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So I'm a Freak. Sue Me.

(Outcast Corner, Take one)

By Joe Gunnarson

November 3rd,
somewhere in the vicinity of Twain Cottage...

Ahhh, coffee, my first true love, my hope, my sorrow, my one chance of not falling asleep in Professor Zalman's Advanced Physics class again. It giveth me strength, it maketh me hyper. It insulates me from the outraged shriek Razorback lets out when he realizes I exchanged his sketchbook with a cunning replica, complete with pictures of my own devising. Oops. Time to get to class, damn look at the time. Maybe I shouldn't have put the one of him humping a sheep in there. Or maybe I should remember that drawing blind is not the brightest of maneuvers. For all I know I left him with a perfect replica of the goddamned Mona Lisa.

In thirty, make that two seconds I was going to have a half-asleep and irate lizardman crawling up my ass. Time for my cunning escape plan! I noted the sour looks of my fellow Twainites and grin. There he came, right on schedule, two-hundred plus pounds of... Shit I'm monologuing in my brain again, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was Dricking out.

I reached in my pocket and tossed my patent-pending (when hell freezes over) Razorback deterrent on the ground and PRESTO! A cloud of foul-smelling gas gauranteed to sooth even HIS savage beast. Unfortunately all was not well with the world, as the damned thing exploded in my face as I began the toss, dropping me to the ground covered in a sort of quick-dry rubber cement I'd of course HAD to make work in the cold.

CURSES! Foiled again! Or was I?

Razor stopped a few feet from me and just stared. My fellow freak house interns were all pointing and laughing at the poor, helpless devisor caught in his own trick and at the mercy of his best friend. Woe is me. In case you wonder, I care a lot less about what happened to me and more about the results.

In any case, Razor just stood there with this slack-jawwed stunned look on his face, then started that seal/velociraptor hybrid bark of his that we all had come to recognize as laughter. He stood there, all scales, spines and other myriad sharp, pointy bits that was the picture of him and just laughed.

"Ok Razor, fun's fun. Help a guy up, would you?" I thought it sounded perfectly reasonable.

When he finally got himself under control he signed at me, -Ok I'll help you.- Never a good sign, that.

He reached around and unzipped my backpack while I thrashed mightily, or I would have if I wasn't just another mildly pudgy, slightly overweight kid in a school full of exemplars, avatars and all manner of other things that would readily render me into gooey paste if I pushed too far. He relieved me of my pilfered booty, the sketchbook, not my ass. Get your mind out of the gutter, you're blocking my periscope.

Finally, after a great show of paging through the book, making sure nothing was missing, my gallant friend reached down to... Oh the bastard. Magic marker on a helpless opponent is NOT cool! I squirmed, I shimmied, I did everything I could to jack up his aim. In any case, whatever he was drawing on my face could only have been made worse by my thrashing, all while the other twainites were guffawing and having a grand old time at the Jericho's expense. Yes, the Jericho speaks in the third person when he finds it annoying to others.

Razor looked down upon me and gave a satisfied chirp, then darted off, leaving me to my gooey fate. He's not a bad guy, although I'm not quite sure EXACTLY what he looks like. To me he's a large mass of vaguely raptor-shape with lots of spines , claws, and inch-long fangs. He also prominently displayed a warning armband and tracker that served to tell security where their worst ultraviolent was at all times. If ya want more detailed information ask Diamondback, or go look at him yourself. My mutie-vision doesn't come in technicolor. It DOES however come in a full 360 degree arc including above me, which was pointed somewhere in the direction of Dickinson.

Once the crowd had dissipated I palmed the solvent canister and began spraying, reducing the glue to a thin ball of inert foam and not even damaging my heinous wardrobe. How is it heinous do you ask? Simple, my clothing is carefully selected so I do not have one single item that has any possible fashion value when combined with any other item of clothing I own. My eventual goal is to cause mass-suicides in the male modeling industry. That and it draws attention from the fact that my two best friends are some of the most heavily GSD kids at Whateley Academy.

A quick dust-off and I'm off to the Crystal hall to loiter, ogle the women without them knowing it, and generally be a pain in the ass. Oh, food. I almost forgot. If I don't get there before the bricks and energizers, or, god forbid, Razorback and Diamondback I'll wind up starving. It's happened before! Scout's honor! I don't bother wiping away Razor's facial art, after all. I can't look in a mirror anymore, so I don't have to look at it.

A quick shortcut across the Field of Pain, AKA the woods between Twain and the main area of campus, and I see the great Geodesic grey-golf-ball-thing they call Crystal Hall. Ok so there's no color in my world. I'm blind. My eyes don't work right since the pupils and Irises just faded away, leaving me with a pair of white ping-pong-balls in my sockets. I got this esper thing going on, or psychic trick, I think. It lets me percieve everything around me all at once, out to about where normal peoples' sight fails, and in great detail.

It's great if you don't mind losing out on the simple things in life such as reading without braille, being able to look at a computer screen, read nudie mags, the usual teenage guy stuff. And people wonder why I'm fucked in the head. YOU try looking at a girl, seeing her features in what your mind translateds to slate grey shades based on texture. That will fuck with your noggin trying to figure out I gaurantee.

Inventory check... Cane with Force-Prod, check. Datajack still implanted, brains not exposed, check. Med scanner and emergency medical kit of my own devising, check. Various and sundry small items deliberately designed for maximum prank value and/or backfire potential, check.

Backfire potential you ask? Well friends pull up a chair and allow me my soapbox. Fine the milk crate will work but it just feels wrong. I am a devisor, an explorer of possibilities, a pioneer of science, a maker of widgets that go boom. In other words, I'm just another crackpot mad scientist type in a school with an overabundance of mad crackpot scientist types. Devises built by us are notoriously unreliable and tend to malfunction catastrophically, and often amusingly. It's tradition by God!

Unfortunately I am cursed. My wonky toys always seem to want to work, so in order to fit in, I must devise newer and better ways for my inventions to malfunction amusingly, like the glop grenade I hit myself with. You think that was an accident? Hell no! Razor and the other Twain kids are in desperate need of a good laugh after Halloween Night, three nights ago. I mean, Jesus Christ, damned near everyone's illusions of safety were shattered like a crystal vase under a boot.

Enough depressing bullshit. I was engaging in my favorite activity outside the crystal hall, panhandling, when I sees the Alphas of all people walking into the hall looking ragged. They look like they've been through hell. Of course with Jericho-vision, everyone looks like they're going through hell in the morning. Ya know, I would LOVE to see a few of them trapped in an invulnerable cage with Razor while someone plays Barbara Streisand music. The carnage would live forever in legend.

Nah, I couldn't do that to Razor, he's too cool. After all, even I won't inflict Streisand on anyone. Never mind sticking him in an enclosed space with the Alphas.

So's I'm sitting there on this bench, sunglasses, white-colored (theoretically) blind bitch cane, coffee mug held out to passers-by when I noticed a bit of a commotion over by the ... oh it was just the other freshmen ogling the Kimba girls. Talk about a real overrated crock of shit. The Kimbas got the Alphas into detention, I will give kudos where kudos are earned, after all. However, unlike the Alphas (unfortunately) the Kimbas are just the flavor of the week. pretty soon someone will top them for haywire shit and they'll fade back to obscurity. I read the history of Whateley, and pay attention to the upperclassmen. Groups like Team Kimba come in cycles. They arrive, they get lucky, they pull off something slick, then they relax, only to realize three years later that they're still living the old glory that got them noticed for fifteen minutes.

Maybe I'm wrong. Who knows? I doubt it, although I would rather see a pack of hyperactive girls at the top of the Whateley pecking order than the Alphas any day. Or the Betas, have I mentioned that Stormwolf is a sanctimonious twit most days?

Anyway, so as I was sitting there outside panhandling, realizing no one's dropping the traditional coinage in my mug, and realizing that Security's coming to see me about my beggar behavior... I decided to go have Breakfast with my gooood friends. Hey. They're freaky, but they're mine. Touch them and I'll eat you.

Sandra and Jack are both at the table when I arrive, signing to each other between scarfing food down. Believe you me when I say scarf, I mean I'm understating the problem. Sandra has to eat about four trays of food rapidly each meal in order to sustain both her body mass, and her Exemplar powers. You would too if you were roughly nineteen feet long and looked like a humanoid Anaconda. Razorback is, if anything, worse. He usually carries two trays with meat stacked about a foot high off each, and the bastard goes back for thirds. You'd think he's an exemplar, but no, his metabolism is so high that you could probably bottle his blood and launch the Space Shuttle with it.

So I sit down with my (slightly under-portioned) tray of food and let them carry on their conversation without really paying attention. Sandra never signs at people unless she wants some conversational privacy, so I don't try to decipher the hand-waving. It's a courtesy thing. Me and Sandra have been signing for a long time. My little brother Zach (he's actually thirteen) was born deaf. The irony of my handicap has not escaped either of us, or our parents. Razor signs out of necessity. Far from being deaf, he's mute. All he can do is make these weird animal noises. However, he's hypersensitive to sound and vibration, to the tune of fingernails on a blackboard he describes as someone jabbing knives in his eyes while inserting needles made of salt just under the scales of his skin.

So back to my food. I'm more than a little disgusted, but I choose to eat like this. On the upside I've lost well over a hundred pounds. Yes folks I was the fucking fat kid back home. Laugh it up. At this point I only looked like I was mildly overweight. Comes from a layer of fat over the muscles Razor has been helping me train on the weights and the track. I hate running. I so fucking hate running. If I was meant to run, God should have given me Razor's build, digitigraded legs and all.

That was odd. Pristine's by herself, rather than hanging out with her usual jock buddies two tables away. In layman's terms, that's a short hop over to hanging out with the freaks (read: me and Diamond and Razor) in the corner. By most standards a fate worse than death. Hence we are Outcast Corner. Too freakish to be friends with the norms, not fucking interested in the self-pity teams the other terminally GSD kids seem to form. Also not interested in the weirds who find the odd body types of my good buddies intriguing. I'm NOT fond of shitheads with a snake-girl fetish trying to glom on to me childhood friend don'tcha know.

Now, fortunately I can watch Pristine without looking. No way I'll get caught staring. She was sitting there, all bowed over like someone hit her with a truck, and eating slowly, staring in the direction of the security building. Word on the street was that she got caught in the Security control room when the shit hit the fan and sprayed all over the crowd Halloween night. We know for a fact that some of the regular security monkeys are getting closed-casket funerals, so I'm guessing that she probably saw some really bad shit. I don't need to be Empathic like Sandra to tell that she's feeling down in the dumps.

"Back in a sec, guys." I said as I stood up. The two dinguses are so intent on their conversation I doubt they noticed. Sometimes they get like that. Normally I'd screw with them, but I wasn't in the mood. I hate seeing people all shitty and feeling bad.

Pristine barely notices when I plop into the chair across from her. Normally I'd be obnoxious and do something like ask her out on a date in the most flamboyant manner possible. Now is not the time, however.

"Penny for your thoughts, Pris?"

She looked over at me. "Who are you?"

Hardly surprising. I'm just a freshie, and one of the flaky devisor crowd. Even the most batty of us barely warrant a second glance to most folks.

"Just another face in the crowd. I stopped by to see if you're ok. Nothing more." Oh god I hate being all honest and serious. It goes against my grain, but sometimes it needs done.

She looked into my eyes, of course, but if the eyes are the windows to the soul, mine are a cheap plaster wall.

"I'll be ok. Just need time to think." She looked over at the Security building again. The damage was still visible, or it would be if I was standing outside. Glass windows might as well be steel walls to me. Apparently some smartass had seen fit to fire a rocket launcher into the Lobby before rampaging through the place like a lunatic pinball. And apparently the Pinball was Whateley staff, although the reports of which staff were a bit confused. My money's on one of the gadgeteer or devisor types. Most of the others would have just used magic or some weird manifestor powers to blaze away like a soldier on a machinegun without an ammo limit.

"Well if you ever need someone to talk to, tell Razorback you want to talk to Jericho. If you do I promise no tricks, no cheap come-ons, no trying to screw with you. I'll listen when you're ready to get things off your chest."

"Razorback? You're friends with Razorback?" She looked at me as if I was insane. "He's dangerous."

I nodded. "That he is, but if you ever look past the rager, he's just another kid trying to get a handle on himself. He won't bite unless you bite first."

Pristine seemed to chew on that for a bit. "Maybe. I dunno. I'll let you know if I need to talk. Probably won't, but thanks."

"Hey, no problem." I grinned widely with my best shit-eating expression. "Now in order to avoid the rep of having a geeky devisor kid as a boyfriend, I suggest you get a disgusted look and act very indignant. Death threats strictly optional."

I'll give the girl credit, she caught on quick, and after she sort of chuckled she fixed me with one of those trademarked pissed-off-woman stares and actually growled loudly. "Ok that's disgusting! Get the hell away from me before I knock your ass across the cafeteria!" BRAVO! She even made it sound genuine!

I stood with hands up in a surrendering gesture and was aware of all the other pretty bastards and bitches snickering at the poor devisor kid's misfortune. Yep, that's me Jericho, the almighty punching bag of Whateley. I turned to my adoring throng of mockery and jeering, took a bow, and began to dance gracelessly to my friends, who were both fixing Pristine with their patented homicidal stares. Let me tell you it took me MONTHS to perfect my dance. Drives Sandra nuts to see me do it, too. With a victory wave to the crowd I sat by me partners in madness.

Ok, a bit of background story on Sandra and Razor here. Sandra, my naga-esque best friend of thirteen years, during a time when both of us were in diapers (I was potty trained first, HAH!) had been born one Ryan Carter, my cohort of the boys' locker room. Ryan had gone through the mutant change hard and fast. Her family was a pack of hardcore Humans Firsters, so he ran like Lucifer himself was on his tail to my family. We sheltered Ryan during that traumatic month of rapid shifting to the form of Sandra Carter, AKA Diamondback, the girl with scales and a snake tail instead of legs, Wiccan mage extraordinaire! Maybe not. Ryan had been wiccan secretly for years, but Sandra's talents for magic were about as laughable as my max bench press weight. Oh believe me, she got better at it.

Razorback was the flip side of the coin. He'd about scared the shit out of us when the big bloody leezard popped in on us talking in sign language about Sandra's change and how much it worried her about people finding out. The Irony. Needless to say, Razor understood and followed the whole conversation with rapt fascination. By the time we realized he was there, and for how long he'd just signed -Hi.- as if it were the most perfectly normal conversation in the world. Needless to say, Sandra was mortified, and I was ready to fight to protect her when he simply nodded and indicated he wouldn't tell anyone and he was sorry he was "eavesdropping"

Turns out the great scaly bastard was pretty much in the same boat. Jack Carlyle had been born one Erin Carlyle and had started shifting at the zoo. She got run off into the Outback and went feral on the military training areas. About a year, and a platoon of Aussie and American Jarhead casualties later, the newly minted "Jack" got picked up by a group called Overwatch Defense. He spent three years being re-introduced to the world of man, and finally landed at Whateley Academy, where he immediately topped the Ultraviolent list and became the record-holder for the most consecutive detentions...Ever. Fortunately he's gotten a lot better with the whole self-control schtick.

"What was that all about?" Sandra always had to have answers. Always the brain chugging along trying to figure things out. The fact that her mutation left her with an IQ of 240 or so probably has something to do with it.

"Thought I'd go ask Pristine out on a date."

"And she reacted like that?"

I shrugged. "Hey, I think I caught her at a bad time, she looks pretty bent about something."

-Yeah, she discovered what a shallow bint she is.- There was no real love lost between Razor and the rest of the Sophomore class.

I didn't say anything. I dunno why, but I get the impression that Pris is good people, even if she comes across rather similarly to Tansy Walcutt. Hell, she talked to me for several seconds. Anyway I usually am right when I make these calls. It worked for Razor.

"So you two done with the silent convo? I figured you wanted privacy." Honesty is sometimes the best policy, especially when Diamond is fully aware of how I act when I'm full of shit, and her empathic talents make it worse. "So I went over to Pris and gave her the same spiel I gave to Connie Freeham back home in Kilgore. I even suggested the rep-saver at the end. She was actually rather civil the whole time."

Jack looked perplexed, and Sandra smirked. "Joeseph, when the hell are you gonna stop being the punching bag of life?"

"About the time it gets boring. Until then, I'm going to play the part of the gleeful little masochist to the hilt."

-I'm missing something here.- Razor signed.

Sandra looked over at our feralistic companion and sighed. "It's an offshoot of the Drain Bamage that Jericho has. Not only is he obsessed with being a medical technician, he thinks he's Counsellor Troi."

-That's impossible. She's hot. He's a dredlocked nerdboy.-

"I tend to agree." I'm more than happy to crack wise about myself, I'm secure in my manhood. Now before you get the wrong idea about me and Diamond and Razor's relationship, what with them needling me in ways that would start fights with other kids, this is how we do business. We needle each other because we know the others aren't going to take it personal. We just do it all our own way. I set myself up as the dartboard and keep score for the other two.

-So what's your plans today Joe?- Razor was always itching to get rolling on the guitars after classes. sometimes I could, sometimes I was helping drop-kick someone out of a funk, deserved or not, and sometimes I had to play catch-up in Devisor shop after classes. That Rafe armor ain't gonna build itself.

"Depends. You feeling all right now?" Razor had been hit worse than anyone who wasn't dead on Halloween. Like I said, he's hypersensitive to sonic energy and vibration. The asshats who attacked on Halloween used some kinda rig to turn the entire stadium into a giant subwoofer/wobble board thing.

Razor had been in the can when it happened. I can only thank god and whoever else was watching that no one else was in there with him. The attackers didn't get that memo, and when me and Sandra fished his unconscious body from there the whole place was obliterated. The toilets and stalls had been torn apart, shattered, the mirrors all busted, the sinks ripped off the walls, and about eight dead guys in that funky leather armor. Let's just say the sight was a mite... disturbing, although I really couldn't find it in me to have any pity. After all they attacked US with intent.

-I feel fine. No more pain in my nerves, and my bones have finished mending this morning.- Razor was thoroughly fucked up when we got to him. He was in the infirmary for thirty hours afterward, while his regenerative abilities tried to kick back in, heal the damage and close the three gunshot wounds he'd picked up in the process.

"In that case, I'm up for the old game of 'make loud music till Cantrell pitches a fit." Me and Razor had a spot under Hawthorne that was well-insulated and structurally sound. We liked to try to crank up the heavy tunes till they could hear it in the Hawthorne common room. We'd usually have an audience long before that.

"While you two are playing with your toys I'll be in my dance class." Sandra had always been a dancer, even before the shift. Her folks had signed their bouncing baby boy up for Ballet at an early age, as a way to build his body without the punishment of a martial arts class.

-You still doing the belly dancing?-

Sandra nodded. "I'm glad too. It's one of those dances that seems like it was designed for me."

Razor and I nodded, then we all began cleaning up. Sandra had Aikido, Razor had survival class, and I got to go to Freshman English Yay, another class repeat for me. Whateley always wanted to keep their hooks in a student for the full four years no matter how old or well-educated they were, so I'm a fifteen-year-old freshman when I SHOULD be a sophomore. They claimed it was so they could get you fully ready to face the world after you graduated. I still think that it's a clever ruse to allow them to chiesel four full years of tuition out of your checkbook.

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Meanwhile, somewhere out of Jericho, or anyone elses' awareness...

Hekate looked at the cloaked figure she called "master" quietly. He was standing in the circle of lifelessness a mile away from the school boundary. No one ever came here, and scrying would always fail in the circle. She hated it here, as the place left her feeling like worms were crawling under her skin, or like she was slowly melting, or sometimes even with a simple feeling of dread. She wasn't sure which sensation was worse.

"Is everything moving forward, Hekate?"

"Yes master," She nodded, "the Alphas have done as you asked, and the arrangements that need done are done. It's just a matter of waiting to see what happens."

"Excellent. You make me glad I am teaching you..." He left the rest unspoken, but Hekate was well aware of what would happen to her if she was ever less than useful.

"Something for which I'm glad." Lying through her teeth was easy. She had tried to escape this one's influence before but had failed each time, not because she objected to his methods, but because she didn't like being his errand-girl.

"Very well, and the augury I instructed you to perform?"

Hekate nodded. "It is done, but you may not like the results."

"I'll decide that, tell me now."

Biting back the burning retort to his mightier-than-thou tone she took a deep breath and began. "The path is still in flux. The forces arrayed behind and against us are still balanced perfectly. As it stands now without much more trial the outcome would be uncertain."

He nodded. Gods she wanted to see his face, just once, so she would know who it was she was dealing with.

"It is more or less as predicted then. I just wished to see if any variables had come into play I was previously unaware of."

She gritted her teeth. This was the bad part. "There IS a variable. Everything is in balance, but a new factor has come into the mix, a total wild card, brought on by the violence of Samhain. Before it was just shadows in the dark like the rest. There is no way to tell wether it will help, hinder or do nothing, but when it does it will take the extremes of such with no halfway measures."

"Interesting." He sounded too calm. This wasn't going to be fun. "Continue."

"No names, no faces, just a troupe of shadows with four images. The Bard with a heart of fury, An angel of mercy cloaked in the pain of others, a Shaman with two hearts and one mind, and a murderer with the soul of a Paladin. The other shadows were indistinct and unformed, as if they are waiting to awaken, and they may or may not. But these four can fall in any direction, and when they do they will fall with abandon."

The hiss of displeasure was audible. "And our main adversaries?"

"Still as they were in the beginning."

"Very well. Start hunting for these wild cards of yours. I want them brought to heel quickly and quietly, before they reach their full potential."

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As much as I Really, really would love to torture you all, there are some things you don't do, like try to explain just how goddamned boring Miss Seever's English class is, or try to replicate Doc Zalman's raggedy-ass voice. In the spirit of the holiday season I will spare you the trials and tribulations of English and Physics, which brings me to my favorite class of the day... Devisor Lab. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

It began with a huddled prayer around the ancient, steaming, spurting crockpot of inedible sludge that carried enough caffeine to slaughter the souls of a thousand screaming innocents. Yes friends, this coffee was made RIGHT! With that special blend of bean juice with enough acid to strip the chrome off a porsche and pit concrete on contact this was the poison of choice as I huddled around the coffee pot with my classmates, who ran the entire gamut of grades from freshman to senior. Devisor lab is far more loose and eclectic than any other class at Whateley. I love it so.

Now my description of the coffee pot is understated. Imagine a twenty-gallon stainless-steel vat of water, heated by a kind of micro-fusion reactor and made to work as a giant engine of percolation. Add to this the whole deal literally rips every useful bit of anti-nutrient and caffeine in the grounds and you have yourself some potent shit. Our coffee is considered a deadly weapon in three states, and a weapon of mass destruction by some small countries. Rumor has it the Pope himself banned our coffee from use by catholics. Good thing I'm theoretically Baptist.

As the ceremonial first cups of the class are poured we all looked upon one another and said the morning prayer.

"It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
For it is by the Beans of Java that the thoughts acquire speed,
The hands acquire shakes,
The shakes become a warning.
It is by Caffeine alone I set my mind in motion."

 

We all took sips of the black stuff, looking over at the heretical tea-drinkers (Like Stalwart) and Jolt-jerks (like Tinkertrain) with thinly disguised contempt. Theirs are inferior beverages and have been judged and found wanting. Hell, even Bugs and Mega-Death were over here at the pot and praying with the REAL devisors. Just goes to show you who's really in this for the long-haul. We immediately blast the traditional playing of Weird Science by Oingo Boingo and start our day.

They call my coffee unhealthy.
I merely point out they are weak.
They call my coffee vile.
I return that they have no concept of perfection.

 

I could go on for hours about coffee. It's truly a great thing. However, if you want to hear a coffee rant, go on the internet and look up 'coffee rant' by Mr. Badger. That guy's crazier than me and Mega-Death combined. He makes me happy.

Speaking of Mega-Death, I needed to talk to him. I just hoped he wasn't dricking too bad today. Dudeman gets really twigged-out freaky whenever he forgets to take his meds.

"Hey Mega! Can I talk to you for a bit?" Never ever EVER sneak up on that kid I warn you right now. Always get his attention first.

Mega-Death turns and has a look at me, tapping along like a regular blind guy with my cane. That reminds me. I need wrap-around sunglasses to perfect the Stevie Wonder with Dreds look.

"What do you want Jericho?" He was looking at me like I was going to steal his longer-lasting lightbulb invention or something.

"Remember if I asked if i could borrow your waveform-variance generator?" I kept the tone light and easy. I do NOT want him going all mad, cackling supervillain spewing bad monologue. Mr. Bumsfeld and Ms. Merenis chewed my ass RAW the last time, and it was an accident! I'd meant to make Zappaphage drick out. I missed. Don't ask me where the name Zappaphage came from, not only do I NOT want to know, I never want to be informed even by accident what kind of twisted mind it takes to invent such a hokey word.

He started glowering darkly at me. Oh shit, drick-out in progress. I had to act fast. Diedricks is only funny on TV, or if you're a complete asshole. It's a brain malfunction brought on by some mutations that makes you start spitting out every thought in your head, and actually causes you to think what you spew by taking a chemical shortcut through your subconscious. Stupid thing is, Devisors and Gadgeteers (of which I am both, lucky me) have about three times the chances of picking it up over any other mutation type. Sucks to be us.

"Hey, like I said MD, I don't wanna rip off your design, I just need it to fix my goddamned EMS field generator." I started talking fast. "I won't break it, I won't steal it, hell if you want to come over and help out. I figure you'd be a crapton better than I am at getting it to work." Also true, as devisor gear tends to be somewhat unreliable in the hands of others.

MD's near-drick experience seemed to fade a bit as he was mollified that i wasn't trying to take one of his precious tools (which he built himself) away from him. Hell, I don't have so many tools but I protect them like a pissed-off tigress guarding her cubs.

"All right, show me what you got."

"Bring the extra-large coffee thermos. This may take a while."

After we got the extra-large coffees we wandered over to my crap locker and I rolled out the gurney with a heavy looking suit of power armor. It's still very much a work in progress. I'm skimping on the weapons one would expect and loading it with medical sensors, tools and various other sundries. I'm basically designing a fast, strong, and hopefully nigh invulnerable search-and rescue rig, as well as emergency response units for the paramedics to be able to enter a heavy mutant fight, get the bystanders and wounded to safety, treat them, and survive the experience. I call it Rafe class EMS armor, after the Archangel of Mercy, Raphael.

Call it a quirk. I don't want to go down in history as the man who built and marketed the better manslaying equipment. I leave that to the other maniacs here.

The suit is only half-finished, being the ablative armor is complete and assembled, along with the heavy servoes required to move the thing. Basically if you wear it you can run at a top speed of thirty miles an hour, and match an exemplar three for physical strength. Fireproofing, heat-shielding and tempest-hardening for those occasional downed power lines or lightning strikes and you have a perfect combat rig... If you were going for that shit. I'm opting for the lifesaver gear.

The suit is a reflective white color with a small light bar across the chest and back and a siren to announce what the hell you're there for. As if the HUGE red cross on the chest, back and shoulders couldn't tell you. (how do I know what color it is? I painted it with a digital camera plugged in my brainjack) It looked vaguely like images of fantasy plate armor and could stop anything short of a .50 cal sniper rifle. The armor won't break under the .50 but the shock will still kill you quickly. I still have to build the heavy sensors, communications and tracking systems, onboard computer, med tool unit, forearm drug and blood transfusion dispensers, and of course the wings, which combine a jump pack and energy field emitter. It won't fly, but it'll do five hundred yard jumps which when combined with the run speed and servoes, gives the whole thing an operational speed of about 60 MPH.

"Ok MD, what I got here is the field generator. I'm running a dual-field kit here, one is a force-field that's akin to what you get on a five or six-ton TK brick, and the other which is on a separate switch converts the whole thing to have the equivalent strength of a five-ton TK brick." I went over the basics. "The whole thing is on a duplex wave-converter and a micro-fusion power plant. Basically I find that if you overlap two power fields they tend to intermingle, the whole thing feeds back and presto. Scrap metal. But if you duplex the wave-forms...

Ok it took me about ten minutes to explain what I was doing. MD didn't seem to buy a bit of it, but when I got to the heart of the problem, finally he brightened up.

"So the main problem here is the energy fields are unstable, going from about a half-ton to twelve tons, which really rips up the power plant something fierce. Optimal setting is about five for each. I was wondering if we could use your rig to calibrate and stabilize the field here."

MD nodded thoughtfully. "Not a bad idea. If we can do this, maybe you can help me with a similar project. I need to fix my personal force-field so it's harder to tamper with."

"Deal."

So we hooked up the Wave-form generator and I started tweaking while Mega gave commentary about amplitude and Isorelay chargers, which I took to be this doodad over there and that thingamabob over here. My wires and circuits are not color-coded, much to my classmates' chagrin when they try to decipher my gear. I base wire-placement entirely on texture, which I can discern, and I do most of my work by feel anyway. My hands are my greatest tools. I can tell if something's not right by poking at it usually. It also helps that I program my gear by running a wire between the equipment and my neural jack.

"Alright Jericho, you have an even, stable five-ton field on each wave. Every time you tried to alter the modulation of one it threw the other out of whack."

"Damn, I thought I solved that problem. All right, back to the drawing board." Secretly I was freaking ecstatic! I got the damned thing to work! If I could do that then I can get the Gadgeteer version somewhere between 2.5 and 3 tons on both the shield and the strength! And the gadgeteer version would be usable by baselines, and it could be replicated as such. Maybe then the paramedics wouldn't be such easy marks for asshole villains and other mutants who couldn't, or wouldn't learn to NOT hit bystanders, or target emergency services.

"So why you limiting the strength?" Mega actually looked curious.

"Not interested in building weapons. This is a Search-and-Rescue rig. If you need to lift a chunk of something that weighs more than about three tons then you're just searching for bodies. Exceptions to this are building collapses, but only if nothing bigger than three tons individually has fallen on top of where the victim is holed up or trapped under. You don't need to be able to lift an entire city bus to get someone trapped under it, but if you can lift one end and hold it you're already there. I'm only doing five-ton here because this is MY suit."

"Going for marketability then?" MD nodded approvingly.

"Yup. If I play my cards right I will become a wealthy son of a bitch." Inwardly I smiled. The first three units were promised to Whateley for use by security gratis for medical emergency purposes. After all, Whateley was funding my work in exchange, and greasing the wheels of funding is never a bad thing. Otherwise I'd wind up having to try to pay for all of the stuff myself.

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Lunch. My favorite part of the day after music class and Devisor Lab. It was my prelude to Music class, Biochemistry and Aikido. Actually, after English and Lab are done my day couldn't get better. My math requirement was waived due to the fact that I can pretty much learn and do whatever mathematical theory you throw at me. Partly because I'm smarter than I used to be, and partly because I have a math-learning program I use via brainjack.

As usual I'm the first of the Outcasts to arrive. The security monkeys are onto me. They're staking out my favorite spot to panhandle. Sorry boys, you think you're slick but I see you following me.

My underloaded food tray precedes me to the traditional Outcast Table. God I hate being on a self-imposed diet. Unfortunately if I go for the fat and happy route I become an even bigger target to the other students. I'm JUST big enough to look actually strong, but not so big as to attract fatty jokes. Besides, I have to be able to keep up with Diamond and Razor in the training sims. Like that is ever gonna happen until I get the Rafe armor up and running. Diamond and Razor take the words 'physically fit,' roll them into a ball and shoot hoops with them. I'm in a team with two exemplars, Jack being faster than greased lightning on a hot day, and Sandra being a borderline brick.

Speaking of which, we were gonna have a run through the wringer that day in the sims against the grunts. Oh yippie-skippy-fucking-hooray. Supposed to be an even match, playing hero/villain, and since my team looks like a pack of monsters, minus yours truly, we get to be the villains. Add to this we're outnumbered two-to-one against the reigning simulator champs and it's gonna be a rough ride. We've gone against them no less than three times already, almost as if someone thinks we're gonna win. We gave up on the winning thing. Now we opt for making the lot of them go absolutely bonkers trying to pin us down. Sandra and Razor do the whole movie monster schtick while I play Lord Booby Trap. We managed to drag the last bout well past the intended half-hour of scheduled time. We're even worse against teams that aren't as organized and motivated as the Grunts, even won a few bouts.

Ahhh, speaking of the Grunts, there's Slapdash and Deadeye. Of the grunts those two are the absolute worst to deal with. For me. Deadeye's an instinctive sharpshooter. Those freaky octopus eyes of his (that's how Sandra describes them) can and will guide a rifle to pinhole your ass if you leave cover for even a split-second. Slapdash is their team Devisor and my personal nemesis in the sims. At least these guys don't go around like they own you. They leave that to the Alphas, but they are INTENSE as a group.

As I look around I see the three clusters of GSD kids from Twain, Whitman and Hawthorne, and not segregated by cottage.

The first cluster is called the Freakshow by the other students. These guys are mostly harmless. Their GSD tends to revolve around environmental specialization. Most of them also look like creatures of myth. There's Syline, the brunette girl (who I must add is hot) in a wheelchair because her legs are fused into a mermaid tail with purple scales. Harpy, is their team flyer, a girl who's arms have completely converted to eagle wings, and her feet into hawklike talons. Jacko, the kid who looks like an anthropomorphic wolf from the waist up, and has a centauroid body shaped and furred like an arctic wolf. And there's finally Grabby, a sour looking girl with red hair who had the misfortune of becomeing a copperhead-snake scaled Octupus hybrid-thing with eight tentacles for legs and also one replacing each of her arms. Fortunately for her she can move fine out of water.

Sandra tried talking with them a few times, but she always came back depressed as hell. Those kids were apparently all about the woe is me, it's not fair, why didn't I get to be like THAT (insert hot exemplar here). I mean, individually we've found that the lot of them are good kids, it's just that you get them together and it's like a pity me contest has erupted. Oddly the sourest-looking among them, Grabby, is usually the one who bitches the least. You'd think Sylene would be fine, at least she's still mostly human-looking and attractive to boot.

Ugh, speaking of pity parties, Thuban... Jesus that boy needs help. He's tried to pitch this Faction Three idea to me, Diamond and Razor a few times, as a place for the GSD and those of us without the uberhot exemplar genes kids to get together, hang out and generally take a break from getting shit on. I'll check it out, but it sounds like another party of mute acceptance of a bad genetic card with no hope for parole. We won't accept that. We will not hide in the goddamned shadows from the people who think they're better than us.

I may not be the hottest thing since sliced bread but I do NOT get shit on. I shit back. So does Razor. Diamond usually needs some serious provoking but once she's provoked, dear god in heaven and all of creation I've seen what she does to people, violently or otherwise. Since she became a girl she has learned the fine art of gossip and rumormongering. She doesn't ever use it as a matter of course, the whole he said, she said thing bugs the crap out of her. However, she is NOT above dropping vicious rumors or false evidence into the hands of the WORST rumor and gossip girls in the school. If she's really feeling sadistic she makes sure that the Dickinson girls hear it first. For her, it's a weapon, a scalpel with which to cause much pain without the aid of physical violence.

Not that she's a slouch at violence. I saw her throw a Humans Firster inside the trailer of a semi truck. Oh no biggie you say. I can do that too. She threw him THROUGH the side of the trailer's metal panelling and structure to get him there. Like I said. Borderline brick.

Speak of the devil and who shall arrive... "Enchante Mon Cherie." I said as she slithered up to me with her food.

 

The look of "Do I kiss him or kill him" is priceless. Hey I have no idea what that expression is. She could be licking her fangs and getting ready to hock a neurotoxic loogie in my eye for all I know. All I know is she's making a face.

"Jericho, do you ever get tired of playing class clown?" She almost sounds exasperated.

"Hell no! Why just this morning Razor helped me with my make-up." I pointed to my Magically Marked face.

"Ahh, I knew it, we let you dress in drag once and you start going for makeup. So when will we be seeing you in the girl's school uniform?"

Yes, I went to the Halloween ball in drag. I also threatened to hit people with my purse. A lot. It was gloriously bad drag too. Nothing matched. I also didn't try to hide my voice. I don't think i've had that much fun freaking people out in YEARS.

"Well, I dunno, I think Razor would be uncomfortable with me in my Marilyn Monroe skirt standing over a vent singing Happy Birthday Mister President."

Sandra began chuckling to herself. "That would disturb the hell out of all of us."

"The better to terrorize you all my dear."

"Oh yeah, Razor will be late. He was helping Jimmy T with a "thorny problem" as he put it." Sandra looked a bit annoyed.

I shrugged. "Hey, if someone's gonna screw with the thornies, and they called Razor in it means they're running the idiot ragged and having a blast playing movie monster chasing the moron."

"Think they'll get in trouble?"

"Not as long as no one actually gets hurt." I was less sure about that, but the thought of Razor shrieking like a mad demon and chasing some bully down and making him piss his pants appealed on so many levels.

JT and Razor could pull stuff like that off because they had a rep. Razor for being mindlessly, murderously violent and damned close to unstoppable without extreme measures, and Jimmy T because everyone thinks he's cannibalistic. Even the Alphas usually steer well clear of the two of them, at least visibly. They might have been the cause of one or two of Razor's supposed spectacular blowouts last year, but I wasn't here so I dunno.

Sandra was about to say something when she looked out the window. I can't see through windows, they are a perfect barrier to my vision, as if they were walls.

"Shit, Bannockburn and Hela are at it again." She sighed.

"What's going on?" I asked as she was looking annoyed.

Bannockburn was one of the Emerson kids, obsessive about the Scottish highlander image, and the only other Whateley student besides me who would wear a kilt. Actually it was impossible to convince him to wear anything BUT a kilt. Not so bad until you consider he's notorious for going commando and when he doesn't wipe properly he's a miserable one to be around.

"Phobos and Deimos are trying to separate them."

"Shit, those two? Those two trying to stop a fight is like putting out a fire with napalm." Phobos and Deimos were a pair of twins who tried to play peacemaker even though their names meant Fear and Panic. The two girls were Whitmaniacs, each with three eyes, four arms and cloven hooves and a pair of long, lizardlike tails each. They got their names from their ability to cause panic and havoc through probability manipulation. Both of them being exemplar 4's like Sandra contributed to this image. The worst was when they merged, forming this siamese twin-thing with two heads, eight arms, three legs and four lashing, prehensile tails. Things came apart in complete pandemonium once they got going. Unfortunately violence nearby was one of the triggers to cause them both to go rager, rather like Razorback, so they desperately tried to calm folks down, or they flee the area.

"Bannockburn just clocked Deimos!" Sandra panicked. She LIKED the two twins.

"FUCK! Sandra focus now, we gotta move, standard deal, get the injured clear and then work on the maniacs!" We'd have to concentrate totally in order to filter out the mayhem that was about to break loose.

I heard, and felt Phobos' scream of absolute fury as I grabbed my medical bag and ran for the door. Rather like the apocryphal stories of Razorback from last year, when Phobos and Deimos get started there is going to be injuries. There is no middle ground.

By the time me and Sandra got out there were already four people down in the area, with both Phobos and Deimos tearing at anything in reach. Bannockburn was trying to hit Deimos with his battleaxe and Hela was spraying magic like a water fountain. She hit one of the other students, and the boy dropped. This is the problem with mutant combat, the worst injuries invariably go to the bystanders, especially when ragers are involved.

Sandra was rushing to the boy who got hit, and I charged, screaming "RAGERS LOOSE! EVERYONE GET CLEAR!" It wouldn't help the folks inside the tag-team terror aura the twins were generating, but it would get anyone else outside the fifty yard radius the warning to stay clear.

There was no time for thought as I dove through the melee and hauled another boy out of the mix before he could get trampled or killed accidentally. I ran his unconscious form away even as Sandra deposited two more beside me in the clear. Both of us turned and bolted straight for the last two, and I almost got my ass fried by one of Hela's lightning bolts for my trouble. Just because you take the name of the Norse god of the dishonored dead does NOT give you license to act like you can just let loose havoc!

The last two bodies clear, we began checking them. One had a nasty lump, another had Hela's bolt-burns and the other three had gash marks from when Bannock swung too wide or Phobos or Deimos lashed them with their tails, or used the energy points they formed at their fingertips to slash them.

"Razor! We got a rager outbreak! Phobos, Deimos, Bannockburn and Hela! We need cover!" I barked into a ring on my finger, and heard an affirmative shriek in return. Good, Razor put on the microbead this morning. We lucked out. Usually he forgets it. Ok he almost ALWAYS forgets it.

Sandra begins focusing on what little magic she can control and I run triage to make sure we don't have too serious injuries in the mix. Between the two of us we can keep people from dying, while Razor covers our asses and plays distraction. Speaking of our rogue Lizard the panicked shouts and shrieking roar announce his presence ans he decelerats from about a hundred miles an hour to zero in a twenty foot long skid with his claws on all four limbs digging into the turf. He takes one look and begins running in circles around the combatants, and shoving people back. We had about another minute before Security was supposed to show up. Now comes the hard part. Keeping the four combat gumbies from killing each other. For this trick I give thee, Diamond and Razor.

"All right! Razor separate Hela and Phobos! Diamond pin down Deimos. I got Bannock! Let's get these fools where they can be rounded up!" The injured were safe, they'd survive the trip to the infirmary. The bystanders were clear, it was time to break this hoo-hah up. Oh shit.

Just at the WORST possible time, as we're moving forward Phobos and Deimos jumped together. When they came to Fury was loose. The Siamese Nightmare immediately started the process of deconstructing the ground around her, violently.

"Change up! Razor take Fury! Diamond on Hela! Go!"

We bounded to our separate targets and I pulled out three of my "last resort" tricks I knew would work. Bannock's backswing almost took my head off before I poked him with my force prod at the end of my cane, causing a shockwave ripple that blew him on his ass, unharmed. I tossed two of my glop grenades and he wound up covered in glue.

Sandra got Hela under control right quick, having wrapped her tail around the girl, I imagine she told Hela she'd crush her if she twitched. Sandra's been rated at exemplar four. A constrictor snake like she is can lay down enough force to kill damned near anything it can wrap around, and Hela was no exemplar.

Razorback body-checked Fury to the ground, hard and darted away before the dual shrieks and retaliation came. The aura of random havoc twisted one of the benches nearby and I could clearly sense all of the students nearby watching with morbid fascination. The two ragers went back and forth, with Razor carefully avoiding being hit, and me listening for the one sound from Razor, a long, ululating hunting howl that always immediately preceded one of his berserker fits. I held a small Devise in my hand just in case.

Security was coming, and Razor was managing to control Fury without hurting her until one of her blaze-tipped hands raked him open across his flank. I could see the slashes go deep, tearing through skin, bone and internal organs like a hot knife through butter, leaving a gash two feet long down his side. Razor darted away and let out that cry that everyone told me was a sure sign of havoc when I threw the microgrenade and me and Sandra ducked and covered our ears. Razor and Fury got caught by the shockwave of sound and vibration leaping at each other in midair and were both knocked unconscious. Fury fell in two places, as Phobos and Deimos fell apart and landed next to each other.

I ran to Razor, Diamond ran to the twins as we began checking them over. Lieutenant Forsyth began directing the medical cleanup, and had Bannock and Hela cuffed. I was injecting Razor with a metabolic stabilizer to get his regeneration going again when he came up to me. Diamond was checking the twins for damage and healing their bruises with her meager magic.

"What happened here, son?" No Forsyth didn't know my name, I was just another random, low-threat freshie to him. I knew him because Razor pointed him out to me.

"If you gimmie a sec..." I pulled the needle and Razor jerked as his body finished off healing the horrific gaping wound Fury had given him. It was almost done anyway. She'd gone right through flesh and bone with her energy claw. "We broke up a fight because too many folks were getting injured, after we got the injured clear."

"Razor involved?" Forsyth looked like he half-expected me to bullshit him.

"Razor was the only one of us that could keep Fury under control. When he finally got hit bad, he started to lose it so I hit them both with a sonic." I sighed. "Razor was actually trying to help calm things down."

Forsyth nodded. "Ok, provided he's sane when he wakes up, we'll let him go back to his room to recover. You and the snake girl over there done good."

I nodded as a few students were telling Forsyth's men what happened. Hela and Bannock got locked in cuffs and were being led over to security after I gave them the solvent for the glop grenades.

"Just wanted to make sure no one got too injured."

Forsyth nodded. "You need to make a statement, and so do your friends there. You can come once Razor recovers."

"We'll be there, sir."

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Razor was exonerated of any wrongdoing, and I was shocked when Delarose took Razor's armband and tracker and set them aside. The security guys also took Razor's name off the top spot on the Ultra list and dropped him below Maggot and Killstench. He wasn't OFF the list, but he'd done himself a huge chunk of good and was paving the way to becoming a non-Ultra. Talk about a great fucking day! Razor had been fighting tooth and nail to get himself off that list for a long time, and the security gumbys were happy he was pushing so hard. He also learned he was getting a weekend pass in Dunwich for the first time EVER. Me and Diamond have already burned our passes this month, so he'd be going it alone.

As soon as we got out of the security office Razor immediately let out a shriek of glee and began slamdancing, air guitar and all for the amusement of me and Diamond. He only ever did that when he was really happy about something, and getting pulled off the top shithead slot and dropping down to the number four shithead by doing right was pretty good motivation.

"Only five minutes till fourth period," Sandra commented. "I gotta go."

I watched idly as she slithered off toward the magic department while Razor ran like a bat out of hell straight for Twain. I grinned to myself, re-hooked my medical satchel to my hip and began my blind man routine of walking to music class while tapping the ground in front of me with my cane. I don't need to do that of course, but it amuses me, I am blind, and I like being underestimated by the other students and staff.

I ALMOST beat Razor to the auditorium, and he solemnly handed me my Bass guitar case and we both went into the class together.

Now, in a class full of sonic manipulation types, sirens, Banshees, etc. you would expect it to be Razorback's hell. No no no my dear friends, when they say music soothes the savage beast they must have had mutants like Razor in mind. That boy has this maddening, insane love for music, especially heavy metal. I share this quirk with him, and both of us have been learning to play instruments since we were big enough to hold said instruments.

Class was in full swing when we got there, as everyone kicks off the party early. Sara and Axel were slamming out a rendition of Marilyn Manson's Drugs, while the Vile Age People were doing their ridiculous music politic. The cacophony would have been worse had some clever git not divided sound suppression fields around the various parts of the stage and auditorium, allowing everyone to get a solid crack at playing without being overwhelmed by the others.

You could HEAR them, and pick them out, but the racket wasn't deafening.

-God, most of these guys really need to learn what music is.- Razor hated a lot of the music people played. it wasn't part of his sound sensitivity, it was just his sense of aesthetics.

"Too true bro. Shall we borrow Bang-Bang and show 'em what being a Rockstar is all about?" I grinned as I waved the goofy looking kid with a pair of drumsticks in hand. Bang-Bang was known for his abilities with percussive sound, and could do anything from mimic a full drumset to throwing out machinegun-stacatto shockwaves that would make your teeth shatter. His retarded codename was coined by his three-year-old baby sister, who thought he was the greatest person in the world.

"Yo Mike, shall we do the upstaging act today?"

Bang-Bang nodded. "Sure Jericho, my band crew's all out with the flu bug. I told Casey and Zoe they shouldn't be swapping spit when one of 'em was ill, but would they listen to me? Nooooooo."

"All right, let's get set up then, Rockstar in five."

The three of us set up on one corner of the stage, and we all grinned. Bang-Bang actually used a drumset to practice even though he needed one like he needed a hole in the head. Cassandra Wagner, the reigning senior Diva was regaling everyone with her rendition of a Celine Dion hit. She was good, she could play your emotions like a cheap fiddle when she sang. She was singing Celine Dion. We couldn't let this stand. We deliberately waited until she reached the climax of the song then slammed the Nickelback down hard, heavy, and above all, LOUD. She actually stopped to glare at us when I started growling into the mic. Bang-Bang handles the low additions that accompanied the main lyrics as he thundered on the drums.

I'm through with standin' in line
at clubs I'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth
and I'm never gonna win
this life hasn't turned out
quite the way I want it to be
(Tell me what you want)
I want a brand new house
on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
for ten plus me
--(So what you need)--
I need a a credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet
--(Been there done that)--
I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between Cher and
James Dean is fine for me
(So how you gonna do it?)
I'm gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair and change my name
'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars and
Live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blonde hair
And well...
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free
--(I'll have the quesadilla, ha-ha)--
I'm gonna dress my ass
with the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
blow my money for me
(So how you gonna do it?)
I'm gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair
And change my name
'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
we'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
today's who's who
They'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial, well
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
I'm gonna sing those songs
that offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
from a Pez dispenser
Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip --sync-- 'em every night so I don't get 'em wrong
Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in Hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blond hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
today's who's who
They'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial, well
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar -Nickelback, 'Rockstar'

 

When we finished up Cassandra was glaring KNIVES at me. I pretended not to notice. Being blind has it's perks. There were a few approving nods and a few disgusted looks. Not everyone likes the kind of music me and Razor prefer, but we don't care.

Mr. King was walking up clapping, with his resplendantly bad Elvis outfit and Afro. "Nice work boys, nice work, very good command of the sound. Jericho where did you learn to play Bass? Your Guitar is severely out of tune."

I looked at my Deeply prized Fender and smiled evilly as I played several notes and demonstrated just how NOT out of tune my guitar was. "I dunno sir, I think someone's playing with the accoustics again."

Mr. King looked puzled for a minute, then looked up at the sound reverb panels that altered the sounds on stage and directed them at the audience. Yup, they were off sure enough. We both saw someone suddenly vanish from the control booth, although I didn't get a good look. Probably Bluejay. What few pranks he pulled in Music class were relatively harmless. I forgave him because he was the Alpha who made the other Alphas miserable. Shoulda heard some of his commentary about the Don and Hekate when they're not in the area. They guy's a hoot, even if he is thermonuclear cocky.

"Boys I'll be back, I need to go fix the accoustics." The King walked over to the control booth while me and razor busted up laughing.

"So Razor, you up for a bit of a run on the gift shop after school?"

Razor nodded.

"Excellent. Tell you what man, meet me after sixth period, we'll do some practice, then go hijack Diamond and go watch a movie in the common room." I thought for a second "Make that after we get done working. If I miss my two hours as Lab-Slave Doc Tenant will skin me alive. Plus you got your groundskeeping job, so after that?"

Razor readily agreed, letting out a bark of approval.

Bang-Bang grinned and wandered off. "See you bastards later. I'm gonna go nuzzle up to that goth girl Axel's hanging with."

"Careful, I hear she bites."

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Bang-Bang can be cool, but I had no illusions of his chances with the girls at Whateley. He was a bit of an egotistical dick about that kinda thing. He wouldn't go for Sandra, and if he did, me and Razor would leave his body in a nice, shallow grave where no one would find it. Sandra's not normally violent about male dicks (the personality type, not the body part, duh), however if he or anyone like him ever tries to use Diamond for a cheap thrill lay, me and Razor will kill them, probably with as much pain and suffering as we can muster up. This is my one (known) exception to my distaste for homicide.

-That guy is gonna get his ass kicked one of these days.- Razor signed at me from behind me. All-round awareness, remember?

"Yeah, and if half the rumors floating around are true, probably by Sara."

-Fuck 'em. None of our business. Back to practice. I wanna do 'The Garden of Good and Evil again.' I'd like to get our song we wrote down pat for when we can fill out a band.-

"You're on, buddy, although I'm not so sure we can get us a drummer or Sandra to sing." Turns out I was wrong about Sandra and the drummer, but that's an entirely different ball of wax, and definitely well in the future.

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No, I'm not gonna sing 'The Garden of Good and Evil' without the full band for you, Jesus. It's a long song, and it takes three singers, two of whom are female. As much as I love doing a falsetto to piss people off, it's just not right to howl off a tune me and Razor threw our heart and soul into improperly.

I'd go through Biochemistry, but I doubt you all would appreciate the whole dealio. A lot of geekspeak and experiments. Besides that, nothing interesting happened there that day. What, do you REALLY wanna go through mitochondrial chemical processes? If you do I can pull that lesson up. No? Good. Shut up and lemme tell the story.

In any case, I was sitting in my Aikido class, wearing the Gi I had just finished modifying relentlessly, adding pouches and pockets I could hide stuff in. Ito-Sensei was merciless about making me remove any gadgets that were obvious, so I took this as license to make small, unobtrusive little dirty tricks that would give me an edge against my classmates that I could hide on my person without getting caught. I'm sure he'll forgive me my transgressions. I mean come on! This was one of the guys always pushing us to use every cheap trick and advantage we could squeeze out of our powers. He just wasn't big on the whole "Toys on the mat" thing. But, as I have heard more than one combat instructor say (usually Wilson on the range while I was helping Flashbang test one weird gun-thing after another) "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

As a side note, I can only imagine how ridiculous I look in my clean, white Gi with Magic marker scribbles all over my face. There were more than a few snickers about that. Maybe I should invest in a plaid workout outfit.

I'm ALWAYS early to Aikido. I love this class, It's gotta be my favorite. Huh? so what if I said Devisor Lab and Music were my favorite? Where is it written that I have to be consistent?

There's nothing greater than a fighting style built around the concept of taking a poor schlep who's too big and strong for his own good, and turning his own force against him. I'm not the best, but I can give the local low-level exemplar crowd a run for their money when I combine Ito's training with a few (dozen) cheap tricks and dirty pool. I also notice that very few of my aikido sparring partners ever try to bully me. I wonder why.

Ok, sparring and the infamous "red cage 'o doom" today. Ok just so you know, the red cage 'o doom is the big red cage that sits in the center of the sparring arena. If you can get an opponent inside it's representative of a power nullifier of one sort or another. See, everyone has weaknesses. Basically it represents the idea that some jackass foolio has discovered how to bone your powers and has succeeded. Get thrown into the cage and you lose. I actually lose quite a bit. Something to do with being the mighty equivalent in physical power of a baseline fifteen-year-old boy who's muscles and body have yet to fully develop. Anything above an exemplar two is about a gauranteed asswhupping for yours truly, and god forbid I have to deal with a blaster or TK brick.

Ahh, everyone was finally in the dojo, time to figure out who were the worst people to get paired off with for this little exercise. Oh yeah, the two class bricks are in attendance, Lancer and Punch. They're both bricks, and definitely high on my "do not screw with" list. Lancer's ok to talk to during and after class, but the guy's like a freight train marked RUNAWAY!!!!!

Punch is a cutie, sort of. The only thing about her exemplar bit is she's a bit overweight, kinda resembles the chubby cute good girl friends everyone seems to have. Problem is, she's really sensitive about wisecracks about her figure, and I wouldn't have the heart to mock her. Yes I have a heart, fuck off! Besides, she's a sweet girl when you talk to her. But she's also a brick, and is usually the match-off for Lancer, as they are the only two who can suck up each others' punishment.

Going down the long line of faces, and seeing a mix of people I have beaten and been beaten by equally I come back to Lancer's cohorts. Yes friends, it's the flavor of the week again, the Kimbas. Only a few of them here, but they're all a bitch and a half to deal with. Jade's the easiest, being what, twelve? Unfortunately easy is a relative term. Apparently she's done Aikido for a while, because I've had my ass tossed about like a rag doll by that little girl. I win about one in four against her, but I'm getting better.

Then there's Jade's ghost sister, shroud. She's a stone-cold bitch for me because I can only partly percieve her. She's weird, and nothing like I'd expect a ghost to be. She also does this whirling knife buzzsaw thing that I wind up doing my level best to stay the hell away from. Let there be much pain. She's a girl after my own heart though, you never know what the hell she's gonna pull next. She's less martial artist and more whirling ball of OH SHIT! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???

Toni's the other Kimba here today. To my less-then-detailed senses she's definitely a looker, bouncy and hyperactive on her worst day (bonus! She's as annoying as I am on her BEST day!) and she's black like me by all accounts. Ok, I'm sorry, African-American, Jesus Christ I swear political correctness was invented to suck all the joy out of my life! Thing is, Toni, or Chaka as we've all come to know and loathe, is a martial-arts genius. I hate going up against her and her funky Ki-sense on the mat because it's always a nineteen second (or less) bounding flurry of How the hell did she DO that??? Plus her kicks and punches that leave me gasping for air. I have never once laid a hand on that girl on the mat, and believe me, I've tried. I'm really going to have to start getting creative with her. The standard-issue Aikido moves flat-out do not work against that girl.

Most of the kids figure I'm a phenomenal blind-fighter, or have Daredevil's hearing because they try to be all silent and sneaky to take my white-eyed ass by surprise. So far no one's been able to do it, and no one's bothered to ask HOW I do it. I feel no need to enlighten them. As long as they keep underestimating me, I'll still have a tiny edge against them that I fully intend to exploit to the absolute max. Ok phenomenal blind-fighter's a bit of an exaggeration. I'm somewhere between high-crappy to mid-okay when it comes to martial arts. Fortunately most of my classmates are about as highly skilled as I am.

Thinking on things, I realized that I'd either wind up against Chaka or Jade this day, as I'd been doing a little too well against the random faces in the crowd lately. Ito always did like to shake things up a bit. Fortunately for me, Ito's not sadistic enough to throw me against Shroud again, or god forbid, Lancer or Punch.

"Lancer! Jericho!" Ito said sharply. "To the mat! Now!"

Oh shit, he WAS sadistic enough! Dear god in heaven I was doomed! Someone call my next of kin and send flowers to my tombstone! Greaaat, all the people who could provide me a good challenge ready and waiting for a go at the blind kid and what do I get? A goddamned Brick! Razorback I'm desperately wishing to exchange places with you RIGHT NOW!

Well wishing doesn't help, so I get up, tap my way with my cane, playing blind man to the hilt, tap Lancer's foot and feel around for the tape on the mat indicating my place. I toss the cane aside, and wait since Sensei wants me to use THAT particular toy not. He must've heard about my experiments on Stalwart, another buddy of mine. HEY! I know I only needed to test it once, but you know neat toys! Once is never enough! YOU get an exemplar-be-good-stick and try to resist the urge to use it whenever you possibly can without getting in trouble.

Give Hank credit, he did NOT look happy to be on the mat across from billy-blind-man. No matter how you cut it, only true fucktards don't get ill at the thought of picking on the handicapped. Ok, he knows I'm blind, and he doesn't like it. Gravy. I can work with this.

"Hey Hank, how's it going?" I grin at him.

"Could be better. This seem like a bit of a mis-match to you?" Hank, Hank, Hank. If only you knew what I had in store for you. Granted, I was never expecting to go against you, but I did pack a few brick tricks just in case. Let's see how you do with Jericho plus his brand-new bag of goodies. I slip my hands into the sleeves opposite each other and slip on a glovelike harness of leather and wire with a pair of metal contact points in the center.

I grin with a cockiness I definitely did NOT feel and prayed he would make a mistake I could capitalize on early and often. "You're right, Lancer. It kinda is. Tell you what, I'll do it with my eyes closed to even it up a bit."

Hank chuckled a bit. "I'll try not to hit you too hard. Just don't run into my fist by accident, ok?"

Fat chance of that happening. "Sure, so long as you remember I ain't much for fighting, we all good."

"You are aware that your face is absolutely covered in magic marker, right?"

"It is? How the hell did that happen?"

"Are you two ladies done jabbering at each other?" Sensei Tolman, I didn't see you there. And if you believe that I got a bridge to sell ya.

"Yes Tolman-Sensei," me and Hank speak the accustomed phrase simultaneously.

"Good. let's see if you boys pick up the game plan." She turned to Ito and he nodded, then she barked out "Hajime!"

Good 'ol Lancer, predictable as hell, went airborne as soon as Tolman spoke, so I put a kick through the spot he was standing a second ago, and began turning slowly to look like I was getting my bearings. I deliberately made it look like I was trying to extend my other four senses to figuring out where the hell he ghosted off to, fully realizing he was hanging not eight feet above me. Fliers are usually absolutely silent in flight unless they have wings, and are a bitch to pin down. Guess I'll have to be creative. Unfortunately my goody grab-bag is limited, and he's got a stacked deck. Oh well, if you can't beat 'em (and I can't unless Ito lets me bring a vulcan cannon to class) Confuse 'em.

Oh cute, he was inverted and descending slowly, hand reaching to catch me unawares. Closer... Closer... Come on Hank, I know I'm blind but get the fuck on with it. As he got close I flicked my wrists to signal the capacitors to charge on my odd little gloves.

When he reached just in range to grab the back of my Gi I snapped my hands straight up and held the two metal contact points on the Flashbang Express, and a loud BANG! with a brilliant strobing flash goes off right in the Brick's face. Foolio didn't see the sound filters I'm wearing under my dredlocks. He starts falling with a yelp, so I generously assist, grabbing HIS Gi and pulling down into a roll and smashing him face-first into the mat. YAY! I got the first shot in!

Getting cocky wasn't gonna help, so I dropped two jump-poppers and roll the hell away. Sure enough as he staggers to his feet, wiping his eyes the two small, half-dollar-sized devises jump to waist-level and burst out a shockwave in quick succession, throwing him first left, then right, into a padded wall. This is the way ya gotta play it with Bricks, get 'em off-balance and confused and KEEP them there.

Yes, I know, I said I'm not big on weapons, however I'm not above using nonlethal bits that might save my ass from bad things, such as the teenaged brick with a goddamned professional dancer's wiry build like Hank Declan.

I pitch my two Glop Grenades at him while he's still staggering, gluing him to a wall. That'll last only until he wises up and shakes off the flashbang. Yup, sure enough, his TK field is up and roaring as he yanks himself unceremoniously from the mound of goo against the wall. TK Bricks never cease to amaze me with the kinda force they toss around casually. That goo would have kept Diamondback under wraps for at least thirty seconds, with Hank it's like three. And that's only because he was still shaking off the flash and seeing stars.

Oh shit, here he comes to ruin my day! Ok no more mangled mighty mouse jokes, I promise.

As Hank flies in like a bulltet train I tap the metal bracers I have hidden up my sleeve together and duck as he slams into the low-power force-field and gets deflected a ways away. He also overloaded the field, and that takes about an hour to charge fully. I don't have another hour. Time to up the ante.

As he recovers I run my chubby black ass over to the red cage and use it as cover as he comes around the bend, all while pulling my NEXT trick out of my hidden pockets in my pants legs. This, like the grenade-toys is a johnny one-shot. A pair of thin metal rods, each on a capacitor slide into my waiting hands. I either needed to get him in the cage quick, or jump into it myself before he got TOO mad at me. His face was already screwing up in concentration.

Ever seen one of those rodeo clowns dodge a bull by ducking and diving around a barrel? Yeah? Well that was me, playing Rodeo clown and using the cage as a barrel. Tolman-Sensei and Ito-Sensei were both looking at me with a mix of amusement and shock, but didn't make a move to stop the match once I started playing dirty pool with my gadgets and devises. Speaking of Devises, Declan managed to get around the cage a bit quicker than me, after all he IS an exemplar and moves like greased goddamned lightning.

He caught me by the back of my Gi and hoisted me up like I was a child in his Daddy's arms. Let's not mince words here, if he'd been trying to hit and hurt me I'd be dead already at this point. Fortunately young Mr. Lancer (god I was gonna have fun with that codename) has a conscience about picking on those weaker than he is, and handicapped at that.

Flip the two prods down into a reverse grip, bring them together, and ZAPPPPP!!!!!

Hank dropped like a wet sack, dropping me too as the electricity arced and shocked the hell out of him. I dropped the now-useless prods and caught him, dragging him to the cage entrance before he could pull himself together... Oh shit.

I'd been suckered. Declan wasn't as out of it as I'd thought. What clued me in? Not much, except that I was being held in mid-air by the scruff twenty feet off the ground. Well shit, that wasn't cool, so I reverted to panicked human behavior, screaming, cussing, hitting him ineffectually and trying to kick him in the balls, six or seven times. Stupid TK field. Have I mentioned that this fight wasn't even close to being fair?

Well, predictably he flew me right to the cage, and I hit him with another flashbang right in the face, but he didn't let go. Dammit, so much for the cunning plan. He felt about for the cage door and surreptitiously dropped me inside, slamming the door closed.

The Kimba girls, of course, cheered. I got jeered and sat and grinned, counting away the seconds. I even started whistling to myself a bit as Declan managed to recover.

"You give up, boyo?" Tolman-Sensei walked up to the cage I was sitting in.

I held up a finger. "Wait for it."

Right on cue the shrieker-box I'd made just for TK bricks let loose an unholy shriek that had just about everyone on their knees, and feeling nauseous, except me. Sound filters. I love 'em, and after Halloween I'm never leaving home without 'em.

Poor Hank, he was still dazed when the shrieker, which was tuned to stick to a TK field like superglue fired off. Little known fact of force-fields. If you can talk and be heard through them, they would not defend against sonic attack. He staggered to his knees, just like everyone else, except Ito-sensei, Jade and Chaka. I swear, NOTHING slows that little Japanese guy down, ever.

"Now I acknowledge the match." I grinned.

Ito-Sensei frowned at me. "Jericho, your powers are supposed to be nullified in the cage."

"Hai Sensei, MY powers were nullified, however, I'm a devisor, and my devise was stuck to Lancer, and not in the cage with me." I smirked a bit.

Ito nodded approvingly as I helped Hank to his feet.

"You gonna be ok Hank?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine." He looked at me incredulously. "How the hell did you know I was above you?"

"I could smell you man, you need to take a shower." I left him with that comment and the jeers of his training squadmates, while he sniffed at his pits to see if he did, indeed, stink.

Oh well, score one for Lancer, but I do believe I proved that one should never underestimate the little guy. I know damned well that guys like Lancer are the ones who figure out what they did wrong, and won't get suckered the same way twice, and judging from the thoughtful expressions on my senseis' faces, I was gonna be playing with the clusterfuck of horror known as Team Kimba on the mat a lot more than I have in the past. Oh shit, maybe I should have just let Hank dump me in the cage from the get-go. Those kids just don't play FAIR.

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So there it is, a typical day at Whateley academy. I figure any day at this school where you don't get folded, spindled and mutilated is a good day. I could go on and on, droning about my job as a medical assistant to Doctor Tenant after school's out, or my guitar session with Razorback after he's done doing his groundskeeping job but really. The meat and potatoes at Whateley Academy happens during classes normally. Yes, there's some interesting stuff that goes on. Remind me to tell you about some of the odd things that happens when the lights go out. Some days I miss curfew because I'm puttering around in the Devisor lab, trying to fix this or build that, and things can get really interesting I tell you what.

But for now, my story's told. It's Diamondback's turn to give her take on the school. After her, Razor will regale you with his stories of mischief and mayhem of the Ultraviolents who really aren't. He'll probably try to bitch about the fact that he'll never get laid. I dunno, I've seen that motherfucker's girlfriend and she's smokin'. Who is she? Well tell ya what, keep paying attention to what you see around here and the stories you may learn about. I'm sure you'll figure it out.

Welcome to Whateley Academy. Hope you like stories, because we got a few doozies to tell sooner or later. I do so love it when panic and mayhem come together.

Yeah yeah, I'm a Freak. Sue me.

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Late that night, in the Devisor Lab...

Hands rattled the lock Jericho had kept on his locker. After a moment, the hands simply took the expedient route of shearing the lock off the whole thing, before the figure slipped inside. After a moment of searching he found what he was looking for, the design schematics for the Duplex wave generator Jericho had built for his armor, kindly logged to a CD that was filed neatly amongst all the other odds and ends of records the devisors were required to keep for the Lab so the teachers could track their progress. After finding the prize the figure slipped out of the lab, relocking the heavy doors on the way out.

Yes, this overlapping TK Brick energy field the boy had developed would be perfect for another project, one no one needed know about.