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Even Murphy’s Law Has Loopholes

A Lit Chix Story

By Joe Gunnarson and E.E. Nalley

Chapter Five

January 12th, 2007
Intensive Care Unit, Doyle Medical Complex, Whateley Academy

None of the students liked going to the Doyle Medical Complex, least of all the Devisors and Gadgeteers.  Coming here was a constant reminder of their place at the bottom of the mutant pyramid and their own mortality.  It was made worse by the fact of knowing that if something they created went wrong, they’d also likely be paying a visit to the only Trauma Center in the region. 

Despite her own problems, Elaine couldn’t get Mr. Paulson’s off handed comment of ‘Nerds stick together’ out her head.  She really hadn’t noticed a solidarity that went along power lines in her own clique.  Ironically enough, the Lit Chix had been the most diverse group on campus until Team Kimba exploded onto the scene.  Elaine frowned as she carefully made her way through the overly lit hallways. 

Surely that wasn’t why her clique was so suspicious of the freshmen, was it? 

It wasn’t like the faculty was fawning over them for ignoring the power ‘class’ lines that the other clubs tended to draw.  Indeed, while noticeably short of Devisors and Gadgeteers and the odd GSD case, the Alphas were almost as diverse as the Lit Chix.  Ok, that was a comparison that would never work, she admitted to herself.   Such thoughts were pushed from her mind as she arrived at her destination, ICU 1.

There was no door, or even wall here, the care was so critical and the patient so injured that a partition of glass was all that separated him from the watchful eyes of the nurses’ station.  A cloth curtain could serve as a door and a wall when privacy was needed, but it was open and stowed just now, revealing a huddled figure on the bed.  He was a sad sight to see, his head wrapped in bandages that were soaked in his own secretions, one eye was obscured by bandages and the black eye around it expanded out from under them in ugly purples and blacks out to his cheek bone.  This was doubtlessly made worse by the nose that was so broken it looked flat that, despite the damage, had an oxygen line running to it.  One arm was in a cast, along with the opposite leg and the only entertainment the boy had was the droning of a cardiac monitor.

“Hello Adam,” she said softly, announcing herself.  “Ah brought ya’ll some flowers.”

The good eye rotated towards the door and the boy attempted a smile that quickly flowed into a wince of pain.  “Hey Elaine,” he managed around the wince and waved her in with the good arm, despite a tangle of monitor lines and IVs.  “You’re looking very pretty today,” he continued as she put the vase of jonquils on a table where Greasy could see them. 

“Thank you,” she replied.  “How are you feeling?”

A rattle escaped the boy’s chest that could be mistaken for a laugh.  “Like shit,” he said with another wincing smile.  “How’s Peeper?”

Elaine’s features pulled into a frown.  “He’s had worse from shaving,” she growled.  “The little shit ran like a house a’ fire from what everybody who saw it said.  He didn’t care if you lived or died.”

“Don’t say that,” the boy whispered.  “I saved him, so of course I’m happy that he got away.”

“Adam,” she said, softening her tone.  “Peeper doesn’t care about you, he just enjoys using you!  You don’t have to be his slave…”

“You don’t understand,” Adam replied.  “But I imagine you might if we were talking about somebody else.”  He gave one of his little gurgling coughs.  “It’s funny when you really care about someone, Elaine.  You don’t really notice their faults.”

His words pricked her conscience and were far too close to their mark for her liking.  Switching topics, she said, “You know, Lifeline is mah roommate.  She’s a really good mage and she specializes in healing magic.  Ah know if Ah ask her she’d…” Elaine trailed off as Greasy shook his head slowly.

“It’s all good; they tell me Jericho is coming over in a bit with some of his healing machines they want to test.”  He grinned weakly.  “You know it’s really good extra credit to serve as a guinea pig for this stuff.”

“You going to sign up for Motion Picture Directing next term?” she asked, struggling for something to say that would possibly cheer the young man up.  He nodded carefully.  “Well, Ah guess Ah’ll see you then at least,” she said.  After a moment of silence, she turned to leave but was stopped by remembering the card in her hands.  She opened it and handed it to his good arm open so he could see it.  It was a fairly generic get well card, with a more than pedestrian message, but under the sentiment was a stamp of a pipe fitter’s wrench in red ink.

Greasy’s good eye went wide as he took in the image and sought Elaine in the doorway.  The red headed tomboy winked at him.

“Get to feeling better, Adam,” she told him softly and quietly withdrew.

 

 

January 12th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy

Tansy snarled as she snatched open the door to the Crystal Hall and got in out of the bitter cold.  “You haven’t heard the half of it,” she snapped at Flicker and Fade as she stomped the snow from her boots while shucking out of her coat and hanging on the hooks reserved for the Alphas.  “Three times a day I’m Grimes’ personal slave!  She takes my mornings before breakfast, my empty period after lunch and three hours after dinner!”

Nancy rolled her eyes as she settled her scarf with her coat on its peg.  “Well, you should have known better than to attack one of the little shits out in the open!”

“Now is not the time for I told you so!” snarled Tansy.

The two girls came nose to nose as Flicker refused to back down.  “And when will it be, Tansy?  After you do something even more off the charts and get expelled?  You have to think!  We can’t afford to have any slip ups until your position is solidified and Kodiak knows what his place is and stays there!”

“As if that will ever happen,” muttered Heyley, who likely would have said more but a venomous glance from Nancy told her silence, was golden just then.  “I’m just saying,” she muttered as the trio made their way to the steam tables and began to pick their favorites from the offerings. 

Tansy selected her usual grapefruit and was waiting on the toaster when one of those idiot little nerds in their fashion victim white coats walked too close to get at the grapes on the fruit board.  She opened her mouth to warn off the little nerd and his nasty slicked back hair but an odd odor, not exactly unpleasant but impossible to pin down took the thought from her head.  She sniffed deeper, trying to pin it down as the boy walked off, and suddenly the idea of bacon and eggs with her grapefruit sounded wonderful.  Normally, Tansy would never have touched the greasy mess in their steam trays, but once she laid eyes on them, sitting there in their greasy juices they became irresistible.  In short order a king’s portion was on her plate and she made her way to the Alpha table.  

“Oh, gross!” moaned Heyley as she got a good look at the contents of Tansy’s plate.

“What?” the Queen of the Alpha’s demanded.  “Everyone should start the day with a good breakfast…” Her knife sliced apart the fruit in a small shower of juice that saturated the other items on her plate.  Suddenly the entire mass began to wiggle in a manner cooked food should not.  “What the hell…?” she muttered as her mind tried to comprehend what was happening to her breakfast.

 

!- End HR tag code --

“Aries, you have to do this for me,” pressed Kodiak to the Alpha’s spymaster as both boys were vying for the French toast at the steam table.  The speedster went for the last piece and regretfully Kodiak let him have it. 

“Do I?” the younger boy demanded around a grin of triumph as he began to heap sausages on the plate with the toast.  “Where is that written?  You got in Dutch with the girl, why do I have to get you out?”  Kodiak sighed as he put the one piece of French toast he’d snagged on Arnold’s plate and replaced it with a generous portion of blue berry pancakes.

“Do I have to beg, Arnold?” growled the big senior.  “What do you want?  Flattery?  Women?  Hell, if you hung with those idiots the New Olympians I’d figure out some way to get you some quality time with one of the junior high boys…”

“Don’t even kid like that,” snapped Harvey as he drowned his pastries and meat in syrup.  “It’s a codename, not a way of life, and those assholes buy into that I’m a god reincarnated shit!”

“Yes,” murmured Kodiak as he took the offered syrup to pour on his pancakes.  “And who was it that stood up to Counterpoint so that you could keep that codename?”

Arnold rolled his eyes and picked up his tray to head over to the Beverage Island.  “Wow, saw that one coming!  How often to I have to pay that back, Kody?  You weren’t satisfied with the…”

“No, no,” Cody interrupted quickly.  “You’re right, that debt’s paid in full.  So, let’s haggle, how hard could it really be, Arnold?  I just want some inside dope on what she likes, some opening to smooth things over.”    Harvey filled the biggest glass at the bar to the rim with chocolate milk while his friend poured a mug of coffee from the urn to go with a glass of OJ.

“You aren’t going to smooth this over with chocolates and roses, Kody,” Harvey told him.  “Look, I’ve got some ears in Whitman and I’m here to tell you Elaine is pissed at you and you know what, buddy?  She’s got a right to be!  What the hell were you thinking running your mouth like that out in the open?”

The bear avatar growled but eventually shrugged his massive shoulders.  “Thinking had very little to do with it,” he snapped. 

A soft explosion from the direction of the Alpha’s table and an ear splitting scream snatched both boys’ heads around.  They charged out, looking for a fight in time to see Tansy, her face and uniform covered in slimy eggs, bacon and some kind of seed go running by shrieking her head off, closely followed by Flicker and Fade who looked like they’d been at the periphery of the blast of food.

“It burns!” the girls squealed as they ran for the restrooms in Schuster Hall.

The Hall pealed with laughter at the Alpha’s predicament as she ran out the door echoed for a moment before a primal roar from his bear spirit silenced the students.  “Who did that?” the Alpha shouted, his voice effortlessly carrying throughout the trees and over the waterfall.  “Who?” he repeated once more, his tone promising mayhem.

“Uh, Kody?” asked Icer in a subdued tone.  The Kodiak stared down on him, which caused his already pallid complexion to further pale.  “Her plate, it just kind of exploded!  The eggs and bacon came to life practically and attacked her!  My hand of God, that’s what happened!”

A giggle sounded from one corner of the Hall and once again the student body was beside themselves in laughter.  Unseen by the perplexed leader of the Alpha’s, Jobe Wilkins took his seat at the Bad Seeds table with a little smile of triumph.

 

 

January 12th, 2007
General Instruction Rm 206, Roberta Bell, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Math was not generally a topic that gave the class a fit of giggles; however this morning was the exception to the rule.  The entire class broke into sporadic giggles as they punched the formula Mrs. Bell had written out on the black board into their TI-89 calculators.  Elaine was not immune to this as she diligently transcribed the micro-program into the graphing calculator.  The sight of Tansy and her two stooges running out of the Crystal Hall covered in their own breakfast had done wonders to the start of her day. 

“Make certain the formula is entered correctly,” cautioned Mrs. Bell from her desk as the giggles began to take over the class.  “Despite the non-linear nature of most of the vectors we’ll be plotting this semester, this formula will be indispensable to you come finals.”

Elaine wouldn’t need either the formula or the calculator herself, but entered the numerals into the device’s memory any way.  Showing off was not lady-like, as her mother had preached on many an occasion.   Once she was sure of the entry and had saved it to the chunky calculator’s memory she allowed her mind to wonder for a moment thinking about what she would do to fulfill her own obligations to the Call. 

Before any of the ideas could really form, everyone was distracted by the intercom of the room buzzing to life with the somewhat harsh voice of Mrs. Hartford, “Mrs. Bell?”

“Yes Mrs. Hartford?” the teacher replied to the large brown speaker on the wall.

“Would you be so kind as to send Miss Nalley to the Administrative Offices, please?”

Mrs. Bell made a gesture to hurry Elaine into gathering up her belongings as she addressed the speaker.  “Certainly.  She’s on her way.”

The printer by Mrs. Bell’s computer spat out a hall pass that the slightly nervous sophomore scooped up on her way out the door.  While she’d had no direct hand in the first of doubtlessly many pranks Tansy would experience, she had sounded the call.  Perhaps the faculty wasn’t as unaware of the goings on in the tunnels as she’d been led to believe.  Despite the short distance to the offices from Mrs. Bell’s classroom, Elaine suffered a lifetime’s worth of worry about how much trouble she was in.

Despite that Mrs. Hartford was waiting impatiently as she arrived at the offices and collected one of Loophole’s elbows and led her briskly over to the conference room.  “Wait here,” she was ordered, and then the red head found herself alone once more.  Elaine dropped her book bag into one of the high backed leather chairs as she wondered over to the floor to ceiling windows that looked out over the oval balcony that dominated the front of Schuster Hall. 

“Keep your cool,” Elaine told herself as she looked out into the snow covered statue of the school’s founder below as he kept his lonely vigil from the top of the frozen fountain.  The sound of the door opening once more brought the young girl’s attention back inside to find Mr. Cohen, from the school’s legal department walking in with a larger, dark haired man with a full beard.

Cohen was a thin, be-speckled man with thinner hair, wire framed glasses and the look of a man who’d spent most of his life staring at accounting books.  He was dressed in dark sweater vest over a nondescript white oxford and a drab tie.    The man with him was Mr. Cohen’s opposite, a tall, burly man whose demeanor was as out focused as Cohen’s was in.  He was dressed in a blue oxford over khakis while wearing an ear to ear grin it was obvious his face was accustomed to having on it.

“Here we are, this would be Miss Nalley, the inventor of the product,” Cohen was saying as the big man immediately presented a ham-like fist.

“Hi, Bobby Flay,” he announced in a baritone that would probably carry to Whitman Cottage.

Elaine blushed fiercely as she took the offered hand.  “Mr. Flay, Ah have to say you’re an inspiration to all of us here…”

“No, no,” the big man corrected her.  “I’m just a pitchman, you kids amaze me.  Just the fantastic stuff you think up, it’s amazing.”

“Mr. Flay will be doing the commercials for TV Brands, which has bought the rights to your CO2 Grenade,” Cohen interjected.

“The tiny solution to a big problem!” boomed Flay enthusiastically. 

Elaine blinked.  “TV Brands?” she asked slowly.  “Ah thought we agreed the CO2 Grenade would be better marketed as an industrial product and to City and County Fire Departments?”

Cohen smiled a thin smile that his face was obviously not used to.  “Well, the school has other concerns to think about, Miss Nalley.  Not to mention a large bill for rebuilding…ah…certain facilities damaged last semester?  Our contract with TV Brands has better percentages for both of us.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Headmistress’ Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

“Doctor Tenent is here to see you, Liz.”

“Thank you, Amelia, send her in please.”   Mrs. Carson had a feeling something major was up based on the rather frantic call Tenent had made to her cell phone as Elisabeth walked over to Schuster Hall this morning from Whateley House.  Still, there were schedules that had to be seen to before she could squeeze the good Doctor into her schedule.  In any event, this was doubtlessly a conversation she should take precautions with.  Carson rummaged through her desk drawer as her office door opened and a rather breathless Ophelia Tenent came in.  “Close it,” Liz told her as her fingers found the small crystal in her desk she was digging for.  “Have you seen the latest Cosmo, Opy?” she asked as she put the crystal on her desktop.

Doctor Tenent stopped mid-stride on her way to the desk, a perplexed look on her face.  “Liz?  Since when do you read Cosmo?” she demanded.

“There’s this amazing new cosmetic line I’m dying to try out,” the administrator replied as she pointed to the crystal on her desk.

Ophelia frowned.  “For the love of God, Liz, this is serious!  Ah didn’t call you first thing to gossip about fashion and lipstick!”

Mrs. Carson rolled her eyes, picked up the crystal and threw it at her friend who caught it reflexively.  “Finally,” Carson growled.  “You know Opy, you really can be thick sometimes!  Hershey bar?”

“No thank you,” the doctor replied as she stepped forward, turning the crystal over in her hand as she did so.  “What’s this?”

“That,” Elisabeth replied from rummaging around in her stash, “is the reason you thought I was talking about Cosmo and Cosmetics.  Circe whipped it up for me based on a spell she saw Fey using.  Rather clever trick too, I have to say.  Anyone listening in on one of the countless bugs in this office will hear us gossiping like a pair of school girls about everything except what we’re talking about.”

“And the crystal is the focus and initiates members into the conversation.  Nice.  And Fey just offered this up out of the goodness of her heart?”

Elisabeth snorted a laugh as she un-wrapped the candy bar and broke off a piece.  “Heavens, no!  When as any student here done that?  No, she thinks she’s being terribly clever and, like all the other students who think so, we’re content to let them think that.  So,” she asked popping the first two squares into her mouth, “what’s the emergency?”

Tenent placed a get well card on the administrator’s desk.  “I took this from Greasy this morning after Elaine Nalley left it.  They’ve called the Worn Wrench on Tansy.”

Carson let loose a chuckle that would have sounded at home coming from Lord Paramount.  “Good, I rather hoped they would.”

“Liz!”

The Administrator rolled her eyes and took another bite of the chocolate.  “Don’t look at me like that, Opy.  It’s not like she doesn’t have it coming…”

Ophelia tried and failed for several moments to pick her jaw up off the floor.  “Liz, honestly what kind of precedent are you trying to set? Do you know what those already half crazy scientists will dream up…?”

“No, but I’m looking forward to it,” Carson replied around a chuckle.  “Oh, grow up, Opy, we’re teaching the same thing we’ve always taught here.  That there’s a big, ugly world out there where if you stick it in someone’s craw bad enough, you might not live to regret it!  There aren’t teachers out there to run to and yell ‘olly olly oxen free!’”

“But…”

Elisabeth popped another square into her mouth.  “But nothing.  I had three untenable choices, Opy, let her rot in a cell, what I did or turn her over the MCO.  None of them were particularly great choices and I took the best of the three.  But tell me how Tansy having to wipe runny noses or run errands for Grimes in any way pays for the beating she gave Adam Lambert?”

Tenent became cross and folded her arms to display her displeasure.  “Of course not, Liz, but we can’t condone an eye for an eye!  We’re a…”

“…Civilized nation?” interrupted Carson as she stood and walked over to her window.  “That is what you were about to say, isn’t it?  And what makes you so sure?  I’ve lived a long time, Opy and if there’s one thing I’ve learned that Justice very seldom comes from the Justice System.”  She sighed and turned back to her friend.  “However, you, my girl, are worrying too much and about the wrong thing.  You needn’t fear for Tansy Walcutt’s skin.”

“How can you be so sure?” Tenent asked softly.

“Because we’re talking about the smartest kids in this school, yes?  They’re not going to beat her up; they’re going to humiliate her.  I doubt seriously she’ll have a mark on her when all is said and done, and those kids pride themselves on that.”  Carson sniffed thoughtfully.  “Between you and me, Opy, Miss Walcutt could stand a little humiliation.”

It was obvious Ophelia wasn’t convinced.  “Ah hope you know what you’re doing, Liz.”

“Me too,” Elisabeth teased her friend to make her jerk with worry.  Over her laughter at her friend’s response the Administrator soothed, “I’ll step in if it gets out of hand, Doctor Tenent.  You have my word.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Murphy’s Room, AKA Havoc Central

“Hey Hannah!  Did you catch the scene in the Crystal Hall this morning?”  Murphy was practically bubbling as she rolled into the room like a hurricane, dropping things helter-skelter all over her side of the living space.

Grabby rolled over, masses of boneless limbs scattering in al directions.  “Hunh?”  She tried to see her new roommate, bleary-eyed from sleeping in.

“Oh you poor girl, you missed the breakfast mauling this morning!”  Joanne cackled evilly as she began regaling her heavily GSD roommate with the story of Tansy’s breakfast attempting to devour her in turn.  Coupled with multiple sarcastic remarks, wild gesticulations and intermittent giggles, Grabby had to actually make Murphy tell the story three times as the hyperactive girl went into a full-on verbal spaz.

Once she managed to decipher Murphy’s ADHD ramble-fest, Grabby just began giggling uncontrollably, imagining the sight of Solange being attacked by a mixed tray of food.  “Oh my God, that sounds like Tansy pissed Jobe off.”

“Jobe?  The weaselly guy who thinks he’s a super-genius no one understands?”

Hannah nodded enthusiastically as she pulled on her Whateley Uniform.  “Rumor on the street is the techies are pissed off at Solange for what she did to Greasy.”

“Techies?  Greasy?  What did I miss?”

“Well, apparently the devisors and Gadgeteers have declared open season on Tansy as of last night.  They’ve claimed exclusive rights to her ass.”

“Well, they’re going to have to deal with it.  I have a bone to pick with little Blondie.”

“They aren’t going to like it.”

Murphy shrugged.  “Most people don’t like it when I do things.  But Solange and her two pet gutter sluts have attacked me personally no less than twice now.  Their asses belong to me.”

“Good luck then.  I’ll be rooting for you.”

“So what happened to Greasy?”

The redheaded octopus girl pushed her bedding back into some semblance of order as she explained, in detail how Solange had nearly killed the boy.  Murphy’s face was rather grim as she finished.  “Solange and the Alphas have never had much respect for the tech crowd, so far as they’re concerned the Devisors and Gadgeteers are either useful right now, or just in the way and slapped down.”

“Wow, and here I was going to tone down my instincts.”  Murphy considered.  “Screw it.  How do I find Tansy, Flicker and Fade’s dorm rooms?”

Hannah looked at her oddly.  “If you’re intent on crazy, Flicker and Fade room on the junior floor of Melville.  Tansy’s in Dickinson with Sahar.  You might actually be able to convince Sahar to help you.  She hates Tansy and might actually help you.”

Murphy grinned evilly.  “And before I get going, where might I find samples of plants?”

“What kind of plants?”

“The kind that makes you break out and scream.”

“I’m not going to get into trouble am I?”

Joanne grinned and shook her head.  “I don’t narc out people who gimmie information, or coffee.”

Hannah nodded dubiously.  “Go to the Devisor lab.  The medical boys usually keep most stuff like that for cooking up medical remedies.”

Murphy jumped forward and gave Grabby a hug, startling the girl.  “Thank you Hannah, you’re awesome!”  She bounced out of the room before the poor girl could decide whether she should be pleased or worried that one of the decently pretty girls was treating her like she was another human.

Ten minutes later Joanne walked into the Devisor lab and sought out the medical grouping.  “I got fifty bucks for anyone who can get me a pound of poison oak and a blender.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Powers Testing Lab Offices, Doyle Medical Complex, Whateley Academy

A spirited, but professional debate was raging between a pair of old combatants.  In the red corner was the portly figure of Richard Hewley, his lab coat bedecked with house and club pins to show his solidarity with the school’s students who he studied.  He stood before a dry erase board, covered in spaghetti physics but was otherwise the very model of the lovable, if slightly absent minded college professor, glasses in one hand, marker in the other to annunciate the point he was making to his esteemed colleague.  

The blue corner was occupied by the Doctor’s mirror, a tall, gaunt paragon of the intelligentsia of Gaul, dark hair cut close to emphasize a widows peak that would make a Romanian Vampire proud which followed the harsh, hawkish features to a full goatee that bristled at Hewley’s tone and his short sighted point.  He sat in a chair clearly not up to the task of his scarecrow frame, legs akimbo as he shook his head and took a sip from tepid coffee that did nothing to increase his humor. 

“The human body isn’t capable of processing the amounts of power we’re talking about, Jean-Michel!” Richard boomed in his overly enthusiastic way.  “The power must be external and be channeled here; you agreed it was the only explanation that made sense…”

Jean-Michel Aranis sighed and rubbed the bridge of his long nose in frustration.  “Bénissez-moi, no my friend, I’m not arguing the basis of our theory, but rather the mechanism…” Before the scientist could press his point, the conversation was interrupted by a soft knock at the door.  “Do we have another evaluation?” he asked quizzically.

“Not till four,” Hewley replied as he walked over to the door and opened it.  “Yes?”

At his door the Doctor found a red headed slip of a girl in one of the school uniforms wearing the most contrite expression he’d seen yet on one of these remarkable children.  In her hands was odd device covered in antenna and other aerials.   “Hello Doctor Hewley,” Loophole greeted softly.  “Can Ah come in?”

The older man stepped aside and held the door open wider.  “Of course, ah, Loophole, isn’t it?  What brings you to our humble abode?  Jean-Michel is there any coffee left?”

“No,” his friend replied, “at least not that is fit to drink. Attente and I shall have some fresh for our guest.”

“Oh, no, thank ya’ll, Ah don’t want to put anyone out.”

“There is no trouble, child,” Aranis replied as he busied himself at the small sink at the back of the office. 

“Won’t you sit down?” asked Richard as he pulled up the chairs around the small sofa and coffee table the office was equipped with for interviews.  “What brings you here, Loophole?”

The girl flashed a hesitant smile as she sank onto the sofa and placed the odd contraption on the table.  “Well, this, actually, and a rather firm insistence on the part of our headmistress.  Not that Ah don’t think she’s right,” she added quickly.  “Ah owe both of you an apology.” 

Richard shared a confused glance with his colleague as the taller man joined them at the table.  “I would certainly remember offense from so charming a young lady,” he said with a smile.

“Ah, well, it’s like this, Ah was surfing through the Schuster Hall Mainframe and Ah happened across your paper,” the girl admitted in a rush to let the words out in a flood.  “Ah wasn’t really thinking about how Ah shouldn’t be reading something ya’ll hadn’t published yet, but Ah got inspired and…”

Attente, please my dear, my English is not as quick as your voice.”

“She read our paper,” Hewley translated to the rolling of his friend’s eyes.  Turning back to the girl he asked, “And you understood it?”

“Mostly,” Elaine replied.  “There were hardly any mistakes.”

“Mistakes?” Hewley asked in a tone that dripped disbelief.  

Elaine bobbed her head, not noticing the sarcasm.  “Just one or two, nothing major.  Anyways, it’s been made clear to me Ah shouldn’t have done that without asking your permission, but Ah did and Ah am sorry for that.  That’s not important,” she stated, gesturing at the box.  “This is, and Mrs. Carson was emphatic that you both got to look at it.”

“What is this?” asked Aranis pointedly. 

Nalley sighed.  “This is the Transdimensional Aranis-Hewley Power station.  Ah call it TAP for short.  Ah created a Faraday Field that is able to harmonize with the Over Pattern you and Doctor Hewley postulate about in the article.  The field oscillates between two resonance frequencies that also switch the polarity of a pair of magnets.  This motion is then used to turn a dynamo.”

“I’m a doctor, not an engineer,” muttered Hewley.  “What does it do?”

Dieu dans le ciel,” breathed Jean-Michel.  “Richard, it’s proof!  It generates electricity, yes?”  The red head nodded.  “Champagne!  We must have Champagne!  Richard, we’ve done it!”  The two men leapt up and clasped arms in a dance only the vindicated know the steps to.

The girl looked up hesitantly.  “You’re not mad?”

“Furious!” roared Richard around a belly laugh.  “Beside myself with rage, my dear what you did was…”

“Brilliant!” exclaimed Jean-Michel.  Clearing his throat the two scientists stared down on the wayward pupil.  “However, as far as Mrs. Carson is concerned, we have inflicted the tongue lashing of your life upon you!  There was probably boxing of ears and the calling into question of your parents’ marital status.”

Elaine rolled her eyes.  “Ah’m glad you’re not all shook up or anything…”

Hewley brandished a USB thumb drive.  “When can you read more?”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy

“Don’t give me any lip, Aries!” growled Tansy as she stopped the Alpha from walking up the steps to the Crystal Hall.  “I want to know who’s responsible for this shit and I want them to feel pain.”

The speedster reclaimed his elbow and stepped around the outraged girl and her clutch of sycophants.  “Who made you the boss of me?” he demanded as he pulled open the door and pointedly didn't hold it open for her to follow.   There was only a short reprieve as he stopped to shuck out of his jacket. 

“I am Alpha,” the blonde sneered as Fade helped her out of her jacket.  “And if you want to…”

Arnold only bit his lip for tenth of second before his temper got the best of him and he whirled on Tansy.  “If I want to what?” he demanded, pressing forward as the two girls stumbled over themselves at his sudden change of tactics.  “Stay an Alpha?  Is that what you were going to say?  Is that the road you want to go down, Tansy?  Because if it is, that’s fine sweetheart.  Not only will I find out who’s pulling this on your oh so deserving head, I just might throw in with them!  It’s not like I won’t have an ax to grind, now will I?” he snarled.

Nancy quickly stepped forward and put a cautioning hand on Aries’ shoulder.  “It’s not like that, Arnold,” she said in her most convincing tone.  His head snapped around and locked eyes with her.

“No?  How is it, Nancy?” the boy demanded.  “How is it, exactly?”

Walcutt stepped forward to take charge once more, but Nancy deftly kept her body between Tansy and Arnold.  “Aries,” she whispered, “I’m sorry, I never thanked you for your help with that white trash Murphy the other day and now Tansy is having a bad day and none of this is your fault.  We really appreciate everything you do for the group.”

Arnold let his eyes wander over the shapely brunette’s form.  “High time somebody did,” he growled, but his mind was moving at speeds only a speedster could go. 

“You’re absolutely right,” Nancy replied.  “It’s just, well; you don’t have to be told that this kind of up front assault on our leadership can’t be tolerated.  We could lose our place if we let it be known we can be messed with.”

Arnold’s eyes narrowed.  In the hours between heartbeats he lived that others called seconds he recalled the previous week.  It was clear from as early as Sunday that Kodiak started looking for ways to dump Tansy as soon as he could weasel the keys and codes away from her.  But that hadn’t kept him from sleeping with her.

Now here was a choice slice of cheesecake who was doing a yeoman’s effort at manipulating him left right and center, but as Kodiak was fond of saying, he’d learned from Freya.  Sure, Nancy wasn’t the brightest light at a school full of future Miss Universes, but she wasn’t exactly a dog either.  More to the point between the three of them Arnie had always thought she was the smart one and smart chicks turned him on.  And look at the way she just pushed Solange out of the way…the boy thought to himself.  I am such a fool.

Finally, Arnold licked his lips and kept his tone cool.  “Still not hearing anything that makes it better for me other than a couple of addaboys…”

“What do you want?” she all but cooed.  Perhaps this day was looking up.  Hadn’t she just been lamenting about not having a better set of puppets than Tansy and Heyley?  Owning the spy master of the Alphas opened up whole worlds of opportunities Nancy hadn’t dared to contemplate and while Tansy might bitch about having to put out for Kodiak, Nancy Coolidge was a red blooded American teenager with hormones she’d been ignoring far too long to get where she was.  Business and pleasure, she thought to herself.

Nancy’s expression only changed for a split second, excellent discipline for a girl her age, but Arnold watched shock, then appraisal, and then a sly resignation with more than one wheel turning light up behind her eyes.  Jackpot.   “I’m sure we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement,” the spymaster told the puppet mistress with a grin that would have made a mother superior blush. 

“Indeed,” Nancy replied in a whisper laden with promise. 

“Getting back to the matter at hand,” growled Tansy who had had her fill of waiting while these two dripped innuendo at each other.  “I want to know who dared to monkey with my breakfast and I want them keeping company with that groveling little slave Greasy in the hospital.”

Arnie regretfully pulled his attention and mind from his future conquest to lock eyes with Tansy.  “We don’t do leg breaking, Tansy.  You want crude, go see Bloodwolf or Counterpoint.  We’re Alphas and we do finesse.”  Aries fished his ID card from his jacket and began walking towards the steam tables, not caring if Tansy followed him or not.  “You’ll know who’s behind this by supper.  But my advice to you is you handle things better than you did with Greasy or you’ll find your butt expelled rather than just playing adventures in babysitting to the junior high dweebs.”  He paused for a moment to playfully pinch Nancy’s chin while undressing her with his eyes.  “You I’ll see after dinner to, ah, work out arrangements.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it,” she purred.  Turning to Heyley her expression quickly became harsh.  “Plan on studying at the library tonight, you.  Long, detailed study.”  While Fade started to argue with her roommate, Tansy could only roll her eyes in disgust.  It would figure now would be the time Flicker discovered boys, at precisely the worst time

She trailed behind the threesome, muttering curses at the Don for making being in charge look so easy.  Tansy consoled herself with thoughts of what she would do to whatever miscreant had dared to humiliate her in front of the whole damn school.   This was pierced by a troublesome itch in her shoulder she absently scratched at, wondering when she would get over this accursed sunburn.

Out of habit she checked her nails when she finished and was alarmed to find them black.  A closer inspection revealed that there was black goo under her nails that rapidly disintegrated into nothing.  Looking at her shoulder in a panic, she found bare skin where her jacket and blouse should be.  “What the hell!” she squealed, drawing not only Nancy, Heyley and Arnold’s attention, but most of the heads of the students in the Crystal Hall.

It was like a dream becoming a night mare to Tansy as her school uniform took on a somewhat liquid, smoke like quality and flowed off her sumptuous curves until the classic nightmare was fulfilled and she was naked to the admiring eyes of six hundred students.  Silence fell for one of those lifetime moments before it was Imperious’s voice that broke it like a thunderclap.  “Well well!  The rug matches the curtains!”

The scream of shock and outrage that echoed off the Crystal dome was deafening.

 

!- End HR tag code --

As she took her place with the astonished Lit Chix, Compiler smiled a private little smile to herself and tucked in to the best meal of her life.

Nalley looked around curiously.  “Has anyone seen Murphy?”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Melville Cottage, room 310

            Flicker was worn out mentally from dealing with Tansy as she entered the cottage.  Everything was falling apart because that girl absolutely could not cope with adversity.  Sure, Tansy could be a nasty piece of work, vicious, often witty and most assuredly crafty when it came to getting things her way but when it came to her trying to deal with people who were highly intelligent, had more common sense or were simply mule-stubborn she lost her focus and any ability to cope on a competent level.  Nancy was silently kicking herself for not picking someone else to be the rising star of the Alphas as she watched the girl falling apart dealing with a damned gearhead.

As she reached the stairs she saw a blonde girl with purple stripes of hair framing her face to her shoulders, coming down the stairs looking rather weary.  She didn’t look the same, in fact the girl’s face was rather drawn, much thinner, pushing direly unhealthy as she meandered from the building.  Her psychotic and evil grin kept Nancy from pushing and demanding to know why the girl was here.  She had a creeping feeling that she would find out soon enough.

It was with a sick sense of foreboding that Flicker unlocked and opened the door to her room.  In the twenty seconds it took her brain to get past disbelief and process what she was seeing, Flicker let out a scream of pure rage and horror. 

Her room was packed with snow.  All she saw as she opened the door was a wall of white that fell out and buried her in soft, white, cold powder.  She was going to destroy that little freshman bitch.

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Range Two, Combat Pistol, Kane Hall Tunnels

Maggie was learning quickly that there simply was not a comfortable way to wear earmuffs.  Not that they seemed to help as the reports of the various pistols of the students in the other lanes seemed to roar through without being bothered by the ‘so-called’ hearing protection while making it impossible to communicate.  Or at least it had until Elaine had turned her set on to reveal the head sets had a muffled wifi radio link allowing the two to talk despite the constant gun fire around them.

“I know you must be bored out of your mind, Elaine,” the mage muttered as she abused her fingers trying to load rounds into the magazine of the loaner pistol she’d been issued.  “I really appreciate this.”

“Best friends forever, Mags,” her roommate replied over the roar of her pistol as she fired in rapid succession.  “Ah don’t mind a little range time.  It’ll be more fun when we get to practical exercises.”

Maggie looked up in time to watch the pistol lock open on an empty magazine.  Elaine thumbed the release and let it fall from the pistol as she jammed the fresh one home.  The slide snapped closed while she kicked sideways with her foot.  The gesture caught the falling magazine before it hit the floor and knocked it up wards into her waiting and now empty off hand.  The pistol barked seven more times fast enough for Maggie to wonder if the engineer girl had modified it before locking open once more.

The target whirred up to the station to reveal she’d carved a smiley face with bullet holes in the head and drawn a heart in the chest.  “Have a nice day,” she said over her giggle as she set the empty pistol down on the tray to remove the target.

“Nalley,” growled the voice of Sergeant Wilson over their headsets.  “If I ever see you pull a stunt like that again you’ll be policing brass with a pair of chopsticks for a year.”

“Yes, sir,” the girl replied somewhat sullenly.

“And don’t roll your eyes at me,” the voice snapped before the two girls were alone once more.

“How do you suppose he does it?” asked Maggie as she complimented her friend’s prowess.

“Sergeant’s reflex,” replied Elaine as she loaded a fresh target silhouette for her friend.  “Both mah uncles are Drills so Ah speak from experience.”

They traded places with the target at the ten foot line while Maggie carefully loaded the magazine ran a mental checklist to make sure she didn’t violate any of the range rules as she took up aim.  “Practical exercises?” she asked as she ordered her breathing and let the bark of the pistol surprise her.  The first hole was high and slightly right of the eight ring.

“Triples,” murmured Elaine from the bench behind her as she loaded magazines.  “Yeah, once we’ve got the basics the syllabus says there are shoot/don’t shoot exercises.  They’ll likely be real life scenarios in one of the simulators with simunition.  That’s live rounds but with paint tips instead of lead.  They hurt like a sunnavabitch, but you learn fast.”

Maggie’s pistol barked three times in rapid succession, the last missing the target.  “We’re going to be shooting each other?” she asked

“Scenarios,” cautioned Elaine.  “We either go through, or watch someone else go through, then we debate whether or not the shoot was good and why.  Sergeant Wilson gives the last say through the grade, but it’ll help you understand what is and isn’t a good shoot.  Ah’m looking forward to it.”

Three more shots when down range before Maggie let herself chuckle.  The last shot nicked the top of the target’s head.  “I thought you hated danger room stuff,” she teased.

“Ah hate playing super hero,” the red head corrected.  After a moment of contemplation she shrugged and returned to loading rounds into the magazine.  “Aw, who am Ah kidding?  Ah’ve never been one for PE anyways.”

Maggie paused and turned to regard her friend, careful to keep the pistol pointed down range.  “And now you’ve got two, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Nalley snorted.  “There’s nothing to be sorry for.  It’s not like you did something to get me yanked from the class Ah wanted and stuck playing superhero.”  She shrugged dismissively as she returned the now full magazines to their carrier.  “At least the scenery is nice…”

“Yes,” her friend replied turning back to the task at hand.  “Between Zenith and Kali you probably don’t know where to look…”

“Ah’m not the one with the life size Tyra Banks poster over mah bed,” the red head drawled.  “But it does make ya wonder about how tough Ayla must have it.  It’s not like she fits in anywhere.”

“He,” corrected Maggie.  “I don’t care about the cover, the book is male.”

“You got to wonder what that’s like, though,” Elaine commented softly. 

“Why don’t you ask?” teased Maggie as she set her empty pistol down and brought the target up to the bench. 

“Ah just might!” snapped Elaine at her friend as she admired the hole ridden target.  “Ah’ve got an appointment tonight to talk about what Ah can do about mah grenade being pitched on the shopping channel.  You’re gett’n better, Mags.  Nice grouping towards the end there.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Dunn Hall, Rm 126, Madame Prudhomme, 3rd Year French, Whateley Academy

Tansy was the last person from Madame Prudhomme’s class.  As horrible as today had been she was more than a little wary, despite her last period class now being over.  She stuck her head cautiously out of the door, senses on high alert for signs of trouble, but with so many students in the hallways it was hard to distinguish friend from foe.  Summoning her courage, Tansy darted from the classroom, shoving her way around the corner to the closest exit. 

Out in the cold air once more, Tansy shivered and her eyes darted about.  The barrel shaped Kirby Hall was barely one hundred yards away, only the Dunn Hall parking lot, Whateley Boulevard itself and a short span of snow covered grass between her and her further suffering as Miss. Grime’s slave.  Tansy darted, the heels of her expensive boots clicking on the asphalt as she ran for the building and safety. 

Finally her hand closed on the door and snatched it open so she could dart inside, safe.  Panting a bit, but feeling very self assured at her minor victory, Tansy turned to find the lobby of the building full, wall to wall, with plushy toys and stuffed animals.  “What the hell?” she muttered in shock, trying to remember the charm that would allow her to find her way to Miss Grimes’ office. 

Picking her way through the pile of toys, kicking the arrant out of her way as she did so, the junior muttered curses under her breath at her fate.  “What is with these bolt lobbers?” she thought out loud.  Unfortunately it was then, in about the middle of the lobby, that the thought occurred to Tansy that the mages might not have anything to do with the toys she was wading through. 

“Now!” a shrill voice commanded and to Tansy’s horror, the toys came to life.  The cuddly adorable little bundles of silent death swooped upon Tansy, obscuring her in a cloud of movement. When the cloud lifted, she was dressed in an adorable pink Gothic Lolita party dress with white knee socks, Mary Janes, her face covered in heavy 'doll' makeup' and her hair up in pigtails.

“Why me?” Walcutt screamed as she fled to the restroom.

 

!- End HR tag code --

From behind an invisibility spell where a video camera had captured everything, Bunny giggled manically.  “Thanks, Nikki, I owe you one.”

The red headed fairy queen shared the giggle as she teleported the toys away to leave no evidence.  “So long as I get a copy, my pleasure.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Dickinson Cottage: The Enemy Stronghold.

Murphy knocked on the cottage room door with as innocent expression as she could muster, which was to say not very.  The girl who answered the door was eerily striking, and yet again in her life, Murphy found herself wishing she’d gotten the looks package briefly before remembering her enemy.  Sahar’s most striking feature that absolutely caught the mangler’s attention were the large, doe-eyes with red rings around the irises, framed by curly black hair and her aquiline nose.

Murphy was bouncing on the balls of her feet; feeling weak and worn out as she did so, but managed to muster an evil gleam in her eye and anticipation of evil in her voice.  "Hi there, I'm Karma, here to run over Solange's dogma. Is she in?"

Murphy watched as the girl seemed briefly at war with herself as the dark side won out.  “I’m not exactly cheap, but I can be had.  What are you looking for Miss Karma?”  Sahar looked at the freshman with an appraising eye.

Murphy smiled and adopted a posture that was all business.  "Oh I'm just hoping you'll not be here when Solange's Karma decides to do horrible things to her... say ten minutes?"

Sahar looked torn, like she was struggling to do the right thing as the impish blonde held up the shiny nickel Loophole had given to her.  She loved that nickel, but sacrifices must be made.  “Come on, it’s Solange.  You know you want to.”

"A nickel buys my absence. A dollar buys a cryptic comment."

Murphy carefully considered, sorely tempted by the opportunity to really rub it in.  After a moment she solemnly withdrew the dollar and handed it to the mercenary and quite unreasonable girl.  After all, it was Solange.  This was public service!

"I DO have my standards," the girl replied to the unvoiced sentiment as she tucked the bill away.

"How do you keep them from slipping living with she-bitch?"

Sahar snorted.  "Simple. She's an infallible adverse example."

Murphy nodded, and then looked at the side of the room decorated with pictures of kittens and other cutesy crap.  The dresser and desk looked more like a Macy’s cosmetics and jewelry shop.  She was very tempted to take all that shit and donate it to charity.  “That’s not your side of the room is it?”

"Excuse me, but do I look like I keep posters of kittens over my bed?"

"Time begins when you leave and close the door.  And I'm just making sure I don't accidentally get you.  You haven’t personally attacked me yet.”

Sahar nodded, looked at Murphy, and then slipped out the door, closing it firmly.  As soon as she was gone, Joanne quickly pulled on a pair of latex gloves and a face mask, carefully opening the bottle of clear fluid she’d been carrying inside a sealed bag in her pocket.  Rapidly she began unscrewing the caps on every piece of liquid cosmetic Solange had, from Lotion to Shampoo, and her perfume collection.  She carefully dribbled in several drops into each bottle, removing a glass rod from a case and gently mixing the fluid into Tansy’s prized cosmetics.

It took five minutes to dose the bottles and another three to put everything back the way it was supposed to be.  When she finished she carefully put the bottle and glass rod back in her pockets as she heard a key sliding into the lock.  Joanne carefully looked out the window… and vanished.

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Mike’s Auto-Salvage and Pull-A-Part, Berlin, New Hampshire

The car that rolled to a stop in the gravel parking lot wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but its throaty growl of a perfectly tuned V8 engine and the shiny chrome blower that protruded from its hood still turned every head.  Bored girlfriends turned up their noses at what they perceived as a rolling wreck while boyfriends who knew better listened with envy until the growl was silenced and the doors opened to give them something new to stare at. 

The passenger was a tall, leonine African American supermodel whose fashionably baggy clothes still couldn’t conceal a queen of the Savannah surveying her territory.  The gray T-shirt was emblazoned with ‘Professional Grade’, which made most of the men undressing her with their eyes see GM in an entirely new light.  Almond brown eyes took in the scene from behind a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and below a blue and white bandanna that was protecting the tight cornrows she wore her hair in.  She paused for a moment before turning to raise the seat back to allow a younger girl in a riot of mix-matched clothing and hair color emerge.

“No trouble,” Bridget ‘Dashboard’ Johnson warned the red head that was climbing out of the driver’s seat. 

“Who, me?” demanded Elaine as she zipped up her jacket to be a bit warmer.

Bridget accepted the parka Murphy carried out of the back seat and pulled it on while rolling her eyes.  “Yes, you,” she declared.  “Or do I have to remind you about the last time we were here?”

“Ah didn’t start that,” protested Loophole as she swung her car door shut and lead the way towards the steel building that served as office, shop floor and retail space for the new products Mike’s sold.

“Last time?” asked Joanne as she and Bridget fell in behind Elaine, snow and gravel crunching under their feet.

“I’m the chaperone this time, Doc,” cautioned Dashboard, “and it’s my ass on the line.”

“Yeah yeah,” Nalley replied as they reached the door and opened it.  “Tell that to those ‘Mountaineers’ if we run into those clowns again…”

Dashboard stopped in the doorway to tower above the red head who was herself a tall girl.  “You’ll smile and set an exemplary example for our beloved freshman here, won’t you?

“Yes momma.”

“I repeat, last time?” demanded Gunnarson with a touch of annoyance entering her tone.

Bridget let the stare sink in before entering the building proper and addressing the freshman over her shoulder.  “Berlin Senior High, home of the ‘Mountaineers’ has something of a rivalry with…our school.  They generally know enough to leave the hot heads and seniors alone, but they’ve been known to stir things up with some of the underclassmen.  Especially if they think you’re not especially…gifted…shall we say?  Late September Elaine and I were out here on a Saturday and ran into a handful of them.”

Joanne winced.  “What happened?”

“Ah introduced some Southern Manners to a particularly grabby individual is all!”

“Broke his nose,” explained Bridget.  “With her foot.”

“And sully mah hands on that…that…masher?” demanded Elaine indignantly.  Joanne only shook her head and followed the other two girls up to the counter labeled Parts.  “Hey Mike, you still have those three Jeeps?”

“Most of ‘em,” the big man behind the counter chuckled through his full thick beard.  “You finally come to your senses and decided to ditch the Found On Road, Dead?”

“When you can quarter mile in 7.278 seconds you let me know, Mikey.  It’s not for me,” the red head replied as she signed into the log and gestured over her shoulder to Murphy.  “Fresh fish who doesn’t know any better.  Say hello.”

“Hello Fresh Fish,” Mike chucked while extending a beefy hand covered in grease.  “I’m Mike, over there is Tony, and you gotta sign the sheet to go out in the field.  You know it’s an active junk yard, it’s dangerous, there’s rats, etc.”

Joanne took the offered hand as though it might bite her.  “Wow, and they say customer service is dead.”  Mike found that funny and walked away chuckling as the two older girls waited for her to sign before leading her through a large roll up door.  The junk yard was about twenty acres and vaguely J shaped as it stretched away from the building and down a slight grade before beginning to climb again on the far side.

“I love the smell of rust in the afternoon,” announced Bridget with great enthusiasm before turning to Elaine.  “So, what are we looking for?”

“I was thinking a jeep,” interrupted Murphy with some eagerness.  “Maybe something I could really trick out?”

“They’re so cute when they’re young and their knuckles are pristine,” chuckled the president of the Gear Heads.   Turning back to Doc, she asked, “What do we have for Jeeps here, Doc?”

“Two wranglers, and a Cherokee,” the red head replied.  “The Cherokee is in the best shape.”

Joann blew a raspberry as she scanned the yard.  “No soul, I want a truck not a four wheel drive station wagon!”  She caught sight of one of the aforementioned wranglers and took off at a trot.  The two older girls followed a more sedate pace and could only grin as the freshman cooed over the car.  “It’s almost perfect!” she exclaimed running from window to window and peering in side.  “I mean, the carpet’s shot and the upholstery is probably a loss, but the body is in great shape!”

“You want to tell her?” drawled Bridget.

Murphy looked up, somewhat crestfallen.  “What?”

“Knock yourself out,” laughed Elaine.

Wordlessly, Bridget pointed to the rear of the jeep, below passenger compartment.  Murphy came around to look and saw the rear differential had exploded outward in a jagged hole of twisted metal.  This had broken the rear axle, which sagged in two pieces in the muddy ground.  “Is that bad?” asked the girl with the crazy hair in a quiet voice.

“This is why it’s called a junkyard sweetie,” teased Bridget.  “Doc?” 

Elaine laid a hand on the fender for a moment and closed her eyes.  “He got stuck in a mud pit,” she announced softly after a moment.  “The passenger side rear wheel got locked up in a vine or chain or something.  It seized up the wheel while the other kept spinning.  The rear diff couldn’t take the strain and it blew, tore up the tranny something fierce too.  Not that it matters.”

“Why not?” Murphy demanded.

Without answering, the sophomore popped the cleat releases and raised the hood to reveal an empty engine compartment.  “Someone let the hamsters out,” she replied with a grin.  “Still, body’s in good shape.  Mike’ll probably let them both go for $100 and between this and the other and some sweat, we might get something moving.”

A short walk and Elaine’s power told the girls that while the second wrangler’s body and frame was a total loss, its engine and transmission were still structurally sound.   Murphy wrote down both vehicles’ tracking numbers before the girls trudge back up to the shop.  Twenty minutes later Murphy’s wallet was $180 dollars lighter, but she was the proud owner of two jeep wranglers, neither of which would move under their own power, but would be delivered to the school Saturday.

In short order the Mustang was growling its way through downtown Berlin to take them back to the school.  Caught at a red light, Elaine’s eyes drifted over to the Riverfront Twenty Theater and browsed the offerings.  “Lord, Lady Lightening is still out?” she demanded.  “Why can’t they get any new movies in this town?”

“I thought you liked it?” demanded Bridget.  However, before the driver could reply a late model Camero rolled to a stop in the next lane, filled with teenage boys all wearing red and black letterman jackets.  “Oh, shit,” muttered the senior. 

Elaine turned to lock eyes with the blocky faced passenger whose eyes lit up in recognition.  “Hey Eddie!” he yelled over the bass track that was threatening to rattle the glass from the car’s windows.  “It’s that bitch that broke your nose!”

The music snapped off as the two drivers exchanged glares.  “Hey, not only is she ugly, her car is a piece of shit too!” Eddie hollered to the raucous amusement of his pals.

Loophole ground her teeth as Bridget put a restraining hand on her arm.  “Doc…” she cautioned.

“Oh, I get it!”  Eddie continued.  “It’s a car load of Dykes!  Say Ellen, which one is the guy?  You or the Crip wannabe?”

The red turned and smiled her Sunday smile.  “Ah’m sorry, Ah see your lips moving, but all Ah hear is what a pathetic loser you are…”

“You want to go?” snarled Eddie. 

“Oh, look Bridget, our friend thinks he has a fast car,” oozed Elaine as she flipped open a cover over a switch labeled Master Arm.  Her finger poised over the switch she pleaded, “Can we prove him wrong?  Please?”

Johnson’s eyes darted about the intersection and found it devoid of police.  “Next green light, John Boy,” she yelled over the engine’s that were growling challenges at each other.  “Smoke him, and then find me a cop,” she instructed.  Elaine’s grin was feral as she threw the switch and immediately pulled a button up that had been attached to the shifter lever.  The blower whined to life like a jet fighter responding to a scramble order.

“Grab hold of something,” cautioned Loophole as she worked the car into first pressed the gas pedal down to the floorboard. 

 

 

January 12th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy

“You got into a street race?” demanded Dee with a fearful look on her face.  “Poor Bridget must have had kittens!”

Elaine rolled her eyes as she took a sip of her Coke.  “Who do you think was egging me on?” she demanded with a dark chuckle.  “Anyways it wasn’t much of a race seeing as Baby Girl got a full car length off the line and that only widened.”

“I’m starting to think Bridget is a bad influence on you,” replied Maggie with a smile. 

“Ah don’t hold anything against Bridget, who could blame her after that kind of racial slur from those creeps?” 

“So, exactly how did the police get involved?” demanded Foxfire as she gave the red headed hellion of her group the gimlet eye over her glasses.  “And, more importantly, how did you talk your way out of it?”

“That’s the best part!” giggled Murphy.

“Ahem!” interrupted Loophole with a lofty eyebrow.  “Mah story, fresh thing.”  The two girls mock shoved on each other for a moment before Elaine continued.  “Now, ya’ll might not know, but Dashboard specializes in optical devices.  One of the first things she built was a holographic projector to aid in real time design.  The school has a classroom full of them for us techies.  Her latest model is hand held.  So, after she got a nice image of our local bad boys from the hockey team, she projected an image of their car over Baby Girl.  Then we just went looking for a cop.”

“At like, a hundred miles an hour!” giggled Murphy.

An evil smile lightened Elaine’s face.  “Once we had three or twelve, we just caught back up with Eddie and the gang, Dashboard does her switcheroo with the holograms and we all enjoy a nice, uneventful drive back to the school while Eddie and his goons are treated to a full body cavity search!” 

Foxfire threw up her hands.  “Wait, wait!  You collected what sounds like the entire Berlin police force, got them chasing you, and with some BS amount of gadgeteer hand waving they all decided to pound these goons instead of looking into the other car that might have had something to do with this?”

Murphy’s grin became satanic.  “Incredible luck, huh?  Practically defies imagination…”

The table erupted in laughter that quickly died as Babs caught sight of a furious Tansy, her face contorted in rage, bearing down on them.  “Heads up,” she hissed to her friends in time for the ones who would have their backs to the threat to turn their chairs around.

“You bitch!” she snarled in accusation as she stormed up to Elaine.  “Did you think I wouldn’t find out you were behind this crap?”

Elaine slowly stood and bit down on her temper hard as the third quiet of the day fell over the Crystal Hall and all eyes took in the confrontation.  Stormwolf rose to his feet, sensing trouble but was stopped by Kodiak standing as well and shaking his head.  "Why Tansy, whatever do you mean?” Elaine drawled, purposefully exaggerating her accent.

“You know damn well what I mean!” screamed Walcutt. 

“If you’re referring to the beating you gave Adam, then Ah’d say whatever you got today you had coming in spades!”

“You want step outside and say that?” the queen snarled.

“No, Tansy, Ah’ll say it right here to your face with everybody watching.  Truth be told, Ah haven’t done anything to you today.”

A chair was noisily pushed back as Jobe stood up from the Bad Seeds table.  “You don’t think a gear head like Loophole could genetically engineer dead cells to react as if alive once more do you?” he declared smugly.

“You stay out…” Tansy began, but was interrupted by Compiler standing up beside Loophole. 

“Or that Elaine had the savvy to whip up a nano-bot formula on the fly that would selectively destroy only your clothes around lunchtime?” she demanded.

“But you weren’t anywhere near…”

From Team Kimba’s table Bunny stood and crossed her arms with an evil smirk.  “You really ought to know that plushes aren’t Elaine’s thing, Tansy,” she declared. 

“But rules,” the red head declared, stepping forward to go nose to nose with her blond adversary, “regulations, well that is mah cup of tea, ain’t it?  Just so happened, Ah found a dozy last year, and you damn near killing Adam Lambert, well this one fit just fine.”

“That had nothing to do with you!”

“That had everything to do with me!” snarled Elaine as she took the ground Tansy gave until the fountain in the center of the room stopped her.  “Because Adam is a gear head, just like me!  Because you can’t take a swipe at me with getting your ass handed to you on a silver platter!  So you beat up a little boy who couldn’t stand up to you like Ah can.  That’s right, Tansy, you want to know who took the alpha keys and codes away from you?  It was me.  But you didn’t come after me, you specious, vain, Jezebel, you went after a nice safe target, didn’t you?”

“You think I can’t take you, you red headed whore, I’ll destroy you…!”  The taunts died as across the Hall, chairs rattled across marble as every devisor and gadgeteer came to their feet.

“That’s not how it works,” Elaine cooed.  “You want to call me out, that’s one thing.  But the days of the engineers being an easy target are over.  You mess with one of us; you mess with all of us.”  Loophole admired her nails for a moment before turning back to the terrified Alpha.  “So, you want to continue that threat, Blondie?”

Tansy’s mouth opened and closed several times before in a course whisper only Elaine could hear, she snarled, “They might avenge you, but it won’t stop me from killing you.”  Tansy was livid, backed into a corner in front of the entire school by a sophomore of all people, but as angry and humiliated as she was, there was a tiny part of her mind that was thinking all manner of embarrassing fantasies in which the red head staring her down played a major part.

“You reallydon’t want to play rough with me, Tansy.  You’ll lose.” 

“Is there a problem, Miss Nalley?” demanded the clear voice of Mrs. Carson that effortlessly carried throughout the Hall.

“No ma’am,” Loophole replied before she turned on her heel and walked casually back to her table. 

The Headmistress smiled a cold smile.  “I’m glad,” she declared before staring down the assembled Devisors and Gadgeteers.  “I trust this matter is now closed.”  The Queen of the Alphas stared after Elaine for a moment, spinning scenarios about what loosing might entail.  Clenching her fists, Tansy turned and stalked out of the hall. 

Finally the students sat down and Mrs. Carson allowed herself a wry smile.  “Miss Gunnarson, Mr. Cody, my office as soon as you finish dinner, if you please.”

“I thought that probability manipulation of yours worked for you?” hissed Diane.

Murphy poked at her supper.  “Anything that can go wrong will,” she muttered.  “Flicker must have made a backup.”

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Devisor Lab (Vehicle), Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy

“Hi!  Bobbie Flay here for the CO2 Grenade!  The little solution to a big problem!”

Ayla shook her head in disbelief while Elaine fumed.  On the TV screen a large man in blue shirt and khaki pants continued to yell at the camera while throwing the grenade into various fires on the sound stage.   “Grease fires!”  Boom!  “Electrical fires!” Boom! “Gasoline or accelerant fires!” Boom! “The C02 Grenade handles them all!  But call, right now and we’ll throw in our patented delivery gun for large fires, a $40 value, absolutely free!”

“Christ almighty,” muttered Elaine.  “It’s a paintball gun.”

Ayla said nothing but continued to stare stoically at the screen.

“And remember!” boomed Flay from the TV.  “This is a TV Brands/Paranormal Academy project!  Developed by Paranormals with technology beyond the comprehension of normal humans, your purchase helps support the school where these troubled teens learn to control their fantastic abilities and fit in to our society!”

“Ah guess Ah ought to ride in the back of the bus now,” snarled Elaine.

“Here’s how to order!”

Loophole angrily flipped the TV off and crossed her arms before staring down on the diminutive freshman.  “Tell me you can stop this,” she pleaded.

“Well, that was…blue collar,” Phase replied.  “I did try to warn you.  You could file an injunction and sue, but your grounds are honestly shaky.  The school is advertising the product and making good faith efforts to sell it.  More to the point, the adversarial relationship that would cast you in with the school will certainly affect your remaining time here.”  He cupped his chin in thought for a moment and sighed.  “My advice to you is to call this a lesson learned and walk away.”

“You couldn’t…you know…buy TV Brands or something…?”

The audacity of the question broke through Ayla’s conditioning and he felt one eyebrow rise sardonically.  “You want me to buy an entire company to suppress a product that will likely sell well, thus risking my own investment and the relations with the other share holders, all because you don’t like the manner of its advertising?  That’s wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to describe them!”

“Alright, alright,” muttered Elaine, “Ah surrender.  Ah’ll listen to your advice the first time from now on.  Speaking of, your prototype is ready.  Ah thought you’d like to be present for the field trials.  They’re tomorrow afternoon.”

“Excellent,” the young tycoon replied.  “And I hear you made something of a break through earlier this week.  What was that all about?”

“Ah haven’t decided if Ah want to sell that yet,” Elaine whispered.  “One O’clock?”

Ayla nodded somberly, but was elated inside.  “I’ll be there.” 

 

 

January 12th, 2007
Headmistress’ Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Mrs. Carson looked at the two students sitting in front of her with a carefully measured glare.  Murphy was looking sullen and angry, but not the kind of angry one would expect from a student who had just picked a fight on campus.  The LCD monitor behind the headmistress held a scene from the light woods around Whitman.  On it was a very clear picture of Kodiak clutching his gonads while the blonde girl with the purple-dyed hair was whipping a hockey stick back for yet another classic slap shot to the young man’s dangly bits.

She turned her gaze directly to the blonde girl with the purple stripes on either side of her face.  The girl wasn’t glaring at Kodiak, or the woman about to read both of them the riot act, just occasionally glaring sullenly at the monitor and looking for all the world to be cussing at herself while steeling herself to the ordeal to come.  Surprisingly when Carson began speaking, Murphy looked her straight in the eyes, and listened.

“Mrs. Gunnarson, I got off the phone with your old principal, Mr. Hammel.”  She nodded internally as the girl winced.  “And he tells me that despite his frequent problems with your combative nature in the past, the fact that you not only initiated an attack on another student, and using a hockey stick in a fight was new behavior.”

Kodiak grunted with a smirk.  “And the hockey stick on a student didn’t inspire you?”

“Don’t tempt me, Wyatt.”  She turned her attention back to Joanne.  “I’m waiting Miss Gunnarson.  Would you care to explain yourself?”

Murphy opened her mouth, then snapped it shut.  “No Ma’am, not going to make lame excuses.”

Carson blinked for a moment.  This was a first, she was used to most of the students trying to talk fast to get out of trouble.  “And you don’t feel the need to explain yourself, or even to apologize for your attack on the other student.”

That got Murphy’s attention, and she looked over at Kodiak appraisingly.  “Nope.  Not apologizing to him.  Oversized jackass earned it.”

Carson’s eyes narrowed dangerously and she was about to read the new kid the Riot act when Kodiak cleared his throat.  “She’s right Ma’am, I earned this one, in spades.  It may not be how you approve of doing business on Whateley, but I earned a bit more than getting swatted around with a hockey stick.”

Carson and Murphy looked at Wyatt with some measure of surprise.  “Oh this should be good.  Do explain Mister Cody.”  The Headmistress leaned back in her chair, steepling her fingers as she waited for him to speak.

“I uh, well, I did some fairly stupid bragging and it was overheard and I hurt someone very dear to me who is also friends with Murphy here."  The senior rubbed Murphy’s shoulder with a massive hand in encouragement.  “I don’t blame Joann for what happened, he…heck,  I had worse coming to me.”

“And this excuses her behavior, how?”

“It doesn’t,” he spoke carefully, “But I was the one who introduced her to said particular friend, and the others and they seem to have hit it off fairly well.  Unfortunately a lot of the shit-talk that came out of my mouth could have been interchanged with most of them, and I’m guessing her as well.”

Murphy didn’t confirm the statement, shrugging.

“Attacking someone over words also would be a new behavior.  I’ve been told you were rather thick-skinned.”

“Not when someone’s basically making a very public show of denigrating good friends of mine, Ma’am.”  Murphy spoke honestly.  “That’s about where my capacity for rational goes away.  Hurt me, fine, I can take it, always have.  Hurt my family and friends and things get a bit more wobbly with me.”

Carson was about to speak when Murphy grunted an almost inaudible “Not like I have enough friends that I can afford to simply ditch the ones I get.”

“That’s a lovely sentiment dear, but assaulting someone, regardless, is something that the police, and other agencies would be far less sympathetic over.  And Wyatt showed great restraint when this happened.  You may be a fairly potent little warper my dear, but with all of that, and even your regeneration, Kodiak could have simply killed you at any point in this little exchange.  In fact there are quite a few students who could do so easily by accident.

Carson shuffled her papers she’d been going over.  “I’m told that you’re hanging out with the Whateley Literary Club.  Compiler is one of those people who could accidentally do so to you, as are people like Phase, Bomber, Grenadier, Tennyo, Breaker…”

“I get the point, Ma’am, don’t pick fights with people.  For what it’s worth I’m sorry.”

“And get your temper in check hard Murphy, you are living in the same cottage as several empaths and ragers.”  Carson looked at her with lethal seriousness.  “You have Phobos and Deimos in Whitman and they’re reflective empathic ragers.  If you get angry enough one or both will go berserk in turn, and regeneration fails when they do their energy claw attacks.  Whateley Academy is not so simple as another high school.  If you are not careful you can cause a domino reaction that can injure or kill bystanders.”

Murphy’s eyes went wide and she went paler, something Carson hadn’t really thought possible.  “Right.  I’ll start paying attention.  Me hurt I can handle, someone trying to hurt me getting hurt, meh.  I don’t do random people hurt, not if I can stop it in any way, not because of something I did.”

Carson nodded, then looked at Wyatt.  “You did not instigate this, and I’ve never seen you stick up for anyone who has tried to fight you.  I’ll take that into consideration.   You may go.”

Wyatt put a big paw on Murphy’s shoulder and squeezed.  “Good luck.”  He stood and exited the room.

“Now, Miss Gunnarson, in light of the fact that Wyatt claims to have provoked you in a fashion he considers your response reasonable, and the fact that you both seem to have worked out your issues without killing one another I am inclined to be somewhat lenient.”  Carson looked at the girl who was staring at her eyes quizzically.  “However, before we continue, I have an accusation that you held Flicker down and attacked her as well, then somehow managed to fill her room at Melville with snow.”

“I didn’t attack her,” Murphy considered, “well that’s not entirely true, I did grab her and drag her through a snow bank and pack her clothing with snow.  I wanted to hit her.  I caught her showing the other half of the footage you have there to Elaine.”  Murphy pointed at the screen.  “Flicker was trying to hurt my friend by making her think I’d betrayed her.”

“Explain.”

“After the Wyatt thing last night I came into Whitman, and there’s Nasty Nancy, standing over Loophole with a triumphant smirk while Loophole’s watching me and Kodiak kiss and make up five minutes after I whacked him with Mister Slapshot.  She was enjoying watching Loophole cry when she saw Kodiak gimmie a hug.  Loophole was actually buying into it, just like we all did with Nasty’s recording of Kodi and that other boy jawing about how Kodiak had always been on the lookout for an exploitable nerd.”

“This explains a lot.  Go on, Miss Gunnarson.”

“Believe me, I wanted to ram her jaw line about four inches straight back, but I was sick of this shit so I used the distraction of shoving snow in her underwear to snag her recordings she keeps on her to fuck with people…” Murphy actually winced and looked at Carson carefully as she was cussing in front of a school administrator, never a bright idea.

“Please continue.”

“And I kinda destroyed her recorder.”  Murphy looked at Carson.  “Me and Loophole went through, I showed her what happened with Wyatt, and we destroyed all of the miscellaneous stuff she had on other people.  We should have guessed that she’d keep copies of all her dirt somewhere.”

“So basically you are saying myself and Loophole got the edited version of what happened.”

Murphy nodded.  “Basically, yes.  I stopped hitting Grizzly Adams there when he said he was just gonna take it and not fight back.  Hitting someone like that’s about like punching a cripple: only fun if you’re a complete asshole.”

“Very well we can chalk Flicker’s introduction to the snow bank as a learning experience.  And the dorm room?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny any involvement in doing anything to Flicker’s dorm room.  I have no supporting evidence in either direction.”

“Which leaves me with nothing more than he-said, she-said as evidence.”  Carson looked at Murphy critically.  “Very well, as of now, you are on probation.  Any detentions you receive for fighting will be doubled automatically, and the detentions will get progressively worse, especially if I or the Chief feel you need to have an Ultraviolent armband.  You may ask Loophole what that is.”

“Yes Ma’am, paying double to play with faces now.”

“Indeed.”  Carson looked at Murphy.  “Now on a more concerned not, why do you look like you have lost twenty pounds in the mere days you have been here?”

Murphy blinked, her eyes widened and she looked down, pulling up the side of her shirt.    Her ribs could clearly be seen through the skin.  “Oh shit.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“Fine, a bit weak and jittery but that’s it.”  She looked at Carson.  “I knew that doing spatial warping caused me to lose weight, but not this fast.”

“You’ve probably been pushing yourself a lot more since you got here.  Go to the Crystal Hall.  Until you are at a weight you are more stable at you are not to use your powers for any reason save emergencies, even if a teacher tells you to.  You will tell the cooks that I told you to draw Arctic weather MRE’s.  You will eat three per day and exercise until you are at a more safe weight.  I’m guessing I don’t need to tell you about total cellular starvation?

Murphy shook her head rapidly.  “No Ma’am.”

“Good.  You may go, Miss Gunnarson, and this time would you please endeavor not to find yourself in my office?”

Joanne nodded rapidly and left the office, half-running to the crystal hall with a worried look on her face.

Elizabeth Carson found herself wishing that more students were half as cooperative as that girl, but it remained to be seen if she could follow through.