10 Years Later:
Chapter 6: Plan vs. Plan-Fire burned in the braziers and a low, rumbling chant filled the room. In his cage he screamed and screamed as sigils, years old and coldly quiet, flared to hot life on his skin. He raged. He cursed. He felt the self he thought regained sizzling away in a miasma of flame and blood. Shadows danced within him as supernovas flared before his eyes. Then it was over. He knew what he had to do. He felt the bile of jealousy boil up his throat and as the door to his cage opened he grasped desperately for the cold iron of the black blade. His powers had been diminished once. Overshadowed by those less deserving. He had risen to the pinnacle and been bathed in their glorious fear. Now they feared him no more and he would have to reinforce the lesson.
"Go my righteous instrument. Strike down those who cast you aside and praised others instead of you."
In a burst of light and shadow, he went.
"You are joking right? This is some kind of prank isn't it?"
Paula Cabrera frowned. The sextet of cadets, she hated that word, but Janez insisted on it. He thought it made them sound more official or more important than calling themselves students. The girl from the Canary Islands found it more than a little pretentious, but Janez wheedled and cajoled until everyone gave in. Anyway, the sextet of cadets
had been canvassing the school to find bodyguards for Mallorie. More accurately Antero, Janez and Paula were tasked with recruiting bodyguards. Danielle and Darielle were still trying to figure out exactly why their brother went berserk and killed his classmates. Additionally, they were responsible for finding out as much as possible about the magic dagger. This second research project seemed like a waste of time to Paula. Nobody at the school was a mage. No one knew the first thing about magic. She felt like they were fish trying to quantify the moon. Finally there was Sophie. her roommate, petite, shy, Sophie Brouwer. Sophie got the odd jobs. Steal confidential files. Try to keep the faculty from interfering and convince Mallorie to play along with their paranoid theory. Paula was of the opinion they ought to have Antero speak with her. Tero was hunkalicious and even if the German girl was disinclined to buy into the bodyguard thing, the big Fin was fine eye candy and might just go along to spend time with him. Janez had argued it should be Sophie. The elfin dutch girl with the pixie cut hair was too cute for anyone to refuse. As usual, Janez bullied them all into submission by simply running his mouth until they all gave in just to shut him up.
Now Paula was on the quad, trying to do her part. Her primary target was Stefan Gillenbrand, a yummy senior from Luxembourg. Stefan had been playing frisbee with Tommaso De Luca and Georgi Katzarov when she interrupted them. It was the bespectacled, studious Tommaso who'd expressed...doubt regarding paula's proposition. Now the cocoa complected girl was frowning. She didn't really care for the Junior, she immediately concluded.
"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not joking. I also wasn't speaking to you."
Stefan held up his hand, palm facing outward. "Hold on. Let me see if I understand this correctly. You want me to take on the role of bodyguard..."
"Part time bodyguard."
"...part time bodyguard, protecting Mallorie Weber, Valkyrie, one of the most powerful students at this academy because two girls from France believe their brother, who has never met her, is planning to kill her?"
"In a nutshell? Exactly. If we're right, he's going to stab her to death with a magic dagger."
Stefan cocked his head to the side. "You didn't mention he's a mage."
"He's not. He's a full-spectrum, light controller."
"But he's got a magic dagger."
"That's the operating theory."
"Ludicrous!" Tommaso exclaimed. "Stefan you're being punked. This is stupid!"
"I'm. Not. Talking. To. You!" Paula growled, her sea green eyes stormy. Her body shifted underneath the serape' she habitaually wore and Tommaso stepped back, suddenly worried one of the prettiest girls on campus was about to beat him up.
"I'll help." A low, sibilant voice piped up. It was Georgi Katzarov. Despite being in Paula's class, she knew almost nothing about the sharp featured boy from Bulgaria. It occured to her that except for Tommaso, she didn't really know much about any of these young men. Stefan was supposed to be a bad ass. So much so, he was considered a lock for Vindicators membership after graduation. His school codename was Quietus, which meant death
or the last word
. Either way, it sounded like he wasn't anyone to mess with. Georgi Katzarov was a complete mystery to her. He was kind of sinister looking and was the only student who was unfazed by creepy, Bartholomew Hastings. That was the extent of her information. Tommaso De Luca, she knew. That rare combination of intellectual and lothario, his ability to see into the past was pretty much useless for what she had in mind. He would make for a fine historian or detective, assuming he wasn't jailed for statutory rape at some point, but as a bodyguard, he was three centimeters past useless.
"Great." She said, favoring Georgi with a wide smile. Claspnig her hands behind her back and casting her gaze groundwar, she tried to look sheepish. It almost worked. "If you don't mind me asking, exactly what is
"I have complete psychokinetic control over fiber, organic or synthetic."
Paula was left gaping. "Umm...I'm sure that's incredibly cool, but I don't...Eep!" Suddenly her serape' squeezed in on her, pinning her arms to her side and crushing the wind out of her. Her eyes went wide as her classmate grinned evilly. Then, the poncho-like garment went slack.
"You were saying?"
"Welcome to the team...?"
Paula shuddered as an image of being lynched by her own clothing flashed before her minds' eye. The sinister looking teen's power was suddenly very frightening. "Right. Welcome to the team Gallows."
"Sign me up too." Stefan said, a lop-sided smirk on his face.
"I'm almost afraid to ask, but what is it you do?"
"This." Red flames flared from his hands and coalesced into an ornate, double headed, battle-axe.
"Color me impressed." Paula had scored an unexpected two for one and felt a little giddy at her success.
"Who else have we got?" Stefan asked, letting the axe of red fire flicker out of existence.
"Antero Tuominen, Sophie Brouwer, janez Vidmar and the Bertrand twins, of course. Janez is going to speak with Felix Reiter and Tero is going to try Valechka Boiko."
"Valechka Boiko? Are you certain that's wise?" Stefan asked, instantly more like an older brother concerned his sister could get hurt, than an axe wielder who's alias translated as death. "She's just a freshman."
"You've seen the footage of her, right?" Paula asked. "We'd be idiots not to at least ask her to help. I mean, everyone knows who she is the spitting image of...at least as far as powers go."
Stefan nodded. "Quintessence."
"Right. Quintessence. That's too bad ass to ignore."
"That's insane!" Tommaso practically spat. "She's fourteen years old! How irresponsible can you...huch!
The italian stumbled back from the strong fingers that touched his cheek. With a spasm, he collapsed on the lawn. "I told you...I'm not in the mood for your crap, Tommaso!" The distaff neo-sapien snarled.
"What did you do to him?" Georgi asked, kneeling beside the other boy, checking his vitals.
"Paralytic sting." Paula wiggled her fingers. "Non-fatal, but perfect for turning down the volume on screechy voiced pests."
"If he reports you there'll be trouble." Georgi looked up, satisfied De Luca would survive.
"I know." Paula rubbed her temples and sighed. "I'm sorry, but he was about three centimeters past being an annoying bitch.'
"Sooo, we've agreed to help," Stefan steered the conversation back on point. "now what?"
"We're having a meeting at eight tonight in the cantina to coordinate a schedule."
"We'll be there."
Meanwhile, across campus, Antero had walked into a situation he wasn't certain how to handle. It wasn't that he didn't knock, he did. And he was sure he'd heard the words come in
from the room. When he opened the dorm room door he was confronted with a seriously heavy make-out session in progress. he was pretty certain the girl in the blazer and skirt, wearing low heeled pumps was Valechka. However, he had no idea who the thick, bodied, bleach blonde guy pressing her up against the headboard was. All he knew was their kissing was sloppily noisy and their hands were roaming everywhere. Just as he was recovering and backing out of the room, averting his eyes, face beet red, a girlish voice stopped him.
"Mmph. Hold on. Shlup." Then the pair on the bed pulled apart, revealing both as girls and Tero went even redder. The bleach blonde with the short hair, wearing dungarees, flannel shirt and Doc Martens was boy-ish, but definitely female.
"Hey there big fella, how can we help you?" Amazingly, the high pitched, breathy voice belonged to the butch girl. Tero was simply in shock. He had nothing against gays, whether male or female, but the scene confronting him was so far removed from what he'd expected to find that he was having difficulty processing it. His mouth was moving, but no sound was coming out.
"Maybe we should have stopped before he came in?" The thin girl he assumed was Valechka, said. In contrast to the breathy voice of her companion, her voice was raspy and rough, as if she'd been nursing a two pack-a-day habit for the last twenty years.
"Valechka Boiko?" He asked hesitantly.
"That's me," She said in her gravelly voice. "and this is my girlfriend, Kristjana Eydisdottir."
"Just Kris. Only my parents call me Kristjana."
"Right...right." he said drawing the words out, as his mind finally caught up with the situation. He was positive he would've been okay, if he hadn't walked in on Asterix swapping spit with the Obelix. "Sorry to bother you, but I have something to ask you."
Both young ladies leaned forward and Kris draped her arm protectively over Valechka's shoulders. "Ask away."
"It concerns Mallorie Weber."
From there the conversation went smoothly. Valechka was remarkably receptive to the plan concerning mallorie. So receptive in fact, she encouraged her girlfriend to join the bodyguard corps. Antero was relieved to discover that while Valechka, it was always Valechka, never Val, commanded the same cosmic forces the legendary Quintessence had, her partner was no weak sister. The burly girl from Iceland had the power to become a giant. She could grow to a staggering twenty four feet tall, with a corresponding increase in strength and mass. As soon as the Wreck Room was reopened, whenever that might happen, Kris and Tero vowed to face off in a friendly, head to head, weight-lifting competition. he left the girls' dormitory feeling pretty good. If the others were as successful, they would have round the clock protection for their immortal classmate in very short order.
Antero figured with the addition of three or four more volunteers, they'd be able to assign shifts of two, maybe three hours of single bodyguards, except for the shift taken by Danielle and Darielle. The twins didn't function well as individuals. When he entered the cafeteria just before eight, his jaw about crashed to the floor for the second time in one day. Mallorie was sitting down, hunched over to look as small as possible. Sophie sat next to her, speaking quietly. The Finnish powerhouse assumed it was words of encouragement she was whispering to the muscular girl. That wasn't what had him stunned though. No, it was the sheer number of students in the room. There were no fewer than fifteen students, plus Mr. Karrell, Mr. Lamperouge and Mrs. Woolf-Amanar in attendance.
"Close your mouth my man, you're catching flies." Janez elbowed him, grinning.
"This is...this is...unbelievable."
"Nah. This is what you get when a bunch of teenagers with way more power than sense are suddenly offered the chance to show off what they can do."
"How did you get all these people to help?"
"Some of them are jumping at the chance to help a schoolmate in trouble. I think most of the girls are doing it out of that wierd pack solidarity girls have, and some of these guys are just looking for an excuse to hurt somebody. Of course, for most of our male compatriots it doesn't hurt that Paula runs around in short shorts, no matter what the weather is like."
"Regardless," Antero said looking around. "this is just...wow."
Janez shrugged unimpressed. "Meh. We still didn't get everyone we wanted. There's a boatload of combat capable members of the Senior and Junior classes who bailed on us."
"Who's that taking to the twins?"
"Arne Halvorsen. Besides Mallorie and the Bertrands, his brother was involved six years ago."
Looking at the slender, young man with the shock of orange hair involved in what appeared to be an emotional debate with the twins, Tero asked; "Why's he so worked up?"
"Paula told him to go back to the dorm. His powers aren't exactly...overwhelming."
"What's he do?"
"His powers allow him to shift his perceived visual image away from his actual location. he's got a really limited range though...like five feet."
"I think he's also got a green belt in Karate from his local youth center."
"Yeah, I think my grandmother on my human side could kick his ass. Anyway, the girls are trying to explain the problem to him, but he's thinking about payback."
"He'll get killed if Denis attack s and he's there."
"Yes...yes he will."
Antero took his turn to frown then. "Why don't the teachers just make him go back to his room?"
"I guess they're going to let us work out these problems ourselves." The Slovenian teen said airily. "Mr. Karrell and Mrs. Woolf-Amanar seem to be here to make certain we're treating this seriously enough and lord knows why Mr. Lamperouge is here. I mean he can make most super-computers look slow and stupid, he's probably run through a couple thousand scenarios in his head by now."
"So why doesn't he explain it to Halvorsen?"
"Explain what? You think a kid out for revenge is going to listen? Nah. The only easy way to turn him around would be for Paula to put that hot body to work and promise him if he goes away, she'll let him feel her up."
"Really? That's your solution?"
"It'd work on me."
"You're a little twisted."
"This is a shock...how?" Janez chuckled.
Then over the din of conversation, a clear, melodic voice rang out. "Could everyone please take their seats?"
Paula, despite not wanting to be involved initially, had settled comfortably in the role as leader. "Now, everyone is aware of why we're here correct? In a moment, I'm going to have everyone introduce themselves and give a short summation of your neo-sapien or esper ability. After which we'll work on formulating optimal partnerships for bodyguard duty, but first allow me to introduce the young lady we are here to support. Mallorie, could you please stand up?"
And so it went. First Mallorie was introduced and the background of her potential threat revealed. The debate over the likelihood of an attempt on her life began again, but Mr. Lamperouge snuffed it quickly. When the super-cyborg called Paradigm told you he'd done the math and the probability of an assault was in the high seventieth percentile range, you didn't argue. After that, introductions were made. Paula went first, then Sophie, Antero, Danielle, Darielle and Janez. Then the volunteers were introduced. Honok Szymanski was a material mimic. Any adopted the traits of any material he touched. Georgi Katzarov's powers drew chuckles, but Paula assured everyone he was more frightening than they imagined. Liesl Stahl had an acid touch. Vincent Catargi was a vampire. Kristjana Eydisdotti could become a giant. Silje Langerud was a were-gryphon. Stefan Gillenbrand took advantage of his resemblance to the rocker Jim Morrison to introduce himself using the line from a Doors song; "I am the god of hellfire!" He announced to laughter and applause. The last to be introduced was Valechka Boiko, codenamed Apotheosis. If any set of powers provoked widespread envy, it was hers.
As the meeting wound down a couple hours later, the cadets were feeling good about themselves. Confident in their plans. From where she was perched, on the edge of a table, Silje Langerud sniffed at the air. "Does anyone else smell gas?"
Then the world exploded.
Next: Death of a Valkyrie...