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A Whateley Academy Story

The Bear, the Bitch, and Everything

By E. E. Nalley

 

Part 2

 

It's been a long night

Trying to find my way

Been through the darkness

Now I finally have my day

And I will see my dream come alive at last

I will touch the sky

And they're not gonna hold me down no more

No, they're not gonna change my mind…

Russell Watson, Where My Heart Will Take Me

 

August, 29th, 2007

Rm 502, Dickenson Cottage, Whateley Academy

In the predawn light, Tansy lay awake and remembered her sins.

There was a certain irony that the single room she finally had, that she had fought for all these years, now made her feel empty and alone. She never thought that she would miss Sahar's sarcasm or the casual way in which the girl had ignored her. It didn't help that this had been Poise's room last year and Tansy couldn't help comparing herself to the blonde that some called decorum personified. Between Elaine's tutelage and the assistance of Mustang, she knew that she could be with someone else simply by falling asleep and dream walking, either with her own spirit or to the island of Elaine's dream space or the Alaskan log cabin that Kodiak had managed to make both girls feel welcome and loved in.

But it was hard to feel worthy of other company or to feel loved this early in the morning. So Tansy lay on her bed and remembered. She remembered the screaming fit her mother had thrown when her father had had her committed and had forced his daughter to watch as they had taken her away. Remembered the chillingly casual way in which he had responded to the question of were the men going to make her mother better?

"Not everyone gets better, Tansy," he told her flatly.

She remembered the anger, first at her mother for abandoning her, for lacking the willpower to not give in to her vices. But so much worse was the anger at her father. Tansy remembered very clearly the first time she heard another person's thoughts. They had been the thoughts of her father. She remembered waking up and stepping on the scale in her bathroom to find that, overnight, 15 pounds had vanished. She looked in the mirror and saw herself noticeably thinner, taller, and frankly prettier. She was much less the fat little girl she always had been and was obviously on her way to becoming a delicate young woman who was merely growing out of baby fat.

Tansy had run downstairs, elated that for the first time in her life she was certain her father would be proud of her. But as she rushed in and tried to babble what happened, she heard her father's voice distinctly in her head, even though she was looking right at him and knew that his lips had not moved.

Oh, thank God! Maybe she won't turn out to be a land whale after all!

Whale had been Heather Goodkinds favorite nickname for her. Tansy's heart had shattered as she felt the emotions her father truly felt about her, the disgust, the revulsion, and the shame that his genes had not produced a more attractive child. Over the next few months Tansy's power had grown and she could look deep into her father's mind and she realized that, according to her father, there were only two kinds of people in the world - haves and have-nots. She understood that her father would do anything, anything to keep from losing their fortune.

Not long after that her father realized his daughter was losing weight far too quickly to be natural. There had been doctors, tests, and then finally the men from the government had come. There wasn't much her father feared, but he was not so full of himself that he felt capable of challenging the government of the United States. There would be a new school, Whateley Academy, which led to its own frustrations because, now that she finally had the tools of revenge, Heather and Connie would be out of reach.

Enraged at being given the ability to take her revenge against her tormentors, but having the availability taken away as a cruel irony, Tansy came to hate being a mutant. Being a telepath and an empath only reinforced this and so seething with anger she lashed out at the first obvious mutant she saw when she arrived at Whateley Academy, Sebastian "Montana" Terwilliger. She had read both his fear and mistrust of pretty girls as well as his attraction to them warring within his psyche.

Tansy had attended some of the best preparatory and finishing schools for well-to-do young ladies in the world and she used her feminine charms like a weapon against the shy, awkward young teen. Once she had set her hook deep into the boys heart and once he had done the most debasing proof of his love he could think of she had ridiculed him mercilessly and as publicly as possible.

There were rumors the boy had tried to kill himself over the incident, and that it had taken weeks of therapy with Dr. Bellows to bring him back from the brink. Tansy sat up in the bed and put her head in her hands. In her mind she clearly saw Maggie Finson scream, “By my hatred! My hatred so mote it be!” Tansy saw Maggie spit in the face of her best friend and while everyone else's attention was on Mrs. Carson trying to control the young mage, or the shock of Wyatt Cody behind Elaine and what happened as he sat next to Kayda who was just as shocked at what she'd witnessed only Tansy was looking into Elaine's face.

Only Tansy saw the spit strike the redhead in the fore head, saw the grizzly fade away only to leave Elaine staring over Tansy’s shoulder, a look of utter heartbreak and despair on her face. Tansy Walcutt saw Elaine Nalley's heart break, saw in her the same agony Tansy had felt herself so many times but for the first time in her life Tansy had realized what she had done and knew it for the selfish, evil it was.

Hot, and wet, a tear fell on Tansy's arm. But before the dam could break and a single tear be joined by a flood, suddenly there was another presence in the bed and a pair of strong arms encircled her shoulders and drew her against the barrel chest of Mustang's human form. "Don't cry, child," he soothed her. "Everyone, everywhere makes mistakes." The spirit gathered the girl into his arms, his hug comforting and his wide mouthed kiss on her fore head was reassuring.

Tansy sniffed mightily and shook her head into his chest. "I can't ever make up for it!" she cried. "Montana tried to kill himself! How, the fuck, does 'I'm sorry' cover that?!"

"Tansy," the spirit chided her softly, "Montana won't ever forgive you. There is no penance you can perform that he will accept, and that, child, is his burden not yours. Yes, do the right thing, do good by these people you have wronged, but don't expect them to forgive and forget. That's more than you can hope for! All you can do is, to the best of your ability from this point to the end of your life, be the kind of person you should have been up till now."

She looked up into his huge brown eyes, her own blue ones streaming tears. "But, I love Lanie! And if I tell her, she'll hate me!"

"Then no good can come from telling her," Mustang replied reasonably. "Sometimes we must keep secrets from those we love. All you can do, is what you're already doing - be a good friend, and do everything that you can for her. What good will come from breaking her heart again? Will it make you feel better? And if that is your only reason for telling her, aren't you still being selfish?"

Tansy began to sob into the spirits chest and clung to him as if a shipwreck survivor clinging to a piece of flotsam in the ocean. "I'm trying!" she sobbed. "I swear I am!"

The spirit held his host tighter and gently soothed her hair. "I know, dear heart, I know."

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August 29th, 2007 predawn

The March of Dreams

"Where am I?"

The voice was low and weak, rasping from dehydration and dry throat, but the banshee Elaine dreamed of had excellent hearing. Turning from the scroll she had been reading, Elaine replied, "you're in my room, in the hall of my father the chieftain, of the Village of Morlock. And you, Domnall mac Óengusa, have the luck of a rabbit, and the lives of a cat!" The big warrior wiped his sweaty brow and face with a huge hand and accepted the tumbler of mead she offered. It was well watered, but quenched his thirst. "What do you remember?" she asked.

The warrior's face scrunched up in thought as he tested his memory. "I… I was riding… From Perth. My father sent me to negotiate trade from Perth and I had hoped to mend fences in Pictland. I was set upon in the forest and… and I remember a banshee…" He looked the girl over more closely in the firelight. "You?"

Elaine nodded. "Aye, 'twas me. And unless you had a traveling companion, you killed six men single-handed."

Domnall took a drink of the mead. "I rode alone," he said into the cup. "It's faster, and I had hoped to avoid the scrutiny of men like, evidently, those that fell on me." He looked up in confusion. "You are Pict, and you speak Celtic?"

Elaine took the cup from him and refilled it from the pitcher. "My mother was Irish Celtic," she replied, presenting him with a cup again. "Married to my father to seal a friendship that her father betrayed. What friends you find here you'll have to earn, Domnall mac Óengusa."

"The only true friends are those that are earned," he replied with a smile. "And how did I go from killing six men single-handed to waking up in the room of a banshee? Not that I'm complaining…" He tried to sit up, but the color drained from his face and he winced from pain and fell back against the pillows.

Elaine speared him with a rueful glance. "That is how," she replied. "While you killed six men, they were nearly the end of you! It is by the magic of my mother that you draw breath, for you were mortally wounded."

The Warrior thought on this for a moment and cautiously replied, "Then I'm grateful for your mother's magic, and your pity."

Elaine took the tumbler from him and pulled the furs up to keep him warm. "It was not pity that moved me to help you," she told him. "Pity is for the invalid, the infirm and the aged who have no one to look after them. I respected you for your feat and thought you had earned a chance to cheat death."

He caught her arm as she turned away and said reverently, "I hope God gives me the time to earn more than just your respect." He would've said more, but she had snatched the dagger from its sheath on her thigh and held it against his throat.

He released her arm, but she stayed leaning over him, her hair falling like a river of blood over her shoulders onto his chest and putting her eyes and face in shadow and in sharp relief to the cold of the steel blade against his neck. "Whatever gifts God bestows upon you, are His discretion. But know this - I snatched you from death's hands, and if you harm a single hair of anyone in this village, I will deliver you back to him.”

"I don't doubt it," he replied. "But not all Irish are traitors. You have my word, I will not break hospitality." Elaine tapped his throat with the flat of the blade and then sheathed it.

Still leaning over him, she smiled, then bent down and kissed him. Relishing the surprise on his face, her smile widened and she told him, "Rest warrior. You are hurt badly, but you will recover, and you will have plenty of time to pry my thighs open with that silver tongue of yours."

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August 29th, 2007

Bridle paths west of Hawthorne cottage, Whateley Academy

Danny Franks

Danny burst from the trees on a wide dirt track gasping for breath. He looked around, startled at the sudden opening in the woods, but there was no sound of the security guards pursuing him. Off to his left, a few dozen yards down the track, was one of the little restroom buildings that tended to be scattered throughout the trails and paths around the campus as incontinence was sometimes a side effect of mutation. At a more sedate pace, he walked over to the building and drank deeply from its water fountain.

It was then he noticed the blood on his hands and the claws his fingers ended in.

Horrified, Danny darted inside and frantically began to scrub his hands. He was dismayed how much blood had accumulated in his fur and the water ran red in the sink. "Oh God, oh God," he chanted to himself as he scrubbed. "What if I killed him?"

The nausea surprised him with how quickly it came, and he promptly emptied his stomach of the water he just drank into the sink. When he looked back up he was surprised he didn't see Wihinape staring at him in the mirror. Evidently the spirit was off sulking after he wrestled control of himself away from her, but of course at that point the damage had already been done.

His catlike ears caught the sound of someone or something approaching and terrified that security had tracked him down, Danny rushed out of the restroom nearly colliding with the chest of a horse. The horse reared in fright, as Danny backpedaled, falling to his rear as he tripped over the step up into the restroom. "Whoa! Easy, Tango, steady girl!" The rider shouted, quickly regaining control of the animal. "Danny?" The riders voice asked with some surprise.

Much to his dismay, Danny realized that the young woman on the horse was the star of his dreams of late, managing to look stunning in a pair of high, riding boots, tight jeans, and a literal polo shirt; which carried the team crest on the left breast, the number 07 on the left sleeve, and the goddess' last name across the shoulders. As the goddess dismounted her horse and tied it within reach of the trough, Danny's eyes misted over and he could swear he could hear Gary Wright songs whispering through the trees. "Danny? Are you all right?" she asked, offering him a hand up.

"Oh God," Danny moaned, burying his face in his hands. "What else can go wrong today?"

"Don't tempt Him," the blonde goddess advised as she sat down next to him. "Or you'll find out! What's going on? Are you okay?"

Danny kept his face in his hands, unable to look at her. "I'm just having a bad day, Miss Walcutt, I'm sorry I startled your horse."

Her finger hooked under his chin and forced his face up to meet her smile. "Danny," she chided, "I thought we got all that settled over the summer. My name is Tansy." A strange look passed across the blonde's face and her expression changed to one of concern. "You've been fighting?" she asked.

"I didn't start it!" Danny pleaded. "This ass hole, Dump Truck, has been on me since we got here!" He told her earnestly. "He keeps calling me gay! I'm not gay! I'm not!" he shouted.

Tansy picked up the boy's hands. "Danny it would be perfectly all right if you were, but I understand what you're going through." She rolled her eyes and smiled. "Believe me, I understand! But they're just words, you have to…"

"That's not how Matt operates!" Danny growled. "First he purposely walks into you, then he gives a fake apology that's an insult! Shit like, 'oh, I'm sorry Peter Pan I didn't see you! I guess I don't believe in fairies!' I've had it with that asshole!"

Tansy smirked at the young man, obviously unconvinced. Crossing her arms over her breasts she asked, "What happened to Dump Truck?"

Danny looked away obviously ashamed of himself. "I, I got so angry!" He sighed as he worked up the courage to admit something. "But I couldn't take it anymore, so I punched him."

"Is he all right?" Tansy asked.

Danny blushed and his skin became a bit furry. "I'd like to say I laid him out, but I didn't. It was like I hadn't punched him at all. Then he started hitting me, and it was like getting worked over with a baseball bat! I got afraid that I was getting really seriously hurt, that's… That's when Wihinape came out. By the time I got control away from her she had cut him up really badly. Security showed up, and he has the gall to say that I started it! His two buddies backed him up, and then… I mean, I saw the writing on the wall, so I took off and security started chasing me and I wound up here."

Before Tansy could reply, three security officers burst from the woods, weapons drawn. "Don't move!" they shouted. Tansy felt Danny tense to run and laid a hand on his arm with a strong grip. She sent out waves of soothing emotion and confidence that everything would be fine, then turned and smiled up at the guards.

"Is there a problem, officers?" she asked sweetly with a most convincing level of confusion in her voice.

"Miss, I need you to stand up and step away from the young man," the senior of the three security officers ordered. "He's under arrest for assault."

"There must be some mistake," Tansy replied, directing the soothing emotion outward. "Danny's been with me for the last few hours. We have been walking my horse…" The guard's dedication began to waver for a moment and he looked as though he might holster his weapon, but at that moment Lady Astarte descended from the sky, a look of extreme disapproval on her face.

"Miss Walcutt, Mr. Franks, my office. Now." she ordered.

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August 29th, 2007

Headmistress's Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

While Lady Astarte, the superheroine, had gestured at the bench outside her office for her two recalcitrant students to sit on and she entered it by herself, after less than a minute it was Elizabeth Carson, headmistress, who exited the office and with a gesture summoned them into it. Tansy was very aware of Ms. Hartford's questioning glance as to how she got in trouble and knew that a second lecture was likely in the offering, as she strode into the office and stood before the desk with Danny as the headmistress sat down behind it.

"It may interest you to know," she said to Danny, "that Mr. Thatcher will survive his injuries. However, he will be spending the night at Doyle Medical Center. Would you care to explain why that is?" Relief flooded Danny's features at the news that he wasn't guilty of murder, even if he thought the boy had deserved a beating.

Tansy licked her lips and opened her mouth, but Mrs. Carson's piercing blue eyes speared her, keeping her silent. "Do not lie to me, Miss Walcutt. I have seen the security footage of the incident and I know for a fact that Mr. Franks has not been with you for more than a few minutes. Don't make things worse for yourself." Tansy closed her mouth and looked at her boot toes. Mrs. Carson directed her attention back at the recalcitrant freshman. "Mr. Franks?" she prompted. "I'm waiting."

Danny found himself unable to meet the headmistress's gaze and said to the floor, "Dump Truck has been harassing me since I got here," he declared somewhat petulantly. "He calls me gay, Homo, you name it. I've been trying to ignore it, but he just won't let up! So this time I took a swing."

Mrs. Carson's eyes narrowed. "Are you claiming that the damage done to Mr. Thatcher was the result of a single punch? Because the boy I saw taken to the hospital looked like he had been dumped into a food processor set to purée."

Danny shook his head. "No, ma'am. I felt like I might as well have punched a wall. My punch didn't do anything to him. And then he started pounding me, and I started to get afraid I was going to get seriously hurt! Then, my spirit, Wihinape, came roaring out to protect me. By the time I got control again… Dump Truck was on the ground."

An eyebrow ascended Mrs. Carson's face. "My spirit made me do it?" she demanded, her tone dripping disbelief.

"My hallow isn't large enough for Wihinape," Danny replied. "There are certain forms where she can technically take control of our body."

"Mr. Franks," Mrs. Carson replied evenly, "you have a choice to make. Either get your spirit under control, or I will place an ultraviolent arm band on you for the rest of the year. Believe me, you do not want that outcome. You may speak with any of the resident advisers of your cottage as to what that armband would entail, you can get the most details from Miss Nalley. For this you have two weeks of detention, Mrs. Horton will assign the tasks. You need to learn the concept of proportional response. Being bumped into and being called names is no excuse for assault and battery." She shot him her 'glare of supreme authority' until he gulped nervously and nodded his understanding. "You're dismissed." The young man cast a final glance at Tansy.

"I'm sorry I got you into trouble," he said on his way to the door.

"She did that on her own," Mrs. Carson corrected the young man. After the door was shut she directed her full attention back at Tansy. "Sit," she commanded. Tansy stepped forward and sat on one of the two leather wing back chairs that faced the desk. "Shall we just go over what I saw?" she asked innocently. "Giving a false statement to a sworn police officer, interference with the investigation of a crime. Use of mental, emotional, or other mind controlling powers against a sworn police officer, and of course resisting arrest. Would you care to add to this list?"

Tansy licked her lips. "No, ma'am, that sums it up pretty well."

"For all you knew, Danny Franks had just committed murder and you were aiding and abetting in his escape," Mrs. Carson replied. "What do you have to say for yourself? You're a senior, Miss Walcutt you are less than a year from the real world and very, very real consequences to poor decisions. I expect better of you!"

"I had Danny calm," Tansy replied. "I was getting what happened from him and I knew what I was hearing was the truth. I knew that since security was involved Dump Truck was on his way to Doyle medical where he would get treatment. I was in the process of talking Danny down from his fight or flight response so that I could get him to turn himself in. It just so happens that's when the guards showed up."

Mrs. Carson considered that for several moments as she sat back in her chair and steepled her fingers. She pulled open the drawer in her desk looked in, then closed it again. "Miss Walcutt, your methods were terrible," the headmistress admonished. Then a slight smile crept on her face. "But I am pleased with your intentions. By 5 o'clock tomorrow I expect on my desk a single spaced, three-page report on the psychic Canon of ethics, cited, foot noted and bibliographed."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You may go," Mrs. Carson said with a smile. "And Tansy? I am extremely proud of your progress."

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September 1st, 2007

Alpha Social Mixer, the Quad, Whateley Academy

"I just don't get it!" Danny groused as he walked up to the picnic table where Tansy was sitting on the table surface, using the actual bench seat as a foot rest and facing the stage that had been set up in front of the statue of Noah Whateley. Tansy graced the young man with an amused smile as she balanced a plate with a modest portion on one knee and picked at the fries off of it. She was wearing a pristine white top that went up over her right shoulder leaving the left bare as well as both arms, it was probably as close to a T shirt as she owned and was perfectly skintight showing off her magnificent figure.

"Don't get what?" she asked. "And how did you do on your detention with Mrs. Horton?"

Danny shrugged, tugging at his Aerosmith T-shirt as he did so. "It's nothing. She found out I grew up on a farm so I have to cut the grass and trim all the shrubs around the cottage for 2 weeks."

"Do it with your shirt off," Tansy advised with a salacious wink. "Trust me."

Danny blushed slightly and smiled. "What did Mrs. Carson saddle you with?"

Tansy made a dismissive gesture as she was selecting a French fry from her plate. "Oh, nothing really. Just a three-page essay on the psychic Canon of ethics. I did it last night and turned it in this morning." Tansy replied sidelong to the young man who was in the process of stuffing a hot dog in his face. "You didn't answer my question by the way," she declared. "What is it you don't get?"

The young man chewed quickly to clear his mouth and only just remembered to wipe it on a napkin instead of his sleeve. "Why do people hate mutants so much?" he demanded. "I mean, I would never have thought my sister would go through what she went through in our town! And then today Mrs. Carson gives us this big long lecture about how important it is to keep a secret identity not reveal the school and… people aren't that bad, are they?"

Tansy arched an eyebrow and set her plate down on the table dusting off her hands. "Do you really want me to answer the question, or are you just being rhetorical?"

"If you have an answer, I'm all ears!" the young man replied. Tansy stood and came down from the table making a gesture for Danny to follow her, not that she needed to. She made her way to the stage where the outcasts were between sets.

"Jericho! Razorback! Could I see you two for a second please?" Danny wasn't sure what he found stranger - the short stocky black man wearing a Scottish plaid kilt and a Hawaiian shirt that clashed in ways that made his stomach queasy, or what appeared to be a velociraptor right out of Jurassic Park wearing shorts and a T-shirt and carrying a guitar.

"Tansy?" Jericho asked. "You have a request?"

"Not in the way that you're thinking," the blonde replied. "This is Danny Franks, Kayda's little brother." The strangely dressed young man and the creature both waved. "Danny wants to know why normal people hate mutants," she said. "If you don't mind, I'd like to show him."

Jericho shrugged. "I'm down, what do you need?"

"Jericho to your knowledge, do I play guitar?" she asked. Jericho shook his head.

With a grin he added, "I've never heard of you being musical at all."

Tansy laughed. "If someone will supply us with the proverbial stack of Bibles I swear that I do not at this moment know how to play the guitar. Razorback would you mind?" The velociraptor shrugged removed the guitar from his shoulders and handed it to her along with a pick. Tansy turned back to Danny. "Does your phone have a stopwatch?" she asked. After a bit of fumbling the boy got his phone out and the application running. At a gesture he started it and Tansy placed her finger on the top string at the furthest fret and plucked the string listening to how it sounded. She brought her finger down each fret, pausing to pluck the string until she reached the base, then moved on to the next string repeating the process until she had done it to all six strings. She then made a few experimental strums holding multiple strings down in different combinations. Finally satisfied, she looked up and said, "stop. How long was that?"

"5 minutes 36 seconds," Danny replied. "Are you trying to tell me that…"

"That I just taught myself to play the guitar in 5 minutes and 36 seconds?" she asked with a smile. "I guess we'll find out. Name a song."

Danny considered for a moment and snorted his amusement. "I got the perfect one for you!" he said with a grin. "Dream On…!" Tansy got up on stage, with the assistance of Razorback, and with a grin of approval Jericho returned to the mic stand. Then, to Danny's amazement, Tansy began to pluck out the complicated introduction instrumental, of the song he had chosen, while Jericho lifted a strong tenor into the mic and the rest of the Outcasts joined in.

"Every time when I look in the mirror," Jericho sang, "All these lines on my face getting clearer, The past is gone...! It went by, like dusk to dawn. Isn't that the way? Everybody's got the dues in life to pay…" Caitlin's drums joined Tansy's guitar as Jericho brought his bass around from his back as well.

Danny felt his jaw drop open in amazement. It wasn't note-perfect, Tansy missed at least one change in cord and a couple of missed strings, as in her memory of the song she confused the lead and second guitar, but the fact that she had not picked the instrument up before five minutes ago and was turning in a performance that was arguably competent was simply inconceivable to the young man. Jericho, meanwhile, was getting deeply into the performance and prancing a bit around the microphone as the students began to gather around stage. "I know nobody knows, where it comes and where it goes. I know it's everybody sin, you got to lose to know how to win…!"

By the time he reached the chorus the crowd of students were in fact 'singing with him' as Tansy relaxed and began to enjoy the performance. The crowd of students roared their approval as the song ended and Jericho gestured that the performance was due to Tansy. The applause noticeably fell off, but that didn't seem to bother her and the blonde dropped a curtsy in her jeans before she returned the guitar to Razorback.. She came to the edge of the stage and let herself down. To Danny she smiled and winked.

"I… I don't believe it!" The boy exclaimed.

Tansy chuckled and decided to quote, "that… is why you fail!" she said with a grin. Then, somewhat more morosely she added, "And that is why they hate us. Because the least of us, with no interest, will always be better than them at what is their primary concern and interest. And we will be better than them without thinking about it."

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September 1st, 2007

Conference Room A, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

"I was relieved to discover your transgression, with the headmistress, to be minor."

Tansy shrugged noncommittally as she sat with her mentor in the conference room. "It was just one of those things," she replied, digging a nail file from her purse and beginning to buff a few nails back to perfection. "I was helping Kayda's younger brother Danny and security just happened along. Mrs. Carson seemed pleased with what I was trying to do."

Hartford smiled at her protégé. "She was indeed and she bragged quite extensively about you at our faculty lunch. The rumors around the campus are that your efforts at friendship with Miss Nalley are going exceptionally well."

Tansy blushed and focused on her nails. "Lanie is a good friend," she replied. "Better than I deserve."

Ms. Hartford's voice became stern. "Stop thinking that way," she ordered. "Whatever mistakes you've made in the past are in the past. You can do nothing else for them except what you already are doing, which certainly makes you deserving of Miss Nalley's friendship."

Tansy looked up into the older woman's face and examined it for several moments. "You don't see yourself as a bad person at all, do you?"

Hartford sniffed, and smiled a rueful smile. "Why exactly should I consider myself a bad person while I'm in the process of saving the world?" she demanded. "I believe such activities are generally the purview of heroes, are they not?" Tansy shrugged, conceding the point. "What I care less about are laws, especially laws that shield the guilty from justice. And while I care less about laws than say, perhaps, our headmistress, we both have that trait in common - we take justice into our own hands. Some of us merely dispense it more harshly than others. Now, I read your report on your activities with the Atlantean League. Well done. Now I have a new assignment for you. In addition to keeping your eyes open with the League I want you to consider ways of turning Miss Nalley into joining our little cabal."

Tansy blinked in disbelief. "You want to recruit Lanie? You really think she'd…?"

"I think with the right motivation anything is possible," Ms. Hartford replied. "Not to diminish your abilities my dear, but I would feel better if you had a support team on some of the missions we'll need you to work on. So this is for your safety, and my peace of mind. So, be working on it."

Tansy returned the nail file to her purse and looked her mentor in the eye. "I have an idea, but it would require some time off campus over the semester and it would help to have the official sponsorship of school."

Ms. Hartford was obviously intrigued. "Doing what?" she demanded.

Tansy smirked. "Something that may land you Kayda as well, if you can convince Mrs. Carson and get her to open up her checkbook."

The Assistant Headmistress was obviously intrigued. "I'm listening…"

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September 1st, 2007

Vehicle Shop, Kane Hall tunnels, Whateley Academy

Tansy was in an excellent mood as she walked through the tunnels after meeting with Ms. Hartford. That her mentor was so taken with the idea was a nice collection of bonus points, that it would be fun and a way off campus, well, being sneaky meant never having to say you're sorry. She arrived at the vehicle shop and she was yet again amazed at the amount of love and attention people could fawn on over inanimate objects. And while Baby Girl was plainly in her bay, the hood was down and there was no sign of Elaine. "Hey, has anyone seen Lanie?" She called out.

As she somewhat expected, work came to a screeching halt. There was a reason, after all, that mechanics hung calendars of pretty girls in their work areas; photographs were usually the only way they were present. One of the few girls in the shop walked over to her, wiping her greasy hands on a greasy rag.

"Mr. Parker called her to help check some cameras into the Venus Inc. clubhouse," Skids answered, her voice icy. Tansy heard the disdain in the mechanic girl's voice and chose to take the higher road.

"Thank you," Tansy replied, graciously ignoring Skids' tone. "She's helping me with a ... special project, so if you see her, could you please let her know that I'm looking for her?"

Skids shrugged. "Sure, if I see her, I'll tell her." Tansy looked past Skids into the bay and saw Kayda with her back to her digging through a box. She considered calling out to her, but Skids was still standing there like a guardian protecting the other shop boys from the pretty girl intruding into their domain. Tansy made a mental note to try to touch base with the Lakota girl later and withdrew, heading towards Dunn Hall and the Venus, Inc. clubhouse.

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September 1st, 2007

Assistant Headmistress's Desk, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Amelia Hartford was practically humming to herself, so pleased was she with the progress of her protégé. After all the best plans were the plans that didn't look like plans at all; and they were rapidly becoming Tansy's expertise. And it practically pitched itself to the headmistress - positive PR for the school, competition with well-heeled potential donors, and an actual team sport where being a mutant wouldn't actually matter. She had to hand it to Tansy, the young girl was brilliant. So after a quick perusal of the Internet, she picked up the phone and dialed.

"International yacht brokers of Miami, this is Jay how may I help you?"

"Jay, Amelia Hartford with Whateley Academy. I'd like to have a discussion with someone about a couple of your listings…"

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September 1st, 2007

Data Center, Action Tactical, Inc. headquarters, Blue Ridge Mountains

"It's a standard model Gizmatic Communicator II," the technician was saying. "None of the files beyond the base OS were encrypted, there wasn't even a lock on the main screen."

"You been able to isolate the LUDs and the files?" Mr. Lewis asked. The technician nodded, tapping his keyboard bringing up a display on a large monitor behind him.

"It's about what you'd expect from a teenage male - excessive amounts of pornography, phone numbers we tracked to local girls, but beyond the footage of the incident itself, there is something interesting we discovered. The phone has the Nixon app."

Mr. Lewis frowned. "Nixon app?"

The technician nodded once more, finally looking his boss in the eye. "It's an interesting modification of the OS, actually put out by Gizmatic himself. It allows the phone to record entire conversations to include both parties. It date- and time-stamps the recording as well as the number called."

"Interesting, I presume the recorded conversations were with who he sold the footage to?"

"Yes sir. Obviously he didn't trust…"

Mr. Lewis cupped his chin with one hand. "What is the chance this has been planted?" he demanded. "The operative who discovered this felt that the target had been professionally dealt with. Not collecting his phone seems sloppy to me. Are we being led down a primrose path?"

"That will take a more detailed examination of the device and require hacking its OS to double check the date and time stamps. Gizmodo OS is notorious for being difficult to crack."

Mr. Lewis returned the phone to the technician. "How much time do you need?"

"Probably a day or two, sir. I'll get right on it." He turned away, then paused and turned back. "Do you want to hear the recordings?"

Mr. Lewis shook his head. "I prefer not to prejudice my thinking until we’re certain this is authentic. Keep me informed."

"Yes sir."

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September 2nd, 2007 predawn

The March of Dreams

Winter had come cold and hard on the breezes landbound from the North Sea. Snow was frequently in the air, but had not yet settled permanently on the land. The last of the harvest was in, the autumn hunting meat smoked or salted, and the village prepared itself for the long night of winter ahead. Domnall was up and walking with a cane now, which he did frequently pushing himself so as to regain his former stamina and strength.

Elaine walked beside him, wearing a lovely, but also functional, dress of wool that had been dyed hunter green, and which had lovely knotwork designs hand-embroidered into the sleeves and neck-line. Her magnificent figure defined by a wide leather belt from which hung the dagger she went nowhere without. Over this she wore a black cloak, against the chill in the air, held at her shoulder by a penannular brooch of gold and silver with a few semiprecious stones studded into it. Her feet were covered in leather boots that had been fur-lined and were deliciously warm, but she kept the cloaks hood thrown back allowing her hair free.

He turned towards her and his eyes were hungry like a starving man eyeing a banquet table. "Time of all, unable I thoughts of beauty of you liar I become," he said haltingly in Pictish. Elaine smiled as she corrected his grammar.

"Every time I think you cannot be more beautiful, you prove me wrong," she replied. They had made a game of teaching each other languages, she taught him Pictish and he taught her the Welsh that he had first spoken when they had first met. "You are a shameless flatterer," she accused.

He frowned as he puzzled out the unfamiliar words, then smiled as he returned to the Irish Celtic they both spoke. "It would be flattery, if it were not the truth," he assured her. "You're not the first banshee I have met, though I have never met one who could be so comfortable in such finery."

Elaine held her head a bit higher. "I won the title of banshee on my own, to stand on my own strengths, but I am the chieftains daughter, and war cannot be my only occupation." They slowly mounted the steps up to the seawall that protected the village from the sea and paused at the top for him to catch his breath.

As he leaned back against the stone battlement, Domnall nodded. "I'm sure whoever your father arranges to be your husband will rightly consider himself the luckiest of men."

She laughed as she strode by him to stare out at the North Sea. "I stay in my father's house from respect, but he has no say in who I share my bed with, for I earned that right when I became bean sìth and by the blood I have spilled in battle." She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him. "Not that you need worry, he likes you. My father has long desired an accord with the Irish, and your wealth certainly doesn't hurt."

He smiled a sheepish and endearing grin. "Truth be told, it is my father's wealth, though I am his firstborn." He joined her at the battlement and risked placing an arm around her shoulder. She neither shrugged off his embrace, nor protested it. He felt her arm leave her own cloak and encircle his waist from behind. "Then you'll forgive my curiosity by asking how the matter sits with you?"

She cocked her head up to look him in the face, even though she was remarkably tall herself. "You’re obviously skilled, and based on your bulk I would say you would sire strong children. You're not a dullard and you seem to have a talent for language despite not being a scholar. I suppose it would depend upon how well you know your way around a woman's body."

His grin became roguish and he winked at her. "If my lady places a challenge at my feet, consider it gladly accepted."

Elaine's eyes narrowed, but a smile plucked up the corners of her mouth. "We'll see. But be warned, if you expect a meek little housewife who will be your broodmare and not talk back to you, I advise you to look elsewhere. My temper has twice the fire of my hair and I may not have your skill with the sword, but if I can see you my arrow will find you. I can read and write and I enjoy doing both, and all of my children, sons and daughters, will do the same."

"If my word is insufficient I will gladly include such a clause in the marriage contract. So, banshee of my dreams, chieftains daughter, will you join my house?"

Elaine stood up on her tip toes and kissed the big warrior. "God save you, I will. Come, let us speak with my father."

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Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Dream Space of the Ptesanwi

Grizzly and Kodiak were having an on period in their on-again off-again relationship; the two spirits wore their human guises and were quietly sharing anecdotes of older times as they led the way through the planes. Wyatt and Elaine walked behind them, hand in hand and smiling at the predilections of the old couple. Wyatt once more wore the billows sleeved shirt, vambraces, cloak and wrap pants of the Irish warrior poet that Aunghadhail had dressed him in what seemed like years ago but was only months. For no reason she could put her finger on, Elaine liked the outfit on her fiancé and felt it suited him. She leaned into his arm as they mounted the hill that Kayda's fire circle sat on the top of.

"You know," she said with a smile. "Since we are going to get married, it occurs to me that Ah should know everything about you. What's your middle name? A don't think Ah've ever heard you say it."

Wyatt's face clouded over and his gaze looked away. "I…uh, I don't really care for my middle name…" He hedged. Elaine rolled her eyes.

"Oh, come on!" She teased him. "It can't be worse than 'Ethel'." She shrugged as they continue to walk. "At least Ah come by it honestly, from mah great aunt Ethel on mah mother's side. So, come on! Tell me, or Ah'll tickle you!" She goosed a spot on his side that she knew he was particularly ticklish at and he only just kept in a bark of surprise."

Wyatt sighed as if he had just volunteered to single-handedly take out a machine gun nest. "Virgil," he admitted quietly.

"Well that's nothing to be…" Elaine started, but her eyes widened as she made the connection. "Wait! You're telling me that your full name is Wyatt Virgil Cody?!"

Wyatt blushed as they continued walking. "What can I say? My dad has a Western fixation…"

"And your mother allowed that?"

Wyatt chuckled darkly. "Sweetheart, I was 11 lbs. 4 oz. at birth. My mother was unconscious when I was named!"

"Hi guys," Debra greeted.

The Kodiak frowned as he looked around. "Where is the Ptesanwi?" He asked.

Debra blushed and clasped her hands over her stomach. "I'm sorry, she said she wasn't feeling well and is lying down. If you'll bear with us, we will try again tomorrow night. Again, I'm really sorry."

"Deb, please tell her Ah hope she gets to feeling better real soon."

"I will."

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Wednesday September 5th, 2007

Conference Room A, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Tansy sat in stunned silence for several minutes, letting Ms. Hartford's comments sink into her brain and make associations. What she had just said challenged so many of the woman's notions of what the world was and how it worked that the girl was stunned for several moments. It was not every day one joined a group that took the fate of the world and the entire human race into its own hands. This was so far past the normal superhero versus super villain dichotomy she was used to that she wasn't entirely certain how to respond. Finally, she licked her lips and asked her mentor, "Isn't that what government is supposed to be for?" she asked hesitantly. "I mean, you just appointed yourself and…"

"That's right," Ms. Hartford replied blithely. "We did just appoint ourselves. Who else was going to?" she demanded. "The US government played in low Earth orbit for 20 years. It would not have a permanent moon installation if it wasn't for our committee. The various corporations? They don't see a profit in expanding beyond orbital services because they don't consider the technologies mature enough.  Most of them anyway, The Committee does have its sights on one or two corporations, but that's neither here or there.  If we are to become a star-faring civilization humanity must be dragged kicking and screaming. There are over 100,000 near Earth objects capable of completely obliterating life on this planet back to bacteria! Those are only the ones that we know about! If just one of them hits us those in orbit and on the moon will be dead within a year. Humanity, and everything else in this world, goes extinct."

Tansy shuddered in her chair. "I guess… You weren't kidding when you said save the world."

Ms. Hartford smiled her disturbing smile. "Miss Walcutt, I had many nicknames and terms of endearment, pleasant or less so, during my time here, but no one has ever referred to me as the class clown." She gave her protégé an appraising glance." You wanted to know how far the rabbit hole went? You want to know who you are working for?" She opened the folder she had on the table and began to lay out photographs in front of the young blonde whose jaw fell open in shock.

"No! No… I don't believe it!"

Ms. Hartford only chuckled." You will find, my dear, that there are layers and depths to great people that most have no idea of."

Tansy stared at the photographs in front of her for a moment, then looked up at her mentor. "How…? How did you get wrapped up with these people?"

Ms. Hartford collected the photographs and return them to the folder before putting them away in her briefcase. "That," she replied, "is an interesting story, and I may even tell it to you someday. For now, I hope your curiosity has been satisfied because I need you to focus on the tasks at hand. You wanted to do great things? You will have that opportunity." She removed a separate folder from her briefcase and passed it across the table. "For now, Mrs. Carson has approved your little project, you and Miss Nalley are to pick one of these four candidates, keeping in mind that while your budget will allow you to purchase the most expensive one, the more you spend on it the less you have for outfitting."

"Yes ma'am."

Ms. Hartford stood and looked over Tansy’s shoulder out the window. "There are Miss Nalley and Miss Franks now. If you hurry, you can catch them." Tansy stood and dropped the folder in her book bag as she walked briskly through administration and down the stairs to the front foyer of Schuster Hall. Walking through the doors, under the half-moon shaped covered foyer, she caught sight of Elaine and Kayda just passing the statue of Noah Whateley.

"Lanie!" she called out picking up her pace so as to catch up. "Kayda!" Finally catching up, Tansy paused at the expression on Kayda's face; it looked like she just tasted something bitter. Then she caught a whiff of the two and realized that was probably what had making her strange faces. "What happened to you? You look like you went five rounds with Champion," Tansy asked in shock as she came between the two girls, laying a hand on both. Her nose curled up as the smell somehow got worse. "Phew! You stink, too!"

"Ah had a little disagreement with a hell-hound," Lanie chuckled. Even though her response was light-hearted, Tansy noticed that Kayda reacted to it with a frown; the young Shaman had taken quite a beating and had more cuts and bruises from the damned demon-dog than Elaine did. Lanie seemed to notice her faux pas and corrected herself. "We did," she said quickly. "And a whole bunch of slobberin' walking mouths!"

Kayda pulled one of the pac-man's teeth - more like shark teeth - out of a pocket. "Mrs. Carson said these are interesting, but we'd have to figure out why."

"How is it that it's only the two of you in the class?" Tansy asked Lanie. "I was talking to Marla Fontaine last evening, and she was a little miffed that she couldn't get in!"

"I bet that's what you were talking about!" Lanie laughed, which caused Tansy to blush a little and Kayda's expression soured further. Tansy thought that perhaps something was amiss and tried to make things seem much more innocent.

"We're in the same history class," she said defensively, "so we were talking about ideas for the term paper we have to research. We ended up teamed with Firecat, so it wasn't anything like what you're thinking in your dirty mind!" Tansy playfully slapped Lanie's arm, in hopes of lightening the mood, but Kayda looked like someone had just run over her puppy.

"I've got martial arts training next period," she said by way of excuse, "and since I keep a spare uniform and shower supplies in my locker, I'll just clean up there." The young shaman angrily stormed off.

"Kayda!" Tansy called after her, but the other girl either didn't hear or pretended that she didn't. Elaine laid a hand on Tansy shoulder.

"Let her go," the redhead told her. "What was an hour for you was three days for us. She's probably just tired. What do you need?"

Tansy wrinkled her nose. "What you need first and foremost is a shower! Then, we can go over the finalists…!"

Elaine's eyes went as wide as saucers. "Mrs. Carson approved…!"

Tansy couldn't keep a smug smile off her face. "Yep!" she replied. "We have a budget and everything."

Lanie linked her arm with Tansy and begin leading the blonde towards Poe cottage. "Well, let me get mah shower and we'll get to shopping!" Dropping her voice to a more conspiratorial tone she leaned in to the blonde's ear and whispered, "You want to wash mah back for me?"

Tansy blushed, but her heart began to thunder in her chest. "I… I might be persuaded…"

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Wednesday, September 6th, 2007 - Late Afternoon

Headmistress's Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

"You wanted to see me, Mrs. Carson?"

The Headmistress smiled and beckoned, indicating one of the chairs in front of her desk. "Come in, Miss Walcutt. Have a seat." Tansy came in pausing to see if Mrs. Carson wanted to shut the door and, when nothing was said, she left it open to sit down in the chair. "I just had a very lovely conversation with Mr. Garrett of the Interscholastic Sailing Association who informs me that the ISSA does indeed have a high school competition class and their rules state that as long as no disqualifying advantage power is used, mutants are allowed to compete all the way to the national level."

"That is good news," agreed Tansy. "What does he consider a disqualifying advantage power?"

Mrs. Carson didn't seem concerned. "He assures me there is a complete listing of the rules on their website, but his quick overview mentioned things like flight, super leap, telekinesis and things along those lines. I'm certain Miss Nalley will have all the rules sorted in short order. My congratulations on the two of you bringing in Whateley Academy's first interscholastic sport. You'll need to get with Ms. Hartford to sort out the details of the purchase, where the boat will be kept and things along those lines."

"There's a marina in Dover on the Cocheco River that gives us access to the Atlantic. I'll give Ms. Hartford the information."

Mrs. Carson smiled. "Tansy, I can't tell you how proud I am of you, for handling this project and the changes you've made in your life. You're on the right track. Keep it up!"

Tansy blushed as she stood. "Yes, ma'am."

As she was walking out the door, Mrs. Carson called after her, "Oh, Miss Walcutt? Have you and Miss Nalley come up with a name for the school's boat?"

Tansy smiled. "Lanie and I thought that the Jules Vern has a nice ring to it and is in keeping with the school's traditions."

"It does indeed!" Tansy passed Ms. Hartford's desk, grinning from ear to ear that, for once, she was leaving the headmistress's office and wasn't in trouble.

Ms. Hartford shook her head at the young girls exuberance. "Go and round up Miss Nalley, so we can finalize this," she ordered.

Tansy's memory of Elaine’s schedule told her the most likely place for her, right now, was in the quad and so directed her steps there quickly. Her instincts had not proven wrong as she quickly caught sight of Elaine and Kayda walking through the crowd of students. "Lanie!" she called, coming down the steps of Schuster Hall. "Hi, Kayda!"

"Hi, Tansy," Kayda answered with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, then icily reciprocated the welcoming hug Tansy gave her. Tansy was so excited from all the praise she just received she didn't notice. She turned to Lanie, and the two wrapped each other in warm, genuine, friendly hugs.

"Oh, so now there are three of you?" a guy sneered as he walked toward Crystal Hall. "You girls just need a good man to set you straight!"

"Now Ernie," Lanie said, breaking from the hug and putting her hands on her hips in a disdainful pose, "Ah do like men, or hadn't you heard that Ah'm dating Wyatt? Ah like my men big, strong, and well-hung, like Wyatt, and ... you're none of those!"

Ernie Schuler practically bared his teeth, snarling in anger and unable in his rage to think of a snappy comeback. After the gears in his mind slipped a few times, he shot us the evil eye and stormed off toward his destination.

"Nicely done," Tansy chuckled.

"Ah just enjoy puttin' idiots like that in their place," Lanie grinned.

"Lanie, Ms. Hartford wants to see us both," Tansy got back to the subject which had caused her to seek her friends. She turned to invite Kayda to join them, but the Lakota girl had already spun on her heel and was speed walking in the direction of Poe.

"Kayda?" Lanie called.

"Kayda don't you want…?" Tansy started, but Kayda just shouted over her shoulder without turning.

"I have to change, for ... for a meeting ... after dinner!"

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Wednesday, September 6th, 2007 - After Dinner

Room 502, Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy

Tansy sat on her bed, trying to focus on the history book she'd been reading. Even though she had all her credits to graduate there were only five classes of the more interesting variety this semester and her advisor was insistent that she take a sixth class so she picked a mutant history class. After she read the same sentence three times she sighed and closed the book. Even though Mustang helped considerably with her ability to focus and slog through boring, unpleasant tasks, it wasn't lack of interest or boredom that was bothering her. Every time she tried to read her mind kept going back to the shower she had shared with Elaine yesterday. She'd done considerably more than wash the redheads back and as much as she enjoyed it then, now it was beginning to bother her.

It wasn't that she regretted making love to the younger red head, indeed there was a part of her that desperately wanted to go to Poe cottage and seduce her again at that very moment. What was bothering her more and more were the secrets she was keeping from her lover. Her dreams were haunted by Maggie Finson's screaming voice and the look of Elaine's heartbreak on her face. "Maybe I am a whore," she whispered to herself.

That's not true, and we both know it, Mustang's voice scolded her.

Her phone began to vibrate on the bed, and turning it over she saw the number and rolled her eyes. "Speaking of whores," she muttered. Finally she decided to pick the phone up and answer it. "Hello Rita," she greeted. "What can I do for you?"

"Miss Walcutt," her father secretary greeted. "I was becoming concerned that I might have to get the administration involved in tracking you down."

Old Tansy strained against her leash. "Have you been calling?" she asked innocently with a saccharine sweetness that was meant to be unbelievable.

The secretary's voice was tightly controlled. "Perhaps I should send a technician to have a look at your phone?" she asked. "It's apparently malfunctioning."

Tansy made a dismissive gesture and cooed into the phone, "Oh, I'm sure it was just me. I'll figure this thing out eventually. How is daddy?" Are you still taking his Dick… Tation? she thought bitterly.

"Concerned about you," Salinger replied. "Some kind of altercation in Wyoming has come to light, and your father is curious as to what you were doing there."

None of your business, whore! Old Tansy snarled in her mind. "I took a little road trip with some school friends. Isn't that what you little people do? Road trips?"

The secretary's voice cooled, noticeably, by several degrees showing her barb had found its mark. "You should be more careful, Miss Walcutt," she remarked icily. "Head of security should've been made aware of your itinerary as a precaution against kidnapping."

"Oh, I'll try to remember that next time. Be sure and tell daddy I'm sorry I made him worry."

"Gladly," Salinger replied. "Is there any other message you'd like to give him?"

"Be sure to tell him graduation is June 13th. I wouldn't want him to miss it because I didn't get on his calendar. Bye." Tansy clicked the phone off with more relish than she probably needed before the secretary could respond. She stared at the home screen for several minutes, a picture of herself with Elaine on one side and Kayda on the other. They were leaning against Baby Girl in the garage of the Sioux Falls League the picture taken by Cornflower right before she and Elaine had left. Danny had crawled through the car to put a pair of rabbit ears behind his sister's head just as Debra had taken the picture. The blonde smiled at the memory and the fake argument the two had had over it.

She couldn't help being jealous of Kayda's family, or Elaine's come to think of it. She thought family like theirs only existed in sitcoms on television. Don't do this to yourself, Mustang advised her. We don't get to pick our family, but you have picked some good friends. Dwell on that.

"I'm trying," Tansy assured her spirit. "I'm trying."

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September 7th, 2007 predawn

The March of Dreams

As marriage contracts went, it was a surprisingly cordial bargaining. The primary domicile of the couple would remain Morlock, with weather permitting trips to Perth to visit in-laws. Domnall agreed to build a house the couple would share and Elaine offered up a small plot of land that had been hers by right of her grandfather for it to be built on. The banshee committed herself to providing him with at least three children, while Domnall committed to their inheritance, cost of schooling, and vows of support should the couple divorce. Simple, mutually agreed-upon grounds for divorce were written in the contract and both the bride and groom declined the breaking of a cup for the years of the contract, instead writing it until the death of either.

There were mutterings by gray-heads about the impetuousness of youth, but both bride and groom were insistent. The contract was read out before the entirety of the village, bride and groom signing their marks to the contract in full view of their peers and Elaine's father in his role as chieftain placed the heavy seal of Morlock in the hot wax making the contract official. The village priest walked the couple through Christian vows while Elaine's aunt wrapped a cord around the two holding hands and they were hand fasted in the manner of the old ways of the Picts and Celts.

Elaine's father feasted the village and his new in-laws who had journeyed from Perth to take part in the celebration. The father of the bride and the father of the groom toasted each other as brothers and drank with their arms interlocked. That night, even still slightly sore from his injuries, the banshee learned that Domnall mac Óengusa knew his way around a woman's body very well indeed. As she drifted off to sleep, sated, satisfied and happy, a chill ran down her spine warning her happiness is never a permanent condition.

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September 7th, 2007

The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy

Tansy sat a bit morosely at breakfast. Despite her successes in the past few days, having to deal with one of her father's whores always put her in a sour mood. She had to admit it been fun to be a bitch to the little cunt, but in the grand scheme of things Rita Salinger was just an opportunist. Being honest with herself Tansy almost couldn't blame her for living the golddiggers dream. Rita hadn't been around when her father had her mother committed, nor was she the reason her parents divorced. She wasn't the disease, merely a symptom.

Old Tansy strained at her leash hard, trying to convince her new self that wasn't dealing justice what they were all about? Tansy growled at herself, trying to control her id, when her eyes happened to fall on the figure just entering the cafeteria, Nancy Coolidge. A slow smile spread across Tansy's face as her old and new selves shook hands in agreement. Someone was due a large plate of karma and Tansy Walcutt was only too happy to be the waitress.

Dumping her tray in the dish pit, Tansy concentrated on reversing her glamour. It was a knack she'd picked up from Sahar when she had touched her once while her roommate was practicing it and realized it should be a fairly simple matter to make her own glamour do the same thing. Now, instead of it making her more noticeable, more beautiful and more attractive, the glamour reversed itself sending out waves of plain girl, average face in the crowd, someone else's problem. She felt the eyes of those passing the dish pit wash over her as if she were invisible, completely unnoticed. Digging out her phone, she got the camera application running and followed Nancy as she left the Crystal Hall.

Tansy became convinced that karma was a thing as she followed the brunette. While she went by a very circuitous path, she neither noticed Tansy, nor shook her off the trail. So when Nancy had her clandestine meeting with the Don, Tansy's phone was able to take beautiful pictures of the brunettes betrayal of Wyatt and the Alphas. Tansy practically skipped through the day relishing the various fantasies of Nancy's comeuppance.

At lunch, the blonde showed her pictures to Wyatt whose smile drifted off his face like clouds obscuring the summer sun. His face flushed red as he took his phone out and made a call to someone demanding verification. Tansy didn't know who Wyatt had that could verify that Nancy was a traitor, but she was certain as she had learned the hard way that Wyatt certainly had someone. By dinner time, Wyatt had his confirmation as he and Elaine met Tansy and they walked together to the Crystal Hall.

She would probably be ashamed to admit to it, but there was a portion of Tansy that was looking forward very much to what was coming. As they entered, Wyatt caught sight of Kayda and called out to her, Elaine and Tansy both doing the same, but for some reason the Lakota girl rushed out. "Dammit," Wyatt swore. "Fine, we'll deal with it this weekend." As he walked by, not bothering to go to the food lines first, Wyatt tapped Zoe on the shoulder and made a beckoning motion as he passed.

The senior emeritus and the three girls with him arrived at the Alpha dais where conversation came to a halt. Wyatt walked over to where Aries and Nancy were sitting, his massive arms crossed over his barrel chest. Nancy swallowed and wilted under the stare. "Uh, what can I do for you, Wyatt?"

With far more pleasure than even Tansy admitted she should've taken, she took out an 8 x 10 glossy of Nancy and the Don in their secret meeting. Laying it down in front of her, Tansy grinned and declared, "You can eat shit and die, bitch!"

"Zoe?" Wyatt rumbled. "Could I trouble you to take out the trash?"

The grin on Zenith's face was remarkably similar to Tansy's as she reached down and collected a pair of handfuls of Nancy's shirt and hauled her to her feet by them. "You heard the man, honey! Time for you to go!" Zenith frog marched Nancy off the Alphas dais while Wyatt stepped over to the edge and laid both hands on the railing, his booming voice carrying effortlessly over the entire Crystal Hall.

"Maybe not everybody got the memo, but the Alpha leadership Council is for leaders!" he shouted. "So I expect to see every club leader, training team leader, student assistant or other leadership position holder at the Council meeting Saturday to vote for the new alpha male and female! Let me just be clear, the shit that went on last year is not going to repeat! And anybody who tries it will answer to me!"

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September 7th, 2007

Office of Senior VP Theodore Walcutt, Chase Building, New York, New York

The phone buzzed in its intercom mode while Theodore Walcutt was in the process of deciding where he might consider advising the top-tier investors to speculate in the currency market for the next month. The market was particularly volatile as the election season was beginning to heat up and it would be a completely incumbent-free race. That always added volatility. Absently he reached over to the phone and pressed the button without taking his eyes off the screen. "Yes?"

Rita's voice was slightly distorted through the system. "Mr. Lewis is here to see you, sir."

Experiencing a rare moment of surprise, Theodore's eyebrows ascended his forehead and he closed his laptop before standing. "Send him in, please, Rita," he ordered as he walked over to the small, but well-stocked little bar on one wall. The door opened, revealing the professional, who walked over and shook hands with his employer.

"Mr. Walcutt, my apologies for intruding on your day, sir."

"Not at all Mr. Lewis," Walcutt replied. "Can I get you something?"

It was still quite early in the day and so, regretfully, Mr. Lewis passed on his employer's excellent Scotch. "Just a water sir, thank you."

The executive produced a pair of bottles of an expensive brand and led the way back to his desk taking a sip of his own as he did so. "You have news already Mr. Lewis?" He asked, genuinely surprised. Lewis's work was always top-notch, but such professionalism did generally take time.

Lewis however shook his head. "The investigation of your issue is ongoing, Mr. Walcutt," he replied. "However, there have been several complications I wanted to make you aware of."

Walcutt frowned. "Complications?" he asked.

Mr. Lewis nodded. "I cannot be certain at this point whether there is a third player involved, or if this is in fact more than a simple blackmail scheme. When one of my associates tracked down the original photographer as we discussed, we found that he had been…'professionally retired.' What's more his phone had been left at the scene with a veritable orgy of evidence pointing to a specific person."

Walcutt rubbed his chin. "You believe this was planted?"

The professional took a sip of his water and made a so-so gesture with one hand. "That investigation is still ongoing, though like you I have my doubts as to the veracity of what is on this device. There may be a third-party attempting to set you at odds with a rival. It could also just be sloppiness. I wanted to make you aware so that you could take appropriate security measures."

"I appreciate your diligence Mr. Lewis," Theodore complemented. "I'll have my head of security get in touch with you. You may speak freely with him."

Mr. Lewis stood, nodding as he did so. "Certainly, sir. If there's nothing else, I'll get back to work on your original issue."

"I'm indebted as always, Mr. Lewis."

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September 7th, 2007

Exercise Paddock, Stables, Whateley Academy

Danny Franks

Surprisingly enough, the one place that Danny seemed to find relief from the constant teasing and recruitment proposals from Wondercute was the stables. One would have thought that a group of girls that were just barely pubescent and obsessed with all things cute would practically live at the stables, but horses in the abstract and the reality of the large, dangerously powerful, and smelly animals were two very different things, which seemed to discourage them. But that didn't discourage Danny, indeed nothing could while she was there. Danny wasn't much of a rider himself - they had horses but primarily used quad ATVs, for work, on the farm - but he knew enough and he had seen enough people who were good riders to know that Tansy was exceptional.

She was wearing that polo team shirt again and a helmet along with the jeans and riding boots, holding the reins with one hand and some silly looking hammer that was half croquet mallet, half spike maul and she flowed with the horse as if the two of them were linked mentally. Tango changed directions on a dime, as well as going from trot to full on gallop, to canter and back - all without any kind of instruction that Danny could make out at all from Tansy. Every now and then she would swing the hammer at some imaginary ball even as she and the horse flowed through directions and speeds in the exercise yard.

To the eyes of Danny Franks it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Tansy finally noticed him and waved with the hammer as Tango slowed to a trot and ambled over. The mare immediately dipped her head and began to drink from the trough Danny was standing next to. "Hello, Danny!" Tansy greeted. Raising an eyebrow, she asked sardonically. "Aren't you supposed to be trimming grass or cutting hedges?"

Danny chuckled and made a dismissive gesture. "One of the first things you learn on the farm? The most efficient way to do anything."

Tansy took the mallet’s strap off her wrist and hung it on one of the posts of the fence. She reached up and took the helmet off which caused the blonde hair to cascade down across her shoulders in a yellow river. "Well, if you're not playing hooky, what brings you out here?"

Danny managed not to blush and shrugged. "Oh, I can dodge those little girls from Wondercute up here. To be honest, the barn smells like home and getting to watch a rider with your skills is always a privilege."

Tansy smiled down at the young man. "Now you're just buttering me up!" she protested.

Danny quickly put a hand up with one over his heart. "No! Really!" He swore. "Goodness knows, I can't ride anywhere near that well!"

Tansy shrugged and glanced at him sidelong. "It's just a matter of practice, like anything else," she told him. "Although, knowing the animal helps. I've known Tango here since she was born. Although, I don't think she likes the winters here. She was born on Maui."

Danny chuckled and shook his head. "Given the choice I'd rather be on Maui too!"

"You know," Tansy observed, "the secret to good riding is gripping with your knees. Most humans don't have enough strength to squeeze enough for the horse to notice. If you want to saddle up one of the other horses that belongs to the school I'd be happy to give you some pointers."

Danny's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Really? Now?"

Tansy chuckled. "You're here, I'm here, Tango's here, why not now?"

"Okay!" He replied as he rushed in the stables. Tango shook her head and blew a raspberry as if to give her opinion on the evenings outing.

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September 8th, 2007 predawn

The March of Dreams

Elaine was distracted to the point that the other banshees teased her about her mind wandering. Domnall had built the fine sturdy framework of the house on the plot Elaine had provided, but he had paid for professionals to finish it, and had the coin to do so. He had brought in masons from Perth to clapboard the walls and then line them in stone, and just now the thatchers, likewise brought in special, were finishing the roof. She couldn't help but be excited, if the journeyman who was overseeing the project and his four apprentices were to be believed, tonight she would sleep under her own roof.

Or, if the salacious innuendo of her sister banshees was to be believed sleep would be the last thing happening under the new roof. The warrior women of Morlock ambled to their targets to retrieve their arrows, most taunting Elaine, but the redhead gave as good as she was got, scolding her sister warriors on their unseemly jealousy. Arrows returned to the quiver they were about to return to their starting positions when the horn blew from the gate, announcing alarm. Elaine turned, seeing a single rider heading towards the longhouse of her father. He held a staff from which hung a green banner with the golden antlers of a stag, the sign of the Prince. Elaine shared a glance with her sisters, then began the trot to her father's longhouse.

Her father was already greeting the messenger when she arrived, her mother and the rest of the privy Council clustered around him. As Elaine strode forward, the crowd opened a bit and she could see the messenger present her father with the long black arrow, calling the various towns to war.