Siblings & Savages (Chapter2)
A Whateley Academy Story
Siblings and Savages
by Joe Gunnarson
August 30th, 2007… Lunchtime.
Everyone knew something was up when Jericho stood up on the Outcast table. He was dressed like a human being for once, which made everyone but the new freshthings incredibly nervous. He was wearing black slacks, and a button-up shirt, showing off that he still had a bit of weight to lose. He was wearing a stylish fedora over his dreadlocks.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who do not know me, and those who have only heard of me? I am Jericho. I bid you welcome to our home away from home. To those who do know me, We’ve made it through another year. Every face here, whether or not I like you, or you like me I am happy to see you return safe and sound.”
Jericho nodded to the crowd, and even the Alphas had poked their heads over the rails of the higher-tier tables. “So it is with this feeling of goodwill…” Very few people noticed the sandy-blonde ten-year old’s dawning look of horror, or the other Outcasts groaning. “I must make the formal announcement for the school year of 2007 and 2008.”
He grabbed his pants and shirt, tearing them away, then threw his hat to the underdogs, revealing a kaleidoscopic nightmare of fashion as he punched both arms to the sky and roared “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!” He promptly began riverdancing.
The screams of abject horror erupted as the barrettes pulling his dreadlocks into nightmare pigtails that Jericho had acquired from Jade began flashing, setting off the glitter-moire pattern embedded in the TRON-Esque light-tape jumpsuit he wore under a green and black woman’s motorcycle jacket and a pink-on-green plaid kilt that Jericho had (to the horror of his parents) paid to have officially made as his family tartan. Frilly stockings abused the body suit and the boots were platform crocs that raised him four more inches off the table, better for everyone to see him.
Even Fey, who knew Jericho and thought he was funny, was put off her food as she joined in with the Kimbas and Venus Inc. yelling “Jericho you fucker!” As the blind, black boy cackled madly, setting the mood as the horrified Outcast girls collectively grabbed him and sat on him, literally, as the rest of the school discovered that it was possible for an exemplar to be unable to facepalm hard enough.
Razorback’s wounded-seal, barking laughter did not stop for a solid ten minutes.
Almost lost in the din of outrage, four giggling nine and ten-year-olds gave Joe “Jericho” Turner a standing ovation, giggling nonstop at the boy’s ability to horrify everyone, including them!
A pair of twins in Marine BDUs stared at the spectacle.
“Boy’s got potential.”
“Think we should introduce him to the hidey-hole?”
“Watch him, we’ll find out.”
Both of the two realized that a Sophomore girl was staring at them with wide eyes and a dropped jaw that might safely touch the floor. Heckel and Jeckel both put their hands to their lips in a “shhh” gesture and slipped into the teacher’s lounge as Aquerna watched them go.
September 1st, 2007
Diamondback slithered across the quad, still more than a little self-conscious about the fact that almost every student on campus was less noticeably freaky than she was. It would have been a lot easier had she been able to find Janine or Monica to walk with. Even Caitlin was gone from the Thorny Den when she’s called over there to figure out who was out and about to hang with.
Secure in her self-image, Sandra Carter was not.
The quad outside of Schuster was bustling. She recognized the faces of the Alphas of all people manning grills, flipping burgers and prepping miscellaneous (from the smells and tastes wafting her way) amazing hot dog-like things. The Polish Sausages, with her sense of taste matching that of a snake, were delicious even from a distance, and the bottomless pit she called a stomach, somewhere in the top portion of the tail her hips merged into began grumbling.
Normally she would have avoided the gathering entirely and skipped straight to the Crystal Hall, but the sight of Kodiak wielding a spatula and dropping a small pile of burgers onto the plates of the Octopoid girl, Grabby and Murphy with her newly-GSD-Mangled face without so much as a second glance made her curious.
She got a few antsy looks, a few outright frightened ones from newly-arrived Freshmen who hadn’t gotten used to the idea that some of their classmates might look like monsters, and a few disgusted looks from the more bigoted among the student body. She hated walking, no, slithering in public. Her body’s alien appearance caused her as much pain as the occasional flash of deep appreciation did. Being an empath really, really sucked some days. Most days in fact.
It was the voice of Tansy Walcutt, of all people, singing Aerosmith’s “Dream On” that broke her self-conscious reverie, mercifully. The girl had a lovely singing voice, fortunately not quite lovely enough to make a stab of jealousy erupt. The fact that she still had legs, which Sandra was forgetting the feeling of, did.
When she got close, she realized that the faint sounds of Razor’s Fender were coming from Tansy’s arms while the raptor and Jericho watched her seranade a freshthing from the looks of it.
“I don’t believe it,” the boy said disbelievingly.
“That is why you fail.” The senior bombshell handed the Fender back to Razorback.
Sandra’s eyes hardened, and slitted pupils pulled into razor slashed that looked demonic as she came up behind the manipulative bitch who was undoubtedly messing with her friends and that Freshie, then stopped.
Tansy’s normally deceptive, crafty, manipulative bitch emotional state was not there. Sandra was absolutely confused.
“Awesome, you’re here.” She felt a massive bear-paw of a hand of a young man who probably didn’t realize that Sandra was was shocked insensible by Wyatt Cody’s genuinely-pleased-to-see her emotions and overall smugness that the picnic was going off without a hitch. She also caught the overtones of his spirit, the Bear that rode Wyatt’s instinctive distrust of snakes riding in concert with respect for them.
For a brief moment, Sandra’s vision was a nightmare hodgepodge of Astral and Physical features incongruous with each other as her two selves tried to pull themselves together after the unexpected derailment of their emotional state and being touched by something powerful cloaked in the skin of a should-have-graduated young man that couldn’t cloak itself from her for some reason. It was like the first time she’d hugged her sister, just not as immediately overwhelming.
“...ou okay, Diamondback?” Wyatt’s voice faded back in with genuine worry.
“Empath… touching. Wasn’t expecting…” She tried to reply while her two halves tried to pull themselves and their actual emotional state back together as Kodiak’s creeping worry about her sudden reaction affected her.
The hand immediately withdrew, and she was able to recover. She looked at Wyatt with a questioning look. “Ok I’ll bite, why is it Awesome that I’m here?” She caught a glimmer of why Elaine had a thing for him, and why Murphy had taken a hockey stick to his junk.
“Well, we’ve got a good thing going here. I asked Jericho and Razor there if they’d play some music, and they said that they needed you and Eldritch. Something about you having an amazing voice?”
“Ahhh, me compadre!” Jericho said as he came at Sandra like he was going to hug her.
The serpentine girl stopped him at arm’s length with a poke to the chest. “Diming me out again, Joe?” she asked drily.
“Ow, not an exemplar, remember?”
“Answer the question, buddy.”
“Umm, well, since we’ve been taking music classes, and since Mister King says…” He couldn’t really see her, but he could recognize the flat look she gave him. “I was hoping you’d share your angelic voice with the plebes?” he asked weakly as Wyatt chuckled.
“Go get set up Jericho, I’ll bribe the nice lady here.” The big bear of a man walked over and produced a plate of freshly-cooked, seasoned meats, piled high and tasting delicious even before she could bite in and actually savor the foods. “There’s more of that where this came from. Best meats for the people who sing for the plebes.”
Sandra took the plate gingerly and took a bite out of one of the seasoned burger patties and would have squeed at the flavor had Wyatt not been standing right there. It was good!
“There’s another couple plates of the good stuff if you humor me.”
Sandra gave Wyatt a dirty, suspicious look, then made her decision, slithering back over to where Joe and Jack were setting up the amps, running wires from Schuster hall outlets and generally getting ready as she slithered over, happily savoring the spicy, flavorful sausages, burger patties and meat slices that absolutely made her newly-carnivore anatomy sing.
Caitlin was already wheeling her drums over to the area and setting them up when she laughed at Jericho as Diamondback alternately glared daggers at him, then happily at her dwindling plate of food. When everyone else was ready she realized her plate was empty, and she was still hungry. She stared at the microphone her friends helpfully set up for her, then longingly at her empty paper plate. She looked over at Wyatt Cody, and saw another heaping plate of the delicious foods resting easily in the bear paw he called a hand.
A few minutes later, the opening riffs ripped out from Razor’s guitar as the speedmetal raptor lit off the opening of the song. Lots of eyes turned to the GSD group curiously and she felt a stab of excitement through the blood-circle link as Noms and Dimes rushed over to watch their friends play, skipping the food line to encourage the suddenly gun-shy Diamond’s voice to come out as the entire quad seemed to be watching her.
At an unspoken signal, all of the Outcasts overwhelmed her when the anticipation peaked and Sandra surprised herself, voice ringing out from the amplifiers as she began a thoroughly inappropriate version of an inappropriate for school song.
You, you’re driving black on black
Just got your license back
I got this feeling in my veins this train is coming off the track
I'll ask polite if the devil needs a ride
Because the angel on my right ain't hanging out with me tonight
you’re driving past my house while I was sneaking out
You got the car door opened up so I can jump in on the run
My mom don't know that I was missing
She'd be pissed if she could see the parts of me that you’ve been kissing
No, we're never gonna quit
Ain't nothing wrong with it
Just acting like we're animals
No, no matter where we go
'Cause everybody knows
We're just a couple of animals
So come on baby, I’m in
I got in, I’m all in
Look at the trouble we're in
As Sandra got into the song she began to move, sinuously dancing as she pulled the mic out to hold in hand as she had the one time she’d sung for the thornies last year as the energy of the crowd picked up and ramped up, and she rode the wave of excitement coming from the other kids like her serpentine belly was a surfboard.
The four small children were watching the monsters play music and were trying to dance, more bouncing up and down a lot like the crowd seemed to be. Miranda found herself watching as the loud noise gave lie to the very nervous girl in snake’s clothing insecurity, and smiled as she felt the girl’s confidence start to come in. Morgan was simply watching the spectacle of the speedmetal raptor, mouth agape as he watched a dinosaur play rock music! All in all for the kids this was even better than dinosaurs with laser guns on them!
I’m beside you on the seat
Got my hand between your knees
And I control how fast we go by just how hard I wanna squeeze
It's hard to steer when I’m breathing in your ear
But you got both hands on the wheel while I got both hands on your gears
By now, no doubt that we were heading south
I guess nobody ever taught me not to speak with a full mouth
'Cause this was it, like flicking on a switch
It felt so good you almost drove into the ditch
No, we're never gonna quit
Ain't nothing wrong with it
Just acting like we're animals
No, no matter where we go
'Cause everybody knows
We're just a couple of animals
So come on baby, I’m in
I got in, I’m all in
Look at the trouble we're in
Sandra grinned as more than a few students were worried that the outcasts would get everyone in trouble with the content of their singing when they realized that one of the Security Officers, a wiry black man, was dancing to the music as he walked past with an approving nod at the serpentine girl who was busy unintentionally reminding the boys in the crowd that she was not only female, but could move in some very interesting ways.
Anomaly and Deimos were rather helpfully grabbing random people and pulling them in to dance while the Outcasts rocked the quad. The two whirling dervishes of multi-limbed mayhem found far more people were willing to be dragged into fun than they would have expected.
We were parked out by the tracks
We're sitting in the back
And we just started getting busy
When I whispered "what was that?"
The wind, you think 'cause no one else knows where we are
And that was when I started screamin'
"That's my dad outside the car!"
Oh please, the keys, they're not in the ignition
Must have wound up on the floor while
We were switching our positions
I guess they knew that I was missing
As you tried to tell my dad it was my mouth that you been kissing
No, we're never gonna quit
Ain't nothing wrong with it
Just acting like we're animals
No, no matter where we go
'Cause everybody knows
We're just a couple of animals
So come on baby, I’m in
We're just a couple of animals
I got in, I’m all in
Ain't nothing wrong with it
Check out the trouble we're in
We're just a couple of animals
I got in, I’m all in
Sometime that day, three songs later-ish, Sandra Carter stopped being nervous about singing in front of crowds.
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007
The Fabulous Imp was, of course, hidden in a corner, camouflaged when her first student in the Art 2 course wandered into the room. The massive, spined, dinosaurian boy she’d mistaken for a bio-devisor pet stalked into the room and looked around sniffing the air, looked around like he could smell her, then seemed to shrug it off. He was a lot bigger up close, she realized as the hunched form was easily 6’6” while stooped like a velociraptor. Ah yes, Razorback.
He looked around, taking in the desks, seemed to realize that none of the ones in her room were built for his body shape and fully entered the classroom, dropping his pack unceremoniously on the floor and gathering up a stool with no back, and ramming two stand-alone desks together to make something big enough to justify his mass and promptly unloaded three portfolio reams and several types of pencil, including various fine-point detail pencils and colored ones.
Curiouser and curiouser, Imp thought to herself. She watched the massive Raptor look around, seem to look right at her and drop his head to the combined desks, looking like nothing so much as a massive Gator-Monster/Gila-Monster crossbreed waiting for prey to wander by. I wonder if Dino can see me, she considered, instinctively tagging the massive kid with the name of the Flintstones mascot.
Razorback, for his part, could hear the strong heartbeat, and breathing in the room. She smelled female, and of scales. She used the same Mineral oil Diamond used to polish her scales after Australia. Probably one of the Whitman chameleon girls who didn’t want to be alone with a rager. So he ignored her, and let the red nictitating membranes slide shut over his eyes, and let his eyes go half-lidded. He’d learned a long time ago, he made his peers less nervous if he looked like he was asleep, or on his way there. Saved a lot of bullshit he didn’t want to deal with.
Razor watched as a gaggle of Poesies wandered into the class, with the reigning cottage fixer, Zoe “Zenith” Nesmith in the lead. He recognized most of them, and Sigil was not high on his list of favorite peers, the boy having this incredible knack for being a fun-killer. The rest of them he knew in passing, mostly.
Jay-Arm was an unwelcome sight, and he joined the Poe guys and Gals in their mass huddle on the opposite side of the room from him, closer to the door. Jadis and Romeo, however, looked torn. Imp almost laughed at the worried looks they shot the dinosaur versus the annoyed and distasteful looks they offered to the prettyboy Bad Seed. The pair rather pointedly walked over and selected their desks near Razorback, giving Jack the perfect angle to check Jadis out without her knowing it.
When the class bell rang, no one moved to close the door, something Imp noted, as well as the positioning on the “pretty” side of the room as Kaiju also walked in, blanched, and sat with the pretties. Certain students had positioned themselves close enough to the door to intercept Razorback, and the murmuring told the unfortunate tale. The shaggy Blonde and one or two others were positioning themselves to be able to intercept Dino to give the others a chance to escape. There was also a circle of empty desks between the Bad Seed Prettyboy and any of the girls. Or the guys for that matter.
Imp shook her head, this wouldn’t do at all. She was going to have to do something about the seating arrangements here. She couldn’t have the “Them and Us” mindset of high school infecting her classroom. But first, she had to teach Dino that sleeping wasn’t such a brilliant idea. When the first student noticed her, she was already halfway to the GSD boy, taking the wide-eyed looks of disbelief to be a combination of awe at her fabulous horns and tail and shock that they’d somehow missed her. Her hand came out from behind her back to reveal the air horn in her hand.
“NO SONICS!” came the panicked yells from Jadis, Zenith, Kaiju and several of the Poesies as the makeshift desk exploded and the raptor leapt over her head, hit the ground behind Imp almost faster than she could track as the speedster leapt out of the classroom, hit the opposite wall in the hallway with a loud thump, and a lot of noise, tore ass to the end of the hallway before anyone had been able to fully react.
Suddenly, it dawned on the Imp that the space-buffer between Razorback and the rest of the class made a surprising amount of sense.
“Alright, before class begins,” Imp said with aplomb as though this happened everyday, “someone tell me what just happened.” She hadn’t even triggered the air horn she was holding out towards the toppled desks.
“Razorback is a Class-3 Rager, Speedster and high regen who’s killed his entire TEAM of exemplar fours when a siren shrieked him before they’d left their starting zones in the sims once last year.” Jadis was remarkably calm now that the crisis was over. “Sonics are one of his triggers.”
Imp blinked and simply leaned down and picked up one of Jack’s portfolio reams, then wandered back towards her desk and dropped the air horn in the wastepaper basket and the portfolio on her desk. “Well then, I do believe that’s enough of that, then.”
She wandered out in the hall, and found the dinosaurian boy on all fours, spines at max extension looking like a freaked out porcupine at the end of the hall. She held her hands up to show him the horn was gone. “No more air horn, sorry about that. I didn’t know.”
The Raptor-boy shrieked at her then came up on his back legs and stalked forward, letting out a series of chirps and barks that let her know that somehow, he was bitching her out even though it was evident that he couldn’t speak like a normal person. It reminded her of her nattering grandmother, scolding her for not being ladylike. She wasn’t sure what to think when he stopped and looked her over.
Jack looked at the teacher, had to be. She looked like she was starting into her thirties, with brown hair and black scales creeping along her face. The horns and lashing tail added to her claws to cook up the demonic look. She was cute! He took a moment to memorize her scent, and get another full eyeful, before stalking back into the classroom and picking up the remains of the desk, gathering up his gear, arranging everything again, and plopping his head down on the desk again.
Imp was back at her desk, paging through the unexpected treasures in the sketchbook she’d liberated from Dino. She had to chuckle at the first page: an elaborate and elegant pencil collage of classic writing and knotwork that said: THIS PORTFOLIO BELONGS TO RAZORBACK. GIVE IT BACK OR I WILL EAT YOU.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to class on time today. Welcome to Art Two.” Imp looked up from the sketch pad and smiled. She walked up to the blackboard where she had Ms. Imp drawn out. “As you may have guessed, I am Ms. Imp, or Imp, or if you must, The Fabulous Imp.”
“And now we know what Jericho would have been had he been born a girl!” Jay-arm piped up snarkily. Jadis rolled her eyes as Romeo threw a wad of paper at Nephandus’ head.
“And who, pray tell, is Jericho?”
“His partner in crime.” Jadis pointed at Razorback. “Can’t miss him, wardrobe that smites the eyes at fifty paces.”
Imp looked at Razorback, who was already snoozing again, reached under her desk and withdrew a six-shot Nerf revolver. “No sleeping in class,” she said quietly and fired at a point she thought was right between the Dinosaur-boy’s eyes.
Imp’s eyes popped wide like she had found a new favorite toy as the massive jaws snapped the Dart out of the air before it could hit him. Jack’s eyes unlidded with the nictitating membranes, and he set his head back on the desk, with a deep-throat warble of some kind as he raised his upper jaw like a gator waiting for a stupid animal to step between his teeth.
“This will never get old.” Imp’s voice was almost inaudible as she fired off the other five darts, grinning, at seemingly random angles as the insanely fast speedstar snatched the darts out of the air as fast as she could launch them. Imp was grinning from ear to ear as she realizes the other students were staring at her like she was a maniacal five-year-old who’d discovered Mountain Dew and firearms simultaneously.
As tempted as she was to reload and continue the game, she reluctantly set the odd sidearm down. “Well then, I can see this class is going to be entertaining. As I was saying, my name is Imp, and yes, before any of you go digging, I was an art thief before I decided that helping to mould young minds would be a better calling.”
-Mold them into what?- a mechanical, toneless voice came from the direction of the unreadable dinosaur face.
“Why mold them into model pictures of the citizenry, like myself.” She pointed at herself rather humbly, in fact.
Zenith facepalmed and groaned. “Imp and Razorback in the same class. We’re all doomed.”
“You have heard of me?” Imp grinned and sashayed over to the shaggy blonde in the hoodie. Her tail was lashing in a manner Razorback identified as pleased, and he angled his head so he could get a better look at her butt.
“Just a bit.” Zenith smirked. “You drove my uncle up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other trying to catch you.”
“Does your uncle have a name?” Imp grinned wickedly.
“Yeah his name is Uncle Not Telling Him Who My Art Teacher Is.” Zoe chuckled. “I’m beginning to understand why he got so mad. He never had a sense of humor.”
Imp beamed and walked back around the class, taking in the faces. One boy was a stormcloud of scowls. The kind of scowls Imp had come to associate with her “special friends.”
“Well then, does anyone have any questions before we begin.?”
-Yeah, I turn eighteen in a year and three months cutie, wanna go to the movies?- Razorback signed, just to see if he was going to have fun in the class.
Imp saw him waving his hands, and heard the three facepalms behind her and saw Jadis do so as well. In her experience, it wasn’t wise for the GSD kids to draw attention to themselves, and she had the funny feeling she was being made the butt of a joke. Time to turn it around.
“Well then, I suppose most of you are here for an easy A.” She said it lightly, and caught the velociraptor nodding shamelessly out of the corner of her eye. She wasn’t used to having people who could play off of her jokes without so much as blinking. The boy was likely a keeper, if nothing else.
At a few hesitant nods and a “well yeah” from around the room, Imp turned and picked up the class roll. “Good news, this will only likely be slightly harder than my Art History class, so long as you all take the effort to actually try.”
There were many sighs of relief in Whoville as she ran down the list. Everyone was present, including Jack Carlyle who gave a warbling chirp as she called his name. When she picked up his portfolio, he shrieked in protest. “The Garden of Good. Do you mind if I use this as a visual aid for the first part of class, Dino?”
She paused at the unintentional use of the nickname in her head, only to hear a sound that could only be described as a wounded seal being improperly clubbed.
“I think I broke the dinosaur.”
Kaiju rolled her eyes. “No, Razorback’s just has two modes, berserker killer, and rampaging smartass. That’s him laughing at you.”
“Oh good, that’s a relief. I’d hate to think I’d broken someone’s fragile little mind.” She almost lost it herself as the caricature picture on page one done in coloring pencil with a rather cartoony style depicted a very angry raptor choking a teacher that looked remarkably like Williams. The hands were wrapped around the caricature of the history teacher’s neck so tightly that his head had inflated like a balloon. The Raptor was yelling “World History is not just about you bloody Yanks!”
“Oh, I like this one.” She’d turned to a picture of two girls, cheek-to-cheek and very clearly twins. One had green scales creeping along the edges of her face, and the other looked normal save for the reptilian slitted eyes in blue that both girls shared, while both stuck their tongues out at the viewer, one pink, one forked and black. The colors set an interesting contrast against the grayscale face-studies.
“Here’s a good example of some of the things we will be going over.” She held out the picture that most of the room recognized immediately. “Shading, color, contrast, face-studies, body studies, and more are on the docket for the year, in various media.”
Everyone looked a little jolted back to reality as Imp dropped her normal juvie behavior and began talking about the thing she loved doing more than poking at people’s sanity. Almost. “This class is not about the basics, but refinement of your techniques. Since our friend here can’t speak easily, can anyone tell me if these girls depicted are real, or simply drawn from imagination?”
“Anomaly and Diamondback, Milady.” Razorback had to give Romeo credit, he had a knack for even making the GSD girls think they were worth the attention. “Both are Sophomores. Diamond in Whitman, and Anomaly in Poe, if I recall.”
“Interesting.” She paged through the sketches, drawings and studies, noting that a few of the faces in the room were present in effigy, and not always in the most flattering light. “Well, we will begin with a discussion of who you all are, and your favorite art medium, and why.” She talked for a few minutes about the various styles of art that would do well in the class while she had the kids’ undivided attention.
Razor, for his part, was watching Imp work, sketching a classroom with several students with odd helmets that had tendrils of wiring going everywhere. A cartoony teacher with horns stood lecturing in a blouse and skirt while her tail lashed back and forth while he listened to the lecture, and the occasional smartass comment from a student.
When the bell rang, he darted over to Imp’s desk, snatched his art book and was out the door before everyone was fully out of their seats.
“Well he certainly has the right idea.” She grinned. “What? That’s the bell! Shoo!”
All in all the older kids hadn’t been quite as impressed with her supervillain persona, which saved Imp a lot of trouble trying to get in character as a responsible adult. She walked over to the desk and smiled as she saw the classroom with “Imp’s Brainwashing Art Class” written on the blackboard Jack had drawn. The children were all intoning “WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE, SALUTE YOU.” The teacher, who looked like Imp herself, was facepalming, muttering “I knew the Villain-Mart was the wrong place for teaching supplies.” In the background, a chortling raptor could be seen giving two thumbs up.
Deimos sighed as she hiked towards the Martial Arts class she was sharing with the others. She wasn’t stupid, and she noticed that she no longer had a bubble of space buffer around her demarcating her accustomed terror aura. A lot of the kids who would otherwise run and hide when she approached last year almost didn’t realize who she was until she was right on top of them.
Then there was Caitlin’s rather correct idea that she was a projective empath to deal with. Always before she and Adrienne had thought of their terror generation as an aura like Fey’s glamour. None of the others said anything, but she’d noticed the change shortly after Adrienne had died. The odds that Diamondback and the others hadn’t noticed and put two and two together were so infinitesimally tiny that it wasn’t even worth considering. She knew they would never point it out for fear of making her feel more horrible about losing Adrienne.
She sighed. She missed her sister, and would have cheerfully gone through a lifetime of being a social misfit without more than the most strong-willed of friends gladly if it meant she could feel her sister again. It would have been even better had her twin gotten to experience the bonding she shared with Jericho, Diamond, Noms, Razor and Eldritch. Her new “siblings” were nothing like what any of the other kids at school could imagine, and they were strongest when helping each other.
Now she was an Outcast, but in a beautiful song of irony, she no longer felt like one.
Ito-Soke was waiting patiently as she settled in first. She had come to class wearing her Gi, and waited silently as she sat across from the evil midget who’s name was synonymous with pain.
“For once, I see you in here without apprehension in your eyes.” Ito looked at her. “What changed?”
Janine was a bit shocked, and more than a little flustered but she was able to find her words. “Loss, and I’ve found what it means to be accepted for who you are, what you are without condition.”
Ito noted the black tattoo on her upper-right hand, then noted the matching unity-wheels as the five outcasts clustered around Deimos. Every right hand, and Anomaly and Deimos’ upper-right hands had the same seven-handed arm-clasping wheel with the runes no one could read. “I see a few of you have discovered that lesson. Will it interfere with your ability to practice hard with your siblings, despite the hurt that can be caused?”
“I think I speak for all of us when I say that some lessons have to hurt.” Deimos nodded to Ito, and the other five Outcasts nodded.
“Very well, may I ask why you are all repeating the Martial Arts classes when I know that all of you are also taking Mrs. Dennon’s Brick class?”
“Too many hard lessons in real world pain.” Sandra said quietly.
“Because we’re too stupid or stubborn to run when we should.” Caitlin added.
“Because we’re in this together,” Joe finished.
Ito chuckled. “Well at least you all admit it. One by one, I will see what all of you have learned.” He stood and addressed all of the students, not just the six who clustered up front. When I, Or Tolman-Sensei call your name I expect you to show us what you have learned, and how your skills have fared over the summer.”
“Jericho.” Tolman called.
“Deimos.” Ito Answered as the two students popped to their feet.
Deimos squared off with Ito, and Jericho tossed his cane aside as the four bowed to each other.
“Hajime!” Ito barked the word and immediately had a whirling dervish of clawed hands folded carefully into fists, a pair of whip-like tails and two hooves came at him in a demon-dance of assault. Janine used her whole body, instinctively, tearing at Ito with a deceptive level of aggression that would have put any other student irrevocably on the defensive. Ito saw the trap, but took the bait anyway, to be caught by two low arms and almost thrown. He did not give up his return grip and reversed Deimos’ reversal. The exemplar hit the mat and bounced right back up to continue as the instructor edged up the amount of skill and force he was using, looking to gauge the girl.
Jericho waited until Tolman made her move and pulled her in like a snake into its coils, surprising everyone as the two slammed each other off of the mat, though it was rather evident that she, like Ito, was carefully gauging the combat style of her opponent. His fighting style went from purely defensive to a vicious amalgam of dirty tricks and cheap shots he’d learned from the other Outcasts, especially Caitlin. But again, he wound up flat on the mat as ito and Tolman called for their next opponents.
Ito chose Anomaly, and Tolman chose Diamondback. The rest of the class was mesmerized as the two instructors went toe-to-toe with the Outcast Twins. Anomaly’s plethora of limbs turned out to be as wicked as Sandra’s reflexes and serpentine speed as the two Outcast girls used their full bodies as weapons, not even being shy about taking shots that would never fly in a tournament, even if they measured their force carefully to let the person know when they had hit, and nothing more.
Many of the newer students were learning rapidly that Ito and Tolman were taking just as many vicious and “cheating” strikes as the Outcasts were. It was becoming rapidly apparent to everyone that neither instructor expected anyone to play nice. As the two terrifying girls stepped and slithered away, Ito and Tolman stepped in together and called in Eldritch and Razorback.
“Hajime!” Ito called before the two were fully on their feet. Cait and Razor caught the implication and shifted their movement, and suddenly an explosion of violence as the two veteran hand-fighters leapt at the two teachers as one. There was no give-and-take as Razorback landed on the spot Tolman and Ito vacated as he spun, lashing with tail, claws and jaws as Caitlin’s body snapped into a roll, coming up under her target who had moved. Both of the pair were the aggressors, period, moving far too fast and violently for anyone in the audience to see clearly what was happening.
It took Ito three solid minutes to find an opening in Caitlin’s running-and-jumping daredevil-cum-Capoeira, dirty-cheating-anything-goes combat style and slam the artificer to the mat. It took another two for the two instructors to fling the scaled whirlwind of death out of the circle together. Both Outcasts bowed and grinned as Ito-Sokei and Tolman-Sensei simply smoothed their Gi and called the next student as though they had not been run through a wringer by two of the biggest speedballs of acrobatic destruction in the class.
The Outcasts all moved to the side of the room for the more advanced students as Ito and Tolman sorted out which of the others would join them, or stay to the other parts of the room where the more beginner-level students would be. It wasn’t segregation so much as a delineation of who needed more help with what, and the use of powers could easily upset the balance depending on what they could do.
They were joined by Chaka, Jade, Hank and surprisingly Nikki Reilly. The other twenty students wound up across the room, while Ito worked them through their basic forms. Tolman came over to look at the lot of them. “Why am I not surprised that the lot of you are over here?”
“Just lucky I guess.” Chaka grinned. “I wanna spar with Eldritch. Her Ki is weird to the point where I don’t understand it.”
Caitlin rolled her eyes while the other Outcasts chuckled. Of course Toni Chandler would wanna play with the most destructive person in the grouping.
“You’ll get your chance.” Tolman looked at the lot of them. “But, we’re trying something new. Since the lot of you, oddly, almost all have real-world combat experience against dangerous threats, we’re going to be using you all to help the newer students and help critique them from your perspectives. Can anyone guess why?”
Caitlin kept her trap shut, not interested in playing teacher’s pet the way Everhart and Bardue had forced her the year before.
“Because you cannot achieve mastery without knowing yourself well enough to teach.” Joe’s statement was simple, and he’d heard Caitlin say as much, in different words, before.
Tolman nodded. “For the most part, since you lot have fought for your lives, you will be expected to, for the most part, occupy yourselves here. Myself and Ito-Sensei will, of course come by to add to the lessons. I will ask you all why you decided to not use powers, that wasn’t a condition of the exercise.”
“Makes it easier to evaluate our actual hand skills.” Anomaly answered this one. “Sure, we can go full-throttle, and I’ve done most of my learning over the summer along with Deimos going all out with the other Outcasts and learning what works that way, but it might not tell you as much.”
The other Outcasts agreed, and said as much.
“And the Kimbas?”
Fey shrugged. “Courtesy to teachers who did not say that powers should be used.”
“What they all said,” Hank added.
“Good enough answers.” Tolman looked over. “For now, pair off, and get used to each other. Every five minutes, swap sparring partners.”
The ten students on the mat nodded and found places as Chaka eyeballed Caitlin. “How good are you at martial arts?”
“No idea, I’m a street fighter.” Caitlin snapped her nightstick from the nowhere-space she kept it and the Reaper Blade, tucking the long end of the Tonfa-style weapon under her arm. Chaka whooped happily, drawing her Kukhri, and the two collided on the mat with enough force to draw the attention of every pair of eyes in the room.
The other Outcasts and Kimbas rolled their eyes at the two craziest among them and skipped pairing off in favor of a brawl on the mats where each would deal with whatever opponent presented themselves.
The Outcasts looked up at Carson nervously as she walked up to their table at the Crystal Hall. Caitlin gave her a suspicious, gauging glare that made Liz shake her head. “The six of you grab to-go boxes and come with me please.”
There was much grumbling and the four small ones who’d been parking at the Outcast table for meals, and undoubtedly learning all sorts of language and stories inappropriate for their age tried to be too small to notice. Carson smirked. “Shouldn’t you four be hanging out with the other students your age?”
“Aww please can we stay out here?” Ember pleaded. “Mega-Boy is a complete jerk!”
The other three nodded in agreement about the young size-warper who could grow ten feet tall and only Murphy seemed to have a knack for keeping under control.
“You can come out to the main Crystal Hall area under two conditions,” Carson said in a tone that brooked no argument, though was less forceful than what she directed at the other students as the Outcasts grumbled and went to get their to-go meals. The four small children perked up. “The first condition is you must have done well enough in classes during the week that Ms. Grimes tells you it’s okay. Second, you must have a teacher or High Schooler willing to sit with you and let you hang out with them. Since the Outcasts have some things we need to discuss, the second part is out.”
Four very grumbly and disgruntled children carried their trays back towards the section of the Crystal Hall the older kids dubbed “The kiddie pool.” Carson could hear the complaints with more adult-grade snark than she would have liked as the four little ones decided she was mean.
She turned and found six unamused sets of eyes holding their to-go meals staring at her while the rest of the Crystal Hall watched the Outcasts file out with the Headmistress. Lunchtime was a bit less squicky without Jericho’s wardrobe, for most of the students, though all of the onlookers who knew and cared about the Outcasts wondered what they had done to get singled out by Carson to begin with.
They knew something was up when Gunny Bardue handed Carson the keys to a van and opened the door. The six Outcasts piled in, and Gunny slammed the door and left Carson to drive with several very uncomfortable children as Razor had to lay along the back seat, and Diamond had to drape herself over the others, and the seats to fit in the miserable contraption.
Razor growled and grumbled in the back, the only noise Razorback made as the van bypassed the road to Dunwich, and instead went deeper into the Medawhila reservation. The blonde headmistress said nothing, and the two empaths in the group only felt Caitlin’s narrow-eyed suspicions and irritation with the woman.
When they arrived at their destination, Caitlin recognized it immediately, as the Outcasts desperately piled out of the vehicle. “Expecting me to explode again, Carson?”
“Not quite. Close the van doors and follow me. The van was swept for bugs, but just in case…” She immediately began walking, following a trail of crystallized and spectral grass that marked the path to destruction made by a range hand almost a year earlier. “You remember what this place is, Caitlin?”
“Powers Testing range that you bring kids to when their testing presents an imminent danger to the campus.”
“We bring Tennyo here occasionally so she can practice without endangering other children. Now we’re bringing the six of you, because you need a place away from prying eyes to help your seventh hand learn who she is, and what she can do.”
Six sets of eyes looked at her with flat expressions, unamused and suddenly understanding why they had been dragged out here.
“Oh come now, better I figured it out than someone like Don Sebastiano.” Elizabeth Carson drew her rod from her back and focused on it to suppress any sort of mystic eavesdropping over a wide area. “What I do want to know is why hide Fury?”
“She’s all I have left of Adrienne.” Deimos gave Carson an irritated look. “She’s as much my sister, and we don’t want her poked at like a science experiment or trotted out like she’s some kind of secret weapon intended for use as an edge in the simulators. She’s a person, not a thing.”
“All of you are in agreement with this assessment?” She didn’t know if she was pleased or apprehensive when all six of the Outcasts nodded as one, grimly. “Then we need to treat her as a student, and give her the chance to learn, correct?”
When the Outcasts did not disagree, Carson opened her phone and his speed dial. “Ernst? This is Elizabeth Carson. We are doing Powers Testing at Somnolence. It’s probably going to set off the Class-X sensors. Connect to Doyle so you can get a good telemetry feed that will allow you to filter the student’s signature out of the panic sensors. Yes, we are testing a Reality Warper, Codename: Fury. No MID at this time. This is a courtesy call Ernst. No further data will be provided save what you need to filter her from your sensors.”
“What was that all about?” Caitlin asked as Carson hung up.
“ARC and HPARC has sensors all over the continental United States to warn when Class-X entities start getting stirred up. You lot, plus your two Grunt buddies have been driving the HPARC researchers crazy trying to sort out what’s going on when you go on your hunts on the reservation.” She gave the outcasts a cold look. “Do not think I am unaware of your activities. The only reason I allow it is because I trust you all to have enough common sense to get out if you get in over your heads.”
Razorback got a sheepish look, and pretended very hard to be staring at his feet.
“Yes, I know full well about your instinctive reactions, Mister Carlyle.” Carson sighed. “Since I know I can’t stop you all from doing what you are doing, all I can do is help your chances of living through it.”
“Reality Warpers set off Class-X sensors because the Voodoo fuckers twist reality by being in it. Reality Warpers twist the world into knots in similar fashion.” Jericho said simply.
“And I brought you out here so that we can learn more about Anomaly as well.” Carson looked at Noms carefully. “I’m not liking what I’m hearing from every shaman, mage and Spirit-Paladin who puts eyes on her.”
“I haven’t done anything!” Monica was incredulous, and no one could really blame her.
“Fuck’s sake more Five-Fold-Court bullshit.” Caitlin looked up to an uncaring sky. “Let it die already!” she cried out in frustration.
“So you know more about what’s going on, Caitlin?”
“Yeah, Noms made a deal with a spirit who was tired of living, so the spirit walked her through a ritual to allow it to dissolve itself into Noms, effectively ending it’s own existence and being reborn as the six-armed wonder here.” Caitlin looked like she was tired of the subject. “It’s gone, kaput, finito. Noms subsumed it, and even the fragmented memories it claimed to have are no-show. Noms had a thought process that gives Psychics headaches trying to parse, but other than that, she’s basically just another warper.”
“You know which spirit, then.”
“Yes, I know which spirit, then, and I wish people would let it go.”
“I’m kinda in agreement with Caitlin there.” Monica looked at Carson. “I’m not interested in this Five-Fold Court legacy bullshit, I’m not some long-lost princess, and quite frankly I don’t give a fuck about some dreamy utopia where Gods, monsters, fae and worse ruled over humanity and everything else.”
“I’m kinda getting tired of hearing it too,” Sandra added. “The Sidhe kids can piss and moan about whining about how they once held power over the world, but I’m not interested in it.”
“That makes six of us,” Jericho said flatly.
Carson smiled. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. I’ll ask Circe to talk to the lot of you, then and explain what all of the noise is about.” She looked around, as though remembering why they were there. “Deimos, it’s about time. Would you please call Fury? The only sensors that should be functioning here belong to Doyle medical.”
“I got overwatch in case someone pisses in the pool or needs medical help,” Jericho said. “Noms? Eyes in the sky. Diamond, reinforce Carson’s wards and watch for Astral shit. Razor on patrol. Cait, you know what to do.”
Jericho put words to action by hitting a teleport beacon, causing his medical kit and shock-rifle to appear at his side. Anomaly shot skyward as Razorback began a loping circuit through the area, hunting for intruders. Diamondback slithered away, and drew her Tarot deck, sorting through the cards and beginning a World Spread on the ground a ways off, patterned to channel energy to reinforce the wards.
Carson raised an eyebrow, saying nothing as the Outcasts went about their tasks. She wasn’t prepared for Caitlin’s actions, nor Deimos’.
The two young woman stared at her as the world seemed to contract into a black hole pinpoint of space. When the two girls clapped their hand with the wheel-tattoos to each other, both of them ripped inward, and the world disgorged Fury in their place as the space around them burst back into place.
HPARC Black Monitoring Stations
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Carson wasn’t kidding! I have a Class-X spike at Somnolence, matching the signature of the unknown spike we’ve been tracking periodically at Whateley Academy and the ARC nerds have been picking up over the summer in Washington!” Chris Patton began adjusting the sensors as the warning klaxons went off. “Reality Warping, hard signature, telemetry feed from Doyle Medical is coming through strong. Only have a partially complete waveform.”
“Now if only we could afford to have the sensor nets cover the low-population, poor asshole and inner city regions of the country…” Jackson grumbled to himself. Funding was an old gripe, and the more sparsely populated states were usually the first to get the shaft.
Ernst looked at the sensor feeds and cursed. “No wonder Whateley never called for help on this one.”
“Waveform is shifting… and she’s a beauty!”
“What the fuck are those kids playing with in that school?” Jackson Wilde looked at his sensors. “Entry point data is off from normal breach rifts. That portal that opened looped back onto itself. Whatever it was that went out, came right back.”
“Consistency with known Class-X signatures?”
“Zero, boss, this signature is unique. Beginning detailed analysis and encoding for sensor filters. All data points to Terrestrial origin point.”
“Partial filter, Patton, let’s keep this one on file for study. We might be able to get some use out of this one if it isn’t extradimensional.”
“All data is recording. Permission to adjust Satellite viewpoint?”
“Bring it up.”
“Alright, adjusting focus… No shit, huh? It’s most of those kids we’ve been tracking on the reservation that have been stirring up shit and killing it!” Jackson brought up the pictures at Somnolence, showing four of the students whom had been the most frequent offenders in setting off Class-X sensors in the last fifteen years. “Got a flier, the new girl, gravimetrics indicate she’s a warper. Okay that’s Newbie alright. That raptor’s scooting around a patrol pattern. Mister Medic’s off to the side, Serpent’s accounted for… There she is. Damn that’s big.”
“Maybe we should put those teenage lunatics on the payroll,” Ernst mused quietly.
The researchers at HPARC were impressed at the towering, freakish female figure as it came into existence. It appeared to be…
Somnolence, Medawhila Reservation
“We are here, what do you want from us?” Fury dropped to a knee, so she could speak to the people around her more comfortably. The twin voices were in perfect sync, and Carson could see Caitlin’s tattoos mirrored and mimicked across the massive creature’s body along with her eternal irritability. Seeing both trios of eyes staring at her was… unsettling, as the face of a dead girl stared at her from the left side examined her curiously.
“I never thought I’d see the day that you would be able to talk.”
“If you came to gawk, we’re leaving.” Fury’s tone was as unamused as the outcast’s gazes.
“No, not to gawk, but I need to know how you’re here.”
“We have no idea. We should have died with Adrienne, she should be completely gone, yet here we are. We have no idea how we survived intact.”
“With us? Part of us? We remember Caitlin, she is us, we share.” Fury’s heads turned away, looking in different directions, as though trying to find words. “We do not know how to explain, or describe what we are, or how we share. We are Caitlin, We are the Fury Twins. We are Fury.”
“Amazing.” She looked at Fury. “You may not be formally a student, do you understand why you are here?”
“Not really,” both voices looked at her curiously. “We remember Powers Testing, but not as we are. This is not the place for testing we know.”
“We’re going to get a good idea where you are as a baseline, so you can learn how to control your powers. I intend to let you and the other Outcasts use the range here for the purposes of learning since we can’t just put you in Powers Theory.”
Fury rolled all six eyes. “We’re fairly certain that would be hilarious. Can we sit next to Jobe?”
For a brief moment, Carson was tempted. “Much as I would love to see the look on the Crown Princess of Karedonia’s face…”
“So would we,” Fury’s faces got twin evil grins. “We have a running bet with ourselves whether she’d piss herself or run her mouth.”
“Shall we begin?”
“Very well, Headmistress, since we are a guest, we shall play the game your way.” Fury drew herself to her full height. “What do you need us to do?”
First, we have you run, the old fashioned way. I’ll mark a path…”
HPARC Black Monitoring Stations
There was popcorn as the HPARC scientists watched Elizabeth Carson put the monster through her paces. It wasn’t often that a Class-X sensor went off and Psychological reinforcement and support weren’t needed. A HazMat cleanup team would doubtlessly be needed, but the eggheads were all clustered around the big screen while the instruments recorded. The images from Somnolence of Fury’s Power Testing were nothing short of spectacular.
Popcorn made it all better.
Wednesday, September 5th
“Why do they still have you in Hawthorne?” Sandra looked in askance as Caitlin made ready to split off from the others after breakfast. “Your aura of Ouch left with the tattoos.”
“Yeah but it comes back when I’m wounded and my tats get damaged, and I’m the Hawthorne RA helping out Mrs. Cantrell now.”
“Heh.” Deimos grinned. “Hey, at least we can tell the Whitman girls that you’re cool… For a Thorny.”
“Thorny inmates, best inmates.” Caitlin grinned back, “I told Cantrell I’d keep an eye on the anklebiters for a bit, since everyone’s favorite victim is no longer on the hook this year.”
“Ugh, why would you do that to children?” Deimos made a sour face. “Talk about cruelty. I mean her perfume alone…”
“I had to put up with her ass, remember? Murphy, as much a pain in the ass as she is, was a better choice for watching the little kids.”
“Oh God, I can only imagine how bad having the Maniac Mangler and the rugrats in the same room together,” Sandra just grinned. “Gotta give her props though, Joanne tries very, very hard to make the GSD kids feel like she’s not terrified of some of us.”
“Where’d she go? She never went back to Whitman,” Caitlin asked.
Sandra looked at Janine ruefully. “She got moved to Poe. They stuck her in a room with Noms since Murphy’s tricks and mangling just don’t work on Monica. We got to hear it when Mrs. Savage told her. The screaming fit was epic. You could hear her through the walls.”
“Then they stuck Psydoe in with Grabby.” Janine shook her head. “We pretty much have to swap off checking on Hannah to make sure she’s able to get her tentacled butt to classes on time.”
“And get her homework done,” Sandra added.
“And in bed properly.”
“And up in time to shower.”
“Why exactly did we let Murphy get moved again?” Deimos looked like she’d realized something horrible.
“Why’s Grabby such a problem?” Caitlin looked at the pair curiously.
“Hannah has narcolepsy something fierce. Only time she really fully wakes up is in the water.” Sandra shook her head. “I’ve been swimming with her before, she’s faster than anyone except Sylene in the water, and she’s alert the whole time. Get her on land and she starts conking out.”
“She breathes underwater?”
Janine nodded. “Yup, she’s hunky-dory in the pool, even with the chlorine. Doesn’t even phase her.”
“Huh.” Caitlin turned and looked at her cottage. “Okay, I need to go help out Fuub. The anklebiters are swarming Roulette.” She chuckled and waved to her friends as they wandered to their own cottage.
“Hey! Those aren’t ready!” Roulette’s voice wasn’t as annoyed as she could be, given that the four rambunctious kids swarming around her, trying to steal an early taste were fairly well-behaved for a small pack of sweet-thieves. “You have to at least let me get some of the cookies into the oven, first!”
The three girls and one boy comprising the newly-christened “Team Awesome!” were trying to steal the cookie dough through traditional methods rather than powers. They resorted to distraction, puppy-dog eyes, quick fingers and sneaking up to the cooling trays while Amy tried, mostly successfully, to fend off the little cookie-monsters.
Pahelee and Ember were after the dough while Morgan and Miranda were trying to get at the cookies that had just come from the oven. All of them were giggling insanely as they gave Roulette just enough trouble to swipe a treat or two. They were having more fun pretending to be horrible and unruly than they ever would have actually being rotten to Amy.
Miranda started giggling as Caitlin came in, mock-roaring and grabbing her sister, hauling her away. “I stole the Miranda!” She exaggeratedly hauled her sister away from her friends as Morgan, Revekah and Angelina chased after the bigger girl.
“Thanks Caitlin!” Roulette was able to cook in peace, finally! “Now I don’t have to add Lima Beans and Liver to the cookies!”
“EWWWWWWWWWWW!” came the unanimous cry from the younger kids.
Caitlin gave Miranda a quick hug. “Hey there little bit. What you all doing?”
“Driving Amy nuts.” Miranda grinned. “She’s nice. She lets us steal cookies.”
Caitlin chuckled and looked at the quartet of terror. “So you four hanging out then? What about the other kids?”
“Mega-Boy’s a jerk. He’s claiming that since he’s the biggest, he’s in charge.” Morgan gave a look of annoyance about the other kid.
“Diz just wants to play scrabble. She’s nice, but she’s too afraid to play,” Revekah added. “I think she’s scared of hurting us.”
Caitlin grinned. “Hell, she’s scared of hurting me!”
“Dr. Heavy’s fifteen, he doesn’t really like playing with the little kids, but Murphy bribes him so we can play bounce house.” Angelina would know, given she’d already spent a year in Hawthorne Correctional.
“Mental note, find out how Murphy bribes him.”
Miranda just hugged Caitlin. “I got a new big sis, and three friends. I’m good!” She was still learning to cope with having everyone else’s thoughts intrude on her own, hard to blame the little girl for not wanting to push the envelope.
“Wait, we’re allowed to adopt?” Morgan grinned and promptly turned into a miniature version of Nikki Reilly. “I pick the elf!”
“Okay, that’s disturbing. Why pick the elf?” Caitlin was afraid of the answer.
“Everyone thinks she’s the prettiest in school. I think she’d be pretty fun to steal goodies from.”
Caitlin facepalmed. “No approaching the elf with malicious intent.”
“Awww, can I adopt Jericho?” Suddenly there was a miniature fashion-disaster at her feet.
Caitlin groaned as the children giggled at her reaction. “I’m going to regret being nice to you four, aren’t I?”
“No good deed goes unpunished!” Miranda spoke the words silently running in her head in a singsong voice.
“I adopt… Petuja!”
“I adopt Lancer!
“I adopt Diamondback… No! Grabby!”
Caitlin could only laugh as the four little troublemakers argued about which “big brothers” or “sisters” they should adopt against their will.
Miranda cheated and said all the names that popped into Caitlin’s head that would make her groan.
It was almost midnight when Caitlin wandered out into the common-room, the big-screen TV parked in a corner quietly playing the news while a rather morbidly enraptured succubus-looking girl stared hollowly at the screen, watching for… something.
“Hey Ali, come on, you need sleep too, everyone has classes in the morning.” Caitlin saw the shockingly redheaded, winged girl look back at her with tears in her eyes from the huddled ball she was in. it was really only safe for Adore to come out when everyone was asleep, as Cait had learned over the last few days, and several loud complaints by morons on the staff who couldn’t understand that Thornies have issues.
Adore just looked at her and mumbled “Just a few more minutes…” then turned her attention back to the screen.
It took a lot for Caitlin to not just nod and carry on, as Alisaundra’s Siren voice tended to hit her hard. Caitlin wasn’t affected by most of Ali’s tricks she couldn’t turn off, but the siren song of her voice, another thing she couldn’t stop, made it hard to concentrate.
She shook her head, then reached over and scooped the girl off the couch, carrying her unresisting form back to her shielded room. Ali just watched the TV over her shoulder. Caitlin had played this game almost every night, and she couldn’t get the girl to up and tell her why she insisted on watching CNN until the darkest hours of the evening.
Depositing Adore in the room rigged to block her myriad auras, pheromones, touch and voice that could take most people from zero to desperately rutting animal without much warning was painless, and the exhausted girl was out cold almost before Caitlin dropped the blankets over her.
“You did good with Roulette the other day, kiddo. You’re going to be one of the good ones, aren’t you?” Caitlin clicked off the light, locked the door, and left the freshman to sleep off another day of stress.
“You’re not doing half-bad, for a cranky, violent, rager bitch,” Louis’ voice made her grin.
“What’s up Chthulhu Plushie? I was about to do a few rounds, make sure that everything was secure.”
“Or you can drop down, say hi and play a game of chess or two.”
“Alright bud, I’ll be there.”
Louis’s pool was quiet, placid, and only had two or three snot globs floating in the water. Caitlin just fished them out with the net and disposed of them.
“Thanks Cait, though I wish I could do that myself.”
“I wish you could have lived a normal life buddy, even if it would have cost me the opportunity for a friend.”
“Not being trapped in an olympic-sized fish bowl for the rest of your adult life.”
“Yeah, it’d be a lot easier even if I looked like Razor or Diamondback.”
“Yeah well…” She looked around. “Found Ali in front of the news again, I’m getting kind of worried.”
“Ali has a few issues, but she is actually talking to Bellows about them, unlike someone I know.”
“Not going round and round on this one, Louis.”
I know, but sometimes you worry me, my friend, and now Miranda is worried about you. You showed a ten-year-old just how much someone could hurt.
“Is it bad that I want to take a plane trip to Fairbanks and explain to my ‘rents my opinion of their dumping my ten-year-old sister off at Child-Protective Services without so much as a fare-thee-well?”
Bluntly, I’d be wondering about your mental state if you didn’t.
“All this bullshit. I prayed that my sisters wouldn’t have to deal with this shit.”
“How is Miranda doing, really? She’s latched onto me pretty hard, and I can’t imagine why, if I were her I’d be screaming at me for abandoning her.”
I think she figured out that you didn’t leave home willingly. As to the other? You’re the first person she’s related to who isn’t afraid of her. She’s a PDP-6 and has precious little self-control. She only hasn’t caused rooms to go full-on poltergeist or tear up other people's’ brains is because she listens when I ask her not to do certain things, or calm down.
“So my baby sister is in about the same boat you were?”
Essentially, though hopefully I can help keep her from winding up stuck in a pool blowing snot rockets at the walls for entertainment.
“Yeah I don’t think she’d take that well.”
Do you know why they might abandon Miranda?
“My Dad is an H1 fanatic who thinks that mutants are an aberration that should be isolated and studied as though it were an infectious disease. Dollars to Doughnuts he sucked up my mother’s wrath and threw Miranda to the wolves without her say-so.”
“I come by my temper honestly. I get it from my mom. The one time I was able to talk to Cally, she told me that after all was said and done with me, Mom just about tore him apart after I was gone and she could hand the baby off. I am led to believe that thrown kitchen knives were involved. After that, whenever I tried to call to talk to Mom or Cally, the phone would disconnect the line.”
Charming. Why didn’t you go back?
“I was eighteen, angry and stupid. Then I fell into it and became Twenty-Three, angry and at Whateley. Then I met Cat, and… I thought I had let it all go.”
So you basically wrote the family off?
“It was either that or stew in my own juices and get madder, which I did, a lot. Cally knew I was in the Marines, she could have told mom and they could have called me. I gave her my number.” Caitlin shrugged, still speaking to the empty air, watching the massive form under the water.
Perhaps there’s more to the story than we know.
“I only care about the story anymore because of Miranda.”
I can understand that. So what will you do?
“Same thing I do every night Pinky, try to feel like a normal person.”
Normal is overrated.
“True. I was just going to go wander campus till the sun came up.”
Mind if I join you?
“Not at all, buddy, not at all.”
Crystal Hall, Wednesday, September 6th
“Razorback… The Kimbas do not recoil from me… Find out why.” Jericho couldn’t help but grin as he realized that his friends a few tables over didn’t even blink as they’d waved over at him and his nightmare of technicolor fashion.
“Oh God,” Monica facepalmed as Razorback saluted, then crept out and low on all fours, grabbing Alicia from the Ghost-Walkers as he passed by their table and set her on his head like a hat as she protested disguising himself as an underdog as he crept forward as though everything were perfectly normal.
“What are you doing you great Okie Gator? Why you grabbin’ me?”
Kayda and the Ghost-walkers didn’t seem to know whether to laugh or to dogpile him as he quite obviously failed to sneak over to the Kimbas in disguise.
“Oh good lord,” Toni groaned as she shook her head, mimicking Anomaly’s facepalm. “Hi Alicia, how is the Ghost-Walking doing?”
“Be just fine if Dino-butt here would explain why he’s usin’ me as a hat!” She glared down at the Raptor.
-I’m not Razor, I am an underdog, see?- he pointed at his Alicia hat as he scanned the girls, Lancer and the table.
Nikki groaned and shook her head, as Razor looked over and saw that Jericho looked like a normal human being… Dressed in actual nice attire. This would not do.
“Are you two having fun?” the elf asked as everyone, once again, underestimated Razor’s powers of observation as he nodded, bobbing Alicia up and down rapidly.
“Stop that ya great scaly oaf! Ah am not a hat!”
Razorback set down Alicia gently, then shrieked triumphantly as he snatched the second crystal on the table that was next to the one they usually had, and darted away barking like a seal.
The Kimbas looked over and groaned as they were no longer protected from the walking, technicolor yawn they would have to put up with for the next three years.
“Mental note: Up my assessment of Razorback’s intelligence, and kill Jericho.” Ayla glared at the fashion disaster fairy who was smiling beatifically at them and put on the Anti-Jericho shades only to have a blue-tattooed Eldritch pluck them off her face from behind and put them on herself.
“Oh dear God, small mercies, I don’t have to see it.” The Amazonian Outcast breathed a sigh of relief and carried her food to her table as Ayla grumbled. The Outcasts were good people but sometimes they just played dirty!
After a few minutes, the six walking weapons of GSD Pride were all finished and headed out and Caitlin gave back Phase’s Jericho screens. “Thanks, I needed that.”
“Anytime,” the foodie said in a monotone with a flat gaze promising doom. Jericho was almost enough to put the Goodkind off food. Fortunately Marcel had outdone himself this day!
What they did not expect was for the seemingly antisocial, six-armed Anomaly to plop down in a chair next to Lancer.
“Gasp!” Toni let out. “Doth the basement princess deign to mingle with the commoners?”
“For today,” the reddish-brown-haired girl said archly in a way that could have mimicked a queen of the Sidhe. “Except you, I don’t associate with court jesters, at least, not the ones who aren’t in my court.” She gestured at Toni with a middle hand and looked pointedly at Jericho as he left.
Ayla found it almost uncanny how the GSD poesie didn’t seem to notice that she was, in fact, abnormal. She moved with a level of comfort with her body that almost seemed like she was born with it, or considered it normal. Anomaly’s antisocial behavior actually seemed to have more to do with unknown people than any particular social distress.
“So what brings you to us, today oh Her Majesty of the Realms below?” Nikki almost couldn’t stifle a giggle.
“You lot. The others won’t say it, but they’ve been worried about you all. Caitlin was going to stage an intervention last year for you, Fey, right up until…” She left the rest unsaid, noting the sad look on Ayla’s face. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
She smirked. “Despite the fact that you’re all a bunch of evil pretties,” she said breathily, buffing her nails and making it clear she was joking, “my siblings say you all are cool. So I come to you with words, and an opportunity. Have any of you asked my sister why she slapped the bejeezus out of Sharisha on your behalf?”
“No, we just thought she was cool, and knew what happens when you get outted to a potentially hostile person.”
Monica nodded ruefully, “She does, and it’s my fault because I panicked when I saw her eyes. But no, ever wondered why she stood up for a pair of changelings? My sister? My identical… twin sister? Food for thought.”
“We’ll be at the Jam room tonight. The Four Amigos will be tuning their instruments for a late thornie jam. We should be there shortly after dinner if you wish to come. Poesies welcome.”
The Kimbas watched Monica get up and walk away, some with a few very appraising looks, as the six-armed hermaphroditic changeling was an exemplar, and she had the body to prove it.
“Wait, Identical… But Monica said she started as a guy…” Ayla blinked as he chewed on the impossibility of identical twins of different genders.
“No way,” Toni blinked.
“Sandra?” Nikki just stared, “That would explain…”
Lancer just watched, and smirked, keeping his mouth shut as he stuffed his face. It wouldn’t do to tell a pack of genius girls that he’d figured it out when Toni had told the story, and after watching Diamondback and Tempest go rounds on the mat.
He knew the rule: let the girls win, even when they don’t. Unless they were going against Lily.
Buster was bored, and he didn’t see anyone worth messing with on the quad. Aquerna wasn’t going to be one he messed with, even though she was an underdog. He’d found out the hard way. She outnumbered him, by herself! It didn’t help that she’d also picked up running with the hooligans, and that pack of rowdies was absolutely notorious for for hammering people who messed with their runners.
Now the four little girls walking over from Hawthorne… he could have a bit of fun, nothing harmful. Maybe swipe most of the cookies the lot of them seemed to be carrying. The four were going to grow up looking amazing, but until then, no harm in a little messing with them.
He wasn’t expecting the blonde one to just look at him and say “Bully,” out loud, or three little sets of eyes to narrow at him. The little redhead interposed herself between him and the other three. He did recognize Ember, and his self-preservation impulse directed him to not mess directly with the little, uncontrolled pyromaniac. One does not lightly mess with a child that has to practice powers on Range 4 only.
“Bully? That’s a bit harsh. I think you need to apologize. You hurt my feelings.” He pushed the redhead to the side, looking at the dusky-skinned girl with black hair. “Although, I might forgive you if you hand over the cookies.”
Miranda looked right at him and used a phrase she’d heard right before she watched her big sister toss Jobe Ass-over-teakettle out the Hawthorne front door earlier that morning. “You have lost your rabid-ass mind.” The little blonde girl glared at him.
Fun was fun but this was getting irritating, and why did the little redhead grab his wrist as he held her away? Why was Ember grinning and backing up with the little blonde girl while the cookie-carrier gave him a challenging look. Bunster shoved the redhead to the ground, and heard an “OW!” and a crack.
He looked over, afraid he’d injured her when the kid grew a Glasgow Grin full of fangs, claws and spines, then leapt at him, shrieking like an angry cougar! Fangs clamped down on his neck and claws dug in as the little monster scrabbled and tore at him, not quite penetrating his skin but hurting like hell as the little hellion dug in, latching onto his arm as he started screaming “GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!”
Two security officers who had watched the dumb bully start picking on the grade-schoolers just… stopped.
“Ten bucks on the little ones.” Prison Bitch grinned as the petite girl carrying the cookies walked right up to Buster and kicked him in the shin so hard it knocked him over.
“Not taking that bet.”
The two watched quietly as Buster drew a crowd of people who were watching and laughing at him while he panicked, trying to get the little redheaded harridan off of him, and keep her from eating him.
Jerry Mendez watched the little blonde girl, just staring at the scene and suddenly realized why Buster, who was on the watch list could do nothing but panic while two grade-schoolers kicked his ass. It was heartwarming to see teamwork in a group that young.
“Delarose, Buster picked another fight, this time in full view of witnesses.”
“Really? After last week? Who’s he injuring? Is the altercation still in progress?”
“Not injuring boss, he’s getting his ass kicked by a pack of grade-schoolers. We’re letting the lesson sink in before we rescue his stupid ass. They aren’t really doing any damage, but he cannot effectively fight back.” Buster was still on the ground, desperately trying to keep the little savage from eating his face while the little indian girl continued kicking him while he was down.
“Maybe he’ll learn this time. Bring them all in.”
“Got it boss.” Bitch grinned and roared. “WHATELEY SECURITY! BREAK IT UP!”
The four little girls darted away from the bully, and the black-haired one who hadn’t been fighting darted in and retrieved the prize being fought over.
Anders hauled Buster to his feet and cuffed the still-panicking boy, pushing him towards the Security office.
Bitch looked at the little girls, who hadn’t started the scuffle. “You four, let’s go.”
He realized he didn’t need them and was about to turn away when he felt a voice go Miranda Nichole Mahren you let him go.
But we didn’t start it!
Doesn’t matter, you never do that to security for any reason, do you understand?
Bitch broke loose as she let her grip slack, realizing that, scarily, he never would have realized that he’d been mind-tapped had FUBAR not shut her down.
The little blonde girl was glowering in a way that he’d seen thousands of times before, directed at him. His jaw dropped, but he recovered. “It’s a baby Hijacker.” He shook himself loose and gestured. “Let’s go.”
Miranda walked with her friends, realizing two things: First, the security officer directing them was not an honest man by any stretch. Second, he knew her brother from before Erik became Caitlin, and he respected Erik. She almost felt sorry for trying to make him forget about the kids in the scuffle.
“HOOLIGANS! HOOLIGANS! HOOLIGANS! HOOLIGANS HOO-LI-GANS!” Zenith was roaring out the call that was traditionally sounded by “Teach” every year at an appropriate time. The senior took it upon herself to announce that the club was back in session, Teacher sponsor or not.
Caitlin heard Thrasher howl from the crowd, breaking off from the sk8r crowd he loitered with, then Aquerna caught on and joined the yelling.
The blue-tattooed artificer added her own voice, chanting “Hooligans” over and over as Slapdash joined them from the breakfast crowd. Gateway was overly enthusiastic, screaming the word over and over while Winnie and Chou looked at her, shocked. Caitlin pumped her fist into the air twice, and Zenith took the lead, setting the pace for the run as the Hooligans indulged in the tradition of ignoring all obstacles, including slow students.
Zenith took the lead, with the more experienced hooligans dogging her heels. Caitlin paced Gateway and Aquerna as the two were the most inexperienced runners. As she paced the two girls, Anna caught her second wind and began tearing off to catch the others.
“All right Molly, it’s just you and me, let’s see what you got.” It was the first time the troubled Outcast had really been able to work with just her, and Caitlin absolutely enjoyed showing Molly little things to practice, how to assess and steering her away from obstacles that might be a little too dangerous for her skill level on the run. She was also pleased to see that Gateway had been practicing.
For the first time in over a year, Caitlin Bardue felt like a person again.
Deimos was walking alone when she saw Froggy lumbering away from Twain Hall. Her hooves beat a steady beat on the pavement as she sort-of waved to him and the odd, goofy boy traveling in his wake. Thorn was an amusing boy, kind of cute in his own way but she wasn’t really in the mood to talk. The constant presence of her brothers and sisters floating in the back of her mind kept the edge off, but she still felt like there was a ghost floating next to her that should have been there.
Thorn saw her face, her expression and decided that no pretty face, no matter how odd, should look depressed. He simply stepped behind Froggy, and approached her, hand out, dressed in black funereal clothing, complete with a lividly lavender band tied around his hat with a big bow and matching spats. “Young lady, may I offer my ooofff!” Suddenly Thorn’s foot slipped out from under him as a banana peel went flying.
Janine stopped and blinked all three eyes at the unlikely spectacle, cocking her head, somewhat confused.
Thorn careened wildly and pitched forward, his cane forcing half its length up one of his nostrils. Still waving around wildly, Thorn jerked at his cane futilely, until it finally jerked loose with a loud pop! But his relief was short lived as a geyser of water erupted out of the cane, hitting him squarely in the face. He fought mightily against the rush of water, but lost his footing. Scrambling to keep his standing- and some shred of dignity- Thorn launched into a near-dance of slipping feet, and seemed to gain 16 new feet that thrashed about madly.
The confused girl just looked at Thorn, then at Froggy, then at Thorn, gaping at the unlikely spectacle of the self-induced chaos.
Thorn just barely managed to regain his balance, when a torrent of tar fell on him from somewhere on a roof, followed quickly by a flurry of white feathers. Thorn stood there for a wretched moment, looking improbably like a very well dressed giant chicken.
She couldn’t help it, the giggles just started as she stood there dumbly, marvelling at an absurdity worthy of jericho, or Beltane!
Just as Thorn was coming to grips with this, a round black bomb with a sputtering fuse landed in his hands. Thorn looked at it stupidly for a moment, not recognizing it. Then when recognition hit, he wasted valuable time recoiling in horror at the sight. Just as he had his arm pitched to throw the bomb as far away as he could, it exploded, blowing all the feathers off Thorn. And a good measure of his clothing as well. Still, somehow, his top hat, which had been blown completely off, managed to land on his head, if badly askew.
Two lower arms were clutching her belly, while she tried to stifle the giggles as her depressed mood came to a screeching halt while the living cartoon played itself out before her.
Thorn numbly took his battered hat off his head to look at it. Which was good for the hat, as it wasn’t there when the anvil dropped on his head. The Anvil forced Thorn through the ground, shattering the concrete beneath his feet. The boy tried frantically to climb up out of the hole, but he was impeded by the sulfurous fumes that billowed out of the hole, and even more so by the luridly red tentacles that grappled at him. “BACK!” he roared thrashing at the tentacles with his cane, “BACK! BACK! Back into the pit that spawned you!”
Deimos was gone, giggling and trying to catch her breath as she couldn’t take her eyes off of the trainwreck in progress that was Thorn being goofy.
Just as Thorn forced the unholy appendages back into the hole, a herd of wild buffalo came stampeding out of the the Crystal Hall, escaping the chefs, knocking him over and tramping him. Thorn lurched to his feet and looked with glazed confusion at the settling cloud of dust that was all that was left of the buffalo. He raised a tattered finger to say something, but was cut off when a bullet train hit him in the small of the back going the other way, and ran over him with 16 cars.
Reduced to a tattered tatterdemalion, Thorn rose to look down the tracks after the train, only to be run over by the 7th Cavalry in a full charge, complete with drawn sabers and a trumpet blaring.
Janine, and several other people just couldn’t help it, laughing as the Humanimaniac brought his performance to a close.
With massive effort, Thorn pulled himself up, horseshoe tracks all up and down his front, and tried to pull himself together. He looked at Deimos, raised a finger, groggily opened his mouth. Just as he was about to say something, a banana cream pie flew out of nowhere and struck him on the side of the face, covering half of his head in cream.
Thorn froze, and slowly, achingly, like an ancient oak in the forest, fell. He landed in a casket that had been conveniently placed there by two Edwardian era undertakers, who picked up the coffin and bore him Crystal Hall with all due haste.
Janine just watched, baffled, wondering what the hell she had just witnessed, still giggling madly, depression shattered like glass as Froggy just shook his head, following his partner in crime, the ectoplasmic showman to the Crystal Hall, chuckling.
Imp looked at the yellow flag, sourly, not wanting to bother worrying about it. She was a teacher on the campus, not a convict. So she wasn’t worrying about it. She walked right past several gawking students who looked like they had never seen fabulous horns and tail like hers before. Pity for them, since they were normal examples of bland humanity. No color or character at all!
The Imp was gracious to those who were not as blessed as she in the amazing looks department.
However the example of humanity walking forward, tapping his white cane ahead of him, should definitely have been classed as GSD. His clothing was invariably terrible, and made her eyeballs attempt to scream and flee at the sight of his artistically nightmarish attire. The hulking form of Razorback was almost unnoticeable against the very loud kilt the black boy wore.
“Boys, you know it’s a yellow flag day, you shouldn’t be deliberately flaunting school rules in this manner.” Her tail lashed a bit as she decided to set the example.
“Oh, I’m sorry, he’s my seeing eye raptor. I literally can’t go anywhere without him.” The boy grinned under his dreadlocks, and his clothes were quite a bit too baggy on his frame.
“I wasn’t talking about him,” Imp said with exaggerated forbearance, “I was talking about your wardrobe. How is it you always manage to clash so spectacularly?”
The raptor chirped, amused, and began signing, and a toneless voice came from the oddball pendant he had hanging from his neck. -Ok, you got me. Jericho is actually my service animal. His clothing is carefully calibrated so I can always find my way home in a snowstorm.-
“Ah, that makes sense, I see. Very well, but do try to keep him somewhat moderated on yellow flag days, Dino, he might scare the straights.”
Joe just grinned from ear to ear. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Razor, do you know what she’s talking about?”
-You have to forgive him, he’s a bit defective. I commissioned him from Jobe Wilkins.- The toneless voice just made Imp smile wider.
“Very well, my boy, since you seem to have the situation under control, carry on. Do try to be more discrete in the future?” With that, the Fabulous Imp strutted towards the Teacher’s Lounge, standing tall, tail lashing back and forth announcing that she was pleased with herself, having assisted in proper school discipline successfully.
Jericho chuckled at Razorback, handing over a five once the odd teacher was out of earshot. “Ok you were right, she’s cool, she’s cute, and she has a nice butt. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
-Don’t worry. Some day you will learn that to be Cretaceous is to be perfect.-
“I look forward to this enlightenment, my brother. No fear, no regrets.”
The two Outcast boys fistbumped and then proceeded to deliberately mosey into the Crystal Hall, following the Imp.
“Why is the blue-haired girl staring at me?” Diamondback was getting antsy as she noticed the exemplar hottie with the blue hair giving her the gimlet eye… again.
“Who, Sapphire?” Caitlin looked over, and the blue-haired girl had quickly looked away.
“That’s her name?” Sandra gave a look. “Should have known. But yeah, I see her around and she’s always looking at me like I killed her puppy.”
“You ate someone’s puppy?” Deimos asked lightly as she set her tray down. “Were you going to share with the rest of us?”
Sandra did the rare double-facepalm and groaned, dragging her hands down to her chin. “No, that blue haired bint’s been giving me the hairy eyeball every time I see her! What the hell is her problem?”
“Another fan?” Noms sat beside her sister and gave a quick hug then proceeded to devour her tray of food.
“Sapphire’s harmless,” Caitlin noted. “Near as we can guess, she’s afraid of snakes.”
“Afraid of snakes, if she’s phobic then she’s got the weirdest emotional context I have ever seen.” Diamondback shook her head and sighed. “It doesn’t make any sense. Whenever she looks at me I feel… jealousy. It doesn’t make sense.”
Deimos looked over and noted the girl who’d been looking at Sandra. “Huh.” She said nothing, digging into her food.
“Come on Dimes, at least tell me I’m not crazy.”
Janine patted Sandra’s hand placatingly. “Don’t worry dear, no one thinks you’re crazy,” she said in a soft, condescending tone one might use to tell an blistering idiot that no, they aren’t actually stupid.
“Gee, thanks, sis.”
Caitlin snerked, and a bit of root beer came out of her nose as she leaned over the edge of the table and gagged.
“Ahhh, we arrive, and Caitlin tries to kill herself. My wardrobe is complete.” Jericho grinned like a lunatic as he and Razor joined the crowd.
-Where’s the rugrats?-
“Oh, riiight.” Anomaly grinned. “So earlier today Buster tried to pick on little Team Awesome! and discovered that Shifty is a burgeoning little cannibal, Pahelee likes kicking shins, and is an Exemplar 4, and Miranda tried to mind-control security to get them out of trouble.”
Caitlin gagged. “She did what?”
“Oh yeah, the little stinkers are stuck cleaning toilets in Schuster Hall for a week. Buster got a week in Hawthorne for picking on grade-schoolers. Ember got off the hook because she didn’t go firestarter or hit anyone, but I saw her helping Pahelee cleaning the women’s bathroom.”
“Oh God, the family curse strikes again,” Caitlin rolled her eyes.
“What’s this?” Jericho grinned.
“My mom’s got a temper you wouldn’t believe. If she were a mutant, you’d get her sent to test for Diedricks on the spot. Screaming, histrionics, threats, thrown cutlery, you name it.” Caitlin ticked off each attribute on a finger as she went down the list. “The PTA banned her from coming to the school after a boy bit Cally, she punched the kid out, and then they only tried to punish Cally. Mom lost her shit.”
The other Outcasts were absolutely shocked. Not so much about Caitlin’s mother being crazy, she was Caitlin’s mother. It just made sense. But Caitlin never talked about her family. Never once in the past year they had known her.
Monica just looked at Caitlin. “So what you’re saying is your Mom is Evil Incarnate, you’re merely Apocalyptic Evil, and your baby sister is…” she tapped the fingers of three hands on the table, “...Chibi Evil?” She smirk on her face told everyone that Caitlin had stepped in it when she facepalmed. Again.
“Oh God I just can’t win today.”
“No, no you can’t. We are Karma, here to collect the debt for your sins,” Janine singsonged.
“Ah yes, before I forget.” Jericho turned and marched right over to the stairs at the center of the hall. As everyone watched in disbelief, Jericho tapped away with his cane until he reached the top platform and tables, where Kodiak and Saladin, the provisional leader of the Capes until the vote was held, were holding court.
The Alphas just stared at Jericho and his nightmare wardrobe. “What are you doing here, blind-boy?”
“Blind-boy me again and you’n me gonna go round and round Aries.” Joe’s Texas twang seeped in just a little as he didn’t even bother to look in the direction of the speaker. “And don’t try to speedster me or I’ll call Razorback up here with me, and Eldritch… oh what the hell, should I just call them up here now?”
The area was silent. “Thank you,” Joe said. “Hey Wyatt, I didn’t realize this table was guests-unwelcome for Sim Team Leaders from the freak dorms.”
Kodiak nodded, wiped his hands and face properly with a napkin and stood up. “Huh. Guess the memo didn’t get out loud enough.” He stood up and swatted Aries upside the head, for provoking a stand-off at the Alpha table. “Don’t do that again, Arnold,” Wyatt said very quietly.
Jericho didn’t even flinch as Kodiak stalked his way over to the stairs the blind Devisor was standing challengingly at him from. The senior looked down at him, and a lot of the Alphas were watching too.
“Listen up!” Wyatt roared. “Apparently the message didn’t get out!” he addressed everyone in the Crystal Hall simultaneously.
The Crystal hall stopped, and watched.
“This table is for all of the club-leaders, all of the sim-team leaders, regardless of dorm, regardless of appearance.” Kodiak looked around the area. “September twentieth is the day the new Alphas get pinned! Twain! Whitman! Hawthorne! Poe! I don’t see any of your student leaders at this table! That needs to change! I have seats for more than double the people represented here!” Kodiak looked down at the brazen black kid staring at him through those dead, white orbs. “Jericho, I’m going to ask you to please, remind them of the appointment. Melville Ballroom. Dress Appropriately.”
It wasn’t surprise, Kodiak saw in the blind devisor, but a sense of re-assessment and confirmation. “Don’t let the Alphas turn into a shitshow again.”
“Oh, I won’t.” Kodiak grinned. “There will be no repeats of Freya and the Don on my watch.”
“If there is, I’m takin’ over.” The blind boy grinned.
Kodiak couldn’t tell if Jericho was joking or not.
Outcast Corner- Tunnels under Hawthorne
Fury was coiled up on herself, moderately weirded out by the sensation of having scales creeping up her back and along her eight arms, though it didn’t hold a candle to having a lower body that felt like it was made out of a spring coil, and having it want to just… hang… over anything in the way for almost forty feet. It was interesting, to be sure, but she wasn’t sure she liked it, any more than the girl who was part of her did, even after a year of living it.
Jericho had installed a biometric lock on the door, so she could find privacy as she relaxed, reading the delicate and comically small books that her sisters had carried in before they joined. Doing homework was a novel experience for a creature yet unused to having sanity creep into her thoughts this close to other minds. She could read and comprehend both books at once, while two arms jotted down answers to homework that her sisters hadn’t intended for her to do, but since they were a part of her anyway, and they shared their thoughts as one being she didn’t believe it counted as cheating.
Listening to a tinny radio, Fury was happy enough to just be her, be there, enjoy living as a whole person. She wished she could hear the band play, but for that, they would need the expected visitors to not bother showing up at all. Joining with Anomaly would allow it, even if she preferred not straddling the gender fence. If she had to pick a side, female was the side.
Brass monkey began playing, and without so much as a thought, Fury changed the channel.
A light DING! Signalled that someone was at the door. Fury screwed her face up with annoyance, and sighed from two mouths. As much as her siblings were happy to raise a middle finger to the sky and tell the world to go fuck itself, she was not ready to face a campus full of people who thought she was a monster. A campus of people whom she had been a monster to, even if unwillingly. She didn’t want to face the fear, that tidal wave of terror again.
The world seemed to ripple, and Janine found herself sitting in Diamondback’s lap as the two Outcasts fell apart, wrapped in the coils with her blood-sister. She was much calmer than she had been when they arrived.
“Thank you Sandra.” She leaned back and hugged the snake girl and stood to stretch, then palm the lock on the door.
“Not a problem, Janine, though I think Fury doesn’t really like being a snake.”
“More she doesn’t quite understand it.”
“And isn’t used enough to it to filter it out.”
The door opened, and Jade, of all people popped in. “Hi! Monica said you guys were setting up the music tonight!”
“We’re going to kill her,” the two Outcasts said simultaneously, quietly.
Deimos waved the little girl in, rather bemused by the fact that Jade, as always, seemed rather nonplussed by either of their appearances even as her ghost-sister trailed in.
Sandra could only stare. She could ignore the weird, creepy interweave of destructive force written through both girls, and the odd stamp on both of their souls. She could ignore the vibrating wave of energy next to her blood-sister, who seemed to always be hand-in-hand with a translucent figure that matched her perfectly in the astral. She’d never told anyone about that faded figure next to Janine, and she didn’t plan to.
Jinn was no ghost. She was identical to Jade. She was Jade, a perfect copy of the bubbling, mischievous, maddening, maddened, mayhem-loving Jade. Suddenly the insanity of the Wondercute leader made perfect sense, and she didn’t feel that she wanted to share it with anyone.
“Diamondback?” Jade looked at her slyly, “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”
“Oh God, ok smartass, you and your sister pull up a slice of space.” Diamondback rolled her eyes.
“This is Outcast corner? It needs more pink. And Rainbows. And Unicorns.”
“Mental note: Give Jericho a charlie horse for his sins,” Deimos looked very pointedly at the all-too-innocent-appearing Poesie lunatic as she giggled at the GSD girl’s comment.
“FEE! FIE! FO! FUM! I smell the blood of the cutesie one!” Jericho stomped in exaggeratedly as he hauled in his bass, amp and a drum case.
“Hi Jericho!” Jade waved cheerfully, giggling.
“Jade, what have I told you about the Dress Code here in Outcast Corner?”
“NO!” Deimos clopped forward on her hooves and poked Joe in the chest with a claw. “You will NOT go about encouraging other people to mimic your fashion rebellion, Joe Turner, or so help me I will unleash the wrath unseen and unheard of!”
“Ow. No pokey me with the claw.” Jericho set down the amp to rub his chest. “Not an exemplar, remember?”
“”Joe if I see jade mimicking your outfit, I swear to all the Gods on high… I will tell Carson how you smuggle in your horrific clothing and let her make you got to get a new wardrobe from Cecilia Rogers.” Diamondback crossed her arms under her breasts and gave him the gimlet eye.
“Fine, fine!” Jericho said, exasperatedly. “Suck all of the joy out of my life.” He flipped Jade a small, Devisor file disk. “That’s for Bunny, for helping out with making better tools.”
Razorback stalked in and chirped, loaded down with yet more band gear. He was carrying a new guitar, and belatedly Diamondback realized that Joe’s bass had been replaced.
“What happened to your old gear?” Sandra tilted her head, curiously.
“Cait suggested that we might want to consider having two sets. One for classes, and one permanently set up down here. Since we put the biometric maglock in, we should be safe from people tryin’ to steal our shit.
Caitlin pushed in a flat cart full of drum cases into the huge room. “More the point I told Beavis and Butthead here that I’m not hauling a drumset up and down the tunnels every few days, then up to class.”
“You can afford that?” Deimos asked, curiously.
“You have any idea how much even the most basic shit me, Silver and Seraphim cook up sells for?”
Diamondback raised an eyebrow. “It honestly never occurred to me to wonder.”
“Yeah, I can afford some band gear. And when we’re gone, we can hard-code the master unlock to someone who will probably wind up here after us.”
“By the way, here you go.” Cait unceremoniously dumped a couple cases into Diamond’s arms.
The snake-girl looked at the logos and sighed. “You all are never going to let this go, are you?”
“Not a chance,” Jericho smiled beatifically at his best friend.
Generator grinned, enjoying the byplay between the Outcasts as Anomaly came into the room, followed by the full-strength group of Team Kimba.
“Hey, me amigos! Cumo esta!” Jericho grinned as the Outcasts all began setting up instruments.
“Holy shit, Jericho almost looks normal!” Toni snarked. She was grinning from ear to ear.
“What, doth mine ears deceive me?” Jericho sidled up. “Cousin Toni, good to see you! Nice duds, where can I get some?”
Toni Chandler stood there for a moment, mouth opening and closing silently like a gaping fish as Sandra, Monica, Nikki and Lancer all laughed.
“Told you it was inevitable,” Sandra said to a rather horrified Chaka.
“I am not going to be infected with Jericho’s wardrobe!” She harrumphed. “It is physically impossible!”
“I dunno, I think I’d look amazing in that tracksuit.”
“I think I just threw up in my mouth a lottle,” Caitlin said as she began putting the drumset together.
“Don’t you mean a little?” Nikki asked archly.
“I did not misspeak.”
“Everyone here?” Noms asked.
“I think so,” Ayla said. “Unless you wanted all of the people on our floor.”
“Nope!” Monica slammed the door shut and activated the maglock. “Ahhh, finally, we can quit tiptoeing through the fucking tulips with each other! Sandra, do you have anything to say?”
“Uhhhh, about what?” Sandra looked genuinely confused as her sister looked absolutely predatory.
“Anomaly here said you would share why you clobbered Sharisha last year before Christmas break,” Nikki said, curiously. “I kinda wondered myself. You took that whole situation rather… smoothly.”
Jericho summed up the Outcast knowledge of the incident with a very eloquent… “Hurrr? Uh Sandra, who’s Sharisha, and why did you clobber her?”
“Tempest, the girl I got into it with in Arena ‘77?”
“Yeah what was that shit about?” Caitlin asked.
“NOMS! That’s not my secret to tell!” Sandra yelled at her sister.
Monica, for her part, just grinned. “I know something none of you know…”
“Spit it out!” Lancer rolled his eyes at Anomaly.
Caitlin was looking at everyone, then counted off heads, remembered where they were from…
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” the tattooed Artificer grumbled as she picked up what was going on. “Hey Outcasts, everyone who is the same gender as they were before they started puberty raise your hand.”
Deimos and Jericho’s hands went up. Anomaly raised an elbow. “What? I’m still halfway there!”
“Everyone who actually gives a fuck what that gender was and is creeped out by it, keep your hands up.” Caitlin was rather dispassionately setting up two massive, Bass drums, and the Kimbas realized she hadn’t raised her hand either.
Jericho and Deimos’ hands dropped without hesitation at Caitlin’s second statement. The rest of the group, however was still more than a little thunderstruck.
Tennyo actually spoke up first in her harsh Drill-Sergeant voice. “Well that was blunt.”
-And yet we’re all still somehow more normal than Jericho.- Razorback’s vodor intoned solemnly.
“HEY! I resemble that remark, spine-butt.” Jericho stood and looked at the still-shocked Kimbas. “Me’n the twins here,” he pointed at Monica and Sandra, “have been tight since we were in diapers. After fifteen years of being my best buds, they both came down with a bad case of boobs ‘n GSD. They’re still my best buds. Don’t matter who you were, just who you are.”
“Razorback used to be a girl?” Jade blinked. “I would never have guessed.”
-I got better. Try not to hold it against me.- Jack signed and his vodor deadpanned his comment for him. -I know that all of you must be jealous of my sheer awesomeness, but I ask that you try and contain your jealousy.-
“So, all of you?” Sandra asked curiously, looking at the Kimbas.
“Me and Eldritch knew about each other since the night of our Combat Final, Nikki admitted,” as Jericho snickered. “What are you laughing at, Joe?”
“The irony that we’ve all been hanging out together on and off on our free time when we haven’t been talking to the docs or having freak-outs in shop class…”
“That was all you, Joe,” Caitlin said helpfully.
“And we’ve been doing stupid crap on the Rez…”
“Ok, I’m guilty of that, too.”
“It’s not like it’s the easiest thing to talk about with people.” Diamondback shot her sister a glare. “Noms there doesn’t have any body image issues, so she’s the exception to the rule.”
“That explains a lot.” Toni said.
“Haller keeps losing his shit because your sister keeps using the guy’s room and when he complains, she points out that she can still pee standing up so he needs to get over it.”
“Well I can!”
“Not helping Noms.” Deimos said as she shook her head. “None of us care, hell, if you weren’t dating Wallflower, I’d still ask you out on a date, Lancer.”
The other Outcasts stared at Dimes as she blurted out something she’d kept between herself and Adrienne. She promptly squeaked and tried to hide behind Razorback, who just shook his head.
Lancer, for his part, blinked, then mercifully didn’t contribute to the merciless teasing she had just earned from her blood-siblings. “Good to know that at least one person knows what I’m going through.”
-Sort of.- Razor signed. -The stories of me going feral in the Outback for almost three years are true. By the time the Overwatch crew taught me how to talk again, it didn’t seem important, so I just don’t worry about it anymore. I’m just glad I don’t have to wear Sunday dresses anymore.-
Everyone snerked as the toneless vodor told the story. Ayla chuckled.
Caitlin looked over. “Well, seems that Anomaly had other plans, so why don’t we grab a couple-dozen pizzas, chill out and swap stories for the night? I’m pretty sure we can cook up something a bit less awkward to talk about unexpectedly.”
The Kimbas breathed a slight sigh of relief. Noms had sprung this on them as much as on her own team, so everyone was a bit flustered.
Anomaly grinned. “I have a few awkward topics about Joe and Sandra…”
“NO!” Both of her childhood cohorts yelled in unison.
“You know the rule Anomaly, no telling tales from Texas until after Stockholm Syndrome kicks in,” Deimos said as she peered around Razorback.
“Now I know who the real mastermind of this outfit is.” Toni stuck out her tongue at Deimos.
“Bold words from the person who’s wearing clothing Jericho wants,” Caitlin said drily.
“Apparently he can have taste, now if only it applied to himself,” Chaka retorted.
“I’m standing right here, you know,” Joe said with mock-irritation.
“If you weren’t it wouldn’t be as fun!” Nikki grinned.
“Needs more Hammocks,” Ayla said, studying the room.
“We put those in Whitman,” Sandra singsonged.
“She sang! It’s a sign!” Jericho grinned as Diamondback facepalmed.
“Change of subject, so how did you Kimbas meet?” Sandra tried to steer the topic away from her singing.
“Well as coincidences would have it, we’re all insane. But we can’t tell the whole story per se because it involves other people whose secrets we kinda got stuck in the middle of.” Ayla looked over. “Though I do think we could tell you about…”
Caitlin smiled as an unknowing support network began forming in the tunnels under Hawthorne, in a large room everyone had started calling the Outcast’s Corner.
To Be Continued