Monday, 18 September 2017 14:00

The Haunting of Jennifer Kelly (Part 1)

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A Whateley Academy 2nd Generation Tale

The Haunting of Jennifer Kelly

By E. E. Nalley



October 7th, 2016
The March of Dreams

Jennifer Kelly wandered the Moors of Scotland while regretting in a vague way her weakness for romance novels. She'd never been to Scotland, nor watched any documentaries or travelogues; or had any other desire to journey to the faraway land. Although it was the backdrop of the torrid series of bodice rippers that was her current fascination literature wise. And so she blamed The Margrave's Mistress, for the strange dream she was having.

She rubbed her shoulders against the cold and damp wondering why her dream was not set in the warm well lit hallways of Castle Moray as opposed to this miserable, marshy wilderness. On the wind floated the angry neigh of a horse just as upset at being out in the weather as she was. Jennifer turned and looked over her shoulder up a tall hill to see a stallion and rider silhouetted against the starlight and the pale full moon was rising behind them.

A thrill of fear raced up and down her spine and for some reason the sight of the rider and the horse filled her with fear and dread. Jennifer turned and bolted towards the little copse of trees further down the valley she was in, any direction to be away from the horse and the rider. Her reaction was just in time to avoid an arrow that zipped by the space she had just occupied and embedded itself into the marshy soil. The courier needed no further warning and continued running towards the shelter of the trees only to find herself in the chaos of the battlefield.

There was nothing heroic or chivalrous about the carnage she saw; there was not even uniforms, merely two different bands of bearded men in patch works of armor butchering each other. Everywhere was blood, viscera and gore; the air was thick with curses, screams of agony and moans of the dying and the shouts of the victorious. Not two feet in front of her was a man on his knees, his face contorted in agony, a figure hunched over behind him, standing on his knees and calves, holding him down. Whoever was on his back had a handful of his dirty blonde hair and was using it to pull his head back, exposing his neck.

Then a knife that was trying to grow up to be a sword came around the other side and slit open his throat from carotid to jugular; not particularly quickly either, but slow enough that man could feel the wound that would kill him. As his throat was opened the murderer pulled harder on the dying man's hair to open the wound further and causing blood to fountain everywhere. Jennifer stumbled backwards, horrified as the very ground was soaked in blood and she felt her stomach heave with the horror of it all, the murderer looked up and Jennifer saw her own face, spattered in blood and worse, with blue mud smeared across her eyes and the most evil grin she could imagine as she spat into the face of the man she had murdered and tossed him aside. “Give me back my life!” the bloody, evil woman declared as she advanced on Jennifer, murder in her eyes.

* * *

Jennifer awoke screaming, tangled in the comforter and alone.

She panted in the dark, fumbled for a light and finding it, looked for her lover, but remembered Sarah had the early shift this week and so was already at the hospital. Jennifer's stomach heaved as she remembered the horrific dream and she scrambled to the toilet to throw up into it. That accomplished she rinsed her mouth clean and got the bottle of antacid from the medicine cabinet to deal with the acid on her stomach, but as she closed the cabinet, in the mirror staring at her was the woman on the MID she feared and hated. Whose wild red hair she dyed auburn brown, her face hidden by the scarlet mask that covered her face, but left her hair free and the unnaturally emerald eyes bore holes in her soul.

“Give me back mah life!” Wicked demanded.

* * *

Jennifer awoke screaming, frantic in the arms of her lover, trying desperately to comfort her...

* * *

Part One

It seems no one can help me now
I'm in too deep
There's no way out
This time I have really led myself astray

Soul Asylum, Runaway Train


October 7th, 2016
Devisor Lab Vehicle, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy

The woman who looked like Elaine Cody stopped by the cordoned off access point to a side tunnel of Kane Three Twenty One and stared at the last known location of so many friends, mentors and surrogate parents. The woman who had saved her life had lost hers somewhere down this tunnel and into the darkness, but no! She wouldn't think that, she couldn't think that. Somewhere, some how, Elizabeth Carson was alive and needed help and the woman who called herself Elaine Cody wanted desperately to find out how to help her.

Staring at it won't bring her back, Grizzly whispered in her ear, ever practical. Tansy sighed in frustration. She had long ago gotten used to the dryly humorous spirit her mental powers had allowed her to trade with the real Elaine so their ruse would be complete. Being able to curl up in the fur of her beloved's spirit and cry the night away had kept her sane.

I wish I had Lanie's skills to invent something to...Tansy thought at the spirit, but the big she bear only sniffed in disdain and in a manner only a spirit can enveloped her in a massive hug without actually manifesting.

I wish a lot too, my dear, but wishing doesn't change what is. She paused for a moment and Tansy got the impression of her cocking her ear as if listening to something unheard. The Ptesanwi is here in your classroom and is waiting to speak with you.

Now it was Tansy's turn to wonder why her friend had journeyed up from New York. Taking another sip of the coffee in her thermal cup, she turned her steps to 'her' classroom, despite feeling like an interloper every time she entered it. Several students cheerfully greeted her, while most were enraptured in the conversation and impromptu lecture Kayda was giving over the pristine '34 Ford Mr Donner and the Gearheads had painstakingly restored. Tansy smiled as she remembered the look of Wyatt in that scrumptious black silk Zoot Suit with white accents holding the Tommy gun he'd used as a prop for the photo in front of the car with Tansy and Elaine hanging off him dressed as a pair of gun molls.

Kayda forced a smile and a cheek kiss in greeting, but that brief contact was enough to tell Tansy she was worried about something. “Tommie, take the roll for me and then ya'll get busy. Ms Franks and Ah will be in mah office.” She led the way to the little office off to one side, unlocked it and went inside, turning on the ancient coffee maker as she passed it, having set it up the night before. “Ok, what's going on?” she demanded as she set her briefcase and coffee cup down.

Franks sank into a chair like she'd wilted and looked down at her clinched hands in her lap. “I...I might have fucked up,” she admitted softly. Tansy waited for Kayda to continue, but the silence stretched out for a long moment while the shaman simply stared at her clenched fists.

Licking her lips, Tansy asked softly, "Okay, well I'm sure it's something we can fix…" Kayda flinched and almost immediately the little alarm in the back of Tansy's mind began to ring. "Why don't you tell me what happened?"

Kayda started to look up, but flinched again and looked away. She opened her purse and produced a small necklace with a tiny leather medicine bag hanging off of it. "I'm sorry, Lan… Mrs. Cody, would you put that on please?"

Tansy turned the necklace over in her fingers and felt the tingling of the power within it. "What is it?" she asked.

The shaman sighed. "It's… It's a charm. If you put it on and ask it, it will suspend the illusion spell I put on you. I'm sorry, one of the reasons I avoided you was because I couldn't bear to see her face on you. All it does is suspend the illusion, when you take it off the illusion is restored."

Tansy narrowed her eyes and leaned back in the chair. Opening a drawer in the desk, she picked up the necklace, dropped it into the drawer and closed it. Coldly, she declared, "I don't need your magic charm to remind me I don't measure up to her!"

Abashed, Kayda opened and closed her mouth several times, before finally she was able to declare, "I… I didn't mean it that way!" She saw the hurt on Elaine's face when she looked up then dropped her head and ran her fingers through her hair. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I ... I miss her." She shook her head, wiping at the tear that threatened to leak from her eye. "God knows you miss her more. You and she shared a special love that I didn't. You married her. I didn't. More like ... a sister, instead of a wife." She sighed. "Every time I see you, it ... it reminds me of the lie.”

Mrs. Cody rubbed her hands together flat palmed before she finally nodded her head. "Me, too," she admitted quietly. "I...I don't mean to rub your nose in it, I...I do what I have to so Wyatt doesn't suffer. So, tell me what happened, and we'll see if we can put it right."

For the first time in the conversation, Kayda looked up and was able to meet the other woman's eyes; the eyes of the dusky skinned shaman were filled with worry. "I… I was getting impatient with how slowly your investigations were going, and then it occurred to me that Mrs. Horton had summoned Laneth once and…"

The coffee cup paused halfway to Mrs. Cody's mouth before returning to where it came from on the desk. "You… Kayda tell me you didn't…"

Kayda's eyes returned to the floor. "I did," she admitted. "It… It was like she was asleep, or dormant, I… I don't know! I… Mrs. Carson never told me what spell she used to wake up Laneth, and I think I got a piece of her…"

Tansy kept her anger on its shortest leash. "Well, it's not like Mrs. Carson is here to ask, is she?" Franks flinched again but said nothing. Mrs. Cody propped her elbows on her desk and laid her head against her fingers gently massaging the bridge of her nose between her eyes. "I'm sorry, that's not your fault. Did anything appear in your summoning circle?"

The shaman continued to stare at the floor and shrugged noncommittally. "Honestly I… I'm not sure. For the first time I got a sensation of her, of feeling like I'd woken something up, then it was gone."

Mrs. Cody sighed and took a sip of her coffee. "All right, so, what happened before? When Mrs. Carson woke up Laneth, Lanie started having dreams about her, right?"

The small office was made to seem tiny as Grizzly manifested in the only space big enough to accommodate her. Nightmares is more like it, the spirit declared. She only got through it because I was there to put it into context.

"Context of what?" Tansy asked confused.

Grizzly cocked her head to one side. You never explored those memories with her? When the two of you were having what amounted to mind sex so deeply that even Mustang and I had trouble distinguishing where you stopped and she started you didn't walk a mile in the boots of the Pict banshee? Tansy shook her head obviously still confused.

"You did that?" Kayda asked with a strange look on her face.

"You know that I've often said the only sexual organ in the human body is the brain?” The redhead asked archly. Kayda nodded hesitantly, with a look of confusion on her face. “It's true. Lanie and I would...join minds often when we made love. And even when we didn't, she helped me get over a lot from my messed up childhood.” She sighed and shook her head. “God I miss her mental touch.”" Tansy declared, then turned back to the massive bear. "No, Grizzly, it never really came up. I… Sensed… Laneth a couple of times, I think she liked me, but Laneth felt rather like a third wheel…"

Pity, the she bear retorted. If you had you might've realized that Laneth is a very different woman from Elaine. She is a warrior from the Iron Age, she killed without hesitation, or pity or second thought! The closest thing you have today to compare against her is a serial killer! Nightmares? If Elaine is going through those dreams again, night terrors are a better word!

"Oh, shit…" The women chorused.

* * *

October 7th, 2016
Abraham Stein and Sons, Importers, 8th Avenue and West 39th Street, New York

To say that gem importing businesses went out of their way to be low key establishments was the height of understatement. Stein and Sons was a typical example of the breed, understated plaque announcing the business, a tasteful little note in the frosted glass of 'By Appointment Only' and one would hardly give the business a second look. Of course, that was very much by design. If one managed admittance to the outer lobby, one would find a fortress waiting with the very latest in understated security. Remote locked security doors rated to stand up to an Exemplar Five, set into similarly rated walls, and a small store's worth of cameras that covered the entire spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.

Jennifer Kelly had already made her way through the gauntlet to one of the private rooms where a third cousin of the businesses founder was presenting a greenish stone the size of her fist to her. “Uncut emerald, approximately four hundred karats, to Ferraro and Cohen Jewelers.”

The brunette sighed as she looked at the thin, raven haired young man. “Benjamin, do you think so little of me that you could pass off a lab created stone and let the goyem twist in the wind for it? After all the business we've done? And what would your grandfather say when his business is ruined when word of your little bait and switch gets out?”

The young man began to stammer out his protest of innocence when another door opened and an older man came in, grinning from ear to ear. “How?” he demanded with a smile, clapping a hand on the boy's shoulder and dismissing him. “You didn't even touch it!”

The younger man left, still stammering his innocence as the new comer sat down. Jennifer reached over to the tray and picked up the stone. “Whoever ginned this up for you went too far in selling the 'weathered' look. Look how even this gouge is, that can't be anything but a tool mark. And by itself I might have bought it was a mar in mining the stone, but it's dirty. Look at it! Cleaning the stone would have occurred at the quarry and who knows how many would have palmed it to admire a stone this size. It would never still have dirt on it here!”

The man grinned a wider grin. “There's no fooling you, Miss Kelly! Here is Jose's uncut emerald.” He produced a clean gem of about the same size from his jacket and presented it. The woman took it, ran a few tests and admired it through a jeweler's loop. “Satisfied?”

“Sufficiently,” Kelly replied, picking up her phone and working a control. “Especially since I record all my pickups and deliveries,” she said with a smile. She returned the gem to its cloth bag and placed it in a briefcase handcuffed to her wrist. “You may call Señor Ferraro and tell him I am on my way.”

* * *

October 7th, 2016
Playground, Whateley Special Needs Elementary Facility, Whateley Academy

Wyatt Virgil Cody Junior leaned against the wall of the battlement at the top of the castle themed gym set and thought with all of his six year old might. He was a big lad for his tender years, already over four and a half feet and seventy pounds, and while he was 'husky' very little of his weight was fat. Of course with a father who was six foot six and a mother who was five eleven, no one was surprised he was in the top one percent of his age group. He was a rough-and-tumble lad with an open, honest face, his father's brown hair and his mother's unnaturally green eyes. It wasn't that the young man disliked school, he in fact loved finding out new things, but he was deeply bored. While he had inherited his father's predilection for size, from his mother he had a sharp, keen mind that frequently surprised Ms Tatum, their second grade teacher.

Junior had arrived at first grade already reading and writing, he knew his multiplication tables to ten by heart and even cursive handwriting wasn't beyond him, although even he would admit he needed to work on his penmanship. He might understand the difference and see the shapes in his mind's eye, but getting his hand to make them was beyond him. For the moment. In four years, the depth of the boys mind would be labeled genius when he took his IQ test, but for now he settled for being called gifted.

The trap door to the tower opened and Junior watched his twin sister climb up the ladder and then close the door. Constance Elizabeth Cody was ten minutes and forty two seconds younger than Junior, but that was the only thing she would admit to being second to him in. Connie could look her sibling in the eyes, Connie also had her mother's green eyes, crimson hair and peaches and cream complexion. At that moment, she wore her hair in a French braid to the tops of her shoulder blades. She walked over to her brother and asked, “Why are you thinking bad thoughts?”

“I”m not,” Junior replied peevishly and returned to looking up the hill at Melville cottage and the top of the Crystal Hall beyond. “I'm just wondering why we can't visit Grandma Carson. The 'rents get all weepy whenever we ask and they never say the truth. 'Gone away.'” he spat with considerable contempt. “When did Grandma ever go anywhere she didn't come say good bye to us first?”

“Grandma Jody says we'll understand when we're older,” Connie replied reasonably.

Junior turned his back to the corner of the fort wall and slid down to his rump. “That's just grown up for 'I don't want to tell you.'” He rubbed the 'strong' nose he'd gotten from his father and looked up at his twin. “Something happened,” he declared with all the finality only a six year old can muster. “Even Peregrine says so.”

Connie looked around cautiously. Lowering her voice to a whisper, she said, “We swore we wouldn't talk about our friends at school!”

The boy waved off her concerns with a dismissive gesture. “Ms. Tatum is over by the merry go round, she can't hear us. What does Winnie say?”

Connie sat down as well and curled her well-worn jeans under herself while straightening her Rainbow Dash T-shirt. “She says she doesn't like it when you call her Winnie,” Connie answered primly. Junior rolled his eyes and made a gesture of impatience at his sister. “Ok, fine, she says the adults were playing with things they shouldn't have and paid the price for it.”

Juniors face became grim. “We gotta find out more, Connie. You know Grandma would come find us if we were missing!”

“How?” the other demanded.

“I bet mom's tricorder...”

“Wyatt Junior, you just want to play with...!”

“This is serious!” He shot back. “We need information and that's what mom's tricorder does! It gives information!”

“Mom also said we weren't to play with it because it was expensive!”

Junior made a dismissive gesture. “Mom made that one, she could make another. I'll make a distraction and you sneak into her lab and get it.”

His sister was obviously not convinced. “Junior...What are you going to do?”

Wyatt mentally pulled on his big boy pants and took a brave pill. “I'm going to start Liam's Folly.”

Connie's eyes went wide with fright. “Daddy will tan your hide!”

“Yeah, well, if he doesn't come to spank me, it wasn't a good distraction, was it?” He sighed and looked into his sister's eyes. “After dinner?” She nodded slowly, obviously not keen on the undertaking.

* * *

October 7th, 2016
Faculty Dais, The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy

Tansy led Kayda to one of the more quiet tables on the faculty dais, nearest to the waterfall and its flying bridge over to the Alpha Dais across the way so they would not be overheard. Tansy had taken an instant dislike of the new Headmaster and had seen nothing so far to change her opinion. She wished she could reveal herself to Ms Hartford, but that would likely be dangerous - if Ms. Hartford had even been around. She'd suddenly left the academy when she was passed over for the Head Mastership, but Tansy still knew how to get a hold of her if she needed. Besides, the dashing Mr. Turner seemed to be doing well at mitigating the worst of the Headmaster's incompetence at dealing with teenagers.

“It's so odd to be eating here,” she muttered as she set her purse and tray down before she slid into the seat.

“The Faculty Dais?” Tansy asked, but Kayda shook her head.

“The Crystal Hall. Brings back memories, doesn't it?”

Tansy smiled through Elaine's face and her thoughts were far away. After a moment of reflection on the Alpha Dais, she took out her tablet and called up several documents to float holographically above it. “So, here is what we know so far. Going back to the explosion, forty people were killed instantly and another two hundred odd suffered burns of some kind or another. The Ty West Foundation paid for all the medical expenses as an act of charity...”

“Seeing as it was his fault...” Kayda started, but 'Elaine's' gaze was sharp.

“Don't start,” she warned. “I took responsibility for...Solange...and I'll continue to pay that debt. The hard truth is without that cure, billions would have died.”

Kayda's eyes dropped to her tray and she pushed her salad with a fork. “I...I know. Neither of us have to like it...”

“It's done, Tonto,” Tansy told her with a slight smile and the use of her nickname. The Lakota beauty smiled back and nodded. “So, anyway, based on all the photographic evidence, one of the forty DOAs was labeled 'Solange' and that body was buried here on campus. The only ID that could be made was a female of about the right age and blonde hair. Now, of the two hundred, six were in comas with severe burns, two were men, who have since died. Scratch them, the four women, one is still on life support with a coma, but is brain dead. Two have since died of the burns which leaves the reason the brain dead one is still on life support, Jennifer Kelly.”

“That was the name on the fake IDs!” Kayda said excitedly. “Why didn't this come up sooner!?”

“I'm getting to it,” Tansy told her peevishly. “Kelly had a MID, the 'Wicked' Villain ID near her, but it was too badly burned to be read. The MCO technology office worked with the DPA and after about eight months were able to get enough data off the chip to figure out which MID it was. That's how Jane Doe Coma Four became Jennifer Kelly. We weren't alerted because...Solange...had been buried for seven odd months! No one was looking and I didn't flag the ID until last year. Here's where it gets interesting. Jennifer suffered some of the most severe burns of the victims who were not DOA, but a brain scan showed her brain was still active and practically awake she was so active. So they kept her on life support, even though she was technically in a persistent vegetative state. And, since they kept her on life support, they had to keep the other woman on life support as well, but, get this, Jennifer's body was healing itself. Kelly came out of her coma, completely regenerated in 2014, but with Post Traumatic Stress Amnesia.”

Kayda's face draped in an expression of terror. “ Wildman...?”

Tansy shook her head. “No,” she said and immediately Kayda breathed a sigh of relief. “She could speak, had knowledge, could read and write, but not personal things, who she was, where she came from, even why she was in New York.”

“Where is she now?” asked Kayda.

“Living in New York as a gem and jewelery courier.”

Kayda's face pinched up in confusion. “Why...?”

Tansy shrugged. “In the, ahem, background Ms. Hartford gave her, she had a degree from Kennesaw State University and was a Graduate Gemologist. It fit with the cat burglar for hire persona I guess.” The redhead sighed and reached out to hold Kayda's hand. She felt Tatanka's presence, protecting his host's mind, but Tansy was allowed to pass and while staring into her eyes telepathically told her, Kayda, she has been living another life for two years. We may have to accept that the Elaine we knew is gone...

NO! The Lakota girl's mind screamed. You can fix her, T...Lanie! You...goddamn it, you know what I mean! Like your mother! Like ME...!

Tansy gently pushed soothing, calm emotions through the link and felt the anxiety of Kayda come down, but the desperation to have her soul sister back was even stronger. I will try, Kayda, if she will let me.

You'll fix her, Kayda thought confidently. You have to.

* * *

October 7th, 2016
Garage, The Cody Residence, The Village, Whateley Academy

Junior eased his way through the kitchen door and into the garage of the apartment. The school was very generous in its stipends for married teachers with children. Not only did it supply on campus elementary education, it also provided a collection of spacious apartments for those families. And attached to those of a technical bent were very large garages and barns for private tinkering. Junior crept past his father's massive Harley Davidson, past the Ford Transit van that served as the 'family' car and over to a large tarp covered object.

His Mom's Mustang, Baby Girl was in an extra, canvas garage in front of the door of this bay to keep it from the weather. With a look at his watch, Junior took another mental brave pill and pulled the tarp from over the car. Underneath was a gleaming black 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II. The body was thick plates of steel, but it was the massive twelve cylinder Merlin engine under the hood that was going to serve him. There were no mufflers for this car, nothing that was strong enough for the massive aviation engine that had been shoe horned into it, merely glass packs to deaden the concussive force of the exhaust.

His buttocks tingling in anticipation of the spanking it would receive for this little stunt, Junior got the key from its hiding hook on the work bench and unlocked the door. Sliding into the drivers place, the car's old leather smell brought a smile to his face as he inserted the key and turned it to the 'on' position.

Talking to himself, he remembered the last time he had been in the car and had watched carefully when his mother had started it for a test of one of her modifications. He spoke each step aloud, unconsciously recreating the exact checklist, using his memory in ways that are extremely rare in children, but quite common in mutants like his parents. “Parking break on,” and he tugged on the lever to be sure of it. “Close Main Bus A, Hand pump oil primer," he muttered as he pumped the lever several times.  "Oil pump to on, fuel mixture to rich, fuel pump on...”

A high pitched whine began to drift from under the engine hood as the old engine began to come to life. “Close main bus B, magnetos one and two to start, main key to start and...” Screwing his courage to the sticking place, Junior started to position himself for the final steps only to encounter the panic of reaching with his foot to encounter open air. The engine sounds and smells started to waver, moving away from his memories and he knew he had to act quickly. He threw himself off the edge of the seat upon which he perched and pressed down on the clutch pedal, made sure the car was in neutral, and with his other foot stepped on the starter pedal. The whine became a growl, then a roar as twelve cylinders awoke with thunder and clouds of blue smoke that reeked of fuel in the confined space.

Doubtlessly, every apartment on the block heard Liam's Folly roar to life.

Junior quickly worked himself into a very convincing panic, realizing that with his checklist ended; with only a vague idea what to do next and remained pinned between the seat and the floor, most of his weight on the clutch. Knowing what was coming as well as feeling eleven hundred horsepower vibrating around him certainly helped and, as he planned, both his father and his mother came flying out the kitchen door. By the scruff of his neck, Junior was removed from the vehicle by one of his father's massive hands while the other kept the clutch depressed; even as his mother slid into the seat and quickly shut off the car. Junior risked a look up into his father's face while his mother exited the car and opened both garage doors to vent the exhaust gasses and let in fresh air.

Wyatt Cody Senior's face was going from fear and concern to that blushing, tightly held anger when he knew his son had done something wrong. “How many times have you been told not to play in these cars, Son?” he demanded.

"It was an accident..." he started, but was cut off by the angry voice of his mother.

“No, no,” his mother replied, walking forward to stand next to her husband. “You can't 'accidentally' start a car that complicated, can you, Junior?” she demanded icily.

Junior's eyes admired the speckled protective paint of the garage floor. “I...I was playing, and I know I shouldn't have, mom, but...”

“But nothing!” she told him sharply. Coming down to one knee, she looked her child in the face. “Junior, that car is like a wild horse! If you even thought about putting it in gear it would have shot through that door like a cannon! It could have killed you!” His mother took him by the shoulders and shook him before pulling him against her.

Junior felt her heart thundering in her chest and in the back of his mind, Peregrine told him that rank, bitter smell from his mother was fear. She burst into tears as she held him and Junior felt about one inch tall. He had been prepared to weather his father's anger, justified as it was, but that he had hurt his mother stung worse than any spanking. Tears began to leak from his eyes and he hugged her back. “I'm sorry, mommy,” he started, but his father gently stroked his wife's head and interrupted.

“Was it worth it, son? Seeing your mother hurt like this?”

“No, sir,” he managed around his own tears. “I'm sorry...”

His chest expanded as he took in a deep, calming breath. “I am glad you regret what you've done, so you know and understand both that it was wrong and why. But that is not a free pass. Go to your room and go to bed. We will discuss your punishment in the morning.”

Junior swallowed. “Yes sir.” He kissed his mother's cheek and whispered, “I'm sorry, mom, I...I won't not think again. I promise.” She squeezed him and let go before she stood up and wiped her tears off her face.

“Wyatt Virgil Cody Junior, if you ever, ever go near that car again before you are at least 18 Ah...Ah...” she stamped her foot because her accent became thick she was so angry. “By God's Golden Throne Ah will make you sorry, do you understand me?”

“Yes ma'am!”

“Now go brush your teeth and get your tail in bed and don't let me hear a peep out of you tonight!”

Junior went as fast as legs would carry him.

* * *

October 7th, 2016
The March of Dreams

The village bell was ringing like to break the clapper from inside it. Jennifer awoke to the cry of an infant and feeling of wet, cold terror. She flung off the thick fur she was sleeping in and grabbed a bow and a quiver of arrows by the bed as a voice, high and bleak with fear was screaming over the bell, “Vikings! Vikings!”

Outside the stone lined hovel she saw long boats in the harbor near the town and a group of torches lighting the way of a gang of bearded men trying to break down the gate through the sea wall and into the town. Jennifer began to shoot the bow without realizing what she was doing, raining arrows that found their mark judging by the screams of the raiders below. But then a sword missed her by inches and cut the bow string, snapping the wood rigid and flinging it and the arrow from her hands. Jennifer ducked under the return strike of someone climbing the sea wall and trying to get over the top to let his fellow raiders in. She snatched a massive dagger from her hip and leaping into the guard of the climbing raider, shoved it into his eye.

His eyeball popped like an over ripe boil and his scream was inhuman as he jerked his head back off the dagger, lost his balance and fell two dozen feet to his death. Jennifer turned only to be impaled on a sword, she felt the cold steel in her guts and the pain and the nausea were breath taking as the blonde haired man before her shouted what were likely obscenities at her. Her free hand grabbed his wrist and even as her vision began to tunnel she was as amazed as her murderer by her strength. He could not pull the sword away and she pulled it deeper, to get closer to his reeking breath.

The cold was now white hot as her life drained away, She felt her organs begin to spill from the wound but in a final act of rage, she reared back and thrust the dagger into his throat, slicing his Adam’s apple, severing his wind pipe and lodging the blade in the back of his neck. She fell, the warmth leaving her as she bled and watched with horrific satisfaction as her killer flailed at the dagger lodged in his neck and finally fell over and twitched as his spine was severed and he joined her in death.

The darkness came with a wail of “Give me back my life...!”

* * *

October 8th, 2016
The March of Dreams

Junior started as he thought he heard something. He was flying, not particularly high above the trees and Perry was showing him how to wheel and hover on the air currents. Flying was easily his favorite way to spend his dreams, but now he was certain he had heard his mother cry out. He banked sharply away from Perry and trimmed his wings to pick up speed. Below him, the landscape blurred as he flew as fast as he could in the sound of the scream. Below him he saw a horse and a rider, but as he dove down to further investigate he slipped off the bed and crashed to the floor in a lump.

“Ow,” he muttered as he picked himself up and rubbed the point of his chin that had taken the brunt of the fall. He looked up on cue as the door to the bathroom he shared with his sister opened and his twin came into the room.

“You fell,” she stated, wiping the sleep out of her eyes.

“I was flying with Perry,” he replied and noticed the small box in her hand. “You got it! Great, any problems?”

The girl shook her head and sat down on the floor next to him and handed the device to him. “No, it was right where mom leaves it. It was dead, so I took the charger too and had it plugged in. Was Daddy hard on you?”

Junior winced as he took the box and opened it, watching the lights come up and the tiny screen run through its boot sequence. “I...I really scared mom,” he admitted softly. “She was crying and saying I could die.”

“Did you 'pologize?”

He shrugged as he worked out how to make the device work. “It wasn't enough. She was really scared. She started crying and I got the sniffles and even Dad got quiet. He said we'd talk about my punishment in the morning.” The device beeped and the read out changed. “Ok, it says it is sixty eight degrees and that there is thirty one inches of mercury and rising, whatever that means, atmosphere consists of Nitrogen seventy eight percent, oxygen twenty one percent, point nine percent argon, what's argon? And point oh three percent carbon. What does that mean?”

“It's what's in the air, silly,” his sister told him. “What about that radiation button?”

“Levels con,...gre...gru...congruent with background count,” he read. “What does congruent mean?” Connie shrugged at him. Junior scratched his chin and pressed the broad spectrum button. There's a bunch of electromagnetic fields,” he said, moving the device until it was pointed at his nightlight. “Oh, ok, it picked up the light. So these others must be stuff in the building...” A soft alarm tone began to come from the device. "Unknown electromagnetic pattern detected," whispered Junior. He waved the device around and stopped in the direction of the main campus. "Unknown. And really strong! That's got to be Grandma Carson! It's half a kilometer that way."

“The school is that way,” Connie whispered, just as excited.

Junior closed the device with a confident snap. “So, that's where we're going tomorrow!”

“Assuming you aren't grounded,” Connie teased him.

Wyatt sighed. “Oh yeah, that.”

* * *

October 8th, 2016
The Cody Residence, The Village, Whateley Academy

Breakfast was a remarkably quiet affair of blueberry pancakes and bacon. Normally, Mrs. Cody was particularly vibrant on Saturdays, but today it was obvious to all of the Cody children that their mother had things on her mind. At last she rose from the table, refilled her husband's coffee and then her own to announce, “Baby, I need to go to New York for a few days.”

Wyatt senior looked up from the comparision report of medical schools he had ordered on his tablet with confusion. “Again?” he asked quietly. “You just got back, love.”

Elaine sighed and nodded. “I know, and I'm sorry for the short notice. Kayda needs help with a project and, well, she kind of guilted me into helping her with it.”

“What is the chance I can guilt you into staying?” he asked dryly. Elaine smiled and retreated a bit into her voluminous crimson hair. She sighed and shook her head.

“It's kind of a big deal and I won't be long, promise.”

“This isn't a last party thing before...?”

“No! No,” she affirmed. “Nothing like that. No, it's a Nations thing and she thinks Grizzly could make a difference...”

Wyatt sat up and crossed his chest. “I'll be the first to admit that lots of folks got a raw deal in this country, but I am not liking some of the things I hear from some of those Nation elements.”

“Every movement is going to have extremists, baby,” she told him. “Kayda thinks maybe Grizzly can be a calming voice, help with integration...”

“We're all Americans,” he declared roughly, “you'd think that would be enough.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Promise me you'll be safe, some of these idiots are talking about violence and war...”

“Scouts honor,” she promised. “And I'll be home on the first flight when I'm done.”

Junior looked across the table and saw his sister was finished with her breakfast. Screwing his courage to the sticking place, he finished his orange juice and asked, “May I be excused?”

His father's eyes turned to him with such weight that Junior nearly felt it. Wyatt Senior's lips drew into a thin line and his jaw was set. “We have something to discuss, first, do we not, son?”

“Yes sir.”

“What did I tell you three months ago which was the last time you were caught playing with the cars?” he asked, his tone tight and controlled.

The lump in Juniors throat was very difficult to swallow. “That you would spank me...?”

“I believe the phrase I used was 'tan your hide,' is that not so, son?”

“Yes sir.”

Cody senior sighed and took a sip of his coffee, but his eyes did not leave his son. “That being said, I am pleased that you know what you did was wrong and why. While I want to take that into mitigation, as I am a man of my word, I will give you your choice of punishment. You can be grounded for a week, no PlayStation, no television, no outings save back and forth to school and I will even send a note to your teacher that you are to spend recess sitting next to her studying, or three lashes with my belt, one for each time you were told not to play in those cars.” The coffee cup came down to the table like a judge's gavel. “What do you choose?”

“I didn't do it to make you angry, dad...”

“I'm not angry, son,” Wyatt replied quickly. “Although I will admit to being deeply disappointed. God as my witness, I will never strike or correct you in anger. However every choice in life has a consequence, and this choice is the consequence of your actions last night.”

Junior nodded his understanding and squirmed in his seat in anticipation of his choice. “I...I choose to be spanked, sir.” He finally managed to say.

“Why?” his father asked blandly.

The young boy looked up, startled and surprised by his father's question. “Sir?”

“I said, 'Why?' son,” he replied. “Why do you choose to be spanked?”

“Be...because what I did was wrong and...and you said you would...”

Wyatt's golden eyes narrowed. “And you have somewhere you want to go today, do you not?” Junior knew he couldn't keep the look of astonishment off his face. It never ceased to confuse him why he and his sister could manage to fool their parents in some things and yet others they would see right through their most sincere pretenses at their real motivations. It made no rhyme or reason his six year old mind could thus far pattern out and made dealing with his parents and other adults in general very confusing. The young boy nodded, knowing at least part of his plans had been found out.

The elder Wyatt sighed. “Alright, I gave you the choice, and I accept it. Now, understand this, the next time I catch you playing in those cars it will be four lashes with my belt and a week grounded. I will not tolerate disobedience in this matter, Junior and only because it is for your own good. Do you understand me, son?” Wyatt looked at his mother and found her looking at him. She shook her head, indicating she would not intervene, and so he looked back at his father and nodded.

“Yes sir, I understand. And I won't play in the cars again.”

“A man's word is his bond, son,” Wyatt told him gruffly. “See that yours is a good one, because I will hold you to it. Now, go wait for me in my study. I'll be along presently.”

“Yes sir.”

* * *

“Was it worth it?” Connie asked softly after a long time of watching her brother's walk return to normal and the water leave his eyes.

He shrugged and then admitted softly, “If I had thought it would scare mom so bad I would have done something else.” She rubbed his shoulder in condolence and they walked on. 

* * *

October 8th, 2016
Apartment of Jennifer Kelly and Sarah Williams, New York, NY

Jennifer stood under the hot water of the main faucet and let it beat on her as she shivered and leaned against the green and white marble wall. Both she and her lover did well for themselves and both were water nymphs of a sort and the bathroom of their apartment had been rebuilt to account for it. The shower was actually nearly its own room, four foot square with six additional nozzles so that a person, or persons in the shower could be sprayed from all directions. The flash water heater kept that water nice and hot as well.

Despite the temperature, Jennifer shivered and desperately tried to compose herself. She had woken in hysterics, desperately trying to find organs that had not spilt out of her body. She had been grateful for the comfort of her lover, but as she told her the dream she had had, the horrific nature and the vividness of the details had been painted on Sarah's face and Jennifer had fled into the shower, ashamed of herself for causing her lover such pain. “I'm not her, I'm not her, I'm not her!” she chanted into the wall as if the words were a magic talisman that would ward off her celestial stalker.

She jumped as her lovers hands took hold of her shoulders and she pressed her body against Jennifer. “I'm here, love, I'm here,” Sarah whispered in her ear. Her hair plastered to her head, Jennifer turned and looked into Sarah's face.

“I...I think I'm going crazy, baby,” she admitted in a fearful whisper. “Or worse, it's like she is trying to take me over! And I can't stop her! And she'll hurt you or...” Jennifer couldn't continue because her lover's full, soft lips where mashed against hers as the doctor turned her around into a body to body embrace.

Her hands came up Jennifer's arms to take her cheeks and force her to look the doctor in the eye. “I love you, and I have not even the whimsy you might ever hurt me!” the Doctor told her fiercely. “And even if she does come back, I will seduce her just like you seduced me! And if I have to live the rest of my life as the girl floozy of a super villain I will. But you my sweet Irish Rose, you have to face this fear!”

“No!” she squealed. “I can't! What if I killed someone! What if...?”

“God damn what if!” Sarah shouted, her voice ringing off the marble. “If you did, red band! You paid your debt! Now we are going to find out who Wicked was and you are going to face this fear, Jennifer Kelly! And I will be right beside you!”

The tears melded with the stream of water splashing on both women as she wailed, “I don't deserve you!”

Sarah smiled and kissed her again. “And I don't deserve you. Now, come with me and lets get on the internet and face this.” Sarah went to turn, but her lover was strong, much stronger than she was and she was held against her taunt, smooth skin. She looked up into those unnaturally green eyes and fell in love all over again.

“Later,” breathed Jennifer as her lips tenderly pulled away from the searing kiss that had stopped Sarah's retreat, then traveled down her neck towards her breast.

“You are so bad,” moaned Sarah as she leaned against the cool, slick marble and gave herself to her lover.

“Wicked,” Jennifer agreed from her ministrations.

* * *

October 8th, 2016
Tunnel Two Twenty One and Broadway, Whateley Academy

 Junior and Connie would likely have been amused to find out the doorway they crouched next to in the tunnels had opened into what was their mother's private lab when she had been to school here. Now it was just a door, opening onto a catwalk halfway up the massive Broadway Tunnel overlooking the side tunnel Kane Three Twenty One. It was about fifty meters down Three twenty one where the tunnel forked and the fork heading in the direction of the signal they were tracking had just had a security officer walk out of it into the main tunnel. He was speaking to someone on his radio, but they couldn't make it out from where they were.

"What now?" Connie demanded.

“Help me, mister, I'm lost?” he asked, but Connie frowned and shook her head.

Counting out on her fingers, she argued, “One, I want to see it just as much as you, two, the guards have radios which gets me caught and doesn't move the guard, and three Cheif Delarose put all the guards wise to that when we pulled the green house stunt last winter.”

“I forgot,” Junior admitted. “What do you think, then?”

She pointed at the tricorder. “Use that,” she told him. “Is there another way around?”

Junior took out the tricorder and opened it, staring at the menus until he saw something promising and pressed it. The little box beeped for several seconds then a three dimensional representation of the tunnels appeared on the screen. “Far out!” he exclaimed. “There's some kind of radar sonar combo thing that scanned the tunnels, nearby! Look, there's a little shaft that looks like it should go the same direction as the fork there.”

“Wyatt, that's an air tunnel! It's only three feet wide! Oh no, I think the guard heard the tricorder... he's coming this way!”

“So now we have to use it. We can crawl for a little bit, so what?” He quickly led the way south down Broadway and turned back west on Dr Alexander Way, the main tunnel to Schuster Hall off Broadway. From there he found an air grate with a fan built into it. He tripped the inspection lever, made sure no one was about and led his sister into the duct. The tricorder was bright enough to light up around them and other than it being a dusty, sweaty business; crawling down a duct was an easy enough adventure for the Cody children. They were young and both of their parents insisted they play outside on any remotely nice day so both were quite fit.

They were far enough down the duct that they didn't hear the security officer report in as he patrolled up the tunnel past them, check a few locked side passages before heading back the way he came. "A7, sector clear. We really need to convince admin to close off some of these access points near the Village... every weekend, someone's kids are missing and we have to sweep through..."

He was interrupted by the Security Office, "Cut the chatter on comms. A7, you are sure nothing is unlocked? That's the most likely entry point for the Cody kids." 

"Nothing here. Thought I heard some electronics noise, but I haven't found anything."

"Affirmative. Resume your regular patrol near the isolated areas."


Within twenty minutes the children were easing out of the duct into a large dark room. Wyatt helped his sister out and quietly closed the hatch. The boy switched the tricorder through a couple modes from the tunnel mapping, a little concerned by some of the subtle turns they had taken. While they were no longer anywhere near the fork they'd originally planned to take, they had been getting closer to the signal they were following. It was either in this room... or nearby. The boy dug into his pockets for a penlight. Its LED cluster lit up the room more brightly than most such small lights; but was still not up to filling a room of this size. 

The illumination splayed across various unusual instruments, computers, and stone artifacts of various sorts, throwing a collection of shadows, some quite expected... others merging and shifting in ways that didn't make sense from the movement of the light source. At the far end of the room, conventional circuit panels stood beside the only traditional entrance to the room... or lab. While the equipment would have been cutting edge for most parts of the world; at Whateley, it was slightly behind the times, suggesting along with the light layer dust on most of the surfaces that it had been unused and perhaps even unopened for several years.

“Wyatt, I don't like this,” Connie needlessly told her brother, who could feel she was as afraid as he was. The instinctive reaction was strange, for both of them; they had been in numerous workshops all over the school for years. 

“Look!” he said, shining the light on the shadow at the end. As they looked closer, they could see human shaped shadows within the surface of a larger shadow. For a moment, one shape took the form of an adult woman with a short staff, "Grandma..." But a moment later, that same shape twisted into something alien and disturbing. 

The boy played the light around the outer edges of the dark surface, revealing something that looked like an obsidian mirror standing in a structure of black iron or another dark metal alloy. Modern equipment, diagnostics computers and lasers, and a variety of things he hadn't even seen in his mother's workshop were tied into the large artifact and numerous similar objects throughout the room. "Are those... people," he asked his sister, for the first time hesitant in the pursuit of the adventure to rescue Grandma Carson.

“No!” declared Connie, emotion choking her voice. “This isn't Peter Pan, Wyatt! People don't lose their shadows!”

Junior waved the tricorder, setting it to record as well as scan, but most things came back 'unknown'. It was the source of the unknown electromagnetic pattern, but the little device had no idea what it was. “Wyatt, Winnie says we should leave,” Connie whispered in a voice that was quiet and full of fear.

There is unimaginable danger here, Young One, leave at ONCE.

Wyatt swallowed. “Perry...Perry doesn't like it either,” he admitted. He turned and found the symbol burned into the wall, and burning in deeper as he watched. “We...we better go...” he admitted and both children took to their heels and fled out the main door of the lab, not even caring that they had no idea where it led.

* * *

October 8th, 2016
The Cody Residence, The Village, Whateley Academy

Tansy laid out her favorite suitcase and began to pack what she thought she would need for a few days in New York. A few pairs of designer jeans to be comfortable, and a double handful of semi casual to semi formal tops to mix and match so she could dress up or down as needed. The one skirt suit she would take was from an obscure Japanese designer, JQ Brands, and he was a little more off the rack than Tansy normally would have shopped, but she loved his retro forties styling and felt his star was on the rise, so she was just getting in on the ground floor. It would travel in a garment bag along with a pair of autumn dresses, one more casual than the other.

She was in the process of packing her foundation garments when her husband's hands wrapped around her and hugged her from behind. “You never could travel light,” he teased her in her ear as his unshaven stubble tickled her neck.

“Better to have and not need,” she replied, reaching up and behind her to ruffle his thick hair. He wore it shorter now, in an executive cut to be the respectable 'Doctor Cody', but in her mind's eye, he would always have a wild mane of chestnut brown hair crowning that disarming smile.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked softly from teasing her ear.

“Why would I be mad at you?” she asked breathlessly. Over the years, Wyatt had been a diligent student of his wife's anatomy and knew exactly how to play her like a maestro. “Over spanking Junior? The boy picked his punishment.”

“Yes, he did,” Senior replied proudly, obviously pleased with his sons courage. “But, we had talked about not spanking them past five...”

“Unless they needed it,” Tansy corrected him in Elaine's voice. “Wyatt, that car...”

“I know,” he assured her, gently nibbling on her ear lobe. “I didn't want to, Lanie, but he scared me just as bad as he scared you. I couldn't think of anything else that would get his attention.”

“Did you hurt him?”


“Then I would say message received, my love and put it out of your mind. I have a feeling our oldest won't pull that stunt again.” She sighed, relishing the feeling of his hands on her hips and rubbed her buttocks against his crotch to find the reason for his visit. “Why, Doctor Cody,” she breathed softly. “Whatever could really be on your mind?”

“As our eldest two are off playing and young Stephan is spending the afternoon with the Bartons, I thought you might assist me in field studies in biology.” His massive hands came up from her hips and took a hold of her chest. “Reproductive biology, specifically.”

“You've already knocked me up, stud, what else do you plan to study?” she moaned as she lifted her leg and swept the bed clear of the suit case, not caring where it landed or how.

“Technique,” he murmured into her shoulder as he eased her onto the bed.

* * *

October 8th, 2016
Apartment of Jennifer Kelly and Sarah Williams, New York, NY

The website of the Department of Paranormal Affairs was just as user unfriendly as any other government web site. It took Sarah nearly twenty minutes to find a place where she could put in a MID number and pull up the file. Of course, that required registration and a user name and password, which ate another ten minutes of coaxing the site to use the credentials it had just given her until finally they were logged in and at a place to enter the number.

Jennifer's hand was shaking as she surrendered the red sided card and Sarah squeezed her hand in encouragement. “Let's see here,” she commented in as cheerful a voice as she could to try and deal with her lover's stress. “Wicked (Villain) it says you served eight months for breaking and entering of a jewelry exchange in Atlanta. You didn't have any gems on you, so the B&E was the only charge, oh, wait, there was a resisting arrest and attempt to elude, but they were dropped in the plea bargain. See? Nothing to be that ashamed of.”

“Atlanta?” Jennifer asked softly. “I...I don't remember.”

“You never even hurt anyone!” Sarah told her with a smile.

“I'm a thief,” Jennifer whispered. “What...” She took in a deep calming breath and sighed. “What else does it say?” She sat down next to her lover, but with her back to the screen. Sarah smirked at her, but continued to read.

“You are...thirty two! Hah! You're older than me!”

Jennifer winked at her and for the first time returned her smile. “If I'm a thief, I might as well be a cradle robber too!”

“And you look damned sexy for being an old maid!” The smile faded and Jennifer shook her head.

“According to Doctor Vincent I'm not exactly a maid...”

“Hush, you!” Sarah chided, turning back to the screen. “You have a degree in communications from Kennesaw State University and are a graduate gemologist...”

“That I knew,” she said softly, then frowned. “Kennesaw State? Where is that?”

“Hmmm, Georgia. North of Atlanta. Baby, this is starting to look like you're a southern girl.”

“I'm a New Yorker,” Jennifer shot back.

Williams smiled and kissed her lover's shoulder. “Looks like we're both carpetbaggers. And don't you dare make a lesbian joke out of it!” Kelly gave a 'who, me?' gesture, and Sarah turned back to the screen. “And it says you attended a boarding school up in New Hampshire called Whateley Academy...”

Jennifer shook as she had a vague sense of looking out a bus window at an ivy covered brick building in the Federal Style with a white little half circle balcony out front and behind it, strangely, an ultra modern geodesic dome in glass. “I...I remember a building, like an old time New England, but with this crazy glass dome behind it...”

The sound of typing preceded her voice. “Look, baby,” Sarah said. Jennifer turned to find she had loaded a new browser window to the website of the school. Centered on the page was the building from her memory, complete with the glass dome behind it which sent shivers down her spine. “You've been there, haven't you?” Jennifer nodded as Sarah returned to the government page. There isn't much else, just your name and that it was entered by an 'A Hartford.'

“MIDs are assigned as teenagers,” Jennifer said, pointing to the other page. “Maybe...check the staff listing...”

“Down for maintenance,” Sarah replied. Looking thoughtful, she pulled up Hero Watch and clicked through to the wiki and typed in Wicked, and was shocked to see it land on a disambiguation page. “Wicked hero or villain?” she asked softly. “There's a hero named Wicked?” she clicked on the villain entry to find roughly the same data and photograph from the government page. She clicked over to the hero entry and the two women gasped.

The same woman from the villain page was shown, wearing the same uniform and using the same bow and trick arrows. Her hair was bright red and there were several photographs of her sharing a podium with the Sioux Falls League. Sarah went back to the government page and after several tries found Wicked (Heroine) and pulled it up. As she did not have the MIDs number it greatly restricted the information, listing only Heroine (Inactive) and the photograph of her in the same costume. “Baby,” Sarah breathed as she quickly scanned a summary report associated with the MID record, you are a hero! According to this, you helped stop a major Indian demon! You must have gone straight...”

“Why is the Villain ID current and the heroine Inactive?” Jennifer demanded. “I don't remember any of this! Not that school, not fighting that giant snake, none of it!”

Sarah typed at the screen and pulled up a picture of a beautiful blonde woman at some formal gala. “I bet I know who does,” she replied.

Jennifer read the headline and turned to her lover with a curious expression on her face. “Amelia Hartford? Who is she?”

“Evidently some rich bitch from Rhode Island, but dollars to donuts, she's the A Hartford who entered this record. And according to Who's Who,” and she pulled up the website of the socialite service she had to subscribe to for her profession. “She is the Assistant Headmistress of Whateley Academy.” Sarah's eyes twinkled. “Feel like a day trip?”

Jennifer eyed her lover with some suspicion, deeply uncomfortable for some reason.

* * *

To be Continued

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