A Whateley Academy Tale
Imp 4: A Teacher's Tail
The Village, Monday morning, Sept 3rd, 2007
“But I don’t wanna go to school,” I whined.
Unfortunately, my alarm clock completely ignored me and continued to beep in the most annoying fashion ever. If my clock had been sitting next to my bed, I probably would have thrown it across the room. Of course, that was the reason I’d set it up on the other side of the room in the first place. I actually had to get up in order to turn the thing off.
I hated having to get up early like this, which was one of the reasons I’d been so happy doing freelance work in my previous career. Back then, I’d been so carefree and innocent. Stay out all night long, steal whatever I wanted, then sleep in late. I’d almost never had to deal with the masochistic annoyance that was an alarm clock. Unfortunately, that had changed.
After a minute, I pulled myself out of bed, turned off the alarm, and began my morning routine. I rushed through my shower as quickly as I could, then hurried to my kitchen for a pot of coffee. As a regenerator, caffeine didn’t really do much for me, but it still had a nice psychosomatic effect.
As I took my first long drink of dark caffeinated goodness, I tried to psyche myself up by exclaiming, “Up and at em, Atom Imp.” It helped, because I felt more awake already.
With a cup of coffee in hand, I put on some cartoons to watch while I got ready for school. I felt almost like I was a kid again, getting ready to go in and spend a boring day in class, but this time, I was the teacher. I still had a hard time believing that I was actually a teacher. Me…the fabulous Imp.
Of course, technically, I wasn’t going to class today. Not only was today a holiday, Labor Day to be exact, but classes didn’t even start until tomorrow. However, I still had a lot of work to do in order to get ready before then. As if I hadn’t already done a lot of work.
Over the last two months, I’d tied up some loose ends from my previous career, made a few criminal charges disappear, and got my teaching credentials. I might not have been able to do all of that if it wasn’t for my having a few friends in high places. Well, friends might be a strong word. I just happened to know where a lot of bodies were buried…or at least…where the paintings were hung. And of course, it didn’t hurt that the headmistress of Whateley Academy, Lady Astarte herself, pulled a few strings.
Two months ago, I was living in Manhattan, and now, I had an apartment in New Hampshire. Specifically, I was living in the Village, a private community for faculty and employees of Whateley. It was quite a drastic change, not only in locations and careers, but in just about everything.
It didn’t take me long to get dressed and ready for work, though I had to admit, this was a different working outfit than what I was used to. Instead of the black and red catsuit that I usually wore for work, I was actually wearing a suit, with black slacks and jacket, along with a red blouse. I had to admit, I rocked the professional look.
“I could use some good luck too,” I mused as I went to the kitchen and pulled out a box of cereal, Lucky Charms of course
However, I stood there for a moment, with my tail swishing back and forth. Lucky Charms might make for a delicious breakfast, especially with all those little hearts, clovers, and moon shaped marshmallows, but the faculty cafeteria was even better. After considering that for a moment, I put the cereal back into the cupboard and decided that my stomach could wait for just a little longer.
When I finally stepped out of my apartment, I saw that my neighbor was getting ready to leave as well. The girl who lived in the apartment next to me was named Maria Ricardo, and was also a new teacher, with only a smidgen more seniority than me. The fact that she was a teacher at all was surprising, because she barely looked older than the students.
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor,” I began singing, only to make Maria stop and stare at me. After a few more lines, I flashed her a broad grin and asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
“Good morning, Imp,” Maria greeted cautiously, giving me a look that suggested she was questioning my mental stability.
I just grinned more broadly, and in my best Ned Flanders voice, said, “Howdy ho, neighbor. How are you doing this fine diddle-e-o morning?”
“I’m fine,” Maria responded with an amused look. “Though I have to wonder if you might be insane.”
“Why do people use the word insane?” I asked with a look of mock innocence. “I mean, the word insane sort of suggests that someone is within the bounds of sanity. Shouldn’t people use the word outsane instead?”
“Okay,” Maria responded evenly. “You must be outsane.”
I flashed her another grin. “Why, thank you.”
After this, Maria and I walked across campus to the cafeteria together. We were both the new teachers on campus, and as such, received little respect from the others. In Maria’s case, it was because she’d graduated from Whateley a little more than a year ago, and a lot of the teachers still seemed to think of her as a student. As for me, I had yet to teach a single class and then, there was my previous profession. Even the people who used to be in the business looked at me like they expected me to run off with that pile of gold in the Homer Galley.
I still felt a bit strange, and definitely apprehensive, about walking across campus as myself, with my horns and tail showing. There were faculty and security about, and even some students, though none of them really paid me too much attention. After thirty years of being treated like a freak or monster, this almost felt unnatural. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As I looked around, I saw a few students with noticeable GSD, and even…to my surprise…a real live velociraptor. I blinked at that, and at the fact that the boy walking beside it wasn’t running away in fear. Without even thinking about it, I began to hum the theme from Jurassic Park.
Maria gave me a curious look, asking, “What are you…?” Then she followed the direction of my gaze and laughed. “Oh, that’s Razorback. He’s a student.”
“Really?” I asked in amazement. I would have sworn he was some kind of android or biodevisor pet. “Wow,” I muttered, “and I thought I had GSD.” Then, a little more loudly, I joked, “So, are there any T Rexes around here too?”
“Don’t say that around Jimmy T,” Maria exclaimed, giving me a warning look. “You do not want to give him any ideas…”
“Who?” I asked.
Maria’s eyes widened, then she quickly said, “Forget about it.” I nodded at that, though I made a mental note to look up this Jimmy T. I had a feeling that he might be interesting.
A few minutes later, Maria and I reached the faculty cafeteria, though I was surprised that there weren’t more people there. Then again, it was a holiday morning, and classes had yet to start. Most of the faculty were probably taking the chance to sleep in while they still could. I felt a little jealous of that and fought back an urge to go make some loud and annoying announcements over the PA system.
I looked over the faculty members who were present, making note of who was giving me suspicious looks, who was pointedly ignoring me, and who just generally didn’t seem to care one way or another. Since there were only a dozen people there at the moment, not including the kitchen staff, these were pretty short lists.
I nodded towards Yablonski, who was watching me with a look of stern disapproval. Yablonski was one of those handsome square-jawed types, though he had a cybernetic arm to give him some real character. And though I didn’t recognize him, there was something about him that seemed familiar. I had some strong suspicions about who he was, or at least, about who he used to be. If I was correct, we’d met before, a few years ago when we’d been professional opponents.
With a faint smile, I remembered my encounter with a certain brooding masked hero. I’d gone through the trouble of stealing a particularly nice painting for a client, but this hero had somehow tracked me down before the handoff, and managed to recover the painting. He’d been professional about the whole thing, trying to take me in but not crossing any lines, so I had just put it down to a professional disagreement…especially since I’d managed to escape. Of course, two weeks later, I went back and stole the painting again, this time without his interference.
Then I nodded towards Lillian Dennon, one of the martial arts instructors. Unlike Yablonski, she gave me a polite nod back. A long time ago, back when I’d been a rookie and she’d been going by the name of Wildhammer, the two of us had actually worked together on a job. I couldn’t say that we’d ever been friends, but we did have that in common.
I went and looked over the food that had been set out, with my attention going to the donut tray. I picked one up, licked my lips, and exclaimed, “Ooooh, the cream filled kind.” I took a bite, then cheerfully announced, “Slimy…yet satisfying.”
Maria gave me a look of faint amusement and asked, “You just don’t stop, do you?”
“Not if I can help it,” I answered with a smile, swishing my tail back and forth as I began filling my plate. “You’ve got to enjoy life and take your amusements where you can. Hakuna matata. That’s my motto.”
“I’m sure it is,” she said with a shake of her head.
Just then, someone else came into the cafeteria and began to glare at me. Roland Williams was a big man, standing 6 foot 3, with broad shoulders and a stocky body, which might have been muscular once, but had largely turned to flab. His red hair and beard were liberally sprinkled with gray. He currently wore a sneer of contempt, which was present nearly every time I saw him.
Williams was in the history department, and I felt a little sorry for his students. I’d never sat through any of his classes, but I imagined that he was the kind of teacher who would bully the students into agreeing with his version of history, regardless of how accurate it actually was. I’d had a professor like that in college, and Williams struck me as the type.
“Good morning,” I greeted Williams with a cheerfulness that I didn’t feel, mostly because I knew it would annoy him. I would have made some nice jokes at his expense, but I was trying to play nice with the other teachers.
“What’s good about it?” Williams demanded. “You’re still here.”
“What do you have against her?” Maria calmly asked Williams.
Williams gave me a look of contempt, then answered, “She is unprofessional, has absolutely no educational experience, is a bad role model for our students, and reflects poorly on this academy in virtually every way possible.” He snorted at that, scowling even more deeply. “And that isn’t even taking into account the simple fact that she is a criminal.”
“I mean, besides that,” I commented with a pleasant smile that only seemed to annoy him further.
“I have absolutely no idea why Carson hired you,” Williams announced, fixing me with a level gaze. “But it’s only a matter of time before she realizes her mistake.” And with that, he walked away.
“You know,” I told Maria, “I don’t think he likes me very much.”
“What gave you that idea?” she asked as we sat down at a table to eat.
The rest of breakfast was pretty quiet and uneventful. Maria and I shared a little gossip about the school, which mostly consisted of her telling me a few stories while I subtly kept watch on my surroundings. I wasn’t used to being out in the open, without either being on the job or wearing a disguise, and I continued to expect trouble as a result. Fortunately, other than the brief conversation with Williams, none came.
After eating, I said goodbye to Maria, and started towards my classroom. I still had to finish getting a few things ready for tomorrow, which included my lesson plans. I never would have imagined that teaching a class would require as much preparation as a heist.
Whateley Academy, Tuesday morning, Sept 4th, 2007
I stood in the middle of my otherwise empty classroom, feeling excited yet nervous. This was my first day of classes, and ironically, I felt more apprehensive about the first day of school as a teacher than I ever had as a student. Then again, as a teacher, I was going to be outnumbered and surrounded.
“That should make this more interesting,” I mused, deciding that I had better get into position before the students started to arrive.
I’d learned a long time ago, that it always paid to arrive early to meetings. That way, I could check out the terrain, make sure that there were no traps, and even set my own, if I was so inclined. I’d also learned the value of secretly watching when the other parties arrived.
With that in mind, I went to the back corner of the room, where I used my chameleon field to blend into my surroundings, making myself virtually invisible. From there, I could watch as each student came through the door and took a seat. This would also give me a chance to see how they behaved when they didn’t know a teacher was watching.
Of course, there was always the possibility that one or two of the students could see through my trick, especially since every one of them would be a mutant. However, even if someone could see me, they were still unlikely to look back in this corner. That was another thing that I’d learned from long experience in the business.
The first student arrived a short time later, where she stepped through the door, looked around the empty classroom, then silently took a seat. Other students began to follow, and I took careful note of how each kid behaved, and what they said. This gave me a much better idea of who and what I would be dealing with.
Then, I had my first real surprise as a brown haired girl stepped into the classroom. I immediately recognized Alicia Thacker, the girl I’d rescued from Hexagoner last spring. I’d known that Alicia was at Whateley, but not that she’d be in one of my classes. I probably should have paid more attention to the list of students that I’d been given.
Less than a minute later, I saw another familiar face. A cute girl with blonde hair walked into room and quickly took her seat, even though she practically bounced in it. I stared at Melissa Chambers in stunned amazement, hardly able to believe it was her. Melissa was here…at Whateley. She was even in my class. I gulped, suddenly feeling as though my heart had just leapt up into my throat.
Somehow, I remained frozen, not moving or doing anything to give myself away. I had a lot of practice doing that, though this time was more difficult than most. Still, my attention remained locked on Melissa, and I barely even noticed the remaining students as they came in. Though I liked Alicia and was delighted to see her again, Melissa held a special place in my heart.
Once all the students seemed to have arrived, or at least, no more were coming in, I decided to make my move. I slowly crept towards Melissa, who fortunately, wasn’t sitting too far away. None of the students were looking at me when I dropped my chameleon field, though a couple seconds later, there was a gasp from one girl who suddenly noticed me.
I stood right behind Melissa, who had yet to notice my presence. Then with a grin, I leaned over, and in a childish voice, I asked, “Whatcha doin?”
Melissa simultaneously shrieked, jumped in surprise, and vanished from her seat. She reappeared less than a dozen feet away, where she stared at me with a look of wide-eyed shock…and then delight.
“IMP!” she cried out, instantly appearing beside me and grabbing me in a hug. “You’re here. I can’t believe you’re here…”
Mere seconds later, Alicia jumped to her feet and exclaimed, “Miss Imp…”
“Hey,” I said, hugging Melissa back for a moment before waving to Alicia. “Hello, Alicia…”
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Melissa exclaimed again, nearly bouncing with excitement. Then her eyes widened. “Why are you here?”
I grinned evilly as I answered, “I’m here for a job…”
Melissa gasped at that, looking excited, then suddenly worried. “Oh no… You’ll get in trouble…”
“Don’t worry about that,” I told Melissa with a grin, swinging my tail back and forth as I walked towards Alicia. “In fact, I’m here because of you, Alicia.”
“Because of me?” Alicia gasped in surprise. “What did ah do?”
I just smirked at that. “You told Carson about me.”
The look on Alicia’s face was rather amusing, as was the fact that Melissa was staring at the other girl, gasping, “You know Imp?”
“Now, sit down you two,” I told Melissa and Alicia, before looking around the room. “And that goes for the rest of you too...” Not everyone obeyed, but I ignored that as I strolled up to the front of the classroom, my tail swaying back and forth behind me.
“But,” Melissa started, looking worried and confused. I just grinned and gave her a wink.
Once I was standing in front of the class, with every pair of eyes locked on me, I held out my arms in a dramatic fashion and loudly announced, “Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls of all ages. I am the beautiful, talented, and fabulous Imp.” I gave a sweeping bow while Melissa jumped up and started clapping. “But for the purposes of this class,” I added with a grin, “You can call me Ms. Imp.” I pointed to the board behind me, where ‘Ms. Imp’ was written, though apparently, neither Melissa or Alicia had noticed it.
Melissa’s eyes shot wide and her mouth dropped open. She stared at me, speechless, for the first time since I’d met her. I paused to look around the classroom again, seeing a variety of reactions from the students. Most of them were watching me with curious expressions, while Melissa and Alicia were both staring at me in stunned disbelief. That just made me grin more. Of course, there were a couple students who looked bored, so I would have to fix that.
“Since the rumors and gossip are bound to start soon,” I cheerfully announced, “I thought I’d get a jump on them by saying that they’re all true.” I flashed a broad grin and swished my tail back and forth. “Except for the ones that aren’t.”
“And what rumors are those?” someone called out.
“Professionally, I have thirty years of experience as an art thief, art forger, and as some would say…a supervillain.” That suddenly had everyone’s attention, including the students who’d been making a show of ignoring me. “But I’ve recently retired from that business and have just begun a new career in education.” I flashed another grin as I added, “You’re my very first class. And just look at how many imp-ressionable young minds there are for me to mold.” I burst out into an evil laughter which made a few of the students look nervous.
“You’re really our teacher?” Melissa blurted out, staring at me with expression that seemed to be a mixture of excitement and disbelief.
“Yes I am,” I answered with a chuckle. “Thanks in large part to Alicia’s unintentional recommendation.”
“WHAT?” Alicia gasped in surprise, her eyes going even wider, if that was possible.
“Now,” I continued to Melissa while smirking, “imagine the look on your dad’s face when he finds out.” Melissa immediately burst into giggles.
I slowly looked around the classroom again, deciding that it was time to get serious and stop messing with the students. The truth was, I’d actually intended to be serious and professional for my introduction to the class, but after seeing Melissa, I’d gotten excited and my plans had flown out the window.
“In case any of you were concerned about my qualifications to teach,” I announced as I slowly looked over the students, “I do have a degree in fine arts, and I have had some success as a legitimate artist.” Then I stopped and gave a dramatic pause before continuing. “You may have noticed that I don’t take myself very seriously. However, what I do take seriously is art.”
“Ah saw what ya did in that art museum,” Alicia said, her Cajun accent not sounding quite as thick as I remembered. “To that guy who shot that paintin…”
At the same time, Melissa began to snicker, though she quickly clamped both hands over her mouth and gave me a guilty look. She was probably thinking about the fact that she knew I was Candice Kade, a professional artist of some modest success.
“As I said,” I commented with a faint smile, “I take art very seriously. And that being said, I’m sure that some of you signed up for this class because you thought it would be an easy A.” A few students nodded while others looked faintly worried. “Well, you weren’t far off.”
“I don’t expect any of you to be the next Gauguin, or to paint the Mona Lisa,” I said, smiling as I looked over the students. “This is Art 1, and the purpose of this class is to introduce you to a variety of art forms and some basic techniques. This semester, we’ll go over sketching, sculpting, water color, and underwater basket weaving, plus a couple others. If you find something that speaks to you, I do teach more advanced classes and can help you explore your interests further. I even intend to have an open classroom on most Saturday mornings, just for that purpose. But for now, we’ll focus on the basics, and because of that, as long as you give it an honest chance, you won’t need to worry about your grade.”
One of the students, perhaps thinking I couldn’t hear him, said, “No way can she be a teacher…”
“Miss Imp is a good teacher,” Alicia protested. “She taught me how ta paint…”
I smiled at that, remembering the lessons I’d given her, back when she’d been hiding out at my Imp Lair. Teaching her had actually been a lot of fun, and that was one of the reasons that I’d chosen to become a teacher in the first place. Of course, I had other reasons as well, but doing something just because you enjoyed it was usually more than reason enough.
“Oil painting is next semester, in Art 2,” I told Alicia with a grin. “But I will be holding a painting class too, if any of you are interested.”
After this, the rest of the class wasn’t quite as exciting. I had everyone introduce themselves, mostly because it was tradition, but also because it would be easier for me to remember who they were. And of course, I also talked a little more about the class and what they could expect. I did notice though, that all of the students paid attention. Each and every one of them watched me, wondering what I would say or do next. I guess I’d found the secret of getting students to pay attention in class. All you had to do was be a former supervillain.
When class finally ended, most of the students rushed out the door, though two of them remained. Alicia and Melissa each gave the other curious looks as they approached me.
“Miss Imp,” Alicia said a little awkwardly. “Thanks again for savin me from those guys…”
“It was no problem,” I told her with a smile, though quickly added, “Just don’t go spreading it around. I’ve got a reputation to maintain.”
Alicia laughed at that and flashed me a grin. “Ya know, you’re kinda the reason I wanted ta take this class, but ah didn’t know you’d be teachin…”
“And you’re kind of the reason that Carson showed up at my Imp Lair to hire me,” I responded with a grin of my own.
Melissa watched my exchange with Alicia with barely contained eagerness. She was practically bouncing in place, and the moment Alicia started to leave, she threw herself at me again. “I can’t believe you’re really here at Whateley…and that you’re really my teacher. This is so cool…” She let out a girlish squeal of glee. “Where were you? Why didn’t you answer my messages? I was really worried…”
“Slow down, kiddo,” I told her with a grin. “It’s good to see you too, but honestly, you caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to run into you here.”
“You weren’t?” Melissa asked, looking a little hurt.”
I let out a sigh, actually feeling guilty for avoiding her the way I’d been doing. “I haven’t been in New York much lately,” I explained, gesturing around the classroom. “As you can see, I’ve been busy taking care of some other things…”
Melissa stared at me for a moment before quietly asking, “Did you really retire?”
“I’m afraid so,” I responded with a wry smile. “I had a good run, but I was getting bored and figured it was time to try something different…”
“But you can’t quit,” Melissa whined. “You’re the best… And what’s my dad going to do without you?”
I smirked faintly at that. “I’m sure he’ll find someone else to chase around Manhattan. And who knows, he might even be able to catch them…”
Melissa almost looked like she was pouting at that, but she quickly brightened up again and blurted out, “Thank you for the painting. It’s awesome…”
“Thank you,” I told her, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. There’s almost nothing better than a sincere compliment on my work, especially when it was one of my original paintings. I’d put a lot of thought into the one I’d made her, so it was especially nice to know that she appreciated it. “I was hoping you’d like that.”
Melissa practically beamed, though she also gave me a curious look. “You really are Candice Kade,” she finally said, looking self-conscious. Then, she looked around the room, as if only now realizing that she might have been overheard announcing my secret. “How…?”
“I have plastic horns, and I just take them off,” I tell her wryly. I reached up for my cute little horns as if I was going to do just that.
For a brief moment, Melissa looked like she might buy that, but then she emphatically shook her head. “No way…”
With a chuckle and a grin, I told her, “Every lady needs to keep a few secrets for her own, and that is one of mine.” After a moment, I became a little more somber. “Now then, what did old Chickenhawk say when you told him?” I tried to look casual about it, as though I didn’t really care.
“I…didn’t tell my dad,” Melissa told me, giving me a defiant look as she added, “I’m not a snitch.”
“Of course you aren’t,” responded with a chuckle. “Now then, I’m sure you have another class to get to, and you don’t need to be late on the first day.”
“Oh yeah,” Melissa said, glancing to the door and suddenly looking worried. “I almost forgot…” Still, she gave me a broad grin, nearly bouncing where she stood. “I’m really glad you’re gonna be my teacher…” And with that, she rushed out the door.
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s aunt,” I mused, sitting down behind my desk and staring at the door in amazement. “Alicia and Melissa both… Damn, it really is a small world…”
After a few seconds, I began to swish my tail back and forth behind me, grinning as I did so. This had actually been an awesome first class, better than I ever could have hoped. And since I’d just finished teaching my very first class, that meant it really was official now. I was now a teacher.
Whateley Academy, Schuster Hall, Tuesday lunch, Sept 4th, 2007
Once upon a time, before the fabulous Imp had become so fabulous, and before she’d even developed her devilish good looks, there had been a girl named Candice Kade. Candice had looked ordinary and boring, but she’d been filled with interesting and exciting ideas of how to have fun. Unfortunately, these ideas had resulted in many unfair visits to her school principal.
I felt a little nostalgic as I stepped into the heart of the school administration. I remembered the countless hours I’d spent, waiting to see the school principal, getting lectured, and fearing what my own parents would do to me that time. Usually, there had been groundings, more lectures, and a lot of disappointed looks. That had been over thirty years ago, but I still remember it quite clearly.
I thought of my stern old principal, from way back when, and chuckled in amusement. “I bet Mister Bartlett would turn over in his grave if he knew I was a teacher now…”
Fortunately, this time I wasn’t here to see the principal, or even the headmistress. Instead, I stopped at the desk of Amelia Hartford, the assistant headmistress. She was an attractive blonde woman with what seemed to be a perpetual scowl. It was no wonder that I’d overheard several students referring to her as Hardass.
“Good morning,” I greeted Hartford, a bit more cheerfully than I needed to, just to annoy her. However, that was as far as I went.
Normally, Hartford was the kind of person that I’d love to mess with, but I bit my tongue and carefully refrained from mocking her…no matter how much fun it might be. Harford was a professional contact, and it always paid to stay on good terms with your contacts. Getting your contacts mad at you could be bad for business, regardless of whether that business was in acquisitions or education.
“Mrs. Carson is in a meeting at the moment,” Hartford told me in a professional tone.
“Actually,” I responded with a grin, swishing my tail back and forth behind me. “I’m here to see you…”
“Oh?” she responded, guarding her expression so that she didn’t really show her surprise.
With that, I carefully set a bottle of Vitesse brand cognac onto Hartford’s desk, right in front of her. I enjoyed the occasional glass of cognac, and Pinball had introduced me to this brand once at the Black Mask.
“Thank you for helping me out with that paperwork,” I told Hartford pleasantly. “This is just a token of my appreciation.”
Hartford smiled faintly and I saw a gleam in her eyes. Perhaps she was pleased that her work was recognized and appreciated, but more likely, it was the simple fact that I’d just acknowledged that I owed her a favor. Of course, she was probably happy that she didn’t have to explain the favor system to me too, like she might have had to do with some of the former heroes on staff.
After Carson had offered me this teaching position, there had been a few things that we’d needed to take care of before I could actually begin, one of the most important being my criminal record. I’d called in a few favors and Carson had pulled some strings, but at the same time, my records had also mysteriously vanished from several law enforcement and superhero databases. When Carson played ignorant about those missing records, I did a little checking of my own and found that Amelia Hartford was the most likely culprit.
Apparently, Amelia Hartford was a hacker of some renown, especially after her work in stopping someone called the Palm. However, one of my contacts had also indicated that there was a lot more to her than the ‘white hat’ stuff.
It was likely that Carson had put her up to cleaning my records, but had maintained some plausible deniability. I could have just let it slide and pretended that she hadn’t helped me, but I thought it was better to give credit where it was due. Sure, that meant I’d owe Hartford a favor, but doing so also opened the door for future business arrangements, and I had a feeling that Hartford could be a very useful person to do business with.
“You are quite welcome,” Hartford told me with a faint nod. She stared at me for a moment with a thoughtful expression, then continued, “There is something that I’d like to discuss with you, a matter of your professional opinion on a certain issue, once we have more time.”
I nodded at that. “I look forward to it,” I told her, wondering what favor she’d ask in return. I honestly hoped that it wasn’t a big job, because I’d just retired from the business and wasn’t eager to go back. “Then I’ll talk with you later.”
With that, I gave Hartford a sweeping bow, tipped an imaginary hat, and then turned to walk out of the office. It may have just been my imagination, but I thought I saw a quick look of amusement cross her face before she covered it up. Either way, I quickly left and started back to my classroom so I could get ready for my next class.
Whateley Academy, Tuesday afternoon, Sept 4th, 2007
It was the beginning of my final class of the day, and I was in the middle of doing the roll call. So far, I’d been nothing but serious and professional with this class, so it was time to liven things up…or dull them down. It all depended on how you looked at it. Either way, it would amuse me, and that was the important thing.
“Bueller,” I called out, keeping my voice flat and monotone. When no one answered, I repeated, “Bueller…”
After doing this several more times, a couple of the students began to snicker, showing that they caught the reference. Unfortunately, far too many of them had blank expressions and apparently missed it entirely. I let out a sigh of disappointment, silently cursing the state of the modern education system. Obviously, I’d become a teacher just in time.
Doing roll call was supposed to help me learn all their names, but I didn’t have exemplar memory, so it would take awhile to remember all the names in all of my classes. It was much easier to remember codenames than real names, because codenames could be interesting and even tell you a little about them, while real names tended to be boring and unmemorable.
As I looked over the kids, my eyes settled on one student who was sitting in the front row. He had dark skin, and was obviously of African ancestry, with an athletic build and a somewhat clean-cut and preppy look. However, in spite of the fact that he was sitting in the front row, he obviously hadn’t done so in order to pay better attention, since he was busy talking to the boy beside him.
I overheard him tell the other boy, “I can’t believe they have a freak teaching this class…” Then again, perhaps he intended for me to hear it. Either way, I did my best to ignore him, or at least, to act like I hadn’t heard.
“Welcome to Art Appreciation,” I announced to the class, grinning because this was a class that I’d been looking forward to teaching. “Or Art History, as some people call it. This isn’t the kind of art class where you learn how to paint or do pottery. There are other classes for that. Instead, we will discuss various styles and movements in art, and examples of each…”
I paused to look over the class, my tail swishing back and forth behind me. Though I loved painting, I was also quite passionate about this topic as well, and I couldn’t wait to introduce these kids to the French impressionists or the Dutch masters.
In my old line of business, both as a forger and a thief, I had to know nearly everything possible about the pieces I copied or stole, including their value, both historical and monetary. Now, that knowledge and experience would have a new use, and as hard it was for me to believe, a legitimate one.
Just as I was about to continue, I noticed the boy in the front row…Iron, if I remembered his name right, was looking back and sneering at a girl in the row behind him. The girl in question, looked like a living porcelain doll, with her body and hair all being made of bone white ceramic, which cracked as she moved. It was kind of creepy to watch, but I immediately sympathized, because I knew exactly difficult it could be to have GSD.
“I can’t believe you have the nerve to show your face in public,” Iron told the porcelain girl, looking disgusted as he added, “You should have the decency to not make people look at it…”
My eyes narrowed at those words and I felt a surge of anger. I’d let it slide when this punk had mocked me, but there was no way that I was going to just stand by and let him insult this girl.
“That’s funny,” I said, walking up to Iron and looking him over. “I don’t see a Humanity First pin…”
“What?” Iron demanded, looking confused.
“Your Humanity First pin,” I repeated, giving him a cheerful smile that didn’t go past my lips. “You sounded just like every member I’ve ever heard, so I assumed you were a member…”
Iron jumped to his feet and glared at me furiously. “I’m not going to take that from someone like you…”
“Someone like me?” I asked, my eyes narrowing. “Do you mean a teacher? A woman? Someone with GSD?”
“A FREAK,” Iron exclaimed, suddenly throwing a punch at me.
Iron’s punch was slow and clumsy, and he obviously didn’t have much experience. Instead of avoiding it like I normally would, I held out my hand and focused all the energy from my PK aura into my hand. His punch might have been clumsy, but there was a lot more power in it than there should have been, so it was a good thing I’d shielded my hand or he probably would have shattered some bones.
There were gasps of surprise from around the classroom as everyone realized that a student had just attacked their teacher. Some of them even jumped to their feet, as though they intended to come to my aid. That surprised me since I wasn’t used to other people trying to help me, and I felt a little touched, even if it wasn’t necessary. Iron was staring at me with a horrified look as he realized what he’d done, and probably what the consequences might be.
I smiled at Iron, though it wasn’t my usual friendly neighborhood Imp smile, but the one I reserved for when I actually wanted to put the fear of the Imp into them. “I didn’t survive thirty years in my former career by being helpless,” I told Iron, who took several steps back from me. I reached out, and formed my invisible PK claws…then ran a finger over the corner of Iron’s desk. My PK claw sliced right through the desk, and a tiny piece fell to the floor. Iron gulped, now looking even more afraid. “Sit down and behave, Rusty…and I’ll forget this ever happened. Push it and…” I gave him an evil smile and he quickly took his seat.
“Thank you, Ms. Imp,” the ceramic girl said. “But that was not necessary…”
“This is your one and only freebee,” I announced, looking around the room to make sure all the students understood. “And in case any of you missed it, I won’t tolerate anyone talking to another student like that. I’m normally a very easygoing Imp, but even I have my limits.”
I was fully aware of the irony, that I of all people, would give a lecture about not mocking others. If there really was a God, he was probably laughing his butt off at that. Then, as I pictured that, I had to fight back the urge to start laughing myself.
“Okay then,” I mused. “Back to the topic at hand…”
“Are you really a supervillain?” someone blurted out.
I looked around the class and saw that all the students were watching me intently, except for Iron, or Rusty as I was now mentally referring to him, since he wouldn’t meet my eyes. I smiled faintly, having known that these kids would be curious about me, though I was also vaguely annoyed. I’d been looking forward to talking about art history, so didn’t appreciate the continuing interruptions. It seemed that after my own behavior back when I’d been a student, karma was biting me on the tail again.
“That depends entirely on how you define supervillain,” I finally answered. “I’ve never really liked that term because it comes with a lot of assumptions, which aren’t always accurate. But yes, until recently, I was a professional art thief and criminal, and while I didn’t really think of myself as a supervillain, most people called me that.”
There was a burst of noise around the room as students began talking to each other and calling out questions. Since it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to get back on topic, I shrugged and decided to roll with it.
“Alrighty then,” I announced, immediately getting the classes attention again. “For today, and today only, I will answer some of your questions about my previous occupation. Get it out of your systems, because this is your one and only chance.”
“Did you ever fight any superheroes?” one boy called out eagerly.
“Yep,” I answered with a cheerful grin. “But honestly, I spent more time running away or avoiding them entirely. My goal has always been to get away with the goodie, and I could usually do that without having to fight anyone.”
One student immediately called out, “Did you ever fight a famous hero?” while another one asked, “Did you ever fight Lady Astarte?”
“Yes and yes,” I answered with a smirk, giving them just enough to build their curiosity.
The next question was, “What was the best thing you ever stole?”
I just grinned as I answered, “The Mona Lisa…” There were a few gasps of shock and amazement, though I quickly burst out laughing. “Naw. I never got that one, even if it was on my bucket list.” That got a few chuckles from the students, while I shrugged. “Sorry, but I’m going to take the fifth on that one.”
Some of the students seemed disappointed that I wasn’t going to go into details on any of my jobs, but I had good reason for keeping quiet. For one thing, there was the matter of client confidentiality for some of them, and for another, I was still on probation of sorts, and didn’t want to draw too much attention to my past crimes. In fact, since my record had largely been cleaned, I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to dig into old jobs and reopen old cases.
Since I had a captive audience and I didn’t want to disappoint them, I decided that I might be able to give them a little bit. After all, there had been one job that I couldn’t really get in much trouble for, and a bunch of mutants were sure to appreciate it.
“Hypothetically speaking,” I said, swishing my tail back and forth behind me. “I might have once broken into Bruce Goodkind’s office…”
That had an immediate reaction, though not quite what I’d been expecting. I’d expected everyone to give me their full and undivided attention, but for some reason, half the class had turned to stare at one girl, with some of them snickering. Out of curiosity, I looked closer at the girl, who had short and spikey hair, that looked like it was in some kind of punk style. Unlike many of her classmates, she was watching me with an intense expression.
“Since you said that you were an art thief,” the spiky-haired girl said, “I assume you were there for the Van Gogh.”
“I didn’t see any Van Gogh,” I responded thoughtfully. “I was there for a beautiful Vermeer…” The girl didn’t look the least bit surprised by the correction, and it suddenly struck me that she’d been testing me. I smirked faintly at that. “Unfortunately, the painting in his office was a fake.”
“What?” the spikey-haired girl exclaimed in surprise. “Impossible…”
“I’m an expert in authentication and forgery,” I assured the girl, just a little smugly, “and that baby was definitely a fake. A good one, but a fake nonetheless. Either someone beat me to the punch, or Goodkind hung a decoy and hid the real Vermeer somewhere else…”
I stared at the spikey-haired girl for a moment, trying to remember her name from the roll call. It was something like Anna…or Aida…or Ayla. Then, I suddenly remembered her last name. Goodkind. Carson had told me that there was a member of the Goodkind family on campus, but I’d thought she was pulling my leg.
“Anyway,” I said, flashing a grin to the class, “I wasn’t about to leave empty-handed, so I helped myself to a bottle of scotch from the liquor cabinet.”
The girl looked mortified, probably because I’d just admitted to stealing from one of her relatives. However, a couple of the other students were snickering in amusement, obviously delighted to hear that I’d managed to ‘stick it’ to a Goodkind.
Once the Goodkind girl got over her surprise and composed herself, she calmly pointed out, “Ms. Imp, you’re being surprisingly forthright about your past…”
“Well,” I responded wryly, “I could call myself Mrs. Smith and pretend that I’ve never been anything but a boringly respectable teacher, but I don’t think it would do much good.” I paused at that to swish my tail and then I raised a finger to tap one of my horns. “The fact of the matter is, my devilish good looks are quite distinctive, so it wouldn’t take long for people to recognize me and for the rumors to start flying.” I shrugged at that. “Trying to hide who I am is pointless, so why bother?”
After this, more questions came, though they were mostly along the lines of, “Did you ever fight the Empire City Guard?” and “Do you know Doctor Diabolik?” The answers to those are yes and no, respectively. I answered the best I could, keeping a lot of details vague but giving a few anecdotes that seemed to satisfy them.
While I was talking, the fact that I was being so open and forthright seemed to ease many of the concerns that these kids had about me. Sure, some of them were still giving me wary looks, and were obviously nervous about having a former supervillain as a teacher. However, others just seemed fascinated by this opportunity to talk to someone in the business, and it didn’t hurt that I was so lovable and unthreatening.
And then, there was Rusty the clown, AKA Iron, and according to the roll call sheet which I looked at again, he was also known as Devon Roth. Rusty seemed to be losing his fear of me as well, but unfortunately, it appeared that the fear was being replaced by bitterness and resentment. Several times, I caught him giving me dirty looks when he didn’t think I could see him. I took careful note of that, because I had a feeling that he was going to keep being a pain in my tail.
Once the class ended and all of the students began to rush out the door, I let out a sigh of relief and fought back the impulse to dance a jig in celebration. I’d wait to do that when no students were watching me. After all, I’d successfully completed my first day as a teacher, and that was worth celebrating.
“Thank you,” the Goodkind girl told me before leaving. “That was very…enlightening.” Her expression was hard to read, but I imagined that she wasn’t happy to hear that I’d robbed one of her relatives. Then again, I didn’t know her family situation, so she might be delighted about it for all I knew.
“You’re quite welcome,” I responded with a barely contained smirk. “Hopefully, tomorrow we should be able to return to our regularly scheduled program. After all, I’m here to teach art, not art theft.”
“I look forward to it,” she said politely before she continued on her way.
As soon as everyone had cleared out of the classroom, I straightened up a few desks, picked up the small piece of desk that I’d sliced off, and made a mental note to see maintenance about getting it fixed. I absently wondered if I should tell them the truth about what had happened to the desk, or if I should make up some story about a student having an accident with their powers. Since there were a lot of witnesses, honesty would probably be the best policy.
“Well, I did it,” I announced to the empty classroom with a grin. I looked around to make sure that no one was watching, then danced a quick jig. “I wonder how soon before I’m eligible for a world’s best teacher mug…”
I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I locked the classroom behind me and started on my way back to the Village. However, I barely left the building when I realized that someone was coming at me. I quickly dodged to the side, just in time to avoid the fist that had been aimed at my head.
“Rusty, Rusty, Rusty,” I exclaimed in the same tone as if I’d been going, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia…”
Rusty glared at me, as though offended that I hadn’t just stood there and let him jump me. The kid had a wild expression and was definitely worked up, though I wasn’t really sure why. Our little exchange in class hardly seemed enough motivation for this attack.
“I already gave you one freebee,” I told Rusty in a cold tone.
“SHUT UP,” the boy exclaimed, charging at me again.
I dropped down and avoided his charge, then lashed out with my tail to knock his feet out from beneath him. He fell flat onto his face, and I couldn’t resist laughing at that.
“Don’t try that again, Rusty,” I warned him. “You’re only making this worse for yourself…”
Rusty snarled and swung at me again, though this time, I dodged to the side and grabbed hold of his forearm. It was a little slippery, obviously from the PK shell that I’d noticed in the classroom. However, I had my own PK aura, and I used that to ensure I had a good grip on him. My intention was to force him to the ground so he’d stop attacking me. That wasn’t my normal way of dealing with opponents, but he was a kid so I was trying to handle him with kid gloves.
“I’m not going to take that from some ugly freak,” Rusty snarled, trying to swing around with his free arm to hit me again.
I felt a mixture of anger and disappointment at those words, and almost without thinking about it, I tightened my grip on his arm. I’d already begun to synchronize my PK aura to his shell when I grabbed him, and now I did so a little more, enough so that my aura and his shell cancelled each other out where they met. Without his shell to protect him, my clawed fingernails sank deep into his flesh. Rusty yelped in pain, and at the same time, I knocked his feet out from beneath him and knocked him to the ground.
“Shazbot,” I exclaimed as I jumped back.
Rusty was on the ground, crying out as he held the bloody arm that I’d unintentionally torn wide open. I stared down at him with a cold knot forming in my gut. I’ve done way worse than that to other people, but never to anyone so young. Rusty was just a kid. Sure, he was an obnoxious brat that was in bad need of a spanking, but he was still just a kid.
A moment later, I noticed three people in uniforms running straight towards me. Whateley Security. Armed security. And after thirty years as a professional criminal, I had well-honed instincts of what to do when being chased by armed security. I turned and ran.
Whateley Academy, Dunn Hall, Tuesday late afternoon, Sept 4th, 2007
I was crouched down on the roof of Dunn Hall, using my power to blend into my surroundings so that I was virtually invisible. I remained motionless, nearly frozen so that I didn’t risk giving myself away. At Whateley, there was a greater chance of being noticed while I was using my chameleon field, than just about anywhere else.
My eyes slowly swept the ground below me. The students wandering about almost looked like ants, as did the security people. It was the security people that I was really watching since they were looking for me. However, I wasn’t just watching the ground. I was also keeping an eye on the sky, waiting for Carson…for Lady Astarte to join in the search.
I’d injured a student. Sure, Rusty had attacked me, but I was on probation and I’d injured a student. Now, they were coming after me, and the very least I could expect was to be thrown out on my tail. My teaching career had barely begun, and was already over.
Whateley was supposed to be a new chance for me…a new life. It was supposed to be a place where I could be myself, without having to hide who and what I was. It was supposed to be a place where I could share my passions and inspire kids to love art as much as I did. It was supposed to be a place where I could actually belong. I should have known better than to get my hopes up.
My heart ached as I looked out across campus and considered how I would escape. Getting past security and leaving would actually be pretty easy, at least physically. However, it would also mean leaving all of this behind. It would mean leaving behind everything in my apartment, and probably even my custom build motorcycle. I doubted that I’d be able to get past the security check points with that. And of course, there were all the non-physical things I’d be leaving behind as well, and those would be the most difficult to abandon.
“It was a nice gig while it lasted,” I mused with a deep sigh.
“Then why do you want to give up on it so easily?” someone asked from beside me, nearly making me jump in surprise. Louis Geintz, head of the Psychic Arts department was sitting on the roof beside me, or at least his psychic projection was. “You know, this is quite a nice view…”
“It would be a great spot to drop water balloons,” I pointed out, looking down and seeing how easy it would be to hit the students below.
I dropped my chameleon field, since there was no point in remaining hidden. Louis knew exactly where I was, which meant that he could tell Carson and security at any time, if he hadn’t done so already. Trying to hide from psychics was always a pain in the tail.
“You’re right,” Louis told me, standing up and then peering down over the edge. “About the water balloons, I mean. This would be a great spot.”
I grinned at that. “Too bad I didn’t think about bringing any…”
Louis gave me a look of amusement, then held out a hand, which had a water balloon in it. He made a show of dropping it over the edge, though it vanished after only a few feet. That was the problem with psychic projections. They just weren’t real enough.
“You know,” Louis said in a casual tone, “security is looking all over for you…”
“Really?” I responded with a look of mock innocence. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“And Liz would really like to have a conversation with you,” he added, removing any doubt in the question of whether or not Carson had sent him to find me.
“I imagine she does,” I replied with a wry smile. “She probably wants to fire me personally, or maybe just lock me up… I mean, that is the kind of things that heroes like to do…”
Louis gave me a look of disappointment. “I think you’re doing Liz a disservice. She went through a lot of trouble to hire you, and she deserves better than that.”
“Okay,” I said with a roll of my eyes. “Enough with the guilt trip. I feel bad enough as it is…”
“All right,” Louis agreed with a faint smile. “Now, if you’re done doing the Batman thing…”
I rolled my eyes again as I stood up and stretched. “As if. I’ve always been more partial to Catwoman…”
“And I would have pegged you as a Harley Quinn fan,” he responded, earning a chuckle in response.
“Sure thing, Mistah J,” I agreed with a broad grin, “but she doesn’t hang around rooftops.”
After this, I got down from Dunn Hall, then Louis and I walked to Schuster Hall and Carson’s office. We made small talk along the way, though avoided the topic of my current troubles. I was thankful for that, because by the time we reached Schuster, I’d relaxed enough that I was no longer ready to run.
“You’ve never seen what I really look like,” Louis abruptly asked. “Have you?”
“No,” I answered carefully, giving him a curious look.
Louis just smiled at that. “Then stop by Hawthorne sometime for a visit. Assuming you’re still at Whateley, that is.” He gave me a wink as he teased me and added, “Maybe we can play a game or two of chess…”
“I might do that,” I told him with a wry smile. “Assuming I’m still around.”
At this point, Louis faded away and vanished, leaving me to make the final bit of journey on my own. To my surprise, I found Roland Williams standing out in the hallway, with a look of smug satisfaction that immediately annoyed me. Obviously, he’d heard that I was about to get canned, and he wanted to be there when it happened.
“Your zipper is down,” I lied, just to annoy Williams, who immediately checked. I smirked as I walked past, thinking that the one good thing about being fired, was that I’d be free to mess with him before I left. Maybe some itching powder down his shorts…
Hartford was sitting behind her desk, and she didn’t look happy. In spite of our earlier understanding, she gave me a sour look and stated, “She’s waiting for you inside.”
“Ah, the memories,” I commented wryly, thinking that this was one bit of nostalgia I could do without. Thirty years later, and I was still being sent to the principal’s office.
As soon as I stepped into Carson’s office, I was struck with the similarity to the scene outside her office. Like Hartford, she was sitting behind her desk, and also like Hartford, she didn’t look happy.
“What am I going to do with you?” Carson asked in exasperation.
I took a seat, but not the one she’d intended for me in front of her desk. Avoiding the hot seat, I took a chair that had been sitting in the corner and positioned it more to the side of her desk.
“I supposed that’s what we need to discuss,” I said.
Though I was trying to look and sound all calm and casual, I was actually quite nervous, feeling cornered…trapped. I was in a small room with the door closed behind me, and Carson was between me and the only window. If she decided to go Lady Astarte on me, there was no way for me to escape, and I’d known that before stepping through the door.
Louis told me that Carson deserved better than my suspicion, so as difficult as this was for me, I was giving her something else. I was trusting her not to go all superhero and lock me up.
“So,” I started in order to get this done and over with. “How is Rusty…Iron doing?”
“According to Doctor Tennant,” Carson answered, giving me a sharp look, “Devon Roth suffered several deep lacerations on his arm, but she was able to heal them without much difficulty. There won’t be any permanent damage, or even any scarring…”
I let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good at least.”
Carson just stared at me for several long seconds, then in a softer voice, she said, “I saw the security video, and this was clearly self-defense.”
I was a little startled by that response, because I’d expected to be accused of attacking a student for no reason. “But I still hurt a student,” I said, knowing that this would still be an issue.
“Students get hurt worse than that, every day during martial arts,” Carson pointed out. “And I heard about the previous incident during class. You showed more restraint with Devon than I would have expected from nearly any teacher.” I blinked in surprise, since that wasn’t quite the reaction I’d been expecting. However, Carson still fixed me with a firm expression and continued, “What I’m really angry about, is that you ran away from security…”
“What?” I blurted out, feeling a bit confused by that. “Armed security was running straight at me,” I explained, as I to a child…and a slow one at that. “Of course I ran.’
“Do you even realize what you did?” she asked me, once again giving me an exasperated look.
I shrugged at that. “I avoided getting shot.”
Carson let out a long sigh, then she began to rub her temples for several seconds. “Imp,” she started, only to pause and stare at me. “Christine…security was coming to HELP you…”
I gave Carson a skeptical look. “In my experience, having armed men in uniform running at you, is NEVER a good thing.”
“In this case,” Carson told me, “you did nothing wrong. But when you ran away from security, you made it look like you did…”
I snorted at that, giving Carson a flat look. “When I was fifteen, the cops all had a shoot on sight order for me…and I hadn’t done anything wrong then either.”
For a brief moment, Carson gave me a sympathetic look. “Christine,” she said, clearly trying to ease my nerves by using that name. That name suggested we were friends rather than adversaries. “Knowing your previous career, I can understand why you might be wary of police and security. However, campus security is not your enemy. They are here to protect the school, the students, and the staff…which includes you. Security is not out to get you.”
“Of course not,” I responded wryly, not bothering to point out that they had chased after me.
Carson stared at me with a scowl, clearly seeing my doubt and skepticism. Finally, she said, “I’ll make a deal with you, Christine…” That caught my attention. “And no jokes about making a deal with the devil.” She gave me a wry smile and pointed out, “Some people already think I did that when I hired you.”
“Williams,” I said with a smirk, knowing that there were probably others, but he was definitely the most vocal.
“Because of your little stunt,” she told me with a look of annoyance, “I had to hear him listing all the reasons why I should fire you…again.”
“Sorry about that,” I told her with a shrug. “Nobody should have to listen to that set of bagpipes.” At her blank look, I explained, “A gas bag.”
“I know you’ve retired from your previous profession,” Carson told me with a serious expression. “And you’ve already promised me that you’d try to be on your best behavior on campus…” The look she gave me was a reminder of why I was in her office at the moment. “So, I propose this. I will make sure that campus security knows not to harass you, and will make sure that you never have to worry about them chasing you down. However,” her expression hardened a little more. “Should there ever be legitimate reason to arrest you…or should you ever become a threat to this school… If that day ever comes, and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t, I will come and apprehend you myself.”
For a moment, I just remained where I was, then gave a nod of agreement. “That sounds reasonable.”
To anyone else, her promise to come after them personally might sound like a threat, but to me, it was an assurance. A group of armed goons would probably shoot me on sight, or at least try to, but Lady Astarte would try to take me in alive and relatively unharmed. Of course, that would be easier said than done, and I’d slipped away from her before. Still, I appreciated the thought.
Since that bit of business was taken care of, Carson immediately went back on topic. “Do you even understand why I’m upset about you running away from security?”
I considered it for a moment, and was REALLY tempted to give a smartass answer, but for once, I restrained myself. “Because I made them look bad?”
Normally, I was more than happy to make the uniformed goons look bad, especially if I could have fun doing so. However, I imagined that in this case, Carson wouldn’t want me to make HER goons look bad. If her goons looked bad, it would reflect on her.
She gave me a flat look and asked, “How do you think it looks to the students, when they see a teacher running away from security? If any student did that, they’d be facing detention. In fact, if I could give teachers detention, you’d be spending the next two weeks cleaning the bathrooms in Hawthorne.” Then Carson fixed me with a hard gaze, probably trying to make sure that I understood how serious this was, or at least, how serious SHE thought it was. “You set a bad example for the students, and you can’t do that. You’re supposed to be professional. Respectable. A role model…” I gave Carson a wry look at that and she responded with a sigh of exasperation. “Please, at least try to act professional.”
“I’m always professional,” I pointed out, though admittedly, I was thinking of my previous profession. This time, it was Carson’s turn to give me a skeptical look.
Though I was relieved to find that I wasn’t going to be kicked out on my tail, I still wasn’t thrilled by the direction of the conversation, so decided to change directions a little. “What about Rusty…Iron.”
“Please don’t nickname the students,” Carson said with a sigh. “That goes with the whole professional thing.”
“Okay,” I responded with a grin. “I’ll try to keep the nicknames to myself.”
Carson shook her head faintly, giving me a look that suggested she was about to give me another lecture, but she apparently decided against it. “Devon attacked a teacher twice,” she said instead, her expression grim and serious. “Normally, he’d be looking at expulsion.”
“Normally?” I asked, keeping my tone even.
“Devon has a problematic attitude,” Carson admitted. “One that could very well get him into a great deal of trouble. However, this time, there is an extenuating circumstance.”
“Oh?” I responded. If she said that the extenuating circumstance was because he’d attacked someone with GSD, or a former supervillain, then I was not going to be happy.
“Young Mister Roth has a medical issue,” Carson finally said. “His medical records indicate that without his medication, he is prone to violent outbursts and a certain degree of irrationality.”
“And he’s off his meds,” I said with a sigh. That certainly explained his stupidity in attacking me, not only once but twice.
“I’m afraid so,” Carson said with a scowl. Then, she quickly tried to assure me that Rusty was still going to be punished. “Devon has been given detention for a month, and will be placed on the ultraviolent list if there is even one more incident. He’s also been made aware that he will be expelled if he pulls another stunt like this one.”
I nodded at that. “And his meds?”
Carson didn’t answer for several long seconds. “Devon has been ordered to report to Doyle twice a week for blood tests, to ensure he’s taking his medication. This is a condition for his not being expelled.”
“I should hope so,” I said wryly. “So then, I should expect him back in class tomorrow?”
“Considering what happened,” Carson answered carefully, “I think it might be in everyone’s best interest to change his schedule…”
“Or,” I corrected her with an evil grin, “It might be in his best interest to stay. After all, a little more exposure to people with GSD might be just what he needs to fix that attitude of his. And if nothing else, keeping him in my class should make things a little more interesting…”
“You have a strange idea of interesting,” Caron pointed out wryly.
I just grinned at that. “Well, I wouldn’t want to risk getting bored.”
Carson shook her head for a moment before admitting, “You may have a point. Exposure to people with GSD may be just the thing he needs to help him realize that you aren’t the monsters he seems to think.”
I held up a finger and added, “But I reserve the right to mock him if he annoys me.”
“Please don’t mock the students,” she responded, pausing to rub her temples again. “That falls under being professional.”
I just sat there with my best innocent look, noting that she hadn’t strictly banned me from doing so. As long as I didn’t get too carried away, I figured a little mocking would be fine. And besides, it would probably be fun.
After this, Carson was finished with me, so I was excused. I let out a sigh of relief as I left her office, thankful that things had gone a lot better than I’d feared. I probably owed Louis for talking me into coming in.
When I stepped out into the hallway, I saw that Williams was still hanging around. “Carson never should have hired you in the first place,” he announced with a triumphant look. “I’m glad to see that she’s rectified that mistake…”
“Beeep!” I exclaimed, trying to mimic the sound of a gameshow buzzer. “Wrong again. I’m afraid that you’re still a loser, but for a consolation prize, you can walk away with that dumb look on your face…”
Williams glared at me with a look of anger, which brought a faint smile to my face. I gave him a brief wave, then continued on my way before he could say something to really irritate me, and which would require some kind of retaliation. After all, I could be professional when I wanted to. Really.
Still, once I was away from Williams and outside of Schuster, I let out another sigh of relief. This had been an insane day. My first day as a teacher had been filled with highs and lows, and now, I was emotionally drained. After today, I just wanted to go back to my secondary Imp’s Lair and relax with a strong drink.