Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 - Evening
Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Tisiphone lay next to Nitro on the fold-out bed, her head on his shoulder and their naked bodies covered by only a thin sheet. Despite the afterglow of an intense round of sex, something felt wrong. She was afraid.
Nitro noticed. "What's on your mind?" he asked, pausing to kiss her forehead on her soft red scales.
Tissy didn't move, didn't look up at her boyfriend, or the one who she thought was her boyfriend. "Dr. Bellows ... called me to his office this afternoon," she said hesitantly.
"Oh? What did he want? Nothing bad, I hope."
"He ... he explained to me," she said, her eyes moist as fear gripped her like a vise, "that ... that someone ... used something on us ... in the room last week," she continued softly. "Something that ... made us do what we did."
"Yeah, I know," Nitro replied. "He had the same conversation with me. He said it was lust-demon serum, and that there was no way would could have stopped ourselves." He let his lips brush Tissy's forehead again. "Apparently, someone used the same stuff on Elaine Nalley and Kayda Franks to humiliate them."
"Do you ..." she started to ask, but she couldn't continue for fear of his answer. The past week had been glorious, better than any she could remember in her life, and now she was afraid it was going to come crashing to an end.
"Do I regret it?" Nitro finished. "Only parts." He saw her moisture-laden eyes turn up toward his face, her lower lip trembling with fear of what he was going to say. "The only parts I regret are the ... stuff with ... Tee-Kay," he said, shuddering at the awful memory of gay sex with his friend. He bent forward and kissed her, a bit roughly. "I don't have a second's regret over what we did."
She did start crying then as he pulled her close, holding her tightly. "I'm scared," she admitted softly, "that the way you feel about me is because of that stuff still affecting us."
Nitro kissed her again, longer and more passionately this time. "Dr. Bellows said the stuff wears off in a few hours." He grinned. "By the time you and I woke up after we passed out, it was probably out of our systems."
"And you still ...?" She sniffled. "Even though I'm a ... a monster?"
Nitro tilted her head up to she was looking into his eyes. "You are not a monster, Tissy. You're very special - and you ... you're kind of a ... fantasy to me. You excite me, babe," Nitro admitted sheepishly. "I ... like being with you."
"Just because you're ... a horny guy?"
Nitro laughed. "Well, great sex is certainly a plus. But more than that, you're ... fun to do stuff with."
"Wait, you think I'm ... good?" Tissy asked, stunned. "I ... thought you'd ... be upset because sometimes I ... I get a little rough."
Nitro snuggled close to her. "To be honest," he said, blushing, "your rough play is ... is a real turn-on to me."
"Oh, really?" Tissy purred, looking up at him, her claw scratching across his chest, leaving four small reddish streaks that would have been bloody scratches if she had applied more pressure. "Even ... this?" she asked, rolling suddenly atop Nitro, pinning his arms beside him. "Even when I'm the one telling you what we're going to do? Even when I'm always taking charge?"
Nitro, pinned by her arms, her warm breath on his neck, not knowing if she was going to kiss or bite his neck or ears, felt himself getting strangely aroused by her dominant play. "Yes," he said, his body trembling with excitement.
"Yes, what?" she asked, her demonic teeth putting pressure on his neck, getting a little more assertive and dominant.
"Yes, Mistress Tissy," Nitro said, his arousal rising dramatically as she got more dominant and demanded him to be more and more submissive.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
TV Station 25UHF WFXT, Boston, MA
"Good evening, I'm Chet Harrison. The specter of mutant crime is raised once again in Roxbury tonight as a young girl was brutally murdered by what witnesses call some form of magical or mutant energy. We caution our viewers that some of the details of this report are disturbing and viewer discretion is advised. Here with the details of that crime is Fox25's Terry Hollings. Terry?"
"Chet. Roxbury residents were stunned earlier this year to discover a prison for dangerous paranormal criminals was built, in secret, in their neighborhood. A secret that was very publicly outed by the attack of the A-List Threat to Humanity known as The Necromancer which lead to the escape of an unknown number of criminals and mass murderers that City Hall still refuses to clarify. And while 'Roxbury C' as it was known has been shut down, no one in this neighborhood felt safe. And, as this cell phone camera footage shows, they had good reason not to. We warn our viewers, this footage is brutal and graphic, and viewer discretion is advised."
"She just appeared out of nowhere, yelling, 'Don't kill me, Nikki,' then all hell broke loose!"
"LaToya Smith was on her way to pick up her children from their day care when the mutant whose MID identifies as 'Hekate' appeared down the street from her. What followed was a brutal exchange of super human energy. And while her assailant, 'Nikki' is not seen, Hekate's murder is all too clear."
"I got my phone out thinking Lamplighter might show up, and then... And then... That poor girl!"
"What Latoya saw, and what we have chosen not to broadcast was that 'Nikki', whoever or whatever she is, caused Hekate to burst into flames and the young girl burned to death. Dan Heigel of the Boston MCO office confirms that 'Hekate,' a Greek citizen, was in the United States on a student visa. A student visa that was suspended as she was expelled from her school and was a person of interest, wanted for questioning in connection with the destruction of the supposedly vacant Heklin Insurance Building in Kansas City late last year, and other unspecified crimes. Public Affairs Officer Heigel had this to say."
"There is an ongoing investigation, which appears to involve both this crime and the Kansas City event. I can confirm the Mutant Commission Offices here in Boston and in Kansas City have been working closely with local law enforcement and the Department of Paranormal Affairs, but apart from the one MCO officer, no agency would officially comment. If and when we have further information a press conference will be called."
"Thank you Officer Heigel. The horribly burned body of Hekate is at the Boston Police Department morgue where, we are told, both scientific and magical forensics experts are examining the remains to see if there are any clues as to who this 'Nikki' could be, and how to go about bringing this dangerous and violent mutant to justice. Reporting live from Roxbury, I'm Terry Hollings, Fox 25 News."
May 10th, 2007
Room 216, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Team Kimba sat in Ayla's room, watching a recording of the broadcast. Most sat in shock at the news, but Fey had a determined scowl on her face. "Serves her right," she muttered angrily. "I hope the bitch is still burning! In Hell!"
"What?" Toni and Ayla asked, stunned at her callousness.
"She tried to make me into a mind-slave. She'd done it to Sky and Cav. She cost Jade her body. And don't forget what she did to Succubus. She deserves everything she got, and more," the redhead Sidhe said, her voice almost chilling in its lack of emotion or compassion or even warmth.
"Well, you now have a problem," Ayla pointed out unnecessarily. "The MCO and law enforcement are looking for someone dangerous and powerful, named Nikki. You could become a suspect. And with that DFA tag on your MID...."
Nikki stood, chin regally in the air. "If someone comes to me looking for trouble they'll find it! There's plenty more of what Hekate got!"
Toni sighed, shaking her head. "Why do I have the uneasy feeling that Hekate isn't done creating problems for you?" she asked rhetorically.
"Ask me if I care," the redhead replied as she left in a royal huff. Toni and Ayla shared a glance of foreboding, wondering how much more 'interesting' their lives just became.
Thursday, May 10th, 2007 Dinnertime
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the Ghost Walker's table at dinner, except that Vasiliy was dining with the Berets in deference to Chat Bleu, who seemed to be getting more interested in the Russian even though she was playing coy. The girls and Adrian were chatting as usual, patiently waiting for Kayda. Things were getting back to normal, but Evvie, Laurie, and Naomi couldn't help but worry about their Lakota friend. The admission that she was a lesbian had started a lot of nasty taunting, but that was offset because the news of her brutal rape had stirred something akin to sympathy among many of the girls, and they'd taken it upon themselves to stand up for Kayda against the anti-gay bullies.
"Wonder why she's late?" Evvie asked; her roommate hadn't come back from electronics class for a little hanging out before dinner, which was surprising.
Naomi shrugged. As a gadgeteer, she knew that sometimes people got busy in the labs and tunnels, and with Kayda having a bit of classwork to make up, her staying late for help from the teacher wouldn't be unusual. "Probably finishing a make-up lab," she speculated.
"Oh, there she is!" Laurie chimed in, spotting Kayda at the entrance door. She waved and caught the dusky girl's attention; Kayda waved back, smiling a little. "God," Laurie said, shaking her head, "I don't know how she puts up with all the gay-bashers!"
Adrian, seated next to her - as usual - shrugged. "I'd say that most of the guys aren't really rabidly anti-lesbian," he observed. "There are a few more because of ...," he dared not say the unspoken word, "now that they're certain she is totally gay. I mean, it spoils their fantasy of a little girl-on-girl as foreplay to a three-way."
Evvie and Naomi wrinkled their noses in disgust at the thought of a three-way with a guy. "Ewww!" Naomi protested verbally.
"And you know this 'secret guy stuff' how?" Laurie turned on Adrian, her eyes flaring.
"Um," Adrian belatedly realized that he'd stepped into dangerous territory with his girlfriend, "you know - guys talking. In the locker rooms and such," he added quickly.
"Uh, huh," Laurie replied caustically, her skepticism evident for all to hear. "Well let me tell you something, mister," she said, poking her finger in his chest, "if you decide that you want something like that, then you'll be looking for a new girlfriend. That is," she added menacingly, "when you get out of Doyle!"
Because she was later than normal, Kayda got through the serving and checkout lines quicker than normal. She squared her shoulders and prepared to march the 'gauntlet', the walk from the checkout lines to the Ghost Walker's table where she knew some guys were going to make rude comments and some girls were going to be extremely catty.
She strode purposefully, head held high, closing her mind to the comments around her, even though tonight's round was tamer than that at lunchtime. She so wanted to be like her friend Lanie, who kept her dignity and used her razor-sharp wit to crush those who made lewd or insulting comments. At least now, though, she had to admit, she was doing better at ignoring the morons and buffoons, and though the comments still got under her skin, she at least wasn't letting it show - as much.
Because of her focus, she failed to see an attractive brunette girl, about five-six, walking quickly toward her. The brunette was dressed down as if to hide her appearance, and her makeup was very light - if she wore any at all, but even if she'd worn fluorescent purple eye-shadow, the first thing most people would have noticed were her many, many piercings - in her nose, her lip, her eyebrows, and all around her earlobes.
"Excuse me?" the brunette interrupted Kayda's march through the valley of taunts. "Are you Kayda?"
The Lakota girl stopped, turning cautiously for fear of some kind of trick or gag. She made a quick check to see that her magic shield was in place. "Yes?" She gasped when she saw the girl's face, studded as it was by metal.
"You don't know me, but ...," the girl paused, not quite sure how to proceed. "A friend and I ... would like to talk with you about something - over dinner."
Kayda's eyes narrowed as she tried to 'feel' the girl's emotions and thoughts, desperately wishing she was an esper or telepath. "Is it important?" she asked warily, trying to buy herself time. She had no idea what motivated the brunette, and she really didn't want surprises; she'd had enough of those in the past several weeks.
The girl shrugged. "My friend and I think it might be ... beneficial ... to you if you would join us and we could talk a little."
"Um," Kayda tried to stall for time to think, "my friends and I just formed a training team," she said, the only thing she could think of at the moment, "and, well, they might want to talk about team stuff."
The brunette smiled sadly. "I understand that."
There was something about the girl's demeanor that tugged at Kayda. "Let me check, okay?" When the girl nodded, she strode quickly to their table. "Hey, guys," she said in greeting.
"Class run long?" Laurie asked simply.
Kayda shrugged. "I was trying to get caught back up on labs after we had a quiz, so it was a little hectic."
"Sit down and take a load off," Evvie patted the chair beside her.
"Actually," Kayda admitted, glancing over her shoulder, "someone invited me for a little talk over dinner."
"Oh?" Eyes widened around the table.
"Yeah, and I don't know who she is or what she might want, so ...." Her skepticism was understandable.
Evvie and Naomi turned to look over their shoulders, while Adrian and Laurie merely had to lift their gazes. "Hmm."
"What the hell does Skybolt want with you?" Evvie asked, astonished.
"Skybolt?" Kayda asked, her jaw dropping in surprise. "That's Skybolt?"
"I take it you heard about her," Adrian commented.
"Duh!" Kayda said sarcastically. "Is there anyone on campus who hasn't heard about her and the Alphas and the Don and Hekate?"
"I wonder what she wants," Naomi said, eyes narrow with suspicion.
"I guaran-damn-tee you it has nothing to do with the Don or the Alphas!" Adrian said with certainty.
"Maybe she's heard about your healing?" Evvie asked. When she saw puzzled looks around her, she explained, " I heard is that all those piercings have some kind of nasty magic enchantment on them so they won't heal, so she can't get them out."
"Too bad, too," Adrian said, shaking his head sadly. "She was an absolute knockout. Then she started hanging with the Don and Hekate, and she started getting all those piercings and looking so punk and trashy ...." He clearly disliked her new look. "I heard she got a lot of trashy tats, too."
"Maybe she heard about my healing or decontaminating the spikes and wants some help?" Kayda proffered a theory. She looked uncertainly at her roommate. "What do you think?"
Naomi and Evvie shrugged. So did Laurie. "If she wants your help, then yeah, I'd listen to her. But with her history, I'd be careful," Laurie cautioned Kayda.
The short, dark-haired girl took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. "I guess I can hear what she has to say, since it'll be in the caf, and there are security cameras all over." She turned and walked back to where Skybolt waited nervously. She seemed as uneasy in the "valley of the shadow of rumor" as Kayda had.
"Where do you want to sit?" Kayda asked, trying to sound confident but still nervous. The stories surrounding Skybolt and Cavalier and Hekate were many, and it wasn't clear which were truth and which were rumor.
"There's a quiet table back by the restrooms, behind the waterfall," Skybolt suggested.
"I know it well," Kayda said with a chuckle. "Some would say too well." The two girls walked casually away from the rumormongers and circled behind the waterfall. Kayda pulled up sharply, seeing another girl seated at the table. Girl? More like a young woman. She didn't look like a student, but was dressed more professionally, like she was a teacher. And yet, she looked too young to be on the faculty.
"Ms. Ricardo," Skybolt said a little nervously, "this is Kayda?"
Kayda stepped forward as Ms. Ricardo stood. "Please, call me Maria," she said as she took Kayda's tray and courteously set it on the table, after which she clasped Kayda's hand.
"Kayda Franks," Kayda said nervously.
"Yes, I know," Maria said.
"And I'm Skybolt - Elaine Schroepfer," Skybolt formally introduced herself. "Won't you have a seat?"
Kayda glanced nervously at the table and chairs, and then, keeping her eyes on Maria and Skybolt, she eased herself into the chair behind her tray.
"Let me introduce myself," Maria said, trying to break the ice and allay some of Kayda's suspicion. "I'm Maria Contessa Elyssa Gomez y Ricardo," she said, "but I'm better known as Songbird. I graduated last year."
"And I knew your ... I knew Debra. Unfortunately, due to some poor choices in my associates, we weren't exactly ... friends," Maria confessed simply, deliberately not trying to sound like she deserved sympathy. "I'm back as a faculty member now, for drama and sirens."
"I see," Kayda said cautiously, not quite sure where this was going. Suddenly, something clicked. "You ...." she said, her mouth hanging open in surprise. "You're ...."
Maria nodded, a sad cast to her expression, but her tone was even and there was no anger in her eyes. "Yes, I was, or rather we were."
"I...I'm sorry..." stuttered Kayda. "I...we... I ... I was afraid that ... you were going to be mad at me because of ...," Kayda said shyly to Maria, her voice tailing off at the end.
"For what?" Maria started to say, and then her eyes widened. "Oh. Oh!!!" She smiled. "I suppose I'm a bit jealous," she admitted, "but she hasn't been my girlfriend for almost a year. So I can't hold that against you, can I? Last year, yes, I would have. Now," she shook her head, her expression betraying a hint of sadness, "she's a student, and I'm faculty. Whether there was still anything," she winced, "let's just say that ethics and the law make resuming our relationship impossible."
Relief flooded through Kayda and Songbird forced a sad little smile. "There are things I regret, of course. But..." She sighed and her smile became just a bit less sad. "I've made my peace with it. However, Skybolt and I would like to talk with you about..."
Confusion swirled in Kayda's mind. "I ... I don't get it. Are you saying ...?"
Skybolt's mouth hung agape for a moment, and then she smiled sadly. "No. I ... have Cavalier, Jean-Michel Cardan."
"But there is something else we have in common," Maria said cryptically, looking at Skybolt to continue.
Skybolt nodded. "We heard rumors Monday evening," she said, "when you ... admitted ... certain events."
"And?" Kayda prompted cautiously.
"We all have something in common," Skybolt said, her voice quavering. Maria patted her hand reassuringly, giving the girl a look of confidence. "We ... are all ... victims of ... a particularly vile crime," she said, looking down as her cheeks flushed with shame.
Maria patted Skybolt's hand. "Neither of us have had to admit it publicly like you did," she said, "and all our experiences were different."
"Everyone knows what happened to me," Skybolt said sadly. "They ... basically pimped me out for favors when they tired of using me for their own amusement."
Kayda held her tongue, not sure what to say, or even if she should speak, although she was amazed at how Skybolt could contain her anger at what had been done to her. It was clear from the way Skybolt spoke - and from the stories - that her ordeal had been awful, perhaps, she mused, worse than her own. Skybolt had been imprisoned in her own mind, aware of everything and unable to stop it - for over a year! Kayda couldn't help shuddering at the horror the girl must have undergone.
"I was abused as a little girl," Maria admitted softly, "by my step-father. Repeatedly. And my mother knew and did nothing to stop him."
Kayda stared, wide-eyed, at the two girls and their horror stories. "I ...." she stammered, not sure what to say.
Maria shook her head. "We know. I was at the hearing," she said, this time patting Kayda's hand. "It ... must have been so humiliating to have to admit what happened to you."
Kayda looked at Maria, and saw the sympathy in her eyes. She felt her own eyes watering, and she hastily wiped at the still-forming tears.
"We're not here to judge you. I spent most of the last year working as a volunteer in a rape crisis center. After I spoke with Dr. Bellows, he gave me a tentative green light to try a Whateley rape survivor's group, to see if it would be useful to our students. It'll have to be ... ultra-secret, of course, to protect the privacy of any students who might need the group."
"You want ... me to be part ... of that group?"
Maria put her hand on Kayda's again. "Kayda," she said, her voice sympathetic, "we all have unique stories, but we all suffered from rape. We can help each other - when we have nightmares, when we feel sad for no reason, when we just need a friendly face and a comforting hug, when we need reassurance that we aren't the ones that were at fault, and that we're not broken but valuable human beings that were the victims."
Skybolt nodded when Kayda looked at her. "And if it happened to the three of us, you can bet that it happened to more. Even some ...," her voice cracked slightly, "boys have suffered." She winced, closing her eyes against the painful memories of Cavalier being sexually abused by the Don and the other Alpha sadists.
Maria nodded. "Rape and abuse of boys is under-reported and overlooked - and is just as devastating to the victims, maybe even more so because few think of it as a problem. You - as a shaman-in-training - can help, possibly even more than either of the other one of us."
Kayda glanced back and forth between the two women. "I ... I don't know ... if I could help ..."
Maria held her hand again. "Kayda, we're not asking you to suddenly be a counselor for rape survivors." She waited until the Lakota girl looked directly into her eyes. "We want you to help us and let us help you. We want to try this - the three of us..."
"And Cav," Skybolt said, her voice uncertain. "I hope he'll let us help him, too."
Maria nodded. "Rape is a very shameful thing for men to admit and talk about. But male survivors need help as much as we do. Maybe more."
Sky nodded in agreement. "He ... doesn't talk much about his sessions with Dr. Bellows. I worry, because he doesn't talk much about it at all, but I can see the pain in his eyes. I hope I can convince him."
"The three of us, or the four of us if Cav joins," Maria corrected herself, "to see if it's useful as part of counseling. Dr. Bellows thinks it will be. I think it will be." She looked into the Lakota girl's green eyes. "What do you say? Do you want to give it a try?"
"Um," Kayda hesitated, uncertain of how to answer, and yet knowing inside what Wakan Tanka would advise her, what she'd want her protigi to do. "Um, I guess I can try."
The girls clasped hands atop the table. "I hope you won't regret this," Maria said. "For some reason he wouldn't say, Dr. Bellows thinks you'll be particularly effective helping Cavalier. Although I suspect I know his reasoning." She shrugged, watching Kayda's eyebrows arch in surprise. "In any event, we can help each other."
Kayda nodded. "It's ... already comforting to not feel ... alone." She looked at Skybolt and then at Maria, seeing the sympathy and understanding in their eyes.
Without warning, she chuckled, surprising the other two. "What?" Maria asked.
"I was just thinking," the Lakota girl mused, smiling "that my ... spirit ... would approve not only of me getting help, but also - more - that I'd be doing what a shaman does - helping people." This might be very, very helpful.
May 11th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
"Come in Elyzia," Mrs. Carson greeted, waving the teacher in with a handful of sandwich. "Sorry, working lunch, can I get you something?"
Elyzia Grimes was even paler than normal as she shut the Headmistress' door and walked in. While her complexion and long, straight black hair, one would have thought she'd would be at home in some full length gown with bat's wings details; she was in fact wearing a very smart black skirt suit with white accents on the blazer's lapels, cuffs and the hem of the knee skirt that set off her legs very nicely. She sank into one of the overstuffed leather wingback chairs that faced the desk and shook her head. "No, thank you, Liz."
"How was Boston?"
"Liz, we have a problem," Elyzia replied. "Kallysta Thessellarean is dead."
Mrs. Carson put the sandwich back on her plate and turned off her monitor. "That's what Boston PD wanted you to consult about?" she asked softly. "They found her?"
"Her ... body..." the witch replied. "It was identified by cell phone footage of the ... attack ... and her MID ..."
"Nikki Reilly hasn't left the school grounds," Carson told her. "I know that for a fact."
"We both know she wouldn't need to," Elyzia said with a soft shake of her head.
Liz sat back in her chair and steepled her fingers. "The Black Hand?" Elyzia nodded. "You really think Nikki is capable of ..."
"I know Aunghadhail was," the witch replied. "I suspected when Solicitor ..." she trailed off and swallowed, banishing the memory. "Now, I'm certain. Liz, this is murder ..."
"I'm aware of the legal ramifications," the Headmistress replied. "Are you aware of what this could do? If Nikki faces a trial for murder, her defense will naturally bring up why the Black Hand was cast in the first place. That will involve this school, poor Cavalier and Skybolt and don't forget detailed testimony on the existence of Mythos Magic to the general public. Think what the backlash of that could mean, Elyzia."
"A girl is dead, Liz!"
"I didn't say she wouldn't be punished," the Headmistress told her. "I don't like being in this position any more than you." She sighed noisily. "God damn it! Why couldn't she have just gutted the little bitch at the time? That would have been simple self-defense! Damn Sidhe and their revenge games!"
"It's not Nikki's fault, Liz ..."
"Oh, my spirit made me do it? That will go over well," Mrs. Carson snapped, then grimaced at her tone. "Sorry. I'll call a meeting of the Trustees," she said at last. "We'll see how Ty and the others want to handle it. Much as I hate passing the buck, this is beyond what I can decide on my own."
"I'll await their decision, then," Ms. Grimes said softly, neither women liking the choices they had to make.
Saturday, May 12th, 2007, Lunchtime
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
The group sat in the cafeteria, chatting away happily about their newly-formed training team. She still disliked the name they'd chosen, but she didn't really have a choice; she'd be outvoted, since her friends were unanimous in choosing 'Ghost Walkers' as a team name.
When Kayda glanced around, she saw Lanie and Wyatt strolling happily out of the caf. She was manifesting her she-bear Grizzly form, with the side effect that she was extremely endowed, a stunning model of Amazonian womanhood that made just about every other girl green with envy. Tall, well-built, she made Kayda flinch that in comparison, she was a petite little, undeveloped girl with practically no breasts, or so it seemed. Her realization that she was _jealously_ comparing her feminine assets to Lanie caused her to start, and then to giggle.
On the way back to Poe, Naomi took an opportunity to ask. "What was so damned funny?"
Kayda smiled sheepishly. "Wakan Tanka and Tatanka have been fussing at me so much to accept being a woman - and at lunch, I was mentally comparing myself to some of the other girls, like Lanie."
"She's ... pretty curvy."
"And more-so when she's in the form of her she-bear."
"Damn, but that form has _ginormous_ tits!" Evvie said in awe.
"Yeah, and I was thinking how _little_ I am up top compared to her!" Kayda chuckled.
Evvie and Naomi laughed aloud. "You _are_ getting to be such a girl!"
"Yeah, I guess I am," Kayda said softly. "Don't you _dare_ tell her! Or anyone!"
"Are you going to the range for another simulation this afternoon?" Evvie asked, changing the subject.
Kayda shook her head. "No. I've got to go to town. I got a phone call that a special order is in, so I've got a few things I have to deliver."
"Oh?" Evvie asked, her eyebrows climbing up her forehead.
"Yeah. And it involves you guys, too," she said. When they pressed, she refused to give any more hints. "Just be in the study room at," she glanced at her watch, "four thirty."
Starting at four, Kayda began carrying many large boxes into the communal room, set them on a pile, and then cast a ghost-walking spell on them. No sooner had that been completed than Toni wandered in, looking around curiously. "What up, homey?" she asked in her typical casual way that Kayda knew she'd sound stupid trying to imitate.
"Yeah, what's going on?" Jade asked, following Toni closely.
"Just take a seat, and it'll be revealed soon enough," she said cryptically
Ayla, right behind her, cocked an eyebrow. "You're making this sound like the reveal of a cheap murder mystery," he said.
"Hey I know!" Toni declared, "Ayles did it, in the classroom, with a pedantic monologue!" Ayla just rolled his eyes at Toni's off-beat humor. Fey, Billie, and Hank entered, looking as puzzled as everyone else.
Evvie and Naomi soon joined the gathering of the Kimbas. "Okay, Kayda," Evvie demanded as she looked around, "I assume that _something_ is going on, since you've gathered us all here."
Kayda smiled innocently. "What makes you think I'm up to something?"
Fey stared at her. "Because you don't do the 'innocent' look very well."
"Do I have to get Rosalyn to tickle you to make you talk?" Naomi threatened.
"No!" Kayda said, flinching involuntarily at that thought. Ros would _like_ that!
"Are you going to tell?" Jade asked, eager and excited like a kid on Christmas.
"In a bit. I've got to go meet a few people in the lobby." With that, Kayda excused herself and went downstairs, where some of her other friends - Addy, Alicia, Adrian, Laurie, Vasiliy, and Anna were waiting. "I'm glad you could make it," she said enthusiastically, giving the girls quick hugs.
Laurie looked at Kayda suspiciously. "The way you made it sound, we didn't have a choice!"
"Yeah," Alicia drawled in her Cajun accent. "Y'all are up t' somethin', Ah can tell!"
"Oui," Addy added with a nod. "you are acting tres etrangement."
"Da," Vasiliy agreed. "You have secret you are not telling us, da?"
"Just follow me." Kayda led the group up the stairs and to the study room, which became even more crowded as they jostled for seats.
Lanie practically jumped to her feet and gave the Lakota girl a hug. "Ah was worried about bein' late," she said with a grin, "but Ah see Ah'm not the last one to the party." Wyatt stood wordlessly,, looking impassively at the two girls hugging each other.
Kayda returned the hug. "You and Wyatt must have slipped in the back door while I was meeting the others in the lobby."
"Yeah," she answered as she pulled Wyatt into a vacant love seat with her.
With sixteen students in the study room, it was more than a bit crowded. Everyone sat - Billie upside-down on the ceiling, Toni doing her trapeze act on the ropes, and a couple of people stretched out on the hammocks. "The reason I asked you all here today ...." Kayda began.
"... is you want to know where we were on the night of January Fourteenth," Fey deadpanned, which elicited some serious chuckles and guffaws.
Kayda tried to shoot her a glare, but the innocent, doe-eyed look she gave Kayda made it impossible to keep frowning, and Kaya giggled. "I wanted all of you to know how helpful you've been to me. My first weeks here have been ... hectic ..."
"Yeah," Hank interrupted, "you're making _us_ look like we're the sane and rational ones!"
"I wanted to thank you all for sticking by my side and for helping me believe in myself. Even through these last two ... rough weeks, you were all standing by my side." Kayda sounded a little choked up by the memories of just how much they'd helped, "and I wanted to say 'thank you' in a special way." With a deep breath, Kayda incanted a spell, and suddenly, a large pile of boxes was revealed in a corner.
Ayla's eyebrows rose incrementally, a testament to how well he controlled his emotions, while the others mostly stared at the pile of rather large boxes.
"Oooh! Christmas in May!" Jade giggled.
"And I didn't get you anything, Ayles," Toni said with a mock sigh.
"You can't open them until _everyone_ opens them at once," Kayda cautioned everyone as she started handing out the boxes. As she passed them around to the various people, Jade yelped in surprise, which elicited a chuckle from Kayda. "I told you not to open them." She smiled. "Or use your talent to peek inside. Just for that, I'll release the binding on yours last!"
"Shocking that Jade would try to snoop!" Billie said dryly.
Fey chuckled. It was nice to hear her perking up enough to laugh; she'd been through so much with losing Aunghadhail, and her smile told the group that she was recovering, if only slowly. "You put a binding on the boxes to keep us from opening them?" Kayda just grinned in response. Toni and Billie shot her unpleasant looks because Ayla didn't have a box, but Fey had a knowing smile. No doubt once she'd revealed the boxes, Fey had poked around magically and knew Kayda's secret.
Once all the boxes were passed out, Kayda released the spell she'd put on them. "You can open them now." She turned to Jade, trying hard to ignore the +10 Big Sad Puppy-Dog Eyes directed her way. "Except you," she said, quickly averting her gaze from Jade's devastating weapons.
Toni opened her box like a hyperactive kid full of caffeine on Christmas day, and she ooh'd and aah'd with delight as she pulled a pair of boots from the box. "Is this ... what I think it is?" she asked as she eyed the satin-finished ebony-black, tall, high-heeled calf boots.
"Yup," Kayda answered with a grin.
Toni did a flip off the ropes, kicked off her shoes midair and zipped her legs into the dark calf-boots before she landed gracefully. "Oh, yeah! We bad!" she said as she strutted around, modeling her new footwear. "We kick ass, take names, and wear the hides! Mess with us and you end up footwear!"
Fey rolled her eyes. "In case you forgot, Toni, Kayda and her friends did the ass-kicking."
"We can still wear the hides so we look bad!"
"How much hide did you get from the snake-demon?" Ayla asked warily. He'd schooled his expression to hide any emotion at the fact that he didn't have a gift.
"Way more than enough. Forty to fifty feet long, about five feet diameter - you figure it out!" All of the girls were oohing and aahing over their matching high-heeled calf boots and a matching belt, while the guys looked at their matching shoes and belt. Wyatt's footwear was somewhat special - they were boots that matched his Ren-fair look when manifesting Kodiak.
Anna gasped in surprise, then began gushing with delight. "Ohmygosh, they're beautiful!" she cried, her eyes misting that someone would give her a present. "You didn't have to do this. I mean," she continued, "I really like them, because I don't have much for fashionable footwear because my toenails can tear them up, and I can't really afford to get new shoes."
Kayda smiled at Anna. "I wanted to do something nice for my friends."
Anna launched herself into a crushing hug of Kayda. "They're wonderful! I've never had a pair of boots like this! Are you sure, though? I don't want you to spend your money on expensive presents, because ...."
"Anna," Kayda interrupted the stream of babble from the girl with the squirrel spirit, "hush! I wanted to do that, and it's no hardship for me. So enjoy them, okay?"
"How did you get our sizes?" Adrian asked as he tried on one shoe. "It fits perfectly!"
Kayda chuckled. "I have my sources." She glanced around, and seeing that everyone had opened their presents, she cast a quick spell, nodding to Jade that she could now open her gift.
Jade gasped, and then giggled with delight as she opened her present. "It's perfect!" She held up the purse, made of snakey's hide. On the front, embroidered in contrasting thread, was an outline of "Hello, Kitty".
Ayla wasn't the only one who groaned at that. "You shouldn't indulge her," he grumbled to Kayda with more than a hint of disgust in his voice.
"Kayda," Billie said cautiously, "did you forget Ayla?"
Kayda grinned like a Cheshire cat. "Nope," she said, cancelling the _other_ concealment spell and retrieving a large box, not yet giving it to Ayla. "I couldn't quite decide exactly _what_ to get, so I thought about giving you matching boots."
Ayla's eyes widened with horror at the thought that she'd gotten him a pair of sexy, high-heeled calf boots too.
She suddenly found herself wishing that Toni had had a mouthful of soda, because she _would have_ blown it out of her nose! As it was her derisive chuckle was highly entertaining. "Ayles, you gonna be _stylin_ in dem boots!"
"And then I thought maybe a pair that of simpler shoes," Kayda continued thoughtfully. "But with nice high-heels to match your teammates."
The look on Ayla's face got more distressed as he considered what she might have done.
"So I just told Celia to go wild with something really flashy and stylish for you."
It was Billie's and Lanie's turn to snort with laughter; they'd experienced Celia Rogers' design magic and could easily imagine Ayla ending up with something feminine and sexy.
Watching Kayda warily, Ayla opened the box, sighing with relief as he pulled out a pair of what looked to be Doc Martens, but with a _little bit_ of heel. His careful expression slipped - a little bit - to one of gratitude that she hadn't humiliated him with calf boots. A moment later, he pulled out a belt and then a matching purse. An eyebrow shot up as he held up the purse.
"You should all have purses - or wallets," Kayda noted, causing a scramble to look through the boxes again.
"This must have cost a fortune," Ayla observed. Kayda smiled smugly, and Ayla realized that she wasn't about to answer.
"Is this safe?" Fey asked the question Kayda had been expecting as she held up her boots. "I feel some ... magic residue on these." She was being more than a trifle cautious around something with a magic 'feel' to it.
Kayda grinned. "Watch this." Winding up, she cast a simple magic spell on Toni's boots and they scintillated in multicolored, iridescent glow as the magic interacted with the boots. "They have some magic resistance as well," she added.
"Way cool!" Toni beamed. "Cast a spell on me, sucka, and even my boots'll dazzle your ass, hypnotizing you while I kick your sorry butt!"
Kaya glanced over and saw Lanie looking at her boots with an appreciative but sad look. "What?"
"You know what'll happen if I manifest Griz while I'm wearing these," Lanie said cautiously, trying not to sound ungrateful.
Kayda grinned. "Try it. I think you'll be surprised."
Warily, Lanie took off her shoes, zipped on the boots, and then manifested Grizzly.
One would have thought that the sight of a somewhat tall, curvy redhead suddenly manifesting a nearly-seven-foot-tall, massive she-bear form would have caused panic, or at least consternation. The fact that no-one seemed to bat an eye - with the possible exception of Alicia and Addy - testified to how often really weird stuff happened at Whateley.
"They ... stretch!" Lanie exclaimed excitedly. "They still fit me perfectly!"
Kayda nodded, smiling. "That's one thing that the residual magic does - they'll fit you perfectly forever, no matter how much you grow. It's one property of snakey's skin. It'll stretch to fit, and it's very, very tough." She looked at Anna. "I don't think you'll ever have to worry about your toenails tearing through the boots."
Anna's eyes widened. "Are you sure? Because my toenails really tear up my shoes, and I can't afford to keep replacing shoes, so I have to file them every day and it takes a long time, and ....,"
"Anna," Kayda interrupted the girl again, "these should be okay. And as if you need, we can work something so we can use some of the leftover hide to make you other shoes that are a little more ... durable."
Anna gasped in surprise. "But ... I could never afford to pay for those, and I can't ask you to spend your money on shoes for me! They must have cost a lot, and I'm ...."
Kayda gave the squirrel girl a hug. "We'll figure out something, okay?" Once Anna nodded in understanding, Kayda turned back to Lanie. "Oh, and the leather bikini will be ready in a couple of days."
Lanie goggled at her friend, while Wyatt's eyebrows waggled with anticipation. "Bikini?" she asked nervously.
One by one, the gathered friends lined up to give Kayda hugs - or in the case of Adrian, Ayla, Hank, and Vasiliy, hand-shakes, because they were afraid of causing a panic attack. The girls, though, were all very enthusiastic in their embraces, none more-so than Jade with her 'Hello Kitty' purse, all the while trying to convince Kayda that it showed that she just had to join Wondercute. After a bit, the only one left to thank the Lakota girl was Wyatt. The big senior stood and stepped to the small girl, slowly reaching his beefy hand to shake hers. Lanie, hovering protectively beside Kayda, grabbed Wyatt's hand and stood tip-toe beside him, whispering something in his ear.
The puzzled look on Wyatt's face made Kayda wonder. "Are you sure?" Wyatt asked Lanie, his voice tinged with doubt. Lanie simply nodded.
With a shrug, Wyatt tentatively stretched out his arms, giving Kayda the opportunity to back away if she felt uncomfortable. But she didn't. Wyatt had helped her in a way that no-one else in the room knew. Like a kid hugging a favorite uncle, she practically leaped into his arms, encircling him in a heartfelt embrace.
Wyatt closed his arms tenderly on the girl. "Thank you for the boots," he said simply.
Feeling her eyes moisten, Kayda shook her head. "No," she said softly but emphatically. "Thank you for helping me heal."
"Ahem," Lanie cleared her throat after a few seconds, letting Kayda and Wyatt know that they'd hugged long enough in her opinion.
"Jealous?" Wyatt teased her.
Lanie frowned. "No. Ah don't want to be late for dinner."
"A likely excuse," Kayda giggled to Lanie as she eased out of Wyatt's hug.
That seemed to be a signal; everyone decided to collectively go to the cafeteria for dinner. Lanie and Wyatt went to the Alpha table, the Kimbas to their table on high, Anna and Alicia to sit with the Underdogs, and Addy excused herself to sit with the Berets, leaving the rest of the group at their usual table. Kayda and the girls couldn't help but smile at the buzz from some observant guys and probably jealous girls about the calf-tight, sexy boots all the girls wore. At the very least, Addy and Alicia were loving the attention; Cecilia had made the boots quite fashionable, and there was just something about shapely girls in tight calf-boots with high heels that screamed "sexy", at least to every boy with a pair of functioning eyeballs.
Back in Poe, Kayda picked up one last box and trudged up the stairs. Hesitantly, she knocked lightly on a door.
"I ... I didn't expect you!" the occupant said when she opened the door and saw Kayda.
"I have something ... for you. As a way of saying thanks," Kayda said timidly.
The other girl looked at Kayda, puzzled. "For ... what?"
"Open the box first."
Arching an eyebrow, with her fingernail, she sliced the tape holding the lid and then hesitantly opened the box. As expected, her jaw dropped in shock. As she pulled one of the boots out of the box, she gasped. "They're ... gorgeous!" She threw her arms around Kayda, wrapping her tightly into an embrace as her damp cheek pressed against the Lakota girl's. "Thank you!" she gushed.
"No, thank you," Kayda replied sincerely, returning the hug enthusiastically, "for everything you did to help me through my first weeks here."
"You shouldn't have!"
Kayda smiled. "I like doing nice things for my friends."
She pulled back, her surprise plain to see. "After all that - after what I had to say in the hearing, you ...." She was having a hard time finding words. "You ... think of me as ... a friend?"
The Lakota girl smiled. "Yes." She swept the other back into an embrace, and after a moment, pulled back from the hug. "If you have any problems with fit, let me know, but they're kind of magic, so they should fit okay."
Giving Rosalyn a friendly kiss on her cheek, Kayda turned, and with a smile on her face, walked back down to her room. She felt good, better than she had since she'd changed. She had a lot of very good friends, she'd overcome some big challenges, and she was learning to like herself, like Lanie, and to ignore what others said, like Lanie.
Sunday, May 13, 2007, Afternoon
Devisor Tunnels, Whateley Academy
"What the hell are we looking for again" Officer Green grumbled as Metler rattled the doorknob set into a frame in the side of the small tunnel.
"You were sleeping through the briefing, weren't you?" Metler said, shaking his head as he pulled out a master key.
"Nah," Green said. "Wife made her burrito casserole last night. I was making an extended head call."
"So that's why the bathroom smelled so bad! Man, you gotta warn us when you eat that stuff!" Metler said, wrinkling his nose. The door opened with a creak. Metler reached inside and fumbled until he found a light switch. The room was immediately bathed in harsh white light, revealing it to be a small janitorial type closet with a shelf of cleaning supplies, miscellaneous brooms and such, and a large janitorial sink.
"We're supposed to tear the place apart, looking for a small G-mart safe, and also for a piece of Tyvek, folded or rolled up." Metler started looking around the shelves, including underneath them.
"Tyvek?" Green asked, puzzled. "Is that some new kind of devisor stuff someone here invented?"
"Nah," Metler said. "You haven't been around construction much, have you? You know what white stuff they wrap houses with? To make them weatherproof and airtight?"
"Yeah? What of it?"
"That's Tyvek. Some kind of synthetic paper. Supposed to be really strong and durable, which is why they use it in construction."
"Yeah?" Green shook his head. "So we're supposed to find some of this stuff? How big a piece?"
"Dunno. They guessed it'd be at least three feet square."
Green snorted derisively. "Not asking for much, are they? The safe? Yeah, I can see finding that. But a paper like that? That could be folded up or rolled up and put damned near anywhere, including in the ducts."
"Yeah? Well, it's got top priority. But then, you'd know that if you hadn't been on vacation fishing."
"Hey, it was a good trip! You telling me you'd turn down a salmon fishing trip in Alaska to hang out here? Or doing honey-do chores for my wife?" Green chuckled.
"I've met your wife," Metler scoffed. "I'd rather take a vacation wrestling grizzly bears than spend it hanging out with your wife!"
"So what's the big deal with this safe? And some piece of Tyvek?"
"You missed a lot of excitement while you were fishing. Apparently, the safe and the paper are tied to the murder of some avatar student a little over a week ago." Metler explained. "Big to-do. Got the DPA and the state's Attorney General involved. And they arrested your buddy the Buffalo Gal."
"No! Get outta here!"
"Seriously. It gets better. She didn't do it, but her alibi is that she was having hot lesbian sex out in that Indian lodge they built."
"You've got to be kidding me!"
"Yeah, and someone filmed the whole thing."
Green leered. "I don't suppose that a copy of the video is hanging around somewhere."
Metler pulled out a flashlight and bent over, looking underneath the lowest shelf. "Man, I bet no-one has used this place for ten years." He straightened up. "No, and if you value your hide, you won't ask. The girls are under eighteen, and Hardass herself has spyware snooping around looking on everything electronic to find and destroy copies of it." He shook his head. "If you get caught with it, you'll be looking at fifteen-to-life for kiddie porn."
Green whistled. "Since when have they gotten so serious about this?"
"Since it got the attention of the state and the DPA," Metler answered. He stepped to a small door at the back of the closet and twisted the very dusty doorknob. It refused to turn. Frowning, he pulled out his keys and fumbled for a bit. "This lock has to be thirty years old. None of the master keys fit!"
"Look at the dust," Green commented. "No-one has walked through that door for a very long time."
Metler wiped the dust off his hand. "And with that much dust, nobody has opened that door recently either." He paused and looked at the door. "Suppose we ought to kick it in to see what's back there?"
"Nah. Nobody's been in here for ages, and we've got a lot of searching to do." Green shook his head as he pulled out a tablet computer and made a mark on a map.
"At least give me a hand looking on the top shelf," Metler suggested.
"I looked. Nothing there," Green retorted. "Let's move on."
"Okay." The two left the room, pausing to lock the door and turn off the light.
Inside the inner door, the pattern of dust on the floor was not uniform, streaked and mottled enough to raise suspicion had anyone opened the door. In the corner, on a shelf in a back corner, hidden by a dust-covered tarp and a couple of crates, sat a small G-mart safe. Inside, triple-wrapped in sealed plastic bags, was a small bottle with a bit of fluid in it, and a small art paintbrush.
In a general devisor lab, the students all stood aside as three security officers swept through, looking everywhere they could think - in every drawer, under every bench surface, inside every nook and cranny.
"What are they looking for?" Smoke Test asked Little Bee and Ergonomic as they stood in a small cluster, watching the security guards work and hoping that none of their work was disrupted by the search for whatever they were searching diligently for.
"I heard it's something to do with the Heyoka murder," Ergonomic answered in a soft voice. "Rumor is there's a safe and some kind of large paper."
The security and faculty team eventually gave up, having searched everywhere. Except for the undersides of the benches above the drawers, hidden unless the drawer were pulled out, which they hadn't been. In one corner bench, In one corner, in one of the benches, in that spot missed by the searchers, a folded piece of Tyvek clung to the underside of the bench.
Through the portal in the folded paper, squeezed into an uncomfortable pocket dimension, Sara Waite fumed, her anger growing with every passing second at the impudent boy that had summoned her, and her desire for revenge grew even more rapidly. Worse, she was coming to some unpleasant conclusions about how he'd managed to trap her. She was the daughter of Gothmog; a normal summoning circle should not have held her. She thought she'd recognized something familiar on the paper that Speakeasy had been reading from; now she was convinced that someone had used him to invoke some Mythos magic to trap her. And trapped she was. All the things which should have worked against a regular summoning circle failed to free her, increasing her frustration with every attempt.
As time passed, a different sense of time in the strange pocket dimension, Sara's creative streak was taking vicious, nasty turns. Someday, she'd hunt down Darren, and then he'd pay. Oh, how he would pay. But first, the summoning circle had to be broken, or Darren had to release her. And given what he'd said, it was not likely that he'd be so inclined. So she was trapped until the fates decided to let her go.
Sappho was a Greek lyricist, born on the Isle of Lesbos sometime between 630 and 612BCE. While she was a prolific poet, most of her poems are lost, but not her notoriety. We know of Sappho because of her immense reputation and fame throughout the ancient world. And while her name and the isle of her birth would become defining words for female homosexuality, Sappho herself was likely what we would consider bi-sexual. She was married and had at least a daughter we know of, but her love of other women, the torrid affairs she had and the impressive body of love poetry to these girls and young women were legendary.
In her day, Sappho was a superstar, considered one of, if not THE foremost lyricist and poet. There are many surviving, gushing notes of praise of her work from a veritable who's who of the ancient world. Ovid writes of her in glowing terms and Plato campaigned for her to be deified as the tenth Muse. Unfortunately, most of her work exists only in a collection of fragments that survived the sacking of the Library Alexandria, finds in tombs of poetry lovers, or quoted in the works of other great masters. The only poem of hers to come to us in its entirety is her Hymn to Aphrodite which we have quoted in loving respect for the greatest poet of History.
- The Authors