his uniform as he pointed off to the horizon. I gave it a glance before turning to Hank. "Honey, I think we parked over there," I said with a wink.
"Maybe the rest of my pants are over there," he replied.
"That's the one, officer! He beat me up and made me dress this way."
He snickered and shook his head. "So, are there rules to this game?"
"Does there have to be?" I asked coyly. "But yes, you generally to stick with one statue until you can't think of anything or you concede the best line to the other. Once we get into regulation play, there's a five second time out, but I'm taking it easy on you."
"Thanks," he said with a chuckle. Looking up at the statue for a moment, he noted the head gear taking a prominent place in the presentation. The tri-folded cap was set at what could almost be considered a rakish angle. "Do you think this hat goes with this wig?"
"No only am I a member, I'm also the president!"
"I give," he said with a chuckle. I looped an arm in his as we moved off with my hands shoved deep into my pockets against the New England autumn.
"Well, I have to grant you the assist with the wig line," I told him with a wink. We moved down the walk a ways before coming upon another statue, this one a classic Lincoln looking very dour in his long frock coat, both hands on his lapels and top hat. I'd swear the statue was frowning.
Hank dropped his voice even deeper than normal and intoned, "Could I interest you in a coffin?"
I barked out a nervous giggle before clearing my throat. "I'm Abraham Lincoln, and I approved this message."
"This nifty hat really covers up that bullet hole, don't you think?"
"Gross!" I laughed at him. "Conceded, but gross!"
He puffed his chest up and got a bit of a swagger to his walk. "That's one and a half for the rookie."
"Oh? Do I need to start working the five second rule?" He waved me off with his left hand so as not to dislodge me from his right. A fact I noted with no small amount of warmth.
"Not just yet," he said with a wink. We walked in companionable silence for a bit, content to share each others warmth and company. We passed several likely statues, but he didn't stop and I wasn't honestly sure I wanted him to. My thoughts were going a strange cross between a mile a minute considered all the possibilities and ramifications of how comfortable this young man was to me and just the thought of being so comfortable with him on my arm.
"Maybe," he started a bit hesitantly. "This weekend, maybe I could take you to Berlin and we could see a movie."
"Movies are nice. What did you have in mind?"
He stopped suddenly and was peering into the darkness between the gas light posts that stood every couple of feet along the trail. "What's that?" I turned and peered into the darkness.
"What?" I asked.
He squinted, trying to see better. "I thought I saw something."
Curious, I recalled Dr. Hewley's words from earlier that day. I took my right hand from my pocket and lifted it above my head to encase us both in a bubble. "What?" he whispered.
"Trying something," I told him back just as softly. With a thought I made us both invisible and could only just keep in a gasp of astonishment. The gloom of a moment ago brightened to what looked light daylight, except there was no sun in the sky and nothing cast a shadow. "I can see…!" I whispered, amazed.
"Good," he whispered back. "Because I can't see a thing. It's like I'm blind."
In the direction he'd pointed were four black clad forms with their faces obscured by ski masks. By their stooped posture and the amount of gear they were carrying, I got the distinct impression they were up to no good. "Four bad guys heading towards Schuster Hall," I whispered to him. "Black body stockings and lots of gear."
"More ninjas?" he asked. I started to raise an eyebrow at him, but then remembered he was functionally blind.
"They don't move like ninjas. Well, not like any ninja I ever saw on TV."
"We better alert campus security."
Don't ask me where this next bit comes from. If I'd had half a brain, I would have agreed with him and directed the boys in blue to the bad guys. But, for some reason, those guys offended me. I wanted to do this myself. Well, with a little help from my friends…. "No time," I told him as I got my ear bud radio from its place on the belt. "Hey, you guys online? Anybody there?" I called into as I took off and began to follow the intruders at a discrete distance.
"Yo," called Dredz. "What's up, Lily?"
"Hey Lil," responded Psymod's voice in my ear. "What's up?"
"Where are you guys?"
"We're in the Cafeteria in Schuster Hall," was Ashley's answer. "What's wrong?"
"I got four ninja wannabes creeping their way to you. Lancer and I are tailing them. Can you give me some back up?"
"The Dredz is always chill'n, girl," he replied. "How you want to handle it?"
"You guys get on the roof at the back of the hall. Once I see you I'll pull you to me and we'll find out what they're up to."
I kept pace with four strangers while keeping one eye peeled for the signs of my crew coming to back me up. The bogies were making straight for a building near Schuster Hall whose function or name I didn't know. As I was becoming worried we'd lose them, I saw Dredz, Phoenixfire and Psymod appear on the roof in the soft flash of Pysmod's teleport. I popped a bubble around them and pulled them in, merging the two bubbles when they got here.
"They're just down there," I told them, dropping the invisibility for a moment so everyone could see as well as possible in the gloom. Thus far, all they've done is creep over in the dark.
"That's one of the Plant Operations Sheds," said Hank. "No student access, so there's a violation right there."
The quartet had gotten the door open and crept inside. "Now we can add breaking and entering to go with the criminally bad dressed," chuckled Ashley. "What's the plan?"
"Psy, can you keep a light mental contact with them?"
"Sure, I started that once I first saw them. For what it's worth, that group down there is Haywire, Dash, Stopwatch and Hazard, whatever that means."
I frowned, beginning to get a bit angry. "I broke up a bit of school yard bully with Haywire and another student this morning. Evidently he's going to need a bit of coaxing to stay on the straight and narrow. Psy, why are they breaking into a plant ops shed?" Marks face screwed up a bit in thought.
"There's an access to a tunnel system in it. The tunnels go through out the campus, but they're headed for a lab that's locked up. Something about MCH unit and making lots of money. What's an MCH unit?"
It was actually Dredz that answered that one, to my surprise, and in English no less. "We've been studying that in Theoretical Engineering. It's kind of a back pack thing that the school confiscated from some Ninjas that somebody called Team Kimba stopped in a break in at Poe Cottage."
"That would be us," chuckled Hank.
"So, what kind of trouble does Haywire get into for breaking into a storage shed?" I asked.
"Probably lots of onerous chores for a week," said Hank with a quizzical look. "Why?"
"What if he gets caught stealing this doo-dad?"
Comprehension dawned across Hanks face. "A nice long stint of detention at least, maybe a suspension."
"That's our play then," I told the others. Psy, you think you can teleport us all right to them once they break in?"
"Yeah," he said hesitantly. "But I'll be out of it for a minute or two, teleporting that many."
I rubbed his arm in encouragement. "No worries, we've got your back." I brought the bubble down to the ground once more and dissipated it. "For now, S.T.A.R. League, the curtains about to go up and we'd better get our game face on."
Hank found that a touch amusing. "So, you're going to run back to Poe to change?" I pulled my sweater up to reveal my uniform top underneath it. "You really are into this whole superhero thing, aren't you?' he asked with a chuckle.
"It's complicated," I assured him. "How about you? Wanna tag along? It's sure to make for an interesting first date."
"Oh, sure," he chuckled. "Do I get a color coordinated outfit too?"
I winked at him. "We'll consider it. One sec." My crew and I dashed into Schuster hall and the nearest restrooms. Which would be one of the great pitfalls of the modern age of super heroics; there just aren't enough places where it's convenient to transform into the hero identity.
Having to wear the 'rents little gift all the time was a pain, but this time it made things a bit easier. "I'm going to run out of mascara at this rate," I complained to Ashley in the woman's room as we got the masks settled once more.
"You knew the job was dangerous when you took it," she reminded me as we both rushed back outside. The boys were already there, of course. Figures.
"They're inside the lab," Psy told me. "Show time!" We quickly linked hands and Psymod gave us all the feeling we were getting our navels pierced again.
We appeared in a dimly lit lab, the same one, I noticed, that Ashley and I had had our powers classified in. The room was only lit by every third light panel and the dim illumination of the glowing consoles and monitor screens.
Haywire and his crew were clustered around a pedestal that they'd just cut a hole in the glass that tops it. They spun around, hands caught in the proverbial cookie jar from the flash of light that was a side effect of Psymod's teleport.
Ok, it was corny, I admit it, but I just couldn't keep my fists from my hips as I glared at them in the best Super Hero pose I could think of. "This isn't the library," I said, in my best heroic voice. "I don't think you can check that out." Not my best opening line; obviously something I'd need to work on.
"Why hello there," purred the tall one in a deep, somewhat oily voice as if he was going for an evil Cary Grant. "Always happy to have someone so charming pop in."
"This isn't an opportunity for you to get a date, Dash!" growled Haywire. "Stop them."
"That is why you don't have any dates, old boy," chided the other. "But, as you like it." I blinked and he'd already crossed the distance between them and had me in his arms. "What's your number, sweet heart?" he purred.
Now, if I'd been Toni, I probably could have employed any number of reverses or grapples to get out of a situation like this. I wasn't and it was surprising how quick this Brat Pack wanna-be could move. But I am a woman, and, even bent over backwards in the deep passion of Hollywood's black and white era I had an advantage.
I balled a fist and swung straight at his crotch.
But his speed gave him edge over me. He just dropped me, running back out of reach before my punch could land. "Keep your hands off, Dash," growled Hank in a tone of voice that promised all kinds of mayhem.
Suddenly he'd grabbed me, hauled me to my feet and goosed my rear!
"Or what, Lancer?" he purred.
Hank's answer was a wordless growl that preceded a vicious right cross. Dash stood still and let the blow land, much to my amazement. It snapped his head towards me, getting me a wink through his ski mask before he turned back. "That rather tickled," Dash quipped before he began a series of zips from one side of the lab to the other, delivering a crushing blow to Hank as he passed.
I heard Haywire's energy corona snap up a second before a good sized jolt hit me square in the chest, knocking me off my feet and back a pretty good ways. "Who's laughing now, Panda Girl?" he yelled at me in his heavy Dutch accent.
Ok, it was time for the kid gloves to come off.
As I was getting up, I saw Ashley take off in slowmotion towards the boy wizard, who went by Stopwatch and had his hand held out in her direction. Poor Hank was getting hurt and frustrated something fierce by Dash, but as he came in for yet another pass, he just stopped a foot or so from Hank. "What?" He yelled.
I glanced down to see his feet still going a mile a minute under him, about three inches off the ground and Psymod holding his hand out, lifting him a telekinetic field. "I'm gonna enjoy this," growled Hank as he proceeded to open up a number 10 can of whoop ass on Dash.
"Hazard, go!" yelled Haywire, prompting the one female of their group to carefully remove the backpack from the case.
"Sorry guys," she said as she took off running.
Dredz snatched out that pistol of his and popped off a round into one of the bags that hung off the repelling rig of the smaller boy, holding Phoenixfire in her weird slow motion. Why do they always wear repelling rigs? Is it in the Super Villain code or something? Did they even do any repelling to get here? Sorry, tangent. Anyway, the kinetics of the bullet snatched him off his feet, breaking his concentration. "Ow!" he yelled, hitting the floor rather hard on his elbow.
"Ow is right, you little creep," she told him. I could tell that Ashley was holding back quite a bit, but Mr. Cruelty was in for the beating of his life. Just as well, he probably had it coming.
Dredz then took off after Hazard the echo of more shots then I would have thought he'd need ringing through the halls.
I got back to my feet as quickly as I could and snapped a bubble around Haywire. "You think this is going to hold me?" he demanded with a swagger I didn't really like.
"You're using up your air again," I told him with as much bravado as I could muster up.
"This might not be the library, but there's certainly some interesting reading in here," he said without the slightest bit of worry. "This thing doesn't stop air flow and you're not the only one who can play with magnetic fields." His corona arced out to the edges of the bubble which flickered and finally collapsed. His face shown with triumph at his accomplishment, even through the ski mask. "I know all about you, Panda Girl. It's all in your file right here. There's nothing you can…." He trailed off in wordless howl of pain as the copper wire of the security system they'd cut came into contact with his corona, grounding him out.
Thanks to a little help by one of my bubbles.
He slumped against the podium and slid down to the floor. I called up another bubble, about the size of a bowling ball and launched it into his pimply face. His eyes crossed before he slid over, unconscious.
Villains, they always want to talk you to death.
Dash and Lancer had been trading blows for a while and neither one seemed to be that much the worse for it. Dash couldn't move, thanks to Psymod, but he was obviously as tough as Hank. Finally in frustration, Dash snatched up a desk, meaning to smash it into Hank, but Psymod launched him into the ceiling and held him there.
The desk, unfortunately, still fell on Hank.
As he struggled to get it off him, Dash growled to Psymod, "I've had enough of you, friend." His form went blurry as he was evidently using his speed to vibrate his way of out Mark's grasp. He slipped loose and seemed to run down the air, straight at Psymod.
But when he got there, Psymod wasn't, having flashed away in a teleport across the room. Dash figured that out a moment too late before he slammed into the very solid and probably reinforced wall of the lab.
That had to hurt.
"Fast," Psymod chuckled, "But stupid."
Dash slid down in a painful looking heap on the floor. Hank finally tossed the desk off himself with a thunderous crash and stood. "Where's Hazard?" he asked.
My hand went to my ear bud. "Dredz? How are you doing?"
"I can't hit this bitch for shit!" he yelled back. "My gun keeps jamming and shots I should be able to make in my sleep just keep missing!"
I passed this along to the others to Hank's nod. "She can affect probability," he said, turning to Psymod. "Can you teleport her back here and I can try to punch her?"
Psymod's eyes went far away before he shook his head. "I can't get a lock on her mind. Maybe something to do with her power."
"I can see her!" yelled Dredz in our ears. "Use my eyes."
"That, I can do," said Psymod with a wink. Hank and Ashley gathered up the fallen Master Minds as Mark came set and teleported us once more. I turned just in time to see Hazard, amazed and panicked we'd just appeared right in front of her, lose her balance trying to stop and slide to our feet.
Where upon Hank and Ashley dropped her friends on top of her.
Now that I know hurt.
"What in heaven's name is going on here?" demanded the some what heavy set school policeman who had thrown open the door behind us. There was a fairly sizable collection of his friends with him.
I favored the campus cops with my most wining Super Hero smile. "Just taking out the trash, officers."
In the movies, when which ever hero you like tosses that line, the cops are profuse in their thanks, and the hero goes back to whatever good time the biz interrupted. That's not how in works in real life I learned. The nine of us got marched off to the Dean's office and Mrs. Carson got woken up to deal with this. I could tell she wasn't happy about it that was for sure.
"Mr. Voorhees," she told Haywire icily. "To say I'm upset is an understatement of colossal proportions. What do you have to say for yourself, young man?"
"It vas just a prank, Mrs. Carson."
"That's not true!" I started but a mere glance by the Head Mistress convinced me silence was golden.
"A prank?" she drawled, disbelieving. "Perhaps you can consider ways to improve your sense of humor in detention. Two weeks. And Mr. Voorhees, should the MCH go 'missing' at any point for the rest of this year, I won't need to conduct an investigation. You, Mr. Morgan, Miss Xiao and Mr. Ridgeley will simply be expelled. Do I make myself clear?"
"That's not fair!" protested a very fearful looking Miss Xiao, better known as Hazard.
"Life seldom is, Miss Xiao. I suggest you get your collective house in order. What ever you think you can get away in New York or Berlin has no place here. Two weeks," she said again. "Go, your house mothers will give you the details."
The Master Minds slumped out; more than one sullen look cast our way. I could see then we'd made some enemies that would dog our steps our entire time at Whateley. Once the door was closed once more, Mrs. Carson seemed a bit less ticked. Only a little, but that was a definite improvement. "While I am indebted to your sense of civic virtue, Miss Turner," she said softly, "there is the little matter that you and your friends were in a restricted area after hours."
"We were just there to stop them, ma'am," I told her.
"Dear, perhaps you haven't noticed, but the school does have a police force. Was there some reason you simply did not call them when you noticed Mr. Voorhees and his cohorts?"
"I…I guess I wanted to prove myself, ma'am," I admitted softly. And it was true. After dad's comment on our 'pathetic' showing on the roof in Providence some part of me had been itching for some way to proof him wrong.
"I see," she said, steepling her fingers in thought. "I hope you feel you've done that, Miss Turner. For the next two week, you, the rest of S.T.A.R. League Jr. and Mr. Declan will be on call for the campus security forces, from the end of your last class period to dinner, without pay. If you want to play at being a police officer, you can learn everything that entails."
I nodded, embarrassed. "Yes ma'am."
"After those two weeks," she continued with something of a smile, "If you decide you still enjoy it, you all can work for the security department, part time, with pay."
A grin I couldn't keep off my face pulled at my lips. "Yes ma'am, thank you!"
She chuckled. "I don't think I've ever been thanked for assigning a punitive duty before. Off you go and get to bed. You have busy days tomorrow."
It isn't easy trying to look like a Venetian Noblewoman in a Catholic School Girl uniform, but I did my very best. "Alas, the heavy day! Why do you weep? Am I the motive of these tears, my lord? If haply you my father do suspect an instrument of this your calling back, lay not your blame on me! If you have lost him, why, I have lost him too!"
'Othello', or as was usually known as, Andy Dewitt was a striking fellow. Five feet ten and a bit on the lanky side at one fifty, he was still very fit and rugged. What struck me were his gray eyes that peered out from his chocolate face. He evidently wanted the part sufficiently to have shaved his head to appear older. He had a fine sense of dramatic presence and practically strutted across the stage as he gave the long reply to my lines.
"I hope my noble lord esteems me honest," I told him. He walked up and gripped my shoulders rather tightly.
"O, aye, as summer flies are in the shambles, that quicken even with blowing. O thou weed, who are so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet that the sense aches at thee…" he paused for a moment, making me think he'd forgotten the rest, but he whispered, "I'm going to throw you down," just before he suited actions to words. I landed a bit hard on my rump, but I have to give him points for the dramatic. "Would thou hadst ne'er been born!"
"Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed!" I shouted back up at him before Mr. Lord stood, clapping loudly.
"Cut there, please. Good touch there, Andy! Lily, are you alright?" I nodded as Andy helped me back up to my feet.
"Andy warned me before he did it, Mr. Lord."
"Good, very nicely read. Andy, take a seat for me. Lily, can I see you please?" I worked my way off the stage of the school's theater and over to our teacher expectantly. "Lily, I really like your take on Desdemona. You have a sense of a strong, independent woman. Really that's the only sort that could keep up with Othello. I just have one problem."
"What's that, sir?" I asked.
"Desdemona is normally played by a blonde," he said with a sheepish grin. "Would you have any aversion to dyeing your hair for the production?"
"I never have…" I told him hesitantly. "Couldn't I just wear a wig?" I asked him before the depth of what he was saying sunk in. "I get the part?!"
He laughed. "We'll try that in rehearsal and see how it goes. Yes, you are most definitely our Desdemona. Just promise me you'll think about it, ok?"
"Will do, Mr. Lord you won't regret, I promise."
"I don't," he told me with a smile. "Looks like you're adjusting to the Whateley way of life pretty quickly.
"Yes sir," I admitted with a thoughtful smile as I thought of my interrupted evening with Hank. "Yes sir, I am."