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Rumble in the Arena (Part 1)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Rumble in the Arena

by

Malagua

 

Part One

 

Monday, October 17, 2016 - 5:43 pm
Bohemians
’ Club, Whateley Academy

The sound of a thick glass, of elaborate design, tapping down against the hardwood table brought the attention of the rest of the room to the figurehead sitting on the grand sofa. Karel Lorenc, also known as Bohemian Lion, looked down at the empty glass sitting next to the serving bottle for the stark contrast that was between the qualities.

While his Waterford glass was a replica of the real deluxe bar product, it still had the quality to pass off as the real brand, from the transparent purity of the bottom to the etched marking of a lion -fittingly so- that adorned the side, the bottle to its side lacked any sort of distinctive merit on its work. Of smooth surface and no label. No extravagant shape or even cork to remove - instead, it was a mundane screw cap. Yet the contents of it were enough to forgive the shoddy presentation.

“What do you think?” Jennifer, codename Scarlyt, asked, her glass a couple of sips away from disappearing, probably the only one that still had anything in it while the two other girls present, Melisande ‘Glam’ and Jane ‘Knock-out’ were already eyeing the remaining bottle with anticipation for seconds.

“I like this batch.” Karel professed as he slid the bottle over to the two girls who began to help themselves with another serving. The curiosity for being drunk beckoned him and probably, at some other point he would have himself the entire bottle, but today, he wasn’t in the mood for it. God knows what he would do or say in a fully inebriated state. “We really should do more deals with Whiskey’s guys. At least consider him for thanksgiving.”

“I’ll send them a note for it.”

“Should we ask for a contract?” Mel asked as she took in another sip. “To always have a special stock ready for us?”

“Tempting.” Karel leaned back on his seat. “I would be tempted, but I’m worried we might go from decadent to frat party thrashing really fast.”

“Then we sell the rest,” Jennifer said picking up the glass bottle and inspecting it with keen eye. “Probably re-package so it has our status.”

“All in due time, I suppose,” he replied feeling himself mellower thanks to the drink, almost quelling whatever frustration from earlier that day he might have. “It was a good decision to bring this one to me.”

“Was already expecting the news to leave you a tad sour,” Jennifer said. “After all, it’s not every day that you get a cancellation.”

“Venus inc is so similar to us Bohemians,” the Lion said. “Both of us think we stand atop the rest, including atop the other. The only difference is that we are a step ahead in beauty, aren’t we?”  The girls giggled at the compliment, raising their glasses.

“So, are we going to trigger the revenge clause on the agreement?” Jane asked.

“Yes, we shall,” he turned towards Glam and raised his glass. “Please, make sure they are just mildly inconvenient. We don’t want them to dissolve.”

“Darn,” Jane sighed, clearly having been wanting to be the one to ‘inconvenience’ the club of teenage models. To which Mel answered with a smug expression.

“Venus inc will find themselves not looking so ‘venus-y’ for quite a while.”

“And that just means the Saturday event is canceled,” Bohemian Lion made an exaggerated, albeit restrained sigh. “All the bother of getting the food and venue is not as interesting without a main event. It would just be a social gathering as people try to coddle influence from us.”

“So, we’re canceling?” Mel asked.

“Yes, cancel it, or if you have an idea of what can take its place, please, be my guest to take the responsibilities off my hand and run with whatever plan you have.”

People say, sometimes, when a window closes, a door opens. And on other occasions, they just come barging in through the door with a phone in hand. Cesar Palicki, codename Cestus, came into the room. Of skin tanned under the sun and with a shaved-side haircut that seemed to approach the mohawk look, the Junior student completely clashed with the style of the rest of the group. He did, however, give the group a sort of appeal to the rockstar and party crowd.

Still, there was a reason why Bohemian Lion was rolling his eyes discreetly behind his hand upon his entrance. While recruited last year for his wealth and the already stated reason, the man had little sense of decorum nor carried himself with the respect the leader expected from them. Things became worse after a one-night stand with Jennifer which led to the guy to think himself as part of the inner circle. And while those flames were far from real, the way Mel had her eyes set on him with a rather wide smile on her face as he entered the room told Karel that he might be trying to worm himself into the inner circle.

Like an upstart folksy artist who somehow found himself within the apogee of the Austrian court, he lacked the classy protocol they tried to carry on. He treated himself as equal with them and was more than eager to push on his ideas on how to improve his status. Granted, while most of them were misses, there was some merit to them, though not enough to justify Karel not making a roll of his eyes the moment he came into the room.

“I just heard. Is it true that Venus inc has backed out of the event?” He asked.

“That is correct,” Jennifer added.

“Aw, what a shame.” Cesar grumbled, though there was a bit of insincerity about it that drew some irked looks from those around. “I mean, I was looking forward to it but…” He stopped to take a deep breath to contain the thrill in his voice, about to pitch them an idea.

“Do you have something?” she asked

“I do,” he said with a small grin as he produced a tablet which he laid on the table, showing what seemed to be video footage of a fight that wouldn’t be out of place within the UFC show. Two men facing off and pummeling each other with their bare fists. Trading blows, countering and breaking each other’s guard, it was a rather gripping spectacle that, while Mel and Karel were watching out of curiosity, Jennifer and Jane were more than into the sight of blood and fists were thrown. The biggest distinction was that the individuals were not baselines. One of them had his body covered in fire, letting it blast off whenever a punch was thrown while his opponent casted a spell that had the earth suddenly rise up from the ground to punch his face and send him flying.

“That,” Cesar said with a smirk, tapping onto the screen so that the video would zoom out to reveal a website that bore a rooster’s outline with silver talons as its logo. “Is a website dedicated to mutant fighting. The modern coliseum for power gladiators.”

“So, what about it?” Karel asked.

“I was thinking, we could mount a spectacle of sorts. A local event,” he said thrilled.

“No.” Karel answered flatly.

“Why not?” Cesar challenged and it was mere etiquette that kept Karel from actually engaging with him. “W-we could sell entrance tickets, mount up a spectacle, sell pay per view. It would be awesome.”

“Awesome. Awesome along the same vein as your hairstyle? The awesome that only first graders would fall for it?” Karel’s thoughts fortunately stopped before they left his tongue. While he wasn’t fond of Cestus, he was aware that, as a hyena shifter, he could put up a fight. And as a mild spectrum rager, he could be set off if pushed too far. Not that he had any problem in taking him down, but he was sure it would wreck the room.

“But wait, there’s more! I’ve already talked to them in their streams. They’d be more than interested in giving us a spot in their interlude.” Cesars continued his pitch as Karel was mentally elsewhere. “They’ll even be willing to pay us for it if the show is good.”

“Ah…” Karel said with a slight frown. There was little doubt that money and status were intrinsically tied together. While he was not starving poor, the flurry of upsides Cesar had been throwing his way didn’t go unnoticed. Mounting up a show, gathering a crowd upon them and having the front best seat in the house to the spectacle. The image of the roman emperor at their coliseum balcony watching the show with his paramours while slipping grape by grape into his mouth came to mind.

“Perhaps it would also let us scout some of the more powerful students of the lower years?” Jennifer chimed in. “Could be worth it to scout up talents.”

“Plus, we’re still a couple of months away from the combat finals.” The ever-boisterous Jane said with interest painted across her face

“Fine, fine,” Karel sighed, giving the girls a wave of the hand. “Cestus, you get your way. Glam, get Pitfall to help him and sort out the minutia. Scarlyt will let me know if there’s any trouble.”

“Sweet!” Cesar said pumping a fist. “This’ll be great, we’ll put up a good show.”

“That’s awesome,” Mel said.

“You’ll need a venue and give away the invitations. Luckily, we have the coliseum reserved from the Venus inc event.”

“Why did you need the whole place for Venus inc?”

“That was easy, wasn’t it?” Karel said. “Now you need to spread the word, sell the entrances to your event, get the permission from the school, and handle the accommodations: Food, layout and viewing gallery, whatever systems you need and so on.

By now, Cesar was dismissively distracted from the leader of the group’s words and was eagerly bouncing ideas of needs and requirements with his loaned ‘assistants.’ Karel was undeniably irked but contained himself. Now that the cocktail gala was off, taking the week off from planning and preparing was a real treat to have. Not to mention that it would be fun to see how things turned out for this member.

At the best-case scenario, if the brawl-slash-fight-slash-whatever thing was a smash hit, he would swoop in and take the credit for allowing the thing to happen, claiming that he made sure everything went without a hitch. The worst, and most likely case would have Cestus disavowed and would give him a legit excuse to demote the guy within the group or even kick him, depending on how amusing he found it.

It all ends well for us, Karel thought.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 4:26 pm
Imp’s Art studio

It took Vic about a month to come around the idea that was floated by Imp and Josephine a couple of weeks ago to try to join the Art club for the sake of having something to do, other than studying.

Not exactly the person who enjoyed slacking, he had his days of the week planned from getting up every morning before the crack of dawn to start his jogging to going to bed after finishing reading the material for the next class. It was a miracle how, despite the troubles he and his friends got themselves into, he still managed to follow a loose outline of the plans.

That being said, despite the seemingly proper management of his time, hitting his exercise goals and finishing his homework without fail, he felt he could squeeze something more into his day-to-day activities. In particular for those occasions the guys at Twain were busy or off doing something of his own, or when hanging around with a full-on group of girls became too much for the moment.

And that’s where the Art club came in. As a side activity that could help him deal with the stress and, at the same time, feel like he was getting something out of it. In his mind, he would be going out of sessions learning how to draw manga and the like.

The door to the club was open and the place was just like he remembered it from prior to his trip to Berlin. A long room with a matching table that ran across for those that were doing something that required a stable surface. For the rest easels were up for grabs and, in some cases, deployed for works in progress. Up above were the hanging paintings and shelves that housed many of the completed pieces. He imagined that an art club set in a school where a sizable number of the students had photographic memory, had the skill of inventing paintguns and paint grenades and could bend the elements to their will would result in faster works.

In fact, he would be lying if he claimed he wasn’t coming here for the farfetched hope of making a quick buck. After seeing how Josephine’s work was pretty much selling near the high hundreds, he felt his powers could at least get him some money that wasn’t tied to his legal guardian.

And there was a good example of that practice as one older student at the table was working on before a lump of clay, though this wasn’t any sculpting as Vic had seen before. The guy’s hands were outstretched to the sides of the material with his eyes wide open and staring in concentration at both his work and at what could only be a reference image on his phone.

Seemingly imbued with life, the clay began to rise off from the shapeless form and slowly starting to twist itself alive. Not unlike Vic’s own playtime at the lake, he could relate to what the student was trying to do.

A bubble was pinched itself from the base and two tentacles pulled themselves out from the side, draining the main body and granting it a more trunk-like form. The same tentacles bent themselves in hard angles, into the making of limbs that were supposed to be frozen in a pose. A cartoonish one at that, resembling an angry man standing in a sort of saddle posture, with knees and elbows pointing in opposite directions and about to do a crab walk.

Even after the shape was formed, the student kept on focusing his powers at the featureless doll. Changes were subtle as clay seemed to migrate from a part of the structure to another adding and removing mass to the best of its efforts. The changes became increasingly more subtle, and the guy must’ve been agonizing on the matter as his face turned redder and his breath appeared to be withheld for what could be a final sprint. His concentration must’ve been through the roof.

In that, Vic sought comparison to similar feelings and situations, instantly drawing them back from a past that belonged to a happier time he wished both he could and would not forget.

It was a chilly winter night that came to Washington that time. The sound of rain was ever present in a soft rhythm that had the young kid entertained when staring out the window. Seeing the droplets falling was the perfect distraction when the TV was running re-runs which he’d already seen or the movie he watched was stuck in ad-break limbo.

A young Victor Rivera awaited, feeling the urge to play some of his videogames but had promised Mom he wouldn’t until she gave him the okay and he was determined to hold up his end of the promise, no matter how bored he felt whenever he snapped off the distractions that had his mind. Between his hands, he had the blackberry phone his mom gave him in case of emergency and was in the middle of typing back and forth, having fun with the nubby keyboard.

“Yes, I did my homework. Yes, I came home from school. Yes, I didn’t spend my money in chocolate,” he said to no one in particular, just to fill in the void. In his boredom, he was sifting through the list of contacts, almost considering texting Danny when the sound of the key being inserted into the front door’s knob came from down the hallway.

“Mom!” Vic called out with a gasp, jumping off his seat to run over to meet her head on two seconds later. His arms slipped in under her coat and hugged her blouse, taking in the sweet yet familiar scent.

“Vic, easy there,” Mom said with a slight bit of apprehension, but just as much longing as she wrapped her arms around him as soon as the coat was off. “Sorry I took so long. Tio Oscar y Tia Lily te mandan saludos.”

“Too much work?” Vic asked as he pulled himself back.

“Just, a stressful case, that’s all. But we’re almost done,” Mom said as she moved into the living and dining room where Vic’s attention was focused on the TV, just as the commercials ended. “Ah, you’re watching anime?”

Vic nodded. “It’s called ‘The Last Airbender’! It’s so cool. Will you watch it with me?”

“Hm…” Mom considered as her gaze went down to the laptop she set on the table. Considering between work or her son, she finally decided. “I’d be happy to… But it appears that it’s already over.” She said pointing over at the TV as the credits were passing by with upbeat, though oddly tribal sounding tune playing in the background.

“Aw…” Vic said, though somewhat excited to hear her agree. “There’s a marathon on the weekend! We can binge it.”

“Heh, nothing will make me happier,” Mom said. Her hand moved over to the homework that rested on the table. Her finger ran through the problems, cataloging them as correct with a tapping and a smile. Her son did make a couple of errors, but for the most part, it was a rather good job.

“You need to go back to double check your math, Vic. Here, and here. Do it before tomorrow morning and we’ll do the watching, alright?” Mom said with a small tease.

“On it!” Vic said running back to the table only to get caught by Mom, who lifted him up into her arms.

“Hold it, right there, conejito. It’s Friday and you’ve done a good job in the week. You know what that means, right?”

“Fantasy Friday!” Vic exclaimed as he was put down.

The seven-year-old happily ran over to the comfy angled couch. Of soft velvet yet rough cushions, to Vic it was like jumping into a giant pillow. Not a bad place to sleep in, he took a seat at the corner, kicking his shoes off so his legs would rest on the intersection.

“Yes, Fantasy Friday,” Mom said with a snicker, swiping the remote control from the dining table.

“And after it, can I play videogames?”

“Claro que si.” Was Mom’s answer as she took a seat next to her son, who leaned in to rest his head up against her shoulder.

“Now then, what do you want to imagine?” Mom asked, as her hands touched Vic’s, there was a soft tap in the back of his head. His mom’s powers were at work.

The world softly began to turn dark as a shadow slowly formed itself in the distance and drew in closer. Walls, the TV, and the table it stood on disappeared as if the lights of the world outside were dimmed. Even the couch he was sitting on appeared nonexistent with the exception of the area his body was in contact to reassure him he was safe. Vic’s arms wrapped around his mom just to reassure himself that she was still there.

Yet there was no fear about him as the world disappeared as this was a gentle darkness.

“Alright Vic, are you ready?” Mom said with a teasing tone. With eagerness not unlike watching an athlete perform for the gold medal.

“Ready!” Vic snickered.

To a third party, all they would see would be mother and son, sitting together and talking before the muted TV. Staring ahead but bearing lost gazes as what they were seeing wasn’t there.

That was their secret. Something that Vic had promised he wouldn’t tell his classmates. That his mom was a mutant, because none of his classmates would be all too happy about it. He knew that, if he broke his promise, then that would be it for the moments like this. And, for a seven-year-old, that was such a temptation.

“Alright Vic,” What do you want to do today? Landscapes? Cartoons? Monster? Stars? Planets?”

“Animals!” Vic chimed “I’ve been watching a lot of animal planet!”

“Very well,” Mom said stroking his head.

Without much preamble nor prompting from Vic, two fishes suddenly popped into existence in the void. One orange with three black and white stripes around its body, looking adorable with smooth skin and wide round wide eyes. The one next to it was colored black, blue and yellow and appeared much flatter than the other one. Its lips were curled up resembling a bit more of a smile than it was supposed to be in the natural world.

“Did you say you were watching animal planet or ‘Finding Nemo’?” Mom said with a small laugh.

Vic could only giggle smugly at the accusation. “But they look so similar!”

“First of all, Vic, regular fish have a more streamlined head, and the eyes are too small for you to see the scleras like that… that is the white parts of the eyes.”

“But it looks cuter this way.”

“Then you should’ve requested for cartoons,” Mom joked. “But now I really want to see your animals.”

“Aw, okay,” Vic conceded as he closed his eyes and concentrated. This time, cartoonish CG-looking fish disappeared as if dusted into the dark and in turn were replaced by another pair that appeared more realistic than the previous one.

“Not bad. It’s pretty accurate,” Mom said as the imaginary fish swam through the air around them, parading so that she could study them.

“Aren’t they excellent?” Vic fished for praise making about a dozen more clown fish appear swimming in mid-air. The first pair scampered off and joined with the fish school where they just swam about in the air, with the blue one standing out.

Of course, it wasn’t hard to notice the falseness of the trick. The fish swam through the air, it was apparent how they moved together synchronized. Going about like copies following the single image. It was still a decent work on detail, but there was no such perfect synchronicity in nature, much less in a fish school.

“Trying to make them each move uniquely?”

“Hmm….” Vic said, almost growling. The fishes within the bank slowly began to wiggle, at first, in parallel, each copying the other. But the movement began to break off and each began to have their own direction and motion.

It was then that bundle of fishes appeared to implode as each of the pieces doubled back and began to swim into the other. It was reminiscent of piranhas savagely converging on a target, only with les blood and bubbles. Each trying to run onto a same point that they were clipping onto each other.

And as that happened, the bundle of fishes turned redder and redder.

“Vic? That’s enough,” Mom said stroking the back of his head to get him to ease up. “Don’t try to micromanage every single angle or aspect… Just let go and relax.”

Mom explained and her words were soothing for the kid, letting him give into the peace she offered. All the while using her telepathy to guide him with the illusion.

The effects became clear as the fishes stabilized, and the pressure became manageable. The movement appeared less of a wiggled pull and became more of a calmed swim around. Going in circles in a more natural way.

It wasn’t perfect, as Vic’s mom noted. The fishes disappeared when they weren’t in view, replaced by others that emerged where one wasn’t looking; more than once the fishes clipped into each other; and, if one stared long enough, one would see the repetitive pattern in which they moved. But it was a good enough trick. For the inexperienced, it would be enough to convince them.

Of course, this was mostly her using her mind to support Vic’s, but she had the feeling that with practice, he would get better at it.

“Tired, Vic?” Mom asked. “Remember that, if you have a headache, you have to tell me.”

“No. I can still do one more.” Vic insisted.

“Alright,” Mom said stroking his forehead. “Now then. Hm… show me a horse then.”

“That is easy! I just saw a show about that.” Vic snickered as he concentrated once again, Mom feeling his thoughts at work as, from the dark, again a horse suddenly came into existence. Due to the size of the animal and the suddenness of it, she almost jumped back startled.

“How is it?” Vic asked proudly, leaning away though still holding from her hand.

“It looks pretty well,” Mom smiled as she leaned from side to side, trying to get a better look as the sculpture which moved in a lifelike fashion following her with its gaze.

A mustang gelding, she thought reminding herself that her son was a preteen. The animal snickered and snorted, shaking its head in a lifelike fashion whilst its legs clopped to the ground, deliberately showing off its hooves. The anatomy and proportions were quite accurate and the movements were realistic. Issues being that the animal lacked fur, which was too much to ask, and that some of the joints appeared more exaggerated, almost clinically swollen, which at least showed he did make some research for that but too focused.

No wonder, he asked for animals. He really practiced, Mom thought to herself. “It looks fairly well, Vic. Perhaps could try to work a bit on the muzzle? The head looks a bit off, a bit too ‘tall’ for a horse. Not sure if I’m being that clear.”

“Aw alright,” Vic said, his voice sounding exhausted by now. Usually, big animals were less taxing to someone, but he pushed himself with the bank of fishes.

With a symbolic gesture of the hand, the horse was blown into dust as the tension the kid felt in his head eased up. The darkness of the world was smoothly pulled back unveiling more of the world that had been when they began, leaving them back sitting in the middle of their living room couch watching a muted TV.

“You did a good job, Vic,” Mom said leaning to rest her head on his. “Think you deserve a prize.”

“Can we go to the zoo, then?” Vic asked, vanishing the exhaustion. “With you, Uncle Oscar and Aunt Lily? Maybe Uncle Gus and Danny too?”

“For you, nene. Always,” Mom said, leaning in to kiss his forehead.

The memory came and vanished in an instant, leaving Vic with a twinge in the corner of his eye and forehead. Not a moment too late as the student he’d been looking over let out a sudden long drained sigh, held back for what’d been a good couple of minutes.

He stood from his seat and took a step back to admire his work. The thing that’d been a lump of clay now resembled a featureless dummy striking a sort of macho pose, with an arm held up and the and the other bent up against his hips, evidently changed mid sculpting. The proportions were so weird, it was obviously based off a cartoon, though what, it was too early to tell.

Still, appreciation got Vic to cock his head and the guy noticed him.

“What do you think? Pretty cool, eh?” he said. His face sweating and his face was red from the strain

“Yeah, it is, how did you do it?” Vic asked.

“I’m an energizer who can project off vibrations, which only happens to affect minerals in the sediment.”

“That just sounds like an earthbender with extra steps.” Vic noted.

“Well, yeah and no. I can’t use it for martial arts,” The guy said with a small chuckle. “But on the flipside, this way all sculptures I do are so pristine.”

With that, he hovered his hand over and around a small lump of clay, letting Vic watch how, with a soft humming sound that filled the silence he now picked up on, it slowly molded itself into a simple dome. Mesmerizing, but also quite laborious, if not slow. Vic imagined he would get the same job done with some of the tools. The difference though was that the end result’s surface was incredibly smooth.

“Nice. And what are you making?”

“This,” the guy said as he reached into the folder by the side and produced a printout of images of a beloved character from the 60’s through 80’s.

“Popeye?” Vic blinked.

“It’s for the art class and I happen to be a bit late for the art project. Hear the Imp has a soft spot for old timey cartoons.”

“Mhm…” Vic conceded as he studied the pictures and the structure he was making. He spotted the pose he was trying to emulate but easily found a potential problem. Still, figured that it probably wasn’t up to him to try to tell an apparent expert how to do his homework. “And is that the easiest way to get into the teacher’s good side?” He asked, for future reference.

“Candy is another way,” Came from the entrance to the art room. None other than the Imp stood in there, carrying a stack of canvases on her back. “I remember you from a couple of weeks ago.”

“Heya,” Vic greeted meekly. The Imp was known for her explosive personality and having not had any classes with her thus far, he found himself easily intimidated.

“Vic, hello,” Josephine’s voice came soon after, appearing from behind the Imp, her face slightly red and her hair a tad disheveled, in no small part because of the large box that appeared to be made of makeshift cardboard bound by plastic straps on her back.

“Ah, let me help,” Vic offered but Josephine held her hand, as she slipped the piece down against the wall.

“It’s fine… This is the last one anyway.”

“Did you call the delivery service?” The Imp asked.

“I will later,” Josephine sighed as she brushed her hair. “I just want to go back to my work.” There was little doubt that she was referring to the painting on her usual spot at the side of the table, just a couple of steps away from the Imp’s office.

“Hey Rusty.” The Imp greeted to which the boy quickly snatched the printed-out models from Vic’s hand. It was, after all, meant to be a surprise. “I see you’re still behind in the homework.

“Just trying to make it perfect.”

“Perfect is boring and unrealistic… but you do you, I’ll pretend I’m not seeing you fall behind in your presentation,” she smiled with an amusing shrug.

“As you heard, I go by Rusty here,” the guy added.

“Victor, Vic for short.”

“Alright, Vic,” the Imp said as she spied over him. “You said you want to be a part of the club?”

“I thought about it,” Vic answered, already figuring that his stepsister’s insistence might open him to some jokes.

“Good, follow me over here.” With that, she led him closer to her office, near Josephine’s art.

The piece the senior student was working on was different from the previous one - which could now be appreciated from a side glance from the hanging shelves overhead. The current one had a bit of a different feel to it. In an even rougher step of the process, all that could be seen were the contrived sketch lines and the use of diluted oils to denote the color, but it was still an interesting sight as well. Two men standing side by side, brothers in appearance before screens that flashed odd color, reaching out to hold hands in the middle of the glare of light. Whilst the previous one looked fantastical, this one looked quite dystopian in tone.

“So,” the Imp spoke up moving a high potency lamp onto his face, like someone running an interrogation. “What brings you to the club?”

“I just thought I should try for a club.”

“We usually don’t get applicants before February or march, after we go out on our usual field trip and… the school reprimands us when the Louvre calls the school because they found a Whateley issued pen past the cordoned section,” Josephine explained.

“That was only last year.”

“Well,” Vic noted. “I-I thought it was worth a try.”

“Fair enough,” The Imp said leaning in closer. “Are you an appreciator of the arts, or someone with an expensive brush?”

“I’m sorry?” Vic said.

“It’s something older members of the club used to say.” Josephine interjected. “The appreciator is the artist that likes the expression and works. The expensive brush is someone who joins because he thinks their powers and abilities make it easy create.”

“Correct. Are you here because you like all the art or because you think it’ll be easy?”

“Why not both?” Vic said, thinking his answer for a moment. “I want to do nice things and if I can use my powers to work on it why not.”

 “Both are fine.” Josephine noted.

“What are your powers again?” The Imp asked.

“Hydrokinetic. He’s a waterbender,” Josephine clarified.

“Ah, so watercolors then?”

“That was the idea,” Vic admitted.

“Well, I don’t see why not. Watercolor can do some amazing things,” Josephine smiled. “You can also play with ink as well.”

“Plus, I want to learn how to draw.”

“Earnest interest and the powers to do nice things. I think you hit the nail on the head with the answer,” the Imp smiled. “And have skipped the first hurdle.”

In the distance, they heard the sound of a couple of thuds over the wooden table followed by a contained groan. It was Rusty who was looking down at his sculpture, now with no arms and two lumps of clay resting by the side, in between a couple of half grumbled PG-13 profanities.

“Keep going at it, Rusty. Remember homework is due tomorrow.” the Imp called out loud before leaning in for Josephine and Vic to hear. “Wonder how long it’ll take for him to realize that he needs to harden the clay and use a wireframe underneath. There’s no way he can make a stable Popeye with that.”

“You know about it?” Vic blinked.

“Oh, I know my cartoons.” She said proudly with a beaming smile while pointing at the table. Where Rusty already had some props already sculpted. “I’d recognize that pipe and that sailor hat anywhere.”

“Um, Miss Imp.” Josephine said as she mixed in the colors on the pallet. “Should I give rusty some of the old wire dummies?”

“Yeah, do so,” The Imp said. With that, Josephine got up and moved into the back of the room where some props were kept.

“By the way,” she added. “Only club members can call me ‘Miss Imp.’ It opens a can of worms of dumb problems otherwise.”

“I see.” Vic said, just feeling the need to fill the void.

“Anyway,” The Imp said with a smile. “Since you’re interested in joining and are already pre-approved you have to take on the test.”

“Oh, right, the test…” Vic noted, almost forgetting what the Imp mentioned last time he was here. Though in all fairness, there was enough to assume that she was joking.

“They’re easy things and our standards are low. So, no worries,” The imp mused as her tail reached over for a board and pulled in a scroll into view, one that was filled with many doodled stickers of characters. Cartoon versions of the Imp and or a girl that, he guessed was her daughter. Variety of styles and in multiple poses. Some were blocky, others were rounds; some cutesy others were stylized. Each with a signature of belonging to the artist and student.

“The first option. You have to draw me in a cartoon style. Pick whichever you want: Hannah Barbera, Walt Disney, Seth MacFarlane, Butch Hartman or so. You can even try to emulate comic or manga artists if you’re feeling daring. Take your pick. Just no Frank Miller nor Greg Land, please. Once you have it and have my pass, I’ll have your drawings stickerified so you can spread my visage around the school at your want.”

“Uh huh…” Vic nodded somewhat reluctant. Some of the stickers did look nice and simple, but others were quite flashy if not detailed. It felt like there was a sort of grading hidden between all that and, with the stresses of the day, he wasn’t sure if he was up for an average grade.

“Second option,” The Imp smiled. “Make something that can be shared with the classroom.”

“Something that can be shared with the classroom?” Vic blinked.

“Make cookies that have Thundercat frosting, a sculpture that raises the hand whenever someone enters the classroom or a bazooka that fires T-shirts with our brand. Something that can be shared with the other members of the club… Only condition is that it can’t be fully outsourced. You have to do, at least 60% of the job.”

“I see,” Vic muttered. That sounded much more complicated, though that was because he was fixated on the idea of making some sort of gadget on his own. “And the third one?”

“Third one is to agree to be our model for the next twelve drawing sessions. Our model at our beck and call,” The Imp mused as she moved to the back of the workshop where she pulled a closet door open, revealing several props and disguises. “It’s more of a failsafe. If you can’t do it but are still interested, you have to show your commitment to be able to call me ‘Miss Imp’.”

Vic was speechless at the sight of the different costumes. Most colorful, for men and women, though making a rapid count it was mostly for the latter.

“Do any of those options and you’re in. I assure you, any of those are valid.” The Imp reassured, giving a look to the foil with the cartoon stickers, not hiding the implication that most students went for option one. “And feel free to take your time.”

“Alright,” Vic said, thinking about his options and seeing the works of others. “I’ll work on it.” He glanced down at the phone on his clock. “Oh, I might be running late, now. Got to go.”

“Aw, really?” The Imp said disappointed, with a tug from the spaded tip of her tail, the sticker compilation got pulled up. “Feel free to hang around.”

“Thanks. I promise I’ll bring something nice,” Vic said, promising as he went for the exit. Passing Rusty who was frustratingly trying to bend the frame of the wire mannequin to strike the pose he wanted before starting to clutter it with clay that would be molded.

Soon after, Josephine returned to her workstation.

“What do you think?” The Imp asked.

“Hm… seems we have an option two,” she answered.

“I figured.”  The Imp smiled. “How about you? Are you heading to the politician’s house tomorrow?”

“Yep, I have my permits and all.” Josephine smiled, looking at the card that rested between her brushes, with bits of paint splattered over its smooth color.

“Good girl,” the Imp smiled, “The more you prop up the image of the club, the laxer their security measures become around it.”

“You could just try to avoid giving them trouble.”

“It’s not me who causes it, but my daughter,” The imp mused, pulling back the screen with the stickers scattered, to which Josephine rolled her eyes. “So…  about this Crossby guy. Will you be doing some scouting?”

“No, he’s just someone who hired me to teach his daughter.”

“But he’s also a politician. A little dirty secret here and there. Who knows what he might have.”

To that Josephine merely rolled her eyes as she turned towards her painting.

For now, finding herself a bit exhausted from the construction phase, she began to feel the inspiration hit her. Grabbing a piece of paper, she began to sketch the outline of a future piece. A knife exchanging hands whilst the background had the outline of a person, seemingly floating in between crisscrossing lines.

“Rebuilding your arsenal? Or in need for an interpreter?” The imp asked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 5:49 pm
Parkour lab

Today’s menu for the lab was an industrial field.

Under its large arena dome, whoever made sure to select the compositions for the field this morning settled with industrial construction site mishmash, qualified as semi-advanced, in terms of difficulty.

Buildings were incomplete and hollowed out, resembling parking lots or condemned locales that were as standard or as blocky as they could be. Contrasted with the outside and field, where wide walkways and pipes crossed themselves together in an organized manner. The artificial element on it was apparent today and, while not Chris’ favorite, it was ideal to test out movements and new tricks.

She took a couple of deep breaths before she began her move, taking on the length of the rooftop with long strides. She wasn’t particularly in love with her body but was with the kind of things it allowed her to do. She rode herself towards the edge of the building and made a daring leap for the other end.

Obstacles were made quick work of, beams, surfaces, and chest-height walls, were easily vaulted with practiced moves while barely losing any of the momentum she built. Behind her, she caught a glimpse of her friend running about seven to ten steps behind her, repeating the same movements she was doing while not giving into the temptation of tapping into her flight ability.

Eventually, Chris was taken by surprise when, after vaulting over one of the walls, she found herself sliding down a short slope that would’ve cast her to the much wider street below and a ways from the rampart she’d intended to climb. Below, it was about two lanes wide, including sidewalks, no human would’ve been able to make that jump.

But Celerity felt confident.

Going for the flashy, she thrust her hand forward throwing out a ball of red energy towards the edge of the slope whereupon it exploded and expanded into a field. One that had the air shimmering as if it was one of the hottest days of summer, with red electric lightning cracking through the air.

With a grin on her face to psych herself up, she reached the edge and her legs sprung her forward through the field. Suddenly, what was a jump comparable to a bike became a speeding car and she was launched across the sky. She felt herself close to screaming as she zoomed through the air and covered the distance.

Her hands tensed and prepared to immediately apply the air brakes in case she was to miss her mark… Fortunately, the leap and angle worked as per calculations, and she saw the flat of the rooftop within her path.

She touched the ground without any sort of stopping or slowing, her leg expertly flexed to lessen the impact as she tumbled herself into a sudden stop. Her fingers, wrapped in a climber’s glove (with clawed tips) scratching the concrete surface, leaving four red lines. She flicked her hair off her face and observed her performance in hindsight.

“What a badass,” she told herself before a giddy smile formed itself on her face and she began to jump up and down in joy. Partly to check that her body was still well but mostly because she was unable to contain the excitement about her own actions.

At the other end of the building, just before the slope, she caught a glimpse of Gwen standing at the edge, making an exaggerated sigh of relief before undertaking the same challenge. She threw herself into the slope and covered a similar path as Chris, only difference was that her body charged itself up with a sort of golden glow that almost exploded when she made the leap into the air.

An assisted jump that crossed the obstacle and landed in a more stable way than Chris.

“That was a rough landing. Are you okay?” Gwen asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Chris said dusting herself off and stretching her limbs. “I’m not sure, but I feel like my body has some sort of innate kinetic dampening. I can take rough landings like that just as well.”

“You shouldn’t. Why didn’t you throw in your deceleration field.”

“I thought I would make it, without a problem.” Chris said.

Gwen looked as if she was holding back a sermon about a broken arm or leg, and instead just contented herself with taking a deep breath and opening the belt case for her phone. “It’s almost six… Caro is waiting for us.”

“She should come and run with us one of these days, shouldn’t she?”

“Well, she’s busy,” Gwen shrugged as they reached the edge of the building. Her body glowed as she levitated into the air and began hovering over the edge. “Want a lift?”

“I got this,” Chris mused as she reached into her belt and produced a small grappling gun, one of the sample items lent by the master of the parkour lab. Once again, fulfilling her dream of being an action hero, she threw herself over the edge. With feline grace she twisted herself in midair to take the shot, her aim was directed towards the piece of concrete from which she jumped. Upon striking the concrete, the strong magnet at the grip of the grappling hook activated and fastened itself to the climbing glove to keep her from releasing it. The inbuilt computer of her tool got the message and began to slowly stop the wire under her finger’s control.

“Oh, look Caro is over there,” Gwen noted, hovering on the street, waving a hand towards their Whitman friend down the end of the street.

“Sweet,” Chris noted, pressing a button on the handle to detach the hook just as she was a meter away from the ground for a stylish landing.

“About time,” Caro greeted as the two run up to meet her. “Are you two done with the parkour for the day?”

“Yeah, yeah. Hope we didn’t keep you waiting,” Chris said, still smiling from ear to ear. “Are you ready to go and catch a movie?”

Caro nodded. “I bought the popcorn from the store; all we need is to borrow the cottage’s microwave.” Tonight’s plan was for a simple movie within Poe cottage perhaps one of those things the budding sorceress had been looking forward this week.

“Awesome. I’ve been wanting to watch this one for a while.” Gwen smiled.

“You know, I think the sequel is out in theaters right now.” Caro said with a sheepish smile.

“You want to go out this weekend?” Chris blurted out. “You’ll be the one filling up the paperwork, alright?”

Caro rolled her eyes. “Not this weekend, I’m helping Sofia work on her homework and study. Next week’s history test.”

By then they reached the entrance to the parkour lab. Something that resembled a fancy frontier checkpoint that framed thick walls that outlined the perimeter of the area. There was no one present but a set of instructions for the students coming and going. The teacher in charge of the terrain must’ve been out making the rounds or tending to one of the calls for help.

Still, by now the girls were so used to the protocol and process that it was practically self-service for borrowing and dropping the desired gear. Since today’s flavor of fun was “vertical traverse of the concrete pipes and random metal stuff” the storage room was open with the appropriate gear bundled onto the table.

“You and your roommate are doing better now?” Chris asked as Gwen stepped ahead and began to deposit her items in the drop slot.

“Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and we’ve had nary a moment in which we exchange glares, much less a verbal spat,” Caro mused. “So, I’d say yeah, things are a bit more manageable.”

“You should invite her one of these days.”

“Maybe I should,” Caro said with a genuine smile. “Things have been much more mellow, at least ever since the… ahem… mass oversleep.”

“You know… I still find it difficult to believe that you got away with it,” Chris said enviously. Having the cottage under a sleep spell for the better part of the morning, even if by accident, wasn’t something that Whateley security and the disciplinary committee would take lightly. Fortunately, Caro just managed to sweep it all under the rug. “If it’d happened in Poe, I’m sure I’d still be grounded and stuck cleaning the floors with my toothbrush.”

“Come on, Mrs. Horton doesn’t issue that kind of punishment.” Gwen mused stepping aside to let Chris go on ahead.

The girl nodded and began to divest herself of her gear: the grappling gun, the clawed gloves for climbing, her borrowed bright blue vest and the utility belt.

These last two were mandatory for those that were going to be traveling above ground level. The belt carried pouches with medical sprays, a radio so that the overseer could contact them and a couple of colored flares for signaling. While the vest was the emergency safety in case of an unprotected fall. If the wearer finds themselves inches from the ground, in a downward trajectory at a certain velocity, it’ll immediately swell itself out into an airbag to protect the user. Chris only triggered it once by accident and has since been worried of triggering it again.

“Still,” Gwen carried on. “Are you absolutely certain that no one has pieced it together? That you were the reason they ahem… overslept?”

“Yeah, fortunately,” Caro sighed.

“I’m still surprised about it,” Chris said as she popped open one of the public lockers and retrieved her and Gwen’s bag, handing it over to her friend.

Caro sighed as they carried on with their walk. “I’ve been waking up every morning expecting to have Mrs. Savage tap on my door to talk about some disturbance in magic wards I didn’t know about, campus security approaching me on the way back from my lab to discuss it… or even the girls just piecing together the apparent mystery. I just have to assume that enough time has passed for me to be safe.”

“Well as long as you learned your lesson,” ever-responsible Gwen said in a lecturing tone.

“Yeah, have some sort of way to replenish my mana and plan for a strong spell-breaker enchantment,” Caro said, getting a prompt from Chris to give her a high-five. Finding it uncouth, she still humored her friend just because of Gwen’s reaction. “Yes, be careful about magic. I get that often.”

“Don’t be a spoilsport, Gwen. I think I was the one in a more precarious situation and I turned out fine,” Chris said.

“So then,” Caro said, deciding to change the subject, “What are you girls planning on doing this weekend? I might be hanging out with Sofia studying, but it doesn’t book all my time.”

Chris leaned her head back, resting it on her crossed arms. “Hm… I might be visiting the anime club as a casual… or see if the tabletops have something for me.”

“Taking a chill day?” Gwen noted.

“Why? Wanna hang out? I heard there’s a marathon of this series called Re:Zero in the auditorium booked by the anime club.”

“Sorry, Chris, not this time. Dereck and I are going off to Berlin for a date.”

“Aw,” she pouted, though Caro cocked her head.

“I thought you were starting to second guess your relationship.”

“Decided to give him another chance,” Gwen shrugged. “Now that my arm has been healed and he’s no longer pressing me… I’m starting to think we can move past this whole month-long awkward start.”

Chris and Caro exchanged looks. While there was a tiny bit of apprehension towards their friend’s decision, they still respected it. It would just mean that there would be a bit more teasing about it.

“Well, if you’re going to Berlin,” Chris said with a playful spirit about her. “Then you better be careful.”

“Well, it’s been a while since that whole Whitman thing. I think we’re due for some trouble.” Caro smiled. “Could find yourself at the end of the day being carried in Dereck’s arms after a villain who use a clothing-shrinking ray breaks into the cafe nearby.”

“Don’t joke about that.” Gwen said flustered much to the amusement of her friends.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 6:42 pm
Emerson Cottage, Room 210

“We’re back,” William Crossby, aka. Whiskey, called out as he and his roommate, Peter Ramsey, swung the door open with a push of his shoulder and stepped in. With steps that tried to be covert and light but with the body swinging about in a showman’s way disregarded his intentions. He was having fun, apparently having indulged with his own product.

At his hands were two tankards held by the handle swinging back and forth with such weight that it was easy to assume that they were filled to the brim. Behind him, his roommate came in carrying half the weight.

Right of the artisan, William claimed, whenever Peter would complain.

The two came in to the room, somewhat relieved of their trek, basking in the confidence that their little enterprise wouldn’t be caught by the authorities, though that drunken joy abruptly halted when he heard the sound of smooching and the soft moans of a girl coming in from the corner of the room atop his bed where a couple rested on, the girl’s arms wrapped around the guy’s neck as their lips remained locked despite being keenly aware that they were caught in the act. If his hand was an indication, he would’ve made it to third base within the next couple of seconds.

“Bruh…” Crossby said suddenly sobering himself up.

“What?”  Their friend Trevor Carmicle said dismissively as he leaned in to plant a kiss to his girl, Melvillian Giselle Phillips, aka ‘Atomica’ before climbing off her. “You left us waiting and took hours. What did you think we would do?”

“This better be as far as you got. Your room is right next to us.”

“And that’s what makes it fun,” Trevor said with a small smirk. “Besides, it’s not like we had anything important to do. Just make sure no one comes around to rummage your room, isn’t that, right?”

“And?” William asked. “Did anyone or were you too busy sucking face?”

“Chill dude,” Trevor laughed. “No, no, nobody came.”

“At least that’s something” he said ducking under his desk close to the wall, peeling the side to reveal what appeared to be a fridge door, one that still exuded cold air when opened. All the way grumbling to himself.

“He’s been moody,” Trevor mused to Peter as Giselle pushed herself up and unwrinkled her outfit, pretending as if she hadn’t been caught in the act. The guy’s switch from somewhat drunk to completely sober was quite jarring, but nothing new coming from the guy who had responsible drinking within his hidden power set.

“Well, one of his distilleries just exploded and his dad just refused to give him an advance of his allowance… or an allowance at all next month.”

“Ah, Mr. Crossby’s re-election is drawing close,” Trevor reasoned, leaning in forth. “So, no money our way.”

“But he still has the time to hire a tutor for my sister,” William grumbled to himself, both guys pretended to hear him. “Maybe uncle Declan can give us a handout.”

“So, should we consider reopening?” Peter asked, disregarding his friend’s mood. “I was thinking of messing with the tabletop group, wondering if we can have a night of tabletop betting.”

“We’re not catering to nerds from the get-go. Bottom of the ladder doesn’t get us much when we’re this close to getting the girls from Venus Inc to show up,” Crossby chimed in.

“I think Lightbulb was just telling you so as to up his ante without having to actually put down his own money,” Giselle noted as she tied her hair up with a hand mirror that hadn’t been in the room when they arrived.

Once she approved of herself, she smiled at her reflection and the item at hand glowed of a bright light, as if its insides were breaking apart before suddenly disintegrating into glittering dust that pulled itself up against her skin. “I mean… since when does the photographer gets to tell the models where to go?”

“Isn’t that the case? It’s what you do when I’m taking your Instagram photos,” Trevor joked, awarding himself a small smack from his girl.

“Oh, you two can be annoying at times.” Crossby said, disingenuously and uninterested, though his business partner read it as sourness.

“By the way, where’s your pet? You know, your zoo of furry wet dreams?”

“Shut up. I’m not a furry,” Crossby’s answer earned him a couple of chuckles from those around. “And I don’t know. Think she’s avoiding coming over. Says its schoolwork.”

“Has she left the fold?” Trevor joked.

“Nah, I just haven’t been putting the charm on. She still likes me and my drinks. A call from me and she’ll be at my door soon.” Crossby snapped his finger as if to exemplify. “We’ve just been laying low, perhaps too low.”

“So… are we reopening? Here?” Peter asked, that last bit drew a bit of ire. “Hey, not that I don’t mind duping people in high stakes gambling games here… but would be nice if we could have a much grander clubhouse. I mean, casino royale level big. Maybe make a bigger game out of it.”

“Ugh… that would take so much work,” Trevor said only to be simply dissuaded by Giselle’s touch.

“But it might be quite nice. We could have a room for the high rollers, a bar filled with exotic drinks and ooh, maybe run some special events.”

“You dream big, too big.” Trevor smiled locking lips with his girl, much to Crossby’s ire. “But then it would be difficult to keep it secret.”

“And that’s the problem,” Crossby snorted. “It’s the security. Do you have any idea of the kind of crap that happens at the tunnels? Cameras stop working, people steal stuff and there are monsters and experiments loose. Either we move our stuff into a place that can be easily bugged or, much worse, just get someone from security or the RAs team drop by and steal one of our bottles. Without me being there to do you know what, we’d get busted.”

“Well, we can come up with a system. Like you living there most of the time and just showing here every now and then? Other devisors spend more time in their labs, you know?”

“Yeah, no. I’m not proxy-living within the tunnels.”

“I’m still quite surprised that special perk of yours doesn’t appear in your MID card.”

“What can I say, my dad has some dirty laundry on the MCO… That being said, I do wish I could’ve given myself a codename different. ‘Whiskey’ feels a bit more on the nose now.”

“Well, now it’s a form of taunt,” Peter defended.

“Were it not for some fizzy machines I’ve made to carbonate the drinks and some flavorful extracts that can be sold, I would’ve gotten failed in some of my lab assignments. As far as they’re aware, I’m just trying to mix the better Coca Cola. Or the better elixir if you want me to have a more… humanitarian spin.” There was a soft creak that all those present recognized as the door slipping open, though when they turned, the door remained closed.

“So…” Peter ventured after a long pause. “Anyway, are we planning on another project?”

“You know, perhaps we do…” Crossby said slowly. “The question is where? We’ve been out for quite some time. We need a way to market it back. Should we make invitations to some of the groups. Perhaps Venus Inc?”

“Oh, it would be fun,” Trevor said, once again earning a jab to the ribs from his girl.

“How about the Spy Kids?” Peter suggested discreetly glancing at the closed entrance. “They fashion themselves detectives. Show me a professional PI or spy who doesn’t have that vice.”

“Sherlock Holmes?” Trevor suggested.

“We don’t care about cocaine. We don’t do drugs,” Crossby said.

“Then, maybe the Bohemians? They have a lot of money and are always up to something. And we can trust it’ll be ‘fancy’.” Peter exaggerated the air quotes.

“Perhaps we can see Bohemian Lion get shitfa-” Trevor said but was immediately cut by Peter who just spoke louder.

“Yes, I’m sure Bohemian lion would appreciate the service!” Peter took a sigh after raising his voice before turning towards the front door. “Are you going to show yourself? We know you’re there.”

“I told you we weren’t fooling them,” A guy’s voice came out from the empty air, and it was soon followed by an exasperated sigh from a girl. “Fine.”

With that, as if a curtain was pulled, the mirage of an empty corner was suddenly pulled down revealing a girl and a guy about a year older than them standing at a threshold. With her bearing the same look of disgust as someone who just had her best laid plan ruined while the guy at least appeared to be amicable in his approach.

This was also a part of the Whiskey’s gang effort to rig up the results of games. Pitfall was also from Emerson cottage and a regular to their events of the night, every week or so. His powers might include probability manipulation, which the guy thought made him impervious to losing in a card game, however, Crossby’s drink always got the better of him. One mug in and he might still feel himself infallible, not knowing that these powers had become fickle, either stopping their work, or more often than not working against him. But he was still a person of interest for the startup group, so it was up to the house’s own warper to fix the result and let Pitfall win… or at least not lose too much… Just enough so that he thought that they thought he wasn’t using his powers.

“Glam and Pitfall.” Whiskey said, taking up the stance as the representative of what was now an association meeting. “Please, step in and close the door.” The two junior students did so, though the girl wasn’t particularly happy of being given an order by an underclassman.

“What brings two members of the Bohemians to our group,” Whiskey said. “I assume that Pitfall here must’ve told you, but we don’t take well to people trying to skulk about.”

“We didn’t want to interrupt your conversation,” Glam said dismissively. “But I feel like our interests are just happening to align.”

“An opportunity?” Peter said curious.

“We’d like to buy some of your fancier drinks. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic.”

“I’d be up for some Piña Coladas. On the side,” Pitfall added as he stepped in, his eyes going to the pack of cards that rested on the table. “I’m ready to win back my money.”

“That’s not on Bohemian tab…” Glam warned. “So how much will it be and when can we get it? The booze I mean.”

“What is it for?” Crossby asked.

“Does it matter?” Glam said, though let out a startled gasp as Crossby produced a foam stress ball and tossed it her way. Deliberately aimed towards the junior’s seemingly empty left hand.

As a reflex, she tried to catch it, raising up her hand only for it to bounce off the air between the open palm and onto the floor. Some detail that didn’t go unnoticed for those who were looking for it, which was everyone within Whiskey’s crew.

“You’re a narc,” Trevor said. “Probably would be for the best if you left.”

“If the Emerson RA’s felt the need to hire the Bohemians to screw us over, they must be very desperate.” Crossby noted.

“I’m not a narc. At least, not for the RAs… nor the cottage parents,” Glam sighed as she, with a flick of her wrist, made a phone appear between her fingers, set into the voice recording function. “This is just standard procedure.”

“A bit lopsided for standard, don’t you think?” Giselle said, her hand opens as if prepared to conjure something.

“You were just trying to get some collateral, weren’t you?” Crossby sighed. “As in, you were about to do something probably illegal and wanted to ensure we wouldn’t out you. Am I right?”

“Perhaps.”

“Don’t play coy, we operate practically in the same way. Do you need our services or not?”

“We don’t need it… but it’ll be good to have.” Glam said crossing her arms. “And we’re willing to pay up for the services.”

“You’ll need to pay more for that,” Giselle noted, getting a glare from the illusionist.

“Nah, it’s fine,” Crossby noted. “If the Bohemians want to do business with us, we shouldn’t antagonize them… That being said, given this little stunt. I think we should get a mage and make some sort of binding contract. Otherwise, we’ll keep on with the doublespeak until someone messes up.”

“I can agree to that,” Glam said, though her voice made it clear she was dissatisfied by the idea.

“Great,” Crossby said pushing himself up and moving over to the door. “Down this way. It’s the same contract maker we used for regular nights.”

“Is he of trust?” Glam asked, casting a look over her shoulder towards Pitfall.

“Yeah, he’s cool,” he answered.

“Alright,” Glam said as she followed Crossby out the door, not bothering to call her entourage to follow, nor to close the door behind them.

That left Trevor, Peter, and Pitfall together, as Giselle excused herself, citing her want for a good afternoon at Melville if she wasn’t going to spend time with her boyfriend, a cue that he failed to pick up on. With the door closed, it was just the guys sitting in awkward silence.

“So…” Trevor noted as he produced a deck of cards. “Do you feel like playing a game?”

“Good,” Pitfall noted though was stopped when Trevor raised his hand.

“We’re just playing for chips.” Peter noted standing to go to the desk and producing the casino chips they used and, while at that, kicking a fake wall to conceal their side of the fridge where the drinks were stored.

In the meantime, as it was their protocol, Trevor placed his back up against the bed with a clear line of sight towards where the product was hidden.

Without an objection and having missed the regular games, Pitfall agreed and found his spot as the cards were dealt.

And it didn’t take long before the two prodded their guest for answers.

“So…” Peter said in between checking his cards looking at the board and tossing his chips to raise the pot. “What are the Bohemians planning? Bet it’ll be something interesting.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” Pitfall answered.

“What? Doubts about Bohemian Lion’s idea?” Trevor joked.

“It’s not his idea. It’s from Cesar Palicki.”

“Ah, hyena guy?” Trevor noted.

“Flashy hyena guy,” Peter noted. “Has there been a power shift?”

Pitfall laughed, breaking his concentration as he raised up his bet. “Nah. Here’s what I understand happened. We had an event prepared for the weekend; the main act told us they’re a no-go. Cestus wanted to do something fancy with the booked medium coliseum and Lion basically told him to go nuts with it.”

“I see,” Peter said as he exchanged looks with Trevor. “And what has Cesar planned.”

“Apparently, he has some contact outside that deals with spectacle fighting. Somehow, he got their intermission booked up to show the Whateley show.”

“Did he convince the faculty?”

“They agreed to turn a blind eye when they were offered a piece of the earnings… However, if things appear to be going out of hand, they’ll be calling the thing off.” By then, they showed their cards and Pitfall bore a large smile as he took in the pot of chips.

“So, it’s kinda like a wrestling or boxing club, right?”

“And he’s putting a show, I assume.”

Pitfall snickered. “He prefers to call it ‘a gladiator’s match.’ The guy craves for the ego boost that fifteen-minute intermission will give him.”

“Don’t everyone here?” Peter noted as he dealt the cards again. “So, fighters?”

“We’re giving out invitations, though it’s all last minute.” Pitfall said as they began to call their bets. “Hopefully, we’ll have enough.”

“It’s Wednesday, not enough time to prepare for what could be a deathmatch for… what’s the prize again?”

“Spectacle and fame?” Pitfall said before sighing as the first cards were revealed, two aces and a queen, which worked well enough for the queen card in his hand. “Look, the thing is just as shoddily planned. The guy just wants to declare himself champion through the stream, in the best-case scenario, it’ll be a full-on roman spectacle. Worst case, the guy will just be by himself psyching himself up in an empty field and Bohemian Lion and the girls will be enjoying watching from atop the grades.”

“Worst case scenario feels like the likely scenario if you don’t add more,” Peter said as he called and the fourth card in the center was revealed, another queen, that piqued, as indiscreetly as it could be, Pitfall’s confidence. “Know what would be swell, if you threw in a couple of side bets to make this a ‘win more’ situation.”

“Gambling,” the Bohemian’s enforcer scoffed as he pushed his chips into the pot. “I had half a mind to do it.”

“And it’ll be just about better if you happen to know, who is going to win beforehand.”

Pitfall smirked. “Cesar would never pick up on those details.”

Trevor nodded in agreement as they raised the bet. “You know what else you need? Much like wrestling, you need to focus on the spectacle, at least for the viewed part. Make it grand and bombastic.”

“I guess that wouldn’t hurt.”

When it came time to reveal their cards, Pitfall did it as smugly and confident as possible as his queen of spades made for a good three of a kind with the one on the table… however that confidence was quickly washed away when both Trevor and Peter turned their cards revealing the aces of hearts and diamonds, respectively, matching the two cars on the table.

Pitfall snorted accepting his loss.

“Is Cesar a good fighter?” asked Peter as he shuffled the cards.

Pitfall thought for a moment. “He isn’t bad. Controlling himself, he’s quite decent but, has some trouble against some of the other students around.”

“Assuming that most of them aren’t in it for the money, you’d still be at risk of being pitted up against some of the stronger fighters in the school,” Trevor reasoned.

“Like that freshman that just keeps on picking up fights and winning,” Peter said with a chuckle. “Imagine she manages to beat up the Bohemian’s representative in the livestream. What a shame.”

“It might be a disaster for the Bohemian’s reputation. Not that we are bloodthirsty or competitive, but I’m sure Bohemian Lion wouldn’t appreciate that weakness,” Pitfall sighed. “Suddenly, having a false fighter for the streaming time would make better for everyone. Your group, the fighter, and our pockets maybe. It would be just as easy to have Cestus fight a bear or some random animal.”

The two members of Whiskey’s gang exchanged curious and conspiratorial looks as they shared the same idea. And just in time as Crossby and Glam returned, bearing a piece of enchanted paper that housed their commitment to the plan. And neither particularly cheery.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 1:10 pm
Crystal Hall

Another day, another lunch break with the rest of the gang. The M3 team always met up and chatted about their random events or any of the ongoing rumors that were taking place. There was always a topic to share and the rumor that took hold of the table.

“So, oddly enough,” Morgana noted as she finished her third platter of food. “There seems to be the impression that there’ll be and… I don’t know, some sort of tournament going on?”

“What makes you think that?” Jimmy asked as he glimpsed off the corner of his eye at Tavi. The little ferret was lounging back, with its body almost squashed down like a pear staring down at Vic’s tablet as his finger scrolled through the list of apps to install for his tablet.

“Some guy from Emerson just came up to me after class and asked if I had any plans this Saturday at one. My lunch time,” Morgana answered.

“Perhaps he was asking you out?” Bianca asked.

“Then, after another class, another one approached me asking if I was available in the same day at the same time.”

“Coincidence?” Tanya offered.

“And then a third one asked for the same, also wondering, who would win in a fight? Me or Ratel.”

Those present that were following the conversation exchanged looks and looked over the rail down to the lower level of the cafeteria where the bi-speckled girl was happily munching on her meal at the same table as Wilder.

“That’s still a huge leap. To go from asking if you’re available to a fight,” Bianca reassured. Though it was Laura who clarified on the situation.

Finishing and swallowing the bit of her food, she raised her hand to get the attention. “Actually, there is some sort of fight club like extravaganza going on about.”

“Huh…” Morgana said almost dumbfounded. “My overly exaggerated estimation was right. How do you know?”

“Some girls dropped by the lab. They were seeking to hire a devisor or at least rent environmental nonlethal hazards. For a coliseum fight, they said,” Laura explained with a shake of her head. “It’s too much of a rush for too little in exchange.”

“An impromptu fight then,” Jimmy said as he saw Tavi’s little paw tap on Vic’s tablet, selecting a gatcha game in Japanese. “Are you going to participate?” he asked picking up the ferret by the back of the neck and dragging him over to the other side, only for it to start scooching itself back towards the tablet.

“I guess my question is what’s in it for me?” Morgana said.

“I think it’s a sort of sporting event,” Laura clarified.

“So, for free?” Morgana sighed. “I’ll pass.”

“Besides, it sounds like its rigged if they found some devisor to lay down traps,” Jimmy said as he, out of the corner of his eye, spied Tavi’s silhouette still by his arm. Though everyone else could see that it was a hardlight ferret plush. Tavi had used substitution.

“They did pick up a person. Someone from the lower tunnels with his own lab. Appeared to have a bit of a wicked sense of humor as they already had plenty of traps, joke mines and boxes prepared.” Laura said casually.

About ten seconds later, Vic pieced together the clues. Someone from the labs? Has traps, joke mines and boxes? A ‘wicked’ sense of humor. He paused on the revisions from his tablet’s app store and discreetly turned towards the lower levels of the cafeteria.

Whether it was sheer coincidence or bad luck, he saw him. Mike Thawne, a.k.a Jack-in-the-box. The guy that had him brainwashed, who contributed in making Calliope’s first month into the living hell and had, consequently gotten his mind blanked by the girl’s emotional projection.

He was back on his feet, up and about. There hadn’t been any news of his return back at Twain, but then again, it’s not like the co-dads of the cottage were interested in sharing that sort of information.

It was fortunate that Cally wasn’t present right now.

“Just ignore him. He doesn’t have his mind controlling buzzer anymore,” Vic muttered to himself, shaking off the memory and returning back to the tablet. Only to find that the screen was filled with several anime inspired drawings of buxom girls that almost cluttered the screen as a result of the recent fifty elapsed downloads, courtesy of the laughing ferret.

“What the,” Vic gasped out of the surprise. Perhaps the knowledge that Mike was out and about had put him on edge, but that came out louder than expected and drew the unwanted attention of the girls around.

“What is that?” Tanya said. Sitting opposite to him, there was no way she’d missed the ferret’s mischief and was trying to play coy. Though too pure to keep up the play as she was close to breaking into giggles and blushing red at the images

“My, my, Vic,” Morgana snickered. “That’s hentai, right?” The Japanese word got Koichi and Taka to raise their heads from the other end of the table.

“It’s not. I mean, it might be, but I didn’t download it,” Vic said as he hit the power button and put his tablet in sleep mode.

“Heeheehee.” Tavi laughed, even as Jimmy brought his open palm down on the ferret, letting his hardlight body get squashed under it, leaving a splash of hardlight bits and glitter splattered onto the surface.

“I’m sorry,” Jimmy said as the pieces of fake confetti disappeared.

“It’s fine,” Vic said with a shake of the head. “I have someone who can give it a thorough cleaning. Though I’ll have to wait till later after classes and my jog around campus.”

Tanya nodded, quietly showing that she would be doing hers as well.

“You’re always working out and studying. You have to relax a little bit.” Morgana said casually.

“I’m trying. I’m just trying to be focused.” He said as he pulled up his backpack to stash away the tablet, and in that interim, Morgana’s hand reached out of curiosity at some packets that Vic had bought on the way to the cafeteria.

“Are those… Powdered juice? How many do you have there? Fifty?”

“It’s only ten.” Vic noted. As much as he disliked spending that much money in what felt like a banality, that time in the art club spurred him into some crazy idea and he was now committing himself to see it through.

“And what are they for?” Bianca asked curiously.

“It’s for a secret project.”

“Aw, no fair,” Laura joked.

Vic knew he would have to tell them about the art club, eventually. Even if he wasn’t thinking of being a full-time member. He was just committed enough for the membership thing. For which he first had to ask. “Laura, by the way. Do you have a cold gun? Or a freezing beam?”

Sadly, Laura had too much on her plate to build him a cold gun. So, Vic thought he would need to find another way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 1:23 pm
Crystal Hall

Chris slipped through the cafeteria, letting her rollerblades and momentum carry her around the tables as she slipped through the posts on her phone. Occasionally, someone careless would get in her way, or even a muffin that just happened to accidentally slip off a table and into her path, but she casually swayed her way through without raising her gaze.

Not that it was okay for her to be circling around with rollerblades. But being as absentmindedly as she was on the rules, she would carry on until someone called her attention towards it.

Still, she wasn’t that into the cafeteria when she suddenly stopped in her path.” I didn’t think I’d see you up and about this soon.” She grinned, raising up her eyes to meet her classmate.

“Ugh…” said the voice with a tinge in frustration. “I’m not causing trouble; I’m still undergoing physical therapy. Beat it, speedy.”

“No need to be defensive, Mike,” Chris said with a small smile as she leaned onto the table. “I’m just glad you’re awake.”

“Oh, no need to lie. Your friends beat my ass real good.”

“Maybe they did. Can’t say you didn’t deserve a good beating for that invasive trinket you created.” Chris said with a small shrug. “You’re still my classmate, so whether I like it or no, we still have to deal with you for at least a couple more years.”

Mike Thawne, or rather, Jack-in-the-box, just tried to avoid the gaze with a slight scowl. He would’ve tried to step out but whether it was out of stubbornness or still being physically weak, he remained in place.

“Besides, I don’t really wish catatonia upon any person, even if they’re bullies like you.”

“Ah, is that so?” Mike said shaking his head.

“It is so. Right now, you and I are neutral. As long as you don’t try anything against me or my friends, I won’t do anything to you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. And I hope you do when someone else comes by and ask for your help.”

“I’m also a hero in training.” Chris said.

“Well, if you do come after me for the next ego prank I make, just make sure to be prepared,” Mike shook his head as he raised his arm. “Until then, I think I’ll take on your truce offer.”

“Great!” Chris smiled as she sat down on the table, making Mike throw his head back and let out a frustrated groan, evidently not expecting her to get into a conversation.

“Don’t you have a better place to be, like with your gal pal?” Mike said, quite interested in getting her out of the way, so much so, he was barely pretending.

“Gwen is late,” Chris simply said. “Tell me, what do you know of this sort of coliseum fight I’ve been hearing about last night?”

“Where did you hear it?” Mike asked.

“I got this card given to me as I left Caro’s workshop in the tunnels. I recognized them as members of that bohemian club. When I followed them, I spotted them talking with you in the tunnels.”

“Oh, this is going to be a fiasco,” Mike chuckled, when Chris gave him a look that pressed onto the question, he elaborated. “Fine… This is an event designed by an offshoot member from the bohemians. Namely, he’s trying to make this sort of gladiator’s show for some livestreaming service.”

“You mean like those that circulate the web?”

“Those exactly. Club will be getting paid for the show, I get paid for delivering the non-lethal traps for the arena and that’s about my involvement with it. Maybe other than maybe putting a bet here or there.”

“So, you won’t play a hand at it?”

“Nope,” Mike said as he took a bite of his lunch. “I gave off the remote and practically gtfo.”

“Surprising the school allowed this to carry on.”

“Well, there was a public incentive.” Mike said. “It’s not impossible to get them to agree on this sort of event as long as there is something to be gained. Imagine I could, one of these days convince them make up some sort of game using the parkour lab and filling it with traps and cameras.”

“Yeah,” Chris found herself agreeing, if only because she just imagined there might be some fun to be had if it was at the level of a Japanese game show.

Still, she then reached into her pocket and produced the invitation she got. A simple printed plastic card that bore the location’s address and the time, with the highlighted words “participant invitation.” Saturday afternoon at one of afternoon at the currently vacant coliseums. It was cheap, but at least conveyed the idea. “And why did I get the card whereas Gwen didn’t get one.”

Mike shrugged. “Maybe they wanted an easier fight.”

“I see,” Chris said, not discussing the implication. “So, the thing is rigged?”

“I’d assure you that if they’ve hired me, results might be predetermined.” Mike said with a small smirk. “Now, is that all we needed? I’d rather have my food in peace.”

“Alright, alright,” Chris smiled as she pushed herself up. “Stay out of trouble.” She said with a smile as she pushed herself away from the table, sliding off towards the open field and the lunch line.

Samantha Harris, commonly known as Tek Rider, happened to be seated not far from where Chris and Mike had their conversation. Her fingers quietly at work turning in some of the micro screws within her collapsible helmet and her other hand going for a piece of her sandwich.

With a couple of quiet taps in a concealed button at the side of the helmet, she saw the visor retreat back. Another tap and the plaques of metal retreated themselves further and folding under the other pieces. The nanofoam plates that made up the inner lining shrank itself and hid. In the end, the helmet had acquired the same ‘C’ shape as a neck pillow.

At first, she ignored most of their conversation, though quietly agreed with Chris that, hopefully for better, it was fine to see one of her classmates back on his feet. But eventually, she picked up a part that interested her.

“It’s not impossible to get them to agree on this sort of event as long as there is something to be gained.” Mike noted in the conversation.

Within Tek Rider’s mind, the wheels were not only spinning but were forcing themselves into a wheelie and running up a ramp for a way to sate her growing boredom from the lab tinkering.

She would have to wait, though. See how many problems the Bohemians threw themselves into before she would cast her pitch.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 5:49 pm
Whitman Room 247

After a good day at the labs, Caro returned to Whitman, though there was still some trepidation within her steps as she crossed the threshold. She might’ve affirmed that she was on the clear after that whole asleep incident… however, there was always the fear that she’d just invoked some sort of ironic luck to befall on her.

Fortunately, there was no problem within sight today, again. She greeted Mrs. Savage on the way in and carried on towards her bedroom, avoiding any problems in conversation.

Needless to say, she was having a pretty good day. Her hanging out with friends yesterday had been fun and the movie, great. At class today, the teachers praised her each on their own right. Mrs. Fey said her mana and essence consumption had been as efficient as it could be during the past tasks whilst Mr. Kim praised her skill with the (figurative) pen when he read that short story assignment.

After that, it was about three hours down in the labs working in her wordsmithing and enchantment. With Grimma having dozed off into whatever shadows she disappeared into, pretty much giving her a decent berth to play and create. Which was probably what Grimma wanted from her anyway.

To play along with the words and rituals. To come up with new phrases and conditions, test off ritual lines and simulate them to see the strength of her magic. And finally, experiment on casting them. Tonight, among some of the products was a hounding spell and the draft for a Glamour. An illusion that would allow her to slip back into her old form before she got possessed by the storyteller’s spirit.

With how well things were going, she even considered in taking up Chris’ offer and going to the weeb theater this Saturday. Back in her old school, she would’ve said something like ‘I’d rather dress in the school mascot’s costume without the head and streak through the football field before being seen with the nerds watching Japanese cartoons.’ But now, if it was with a friend, what harm could it do?

Speaking of friends, when she opened the door to her bedroom, she came upon her roommate, Sofia Fontana, aka Zoo, sitting on her side of the desk with her eyes fixated on the computer, at least by the time she entered. She turned her way giving her a casual ‘heya’ before going back to her work.

“Doing your homework?” Caro asked.

“Yeah. I feel like I’m close to done.”

“Oh, and the hand in is on Monday… not bad,” Sofia praised with a tinge of pride. She didn’t want to call it rehabilitation. But she really felt as if she’d helped her friend to move away from that bad alcoholic spiral she appeared to be drawn towards.

“Oh shush… I just wanted to keep doing good in history class.”

When Mr. Barton praised the improvement on her work, it was the kickoff encouragement she appeared to have been needing to try to get back into habit these past weeks. Sofia didn’t mind. The nights where her friend would come back home shifting into random animals and breaking stuff appeared now over. Old Caroline Hersebeth would’ve re-litigated those memories to get some leverage out of her. Not anymore.

“I’ll get to work in my assignments as well,” she said, sitting down on her side of the room, taking out her notebooks and laying them down.

In that interim, she heard a buzzing come in from Sofia’s side. Something within her already grew worried of what it might be. Afterall, most of the time, afternoon calls belonged to William Crossby’s gang, inquiring if she was available.

“Oh, hey Will,” Sofia greeted, and Caro could only contain her sigh. She just pretended to get to work on her stuff while silently keeping a close ear.

“I’ve been doing fine… Just studying. Sorry I haven’t been available,” Sofia said.

“I’m not sorry about that,” Caro muttered to herself as she began to tap away on the keyboard, though was immediately stopped.

“Tonight? You want to meet up?”

“Oh no…” Caro almost voiced though had a pretty clear experience on how her roommate would react if she were to outright interrupt her conversation to tell her “no.”

Sofia waited for a moment, thinking of her answer.” Well, I was thinking of spending the night in and… What? You have a new batch? Berry? Hm… I don’t know…”

Caro wondered if she should interject and do something. Maybe remind her of an assignment or of the times she’d had trouble getting out of bed because of a hangover. She was almost close to bringing up the mattress incident from last week but worried that could shine a light on the event.

She took too long piecing together her answer.

“Alright… since you make such a good offer. I guess I can go, if just for a moment.” Sofia answered with a soft smile, though gave out a small frown. “No, I have a BMA tomorrow. I’d rather not overdo it like I used to.”

At least she is setting up some ground rules, Caro found consolation as the decision was already made.

“Good, I’ll be there in a couple of minutes… Oh, a different meeting spot? Alright. Be there.” With that, Sofia hung up her phone and closed her notebook and slipping off her chair to her side of the room where she grabbed her coat and began to get herself dressed up for the usual outdoor experience.

“Are you… ahem, heading out?” Caro asked.

“I know you don’t like it, but I haven’t seen them in quite some time.” Sofia excused almost beggingly as she got dressed.

“Alright,” Caro conceded. “Just be responsible.”

Sofia nodded with an agreeable nod as she picked up her phone and slipped it in her pocket, as well as her keys and wallet before heading out.

“If she rips my mattress again, we’re going to have a problem,” Caro warned to no one as she went back to her homework.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 7:31 pm
Twain Room 217

“There we go,” Ronnie said through the video chat’s window as the colors of the screen shifted becoming saturated and desaturated without any input from Vic’s part. Flashing once before returning back to their normal setting.

“Is it?” Vic asked as he picked up the tablet and tapped into the main screen,

“I got rid of the excess apps, made sure there were no nasty surprises and viruses left. It should be well tuned up.”

From Vic’s point of view, effectively, the fifty apps covertly downloaded by Tavi were gone, now only about five left, neatly organized in the corner of the last page. “I did, however, leave some of the good apps that I figured you might enjoy.” She said, most of them being games that certainly compensated Vic’s lack for a videogame console, something he hadn’t realized he’d been missing up until now. The others were a social media nexus and a subscription for an encyclopedia.

“Thanks, Ronnie. I, honestly, don’t know how I would’ve handled it,” he said with a smile.

“It’s no problem,” she answered. “So, what’s the plan for now? More studying?”

“Arts and craft.” Vic said, intentionally to get Ronnie’s interest flowing. “I’ll show you when it’s done, depending on how it turns out.”

“Alright, fine,” Ronnie answered with a small sigh. “I have to bounce anyway. I’m supposed to be calling Gwen in about ten minutes.”

“I see,” Vic said a bit distant.

“Have you had a chat with her ever since you got this hard drive?” Ronnie asked.

“No,” Vic said before quickly adding. “It’s not like I’ve been avoiding her. I just haven’t had the chance.”

“I know, I know,” Ronnie said with a shake of her head. “If it makes you feel better, last chat I had with her, she pretty much reacted in the same way you did.”

“Hm…” Vic said as the two held the quiet for a moment. His stepsister was always busy with concern, keeping an eye on the state of their family, concerned about their wellbeing, especially more so since all that happened in the past months. Despite that, she hadn’t revealed his whereabouts to dad, resigning herself to just being an intermediary to the so-called sibling drama. What he meant with this train of thought was that he could trust her enough to ask something. “Do you… do you miss Oliver?”

“Do I miss Oliver? I talk to her all the time.”

“I mean, before he manifested.” Vic sighed. “Before he became Gwen. I miss those times.”

Ronnie sighed, leaving a moment of silence for Vic to interpret before she spoke up. “It wasn’t easy for any of us. I think it was even harder for Oliver himself when the MCO’s physical told him he was growing breasts. But in a sense, I get the feeling that deep inside, a part of him might’ve been wanting for it.”

“How can you think that?” Vic asked.

“Well, Oliver was always soft spoken, reserved. A wall flower that got into the girl’s good side more often than not. Even if she herself might not know it, I suspect that his personality might’ve had a better pull towards the feminine aspects.” Ronnie shook her head and sighed as she tapped onto the screen. Lines of code appeared wherever contact was made, seemingly inscribing the device with her technomancy and assuming minor control. She opened up the web browser, showing off the Facebook pages for Gwen’s friends. Each of them showing pictures of Vic’s step sibling.

Some of their outings to the mall, some of them hanging out around Whateley, and many of them reflecting them with many smiles. Smiles that weren’t as different from the Ollie Vic remembered.

“While she’s finding herself out, she does seem happier than when she was in the old school. And that’s all a sister can ask.”

“I guess that’s true,” Vic, finding himself more often than not averting eyes of the image. “It was just hard for me to deal with.”

“I understand,” Ronnie nodded. “Just don’t be afraid of it.”

“Afraid? Me?” Vic said, trying to deflect with a bit of humor, which Ronnie humored him with.

“Yeah, no need to put on the chicken hat. Whoops, I’m already a tad late,” Ronnie said as she waved at him.

“Alright, and please, don’t tell Gwen about this.”

“I never do, Vic. No worries,” Ronnie said with a warm smile, waving her hand as her video chat window suddenly closed and all presence of her influence on the screen suddenly closed.

“I shouldn’t probably have asked that,” Vic said with a disappointed sigh, laying his head down on the bed.

So far, the things were quiet, which unsettled him quite a bit. Over a month in this routine and he was already mystified for this being one of the few evenings he just happened to make it back to his room early and had nothing to do. Assignments were done, material was studied, workout was over and everything else was optional.

It reminded him of old times back home, which was why he, out loud reminded himself to not fall in the habit. But then again, there was little that he could do. Toby was still out at this hour, doing some late work with his study, trying to practice his magic with Tir. Hopefully, he would have it ready for Saturday.

 His gaze strayed over to the corner of his desk with the packets of powdered juice rested. He’d never tried something of this style with his powers, and it was quite exciting.

Restless, he opted to entertain himself, so he picked up the tablet and began to tap into the menu, about to play one of the games that his sister installed. However, instead he found his attention focused towards that social media hub where the icon gave away he’d received a message one that hadn’t been there before when he first checked.  It was from his old Skype account. One that he hadn’t seen in years by now. Not since he moved over with his dad.

The name Danielle Franklin was flashing with the words. “Vic, is that you?” The icon to the side reflected a small doodle that brought some memories back of happier times.

Ronnie must’ve ‘accidentally’ signed him up with his old accounts. Tentatively, his finger opened the conversation window and waited for him to sort his thoughts and decide whether he would venture forth and try to reconnect or try to dismiss it. There was shame in him about it. To them, it must’ve appeared as if he’d suddenly upped and disappeared while they were having just as much of a bad time as he. He moved out and got himself busy with one thing after another, barely thinking about reconnecting over than the occasional email for their birthdays, which they replied in kind every January.

But the idea of a chat had been left by the wayside and forgotten, especially as he grew used to the company of his step siblings and friends from his new school in Rhode Island. Then things turned suddenly for the worst, and he never thought about reaching back for some of his old friends.

Figuring that the situation right now was as good as it was going to get, he opened the conversation and typed. “Hey Danny.”

“Vic! It’s been so long! How have you been?”

“I’m decent.” Vic answered, still trying to figure out what stance to adopt. “Sorry I haven’t been up for a chat in so long.”

“Don’t worry. I just assumed that things were as busy as they always were. Up for a video call?”

Vic cringed at the thought, but then again. Refusing would mean to come up with a valid reason that wasn’t as silly as ‘because I’m camera shy’.

“Alright,” he simply answered, running his fingers across his hair. The next second, a large pop-up invite for a voice call appeared in the center of his tablet. Accepting it, another window appeared in his tablet, this one containing a girl his age, of white skin and wavy blonde hair. Eyes that were wide and sincere with a loving smile that was a throwback to Vic. Danny looked the same as she did five years ago, obviously, older and developing that inexplicable charm girls had.

The second that Vic took him to recognize the old and the new in his friend was also mirrored by Danny as well, with no intention of hiding her study. Still, it was she who ventured forth. “How have you been? Are you still in Rhode Island with your stepbrother and sister?”

Right, it’s about that time that dad changed the desktop computer and I forgot to install program. “Not really, no. I’m kinda studying away.”

“Really? Where?

“I don’t think I can say,” Vic aware of the restrictions the school imposed. If he wanted to share the location, he would need to be outside of the school’s wi fi… like at Iggy’s. “But I’m okay.”

“Dang, Lizzy and I are still stuck within nice Washington DC. Same school, same everything.”

“Really?” Vic mused, feeling the wave of nostalgia sweep through him. Before he moved over to Rhode Island with his dad, he used to have a life with his mom, something that he pretty much repressed after her passing.

Although, in his defense, he did think of running away back to Washington, but it was perhaps by the same underlying shame on his situation as a runaway that he hoped to make some money first.

There were school and friends. Classes and lessons. Favorite teachers and misadventures to be had there. All of which came to his head in the form of a joyful smile.

“Really,” Danny answered. “Well, mostly same. Some people moved out over the years, some joined our class but for the most part, people are the same. Margarita is still decided to be the class president though keeps losing to Chuck. Tony is the star football player and his twin, Tommy, is still the number one bully.”

“Some things don’t change.” Vic said. “I should’ve been there.”

“You needed a change of scenery.” Danny sighed. “Sometimes, I felt like I needed it too.”

“Yeah,” Vic said with a small sigh, though stopping himself as Danny raised up her right arm, making a deliberate show of her limb. “Hey, wait a second, is that a cool wristwatch you’re wearing?” He said jokingly.

“Oh, this thing?” Danny smiled. “Partly it’s a gift from my dad… the other part so much more. Pretty cool, huh?”

Vic nodded. “It is.”

“I’ve had to pick up some of his skills, you know, so I can do the tune-up on my own.” Danny said with a giddy smile. “Many of our classmates can’t really get it, many had practically a meltdown, but I’ve been so hush hush on the matter since day one. And then something happened recently that made things all the easier.”

“Something happened?” Vic repeated inquisitively.

“I’ll tell you about it later because it’s quite a story, but that reminds me… have you manifested?”

Vic answered with a smug smile.

“Oh, come on, tell me.”

“I’ll tell you about it later.”

Danny laughed. “Fine, I walked right into that one.”

Out of the back another voice called. Sweeter and melodious that gave away its owner’s age “Danny? Are you warming up dinner? Who are you talking to?”

“Lizzy, come here,” Danny invited, scooching to the side to give room to another girl. Despite having a more brunette tone on her hair, there was no denying of the familial relationship the two shared.

Upon seeing him, she brightened herself up. “Vic!”

“Hey Lizzy. How are you doing?”

From there the younger girl began her answers, not that dissimilar from her sister’s. But it was still a welcomed chat, letting the conversation from there flow as natural as it could be.

Suddenly, Vic felt like he was eight years old again, talking and playing with Daniella and Elizabeth back at their place whilst his mom and their dad was off at work. A re-encounter and reconnection that made it feel as if everything was possible.

They talked about incidents that happened when they were a team. Modern movies that they were interested in, some of the old and new hobbies.

Eventually, the two sisters were late for dinner and excused themselves, whilst Vic heard the doorknob turn as his roommate came back. They bid themselves farewell, though not without promising they would be in contact again.

Leaving his mutant talk for another occasion, certain he would be talking with them again now that it was within reach.

 

To Be Continued
Read 1748 times Last modified on Sunday, 20 March 2022 22:30

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