Eons and Eons Ago
Long ago, before the Greeks debated philosophy in Athens, before Gilgamesh sat on his throne in Uruk, there existed a city, the greatest of cities whose memory would echo in every city man would ever found. Before were toppled the towers of Ilium, this city was carved into the minds of men as a pinnacle they would strive to repeat for millennia, teasingly described by Plato as a place of learning, peace and plenty where streets were paved with gold, and towers climbed to impossible heights, were cunning sorcery and practical engineering were one and the same.
A paradise where want was a passing fancy and hunger described only the brief time between meals, where miraculous cures for the ails of mankind were dispensed by healers renowned for their skills. It was said it was a city without poor, where Death walked only for those who had tired of a life of leisure and sought out the adventure of the Undiscovered Country. It was a city of many names, Utopia, Paradise, Eden, where gods walked the Earth and amazement was an everyday experience.
All of this, Atlantis was.
But, as with all travails of history, in every time of plenty, storm clouds brewed on the horizon. Those who had less envied, those too proud to befriend coveted, and those too evil to trade sharpened weapons and plotted deep into the night. Despite this, there were those who stood to defend the great city, center of the Five Fold Court, to push the light back against the dark, into the corners.
"And when they are injured, they come to me." The great hulking figure stood on the balcony of the Hall of Healing, but he had no sight for the trees laden with fruit that lined the streets and terraces of the city, nor the gardens or the streams and fountains of Atlantis. From his tower in the Hall, The Healer watched the defenders return to the cheers of the defended, carrying with them wounded to be succored, and their dead to be mourned.
"Your grace! Your grace!" called a voice in panic. "You must come at once!"
"Must I?" rumbled the Healer, his eyes not leaving the view from the balcony.
The orderly paused, unsure how to proceed. The Healer was master here in the hall, who's word could blast a mere human from this mortal realm never mind the powerful body he commanded, muscle and sinew more than a match for any man. "Please, my lord, the queen of the Fey is injured in our defense. Her retainers call for you and threaten to riot if their queen should perish."
The Healer turned, his great dark eyes sad and weary of the world, but he nodded and gestured for the Orderly to lead the way. The human led at a trot before the Healer, through marble halls of cut glass and polished stone where nurses quietly worked to ease the suffering of the wounded and to comfort the dying. Finally they came to a halt, a small distance from a door, flanking it were a pair of Sidhe, obviously fresh from the battlefield. Their armor was muddied and blood spattered, their long hair loose from war braids, and cloaks torn and sullied. But their swords were sharp and shined, ready to be put to use.
The Healer led now, bold in his own domain and his approach was sufficient that neither of the guards would meet his gaze. "Are you injured?" he demanded. When both shook their heads, The Healer raised his arm and pointed. "Then you may depart my sanctuary of healing with your weapons and return when you have left the battlefield in mind as well as body."
"We live to guard..." the bolder of the pair started, but the Healer snarled at him.
"In my domain, you live at my command! At MY whim! Begone before my fancy decides that you should require healing!" The Soldiers shared a glance then sheathed their swords, bowed and withdrew.
The Healer let himself into the room, finding it crowded with three nurses treating a woman on the bed and a coterie hangers on in armor that was fresh and unspoilt. "If you are not one of my nurses," he commanded then after an ironic pause, "or my patient, leave the room." One of the princes turned as if to argue, but the Healer bared his fangs and he withdrew.
On the bed was a tall, fair Sidhe, her long, imperious face drawn in pain, as muddy and blood spattered as the guards outside had been. She had seen the thick of the battle as was paying for it now. Her form was encased in mithril armor and flowing silk robes that had been splendid but were now a hopeless ruin. And arrow pierced her side, just below where the breastplate protected, and where there was not precious metal, there were cuts and bruises. Though she winced in pain, an icy blue eye opened an focused on him. "Who are you?" she demanded through clinched teeth.
The Healer ignored her. "Cut this armor off her," he ordered, eyes sweeping the spells and machines that were monitoring her.
"It's mithril!" protested one of the nurses, evidently with an avarice streak.
"I don't care if it's made of Gaia's crown jewels," The Healer replied. "Cut it off. Begin pressing fluid into her to replace the blood she's lost and go sample those worthless princes to see if one of them could be of use donating blood." Looking down on the ashen faced queen, he asked, "What is your name?"
"Now you care for the status of who you treat?" she demanded weakly.
"Your guard demanded the best healer of the Hall," he replied. "Would such a Healer care what your place and class is?" She thought of this for a moment, carefully considering the logic of his statement.
Finally she asked, "Will I die?"
"Yes," the Healer replied. "But not today."
The queen started to laugh, but her wounds made it painful and she managed only a strained smile. "Aunghadhail.," she said quietly. The Healer laid his massive paw over her forehead while the armor mage began to cut away the queens cuirass.
"Kodiak," he told her.
April 2nd, 2007
Melville Cottage, RM 803, Whateley Academy
Wyatt awoke, alone in his bed, a status he was getting used to and very much unhappy that he was in fact getting used to it. It was late, or early depending on your point of view, too soon to rise, too late to not be in bed. He sat up, confused at the smells, confused at the dreams until that which he mentally called 'Wyatt' stepped to the front in his mind and imposed a reality. This was his dorm room at Whateley, he was a young mutant human male, he was nineteen he was in love with a smith...no a gadgeteer two years younger and she now spurned him.
Wyatt shook his head and opened his eyes and looked in to the craggy, inscrutable face of an Eskimo shaman who was standing at the foot of his bed. He was a round faced, wild eyed fellow, dressed in a mostly yellow Hawaiian shirt and shorts with a necklace made of teeth and antler bits. Wyatt had always thought he looked like the actor Mako. "Aglakti, what are you doing here?" he demanded.
"You're dead!" the shaman replied, then blinked and scratched his head. "No, wait, that's not right. I'm dead!" He looked around and shrugged. "A dorm room, evidently I went to hell!"
"Of course you're dead!" Wyatt replied casually. "You went out on the tundra in that stupid shirt and froze to death! Last year!"
"Yes, but you'll be sorry if you don't dress down, there's a heat wave coming!" He walked over to the French doors that lead out to the balcony and opened them. "Why are you butting into my after life?"
Wyatt pulled the coverlet off him and walked after the wheezed little man. "You're in my dream," he retorted.
"Some dream!" the Shaman replied with disdain. "This is more like it!" Warm golden light flowed through the open doors and bathed the room. The air was warm and heavy with the scent of fruit trees in a panoply of flavors. Intrigued, Wyatt stood and walked over to his balcony where he found himself looking out over an incredible city, a city of white marble and gold roofs and everywhere there trees and grapes on the vine and gardens. It was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen.
Aglakti looked up at him and shook his head. "Nothing lasts forever!"
A brilliant white flash burned out Wyatt's cornea, he screamed and covered his eyes, but the damage was done, he was blinded and in searing agony until the heat flash and the blast wave destroyed him and everything else.
Wyatt woke screaming, clawing his way out of bed, drenched in sweat and alone. He stumped to his french doors and snatched them open, in front of him was the wooded drive that wound it's way to the main gate. Off to his left was the corner of the Beck Library, the round barrel of Kirby Hall and beyond it the brooding dark misshapen hulk of Dunn Hall. His eyes were drawn to the building where he knew his love was, but Whitman Cottage was hidden in the shadow Dickinson Hill. "I wasn't ready," he whispered to himself his gaze off to the north east.
He shook his head and rubbed his temples. "Jesus, what's wrong with me? I'm gonna start talking to myself if I'm not..." Wyatt closed his mouth with a snap and went back inside. He tapped his laptop out of sleep mode and directed it over to Doyle Medical Center's site on the private internet of the school and for the first time since he'd been at the school, Wyatt Cody filled out a sick call form to set an illness appointment instead of class.
April 2nd, 2007
Student Clinic, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Cody stood from the collection of freshmen and sophomores in the waiting room, none were exemplars and a significant portion were GSD types. He'd never felt so alone in a crowded room before, the furtive gazes, the naked hate from the boys and the heart broken, lust filled stares of longing of the girls. It made his skin crawl. "Here," he replied as he walked over.
The Doctor was young for his degree, early thirties at most, with the dusky skin of Hispanic heritage and just a hint of an accent. Wyatt accepted a firm hand shake and followed him into an exam room. He directed him to sit on the exam table as he shut the door. "I'm Raul Tenant. What seems to be the trouble this morning?"
"I, well Doc, I'm having trouble sleeping. Uh, nightmares I guess, really, really realistic ones."
"Night terrors?" the doctor asked, flipping through the boy's file on his tablet. "Nightmares that you have trouble telling when you're truly awake? Wake up crying out?"
Wyatt blushed and looked away. "I see," Dr. Tenant observed. "I see here in your file, Wyatt, you recently lost...no, you subsumed your spirit. That's a very traumatic experience. Have you spoken with...?"
"There's nothing wrong with my head," growled the senior.
Disbelief dripped off the other man. "Oh, really? Well, Doctor Cody, let's skip the formalities, shall we? What's your diagnosis?"
Cody ground his teeth in silence for a few seconds. "Sorry," he muttered.
"Son, what you've done, it's not well understood, but it's never nothing. In every documented occurrence, the person involved experienced major psychological trauma." Cody started to object, but the doctor held up a hand. "We'll do a full battery of tests, we've got the machines, might as well use them. But you should be thinking about having a talk with someone you trust. If you're not comfortable going to anyone in the psychology department, your house parent and all our teachers have at least basic training to help you. I'll do my part, will you do yours?"
Wyatt shrugged. "Sure, Doc, whatever you say."
The rest of the day was a glimpse of the life of a lab rat. He was stuffed into intimidating looking machines that buzzed and hummed, the hairs stood up on his body, he was poked and prodded and sampled in more ways than he thought a man could be. He'd had samples taken from every orifice, but for all the cuts and sticks and 'this won't hurts' Wyatt knew nothing more than he did when he arrived, but only now he knew nothing in much more exacting detail.
Dr. Tenant shrugged as he went over the results. "Sorry, son, physically you're fine, more than fine in fact, top one percentile of your age group. This isn't something a physician can help you with."
Wyatt sighed. "Thanks, Doc, I guess I'll talk with Dr. Bellows Monday."
"Good luck Wyatt."
April 2nd, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall Whateley Academy
Elisabeth Carson was certain there was no salvaging the coveralls that contained the pair of smelly students standing in her office. No amount of bleach or soap would ever get out the foulness that permeated every fiber of them, but then, that was the point of the spell that was on them. In fact, as far as she was concerned, it was one of her better ones. It was a spell that was placed on all the coveralls issued to students for this particular detention; one that would absorb everything foul about the sewers and tunnels where they would work, so that it would always be fresh and revolting for the students discomfort.
But it made sure that same foulness would neither affect the student wearing them, or be dislodged to spread where ever the student went. Despite looking horrendous, they could have sat on stark white furniture and not left so much as a passing odor to the fabric, let alone a stain. "I trust that your week in the maintenance tunnels has cemented my displeasure into your minds and there will be no further transgressions of this type from either of you?"
"I never want to shit again," muttered Marty with a subconscious shudder.
"I renew my protest," Stronghold declared, his chin still high and defiant. "You cannot and should not have punished us for what we did in New York. That occurred off the school property and you have..."
Mrs. Carson sighed and rolled her eyes. "Mr. Nalley, do not make the mistake of attempting to emulate your sisters love of quoting rules to me. For the first part, she's better at it than you, for the second I am not punishing you or Miss Penn for anything that occurred in New York."
"Then why did I just spend the last seven days as close to hell as can be had on earth?" the young man demanded.
"You want to know why you cast into Hades?" she demanded, arching an eyebrow. "Alright, I'll enlighten you." She slid at a tablet computer across her desk that had a spreadsheet displayed on it. "At approximately four AM on March 24, students Stephen Nalley and Martine Penn left their dorm rooms. In violation of curfew they left their cottages and, on a red flag day, each student became air born and flew to the center quad and rendezvoused with the other. Without signing out with the central administration, each student, again in violation of the flying red flag flew to the Dunwich train depot and left the grounds of the academy. They were absent without leave all day on the 24th, 25th and 26th where both students were truant from all six classes for the day. That is why you have spent the last week cleaning the sewers, Mr. Nalley. Now, if you would like me to take into account your activities in New York, I can gladly do so and I promise you will not see the light of day until you graduate. Is that, in fact, what you are asking me to do?"
The red headed young man swallowed his pride. "No ma'am, not at all."
"Good," she replied. "Now, that I have made my point, I will repeat for a final time that you will not leave this campus without someone knowing where you are going, when you will be back and giving you the permission to do so. Is that in any way unclear?"
"No ma'am," the students chorused.
"Excellent," the Headmistress said with a glare of daggers for each. "Now, having said that, let us discuss your activities in New York."
The eyebrow ascended her forehead again. "You have something you want to say, Mr. Nalley?" Never let it be said that Stephen Nalley couldn't be taught. The young man quickly shook his head in the negative. "Good, and while I may not be able to take corrective action for what you've done off campus, I would be remiss as a teacher to not evaluate my students efforts and critique them." She allowed a slight smile to tug at the corner of her mouth while Stephen and Marty shared a glance.
Marty's shoulder's slumped. "I guess you're going to say we didn't do anything right?"
"On the contrary, Miss Penn, you and Mr. Nalley preformed extraordinarily well for your ages and levels of training."
"We did?" demanded Stephen.
Mrs Carson leaned back in her chair. "Oh mistakes were made, Mr. Nalley, have no fear. That said, your readings of the situation, the stake out you preformed while managing to keep out of sight of both the heavy NYPD presence as well as my own watcher spells was impressive. On short notice you put together the objective of your adversaries and intervened with, for you two, restrained measures that were appropriate to the situation. And, egos aside, when instructed that you could not directly help in combat, you both applied yourselves to containment and crowd control."
She lifted a sheet of paper from her desk. "I have a letter of commendation here from Commissioner Kelly of the NYPD praising both Mega-Girl and Stronghold for their assistance to the NYPD in dealing with a serious situation and preventing loss of life." The two students beamed at each other and nearly embraced, but, remembering their garments, refrained. Elisabeth pressed a button on her desk. "Send her in, please, Amelia."
Marty and Stephen looked over their shoulder to see the door open and a striking, raven haired woman enter. She was dressed in a red silk mini-dress that while it was tasteful and professional did nothing to hide her femininity, in fact, quite the reverse was true. It went out of it's way to highlight it's wearer's charms to dazzling effect. The woman herself was pale complected, middling tall, but given height by the red leather patent pumps she was wearing. She moved with an animal like grace and oozed both a subconscious sexuality as well as an air of a very, very dangerous woman. She came around the desk and stood next to Mrs. Carson. "This," the Headmistress introduced with a casual gesture, "is Mrs. Turner. You may thank, or curse, her for taken notice of your successes, vis-a-vis your time in New York and bringing same to my attention. As I am fond of repeating this is not super hero high. You are not here to learn how to be super heroes. Or, super villains come to that. Either would be a violation of the Neutrality of the school. We are here to help you learn to control your abilities, give you the best education possible and to teach you how to think, not what."
Stephen took a few guarded glances of the woman and had the concerned feeling that she reminded him of the character The Baroness even though Mrs. Turner was probably a lot more dangerous. "Having said that, the school frequently employs private tutors for a variety of projects or students with special needs. Mrs. Turner and I have come to something of a disagreement about you two. I feel that, in a few years, with the maturity that comes with growing older, you will likely become assets to the hero community and upstanding citizens in your own right. Mrs. Turner, on the other hand, believes that this fascination with the cape and spandex crowd you have should be excised from you with all alacrity. That saying you have potential is a gross over statement."
The young man frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. "Is that a fact?"
The raven haired woman narrowed her own eyes. Eyes, that he noted, were yellow and had vertical slits like a cat. "It is indeed," she purred defiantly.
Mrs Carson noted the exchange implacably. "So, we have decided on a little wager to settle our difference of opinion. I will make the simulator available to Mrs Turner after school hours every day from now until the end of the semester. Each day she will present to you a scenario that you can over come, that involves the trials and tribulations of being a super hero. For every scenario you win, you'll both be awarded a point. Losses count for nothing as you can always live to fight another day. But, every time one or both of you are judged to have died you will lose a point. At the end of the semester, if you have a single point, you'll have won."
The Georgia boy, stepped forward, his Irish up, but Marty laid a restraining hand on him. "Uh, Mrs. Carson, we're always happy to help you out, but, what's in it for us?"
"What, indeed?" Carson replied with a smile. "You cannot lose even a single school day due to these little sessions, and if your grades slip from what they are as of this moment, you'll also lose. However, if all of your victory conditions are met..."
She trailed off, delighting in teasing them, but both students kept their heads and stayed silent. "If all your victory conditions are met, I've arranged with Doctor Thunder an internship for you both, with the Empire City Guard, all summer long."
The shouts of adulation from the students could likely be heard in Dunwich.
April 03, 2007
Valero Gas Station, 83 Pleasant Street Berlin, NH
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"
Elaine stopped cold from paying for the tank of gas at the voice behind her. She sighed and finished removing her debit card from her wallet and handed to the clerk. "I just want to talk," he continued softly.
"What is there to talk about, Wyatt?" she demanded, punching her PIN into the keypad and returning the card to her wallet.
"Everything," the big man replied. "For starters, how about you're holding me accountable for something I didn't do?" The clerks eyes darted between the two teenagers and he cleared his throat.
"Is there a problem, miss?" he asked softly.
"No, Ah'm fine," Lanie replied as she turned and walked briskly out of the store towards her car at the pump. Wyatt followed, slow enough that it wasn't a 'chase', feeling the clerk's eyes on his back, he kept his posture neutral and his hands in sight.
"Elaine, please, at least hear me out! Can we not even talk anymore?"
Nalley unscrewed the large medallion emblazoned with the mustang logo that concealed the fill point for the tank, then opened the trunk, removed a bottle of synthetic lead and began to pour it in. "Why are you doing this, Wyatt?" she asked softly. "Isn't it hard enough? Haven't we both suffered enough?"
"Why are we suffering?" he wanted to know. He closed to conversational distance, but was careful to keep the fender of the car between them, lest she feel threatened. "We love each other, Elaine! Just letting Baloo keep us apart..."
"But you are Baloo, Wyatt," she shot back as she turned to throw away the bottle and reach for the hose of the pump.
"Let me," he pleaded. She sighed and stepped back.
"Premium," she told him. He took the hose and inserted it to begin filling the car. She leaned against the fender and crossed her arms over her breasts and looked way towards the school. "Talk," she ordered. "Now's your chance."
"There's the Dunk'n Donuts across the street..."
"Twelve gallons to go, talk faster."
"Damn it, Elaine! I didn't do it!"
"Are you a member of the Five Fold Court?"
"Yes," he replied automatically, then grimaced. She stared at him, her green eyes hard.
"To whatever part of you is still Wyatt Cody, Ah say, baby, Ah'm torn up inside. God Ah love you, and Ah don't think Ah'll ever stop loving you, Wyatt, Ah couldn't have dreamed being with a man could be any better than being with you was." She sighed and wiped away a tear. "You will always be first in mah heart. Ah won't ever love anyone as much as Ah loved you." Then her eyes hardened. "To whatever part of you is still The Kodiak, Duke of the Five Fold Court, Ah say Ah won't ever forgive you for what you've done! You inhuman monster, Ah will pray every night for rest of mah life that God delivers Wyatt from you and casts you into the lake of fire! Ah hope you burn for all eternity!"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, baby! They're just memories!" he said frantically. "Yes, I was confused and overwhelmed at first, but the more time goes by the more I realize there's just me!"
She pursed her lips in disbelief. "Just you, huh? The 'just' you that remembers being five or six millennia old? The 'just you' that mentally raped me?! Is that where you want to go, Wyatt?"
"God Damn it, Elaine, don't you think if I'd known what the hairy bastard was doing I would have fought him? That I would have stopped it?!"
"It's not you Wyatt! It's him!" she shouted back. "Ah can't not see him when Ah look at you," she continued in a softer voice. The pump stopped and he regretfully removed the hose and stepped back so she could screw the medallion back on. "It's not your fault baby," she told him, reaching up to caress his face. Ah wish it could be different. Ah wish he'd just fucking asked! God! Ah broke up with Maria because Ah want kids someday! But he didn't. It's not your fault, but we both have to suffer for it." She stepped back and regretfully climbed into the car. It started with a growl and roared away towards the school, leaving him staring after her.
Eons and Eons Ago
The Kodiak touched the watcher spell and let his awareness be moved forward and down, into his patient's body. The essence he had woven was holding her perforated intestine nicely while coaxing her own cells to mend themselves. There was no trace of infection, which had been his chief concern considering the state she had arrived in. "Have you not inflected sufficient pain, Healer?" her voice demanded softly, there was spirit in it, but it was weak and pained.
"Does Majesty require more pain to remind her she is alive?" he asked blandly, reaching out to poke a finger on her abdomen. Her entire body clinched as her nerves fired. "Or perhaps to serve as a reminder not to be so foolhardy next time?"
"You are a sadist!" she hissed through clinched teeth. "I employ torturers who do not take such delight in their work!" He moved his finger to a different place and pressed again. Her response was immediate and only to caution spell on the bed kept her from curling into a ball from the pain and likely undoing the four hours of work he had spent repairing her.
"If you like, send them to me and I'll gladly offer them instruction in the finer points."
Her breath came in ragged gasps and her eyes glared daggers. "I will send my guards and have you cut to ribbons!" she hissed. "Slowly! Over days you arrogant, pompous..."
"How long have you been barren?' he demanded. The queen's mouth snapped shut with a click.
"Leave me," she commanded. The Kodiak pressed again and once more the caution spell held her as she screamed and tears ran from her eyes. The door was thrown open and a pair of soldiers made to enter, but a gesture from the Healer and it slammed shut once more in their faces.
"A lie is the surest way to pain in my care," he told her. "Answer my question!"
"I am young, I have centuries...!" his finger depressed again, eliciting a howl of captive agony. "Enough!" she cried through her tears. "Leave off! Always! I have never conceived and Oberon no longer favors me! He passes me over for my sister queens and I hide my rage and shame on the field of battle." She sobbed for several minutes while he gently rubbed her hair and kept his amusement about the guards fruitlessly beating on the door with axes to no avail to himself. Finally, the queen mastered herself and met the Healers gaze. "How did you know?"
"You have a growth the size of my pinkie," he told her holding up his massive paw for scale. "It is on your womb strangles off the Roads of Life. I will have to remove your womb, but that can wait until you're more healed from your adventures in bloodletting. More troubling is why your own healers did not treat it when your womb could have been spared! If the growth has spread to the surrounding tissues, your life could be at risk."
The queens face pulled into a melancholy frown. "At first, my physician assured me Oberon was to blame, he was young and a new king. He's two centuries my junior and I intimidated him he said. Then it became my love of riding and being active, my skill with arms..." She trailed off and looked back into the Healer's fur covered face. "I have been betrayed..." she whispered. "My own healer suborned to keep me from producing an heir to be the new High King or Queen!" She made to rise and again the Caution Spell stopped her. "Release me!" she ordered, imperious and commanding once more.
"And allow you to storm off in a rage, undoing both my work at saving your life and your kingdom with your death? Not likely!" Kodiak assured her. "Whatever revenge you thirst for can wait until you can walk without killing yourself..."
"I am fine!"
"You are nearly dead!" the Healer shouted back at her with sufficient force that she was shocked out of her tirade, her eyes as wide as saucers. "I do not boast when I tell you that you were mortally wounded, Majesty and it is by my skill alone that you draw breath. Skill you will undo if you rise, or coddle your temper and have a fit!"
"It...it was just a lucky shot with an arrow," she murmured.
"An arrow that perforated your intestines, Majesty, that clipped your liver and kidney. It is an act of the Creator Himself that you had no infection!" The huge man bear chuckled darkly to himself as he made a slight adjustment to the spell that was blocking her pain and she sighed in relief. "False modesty aside, you should be dead and yet you live. And you will lie still so that I can save your life and whatever I must answer for what I do in saving it I will."
"Let in my guards while I am still awake," she said, her voice thick and heavy with sleep she was fighting. "So they will not molest you as you come and go."
The Kodiak made a gesture and the door opened, the soldiers made to rush in but a single raised hand from the queen stopped them. "This, is The Kodiak, who has my ultimate trust. Had he desired my death, I would be. Mark well and share this command with your fellows, no matter how loudly I cry or what curses in my delirium I shout, none of you will lay a finger on Kodiak. This is my command."
The soldiers bowed. "We obey, Majesty."
April 5th, 2007
Dr. Bellows Office, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
"Wyatt!" Dr. Bellows greeted as he walked up, briefcase in one hand, coffee in the other and pipe, unlit in his teeth. "What brings you here so early my boy?" The big student took his briefcase to free his hand and hold his badge up against the lock which clicked and opened.
Alfred led the way into the office, turning on the lights as he did so. "I...I need help, Doc," the big senior rumbled. He looked around, making sure they were alone and lowered his voice considerably. "I think I might be loosing it."
"If you think you are, you're probably not," Bellows countered from unlocking the door to his office and leading the way inside. "Have a seat," he invited as he closed the door and turned on the coffee pot he'd set up the night before. He finally settled behind his desk and put his pipe on its stand. "Now, what's going on?"
"I'm having trouble sleeping," Cody finally admitted. "Nightmares, like dreams within dreams, and I'm starting to have trouble telling when I'm awake or not."
"No trouble with all of the extra memories...?" Wyatt made a dismissive gesture.
"Just memories, Doc? What's the big deal? I'm more pissed about what I...he...crap, what The Kodiak did to Elaine! She won't talk to me because of it!"
Dr. Bellows leaned forward earnestly. "Wyatt, you've just gone through a terribly traumatic experience, it doesn't surprise me you're having trouble coping with it..."
"What trauma?" the senior demanded. "It's just a spirit, who's mess I have to clean up...!"
"Just a...?" demanded Alfred, clearly surprised. He held up a finger and got his computer running and dug through his notes. After several minutes, he found what he was looking for and asked, "You once told me that your youngest memory was playing with the Kodiak, yes?"
Wyatt sat back in his chair and looked away. "Sure, what of it?"
"Son, this creature has been with you your entire life. It wasn't 'just a spirit' it was a part of you!"
"Doc, I don't give a damn about Baloo! I want help with..."
The doctors voice became steel. "Sit...down...son..." Cody looked down to find himself on his feet with no memory of rising. He looked at Dr. Bellows in confusion. His eyes softened and he made a little gesture that Cody followed and sank down into the chair.
"I...I don't understand," he said quietly.
"Wyatt, look at me," Alfred ordered kindly. "Son, the Kodiak was a very powerful spirit, as near as I can tell, a member of a new class of spirits, we're just beginning to understand. But there has been some study on them and I have something of a theory."
Cody leaned forward and nodded his willingness to listen. "Anything to sort this out, Doc. Lay it on me."
"Now, keep in mind, this is just a theory, but," Bellows steepled his fingers and kept his gaze on the young man, judging his reactions. "...Spirits were once thought to be merely generic, magical manifestations. An expression of the latent essence and emotions charged with human beings reacting with them. Trees, animals, rivers once or twice, but nothing specific, no real sense of 'person' just an archetype if you will." He stood and wondered over to the coffee maker and poured the young man a cup.
"However, we've begun to notice a new type of spirits, beings that behave like the spirits we're used to but most definitely are not like them. Beings that have personalities, memories of past lives and very well defined senses of self. There isn't a large pool to study, one, as you know is already been destroyed."
"Aunghadhail? The Kodiak...I...remember a lot with her. Years, hell, millennia ago, fighting a war against unspeakable...things..."
Dr. Bellows nodded solemnly. "Wyatt, there is one thing that these new beings have in common."
"They all claimed that they hadn't bonded with some random mutant who had an appropriate avatar trait for them to use as a hallow. Everyone of these beings claimed their souls had been shattered by some catastrophe called..." he paused and started to dig through his notes, but Wyatt shuddered.
"Yes, that's it."
Wyatt took a sip of the coffee in an attempt to warm himself from the sudden chill in the room. "Look, Doc, what are you trying to tell me here? And what does this have to do helping me with these dreams?"
"Isn't that obvious, Cody?" Alfred asked in surprise. "They all claim that they bonded with a reincarnated piece of their own soul. Son, you may have to come to peace with the fact that 'The Kodiak' as you call him and you, Wyatt Cody, have always been the same being."
Wyatt thought for a long moment, as if considering the merits of the argument, calmly put his coffee cup on the corner of Dr. Bellows desk. He opened his mouth, as if to rebut the point, then closed it, reached down and picked up the Doctor's trashcan and promptly threw up into it.
Dr. Bellows came around the desk and slapped the boy on the back to help him in his moment of crisis. "Well, it is just a theory, son."
April 6th, 2007
Arena 77, tunnels between Schuster Hall and Doyle Medical, Whateley Academy
"Figures she'd pick the oldest arena," Stronghold groused to Marty as they turned a corner in the tunnels to arrive outside the large doors. "Why can't we have one of the new ones?"
Marty shrugged. "This is the easiest one to book," she replied evenly. "And it's..." she trailed off as she caught sight of a small army of technicians that were hip deep in an important looking series of machines while a pair of adults and a student looked on. "What's this?" asked Marty when they closed to speaking distance.
"A test," the student replied, putting out a hand to be shook. "Bridget Johnson," she introduced and gave a nod of greeting. "Hey Steve."
"Dash, how are you?"
Marty looked over her shoulder, over awed by the exceptionally tall young woman she'd just met. "You guys know each other?"
"Dashboard is the head of the Gearheads," Stephen replied. "Lanie invited her down last summer." Turning to the dark complected senior he asked, "What's going on, Bridget?"
Johnson's leonine eyes danced with mischief. "Lab tests," she replied. "And you two get to be guinea pigs. It's the final iteration of my hard light generator. Mr. Paulson," she indicated one of the two adults who smiled, "allowed me instal the prototype into Arena 77. Mrs Carson said she'd arrange a series of student tests..."
"We've been had," muttered Marty.
Dashboard pursed her lips. "Oh, it's not that bad! Honest. Here, let me show you." She turned back to the techs. "You guys ready for a full power test?"
One of them worked out of the machine and turned to her. "No characters yet, we don't have the fiber installed to the main frame, but we could do a landscape."
"Cool," Johnson said as she led the way over to a panel by the door. "Check this out," she beamed, obviously delighted with herself. "Recognize, Johnson, Bridget, load file Hard Light Test One."
"Program complete, enter when ready," the panel replied.
"Was that...?" demanded Steve.
"Blame your sister," Dashboard retorted as she turned and accessed the door. "She programed the interface for me." The door slid open and the three students stepped out into a fine summer day.
"What the hell?!" demanded Steve as he looked around.
They stood on the pier of a small dock, entering at the end of it, rather than the land side. Clustered around the pier was a big Bayliner, a pontoon party boat and a well loved Catalina 27. At the end of the dock the land rose up the hill to sizable house that was too big to be just a house, but not big enough to be a mansion. A warm breeze rustled through the trees, but there was no hint of birds or insects or other wild life. "This is nice!" observed Marty as she spun around. "Where are we?"
"Georgia," replied Dashboard.
"My house," growled Steve, pointing up the hill at the building. "This is what you and Lanie were doing last summer, right?"
"Yep," Dash grinned. "Taking laser exact scans to recreate this. Watch this." She leaned down and stuck her hand in the water and splashed a bit, the stood back up and offered her hand.
"You're hand's dry," Marty exclaimed.
"Everything in here," Bridget proclaimed proudly. "The water, the buildings and once they're finished with the setup, the non-human characters are force fields and computer manipulated images. This is the culmination of my hard light project."
"Non human?" asked Marty.
"Birds, insects, wildlife, stuff like that."
"You've made a holodeck!" exclaimed Stronghold, but Bridget was quick to shake her head.
"No, not really. The holodeck actually creates most of the stuff in it, like a replicator." She wiggled her dry fingers. "I'm faking it. And the human characters will still be A.N.T.S. with a holographic over coat." She sighed and looked around, obviously pleased with her self. "But it's a first step!"
April 8th, 2007
Melville Cottage, RM 803, Whateley Academy
"Ugh, the dorm room again! This is becoming a habit with you, boy!"
Wyatt sat up slowly in his bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes. "Oh, Aglakti," he muttered. "Just what I needed, another thermonuclear wake up call." The wide eyed shaman thought that was funny and chortled with laughter.
"Ah, nothing like starting the day off with a bang, right boy?" he chuckled and shook his head. "This won't do. You're too set in your ways here." Wyatt blinked and he was sitting on a bench in the most fantastic place he'd ever seen. The sun was shining and warm but the bench was shaded by some kind of apple tree that was heavy with fruit. The smell set his mouth to watering.
The bench was as comfortable as a La-z-boy, without being over stuffed, it supported without pinching and was comfortable without being a sedative. Around him, fantastic people walked by, taking no notice of him, elves and dwarves, men and women and even a dragon ambling down a street paved with what looked like 24k gold bricks. Around him were buildings of marble and stone that flowed seamlessly into the landscape, integrating building with garden with stream and fountain.
Wyatt looked down to find himself still in his t shirt and BVDs and was glad the passers by didn't seem to notice him. "Better? Eh?" Aglakti asked, standing on the bench to reach one of the apples and pluck it. "Remember where you are?"
The strange feeling of Deja vu became nearly overpowering and Wyatt looked over his shoulder. A squat tower, round and covered with balconies and terraces rose behind him, on one, he could make out The Kodiak, wearing the same clothing he'd last seen him wear in the mind scape of Cavalier and Skybolt. "Atlantis," he whispered. "This is Atlantis!"
"Hmmm," mumbled Aglakti around a mouthful of apple. "He can be taught!"
"You going to blow it up again?" The little shaman shrugged and munched his fruit.
"Been there, done that," he replied taking another bite. "You haven't cared so far, and doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is crazy!"
"Why am I dreaming this crazy shit?" Wyatt demanded after a moment of looking around. "I don't even play GEO!"
"You think this is a game?"
Wyatt looked down on the little Shaman and made a gesture to take in the passers by. "Oh, this is reality? Should I roll for initiative or whatever?"
"Oh, you want to talk about reality, well." Suddenly, the middle of the street held a tree and a woman being held by her throat against it, feet dangling off the ground, a growing damp stain spreading from her crotch to soak the denim of her jeans as her hands clawed for air around the fist that held her. "Well, is this real enough, for you?"
The big senior felt his stomach roll in protest and looked away. "I..I thought she'd..."
"Thinking?" Aglakti interrupted. "You call this thinking?"
"Wyatt...Wyatt I can't breath..." squealed Maria.
"Stop it!" Cody yelled. "I never meant... I... It was him, alright?!" he shouted, throwing an arm up to point at the creature on the balcony. The vision of himself turned, face wearing the same twisted mask of rage from when the event occurred.
"Do I look like him?" the vision snarled. "Who's hand is on this girl's throat, tough guy?"
Wyatt stood slowly and walked over until he was eye to eye with himself. "You want me to say what a bad guy I am? Ok, I'm a bad guy. Did the bitch do what I thought she did? No, but that doesn't make her any less a bitch, does it? And if you think I'm going to live my life looking over my shoulder and second guessing myself, you're high, deluded or both. Do I owe Songbird an apology? Sure, I can concede that but just because she wasn't guilty of this doesn't make her a sweet little innocent angel."
"Elaine thought there was something loveable about her, didn't she?"
Cody shook his head. "I am so over this third grade psychology crap. I make mistakes, Elaine makes mistakes. The Elaine I remember last year cried a lot of tears because of Carmen Sandiego here. Because of her temper, because of her hatred of men and because she tried and failed to make Elaine hate men just as much as she did. And here's a question I've got for you, why was a senior shaking up with a freshman anyway? Huh? What's up with that?" The vision of Songbird and Kodiak faded away and the street was back to whatever passed for it's normal.
"Why is a Senior shaking up with a Sophomore?" Aglakti demanded.
"Oh, you've got something to say about my love life?" demanded Cody as he turned on the smaller man. "That's hilarious! You'd be just another divorced weirdo if you'd ever managed to get married in the first place!"
"Stop letting your penis do your thinking for you," he retorted. "You're really going to fight this tooth and nail, aren't you? Face it, boy. Kodiak didn't pick you, he is you. You are him!"
"I didn't rape Elaine's mind you little fuck!"
"Yes," Aglakti told him, all trace of humor and levity gone from his voice. "Yes, you did." Cody flew into a white hot rage and seized his tormentor by the shirt and hauled him up to eye level. "Killing me won't do you any favors!" he taunted the boy. "I'm already dead! I'm just a vision your subconscious is using to try and talk to you, you stubborn bastard! Because some part of you knows what you did and that you lost her for it!"
"Why?" the boy shouted. "Why would I do that? I've never forced a girl in my life! And why the fuck would my mind pick you to tell me something? I'm not even sure you knew who you were towards the end!"
Aglakti found that funny, and burst into gales of laughter. "I'm crazy? I'm not the one having arguments with myself! Maybe I'm not the one to get through to you. Well, there's always tomorrow!" He paused dramatically. "Until there isn't..."
Cody awoke with a scream on his lips that died stillborn. He hadn't had his eyes burned out in some thermonuclear flash, thought the blanket was wrapped around his neck and choking him. He rolled over and looked at the clock. It was time to get up and the first hints of dawn were playing through the window. He sighed and sat up, nodding to himself as he made a decision. The Alumni website gave him a number that he dialed into his phone. A computerized voice told him no one was available and to leave a message. "Maria, it's Cody. Look we...no I. I did something horrible to you and I owe you an apology. If you want to call me to hear it, you can reach me on this number. I know it won't make up for what I did, but maybe...I guess I hope it will be one less thing you're angry about. I hope I hear from you. Bye."
April 9th, 2007
Devisor Lab: Vehicle Kane Hall Tunnels
"Lanie? Got a minute?"
Nalley removed herself from under the hood of Baby Girl to be greeted with the Hollywood image of the 'nerdy girl scientist.' She was a classic beauty, or she would be if she weren't wearing 60's black rimmed glasses or had her ebony hair pulled back in a severe pony tail that was doing nothing for her. Likewise her fashion choices weren't helping her either, while the turtle neck sweater and jeans combo could work, she was wearing a Whateley lab coat over it which was doing a spectacular job of hiding her figure.
While Loophole herself was wearing a cover all which wasn't doing her figure any favors, it was keeping most of the engine grease off her skin and that was it's job. She took a red shop rag from her back pocket and wiped her hands. "What do you need, Elaine?"
"I...well, I wanted to talk." She paused and looked at the red head's french manicure she was wiping grease off of. "How do you manage to not break nails doing this?" she demanded, stunned. Loophole smirked, picked up a tool and carved an 'N' into the steel with her thumb nail.
"Bab's carbon tube clear coat," she replied. "Nine volts at point oh oh oh one amps and it liquifies and flows off, leaving your nail. Meantime, your nails are as hard as diamonds. Not recommended for really long nails because it's more likely to have the nail either completely or, worse, partially separate from the nail bed instead of break if you hit something hard enough. But Ah like mah nails 'professional' length so it's spot on perfect." Loophole saw the avarice in Delta Spike's eyes and smiled, shaking her head. "Yes, Ah'll get you some. What is it you want to talk about?"
The brunette looked over her shoulder and looked at the boys who were studiously working on their project cars, so much so, they couldn't possibly be accomplishing anything. "Maybe someplace...private?"
Loophole rolled her eyes. "Sure." She turned and yelled over her shoulder at the massive head of the shop. "Hey, Mr. Donner?! Borrow your office for a coffee break?"
The big mechanic was hip deep in a lecture about something to do with rockets and Volkswagens and just waved that he'd heard and approved the request. Nalley led the other girl to the small office on one wall that separated the vehicle bays from the more traditional teaching area with it's blackboard and rows of tables and chairs that faced it. She opened the door and helped her self to a cup that was emblazoned 'Southern by Grace of God,' and poured a cup. "Coffee?"
Delta Spike waved off. "No, thanks. I've learned workshop coffee and I don't get along."
Lanie heaped sugar and half and half into her's and stirred. "So, what's on your mind?" she asked around her first sip.
Elaine 'Delta Spike' Fleischer licked her lips and her eyes darted, as if making sure they were alone. "Mrs. Horton wants to know if you remember?"
Loophole blinked and opened and closed her mouth several times as memories, long suppressed renewed their connections. "Ah...oh, wow, God, no matter how many times this happens Ah won't ever get used it to it!"
"What?" The red head eyed the brunette suspiciously. "What just happened?"
"Ah, Ah just remembered, that's all. Yes, you can tell her Ah remember mah promise."
"I...I heard...About you and the Creep, and I..."
Nalley sighed noisily. "You and everyone else," she snapped. "When did mah love life..."
"Don't even go there, girlfriend," Fleisher chided her. "You know this was one of the most public..." She sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry, I heard the whole story, about what The Kodiak did...is it true?"
Lanie's skin flushed scarlet. "Who told you that?" she hissed.
Delta Spike straightened and crossed her arms. "It doesn't matter..." was as far as she got before Nalley had put the mug down and gathered up a fistful her lab coat.
"Don't play dumb, Elaine!" she snarled. "Ah can count on one hand how many people know about that and Ah want to know which one fucked me!"
"Back off!" Elaine snapped, holding up her hands and then prying the redhead's hand from her coat. "I got it from Mrs. Horton, alright? I don't know where she got it from, and it doesn't really matter, because whoever told her is worried about you! It is true, isn't it?"
Lanie glared at her fellow Elaine, then turned back to her abandoned coffee on the desk. "Yes, Ah dumped him, yes his spirit was in mah head and made me fall in love with him in the first place. No, it wasn't Wyatt's fault." Fleisher took in a breath, but before she could get the word's out, Lanie chuckled and added, "and yes Ah'm sure of it. Even though Songbird undid everything the spirit did, until something jars mah memory, some of the stuff doesn't 'connect.' That's why Ah jerked just a second ago. "
"Alright, if you're so sure Wyatt was innocent, then why did you dump him?" Delta Spike asked softly.
"Because he subsumed that...that thing that did that to me. Wyatt didn't mean to, but it happened and now the boy Ah loved and the mind rapist that manipulated me into loving him are the same being. Would you want to curl up with that?"
Fleisher shuddered and sank into one of the chairs that faced the desk. "God, no. But then I figured he was bad news from rep alone. New York is the talk of the school, well, Poe, anyway. We heard you made up with Songbird. Ready to come back to the Sisterhood?"
Nalley rolled her eyes and hid her embarrassment behind a gulp of coffee. "Let's just say that Ah apologized to Maria and she graciously accepted mah apology, and leave it at that."
"It's not a yes or a no," Fleisher observed. "You know, the Spring Hot Tub Social is coming up. Rosalyn asked me to invite you. To show you we protect our own."
"Ah don't know what Ah am," Lanie whispered. The brunette rubbed her arm in encouragement.
"So, you're Bi. I am, and lots of other girls are!" Loophole started to object and was silenced. "Nobody is looking for declarations or commitments, Lanie! You've walked both sides of the street and it's not like you can't be in the middle if you want! Come, soak, be among friends and lean on us if you need to. And if something happens, let it, but if not, no pressure!"
"Bi," Nalley replied as if rolling the word around in her mouth to try it on for size. "Ah...Ah guess, sure. Ah'll come, but tell Rosalyn Ah'm not looking for a rebound."
Delta Spike snickered. "Oh, she has a different target," she said with a grin. The question was plain on Nalley's face, but Fleisher just shook her head. "You'll see."
Eons and Eons Ago
"How is Her Majesty this morning?"
Aunghadhail turned carefully from the chaise lounge on the balcony that she was resting on. The morning sun was warm and she had been taking advantage of the excellent weather to sit in the fresh air with her secretary and go over some of the important matters that had been neglected in her correspondence. Kodiak approached, resplendent in purple silk swordsman's shirt and doublet, pausing to check the watcher spell as he did. "Leave us, Constance," the queen commanded softly.
"Majesty," the secretary replied, gathering up her lap desk and the papers lest they blow away in the morning breeze. Once she had with drawn, Aunghadhail laid a hand on her stomach and sighed. Under her hand and under the gown it rested on was a scar so minute even she had trouble finding it. A scar of a closed surgery through which her womb had been removed by her visitor.
"We are sterile," she said without rancor with simple acceptance of her fate. "Unless his grace brings us pleasant news from the life mages?"
"I am a Healer, majesty," the bear replied, handing her a scroll. "Only rarely am I allowed to bring happy news." She took the scroll and opened it. While Aunghadhail was an accomplished sorceress, her personal specialty was combat magic. She had enough knowledge of the healing arts to make the difference between a wounded soldier who arrived at the Healer's Hall and a fallen hero to be mourned. But she was knowledgeable enough to wade though the academic theory and the technical jargon to the core truth the scroll held.
"So," she remarked in an nearly casual manner as she set the parchment on her tray. "I have been poisoned."
Kodiak sighed softly. "It would seem so, Majesty. Archim tells me every attempt to create a new organ from the tissues taken from you carry the same taint of corruption. Whatever the spell, it is beyond our ability to discover on you, it is extremely subtle."
"I draw breath by your skill, my lord Kodiak. We grant you the right to a address us by our name."
"There is a time to be familiar, majesty, and a time to be respectful."
Her arm twitched and her anger wanted her to leapt to her feet, to gesture, to pace, to be active. She was a very physical woman, and it was not in her nature to convalesce, never the less she caught herself and held her temper with great dignity. "My own healer has poisoned me, my husband spurns my bed, come Kodiak, cannot I have a friend, even in private?"
"Aunghadhail, I will not rest..."
"No!" she commanded. "Make no oath to me, Kodiak, for the magic of my being will force it's keeping and my nature will not allow me to break it! Place me not in that position, my friend!" She sighed and looked out at the horizon. "The time comes that perhaps such things as children will not matter. If I cannot produce an heir, at least make me fit for battle that I can protect the realm."
She turned and locked her icy blue eyes on him. They were cold and had none of the fire he had started to see return to her. It was a look he was well familiar with as a healer, the look of a being who has made their peace with their own death. "We found a servitor, Kodiak."
He started, appalled. "Where? On what world?"
Her laugh was completely without mirth. "This world, my only friend. I know the kiss of Mythos Death when I feel it. It is close and it is well armed and prepared for battle. It has possession of a mindless army, driven mad from its corruption and frothing at the mouth to fall on us. Help me, Kodiak, I must fight this...this Bastard. If I can't usher in the future, by your skill my friend, make me well to protect our present."
"I will give you nothing but my best, Majesty."
She smiled a pained smile and settled back in the chaise. "Have you taken a wife, Kodiak?"
"Only my work, Aunghadhail. Why does your majesty ask?"
She picked up a box from the table and presented it. The box itself was the work of a master craftsman, a gift fit to be given by a ruler in its own right. He opened the box to let the morning sun caress a pair of vambraces glittering of mithril. Etched in them and inlaid in orachalcim was a Rod of Asclepius with precious gems for the serpent's eye. "I would not want to be considered out of place by giving gifts to a married male; it might be considered inappropriate."
"Cease," she ordered. "I will not be denied, accept with dignity and do not make me scold you for I do not have the strength for it. Now, attend, and allow us with our own hands." She took the armor from the box, one at a time and as he knelt next to her, she fastened them around his wrists. "They were forged from the armor cut from us the day we met," she told him. "May they bring you fortune in equal measure of the luck your attendance has given me."
"I am honored beyond words."
"You are gracious, for they are unworthy of the debt I owe you." She smiled and made herself more comfortable. "I will need you at my side Kodiak, when I go to face this Bastard who stands to end all life."
"Then at your side I shall be, until he meets his final destiny."
"You should marry," she chided him with a smile. "One of us should have children to tell this tale to."
April 10th, 2007
The Crystal Hall Alpha's Dais on the Third Tier, Whateley Academy</b>
Wyatt sat alone at the Alpha's table, absently stirring sugar into his coffee, chin propped in his hand. It was an unusual thing for him to drink the beverage other than black, save when he got into moods like this one. There was almost no one in the Hall. Spring Break was in full swing and there wasn't a lot of activity in the Hall. There was no one else on the Alpha dais, one of four on the third level, so that let him look out at the light snow that was still falling, even this late in the year and listen to the white noise of the waterfall behind him.
It was a melancholy kind of day. It would only just get above freezing this afternoon, then the light, all day snow would turn into an equally depressing light, all night rain. It was definitely a cream and sugar kind of day. He took a sip and sighed as he caught sight of a couple leaving Schuster Hall and walking south towards Doyle and Hawthorne. They were arm and arm, leaning close and obviously enjoying each others company. To them the snow wasn't melancholy, it was the last vestiges of a winter wonderland before the magnificent coming of spring.
Despite his parents being fairly well off, going home for Spring Break was out of the question. In years past, the Alphas had taken trips to various signature Spring Break destinations, but perhaps the down side of returning the Alphas back to their charter lost a great deal of the cohesiveness they once had. As a group, there almost wasn't an 'Alphas' any more. Just campus leaders who came together, heads of groups that were their more primary identity.
Wyatt watched the two young lovers and tried very hard not to be jealous. It was a new kind of fight for him, one he found he didn't enjoy.
A chirp in the bluetooth earpiece he was wearing warned him he had a call coming in. He scooped his Motorola Razr from his pocket and checked the screen. It wasn't a known number, so intrigued, he answered. "Hello?"
"Tell me she put you up to this so I can hang up on you now."
Wyatt smiled. "Hello Maria, nice to hear from you."
"You smug bastard! You have no right to call me up and terrorize me after..."
"Whoa, Maria, calm down," he told her, all trace of sarcasm gone from his voice. "Elaine didn't put me up to this. I want to apologize on my own!"
"You think a little 'I'm sorry' is going to get you off the hook for what you did to me?!"
Cody swallowed the comeback that rose so quickly in his throat. "No, I don't. I'm not sure any amount of groveling and mea culpa could ever make up for jumping the gun the way I did, but I'm willing to try. Is that worth anything?"
"Latin?" she demanded after a full trimester of pregnant pause. "You actually broke out Latin?"
The big senior allowed himself a slight smile. "It seemed appropriate. We're on Spring Break up here. If you want to come up I'll grovel in person."
"I can't afford..." she started, then closed her mouth with a snap.
Cody frowned. "What happened...?"
"None of your damned business!" she snapped. Emotion crept into her voice and she sniffed. "Nothing I didn't deserve."
"I can't go home for break, why don't I come down there? I can afford it."
"Oh, the Alpha's not off to Cancun this year?"
He frowned. "I've worked hard trying to undo what we did," he told her. "The Don is out, Jean-Michael and Elaine are free..."
"And yet you're still Alpha Male," she snorted. "Lanie told me about your little heel-face turn." She sighed. "I'm sorry, Cody, at least you had the balls to do something. Come down if you want, you can take this check back to Elaine."
"Check?" he asked, confused.
"I found it under my...I found it. She left me a check. I don't need her charity."
Wyatt shook his head. "Maria, what is going on down there in New York?"
There was another long pause in the line. "She didn't tell you? You honestly don't know?"
A lump the size of the Big Apple itself rose in his throat. It took a great force of will to force it back down and be honest. "Lanie...and I...she left me," he admitted quietly.
There was no pause this time and the delight in her tone was cruel, low and spiteful. "Well, maybe there is hope for her! She told me what you...oh, I'm sorry, I didn't split the hair, your spirit did to her."
A white hot rage rose up in the young man, but with great force of will he mastered it and kept his tone civil. "Hey, I'll admit I'm a cad, when have I ever claimed other wise? But I've never forced myself on a girl in my life! I'm not perfect, but I won't ever..."
She sighed noisily and he heard a cat complain about it in the back ground. "No, that's true Cody. I'm sorry. I'm taking my troubles out on you and you're trying to be a decent human being and apologize." He voice began to tremble and she was sniffing to clear her sinuses more and more. "God! Just last year I was on top of the world, my whole life ahead and it was going to be...! It...this year has been so hard..."
"What is going on down there, Maria?" he demanded.
"Come if you want. See for yourself."
"I'll be on the next train."
April 11th, 2007
Amtrak Penn Station, 34th Street New York, NY
'The next train' proved to be something of an exaggeration. One of those things people say that mean something other than what they actually said. As it was, it took Cody nearly three hours to pack, arrange a shuttle, buy tickets and sign out of the school. By then it was late afternoon and the five hour train ride to New York made it quite late or very early when the Acela Express pulled into Penn Station.
To Wyatt's way of thinking, it couldn't be fast enough. There had been a clutch of college girls on spring break on the train, and their obsessive 'hinting' about their availability had been maddening. The sad thing was there was a time when he would have reveled in it, but now it bothered him, a reminder that what he truly wanted, he couldn't have.
Fortunately the girls had followed him until he'd met Maria who was waiting. They drifted off, all have decided they weren't in her league. For her part, Maria was dressed in her normal jeans and sneakers with a sweater and coat over it trying and failing to disguise her beauty. Her hair was noticeably shorter than when he'd seen her last. "Color me surprised," she greeted with a nod. "I didn't think you'd show."
Wyatt flashed his trademark grin. "Would you like me to start groveling here?"
Her eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Don't tempt me, lover boy." She rubbed her palms together nervously and finally with a tilt of her head led the way to a coffee stand. Wyatt bought and they settled into a quiet table.
"Ok, what's going on?" he demanded. "Why would Elaine leave you a check, that you're calling charity?"
"It is charity," she muttered around a sip and refused to meet his eyes. "When I got home from school last year? My mom was gone. As in sold the house, cleaned out my accounts and disappeared gone."
"Yeah, it's been real fun," she agreed. "Living hand to mouth, terrified the girl I used to love would kill me for the jollies, buzzing in the back of my mind all I had to do was use my power and live like a queen." She looked up, her eyes cold and hard. "When I wasn't afraid she'd send you to do me in for that personal touch of fuck you."
Wyatt took a sip of his coffee. "You want to hit me? Would kicking my ass make you feel better?"
He shrugged. "When and where? I won't fight back. What I did was really fucked up, and I deserve what I get."
She blinked in astonishment. "No qualifier? No, 'it was the one armed man'?"
He snorted, but it wasn't the kind of thing to be amused with and he knew it. "I flew off the handle. I took information and didn't stop to consider if it was the straight dope or not. Then I puffed out my chest and did the one thing I've always despised and picked on a girl. It was wrong. I was wrong. I hope some day you'll forgive me for it."
"You've changed," she admitted softly after a long moment. "For the better, Wyatt." He looked away and shrugged. "I've never seen you this way before."
He shrugged again and took a sip. "So, I guess you and Elaine mended fences?"
"I didn't take her from you, Wyatt," she told him. She tried and failed to suppress a laugh. "It's funny, she was eager to apologize too. Been an interesting couple of weeks." She reached into her jacket to remove something and pushed a check across the table. The background on it was the logo of the Georgia Institute of Technology and in Elaine's pinched, precise hand writing she'd written out For everything and more on the memo line.
It was made out to Maria for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Wyatt whistled softly. "Seems like this would go a long way to not living hand to mouth," he observed.
"I don't need your pity or her charity," Maria snapped angrily. Wyatt only shrugged expressively.
"Come on, Maria, we both know she won't take it back. Next time there will just be a 'bank error' or something. Let her help, what harm can it do?" A single tear rolled down Maria's cheek and her arm twitched as she fought with the need of the money her old lover had given her and her pride and shame at needing it. With great dignity, she picked the check up once more and put in back in her pocket.
"I hate you," she whispered as another tear rolled down her cheek. "I hate you for being right, and for being better and I hate you for having to forgive you!" The damn broke and the single tears became sobs. Wyatt moved from across the table from her to next to her and gathered her into a massive hug. "I can't even hate you for taking her anymore!" she wailed, leaning into his shoulder and clinging weakly to his flannel.
"It's all right," he told her softly. "Hate me all you need to, I've done plenty to deserve it."
April 11th, 2007
Songbird's Apartment, 220 Sullivan St Greenwich Village, New York, NY
It was disconcerting, after so long, to awake with someone beside him.
It was unnerving to realize there were two someones beside him. Cody became aware of the fact there were two women snuggled up against him, each using one of his shoulders as a pillow and despite his reputation, it was a situation the young man had never before experienced. But it was a sensation he was rapidly starting to like. He slowly opened his eyes to look down onto the top of a pair of heads, one covered in hair that was raven's wing black, the other as scarlet as a sunset on Maui. The girls arms were draped across his stomach, pale peaches and cream and dusky coffee au lait and they were holding hands.
Wyatt settled back and sighed. This kind of dream I could get used to, he thought to himself as he looked around. He wasn't in Songbird's humble little studio, but a fairly palatial space of green and white marble whose wall to his left, on Loophole's side were floor to ceiling windows and a balcony covered by diaphanous silk curtains that blew in a soft breeze. The sun was streaming through it and the air heavy with the scents of fruit trees.
"Yes, Ah'll bet you could get used to this," Elaine said softly into his side. He looked down to find her intense green eyes looking up at him.
"How typical," chuckled Maria as she sat up and stretched. "Was it good for you Cody? Were you the biggest man on campus?" Her words were sharp, but she smiled as she leaned over and kissed Elaine passionately.
Wyatt ran a dry tongue over intensely dry lips. "I didn't pick..."
The girls broke apart with a giggle and kissed his cheeks. "Every man picks this," Elaine told him.
"Like we don't know what you're thinking about when you stare at us," Maria retorted. She stretched again, gloriously and unashamedly nude as they all were. She caught him staring and shook her finger at him. "I knew you were a great hairy pervert," she accused with a smile. "And after all that moping and crying about loosing her."
"Oh, mah poor heart!" Elaine exclaimed with great drama. "However shall Ah go on without mah one, true...oh hey, look at the tits on her, huh?"
"That's not fair!" Cody protested. "I didn't set up any of this."
"No, we did," the girl's said in chorus.
"Finally you seem like you want to listen," Maria commented with a smile as she stood and pulled on a robe of the finest silk with gold thread that clung to her shapely form in such a manner that she would have been more modest naked.
"We should have realized girls would finally get your attention," Elaine agreed as she donned her own robe and the girls walked hand in hand to the windows and pulled back the curtains. Outside, Atlantis shone in all it's glory in the early morning. She reached out and plucked a bunch of grapes from a vine on the terrace and sensuously began to share them with her old lover.
"Are you deliberately trying to provoke me?" he asked with a chuckle as he got of the bed, itself a barge that put 'king size' to shame. He found no robe for himself, merely a linen kilt that looked vaguely Egyptian the he pulled around his waste and ambled over.
"You're provoking yourself," Maria told him, popping a grape into his mouth that burst into the sweetest explosion of flavor he'd ever experienced. "After all, this is your dream."
Wyatt rubbed his shaggy mane of hair and stretched up onto his toes. "Ok, so you're both some part of my subconscious, what is it you're trying to tell me? What's the Jungian symbolism?"
"Freud was into dream interpretation," Maria corrected him.
Elaine added, "Jung was into the battle between the Ego and Consciousness."
"I'll need them both if I keep this up," he replied as he walked past the girls out onto the balcony. The city fell away below him, bathed in a feeling of solid rightness that was nearly palpable. This was how men were meant to live, working at professions they loved, taking pride and care in their craftsmanship. The feeling was so strong it made the scene somewhat surreal and almost unbelievable. He turned back to the girls and rubbed his chin. "Tell me why, if the Kodiak really is me, not just some spirit, why would he do what he did to you, Lanie? I'd never, ever tolerate that! How can this being who is supposed to be some part of my soul do that?"
"You enforced Freya's will," Lanie replied. "You were a bully and a thug, how is being a rapist so antithetical to you?"
Wyatt drew himself up to his full height. "Because I don't ever want to have to look my mother in the eye and admit I forced myself on a woman. Because I don't need to! I've never wanted for the attentions of the ladies! Was Kodiak that big a looser in this paradise that he couldn't score?"
"Ask Aunghadhail," replied Maria as she sucked on a grape. "She was certainly digging his program back in the day."
"Mmm, bet that was like having sex in a fur coat," shivered Lanie.
"You're a freak!" Maria giggled.
"You've never complained!"
"Wait! Wait!" he shouted. "Kodiak and Unga Dunga? They're not even the same species!"
"And you weren't wondering if the rug matched the drapes on the Elven Queen?" demanded Maria.
"I never stepped out on Elaine!"
"He didn't really have time," Lanie pointed out. "And, Ah AM a freak..."
"True that," Maria agreed.
"You want to know why you raped mah mind?" she demanded. "Ah'll tell you. Because the truth is if you'd just come out and asked Ah might have said, 'no, Ah'm a dyke, at the buffet of life Ah'm eating the bearded clam and you and the walking carpet can go pound sand'."
"That's not who I am," he protested. She smiled and reached up to caress his cheek.
"That's why she still loves you."
"But she's afraid of the monster inside you," Maria observed, joining the red head to lay a hand on his cheek. "Maybe it will do you good to spend some time with him."
Eons and Eons Ago
Kodiak was tired as he finally reached the summit.
His wounds ached, he was dizzy with blood loss and altitude, but he persevered. Soon it would not matter, soon death would come but until then his own stubbornness pushed him. There was one last task to preform, one final act of defiance. Everywhere around him, the land burned, the catastrophe, the sundering of magic from the land was palpable. Essence which once flowed like rivers through the air, ready for use were gone, Atlantis was destroyed, the Five Fold Court was no more.
Tears welled up in his eyes, threatening his vision that he wiped savagely away. He couldn't fail now, not when he was so close, not after the sacrifice of Aunghadhail. He would not fail. The cave mouth loomed over him as he staggered inside, sheltered from the ruin of the Earth without. Aunghadhail's gift glowed faintly with what little essence there was, the light was dim, but it was enough.
At the back of the cave the last of Kodiak's magic moved a boulder and carved out niche in the dirt and rock. Into this he carefully laid the box and with a final glance for his memory he threw his body against the boulder and it rolled back over the treasure. Alone in the darkness, the Healer removed his knife from his belt and staggered back to the mouth of the cave. The fires of the dying of Pangaea lit the horizon in red, fitting for the hatred the Healer allowed to claim him. "Bastard!" he shouted. "You will pay for this! You will suffer as you have made others suffer! You will beg for death before it comes to you! By Aunghadhail, Paramount Queen of the West I swear my soul will not rest until I bring death to you!"
The Healer slashed his palm to seal his Blood Oath and finally released the shield that protected him, the final spell cast by Aunghadhail. So, bereft of the touch of her magic, binding and giving power to his oath, the Sundering ripped apart the Kodiak neither knowing or taking heed of the powerful spell of vengeance that had been bound to it.
April 11th, 2007
Songbird's Apartment, 220 Sullivan St Greenwich Village, New York, NY
Cody awoke stiff and sore.
The floor of Songbird's apartment was exceptionally hard and the wake up in reality wasn't nearly as nice as the dream one had been. Maria's cat was curled up next to him and protesting that he had decided to get up. He scratched his head and licked his lips, trying to get the horrible taste out of his mouth when a squeal from Maria shocked him more fully awake. "What?" he demanded jumping up and looking around.
"God damn it, Cody!" Maria shouted as she threw her pillow at him. "You know that furry form of yours creeps me out!"
Wyatt looked down to find himself in the half human, half bear form that was the height of his physical abilities. Hard, dense muscle rippled under fur and helped explain why his jeans that he'd slept in were so tight. "Wow, haven't woken up this way in a long time," he commented with a chuckle.
"I'm supposed to believe that?" Maria demanded as she got up and stretched in her baggy T shirt and sweats she'd slept in. She padded into the kitchen and turned on the coffee maker. "So, change already, damn it!"
Wyatt chuckled, but his mirth quickly died on his lips. He closed his eyes to concentrate, but that made no difference. "Something's wrong," he growled softly. "I...I can't shift back." A rising panic threatened to overwhelm him for a moment. "Oh, God! Something's wrong!"
"Stay calm," Maria ordered, subconsciously using her power, but as when the Kodiak had been present in his Host, her power obviously had no effect. Wyatt was hyperventilating, and spiraling into a full blown panic attack. "Wyatt!" she shouted, catching the creature's full attention. She carefully crept over and took her friend's paws. "Stay calm...ok? Getting worked up isn't going to help..."
"Why?" he demanded. "Why is this happening to me?"
"Cody, you're a mutant," she reminded him. "You know there's no answer to that question."
"What is this?" he shouted, pulling his hands away to pace. "It...it can't be GSD, I've finished my activation! It's been weeks since Baloo and I merged, if this was going to happen, why not earlier? Why now!"
"Wyatt, I'm going to call the school..."
"No!" he snarled. "Have them send a truck! Pick me up like some animal! I'm not an animal!"
"Cody I'm trying to help you!" she shouted back. "You need to calm down!" The man bear sank into one of her chairs that groaned under his weight, obviously trying to get a hold of himself. "It's ok. We've got resources, we'll figure this out," she assured him. He looked at his forearms and ran a hand over one.
He looked up, his eyes bright with certainty. "My gauntlets!" he exclaimed. "I need my gautlets! That's the key to this!"
Maria blinked. "Are they in your bag?"
He finally focused on her and shook his head. "No, thousands of years ago, Aunghadhail gave The Kodiak a pair of Mithril gauntlets or bracers or whatever. They're magic!"
"Aung...what? Wait, Lanie said something about a spirit with that name, some Fairy queen or something?"
"It's a long story," Wyatt replied. "Short version? Yah, powerful fairy queen. And when she and the Kodiak were both actually alive she gave him a pair of arm band things maid out of Mithril, they were extremely powerful magic. They may be the key to my getting control of this again!"
She crossed her arms over her breasts. "And...you know where something that valuable is after what you admit are thousands of years?"
"Kodiak Island," he replied instantly. "Whenever I would go into myself and commune with the Kodiak it seemed like I was at a cave mouth on Kodiak Island. I always thought it was just his hallow, or some kind of semi-mystical symbol or something. But, if it's a real place, then it's possible his things are still there!"
He stood, suddenly set for action. "We need to get there..."
"Well, you sure can't travel like that!" Maria replied.
"We'll rent a plane..."
"You can do that?" demanded Maria who then shook her head. "Well, maybe, but not for any amount of money we have!" The creature looked into the Spanish girls face.
She shrugged with a smile. "Hey, it's spring break. I have time to kill. Besides, we're friends, right?" The smile faded and she became serious. "Look, even if I cash this check, there isn't enough money to rent a plane. And trying to get you through an airport is asking for trouble." She sighed. "We'll have to take the train."
April 12th, 2007
Loophole's private lab, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Lanie was bent over her desk, peering through a magnifying glass that was attached to the helping hands she was using to solder the circuit board she was working on. The chip had twenty leads quite close together that all had to be independently soldered and nothing could touch or the circuit was short. "Miss?" Carmen's voice announced softly. "Dashboard is here to speak with you."
"Let her in, Carmen," she ordered, carefully removing the iron and the solder reel and stretching. She'd been hunched over for a while and to sit up was welcome. "Hey, Bridget," she greeted, welcoming the exceptionally tall girl into her domain. She was enjoying one of her trademark lollypops and grinning from ear to ear.
"Hey girl, heard the news, how you holding up?"
"People are taking news of my relationship status as either an opportunity to hit me up for projects or taking a number and getting in line to be mah rebound." She shook her head and smiled. "Which one are ya'll here for?"
Bridget smiled. "My girl probably wouldn't like it if I suddenly got a case of white girl fever."
Elaine blinked. "Wait, you...?" she asked, surprised.
"Elaine, I'm a car girl and a wrench wench, of course I'm a dyke." She looked at her side long. "Funny, I thought you knew."
The red head sighed. "Yeah, well, Ah ain't exactly been around much this year. So, since you're not here to ask me out to the bedroom ballroom, what can Ah help ya with?"
"A girl can't pay a social call?" Johnson demanded. "I may not be hanging with the sisters over in Poe, but just 'cause I'm on the down low don't mean I can't have a sister's back." She cocked her head to one side before she reached out and forced Elaine to look her in the eyes by her chin. "Did he hurt you?"
Red locks were akimbo as Nalley shook her head. "It wasn't like that. Wyatt wasn't the problem. Hell, Ah still love the big..." She sighed. "Jerk. He's a big jerk, but that thing that rides him? That Ah'd happily take a shotgun to."
The leonine featured black girl carefully gauged the expression on Lanie's face, searching for any sign of lie or obfuscation. "Alright," she finally allowed and let the girl's chin go. "How is he taking it? Normally Wyatt's back in the saddle pretty fast, but the grapevine in Melville says he hasn't shacked up. He leaving you alone?"
"Oh, lord," snapped Elaine as she spun away from the other girl and stalked over to the dorm fridge in the corner. She removed a can of coke and held it up in offer but Bridget shook her head. "Who put you up to this?"
"My conscience," Johnson replied. "And you still haven't answered the question, girly."
"We ran into each other a couple of days ago at the gas station down in Berlin. Ah told him what the score was and he understood. Ah left, he didn't follow and he hasn't tried to stalk me or anything else." Johnson rolled the lollypop around in her mouth, her eyes narrow as if trying to see through to the truth in Elaine's heart.
"In the history Whateley Academy, only three girls have told the shaggy Casanova to hit the highway."
Elaine rolled her eyes. "Well, now there's four."
"No," Johnson corrected. "You're number three. I just want..."
Bridget sighed. "Wyatt is used to getting what he wants. I don't think he'd step over the line, but..."
Lanie took a sip of the soda and wagged her finger at her friend. "Wyatt isn't like that. You don't know him like Ah do..."
Johnson snorted and removed the lollypop with a smack from her mouth. "Girl, I know Wyatt exactly like you do." She smiled at the red head's look of astonishment. "I went through a boy phase when I was a sophomore and as it happened, Wyatt caught a case of Jungle Fever." She shrugged. "Just a month, but a very nice month." She smiled at a private memory, then she shivered and her expression changed. "Then I missed a month and I about shit myself. Tests, biting my nails off with worry, but in the end luckily I just skipped a month thank God, but it scared me firmly back on the queer side of the road."
"Were you one or two?" she asked softly.
Bridget chuckled darkly. "Me? I got shown to the door for a blonde with tits the size of her head. Kind of hard to be angry and jealous at the same time. Hell, I wouldn't have minded a little quality time with her." She sighed popped the candy back in her mouth. "Not that he was mean about it." She laughed, "Hell, in the end I felt like I was doing him a favor by bowing out. It was months before I had a 'hey, wait a sec,' moment! Nobody dumps a girl like Cody. It's just odd he hasn't leapt back into the saddle. I don't know what it means."
Elaine stared off into space and wondered herself.
April 16th, 2007
Amtrak 'Empire Builder' East of Seattle, WA
Kodiak sat on the 'sofa' of the Superliner cabin he was sharing with Maria. It was a confined little compartment made up of a sofa that folded down into a bed with a bunk over it that folded out of the ceiling. One wall was the door out to the train proper, the other a huge picture window that showed the hard, cold landscape outside going by. Three days they had been on this train, winding through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and now Washington State. Plus another day and a half on other trains, making connections at Washington, DC and then again in Chicago. Wyatt had made the trip in oversize baggy sweat pants and hoodies, trying not to scare the norms, working very hard not to kill the MCO goons in the Chicago terminal.
Over his head, Maria was asleep in the upper bunk. It had been a tough trip for her, doing yeoman's work assuring the train staff that he was a person, not a dangerous animal, fully sentient, capable of speech and keeping everyone calm. Wyatt hadn't left the car, which fortunately had it's own toilet and shower. It had cost them a ridiculous amount of money for the tickets and taken days instead of hours, but at least they were finally nearing the ending point of the journey. Things would get easier in Seattle...and harder.
In Seattle, they would meet Cody's mother, who had flown the family's Cessna Caravan down from Barrow. It was a reunion Wyatt wasn't looking forward to. While he and his mother had mostly patched the rift that had come between them due to the incident in New York, Wyatt had a deep dread that her seeing him like this would do irreparable damage to their relationship. He hadn't wanted to contact her, had wanted to cram themselves into the regular Seattle to Dutch Harbor Ferry and rent a plane there, but even with the price of aviation gas, it was cheaper to beg his mother to come down and go back than rent a plane locally.
And Maria was getting worn out and feared trying to get on the ferry.
So she was asleep over head while Wyatt chewed on his teeth and tried not to go insane. It was the longest he'd ever worn this form, the previous record was a particularly grueling series of Sim Competitions last year where he'd worn it for six hours straight. He'd never been so conscious of smells before. Between the lady in the next cabin who seemed to bathe in White Diamonds to Maria's simple clean, healthy young woman smell he'd spent large amounts of time trying to figure out the mechanics of mouth breathing. One smell was repugnant, the other...
She's a friend, he told himself for the umpteenth time. And a dedicated lesbian and it doesn't matter what you dream about you big hairy walking hard on.
Maria murmured in her sleep, drawing his gaze up. And she's been dealt a shitty enough hand. Wyatt's hearing had also gotten a quantum boost. He knew the kids in the cabin on the other side were obsessed with the Jonas Brothers and Call of Duty 3 respectively for the girl or boy, while mom had obsessive phone calls her best friend certain her husband was having an affair. The husband, on the other hand, had sad conversations with himself in the mirror wondering why nobody recognized that he was working himself to death. Speaking of death, White Diamonds lady was playing Merry Widow with her dead husband's money and managed to bag a different boy toy each night of the trip.
Worst of all, he knew that Maria talked in her sleep. And every now and then she had a nightmare and cried out, "No! Daddy, don't!" enough times that Wyatt desperately wanted to track the son of bitch down and do violent, permanent things to him. It was only his inner sense of irony that doing exactly that had gotten him in this predicament in the first place, kept him quiet and keeping her secrets. So he let her sleep and again tried to turn his attention inward, to find the hallow where the Kodiak had lived.
He swam through a syrupy darkness, neither finding the beast, nor an empty place inside him where he had once been. Wyatt wondered about that as he drifted in the darkness. He had always been rated as an Avatar. A host for a spirit, but there wasn't an empty place for a spirit to move into that he could find. He still felt the same way he always had, complete and whole; it was one of the reasons he hadn't mourned the Kodiak. One had been his anger at what the spirit had done, the other for feeling like he'd never left.
The darkness gave way to a haze, like a thick fog.
This was good, every time he had come here, there had been a thick fog. Wyatt walked forward cautiously, feeling his way with each step. There was rock underfoot now and trees looming in the fog as he walked, seemingly upward until at last the familiar shape of the bear's den came up out of the mist. Cody looked down, finding his dream self was in the bear form his body was wearing. The smell of the bear was everywhere, but there was a distance to it, as though a house unlived in for some time. "Baloo?" he called, hearing his own voice echo in the stillness, unanswered.
There was a feeling of deja vu as he looked at the cave, a feeling of homecoming and familiarity. "Kodiak?" he shouted again, only again to be met with silence. Feeling more than a little silly, Wyatt stepped forward and peered into the cave. It wasn't particularly deep, only twenty or thirty feet back from the entrance. There were a couple of boulders or rocks one could huddle behind to get out of the wind, even if it were blowing directly in to the back of the cave.
Wyatt didn't notice this as at the back of the cave was a large boulder he recognized. The boulder from the last dream he'd had of the Kodiak, the boulder he'd hidden the box under. In the cave mouth, Wyatt turned and looked out over the view. He concentrated with all his exemplar focus and finally the fog thinned and lifted. Spread out below was a horseshoe shaped ridge line, possibly the exploded out cone of a long dead volcano that marched away to his left. Straight down the ridge was a long, narrow lake that ran roughly north south and beyond a massive, but also narrow inlet of the northern Pacific Ocean. "Horse Marine Lake," Cody whispered to himself. "I know where I am!"
"Seattle, next stop," a voice drifted on the wind. "Seattle..."
Wyatt turned back into the cave and nearly leapt out of his skin, finding himself eye to eye with the Kodiak. The big creature wore his purple doublet and shirt, dark eyes staring out the cave, perfectly still like a living painting. "Have you lost your mind?" Wyatt shouted as he picked himself from having stumbled back and fallen to the floor of the cave. "Where have you been?"
"Answer me!" Wyatt reached out to shake his spirit, but as soon as his paw touched fur there was a flash and once more he was on his ass looking up at the creature. For itself, the Kodiak didn't look at him, but stared out into space as he came to life and began to speak.
"Wyatt, if you're seeing this, it means that we have joined before I was really able to get you ready for it. Doubtlessly you're confused, probably upset. The answers you're looking for are in the memories that are now a part of you. A part of me once more I suppose is most correct. Yes, son, you and I are just different pieces of the same being. Probably not what you wanted or even expected to hear, but that's the way of things. You have my full power now, not just the little taste I've shared with you, trying to guide you. Among other things that means you have magical ability you hadn't had before. You'll need to master this new ability as quickly as you can. If you're not already, you need to be on your way to this cave. Behind this boulder I have something for you that will help."
The big creature settled down onto the boulder and looked down at the ground. He sighed and continued staring down, ironically almost looking directly at his startled younger self. "I sorry I failed you so badly. I never had children of my own and I didn't really know how to get through to you, to make you listen, to mind what I was trying to teach you. I with held these abilities from you because you'd fallen in with some despicable villains and I wasn't about to give them access to these things through you. But, I have to say, son, I've never been prouder of the way you've grown this last year, took responsibility and tried to make things right."
"There's more you need to hear, more you need to understand, but I can't trust this spell to tell you. Once you get a handle on my memories, you'll find most of it. I will say you can trust the Sidhe queen. You'll need her as an ally. Through her you can speak to Aunghadhail, we were friends long, long ago. She can probably answer your questions."
"She's dead, you asshole!" Wyatt shouted. "Because of you!"
"When you find what I've left you, perhaps by then we...I...will be whole again. I will finish this, I will have my revenge, for Gaia, for Atlantis..." the creature sighed a most mournful sigh. "For Aunghadhail."
Wyatt started and found himself staring into Maria's face. "We're here." He turned to the window and saw the train had stopped, the platform busy with people coming and going, porters piling luggage, various officials inspecting the train, the passengers and everything else.
"Oh goody," he muttered as he reached up and flipped the hood of the hoodie over his head. Thinking on what the spell had told him, he concentrated once more and felt something new burning at the back of his awareness. "Did you ever take any of the magic classes?" he asked her as he stood and carefully unplugged his phone and charger from the outlet and made sure of them in his bags.
Maria was doing the same thing in the bathroom they'd shared. "No," she replied. "I did take some of the Psi classes to better understand being a siren, but no magic, why?"
"I found a spell Kodiak left, one of those if you are seeing this I'm dead things," he replied, picking up all the bags and carefully squeezing out the door of the compartment after her. "Supposedly I've got new abilities."
"Sounds like you've got some extra classes to take then," she told him with a smile. They stepped down off the train and got their bearings. While the sweatshirt didn't conceal anywhere nearly as well as they do in the movies, Maria was quietly sub-vocalizing a song of calm and anonymity. A constant vibe of 'not my problem' that left them largely ignored.
"There she is," he muttered, leading the way.
Catherine Cody was in her late thirties or early forties, a trim, ruggedly in shape woman as one would expect from a frontiers woman. Last year she'd dyed her graying chestnut hair blonde and evidently liked the way it looked and kept it. Despite having given birth right out of high school, she'd applied her self to community college and then finished her degree in year and a half at Berkeley. Her husband's football career in Oakland allowed her the money for child care to be accepted to Berkeley's premed, then medical program. She'd even double majored as a general practitioner and then certified as a chiropractor.
By the time her husband's career in Major League sports had folded she was in residency, but he was wanting to return to Alaska. Undeterred, she'd made arrangements for distance learning through the infant internet and found her skills in immediate demand on the North Shore. The two teenagers walked up to her, drawing a sad expression as she reached up to touch her son on his face. "Oh, Wyatt, how are you, son?"
"Been better, Mom. This is Maria Ricardo. Maria, my mom."
"It's a pleasure..." Maria started, extending a hand, which Catherine batted aside and swept the surprised young woman into a hug.
"Thank you," she said with a smile. "Thank you so much for standing by my son when he needed help."
Ricardo recovered herself quickly. "It's what friends do for each other," she replied with an easy smile of her own. "Are you hungry? We'd like..."
"Your money will stay in your pocket, young lady," Mrs. Cody informed her. "I know how tough it is starting out. "So, let's get a bite and we'll be on our way to Kodiak Island."
"You strap on the extra tank?" asked Wyatt as he followed his mother's lead towards the terminal's exit.
"Puddle hop on only a 900 mile range, are you high?" she demanded with a mischievous grin. "Of course I did."
"I like you," Maria observed.
April 16th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
"Is this seat taken?"
Lanie looked up to be met with the square, regular featured face of Tom Harris. He was a fellow sophomore, though still sixteen, and a good looking sort. His dark brown hair was messy in a way that had probably taken twenty minutes in front of a mirror. He was most known around the tunnels as a power suit driver, though he was something of a wheel in the Power Rangers too. It was debatable whether that was a good thing or not. "Nobody's claimed it," Lanie told him as she turned back to her tablet.
She felt him falter and then set his tray down and slide into the seat. "Am...am I disturbing you?" he asked softly, trying to be polite and obviously fearful of the answer.
Lanie sighed, clicked the tablet into sleep mode and turned to face him. "What do you need, Tom?"
He salted his fries to buy himself some time to answer. "I...I wanted to talk... shop maybe. There aren't many of us back from spring break yet, and I always thought eating alone kind of sucked."
"Are you not comfortable being alone?"
She saw something click behind his eyes and his demeanor became more determined. He leaned forward and whispered earnestly, "Look, you know none of us in the tunnels are good at this kind of thing, Lanie! We heard you wised up and sent Kodiak packing..."
"Mah personal life..."
"Let me finish! We in the shop, we need to stick together! However he did you wrong, it doesn't matter! I know I'm not a jock like he is, but I'll treat you right! Will you at least give me a chance to prove it to you?"
She blinked, then dropped her eyes to her salad and shook her head. "Ah admit, Thomas, that is the most honest and direct pick up line Ah've ever heard." He smiled a tentative little smile.
"The desperation was palpable," she continued sardonically. "Let me give you a nickles worth of free advice. You thought you said you're a good person who's loyal and thoughtful and will always be there, right?"
"I did..." he started, but Lanie kept shaking her head.
"No, Tom, what you said was, 'Ah'm desperate and lonely and unattractive so you can abuse me as much as you want so long as you'll spend time with me.' Honestly, what girl would want that? Or better yet, are you so desperate that you'll put up with a girl who does?" She sniffed and crunched on a crouton she picked out of her salad. "Might as well lay down in front of her door and call yourself 'Matt'."
He sighed and shook his head. "That bad, huh?"
"Oh, you did better than Ringo. Friday night he offered me a hundred bucks to come with him to the movies." Tom snorted and was able to bite down on the guffaw that tried desperately to get out. "Poor thing turned as red as a '62 Stingray when Ah explained about girls who take money to 'date' guys."
"Even if it sounds bad, you know what I meant," Tom replied around a mouthful of his Reuben. "And you know it's true!"
"Ya'll weren't so eager to spend time with me last year," she said, leaning forward and propping her chin up with both hands. Between the table, and the constriction of her arms, her breasts were forced together in a way that had them threatening to pop out of her blouse and left a canyon of cleavage that could set up shop in Arizona and be called grand. His eyes immediately fell, mesmerized. "Ah wonder, what could have changed?"
"Well, you're between seniors," he said, eyes fixed on her chest, his meal forgotten.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.
He shrugged and forced his eyes to look into hers. "It's the truth," he proclaimed earnestly. "Last year it was Songbird, this year it was Kody. You've got a thing for Seniors." She saw he was being sincere and speared some lettuce and cheese of her salad and chewed thoughtfully.
"Ah guess Ah never thought of it that way," she admitted. "Of course, that said, you being a sophomore doesn't exactly speak well of your chances."
He shrugged. "Depends on how many times you want to throw up on the merry go round before you get off." He sighed before he stood and picked up his tray. "I get it, you want to be alone for a while. That's cool. I hope when you're done with that, you'll just remember our conversation." He walked off towards the Power Rangers table. She watched him depart for a long moment, considering his words.
"No wonder mamma says some folk just don't leave high school," she told herself. "In two years Ah've had enough drama to fill up five seasons of a soap opera!"
She turned her tablet back on and poked at her salad, only to hear, "Hey there, little lady, this seat taken?"
April 17th, 2007
One Thousand Feet AGL, over Kodiak Island, Alaska
The Cessna Caravan was a big plane, with seating for fourteen it was huge for a single engine turbo prop. As a bush plane in the Alaskan wilderness, it was the airborne version of a minivan. The Cody family's example, Linebacker had the easily removable seats to convert back and forth between passenger and cargo configuration. A number of cabinets, cleverly designed to fit into the space available allowed it to be used as an air ambulance and the pontoons she wore meant she could go most places in Alaska and get back out. The under slung luggage compartment had a middle section that could be replaced with an add on tank of another one hundred fifty gallons, significantly increasing it's range.
Even as big as it was, with Wyatt in his current form, the plane seemed cramped and small. He was too big to sit at the controls the way he wanted so as to give his mother some relief from flying. Catherine just waved off his objections and gave Maria the nickel pilots lesson as they flew. They were tracking west from their refuel stop at the little town of Kodiak the rugged mountains of the island on their right and the Gulf of Alaska to the left.
It was only a little over seventy miles from Kodiak to Horse Marine Lake, a journey that was only easy by air as what few roads were on the island were well behind them in Kodiak. They'd stayed the night in Seattle and Wyatt was feeling a bit relieved by the conversation he'd had with his mother before turning in. Perhaps things would, could be better than they'd been. She's seemed very pleased by the correspondence she'd had with Dr. Bellows.
She was exceptionally pleased about his tentative statements about possibly studying medicine as a career.
"There!" his mother's voice crackled over the headset. Wyatt turned to look over his shoulder and out the front glass of the craft. She was pointing into the distance, sunlight glittering off the waters of the lake and the inlet.
Wyatt pointed to the ridge. "Circle the ridge there. That's where his cave should be."
She turned back to look at her son. "How do you remember this?"
"It was a vision..." he started then paused, processing what she was saying. "Remember? Have we been here before?"
"You were small," she replied. "Three or four. We were flying up to Barrow! We had engine trouble and had to set down and while your father and I were working on the plane you wondered off! We went mad looking for you!"
Wyatt felt a dry patch in his throat. "You found me in the cave, didn't you?"
The aircraft banked and slid through the air as she came closer to the ridge than a judicious pilot should. Though he'd never seen it from the air, there was no mistaking the cave that had taken so much of his life. "You go ahead and land on the lake," he ordered. "I'll be there in a little bit."
"Wyatt, where..." she started, then before she knew the door was open and her son had leapt out. A five hundred foot fall would have killed most, certainly anyone else that Catherine Cody knew, but her son wasn't even staggered. He stood and gestured that he was alright. "I'm going to kill him!" growled Mrs. Cody.
"There's a line," Maria assured her.
Wyatt watched his mother bank off and line up her landing on the lake, a bit over a mile away. The cliffs were steep and he didn't want to have had the argument with her about staying with the plane. He wasn't sure what the cave would hold and whatever it was, there was no way he was going to risk his mother's life. Once he was sure she'd made a perfect landing on the lake, he turned from where he'd landed and walked the last few feet up to the summit and the cave mouth.
The plateau was exactly how he'd always seen it. The mouth of the cave just below the actual top of the ridge, with the wide, flat spot on top where the beast had lounged and sunned himself when they'd talked some times. There was a deathly stillness in the air, without bird or insect, and the air was strangely without scents.
At the mouth of the cave was a faded plastic toy airplane that had eyes for a windshield.
Seeing the toy triggered a sense of being picked up by strong arms and carried away, heedless of his cries. "It was your favorite," the voice whispered on the breeze.
"Where are you?!" shouted Wyatt, teeth bared in rage, ready for a fight.
From the darkness of the cave, a vague shadow took shape and walked to the edge of the opening. "Hello, Wyatt, you've grown."
"What did you do to me?" the young man snarled. Now in the light, Wyatt could see it was the Kodiak as he had been in his last moments, clothing rent and sullied and blood stained, one paw bleeding from the blood oath he'd sworn. "What did you do to her? Did you think I wouldn't find out? That I wouldn't make you answer for it?"
That struck the Kodiak as funny and he painfully laughed and spat blood from the effort. "Answer?" the ghost demanded. "What can you possibly do, boy? I am dead! I have been for longer than most of your race has been wearing clothes!" The ghost shook his head sadly. "What did I do to you? I saved your life, you ungrateful wretch, that's what I did to you!"
Wyatt crossed his arms over his chest, still not used to the feeling of the thick fur. "Oh, right, I suppose you're going to spin some tale about how you took pity on the poor helpless human, lost in the woods?"
"Dead in the woods, actually," the bear sniffed. "Exposure and hypothermia, it was cold that year. The wails of your soul at being separated from your body woke me. I've been tied to this place since Pangaea was whole. So I forced your heart to start beating again and kept you warm until I could guide your parents here and put a piece of my own soul with yours to tie us both to your body."
"Suddenly I'm not you reincarnated anymore?" the senior demanded.
"Your ignorance of the realities of metaphysics is breathtaking," Kodiak replied. The bear staggered and sat heavily on a boulder. "You've obviously subsumed the part of my soul I gave you. Come for the rest of me?"
"I am not a part of you!" Cody shouted.
The ghost shook his massive head. "Oh, son, you just won't understand, will you?"
"I'm not your son!" Cody screamed.
"No," Kodiak said sadly. "You're an ungrateful spoiled brat. You don't deserve the power I've given you, but what's done is done." Wyatt stalked forward and tried to grab the ghost, but his hands passed through it. "That temper will be your undoing boy, mark my words!"
Frustrated, Cody strode past him, into the cave. "I don't need you," he snarled. "I'm not interested in anymore of your lies, your vengeance, none of it!" He saw the boulder and his strength made short work of moving it.
The ghost found that funny and chuckled. "Oh? Seems like you wanted nothing but my answers not so long ago."
"If there is a God, this will be the last I see of you," the boy snapped as his eyes fell on the box, still nestled in its hiding place after so many years.
"Oh, there is a God," Kodiak replied darkly. "Sometimes I wonder who's side He's on, but He's most definitely there." The bear stood and ambled over, somehow supporting is incorporeal form by the cave wall. "A girl?" he asked, holding his head as if trying to remember. "You're angry about a girl?"
Wyatt carefully reached into the carved out space and removed the box. It was a bit dusty, but he would have sworn it was only a few decades old, not millennia. It looked like a little Murphy's Oil Soap and a light coat of polyurethane would make it new again. "You claim you don't know?" he demanded as he carefully brushed the dirt off the box.
"We've been separated since you subsumed the portion of me I gave you," the spirit replied. "Oh, I remember now. The red head, Elaine. I'm sorry that's turned out badly."
Wyatt looked over his shoulder at the ghost, incredulity dripping from his face. "Turned out badly?" he repeated in amazement. "Is that what you call it? That you could use someone so callously, so indifferently and just shrug it off? Oh well, sorry about that? What kind of fucking monster are you?"
The bear snarled, his fangs dripping blood. "One that lost everything and everyone he ever cared for!" he shouted back. "You lost a girl? A girl? God above, child! I've lost my entire world!" He slid down the side of the cave as if gasping for breath. "I give up!" he shouted to the heavens. "Take me oblivion, I no longer have the will to exist! That I could have hoped that you could have saved this world, has there been any greater fool in the history of creation!"
Wyatt stood and walked over to the spirit as it lay weeping on the floor of the cave. For what to him seemed a long moment, his anger and his humanity had a war. Despite himself, Wyatt Cody was basically a good person, and to see any being in distress bothered him. His anger wanted to twist the knife, to make it worse, to make the ghost suffer, but in the end, that was not who Wyatt Cody was. He knelt down and looked into the half man, half bear's eyes. "This is your one chance to play straight with me, Kodiak," he growled. "Don't waste it, don't talk in riddles or hints, give a goddamn straight answer to a goddamn straight question. Whatever destroyed Atlantis, does it still exist?"
The Kodiak's eyes were full of such sorry and remorse and anger that the boy was heartsick to see it. "Yes," he whispered. "It nearly destroyed the entire Earth. In my time, what you call continents were a single, huge landmass. Your science has discovered it and calls it Pangaea. At the center of it, lay Atlantis. This island was one of the fringes, as far as one could go from the city without turning back and starting to approach again."
"And you swore an oath to kill it?" The creature held up his bleeding, ghostly paw. "If you couldn't kill it in your time, what makes you think I...?"
The creature coughed and spat blood. "I don't have time to explain all of that, Wyatt," he said raggedly. "I can only tell you that I know you can. You and the allies you'll partner with." He weakly held up his good paw. "Part of it is in that box, part in the last of me. Join with me, Wyatt. Join with me and I swear I will help you defeat this thing. That I will protect the girl you hold so dear and in so doing I will have the revenge I swore all those centuries ago."
Wyatt weighed the creature's words. If this thing was still alive, then everyone was in danger, every ally would be needed and who besides the Kodiak would know more? But then, of late, he'd learned the creatures motives could be down right sideways. "IF I join with you and allow you to use me as your host, do you swear that my personality, the being known as Wyatt Cody will be in control?"
The Kodiak sighed and seemed to be a bit more faint than he was. "I don't want to live your life, boy, but yes, by the Paramount Queen of the West, by the daughter of the Burning Oak, by Aunghadhail herself, I swear in joining with you, the being known as Wyatt Cody will have control of the body we will share, that I will do all in my power to guide him and give honest and true advice and knowledge, and that I will harm none, save the enemy of life, the Bastard, and those who serve him."
A host of threats sprang to Wyatt's lips, to awe the spirit with promises of revenge should it break it's oath. But, in the end, he realized that was meaningless. If the spirit was lying, this would be his last act in this life. It would be the end of Wyatt Cody. But the risk was far too great otherwise and in giving up and accepting his own death, Wyatt made the bravest decision of his life and simply whispered, "For you, Lanie," and touched the paw the Kodiak held up.
A feeling that defied description flowed up Wyatt's arm. The eyes of the Kodiak seemed to become larger and larger until there was nothing but the sad eyes and his consciousness exploded into an infinitely larger place and for a brief moment, Wyatt Cody knew and understood everything. The darkness that descended was warm, soft and comfortable.
April 17th, 2007
Cave over looking Horse Marine Lake, Kodiak Island, Alaska
The darkness was soothing and comfortable that Wyatt floated in. There was no sense of self, no urgency, only a feeling of relaxation. There was a vague feeling of something he should be doing, but it was elusive and whenever he reached for that thought, it slipped through his fingers. Slowly, from a great distance, a light appeared, and Wyatt drifted towards it. Smells rose up, the stench of a battlefield, blood, urine and feces, then with it the cries of the wounded and dying, a terrible cacophony that assaulted the boy and tore at his senses.
Finally he found himself standing in a ruined landscape, trees burning or blasted to tooth picks, the land scorched and everywhere there were bodies. Bodies of what he thought were men at first, then realized they were actually elves, which was bad, but worse was the parts of bodies, hacked off limbs, faces frozen in shock and agony. They at least were recognizable.
Mixed with them were their foes and it was impossible to discern what these beings were. No two were alike, bodies with tentacles or insect like claws, animal parts, fur, in a wild mishmash without reason or sanity. The ground shook, drawing his gaze to the horizon where some horrific thing could just be made out, bloated body the size of the Astrodome, with flaying tentacles, bat wings and a sense so horrifically unnatural that for a brief moment he felt his mind despair, then a hatred so powerful, so consuming clamped down on his sanity and it was all he could do not to summon his power and leap to the attack. Wyatt looked down and saw he was not wearing the body of the Kodiak, he was the Kodiak, doublet rent and stained, a chain mail coat over it caked in mud and the detritus of the battlefield.
He made his way through the muck to a standard the bearer had struck into the ground to keep it from falling as his dying action. There were more dead elves here, and more dead...things. He reached down and pulled the bodies away to reveal the queen, not as he had seen her in Cavalier's mind, now she was a vibrant, living creature, both more and less than anything he could imagine. For the briefest of terrors, he thought her dead, then her eyes opened painfully she reached up and caressed his face. "I am beyond your care now, physician," she said painfully. "And with the battle lost, I care not to live."
"This cannot be allowed," Wyatt heard himself say. He reached down and took the queen's hand. "It cannot end this way, Majesty!"
The queen forced a pained smile. "All things end, my friend. We have failed, the bastard sunders magic from the world and without it, the Fey are doomed." He squeezed her hand, but his grief would not let him speak. "Very well, my friend. Help me sit up."
Wyatt lifted the queen who, despite the armor she wore weighted practically nothing. With one hand, she dipped her fingers into her own blood that soaked into the mud the battlefield was choked with. The other wiped a tear from his eyes and she pressed the two together. "I bind us, soul to soul, denied from oblivion, separated from rest, our souls will endure, through age to age, until once more we face this bastard and bring him death."
She coughed and spat blood. She reached up and drew a sigil on his forehead. "This is the last of my magic," she whispered. "It will protect you from the sundering he works now. Fly, my lord, fly to where the magic will lead you. And there, plant the seed of our revenge." She smiled as her eyes closed and death claimed her. Wyatt gently laid the queen back to her rest, and reverently removed the circlet of mithril, with it's massive amethyst from her head.
"I shall avenge you," Wyatt swore. "No matter how long, no matter the cost, he will pay for what he has done!"
Wyatt stood and focused drawing on the death and fear and sadness around him calling on all the essence he could reach, no matter the cost until a spell, much like the anesthesia spell he used for surgery but millions of times more powerful focused on the head of a javelin clutched in the hand of one of Aunghadhail's dead guards. He picked up the weapon, the first of his life, and hurled it, strengthening it's flight with more magic he could not spare.
He felt the awareness of the Bastard focus on him as the javelin pierced his disgusting body, but it was too late. The spell was already robbing the servitor of his consciousness. "Look on your death, Bastard!" he shouted, but his enemy had a final trick to play. It finished it's ritual and a shiver ran through the land.
The shiver became a quaking, then a roar as the land opened and swallowed the creature, taking it out of Wyatt's reach. A thought summoned a sky chariot that pulled him upwards as the land continued to sink and Wyatt realized what the creature in it's desperation had done. Pangaea was broken, even now the oceans were rushing in as the land began to split fires and storms began to rage over the Sundering of magic and the land. The Earth swallowed the battlefield, then it was covered by the water as Atlantis was toppled, then consumed.
Wyatt wept as the Chariot bore him west, away from the destruction away from all he had ever known.
"Wyatt? Can you hear me, son?"
Cody's eyes finally opened, looking up dimly into the worried face of his mother, the most welcome sight he could ever remember seeing. "Mom?" He sat up and embraced her, elated to find her alive after what he had just experienced, and that the spirit he could feel within him had kept his word. "Oh, mom!"
"Easy, son! Easy!" she laughed as her back popped from the force of his hug. He looked down to find himself human once more, the box still clutched in his hand "Did you find what you were looking for?" she asked. "We were worried, it's getting late."
Cody looked out the cave mouth to find the sun significantly lower in the sky. He stood and handed the box to Maria, who also looked concerned. "Come on, let's get down before we lose the light and set up some kind of camp. Have I got a story to tell you two." He stood and led the way, pausing to bend down and pick up the toy by the cave mouth. It was a crude representation, large and blocky and obviously meant for a very young child.
"Your airplane!" exclaimed Catherine. "Oh, how you wailed about leaving it!" Wyatt smirked and picked up his mother.
"I don't need it to fly now," he said as he launched himself off the cliff.
April 18th, 2007
Auditorium 14C, Devisor Tunnels under Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
The Auditorium was busy, plenty of students coming and going, some jubilant, pleased with their placements, some disappointed, but all busy. At the bottom of the stadium shaped auditorium was a small dais at which sat The Committee, two seniors and four juniors who would be judging every member of the Engineering Track and their work to date. It was a very different scene from the last time Elaine had been in this room and staring down the entire engineering track. Now they had windows of appointments to accommodate presentation materials, prototypes or other large and bulky visual aides as they defended their work and sought to rise in the Order.
For herself, Elaine was dressed in the charcoal Armani miniskirt suit with it's red silk blouse, accents and the red Prada ankle strap heels Mrs. Carson had bought her last month in New York for her Wicked cover. Shopping with the Head Mistress had been an interesting experience. Not only did she have remarkably refined senses of style and taste that combined into an outfit that displayed power, confidence and an unrepentant flattery of her figure that was it's own special kind of sexy, but Elizabeth Carson was a bloodhound for a bargain and more horrifying than Genghis Khan when haggling for the best price. She wished she had the easy confidence and rock solid belief in herself the spell had given her to carry on the charade, but with her hair back to it's original scarlet and in a deceptively simple, but professional and flattering style, she had to settle for knowing she looked the part whether she felt it or not.
Below, Knick-Knack was finished returning his items to his cart and one of the non-engineer freshmen who had been assigned to the Order to assist gave her the high sign. It was her turn. She stood and picked her laptop up and rotated the screen into tablet mode before she made her way down the steep stairs and placed it on the table The Committee was using.
"Ah am Loophole, sophomore, Gearhead, Journeyman Engineer Fifth Rank, here to defend mah work," she intoned with all the confidence she could muster.
"Didn't you leave out your other titles?" Sneered David Archer. "Rug muncher? Muff Diver?"
Gadget brought the wrench she was using as a gavel down like a thunderclap on the table. "Eruption, you don't expect to get away with using that kind of language here, do you?"
"I'm sorry," the Junior replied, dripping with false sincerity. "I thought there was a thing called Freedom of Speech here?"
"Then Ah'm perfectly within mah rights to call you a micro-penis possessing cranial rectal inversion," Elaine shot back. "And just because you don't have a snowball's chance in hell..."
"Shut your mouth, fag hag!"
"Come down here and make me!"
"Enough!" thundered Hardsell. When she'd first faced this tribunal, Elaine had wondered why there had been one of the power suit drivers present, in his armor, acting as Bailiff. She knew better now, knew how tempers could flair and how easily things could come to blows. "David, sit your bigoted ass down before I come over there and really stick your head up your ass! Elaine, you know better girl, and don't think being a girl will stop me keeping you in line either!"
"You got an obsession with my ass?" Eruption demanded, his face flushed. Hardsell only chuckled.
"Her's is better looking," shot back Hardsell. "And even if I did swing that way, I have more respect for my dick than that!"
Gadget rapped the wrench again and grudgingly, Eruption sank back into his chair. Elaine bowed her head. "Mah apologies, Chief Engineer."
"Proceed," the squirrel girl whistled between her oversized incisors.
Nalley held her hands over the tablet and made a gesture as if reaching into the device for the files she wanted and then flinging them wide. The tablet had a wireless conversation with the sever that ran the holographic imagining system built into the bottom of the auditorium and the files seemed to leap out of the device to float in the air around her. She grabbed the one closest to her and 'pulled' on it to expand a molecular model. "Ah was awarded Journeyman rank last year..."
"Over many objections," muttered David, loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to be called out for it.
"...On the strength of two patents, WA200612481 Kevra currently under license to Dow Chemicals and WA200612305 Pocolda currently under license to Better Brands."
"When did you have time to invent anything, since you spent all your time shagging Songbird?" Elaine took a deep breath to keep her cool and smiled her sweetest smile.
"Ah was inspired by spending time with a beautiful woman, not that you'll ever know what that's like, Eruption."
"Point of information, Engineer?" asked Madelyn Wicker cautiously from the other side of the table.
Gadget glared at Eruption but said, "The Chair Recognizes Hydroflux."
"Loophole, I'm not familiar with this Pocolda. Could you explain it please?" Nalley nodded, grabbing the model of the chemical and bringing it forward while doing her best to ignore the hostile stares of Eruption.
"Pocolda is a long chain semicrystalline polymer that is one sided. This locked side allows the chain's crystalline lattice to distribute pressure across the entire frame in a ratio of five to the ninth to one."
Madelyn stared at the model for a moment. "But, only on one side? What is the pressure tolerance on the other side?"
Loophole blushed. "Significantly lower. The lattice can be disrupted due to the pressure on the far side wanting to shed these radicals here and here."
"You said this was under license to Better Brands? What do they make with it?"
"The CO2 Grenade. This allows the compression of carbon dioxide gas of the volume of about four fire extinguishers to be compressed into a sixty eight caliber ball."
Madelyn nodded and made some notes on her tablet. "Is there some significance to the name?"
Loophole blushed and gave a little shrug. "It's a mash up of the phrases Inter-dimensional Pocket and Bag Of Holding. Since it's easy to break, Ah thought it fits."
Madelyn chuckled. "You put a portable hole in a bag of holding, nicely done!" she exclaimed, catching the Dungeons and Dragons reference. Elaine looked at Gadget and with her nod, swept the previous years projects away and pulled up three other files.
"This year, Ah have worked on three main projects. The first is Pending WA200715477 the Automotive Afterburner. Ah have a tentative agreement with AJG Consolidated to market the device to the industry, pending final approval from the school. The second is WA200715286 the NEMCPE or Nalley Electro-Magnetic Charged Particle Emitter. This has been rated as a Category Three Restricted Use NFA Certified use by the ATF. It is not currently licensed. Finally, Ah developed the TAPS, or Transdimensional Aranis-Hewley Power Station, this is an experimental prototype unit capable of generating 43.2 megawatts of electricity."
Gadget blinked. "You're not patenting this?"
Elaine shook her head. "No, patents require giving a detailed schematic to the patent office. Ah've petitioned Mr. Paulson to advocate on mah behalf to Mrs. Carson to have the TAPS declared Suppressed."
"You filthy dyke, you can't do that!" shouted Eruption.
"It's mine! Ah invented it, Ah can do what Ah like with it!" shot back Elaine.
"No! That's not fair! That's it, goddamn it! That's the key to power suits!"
"Silence!" thundered Gadget with an ear splitting whistle. "Every inventor here has the right to have an invention suppressed, so that only they have access to it. So that no record of it is turned over to anyone and the school keeps no hard copy beyond grading. That right is inviolate." She stood and glared until David once more sat down. Hardsell lowered his arm and with it whatever weapon was built into the suit he was about to use. "And this Order will always respect that right," she declared with finality. Turning back to Elaine, the animal human hybrid asked, "Why have you advocated for suppression on this device?"
"Because the bigot is right, it is the answer to power suits. A Platoon equipped with off the shelf power frames powered by this could take over any third world nation on the planet. An Army with them could conquer the world, or destroy it. Ah won't allow that. Ah won't be the cause of that."
"You can't stop discovery!" shouted David.
"But Ah can control what Ah release!" Elaine retorted.
Gadget sniffed as if considering the arguments. "These are your only projects for the year?"
Loophole shrugged. "Ah assisted Compiler with a circuit control interface for her Nano-Paint coating, but it was off the shelf components primarily with code writing. Mah involvement was minor. Ah also did fault discovery and minor interface coding for several other projects throughout the workshop for other inventors."
"What did you do, pay off Cody to pretend you two were getting it on to cover for your lesbian desires?"
"Wyatt Cody," she snarled, "is a real man, little boy! And from what Ah read on the stalls in the girls' bathrooms, you aren't a third the man he is! And since you can't measure up, why don't you shut up?!" An ominous hum came from Hardsell's power armor as if something particularly nasty was being taken off 'safe'. Elaine turned to find one arm pointed at her, the other at Eruption. She slowly stepped back from the table and clasped her hands on front herself. David sank back into his chair.
Gadget nodded after a long moment. "Hydroflux?"
Madelyn considered for a long moment. "I recommend Mastery, Chief Engineer. The Journeyman has demonstrated prowess in three disciplines; chemical, electrical and electromechanical engineering. Patents have been awarded and licensed demonstrating understanding of business along with the world outside the lab and Loophole has requested a suppression so the Journeyman understands the consequences of her inventions."
"Flashbang?" asked Gadget.
Marie looked over at Madelyn, her fellow Junior and nodded. "I concur, Chief Engineer, Mastery."
The Chief Engineer then turned to her fellow Senior. "Keystone?"
Reggie rubbed the goatee on his chin for a moment tapping the stylus of his computer against the edge of the table with his other hand in a nervous tick. "I can't say I'm happy about this Suppression, Gadget," he said after a long moment. "Yes, Loophole does describe a worst case scenario. But I can just as easily describe a post scarcity economy because of this thing. This might as well be something like zero point energy, right Loophole? A violation of the laws of thermodynamics? Something for nothing? Yes, I heard about the little mishap you had when you gave one of these to Jerico, but that could be overcome, am I not correct? Some self-regulating oscillation of the frequencies to keep them from heterodyning? Is that not so?"
Elaine played with her fingers. "Yes," she finally admitted. "The problem could probably be overcome."
Keystone frowned. "You might not be plunging the world into war, Loophole, but you aren't delivering it from want either. I find that horrifyingly selfish."
"You won't have to live with it's misuse, either," she whispered.
"I'm sure that will be a soothing balm to some starving kid in Africa who won't ever know what electricity is, or live in a building with anything but a dirt floor because of your keen desire to have a free conscience." He sighed. "I recommend advancing the Journeyman to the first rank. She's not ready to be make a tough choice. That's the hallmark of a Master Engineer."
"Mega-Death?" asked Gadget.
Harvey was playing with his phone and kept his attention on it. "I...I can see both sides of this, Chief. Keystone is right, this is probably the most selfish decision the great..." He stopped and swallowed hard. "Decision I have have seen in my time here. On the other hand, Keystone is the king of I don't have to live with what I do."
"No, you just have to shout about how great you are while frothing at the mouth," the bio-devisor retorted. Harvey's knuckles on his hands turned white as he gripped his phone and kept his eyes on it.
"But I've never heard of anything you've done to get that kid in Africa off the dirt floor, Key. But help the soldiers ravishing his village, that's your bread and butter, isn't it?" The wrench struck the table.
"The Committee members will direct their comments to either the Journeyman being considered or the chair, not to other members," Gadget declared. "Continue Mega-Death."
"We are here to pass judgment on the ability of the member, not what that member chooses to do with what they create, is that no so? I'll grant there is room for improvement from Loophole, but that does not mean she has not done all that we require of a Master Engineer. Not first rank, certainly, but she is a master. I recommend Master Fifth Rank, Chief Engineer."
"Interesting," Gadget replied as she considered. "Eruption, due to your outbursts, the Chair penalizes your vote on this member..."
"And if you say one more word!" shouted Gadget, staring down the outraged Junior, "the Chair will call for a vote to 'erupt' you off this Committee."
"Oh please, lets," purred Keystone. David slammed his fists onto the table, but held his tongue.
"The Chair is intrigued by the suggestion of Mega-Death and if there is no objection from Hyrdoflux, the Chair will call his recommendation to question first."
"No objection, Chief Engineer."
"All those in favor of raising Journeyman Loophole to the rank of Master Engineer 5th Circle, raise your right hand." Keystone shook his head and kept his hands on the table, along with the scowling Eruption. Gadget smiled and nodded. "Loophole, this Committee confers upon you the rank of Master Engineer Fifth Circle, until you defend your work next year. Congratulations."
April 19th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
"That's quite a tale, Wyatt," Mrs. Carson admitted now that the young man had finally finished. She stood and refreshed her own coffee then the boy's mother and finally his. "To think these are actually artifacts crafted in Atlantis," she thought out loud, turning one of the vambraces over in her hands. "Incredible. You will, of course allow the science and sorcery departments access to these artifacts for study?"
"They don't leave my sight, but sure, I don't mind them being studied."
"It seems like the potential medical sorcery advances could be stunning," Mrs. Cody remarked. Mrs. Carson smiled.
"Not to worry, Catherine, any advances will be covered under US and international spell copy right and Wyatt will be the beneficiary of those royalties." She took a sip of her coffee. "He'll need it, especially now."
"Is there a problem?"
"Wyatt has just received a dizzying array of new powers," Mrs. Carson told her. "Sorcerous artifacts more advanced than any known and he's never taken so much as magic theory. I don't see any alternative but to hold Wyatt back and make him repeat his senior year."
"What?" Wyatt shouted, stunned. The Headmistress' glare was sufficient to silence him.
"Elisabeth, what about his scholarship?" Mrs. Cody asked. "We're not made of money..."
Mrs. Carson smiled reassuringly. "Oh, I wouldn't worry, Catherine. I'm certain something can be worked out. We don't intend to gobble up his royalties, after all, starting out is hard these days. With a responsible contribution on Wyatt's part, I think I can convince the Ty West Foundation to pick up the rest. Perhaps more, after all, it's not like it's Wyatt's fault he's being held back." She took another sip of her coffee and smirked. "Perhaps young Mr. Cody will learn to be a bit more careful before he enters into agreements with the magically active."
Wyatt looked at her sidelong, obviously confused. Mrs. Carson's smile only deepened. "Then again, that would cost him some of his roguish charm, wouldn't it?"
April 19th, 2007
Room 215, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
"What do you want?" demanded Chaka, her normally lovely face set into a frown. "Haven't you done enough?"
Wyatt ignored her and looked deeper into the room. Nikki was curled up like a ball on her bed, seated next to her was the new girl, who Aries had informed him was named Kayda. She was making some kind of drink, tea from the look of it, and she looked up fearfully at the door. "I'm here to help," he told Chaka.
"You've helped enough," the young black girl snapped. She went to close the door in his face but his hand caught it and it stopped moving. And no strength Chaka possessed would move it again until he released it.
"I can help with, or without breaking things," Cody said softly. "But I will help."
"Kodiak?" The plaintive voice cut through the tense silence. Nikki got up from her bed and padded over to the door. "Kodiak, I can't find her! You promised you'd help!" Wyatt went down to one knee so as to be eye to eye with the petite redhead.
"I haven't forgotten, majesty," he told her softly, noting Toni released the fist she'd clinched in preparation for violence. He put the box he was holding down and held up his arms. Toni started, she'd never seen the bracers he was wearing before, but she knew mithril when she saw it and the disruptions and alterations they were doing to Wyatt's Ki was like nothing she'd ever seen before. "Do you remember these?"
"Allow us with our own hands," she whispered, her eyes focusing sharply for the first time in a long while. "I wore this! Aunghadhail wore this, it was made of the armor..." The violet eyes snapped up. "Where?" She demanded, nearly frantic. "How?"
Wyatt reached down and opened the box at his feet. "The seed of our revenge has sprouted and grown, majesty."
She looked down and her eyes boggled out of her head as he removed a circlet of mithril with it's perfect amethyst. "The winter crown..." she whispered. "No. No! It couldn't be removed unless..." Her eyes went wider than saucers. "No!" She shouted. "No! She can't be...!"
"The Queen is dead," Wyatt intoned solemnly as he gently placed the The Winter Crown on the head of Nikki Reilly. "Long live the Queen." The girls eyes filled with tears and what willpower she had to hold them back folded and broke. Nikki threw herself into Kodiak's arms and wailed her mourning.
"She's gone!" She sobbed. "Gone!"
"It's alright," he told her. "I miss her too."
April 20th, 2007
The Grove, South of Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
It was a solemn gathering that drifted into the Grove, every Sidhe student that went to Whateley was in attendance, as well as more then a few forest spirits and beings like Koehnes. Outcast Corner stood with the Weres, Razorback clutching a large handkerchief which he was worrying to shreds while Jericho leaned against Diamondback, an acoustic guitar slung across his back. Eldrich and the Grunts who'd been recruited into the Wild Bunch where standing at attention, all armed with rifles and looking sharp in dress versions of the various branches of Services in their ROTC uniforms. In the shadows behind them stood Sara and her father.
The procession was led by an ashen faced Chou which formed a circle around a woven briar that had grown in the center of the clearing. Once everyone was in place, the lights seemed to dim, leaving only the living lights of pixies and spirits to light the clearing as Team Kimba made their way in. Jade and Jin where at the fore carrying black swathed banners depicting a burning oak tree. Those who could see Jade's eyes shivered at the anger and sadness that festered there, while Jinn looked as unemotional as ever.
Behind the standard bearers came Phase and Hank, and Toni and Billie, each supporting a corner of a woven platform. As if in a daze, Nikki walked behind them, her eyes red with tears, making the amethyst of the Winter Crown that rode on her forehead seem red as well. Behind her, solemn in a silk swordsman's shirt and glittering mithril vambraces, Wyatt walked with a dignity the young man had never before shown. Koehnes brought up the rear, worried about her mistress and distressed of her own loss. Behind the procession, hesitant as if uninvited or out of place, crept Kayda, the spotless white bison calf next to her. When it looked most like she had decided she was unwelcome and would flee, Caitlin detached herself from the clump of Outcasts and put her arm around the young Native girl and brought her into the circle. The platform was place on the briar and the bearers stepped back, each doing their best to hide their own emotions.
The platform was empty save for a shield, bearing the burning oak.
Sniffing loudly Nikki whispered, yet somehow everyone heard. "Thank you for coming. I... We... She..." the read head gulped and shook her head unable to continue.
A strong hand landed on her shoulder and Nikki looked up into Charlie Lodgeman's eyes. Behind him where her parents who she quickly moved to hug.
"Fey has suffered a trauma few will ever experience." Totem said. "Perhaps I am one of the few who know what she feels, as once my wife held a little part of the one we came to honor. Through Cirque I knew Aunghadhail, as well as through my own spirit. Her history goes back to before man, her deeds many and varied. She was a creator," he nodded to the Weres, "a Queen," this time to the Sidhe and their lesser kin, "A teacher," he gave Nikki a sad smile "and a war leader." a final nod to The Wild Bunch.
"But most of all, she was a hero. She gave her life to help heal two people she knew had been used unkindly. And isn't that the greatest gift a Queen can give her people? The willingness to give her life to protect them?" The teacher looked over his shoulder into the senior's eyes and nodded. Wyatt walked forward while Jericho separated himself from the Corner and found a place to lean and get his guitar comfortable across his lap.
"Someone," Wyatt intoned softly. "Told me I was descended from killers sons and grandsons of killers and drunkards and poets. This isn't my poem, I wish it was. But I can't think of any other way to say good bye." Jerico began to softly pluck at the guitar, spinning a haunting, woefully melancholy tune as Cody inhaled and lifted his baritone in song.
"Lay down, Your sweet and weary head. Night is falling, You've come to journey's end. Sleep now, And dream of the ones who came before. They are calling From across the distant shore."
Behind him, Totem flicked his hand at the briar. A spark of magic kindled a flame that rose up hungrily to devour the bramble. The light of the fire played over the tear stained face of Fey as she sobbed out her mourning. The senior turned and and sang to her directly. "Why do you weep? What are these tears upon your face? Soon you will see all of your fears will pass away safe in my arms; You're only sleeping..."
The fire climbed high into the night sky as Cody brought his voice from the soft baritone he had been singing up into a thunderous tenor that seemed to reverberate throughout the Glade. "What can you see on the horizon? Why do the white gulls call? Across the sea a pale moon rises! The ships have come to carry you home! And all will turn to silver glass, a light on the water all souls pass..."
Well and truly the bonfire burned, embers rising into the starry night sky like the fire flies and sprites that gave soft illumination to the clearing. Wyatt could only be seen in silhouette now, seen as perhaps both the young man he was, and the grieving spirit within him as both purged their sorrow in song. "Hope fades into the world of night. Through shadows falling, out of memory and time, don't say: "We have come now to the end," white shores are calling. You and I will meet again, and you'll be here in my arms. Just sleeping..."
Vox stepped away from where she had been standing and raised her power, adding several instruments to Jericho's guitar and her own, perfect soprano to Wyatt's soaring tenor. "What can you see on the horizon? Why do the white gulls call? Across the sea a pale moon rises! The ships have come to carry you home! And all will turn to silver glass. A light on the water grey ships pass,
Into the West..."
As the song ended, before the silence could fall, the Weres let out howls, or bellows or roars, what ever suited their linage as the Grunts fired off a salute.
April 26, 2007
Dead Oak Grove, between Poe and Hawthorne Cottages, Whateley Academy
A black and white silhouette descended slowly from the sky that was dominated by the corpse of an oak tree that had been young when Eric The Red had been discovering Greenland. Even as a dead husk it was still taller than ten feet and better than four around. As she settled to the ground, Loophole saw a ghost of herself walking down the path, nervous and scared and following in the shadow of the beautiful, confident senior who was going to show her the secret of who she was.
She blinked and the ghosts were gone, back into the recesses of her memory.
Lanie sighed and shook her head. Of all the things she'd wondered about what high school would be like, never in her wildest imaginings did she imagine anything like this. She reached onto the stump of the old oak and found the concealed catch by touch. With a click, the side of the dead tree swung in revealing a platform and a ladder leading down into the ground. She stepped in and closed the door, but eschewed the ladder and floated down next to it and into a space that was the unholy love child of Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner.
There was a seating area with hooks for robes and towels, while great care had been taken to make it appear that the space that was mostly natural had been coaxed into it's current shape, but to anyone with any kind of engineering knowledge it was patently obvious that everything here was artificial. It was meant to appear as a limestone grotto, carved by the water in the three pools that filled the space, except of course there was neither entry nor exit point of that water. And, of course, the water that was thoughtfully chlorinated to keep bacteria out of it; doubtlessly the gift of Eros himself. The soft blue mood lighting was overpowered by the flash of the teleport returning the armor to it's bin. In it's place it left the white terry cloth robe and towel she'd had over her shoulders, though, as she remembered, there was a cubbyhole full of towels and she wondered again just how 'secret' this place was.
Above and behind her, she heard the stump open again and Roslyn's voice drifting down, "Step along girls, and careful if it's your first time, it's quite a drop."
"Oh, Elaine, welcome home, sister!" a voice declared as a pair of terry cloth covered arms enveloped her into a warm, but not restrictive hug. "Elaine said you were coming..."
Nalley returned the hug and forced a smile. "Hey, Zoe."
"I thought you were 'Lanie' down here?" asked Semi with a chuckle. "Why did you start insisting on being 'Elaine' last year anyway?"
The smile hardened on her face. "Ask The Kodiak," she said.
"Awkward," murmured the other girl, her apology on her face. Zoe shook her head.
"Now, this is a happy time! You're free, you're you again and the whole world is ahead of you!"
"Mrs. Horton tell everybody in the cottage?" Nalley asked with a sigh as she sat down on one of the benches to take off her slippers. Zoe sank next to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Just your friends, the people she thought could help. She told me she's cast more spells in the last four months than she has in the last four years!" Lanie blinked in confusion.
"Why? Why would she do that?"
Semi slid out of her robe, soft brown skin in stark contrast to the white of the terry cloth. "You didn't know her," the Lebanese girl said as she tested the water with a toe and then eased herself into the water.
"It's my story!" chided Zoe as she left her own robe and folded it next to the red head. "You coming into the water, Lanie? Or are you just going to watch?"
"Ah'm not Peeper," the Georgia girl shot back as she stood and removed her own robe. As she did, her eyes locked with another girl across the way. Green eyes met green eyes and a shiver ran down both spines, some connection not normally associated with planet Earth was made. She was shorter than Elaine, more of a dancer's frame to Elaine's pin up. Zoe followed her gaze in time for the other girl to look away bashfully.
"I thought Delta Spike said you weren't looking for a rebound?" she teased the red head. Rosalyn came up and greeted Nalley with a skin to skin hug.
"Hmmm, Lanie, you're looking at Kayda like you're a little interested."
Lanie shook her head, "Ah thought the whole purpose of this little clam bake was to admire the goods? Ah don't want to catch a rebound, that wouldn't be fair to them, but no harm in looking, Kayda's beautiful, she should be proud of that."
Semi chuckled as Zoe settled next to her and cuddled up. "Yeah. You go for the exotic girls, don't you? Like Songbird? And now Kayda?"
The red placed a hand over her ample breast and turned up her accent past 'Scarlet O'Hara'. "Well now, bein' a well brought up Southern lady it goes without say'n Ah have sophisticated tastes and a discriminatin' palette."
Rosalyn chuckles. "Hands off, Lanie. She's mine."
Kayda, sputtering, replies. "No! I'm ... I'm already involved with someone!"
"I didn't think Rosalyn had gotten that far!" one of the other girls exclaimed and chuckle ran through the clutch of girls as Kayda's skin darkened with a full body blush. Rosalyn shook her head and made a gesture. "Kayda, Lanie, who is actually Elaine..."
"'Sept Delta Spike is our resident Elaine and Lanie is only visiting!" chuckled Shove from the other end of the pool. Lanie extended a hand to be shook as she stepped into the water and sat next to Zoe and Semi on her right.
"Mah pleasure," the red head drawled.
"Lanie, this is Kayda who is going to be my next girlfriend, she just doesn't realize it yet," teased Rosalyn.
"I'm NOT interested in Rosalyn!" Kayda shoots back.
"You just met Lanie," another girl joked. "How could you be involved so quickly?"
Kayda sputters, "I'm not interested in Lanie. It's ...."
Lanie, as much as she'd felt awkward at this hazing ritual when it had been focused on her when it had been her first time here with Songbird, couldn't resist asking, "What? Don't you like red-headed Georgia girls?"
"Yeah," Shove declared from her side next to Plastic Girl, "how could you not love that accent, and those curves?" Jody punched Julia in the arm.
"Because she's more interested in older girls with long, wavy dark hair," Rosalyn teased.
"I'm involved with Cornflower!" Kayda protested, who was obviously way past mere embarrassment and was headed towards humiliation. The girl's dusky skin was getting to be more shades darker than Lanie was comfortable with. Fun was fun, but she decided there was a line and they were flirting with crossing it.
Nalley waved at the other girls. "Back off, girls," she ordered. "Ah'm sorry if we went too far teasin'," she says to Kayda. "Ah know you're already spoken for."
"You ... know?" Kayda sputters. "How?"
"Uh, mah friend Ayla ... told me," Elaine replied hesitantly.
"Ayla told you?" Kayda asks in astonishment. "He ... he promised he wouldn't tell ...."
Elaine flinched a bit. "Ah... well, Ah already knew about Poe," she said, "so knowing you live here, Ah figured you might be... "
Sharisha wasn't satisfied with the amount of 'teasing' and decided to switch targets. "Ooohhh, so you are interested in Kayda! You were checking up on her!"
"Ah... kinda was," Elaine stammered with a serious blush, "until Ayla told me she's spoken for. It's an old habit. You all know how obsessed Becky Corbin is about Poe."
"That girl needs to get laid," Selkie snorted. "Or a hobby or something."
"What all did Ayla tell you about me?" Kayda asks, in a quiet voice. It was a tone Lanie knew well from using herself. The girl evidently had secrets and she was worried they'd get out.
"Just the usual stuff," she assured her. "Your name, where you're from, what you're interested in...and the fact that Cornflower is your girlfriend." Lanie noticed Kayda was still standing and slowly realizing that as she was standing she was on display and her skin darkened again. Lanie gestured at the shelf next to her. "Take a load off, not that anybody is mindin' the view."
Kayda looks at Rosalyn who is on the other side of the open space and grinning at her. "I won't bite," she purred. "Promise!" Kayda rolled her eyes and all most primly sat down.
Nalley turned back to Zoe. "Now, what is this about Mrs. Horton..." was as far as she got before a clutch of girls crowded around. They were all asking questions and talking over each other, but, oddly they all seemed to be asking about a boy.
"You really dumped him?"
"What's he like?"
"Are the rumors true?"
Rosalyn chuckled and leaned over to whisper in Kayda's ear, "Lanie's been lynched by the bull pen."
Kayda frowned and turned back. "Bull pen?"
"All those girls? And, Lanie too technically I suppose, they're switch hitters." Rosalyn made a loop with her left index finger and thumb and put her right index finger in and out of it. "They're bi," she elaborated, causing a shiver to run down Kayda's spine.
"Is it really...?"
Lanie scowled at them. "Are ya'll really ask'n...?"
"Yes!" they squealed in chorus. The red head rolled her eyes and shook her head in disbelief but finally raised both hands, a substantial distance apart. "Ooooh! And...!?"
"Yes," she admitted finally. "A lot of guys would probably just depend on that. But...Have you ever been the complete focus of someone's attention? Where there was you and nothing else? Yah, that's the best way I can describe it."
"Wow," someone whispered.
Lanie turned back and saw that look of horror on Kayda's face. "Oh, Ah know that look," she said as she leaned back a bit lower in the water and lowered her voice substantially. "There's two kinds of lesbians, Kayda. Girls like Rosalyn," she said softly. "They either like girls more or they just don't like boys, it's a preference thing. Girls like mah ex, Maria? She'd wear that face you're making when the talk of boys comes up. She was raped, by her stepfather." The smaller girl gasped audibly, and when Lanie looked at her, she could see that the girl's complexion paled and she was visibly shaking. "Am Ah wrong in thinking...?"
Trembling, the smaller girl looked down into the pool tears ran down her cheeks, dripping down to mingle with the warm water of the pool. "I...I thought they were my friends! And ...."
"Friends don't do things like that," she said softly, wrapping her arms around Kayda's shoulders and squeezing reassuringly. "Ah'm sorry if the talk is upsettin' you. Ah didn't mean to." The girl sniffed and tried to flash a shy smile.
"It's a special occasion today. It's Kayda's birthday," Rosalyn said cheerfully to break the somber mood. "And you know what that means!"
"Birthday girl!" someone shouted and immediately the girls extracted themselves from other conversations began to form a line.
"I don't want anyone making anything about my birthday," Kayda protested, knowing that it was bound to be a futile protest against whatever Rosalyn has planned.
"Too late," Lanie said. She grabbed Kayda's cheeks and kissed her - on the lips. She lingered over the kiss, too, sliding her arms around Kayda until their naked bodies were pressed lightly together. "Happy Birthday," Lanie said when she finished, leaving Kayda looking a little flustered, and also a bit interested. "Oh, sorry, guess nobody told you..."
Kayda looked at Rosalyn helplessly. "You aren't ...."
"Don't push!" ordered Rosalyn with mock sternness. The girls did step back, but the line didn't disperse. Rosalyn took the opportunity to cut to the front and with a glare at Lanie that screamed 'I was going to be first', she sighed and explained to Kayda, "It is an old and storied tradition of Poe Cottage that if a girl is having her birthday, all the girls will kiss her and with each kiss, wish her a happy birthday and long, happy life. Kind of like New Year's Eve." Before Kayda could react, Rosalyn leaned forward, doing as Lanie had done and kissing Kayda. Rosalyn lingered even longer, her kiss more delicate and passionate, and Kayda flinches when one of Rosalyn's hands gently caressed her breasts. After an extended lip-lock, Rosalyn reluctantly finished her kiss, and she leaned back slightly, a hungry, aroused look in her eyes. "Happy Birthday," she said, then in a husky whisper only Kayda and Lanie could hear, she added, "You know you can get a present if you just ask."
"This...!" croaked Kayda with growing confusion at her arousal warring with indignation at being taken advantage of. "This is why you moved the date of this party!"
"Rosalyn taking advantage to get a chance to swap spit with a new girl?" drawled Semi dripping sarcasm from where she and Zoe were still sitting. "Say it isn't so!"
"Oh, that's never happened before!" Chortled Zoe.
"You two as well!" Rosalyn declared, trying to make it a command, but there was more than a little whine in it. "It's tradition!" Zoe rolled her eyes and shared glance with Semi.
"Oh, well, for tradition," she purred, then in sync she and Sahar pressed their fingers to their lips and blew kisses to Kayda. "Happy Birthday, Kayda," they chortled in chorus. Rosalyn was building up to a major rant, but before anyone else could say anything, the creak of the door up above opening filled the silence. Zoe leapt up, her face a mask of rage. "You didn't set the lock?" she hissed.
Rosalyn was aghast. "I thought you...!"
"It's me!" called Bunny's voice from the platform up above. A collective sigh of relief ran through the girls. "I'm sorry I'm late!"
"Shut the door!" Zoe hollered up the well by a control. Finally it clicked and Zoe worked the control and the unspoken tension, the fear of discovery eased out of the girls.
Bunny, oblivious to this was talking a monologue all the way down the ladder. "...I swear she's getting worse, not better, the crying and the goblins, I just didn't feel right leaving her until she fell asleep." The blonde inventress finally reached the bottom of the ladder and turned, shedding her robe as she did. "It's been so rough, oh hey! Loophole! Welcome back, sister!"
"Hey Bugs," Lanie replied which caused Kayda's head to snap around to stare at her like a gun shot, the strangest expression of horror and some other emotion on her face. Nalley blinked. "What?"
"You're Loophole?!" she demanded, .
"Ah didn't ask for the codename, Ah got tagged with it, but yeah, that's me. Why?"
"You're... the Gadgeteer Goddess? The Lab Legend everyone talks about?" Kayda whispered in a trembling, shy voice. Lanie's face flushed and she shook her head with subconscious embarrassment of the titles, which only made the Native American beauty even more upset. Kayda's mouth moved silently several times before out squeaked, "You're not a bitch!"
Lanie blinked in surprise as Zoe snickered while she was climbing back into the water next to her girlfriend. "Uh...thanks...Ah think..."
"I've been tinkering my whole life!" Kayda replied in an emotion filled voice. "I was top of my class back home and I barely studied, but ever since I got here, I'm barely getting by! Then I hear about you! The Queen of the Alphas! The Goddess of the Labs! God damn it you even fix cars better than I do and I practically got born with a wrench in my hand! You're supposed to be a stuck up bitch I could hate and you're not!"
"Whoa! Slow down girl! Of course Ah know cars! Mah daddy owns a shop, that his daddy owned and mah great grand daddy, well, he was a bootlegger, but after he got out of jail he founded it, and for another thing, Poise is Alpha Female, not me! Ah am not all that...!" Lanie retorted, but immediately the other gadgeteer and devisor girls leapt to her defense.
"Yes you are!" Bunny declared. "You sure as hell put that bitch Tansy in her place!"
"And kevra!" added Delta Spike. "Mrs. Ryan said that was the most significant advancement in protective fabric since..."
"Not...helping...guys!" Lanie hissed at them.
"See?" Kayda demanded. "How can I keep up with that? How can anybody? But just breezing through and topping everything I'll ever do isn't good enough? You have to be nice too?" Lanie shook her head, working hard and failing a little to suppress her chuckles. "What?" demanded Kayda.
"You!" she said with a smile. "It's deja vu! Ah ask ya'll, was this not me last year?"
"She's prettier than you were last year," Sahar replied drolly, making a gesture and a rolling black cloud of mental energy waved out from her, a technique she'd stolen from Nex and formed itself into a tall, awkward girl, scarlet hair in an unflattering braid hands dancing around from thinking to cover herself and being embarrassed by practically not needing to cover her top. "Meet Loophole the freshman," Sahar chuckled. "You've come a long way, baby."
Kayda's mouth hung open in shock. "That...that is you?" she demanded. "What happened?"
Elaine chuckled and hefted her ample bosom. "Well, these were mah summer break present, not that Ah noticed, believe it or not."
"How did you not notice those D cups?" demanded Shove with a touch of jealously.
Lanie only chuckled and shook her head. "Denial, it ain't just a river in Egypt! The rest, well, Gunny Bardue tried to kill me with the simulator in my winter combat final and 'flash' mah metagene complex activated."
"He wasn't trying to kill you," snorted Zenith.
"Were you on the receiving end of it?" demanded Nalley archly. Zenith splashed her. Lanie sighed and turned back to Kayda. "Look, ya'll been here what, a month? Not even? Have you even stuck a toe down in the labs? Signed up for any of the tech stuff?"
"Just electronics," admitted Kayda mournfully. "Because of my spirit, they put me on the magic track whether I wanted it or not, and I have to fight for tech courses!"
"Well, ya'll can't expect to get noticed for what ya ain't done yet, now can ya?" she asked with a grin. Kayda smiled a tentative smile.
"I...I never really thought about it, I guess," she admitted.
"Besides, from what Ayla told me, y'all are some kinda hyper math guru, with almost enough college math credits for a master's degree already."
"Everyone says you're a certified genius, and probably better at everything than I am," Kayda said, her self-doubt rising again.
"Yeah, but my Mensa membership card won't even get me a buck off at Starbucks. And Ah didn't get offered a job workin' with Dr. Quintain on pattern theory." Lanie chuckled. "Ah'll not be so humble as to deny that Ah'm good at math, but Ah've got to apply it to something. Plot you an orbit? Lift to weight ratios? Ah'm your girl. That abstract stuff they're workin' with on pattern theory isn't exactly mah strong suit."
Kayda blushed at the comment. "Math is just one of my hobbies," she said. "Mostly, though, I miss being able to lose myself working on a car or something mechanical. That's ... was ... my favorite hobby."
"Ah would go bonkers not being able to putz on a car here!" the red head assured her. "Mr. Donner got his hands on a '34 Ford 730 Deluxe, same car Bonnie and Clyde used, we're going to restore it. Why don't you come meet Mr. Donner? Join the Gearheads? Ah'll introduce you around..."
The morose atmosphere hanging over Kayda began to lift with talk of cars and mechanical things, leading the two into a major geek fest, much to the annoyance of Rosalyn. She sat and fumed while the two talked in words that were barely English as far as she was concerned. "You got six hundred and eighty four horsepower out of a 427?" Kayda demanded.
Lanie was laughing and wiping away tears. "With five years of work, re-bored the cylinders, added a forced air blower and a Holly one barrel for every cylinder! And Ah completely forgot about the torque that would put on the back end! Tore mah rear pumpkin to shreds!"
Kayda smiled and looked away. "I've got a '57 Nomad I've been working on for a while. I'm thinking of putting a small block in it because they'll rev faster and I'm sure I can squeeze out a higher rev limit, and even with the loss of torque..."
"Chevys of that generation don't handle worth a damn," Nalley noted, but Kayda only nodded excitedly.
"Actually, I've got an idea or two about the suspension..." She trailed off and looked up at Lanie as though expecting to be told by the more-experienced red-head the solution to her problem.
Lanie seemed to recognize the hesitance in Kayda, and figured she knew what it was. "Ok," she asked finally. "What are your ideas?"
"Oh..." Kayda said, pleasantly surprised that Lanie wasn't being a know-it-all. . "Well, if I get rid of the live axle and go to independent rear suspension, which might be tough with the frame the way it's designed, and yeah, I'd have to kind of engineer a space-frame to make room for the new suspension to replace it, including multi-link front so it'd corner better, then..."
"I think Lanie has a better chance of 'quality time' with Kayda than you do, Rosalyn," Sharisha taunted the Junior in a sing song voice. Rosalyn fumed and got a bit red in the face, but Lanie reacted before anyone else.
"Now, 'Risha, why would Ah poach on Cornflower like that? Us being friends and all."
Kayda blinked. "You know Cornflower?"
"Sure," Nalley replied. "Mah roomie Maggie is in Venus Inc and Ah met Cornflower through her. Ah dabble in photography so Ah helped in a couple of shoots. Tell her Ah said hello next time you talk to her."
"She told me I should join Venus Inc," Kayda said, her voice tailing off. "I don't know ...."
"You really should," Lanie countered as she stood, the Native American girl looking away so as not to get an eyeful of crotch or ass. Not trying to put a wiggle in her rear but unable to control what her body shape did naturally, Lanie walked over to her towel, not really noticing how most eyes were riveted on her delightfully swaying derriere.
"Yeah, it's been fun, girls, but Ah got a pretty early start tomorrow. Ah meant what Ah said about coming down to the shop, Kayda. Ya all but promised." Kayda, nodded. "Zoe, a word in your shell like ear?"
Zenith stood and strolled over while Elaine pulled on her robe. "What did you mean about Mrs. Horton? Why has she been casting spells about me?"
"You don't remember?" Zoe asked with a raised eyebrow. "Ok, do you recall your little trip to Poe on the afternoon of January 16th of this year?" The red head dipped in a nod. "You knocked on Mrs. Horton's door and said..."
"Hello Mrs. Horton, Ah don't think we've had the pleasure..." finished Lanie in a whisper. "But Ah knew Mrs. Horton..."
"Because you'd spent so much time in Songbird's room," finished Zoe. "And Mrs. Horton said,"
"Ah know who you are," Lanie whispered. She looked into Zenith's eyes as the two tall girls were almost the same height. "She knew, didn't she? Right then."
"She knew something was wrong," Zoe replied. "From what I understand, a couple of teachers suspected, but Mrs. Horton knew. She's been digging for months."
Lanie sighed. "Thanks Zoe. Ah'll have to thank her." Zoe smiled and kissed the ever so slightly taller girl on the fore head.
"Be careful." Nalley picked up her phone and with a flash of light was enveloped in her armor once more.
"These days, Zoe, Ah'm down right paranoid."
April 27th, 2007
Melville Cottage, RM 803, Whateley Academy
The elevator opened on the top floor causing Elaine to sigh and stuff her hands deeper into the pockets of her bomber jacket. Truth be told it was her grandfather's bomber jacket from the Korean War, but that made it rugged, authentic and deeply cool. And what had kept him warm at thirty thousand feet easily defeated a New England 'spring' that still had overnight temperatures below freezing. Likewise, the knee boots she was wearing with her jeans tucked in where also hand me downs, they were black leather with a four inch stiletto heel in silver, holdovers from her mother's younger, wilder days. They weren't the most comfortable boots she owned, but the had the advantage of taking the tall red head from just shy of six feet tall to just shy of six foot four. That made her only two inches shorter than the six foot six man bear she was here to see.
She strode purposefully from the elevator lobby, not caring that it set her rear in motion and she could feel the eyes of the male seniors following her as she walked. She didn't care. It was Friday night and she had better things to do than be where she was, going to talk to who she was going to talk with, she wanted it over and done to move on to something fun.
The weight of her .45 was comforting on her hip.
Her knock on his door brought a muffled response, then swung open to reveal the big man himself. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with the Superman logo on it over his jeans and his trademark rakish grin, delighted to see her, but he composed himself and stepped aside. "Hey Elaine, won't you come in?"
"Ah'd rather not," she shot back. "You wanted to talk, talk, Ah got things to do."
He drew himself erect and crossed his arms over his chest, unconsciously in a pose similar to one the character of the shirt he wore might affect. "You're an Alpha," he retorted. "A leader on this campus and you have responsibilities and it's time you act like it. Whatever your opinion of me, you know some things don't need to be said in hall ways."
"Take advantage of me and Ah'll responsible you upside the head," she warned as she stepped in and let him shut the door. He done some redecorating since she'd last been in the room. There was now a little portable fireplace was burning merrily, complete with a rug made out of a black bear pelt in front of it, soft music was playing, just at the level of hearing and the room was lit by lamps, not the harsh overhead fluorescent tubes. She turned back to give him an arched eyebrow. "Hot date?"
"That's up to you," he teased her with a grin as he crossed to his fridge. "Beer?"
"Ah'm driving in a bit, so no," she retorted. "What is it you want to talk about?"
"Not me," he said with a toss of his head. "Him." She turned to look back towards the fire place and realized her eyes had glossed over before. From the shadows stepped the figure of the Kodiak from her time in the minds of Cavalier and Skybolt. She gasped and took a step back in fright.
The Healer bowed, then sank to one knee in a way his joints shouldn't allow. He took the beret from his head and bowed it. Pray allow me gentle lady and with a kind ear to hear my debasement to you.
"Is this a joke?" she hissed. "It's in incredibly poor taste..."
"It's not a joke," Wyatt told her flatly. He came around and ruffled the creature's fur to show it wasn't a projection. "I know, you thought I subsumed him. I did, the little bit that he'd tied to my soul anyway. This is the rest. I allowed him to join with me and that I would serve as his host on the condition that I would always be in charge, and that he apologize to you." He locked eyes with her. "Or stand here and let you kill him if you want."
Elaine's mouth opened and closed several times but no sound came out. Her right hand was behind her hip, of its own accord seeking the solid reassurance of the steel of the weapon she wore. "Ah...Ah suppose he's going to spin some crap about how the piece he put in you acted on its own...?"
No. I am responsible. I altered your memory, I manipulated you to fall in love with Wyatt. Well, more in love than you were. I lied that your old lover had abused you. I was at fault, not Wyatt and you have my most humble and abject apology.
The click of the safety disengaging was loud in the small space. "Will bullets kill him?" she demanded.
Wyatt shrugged. "He is a Kodiak. Those .45s will just flatten against his skull. You carry three mags like a cop, right?" She nodded, but he shook his head. "You could dump them all and probably not kill him. Then there is the fact he's a spirit. But if it will make you feel better, blast away, I don't have anything important back here."
She looked at the pistol then clicked the safety back on before she returned it to its holster behind her back. "How about particle beams?"
"How about you listen for a bit?" he asked softly. "What Baloo here did was fucked up, and I'm not making excuses, but we need him." He sighed. "Lanie, we need every body we can lay hands on. There's shit coming, bad, shit. I need you, I need your friend Lifeline, hell I need every warm body on this campus, but I'm not going to get them. So I can't afford to turn anybody away. So, what do you need to hear for that to happen?"
"Maybe Ah need to watch Banned Aides have his way with you!" she shouted. "Then you'll know what it's like to get fucked by that furry bastard!" He shrugged.
"Ok, call him up."
Lanie blinked. "What?"
"I said call him up. I always said I was a Try-Sexual. I'm pretty sure I'm not gay, but hey you never know till you've been corn holed, right? So call him. No lube, no reach around, whatever you need so we can get past this. It's that important Lanie."
Her face flushed scarlet and she whirled on the spirit. "What did you do...?"
"God damn it!" he shouted. "Elaine, you stubborn bitch get it through your head! I'm in charge, not him!"
"He used me!" she hissed, her eyes full of tears. Wyatt gathered her into his arms and hugged her. He brushed her hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead.
"I know he did, baby. And I won't ever let it happen again. I swear."
"What do you want from me?" she asked, her lips trembling. She blinked and she was standing in a kitchen a soapy plate in her hand. Though the window behind the sink she could see a yard with a brother and sister playing with a pair of dogs that were ecstatic at the game, tails wagging and joyfully barking. A pair of rings rode on her left hand, while a rolled up flannel shirt and a well worn pair of jeans provided the costume she was wearing for the vision.
"Here's the truth," his voice said from behind her. His arms came around her and his lips sought her neck. Then she blinked again and they were once more in his dorm room. "But I'll settle for a friend and an ally if that's all you can be, Red. We need you." She brought her hands up to his chest and gently pushed and he let her go. She sighed and turned to the spirit, still kneeling by the rug. She walked over and lifted the creature's head.
"Look me in the eye," she commanded. "Tell me why Ah should ever trust you again."
You should not, he replied. And you have many excellent reasons not to. But some part of you still trusts Wyatt and Wyatt trusts me. I can only swear I will never force your judgment again.
She sighed then reached back and kicked out with her booted foot and all her exemplar strength. The Kodiak's eyes crossed and he fell over sideways holding his groin and whimpering in pain. "Cross me again Ah'll do more than nut you you furry son of a bitch!" Lanie straightened the jacket and turned to face Wyatt who was trying and failing not to laugh. "Alright, what is this about?" she demanded.
And so he told her.
Elaine stood silent for a full minute after Wyatt stopped talking. She didn't seem to be considering what he'd said, nor weighting the probabilities or the logistics of fighting the enemy they faced. Instead, she stared, stunned into silence. Finally she blinked and sagged a bit as though Atlas had slid his burden onto her shoulders. "You know, Wyatt," she said finally, reaching back to shuck off the leather jacket she was wearing and throwing it onto his bed. "Ah think Ah will have that beer."
"Coming up," he replied, reaching into the fridge and producing a long neck he opened. She sank into one of the chairs by his little table and propped her head in her hands. "Hey, stay whelmed," he told her handing her the bottle. "It's not so hopeless as that."
"It's not?" she demanded. "Ah must have missed something. Let me recap to see if Ah see it. You just told me we're facing down a creature the size of the Astrodome, with the power of a god, that the furry rapist and the bitch queen from hell and all the power of Atlantis couldn't stop. The thing that caused the break up of Pangaea, cut off the flow of magic for millennia and came within a chest hair of completely destroying planet Earth. And we are going to stop it?"
He took a pull on his own beer and glared at her. "There will be more of we than him," he said churlishly.
She snatched up her bottle and took a long drink. "Oh well, numbers will make all the difference!"
The Bastard does have weaknesses, the Kodiak commented as he rose from holding his genitals from Elaine's kick. Chinks in his armor that can be exploited. The red head glared daggers at the spirit.
"Don't speak to me," she whispered in a quiet, deadly voice. "Ah may have to work with you but that doesn't mean Ah've forgiven you!"
Because that will help things go so well against the Astrodome god, the spirit demanded.
Wyatt stood and put a hand on the creature's shoulder. "Hey, Kodiak, why don't you give me and Red some space? Things are a little fresh for her, k?" The spirit made a dismissive gesture and faded way. The big senior slid back into his chair and took another drink. "Better?"
Lanie shook her head sardonically. "Where did he go?" she demanded. "Back into your head, right? He might as well stay, where else can he go?"
The young man scratched his head. "Well, I am his hallow, but that doesn't mean he's not somewhat independent. I mean, I can feel when his attention is with me or not and it's elsewhere right now. As to where he physically is, how to do you tie what's basically energy that way?" She conceded the point by shaking her head softly and looking into the fire.
"Besides the two and a half of us, who else is in on this?"
He reached across the table and put his hand on hers. "Everyone we can get our hands on," he replied. "Everyone we can convince how deep the crap we're in is. We'll form a League I guess." He chuckled without mirth. "We'll call it the Atlantean League! But there's plenty of time to plot and plan, Red. Tomorrow, I'm going to go round the campus and see who I can rope in. I'd like you to do the same on your side of things. We'll have a big session tomorrow night."
She tossed back the rest of the beer and placed the empty on the table. "Guess Ah should get some sleep then," she started, but he squeezed her hand.
"What's your hurry?" he asked softly. "We're alone, I'd like to speak with you for a bit, if I could."
"Wyatt," she started, but he stood and walked over to the fridge.
"Look, Red, there's something I gotta say," he told her over the clink of glass bottles. "Something you need to hear." He came over and replaced the empties, popped open the new ones and tossed the dead soldiers into the trash before he sat down. "I'm not a complicated guy, and for the most part, I don't keep secrets about how I feel. I get that you're over whelmed, that you've got a lot of sorting to do, and working out stuff."
"That's an understatement," she muttered, picking up the bottle and taking a sip.
He spread his hands in an expressive gesture. "Fair enough. But, beyond that, I guess, I just want a fair shot. I know that you love me. You know that I love you. What you don't know is how much." He sighed and looked into the fire. "When I was in the cave, Kodiak and I were separate. He was fading away, probably dying. And I was mouthing off as usual and not listening. Not getting just how important what he was trying to say was. Fortunately, I did get it, before it was too late. But, when he offered to join with me, when he swore he'd let me be in charge and that he'd never hurt you again, I wasn't stupid. I knew he could be lying."
Cody lifted the bottle to his lips and drank but she noticed it trembled because his hand was shaking. It lifted her out of the funk she was in and got her paying attention more closely to what he was saying. "I knew," he whispered. "I knew that if I let him back in, it could be the end of me. I know about my power as an avatar and I've heard the horror stories of spirits that were too much for the person trying to contain and host them. But, if he was telling the truth, if this thing was that dangerous, then with Aung gone, he was the last link to the Atlantean effort, the last being to have fought him. It was information we couldn't afford to loose."
Lanie leaned forward and put her hand on his arm. "Cody, what are you trying to tell me?"
He looked up to meet her eyes. His face was pale and his eyes wet with tears. Elaine had seen Wyatt Cody in many emotional states. She'd seen him angry, or happy go lucky, laughing or annoyed, boastful, triumphant and defeated, in ecstasy and sadness but she'd never seen him afraid before. And he wasn't just afraid, he was terrified. "When he put his paw up, baby, and I realized mankind couldn't loose the information the furry bastard had, I knew what I was doing. I knew that those might be the last seconds of my life, because if he was lying, I wouldn't be dead, I'd cease to exist." He sighed and swallowed his emotion in an attempt to master himself.
"And you have to know, that if he had done that, if I had died in that cave, my last words would have been, 'For you, Lanie.'" he finally managed. She gasped in astonishment as she grasped the full magnitude of what he'd done, and what he'd risked. "I'm not telling you this to score points, or anything like that. It's just, a lot of guys say they will do x, y, or z for you. I just want you to know about what I did, not what I said I would do. That's how much I love you, baby."
"Oh Wyatt, why would you do something like that! Ah am just a red neck nerd! Ah'm not worth..."
"You're worth everything," he replied softly. "More than I can ever give you. Not because you're beautiful, and not because of how you make me feel. You're worth it, because you made me a better person. You made me realize what a jerk I'd been, how I was turning into my old man, but so much worse!" He engulfed her hand with his, they were cold from the bottle, but beneath was a fire that was unquenchable. "You made me want to do better, to make a mends for all the shit I'd done."
He laughed a laugh completely without mirth. "God, I never thought I'd agree with him, but Mr. Donner is right, you can do better than me. You should. I...I just wish..." he stood abruptly and turned his back, facing his bookcase. "I said what I had to say."
She stood and walked over to him. "Wyatt, look at me," she ordered after a few fruitless tugs on his arm to get him to turn. Finally he turned and her heart broke anew seeing his cheeks glistening with the tracks of tears down them. "Baby, you can't live or die for anybody but you. Ah didn't make you a better person, you already were that person, you just needed a reason to get off the couch and get to kick'n ass! Maria said she cleared out that last of the psychic compulsions and Mrs Carson said there wasn't any magic on me except for the traces of the binding she did on the armor and weapons Ah used as Wicked. And even with all that, Wyatt, Ah love you so much it hurts! Ah hate being apart from you!Ah know Mrs. Carson said he's gone, but Ah can't help second guessing mahself! Wondering if something hidden has started up! Ah'm so afraid...!"
He turned and swept her into his arms. "No one will hurt you while I'm around!" he swore. Her breasts felt so soft against his chest her curves so right in his arms. She was a big girl, not just tall, but solid, firm with muscle to back up her brains, she wasn't one of the mindless little bimbos he'd notched his belt with, nor some delicate little flower that would wilt when things got hard.
In a very disturbing kind of way she reminded him of his mother, but that was a thought he shied away from.
He wasn't sure when it happened but they were kissing, deep passionate kissing, tongues dancing not in battle, but in joyous reunion. Somehow their clothes had taken flight, and her skin was against his, but it was alright because the bear skin rug was soft and the fire kept them warm.