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The Evil That Men Do (Part 2)

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A Whateley Academy Story

The Evil That Men Do


E. Nalley


Part Two


I wouldn't if I were you
I know what she can do
She's deadly man, she could really rip your world apart
Mind over matter
Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart

Hall & Oates, Maneater


October 9th, 2007
The Crystal Hall (Breakfast)

“I just don't see how you eat that!” Marty announced with a smile as she took a sip of her orange juice and shook her head at her lover's foibles. Across the table from her Stephen was dashing salt into the thick, white concoction he was making in a bowl. He took his hand off the spoon and it stayed upright on its own.

“Ah, perfect,” he observed with a smile and popped a spoonful into his mouth. “Grits, my dear Marty,” he continued, happily munching. “Are but one of the many proofs of the existence and love of God. Cream of Wheat, on the other hand, is the work of the Devil.”

Marty giggled as she smeared the butter on her toast. “Hey, no argument from me, not a fan of wheat paste, but how do you...? So gritty and... Just, yuck!”

The red head looked pained. “Yes, I know, instant grits won't ever live up to the real thing, but out here in the savage wastelands of...”

“Ok, ok, Johnny Reb, the War's over!” Marty teased him with a playful bit of footsie under the table.

“I'm not complaining,” Stronghold replied as he prepared another mouthful. “I'm the one with the war spoils, so...”

“Hush, you Rhett Butler wanna be...!”

“Frankly, my dear...”

A rainbow striped cloth fell on the table, knocking over Marty's Orange Juice down the front of her blouse. A trio of boys in raucous laughter drowned out her surprised cry of outrage as the tallest leaned into Stephen's face to shout, “Hey Fag Man! Congratulations! I hear you and Fake Girl got it on so I got you a new cape!” Stephen's alabaster complexion flushed scarlet as his chair skidding back was loud in the hall. He stood, nose to nose with the other boy who made no move to back down.

“What's your name, friend?” he asked surprisingly softly as he handed Marty the napkin dispenser to aid her in trying to salvage her uniform. Marty had heard him use that tone once before and looked up, tears streaming from her eyes. It was the tone he had used towards Mrs Turner, right after she had broken his arm and he still had to be restrained from attacking her again.

Some part of her knew that Stephen was about to launch an all out attack on Eruption. Knew that she should try to do something to stop him, but she felt so warm that her man was going to fight to defend her honor and her emotions welled up and the absolute worst thing she could say popped out of her mouth. “David Archer, you god damned asshole!” she shouted, her voice thick with emotion and her face wet with tears.

Eruption just grinned. “Shut up, you freak,” he sneered before turning back to Stronghold. “I was gonna say 'None of your business, Fag Man,' but I guess now we're introduced! What are you gonna do about it?”

Stephen's smile was evil. “Ah just wanted to know what to carve into your tomb stone, you fucking dead man!” he shouted as he balled a fist and swung. The punch connected right where David's jaw hinged and attached to his skull. His head was snapped around and his body was picked up and launched over the table and would likely have traveled some distance, but his foot caught the lip and he tumbled over the other side into a heap.

Stronghold vaulted over the table like an action movie hero, his free hand still in a fist. Around them, the other kids began to leap up and form a ring around the combatants, chanting, “Fight! Fight!” over and over.

“Yeah! Let's get this fag lover!” shouted Dump Truck as he made to jump into the fight and attack Stronghold in the back, but a blur shot from the crowd and punched him. Matthew was knocked sideways, nearly ten feet and knocking over another table, much to the loud complaints of its occupants.

Standing in his dress shirt and slacks only, Sayyid clenched a fist and shouted, “Coward! Attack a man with his back turned! You want a fight with a gay man, come to me!”

Dump Truck scrambled to his feet as he began to glow, one hand wiping away the blood from his split lip. “Ok, Sand Nigger, you're on!” he shouted, leaping to close the distance and feinting a right that Sayyid went to block before a massive left hit the Iraqi boy like a freight train.

Eruption rolled up into a kick that landed on Stephen's chest, leaving muddy boot prints on the oxford shirt and staggered him back. On his feet and snarling, he shouted, “You think I can't take a hit you goddamned fudge packer!” With an exaggerated throwing motion, a beam of energy shot from David's open palm right into Stephen's breast bone.

The red headed young man from Georgia folded around the beam like it was a solid object and was thrown back into a concrete planter, much to its ruin and the unhappy scattering of the ficus bush planted in it.

Stronghold stood from the ruined planter, reaching up and ripping off the remnants of his oxford shirt and suit jacket, one half in each hand revealing his perfectly sculpted torso, each muscle group defined like a Greek Statue. “It's on, son!” he shouted and launched himself forward.

Saladin and Dump Truck were trading blows like Holyfield and Tyson, while shouting obscenities at each other. Sayyid's nose was obviously broken, but the boy continued to take and throw punches. Matthew wasn't unscathed either, as he left eye was swelling closed and that ear was also swelling into a cauliflower. Thud, who had been waiting for an opening, launched himself at Sayyid's unprotected back, but as he passed the last table, which was full of girls, one jumped up, locked up both his arms in a full nelson, then picked him up and over her head to slam him head first into the floor.

“Oh no you don't, bigot!” shouted Hippolyta. “Come get beaten by a girl!”

Thud stood, shaking his head to clear it, his face flushed in a rage. “What girl? You're just a fag in a dress!” Hippy snarled as she threw a punch to retaliate, but Thud dodged under it and landed a painful looking kick into her armpit that cartwheeled her into the reflecting pool of the obelisk. Hippolyta screamed in a rage as her soaked uniform clung to her, leaving her without a trace of modesty.

Stronghold managed to duck around Eruption's punch, entwining his right arm to Eruption's at the shoulder. Stephen then planted his hip into David's buttock and hip tossed him to the floor. Stephen followed him down, leading with his knee that landed in the small of David's back. Eruption yelled with pain as Stronghold threw a massive blow to the back of his neck, driving his head into floor so hard it cracked the concrete. “You want to take some hits?” Stephen shouted as he rained blows down. “Anything to oblige!”

Hippolyta leapt out of the pool and launched herself at Thud, however just then Mr Donner fell from the sky from having leapt off the Teacher's Dias from the top tier, he landed with a tremendous thud and caught the two of them in his massive hands. Next to him flew Mr. Paulson who forcibly removed Stronghold from Eruption's back, and, in a show of unadulterated bravery, the normal human Mr. Filbert separated Sayyid and Dump Truck. “That's enough!” Mr. Paulson shouted, taking a hold of each boy by the scruff of the neck. “Mr. Nalley, I thought better of you! And Mr Archer I see you and I need to have another discussion about your personal beliefs and how you inappropriately choose to share them!”

“Ah'm gonna rip off your head and shit down your neck!” Stronghold shouted, trying in vain to free himself from the hulking teacher's hold and lay hands on his adversary. The two teachers and the house father frog marched the combatants out of the hall onto the Fixer's Patio as they continued to abrade the lot of them.

From the crowd, Kayda separated herself and came over to Marty who was staring after them, completely uncaring about her blouse now. “Marty, are you ok?” she asked, setting down her tray on the table.

“Did you see him?” Marty asked breathlessly. “Did you see him? My boyfriend kicked his ass!”

“Ok, June Cleaver, welcome to the twenty first century!” Kayda told her as she took her elbow and began to guide her to the water fall and it's hidden bathrooms. “Let me see if I can get that stain out before it sets.”

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October 9th, 2007
National Weather Service Regional Head Quarters, Gray, Maine

“Hey Tom, look at this!”

Tom Davenport had graduated with his meteorological degree last June. His dreams of riches and fame as a TV weather man had thus far failed to achieve fruition, but at least working for the National Weather Service was paying his bills and in his field. He had several friends from college who couldn't say that much. “What's up?” he asked, wandering over to Gina's monitor.

Not that he needed an excuse to be closer to Gina. Being partnered with the prettiest girl in the office was another stroke of luck he was thankful for. She had accessed a series of reporting stations in the Lancaster area that had tripped alarms. “What the hell?” he exclaimed as he saw the numbers. The temperature at three fire stations had dropped fifteen degrees in as many minutes and the airport station was reading a similar drop. Even the one out on the reservation was dropping, and it was the worst at twenty degrees. “Switch to Doppler,” he ordered and she called up the display.

Clouds began to form practically out of nowhere inside of fifteen minutes.

“I'll put out an alert, keep an eye on this,” he said as he went over to the little table that held the radio broadcasting equipment. He tripped the alarm and after a second to gather his thoughts spoke into the microphone. “The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine is issuing a Winter Storm Advisory for the following counties. Temperatures have sharply dropped and snow and ice may make travel conditions difficult, especially on bridges and overpasses. This advisory will expire at five pm eastern daylight time tonight. Affected counties in the Advisory area are...”

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October 9th, 2007
The Crystal Hall

“Hey Tansy!”

The blonde exemplar turned from pulling off her coat to find Elaine and Wyatt entering the Crystal Hall behind her. The trio shared a hug of greeting before hanging coats on hooks. “Morning Lanie, Wyatt,” Tansy said as she laid her scarf over her jacket's hook.

“Hey beautiful,” Wyatt rumbled as he yawned and hung his stocking cap, his usual only concession to the cold, on a hook. “Smells like the weather's changing.” He turned and looked at Elaine sidelong. “You smell it?”

“That crisp, kind of wintergreen smell?” she asked to which he nodded. “I was wondering. Oh! Tansy, I've been meaning to apologize to you about the Wor...uh, well, that shouting match we got into last year.”

Tansy looked puzzled. “You mean that day of pranks and you calling me out? Honey, you don't owe me anything from that. If you hadn't, I never would have been saddled with the three little pests and, dear lord, still being that bitch I was...”

Elaine took the other girl by the shoulders. “Well, none of that excuses me for what Ah said.”

Walcutt felt Wyatt's eyes on her, and so brought her hands up to Lanie's wrists. “Oh, and here I thought you liked being all dominating.” She stepped back, raising her hands over her head and taking Elaine's with her, pulling the other girl off balance. Elaine half leaned, half fell into Tansy, pinning them both against the wall that held the coat hooks, breast to breast and nose to nose. “Are you sure you don't want to put me in my place some more?” Tansy cooed.

Wyatt grunted and adjusted himself as he walked by towards the food line. “Some things never change,” he rumbled as Elaine and Tansy broke out into a giggle fit. “What are you looking at?” he demanded of a freshman boy who was staring, slack jawed and wide eyed at what he had accidentally seen. Wyatt's heavy hand landed on his shoulder. “Son, why don't you and I go have a chat about discretion and not lurking in nooks and crannies...”

“Well, looks like we have a starring role in his fantasy life from now on,” Elaine said as she rolled her eyes and stuffed her gloves into the pocket of the leather bomber she had worn.

Tansy sniffed as she rummaged in her purse for her ID. “If I got weirded out by the thought of guys having dates with Rosy Palm and my picture I would never have lasted in Venus, Inc. Still, I don't have to face them. I don't see how you can be so 'out and proud' around campus. It surprised me after...”

Elaine shrugged and turned to face her. “It's how Ah deal with it,” she admitted. She sighed. “Southern Belles don't cry in public.”

Tansy reached out and gently took the Red Head's elbow and with her head indicated the restrooms on the other side of the Hall. “Walk with me?” Elaine nodded and the two girls set out. “There's something I want to ask you, but not where there are prying ears.”

“Why not just think at me?” Elaine asked.

Tansy winked at her and her voice was in Elaine's mind even though her lips didn't move. As easily distracted as we are?

Just containing a giggle, Elaine nodded and followed her into the women's room. She paused for a moment, then walked over to the sinks and mirror. “You can speak freely, we're alone.”

Elaine opened her purse and removed her tricorder to consult the device before she returned it. “And no bugs Ah can find, so, what's up?” she asked as she checked her make up in the mirror. Lanie didn't wear much, but on Tansy's advise had begun to use a UV blocker that was also a good foundation for her complexion that evened out her skin tone and hid the little spatter of tiny freckles over her nose that embarrassed her.

From her own purse, Tansy removed a lipstick and touched herself up. “I...well, I was thinking about telling my, uh, well, us, and I don't know how she'll take it.” Tansy sighed. “To be completely honest, I don't know that much about her at all. Daddy had her committed when I was seven. I hadn't really seen her for ten years.” She sniffed and quickly produced a tissue and daubed the corners of her eyes.

Elaine put down her own lipstick and wrapped her lover up in a firm, but gentle hug of encouragement. Over her mental link, Tansy felt Lanie's concern and love, and intense desire to try and help. “God, I love you!” she admitted as Tansy hugged her back. “You, you just love without any reservations!”

After a long moment of hugging, Lanie stepped back, but maintained her touch with Tansy and asked, “How can Ah help?”

“You're out to your parents, aren't you?” Tansy asked. “ did that go?”

Elaine shrugged as she leaned back against the sink counter top and sighed. “Ah'm out to mah mom. Ah don't know if she told Dad. At least, he didn't act any different over summer and it never came up. Ah haven't told mom about you and me or how we both share Wyatt. As far as Ah know, she thinks Ah'm just Bi and picked Wyatt.”

“Yeah, I guess telling her last summer would have been awkward,” Tansy admitted. “Especially with us sharing a room.”

Lanie chuckled. “That honestly surprised me. Mom can be downright old fashioned at times, and after you left Wyatt and Ah had to be very discrete. Dad gave him the talk.”

“The Talk?” Walcutt asked, arching an eyebrow.

Lanie blushed. “Yes the, 'there's more than one body in that lake' while cleaning his guns and 'just what are your intentions towards mah daughter' talk.”

The blonde rolled her eyes in amusement. “Oh, that one.” She sniffed. “I doubt my dad could be bothered to give two shits if I were to get married. The only one he would give is can he still make use of my powers for him.” She crossed her arms in annoyance. “That's why I want to be careful with my mom.”

“She seemed like a nice lady,” Lanie told her. “Ah didn't get the vibe that she was a hater or anything.”

Satisfied her lips were presentable, Tansy put the lipstick back in her purse. “Oh, I'm sure you two will hit it off. I mean, she is a lawyer after all...”

“Hey now!” The two girls shared a laugh and Elaine put her hand on Tansy's arm. “If you want me to be there when you tell her, Ah'll be glad to!” The two girls hugged and touched their foreheads together, looking into each others eyes.

“Thanks, my love. Knowing you're here for me really helps.”

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October 9th, 2007
Lecture Hall One, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Stephen Nalley thrust his hands in his pockets and winced in pain. He had split open the knuckles on his right hand and they were bandaged, but still quite painful. He missed Banned Aides and the instant healing the senior had provided, but he had graduated last year and now the brawlers had to live with their lumps. Truth be told, his hand didn't hurt anywhere near as much as his pride and conscience.

The icy stare the Headmistress had administered made him feel worse than any minor case of skinned knuckles. What hurt was the feeling he had let her down on purpose. She hadn't raised her voice at him, Sayyid or Anosha, nor had she needed to. The stare and the quiet disapproval made things much, much worse.

“Miss Ibrahimi, in your years here, have you suffered under the delusion that your actions at breakfast this morning were allowed?” Mrs Carson had demanded as they all stood before her, hang dog expressions all around, in her office.

“No, ma'am,” Hippolyte admitted, with a fair helping of begrudging.

“I could excuse Mr. Thatcher due to his being a freshman,” and when Dump Truck had the bravado to smile, her frown crushed it like a grape under heel. “I won't,” she amended strongly, “but I could. He is young and foolish and chooses not to know better, but you are a senior, Anosha! You are a leader on this campus and a role model to the lower classmen.”

For the first time Hippolyte winced, as if being addressed by her first name made the infraction worse. “I expect better of you,” Mrs Carson finished with another wilting glare.

“Yes ma'am.”

“Since you and Mr. Assim are so quick to leap to the defense of Mr. Nalley,” and she turned her glare on him. “Who also should know better, despite being a mere sophomore, then you may assist him in his detention. Mr. Archer, you and your two friends like making messes, you can help clean them up. Two weeks detention assisting Mr. Lipscowycz and Mr. Goldberg in the sewers. You brought a foul stench to your reputations, so you may enjoy savoring it. Dismissed.”

Eruption and his henchmen ambled out silently, knowing better than to back talk the Headmistress. Once they were gone, she turned to the remaining three. “As I said, you may assist Mr. Nalley in his punishment. For the next week, the three of you will assist Mr Harrington at the stables, as the odor clinging to you is as pungent. Mr. Nalley, you are due at the sophomore assembly, Mr Assim and Miss Ibrahimi are dismissed. Report to Mr. Harrington after class this evening.”

It had not been a long walk from administration to Lecture Hall One, it was one of the holdovers of the building, the traditional, amphitheater-like classic lecture hall. It could seat nearly two hundred, all with a fairly excellent view of the professor and the black board behind him. The room smelled of old wood, chalk dust and learning. As Stephen joined the crowd of sophomore's filing in, he caught sight of his sister's friend Kayda and walked over to her.

“Hey, Kayda,” he greeted, indicating the place next to her. “This seat taken?”

Her pause was only long enough to be noticed by someone who knew her. “No,” she said. “Please, sit down.”

Sinking next to her he made a point to give her plenty of space on the bench and laid his back pack on the floor between them to make a psychological barrier. “I thought this was just for sophomores?”

Kayda rolled her eyes and forced a smile. “Like you, I arrived late last year.” Stephen started to answer but was stopped by the arrival of Mrs Carson, her Prada pumps loud on the hard wood floor.

“Welcome, Sophomores,” she greeted, laying a bundle of yellow slips on the lectern, then leaning back against the table it rested on. It was a very casual gesture, but it struck Stephen suddenly just how attractive Mrs Carson was. “Last year, I spoiled your Thanksgiving Break by informing you of the requirement of a Mutant Identity Card for you to return. Some of you were very vocal about your displeasure of that requirement. The more literary among you made references to 'Scarlet Letters...'”

Kayda leaned over and whispered, “Oh, Lanie had to be in that camp!”

“Some of you,” the headmistress continued, “muttered about fascists and 'America spelled with a K.'” Her attention locked on someone and she said, “Yes, dear, my hearing is that good.” A nervous laugh fluttered through the hall. “Unfortunately, students, it is my job to open your eyes to the world and today I have to show you an ugly side of it. To show you what the other side wanted in the compromise that produced the MID. Oh, not our speaker directly, the MID was already around, but that side that has real fascists are still out there. And they don't wear those obvious uniforms anymore.”

Kayda paled and gasped, loud enough to draw Steven's attention. "I ... I think I saw this," she stammered softly. The way she spoke, fear radiating through her every word, was enough to unnerve Steve.

"Is it that bad?"

Kayda simply nodded, her lips grimly pressed together, her eyes wide and fixed on Mrs. Carson. Steve gulped, steeling himself for something really unpleasant. He wondered why Lanie had never told him about this if it was as bad as Kayda feared. Unless she knew it would shatter his naive young worldview, and she was trying to be a good big sister, trying to let him enjoy just a bit more innocence before he was forced to face a cruel reality. He gulped again, starting to wonder if he really could prepare for something bad enough to make Lanie do that.

Mrs Carson pressed a button and the blackboard slid aside revealing a television the size of a small movie screen. “What you are about to hear is unpleasant, but it is important that you all hear it. As such,” and she held up the bundle of yellow slips. “Anyone cat calling, back talking the video or otherwise disrupting this presentation will get a lovely little yellow slip. It grants the bearer a month of detention and the loss of your privileges to go off campus for any reason for the rest of this year.”

A gasp flowed across the bleachers. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am that serious and I am not joking. So, without further introduction, I give you Dr Helen Cassandra Hilton-Goodkind, M.D., Ph.D.”

The lights went down in the amphitheater and the screen brightened with a simple logo and the declaration of 'Ideas Worth Spreading'. Then the camera showed a young woman, lithe, beautiful, wearing a dress obviously tailored to her measure with hair and makeup that had been expertly done by professionals. As she began to speak, behind her, slides were projected onto a large screen depicting the horrors she spoke of. “In 1347, an outbreak of the bacterium Yersinia pestis in Asia marched through India, into the Middle East, then Africa and Europe. Fifty million people would die by what history has called the Black Death. One third of the human population of this planet were wiped out.”

On the screen behind her, a picture of a child so covered in blisters and sores her features could not be made out caused a gasp to run through both audiences, live and in the recording. “Before it was exterminated by a coordinated, global effort, the viruses Variola major or Variola minor commonly know as Small Pox maimed, deformed and killed uncounted millions of humanity throughout history. And at the turn of the last century the Typhoid and Influenza pandemics are estimated to have killed nearly one hundred million people.”

The images changed to what at first glance were war torn images from World War Two, of cities in ruin, but soon it became apparent these images were not restricted to war and things quickly became too modern to have been from World War Two. “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a new plague marching across the globe. A plague whose carriers destroy not individual lives, but entire cities, who deprive us of the feeling of safety and security that is the right of every human being. But it is not a mindless bacteria or virus of which I speak, innocent in its lack of will, no the plague I speak of is the distorted, mutation of the human genome itself. It is given a pretty and scientific name; the Meta-Gene Complex, and we speak of it in clinical terms of being 'active' or 'inactive' but its results are just as devastating as those plagues of old.”

“The carriers of this horrible affliction are not treated, and there are many who try now to make research into the cure of this disease a crime. Instead they don brightly colored clothing and are lauded as 'heroes' while they destroy everything and everyone around them. But they are not heroes, they are sick; patients in need of treatment that more and more our own governments tie the hands of physicians like myself to keep us from helping them. These poor victims insist they aren't sick, that this is a natural course of evolution and I and those who share my opinion are as evil as Hitler, or Stalin or Mao.”

“Well, there have been people before who insisted they weren't sick, who scoffed at the scientific facts and who spread disease and contagion. Allow me to introduce you to Mary Mallon,” and a new slide showed an old black and white photograph of a young woman in a hospital bed. “She doesn't look nefarious, does she? She doesn't look evil, she doesn't even look sick, but if you think she looks like a patient, in a hospital you would be right. She is in that hospital because she was sick. Mary Mallon was directly responsible for the deaths of at least fifty one people that we know of for certain, making her, not including so-called paranormals, the second highest serial killer in the history of the United States!

“You don't recognize her, do you? Well you would if I told you the name she killed under, the name history has given her, you see Mary Mallon is better known as Typhoid Mary. She spread Typhoid knowing she was infected, knowing she could spread that horrific disease. Was she evil? No. She just didn't believe in germ theory, didn't believe she could have a disease and not have symptoms. In the medical field we call that an asymptomatic carrier. And while some Mutants have obvious abilities far in excess of normal humanity, ladies and gentlemen, there are asymptomatic carriers of this disease. Mutants are not just those who put on costume and destroy our cities without a second thought to the rest of us. Mutants are also everyone who possesses the Meta-Gene Complex and pass this illness down to their children and risk them mutating into destructive monsters. They are sick, and their illness is killing all of us.”

While the MCO maintains a list of Schedule A Threats to Humanity, they are relatively rare. Victims, driven mad by their disease and acting on their basest emotions to dominate the rest of us. Far more common is the Rager. Imagine your neighbor's son or daughter, over night turning into some grotesque monster who, like a rabid animal, goes on a rampage in a frenzied, mindless blood lust." Behind her, on a screen visible to her audience, an image straight from a Disney movie appeared, a gentle, familiar yellow dog. That image morphed into the same dog, now smitten with rabies, trying to mindlessly attack his owner. "That happens somewhere on this planet once every twelve days. Stop and think about that. Every two weeks some one has their lives destroyed by a rabid, deformed monster that kills ten, or fifty, or a thousand. You wouldn't hesitate to put down the family dog that has been bitten by a rabid animal before it could harm your family, but our governments allow them to roam our streets and kill at will!" Another series of images appeared - horrific pictures taken straight from news articles, showing victims of various rager attacks, highlighting the dead innocents, especially women and children, showing their wounds in gruesome and deliberate detail to evoke shock and outrage in her audience.

“Every. Twelve. Days. Children are murdered. Every twelve days, wives are mutilated. Every twelve days husbands, fathers, brothers and sisters are forever lost while our police are ill equipped to protect us from this danger, lurking in our midst.” A Mercator projection of the world appeared with a bold label 'Rager Attacks Since 1945', and on the world's continents, dot-by-dot, each with a number, a creeping plague began to stain the map, repetitively, incessantly marking areas where death had come, while on one side of the map, a running body count ticked upward in time with the red dots, a rising casualty count.

"We can't predict which of those afflicted with this illness will turn into ragers. We can't predict when and where they will break, losing touch with their humanity and turning into vicious killers. All we can predict is that the number of innocent victims will continue to rise, the number of attacks will increase, until we stop this plague."

“We have a solution, until we can find a cure. It's an old solution, but just like for Mary Mallon it worked, you see Mary Mallon spent the rest of her life in quarantine at Riverside Hospital in New York. And while that is a tragedy, Mary Mallon did not kill anyone else in that quarantine. And we need to quarantine those who carry the Meta Gene Complex. For their safety and ours, until a cure can be found.”

The screen went dark and Helen looked directly into the camera. “There are those who will call me a NAZI for saying this. That I am heartless and cruel for championing this point of view, but nothing could be further from the truth. I care very deeply for these sick people. But I can't cure them while they are spreading the disease. And I can't halt the spread of their disease while they are killing us and destroying our cities. I urge all of you to write your senators, congressmen and the President. Tell them that you support the scientific and humane solution to this plague. That you support Mutant Quarantine." A new image appeared - a peaceful, clean sanitarium in a lovely mountain setting, with medical staff caring for quarantined patients, a soothing tranquil image selected to make her proposed quarantine look like an idyllic vacation rather than the Nazi concentration camp that should have come to mind. Everyone was smiling and happy. It was masterful use of imagery for propaganda, which was to be expected given the vast public-relations resources the Goodkinds could throw behind such a heinous suggestion. "My name is Helen Goodkind, and I implore you as a doctor, a wife and a mother to do so today.”

The screen went dark and the clicks of Mrs Carson's heels were loud on the floor in the silence that followed as she walked back to the lectern. The blackboard hummed closed over the screen and she gazed sadly at her students. “This isn't something we caught on hidden camera. This isn't something Dr. Goodkind hides, on the contrary, she's proud of it. You can find this on YouTube on the Goodkind Research Labs Channel. She believes everything she just said with every fiber of her being.”

“That bitch!” someone shouted, but before the room could descend into a shouting match, Mrs. Carson held up the slips. Silence fell like a thunderclap.

Placing them back on the lectern, she calmly said, “I don't hold Dr. Goodkind in any kind of contempt for what she believes. I have and will oppose her with every avenue at my disposal, but I can appreciate her honesty and acknowledge that she feels very strongly that her views are correct. She's wrong, but nothing I can say or do will convince her of that. You will find, my students, after you leave here, some before, that some people cannot be dissuaded of their beliefs, no matter how persuasive or perfect your argument. You cannot reach the zealot with facts. I want you to discuss what you've seen, amongst yourselves, and with your councilors, house parents or anyone else of my staff as you need. No matter what career you pursue when you leave here, my students,” and she pointed at the hidden screen behind her. “People like that are always out there, and your actions affect more than just yourself. You have until the next period free, you can stay here, or go and study in the Crystal Hall. Assembly dismissed.”

Next to him, Stephen heard Kayda whisper, “Even though I've seen this before, I think I'm going to be sick.”

“I know how you feel,” he said quietly. “When Lanie came home for Christmas break last year she went on a tirade about some video she had seen. I guess it was this one. Mom and Dad made me leave the room because Lanie told them to.”

Near them, someone made the acerbic comment, "The truth is her camps would have electric fences, razor wire, and guard towers."

"Yeah," another agreed. "And a sign over the gate saying 'Arbeit Macht Frei'."

Kayda turned to look at the group talking, knowing the reference from studying history. She wondered if anyone else understood it.

Kayda couldn't manage to suppress a shiver as she leaned a bit closer to Stephen to be heard over the general hubbub of students talking or heading out to the Crystal Hall. “She and Tansy told me about it on the trip home for the summer, but I almost didn't have the guts to watch it. Even kinda already knowing what it was about I nearly chickened out. I almost wish I had, because after watching it I had to hug my mom for an hour. It's hard to believe there are people like that in the world. Hell I wish mom was here so I could hug her now.” Stephen opened his arm and the Lakota girl smiled weakly and patted his shoulder as she stood. “And risk having Marty mad at me? Not a chance!”

Stephen stood as well and handed her her things before gathering his own. “Marty's not the jealous type,” he assured her. “And if we feel bad, imagine how Ayla feels.”

“I can't imagine,” Kayda whispered.

“Oh, look,” Stephen exclaimed, pointing to the windows that no longer had shades blocking them. “It's snowing.”

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October 9th, 2007
General Classroom 214, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

Danny sat down at his desk and frowned. He had not had a particularly good night. Wihinape had drawn him into his Dream Space, interrupting a lovely dream he had been having, only to scold him for having it. She had upbraided him for the better part of the night for being a fool just because he was smitten with Tansy Walcutt.And honestly, he thought to himself. Who isn't smitten with Tansy?

While the debate over who was the prettiest girl on campus had settled along the lines of those who preferred blondes or those who preferred red heads, either way Tansy was one of the two most beautiful girls at Whateley. And, more to the point, she was the girl who was nice and friendly towards him.

In his mind, Wihinape sniffed in disdain. You are a child in her eyes, the spirit snarled. The cub mate of her friend and that is why she is nice to you.

“I can dream, can't I?” he muttered to himself sullenly. “You think I don't know she's out of my league?” The room blurred and suddenly Danny was at the fire pit in the idolized Lakota village of his sister's dream space. Wihinape was dressed as a native woman, but the buck skin leather was tight and left nothing to the imagination.

“Turning your nose up to rabbit because you want buffalo is foolish!” the spirit snapped. “Why hunger in vain when you could hunt successfully?”

“I have a class to attend!” Danny snapped at her and forced his eyes open to be in Mrs. Bell's class once more. The pretty little blonde girl, Peggy, who sat behind him was just walking by, smiling shyly. Danny smiled back with a stomach full of butterflies as he did so.

“Hi, Danny,” she said, not quite able to meet his eyes.

“Hi, Peggy,” he replied, turning in his seat to watch her sit down. “ is your day going?”

She blushed and clumsily played with her books. “'s ok. I followed Mrs Bell's advice and checked out that book she was talking about yesterday. It''s kind of interesting. Do you want to read it?”

She offered up an old looking book, its pages yellowed with age and its dust jacket covered in clear cellophane to protect it and on the spine the cataloging sticker for the Dewey Decimal System the Library used. The front proclaimed 'The Last Ride of 'Black' Jack Kingston, US Marshall,' by James Hallowell. Danny frowned, turning the book over he was graced with an amber colored Daguerreotype photograph of a collection of interesting looking people.

The tallest man in the group was a craggy faced fellow with dark skin in a bib fronted shirt, holding a rifle of some kind in the crook of his arm. A pair of black feathers were in his long, flowing hair and he wore a bone necklace around his neck that was made in the Lakota style. Next to him, nearly as tall, was a somber looking man with broad shoulders, a massive handlebar mustache and a beat up looking cavalry hat. He wore a dark suit with a silver, five-pointed star in a circle on his lapel.

The last man of the group was obviously better dressed in a lighter colored suit and a patterned cravat style tie. His vest was made of a brocade fabric that came through the photograph with a heavy looking watch chain going from one vest pocket to the other. One hand was on his hip, drawing his coat back to show a handgun in a holster below his left armpit, with his right hand he was holding the hand of the only woman in the photograph in a stilted, formally posed way. She was seated in an uncomfortable looking chair as if it was a throne, and she were a queen with the men who were standing around it like her courtiers. She was a remarkable looking woman who stared defiantly into the camera whereas the men all gazed off in different directions. Most interestingly, she was of African decent, but her eyes were clear, not dark practically glowing out of a leonine face with strong cheekbones framed by black hair that fell in ringlets and curls about her bare shoulders and decolletage. She was wearing a dress of silk and lace that made everyone aware of her considerable beauty, despite the modesty of her elbow length gloves.

Danny frowned as Peggy made a gesture about the book. “Weird, isn't it? The Indian is Lakota, you're part Lakota, right?”

“Yes,” Danny said as he stared at the picture and rubbed his chin. “I swear I've seen this picture before, but I can't for the life of me remember where. A mathematician wrote this?”

Peggy smiled a warm, friendly smile that made Danny feel warm himself. “Well, kinda. It's...”

“Good morning everyone!” Mrs Bell greeted as the final bell rang and she closed her classroom door. Reluctantly, Danny turned around and opened his text book. Maybe Tansy was out of his league, but Peggy on the other hand...

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October 9th, 2007
The Voice of Reason, W.A.R.S. 105.7FM

“...So we approach the first anniversary of the execution of Saddam Hussein and no matter your personal opinion on capital punishment, or the involvement of the United States played in that moment in history, I think we can all agree that the world is a better place without the inclusion of the former dictator of Iraq in it. But, and here is where I get into the details, was it really our business to go and liberate or punish Iraq? I mean, no matter how you look at this, we invaded a sovereign nation, delivered its leader to an arguably sketchy tribunal and it doesn't matter if our relations with Iraq improve, or we made it 'better' for the Iraqi people. I think Shakespeare said it best when he asked through the lips of a common soldier, “How can they charitably dispose of anything, if blood is their argument?”

“It's ten eighteen on 105.7FM W.A.R.S. And that sound means we have a weather alert. Let's see, the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine is issuing a Winter Storm Warning for north central New Hampshire. Doppler weather radar indicates a cold front stalled over the central Presidential Mountains with temperatures in the affected area now below freezing. Temperatures continue to fall north of a line from Lancaster to Berlin with sleet and freezing rain giving way to snow, now expected to crest one foot in some elevations. People in the warning area should stay indoors as travel conditions will be exceptionally dangerous, especially on bridges or overpasses. Blizzard conditions may be likely if conditions continue to worsen. Outside animals should be brought indoors or have preparations with shelter. Continue to monitor this radio station for further updates as they are given. My name is Zenith and you are listening to The Voice of Reason on 105.7 FM the Whateley Academy Radio Station.

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October 9th, 2007
Action Tactical, Inc. headquarters, Blue Ridge Mountains


The phone had picked up on the second ring to the terse voice of Combat Vet. Computer Expert was glad of his head set that let him continue finishing what he was doing while giving his co-worker the good news. “I'm a Greek, bearing gifts,” Computer Expert told him with a smile. “The Koybashi Maru has set sail for the Promised Land.”

Combat Vet grunted, his most verbose sound of approval. “Sorry, wrong number.” The line disengaged and Computer Expert popped a piece of candy into his mouth as he watched the logs of his write changes to Oedipus's computer change to the new values he had entered that showed all the commands had been generated locally, rather than his own deposit of the files onto the computer. There was now no trace of any of his tinkering and everything was as it had been, with the slight addition of a fair amount of new files, all bearing the stamps that they had been put there by the computer's owner, not some highly interested third party.

Combat Vet would be on a plane back up here within the hour and it was all over but the perp walk and the tear-filled cries of innocence. Pleas that no one would believe, of course, but that didn't matter. Oedipus had made his bed, now he had to lie in it.

Computer Expert saw the Trojan he had almost missed find the files he had added and saw it send out a squawk of discovery to its master. Expert wished for a fleeting moment to be a fly on the wall of the data center when they got that email, then carefully backed out of the system leaving no trace he had ever been there.

One piece of justice for sale delivered, and he wondered for a brief moment how he would spend the bonus. Maybe I'll buy a boat, he thought to himself. Now, on to the next job.

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October 9th, 2007
Arena 99, Whateley Academy Tunnel System

Good Morning, You are in the Mexican State of Campeche; local time is 04:15.

As soon as Kayda opened her eyes she invoked her ghost walking charm and began to trot towards the compound. She, Lanie and Tansy had made a point to enter the prep room silently and now were trying to act as fast as possible so Ms Hartford and whoever she had running the sim would have as little time to react as possible. She had discovered last night in her research that the ward she had found was an alarm ward, and while simple enough to cast, it did require essence, which meant a magician with a lit well.

Over the phone, and after lights out, the girls had agreed the only possible reason it would be there was that Hartford was gaming the group and trying to nullify Kayda's magic edge.

Well, if Hartford was going to cheat, so could they.

Reaching the building, and making sure she didn't touch the salt line that defined the ward, she sang a welcoming chant as quietly as she could. Finally, a little field mouse cautiously approached, pausing every so often to be sure Kayda was not a threat. Kayda changed her chant slightly to be more receptive to the little mouse who ambled over, sure now he was in no danger and listened to the request in its ancient tongue. It looked between her and the line of salt and finally, hesitantly went to the ward and began to dig a new burrow at the base of the wall.

In her Astral sight, Kayda saw the flow of essence flash and then dissipate as the circle was broken. And since the ward had been damaged by a creature not wanting to access what it protected, the alarm was not triggered.

From her medicine bag around her neck, she removed a long, bright red strand of hair that she drew through her lips as though straightening a thread to put through a needle.

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High above, Elaine hung onto Tansy as her girlfriend hovered not quite above the compound. They had made elaborate plans to be careful that the moon did not illuminate them, but through some luck or perhaps Ms. Hartford toying with them, the sky was overcast and the two girls were invisible to those on the ground. A shiver ran down Elaine's spine and she knew the ward was down. She tapped Tansy twice with a finger and the blonde nodded and dove.

One of the great advantages of the GE Monopole 7 was it was an extremely quiet unit and only hummed noticeably under a load greater than half its rating. Since the Magnetic Lift Drive was rated for six hundred pounds and both girls and their gear were well under half of that, it was absolutely silent.

Elaine wrapped her legs around Tansy's waist and locked her feet before she let go with her hands to hang upside down, facing the ground by her legs. She drew the arrow back to her cheek, paused in her breathing and let the string slip between her fingers. The fiberglass shaft zipped through the air, and its stainless steel tri-bladed hunting blade passed through the larynx of the guard, nicked his carotid artery and severed his spine between the second and third cranial vertebrae before lodging into the wood of the hut he stood against.

He was dead almost instantly, held up by locked knees and the arrow itself.

The two girls landed and Tansy quickly screwed a silencer to her Colt Wolverine as Lanie guarded her back while she examined the lock. On an inspiration she looked over to the dead man next to her, and took a ring of keys from a keeper on his belt. She found the one key that would fit the lock and unlocked the door. Her thumb moved the safety on the pistol to 'fire' and she opened the door, bringing the pistol up as she did so.

The slide made a growling sound against the main spring as it spat three round bursts twice, one making a horrible mess of the guard's face at the table as he was in the process of turning to see why the door was opening. The other peppered the lower face and neck of his partner, asleep in his chair in the corner who would never wake again.

The noise was not particularly loud, but was just enough to wake the girl on her cot. As she stirred, Tansy crossed the room and clamped a hand over her mouth as her eyes went wide with terror. “Don't make a sound,” she whispered urgently, sending waves of calm and security into the girl. Her eyes narrowed and she relaxed. “I am Solange and I'm here to rescue you. The code phrase your father gave me was 'Pikachu cheats'.”

The girl nodded frantically, obviously relieved and her eyes went wider again as she saw the bodies of the dead men. Tansy upped the feelings of safety and she got a bit more calm. The serrated teeth of her Spyderco Delica 4 made short work of the ropes tying the girl down so Tansy could help her to her feet and to the door of the block house.

Looking out she saw that Lanie was in the process of pushing a tired looking World War II era jeep over to the block house. Tansy scanned the guard towers, but none of them were manned. Elaine's arrows had been finding their marks. She got the girl in the jeep and then helped Lanie push it to the main gate. More dead men were here, but the arrows that had killed them had been retrieved.

The gate opened itself, then Kayda became visible next to it. The girls clamored aboard as Elaine coasted the jeep down the hill, away from the fort, waiting nearly a mile before starting the jeep and driving away shortly after which the world went black.

Good morning, Tansy, you are in Arena 99 and it is 11:23am. You are victorious.

The cover on the sim-bed opened as Tansy took off the helmet and took a moment to get her bearings. Ms Hartford was waiting on them, her hands on her hips and a crooked smile on her face. “Well, color me surprised. I didn't know 'hardened killers' was in you three girl's repertoire. Miss Walcutt, you were a bit mediocre with only two on your body count, and Miss Franks, or should I call you 'Dances With Mice,' dear? You didn't have any, but Miss Nalley! Aren't you a Charlie Manson in the making! Nine murders in as many minutes?”

“Charles Manson didn't actually kill anyone,” the red head muttered sullenly.

Ms Hartford's eyes narrowed. “I would laud your obvious talent as a future defense attorney, Miss Nalley, if nine cold-blooded murders would not disqualify you!”

“It's just a game,” Lanie shot back, angrily, waving an arm at Tansy. “We got the girl out...!”

“Briefing room,” the assistant head mistress commanded. “Now.”

The girls filed sullenly into the room and sat down in a group for mutual support as Ms. Hartford shut the door and glared at them. “If you three will not understand and treat these simulations as real there is no point in conducting them,” she declared finally.

“We got the girl!” Tansy tried after a moment of silence from all three. “They were going to kill her! That justifies deadly force...”

“You are not a military commando team!” Hartford thundered. “None of you have licenses to kill! Miss Nalley should I make sessions with Dr Bellows mandatory for you? This was almost as blood thirsty as your spring combat final! What you have just done could arguably considered an act of war! Did any of you stop to think about what a horrific international incident this will be?”

“Oh, screw it!” shouted Elaine, who as red in the face and shaking with rage. “That's horse shit and you fucking know it! The Mexican Government's complete inability to control the Sinaloa cartel makes them practically responsible for the ambassadors daughter being kidnapped! Hell, Ah wouldn't be surprised if somebody in the government helped the cartel nab her! And they'll rattle their sabers at the United States? When we could send a division of Reservists and conquer their whole mud pit country in a week? They'll hang medals around our necks for getting their necks out of that noose!”

Tansy was shocked when Ms Hartford let Elaine rant at her and more so when the Assistant Head Mistress actually smiled at the end of it. “That could have been much more politely put, Miss Nalley, but the gist is true. And I'm glad to see you have the back bone to argue it. Work on your presentation to be more diplomatic and in future, I want to see what you are actually capable of doing. Don't ever let me hear the words, 'it's just a game' leave your mouth again. This is deadly serious.”

Elaine blinked in shock, her thunder stolen. “Uh...yes ma'am.”

“Miss Franks, my congratulations on finding a way to break the ward without meeting its alarm condition. Take that lesson to heart, no matter your attachment to your own tradition of magic, know the others to exploit their weaknesses.”

“Uh, thank you, Ms Hartford.”

“You're not mad?” Tansy asked softly, but Amelia smiled her off putting smile again.

“Why would I be? You got the girl. Results aren't the only thing, Miss Walcutt, but they are a great deal of it. You worked together brilliantly, solved a complex problem with, despite my previous statements, an acceptable amount of inflicted casualties, with zero collateral damage in a strike that can only be described as surgical. And, more to the point, Miss Nalley's rant proves you did in fact pay attention to the larger implications. Excellent leadership indeed, Miss Walcutt, I am very pleased. Get changed and enjoy your lunch ladies. Tomorrow, things will become more...interesting.” She favored the girls with her smile again and strolled out, obviously pleased. The girls looked at each other in bewilderment, then headed to the locker rooms to change.

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October 9th, 2007
The Crystal Hall

Stephen laid down his tray on the table and winced slightly as it caught his bandaged hand. He saw the worried expression on Marty's face and waved off her concern with a smile and hardened the muscles of his hands. He didn't care if someone took a hammer to his abused knuckles, his pride would not let him show the injury bothered him again. He popped open his bottle of coke and began to drown his fries in ketchup. “Are you ok, baby?” Marty asked in a tone that promised wonderful things later.

“It's nothing,” he insisted, puffing his chest out a bit. “A minor price to pay for the privilege of pounding a bigot's face into concrete.” Marty chuckled a bit at his euphemism.

“Funny you put it quite that way, they're calling it the 'Bigot Brawl'. What did you draw for detention?”

“Hippy, Sal and I have to help clean the stables for a week. The creep and his buddies drew the sewers.” Marty pulled her fist down in victory.

“Yes! And I'm twenty bucks richer thanks to Hazard's long odds!”

He popped a fry into his mouth as he checked that his burger was without tomato as he'd ordered it. “One thing bugs me, though. Why did that asshole Archer call you Fake Girl?” Marty instantly became uneasy, but Steve was ready, taking her hand and squeezing it while presenting her with a little stuffed teddy bear he'd gotten from the school store. Her apprehension lessened noticeably and she managed to smile at him.

“My Freshman year, I had a lot of trouble keeping my shell up. It would drop when I fell asleep, or got knocked out. That happened in BMA and David was there. Within a day it was all over campus and I was damn near fair game. It's one of the reasons I joined FSA. Arthur came down on David like a ton of bricks and let him know in no uncertain terms he would be happy to spend the year in detention if he had to so as to teach David not to mess with me. Kody, his room mate, cracked his knuckles and said he'd beat up David for free. Well, Arthur is gone and Kody is busy, its only natural that asshole would start seeing what he could get away with.”

“Well, I'll be happy to dish him up as many new helpings of ass kicking he needs to figure out nothing changed but the waiter.”

“Steve, I...I can't tell you what it means to me that you...”

“That I love you?” he finished for her with a wink that made her blush. “Honey, you did that all on your own being you. The rest is easy. And pounding on bad guys is what I got into this business for, so gravy.”

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“Mom?” Tansy' voice squeaked a bit when she walked onto the faculty dais with her tray in her hands. Marissa looked up from her mostly spinach salad, delighted to see her daughter and tried to wave her down to the little table she was eating at while trying to clear her mouth of it's current bite.

“Tansy!” she managed with a quick drink of water. “How are you baby? Sit...”

“Well, we're not supposed to sit here, its for the teachers, but Elaine and I were wondering if you would join us?” Marissa looked past her daughter's shoulder to see a lovely young red head she had seen with her daughter more than once and wondered about. She stood at once and picked up her tray again.

“I'd be delighted,” she said with a smile as Tansy led the way back over to the table Elaine was already sitting at, one of a line of tables that ringed the transparent wall of the dome. It had a not terrible view of the roof of the kitchens of the Crystal Hall, already covered by a dusting of snow, and sprawling away the boys Cottages of Twain and Emerson. The two blonds got settled and Marissa extended her hand across the table to Elaine. “And you are Elaine?” she asked.

Lanie blushed and shook the lawyer's hand “Yes, ma'am. Elaine Nalley, uh, please call me Lanie.” Ms Dawson's face brightened at once and she smiled.

“Would you be the Elaine Nalley Mrs Carson told me so much about? How you believed in Tansy when no one else would? I can't tell you how thrilled I am to meet you, young lady! I don't think I will ever be able to say how grateful I am...”

“Mom,” Tansy interrupted with a grin seeing how red the cheeks of her friend had become. “You're embarrassing her!”

“Oh, oh, I'm sorry...!” Marissa apologized at once.

“It's nothing,” Lanie told her as she generously applied thousand island dressing to her own salad and Marissa fought to keep her jealousy off her face. “Truth be told, Tansy didn't need me to believe in her, she just needed to believe in herself.”

A wave of genuine approval of her daughter's choice of friends helped Marissa hide her diet misery. To her daughter, she said, “You have a very good friend, here, my little flower.”

Walcutt blushed again and ground a little pepper on her salad. “I know, mom,” she said quietly and stole a shy glance at her best friend. She sighed and took a drink of her soda water to bolster her nerves. “Mom, I...I have to tell you something, because I don't want you to just hear some of the nasty gossip on this campus. I...I know Bishop Titus says...”

Marissa blinked in confusion. “Who, baby?”

“Bishop Titus? He, he is the head of our church? The Manhattan New Anglican...”

Anglican?” demanded the lawyer with considerable heat. “Tansy, were you not confirmed?”

“Confirmed?” Tansy asked in confusion. “I don't...”

Marissa's face flushed and an expression of considerable anger set on it. “I...that...beast...” She closed her eyes and counted to ten and slowly her complexion calmed. “Tansy, sweet heart, I am not angry with you, alright? It is important you understand that, alright?” Tansy looked at Elaine and back at her mother.

“Uh, sure, mom.”

Seeing her daughter's trepidation, Marissa reached out and took her hand. “Sweetheart, when I married your father, we agreed he would convert to Catholicism and that you would be raised Roman Catholic regardless, as all of the Dawsons have been. It's just one more of his lies I have to unravel.”

“Mom, I don't even remember grandma or grandpa,” Tansy said softly. “They never sent presents, or Christmas cards or...”

“Yes, they did, sweetheart,” Marissa told her quickly. “Your father returned them out of spite. Isolating and controlling women seems to be what your father is best at...”

“You don't know the half of it,” Tansy said woodenly.

“We...we can talk about religion some other time, sweetheart,” Dawson told her brightly. “I have to get myself right with God, I...I have a lot of missed confessions to make up for.”

Elaine looked between mother and daughter and swallowed to get her courage up. “May...maybe Ah should go...?”

“No, please!” Tansy said quickly, then sighed. “Mom, I don't want you to be mad, but I have to tell you...”

“Tansy,” she interrupted softly. “I love you. You are my daughter and the bright light of my life and nothing you can say will change that.” She reached across the table and gathered her daughter into a hug. “I am so sorry to have been gone, but I am here now, my little flower and nothing will take me away, alright?”

Walcutt sniffed mightily and hugged her mother as tightly as she dared. “I love you, mommy!” she whispered adamantly.

“Now, what is it you want to tell me?” she asked as the two women sat up a bit straighter in their chairs and both dabbed at their eyes in an uncannily similar way. “You and Miss, um, Lanie are... more... than friends, aren't you?”

Tansy stared, open mouthed, looking first at her mother, then over to Elaine who was as equally shocked and aback before she remembered herself and managed to close it. “”

Marissa smiled as she chased a crouton around her plate with her fork. “Sweetheart, I grew up in the the sixties and seventies. I was in my twenties in the roaring eighties; I'm Catholic, not a prude. I've seen the both of you around the school and your affection is a bit more than platonic. Though, I have also seen you both with a rather large young man.” She put down her fork and looked at both girls. “As an officer of the court I must advise you both that bigamy is still very much against the law in all fifty states.”

“Laws change,” Lanie and Tansy said softly in tandem. Marissa looked at both of them, and finally shook her head.

“Well, you can't do any worse in marriage than I did, so I can't really be too disapproving.” She sighed and extended a hand to each girl and took their arms. “This could be a passing phase for either of you, or I could be completely wrong and you will all be the envy of what ever retirement home you end your days in. Either way, Lanie...Elaine, I owe you a debt I can't discharge for standing by my Tansy. I don't care what the law might have to say, but as far as I am concerned, you are my daughter.”

Elaine blushed fiercely and couldn't meet the other woman's gaze. “Ah...Ah am deeply honored, ma'am.”

Marissa smiled and squeezed the girls arms. “So! Now I have two daughters to get to know! Lanie, tell me about yourself!”

“You'll like her, mom,” Tansy said with a grin. “She's a lawyer too...”

“Tansy!” Lanie exclaimed and the table broke out in good natured laughter.

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October 9th, 2007
Central Heating Plant, The Shed, Whateley Academy

The master alarm began to blare, heralding the flashing strobes that caused Mr. Duncan to come out of his office like a rifle shot into the main control room. “What do we have, Vince?” he asked of engineer that was already rapidly working the controls.

“Complete loss of pressure from the supply main,” Vince replied as he threw the master dampeners on the boilers and began to decrease the steam outflow so the boilers wouldn't burst as they cooled.

“Jesus,” swore Duncan as he got a radio from the charger stand and turned it on. “Stan, Morrie are either of you near the supply main?”

“Yeah, Mr. Duncan,” Morrie's voice came back. “I'm in the pump house. One second.” The time stretched out as even though the siren was silenced, the flashing strobes threatened to give Duncan a migraine. “Supply main reads zero pressure, air warning is active and the window is dry. Request permission to open inspection hatch.”

“What's the pressure on that two-foot main...” started Duncan, but Vince waved at him while he was still bringing down the boilers.

“Window is dry, there's no pressure,” he told him. With a dull groaning wail that ran through the shed the remaining steam in the boilers was vented. The sound would echo all over campus and shortly every building would be calling wanting to know what happened to their heat.

“Permission granted,” Duncan told the radio and finally the strobes kicked off. Vince had the boilers below danger and while still hot, there was no longer an explosion risk. The speaker of the radio squawked.

“Supply main is stone dry,” Morrie's voice crackled out of the speaker. “I say again, supply main is stone dry. No trickle, no sound or sight of water as far as I can see down the pipe.”

Vince was already on the phone to the emergency line for the State Water Commission. “Secure the hatch and open the air evacuation valve,” Duncan ordered. “Implement emergency plan four.”

“Plan Four, roger.”

“Yes this Whateley Academy Plant Operations, reporting complete loss of flow in service main, 1274A.”

Duncan grabbed his jacket on his way to the door with the radio. “I'm headed for admin, keep me informed!” Vince waved as he wheeled his swivel chair over to the book case behind him and removed a red three ring binder with Plan Four marked down the spine.

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October 9th, 2007
Head Mistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

“How bad is it, Mike?” Mrs Carson wanted to know, having heard the summary from her head of operations. “The reactor...?”

Duncan shook his head, “No, no, the reactor's water supply is a closed system, we add to it once a quarter, it's fine. The problem is the boiler plant. With our usage reservoir, water to drink and cook with is fine for a week, maybe more, but the steam plant needs a constant inflow which now we don't have. We used the emergency reservoir to bring the boilers down and since most of the old buildings require steam to heat...”

Elizabeth pinched the bridge of her nose. “And what happened to the supply?”

“Evidently a gas truck lost control out on Stark Highway, its pretty icy as I understand it. The Truck slid right into the pumping station that feeds us and exploded. It's a mess. It may be a week or more before they can restore service. They don't know yet, they're still fighting the fire.”

Mrs Carson felt that tension in the back of her neck that usually heralded a bad headache. “Wonderful. What is the current temperature?”

“Seventeen,” Ms Hartford told her. “And falling.”

“Alright, cancel all classes and have the kids gather in the Crystal Hall. We'll have maintenance bring blankets and pillows and have them bed there since its will stay warm, yes?”

Duncan nodded. “The Crystal Hall and the kitchens are both on heat pump units that are electric. They'll stay warm so long as there is power. However, Poe and Melville are also heat pumps...”

“No, I don't want rumors of favorites,” Carson replied. “Also I don't want them in the tunnels without steam heat and certainly not out in the weather. They all have to eat, so we'll bed them down in the Crystal Hall. Amelia, make the announcement, please.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

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October 9th, 2007
Coos County Water Commission Pumping Station 48, 378 Stark Hwy, New Hampshire

Russ Maithers sat on the bumper of a fire truck, wrapped in a blanket and sipping coffee from someone's thermos. The snow was really coming down, now, and temperatures were falling, but that is not what had Russ bewildered. One hand was holding a gauze pad to the wound on his head as the coffee kept him warm and he tried desperately to remember. He remembered picking up nine thousand gallons of regular gasoline from the depot yard in Berlin and heading into the mountains to deliver it to a relatively remote gas station.

He remembered how remarkably fast the weather had turned, with a flurry, becoming a snow shower, then a blizzard and now this almost full on white out. If it weren't for the horrific fire of his smoldering wrecked truck and the destroyed little building it had come to rest in, you couldn't see five feet. Russ took another sip of coffee and stared at the blaze the fire fighters were desperately trying to fight and fought the pounding in his head. Some part of him realized he should be dead, that the fire he was watching should be his funeral pyre, but it wasn't. Somehow he had ended up on the side of the road, right where the first responder, a Coos County Sheriff's deputy found him, close enough to the blaze its heat kept him from hypothermia, far enough it didn't harm him.

Russ Maithers should be dead and for the life of him he couldn't figure out why he wasn't. He turned, feeling a tingle go up the back of his head and looked into the treeline on the opposite side of the road. There, near the sign warning of Medawihla Tribal Lands, he thought he saw a wolf or a dog get up from watching him and wander deeper into the forest. Then he wondered if he truly had seen it and went back to wondering why he was still alive.

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October 9th, 2007
All Radio and Television Frequencies in New Hampshire

This is the Emergency Alert Broadcast System. The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, has issued a Severe Blizzard Warning for Northern New Hampshire. A cold front, bringing arctic air has stalled over the Presidential Mountains, north of a line from Lancaster to Berlin. Blizzard conditions will be prevalent for next several hours with some elevations seeing three to five feet of snow combined with dangerous winds and sub zero temperatures. Citizens are advised to stay in their homes due to wide spread road closures in the region. Use extra layers in your home and drink hot beverages. Avoid even brief exposure to the storm.

This is the Emergency Alert Broadcast System. Stay tuned to this, or other channels for further information concerning this Emergency.

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