Dunwich, Monday August 27th, 2007
Dunwich. After a long and uncomfortable flight from Portland to Boston, and then a somewhat more relaxing and comfortable, yet still long, train ride to Dunwich, New Hampshire, I had finally arrived. Well, technically, I hadn’t actually arrived at my final destination just yet, but I was close enough that I could taste it.
I stared out the window of the train, watching carefully as we pulled into the Dunwich station. Once we came to a full stop, I finally put away the books that I’d been reading for most of the journey.
The first book was one on basic magical theory. Witchling, who was something of my mentor, or at least, the woman who’d given me some basic lessons in magic, had also given me this book. I read through most of it while onboard the plane, but a lot of it seemed like stereo instructions to me. I’d grown up with devisor technology, not magic, so this was still pretty new to me.
On the other hand, my second book was far more relatable, even though most people wouldn’t consider it very exciting. This was a cookbook, with a large collection of hand-written recipes, which had been given to me by Mrs. Lawrence as a going away present.
Mrs. Lawrence was my neighbor back home, and she owned her own catering business, which she ran from her own house. Until very recently, I’d worked for her, in exchange for spare food and cooking lessons. And when Mrs. Lawrence learned that I was leaving to attend a private school, she’d been kind enough to give me the cookbook...and a collection of her own personal recipes.
“I’ll have to try that one,” I mused, bookmarking a recipe for red velvet cake before I put the book into my backpack.
It was nice to leave the train, so I could walk around and stretch my legs a bit, if for no other reason. Of course, I’d been able to do that a little bit on the train, but I appreciated being able to walk around without that constant feeling of movement.
Once I was done with my initial stretching, I stood back on the platform and watched the other passengers disembarking, and the luggage getting offloaded as well. Most of the other passengers seemed to be kids my own age, which meant that they probably had the same destination. Some of them were more obviously mutants than others, which made my suspicions even more likely.
A lot of the other passengers spared a glance or two towards me, and a couple even stared a little. I wasn’t too surprised, since I knew exactly how I looked. Most people would probably describe me as looking like the hot girl next door. That is, if the girl next door happened to have purple hair and eyes.
I wasn’t the only person who stood out, or even the one who stood out the most. One girl had short hair that appeared to be dyed blue and green, with a few purple highlights. Her hair immediately reminded me of the colors from a peacock tail, and made my own hair seem tame in comparison.
Then my attention was drawn to a Hispanic girl, who was tall and obviously athletic. She had some rather pronounced muscle tone, which suggested that she either spent a lot of time in the gym, or that she had a power which contributed to that physique. I had no idea which. Between her build and the scar going across her face, most people would have found her to be intimidating.
Seconds later, while I was still watching, a boy who wasn’t paying attention to where he was going, walked straight into the large girl. She tripped over him and barely managed to catch herself before she hit the ground, but in the process, her hair fell off…revealing that she’d been wearing a wig. Beneath the wig, she was completely bald.
“Watch it,” the girl snarled angrily.
Her skin suddenly changed, transforming so that it now looked as though her entire body was made of iron. She glared at the boy for a moment longer, and he scrambled away with a look of fear on his face. It was only then that she seemed to remember that she was in a public place. The girl quickly glanced around with a worried expression on her face, then her skin changed back to normal.
“Watch where you’re going,” the large girl said, giving the boy one more glare before grabbing her wig and baggage, then hurrying away.
“Definitely a mutant,” I mused, though I’d already guessed that much, before I’d even seen her powers.
Then with a shake of my head, I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, trying to stay calm and relaxed. This made it easier for me to focus on my power, the one I currently had active. Today, I was a Package Deal Psychic, though not a very powerful one. Still, my esper sense did give me a better feel for my surroundings.
Normally, the only thing that I could do with my esper ability, was sense the presence of other people nearby. This let me know when someone was standing on the other side of a door, what room of the house my mom was in, and if my girlfriend Kara was trying to sneak up behind me. At the moment, I was surrounded by other people, and though I could tell where they were in relation to me, that was about the extent of it.
Since I only had this power for one or two days a week, I wanted to practice with it while I could. I’d done a little of this on the plane and train, or at least I’d tried to. It had been hard to focus on anything while we were moving.
But now, I was off the train, and had a brief opportunity to see if I could use my esper ability to sense more than just people’s locations. Maybe, if I focused, I might be able to tell what powers they had, or at least, whether or not they might be mutants.
After a minute of trying to expand my esper sense’s usefulness, without any success, I suddenly felt someone nearby, who hadn’t been there a second before. I opened my eyes in surprise, and immediately looked at the individual.
The girl was small, only about nine or ten years old. She had silvery-white hair, which was especially odd for her age, and she wore a frilly black dress, with white trim. But as unusual as that seemed, what was even odder was that in one hand, she held a black parasol, while in the other, she casually held a large steamer trunk, that was about the same size she was.
I glanced around to see if anyone else was watching, because I was pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be using powers in public, at least not so obviously. A moment later, I hurried towards the girl, giving her my best friendly smile so that she could see I didn’t mean any harm.
“It probably isn’t a good idea to show off in public,” I said, gesturing to the steamer trunk, then to all the people in the train station.
“Good point,” the girl responded before setting the trunk down.
Then the girl stared up at me, and I suddenly noticed that she had violet eyes, that were similar in color to my own. A moment later, I took in a few other details, such as that she was wearing both a hair clip and broach, which had nearly identical pictures of ‘cute’ skulls, with pink bows on them. The girl gave me a wry smile, which along with the knowing look in her eyes, seemed a bit…odd. Her expression seemed a bit out of place on someone that young.
“Hi, I’m Amy,” I said to distract from that awkward moment.
“Alyss,” she responded, holding out her hand for me to shake. As I did so, I noticed that she had a very firm grip. That wasn’t a surprise though, considering how easily she’d been lifting the steamer trunk.
“You…look a little young to be going to high school,” I said, trying not to offend her. “Or, are you in the junior high program?”
Alyss barked out a short laugh, then gave me a wry look. “I’m older than I look. When I manifested, my BIT made me look a couple years younger than I actually am.”
I nodded at that, understanding completely. After all, my own BIT had changed me from a guy into a girl, and had given me the purple hair as well. Of course, the same BIT also came with a few other problems, which I was trying not to think about. Compared to those ones, losing Little Austin was only a small problem.
“So, you’re an exemplar?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Alyss nodded agreement. “And a manifestor. What about you?”
I chuckled for a moment before answering. “Today, I’m a Package Deal Psychic.”
Alyss gave me a curious look at that. “Today?”
“Well,” I responded with a faint smile, “yesterday I was a devisor, and the day before, I was an exemplar.” Then at Alyss’ look of surprise, I explained, “My powers change every night. Basically, I’m a kind of shifter, but instead of changing how I look, I change my powers instead.”
“That sounds…complicated,” Alyss told me with a chuckle and a faint shake of her head. “Damn… Pardon my French, but that sounds like it could be a pain in the behind.”
I nodded my agreement. “You have no idea.” Then, remembering how Alyss had originally attracted my attention, I commented, “I don’t remember seeing you on the train…”
The strange little girl glanced towards the train, then shrugged. “I wasn’t on the train. I took a Shortcut.”
Before I could ask Alyss what she meant, a tall Asian woman appeared and began gathering all the kids who were going to Whateley. “Incoming students,” she announced. “I am Mrs. Shugendo, the Dean of Students at Whateley Academy. When I call out your names, let me know who you are and then board one of the busses.” Then she exclaimed, “Please save your questions until we arrive at the school, unless it’s an emergency.”
“That’s our cue,” I told Alyss.
Just then, a man who was dressed in a uniform like some security guard, came over to collect Alyss’ steamer trunk. However, when he tried to lift it, he stopped with a grunt. “What do you have in here?” he asked, giving her a suspicious look. “Lead?”
“Car parts,” Alyss answered in an even tone, so I couldn’t really tell if she was joking or not. “Most of an engine.”
Then, Alyss picked up one end of the trunk and made a great show of struggling to drag it to where everyone else’s luggage had been piled. I might have believed her, if I hadn’t seen her carrying the entire thing one handed.
When we climbed onto the bus a few minutes later, I took a seat next to Alyss. She was the only one on the bus I actually knew, even if that had only been for about fifteen minutes by that point. Still, I knew her better than anyone else there, and that made a difference.
“So,” Alyss as the bus began to move. “You said you were a devisor yesterday?”
“Yeah,” I agreed, giving her a curious look. “Why?”
Alyss hesitated for a couple seconds, then asked, “You didn’t happen to get Diedricks along with that, did you?”
“No,” I answered quickly, since getting Diedricks had actually been one of my greatest fears when I first manifested. “Thank God.” Then, I noticed Alyss staring at me in surprise, so I gave her a wry smile and explained, “My mom is a devisor, and she has a pretty bad case of it. It can get a little…problematic at times.”
“Problematic,” Alyss repeated with a shake of her head. “That’s putting it mildly.”
“Yeah, it is,” I agreed with a sigh, remembering how much of my mom’s life had been dominated by the disease.
After that, we were silent for about ten seconds, before Alyss admitted, “I have a… There’s someone in my family who has Diedrick, and it fu…messed up her entire life.” She scowled at that and suddenly had a fierce look of determination.
I nodded at that, understanding exactly what Alyss meant, since I’d seen the results of Diedricks first hand, for nearly every day of my life. I didn’t know what to say, but since we seemed to have something in common, that seemed a good direction to continue.
“One time,” I started with a wry smile, “my mom saw a mouse in our pantry, then dricked out. She spent the next two days building a plasma cannon, just so she could go after the thing.”
I shook my head as I remembered the incident, though it was hardly the only time that kind of thing happened. I’d lost track of how many times Mom had built exotic weaponry, killer robots, or even doomsday weapons, just to go after some minor annoyance. My mom specialized in weapons…and overkill.
Alyss nodded faintly, before giving me a wry smile. “One day, Rachael… She got bit by the neighbor’s dog, one of those yappy little mutts. It wasn’t a bad bite, but she…had an episode.” Alyss chuckled for a moment, then added, “After she was done, her father had to pay for the neighbor’s fence, doghouse, and landscaping.”
“Ouch,” I said, sympathizing with that girl’s dad.
For several minutes, the two of us just sat there in silence, staring out the window and watching the scenery pass by. Then, we began talking again, sharing a few more stories of mad devisor antics as we continued on our way to Whateley.
Poe Cottage, Monday August 27th, 2007
“My name is Alyss Morgan,” I announced to the group of girls who surrounded me. “My codename is Ribbon.”
I’d arrived at Whateley just a short time ago, where I’d immediately been given the fifty-cent tour. The campus was large and pretty damn impressive, especially with the pile of gold and that huge crystal dome. However, it was also ridiculously expensive.
There was no way I could have afforded to send one of my kids to this school, though I deeply regretted that I’d never had the chance. If I’d known about Whateley when Rachael had first manifested, then maybe things would have turned out different for her.
One of the things I’d also learned after getting off the bus, was that Poe Cottage, the place where I’d been assigned to hang my hat, was secretly the dorm for gay kids, and ones like me, who’d changed sexes. That had been a bit of a surprise, and had given me a lot of questions about how they’d been able to hide something like that.
At one time of my life, the idea of being surrounded by gay people might have made me more than a little uncomfortable. But not anymore. Having a daughter manifest as a mutant, and then become a supervillain, tended to put things in perspective. And that was long before I’d hopped over the whole gender fence myself.
Now, I was in Poe Cottage, and in the wing where I was going to be living. After arriving here, all the girls in this section of hallway were pulled into some kind of ‘wing meeting’, where we were encouraged to introduce ourselves to each other.
I looked up at all the girls…the other girls, feeling short in comparison. Of course, I was usually the shortest person in a room, but I hadn’t fully gotten used to that fact yet.
Then, I glanced over at Angel, who was the resident advisor, or RA for this wing. She was a cute blonde girl, with big white wings, so she really did look like the angel she’d been named after. She nodded at me to continue.
My eyes swept the group again. During the tour, I’d been briefly introduced to the other changelings, which is what they called people like me, but I didn’t know them very well. I knew the lesbians in the group even less.
“I know I look like a kid,” I said, deciding to get that out of the way right away, because I knew what they had to be thinking. “I’m actually a little older than I look. I’m an exemplar, and when I manifested, I ended up losing a few years.” I didn’t mention that I’d actually lost forty years.
“That really stinks,” said a pretty girl with long blonde hair. She’d introduced herself earlier as Cinderella, and told everyone to just call her ‘Cindy’ for short.
“And you’re a changeling?” another girl asked.
I nodded at that. “Yeah. My outie got turned into an innie in the process.” There were a couple snickers at that, and a few sympathetic nods of understanding. “But no big deal.”
“So, you were transgender before?” Angel asked.
“No,” I responded, feeling a little self-conscious, but not as much as they probably expected. I shrugged. “I was…sick before I manifested, so if I hadn’t changed…” I paused for a moment and shrugged again. “If I hadn’t changed, I’d probably be dead by now.”
“Damn,” someone exclaimed.
Amy, the purple-haired girl whom I’d met at the train station, said, “You have an…unusual fashion sense for someone who used to be a boy.”
I looked down at the frilly dress I was wearing and chuckled. My whole goth Lolita style probably confused most of them, especially since I’d just admitted to having been a guy.
“What about it?” I asked with a look of mock innocence, which earned a couple chuckles.
“And what can you do?” someone else asked. I hadn’t been introduced to the girl yet, so didn’t know her name.
With a wry smile, I answered, “I’m an exemplar. And I can do this.” I held out my hand and a bright blue ribbon suddenly appeared, draped over my palm. “Hence my codename.”
“That doesn’t seem too impressive,” commented a petite black girl named Pamela Green, or as she’d told us to call her, Breakdown.
I chuckled at that, then gave her a smug look as I held out my other hand. A dress appeared in my hand, looking like it had come straight off the rack from some department store. “I can only manifest fabric, but I can do more than just ribbons.”
“Damn,” Cindy exclaimed, staring at the dress with a calculating look. She was probably trying to figure out how to ask me to make her a new wardrobe, or something along those lines.
Angel gave me an amused look and said, “Oh, Wondercute is going to LOVE you…”
“Who?” I asked. I hadn’t met anyone with that codename yet, or at least, no one who’d been introduced by it.
“I guess I get to go next,” Amy said. “Let’s see. My name is Amy Maguire, codenamed Roulette.”
Just then, a blonde girl with short hair, commented, “With a name like Roulette, I’m guessing you’re a probability warper too…”
“Too?” Angel asked, giving the other girl a curious look.
“I’m Jinx,” the shorter haired girl said. “I give people bad luck.”
For a moment, Angel had a worried look on her face, though she quickly covered it up with a fake smile. “Oh, how nice… I get to have two manglers in my wing…”
“I’m not a mangler,” Amy quickly corrected her. “My powers are…complicated”
“Define complicated,” I said, though I already knew the answer. I just wanted to get the conversation back on track.
Amy smiled faintly at that, though there was something almost a little…pained about it. “Technically, I’m a shifter,” she finally explained. “I don’t change how I look, just a bunch of subtle things that you can’t see. Basically, I have five different forms, but all of them look identical.”
“Now that sounds useful,” a tall, muscular, Hispanic girl said sarcastically.
Instead of getting offended, Amy just smiled a little more. “Yeah, all of my forms look identical, but each one has a different power set.” That suddenly got everyone’s attention. “Today, I’m a package deal psychic. Yesterday, I was a devisor. Tomorrow, I might be an energizer, exemplar, or magic user.” She shrugged. “It’s kind of like spinning the wheel to see which power I’m getting next.”
“Hence the codename,” I pointed out with an appreciative nod. Personally, I wasn’t into playing roulette, since poker was more my style.
“And I used to be a boy too,” Amy added, glancing to me and then Martina, another changeling in the group. Then she joked, “This is the second time I turned into a girl, and it looks like this time, it actually stuck.”
That statement resulted in a lot of questions, though I wasn’t surprised to find out that the whole situation had been caused by her mom. After all, the kid had already told me about how her mom was a high level devisor, and how she kept causing problems with her devises.
When Amy was done, the big Hispanic girl with the nasty scar across her right cheek stepped forward. She was tall, at least compared to all the other girls, standing at about six feet. The girl was also pretty solidly built, with a lot of noticeable muscles. And then, there was the fact that she was completely bald. Back at the train station, she’d been wearing a wig, but had ditched it once we arrived on campus.
“My name is Iron Rose,” the girl said in a gruff, almost hostile tone, as though she was daring us to say anything about her codename. “I’m a shifter…” She looked to Amy and added, “A real shifter.”
“As opposed to a pretend shifter?” one girl asked.
Iron Rose glared at the girl for a moment before answering. “I’m rated a shifter four. In my normal form, I’m about as strong as an exemplar 3, but when I change…” Suddenly, her entire body seemed to transform into dull grey metal, though she continued to move as normal. “I’m really strong and tough. The power testers said that my body turns into some kind of organic metal.”
After Rose was done, the remaining girls took their turns. Jinx told us about how she’d had an ‘accident’ in the middle of her old school, and had been forced to leave in a hurry. Peacock, a girl with blue and green hair, told us that she’d grown something ‘extra’ between her legs, and that was why she was in Poe. And then, there was Downpour, a rather sad looking Asian girl, who literally had rain clouds starting to form over her head.
“Okay,” Angel said, once the last girl had finished. “I have your room assignments. Amy and Alyss, you two are in room two thirty-one, right next to mine. There is a fingerprint scanner next to the door, and here are your keys, as a backup. Cindy and Jinx, you get two thirty-two…”
I looked up at Amy and gave her a friendly smile. “Looks like we’re roomies now.”
The two of us had met at the train station, and had talked for the entire bus ride to Whateley. I kind of liked the kid, and was pretty sure we’d be able to get along just fine. And besides, she understood what it was like living with a devisor, and with someone who had Diedricks. Somehow, I didn’t think I was going to find many other people around who would be able to relate.
Amy and I went to check out our new room, which wasn’t especially large. However, I didn’t take up a lot of space now, which should make things a little less crowded for us.
“Look,” Amy said, indicating our luggage, which was already waiting for us in the room. “At least we don’t have to go looking for baggage claim.” She gave me a wry smile and indicated my steamer trunk. “Unless you actually brought more than that.”
“Nope,” I assured her with a chuckle. “This is it for me.”
I popped the lock and cracked open my trunk, then began to remove the contents. The first thing I took out, not only took up the most space, but was also the heaviest.
“You brought a tool chest?” Amy asked, giving me a curious look but not seeming all that surprised.
I pulled out the large tool box, which was only a fraction of the tools I’d once owned. Unfortunately, I’d been forced to sell a lot of my old equipment in order to pay for medical bills. Cancer treatment isn’t cheap.
“You should always have good quality tools available,” I told my new roommate as I imparted a choice bit of wisdom. “You never know when you’re going to need them.”
“My mom would agree whole-heartedly,” Amy responded with a wry smile, as she pulled a small tool kit out of her own luggage. This one looked like it was aimed more towards working on electronics than on cars, but I nodded in approval anyway.
While Amy focused on unpacking her clothes, I took out a bottle of bourbon and my cigars, and slipped them into my bottom dresser drawer. I didn’t really feel like answering any questions about why someone who looked like I did, had such things in her luggage.
“Where are your clothes?” Amy asked a minute later, apparently just noticing that I didn’t have much in the way of clothing in my trunk. I had tools, shoes, a few clothing accessories, along with some other things, but about the only clothing I had was a heavy winter coat.
I gave a mock look of surprise. “Damn. I knew I forgot something.”
Amy chuckled at that, then stared at me for a moment with a thoughtful look. “Let me guess,” she finally said. “You plan on making your own.”
“Sharp kid,” I said with a nod of agreement. “Got it in one.”
“Well,” she responded wryly, “you did just give a demonstration.”
“Yep,” I agreed. “This way, I don’t have to bring as much crap…pardon my French, and it saves on closet and dresser space. Hell, I won’t even have to do laundry, since everything I make vanishes in about a day.”
“Now, that sounds like a useful power,” Amy told me with a grin.
Just then, there was a brief knock at the door. Since we’d left the door open for the moment, we didn’t need to answer it.
“Alyss,” Angel said from the doorway. “Mrs. Horton asked me to give this to you…” She held out a sealed envelope. “She said that it came from admin.”
“Thanks,” I responded with a nod.
As soon as I opened the envelope, I found that it just contained a few bits of paperwork, including my student ID. I was a little surprised to note that I was listed as being fifteen years old. There was even a driver’s permit, though I didn’t know how much good it would do me when I couldn’t even reach the pedals. Still, I had it.
“What’s that?” Amy asked.
“Just a little present,” I answered with a grin.
Since I hadn’t seen any of the other students being hand-delivered their paperwork like this, I figured that Carson had done this as a favor. After all, she knew who I really was, and my real age. And when we’d met in person, she’d actually been pretty sympathetic to my age situation.
My guess was that Carson had arranged this as a favor. Fifteen years old was probably the best that could be done for an incoming freshman, at least, while being even remotely believable. And with my appearance, it would still be stretching belief. Still, fifteen opened a few more doors and possibilities than even a year younger would have.
I stared at the driver’s permit, in the name of Alyss Morgan, and grinned. Now, I just needed to find a car where I could reach the pedals.
Poe Cottage, Tuesday morning, August 28th, 2007
It was my first morning at Whateley Academy, and I was still trying to wrap my head around my living conditions. Mom and Aunt Beth had both told me stories about Whateley, for most of my life, so I wasn’t surprised much about the school itself. However, neither of them had ever said a word about the secret of Poe Cottage. Of course, neither of them knew about it either.
The hallway where I now lived, was packed full of cute girls, most of whom were lesbians. I used the same bathroom, and even showered with these same cute lesbians. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had a girlfriend back home, this might be a dream come true. That, or extremely awkward. Actually, it somehow managed to be both at once.
Though I was in the middle of the girl’s bathroom, surrounded by cute girls in various stages of undress, living the fantasy of most boys from my old school, I wasn’t really able to enjoy it. Instead, I was blushing brightly and trying hard not to look at any of the girls. I was also fully conscious of the fact that I used to be a boy, and that all of them knew it.
“Don’t stare,” I quietly told myself. “Don’t stare.”
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with problems keeping my eyes to myself. I’d noticed some of the other girls staring at each other, and at me. A couple of them weren’t even trying to be subtle about it.
Iron Rose, or just Rose as everyone had already started to call her, was the big and bald Hispanic girl I’d seen at the train station. She seemed to have absolutely no shame about checking out everyone else in the showers, including me. It was awkward and embarrassing, but I did my best to act like I wasn’t bothered by it, while I got in and out of the shower as quickly as possible.
“Keep your eyes to yourself,” the blonde girl called Cinderella told her. “Or at least buy me dinner and flowers first.”
Just as I’d finished with my own shower, and thought that I was going to escape without too much notice, one girl whose name I couldn’t recall, asked, “Hey Amy. What power do you have today?”
“The power to blush really cutely,” another girl added with a giggle, making me turn even more red.
“I’m a devisor today,” I answered after a moment.
I’d been a devisor the day before last, but sometimes that was the way my power changes worked. My power sets didn’t exactly follow a set schedule or rotation, though that would have been nice, so I’d at least be able to plan for what I’d have next.
A few seconds later, I managed to escape my bathroom, at the same time my roommate was coming in. Alyss was the smallest and youngest looking of all the incoming freshmen, and she looked even tinier compared to the other girls in the showers. She was wearing what looked like a black silk robe, which had definitely not been in her luggage. We nodded to each other briefly in passing, but didn’t say a word.
Once I was back in my room, I went about the task of drying off, trying to get finished before Alyss returned. I liked Alyss, but wasn’t used to having a roommate, or the lack of privacy that came along with having one.
I ran a hand through my long and wet hair, frowning in annoyance. “One of the downsides of being a girl,” I commented, without any real vehemence. Being a girl wasn’t really that bad, even if long hair did take forever to dry.
Fortunately, I still had the hair dryer that my mom gave me. It was capable of drying my hair completely, in less than a minute. Something that effective would probably make a fortune if it was sold in the stores, but there was one small problem with that. My hair dryer was a devise that my mom had created, which meant that it couldn’t be mass produced. As it was, the one I had would probably only work for a couple more weeks, then I’d have to mail it home to Mom so she could fix it. That was one of the problems with most of her devises. They required regular maintenance to keep functioning.
By the time Alyss returned to the room, I was already fully dried off and almost completely dressed. I took one look at her wet hair and held out my hair dryer. “Use this. It’s a devise, and will get your hair dry in no time at all…”
Alyss took the hair dryer and gave it a skeptical look. “This isn’t going to blow up on me, is it?”
“Naw,” I responded with a faint smirk. “My mom’s devises usually only blow up when they’re designed to.” I hesitated a moment, then admitted, “But knowing my mom, this is probably made to connect to a barrel and power amplifier, which would turn it into a dehydration gun or something.” I gave Alyss a wry grin. “Mom likes weapons.”
Alyss stared at me for a moment before chuckling. “Well, it didn’t blow your head off, so it’s probably safe.”
Once Alyss was dried off, she began to get dressed, which was strange to watch. I tried not to watch her, but it was hard to avoid glancing over. One second, she was completely naked and facing away from me. The next, she had on a pair of underwear. A second after that, and she was suddenly wearing a dress. It was the same kind of Victorian style as the one she’d worn yesterday, but this one was purple with black lacy trim.
“Now that is a practical power,” I commented, earning a chuckle from Alyss.
“And it really saves on clothing bills,” Alyss said.
I glanced over to the corner where she’d casually tossed her clothes last night, but they were gone, without a trace. I considered how much time that would save on doing laundry and nodded agreement.
“Nice,” I told her with a chuckle.
My childlike roommate wasn’t finished getting dressed quite yet. She put on a pair of shoes, real ones that she hadn’t summoned, and then a few accessories. There were a pair of clips for her hair, both of which looked like skulls but with bows on them. And then, she picked up a pair of black metal bracelets that had been left on her night stand overnight, and slipped those on.
“Now, you’re making me think that I need some bling too,” I joked.
I looked down at my clothes, which were jeans and a T shirt, and not nearly as fancy as hers. Since I wasn’t a big jewelry kind of girl, I decided on a somewhat more appropriate kind of decoration. I reached into my dresser and pulled out a gold metal sphere about the size of a softball.
“What kind of gizmo is that?” Alyss asked.
“It’s basically just a toy I made,” I admitted just a little self-consciously. “Floating ball, version three point oh. I finished making this one a couple days ago.”
Alyss gave me a slightly suspicious look. “And what does it do?”
I just chuckled and turned it on. “It floats.” With that, the golden sphere floated up into the air. I held out the small remote I’d made for this version and added, “With this, I can adjust how high it floats, and it’s virtually tethered to my remote, so it can follow me around.”
After I demonstrated by walking around the room, with the sphere following behind, Alyss chuckled. “Just like a puppy.”
A couple minutes later, we were finally ready to leave and head for breakfast. Dinner at Crystal Hall had been pretty good last night, and I was curious to see what breakfast was like. Since I’d been told that I would probably need to get a campus job to help with my expenses, I was hoping to get a job working there in the kitchen. After my work helping Mrs. Lawrence with her catering business, this was a logical place for me to work.
When I opened the bedroom door to leave, I was immediately struck with the sight of several girls running down the hallway in my direction. However, my attention wasn’t on them, but the cat they were chasing. I immediately recognized it as a small cougar. I was immediately hit with a flashback of a giant cat leaping straight at me, and I instantly jumped back and slammed the door.
“CAT,” I blurted out with my heart racing.
“What?” Alyss asked me in confusion.
“BIG cat,” I gasped, trying to explain, but the words wouldn’t come
Alyss opened the door and stuck her head out. However, from the confused look on her face when she closed it again, I guessed that the girls and their cat had already left the hallway. I let out a sigh at that and shook my head.
“What in the world are you talking about?” Alyss asked me.
“There…was a cat,” I started to explain, forcing myself to calm down. “A cougar…”
“Oh, him,” Alyss said with a nod of understanding. “Or her…” She shrugged at that. “That kid who turns into a cougar.” Then she gave me an odd look, clearly wanting an explanation for my reaction.
I turned bright red, feeling more than a little self-conscious. I usually wasn’t the kind of person who freaked out and overreacted to small things like that, but cats were one of my…sensitive issues. Normal cats didn’t do more than bring up a few bad memories, but this was no ordinary cat.
“Long story,” I told Alyss with a faint smile. “But it involves a shrink ray accident and my neighbor’s cat.”
Alyss burst out laughing. “Now this, I’ve gotta hear…”
After taking another peak out into the hallway to make sure it was clear, and feeling embarrassed for the need to do so, Alyss and I started off for breakfast. And of course, I had to tell her the whole story, which if nothing else, earned a few chuckles.
“I’m glad to say that I’ve never had to deal with any shrink rays,” Alyss finally told me. “A vacuum cleaner that would spontaneously combust if left on for too long, yes… But no shrink rays.”
Near the entrance of Crystal Hall, there were two boys who seemed to just be hanging out and talking to each other. They both looked to be about the same age as me, but I didn’t recognize them from Poe. Of course, that didn’t mean anything. The kids in Poe were told to arrive a day before the rest of the student body, but I’d been told that there were a number of students from other cottages who arrived early too, for a variety of reasons.
The first boy was the shorter of the two, but not by much. He had a preppy look, with light brown hair that was slicked back, and a lean and athletic build. However, just from the look of him, I had a feeling that he was more into swimming, tennis, or lacrosse, than something like football. Overall, between the preppy look and the smug expression on his face, he reminded me of Draco Malfoy.
Standing beside him was the other boy, who looked every bit as preppy. This one had dark skin, and was clearly of African descent. And though he didn’t look quite as smug as the first boy, he still had a somewhat cocky look about him.
After looking towards Alyss and me, the boys began talking quickly, though I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Maybe if I’d been in my exemplar mode, with my enhanced senses, I might have been able to make it out. A moment later, they played a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, and the first boy suddenly looked even more smug, if that was possible.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” I said in my best Han Solo impression, which admittedly, was nowhere near as good as it had been before I’d turned into a girl.
“Hello,” the boy with the slicked back hair said, giving me a friendly smile, which seemed just a little creepy. He didn’t even glance at Alyss. “My name is Gravmax, and my friend here is Iron.”
“Roulette,” I answered, since he was using codenames. “And my friend is Ribbon.”
I glanced at Alyss, who actually seemed amused by the fact that this boy was clearly trying to flirt with me. It took me a moment longer to realize that the game of rock-paper-scissors, was to determine which of them could claim ‘dibs’ on me. In fact, these two were probably hanging around in front of Crystal Hall, just so they could watch the girls coming and going, and then try to stake a claim before all the other students arrived today. I gave Alyss a dirty look, which only seemed to amuse her more.
“That is a nice codename,” Gravmax said. “And has anyone told you that you have beautiful eyes…?”
“My optometrist,” I answered deadpan, which earned a faint chuckle from Alyss.
“Would you and your friend care to eat lunch with us?” he asked, finally sparing a look at Alyss. He still had a big fake smile, but couldn’t really hide the look of annoyance at her presence.
“No, thank you,” I told him. “We’re fine…”
I started to walk around Gravmax and Iron, who were still standing in front of us, when suddenly, I felt heavy. My first thought was that I was being held in place with telekinesis, but that wasn’t it. I could still move. I just felt…heavy.
“What’s wrong?” Alyss asked, apparently not noticing the heaviness.
I stared at Gravmax in sudden understanding, seeing the smirk on his face. Iron seemed amused as well. “You’re a gravity manipulator,” I stated. His codename certainly suggested that.
Iron said, “My friend can increase the effects of gravity.”
“We just want to talk with you,” Gravmax said. “There’s no need to run off…”
“I think there is,” I responded in a cold tone.
Right beside me, Alyss suddenly looked grim. She made a show of cracking her knuckles in a threatening manner, but she was so small and cute looking that the effect was more hilarious than threatening.
“Now, why don’t you just stay here and hear me out,” Gravmax suggested. At that moment, with that smarmy look, he reminded me even more of Draco Malfoy. I was suddenly tempted to look around and see if Professor Snape was about to show up.
I stood where I was for several seconds, clenching my fists in frustration. I could still walk away, but it took a lot more effort to move, and I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get very far. Then, for a moment, I cursed the fact that I was currently a devisor. Out of all my power sets, that was probably the least useful one for this kind of situation. However, that did remind me of one small detail.
“You see that,” I said, pointing towards the floating metal sphere, that was still following me around. “My little toy has a camera built in, and it’s storing the video on a remote server.” This time, I was the one who smiled at the other boys. “You see, that kind of thing is quite useful in a number of different situations. Such as, if I want to give a copy to campus security… Or, to my lawyer, in case I want to file a sexual harassment suit.”
It wasn’t until I mentioned a possible lawsuit that Gravmax suddenly seemed concerned. “We were just trying to be friendly,” Gravmax said, giving me a dirty look and then glaring at my sphere. “There’s no need to start throwing around false accusations…”
Then, Gravmax turned and walked away, acting as if he was the one who’d been wronged. Iron gave me a curious look, but didn’t say anything before he went and joined his friend.
“Well,” Alyss said with a chuckle. “I have to admit, that was pretty funny.”
“That seemed like the easiest way to deal with them,” I said, knowing that my girlfriend Kara would laugh her butt off when she found out I’d been the target of ‘aggressive flirting’. Then, as I started towards the entrance of Crystal Hall again, I gestured to my devise and asked, “Oh, and can you remind me later, I have put a camera in that thing…?”
Poe Cottage, Wednesday morning, August 29th, 2007
The cottage dayroom was a pretty nice-sized space, large enough for a decent portion of the students here to gather at one time. At the moment, the dayroom was pretty full. A lot of kids were busy chatting with their old friends, catching up on what they’d done over summer vacation. And at the same time, the newcomers like myself could meet more of the older residents.
Of course, I was the odd one out, but I’d known I would be. Most of these kids were barely older than my own granddaughters. On one hand, I was the oldest person here, by far. But ironically, I looked young enough, that even the other freshmen seemed to think of me as being the kid.
I was sitting back in my chair, watching all the other students and trying to figure out who everyone was, and where they fit in the scheme of things. It was pretty obvious that there were already various cliques and social circles, even among the kids in Poe.
“Damn,” I muttered, wishing I had a beer.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible at the moment, nor could I light up a cigar. Instead, I would have to continue playing the role of normal freshman student, which was going to be even harder than I’d imagined. At least Carson had done what she could to ease things a little, and I appreciated that. As it was, instead of a beer and cigar, I had to content myself with a small stack of books.
Just then, my roommate blurted out, “WHAT DID YOU DO?”
I nearly jumped in surprise, since other than the incident with Danny yesterday morning, I hadn’t seen her get really excited or upset about anything. Not even when that Casanova wannabe had tried harassing her. But then, I saw Amy staring at Breakdown, who had a small stack of parts spread out on the coffee table in front of her. I recognized a couple of the parts as pieces of that golden ball thing that Amy liked to play with.
“That explains it,” I mused to myself.
“Your device looked interesting,” Breakdown explained, almost seeming surprised that Amy was upset. “I just wanted to see how it works…”
Amy closed her eyes for a moment, then in a calmer tone, she explained, “I’m not like you. I’m only a part-time devisor, so I might not be able to fix it again for a week…IF I can get the right tools by then…”
“I’m sorry about that,” Breakdown apologized, though she didn’t really look sincere. Instead, she grinned excitedly and explained, “I specialize in disassembly and reverse engineering, so I can’t resist seeing how things work. I did come up with a few ideas of how you could make it better…”
“How did you even get this apart anyway?” Amy asked as she gathered up the parts. “You don’t even have all the right tools here…”
A minute later, Amy left the dayroom with a pile of parts in her arms, not looking happy about it. I couldn’t blame her, since she’d been pretty proud of that weird toy of hers. I was just thankful that she didn’t have Diedricks, because that was just the kind of situation that would have sent Rachael off into one hell of an episode.
Then, almost as though reading my mind, someone said, “A study of Diedricks.”
“What?” I asked, looking up at Martina Hughes, one of the other changelings in my hall.
“Your book,” Martina said, gesturing to the top book on my stack. “That’s some pretty heavy reading. Do you have Diedricks?”
I shook my head at that. “No, but I know someone who does…”
Martina stared at me for a moment. “Would that happen to be Lady Havoc?” At my look of surprise, she quickly explained, “Yesterday, you mentioned that you knew her…”
I hesitated for a moment. “Yeah. She has it pretty bad, so I’m trying to learn a bit more about it…” I picked up the book.
“Well, this looks like some pretty heavy reading,” Martina commented, looking over my small stack of books again. “Introduction to the Modern Theory of Super Powers by Filbert R. Z. Quintain. Calculus. Automotive design. And Incongruity by Michael Waite…”
“I go through books like they’re potato chips,” I told her with a chuckle.
“Then you must have brought a nice collection,” Martina commented. “I might have to borrow a few from you.”
“I didn’t bring any books,” I explained. “I got these ones from the school library this morning, and will probably take them back when I go to dinner.”
“That’s right,” Martina responded, giving me a thoughtful look. “You’re an exemplar. But to read those books that fast, you have to be pretty high level.”
I shrugged at that, not bothering to tell her that I was an exemplar six. Instead, I tapped my temple and said, “Speed reading and a photographic memory. Even more useful than being able to bench press a Buick, but of course, that doesn’t hurt either.”
“No, I imagine it doesn’t,” Martina agreed with a smile.
Martina and I talked for a few more minutes, and I got the feeling that she was happy to chat with someone who didn’t care that her mom was some kind of villain. After her roommate Christina’s constant bitching, she must be starving for some friendly conversation.
Suddenly, a voice called out, “There you are…” A girl ran up and nearly got into my face. She was short, Asian, and looked like she was only about two years older than what I appeared.
“Wow, that is an awesome dress,” she exclaimed, then pointed to one of my hair clips. “That is so KEWT…”
“Jade,” a pretty blonde girl called out, rushing over to join us. She gave me an apologetic look.
“All right,” the Asian girl…Jade said with a broad grin. She looked at the blonde girl with a smirk. “See Bunny. I’m not the smallest girl in the cottage anymore. Or the youngest looking…”
“Hi,” I said with a wary smile. “I’m Alyss...or Ribbon, if you prefer codenames.”
Jade beamed. “That’s an awesome codename.” Then before I could respond, she demanded, “Do you like cute things?”
“Cute things?” I asked, a little surprised by the question. It suddenly felt like I was being interrogated by my youngest granddaughter, Kimberly.
“Oh no you don’t,” Angel blurted out as she rushed over. “You are NOT going to drag any of my new freshmen into your Wondercute antics…”
While Jade began arguing with Angel, Bunny smiled at me. “I hear that you can make clothes…” Her eyes seemed to sparkle with interest at that.
I looked to Martina for help, but she’d slipped away without my being aware of it. However, a moment later, help did arrive, though from an unexpected source.
Mrs. Horton, the house mother, came into the room and called out, “Girls…” When everyone quieted down, she looked to me. “Alyss, you have an appointment to meet with your faculty advisor, and you’ve been scheduled for power testing this afternoon.” She handed me some official looking paperwork which listed the appointments and their times. “You might want to hurry for your first appointment, because this is rather short notice.”
“Thank you,” I told the woman, who was closer to my real age than anyone else in the building. However, I had no idea if Carson had told her about me or not, and I wasn’t about to bring up the subject.
Taking the opportunity that Horton had provided, I grabbed up the books, then rushed back to my room. Amy was gone, but there was a small pile of parts on her bed. I felt a momentary pang of sympathy, before I headed for my first appointment.
While I took my time walking across campus to Schuster Hall, I got a few odd looks from other students. Most of them probably figured I was one of the junior high kids, so I played along, giving an innocent smile and waving. If I actually ended up sharing classes with any of them, the looks on their faces would be priceless.
A short time later, I’d arrived at my destination with plenty of time to spare, and was soon seated in an office with Mrs. Ryan. Mrs. Ryan was an older woman, who looked to be about the same age that my mother would have been, if she was still alive. She was dressed in a flower print dress, and gave off the whole ‘little old lady’ vibe.
After the polite introductions. Mrs. Ryan asked, “So, Ms. Morgan, what are you looking for in your education at Whateley?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Mrs. Ryan gave me a friendly smile as she explained, “Some students, such as magic users, gadgeteers, and devisors, have a very natural academic progression. With your powers, your academic path is not as narrowly defined, which leaves you more options in your direction.”
“I see where you’re going,” I responded, absently rubbing my chin as I considered her words. This was something of a leftover, from the days when I used to scratch my beard while thinking things through. “You’re asking what kind of classes I want to take.”
“And whether or not you have decided on any potential career paths yet,” she added with a nod of agreement.
That made me chuckle since I’d already had a similar talk with Carson. It seemed that Carson hadn’t shared those details with Ryan, or if she had, Ryan was playing ignorant. That was perfectly fine with me, because I didn’t like the idea of my personal business being spread around.
“I actually do have something in mind,” I said, feeling just a little self-conscious. “I have a family member with Diedricks, so I want to be able to do something to help people like her…”
For a moment, I just sat there, clenching my tiny fists and scowling. I couldn’t help but thinking about my daughter Rachael, and how her entire life had been ruined by that damn disease. She’d killed innocent people. She’d become a supervillain. And at that very moment, she was locked in prison, where she’d probably remain for the rest of her life. And it was all because of her Diedricks.
“I don’t even know where to start,” I admitted. “I don’t know if I need to become a doctor…a shrink…or even a fucking exorcist. Pardon my French.”
“You have my pardon,” Mrs. Ryan said with a wry smile. “Though that didn’t sound much like French to me.”
Then with a sigh, and a little embarrassment for swearing in front of her, I said, “I just know that I have to do something.”
“Then, this is a good place to start, “Mrs. Ryan told me. “My job here is to help you find the right classes to help you achieve that goal. Admittedly, that isn’t my area of expertise, but I believe that the advanced classes you need won’t be available until you’re at least a junior. But for now, I can help you fulfil all your prerequisites, so that once those classes do become available to you, you’ll be ready to attend.”
I just nodded at that. “Yeah, I figured as much. You can’t build a car if you don’t have a solid frame to start from.”
“An…interesting analogy,” Mrs. Ryan pointed out.
That just made me chuckle. “I like cars, and I’m pretty damn good at fixing them too, if I do say so myself…”
Mrs. Ryan smiled faintly at that, though it was the same kind of smile I tended to give my granddaughter’s whenever they did something adorable. “Now, as to your class schedule… You will need to complete the basic English, Math, History, and Science requirements before you can advance to the classes related to your goal. Power Theory will cover your science credit, as will Power Lab, which you really should take for your first semester at the very least. The school strongly recommends that you take either Basic Martial Arts or Survival, both of which will fill your physical education requirements.”
“I’ll take the Basic Martial Arts,” I told her with a scowl. After dealing with that lunatic, the Marquis, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to fight better with my new body and powers.
Mrs. Ryan nodded at that. “Very well then.” Then she looked me straight in the eyes and continued, “There is also one more class, which I personally, strongly recommend you take. That would be the Costume Shop class that I teach.”
“Costume Shop?” asked in surprise. I remembered reading about that class in the pamphlet, and had gotten the impression that was all about designing costumes for heroes and villains. “No offense, but I don’t think that class is for me.” I gave her a wry smile. “I’m not planning to go into any kind of business where I need to wear spandex.”
“Why do people always bring up spandex?” Mrs. Ryan mused with a shake of her head. “Any effective costume avoids spandex, in favor of more practical materials…”
Her reaction made me chuckle, and also think about the heroes and villains that I’d met back in Pittsburgh. None of them actually wore spandex, not even the ones with tight costumes. However, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t tease Pinnacle about wearing spandex, the next time I saw him.
The elderly teacher turned her full attention back to me. “I teach several tailor and clothing related classes here at the school, with Costume Shop merely being the most notable. When I heard of your ability to manifest fabrics and clothing, I requested to be assigned as your faculty advisor, because I thought that I might be the best match. You see, I believe that with your abilities, you might benefit from my class far more than the average student.”
“I guess the whole tailoring thing could be useful,” I mused aloud. I’d read several books on the subject, but getting the knowledge and advice directly from an expert, would have to be even better. “But I’m not so sure about making a costume…”
Mrs. Ryan smiled at that, though for a moment, it seemed almost predatory rather than the friendly ones she’d given previously. “In my class, I teach far more than just how to make an aesthetically pleasing and functional costume. I will teach you how design, style, and color choices can influence the image you wish to project. From the clothing and accessories that you are currently wearing, I see that you are already familiar with the concept, and are already using it quite effectively. However, I can help you take this to the next level. Out of all the teachers at this school, I am the one best qualified to help you use your manifestation ability to the best effect.”
I stared at Mrs. Ryan for a moment, considering what she’d said. After several long seconds, I nodded my agreement. “You’ve got a good point. All right. Sign me up.”
“You have made a wise decision,” Mrs. Ryan told me. “In addition, I believe that Cecilia Rogers might be interested in working with you.” At my blank look, she explained, “Cecilia teaches ballroom dancing, but she is better known for a custom clothing boutique that she owns off campus. You might find her knowledge and experience with clothing to be educational.”
“Is there anything else?” I asked.
“Now that you mention it,” Mrs. Ryan said, giving me another friendly smile. “As you are a high level exemplar, and possess the mental package that comes with this, I suggest that you consider taking an additional class. You should be able to handle the extra course work with little difficulty, and in the long run, this may help you achieve your goals more quickly.”
Mrs. Ryan and I discussed my classes for a few more minutes and then settled on a class schedule that worked. So far, it looked like my first year at Whateley was going to be mostly prerequisite and required courses, but I got the impression that this was normal for most students. It might not be easy to stay focused, but unlike the first time I’d gone to high school, I not only had this exemplar brain to help me out, I also had the motivation to succeed.
Then, once I had my schedule printed out and thought that we were done, Mrs. Ryan asked, “Now, have you thought about a campus job…?”
When Mrs. Ryan and I were finished taking care of business, I was more than happy to be on my way. My stomach was grumbling, and I figured, that I had plenty of time for a good lunch before I had to go to power testing. In fact, from what I’d heard about power testing, it would definitely be a good idea to fill up while I could.
I hadn’t gone very far when I suddenly heard a dog growling. I stopped to look around, pausing when I saw the source of the growl. Instead of a dog, the growl was coming from a student, or at least, I assumed he was a student. He was big and hairy, looking like some kind of werewolf out of a horror movie.
“What are you looking at…little girl?” the werewolf demanded in a gruff voice.
“What are you growling at…fleabag?” I responded.
The werewolf snarled at that and came towards me, puffing himself up to look even bigger and scarier. Then, he stopped, just close enough so that he could completely tower over me. At that point, he let out a loud roar.
He probably expected me to turn and run in terror, while he just stood there and had a good laugh. However, I wasn’t about to go running away from some teenage boy, even if he did look like an extra from the Howling. Instead, I remained where I was and made a show of running my hand down my dress to smooth it out. This seemed to shock and confuse him, since I doubted this was the kind of reaction he was used to getting.
Suddenly, a boy yelled out, “Leave the girl alone…”
The werewolf and I turned to look at the newcomer, almost simultaneously. The kid appeared to be about fourteen or fifteen, and he looked athletic. He didn’t have the exaggerated build and muscles that I’d seen with some of the exemplar boys, but the kind that came from simply exercising or playing a lot of sports. And then, there was his hair, which was bleach blonde and spikey.
“I’m Aegis,” the boy announced, puffing up a bit and giving me a cocky look. “And don’t worry. I’ll protect you from this monster…”
An angry snarl was the only warning that the werewolf gave before he suddenly leapt at Aegis. A golden glow appeared around Aegis, just an instant before a pair of claws struck his chest. Aegis staggered back, but the werewolf slammed into him, sending him flying back onto his ass.
“I’ll show you a monster,” the werewolf snarled, jumping onto Aegis again, and tearing into him with a series of punches and slashes. Aegis’ golden aura seemed to protect him from some of the damage, but not all of it.
“Enough of that,” I announced. I could certainly understand the desire to kick the crap out of someone who pissed me off, but the werewolf was going way too far, especially since he was the one who started this whole mess with his attempts to bully me. “It’s over.”
“Shut it, little girl,” the werewolf said, glaring at me with a look of fury. He held his claws up to threaten me. “Go crying back to your mom, while you still can…”
I ran a hand down my dress to smooth it again, responding, “You first, fleabag.”
There was another flash of anger, then he came at me. I was a lot stronger than I looked, and pretty hard to seriously hurt, so I wasn’t worried about this punk. In fact, I was pretty sure that I could kick his ass without much problem.
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the werewolf was a punk and a bully, he was still just a kid too, and there was no way in hell that I was going to hurt a kid. Not unless I had absolutely no other choice. Of course, there were other ways to stop him, without giving him so much as a bruise, but he’d probably prefer the ass kicking.
“Just remember,” I said with a scowl. “You asked for this.”
Poe Cottage, Wednesday August 29th, 2007
I was sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor, staring at the collection of parts that were spread out in front of me. I scowled in annoyance, knowing that even if I put them back together, it wouldn’t do any good. Unless I was a devisor when I did so, and added that hard to define ‘devisor spark’, then it wouldn’t do anything at all. Because of that, I would have to wait until I was a devisor again, and I had no idea when that would be.
“Breakdown,” I said with a sigh.
I wanted to be angry with the girl, but I couldn’t be, at least not for long. I, better than most people, knew that when a devisor got that itch, they couldn’t resist using their powers. I’d seen my mom go into that fugue state, and had even done so myself, so knew where Breakdown was coming from. Of course, most devisors used their powers to build things, and Breakdown seemed compelled to go the opposite direction, but the principal was still the same.
Since I couldn’t do anything with my devise at the moment, and it was pointless to cry over spilled milk, I carefully put the parts away. I’d reassemble them when I had the time and correct power, but until then, I’d just have to put it out of mind and be patient.
Once I was done cleaning up, I looked around the small room that I shared with Alyss. My side was spotless and nicely organized, though I could tell that Alyss wasn’t going to be the same way. Sure, she hadn’t brought much with her, so she didn’t have a lot of belongings to clutter things up with, but there are ways to tell.
After all, last night, I’d watched her casually toss all her dirty clothes into the corner, where she just left them. Those clothes might be gone now, vanishing when nobody was watching, but anyone who was so casual about leaving their dirty clothes on the floor, was bound to be a bit of a slob in other areas as well.
“Maybe I should get her a hamper,” I mused, considering how I could handle my roommate. I’d spent my entire life dealing with my mom’s quirks, so Alyss wouldn’t be any problem.
Alyss was definitely a strange girl. She said she was about my age, but she looked like a kid, and acted like… Well, I wasn’t quite sure what she acted like, but it wasn’t like a kid my age. Still, she understood what it was like to deal with a high level devisor, and with someone who had Diedricks, better than anyone else I’d ever met. Alyss actually understood. And even more importantly, I liked her, and was sure that she’d be a good roommate and friend.
“I should probably warn her about…,” I started to say, and then shook my head. I didn’t want to scare her with my BIT problems, at least not yet.
A minute later, I stepped into the hallway, which was fairly empty. Most of the cottage seemed to be empty at the moment, which was no surprise since there was still a lot to do before classes started up next Tuesday. There was also a lot of campus to explore, while we still had the free time to do so. However, the halls weren’t completely empty, and when I came to the dayroom, I overheard a couple girls talking.
“Great job,” Riptide told Jade, the petite Asian girl who barely looked much older than Alyss. Riptide, or Rip as I’d heard a couple girls call her, had a broad grin on her face and was laughing.
“Thanks,” Jade responded with a grin, before asking. “But for what?”
“Hey,” I said in greeting to the people in the dayroom. Besides Rip and Jade, there were a few other students who were hanging around as well. “I was just about to go to Crystal Hall for lunch. Does anyone want to come with?”
Two boys, who were playing a board game with each other, immediately stood up. “Sure,” the first one said. “I’m getting pretty hungry.”
The first boy was a slender black guy named Jon Homer, or Voodude, which is what he seemed to prefer. As his name suggested, he was a magic user of some sort, though I didn’t know much more about him than that, and that he usually seemed pretty laid back.
Hardwyrd, the other boy, was one of the freshmen devisors, and he looked the part. He was just a little chubby, with acne and glasses. In fact, he fit the techie stereotype pretty well, so I actually felt a little sorry for him. Being a devisor stereotype would probably be hard enough on him, but with him being gay as well... I imagined that his dating options would be rather limited. But then again, this was Poe, and I could be wrong.
“I’ll come too,” Hardwyrd told me.
Just as the four of us were leaving, Toni, the hyperactive sophomore girl came running into the dayroom, slipping past us as though we were no problem, even though we were blocking almost the entire doorway. “I heard about Bloodwolf,” she told Jade with a broad grin. “Good one…”
“What about Bloodwolf?” Jade asked with a confused look. “I haven’t seen that jerk since last spring…”
I didn’t stick around long enough to listen in on the conversation, because Voodude was already heading for the cottage exit. Hardwyrd and I quickly caught up, and we began walking towards Crystal Hall together.
“So,” Hardwyrd said, giving me a curious look. “I hear that you’re a devisor…”
“Only part time,” I told him with a shrug. “I have five different power sets, and I wake up with a different one each day. Today, I’m a wiz.”
“Really?” Voodude asked with a grin. “Awesome… Maybe we can share tips sometime…” He stared at me as we walked, giving me a very appreciative look.
“I thought you were gay,” I blurted out in surprise.
Voodude just grinned. “I prefer guys, but I still like girls too…”
Hardwyrd looked uncomfortable, then glanced around nervously, as though afraid someone would hear us talking. I could understand his concern, because outside Poe, people might not be quite as understanding about alternative lifestyle choices. Personally, I didn’t see what the big deal was, but not everyone thought like I did.
“Can we not talk about that out in the open?” Hardwyrd almost pleaded. “I got beat up back home, when some guys found out I was gay. I don’t want to get that here too…”
I nodded at that, then asked Voodude, “So, do you know a lot about magic?”
“A bit,” he admitted with a cocky grin. “My grandma is from N’awlins, and is really into voodoo magic… She ain’t no Marie Laveau or anything, but a couple of her spells really do work…especially the voodoo dolls. She taught me a few things.”
I nodded at that, thinking about Witchling, the magic user and superhero who’d given me a few lessons on magic, along with the instruction book. “Someone taught me a little about the basics,” I admitted. “But not enough to really do much.”
“I’m sure you’ll catch up quickly,” Voodude assured me. “I hear this place has some really good classes for it.”
“I hope you’re right,” I responded with a faint smile. “But to be honest, I’m actually a lot more comfortable with devises. My mom is a devisor, so I practically grew up in her work shop.”
Hardwyrd’s eyes lit up at that. “Very nice. Then your mom has probably taught you a lot…”
That just made me burst out laughing. Once I was able to control myself, I admitted, “Most of what I learned was safety procedures…and lots of what NOT to do.”
“Well,” Voodoo joked. “Knowing how to avoid blowing yourself up is an important first step.” He glanced to Hardwyrd and added, “Or so I’ve heard.”
When we reached Crystal Hall, we ended up in line behind a couple girls who were giggling about something. Since they were standing right next to me, I couldn’t help but overhearing their conversation, or at least parts of it.
“Wondercute really got Bloodwolf this time, one of the girls said. “So, he was just found tied up in a bunch of pink bows and ribbons…and hanging from a light pole.”
“That definitely sounds like Wondercute,” the second girl responded with a snicker. “I wonder what that hairy jerk did to get their attention…”
The first girl just shrugged. “Who knows. But I bet he deserved it…”
I glanced to my two lunch companions, wondering if they knew what was going on. I’d heard about Wondercute, and knew that a couple members lived in Poe. In fact, someone had pointed Jade out as their ringleader, which made me certain that this conversation was related to the one I’d overheard earlier. Once we got back from lunch, I was going to have to ask Jade about it.
Once our trays were full, we went to look for a table. I saw Alyss sitting at one table, about the same time she saw me. From her empty tray, it looked like she was just finishing up, however, that didn’t stop us from going over to join her.
“How was your meeting?” I asked my diminutive roommate.
“Not bad,” Alyss responded, handing me her class schedule. “In just a little bit, I’ve got to go do my power testing.”
“I am NOT looking forward to mine,” I admitted. “I think they’re holding off a little, because they know it’s going to take a long time.”
Then I shook my head, thinking about all the ‘power testing’ that I’d already been through at the hands of those mad scientists who’d kidnapped me. I’d already had more than enough testing for my lifetime, but unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one to think that.
In order to distract myself, I looked over Alyss’ class schedule. “Power Theory, Costume Shop, Algebra, BMA, Power Lab, English, and US History.”
“I was told that I might be able to test out of a couple of those classes and pick up more advanced ones,” Alyss explained with a shrug. “What about you? You met with your faculty advisor this morning.”
“Yeah,” I agreed with a wry smile. “My entire schedule is pretty much all power related classes. Power Theory and Power Lab, a couple classes for magic and devisor stuff, and martial arts.” Then I shook my head. “And I was told that I might even be assigned an extra power lab of some kind on Saturdays.”
“Ouch,” Voodude said, giving me a sympathetic look. “The downside of having so many powers…”
“One of the downsides,” I muttered, trying not to think of the worst one.
Hardwyrd nodded along, though he didn’t seem to be paying much attention, at least not until he adjusted his glasses and pointed out, “The downside for being on my track, is that I have to take classes with a bunch of people who will probably be building lightsabers and laser blasters in class. I wouldn’t trust most of these kids with a Nerf weapon, much less the real thing.” He gestured around Crystal Hall.
When I began to laugh, everyone else at the table gave me odd looks. “You just reminded me of something, from when I was a kid…”
“That long ago?” Alyss asked with a look of amusement.
“Because you’re so much older than me,” I teased with a grin. “Oh wait… You barely look like you’re out of diapers…”
“Bite me, kid,” Alyss responded as she flipped me the bird, which made everyone start to laugh.
“Now,” Voodude said, giving me a curious look. “You were saying…”
“Just that, when I was about seven,” I said, smiling at the memory. “I brought one of my mom’s freeze rays to school for show and tell…”
Alyss looked like she was about to choke at that, though Hardwyrd’s eyes shot wide in disbelief. “At seven?”
“And your mom just let you?” Voodude demanded.
Before I could answer, Alyss just started laughing. “You should hear some of the stories she has about her mom…”
“My mom is a little…eccentric,” I admitted wryly. “Anyway, all the kids did some ice skating in the hallway…until some teacher confiscated the freeze ray. Of course, I got in trouble for that, but I spent the next two weeks as the most popular kid in school.”
“I can believe that,” Voodude said with a chuckle.
Alyss had been laughing a moment ago, but now, her expression turned sad. When I looked at her, she gave a pained smile. “I…know someone who brought a small robot to her high school so she could show off. It…didn’t work out well. The thing spontaneously caught on fire, set off the fire alarms, and the whole school had to get evacuated until the fire department could make sure everything was safe.”
“Ouch,” Voodude said sympathetically. “And that is why I prefer magic.”
“Because there is no way that magic could ever go wrong,” I pointed out wryly, which earned a few chuckles.
Alyss had already finished with her lunch, but she remained at the able while the rest of us ate. We did get a few snickers and rude comments about eating at the ‘little kids table’ from a few people who walked past, but we ignored them. Once the rest of us had finished eating as well, we decided to start back to Poe.
We had barely stepped out of Crystal Hall, when I saw a flash of light from the direction of the Quad. The Quad was a large open area, where a lot of students seemed to gather and hang out. At the moment, that was exactly what was happening. Students were gathering in fairly large numbers.
“What’s going on over there?” I asked aloud.
I hadn’t expected an answer, but a boy, who looked like he was probably a junior or senior, laughed from beside me. “Freshies,” he commented, gesturing towards the Quad. His tone was a bit patronizing, similar to how I might have talked to small children on a playground. “Every year, the new freshies have to show off their powers…”
Before I could ask anything more, the boy walked off. The four of us looked back and forth for a few seconds, and by silent but unanimous agreement, we all started walking towards the show. I definitely wanted to see this.
In the Quad, there were probably half a dozen different groups, each clustered up among themselves and showing off their powers. In one, a kid was showing off a small robot, which actually seemed to be dancing the robot. In another, two boys who appeared to be bricks, were arm wrestling each other. And in yet another, a couple magic users were demonstrating some spells. Voodude ended up staying with them to watch, and perhaps even do a little showing off himself.
“What is that?” Hardwyrd suddenly gasped, pointing to a girl who was holding a large weapon, that was shaped like a high tech rifle. He was obviously more interested in the weapon, than in the girl holding it.
“Plasma blaster,” I answered after a quick glance. Hardwyrd and Alyss both gave me curious looks. “What? After you’ve fired a dozen of those things, you tend to recognize them at a glance. Besides, my mom makes one every couple months.”
“That does look kind of familiar,” Alyss mused.
Just then, I stopped where I was and gulped in dread. I was starting to feel hot and achy, and it had come out of nowhere, without any warning. I instantly recognized these symptoms and what they meant.
“Not again,” I gasped, right before my body was struck with spasms. I dropped to the ground like a puppet with the strings cut, and began to go into seizures.
“Amy,” Alyss exclaimed, rushing to my side.
I managed to keep my eyes open for a few more seconds, just long enough to see blue swirls through the air. In the back of my mind, I noted that I’d just shifted to energizer mode, though I knew I might not stay that way for long, not when I was going through a burnout. Seconds later, everything went dark.