Even Murphy's Law has Loopholes (Chapter 1)
Even Murphy’s Law has Loopholes
A Lit Chix Story
By Joe Gunnarson and E.E. Nalley
It's hard when you get to a new school. No friends, no teachers who know you, and really no clue what the hell is going on. Now throw in one hunky, semi-evil Alaskan, one redheaded gadgeteer from hell and a whole lot of malicious intent towards the Alphas and you have Murphy's first semester at School. It's time to lay down the Law.
Main Gate, Whateley Academy
Joanne looked up at the two stone gargoyles bracketing the front gate of the boarding school and sighed. This whole boarding school thing might have been a lot cooler if it didn’t feel like she was being exiled from home. Okay, being excluded from the schools in the Fairbanks area sort of necessitated it. The Catholic School wouldn’t touch her with a cattle prod; the Cemetery incident had cemented that. Her Mom and Dad didn’t have the time or resources it would have taken to home school her. Having just finished another move to continue much-needed college courses for Dad to finish up his teaching degree meant everyone was about run ragged, and just when they’d gotten back home to the frozen hell and were settling in all hell had broken loose.
Jo’s shoulder ached from the temperature change, from close to forty below Zero to just above twenty-five degrees with a healthy dusting of snow and a much more humid climate was playing hell on her body. Ever since she’d tried “jumping” to school and materialized with her left arm and shoulder in the wall the limb acted up whenever there was a major shift in weather. If she weren’t a mid-range regenerator, she would be wearing a prosthetic instead of dutifully ignoring the pain
The only silver lining was chuckling at all the heavy-duty cold-weather gear the other kids getting off the busses leading to boarding school were wearing. Joann adjusted the glasses perched on her nose and started slogging towards the center of the campus area, resigned to her fate of living away from home, and school uniforms.
The incredulous looks people gave her amused the young Alaskan; thin flannel shirt over an Invader Zim tee, to go along with the torn jeans and hiking boots weren’t exactly cold-weather fare. However, Dunwich New Hampshire was sixty degrees warmer than where she’d come from. At least I had managed to wear a bra, she thought to herself smugly. Something many of my fellow students seemed to forget in their haste to paint on their impractical outfits on oh-too-perfect bodies. Then again there were the girls who had similar outfits on bodies that could only be described as abusing the privilege.
Everyone else was grouping up and gabbing about their Christmas break which annoyed the newcomer; coming to a new school in the middle of the year invariably sucked. Making friends was hard once the cliques had formed up already. Although looking at some of the snotty affectations of a lot of the other girls, she wasn’t sure that it was a bad thing.
The first thing that caught her eye was the fat kid in the hovering wheelchair. That wasn’t so bad until she realized the pimpled mass of Baron Harkonnen-esque paunch was stuffing his face with a foot-long hoagie, and wasn’t bothering to be clean about it. Jo tried to concentrate on the wheelchair, and was promptly distracted by the hind-end of a girl with what looked like black-scaled skin with blue striping, long white hair and digitigraded legs with raptor-claws at the ends as well as a long, thick tail chatting it up with a normal, semi-scruffy boy who was playing with an inky ball of flickering dark in his hands. What was really odd was the fact that boyo there didn’t seem at all fazed by his conversation partner’s inhuman appearance, or the two pairs of horns jutting up and back from her head.
A quick glance around told the story. Mom and Dad had neglected to say that this school for the “gifted” they were sending me to without consultation and much haste, was actually packed full of mutant kids! Joanne blinked as she processed that information, and suddenly a lot of the cryptic comments that had been made suddenly clicked.
A girl with spiky blue, gravity-defying hair shot southward over the quad, flying pretty quickly. Another kid, Native American from the looks of it, stood imposingly near the flagpoles keeping an eye on everything wore an odd suit of skintight materiel that definitely caught the eye. Over to the side a lithe girl wearing a hoodie walked rapidly like she was trying to hide her utter-dark skin with the glowing, glittering motes like stars winking in and out.
This was either the best thing, or the worst thing that had ever happened to Joanne. “Anything that can go wrong…” she continued the rest of the muttered phrase in her head silently, surreptitiously going around the clustered knots of kids, trying to get her bearings without stressing or getting too excited. Either one could be bad.
Gunnarson pulled open her backpack and opened up the sheaf of paper mom called the “introduction packet.” On it was scrawled “Whitman Cottage” and “Check-in at Schuster Hall.”
“Gee, thanks Mom, so helpful.” She looked around and looked for likely prospects to get directions from. The majority of the kids were bustling about like they had a purpose, which left the weaselly-looking kid sneering at everyone and lounging like he owned the world, or the short, blonde girl in digi-camouflage playing with something that looked like a quad-tube rocket launcher from the comic books. All in all the weasel kid looked like a safer prospect than the girl with explosive aspirations.
The boy in question looked up as she approached, and got a much-put-upon expression. “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to play tour guide to the lost and desperate. Unless you’re here to volunteer for my experiment in improving looks and personality? I’ll even throw in the full upgrade for free if you’ll get rid of that hideous purple dye job.”
So I’d let my baby sister pick the color I had dyed my bangs, so what? Joanne simply turned a hard right and began walking towards the girl with the rocket launcher. Sudden temper eruptions brought on by arrogant assholes tended to result in some… interesting… developments.
She gritted her teeth, ignored the long-suffering sigh from the little bastard and kept walking. Just the tone of the way he talked made her want to throw him into the snow bank and stuff his clothing with the cold, white stuff. Fortunately, she had better temper control than to be set off by one arrogant little butt hole with a sense of entitlement.
The girl smirked as Joanne approached and looked at her watch. “Wow, four seconds from ‘Hi,” to wanting to maim him. Jobe’s getting better at that.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting looking for directions to be a bad choose-your-own-adventure episode. I want a refund.”
“Try not to get too worked up. Jobe is a dick. He has always been a dick, he will always be a dick.”
“So I’m hoping he’s in the minority?” Joanne sighed. Anything that can go wrong…
“About like you’d expect. Most of the assholes and bullies have better things to do than lurk around the quad bemoaning the rest of the world’s lack of appreciation for their genius.” The girl was short, and cute, if a bit blocky compared to most girls. She looked like she occasionally lifted weights on the side, but not to the point where weightlifting women looked more like men.
“Happy day. So not to put too fine a point on it, is everyone here a mutant?”
“Didn’t get the sales pitch?”
“No, my parents did, then promptly told me ‘you’ll enjoy boarding school’ before packing me off at the 11th hour.” Jo tried, and failed, to keep the bitter irritation out of my voice.
“Well, that’s fucked up. But yeah, everyone’s a mutant here.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Well, Bladedancer isn’t, but she kicked that raggedy-ass oxygen-thieving fuck head Nex’s ass so she’s cool to be here in my book.”
Joanne blithely ignored the reference to Bladedancer and Nex, while boiling with curiosity on the inside. I can hear about that later. “Okay, so at least I’m in good company, I guess. Any idea where…” a quick glance at the piece of paper again, “Whitman Cottage or Schuster Hall are?”
“Schuster Hall is right over there, Whitman’s down that path over there.” She nodded to the indicated trail through the snow. “So I’m taking it no one’s warned you about the Whitmaniacs, so here’s a piece of friendly piece of advice. If you have a racist streak, have problems with odd looks, or can’t handle the thought of bunking with a nineteen-foot-long snake-girl I’d suggest you hunt up a way to transfer to Dickinson or Melville.”
Jo blinked. “Ok, in order… No, no and you’re serious?”
The girl nodded. “Yup. Last semester Diamondback and me were each others’ worst enemies in the sims. Talk about a fucking riot. She looks like a nineteen-foot-long diamondback anaconda that’s human from the hips up. So, as I said. If you are going to go bug fuck out because you can’t handle bunking with the so-called freaks, I’d recommend sparing everyone a lot of pain and asking for a transfer; mostly sparing the Whitman girls pain, as a lot of them are good goddamned people.”
Gunnarson chewed on that for a few minutes. “Screw it, I’ll cope. If I’m going to jump in the pool, might as well go for the deep end.”
The girl grinned. “That’s the spirit! Challenge yourself, and never let the fuck-tards win!”
“Yeah, sounds like a plan. So what was your name again?”
“Bunker-Buster. My buddies all just call me Bunker.”
Joanne looked at the rocket launcher. “Seems appropriate.” Bunker just grinned. “I’m Joanne, but according to this stupid card the MCO jackboots gave me, I’m Murphy.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Anything that can go wrong…”
“Will go wrong,” Bunker finished.
“Got it in one.”
“Fun shit. Now, I don’t mean to be bitchy, really, but I need to get my launcher fixed up and cleaned before Gunny B sees me. I like my ass free of obstacles such as angry Marine boot inserted hip-deep.”
“Okay, I’ll leave you to it. Thank you for the help.” Joanne walked away shaking her head. Bunker couldn’t possibly be serious about crazy marines and boots in the ass.
January 8th, 2007
Whitman Cottage, Rm 216
“I have no idea what I’m going to take this term,” moaned Maggie as she rolled onto her stomach in an effort to get more comfortable on the bed while scanning the stapled pages that were the course offerings list for the semester.
“Ah thought you were all hot to take Anatomy for Healing Mages,” muttered Elaine from her desk as she poured over the list herself.
“It conflicts with Urban Essence Gathering 212,” Lifeline replied. “After this last weekend I figure I need to never not have a spell ready again.”
“That’s why Ah’m taking Applied Defensive Technologies.”
“I saw that.” Maggie chewed on the end of her pencil for a moment. “I never in a million years thought you’d think about making a tin man suit.” Elaine shrugged as she weighed two options before penciling in a choice. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that thing in the airport. If you hadn’t had your pistol we’d have had a way worse time of things.”
“If Ah hadn’t had mah pistol Ah wouldn’t have gotten involved,” the redhead replied.
“Bullshit,” snapped Maggie playfully. “I know you better than that, girl.”
Elaine looked up from her sheet for the first time and turned the chair to face her best friend. "No Ah’m serious, Mags, Ah would have gotten Renae and Dee and you out of there the fastest and safest way Ah could figure. Ah’m not one of these spandex clad superman wannabe’s. Ah’m here because if Ah were to just clep mah way out of high school it would still be four plus years of college before Ah could study stuff like this.”
Maggie chuckled to herself and shook her head. “Oh, yes, I sometimes forget I’m sharing a dorm room with Gene Roddenberry’s daughter. Space the final frontier y’all!”
“Oh hush,” chuckled Elaine as she turned back to her paper.
“Those laws you talked about at the airport, do you have to have a Gadgeteer rating to pack?” Elaine shook her head without replying. “So, any rating works. Cool. Would you consider taking Combat Pistol 203 with me? It says you have to have a lab partner and I’ll probably learn more from you than from Sergeant Wilson.”
“What’s this?” demanded Loophole with mock incredulity. “Do Ah hear a bolt lobber admitting defeat and wanting to turn to science to keep her skin whole?”
“Yes yes, come to the Dark Side, we have cookies, you’ve told me many times.” Maggie looked at the paper for a moment, pencil hovering over the check mark. “So, how about it?”
Elaine pushed her chair over the tiles so as to be in reach of Maggie on her bed. The two girls shook hands by wrapped their pinkie fingers around each other’s. “Best friends forever, Mags, ya’ll know Ah got your back. Ah wouldn’t miss it.” Lifeline smiled.
“Thanks,” she said, penciling in both the choice and Loophole’s name in the lab partner blank. “Will you cook me up something…?”
A shadow passed over Elaine’s face. “Use a loaner to start with,” she replied before nodding. “Besides, it’ll take me some time to come up with something anyways. So, got your stuff figured out?”
“Topics of Familiars for first period, then Drama Shop for my English, Thaumaturgy, Numerology and Mystic Algebra for math, then Paranormal Law, followed by Rights and Responsibilities of Good Samaritan Law Enforcement and finally Combat Pistol. How about you?”
Elaine scooted back over to her desk to get her sheet. “Well, Ah’m torn between Feng shui of Vehicular Design and Theoretical Concepts of Supraluminal Drives. Mr. Donner wants me in FSVD and he promised me extra credit if Ah’d serve as a teaching assistant for it, but Dr Clairmont is up from NASA for just this year and Ah’d like to hear what he has to say. Ah wish Ah could do both, to be honest. Still, Ito-Sensei is co-teaching that class and he and Ah get along like oil and water.”
“Giving him a black eye last year probably wasn’t your brightest moment,” laughed Maggie.
Elaine shrugged. “He’s the genius that wanted to see how mah power worked and by God Ah showed him. You know, Ah think by rights Ah didn’t have very many shining moments last year. Ah think things would go better if we pretended it just didn’t happen.”
Maggie shook her head at her friend’s warped sense of humor, but acquiesced. “Ok, so what about your other classes?”
“Ah decided Ah was going to take Non-linear Equations as Relating to Game Theory Calculus with Mrs. Belland The Prince for World Lit since it’s both an English and a political science credit and Mr. Lord will give me teachers assistant for it. From there it’s Applied Defensive Technologies, and after a year of waiting, Principals of Space Craft Engineering! Then Combat Pistol with you.”
The excitement in Elaine’s voice was drowned out by a sudden growl from her friend’s stomach. “Sorry,” laughed Maggie. “I’m obviously hungry, think I’ll hit the vending machines, you want anything?”
“Sure, grab me a Baby Ruth would ya?”
Maggie got to her feet. “Be right Back.”
January 8th, 2007
Whitman Cottage Common Room
Three hours, and several scheduled medical appointments later, Gunnarson was hiking towards Whitman Cottage. As she approached on the outside it seemed almost homey. Take a little snow, throw it about and the ramshackle-looking brick building almost reminded her of home. It was hardly the picture of elegant construction that Dickinson presented, even though the two buildings were identical, or the modern slant of Melville, but at least she saw something that didn’t look alien. The simple construction reassured. It was the one of the few buildings she’d seen on campus that didn’t look like it would suffer roof failure due to snowfall.
Inside of the cottage Joanne was stopped cold, unprepared for the sight that met her eyes. Girls were hustling and bustling back and forth moving luggage and their personal belongings to their rooms in what seemed a scene of organized chaos. The thing that stopped her was the fact that half of the number was sporting odd features at the least, or flat-out inhuman appearances at worst. One of the prettier ones was sporting feline ears poking out of her hair and a tail.
“Miyet, you forgot your backpack!” The girl who ran over carrying the offending article looked like she’d been wrapped in a gray carapace that was rather bug-like.
Joanne stood in the doorway and gawked, very much out of her element, but in some ways a nice out of element. While very much non-normal, a lot of the oddities that she was seeing just looked cool. A few girls took notice of the new comer, but most were too busy.
A harsh voice growled, “Get out of the way, Blondie,” which proceeded being grabbed bodily and shoved into a wall. The wall had a fair amount of bounce to it as Joanne found herself once more in the path of the speaker, a large, mean, gargoyle-like girl with a sneer on her face. “I said move.”
She shoved again, this time with sufficient force the wind left Gunnarson’s lungs and that part of her brain that likes to be civil, polite and considerate of the consequences clicked off. Joanne’s power reacted for her, the hallway seemed to warp and writhe like a living thing as three-dimensional space decided to take a leave of absence as Joanne teleported.
Joanne blinked back into existence behind the new girl, taking her completely by surprise as she picked her up and threw her to the ground, using her teleportation power to make the distance closer to eight feet. As the gargoyle lashed out, Joanne vanished again, this time re-appearing at the top of the ceiling and falling knee first into her diaphragm. The air was expelled in a painful oof of air, which arched up into a yowl of pain as Joanne boxed the other girl’s ears.
The noise brought Maggie from the vending machine nook. Before the brawl could escalate Lifeline leapt into action, pulling the new girl off and pinning her to a wall. “Damn it, Tisiphone!” She shouted at the gargoyle. “Haven’t you learned anything? You’re the way you are now because you were stupid; it’s your own fault! Stop taking it out on everyone around you!”
Joanne didn’t resist someone else trying to stop the fight, but it was obvious the fight wasn’t out of Tisiphone. “Bitch…!” the gargoyle girl snarled and threw a fireball into Joanne’s face. Again Gunnarson’s instincts took over, screaming in pain the distortions of reality magnified the fireball and Joanne jumped blind in a panic.
Lifeline managed to miss most of the effects and speared Tisiphone with her fiercest gaze. “Are you happy? That girl is a newbie and she’s obviously a pretty potent warper. She could have killed you! Now calm down!”
The gargoyle girl was in no mood to calm down, especially after what the other girl had just told her and started to take a swipe at Maggie. Vincent easily dodged the halfhearted blow and shook her finger. “Don’t do that, Tisiphone.” She warned while muttering words that no one could recall once they’d been said and moving her hands in what looked like a ritualistic gesture. Her blood up, Tisiphone was in no mood to listen to either reason or caution and rushed Lifeline. The blonde sighed and shook her head, never losing her cool. “Okay, you asked for it!”
Her gesture, like tossing a ball, ended up with the gargoyle girl being pushed violently against a wall. Tisiphone, hanging four feet off the floor after that, and winded could only groan as she slid to the floor in an untidy heap.
“Maggie?” A bystander questioned. “Don’t you think you went a little overboard on this one?”
“No.” Maggie shot back. “Tisiphone wasn’t going to stop so someone needed to stop her. I did that, and probably saved her life. That warper is a newbie, with no control, no training, and would strike out at her attacker.”
“Are you going to heal her, Lifeline?” The other asked.
“Nope,” Maggie answered. “She needs to learn. A little pain might just get the point across. But you could sneak her some analgesics once she wakes up.”
As she was wont to do, the Housemother seemed to appear out of thin air. Mrs. Savage looked over at the blonde, disapprovingly. “And what makes you believe that the warper was a newbie?”
Lifeline shrugged. “She did everything they teach warpers not to do, you know, start shredding space and very likely time and probability. I feel like I needed to hurl from watching it and the whole bloody thing was like watching a video game where someone memorized the moves, and the only reason you were able to get near her is because you’re a warper too, and you types seem to make each others’ powers go bonk.”
Mrs. Savage continued her disapproving stare while giving the smug Lifeline a thumbs-up only she could see. “Would someone pick up Tisiphone please? She has a date with Chief Delarose to work out her new detention on top of all the leftover she owes from last semester.” She reached down and picked up a pair of glasses that had miraculously survived the havoc.
Maggie shook her head and chalked things up to being another glorious semester at Whateley as she returned to vending machines for the forgotten snacks before heading back to her dorm room.
January 8th, 2007
Somewhere on the Whateley Academy Grounds
Joanne appeared in a forest glade, nearly two feet off the ground. She promptly fell face first into a snow bank that had the added bonus of extinguishing the fire that had teleported with her. It took about five minutes for the panic to end and allow her to calm down. Fortunately this also corresponded with her skin finally finishing the burn heals and to clear eyes of snow which let her be able to see again. Well, maybe “see” is a misnomer as she’d lost her glasses somewhere in the chaos. Gunnarson squinted and looked at all the blurs that her mind filled in the blanks as trees, and all the snow, and suddenly realized she had no clue where she was. It would have been nice if this magical regen had come with vision correction, she thought glumly to herself
She got out of the snow, shook out her legs, clearing as much as the cold out as she could and emptied her shoes while trying to balance on one leg. She didn’t lean against a tree though. She’d been snow dumped enough times to know better than to do that.
Thank God for whoever decided I needed to be a regenerator. She peeled away the crud that was left over of the scorched skin on her arms and face, used the snow to clean herself up and took stock.
“Great, first day at school and I already get in a fight and get burned to shit. At least nothing else can go wrong.” Sure enough, the cell phone her parents graciously gave her rang. “Murphy’s Law Firm, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and if it hasn’t we can ensure that it does. This is Murphy, how can I help you?”
The laughter on the other line from an unfamiliar voice did not bode well. “I’m sorry, but that one was unique, and strangely appropriate.” The woman settled down. “I’m sorry, but this is Sharina from UPS, calling about your shipment.”
“Which city did my clothing get sent to this time?” This was normal for Joanne well before she had ever manifested her mutation.
“How long until they get to me?”
“I’m sorry but the earliest we can re-route is a week from now.”
“Par for the course, ok I’m hanging up now so I can scream and cuss and do all of that temper stuff that I’d rather not share over the phone.”
The woman’s voice sounded sympathetic. “I appreciate that. I’m sorry about this, but we had a routing snarl hit the computers from Fairbanks that just spread out everywhere.”
“Go figure.” Joanne hung up, and sighed again. With the way things were going I figured I can probability warp myself into Jail before classes start.
Her own sarcastic mind brought down what was left of Joanne’s mood. A single tear quickly had friends and soon a crying jag wracked the young girl. This she tried to staunch by a panicked call home to her parents. Unfortunately her only answer there was voice mail on all three lines. Her emotions already up, the inability to hear a mother’s voice tell her it would be all right snapped the grief and self pity over to anger. The woods echoed with screams of impotent rage for another fifteen minutes before exhaustion and the cold let her practical side take over once more.
Anticipating just how much trouble she was going to be in later she started walking. Well, short bursts of walking followed by making things a bit easier with her teleportation power once she had good line of sight.
By the time she had gotten back to the edge of the quad, Joanne’s hair had finished re-growing, somewhat longer than it had been, minus its previous purple dye job. The pedestrian hair color did nothing to increase her mood and she began thinking how she would re-dye it to be even more obnoxious than it had been before. Neon shades were at the forefront of the plans, and that thought gave her a bit of cheer.
As she walked, Joanne started sorting through the day in her mind. If she couldn’t change it, she decided there was no point in getting worked up about it. She admitted to herself that she owed the Administrators on campus an apology and quite likely some detention for the fight, assuming they didn’t opt for expulsion. I’ll apologize to gargoyle-girl when hell freezes over. She started it.
Joanne arrived back at Whitman and walked in the door to find a very stern-looking Hispanic girl with dark brown hair giving her the gimlet eye. “You have a lot of nerve coming back here. Who put you up to that episode earlier?”
Too emotionally drained to argue, Joanne decided to try the placating route. “Look, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to start up a shit storm. I came back to find out who I need to go talk to and face the music.” The girl blinked at once.
“You’re coming back to be punished?”
“What am I gonna do, run away to the circus? I’m stuck here, I can’t go home, and there’s no point in delaying the inevitable and making the principle madder at me.”
“How very Old World.” After a moment of thought, Gunnarson decided that the poisonous level of sarcasm probably wouldn’t help her case. “Yeah, I’d rather get the screaming and wailing out of everyone’s system, do my penance and move on.”
The girl looked honestly surprised. “This is a first. Okay, if you’re willing to do this quietly, I’ll show you to Mrs. Carson’s Office. You’re lucky Tisiphone is as tough as she looks or you would have hospitalized her. As it stands, her pride’s merely bruised.”
“My heart bleeds for her,” Joanne deadpanned.
“Why did you attack her?”
“Bitch slammed me into a wall twice for standing in the hallway looking for whoever I needed to talk to so I could get my room here.”
“And attacking her solved the problem?”
“No, but it made me feel a helluva lot better.”
The girl snorted, trying to hide her amusement. “So you’re not sorry for hitting her, just for causing a ruckus?”
“Nope, no guilt about hitting her. You hit me, I hit back. Sounds like a fair exchange to me.”
“And the electrical systems blowing out? Did she deserve that too?”
Taken by surprise, Joanne allowed the contrition she felt to reach her face. “I missed that part. That I can’t control at all. Docs back home called it High-Result, Low-Focus probability alteration.”
The girl actually smiled. “Charming. So, I take it you are habitually bluntly honest?”
“I try, I’m a shitty liar, so I don’t even bother usually.”
“So just for my own edification, you didn’t come here to cause a problem, play a prank or anything else?”
Joanne shook my head. “I was actually trying to avoid getting into bad situations like that. One thing goes south and I get the snowball effect while fate decides to see just how much shit it can pile on me. So no, I don’t want to make waves. I have to suppress enough Mary Sue moments as it is.”
The girl cocked her head quizzically as an annoyed-looking girl with chocolate brown hair with a blaze and cute glasses walked by, heard the comment and stifled a laugh. Cool, someone actually caught the reference. I’d have to look her up later. “So no offense, but can we get this over with? I’d really like to get the expulsion process over with.”
“Why do you think you would be expelled?”
“How do you think I wound up here?”
January 8th, 2007
Whitman Cottage Rm 216
Foxfire chuckled all the way to Lifeline’s room. She poked her head in and grinned at the blonde who was looking over her roommate’s shoulder at the computer. “Heya Magster, the chickadee who pissed off Tisiphone’s back. Looking none the worse for wear, so you’re not going to have to go play doctor on her.”
“Do you have to make healing sound dirty?”
Bek looked over and consulted with a silvery fox next to her. “Boots says yes.”
“Of course he would support your uncivilized designs.”
“Who was it that Loophole said was staring at a buncha G.I. butts at the airport before things went south again?”
“Leave me out of it,” growled Elaine from her desk as she input the choices she and Maggie had made into the school’s curriculum website.
“But they were cute!”
“Down girl! But in any case, Judicator was doing her thing and not pinning her to a wall to call security, so either she’s crazy as a fruit bat, or she’s got a good reason for banging on Tissy fit’s noggin.”
Lifeline shrugged. “Either way, she’ll fit right in. I already talked to Security, so she’s not my problem anymore.”
“Oh no, get this. The warper girlie called her temper tantrum a Mary Sue moment.”
Maggie stopped and got an odd smirk. “Oh you have got to be shitting me.”
“Nope! Ironic, self-deprecating tone and all.”
“As it should be. Okay, maybe she’s salvageable if she knows enough to catch a writer reference.”
“Nah, I doubt it. This girl looks like she’s a bit too much on the physical to really fit in with the crew.”
“Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
“In any case, I’ve heard about your Christmas. Let me regale you with… The Case of the mixed-up presents!”
Maggie grinned and settled in to listen to Rebecca’s latest story pitch.
January 8th, 2007
Main Administrative Offices, Schuster Hall
Judicator took Joanne off in the Admin Office at Schuster Hall with a few whispered comments to a young looking woman sitting at desk whose plaque read Amelia Hartford, Assistant to the Headmistress. Mrs. Hartford frowned over her glasses for a moment before she and Judicator disappeared behind a door marked Headmistress, leaving Joanne to wait. As the time stretched out, Murphy began to get antsy and have trouble sitting still. The anticipation was murder as was the possible consequences ran through her brain. Looking to kill the time she did the most natural thing she could think of. A stolen a pen off Ms. Hartford’s desk became the tool for doodling on her pants. After several interesting designs she looked at the clock, and realized only five minutes had passed. Shit.
Worrying about having an ADHD relapse, Murphy forced her attention to her pants leg trying to lose herself in the creativity. Once she had dutifully covered one pant leg entirely in odd doodles, she began working on the other. Halfway down her leg Murphy started picking at the scorch marks on her flannel and shirt until she had multiple holes with black edges that looked sort of cool. It was when she started pacing at ten minutes that she damned herself, moving back and forth in the office, head down, muttering to herself working out exactly what she was going to do with the scenes playing out in her head. She needed a computer, a typewriter, something to get this masterpiece of fiction out of her head and onto a more permanent media.
“I’m sorry, young lady, have I kept you waiting?” The woman’s voice brought Murphy back to reality and promised doom should any of the smart ass comments that railroaded through her brain slip from between her lips.
The deer in the headlights look failed to impress the imposing thirty something going on seventy which caused a panic. That was all her power needed to slip from control and the florescent tube overhead light above her sparked and went out, immediately followed by the corner of the water cooler giving out, the whole apparatus falling over and spilling out on the nicely maintained carpet. What color there was in Joanne’s face quickly faded away. I am sofucking doomed.
The statuesque blonde woman sighed and shook her head as if things like this happened every day. “Come inside, we need to have a talk.”
Joanne followed to find the blonde lady she didn’t know and the girl who’d led her here were both inside. She quietly took a seat and ignored the stern looks from all three, or at least she tried to ignore the looks.
The statuesque blonde walked over and sat behind her desk. “So I think this is a new record. A brand new student getting into a fight less than four hours after she arrived on-campus.”
Now was obviously the time for contrition. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry gets you very little in this school. But for now, my name is Headmistress Carson, and I would like to know why you saw fit to turn one of my cottage hallways into a UFC cage match?”
Everything that can go wrong will. “Okay I walked into the cottage, and was looking for the person who is in charge of telling me who I’m going to be bunking with.”
Carson interrupted, somehow without being impolite. “That would be Mrs. Savage there sitting to your right.”
“Oh great, I’m just a bundle of good first impressions today.”
“So I was warned that Whitman was the, ah… odd dorm for girls…”
“That’s a first; usually it’s referred to as a freak house.” Mrs. Savage chuckled.
“But having been less than thoroughly educated about what kind of boarding school I was coming to in the hustle to get me out of Fairbanks before the lynch mob could arrive…”
“I wonder why that could be.” The Hispanic girl smirked.
“May I finish? Or am I going to have to start sniping back?” While the adults could serve up Crow Joanne wasn’t about to eat it off another kid.
“Elizabeth, you may return to the cottage.” Carson nodded to the girl, who had this distinct look like she didn’t want to go. Nevertheless she promptly excused herself and retreated through the office door. “Miss Gunnarson, please continue.”
Ouch, she invoked the family name. “So I walked in, and I’m sad to say I was a bit shell shocked. That Bunker girl warned me but it didn’t sink in, so I stood there like a thunderstruck cow when I found myself trying to exit the building via quantum tunnelling, courtesy of that shrieking gargoyle.”
“Her name is Tisiphone, and she’s had a rough time this year.”
Joanne looked Mrs. Savage dead in the eye. “That does not excuse her hitting me twice before I had done anything to provoke her besides stand in the hallway.”
Mrs. Savage’s reaction shocked Joanne. She simply tilted her head and nodded once, agreeing with her. “Tisiphone will be serving detention for this little escapade.”
“Which brings me to you.” Carson re-entered the conversation smoothly. “I just looked at your old school transcripts, your grades are atrocious, and you have a marked history of physical confrontation, eight fights in eighth grade alone documented with no less than four notations of other confrontations. I worry that this is going to be a habitual thing that I have to worry about.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough of being attacked so some bitch can show her dominance impulse. The last time I just stood back and took it I got these.” I pulled my hair away and traced two long, thin scars at the bottom of my cheek running along my jaw line. “I realize that being a fighter isn’t socially or academically acceptable, but if someone’s going to hit me, it’s on like Donkey Kong. I’m not going to stand and let someone hurt me over and over again.”
“That does not excuse the fact that had it not been a brick the things you did could have severely injured or killed your opponent.”
“Ma’am I had good reason to believe that if I didn’t hit her hard, fast and with everything I have, she’d have continued pounding me and I’d be the one looking like a modern art masterpiece.”
“And how did you come to that conclusion?”
“One she barely flicked her hands at me and I hit with enough force to get winded, and second…” Murphy took a breath and controlled her temper, forcing down the urge to get mad enough to start crying, again. Fortunately she’d had time to cool off. “I saw her face. She was having fun slamming me into the walls. I really do not believe she would have stopped.”
“That fits with what Lifeline told me, and Tisiphone’s behavior after the young lady here disappeared, on fire I might add.” Mrs. Savage looked at Carson. “I was able to navigate the spatial twisting fine, and when Lifeline restrained Miss Gunnarson she stopped. She was still looking like she wanted to tear the other girl apart, but she stopped and didn’t try to resist. Tisiphone lit her on fire, and I must note, this young lady’s bangs were purple two hours ago.”
“I’m a regen. Fast as hell, but not as fast as they make it look in the movies.”
Carson nodded. “I would say that is a good thing. Your clothing looks somewhat worse for wear. I want you to go get changed and then come back and see me.”
“I’d love to, ma’am, but everything I own got miraculously re-routed to Toronto, Canada. This is it.”
Carson frowned. “You say that like you aren’t surprised.”
A tight smile pulled at Joanne’s cheeks. “The MCO classified me as a high-result, low-focus probability warper, whatever that all means. Which is jargon for someone who makes things go wrong for themselves as much as anyone else with no real ability to shut it off.”
“Carson, I can’t put another mangler in the cottage! I already have Reverb and Kismet to worry about!” Savage looked concerned.
“I know, Amanda, but I’ve talked to this girl’s parents. The culture at Dickinson or Melville would simply be setting her up to fail with her anger issues, and quite bluntly, we have nowhere else to put her.”
“Excuse me?” Murphy asked, curious.
“Sorry Miss Gunnarson, but you present a bit of a challenge.”
“Great.” She drawled out, vision of bad impressions, bludgeoning schoolmates, have a power that seemed to be one of the least-favored…
“All right, I guess there is no help for it.” Carson looked resigned. “I will let this incident slide because it was rather severely provoked by one of the local ultraviolents, and you were defending yourself. However…”
“Got it. No more kicking teeth in if I can help it.”
“I’m amazed. Please continue surprising me by not showing me what your docket shows, Miss Gunnarson. However, I have to ask about your codename, Murphy?”
“Like I said, Ma’am.” Joanne said, actually grinning. “Just because I affect probability doesn’t mean it usually goes my way, so anything that can go wrong…”
“Lovely, forgive me if I hope that this isn’t a prophetic thing.” She shook her head. “For now, let’s get you to the new student orientation. The other students should be gathering there shortly.”
“Can I get some coffee?”
“Why would I give a girl, who can’t sit still on her own, coffee?”
“Because I’m all out of Ritalin.”
Carson sighed. “Follow me.”
January 8th, 2007
Whitman Cottage Room 216
That was fast, thought Elaine to herself as a knock at the door interrupted her punching in data to the school’s class server. “Did you forget your keys?” she laughed as she pushed the chair over to the door to open it.
Standing in the hallway was not Lifeline, but probably the last person she expected to see; the tall, lanky form of Bridgett ‘Dashboard’ Johnson. “Never had ‘em,” the senior replied with a toothy grin to further slur out her thick Detroit accent. “Got a sec?” she asked as she let herself in without waiting to be invited.
“Sure, Bridgett,” Elaine replied, making way for the President of the Gear Heads Club. Dashboard stood a very confident six four, but had the lean and lanky build of a basketball player. Her milk chocolate complexion was highlighted by the red and white bandana she was using to keep her cornrow ponytail in line with. She moved with a leonine grace that belied her height, generally wearing her clothing a size big to further fight the image. Just now she was wearing a gray halter-top emblazoned with a Chevy logo and cargo jeans that dipped well past the bright yellow working boots that completed the ensemble. “What’s up?”
Johnson’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she savored the end of a lollipop. “Girl, have I got dirt to dish,” she announced as she hitched a cheek on an open corner of Lifeline’s desk. “And knowing your obsession I thought I’d run down here and tell you first thing.”
Elaine rolled her eyes. “You’re killing me, Dash. What’s going on?”
“Girlfriend, you must have been good last year, ‘cause Santa Claus left you a present,” Dashboard mumbled around the candy. “I got it from Emily and she got it from Jadis over in Melville who saw it all go down.”
“What?” laughed Elaine in frustration.
“The Don, girl, he’s out.”
“Out?” breathed Loophole.
Bridgett nodded. “Out of the Alphas, out of Melville, damn near out of the school.”
“Old Donny rolled into Melville the other night, went straight to his room. Now you know Kody’s Room is over the Don’s, and how pissed he was he didn’t get a single? Well, Jadis says Kody told her that almost as soon as he hears old Sebastiano come in the door it sounds like world war three breaks out. Donny’s squealing like a little girl and he gets the ever loving shit beat out of him!”
Loophole held onto the chair to keep the room from spinning. “Who? Who did it?”
Dashboard twirled the lollipop around her fingers like a baton before popping it back into her mouth. “That, girlfriend, is where it really gets freaky. The two that damn near carved him up like a Christmas goose are none other than Skybolt and Cavalier!”
“Ah knew it!” shouted Elaine as she leapt to her feet and began to pace. “Ah knew he pulled something…”
“No girl,” Dashboard interjected. “Donny? Please, he’s not smart enough to put two and two together and get four. Naw, according to both Cav and Sky, the real mastermind here was Hekate.”
Loophole stopped and pondered this for a new moment. “Magic,” she whispered. “Damnation Ah should have listened to Maggie, now Ah’ll never live this down.”
Dashboard stood leisurely and stretched. “Yeah, and now the whole faculty is in an uproar over it. Donny’s over in the hospital and Cav and Sky got hauled off to ARC before they could kill him. After what those two been through, can’t say as I’d blame ‘em if they did. Anywise, IT and the facility guys are searching all the Cottages and Clubhouses. You got something you shouldn’t you best make sure it’s hid good.”
Loophole forced a smile from reflex while her mind spun at the possibilities. “Thanks Dash, y’all are the best.”
Dashboard winked and strolled out. “All good,” she tossed over her shoulder.
“Wait,” Loophole called after her as she ran to the door. “Who’s top Alpha now?”
Johnson didn’t turn as she sashayed down the hallway. “Your main man Kodiak. Good luck girl!”
January 8th, 2007
Whitman Cottage, Common Room
Joanne finished the coffee in the thermos Mrs. Carson had given her on the way to find the erstwhile housemother, Mrs. Savage. Back at Whitman from orientation, she was calm and her good mood was returning. How much of a factor the coffee was in her mood certainly wasn’t something she’d admit to. Fortunately, the Housemother’s apartment/office wasn’t hard to find.
She knocked on the door, waited, then knocked again. As the wait dragged out she nearly decided to give up and go find some food, the door opened and a woman with auburn hair wearing tweed poked her head out. “I’m sorry miss; Mrs. Savage and myself are kind of in a meeting at the moment. Can I help you?” The woman’s voice carried a British accent, and she had a rather friendly face.
“Hi, sorry to interrupt, but I’m looking for where I’m bunking. I missed pretty much all the memos when I got packed off here.”
“The new girl’s in 103 with Grabby.” Mrs. Savage’s voice carried from further in. “But we need to get back to the fact that there’s really nothing we can do about Psydoe and Diamondback, Angela. Until we get someone willing to swap out…”
Mrs. Hollingberry rolled her eyes apologetically. “Sorry dear, but you’re going to need to head to your room yourself.” She almost shut the door. “Oh! By the way, there was a shipment of several boxes to 103 earlier while you were out. There’s one in there that I had to sign for with several federal inspector stamps on it.”
“Thanks for the warning. I’ll try not to get into any more fights today.”
The woman gave an odd look before going back to her discussion with Mrs. Savage about roommate arrangements. Joanne walked to the appointed room and knocked loudly, unfortunately this was required as a thunderous bass line was thrumming from inside the room. Knowing there was no way anyone inside could hear her knocking, Joanne opened the door to realize that the bass line was actually thundering through the ceiling, and she could clearly hear the old-school rap hammering against the wall. Not that the rap was particularly bothersome, at least it rhymed, but the volume was intolerable.
The girl in the room turned to stare at the intruder, a grimace on her face over the level of noise. Thick, curly red hair and a soft, pretty face flowed into a well-fitting Whateley Uniform top, but that’s where her resemblance to the human race ended and the creature from the depths began. Both of her arms were pink-scaled, with a human tone blotched by darker reddish pink spots reminiscent of a copperhead snake’s coloring, and they were about twice as long as a human arm should be, tapering into delicate tips with suckers lining the underside. She had tentacles for arms, and from the mass of similarly-scaled tentacles coming out of her skirt with an additional fleshy skirting that went partway beyond the uniform, the poor girl looked like a land-locked cross between a pretty girl and a land-locked, reptilian octopus.
Joanne didn’t really have time to study her long-suffering expression as the noise was just too much to even contemplate that they were rooming her with the sea monster of the twilight zone. With Gunnarson’s regeneration each new pounding wave was like a sharp blow to pristine eardrum. Joanne covered her ears and screamed.
The music stopped, and when she ran out of breath, the sudden silence was pure, unrestrained bliss. She didn’t know when it happened, or how long she screamed for. When she caught her breath and the odd silence was done she breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh thank God, the noise stopped.”
The poor girl who just had to listen to a shrieking banshee was staring at Joanne like she had a trout coming from her forehead. The two girls realized there were about a dozen angry, angry girls glowering at them from the hallway. It was all Murphy could do to collect her thoughts long enough to get out “Sorry. Noise. Regeneration. Eardrums hurt. Ow,” followed by “Anyone got an aspirin horse pill?”
“What the hell is going on here?”
Oh god, not her again. Sure enough Judicator was right there, looking at Joanne from the mixed bag of freakish. “Would you please care to explain what the hell is going on here?”
Murphy gave her a look, stepped into the room and said “Nope!” right before she closed the door.
Leaning her head against the door and letting the headache fade, Murphy finally acknowledged the girl glaring at her from deeper in the room. “Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you think I was freaking out about you.”
“What makes you think I care?” The girl’s voice was decent, with training she could be a half-decent singer. She also had a very persecuted tone.
“I’m not stupid, that’s what.” Murphy sighed and tried again. “Look, I’m sorry, it wasn’t you. The noise was pounding my skull like a rock hammer and I think I just blew someone’s stereo straight to hell. Not that I’m feeling particularly remorseful about the noise box.”
“So if you weren’t reacting to me, why won’t you look at me?”
She has me there. Joanne turned slowly and looked, this time paying attention to her. Her face was carefully neutral, but her posture was anything but. “I wasn’t looking at you because I’m trying to process everything in my head. No one told me this was a boarding school for mutants, and I’ve never seen anyone with…”
“GSD?” She supplied helpfully as Joanne’s eyes tracked ten tentacle-tips by a quick count.
“I have no clue what that means.”
“Gross Structural Dystrophy.” She gave an odd look. “It means those of us whose bodies go wonk.”
“Sure. I’ve never seen anyone like you, or half the girls here. I didn’t want to gawk like some thunderstruck tourist like I am right now.”
The girl gave another an odd look. “Are you always this blunt?”
“Usually. I’m not exactly the lady with the silver tongue.”
“So before we get into anything else, why are you here?”
Murphy smiled weakly, looking over to the small stack of boxes by the empty bed. “Hiya roomie.” A wave did little to encourage a budding friendship.
“Ah.” She seemed decidedly skeptical. “So what’s with the post-flambé look? So last year if you ask me.”
“I got up on the wrong side of a gargoyle. She set my face on fire.”
Joanne nodded. “Doesn’t hurt any less, but yeah.” It never ceases to amaze me how blasé people could be about getting randomly lit on fire, or healing from it.
She looked less than happy with the arrangement. “So I guess that’s your stuff there.”
“We’ll see. For all I know an Army shipment got re-routed to my bedpost by accident. But for now, I’m Joanne.” Murphy had no idea how one was supposed to shake hands with a girl with tentacles, but there was no helping it. She held a hand out.
Grabby stood on those eight tentacles she had instead of legs. Rather like her arms they seemed to be about twice as long as normal limbs should be, trailing off in random directions in the room. She gingerly extended her right tentacle-arm and when Murphy didn’t recoil, despite an intense desire to flee, slid the thing into Joanne’s hand.
“I’m Hannah, my codename is Grabby.”
My first thought was that the name was somewhat cruel, if accurate. “Well, apparently mine’s Murphy.”
She nodded, not asking anything. “Look, not to be rude, but I need to finish my project here. We can talk later, ok?”
Joanne nodded and shuffled over to the new bed, complete with clean sheets and began poking at the packages. Hannah went back to doing whatever it was she was doing with the computer. Whatever it was occupied six of her tentacles, delicately tapping with the tips on her keyboard.
Joanne went over to the pile of boxes and popped out her key chain. Using a house key to slash open tape works well, even if it’s not the ideal setup. By the time she was done with the five big boxes she was silently in heaven. In the smallest of the big five were twenty mason jars of smoked salmon! In the other boxes was her book collection, and all of her music CD’s and joy of joys, a brand-new iPod, still in the wrapper! There were also game books from D&D to World of Darkness were piled neatly in little stacks, waiting to be unpacked, along with novels, binders, all a collection of sheaves of paper and a packet of pens, a backpack, her knife collection and just about everything I could ever dream of wanting from my room back home. Right down to the beanie baby lizard that was her current favorite.
The most curious of these was the package with the federal inspector. It was sealed and it looked like someone had made a big deal about sealing it and having it delivered unopened. Once the package was opened she found a plain white envelope and about five hundred bucks. Oddly, this was marked For Ammunition? More curious than ever Gunnarson opened the rest, fishing out a plain, black plastic case whose contents she knew before opening. It was her father’s pistol, an old M1911 chromed piece with three magazines and a trigger lock. This was Dad’s baby! Also included was a shoulder holster with a note tucked inside it.
Sorry about the rush, but we needed to get you safe. We’ve already had a rumbling of the local Humans First! Crew making noise about you and I’d rather move you to another state than have you fighting every day until you turn eighteen. Your friends still call and can’t wait for you to come home again. Apparently they want to see how you do the teleporting thing. Your sisters and brother already miss you and they made me and mom pack you your favorite foods and your belongings. The money is for whatever supplies you may need as I’ve been told there is a campus shop, as well as ammunition for the pistol.
Take care of the gun, and please be responsible. You know what I expect, so here’s the information you need. In order to be allowed to use the gun you need to go to Kane Hall, and talk to a Chief Delarose to have it checked and registered with the school. You will also need to take the range safety course in order to be allowed to continue carrying it on campus. I was a bit shocked that they allow this, but it’s an opportunity. Please show them that you can be trusted with such a responsibility.
And finally, I stashed six sealed five-pound bags of moose jerky in the boxes of books. Enjoy, and understand we’re not trying to pawn you off. However, if you want more jerky your report card had better have no D’s on it this time. Do your best honey, and you’re going to need to get a campus job to help defray the school picking up a scholarship to allow you to go as well as to be able to buy the stuff you’re going to want. I know it’s only a couple days till your birthday, so we agreed to set you up at a school where you’re not going to be punished for being a mutant. Your siblings have presents for you later. Be safe.
Mom and dad were thoroughly forgiven by the time she’d finished the first paragraph of the note. The fact that they took the time to do this warmed her heart. She smiled basking in a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Once everything had been semi-neatly put away, Murphy was distracted by a rumble from her stomach. Hannah was still at her computer, willfully ignoring her existence. “Where do we get food around here?”
She looked over and shrugged. “Couple places, but the Crystal Hall is the main one.”
“Where’s that one…” Joanne started then the memory clicked. “Never mind, big geodesic dome thing?”
“That’s the one.”
“Thanks Hannah, want me to grab you anything?”
She actually looked a bit surprised. “Thanks, but I’m fine. I’ll be going later with Sylene.”
“Alright. I’ll see you later.”
January 8th, 2007
Headmistress’ Office, Schuster Hall
“Mrs. Carson, do you have a moment?”
The deep voice had followed hard on the heels on the cursory knock on the open door. The Headmistress looked up from the expense reports she’d been going over to find her visitor was the tall, blocky form of the new Leader of the Alpha’s. “Mrs. Hartford will be back in a few minutes to doubtlessly grant whatever favor you’ve come to curry,” she snapped, irritated at the interruption. The tall young man crossed his massive forearms and frowned.
“I’m not the Don,” he growled. “And I don’t curry favor for anybody. More to the point, Ma’am, I didn’t come here to talk to Mrs. Hartford, I came to talk to you.”
Carson considered this for a moment before waving the boy to one of the chairs that faced the desk. He rather casually entered, kicking the jam free of the door and closing it behind him before he sat down to a creak of wood and old leather. “You have my attention Mr. Cody, I hope what you have to say warrants it. I shouldn’t have to tell you I’ve never been a fan of your social circle.”
Kodiak shrugged dismissively. “In every group there are leaders and followers Mrs. Carson,” the senior replied. “I just choose to be the former rather than the latter. Now, I didn’t like the direction the Don was taking things any more than you did, but until this thing with Cav and Sky finally got settled, I wasn’t about to try something and end up like them.”
The Headmistress considered this for a long moment before nodding. “Alright, what is it you came to discuss?”
“I want to take the Alpha’s in a new direction, and I want to clean house, and most of all I want us out from under Mrs. Hartford’s thumb. I’d like you to take over as the faculty sponsor of the Club.”
“Those are very noble intentions, Mr. Cody, but there’s not a chance in hell of that,” Carson replied bluntly. “I’m not a sponsor of any club, beyond the Dean’s List because I can’t play favorites. I’m here for everyone.” Wyatt considered things for a long moment that the Headmistress used to press her point. “Further, even if I was disposed to sponsoring a club, after what’s being going on in yours certainly would not lead me to be charitably disposed to it.”
“People can change, Mrs. Carson. And people can make changes happen.”
“Lovely sentiments, Mr. Cody, but your stock with me is not particularly high.”
Kodiak frowned. “Alright, what do I have to do raise my value with the Headmistress?”
“Life seldom hands you a memo with your requirements for success written on it, Mr. Cody,” was Mrs. Carson’s reply. She thought for a moment and considered other aspects to what the senior was proposing could lead. “Still,” she said more to herself than to her office guest. “There is some merit to what you’re talking about. Of course, my trust isn’t easily given and once it’s lost…”
Wyatt didn’t miss the significance of the statement that was left unsaid. After a moment he asked, “You want a reason to trust me? How about I take over the Senior Legacy Project? The committee hasn’t even formed yet and we have to get your permission for anything we’d do anyway.”
“What do you have in mind?”
Kodiak rubbed his chin in thought and let his eyes wander as he did so. Out the picture window to her right he could see the dome of the Crystal Hall and an idea began to take form in his mind. “The Crystal Hall has been over crowded for a while, and there’s a pile of wasted space there. How soon could we take over and close it for some fairly major renovations?”
“Chef Peter would need at least two weeks of notice, not to mention the strain we’d have with The School House Restaurant in Dunn Hall taking up the slack,” murmured Mrs. Carson to herself. “Call it Monday the 22nd. And exactly how major are we talking about?”
Cody spoke, spelling out his plan and was rewarded with the first smile from the Administrator of the interview.
January 8th, 2007
The Crystal Hall
Five minutes later found Joanne on the path from Whitman Cottage to the Crystal Hall, carrying a backpack full of randomly chosen books (randomly chosen by genre and publisher of course). Under the flannel shirt derived of the early flambé period rode a shoulder holster loaded up and ready discretely out of sight. She’d packed two jars of salmon and one of the packages of jerky. If the cafeteria here was anything like the ones back home she had a feeling she was going to need a buffer from the institutional foods.
Upon arrival to the Crystal hall, as they usually did, fears of half-ass meals were dispelled rapidly. The selection and variety slightly over awed the Alaskan until prudence set in and tray was quickly loaded. That mission accomplished, she wandered about until finding an empty table with a nice buffer from the nearest people. If people stared, Joanne chalked it up to her fire sale attire and promptly ignored them.
Comfortable at the table, a notebook was quickly popped open and began service catching ideas while Joanne alternately devoured her tray full of food and picking up bits of smoked salmon from the freshly-opened jar, savoring them. She was lost in her own little world, having graduated from doodling and notes to spinning a tale of murder and carnage across three kingdoms, or at least the beginnings of it when plans were interrupted by an absolutely disgusted tone of voice.
“What is that doing at our table?” The voice belonged to a tight little blonde who was sufficiently gorgeous to make Joanne feel somewhat inadequate. Very finely tailored clothing and a fur coat in all the right cuts to accentuate a figure that honestly didn’t need the help. Her face was painted with a disdainful look, as her eyes gave no doubt whom she was referring to.
The snarky comment that leapt to Joanne’s lips died there as the stranger’s companion came into view. He was shuffling brute of a man in the flavor of a more handsome “Grizzly Adams the Younger” type. Big, broad, dark hair and the beginnings of a beard, he was looking with more amused curiosity than disgust. In any case, he reminded Joanne of home. Points for him!
The hunk’s distraction didn’t last as the strange girl poking through one of the notebooks snapped Joanne back to Earth. Snatching the notebook from the prying eyes Joanne snapped, “It was having a nice, quiet time, writing and eating. Now it’s debating stuffing a skanky blonde into a shit can.”
The girl blinked. “Excuse me? Who do you think you are?”
“I think I’m a moose-riding, spear-chucking, igloo-hopping tundra-bitch who will fuck you up dear. Now, run along and play with your dollies, or sit down and shut up until I’m done eating. Either way is cool with me.”
“Kodi…” the girl looked up at the big guy.
“Sit down Solange, let’s have a bit of a chat.” His tone didn’t leave much room for argument, but never one to let common sense interfere with a good time, Joanne continued.
“Solange?” Gunnarson demanded, incredulous. “Might as well call yourself Easy Street and just get the whole thing out of the way.” Murphy noted Kodi’s hand inching towards the jar and idly whacked it with her pen. “No touchy without asking. Mine!”
The big guy got a slow, lazy grin, and took a whiff of the air. “Where are you from?”
“Fairbanks, you?” He hadn’t said anything obnoxious so politeness was still on the menu.
Solange was turning bright red as he kept grinning. “Barrow.”
“Oh well, in that case, I don’t mind sharing with someone who’ll actually appreciate the treat.” The jar slid over and he tried not to look too eager as he plucked a couple pieces of the pinkish meat from the jar and chewed slowly, savoring.
The blonde girl wrinkled her nose and moved away. “Ugh what is that horrible stuff? It smells like rotten fish.”
“Spoken like a person with no appreciation for the good things in life.”
“And what would a redneck like you know about the finer things in life? I’ll bet the best meal you’ve ever had was something you picked up at Taco Bell.” Solange gave a nasty little smirk. “And I’m sorry, but the day I accept criticism from a poor little raggedy-anne doll like you is the day I kiss Skinner.”
Joanne blinked in confusion. “Woah, hold up. I insult your character, the fact that you’re probably the easiest little slut in the world and threaten you with a near-death experience almost in the same breath, and the best you can do is call me poor? Tell me dear, does the friction caused by those two little brain cells rubbing together to spark a thought in your mind hurt or something? Are you mentally handicapped?”
Solange’s smile became tight and cold. “Compared to you and what ever trailer park spawned you I’m genius and better looking. Oh, don’t fret Mary-Ann, I’m sure some beer guzzling cock roach of a man will crawl out from under a rock to keep you bare foot and pregnant.” Making sure her manicure hadn’t suffered in the past few seconds, she continued, “It’s a shame, really. There ought to be laws about garbage breeding.”
“Wow, it’s a good thing you’re rich, girlie because damn. With a brain like yours, all I can see happening for you is to get lucky and become some billionaire’s fuck doll. Do be careful and find a tolerant man who’s aware that all you’re good for is spending his money for him, okay?”
It was obvious Kodi was enjoying the show he slid the jar back across the table, half-emptied. However, he’d decided it was time to put a stop to things before they got out of hand. “You got some brass ones clicking together girlie. You’re new here, right? Otherwise you might realize you’d stuck it in someone else’s territory.”
Looking at the slice of table Joanne occupied, she noted the curious looks directed at spectacle from nearby tables. The quiet exchange seemed to be of interest, but there were no laughs, looks of shock or cries of outrage. Turning a smile at the big student, Joanne decided to be coy for a bit. “Well, I do believe my ass is occupying the seat, and my food is here being eaten, so unless Blondie here wants to try and physically evict me, looks like it’s my territory.”
The big guy grinned. “Well, far be it for me to interfere with a female dominance struggle, but I think I might introduce you to a few people. I think you’d find their company a bit more on your level.”
“You mean three-digit I.Q.’s and no stench of shitty-ass imitation Chanel perfume?”
“Un Jardin sur le Nil,” corrected Solange. “Not that you would ever know the difference.”
Grinning evilly at Solange as she packed up her things to leave, Joanne couldn’t resist a parting shot. “Sorry dear, you sound really muffled. Try scraping the top inch of cosmetics off your face and you might not sound like you have a dick in your mouth.”
“I’m sure you’d know what that sounds like,” purred Walcutt as she made a show of cleaning off the table and chairs.
“I’ll be right back, Solange.” The big guy held a hand in the direction of the exit. “We can discuss issues in a little bit.” Joanne walked primly and properly away, dumping her tray as she followed the big guy. Still, a portion of her was on her guard, normally this is where the horrible revenge happens in the stories. “You have quite an attitude,” he rumbled as they walked.
“Comes from dealing with people on a regular basis.”
He chuckled. “I’m Wyatt. Everyone calls me Kodiak.”
There was something likable about the big young man, despite his choice of companions that wormed a smile from Joanne. “Appropriate, and I’m Joanne, but I picked up the name Murphy.”
“Murphy, huh? As in Murphy’s Law?”
“Well Murphy, I’d like to talk to you more later, but for now please give the Alpha table a bit of space. I do need Solange more or less functional for a while yet, and I don’t think you’d get on well with the rest of the people that hang out at that table.”
“Okay, I would have left if she’d have simply asked for the table back and said it was reserved you know.”
“What, Solange ask someone for something straight up? You really are new here.”
Murphy chuckled evilly as he turned and stopped, facing a table with four girls sitting there giving her and Kodiak the hairy eyeball.
The first among them was a fidgety girl who was decently pretty with brown hair bordering on black in a pixie cut, dressed in an absolutely immaculate school uniform. Her brown eyes were scanning intently as her hands arranged the tray and can of soda in front of her just so while shooting nervous glances at thegirl across the table. When she looked up her eyes locked on Joanne’s in a look of horror, mostly darting her vision to take in the charred spots along the flannel and shirt.
“Goth” described the next girl, from the dark clothing with the occasional netting that almost looked like cobwebs to the pretty face and dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was tall and her skin was almost as pale as Murphy’s, but then it had been almost three months since she’d seen daylight for longer than forty minutes or so at a time. She had a laptop out, tapping away at the keyboard in between giving Kodiak nasty looks.
The other two were looking with suspicious curiosity, and traces of amusement. The blonde girl with red highlights and blue eyes seemed to have a profound interest, masked by her expression of boredom. She was actually dressed in a similar fashion to Solange, only with a more hometown girl style and price range for her clothing.
The last of the four Joanne recognized from Whitman. Chocolate brown hair with her white blaze and glasses, the cute girl had been the one to catch the Mary Sue reference and stifle a giggle. Like all but her fidgety friend, she wasn’t bothering with the Whateley uniform, opting for a T-shirt and jeans to complement the heavy winter parkas they all had draped over the backs of their chairs.
The four of them were looking at Kodiak with less-than-friendly looks. “What do you want, Kodiak?” The girl with the blaze had that oh-so California girl manner of speech, only without injecting the valley girl ditz.
“I was hoping you all could tell me where to find Loophole. I wanted to introduce someone to her.” He blithely ignored the irritated looks from a pack of girls who obviously didn’t think much of him.
“Why, so you could cause her even more trouble?” The Goth girl’s voice was level and even, though as cold as the winters Kodiak was probably accustomed to.
“Nope, but I don’t have much time. This is Murphy, please introduce her to Elaine when you get the chance. I figure they’ll either get on like snow and cold, or they’ll kill each other. Either way, should be interesting.”
“Gee, thanks Kodiak.” Murphy growled and he shot me a grin.
“Any time, but if you will excuse me, I need to go play damage control.” His face became deadly serious. “Watch your back, you made someone very angry at you.”
“I give a rat’s ass.”
“Oh look, someone let an Alpha out of his kennel!” The breathless, sarcastic voice got Kodiak growling as the girl continued along “Woof woof.”
The girl had brown eyes, an oval face and high cheekbones. Her glasses had a subtle rose shade to the lenses and she looked like she couldn’t stand still. I shit you not she was bouncing in place with a very LARGE cup of coffee in her hands. She also fixed Kodiak with the kind of smile that promised trouble in the “I can’t control my rambunctious child” sort of way.
“Oh wow, girl you are living proof that some people should not be allowed to play with fire… or cut their own hair.”
“Oh I don’t know I hear the charred and chopped look is gonna be all the rage on the runways next year. They’re already asking me for further ensembles.” Murphy replied blithely, unable to contain herself.
The girl grinned. “Okay, you’re cool. Why are you hanging out with Captain Cold Butt here?”
Kodiak for his part shook his head and started walking. “Play nice Murphy, these girls seem right up your alley.”
Joanne held up a finger to the hyper one and leaned back slightly to watch Wyatt go. “I have got to get me one of those!”
Little miss rose-tinted glasses rolled her eyes and groaned. “Greaaat, another walking libido. You all make me worried that I’m going to lose my mind when I turn sixteen.”
Murphy blinked at her in confusion. “The hell are you talking about? I’m fourteen. Well, fifteen in about six days.”
The girl who’d been rearranging her tray looked over at the newcomer. “It’s official, we’re doomed.”
The girl with the blaze gave the new comer an odd look. “Hmmm, slow, measured speech, no sign of cold-weather gear whatsoever, and a marked lack of anything resembling caring that your clothing and hair are toast, along with Kodiak’s frozen vocals accent. You’re from Alaska too, aren’t you?”
Murphy and Fractious both gave her the same odd look. “What accent?”
“Just the one that’s so subtle you really can’t pick it out unless you’ve heard it before.”
“Yeah I’m Alaskan. Mind if I sit down?”
Lifeline snickered and said “Sure. Go right ahead. It’s not every day we get to see an Alpha get into a snark contest and then have the person we’re guessing is doing the deed get escorted to be introduced to another group.”
Murphy plopped down next to Goth girl, and looked at everyone. “Well hi, I’m Murphy, I’m new to Sky High here, and I really have no clue at how everything works except that Gargoyles are mean and can light you on fire. Damn Disney and their falsifying information.”
The blonde giggled, and surreptitiously took the cup of coffee from the protesting girl who’d brought it. “Reverb we can’t go over writing stuff if you ricochet off the walls! Come on, save the psychotic break for when it’s needed.”
“Like if anyone else gets introduced by the Alphas?” Simone asked with a quiet Australian accent.
The girl with the blaze smirked. “I’m Bek, the blonde with the modeling looks is Maggie, the tall one there is Simone, The girl looking at your clothing with an expression of horror is Dee and miss ‘I can’t believe she’s not being rambunctious’ there is Renae.” She got done pointing in an odd directionless choice that seemed to randomly choose who she introduced. Then she went back through in the same order, pointing at herself first. “I’m Foxfire, that’s Lifeline, Arachne, Fractious and Reverb.”
“Okay,” Murphy replied. “My name is actually Joanne, and good to meet you all even if I’m getting the picture that y’all aren’t Kodiak’s biggest fans.”
“That would be putting things mildly.” Reverb looked at the Coffee in Maggie’s hands longingly.
Taking pity, Joanne turned to Lifeline and asked, “May I?”
She shrugged and relinquished the coffee, of which Joanne took a cautious sip. Yup, institutional coffee still sucks ass. Ignoring the horrified look everyone at the table gave her, Joanne handed it back to Reverb.
“Why would you do that?” demanded Lifeline.
“Give her coffee? She’s going to go insane!”
A feral grin spread across Joanne’s face. “Then we’ll probably get along just fine in a little while, since coffee hits me like Ritalin and calms me down. But that coffee’s just nasty.”
Bek smacked her face with a palm. “Oh no, not another one…”
“There there, honey. We’ll just make her babysit Renae later.”
“Don’t I get a choice in this?”
“No,” the others chorused, including Reverb.
Finally Fractious worked up the nerve to speak. “How can you walk around like that? All covered in ash and stuff? It’s so dirty!”
“Not much choice here, I just got here, my clothing got rerouted to Toronto, so it’s not going to be here for another week, and Lady Gargoyle McPsychopath decided I looked better bathed in stunning reds, yellows and screams of agony.” As if a punctuation of the comment, both sleeves on the flannel gave up the ghost and disintegrated.
“Oh wow, and I thought Simone was pale, why is your arm all ghost-white?” Reverb, apparently was born to the Nation of Blunt.
“I haven’t seen real daylight in almost three months which explains my lovely complexion, but this…” and Joanne rolled back her shirt to show the straight-razor line where her shoulder and arm met and the lack of pink skin began, “is what happens when you teleport into a wall.”
“Ewwwww!” Reverb, Fractious and Lifeline showed their discontent with that answer rather loudly.
Arachne looked at the arm curiously. “Regeneration?”
Joanne nodded, shuddering slightly at the memory. “Yeah, took about three days to grow back.” She looked around and sighed. It was going to be a long year, and hopefully she could at least make a couple friends here who were redeemable human beings. The Crystal Hall was interesting, a wild mix of too hot and semi-normal mixed in with the freakishly crazy. The most notable were things like the dinosaurian kid next to a boy with a fashion sense that hurt to see. There were kids who she looked at and couldn’t look away without forcing it, they were that hot, and then there were the kids who looked like a mixed bag of crazy, shaken, stirred and turned loose upon the world with intent to commit havoc.
“Hello, Earth to Murphy, you’re zoning out.” Reverb was practically vibrating in her seat, and Murphy abruptly found herself questioning the wisdom of providing her coffee. This could be fun.
“Sorry, did someone say something?”
Lifeline smirked. “Well, I was asking what you did to make Tansy Walcutt turn lobster-red in such a short time.”
“Tansy? Did her parents decide she needed to be punished for life by giving her that name?” The girls were snickering evilly. “Who’s Tansy?”
“Solange,” Becca said smugly.
“Oh dear God, it was all a horrible misunderstanding, you see I found me an empty table to take some notes, do some writing and generally chill out and get a serious Nom on, and she comes up and immediately challenges me to a duel of bitch craft!” Unleashed, the Gunnarson family trademarked sadistic grin slide out. “I tested her and found her wanting.”
That got a lot of grins from the other girls, except for Reverb who was busy spinning a penny on the table, watching it with rapt fascination. It was eerie to watch, and Joanne about cracked up when she picked up one of the plastic saltshakers and popped it down on top of the spinning penny, giggling madly.
“See? This is what happens when you feed the spastic one coffee.” Becca accused with a glare.
Murphy wasn’t paying attention, the game seemed far too much fun and she was already spinning her own coin along the table.
Lifeline groaned. “Oh dear god, not another one!”
Reverb wasn’t the only one giggling madly during the next few minutes as Joanne reached for the peppershaker.
January 8th, 2007
The Path Between The Crystal Hall And Whitman Cottage
Despite nearly a foot of snow on the ground, the news spread across the campus like a raging fire. The Don deposed and expelled from the Alphas, Cavalier and Skybolt having to be restrained from killing him and then shipped off to ARC and, wonder of wonders, Kodiak had assumed his rightful place as Head Alpha. It had shaken the school to its very foundations but the worst of the rumors were darker still, Fool’s Circles and Mind Slave spells and Hekate practicing some of the blackest of the black sorcery on the grounds.
Mrs. Carson’s rage knew no bounds.
Every room in every dorm, clubhouse and workshop was searched, top to bottom, front to back for any other signs of Black Sorcery. Poor Lifeline, along with every other mage in the school had been bundled off to a mandatory ethics and law refresher course, and it was rumored, to undergo a grueling interview with Fubar to make certain nothing else like it was going on at school.
The amount of contraband turned up by security was pretty amazing in and of itself. Nearly as much was the amount of detention being handed out. Let’s just say that the grounds of the school would be immaculate for months.
Elaine Nalley didn’t care as much as she might have as she made her way on the clear paths, thoughtfully heated by the school’s steam plant and free of snow, to the Crystal Hall, deep in thought. She had been worried that Carmen’s program might be damaged in the search, but she’d taken care to spread all of her core files out and name them innocuously, and more to the point, make sure that she hid behind the main OS of the laptop she was resident on. The tech guys found nothing untoward when their dorm was searched, nor was there anything there to begin with. Minus a very illegal computer program, and the only item that raised an eyebrow in Lifeline’s spell book was her on going research into a resurrection spell that the entire magic department knew of and took great amusement in telling her she was wasting her time.
Fortunately, this had all overshadowed a certain battle in a certain airport that shall remain nameless. It seemed Mrs. Carson had much bigger fish to fry than a well-documented incident, clearly a matter of defense of life or death. For that, Loophole was grateful. So Elaine trudged, not used to a winter that included actual snow and large amounts of it for a ridiculous amount of time.
To those she passed, Doc probably looked like an Eskimo, bundled up in a huge parka, snow pants and boots, but it was the far away look on her face that warned those who knew better. The Rules Lawyer of Whateley was scheming.
After her pensive holiday break, Elaine had stopped to reconsider a number of things she held to be givens. Last year, she’d set her sights on getting into the Alphas because membership in a group like that would look good on her college application. Now, she wasn’t sure if she was even going to go to college, so why did getting into the Alpha’s matter so much to her?
Doc knew the answer, but thus far was refusing to admit to it.
She didn’t care for a number of the people there, but like any group the Alpha’s were fairly diverse. There were a number of them that were generally fun to hang around and just spend time with. And, for once in her life, Doc had been popular. Boys had taken notice of her, and not because she could diagnose that funny rattle in the engine compartment. A number of doors she thought beyond her had been opened and an entire new world of possibilities was out there. Those doors had closed with the Don’s coup and she was determined to re-open them.
Despite the cold, Elaine found herself warm when thinking of the tall, broad shouldered new leader of the campus A-list crowd, his rugged good looks, his easy smile and the feeling of his lips on hers when she’d had her first kiss stolen. No, Wyatt “Kodiak” Cody had nothing what so ever to do with wanting to get back on the A list.
That was her story and she was sticking to it.
So, Elaine trudged, one part of her busy mind thinking about the hows and whys of her life she’d taken for granted, the other busily working on turning Carmen’s revelations into a prototype. Making the various devices would not be difficult; indeed, the raw research had already been done by Dr. Hewley, with no theoreticals to work out it was simply a matter of engineering. Doc excelled at engineering.
Well, that and learning how to fly.
Arriving finally at the Crystal Hall, Doc reached for the door only to have it be thrown open forcefully on its own. Zigging quickly to the other side to avoid the door, Doc found herself face to chest with the object of one portion of her frantic scheming, Kodiak.
The thermometer at Whitman had the temperature at twenty-seven degrees, or so it had been when Elaine had ventured out into the cold for lunch. Kodiak, however, hadn’t seemed to have gotten the memo that the weather was cold and miserable. He was wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves one quarter rolled up under which peeked the white of a set of long johns. Jeans and boots completed his wardrobe. His face was a stormy scowl of anger until he took notice of Elaine and the sun came out once more in his smile. “Elaine, sorry about that, I didn’t see you,” he stammered out in greeting.
“Where’s your coat?” the tall girl demanded, having to cock her head up only slightly to look him in the face. “You’ll catch your death out here like that!”
A rumbling chuckle worked its way out of his tight abdominals. “What? This? This isn’t cold, girl, this is a spring day where I come from.”
“Well, where Ah come from this is shut the state down for a month,” she replied with a grin. “And forget about buying milk or bread for two.”
“Then, let’s get my little Georgia Peach inside before she gets frost bite,” he laughed as he made way and followed her to gentlemanly assist her with disrobing her parka.
“Who’s got you upset?” she asked as she took the jacket back and set it on one of the hooks where there were already a collection of outer wear that would rival an LL Bean Catalogue. Cody’s face clouded over once more as he rolled his eyes.
“Tansy, who else?” he rumbled in disgust. “If she weren’t a girl…”
“Cody,” Elaine scolded, shaking her head, “You are one of, if not the best looking guys on campus. Ah never understood why you put up with that bitch in the first place. Lord above knows others are waiting…” she trailed off, a silent me among them left unsaid.
“That’s kind of you to say, Loop,” he chuckled.
“Ah’m not just buttering you up,” she snapped, using frustration of his use of her codename to hide her own emotions. “That stuck up little bitch has never worked a day in her life, what can you possibly see in her?”
Kodiak frowned as he looked down on her. Loophole was a remarkably tall young woman for her age. She was already five eleven and with high heels she’d almost be eye to eye with the big young man. He found that he liked that. The thought of her in high heels stirred a curve or two of his own. “I don’t see anything in her,” he growled. “She’s got the damned access codes and keys for all the Alpha special areas. She might be as dumb as a box of rocks but she’s smart enough to keep them to herself. I need her or I might as well not be an Alpha myself.”
“How…?” stammered Elaine, dumbstruck that Tansy Walcutt had managed to pull something off as major as what she’d just heard.
“If I had an answer to that,” growled the bear, “you can bet Miss Thang would be looking for a new gig tute suite.” He forced a smile and let his eyes roam over her. The brilliant scarlet sweater was new, complimented her hair as well as her other assets, while the snow pants had given way to a pair of jeans that showed off every curve. If anything, Cody decided, Elaine was only getting better looking. Changing subjects, he asked, “Where’s your pin?” while giving the matching one he wore on his flannel a rub.
“Well…uh…it’s…” she stammered, her heart racing. “It’s in mah dorm, Ah only found out about the Don a couple of hours ago and Ah didn’t want to presume…”
“Eat your lunch,” the big man rumbled with a grin. “Your friends have someone new to introduce you to. Then you dart that sweet little rear of yours over to Whitman and you put it on. I don’t want to see you without it again.” His big arms encircled her and he used the leverage to pull her close and plant a kiss on her fore head. “Welcome to the Alphas,” he told as he walked back out into the cold each hand remembering how well her cheeks had fit into them.
Elaine watched the big senior leave, her heart racing. The prim and proper southern lady within her scolding her that she should have said something to the boy for his roaming hands. The rest was wishing she hadn’t had the thick denim between her skin and his.
I’m in, she thought, the small rational part of her mind trying to get a word in edgewise over emotions and hormones. I’m IN!
The bullet proof, forced growth crystal lattice that made up the ‘glass’ of the Crystal Hall reverberated with an ear splitting rebel yell of excitement.
January 8th, 2007
Just outside the Crystal Hall
Cody’s sharp ears picked up the lingering echoes of Elaine’s yell and he smiled to himself. Freya had been right, Loophole was definitely Alpha material and he was determined he was not going to make the same mistakes his usurping predecessor had. For one thing, a house cleaning was in order, and for another, certain bridges had to be repaired. Walking quickly, Cody caught sight of the first engineer he’d need for his little civil engineering project.
“Yo, Scott!” he boomed, his voice drifting effortlessly across the quad and getting the attention of Scott ‘Thunderbird’ Emerson. The young man was walking with his ‘harem’ towards the Crystal Hall, the Kimbette Chaka on his arm but the others taking things in stride and chatting merrily.
At his approach his sharp eyes saw the Poesy clinch up, ready for a fight and tisked at himself for how far the leadership of this school had fallen. “Wyatt,” Scott greeted warily. “What’s going on?”
Cody felt the little black girl’s eyes on him and within Bear began to take offense at the dominance display. Easy, big guy, he told himself and forced his eyes back over to Scott. “Got a favor to ask, walk with me for a minute?” Seeing the grip on Scott’s arm tighten, Cody sighed and returned his attention to Chaka. “I promise he’ll come back in the same state he is now.”
“Sure, Wyatt,” Scott replied, disentangling himself from his girlfriend’s grip. The two boys walked a short distance away from the girls. Chaka had removed a weighted chain she was using as a belt from around her waist and was flipping it through a kata at speeds that were too fast to follow.
Kodiak smiled at the girls’ display in a gesture that was anything but friendly.
“What’s this about, Kodiak?” demanded the young sophomore.
“House cleaning,” the big senior replied. “I know you didn’t rush the FSA, but you hang with them.”
“So I hang with the capes, so what?”
“Show respect,” Cody rumbled softly. “The term ‘Capes’ is meant to be insulting.”
“Of course they don’t,” he interrupted the boy’s protest. “They’re bigger than that, which is why you should show respect.” Scott frowned at the scolding, but his own honesty showed him the logic of the argument and he nodded curtly. “Now, I’d like to get together with Arthur and discuss some things. Things that are better for the school, things that are better for the students.”
“Pendragon?” Emerson asked, rubbing his chin in thought. “Why don’t you just go up to him?”
“Things aren’t done that way, Scott,” Cody replied. “The Don was a colossal dick, and your girlfriend’s team in Poe wasn’t the only ones he’s dicked over. So, to show him respect, I’m asking you to step up and be my emissary. So, how about it, boy scout? You up for helping me bury the hatchet?”
“If you think that’s what it takes, sure,” Scott replied. “I’m always happy to help people get along.”
Cody clapped the younger man on the shoulder in rough affection. “Good man and Scott? Mind your Ps and Qs around Chaka, or she might get ticked and pull a Bobbitt on you.”
Scott shrugged his indifference and rejoined his clutch of girl friends. Cody watched them go for a bit and smiled once they were out of sight. That he and Pendragon were meeting would be all over campus by dinner. Arthur and the Cape Squad would be useful in taking out the trash that had filled up the Alpha’s of late, but that wasn’t the only bonus there. That would also give Tansy a nice little goose to chase. But the icing on the cake was that if Cody knew her at all, he knew that Loophole would have those access codes and keys to him before the month was out, maybe before the week was out.
Sticking his hands into his pockets the senior walked back to his dorm, whistling a merry tune while thinking about how he would reward Loophole. Yep, if the Don had been half as smart as he thought he was he would have learned from Freya.
Cody certainly had.
January 8th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Elaine certainly felt like celebrating as she wandered through the buffet line that was the school’s primary cafeteria. A thick, sizzling steak and a Caesar salad seemed to fit the bill which she happily placed on her tray and made her way to the pay islands. A swipe of her school ID deducted the chit from her meal allowance and then it was off to find the rest of the Lit Chix.
They were meeting to go over writing projects that the group had agreed upon before leaving for winter break. Becky Corbin had, of course, come up with a new shared universe for them to explore, but with all the holiday madness, Elaine hadn’t really given her character much thought. Adding to that what happened on her way to lunch and she knew she had major dirt to dish.
She caught sight of Foxfire, Lifeline, Reverb, Fractious and Arachne sitting at their favorite table, but there was a new girl sitting with them who looked like she’d just come from a fire sale, literally. Elaine wasn’t sure, but she was fairly certain her flannel shirt had a couple of charred patches that were still smoking. Foxfire gave her a smirk as Elaine helped herself to the open spot by Lifeline butting fists in greeting to her roomy. “Alright, you might not be the only redneck at this school, but I know that lovely contralto of yours when I hear it, so what gives?”
Normally, Doc would bristle at being called a redneck, but her excitement and curiosity overrode any feeling of irritation. Still, it wouldn’t do to not give Becky any payback so she reached around her best friend to the stranger and offered a hand. “Hi, Ah’m Elaine, and Ah presume ya’ll already met mah rude friends who can’t be bothered to introduce me.”
“Joanne,” the new girl replied with a half sarcastic grin. “Joanne Gunnarson. As I understand things here my super secret squirrel name is Murphy.” She was a good looking girl, short blonde hair of uneven length with front bangs that were a brilliant purple in patches. She looked like she’s tried to cut her hair with a wood-chipper after having a crack-crazed squirrel dye it.
Elaine grated her teeth, hating when this part of the conversation came up, which it invariably did. “Loophole,” she admitted with a sigh. Her eyes went big behind the glasses.
“You’re Loophole?” she demanded.
“Has mah reputation preceded me?”
Lifeline stifling a giggle brought Elaine’s attention to her. “Oh, you missed it, girl,” she managed around her mirth. “Joanne here decided the best place to have her lunch was at the Alpha’s table.”
“It was open!” protested Joanne in an annoyed tone of voice.
“So, Kodiak and Solange walk up and Joanne gets into a battle of wits with the terminally un-armed Solange,” Maggie continued. “I mean, we’re all expecting World War Three to break out and Cody is just sitting there trying not to laugh. Then before Tansy…”
“Tansy..!” gasped out Murphy in outrage. “What kind of sick fucks would name their child Tansy? There is truth in advertising!”
“Before Tansy can go thermonuclear Cody collects up Murphy here and brings her over to our table,” continued Maggie with long suffering. “Then, get this, he tells us he’s actually looking for you and wants us to make sure you and Murphy here get the meet and greet.”
“He did?” pondered Loophole to herself. “Did he say why?”
Reverb bounced out of her caffeine high to rattle off in a fair imitation of Cody’s gruff baritone, “They’ll either get on like snow and cold or they’ll kill each other. Either way should be interesting.”
“Ah think Ah found somebody need’n kill’n,” muttered Elaine in good humor.
“Hey, cut Studly Adams some slack,” protested Joanne, which brought every eye at the table to her. “What? I can’t be the only one who wants to curl up with him on a long cold night, can I?”
“And that would be the problem,” laughed Lifeline. “See, my roomy here has a crush on Nanook of the North there something fierce.” Joanne shrugged.
“Hey, no problem, may the best girl win.”
Elaine looked the other girl over, decided she was older and better looking which was something of a start for her and took the offered hand feeling very confident of her superiority of the exchange. “Done. What would ya’ll like as the consolation prize?”
Joanne rolled her eyes. “Your forgiveness when I win the boy.”
“Ahem!” interjected Becky before the exchange could escalate further. “Now that we’re all nice and cozy, what has you trying to get the South to rise again?”
It wasn’t often that Elaine got to let her inner Southern Belle out, but this was definitely such an occasion. The girl actually preened with inner satisfaction of having a juicy secret. “Well, Ah happened to run into Kodiak on mah way in here. The first thing he asks me is where mah pin is…!”
“You’re in?” asked Lifeline in surprise and joy for her friend’s quest.
“Ah’m in!” squealed Elaine in excitement. “More than that, he told me he didn’t want to see me without it on again!”
Foxfire joined Arachne in rolling her eyes. “Oh brother,” the Californian muttered.
“When’s your lobotomy?” sneered Simone.
“Don’t hate!” snapped Elaine with a grin. “Ya’ll know what a plus being an Alpha can be on the resume!”
“Yeah, but Maggie already told us you were having second thoughts about going to college,” Becky replied. “So all that crap you spouted last year about using it to get into a better school is so much water under the bridge. Now, what are you really after, Elaine?”
Loophole shook her head in disgust. “Now, why would Ah have an ulterior motive for wanting to be on the A-list?”
“Well, you’re not the cheerleader type or you’d be running with Queen Bee and those other airheads,” Becky sniped. “And you’d probably already scored with Cody if you had. Rumor has it he’s cut quite a swath through there.”
Elaine frowned and started to cut her steak. “Cody is a nice guy, every bit as nice as that squeaky clean Scott Emerson and he gets no credit for it because he hangs with the Alphas.”
“He’s top Alpha!” interjected Dee around a carefully measured sip of her drink
“All the more reason Ah think he’s trying to clean things up,” Doc replied. “And, Ah’m going to help him. Ya’ll haven’t even heard the major dirt yet.”
“Don’t change the subject,” snapped Becky. “You still haven’t told us why you want into the Alphas so bad.”
Doc sighed around a mouthful of steak. “Who gets seniority on requests to use the simulators?”
“You hate combat training,” observed Simone.
“Who gets preferred access to all the labs and research computers?”
“This isn’t about getting better workshop space,” growled Maggie, curiosity on her face.
“Do Ah have to spell this out for ya’ll?” snapped Elaine. “The Alphas have priority access to all that stuff. Everyone in the school has their records in those mainframes including Team Kimba!”
“Team what?” demanded Joanne with a puzzled expression. Becky was contemplative for a moment.
“That’s a nice bonus, and I’m certain we could use that intel, but that is not why you want in.”
Doc shrugged as she chewed. “Who cares so long as we find out what’s really going on in Poe.”
Joanne looked about the table in confusion now that the conversation had died down. “I repeat, Team Whatbah?”
“Team Kimba,” filled Fractious. “They’re a group of Freshmen all in Poe Cottage. Poe is the cottage where they put all the head cases and they’re trying to make inroads in taking over the school. They’re been in a lot of fights, two or three in Boston with real super villains.”
“So, they’re what, Superheroes the Next Generation?” asked Joanne with a puzzled look on her face.
“No, those are the Cape Squad,” interjected Maggie. “Different clique altogether and their ‘real’ name is the Future Superheroes of America.” The look of disbelief on Joanne’s face did all her questioning for her. “Hey, I don’t make this stuff up,” Maggie told her with a chuckle.
“So, what’s the big secret?” demanded Reverb.
A slow grin of satisfaction slid across Loophole’s face. “Get this. Cody tells me the only reason he’s putting up with Tansy is that somehow she got all the keys and access codes to the Alpha specialty areas.”
Becky frowned. “And, what? You’re going to go up against Solange to get them for him? Count me out. I just got rid of Hekate and I’m so not looking to replace one nemesis for another.”
“Well, Ah wasn’t planning to go toe to toe…”
“If you’re in a fair fight your tactics suck,” muttered Murphy. “Hey, if I get props for helping count me in, I’d fuck that idiot tramp up for a goddamned nickel.”
Elaine’s grin went evil as she offered her hand to the new comer. “Welcome to the Lit Chix!” When Joanne shook her hand she found a nice, shiny nickel in it.
“Oh I’m seriously starting to like you.”
January 8th 2007
Devisor Imaging and Planning Lab, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Elaine found the imaging lab empty when she entered and that was exactly to her liking. Some of the research she intended to make use of she didn’t want anyone else in the class to know she had access to. It wasn’t technically stealing, as Elaine was certain Dr. Hewley and Dr. Aranis were going to publish their research into mutation at some point. That was the point of all the tests and codenames any ways. The one she’d ‘acquired’ from the mainframe was just an advance copy, she told herself. Best to get that all out of the way right now then have to explain some pointed questions from Mr. Paulson.
The imaging lab consisted of twenty bays, each in a U shape that opened onto a common hallway that went down the middle. In the center of each was a disk shaped holographic emitter for 3D CAD/CAM design work allowing the students to develop their projects in three dimensions. It also had an electromagnetic force field generator to allow the prototypes to be tested for fit, range of movement and other engineering problems without the expense of creating a model out side of Virtual Reality. Each station also had an IBM Blade Center with fifty processing blades and a holographic array for storage. A set of ten ‘thimbles’ each student put on, one for each finger, allowed a completely virtual work space as they talked to a MOCAP system imbedded in the ceiling.
Being open to the hall allowed the instructor to walk about, offering assistance and guidance as needed, but being disserted, and before the class was even underway meant that most students were working on pet projects far from the planning stages or goofing off. Elaine selected the last station on the right, which already had her name on it in preparation for the class and tripped the breakers to bring the unit up from stand by.
She placed her personal hard drive, an expensive ten-terabyte model into the holographic array socket and locked it into place. Elaine used the few moments it would take to boot her program to slip the controller thimbles on her fingers. “Carmen, are you online?”
“I have successfully up linked with the Center, Miss. All sub-routines are online and running. How may I be of assistance?”
Elaine cracked her knuckles once they were in place and turned to the hologram well. “Visualize and bring files Iron Maiden and Payback online please.”
In the light of the well a lovely Hispanic girl of perhaps twenty took shape. Her long black hair was kept under control by a tight braid that traveled down to the small of her back. Dark eyes that sparkled mischievously gazed out of a heart shaped face down on the red head that had summoned her. She was dressed in the combat ‘costume’ of jeans, handkerchief top and bolero jacket Elaine had created for Costume Shop.
The virtual girl stepped to one side of the well to allow a copy of the outfit she wore to appear in the well in a classic T poise, minus a body to wear them. “Files are loaded and ready, Miss.”
Elaine curled her left pinky so that the MOCAP system would ignore her next gestures and cupped her chin in thought. “What is salvageable here, Carmen?”
Carmen walked a complete circuit of the edge of the well, contemplating the garment as she went. “Kevra is insufficient a material for our purposes, if I may say so, Miss. Its armor ratings are excellent for its weight to mass ratio, but we were not planning to engage paranormals when this was designed. Fashion wise, it is a good display of our figure if Messer’s Peeper and Greasy are any indication; however this garment has far too many openings that could be exploited by our intended opponents. I must therefore recommend scrapping this design completely in favor of a ‘from scratch’ build.”
Doc’s gestures were quick and harsh, wiping the garment from the well. “Ah agree. Alright, let’s lay out some goals and see what we can do to meet them. First goal, garment must withstand a one hundred twenty-millimeter main gun round. The girl Wallflower in Poe has force fields that strong.”
“Dr. Hewley’s files indicate that Wallflower’s field can absorb five simultaneous impacts, Miss,” the computer corrected.
Elaine nodded as she walked around the board and called up a full body suit that left the hands, neck and feet bare. “Second goal, Carmen, full environmental seal, particles down to five angstroms in diameter, radiation threat levels to seven.”
The suit took on a rigid quality and tripled in thickness. “First problem, Miss, such a material to the mainframe will be completely rigid and un-usable.”
Doc nodded, expecting this set back. “Load file Miracle Molecule and allow the computer to extrapolate.”
A three D model of an element that didn’t exist took up a corner of the well, rotating silently in place. The Blade Center chugged along first deciding if what it was being told could reasonably happen, then what effect it would have on the cloth. The suit became substantially thinner, now down to a thick leather cat suit with red hashes at the joints. “Thickness meets criteria; however the Blade Center is still worried about flexibility of the primary joints, Miss.”
A sigh escaped Doc’s lips as she gestured again like a conductor leading a nonexistent symphony. “Alright, insert the accordion billows there with a reinforced joint latch on both sides.”
The garment shifted and the red hash marks went away. “Within specified parameters,” Carmen announced.
Here goes nothing, thought Elaine to herself. “Alright Carmen, let’s load up file something from nothing and see what Big Blue thinks of it.” Two full minutes slid by, with neither the display nor Carmen moving so intensely was the Blade Center occupied. Finally the computer generated young woman blinked in relief.
“The Center does not want to admit that our power source will work, Miss, but given the theoretical information we gave it, it does allow for the possibility.”
“Fine,” Doc sighed. “Bring up the main schematic of the power plant and let me take a look at it.” The suit shrank into an unused corner while a back pack like device with a number of articulated ‘spines’ off it for a number of purposes came up. Doc reached out with her power and checked herself. The paper version of this should work, but it was always easier to grasp a system in three dimensions than two.
She’d had to read Dr. Hewley and Dr. Aranis’ paper three times to fully grasp the context and math they were proposing. Even then, some of the physics involved gave her a headache when she tried to understand them. Still, if their theories were correct, then this should work, or so her power told her. “Alright Carmen, Ah don’t detect any problems here, what scenarios does Big Blue think will happen?”
“The problem, Miss is the number of question marks we’re using as givens,” the program replied. “IF there exists a series of parallel universes to this one that the Exemplar Effect are tapping into to fuel their powers. If the constants Doctors Hewley and Aranis assume hold true do in fact hold true and if the field generator you have designed can in fact tap that universe as the math predicts, then yes, ‘Big Blue’ as you dub it agrees that you have solved the power problem of power suits. The power plant should be capable of an out put of twelve kilowatt hours per second.”
“Ah wonder what Dow Chemicals would pay for that?” thought the young girl darkly.
“Miss, given a successful patent and field trial, the contracts from the Department of Defense alone should fall into riches beyond the dreams of avarice range.”
After a long moment Loophole shook her head. “No, Carmen, the last thing Ah want is to make war any more horrific than it already is. An army equipped with this has no logistical tail to wag. Ah won’t be responsible for unleashing that. And you make triple sure these designs stay out of sight.”
“Not to worry, Miss,” the Computer consoled her. “Now as our second stated goal is a complete environmental seal, should I assume that we’ll be going with a full helmet, gloves and boots?”
Elaine nodded as she pointed at files on her personal hard drive and began to drag them onto the virtual prototype. “Unfortunately. Alright, full commo suite, atmo, food and water fabricators, EM suite from ultra violet to microwave, Carmen, is the mark three computer sufficient to run your program?”
“The Mark Four would be preferable Miss, but the three does cover minimum needs.”
“Four it is then,” the girl replied, her fingers doing a quick dance. “Now, we just update mah biometrics and update the master pattern.”
“Alright Carmen, download that file to the base unit and set the CAM to generate the power plant. What’s the ETA on that?”
“Four hours, Miss.”
“And what does Big Blue think the worst case failure option is?”
The virtual Latino looked down on her creator. “You really don’t want to know that, Miss. And if it holds true, you won’t care regardless.”
Elaine frowned. “Ah can’t risk something that volatile! What are the parameters for the worst case?”
“One hundred percent failure at one hundred percent generation,” the computer replied. “Odds of occurrence are 40 to 1 given current models. The blade center does not have sufficient computing power for better models.” Elaine gave the expensive computer a glance. It represented more processing power than she thought she’d ever need to model.
“What about load tests to three percent to prove concept?”
“The theoretical blast failure of such a trial given catastrophic failure fall within the range of containment unit twelve, but only just.”
Elaine nodded. “Send the order to the CAM then and book containment twelve for a load test as soon as possible.” Doc sighed and indulged in a satisfied smile that was one part schoolgirl with a secret and three parts diabolical evil genius. “Now, let’s go ruin Tansy’s day.”
January 8th, 2007
Murphy was bored and annoyed. The cold was slipping through her clothing to actually irritate her, even if her regeneration was more than enough to keep her from getting anything more than annoyed a just below thirty degrees. She had spent the last hour or so filing all the paperwork with the Jewish man behind the Security Chief’s desk to get her new firearm registered, and she was impressed by Chief Delarose’s level of knowledge and professionalism
The fact that he’d complimented her on her proper handling of a weapon only made her smirk. It was nice having something that people felt they could trust her with even if they firmly believed she was fight prone. But as her father had drilled into her head, a fistfight is just that. “Once you draw a weapon you are stating intent to kill,” he’d told her.
The thought of killing anyone didn’t exactly bring a thrill of girlish delight to her, so she’d signed up for the mandatory weapons handling and safety class. Delarose had assured her that given what he was seeing, if she continued the way she was, Mister Wilson would likely check her off within a week.
As she was leaving the Security Annex of Kane Hall, she saw the redhead from the Lit Chix table walking from another annex. She figured she might as well scout the competition and get to know the girl at the same time. “How’s it going Loophole?”
The southern belle looked at her with a smirk of both curious and wicked proportions. “Oh not much, just contemplating just how one might get Tansy’s panties into a permanent wad.”
“Can’t be that hard, bitch doesn’t strike me as very bright.”
“Well no, she isn’t which makes her little takeover of the Alphas a mite offensive to me.” Elaine unconsciously rubbed the Alpha pin she’d retrieved from Whitman hall before going to play with the CAD computers.
“So I take it the little ‘A’ pin would be the Alphas thing?”
Elaine nodded. “Wyatt just told me Ah’m in again, after being terminally screwed out of it by Don Sebastiano at the beginning of the year.”
“So what’s the plan? Fuck the Alphas up and take over?” Joanne talked about destruction the way one might discuss the weather.
“Taking over, not so much. Howevah, Ah would like to see Wyatt on the top of the heap rather than the blonde bitch.”
“Hey! Do not put her in my category! She’s not smart enough to be a bitch!”
Elaine chuckled mildly. “And your interest in the Alphas would be?”
“Mayhem, pure and simple.” Joanne caught the disbelieving look and sighed. “Yeah okay, Kodiak just hits me as someone I could get along well with. Maybe date, I dunno. In any case as a whole, I could really give a rat’s ass about being in one of the popular clubs, or the unpopular clubs. I prefer to take people as they come.”
The redhead scowled. “Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem, as Ah do like Wyatt, and Ah don’t like the idea of some chickadee horning in on my territory.”
Murphy nodded, almost looking like a charred doll for a brief moment. “I can understand that, and I’m not gonna lie. When I see something I want, I’m going to go for it full tilt. However…”
Murphy shrugged and waved Elaine to follow her. “Look, I’m not exactly miss shit-hot at expressing my feelings, but if you’re willing to accept a truce where Wyatt’s concerned I’ll let you take your shot for him without interference. Fair competition, none of the stupid little snide games of sabotage that I see so many so-called friends pull on each other. Where he’s concerned, I don’t screw with you, you don’t screw with me, and if he picks you fair and square, no bitching, moaning or wailing and gnashing of teeth from me.”
“So you’d just let me have him out of the goodness of your own heart?”
Murphy snorted. “Darlin’ I ain’t letting you do shit. I just said I won’t try to sabotage you and stab you in the back if you’ll give me the same courtesy. If something’s worth going for it’s worth going full-throttle for.”
“Ah don’t think the Marquis of Queensbury has rules for this, but Ah’m willing to play fair and square if you are. So you intend to try to nab him?”
“I intend to get his attention.” Murphy looked at the other girl and smirked. “Whether or not I can keep his attention, or whether or not I’ll want it in a few days or months? Who knows? But I’d rather play nice with the competition than have to play ‘fight to the death’ for a guy who’d probably find the fight just as entertaining as having the winner.”
“What makes you think Wyatt would enjoy the fight?”
Murphy gave an evil grin. “Because, dearie, he doesn’t strike me as being a nice guy all the time.”
Elaine’s eyes glazed over and went far away for a bit. “Yeah, he does have a bit of bad boy in him, and Ah’d dearly love to see him try the biker look on for size…”
Joanne gave the red head an odd look. “…But regardless, I kinda like you, and I like your friends, so I’m proposing that we keep this little bit civil.”
“And if it becomes uncivil?”
“I’ll jump that hurdle when we get there.” Murphy shrugged. “If you were going to be a bitch about the whole thing, or thought you were going to lose you’d have cussed me out in the cafeteria.”
Elaine suppressed a giggle. “Not mah style, honey, but fair enough. You haven’t got a subtle bone in your body do you?” Elaine wasn’t sure if she liked the thought, given that’s one of the things Wyatt liked about her.
“Of course I do!” Murphy laughed. “I just don’t find many situations where it’s worth the effort to bother.”
“Alright, fine, we’ll keep it civil, but Ah can’t promise Ah won’t be snide and sarcastic.”
“And that should bother me, why?”
The two stepped out into the cold, and Elaine pulled the stylish parka tightly around her, noticing with not more than a little grumpiness that the new girl wasn’t even having the common courtesy to notice that it’s cold outside. “Aren’t you cold?”
Murphy shook her head. “Nah, this is nice. I just came from pushing-fifty-below-zero weather. This is a nice change.”
Suddenly Elaine understood why Wyatt might like the girl.
“Alright, look, I’d love to help you out putting Tansy out of her misery, but I need to get me some clothing that isn’t charred. If you wanna come we can brainstorm. If not, I’ll see you at the dorm.”
“Ah thought all your stuff was misrouted?”
“Crap. Is there a store or something? I guess I ought to get the uniforms at least, but I’m so not into the school girl look.”
Doc sighed. “Come on back to mah room. We’re pretty close in size and Ah’m sure Ah’ve got a couple of things you can borrow until your stuff gets here.”
January 8rd 2007
Whitman Cottage, RM 216, Whateley Academy
Elaine and Joanne arrived back at Elaine’s room in Whitman to find it empty, minus a note from Maggie that there was a try out for a model shoot for the club later that afternoon. “Ah have some stuff,” Doc told Joanne as the younger girl followed her into the room. “Dunno what you’ll think of mah grease monkey chic fashions, tho.”
"Oh my gawd, another normal person? Are there more of us?"
“Well, the other Gearheads are really trying out to be the next Q when John Cleese retires, but kinda...” Doc chuckled to her self as she opened the closet to reveal it portioned off in three sections, jeans and plain T shirts, jeans and Southern Fried Rock band T shirts and a group of cocktail length dresses that looked like something out of the 1950s. Seeing the silk and chiffon collection, Murphy cocked her head to one side and smirked.
"Momma Cleaver? Is that you?"
“Oh hush,” Doc replied with a blush. “There are times a girl needs a couple of good party dresses. Momma is a schoolteacher and that can be the worst kind of political, and Daddy goes to some SBA events sometimes. He’s a mechanic with his own shop.” Doc rummaged through a bit, looking for things she through her friend would like. “Let’s see, Ah’ve got Led Zepplin, ZZ Top…”
"Got anything in a nice Metallica?"
“Well, Ah got the black album tee but Ah never wear 'cuz everybody hates it for some reason...” she replied pulling out the tee in question.
Joanne got a confused look on her face. "Why the hell would you care what everyone else thinks?” Doc sighed and moved to the chest of drawers to dig for foundational garments.
“Cuz the last time Ah wore Ah got into a four hour argument with this stoner about how Lars had sold out and it wasn't aesthetically pure. Then Ah challenged him to spell aesthetically and a fight broke out...”
Joanne rolled her eyes in disgust. “Oh please, one argument with a purist? Does the music sound good?”
“Sorry, Ah’m not gonna have a bra small enough for you. Becky might, though, Ah’ll ask her. It wasn't that, it was I got picked up by the cops when the owner called them and that cost me the best fake ID Ah'd ever had. Not to mention Daddy tanned mah hide after he bailed me out. It just puts a bad taste in mah mouth. You want it? It's yours.”
“Cool. It's better than my roadkill cafe T-shirt, which now more appropriately resembles a cannibal cafe barbecue advertisement thanks to that stupid gargoyle.”
“Gargoyle?” asked Elaine. “Those things at the gate? What did they do?
Murphy frowned and shook her head. “No, the flame throwing bitch here in Whitman. Tissy-fit or whatever.”
“Don't mind her, it's just her time of the decade.”
Murphy snorted. “More like time of the minute. Ok, so earlier you spoke of fucking with she-dumb. You even gave me the asked-for nickel. Do we have a plan? Or shall we simply unleash the dogs upon her?”
Doc fingered Maggie’s note contemplatively as she shank onto her bed. “Ah figure Tansy likes to mess with people so that will require the personal touch. Hit her where it hurts the most. The girls' as dumb as a box of rocks, but she's crazy like a fox. Not smart, but cunning as nothing's ever stuck to her. Ah figure to hit her where it hurts is to hit her where she lives. Tansy's big into Venus, Inc. That’s the school's model wannabe club. The trick will be figuring out where she stashed the keys and the codes.”
Joanne’s eyes lit up in expectation. “Keys? Codes? Something we can take and sell to the lowest bidder just to be offensive?”
Elaine sighed. “Cody is only putting up with her 'cause she's got the keys and the access codes to the Alpha special areas. We have a lot special perks, sky box tickets for the Celtics and some other goodies.”
“Ah intend to give them back to Cody, and yes, if you help Ah will give you credit for the assist.”
“Cool. Does this mean you don't want me to be utterly evil and hand them over to someone who'd utterly destroy her?” Murphy asked with an evil gleam in her eyes. Doc considered for nearly a full minute before shaking her head.
“Tempting, well, it’s very tempting, but no. Ah don't have a blood feud or anything, Ah just don't like she's holding this crap over his head”.
“So, why not just skip out of the whole Alpha, or whatever the hell it is thing? Why does he stick around if he's stuck surrounded by morons? Present company excepted.”
Doc flashed a smile. “Thanks. Things were different last year. Well, it's a long story, but the Alpha's weren’t just into harmless pranks and getting stuff done. They did some great charity work, benefits for the homeless down in Boston. The kind of stuff that looks really good on a college app. Then The Don sleazes his way in and it all goes to crap. Ah think Cody feels like it happened on his watch and he's got to fix it.”
Murphy shrugged after a moment of thought. “Cool. I really have no basis for consideration here, been at the school for what... six or so hours now? So all this is really more or less meaningless to me yet. All I know is Tansy is a Darwin award winner in the future and I want to inspire her to her full glory”
“Well, lemme put it like this. Take all the crazy BS that goes on at your normal high school campus. All the drama, the infighting, cliques ins and outs.” Joanne nodded. “Now multiply all that by a factor of one thousand, throw in kids that play with nuclear reactors, alter reality or have to summon demons for a class project and you'll start to get an idea of what it's like here”
Murphy blinked as her mouth fell open. Doc smiled and nodded. “Yeah, welcome to Whateley.
Joanne looked at the shoulder holster, carefully hidden under the toasted flannel. “I'm actually going to need ammunition for this aren't I?” Doc nodded somberly.
“Ah think last year we had three kids die, but one was a suicide. And the only gimmick Ah have is Ah'm a rambl'n wreck from Georgia Tech and Ah'm an engineer to quote the fight song.”
“So what, you build shit?”
“The official terms are Exemplar 3 Devisor 1 and Gadgeteer 6E. They'll work all that out for you when you get classified. Short version is Ah'm as fit as an Olympic level athlete and Ah can beat Kasperov at chess, but around here that's not saying much.”
Joanne sank into the chair at Elaine’s desk and began to rummage in her purse finally producing a MID. “It's all Greek to me. Just like Warper 3 with letter codes, Regen 4, and Channeller 2. Whatever the hell that shit all means.”
Doc took the MID and looked it over. “You said you could teleport, right? That's the warper. Channel? You call up spirits or something?”
A shudder raced down Joanne’s back even though the room was warm. “Let's just say I don't like going near anything dead, but yeah, I can teleport, Twist space into knots for about a football field in any direction and I'm a walking threat to the lottery.”
“Well, that's a warper for you. Be careful as both Reverb and Fractious do that too. Dunno if you'll just cancel each other out or hertodyne.”
“Nothing happened in the cafeteria,” protested Joanne, then she thought for a moment. “Well, nothing worse than usual.”
Elaine cupped her chin in thought. “Probably cancel out then, but it's odd that Tansy didn't hit you though. She may look like a Barbie doll but the bitch is strong and fast. Ah'll show you her combat final some time. Probably too many witnesses, she likes her revenge cold and anonymous.”
Joanne snorted in disgust. “I'm used to people stronger than me trying to push me around. Plus when I start warping I can make Murphy's Law hit you, make you suffer thermal vertigo and teleport around you. Tansy hitting me is the least of my worries. Oh, and I heal broken bones in a little under a minute.”
“Nice. Wish Ah healed up that fast. Ah'm pretty much a base line compared to others at this school.”
“Trust me. Healing that fast? Total godsend otherwise I’d have a prosthetic arm.”
“To answer the question, tho, yeah Ah build things. Mah current project is a '69 Shelby fast back Ah'm restoring.” Joanne’s eyes lit up as the mention of a car and the freedom it entailed.
Doc preened a bit as her favorite tinker toy got the respect it deserved. “Yeah, been tweak'n her engine a bit. Got her up to three hundred out on the proving grounds and her MPG is around 35 with leaded.”
“How the hell do you find leaded?”
Elaine shrugged. “School has connections and we’re on a reservation here technically. Otherwise Ah don’t pry to be honest. Ah'm proud of her.” Murphy’s eyes took on a far away look.
“Nice,” she drawled out. “Can't wait to get my driver's license, although Dad says he dreads the day.”
“Well, the school has a test track out in the Kennecott Salt Flats in Utah. They teach driver's ed. too. Ah'll take you out for a spin before dinner if ya like.”
Murphy’s face split into a huge grin. “Can I try driving?”
“Ah'll ask Mr. Donner if Ah can check out one of the DE cars, though Ah do need to test that Accord for Ayla...”
“Cool. Who's Ayla?”
“Now there's a piece of work. Ayla Goodkind. Goes by Phase and before you ask, yes she's one of those Goodkinds. She's on Team Kimba too”
“Oh joy. How charming and all that rot. Nice to know the house of hate us has a child going through gene-freak high like the rest of the common rabble.
“Ah'll dish the dirt there later. That group ain't right. Fairy princesses and Demon lust goddesses and crap. They're up to something and we, well, the Lit Chix mean to find out what.”
“Yeah, about that... Lit Chix?”
Dock couldn’t keep in a laugh at the look of consternation on her face. “Well, the official title is the Whateley Academy Literary Club. That's where you'll find our pic in the yearbook. But as we're all girls...”
“Oh, ok. So what, like a reading circle, pick a book snark or coo about it as appropriate?”
“Well, we all write and pass around to each other to get better. And then there are times we just seemed to get wrapped up in stuff. It's the damnest thing.”
“Wait, you're a bunch of nosy kids, you play RPG's and you write your own stories? Is there like, a sign-up sheet or something?”
Doc shrugged. “Mostly we fell together 'cause we're probably some of the biggest brains and well read kids on campus. And this is the kind of place where friends are everything.”
“I can tell,” she said around her fearful nod.
“Ah'll send an Email to Mr. Lord, he's the faculty sponsor that you're on the club.”
“'kay. No questions about my qualifications? No tests to see if I'm actually literate? Or is there a "Stomp stupid people" position open?”
Elaine smiled a cocky smile at the younger girl. “You correctly employed the phrase Mary Sue in ear shot of Becky. That's pretty much our test.”
January 8th 2007
Whitman Cottage, RM 216, Whateley Academy
The object that sat on Loophole’s desk was innocuous looking. The size and shape of a PDA with a touch screen. It would simple enough to carry about in a purse or even on a belt keeper. And if it worked, Loophole would never again fear the situation she’d found herself in at Hartsfield Airport. It would be nice if the thing didn’t terrify the young woman just by sitting there, but everything had a price tag. “Summarize the load test, Carmen,” she ordered quietly, already knowing the answer but needing the reassurance of the program’s opinion.
“The load test was a complete success, Miss. There were no radiation, thermal or quantum affects that could be measured. The field was stable and I suppose we really should inform Doctors Hewley and Aranis their theories are correct.”
“We don’t know that,” she rebuked the computer softly. “We only know this thing got power from somewhere.”
“A somewhere their theories predicted and mathematically postulated,” the computer replied. “While it is my normal disposition to advise caution, Miss, I believe in this instance, a field trial is certainly warranted.”
“Ah was afraid you’d say that,” the teen whispered. After a moment of screwing her courage to the sticking place, Elaine picked up the device and pressed her thumb to the screen. Once her identity was verified the screen lit up with a number of icons one would expect the device to have, with a small innocuous button in one corner labeled emergency. Without thought Loophole’s power wrapped around the device and it became apparent to her this was no simple PDA.
Yet again the new sense she had learned to trust far beyond her other five told her she had achieved the impossible, that the device would work exactly as it was designed to. Bolstered somewhat, Elaine sent a silent prayer skyward and pressed the emergency button. The air around her quickly became warm as the device pulled energy from some nearby dimension and used it to teleport the suit from the secure locker it had been fabricated in. Elaine’s jeans and T shirt were likewise teleported and stored while the computer built a suit of armor around her, molecule by molecule.
Loophole fought off a wave of claustrophobia as the helmet enclosed her head in total darkness before the onboard computer booted up and the enhanced reality interface she had designed booted up. Even though the room was dark, she could see perfectly, bothered only slightly by the red halo of waste heat the process had generated around her. “Uplink, Carmen,” she ordered, pleased with the sultry contralto the voice changer in the helmet altered her voice into, certain not even her own brother would recognize her voice.
“Uplink is complete, Miss,” the program whispered in her ear. “All systems are nominal and within limits. How does it feel?”
Loophole moved slowly, feeling out her limits of movement and took a few cautious steps. “Amazing,” she whispered. “It’s almost like Ah’m naked. Ah’m not aware of the suit at all. Bring up the EM suite for a full test. Vision to enhanced mode.”
The walls became translucent to Elaine as she looked up and down the hall, seeing her floor mates moving about their rooms as if the entire floor was now one large open space. “Now Ah know what it’s like to be Peeper,” she muttered, shuddering through the armor at the mental picture.
“Life does have its trials,” agreed Carmen. “I do detect a minor fluctuation of subatomic particles radiating away from us, Miss.”
“Leakage?” asked Elaine, her fear returning with a vengeance.
“No,” the computer replied. “I believe they are artifacts if you will of the teleport. There was probably a visual light flash as well. It was most likely an after effect of the entropy being displaced. Certain sensitives may take notice, but…”
“Oh shit,” interrupted Elaine as her enhanced vision caught sight of the shapely form of Mrs. Savage walking briskly down the hall, the ring of master keys in her hand. “Sensitives is right, here comes trouble…!”
“Elaine!” the housemother shouted as she walked. “Elaine Nalley what are you up to?”
“It will only take three seconds to recover the suit…” Carmen urged her.
Loophole darted to the window and flung it open. “No time, and if she sensed the activation, she’ll sense the recovery. Ah can’t get caught with this right now. Bring the flight protocols online!”
“Elaine Nalley you open this door this instant!” Mrs. Savage’s voice reverberated through the door.
“Miss, we’re more than a week away from a flight trial…”
“Now, Carmen!” she hissed as she stepped up onto the sill, her eyes never leaving the housemother fumbling with the keys.
“Protocols are loaded and online…”
“No time like the present…!” Elaine told herself as she launched herself out of a third story window. Loophole arched her back into the turn so that instead of falling forward the armor began to climb backwards; soon she was over the roof of her dorm and rapidly ascending.
“One thousand feet,” Carmen marked off.
“Diagnostic!” Elaine screamed as she struggled to remember how she’d programmed the suit in interpret her body language. The virtual altimeter superimposed over her field of vision levelled off at eleven hundred feet and she hovered.
“Power levels holding steady at one percent out put, all systems are holding steady and nominal. Your own heart rate is markedly elevated and if you continue this shallow breathing you’ll likely pass out. You must calm down Miss.”
“Ah’m flying,” she whispered in amazement, then took a deep breath to master her fears. Several deep breaths brought her breathing and heart rate down for a moment. “Close traffic scan,” she ordered, finally mastering herself.
“Airspace is clear for twenty miles,” Carmen replied. “I have successfully uplinked with Carmine-Gallo, our nearest traffic is a jet ranger bearing 287 at Angels 8, twenty miles and opening.”
Elaine looked about herself, enthralled with the new sense of absolute freedom this new ability gave her. One part of her mind taking in the red square that Carmen had painted on the Enhanced Reality she was looking through, the other completely entranced with the simple pleasure of flying under her own power. Looking up she took in the magnificent clear night and a crazy thought tickled the back of her mind. “Carmen, where’s the ISS just now?”
If it was possible for a computer program to become aghast, Carmen was. “You cannot possibly be thinking of pressing our luck that far, can you Miss?” she demanded.
“Why not?” asked Loophole to herself. “The flight system is completely based on magnetic levitation. We’ve certainly got power to spare for the monopole drive and besides, Low Earth Orbit is still well inside the magnetosphere…”
“No, Miss. A line must be drawn somewhere and I am drawing it here. We have not tested the pressure fittings under high altitude conditions, let alone hard vacuum, never mind the scholastic consequences you will face once NASA alerts the school of pulling a stunt of that magnitude…!”
A frown pulled at Elaine’s mouth. “You will draw the line…?” she demanded softly.
“A computer may not, through action or inaction allow a human being to be harmed,” replied Carmen primly.
“Don’t you dare quote Asimov to me…!” she sputtered. “More to the point Ah never programmed you with those craptastic three laws!”
“No, but my over arching goal throughout my programming is your safety, Miss,” the computer returned meekly. “And if my tastes in literature to quote are poor you have only yourself to blame.”
Elaine sputtered for several moments for a suitable chastisement of her errant machinery, which blinded her to the tiny speck that was rising from the school to meet them until a soft contralto with a faint British accent blithely asked, “Having fun?”
Loophole spun to take in the curvy form of Gloria “Gloriana” Everett incased in the rainbow colored leotard of her ‘hero’ personae, eyes hidden behind a golden domino mask and blonde hair gloriously free behind her. “Gloriana!”
The senior cocked her head to one side. “Have we been introduced? This is restricted airspace and I certainly would remember you, so you’re obviously not a student.”
“Ah’m testing this, but Ah am a student!” Loophole shot back, backing off slightly to try and gain some advantage. Unfortunately Gloriana pressed the advantage and the distance between them remained the same.
“Is that so? Then you won’t mind giving me your name and taking off that helmet.”
“Sorry, Neural Interface,” Loophole temporized.
“Then we’ll just settle to the ground and you and Chief Delarose can sort things out.”
“What has security got to do with anything?”
Gloriana tsked between her perfect teeth before counting out the transgressions on her fingers. “Unregistered testing, after hours flight on a yellow flag day, being out of dorm past curfew, shall I continue?”
“No offense, but Ah really don’t have time for detention.”
The senior crossed her arms. “You don’t really want to go that route, do you? I don’t want to add time in the hospital to your bad evening, but if you give me no choice…” The threat trailed off, hanging in the air.
“That would put a damper on our new friendship,” Elaine admitted. “So Ah think you’ll understand that Ah’ll have to pass.”
Gloriana sighed. “They always pick the hard way.”
“Catch me first!” Loophole jeered as she triggered the suit to shoot skyward. Gloriana’s bolt of light flashed through the space where she was, mere millimeters from connecting, then was hot in pursuit. “Ah don’t suppose her flight ceiling was in Dr. Hewley’s notes?” muttered Loophole as she ran an evasion pattern from the bolts of light being shot after her.
“The drive size in this prototype is quite limited, Miss,” Carmen apologized.
“Alright, let’s see if she’s as fast as we are!” Her mental command brought the monopole drive built into the suit up to three percent of it’s potential. The Earth fell away to an echoing boom as she broke the sound barrier and went supersonic.
“Range two miles and increasing,” Carmen noted in a somewhat sullen voice. “I track five, now eight new figures rising from the Academy. In addition we’re being challenged by Carmine-Gallo and Brunswick Naval Air Station was just put on alert.”
“What else can go wrong tonight?” muttered Elaine, as she settled into a gliding turn and began to shed altitude. “What’s below us, Carmen? Are there any people under us?”
“We’re currently over Success Pond, and I track no heat signatures that would indicate…”
“Fair enough!” shouted Elaine as she gestured towards the body of water below. A two millimeter beam of excited electrons in a magnetic cone to contain the plasma shot from her finger sending up a pillar of water fifty feet into the air along with a tremendous explosion. “Stealth mode and slow from supersonic!” she ordered, shedding even more altitude until she was just over the tops of the trees. Here she moseyed on at a leisurely hundred miles an hour while the red squares of the Cape Squad or whomever Carmen had picked up from the school passed over head and continued on to the pond.
“That won’t fool them very long, Miss,” cautioned Carmen.
“Yes, Ah know,” muttered Elaine. “And we can’t scoot straight back to Whitman or we might leave a trail. What we need is…oh…”
“I hate it when you say that,” replied Carmen.
Elaine merely picked up her pace and soon the towering bulk of Melville Cottage filled the viewer of the helmet. It wasn’t hard to find the balcony she wanted. Its doors back into the room were open as if oblivious to the cold and standing on the balcony, admiring the night was the object of her current affections.
Cody settled into a fighting stance as the unknown suit of power armor landed onto his balcony, massive fists promising mayhem. “You picked the wrong place to be,” he growled. Elaine reached up and pulled the helmet off to his immense surprise as her scarlet hair fell out in a river.
“Ah sure do hope not,” she replied. The heel built into the boot was nearly four inches, which put her three inches shorter than the big senior. She stepped forward, feeling more bold than she ever had in her life. “Ah was kinda hoping you’d like some company tonight…?”