Cadre 5:

This is the place to recount your superheroic deeds for all to gaze upon with astonishment and wonder.
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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:43 am

Well, Patrick and Tracy are on a government based scholarship where their parent's employers are paying for their school in order to get a tax break. Michael's parents too, but since they work for the Administration, it's sort of an incestuous affair between the department where they work and the Department of Neohuman Affairs.

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cobalt-blue
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Issue 19: Summer of Love

Postby cobalt-blue » Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:46 am

Cadre 5: Issue 19
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SPEEDFIRE aka Patrick Mattison
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Damn I needed summer break. Damn it turned out to be exactly what I didn’t need- or did it?

The first few days were okay I guess. I got settled back into my own room at home, and got used to the idea of a housekeeper/cook being there. I guess dad got tired of eating his own cooking so he hired someone to come in and keep the place clean and cook meals for him. She was an older woman, I guess somewhere in her fifties, with broad shoulders and a stern face, that didn’t quite hide the mirth in her eyes. Dad had already warned me not to make her job any harder than it already was.

Our house was about twenty miles outside of the city, and was built into the base of a mountain, not far from a river that cut through the property. It was always warm in the winter and cool in the summer- really energy efficient and green. The architecture reminded me of the house in that movie with the family that piloted rescue vehicles and were always saying F.A.B. I think it was based on some old British show. Of course we didn’t have a rocket or a control center in the mountain, just a root cellar. We lived in the mountain, Tracy and his family lived on the other side of the river on a rather large ranch.

It took me a while to get settled back in. It was a whole lot quieter than I remembered, and oddly enough that kept me awake for the first few nights. Dad was working on a new project for his company, so there were nights he didn’t make it home until well after midnight and then was up and gone again at the break of dawn. I was cool with that though. I understood how hard he was working now that mom was gone. I think it was some kind of therapy for him. We talked about it when I first got back. I guess I’d been hanging around Kenna too much because I started noticing the words he used when he talked about women. I could see a reflection of what I was feeling in them. Neither one of us trusted women very much right now.

To be honest, I was bored out of my skull. There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to do in our neighborhood- if you could call it that- so I spent most of it hanging around the house, playing Freedom City Online- that I blame on Brian an Sawyer- and surfing the net. Let’s face it, it’s just too darn hot to get out and do much in the New Mexico heat during the summer.

However, Trace and I had plans to spend one Tuesday afternoon in Roswell. We were going to the movies- there was a new Nick Cage flick that looked like fun- then hit mall, and maybe just hang with some friends from our old school. Dad had left me with the keys to CR-Z so we could get into town without attracting too much attention. He said he wanted me to use the hybrid because he thought I was too forgetful to fill the tank and might get stranded on 70 coming out of town. I think he wanted me to use the hybrid because it doesn’t have a back seat.

Trace was supposed to meet around ten and we’d head into town and get some lunch and do some window shopping before going to the afternoon matinee. One of the side effects of being at Wyndgate was that I wasn’t sleeping as late in the summer as I was used to. Part of that might also be my own neo powers starting to settle down. I was up by the time Dad had left and had taken care of all the chores he left for me: feed the cat, run the dishwasher, and check the filter in the pool.

Mrs. Tineh wasn’t here yet, and I was relaxing in the living room in a pair of running shorts and tee shirt with a bagel and glass of orange juice. I heard the lock on the door turn and without looking up I asked, “Dad? Did you forget something?”

“It’s me, Patty,” my mother’s voice said softly. I froze in place and my heart dropped to my stomach. I knew Dad should have changed more than just pass code on the alarm system.

I swallowed hard and stood. In an even voice I asked, “What are you doing here?”

Turning round I could see her standing at the door wearing a summer dress and high heel shoes. Her long black hair was held back by a clasp. She had one hand on her hip and the other down the side of her leg. “I came to see you.”

“I thought you made it clear that you didn’t want anything to do with me being as I’m a neo,” I said hoping to keep the hurt out of my voice. “What do you want?”

“I just wanted to talk,” she said.

“About?” I asked looking up at the clock on the wall. “And how did you get in?”

She shrugged and said, “Your father never took my pass code out of the system.”

I fought back a smile. Actually Dad did change the pass code. He made hers the panic code. If it gets entered, the sheriff’s department would be alerted immediately- so would the security department at Nordwell Avionics. Dad worked on some pretty top secret stuff and sometimes brought data home. Even if the cops didn’t show up, Nordwell definitely would. The thing about it, the first gate where it has to be entered is almost two miles down the road. “I see,” I said.

“Can’t I come to visit my son?” she asked.

I crossed my arms and said flatly, “According to you, I’m not your son.”

“I never said any such thing. That’s your father lying to you,” she said with hurt in her eyes.

“He’s not the one lying, you are. I heard it with my own little pointed ears,” I told her.

“Oh honey, we were arguing. I didn’t mean it,” she said stepping closer.

“Stay where you are,” I tilted my head toward her, horns first, and summoned my best Brian command tone.

She stopped in her tracks, “I’m sorry, Patty. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was just surprised and a bit freaked by what happened to you.”

“You wanted to cut off my tail, and horns, and have my ears bobbed. Then you suggested that I should try to not be a neo, not to use my powers,” I told her harshly.

“There are people out there who could make you normal, Patty. They’re organizations who specialize in it,” she said. “Don’t you want to be normal?”

“What’s normal?” I asked. “If I were normal, then I can think of at least one bicycler who would be dead now, not to mention several other people in that crowd.”

“But if there weren’t any neos, then those people wouldn’t have been in that situation,” she said. “Don’t you want a girlfriend?”

“What does my being a neo have to do with having a girlfriend?” I asked somewhat confused.

“Surely it would be easier to get a girlfriend if you looked normal,” she said. “I mean then you wouldn’t have to turn to Tr...,” she stopped herself and then backtracked, “...you wouldn’t have to look other places for affection.”

I raised an eyebrow. Did she know about me and Tracy? It would seem so. I shook my head and asked, “Is that what this is about?” She smiled and took another step toward me. I shook my head and told her. “Stay where you are.”

“I’d do what he said, ma’am,” another voice came from the door leading to the kitchen interrupted us. I turned to see a man wearing a Nordwell Avionics security uniform standing there, his hand resting casually on his holster. Mom jumped a little at his voice, and I saw something fall to the floor behind her. The man’s eyes dropped to follow the long cylinder roll across the stone floor and she bolted for the front door.

I could have caught her. Heck, I could have gotten to her before she even made the front door, but to honest, I didn’t give a damn. I just wanted her gone. Turns out that I didn’t have to though. The police caught her as she was trying to get through the gate. Evidently in the time it took her to get from the front gate to the house, the company’s security and the police both had an opportunity to get to the house. She must have sat outside for quite a while gathering her nerve.

I spent the next three hours talking to both the police, and company security. The police took the cylinder which turned out to be a hypodermic needle with something in it. The working theory was that it was a sedative and this was a kidnapping attempt. That didn’t help with my general attitude toward women in general or my mom in particular.

By the time my Dad had come from the plant, dealt with all the legal issues, I had explained things to the police and the security company, it was nearly noon and poor Trace was waiting patiently. After everyone had left, he looked at me and said with sarcasm dripping from his voice, “That looked like fun.”

I nodded and replied, “Yeah. Right up there with a trip to the dentist.”

He shrugged and said, “If you don’t feel like going into town today, we can just hang here.” He then flopped down sideways in the big overstuffed chair and let his wings lay against the cool stone floor.

I shook my head and said, “No. I really do want to see that movie, and it’ll be good to take my mind off things.”

Something in my voice must have caught his attention because he sighed and asked, “What things? What did she say to you?”

I frowned and said, “Just the same ol’ crap. If I didn’t have these horns and tail, I could just pretend that I wasn’t a neo. I could not use my powers and pretend to be normal. I could get a girlfriend and wouldn’t have to turn to you for affection.”

I saw his eyes drop. “Do you really believe that, Pat?”

Shaking my head I told him, “No. I don’t think she understands us.”

“Us?” he asked. “There’s an us?”

“You know what I mean,” I told him flopping down on the couch myself. “She doesn’t understand the idea of friends with benefits. I mean you and I talked this out a long time ago. It’s okay to swap spit and other things when we aren’t dating someone, but neither one of us wants us to become a couple. There’ still too many girls out there too,” I said with a grin.

“Yeah,” he said. “Chasing skirts can be fun.”

“So why hasn’t either one of us found a girlfriend?” I asked.

“Well, mainly because most of the girls at school are already taken, or are wary of Cadre: 5 because of Brian,” he said. Wagging his eyebrows he suggested, “We could always try to hook up with Lisa and Amy again.” I guess he thought it would be a good idea to remind me of the two girls to whom we lost our virginity's.

“Nah, they’re both dating linebackers now,” I replied.

“Still, there are lots of girls out there. We just have to find them,” he said.

“Oh yeah, cause there are just tons of girls who are willing to have a long monogamous relationship with a guy with wings on his back or with horns and a tail- although the tail is prehensile and can do the most interesting things. Face it man, we’d like to delude ourselves that they’re plenty of girls out there, but in reality the only type of girl that we have any chance of more than a one night stand or a trophy-xxxx is going to be another neo. And from the stuff I’ve been reading, most female neos, not all, but most, don’t ever plan on having kids.”

He sighed and said, “Well, I don’t want kids right now either.”

“Ever,” I added. “The only reason they haven’t sterilized us yet, is because A- we’re at a private academy, and B- our parents give a damn. Look what happened to poor Talon.”

He nodded and said, “Man, you just trying to bring me down today?”

“No,” I replied. “I just don’t think that deluding ourselves about some things that are going on, are healthy.”

“So what? You think we should just stick to each other?”

“We’ve been doing alright so far,” I said. “Besides, we both know that if we find a couple of girls, we can give it a try. I mean hell, our best bet would be to find one girl that likes both of us.”

“You mean the Sawyer route?”

“Why not? Although I have to admit that in his case it was a girl and a half. But still the same concept applies. Now if we’re going to see Nick Cage kick some ass, we’d better get going and that means I’d better get a shower.”

He nodded and I headed to the back of the house thinking about what we’d just talked about. He at least had angel wings, People thought of him as one of the good guys. Me? I was stuck being the little demon that scared the church people.


LIGHTWING aka Tracy Ashford Bramhold
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The movie turned out to be excellent. It wasn’t a movie with great social commentary, but instead it was a good Disney-style fun romp through fantasy. The perfect thing to take Pat’s mind off his troubles. Unfortunately our earlier conversation got me to thinking. Did I believe that Pat was right and we stood no chance whatsoever with normal girls- or boys for that matter? I wasn’t sure, but events later that day sure seemed to point that way.

After the movie we headed over to Burger King for a late lunch. I couldn’t help noticing the stares we were getting. Nobody pulled their kids away or anything like that, but you could see people’s eyes following us as we sat down at a table near the front window with our burgers and fries.

One girl of about twenty came up to our table and looked down at our food. She was wearing one of those: “Fur Is Murder” tee-shirts. “Eww!” she said. “Don’t you know that God doesn’t want you to eat meat?”

Pat smiled up at her with his upper canines showing and said, “Then why did She put the wrong kind of teeth in my mouth?” He then took a huge bite out of his burger and smiled broadly. The girl turned a little green and ran off.

A few seconds later, the man with whom she’d been sitting came up and said, “I’m sorry about my sister, Dude. Sometimes she’s a little rude.”

“It’s okay,” Pat told him. “If she doesn’t want to eat meat, that’s cool, as long as she doesn’t try to stop me from it.”

“Know what you mean guy. Wouldn’t give up my Whopper for the world,” he said. “I just wanted to apologize for her interrupting your lunch,” he said and then headed out the door through which his sister had disappeared.

“That was weird,” I said to Pat.

He shrugged and continued to chew for a few seconds before swallowing and replied, “Typical Roswell. For some reason we tend to attract the weirdos. Probably more tourists hoping to see the space aliens.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at that. He was probably right. We do tend to attract a lot of the new age crystalmancy type that annoy Kenna so much. Of course our little Heathen was very likely to tell the girl off instead of eating her burger. “You have a point,” I told him.

“What do you want to do after lunch?” he asked.

“We could walk over to the Fortress of Solitude and see what’s new,” I suggested. It had been a while since either of us had been to the comic book shop. Mainly because when we went through our cold-burns, our lives sort of turned into a comic book.

His eyebrow raised until it was almost touching the horn above it and he asked, “You really want to walk in there and face Jesse. Neither of us have cleared our pull lists for over a year. We must owe him a couple of hundred dollars each.”

“Then all the more reason to go. Clean out our pull lists and pay what we owe, and see how everybody is doing.” I shrugged and said, “Why not? It’s not like we’ve got anything better to do.”

Finally he nodded and said, “Okay, okay. I want to check out a few things myself and Jesse’s always got his ear to ground about what’s going on in the comic book world.”

“What do you want to find out?” I asked.

“Just some of the stuff Rowan mentioned when we signed our contracts,” he said. “She said something about a comic book and posters. I wanted to see what he knew about it.”

We finished our meals and headed over to what had been one of our favorite places until I grew these wings and he sprouted horns, a tail, and pointed ears. I guess I should have been paying more attention. Pat was distracted by what had happened with his mom so he had an excuse, but I should have noticed the small crowd that had gathered behind us as we walked across the parking lot of the strip mall from Burger King to the comic shop.

As we entered, Jesse did a double-take. “Well bless my stars and garters!” he said putting down the phone. Jesse was a tall thin good looking guy with a black goatee and horn-rimmed glasses. Not fitting the usual stereotype of the comic book geek, he reminded you more of movie star than a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of what is usually considered an adolescent male entertainment genre. He also borrowed as many comic book expressions as he could get away with. “Hey dudes. We thought you were still back East.”

Pat shook his head and said, “No, we’ve been back for a while. Just sort of chillin’ and gettin’ our heads used to being home for a while.”

“I can understand that,” Jesse replied as the bell on the door jingled, and jingled, and jingled, and jingled. I looked back and saw a whole crowd of people about our age or younger starting pouring into the shop. “Thanks for the business though.”

Pat turned and looked at the crowd and then glanced back at me. He smiled shrugged. Leaning in, he whispered, “You said you wanted to find a date.” I watched him blush as his well tanned skin turned a deeper shade of red.

“What can I do for you?” Jesse asked.

“We thought we’d clean out our pull lists. I know they’ve been building up for a while.”

Jesse held up his hand and said, “It’s okay dude. I understand. I don’t usually hold a list this long, but you guys were kind of in a special situation.” He turned around and pulled out two stacks of comics about two feet high. “Tracy, yours is three twenty-five and Pat, yours is two-sixty,” he told us looking at two little yellow stick-it notes.

Pat and I looked at each other. That would just about clean out both of our spending money for the summer. I shrugged and dug into my wallet. A deal was a deal after all. Jesse held up his hand and said, “But. I’ll give you half off for a favor.”

“What?” I asked suspiciously.

“Sign some merchandise for me,” he said.

“What merchandise?” Pat asked.

Jesse reached under the counter and pulled out several action figures and a stack of comic books and posters. “These.”

Pat and I looked at each other and I grinned. “I guess that answers your question.”

“Not really,” Pat said. “I knew they were out. I was just wondering if they’re any good?”

“Actually, they’re not bad,” Jesse said obviously overhearing us. “Locally, you guys are selling like gang-busters. Nationally, the trend is leaning toward Boomer and Ghost.”

“Okay,” Pat said. “Boomer I can understand. “He is after all Lady Lightning’s son. But Ghost?”

Jesse shrugged and said. “Yeah. All the girls are buying him.”

We both shook our head, and Pat asked, “Got a pen?”

We spent the next hour signing just about anything Jesse had in stock with our picture on it. In a way it was kind of flattering, and some of the girls there were even flirting with us. One attractive Apache girl even had on a Speedfire tee-shirt, and insisted Pat sign in across her boob. I could see where she kept pressing her breast into his hand as he tried to be a gentleman. Finally, he just gave up and signed it and didn’t worry about how it looked. As they moved off I winked at Pat and he just grinned at me.
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It was about five minutes later when the good mood went right down the crapper. I guess it was one of those things where the conversation ebbed at just the right time and the person talking didn’t realize they could be heard. The girl in the tee-shirt’s voice suddenly cut across the crowded room. “I mean if he were a normal looking neo, it might be worth putting up with hassle, but considering his looks, he’d just be a good xxxx.”

Every eye in the store turned to look at her. You could see where she suddenly realized that the whole store had heard her. I looked over at Pat and could see the crushed look in his eyes. He didn’t need this right now. He didn’t need to have his assessment of the female of the species to be confirmed in this way. As everyone slowly went back to their conversation, I watched Jesse walk over to the girl and guy she was with and speak softly. She turned on her heel and left in a huff.

After we left the store, Pat was quiet for most of the trip back to his house. To be honest, I was surprised he didn’t just bolt out of the store and run home. In some ways he was showing a whole lot more control than he did when his mother first told his dad that it was either Pat or her. That worried me. I was sort of afraid that the emotional scar tissue was building up. I offered to spend the night, but he turned me down, so I just waited until his dad got home and then went home myself. It had been a long day.

When Mom heard what happened she just shook her head. Then she shocked the hell out of me and said, “What that boy needs is a good trip to the hayloft with the right girl.”

“Mom!” I protested. I agreed with her mind you, I was just surprised to hear my mom say it out loud.

“It’s true,” she said shaking her head. “Gail had to go and twist the knife in his gut- I really don’t know what’s gotten into her- and now this. At this rate, he’s likely to end up with an anti-woman complex.”

“That’s what Doctor Chapel’s sessions are for,” I tried to head of a mother hen episode. I knew that Pat would never be rude to Mom, but at the same time I also knew that right now he needed to time to think. I thought about giving the Doc a call, but remembered that she said she was going on vacation.

In the end, it was Mom who saved the day. She insisted that we invite the whole cadre to our annual vacation in Florida. She got to calling all the parents and within a day and a half, she’d gotten the whole thing planned out. My parents, Pat’s dad and Heather Blake would be hosting/chaperoning all seven of the team plus Lauren Rathbourne at Daytona Beach the week before we were all due back in school. It was my job to keep Pat from sinking too much further into a depression until then.


ACE aka Michael McAllister
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Most of my vacation was a wash. It was so boring that I honestly don’t remember half of it. When my parents moved us to DC so they could take their jobs with the government, I was sent off immediately to the Salem School, so I never really got a chance to meet any of the local kids. All the friends I had were in New York, or spread out for the summer.
I literally spent most of my vacation trying to find something to do. My parents insisted that I visit this shrink when I was home; “to make sure that you are are adjusting to your status as a neo without too many problems”. For the first week I had to visit her every day. I tried to explain to my parents that Doctor Chapel did the same thing for us, and she’d been the team psychologist for Neoforce 1. But they wouldn’t listen so I basically for a week got told that my neo status didn’t change the fact that my parents still loved me.

After that, I wandered the malls, went to the movies, and after a while actually took several tours of the city and the museums. It was something to do other than hang out with a bunch of losers like I saw in our neighborhood. My one attempt at trying to hang with those guys got them talking about trying this new drug somebody had mentioned: Hype.

Now, I have a good idea what some of the kids at Wyndgate think of me, and they may be right; I may be an asshole. But I’m not stupid, and I’m not going to get messed up in the drug scene, and I’m not going to hang around anybody that does. It’s just not worth the long term costs.

I was literally ecstatic when Mrs. Bramhold called with the invitation to join her family in Florida for the last week of summer vacation. Mom and Dad had already decided to save their vacation for Christmas so we could all visit friends back in the Northwest, so it wasn’t going to interfere with any plans they had.

So I rode down with Heather Blake. Now THAT was one hot babe! Beautiful, smart, and had more money than God. What was not to love? I considered making a move on her, but decided she was out of even my league. Still it was a nice package and we had a good time talking as we flew down to Alabama to pick up Rowan, Sawyer, and Kenna. I still couldn’t figure out what those two saw in the runt, but it was obviously something.

After leaving that sleepy little podunk town where Sawyer lived, it was a quick puddle jump to Daytona. The best part of this trip was the fact that we wouldn’t have to deal with commercial flights. I’d heard the horror stories about some of the air marshals they assigned to escort neos on flights.

When we got to Daytona, the others were already there. Brian even brought his girlfriend. When I saw her standing there with him, and Kenna and Rowan hovering around Sawyer like a couple of guard dogs, I looked over at Pat and Tracy and said, “Guess it’ll just be the three of us on the prowl for babes in bikinis.”

To my surprise and just a little horror, Mrs. Bramhold smiled and said, “Go for it boys.”

When I turned to look at her in shock, she just shrugged and said, “As long as nobody comes up a parent, I think that’s what summer vacation at Daytona is all about.” Even the Mr. Bramwell and Mr. Mattison nodded their heads, even if their faces didn’t show quite the same enthusiasm at the idea as Tracy’s mom.

We were all grinning like Cheshire cats as we hauled our luggage out of the rental van and into the hotel where we were staying. Although she seemed to be pretty cool with the idea of us chasing skirts, Mrs. Bramhold was careful about the room assignments. Rowan and Heather were in one room, Kenna and Lauren in another. Tracy and I were sharing a room, Sawyer and Brian were in another, and poor Pat was sharing one with his dad. Of course the Bramholds were sharing one as well. I guess they were trying to at least keep up the appearances of propriety.

I was only mildly surprised however when Mr. Bramhold and Mr. Mattison pulled all us boys aside- sans Rowan. Mr. B. gave us a serious look and said, “Look, I know what Shelia said probably shocked some of you guys. To be honest it, shocked me a little, but she’s right. We’d be stupid to suspect that with all those females on display out there you guys wouldn’t get certain ideas. We just want to make sure that if you do end up in an intimate situation, that you are safe.” With a blush the man then handed us a small paper bag each. “Use these.”

I peeked inside and saw two one dozen boxes of condoms. “Ribbed for her pleasure,” was printed on the side of each box. I caught myself blushing and wondering what was going on.

“Are the girls getting the same thing?” Sawyer asked with a snarky smile?”

Mr. Bramhold nodded and blushed deeper. “Yeah, Shelia and Heather are talking to them now.” Sawyer and Brian just shook their heads and smiled like they knew something we didn’t.

We had decided that a we’d start off and spend the afternoon at the beach, which was just fifty yards or so from the back of the hotel. It looked packed too. I couldn’t wait to get down there. We rushed to get unpacked and meet down in the hotel lobby.

Tracy and I were the first ones to get into our swim trunks and head down to the lobby with a towel over our shoulder. Both of us had pretty much gone for the mid-cut style that was somewhere between the old board shorts and the tight racing trunks that only guys built like a superhero could get away with wearing. Yeah, I know what we’re built like, but that doesn’t mean we HAVE to wear them. Some of us are still a bit self-conscious and nobody wants to go girl watching in a pair of swim trunks where people can tell what religion you are. Instead these were a nice compromise that were flattering without being vulgar. I think I saw Connery in a pair like them in an old Bond movie the other night.

I was surprised that Tracy didn’t insist on waiting on Patrick, but I didn’t say anything. As we got into the elevator, he got several stares, and and the occasional nod. One little kid of about four reached out and gently touched his wing. Tracy just smiled down at him and said, “Hi.”

The kid smiled back and asked, “Are you an angel? Grandma says that angels are real and watch over little kids.”

I watched Tracy’s eyes dart to the kid’s mom, and then back down to the kid. He smiled and said, “Grandma’s right, but I’m not an angel. I just help them out.”

“Cool!” the kid said. I could see the look of relief in his mom’s eyes.

After we got off the elevator and were waiting in the lobby, I said, “You handled that well.”

“I’ve sort of gotten used to it. The reactions I get tend to be a whole lot better than what Pat gets,” he said.

“I can imagine,” I told him. “What up with Pat right now? He looks like somebody just kicked his puppy.”

He shrugged and said, “He’s going through a rough spot. His mom showed up uninvited at his house and tried to kidnap him. Then he got this crazy PETA girl preaching to him about not eating meat, and finally some girl made a pass at him and then made it clear she just wanted to screw him for the novelty, not to be a girlfriend.”

“Did he?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “He doesn’t have a very good opinion of most females right now. I’m sort of hoping that this week will help him get over that.”

I grinned at him. “So. We’ve got a mission. Find a nice girl to have a vacation romance with our devilishly handsome neo.” Tracy gave me a strange look, like he couldn’t believe what I just said. “Hey,” I protested. “I can help out a friend too.”

“All the help we can get is appreciated. It’s not like he’s unattractive, far from it. But he’s also just a bit vulnerable right now. I think that’s why Mom is acting a whole lot more sanguine about the idea of us getting laid this week than she really is.”

“Ah,” I said. “She’s one of those adults that’s trying to impress us with her open mind.” I wasn’t about to call his mom the MILF that she was to his face. For a woman in her forties, she was very attractive.

“Something like that,” he told me.

About that time, Rowan and Heather showed up looking like something out of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editon I don’t know how someone with both sets of parts managed to look so hot, but Rowan pulled it off with a grace and style I never suspected when I first met her. And yes, I tended to think of her as a her. Something about that rack she carried. It wasn’t big, but it was definitely there.

She smiled over at Tracy and asked, “So the mission is to find Pat a girlfriend?”

Tracy gave her a startled look. “How...,” then he seemed to remember, “Oh..., the ears.”

She touched the top of her head and smiled. “Yeah, the ears. Do want our help?”

“Like I said. I’ll take all the help we can get,” Tracy said.

“Then we’d better talk to the genius that came up with Operation Lombard,” she said.

“Who?” I asked. “And what was Operation Lombard?”

“Kenna. She’s the one that helped me get Sawyer’s attention. She understands these things a lot better than any of us,” Rowan said.

“Yeah, it helps when you can read minds,” Tracy said.

“Among other things,” Rowan said enigmatically.

Before we could continue Pat and the rest got off the elevator and joined us. I guess most of the guys had decided to go the same route as far as the swimsuits were concerned- except for Sawyer who was still wearing a baggy pair of board shorts. Kenna and Rowan were both wearing bikinis that made me glad we’d passed on the racing trunks. Heather and Lauren were in hot one pieces that clung to their bodies in the most interesting ways. Heather’s was red white and blue, and Lauren’s was basic black, that just tended to blend in with her raven hair. I wondered if Brian appreciated that ass of hers.

Sawyer jabbed me in the side and said, “If you pant a little louder, I think they’ll hear you out on the beach.”

I blushed and shook my head. “Where do we want to go?”

“Well, we’ve got a beach full of people just past the hotel’s pool,” Rowan said.

“You want to go in the water?” I asked with a raised eyebrow looking at her tail.

For some reason both Kenna and Sawyer looked at each other and smiled. “You have no idea,” Kenna said. “Let’s go.” She grabbed each of them by the arm and started pulling them toward the doors leading to the pool. The rest of us shrugged and followed along. Heather looked around at the place and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” Brian asked.

The blonde grinned and said, “I was just thinking that Aiesha would have loved this week.”

“Yeah,” Brian replied. “She would have.”

“Whatever happened to her,” I heard myself ask. I don’t know why. Maybe I was just trying to make small talk. But some part of me really wondered whatever happened to her.

“She and her grandmother disappeared right after the fight with Fury,” Brian told me.
“You don’t know where to?” I found myself asking.

Brian shook his head and said, “No.”

“Surely, you’ve heard from her?” I pressed not knowing why.

Brian and Heather exchanged glances and then Heather said. “No. Nobody’s heard from her.”

Before I could say anything else, they disappeared through the double doors and out into the hot Florida sun.


ICE STORM aka Lauren Rathebourne (Cadre: 4)
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For me the summer had been pretty nice. With the ban lifted on neos traveling overseas, my Mom and I spent two weeks on the French Riviera and then shopping in Milan. It also gave us a chance to talk about what was going on between Brian and me, and to just have some girl time.
We also did something we’d never done before- we talked about some pretty substantial issues, and Mom surprised me. My family has always been what people would call Blue-blood liberals so we tended to support the party that’s currently in power. Mom however just about blew me away.

We were sitting in a small cafe in Milan and talking quietly about what was going on. She’d pretty much made it clear that she was impressed with the changes she’d seen in my grades over the last year and was pleased that my “association” - her word not mine- with Brian had been part of it. When the conversation drifted into politics- a subject she usually avoided around me and my younger brother- she sighed and said, “I think we’ve been defrauded, Lauren and it’s starting to bother me.”

“What do you mean?” I asked sipping my latte and thinking about what we’d bought that might have been a knock off instead of the real thing.

She sighed and looked out over the square at all the people moving about as if to gather her thoughts. “We’ve always been very open-minded about things. We’ve always listened to both sides of an argument and the tried to choose the side that was equal and fair to everyone. But things are starting to change and in a way I don’t like. Our party has stopped being a party for freedom, and has become something else. That man we put in the White House doesn’t listen to both sides, he pushes policies that take away freedom and the right to disagree. Our party has become a bully, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. Part of being liberal means letting people make their own mistakes, it doesn’t mean using the government to take away their choices. I think maybe we need to rethink who we support anymore. The party is no longer liberal, it’s about controlling people’s lives.”

“What brought this on?” I asked in surprise.

“The things you’ve been telling me. It’s odd, for the most part I never paid much attention to what kinds of laws got passed- they didn’t affect me or my family. But I got to listening to some of the talk coming out of Washington and it scares me. I always thought that even though you’re a neo, that we’d be able to pay neo insurance for you and send you to Tufts.” She smiled at me and added, “Or considering your recent jump in grades, even Yale. That somehow our status as a Rathbourne would protect you. Then I got to looking at what the law really says. I don’t want my daughter to be owned by the government. I don’t want anybody to be owned by the government.”

That brought me up short. My mom was actually thinking! It wasn’t about reputation, or status anymore, but she was actually thinking about where the party she’s belonged to all her life had gone, and didn’t like the idea. As much as I hate to use the term as applied to my mom, Sawyer was right: the useful idiots were waking up; and they didn’t like what they were seeing had happened to the world while they were being open-minded.

We talked about it for a while, and then drifted to other subjects. Never let it be said that my mother’s dedication to shopping could long be distracted by deeper subjects. She did manage to finally agree to letting me go to Florida for the final fling before school started back in. It would after all be my junior year and it was really time for me to buckle down and start looking at colleges. I was thinking of majoring in business- that way I’d have more money for shopping.

I did get to see Brian occasionally. Sometimes he’d fly in under the radar to Boston to visit me, and at least once, his Dad let him drive the car. Those were some fun times too, and he made a good impression on both of my parents. My little brother, John John was a pest, but we managed to work around it.

By the time the Florida trip rolled around, it had been over three weeks since I’d seen Brian and was looking forward to some good couple time as they say. I wasn’t surprised that I ended up rooming with Kenna, but I was surprised about Mrs. Bramhold’s attitude about things. Especially when she handed Kenna, me, and Rowan all a small tastefully done bag of “female” condoms. Poor Rowan blushed down to her nail beds. Kenna just smiled hugely.

After we got changed and headed down to the lobby, I grinned when Kenna’s wings peeled themselves away from her skin. She must have noticed me looking because she said, “What? Either I look like a tat-covered biker chick or a neo. As my Dad would say: Might as well be hanged for a sheep as hanged for a lamb.”

I just chuckled and grabbed my beach bag and said, “Come on, Farmgirl, let’s go see what kind of mischief we can get into with the boys.” Turns out it wasn’t the kind of mischief I was expecting, but it WAS my first time to actually fight alongside Cadre: 5. Damn, those guys were mean!

When we got to the beach it was fairly crowded, and Rowan, and the other ferals were getting quite a few stares. As we picked a spot, set up a sunshade, and began to lay our things out for some sun bathing, Kenna and Tracy looked out over the ocean and then up at the sky. Kenna smiled and said, “Thermals.”

Tracy grinned and said, “Yeah. Let’s go.”

Both of them spread their wings and took off, and it wasn’t long before they both were spiraling upwards in the sky. I saw Michael jab Sawyer in the ribs and say, “Looks like your girlfriend is flirting with the bird-boy.”

Sawyer looked up and shrugged. “They’re playing.”

“They’re playing where you can’t,” Michael said.

Sawyer raised an eyebrow and asked, “What ever gave you that idea? I can ride the thermals too. When I go insubstantial, I can become lighter than air. I can’t fly as fast as either of them, but I can do it. Besides, Kenna not flirting, she’s just having fun.”

“Who you trying to convince, me or yourself?” Michael asked. I gave him a look wondering what the hell he was up to. It was almost like he was trying to start something with Sawyer.

“Nobody,” Sawyer said. “I trust both Kenna and Tracy.”

“Besides,” Pat broke in. “I know Tracy has a policy of not messin’ with what ain’t his.”

“Okay,” Michael said holding his hands up and backing off. “I was just joking.”

Both Rowan and I gave him looks that made it clear that we didn’t think it was funny. I was about to say something when Brian stepped in and suggested, “Why don’t we take a walk, Lauren.” He held out his hand and I took it with a smile.

“Sure,” I told him and we began to stroll down the beach away from the rest of the group. In the distance we could see where there were two fairly large groups of young men talking.

“I’m glad your mom let you come with us,” he said as we walked hand in hand.

I let go of his hand and slipped my arm through his and snuggled up close. “I am too. I think she really likes you and your folks.”

“In good with the parental units,” he said with a smile.

“She’s under the impression that you’re the reason my grades have come up,” I told him.

He raised an eyebrow and asked, “How did she get that idea?”

“Because I told her that,” I said watching as the two groups in the distance got a little closer. None of them were wearing swim suits, and they seemed to be arguing about something. The group on the beach side looked like what for lack of a better term were street toughs. The other looked like maybe a gang of college age vacationers.

“But we haven’t studied that much together,” he protested.

I snuggled in close and said, “No. But whether you realize it or not, you inspire a lot of people around you. My grades have come up because being around you has made me rethink my own priorities. Think about what I can do with my powers to actually help people and make a difference in life.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with that,” he said.

I nodded and told him, “Oh yes you did. You did it just by being there, just by stepping up and doing what had to be done.” I leaned over and kissed him. “You do it every day with the way you take care of your team. I’m learning a lot about being a leader from watching you.”

“I’m not a leader...,” he started to protest and then stopped himself. “Okay, I won’t argue with you.”

“Good,” I told him as I watched one of the guys in the “tough” group step back, take something out of his jacket and take a swig of it. He threw his arms down to his sides dramatically and suddenly they burst into flames.

“Crap on a cracker!” Brian said next to me as one of the other “toughs” pointed to where Tracy was making lazy turns in the sky. The guy with the flaming arms pointed at Tracy and a jet of flame flew from his hands toward Brian’s teammate.

Brian took off in a run toward the flaming guy who luckily for Tracy had horrible aim. I watched as Brian took to the air and flashed across the hard packed sand in less than a second. His force field flaring, he slammed into the dude and knocked him out cold with a single punch!

Suddenly about six others in the group grabbed something from their pockets and downed them. One of them screamed, “It’s Cadre: 5! What the hell are they doing here?” That one suddenly seemed to become just a little bigger, and bulkier. He leaped at poor Brian. I couldn’t stand there and let him get hit, so I reacted. I probably overreacted. There’s a lot of moisture in the air at the seashore and there’s a lot of heat. I reached out to leech the heat from his body, but what I got was a block of ice that was five feet on each side surrounding him

“Ain’t Cadre: 5!” one of them yelled as his hands and feet became living lightning. “They ain’t got a icer!”

The other group of guys- the ones that looked like college guys broke and ran in every direction. I on the other hand was suddenly dodging lightning bolts from the one who sounded like English was not his first or second language. Luckily for me, the ice shield I created between us made a great insulator so I just had to deal with the heat and pressure from the lightning bolts he was hurling at me.

“Hey Percy Jackson!” I heard Ace yell from behind my shield. I peeked around in time to see him slam one of those rubber fifty gallon trash cans over the lightning rider’s head and force him to the ground. He then spinning back kicked the can. It and lighting rider both into the surf.

Brian yelled, “Speedfire! Civilians!”

Looking behind me, I saw the whole team come pouring down the beach looking ready to do violence. A flash of red caught my eye on the surf-side and I turned to see Speedfire dash in between us to grab what looked like a five year old who’d suddenly found himself between the two groups of raging neos. “Here you go, little buddy,” he said as he handed the kid to a worried mom.

The kid looked up at his mom and said in a voice of pure innocence, “He must be the angel the guy in the elevator was talking about!”

I didn't get to find out what his mom’s reply was because suddenly my ice shield started melting from intense heat. Looking around, I saw where two of the flamers were concentrating their fire on me while a couple more had bulked out and at least one other lightning rider took to the sky. I was beginning to wonder what it was they were drinking. It was almost like a neo power package thing. Brian and his group had faced these same powers back in DC.

“Fire and ice fighting aren’t a good combination,” Sawyer said suddenly appearing beside me. Let’s switch opponents. You take one of the three bruisers stalking Shadow Claw and I’ll handle these guys.”

I nodded and said, “Go insubstantial.”

He grinned at me as if understanding what I meant to do. I saw his form waver for just a second then I began blasting ice out from the soles of my feet. In a matter of seconds I was atop a twenty foot pillar of ice. I could see where three of the big bad bruisers were circling Shadow Claw. I wondered just how stupid these guys really were. Shadow Claw had taken a hit from Fury, and had given as good as she got. Somehow I don’t think three of them were going to be much of a match for her.

Still, there was no use in letting them get a lucky shot. I hit the one whose back was to to me dead center in the back of the head with a cold bolt. A whole block of ice formed around his head and he began to turn blue and pound at the sides of it.

Suddenly one of them dashed in from behind Rowan and tried to grab her. All I saw was an ear rotate backwards to give any indication that she knew he was there. A sudden back-kick and he went flying into the surf.

One of the gang bangers who hadn’t drank any of the stuff they were carrying, reached into his jacket for a gun. I spun on him and was ready to freeze his gun to his hand when I heard Kenna yell, “Ice Storm! Not that one!”

Confused but realizing she had a better vantage point than I did, and was a telepath therefore had better intel as well, I turned to face off with another of the bad guys. That was when in the distance I noticed several plain looking vans pull up and men in DEA gear poured out.

BOOMER aka Brian Alexander
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Okay, now I know how Sawyer felt. We’d talked a few times about what it was like to be in a fight alongside your girlfriend, or in his case ‘friends’ . I had thought it would be worrisome, but he didn’t think so. He felt that fighting alongside Rowan and Kenna spurred him to perform better, to not make mistakes.

He once told me about the the Sacred Band of Thebes. It was a fighting force that was made up entirely of lovers- because no man would surrender in front of the one he loved knowing that they would die too. I finally understood. Maybe it was a male thing, maybe it was ego, but I was going to be damned if I was going to go under in front of Lauren, or let her go under either. There was something inspiring about fighting alongside her.

I hit the first guy so hard, he was out instantly. As I turned to deal with the others who were downing the same crap the first one drank, I saw her take out one of them from behind. I just smiled to myself. That’s right. I was in love.

I pulled a Ghost and turned and took to the air to get a better view of the battlefield. There were too many civilians present, and I was worried about someone getting hurt. With horror I realized that a kid had somehow ended up between the druggies and my team. In the distance I could see the rest of the Cadre closing so I yelled to Speedfire.

He didn’t disappoint me either. He was in and out with the kid so fast that I could barely follow him. Then things got vicious. Suddenly we were facing several guys with the same power suites that we’d fought back in DC. I wondered if those guys had been on the crap then, and who came up with the bad idea of super powers in a bottle.

Ace had taken out the trash so to speak, and Shadow Claw was down to a single banger who was starting to realize who he was facing. I watched as he suddenly turned and sprinted up the hill toward the DEA agents. He didn’t make it. She cleared the intervening distance between them with a single bound. Roaring like big cat, she landed feet first on his shoulders and boxed his ears with a double handed clap. He collapsed under her like a folding chair.

The last three were standing back to back- lightning, fire, and ice dancing around their hands. There was about two meters between them, and I could see where they were closing the gap slowly. It was clear that they weren’t going to go down without a fight. What I was worried about was the crowd that had gathered to watch them. Above me, I heard Lightwing say, “I’ll handle this, Boomer.”

Then a streak of glowing white light suddenly flashed down and began to circle them. As soon as he’d gotten their attention and had them following him, Lightwing shot straight up and then straight down between them. They didn’t disappoint him either. As if on cue all of them turned and blasted away at him.

Lightning, fire, and cold all passed harmlessly through him. The lightning hit the cold, the cold hit the fire, and the fire hit the lightning. All them went down in a pile as Lightwing became solid again with a smile.

“Good job, Lightwing,” I told him as the DEA suddenly hit the beach their guns drawn.

It took a while to clear things up with them. We were all escorted to van and interviewed. There was some problems for Lauren because she’d left her purse back at the sunshade and her DNA ID was in it. We’re supposed to keep them on us at all times, but to be honest, there was no place to put it in her little one piece.

Finally, we got it cleared up and a rather rough looking agent came into the Van and looked at at all of us. He settled in and showed us an ID. “My name is Dillon Darque and I work out of the Miami office. First off, I want to thank you for helping us round up these guys. We were worried that they might actually have the drug on them and although that would make prosecuting them easier, it would also make bringing them in that much harder. You guys being here probably saved some lives.”

“There’s an unspoken ‘but’ there Agent Darque,” I said wondering if that was his real name.

“The problem is political,” he said regretfully. “If we say you just happened on the beach then we get a situation where the convictions may be overturned because you aren’t law enforcement. So what I’m asking is that you just keep your mouth shut. I’m going out there for a press conference and am going to tell them that you agreed to work with the DNA on this sting operation.”

“What was that stuff, Agent Darque?” Lauren asked.

He smiled at her and said, “It’s called Hype. It’s a new designer drug on the market that will temporarily give certain people neo human powers. It hit about two months ago and is causing all kinds of problem, not the least of which is that it eventually turns the user into a burned out vegetable, or if used in the wrong combination, it kills them.”

“That’s not to mention the problems it causes for law enforcement,” Sawyer said.

“You got it Ghost,” Darque said. “Cops are getting killed left and right and neos are getting the blame for something they haven’t done. This isn’t a neo problem, it’s a drug problem and it’s a gang problem. But the politicians upstairs keep wanting to make it into something it’s not.”

I nodded and said, “We’ll do whatever we can Agent Darque.”

“Thanks,” he said leaving the van.

I looked at the others and we all shrugged and wondered how long it would take for the proverbial fecal matter to hit the fan. None of the parents had shown up yet. That wasn’t to say that they weren’t trying to get to us- we all understood what it was like to be questioned like this; it had happened before- but they weren’t here yet. “So, we’re working for the DEA now?” Kenna asked.

“If it’s a good and positive contact, I don’t see why not,” Rowan said. “I think this is a case where we were in the right place at the right time and we can help each other.”

“You playing politics now Rowan?” Lauren asked.

She smiled and said, “Eventually, I’m going to have to take over half of Blake Enterprises. I’d better be ready,” she said.

And so it was. We waited for almost an hour until Tracy’s parents showed up to take custody of us. As we climbed out of the van, Pat looked around and asked, “Where’s Dad?”

Mr. and Mrs. Bramhold looked at each other and something seemed to pass between them. Finally Mr. Bramhold spoke, “He and Ms. Blake were both tired from the trip. We didn’t think it a good idea to wake them.” He then gave Kenna a look that seemed to say that she’d better not disagree with him. Pat seemed to have missed it though.

In the end, we ended up getting credit for helping the DEA, which as Rowan pointed out was a good thing, and they got credit for bringing in the bad guys. Speedfire got credit for saving the little kid too, which was a major boost to his ego and helped bring him out of the doldrums. He also managed to hook up with cute Cuban chick for one of those week long romances that teenagers only have on summer vacation. All in all it was a good trip to Daytona Beach. It was our summer of love.

~*~

Approximately eleven hundred miles away, a pair of blue eyes opened in he darkness. Their possessor did not understand where he was, nor how he got there. There was an intense pressure on on his body that he could not understand. Panic began to set in as he struggled against whatever it was that was holding him down.

As his mind forced away the substance that was pinning him and he rose into the warm summer air above the cemetery, a single thought came to him: Family! He flew off into the night, trailing bits of amber and energy behind him.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:58 am

I really, really enjoy this narrative CB. Every time I think you've hit your peak, you find another level. The combination of the fantastic and the mundane, woven so tightly and so seamlessly makes this a heroic story not to be missed.

And this is going to sound a little strange, but, thanks for keeping Michael kind of a jerk. A jerk with a heart, but, a jerk nonetheless. His presence makes the team more believable.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:31 pm

Thanks. I'm trying to be realistic with it and make the kids deal with the kinds of things that teenagers deal with. I set up about four subplots I want to deal with in Year 2, plus one other that I'm toying with to be introduced in Issue 20. Or I may start numbering them by year number so the next one my be Issue 2.1

I'm having fun with Michael. However some of the things that are going to come out about him are going to rock the team. He's basically a good kid a heart, he's just always been part of the "in" crowd.

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Year 2 Issue 1: Cometh the Corps 1

Postby cobalt-blue » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:12 pm

Image

?

I looked over at the group of men and women gathered in the meeting room. We represented the directors of several major government agencies, and this was a policy setting meeting that was simply being billed as government as usual. But it wasn't government as usual. The administration had almost stepped over the line and it had scared us all.

Don't get me wrong. This wasn't a mutiny, the time was well past for that. This was a survival meeting designed to keep our collective butts out of jail. Each of us, individually and collectively had been approached by the president's Chief of Staff and asked to do things that were quasi-legal at best, and many time downright illegal. The CoS was asking us to use government agencies to go after political enemies. Another president had done something like that back in the seventies. It had not ended well.

Most of us were political appointees and served at the pleasure of the president. But we also knew that although we had the official titles, the real power rested in the hands of his two score of "special advisors" colloquially referred to as policy czars. We just happened to be the ones who didh't have radical pasts and could get congressional confirmation. That meant that it was our necks on the chopping block.

The only major agencies missing from this meeting were the director of the CIA and the Attorney General. We felt it best to keep the CIA out of the loop. Although he too was a political appointee and was skeptical of what was happening, there were certain rules about the CIA's involvement in government that had to be observed. We did not want to give the impression that we were using the agency to spy on the American people. In reality that was why we were gathered here: the power of these agencies had been turned on the president's political enemies and chief among them was a group of teenagers who were just trying to survive. The AG wasn't included because he was doing the same thing as the president.

"This is getting out of hand ladies and gentlemen," the FBI director was saying. "The president doesn't seem to realize that his administration is not going to last forever, and if things keep going in the direction they are, it may not last out its full term. The problem is that he's got us attacking people that would make valuable assets to the government if their recruitments were handled correctly. He's making this political when it doesn't have to be."

"No, the problem is that he's completely ignoring the constitution and then throwing us at whomever challenges him on it," Director Madison who was the government's liaison to the Psi-Corps said. Technically the Corps was not part of the government but was instead a bonding agency to ensure telepathic integrity for the government and the privacy rights of the population. "He can order me to use the telepaths at the Corps to hunt down information on his political enemies, but the individual agents will just tie it up with red tape. They're very good at that. We are after all, not actually a part of the government."

"The real question is what are we going to do about it?" the FBI Director asked.

"Short of offering our resignation en masse I don't think there is much we can do about it. That would just embarrass the party and then put our policy advisors in our place," the Director of the Department of Neohuman Affairs told him.

"Actually there IS something we can do," I said. "And in the end, it may actually save the party." That got everyone's attention.

"What?" Mr. FBI asked.

I looked at him and said, "First off, we have to back off these kids. Right now, they're the media's darlings and no matter what the president does, anytime he harasses these kids, he's going to come out the bully. It's kind of hard to portray them as teenage evil weapons of mass destruction when they're saving citizens from Fury, terrorists, neo-gangs, and even the president's own civil security force."

"What we should ignore the president's orders?" The man asked.

"I didn't say ignore his orders, but we have to look at the big picture. In the long run, the question is who's neck is going to be in the noose when the chair gets knocked out from under him. I don't particular want it to be mine," I replied.

"What should we do then?" the Psi-Corps rep asked.

"Give the DEA what they want in regards to these kids. Back off. Have you seen the videos of the DNA's quasi-interviews with the Draupnir girl? He's trying to turn her missing brother into a federal case. We all know where he is, and even the president knows where he is and what he's doing. This harassment is just giving her a target for her anger," I said.

"Let's face it, folks. The CIA could have lost several operatives in Europe over the summer while they were following her," Madison said with a smile. "If she'd been interested in taking them out she would have. You people here in Washington tend to forget that although she's still a student at the neo-acdemy, she's a graduate of Psi-Corps with all rights and privileges."

"She's not old enough to be a graduate of the Psi-Corps," the director of the Department of Neohuman Affairs said. "Isn't that program like eight years?"

"And she completed it in four," Madison said. "With full marks and honors. I don't think you really understand just how intelligent and resourceful she is. She speaks and or reads more languages than we can catalog, she is a powerful telepath, and a gifted telekinetic. We had no idea that she could combine her powers with another graduate. Now she's got powerful allies. If you keep sending agents to annoy her, she's going to cease being amused and become perturbed. Then she's going to come after the people sending the agents."

"She's just a girl," the FBI director said.

"Don't ever make that mistake, Director," Madison said. "Neos have always been more resourceful at younger ages than is generally given credit for. That's why the age requirements are looser for neos than baselines. Let's face it. If she wasn't a feral, then she'd never have left the Corps."

"That's what I'm talking about," I said. "She and her companions would make valuable members of the government. But the administration, and our party is going out of their way to antagonize them; labeling them threats and out of control weapons of mass destruction. That's making us look stupid."

"Okay, specifically what actions should we take?" the Secretary of Defense asked.

I looked over at the DNA Director and said, "Draupnir's six month grilling from your agents is coming up. Instead of sending a new batch of agents to annoy her, instead let's find out how she thinks and how her team thinks. Send a couple of agents that she knows, maybe Foxx and Dallas again, she seemed to actually like Dallas. Also send a team, a LARGE team, from the BAU in Quantico from the FBI. Tell them it's part of the follow-up of that disaster of an observation from the Department of Education." I shook my head and looked over that director and said, "Really, if you're going to observe someone who you say is highly effective in their teaching methods, insulting them is not a smart way to do it."

The man just glared at me, but said nothing else. I knew he was getting pressure from the teacher's union about the whole situation at Wyndgate. They were a private school using radically new teaching methods and were blowing the tests out of the water.

"Why someone from the Behavioral Analysis Unit?" the FBI director asked.

"Profilers, Director," I said. "We want to know how to get them on our side. To do that, we have to get to know them. The school already has linked up with Psi-Corps I'm told. Between that and its increased corporate sponsors, it's power is growing exponentially."

Madison looked at me and nodded saying, "Like you said. They're effective in teaching not just neo skills, but in general education. We have several feral psis that we think would benefit from Doctor Blair's teaching techniques, so we're sending them as well as a couple of instructors to work with the school." The woman smiled sweetly at me and I knew she was twisting a knife in someone at the table I just wasn't sure who when she said, "We have resources they can use, and they have resources we can use. Remember, the Corps is not actually part of the government. We just bond telepaths so their testimony is admissible in court."

"And so they can mind xxxx people for us," the NSA Director said. So far he'd been silent in the meeting.

Madison looked at him and said, "Why Director, you never know. That kind of conjugation might be just what you need." I got the feeling the comment wasn't directed at the NSA either.

"What else?" the Secretary of Defense asked bringing the conversation back to the subject at hand.

I looked over at the FBI Director and said, "Approve the DEA's request to deputize Cadre 5 and create a task force to deal with the neo gangs in DC. Let's face it. Just giving Croften-Blake back access to her own company and holdings in the city will create good will for us."

"But they're just kids," Mr. FBI protested.

"Not according to the mandate on neo-humans. The SecDef can order them into combat from 14 or above. These kids stopped being kids the minute the president took office. He made them targets. The laws are loose concerning the ages that neohumans can be conscripted."

"That's for national defense," the SecDef said. "I'd have to draft them."

"They've already been drafted for national defense. What the hell do you think the neoschools are all about?" Madison said. "Our esteemed colleague is just saying that these kids have proven themselves to be far more capable than most adults. Give them a bit of privilege to go along with the responsibility that's being thrown at them. Use them to deal with this new drug. It'll build good will from them and toward the government."

"And while you're at it," I added, "investigate the actions of the CSF at Wyndgate, and during the attack on downtown DC. There's plenty of news footage to show them using civilians as human shields."

"The DoJ won't prosecute," the FBI Director said. "They already told us that."

"The DoJ doesn't have to prosecute right now. If you make the investigation public and release your findings, the media will force the prosecution," the SecDef replied.

"Not if the President tells them not to," the FBI director said.

"No, but the new media can and will force it," I said reaching into my briefcase for my ace in the hole. I tossed a stack of printouts on the table. "Would you folks like to see tomorrow morning's headlines." I looked over at the Director of the DNA and said, "I'm afraid there's a big bus coming down the road toward you Director and I suspect that the president is about to throw you under it."

"What are you talking about?" he demanded.

"Tomorrow morning, even the old media will be talking about the fact that your office approved the forced sterilization of neohumans. Worst of all was that Lisa Polanski aka Talon was among them."

"I approved no such thing," the Director said.

"It's got your authorization," I said. "I don't think you're going to have to worry about the various feminists groups out there. Most of them will tow the party line. They are after all not really about reproductive freedom, but about power and control. They'll do what the president tells them to. But there are other organizations that are going to eat you alive."

"This can't be true!" the man protested.

"Oh really?" Madison asked picking up a folder. "Here's Talon's medical file. She was sterilized at Danville. Here's the order to sterilize Draupnir that was never carried out." She smirked as she said it.

"What's so funny?" the SecDef asked.

"When they tried carry out the order, she threatened to gut the surgical staff. When scalpels started flying they decided wait. By that time our people were able to intervene." She grinned viciously. "I know Ms. Draupnir. She takes her religious duty to reproduce very seriously, and anyone who infringes on that duty is going to end up on the losing end of the argument. The Corps considers her a valuable asset even if the government doesn't. We WILL look out for our own."

"Is that a threat?" the SecDef asked.

"No. Just a statement. We maintain our reputation for neutrality by keeping ourselves and our people honest. We can only do that if we keep them safe. If we can't guarantee their safety, we can't guarantee their honesty," she said. "And the Corps' telepaths are too valuable to this country to not have them safe and honest," Madison said.''

The DNA Director stood holding one of the print outs. "If you'll excuse me, I'd better deal with this." He looked at me and said, "I'll take your advice under consideration."

"Best of luck Director. I wouldn't take too long, you may not have much time to act. The papers have already been printed." I watched him as he left the room nervously.

RK said that he wanted revenge on the person who was responsible for sterilizing Polanski. Watching that man twist in the breeze is going to be quite enjoyable. Robert Killpatrick is not a man on whose bad side you wish to find yourself.



BOOMER aka Brian Alexander

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I couldn't believe the changes that were happening at the school when we got back. Some of them were good, some of them were not so good, and a few were just plain weird. The first thing that caught our eye was that the football field was a big hole in the ground. All kinds of construction was going on around it. The field house had been moved off to the side, and there was a huge pile of dirt next to gym. On the back side of the school were several large construction cranes moving huge slabs of concrete and building materials.

As we drove down the long driveway in the van, Dad looked over and said, "Looks they weren't kidding when they said that the school was expanding. Duncan is doing rather well, I'd say."

"Duncan?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

He coughed and said, "Maybe you should ask him or your mom."

I leaned back in my seat and asked, "Can I ask YOU a question?"

He smiled and said, "As long as it doesn't have to do with your mom's work."

Shaking my head I told him, "No. It has to do with you."

"Shoot," he said.

"How do you handle it?"

"Handle what?" he asked.

I thought about how I wanted to ask this question. I didn't want to cast aspersions on my Dad, but ever since I discovered who my mom was, I'd wondered about this. After reading a series of books that Sawyer had loaned me the question sort of coalesced in my head. "How do you handle being married to Mom with what she does? How can you so calmly go down into that control center and deal with her being in danger?"

He started to say something, but then seemed to catch himself. I could see just a bit of surprise and maybe hurt in his eyes before he closed his mouth. Finally after a second of consideration he asked, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, how do you deal with knowing she's in danger and there's nothing you can do about it?" I asked.

I saw a slight smile and what seemed to be a bit of relief flash across his face. "It's not easy, son," he said. "The fact that you've taken up your mom's mantle hasn't made it any easier. I have to sit and watch the two people I love more than life itself do things I can't do, take risks that would be hopeless for me. Every time I hear that ringtone on your mom's phone I shudder."

"But how do you deal with it, Dad? I mean how do you stop yourself from putting your foot down and saying no more?" It was a question I wanted to know the answer to ever since our fight two weeks ago on the beach where Lauren as Ice Storm was involved.

He was silent as he drove the van up to the front of the school. "One day at a time, Brian, one day at a time. I can't stop your mom, and I can't stop you from doing what you have to do to protect other people's lives. If I want to be part of your lives, then it is something I have to accept. That's not to say I like it, but I have to accept it. Your mom and I talk about this sometimes. It's what you do, and it's who you are. I'm very proud of both of you, but sometimes it hurts to see you in harms way."

I think at this point I came to realize something rather important. What we do can not only get us hurt, it can hurt the people we care about too. I'm not talking about what happened to the house or to Aiesha's poor mom, but the fact that if we get hurt or killed, it would hurt them too. It hit kinda' hard. I mean, to me, a lot of it was fun: flying at hypersonic speeds, beating up on the bad guys, and even the pain- like when that firefiend caught me with my force field down- could be exhilarating. But Dad could never feel that. All he saw was his wife and kid putting themselves in danger. That took a strength I don't think I'll ever have.

I nodded to him and thought in silence about what he'd said as we unloaded my things from the van. I noticed a lot of other students standing around and shaking their heads. Something was definitely up, and I wasn't sure about what. As we headed up the stairs to the suite, Dad finally said, "Looks like the news about the new uniforms is working its way through the school."

"What new uniforms?" I asked with a sinking feeling in my gut.

"After the incident with Jason Conner, the Board of Regents decided that it would best to implement a school uniform policy," Dad told me.

"Please tell me that you're talking about the spandex we wore in DC," I said as we reached the first landing.

He shook his head and said, "No. There's now an official school uniform. Slacks, shirt, tie, and jacket. Yours should be in your room."

I must have groaned out loud because Dad just smiled and said, "Get used to it. I had to wear one at Eton,"

"You went to Eton?" I asked.

Dad nodded his head and said, "Yes, I went to Eton. Your grandfather felt I would get the best education there, so he sent me off to school." He shrugged and added, "I know what it's like to be sent away to school."`

"Why didn't you ever say anything?" I asked.

"Because the difference between my situation then and yours now is that your mom and I didn't have a choice in the matter. The law requires you attend a neo-school, so we chose this one, where at least the headmaster is an old friend," he said as we entered the main suite.

"It's like something out of Harry Potter!" Kenna was saying as she stood in the door of her room wearing a smart looking gray skirt, white shirt with a crimson tie. I could see a matching jacket hanging on the door knog. Evidently both the jacket and the shirt had slits in them for her wings as they were out and floating.

"I don't know," Sawyer was saying from inside his own room. I feel like I'm going to church or something."

Kenna saw us coming in and said, "Hey Brian! Did you hear the news about the school uniforms?"

"Just now," I told her. Turning I said, "I don't think you guys have met my dad. Dad this Kenna Draupnir codename Faerie. Kenna, my Dad."

She smiled and offered her hand, "Nice to meet you Mr. Alexander. Brian has told us a lot about you."

"Nice to meet you too, Kenna," Dad said shaking her hand.


I looked around. I could see Mike's and Patrick's doors were open. "Where's Rowan and Tracy?" I asked.

"I'm changing!" Rowan's voice came through her door. "Kenna, get in here a minute!"

Kenna shrugged and said, "Excuse me." She disappeared back into her room. "Tracy flew home. He forgot the charger for his computer."

"Flew home?" Dad asked. "What about his transponder?"

I smiled at him. "When Tracy takes his light form, he doesn't show up on radar and flies very, very, fast." Before I could finish a splash of light streamed through the window and pooled in front of us. It quickly coalesced into Lightwing who was standing there holding the power cord to his computer, and a box of donuts.

"I'm back," he said. "Kenna I got your donuts." Then looking over at Dad he said, "Uh, hello."

I grinned and said, "Tracy, this is my dad. Dad, Tracy Bramhold also known as Lightwing."

"Nice to meet you sir," Tracy said.

"Nice to meet you too, Tracy," Dad said. Then sniffing the air he asked, "Donuts?"

"Krispie Kreme from Midtown Atlanta. Kenna said she'd help me with my Russian this year if I kept her in a steady supply of donuts. She said that these were the best."

Dad laughed and said, "If you say so."

The door to Rowan's room opened and she stepped out wearing a smart outfit like Kenna's complete with a skirt. "Thought you weren't going to be wearing as many skirts this year," I commented.

"None of the pants fit me," Rowan said a slight growl.

"Oh they fit all right," Kenna said with a grin. "They fit too well or too tight to be specific. You can tell what religion he is." Then looking over at Tracy she said, "Oooh, Krispie Kreme!"

"Those smell delicious!" Mike said from his door. He was dressed in what was evidently the male version of the uniform, sans the tie which he was holding in his hand. I noticed that it had a gray vest that matched the pants. I was going to have to check and see if we had to wear the whole thing all the time. That could get a bit warm.

Again, there was a round of introductions as we all settled in. We'd had just under a week between the trip to Florida and when we had to be back in school so there really wasn't much catching up to do. Sawyer had a worried look on his face though. After Dad left I pulled him aside and asked, "What's up buddy?"

"You and I have a meeting with Doctor Blair at three pm," he said.

"We do?" I asked.

"Yeah, Commander Erikson asked me to tell you. It seems we've got some extra duties this semester," he said quietly.

"What duties?" I asked.

He shrugged and said, "I don't know. The Commander wouldn't tell me. He just said that we were going to have our plates full, and he didn't sound too happy about it either."

"Not good," I said. Anything that irritated Commander Erikson was something to worry about.

We all went down for lunch in the cafeteria together. It was a serve yourself pizza and hamburger bar. I noticed that Patrick still seemed to be down in the dumps about something. I would have thought that he would of been happy after his summer of love with that little Cuban girl he hooked up with, but for some reason he wasn't.


The meeting at three turned out to be with most of the administrative staff in Doctor Blair's office. Doctor Chapel, Commander Erikson, Coach Moore, and Mr. Waterford were all there. As we settled into two seats at the table, Coach Moore was going over some kind of list and shaking her head.


Doctor Blair smiled over at us and said, "Thanks for coming in boys. We've got a proposition for you."

"Proposition, Sir" Sawyer asked at my side.

Doctor Blair nodded his head and said, "You're cadre has had more combat experience than many of the Neoforce teams out there. You've come together as a team, and you've acted with a great deal of maturity in several very difficult situations. We would like you to share your experience with the other cadres."

Sawyer and I looked at each other in panic. The first thing that popped into my head was that he wanted to split up the team. "Please explain, Sir?" Saw asked neutrally.

"We'd like you two work with the other team leaders and their seconds to help them develop that same ability to work together," Coach Moore said.

"Sir, we're the team that we are because of Mr. Waterford and Commander Erikson. It was what they taught us that made us come together," I told him.

"Really?" Doctor Chapel said leaning back in her chair. "Please explain."

I shrugged and said, "They taught us that a team is more than just people who work together, a team is a group of people who live together, who are friends, and who do things other than just train together. Cadre 5 lives together, plays together, and fights together. We're a team, we're a family."

"Have you seen the same kind of relationship with the other cadres?" Doctor Chapel asked.

I shook my head, "Not really. Cadre 4 is probably the closest. Cadre 6 may come into it this year. They were a little immature last year. Cadre 2 was hopeless. All they were worried about was graduation. Cadre 3 let Jason Conner and two of his friends fight three freshmen last year and get their butts kicked. That's not being a family. "

"Maybe that was because the other members of the cadre thought Jason was out of line," Mr. Waterford said.

"Then they should of taken him down," Sawyer said quietly. "I'm sorry, but if I stepped out of line like that, I'd expect Brian, and the others to let me know about it, not let an outsider do it."

The adults nodded their heads at what we had to say. "Be that as it may, we'd like the two of you to talk to the team leaders and their seconds about this. We'll set up a Leadership Meeting once a week," Doctor Blair said. "Right now, we want to make sure that all our students come out of this school fully prepared for whatever job they will be assigned." It was a rare and subtle reminder of exactly what awaited us after graduation. College was most likely not going to be an option for us. We were going to be assigned to one of the Neoforce teams and "serve the country". We didn't get a choice in the matter the way things stood right now.

I nodded, "We'll do what we can Doctor Blair," I said.

"Sawyer, we have an extra assignment for you as well," Commander Erikson said.

"What sir?" he asked.

"We want you to work with myself, and Coach Moore to evaluate each student's abilities and develop strategies to use with different power sets," Commander Erikson said. "I think it's a little much to do, but the others are convinced you are able to do it."

Sawyer and I turned to face each other and smiled. "Freedom City Online," he said.

"I beg your pardon?" Coach Moore asked.

"It's an online game. We've been adapting some of the concepts in that game to our combat," I said.

"You mean to tell me that you've been using a video game to try out combat maneuvers?" Mr. Waterford asked.

We blushed and I nodded, "It's a good way to try out a technique without actually getting hurt."

The adults turned to each other and frowned. Commander Erikson smiled and said, "Don't knock it. The US military does the same thing. A lot of soldiers get their first tactics and strategies experience from video games."

"Maybe we should consider it as part of our training program?" Doctor Blair suggested.

"It depends on the player," I said. "Sawyer and I are the only ones on the team who play it regularly. Mike, Patrick, and Tracy only play it occasionally."

"Still it's something to consider," Mr. Waterford said.

From there the meeting broke down into details of what they wanted us to do, and setting up meeting times. I got the feeling that I was not going to have as much free time with Lauren this year. It was not a good start to the year.

SPEEDFIRE aka Patrick Mattison
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I looked down at the uniform and shrugged. It was just one more of a long line of letdowns. I really couldn't blame the school. Confusion, and it was understandable confusion, over Rowan's sex had set into motion a very unpleasant series of events. By adopting a school uniform, they were avoiding any future misunderstandings, and helping bring things a bit more back under control. I don't think this would have helped the situation, but the school was at least trying to do something.

I noticed that the slacks had a neat hole cut in the seat to allow for my tail. That was good. At least I didn't have to deal with the problems that poor Tracy and Kenna did. Having shirts and jackets that had two sets of buttons running up the back would be a royal pain the butt. Still, I could see where some people would be upset about the uniforms. For them personal style was very important. Me, I just wasn't going to put that kind of effort into it.

As I finished dressing in the new uniform, my cell phone rang. Dad's number showed up. I smiled and answered it, "Hi Dad."

"Hiya Patty. Just wanted to see if you were getting settled in."

"Yeah," I answered. "We have to wear a school uniform this year."

"Really? What do you think about them?" he asked.

I shrugged and then realized he couldn't see me so I added, "Doesn't make a difference to me one way or another."

"Good. I'm really proud of you, Patty," he told me. That told me he had some kind of bad news.

"Thanks Dad," I told him waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Look, I just got off the phone with the District Attorney. The lab tests came back on what was in that syringe. It was something called paralydehyde- it's a powerful sedative. He's pressing attempted kidnapping charges. It looks like it's a strong enough case to stand up in court."

I just shook my head. I still couldn't figure out what this was all about. Why did my mom suddenly hate me so much? I guess I was silent for longer than I realized because i heard my Dad's voice asking,"Patrick, are you still there?"

Finally, nodding my head, I swallowed and said, "I'm still here, Dad. Thanks for letting me know."

"I thought you should, son," he said.

"I appreciate it," I told him not knowing what else to say.

"Look, I'm flying out to DC at the end of the month. I'll stop by and we'll have dinner," he told me.

"I'd like that," I replied. Then hearing the conversation in the main room I told him, "I gotta go. Sounds like there's a meeting outside."

"Okay. I love you Patty," he said.

"Love you too, Dad," I told him and hung up.

The meeting turned out to be a chance to meet Mr. Alexander. Most of us had only seen him in passing. I mean let's fact it: he sort of blends into the background compared to his wife. Still, I could see where Brian got his good looks and black hair. After the initial meeting, I sort of drifted back into my own room and tried on the uniform. It wasn't too bad, and I could learn to live with it.

Then we all headed down to the cafeteria for lunch. It wasn't the usual fare, but it was pretty good. Afterwards I decided to take a walk over to the hole in the ground near the gym. I couldn't see a lot, from the angle I was at, and it looked like they were erecting some kind of tarp to keep out the rain. I could tell that the thing was DEEP, and there was a steady stream of cement trucks feeding it.

"You're upset again," I heard Tracy's voice behind me.

Turning I smiled at him as he stood there in his new school uniform. I have to admit that the dark red jacket and gray slacks really contrasted his extremely pale coloration. The hair alone made him look like a character I read in a Moorecock novel once. "Dad called," I told him.

"And?" he asked.

"The DA is going to go ahead with the indictment. That syringe Mom had contained some kind of powerful sedative," I explained.

He shook his head and said, "I'm sorry man. I know this is tough on you."

I shrugged and replied, "I'm beginning to understand Kenna's outlook. What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger."

He reached out and touched my shoulder and said, "Look, if you need to talk or just blow off some steam you know my door is always open."

I nodded and said, "I know. But to be honest, I'm sort of tired of worrying about it. I can't do anything about her or the trial. All I can do is ride it out." I shrugged as I could see the smile begin to play across his lips. "Just sort of duck my head and keep plowing through until something changes for the better."

"It will, Bro. It will," he told me. Then with a smile he asked, "Wanna go see what the new year ones look like?"

"Year ones?" I asked him.

"Yeah, what else are you gonna call Cadre 7, the newbies? Technically they're eighth graders, so they aren't freshmen, so some of us have started calling them the year ones," he said.

"How about just calling them Cadre 7?" I asked. "I never did like that whole British/Canadian method of naming grades."

"Why?" he asked.

"Because it's British and Canadian, and I'm an American," I told him.

"Ooooh sounds like somebody's been hanging with Sawyer a too much," he teased me. "You do realize he's taken don't you?"

"Jealous?" I asked.

"Nah," he said. "Sawyer's not my type. Now Kenna or Brian? They're a different story."

"You horn dog," I accused him with a smile as we began walking back up toward the main building. I looked back over my shoulder and asked, "What do you think all of this construction is all about?"

"The school's growing. I know for a fact that it's gotten a lot more corporate funding of late. I'm not sure how much of that Rowan has had to do with, but I know there's more money and more teachers coming in," he said as we skirted a group of younger kids heading in the opposite direction. They were all wearing the new uniforms too. One of them kept giving me an appraising look. That was kind of weird. I mean, she had to have been one of the new Cadre 7 kids, so she had to have been only about twelve or thirteen.

I watched her as she passed and couldn't believe she actually winked at me. She was only about five feet tall with long raven black hair and blue eyes. She reminded me of a younger version of Lauren, Brian's girlfriend. With a shrug and a smile to myself I turned back to Tracy to see him smiling at me. "What?" I asked.

"Still think you're not attractive?"

"I never said that," I protested. "I said that most people don't want to deal with the grief of being involved with a neo."

"Yeah, but you were spending a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself. Now there goes proof that you aren't this ugly freak that nobody would want. As a matter of the fact, you spent most of the trip to Florida with that pretty Cuban girl, Carla. Sawyer had Kenna and Rowan and of course Brian and Lauren were together, but poor Mikey and I spent most of our time chasing but not catching. So as one friend to another. Drop the the "poor pitiful me" attitude. It just doesn't hold water," he told me with a grin.

You know, sometimes you just need your friends to knock you upside the head with a clue-by-four. Maybe he had a point, maybe I was just feeling sorry for myself. It was something to think about. With a smile I said, "Maybe you've got a point. Now where are these newbies?"

"We just passed a gaggle of the girls," he told me. "I'm not sure where they're heading, and with girls you never can be sure. But since the field is off limits, most people who don't have an interview or physical with Doctor Chapel or Doctor North are just hanging under the trees on the quad."

"Who's Doctor North?" I asked.

He grinned and said, "Evidently Doctor Chapel put her foot down and told the administration that she couldn't handle this many neo physicals and psyche evals so they hired a new doctor to help her out. Doctor North is handling all the new students, and their initial physicals."

"What's he like?" I asked.

"She," he told me. "Tall, in her mid thirties and well-built. She's no Coach Moore mind you, but she's easy on the eyes. But don't worry, Doctor Chapel is still handling our physicals and psych evals."

"How'd yours go?" I asked as we rounded the low retaining wall separating the rising walkway from the quad. I could see where Doctor Chapel was going to need some help. Last year the school only housed about thirty or forty students. There was at least twice that number lounging under the trees, leaning on the statue of the first Neo-Force 1 team in the middle of the quad, and gathered in small group. "Wow!" I said.

"Yeah, more'n I expected too. Some of the lower grades are doubled up in the rooms," Tracy said. "As for my physical- about the same as always. Someone needs to tell Doc Chapel to warm her hands before she touches you. There was a lot of her clucking like a mother hen as she took various measurements and asked the same kinds of questions that she asked last year."

"Again?" I asked with a groan. Some of what she asked last year was just plain embarrassing, and the measurements were just a little more intimate than I was comfortable with. But she cited a law requiring them. Thinking she was just a dirty old woman making it up, I actually researched the law. The Department of Neohuman Affairs actually required them and kept track of it- ALL of it."

"Oh yeah," Tracy told me. "And she's got a new toy she's all excited about. Get ready to give a blood sample. Somebody sprang for a new gene sequencer and she's doing a genetic map of all of us."

"Wonder how they plan on getting Rowan's blood sample?" I asked.

"I think she did a mouth swab on him," he told me. Short of turning fury loose on him, or hitting him with a tank shell, I don't know of anyway to make Rowan bleed."

"There are always other ways of getting his blood," I suggested with a wicked grin. After all, he DOES have all the requisite female parts as well."

"Oh, gross!" he said. "Did you have to go there?" he asked.

I just grinned and said, "You know. I think I did." Before he could reply, the subject of our conversation waved us over. "Wonder if she heard us?" I asked.

"Probably," Tracy replied. "If she breaks us in half, we'll know."
Last edited by cobalt-blue on Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Year 2 Issue 1: Cometh the Corps 2

Postby cobalt-blue » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:17 pm

FAERIE aka Kenna Draupnir
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The week before school, I did something I had done very little of in six years. I spent the whole week in MY room at home. Granted it was still decorated like a little girl of ten, but it was my room- the room that had been mine when the two women came and took me to Colorado.

Dad and I spent two days redecorating it into something a little more mature. We took down the posters. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came down, and Equus went up. Jude Law and Hugh Jackman went to garbage. Sorry Legolas stayed up. It's the ears you know.

We moved out my white kiddie furniture and moved in Grandma's Waterfall bedroom suit. We painted over the bright purple My Little Ponies with a nice cream, and replaced the light gauzy pink curtains with some heavy velvet drapes. It was fun listening to Dad complain about the cost of velvet even though he did pick the color, a nice Marine Corps blue with some red and gold accents.

It was good to just be home. I spent some time with Grandma talking. She seemed to be no more worse for wear after her encounter with the neo-gang. However, before I left she pulled me aside and said, "Flitter, gimme a penny."

I raised an eyebrow, dug into my pocket and pulled out a coin, "Will a quarter do Grandma?"

She smiled and said, "It'll do. Give it to me."

I handed the small over and shrugged as she reached into her apron pocket. "Does this mean you're going to give me a blade?" I asked.

"Smart girl," she said pulling out a piece of wrapped cloth about ten inches long. "This was my grandmother's back in the old country. She gave it to me when I was 'bout your age. Now I'm givin' it to you." She handed me the package.

Unwrapping it I could see a long well cared-for blade. Along the base where the blade met the guard, I could see just a tinge of gray tarnish. The blade was at least coated in if not made from silver. Along its edge was elegant lettering that read: "Aan wacht tegen wolven"- "To guard against wolves" in Dutch. I looked up at her and said, "But Grandma, this is the knife you said your Grandmother killed a werewolf with."

"It is, girl. And now that I've killed mine, yours will come along," she said with a grin.

"Grandma?" I asked. "Just what do you know that you aren't telling?"

"More than I want to and less than I should," she said. "Now you be safe down there at that school. Don't be gettin' into anything to worry your poor ol' Da about." She gave me a serious look and added, "And remember. You can choose a lot of things now that girls couldn't when I was your age. Don't you be comin' home with any extra baggage any time soon. Your Da' worries about you an' that boy, an' that child of Nerthrus. He won't say anythin' about it, but he does."

"Yes, ma'am," I said. "No extra baggage for me for quite a few years, Grandma. I have things I have to do first."

"Now you're soundin' like my Grandma Rood," she said with a smile. "You jus' watch out for wolves and keep those two close too you. They look like they'd be handy with a woodsman's ax."

I grinned and said, "Sawyer knows how to handle an ax. And trust me, Rowan can more than handle a wolf."

"Good girl," she said and patted me on the butt as I headed out the door toward Dad's SUV. As I climbed into it, she tottered out onto the porch and said, "Remember to pinch 'em both for me."

Dad just gave a strange look. I yelled back, "Yes, Grandma." Then turning to Dad I said, "She's your mother." I then proceeded to put the knife into my backpack. Technically weapons weren't allowed on campus, but when you're dealing with a population of kids like we have at Wyndgate, things like that get overlooked. Especially when I tell them it's for religious purposes.

It was a ninety mile drive through the mountains of West Virginia and Dad and I had a nice conversation. Mainly we talked about school and my summer. I hadn't gotten to spend much of it with him because I was overseas with Mom, and then in Alabama, and Florida. But we were planning a big gathering for Night of the Specters. Mom was going to be here as was Brandt, and there was a good chance that Kenneth would be too. If we could get him into the country without anyone noticing.

Then Dad brought up the subject I knew he was worried about, "About Sawyer and Rowan," he began.

"Yes?"

"Just how serious is thing? I mean, how far have things gotten with you three?" he asked.

"Dad, we're teenagers," I told him. "We can be end of the world in love with each other one minute and hating each other's guts the next."

"But you're not," he said.

"What, hating each other's guts?"

"Bouncing around those feelings all the time," he said.

"No," I said. "Nor are we boffing like bunnies," I said. "That's Kenneth's department."

"Yeah, but Dads worry about their daughters more than their sons," he said. "I know it's not right, but it's the truth."

"Well, that and we both know that Kenneth is not going to get any of his partners pregnant," I added.

"There is that," Dad said.

"No Dad, Doctor Chapel has us all on birth control," I told him.

"I know," he said. "I had to sign the paperwork."

"And if Rowan and Sawyer and I live through high school, we'll probably reevaluate our relationship," I told him. "Dad the major problem with ferals is that even the other neos tend to consider us freaks of nature."

"Even Sawyer?" he asked.

"Sawyer's a one in a million. He once told me that he had no interest in girls. As far as he's concerned he's not bisexual, or even straight. He's Kenna and Rowan sexual. He likes us for us, not for or in spite of the fact that I have wings, and and antennae and can turn his brain into jelly; or that Rowan can turn him into a grease spot."

"If either of you can hit him," Dad said. I let that one alone.

"Right now, we're having fun having a weird teenage relationship. Tell you what. You can interrogate them at Night of the Specters."

"Trust me, I plan to," he said with a smile.

"Okay."

The rest of the ride was just small talk. We discussed family, the farm, and even the Lore. He was surprised to find out that Mike had an interest in Asatru. He told me about some books and a couple of online courses I should recommend to him. He even told me to invite him to Night of the Specters.

It was after Dad had left that I discovered that we were having to wear uniforms this year. I wore one for four years at the Psi-Corps Academy and to be honest, this one looked like it was modeled after that one. They didn't require one at Danville, but this year we were going to be required to wear one here. Oh well. At least the color scheme wasn't too bad, and the jacket was optional for girls. The skirts were a little short of my tastes- especially as a flyer. But I don't think the boys are going to complain about that. Best of all there were extra buttons on the back of the shirts and jackets that would let me keep my wings out more often. We got a choice of gray or maroon skirts. I don't think the boys got a choice of pant color.

Poor Rowan had an option to wear slacks but all of them had been cut wrong. She still had hips like a girl, just a little extra at the crotch. The problem was these slacks were cut for a girl, and were too tight where it would be mighty uncomfortable. Since they were a medium weight and somewhat stretchy, it left her looking lumpy where she should be flat.

After Brian's dad left we all went to lunch. That was when we found out that Sawyer and Brian had a meeting in Doctor Blair's office at three. To be honest, the lunch was a bit of a let down. I know the cafeteria staff was just gearing up and probably trying to plan something that would ease the kids into the fare, but I was just sick of hamburgers and pizza. I was really looking forward to some of their chicken or fish. Oh well, maybe later in the week.

While Brian and Sawyer were at their meeting Rowan and I took a few moments to walk around the campus. There were a lot more people here than I had expected. It looked like the school had doubled its student population over the summer. There were even several ferals I hadn't seen before. One striking girl caught my eye. She was tall, lean and had one of those close to the skull, pointy hair cuts. What really caught my eye was that she had huge bat-like wings sticking out from her back, and long prehensile tail like Patrick's- complete with a pointy fork at the end.

Beside me, Rowan grabbed my arm and said, "Kenna look at her collar."

I peered closer and shook my head. There was a little bronze Psi-Corps pin on her collar. "What in the name of Hel's dark half?" I asked allowed. "That's Corps pin!"

"I thought it was, but the color's off," Rowan said.

"No, a bronze trident means a fifth year student at the Academy," I told her. "But what is she doing here?" I then cast my mind out around the school. There were at least three other psionic minds that were not quite as well trained as a graduate. I could feel them leaking from behind their shields. Then I felt three other sets of shields, all of which I recognized from the Academy. One brought a smile to my face. "Doctor Moffett!" I said allowed and psychically.

~I was wondering how long it would take you to recognize we were here, Faerie,~ his mind voice said back to me. ~There's a meeting at ten o'clock in the morning with your Doctor Blair and the other instructors here. We have something we need you to help us with.~

~Does it have anything to do with the four half-trained minds on campus?~ I asked looking to Rowan who was staring at my antenna. I knew sparks had to be flying between them.

~Among other things, Little Faerie,~ he said. His pet name for me was the reason I took the code-name Faerie. He is one of the most brilliant men I've ever met, and was my advisor at the Academy. Having him here this year was going to be a genuine pleasure. I did wonder about having untrained psis at Wyndgate though. There could be misunderstandings.

~What?~ I asked.

~We'll discuss it tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing you again,~ he said. ~In the meantime remember you may still be a student at this school, but you are a graduate of the Academy. Don't let the youngsters try and pull one over on you.~

I smiled at that and said goodbye. Rowan in the meantime was looking at me with an indulgent look. "Who is Doctor Moffett?" she asked as checked to make sure my hammer was visible.

"He was my mentor at the Psi Corps Academy," I told her as we headed toward the girl in question. "He's one of the most power telepaths and psychic vampires I know."

"More powerful than Alex?" Rowan asked with a smile. She knew that Alex and I had toyed with the idea of being lovers but never really crossed that line. In the end I just didn't have the plumbing that Alex wanted and we both knew it.

"Who do you think taught us both everything we know?" I replied.

As we came up to the girl who was talking to three other kids, I notice all of them were wearing a Corps Cadet pin. The first thing I noticed about Ms. Batwings was that she had a knockout figure that the school uniform did little to hide. Her brown hair had an almost metallic sheen to it.

There was a younger boy standing next to her, his pin was solid black and that told me that he was a first year cadet. He looked to be about thirteen, was blond with blue eyes and was honestly the most handsome young man I'd ever met. There wasn't a single blemish on his skin anywhere and he did a really good job of filling out that uniform. His face was perfectly symmetrical and his teeth were almost glowing white. He looked like the picture perfection of a teenage heartthrob.

The girl standing next to him had little green scales around her eyes that ran in a line toward her smallish ears and then down the sides of her neck to disappear into her collar. I could see similar mottling on the backs of her forearms and hands, and all of her legs were covered with it. Actually it clashed rather badly with the crimson skirt. Her hair was a similar green to her skin. Her eyes were slitted and her nose somewhat flat. I noticed small pits just inside her nostrils. She too looked rather young and her chest was flatter than Rowan's. The pin on her collar was the same as the boy's- solid black.

Finally there was a big guy who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen. He stood a good six feet tall and was nearly half as wide and was built like Arnold on a good day. What really stood out about him was that his skin gleamed under the autumn sun like brushed pewter. His hair seemed to be made of silver. It took me a second to realize that it really was metallic. I could see where his shoes were making deep indentations into the soft earth beneath him. His Corps pin was the same as Bat Wings: solid bronze.

"Hello," Rowan said beside me. "Welcome to Wyndgate."

I could feel the stab of surprise that Bat Wings shot her at being spoken to. Looking us up an down her mind brushed against mine, and I could feel it brushing against Rowan's as well. "Uh..., thank you," she said with a genuine smile. Then looking at me, I saw her eyes dart to my collar I could sense her confusion.

I reached up an touched the hammer pin that was holding my tie down. There was a small gold trident at its base. The regs say I have to wear the symbol of a specific design in the open where it can be seen.They don't say that it can't be part of another design, and since I consider my powers a gift from the Gods, then it's appropriate to have it on my hammer. "I'm Kenna Draupnir, this Rowan Croften-Blake," I introduced us.

"Shadow Claw and Faerie?" the cute blonde asked.

I smiled at him and said, "That's what our Neo Registration Cards say."

"Wow!" he replied. "You graduated the Academy in four years!"

Rowan looked at me and smiled. I just said, "Guilty."

"Since when does the Academy send psis here?" I asked.

"Since we all have powers beyond just psionics," Bat Wings said. "Isn't that why they sent you here?"

"No. I graduated the Academy first. They sent me here because at the time the government wouldn't let me go home."

She smiled and said, "I'm Amelia Norgard, codename Trance. Why do we need codenames?"

"Because we all get to go serve the Neoforce teams when we graduate," Rowan said sarcastically. "Of course you five at least have the option of serving in Psi Corps. I get stuck busting heads."

I smiled at her and said, "I wouldn't be too sure of that." Then turning to the others, I asked, "And your names?"

The tall metallic boy said with a deep Cajun accent, "Chris Dulac, they registered me as Delta Blue." He blushed at the name.

"Registered?" Rowan asked.

"In the Corps sometimes we get our names assigned based on our psychic avatar," I told her.

She nodded with a brief "Oh." I knew she'd ask me about it later.

The cute kid said, "I'm Vogue. My real name is Jacob Miles." I could see where his name was appropriate.

Finally the girl with scales smiled and said, "I'm Nurene Griffin. Codename Naja."

"Like Rowan said, welcome to Wyndgate. Doctor Moffett said I'll be working with you guys," I told them.

I notice all of them groan at the mention of Doctor Moffett. "Great. I was hoping he'd stayed at the Academy," Jacob said.

"Doctor Moffett is a sweetheart," I protested.

"He's a real ass," Amelia said. "He has no concept of how much work our other teachers give us."

"And he expects all of your work to be done correctly and accurately, or you will do it again until he's satisfied," I quoted my favorite instructor.

"You know him?" Nurene asked.

"Oh yeah. He was my mentor for four years," I told them. "He taught me everything I know and then taught me how to go learn more."

"Oh great," Jacob said. "More work."

Rowan chuckled. "I don't know who your cadre instructor is, but get used to work. This school is like nothing you've ever experienced before. The first month will probably make you wish you never left the Corps Academy."

"Somehow I doubt that," Amelia said.

I laughed and told her, "You'll see." Turning to Rowan I said, "Let's go to quad and see what the others are up to."


Doctor Duncan Blair

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I was about meeting out, and the paperwork on my desk was still growing. But these things had to be dealt with. The new partnership with the Psi Corps was creating more questions than it was answering- especially where Kenna Draupnir was concerned. I was discovering that there were important pieces of data left out of her Psi-Corps file- like exactly what she was trained to do. Sure I got her test and performance scores but nothing on how she was trained to apply her powers.

Our new corporate sponsors were being very generous though, and the additions we were making to the school were starting to come together. Coach Moore wasn't happy about losing the practice filed for six months, but she at least admitted that the new facilities would be far superior to what she had now.

The new west wing would allow us to nearly quadruple our capacity by January, and from the applications we were getting, we were going to need it. Erikson and Waterford had been as good their word and had found me enough new cadre instructors that we were going to be on target. Half of our new hires would be spending the first semester shadowing one of the veterans to see how we did things and take up their new duties with new students in January. It would seem that the Administration's attacks had done us far more good than harm.

I'd even managed to hire another doctor with credentials in neohuman physiology and psychology. Doctor North was working out quite well. Grace was happy as a lark with her new DNA sequencer and was running every student's sample through it starting with Cadre 5. For once I wasn't getting the usual complaining from the medical department. I expected that to start when all the physicals were finished. Yeah, I know, I'm such an optimist. I wonder why? Here I am with one of the most powerful neo gifts in history but I can't use it because it was killing me.

Erikson had made it clear that he thought we were expecting too much out of Gray and Alexander. Personally, I think we needed to give them more to do to keep them out of trouble. Waterford was holding his own counsel for now, but I got the feeling that he felt the same way. Grace had not weighed in on the issue.

By the time Tuesday rolled around I was in a meeting with my three new Psi Corps instructors and Draupnir. There was definite history between her and at least two of the instructors. Doctor Moffett was obviously pleased to see his old student. Thibodeaux however wasn't. I didn't need to be a psi myself to know there was some internal politics going on here.

Part of the reason that they were here was to investigate Draupnir's recent boost in power. Evidently they wanted to know if it was a natural progression or if it had something to do with the gestalt she'd formed with Goth. Both psis had showed a marked increase in power levels since that day.

Moffett was a short rotund man with steel grey hair matching eyes, and ruddy complexion. There was a perpetual smile on his lips and in his eyes that put a person at ease. Which I knew could be dangerous. The file the Corps sent over said he was the world's foremost expert in psychic vampirism, and had been teaching at the Academy since it had been formed.. He wore a simple dark blue suit with a matching tie. The tie tack had a simple gold colored trident at its center.

Thibodeaux however was a contrast. Tall, and whipcord thin, he had shaved head and deep chocolate skin. There seemed to be a perpetual look of disapproval on his face. His black suit was cut to perfection and he wore a badge sized shield with his Corps trident pinned to the lapel. He even wore black gloves as an affectation. I thought he was trying to emulate a certain fictional Psi-Corps with his mode of dress. His file said that he'd spent the last few years in pure research.

Lastly was Doctor Herald. She was an attractive red-head that I got the feeling was going to give Coach Moore a run for her money in the boys' fantasies by the end of the month. She was well-built and in her late twenties early thirties and was wearing a simple maroon sun dress that set off her green eyes. Her file said she was a specialist in telekinetic stunts. I'd worked with someone like that back in my days on Neoforce 1. Pummel had been hell on wheels against the bad guys, and a good man to have around for rescues.

As they entered my office, I suggested the small table and comfortable chairs by the window. It was a less formal setting and I wanted this to be more of give and take than any official faculty meeting. Herald and Moffett smiled at the gesture. For just a moment Thibodeaux acted as if I'd insulted him. Finally he settled into the chair with its back to the window.

"Thank you for meeting with me today. I wanted to get some feedback from you on what you think of our school and wanted to set up a follow up discussion on ways to improve our teaching," I started the conversation.

"Of course Doctor Blair," Moffett said. "We've all been impressed with what you've done with Cadre 5 and our little Kenna. "We do have some issues we'd like to discuss beforehand as well."

I nodded expecting as much. "I thought as much. Specifically what would you like to discuss?"

"First," Thibodeaux said, "We'd like to have the files your Doctor Chapel has gathered on Ms. Draupnir. When I requested them she flatly refused and said I'd have to get it cleared through her, her father, and then you in that order. I won't be able to do my assessment without that data."

I smiled and said, "Doctor Chapel is very protective of her patients' privacy. I will speak to Ms. Draupnir and get their permission and then have them sent over."

"You won't just order her to release them?" Thibodeax asked.

I shook my head and said, "No. Doctor Chapel and this school is bound by the HIPPA laws. Also I make it a point not to over rule my employees unless absolutely necessary. I don't foresee any problems getting that approval however." Turning to the others I asked, "What else?"

"We are curious about her relationship with the other members of her team," Thibodeaux continued. "Part of our research is whether or not psis can maintain close relationships with those who are mind blind." His tone at the term mind blind was very condescending.

I shrugged and replied, "I can tell you that she has a close relationship with at least two of her teammates. Beyond that you'll have to ask her and them. I'm sure they'll be glad to oblige you should you ask nicely."

"You'll have to excuse Doctor Thibodeaux, Doctor Blair. He's a bit focused on his pet theory. Draupnir's rumored relationship is a bit of a bug in his data," Moffett said.

"Again, I don't speculate about my students in such matters. It's highly inappropriate for an educator," I told him.

"I understand completely, Doctor Blair," Herald said. "Our job here will be to supplement your own teaching. We will of course work closely with the four psis we've enrolled here as well as any other students who you think might benefit from our instruction. Some of what we teach can be helpful for elementalists and blasters."

"Thank you Doctor Herald," I said. "I've read the files you sent over on those four. To be honest, there is far more information in their files than what you sent me on Draupnir. I have no idea what she's been trained to do."

Moffett smiled and said, "I'll discuss Draupnir's files with you when she's present. As for the other four...," he reached down and picked up a file. Let's begin with Miles."

"His file says he's a telepath, telekinetic, with a shapeshifting power," I said.

"That's why we brought him here. We think he can learn a great deal from your school. We will work on him with the telepathy and telekinesis, but we want you to handle the rest of his education."

"How effective is his shapeshifting?" I asked.

"It's very detailed, but it has some specific limits. He can't change his mass, only his density. He can't create new limbs, but can modify his existing ones. What is most remarkable though is that it goes down to a cellular level. He can touch a person and then become them down to their blood type. If they're much larger or smaller than he is there's a weight discrepancy, but beyond that, he copies fingerprints, retinal patterns, even brainwaves."

"Personality?" I asked.

"Somewhat vain," Herald said. "He actually doesn't like using his shapeshifting power because he genuinely LIKES the way he looks in his natural form. He's from a middle class family in Santa Barbara. His dad is an electrician and his mom a school teacher. He's a first year at the Academy so we want to put him with your Cadre 7. He's a little younger than they are, but telepaths tend to mature faster than baselines anyway."

I nodded and said, "Very well. I think that will probably work well. What about the other member of Cadre 7, the Griffin girl?"

"She's a telepath too. However she has an unusual psychic assault gift. It attacks and shuts down the central nervous system in the same way a neurotoxin does," Thibodeaux said with a bit more glee than I was comfortable with.

"Her feral status?" I asked.

"She's going to require a lot of heat in her room. She's ectothermic so the colder it is, the more sluggish she is. She can see into the heat spectrum, and can deform her head, neck, and mouth like a cobra. Her fangs inject a fast acting venom in the same family as the inland taipan snake, but due to her size the amount she injects is about twenty times that of a taipan bite."

"Any other powers?" I asked.

"She has a class four durabiity with the impervious enhancement and class two enhanced strength," Herald said.

"Personality?" I asked.

"Believe it or not, she's actually quite shy, and reserved. When she gets to know a person she can be actually warm and caring. She is however dangerous. If she gets irritable she can lash out without thinking," Thibodeaux said. "Much like a snake."

I nodded and asked, "Do we have an anti-venin on hand for her venom?"

"Yes," Herald replied. "Although I've never known her to bite a person physically. She usually just leaves them psychically stunned."

"Good," I said. "I do have sixty-eight other students to worry about."

"Trust me, we understand Doctor Blair," Moffett said.

"What about Dulac?" I asked.

"Louisiana farmboy at heart," Thibodeaux said with a bit of a sneer at the word farmboy.

"He's got a mild telepathic gift, a strong telekinetic one, and one hell of a healing gift. He's in his fifth year at the Academy. We thought he would go best into your Cadre 4 or 5."

"Cadre 5 is full," I said simply.

"So we have been told. We think he could settle in with a higher group of kids quite well. He's intelligent, quiet and a good student. He also has an unusual body chemistry," she said

"He has an unusual body structure," Thibodeaux said. "His bones are made of a metal-like substance that closely resembles stainless steel. His muscles are like carbon fiber, and his skin is very similar to a pewter iron alloy. His entire neural system is sheathed in a non-conductive material and the nerves themselves are a room temperature superconductor," Moffett said. "He can also generate spikes of metal from his body that he can launch with deadly accuracy. He can lift approximately ten tons and resist the penetrative force of a fragmentation grenade. Unfortunately, he's also highly susceptible to electrical and magnetic forces and generates a low level radio jamming field within about two feet of his body "

"Personality?" I asked.

"Quiet," Herald said. "One of the easiest going kids at the Academy, and tends to be a mediator. The term gentle giant applies to him quite well."

I nodded and said, "Okay, we'll slide him into Cadre 4. They have two openings. I think the last girl will also fill that spot. What about her?"

Moffett nodded his head and said, "I'll be working close with her. She's got a mediocre telepathic gift, but is a strong projective empath and a very strong psychic vampire. She has feral bat-like wings and a prehensile tail. She's also got a few levels of impervious durability- class six, I think- and about two levels of enhanced strength."

I looked at the photo in the file and listened to Moffett's description of her. One word came to mind: succubus. "Personality?" I asked.

"Wounded," he said.

"Please explain."

"She lost her father and older brother when the towers fell in New York. Her father was a fireman and her brother a policeman. Her mother was an EMT that was trapped in the rubble for three days when one of the buildings collapsed. Although she's had extensive counselling, she's still very angry about the issue and has a few blind spots."

"I can imagine," I said. I had a few of my own. "Okay, I think Lauren Rathbourne will be happy to have both of them on her team. She's been feeling a little outdone by her boyfriend's team lately, and I think they would make a good addition to Cadre 4.

"Thank you Doctor Blair," Thibodeaux said. "May I inquire as to why you're so adamant about not adding anyone else to the Cadre 5 team?"

I smiled and said, "Several reasons. First is that suite is at maximum capacity. If I added anyone else, I'd have to double up on the rooms. Although I'm sure there are several members who wouldn't mind sharing a room, I'd rather not do that. Secondly is that each of cadres are balanced by personality and by power level. Cadre 5 has a specific balance that works and I don't want to interfere with it. I may move them after the new wing is built, if there is a viable candidate for them."

Thibodeaux made to reply but Moffett cut him off, "Understood. Now about Ms. Draupnir."

"Exactly what do you want to do with her?" I asked.

"Why don't we bring her in and explain it all at once," Herald said. "I believe she's waiting outside with your secretary."

I smiled as I'd suspected as much. Reaching into my pocket I touched the remote to the intercom and asked Stiles to send her in. In a matter of seconds, Kenna had joined us. I noticed that she wasn't wearing the school uniform but a smart little lavender dress and a pair of folded down boots. The official term hadn't started yet, so I really couldn't complain about the lack of a uniform. Besides I got the feeling she was sending a message to the other instructors with her mode of dress. I understood it perfectly. She might be a student here, but she was no longer THEIR student.

She smiled and nodded to each of the other instructors. Speaking to me first, she said, "Headmaster Blair, Professors Moffett, Herald, Thibodeaux." Headmaster? I thought to myself. As if sensing my question, she just smiled at me.

"Ah, Corpsman Draupnir," Moffett said. "It's good to see you again. We have some issues we want you to help us with."

"Ms. Draupnir," Herald said.

"Cadet Draupnir," Thibodeaux said.

"Corpsman," she politely corrected.

"You are still a student," the tall black man said.

"Not at the Academy. I graduated. You are no longer my teacher, Professor Thibodeaux," she said. Now I understood to whom the message was being sent.

"Ms. Draupnir," Thibodeaux said.

"Acceptable," Kenna replied. Then turning to Moffett she asked, "Now what can I help you with?"

"No doubt you've met our cadets here at Wyndgate," Moffett said. "We want you to help us train them to use their psionic gifts."

"And we want to test your talent again," Thibodeaux said.

"My talent? Why?" she asked.

"You have either shown a remarkable upgrade in gifts since you left us in Colorado or you were hiding your true rating," Thibodeaux. I briefly wondered if anyone had ever told this man about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. He looked over at me and said, "As a matter of the fact they have, Doctor Blair. I just prefer not to sugar coat things."

I raised an eyebrow and locked eyes with him. I sent a brief image of exactly what I COULD do to him if I wanted to deal with the pain and sickness it would cause me. It was petty, but I'd just about had it with his attitude. Forcing him through puberty again, might just be worth it. I watched his eyes grow large for a second and then he nodded to me. "I think we understand each other Doctor Thibodeaux."

"Of course Doctor Blair, or should I say Retcon?" he said jabbing back at me making it clear he was not going down without a few blows of his own. "It's a name, Professor Thibodeaux, one I haven't used in a long time."

"I think we've made our points, gentlemen," Herald said. Turning to Kenna she said. "You don't have to submit to the reevaluation, but we'd appreciate it if you would. We know that Alex went through a similar upgrade and we just want to understand if it's a part of your natural progression or if it had something to do with the gestalt you two formed."

Kenna nodded and said, "I'll put myself at Doctor Moffett's disposal." Shrugging she looked over at Moffett and said, "I'm not sure how much help I'll be with teaching the others though. I'm afraid they're going to see me as just another student."

"As far as Wyndgate is concerned you are. However as far as the Corps is concerned, you are a graduate and rank and rate them," Herald said. "They WILL listen to you. We particularly want you work with Norgard."

"Because she's a PV?" Kenna asked. "I'm not that good with that particular power."

"Tell that to Fury," Thibodeaux said.

Kenna shook her head and said, "No. If I have to deal with Fury again, I'll finish her off. She hurt people I care for, and is a menace to people around her. I don't let that kind of thing pass easily. But, I'll do what I can." She turned back to Moffett and said, "Oh, Dad will be expecting a phone call and a visit from you Doctor Moffett. After all, you did promise to visit if you were ever in the area."

"I'll call him this evening, Kenna," Moffett replied.

Kenna smiled and told him, "Who knows. Maybe you'll be able hear MY mountains." Then nodding to the rest of us she said, "Headmaster, professors. If there's nothing else."

"You're dismissed, Ms. Draupnir," I told her and watched her head for the exit. She stopped at the door and turned saying, "Oh, and Doctor Thibodeaux; a piece of unsolicited advice. In the past year at Wyndgate I've learned something very important. A lot people have secrets, and if one of us should discover someone else's secret, it's usually a good idea to keep it to ourselves. That's how we build teams." She then smiled at me and left the room. Her message was loud and clear.

"What was that about the mountains?" I asked Moffett.

"Some psis claim that certain places have a resonance. Some mountains, glens and even streams and rivers have a voice to them for those who can hear them. If you ask me, it's a bunch of poppycock," Thibodeaux said. "Kenna used to spend a lot of time "listening to the mountains" at our Colorado facility. To me she was simply wasting time, but since she excelled in her classes I couldn't really complain about it."

"She said that those mountains babbled, that they were infants" Moffett said. "She said she prefers these mountains and that they are older and wiser, like a long lost friend. Of course she's grown up in these mountains so she would prefer the resonances here."

"It's all new age garbage," Thibodeaux commented.

"Actually, it's old age Martin," Moffett said. "Remember, Kenna doesn't do new age. And I've spoken with enough psis who say the same thing that I give it some credence. Just because you can't hear it doesn't mean it's not there."

"Well, I don't think this is either the time or the place to discuss Psi Corps metaphysics," Herald said. "If there's nothing else, perhaps we should get settled into our own classrooms and duties."

The others stood, said their goodbyes and left. I settled back into my own desk and got started on the pile of paperwork. It was about an hour later that Stiles buzzed to tell me that Grace was outside my door.

After I indicated that she should come in, I was surprised at the serious look on her face. She carefully closed the door behind her and came over to my desk. "Duncan, we may have a problem."

"What now?" I asked. Like I said, I'm an optimist.

"I just finished running some basic tests on Cadre 5. Most of it was just to test some theories I had about how the gene was changing their bodies. I ran a diagnostic scan on two of them for paternal alleles to establish a baseline. What I found shocked me, so I doubled and triple checked it. I even went as far as to check the maternal alleles." She was almost babbling.

"What are you talking about Grace?" I asked.

"I ran a DNA scan on Tracy and Patrick. They're half brothers. Same father, different mothers," she said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I'm sure." she said.

"Which one of the parents is the father?" I asked.

"How should I know?" she snapped a little too quickly for my taste.

"Grace...," I prodded.

"Neither," she said with a sigh.

"I don't understand," I told her.

"I pulled some strings and got the samples I needed. Don't ask how, because it wasn't exactly legal. But neither Jake Mattison, nor Tom Bramhold are their father," she said.

"Who is then?" I asked.

Then she dropped another bombshell on me. She said, "I'm not sure, I'm not even sure he's human. Some of those gene sequences are just plain skewed."

"Could your scan be off?" I asked.

"No," she said. "I even had Doctor North double check my results. I blinded the names, so she didn't know who they were, but she confirmed it. They have the same father and he's not human."

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:18 pm

Note to my readers: If you are interested in keeping up with all of my stories-some of which due to content are NOT on this board, I have a Facebook page under the name Cobalt-Blue that I keep l keep my links updated with. Feel free to friend me for the latest updates.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:04 pm

cobalt-blue wrote:Note to my readers: If you are interested in keeping up with all of my stories-some of which due to content are NOT on this board, I have a Facebook page under the name Cobalt-Blue that I keep l keep my links updated with. Feel free to friend me for the latest updates.


Alas, and I am undone!

Okay, so that was a little dramatic, but, I don't do social networking sites for a number of reasons...none of which are important to anyone but me, but, I'll always read what's here faithfully. Loving the new year, new students and new developments.

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Issue Y2-03

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:59 am

Okay, Nanowrimo is over and I'm back to my regular schedule.


Cadre 5: Issue 21
Image
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

(A mountain on a far off world)



"The Earthwar has flared again," my brother told our father, his dark eyes flashing under the tight ringlets of black hair. My brother is of course the consumate warrior and his control over the empire's military forces was nearly absolute.

"Earth? Why hasn't someone dropped a sunkiller bomb in their primary and rid the Powers of that blasted place?" Father said. Father always became irritated when the Earthwar was mentioned. Five attempts at the path had all failed there, and four races of humans had to be removed from the Experiment. Very few of the other attempts to place humans on the Path had resulted in anything other than sports and monsters that had to be put down.

"Because it is still one of the primal worlds, one we just lost," I told him. "We barely hold a presense there anymore. It was the world where all the tribes came together for the Grand Experiment. It was the world where we all failed."

"Evidently not, sister mine," my brother said. "It would appear that the servant of the Fyroar has found the secret."

"What servant?" I asked.

"He is one of their Ljol tribe. He calls himself Kilpatrick," my brother replied. "He's had more success than any of the other tribes. Even House Suttang has sent operatives to test the subjects."

"Fyroar and Suttang working together?" I asked raising an eyebrow. "That in itself suggests something important."

"What have they accomplished?" Father asked his eye twinkling to suggest an interest greater than he wanted to display.

Smiling with the glee he usually reserved for start of a war, he touched a control on the table. "These are transmissions we've recovered from Earth." The image of seven young men and women barely on the cusp of adulthood appeared on the screen battling one of Suttang's class four warspawn along with what looked like off the shelf shock troops. Suttang was so predictable: Lightning Riders, Flamers, Icers, and Battlers.

As we watched the battle unfold, I got the feeling that this was not so much a battle as it was a test. The warspawn was eliminated rather quickly, far too quickly for my personal tastes. Whatever warmaster had been sent should have kept him there to gather more data, and push this group. Still, they were impressive. "Interesting," I said.

"What sister dear?" my brother asked.

"This group seems to be going out of their way to protect the civilians nearby. This is not total war as we understand it."

"I thought you would appreciate that," my brother said. "You've always been much more interested in tactics than strategy. It is an unusual approach to war to say the least." He smiled and said, "Watch this."

I turned back to the screen to see what looked like the cat girl who'd just taken down the warspawn attempt to stop some sort of out of control vehicle. The resulting explosion was intense enough to burn away her clothing to reveal that she was not just a girl, but also seemed to do very little damage the hermaphrodite. Then the rest of the team moved in to protect the non-combatants while they tried to round up the shock troops.

"Impressive," I said. "The cat-g... uh.. person..., was unharmed by that explosion."

"Exactly," my brother said. "Not only was he unharmed, but was able to stop it. I ran the calculations on that particular vehicle and its payload. Based on the general information we've gotten from this and other battles, we think the feline could disable a grav-tank."

"What are we going to do about this? Father asked. "We cannot allow the Fyroar to gain an upper hand on Earth."

"Why not?" I asked. "It is not like we lose anything by it."

"Because if they can succeed in placing humans on The Path, then they could break the power of Ashera's Consort on some very lucrative worlds. It could change the balance of power in the Four Galaxies."

"Then we need more information. We need specimens, tissue samples, and raw data. Where is this Ljol? Can we infiltrate his labs?" Father asked.

"We don't know," my brother said. "He seems have some kind of stealth protection, possibly supplied by one of the primaries of the Fyroar themselves."

"Then get me specimen's and tissue samples," Father said suddenly very agitated.

"I will send someone now," my brother said.

"No," Father intervened. "You would kill the specimens." He turned to me and said, "You do it, daughter. You have a much more subtle hand."

I nodded and said, "Yes father." Turning to my brother I said, "Come brother dear. We can plan our battles together."





GHOST aka Sawyer Jackson Grey



The worst part about getting settled into the new year was getting used to the uniforms- that and the new physical. What bothered me was why the government wanted to how long certain portions of my anatomy were at different levels of blood content. Having to have Doctor Chapel take the measurements was borderline obscene. Of course she seemed to be unconcerned about my body's continued lack of hair. I mean, I wasn't even shaving yet, not to mention other parts. I was growing- not as fast as Brian and the other boys- but I had grown and inch and put on several pounds of muscle. Her only comment was that it was natural for some neos to make it to their thirties without body hair- but that only occurred in neos above class ten.

Classes were about what I expected. Russian was proving to be somewhat harder than German. I think it was the differences in alphabet. I did learn something though, contrary to one of my father's favorite character's accent, the "w" sound is perfectly normal and easy for Russians to pronounce. PE was proving to be interesting though. We didn't have a lot of room to really train while the field was torn up, so we spent a lot of time on strength training. We kept having to remind Brian not to cheat and use his forcefield if he wanted to keep that muscle tone that Lauren liked so well.

For the first few weeks the only real excitement was the fact that Kenna made the papers again. Well it wasn't so much her as it was the fact that the DNA had tried to do the same thing to her that they did to poor Lisa Polanski. There were all kinds of investigations going on in Washington now over who signed the paperwork. It looks like the Director may end up resigning over it. There was definitely something going on behind the scenes there. I wondered if Kenna was behind any of it, but she said no.

However, it was the issues about our classes that brought us the next surprises. Cadres Six through Three had all been called into an assembly with Doctor Blair, and the various lead teachers. They had a proposal for us, and it took us all by surprise. We were all seated in the cafeteria at various tables with our lead teachers at the head. Doctor Blair was at the podium and was looking somewhat nervous.

"As you know, our school has attracted a great deal of attention lately. The Department of Education observed our teaching techniques last year and released a report this summer on what they found. We choose to look at the positive things listed in the report and ignore the innuendo. Evidently, we're not the only ones with that philosophy. Our school has been offered a unique opportunity and we want to see what you as the students think about it."

"What we actually get a say in something?" Bill Park who was Lauren's second on Cadre: 4 asked.

"Yes, you get some input in this," Doctor Blair said unperturbed. "It concerns the directions your education might take. It's actually a very good opportunity." He smiled and looked out over the gathering. "The school has been approached by several colleges and universities about the possibility of treating some of your courses as college advanced placement courses. It would mean a slight increase in tuition for each course from your parents, but it would go a long way toward helping you get into a college."

"I thought we were all going to be assigned to neoforce teams when we graduate," Tom Hart said.

Doctor Blair sighed and said, "That's the current plan. However, many neos are still attending local colleges and universities where they are assigned, others are doing their coursework online. The advantage to this program is that it means that many of the courses you take here will count as a basic university courses."

"Okay, what's to discuss?" Bill Park asked.

"There's been another offer as well, and to be honest, although it's a great honor, it's also a bit controversial," Doctor Blair said. "As many of you know, I was an instructor at the US Naval Academy for several years. I've been approached by the Academy's superintendent about starting an Junior Naval ROTC program here. It would however be something that each cadre decided upon. Either every member of the cadre participated or none of them did."

"Why that stipulation?" Kenna asked.

"Because of the nature of our teaching techniques here would make such a program disruptive to the other students in the cadre," Doctor Blair said. "Your cadre lead teachers have all the information, and will be breaking with you after lunch about the prospects."

"Who would be commandant of the ROTC program?" Kenna asked.

"Commander Erikson most likely," Doctor Blair replied bringing a smile to Kenna's face. She looked around the rest of us and I knew how she was likely to vote. Looking up at the clock, he said, "Speaking of lunch I believe it begins in five minutes. You are dismissed."

I smiled at his timing and joined the rest of my group as we headed toward the cafeteria. Thank God the new construction hadn't disrupted that. As I got up from the table, Tracy smiled over at me and asked, "What do you think? Should we do it?"

I thought for a moment. The idea of serving in the military had a certain appeal to me, but there were other issues with which I had to deal first. I shrugged and said, "I don't know. I'd hate to put all that effort into something and then not be allowed to follow through with it."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

I chuckled and looked toward Rowan's retreating form. "I won't join something under false pretenses, I told him.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

I smiled and said, "Don't ask, don't tell. If it meant giving up Rowan, forget it."

"I see what you mean. I wonder if we vote to go through with it, if it would mean we were required to join after graduation," he said.

"Even if not, which I suspect is the case, it would still be a lot of time and energy invested with something I couldn't in good conscious continue," I told him.

"Well, we'll talk to Commander Erikson about it after lunch," he said. Then looking back over at his wings, he added, "Besides, I don't think we're likely to find a uniform that will accommodate these things."

"I guess we'll have to as you said, talk about it with Commander Erikson after lunch," I told him. "For now though, let's hurry. Today is turkey quesadillas and I don't want to miss it."

Tracy chuckled and said, "You know, I never thought I'd actually like school food, but this place has changed my mind."

"I know what you mean," I told him as we settled into line.

As we finally took our seat at what had become our cadre's table, I noticed that Rowan was not exactly looking happy. "What's up?" I asked him.

"I don't see myself in the military, Sawyer," he said. "I have a company to run when I get out of school. I need to go to college, I don't need to end up in spandex somewhere answering to some mayor or governor's call to deal with a building fire, or an out of control neo." He turned and faced me and said, "I have a life that doesn't involve forced government service. I WANT a life without it."

I could see that this meant a lot to him. It was a sobering realization. Yeah, I griped about the government forcing me here in this school. Yeah, I talked about a government out of control and taking away my civil liberties, but over the past year, I'd come to actually like being Ghost. I guess that the same couldn't be said of Rowan and Shadow Claw. This wasn't just an adventure to him.

I nodded and said, "I understand. There's other issues involved with me as well." I knew I didn't have to express my concerns to him. He would understand it better than most.

"Things will change, guys," Brian said. "So far only two classes have been forced into the Neoforce teams. We've still got three years before we're facing that."

"And Lauren only has two," Michael pointed out he dug into his plate. "Besides, I thought you wanted to follow in your mom's footsteps."

Brian smiled and said, "I do. But that doesn't mean we all do. And I'd like to have a say in it, not be forced to." He put his own fork down and said, "Sometimes I have to catch myself from resenting what the government has planned for me. You know, I want to resist being told what to do, and I have to remind myself that they're telling me to go where I want to." He looked at Rowan and said, "And sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone wants to go where I do."

"But what are we going to do about this idea of ROTC?" Michael asked. "What do you think about it?"

Brian shrugged and said, "If we have to go to the Neoforce teams, then the experience and skills there would be helpful. If some of us choose to go to the military, the skills would be useful there too." He stopped and looked at Rowan and said, "And the leadership skills developed in either Junior ROTC, or even as an actual military officer would serve you in running your company. This president won't be president forever, and his party won't be in charge forever. I get the feeling things are going to be changing soon."

"Really?" Patrick asked. "I thought she was the psi?" he added nodding his horned head toward Kenna.

"Just trying to be realistic about things," Brian told her. "From what I've been reading lately, the American people are getting fed up with the government not listening to them. I can't see this kind of thing lasting for long."

"Well, let's just hope President Charisma doesn't come up with his own final solution," Kenna said darkly.

Mike seemed to want to reply, but I got the feeling that he thought better about it. Finally he said, "What about the ROTC thing? I know my parents won't be real happy about it, but if the Cadre decides to vote for it, they'll either have to go along with it or pull me out of the school. I don't think they want to send me back to Salem."

"But how do you feel about it, Mikey?" Patrick asked. "How would you vote for it?"

He sat back and thought about the question for a moment. I noticed he touched the side of his temple for a second and his brow knitted between his eyes as if he were in pain. After a moment of thought, he replied, "I think it might be a cool idea. I know I want to get college credit for the AP courses. That means that much less class time when and if we do get to college. Having one of the military academies open to me is just another option."

"You know Brian, I hadn't thought about what you pointed out," Rowan added. "Maybe the ROTC thing might be a good idea after all. The leadership courses would come in handy." Then with a smile he added, "They're not likely to let me in the military when all is said and done anyway. They wouldn't know how to fill in the little box marked sex."

"Yes, please," I told him with a smile. Rowan blushed, but Kenna hit me with her napkin.

When we finished our lunch and made it to our suite, for the meeting we got a lot of issues cleared up. No, there wasn't a requirement to join the military when we graduated, yes, the courses would count in our favor if we did join the military. Yes the AP courses would count at Annapolis, or West Point, or the Air Force Academy. In the end we decided to make our decision by the end of the week. We all wanted to talk it over with our parents first.

About the time the meeting with Commander Erikson and Mr. Waterford was ending, Doctor Blair came into the suite. You know in a year of being here I'd never known him to actually come to us. He had someone with him we didn't recognize. He smiled and looked at Commander Erikson and Mr. Waterford and said, "If we could all have a word a moment, gentlemen."

I looked over at Rowan and then Kenna. Both shrugged their shoulders as we all looked back to Agent Darque and Doctor Blair. Brian asked, "What can we do for you Doctor Blair?"

"Please sit down," he said. "This is Assistant Administrator Pagoria of the DEA. He wants to talk to you about what happened in Florida this past summer."

"We didn't do anything wrong," Mikey said sitting down. He looked just a bit wild-eyed.

"Nobody is saying you did, Michael," Doctor Blair said. "Mr. Pagoria wants to talk to you about something else."

"What?" Kenna asked warily.

Doctor Blair turned to the heavy set man with a high forehead and a potato shaped face. He said, "Perhaps Mr. Pagoria could explain it to you. For most other students, I would turn down this kind of offer without a thought. But you guys have a stake in this and I think you should hear him out." He locked gazes with the other man for a moment and I knew that he was reinforcing some past point he'd made to the man when he turned back to us and said, "You don't have to accept what he has to offer, but I think you should at least hear him out."

"Go ahead, Mr. Pagoria," Brian said leaning back in his chair. The image was actually sort of surreal. This was a man who evidently was accustomed to being the one in charge, and Brian was the one who'd actually taken command.

Mr. Pagoria looked at the rest of us and then cleared his throat and said, "As you already know there is a new drug on the scene called hype. It can temporarily give baseline humans neohuman powers."

"Sounds like something the military would cook up," Mikey said.

Pagoria shook his head and said, "No, we don't think so. To be honest, we can't figure out where it's coming from. The lab quality is beyond anything we know is possible today. From our analysis, it's actually an RNA enhancer. The military shut down RNA learning research as a dead end decades ago. And we don't think it's coming out of any corporate labs either."

"What does that leave?" Rowan asked.

"University labs," Kenna said.

Again, Pagoria shook his head and said. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. This stuff is decades if not centuries away from anything out there."

"And you're telling us this why?" I asked. This was not the kind of intelligence you gave to the general public much less seven high school kids.

"Because we need your help. The gangs that are supplying this stuff are chewing up our operatives and spitting them out. We can't get close to stopping them. The only reason that group on the beach in Florida was stopped is because you guys intervened."

"What about my Mom?" Brian asked. "Why can't Neoforce One or one of the other neoforce teams go after them? That's what they're their for."

"Politics," Pagoria said shaking his head. "With the DNA tied up in the scandal going on now, the Neoforce teams have been relegated to forest fires, and hurricane rescue."

Brian nodded his head, Maybe he was getting more information out of his mom than he was telling. I asked, "What kind of politics."

"I'm not at liberty to say," Pagoria said.

"What he means is that he'd get in a lot less trouble for telling us that this new drug hype is from some far more advanced source than we can produce now than if he said that the gangs tended to be Latino, and Black," Kenna said.

Pagoria gave her a startled look, reminding me of a deer in headlights kind of expression. "Are you reading my mind, Ms. Draupnir?"

Kenna chuckled and fluttered her wings before saying, "No, Mr. Pagoria, I've been reading the papers."

"How did you know about the gangs?" he asked. "None of the papers carry that information."

She shook her head and said, "No. It's what they don't say. If the gangs were integrated, if they were white, then the papers would be identifying them as such. But since they leave that information out, it tells me that they are a protected group that can't be criticized in the media."

"That's rather insightful for a fifteen year old," Pagoria said. "And somewhat cynical, don't you think?"

"Am I wrong?" Kenna asked.

Pagoria shook his head and said, "No, you're not wrong. Part of the problem is a gang called The Medio. They've come out of nowhere to terrorize DC. Even the major established gangs like MS-13 leave them alone."

"What is it you want us to do, Mr. Pagoria?" Brian asked.

"We want you to come to work for the DEA, help us bring down the Medio, find the source of the Hype, and take it off the streets," he said with a sigh.

"In case you haven't noticed, Mr. Pagoria," Mike said, "We're all teenagers. This is a high school your at, not a college."

Pagoria sighed and said, "I know. But the laws governing neos are actually rather loose. We can deputize you and put you to work if you agree."

"Or the military can draft us," Kenna said. "I've read those laws, Mr. Pagoria. They're borderline state sponsored slavery."

"I'm sure you have, Ms. Draupnir," Pagoria said.

"Mr. Pagoria?" Rowan said.

"Yes, Ms. Croften-Blake?" He answered.

"How much does it pay?" she asked.

"Rowan!" Mikey protested.

Rowan raised an eyebrow and said, "As you pointed out Mike, this is a school. We're supposed to be learning information and skills that will help us be successful later on in life. Going to work for the DEA will cut into our already very full schedules. On top of that, this is dangerous work. The first time we tangled with one of these gangs, Brian got burned pretty badly, Kenna's ankle was broken, and I ended up having my uniform burned completely off. The government has given us no reason to help them and every reason to distrust them. If I'm going to do their job for them, I want to be compensated for my time and effort like any other agent." At that moment I was extremely proud of my rather special boyfriend.

"Well, there is the standard agent salary. But you wouldn't get all of it since you'd only be working part time," Pagoria said.

"What about the ban on neos entering Washington DC?" Rowan asked.

"Of course exceptions will be made for law enforcement officers," he told us.

"And Kenna's retainer?" Rowan asked.

"What retainer?" Mr. Pagoria asked.

"The retainer that the agency is required to pay any Psi Corps operative it hires. She after all, does have certain highly specialized and bonded skills." Rowan said as she looked over at Kenna and asked, "You're last classification put you at class fourteen right?"

"The one we just finished is sixteen," Kenna said picking up on the train of thought.

"Sixteen?" Rowan said with slight nod of her head and a raised eyebrow. "I bet that rakes in a pretty penny."

"I think that's enough, children," Mr. Waterford said. "Stop showing off."

"It's not showing off, Mr. Waterford," Kenna said. "It's called negotiations. I think that we all agree that we should be compensated for our time and efforts, especially after the trouble the government caused us by releasing out identities."

Mr. Pagoria looked at Mr. Waterford and asked, "Is this what you teach them here?"

Mr. Waterford smiled and said, "Among other things. My students are going to have as many skills as possible when they graduate. Each of them have a great deal of potential and I don't want to see it wasted."

He sighed and said, "Okay, we can start with one quarter a base agent's salary for part time work. We'll give you appropriate law enforcement authority and access to any major US City." He looked over at Kenna and added, "And of course your usual legal retainer. But you will be required to spend several weekends at Quantico at the FBI's training facility learning the basics of law enforcement."

"Ooh, FBI. We'd like to play with them," Kenna said with that half crazed tone of voice she affects sometimes to scare the normals.


ACE aka Michael McAllister



The others were having a far easier time of settling in than I was. Frankly I was scared. I had started having black out periods where whole chunks of time went missing. So far it had happened three times, and all of them were since we'd gotten back. What bothered me the most was that after one of them, I found Brian's flash drive in my hand. I don't know how it got there or what I was doing with it. I quickly dropped it in his mail box outside his door and left feeling dirty for some reason.

Now, I've started getting twinges of a headache lately and they are starting to affect my ability to concentrate on school work. So, feeling kind of embarrassed, I found myself outside Doctor Chapel's door. I knocked quietly and a strange voice told me to come in. Opening it, I saw a very attractive blonde woman sitting behind a desk reading on a computer. She was extremely attractive, but at the same time there was something almost matronly about her. She felt like somebody's mom, but a very attractive mom. "Is Doctor Chapel in?" I asked.

The woman looked up from the flat screen, smiled and said, "No, she's in a meeting with Doctor Blair. Can I help you?"

"I sort of need to see Doctor Chapel," I told her. "I'm getting headaches." Oddly enough a rather powerful one struck right then.

One second I was standing their wincing from the pain, as a red haze came over my vision and the next I was lying on an examination table and Doctor Chapel was clucking over me. "I see you've decided to come back to the land of the living," she said. I tried to raise my hand but found it locked to the rail of the table. "It's okay," she said as she unhooked the steel straps that held me down. "Do you have a history of epilepsy in your family?" she asked.

"Epilepsy?" I asked. Shaking my head and sitting up, I said, "No." I was disoriented, and every muscle in my body hurt. "Did I faint?"

Doctor Chapel shook her head and looked over at the blond woman. "No," she said. "You attacked Doctor North, and managed to trash most of the outer office in the process. If Professor Moffett hadn't been in the hallway, I don't know what might have happened."

The words hit me like a sledge hammer. "I attacked someone?" I asked.

She nodded seriously and said, "I'd like to do some more tests."

"Is Doctor North okay?" I asked.

"I'm fine, Michael," the other woman said stepping into the room.

"How did you stop me?" I asked. "I mean I'm no Shadow Claw, but I can do some serious damage if I mean to."

She chuckled and said, "Trust me, you did. But Professor Moffett isn't exactly without his own resources. When he heard the crashing and me calling for help, he came in and calmed you down. Then you collapsed and seized. We brought you in here."

I shook my head not believing what I'd been told. I'd attacked a perfect stranger. If it hadn't been for one of the professors, I could have killed her. I looked up at Doctor Chapel and asked, "What kind of tests?"

"I want to run some blood tests and some brain scans under specific stimuli," she said. "But that can wait until you feel better. Doctor North said you've been having headaches."

I nodded and told her, "Yeah, and black out spells where I lose track of time."

"What do you mean lose track of time?" she asked, as she shone a light into my eyes.

"One minute I'd be studying in my room, and the next I'd be standing in the middle of the common room not knowing how I got there," I told her.

"Any idea of how much time passed during these episodes?" she asked.

"Five, maybe ten minutes," I told her as she placed a finger in each of my palms.

"Squeeze my fingers," she said.

I raised an eyebrow and said, "You sure?"

"Just don't rip them off," she said with a smile. I squeezed down. She nodded and said, "You can let go now."

I let go and asked, "How serious is it?"

"Black out spells are always serious, Michael. I won't lie to you. Like I said, I want to do some tests. After that we'll know more," she told me. "I also want you to have a talk with Professor Moffett."

"Why him?" I asked. "I mean, you're handling my psych evals."

"This isn't a psychological evaluation. I simply want you to talk to him about your black out spells. He's a trained psychiatrist and has some theories about this," she said.

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable having someone from Psi Corps poking around in my head," I told her.

"Oh this isn't a psychic scan. This is just a conversation. I want to see if I missed anything. You don't have to do it if you don't want to. But it would make me feel better if you did," she told me.

"Can I think about it?" I asked.

She smiled and said, "Of course. But I do want you to keep in mind that he's a very good friend of Kenna's. He won't do anything to you that you don't want done."

I grinned and asked, "The question is Doc, is that do I want it done or does he want me to want it done?"

"He's still bound by the same rules as a doctor as I, and Doctor North are, Michael. He won't hurt you. If you want, I can even sit in on it with you."

"Could I have Kenna instead?" I asked.

"That's an unusual request. Let me think about it. I don't like having my patient's sessions to become too widely disseminated," she told me. Then stopping she asked, "Why Kenna?"

"Because she's a friend, I trust her, and she's a psi," I told her. "I trust her to recognize any tampering and put a stop to it. You could sit in as well."

"Okay, I'll think about it. For now you seem to be recovered from whatever happened to you. I'm putting you on restricted classes though. No combat training and no PE, do you understand?" she told me as she was writing out a pass. She stopped for a moment and looked at me. Finally, she said, "Look, right now the only people who know what happened are myself, Professor Moffett, and Doctor North. It's up to you what you tell your cadre mates."

I nodded realizing what she was getting at. Although I don't think the rest of the Cadre would hold this against me, some of the other student's in the school- those who don't know me, might. "What are you going to tell Doctor Blair?" I asked.

She smiled at me and said, "The truth." Her face became serious and she added, "This is serious Michael. According to Doctor North, you seemed to become another person, a very violent person. That's why I want Professor Moffett to check you out. And if you have another black out spell I want you to call me and then come straight to this infirmary."

I nodded to her and said, "Yes, ma'am." As I headed toward the door, I stopped without turning around and asked, "Am I likely to be danger to anyone around me?" the idea of me hurting one of my teammates bothered the hell out of me.

"If this were a normal school, I'd be worried. But not here. If you get out of hand there are enough people around you to keep you from hurting yourself or others." I could almost see her smile as she added, "As for the property damage, we'll just bill your folks for what the insurance won't cover."

"Yes, ma'am," I told her as I headed out the door. Checking my watch- which I noted now had a cracked crystal- I realized that the Cadre was in music class so I headed in that direction.

As I approached the door of the auditorium where Ms. Deller said we were going to have class today, I heard the strains of an eighties power ballad coming from it. Opening the door I slipped in and looked down to to the stage. Tracy was on the stage making the base guitar in his hand sound like something out of a rock concert and he was singing to bring down the house. His head was bouncing up and down in beat with the music and his hair was flying in every direction. There were times it looked like the guy was making love to the bass in his hand. The vocals were pure gold, "Some day love will you find you..." I knew the boy had a voice, and an interest in music, but nothing like this.

I slipped into one of the seats and waited until he was finished and then stood and clapped. He looked a bit bashful as the rest of the team came out on stage. I think the only one that wasn't surprised was Patrick. He just grinned at his best bud and said, "You enjoyed that didn't you?"

Tracy smiled over at him and said, "Hell, yeah I did."

"You've got a great voice," I told him. "Lousy taste in music, but a great voice."

"Hey!" Tracy replied. "I like the old glam rock stuff, especially the power ballads."

"Gimme something in this millennium," I told him. "I'll take the Neon Trees thank you."

"Well, each person has their own tastes in music," Ms. Deller said coming out from behind the curtain a stack of papers in her hand. She was a short heavy-set woman with short cut blonde hair and gray eyes. "That's what makes the world interesting. You, Brian, and Patrick like current pop, Tracy likes old glam rock, Sawyer and Rowan like boy bands, and Kenna's taste runs to country."

"What kind of music do you like, Ms. Deller?" Rowan asked.

The woman grinned as she put the papers on her podium. "I'm a music teacher. That means I generally like a little bit of everything. As long as you are singing and expressing yourself, I'm not too worried about the genre. I just worry if you hit the right notes, hold them for the right number of beats, and sing with feeling."

"C'mon, Ms. Deller," Brian said. "That's a cop-out and you know it. What do you listen to when you're in the car driving to work?"

She smiled and said, "Usually the news."

"Okay, what do you listen to when you're at home snuggled up in front of the fire on a cold winter's day?" Kenna asked.

"Ahh," Ms. Deller said. "That's when I listen to the most beautiful music the world: the sound of my cat, Trouble purring." She grinned and said, "I like a bit of everything. I will admit to a penchant for old time church music though."

"I thought so. I knew if we kept at her we could eventually get a straight answer. What is it about teachers not wanting to come out and tell us what they like and don't like?" I complained letting my mind slip away from happened earlier. That was one thing I could always count on from the team: the ability to take my mind of my troubles. Of course I couldn't really complain about having troubles. Until the headaches and black outs, my worst trouble was finding a girlfriend.

Ms. Deller smiled and said, "We're not supposed to influence your tastes, Michael."

"We're not wanting you to influence our tastes," Rowan said. "We're just genuinely interested in what you have to say."

"Why thinak you, Rowan. That's one of the nicest things a student has ever told me," Ms. Deller said. "But that's enough of that. We've seen what Tracy is working on, let's see what the rest of you would like to do for the Winter Pageant."

And so we started getting ready for our semester performance for the parental units. Each of us had to do some kind of recital showing what we learned in music class this semester. I guess I was going to have to find something to do.


SHADOW CLAW aka Rowan Crofte-Blake



Settling in at school was a lot easier this year. To be honest there was so much chaos last year that I'm surprised I actually learned anything. Even with the changes, this year seemed like it was almost calm in comparison. My week off between the trip to Florida and coming back to school was somewhat surprising and pleasant.

Heather had a new boyfriend and we talked about that. She wouldn't tell me who it was, just that it was an older man who was at least stable and steady. That surprised me, I didn't think she was the kind to go for older men- even though she was always complaining about the college boys chasing after her. Of course what she was complaining about there was that they tended to be intimidated by her once they caught up with her. We did have a long talk about prenuptial agreements though. She grinned at me and told me that she'd remind me of that in a few years.

We also talked about the house and what to do with it. Neither of us really were comfortable there right now, but at the same time, it was one of the few places that the manager of our trust would let us live without a 24 hour security contingent. There were a lot of memories there- especially for me. It was huge, it was rambling and we could get lost- plus she was there alone most of the time anyway. It was originally meant to house her family, mine, and our grandparents. That's a bit much for just the two of us.

We thought about selling it, but decided instead to keep it to use for entertaining and business and see what we could find outside the city that was a bit smaller with more land around it. I turns out that this is a very good time to buy land and houses. Of course the trust fund manager has to approve it. Somehow I don't think that will be a problem though. If what we get is easier to secure, then she'll be happier. I just want to be some place where we could build our lives from the ashes of what was left of our family.

So the academy felt like a safe place for me; plus it didn't hurt that Sawyer and Kenna were here too. Settling into the school year was actually kind of relaxing. I was having some trouble with the Russian this year, but it was coming along. I think the problem was with the alphabet. I kept wanting to use the Roman and the Russian was throwing me off. Music was when we all got a huge surprise.

We'd all heard Tracy sing last year for parents night but didn't really think much about it. Then when we were all trying to figure out what we were going to do this year for the Winter Show, he asked Ms. Deller if he could try something different. Heck, I didn't even know the school had a base guitar much less that he could play it. But he picked it up and went through it like there was no tomorrow. I mean, it sounded professional! That was when Michael came in.

After the conversation with Ms. Deller, we all headed back to the suite to talk out some of the stuff we'd been hit with. I mean come on: me in ROTC? And then of course there was the offer from the DEA to consider. The AP classes was a no brainer, anything that would help us with our chances at college would be worth it.

As we gathered in the suite, I could tell that something was bothering Michael. He was definitely agitated, and he kept glancing around. He also smelled like stale sweat, and he hadn't been in PE with us. During the usual chatter, I leaned over and asked him, "Are you okay?"

He gave me a questioning look and then nodded his head. I could hear his heart suddenly start to race and he began to sweat again. "I'll be okay."

"What did Doctor Chapel say?" I asked.

"I have to go back for more tests," he told me settling back into the large chair he seemed to like so much.

"Well, I hope you get to feeling better soon," I told him. "When one of us has a problem, we all have a problem."

"Aren't you taking this whole team thing a bit far?" he asked.

With a smile and a shrug, I told him, "Maybe. Does it bother you?"

"Just a bit of a surprise," he told me. "You don't strike me so much as a team player- especially after the way you went after Director Pagoria."

I chuckled at him saying, "That was me looking out for the team." With a grin, I added, "It's all a matter of perspective."

"So what do you guys think of the DEA's offer?" Brian asked breaking through the general noise of seven teenagers settling into a room.

I shrugged and said, "Personally, if they're going to pay us, I say we take them up on the offer. Just being able to go back into DC is a major perk for me."

"For someone who's been described as having more money that God, you seem awful hip on getting paid," Patrick said, raising an eyebrow until it came just under his right horn.

"It's less about the money than it is about keeping the government honest," I told him. "If they pay us, then there's a paper trail to prove that they kept their end of the bargain. It's one thing to produce a contract, it's another to produce a check stub."

"What about our parents?" Sawyer asked. "Mine aren't going to be that happy about me working for the government."

Kenna chuckled and said, "That's putting it mildly. We're likely going to have to peel your dad off the surface of the moon."

"Not quite that bad," Sawyer said. "He's not really happy with the whole concept of the DEA and the War on Drugs. Mind you, he's made it clear to all of us kids that if we ever do drugs he'll beat us to death with a shovel, but he doesn't want the government telling people what to do."

I laughed at the idea of Sawyer's dad threatening anybody. He seemed to be very laid back and a gentleman. "Maybe we need to emphasise the benefits of working the DEA," I said. "If we're already working with the one organization that treats us as human beings and not as walking weapons of mass destruction, then the other organizations should leave us alone. If we point that out to him, maybe we can get him to agree."

"That may work," Sawyer said. I could see the wheels turning behind his blue-grey eyes as thought for a moment. "You know, that might just work."

"I think my Mom will agree," Brian said. "She's worked with the DEA on occassion in the past and it's usually worked out well."

"I don't think our parents will have too much of a problem with it," Tracy said looking over at Patrick. "They know that we're eventually going to end up in combat again. At least his way, there's some authority behind it."

Kenna simply sat looking out the window. I wondered what was going on in that pretty little blonde head. As if sensing me thinking about her- which of course is totally possible she turned and looked at me. "Personally, I vote for all three proposals."

I raised an eyebrow at that. Kenna working for the government and willingly. That seemed wrong. "What's up?" I asked.

"You're right, Rowan. We can either fight them from outside, or we can try to affect change from within," she said. "And working FOR the government would give us some protection from outside forces." She grinned wickedly and added, "And of course the seniority it would build for us will always come in handy."

"You really want to do the ROTC thing?" Tracy asked.

She grinned and added, "Sure. Who knows, I may want to follow in Commander Erikson's footsteps and become a SEAL some day."

"Now that's a scary thought," Michael said with a smile and then asked. "Don't they have a height requirement?"

The gesture she made was not one that bore describing.

After that, we talked some more we came to the conclusion that we would do all three. The AP courses as someone else said was a no brainer. The ROTC couldn't really hurt. The DEA offer still had to be approved by our parents though- or in my case through Heather.

It didn't take us long to start breaking out the books. Kenna left about an hour later to go work with the Psi-Corps kids at the school. Brian and Sawyer had a leadership meeting with the other cadre leaders, and Tracy had checked out of the school to visit his parent's for his mother's birthday. I guess the ability to turn into pure light and fly to the moon and back in a matter of seconds had its advantages.

After Dinner and some television, I drifted into my room to settle into a good book. Since I didn't sleep much, I tended to use the wee hours of the morning for personal reading. It was one of those perfect Autumn nights in the mountains. There was a full moon peeking over the eastern ridge of Sleep Creek Mountain, and just enough of a chill to the air to make me want to snuggle under a blanket. Granted I wanted to snuggle with Kenna and Sawyer, but it was a school night and we'd worked out an agreement about school nights.

Lately, I've really been getting into a series about animator who was also a federal marshal in world with vampires, werewolves and other shapeshifters. As I slipped between the covers with just my night light on I lost myself in a world where I ended up shaking my head and chuckling to myself, "Please tell me you didn't just do that."

Suddenly a cacophony of howling cut through the cold night air. It was loud and abrupt enough to make me literally leap from under the blankets, my tail sticking straight out behind me and my ears laid back flat. Then between one heartbeat and the next, the calls of seagulls echoed off the mountains- man were they off course. It wasn't quite a case of sticking to the ceiling, but it was close.

I wasn't the only one who'd been disturbed by the sounds as I heard the others roused from their beds as the din outside continued. I was sure that students all over the school were waking. I looked around and saw that it was nearly two in the morning. This was not going to be good.

I padded out into the main lounge to find the others coming out of their rooms. I noted with a small smile that Kenna had a large knife in her hand. Suddenly I felt the air pressure in the room behind me change. Kenna screamed at me, "Rowan, Look out!" just before something slammed into my back and knocked me to the floor.

Horsenhero
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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Mon Dec 27, 2010 8:10 pm

Back with a bang! A cliffhangar ending for the episode...I love it. I haven't gotten around to reading the Transhuman War yet CB, but, I will. Meanwhile, I'm just basking in the excellence of this latest episode.

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Year 2 Issue 3

Postby cobalt-blue » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:29 pm

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Brian Alexander aka Boomer
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We all watched in horror as this huge guy crashed through Rowan’s door and slammed her to the ground. She twisted her body into an unbelievable angle, so that she landed on her back with her knees pulled up against her chest. In a flurry of motion that reminded me of my mom’s cat Static, she bunny-kicked the guy several times in the stomach and groin. I saw her legs and hands turn dark and hairy as she’d deployed her claws. This was not going to be pretty.

As the attacker’s legs and lower torso flopped several times into the air, he pulled some kind of device out of his belt and brought it around. “Oh, hell no!” Kenna said as she began to shrink and deployed her wings. She held out a tiny hand and the device flew from the attacker’s grasp to her.

Then we all piled on. Both Ghost and I charged forward and each grabbed a huge bicep and started to haul him off her. Looking down, we were surprised to see that although his belt had been neatly sliced into several pieces, and the lower half of the black and red armored bodysuit he was wearing was shredded, there was no blood, only quickly closing fish-belly white wounds. It was like fighting Fury all over again, but at least she bled when we hurt her.

The intruder spoke in a language neither of us understood and struggled mightily to break free. I heard the floor under our feet groan as Ghost increased his density. Then like a shot, Shadow Claw kipped to her feet and grabbed our prisoner around the throat with one hand and slowly lifted him off the floor. For the first time I got a good look at our attacker. He was tall with medium length curly black hair and an olive complexion. He was built like a Greek hero out of an old sands and sandals movie.

Through clenched fangs I heard Shadow Claw growl, “I don’t know who the hell you are. But this is my home, this is the only place in the world I feel safe, and you wanna come in here and attack me...,”

Whatever else she was going to say was lost in Faerie’s sudden cry of , “INCOMING! Hit the deck!”

With the exception of Rowan who stood holding our intruder by the throat, his face turning an interesting shade of red, we all hit the floor. Suddenly the outer wall of our suite exploded inward hurling pieces of stone, dry wall, and furniture in every direction. I heard a series of low thumps each followed by a high pitched “scree” and then small explosions. Something began to slam against my force field. I looked up and saw another attacker fly through the hole he'd just blasted into the outer wall of Rowan's room.

He was wearing a gold and black body suit with a matching jacket. In his hands was a gun that looked like something out of a sci-fi geek’s wet dream and he blasting away with it. Bolts of energy were exploding all over the room. There was a double set of what looked like hawk’s wings on each boot, and somehow they were keeping him aloft. Standing up, I grinned and sent another surge through the field around me and watched as the guy suddenly stopped in mid-air and stared as lightning danced in the field.

I didn’t even have to act. Faerie screamed at him, and then hit him with what can only be described as a major league mind-fry. Energy built up into a ball between her antenna and then lashed out at him striking him full in the face. His head snapped back and his body went slack and the big-ass gun he was carrying tumbled from his hands. I didn’t wait to see what else he would do. I launched myself into the air and caught him with a shoulder block dead in the gut. As his body folded over mine, we flew through the hole he’d made and into the night air.

I smiled and aimed myself at a wooded patch on the side of Sleepy Creek Mountain. As we broke the sound barrier and the sonic boom echoed off the mountains, I let go of him and pulled up. Looking back, I watched as he plowed through several trees and slammed into the moist earth at Shockey’s Knob. Turning back to the school, I could see where the rest of the team had already followed training- they’d moved the fight away from the other students and out of the building.

It looked like there were five invaders- six counting the one I just dropped off in the backwoods of West Virginia. The team had pushed them out of the building and onto the back patio area around the in-ground pool. In the distance, Speedfire was racing between the trees that made up the landscaping behind the school, leaving a trail of flame behind him. In the glow of the trail, I could see he was chasing another speedster- this one female. She was dressed in a red armored body suit, with a yellow apple on the left breast and it looked like she was struggling to stay ahead of our resident speedster. In her hand was another device much like the one that the guy I just dropped had tried to use on Rowan.

Ace was wrestling with some guy in a black and red costume. The big guy was good too. Only Ace’s sheer strength and the close combat training we were getting from Commander Erikson was keeping him from being subdued. Looking closely at his belt, I could see a similar device to the one the speedster was carrying hanging from it.

Suddenly, Ace started to go down. I don’t know exactly what had had happened. He could have slipped, or even trip, but he began to crumple to the ground like an old garment. I veered in that direction to lend a hand just as his attacker reached for his belt and knelt over him. Then Ace’s foot lashed out at the guy’s knee and just a second later, I heard an audible snap of bone. Quicker than I could believe, Ace was on his feet and slamming an impressive series of reverse punches into the guy’s upper torso and head. Every time the guy raised an arm to block, Ace’s opposite fist would slam into him. He was being driven back toward the fence surrounding the pool.

Off to the side, Shadow Claw was fighting the guy who’d come through her wall. Her attacker was in a full on berserker battle rage, lunging at Rowan’s smaller form. His face was flushed red and there was a killing madness in his eyes. He ducked his head and charged Shadow Claw, grabbing her around the waist and slamming her up against the side of the tower where our suite was. I think Rowan was surprised sheer ferocity of the attack and the madness in his eyes.

Looking dead into the eyes of madness, she grinned her contempt and demonstrated a fraction of the strength she’d used to deck Fury. With a deliberate ease, she pried his massive arms away from her body and pushed him backwards. Then she kicked him hard in the stomach with so much force that he was blown straight backward and into a large oak standing at the opposite edge of the wide lawn. The big tree groaned and cracked as its roots were pulled from the ground by the power of that kick. Something had really pissed Shadow Claw off.

I dropped to where I was hovering over the battle field and studied the situation. Something was wrong here. The attack didn’t make sense. These guys obviously weren't’ part of the Medio. They didn't fit the physical characteristics of what we knew of that gang, and they seemed to be after something other than just to hurt us- all except the one that was fighting Shadow Claw that is. I wondered if they were with the same organization that attacked us at the mall last year. The high tech gear they were carrying tended to suggest that. I looked around for Faerie to get some idea what was going on.

I finally found her darting between the stone archways supporting the balcony jutting off the second floor. Her tiny wings were almost a blur as she buzzed around the head of a guy who looked like he might be trying out for the part of Liono in a live-action Thundercat’s movie. Basically, he was what you’d get if you took Rowan’s feral qualities up a couple of three notches. His body was covered with a light tawny fur, and he had a tail that looked a lot like Rowan’s. But his face was more of a lion’s muzzle, and he had thick black head of hair. He was also doing his damnedest to catch faerie as she darted between the stone support columns of the deck above them.

Kenna Draupnir aka Faerie
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There had been something eerie about the call of the wolves and gulls outside. It was almost as if they had been trying to warn us that there was danger out there. If they hadn’t awakened us, we’d have been in world of hurt. As it was, when the first guy came crashing through the wall, we’d all still been wiping the sleep from our eyes.

When Rowan went down under the first attacker and he whipped out that device, I had no idea what it was, but I wasn’t about to let him use it on her. A quick telekinetic grab and before he could react it was in my hand. That was when Rowan went all claw storm on him and Brian and Sawyer hauled him up off her.

I was about ready to scan him to find out what this was about when the new guy blasted a hole through the outer wall. One could be a prowler- yea right wearing a bodysuit- but two were definitely a team. As he started shooting the place up, I let him have it with one of my handy-dandy psi-bolts guaranteed to stun a bull elephant. Mr. Wings-On-His-Feet suddenly became very tractable and he dropped his gun.

I was just starting to penetrate his rather sluggish mind when Boomer hit him hard and the two disappeared out of the hole. With a feral growl, Rowan tossed the guy she was holding by the throat through the hole in her back wall and leapt after him.

“Let’s take this outside where we’ve got room to maneuver and can limit the property damage,” Sawyer said.

“Who put him in charge?” Mikey asked.

“Boomer’s busy, that makes him the man to follow,” Patrick said his tail flicking behind him in agitation. “Get with the program man.” In a flash the redhead was racing out the window and down the side of the building. I could just see the last flickers of flame starting to form around him. Not wanting to be left out, I followed him with Mikey right behind me. I could sense the turmoil in his mind. Something was bothering him, and not even he was sure what it was.

The night was clear and the moon was peeking over the back of the school. Down on the ground, I could see four more intruders closing with the school. Behind me I could feel the other students suddenly becoming concerned at the explosions. *Kenna! What’s happening?* Amelia Norguard from Cadre 4 asked telepathically.

*Codenames Trance!* I sent back to her. *The schools under attack. Tell Icestorm and get the younger kids out of the building. These guys look like they can do some damage, and we don’t want the first years to get hurt.*

*Got it! Is there anything else we can do afterward* she asked.

*Yeah, wake Naja and Tower,* I told her. * I’m sure we can use someone with a strong psychic assault gift, and some durability.*

*On it now,* she told me and I could sense her mind going to work. Her telepathic gift wasn’t that strong, but it was good enough to at least wake people up, and since she was a projective empath of considerable power, she could also keep them calm.

As I floated to the ground below me I got a closer look at the guys closing with us. One was obviously a speedster. “Speedfire, deal with the Flash wannabe!” Ghost yelled as he closed with a huge dog loping across the field toward us. I had to take a second look to realize that it had three heads. “I’ll take down Fluffy!”

“Ghost, that things big enough to bite you in half!” Ace said.

“You just keep that guy in black and red off my back,” he yelled. “They seem to to have specific targets in mind. Let’s not give them the fight they want!”

“Got it, Ghost!” Ace said slipping into his training.

I looked around and saw a feral that looked like a were-lion closing with Rowan. I sent a probe in his direction and was surprised by what I found. This was the second fight in a row with ETs! “Hey you reject from the Wizard of Oz!” I yelled and streaked toward him.

He ignored me and charged to where our first attacker had just slammed Shadow Claw into the stone wall. I flashed in and hit him with a telekinetic bolt to the face. He skidded to a stop and and shook his head to clear the stars he had to be seeing. That was when I hit him with a psychic bolt. Unfortunately, he shrugged it off, roared and turned to chase me. I have to admit that the effect of that roar hit me somewhere deep in my abdomen. I had no doubts what-so-ever that big cats could stun their prey with a roar.

I made a bee-line for the series of stone arches that supported the balcony on the the second floor suites. Weaving in and out of them, I felt his claws getting uncomfortably close as he gained on me. Damn this guy was fast! One of them clipped the bottom of my foot and in a flash of pain I felt it open a long gash running from the ball of my foot to the heel. I veered hard to the side as the force of the blow sent me spinning. Barely missing one of the columns, I turned to face him.

He stopped for a second. I could read the turmoil in his mind. I wasn’t reacting like I should, and that made him wary. I caught glimpses of his thoughts, and even though I knew he was an alien- from somewhere called Nemi- I was able to understand his language quite easily. It was so similar to Greek that if I didn’t know from his own mind that he was an ET, I would have thought he was from some isolated little village somewhere in the Balkans.

I guess we were both surprised by the situation because for a second or two we both sort of sat there looking at each other curiously. Finally, he leapt at me and that jarred me back to reality. I dodged to the side, and flitted back around so I was facing him as came out of the leap and turned to look for me. He seemed to shrug off my psychic bolts, so I hit with another TK blast, this one considerably stronger. It literally knocked his head backwards and slung him off his feet.

Glad that this fight wasn’t being recorded, so I wouldn’t have to explain my lapse to Commander Erikson, I lifted cat-guy off the ground and shook him hard enough to rattle the bones in his body. He struggled against the slightly glowing force that was vibrating him like a paint can, and reached for the gun at his hip. I telekinetically yanked it from his hand and tossed it across the lawn into the pool. With my mind I looked for that glowing spark of energy that was his life force and found it buried deep in his body.

He screamed once as I began to draw the energy from him to me. I was going to have a nasty scar on my foot as it was, so he should at least pay for the healing. Once again, I felt the power fill my soul and began to understand a bit about the Lore and how certain kinds of wizards had been feared greatly for their ability to take the luck, and megin from a man’s body. This could become addictive if I wasn’t careful. It was a great river energy and power flowing into me, filling me with life, and with joy. It was life, it was healing, and it was power! It sang to my soul like lover’s gentle caress, and I found myself becoming aroused. When that hit me, I suddenly became aware of what was happening. I struggled up through the joy and power and forced myself to return to the world around me.

The alien was hanging limp in mid air, groaning slightly. With a sense of shame at what I’d almost allowed to happen, how I’d almost lost control and killed him, I released my will and let him crumple to the soft grass below us. Shaking my head, I turned back to the fight to find out if any of my teammates needed help as the power I’d just absorbed thrummed through my nerves like an over taught musical string.

Ghost looked like he was playing tag with that huge three headed dog. The two were stalking each other in a circle around the pool inside the low wrought iron fence. I could see where Sawyer had a nasty bite wound on his right shoulder that looked like it may have gone clean through. His right arm was hanging loosely at his side and there was blood soaking his Auburn University tee shirt. The dog itself was not much better though. The left head was dragging between the front legs of it’s broad chest completely unconscious if not dead. Sawyer can be vicious at times.

Ghost headed toward the pool, and seemed to deliberately turn his back on the huge snarling beast and began to walk toward the edge of the pool. The lights from the underwater illumination was giving both him and the dog an eerie glow. I briefly wondered who’d turned on the pool lights. The dog leapt at him, and I watched Sawyer rise into the air as the dog passe through him and with a huge splash worthy of the best “cannonball” hit the water.

As it passed through him, Ghost gave the the stubby tail a hard slap, and I suddenly understood what he was doing. He’d increased the dog’s density. He didn’t have to touch something to change its density, but the slap was his way of adding insult to injury. The great beast tried to swim in the deep end of the pool, but instead sank like a rock struggling and flailing against the tiles at the bottom.

Ghost looked down at the drowning beast and said, “Uga, you ain’t.” The return of his southern accent told me that he was either angry or in pain. Judging by his shoulder, I’d say it was a little bit of both.



Patrick Mattison aka Speedfire
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As I came down the wall, I knew that the woman closing fast with me was exactly what Ghost suspected; someone who was chosen to deal with me. Well, I decided to just see how fast she really was. For the first time since I got to Wyndgate, I was sleeping soundly and then I got yanked out of a wonderful dream about …, well never mind who it was about. Let’s just say it was pleasant, and it was intense. The interruption was not appreciated.

As I reached the ground, I looked around to see who all was engaged with whom. The speedster looked like she could cause the others a lot of grief, so I moved to counter her. She was expecting it too. She wasn’t moving anywhere nearly as fast as I could, but at the same time the back lawn, although big was no where big enough for either of us to get up a good head of steam. I was hoping I had an advantage though from all those tight turn drills that Ghost and Commander Erikson had been making me practice.

As I started to close with her, she shouted something to the big three headed dog and made a bee line for Ghost. I changed course to intercept her, my bare feet kicking up chunks of the late fall sod. “ Ghost! Look out!” I yelled. “She’s on your six!”

The small blond turned around just in time for her to accelerate toward him and then let go of something just before she swerved around him in a tight turn of her own. I heard the boom of her breaking the sound barrier. Whatever was in her hand, blew right through his shoulder and knocked him down. I felt a cold explosion in my gut when he didn’t get up. He was such a calm steadying force on the team, that I didn’t know what we would do without him.

“That’s it sister,” I said under my breath. “You just took it up a notch.”. I accelerated toward her as I ignited the air around me. “You wanna’ play with fire? Get ready to get burned.”

She barely dodged the first flame jet I shot at her. The second one she outran and the chase was on as she streaked toward the outer edge of the large lawn. As I closed with her I noted she pulled something else from her belt when she turned to head back toward the school. I poured on the speed, and felt a slight rush through my body as I went from supersonic to hypersonic. To be honest, I’d never gone this fast in my life, but I wasn’t about to let her finish off Ghost. I generated a fireball in my hand and dropped in on her chest as I passed her.

It’s a good thing my reactions are what they are, or I’d never been able to stay on the battlefield at this speed. As it was, I made several laps of the whole school before I slowed to supersonic and then subsonic. In reality, I probably spent more time slowing than I did accelerating. But at supersonic speeds, the plasma ball in my hands wouldn’t have had nearly the desired effect.

When I slowed into the back lawn again, I found her picking herself up off the ground, her face a bloody burnt mess. The armor she was wearing was cracked and melted. As I skidded to a halt near her, something flashed out of the sky above me and grabbed her by the ponytail and took off. I recognized Trance from Cadre 4. “Looks like Icestorm’s team has decided to come out and play,” I said to myself.

“You got that right Speedfire,” the bat winged girl winked down at me. I couldn’t help notice that she filled out those pink shorts rather nicely. Okay, I’ll admit it, the tail was attractive too, and I don’t mean the three and half foot one that matched my own. Damn, my mind was in the gutter tonight. I blame the dream.

I watched as she rose high in the air with the woman holding the long black braided ponytail with one hand as her wings beat against moon-filled sky. From what I could see from here, the woman become enraptured as she stared up at Trance’s face. To be honest, I sometimes wondered if she really needed that particular power. She was after all attractive enough without it. “Damn it Pat, keep your mind on business”, I silently warned myself as I turned back toward the school in time to see Sawyer take out Fluffy for good.


Amy Norguard aka Trance
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No more attacks, no more deaths, and no more hostages. I lost my dad and my brother six years ago, and I’m not going to lose anyone else to an attack on my home. I took care of what Kenna told me to. I roused all the other cadres in our tower. It wasn’t like there was anyone still asleep with all that squawking and howling going on out there. By the time I’d awakened everyone, and assigned Vogue to make sure that Cadres Six and Seven had headed toward the basement, I had heard at least three explosions that I was sure were sonic booms.

Lauren wasn’t about to let this attack go unanswered by Cadre 4 so as soon as we made sure the littles were out of the way, we all headed out to see what kind of trouble her boyfriend was getting into. What I saw when I came through my window and out over the field shocked me. First of all, Ghost’s shirt was soaked in blood, Shadow Claw was half naked and kicking some guy through a tree, and Speedfire had just dropped a fireball on some bimbo who thought she was faster than he was. Boomer was hovering over the battlefield taking stock of the situation and Lauren and the rest of my team were coming through the back doors next to the chapel- I still wondered who’s bad idea it was to put a chapel next to the swimming pool. I could hear the other cadres rousing themselves to action as well. None of us were going to sit by and let Cadre 5 grab all the glory this time.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been crushing on Speedfire since I saw him save those bicyclers in DC on television. He has a cute... uh... tail. Hell let’s face it, he’s handsome but has almost as many feral qualities as I do. It’s not like either of us have much of a chance with normal baselines as it is- that is without using my powers. So when I saw him streak out of the fight, obviously trying to slow down- damn I still don’t believe he can move that fast- I decided to lend a hand.

As he came skidding to a stop near the bi... uh... witch who was picking herself up, I swooped in. One quick snatch and I had her by that long ponytail and was pulling her into the sky leaving both my favorite sexy redhead and my pre... uh... target surprised. That’s how I like ‘em; nice and surprised and off balance. And I’ll admit it, I turned on more than just a bit of the sexy with my empathic projection powers. It keeps the bad guys and the boys off balance.

While Speedfire stood there watching me leave with his running partner, I flew out to the tree Shadow Claw had just taken out and slammed her into the guy who was trying to pull himself out of the twisted mass of limbs. I think I heard something snap when she hit it. I took the opportunity to deal with the speedster I had in my hands.

It wasn't pretty, and to be honest, it was just a little on the catty side. I'm far stronger than the average human. I'm nowhere near the same class as Shadow Claw but I can lift several tons. I used both hands to hold onto my captive's pony tail and began to twirl her like a bolo. When I was sure I had built up enough momentum, and felt the pony tail begin to stretch under the strain, I let go and sent her slamming into the guy, Shadow Claw had kicked through the tree. They made a couple of nice indentations in the soft West Virginia soil.

“Crap on a cracker!” I borrowed Boomer’s favorite expression as I saw some guy with wings on his feet suddenly swoop over the top of the building. He spotted where Naja had just come out onto the second floor balcony. Why the hell she wasn’t with the rest of Cadre 7 I didn’t know. He swooped down and grabbed her by the head and lifted her into the air making her rose colored robe billow in the night air. Depending where they were standing, anybody looking up from the ground got a sneak peak.

I closed with them from the across the lawn, Boomer was approaching from the West, and Sound Wave from my own cadre was coming at them from the East. The building had them blocked from the South. I knew that if he tried to take take off over the top of the building that Boomer would catch him before he got a hundred feet.

Nurene looked like she was still sleepy and confused. Then I remembered that she was somewhat cold blooded, so the chilly night air probably was slowing her down. No wonder she had wandered into the fight without realizing it. She looked down. I saw her pupils go wide as she sniffed the night air.

All of us braked in mid air as her mouth and neck suddenly deformed, she calmly leaned her head over and bit her attacker in the hand. He suddenly looked very surprised as the wings on his feet began to fiercely beat at the air. His hand began to swell almost immediately and he yanked it away. She began to fall, her short bright green hair billowing up behind her.

For someone falling from thirty feet she seemed to be very calm as her robe rose up around her waist. Okay, I’ll admit it. I froze for a second. Yes, Nurene was a fellow student- both at Wyndgate and the academy in Colorado, but I still didn’t want to get bitten. Evidently neither did Sound Wave because he just hovered there too.

Boomer however flashed in and grabbed her by one of her scaled hands. I heard him say, “Remember Naja, we don’t bite friends.” Then trusting her to control herself, he looked to me and Sound Wave and said, “You two! Bring him down! I want some answers!”

Naja nodded and then blushed deeply. I could tell that she was a bit embarrassed by what she’d just done. Normally, she’s quite shy and one of the easiest going people you’ll ever meet. I’ve never known her to bite anyone. When startled she’ll occasionally lash out with her psychic assault power, but never physically. I guess the cold was affecting her. As for me and Sound Wave, we started after the guy with wings on his boots.

It really wasn’t much of a chase though. Naja’s venom was fast acting. His whole arm was swollen now, and I could see he was sweating. Sound Wave hit him once with a sonic blast and down he went. By the time he hit the ground to join the carcass of the three headed dog in the pool, the rest of the upper level Cadres had him and some other guy in a black and red costume surrounded. It looked like the whole school was taking this attack rather seriously and they all looked like they meant business.

Boomer stepped forward and said, “Okay, we want some answers.”

Mr. Wings said something in a language I didn’t recognize, and evidently neither did most of the rest of us. Little Faerie however stepped and said something again. His eyes suddenly became huge as he tapped his belt buckle.

One second he and the rest of his team was there, the next they were gone. It looked like something out of Star Trek. Suddenly they were gone in a flurry of light and a high-pitched whine. They took the carcass with them, leaving only a few yucky dog hairs to float to the top of the swirling water of the pool. It was about this time that Doctor Blair showed up to find out what was going on.



(A mountain on a far off world)



“Frankly Thena, I expected better of you than this,” Father said as I we went over the now failed mission to Earth. “Exactly what went wrong?”

“It was supposed to be a simple mission. Slip in grab some tissue samples and slip back out. But something must have sensed out presence. All of a sudden every wolf, dog, and fox in the area began howling. Then a flock of seagulls appeared out of nowhere and started making just about as much noise. I sent the recall signal but evidently Killes didn’t get it. He went in and attacked the cat-girl. The rest of the team went in to back him up, but with the exception of Lanta they didn’t engage the targets for which they’d trained,” I told him.

Before he could reply my brother entered the room with a rather smug smile on his face. “I see you’re back from Earth, Sister dear. I won’t ask how it went. It’s all over the intel-services. You know you made a royal mess of things?”

“And you think you could have done better?” I asked.

He smiled coldly and I realized I’d stepped into a trap. Reaching into his red uniform tunic he pulled out a data wand and lay it on the table in front of father. “I did,” he said. “On that wand you’ll, find everything you’re looking for.”

“How?” I asked in confusion.

“You did what you and Father always accuse me of doing. You went in blasters ablazin’ and paid no attention to the real objective,” he smirked. “And people call you the wise one,” he added dismissively. “These humans aren’t stupid. They have computers and they have a primitive gene sequencer on the premises. Whilst you were getting several of our top operatives nearly killed, my factor slipped into their on-site medical facility and scanned the stored genetic samples. We got information on every student on the premises plus the Headmaster and a member of Neoforce One.”

“Who did you send in?” I asked not believing that I’d been outsmarted by my older brother. His words cut me to the core, because I knew he was right.

“That’s not your concern. I may want to use her again, and I’d rather not have your agents following her,” he said.

“What went wrong, Ari?” Father asked studying the data wand as if to read it by will alone.

“You picked a fine crew to engage this group- if you wanted to fight them. But you forgot a few basic rules of war. Never attack an enemy at their home unless you’re ready to completely destroy them. Thena got so caught up in making sure that the team could handle a possible fight with this Cadre 5, that she lost sight of the mission objective: to gain intelligence. She also underestimated the tactical skill of the opponents second in command.”

“No human can match my tactical skill!” I protested.

Ari simply raised an eyebrow and said, “Oh but one did, Thena. I watched the mission recording. The one called Ghost knew exactly what you were doing and moved to counter it. He literally called it to his team, “Let’s not give them the fight they want...”.” Crossing his arms he added, “And that’s exactly what they did. Their elementalist took out the one you sent to deal with Faerie. Of course he recovered and tried to re-engage the enemy only to be envenomated by a minor threat. I understand that he’ll probably lose the arm. Have you decided on whether or not regrow it or to replace it with a bionic one?”

“He’s going to discuss that with his wife,” I told him.

“He’ll decide on a new kitchen,” Ari said.

“What?” I asked in confusion.

“It’s a joke,” Ari said. “A human joke. I didn’t expect you to get it.”

“Back to the subject at hand, Ari,” Father said.

“The Nemian was supposed to engage the cat-girl, but their shrinker took him out first. Killes took on the cat-girl instead and got his ass kicked. He lost his temper again, and started just attacking the first person who had hurt him. It’s really time to retire him. He hasn’t been the same since he took that bad hit in the Second Earthwar.”

“We’ll consider it. He’s still a loyal subject,” I told him. “Besides, I always thought you liked having him in the battle?”

“On the other side, Sister dear. On the other side. He has a useful gift for battle, but he just doesn’t have the temperament for leadership. He causes as much damage to his own forces as he does the enemy. He’s good for creating the fog of war, but I’ll spot Killes to anybody with whom I’m fighting,” Ari said.

I nodded. Ari wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said myself, but it still galled me to have to admit it. Changing the subject I asked, “What does the data say?”

“The Fyroar have discovered a way generate primals without having to introduce the primal genes that cause so many sports and monsters. More importantly, they’ve managed to target it to only humans who carry their genetic markers. I’d say that if this continues on this path, in ten or twenty generations, a very small percentage of humans will become primals themselves. More impressively is that they’ve managed to abide by the treaty and not reintroduce the talent prime.”

“How?” I asked.

“I don’t know. That’s the job of our research scientists. But we have a much bigger problem now.”

“What?” Father asked.

“Thena’s ship was detected crossing the realities by the Ennead. They’ve sent a ship to investigate. And you know wherever the Ennead go, the Ahau are sure to follow. They’re likely to drop a broad spectrum mutagen on the planet just out of mischief,” Ari told us. “This situation has become serious. So far nobody has really broken the treaty, but the if the Ahau get involved the treaty could go down the latrine- especially if they do something that reintroduces the talent prime.”

“This is serious,” Father said. “I want both of you to go to Earth. Ari, you’re in charge. Thena, you deal with the other Powers if they show up. Whatever you do, don’t let this turn into a shooting war. We can ill afford to deal with the Ashera’s Consort at this time.” He paused for a moment and I could almost see the lightning dance around his eyes. “And find out how the Fyroar did it, and if we can replicate it.”

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Y2I4: Interrogations!

Postby cobalt-blue » Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:59 am

Author's Note: I"m sorry for the delay. The move back to the States and then getting the apartment ready while looking for a job has taken a toll on my time. I appreciate everyone's patience:

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Special Agent Lorelei Gallard Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Analysis Unit:

I was not happy with this mission when it was assigned, and now I'm really not happy with it. Our job is to catch criminals, not profile children. Agent Randolph, my second, tried to explain to the Deputy Director that children's personalities still weren't formed enough to profile anyway, but she wouldn't listen. I could tell politics were getting involved and that was never good for the Bureau. We were assigned to come here to Wyndgate Academy and interview Cadre: 5 to build a profile for the government over our objections.

My first impression of them is a family under siege; which might not have been too far off the mark. One of the buildings was damaged from what looked like some kind of automatic weapons fire and explosions. It turned out to be the section where their rooms were located. It was obvious that some of them were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

They were distrustful of strangers and suspicious of our reasons for being there. The latter is something for which I can't blame them. I was suspicious of our reasons for being there as well. The Deputy Director of the FBI had told me that there were people in the government who were concerned that this group of neos who were powerful enough to have brought down Fury, had been alienated by the current administration and they wanted us to figure out how to undo the damage. But I was told not to share that information with the rest of my team.

Again, I reiterate. I and my team catch serial killers and other bad guys. We don't do psy-ops on children. That is why attached the end of this report is my letter of protest.

Arriving at the school, Agents Dallas and Fox and I met with he school’s headmaster, Doctor Duncan Blair and the school's physician, Doctor Grace Lee Chapel for a preliminary discussion of what we would be doing. He was not happy about our being there. She was fit to be tied.

The files the Bureau had on both him and Doctor Chapel were sealed under Presidential Orders from two administrations back. I suspect that we could get the present administration to unseal them, but I'm not sure I wanted to go down that route. There was something about Doctor Blair that told me he was someone on whose bad side I didn't want to find myself. There was a calm sense of self control about him that actually had me a little worried.

Doctor Chapel on the other hand was a different story. Like I said, she was fit to be tied, and I could see the fiery anger behind her light eyes. As she stood there, her hands on her hips and an expression of fury on her face, Doctor Blair reached out and put a steadying hand on her arm.

“Exactly what do you want Agent Gallard?” he asked.

“We're here to do a behavioral profile on your Cadre: 5 team,” I told him.

“Ms. Gallard,” the man's voice dropped an octave. “Cadre: 5 has been through hell and back. They've been attacked in public, in their homes, and now at the school. They don't need this. All it does is reinforce their distrust of the government.”

“I understand that, Doctor Blair,” I told him. “Trust me, we don't want to be here any more than you want us here.”

“Exactly what are your orders?” Doctor Chapel demanded.

“To interview your entire team and build a team profile of them,” Agent Fox told her.

I watched as Doctor Chapel's eyes narrowed at the field agent. I knew that the Bureau had broken procedure and sent two agents that had had contact with at least one member of Cadre: 5 in the past. “Last time you interviewed her,” she made little quotation marks in the air with her fingers, “I believe Ms. Draupnir managed to give you a vocabulary lesson, Agent Fox. Are you sure you want to take that kind of abuse again?”

Agent Fox, winced at some memory and then got her expression under control. “I won't be doing the interviewing, Doctor Chapel,” the tall dark haired woman said. “Agent Dallas and I were asked to come along because we have had non-threatening experience with Ms. Draupnir.”

“Meaning she at least answered your questions,” Chapel said. “This is a bad idea. You people just don't seem to get it. The more you push these kids, the farther away they will get from you.”

“That's why we're here, Doctor Chapel,” I told her. “We're here trying to find out how to fix the problems the administration has created with your team.”

“Leave them alone,” the Doctor said, her tone making it unclear if it was an order or a suggestion as to how to solve the problem.

“I beg your pardon?” I said.

“You want to fix the situation?” she said. “Leave them the hell alone.

“I wish I could do that but I have my orders, Doctor Chapel. Trust me, I don't like them any more than you do. My job is to catch serial killers and other bad guys, not profile children whose personalities are not yet even fully developed,” I replied. “But I have them. I would like to carry them out without causing any more distress than necessary.”

“Yeah, right,” Doctor Chapel said.

Realizing what was happening I smiled over at Doctor Blair and asked, “Is this the point where I appeal to you for help, Headmaster?”

“I'm not sure what you mean, Agent Gallard,” he replied.

“The whole good cop bad cop thing you've got going with your school doctor. She attacks and you come across as reasonable. It's a concept with which I'm very familiar,” I told him.

He smiled darkly at me and said, “There you are mistaken, Agent Gallard. When it comes to my students, I'm far from reasonable. Under what authority are you interviewing my students? Do you have permission from their parents?”

I held up the mandate signed by both my boss and the acting director of the Department of Neohuman Affairs. “I don't need either, Doctor Blair.”

He nodded and said, “I will of course have to inform their parents,” Blair told me coldly.

I simply nodded. I understood his reticence and anger. I even respected it. I just couldn't do anything about it. We were both bound by the law. “Thank you, Doctor Blair.”

“Don't thank me, Ms. Gallard,” he told me coldly. “However, I will not be responsible for the consequences of what you are about to do.”

“Are you threatening federal agents, Mr. Blair?” Agent Fox asked a little too eagerly for my taste.

He smiled over at her. It was a cold smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. “No, Agent Fox I'm not. I am telling you however that this will probably blow up in your face.”

“Somehow I'm not too concerned about that,” Fox said.

“Famous last words,” Agent Dallas replied. Then turning back to Blair, he added, “I'm sorry for all the fuss and bad feelings Doctor Blair. Trust me, I'd rather be somewhere else, anywhere else, but this is what the agency has told us to do. I would appreciate it if you could help us do it in a way to be the least disruption to your schedule and your students as possible.” I briefly wondered if Dallas was qualified to transfer to the BAU.

Blair sighed and asked, “Very well. How do you want to proceed?”

We want to start with individual interviews first,” I told him. All we want to do is sit down and have a conversation with each of them.”

Blair nodded and said, “Okay, I'll arrange for you to start with Boomer.”

“Uh, we'd rather start with Ms. Draupnir,” Fox interjected.

“Sorry, but you'll probably get her last. You did say that you wanted to disrupt our school as little as possible. Faerie has other duties and is engaged in something that can't be interrupted,” Doctor Chapel said.

“The nature of which is?” Fox asked.

“Not our concern,” I told the woman. I don't know why Fox was pushing hard against the school, but I was beginning to regret her involvement in this assignment. Dallas at least could be non-confrontational, but Fox was going out her way to pick a fight. “Boomer will be fine,” I said.

~*~
Duncan Blair formerly known as RETCON:


The past two weeks have been nearly impossible. The attack on the school had hit us all pretty hard. We’d always thought of the school as sort of a safe haven. The fact that a team of what Kenna describes as Extraterrestrials- information that has not been allowed outside Cadres 4 and 5- invaded the school in the middle of the night, shot up and blew out the wall of Cadre 5’s suite, and required most of the upper grades to defeat them, left everybody shaken.

Different people deal with being shaken in different ways. A visit from Lauren Rathbourne of Cadre 4 really underscored that for me. It was a couple of days after the attack, and we’d decided that due to the structural damage to their suite that we’d move Cadre 5 into a separate building. This would also allow us to give them a little more freedom when working with the DEA and the government. We’d never intended to for any of our teams to go active before graduation, but this was about the best we could get. I was getting not-so-veiled threats that if we didn’t start cooperating that some of the students could be drafted under the Neohuman Control Act passed in 2006 over a presidential veto. Some people were starting to play for keeps. There was even talk of the President using executive orders to bypass Congress, a threat that was going to come back and haunt us later.

I was considering how to deal with the parents. I knew that McAllister’s parents were NOT happy and neither were Grey’s; but for different reasons. They were on the opposite sides of the political spectrum but neither wanted to see their children putting themselves in harms way before they finished high school. Explaining that the team was now not only participating in the Naval ROTC program but were also working as federal agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency was proving to be difficult. The Greys were trying to look at it from the perspective of their son having a Naval career. I was approaching the McAllisters from the position that it would open up more social and career contacts for Michael. Neither family were buying it one hundred percent, but understood that this was about the best we could get. Otherwise their kids would be drafted.

A buzz on my intercom brought me out of considering the dilemma and Stiles’ voice followed asking, “Doctor Blair, Ms. Rathbourne is here to see you. Do you have a moment?”

I smiled. In three years at the school, Lauren Rathbourne had not been in my office a single time. This was a bit of a surprise. I told Stiles, “Send her in.”

Lauren is an attractive raven-haired cryokinetic with the girl next door kind of looks. She also had only been a mediocre student up until recently when her grades suddenly and dramatically improved. Her cadre’s lead teacher, Andrea Thomas had reported a significant shift in attitude. As she strode into my office I couldn’t help but notice that she was purposefully projecting an aura of command.

“What can I do for you, Ms. Rathbourne?” I asked with a smile.

She swallowed and said, “I’ve spoken with several members of my Cadre and we’ve come to a decision.”

“What decision?” I asked clasping my hands on the desk.

“We want to go active,” she said stepping back almost at attention. This latter I expected was Tom Erikson’s influence. “We want to go active like Cadre 5,” she said simply.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked.

“Cadre 5 has gone active. Myself, Trance, Tower, and Sound Wave have discussed it. We want to do the same thing,” she said.

“Cadre 5 was forced to go active,” I told her. “Their identities were released to the general public by the government.”

“Ace, Speedfire, and Lightwing’s identities didn’t get released,” she countered.

“No, they chose to release their own identities in support of Shadow Claw,” I told her. What I didn’t tell her was that I was very proud of all three of them for that.

“Is that what we need to do?” she asked.

I shook my head hoping to head off any misunderstandings. “What about Red Sky and Pocket?” I asked. “What do they want to do?”

She blushed and said, “They don’t want to go active. They’re both class fours, but the rest of us are class nines and tens. They want to transfer to a less combat oriented cadre.”

“We don’t break up cadres without good reasons, Ice Storm,” I told her.

“I know sir. But both of them have plans to apply for waivers from the DNA because their powers aren’t very combat oriented,” she told me. “They would be of little use to a Neoforce team.”

I nodded. I knew about the requests for waivers and that they would be approved almost as a matter of course. The ability to change the ambient light in an area or to create small cavities in your body weren’t exactly useful on the battlefield. “So you want to break up your team and send Red Sky and Pocket on their way?” I asked.

“No, they want to leave the team, and I agree with their reasons,” she said. “As our training becomes more and more intense they are feeling left out. They came to me suggesting that we do this.”

“What do your parents think of this idea? Have you talked to them about it?” I asked.

“I’ve talked with my father. He agrees. Sound Wave got his mother to approve. Trance and Tower are both in Psi Corps so they have far more leeway,” she told me. “I can get it for you in writing if you want.”

“Why, Ice Storm?” I asked.

“Because somebody needs to make a difference. Cadre 5 has already started. I want to help..., we want to help,” she said.

“That would put you in a great deal of danger, Lauren,” I told her. “I’m not sure you really understand that. Think about Glitch. Her mother paid the ultimate price for what the government did. Ghost’s ten year old sister was forced to kill someone to save their father. I’ll take what you’ve asked of me in consideration if you and the others will go back and discuss those issues with Ms. Thomas, and I mean seriously discuss it. Your actions here can and probably will have an impact on the people you care about and who care about you.”

“You’ll seriously consider it?” she asked as if she was surprised by my being reasonable

“Of course I’ll consider it,” I told her. “Things are changing and the world is becoming much more dangerous. You’ve gotten a taste of that lately. I would be a fool not to consider what you ask of me.”

“We’ll discuss it sir,” she said simply.

“Good,” I replied. “Now I believe you have a project on an Egyptian Queen due this Friday.”

“Yes sir,” she said leaving my office.

After that it all went down hill. I got the news that the FBI wanted to do a profile on Cadre 5 later that afternoon.

~*~
Kenna Draupnir aka FAERIE


I think the fact that the whole school turned out to deal with the attack on Cadre 5 surprised several people. I know it surprised a lot of us. Trance, Sound Wave and even Naja all did extremely well.

Unfortunately, the damage to our suite was almost total. That blast in Rowan’s room took out several load bearing walls and left the whole suite unsuitable for living. It took us a week to get settled into a new building. We all knew that the school was expanding, but not to the extent that we discovered.

We were moved into a building that we shared with about half of Cadre 4. Turns out that Brian’s girlfriend was growing set of claws of her own. She and part of her Cadre went to Blair and demanded to become an active team too. Can’t say she’s all that bright, but she’s got spunk.

As for us, we had a few other problems to deal with. The first was that we had to put off Michael’s scan with Professor Moffett until around the same time the Feds showed up. The second was that Sawyer was taking the attack on the school very hard. I didn’t have to be a telepath to know it was bringing home what happened to his sister in Alabama- what happened to all of our families.

Still knowing about it, even understanding it, didn’t make it any easier for him or for us to deal with. He was like a badger with a sore paw; short tempered, and irritable. Most of us were giving him something of a wide berth for a while- to give him a chance to process what was happening. There was nothing to tie this attack to the government, but he still blamed them- and really with good reason. These ETs may have heard about us from the government for all we know. If we’d been allowed to just carry on with our secret IDs after that attack in Kentucky, then all of this may not have happened. Personally, I don’t think that’s the case. I think all of these attacks are somehow tied together. I don’t know how yet, but something in my gut tells me that’s the truth.

Then the government went and sent in an FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit to profile us. I figured out what was happening the first day. We were settling into our new quarters- which by the way were much larger than our old suite, even though they weren’t completely finished yet- when I detected an unknown telepath on the school grounds.

*Hello,* I sent a polite probe to the tightly shielded mind.

*Hello,* came the reply black- a definite male mind voice. I could also sense something else behind it- a recent loss, and a powerful sadness.

*Please don’t take this inquiry wrong, but who are you and what are you doing on campus?* I asked.

I immediately received, *I'm Corpsman Kevin Grant, I’m here with the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit.*

*Why is the FBI profiling someone at Wyndgate?* I asked.

*Who’s asking the question?* he sent back.

I mentally frowned and corrected my initial rudeness. I told him, *I’m Corpsman Draupnir, a member of Cadre 5.*

*Corpsman, not cadet?* he asked with a hint of irony coloring his thoughts.

*Corpsman,* I reiterated. *Is that a problem?*

*Not at all,* he told me. *I was just wondering if the others on my team realized that you were more than simply a student at the school.*

I smiled and said, *My cadre and instructors do. So do the student’s I’m helping teach. Everyone else is free to believe whatever they want. Now please answer my question. Why has the FBI sent a team to profile someone at Wyndgate?*

*We’re here to do a profile on Cadre 5. Someone in the bureau wants to know what makes you guys so successful so it can be taught to other teams,*
he said with his own emotions locked behind a tight shield.

I shrugged. Although I had no idea this was coming, for some reason it didn’t surprise me. I knew it was going to piss Sawyer off even more. Thinking of how my boyfriend was likely to react, I sent back, *Just make sure that everyone you scan has given informed consent.*

*I know the law, Corpsman,* he told me.

*So do I,* I warned. *But it’s been my experience that when it comes to my friends, it’s usually ignored or violated to get what the administration wants..*

*Thanks for the warning, Corpsman Draupnir,* he said and closed down the communication stream, obviously offended.

I immediately went looking for Brian. I found him and Sawyer going over the legal codes we were having to memorize for the DEA. This shift to an active duty team was really taking a toll on our time. The only thing that was keeping it from overwhelming all of us was that Mr. Waterford was rewriting his lesson plans to include them as part of our regular lessons. That man was a genius!

“We got problems,” I told them.

“What now?” Brian asked. He was obviously irritated.

“The FBI is here to profile us,” I told him. I watched as his eyes grew large and at the same time Sawyer’s narrowed to two grey slits under his lids. “The FBI has sent in a Behavioral Analysis Unit to profile us. According to their psi, the government wants to know why we’re such a good team.”

“What’s a Behavioral Analysis Unit?” Brian asked.

“Ever seen Criminal Minds?” Sawyer asked.

Brian nodded and said, “I’ve watched a few episodes of it with Lauren. She loves the show. I don’t care for it too much. I like watching the way the investigators interact, but the violence is a little to graphic for my tastes.”

I raised an eyebrow at the comment and said, “This is coming from a guy who dropped a boulder on Fury.”

“Fury was trying to kill us. The show glorifies violence for the sake of entertainment,” he said. “When we fight, we do it for a purpose. When they show it, they’re playing with our emotions. I don’t care for it.”

“Well, what do they want to do?” Sawyer asked.

“I would think they’d want to look at our school records, talk to us, and the other students,” Brian said.

“They wanna talk to me, then Ah want mah lawyer there too,” Sawyer replied crossing his arms across his chest.



~*~
Agent Steve Randolph Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Analysis Unit:


I could tell that this mission had Special Agent Gallard on edge. She’d already gone through a whole pack of of gum and it wasn’t even ten a.m. yet. We’d worked with regular field agents in the past and it usually went rather well, but for some reason Agent Fox was trying to take over the investigation. She and Dallas were supposed to be here to offer advice to the unit since they’d dealt with Cadre 5 in the past, but she didn’t seem to want to work with us as much as she wanted to use us.

Kevin Grant, our unit’s Psi-Corp member was giving her as wide a berth as possible. It was clear that our quiet young telepath wasn’t comfortable with the field agent. To be honest though I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t simply avoiding us all. I can’t say we’d done a whole lot to make him feel like part of the unit since he joined us last year. Up until this mission, I couldn’t even say if he’s married or not or where he grew up. But he is useful for finding out if someone is lying.

After some kind of conflict with the school’s administration it was decided that we would interview the students one at a time starting with Brian Alexander also known as Boomer. Each of the students would be brought into a conference room and would be questioned. We were dividing into teams so as to move more quickly through interrogations. To be completely honest about it, there was no other word for it. It wasn’t a conversation, it was an interrogation.

Starting with Boomer, Lady Lightning’s son, was something of a political statement in itself- I think someone was trying to remind the school who was in charge. The young man was clean cut and very good looking with blue eyes peeking out from under his raven lashes. He smiled over at me and Special Agent Grant and asked, “What do you guys wanna’ talk about? Mom is very interested in what the Nationals’ chances are at the pennant this year. She’s really been disappointed in them the last few years.”

“Really?” I asked. If he wanted to play this casual, I could do that.

He grinned and replied, “Yeah, she says that their win/loss percentage has only been out of the five hundreds once since the Burst Out event and that was back when they were the Expos.”

“Your mom a big baseball fan?” I asked.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” the boy said. “Before we were outed by the government, we used to always go to the opening day game together.”

“How about your dad?” I asked him wanting more information about his home life and his role models.

He leaned back and seemed to think for a moment. Finally he said, “You know, I think my dad probably has to be the strongest man in the world.”

“Really?” I asked briefly wondering if there was an unregistered neo in the family.

“Yeah. Think about it. Every time my mom goes into battle, he goes down into that safe room knowing that she could be killed doing what she does. Now he has to add me to that mix. That takes a lot of courage, and a lot of love,” he said. I was surprised to see that kind of insight from a kid his age.

“Tell me about your teammates,” I asked.

He shook his head and said, “No.”

“No?” I asked.

“No,” he replied with a smile. “Nein, nyet, annio, non.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I don’t talk about friends behind their backs,” he said. “I especially won’t give the people who’ve hurt us any more ways to do that.”

“What about your girlfriend?” I asked.

Lightning actually began to dance in his eyes and his voice dropped an octave from its normal baritone. “Pick another subject.”

“Okay,” I quickly told him. “How are your classes going?”

“Which one?” he countered as the cloud disappeared from his eyes..

“All of them,” I said shrugging, “school in general.” I was really trying to find someway to connect with this kid.

“Russian is going okay I guess. I miss German, but the challenge of learning a new language is at least keeping me busy. That and learning all the new legal codes that we’re studying for the DEA. I guess it’ll get even tougher when we become an JNROTC cadre next semester.”

“How about your social life in the school? Any problems with bullies?” I know it was a dumb question considering to whom I was speaking, but it was a relevant question for most teenagers these days- especially considering the administrations recent focus on the issue.

He gave a long stare and said, “I have friends both in my cadre and outside it. I don’t usually have a problem with bullies and my friends who have had them, dealt with it well.”

“I know that you used to play soccer at your old school in Connecticut, what kinds of hobbies do you have now? Still play sports?” I asked.

He shook his head and said, “No. I stay physically active and work out regular with my best friend, but we don’t play sports- that is except for a pick up game of football last November at Kenna’s place. That was kind of fun. Mostly I play Freedom City Online.”

“Really?” I asked. “What’s kind of game is that? Who makes it?”

The boy actually blushed and replied, “It’s a superhero game by Green Ronin. I think it’s based on one of their tabletop RPG lines.”

“Do you spend much time online?” I asked.

He nodded and said, “Enough. I have do a lot of research online.” Then he looked over at Kevin and said, “Speaking of research online, my condolences on your loss Agent Grant.”

Kevin nodded and said “Thank you.”

My surprise must have shown on my face because the boy looked at me and asked, “It wasn’t that hard to find. A quick internet search for each of your names turned up the obituary notice for Agent Grant’s ten year old daughter.”

I know, I shouldn’t have, but I broke protocol. The information surprised the hell out of me. I turned to Grant and asked, “What? When?”

“Last week,” Boomer said. “Why you’re even having to work right now, I don’t know, but it doesn’t speak well of your boss.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said quietly bringing me back to the business at hand. I couldn’t believe that he’d lost a child and we didn’t know about it.

“Of course,” Boomer replied. I could see the message in his eyes. He’d won this round. “If there’s nothing else, I think we’re probably finished now.” He didn’t wait for a reply. He simply got up and left the room.

I turned to Kevin and asked, “What happened?”

He raised an eyebrow and said, “You were not even aware that I am married, much less that I have,” he stopped for a moment and then said, “that I had a daughter. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I stopped short at the tone of his voice. There was a deep hurt there, and an anger. “At least tell me when.”

“Last week,” he said simply. Then looking down at the paper and continued in a tone that reminded me of a certain pointed ear alien, he said, “Unless you want to call back the Alexander kid, next on our list is the team second in command, Sawyer Jackson Grey aka Ghost.” I nodded and turned back to the job at hand. I had plans to speak to Agent Gallard about why Grant wasn’t given bereavement leave.

If Boomer had been standoffish, and polite, Ghost turned out to be actively hostile and non-cooperative. As he entered the room, his body language spoke volumes. It was defiant, distrustful, and angry.

As he sat back in his chair his arms crossed and his eyes flashing, I said, “Thanks for coming in, Mr. Grey.” All I got out of him was a silent stare that seemed to bore a hole through me. After several moments of silence, I asked, “How’s school going?”

Silence.

“You know it’s rude not to acknowledge a question, Mr. Grey,” I told him amused at his attitude.

He looked over at me and said, “I acknowledge that you asked a question.”

“Do you care to answer it?” I probed.

“No,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I acknowledge that you asked a question,” he said again.

“Will you answer it?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” I asked.

“I acknowledge that you asked a question,” he replied.

“Okay, I get the picture Mr. Grey. You aren’t going to be cooperative with our questioning.” He nodded and I sighed and said, “Okay, you can leave.” As he got up to leave I said, “Oh, and Mr. Grey.”

He turned around and asked, “Yes?”

“You’re noncooperation is just as informative to us as your cooperation would be.”

He frowned and said, “But my conscious is clear. I haven’t in any way given you any information about my friends or family. You can come after me if you want. But stay away from my friends and family. Otherwise things will get nasty.”

I asked, “Is that a threat?”

He grinned at me with stormy eyes and reached out and picked up a chair. “No Agent Randolph. That’s a promise. Come after my family or friends, endanger my family again and things will get nasty.” He flipped the chair in his hand over pushed it against the table. I watched as the two slowly merged. He let go and suddenly with a loud “pop” the table and the chair shattered. “Nobody else in my family is going to be put in danger because the imperial federal government wants to create a race of slaves.” Then he turned and left the room.

“That went well,” I said sarcastically to Kevin. “Please tell me you got something off him.”

Grant shook his head and said, “I couldn’t get past the violent images he was imagining about things he wanted to do to the people who put his family in danger. That kind of imagery can actually be a pretty effective mind shield. Most people don’t have the mental or physical stamina to keep it up for long though.”

“You mean we got nothing?” I asked.

He laughed and said, “You said you were getting as much for your profile by his refusal to answer as by his answers.”

“Yeah, but it didn’t tell me anything about his interactions with the rest of the team, or anything about his teammates for that matter,” I told him. “It’s going to be hard build a complete profile without full cooperation.”

“I think that’s the goal of Cadre 5, Agent Randolph. They don’t want us to build an accurate profile. They don’t trust us,” he said. His tone suggested that he may agree with their reasons.

“And you don’t think they should?” I asked.

“Neohumans are not well treated by this government. All of these kids had their families attacked because the administration revealed their identities. One of them had their mother killed, and then administration doubled down on stupid and forced her to go into hiding. The government has not been kind to people with the neogene,” he said. I could hear the bitterness in his voice.

“Are you speaking from experience, Kevin?” I asked.

“I have the neogene, Steve. I’m fortunate that I don’t have any feral qualities so I don't’ stand out. As a psi, however I am required to wear an indication of my status as such. I’m not allowed to gamble in casinos, I am required to make major purchases that require negotiations through a proxy. Like these kids, I must have a special dispensation to be able to visit the capital city of my own country. Even though I serve as a law enforcement officer, I’m not allowed to carry a gun and my Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights are curtailed. Ironically enough, our first black president is on a fast track to creating a new race of second class citizens,” he said. It was more than he’d said to me in a year since he joined the team. I got the feeling that maybe he identified with these kids a lot more than he was letting on.

~*~
Field Agent Benjamin Dallas Federal Bureau of Investigation:


For some reason Special Agent Gallard wanted me to sit in on her interview with the kids. She decided that we should start with Patrick Mattison, aka Speedfire. I’d read a bit about his situation since he’d been the victim of an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt this past summer. What I had not informed Special Agent Gallard, or anybody at the Bureau for that matter, that I understand his situation perfectly.

Mattison was a good looking kid with a head full of coppery red hair, very pointed ears and small black horns on his forehead. He was lean with a runner’s build and an serious green eyes. He smiled as he sat down and I could see the sharp vampire-like fangs in his upper teeth. I briefly wondered if he ever cut his own tongue on them.

“How are you today, Mr. Mattison,” Gallard asked, her own voice sounding neutral.

With a slight smile, Mattison answered, “You interrupted a review of math class, so it’s all pretty good.”

“You don’t like math?” I asked a bit surprised. According to the report from the DoE, these kids actually loved their school and classes.

“It’s a review,” he said. “I could use a break.”

Nodding, Gallard smiled and then asked, “So how is school coming along?”

He shrugged and said, “Not bad. The new classes from the DEA are making things more difficult, but I can usually stay caught up.”

“I guess being able to move as super speed helps with that,” I commented.

He grinned broadly and replied, “It does help, but there’s still a lot to do, and I still have to pay attention.”

“Is paying attention difficult?” Gallard asked raising an eyebrow.

He frowned and replied, “It can be. To me the world seems to move too slow, and having to wait for information or an interaction can be frustrating. For me going fast isn’t the problem, it’s going slow.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Gallard said sitting back in her chair. “How does that color your interactions with baseline humans?” I could tell she was after something but I’m not sure what it was.

He shook his head confused and asked, “I don’t understand.”

“Does it frustrate you when you have to slow down?” she asked. “Does it make you feel like baselines are too slow for you?”

He shook his head and simply said, “No.”

Gallard nodded and asked, “What about your social life here at school? How’s that going? Do you have any problems there? Do you have a girlfriend?”

The boy’s face suddenly lit up. He grinned and said, “I do now.”

“What do you mean by now?” I asked.

He blushed, grinned, and said, “I just started seeing somebody.”

“Who” I asked.

Suddenly his eyes narrowed, “I’m not going to discuss that.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“One thing I’ve learned from my teammates is that you don’t discuss other people without their permission,” he said. He added, “Especially when it comes to information that may become public.”

“This information is not going to be released to the general public,” Gallard said.

“That’s what they told Boomer, Faerie, Glitch, Ghost, and Shadow Claw about their secret identities. We know how that turned out,” he replied.

“Fair enough,” Gallard said. “I understand why they wouldn’t want to cooperate with these interviews, but why not you?”

He raised an eyebrow and tilted one little black horn at her and said, “You have to be kidding me. One of the things that makes us intelligent is our ability to learn from other people’s mistakes. Hell, even chimps can figure that out.”

“Do you think we’re likely to release the identity of your girlfriend?” I asked.

“Who said it was a girl?” he asked.

I smiled and asked, “Is it a boy?”

He grinned showing his sharp upper fangs and said, “I’m not saying. That way you have about seventy students from which to try and figure it out than about thirty five.”

“You don’t care that we might think you’re gay?” Gallard asked.

He smiled and his voice became harsh, “Lady, who are that I should give a crap on a cracker? I don’t care if you think I’m talking dog as long as it’s not used to hurt my teammates or my significant other.”

“I’m from the FBI, that doesn’t bother you?”

He chuckled and said, “It just proves my teammate’s point.”

Gallard leaned back and smiled saying, “So the team is more important than the individual?”

“Not at all,” he replied. “We’re all individuals who are like a family. We take care of each other, and most of all, we don’t put each other in danger.”

“And talking about your significant other could do that?” Gallard asked with a smile.

“I would say that Mrs. Richmond would agree with that. Oh wait! She can’t because she’s dead because someone gave out information about her family. One of the things the government has managed to teach us is that giving them information can get you killed.”

“But you agreed to go to work with the DEA?” I asked somewhat confused.

He grinned wickedly and said, “Consider it a Faustian deal.” For some reason, those words coming from his mouth sent a chill down my spine.

“Okay Mr. Mattison. I think that will be all for now,” Gallard said. I could see in her eyes that the thought had entered her mind as well.

Turning to me she said, “I hope the others got more than we got.” Sighing she looked down at the clipboard in her hands and said, “Rowan Croften-Blake is up next.”

“Is she likely to involve the lawyers?” I asked.

“She’s not under arrest,” Gallard replied.

“So?” I asked thinking about her interview on Vixen news. “The last time she talked to anyone from the government, a prosecutor wanting to make a name for herself threatened her with a fifteen year prison term for something her parents did.”

“And that prosecutor has now been disbarred. She made a name for herself all right,” Gallard replied.

I leaned back in my chair and asked, “Is everyone around me blind?”

Gallard gave me a startled look. She narrowed her eyes and started to say something. Then seeming to come to some kind of conclusion, her face softened and she asked, “Please explain.”

“These kids don’t trust us. They have good reason not to trust us, and we keep doing the same things to them in the name of getting to know them better. Nothing we do here in this analysis is going to be useful because all we’re doing is exercising power because we can.”

“Go on,” she said.

“We see ourselves as having the upper hand, but in reality it’s they that do. All we’re doing is petulantly stamping our feet and demanding that they obey us because we’re in charge,” I told her realizing that I may have crossed the line.

I could see the anger flare up in her eyes, but she fought it down. This one would at least listen. Finally, she took a deep breath and asked, “I’m open to suggestions on how the Bureau can get it’s information.”

“The DEA seems to be doing a pretty good job. Hell, they’ve even got them going to the the FBI training facility in Quantico on the weekends to get up to speed. These kids have skills we need. There’s an old saying about flies and honey and vinegar. Maybe we should back off,” I told her.

She stopped to think about it for a moment. “We’ll talk to the other members of the team at lunch and see how they are doing? In the meantime we do have a job to do do.”

I simply said, “Yes, ma’am,” and went back to work.

That must have hit home because she looked up from her paperwork and said, “Agent Dallas, I’m not discounting what you said. But for the time being we are here, and they are here, so we might as well make the best of it.”

I nodded, got up and went to the door to ask for Ms. Croften-Blake to come in. As she entered, I felt a strange reaction to her in my gut. Okay, this kid was confusing on a lot of different levels. First of all was the ears, and tail and then when she smiled the dual sets of fangs. You got the feeling that you were looking into the eyes of a predator. Secondly was the facial features. Extremely attractive but androgynous at the same time. The fact that the kid was wearing men’s slacks but a girls’ blouse didn’t help.

Entering the room, Rowan squared her shoulders and looked first me and then Agent Gallard in the eye before sitting down. “How can I help you?” she asked in a voice that was somewhere between a soprano and a tenor.

“Hello, Rowan. I’m Agent Gallard and this is Agent Dallas from the FBI. We just wanted to have a conversation with you about how school was going,” Gallard said. “We’re trying to undo the damage that past mistakes have done to a working relationship with your team.”

Rowan smiled and asked, “What do you want to discuss?”

Gallard said, “I’m curious, Rowan, can you tell us about how you grew up?”

The feral child’s eyes narrowed slightly and then she smiled. “I grew up with two loving parents who took very good care of me and made sure that people didn’t come asking embarrassing questions about me.”

“Embarassing questions?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “Questions about how I was put together.”

“Your file says that your feral features didn’t appear until after your parents died,” Gallard said.

“I was talking about my other condition, Agent Gallard,” she told us.

“Ah, your medical condition, Kleinfelter’s Syndrome?” Agent Gallard asked.

Rowan nodded and said, “Yeah.”

“Your parents didn’t have that corrected with the standard surgery,” Gallard said. “Why is that?”

The feral child sighed and said, “I’ve answered that question already, Agent Gallard. But we can go over it again. I was born a neo, with at least eight classes of durability with the impervious enhancement. That meant that even as an infant my body could shrug off a point blank shot from an assault rifle. Surgery under those conditions was nigh impossible. My folks decided to raise me with no gender expectations and let me choose as I grew up. They provided a safe environment in which I could grow up.” Her face suddenly became sad, “That is until that neo-gang killed them in some kind gang war.”

“Is that why you agreed to go to work for the DEA, to get the gang that killed your parents?” Gallard asked.

Rowan shook her head and said, “No. I agreed to work for the DEA because they asked nicely. It will also give me access to my corporate buildings in DC.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Right now, my corporate offices are in DC, a city in which I may not enter because I’m a neo. This deal gives me the right to enter the cit, until the law is overturned in the courts,” Rowen said.

Gallard nodded her head and made a few notes. “How is school going?”

“Well,” she said.

“No problems?” I asked.

She shook her head and said, “No, none that are worth discussing.”

“How’s your love life?” Gallaird asked.

Rowan locked eyes with her and growled, “None of your business. One of the things the mother of a good friend recently told me was that just because people in Hollywood feel the need to discuss subjects that should be kept private doesn’t mean that I have to.”

Gallard actually flinched first and looked down. “That’s commendable, Ms. Croften-Blake, but not helpful.”

The young feral leaned back and chuckled before asking, “How is it the government has need to know if I’m sleeping with anyone and if so, who? I don’t hold a top secret security clearance.”

“We want to know how you interact with your peers,” Gallard replied.

Rowan sniffed at the air and asked, “Who was in your bed last night, Agent Gallard?” Interesting question since I know for a fact that Gallard is from New York, but stayed with the rest of us Frederick.

Gallard’s head snapped around and she said, “My love life is not up for discussion.”

Rowan smiled, “Good. Neither is mine.”

Suddenly Gallard smiled and said, “You are very good at this kind of thing, Ms. Croften-Blake.”

Rowan just smiled and said, “If you say so. Now is there anything else you want to discuss?”

Gallard shook her head and replied, “No. I think that will be all.”

After she’d and the door had been closed for a few minutes, Gallard looked at me and said, “I think we need to meet and discuss what we’ve found so far.

I smiled and said, “So do I.”

~*~
Michael McAllister aka ACE

I was very worried about the interview session with Doctor Moffett. I really wasn’t comfortable with someone from Psi-Corps mucking about in my head. At the same time, I knew that Kenna was going to be there, and for some reason that made me feel a lot better. Lately, I’d been finding myself more and more drawn to her. I wasn’t sure what that was about. Ferals usually weren’t my cup of tea, but to be honest, if she wasn’t involved with Rowan and Sawyer, I’d definitely make a play for her.

That realization startled me. I’ve had my fair share of girlfriends in the past, but to be honest, it was always more about who would look good on my arm than any real affection. I mumbled all the right words to get what I wanted, but there was never any meaning behind them. With Kenna, I couldn’t lie to her. The only real problem I was having was that I think I had the bad taste to start falling for another guy’s girl. Life sucked.

As we settled into the Professor’s office I couldn’t help but notice how the sunlight shining through the window danced across her hair in showers of amber and gold. Moffett cleared his throat and gave me a knowing smile. Busted. Here I was acting like a love sick calf with two telepaths in the room. I almost called it off right then and there.

Before I could say anything Kenna just smiled and said, “We’ll talk about it later.”

Moffett on the other hand just frowned and said, “I would like to talk to you about a few random subjects. With your permission, I want to do a light surface scan that just give me some idea of where your mind jumps to at the mention of the word.”

“Sort of like a telepathic game of word association?” I asked.

“Exactly,” the short man smiled and said. I had never had any reason to be in the man’s classes so I’d never paid much attention to him. I took a moment to study him closely. Like I said, he’s short and somewhat pudgy and in his late fifties or early sixties. He’s got a head full of unruly brown hair that curls up and frizzes around his hears. He wears bifocal glasses that are made of glass instead of the usual plastic most people wear. I wasn’t sure where the urge- no it was more of a need- came from, but for some reason I HAD to study him; what he looked like, how he was dressed. It was as if some part of my brain was insisting on drinking in every detail it could grab, all the way down to the weave of the wool in his jacket. “Are you ready?” I heard him asking me. Somehow I’d gotten drawn down a rabbit hole of observing what he looked like and forgotten where I was. This was starting to get scary.”

I swallowed hard, nodded my head and said, “Yeah.”

“Okay,” he said. “Now close your eyes and relax. First Kenna is going to touch your mind like she does in your training exercises. Then I’m going to join you. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, just say so and we’ll stop. If either of us detects that you become uncomfortable we’ll stop. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I told him.

“Clear your mind. I’ll say a word and you say the first word that pops into your mind,” he told me.

I nodded and said, “Okay.”

“Head,” he said.

“President,” I replied.

“Green.”

“Environment.”

“Water.”
“Pollution.”

“Sing.”
“Patrick.”

“Death.”

“Metal.”

“Long.”

“Day.”

“Ship.”

“UPS.”

“Count.”

“Students.”

This went on for quite a while until he finally said, “Okay, I think that’s enough. I want you to open your eyes and look at me.” I did as he said and he smiled at me. “Tell me about your parents,” he added.

I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. They’re regular people. They both were college professors before we moved to DC. Mom taught economics and dad taught political science.”

“But how was their parenting? Did you feel that they were part of your life?” he asked.

Again, I shrugged before replying. “Are you asking if I felt loved?”

He smiled and replied, “That would be a good start.”

“Yes, I felt loved!” I protested.

“Okay,” he replied. “Tell me about this past summer while you were at home.”

“It was boring as hell. The only people in my neighborhood that were my age were a bunch of suburban urbanite wannabes who were messing around with hype.”

“How did you spend your time?” he asked.

“Mainly hanging out around the city, going to museums, and that kind of thing,” I told him. Then remembering all those sessions with the head-shrink Mom and Dad sent me to, I started to tell him about her. Suddenly, a stabbing pain went through my head and I blacked out again.

~*~
Doctor Grace Lee Chapel Chief Physician at Wyndgate Academy.

Going over reports was never one of my favorite things to do, but doubling the school’s population had managed to generate more than double the reports. Doctor North was a wonderful help, but in the end, I still had to sign off on everything and that meant more reading.

However, as much as I hate paperwork, I much prefer it to being in this situation. Right after lunch, the FBI called me into their little meeting. Yeah, I’m being snarky, chalk it up to being a middle aged female doctor who’d seen far more death and destruction than she cared for. On second thought, don’t.

Agent Gallard had said that they wanted my input because I’m “one of the world’s foremost experts on neohuman physiology and psychology”. Translation: The kids will talk to me but not them. In reality she wanted me to do her job. On top of that she wanted access to my counselling records. I told her exactly where she could go and in detail that only a doctor can describe what she could do with her request. I told her flat out that it was a violation of HIPPA laws. If she wanted them, she could get a warrant for them.

Still, she wanted Duncan and me to listen in on their little debriefing. They were hitting a brick wall with their team profile.

“They refuse to discuss much of anything other than day to day issues. No information on personalities, interactions, or even significant others. That alone is highly unusual for teenagers,” Agent Randolph was saying. He turned to me and asked, “How does that fit in with your counseling sessions doctor?”

“I don’t have issues with non-cooperation- usually,” I told him.

“Oh?” Agent Gallard asked. “When is not usually?”

I smiled, leaned in on the table and said, “With the boys. US Neohuman Registration Regulations, paragraph 4 sections 6 through 10.”

“I don’t understand?” Gallard said.

I shrugged, sipped my coffee and leaned back. “For some reason the President’s party who passed the registration law was overly concerned with some very personal measurements for male neohumans.”

Again she raised her eyebrow and said, “Please elaborate, Doctor.”

Duncan reached over and patted my hand and said, “I’d rather she not, Agent Gallard. Go look up the referenced regulations for yourself.”

Agent Grant, the Psi-Corps agent, snickered. He knew what I was talking about.

“I will,” the woman said writing the information down. “I am however curious as to your input on why the stone wall. I understand that these kids don’t trust the government, but usually we can get almost anyone to talk to us on some level.”

“And they did talk to you on some level,” I told her.

“All but the Grey kid,” Randolph said. “He was downright hostile, to the point that he threatened us and blew up a table and chair.”

I laughed. “That sounds like Sawyer. He has a major hate on right now for the government and it was probably going to last for quite some time. And it’s completely healthy.”

“Healthy?” Gallard asked.

“Yeah, it’s healthy. The kid is extremely well-read and Thomas Paine is a personal hero of his. When his family was attacked, he blamed the government, and probably rightly so. He sees you and everything you represent as little better than Nazi Stormtroopers,” I told him.

Before the agent could reply, the door slammed opened and Boomer came walking in with the rest of his team. All were dressed in their new black and white uniforms and all looked very angry. It was clear by their body language they were here to ask some questions themselves.

Like an idiot Fox went for her gun. Before anyone could move the woman was slammed against the wall, and pinned by an invisible force, her Sig Sauer hanging loosely from her grip. “Don’t do that,” Boomer said. “The only person in this room you can hurt are Doctor Chapel, Principal Blair, and yourselves. Personally, I don’t care about you guys, but if you hurt our faculty, we’re likely to return the favor.”

“Five guns and two tasers in the room, Boomer,” Faerie said, energy sparking between her antenna. “Evidently since Agent Grant is Psi-Corps he’s not allowed to carry a weapon.”

“What’s going on?” Gallard demanded as she stood.

“You’ve had your chance to ask the questions, Agent Gallard. Now it’s our turn. And you will answer them, or Faerie will rip them out of your head for me.”

“That’s illegal!” Fox protested, the fear from her becoming palpable.

Faerie smiled and asked, “Who’s gonna know?”

“Grant, put a stop to this now!” Gallard commanded.

“Sorry, boss lady, but I can’t,” the young man said.

“Why not?” she demanded.

“I told you, but you wouldn’t listen. She’s a graduate of the Corps and has at least four classes of power on me,” he said.

“You can still fight back!” Gallard said.

“Explain it to her,” Faerie told Grant as she pulled a large dagger I’d never seen from her belt. I had no idea where she was able to hide it.

“What’s this about, Boomer?” Duncan demanded.

“It’s about the government setting a spy among us,” Shadow Claw growled, her ears laid flat back against her skull. I noted her hands and feet were covered in dark fur. That meant her claws were deployed. She meant business.

“What kind of spy?” Duncan demanded. God above I hope he didn’t get so upset about this that he used his own powers. That kind of thing could eventually kill him.

“Somebody from the government inserted into Ace, a secondary personality that was programed to spy on us,” Speedfire said, baring his own fangs.

“How do you know that?” I asked. Although it would explain the black out spells and his attack on Doctor North.

Kenna looked over to Boomer as if waiting for his okay. When he nodded to her, she said, “Because someone put a rather sloppy self destruct command in the personality that told him to attack any psi who scanned him about certain subjects. He was programmed to attack them in the hopes that they’d put him down as having gone crazy.”

I looked around and noticed that Ace wasn’t with the rest of the team. “You didn’t?” I asked shocked.

Kenna smiled wickedly at me and said, “We’ll talk about it later.”

Boomer spun on Agent Gallard and said, “Now, you’re going to answer my questions and Faerie is going to tell me if you’re lying, omitting, or half-truthing.”

Gallard swallowed hard and asked bravely, “And if I am?”

“I’ll give you one more chance and then she’ll rip the information from your mind for me,” Boomer said.

“That’s illegal!” Gallard protested.

“And so is what the government did to Ace,” Boomer replied darkly. “I’m not my mother. I don’t have quite the same respect for authority that she does.” He winked over at Sawyer and said, “Blame it on bad influences.”

Gallard turned to Duncan and said, “Doctor Blair, put a stop to this now!”

Duncan frowned and said, “I’m as helpless as you are, Agent Gallard. I would suggest you tell him what he wants to know.” Duncan knew how the game was played and so did I. I was also starting to see something in Cadre 5 that was not completely unexpected. They would not be separated into other teams when they graduated. They also were not going to be the bright shining tin plated superheroes the government wanted. They were going to be the team that got things done. This was going to be a team like nothing that had been on the scene before.

Boomer turned to Gallard and asked, “Who sent you?”

“The Bureau,” the agent replied.

“Who in the Bureau?” Shadow Claw asked leaning in and growling.

“My unit boss, Deputy Director Markham,” she replied.

Faerie said, “That’s one.” She then started to calmly clean her nails with the tip of the blade in her hand. I noted something written on it but couldn’t read the language.

“Who told him to send you?” Boomer zeroed in on the questioning.

Gallard looked over at Faerie with real fear in her eyes, swallowed hard and said, “He didn’t tell me who, but I think it was from someone pretty high up in Homeland Security.”

“How high?” Sawyer asked.

Gallard suddenly became very agitated. Even I could tell that she didn’t want to answer that question. Before she could say anything, Faerie smiled and said, “Thank you.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Gallard replied.

“You didn’t have to. Your mind shouted it at me,” Faerie told her.

“Why?” Boomer asked.

“I honestly don’t know?” Gallard replied.

Agent Grant cleared his throat. Kenna turned to look at him and I could see lightning dance between her antenna. Suddenly she smiled and again the lightning. Then she turned to Boomer and once again there was the arc of power above her brow.

Boomer looked at Agent Gallard and said, “You will be having a conversation with Professor Moffett. Then you will file a report that we all refused to speak to you. None of you will mention THIS conversation.”

“The hell I won’t,” Agent Fox said.

Boomer smiled and replied, “You don’t understand Agent Fox. You won’t have any memory of it. Professor Moffett has already agreed to do the mind wipe.”

“Boomer...,” Duncan warned.

“It’s cool, Doctor Blair,” he replied. “It’s the only way to protect the other students. After all, Faerie wanted to turn her into a four year old. There’s too much at stake right now to let them know that we know there’s a coup building in the Administration.”

“What?!” I demanded.

“Agent Gallard suspects that several of the President’s advisers are about to “throw him under the bus,”” he said making little quotation marks in the air. “According to Faerie, Agent Gallard is rather well informed.”

“So you’re just going to mind wipe us?” Grant asked.

“No, Agent Grant. You, we are going to trust to keep our secret. Kenna tells us that the Corps takes care of its own. I do suspect however that after Professors Moffett and Herald are finished, you’ll find yourself reassigned.”

I could see a visible relief in the man’s eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was over the reassignment or the fact that he wasn’t going to have his memories tampered.

“What about Ace?” Grant asked.

“Ace has been dealt with,” Kenna said coldly. That girl and I were going to have to have a long talk.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:13 pm

A long time since your last chapter, but all is forgiven. I'll have to say, the conspiracy with Ace is a new twist. I'm looking forward to where it leads.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:56 am

Actually, I've been hinting at the conspiracy with Ace for quite a while: Almost from when he first appeared. If you go back and read about his summer you'll find little hints all along the way. However, this school year is going to be a little slow as they simply get the skills they are going to need and things get set up for what's really about to happen come 2011 school year.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:30 pm

Image

Issue 5: Winterfinding


ROBERT KILLPATRICK

“Mr. President, we have a problem,” I told the man sitting behind the desk. It had taken quite a bit to get around his Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs just to get in and see him. That woman was doing everything in her power to run the Administration like the mob-infested Chicago political machine that spawned it. That meant keeping “the wrong kind of people” away from the president, and I am definitely the wrong kind of people.

“What now?” the man lay down his Blackberry and stood, the morning light shining through the windows of the Oval Office.

“The Psi-Corps have recalled all their personnel,” I told him.

“They can’t do that!” he said.

I raised an eyebrow and said, “Actually they can. It’s in their contract. If they feel their agents are being misused or abused, they reserve the right to recall them.” And trust me, what I got out of the Director Madison, the Corps was highly upset by the recent use of an unbonded psi to clumsily plant a false personality into a neo-human. That’s just the last problem they’ve had and it combined with several complaints about agents not getting leave, overtime pay, or even regular pay for that matter and they’ve more than got enough to justify their pull-out.

“Then I’ll sign an executive order nullifying that part of the contract,” he countered. “I’ve got enough people in the courts and the investigative services to keep them from having it overturned.” He shrugged and added, “And if it is, I won’t worry about it and simply ignore the ruling.”

I raised an eyebrow. Did this man really think that he was above the law? I shook my head and said, “I’m sorry, Sir, but that won’t work with this particular group of people. “

“Don’t tell me what won’t work! My political machine will work on anybody,” he growled. “If they don’t want to work for me, then I’ll make sure they won’t work for my enemies. I’ve still got control of the media. All I have to do is drop the right notions into the media’s ear and before long there will be so much anti-Psi Corps sentiment that anybody associated with them will be linked to Hitler.”

“With all due respect Mr. President, the situation is different,” I said calmly.

“How is it different?” he asked. “You have no idea how much power I have in the media. As far as they are concerned, I’m the Second Coming, a god even. They’ve pretty much said so.”

I frowned and said, “These people know where the bodies are buried, Sir. And if they don’t, they can find them.”

He grinned at me and said, “Doesn’t matter. I have my own psis. Unregistered and loyal to me and me only.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “How did you manage that?”

He smiled and said, “Chicago is full of people who are willing to help bring about my domestic agenda. They know people who know people and before long I had my group of highly effective psis.” He looked me in the eye and said, “You’d be surprised where I’ve got my people. And I've already got several psi-ops working on the problems Cadre 5 has been presenting my administration.”

I nodded and said, “Very well sir. I just though you should know.” I turned on the charm and did my damnedest not to think about what I thought about that idea.

“Go back and tell that bunch at the Corps that they’ll put their people back to work, or I’ll have all of them tossed in jail.”

I nodded and said, “Yes sir.”

As I turned to leave the room, he added, “And while you’re at it, there are two more things you can do for me. First, I want that bitch that used to be on Cadre 5 found and in the Tomlinson School before the year is out.”

“And second, Sir?” I asked.

“Nix that deal between Cadre 5 and the DEA, and have Director Pagoria's resignation on my desk by the end of the week.”

I sighed and said, “I’ll get right on it sir.” I had my suspicions about what happened to Aiesha Richmond, and knew that we couldn’t get to her without causing an international incident. As for Pagoria and the DEA, the man had dug his own grave. I couldn't help him now.

“You do that,” he said as I left the room.


A meeting room aboard a starship:

This meeting was unprecedented among the great powers of the Five Galaxies. Never have so many gathered over such a small world- even a Primal World such as this one. But all of the great powers sensed war brewing and none of us really wanted that. Father was there as was my brother Ari and myself. All three houses of the Fyroar were present as well, Houses A’er, V'nir, and Suttang were all on their best behavior- a rare event in itself. But then again A’er and V’nir held the high ground at this conference. Even the Ennead King Atu had deigned to come. Of course the Ayoda had sent a representative. They were after all the second largest of all the galactic empires.

However the real surprise to the meeting was when a ship bearing Ashera of the Elim dropped out of other-space and coasted into general orbit around largest of the gas giants in the this System. The Elim were an empire that had fallen on hard times brought about by the civil war that saw the rise of the Host of Shaddai. The fact that she was the former consort of the Shaddai Emperor was not lost on any of us. As the humans were wont to say, “Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.”

It had taken a lot of diplomatic acumen to bring this meeting together- more than I expected was in the possession of my brother, Ari. But he surprised me. I suspected that he probably first pulled in his drinking buddies, Prince Donner of the Fyroar, and Duke Miysis of the Ennead, and they whispered into the ears of their governments to send someone to take a closer look.

As we sat down at the main table, I leaned into Ari and asked, “How did you do it, Brother-dear?”

“Do what, Thena?” he asked.

“How did you get the Fyroar to come to the table to discuss this?” I said. “They had no reason to trust us.”

Ari smiled and said, “Again, you sell me short. I did not rise to my position as head of Father’s military forces without learning the arts of diplomacy as well as war. Donner approached me after your attack on the humans. We discussed things, contacted Miysis, and Hunlaman of the the Ayoda. We decided it would be a good idea to sit down and talk this out and try to avoid a war that would engulf the Five Galaxies.”

I raised an eyebrow at him and asked, “You wish to avoid a war?” Then considering that everyone he spoke of were as much soldiers as he, I added, “You all want to avoid a war?”

“Sister dear, the kind of war that this situation would set off would leave nobody in power but Shaddai, and maybe the Ayoda. I enjoy a good fight as well as the next man, but we’re talking about a situation that would see all of our homes dominated by the Hosts. Nobody wants that,” he said. I was surprised at his insight. I was starting to have a bit more respect for my hot-headed brother.

Wyten, head of House A’er of the Fyroar and their general spokesman tapped the table and smiled from behind his gray beard. I never trusted the wily old man that much. For one thing, he had a tendency to pinch. For another, he very much had a reputation as being less than above board with some of his dealings, and he had a temper to rival even Father’s. “If we can come to order, I think we need to get things started.” Then to my surprise he turned to my brother and said, “Prince Ari of the Theoi has asked us all here to discuss a situation regarding a possible flareup of the Earthwar.”

Ari stood and smiled, “As you may now know, a servant of the Fyroar, a Ljol going by the Earth name Robert Killpatrick has managed a significant breakthrough with the Grand Experiment that we all abandoned so many centuries ago.”

“If this is true, one wonders why our cousins would barter away any advantage we might have in a coming conflict,” Surt of House Suttang said.

Wyten looked over at him and replied, “Because such a war would see us all destroyed, Cousin, and the five galaxies fall fully into the hands of Shaddai. The galaxies were not meant to be ruled by one power. As we are now, we keep each other in check.” He looked over at Hunlaman and added, “Alone, only the Ayoda stand a chance against the Host. Together however, we can continue our little side scuffles, but when lifters hit the atmosphere, we set aside our differences and present a united wall to the Host.” This was definitely the vaunted wisdom for which the man was famous.

“Wyten as usual makes a good point,” Father said. “I am interested in hearing more about their success with the Experiment.”

Wyten nodded and produced a data-wand. “We are willing to share the data with all present here.”

“You are double a fool, Wyten!” Surt yelled and stood, fire dancing in his eyes.

Casually Prince Donner stood, and smiled under the rich red locks of his beard. The thundering rumble of his voice however showed no such amusement. “Sit down, Cousin. Hear what Father has to say. You are embarrassing yourself and the Fyroar.”

“I’ll take no orders from a bastard!” Surt said.

Donner turned on him and replied, “You will sit and listen or I’ll have my agents on Earth eliminate your Warmaster and both the warspawn you sent with him. Can you afford to lose two category one warspawn?”

“How?” Surt said sitting down.

Donner smiled and said, “I have my ways. I’m not quite the fool that everyone seems to think I am. I take my duties quite seriously, and countering House Suttang has been my duty for a very long time.”

“Could have fooled me,” Wyten said lowly. Donner just grinned at him and joined Surt as he sat again at the table.

I spoke up, “I am curious as well as to why the Fyroar would share this information?”

“Besides the fact that your brother Ari has already obtained a copy of it while your forces engaged Cadre 5 on the ground?” Donner asked.

I nodded and turned to my brother who said, “Tell her Donner.”

“The process is actually not that difficult. The two main problems with it are first targeting only those races manipulated by our governments in the ancient past. That required a lot of work, but Killpatrick managed it. According to him, it actually required the genes to go dormant for a few thousand generations. Now that they’ve sort of baked in the oven that is humanity, it’s simply a matter of activating them in the right sequence and with the right stimuli.”

“And the second problem,” Ashera asked carefully.

He smiled over at her and said, “The talent prime.”

“I thought so,” I said.

“We’re at a critical stage in the development right now. All it would take would be the wrong broad-based mutagen to be introduced and the barrier between Earth and outer dimensions could be torn again.”

“And why would this be a problem?” Ashera asked.

“Because it would be such a broad spectrum mutagen that it would activate all the failed genes as well. Do we really want to return to Earth all the sports and monsters we accidentally created?” he said.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Donner,” Ashera said.

“Where?” he asked the dark-haired woman.

“The talent prime has already crept onto Earth. There is at least one person in possession of it already.”

“Who?” Surt demanded. “All we have to do is kill them and be done with it.”

Ashera shook her head. She looked over to one of the Fyroar who nodded and then she continued. “I do not know. But I know this. If you do manage to find them and kill them, then you may end up releasing it anyway. The power is very concentrated, it’s as powerful as your little band of neo-humans who are now on the path.”

“One being with that much power?” Ari asked. “It could harm even one of us then.”

Ashera smiled and said, “No, it could kill one of us. Think of the repercussions that would have throughout the five galaxies. With the rare exceptions of conflicts within our own houses none of us have died in half a million years. Fewer still have been born. We walk a very dangerous path now- as dangerous as this Cadre 5.”

Father grunted and said, “Then drop a sun-killer in the system’s primary and be done with it.”

Ari said, “It would do no good. What has started has started. Destroying another primal world will only strengthen Shaddai’s hand. This must play out, and it must play out very carefully.”

“Damn that upstart!” Father said vehemently. “He has tied all our hands.” Then turning on Ashera he asked, “Exactly what is your involvement in all of this?”

She smiled and asked, “Who do you think suggested to Robert Killpatrick that he take up the old experiment?”

“Why?” I asked.

“How else was I going to unite the other galactic powers against my former husband?” she said slyly.

Every man in the room began to curse. All I said was, “A woman scorned indeed.”


BOOMER aka Brian Alexander


New digs- again. This made the third suite we've had since we've been at Wyndgate. The first was our initial suite where we spent our first semester. Then, right after the mess with Fury we lost Aiesha and then got three new teammates and that meant that we needed a bigger suite so they moved us to top of one of the towers. Then we were attacked in the middle of the night, our old suite got trashed and it was decided that we would move to an active team status and so they decided to house us in one of the new buildings.

The building itself was called “The Cottage” and it was at the corner of the wall surrounding the school. It was far enough away from the rest of the school so that people wouldn't wander into it accidentally, but still inside the estate itself. At first glance it appeared to be a large one story cottage-like structure built in the same architectural style as the rest of the campus- all red brick and reminding you of something like a Victorian manor. The roses planted on a trellis at each corner went a long way in hiding the building's actual function.

Entering into it you found a reception area where one of several new administrative employees of the school monitored who came and went and logged it all for Doctor Blair's review. The only thing that gave away that this wasn't just another building on campus was the helipad located just outside the wall.

What was underneath was entirely different situation. There was a whole maze of rooms, and corridors, labs and God knows what else leading all over campus. There were also several suites like in the main building, except they had up to ten rooms per suite. Ours was huge, with far more space than I thought we would need. Even the bedrooms were larger, replacing the industrial-use furniture with something more like what I have at home. The central room had a huge meeting table in one corner and it was around this table where we found ourselves.

All of us were present, and of course in the school uniform- the regular one, not the body suits they'd just issued us. Kenna was sitting forward in a chair with one of her legs tucked under the other, her skirt pulled primly down below her knee, her blue and black fairy-like wings were gently wafting back and forth like large fans. She was wearing her long golden hair back in a ponytail and she had a knife out and was absently running her thumb along the blade. I could see some writing on it in German or some other language.

Next to her, Sawyer was listening to me tell the team what Doctor Blair had told the two of us. Even after a year, he was still the shortest boy on the team. I noticed that he had a book tucked into the chair beside him: A Modest Proposal by Johnathan Swift. I briefly wondered if the book was his choice or the one he and his sibs were reading with their dad. Every now and again, he'd reach up and brush a stray blond lock of hair from his eyes. His usual bowl cut hair style was starting to get a bit on the longish side.

Rowan was on the other side of him, curled up in an impossible position on the chair. Today he was wearing slacks instead of a skirt, so I tended to think of him as a he. I had lately started to identify our resident hermaphrodite's gender by his or her choice of skirt, or slacks. His black tufted golden cat ears were cocked forward, and his tail snaked out from under his left leg. There was a look of worry on his face that was very out of character for him.

Patrick was sitting across from Rowan, his feet kicked up on the table and he was eating an apple, and occasionally picking a piece of it out of the sharp vampire-like fangs. Lately, he'd taken to polishing the short hooked black horns above each eyebrow so they stood out in sharp contrast to his fair skin and the dark coppery hair that fell around them. I could see his red forked tail tapping the floor to a rhythm that only he could hear.

It was Tracy however who had the floor right now and he wasn't happy. He had his large white feathered wings pulled straight back and stiff behind him- a sure sign that he was taking the news badly. His long white hair was pulled back in a pony tail, and his school tie was loose at his throat. “What do you mean Michael is gone?” he demanded, his eyes narrowing to thin gray slits as she stared across the oak surface at me.

I sighed and repeated to him what Doctor Blair told Sawyer and me, “His parents decided to send him back to the Salem Center school in New York. They felt that his involvement with Cadre 5 is what got him targeted by that rogue telepath.”

“That's ridiculous,” Patrick protested.

“Not really,” Sawyer said. “In some ways, it's exactly correct. If someone wanted to get inside information on this team, there's no better way than to set a spy- especially one that doesn't know he's a spy- among us.”

“Michael is not a spy!” Tracy insisted.

Sawyer shook his head and said, “No, not knowingly. But evidently that psychiatrist his parents were making him see was not only a spy, but an unregistered and unbonded telepath. According to Doctor Moffett, she put a compulsion in his head to look for certain things and then to report them to her while he was seeing her. He didn't know he was a spy, but he was.”

“She also put in a kill-switch,” Kenna interrupted, her voice still cold and angry. “If he was scanned deeply enough, he was set to go berserk and try to kill everyone around him. The hope was evidently that we'd kill him because he went rogue and nobody would be the wiser. They just weren't counting on someone being able to bring him under control.” I knew that what she wasn't saying was that she was there and was the one who helped bring him down without having to kill him. Kenna was not happy about this situation and it was all that Sawyer, Rowan and I could do to keep her from going after this Doctor DePerl by herself. It had finally taken Doctor Moffett's promise that he would look into it personally.

“Are we sure that his association with us was the only reason that his parents pulled him from the school?” Rowan asked sitting back in her chair. An ear twitched slightly at the top her head. It was the first time our resident hermaphrodite had spoken since we'd all sat down at the table. He seemed rather distracted.

“Why else would he leave?” Sawyer asked.

Rowan frowned and said, “Sometimes people use one thing as a convenient excuse for another. From what he'd told me, his parents weren't happy with us deciding to go the JROTC route.”

“That's no reason to pull him out of the school,” Patrick protested.

“It is for some people,” Kenna said. “And using what happened with Doctor DePerl would let them shift the blame to someone else.”

“What blame?” Patrick pressed, his tail began nervously curling and uncurling behind him.

“Some people consider a military career beneath their children. From what I've heard from Michael, his parents could be in that category,” Kenna replied.

Shaking his head Patrick replied, “I just don't see it.”

As if sensing that she'd get no where with the discussion, Rowan shrugged and said, “It was an idea.”

“I just don't think it's true,” Patrick replied. For some reason, Michael's leaving was really upsetting him and Tracy. I wasn't sure why though.

Rowan frowned again and said sharply, “I was just tossing the idea out there. I'm not so stuck on it that I'm going to sit and argue with you about it.”

“What's got you so irritated?” Patrick demanded.

Rowan raised an eyebrow and said, “I don't like the idea of being associated with me to be considered a bad thing. It just sort of rubs me the wrong way. I haven't done anything to be considered a bad influence or even to put people in danger. This pisses me off as much as it does you.”

The vehemence in her voice surprised everyone in the room. I got the feeling that there was more going on with the team's third in command than I knew about. I turned to Sawyer with a questioning look and he just shrugged. She must have caught it though because she said, “Brian if you have a question about me, ask me. Don't turn to my boyfriend for an explanation.”

I turned and smiled at him and said, “Okay, who pissed in your oatmeal? And don't tell me it's about being considered a bad influence. We all know better.”

He frowned yet again, and said, “I'm tired of moving, I don't want to live in a hole, and I'm tired of worrying about what this or that government agency is going to do. I don't like this sniping at each other and I'm tired losing friends.” There was a genuine hurt in his voice. For some reason he was taking Michael's leaving as personal.

Then I understood. Rowan had been raised pretty much in isolation most of his or her life and had never made any friends. This team was the first real connection he'd ever felt to the outside world- the only real friends he'd ever had. Now he'd lost two in less than a year. I softened my voice somewhat and said, “I understand Rowan. I guess this whole situation is starting wear thin on all of us. School hasn't been in session that long and we already need a break. It's a good thing that Fall break is coming up for Halloween.”

“That reminds me,” Kenna interrupted me with a look that told me she'd look into things with Rowan. “My folks wanted me to invite you all to Winterfinding during Fall Break.”

I raised an eyebrow and said, “That's unexpected.”

She smiled and said, “I know. But Da' has already asked Professor Moffett and a few other members of the faculty. I wheedled an invite for Goth from Neoforce 1 and he told me to go ahead and invite you guys too.” She stopped a moment, smiled at me and Patrick and said, “That includes Lauren and Amelia too.” The fact that Patrick and Amelia had started dating right after the incident with the aliens had gone a long way in calming down our resident speedster. Of course when together, he and Trance looked like something out of devilish version of a fashion magazine.

“When is it?” I asked.

“Halloween Night,” she told us.

“I'll talk to Lauren,” I told her.

Patrick smiled hugely and said, “I'm sure that Amelia will appreciate the invitation. She said she wasn't going to get to go home so this would be a good distraction,” Patrick said, seeming to calm down some. Kenna's suggestion seemed to take the wind out of a lot of the anger and irritability in the room.

With a smile that told me she knew exactly what had just happened, Kenna said, “Great.” The she sat down on the back of her chair and waited for the discussion to continue.

Actually, it didn't get much further than that. We were all still trying to settle in, and were buried in our latest project. Maybe the bad guys had let up on us for a few weeks, but Mr. Waterford sure hadn't. He seemed to be pushing us toward something, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was. Not only that, but Sawyer and I were still expected to meet at least once a week with the other cadre leaders. Before long it became clear that we all had other things to do so we went our separate ways.

I saw Rowan headed toward the main door of the suite and out into the maze of halls that made up the underground portion of the complex. I slipped out behind him and jogged to catch up. As I pulled up beside him I said, “Let's go for a walk.”

He turned to look at me as one of the cat's ears at the top of his head rotated directly toward me. “Is this team business?”

I smiled and said, “Only in that I'm wondering what's going on with my third.”

He shook his head and said, “Nothing really.”

As we walked along the corridor, our shoes making sharp reports that echoed off the walls, I sighed and told him, “Nothing doesn't make you nearly bite my head off.”

He had the good graces at least to blush. With a sigh he said, “It's personal.”

That worried me. I knew that Rowan kept things close to his vest so to speak, but on this team, “personal” could get us all killed. He was one of the most private people I've ever met, and had his personal life drug through the mud by the press. That had been hard on all of us. The fact that he was dating both Sawyer and Kenna had been kept under wraps by the three of them up until the day we'd faced Fury. He also went out of is way to keep other people's secrets, you know, the little things he picked up around the school with his heightened senses. Unlike Kenna who as a member of Psi-Corps had taken an oath about personal privacy, Rowan did it out of a desire to treat others the way he wished to be treated. So him saying personal, could be very deep. “If I promise to keep what we talk about to myself, will it help you to get another perspective?”

“I don't know,” he said. “It involves other people and it's information that is eventually going to get out, but I think the people involved would rather be the ones who tell it.”

“Then why is it bothering you?” I asked.

“Because I don't like to consider myself as selfish or spoiled and that's how I'm feeling about it right now.” There was a deep ache in his voice. This was obviously something that was eating at him.

“Rowan, you're one of the richest people in the world. A lot of people are going to consider you selfish just because of that,” I said. “I know it's not true. You're one of the most giving people I've ever met. The contracts you set up for us to market our images prove that. You're not selfish.”

“I am when it comes to my family and friends,” he said defiantly.

“That can be a good thing,” I countered. “Look I don't know what this is about, but I know you're not selfish. Let me help if I can.”

He took in a deep breath and the outline of his form reminded me that he was not exactly a male- at least not all male. Letting it out with a long sigh, he said, “Heather has a boyfriend and it's starting to get serious.”

I was starting to understand. Rowan's cousin Heather was the only family he had left, their parents having been killed by a neo-gang in Washington DC. Anything that might take Heather away from him could be seen as a threat. Rowan had in the past demonstrated that he could be as territorial as the cat whose features he bore. “Is he likely to want to pull you out of Wyndgate?”

Rowan shook his head and said, “No. But he lives out West. That would put Heather a long way away.” I could tell that there was more to it than that.

“What else?” I asked.

“He's old,” Rowan said.

“How old?” I countered.

“In his forties, I think,” he said. “He has a son our age.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “You don't approve?”

Again with a deep breath and a long sigh he said, “Who the hell am I to approve or disapprove? Heather has been more than supportive of my relationship with Sawyer and Kenna.”

“But you're not comfortable,” I said starting to understand. If his cousin hadn't had a problem with Rowan having a boyfriend and a girlfriend, then his discomfort over her having an older boyfriend would likely make my introspective friend very uncomfortable.

He frowned sadly and said, “No, I'm not. I'm not sure why I'm not comfortable with it, but I'm not. I'm afraid that it might be because I feel like he'd be taking her away from me, and that's not fair to her or to him.” Sighing he added, “And there are other issues, I'm not really at liberty to discuss just now.”

I nodded my head realizing that he'd elaborate no further. “Well, if there's anything I can do to help, let me know- even if it's just to give you someone to bounce your frustrations off of.” Then changing the subject I asked, “How are things between you and Kenna and Sawyer?”

He smiled and said, “Pretty good. We all know that Saw was a royal grump while the FBI was here, but he's since come out of it.”

I smiled. He was right. To say Sawyer had been rude to the FBI was an understatement. He blew up a table and chair in briefing room to make his point. “I think he has good reason to distrust the government,” I told him.

“Yeah, but that's not good reason to take it out on the rest of us,” Rowan said as we made our way to the stairs. He opened the door into a wing I hadn't yet been into and waited for me to pass through.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“It's a short cut to the active teams' gym,” he said.

“There's an active team gym?” I asked.

He nodded and said, “This place is completely self-contained. There's even a hospital wing. I think they're starting to think it would be a good idea to keep us isolated from the rest of the school.”

“And why are you going to the gym?” I asked.

“Because there's nobody there right now and I have some exercises to work on,” he told me.


“Just how much exploring have you done?” I asked.

He stopped and smiled. “I'm part cat. I'm naturally curious, and I don't sleep a lot.”

“You know, curiosity killed the cat,” I teased him.

“Yeah, and satisfaction along with a can of tuna brought him back,” he replied playfully.

“Lead on then,” I told him.

He stopped in his tracks and turned around and said, “The last person that told me that, I ended up in a hot tub with.”

Suddenly I felt my face flush. This was a side of my friend I had not seen before. I swallowed and said, “Sorry, but I like my balls right where they are, and we both know that Kenna, Lauren, and Sawyer would take turns removing both our sets for us.”

He grinned and said, “Gotcha.”

“For a second there, I thought you were serious,” I said.

“For a second there I was,” he replied. “But I don't break my promises.” He paused a second and then added, “And neither do you.”

I grinned at him and realized that the quiet shy person that we first thought was a girl with really bad fashion sense was actually starting to come out of his or her shell and felt comfortable enough to joke around and even flirt a bit. In a lot of ways it was a testament to how much the team had grown together like a family. With a grin I asked, “So what kind of exercises are you working on in the gym?” I asked him.

“Some flexibility stunts Coach Moore and Commander Erikson want me to master. They think that it will give me the edge when facing off against other neos with enhanced strength and durability,” he told me as we made our way through a door marked: Mechanical Room.

“Sort of what you did to Fury when you spear handed her in the throat?” I asked as a powerful bleach odor hit us. I saw Rowan crinkle up his nose and I realized that it must have been playing hell with his enhanced senses. The room was dimly lit by an overhead bank of florescent lights and everything was painted a battleship gray. To our right were huge water tanks sitting over some kind of furnace. I realized that this was where they heated the water for the new indoor pool.

“Yeah,” he said as we quickly made our way past the tanks and into the outer hall. It
was then I realized that we were coming out in the custodial closet near the locker rooms for the gym. “Commander Erikson taught me that maneuver. But a lot of this is learning to move so I don't make an easy target. For some reason a lot of bricks and tanks think they should stand there and take a beating instead of learning to fight effectively.”

I stopped for a moment and then realized something. “This is about your costume isn't it.”

I watched him blush as he stopped a moment before entering the girls' locker room. “Yeah. I guess it is. I'm tired of getting my clothes ripped, blown, and burned off of me.”

“Aren't the new costumes supposed to resist that?” I asked. We'd all been issued a new black and white costume that had some kind of crystal embedded in its weave. According to Mr. Waterford, it was supposed to very resistant to cutting, tearing, and heat.

“Maybe,” he said. “We'll see. But I'd rather not have to find out the hard way.” He then disappeared into the locker room.

Figuring the conversation was over, I headed out to find Lauren.

GHOST aka Sawyer Jackson Grey

Halloween weekend turned out to be very eye opening on a number of different levels. Since we were all going, and since my parents had allowed me bring my Jeep to the school, Kenna, Rowan, and I piled into it and I drove us out to the Draupnir farm. Lauren brought the rest out in a school van. I'm not sure when the faculty left or how they planned to get there.

The trip through the Appalachians was actually kind of nice because the leaves were changing and the mountains were afire with rich reds and golds. The temperatures were cool and pleasant- very different from the Autumns of Alabama to which I was accustomed. I was really looking forward to the idea of the huge feast that Kenna had described as part of this celebration.

The sun was just disappearing behind the western mountains, painting the sky with long streaks of purple and orange as we turned down the winding gravel road that lead to the Draupnir’s place. Pulling into the farmyard we could see where lights were still on in the big barn off to the right, and there was movement inside. In the distance I could see two people- one tall, thin and dark-haired and the other short and blond- walking back from what was obviously a hog pen. Buckets bounced back and forth in the hand of each of the forms, suggesting that their contents had already been emptied.

I parked behind a big black SUV with New York plates and we all unloaded. The crisp air was cooler than I expected and I briefly I considered digging my jacket out of the backpack I pulled out of the back of the Liberty. But as I didn't expect us to be outside long, I decided against it. As we unloaded, Mr. and Mrs. Draupnir came out onto the front porch to meet us. Mrs. Draupnir had in her hands a large platter with several stoneware cups from which I could see wisps of steam rising.

Rowan and I grabbed Kenna’s bags and we followed her up onto the porch where she hugged her father. Then with a smile she took the mugs from her mother’s tray and handed one to each of us saying, “Welcome to our home.” I saw something pass between Mr. Draupnir and Kenna and the big man smiled.

Sipping the steaming cup I savored the deep mellow taste of well-aged apples, cinnamon and honey. “Thank you,” I told her- a sentiment echoed by Rowan as we entered the large farmhouse.

To be honest, we'd all been just a little too wound up to pay much attention to the place the last time we were here. It was right after the fight with Fury, and was when Aiesha had disappeared on us. I wasn't sure- and I was a just a bit afraid to ask- but I suspected that Kenna had something to do with her disappearance. Looking around, I took a deep breath and took in the sights and smells.

There was a huge sloped stone fireplace separating what was the main living room from the kitchen. It was open on both sides to allow one fire to warm both rooms. I noticed a cast iron arm that ended in a hook was folded back out of the way. Another iron from the opposite side held a blackened cook pot just a few inches above the coals that had been raked forward. The smell of apples and cinnamon wafted from the pot.

The living area was paneled with a golden maple and there was a leather sofa at one end and several overstuffed chairs scattered around the room. A large rectangular rug lay in the middle of the room, it's crimson and cream hammer design bringing out the warmth of the honey oak floors. A large bookcase stood on either side of the fireplace and I realized that Mr. Draupnir and my dad would probably get along rather well. No, scratch that. I already knew they got along.

Next to a large picture window that looked out over the front porch, Kenna's grandmother sat in a rustic style rocking chair of dark wood. The gnarled limbs of the chair seemed to be echoed in the old woman who had an enigmatic smile as she watched us tromp into the house. I could swear that she winked at me as Kenna and Rowan came into the room.

I felt Rowan's arm drop across my shoulder as Kenna wiggled her way between us. The short blonde girl giggled briefly and said, “Gradma, you remember, Rowan and Sawyer, don't you.”

The old woman's smile became bigger, as her gaze fell on us. She scoffed at the question and said, “Of course I do child. I'm old, I'm not daft.”

“Never said you were,” Kenna countered with a grin.

“It's good to see you again, Mrs. Draupnir,” I told her.

“You too, Sawyer,” she replied. “And of course none of us can forget Rowan- named for a tree known for its ability to bend without breaking.” Rowan and I gave each other a questioning look. That comment came out of no where. The old woman must have caught it because she chuckled and said, “I'm not quite that gone. I was just thinking about the grace and style you've exhibited with your recent encounters with the media. You've done far better than I would have. I'd have gutted a few people by now.”

Rowan simply grinned showing her sharp fangs and said, “It was close sometimes, ma'am.”

This time the woman gave out a deep throaty laugh that shook her small frame all the way to her rattling bones. “That's the spirit.”

Before we could say much more, there was the sound of someone closing the door, then an excited, “Kenna!”

Suddenly a small form launched itself across the room to tackle her into a huge hug. There was a flurry of blue, black and red as Kenneth flung himself into Kenna's arms. “What's the matter, Kenny?” she asked. “You didn't sense me here?”

“I...,I...,” he stammered for a few moments and then his eyes darted to the tall dark-haired form of Alex Caine in standing the doorway looking sheepish. I noticed that he'd since parted his raven bangs in the middle so that his third eye was clearly visible- as blue as the day sky.

“Hello, Alex,” I said walking over to him offering him a hand.

He looked down for a second at it and the with a wry grin shook it. “I still say you're too damn happy to let live.”

“Yeah, and you're too damn depressing to kill,” I countered back at him. I had paid close attention to his and Kenna's interplay back in Kentucky. There was a grudging affection shared between them that seemed to manifest itself in the form mock insults.

It must have worked because a smile suddenly spread across his face and he said, “Looks like Kenna was right about you, Runt.”

“Runt?” I asked. I know. I know. I'm small. The only person on the team who is shorter than I am is Kenna, and there are times when she can be confused with primary school kid.

“Yeah. Runt,” he said and leaned in close. Whispering in my ear, he added, “But from what I've been seen, not where it counts.” Pulling back he smiled big.

Something moved quickly at the edge of my vision. I looked over to see where Rowan's head had whipped around. There was a scowl on her face. I know how she feels about personal privacy.

Rowan walked over coldly. “Goth,” he said softly. There was a distance in his voice that told me he wasn't happy.

Alex raised a dark brow and replied, “Shadow Claw.”

Rowan looked him up and down. For just a moment I wondered if he was sizing him up for a meal or for a fight. He wasn't flexing his fingers and his claws hadn't appeared yet, but I could tell by his stance that he could flash into violence very quickly. “How are things with Neoforce 1?” he asked out of the blue.

The utter banality of the question juxtaposed with the coiled power of his stance made the whole scene seem surreal. Alex's third eye blinked, while the other two simply narrowed- obviously surprised at the question. That was saying something considering how hard it is to surprise a telepath. He smiled and said, “Not bad. The rest of the team is finally starting to think of us as actual teammates and not as kids to be trained.” Then leaning down toward me he said, “And I meant your heart.” Then letting gaze drift below my belt he added, “Not other places.”

“You're an ass, Alex. You know that?” I said.

He just smiled and replied, “I work at it.”

I smirked and told him, “I thought it was a natural talent.”

“No, that was Badger,” he said with a deep sadness. “God I miss him.”

I nodded. The only times I'd ever met Badger was when we'd been in fights: the first one with Badger and the rest of that team, and then when we fought Fury and Badger had died saving Brian from being ripped in half. I simply nodded and said, “I understand.”

He looked over to where Kenna and Kenneth were releasing each other from their impromptu hug/wrestling matches. “You sounded surprised to see me,” Kenneth was saying.

“I am,” Kenna told him. “Did Mom, and Brandt, and the baby come?”

Kenneth nodded and said, “They did.”

“How?”

“The government has backed off from watching us lately. We think there's some kind of internal struggle going on in the executive branch. Right now, we're just too small fish to fry,” Kenneth told her, his English accent becoming more pronounced.

“But why didn't I sense you?” she asked.

I watched as sparks of electricity started dancing between their antennae as their heads almost touched. Finally, she looked over at Goth and smiled. With a slight “Oh,” she added, “that didn't take long.”

Kenneth shrugged and said, “It's not like you weren't aiming for it happen.”

“Well I sort of wanted to watch you two dance around each other for a while,” she teased him.

“Why should we do that?” Kenneth told her. “Blokes don't play the same kinds of games a birds. Once the line is crossed, there's no reason to look back.”

“I'll cross you,” she said and then looked over to Alex and added, “both of you, if you hurt each other.”

Rowan turned around and looked at Kenna and said, “That hardly seems fair.”

Kenna just smiled and said, “I'm not trying to be fair. I'm tired of being fair. There are certain people in my life that I want happy and I'll make sure they're happy if I have to bust their heads.”

“That's Grandma Rood a talkin',” Kenna's grandmother said. The rest of us burst out laughing. It was just the first piece of weirdness that was going to mark that Halloween. Of course what would happen later would simply put it all into perspective. The world was about to change and none of us realized just how much.

The second piece of weirdness came the next morning. The rest of the team had arrived a little later in the night and they bunked all the boys down in a large well heated room off the barn. It looked like it was originally an old western bunkhouse or something because there were about five sets of bunk beds set up around a large heat-stove. I later found out that it was guest housing for when their kindred had large gatherings. It was a place to put the single folks and older kids.

Oddly enough, they were going to put Rowan in there with us until they discovered that his scent was making the cows in the barn very nervous. Still even with me, Brian, Patrick, Tracy, and Goth in there it was anything but crowded. Kenneth stayed up in the main house. I got the feeling that Mr. Draupnir might not have been as sanguine with his son's sexual proclivities as he made out to be. Or it might simply have been wanting to have him close. They were after all living with the Atlantic Ocean between them most of the time. When that thought hit me, I made a mental note to call my dad the next day. We sat up late into the night just talking.

Alex was able to give us some more insight into what it meant to be on actual active team- and get paid. There were all kinds of rules and regulations they had to follow. Right now things were kind of quiet as the President had placed their team on stand down because of some kind of incident that he couldn't talk about.

I got up before everyone else the next day. I guess it was the sounds of someone moving next door in the barn that woke me. The temperatures were down in the low forties- hey that's cold weather for an Alabama boy. I grabbed a jacket and headed out to clear my head and look around the farm.

The steady rhythmic sounds of an ax hitting wood caught my attention. About a hundred yards away, I saw Mr. Draupnir busting up kindling- at first I thought it was for the fire place in the house. There was an early morning fog clinging low to the ground. However the scent of burning wood permeated the fog and I realized that some of it was actually smoke coming from a large barbeque pit near him. Beyond that was a small shed, it's door standing open.

I wandered over to where he was positioning a disk of wood on the block. It was about a two feet long a good foot across. I couldn't help but notice the massive arms on the huge bear of a man that he was. He had his shirtsleeves rolled up and with each flex of his muscles I could see his biceps straining against the blue and white checks of his flannel shirt. “Mornin' Mr. Draupnir,” I said.

He looked back and smiled at me. “You're up early,” he said hefting the ax.

“Yes sir. I always get up early. Usually Rowan and Kenna and I grab a thermos of coffee and go down by the pond and feed the ducks before breakfast.”

“Whack!” the ax came down splintering the hard oak in half. Mr. Draupnir repositioned himself to quarter the first piece.

“Surprised to hear young folks getting up at day break. Rowan was up when I came out of the house.

“He probably didn't sleep much last night. It has something to do with his neo power. He really doesn't sleep much.”

“I kinda gathered that,” Mr. Draupnir said with a grunt as the ax came down again, this time splintering the log into quarters. He picked up the two pieces and tossed them into a pile he had started.

I grabbed the half that hadn't been split yet and positioned it on the block for him. He looked over at me, and I could see the small act had registered with him as I stepped back out of the way of his swing. “You cut wood much, Sawyer?” he asked.

“We have a fireplace at my house in Alabama. In the winter, it's my job to keep the wood bin full. Braxton, my brother has to bring it inside when we need it.” Actually I can run a chainsaw, use and ax, a wood splitter, and sledge and wedge.

“Wouldn't think it got cold enough for a fireplace that far south,” he said as he split the second piece of wood. I noticed how even though the ax had gone all the way down the length of the wood, each side had not come completely free and long strings of wood fiber kept them joined. I took a whiff and said, “Hickory.”

Kenna's dad looked up and smiled. “They teaching you that at Wyndgate?” he asked.

I chuckled and said, “No. I've chopped enough hickory to know what it looks like.” Looking over at the covered pit that wisps of smoke coming out the side, I said, “For the barbeque pit?”

He nodded and said, “Winterfinding is a good time to kill a hog and make a real feast out of it.”

I grinned and said, “I love barbeque.”

“Then you're probably in for a treat,” he replied. Then nodding his head in the direction of the woodpile he said, “Next.” I grinned back and grabbed another log and set it up on the block.

We set up a rhythm where I lay down the wood and stacked the split pieces and he chopped them. It didn't take long for us to have a nice pile going. Between swings he said, “We need to have enough cut for the womenfolk to be able to keep the fire and heat cooking until sundown tomorrow.” That sort of surprised me. The hog they were cooking must be really big if it was going to cook that long.

I looked over at what we had cut so far, and realized it wasn't going to be enough. “Got another ax?” I asked.

He grinned hugely and said, “Just in the door of the shed.”

I walked over and grabbed the handle of the ax leaning inside the door and set up myself an area to start busting up wood. The physical exercise in the cool air felt good. By the time the sun was all the way above the mountains in the East, we had quite a pile going- more than enough to keep the fire burning until tomorrow evening. We were just finishing up when we heard Mrs. Draupnir ring the breakfast bell just outside their kitchen door.

“Breakfast will be ready in about ten minutes,” Mr. Draupnir said as he smiled over at me.

“Sounds good,” I told him as we put the axes away in the shed.

“You got any idea what you're gonna' do when you graduate from Wyndgate?” he asked me casually.

I shrugged and said, “There may be a military option now. Our school having Junior Naval ROTC now opens up some possibilities. To be honest, I hadn't thought much about it until recently.”

“You think you might want a military career?” he asked me.

“It might be a way around having to serve on any of the various Neoforce teams. I grew up sort of learning my dad's business, but I get the feeling that's going to be Braxton's or one of my sisters' job now. I know I'd like to go to college; but whatever I do, I get the feeling it's not going to be a traditional college career.”

“Well, given the options that you have, what do you think you'll do?” he asked again.

I gave a sort of half smile as I thought about it. Then I told him, “The idea of a Naval career is starting to appeal to me more and more. Beyond that, maybe engineering, I like to build things.”

For some reason my answer seemed to please him because I could see a tightness in his shoulders and even his eyes begin to relax. He smiled and said, “Glad to hear you've got plans for the future. That's always important for a young person.” I nodded and smiled politely as I followed him into the house.

One thing was apparent during that visit, Kenneth and Alex had more than just a passing interest in each other. I'm not sure what it was. Kenna in the past had said that Kenneth was immune to Alex's psychic vampirism powers, but I wasn't sure how she knew that, or if he was immune to any of his other powers. I damn sure didn't know why he was immune to them. Every now and again at the breakfast table I caught them exchanging quick glimpses and maybe a giggle or a blush. I guess it was kind of cute. Kenna seemed very pleased with herself for some reason.

After breakfast, we all helped the Draupnirs set up for the guests and gathering the following night. It was kind of interesting really. The Draupnirs had at their disposal a large squad of super-powered teenagers, so we got most of it taken care of in short order. I just hoped his neighbors would be understanding if they happened to see several winged and non-winged people flying over the farm.

I don't think I'll ever get over the sight of Patrick and Amelia dive bombing the small heard of hogs that got out because Kenneth and Alex left the gate to their pen open. It looked like some kind of battle in heaven as the demon winged girl and our angel winged teammate swooped down from the sky to startle the hogs. The animals themselves would squeal loudly and run off in a random direction. They also had a whole lot tighter turning radius than our winged friends so they could twist out of the way to avoid being hit.

It took us the better part of an hour to get them back in their pen and out of the potato patch. About half way through watching all six of our fliers, Tracy, Amelia, Brian, Kenneth, Kenna, and Lisa I realized just how silly we all looked, and just how much fun we were having. Patrick, Alex, and myself were on the ground trying to round them back toward the pen when Rowan came walking across the field. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a Wyndgate School sweatshirt with a Washington Nationals baseball cap perched on his head. He positioned himself so that the herd was between him and the open gate. Taking a deep breath, he roared toward them. I felt the force of the roar right down to my toes as every pig stopped in it's tracks and suddenly ran for the safety of the pen.

We all just stood there and stared in shock as he smiled. Looking over at Kenneth he said, “You may want to shut the gate. Otherwise we'll have to do it all over again.”

“We?” Brian asked dropping from the sky. We've been at this for an hour and you just walk up and scare them in.”

Rowan grinned at him and said, “And here you and Saw are supposed to be the great tacticians. You didn't remember how the cows reacted to me? I smell like a predator to them. All I had to use that.”

“Where have you been for the last hour?” Amelia asked as she and Tracy landed next to her.

Rowan smiled and said, “Having a nice cup of coffee and a long talk with Mr. Draupnir.” For a second I wondered if Kenna's dad was arranging to meet and talk to both Rowan and I. You know what I mean: The father talk. Not that I minded, I sort of expected it. I also sort of expected that Mom and Dad were going to have similar talks with Rowan and Kenna, and maybe Heather would grill Kenna and me.

“Just how do you do it, Blake?” Lisa asked, her blood-red hawk like wings folding up behind her.

“Do what, Talon?” Rowan asked looking over toward our former enemy now turned ally.

Lisa smiled and said, “No matter what the situation, you get thrown into the crapper and you come up with roses.”

Rowan raised an eyebrow. He started to say something but then seemed to think better of it. Then blowing my mind he said, “We all have our burdens to bear, Lisa. Most people I would tell that they should walk a mile in my shoes for a while before making that kind of comparison, but I know that you've walked far enough in your own. As for how do I cope; I simply refuse to be a frightened cat- a victim any more.” He looked down at his right hand and flexed it. I watched as the black claws emerged from his fingers and the hair on his arms grew long, black and dark. “And I've come to realize that this little cat has some very sharp claws.”

Lisa nodded with a smile and said, “Good answer.”

I was surprised at how the three teams were meshing. Here we had Cadre 5, two members of Cadre 4, and Lisa Polanski and Alex Caine from Neoforce 1, plus Kenna's twin, Kenneth. We were all getting along just fine. I just didn't realize at the time how important it was going to be.

(continued below)


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