A Whateley Academy Tale
Murphy’s Laws Of Whateley
Semester in Review
By Joe Gunnarson
Thursday, March 1st, 2007, Whitman Cottage
Murphy’s Law #17: When everything appears to be working correctly, all hell will break loose.
Never let it be said that my life isn’t interesting. After picking a quiet war with several Alphas, thoroughly embarrassing myself to my fellow Cottage-mates in a distinct show of not-decorum when faced with inhuman anatomy, I’d made a few friends in the Whateley Academy Literary Club, and the leader of the Alphas. Sort of.
Don’t get me wrong, they were cool, but then so were Froggy, Kerry, Thorn and a few others I’d met since I arrived here in the poorly named “Freak House Femme.” It was never, ever fair the way a lot of the Whitman girls denigrated themselves, which sat in odd mirror to the bitches in Dicksucker and Melvillain who liked to pick on the freaks. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy that would never end, yes it goes on and on my friend…
Poor Grabby, who was half-flopped out on her desk, drooling on herself was a product of the Academy. Hannah was an absolutely adorable girl once you got to know her. She was pretty in her own way, even though she looked like God got creative merging a human, an octopus and the skin & scales of a copperhead snake into one female package. I’d tried moving her manually, once. After that I took the expedient of using a trick I’d learned while Brawling With Bricks in Ms. Dennon’s Hand-to-hand combat class and tapped her and teleported her onto the bed, lying down and just up enough that she fell half an inch.
The ability to alter relative velocity and orientation in space was really neat, especially when you can distort space and make it do weird “Labyrinth” style shit to people.
She never even stirred as I pulled the blankets over my seemingly lazy, narcoleptic roomie. I’d learned better, just as I’d gotten my own taste of why she stayed up as late as she did. She had to work harder than almost everyone to keep up, as she wasn’t one of the lucky girls who’d gotten a nifty mental package with her mutation, and wasn’t blessed with a solidly “bored at normal high school” IQ like I was. So she crammed, and crammed and crammed, and her grades were about as crappy as mine were.
We’d figured out how to turn that around over the last few weeks, slowly, as we started studying together. I helped suss out her homework and explain it in words she could follow, and I wound up paying more attention to my own homework as a result. It was all very mundane and full of effort. I’m actually starting to enjoy the classes for the challenge, now that I’ve gotten it out of my head that it’s just another High School I can breeze through by acing all of the tests.
I stopped bothering with the ADHD meds, as the effects were pretty much psychosomatic and moot. My metabolism ripped the drugs apart and I pissed it out in less than an hour, and the extended release version was supposed to last up to a full day. Coffee was fun, but same deal. I mostly drink it because I like the flavor, and freaking out the people who think I’m a hyperactive, lunatic bitch who’s incapable of calming down.
I had figured out a way to make money, and keep myself in cheap treats and prank goodies by being a courier on and off campus. I just had to keep Delarose or the Payola Platoon on security from actually catching me on the way out, or back in. I’m a pragmatist, and I can’t stand being cooped up, no matter how wide-open the gilded cage was, I had to wander, and since no one who wasn’t blessed with a ridiculous family trust fund was stupid enough to pay third platoon’s retarded smuggling fees for basic shit not sold in the campus store’s admittedly huge selection, I opened up my own little business. It was time to open up the shop.
As I passed through the common room on a blessed no-classes day, I thumped the wall. “Funyun Run in sixty, spread the word.” I looked at the girls who immediately started peeling themselves off the hammocks, an idea that Diamondback had stolen from the Crazy Kimbas in Poe, and pointed at Phobos. “No offense but rule still applies to heterodyning projective empaths. One at a time, so I don’t accidentally mangle us all into Payola’s pockets.”
She nodded, knowing full well that as brazen and obnoxious as I could be, I wasn’t up to snuff for catching a face full of the Fury Twins’ terror aura in tandem, but to be fair, I applied the rule to all of the projective empaths. I just let the GSD, four-armed scaries enforce the rule so I wouldn’t have another panic attack. No one in Twain, Whitman or Hawthorne deserved to be on the receiving end of my occasional freak-outs, so I tried to keep it on the down-low.
As I opened up my small shop in an unmonitored corner of the tunnels, I set up my price sign with chalk:
Dunwich run: $50.00 + a case of Brick Power Bars
I keep the change
If I don’t like you (Pucelle) it’s another $50.00 for me to care.
Tansy, Hamper and Damper: Kill Yourselves.
Yes I’m a bitch. Yes, I’m the one who accidentally pushes Pucelle down the stairs, maliciously, on occasion. No, I’m not above singling out shitlords.
The whole group of about 30 boys and girls, from all of the cottages, lined up, handed me the money for what they wanted, then got out of the way. The fifty dollars and the case of brick bars was a collective thing. Most of the kids weren’t rich, hell most of them were like me, dirt-ass-poor. But two dollars (roughly) apiece and I keep the change because sorting that mess out was unreasonable once I got going. Usually it amounted to pennies on the dollar, but I wasn’t going to complain. It got me off campus, and they got stuff that they couldn’t otherwise get.
Yes when one of the poor kids gives me egregiously too much money, I quietly give them back the majority later, I’m a bitch, not a Goodkind.
“Mal, how many times do I have to tell you I’m not going to knock over a Naval Base to get you radioactive isotopes?” I looked at Jadis’ brother archly. “I’m a courier, not a goddamn villain-mart. Keep it legal.”
“Hey I have to try.” He grinned stupidly in that dopey boy way that made me wonder if I was the object of a crush. I was hoping not.
“Fifty bucks and a box of brick bars each? That’s a bit much, don’t you think, Murph?” a familiar voice asked me dubiously. I looked up and grinned at the redheaded terror of the Gadgeteering world.
“Hell no, that’s the collective charge for everyone combined. I only overcharge people who piss me off.”
“I see that. Here’s a contribution, you willing to hit a hardware store for a couple tools?”
“Sure, so long as it’s legal, and I don’t need bizarre industry contacts to get it in a day, it’s good, Elaine.”
“You do realize you’re going to get in trouble for this, sooner or later.”
“As if I’m not in trouble at least three times a week. Put it on my tab.” I grinned.
“Not for this, sorry.” I looked up at her. “The brick bars are so I don’t have a repeat of the nights in the hospital for TCS. I’ll burn through them between here, town and back. If I take a passenger I’ll need to get a shitload more.”
“Ah. So what you got there?”
“Usual shit, moon pies for the rednecks, mineral oil (the good stuff) for diamondback and some of the other scalies who don’t like their hides or horns ripping apart on them, some parts from whatever passes for Home Depot in this godforsaken piece of Nowhere, New Hampshire, and the list goes on.”
“Word on the street is someone’s still putting the screws on Solange, and Hamper and Damper whenever no one’s looking.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” My smile could have lit the arctic in January.
“Be careful, ok?” She leaned over and said quietly, “We still don’t know if anyone actually put Hamper and Damper up to that shit.”
“Oh don’t worry, I’m being a lot more careful, and if Solange didn’t I’ll eat my own boots. Not after what we did to her.” My reply was also quiet, but I wasn’t going to push Elaine much on the topic. Not if I wanted to keep my access to the Alpha biometric locks on their myriad club spaces unknown. Elaine could lock me out in a heartbeat.
The line didn’t last long, and more than a few GSD kids snickered at the thought of me getting nasty with a few of the campus bullies. Hell, Reverb loved playing my Greatest Hockey Hits to Kodiak’s Junk on the big screen whenever the cottage girls needed a cheer-up. We had a code of sorts. I did my best to not make their lives harder, and occasionally easier and they would pretend I was upstairs in my room, diligently studying when someone set a snare rigged to fling Hamper or Damper across the campus.
As I was closing up shop I found myself in a corridor with a lone, skinny person who was a bit shorter than me and not-quite sneaking up behind me.
“If you’re looking to get the drop on me, give it up. I felt you coming around the corner.” Yes, I’m stupid and would rather challenge someone then run. Sue me.
“Damn, I’d love to know how you pull that trick, and no, not trying to get the drop, was wondering if I’m too late and if you have a “no poesies” rule.”
The girl was almost, but not quite, a stick with an androgynous cast to her features and ghost-white skin and hair with red eyes and scarlet outfit that left little to the imagination. I imagine the top hat would have been over the top, but she pulled it off. Same with the fishnet stockings, she was making her rail-thin body pull the look off with pure attitude.
“I’m not robbing the blood bank for you.” My voice was dry as I recognized Vamp, one of the local wheelers and dealers.
“Hah. As if. I was wondering what I gotta do to get some things from Cecilia’s. My clothes are getting a bit too torn up for me to mend.” She gave me a fangy grin.
I shrugged. “That’s not exactly off the limit there, what do you need and how much you dropping?”
“Err that’s just it, I’m trying to figure out how I can make enough money to afford her stuff. I wanted to check out your operation, see if you needed help, but I’m not daft enough to realize this isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme.”
“More a courtesy to the poor kids on campus.”
“Yeah, I figured you’d understand given your aversion to the school uniforms.”
I snorted. “Ok Vamp, you have my attention, why are you coming to me? There’s about a bajillion rich kids on campus whom you could glom onto that would pull that bill for a favor.”
“And all of them are convinced that I’m trying to weasel my way into their wallets. Sure, She-Beast and them give me a little cred, but if I want to start playing fixer around campus I have to do it on my own, without leaning on the others.”
“Ok I’ll buy that. What made you think I’d be interested?”
“Well, there’s Hawthorne. Most of the kids there don’t bother with fixers, or even stuff as cheap as yours to get, but they’re a market.”
“I have Thornies on my docket, Six orders in fact.”
I watched Vamp sigh, looking dejected. I’m a shitty liar, but I can smell a play when I see one.
“Cut the bullshit. I can smell manipulation a mile out, and the ‘wounded puppy’ act only works when you’re wounded.”
“Maybe I shoulda listened to Selkie a bit better. Okay okay, the wounded puppy’s bullshit, but the desire to actually do something without getting a handout from the rich kids is legit. None of the fixers have pegged to you, but that’s because you’re basically doing the things they don’t want to be the ones doing anyway.”
I smirked, and watched the scam artist start to roll. “Strike two.”
“You’re impossible, you know that?” She was almost adorable when she was frustrated.
“It comes with being crazy enough that normal, human lack-of-logic confuses me.”
“I got nothing. I just need to figure out a way to get into this gig without She-Beast holding me up, or Ayla figuring I need a bloody handout.”
“And you don’t want to be bossed around, you want to be making your own deals.”
“Are you an esper?”
“No, just wary of deals where the other party offers nothing, but somehow might get me under their thumb, or debt.”
“Ok who gave you the sense God gave a Lima bean? You attacked Kodiak, I figured there was more “She-Hulk Smash” than logic in that purple-forelocked noggin of yours.”
I grinned. “She-Hulk was a lawyer, and a borderline genius one, remember?”
Vamp rolled her eyes. “What is it with you? I can’t get a read on you.”
“I fail to see how this is my problem.”
“Would you believe I see a lot more potential than doing snack runs for the wealth-challenged?”
“I’d believe it, but right now, you need a better sales pitch.”
“Kinda hard to make a pitch when you don’t know what someone wants.”
“Vamp, I’m not exactly a Wine and Roses type, I likes me my beer and pizza just fine. I’m not in this for the cash, I’m in it to get off the campus for a few hours.” I shrugged. “The money’s just a bonus and to keep people from casually expecting me to go play gofer for them.”
“That’s it? No scam? No grand expansion plot?”
I shrugged. “When there’s a plot that’s worth the effort and risk of TCS, which I am prone to, let me know. I might bite. I can’t promise to bring grandiose ambition to the table, but I might bite.”
She considered, then sighed and handed me a ten. “As many of those packs of strawberry swirl Twinkies® things as you can find.”
“Snacks, gotcha.” I jotted down another note on my list and gave a mock-salute and vanished, a thousand feet straight up, then popped over to a spot on the road to Dunwich, that didn’t have headlights on it, before I started plummeting to my doom.
Murphy’s Law #5: Your engine will never be fixed.
I won’t bore you with the details of my Dunwich run. Basically it boils down to the fact that I can, in fact, be sneaky when I have to be. To my knowledge no one knew I was in or out, and I intended to keep it that way. My time away from Whateley (and catching the latest movie at the theater) is best spent not pissing people off, drawing attention or engaging in the temptation to find and torture the morons in Berlin or Boston or wherever who have it in for Elaine. My freedom was at stake.
Once my “shopping trip” was up, I stuffed a backpack, wandered up to Hawthorne without telebouncing to give my body a chance to process the brick bars I’d eaten. Six deliveries later the Thornies had their goodies and I idly spent the better part of my afternoon delivering all of the rest of the myriad bits and bobs people wanted, quietly. I’ve discovered that even though it requires more effort, people appreciate discrete door deliveries that don’t draw attention to the fact that they now have loot & snacks not available to the campus at-large.
My last two weeks of saving the money I got for doing these runs had paid off, and I used the handheld computer Elaine loaned me to load up the music I’d gotten into my shiny new MP3 player. It wasn’t ‘til dinner time that I followed my rumbling belly into the Crystal Hall to pick up some eats and fully recover from a very busy day. I’m hyper, walking, thinking and keeping myself occupied served my sanity better than burying my addictive personality into video games like GEO.
Sitting alone in the Crystal Hall wasn’t unusual for me, but it doesn’t make for an awesome story unless you want me to regale you with my opinion of who the most horrific eater on campus is. In my opinion that’s a toss-up between Razorback and Flayer.
It wasn’t until an hour later, once I had devoured my quota of vegetables and roast dead thing that I found myself in the gearhead garage, by myself, listening to the Foo Fighters, on my shiny MP3 player, that I indulged in my newest addiction. The Jeep Wrangler was stripped to the frame and on blocks while I slowly reassembled the undercarriage, axles and transmission. A Chilton’s manual, derided as a “Cheat-sheet” by the others rested not far from my head.
By the time I was done, the schematics and parts I had gotten from a few gadgeteers (but mostly Elaine) would transform my prized wreck into a powerhouse beast with far too much horsepower and far too little restraint. Plus I’d replaced the undercarriage with metal alloys that were five-times heavier than normal to offset the fact that Wranglers were idiotically top-heavy. The axles and rims, according to the gadgeteer I got them from, could be used as the drive shaft and drive wheels of an M-1 Abrams. Perfect for my purposes.
I got up and looked at my section of the garage. Compared to most of the others, my space was almost anal-retentive and (shudder) tidy. All of my parts were laid out in assembly order with married components and fasteners in a logical, organized fashion that had Nalley convinced that I had brought OC Dee to help arrange my workshop. It was my little slice of heaven until I felt the door open and two presences enter the shop.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that the two subjects of my earliest bet on campus had made their way to Elaine’s car, “Baby” and started “working” on it together, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the lights were on, and clearly someone was probably doing real work. It wasn’t until I started hearing moaning and gasping noises that I rolled my eyes, turned up the volume on my music and did my best to ignore the two lovebirds and whatever they were doing. It wasn’t sex, I can get that much detail off the spatial sense I have, so I was spared the involuntary pornography.
But fuck me it’s hard to concentrate when you have two people all but dry-humping each other nearby. Especially when you know it’s a friend of yours.
So I did the mature thing. I touched the old, rusted-ass engine block I’d extracted from the jeep, and teleported it a foot off the ground. The reverberating, metallic crack sounded off through the shop and the pair got very, very quiet.
My frame got lifted, by a boy, one-handed and I saw Wyatt Cody looking down at me, holding the parts of the jeep I had been ratcheting into place up, tilted with one hand.
“Oh sorry, was I making too much noise?” My smirk gave me away, no doubt.
“Do you ever get tired of being a pain in the ass?”
“How could I be tired of that? Pain in the ass is my gender identity!” I gave the boy a mock-glare. “Oh I get it, you’re trying to get me to change and be a nice person? Is this like trying to pray the gay away?”
Kodiak looked away very quickly, like he was exasperated to hide the smirk that crept into a grin. The rambunxious redhead that was his girlfriend came around to peer down at me.
“Since when do you come down to the garage when there’s no one here?” Elaine Nalley probably figured I was up to something.
Ok, just because it would usually be the case didn’t mean I was being nefarious today!
“I’m actually here now because I’m bored, and my homework’s all done, and Grabby is caught up, and there’s no one around here to accidentally have a battery explode in the face of…”
I looked around. “Until now there weren’t people to have batteries randomly explode on.”
“So you decided to bang things around?” Kodiak gave me a look.
“Do you have any idea how distracting it is to have you two feeling each other up and snogging while I’m trying to fix an undercarriage? By the way, if you misaligned the engine, you have to pick it up and put it back in, Bunky.” I stood up and poked Kodiak in the chest, glaring at him.
Elaine snickered as Kodiak set the jeep back down then carefully picked up the engine, damn near effortlessly and reset it back into position so I could bolt it down properly. “You get my tools oh frostbit one?”
“Back seat of Baby there. They didn’t have the gaskets you were looking for. I’d cleaned them out last week for Jericho and Jobe. Apparently they needed them for a project attempting to use chemical cleansing to repair wounds cause by the Reaper Blade.”
“Why would Jobe care?” Loophole gave me a skeptical look.
“Jericho pointed out to Jobe that sooner or later Reaper was going to hit Karedonia.” I lowered my voice a touch. “The Outcasts have been riding the ragged edge for the last month. Do you know why Diamondback went berserk the night everyone came home from christmas?”
Elaine shook her head. “No, and how did you find out about that? You arrived the day after. Everyone promised to keep it on the down-low after what happened to them on New Year’s Eve.”
“Why do I get the feeling that my obliviousness to reality has made me miss an important detail?” I knew I was going to feel stupid when the answer came, but I asked anyway.
“The Outcasts were in Darwin when Reaper attacked on New Year’s Eve.” Elaine was serious and I felt myself go paler, which should have been impossible. “They spent almost an entire day fighting murder bots and trying to keep all of the baselines they were protecting, hundreds of them, alive. Psydoe, after Savage finally separated the two, let us know. Diamond, Razor and Jericho are in truly deep counseling sessions with the docs and the psychic department.”
“Holy fuck how are they alive? More importantly, how are they sane after that?”
Kodiak shrugged. “People have been asked to give the Outcasts space and not bug them about it. Jericho completely lost it in the devisor lab a week in. Shattered a re-constructed Blade-wheel someone had rebuilt, as an illustration of what people might fight, that Ms. Marenis had on display. Boy took a sledgehammer and made it unrecognizable.”
I thought back to the tense night on New Year’s Eve, watching the tube, seeing the attack broadcast from traffic cameras, security systems and desperate reporters trying to follow behind rescuers of various stripes. “I didn’t realize they were there.”
Kodiak nodded. “The only reasons I haven’t pinned Jericho…”
I goggled, “You’d actually pin Jericho?” I knew Kodiak was being egalitarian about the whole Alpha thing, but that was still a shocker.
“Why not? He’s a sim team leader, a damn good one I might add, and the Outcasts have beaten Phoenix Squad even before they picked up Eldritch, and since Anomaly started showing up to their sims outside Team Tactics, they’ve only gotten nastier. And Sim Team leaders are supposed to be offered a place at the table, frosh or not.”
“How did they beat you guys?”
“If you ever get stuck with the little nightmares in the simulators you’ll see.” Kodiak shrugged. “Not the first time, I got beaten by a baseline teacher in the sims three times in a row before I learned how to keep my temper. No one’s unbeatable.”
“Huh. Never pegged you as the type to own up to something like that.”
Elaine smirked. “You think I’d put up with a guy who couldn’t admit he might be wrong or make a mistake once in a while?”
“I dunno I imagine you’d find it endearing and a challenge to make him change his bad boy ways.”
Elaine mock-glared at me and Wyatt chuckled. “You never stop, do you?”
“Not when I’m around people who have a sense of humor.”
I looked back at the engine Wyatt had helpfully put back where it belonged. “What the fuck?”
Elaine walked over and looked at the engine. She didn’t need to touch and fiddle with it to see what my issue with the thing was. “Umm, Murphy, how are you gonna spin the driveshaft without…”
“For fuck’s sake what does it take to get something to go right for once?” I threw my socket wrench at the toolbox and stalked to the door. “I’m going to go get some Ice Cream.”
I hated it whenever things went catastrophically wrong. Now I had to completely remove and re-assemble the whole engine!
Murphy’s Law # 4: You are your own worst enemy
Yes I’m temperamental, yes I have self-control issues. It’s usually all I can do to avoid taking out the frustrated rage, that comes from being extremely ADHD and unmedicated, on the people around me. So I would like to say I’m not sure why I found myself lurking in the woods outside Dickinson Cottage in a spot not covered by cameras, but that’d be a lie.
I was looking to start shit.
It was late, people weren’t lurking out in the cold, it was just a shitty time to be…
I learned a very important lesson that night. Regeneration is no proof against getting knocked out if someone hits you hard enough in the back of the head.
Sunday, March 4th, 2007, Whateley Sewer branch 7
Murphy’s Law #3: When you become complacent dealing with stupid enemies, you will discover new enemies who aren’t stupid.
Waking up was unpleasant, to say the least. I was strapped to a table, uncomfortably tight with what felt like wires poking into my skin and a helmet jammed over my head with some kind of cup-things pressed over my eyes. I struggled, squirmed and tried to warp the space around me so the bonds would loosen, or teleport out, when my entire body convulsed in electrical agony and I screamed.
I’d love to say I learn fast but panic reflex kicked in and I wound up electrocuting the bejeezus out of myself several times before I was too deep in shock to try again. Unfortunately for my sanity I recovered back to full cognisance afterwards, probably within seconds. The screams were still echoing wherever we were, and I could feel the area around me.
I wasn’t alone. Two people were standing, discussing and passing something between them. Probably money or a small object. There was a table under me surrounded by… stuff and wires, cables or pipes. I couldn’t quite tell without my eyes.
There was another table to the side, surrounded by more stuff with another squirming, whimpering body stuck to it. Whoever it was, they were rail-thin and whimpering like me. Both of us were clothed, or I assumed she was clothed, hoped she was because skin doesn’t hang and rest on tables like that unless you’ve been flayed.
“There, this ought to shut you up.” I felt something stuffed into my mouth made of cloth, then taped into place. The female voice sounded vaguely familiar, but halfway through the statement the octave changed mechanically to another voice that sounded familiar.
“You sure these two will not be missed?” The male voice was dispassionate, creepy.
“After a while they will be, but it’ll take longer than for most. The Poe girl isn’t well liked, and Murphy there’s a trouble-magnet that tends to ruin people's’ day. They’ll be more relieved for the first couple days.” Her mechanically jittering voice made me want to scream. I wanted to know who the person was, so I could stab her properly.
Trying to put thought to action, maybe to cut my way out of the bonds, was a bad idea. I couldn’t grab the knife I’d stashed between space, and I felt an electrical nightmare hit me again. I managed to not scream this time, but I still whimpered.
“Keep trying to warp, and I’ll set the machine to paralyze you with a constant electrical current. I’m told it’s akin to being in the final stages of labor.” The dispassionate male voice also change an octave, mechanically.
I tried desperately to cuss “Fucking asshole” around the sock or whatever they’d shoved in my mouth but it didn’t work well. It tasted like foot-funk. Ok it was weak, but it was about all I had the attention for.
“Let us go you sick fucks!” The girl on the other table was also borderline panicked.
“Why would we do that? Is the machine ready?” The female voice went from sounding black to sounding asian, accent and all.
“Yes.” The male voice then went from Matthew-McConaughey to James-Earl Jones in mid-sentence, “The whole setup will capture the data. Either it will copy Vamp’s BIT over to Murphy or it will burn her out. Might cause corruption of her body leaving her severely GSD.”
“Any risks to Vamp?” the woman’s voice asked with a pure note of curiosity.
“No, she’ll be fine. It just hurts a lot. I wasn’t able to get ahold of the BIT-Slicer crew’s energy stabilization systems. So they’ll just have to deal with the pain.”
“Pity, I was hoping to see that little albino freak’s face melt off onto the floor.”
“What the fuck did we ever do to you?” the other prisoner had to ask.
“Nothing. Sorry luv, this is just a job. I just enjoy it when the test subjects die.” The woman's voice became almost purring as it swapped from Angelina Jolie to Jessica Rabbit. “You only have a twelve percent chance of living through this, Murphy. I’m looking forward to seeing how manglers burn out.”
“Jesus, who the fuck are you people?” I recognized Vamp’s voice, belatedly, as she spoke to fill the void filled by my absolute, soul-clenching, butthole-puckering panic.
“Entrepreneurs.” The male voice became Jack Black. “The timer is set, in twenty seconds we discover if the machine works, or if I need a new test subject.”
“No, no no no no no,” I whispered in blind terror as I sensed the pair leave the odd chamber we were in, closing the door and cutting me off from any sensory output outside the room. My senses are dependent upon open space. I can’t sense anything inside a fully enclosed space, whether that space is a box, or a sealed building.
“Murphy stay calm, you’re going to be okay. Just stay calm and focus on staying conscious.”
I was already convulsing from the electric shock when Vamp was finished, desperately trying to focus all of my desire, will and power into one very simple concept.
I didn’t want to die.
Even through the electrocution, while my powers tried to light up in my soul-deep fear, I never quite lost that thought.
It was a whimper through white hot pain and impossible light that erupted, to my senses, as the machine, and the eye-cups blinding me, blazed with energy.
“I don’t want to die” were my last panicked words I tried to mumble around the sock before my consciousness finally fled.
Monday, March 5th, 2007
Murphy’s Law #37: When help comes, you will have a hard time realizing they are here to help.
“We’ve found the source of the power surge… Forsythe, the two missing girls are in here!” I was only half-aware of anything, but I started crying as a pair of hands began unstrapping me, freeing me from the god-awful contraption that was still electrocuting the bejeezus out of me long after my captors had left with most of their equipment.
Vamp was lucky. She wasn’t hooked to a goddamn light socket or something. I was weak, I was starved, I had been constantly regenerating from electrocution for God only knows how long, and I felt so weak I could barely move.
When I felt a strong set of arms hook underneath me and lift me like I was nothing more than a raggedy cloth doll, I tried to squirm free, mumbling, and blinded by the dim light as I felt more people pouring into the room. I felt myself bouncing in someone’s arms, then laid on a stretcher, staring at the ceiling, as I was carried rapidly, and passed out again.
“Don’t worry, Carson, we’ll figure out who did this to them. Once we do, there’s going to be hell to pay.” I woke to see Delarose leave my room. The familiar sensation of feeder-IVs and a catheter was almost comforting as I stared at the Headmistress.
“What the hell happened to me?” I croaked.
“I was hoping you could tell me.” She sat next to the bed. “Vamp thought you had died on the table before the Security team found you both.” She pushed my hair out of my eyes, and I tried to sit up and groaned as my muscles protested.
“They electrocuted me. Set it so if I tried to use my powers I’d get electrocuted.” I wasn’t crying, really, the tears were rage. “I couldn’t even get up, and the one woman told me she picked me because she wanted to see how warpers burn out.”
“Do you know what they were doing?”
“Something about copying Vamp’s BIT to me or trying to induce GSD. It didn’t make sense.”
Carson nodded. “There actually have been a few functional experiments in copying exemplar BITs to other people. Mr. Bumsfeld assured me that with the energy spikes and readings coming from the sewers, you and Miss O’Brien should be dead right now. You’re very lucky.”
“Before you ask, no, I wasn’t a volunteer. I got clocked near Dickinson and woke up on a torture table. I kept trying to warp because they expected me to die and they did it anyway. They didn’t care.” My emotions were bleeding as the room seemed to twist like taffy as what had happened finally caught up with me. “Motherfuckers intended for it to kill me!”
“Joanne!” Carson’s voice snapped me back to reality. “They aren’t here. When we find them, they will be punished. This was attempted murder.”
I bit back my snarl about attempted murder and forced my head back down onto the pillow. I hadn’t told Carson what happened with Hamper and Damper when they’d shot Elaine with my gun. Unfortunately, I’d been right to keep my trap shut, and Kodiak was unfucking the Alphas. If I told her what we’d been doing when Hamper and Damper ambushed us we might as well hand the Alphas back to Tansy. We would have lost the codes and access that allowed us to lock Tansy out.
“So am I going to die?”
“No, Joanne, the docs said you’re fine. There’s no sign that anything had really happened save for another close encounter with TCS trying to heal back from electrocution again and again.”
“That explains why I feel like someone’s trying to turn me into a modern art masterpiece.” I groaned. Total Cellular Starvation, or TCS was my bane at Whateley. It was a side-effect of my powers, and I had to eat enough for a normal warper plus some, because whenever I started using my powers, it chewed through my reserves, then began cannibalizing my body mass. Regen was about the same.
“You’re recovering more slowly this time, Joanne. That could be a side-effect of TCS, or it could be that you suffered minor burnout. You might be dealing with a change in your life.”
“How much do I weigh?”
“Seventy pounds even.”
It was worse than last time. I had come even closer to the bleeding edge, and Carson showed me a mirror. The face staring back at me told me more than any lecture Carson could ever give me.
The girl was gaunt in a way that made you think her skin, stretched taut over her skull, was nothing more than a painted-on face for skeletor’s ugly mug. Then she let me see my arms, which were barely more than bones, and my ribs protruded in very pronounced fashion. My waist drew in to the point where I looked like a living corpse. One of the feeder-tubes was pumping some kind of protein and sugar slurry directly into my stomach. Honestly, given the fact that it was pumping even while I felt full, my belly should have been bulging and popping.
“I hate my life.” I started crying, “I really wish I’d never manifested as a fucking mutant.” I was going to have to live with the fact that I could kill myself just by using my powers, and I might be screwed up anyway if I’d suffered a burnout.
Carson held my hand, or more engulfed the bony, fragile thing. The only comfort I felt was when the doc came in and reported that they had found no trace of a burnout episode recovery. That meant good things, right?
“We’ll get you fixed, Joanne.” She turned and asked the doctor if I could be seen, then covered me completely with a blanket so no one would see that I was a human pincushion, then stepped out.
A few minutes later, the chaotic swarm of the Lit Chix, Seraphim, Froggy, Thorn, Grabby and my other friends poured into the room to see for themselves that I was ok.
I told Seraphim in no uncertain terms if she tried her healing on me like this I would never forgive her for killing herself to save my ornery ass.
Murphy’s Law #19: You will recover just in time for things to get worse.
I must have looked incredibly odd, being guided across the quad by a redheaded, octopus-tentacled PK brick who glided across the ground like an octopus on the seafloor. For someone who could casually lay out enough force to kill someone, Hannah was amazingly gentle and conscientious. She wasn’t having a narcoleptic day for once, as the normally shy girl was leading me back to our dorm room.
Being wrapped in tentacles might have been disconcerting had I not climbed into Grabby’s bed to comfort the girl when she was having nightmares. I only broke a bone once when the dream was particularly bad, but I had gotten used to the GSD girl’s appearance, and quite frankly all I could think of her as was Hannah after a good while.
I stumbled, and Hannah caught me with four of her odd, boneless limbs, wrapping me and pulling me gently to my feet. “You ok Joanne?”
Nope, I was trying to keep from throwing up. “I’ll be ok.” We had just come from the Crystal Hall, where I’d finally gorged myself on pizza, ham and pretty much everything that came within reach. I’m not sure but I may have eaten an underdog or two. I burped loudly and some of the pressure came off my guts.
When the IVs and tubes came out, they had left ghost-white dots on my skin that would catch up with my skin tone (mostly) in a few days.
When we finally got into our room, even that snotty bitch Pucelle left me alone about how me being a “pretty” (Hah! Shows what she knows!) was somehow hurting the GSDs. If she had talked about it I probably would have tried to pick a fight, skeletal appearance or not.
I imagine it had been Hannah pointing the tip of a tentacle at Pucelle and snarling “Not one word!” that may had more to do with her keeping her mouth shut than sympathy.
Getting helped to my bed did wonders for my mood as I finally relaxed. “Oh God, thanks for the help, Hannah.”
She chuckled. “So, I’ve been practicing. Roll on your face.”
I nodded and flipped over slowly, and tried to relax as Hanna slid smoothly over the top of me and splayed her tentacled “skirt” over my back and hips and pulled herself tightly to my back at strategic locations, then I felt a painful searing sensation followed by blessed relief as my roommate realigned my back. I’d helped her pop her back on occasion, and she’d enjoyed the hell out of the sleep-inducing shoulder rubs I’d been doing since I was a small child.
We weren’t hang-out buddies, but we were friends, and we helped each other cope as we could, and I relaxed as Hannah killed the painful knots in my muscles, which were already visibly expanding again and threatening to remove all relief I had at my imminent recovery.
“Getting better?” Hannah spoke, as I groaned.
“Much. You’re my goddamn hero. Wanna go swimming in the morning?”
“Yeah I think we can manage that.”
I actually fell asleep underneath Hannah, and when I woke up, I found her half-flopped out on my bed. My good old, narcoleptic roomie tended to pass out wherever she lay. I managed to extricate myself, not easy to do when Hannah wrapped me up and hugged me like I was her plushie Pikachu that was as big as my torso. I could have teleported her to her bed, but I decided, smartly for once, that I’d be better off playing it safe, and simply took the time to unravel the small swarm of tentacles wrapping me up.
When I got up, I could stand on both feet, and I didn’t feel as weak as I had the night before by a long shot. I stumbled to the shower area and found Diamondback cleaning herself off with what looked like a bucket full of sand. She was curled up on the side, scraping the wet sand along her long tail, and her arms.
“Need help?” I was getting used to the scarier, and more monstrous, GSD case.
“Nah, I got it, thanks. Phobos is in shower four. Dimes is in eight.”
“Thanks for the warning.” I started mentally preparing myself to walk face-first into Fear and Terror on my way to cleanse myself. “Does that actually help you stay clean?”
“Yeah, works better than soap on scales. A bit of mineral oil on sand and it’s like a polish scrubber for my hide. I learned about it over Christmas.”
“You think that might help Hannah at all and keep her from itching all the time?”
Diamondback widened her eyes a bit. “Oh! Yeah, shit yeah, the itching has gone down too.”
“Tell you what, you mix some of that up for Grabs and I’ll bring your next batch of the mineral oil on me.”
“I can do that.” She snapped her head to the left and literally hissed at nothing. “Sorry, not always sure if I’m actually seeing something, or if an illusionist is fucking with me.” She said, placatingl,y as I froze at the hiss.
Yes, I’m nervous around GSD kids. I don’t know who, for sure, won’t hate me for not looking like them. Diamond seemed cool, but you can never tell, plus she hung out with Jericho. That was a sign of insanity or hating your own eyes. There was also the fact that pissing off the GSD kids in general was, in my opinion, retarded. Powers Theory had statistics that the heavier the GSD, the more likely said “freak” would be a powerhouse monster to match their looks.
“No worries. I’m still trying to overcome my vanilla lifestyle that I grew up with.”
She nodded. “If you send Grabby here in the next hour I’ll fill her in on oil sand scale polishing.”
I nodded and hit the shower.
The water hit me like a ton of bricks, and I took the time to get clean, wondering for the hundredth time if I shouldn’t cut my now-waist-length hair back down to its normal chin-length or shoulder-length style. The purple forelocks of mine were now blonde, and the purple was hanging oddly, and out of place down near my hips.
I needed more hair dye, and for people to quit trying to light me on fire, electrocute me or otherwise fry my ass. Whenever my body went into healing overdrive, I’d wind up gaining at least a foot of hair length. What was odd were the white bits, that marked where the IVs and feeding tube had been, pretty much flowed closed when the docs had removed them. Normally when I regenerated, it took longer, and poke-holes shouldn’t be discolored, unless the docs had had to punch out parts of my skin.
I was starting to look semi-human again. I had the beginnings of muscles, and my breasts were starting to bud again. I looked like a tall, skinny kid again. I resolved to eat about ten thousand more calories a day until I was back to normal. Normal being slightly overweight and not looking my best, but having a buffer against power autocannibalism.
I was still incredibly angry over the kidnapping. I had basically just been a bystander who someone decided “Hey, let’s stick you in a box and see if it kills you!”
Ok, I was a bystander who’d been intending to scar Solange for life.
The worst part was not having a clue which particular Whateley sick fuck happened to be involved in the whole goddamn thing. Hamper and Damper likely weren’t the culprits, or I’d have been laid out for a Y-incision after they’d had a bit of fun first.
Tansy? Possibly, but this totally wasn’t her style. She preferred the social domination angle, and wasn’t on good speaking terms with the devisor crowd. Yes, I absolutely believed she was capable of setting me up to die, knowingly. After all, Hamper and Damper had been her henchthings until Kodiak punted them.
I got myself clean and dry, then skedaddled the hell out of the showers to go find Hannah. In my room I poked my roomie, who was still flopped out awkwardly on my bed. “Hannah!”
When subtlety failed I started rapidly poking her yelling “Hannah Hannah Hannah Hannah!” like an annoying three-year-old sister. How do I know? I have one. Except she’s adorable, not annoying.
“Whaaaat, Murphy why you poke me?”
“Wakey, Wakey... Diamondback has a thing you need to see.”
“Can’t it wait till morning?” She lifted her head groggily and flopped that red mop back down on the bed.
“It is morning! Come on, you have to see this, it looks amazing. Diamond told me how she keeps her scales all glossy and not itching the crap out of her every day!”
I had Hannah’s undivided attention as I guided my oddball roomie to the shower area. When we got her into the area where Diamondback was working on herself, she explained how it worked to Hannah, and my octopoid roommate tried it out. I helped get the backs of the two girls, Diamond as thanks for helping Hannah, and pretty much, for once, had a good morning where nothing disastrous happened.
Thursday, March 8th, 2007
Murphy’s Law #22: Ragers are not toys.
There’s an unwritten rule about picking on the Thornies. You don’t do it. But apparently someone hadn’t gotten the message.
I was walking out to go get food, heading to the Crystal Hall, glad for once that I didn’t have to wear a bra for the next few days and just walked. Unlike most warpers, I don’t usually feel the need to stutter-jump or fly to class. I like walking. It’s relaxing and gives me time to cook-up scenarios in my head that I might someday put to paper. Walking lets me zone out and daydream, my favorite way to pass the time.
However, daydreaming took a back seat when I saw Truck poking at one of the thornies, the fish kid called Ricou. The boy was covered in scales, but was bundled up to protect himself from the cold I merely found to be flannel weather. Truck was poking and laughing at the boy on the quad as I saw a convergence of nightmare.
Truck ignored the irate form of Jimmy Trauger when he flipped Ricou’s water-filled rebreather mask off and laughed while the suddenly-suffocating boy tried to catch the line and put it back on as Jimmy screamed like an I-shit-you-not Tyranid and grew into a chitinous monster that slammed Truck across the way…
Straight into Phobos, wiping the girl out and dumping her face first into the snow at a speed that might have knocked me out for a few days.
Everyone on the quad stopped, then turned as the black hole of nightmare terror suddenly erupted in the center of Whateley Academy. It was like watching a horror movie. Even Ricou stopped trying to get his mask back on as he stopped and stared at the screaming, redheaded, horned, three-eyed, twin-tailed, four-armed Phobos. Worse, the shriek of pure nightmare was mirrored by her black-haired twin sister who was less than ten feet away.
What happened next seemed to occur in almost horror-movie-esque slow-motion as Deimos ran up behind her sister as the world seemed to contract to an epicenter point between the two, and everyone was simultaneously standing adjacent to the monster that pulsed the world and shrieked into existence on the Whateley Quad.
People screamed, a few huddled, rocking back and forth, as an angry God birthed itself into the world from the twin GSD girls who’d lost their minds to pain and rage when Jimmy Trauger slammed Truck through Phobos.
When the distortion left, the twins were gone, and for the first time in my life, I saw Fury, and I wanted to flee for my life in the face of the thing the girls had become.
It was nine-feet tall, an amalgamation of Phobos and Deimos with two heads, a redhead on the left, midnight on the right. It’s six eyes stared at everything with murderous hate, and it’s eight arms and lashing tails crouched on massive hooves, leaping forward as the snow on the ground turned to glittering light, dissipating into the world around, while the nine-foot-tall rager leapt and slammed her claws into Truck, driving straight through his PK field and threw him back at Jimmy T with enough force to knock the stunned shapeshifter on his own ass.
I saw Mega-Death too close to Fury to react well. He began shrieking in a shrill, incomprehensible voice and began frantically drawing weapons and blasting at the reality-shredding nightmare. The air itself congealed into a mercury disk, reflecting the beams at Jericho, Diamondback, some six-armed redhead chicka, Eldritch and Razorback and forced them to dive for cover. Razorback got hit leaping away, and was damn near cut-in-half and blasted back about thirty feet before he hit the ground.
It all happened inside twenty seconds, and I couldn’t get past the nightmare-pounding terror that ripped through my soul until I heard the ululating howl, that everyone couldn’t quite describe, as Razorback came streaking back to the field, running on all fours like a hellhound rather than a raptor-dinosaur.
“Kitty Compact, activa…” Generator was on the field, miraculously unaffected by the terror, and as she was getting ready to intervene her back was torn open, and she was caught in the jaws of the raging animal as Razorback flung her body aside like a rag doll. She didn’t move.
Everything blew up at once as people started screaming and running. Some fled because they were simply overwhelmed by the emotional blast constantly given by Fury. Some fled because they couldn’t take a battle with two Class-three ragers and Jimmy Trauger in play. Even the lone security officer backed off and was yelling frantically into his comms.
The sight of a ten-year-old girl being flung by an angry, berserk GSD raptor snapped me out of my haze as I teleported to Generator without even considering the possible consequences. I grabbed her unconscious form and vanished, shoving her into the arms of the security mook. I turned, pulled my hockey stick from the not-space I stuck it in and charged.
I saw Aries, one of the Alphas, run up and punch Razorback in the jaw at full speed, sending the spined monster in a twisting roll as the speedster kept going. I was going to scream at him for being a coward when the Raptor-speedster came to his feet, healed in an instant and was already chasing the Alpha. Aries was drawing Razorback away.
“Good man,” I hissed, changing my mind about the Alpha as I watched Fury and Jimmy T charge each other. Three kids got slashed and thrown by Fury as the nine-foot Hell-engine, that was causing the ground and snow to explode as magma and steam, collided with Trauger’s now-godzilla-like, fifteen-foot bulk. There were a half-dozen people torn up and scattered around the quad as the two mutant titans clashed.
The Outcasts were grim, circling, and the six-armed girl leapt, then slammed between the two, blasting them apart from each other somehow before Jericho, now in his Ambulance-Knight armor and the blue-tattooed girl circled Fury while Diamondback stood back, chanting.
That left the frantically cursing, and shooting-at-literally everyone, Mega-Death untouched. The injuries were piling up and I could only thank whatever Gods were listening that none of the underdogs or weaker students had been caught in the line of fire. I teleported, a sensation that made it seem that the shrieking devisor had suddenly jumped in front of me. My stick went high as I earned a two-minute penalty for slashing when I cracked the stick across his face, two minutes for hooking as I pulled his foot out from under him and two minutes for High-sticking as I smacked him in the face as he was going down.
I took his blaster away from him after he was down. When I checked to make sure I was still intact, I realized that my adrenaline-fuelled haze had protected me from the sensation of the burned hole in my right hip. As I stumbled, I felt the hip come back together, wound healing in seconds when it should have taken the better part of an hour. I could see that smooth, snow-white skin through the charred hole.
I decided whatever it was, could wait.
Fury was still in play, and as I teleported towards her, I was flung bodily out of the area as Fury’s warping met mine, and I shot across the way like a bullet from a gun, slamming into a tree so hard that my back folded and my heels whacked me in the back of the head with a sickening pop that sounded an awful lot like a walnut shell being cracked open.
I hit the ground in pain, and more importantly, angry. It didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t have stayed conscious and breathing much less on my feet and spitting mad until much, much later. I got right back up in a manner very similar to Razorback and charged, this time dropping the stick, which would be as effective as spitballs on Fury, and I showed everyone the tricks I had learned during my first semester of Hand-to-Hand Combat.
Ito-Soke and Mrs. Dennon had objected very vehemently when I had gotten myself into brick combat class in addition to Basic Martial Arts. I stuck it out, though, and it hurt. It hurt badly. But as a result I had developed my own rather wicked repertoire of Brick-wrecking tricks of my own.
Eldritch was pulling a straight Daredevil, diving and smacking and punching and kicking, doing everything except shooting her two friends. Jericho was already backed off, armor torn up, and his octagon shield was wobbling on its mount, but it was oddly pristine. Diamondback occasionally blasted Fury with magic, and the six-armed girl hit Fury like a truck, in both faces before the blazing-red energy claws of the rager cut her right through what I imagine was a PK field.
I saw an opening and took it. I ran in, and kept my powers from doing anything before sliding underneath Fury where I detonated a spatial shock around us. The air turned to water just as our fields reacted and I found myself pressed to the ground by gravitational forces powerful enough to crack my ribs while Fury shot skyward. I teleported above her, then blasted a spatial shock straight down, blasting her straight to the ground so hard It probably would have killed me outright.
I recovered from the dazing burst well above the quad, then as I fell, I teleported to the ground, upright, and only a little woozy as Fury melted in the crater where she’d impacted, and the twins fell apart, still breathing.
I gave a shuddering sigh of relief that it was over. When I looked at Jericho, I had to wonder why he was popping the pin on the grenade, and what he was… I felt the fast-moving thing, that was razorback, coming in on me so rapidly I barely had the time to turn and put an arm in front of my throat as the speedster berserker clamped his jaws down on me, and his claws tore through me just as the sonic shrieker bomb detonated and took away my consciousness in blessed release from hated pain.
I awoke, probably less than a minute after, as Jericho was checking me for wounds and, finding none, moving to others. I sat up, realizing my shirt was shredded and absolutely bloody. A quick pat down showed me I wasn't wounded, but my left arm and abdomen had some truly nasty scars of snow-white skin that looked odd, even next to the pale Alaskan never-see-the-sun complexion I normally sported.
I stood up and started checking on everyone. The people who were still standing were all “walking wounded.” They were stumbling around in a daze. Some were regenerators and bricks who Fury had cut through like they were simply baselines without powers. Some were people Mega-Death had shot, some were people Razorback had mauled in his adrenaline-fuelled rampage across the campus.
Truck was in critical condition. Fury’s claws had missed his heart by millimeters. Stormwolf was ripped up good, and even Mule, who had somehow gotten involved was sporting a ragged series of slashes along his back and upper left arm. The fact that no one had died was a fucking miracle.
I turned and ran to the officer I had given Generator to, only to find the perky child smiling at me. “Hey! Thanks for the help! I didn’t see Razor coming behind me!”
“Oh shit, am I glad you’re ok,” I said and smiled, relieved.
“Yeah I’ll be fine, it was just a few scratches, and I’m a regenerator.”
“Ok, Generator. You stay safe now.”
I looked back at the outcasts. Only Diamondback wasn’t absolutely ripped up. Eldritch was sparking, a corona of light erupting around her arms and guts when she moved, her blood had congealed in her shirt and made it metallic-looking as the girl meticulously hunted around the fight scene to pick up what looked like bits of metallic blood. Must be a mystic thing.
As the Security and emergency crews came in, I decided that I’d risk Carson’s wrath for leaving the scene, but the rumbling hunger I had started with became wrenching cramping agony. Food now, wrath later.
I wandered upstairs with a tray stacked eighteen inches high, plopped myself down at the Alphas table and proceeded to ignore everyone who so much as looked at me until I had enjoyed thirds. After the third tray, I felt much better.
Murphy’s Law #1: No good deed goes unpunished.
“So explain to me why you just decided to leave the scene?” Franklin Delarose looked decidedly unamused when I had been dragged into his office by the officer sent to fetch me.
“Necessity.” I saw his expression, and cut him off. “Not joking, the docs still say I’m on the edge right now, I haven’t gained as much mass as I should have! I’m still getting starved out!”
Delarose considered for a moment, then nodded. “I just need a statement. No one seems to know what the hell happened, and Fury popping a cork in it caused all of the local security systems to go offline.”
“Truck started it.”
“Truck was picking on the fish-kid from Hawthorne, the one with the mask filled with water?” I paused and when Delarose nodded, I continued. “I was in the perfect spot to see it all happen. Truck pulled off the water-mask and tossed it so the kid was having a hard time reaching it, and Jimmy lost his shit and sent Truck flying. He pasted Phobos as he flew by, and the Fury Twins went berserker-bandit and merged, then Mega-Death started shitting his pants and panic-dricking and shooting people, and the stray shots hit Razorback, and everything went straight to hell.”
“In that exact order?” Delarose gave me the gimlet eye. “The Outcasts only saw Jimmy hit Truck, and they aren’t known for making shit up.”
“Most of them were facing the wrong way. All they would have seen was Truck flying and Monster-Jimmy finishing a backhand swing when Phobos got plowed face-first into the ground.”
Delarose nodded. “All right, that helps. Write everything you remember seeing down on this report please. No creative embellishments this time.”
“Oh fine.” I wrote everything down.
“Alright, now you know the drill. Schuster hall.”
“Yup, can’t deny Carson the opportunity to…”
“...ask you what in the world you were thinking, charging in to attack Fury?” Carson was exasperated, and I knew for a fact that she didn’t really like our weekly visits. Fortunately most of them were related to bizarre happenstance and unlikely events. Her office was pristine, so I stayed standing so my bloody clothes wouldn’t bugger up the upholstery.
“I was thinking I might be able to help?” I shrugged. I knew Carson didn’t like my flippant dismissal of the danger, but oh well. “I was one of the few people who was able to snap out of the panic attack from Fury? My choices were to help or watch more people get peeled open like oranges and maybe have people die around me?”
“Dammit, Joanne this is the seventh time you’ve rushed right into a fight with someone who could have killed you!”
“I’d hate to disappoint anyone who thought I might have a rational reason…”
“That comment just earned you a week of detention, young lady, would you care to fire for two?”
I gutted down the reflexive why yes, let’s do that, and in fact while we’re here I’d like the tour package for the month. My mouth gets me in a lot of trouble, in case you haven’t noticed.
“No Mrs. Carson,” were the words that came from my grudging lips.
“Now, explain to me, exactly what it was that you did that put Fury airborne, and threw Eldritch and Jericho twenty feet each.”
“Ah. That. It’s one of the tricks I’ve figured out while in Mrs. Dennon’s brick combat class.”
Carson stopped and looked at me like I had gone completely insane. “Why are you in a brick class?”
“Figured after you lit me up about punching Kodiak in the nuts, and knowing my own temper I should probably learn to figure out how to fight them on an even keel. Brick class is educational. Painful, but I’ve learned a lot of very useful things.”
“Spatial shocks, warp-twisting space when punching, slingshot space-warping, how to teleport something elsewhere by touch… Pretty much Darwin’s grab-bag of doing everything to not get grappled by an Exemplar or PK brick.”
“How many times have you been injured?”
“I think it’d be easier to count the days I haven’t actually broken a bone during the class somewhere.”
“Murphy, what is it that makes you feel the need to do everything the hardest way possible?”
“Because if you learn to do things that feel impossible, everything else feels easy by comparison,” I responded without hesitation.
That got her attention. “Explain.”
“I dunno if you’ve noticed, but I have a hard time taking things seriously.”
Carson only smirked slightly.
“So it’s hard for me in Ito’s class to really take things seriously, because it’s not real. It’s training. Get bruised, get bashed up, sure, but you’re still walking off the mat at the end of the day. You with me?”
Carson actually leaned against her desk, listening.
“I’m taking the Brick class because these kids can hospitalize me for days by accident. I have to take them seriously, can’t blow off the whole thing. Every training exercise for me is ‘do or die.’ Hell I’m in the class with Phobos, and Diamondback, and Eldritch, and that weird six-armed chicka, and Jericho in his power armor. They’re all taking two martial arts classes too. I can’t not learn unless I wanna get pasted. Every day.”
“I think you’ve underestimated Ito’s classes being “real.”
“Very likely, but when I’m done with Dennon’s class, it means I’m still in the mindset to treat everything like it matters right now.”
“It also explains why detention never makes you so much as blink anymore.”
I shrugged. I wasn’t going to elaborate just how badly I’ve been hurt brawling with bricks. Compared to an hour of class, the fight with Fury had been over quick and easy. Ok not easy, I’d had Razorback damn near eat my goddamn head. That was an experience that I wouldn’t forget any time soon.
“How often do you win the matches in Dennon’s class?”
“Once every couple days. Most of the nutbars in that class are smarter than most people would expect from a buncha muscle-wizards who only cast Fist!” I chuckled. “There’s only one or two who are slow enough mentally that I grind their faces in consistently. Mrs. Dennon doesn’t let me spar with them anymore.”
Carson put her hand to her face, rubbing her temples, looking like I was single-handedly giving her a migraine. I think this means I win Whateley Academy today.
“You have Hawthorne duty for the rest of the week. And I am going to consider very carefully whether I am going to allow you to exercise creative liberties with the intent for the classes in this school in the future.”
“Woohoo! Thornie week! Junior High kid Bounce House time!” I grinned at Carson’s disbelieving expression and evacuated her office as fast as I could to avoid giving her time to recover and assign me to sewer duty. Ok Sewer duty was fun too. I honestly don’t understand why people freak out about it so much.
Murphy’s Law # 5: I will inevitably forget which of my laws is assigned to which number, and you will have to deal with it.
Yes, detention isn’t a thing to be feared, especially since I actually LIKE hauling the Junior High kids around. We rigged up kid tethers and harnesses and we grabbed Dr. Heavy, Ember, the Three Little Witches and all of the other younger kids and I let them into Heavy’s anti-gravity field and walked around campus hauling them around like little, animated and giggling hot-air balloons at the end of string tethers. The fact that Heavy’s gravity schtick didn’t even affect me due to warper weirdness just made all of the expressions from students and staff even more hilarious.
I made sure to walk the knot of balloon-babies through as many campus-cliques as I could, to include blithely marching right past Kodiak, Elaine and their friends and trying desperately to keep from giggling maniacally as gravity surrendered around them, leaving the alphas desperately trying to grab onto or tether themselves to the ground to keep from floating away until I’d gotten out of range.
I failed miserably, by the way. I was giggling insanely the instant Elaine found herself floating an inch off the ground when the laws of physics took a lunch break.
I endured the cussing, imprecation and threats of vengeance with more giggles as I led the little kids of Whateley to our destination, letting the little bits get a giggle at the high-schoolers’ expense. I let the lot of them enter the door, pulling themselves down along the wall like little spider-monkeys, then dragged everyone into the Brick Gym.
“Alright, heavy, do your thing!”
The kids unfastened the tethers and started soaring around the brick arena, using the lack of gravity to use the whole place like a bounce house trampoline, giggling and having fun while I watched wistfully, wishing I could join them in the fun instead of being ground-bound by my warper powers protecting me from Heavy’s own warping energies.
But watching how happy Ember, the youngest kid in Whateley, was as she caromed off the walls and was allowed to just play made it worth it. I just had to watch her so I could warp space if she had any pyrotechnic outbreaks so no one would get burned.
Diz was careful not to play tag with anyone. But fortunately the safety frame she wore kept her from hurting anyone. I really felt sorry for that little girl, because her PK field was always on. I used my teleporting to occasionally, and sparingly, chase her around the room, and give her a bit of fun, but she was the girl who always had to be left out when the other children played. Like I used to be.
It was harmless, simple fun, and I played my own games in the brick gym, that didn’t involve warping, but climbing, jumping and a few other tricks I’d gotten better at over time. I wasn’t exactly a Parkour Hooligan, but since I was so damn skinny at the moment, it was a lot easier. I spent my time trying to catch the kids as they played tag with me permanently “it.” Clover and Palantir were the easiest to catch, and Ember and Dr. Heavy were almost impossible, squirming like me when I’m in the water and someone tries to shark me.
It actually took two full hours for the giggling kids to start winding down and get tired. I decided to do my civic duty, and took the lot of them to the campus store, spent twenty bucks on sugar and soda, then led the little sugar-shocked time-bombs to meet their handler for the evening.
“Here you go Tansy, try not to poison the kids with your Perfume!”
“Just go away.”
“Oh did you hear? Kodiak might pin me sometime soon!” Like never! But it was worth the look of apocalyptic hate as I skipped away from Tansy just as Ember and Clover started giggling and playing zero-G tag when the sugar rush kicked in.
Grimes told Carson that I got the kids wound up and hyper to drop off on Tansy, so I had to spend the rest of the week helping in the sewers.
I couldn’t wait!
Friday, March 9th, 2007, the Whateley Sewers
Murphy’s Law #9: Someone will suck the joy from your life.
“No Murphy, we don’t need your help this week. Or ever.” Morrie groaned.
“But I promise not to touch any more…”
“No Murphy, go back to your cottage and we’ll tell Carson that you served your time! Otherwise we’ll tell Carson that you need to grade homework assignments for a week.”
“Back to Whitman or we are sending you to be bored to death and yelled at for a week.”
“Come on, I didn’t even do anything bad!”
“Murphy you popped a dimensional bubble and tried to eat the rift that it made.”
Ok he had me there. Dimensional anomalies and instability are like crack to me. It’s why I keep trying to get Froggy to tear space, it’s like a contact high and it feels amazing!
“Does it help if I say I’m sorry?”
“Whitman Hall. Now.” Morrie pointed, not budging against my rather pathetic wheedling, and I grudgingly tromped my way back to Whitman, grumbling to myself.
“If I catch you down here again, I’m telling Carson that Quintain needs a lab assistant!.”
“You rotten fucker!” Quintain’s voice could put the most boring, pedantic, and uninteresting assholes right the hell to sleep. Usually took me eight seconds.
Saturday, March 10th, 2007, Somewhere near Melville.
Murphy’s Law #26: Your friends are secretly (or not-so-secretly) as fucked in the head as you are.
I don’t know why I was wandering near the Melvillains, but in retrospect I’m glad I did. I suppose it was because I was picking at the white scar tissue and trying to get my training bra to fit around the knockers that were to goddamn big for the goddamn thing.
I will admit, I was kinda pissed off and worried. A few things were bugging me about the last week. First off, I wasn’t gaining enough weight, and I was gaining it wrong. Usually my butt inflates, I get a bit of a mushroom top and then my boobs fill out. This time, when I got the muscle back, and my skin recovered, my butt and boobs popped out together and then sorta stopped. I was filling out like a damn exemplar.
Second, I was healing incredibly fast, compared to usual, and every time blood hit the ground I ended up with a new white streak or spot somewhere on my ass. These spots were not changing back to the pale-pink color as they should, staying solid, snow-white the whole time. The roots of my hair were also out about three inches and ghost-white as well. There wasn’t any scarring, just the skin changed color in the shape of scars.
Lastly, I hadn’t had too many eruptions of unlikely horror happen to myself or people around me, and when they did, hoo baby they were miraculous in scope. Witness Truck picking a fight with Shapeshifter McScary and triggering three of the biggest ragers on campus along with the most obnoxious case of diedricks in an unlikely event-horror chain and we have a goddamn winner. Then there’s the fact that I happen to have not run face-first into either of the Fury twins without seeing them first and thus been prepared to hold my shit in so it didn’t escape to my pants. Then as I was walking by Doyle, a Doc came running out to tell a Senior that they’d made a mistake and the cyst he was white as a sheet pissing himself over was not, in fact, regen cancer as they had feared.
My life was changing, and the only thing I could track it to was the murder attempt in the sewers. Vamp had the same skin color as the scars, and the same hair as my roots were showing. Thankfully I didn’t have red eyes.
I am not a moron, I know what this means, I’m turning into an albino by inches, and it fucked with my warper and regen schtick somehow. I was also desperately afraid to go to Doyle and report it because what if they told me that they were wrong and I was going to die after all? I didn’t want to go in and find out, but I was also terrified of not knowing.
I didn’t realize that my life would actually take a turn for the better in the form of a girl whom everyone considered to be a worse omen than me. And she was surrounded by the Pink, sugary adorable brigade: Wondercute. Remind me to prank the shit out of Jericho for unleashing this abomination upon us all. Despite the fact that he’s a harmless goofball, he deserved to get fucked with nonstop for this crime. I just had to remember to not make the pranks resemble a certain A-list asstick villain in any way, shape or form.
“Come on Nacht, you’d look a whole lot cuter if you got rid of all the black and darkness.” I saw Bunny trying to be sly.
“You mean if I wore pink and bright colors?” Nacht looked like she wanted to hurl. “I think I’d disintegrate and kill everyone in the blast.”
Now I was tempted to watch and see if that could happen.
“But that’s not cute at all …” Lindsay had a smirk on her face that told me lots. She knew they couldn’t get Nacht to be cute but she was having fun poking the other bad seed … lightly. Nacht could be terrifying when she wanted to be.
“Yeah, you could totally be like a magical girl with shadow powers! You’d look amazing in a fuku uniform!” Trust Generator to wheedle like a champ with those puppy dog eyes. She looked at me as I tromped along with my hiking boots, “Fuck off” T-shirt and flannel. “I bet we could get Murphy to be cute. With the purple hair she’d make an awesome magical girl!”
“Uh, are you sure?” I asked, smelling opportunity for a fun gag. I fiddled with a thing I’d bought from one of my tabletop warhammer buddies in the shop. They put up with my mangler ass because my powers usually fucked me rolling dice. “I mean, I do kinda have a Magical Girl outfit. I’m not sure it’s good enough though.”
“Oooh! We totally wanna see this!” The wondercute girls were wide-eyed like they thought I would be the second-to-last person to do something adorable.
“Ok,” I smiled. “Stand back, this is gonna be awesome.” I looked over at Kate, who seemed like she was ready to gag, and whipped out the devise and clapped it between my hands, activating it.
“SHIMMERING APOCALYPSE WORLD-EATER PRINCESS!” The gleeful looks on the Wondercute girls turned to utter horror as I was engulfed by the energy of screaming souls as they congealed into blood-soaked, red power armor with spiky bits all over my body and an insignia of a planet being devoured by a pair of fanged jaws. Two massive axes with chainsaw blades were held outstretched and roared to unholy life as I gave a lunatic smile, my eyes bled and the world twisted to the power of chaos.
A roaring horror started to manifest behind me, looking down upon us all, roaring “Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!”
Wondercute’s eyes widened as the girls, startled by the unexpected nightmare scene unfolding before them, screamed at the horror unleashed.
"Coool!" They squealed as one, their shrill cries of delight causing wincing glares from all the tables nearby as I was rushed and surrounded.
"How did you project shadows with hard light?" Jade demanded. "Where are the projectors? It's not all in the thing in your hand is it?"
"What's the power source? Is it a once-off or can you recharge it?" Demanded Bunny, her pigtails bobbing from side to side in her excitement. "Is it gadgeteer or devisor?"
"Can you make one for me?" Misty begged. "And it can have rainbow light, and sparkles, and unicorns! Like a big one, rearing behind me and it's gotta be white with this like golden horn, and these bright blues eyes and like a rainbow mane and ..."
I looked around desperately, unconsciously backing away as Wondercute pressed up against me, their quickfire questions and demands overwhelming. I looked around for support amongst the other students present, but saw only disgust that my actions had caused a nauseating 'cute swarm' in their presence. People were already running for the exits to avoid sugar shock, except at the Bad Seeds table, where quickfire snarks were being exchanged, discussing everything from the effects of my hard light, the perceived pluses and minuses of my chosen theme, the execution of said theme, and, of course, the inevitability of Wondercute's reaction to it.
The only person looking towards me was Wednesday Adams, who despite not moving a single muscle on her expressionless face, still radiated smug contempt towards me as she contemplated my predicament with apparent amusement. The slow clapping began. “Well done, since Jay-Arm’s given up his King Bonehead crown, I see we have an heir to the throne.”
The rest of the Bad Seeds were all one-by-one scoring my admitted flop of a prank. 6.7 from Jadis, points lost because of failure to know your audience, which was fair. Techno-Devil gave me a seven, arguing that my theme of the Chaos Marine was creative while Cheese, of course rated me a 5 because nice attempt, could have been done better. Vamp gave me an 8.2 for a good attempt in spite of a confirmed bad week. Then, of course, there was Jay-Arm.
I took genuine offense at the scorecard held up with a 1.3 with the reasoning being that any mangler with luck as bad as I have should just give up on life. I narrowed my eyes as I palmed the devise, shut off the illusion and swapped it for another thing I had found while rummaging around campus. With an evil glare I peeled away from the Wondercuties, flounced over to Jay-Arm and slapped the devise, in my hand, into his palm.
“Next time you sell me something, shithead, at least make sure it works the way you promise.” I was loud, and I didn’t wait for his response, instead stalking off as though I were angry instead of hella embarrassed. I got your 1.3 right here you shit.
“I didn’t sell…” Nephandus muttered as he saw the item and started poking at it curiously. Sure enough there was an electrical “ZZZZAAAAAPPPPP!!!” and as I looked over my shoulder, Nephandus was jittering with his hair frayed as he dropped the little egg-shaped taser, on which he’d pushed the same wrong button I had when I found it, onto the table.
A few seconds later, I heard “Hey! That’s my invention!” Followed by “You sold Murphy MY invention?” As I looked back I saw an amazingly incensed Bugs grab the egg and shock him again. Twice. The Wondercuties, of course, were all converging on the “thief” as I vanished and popped-up to the side, behind a tree but close enough to enjoy the show.
“Buying things from Jay-Arm? You’re dumber than I thought.” How the hell Nacht figured out where I warped to, and how she got behind me I won’t know because I got nailed with a contact rush like Froggy ripping holes in reality. Fortunately it was brief, so I was able to shake it off.
“Buy things from Jay-Arm?” I looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “I was of the understanding that Jay-Arm was who you blame for anything that goes wrong.”
“True, but you still hold the week’s record for “world’s lamest prank.”
“Beginner’s bad luck.” I rolled around with my back on the tree and looked at Nacht. “So… what, you thought you’d come and see how much salt you could rub into the wound?”
“No I was hoping you’d actually wound yourself. You seem the type.”
I shook my head at the expressionless Wednesday Addams expy with my own dry look and smiled beatifically. “Well if you want wounds, stick around, the random rain of shit from the sky’s due any minute now. We can share.”
“As if I’d share anything with you. I might catch something.”
“Well you’ve already got the advanced case of hating life, I fail to see how I’m going to make anything wrong with you worse.”
“Well there’s the lumberjack chic. I suppose I could hit my head and decide to mimic it.”
“Really, my wardrobe? Ok Tansy, we can do this go-round again.” I injected more than a little retarded kid into my voice as I said it.
“Ouch, I know that life’s a bitch, but being compared to Solange? That’s low.” The corner of Nacht’s mouth quirked up just slightly.
I looked at her with mock-exasperation. “Well then cook up something better than what Tansy comes up with in the shitty perfume storage chamber she calls a brain.”
“Well speaking of perfume, she’s been having interesting times with her makeup periodically. I didn’t know poison oak could raise welts that big on an exemplar.”
I looked back and people were trying to break up Bunny from trying to strangle Nephandus for stealing her invention and couldn’t help but grin. “I got your one-point-three right there, bitch.”
“Ooh, you think they’ll slip and let her do permanent damage?” She watched the unfolding scene.
“Doubt it, we’re not that lucky. House Parents will notice before she can properly asphyxiate him.”
“Oh, she’s not trying to strangle him anymore. And here I was hoping there would be a floor show before the meal.”
“Huh,” I noted. “I didn’t realize Nephandus could run that fast.”
“I think if I had that much sugar shock chasing me, I might have to flee too.”
“Just to salve my conscience, does he have any redeeming qualities?”
“I’m sure if you removed his vocal chords then spent a few months breaking his will, he’d make a passable toy.”
“I’ll try to remember that If I ever decide I like ‘em in 13th century Wallachian high fashion.” My voice was a bit dry as Kate tried to shock me with things I or my friends have speculated on since Junior High.
“I really should have figured out that Generator’s probably not going to be fussed when she gets hit by Razorback and treats it like it’s another day.” I was more than a bit irate that I hadn’t made that connection.
“Didn’t do your homework on the opposition? Classic newbie mistake.”
I shrugged. “It was an opportunity shot. I had the opening, I took it, it missed.”
“You haven’t missed Solange so far.”
“I can neither confirm, nor deny any involvement with making Tansy miserable.”
“So you didn’t walk into the devisor shop and offer fifty bucks to the first person to give you a pound of Poison Oak and a Blender?” The girl raised an eyebrow at me, skeptically.
“Should’ve figured Cheese would rat me out.”
“You didn’t stuff Flicker’s clothing full of snow so you could steal her video recordings?
“Ok I did do that.”
And you had nothing to do with a room completely filled with snow?”
“While entertaining, I fail to see how incriminating myself benefits me”
“So how is it someone with a remarkable grasp of torture-pranking can fail at the most basic scare tactics?”
“Shit luck I guess. That was just for the funzies. No one in Wondercute’s actually done anything to deserve more than they’re doing to themselves already.”
“So we’re not going to see miraculous sunburns on the sugar shock squad? Pity.”
“I actually had very little to do with that one.”
“How about the iceballs to the temple from nowhere?”
“You trying to blackmail me?” I asked archly.
“Trying to figure out why you locked onto Tansy.”
“She chose the name Solange and you have to ask that question? What kind of neo-gothic world-hater are you? Turn in the black clothes and go to Hot Topic with the rest of the poseurs.”
“Touche. But now you’re making the wardrobe snark comments.”
“I challenge you to tell me Tansy’s smart enough to cook that one up on the fly without making yourself throw up a little.”
Nacht’s stomach visibly heaved slightly as she tried to say it. “Nope. Can’t do it.”
“There you go.”
“So they tell me you’re a harbinger of bad omen.”
“You know, they keep telling me that too. I don’t believe them though, I think they just whine a lot more than they should.”
Nacht gave the tiniest hint of a smirk. “I have to go. We have plans involving sinister supervillain children secrets.”
“Have fun storming the castle. Don’t kill anyone I wouldn’t kill.”
“I’m not sure that narrows the list very much.”
I gave my own tiny smirk. “Let me know if you meet anyone worth preserving.”
She walked away, and I went to the Crystal Hall to find more food.
Murphy’s Law #21: I shalt give Renae coffee. Thou shalt suffer as a result.
“Oh god, here they go again.” I rolled my eyes as the Adorable Terror Squad known as Wondercute rolled through the Crystal Hall like a Hurricane as Mags and Becky placed bets on where the little stinkers would go next.
Mags won as Bunny handed Lindsay a small item, then Lindsay snuck up behind a completely unsuspecting Jericho and triggered the item. Suddenly the eye-gouging devisor’s horrific mash of clothing was bleached pure white, and Lindsay earned a standing ovation from everyone nearby.
Especially me. That goddamn Moire pattern shirt even makes me ill, and I do bad, sanity-wracking things to local geometry for the funzies.
“So you make any progress on the Weber series I pointed you at?” Elaine, of course, gave me a sly grin.
“Okay, okay, you were right, the books were awesome. Are you happy now?”
“As long as you admit you were wrong,” she said primly.
“Trekkies are a heretical cult.” I didn’t even crack a smile this time as she thwapped me upside the back of the head.
“At least someone here has some taste.” Simone and I fist-bumped as Elaine mock-glared at the both of us.
“It would sting a lot more if Joanne didn’t pick sides solely to get a rise out of whoever she finds amusing that day.”
“Yes, but today she’s on my side.” Simone grinned at the busty redheaded nerd.
“Hey Renae,” I said slyly… “In my backpack, there’s a thermos of triple-brewed devisor coffee.”
“Where is your backpack?” Her eyes went wide as everyone looked at me with an expression of abject horror.
“I left it in my room at Whitman. You know what to do.”
The bouncing ball of lunatic hyperactivity known as Renae darted from the table as fast as her legs could carry her while Bek, Babs, Simone and Heather all gave me a horrified look and scrambled to intercept the coffee-seeking missile before she could level the school in a caffeine-induced vibration apocalypse.
“You didn’t.” Elaine looked at me.
“You did not bait Renae to bring back your backpack with Devisor coffee.” Maggie put in.
“No, I did not bait Renae, we have a tacit understanding after last time that I do not lie about devisor coffee.” I gave both a winning smile, then proceeded to try and shatter my tray count record for the Crystal Hall.
“Ah’d ask you if you knew how irresponsible that is, but as ah have figured out, you rarely fail to calculate the havoc your shenanigans might cause.”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Hey, Joanne, on a more serious note, have you been to the docs?” Maggie pointed at the odd, white, tiger-striping of scars on my hands and face where Razorback had torn me up. Most of the rest were covered and unseen. “We’ve been worried, and Hannah told Elaine the scars aren’t going back to normal color the way they normally do.”
I made a face. This was the downside of having good friends, they collaborate and scheme to insure that you’re not going to hurt yourself worse than usual. “I’m fine, I’ve been healing okay.”
“No, everything's not okay,” Elaine said pointedly. “Ah’ve been paying attention, and word is you went toe to toe with Fury today, and since when do you wake up at the early crack of breakfast when the Outcasts filter through anyway?”
“Since always? If I don’t wake up and kick Hannah out of bed, she’s always late for classes. Takes her a full hour to ramp up enough steam to get mobile.” I shrugged like it was no big deal.
“And given how much we’ve seen you eating the last few days, you should be inflating like a balloon animal.” Maggie looked me dead in the eye. “Your hair’s turning white at the roots and you aren’t gaining weight, and Jericho said Razor damn near disemboweled you, but you were up and moving in under a minute after he sonic popped the both of you with nary a trace of injury.”
“Finish your tray, we’re taking you to Doyle to get checked out, miss doctor-hater,” Elaine gave me the gimlet eye as she spoke. “You need to find out if that damn near-miss you had last week didn’t actually have permanent side-effects.”
“I thought you two were my friends…” I grumbled half-heartedly. They were right, of course, but I had this distinct aversion to dealing with docs. They were nosy, annoying and they had this love-affair with sharp objects like needles and shit. “Don’t I get a say in…”
“No.” They didn’t even give me a chance to finish my question before they both refused in tandem! This was so unfair!
“Can we at least wait until monday?” I’m not a really great wheedler, but I try occasionally. Unfortunately all I got was stony looks of resolve from the two most frequent offenders in my occasional desire to have company and be social.
“Finish the tray, you have five minutes.” Mags smiles so sweetly when she’s being evil.
“Otherwise we call Delarose and fill him in.” I glared at Elaine as she said it. “So no teleporting away or trying to mangle yourself out of this.”
Ignoring the fact that it was the weekend, a sacred thing where being sick was heresy and goofing off was mandated by heaven, I really didn’t want to go.
And yes, they would call Delarose. They did it before when I got stapled to a table, by a piece of falling rebar, and wanted to just walk it off after Compiler yanked it out. What’s the fun of being able to heal from literally anything if people get all worried about you?
What I would never admit to anyone was that I appreciated having friends who cared about me beyond how I could entertain them, personally. I didn’t hate docs, I was bluntly terrified of going into those sterile hellholes they called offices waiting for pronouncements of doom or stays of execution followed by an irritating drug prescription. I was especially leery after I became a mutant because I got to hear all the many and myriad ways my own body might just decide, one day, to say “fuck you, bitch! I quit!” and kill me on the spot.
Look up regenerator cancer one of these days. I still have nightmares of my body eating itself to turn into a giant, explosive tumor.
“Time’s up.” Loophole came around and hooked me under the arm, and mags got the other one, and I did occasionally resist as they gently guided me towards Doyle. Shockingly enough, I was able to match Loophole and keep her from dragging me, for a moment of panic, when we got to the medical center.
That shouldn’t have happened. Loophole’s always been able to manhandle me like a five-year old.
Loophole explained to the nurse on duty what was going on with me, and phone calls were made, and within thirty minutes, I had Powers Testing nerds, Powers Theory nerds and the evil pair of Carson and Delarose all milling about, yammering and making me feel like I’d just been told I was going to die. Five minutes ago, retroactively.
Mags figured it out first when I couldn’t control the trembling anymore. “You’re scared of getting looked at by the docs?”
All I could do was shrug a bit.
“Waitaminute, you’re tellin’ me that the girl who picks fights with Kodiak, gets spiked to a table then just wants to walk it off, and punches PK bricks because it’s funny is afraid of doctors?” Elaine looked at me disbelievingly.
Oh for fuck’s sake, Delarose heard that and gave me the amused stink-eye at that one.
“Gee when you say it like that, you make me sound completely irrational,” I said a little weakly.
“Oh, god, I’m sorry Jo, I never intended to imply that you were rational…” she grinned at me as Mags yukked it up. Hell even I had to chuckle at that one.
I’ll admit, I’ve been more than a little jealous of the both of them. Their friendship’s been solid, and they do damn near everything as a tag team, save for a few stupid maneuvers pulled with Elaine by Yours Truly. I was part of their circle, but I wasn’t going to be as tight with either. It made me more than a little jealous, because I never really had that. Ever, with anyone.
Hell even my whole stint of competition with Elaine over Kodiak was pretty much spur-of-the-moment desire to mess with the dreamy-eyed redhead. Not so much me really thinking, or wanting, to chisel my way into the shaggy bastard’s heart. Curious about it? Yeah, but not so much enthusiastic, besides which I never would have had a chance in Hell competing with Loophole for Kodiak.
“Hey look, I’d almost think people cared about me if it weren’t for all of the enthusiastic looks by the research staff over having an interesting lab rat situation…”
“Carson cares,” Mags patted me on the shoulder. “Delarose does too, otherwise they’d just leave the lab monkeys to do their thing.”
“Would it be unfair of me to suspect that they were actually here to make sure I don’t cause a minor microfracture in the foundation leading to a collapse of the building in a freak one-in-a-million occurrence?”
“One in three-point-four billion, actually.”
I gave Elaine a deadpan look. “Gee, now that you’ve made it a challenge…”
Mags punched me in the arm and giggled. She’d figured out that I was oddball enough in personality that high-fives and getting whacked in the shoulder was kind of like a hug for me. I always felt weird in hugs. All warm and gooey and wholesome. Ok I loved hugs too, I just am not comfy, necessarily.
I get it, I’m a goddamn weirdo and probably batshit crazy. Can we move along please?
“Joanne, it’s time to go in for the physical examination.” Thank God, it was Ophelia. If it was anyone else I would feel like a goddamn exhibit in a zoo.
I groaned a bit, then trudged unwillingly to my fate, somewhat thankful that Carson chose to overlook the inappropriate message emblazoned upon my T-shirt.
The physical exam took an hour. Mostly it was Ophelia checking, notating and measuring the ghost-white “scars” on my body, and getting a few of the less embarrassing ones photographed. The rest of it was a routine physical examination, all of which I had done before, and loathed every minute of. Watching her use her hair like it was a bank of extra limbs was always fascinating, though. It might be kinda cool to be able to do that. Never mind being able to ensure that your hairstyle was never, ever messed up.
Okay, yeah, it was a vanity/jealousy moment. I occasionally have those.
Joy of joys, I got subjected to the entire battery of Powers testing… again! The only oddball things were that when they actually made me look into a mirror I realized my face had changed subtly, my flannel covered my arms, which hid the fact that I was showing muscle definition for the first time in my life, and I was forced to confront the same thing I’d rubbed Elaine’s nose in earlier in the semester.
I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. She was actually proportioned well, and attractive. Apparently I would never again be quite as top-heavy as Elaine, but then again, I don’t miss Double-D’s. They’re more of a pain in the ass than they’re worth. Especially when they’re accompanied by an inflated butt and a muffin top. And back pain. Fuck that shit.
As it turned out, I was physically fit for once in my life. My appearance was less busty supermodel like Elaine and Mags, and more like those girls that lift weights enough to still look sexy for the well-toned look rather than the man-beef-steroid-monsters that haunt men’s nightmares.
They had me run, and for the first time in my life I was able to run fast and long distance on the treadmill without gasping for oxygen as my lungs burned with white-hot fire. Lifting, reflexes, all went up. Guess who was the bizarre, scarred exemplar now? This girl.
I paid for that because the Mangler tests, which I don’t fully understand the science behind, showed me that I now had even less conscious control over my probability warping than I had before. And dear God, the magnitude of the shit that started happening was intense. My dreams of living a normal life came crashing down, and I found myself wishing that I had lost that mangler shit entirely. It just wasn’t something I considered a good thing, and realistically?
I wouldn’t have cried if I’d lost all of the powers except the regen and maybe the exemplar thing if it meant that I’d never have to worry about a plane randomly exploding fifty-thousand feet up and having the fuselage land on me. Intact. While the passengers all miraculously survived the terror of the skies. But still, having the goddamned thing land on me.
Regen? Yeah, through the roof. I was now upped a few orders of magnitude for biohazard status when my blood hits the ground.
Yes, the dead rats they wheeled into the room re-animated and frantically tried to claw their way through the cage and climb on me. On second thought, take the channeler shit, I’ll keep the mangling. I’d rather enjoy a life of stupid shit happening than having dead bodies get up and follow me around like lost children.
In fact, I’d be more than happy to trade away all my power and be a normal baseline for the rest of my life in exchange for never having a fucking corpse try to hug me ever again.
“So, it appears that you did inherit a few traits from Vamp’s BIT, but the copy wasn’t perfect.” Ophelia went over my results calmly. She pointedly ignored the two girls who had waited, and watched my testing torture, then brought me food and offered me encouragement, through the whole process, when I was ready to smash things.
“So I’m turning into an albino slowly?”
She nodded. “There are also a few oddities in Vamp’s BIT that we need to watch for, as it’s highly likely that those carried over. Your BIT’s veering away from hers in some ways that are normal, but we’ll need to do weekly blood screenings just in case the other issues start cropping up. Fortunately it appears that whatever experiment those idiots performed on you didn’t scramble your powers or cause a burnout.”
“How do you know I didn’t burn out?”
“No brain damage.” Ophelia pulled out an MRI. “Even regenerator sevens show signs of damage, or re-mapping and wiping sections of the brain when burnout hits. Honestly in high regens, burnout doesn’t tend to kill, but it can wipe out entire banks of skills, personality and memory. Your body will just heal it over and the tissues will be fixed, but as though there had never been any imprinted neural pathways.”
I tried to smile, to blow that off, instead grimacing and gripping the arms of the chair tightly. Very, very tightly as I contemplated losing pieces of myself and being lobotomized by something that might kill anyone else. Quite frankly, the results didn’t seem all that different to me. And if I ever got cancer, I would enjoy about thirty minutes of extreme horror and agony until my body erupted and blew the cancer pustule I would become all over the walls. Being regen-6 could be amazing. And it could be amazingly horrific.
With my mangling, guess which one I was banking on.
No, I actually am not copacetic with the whole mutant thing. Don’t get me wrong, Whateley is awesome. Finding out just how your own genetics can cause unending horror upon you is not my cuppa tea! Had I gotten anything but the mangling and the channeling, I think I’d be on cloud nine living out a mad power fantasy I cooked up in my head. Right now, I just wanted to be away from the docs and the full, horrible contemplation of the (they assured me) low-order odds of ever having any of these horrid things happening to me.
I wasn’t afraid of getting shot or anything before I became a mutant. But now I was terrified by the thought of my body eating itself from the inside.
I imagined my probability warping kinda like Oogie-Boogie from a Nightmare Before Christmas.
Oh, the sound of rollin' dice
To me is music in the air
'Cause I'm a gamblin' Boogie Man
Although I don't play fair
It's much more fun, I must confess
When lives are on the line
Not mine, of course, but yours, old boy
Now that'd be just fine
I imagined it assuring me that nothing was wrong while it plotted to kill me.
I was still shaking when Elaine and Maggie dragged me out of Doyle.
Murphy’s Law # 30: I’m bored, this means everyone around me is screwed.
I consoled myself by spending the next week buying candy for the junior high and grade-school kids, winding them up and making them hyper as hell, then handing them to Tansy. I also took the time to “hand” Solange a couple hard-packed snowballs.
To the head.
From the wrong direction.
Have I mentioned that I’m moderately incensed about the Hamper & Damper thing still?
Ok maybe a bit more than moderately.
Hamper escaped my wrath because he was paying attention, but Damper discovered one of my snares. Lucille ran that bag of shit right through it when he was chasing her and teasing her for being an underdog. I may or may not have told her where it was.
She definitely wasn’t at fault for his leg being dislocated by the trap. It’s amazing that no one else found it first, quite honestly. Or it may have something to do about the very small bubble of distorted space that was diverting people's’ feet from the trigger point that suddenly inverted when he was chasing her.
I really have no idea how it happened. Really. I don’t.
Nor do I know how roughly ten pounds of squirrel shit got sprinkled around Hamper and Damper’s dorm room, on literally everything.
Friday, April 6th, 2007
Murphy’s Law # 2: There is always someone big enough to kick your ass.
“Welcome to the Brick Gym,” I told myself quietly. “Knuckle up, buttercup, you volunteered for this shit.” Ok, I wasn’t bitter about my family not being able to fly me anywhere but school for Spring break tomorrow at all. Really I wasn’t.
Brick 101 isn’t the most fun class when you have all the impact resistance power of a baseline. Sure, now I was a really tough baseline, but that didn’t change the fact that some of these kids could lay out multi-ton force by poking you with a fingertip.
Lillian Dennon is not exactly old-looking, even though she’d been out of Thunder Mountain for a while. She looked like she was twenty-nine, maybe thirty, and she still looked like she twisted transit busses into toothpicks. It wasn’t the muscles.
It was her attitude.
The teacher formerly known as Wildhammer had this feeling of presence that a petite brunette woman who looks like someone’s carefully-sculpted trophy wife should not have. I liked her, she was awesome, and the only person I knew of that scared the boys on campus more was a range instructor who died last semester. Now that I think about it, why would a baseline scare people more than Dennon? Something didn’t add up here.
I had to ask. I just wasn’t going to ask here, in class.
What’s the best part about Dennon’s class at this early period? Most of my classmates are Outcasts! Yes, that was fucking sarcasm, bigtime.
The first rule of Outcast is never let those crazy fuckers get their hands and/or claws on you! I consider it mercy that Razorback was not a part of this class. I loves me some raptor mauling time! Really, I loves it!
Eldritch, Diamondback, Phobos, Anomaly and Jericho in his weird ambulance armor rounded out fully half of the class. Thrasher, Bronco, Hippolyta, Redlight and Anvil rounded out the rest of the class. My only hope was that today I would be allowed to spar with Bronco or Anvil. They were the only two stupid enough to fall for my shenanigans every time.
“Alright class, today, since we’re going to be releasing for Spring break today, we’ll be doing a freeform weapons-allowed practice session.” Dennon was watching everyone.
“Please don’t put me against Caitlin, please don’t put me against Caitlin, Please don’t put me against Caitlin,” I muttered quietly as Thrasher chuckled quietly next to me.
Don’t give me that look, that girl is a fucking nightmare to fight. She holds the distinction of being the only one besides Anomaly that I have never been able to even score a pyrrhic victory with. Anomaly because she’s immune to my warping shit. I am not immune to her gravity manipulations the way I am with Heavy. But she’s at least fun to spar with. Once she warms up, Monica has some truly funny shit she spews out once she gets to know you. Half the time she beats me on the strength of me being too busy giggling at her to really fight back.
“Eldritch, Anomaly, you two in the main circle.” I stopped myself from cheering at the last minute so Dennon would not smite me. “Diamondback and Bronco, left circle. Phobos you’re with me…”
When she finally got to me, it was “And my two special snowflakes in the back ring.”
I fistbumped Thrasher and the two of us walked into the circle.
“Did she lay out any rules?” Thrasher asked.
“No idea, wasn’t paying attention. I was gonna watch everyone else and see what they did.”
“Good call…” Thrasher kicked in his PK as I grabbed his arm. Everyone had to brace as Monica opened up on Eldritch with her black-hole gravityball. She was remarkably good at pulling everyone and everything to a single point in front of her so she could grab you.
With six arms.
And no mercy.
It was over as fast as it started, and I decided that powers were ok, and blew up space around me, sending Thrash caroming off of the training weights like a pinball. I followed up by teleporting right after him, drawing the twin knives from nowhere as I fell two stories, hoping momentum would let me hit him hard enough that he could feel it.
Nope. I landed on one of his force planes and he kicked the bottom of it, ricocheting me towards the ceiling. For once I didn’t arrest, instead flickering to a support strut and hanging on while the Bad Seed sk8r used the layout of the Brick gym to make his way up to the struts and gantries I felt like watching the show from. It would take him a while to catch me, so I watched the others, keeping note of where he was at all times.
How the merry hell Caitlin was able to keep the six-armed gravity bomb fully occupied was beyond me. To be fair, she moved like Thrasher, and she’d do shit like drop to the floor, kip back up, do some straight weird thing that was reminiscent of Capoeira and kick her opponent on the top of her head before darting around to try and stab. That’s why I hated fighting Caitlin, she was so goddamned aggressive that you had your hands full just trying to keep her from mauling you. And she never wore out.
Diamond already had Bronco caught in her tail and was crushing him while he tried to pry her off. I learned the hard way. If snake-girl balls me up, I tap out on the spot. Healing that many broken bones all at once is pure hell.
Phobos was a redheaded dervish of pain. We all knew from experience that her claws could kill literally anyone, and would even arrest Razorback’s regeneration completely if she nailed him. Worst part is she can get that slashing energy to her tailtips as well, so she has six lethal limbs and a mule kick and headbutt that have broken my hips on more than one occasion.
As I felt Thrasher come up after me, we started fighting above the crowd like spider-monkeys. He totally had the advantage due to the acrobatic regimen that he enjoyed every morning as a parkour hooligan, and he made me work to keep his PK blades at bay.
He was Dennon’s other special snowflake because his PK field wasn’t full-body like Lancer, Mule or Anomaly. He could manifest force bit by bit, but always on the fly, and he could slice through anything. But he was better at not getting clocked by the real bricks, and he could hit like a goddamn truck.
I’d heard Slapdash bragging that Thrasher had put lamplighter through the roof of a building so hard he stopped three stories down when the “hero” had attacked the Hooligans in Boston. After being hit by him a few times, I believed that Thrasher was courteous enough to pull his punches for a Lady.
I’m no lady.
“ADRIENNE!” The name tore through the gym at a pitch that was impossible to ignore.
It was Diamondback’s scream that interrupted our total-focus on each other as both me and Thrasher looked down at the worst possible time. My foot hit him right in the testicles, and I felt his hand, which was guiding his PK blades, hit my shoulder. I heard a pained moan as the Hooligan somehow kept his grip as I realized my knife was falling to the ground below.
So was my arm. Just flopping its way to the ground without me. With a lot of blood following as I got lightheaded and the ground rushed upward to meet me and the world went black.
When I came to my shoulder was in agony, and I had a ghost-white upper arm re-growing itself from my shoulder, forming the elbow already as I recovered and stood up. It’s happened before, I just have never seen it go so fast. I was covered in my own blood, and Thrasher was standing over me, looking like he thought he’d murdered me as I pushed him to the side and looked into a scene that made a horror movie seem tame solely by dint that this was real.
Caitlin and Jericho were desperately pumping on Phobos’ chest, and giving rescue breaths while another student brought over the emergency Defibrillator kit. “She’s burning up!”
“Diamond, sweetie, get on the phone to Doyle, we need a trauma team…”
Phobos was red, and I could almost feel the heat coming off of her body, even as Caitlin hooked the defibrillator to her chest.
“Charging…. Clear.” The toneless mechanical voice was ignored by Caitlin as Truck brought ice packs from the emergency kits to pack around the GSD girl while Jericho was using his biomonitor and calling for help. Caitlin didn’t react to the shock as the defibrillator went off as though it couldn’t hurt her.
“No result, we need to get her to Doyle, now!” Jericho’s voice was unmistakable.
This wasn’t an injury. This was burnout.
Was it stupid? Yes. Did I care? Not one bit.
I ignored the agony of re-growing my arm and stepped forward, put my still-remaining hand on Phobos’ chest, then poked Jericho’s armor with my agonized stump… And we vanished, appearing in Doyle medical center’s main lobby as I did a blind jump to the one spot I knew was always clear. Luckily, I didn’t teleport anyone into a wall this time.
While Jericho desperately tried to save his friend’s life, I screamed at the top of my lungs to get the docs there until I realized that I was still touching Phobos when the defibrillator went off again, knocking my ass out cold. Even after I woke up, I stayed, helping the Outcasts comfort the other Fury Twin who was desperately trying to empathically feel her sister waking up.
On April 6th, 2007, after twelve hours of constant activity and desperate action by the Whateley Medical Staff, Adrienne “Phobos” Richter was declared dead due to fatal burnout at 8:37 PM, after most of the students who were leaving campus for spring break were already gone.
I don’t think I will ever forget the wail of utter anguish Janine let out when her sister’s heart stopped for the last time. It was the first time I ever felt her project anything beyond nightmare terror, and it made even me feel like a piece of my soul had just died.
Thursday April 19, 2007, Melville Cottage
Murphy’s Law #18: When someone is harmed, it is almost never coincidental.
It had taken me years to realize that my reactions to everything, people, death, life, love were not normal in the context of everyone around me. I don’t have the visceral, emotional reactions that other people do with things like death and loss. Sure I’d cried at funerals before, mostly because it was what I was supposed to do. To me, these things were a part of life, and it really takes something rattling my worldview to put things into an emotional context that other people would understand.
Feeling Janine’s death of hope was pretty much an eye-opener for me, as the reality of just how much someone could hurt from the loss hit me like nothing in my life ever had. In the face of that, even my rage at Tansy for siccing her twin rapists on me and Elaine paled and felt like a tiny, pointless thing.
I’d been there, watching as the parents of the Fury Twins had come to pick their surviving daughter up and take her home to mourn her sister. It struck me that their home had been as dysfunctional as their life at Whateley. Their mom, a statuesque blonde woman, embraced Deimos like the girl was still her bouncing, normal, baseline baby without the deformities. Even I, the emotional trainwreck could tell that her father was desperately trying to be the man he could be for his daughter despite the monster she’d become.
Deimos had shied away and I could feel the shame until her father pulled her in, despite his own conflicted emotions and let her be his daughter. It hurt to watch, and it hurt even more because I could feel what was missing. Deimos was no longer projecting terror. The death of her sister had removed the biggest obstacle the twins had faced trying to make friends with anyone, the pants-shitting fear that the monsters were here to eat you.
I deeply hoped no one would ever point that out to the poor girl, that they would let her think that she’d gotten it under control on her own. I couldn’t imagine how she’d feel if she thought her twin’s death had benefited her given what I could feel bleeding off her family, through her, from over fifty feet away.
That was why I was walking with the Outcasts, Deimos, and oddly, Ayla Goodkind down to the devisor labs, when we all should have been in our classes, to confront a complete asshole and find out whether or not she’d had anything to do with Adrienne’s death.
Oddly, I was here to keep anyone from killing Jobe if her snide attitude got a little too deep under anyone’s skin. I question the wisdom of this given that I’m probably the biggest hothead in the crowd. And the most vindictive.
Jobe was in her lab, fucking around with her computer monitors, looking at what I realized was a genetic code marker set. “I was wondering when you all were going to come around. You here to punish me for Phobos?”
By accolade, I was expected to be the one to talk. Mostly because the outcasts, all of them, did not trust themselves to not scream and tear. When we got down to the labs, even little Miss Unflappable Goodkind was shaking. Why the fuck do I have to play face man to get some fucking closure?
“Not punish,” I said, “just here to ask. Could your screwup with the Fury Twins have been what caused Phobos to burn?”
The black-skinned elf with white hair turned and looked at us, then simply nodded once. I held up my hand and looked back as I heard Razorback growl like he was ready to kill her right there.
Jobe’s posture was resigned, but I’d had this sneaking suspicion that there was more to the story.
“Spill it, black elf. What did it?” I had this creeping suspicion that we were barking up the tree to the left of the one we actually wanted to chop down.
“What I did to the Fury Twins should never have made their GSD worse, in fact it should have been impossible. Any of the doctors at Doyle could verify that.” She said. Her usual level of haughty arrogance was tinged with irritation as she pulled up what I assumed to be a full genetic map of one of the Fury Twins. “When Phobos burned out, I went back and looked for handprints, and I found them. Remember when I asked the two of you if you’d had any genetic work done when you and Phobos could not separate from Fury?”
“Yes.” Janine was barely able to croak, and I could feel the suppressed fury and hate she and Diamondback were desperately trying to quell.
“I found the signature of the person who did do the genetic tampering on you.” Jobe pointed at a few meaningless points on the genetic map that literally meant nothing to anyone here except to Jericho.
“What is this signature?” Ayla took a breath and visibly calmed down as she started asking questions.
“Junk genes, that don’t do fuck all, arranged so that a tailored organism can be identified as a certain person’s work.” I knew enough about a lot of things to be dangerous to myself. “Quit looking shocked Jobe, my IQ is actually in the triple digits, I just don’t have the blessing of a rich daddy to pamper me and cater to my every whim and interest.”
Jobe snorted, then moved on. “This is everything you should not do with genetics. This here, is the section of genes theorized to interact with the so-called ‘meta-gene complex.’ It’s the ‘do not touch’ section of human genes because, statistically, tampering with it screws both human fertility, and, for whatever reason, makes it orders of magnitude more likely that if a mutant manifests they will be uncontrollable, or burn out, violently. This was what they were dicking around with when Reston happened.”
“Someone dicked with the Fury Twins?”
“Without their knowledge I would guess. The two of them were so desperate to not be trapped in that psychotic gestalt I doubt they would have lied knowingly.” Jobe used a light pen to circle the “signature” and another spot. “This is basically genetic tamper-proofing here, basically. It’s a self-destruct keyed to Phobos’ genome to kill her if certain undesirable effects happened.”
Jobe looked at Deimos. “All I did to separate you two was I injected you with a melanin-blocking hormone, and Phobos with a melanin accelerator to throw your respective body chemistries out of whack. The worst thing that should have happened was you should have looked like Vamp, and Phobos should have been dusky-skinned for a few days until your exemplar BIT kicked the changes back out.”
Everyone digested the information for a moment and I looked at Jobe. “Who did the tampering? You identified the signature, you know who the fucker was that did it.”
Jobe looked at me like she was re-evaluating me. “Alfred Dietrich, a geneticist of ill-repute who came up with the protocols for a series of fertility clinics after he figured out that the most common survivors of this part of the genome being tampered with were GSD and Gender Shift mutations. Protocols in this set were badly done, and it’s almost impossible to separate BIT-related GSD but if the GSD is genetic, the tamper-proofing would go off and turn the person into a time bomb.”
“But Dietrich works for Wulfen the Purifier…” Ayla’s voice cracked, disbelieving as she worked through the ramifications.
“And the melanin acceleration triggered the timebomb and caused you two to manifest worse GSD” Jobe said simply. “Because God only knows that being black for a day or three is a fate deserving of death!” The second statement was dripping with enough sarcasm to drown the world as Princess Jobe Wilkins injected her opinion of the logic there, loudly.
I never thought I’d agree with Jobe.
Deimos actually took it rather well. I didn’t know that she knew German, or that she could curse so very colorfully by combining it with english. When she finally calmed down, her voice was lethal.
“Are you telling me that Wagnerian, Nazi cunt is the one responsible for Adrienne dying?” I’d never heard anyone but She-Beast use that particular phrasing before.
“In essence, yes. All you have to do to most mutants is trigger one burnout. The fatality rate for burnout is already stupidly high.” Jobe’s bedside manner was heinous, but at least she wasn’t being antagonistic. “I have included the details of my findings on this, you can have them cross-referenced by the Doyle staff. There is also a recommended action to disable the failsafes that are probably still buried in your DNA as well. Dietrich is an idiot, and he’s bought into Purifier’s bullshit, hook, line and sinker.”
“But the reality is,” Jobe continued, “that this was basically a coinflip. It didn’t matter which of you got which injection, and if I’d injected you with the melanin, Phobos would be the one here, confronting me about her dead sister. No one could have predicted this idiocy.”
Ayla took the disk, and nodded grimly. I looked back at the Outcasts, and in that moment, seeing their faces, and Deimos’, I understood how the hell the four old hats of the group had survived Australia over the Christmas holiday.
I prayed they would never have a reason to look like that because of me.
May 30th, 2007, Outside of Melville
Murphy’s law #24: Jesus fuck, Laws! Give everyone a break already! Haven’t you done enough?
“So I hear you put Jobe in the same room with the Outcasts and Deimos. She’s still breathing, and Deimos isn’t berserk.” Nacht looked at me.
“I don’t want to talk about that. Ever.” I was busy studying the difference between the pink skin on my right hand, and the ghost-white albino skin on my left.
“So does this mean we’re stuck talking about your amazing purple squares of hair that are for some reason hanging around your crotch?”
“People wearing dual-pigtails have very little room to stand on mocking the hairstyles of others.” Even so, I looked at the white mess of hair that almost touched my shoulders before darkening to ash-blonde with the mentioned purple bits starting at my hips.
“Yes, but at least the pigtails don’t look like someone got in a fight with a gay stylist who was seeking revenge.”
I rolled my eyes, pulled the long hair together, twisted, pulled the knife from nowhere, and in a few seconds had shoulder-length white hair that was all cut at the same level in odd symmetry. I took the remaining mop, dropped it on the ground and lit it on fire, to make sure the mages couldn’t get it and do stupid shit to me.
“I can’t decide if that was dramatic or laziness.” Kate looked at me.
“Lazy,” I responded, “with overtones of poor and can’t afford a real haircut.”
“Not that it matters,” Vamp said as she walked up. “Word is every time you injure yourself it grows.”
“Or when I use a knife to dry shave my head bald. A few runs and my scalp goes into overdrive trying to compensate and I can get it to my shoulderblades in about thirty minutes.”
“That explains why you always look like an orphaned waif.”
“I still can’t decide if you’re just creepy or if you’re secretly hoping someone will give a shit, Nacht.” I gave her a long look. “Hoping for the caring.” I concluded.
“As if I would be concerned with the feelings of the commoners scrabbling to get out of my way.”
“I actually saw her get a hug from her guardian, who looks like a barbie doll, and smile.” Vamp didn’t even make it sound like she was rubbing it in.
“That’s a vicious lie. I was looking for a convenient place to put the knife.”
“Don’t worry Kate, your secret is safe with…” I looked at Vamp. “Wait, sorry, I couldn’t keep a secret if my life depended on it.”
“Sounds like a character deficiency.”
“No, shortness is weakness of character, which leaves the two of you in that particular boat.”
Both of them glared at me. Ok, Nacht glares at everyone.
Tansy was greeted by three heads turning, slowly, in unison as only girls not in any of the “pretty people cliques” can do as she walked by and we glared. Thirty feet past us, both of my companions were startled to see a snowball pop into existence right next to her head and explode all over the side of her face as I hucked it as hard as I could, from the complete wrong direction, then sat back down and glared with my Bad, oft-accused-of-villainy… friends?
“Who the fuck threw that?” Tansy was roaring. I’d done this to her waaaay too many times and she was starting to crack around the edges. The rocks I’d packed into the snowball probably didn’t help her mood. Neither did the fact that as a newly-minted exemplar, I was throwing a lot harder.
She saw me looking at her, smirking smugly at her misfortune, feeling very satisfied watching a psychic bitch feel what it was like to have someone’s undying hostility, in a way that she couldn’t prove, poking her and deliberately torturing her at every opportunity because she did nothing but make everyone around her miserable.
I hadn’t forgiven, and I haven’t forgotten, and I know that rotten bitch could at the very least feel the outpouring of my hate for her. She stopped, like she wanted to say something, anything, with an almost exasperated look.
Then Tansy Walcutt sighed, let her shoulders drop, then turned and just walked away from us. Not the reaction I was expecting, but I’ll take it.
“Where did you get the snowball from?” Vamp asked me, curious, once the bitch was gone.
“That is a secret I will never tell.”
“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl,” Nacht noted.
I looked at my semi-frequent snarking partners. “Alright, much as I love torturing the deserving, namely you two, with my presence? Food.”
Kate smirked. “Given how much you eat, fatty, it’s a wonder you have time for friends.”
“I always make time for friends. You never know when you need an emergency food supply.” I was in a good mood when I hit the Crystal Hall. I should have sucked up starving till dinner.
When I arrived at the Lit Chix table, I was greeted with a spitting match with the two besties I had formerly considered inseparable BFFs hissing at each other like enraged vipers.
“Ah will not leave the Lit Chicks just because you…” The argument was in full tilt as I froze like a deer in headlights.
Of all the things in the universe that could have gone wrong, this was the capper. My mangling may not have had anything to do with this, but I had no way of knowing that my presence didn’t make it more likely that the Whateley Literary Club would splinter because of…
“You let that monster into you, and I’m not going to watch it eat you from the inside!” Maggie was almost to the point of screaming.
I took my tray to the end of the table and quietly sat down, staring at my food like it was made of evil, hoping to God that whatever this nightmare I’d walked in on would be over shortly and I’d wake up to see that “Nah, we was just fuckin’ with ya Murph!”
No such luck.
“Look, this isn’t the place to hash this…”
“You have this obsession with this stupid wicked persona and then you go and have someone bind a bear spirit into you and you expect me to sit still and watch you parade around like you’re not wearing my friend’s skin like a fucking cloak?”
I looked over at the other girls, my appetite miraculously gone. She was fucking serious. And Elaine looked like she was about to lose her shi… That’s a bear-woman roaring.
Maggie freaked, half the Lit chicks backed up and I did precisely the dumbest thing I could have, in retrospect, as Elaine lost her cool. I, unfortunately, thought she’d gone violent as I jumped up and leapt, slapping my hand down right on her damn snout, where I knew was the most sensitive part of a bear.
“Not cool, Loophole.” I snarled as she looked startled, drawing back with a look of pure hurt in her eyes. The bear drew in, and I was looking at my redheaded friend again, and I knew I had fucked up in that shining moment of idiocy.
Elaine’s betrayed look was unmistakable to me as she turned and walked away from the Lit Chix table. I felt like a fucking bitch, moreso than usual and for a moment, I found myself wondering if I shouldn’t have just let Lifeline and Loophole have it out in the Crystal Hall.
“Oh thank God, at least someone could get it through her…”
“Shut up!” I roared as I turned. I was so fucking mad I could have fought everyone at the table, happily. Instead I settled for grabbing it and flipping it over, dumping food and notebooks, computers and everything else.
“You shallow fucking bint, what the fuck is the matter with you?” I looked a very startled Maggie in the eye. “I shoulda let her smack you.”
I looked at the lot of girls whom I’d thought were friends, whose shit I’d just gotten done dumping all over the floor, covered in food. “All it takes to abandon a friend is a bit of Intermittent GSD and an avatar schtick?” I was roaring. “Fuck you for being a shallow cunt, I hope they room you with a rager. And the rest of you… Why? One twit freaks out and it’s off with her head?”
“You’re right, I don’t. I’m done with you.” I muttered angrily as I turned and teleported out of the crystal hall into the evening. “I’m done with all of you.”
I’d just lost one friend by stopping her from popping a gasket, or so I’d thought. Of course I’d piss the rest of them away just to assuage my conscience. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
June 3rd, 2007, Memorial Park
Murphy’s Law #30: Watching other people mourn will make you feel like an asshole.
I didn’t feel like I belonged here, didn’t know any of the people being remembered except one. It was all I could do to keep my trap shut and just gut through the memorial services for everyone gone.
Two teachers who’d been fiancee to one another and six of the security guys had died because of the events of Halloween. I didn’t really understand all of what had happened, as I’d come through in January, and very few people wanted to talk about what happened, and the ones who did, I questioned the motives of.
Heyoka and Apathy had been flat-out murdered. Folder had been killed by someone’s bizarre goddamn superbug disease. Phobos was the only one this year who wasn’t lost due to some variety of foul play. All in all, her death had just felt… pointless.
I found myself dressed in black, wandering about the memorial park, thanking God that there were no actual graves for me to disturb. The last thing anyone needed would be for the deceased to get up and start following me around like lost children looking for their mommy. I didn’t know the fallen, for the most part, so I just kept my mouth shut and watched.
As people moved about, Heyoka’s memorial drew the Poesies for the most part, who lingered and talked about their missing friend. Team Kimba pretty much lived there, or at the odd memorial bush for the spirit who, apparently, killed herself saving Cavalier and Skybolt. The poesies were off in their own little world, and it seemed like they didn’t realize that anyone else had died.
Ayla was the exception, and I wound up following her over to Phobos’ memorial, a small collection of night-blooming water lilies chosen by her sister to remember the times they had. The flowers had apparently been Adrienne’s favorites. Ayla, oddly, took the time to hug Janine and talk to her quietly. The odd Goodkind had been one of the few good friends Phobos had on campus, and she gave just as much attention to the memorial of the missing Fury Twin as she had Jamie’s.
Hardly anyone had visited Apathy’s memorial, and I didn’t either.
I did notice the steel origami cranes hidden amongst the memorials, in addition to the steel flower Mule had provided that marked his former roommate’s place in the memorial park. Folder was a nice guy, apparently and I figured that Mule would probably execute the bastard who did it if he ever found the bastard, even though that would be the last thing the pacifistic kid would have wanted.
The memorial for the security men lost on Halloween was mostly visited by teachers, other security officers, both on-duty and off, Pristine and Caitlin. The two took the time to give each their respects before heading their own way.
I was rather shocked at the turnout for the two teachers. Erik Mahren had a rep for being an asshole, and Caitlyn “Cat” McQuiston had been well-liked. Apparently they were like fire and evil, so the inclusion of a bed of fire wings for the “Angel of Fire” and the protective bed of poison oak made a certain amount of morbid sense. I had to keep myself from giggling at the thought of the toxic plant representing the “Range Nazi.”
The Grunts all paid their respects, as did all of the teachers. The Outcasts, shockingly enough, took the time to stop over and stand with Caitlin, who actually had tears in her eyes at the sight of the Fire Wings. Anomaly and Deimos didn’t seem to understand why Caitlin was so concerned, but who cares?
She has a right to deal with these things her own way.
I felt like I’d been put here in this place, for this rather touching memorial, to bear witness, to see everyone mourning, being in their own little worlds in their heads, wishing they could have their lost friends back. I felt out of place. Death is a part of life, and sooner or later, life would remind every single person here that there is no such thing as forever, gently or not, taking us to our final destination.
Everyone saw loss where I merely saw inevitability.
I wish none of these people had died, though. No one deserved to be cut down in their prime, to leave their loved ones to pick up the pieces and ask why. No one represented here at this memorial had died for a good reason, except maybe, maybe the teachers who laid their lives down to save my classmates, maybe the security force guys, but how many of them left behind grieving widows and crying children?
I didn’t know. I also don’t know what compelled me to stay, watching the flowers long after everyone had returned to the main part of campus. Maybe I wasn’t as ready to say good-bye as I thought.
August 27th, 2007, the gates of Whateley Academy
Murphy’s Law #1: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong… again.
Here we go again. Round two, Murphy Versus High School. FIGHT!
When I came back from my summer break in Alaska a day early for some reason, it felt surreal. Things had changed, I had changed, and when I came back I brought a new ghost-scar, as I’d been calling them.
A white, jagged tear traveled from my forehead to my chin, through my left eye. A chainsaw blade had snapped after catching on a rotten tree some asshole had spiked and I didn’t see. The chain had whipped across my face and taken out my eye. I’d been blind, on that side, for three days until I got my sight back.
My hair was ash-blonde again, shoulder-length with the purple forelocks as intended by God, thanks to my little sister’s cajoling and my talents with hair coloring I looked normal except for all of the white stripes of scarring that marked up my skin. My left eye came back glassy, black and without features, looking like a dark pool in my head that had freaked my mother out when she saw it, immediately going into maternal guilt mode.
I was having a good day so far though. Whateley, for all of its bizarre foibles almost felt like a home, and I was hoping for a better year this go-round. I fully intended to go talk to Loophole and see if I could mend that fence. When I found out she wasn’t at Whitman, and had been moved, as an RA, to the renovated Poe Cottage, I steeled myself to deal with the crazies (God only knows why the fuck I’m not in there in my own straitjacket) and trudged off to see if I could find my friend.
What I did not expect to see was Elaine Nalley talking to Tansy-fucking-Walcutt in front of Poe Cottage and hug before separating. It’s imbecilic, but this time I was the one who felt betrayed. There was no reason on God’s Creation I did not believe that Tansy had set Hamper and Damper on us, to try to kill Elaine, and rape and murder me.
I was wrong. This was not going to be a good year. I should have stayed home.
Because for a few minutes, until the blonde bint left my sight, all I could do was stare, trying to murder her with nothing but the power of my soul. As I turned and headed to Whitman Cottage, all I could do was snarl in my mind and fantasize about slamming knives into Walcutt’s belly.
All. My. HATE!
Little did I know, my day was about to get worse.