Tuesday, 07 December 2021 01:00

Glyph 4: Putting Pen to Paper (Part 5)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story

Glyph 4: Putting Pen to Paper

by

Morpheus

 

Part Five

 

Wednesday morning, Oct 26th, 2016

Carrie Harper, Mouse, kept glancing back behind herself as she quickly made her way to her third period classroom.  She was being followed, she was sure of it.  After all the time that she’d spent tailing Glyph for the Cadets, she had a pretty good idea of what to look for in a tail.

There was something going on and Carrie didn’t know what it was.  Earlier that morning, she’d seen Blackberry and Giggles glancing at her and then whispering to each other.  Whatever they’d been talking about had sent Giggles into one of her trademark giggle fits.

Then during breakfast, in the Crystal Hall, Dodo kept hanging out near the Cadet’s table…when she had no reason to be in that area.  It had even looked like the other girl had been taking pictures of them with her cell phone, though that could have just been Carrie’s imagination.

And now, someone seemed to be following her.  Carrie glanced back…again.  There were so many students on campus…and of course, she saw the same ones over and over again.  But one of them seemed to be following right in Carrie’s footsteps, stopping whenever Carrie stopped and keeping the same distance between them.

Finally, Carrie was able to get a clear look at her tail.  It was Gale…Night Gale…that healer who lived in Dickenson.

Carrie blinked in confusion, wondering why Night Gale was following her…and if it was just her imagination getting the best of her.  But then, Gale held up her phone and pointed it right at Carrie before abruptly turning and hurrying away.

“What in the world is going on?” Carrie exclaimed in confusion and a little worry.

Wednesday late afternoon, Oct 26th, 2016

“Are you sure you want to come with me?” Janine asked, looking both hopeful and a little uncertain.  “It’ll probably be boring…”

“Sure,” I agreed, flashing her a smile.

I would have kissed Janine right then, but we were walking across campus, right where anyone could see us.  I wasn’t sure what our relationship was now, now that we’d moved onto kissing each other.  Was she my girlfriend now?  We hadn’t really talked about that yet, but I hoped I could call her that.  I’d never had a girlfriend before.

Then I thought about Janine’s question and why she’d asked it.  Janine was still doing the personal assistant thing, which meant that she was helping me track my schedule and everything I had to do.  She knew full well that I had a lot of other things that I could have been doing right then, rather than accompanying her. Things that would be more productive for me…but not as interesting.

I let out a faint sigh as I considered my ‘to do’ list, which was definitely full at the moment.  I needed to deal with my compromised lab, finish the protection runes on Janine’s workshop, complete all the spellwork on my new coat, get ready for the band trip this weekend which I’d somehow been drawn into, and of course, study for my magic class finals tomorrow.  It was a bit overwhelming when I thought about this for too long.

Janine glanced at my hand while her own hand twitched a little.  Was she thinking about holding my hand the way I was thinking about holding hers?  I quickly glanced around for those who might be watching and she seemed to do the same.  Then, the moment passed.

“So,” Janine asked a little awkwardly.  “Do you know what you’re going to do about your new lab yet?”

I immediately reached into the pouch on my belt and pulled out a spell card, which I immediately activated.  This was one of my privacy spells, the ones I used whenever I was at lunch, dinner, or anywhere else where I didn’t want people to spy on me.

“Too bad my coat isn’t finished yet,” I quietly mused.  This spell, or at least a version of it, was one of the ones I was including in my coat.  That would help protect me from eavesdroppers and scrying wherever I was.  Then, I answered Janine.  “I figure, I have three options…”

“Three?” she asked.

“One,” I held up a finger.  “I can find a new lab.  I’d probably have to talk to one of the fixers…which could get expensive, and then I’d have to move everything over and add the security all over again.”  Janine groaned at that.  “Yeah.  That would be a real pain, but at least nobody would know where it is…”

“Except for the fixer,” Janine pointed out quietly.  “And anyone who sees us moving your stuff.”

I nodded my agreement.  “Option two is that I can dig out my own space…make my lab from scratch.”

Janine’s eyes widened.  “That would be a lot of work…”  She’d seen me tunnel out the new doorway for my compromised lab, so she knew how long that would take.

“Yeah,” I sighed.  “It would be cheaper…and a bit more secret…but it would take a LOT of work to set up.  And I’d have to figure out ventilation and electricity…”

“And you might accidentally dig into someone else’s space,” she pointed out.  “Or water pipes…  Or sewage…”  We both winced at the thought of that.  “That would be really bad…”

“Yeah,” I agreed with a shudder.  “Which is why I’m probably going to go with option three…”

Janine gave me a curious look.  “What is that?”

“Keep the space I already have,” I answered with a sigh.  “I just have to move the door again…and spread the rumor that I’ve moved to a new lab somewhere else.”

My possible girlfriend considered this for a moment before agreeing.  “That would be a lot easier…”

“Easier, faster, and cheaper,” I mused.  “But not quite as secure…”

Of course, that just meant that I’d have to be convincing with my rumors and take a few more security steps as well.  I’d already been thinking about what I could do for that, but I’d still need to figure out a little more.  Just more for my ‘to do’ list.

“We’re almost there,” Janine assured me a few seconds later.

We soon reached the devisor labs, the large underground warren where many of the devisors and gadgeteers on campus had their own personal workspaces.  This didn’t work well for Janine, but for most of the other techie students…  For most of the gadgeteers and devisors, this was their world.

Janine led me through the maze, seeming to know exactly where she was going, though I was quickly lost.  Laura had her own space nearby, but I doubted that I’d be able to find it by myself.  My roommate was also a frequent visitor to this area, so she’d probably be able to find her way around, or at least, she’d be able to find her way to the nearest source of coffee.

While we made our way through labs, Janine greeted some of the other techies, nodding politely in passing or even saying a quick ‘hello’.  I knew who many of these kids were, at least vaguely, and I even had classes with a few of them.

The labs were noisy, full of the sounds of strange equipment.  One sound got my attention because it was a simple BANG BANG BANG, of metal hitting metal.  And that sound was getting louder, enough so that it became the dominant source of noise.

“We’re here,” Janine announced.

I looked around and saw a workspace that was quite different from all the other ones we’d passed.  In fact, this one looked positively primitive in comparison.

Against one wall was a collection of tools.  Hammers, chisels, metal tongs…  A short distance away was a gas forge…and an old-fashioned charcoal forge.  I only recognized those from watching a couple episodes of Forged in Fire on TV.  And then, in the middle of the space, was a large and sturdy looking anvil.

Standing next to the forge was a boy, who was using a hammer to beat on a piece of red-hot metal.  BANG.  BANG.  BANG.  He was a little chubby, but not really fat.  Instead, he came off as strong.  Not strong like exemplars, who sometimes bulged with muscle, but strong like someone who’d built that strength as a side effect of hard work.  I immediately recognized the boy, though I’d never talked to him.  This was Smith, a gadgeteer who specialized in metallurgy, metal fabrication…and old-school blacksmithing.

Smith lowered his hammer and just stood there for a moment, staring at the piece of metal he was working.  It had cooled off a little so that it was no longer as bright orange as it had been.  But in spite of that, it was obviously still VERY hot.  Because of that, it surprised me when Smith reached out to touch the hot metal.  But instead of yelping in pain or pulling his hand away, he continued holding it there until the metal began to heat up and glow a bright orange again.

“Hey, Smith,” Janine called out, catching his attention right before he was about to start hammering on the metal again.

“Tinker,” he responded, looking as though he was a little startled to see her there.

With that, Smith carefully set the hot metal down on his anvil before setting his tools aside.  He brushed his hands on the leather apron he was wearing, then gave his full attention to us.  He stared at me for a moment, obviously more surprised by my presence than by Janine’s.

“This is Bianca,” Janine introduced me a little awkwardly.

“Hi,” I said, feeling a bit self-conscious myself.

“I know who you are,” Smith said with a nod.  “You’re that mafia princess I’ve heard about.”

I scowled at that while Janine looked a little offended on my behalf.  “I’m not a princess,” I said flatly, not bothering to deny the mafia bit.  It might not be accurate, but unfortunately, it was close enough for that not to matter.

“Bianca is nice,” Janine protested in my defense.  “Don’t believe all those rumors…”

Smith grunted in response, then asked, “Like that rumor about you hiring some kids to follow around the Cadets?”

I hesitated a moment before admitting, “There MIGHT be some truth to that one…”

The blacksmith gadgeteer chuckled, now looking amused.  “Yeah, I heard that they asked a couple of their friends to help…and then other people started offering to help too.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised.  “I…hadn’t heard that.”

Once I said that, I realized that I probably should have remained silent.  Silence might have made it look like I’d already known about it…maybe even planned for it.  That kind of thing would be good for my reputation as the White Lady.

“Apparently, people like the irony of spying on the Spy Kids,” Smith said, still looking amused.  “And some of them think that this game sounds like great fun.”

“It kind of is,” Janine admitted with a giggle.

Smith nodded, then told Janine, “You’re here for your parts…”

“If they’re finished,” Janine quickly responded.  “I know it was a rush order…”

“No problem,” Smith assured her in a serious tone.  “A quarter pound of ebidum puts you at the very top of my commission list.”

“Ebidium?” I asked, giving Janine a confused look.  I’d heard of ebidium before.  It was some kind of rare metal, but admittedly, I didn’t know much about it.”

Janine looked a little embarrassed.  “You remember all that junk that used to be in my workshop?”

I nodded.  When Janine had first taken over that space, it had been full of junk…old, broken, and leftover equipment that various gadgeteers and devisors had tossed down there over the years.  We’d been forced to clean it out before either of us could make use of that room.

“I kind of salvaged a lot of the material,” Janine admitted.  “You know…old parts and metal…  And I’ve been trading some of it to other people in the shop…”

“Ebidium is hard to come by,” Smith said.  “Even that small amount…”  He gave Janine an almost eager look.  “You wouldn’t happen to have any more of it, would you?”

“I’m afraid not,” Janine told him with a sigh.  “That was all I found.”

Smith looked a little disappointed but not surprised.  He merely nodded, then told Janine, “Anyway, I finished your parts up about an hour ago so they’re ready to go…right on schedule.” 

The blacksmith gestured to a workbench where some parts were spread out.  They were metal, of course, but clearly not made by forge and anvil.  Instead, these parts looked far too smooth and perfect for that…and some of them too detailed.  Of course, Smith wasn’t only a blacksmith.  He did metal fabrication with more modern methods as well, and I was sure that these parts were an example of that.

Janine began to pick the parts up one at a time, examining them before putting them back down.  “These look great…”

“I just followed the specifications and diagrams you provided,” Smith said.  “Hopefully, these work for you.”

“They should,” Janine agreed, gathering all the parts up and carefully placing them into a satchel that she’d brought with.  “Now I just have to assemble them…”

“You’re on your own for that,” Smith said.  “But if you need anything else made, let me know.  As far as I’m concerned, you still have a little credit from the ebidium.”

And with those words, Smith went back to his anvil and picked up his tools.  Before Janine and I could leave, we were once again hit with the sound of BANG BANG BANG.

Wednesday early evening, Oct 26th, 2016

Carrie hurried across campus, trying to get back to Dickenson as quickly as she could.  She was sure that once she was there, she’d be safe.  If necessary, she could lock herself in her room.

All day long, people seemed to be following her…or taking pictures of her.  Most of them tried to hide it, tried to be sneaky about what they were doing, but she could see them.  She disliked people paying too much attention to her at the best of times, but this was much worse.

She looked around nervously, afraid that someone would be following her again.  Then she spotted Rapunzel, strolling across campus a short distance away.  The other girl had her phone out, and she seemed to be playing on it, but Carrie wasn’t fooled.  Rapunzel was probably trying to sneak pictures of her.

Carrie picked up her pace, now moving at just short of a jog.  But a few seconds later, she realized that she had completely forgotten about an obvious solution.

“I’m a mutant,” she reminded herself with an exasperated sigh.  “And I have just the power to sneak past…”

With little more than a thought, Carrie activated her powers and quickly began shrinking.  When she stopped, she was mere inches tall, just big enough to be mistaken for a doll, and the perfect size to avoid being seen.

Now that Carrie had shrunken down, she let out a sigh of relief.  She knew from experience that most people would never notice her like this, especially if she took care to stay out of sight.  There were lots of places she could use for cover, so she’d be able to make it back to her dorm without any problems.

But just then, Carrie heard a low growling noise. She snapped around, looking for the source, only to spot a grey cat that was crouched down and ready to pounce.  The cat was even doing the butt wiggle that signaled it was ready to move.

Carrie let out a squeak of fear and ran, only for the cat to leap.  The cat hit right where she’d been standing a moment before, though it quickly started to follow after her.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Carrie cried out to the monster cat, who didn’t pay any attention.

The cat pounced again, landing right beside Carrie who stumbled and fell backwards, though she quickly caught herself and shifted the momentum into a summersault.  Still, the cat lashed out and got her, gently bopping her on the top of her head with a paw.

“Tag, you’re it,” the cat announced.

Carrie’s eyes went wide in shock and realization.  “Shisa,” she exclaimed, now recognizing the GSD student from Whitman.

At that moment, Carrie also remembered one other important detail.  Her powers.  With that, she quickly grew back to her normal size while Shisa turned and ran off.

“Cut,” a new voice called out.  Carrie snapped around to see Giggles, who was standing back with one of those small video recorders, pointed straight at her.  “And that’s a wrap…”

“GIGGLES!” Carrie spat out in anger and embarrassment, realizing that she’d just been set up.  “Stupid Whitmaniacs…”

The other girl just laughed at that, though the laughter quickly turned into maniacal giggling.  Carrie glared at the girl, then turned and ran towards her cottage, the sound of giggles continuing on behind her.

Thursday morning, Oct 27th, 2016

I stared at my opponent, my heart racing as I readied myself for our next round.  BMA was always a tough class for me, but even more so when I was matched up against Bacon.

Bacon stood across from me, making a show of stretching out his muscles.  He was a large boy, one who also looked like a warthog, courtesy of his GSD.  Between his appearance and powers, he was always intimidating to face off against, no matter how nice a guy he was otherwise.

The moment that Sensei Tolman told us to begin, we were both in motion.  Bacon came straight at me while I stepped to the side and activated the two spell cards that I’d palmed.

“Look,” I exclaimed, holding out one card with a ‘look here’ spell.

Of course, Bacon looked and then couldn’t take his eyes off the card, even as I tossed it outside of the ring.  He started to continue after it, almost on instinct, though he seemed on the verge of catching himself in time.

I knew that I didn’t have any time to waste and had to take advantage of this momentary opportunity while I could.  With that in mind, I stepped around and slapped the second card onto Bacon’s back, then quickly pulled my hand away.  There was an explosion from the card, not strong enough to hurt Bacon, but there was enough force to knock him forward…and right out of the ring.

“Bianca wins,” Tolman announced.  If she was surprised that I’d managed to beat Bacon…and so quickly…she didn’t show it.

“Nice trick,” Bacon told me with a grin, giving me a thumbs up as well.

“Thank you,” I responded, feeling a little stunned that I’d managed to beat him this time.  As a PK brick, Bacon was notoriously hard to beat when we were using powers.

I returned to my seat beside Morgana, who gave me a congratulatory grin.  “Good job…”

“It was pretty neat,” Laura agreed.  “But you won’t be able to get away with that trick very often.”

“Not when everyone here has seen it,” Morgana agreed.

“Yeah,” I reluctantly agreed, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before people realized that they just had to avoid looking at the card.  “I’ll just have to shake things up…but it is a good trick.”

“Definitely,” Morgana agreed again, this time chuckling.  “Bacon almost walked right out of the ring all on his own.”

Class ended about ten minutes after this, and everyone began to get up and head to the showers.  However, there was one person who came straight towards me, someone who’d been giving me dirty looks all through class.

“You’re behind this,” Mouse accused, pointing a finger right at me.

“Behind what?” I asked as innocently as I could.

Mouse’s eyes flashed with anger.  “You’re having people follow me around…  Taking pictures of me…and all the other Cadets too…”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I lied.

“That sounds annoying,” Morgana offered with a smirk.

“That sounds like karma to me,” Laura added evenly.

After this, we continued to the showers, leaving an angry Mouse behind.  She didn’t bother us while we were cleaning up, though she continued to stew in her own resentment.  Once I was out of the shower and was getting dressed, she came over again.

“Why are you having people spy on us?” Mouse demanded.  “Why are you having people take pictures of the Cadets?”

“Maybe the next time you want to spy on people,” Morgana suggested with a flat look, “you’ll remember what it feels like.”

I could have continued to deny being behind this, but that would have been pointless.  Not only was I responsible for it, but everyone knew it.  So instead, I decided to mess with Mouse a little.

“By the way,” I told Mouse, perhaps a little smugly, “I’ve seen the pictures of what some of your crew have been up to, and it isn’t pretty.  In fact, if admin sees what one of them has been doing…your whole club will probably be shut down.”

Mouse gasped, looking surprised by my comments, though she quickly recovered and gave me another angry glare.  “That’s what this is about,” she accused.  “You’re trying to blackmail us…”

I met Mouse’s glare and put on my best White Lady expression.  “I have no interest in blackmailing anyone,” I told her evenly, right before I picked up my bag and walked out of the dressing room.

Crystal Hall, Thursday late morning, Oct 27th, 2016

Most of the current members of the Intelligence Cadet Corps sat around their table in Crystal Hall.  None of them were happy with the current situation.

“I caught Rapunzel spying on me this morning, back in our cottage,” Miss Violet complained.  “With a video camera…  If I wasn’t so observant, she might have gotten away with it…”

“And I found this on my desk during first period,” Mr. Blank added, setting a small item onto the table for everyone to see.  It was obviously an electronic listening device, similar to ones that they were known to use.

Without a word, Perfume set three similar devices onto the table in front of her.  She didn’t need to say anything as Cyber Swarm also added several such devices.

“I found these inside our clubhouse this morning,” Swarm announced with a scowl.  “How did someone get these into our clubhouse?”  He looked offended, as though he took this personally.

“We’ve all been having these problems,” Perfume said.

“I haven’t,” Flipside added cheerfully.  “No problems at all.”  Everyone glared at him, including Carrie.

“You just haven’t been paying enough attention to realize when you’re being tailed,” Miss Violet said contemptuously.

“We’re being spied on by multiple people,” Mr. Blank stated.  “All of them rookies…”

“And we know who is responsible for this,” Miss Violet added.

“Glyph,” Mr. Blank and Miss Violet said at the same time.

Perfume pointed to one of the listening devices. “These aren’t Glyph’s style, at least not directly.  Now, if they were magic, that would be another matter…”

Carrie raised her hand, then quietly suggested, “Maybe Tinker made them…”

“Highly unlikely,” Swarm responded with a derisive snort, pausing to look at one of the listening devices.  “Tinker’s idea of communication technology is two cups and a string.”

“They’re also off the shelf,” Perfume pointed out thoughtfully.  “Anyone could order these off the internet.  No devisor or gadgeteers necessary.”

“There’s no telling who placed these then,” Miss Violet mused.  “We’ve noted more than half a dozen students involved in this…”

“So, what are we going to do about it?” Flipside asked.

“Report it to security?” Carrie asked.

Perfume gave a light chuckle, followed with a wry smile.  “If security cared about following other students and investigating them, then WE would be in just as much trouble.”

“That’s entirely different,” Mr. Blank protested.

“Is it?” Perfume asked, her expression serious.  “As much as we aspire towards the intelligence and law enforcement professions, we have absolutely no legal authority.  We have no warrants and no official standing.  Outside of Whateley, what we do could be considered stalking, harassment, and illegal wiretapping…  Outside of Whateley, our tactics would not be acceptable at all…  At least, not for any legitimate law enforcement organization.”

“We do what we must to defeat the criminal elements,” Miss Violet pointed out, glaring at Perfume.

“Perhaps,” Perfume responded.  “But we do skirt the lines a little more than I like.  We can get away with it here at Whateley, because as far as security and the administration is concerned, we’re just kids playing at cops and robbers.  If we find anything legitimate, we can pass it onto them for a professional investigation, but we need to remember that we don’t have any legal authority…and that if we want them to take us seriously, we need to do things properly.”

“Nonsense,” Mr. Blank exclaimed, looking offended by what Perfume had just said.  “We are the good guys, Glyph is the bad guy, and it is our duty to take her down…”

“But first,” Miss Violet said, giving Perfume her own glare, “we need to deal with those rookies who are trying to spy on us…”

Carrie just stared at Perfume, absorbing what the older girl had just said.  Flipside leaned over and whispered to her, “Cops and robbers…”

Then, while the other Cadets began to talk about how to deal with their current problems, Flipside absently reached into his pocket and felt the listening devices he hadn’t planted yet.  He smirked as he thought about the looks on the other’s faces when they thought that Glyph had been planting bugs inside their clubhouse.  Those expressions meant that his little prank had paid off.

Crystal Hall, Thursday late afternoon, Oct 27th, 2016

I made my way across campus, pulling my coat tight against the damp chill.  This was my first time wearing my new coat out in public, though I still hadn’t finished all the spellwork.  Still, I didn’t need the spells finished to get the nonmagical protections against the cold and wet.

As I walked, I glanced down at my new coat, a long white trench coat.  You couldn’t even tell that I’d already drawn all the runes on the outside. Of course, I’d done those in invisible ink.  It looked somewhat like normal ink when it went on, but when it dried, it faded away into near invisibility.

The runes I was placing on the inside of my coat…and sewing into the liner, didn’t need to be that subtle.  Nobody would really see those ones anyway, at least not once I was finished with them.

“I’m going to have to finish that soon,” I mused aloud.  I had a lot of things I needed to do, but improving my personal security needed to be at the top of that list.  “At least I finished my magic class finals today…”  That was one less thing to worry about.

When I got near my destination, I began looking around to see if anyone was following me.  The Spy Kids had been a little too busy over the last couple days to pay much attention to me, much to my relief, but I wasn’t taking anything for granted.  Once I saw that things were clear, I let out a faint sigh of relief.

A chuckle escaped my lips as I thought about what those snoops must be up to instead of tailing me.  I’d recruited a couple kids to follow them around and take pictures, but from what I’d heard, about three times that many ended up helping out.  I was under no illusion that these extra volunteers were doing it to help me.  Most of them probably didn’t care about me one way or another.  However, the chance to prank the Spy Kids was apparently something that most of them couldn’t ignore.  Whatever their reasons, I was grateful for their help.

But in spite of the fact that I didn’t see anyone following me, I wasn’t one to take that for granted.  I pulled out a spell card, one for a ‘nothing to see here’ spell and activated it.  The spell wouldn’t last long, but I didn’t need long to lose anyone who’d been tracking me.

A few minutes later, I reached my destination.  I stood in front of a metal door that had been hidden out of the way, obviously intended to keep people from spotting it.

“Right where Scrye said,” I announced, quickly looking around again.

I pulled out three cards, which were each part of the same spell.  Or more specifically, each card contained a single spell which tied together into a simple spell chain.  The main spell, which would remain dormant to save on essence, the proximity ward that would detect the presence of others, and then the linking spell which would activate the main spell once someone else got close.

Since I didn’t have much time, I quickly placed the first card against the door.  The card blackened and crumbled away while the spell was transferred to the door.  The runes glowed faintly before fading away.  My heart jumped up into my throat and I glanced around nervously before repeating this process with the second and then third card.

Once the full spell had been applied, I stared at the door for several seconds, trying to see if it was visible.  The runes had faded away and were nearly invisible unless you were specifically looking for them.  That would have to do.

“I wish I could see their faces,” I announced before hurrying away.  I did not want to get caught anywhere near this door, no matter how much I wanted to see what happened.

I quickly left the area and then began heading deep into the tunnels, to where Janine’s workspace was located.  Earlier today, she’d told me that she had something she wanted to show me, so I didn’t want to disappoint her by being late.

Once I’d reached Janine’s workshop, I carefully stepped around a couple of the wards that I’d set up and ignored the ‘nothing to see here’ effect that protected the main entrance.  Janine had left the door open for me, which didn’t do much for security, though she was obviously not nearly as concerned about that kind of thing as I was.

“I’m here,” I called out.

Janine was standing at one of her benches, then turned around and waved at me. “Bianca,” she called out happily.

“You finished it?” I asked, though the answer was obvious since she had her new invention already completed and in her hands.

Janine brightened up a little more and held it out for me to see.  “Yeah…  I can’t believe I was able to design it and get it built so fast…  That has to be a new record…for me at least.”

I nodded appreciatively at that.  “Good thing Smith was able to work so fast.”

“Yeah,” Janine agreed, nodding emphatically.  “And I already had a couple of the parts I needed, so didn’t need to make too much myself…”

For a moment, I just stared down at Janine’s new holdout, a custom-made firearm.  It looked like a sawed-off shotgun, though there had been no sawing on this thing.  Janine had designed it from the start to look like this.

The whole barrel was less than a foot long and instead of a stock, there was a pistol grip, though one that resembled the grip from an old-fashioned flintlock pistol.  Beneath the main barrel was a second one of slightly shorter length, though there was no barrel opening on the end.  There was, however, a small plastic piece that could be used to hold the weapon stable if you wanted to use two hands with it.

“Now I have something to protect myself,” Janine said, suddenly looking concerned.  “Just in case I ever run into another villain again…”

“Good idea,” I encouraged her.

“It uses normal shotgun shells,” Janine told me, holding one up.  “But I can also use things like dragons breath rounds, flares…and even beanbag jell rounds.  If I use those, then I’ll be able to carry it around on campus…”

“Nonlethal rounds for campus,” I mused, nodding approval. “Good idea.  But you’ll still need to take firearm safety before they let you do that…”

“I know,” she replied with a sigh.  “I just didn’t want to wait that long before I made it…”  She gave me a nervous look as she tried to explain, “I had to make it while I was still inspired and motivated…”

“So, how well does it work?” I asked.

Janine grinned proudly, then pushed the support piece on the bottom of the weapon forward, revealing an opening that was the perfect size for a shotgun shell.  She slipped one shell in, then two more, demonstrating that the whole bottom tube was where she loaded and stored her ammunition.

“I can only hold three shells here,” Janine explained. “Plus one in the chamber.  Not a lot, but I hope it will be enough for emergencies…”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

Personally, I thought that her weapon of choice was a little too big to easily carry around and conceal, but it was definitely better than the previous shotgun she’d shown me.  At least, she could keep this one in her backpack.

“Since I haven’t done firearm safety yet,” Janine told me self-consciously, “I can’t really test this at the ranges yet…”  Then she pointed to the other side of her workshop to where she’d set up a target, along with several layers of plywood boards.

Janine moved closer to the targets, which was no surprised.  A short shotgun pistol like what she had probably wouldn’t have great range or accuracy.  Still, it was a hell of a lot better than nothing, especially since she could get a few different types of rounds.

“This is my first time shooting it,” Janine admitted to me. “I’m a little nervous…”

“Good luck,” I told her, not sure what else to say.

Janine pulled the trigger and there was a loud BAM, an instant before she fell back on her butt.  She rubbed at her hand and arm, looking a bit worried.

“A bit more kick than I realized,” Janine admitted in embarrassment.  “My whole arm kind of hurts…”

“Ouch,” I said, wincing sympathetically as I helped her back to her feet.  “That could be a big problem…”

Janine nodded, looking disappointed.  “And I missed the target…”

“Won’t do much good if you can’t shoot it,” I pointed out, knowing how frustrating this would have to be, especially after she’d traded some valuable materials to get the parts made.

Janine stared down at her weapon for a few seconds, then she suddenly brightened up.  “Oh yeah,” she said with a giggle.  “I almost forgot about my other power…”

“Your other power?” I asked in confusion.

Janine was a gadgeteer, but she was obviously referring to her PK abilities.  She was only a PK 2, which was pretty low level.  In fact, about the only thing I’d seen her use that for was to lift herself off the ground and levitate.

“Okay,” Janine muttered to herself.  “I can do this…”

With that, she took her shooting position again and raised the weapon.  There was a look of concentration on her face, then she pulled the trigger.  This time, the gun fired but Janine remained standing, with her hand and arm completely stable.

“I DID IT,” she exclaimed, nearly bouncing with excitement.  “I used my PK to handle the kickback…”

“Very nice,” I told her.  “I didn’t know you could use yours that way…”

“Me either,” she admitted.  “I’ve never been able to use it for much more than levitating, but now…”   She beamed proudly.  “I can stabilize myself when I shoot…”

Janine demonstrated this by firing a third shot.  Her second one had hit the edge of the target while the third one made a nice peppering of tiny holes which were mostly clustered around the center.

“It works,” Janine exclaimed, nearly dancing with excitement.  I hadn’t seen her get this excited about something very often, so I was happy for her.

“Congratulations,” I said, giving Janine a gentle hug.  “That is pretty cool…”

She seemed even happier at that and hugged me back.  Then, she awkwardly suggested, “You might want to get more holdouts too…”

That made me chuckle.  “Morgana keeps telling me the same thing.”

Janine hesitated for a moment before telling me, “After what happened Sunday, you probably should…”

I nodded agreement, then ran my hands down my new coat.  “That’s kind of what this is for…  I’m putting some spells on it to protect me…”  I opened it up to show the pockets on the inside, which could hold chalk, ink, and extra cards.  “And I get a little more storage too…”

“And it looks good on you too,” Janine said, blushing self-consciously as she did so.

“Thank you,” I told her, feeling a little more pleased by the compliment.  “But I know that I could probably use some direct offensive power too…”

Janine held up her new weapon, which would serve that purpose for her.  “I could make you one too, if you want…”

“Thank you,” I told her. “But not necessary…”

She bit her lip as she stared at me with a thoughtful expression.  Finally, she asked, “Are you going to use a magic wand, like in Harry Potter?  Or maybe, a wizard staff…like what Gandalf uses…?”

“No,” I answered with a faint chuckle.  “Though Morgana has suggested I try a wand…”  I shrugged at that. “But a wand isn’t really my style…and it just doesn’t work well for me.  At least not for offensive spells.”

“What do you mean?” Janine asked curiously.  “Is this like that thing where you can’t do any of those spells you have to say aloud?”

“Not quite,” I started to explain, trying to think of how to phrase it.  “That limitation is because of my spirit…”  Then I abruptly said, “You know how every gadgeteer is different?  How most of you have different specializations, and while you can do things outside your specializations…they usually aren’t nearly as easy…or as advanced.”

Janine nodded agreement.  “Yeah…”

“Magic can be like that as well,” I told her.  “Different people have different affinities and specializations, partly based off the magic traditions you follow, and partly based off your own mindset and how you view magic…  Well, between the magic tradition I inherited…and my own perspective, I don’t really have any inclinations towards direct offensive spells.  You’ll notice that when I started to upgrade after Sunday…”  I gestured down at my coat, “my first thought was to improve my defense.”

“I can use wands,” I continued, “but for me, they work better as a focus for ward crafting than as a ranged weapon.”  I shrugged at that. “And as for direct offensive spells…  Well, I do know one or two, but…they’re very slow for me to cast…and they take up a LOT of essence.  Basically, they’re slow, expensive, and extremely inefficient…  Hell, I doubt I’d even be able to get one of those stored on a spell card, which makes them even worse for me…”

“So…no throwing fireballs,” Janine said.

I grinned and activated my built-in fire elemental spell, the one that was tattooed into my skin.  “I wouldn’t say that,” I announced, forming a fireball in my hand.  Janine squeaked and jumped back, staring at my hand in surprise.  “I just can’t do it as a regular spell…  Certainly not like Morgana can…  But…”  I grinned even more broadly, letting the fireball vanish as I did so.  “I do have my own solution for ranged offense…”

With that, I reached inside my coat, then around behind me to the small holster at my back.  And with a flourish, I pulled out my gun, a simple and mundane pistol, and showed it to Janine.

“I’ve been storing it in the campus armory,” I explained. “But after Sunday, I thought it might be a good idea to keep it on me…”

This was a normal gun, given to me by Marcus for my own protection.  There was no magic or advanced technology involved, in either the gun or the ammunition.  However, it would still be useful when I needed it, as a nonmagical surprise if nothing else.

“I have no intention of using this on campus,” I explained in a serious tone. “At least, not against any students or school bullies…  But if someone actually tries to kill me again…I want to be ready.”

Janine nodded, giving me a worried look.  “I hope that isn’t necessary…”  She paused a moment, then added, “But I know people really are after you…”

“Yeah,” I replied quietly, suddenly worried that Janine would have second thoughts about being around me.  Being around me could be dangerous, as Sunday might have proven.

But instead of saying something to that effect, Janine just brightened up again and gestured to her target.  “We can do some target practice…”

I stared at the target and the plywood boards behind it.  That looked fine for shotgun pellets, but I wasn’t about to trust that setup with anything more solid.

“I don’t want to risk a ricochet,” I said as I put my gun back into the holster.  “But we can practice together at the range sometime.”

“Well, I’m going to practice a little more,” Janine told me as she went back to the bench to reload her new weapon. “And if I ever run into someone like that Hardcore guy again, I’m going to be ready…”

“That sounds good to me,” I told her with a nod of approval.  “And I might not be the kind of mage who usually throws fireballs around…but I am going to be ready too.”

Thursday late afternoon, Oct 27th, 2016

Carrie felt a little intimidated as she walked behind the others.  Not only were they all taller than her…and older…but they also had a LOT more presence.

Perfume was gorgeous, which was to be expected of an exemplar and former member of Venus Inc.  She also radiated a sense of confidence and competence.  In fact, she was everything that Carrie hoped to one day become.

Like Perfume, Miss Blank was also a gorgeous exemplar, and she too radiated a sense of confidence and competence.  However, Carrie knew that most of her competence came from her paragon abilities, not from any hard work and discipline on her part.  That made a great deal of difference to Carrie, who had spent years training to become an Olympic gymnast.

And then, there was Mr. Blank.  Unlike the two older girls, he was not an exemplar or even particularly good looking.  However, he always made sure to dress in a stylish suit, and he always had his umbrella cane with him.  Mr. Blank always tried to come off as an old-fashioned gentleman, and even though he didn’t always succeed, he still impressed Carrie.

The four of them were currently heading to their clubhouse for a meeting, where the rest of the Cadets would meet them.  Well, most of the others, Carrie had to remind herself.  Tiptoe said that he had something else going on and wouldn’t be able to make it.

When they reached their clubhouse, Mr. Blank went to open the door.  Suddenly, several glowing symbols appeared on the door just an instant before the entire thing shattered and fell to the floor like shards of broken glass.

“WHAT THE…?” Mr. Blank demanded as he leapt back.

“GLYPH!” Miss Violet snarled.

Carrie gasped in confusion, then quietly asked, “Are you sure it was her?”

“The glowing symbols on the door,” Perfume pointed out grimly.  “She might as well have signed her work.”

Carrie couldn’t argue with that.  Instead, she just stared at the shattered pieces of door, stunned by the damage and even a little afraid.  If Glyph could do something like that to a metal door, then what could she do to her opponents in BMA?

Mr. Blank peeked through the now open doorway, then cautiously stepped through.  “Nothing seems to have been touched in here,” he called back.  “And the alarms haven’t been tripped until just now…”

The rest of them carefully entered the clubhouse and looked around, seeing that Mr. Blank seemed to be correct.  There was no evidence that anyone else had been inside, though Carrie couldn’t help but remember the bugs that they’d previously found in there.  No alarms had gone off when those had been planted either.

“So, what does she think she’s doing?” Miss Violet asked angrily.

“It seems to me,” Mr. Blank stated, “that she’s declaring war against us…”

“No,” Perfume corrected a moment later.  She had a thoughtful expression on her face as she stared at the empty doorway…and the shattered ruins of the door.  “If she was declaring war, she probably would have broken in and destroyed everything.  Instead, she only targeted our door…and only had it disintegrate when we were there to see it.”

Mr. Blank scowled.  “Could the timing be coincidence?”

“I doubt it,” Miss Violet said.  “The timing was too perfect for coincidence…”

“Yes, it was,” Perfume agreed.  “I think she was sending us a message?”

“A message?” Carrie asked in surprise.  “You mean the writing on the door?”

Perfume paused and then turned to look at each of them, still appearing thoughtful.  “Consider this,” she finally said.  “We’ve been tailing her for weeks…now she has people tailing us…”

“Poorly,” Mr. Blank grumbled.  “Complete amateurs…”

“We’ve planted numerous listening devices on her,” Perfume continued.  “So, she plants some on us…”

“And she has people taking pictures of us,” Carrie offered quietly.

Perfume nodded at that.  “We found her hidden lair and tried to break in…”  She gestured to the open doorway.

“Tit for tat,” Miss Violet said in realization.  “That’s her game here…”

“And her message,” Perfume agreed grimly.

“Then we’re just going to have to go after her even harder,” Mr. Blank firmly announced.  “We have to get even for this…”

Miss Violet scowled thoughtfully.  “But what of her next reprisal?”

“Exactly,” Perfume calmly said.  “Glyph has delivered her message, so I suspect…that, at the moment…she would consider us even.  Now, the question is, do we back off for the time being to reassess…or risk escalating the situation even more?”

Thursday evening, Oct 27th, 2016

Scrye sat up straight in her chair, calmly watching the other Masterminds who were gathered in the clubhouse.  She was careful not to let any of her thoughts or emotions show because this was not the place to show anything that could possibly be considered as a weakness.

“And now onto our next piece of business,” Edward Lowe, the Golden Lion said from where he sat.  “The White Lady.”

All eyes went to Scrye since she was the Mastermind’s liaison with Glyph.  Since she and Bianca shared a cottage and already had a prior business arrangement, it made sense for her to be the one to deal with the other girl.

“As you all know,” Scrye said, “I have been giving information on the Spy Kids to Glyph, as the more she keeps them distracted, the less their attention is on our business.”

“That seems to be working quite well,” Doma Know commented.  “They haven’t been interfering in our business recently.”

“I’m almost starting to miss all those robot bugs,” Swandive added with a smirk.  “Cyber Swarm must be spending all his toys on Glyph these days.”

“Perhaps,” Devil’s Advocate mused, leaning back and casually taking a sip from his class of wine.  “But I do wonder, why the girl seems to be playing child games with those nosey fools…”

“Games?” Burst asked, looking a little confused.

“This White Lady…Glyph girl…just seems to be playing some harmless pranks on them,” Devil’s Advocate explained with a sigh.  “Have people follow them around, taking pictures…  General harassment.  Annoying, yet harmless…”

“You do have a point,” Edward said with a thoughtful expression.  “We have seen in the past, that when Glyph becomes cornered, she can be quite vicious…”

“And that is my point, exactly,” Devil’s Advocate mused.  “The girl hasn’t been using our information to nearly the impact that I’d hoped…  We all know, or at least SHOULD know, that Glyph is not nearly as innocent and naïve as she pretends to be.”

“Glyph is not so harmless as some assume,” Scrye commented, fighting the impulse to defend her fellow Poesie.  “Yet, she is not nearly so dangerous as others believe…”

“We all know what Glyph did to Esquire,” Devil’s Advocate reminded them all.  “The poor boy pissed his pants when she was done with him…  Quite literally.  And just this last weekend, she defeated a group of professional mercenaries, including a named one in power armor.”

“And he was killed right after,” Doma Know added with a scowl.  “She may have ordered her people to finish the job…while keeping her own hands clean.”

“And let us not forget,” Edward said, “she is known to have killed a professional hitman in Chicago, and then she mailed the man’s head to his employer.  These are not the actions of some naïve and innocent schoolgirl…”

Scrye frowned at that, almost wishing that she’d kept that particular bit of information to herself.  However, it was too late to put the genie back in the bottle now.

Then, Scrye noticed that Bystander was now sitting up straight and looking interested.  That was a change in behavior because he normally looked bored in these meetings, as though none of it really mattered to him.  A chill suddenly ran down her spine at the implication.

“Just because she has been willing to dirty her hands in the past,” Doma Know said, “that does not mean she is intentionally holding back this time.  For all we know, she could be playing a long game…an escalating one.  One which could prove devastating to our enemies, and therefore, of greater advantage for us.”

“Maybe,” Swandive mused.  “But I don’t know if I buy it.”

“This new White Lady is full of contradictions,” Edward said.  “This is good reason to continue maintaining our distance…for the time being.”

“She’ll fall into place soon enough,” Doma Know added with a smirk.

“I don’t know,” Devil’s Advocate responded, pausing to swirl the wine in his glass.  “I have to wonder, is this girl really dancing on our strings…or are we dancing on hers?”  He downed the rest of his glass and smiled.  “I do look forward to seeing which it is.”

“In spite of Glyph’s viciousness when corned,” Scrye stated, “she is no threat to us.”  A faint smile formed at the corner of her lips as she added, “Unless WE corner HER.”

Edward gave her a flat look, clearly not impressed.  “For now, we will continue our current strategy for dealing with Glyph.  We may revise that in the future”

“That would be my recommendation as well,” Scrye added.

“Then, for the next piece of business,” Edward announced.

However, Scrye was not paying attention to the Mastermind’s leader.  Instead, she was watching Bystander, who almost looked excited.  He even had a creepy grin on his face, one that worried Scrye a great deal.  If Bystander was taking an interest in Bianca, then there was no way this could turn out well for the girl.

Poe Cottage, Friday morning, Oct 28th, 2016

“Mornings are a blight on humanity,” I grumbled as I walked down the hallway, just beginning the long morning trek towards breakfast.

“I wonder if they make vaccines for that,” Laura joked from beside me.

“They sure do,” Morgana added from the other side.  “It’s called coffee.”

“And I bet you make sure to get all your shots,” Laura responded wryly.

Morgana nodded.  “And all my boosters.”

“And yet, the morning is still here,” I pointed out bitterly.

Laura gave me a curious look.  “You seem extra grumpy this morning.”

“Shades again,” Morgana explained on my behalf.  “She’s probably worried that he left another present with Horton.”

I gave a brief nod, acknowledging that she was correct.  I was a little worried about Shades and his attentions.  Just when I thought that he’d gotten the clue, that I had absolutely no romantic interest in him at all, he made another move.  This time, when I got back to Poe last night, there had been a dozen roses waiting for me.  All white ones.

“Good thing he doesn’t know about Janine,” Morgana pointed out a little more seriously.  “Who knows what that idiot might do if he realized he had a rival.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” I warned my roommate, feeling a surge of protective anger.  If Shades even suggested that he was going to lay a finger on Janine…  Well, I wasn’t quite sure of what I’d do, only that it wouldn’t be nice.

Just then, someone up ahead of me called out, “HEY, WHO LET THE BIRD IN HERE?”

“What bird?” Morgana asked.

We pushed forward a little more, then I saw it.  There was a bust of Edgar Allan Poe, positioned right at the front of the cottage, near the main door.  I passed it several times, every day.  And perched right on top of that bust, was the bird in question.  It was a large white bird.  Specifically, it was a white raven.

“LENORE!” I exclaimed in recognition and surprise.

“You know this bird?” Mrs. Horton asked in a disapproving tone.

“She…was my grandmother’s familiar,” I explained.  I stared at Lenore, who seemed to be preening on her perch.  “But I have no idea how she got here…”  I looked around and added, “The last time I saw her, she was in Chicago…”

I stood there for a moment, feeling completely dumbfounded.  Chicago was a long way from Whateley.  And how had she managed to find me?  For that matter, there was also the question of how she’d gotten through the cottage wards.  But then again, Lenore had always been quite a mystery, and it seemed that some things never changed.

Lenore let out a loud ‘CAW’, then flapped her wings and launched herself into the air.  She flew a quick circle around the room, making a couple people duck down for fear of being hit.  A few seconds later, she landed on my shoulder and let out a much quieter and more gentle ‘caw’.

“What are you doing here?” I asked the bird.

Of course, Lenore didn’t answer.  At least not in English.  She gave another quiet ‘caw’, then gently tapped the side of my head with her beak, and leapt into the air again.  Suddenly, a book appeared in the air in front of me, right as Lenore was starting to fly away.

“What the…?” I started, even as I rushed to catch the book.  I barely managed to do so.  “Lenore…?”

I was about to ask the raven what this was for, even though I knew it was pointless to talk to a bird.  However, this time the attempt was even more pointless as Lenore had already flown straight towards the cottage entrance, and before I would have been able to phrase the question…she was already gone.

“What’s that?” Morgana asked.

I looked down at the object in my hand, a leather-bound book with a familiar silver pattern embossed on the cover.  This book looked nearly identical to the one that Lenore had given to me before, right after I’d inherited the power of the White Lady.  That book had been written by my ancestors and contained a collection of knowledge and spells that would be useful for a new White Lady.  But this one…  I was itching to open it up and see what was inside, but I didn’t want to do that right in the open where everyone could see.  So with that, I turned and hurried back to my room for a little privacy.

 

The End
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
1 year ago
Well done.
I particularly liked how Bianca got back at the Spy Kids, letting other kids have some fun with them will definitely win her brownie points.

And I think the Masterminds are going to discover what happens when they push Bianca into a corner. Should be fun to watch.
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White Witch
1 year ago
happy to see a new chapter, looking forward to more
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