User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

There's Something about Billie

a Whateley tale

by Starwolf, Joe Gunnarson, and Diane Castle

Chapter 2

 

What followed was a series of attacks and parries, faster than most eyes could follow. I pegged his martial arts style as Savate pretty quickly. I really didn’t have a particular style anymore. My innate abilities had started me developing my own style.

I did get that one good strike in at the start before he realized I was attacking him. Apparently he didn’t expect me to and his defenses were down. Unfortunately, I’d had to pull the punch because I had no idea how tough he really was and all it did was knock him back and make him let go of my arm. After that, it was a lot harder to make contact.

He was really good too. But unfortunately for him I had Toni as a sparring partner on occasion and he wasn’t in her class. Also, balance is a big deal in fighting and I was ALWAYS balanced. On my head, sideways, spinning. It didn’t matter to me and my angles of attack were multiplied also. Controlled flying is a huge advantage.

Still, I didn’t really want to hurt him and I had to hold back a lot so we weren’t getting anywhere fast until Mindbird showed up.

“That’s enough you two! Stop this fighting at once!”

I was willing to stop and pulled back but Suave apparently was a bit worked up. He snapped a glare at Mindbird and snarled. “Go diddle yourself bitch!” Then he jumped at me again.

I’m not sure what happened then but he ended up screaming in pain and rolling on the ground holding his head like it was going to explode if he didn’t hold it on.

Mindbird snorted with contempt. “You should know better than to try that with me you jerk! Don’t worry. It won’t kill you and we’ll be able to treat the headache as soon as you’re in a holding cell.”

As he rolled around moaning she turned to me. “Are you okay?”

I relaxed a little, but kept my eyes open for surprises. “Yeah. I’m fine. He’s nothing to worry about. I was just afraid I’d hurt him.”

She nodded and looked me over. I checked myself to make sure my uniform was okay but it seemed fine. Then she nodded and spoke again.

“Actually, I wanted to see if he’d screwed with your mind at all.”

“My mind?”

“Yeah. I could feel his compulsion way over there. What was he trying to do?”

A compulsion? I remembered something about those from the powers class. Something about a mental whammy of some sort.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. He seemed to think we were going on a date or something and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He tried to grab me and then things went downhill from there.” Another thought hit me. “Uh, I really did try to stop it, but he wouldn’t let go. I’m not in any trouble am I? I really need to get ready for my date with Jericho.”

She gave me another of those odd looks I’d been getting lately. “So you’re really going on a date with Jericho? I’d heard rumors…”

Okay, I think I can be forgiven for being a little miffed. “Hey! He’s a nice guy and it wasn’t easy getting him to agree either. He’s no pushover. I worked hard at it. And I really have to go and get ready.”

“When is your date?”

“Eight.”

Mindbird got a look of concentration for a moment and then nodded. “If we hurry we just might make it.”

I admit to being a bit confused. She almost sounded like she was going on the date with me and Jericho. Not that I had any problems with a group date, but it didn’t seem like quite the right thing right now. So I had to ask. “Huh?”

She didn’t answer immediately. Instead she pointed to one of the Security men who’d just shown up and seemed to be in charge of the others who’d come running. “John!”

He almost came to attention. “Yes ma’am?”

She pointed at Suave. “He needs to be sent to the Psychic Secure Room in the infirmary. They’ll know what to do. I’ve got to get Tennyo here over to Security right now. Delarose needs to talk to her pronto. Do you think you need any help?”

John shook his head. “No ma’am. Not unless you think we need protection from his mental abilities.”

She shook her head. “You don’t need to worry about that. He won’t be able to do anything for a few hours at least. Right now he needs attention and some kind of headache remedy.”

John glanced at the moaning boy. “Yeah, I guess he does. We’ll take care of it. Don’t keep the chief waiting then.”

Mindbird smiled and the Security detail smiled back. It was obvious they liked her. “Thanks guys! We’ll get going then. Yell if you need anything.”

John and the others waved. “We will. Good luck with the chief.”

She then grabbed my hand and started to drag me towards Security. I didn’t resist, but I was still confused.

“Uhh, why are we headed to Security? I really need to get ready for my date.”

She never stopped dragging me, but she did answer as we moved along.

“Tennyo. You have much worse things to think about right now. Remember that band on your sleeve?”

I blinked. I hadn’t really thought of it before. But she was right. I wasn’t supposed to get in any fights at all. This one hadn’t been any big deal, but now I realized I had to worry about what would happen to me just because some jerk had gotten in my way. I was not happy. Thoughts of all the things that could go wrong kept flashing through my brain. By the time we made it to Security and the chief’s office I was in a near panic.

When we got there Security seemed to be a bit more riled up than I remembered and looking into Chief Delarose’s office I could see he was obviously upset. My feelings of foreboding got worse as Mindbird made it clear that she expected to see Delarose ASAP at the front desk.

The person on watch didn’t seem happy to have to do it but did page him. He didn’t even bother to use the comm like they traditionally did but just waved for us to hurry up and get in there.

By the time we were in his office with the door closed and just about everyone else in the office trying to look busy and still watch what was going on in the Chief’s room I was just about ready to run. Chief Delarose was known for his calm nature and presence under fire. But now he was literally pacing behind his desk. For one of the only times I could remember he looked angry and my worries only got worse. As soon as the door was closed he stopped and snarled without even trying to let us get seated. “All right! What happened?”

Mindbird was amazingly calm through all of this. In fact, she was the only reason I wasn’t leaving already. I’d never seen the chief quite like this before. She seemed to just ignore his mood and reported like nothing odd was happening.

“A short while ago I got a heads-up that something was going on involving Tennyo here and another student. As soon as I got close I could tell that the student known as Suave was trying to put a compulsion of some sort on Tennyo.”

The Chief interrupted. “A compulsion? You’re sure?”

She nodded calmly. “Yes sir. There’s no doubt. He was broadcasting like mad. I couldn’t tell what it was about, because it wasn’t directed at me, but I’m sure any sensitive in the area could back me up on this. It was amazingly… clumsy.”

The Chief was still angry, but he seemed more in control now as he thought about what Mindbird had said. Then he nodded. “Go on.”

She nodded. “Yes sir. As I was approaching I saw Suave grab Tennyo’s arm. I couldn’t hear what was said, but she did try to pull her arm away. Then she hit him and knocked him back and away.”

The Chief interrupted again. “Tennyo hit him first?”

I began to really worry now. As soon as he said that I was sure I was a goner. I’d thrown the first punch. And as I was remembering just now, the restrictions about my fighting anyone went both ways. They couldn’t fight me and I wasn’t to fight them. I was toast.

Mindbird was still calm as she answered. “Yes sir. But it was obvious she was only trying to get him to let go. I’m sure any witnesses will back me up on that.”

The Chief shook his head. “I’m not so certain.” Then he stabbed a finger at his comm board. “Mike!”

I watched as someone across the room jumped and then leaned towards something on his desk. A voice came from the comm on the Chief’s desk. “Yes sir?”

Delarose nodded. “I know you’ve been listening. I want videos of that area and time as of yesterday!”

The man at the other desk nodded and did something at his computer. “I figured you would, sir. I’ve already got the Security sweeps. I’m sending them now. It’ll take a while to get witness accounts and maybe any recordings they might have.”

The chief smiled. “Thanks. Let me know when we have those.”

“Yes sir!” The man at the desk turned and gave a hand signal I assumed meant he understood. Then he went back to work at his computer.

For the next two minutes I stood there sweating bullets as Chief Delarose worked with his computer. All of us were still standing, but no one seemed ready to bring that up and I certainly didn’t want to draw any more attention my way. Then he nodded again.

“Yes. It’s obvious.” He turned back to Mindbird. He apparently wasn’t ready to talk to me yet. “What condition is he in? I heard he was on his way to the Infirmary?”

She actually looked a bit embarrassed. “I’m afraid that’s my fault, chief.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. When I got there they were sparring. When I told them to stop Tennyo backed off, but Suave tried to ‘twist’ me and went on trying to fight.”

Delarose’s eyebrows tried to climb up off his face. “He what!?”

She remained calm. “A ‘twist’.” The way she said it made me think she was referring to something specific that went by that name. “Specifically, I believe he told me to ‘go diddle myself’ or something along those lines. Very clumsy also. I…”

The Chief held up a hand. “I know what a twist is. But to do so against a Security officer. Is he insane?”

She shrugged. “It’s not for me to say. But he wasn’t very well controlled. Definitely not like his usual self.”

There was a moment of silence and then he began to swear. I was shocked. He was obviously very upset about something, but I didn’t have a clue what it was yet. He finally started talking in a way that communicated more than emotion.

“A damn set-up!” He punched another button on his desk. “Jenn!”

A calm feminine voice answered him. “Infirmary here. What can I do for you, chief?”

“There’s a boy, Suave by name, coming your way. I need a full mental done on him. Full. Section 33 and all that.”

“Yes Chief. Staff is already sending someone over. As soon as we have something we’ll let you know.”

“Thank you!”

“Any time, chief.”

He sat down as if he was very tired and rubbed his forehead. “I hate this!”

His statement was quiet, but very heartfelt. Mindbird was looking at him in a sympathetic way and I wondered what was going on to make them like this. While I was thinking about that the Chief sat up straight looked at me in a disconcerting way, and then growled. “I want to know what happened from your point of view.”

“Uh…”

“Just tell us what you were doing when this happened.”

“Yes sir. Well, I was on the way to my room to get ready for my date with Jericho.” I waited for the amazed, end of the world thing again, but neither of them in the room seemed to care.

Delarose prompted me to go on. “Well?”

I was still a bit disconcerted, but it seemed like a very straightforward thing to do so I continued. “I was in a bit of a hurry, but the red flag was up so I couldn’t just fly there. Everyone was getting out of my way though so I was making good time when this guy steps in front of me and wouldn’t let me by.”

“Did he grab you?”

I shook my head. “Not then. He just wouldn’t get out from in front of me. When I tried to go around he’d just move in front again.”

“What did you do?”

“Uh, I stopped and told him to get out of the way. I had an important date to get ready for.”

“And did he?”

“No. He kept looking at me strangely and said something about me going on a date with him right now. He seemed surprised when I didn’t agree with him, but he still didn’t get out of the way. I asked him to move quietly and tried to go around him.”

“He grabbed you then?”

“Yes. He seemed pretty strong too and wouldn’t let go.”

“So you hit him.”

I really didn’t like the way this looked, but he probably had films of the whole thing so I couldn’t very well lie about it, even if I was the kind of person who would. I nodded.

The Chief wasn’t done yet. “And what happened then?”

“Well… He started fighting with me. I held back, I really didn’t want to hurt him but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Then Mindbird here showed up and told us to stop.”

“Did you?”

“I tried too, but he just snarled… uh… what Mindbird said he did.” Somehow I was finding it very hard to repeat what he’d said. My parents were very much against using bad or vulgar language and had drilled it into us for as long as I could remember. Using it, even in a quote was hard for me.

“What happened then?”

“He… He grabbed his head and fell down. I think Mindbird did something to him.”

The Chief looked at Mindbird. She shrugged. “A simple mind clamp technique. Against anyone with some defenses all it acts like is a warning to pay attention, but his guards must’ve been completely down. It hit him pretty hard. He’ll be okay, but he’ll have one hell of a headache.”

He nodded. “I have a good idea what happened since. Let’s see.” He looked at Mindbird. “What I have on Suave indicates he should’ve been a lot quieter at attack and better at defense mentally.”

Mindbird nodded. “Yes sir. A lot better. I’ve worked with him a bit. He seemed a decent enough guy, if a little full of himself. He was not acting or fighting normally.”

“You think we’ll find evidence of tampering?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t try to check myself.”

He nodded. “Good. We don’t need that complication.”

Sighing heavily he leaned back in his chair, but didn’t seem to be relaxing at all.

“All right. Well Tennyo, you might as well get going. You have that date to get ready for and knowing you ‘girls’ you’ll need all the time you can get.” He knew about me and I was sure there was a hint of humor in his voice. Mindbird seemed a bit confused, but willing to go along with what he was doing. I was having a hard time accepting my good fortune though.

“But…”

“It’s okay. It’s obvious you didn’t start it and you showed a lot of restraint under the circumstances. Section 33 doesn’t apply in your case.”

“What about…”

The look on his face became uncomfortably dangerous. I realized I was seeing a part of him that I hadn’t seen before. The one I could fit with his reputation for being a very good combat veteran. “I can’t say the same for Suave.”

Some of what the two others in the room had been talking about finally made sense to me. Then what he was saying came clear. “But if he was made to do it?”

Now both Delarose and Mindbird looked sad and angry. He shook his head, “It had to happen sooner or later. It always does. Someone figures they can use a dupe or at least make it look like they were duped to get around the penalties. But we can’t take ANY chances. It will be reviewed of course, but I’m sure he’s out of here. And anyone connected to it. There’s even a good chance whoever we finger as having done it will be a dupe also if that’s the case, but they’ll still be gone. Eventually we’ll get to the one who did it or we’ll hit a blank wall we can’t find anything past. But they won’t dare try again either. Not a happy scenario, but necessary. If we can stop it now it won’t get a lot worse.”

I was feeling terrible. I should’ve found a way around the guy without fighting. I should’ve… The guilt I was feeling was incredible. I’d just gotten someone kicked out of school, maybe more than one, and it was all because I couldn’t control myself. I didn’t even need my powers to be dangerous anymore.

Suddenly I was aware of his hand on my shoulder. I tried to keep my face away from him but didn’t fight his hold.

 “Tennyo… Billie. You can’t blame yourself for this. Let me explain. Every few years we have to do this to make sure everyone understands how serious we are about our rules. It’s usually easy to find someone who stands out enough to be the one we choose to be the example. If not, we might have to make one easily enough…”

“But…” I couldn’t express the outrage I was starting to feel. His voice got harder and it drew my attention back to him and what he was saying.

“Listen to me. It’s not what it sounds like. We don’t set anyone up. But we’re dealing with human nature here. It WILL happen. We do our best to see to it the real culprits are found and punished. The ‘innocents’, and they aren’t always innocent by any means, are usually there because of bad choices they made before. I don’t like it but we haven’t found a better way to make sure everyone understands just how serious we are. We do what we can for those we send home, good references for another school, whatever. But they have to go. If we don’t make sure of that you’d be bombarded by attempts to beat the system for as long as you could stand to see innocents being sent home for one reason or another, they somehow got you, or you leave for some reason. And it’s not all for you either. They’d make life hell for all of us during that time. It’s not fun or nice, but it is necessary. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do you understand?”

I looked up into his eyes and saw he really meant it. There was sadness, anger, but most of all a deep determination and concern. I think I can be forgiven for allowing myself to be pulled into a comforting hug until Mindbird cleared her throat. Then I remembered that just about everyone could see into this office and I pulled away with what little decorum I could. I was pretty sure I was blushing but he looked as calm and collected as ever. Maybe he was used to comforting people like that. The thought made me a little uncomfortable and sad for him. I took a deep breath and wiped my eyes with my sleeve. He put his hands on my shoulders again and looked me in the eyes.

“You going to be okay?”

I thought about it for a moment and shook my head. “No. I don’t ever think I’m going to be okay with it. Whoever started this better hope I NEVER catch them.”

He sighed and let go. “I know how you feel. But don’t go off half cocked either. Like I said. It’s not usually obvious who did it, and if it is obvious it’s probably a blind anyway to cover up the real perp. Remember. The same rules apply to you. You ARE allowed to defend yourself and I commend you on your restraint just now, but TRY to stay out of trouble. It’s only a matter of time if they find out they can goad you into doing something stupid before you slip up and go too far. We’re keeping an eye on you all the time.”

I couldn’t help myself. Whenever I get upset my humorous side tends to come out to compensate. I took an embarrassed pose like I was trying to cover my breasts and privates, opened my eyes wide, and put a shocked look on my face. “All the time!?”

He had the grace to look embarrassed for a moment while Mindbird giggled. And then he smiled. “Not ALL the time.” Then his smile got a wicked gleam to it. “But that might change if you get into too much trouble young lady!”

I found myself laughing with them for a few moments. I hadn’t realized how tense I was until that happened. It felt good and the dark fears receded enough to be replaced by another, more immediate one. I got more serious and nerved myself up to ask a question I was sure I wasn’t going to like the answer too. Thoughts of how I could contact Jericho and let him know flashed through my head even as I asked.

“Uh, Chief?”

“Yes Miss Wilson?” He apparently knew we were back on more serious ground and his careful answer and demeanor showed it.

“How long do you think this will take?”

“What?”

“Uh, the questioning and reports and stuff.”

“Oh. You mean in relation to this incident?”

I nodded, too worried to answer any other way.

He thought about it for a moment and then nodded back, “I already have your statement on the event and I really don’t think we need anymore now. You probably will be questioned a great deal in a day or two so I recommend you write down all you remember as soon as possible to help you with that. Other than that I really don’t see any reason to hold you here. You should probably go back to your normal routine. The less disturbed you appear the fewer people will be tempted to try and get your goat.”

For a moment I was stunned. His answer was so different from the one I was expecting it took me a moment to recover.

It was long enough for him to raise an eyebrow and ask another question. “Is that okay with you?”

“Oh! Oh yes! I’m sorry! I just…”

He smiled and waved me out of his office “Get going then. What are you waiting for?”

I found myself bowing to him and then rushing out as if he might suddenly change his mind. As I rushed towards Poe I realized some Security people were rushing along not too far behind me so I slowed down to a more decorous and normal pace and they quickly caught up with me. There were four of them and they took up position behind me, acting like it was normal to be following me around.

When we reached Poe, Mrs. Horton was waiting and waved my escort off. They quickly saluted and headed back towards Security. Before I could go in she stopped me and carefully looked me over.

“Are you all right dear?” She was the house mother for a reason. There was no doubt in my mind she was genuinely concerned about my welfare. Still, I really didn’t feel like sharing all I was going through with her. So I put a smile on.

“I’m fine. I just need to get ready for later and I’m a little flustered is all.”

She looked me in the eye for a few moments. Maybe she was waiting to see if I’d give in but I’m a lot more stubborn than that. Finally she smiled and shooed me towards the stairs. “Then you’d better get ready. You don’t have much time.”

“Yes ma’am! Thank you!”

In moments I was almost literally flying up the stairs and headed for our room. It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to find the crew waiting for me. As soon as I was in the door they were all over me. Especially Jade who came to be about as permanently attached as a person can be without actually being so. The barrage of simultaneous questions was a bit confusing and I had to stop for a moment and sort them out.

“What happened?”

Who did it?”

“Are you okay?”

“Do you need help?”

“THEY”RE NOT GOING TO TAKE YOU AWAY ARE THEY!?!”

The last was from Jade and I realized she’d probably heard something about me being kicked out because of the fight. There was something heart wrenching and satisfying at the same time in the way she was clinging to me. I decided to calm her first and then get to the others.

I moved her into a hug. “It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere. It was the other guy’s fault so I’m not in trouble.” A brief moment of unease accompanied that remark as I thought of how close it might have been but this was no time to show any uncertainty. So I just smiled and hugged her which seemed to go a long way towards calming her down.

The next moment she stiffened and pulled away. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve she then stated in a perfectly serious tone. “When I get my hands on him he’ll wish…”

Mercurial. That’s my Jade. One moment in tears and the next on a murderous jihad. All on my account. Kind of nice but scary at the same time. Time to nip this one in the bud. I hugged her again so she couldn’t run off and do something we’d all regret.

“Jade! Hold on! You don’t need to do a thing. They’re going to kick him out of school. You don’t need to worry. Right guys?”

I figured now was the time to get help. I couldn’t keep an eye on her all the time but if the others were helping we had a chance to keep something bad from happening. With gratitude I realized they all had the same idea I had. Nikki joined us in the hug while the others gathered around for support.

“Yes Jade. This isn’t something you have to do anything about. Billie here is a big girl and can take care of herself.” Then Nikki got a mischievous look and grin. “Most of the time.”

I glared back. “Hey!”

She grinned, reached out, and tousled my hair. “C’mon Billie. Lighten up.”

I continued the glare for all of about two seconds before I broke out into a grin and gave both Nikki and Jade a hug. Nodding I turned my attention back to Jade.

“It’s okay. Really. You don’t have to do anything. And don’t tell anyone else, but it looks like someone put a whammy on the guy to make him do it. So going after him won’t get whoever really did it anyway. Let Security handle this. Chief Delarose was really upset and I’m sure he’ll get to the bottom of the whole mess.”

Jade looked a bit doubtful, but she was listening. “Really?”

Suppressing my own doubts I smiled. “Sure thing. Just let the experts handle it.”

“Oh. Okay. But if they don’t…”

The implications for whoever she decided was at fault sent a shiver up my spine for a moment but it passed quickly as I suddenly had a smiling roommate all over me.

“I’m glad you’re not going away.”

“Me too. Now, let me answer some questions and then I’ve GOT to get ready for my date.”

She hopped up with a squeal of delight. “Oh yes! You’re going on your first date! We’ve got to get ready!”

Toni took hold of her shoulders and held her down for a moment so she wouldn’t go bouncing around the room. “Questions first, Jade. It won’t take long and we’ll all help afterward. So you don’t have to worry about it.”

Looking into the other girl’s eyes Jade then sighed and started to fidget while the others looked to Toni to ask the questions. She looked at me.

“Okay Billie. What happened?”

I shrugged. “I was on my way here to get ready for my date when this guy called Suave stepped in front of me and wouldn’t get out of the way. I asked him to move so I could go. Nicely I might add.” The last statement was in answer to the looks I was getting when I said it.

Toni nodded. “Okay. Then what?”

“He grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. Kept saying something about how I was supposed to go on a date with him. Mindbird tells me he was also blasting some kind of mental whammy at me too though I don’t know what she meant by it. I didn’t notice anything.”

Nikki nodded. “Yeah. That weird mind of yours.”

“Hey!”

She held her hands up in a placating gesture. “Go on! Go on! Don’t mind the peanut gallery. We’re all friends here.”

“Uh huh. Right. Weird mind indeed. This coming from the girl who’s always talking to herself.” Having gotten my own two cents in I decided it was time to move on. “Anyway, when I realized he wasn’t going to let go I hauled off and hit him to make him stop. A…”

The others had all gone quiet and serious at once. Toni interrupted me.

“You hit him? First?”

Realizing what it sounded like I quickly added to my explanation.

“Not hard. Just enough to get him to let go. But he wouldn’t give up and attacked me. All I did was defend myself. All the witnesses can back me up on that and Security even got films of it. Chief Delarose is certain there won’t be any problems with it.”

Everyone exchanged glances and shrugs and Toni nodded. “Okay. If he thinks so, you should be fine. What’s with the story we heard that you sent him to the infirmary?”

I put on a righteous pose. “I DIDN’T do that. Mindbird did it.”

Everyone looked surprised. “Huh?”

“Yeah. She showed up and told us to stop. I tried to and he tried to do what she called a ‘twist’ on her and just kept going. She let him have a mental whammy of her own and he went down for the count. Apparently he wasn’t defending himself like she expected and it hit him hard. After that it was just clean-up. They sent him to the infirmary and dragged me to Security where the chief questioned me and then let me go.”

Ayla asked a question I’d been dreading.

“Say. If this guy was as messed up as all that and was being forced to, why is he getting kicked out? Seems he already got what he deserved.”

I pointed at my Blue Band of Death. “Seems that as long as I’m wearing this it doesn’t matter what the situation is. If you pick a fight with me you’re out. No questions asked, no pardon given.”

They all looked confused, except for Nikki and Ayla. They just nodded as if the answer I’d given made sense.

Not so Jade. “But…”

Nikki held up her hand to stop the questions and we all looked at her. When she was sure she had our attention she explained in that odd voice she sometimes used. The one with all sorts of authority that somehow bugged me to no end when I heard it.

“Section 33 is an ultimatum. If you aren’t willing to go the distance then you should never make one or your credibility goes out the window. They really don’t have a choice in the matter. As long as Billie was only defending herself then whoever was involved is out. I don’t expect Chief Delarose is really happy about it, is he?”

That question was directed to me. I nodded. “He’s in a really bad mood. He thinks that someone else messed with Suave but is uncertain the person he expects to find won’t have the same problem. But he said he’d follow up on it all the way. If he does catch whoever did it I don’t think he’ll be at all nice to them.”

Nikki nodded. “Yes. I don’t think he’ll be at all nice.”

I’m not sure I liked the satisfaction in her voice as she said that. Nikki’s a weird girl at times. Still, I had to agree with her on that one and I admit I wasn’t too upset by the idea either. Realizing I’d said just about as much as I needed to and noting the clock was still moving I pushed for a change of venue. “Okay. Now that we’ve cleared that up. What about my date?”

Nikki grinned. “Trying to confuse the issue with apocalyptic, world ending events?”

“Huh? Hey!”

Everyone broke out into a needed laugh at that and soon the depressing problems of my Blue Band of Death were swallowed up in the hectic preparations to get me ready.

In the end I decided on my Whateley dancing dress. We weren’t going off campus and I felt a bit too shy about wearing some of what Nikki and Toni tried to get me to wear. No matter what they think, I’m sure I don’t look good in a little black piece of nothing that someone calls a dress. At least I’m pretty sure I don’t.

This gown set had been made by Miss Rogers. It was the Whateley black with white trim and crest over the left breast. At the time I’d wondered if I’d ever have the nerve to wear it. It started with a black lace bra and panty set. Over that was a long ankle length silk slip. It started at my neck with a black choker attached to a sheer white net that displayed a fair amount of neck, shoulder, and cleavage. It in turn was connected with the rest, which dropped from sleeveless shoulder straps to my ankles. Over that went a ruffled cream blouse. The ruffles covered my shoulders and highlighted the vee of my more or less open cleavage. It also had long sleeves that attached over the back of my hands to rings that fit on my middle fingers. Over that went the black-with-white-trim full-length gown. The shoulders were flared and had short sleeves that extended almost to my elbows and ending in a white lace frill. The blouse sleeves covered the rest of my arms.

For foot and leg wear I had heavy, black fishnet stockings held up by frilly black garters and black high-heeled dancing shoes. The dancing shoe heels were a bit heavier than usual to hold up better in the dance and were only about three inches high. All in all I cut a pretty good picture if I did say so myself.

I also wanted to go without makeup, but there the others drew the line, and in the end I had to admit they were right. I’d expected a lot worse, but Nikki insisted that only a bit of highlighting was necessary. When I saw what she’d done I had to agree. Somehow, with just a few light additions she managed to make both my eyes and lips stand out. Nothing could be done with my hair and ears but by emphasizing my face she actually managed to negate the other problems by drawing attention away from them. As much as I hated the idea, it was a sure thing I’d have to learn this skill eventually.

Such thoughts made it easier to ignore the rapidly counting down clock. For about three seconds or so. Even with all the delays and side trips I was as ready to go as I’d ever be at least half an hour before the time Jericho was to pick me up. Nikki shook her head in despair.

“Billie, you’ve simply got to take more time and thought on these things. If you don’t, you’ll end up going crazy while you wait. Why do you think girls are always running late for these things?”

I shrugged, which drew a glare from Nikki for my less than elegant gesture. “Don’t know. It never made much sense to me before.”

“Well, is it starting to make sense now? Let’s face it. This waiting is making you crazy, isn’t it? And this is just your first date. Imagine how bad it could be if you had to wait a few days?”

I’m not scared by much anymore, but that thought sent shivers up my spine. Just thinking about it was depressing. “Is… Is it always like this?”

She smiled and spoke with a confidence I could only wonder at. “Not.” She put an index finger into the air to emphasize her point. “If you take your time and concentrate on all the details. Believe me. There’s more than enough to keep you busy for years if you want to do it that way. Then when the time comes you’re not exhausted by all the nervous waiting.”

It made a kind of sense. It was too late to help me now, but I’d have to remember it later. The next time. IF there was ever a next time. I had to admit to myself if it was always like this I might opt to be a hermit or something like that instead. I sounded a bit plaintive even to myself as I asked another question.

“What do we do while we wait then?”

Nikki grinned, “We play cards silly. Nothing like a good game to distract you from waiting.

Toni chipped in, “I vote for strip poker!”

The many attempts to hit her with pillows and the like actually managed to keep us all busy enough that when a message came up that someone was waiting for me at the entrance I was surprised.

The next few minutes were spent frantically repairing the damages done in the previous mayhem. Finally I headed downstairs. If not for the constant pushing of my friends I might not have been able to go through with it. Faced with the reality of going out NOW I almost backed down. But for now I was caught up in a tide of people determined to see me out on the date. The hallway and common room were filled with people trying to look like they had business there but considering the small corridor that formed I was pretty sure the majority of them had other reasons to be out just then. Feeling like a condemned prisoner and trying not to show it I marched to my fate.

I really didn’t know what to expect. After all, this was Jericho and I knew he felt very strongly about messing with people’s heads. But this was a special occasion and I was sure he’d come up with something really extraordinary. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be associated with that event, but it was too late to back down now. The dead silence coming from the common room almost broke my determination though. Anything that could totally shut down the crowd of people down there had to be something so outrageous that I was never going to hear the end of it. I tried to stop at the top of the stairs going down.

But Jade wasn’t having any of that. Ignoring the Hush of Doom she pushed me from behind. “C’mon Billie! You can’t keep him waiting too long. What will people say?”

In an aside I was hoping no one else could hear I muttered back. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” But unwilling to get into an open fight with my roommate I allowed her to move me down the stairs anyway.

At the bottom there was a crowd of people between me and the door area. As we got to the bottom the mass of people moved apart and I finally got a good look at my date for the evening.

I was so stunned that even Jade pushing from behind couldn’t budge me.

The young man in front of me was dressed in a white tux. Okay, he was a bit pudgy. Certainly not the picture of manly perfection but he still managed to look fairly presentable. The shock was almost overwhelming. I just stood there for a few moments as he visibly got a bit more nervous and started to fidget. Any moment I expected him to just rip the suit off like they did to the guy in ‘Beetlejuice’, revealing the true person underneath, only in reverse.

He finally broke the ice.

“Hi. Are you ready to go? Uh, you look nice by the way.”

The statement was elicited by a nudge from Diamondback who I just noticed was standing behind Jericho like a bodyguard with Razorback. Both of them had somehow managed to dress in a ‘Men in Black’ fashion. Odd, but somehow they were managing to pull it off. And the contrast with Jericho’s white tux actually complemented the overall effect. I could now understand why it was so quiet. With a few deft plans Jericho and friends had managed to pull off a totally shocking display and stun anyone who could see them.

If I hadn’t had any appreciation for his genius until then I certainly did now. Just then I received a nudge from behind. Later my friends would tell me how Jade had backed up and run full tilt into me to get my attention but at the time I barely noticed.

“Oww! C’mon Billie! You can’t stand here all night. You’ve got to get moving.”

“Oh! Yeah. You’re right. Uh…” For a few moments I was unable to think of a thing to say and then I started to blurt out anything that came to mind.

Grinning in what I was sure was a silly way I finger waved. “Uh, hi Jericho. Uh. The flowers were really nice and uh, you look pretty good. And…”

He managed to look a lot more confident now that the ice was broken and he broke the illusion by going with his usual way of talking. Waving in a grandiose fashion he indicated the front door. “Ah! My shining light! Maiden of Pain and Glory! Please proceed with me and my cohorts to the unbridled joys that are prepared for us. Our chariot awaits!”

This grand flourish was accompanied by a sub-vocal snort of “Showoff” from Diamondback and a definite “Snerk!” from Razorback.

Finally broken from my daze I did a quick curtsy and tried to answer in an intelligent fashion. “Uh. Hi Jericho. Chariot? Oh yeah. I wanted to thank you for the flowers. And candy. And…”

Okay. Not my best moment. But who could’ve known or expected this? With a fiendish grin he stepped forward and offered his arm. “Shall we go? We wouldn’t want to be late for the show now would we?”

Not seeing any other reasonable alternative besides running and hiding for the next few decades I bit the bullet, smiled as best I could, and tried not to stumble on the way out the door. I was concentrating so hard on not screwing this up I didn’t see our ‘chariot’ until we were right on top of it. Wouldn’t you know? It really was a chariot.

A pretty good copy of some I remembered seeing in that old ‘Ben Hur’ movie, just a bit gaudier in color. It was fitted with what looked like ornate brass or copper plates, spiked wheels, and drawn by what vaguely looked like two large horses. If something that looked like a small steam locomotive decked out with fake head and tail could be considered a horse.

“Wha???”

My surprise must have been evident. With a chuckle Jericho quietly explained. “The chariot is on loan from the Drama Department. Pretty cool huh? Steamatic owes me a favor and lent me these two engines for the night. Getting real horses on short notice is well, difficult at best and I have to admit to being a bit shy around the things anyway. At least where controlling them in a rig like this is concerned.”

By then we were at the back of the chariot. I suspect someone at the Drama Department had a thing about historical accuracy if the splinters and sharp edges were any indication. I had to concentrate carefully to keep my gown from risking tears or shredding as he helped me up into the cupola and then pulled himself up also. I was being a good girl and struggling with my inclination to help him because I realized if it was obvious I was helping him he’d never hear the end of it.

It was a tight fit. It wasn’t like it had been made for two people. Even if one of those was reasonably slender there wasn’t a lot of room. I had a fleeting thought wondering if this was deliberate or simply a coincidence.

Especially when I realized our hips had to touch and any movement tended to bring us even closer together. Again, there wasn’t much choice in the matter. If I hopped out and floated alongside it would give the wrong impression. If I spent the ride leaning away it wouldn’t look good either and the chance of ripping my gown would be a lot higher.

Only one thing to do. Carefully taking hold of his left arm I leaned closer to him. Strange, it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it might be but he seemed to stiffen up when I did. If I didn’t know Jericho better I’d almost think he was nervous or something. After a few moments he cleared his throat.

“Ah. You might want to hold on a bit tighter. I’m afraid the suspension on this thing is period too. I’m setting the speed to slow, but it’s not like this weighs anywhere near what these mules are used to hauling.”

While he was saying this he was using his right hand to punch in some numbers on a keypad that had been bolted to the brass handrail of the chariot with wires leading from that to the two steam powered engines. You have to give Steamatic credit. The engines were actually very quiet and the steam coming from the two was actually a bit interesting to watch. I could hear the gears engage and then there was a lurch that had me holding onto Jericho tighter as he grabbed for the rail with his right hand to keep us from being thrown out the back.

It was an accident. Totally unintentional. The fact I could’ve easily held us both up and kept us from falling out never occurred to me. At least not until after it happened. I found myself holding tight to his chest to free up his arms while he held on to keep us in the thing with his right hand and directed the mules with his left. For a blind guy he seemed to get around okay anyway. For a brief moment I wondered if he could drive a car and then other distractions broke that chain of thought.

Pressed tight to him I found myself experiencing something totally new. I’d have thought pressing up against a guy with my arms around his chest would’ve been uncomfortable at least if not downright creepy but that wasn’t the case. It actually felt kind of good.

He’d shaved recently. I could smell the traces of shaving cream and a cologne or aftershave I was pretty sure was Old Spice. The suit still smelled a bit of starch and whatever had been used to clean it and under all of that was another smell I had to assume was totally Jericho’s. An interesting mix of chemicals I associated with a doctor’s office and a musky smell that wasn’t unpleasing. Clean, warm, and something else I wasn’t sure of but certainly not repulsive in any way. Interesting.

I was so caught up in this experience it took me a few moments to realize he seemed kind of stiff and though it was hard to say with his eyes the way they were I’d almost say he was a bit wild-eyed. Maybe he was having trouble controlling the mules? I wasn’t too worried about it but I thought I’d ask anyway.

“You okay?”

He cleared his throat and grinned a silly grin for a moment. “I’m fine.”

Not quite what I expected. He’s usually a bit more loquacious. I shifted my grip a bit so as to be ready to move fast if I had to and he almost seemed ready to jump out. It was a bit worrisome. Hopefully he wasn’t afraid of me. I had to think of some way to reassure him.

“Uhhh. I wanted to thank you for helping out.”

“Huh?”

“Helping out. Getting the Bitchy Twosome. You, well, you’re really working hard at this and I really wanted to thank you for it.”

He sighed for a moment and then his usual smile came back. “Twas nothin’ dear.” He gave a quick glance over to the side where his two friends were pacing us and looking like they were expecting trouble at any moment. I put two and two together and realized as he changed it how some of his friends might take the statement the wrong way. “Uh, the bitches deserve it. In spades. Anything I can do still won’t be what they deserve but every little bit helps.”

I couldn’t help myself and gave him a happy squeeze. Except for a grunt I assumed was because I squeezed a bit too hard at first he seemed okay with it. I found myself grinning. “Thanks anyway. I really do appreciate this. I, I’m not really familiar with dates and all and having you help is making this a lot better than I’d hoped it would be. By the way, the candy, flowers, and delivery were a really great touch. If no one was aware of what was going on before that there was no way they could miss it afterward. I think most of the girls at Poe are either jealous or infuriated. I suspect the next few guys trying to impress their girls are going to have a tough row to hoe.”

He actually chuckled at that and I found it easy to join in. Without realizing it I’d already started to relax and it was a shock to suddenly realize I was still holding on to him and not freaking out at the same time. I’d always been pretty big on maintaining my personal space, but something about this just didn’t seem to be nearly as uncomfortable as I’d thought it would be.

I had a brief moment of worry as I thought about it but that disappeared when he started talking to me. “Did you have any problems?”

“Problems?” I asked.

“Uh, getting ready for the date? I mean, do you think anyone was trying to stop you?”

When he said that I remembered what had happened earlier with Suave and I realized that it may not have been a coincidence. I hadn’t said anything to Chief Delarose about that and I hoped he’d considered it if I hadn’t. I was going to have to stop by Security tomorrow to be sure. Then something else occurred to me. “Did you?”

He shook his head in a negative way. “Not anything I couldn’t handle.” A throat was cleared off to the side of the chariot. “Uh, not anything WE couldn’t handle. And you haven’t answered my question yet either.”

I grinned again. “Nothing me and my friends couldn’t handle either. But I do wonder if it was connected somehow. It does seem awfully coincidental.” With a little prompting I gave him a quick rundown of what had happened earlier.

He nodded after I was done. “Sounds like it to me. Kinda rough on poor Suave, but any fool should’ve seen that coming.”

I nodded and tried to get some info on what happened to him. “Yeah. I guess you’re right but I still don’t like it. Anyway, what happened to you?”

He thought about it for a moment and then smiled. “We’re here! Allow me to help you dismount safely my dear.”

I’d obviously been played to give out information without him having to return the favor. “Hey!”

He just smiled and offered to help me down. “Not now dearest. Now we have fun!”

And that was all I was going to get from him. It wasn’t like I could just walk away. We still needed to go through with the date or all the work we’d put into it would go to waste. But it still made me wonder a bit about his reasons for agreeing to go along with the plan. Was there more to it than just some payback to those bitches? Maybe he wanted to learn more about Team Kimba? Something to think about later, but for now…

We’d stopped in front of the Crystal Hall. Well, it wasn’t like I was expecting to ride that chariot, escorted by Razorback and Diamondback, all the way into town. There was a crowd around the doors. Most of them were inside but a few brave and hardy souls were waiting outside. As we pulled up they parted to make a corridor to the door.

Jericho gave me an arm down and then nodded at one of the boys gathered nearby. He then tossed what looked like some coins to him. The boy’s reflexes were good and he actually managed to grab them out of the air.

“Would you be so kind as to care for the horses and park the car until we need it? That’s a good man! Don’t worry. They don’t bite.”

I only got a glimpse of the boy’s consternation and heard the chuckles of his friends as we headed through the doors and into the hall. A route opened up to Outcast Corner where their table was set with what looked like a sumptuous feast and candles. There were two throne-like chairs set up next to each other. I strongly suspected some more donations from the Drama Department. I glanced over at the young man leading me by my arm to the table and couldn’t help grinning a bit. Even if he was only trying to get more info on TK he at least was making a good effort to make it fun.

He grinned back, “Is there something wrong my little blue chickadee?”

On impulse I pulled myself closer to him. For the first time I deliberately pushed some of my curves tighter to his side. “Not at all my darling. You’ve thought of everything!”

I didn’t try to bat my eyes at him. I wasn’t sure how it would look. But I did plant a quick kiss on his cheek. If I wasn’t mistaken he seemed to get a bit redder around the collar and for a moment I thought his breath might have caught. Then he took a deep breath and continued toward the table.

He smiled. “Nothing is too good for you my dear. Please, let me help you sit so you can enjoy the feast that has been prepared in your honor.”

“Thank you kind sir! You are too nice!”

“Yes. Yes I am. But for you no effort is too much.”

He said it so pompously I had to either hit him or laugh. I chose to laugh. Grinning, he pulled out my chair to help me sit. After I was seated he sat down himself. Our two escorts took up positions on either side while we were doing this. Then Jericho clapped his hands and several students dressed like waiters quickly came from the kitchen area bringing platters of food and drink.

It was an interesting contrast. Around us the regular cafeteria operations were going on but in our immediate vicinity it was like being in a high class restaurant. I had to admit to myself if Jericho’s intent had been to draw attention to the fact we were on a date he couldn’t have come up with a much better plan. Most if not all of the school would be witnesses to the fact.

The only real downside I could see was that I couldn’t pig out like I usually did. I made a point of acting like I really enjoyed the food and to be completely truthful I could tell someone had tried to do a good job. Still, I couldn’t tell anyone that nothing was really satisfying for me anymore. So I just went along and tried to act like I was enjoying a really high class five star meal.

After the meal Jericho helped me out of my seat and with my right arm hooked in his left we strolled to the theater where ‘Spirited Away’ was playing.

The Whateley Theater was designed to accommodate a large and diverse clientele. It even had balconies to allow some of the larger students to enjoy the activities without disrupting the fun of the rest of the student body. One of these had been reserved for us.

This particular balcony was centered on the screen and big enough to hold two large comfortable chairs with plenty of room for our two bodyguards and still allow one of the theater employees to bring us drinks and snacks easily. I have to admit to being impressed with all the effort he’d put into this. That and the fact we were still easily visible to whoever wanted to look in on us. Hopefully the two bitches’ ancestors were twirling in their graves by this point. After we were seated Jericho turned to me.

“I hope you enjoy this. You haven’t seen it too many times before have you?”

Smiling and holding his arm tighter I giggled, “Only about twenty or thirty times.”

Looking up I could see his surprise and couldn’t suppress another giggle.

He blinked and then whispered, “Twenty or thirty times?”

I pulled closer and whispered, “Yep! Hey! Look at me. Do I look like a soap opera fan to you? You think this was all just a coincidence?”

He raised an eyebrow. “It wasn’t?”

I shrugged. “Well, sorta. I really didn’t intend for anything like this to happen. But it definitely had something to do with it. Shows what kind of trouble you can get into if you’re not careful I guess.”

“You’re an otaku then?”

I’d been accused of it before. It still embarrassed me a bit. I pulled away a little. “It’s not like I taught myself Japanese or anything like that. I just liked the stories.”

“A lot?”

Trust him to get that right. I looked up and saw a small grin on his face and I sighed in resignation. After all, it wasn’t like I wasn’t living it now. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.”

He put his arm over my shoulder and gave me a small hug. “That’s okay. We all have our small peculiarities.”

I resisted the hug for only a small moment and then let myself be pulled closer. In that moment I felt an odd but very real thrill. And it wasn’t sexual at all. It was like I wasn’t alone for a moment and that I was near someone who wasn’t going to judge me outright for what I looked like. I got something similar from the others in TK, but I suppose I had gotten used to it. Having this from someone else was actually very nice. Relaxing, I let myself rest against him, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Theater chairs really aren’t made for it. I looked up into his face and couldn’t hold back a smile. “Yeah. I guess we do.”

For a moment we just studied each others faces and then burst into a fit of suppressed laughter. I couldn’t remember being this relaxed with anyone except the others in TK for ages. Even before it all started. Looking back I realized I’d certainly gone through some changes physically but even more on other levels. Maybe my experiences were giving me a better appreciation for things that really mattered.

We spent the rest of the film exchanging small talk about some of the things happening around the school. And him ribbing me when I reacted to certain parts of the film. Like how even after all the times I’d seen it I still jumped when Chihiro almost fell down the stairs or her death-defying trapeze act on the old pipes. Or getting a bit teary eyed at the end. At least being a girl had some perks. No one thought it odd when a girl got emotional over a film.

And it was relaxing. There was the occasional odd moment when I wondered what I was doing. But for the most part I was just having some fun and enjoying the moment. I was a little sad when it was over. Now I had to go back to exploring unknown territory. But it was fun while it lasted.

As the credits rolled he reached over and touched my hand. “Are you tired? Ready to head back?”

Smiling, I stood and stretched. As soon as he stood I attached myself to his arm. “Well, I was kind of hoping the night wasn’t over just yet.”

This seemed to make him a bit uncomfortable. In fact, I’m sure he blushed just a bit and I wasn’t sure his two bodyguards didn’t get a bit jumpy then too. Then I blushed a bit myself when I realized they might be mistaking what I was saying. Thinking fast I simply followed through with my original thought.

“You did say something in your messages to the effect we were going to dance a bit didn’t you?”

For a moment he blinked and then gave a quiet sigh I wasn’t sure was relief or resignation. “Yes my dear. I do believe the message had some mention of that. But I’m afraid I was unable to procure a venue for us. Can you forgive me?”

I suddenly had the impression that maybe he wasn’t too unhappy about the fact a dance hadn’t been available and being the kind of enthusiast who just knew for a fact he’d enjoy it if he tried, I decided to help him out. I smiled and gave his arm a squeeze to reassure him and let him know he wasn’t getting away that easily.

“It’s okay. I can get us into the dance class area. I have a key and permission to practice there. I even know how to set up the equipment. We can dance all we want. Your bodyguards can join in too. Come on!”

I now found myself in the position of dragging him along towards Laird Hall and assuring him it was okay.

“You know, Tennyo…”

“You can call me Billie if you want to Jerry.”

“That’s Jericho.”

“Okay Jericho.”

“Uh. As I was saying. You really don’t have to do this.”

“That’s okay. I don’t mind. You’ve put so much work into all this I feel a little guilty about it anyway. Let me do this to help out a bit.”

“You really don’t have to do this. And I’ll feel a bit guilty for not thinking of this myself.”

“Awww. Come on! You’re a big boy now. You don’t have to be all macho all the time. Let me help out. I won’t tell anyone it was my idea if you don’t want me to. Besides. It’ll be fun!”

“Uh, what about the chariot? Shouldn’t I…”

“Oh. Just have someone take it back to where it belongs. It’s not like we can’t walk where we need to go. I think it’s kinda nice.” I made a point of pulling myself closer to him as we walked.

He cleared his throat and pulled at his collar. “Yeah. Nice.”

Soon we were Laird Hall and I took him to one of the smaller studios we used for individual, couple, and small group dancing among other things. In a few moments I had it rigged for ballroom dance. I’d be able to control volume, music, and pace with a remote that fit on my left hand and would respond to various finger motions. I glided back onto the floor area where the three of them were waiting.

“There! All set!” I curtsied to Jericho. Diamondback curtsied back but the other two just stood there and it suddenly occurred to me they might not know what to do next. I’d grown up with this kind of thing. Even competed a bit, even if it was as a boy. About then Jericho spoke up.

“Uh, Te… Billie. This is all nice and all but…”

I put my fingers to my forehead like I had a headache for a moment and held up a hand to silence him.

“Don’t tell me. You don’t know how to dance.”

        *        *        *        *        *

TNT

It wasn’t hard at all to follow Tennyo and Jericho. A freaking chariot? Along with Razorback? You couldn’t miss that. Tee-Kay was sort of surprised there wasn’t a big streak of damaged campus. Then all they had to do was wait until that stupid freak cartoon was over, and follow them over to Laird.

Tee-Kay said, “We’re gonna fry that blue-haired freak and then-”

He gasped as something sharp jabbed him in the ass, just as an angry little-girl voice said, “That would be a VERY, VERY bad idea!”

He whirled around, Truck on his right and Nitro on his left, to find… Generator. Floating five feet in the air and only thirty feet in front of them. And she looked pissed.

He snorted, “Wow, a little kid threatening us. I’m SO scared!”

Truck said, “She’s Tennyo’s roomie. Let’s just smack her around some.”

Nitro said, “Or smack her around FIRST.”

He said, “Y’know, I… I… I don’t feel so good.” He fell to his knees as the whole campus tried to spin around him at a thousand miles an hour. “Wha…”

A pink hockey puck came flying from behind him. It giggled, “Maybe you should watch your… back better.” And little hypodermic needles went stabbing out all around it. The little bitch had drugged him! He tried to grab the little pink thing with his TK, but he couldn’t focus enough to get it to work. “I… ugh…”

Truck worried, “Tee-Kay? Buddy?”

Nitro growled, “You bitch, what’d you do to him?”

Tee-Kay watched as both of his pals strode toward the floating kid. Who just reached up and touched her girly little hair thingies with one hand.

Truck said, “I’m gonna rip you in half, kid.”

Nitro snapped, “And I’m gonna blast both halves inta teeny little pieces!”

The girl grinned evilly. “I’m so glad you’re focusing on me now.”

And the hair thingies erupted in a barrage of flashing light that had him falling onto his side and puking his guts out.

Nitro screamed in fury and fell over. Tee-Kay saw from his place on the ground that a spinning metal wheel-thing came flying down and conked Nitro over the head. The guy flopped face-down into the dirt.

Truck threw up again and groaned, “When I… get up… again… you’re… you’re…” He keeled over too.

The pink hockey puck laughed in a voice like a little cartoon character. “I got him already!”

Tee-Kay tried to focus, but the world was spinning and narrowing into a small circle surrounded by blackness.

The girl flew down until her face was only a couple feet from his. She waved her hand, and what looked like a couple threads flew down from her fisherman’s vest. He watched in shock as the threads sliced through his clothes, leaving him in nothing but part of his undershorts. He looked over, and Truck was lying there nearly naked. The threads had cut off every bit of his clothes except just enough of his boxers that it looked like he was in nothing but a jockstrap.

She glared, “You’re getting off easy. Next time, I’m using the deadly poisons, and not the knockout drugs. And I won’t knock your pal out with Spinner, I’ll chop off his arm. And those nanowires that cut through anything? Next time I won’t cut your CLOTHES off. Get me?”

Before he could answer, everything faded to black. The last thing he heard was the girl yelling, “STARLIGHT… BREAKAAAAAA!”

        *        *        *        *        *

TENNYO

Diamondback stood up straighter, put a hand on her chest, and stated in a very superior tone. “I know how to dance.”

Razorback went into a series of gyrations that ended up with him spinning on his head for a moment before he ended up standing facing me again in a challenging posture.

Jericho coughed nervously. “Well. It’s not like I’ve ever been anywhere where it was expected of me and you can’t expect Razor and Diamond here to dance with us, can you?”

Looking up at them I could see why they might think so but I was filled with certainty. Anyone can dance! I stood up straight and for a moment I thought Jericho might try to run for it but a wave of my hand triggered and shut the automatic doors and I began to lecture them on the need for everyone to appreciate the art of ballroom dancing. “First! Let me make it clear. ANYONE can, and should, dance. I don’t ever want to hear anyone say otherwise.”

Diamondback smiled and gave an encouraging. “Hear! Hear!”

“Second! While I understand circumstances may have deprived you of the joy of learning ballroom in the past,” I directed a raised eyebrow at Razorback who snorted quietly. “I will see to it personally that you don’t have to miss any more opportunities in the future.”

One could only describe the looks Jericho and Razorback were giving me as stricken. I wasn’t giving them a chance to think about it just yet though.

“Third! This is an ART! Respect it. Don’t just go and throw yourselves around higgledy piggledy and call it a dance.” Another snort from Razorback followed that statement. Ignoring that, I continued. “You may never have to dance professionally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn and enjoy doing it well. Now! You two!” Pointing at the two bodyguards. “Move over there and face each other. You.” Pointing at Jericho, I motioned him over. “Come over here. Now…”

I proceeded to instruct them on basic waltz steps for the next hour. Diamondback obviously had a pretty good idea what to do even if she didn’t have the feet for it. Razorback seemed willing to follow her lead. It took some imagination, but at the end of the session I was sure that with some more practice any of them would do well in a dance. Not competition, except maybe for Diamondback, at least not for a few years, but respectable anyway.

I put the remote back and reset the room. Then I faced the three, smiled, and curtsied again.

“Thank you very much! All of you have some good talent and it would be a shame if you ignored it. There are dance classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 PM here. Please feel free to drop in and join us! And Jericho!”

“Yes?”

I launched myself over to him and nearly tackled him in a hug. “Thank you for a wonderful evening! It was really great!”

“Uh. Yeah. Maybe we should be getting you back before the others come looking for us?”

“They wouldn’t hurt you. I wouldn’t let em. But we probably should be getting back. You two boys head out. Diamond? Diamondback?”

“Diamondback.”

“Okay. Diamondback. Would you please help me with this amp? Go on boys. We’ll be right there.”

The two boys left with odd looks over their shoulders while Diamondback helped me move the amp - which I’d pulled out easily by myself earlier - back into place.

She gave me a suspicious glance. “You had something to say? That you don’t want them to hear?”

“Well, yeah. I… I have to admit not having a lot of experience dating and all…”

“You haven’t dated much?”

I could feel myself blushing. “Yeah. To be honest, this was my first date. Before, well… Then after that I’ve been so busy you see.”

She nodded and got a weird look on her face. “I understand. I’m afraid I can’t help you much there. It wasn’t like I went out with guys before all this and afterward it wasn’t like they were falling all over themselves to date me either.”

It kept surprising me to realize again there were those who were worse off than me in the change department. Still, it wasn’t like she’d had to totally change her sexual point of view and all. Feeling an odd need to support her a bit I started into a pep talk. “Hey! Don’t sell yourself short girl!” She flinched a bit for some reason but I didn’t stop. “You’ve got a lot going for you. And you’ve a lot of natural grace too. You really should look into dancing more. You’re a natural. And I’m kinda surprised too.”

“Huh?”

“Jericho doesn’t seem like the kind to judge a book by its cover. You two have known each other for a while haven’t you?”

She got a really odd look on her face. “I don’t think…”

Babbling on seems to come naturally to me these days. “I mean. I’m kinda surprised you two haven’t at least tried to be a couple. You’re obviously friends and all. Of course there might be reasons for that and I really shouldn’t pry.”

The way her face stiffened and the hint of coldness in her voice made it clear I was stepping on touchy ground. “No. You shouldn’t. You don’t have any idea what’s happened to us and I don’t think you’d understand. So please don’t.”

Feeling a bit sheepish I backed down. I’d always thought girls would want to talk about these things. They were always going on about how much more open they were about this stuff than guys. But I guess I had been a bit abrupt too. One of these days I was going to have to learn how all this was done, but how did someone learn this stuff if they hadn’t grown up into it?

“Sorry. I… I was just curious where you guys stood.”

She shrugged. “Well. It’s not like I’m his girlfriend or anything. If you really like him you’re welcome to try. Uh, just don’t expect me and Razorback to always be there you know. This was a special case after all.”

Jericho and me? Dating? Steady? I’d just been curious but when it occurred to me what Diamondback was talking about and why she thought so I realized it did kind of sound like I was checking to see if he was attached to someone or not. Not that the idea had occurred to me before this. Could I actually be thinking seriously about something that would’ve had me hiding in a closet a few months ago?

Then Diamondback carefully poked me in the arm. “Hello? Earth to Tennyo. You still here?”

It was enough to startle me into a small jump. “Huh!?” Then I realized I must have stopped and stood there while trying to wrap my mind around the idea of actually dating some guy on a regular basis. “Oh! Sorry.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Just thought of something.”

“You always freeze up when you think?”

Blushing I stuttered. “N… No. I… It’s just something I hadn’t really thought about before. I… I can’t really talk about it now.”

“Riiight. We better get going then or the others will wonder what happened to us. You don’t want to keep your date waiting too long now do you?”

I was sure the blush just wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of trying to explain it to the others but Diamondback didn’t give me a choice. Firmly taking hold of my arm she led me from the building to where the two were waiting for us. Jericho smiled and started talking as soon as we were close enough.

“I sent a message to Jim and he’s seeing to it the chariot and engines are going back to where they belong. We can walk directly back to Poe and… Is something wrong?”

As soon as I saw him I found myself blushing even more. And my tongue seemed to have decided to shut down as soon as he looked at me. But it didn’t seem to affect Diamondback at all. She grinned.

“I think you made a bigger impression on her than you thought. Look at her. She’s all tongue-tied. You better be more careful or all the girls in school will be after you soon.”

I think he was actually shocked for a moment and the choked snort Razorback made wasn’t helping any. But he recovered very quickly.

“Well, naturally! It’s to be expected that all the girls would be falling over themselves trying to get to know me better. What’s not to love about this big hunk of a man anyway?”

I’d had just enough time to realize that what I was thinking about might actually be a possibility. And not an unthinkable one either. Then he goes and does this. I was drowning in a mixture of wanting to see if it might be a possibility and maybe just killing him at the same time for one brief moment before I got control of myself and suppressed it all entirely.

“Yeah, yeah. You guys are always getting too full of yourselves aren’t you?”

He smirked. “Only if it’s true darling. Only if it’s true.”

Well, I was done making a fool of myself. At least for now. “Humph! We better be getting back to our dorms then. Or they’ll start wondering what’s become of us and send out search parties.”

        *        *        *        *        *

BUSTER

He’d finally figured out where the hell they’d got to. And they were all alone. Except for Razorback and Diamondback. Shit. He didn’t want to tangle with Razorback, and word was Diamondback had some nasty venom in those fangs. He needed to figure out just how he was gonna bushwhack this lot. Maybe Razor and Diamondback would take off and let the daters have a little privacy. Then he’d have a shot at the blue-haired freak and the nerd. Not that he was worried about some blind nerd, but having someone around that your opponent had to worry about every second could be a big help in a fight.

A sexy purr from behind him smirked, “Aren’t you in enough trouble already?”

Another sexpot voice said, “Buster, I’m really disappointed in you. I hoped you’d learned your lesson back in the fall.” Could you sound sexy and sound like you’re the frigging queen of the universe all at the same time?

He slowly turned to face…

Crap. It was Chaka and Phase.

Well, maybe he could kick their asses and leave Tennyo a nice little present. Two busted-up teammates. After all, they were just freshman girls. He probably outweighed the two of them put together. And maybe they didn’t know how his powers worked.

He leered, “Wow, two hot bitches. You both gonna do me, or you gonna try wunna those karate chops you like so much?” If they were just dumb enough to hit him a couple times and make him even stronger…

Chaka sashayed up to him and gave him a big smirk that made him think of a leopard for some weird reason he couldn’t peg. “Little ol’ me? Hit a big… strong… moron like you?”

He whipped out a hand to pimp-slap the mouthy bitch. He missed. It wasn’t like she moved more than an inch or two, but it was just enough that he completely missed her. How the hell did she do that?

She gave him a bigger smile as she grabbed his arm and turned her body. And suddenly he was flying through the air. He knew he’d get stronger as soon as he hit the ground. But out of the corner of his eye he saw the white chick leaping right at him.

Phase barely bumped him as she grabbed him, but then she was suddenly pulling him down like she weighed a ton. And she had him in a full nelson, and she was fucking strong. They landed on her feet and she held him like he weighed about as much as a sack of potatoes. He kicked her in the shin, and it was like kicking a steel girder. Damn, that hurt! At least that was making him stronger.

Then Chaka was right in front of him. She purred, “Now we wouldn’t want to hit ya and make you tougher or anything. So I’m just gonna poke you.”

She took two fingers and jabbed him over by his collarbone. Nothing even that hard. And he couldn’t move. He was paralyzed! What the fuck did that bitch do to him?

Phase dropped him, and he landed flat on his back, his arms stretched out. He couldn’t move his arms. He couldn’t move his legs. He couldn’t even blink or close his mouth. What the HELL did that bitch do?

Chaka leaned over him and grinned, “Now don’t worry ‘bout a thing, homes. Soon as we get back to Poe, we’ll call Security and let ‘em know you’re just lyin’ around, takin’ it smooth.”

Phase leaned over him and warned, “Next time, I’ll just walk through you. That will disrupt your BIT and turn you into a monster, but on the up side, Tisiphone’s probably looking for a boyfriend by now.” A chill ran down his spine at the idea.

He still couldn’t move. At least he could still breathe, even if he couldn’t move anything he wanted to move.

They strolled off. Phase said, “On the way back to Poe, maybe we could stop and get something to eat.”

Chaka said, “But you always want stuff made fresh. That’ll take forever.”

Phase said, “I don’t see a problem with that…”

Wait, they weren’t just gonna leave him out here like this, were they?

He lay there helpless for long minutes, just staring up at the night sky. Then he heard the voices. It sounded like some guys running through the bushes.

“Shut your piehole, Truck!” That had to be Nitro.

“Hey, all I said was it was a bad idea.”

“Knock it off, both of you!” Buster recognized Tee-Kay’s voice there.

“I can’t get this fucking shit off me!” Nitro bitched.

“You can scrub it off when we get back to the dorm,” said Truck.

“There’s no FUCKING way I’m letting the other guys in the dorm see me like this!” Nitro yelled.

Buster tried as hard as he could to yell for help. But he couldn’t talk. He couldn’t even gasp or hiss. They ran right past him. Nitro even jumped over him. Bastards!

What the hell? Even in the small amount of glow from the lights over on the brick paths, Buster could tell that the TNT guys were pretty much naked except for what looked like thongs. Or maybe jockstraps. And they were covered in sparkly pink glitter so they looked gay. Ultra-gay. No wonder Nitro was throwing a fit. If Buster could have made his mouth work, he would have laughed like crazy. If only he had a camera…

The TNT pricks ran on, leaving him there on the ground. He still couldn’t move. The place got quiet. Deathly quiet. There was nothing but a cold breeze. He lay there helplessly, hoping those bitches didn’t really go off to eat before getting him some help.

He lay there for he didn’t know how much longer. And then he heard it. There was a rustling noise in the brush. Something was coming his way. And he couldn’t move!

Something moved against his leg. If he’d had control of his muscles, he would have peed himself.

The something moved alongside his body. Then it hopped up onto his chest.

A big gray squirrel loomed over his face. It bared its teeth at him and chittered.

A SQUIRREL!

And he couldn’t move. He couldn’t stop it! What if it decided to bite his face off? What if it decided to bite his balls off? He began to scream inside his head.

        *        *        *        *        *

TENNYO

Nothing looked like it was going to wipe that smirk off. He grinned, “If they’re going to be saying things about us are you sure you don’t want to give them something to talk about?”

The urge to kill was definitely getting the upper hand. Then Diamondback snorted and broke the mood. “Faugh! Is that all you guys can think about? C’mon Tennyo Let’s get going before I throw up.”

She took me by the left arm and started back towards Poe. The other two had to hurry to catch up and Jericho came up on my right side and took my right arm. For a moment I considered pulling it away but then I remembered why we’d started this whole thing to begin with and let him hold on to it while gently getting Diamondback to let go and fall back also. By the time we reached Poe we probably looked like any couple with some bodyguards following them.

I’d had a chance to think things over in the dead silence of our walk and come to the conclusion that dating just wasn’t going to work for me. At least not anytime in the near future. I just wasn’t ready to handle the complications I was experiencing and get through all my other problems too. I wondered how the others were handling this stuff and still staying sane. Or as sane as they were. At the same time I couldn’t help thinking of some of the things I’d experienced and wondering if it wasn’t worth it after all. I was so deep in thought I almost kept walking when we reached Poe.

Jericho must have been thinking too during the walk. But I didn’t have a clue what it was he was thinking. Which was another surprise for me when I thought about how not too long ago I should’ve had a pretty good idea. He seemed a bit uncomfortable and I wondered if he was regretting anything. Then he cleared his throat, grabbed me and gave me a big smack on the lips. Stepping back he loudly proclaimed, “There darling! Didn’t I promise to give you a night to remember? I bet none of the other guys will ever be able to hold a candle to my brilliance, but don’t hold it against them. After all, after me there’s nothing they can do to compete!”

I just stood there in shock for a moment while the two bodyguards made sounds that were suspiciously like choking and gagging. The urge to kill nearly won out and then I got back on track. I decided to finish this out. Putting a smile on my face I stepped closer and before he could evade me I pulled myself against him.

“I’ll always remember this night Jericho. Thank you.”

Somehow I just knew nothing was going to come of all this and I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad but I was determined to get something more out of it while it was still going. Pulling myself tight to him I put a much slower and softer kiss on his lips. I was a lot stronger than him so it wasn’t like he could get away and he had enough sense not to make a scene. When I was done I pulled away reluctantly. I never would’ve believed how thrilling something like that could be. I was starting to see what the others were so worked up about but even as I thought about it I couldn’t ignore that feeling of sadness either.

Standing a few feet from him with my head down I gave a short bow. “Maybe we can do this again sometime?”

He seemed embarrassed by the question. He even scratched his head a bit. “Uh… Well… I’m pretty busy most of the time.”

Keeping my head down and my hands together in front of me I bowed again. “Oh. Okay. I… I won’t bother you then. Thank you again.”

With that I turned around and walked slowly back to the door. I ignored his “But…” and the snort and sub-vocal “Idiot” that came from behind him. I didn’t chance looking back to see what he and the others were doing.

And as soon as I was near the door, it sprang open and the crowd behind it pulled me into the dorm, slamming the door solidly behind me.

A tussle might have broken out then if Mrs. Horton hadn’t been there to direct everyone elsewhere. Speaking with the authority that brooked no disagreement she quickly dispersed the crowd and escorted me to my room where another crowd was waiting. I’d kinda wanted to peek back out and see what Jericho was going to do, but as Mrs. Horton escorted me I figured maybe this was better. Now I only had to survive the grilling the others were ready to give me. Oddly enough, Jade seemed to be holding back and letting the others have their say.

Facing me as the door closed was the rest of Team Kimba – not counting Ayla and Hank, who weren’t exactly girltalk oriented – and I was obviously on trial. Jade was behind the others and if I didn’t know any better I’d have sworn she was sulking. Nikki was apparently the spokesperson for the group. She arched an eyebrow. “Well?”

I had a pretty good idea what they wanted. At least I know what I would’ve wanted. But I had to act the innocent for at least a little longer.

“Well what? We went on a date. He took me to dinner and after that to a movie.”

Nikki smiled, in a hard way. “Details, girl! Details! You don’t think we’ve gone through this much trouble and we’re just going to let it pass, do you?”

My turn to act taken aback. “Trouble? Who went on this date anyway?”

Nikki naturally had the “it’s our right and you can’t do anything about it” attitude down perfect. “You’d have never got there without our help. So spill! And we want to hear all about after the movie. You seem to be avoiding that.”

I started to explain when something else occurred to me. “We went and danced and… Hey! You weren’t spying on me were you?”

Nikki wasn’t the least embarrassed and I don’t think the others were either. “If we just happened to keep our ears and eyes open while you were out, it’s just good sense. We had to be ready.”

For some reason I found myself a bit embarrassed by the idea of people keeping an eye on me like that. It wasn’t like I couldn’t take care of myself. But they were my friends and I knew I’d probably be doing the same if our situations were reversed. So I suppressed my first impulse to throw everyone from the room and sighed.

“Yeah. Well, if you must know. I took them over to Laird Hall, the dance class area, and I taught them some basic ballroom dancing.”

“Dancing?”

I shrugged. “Not much. Just some basic waltz and the like. They really need to get some more training though. There’s some talent there, but it’s no good without some training.”

“Uh Billie? Not everyone shares your appreciation of dance you know.”

“Well. I don’t expect them to become experts, but they ought to at least try and get it right. It’s not rocket science after all.”

The questioning went on for several more minutes until I’d given account of the whole night. It was fairly easy to give the facts without tossing any of my deeper feelings about what happened in. In the end I think they knew there might be more to it but were willing to let it ride.

A few snide comments and declarations about having to finish up homework and the like was all it took to clear the room after that.

Jade still seemed kind of distant and a vague worry gnawed at my mind for a moment before she finally asked a question after the others had left.

“Onee-san?”

I felt a wave of relief when she finally asked. “Yes Jade?”

“Are… Are you planning on dating Jericho some more?”

It was not what I was expecting and the inflection she put on Jericho’s name stirred my hackles a little too. Still, I was probably imagining things and the relief of her opening up again was much stronger. I thought about what she’d just asked for a moment and reaffirmed my previous thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t think so. It was fun and all but I don’t think either of us would get along too well over a longer period.”

“Good.”

Again, not the answer I would’ve expected. “Huh?”

She blushed and seemed a little embarrassed when I turned and looked at her.

“Oh. I mean I’m glad you had fun and it won’t be bothering you anymore.” If there was ever a picture of a disarming smile she had one on her face right then. Again I felt that small feeling of worry but it was gone almost as soon as I became aware of it as my playful nature came to the fore.

Taking a thoughtful pose I rambled on. “Though, when I think about it… We did have some fun. It might be nice to see how far it would go…”

“Don’t.” I could almost hear a growl in that. I looked more closely at her but she was avoiding my eyes. “Uh. I mean don’t worry about it. If he wants to he’ll call you. It wouldn’t be right to ask him.”

She seemed very sure of that even while avoiding my eyes, so I nodded. “Oh. Okay then. I’ll wait for him to call. Thanks.”

She nodded back and jumped into her bed. “‘Nite, Onee-sama! I really need some sleep. Long day tomorrow.” She quickly recharged her others and collapsed under the covers. Her fake snores were quickly replaced by the quieter breaths and murmurs I associated with her normal sleep.

She was obviously avoiding further conversation for now but my worry wasn’t strong enough to make me pursue it at this time. If something was bothering her she’d let me know soon enough. Time for me to write a bit in my journal and then get some sleep myself.

finis