Sunday, September 3rd, 2006
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
I was trying to concentrate on calming down when I became aware of the girl next to me. She looked to be about 12 years old and was staring at me and I was starting to become a bit nervous. She seemed to be paying a lot of attention to my hair. Our eyes met and suddenly she dropped her eyes.
“What, you’ve never seen hair that looked like this before?”
She squirmed a little and peeked up at me through her hair. “Um, no, not really. I mean, not in real life.”
I started to get a little more nervous. Maybe she just knew about anime and possibly Tenchi and was just curious or maybe she was part of something more sinister. Of course, maybe it was just because I had been living in a basement for several weeks and was just being paranoid.
“How do you do it? It’s really cool! I saw you in the station, and I thought you’d just used a ton of mousse or something. It’s almost like ...”
Maybe she was trying to find out if I was the escapee from Colorado. Some people were still looking for me. If I encouraged her maybe I could find out more. “What? Go ahead, I’ve heard it all.”
“Well, it’s like anime hair. Only real life. You know, animation, uh, Japanese cartoons?”
I just stared at her. Maybe she was just interested in anime.
“Uh, sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Deciding that she probably was only curious about my hair, but not giving up quite yet, I decided to try for more information. “Naw, don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’ve heard lots worse, believe me.” I tried to smile at her.
“Anime, huh?” Maybe I could get her to admit who I looked like. “So... if I were an anime character, which one would I be? Which of ‘em has this kind of hair?” Not subtle, but it should get a response that would get me an idea just how much she knew.
She perked up a bit. “That kind of hair?” Her eyes lost focus for a moment. “Well, of course, the absolute best, and most popular too –“ I really wanted to hear this. “– would have to be Tetsuan Atom.”
What!? Who was Tetsuan Atom? It sounded kind of familiar but I wasn’t sure why. In my confusion I twisted forward and the bus hit a bump. I ended up face first in the back of the seat in front of me. Owww! How embarrassing...
She seemed to have nothing but admiration for my graceful actions and immediately let me know how much she appreciated them. “Wow! If this *were* an anime, I’d call that a - well, I guess they call it a ‘face fault’ in this country. You see that all the time in anime.”
Oh! Is that what we call this? I disengaged my face from the seat while trying to wow her with my insight. “I know. It hurts too!” I mumbled while trying to remove seat from my mouth. I then had to ask. “Tetsuan Atom?”
She looked a little uncertain. “Uh, you know, Astro Boy?”
Oh, sure, Astro Boy. I think the combination of my predicament and the feeling of, Oh, why didn’t I think of that!, made me answer her look of confusion at my actions a little more vehemently than I intended. “I KNOW THAT!” I shut up as I realized that everyone else was looking at me. I then tried to communicate my confusion a little more quietly. “How can you compare me to some ancient old wimpy robot?”
She snapped back with some intensity. “He’s not wimpy! He’s got 100,000 horsepower! Besides, he’s the noblest!”
Uh oh! I think I better change this subject a little. “Look, let’s just forget the ancient past, okay? I think we were talking about the present, weren’t we? Spiky hair, gorgeous body, and you were talking about who I reminded you of.”
“Oh yeah.” She paused in thought.
“Come on, you must have *some* idea!”
“Sure, but there’s just so many of them. Hey, you okay? You’re looking sort of twitchy.”
“Well, if you had a tail, you could be a Saiyan, but I don’t think I’ve seen any female ones.”
A Saiyan?! From Dragonball?
“And the color would make you a perfect Ryoko, except she’s got cat eyes and a tail too.”
I didn’t have the tail but she must not be looking close at my eyes. There was just no way I was going to win this one.
“But you’ve got the attitude just right. On the other hand, if the color was black -“
It was time to make an end of this fiasco. “Alright! Enough already! Just drop it, okay? I folded my arms and turned to the window.
She got the hint, “Sorry.”
I started to feel guilty. Here I was, expecting someone to guess who I looked like and disappointed if they couldn’t quite be sure. And, being rude to someone who didn’t deserve it. When I was the one who really started it.
At the same time I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be Ryoko. I didn’t need to be in the shadow of anyone again. Not even someone I admired like her. The thought startled me a bit.
Did I want to be like Ryoko? Maybe not her, but someone like her maybe? After all, I think that one of the things I liked about her was her certainty and willingness to do things. Maybe I really wanted that? Glancing back at the girl, I could see that she seemed to be concentrating on something else. I wanted to make sure about her and maybe make up for my rudeness. Turning back to her I asked.
“Do you really think I have the attitude right?”
She looked up startled. “Huh?”
“Ryoko. You said I had the attitude right.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, we’ve just met and everything. But so far, you could do a pretty good job. Hey, we never actually introduced ourselves, did we? I’m Jade. Jade Sinclair.”
I was a little like Ryoko? And she wanted to introduce herself. Well, the T’s and I had discussed this a little. I would be entering the school officially as Billie Wilson, but they thought I would be better off having a more individual name. Mrs. T had suggested that I could use Tennyo. She said it was Japanese for heavenly maiden or angel. I kind of liked it and thought it would make a great name.
“You can call me Tennyo.”
“Sure! Hey, that’s a funny coincidence! I mean, you look sort of like Ryoko, who’s from Tenchi Muyo!- and if you contracted that you’d get -“ Suddenly her mouth stopped and stayed open as she looked at me. She was looking right into my eyes. I think that she finally started to put some of the pieces together and the look on her face made me smile a bit. She almost squeaked her next question.
“It* isn’t* a coincidence, is it?”
She was really focusing on me now and I started to get a little nervous about it. It almost seemed like she was a little hurt. I didn’t understand what about me would make her feel that way. I shook my head to let her know that she was right about who I looked like. I was really beginning to like her and I didn’t want to do anything to stop her now.
I hadn’t realized how lonely I’d become. Having someone I could talk to started to mean a lot more to me than it had earlier. She suddenly seemed to brighten up even more than before, as if she had suddenly had a nice thought. Suddenly an avid look replaced the other and she started a machine gun round of statements and questions.
“That is SO COOL! Are you still changing? I mean, are you going to grow a tail and the whole bit? And what about all those cool powers!? Naw, that would be too much, wouldn’t it. But if you could - WOW! Hey, what were people like in the train station? How did they react to your hair? Did you do this on *purpose*? Please, can you teach me how? Not to look like Ryoko, of course, one’s enough, right? Well, aside from Minagi. But I mean, picking someone and then becoming them - wow! That is the coolest thing ever!”
She was getting a little too excited and close to the truth at the same time. I fortunately had an excuse to slow her down and distract her. “Whoa, settle down. Besides, I think we’re here.” I pointed to the large brick building we had pulled up in front of.
I’d finally calmed down a bit while we approached the school. Talking to Jade had helped. I don’t think she really wanted to know what I thought of the people at the station right now, anyway.
Even the conversation hadn’t distracted me from the differences in this area from home. Things looked a lot different here than in Colorado. It was greener and the air smelled different. Probably the different trees. Things looked a little older. The buildings were not the more modern styles I was used to.
At least there seemed to be some open areas. I had been afraid that out east here it would be wall to wall people. It looked like there might be someplace to get away and enjoy the outdoors a little. The streams even looked like they might have fish. I wondered what it would take to get a pole and license.
I also wondered if I would be able to get out and try my metal detector and do some bottle hunting. While I thought of this and talked to Jade, we’d approached the school. After heading down a small side road and past a gate with gargoyles, we passed some large buildings and proceeded to some smaller ones.
We had pulled up in front of a large, red brick building that looked to be three stories tall. It kind of looked like some of the old houses I had seen in Colorado Springs that had been turned into apartment buildings. I guessed this was where we were going to stay.
Because my luggage had stayed behind I didn’t have too much trouble getting out of the van. Being able to levitate a little as I did helped. I could fly and levitate reliably now. It was one of the things that I could practice in the basement and I had gotten pretty good at it. People probably would never notice if I used it occasionally to help out and Mrs. T said that it would help my fine control to do it that way. I could even sit on the wall or stand on the ceiling if I wanted to, because, for some reason gravity didn’t seem to have any effect on my body or hair when I was doing it.
Someone else was having more of a problem. I heard someone yelp like they had hurt something and felt a slight jolt, but when I looked all I could see was a kind of ugly boy and a cute girl. He might have been the one who hurt himself or had his hand stepped on. He seemed to be glaring at the cool looking red headed girl who just smiled at him. She reminded me of an elf.
There was a small sign at the entryway that said Poe Cottage. Inside was a bust of Mr. Poe by the entryway. We got into the larger room inside with sofas and chairs. Mrs. Shugendo called three other students over and welcomed us to Whateley Academy.
She then proceeded to tell us that we had been brought to the school a day earlier than the other freshmen because all of us had gender issues. I looked around in surprise. I knew that I was going to have a hard time adjusting because I didn’t have a clue as how to be a girl and I was hoping to learn as I went . It looked like I might be better off than I thought. At least some of the others might be willing to help me learn what I needed to know.
I started to look more closely at the others, trying to guess who might be able to help me without making too much of a fool of myself.
Mrs. Shugendo proceeded to tell us to be very careful how we acted so as not to get ourselves or others here into trouble. Mom and Dad had warned me about revealing what had happened to me. They even went so far as to say that it might be better to lie. I didn’t feel at all comfortable about that and was hoping I could avoid that option if at all possible. I could agree that keeping this quiet would be better and didn’t have any problems with that.
Someone asked about how we were going to be assigned to roommates. I started to worry about this. I wasn’t sure how I would handle a roommate. I had had my own room for a while and I still tended to cause disruptions on occasion. Especially when I was stressed.
She added something about no Carnal Relations,(With Capitals!). It took me a moment to figure out what she met. Then I blushed,(I’m sure that when I blush you can see it for MILES). I just hoped no one was watching too closely, and if they were inclined to do so, they would suffer some kind of momentary blindness.
Then a nice looking boy asked about showing our powers. Apparently we were to try to keep them quiet. I hoped I could manage that. At this moment the stress was so bad I thought I might let loose with something at any moment. I couldn’t stop and meditate either, or I was going to miss important information.
She then introduced the house mother, Mrs. Horton who let us know about how the place was arranged and where to find the bathrooms, etc. She seemed to know what she was doing. After she was done, they proceeded to split us into smaller groups with each of the students that Mrs. Shugendo had called over. She then told us not to destroy anything. Easy for her to say. I was hoping I wouldn’t destroy too much!
After that I was assigned to a group being lead around by Belle Forbes. With me were the cute red head called Nikki, the nice looking guy called Hank, a happy energetic girl called Toni, a punk rock looking girl called Ayla, and Jade was also included in our group.
Belle started out joking about us turning into giant slugs. At least I hope she is joking about that. She had a very proper accent which made me think of the Northeast like Boston or maybe even England. She also told us that her real name was Kendall but her codename,(whatever that was), was Beltane and that the name Belle stuck. She seems to have a good sense of humor about it.
She then started us towards the main buildings and started to fill us in on what was going on. It seems that the girls that went with the girl Rosalyn where lesbians, the boys that went with the boy Steve were gay, and that left us who appeared to be what Belle called Changelings. It then occurred to me what she was saying.
I looked a little more closely at them to see if I could figure out more about them while feeling a lot of relief. I might just make it through this without disgracing myself or killing someone by mistake. The cute red head suddenly let out a happy, “KEWL!” and I felt much better about my situation
We started towards the main buildings while I tried to figure out what was going on. I knew I was OK with what was happening to me. I just felt that it was completely unfair that I didn’t have a clue as to how to be a girl.
Some of the others must be becoming guys and Hank was probably becoming a girl. At least I had already taken care of, or had taken care of for me, the change bit. I wondered what it must be like for someone to find themselves slowly converting over. Maybe Hank and I could trade knowledge with the others on how to be boys and girls.
It wasn’t far to the main campus. Belle pointed out the other cottages and told us their names. As we crested a small hill, Belle pointed out and named the main campus buildings. Siegel Hall appeared to be our destination. It was a large building with many different styles and periods of buildings joined together. The oddest was a large geodesic dome on its south end called the Crystal Hall.
We continued on the pathway until we reached a wider area with a statue of the school’s founder. Belle proceeded to tell us a basic history of the school.
Founded in 1878 by Noah Whateley, it struggled along for about 80 years. When it folded and was foreclosed by the bank, a group of mutant superheroes bought it in 1966. They wanted a remote place to train emerging mutants how to control and use their powers. The name of the school remained the same to add some history and respectability to it.
After she finished telling us that, Belle explained that we would be touring the main buildings while giving the girls a chance to get their rooms and get organized. By the time we finished doing our tour the girls should already be settled and we would be able to move into our rooms. We would then tour the overall grounds, athletic fields, and the combat training areas.
Everyone seemed to snap to attention when the combat training areas were mentioned. I already knew that there were some here because the T’s had told me that a large part of my training would take place there. Apparently, this wasn’t general knowledge. Belle gleefully explained that we would all be receiving training in self protection for our own good and so as not to waste the money that was being spent on our education.
I was beginning to wonder what my parents and the Tanaka’s were actually paying to have me here. I hoped it wasn’t quite as much as it sounded. I would hate to go up in flames and waste all that money as well as my life. Nobody had said anything about how much this was costing and I really hadn’t paid any attention to it until now.
I’d also heard about people being violently against mutants, but Mom and Dad would never have permitted us to ever participate in any kind of prejudicial activity. I remembered the one time Larry had joked with some of his friends about a nigger they had seen when Mom could hear them. I think he really thought she was going to kill or send him to a foster house or something. I made some friends that I might not have otherwise and learned that we all had something in common. Namely, nobody wanted to risk my parents wrath on that subject.
Hey! I wasn’t stupid either. There were a lot of people on both sides who couldn’t seem to learn these lessons well. I had always known that I would be on the side of tolerance and had gotten into a few scrapes over it. Mom and Dad never punished me for it though, even when I got sent home once for causing a disturbance. That was when I thought my family was normal. I didn’t know then why they were so much against it. Now I knew, and was even more for tolerance from a very personal perspective.
There wasn’t much chance to get all maudlin over these old memories. Belle then got down to the real reason that we had been brought out separate from the others. We were even more different than the others in Poe and we could at least understand what was happening to each other. Nobody else was going to be able to see things from our viewpoint as well as we could and that should allow us to become a good team.
The fact that there were now six of us, made for an unusual opportunity to get started right off. It sounded like a really good thing to me and I was all for it. Someone here should at least be able to help me learn how to dress. I didn’t think I could keep up the tomboy routine much longer without causing more problems than I needed on top of the ones I already had.
Belle then asked us to tell everyone there something about ourselves. Namely, a little about where we came from, how we felt about what was happening to us, what we were here for, and what we could do.
She then explained that she was Kendall Forbes, and was from Bristol, UK, wherever in England that was, and belonged to a decent family who packed him off to some boys school. Apparently this was some kind of tradition. No one knew at that time that Kendall would prefer going to a girls school.
Kendall had been in her second form,(grade?), when she started seeing things. Then she started having nightmares about some Gnashitty Rippet. Some kind of horrible goblin or something. She woke up one night and it chased her all over before she realized that she had made it and could control it. Apparently, the stuff she was seeing was ectoplasm and she could control it and make things out of it.
After that, and I couldn’t help grinning and feeling that I liked her already, she had gone on a rampage of haunting in the school. She did such a good job of it that a professional was called in to help out. He was called the Gray Wizard and was really good at this. It still took him a while to find her because he was looking for a girl and Belle didn’t look like a girl then. She showed how good she was at that kind of thing by doing a really good impression of Marilyn Monroe.
Anyway, after he caught her, he told her that she was going about it the wrong way and arranged for her to come to Whateley to learn how to properly control her powers. I think he just really admired her and wanted to be sure she wouldn’t get into too much trouble. They did all sorts of tests to see if she was going to have any unexpected problems and that made me wonder if some of the tests Mr. T had done were to detect those things also. Other than burnout, he never explained much of what he was testing for.
By disguising himself as a girl, he had started to turn into a girl. After he -she learned this there was no stopping her, and she became a girl all the time. That way they had to let her into Whateley as a girl when she was accepted. She also started to refer to Whateley as Hogwarts. I’m not so sure that she is far from the mark. They had a lot in common.
Wrapping up she showed us a little of what she could do. She then turned to Hank and told him he was next.
Hank Declan, used to be Hannah, was a daughter of someone in the Army. He had been living on Army bases all his life and apparently, his parents didn’t have any problems with having a tomboy for a daughter. They did have a little trouble with her becoming a him, but apparently, he wasn’t the only one to have some problems with a little bother, uh, I mean brother. Hank wasn’t having any problems with the change, but his little brother went wild when he learned that Hank could lift really heavy things and fly.
“You can fly?” I couldn’t resist interrupting.
He explained that it helped him escape from the soldiers who attacked him when his little brother tricked them into thinking he was holding his family hostage. Toni seemed to be surprised that his brother would do that. Maybe she didn’t have one.
Anyway, they chased him all over the place and he wrecked a few things before someone got wise and called off the hunt. They then sent some Rangers to tell him it was okay and he could come back. Then someone from the Academy showed up and convinced him and his family that it would be a good idea for him to become scarce around Fort Bragg and go to Whateley.
After correcting his grammar, I bet she will be an English teacher some day, Belle asked him to be a little more specific as to what his powers were.
Hank is what they call a, “High Level Functioning Non-Ranged Psychokinetic,” and a, “Level 3 Exemplar.” Which means he’s really strong, can fly, and bounce bullets off of himself. Belle explained that as a Level 3 Exemplar, Hank was stronger, faster, etc, and was able to change his form to that which he was comfortable with. In this case she was becoming a boy.
She then went on to explain a little about how mutants were categorized and powers measured. I started to get more worried when she explained that the farther you went from human norm the likelier you were to have unpleasant and or lethal problems. This was way to close for comfort to my situation. From what Mr. T had said I was a real likely prospect for something like this, although he seemed to think that if it happened to me, it might involve a wider area than just myself.
Still, he seemed pretty sure that my problems could be controlled with the right training. I sure hoped he was right.
Belle then singled out Toni and had her go next. Toni was from Baltimore and was some kind of martial arts genius or something. She can also see energy she calls Ki around things and people and it helps her know more about them. She is an exemplar also and is turning into a girl.
Fey was next, and I think Belle was more interested in her than any of the rest of us. It seems that she used to be Nicholas Reilly and now goes by Nikki or Fey. Code names are kind of like hero names and I guess Tennyo will be mine. Fey is a magic user or wizard and that may be why Belle is more interested in her. They are both similar.
Her family is somewhat like mine and fairly well off. They are from Kansas City, Missouri. Her parents are separated though and her father lives in Cleveland with her little brother.
She can see power lines in the earth and things and use that power like a wizard to do things. She calls them ley lines. It seems that when she uses her power she becomes more female and elflike. Her hair became the bright red it is now and she started to look like a good looking female elf. It took a few months though. Everyone seems to think that was kind of fast. I wonder what they will think of my change?
It caused her some trouble though and I am beginning to see why my parents want me to start somewhere other than my old school. Fey is here because of the trouble caused when some idiots assaulted her. It was pretty harmless, but I hate to think what would have happened if I lost control in a situation like that. As it was, I managed to hurt two professional killers and get away with my life. If they had been normals, I would probably be in jail for murder.
I think I like Fey also. She is turning into someone not completely human like me. And, if the way her magic works is any indication, she must have a good sense of humor also. I had to cover my mouth to not laugh out loud as she described the affects of the hobgoblins. I had to giggle when she told us what happened to the bully. To think they threw her out of the school for a little fun like that.
She says that she expects to be completely female by the time she’s seventeen. And, an exotic beauty, as Belle puts it, too. Iron seems to cause her problems also. This seems very much like the stories I read all the time. I wonder if a lot of them are based on mutants in the past with the same or similar manifestations? Synthetics cause problems too. That would explain the clothes she is wearing. Good looking silks and the like.
Belle confirmed that Fey didn’t need anything to work her magic. Fey is a natural mage and can also hear everything around her. Even inanimate objects like walls, trees, etc, even animals to some extent. Belle was certain that there were teachers here that could help her control it before it drives her insane.
Ayla was next. It seems that she is related to the famous Goodkinds who, if you ask me , don’t seem to have all that much good to them if they are going to treat their children like that. Her name used to be Trevor James Goodkind. Now it seems that she is exiled from her family, along with her older sister.
It seems Gracie, her older brother who turned into her sister when she took some kind of drug, helped her out when her family turned against her. Maybe this girl change is some kind of family thing? Anyway, it sounds as if her sister is one of the few I would like to meet in her family. She managed to rescue Ayla from their family and arranged to have her sent here to help her develop her new powers.
Her power had changed her into a she-male. Someone who has features of both a male and female. She can apparently change her density from being able to pass through things up to a heavy diamond hardness with great strength. She used this while fighting a super villain called Sparkler that Belle seemed to know. Belle was surprised that this girl was as powerful as she was. Apparently she hadn’t been as strong when she was here.
After fighting her for a while, Ayla figured out a way to use her phasing powers to disrupt Sparklers technical assists and defeated her. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders. I hope we can be friends.
It’s odd, but I get the feeling that there is more to her story about her sister Gracie and her friends in California. I have to agree with Hank about her parents though. I haven’t heard their side of the story, but I get the definite feeling that they are assholes. Imagine, leaving her destitute with only 300 million. What’s the world coming to?
Jade was the next to give us a little information. I hadn’t realized it but she is older than she looks. She also comes from a bad situation in her family. I think I could really dislike her father given the chance. She then proceeded to animate some clothing. It was kind of weird, but not as upsetting as it might have been. I already liked Jade and Jinn seems to be nice also.
She had both Fey and Belle a little confused too. They are of the opinion, and I think I agree, that Jinn seems to be a separate person and at the same time, not. Confusing, no? She’s also touchy about the fact that she is stuck where she is now. She seems to be a girl to me and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be happy any other way. I hope someone here can help her.
I was starting to realize how lucky I was where my family was concerned. At least my family was somewhat accepting of my situation. I knew when the problems with the bad guys were over, I’d have a home to return to.
I think they had forgotten me for a moment. Belle was going to start on the tour when Jade reminded them about me. They were curious about my name and code name. It was kind of embarrassing, but they had been trusting of me, so I decided to trust them. I told them the cut down version of what happened to me that the Tanakas thought would be okay for most people to know.
Jade was very interested in the fact that I had my first period at the time I escaped from my kidnapers.
I also gave everyone a description of my powers and what I knew about them.
Belle then lead us towards the admin building. It was quite impressive. The security vault and the mementos and history behind them were even more so. I felt somewhat better after that. At least I wasn’t an avatar. Something I could do without I’m sure. The classrooms and underground areas are really cool. We will be able to go to the more secure areas when we get our school Ids. For now, Belle was giving us the tour and she got us into the lower areas.
The really impressive part had to be the Crystal Hall. Being able to eat in a cafeteria that allowed you to see the outdoors all around and next to you was really kind of fun. It made me think of the eating hall in Hogwarts. Not as crowded, but still open above. It was easy to imagine it lighted by candles hanging in the air.
After we ate, and the food was surprisingly good, we headed back to get our rooms. One thing I found to be a help for me was the fact that Fey seemed to draw everyone’s attention to her. I don’t think anyone was paying any attention to me at all as long as she was near. There was a moment when I thought three guys at one of the tables were going to burst their eyes out of their skulls when they saw me. Then they saw Fey and apparently lost all interest in me.
I was sitting at a table next to the one Fey, Belle, Hank, Jade, and Toni were sitting at when Hank said something and Toni acted as if she got some of her soda down the wrong tube. She then started to laugh. It took a few minutes to get her straightened out and able to breath normally again. I wondered what I had missed.
Finishing up, Hank and Belle got into an interesting discussion about how some people needed lots of energy for their powers and tended to eat a lot to get it. I wondered a little about that, because I seemed to be able to eat and never get full either. I wasn’t a powerhouse like Hank though, and probably half his size, if that.
After that, Belle gathered us together again and headed us back into the main buildings. I’m certain a few of the people there followed us out. Including the three I had seen earlier. I wondered what it was all about.
Belle showed us where the various classrooms were and where we would have to get some of the things we would need there. Whateley had its own on campus store where we could get most of the things that we would need for our classes. She assured us that what we couldn’t get here, could be found in town. In fact, except for basic or unique things, we were encouraged to shop in Dunwich for most things so as to help the local economy.
As we got back from exploring, I could see that Belle and Fey had been talking. Fey seemed a little upset about something and Belle was reassuring her. I still got the occasional feeling of being watched and was sure that someone was trailing after us. No one else seemed to notice it though, so I didn’t say anything.
I was still wondering about this when we got back. I then realized that I would have to choose a room. I expected that they would make me take a room by myself. I didn’t think anyone would want to room with someone like me.
Then, I felt someone trying to get my attention. It was Jade. I couldn’t tell for a moment if she was shy or just embarrassed.
“Tennyo-san. Would you allow me to be your roommate?” I was surprised to find that it meant a lot to me even as I realized that she was only shy. I liked her and was amazed that she would be willing to be my roommate.
“Huh? Me?” I started to rub the back of my neck. I must be blushing like mad. Strangely, I didn’t want to have to warn her about how difficult it would be rooming with me. I was just getting used to the idea that I might not have to face this all on my own. And, that person would understand the difficulties I was having.
Of course, I didn’t know why someone would want to room with me. She probably didn’t realize how dangerous it would be around me and since we had talked on the van I might be the only person she felt she knew well enough to ask. That probably was it. It saddened me a little that she wouldn’t want to if she had a choice. I had to warn her even as I really just wanted to hug her for giving me the opportunity.
“Well, yeah, I guess.” No point in burning bridges. I had to give her the chance and hope for the best. “But you might want to know, I sometimes have a little problem with energy blasts. I still have a tendency to blow things up a little, you know. I’m not so sure you want to be rooming with someone who might accidentally blow up all of a sudden on you.”
Instead of making her nervous or afraid, the warning and tentative acceptance seemed to make her incredibly happy.
“Please. I understand the danger. May I be your roommate?”
“Well, if you’re sure.” I slapped her on the back in an encouraging fashion. “Glad to have you on board, kid.” The relief I felt at that time was amazing to me. I had been alone for several weeks and the idea of having someone close-by who I could actually talk to made me almost giddy.
I almost panicked when she hugged me though. Then I realized that girls did this all the time and relaxed. I still had a long way to go before I was going to be comfortable with all this.
“Thank you,” she said in a choked up voice. She then turned towards the foyer.
“Maybe we should get our bags and get a room.”
I just nodded and followed her into the foyer to get our things. My carry-on was right on top and her pack was off to the side, but her suitcase was stuck under two big trunks. She couldn’t seem to get it loose from them. I said, “Let me help,” and lifted them up so she could get it.
Jade was impressed by the fact that I could now lift them easily with one hand.
“You sure have Ryoko’s strength.”
Talking about Ryoko made me nervous for some reason.
“Look, can we drop the whole , ‘Ryoko’, thing? I mean, I know what’s happening to me, but it’s a lot to deal with, you know? I need some time to learn how to be Tennyo, before I spend too much time walking in someone else’s shadow.”
“And that’s another thing! What’s all this, ‘san’, business? You don’t have any accent. Are you really Japanese?”
She laughed. “My mother was. But me? This is actually the first time I’ve been out of Kansas. But ever since my powers arrived, it’s like my memory has been getting better and better.” I felt a bit of sadness as I realized that she had lost her mother. I was separated from mine, but at least she was still alive.
“And I am remembering more and more of Okasan. It seems like a way to honor her, to try to become a little more of what she was. But you’re right. I’m not *really* Japanese. Technically, I’m nisei, but culturally I’m more like sansei or worse. I guess I’m trying to capture a little bit of my lost culture back.”
“Second generation and third generation Japanese. And since my father wasn’t Japanese, I’m not sure exactly where I’d fall.”
I remembered some of my counts for my katas- ichi, ni, san, shee, etc. One, two, three , four, and it made sense of a sort.
“Yeah, okay.” I picked up my carry-on. “Shall we pick a room?”
She picked up her backpack and suitcase, looked at me and said, “Is that all you have?”
I shrugged, “ I have more on the way, but they messed up my bags at the airport in Concord. They’ll probably get here sometime tomorrow.”
We shared a little of our feelings on travel and its problems as we approached Belle to see what room we could get.
“You have two choices, two-sixteen, the corner room on the north, and two-thirteen, in the middle on the north. You’ll probably be bordering on Boystown with that one.”
Jade got a faraway look for a moment and asked, “Nothing on the south?”
“Nope. Last one was two-oh-two. That went to Ayla, as a single. But I just put her there because it was the first on the list. She said she didn’t care.”
Jade took my hand and headed toward the stairs. “Come on! Maybe we can change her mind!”
Belle called after us to tell her if we did. She was listing us in two-sixteen until then.
As Jade dragged me up the stairs I asked her what the big deal was. “Look, do you want a good room on the south, where we can get some sun, or a cold room on the north?”
I could sense her urgency and it was clear which choice she had made already. “From the way you’re describing it, a good room, with sun.”
“And the corner rooms are supposed to be extra cold.” I wondered where she had gotten this information. It obviously meant a lot to her, but I had a few doubts about our coarse of action.
“No thanks, but I really don’t want to stick it to poor Ayla. She looks like she’s already had a rough ride. What’s your plan?”
She got a determined but worried look on her face. “I think, we’re going to have to ask her.”
We found Ayla in two-oh-two.
“So you want to switch rooms? Why?”
Jade was giving it her best and doing a good job of it. “You’ll be next to Toni and Fey. A corner room, with no neighbors to bother you on one side.”
“Yeah, I see the advantages just fine. What I want to know is: if it’s so good , why do you want to trade?” Ayla was confident and not going to be diverted easily. She obviously was well versed in how to get all the information before making a decision.
Jade looked at me for support. But I knew that there wasn’t anything I could add. I wasn’t about to lie over something like this and I wasn’t going to encourage Jade to either. “Sorry, you’re on your own.”
She struggled to find a better answer. “I, I - nothing. Nothing at all. It’s cold, and dark, and doesn’t get any sun, like this room.” She sniffed and looked down. “I’m sorry.”
Such is the power of truth and a helpless looking child. I could see that Ayla had a soft spot for kids. She reached out and put her hands on Jade’s shoulders. “Ah, what the fuck. Sure I’ll trade.”
The surprise and hope in Jade’s face would have made much more difficult decisions easy. “Huh? Really?” This little girl is really going to be dangerous when she gets older.
Ayla shrugged as if she could care less. “Sun’s over-rated. Too much glare, wakes you up too early. Besides, there might be some advantages to the corner.” She said this as she passed her hand through one of her wardrobes, intangible as a ghost.
I was surprised when Jade jumped forward and hugged Alya and thanked her. I think Ayla was favorably impressed even though she said,”No big deal. I haven’t even gotten my stuff yet,” and walked out.
I started to pull everything out of my carry-on. It wasn’t much, but it should be enough to get started. I laid my two sets of spare clothing on the bed and put my spare undergarments on top of the dresser with the few toiletries that I had.
Until I got my trunk this would be all that I had. I was hoping someone would be able to help me find a suitable wardrobe soon. I had no idea where to start and was hoping one of the girls could get me going in the right direction. It wasn’t much, but it should do the job for now though. Oh, a final touch, I put the cabbit at the head of the bed.
Then I looked around to see how Jade was doing. She was moving much more carefully. She was sorting out her clothes and was just starting to put some of them on hangers, after putting her stuffed lion on the desk first.
Just then, Ayla walked by carrying two trunks as if they didn’t weigh much at all.
She must have some kind of density control. She seemed more solid now. “You know,” I told Jade, “I think I’m glad we didn’t end up tricking her out of her room. I get the feeling that she would make an unpleasant enemy.”
While Jade thought about what I just said, I saw a chance to do a little more to prevent that from happening. I called out, “Hey, Ayla, Need help? You got any more luggage downstairs?” Jade looked over and said, “She just walked by with two full steamer trunks. How much more could she have?”
“Sure, thanks!” Came her shout from across the hall. “There’s two more trunks in the foyer, both tagged ‘Ayla Goodkind.”
“Two trunks? Sure, I’ll just go get them.” It didn’t take long to find her trunks. They matched the ones she had been carrying. I found that as bulky as they were I could still carry both. I took them upstairs quickly and found her in room 216.
“Here are your trunks. Anything else I can help with? She looked up and seemed a little surprised when I walked in with both. “Uh, no thank you. Just put them down there while I try to figure out where to put them.”
I put them down, smiled and said, “Just let us know if you need anything, it’s the least we can do, seeing how you let us have the room we wanted.”
She seemed a little uncomfortable. “Don’t mention it, I didn’t really care which room I got.”
“It was a nice thing to do anyway. Please let us help if you need anything. See you!”
I headed back to our room and met Jade coming out. “Going somewhere?”
“I want to look up the friends I met on the train. They definitely have a south facing room, but I’m not sure whether it was on floor three or four. Want to come?”
I wanted to, but I had a few things to finish up first. “No, I’ve got a couple of things I want to ask Fey. Maybe later.”
“Okay. Just be careful what you say while I’m gone. The walls have ears, you know!”
“Huh?” She just waved as she headed towards the stairs. It occurred to me after she left that she might invite them down to visit us. Well, we could do that later. Now, I wanted to get the others over and get to know them a little better. We were going to be working together and I needed to find out, if I could, if they would be able to help me learn more of what I needed to know to be a girl.
I did a quick tour of the common areas, kitchen, and laundry facilities. We had been instructed that we would be expected to maintain them as there would be limited custodial help. We would also be expected to keep our rooms neat and clean also. Each floor was responsible for their own bathrooms and it was hinted that anyone interested in some special privileges might approach the upper class-men about handling the chores on the upper floors.
There was a small library, probably cast offs from former residents, and storage areas down in the basement. One of the rooms had once been a hot tub but was being used for storage now. There was a multipurpose room, fitted out for martial arts and DANCE! And a weight room also.
Back in our room I finally had a chance to settle in a little. Jade was still out so I concentrated on straightening things out. Contrary to popular belief, some young men are raised in such a way as to know how to straighten their rooms and keep them that way. Neither Mom or Mrs. T could bear to put up with untidiness. They ran ship shape houses and expected everyone to help out. And I had never been able to keep Mom or Dad out, no matter what locks I put up.
I didn’t have a lot to begin with, and with my luggage somewhere between here and Concord, I had still less. I decided to hang my two sets of slacks and shirts. Then I proceeded to organize what few undergarments and toiletries I had, into my dresser.
Fortunately I had a towel and face cloth with me and was looking forward to trying to shower before going to bed. I thought I might check out the bathrooms first before I got too committed to that plan of action.
There were a few more bits of clothing in my trunk, but I was going to have to rely heavily on what I could find and or buy here. I had a fair amount of money set aside for this, but was afraid that it wouldn’t be nearly enough.
I heard someone out in the hallway and glanced out. Fey and Toni were coming from the bathrooms and Ayla had just stepped out of her room.
I stepped out into the hallway. This would be a good chance to get to know them better. “Hi! Uh, would you guys like to come in and see our room?” They stopped, looked at each other, and shrugged. Toni said, “Sure!” She motioned to the others, and stepped into the room.
When they were in, Toni and Ayla took the desk chairs and Fey settled on my bed. I looked around for a moment and then just pulled my legs up into a tailor’s sitting position in the air.
“Thanks for coming over. Jade is out visiting some girls she met on the train, and I was hoping to get a chance to talk... Uh, you know, about the school a bit...?”
“Pretty incredible, isn’t it? I mean , from the outside it’s just some ratty old private school, stuck up here in the middle of nowhere.” Toni spoke up.
Ayla corrected her. “Not really ratty, it’s a pretty sharp looking prep school, even without the dome or the observatory. Talk about your definition of ‘over the top’.”
I didn’t want any arguments about how the school looked and asked Fey a question I had been holding for the right time.
“Hey, Fey. We never got a demo of your powers.”
She seemed somewhat distracted by the cabbit at the head of my bed as she answered, “Consider yourself lucky. I can’t exactly control them yet, and sometimes really weird...” Her conversation just trailed off as she continued to stare at the cabbit.
“Case in point,” Ayla said.
I decided to lay it on the line and hope for the best. “I’m just not sure that I’m ready to go to school as a girl.”
Ayla replied emphatically, “Tell me about it.”
“So, what do you want to do tomorrow?” Toni smirked. She seemed to be taking this a lot better than the rest of us. She might be the one I would need to be approach with questions about how to act as a girl. I think Ayla might be the one to approach about clothes though. Or maybe Fey. She obviously had good taste in clothes too.
Fey groaned and poked the cabbit a few times. “I still haven’t finished unpacking.”
Alya grabbed her hair. “Don’t even mention that! I still have three trunks to go.”
Toni and Fey stared at each other and then her. “Three trunks *left*?”
She continued, “and have you seen how small these rooms are? Where am I supposed to put everything?”
“There is storage area in the basement.” I spoke up. “I saw it while exploring earlier.” I couldn’t help asking, “But that’s an awful lot of clothes for a person who sometimes sounds like she doesn’t want to be a girl.”
Ayla hung her head. “I know. Sometimes I scare myself. But, somehow, that lingerie just makes me feel so...wicked! It’s like I can’t help myself.” She thumped her head on the desk. “I am so messed up.”
Something in the way she said it made me feel uncomfortable. Like there was something I was missing in what she was saying. I couldn’t explain the feeling, but I began to be a little worried about how she was handling this.
Toni broke the uncomfortable silence. “I’d better finish unpacking too..” She looked around the room. “Hey, how’d you two finish so fast?”
“I don’t think Jade has very much, and the stupid airlines sent my bags to Nairobi or someplace else first. Not that I have a lot in my baggage anyway. I was hoping to get a chance to buy some here and maybe get some school uniforms also, to fill in. Since I already have what I have here taken care of, maybe I can explore some more.”
After escorting everyone out, I sat down to decide what I was going to do next. It looked like my best bet was to explore as much of the building as I could. You never knew when knowledge like that would come in handy.
I had almost closed the door when I heard someone say something in my room. I opened the door and looked in. I couldn’t see anyone and was wondering if maybe my ears were playing tricks on me and I was hearing an echo from somewhere else. I had closed the door again when I heard a muffled voice again. I decided to look into it more thoroughly and carefully began to search the room.
I got as far as the head of my bed. Then I remembered Fey poking and looking at my cabbit. Maybe there was something about it that drew her attention to it. I better check it out. I reached for it to pick it up.
The cabbit moved! I proceeded to say something suspiciously like a loud, “ACK!!” and landed on the ceiling. I have pretty good reflexes if I do say so myself.
The cabbit hit the floor running and spun out on the slick hardwood for a moment before shooting out our partially opened door.
Realizing that the cabbit must be animated by some outside force, I dived to the door yelling, “Hey! That’s my cabbit!” When I got the door all the way open I could see Toni and Fey looking out their door at me.
As I looked around for my wayward toy, Toni pointed down the hallway and said, “I didn’t think we could bring pets in here.”
“It’s a stuffed animal! My little brother gave it to me before I left.” I couldn’t help blushing as I admitted that the toy was mine. I probably wouldn’t live this down for a long time.
Toni stepped into the hallway as I tried to head after the cabbit and I barely missed her. As I headed after the animal I heard her shout, “Loose cabbit on the floor! Loose cabbit on the floor! Sound the alarms and round the critter up!”
The thing could really move and I swear I could hear it giggling as it ran by me again. It leapt past me on the way back and dodged Toni. Fey and Ayla managed to block the stairs and Hank came out of his room and watched.
The cabbit made a dash to the bathrooms. “C’mon, Hank! Help us round up this wild and dangerous creature!” Toni called.
It made it to the bathrooms and as it disappeared into the men’s room, I was sure I heard something like a raspberry from it. I almost went in after it when I remembered that it wouldn’t be a good idea now. I blushed some more when I realized how close I had come. I hope everyone just thinks I’m a little flushed from running.
As we gathered around the door, I could hear the sinks running, the toilets flushing, and the paper towel dispensers being emptied. Hank came up behind us and asked, “A cabbit?”
“Half rabbit, half cat. It’s in there.” I offered and pointed to the door.
Hank chuckled. “I know what one is. And I know where this one is. I just can’t figure out why it’s not only hiding in the boy’s room, but running around at all.”
“Who cares?” Laughed Toni and pushed him towards the door. “It is, and we need you to go in and get it.”
“Yeah, we’re in a school of mutants.” I said as I scanned our group to see if any of them were acting suspicious, especially Fey. “One of our classmates must have brought it to life.”
“Not me!” Said Fey. “I haven’t even done any of my stuff since I got here.”
For a moment we all stood there looking at each other. Then Hank sighed and said,
“Ok, I’m going in.” He started to open the door and the cabbit came rocketing out and through our legs. It was headed towards the stairs, but Toni managed to leap in front of it and block it’s escape. It changed course and dived into a room next to Fey.
She dived after it. A moment later she laughed. Then she staggered from the room, the cabbit attached to her arm. “Oh help me!” She yelled. “I’m being savaged by a wild and ferocious cabbit! The pain! Help! Help! Help!” All this while the cabbit seemed to be mumbling something about, “claw, claw, bite, bite”, etc. while attached to Fey’s arm. Both of them seemed to be giggling also.
Fey threw herself to the floor while trying to say, “Arrrrgh! It’s killing me! Help!”, but the giggles weren’t helping much.
The cabbit sprang free as we closed in and headed for the piles of luggage still piled in the hall.
Toni helped Fey up and they both were laughing. Then Toni spotted the cabbit again near the luggage and cried, “There it is! Get that cabbit!”
We tried to corner it there, but there was too much in the way. It managed to slip by again and headed for the stairs again. Fey and Toni kept it from going downstairs but it succeeded in going up to the next floor.
As we all got to the third floor, Hank told us to go after it and he would head it off.
I couldn’t help giggling at Fey as we headed down the hall.
“My cabbit! You hexed my cabbit!”
People on this floor were starting to poke their heads out of the doors to see what the commotion was.
Fey giggled back. “Wasn’t my doing! Hey, I’m the one who got mauled! Has that cabbit had its shots?”
I had to grin, this was way too much fun. “You can’t get rabies from a toy!”
Toni got in on the conversation. “Mighty lively looking toy! How do you know it’s not possessed?”
To which I had to reply, “Is possession contagious like rabies? Cause I don’t think its been inoculated against that. I wasn’t expecting a POSSESSION.”
Fey picked right up on that one. “Nobody EXPECTS a POSSESSION!”
We rounded the corner right on the cabbits tail, when Hank stepped out of concealment. “Ha! Outfoxed on the far side. Let’s see you...”
But he never got to finish as Toni yelled, “Hank, LOOK OUT!” And we plowed into him.
Suddenly the cabbit took off again, yelling. “I smell carrots! Miya, MIYA!” And headed up to the fourth floor.
Eventually, with the help of some of the other students, we cornered it. After capturing it and trussing it up good, I thanked everyone for their help and brought it back to my room. I had a pretty good idea what had just happened and thought I knew a way to get some sure answers.
I tied the cabbit to a chair by a short length of rope. It started to float like a balloon. The last occupants of the room had left a baseball bat in the room. I picked that up and waited for my roommate to show up.
When she came in I stood up and started to slap the bat into my hand. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Jade.”
She looked around desperately. I think she may have thought I was really upset. “I...Surely you don’t think I had anything to do with...” At that moment the cabbit dropped into the chair and Jade’s eyes got big. Then she started giggling. Then she started to laugh. I was having a hard time keeping up the upset and stern look.
“Oh, dear. That was a bit much, wasn’t it? At least we didn’t go up to the top floor.”
I was having a really hard time keeping a straight face, so I growled, “And how am I supposed to live this down?”
Jade suddenly realized that there might be more to it than just a gag and I think she got a little worried how I would react. She grabbed the stuffed lion she had been carrying with her when she arrived at the school. She attached something to it, and handed it to me.
“Here! Here’s the culprit! Knock the stuffing out of her!”
Enough was enough. I really had a pretty good time and I think everyone else did too. “I couldn’t do that. Not for real.”
Jade continued, “Jinn can’t actually feel pain, and there’s really nothing there that you can do real damage to. But she’ll put up a good show.”
This might have some potential and I didn’t want Jade to be afraid of how I would react in the future. “Really?”
“Trust me. If anything did happen, she could always just let go and instantly pop back into me.”
I picked up the lion and asked it, “You don’t mind?’
The lion answered in Jinn’s voice. “Do your worst!”
So I dropped it on the bed and bopped it on the head.
I was afraid for a moment that I had really hurt her. Then she said, “Sucker!”
Realizing that she had been kidding, I hauled off and really let her have it. The lion flattened right out and groaned.
Thinking I had gone too far again, I picked her up and apologized. She popped back into shape and said, “Not bad. Pretty good hit.”
This gave me a wonderful idea. “This is too good to keep to myself. Heh, heh...Time to share the pain.”
As I headed out the door with the bat and the lion, I heard the lion say, “Am I going to regret this?”
After everyone had a chance to whack the lion, we retreated to the common room on our floor to talk a little more. We learned some more about each other. It seems both Jade and Toni are really into Aikido.
I’ve wanted to study it for a while as well as Tai-chi. Mrs. Tanaka had us studying Ishin-ryu Karate, Judo, some of the weapons, etc. Her moto was that it didn’t mater where it came from, if it worked for you, it was right. She had us going to wrestling and boxing matches to see if we could learn anything from them.
Neither Fey or Ayla had much exposure to the martial arts. They didn’t seem too interested in them at this time either.
Toni began to explain how martial arts had become a very big part of her life and how it was nice to have something in common besides the big thing.
I figured that she meant the sex change and had to say, “Big two things, don’t forget the mutant powers bit.”
She replied. “That’s what I was talking about. OH! You meant the whole ‘turning into a girl’ bit.” She waved her hand in the air. “You know, it’s like, shit happens. Deal with it and move on.”
Fey wasn’t as enthusiastic about it. “Easy for you to say, maybe you didn’t have your whole life thrown into the toilet.” Apparently not everyone was having an easy time accepting the changes. My life had been pretty messed up too, but at least my family hadn’t totally freaked. I could tell I was a lot luckier than some.
Suddenly, Jade jumped up and cried, “It’s just not fair! You’re probably the most beautiful girl in the entire state! Some of us would die to look half as pretty as you!” She turned and ran from the room.
We just stood there and looked at each other for a moment. Then the lion said, “Girls, Who can figure them. Must be hormones or something.” We then all took turns whacking her while she muttered, “I deserved that.”
After we worked that out of our systems, we tried to decide what was wrong with Jade. By careful questioning of Jinn we determined that Jade must be jealous of the changes we had or were going through.
We also weren’t sure exactly how we were going to be able to help her. The decision was reached that we would keep or eyes open and see if there was anything that could be done.
To get off the uncomfortable subject, Toni asked me if I could give a demonstration of my powers. I didn’t feel that energy blasts and swords would be a good thing to try. Especially since I had so little control of them. So I showed them what I was good at. I flew around the room and then stood on the ceiling.
It seems that gravity doesn’t affect me unless I let it. It’s kind of fun seeing the double and triple takes I can get when people walk into a room where I am doing it. They seem to lose a little equilibrium as they try to make sense of my new reality.
About then, Jade knocked on the door frame to get our attention. She apologized for running out like that. Fey welcomed her back and I gave her a small wave hello, which she smiled at.
Fey got down to the hard part immediately. “You aren’t really jealous of someone like m..us, are you?”
She looked at Fey with such a strong need that it made me nervous and said, “You are so beautiful. I’d give almost anything to be like you.”
I realized that I was going to have to keep a close watch on her in the future. Something like that could get her and us into real trouble. I also realized that I was beginning to care for these people around me.
We had a lot in common and I felt that they were the only ones who might really understand what I was going through. I’d never had sisters before. Now I did, and another brother. I made me feel a bit better. I hadn’t lost my family, I’d found some more.
I felt the need to break up the silence. “Well... Hey! I was just telling the girls some of the things I do. I didn’t want to try and show off the energy blasts and stuff, We were warned not to destroy anything. So I showed them some of the other things I do. Next person up was going to be Fey, right?”
Ayla chipped in. “Yeah, We got part of it on the tour. Psychedelic squirrels, Turning into a girl, Forced to buy cool clothes, and which of us can’t understand that last part? But you never told us how it works.”
Fey looked a little nervous, and then straightened up. “I told you about getting power from ley lines, right?”
Jade shook her head. “I didn’t quite understand that part.”
Fey took a deep breath and started to go into a detailed lecture about how all life is linked by the powers in them. While I agree to some extent, and do believe that here is a God, Who made it all, I still believe that we are expected to make our own decisions and accept the consequences.
I had to say something and a line from Star Wars popped into my head and out my mouth.
“Kid, I’ve been from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange things. But I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.”
I think I hit a nerve where Fey is concerned. She just stuck her tongue out at me.
Toni caught on and joined in, “Yeah, remember Tennyo, hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”
“I have to agree in principle to that, although I have always felt that it is a good idea not to anger the powers that be if you don’t have to.” I grinned back.
Rubbing her head, Fey broke in. “Excuse me! I was trying to have an origin here!”
Toni apologized for us. “Sorry! Please continue.”
“No, no, you’ve ruined the mood. I’ll just cut to the chase.” She proceeded to explain that she didn’t understand it herself. That was why she had come here. It was an attempt to learn what she did and how to control it. She wouldn’t show us because she didn’t want to be the cause of any weirdness herself. She then looked at the stuffed lion and said. “Pardon me. Another weirdness outbreak.”
The lion replied, “Weird is as weird does.” Toni was the closest and whacked it a good one.
We proceeded to come to the agreement, that if we didn’t quite understand the relationship between Jade and Jinn, they were both troublemakers. After having a little fun with this Jade became tired and demonstrated how her power could make a blanket levitate her while she rested. Jinn, who now was the blanket, continued to talk to us until we decided to go back to our rooms and get ready for bed.
“I guess we’d better take off.” I looked at the blanket carrying Jade. “C’mon cabbit.”
“I’m not a cabbit now, “ the blanket protested. “Besides, you don’t have any carrots. Why should I follow you?”
“Cause I’ll lock the door if you don’t. You might be able to slip underneath, but sleeping beauty there won’t be so lucky.” We drifted down the hall to our room.
“Waaaa! My evil roommate is threatening me!”
“Shut up, you! Laundry gets no special rights in this dorm!” I could feel the others staring at us as we went into our room and wondered what kind of thoughts they had about us.
I finally had a chance to go and get a shower after we tucked Jade in. I was a little nervous, but if Jade could wear, ‘Hello Kitty,’ I could manage a public bathroom. It was a little strange, but not so different from the boys sports locker rooms. Just a different kind of person doing the same things. I tried not to stare and I think with a little practice I will be able to ignore the differences entirely. At least I hope so.
While I was drying off, Toni and Fey came in. There wasn’t anyone else in at that time and I was able to ask an embarrassing question that had been bothering me from when I first came into the showers.
Looking around to make sure no one else was there, I asked them. “Uh... this is kind of embarrassing, but can you tell me why everyone but me has a shower cap?”
They both stared at me for a moment, then Fey asked, “A shower cap?”
“Yeah, everyone else was using one. I thought that maybe it was something girls do, you know, something I’m just not aware of and should be?”
“Did you wash your hair? Toni asked.
“Uh huh, I always do.”
“It doesn’t stay wet?”
“Just a little while, then it’s dry again.”
“Just like that?”
“I’m sooo jealous!” said Fey. “It takes hours for my hair to dry unless I use a dryer or help it out with a spell.”
“Me too.” Said Toni. “Has it always been that way?”
“Ever since I changed. My hair stays this way no matter what. When we first thought of disguising me, we tried to cut and dye it. The scissors just got dull and the dyes wouldn’t even try to stick.”
Toni sighed with relief, “Well, I guess there has to be a cloud behind every silver lining.”
“Yeah.” Said Fey. “Don’t get us wrong Tennyo, your hair looks great on you, you don’t need to change a thing. But, most of us have to go through a great deal of trouble to keep our hair anywhere near presentable.”
“If it gets wet we might have to work on it for hours to straighten it out. We use shower caps for those times we don’t want to have to do that. You just came in at a time when everyone just wanted to clean up and go to bed. You might get one if you want to look a little more normal, but it doesn’t sound like you really need one.”
“Thank you. I really didn’t know. There is so much I need to learn and I was afraid that I was going to be too obvious, and that it would cause trouble.”
“Just don’t let on how easy it is for you to manage your hair and you should be safe from the others most of the time.” Toni said with a grin.
“Thanks again. I really appreciate this. I’ll get one tomorrow. See you in the morning!” With that I headed back to my room and hopefully a good nights sleep.
It would be nice to say that was all and I went to sleep and woke up bright and early. But I didn’t. I couldn’t sleep. Everything was so strange. After a while it got quiet in the hall. My alarm clock was still with my luggage. Eventually, I checked my watch and saw that it was after twelve.
I decided that I needed to go to the bathroom again. Putting on my running sweats, I headed out to the bathrooms. On the way there I decided to check downstairs first. I wasn’t sure why. It just seemed like something to do.
When I got to the common room, I looked around. I was looking for something, I wasn’t sure what. Finally I looked up. This part of the hall was over two stories high. Large rafters loomed above. Suddenly, on impulse, I rose into the air, and into the rafters.
It was oddly comforting. I finally felt as if I wasn’t under constant observation. For the moment I could relax. There didn’t seem to be any dust here so I settled down on one of the rafters and leaned against another. Then I cried. Just quiet tears that expressed my frustration over not being able to control what was happening to me. Not knowing what was expected of me. Not having a family with me.
I was homesick and hadn’t even known it. After I finally finished that up I also realized that I was very tired. Somehow the tears had cleared up a lot of the problems I had been having with myself. I finally felt a little more comfortable with the situation.
I don’t remember going back to my room. Only settling into my bed and drifting off to sleep.
I woke up to the sun shining in the window. Ayla had something when she talked about the sun being overrated. With a sigh I rolled over and realized that I hadn’t gotten out of my sweats before going to sleep. It was time to go and shower again and hopefully wake up enough to get going. There was a lot I needed to get done.
This time the showers were more crowded. Many of the girls were actually washing their hair. I watched what everyone was doing as carefully as possible without, hopefully, letting on that I was. Some were putting towels around their hair before going back to their rooms to work on it. I decided that this would work for me now.
Jade came in while I was drying off. I thought at first, that she was embarrassed by showering with the girls. I then saw that she had noticed some of the differences and not completely female bodies of some of the girls. She seemed to get over it fast. So I didn’t worry about it too much.
When I got back, I had to decide what to wear. This wasn’t difficult. I had two pairs of clean jeans. A plaid shirt, a white blouse, and a light blue, long sleeved, polo shirt. Deciding that the polo shirt went best with the rest of my wardrobe and topped off with my only pair of white tennis shoes I was ready. Yes indeed, The very height of fashion. And we teased Jade about ‘Hello Kitty’.
Jade came in shortly after that. She stared at me for a moment, hesitated, and then said, “No bra?”
Her look worried me for a moment before she said that. Kind of like the feeling I would get when I couldn’t remember if I had zipped my fly. Then I looked down and realized that she was right. It did kind of show. But I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have a clean bra until we could do laundry though.
“Why hide perfection?” I grinned and then decided to be more open with her. “Seriously, I don’t have a clean bra, and this is kind of personal, I don’t really need one. Maybe it’s a side effect of the whole levitation ability, but gravity doesn’t really seem to affect me, you know?”
“Go ahead, make me even more jealous.” She made a point of looking through her clothing.
“Well it’s not like I asked for this. It was my stupid brother’s fault. I still feel like strangling him.”
She continued dressing. She was obviously thinking of something else for the moment. Maybe I could ask her to help me buy some clothes. She seemed to know what to wear. Besides the, ‘Hello Kitty,’ anyway. She then shook her head, “Hey, do you mind...”
There was a knock on the door and I opened it. Ayla, Toni, and Fey were outside waiting for us. “Interested in breakfast?” Toni asked.
I answered, “I’m ravenous. How about you Jade?”
Jade was near her bed and a bundle of clothes was on it. “I was about to ask if anyone minded if I brought Jinn along, too?”
“Actually, we were hoping to meet her.” said Toni.
“That’s right. I promised you last night.” Jade turned back to the bundle of clothes and touched them.
Ayla said something about inventing some new pronouns as the clothes rose into the air and formed into Jinn.
Jinn started to rearrange her face. “Sorry, let me just get my face on.”
Fey commented on how that used to mean something completely different. I couldn’t agree more.
After that, we were able to head for the Crystal Hall and breakfast. There was a lot more activity at the other halls as students and parents showed up. There was not so much activity at the more remote halls as many of those students had already arrived. There were still a few coming in, however, and the red lights and flags were up.
We made some plans for the rest of the day as we walked to breakfast. I would be pretty busy for the first part of the day trying to get my errant luggage and finding out what my schedule was going to be like.
I was a little jealous, everyone seems to have gotten some kind of introductory packet. Somehow, mine seems to have been forgotten. I didn’t want to display more ignorance than necessary,too nd just went along with the others. Maybe I could find one or borrow Jade’s later. And I was hoping for a chance to get together with Toni later to try out our martial arts also.
What worried me most at this time was the fact that I wouldn’t have a chance until the afternoon to try to get some uniforms. From what Fey was saying, I would miss out on the best opportunities to get some good ones. Hopefully, some would be left for me.
After breakfast I had to excuse myself and head for admin to see about getting a ride into the station to get my luggage.
Admin was total confusion. I had to go from line to line in an attempt to find the person in charge of the transportation to and from the station. There were several vans coming and going. But they weren’t accepting any rides into town at this time. Only someone with a pass signed by the Assistant to the Administrator could get a ride into town.
I was finally directed to the office of Ms. Amelia Hartford, Assistant to the Administer. She didn’t actually have an office. It was more like a semi private desk. But you weren’t allowed to speak to her until she indicated to the secretary that she could see you.
She had me wait fifteen minutes while she did nothing but work on her computer. Finally, she sent a message over an intercom, I watched her do it. The secretary then told me I could see her. As I approached I could see her glaring at me and then her terminal.
“Who are you and why are you bothering me at this time, can’t you see we are busy?” She barked as I approached. I didn’t like her attitude one bit, but decided I would get more by being polite.
Ms Hartford was dressed in a dark business suit with a calf length skirt. She probably stood about 5' 8", really slender, blonde hair tied into a severe bun, and dark plastic, rectangular glasses. She had a large, stylized, gold A on her lapel. I would learn later that she was an alumnus of the Academy and a former member of the Alphas of that time.
“I’m Billie Wilson ma’am, and I have come to see you about getting a pass into town to get my luggage.”
“We are very busy now and space on the vans is in great demand right now. Why, if you are here now, is your luggage not with you?” I had seen several vans leave with no one but their driver, and somehow she was making it sound as if I had deliberately arranged this to interfere with her work, whatever that was.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but my luggage was delayed and didn’t arrive with me yesterday. It’s supposed to be at the station today.”
“So, your going into town dressed and looking like that to are you? Don’t you realize what a bad impression you are giving to everyone?”
I just stood there self consciously. I didn’t have a clue what she meant. It’s got to be one of those things I didn’t know yet. Well, I still had to do something.
“No ma’am, I wasn’t aware of that. But until I can buy some...”
She didn’t give me a chance to finish.“This is your first year here? I don’t remember seeing you before. And where is your chaperon?”
Chaperon? What does she mean by a chaperon? I didn’t need any just to pick up my luggage. If my parents can trust me to cross half the continent on my own, why would I need a chaperon now?
She must have interpreted my silence at least somewhat correctly. “You can’t expect us to just let you wander around without an escort can you? What would your parents say?”
Very reasonable and under other circumstances a true thing to say. But, she managed to put so much evil enjoyment into it that all I wanted to do was wipe the smile off her face.
“Until you can get an escort, and bring them here to prove that you have one we can trust to keep you out of trouble, I’m afraid I cannot in good conscience give you a pass.” She knew she was screwing me over and was enjoying every moment of it.
“And don’t try anything on your own either.” She might have been reading my mind as I considered flying into town. “There are severe punishments for those who don’t obey our rules.” I was sure she enjoyed enforcing those rules way too much.
“I can’t imagine what the superintendent’s are thinking, letting poor, uneducated, uncultured, little urchins like...”
“I would imagine that we Superintendents are trying to raise the standards of our students to a new and better level, wouldn’t you think?”
This was delivered by a strong, cultured, sarcastic, manly voice that almost made me jump to the ceiling again. I think that if she had been able to Ms. Hartford would have joined me. Neither of us had seen or heard him approach.
Standing next to the desk was a man of American Indian ancestry, standing about 5' 6", maybe 30 years old, a stocky, muscular build, and short cropped black hair. There was a definite air of challenge to him and he seemed to tower over the desk without trying to. He was dressed in traditional western dress, jeans, cowboy boots, plaid shirt, but no hat. He was clean shaven and something about him hinted at a sense of humor.
After recovering from her start, a very angry Ms. Hartford spoke to the gentleman who had just interrupted her play. “Mr. Lodgeman! How dare you interrupt our discussion! How are we ever going to teach these...these...”
“I believe the correct word would be students.” He supplied.
“Students. Correct behavior and respect for their superiors...”
“Don’t you think that ‘superiors’ has the wrong connotations Ms. Hartford?”
This was obviously a long standing and bitter disagreement that Mr. Lodge... wait, hadn’t Mr. Tanaka mentioned that Charlie Lodgeman was his old friend that I was supposed to contact. He was a superintendent? No wonder he was able to get me in. He and Ms. Hartford didn’t get along very well and being a friend of Mr. Tanaka helped me to like him right off. His more laid back attitude suited me much better.
“I’ll use whatever word suits the situation, thank you very much!” Ms. Hartman was flustered and not ready for this confrontation with someone ready and willing to mix it up with her.
“If you want to teach our young and impressionable students, maybe you should put more thought into what you are saying, so as not to give them the wrong ideas about the advisability of listening to us in the future. We wouldn’t want to give them the wrong impressions about how we feel about our responsibilities, would we?”
Realizing that she couldn’t win this she changed the subject. “Mr. Lodgeman, you surely have more important things to do than interfere with my duties. What brings you here.”
“I was supposed to have received an important message some days ago. I have been informed that you received it, but I haven’t seen it yet. You wouldn’t have any idea where it might have gotten to, would you?”
“Yes. Is it not part of your duties to route messages to the various staff members?”
“As you know, I can’t be responsible for incorrectly addressed mail. If you could give me some idea of who sent it I might be able to find it for you.” She said this with a nasty smile.
“If you were aware that it was incorrectly addressed, you probably had a good idea where it should go anyway. Why wouldn’t you follow up to make sure?”
“We are ‘VERY BUSY’ at this time of year. It is an unfortunate possibility that we didn’t have time to follow up on all the messages that were initially mis-routed.”
“Could you possibly find time in your onerous schedule to find this message, please?”
She turned to her console, and after sorting through some files, she turned back, “You probably will find the message you are looking for in the mail room. I believe Nicholas has it, if anyone does. Does that make you happy?”
“That and the location of a student who probably arrived yesterday. A Billie Wilson if I am not mistaken.”
I almost jumped up then. I was certain that I was right and this was the Charlie Lodgeman I was supposed to contact.
“Why would you need to know where a student was staying?”
“Her parents wanted me to check up on her and make sure she’s alright. Their friends of the family.” I could see the wheels turning in her head and was sure that she would look into this more carefully. I thought this might cause problems in the future.
Turning back to her console she looked through more files. “She is listed as staying in...” She glanced at me, an odd look on her face, and I wondered how much she knew or guessed. “Uh..two-sixteen,...in Poe Hall.” I noticed that she hadn’t indicated that I was there with them.
“Poe huh? Well, I will look her up as soon as I get my message. Thank you so much for your help.”
“Anytime, Mr. Lodgeman, anytime.” He walked away and she turned back to me. I was sure she wanted to take some of her obvious ire for him out on me. I decided to head her off before she got a chance.
“I know, I know... I need a chaperon to go into town. I’ll go get one now. Have a nice day! Bye!”
“Miss Wilson! I am not finished with you!”
“Sorry, VERY BUSY, you know how it is. Too many things to do! Not enough time to do them!” I gave her a wave as I headed out of the room. If looks could kill, I might have ended up in the morgue.
I noticed that the secretary was having some kind of problem and dropped something on the floor where she immediately ducked down to look for it.
Looking around, I could see Mr. Lodgeman heading rapidly down the hall. I hurried after him. I caught up with him as he entered the Post Office which was located in the admin building near the Book Store.
“Mr. Lodgeman! Please wait up!”
He turned and looked at me curiously. Then he recognized me. “How can I help you Miss?
“Uh... Are you by any chance Mr. Charlie Lodgeman?”
I had his full attention now. “Why do you want to know?”
“Mr. Tanaka told me to contact a Mr. Charlie Lodgeman when I got here. Oh! I’m Billie Wilson! But, I prefer to be called Tennyo.”
I was kind of nervous and babbling. I wasn’t sure how he would react to me and I really wanted to make a good impression. I knew I was going to be needing his help and I didn’t want to screw it up.
He stared at me for a moment. Then he smiled, “I was expecting someone a little taller.”
“Sorry, an old joke.”
I blushed and dropped my eyes.
“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you in there.” He pointed down the hall.
“Not at all. If anything, you saved me. I don’t think she feels fulfilled until she has ruined at least one person’s day in some way.”
“Really, you figured that out that quickly?”
“I think it had something to do with the smell of brimstone and the little horns on her head.”
He chuckled. “That obvious huh?”
I smiled, “She would need a sandwich board sign with, ‘Super Bitch,’ on it to be more obvious.”
“You would be surprised to know how many people can’t see the obvious. Even with someone like her.”
“My Mom didn’t raise her boy to be an idiot.” I suddenly realized what I just said and almost panicked.
He took me by the shoulders before I could run. “It’s okay. Eric told me about your little problem. Just try to be a little more cautious in the future. Okay?”
I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to talk just yet. It would probably come out as a squeak. I couldn’t believe I had said that. I was so embarrassed.
“I need to get my message. I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”
He went into the Post Office and I waited for him in the hall.
A few minutes later he came out and I almost ran. I don’t think I’d seen somebody so mad in a long time.
“Those idiots! Can’t they understand how important this is!”
He turned to me, “I’m sorry, I have to head down to the station right now. Maybe we can get together later.” He then spun around and headed towards the doors out.
“Wait! Please take me with you!”
He turned to me. “What? Why?”
“I need to get my luggage. It was delayed and is at the station. That was why I was trying to see Ms. Hartford. I needed a pass to use the shuttle, but she said I couldn’t get one without a trusted chaperon.”
“And you think I can fill the position?”
“Well, I don’t think you fit the trusted part as far as she is concerned, but I think you fit the bill better than anyone else at this late date. Please let me come.”
“Okay. But we have to hurry. The train will be arriving any time now and I need to be there to greet Harry. If we don’t, there could be trouble.”
“Yeah. Harry Wolfe.”
“Harry Wolfe?” I had to wonder about the perversity of some parents.
“It’s a long story. Come on, we need to get going.”
We went out to the parking lot where Mr. Lodgeman had an old AMC Wagoneer. I hadn’t seen one in ages, but this one seemed in top condition.
“You restore old cars?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No, these new-fangled things always seem to get the best of me. But Harry is an absolute genius. Even I can’t keep these broken when he’s around. I have to admit, it’s one of the reasons I pushed so hard to get him to come here. He would never reach his full potential hiding in the sticks fixing old cars and the like.”
“So, you know Harry?” We were climbing in as we talked. I noticed he hadn’t locked the doors. He obviously felt safe here.
“His family and I go back a long way. I’ve been trying to help them with a little problem for years. Sherry could have done a better job...” His words trailed off and for a moment I saw an old pain in his face.
“Well, anyway. I’m hoping that some of the others here will have better insight into what can be done for him and his family. And, it will give him a chance to study more complex machinery. Along with the physical problems, the curse on his family has given him an incredible rapport and ability to control and modify machinery.”
He looked at me for a moment and went back to his driving. “This won’t go any further than here, right?”
“Okay. I’m going to trust you with this. About eighty years ago, Harry’s grandfather stirred up the ire of a local witch when he chose to marry some other girl rather than her daughter. We really don’t have the details, but it seems that the witch’s daughter was somewhat homely and took it kind of personal.”
“She convinced her mother to put a curse on his family. The stipulation was that when Harry’s grandfather could overcome his aversion for the homely girl, and marry her the curse would end. No one took the curse too seriously and the witch and girl left the area. Harry’s grandfather and grandmother simply ignored the curse.”
“Not to many months passed and nature took its course. They had a truly beautiful daughter. They then proceeded to have five others. All incredibly beautiful. Some people started to figure that the curse was that they would never have a son. The seventh child was a boy. Have you seen The Howling?”
I was lost for a moment before I realized he was talking about the movie about werewolves and a news reporter. I nodded back at him.
“Alright, then I can tell you that Red looked just like one of the werewolves.”
“Red?” I couldn’t help wincing a little as I said it.
“Yep. His hair, uh fur, oh whatever! It was kind of reddish in color. So they named him Red.”
“And Harry?” I could feel my eyebrows trying to climb off my face.
“Hey, there’s no accounting for the perverseness of some parents. Maybe it’s something about the curse also.” I was somewhat amazed at how closely we were thinking on that subject.
Taking my silence as a cue to continue he started into the story again. “Anyway, they decided to not have any more children after that. Red grew up healthy and strong. He also had a knack with plants. It was like he could talk to them and make them do what he wanted them to do. It really is amazing. He has a topiary garden you wouldn’t believe.”
“To make a long story short, they tried to find the witch, but she was long gone. So was her daughter. They came to me because I was living in the mountains nearby as a hermit and they thought I might be able to help. It was what finally got me over... my wife.” That pain was back, but it faded as he continued his story.
“I don’t know why I got involved, it just seemed like the right thing to do. But I couldn’t do anything for them. Red took it well and became the best farmer imaginable. He even found a wife. She wasn’t put off by his looks and finally cornered him into agreeing to marry her. They are about the happiest couple I’ve ever met.”
“Anyway, they proceeded to have six beautiful daughters. Nothing odd about them at all except for their incredible good looks. Sixteen years ago they had Harry. A grayer color, but pretty much like his father. As you know, Harry has a knack with machines. I couldn’t do anything about the curse, but his talent is being wasted out in the boonies. He needs to expand his horizons.”
“I finally convinced his parents to let me train him here by promising to take good care of him. I figure that it will also help him to know that there are others like him in the world.”
“He was supposed to be here a week ago, but there was a delay. The message that I didn’t receive until now was telling me the alternate arrangements that had to be made. Somehow, Ms. Hartford managed to lose it until I tracked it down just now. I didn’t think she would stoop so low as to possibly hurt an innocent and the school. Shows how easy it is to underestimate the lengths someone will go to try and make a point.”
“He’ll be coming in on the train today and we need to get him to school as quietly as possible. He will be kind of hard to miss. He’s about six eight. Hopefully he has managed to cover himself up a bit. Otherwise it’s going to be a little difficult for us. If only I had time to prepare.”
“I should have asked you earlier. Will you be okay with this?” He hurried on before I could answer, “He won’t hurt anyone. He is a true gentleman and wouldn’t cause any trouble if he can help it, but he can be pretty scary if you don’t understand him like I do.”
“I’ll be fine! He can’t be any scarier than my brothers.” I grinned as I said this.
He grinned back. “Eric did say you were remarkable. I’m beginning to see what he meant.”
I don’t know why, but I must have blushed a deep crimson.
He chuckled a little and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll do just fine!” We drove into the parking lot at the station just then. He quickly found a parking spot and we climbed out.
“Why don’t you see if you can find your bags and I will see if I can find Harry. It looks as if the train has already arrived. We’ll meet back here as quickly as possible, okay?”
He headed towards the passenger area and I headed for the baggage area. As I approached I recognized the station master and headed towards him. I think he would have avoided me if he could, but I can move fast when I want to. I caught him before he could reach his office.
“Is my luggage here yet?” I asked as I approached.
“Y-yes, they are. Do you have your ticket stubs?” He seemed very nervous.
“Right here!” And I handed them to him.
He looked around and said, “Okay I will get them for you. Please stay right here.” He then rushed into his office. I was really beginning to wonder if something was wrong.
Another thing about my change. These large ears are really sensitive. You would be amazed by what I can hear. I had looked around and noticed that there didn’t seem to be anyone else here. That seemed a little strange. Then I caught the sound of someone taunting someone else. It seemed to waver in and out of my hearing and I think if my ears weren’t so good I would have missed it entirely. It was coming from behind the station masters office.
This was strange and I couldn’t resist the chance to explore it a little. Ignoring the Station Masters admonition I proceeded around the corner.
As soon as I turned the corner I could see three kids about my age or maybe a little older gathered around and shoving a person draped in a monk like robe and hood. This person towered over them and I had a pretty good idea that he must be Harry. The sounds that I could almost make out before suddenly got louder as I approached.
The three boys were very well dressed in suits that I believed were school uniforms. They all looked like football players. Over six feet tall and muscled with crew cuts. The one doing most of the talking, and the one I believed to be the leader, had pure white hair. The other two had blonde hair. They all had grins on their faces and were obviously looking for a fight.
“What’s a rat faced, poor trash, hick like you expect to get out of going to school? Get back on the train before they call in a lynch mob and burn you at the stake!” All the time they kept moving into position to push and try to trip whoever was in the robe.
“Leave me alone! I don’t want any trouble. I was asked to come here.” The voice was an incredibly deep rumble, almost a growl.
“Where are they then? I bet that’s just a story you’re using to try and get into the school. I bet you’re hoping as soon as you get there that they’ll take you in out of pity.”
“Mr. Lodgeman invited me. He was supposed to meet me here. Let me alone and I will go and see if I can find him.”
“I have a better idea freak!” Said the leader. “Why don’t you just get on the train and go back to where you belong! Here, to show you we have no bad feelings we even paid for your ticket home.” He waved what looked like a set of tickets in the face of the robed person.
“No. I am to meet Mr. Lodgeman here.” The robed guy was being pushed up against a concrete warehouse wall. Things looked like they were going to get out of hand any moment.
“Listen freak! You are getting back on that train now, whether you like it or not!” They were starting to close in, but they hadn’t noticed me yet.
“HARRY!” I yelled. I think they all jumped about three feet into the air. “There you are! C’mon Mr. Lodgeman is waiting for us. I put a big smile on my face as I approached. They spun to face me and the look of confusion on their faces would inspire many a chuckle in the future when I remembered them and this moment.
One of the blondes turned to the other, at this range it was easy to see their family resemblance, “Hey, I thought you were keeping everyone away?” The other had a look of confusion on his face. He replied, “I don’t understand, nobody should be paying any attention to us.”
I used this moment to step past them and grab Harry’s elbow. Still with a smile on my face, I pulled on his arm and started to pull him away with me. “C’mon! We’re going to be late!”
Just then the leader of their little group stepped forward into our path. “Hold on you freaks. Your not going anywhere but away on that train.” He looked at me with disdain. “You might as well join him. We don’t need any of your kind around here either.” He reached for me and I was preparing a surprise for him, when Harry stepped forward and blocked him.
“Leave her alone! And apologize for your rudeness!” His growl had become much more threatening. I felt the hair on my neck lifting. Harry had gone from being polite and trying to avoid conflict, to actively pursuing it. White hair backed up quickly. Looking somewhat confused at the sudden change in Harry’s attitude.
The other two got over their confusion and started to move in. White hair started to get his confidence back. I could see ice starting to form around his hands. I was starting to get mad myself. I could feel a deadness around me now and for a moment I felt weak. Then I felt a burst of heat strangely familiar and frightening to me, and my strength came back with a rush and then some.
Blonde number one was coming in from the left and I moved to intercept him. He saw me coming and tried to backhand me. I saw it coming from a mile away, and just rotated down and away. At the same time I pivoted on my hips and snapped my right leg forward. The tip of my foot connecting solidly with a physically sensitive area of his anatomy. He folded up, just like Sensei said he would.
I turned back to the others. Harry had turned on Blonde number two who had quickly retreated. I can’t say as I can blame him. Harry’s hood had fallen back and he really did look like one of the werewolves from the Howling. White hair was obviously preparing some kind of blast that I assumed was of the colder nature.
“Don’t!” He looked in my direction and took in the many dots of energy forming and circling around us. He then looked at Blonde number two. “Your supposed to be blocking her!” He said.
Blonde number two shrugged while backing out of the way. “She’s different! I can’t seem to touch her power!”
He looked back at me and sweat broke out on his face. I think at that time he realized that I meant to blast him if he tried anything. Maybe it was my eyes. Harry told me later that they had started to glow crimson.
“Take your friend and get out of here!” I growled myself, motioning to Blonde One, who was still wrapped around himself. It was at this time I noticed the stylized A that each had on his suit. I began to wonder if this was even more complicated than I thought.
They knew when they were beaten. They grabbed their friend and dragged him away. After I was certain they had left, I relaxed a little and felt the heat and energy fade away. The little dots disappeared and normal sound came back.
Harry pulled his hood back over his face and came towards me. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Who were those jerks.”
“I don’t know. I arrived here and was heading over to the station offices to find out if anyone was waiting for me or left a message. Suddenly, everyone else just walked away and those three came out of the office and pushed me back here. They kept telling me to leave. And I think they were going to try to beat me up when you showed up.”
He looked at me. “Who are you anyway? I don’t think we’ve ever met, but you seem to know who I am.”
“I came here with Mr. Lodgeman to pick you up. I’m sorry, but the message telling him you would be delayed and when you would be getting here was misdirected and he didn’t get it until just now.” I was beginning to wonder if someone had read it and tried to keep anyone from being there when Harry showed up. I was going to have to talk to Mr. Lodgeman about this later.
“Mr. Lodgeman is here?”
“Yes. He went to look for you while I came to get my luggage.”
“Yeah. My luggage was delayed and I had to come back to get it today. Oh! I’m Billie Wilson, but my friends call me Tennyo.” I stuck out my hand to shake.
He hesitated for a moment and then extended his hand. It was huge! Mine disappeared in his and he gave it a tentative shake. “Uh... Am I a friend?”
“Do you want to be?” I couldn’t help but smile at him.
“Is it healthy not to be?” I think he was grinning also, but couldn’t be sure because of the hood.
“Of course not. But you have to make your own decisions in these maters.”
“Then, may I call you Tennyo?”
“If that’s what you want to do. I won’t bite your head off if you do.”
“Okay, Tennyo. What do we do now?”
“Well, let’s finish getting our luggage. You do have luggage?” He nodded yes.
“Then we go and find Mr. Lodgeman, and blow this popsicle stand.”
“Okay, lead the way oh mighty maiden.”
“I prefer Tennyo, thank you.”
“Certainly, Mighty Miss.”
“Your cruisin’ for a bruisin’ my friend.” And then spoiled it by giggling.
By this time we reached the front of the building. The Station Master was looking around desperately. My trunk and duffle bag were on a cart next to him. When he saw us, his face went white. I had a sneaky suspicion that maybe he knew more of what was going on. But I couldn’t think of a good way to get the info from him.
“Where have you been?” His voice almost squeaked.
“Just around the corner, meeting my friend here. Sorry to worry you. Thank you for getting my stuff.” I smiled at him. Any moment I expected him to maybe run or faint. “Could you please help us find my friends luggage also?”
“Uh... wasn’t he leaving, I mean I was told he would be leaving. Uh.. We were just going to load them back on the train.”
“Who told you that?”
“S-someone from the school.”
“I-I don’t know, they didn’t give me a name. But they were wearing the school uniform. I was sure that they were here to help.”
I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice as I replied, “Well, there’s been a change of plans, Mr. Wolfe will be leaving with us. Please arrange to have his luggage brought here... now!”
He turned and ran off.
“They were sure I was going to be leaving, weren’t they? Said Harry.
“Yeah. It sure looks like it. I wonder who is behind it and why?”
“Harry!” Mr. Lodgeman was approaching from the parking lot.
“Mr. Lodgeman! It’s good to see you again. Harry was nervously twisting his sleeves.
“You had me worried. I couldn’t find you and for some reason nobody seemed to remember seeing you at all. Hi Billie! It seems you have had more success in finding our wandering student. Anything exciting happening? You haven’t been seen by anyone have you Harry?
“Only Tennyo here. And three boys who were trying to send me back home.”
“What!?” He looked closely at both of us. “And by the way, you should use proper names when away from the school.”
We looked at each other and back at him. “We didn’t know, sorry.” I said.
“It’s all in the introductory packet. Didn’t you read it?”
Harry and I looked at each other again, turned back to him and asked in unison, “What packet?”
“Neither of you have received the packet?” He looked confused for a moment. “What’s going on here? And what have you two been up to?” He was staring right at me when he said it, and I was feeling strangely embarrassed.
“Maybe we should start at the beginning. Harry, you first.”
Harry told him about his trip here and how when he arrived he was cornered by the three boys. He then told an incredible story about my just showing up and driving them off with an amazing display of martial arts and power. Mr. Lodgeman turned to me and I tried to correct some of the more obvious errors of Harry’s story, but I don’t think he was listening closely to what I was saying.
“I know the boys you’re talking about. They are usually a nasty group to tangle with. I wonder who put them up to this? You were both luckier than you know.”
Just then, the Station Master arrived with Harry’s luggage. He seemed to be in a hurry to get us out of there and insisted on helping us load the trunks in the truck. I think he was more in the way than anything else. Harry had two trunks and a large tool box. Mr. Lodgeman looked at that and then at Harry.
Harry shrugged and said, “I couldn’t leave them at home. Everyone else would just lose them, and I’d have to break in a new set.” Mr. Lodgeman just turned away, muttering something about mechanics and their tools.
I had to stand aside while they wrestled with the luggage. I could have handled it all easily but they insisted and I couldn’t very well display my strength out in the open for everyone to see. I was able to distract the Station Master long enough for the other two to get the heavier stuff loaded behind his back.
After we got everything loaded we piled into the cab. We pulled out of the station and headed into town rather than towards the school.
“We need to make a stop before we return.” Said Mr. Lodgeman. He proceeded to drive into the business district and pulled up in front of a store called ‘Rogers Fabric Boutique’.
“Come in, both of you.” The door was an old glass fronted type with a bell that rang when we opened it. There was the unmistakable smell of fabrics and the front was brighter than you would think from looking inside.
Mr. Lodgeman called out, “Cecilia! We’re here! Now be very polite you two. Miss Rogers is possibly the best seamstress in the world and she has had unique experience with difficult projects. We are probably going to need her help and she is very particular about who she associates with. Rub her the wrong way and you will be lucky if you ever see her again.”
Given this warning, I was expecting an older lady. Much to my surprise, a woman who looked to be in her mid twenties came out from the back. She looked just like a model. She had long brunette hair pulled back into a pony tail, white blouse and slacks, and a sleeveless shop coat with many pockets and several items I assumed were for her business.
“Charlie! It’s a pleasure as always!” Her smile was stunning and I didn’t think there could be many people as graceful as her. She just glided towards us. “And who have you brought me today?” She moved up to Harry. “Is this the young man you said would need my help? My, you are a tall one. Now, step back into my more private area and take the robe off.”
She took his arm and led him into the rear of the boutique. “Fortunately, no one else is here now. That will make this much easier.”
The back area had many sewing manikins and a large booth with a privacy screen. Standing next to that and connected by several large wires was a robot looking thing. The wires were connected to a platform that the robot thing stood on. I vaguely noticed that the several manikins had clothing of many types draped on them, but I was paying more attention to Harry. He seemed mesmerized by the contraption in the rear.
“Young man?” Miss Rogers was trying to get Harry’s attention. Mr. Lodgeman was grinning as he watched. Harry drifted towards the machine.
“What is it?” He murmured, reaching out to stroke the contraption.
“Harry! Miss Rogers needs you to get out of your cloak!” Mr. Lodgeman’s voice cut through Harry’s daze enough to get his attention and he turned away from the machine.
“What?” He still didn’t seem to be in the same room with us.
“Your cloak! Get out of your cloak!” Said Mr. Lodgeman.
Obeying slowly, Harry stripped his cloak off and dropped it on the floor. Underneath he was wearing some cut off jeans and a sleeveless, buttoned down jean vest.
“Wow!” I couldn’t help myself. I just had to say something. He really did look like one of those werewolves. You could also see the odd curve of his legs and long arms. Both which ended in long claws.
For some odd reason he seemed to hear what I said more than he had heard the others. Then he replied, and I felt a touch of guilt as I also heard an old pain in his voice.
“You think this is impressive?” He stood up straight and tall. “How does it feel to be in the presence of a monster!”
The guilt I was feeling for making him feel that way with my carelessness also made me somewhat angry, and I replied, as I rose to his face level, with a little heat of my own. “Well, how does it feel to be in the presence of the Galaxy Police’s Most Wanted Space Pirate!”
We were face to face and I suddenly realized that everyone in the room, including Harry, was looking at me with surprised and blank looks of incomprehension. I started to blush as I realized what I had just said, and started to rub the back of my neck again.
“Uh, you guys don’t watch much anime do you? You know, Tenchi Muyo and... other... uh... stuff?” As I slowly wound down, I could have sworn I could here crickets chirping.
“I think I heard something about it.” Said Harry quietly.
I looked at him again. I think he was trying to grin a little.
I blushed some more. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.” I hurried on. “It’s just that you look so cool.”
He seemed really startled by my response. “You think I look cool?’
“Uh, yeah! I think your pretty neat.”
I could probably have knocked him down with a feather. He might have been blushing and his jaw had dropped wide open.
“Ahem! Children!” Said Miss Rogers. “Harry, please move into my cabinet.” She indicated the booth in the back of the room. Harry stood still a moment looking at me while I blushed under his scrutiny. He then quickly moved into the booth. It had to be about eight feet tall and five feet on a side. She then pushed a button on a pad she was holding.
The door closed. Shortly after that I could barely hear some kind of noise that sounded like a voice coming from inside.
I was concentrating so hard, I almost missed Mr. Lodgeman’s attempt to get my notice. “Billie, public displays of powers is also frowned upon if you don’t have good reason to.”
I suddenly realized I was floating about two feet off the floor. “Sorry. I don’t know what came over me there.” I said as I drifted back to the ground.
Miss Rogers was watching me closely. “Please come over here dear.”
I glanced over at Mr. Lodgeman. He nodded and said’ “Go ahead, she doesn’t bite without good reason.” and grinned.
“Hush Charlie. Can’t you see she is terribly confused? You aren’t helping at all. Come on, I’m not going to hurt you.” I moved cautiously closer until she motioned me to stop. She then paced around me, examining me from head to foot.
“Billie, please, my name is Billie.”
“Very well, Billie. Now as I was going to ask, do you dress like this all the time?”
“Uh, do you mean like this?” I indicated what I was wearing right now.
“Yes dear... I mean Billie. Like that.”
“Well, it’s the only clothes that I have right now you see. Uh, I was intending to buy more when I could. I just haven’t had a chance to. I’m not really good at this kind of thing, and...”
“And, you need some help?”
“Uh, yes ma’am. I do, uh, I’m... not very good at this ...and...”
“You have no idea where to start, is that it?”
I was blushing like mad and staring at the floor. Very quietly I replied, “Yes ma’am.”
“How long have you been a girl?”
When she said that I was almost ready to die. I hadn’t believed it was so obvious. Then Harry, who had poked his head out of the booth exclaimed.
“How long has she been a... girl?!?”
I must have gone as red as a fire hydrant, and was trying to find a crack in the floor to crawl into. Miss Rogers spoke in a low but very menacing voice.
“Young man! If you so much as say a single thing about this you will wish you were dead a thousand times over, and that is only what I will do to you. I will also tell your parents, whom I have been assured, will deal with you in a timely and prompt manner!” The force and promise of that statement by Miss Rogers made Harry’s head disappear with amazing suddenness.
A muffled sorry came from the now closed booth.
“You will continue with the program until I tell you to stop. Do you understand”
Shortly after that, the noises started up again.
Miss Rogers turned to me again. “I want to hear your story now.” It was said pleasantly but with the force of iron behind it.
I gave her the modified version that the Tanaka’s had given me. I’m sure she was not totally convinced, but she wasn’t going to argue at this time either.
“So, you’ve been a girl for about six weeks?”
She stared at me for a few moments. Then turned to the booth. “Harry, you can come out now.”
He emerged very carefully, ready to retreat at a moments notice.
“What did you hear?”
“How good are those ears?”
“So you heard....?”
“E..everything?” He looked around desperately for a moment, “I promise not to tell anyone, cross my heart!”
“Very well. If you can keep this to yourself, I won’t have to do anything unpleasant. Do you understand?”
“You!” I almost jumped through the ceiling.
“Uh, yes ma’am?”
“Go into the booth now.”
When I entered the booth, I found myself in a cubicle, approximately eight feet tall by five feet deep and wide. A mechanical voice told me to strip out of my clothes and place them in a container that came out of the back wall.
After I did this. I was told to take various positions like sitting, standing, arms out to my sides , etc. While I did this beams of light washed over me. After a while, this stopped and my clothes were returned to me and I was instructed to dress. The door opened after I was dressed and I carefully moved back into the room.
“We’re almost done here dear. Please be patient and I will be with you shortly.” Miss Rogers was working on something on the robot like thing. As I looked closer I could see that it was clothing of some sort. I looked closer and realized that it must be the same kind of uniform I had seen the three boys wearing at the station. Except that it was larger.
As I turned to look around I got another shock. Harry was standing there. In a school uniform. And it fit! There was a hood/helmet arrangement that would help hide his head, gloves, shoes, and the cut of it helped hide the more obvious differences. It would cover up many of the differences and still managed to look good on him. He was standing back and was obviously very nervous.
I didn’t know what to say. I was sure that now that he knew about me, he probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I was saddened and afraid to look him in the eye. I felt him move closer to me.
“Are you really a Space Pirate?”
Not expecting that at all. I looked up into his face and saw him grinning down at me.
I couldn’t help myself and grinned back. “Are you really a Hairy Monster Werewolf?”
“I won’t tell if you don’t.” He said.
“Deal! Our secrets are safe!” And I extended my hand to him.
He took my hand and we shook on it.
“Good! Now that you have worked that out, we can get to work on other things.” Miss Rogers said as she came forward with another suit similar to the one Harry was already wearing, except, this one was gabardine green and not grey. It was on a hanger and covered with plastic to keep it clean. “Here you go Harry, This should hold you until I can get the others finished.” She handed him the suit and turned to me.
“Now for you young lady. Come up here with me.” We moved onto the platform. The robot like shape was shrinking down from its almost seven foot height to my size even as I moved up. It started to take a definitely female shape. Streams of fabric started to flow from shelves around us.
Right before my eyes, there formed a white bra and panties set on the now definitely female manikin. A silk like slip then formed over them and a calf length school uniform blouse and skirt formed over them. The skirt was black with white trim. A school jacket, with the same color scheme as the skirt then formed. It had the Whateley crest on the left breast. Knee length white socks and a set of black loafers with a low heel then formed. This all happened in a matter of moments.
They then lifted off the manikin, folded up and presented themselves to me. As I grasped them, they went limp in my hands.
Pointing to a dressing room that was now visible from the platform Miss Rogers told me to go and get properly dressed. It probably took me fifteen minutes to figure out the proper way to dress myself in these new clothes. A carrying bag was provided to help hold my old clothes, which I placed in it.
By the time I returned from the dressing room, she had prepared another identical suit and a similar suit with a floor length skirt and long sleeves for formal occasions. This one also had white ruffles around the neck, arms, and legs.
“I will be making a complete set for you, but this should get you through until I can complete the set.” Miss Rogers looked at me carefully and then smiled. “Some of my best work, I’m sure. Take a good look at yourself.” She motioned towards some mirrors.
I felt like everyone was staring at me . When I looked around, I realized everyone in the room was. Mr. Lodgeman and Harry seemed surprised and Miss Rogers was amused. I moved over to the mirrors and got one of the biggest surprises of my short life.
Looking back at me was a girl. I had known this since I woke up in the hospital the first time. But I really hadn’t seen myself. I was finally coming to terms with the idea that I looked like Ryoko, an imaginary being. Since I had seen myself in the kimono I’d accepted that.
But since that time I’d been dressing like a boy. Now I was looking at me in the mirror and it was a girl, in a girls uniform, looking back at me. I could look past the face and hair and see the body covered by clothing meant for a female. Clothing that fit it well.
“Wow!” Said Harry.
I turned so red I’m surprised that meteorologists in the area didn’t note the unusually rosy sky.
Mr. Lodgeman and Miss Rogers just grinned and smiled respectively
“You look really good in that.”
“Thank you Harry. One does ones best.” Said Miss Rogers.
I just stood there and looked at myself and Miss Rogers, wondering at the sudden transformation.
“Don’t worry Billie. You’ll get used to it soon. It’s about time you came out of that cocoon you’ve been in.” Miss Rogers turned to Mr. Lodgeman. “I expect to see her at least once more before classes. You will see to it?”
“If you feel that it is necessary, I will certainly make sure it is done.” He smiled and gave her a small bow.
“I think it will be necessary if we are to get her properly attired for this season. I would also like to talk to her a little without so many prying ears around.” She was looking at Harry when she said this and he had the decency to look embarrassed.
“How long do you think it will take to get their wardrobes ready?” Mr. Lodgeman asked.
“I will have them ready in two days. Will you be able to pick them up then?”
“I should be able to bring Billie in with me and pick up Harry’s as well at that time.” He then changed the subject. “ Are you going to be helping with the dance classes this year?”
“You know I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Are you going to be following the same schedule this year?”
“Yep. The modern steps in the morning and classical ballroom in the evening. Same times as before.”
“Will you get enough signed up for the ballroom dancing?”
“As soon as the students realize that there are going to be some formal balls during the year that they have to attend, we can expect to have more than enough participation.” He said with a grin.
Harry shifted uncomfortably, “Everyone?”
“Of course! We can’t allow anyone to back out. It wouldn’t be fair. Besides, everyone should know how to dance at formal occasions. You never know when you are going to have to make a good impression and one the best ways is on the dance floor.”
“Who would be willing to dance with someone like me?” Harry asked with a challenging tone.
Both Miss Rogers and I spoke up at the same time. “I would!” We looked at each other for a moment and she indicated that I should continue.
“Come on Harry. Dancing can be lots of fun, especially if both partners know how to.” I looked at Mr. Lodgeman. “Can I take the ballroom class? I’m not too interested in most of the modern stuff, but I really like ballroom.” I looked over at Harry. “Hey! We could take the class together. I’ll help you with it.”
I looked back at Mr. Lodgeman. He was looking back, “Do you know ballroom?”
“Uh huh. I was able to take a few classes at the dojo. Mrs. Tanaka taught it, but she would only teach ballroom. I learned to like it more than the more modern stuff.”
“Ah, someone after my own heart. What about it Harry? If we can insure a partner for you, will you join us?”
“Do I have a choice?” He asked in an uncertain voice.
“No!” All three of us said at the same time. Then grinned at each other.
“Then, I guess you’ll be seeing me in class.” He shrugged and grinned back at us.
“Yeah!” I jumped up and down and clapped my hands. I suddenly realized what I was doing and looked around embarrassed.
“We better be going now. Billie and Harry, get your stuff together. It’s been a pleasure Cecilia, as always.”
“Please come again soon. And be sure to bring Billie with you.” She gave me a smile and a small wave.
“Okay. See you soon.”
We gathered together the clothes that were wrapped in plastic and our old stuff in bags, and headed out. After putting the packages into the back of the cab, we climbed into the front.
Suddenly, I found myself very conscious of the fact that I was sitting between the two of them. I wasn’t sure what to make of my reaction, so I just ducked my head and stared at my clasped hands and feet.
Mr. Lodgeman noticed. “You all right Billie?”
“Uh... Yes sir. I’m fine.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No. Nothings wrong. It’s just that ... Uh.. “ I had a burst of inspiration. “I was wondering how much this was going to cost!”
He looked closely at me for a moment. “Don’t worry, Eric has seen to it that you will be well supplied with all the money you need. Which brings me to a question I’ve been meaning to ask.”
My heart speeded up and I was starting to get nervous. I wasn’t sure how much Mr. Lodgeman knew about my origins, but I was sure that Mr. T hadn’t informed him of everything and I was afraid that if I talked too much I would say something I shouldn’t.
“Are you related to the Tanakas?”
This was getting too close for my comfort but I had to say something and I didn’t want to lie either.
“Uh... no. We are just good friends of the family. Mom and Dad got to know them before I was born. You could say that they are like my godparents. I spent a lot of time at the dojo for as long as I can remember.”
“That could explain it then. They usually don’t show this kind of interest in anyone but family or really close friends.”
“Yeah, I don’t know where I would be now if they hadn’t helped out.” I said with heartfelt appreciation. If it hadn’t been for them I might never have been able to prove who I was to my family.
“They must like you a lot.” He reached over and mussed my hair. “Can’t say as I can blame them. I’m beginning to like you too What about you Harry?”
I realized then that Harry had plastered himself to the door as if he was afraid to touch me and that he had been silent during the trip.
“Uh... Yeah.. A lot.” If I wasn’t mistaken he was blushing.
I just couldn’t help myself. I grabbed his arm and pulled myself a little closer. “You do like me don’t you Harry?” I looked up into his face and gave him a series of large blinks.
For a moment I thought he might jump from the truck. Then he relaxed a little and put an arm around my shoulders and gave me a hug. Now it was my time to squirm a little. I wondered if maybe I had gone too far and if this might cause some trouble for us.
“You like me too, don’t you, Billie?”
“Oh. Sure...I like you too...” Just then I looked up and realized he was grinning.
We both started to giggle and he gave me another hug. It made me feel a little odd. Not bad...just a little...different.
“All right you two. Break it up. I am your chaperone after all.” Mr. Lodgeman was grinning at us also. I felt my face go hot. I’m sure that as he released me, that Harry was blushing also. You just couldn’t see it under the fur.
“You’d better cover up Harry. We’re almost there. Let’s drop Billie off first and then we will get you checked into Twain Hall.”
Harry was looking very nervous again. “Twain Hall?”
“Yes. Twain Hall is where people like yourself can stay without feeling self conscious about your looks. Lots of the people there are moderately different from the norm. The rooms can also be modified to some extent to accommodate different physiological types. Longer or shorter beds, etc.”
“You already have a room assigned to you that has been modified to be more comfortable for you. Like most rooms in Twain, you will have a room to yourself. Your room is 208. There are some other aspects of the hall that you will be informed of as you check in.”
I asked a question to give Harry a chance to assimilate the information. “Do all first years get assigned to the second floor?”
“Usually. In some rare circumstances we have to modify that rule, but that’s fairly unusual.”
“Are you in Twain, Billie?” Harry was very hesitant as he asked me that and I realized that he was even lonelier than me. At least I had some acquaintances when I got there.
“Sorry Harry. I’m in Poe Hall in room 202. But don’t worry. I made some friends right off and I’m sure you will too.” Harry still wasn’t looking too sure yet and I felt bad for him.
Mr. Lodgeman was looking a little confused. “I thought you were in room 216?”
“Ayla traded with Jade and me. She’s in 216. Jade and me are in 202. I guess the paperwork hasn’t caught up to Ms. Hartford yet.” A little light went on in my head as I realized I might be able to use this in my future dealings with Ms. Hartford. She obviously trusted her computer too much.
“Well, that explains that. Don’t let it bother you Harry. Billie’s right, you’ll be making new friends faster than you’d believe. Your not the only one far from home and alone right now.”
We pulled up in front of Poe Hall just then and proceeded to argue over who would carry my stuff up to my room. I could have done it easily but they insisted on doing it instead. Men! They took each end of my trunk and tossed my duffle on top. Then had me lead the way and hold the doors.
Mrs. Horton intercepted us on the way to the stairs. Fortunately, she knew Mr. Lodgeman and was willing to let them up to the second floor as long as we were escorted by her. As soon as they dropped the stuff off in my room, she promptly escorted them down again. I went as far as the front door with them.
Harry didn’t want me to follow them any further at this time. We promised to see each other soon and discuss our new experiences. They headed out to the truck and I went looking for someone I knew. No one had been in their rooms when we were up there, so I assumed that they must be out checking out the school.
I didn’t find anyone at Poe and decided to head for the Crystal Hall for lunch. On the way there I became aware of some guy who seemed to be following me. He might have been one of the guys who had been looking me over yesterday at supper.
Maybe I was getting paranoid because of my new wardrobe. I was definitely drawing some looks. Even some double takes. It made me feel a little funny. Good and nervous at the same time.
When I got to Crystal Hall I looked around to see if I could recognize anyone. I finally spotted Jade and Jinn at a table by themselves.
I went through the line and piled as much as I could on my plate. I may have been getting as many or more stares for the amount of food on my plate as anything else. But I was hungry and didn’t really care anymore.
As I approached the table I don’t think that they recognized me right off. It wasn’t until I asked if there was room for another at the table that they really looked at me. Then Jades eyes got big.
“Tennyo? Is that you?”
“Yep! It’s me and I’m starving. Mind if I sit down?”
“Where did you get those clothes?”
“I’ll tell you if you let me sit. Did I mention how hungry I am?”
Jinn spoke up. “Sit! Sit down and let us in on your secret. Am I dreaming, or do those fit you perfectly?”
“Thank you!” I promptly sat down and proceeded to stuff my face. In-between bites I told them of my adventures in town and about my meeting with Miss Rogers.
“She put those together that fast? That’s incredible! She must be some kind of genius and talented too.” Jade just stared at me while Jinn kept up the conversation.
“I think it had something to do with that cubicle and robot thing it was attached to.” I said through a mouthful of food. “I think it helped her fit me as quickly as she did.” About this time I got the definite feeling of being watched.
When I looked around I caught the eye of the guy I had seen earlier. He was sitting at a table about fifteen feet away and staring at me. “What!?! You’ve never seen someone eat before?”
He jumped a bit when I yelled at him and then turned away in obvious embarrassment.
I turned back and saw Jade still looking at me. “What’s your problem?”
“It’s not fair.” She mumbled.
“Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not.” She put her head between her hands and stared at her plate. “I think I’m getting a headache.”
I looked over at Jinn and she just shrugged at me.
“Can I help?” I was trying to get her to tell me what was wrong. For a moment she looked up at me and I thought for a moment she would say something.
Then she shook her head. “Maybe we should go back to our room.”
I had finished my plate of food and was kind of thinking that I might want seconds. But the edge was off my hunger and I was worried about Jade. “Okay, lets go back. I’ll have to unpack soon anyway.”
With a final glare at the guy who had been staring at me earlier I took my plate and dishes up to be cleaned. We then headed back to our room. Jade seemed to perk up a bit as we walked. Jinn and Jade were walking together and as I watched them I could see how similar they looked as they talked together.
I couldn’t help asking now that we were away from prying ears. “Hey Jinn, if you needed a rubber mask for a face, wouldn’t almost anyone other than Madonna have worked better?”
Jinn grinned at me. “Yeah, I agree. But I didn’t have much money, and...well, she was cheap.”
“Oh? The Material Girl was cheap?”
It’s to bad that rubber can’t blush, but she bounced back quickly. She did a twirl and ended facing me. “We Material Girls like to have fun too!”
“Somehow, I have a hard time picturing you as the ‘Material’ girl Jinn.”
She seemed to be thinking of something else for a moment, then grinned back at me. “Maybe someday I will be, material that is. But one Madonna is more than enough, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. I think I know exactly how you feel about that.” At that moment I was sure I had seen that guy again behind us. But, when I turned to look more closely, he was gone.
“Is something wrong?” Asked Jade.
“I don’t know. Do either of you feel like you're being followed?" I could swear that I keep seeing the same guy following and staring at us.”
“The one I told to mind his own business at lunch.”
“Oh, him.” They both looked around. “Nope. We don’t see him. But we will keep our eyes open and if we see him we will let you know.”
Watching and listening to the two of them do that together was a little disconcerting. But then I had another idea.
“Say Jinn. Do you have any idea what you really look like?”
“Of course I do! I see myself all the time.” As if to prove it, Jade and Jinn pointedly stared at each other.
“No.” I explained. “I mean, you. The face under the mask. The real you.”
There was sudden silence as they both stared at me in shock. Then they answered at the same time. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. How could we find out?”
It made me kind of sad to think that what I’d just said was one of the kindest things ever said to her. She deserved better. She was a great person. Both of them.
They looked at each other, then Jade said, “We never thought about it until now, but now that you bring up the idea, I really want to know. But how could I find out?”
I had one idea that might work. “Well, maybe something like that blow plastic for bubbles. You know, the stuff you put on the end of a tube and blow up. Maybe you could take a tube of that and spread it over your body. We might be able to get a better idea what you look like. Without the masks.”
Jinn asked, “Do you think it would work?”
“Won’t know until we try. I’ll keep my eyes open and see if we can find some to experiment with.”
Both Jinn and Jade were pondering something for the rest of the way back. I kept myself busy trying to spot the guy I thought might be following us. But, either he was imaginary, or had gotten better at concealing himself. I didn’t see him again at that time.
We got to our room and I had to look through the new bag I had to carry everything in, now that I didn’t have any pockets. As I unlocked our door and looked up at the two of them an idea occurred to me.
“I just realized, if you’d been smart, you two could have been roommates. Then you wouldn’t have to share a room.”
They answered in unison. “But we want to share a room with you!”
That made me feel good even as I shook my head, smiled, and said, “Huh. Psychic twins. Figures.” It was nice to know I had friends here.
As we went in I saw an envelope on the floor that looked as if it had been slid under the door. There was scribbled writing on it that looked like, “T-eyor.”
As we all looked at it, Jinn spoke up, “Do you suppose they meant to write ‘Tennyo’?”
“Beats me. Let’s see what it says.” I shrugged and tore the letter open. Inside was a piece of folded paper. I opened that and read the message.
My face must have looked odd as I read it. Both Jinn and Jade were staring at me as I read the message. As the nature of the message became apparent I felt some fear. I was sure it was from someone who was trying to find me. Then, as I thought about it, I wasn’t so sure.
“What is it?” Asked Jade.
“Well, what do you know. Only our first day here, and already we’re getting death threats.” Both of them looked a little shocked when I said that. To reassure them I added, “But I don’t think they are from very competent foes.” I handed the note over to them to read.
Missing your family much?
Don’t worry. However far they may be from your heart and mind, rest assured that they aren’t far out of our sights. Particularly that so-called sister of yours. Play things right and we give both you and her a wide berth, and never talk to you again. Play things wrong and the very least that will happen is that those innocent young girls you’re living with will find out that their sorority sister used to look a lot different.
We’re looking for someone else, not related to you. All you have to do is get the name and address of every girl living in Poe Hall. It should be easy. Right now, everyone’s moving in. They all have addresses on their luggage.
Write the information down, fold the paper up, and leave it under the bust of Edgar Allen Poe in the entryway to your cottage. Wednesday, exactly at noon. No tricks. Complete this successfully and we will never again bother you or yours.
Don’t play games with us, Trevor. We mean business.
“Trevor is Ayla’s old name, so this note was meant for Ayla. Why did they send it to us?” Asked Jinn.
I slapped my head. “Oh! I forgot. We didn’t change our room assignments with Belle after we exchanged with Ayla. Whoever sent the note must be using that out of date information.”
If not for a mistake on the part of these blackmailers, I might never have known about this possible attempt to find me. Of course, there might be some other person they were after, or some other reason for the note. But I was feeling very paranoid for some reason. Then something else occurred to me.
“One thing’s for sure,” I said. “Whoever sent this note doesn’t have any idea what Poe Hall is all about.” I grabbed the note back and read a part out load. “-those innocent young girls you’re living with will find out that their sorority sister used to look a lot different.- What does that sound like to you?”
Jinn turned and looked at Jade. “Wrong dorm, maybe? Somewhere that has some innocent young girls?”
The implications of that statement should really worry me, but I had other things on my mind at the time. I was getting kind of excited about the idea of tracking these people down. I was getting really tired of being afraid and not being able to do anything about it.
“NO!” I realized how loud I was getting and lowered my voice. “Someone who obviously doesn’t know about the nature of us here at Poe is trying to blackmail Ayla with the threat of telling us about her.”
Jade looked a little confused for a moment. “But we already know about Ayla. What would that accomplish?”
“If we were the innocent girls the blackmailers think we are it might hurt her if we were turned against her.” The implications of THAT statement should worry me also. But the hunt was up, and the time had come for us to make our move. “I think we are going to have to warn Ayla and get some help. But how?”
“Let’s go find her!” Said Jinn, heading for the door.
“Hold on!” Said Jade. “We’ve got some crook watching for anything out of the ordinary, maybe getting ready to do something drastic. Parents on every floor. I think you look pretty good, but I don’t think we’re ready for that level of scrutiny. Particularly if you start wandering around asking questions.”
She had a point. “Good point. The mask isn’t bad, but those eyes... Anyway, I know where we can find more manpower. Or rather, girl power.”
Jade got that immediately and nodded. “Of course! Duh!”
Jinn looked resigned, “What about me? Paper airplane again?”
I was wondering what Jinn meant as Jade nodded again and Jinn started putting herself away. She put away her shoes, folded up her legs, started to pack away her head... I had to look away. It was pretty creepy to watch. “Ugg. That’s just creepy. What’s this paper airplane thing?”
Jade finished putting Jinn away by closing the drawer her gloves had dropped into. She then shook her head and picked up a small paper airplane off the desk. She then threw it and it circled around the room and returned to her hand. “See? Paper airplane. Perfectly innocent to unsuspecting parents.”
“Nice throw. What’s her job?”
“She lodges somewhere near the ceiling and watches. If she sees anything, she comes back to me immediately.”
“Cool! She can keep an eye out for us while we get the others together and decide what we can do about this. Why don’t you go and get Ayla. Bring her over to Toni’s and Fey’s room. I’ll meet you there and we can pool our resources.”
We headed out. I saw Jade flick the airplane into the air. It shot to the ceiling and stuck there somehow. Jade proceeded to Ayla’s room and I headed over to Toni’s and Fey’s room.
I tapped on their door. Toni answered it. It took her a moment to recognize me in my new suit.
“Tennyo! Is that you?”
“Yep! Can I please come in? It’s kind of urgent.”
I stepped in quickly and saw the look of surprise on Fey’s face when she saw me. I gave a quick twirl in front of them. “Like it?” I asked with a grin.
“You look great. Where did you get that? I didn’t see anything that good over at the store.” Said Fey. “They didn’t have anything I could wear, either.” She said with no little chargin.
“Yeah.” Said Toni. “You would think that they would have better stuff there.” She shook her head. “I didn’t see anything I wanted to be caught in.”
“I got this and some others in town at, ‘Rogers Fabric Boutique’. You know Fey, I bet she could make you some good uniforms in materials you could wear. She’s a total genius and has some kind of ability with cloth. She made these from scratch in a matter of minutes.”
I turned to Toni. “I bet she can put some together that you would like also.”
Both of them were looking at me and before they could speak I continued, “OH! The reason I came over is this. Please read it. Jade will be bringing Ayla over soon.” I handed the note to Toni and she took it over to where they both could read it.
While they were reading the note there was a knock on the door. It was Ayla and Jade.
“Where is the note!” Ayla was not in a good mood. I pointed to the others. She stepped up to them and pulled the note away to read it herself.
Soon we had all had a chance to read the note. Ayla was very upset and I can’t really blame her. I don’t like the idea of people threatening my family or self either. After we got her calmed down, we started to plan.
We decided to learn how many people were in Poe Hall at the time and make up false names and addresses for them. We would then place this information in the foyer as directed. Then we would watch it to see if we could catch them. Even if they managed to get the information, it would do them no good.
The rest of the afternoon for me was very hectic. Between trying to come up with different names, addresses, and trying to get the necessary information to get the classes I needed and wanted to take, I was running around like mad.
At supper, the guy who had been following me before was back. And he had a few others with him. They staked out a table near me and spent supper watching me. Even glaring at them directly didn’t seem to phase them very much. Then Fey showed up and distracted them enough for me to slip away.
I finally had a chance to unpack the things that had come in the duffle and trunk. There were a few more jeans, slacks, and shirts. I found myself strangely unwilling to put them on again at this time.
Something about wearing clothing that made me look better and more feminine had made me uncomfortable about going back to my old style of dressing. What had Miss Rogers said? Something about coming out of my cocoon. Had I been denying my new reality until I could actually accept it?
I carefully folded them and put them away. There would be times in the future that I would need them and want them. But not now.
The other things in the trunk and duffle meant more to me now. There was my fishing equipment, my metal detector, and my shinai, boku, and katana. I also had a wood and metal set of ton-fa.
With them was a compact clock, radio, cd player with headphones and a collection of my favorite cds. Some of them I had put together myself on a cd burner, so as to have some of my favorite music together. I could hardly wait for a chance to relax by listening to some of them.
I also had a large supply of feminine products for my periods. Never wanting to not have them available again, I’d made a point of always having some with me wherever I went. There was also a number of medications for the discomfort of the periods, but none of them seemed to work on me.
Dr. Tanaka thought that my new physiology was too strong for over the counter medications. He also wasn’t certain how my new system would react with these drugs or even prescription drugs and warned me to be careful how I used them. Still, when your hormones are bouncing all over the place and you feel miserable, anything that might help is welcome.
I had a few personal items, but not much else. With only a few minutes to relax, I took a good look at what I now had. Hopefully, Miss Rogers could come up with enough to fill the large gaps in my clothing. I could hardly wait to see what she was preparing.
At about 7 PM, we were called together by Mrs. Horton. She informed us that there would be a house party starting soon where we could get a chance to know each other in the cottage better. Some refreshments would be provided and some discussion groups would be held.
One discussion group would cover Whateley, another would cover how being in a sexually oriented minority would affect us, and the last would revolve around graduation and what was beyond that. There would also be some discussion of something called a legacy.
There would also be some dancing. This interested me the most and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of dancing would be available.
After it started, I quickly realized that the majority of the students were pairing up girl/girl and boy/boy. The music and atmosphere was also not conducive to ballroom style dancing and I was quickly losing interest in what was happening.
I did manage to get a dance with Hank. I’m not sure, but I think he may have tried to cop a few feels in the process. I didn’t know if I should be insulted or complimented. It produced so many complicated feelings that I had decided to give up on it for the time being.
I had just about decided to go back to my room when I saw a girl that Jade had mentioned in passing as being very nice and someone I should meet. Jade said that her name was Angel and that she had wings. She was keeping them covered, but when I looked closely I could see them. She caught me staring at her and I decided to put a bold face on the situation and waved and approached her.
“Hi! My name is Billie Wilson, but if you want to you can call me Tennyo.” I offered my hand to shake hers.
For a moment she looked uncertain, then she smiled and shook my hand with a firm grip. “You must be Jade’s and Jinn’s roommate then. I’m glad to meet you. My name is Angel.”
“I’m glad to meet you too. She has a lot of good things to say about you. You really impressed her.” I smiled. Somehow I had a good feeling about her. There was something trustworthy and comfortable about how she acted and spoke.
“I really haven’t known her for long.” She blushed a little.
“She’s good at knowing people quickly. I trust her judgement. I think it has something to do with her honest nature.” I smiled as I said this. It was something that I had just realized about my new roommate.
“Glad you feel that way. Uh...I’m waiting for a friend to come over and I’m afraid that she won’t until she’s certain she isn’t interrupting us.” She glanced over towards the refreshments and I realized that there was another girl holding two drinks and looking at us nervously.
“Okay. I don’t want to interrupt what you’re doing. Just wanted to say hello. Maybe we can get together again sometime with Jade and swap stories.”
I beat a retreat and waved as she said, “Sounds good to me. I’ll look forward to meeting you later.” After that, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do at that time. I also couldn’t fly up into the rafters with so many people around. So I returned to my room.
Jade was already asleep and I was tired enough to follow her quickly into rest. I chose to skip a shower tonight as there was too much else going on right now. I set my alarm for 5:30 and was soon asleep myself.
I woke up to Enya’s ‘A Day Without Rain’. It was my alarm. I checked it to be sure it wasn’t malfunctioning and that it really was the morning and not some part of the night. Worse luck, it was the morning and time to get started.
There is a purpose to getting up early. My brother Larry had suggested that if I wanted to get a hot shower in the morning I had better be the early bird. His experiences away from home had given him this wisdom that he passed on to me when I was leaving. I’m not sure how good the hot water heaters are here but I’m not taking any chances. I need my shower in the morning.
And I was the first one in. It took a minute for the water to heat up, but it was wonderfully hot after that. I just relaxed for now. My schedule for today had me meeting with my counselor after lunch at one.
Later today I was to meet a Dr. Alfred E. Bellows. We would be discussing what I would be doing this semester. The name sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.
Some other students were starting to come in as I dried off and headed back to our room. I got a few strange looks and wondered what I had done or was doing to get them. Jade was up and straightening up. Both of us looked around helplessly as we tried to find a place to put our laundry.
“I’ll get us a laundry pail today, if you don’t mind?” I asked Jade.
“Where do we put this now?”
“How about in my bottom drawer? I’m not using it now and I can have the hamper here after breakfast. I’m sure that it won’t hurt anything for that short a period. I can get some soap to wash them with also. I’m sure I saw some at the store. Do you have a preference in color?”
“It’s your money, get what you want.” She said.
“It’s our room and I would appreciate some input here.” Something was bothering her but I wasn’t sure what it was. “C’mon Jade.” I weedled. “We’re buds aren’t we? Let’s get some communication going here, okay?”
“C’mon, louder so I can hear you.” She was almost in tears and mumbling.
“I don’t have much money.”
Oh, so that was the problem. I knew she had a lot of pride and I didn’t want to make her feel worse. Then I got an idea that would work for us both.
“Tell you what. I’ll get the hamper, detergent, and anything else you think we need for the room and you can do the laundry for the next month. Okay?”
She brightened right up. “Sure, I can do that. I’ll be glad to do it all the time.”
“You don’t have to do it all the time. Besides, I have to keep in practice too you know. Now, what do we need to get? Broom, dust pan, cleaner or do they supply that here?”
“I think they have some in the closet down the hall, but they didn’t seem to be in good shape. Maybe we should get the broom and dust pan. When we need a mop, we can use what they have in the closet. We ought to see what kind of cleaners they have and if we will want to get our own.”
Now that she had something to do and an out for her pride she was right into it. All her energy came out and she just shone with purpose. “What else can we do with the room?”
“I think we are going to have to ask Mrs. Horton what we are allowed to do, but I would like to put up some hangers so I can hang my stuff and swords out of the way and not stack them in the corner. It’s just not right to treat them like that.”
“Yeah, and maybe when I get a job, we can paint it.” Just like Jade to be planning something like that.
I had to grin and she grinned back. Nothing like making something better, or at least planning to, to get your spirits up.
“You better get your shower now or there won’t be any hot water for you. I’ll finish straightening up the room now and when you get back we can go to breakfast.”
“Okay!” She gathered her stuff and headed out while I finished straightening the room and tossing the laundry into the drawer. We would need to use the laundry real soon at this rate.
When she got back and dressed, we did a final straightening and headed to breakfast. We were so busy planning that I pretty much ignored the guys who seemed to be following me.
After we ate, Jade headed off to meet with her counselor and I headed back to find Mrs. Horton and find out what we could do with our room.
When I found her, she said that it would be okay for us to hang things if we signed a waiver being responsible for damages and we could paint the room also as long as it was approved in advance by her. We were expected to keep things neat and shouldn’t bring in too much furniture and over crowd the room.
After that I headed over to the campus store and found the various things we would need to get started. I would have to go into town to get good hangers, but I found everything else we needed. Even a white hamper for our clothes and some laundry bags to go in it. I also learned that we could bring dry cleaning here and they could send it into town. I could probably go to a hardware store tomorrow when I went to see Miss Rogers.
After I dropped that stuff off at our room, I decided to tour the campus some more and get a better idea of where everything was. As I walked around I suddenly realized that I was approaching Twain Cottage.
It looked pretty much like Poe on the outside. I wondered how Harry was getting along. Maybe I could drop in and find out. Hopefully he was there and not doing something else right now.
I decided that the best way to find out would be to go on in. Even if he wasn’t there, I could probably find out when he would be there.
I walked in and became the total center of attention in about five seconds. The entryway was just like Poe, except the bust was of Mark Twain. Oddly enough, it looked like this entrance was not very used. It was almost completely blocked off by a sofa and some chairs. There were a number of boys scattered around the common room. They were all staring at me.
“Hello.” I smiled and waved. “Can anyone tell me if Harry Wolfe is here?”
“Girl on the floor. GIRL ON THE FLOOR!” The call started out quietly and quickly grew.
I saw many of them run for the stairs and some others start to come down them. It wasn’t long before I was facing a semi circle of amazed young men. One of them, looking like a huge blonde sasquatch, moved forward and said, “What are you doing here?”, in a very un-welcoming voice.
“Well, I thought I had already made that clear when I asked if Harry Wolfe was here.” I wasn’t about to back down in a situation like this. “Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time.”
“By the way, my name is Tennyo.” No need to get too confrontational, at least not yet. I extended my hand in an offer to shake his. “And you are?”
“They call me Montana as if it’s any of your business. Girls aren’t supposed to come in here.” He still seemed to be projecting a lot of attitude and he ignored my hand.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I still would like to know if Harry is here and how I might be able to contact him.”
A really snakey looking kid hissed, “C’monnn Moontty, llleett uupp oon hherr. Iitt’sss nnott llikke wweee ccann’t llett hherr iinnttoo tthhee coommmonn rrrooommm.”
“Shut up Links. I’m in charge here and I don’t think we should just let her come in.”
“You don’t think we should let any pretty girls on the campus at all, Monty. And who put you in charge anyway?” This from a disturbingly black boy shape, whose exposed flesh was so black that it felt like light was being sucked up around him.
“You shut up too Blot. I’m the oldest student here and until someone else older comes along I’m in charge.” No one else seemed inclined to argue with him and he turned back to me. “Now, why are you still here?”
“Like I said. I’m here looking for Harry Wolfe, who I’m pretty sure is staying here. And I may not have been here long, but I know I am allowed to come in this far at least and ask. So, can I ask what your problem is and why someone can’t tell me where Harry is?”
He was towering over me now and it was taking a lot of self control to keep myself on the ground and not rise up to meet him eye to eye.
“Your type are nothing but trouble. You should really leave now.” He was bent over me and looking straight down. I wasn’t about to back off and he was either going to have to start something or trip over me if he didn’t let up soon.
“Hey! What’s going on down there?”
I recognized that voice and stepped around Monty before he could move.
“Harry! It’s good to see you again!” I stood on my tip toes and waved over everyone’s heads at Harry who was coming down the stairs.
“Billie! I heard someone say that a girl was down here looking for me and from the description I was sure it was you.” He was grinning from ear to ear, which on his face went a long way. He jumped over the rail and dropped the rest of the way to the floor and landed very lightly.
The others parted to let me through and I started towards him to shake his hand and say hello. Just then I felt a very large hand slam onto my left shoulder and my reflexes took over. I grabbed the thumb of his left hand which he had grabbed me with, spun down, forward, and to my left while twisting his thumb further to the left. I took his left pinky with my right hand at this time and stepping back, applied even more torque to his hand. He followed me and landed on his face as I levered his arm behind his back.
As I said before, I’m a lot stronger than I was before and combined with my new speed, strength, and flying ability, I can do a lot more than you would think. Everyone else was still staring at me standing on Monty when another voice I didn’t know spoke up. “WHAT’S GOING ON HERE!?”
Another large boy was coming down the stairs. He was six feet something and where you could see his skin, he was silvery. He looked a lot like a larger version of the T2 terminator. He also had a lot more authority than anyone else here. There was going to be real trouble if I didn’t think fast.
“Oh! Hi there!” I said with a big smile. “Monty was just letting me show some of the newer people here how to do an arm bar on someone bigger than yourself. You know, part of our self defense training?” As I said this, I was lifting Monty up and dusting him off as he rubbed his shoulder and arm and glared at me. He started to say something.
I was certain that he was about to say something stupid and ruin it, so I stepped on his toe to distract him. Link and Blot both caught on quickly and started to agree with me loudly as they stepped up to help me hold him up. I think Monty was still going to say something when Blot put an elbow in his ribs.
“You see everyone?” I turned as I said this and allowed the other two to hold Monty. “It’s just as Monty said. It doesn’t matter how big the other guy is if you are prepared and use good technique.” They were all grinning and nodding now.
T2 stood there glaring at me and then looking around at the others. “Monty said that?” He was looking at me more closely and I just smiled back. I hope he wasn’t a mind reader.
“Monty?” Monty was staring back at him, but was also aware that he probably wouldn’t get a chance to say anything. So he just nodded.
“Well, you’ve managed to surprise me. Good idea, but you are not allowed to do such things here and without proper supervision. I don’t want this to happen again. Am I clear?” As he said this he was looking around the room.
“Sure thing Mirror.” Said Blot. Everyone else nodded. Mirror proceeded up the stairs and out of sight. There was a collective sigh of relief and I turned to Monty.
“I don’t want any trouble Monty, but if you ever try something like that again, I’m going to rip that arm off and make you eat it. Do you understand me?”
“You can’t do this to me.” He was obviously not getting the idea and for some reason he seemed to be taking this all too personally.
Harry stepped up. “C’mon Monty, I know how you feel about some girls, but Billie here is alright. And you really don’t want to get her mad. You should’ve seen what she did to Hamper yesterday.”
“This is the girl who kicked Hamper in the balls? Wow Monty, you’re luckier than you know. I understand that he still can’t walk too good.” Blot was smiling as he said this and I got the feeling that no one here felt too bad for Hamper, who had to be Blondie Number One.
He just glared at us and stomped upstairs.
“Sorry about that.” Said Blot. “I’m afraid that when Monty first got here, some of the Alpha girls played some really cruel games on him. He’s had a hard time with girls ever since. By the way, my name is Richard Henry. Most people call me Blot. The skinny, scally guy here is Slim Martin but we call him Link It seems that you already met Harry here.”
“Pleased to meet you all. I’m Billie Wilson, but you can all call me Tennyo. Right Harry?”
“Sorry Bil... I mean Tennyo. I got so used to calling you Billie in town that I just forgot.”
“That’s okay. I just really stopped by to see how you were doing and if you were settling in.”
“I’m fine. You were right. I met some really good guys, like Blot and Link here, right off and they helped me get set up.”
“Aw shucks! Twern’t nothing.” Grinned Blot.
“Glad to hear that you are doing so well, Harry. Are you having a good time?”
“Sure am!” He was still grinning. “For the first time in my life I have a lot of friends who don’t care what I look like. It’s really nice to be able to relax and have fun.”
“Learning anything new yet?”
“Now don’t get him started on that again.” Said Blot. “We had to work for hours to peel him off the perpetual motion machine that someone set up in the basement a few years back.”
“Yesss, iitt wassss mmosstt diiffiiculltt.” Link was shaking his head.
“But guys, I’m sure that I can figure it out. It will just take a little more study is all. Hey! Tennyo. Do you want to see it?” As he said this he was grabbing my arm and pulling me towards the cellar steps.
“No! Harry! Wait!” Both Blot and Link leaped forward and grabbed his arms. “You can’t! Remember the rules? No one but Twain’s are allowed down there.”
“Oh. Yes. I forgot. Sorry Tennyo, but only guys from Twain are allowed down there.” He was obviously embarrassed and worried that I would take it personally.
“Don’t worry guys. I understand. We have rules over at Poe too.” That last statement seemed to make Blot and Link a little nervous for some reason. Harry just looked relieved. I wondered what the other two had heard about Poe.
Moving on to more neutral subjects, “What do you guys have planned for today?”
Harry looked embarrassed again. “Uh, I almost forgot. You see, I have to meet my counselor again, and after lunch, I’m going to be starting my new job.”
“You already have a job?”
“Yeah, Mr. Lodgeman arranged it for me before I got here. It seems they are always needing workers over at the motor pool. With my background, he thought that I’d fit in very well and maybe stick around longer than some of the others.”
“Moderately tough, but it’s Mr. Ballentine who makes people leave from what I have been told.”
“That’s right.” Said Blot. “He’s got to be one of the worst people to work for in the world. He loves all of his vehicles and heaven help the person who so much as smudges one of them. He is such a perfectionist that he will hold a person back for hours making sure that everything is perfect.”
“He may be tough to work for, but I hear he is one of the best teachers in the world if you can put up with him. I’m willing to give it a try anyway. I only hope that it is worth it and that I will make enough money to get by on.” Said Harry.
I could hear the determination in his voice and was sure that he would be able to work with this Mr. Ballentine or die trying.
“So, I guess I better get going and let you guys get back to what you were doing then.”
Harry looked a little disappointed for a moment and then brightened a little. “Do you think we could get together for lunch tomorrow? They are going to start letting us eat in the cafeteria after tonight and the parents are gone.”
“I don’t see why not. As far as I know I have nothing else planned for that time. I’ll let you know if my plans change though. How about we meet near the red maple towards the north end. You guys going to be there?”
Both Blot and Link looked even more nervous and shook their heads. “Sorry, I don’t think we will be able to. We better be going now. We still have to get our classes finalized. Bye.” They both waved and headed down into the cellar.
“Is it something I said?” I was a little confused about their sudden departure.
Harry looked a bit embarrassed for his friends. “I think it has something to do with some of the stories we were told about Poe Cottage.”
“Uh, it’s nothing really. I’m sure that it’s just some kind of misunderstanding. I’m sure that you guys have similar stories about us.” The grin was fading from his face. The look I was giving him may have had something to do with it.
“You aren’t adding to any of these stories are you?”
He got a hurt look on his face. “No! You know I would never do anything like that!”
I felt a little guilty for doubting him. “Sorry Harry, I didn’t mean to insult you. I’m afraid I’m a little sensitive on that subject though.”
“It’s okay. I probably would be pretty sensitive about it myself, but don’t worry, I’d actually forgotten about that.” He was looking even more embarrassed.
“Well! I don’t know if I should be insulted or complimented by that.” I was trying not too successfully to keep a straight face as I said that.
“Please. Be complimented!” It was my turn to start blushing as he took my hand and gave it a squeeze.
I took a deep breath. “Okay Harry, you win. But please, do me a favor, and keep your ears open to who is spreading those stories and if they might be trying to do more than a little innocent bashing. I’ll understand if you don’t want to get involved in this kind of thing...”
“Don’t worry Tennyo. I’ll let you know if this starts to get out of hand. What I’ve heard so far isn’t like anything you need to worry about.”
“If it starts to cause problems for people like Blot and Link, then it could get worse fast.”
“What can we do about it?”
“I don’t know. Just keep your ears open and I will check on my end to see what we can do. It might be best to just ignore it. Especially if this is just kidding around.”
“Yeah. I hope so. Well, I better be going now. See you at lunch tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure. I wouldn’t want to miss it. I want to find out what classes you will be taking.”
“We probably won’t be sharing much in the way of classes. They are going to be putting me in mostly basic beginners courses because I haven’t had any public schooling before.”
“Will you be testing out of any of these?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know that you can test out of some of these classes so you don’t have to take them?”
“No. Nobody had said anything about that.”
“Well, if your counselor doesn’t bring it up, you probably should do it yourself.”
“Okay. Any other sage words of advice?”
“Don’t forget the dance class. I’ll be looking for you.”
“I was kind of hoping you’d forgotten that.”
“Not on your life Buster! Don’t you dare forget it. Dance isn’t any fun without someone to have fun with.”
He seemed surprised by my answer. “You think it will be fun?”
“If you’re there, I’m sure it will be.” That seemed to embarrass him even more.
“I better be going now. See you soon.”
“Okay.” We just stood there for a moment before he turned and headed back up the stairs.
He turned at the top of the stairs and waved. I waved back and turned and headed out the door. Somehow this whole experience just confused me more. At the same time, I found myself looking forward to the next time I would meet with him.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest of my tour. Even my shadow didn’t bother me much. I started to look forward to meeting my counselor. I wanted to see which classes would be available. I wonder what classes Harry is going to take? Wasn’t it lunch time yet? I was starting to get hungry.
There wasn’t anyone I recognized and wanted to talk to at lunch. I decided to head out of there when they started to look at me strangely after my third large helping. Hey. I was hungry. What can I say. Even that didn’t fill me up completely. But, at least I was comfortable again.
Maybe I could get in with my counselor early? With as much time as I had to spare there wasn’t a need to hurry but it might be nice to get it out of the way. I headed to where his office was.
The sign on the door read, Dr. Alfred E. Bellows MD Phd.
I wondered why I was assigned a doctor for my counselor. It would be just my luck if I was assigned to some kind of mad scientist for a mentor.
I really couldn’t put it off any longer. I thought it was kind of odd that I was so nervous all of a sudden. There was nothing to be nervous about. All I had to do was find out what classes I would be taking and when.
I took a deep breath and knocked. It seemed like he must have been waiting for me. I almost jumped out of my skin as his door opened even as I was knocking.
Before me stood a man who looked strangely familiar. He must have been in his late forties or early fifties. A broad face that was very expressive and his hair was beginning to thin out on top. He also radiated health well above what you would expect from someone his age.
“Please come in. You must be Billie Wilson. I’m Alfred Bellows.” He directed me into his room and towards a chair that was facing his desk He closed the door and moved around his desk. “Please be seated.”
“Yes sir.” I settled into the chair and found it to be very comfortable. He sat in his own chair, facing me across his desk.
“Relax. I’m not going to hurt you. In fact, I’m here to help you.”He smiled and I found myself relaxing. There was something about him that was comfortable and not threatening at all. I took a moment to look around and realized that his office was very informal and well lit. Everything about it was low key and not... distracting.
Except for a vase or bottle about twelve inches tall on a shelf by itself on the wall. Wide at the bottom and tapering to a narrow spout with what looked like a glass stopper. It seemed much more ornate than it should be to blend in. Almost like it was set out to draw attention to it.
“Okay,” I turned my attention back to him. “How are you supposed to help me?”
“I’m going to help you decide which classes you should take and I can also help you find work to help you develop your talents.”
He held up a manilla file. “Yes, your record here is far from complete, but there is enough here to start with. You have many talents, some of them are not obvious. Others are. Part of my job here is to help you find and develop them.”
“You don’t... My record isn’t complete?”
“No. As I said your record is far from complete.” He seemed to be a bit irritated by this fact. “There are a number of tests that are supposed to be administered before you enter this school that either were not done or have been misplaced. There are gaps in the history that I have been given that you could drive a semi through.”
“Uh, like what?”
“I’m pretty sure that the story I have been given about how you changed and got your powers isn’t complete.” I felt a jolt of nervousness and fear as he said that. I had promised not to tell the whole story in case Mr. Lodgeman might get hold of it.
He was staring at me intently and after a moment he continued. “I also need to get a get a better idea of how you are adjusting to your new sex.” I felt some irritation at this. Why is it that everyone keeps coming back to this? It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway.
He suddenly smiled. “But enough of that for now. We will have many opportunities in the future to go over those issues. I’ll expect to meet with you at least once a week for the next few weeks. Maybe more or less as we get to know your needs better.”
“Uh, Mr. Bellows?”
“I was wondering if I had been assigned to you for a reason?”
“You mean because I am a doctor?”
“Don’t worry about that. I was assigned to you because Charlie Lodgeman and I are friends. There are people still looking for you. We felt that it would be better if I was your counselor because it would give me the ability block any attempts to access your records.”
“Yes. Any requests for information on you must come through me first as your counselor. We thought that it would be safer this way.”
That made me feel a little better. “Okay, that makes sense.”
“You were worried it had to do with something else maybe?” He was back to staring at me intently.
I was getting more nervous. I didn’t know how much Dr. Bellows knew about what was going on and how much I could or should tell him.
“Billie.” I brought my attention back to him. “I’m aware of the changes that you recently went through. In many cases, these changes can cause problems that you may not even be aware of. If you do find yourself with questions, please feel free to talk to me.”
“Okay. Uh... How about my class schedule?” He continued to stare at me for a few moments. Then he smiled.
“Are you familiar with the class schedules?”
He seemed surprised. “It’s in the introductory package. Haven’t you read it?”
I felt another burst of irritation at this. “I keep telling everyone, I never got an introductory package. I have no idea what you are talking about!”
I was really starting to get a little more irritated now. No one had yet given me an introductory package. But everyone seemed to expect me to have one and already know what was in it.
“Calm down. I wasn’t aware that you hadn’t received one.” He thought for a moment. “I will see to it that you receive one immediately. It will be delivered to your room tomorrow. You are in room 216, right?”
“Uh, no. Actually I am in room 202. Jade and I switched with Ayla. I guess the changes haven’t gotten to you yet.”
“And who are Jade and Ayla?”
“Jade is my roommate and Ayla is another girl who moved into Poe on the same day as us.”
“What is it like having a roommate? Do you like her?”
I wasn’t sure what he was asking and why. “Well, It’s the first time I’ve had a roommate and it hasn’t been for very long. I like Jade a lot. She’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah. She’s a very nice person and I think we can get along just fine. She’s also smart and easy to talk to.”
“She’s easy to talk to?” He seemed very interested in this.
“Uh, yeah. We just seem to understand each other. We can talk and it’s easy. Not hard at all.”
“Have you ever been able to talk to anyone else like that?”
I just sat there staring at him. Thinking about what he had just said.
“No. I haven’t talked to others like that.” I was surprised to realize this fact about myself. Why was it so much easier to talk to the others I had just met? I couldn’t be this relaxed and open with people I had known my whole life.
He kept looking at me for a few more moments. “Okay Billie. We can get back to this at a later date. For now, I would like you to tell me in your own words what happened to you and your feelings about it.”
It took him a bit longer to get me to go over my story again, but he was persistent and he was a good listener who didn’t interrupt. I gave him the modified version. I wasn’t too certain how much I could trust him yet. After I was done he sat back and thought about what I had said for about a minute.
“Well, that is very interesting. I can understand if you don’t want to share everything with me. I hope that you can learn to trust me more soon though.” I was sure that he knew I was holding some back, but at least he wasn’t pushing the issue. Maybe later, if he could be trusted, I could tell him more.
“Okay. Since you haven’t received the information yet, let’s give you a little introduction now. Classes will be Monday through Friday, with six hour long blocks each day, split into three in the morning and three in the afternoon. You will note that there is plenty of time after that for study and extracurricular activities.”
“Breakfast starts at 7 AM. Lunch is between classes and starts at 11:30 AM, and supper will start at 6:45 PM.”
“You are expected to not only take classes that will give you a well rounded general education, but some others that will help you cope with your abilities and society at the same time. You need to accept the fact that you are not just like everyone else, but you will need to live with them just the same.”
“Besides the standard classes in English ,math, social studies etc., we also have accelerated learning classes in those same fields that allow for the learning of college level credits.” This got my attention. I had been worried that I might be getting bored here. But it looked like I was going to be able to study more interesting things than the usual boring pablum I usually got.
I had to interrupt him at this point. “Mr. Bellows?”
“What do I have to do to qualify for those advanced classes?” My worst memories of school, besides avoiding some of the troglodytes they let in, was the terrible boredom.
“We have tests for you to take that will allow us to evaluate where you stand in your educational progress. In fact, I have those tests with me right now. Combined with your past school records, we can get a good idea of what you will need to take.”
I almost fell out of my seat. “Tests? Now?”
“Yes. Now. I have found that we get much more realistic results if we can administer these tests without any advance notice. We get a better idea of what you really know, rather than what you just crammed into your head.” He was smiling as he said this. Funny how it actually seemed to make sense.
“I am going to have to ask you to never reveal this secret to anyone. It wouldn’t be fair. Promise?”
I nodded my agreement and he handed me the first test. Three hours later I had finished. All the tests had been essay except for the test for math. They had seemed very general and for the most part not very difficult. Except for the math. I really suck at any math beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I have those down pat. Everything else seems like a foreign language.
“How long will it take to get the results?”
“Oh, I’ve been working with these as we went. Give me a few more minutes and I’ll have all the answers we will need.”
It seemed like a very long few minutes as I fidgeted and fretted and waited for him to finish with his notes.
“Very interesting.” I almost jumped. I hadn’t realized how tense I was becoming. “It seems that you are well in advance of where you normally would be in your knowledge of History, English, and the biological sciences. You are probably being held back in some of those by your barely passable math skills though.”
“I’ve been reading since I was very young. I think that might be why I did okay with the History and English. And I’ve always had a knack for the biological stuff. I’m afraid that my understanding of math seems to end after I get past the basics. Anything beyond that seems like a foreign language.”
“That is consistent with what information I have from your school records and the test results we just got. I believe that we have enough information now to make up a tentative schedule for you.”
“Let’s play to your strengths and weaknesses first. We have an excellent advanced genetics course that I think you are ready for now. Dr. Reynolds is desperate for students that might be able to understand some of his new approaches to the subject. The class is held in the first period.”
“The next period is Dr. Winslow’s remedial mathematics course. He is one of the best I’ve ever encountered at explaining math in a way that can be understood.”
“He’s never had to teach me.” Dr. Bellows just smiled and continued.
“Next, we need to address your special needs.”
“My special needs?”
“According to the information I have now, you have two very pressing problems. The first is to help you understand and control your powers so as to avoid burnout. You really are developing at an incredible rate. I have to agree with Dr. Tanaka on this. It’s your major priority now.”
“And the second?”
“You are going to need help making a transition into your new life. You can’t honestly tell me you feel ready for what you are going through right now can you?”
He had me there. There was no way I felt ready for a lot of what I was going through right now.
“What can I do?”
“For some of the most basic and important lessons I can only recommend that you approach your friends in Poe. They will be a great help and support for you if you let them help you. I can also recommend some classes that will help you cope and prepare you for some of what you can expect in the future.”
“We have classes called Powers Theory that deal with understanding yours and others powers. They will help you rate and understand these powers. You never know when understanding this will help, both yourself and others. I am recommending that you take Powers Theory 1 for your third period before lunch. There is a lab class, where you do more hands on study that goes with it, called Powers Theory Lab that is held during the fifth period.”
“There is a lot of demand for this class, but given your circumstances and risk of burnout I’m sure that you will have priority. Along with this I will also recommend that you take the sixth period Advanced Martial Arts class. This one is very tough and they have a lot of people hurt in it.
“You have the option of taking regular classes, but I will recommend this one because it will deal with the situation you have found yourself in. Not even most of the students and staff here have had to deal with contract assassins. This class goes a lot more into the practical aspects of using your brain and avoiding or taking the advantage in these situations.”
“These sound interesting and I’ve been hurt before.” I was confident that I could handle anything they threw at me. The Tanakas had believed that a person needed to be trained well in self defense. I never felt that they were pulling their punches any more than they had to in the classes I had taken.
“I don’t think you have ever been hurt like this before. I wouldn’t be too confident about that. Anyway, you will have the option of transferring in the first week if you don’t like it. I will put in your application for the class and the two power classes.”
I was a little irritated by his statement. I had experienced a lot of pain in the last few weeks and I was pretty sure that I would be able to deal with what was coming. Then I remembered something else.
“What about the fourth period class? Do you have something planned for that?”
“I don’t want you to be too overconfident about the classes I am arranging for you.” He was being very serious. “All of our classes are very demanding and we will fail anyone who doesn’t measure up to our standards. Your previous schooling and efforts in academics has allowed you to progress to more demanding classes and we expect you to make every effort to excel at them.”
“I am saying this so you won’t blow off the next suggestion I am going to make.”
What could he suggest that I might back out of? He had my full attention now. I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to train like I was being told I would have to or if I was going to spend all my time studying to keep up.
He looked me right in the eye. “The fourth period class should help you adjusting to your new life separated from your family. The lessons you will learn in this one should be usable through the rest of your life.”
I was a little nervous now. What kind of class could help me adjust to my new circumstances and be useful for the rest of my life?
“I’m recommending that you take our Home Economics class in the fourth period.”
I just looked at him in confusion. It took a moment to realize what he was saying.
“Home Economics?” I couldn’t understand why he felt this would be an important class for me. Then some of the implications occurred to me.
“You think I should take the class because I’m a girl!” That kind of chauvinistic attitude just didn’t sit right with me.
He looked me in the eye and I realized that he felt insulted that I had thought that of him.
“No. I recommend this class to all of our students. You would be amazed how unprepared most of our students, even the girls, are for life in a real world.”
“It’s okay. I understand how you could confuse what I am suggesting. But, you might want to rethink how you are accepting your change in light of this.”
I had thought that I was over all that. I realized now that maybe I had been ignoring some aspects of my change. It worried me a bit. What else was I missing?
“Don’t take it so hard. In my opinion you are doing a very good job of adjusting. In fact, the fact that you consider yourself a girl now is a very good sign. You just need to be aware that it is going to take some time to learn a lot of things that others take for granted. I also don’t want you to fall into stereotype behavior. You need to be yourself or you will never be happy.”
“You think so? That I consider myself to be a girl? Most people who know about this seem to think I shouldn't.”
“Yes, I really think so. You just said so yourself when you thought I was trying to put you in a class, 'just because you were a girl'.” He smiled and that made me feel better.
“You think that this class will really help?”
“I’m certain of it! Everyone who takes this class will learn things that will help them throughout their lives. Real life is not a constant deluge of world shaking events. Most of your waking life will be spent solving what the next meal is going to be and how to get the laundry done.”
“Besides, most students who take it enjoy it a lot. There is a great deal of hands on practical lessons which makes for a nice change from the other classes. We even offer more advanced classes for those who feel that they want to do more.”
“Advanced Home Ec? What would that cover?”
“More of the same. Just more detail and complications.”
“Oh. Well, sign me up then.”
“Good. I think you’ll really like it. It’s a good class to have after lunch anyway. Not as much stress or physical activity as some of our classes. Any more questions?”
I suddenly remembered something else. “What about Ballroom Dancing?” I was worried that I might not be able to take it if my other classes got in the way.
“Oh yes. Charlie did mention that you might be interested. Ballroom Dancing is an elective that you can take from 8 PM to 9 PM Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I take it that you want to be signed up for it?”
“Okay. You do realize that this might interfere with some of the jobs you might apply for?”
“Yes. We encourage all our students to work part time to help cover the costs of their education and get spending money for themselves. It’s very important in the development of self esteem and reliance.”
“Uh.. Can I think about that for a bit? And, can I have a list of jobs I can apply for?
“Sure. There isn’t a big rush for you. Students on scholarship must start as soon as possible. But your already paid, and your account seems to have adequate funds at this time.”
“My account?” I could kick myself. I had been so busy just getting to know the place and new people that I hadn’t given where my money was coming from any thought.
“Yes. Every student has an account that funds are put into and drawn from. You can get personal cash by going to the admin building and drawing from your account. Or, in most cases, the funds are drawn directly by using you student pass card.”
I remembered that I had to present the card that I received the first time Belle had taken us to Admin and showed us around. Whenever I ate at the cafeteria and shopped at the book store I could present the card and not have to pay out of pocket.
“Can I get some idea what’s in it?”
“You don’t know?”
“Uh, no... It was set up for me and no one has told me yet.”
He stared at me. “Hmmmm.. I will have a statement sent to you. You should receive it with the introductory packet tomorrow.”
That made me feel a little better. I was going to have to start thinking more carefully about what I was spending. It would help a lot if I knew what I had to work with. I thought of some thing else.
“Do I have to get a job on campus?”
He looked a little embarrassed. “I’m afraid that we may have to limit you there.”
“It’s your appearance.” He was blushing a little.
“What’s wrong with my appearance?” I was feeling a little touchy all of a sudden. Was this another of those girl things I didn’t know about?
He was uncomfortable, but he pressed on. “You have to admit that you don’t quite blend into the crowd.”
I realized what he was talking about. I did look a little unusual. “Would that cause problems in town?”
“We try to keep a low profile. Occasional trips to town won’t be a problem, but rubbing it in their faces most every day might be pushing it a little far.”
“Okay. Campus it is.”
He seemed relieved.“You will be getting a job then?”
“I think so, I’ll have to see what I have to work with before making up my mind.”
“Don’t take too long. The good jobs go fast.”
“Good. Well, I think I have taken enough of your time for now. You probably want to get ready for supper.” When he said that I suddenly became aware of how hungry I was getting and how much time had passed. My stomach gave out a loud growl.
Blushing, I nodded, “Yeah, maybe I should.”
“One more thing before you go.” I settled back into my seat and waited for what he was going to say.
“Your schedule won’t permit you to take the regular Flight classes but it would be a good idea for you to take it.”
“There's a class for flying?”
“Yes Billie. Some of our students don’t seem to catch on as quickly as you have and a little training goes a long way to help prevent accidents. There is also the fact that most fliers can do even better with the right training and experience.”
“You think I’ll need some help?”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that it will give you a chance to really see what you can do in that area of your expertise.”
“Okay. Sounds good to me. When will the classes be and how will I fit it into my schedule?”
“Like I said, we can’t fit it into your normal schedule. But, there has been such great demand recently that we have set up two alternate choices. One is 5:45 AM to 6:45 AM Monday through Friday, with a lab from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM on alternate Saturdays. The other is from 3:45 PM to 4:45 PM Mondays through Fridays, with a lab from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM on alternate Saturdays also.”
“There is that much demand?”
“Well, even non fliers can benefit from this class. You would be surprised just how many apply for this course. Fliers do get preference though, so don’t worry about getting it if you want to.”
“How does it help non fliers?”
“Knowing how fliers operate can only help, even land-bound types, and there is the fact that you will be expected to obtain a small aircraft pilots license as part of your training.”
“A pilots license? Am I old enough?”
“You can get a permit that will be upgraded much the same as your learner’s permit for driving.”
“And why a pilots license? I can already fly.” I admit that I had forgotten that I would have to get my learners permit to drive, again, and that it would take another year more, to get my license, thanks to my new identity.
The fact that I was legally a year younger than I actually was, didn’t help matters at all.
“You people aren’t the only ones up there. We feel that it will be much safer for all of us if you know what everyone else should be doing up there at any given time and make it clear to you that you are expected to follow at least some of those rules yourselves.”
“Remember, even a drunk on a bike is still dangerous. That’s why he can still be arrested for drunk driving while riding a bike.”
“You’d be surprised. There was this dragon once...”
“It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell it to you sometime. Now however, I think we need to get you to supper. Do you want to take this class and do you have a preference?”
“Yeah. I think I do. Let’s try the morning one. That will leave my afternoons freer.”
“Good choice. Not many are willing to get up that early. You will have a smaller class and you will get better training I’m sure.” He wrote a few notes and then reached into his desk. “I’ll send a confirmed schedule to you tomorrow.”
He pulled a book out of his desk and opened it to a calender. “How about we meet again next Tuesday at around 5 PM?”
“Sounds okay to me.”
He made out an appointment card and handed it to me. He then escorted me to his door.
“It’s been a pleasure talking to you Billie.” He said smiling as he opened the door. “I look forward to meeting you again.” For the first time he offered his hand to shake.
“Sure, thank you for your...” I took his hand as I replied and suddenly he went white and for a moment I felt the flames around me again. I let go of his hand and staggered back.
He looked confused for a moment and then asked, “What was that?”
“T-that was w-what happened w-when I-I changed. What did you do?” I was shaken. It was just too close for comfort. I realized that it was only the memory and not the real thing but I was still shaken up. It still hurt!
“I’m sorry, that has never happened before. Somehow you triggered a part of my talent that allows me to pick up a little of what has happened in the past. Let me think this through and I will be able to tell you more later.”
“Okay. But no more shaking hands. Okay?”
“Sounds good to me. I really don’t want a repeat of that.”
“You're telling me.”
“Well, see you later. Take care.”
“Goodbye.” I waved and moved down the hall. I could feel his eyes on me until I turned the corner.
The experience shook me up a little. And, I began to wonder what Mr. Bellows talent was that had something to do with seeing stuff from the past. I hope he isn’t a mind reader of some sort. I would have to ask him the next time I saw him. If he was hiding a secret like that I wasn’t sure I could trust him after all.
Supper was uneventful, except it seemed that the number of guys and some girls who were watching me had grown to about eight. They went back to looking elsewhere every time I glared at them. After my third helping I decided to head out again. I think three of them followed me but I had something else I needed to do so I ignored them.
When I got back I found Jade already getting ready for bed. It seems her new job is very demanding and she was worn out. I have to admit I was getting tired also, but I had something I had to do first.
The second get to know everyone party was getting started. It took a while but I finally found Belle. I related what had happened at Twain and asked if there was something more that needed to be done. She told me that this was not unusual but to keep my eyes and ears open. I agreed and decided that I needed to get more rest and headed back to our room.
I would have a lot to do tomorrow. I just hoped that things would settle down soon. I wanted a chance to get back up in the rafters and I hadn’t had a chance to work out in days. Now I needed to rest.
I actually woke up before the alarm went off. I was feeling pretty good this morning and was looking forward to wandering around the campus and getting a better idea of the total layout. Jade woke up right after as I headed for a much needed shower.
When I got back she was standing there with a towel around her and a glass of orange juice for me.”Hey Jade. What’s up?”
She bowed and offered the glass of OJ to me. “Good morning. I hope you showered well. Would you care for some juice this morning?” It seemed a little formal to me but it also meant a lot to her.
I accepted the glass after tossing my towel on my bed. “Uh, what’s up?” I asked again.
She seemed a little nervous. “Tennyo-san... Your accident... you said it was a million to one chance. Please, I don’t mean to bother you with this, but when you became...” The need in her eyes gave me a pretty good idea of what she wanted to ask me as she indicated my body. “As you are, when you became a girl. Was it because of the drug, or because of your powers?”
“Oh, that.” I wasn’t sure how I could answer her. I wanted to help her, but I wouldn’t subject my worst enemy to what I went through. Certainly not on the very slight chance that it might help her become a girl. “My accident, huh?” I delayed a little by drinking some of my juice and starting to look for the clothes I was going to wear today.
I pulled out a bra and muttered to myself. “I suppose I should wear one, even if I don’t really need it.” It’s a good thing I’m more flexible now. It makes it possible for me to put on and fasten the bras in a way I would never have been able to before.
I decided to give it to her straight. “Well, I can tell you it sure wasn’t the drug. That stuff was pure poison. I’m convinced that any other mutant that tried the stuff would end up dead, and it sure never changed anyone like this before.” I continued to dress as I continued trying to express how I felt about the situation.
“I think I’d have to chalk it up to my mimic powers, or rather, the mimic powers that I used to have before they burned out. That, and the fact that I was apparently a hermaphrodite, or semi-hermaphrodite, or whatever. Nothing that really sounds too useful to anyone else. Sorry.” I felt bad because there was little I could do for her. “Hope it’s not too disappointing.”
She bowed and headed for the showers. “No. Thank you for your time, Tennyo-san.”
It was obvious that she was disappointed. I also realized that she had straightened and made my bed while I was at the showers. “Did you make my bed?” I called after her. “You didn’t have to do that.”
She continued towards the showers and I was left wondering if there was anything I could do for her as I dressed and tried to decide what I would do today. I decided to get breakfast first, then worry about it. I made sure the room was in good order and waited for Jade to get back.
When Jade got back, she dressed in the grubbiest clothing she had and explained that she was going to be working in the storm drains today. Maybe I could get a job doing some of what she was doing. Yesterday, she had been doing windows. I’m pretty good with heights.
As we headed out Mrs. Horton called out to me and told me to check my box. We had been assigned mail boxes after we had gotten our rooms. For a moment I wondered who would be sending me anything yet. Even my parents probably didn’t have my new address yet. They would be sending messages through Mr. Lodgeman.
Then I remembered that Mr. Bellows was sending me the introductory packet. I told Jade to go on and I would catch up. In my box I found that I had two items. One was a large manilla envelope. The other was a small letter addressed to me with an on campus post mark.
The large envelope was what I thought it was and then some. It had the introductory package, a current statement of my account, and a confirmed schedule for my classes. I was relieved to see that I wasn’t going to have to change anything now. There was too much going on and I felt like I was behind already.
The small letter was from Mr. Lodgeman letting me know that I should meet him right after breakfast in front of the admin building. Apparently Miss Rogers had my uniforms ready and we were going to go get them. I ran back up to our room and shoved the stuff into a drawer. Then I headed out to catch up with Jade and get breakfast.
I was only being tailed by one person now. He had to hurry a bit to keep up with me, so he was pretty obvious. I wondered if they gave classes on espionage and related subjects here. I don’t think my tail had a clue. He was way too obvious.
I found Jade in the cafeteria and we had a quick breakfast. I only went back once for seconds. She headed off to work and I headed out to meet Mr. Lodgeman in the parking lot.
He was waiting in his truck, reading a paper and drinking coffee from a covered mug. When he saw me he smiled, put the paper down, and put his mug in a holder near the dash.
“Glad you are so punctual Billie. This shouldn’t take long, but I like to get an early start.”
“I’m pretty excited. I really want to see what Miss Rogers has for me.” I really wanted to see what I had paid so much for. It had been the biggest debit to date by a long way on my statement.
“You won’t be disappointed. Cecelia has an incredible talent for getting things just right.”
“I hope so. I really don’t have a clue.”
“You’ll do just fine. By the way, both you and Harry are signed up for Ballroom. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure he would do it. He’s sure to get a little ribbing for it.”
“He’ll survive. Besides, after I reminded him yesterday, he better be there.”
“Yes. I imagine he will. Especially with your encouragement.”
He hesitated for a moment. “Uh, Billie?”
Something in his tone made me sit up straighter and pay better attention.
“Please give me a detailed recounting of what happened yesterday. I’m hearing some disturbing reports about you.”
“What did I do?”
“The report indicates that you attacked someone at Twain. I haven’t been able to confer with anyone who was there and it could have serious consequences if it is true.”
“I didn’t ‘attack’ anyone. A jerk called Montana tried to muscle me and I only showed him that it wouldn’t be a good idea.” I was starting to get a little defensive. I didn’t like the sound of this at all.
“If I had wanted to push the matter, I could’ve accused him of attacking me and got him into all sorts of trouble.”
“Settle down Billie. It’s not as serious as I may have made it sound... Yet.” He gave me a moment to catch my breath and then continued.
“There is no official complaint. This is only rumor as yet. I would like to know what happened and who I can talk to. I’m coming to you first.”
I took some deep breaths and then described the event from my perspective. After I was done he was silent for a few moments.
“Okay, I’m pretty sure that there won’t be any trouble from this. There are plenty of witnesses and you showed real restraint in handling the situation.” He suddenly got very serious.
“You are going to have to be more careful in the future.”
“What do you mean?” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. It almost sounded like he was blaming me for what had happened!
He seemed embarrassed but continued to talk. “Billie... How can I say this? Uh... You’re a girl now.”
“So? I can take care of myself!”
“That isn’t the issue here. It’s the fact that people aren’t going to see that aspect of you right off. They are going to assume that you are just a girl and treat you in that fashion.”
“You are going to find it demeaning sometimes but you may find that it will be safer for you and them if you can keep a lower profile and not put yourself in a situation that your skills in combat will be needed.”
“Just a girl?” I was starting to get a little irritated.
“Their viewpoint, not mine, or a particularly reasonable one in reality, but it is still there and you have to be aware of it and ready to defuse it at any time. I think you will find as you become more familiar with your new circumstances and with how girls handle them that you will not have as much trouble in the future.”
“But, I can take care of myself. Why should I run from these jerks just because it wouldn’t look good for them to get a justifiable ass kicking from a girl? Should I let them paw at me just because most girls can’t make them stop or regret doing it.?”
“Many of them can do just what you are suggesting. Most of them still manage to avoid the confrontations that cause so much trouble through experience and training. That is the point. Please try to keep a lower profile until you can get the experience and training that you will need to be more effective at avoiding these situations.”
I didn’t like the sound of this at all. But, what made it worse, was that I could see what he was getting at. It definitely was one of those girl things that I was becoming more aware of and starting to despair at ever getting right
“What can I do?”
“I understand that this isn’t going to be easy or fast. All I’m asking is that you try to be more aware of the problems your new circumstances can cause and try to act a little more girl like in the future.”
I wasn’t sure I could do this. But, what choice did I have.
“Okay, I’ll try. But, I can’t promise anything. I hope you understand.”
“That’s all I can ask. I’m sorry to have to bring it up, but I am responsible for you and this school and the students in it.”
“I’m that dangerous huh?”
“Billie, you said it yourself. You were holding back. It’s another aspect of your condition. Many are going to underestimate you and cause problems because they assume they can get away with it.”
“Alright, I understand, I will try hard to keep out of trouble.”
The talk had taken most of the trip. We were quiet for the remainder. He spoke as we parked out front.
“I need to run a few other errands before we head back. Why don’t you go in and see what Cecelia has for you. When I get back we can load everything and get back before lunch. How does that sound?”
This must be the way Miss Rogers arranged to talk with me alone. That was fine with me.
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you soon.” I hopped out and waved as he drove off. Many of the people around me took some notice but most just made a point of ignoring me.
I moved over to the door and stepped inside to the ringing of bells.
I heard Miss Rogers call out from the back room. “I’ll be out soon, please feel free to look around or have a seat.”
I moved over to the small table with two chairs and some magazines. They were fashion magazines and I sat and leafed through them. I tried to imagine what I would look like wearing some of the dresses and such shown in them.
Not to long after I started doing that I heard movement in the doorway and Miss Rogers came out with a lady who looked to be in her sixties.
“Thank you Cecelia. I’m so glad to have you here. You can’t imagine how hard it was to find a good seamstress before you came to town. I would have to travel all the way to Concord, and the quality still wasn’t always very good. I can’t imagine what it would be like now that I am getting on.”
“That’s quite all right Mrs. Potter. You make it a pleasure to do business here. If you don’t mind, I’ll just put this on your bill, and save us the bother of writing all this down at this time.”
“Thank you again dear. You are always so considerate.” They continued to ignore me and talk about various things going on in the community that I had no interest in. A few minutes later, a cab pulled up outside and honked.
“There’s your cab now. Let me help you with these bundles.” Miss Rogers was trying to pick up several bundles and keep Mrs. Potter from doing the same.
My innate sense of chivalry prompted me to come over and help out. I hesitated only a moment as I tried to decide if that would be appropriate behavior for a girl. Then I decided that I didn’t care. I was going to do it anyway because I felt it was right and anyone who didn’t think so could go and kick themselves.
“Hello! Can I help?”
Miss Rogers gave me a pleased glance. “Yes dear. Please take this hat box and these two dresses. Be careful to not drag them on the ground.”
“Yes maam! Do you want me to get the door?” Miss Rogers was holding up four more dresses and had her hands full.”
Mrs. Potter shuffled over to the door. “No, no! I’ll get it. It’s the least I can do.” She managed to get the door open and hold it for us as we maneuvered through without stepping on or dragging the dresses.
“Thank you maam!”
“Think nothing of it young lady. It is a wonder and a pleasure to see that all the young people haven’t lost sight of how important civility and service are.”
I didn’t know how to reply to that so I just said, “Yes maam! It’s a pleasure to help out.” As I carefully moved my load out the door and over to the cab.
The driver, an older gentleman in an old fashioned suit, moved quickly to open his trunk and place what looked like a clean drop cloth in it.
“Here young lady, let me help you.” He then proceeded to take each item from me and Miss Rogers and carefully stow them in the trunk. When he had placed all of them in, he carefully pulled the edges over everything and closed the trunk quietly.
Then he opened the door for Mrs. Potter while I helped her get in. When she was settled and before I could pull back she took my arm in a firm grip.
“Now don’t fret too much dear. Things always look worse at first. As long as you and your friends hang together you will pull through fabulously.” I was looking into her eyes as she said this and for a moment it felt as if I was looking into some vast area behind her eyes.
Then she dropped her eyes, patted me on the cheek and let go. I backed out, wondering what had just happened. The cab driver gave me a smile and a nod. He then got in and I heard Mrs. Potter direct him to the IGA store.
As they drove away. Miss Rogers gave my shoulder a squeeze. “You must have really impressed her. She won’t give most people the time of day. She says that the majority of people aren’t interesting enough to bother with.”
“What was that she was talking about?”
“I don’t know, but don’t just blow it off either. She seems to have some talent for predicting the future and I don’t think she has ever been wrong. At least no one I know has heard of a time she was.”
I shuddered a little. It seemed my life was going to be filled with interesting people and I might end up being one of them.
“Now Billie, let’s go in and we can get down to business.” We headed in and she closed and locked the door. Then she put out a sign that said, BE BACK SOON.
“There. Now we shouldn’t be interrupted. Let’s go in back and I can show you what I have done.”
“There’s going to be more?”
“I have to do more research, but I do have some ideas I would like to try on you.”
“Yes dear. Don’t take this wrong, but you represent a rare opportunity for me to really stretch my talents.”
She stopped, turned to me, took me by the shoulders, and looked me in the eye. “You are a very beautiful young lady. I know that it may be hard for you to understand right now, but the more beautiful the woman, the harder it is to properly compliment that beauty and make it shine more. This is the kind of challenge I live for.”
“You haven’t met Fey yet.”
“Nikki Reilly, we just call her Fey. You want to talk about beautiful, you should meet her. She is in the room across from Jade and me. She is turning into an elf from the looks of it. A really beautiful one. Whenever I have to lose someone tailing me, all I have to do is arrange to walk near her. Everyone gets so busy watching her that it is easy to duck out of sight and away.”
“Sounds like quite the character.”
“She’s a wonderful person and is taking the changes she is going through really well. You would like to meet her. She should meet you too.”
“Yeah. She can only wear non artificial stuff. Anything else will break her out into a rash. I bet she could really use your help.”
“She sounds fascinating. Maybe you can introduce us one of these days.”
“I will. It’s just that we are all so busy getting settled in right now. We hardly have time to think. Much less get around off of campus. It’s only because Mr. Lodgeman is bringing me that I can come now.”
“Well, if that is what is holding you back, here is my card. Give me a call when you girls need to come down and I will come out and get you.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Believe me Billie. It’s not all altruistic. It sounds as if I might be able to make a fair amount of money on this if I can get some of that business. I am always looking for chances to increase my bottom line and if I can have a bit of fun while I’m doing it then that is frosting on the cake.” She grinned as she said this and I had to grin back.
We were now in front of a rack of clothing that was so tall that it had to be for Harry. Next to it was what looked to be five more uniforms for me and three more casual suits of clothing. There were two skirt and blouse combinations. One was a navy blue with white trim and the other was a white with blue trim. Both followed a sailor type design. The third was a ballroom gown in Whateley colors.
“This is for me?”
“Yes dear. These should help you get started. And I am hoping to see you at the formal dances this year in this gown. Please be sure to tell everyone where you got it. It is some of my best work if I do say so myself.”
“Wow! They’re beautiful!” I just had to touch the gown. It was the kind you only saw occasionally in competitions.
“Do you want to try it on?”
“You paid for it. It’s yours. Use the dressing room over there.” She was obviously proud of her creation.
I took it down and hurried over to the dressing room. It took me about fifteen minutes to figure out the best way to wear it. After I had it properly arranged, it balanced on me perfectly. I started to realize that I might actually be able to look good in something like this.
When I stepped out I realized that we were no longer alone. Mr. Lodgeman and Miss Rogers were talking quietly over near the door.
“Why is she taking such an interest in Billie? It worries me when I can’t get any better idea of what is going on.”
“Don’t worry. I’m pretty sure that she means well. Oh. Look, here is Billie now!” They both had the guilty look of someone caught doing something they shouldn’t. Then that changed as they got a better look at me.
Mr. Lodgeman’s eyes got bigger. “Wow! Is that you Billie? You look incredible! Cecelia, you have really out done yourself this time!”
I think both of us were blushing at this.
“Yes. I have, haven’t I.”
They moved towards me. “Let’s get a better look at you.” I stood still as they moved around me.
“Cecelia, if you would do the honors.” He had moved in front of me. Then he bowed. Miss Rogers started up some waltz music over some kind of intercom. I started to bow in return and then tried to curtsy as I realized my new position.
Fortunately, I can levitate, or I would have landed on my face. Or, maybe Mr. Lodgeman might have caught me. As it was I caught myself and then he caught me. I wasn’t sure why, but I got a thrill out of that.
“Want to try that again?”
“Uh, sure.” I felt really hot all at once. I know that I will have to relearn a lot of how to dance and that I might be clumsy for a while as I relearned the right reflexes. For some reason, being this close to him was making me a lot more aware of my failings.
“Relax Billie. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I thought you might like to practice a little though.”
“P-please. I’d like to . Really.”
He smiled, and held out his hands.
We danced for the next hour. I was surprised how quickly I could relax. And even more surprised how easy it was to fall into my new role in the dance. It was as much or more fun than I remembered.
Afterwards I changed back into my uniform and carefully packed the gown into a carrying bag that Miss Rogers provided. I then went out to help load everything.
“You’re a natural at this Billie. I expect to see you in this gown at our first class Friday.”
“I need to show the less willing that there are excellent reasons to stick it out and what they are working for.”
He had the decency to blush a little. “Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. But I imagine that you will inspire a few of them to try.”
“That, or give up on the spot.” Miss Rogers had turned off the music, and was watching us from over by the rack of clothes.
“Cecelia! I’m sure that she will only inspire them.”
“The question is whether to greater heights or despair. Now come help with these. I have a business to run you know.”
“You enjoyed it too!”
“Yes. I did. But it won’t pay my way. Now I have to get back to work.”
“Okay, Okay, I have a space cleared in my truck. We can put it in there.”
“It’s a good thing I have these wrapped in plastic.”
“I keep my truck clean.” He sounded a little hurt by her insinuation.
“I’m sure you do. But I don’t believe in taking chances.”
It took several trips to load things properly. After she was satisfied that her creations would probably survive the trip unharmed she gave me a hug.
“You will do fine. Don’t let your guard down though. I’m sure that trouble is coming this way. Be on the lookout, okay?”
“See you Friday. Good luck.”
“Thank you for everything!”
We waved and headed back to school.
Mr. Lodgeman helped me with my uniforms and other clothes. He then took off to deliver Harry’s. I asked to help out, but he thought that might not be a good idea. He wanted to ask a few questions also and felt that my presence might not help.
After he headed out I spent the rest of the morning putting my new clothes away and reviewing the information in the introductory packet. On a whim, I decided to try the navy sailor suit. I decided to wear it to lunch. I found myself wondering what Harry would think of it.
We didn’t have much in the way of a mirror, but I thought I might look good in it. By the time lunch rolled around I was starting to get nervous again. I wasn’t sure why though. It didn’t make sense. I was just going to discuss our class schedules. It wasn’t as if we were going on a date or anything.
What made me think of that? I suddenly found myself getting warm again. What was going on? I seemed to be bouncing around on an emotional roller coaster. Everything seemed magnified and out of proportion. Maybe this was that hormone thing I’d heard others talking about. I hoped I could get over it soon.
Well, no point in putting it off. Time to head out and see if Harry was going to even be there. For a moment I wondered where Jade was. Then I remembered that she was working down in the storm drains today. I wished I could talk to her but she wasn’t here now. Maybe I could find her at lunch!
With that encouraging thought I headed out. Hoping to find Jade and get some moral support before I made a fool of myself.
When I got there I found that it was much more crowded that it had been before. Now that everyone could come out they all seemed to feel the need to gather in the more public areas and enjoy the new freedom.
I couldn’t spot anyone that I knew right off so I headed to the area I had told Harry we could meet. I was glad we had made this arrangement as I was pretty sure that we would have had a hard time finding each other if we hadn’t.
I finally found him near the red maple and made my way over to him. He had staked out a table and kept a clear area for me.
“Harry!” I had to raise my voice to be heard over the din. He heard me and smiled and waved me over. I made my way through the crowd, sat down next to him, and took hold of his hand.
“Thanks Harry! I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t held a spot for me. I’ve never seen it so crowded!”
He seemed a little surprised by my holding his hand and for a moment I thought he would pull away. Then he smiled.
“Glad to be of some assistance! Now, how does a hungry boy get any food around here?”
“You go over there and let them scan your student card. Then you grab a tray and help yourself. It’s like a buffet. It’s not home cooking, but at least it can fill you up if you get enough. I’ll hold our spot until you get back and then get my own. Okay?”
“Okay! I’ll be right back!” He headed over to where the line started. Things went smoothly for about five minutes and then a good looking boy tried to sit in Harry’s seat.
“Pardon me! That seat is Harry’s. He went to get some food and is going to be right back.”
“You snooze you lose. Possession is nine tenths of the law babe. Why hang out with some loser when you can be with me anyway?” He smiled in a way that gives a leer a good name as he said that.
“I’m saving this seat for him, thank you. Please leave.” I was holding my temper in check as I had promised Mr. Lodgeman I would. I was trying to be polite but I wasn’t going to back down either.
“Hey hey babe. Chill a little. I’m here and not planning on leaving anytime soon.” He reached over and took my hand. “Give me a chance, I’m sure you’ll get to like me so much that this Harry of yours will just become a bad memory.” He still hadn’t lost that smile and I wanted to wipe my hand off.
I pulled my hand away firmly even as he tried to hold on.
“These are our chairs and the only chance I’m going to give you right now is the chance to get up and leave before I have to assist you on your way. Small sparks had started to pop around me and I could feel the now familiar flow of energy around me.
“Is there a problem here?”
This was said by an tall good looking Indian boy who I suddenly noticed was standing next to us. He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to the rude boy who didn’t seem to appreciate the attention he was getting.
“Hey Adam. No need for you around here. Don’t you have some bank robbers to chase or something?” Rude boy was obviously not on good terms with Adam, which made Adam okay in my book for now.
“There won’t be a problem if this jerk will just move on so my friend can have this seat that I was saving for him back.” I could actually feel my power pull back a little as the situation started to look like I might not have to do anything. I actually started to wonder if I could just let this new guy handle it for me.
Harry showed up at that time and was trying to size up the situation before saying anything. I had to admire his control and thoughtfulness, but I felt I better get him involved sooner rather than later. I didn’t want any confusion over who I was here with.
“C’mon! Move out so Harry can sit down. I was saving this seat for him.” I motioned Harry over as I said this.
“They were here first?”
“The seat was empty. I have a right to sit don’t I?”
“Not if it’s already taken and you are not welcome.”
Adam seemed to be getting bigger somehow, and I could feel a bit of energy building up.
Rude boy got the message and got up. “Now that I see what was sitting here I don’t want it anyway.” He swaggered off. He might not have had so easy a time of it if Adam hadn’t somehow held me in place with the hand he put on my shoulder.
“Don’t. He isn’t worth the trouble you would get in.” He did this all while looking relaxed and at peace with the world. I wondered where he had learned that and if I could learn it too.
Harry stood there with a large platter of food, wondering what he should do. I waved him to his seat.
“Sit down Harry, before some other jerk tries to.”
He was splitting his attention between me, Adam, and the Jerk.
“Oh! Harry, meet Adam, Adam meet Harry. I don’t want to have anything to do with that jerk who just left, so I won’t bother trying to introduce you to him.”
“Harry put down his tray and shook Adam’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Harry Wolfe.”
“Adam Ironknife. I’m pleased to meet you too.” He had a great smile too. I bet most girls must find him incredibly attractive. I had to admit with a little surprise that I found myself thinking of him that way also.
I stood up. “I’m Billie Wilson.” I shook his hand also. “Thank you for your help. I was starting to think I was going to have to do something drastic there.”
“Don’t mention it. It’s all part of my duties as a Peacekeeper.”
“Yes. Some of us volunteer to help Security on occasion. We are called Peacekeepers and we are expected to help keep things quite as possible when we can. Not that I wouldn’t have liked to see old Darren get some of what he has coming to him, but I can’t risk the collateral damage.”
He said this with a smile and I got the feeling that he really meant it.
“Um... I better go and get my lunch too. I’ll be back soon.” I thanked him again and headed towards the food line. When I looked back I could see him and Harry talking and I wondered what they thought of the situation. I would have to ask when I got back.
I also took a lesson from Harry’s book and grabbed a large platter and used it for my plate. I was able to fit a lot more on it and for once I could probably only have to make one trip for food, maybe.
When I got back, Adam was gone and Harry was waiting impatiently to eat.
“He had to go. He said to give his apologies, but he had an appointment to get to.”
“What were you talking about?”
“Nothing much, I just wanted to know how he became a Peacekeeper.”
“Oh? How did he do it?”
“He had to be asked. Apparently he caught the eye of a Peacekeeper on one of the field trips he was on and they decided that he would make a good one after they checked up on him.”
“They checked up on him?”
“Yeah, apparently they are sticklers on that kind of thing.”
“Oh.” Well, that probably left me out.
“You didn’t have to get any more for me.” It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about the food I had brought.
“This? I’m afraid that I only got this for me. If you need more I’ll go get another plate.”
He looked at me with some disbelief. “This I’ve got to see.”
I glared at him and started in on the food. He stared at me for a moment and then started in on his own. He might be able to eat faster than me, but I think I can eat more. One of these days we will have to have a face off and find out.
I think most of the people around us were in awe. At least they were quieter in our immediate vicinity. We finished fairly quickly and I was thinking of going back for seconds when Harry suggested that we go somewhere else a little quieter.
We headed to the library and found a table to sit at and compare our class schedules. I would be taking Flight class while Harry would be taking a Martial Arts course in the early morning. In the first standard schedule class I would be taking Advanced Genetics and he would be taking Advanced Physics.
“Your good at math then, Harry?”
“Seems to come naturally to me. You seem kind of like my Dad. He’s got plant biology down to an art.”
“Yeah. I can’t seem to get higher math much at all, but I get the bio stuff and most writing related stuff easy.”
We then found that I would be taking remedial mathematics in the next class and he would be taking the Beginning English course.
“Maybe you can help me with my Math?”
“Maybe you can help me with my English?”
“Sounds like a deal to me!” We grinned as we said this together. Maybe we could give Jade and Jinn a run for their money.
To my delight, we would be taking Powers Theory 1 together in third period. And then go to lunch.
After lunch, I would be taking Home Ec and he would take Beginning History. We would both be in Powers Theory Lab for fifth period and He would finish the second block with Advanced Design Concepts while I would be taking Martial Arts.
We would both be taking Ballroom Dance Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after Supper. Our first classes would be tomorrow and the dance class would start Friday. My Saturday Flight Lab would start the following week.
We also had a chance to tell each other a bit about ourselves. I learned that he was from Maine, way out in the middle of nowhere and I already knew that he had six older sisters and his dad looked kind of like Harry but redder and had incredible skill with plants. His mother and sisters looked completely normal.
In fact we talked so long that it was approaching Supper when we stopped. We were on the way to becoming pretty good friends and I felt a little sadness when we had to stop and head back to our respective cottages. I figured we could talk again in Powers Theory.
I got back just in time to get ready for Supper. Ayla was getting a little impatient. I had forgotten about the note until now. Tonight we would set a trap. The excitement almost put me off my feed. I only ate one platter of food.
After we got back, Ayla put the note under the bust of Poe. And Jade set up a watch using Jinn. For a little while, the excitement kept me on edge, but I had a long day behind me and school was going to start tomorrow. I decided to take a shower and get some rest.
I met Fey while I was there. We both had a chance to vent a little. The changes that we are going through are more than a little stressful and having someone to talk to about it who isn’t going to just blow you off or criticize you is worth more than you know until your in that situation. Fey seems kind of sad. I hope she knows that we will be there for her if she needs it.
I finally got to sleep when the next thing I know, I’m peeling myself off the ceiling. I must be more stressed out than I knew. Jade had just burst in with the news that someone was at the bust. I grabbed my bathrobe while she went to get the others.
We met outside Fey’s room and after hearing what Jade had for us we decided to pursue the guys who had taken the bust. Jinn had gone ahead as Simba to keep tabs on them. We teamed up, Ayla with me, Jade with Toni, and Hank with Fey.
Since we didn’t know which way they’d gone, we split up and spread out in order to find them. Unfortunately, Ayla and I headed the wrong way at first. Then we heard Toni’s Ki yell and knew the action was towards Kane Hall.
By the time we got there a lot had already happened. Toni’s Ki yell had stopped whatever they had originally planned and Fey had attacked them with some kind of chattering teeth goblins. They had been slowed down and then Toni got into the fight and was showing them how martial arts is done.
At this time, Ayla and I were above and coming down. Then something happened to Toni and she collapsed after some weird stunts. But, not until she had taken one of them out with some unknown technique. There were five ninja types. One was out, three were moving in on Toni, and one was off away from the fighting and avoiding everyone.
Then one of them pulled out a power sword and advanced on the helpless Toni. Ayla assured me that she would be fine and could get down on her own. I power dived the coward and found that I could make my own sword to fight him.
Ignoring the crowd that seemed to be forming but not helping, I confronted the ninja with the sword. I was going to have to let the others handle the other three.
Maybe they should call me Blade Bane. It seems I have a rough way with other peoples bladed weapons. For the second time in my life I crossed blades with someone trying to kill me. For the second time, their blade came out second best.
This time I had a better idea of what to expect and even had some time to put in a few well placed put downs as I did it. I funneled more power into my blade before they hit each other and I also put some effort into holding the blade together. This time, instead of being red, my blade was an interesting blue.
Our blades came together, and he was lucky that he was the one swinging and I was blocking. His blade sparked and gave up the ghost and he was left wide open for some more comments on how inadequate he was.
This made him a little angry, but not enough to stick around and get his tail whupped. He took off running with the others and I was left trying to catch up. Not long after that he and his friends ran into a welcoming wall Fey had set up. She can really look impressive when she puts her mind to it. Even in bed gear.
After that, the fight just went out of them. I think the one that had tried to stay out of the way was almost in tears. They were having a really bad day. Served them right. All I wanted was to go back to bed. Then I found out I couldn’t just cancel my sword and had to launch it into the air where it made an impressive flash and bang.
Finally, we answered all the questions we had to and they let us head back to the cottage. We collected Simba on the way back. Fortunately, he would be easy to repair.
Matters hadn’t been helped much by the fact that Toni’s Ki yell had woken just about everyone up, Fey’s hobgoblins had wrecked a little havoc, and my finale with the exploding sword had woken everyone up who hadn’t already been roused by the ruckus.
It was kind of depressing to consider how far I had to go still to control my powers.
To top it all off, the note had disappeared during the confusion. Boy am I glad I pushed for the false names routine. Ayla was furious. I think she felt that she had missed the best parts of the fight and hadn’t had a chance to work off some of the steam the note had raised. Can’t say as I can blame her. At least I had a chance to get into the fight.
I didn’t think I would get to sleep that night, but as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. Too much excitement I guess.