March 24th, 2007
The Emerald Tower, 43th St with 6th Avenue, New York, NY
Shelia 'Lioness' Paterson hated monitor duty. The grating, endless monotony of waiting for something to happen rubbed her the wrong way. Still, the steady paycheck the Guard provided came with the price tag of the rotating duty. And, every once in a while it meant she got into the action first.
Shelia liked action, liked the adrenaline rush from combat and giving a villain a really good trouncing. All, of course, while looking spectacularly good if she did say so herself. Yes, she knew she had a vain streak, but is vanity really a sin if you are that hot? However, tonight seemed to be one of many nights were the hours just spread out empty and her fur crawled with inactivity. She'd already been through all three hundred channels the Tower got on cable, nothing on of course, and the thought of her being still long enough to read was a joke.
The police scanner crackled to life suddenly which drew an ear in hopes of something good. "All units, all units, silent alarm, Bank of America Tower, on site security requesting back up; closest unit respond."
Curiosity piqued, Shelia turned to the windows that faced the Bank across the street. Everything seemed ok... Wait, she thought as she rose and walked to the window. Had she actually seen something; seen movement not towards the bank, but away from it, towards the Tower? Lioness looked hard with all the focus any great cat can muster when important.
After a moment, a cable so thin she hadn't noticed it came loose from the Emerald Tower and fluttered back to the Bank, disintegrating as it went. It was so fine, until it moved she hadn't actually seen it. Lioness grabbed her collapsible staff and took off running. The bank was a diversion, the real target was here.
Shelia didn't really have to think about where she was going. Anything worth taking would be in the trophy vault; the super secret trophy vault that despite all the assurances of Magno-Man and Dr. Thunder that no one could ever, possibly figure out where it was, it seemed like every C-list super villain or better could make a bee-line for like it was on the tour brochure. Bouncing down the stairs and through the corridors had taken less than two minutes, but despite that, as she skidded to a stop in the ante-room that held the 'secret' entrance to the vault, the false wall was already open and a dark haired form in a dark red leotard was just beginning to spin the unlock wheel on the vault door, obviously having defeated it's 'unbreakable' code.
Lioness' eyes narrowed, she'd never seen the girl before, nor read anything close to describing how she was dressed and so decided to try and force a monologue to get some info. "Goodness, I rush down here expecting a super villain and all I get is Speedy in drag."
The girl stood, secreting what ever gizmo had helped her crack the safe back into her belt while pulling the door open one handed. "Wow, nice look," she purred. "Are you the Thundercat, or the 'Ho?"
Lioness snorted. "My, how 'leet' and edgy you are. Out of professional courtesy, care to tell me how you knew where the vault was? I want to rub it into Dr. Thunder after I arrest you."
The other girl brandished a PDA. "Building permits and code compliance inspections; they're a matter of public record don't ya know? Don't ya just love government?"
With a flick of her wrist Lioness extended the staff to its full six foot length. "Speaking of Government forms, want to give me the name for the arrest report now?"
The girl's hands dipped into an odd shaped carrier on her belt and came out with a matching pair of hand claws that curved inward to a nasty three foot length from her knuckles. She ran her tongue down the flat of one of the blades and drawled, "It's Wicked, so you can tell everyone who spayed the house cat."
"They're so cute and feisty before they're beaten to a pulp!" Shelia snarled as she leapt across the intervening distance, thrusting the staff before her, meaning to tag the girl on the point of her chin with it. Instead the girl folded over backwards and lashed out with a combat boot directly into Shelia's diaphragm. Her lungs emptied in a painful oof of escaping air, it was all Lionesses could do to back flip away from the follow up strike of those deadly claws.
"Cat got your tongue?" purred Wicked, her tone dripping malice.
"Now you've made it personal," growled Sheila as she came set and forced her lungs to re-inflate. Still, taking the hit had given her an idea of the girl's reflex speed and her style of martial arts was pure Tatsuo Ito. "Ito-sama will be angry you're using his teaching for evil."
"Cry me a river," Wicked replied as she hurled a bolo on a lariat into the vault and snatched back the canister it wrapped around. "The only question now is do I leave with your dignity as well as what I came for?"
Lioness ran along the wall and used it for a spring board to launch her attack on the girl's feet. This forced Wicked to cartwheel away from the vault door and block the flurry of Bo strikes Lioness launched. Finally Wicked was able to trap the Bo to hold it still enough for her free hand to slash down on it, cutting the weapon in two.
Shelia didn't slow down her attack, transferring seamlessly from a Bo to a baton style. The two combatants flipped and tumbled through the corridors, strike and counter, jab and riposte matching blow for blow. Their martial dance had gotten them to one of the exterior walls with its floor to ceiling windows just as Lioness realized that her opponent wasn't trying to beat her, just guide the duel here.
The Lioness realization cost her a moment of concentration and allowed the opening so that Wicked flipped away from her. The red garbed archer made an arcane gesture at the window and shouted, "Sanguinem igni!" A wave of heat and bright energy blew the windows out, leaving a gapping hole in the side of the building. Shelia leaped, but it was a desperate move that allowed the other's extension kick to connect under her chin. Seeing stars, the Lioness fell back from the blow as Wicked paused to blow her a kiss before leaping through the hole she had blown in the wall.
Shelia staggered over to the hole and watched the faintly glowing form gently fall to the street level and disappear into the night. Biting back her own anger, Shelia resigned herself to return to the vault and find out what was stolen.
March 21st, 2007
Serving Area, Crystal Hall
"As if listening to some over educated, ivory tower mind prisoner prattling on about 'responsibility' weren't bad enough, the real crimes against humanity are lurking on these steam tables calling themselves food."
Jadis smirked to herself at Kate's monotone diatribe at the civics class they'd just come from. It made for a dry lead up to lunch and now her friend's barbed commentary had made assembling a salad from the bar the only real choice. "Careful, you're starting to sound like Ayla." The dark eyes met Jadis' gaze in her unsettling, unblinking fashion.
"Oh yes to have the great problems of being rich, influential, protected and beautiful. Life is capricious and cruel." Jadis shook her head as she carefully drizzled the optimum amount of balsamic vinaigrette onto her salad.
"I was referring to the food comments," she added drolly.
"And yet, irony of irony Ayla is the one student getting decent food out of these Nuremberg Trial escapees. And they say money can't buy happiness." Despite her comments, Nacht had taken one of the Ruben sandwiches from the short order cook and double portion of fries. "Did you see what she got for breakfast? While we were choking down that spackle they called oatmeal she's picking at some perfect pastry and cream confection doubtlessly called something that sounds incredibly sexy in French and means something completely pedestrian like bread pie or something. She didn't even finish it!"
"Jealousy isn't your color, Kate," Jadis replied as she picked up a bottle of Perrier water from the cooler and led the way to the check out stands. "And those fries won't do anything for you skin either."
"If I'm doomed to wallow in the blackness of life, why should I worry about black heads?"
Jadis had no answer to her friends' dry, self deprecating humor, so she pressed her thumb to the reader and led the way out into the seating area. Since the introduction of the two new tiers above them, the ground level seats had been mostly abandoned to the new social war in getting choice spots higher up. The Alphas of course owned the best of the four circular dais platforms that jutted out from the tiers, one of two that framed the water fall, and Kodiak had had it's mate on the other side designated as the faculty and staff pad, thus insinuating their 'control' over the school.
This left formerly choice spots on the ground level abandoned which, Jadis found perfect. She picked one of the smaller tables next to the little pool the waterfall flowed into that would provide a soothing level of white noise and, some part of the back of her mind told her would make eves dropping on their conversation difficult.
Nacht slid into the seat opposite her and dumped enough ketchup onto her tray to feed a third world country before lazily dipping fries into it. "So, you know already what I think of this rhetorical farce of an assignment. 'Think about who your nemesis is at school and detail why'," she snorted, rolling her eyes. "I've yet to hear your side of it."
Jadis unscrewed the bottle and took a sip. "Why do you care? In the grand scheme of things, nothing truly matters, so why the interest?"
Kate slurped a fry into her mouth and shivered. "Oh, yes, I love the smell of Nietzsche in the morning. It's like a comfy blanket you decide to commit suicide in." She chewed thoughtfully without blinking while she stared at her friend. "Let's not mince words, Jads, we both know that Mrs. Devon is probably getting kick backs for intel from somebody who wants to use you against your dad." She laughed mirthlessly. "Maybe the cow will make enough for liposuction to appease her vanity. Still, this amateurish attempt at secrets is aimed squarely at you. So, tell us, who is your nemesis and why?"
Diabolik tasted her salad then reached for the pepper mill and began to grind, pointedly ignoring her friend for a moment as the question appealed to her sense of logic and she couldn't help giving it thought. There were a number of students that leapt to mind, vying for the 'cherished' spot of being her personal nemesis. Everyone from Ironknife to the kiddy crusaders marched behind her eyes, both in school and away. Still, she had really dealt with all of them and comfortable in her assurance she was beyond any of their reach.
As her mind wandered, her eyes did as well, finally settling on a pair of figures just entering the Crystal Hall. The thought of Wyatt Cody pretending to be a gentleman was comic farce of the first order, worthy of slapstick greats like Benny Hill or the Monty Python troupe, and yet there he was, helping his latest bedmate out of her blue Georgia Tech jacket and hanging it on the hooks by the door. Doubtlessly wishing he could help her out of more of her clothes, she thought in disgust.
For all her admonishment to Kate, the green eyed monster of Jealousy flared up in her as she watched the pathetic little trollop fawn over the shaggy mountain man. Between the heavy, melon sized breasts she'd grown over the summer and the activation of her BIT from Christmas that was rapidly shaping her from the one girl on campus who used to be straighter than Jadis herself in to curvy stretch of road any tire commercial would vie to use. It just wasn't fair. Did everybody at this damned school get to be pretty except her? What had she done to anger the God who had cursed her with her parent?
Nacht followed her friends stare and raised a sardonic eyebrow when she realized who she was looking at. "Loophole?" she drawled around another French fry. "Come now Jads, have some self respect. Surely you can do better than Bearman's latest partner in bumping uglies."
Jadis chewed thoughtfully on her salad. "Actually, Kate, if there is one person in this school capable of getting me into a nine by nine steel box it's Loophole."
Kate steepled her fingers and laid her chin on them. "Bear toy? Jadis, you've finally slipped and are spiraling down into madness."
Despite some of her vaunted control, for just a moment, the Beast within Jadis peeked out as her friend failed to see the epiphany she'd just experienced. "Stop snarking and think for a moment," she growled as she watched the pair wander into the serving area. "The only rules lawyer here that is remotely a match for me is her; add to the fact that it's a subset of her power not just her personality. No one is perfect; even I slip up and make mistakes. Mistakes she could argue are crimes with enough in a string what was coincidence becomes pattern of behavior and suddenly I'm in one of those cells in Kane Hall waiting on a DPA van to come take me away. Or worse."
Nacht was uncharacteristically emotional and blew a raspberry with her lips. "You're serious?"
"Use that stuff between your ears for something other than quoting obscure philosophers for a moment," Jadis drawled, taking a slight smile watching her friends face contort from the barb finding it's mark. "Actually, Loophole choosing to dance the mattress mambo with Kodiak is the best thing that could have happened for me." Nacht raised an eyebrow, but remained silent.
"Loophole used to hang with the Lit Chix and the real guiding light there is that paranoid conspiracy theorist Foxfire. When she isn't obsessing about Fey she was constantly sniffing around my dorm room and locker. If she could infect Loophole with that paranoia, I might as well pack my bags for the trip to Leavenworth. So, all the time that Loophole spends getting her biscuit buttered is time she's not spending with that whack job Foxfire, putting me on the dark side of Loophole's black and white sense of morality. That means that I can relax a little, and actually enjoy a few of these so-called 'wonder years'. And that I can even get school credit for Mrs. Devon's ham-handed attempt at intelligence gathering? Pure gravy.""
"Now who has aspirations of out doing the foodie?" Kate mumbled around finishing chewing her bite to swallow, her normally expressionless face draped in admiration. "Wow, logical, well reasoned and succinct, Jadis! I'm a believer and, what do you know? You actually have a worthy Nemesis! And you're just going to give all that intel away on class project?"
Jadis snorted in disgust. "Are you kidding? I'll make something up about Aquerna, being unable in my heart of darkness to resist the cute, good, wholesomeness of her. It's like kryptonite to my tortured, avaricious soul."
Nacht coughed and nearly choked on the soda she was drinking, taking a supreme effort of will not to fall prey to the perfectly timed spit take her friend had nearly nailed her with. Finally she could swallow the beverage to glare at her as she laughed herself silly at Kate's predicament. "You'll pay for that," she promised with narrowed eyes.
"Doubtlessly," Jadis replied with a smile and a friendly pat on her hand. "Sorry, Kate, I just couldn't resist."
"So what are you going to do about Loophole?"
Jadis sighed and just for a moment, in a dark place in her mind she would never, ever admit to, imagined herself on the arm of tall, lean, brilliant... She shook herself and sighed. "As long as Miss Nalley is busy playing hide the trouser snake with Cody, nothing. That's a problem that solved itself."
March 21st, 2007
Workshop Lab, W.A.R.S. Studio, base of Kane Hall Astronomy Tower
"But, baby..." Peeper whined, as usual when in an argument, promptly putting his foot into his mouth and making things worse.
Zenith's eyes narrowed to slits. "Don't ever call me 'Baby' again, John." A knock on the door precipitated whatever else she was going to say and brought her attention from upbraiding her recalcitrant DJ. "In!" she called before looking eyes with Peeper. "The FCC rules are damned simple and straight forward, Peeper! Even for a two bit wannabe shock jock like you, there are rules and you'll obey them or so help me, you're done here! Are we clear?"
"Yeah, sure, ba...boss."
"Out of my sight before I fire you on general principles!" she ordered as the younger man shot out of the office. Zenith looked up to find a smirking Ayla standing in the doorway to the closet that masqueraded as the Program Directors office. "Ayla, what brings you here?"
"My apologies if this is a bad time..."
Zenith waved aside her protestations and her visitor into one of the battered padded metal chairs that faced the desk. "Not at all, everybody has to take out the trash, you just happened by on my turn." She turned to a much abused coffee pot on the shelf behind her and poured herself a cup. "Black death?" she offered. Ayla's features didn't change and her decline was polite, still Zenith got the feeling the young mogul would rather chew her own hand off than drink broadcaster coffee. "So, what can I do for you?"
"How are things going with you and Sahar?" she replied, answering a question with a question. "Everything well, I hope?"
Zenith dumped sugar into the black sludge and found irony in the question. It was Sahar who had gotten her drinking strong, super sweet black coffee they way they did in her native Lebanon. And it was obvious that the question was meant to be used as cashing in the matching making her team had done to get Zenith back with who was likely the love of her life. "Couldn't be better," she said as she took a sip and sighed as the caffeine rush hit her system. "Thanks for asking."
Ayla's smile seemed genuine. "It's nice to know that sometimes true love really does conquer all; even stubbornness."
Zenith noted the slight reproach at her reluctance to believe Sahar had truly reformed and decided to let it slide without comment. "We have our moments, but, I like to think we're over the worst of it. But I'm sure you didn't come all this way to discuss my love life. So, is this personal to me, or does AJG Consolidated require something of WARS?"
"Had AJGC needed something we'd just go through the normal channels," Goodkind assured her with a smile. "Actually, this is rather personal, and it's for a friend, so I'm depending upon your personal knowledge and your discretion. If I can so impose on you?" Zoe felt her eyebrows shoot up her forehead to hide in the corn blonde hair she wore straight down from her head.
"I see. Well, you can always count on discretion, Ayles, as to the information, what do you want to know? We'll find out soon enough if the books are already square or if certain, other remunerations are required."
The Goodkind smiled a purely official issue smile. "It's always a pleasure doing business with you, Zoe." Zenith inclined her head as she took another sip of the coffee and invited her guest to continue. "I'm seeking some general information on a student from last year; perhaps you had some dealings with her? Her codename was Songbird."
A cloud passed over Zenith's face. "Maria? Yes, I knew her. What do you want to know?"
Ayla had settled into her professional mask and if she noted the change in her friend's demeanor, she didn't show it. "What can you tell me?"
Zenith snorted in disgust. "What's not to say about Mrs. Horton's golden girl?"
Despite the mask, Ayla blinked. "Songbird was in Poe?"
Zoe nodded solemnly. "All four years. Lesbian, militant about it too when she had a mind, and once she hitched her wagon to Freya, well, Mrs. Horton was so proud one of her girls was in the Alpha's she practically never saw a thing she did." Zenith shook her head. "Came on to me until she found out I was a changeling then she acted like she smelled something foul every time I walked by. Serious penis issues or maybe she was just wrapped in the male patriarchy dominance crap, I don't know. Still, she wasn't a bad sort, if you were a 'genetic girl'. From what I hear, she could be quite charming. Why don't you ask your friend Loophole? Those two were thick as thieves most of last year, and doubtlessly thinking they were being so discrete." She laughed mirthlessly.
"Loophole is bisexual?" asked Ayla softly.
Zenith shrugged. "Dunno myself. You'd never know it the way she hangs on Kodiak now, would you? But last year I'd have sworn she'd be a dedicated member of the 'sisterhood'. Then right after spring break she and Maria split up. Hell of a break up as I recall."
April 24th, 2006
Cooridor outside Rm 408, Poe Cottage
It wasn't that Zenith had meant to be eves dropping. She was on a work study program and the hallway needed painting, so she was painting. Well, technically, right now she was taping off the door jams and outlet plates before she started painting. That there happened to be so much that needed taping right next to the door with the shouting voices was purely coincidence. That was her story and she was sticking to it.
"Don't you think Ah tried?" Elaine's voice drifted through the wall. Zoe didn't need to be psychic to hear the emotional turmoil in it either. "Ah wanted to Maria! But Ah can't break mah mothers' heart!"
"You can't let your mother's feelings rule your life, esposita!"
"It's not just her, Ah...Ah want to have kids too...and..."
"You don't need a man...!" thundered Maria in a tone that nearly caused Zoe to insert herself into the situation. She paused from the taping and cocked an ear to be sure things didn't escalate.
"This isn't about men!" Elaine shouted back. "Yes, damn it, Ah care for you, but Ah have responsibilities, can't you understand that? It's not about what Ah want...!"
"That redneck gringo of yours..." Maria started, but was quickly cut off.
"Leave mah father out of this!" Ragged breathing filled the silence, the sounds of tears. "Ah didn't want it to be this way...!"
"Elaine...I'm sorry, you know my temper..."
"Ah have to go," almost went unheard as Zoe quickly busied herself with her taping as the door opened and the young mechanic stepped into the hall. "Ah'm sorry, Ah'm so sorry for all of it! Ah didn't want to hurt you!" She turned and fled leaving Zoe to meet the emotional gaze of the senior whose eyes went hard.
"What are you staring at, chiflado?"
"Just painting," Zoe replied calmly. Maria looked once again in the direction Elaine had fled the went back into her room, cursing under her breath in Spanish and slaming the door shut.
March 21st, 2007
Arena 99 Programing Cubical, Kane Hall Tunnels
"Optical matrix approaching critical mass," the computer reported dutifully. "Event horizon in twenty seconds."
The lights of the displays played over Elaine's features in the tiny booth that controlled Arena 99. Through the windows below she could see the Ants had placed the replica of Picket's Revenge in the flooded cradle the boat sat on in the center of the arena. It would, in fact be the only water in the simulator. The forty foot 'tank' the little yacht sat in both connected to the lower entrance to the simulator through a false wall in the boat's tiny restroom or 'head' as it was known in nautical parlance, but also in a submerged articulation frame that would give all the movement the boat would experience.
With a flare that caused the inventor to turn away from the windows the hard light maser's event horizon was breeched and world took shape in the arena below. Through the windows Elaine saw a slice of Georgia take appearance out of nothing from the blue sky of the ceiling and down the walls to horizons and to the blue green waters of Lake Allatoona. Once more, Picket's Revenge floated in her native element and home.
A quick glance across the gauges told her that her program was running exactly as she'd ordered it, a perfect early summer day, eighty degrees, twenty percent humidity and steady twenty knot breeze from the south west. Perfect.
"Computer, transfer control of simulation to voice mode, mah pattern in the interior of the simulation, authorization, Nalley, E, Student ID ETS43988Whitman"
"Transfer protocol is confirmed and standing by."
Elaine turned and nearly leaped out of her skin to find a boy had been silently standing behind her in the door way of the control booth. "Jesus Christ!" she shouted, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
He was a good looking kid, like he'd stepped off some boy band poster dressed in chinos and a silk shirt that was open just enough to show off his chest without looking like he was trying to. His corn yellow hair was cropped in a page boy and framed a smooth, porcelain face that had what seemed a genuine expression of regret on it. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you Elaine."
"Have we been introduced?" demanded the red head, still a bit wary of the stranger.
"No," he replied with a smile. "Mark Willows."
"Charmed," she told him drolly. "Now, if you'll excuse me Mr. Willows, Ah'm a bit pressed for time."
"Actually," he said quickly, not moving out the way. "I'm here to try and help you at the behest of a concerned third party."
Loophole was suddenly aware of the weight of her pistol in the small of her back. "As remarkably altruistic, and vague, as that sounds, you'll forgive me if Ah pass."
"I'm a psychic," he said softly, opening his mind to be strictly receptive to her mind in front of him. Mark frequently found that a lot of peoples minds were like looking at a wall of televisions all tuned to a different channel as their thoughts raced from topic to topic. A few choice questions and the channels would start to fall into place with what he wanted, and as it was strictly passive, violated none of the Psychic Canon of Ethics; at least, not as he understood them.
Elaine took a step back and her hand went behind her back. "Don't be afraid," he soothed her. "My client is worried that something traumatic happened to you last year. I can help you remember..."
The thousands of mental televisions that floated around her mind almost instantly flicked to a single terrifying image. Psymod got the vaguest impression of fur and teeth and a terrible fixed resolve that roared out at him before white hot agony lit up behind his eyes. He gripped his temples and staggered out the door way and fell hard onto the wall of the hallway that was the only thing keeping him upright.
Through the pain, he was vaguely aware of her coming out of the booth and dutifully locking the door shut as she edged away and growled, "Stay out of mah mind, psychic!"
The pain continued to throb for several minutes after she was gone leaving a migraine that gripped him in nauseous agony. Gasping for breath, Mark looked after her, the sense of revulsion in even thinking of following her making certain he'd take the long way from the tunnels. "What, the fuck, was that?" he panted in confusion and fear.
March 21st, 2007
Arena 99 Kane Hall Tunnels
"Watch the telltales and the windex," cautioned Elaine as she lounged in the cockpit of Picket's Revenge, looking at her brother's struggles to single hand the spirited little yacht. She didn't need to follow the advice she was giving him, she'd sailed enough to know by the feel of the boat pounding into what waves there were on the lake that she was nowhere near optimum trim.
Still, she allowed, the boat was still moving so he was learning. "Adjust your heading ten degrees to port and close haul the main sheet," she ordered around a pull of her coke.
"Your port or mine?" he asked, scrambling to get the winch handle into the winch to turn it.
"Port and starboard are always about the boat, not the speaker," she told him, pointing to the left side of the craft away from her with the bottle. "Port." She slapped the rail her back was against. "Starboard."
Picket's Revenge responded to the command and heeled sharply onto her port side, raising the bench she was sitting on and that entire side higher from the water nearly thirty degrees. The waves lapped at the gunnels of the boat threatening to wash the deck, causing Steve a moment of panic. He grabbed the wheel to yank it back, but was held by her sudden, sharp command, "STOP! Let her have her head!"
"We're gonna slide over!" he shouted back, his hands tight on the wheel, but thus far held his course.
"No, we're not!" she shouted back. "The boat is going to heel, that's part of the fun."
"Fun?" he demanded, a little white faced despite being able to fly. "How is this fun?"
"Look how fast we're going," she purred with a vague gesture at the shore line that was moving by at a pace between a marathon jog and a five hundred meter sprinter.
"Fast?" he demanded. "Dad's Bayliner goes faster than this in neutral!"
"Yes, but you're only using the wind," she replied. "Your heart is racing, isn't it? You're damn near terrified."
"I am not!" He withered under her gaze for a moment then admitted, "I'm concerned."
"Just imagine the effect this will have on Marty." Elaine had to give her little brother props, since his activation, his mind had grown quick, nearly as fast as her own, not that he'd been an imbecile before, but it was nice to not have to explain things quite so often. The color returned in full force to his face and his expression pulled into a leer of pure teenage lust.
"I'm gonna score!" he shouted into the wind. "I'm king of the world!"
"Not on mah boat!" she warned him while allowing herself a smile at his joy and lost herself in her own remembrance.
January 28, 2007
Arena 99, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy
The door of the arena opened into the last place Maggie was expecting. It was the smallest toilet she'd ever seen, barely two feet square but crammed into this tiny space was a toilet, sink and a shower wand. To make matters worse, the entire thing was moving up and down around the simulators doorway. Maggie reached in to the heaving simulator to steady herself and then stepped in.
The door closed behind her, becoming the back wall of the claustrophobic little water closet and quickly the blonde let herself out through the door into a hallway just as narrow. To her right was a tiny bedroom with a V shaped bed that was tucked into the bow of the boat she was obviously standing in. To her left the hallway went through a little galley with the kitchen on the right and a dinette booth on the left. Maggie walked through this to find a settee just beyond the galley that held a snoring Murphy. In front of her was a steep set of four stairs that led out into the cockpit of the little boat.
The heat began to get to Lifeline and she quickly pulled off her parka and sweater and laid them on the booth seat before she scrambled up the steps into the cockpit. Loophole was already there, sitting on one of the built in benches, one hand on a huge stainless steel steering wheel, the other holding a rope that was wrapped around a winch built into the side of the boat. "Ahoy there!" Maggie greeted as she plopped down on the other bench and scooted aft. "You know, even having been to your house I wouldn't have pegged you as being rich."
Elaine snorted as she let out the spinnaker sail a bit more and Picket's Revenge heeled a bit harder to port as she picked up speed. "You ought to know by now Ah ain't rich," her friend returned
"Said the yacht owner," Maggie reminded her around a snicker.
"This boat is older than both of us put together," Elaine replied, her eyes intent ahead of her. "Ah can't imagine that Daddy paid more than five thousand for her."
"Well I still can't believe you tried to get Dee and I out on that lake over Christmas." Elaine only chuckled darkly and kept sailing. Maggie shook her head at the foibles of her best friend gestured vaguely towards the cabin and the unconscious form of Murphy. "What's her story?"
"Light weight Ah guess," Elaine said as she quickly made the line she held fast. "Mind your head," she warned as she spun the wheel hard to the right. With a creak of ropes and rigging, the boom jibbed from port to starboard, over both girls' heads as Picket's Revenge rounded the peninsula whose coast Nalley had been following and began to tack close hauled up wind. "Crank that winch next to you clockwise till Ah tell you to stop," she instructed as she tossed her friend the winch handle and stood in the cockpit. "Ah mean honestly, one beer and she's passed out on the fo'c'sle."
"Beer?" demanded Maggie from her vigorous turning of the winch.
"That's good," her friend said. "And yeah, Ah gave her a beer."
"You gave a regenerator a beer?" Vincent pressed.
"Oh shit," whispered Elaine just as a wail of pain echoed through the cabin below.
"Who took my head?" demanded Murphy's strident voice, only to moan as the hypersensitivity to sound magnified the pain of the migraine she was suffering. The purple hair appeared in the companionway before she threw up an arm to cover her eyes. "Cursed light it burns!" she shouted, immediately regretting it due to the echo effect of the fiberglass.
"Go to the head," ordered Elaine, but the odd word only drew a blank stare from Joann as her cheeks turned a pale, lime green before emptying the contents of her stomach onto the deck of the cockpit. "Thank God for self-bailing cockpits," muttered the red head as she shared a glance with her best friend. "You want to...?" she asked and wiggled her fingers at her friend.
"Why, what's this?" demanded Maggie in very mock shock. "Could it be a scientist, a disciple of Archimedes and Aristotle is asking for help from the supernatural? That magic could solve a problem her beloved science cannot?"
"Ah'm going to disciple you upside the head if you don't quit jabbing me and start helping her before she throws up again in a place that isn't self draining!"
"Come on and lie down," Maggie told Joann as she carefully made her way down below deck. "Captain Bligh is just having her monthly bitch visit." After Murphy was lying down comfortably on the settee a whispered word in a language not spoken on Earth lulled her into a deep, healing sleep that would let her hyperactive body burn the toxin out of her system without her dealing with the effects of it. That accomplished, Maggie made fast the lee board to keep her from tumbling off the settee as the boat rolled and made her way back up on deck. A gesture brought an animate spout of water up from the lake and washed the foul smelling remnants of Joann's sickness down the cockpit drain hole. "Well that wasn't one of your shining moments, was it?" she asked as she sat down once more on the bench opposite her best friend.
"Ah guess they haven't gotten to alcohol yet in that regenerator biology class she's taking," the red head returned her eyes intent on her heading. "In mah own defense, mah mind was elsewhere when Ah offered."
"So, what is it you're in here hiding from?" she asked slyly, never taking her eyes off of Loophole to judge her reaction. As she'd expected, that immediately pulled her attention from where the boat was sailing to stare at Maggie in shock.
"Ah'm not..." she started before Maggie brought her up short with a sharp gesture.
"Don't make a liar out of yourself," she cautioned. "Never mind that we're best friends and I'll know, you're only delaying getting over whatever has you in here in the first place. You only come hide in here when something major has happened, so make it easier on both of us and just cut to the chase, OK?"
Elaine stuck her tongue out at her friend who only smiled and gave her the solo finger salute. The red head sighed as she returned her eyes to her heading and decided there was a certain logic to what her friend had said. "Ah'm trying to sort out how Ah feel about having slept with Kodiak and what Ah'll do about it," she admitted softly.
"Did he not measure up to your expectations?" asked Maggie kindly.
"Ah never thought they could be that big...oh, wait you mean did Ah enjoy it?"
Maggie only grinned. "What ever you want to talk about, Doc."
"Let's just say Kody has a good reason to be considered a 'big' man on campus and leave it at that," Elaine managed around a blush. "But, yes, Ah enjoyed it, Mags. God help me, when Ah held him and he was in me, and, and..."
After a long moment of silence, Elaine looked over at her friend and asked, "Did you ever hear that '80s song by Robert Palmer called..."
"Addicted to love?" she asked sardonically with a raised eyebrow. "That what, you're so, ah, addicted that what? You'll turn into some kind of psycho hose beast? Come on Elaine, you're acting like such a child!" she admonished.
"Come again?" her friend demanded testily.
"You have the power in this relationship so far, girl! You went after him. You made all the moves here, you seduced him. You decide if you go see him again or if you walk away! The only way you get turned into some kind of 'ho is if you give him that power over you!"
Elaine rolled her eyes as she spun the wheel to tack to port. "Ah don't want a power game, Ah want a relationship, damn it!"
"I hate to break it to you sister, but relationships are power games, and when you decide you want to get down and dirty with the number one Jock on campus, then you're playing in the pro leagues. Congratulations, by the way, you got what you wanted and by the way you talk it seems to have been every bit as good as what you hoped it would be. Was it?"
"Ah want to have his kids, damn it," she muttered.
Maggie chuckled to herself softly. "Well, alright, as good as advertised. So you obviously want to keep him and you have the power in the relationship, so, why are you hiding in here?"
"You don't think Ah whored mahself out to get him?"
"Let's find out," she replied as she removed her tablet from her purse and connected to the campus' omnipresent wifi network. "Ah the joys of wiktionary. Let's see, Whore, noun, 1) A prostitute. Did you charge him for your virginity?" Elaine's eyes shot daggers at her friend who only smiled. "Ok, no, that doesn't apply then. 2)(pejorative) A person who is considered to be sexually promiscuous (see also: slut). Well, promiscuous is defined as multiple sexual partners (note the plural) without careful choice and none of that applies. Cody is number one and you certainly choose very carefully. And so finally, 3) A person who is unscrupulous, especially one who compromises their principles for gain." Maggie paused significantly as she stared at Doc while putting her tablet away. "While I note you didn't go to church this morning I don't think you compromised your principles. Did you?"
"No," Elaine responded instantly. "Never. Ah wanted him, sure. But Ah was upfront about it."
"That's your answer then," she said.
March 21st, 2007
Langley Paulson's Office, Kane Hall
Langley rubbed his temples and swore softly under his breath. His desk was covered in expense reports, spread sheets, ledgers and the other detritus of running a department as complicated as Advanced Technologies in a school as extremely complicated as Whateley Academy was. Keeping things under budget was going to be hard. As hard as it is every year, he thought to himself as he blew out his cheeks and shook his head.
The kids were getting smarter every year. The money their inventions brought in went a long ways to keeping up with the short falls, but every year they needed the latest and greatest and the old stuff was always wearing out. There were years it seemed like it keeping the costs under control was a monster that could never be contained. For a brief moment, Langley Paulson deeply missed the simple punch the bad guy in the face until he passed out life of a superhero.
He turned to the little dorm fridge behind his desk and opened it. An eye sought the clock on his wall and, sadly, finding it still very much only afternoon his fingers passed over the bottles to remove a can of soda. As the can was opened a knock at his door saved him from doing battle again with the math monster. "In," he called, taking a long sip.
The door opened to silhouette the huge form of Melvin Donner, not as he'd ever seen him. The big man's shoulders were slumped and the normally cocksure teacher, so full of personality was positively hangdog. "Mel?" he asked, startled.
Donner turned slightly and dipped his head to fit through the door as he entered, carefully closing the door behind him. He meandered up to the desk and stood, not sitting down regardless of the gesture that Langley had invited him with. "Ito-sensei has my class," he said gruffly, reminding Paulson that school wasn't out yet.
"Something wrong, Mel?"
The big man nodded solemnly. "I'm presenting myself for disciplinary action," he announced. "And, I guess, if this is bad enough, I'll go pack my stuff for Leavenworth."
Langley blinked in astonishment. "Mel, first off, you have been clear of probation for two years so the worst thing that I can do to you is fire you. Not that I'm about to fire one of my best teachers, but if you've fouled up, let's get it fixed and move on."
"I shouldn't be around these kids, Langley. I'm..."
"Not Hotrod!" snapped Paulson angrily. "God damn it Mel when will you get over this? You fucked up, you did your time and you're square with the house again! Hell, I was toying with petitioning Liz...uh, Mrs. Carson to have your probation time count towards your tenure!"
"I threatened a kid, Langley! Told him I..."
"Whoa! Slow down and back up. Give me this from the top. Who? When? And for God sakes, Mel, sit down!" Donner all but collapsed into the chair and sighed. "Alright, from the top, what happened?"
March 21st, 2007
Front Door, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Kodiak paused on the step outside his cottage and breathed in the fresh air. Finally spring was starting to come to the Presidential Mountains. While it had just been below freezing this morning it had gotten almost up to sixty this afternoon. The snow was melted and birds were starting to chirp again.
While he didn't mind the cold, there was something just awesome about spring time and Kodiak felt great. His legacy had been redeemed with the Crystal Hall as well having finally cleaned up the mess he'd made, first with Freya, and then by inaction with Sebastiano. Only a single semester was left of his high school life, and then graduation.
The king of the Alphas stepped out onto the side walk down to Van Buren Avenue, pointing his nose to Doyle Medical Center, and his weekly chat with Dr. Bellows. The thought of graduation took a bit of the glow off his mood. Graduation meant going home and, possibly not ever coming back to the lower 48. Cody wanted to see his parents, to salvage his relationship with his mother and, maybe, either reach his father or once and for all let him know he wasn't welcome in Cody's personal history.
But now there was Elaine to wonder about.
As much as she hated the winters here in New Hampshire, there was no way in hell she'd ever consider moving to Barrow. Not to mention how would they continue a relationship thousands of miles apart. While she was only a sophomore, she was only a little more than year younger than Wyatt. It seemed like a great match to him. He was sure his formal education was going to end with his graduation, but Elaine was another matter altogether.
She was smart, smarter than he was he wasn't ashamed to admit, and while he wasn't sure she would actually learn anything in college she didn't already know, the degree would open doors for her. That meant six years before she'd be even remotely interested in settling down.
Six years was a long time to hold a long distance relationship.
Yet every time he'd try to assure himself there were other fish in the sea he got a sharp pang of loss that always chased that assurance away. For the first time, Cody was starting to realize, perhaps he'd finally stepped over that boundary from lust to love.
Did you ever think that just maybe you might be too busy to worry about the next time you get to play in her honey pot?
"Do you have a lick of shame?" growled Wyatt softly to his avatar. He got the sensation of the bear rolling on his back and chortling with laughter.
Wyatt sighed again as he wandered through Doyle Medical to the Doctor's office and knocked on the door. Maybe this time, Dr. Bellows would say something he would need to hear. There was a first time for everything, after all.
"Come in, Wyatt," invited Dr. Bellows. "Won't you sit down?"
March 21st, 2007
Whitman Cottage, RM 216
With a practiced grace Elaine drew the lipstick across her lips and pouted them into the mirror. Judging the result just daring enough to be sexy without stepping over into something tawdry she carefully blotted the excess with a napkin before she bent over to have her hair fall over her face before sharply rising to fling it back onto her back. "Eat your heart out, Rita," she told her grinning reflection.
She turned and looked over her shoulder, making sure the seams on her stockings were straight before she began to take the outfit she'd chosen off it's hanger to don. The denim skirt was just too long and had just too much flounce to be technically a mini, even if it still managed to show a country mile of leg and the matching, off the shoulder top would mean Cody would have difficulty meeting her eyes, and that was fine.
She didn't plan to be wearing them that long anyway.
"Miss, if I may again reiterate my previous warning that you are becoming somewhat reckless in your socializing with Mr. Cody."
"Don't be a spoilsport, Carmen," Elaine chided her laptop as she settled the top's drape while adjusting her decolletage to her satisfaction.
"There is no 'sport' to spoil, Miss, except perhaps in the Shakespearian reference. If you continue to be as cavalier in your rendezvous with Mr. Cody you will be caught and as you well know, there are consequences to this action."
Elaine rolled her eyes as she brushed out her hair to be certain of the hair spray. "Carmen, exactly how many students, in the history of this school, have been expelled for violation of that rule?"
The computer's tone was aggrieved. "None, Miss, but the ability of Mrs. Carson, Mrs. Savage or both to assign detention that might make you wish you'd been expelled is of some note."
"So noted, and you can rest assured Ah will be discrete," she promised the machine. "Any thing else before Ah'm off?"
"Yes, Miss. You have just received an email, which is marked urgent."
"Oh?" she asked, pinching her cheeks to bring a bit of color to them without resorting to too many cosmetics. "Who from?"
"Maria Contessa Elyssa Gomez y Ricardo," the program replied softly. Ice water flowed down Elaine's spine as she whirled to face the computer as if she expected to see her nemesis standing there, not just a missive.
"Delete it," she whispered.
"It is a plea for help, Miss," Carmen replied. "I believe you may want to read this."
"Miss Gomez is reaching out to you, in a matter that as I read this is most assuredly one of life and death. Despite your personal feelings, you have an obligation to read this," Carmen replied stubbornly. "If not, I will be forced to forward it to Mrs. Carson and perhaps with a missive of my own about some of your extra curricular activities with Mr. Cody."
"You...you silicon bitch, are you black mailing me?" she snarled.
"The first article of my programming is your safety and well being," The program retorted. "If you do not read and act on this, you will likely never forgive yourself and that cannot lead to your well being, thus I am compelled to act, per your own programming."
Elaine worked her mouth open and shut several times before the logical part of her brain finally over rode her emotional response and she looked at the dilemma the computer faced from a programmer's point of view. She sighed and gave in. "Hoisted on my own code," she sighed. "Alright, display the message, please," she ordered softly as she walked over and read the mail. A snort of disgust followed. "Freya, can that bitch spoil an evening or what? Alright Carmen, evaluate contingencies 22, 47 and 57 to determine the best course of action. Ah'll take your report and act on it, tomorrow."
"Have a pleasant evening, Miss."
"That's up to Mr. Cody, isn't it?" she sniffed. "Don't wait up."
March 21st, 2007
The Quad, Whateley Academy
"You asked her?" shouted Steve in disbelief. "You just walked up and asked my sister 'hey, you don't know me, mind if I poke around in your head?' Are you fucking high?"
Mark crossly shook his head that still ached from what ever had attacked him in Elaine's defense. "You make it sound stupid," he growled. "Most people just start thinking about what people ask them about. It's served me pretty good until now!"
"As if it sounding stupid is the biggest of your problems," Steve snarled. "I suppose you even told her I set you up to it?"
"Of course not!" the Rhode Islander snapped. "The point is that you're right, something must have happened because she isn't suppressing the memories, something else is! Whatever that thing was it damn near chewed my head off! Your sister is in real trouble! We have to go to the faculty about this. I'd guess that Mr. Geintz would be the best bet to break through..."
"Break through what?" asked the voice of the teacher as his shade appeared next to the two boys. It was all Stronghold could do not to leap out of his skin, but Mark was used to the teacher's timely comings and goings.
"Jesus!" shouted Steve, stumbling backward.
"Luis, actually," the shade told him with a grin and became even more solid. "Mr. Nalley, isn't it?" He held out a hand to be shaken that the younger Nalley hesitantly took. "Luis Geintz, Psychic Arts."
"Look, ah, Mr. Geintz, Mark and Ah were just jaw'n, Ah think maybe ya'll might have misheard..."
"Mr. Nalley, it is well that you are so focused on the so-called 'Hero Track' here at the school and I'm sure your innate sense of honesty and justice will serve you well in that career, for, I must tell you, my lad, you are terrible liar."
Stephen had the grace to blush scarlet. "No chance of a career in politics, huh?"
"I wouldn't recommend it," the teacher told him with a smile. "Now, exactly what is going on here?" The two young men shared a glance and looked back at the teacher whose apparition paled slightly. "Oh, I see."
March 21st, 2007
Rm 803, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Wyatt Cody lay in the twilight between waking and sleep, his body pleasantly fatigued and positively glowing in post coitus bliss. Elaine was curled up in the crook of his left arm using his shoulder for a pillow and sound asleep, a little smile on her face as she breathed in the land of Nod. Part of him thrilled at how wonderful she felt there and sighed.
He had been so worried when he woken alone that first morning, that in taking her virginity, he had somehow driven her away. I didn't take it, he thought to himself, looking down on her peaceful face. She gave it to me. God, I wish I knew why, maybe that crackpot Donner is right. Maybe she can do better than me.
Cody's mind shied away from the thought of the red headed queen of his night moving on. In his experiences, which had been plenty if he did say so himself, most really pretty girls weren't that interesting in bed. Hell, Tansy just laid there with a get it over with expression. He looked at the curvy young girl that was pressed against him and sighed again. Elaine was downright eager and she'd thrown herself in learning him with the same single minded abandon she approached everything with. Oh she might not have polish or technique, but she had energy and lay there wasn't a phrase in her vocabulary.
The songs are all right, he thought with a smile. Southern girls really are the wildest.
Still, and a frown pulled at his face despite the comfortable numbness he floated in, there were a lot of things that didn't make sense. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that furry asshole that lived inside him was hiding something and he couldn't help think about that conversation they'd had that first morning after.
January 28, 2007
Rm 803, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Cody stared after the departed teacher for nearly three minutes, seething inside with suppressed rage and bruised ego. A series of mental pictures of the physical abuse he fantasized about paying Donner back with flashed through his mind before the old bear within him mentally snorted and disgust. Son, you want to live today, or in your head? If you'd stop and think a minute, you'd realize you should be grateful that she has a friend who's willing to stand up for her like that.
"Who asked you?" growled the teenager. Wyatt shook his head to clear it and sat down on the open floor to get comfortable. Closing his eyes, he cast himself inward to the mental cave where the great bear spirit resided within him. At once the reality of New Hampshire fell away and he stood at the mouth of the cave on Kodiak Island where the spirit made his home. This morning the massive bear was sunning himself on the top of the cave mouth, head lolled over the edge to look at his host upside down. There was nothing cartoonish about the bear here, this was a predator comfortable on his own territory.
The land around the cave was obscured in fog that had always made the prospect of finding this exact spot on the island difficult, if it existed there at all. Wyatt scrambled up the rocky face of the rocks at the side of the cave to stare down on the massive creature that stared indifferently up at him. "I want answers," the young man demanded.
The massive bear cocked his head to one side. Do you, now? Here and I thought you had it all figured out! What could you possibly need me for?
"Did you talk to her?" Wyatt shouted. "What did you say?"
The spirit produced a bunch of grapes that had no business growing at this latitude and delicately speared one with a claw that he popped into his mouth. If I did, what business is it of yours?
"I'd like to know what I have to apologize for before she starts throwing pots and pans," Wyatt replied as he crossed his arms across his chest and glared at his spirit.
How the mighty have fallen. The bear dispensed with subtly and stuffed a quarter of the bunch into his mouth.
"Look here, you..." In a flash the Kodiak was on his hind feet, towering over his host with a roar of challenge.
No, you look. I've indulged you in your adolescent fantasies and I've waited patiently for the boy to become a man. Now I'm done waiting. There is evil coming that the most humble thimble of would chill your blood to hear. He reached out and grabbed the boy by the throat and effortlessly hauled him up to eye level. You will apply yourself to my teachings because you have worth in the armies that will form to fight it. Do not concern yourself with the She-Bear. She will return to you or she won't and you have control over neither outcome so you will put her from your mind and learn. Dropped from the painful hold, Wyatt fell hard on his rear to stare up at his mentor. "Wha...what?"
The Kodiak snorted. Finally, a question. So, let us answer it.